Friday, 31 December 2010

What everybody must know about climate change in Western Australia

The recent record dry weather in southwestern Australia and record wet weather in the “Red” Centre, along with the announcing of the most undesirable coal power projects in the very state most affected by man-made global warming, makes me think that an online “pamphlet” is needed to help people in Western Australia come to grips with how increased CO2, CH4, N2O, and halocarbons have radically altered the state’s climate since the middle 1960s.

Most climate research since these alterations intensified in 1997 has unfortunately been focused on things like the Indian Ocean Dipole and “Asian Haze” that unfortunately do not, as I have emphasised in previous posts, look at the likely cause: that a poleward shift of pressure patterns from global warming has moved the rain belts in such a way that northern and central WA receive more rain and southwestern WA significantly less. Both these features fail to explain key changes:
  1. The Indian Ocean Dipole theory cannot explain why the decline in southern Australian rainfall is concentrated in the autumn when it is ineffective (here)
  2. As I note here, the “Asian Haze” theory fails to model observed increases in rainfall over the Eucla region.
  3. The most logical explanation for the changes is that the Hadley circulation has shifted rapidly poleward and that the monsoon has expanded into the continent
  4. The result of this is that historically humid regions in southwestern Australia are rapidly becoming arid, whilst historically arid regions to the east are becoming monsoonal and humid
  5. There is clear evidence that land clearing is not the cause of the rainfall decline.
  6. Circa 2000 climate models suggested a decline of 60 percent in rainfall over southwestern Australia could be expected by 2050: already, if 2010 rainfall figures are a guide, a decline of 44 percent on pre-global-warming averages has occurred
  7. The probability that the observed decline in rainfall over southwestern Australia is not one hundred percent anthropogenic is minute: Perth’s average wet season rainfall for 2001 to 2010 is four point four two standard deviations below the mean ten-year average pre-global warming. The probability of this occurring by chance is less than one in two hundred thousand!
  8. In the Northern Territory, the ten-year moving average wet season rainfall for the decade ending April 2006 was eight and a half standard deviations above the mean ten-year moving average for the pre-1967 era!
  9. Such a consistently wet spell would have a probability of around one in 1017 (100,000,000,000,000,000) assuming global warming is not the cause! Such a probability is far smaller than the number of years the Earth has existed!
  10. In Forrest in the southeast of Western Australia, the ten-year mean annual rainfall for the decade ending 2006 was five point nine three standard deviations above the mean ten-year moving average before 1967. Such a wet decade would be expected to occur naturally only once every 698,966,090 years!
  11. Paleoclimate data available as early as 1984 suggested very strongly that the mediterranean climate would disappear at carbon dioxide concentrations above 300ppmv. We are already at 400ppmv and under present political and demographic conditions in Australia are likely to be at 700ppmv by 2100.
  12. These same data (and a number of climate experiments done by computer) also suggest that at present carbon dioxide levels the midlatitude arid climates characteristic of areas on the lee side of the mountains present in all mediterranean-climate zones (the Darling Scarp and Stirling Range do this with Western Australia) would also disappear. This result is in complete agreement with observed rainfalls in Forrest.
  13. There is no likelihood primary productivity gains in the state’s east will offset the disappearance of farming in the southwest from desertification. This is because the already-impoverished soils will lose what nutrients they have from the more humid weather
  14. Biodiversity losses from the desertification of southwestern Australia could, even in the short-term future, exceed anything that has been seen in the world. The region contains 45 percent of Australia’s native plant species, most of which occur nowhere else and none of which can survive in an arid or monsoonal climate.
  15. These biodiversity losses could already occur in the humid karri forest country though fires this year. Not one station in southwestern WA received even 800 mm of rain during 2010, yet the generally accepted minimum for karri is 900 mm and that for yellow tingle and red tingle even higher.
  16. If we presume that 2010 rainfalls are the absolute maximum likely to occur in this area in the future, we can say that these magnificent tall trees have already lost all suitable habitat to global warming and that only a rapid reduction in carbon dioxide levels can save them.
  17. Australia would need therefor to eliminate by law all fossil fuel energy and restrict itself to what renewable energy can provide immediately.
  18. It would need to outlaw at least private cars and coal-fired energy and the revegetate all areas where these fuels occur as National Parks or Aboriginal Reserves.

