12 August 2019

If it doesn't happen suddenly it's not new news; it's old news.

Good news is gradual. Bad news is sudden.

If the world is getting warmer slowly it's not news. It's only news if it happens quickly. People who want to slow the warming or who sell news for a living, or both, must speed up this perceived slow warming to make it newsworthy. Alarmism is the answer. Sudden weather events are good for this, especially when the weather event can be said to be evidence of the Warming. The nomenclature of this issue has therefore consciously progressively moved over the last 30 years from "Global Warming" to "Climate Change" to "The Climate Emergency" in the service of this imperative.

But if the weather doesn't comply with this narrative?  What if the weather event'shows coldness, not heat? Is there anyone out there with an incentive to accelerate a slow cooling to make it newsworthy; that the warming is slowing? This could after all be good news. The planet may not be heading for a catastrophic warming after all.

"But,", you say, "get with the program. Everyone knows the world is warming. Where's your perspective? You couldn't possibly want to promote the notion that the world might not have a global scale warming problem. That would be irresponsible."

"But", I say, "there are from time to time some unsettling indicators that we may not be so doomed to an imminent warming catastrophe after all. What should we make of these inconvenient factoids?"

Saturday 10 August 2019 was apparently the coldest August day ever recorded in Orange, New South Wales, with the temperature only barely getting above zero degrees for a few hours.  Has this been reported on anywhere other than Orange? Doesn't look like it. The Bureau of Meteorology seems not to want to tell us about this event.

I speculate that it might work like this. Weather reporting is mainly about forecasting weather, not for the general public the recording of what the weather actually did. The Bureau forecasts the expected temperatures, often for hotter than happens, and it publishes and gives prominence to its forecasts on its website. Then the weather happens. It is then recorded as an "observation" by the Bureau, but its publication of its "observations" are delayed for a few days. It can therefore not be readily observed how the BOM may have overestimated its forecast. There is no incentive for BOM to report both it's errors and that the weather is not conforming to its house view of warming. To report on colder outcomes would not be hot news. Hence we're continually led to believe our world is warming and few are going to be bothered by some irksome anomalies . Warming is bad. And this needs to be news. But what if our world is cooling slowly? Would that ever be reported as good news? Nah. Not if it's not sudden. And it ain't.

Maybe we're approaching this whole climate problem from the wrong perspective. Lionel Shriver in the Spectator suggests the issue could  just be us. Yes. Us. People. Here's what she's suggesting:

"The biggest driver of climate change and every other global headache you care to name — species extinction, deforestation, desertification, ocean acidification, pollution, fresh water scarcity, oceanic plastic, soil erosion, ‘irregular’ migration — is people. Too many of them, and born too fast.At least another 2.3 billion more neighbors are on their way by 2050, and they will all aspire — understandably — to a western lifestyle. So if you care about these issues, supporting organizations that provide people living in Africa and the Middle East with access to reliable contraception is more effective than gluing yourself to a bridge."

So stop breeding people. You are the problem. Not the solution. 

Humanism turns out to be a plague not the triumph of civilization. 

Whilst digesting this conclusion you might also, if you live here, enjoy the fine skiing conditions in the Australian ski fields this winter. You know the ones. The ski fields that were going to go broke a decade or so ago because the're wouldn't be enough snow anymore due to global warming. They  apparently however are continuing to operate quite profitably. Just don't procreate whilst there and don't make any awkward observations or worse, seek to draw any conclusions, from the fact that there is enough snow there after all.

But may be its all hokum after all. Is Global Warming just the latest in countless doomsday predictions that are trotted out so that elites can control rubes with scary stuff? That's what Issues and Insights are suggesting here. Let's party.

02 November 2016

"Find the good and praise it"

The title of this post is a quote from an article entitled "If it ain't broken, it must not be America"  by George Korda in the Knoxville News Sentinel of 1 November 2016.

That article suggests things may not be as bad as they seem. We humans do seem to have a proclivity towards pessimistic presentism whereby, when we feel that things are going badly for us (like now in the midst of this appalling US presidential election campaign), we tend to think that our lot is worse than it has been in the past. Clearly this is an over-reaction.

In the previous post on this blog I suggested that although things do feel pretty rum in the world right now, fear not; we are all probably not going to ruin, provided enough of us stick to our jobs and do our duty undistracted by the whirling noise of potential chaos.

