The view from inside

By | Other | 163 Comments

An article in one of our local newspapers refers to ‘vulnerable oldies’. That’s us. The article in question was built around the views of my wife’s geriatrician, and they are exactly what the official advice is: keep isolated, wash our hands, stay out of trouble. Of course, we need some food (I make a lot of my breakfasts) and either I go out to a supermarket or my daughter does, or (as at the moment I’m using an online supermarket). There are about a hundred of us in this aged-care facility, and like Macbeth some of us are showing some…

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NSW leads the way!

By | Other | 18 Comments

The title was the gist of a press article I saw. The only two I have seen seem to have been written by ardent supporters. Okay, to the substance. At the end of last week the NSW Government’s Department of Planning, Industry and Environment released its Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020-2030. You can read about it here. I read it, not because it was ostensibly about how to deal with climate change, but because what I read from the press suggested it was really about energy, and to a degree it is. I’ll say no more about the climate-change aspect of…

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Corona virus: How scared should we be?

By | Other | 69 Comments

The current economic topsy-turvy caused by the Corona virus is a worry, but for what it’s worth my view is there will be substantial corrections, even if Westpac says we are moving into recession and our Government is assembling a “stimulus package”. The behaviour of the stock market is evidence of simple panic and great ignorance, quite like the behaviour of the people who have stored great quantities of toilet paper in their garages. It is important to remember that external shocks like this one cause immediate reactions within the community. There will be dozens of medical teams searching for…

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National and International

By | Other | 5 Comments

In my last essay I used some ideas drawn from a book, now ten years old, by Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens. A Brief History of Humankind. I thoroughly recommend it. It is quite long, but well written. I’ve finished it now, and need to return it to my daughter, who hasn’t finished it. In this essay, I’ll explore another idea of his, the press for globalisation. I’ll start with a longish extract, which follows his claim of of ‘an inexorable trend towards unity’. When we adopt the proverbial bird’s-eye view of history, which examines developments in terms of decades or centuries, it’s hard…

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Myths and Legends

By | Other | 27 Comments

The concept of ‘rights’ has interested me from the beginning, that is, when I first gave a set of lectures to an adult education class, in the early 1960s. I’ve written about rights, too — here, for example. My position is a simple one. If someone has a “right” then it is embodied in legislation somewhere. If it is not so embodied, it is not a right, only an aspiration. I don’t want to rehash the matter in this essay. Rather, I want to extend it, following a line of argument I have drawn from a most enjoyable and interesting…

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The race to the race for the White House

By | Other | 7 Comments

The Australian Capital Territory will have an election for its Legislative Assembly in October this year. But the election most of the world is exercised about is that for the President of the United States, and that will take place in November. The incumbent President is Donald Trump, who looks to be  a shoo-in for his party’s nomination when the Republicans meet in August. The Democrats meet in July, and at the moment a series of ‘primary’ elections is taking place, state by state. The primary is an unusual American invention, and while we hear a lot about the outcome in…

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Identity Politics

By | Other | 10 Comments

It all started a long time ago, a century and a half, perhaps, when the conservative side of politics noted that the working classes were getting richer, and needed to be drawn into the body politic lest they follow the notions of Marx and Engels, and see life as a constant struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Political leaders like Bismarck in Germany and Salisbury in England invented things like the old age pension, public health and public education. What they accomplished were tiny steps at first, but almost revolutionary in their implication. Conservative governments could afford to spend,…

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Bad car ads

By | Other | 16 Comments

I spent twenty years in the road safety domain, mostly as the Chairman of the NRMA/ACT Road Safety Trust, and later as a member or chairman of several reviews of various road safety entities. Road safety is perhaps in my bones now, and certainly stays in my mind. The long-term trend in crash deaths has been  downward from the 1970s (the rate is now at about a third of the deaths per 100,000 people of 1970), but deaths in the last year from road crashes came to nearly 1200, and that was an increase of around five per cent over the same…

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My last ‘climate change’ essay, for a while at least

By | Other | 1,064 Comments

I started becoming interested in climate change in 2005, when I was writing a speculative book about the next fifty years in Australia. It was plain I would have to do a chapter on the environment, which forced me to come to terms with global warming, then the widely used term. I knew that Ian Castles, the former Australian Statistician, had written a piece on some aspect of it, and we began talking. He suggested that for the orthodox science I read the IPCC reports, and then talk to Bob Carter, the most prominent scientific sceptic. I knew Bob Carter…

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Why don’t more people appreciate classical music?

By | Other | 19 Comments

It has puzzled me for a long time that more people are not attracted to ‘classical’ music — music that is an explicit art form, rather than simply a quick source of entertainment. When I last looked at this matter, the entire classical music genre, plus jazz and film scores, made up just five per cent of the music market. Classic FM, my radio station, has about three per cent of the radio audience. Pop (= popular) music of various times, seems to have all the rest. Music is now everywhere, in shops, shopping malls, buses, lifts, markets. There are…

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