Is it intelligent radicalism or compassionate conservatism - or both?

As I was checking my e-mail, I found an interesting finding: that conservatives have a much more emotional brain than liberals. Today’s Age says that recent neurological research gives strong evidence that people’s political views are related to the structure of their brain.

People with very conservative views are shown to have much thinner “anterior cingulates” than people with left-wing views. This suggests very clearly that people who are conservative really are much more emotional than people who are atheistic and big-government. Although my brother says that this means conservatives are much more self-centred and less objective than liberals, one really has to take into account the finding of Arthur Brooks in Who Really Cares if one wishes to show that it is not true that leftists’ calls for radical redistribution of wealth via income caps do not result from an empathy problem.

Many other scientists have argued that intelligence is correlated with atheism and left-wing politics - citing the many European Jews who were unusually intelligent according to all studies and became Marxists during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By this token, people who are right-wing are simply less intelligent than those who are more liberal.

The logical means of doing this - and the only one that I find remotely fair - is as I outline in “Why to Expect Compassionate Conservatism” - that thinking types (the political Left) and feeling types (in general constituting the political Right) work in very different ways that can be complementary (as with many early twentieth-century families) but in many cases are totally opposed. The reasonable thing to do is simply to realise that the political ideals of both thinking and feeling types are a natural result of their personal virtues and vices. For instance, thinking types who find inequality from statistics tend to believe that it is bad and that people should try to remedy it by changing the structure. Feeling types, on the other hand, who see inequality would tend to see it as a personal matter and think that much can be destroyed if radical change is attempted.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The lucky break for us with the holidays


Today, as my eldest cousin has his first child and indeed
the first child of any of my mother’s siblings, I can look back on the 2009/2010 and 2006/2007 holidays and think how fortunate I really was travelling when I did to the northern hemisphere (I joke about it being to escape the Australian summer but in fact even I admit I would rather travel in hotter weather).

In the news consistently over a Christmas period that has been rather uneventful with my brother away in Japan - and due to be away in Singapore for next year as he has taken a job in NUS from April - has been the violently stormy weather over Europe and the east of North America. Although on my 2009/2010 holiday I did experience some exceedingly snowy weather during my stay in Helsinki, it failed to cause any delays in either ground-based or air transport. This northern winter, however, snow even in normally mild England has been sufficient to ground flights and halt surface transport. It is painful to imagine what we would have done had we been forced to cancel or alter large portions of our trip last year because of snow blocking the possibility of travel across a region. Since our holiday was planned in November of 2009, we would never have been able to alter our accommodation schedule should the means of transport between cities have been completely eliminated as they have been this year.

Although people might expect these kinds of travel problems to arise with people who travel in the off-season for reasons of cost or schedule (as with us), such problems are not impossible even in peak tourist seasons in some places. This can be seen with occasional winter floods in the northwest of WA and the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. I recall Daddy travelling on the Birdsville Track during the winter of 1986 and seemingly forgetting about him. Yet, in Birdsville, the rainfall for July 1986 was twice that of any other winter month in the twentieth century! In fact, the 107 millimetres rainfall is two thirds of the normal annual rainfall and ten times the average for July. Daddy must have been lucky to be able to get through: roads in the north of South Australia were quagmires after torrential rain early in the month originating from a series of systems that had flooded a number of Pilbara rivers in June moved slowly eastward and caused major flooding in the Flinders Ranges and even in Central Australia. If Daddy had planned the trip earlier or later, he might well have been totally bogged rather than seen an unusually lush outback landscape in what is normally the “drought” season. The same thing would have happened to many visitors in northwestern WA in 1992 when the coastal highway was cut by severe storms in June, and in 1998 during a winter very like the August to November of 2010.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The whitewash at its worst – from those who should know perfectly

Today, after a relatively minor glance at the weather sites and the website for Perth’s water supply, one wonders really just how much control – even if it is cryptic to the eye of the vast majority of Australians – the fossil fuel industries really do have over Australia’s political system?