Similarly, George Korda in his article quotes his own father as telling him:
 “Quit worrying. Times are always desperate.” 
And George counsels us to lead by finding the good and praising it, rather than calling on people to act simply because the system is broken.  I hear what he is saying.  I may have been partially guilty of doing that in my "...We'll all be rooned" post. That is saying: "Hey you out there, do the right thing because no-one else is". What I understand George to be counseling us with is we would be better served by saying act positively because it is positive. "Find the good and praise it" he says, quoting Alex Haley (who?).

I'm listening George. Here's an example of perceived good being praised, and I'm here to praise the sentiment too, even if the praise being praised here is over the top, American centric and politically slanted. I get what he's saying about standing tall to do the right thing, even when doing so risks your personal advancement:
"The FBI Agents Who Stood Up for the Rule of Law Make me proud to be an American". So says David P Goldman in an article dated 31 October 2016 in PJ Media. 
This article seems to make a similar point in the heat of a real political battle, to the more generic point I made at the end of the previous post about being prepared to make personal sacrifices for what you believe in. More interestingly, it also may just help explain to mystified non-Americans like myself, just what the appeal of Donald Trump is to so many Americans, even though they know he is a blow hard egotistical creep who shoots from the hip.

If the tendency to polarization in politics seems largely to do with the contest to claim higher moral ground than your enemy, the kind of perspective Goldman's article brings may help us observers outside the US understand just what moral ground Trump could possibly even be standing on in this contest. Until this article I perceived him as just standing for "I'm not one of those Washington types". A negative. What this article is suggesting, as George Korda would have us do, is that many see Trump as standing for something positive. Something along the lines of standing for those who "do their duty and what they believe is right, rather than following the latest whim of some perceived prevailing political and cultural fashion."  

Can this ghastly election spectacle therefore really be just the latest iteration of the ancient civilizational contest between those who believe in permanent values and those who see values as changing (conservatives v progressives), but now amplified to new dizzying and unprecedented heights by the spectacular speed and pervasiveness of contemporary communications?

The more things change the more they stay the same.

20 October 2016

"... We'll all be rooned", said Hanrahan, "Before the year is out."

Things sure do look like they're going to ruin on planet Earth at the moment:
  • Russia seems intent on provocatively escalating its saber rattling in the Baltic, Syria and Ukraine.
  • China is aggressively asserting its hegemonic claims in the South China Sea and seems to have incomprehensibly large domestic debt problems.
  • Iran is now actively developing a nuclear warhead capability, unrestrained by the international community. 
  • North Korea is testing nuclear capable ballistic missiles that can reach Japan and beyond.
  • The interminable war with Islamic extremism intensifies yet again. This time its Mosul, Iraq.
  • Aleppo, Syria is being bombed into oblivion in the proxy millennial war between Sunni and Shiite
  • Britain has voted to Brexit. 
  • France is on a path to electing Marine Le Pen.
  • Academia in the West is progressively and inexorably losing whatever slight grip it may have had on reality. Each day we seem to read yet another story of an educational institution abrogating its responsibility to maintain high standards for scholastic achievement. This adds to the mounting evidence that relativism, diversity and subjectivity are becoming the prevailing educational benchmarks.  A lack of regard for intellectual rigour is now coupled with widespread spineless institutional concessions to strident student demands for restrictions on the exercise of fundamental academic freedoms, to make mediocrity the new academic norm, even in formerly prestigious seats of higher learning. 
  • And the media screams dis-proportionally louder each day exaggerating beat ups of claims of Muslim victimization, refugee mistreatment, gender bias and impending climate catastrophe.
  • Meanwhile Donald and Hilary just call each other names and complain about each other's family's sexual misconduct and mendacity. And the US grinds relentlessly sideways with almost a decade of anemic growth and ugly racial and gender discord increasingly dogging its communities. 
It looks like we're all going to continue to be losers whoever wins on 8 November.

Moral indignation, fear and loathing seem to be everywhere and unusually loud, random and disorientating at present. What's a person to do in the face of all this ruin?

Is  this all just a symptom of pessimistic present-ism? Or should we all just curl up in a ball, play RPGs, watch sport, surf shopping sites, or read social media and blogs?

