Category Archives: Society

The real war on science

By | Books, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 144 Comments

A post in Judith Curry’s Climate etc pushed me to read a long essay from the City Journal Magazine by John Tierney. I hadn’t heard of either of them. The magazine is published by a right-wing think tank in New York, and focuses mostly on urban issues. John Tierney, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘contrarian’, which I see as a dismissive term. Forewarned, I went off to read the piece, and I think it is insightful. But then, I would probably be called a ‘contrarian’ too, by those who don’t like what I write, and believe they have the truth in them…

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What is exceptional about Australia?

By | Books, Environment, Indigenous, Language, Politics, Religion, Society, Sport | 136 Comments

A year or so ago I was asked to write a chapter for a book on Australian ‘exceptionalism’ by the book’s editor, William Coleman, whose father Peter was my local MLA when I lived in Sydney. William is a well regarded reader in economics at the ANU. I was tempted, but I had a lot of other writing on my plate, and finally said he should try others. Well, he did, and they include Geoff Blainey, Henry Ergas, Nick Cater, Phil Lewis and John Nethercote.  The book is out (Only in Australia. The History, Politics and Economics of Australian Exceptionalism,…

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Globalism and globalisation (and internationalisation)

By | Books, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 50 Comments

A good deal of the Trump campaign focussed on ‘globalisation’, and the effects that process has had on, for example, the American car industry. I remember Detroit in the 1960s, a vigorous city, the home of the American car, and shortly to come, as Motown, the home of The Supremes. It had a fine civic sense and fine symphony orchestra. Today it is a civic shambles. The orchestra survives, but about half the city’s 138 square miles is unoccupied. I don’t think President-elect Trump will be able to restore Detroit to its former glory, but he will certainly be trying to…

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The day of shock and horror

By | ABC, Climate Change, History, Media, Politics, Society | 150 Comments

For months now I have been asking various friends and people close to me, who say they can’t stand Donald Trump, whether they had read anything he has written or viewed any of his speeches. I wasn’t a Trump supporter, and I am too distant from the American period in my life and work to be able to judge him properly. But my question was usually waved away. The reason for asking was that all we saw of Trump in Australia was a succession of ten-second clips from speeches, usually showing the Republican contender saying something thought to be outrageous. On numerous occasions,…

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Making sense of the ACT elections

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 69 Comments

I thought I would pass on the American presidential election, having no vote and disliking both candidates about equally. Instead I thought I would write about the recent ACT elections, which are now done and dusted. Unusually, given the complications of the voting system, it was all over by ten o’clock on polling day. The Liberal Leader conceded defeat and the Labor Leader claimed victory. Within a week it was plain Labor had twelve seats, the Greens two and the Liberals eleven. There will be another four years of Labor rule in the ACT, in a quasi Coalition with the Greens, and in…

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Books, biographical stuff and uncertainty

By | Books, Climate Change, History, Media, Politics, Society | 52 Comments

Moving On I mentioned in a recent essay that my new novel, Moving On, was about to be launched. Well, launched it has been, and it is now on sale. You should be able to get it by going to your nearest good bookseller and asking them to order it for you, which they will do from me at Danbee Books, unless you live in Canberra, where most bookshops have my books (or in Sydney, at Gleebooks in Glebe and Dulwich Hill). The price is $29.95, which includes post and packing, for those ordering on line. I use PayPal, which…

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The apparent and real growth of dementia

By | Health, History, Politics, Society | 20 Comments

I mentioned dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in a recent essay, and there followed a debate in the Comments about whether you die from or with Alzheimer’s, and whether, when you’re very old, you just die. It was a good discussion, and I felt I ought to do some more work on the question. That led me to go back to the causes of death, about which I have been interested for a long time. The long-term trend in mortality offers us insights into the journey of our society. I’ll get back to dementia in due course, but first comes a rather long excursion into how…

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The beauty of the inland road trip in Australia

By | Environment, History, Road Safety, Society | 103 Comments

My wife and I do at least one biggish road trip (2-3 weeks) each year, mostly inland, and mostly including a track somewhere. Since Bev comes from South Australia, these trips usually include a visit to Adelaide, and as readers will know, we managed to time our trip this year to incorporate the worst weather in southern Australia for a long time. Driving in some of it was no joke, and some drivers simply pulled off the road to wait for the strong winds and rain to subside. But as always, there were pleasures in abundance, and here were some of ours….

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What caused the great SA power outage?

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, Health, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 111 Comments

I write about this event with some personal involvement, because my wife and I are in it. We left Robe, on the southern coast of South Australia, to pay a brief visit to a winemaker at Cape Jaffa, who told us that he too was going to Adelaide, to collect his children early (a couple of days before the holidays) because of the big storm that was coming. We knew from the press that some weather event was in prospect for us, but at that moment the sky was blue, the air was crisp, the sun warm, and the notion of a storm that…

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Books that have been important to me #3 The novels of C.P. Snow

By | Books, Economy, Education, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 61 Comments

You don’t hear much about C. P. Snow these days. When I was young he was an important figure, both in the literary world and in the world of policy. Born in 1905, the same year as my father, he came from a poor family, and made his way through excelling at school and university to become a fellow of a Cambridge college, then a senior civil servant, and at last a famous writer. I think I first heard of him in connection with his Rede lecture ‘The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution’, a lament from the 1950s about the…

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