In my previous post I did say Kevin Williamson whitewashed the point of how, as Guy Pearse showed five years ago, fossil fuel corporations have an immense amount of control over policy-making in Australia. What is really dreadful is that the people who price and regulate water usage in Perth, who should know from the comparative tables here that man-made global warming has shifted climate belts eight degrees or more poleward. They are under the dreadful illusion that the observed drying of Perth’s climate is part of a natural cycle, when in fact the possibility of ten May to August periods so dry as the past ten occurring in succession is maximally a microscopic one-in-two-hundred-and-five-thousand and quite probably even less. Although the mid-2000s craze over the “Asian Haze” has died down, it has not given way to demands from scientists for militant protest to reduce Australia’s deplorable and still-rising emissions. Rather, it has given way to what I would call a gentle resignation: that we are unlikely to do anything to reverse climate change and that the free market will allow for the least costly adaptation.

However, as the table shows (the predictions for 2050 being based on winter rainfalls in the north-west of Western Australia) what this will mean for Perth as a growing city is devastating. With the last runoff most likely already flowed into Mundaring Weir, no targets for water consumption can avoid:
  1. the drying up of once-renewable fossil groundwater
  2. this point is critical because the climate of Western Australia has changed so much that what under pre-1970s climates would be renewable groundwater use now uses up water from a period when May to August rainfall was twice what it is now
  3. the need for desalination plants that can only be fired with coal power that will make the problem worse
  4. further changes in the climate that, even if more frequent cyclone or thunderstorm rainfall does partly offset the practically certain 95 to 100 percent loss of winter rainfall, will increase demand beyond what these can provide as the summers become even hotter
What WA’s water authorities should be doing if they were serious about providing water for Perth is:
  1. making sure prices of water really fit present runoff rates and predicted future ones, and that pre-1974 – maybe even pre-2001 data are totally ignored
  2. such a price would need to be at least 100 times historical prices and probably a thousand times higher than European, north American or New Zealand water prices
  3. such a price would make Western Australia a much more innovative place with water use – perhaps rivalling or surpassing Israel in the 1950s and 1960s
  4. they should join up with Adrian Whitehead’s (for the curious not the former Carlton player) “Target 300” programme that aimed for the “negative emissions” that should have been unequivocally demanded of Australia in 1997 or even in 1990.
  5. Such a move may be politically very difficult given the influence of government and hence the fossil fuel industries on what WA’s water policymakers write, but it is 100 percent certain that a restoration of pre-industrial carbon dioxide levels would immediately restore runoff into Perth’s dams from the present level of 0.011 km3 to the historical mean of 0.34 km3.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Kevin Williamson’s whitewash of Australia

For a long time this year I assumed that the Politically Incorrect Guide series would end after The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War, which was originally supposed to be published in June 2009 but was delayed by something like nine months in the effort to produce three Politically Incorrect Guides that were apparently intended as a response to the election of the conservatives’ archenemy Barack Obama as President. Once the reasonable Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal, the Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, and the disappointing Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties were published, Regnery took a further half-year to finally publish The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War.

Even when it finally appeared, I guessed that The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War would be the last-ever Politically Incorrect Guide. No evidence appeared on any site or on Regnery itself that any more Politically Incorrect Guides were in the works for a very long nine months. The result was that I asked on amazon.com whether The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War would be the last Politically Incorrect Guide?

In October, however, I found that Regnery were in fact writing a new Politically Incorrect Guide titled “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism”. The amazing thing about it was how prototype copies had exactly the same “did you knows” as the Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, so I did not know what to expect as I thought about the series beginning again (if you will). My basic thought was that Regnery had already made most of the arguments it had to about socialism (well, people like Murray Newton Rothbard had done so before PIGs existed).

However, once The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism became fully finalised, portions of it became available on amazon.com, and I decided I should have a look. Most of the chapters as I could see them were fairly familiar from such authors as Thomas Woods and Arthur Brooks, but there was some interesting arguments about the contrasting histories of India and Hong Kong. Given Hong Kong’s loss of traditions and its lowest-low fertility, I definitely feel conservatives should be far more wary of praising it as an example of how the free market works in small city, small island or high mountain states. India, in fact, has retained rather more of the traditions conservatives ought to be concerned about than Hong Kong.

In fact, Hong Kong really is quite similar to Sweden: both are resource-free nations (even pre-industrially neither was that resource-rich) where high technology and energy efficiency are economic necessities because ordinary sources are scarce and expensive.