Hah. In the midst of these melancholy thoughts I was heartened to happen upon this blog post: "Screwtape and the Human Wave" at the blog Cat Rotator's Quarterly (Lid Dip to Instapundit and Sarah A Hoyt) . Here's my takeaway from the post (which refers to CS Lewis's famous Screwtape letters and also takes you to ancient Norse sagas):
... Are we doomed? Well, since life has a 100% probability of ending in death thus far*, yes. Is the US and it’s version of Western Civilization doomed? No. We survived the Thirty Years War, we survived the Black Death and the slow-motion disaster that was the Fall of Rome – Western Edition, we survived WWI and WWII, although with a gaping spiritual wound that some people only recognized about 10-15 years ago. We will survive Marxism and the return of collective thinking, of those who would pit man against woman and neighbor against neighbor for their own gain.
It will not be easy. Dragging civilization out of the shadows never is. Fighting a battle that may be lost so that others will take heart and carry on the fight is hard...
So the message is to keep up the struggle even if all appears doomed. Somebody might just be sufficiently heartened by some small sign of self belief and self sacrificial honour, to actually lift themselves out of the mire one more time, and assume personal responsibility for carrying the flame into tomorrow.

02 September 2015

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language

So said Ludwig Wittgenstein.

I did not stumble on this beguiling jewel of language reading Wittgenstein. Nein. That would require too much grit, wit and deutsche. I found it reading an intriguing article in Slate by David Auerbach titled "The Limits of Language", subtitled "Wittgenstein explains why we always misunderstand one another on the Internet".

It was very prescient of Ludwig, who died in 1951, to do this for us. He just knew that the Internet was going to be a poor medium for us to communicate in. Some may claim he was merely saying that humans are poor at communicating sometimes, but then they would clearly not get Witt.

Mr Auerbach's  proposition appears to be that because the later period Ludwig held that the meaning of what we say can't be abstracted away from the context in which we say it, this means that the inherent abstraction of our communication on the Internet results in our words losing their appropriate context and therefore losing the required nuance required for communicating meaningfully.

The point here is that if you are not following what I am trying to say, it's not because of me, its because of you, whoops, I mean it's because of this Internet thing we're communicating on. You see, as Wittgenstein put it, "speaking a language is part of an activity, or a form of life" and since the Internet is neither an activity nor a form of life (it's a wide web where words were wrapped waiting to wield when wanted), we struggle to properly understand each other on it.

I may've taken Ludwig slightly out of context there, but you'll get my drift, with a pinch of wit.

17 November 2014

Wavo Bowlo too.

Haiku prolixia.

Swallows swirling in a swaying sky,
Yachts creak on moorings of rust, 
Lycra clad grunts on swathes of green, and
"Howzat?" intruding from far off fields.
' I declare that I reside outside a 5 km radius of this club ...'
Do we sign? 
Alan, master of the barefoot bowls, knoweth all mysteries here:
sliced white, espresso, doily, egg, teapot, ditch and jack.
Spiritual direction and art non-appreciation are our fare, 
for gods would be present too.
Thing achieved.

Bob 15.11.14 

Wavo Bowlo

Since early days.
Time, toast and labradors.
Bob and me.
Talking, laughing.
Throat singing.
Iambic pentametre melts on tinfoil.
Tea grows colder.
We grow older.
Than we were. 
I am an author!

Fiona 15.11.14

09 November 2014

Capitalism; the price of freedom

This was a Sunday morning's musing. Why do so many of my friends hate capitalism? It is in a large part what is responsible for their prosperity and freedom, even if it is harsh and impersonal. Why not just treat it as a thing. An inevitable consequence of the responsibility of the luxury of choice.

 Hell capitalism's infuriating indifference to our fate is the price we have to pay for having freedom of choice. It seems that many of us are not prepared to pay that price. They rail against it and plot its demise perhaps not realising that they are undermining the delicate fabric of freedom as they do so. Or am I wrong?

04 November 2014

The greatest achievment in history

Yes. That's what this is being hailed as.

Well, at least as the kind of achievement in history you've never heard of, since most of us have at least heard of Western Civilization and many of us (though we could now be a minority) still think that it is a pretty impressive achievement.

So what's all the non-fuss about? See below.  

Warning there is a terrible "C" word used that educated people in the West are taught to despise.


Extreme poverty fell to 15% in 2011, from 36% in 1990. 

Credit goes to the spread of Capitalism.