The really interesting - and ultimately terrifying - thing about what I could read of Williamson’s book is how it looks at the way socialism effects the environment. It makes familiar arguments about:
  1. how socialism caused immense pollution and destroyed the Aral Sea through the Qaraqum canal.
  2. how the Left today is “watermelon” - green inside but socialist at its core
However, when he looks at the environmental record of socialism, author Kevin Williamson makes a big omission. In his effort to show how socialism effects the environment adversely, Williamson looks at nationalised oil companies and aims to show that they have been much worse than private ones because of the absence of property rights. Nonetheless, as Williamson points out in the texts coloured red, in energy-resource-rich nations, it is likely that the energy companies will “seize the government”. The problem is that the majority of readers will not realise there is a genuine whitewash in what Williamson is saying - analogous only to Christopher Horner in previous Politically Incorrect Guides. This whitewash is Williamson’s failure to note the observations made in the 2006 documentary “The Greenhouse Mafia” that constitutes by far the worst example of energy companies taking over a country’s political system.

Ecological science, as documented by Tim Flannery and Tom McMahon, shows that Australia’s terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems are much less productive and much more fragile than those of all other present-day continents. Flannery in The Future Eaters shows this leads Australian native fauna to have much lower metabolic rates than those of other continents except sub-Zambezian Africa.

If we apply this to human ecology, one would necessarily conclude that because of the known climatic sensitivity of Australia vis-à-vis other present-day continents that Australian per capita CO2, CH4 and N2O emissions should have to be no more than one twenty-fifth to one hundredth those of European, Asian or North American nations. In reality, as anyone who has read this blog or heard the news will know, Australia’s per capita greenhouse emissions are four times those of Sweden, Denmark or Switzerland, and the difference is growing. Given the evidence of permanent climate change globally this southern winter and a refutation of key argument of greenhouse sceptics concerning high snowfalls in hotter years, the culpability of Australia’s “greenhouse mafia” and the state of which they - as Guy Pearse has shown - are an integral part must not be denied.

If Williamson wanted to avoid this problem, he would at least show that big business taking over government is as bad - or given Australia’s dreadful greenhouse gas emissions - worse than government taking over big business. That big business can be destructive to liberty, family and the environment is a point noted well by “distributist” factions of the Right in books like Crunchy Cons, but one neglected by “Austrian” ones. Nonetheless, dealing with this fact is an absolute necessity for any conservative faction. Indeed, those who are critical of “bigness” could see much to criticise in the very character of Australia, a fact Jared Diamond ignores in Collapse. Australia’s geographic “connectedness” is in fact much greater than that of China which Diamond does quote. This connectedness means:
  1. political debates are very weak and the wealthy energy companies can control the whole continent without opposition
  2. with the resources available, Australia has
  3. little incentive to innovate
  4. much incentive to be extremely conservative with respect to such issues as energy consumption.
The results in Australia’s greenhouse emissions speak for themselves, and the world ignores this at its peril.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Is this the end for diets based on winter grain?

Today in West Australia Online, there is news that the predicted bumper wheat crop of New South Wales and Queensland is likely to be decimated by excessive rainfalls. the newspaper claims hope that a spell of dry weather will sooner or later allow the crops to be harvested exists, but I would not become too carried away with such hopes.

The combination of extraordinary heat in the northern hemisphere and quite extraordinary drought in southwestern Australia should alert people to what man-made global warming will do for the human diet in future. It is clear from such old studies as the 1984 “Origin and Evolution of the Mediterranean Vegetation and Climate in Europe” (which unfortunately I cannot get hold of) that mediterranean climates like those of southwestern Australia are absolutely unique to the Quaternary, and that before the Quaternary the transition in rainfall from arid to temperate:
  1. was seasonally uniform
  2. occurred at a latitude where rainfall today is absolutely seasonally uniform on continental west coasts
  3. such a latitude is typically around 45˚ to 50˚ from the equator, or around 15˚ poleward of the current equatorward limit of mediterranean climates
Owing to “super-monsoons” that were far more penetrative and intense than those observed in instrumental records before man-made global warming began to take effect, there was never a dry spell during summer in any humid region before the Quaternary. If man-made global warming is leading in this direction, harvesting of winter crops in the summer will become increasingly difficult. There will also be the risk that in hotter and more humid weather, crops will be more prone to the spread of hot-climate diseases which could lead to the disappearance of winter grain crops.

Then there is the danger that historically very cool or cold regions that could grow winter grain even in a much hotter world would be in demand for housing should those socially progressive nations become in trouble with the collapse of their welfare states from low fertility and their culture’s inhospitality and inability to attract migrants.

All these factors combined could very soon see the world have to change its whole staple food system. Wheat, barley and other mild-climate grains would disappear, to be replaced by less efficient yield-wise but more efficient land-wise hot-climate grain, root and tree crops. In the process, many of our present specialties would disappear, and Australia would be farming foods quite alien to us now!

The question is whether such a system can work given the history of attempts to farm tropical Australia outside of the alluvial and volcanic soils of the Burdekin Delta and most of the Wet Tropics, or whether the variability of climate and resultant high risk in eastern Australia can be better managed in the future is a less hospitable and probably even more variable climate?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Will Australia ever stop lagging behind when it should be decades ahead?

In a response to my brother’s dismissal of my emphasis in speech on cars as the primary cause of global warming and public transport as the solution, in an email today he showed me a piece whereby anaesthetics used in surgery are supposed to have as much impact on the climate as one million cars.

I certainly knew that anaesthetics, which use compounds called halons (or bromofluorocarbons) were environmentally very dangerous because of the very high global warming potential of covalently bonded fluorine. However, I had assumed that anaesthetics remain stored in the body and that a very small proportion of anaesthetics used actually reach the atmosphere as greenhouse or ozone-depleting gases. What the study my brother showed me said was that anaesthetic gases had major impacts and did not as I had thought remained in the body.

What is really, really embarassing is that yet again the EU is doing much more than Australia. The EU will be banning these games from 2011, whereas Australia will continue to use them for who knows how long. It is time everybody recognised the untenability of Australia having much lower environmental standards than European nations. In fact, even from a European perspective it is best that Australia have the toughest environmental standards in the world. Strict and high-standard greenhouse emissions regulations may attract the intellectual community, but for ordinary families and less skilled workers they are a deterrent, as Arthur Brooks and Clint Johnson in The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South show. Johnson says that the South has:
“…lower taxes, a family-friendly atmosphere… rather than a sense the State should take care of everything”
clearly attract potential migrants much more than an exceptionally clean environment and a high level of innovation.

If we follow Johnson and Arthur Brooks, we should see that tough environmental laws are a very good way to reduce population. There is very clear evidence from data on water storages that most of southern Australia is overpopulated – and the increasingly well-watered north simply cannot be farmed because of its weathered, stone-hard soils that increased rainfall will make even tougher to improve.

In contrast, the extremely young soils of Eurasia, the Americas and New Zealand can, as Tim Flannery said in The Future Eaters “support population densities orders of magnitude higher than Australia”. In many ways, these soils are a renewable and limitless resources because repeated glaciation and mountain building is replacing any soil that is lost.

For this reason, everybody in the world should wish it that Australia’s environmental laws – rather than being in Flannery’s word ridiculously lenient regarding energy efficiency – are the toughest in the world by a considerable margin. Once it is accepted that weak environmental laws are for the ordinary working people an attraction because of the gentler, warmer culture that results, we see the untenability of present trends.

Why the workers have to do the job

On today’s news, it has been revealed that former politicians - including members who have been out of Federal parliament for over a decade - have been using the Gold Passes given to parliamentarians to spend something like half a million dollars on air travel this year alone.

These Gold Passes have been shown to cost Canberra an unknown sum of money that could, if we add all the sums and multiply by the years many politicians have been using them (ten years in the case of Ian Sinclair) run into the millions of dollars.

People such as Bob Brown and many journalists have been saying something needs to be done, but the current affairs programme on which I found these reports was one hundred percent clear that because of the vested interests of parliamentarians in maintaining benefits that they will eventually get, there is no way even after an extensive report that they will be significantly changed, no matter whom ordinary Australians vote in.