Lid dip to Instapundit (again)

21 May 2014

The Hexham Principle

"If you commit to a course, stay that course to its end."

 This is not a new thought. As a heuristic it seems a tad trite, even old hat, so I have neglected to date to make any attempts to re-articulate it in writing. A recent lunch with some old uni mates breathed some new life into it however, as we fondly reminisced on its origins in our small circle. The tale of this old principle's re-genesis as the "Hexham Principle" seems worth repeating so it might not be entirely lost to posterity.

Back in around April of 1979 two car loads of 4 uni students each set out from Sydney to drive to Crescent Head on the New South Wales north coast for a week's holiday. Each car had 4 passengers and it was decided to drive up in semi convoy so we would reduce the chances of getting lost. This was well before mobile phones and GPS navigators. The trip was expected to take 5 or 6 hours. The plan agreed to as we loaded up the cars, a Beetle and a Mazda, was "let's make the first stop the Oak milk bar at Hexham if we lose each other on the way up". And so we set off through the heavy traffic up the Pacific Highway through Sydney's north shore. After the convoy left the Newcastle expressway at about Wyong, the Beetle veered left at a turn and headed North inland whilst the Mazda sailed on without following keeping a heading towards Newcastle. The convoy had been broken. This was immediately commented on in both cars. In the Beetle there were pleas to turn back and follow the Mazda, but the driver stuck to the route declaring that "Hexham was the agreed first stop and to Hexham this car is going". Meanwhile in the Mazda there were also questions put to the driver that the car should turn back and follow the Beetle, to which the driver responded "Hexham is where we agreed to meet, so Hexham is where we are going." And so it was that each car, by its own route, converged about an hour later on the Oak milk bar in Hexham. There was much fanfair and joshing about the route choice the other car had made, but with a consensus that, by each car sticking to the plan to meet at Hexham, the holiday was on track and we were on course to a fine holiday. And a fine holiday, with many fond memories, it proved to be too.

And thereafter, if any of that group have seemed in the eyes of another to be wavering in sticking to a task, they have been exhorted by the others to "remember Hexham". And so the legend of that journey morphed over time into the "Hexham Principle"

There have been some glosses on the Hexham principle experimented with over the years. The most recent of these is the suggestion that by committing to a choice and staying with it, a person often obtains the benefit of self-fulfillment from the power of owning that choice. This seems to apply even if, by others' lights, the choice seems wrong. By buying into your choice, you make your choice work for you. Sure, this has more than a flavour of pop psych, but it still is potentially a useful tool for navigating a world in which the array of potential choices facing young people is now almost infinite.

It might be a powerful thing to teach and learn such a heuristic in a world in which you can do almost anything you decide to put your mind to. It is not now how to do something that limits someone these days. It's what to do at all, that seems to limit so many. If a person can learn to self affirm a choice by buying into what the act of chosing itself gives them, they are less likely to be crippled by indecision in the face of the vast array of undifferentiated opportunities.

And so it is that I have now followed through on my commitment to my friends at lunch to write up the Hexham Principle. It works.

Go Hexham!

07 March 2014

Necessary conflict in free societies

This week's freedom quote of the week on "ideas@theCentre", the Centre for Independent Studies weekly email is:

 "In any free society, the conflict between social conformity and individual liberty is permanent, unresolvable, and necessary."
Kathleen Norris                 

I'd not heard of Kathleen Norris until seeing this, so I looked her up on Wikipedia. Turns out there's more than one famous Kathleen Norris. One's a living American poet and another is a popular dead American novelist and columnist from the first half of the 20th century.

According to Wiki the latter Kathleen Norris:
 "... used her fiction to promote values including the sanctity of marriage, the nobility of motherhood, and the importance of service to others....Norris became involved in various social causes, including women's suffrage, Prohibition, pacifism, and organizations to benefit children and the poor."
 I'm assuming it's this latter Kathleen Norris who is quoted. I like her quote. A lot. It helps me come to terms a little with the fact that I often find myself in inevitable conflict with people I respect and admire over seemingly obvious events and policy. It's nice to know that someone thought that that the conflict is necessary, even if unresolvable. I feel slightly better about my tendency on occasions to plough into the thick of the prevailing wisdom in a discussion and make myself disagreeable.

Maybe I should read some more Kathleen Norris sometime.