However, politicians’ pay is a very good way to unite people from disparate views to protests against the government. Most writers whom I have read over the past fifteen years have been very critical of government privilege. On the Right, it is argued that privilege should be abolished; on the Left it is argued it should be extended to all with the money of the super-rich. Whilst these views are genuinely opposite, it would as Thomas Woods implies be good if there could be united protest against the Gold Passes. Protest - genuine mass protest - and demonstration is the only means of stopping a waste of money that could if unchecked rival the obscenity of CityLink.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The New York Times are telling here


Over a week ago, the New York Times wrote an article about how electronic media effects the way people work, titled “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Destruction’. Although I forgot to look through my Google Reader blog or Front Porch Republic, even before I read it I felt a great deal of connection to what the Times appeared to be saying.
Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.
Recent times, in which I myself have read fewer print books and relied more on Internet websites and what few journal articles are available to me as a non-student, give a remarkable sense that article author Matt Richtel is most definitely correct. When I was reading more print books or (very old) articles from print journals, I was writing more and more able to concentrate on the vast number of long-term projects I once wrote.

Though I still had a tendency to read and read books in bookshops to the point that they were obsessions, I do very firmly believe that I wrote more and had a much better rhythm than I do now. Especially in Victoria's recent hot and humid weather, I have rarely had enough sleep to get up seriously before 12:00, and whenever Mummy is not around I often do not get into the shower before 13:00. Even in the two years after leaving RMIT for assaulting a security guard, I was much better on these issues whilst I was buying more print books on eBay. In these two years I did often get up around 10:00, and generally slept better even during ordinary sleeping hours. I also did not do irresponsible things like staying up naked and not getting into the shower after taking off my pyjamas at midday - which of course I do not do when Mummy's around!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The best bookshops - one hopes they’re not a dying breed

Today - or yesterday since I am writing this so near midnight as I hopelessly failed to get to bed last night before 4:00 proper - I have found a list of the best bookshops I have ever seen from Lonely Planet. I really hope bookshops survive the e-book revolution since I have a strong romantic love for books and CDs that I enjoyed in my childhood, but I am not optimistic judging by the news on this topic that has arrived lately. (Paper will still be in demand even if print books become obsolete for such uses as paper towelling, which when dealing with coffee and similar stains is totally indispensable since cloth cannot be washed). Often I feel that change makes things slip away from me and I continue to look for books in print - preferably early hardcover editions like one of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s proto-Wicca Lolly Willowes that I lent to my half-sister whilst she works in a rehabilitation clinic for her alcohol problems. (To be honest, I feel perhaps I should have done that sort of work when I had really nasty temper tantrums that had me banned from RMIT and Monash when I masturbated in the library, but I do not know what Mummy’s response would have been nor whether I could have done something like that just for violent burst of anger).

In any case, Lonely Planet’s list comperised:
  • City Lights Books, San Francisco
  • Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Livraria Lello, Oporto, Portugal
  • Shakespeare & Company, Paris, France
  • Daunt Books, London, England
  • Another Country, Berlin, Germany
  • The Bookworm, Beijing, China
  • Selexyz Dominicanen, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  • Bookàbar, Rome, Italy
  • Atlantis Books, Santorini, Greece
It’s perhaps too bad that although I went to London and Berlin a few summers ago , I never went to either of the bookshops listed and in London came away a little disappointed at what I saw despite buying a couple of good books on my favourite hobby of old county cricket - even something as romantic as old county cricket is being digitised as I collect Wisdens even older than a few years ago I ever dreamed I would.

It’s also a pity in the context of this e-book revolution and my love of old things that secondhand bookstores appear to have been ignored. Strand Books in New York was for me more of a highlight of my trip last summer than even City Lights, which I did visit (and told my brother in reference to the Catholic influence on the Beats that Pope Benedict XVI would be more at home there than in most of the atheistic Pacific Northwest). If what I experienced of England is a guide, there must be a lot of really good secondhand shops there that have many valuable classic books (it is only since he died that I have even looked at my father’s collection) and a list of these would be wonderful - more so than of new bookstores.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

A strange, uncompelling list on a forgotten topic

For a long time during the cultural upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, fantasy and science fiction literature grew a great deal because the younger Silent and Boom Generations wished to imagine different worlds and civilisations from one they regarded as corrupt, even diseased. Although very few of even the most aware music critics spend that much time on the impact it had on the rock world, there does not exist much doubt that science fiction and fantasy novels of various types and viewpoints did make a major impression of many rock bands. The best-known case - and one that I as a cultural commentator do enjoy emphasising because of how it shows the Sixties counterculture different from that of the “punk” and rap revolutions - is that of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings on Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Another well-known case is how Ayn Rand influenced Rush’s “2112” (pronounced “twenty one twelve”).

In this context, it is interesting to see that Paste Magazine have published a list of “The 23 Greatest Sci-Fi Songs of All Time”:
  1. “Space Oddity” by David Bowie
  2. “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath
  3. “Particle Man” by They Might Be Giants
  4. “Many Moons” by Janelle Monae
  5. “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” (Part One) by Flaming Lips
  6. “Mr. Roboto” by Styx
  7. “Still Alive” by Jonathan Coulton
  8. “We Will Become Silhouettes” by The Postal Service
  9. “Astro Zombies” by the Misfits
  10. “My Science Fiction Twin” by Elvis Costello
  11. “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland” by Sufjan Stevens
  12. “2112” by Rush
  13. “10,000 Years” by Honeydogs
  14. “Subterranean Homesick Alien” by Radiohead
  15. “Space Travel is Boring” by Modest Mouse
  16. “The Ballad of Davy Crockett (in Outer Space)” by They Might Be Giants
  17. “Spaceship” by Angie Aparo
  18. “Spaceman” by the Killers
  19. “Rapture” by Blondie
  20. “If the Government Could Read My Mind” by The Vandals
  21. “The Humans Are Dead/Robots” by Flight of the Conchords
  22. “Rocket Man” by Elton John
  23. “We Will Robot Rock You” by Daft Punk and Queen
Overall, this is a terribly unsatisfying list and not what one would expect from a serious musical expert or an expert on literary fantasy who might well know about its influence on the rock music world. Most of the choices are either too familiar or with very little justification.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The man who put “three too many letters” dies

On the radio tonight, I was surprised to hear of the death of rock musician James Freud. Most famous for writing the 1985 hit singles “Barbados” and “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” for new wave band The Models, Freud had a long career in rock music beginning with his hit “Modern Girl” with backing band The Radio Stars through his Models years to less successful projects like Beatfish with Mental As Anything’s Martin Plaza.

It is, however, for his last notable project that I came to remember James Freud in the long run. When Tony Lockett kicked his 1300th goal in May of 1999 to beat Gordon Coventry’s record which had stood since the 1930s, Freud with a band called “The Reserves” wrote a song “One Tony Lockett” to pay tribute. “One Tony Lockett” was played on the radio quite widely but spent only one week in the Top 40 at number thirty-nine.

However, being at the time obsessed with the terrible quality of spin bowling in 1980s cricket and how it allowed teams with no proven ability to play against spin bowling of a quality such as Ashley Mallett shows must have existed before the advent of artificial fertilisers (with resultant lush pitches and outfields) and limited-overs cricket and curtailed boundaries (which made the enterprising buy-at-all-costs slow spinner a liability) to dominate world cricket, led me to think quickly that James Freud had written three too many letters in his song, which should have been titled “One Tony Lock” after the great spinner of the 1950s and 1960s.

There really were in 1999 fewer English spinners comparable to Tony Lock than full forwards comparable to Tony Lockett, as shown by how no English spinner in 1998 had taken even 35 first-class wickets - a figure that in the 1950s was often attained by spinners in a few games. Even in 1984, when the supposedly great West Indian sides were at their peak, the standard of spin has declined alarmingly, especially with Underwood - in his last “top-flight” year - banned for touring South Africa. For years I have insisted that if the West Indian sides of the 1980s had had to face spinners of the calibre of Lock and Jim Laker on pitches like those of the 1950s, it would have been another game entirely from the cricket of the 1980s. I cannot imagine any side of that era, experienced only on plastic pitches protected from rain, having the skill required to last against spinners of the calibre of Laker and Lock - as Ashley Mallett said around the time Lock died in 1995, the West Indies failed when pitches took spin against much poorer spinners.

Friday, 22 October 2010

An overdue list, if not what is should be

Ever since I began to read popular music lists seriously, I have always felt that far too much focus is on the guitar vis-à-vis the other major rock instruments of bass, drums and vocals. Lists of best guitar albums are common, but for bass, drums and vocals one almost never sees them and when i listen I find this a gaping hole.

In this absence, Stuart Hamm’s Ten Greatest Bass Albums of All Time is refreshing. He pull no punches with looking at what he considers to be the ten greatest bass albums of all time:
  1. Fragile by Yes
  2. Live at Leeds by the Who
  3. Yessongs by Yes
  4. Funkentelechy versus the Placebo Syndrome by Parliament
  5. Stanley Clarke by Stanley Clarke
  6. Heavy Weather by Weather Report
  7. Jaco Pastorius by Jaco Pastorius
  8. Reach for It by George Duke
  9. Masques by Brand X
  10. Shadows and Light by Joni Mitchell
All these albums date from the 1970s, and almost all are related to progressive rock or fusion jazz. It would be good if other genres could be appreciated and the role of the bass understood therein.

Still, Stuart Hamm in his notes compensates a good deal for this stereotyping because he offers such a good account of how he came to appreciate the albums he lists as the best bass guitar albums. He relates all of these to his own experience and history with the material he recommends, a vital step to draw the reader/listener in.

Not your Pancho Villa

The main headline of Time this week has been a list of the most dangerous drug barons in Mexico.

In the public eye Mexico is not associated with drug barons (also called “drug lords” or “high level drug dealers”) in the way the “Andean” nations of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia are. Many would know about the story of such drug barons as Pablo Escobar, who was in 1987 estimated to be the seventh-richest man in the world, but Mexico’s drug barons are not nearly so familiar at least to me.

Coca is certainly grown in Mexico despite requiring a wetter climate than most of that country possesses, but I had assumed the country’s main claim to criminal activity resided in a quite different sphere: political corruption and so-called “people smuggling”.

None of the people are at all famous to me in the way Escobar was, but the “Sinaloa cartel” apparently is as dangerous as the more famous Medellin cartel in terms of its control over world markets for cocaine. There are also the “(Ciudad) Juarez Cartel”, the “Gulf Cartel” and “Tijuana Cartel”.

The descriptions do evoke a situation where drug-related crime is much closer to the centre of drug consumption than remote lowlands of equatorial South America. If this is so, it ought to be easier to do something about cocaine than Ameriricans probably imagine, but the images are really bad in themselves.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Global warming threatens the koala – ZERO emisisons must be immediate goal

As I have said earlier, Australia’s sensitive ecology dictates that its population’s energy use efficiency should be much higher than countries in Eurasia, the Americas or New Zealand.

In reality, of course, owing to dirt-cheap coal-fired power that is six times cheaper than any energy in Eurasia, the Americas or New Zealand, Australia is (or ought to be) notorious for its poor energy efficiency and high emissions.

I have noted once previously that the iconic koala is now threatened by disease and global warming. However, today, there is more detail as to what is affecting the koala. It is a disease known as chlamydia, which
causes respiratory infections, incontinence, pink eye and a number of other side effects, most notably, infertility.
It is thought that if chlamydia continues to spread across the koala population, it could cause the species to cease breeding in thirty years. By 2040, too, global warming is likely to mean that Australia’s dry schlerophyll forests will be too dry to support any trees, and extremely hot so that if it ever would rain fires would be extremely likely.

Thus, we are at war on two fronts. Whilst scientists may have a solution to the problem of chlamydia in the future, they alone can do nothing about a problem towards which Australia is by far the world’s worst offender. The only people who can do anything are those who would inform – in much more detail than I can by trying to harass people I meet – the public of Australia’s apolitical outer suburbs that unless they demand a zero emissions target for Australia immediately iconic species like the koala will be gone within their lifetime.

Whether this zero emissions target should be achieved by pressuring Australia’s apolitical masses or foreign governments is a very big question, but that we need it there is no doubt.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Is this the woman I saw at Melbourne University?

Ten years ago, I was obssessed with the theories of Tony Cliff that the USSR was really a capitalist country, which I would later call in conversation with my brother the ESCD for “Empire of State Capitalist Dictatorship”. My brother called Tony Cliff “TSBTOAC”, for Tony Should Be Thrown Off A Cliff. Sometimes he would stutter when saying the five middle words of the name.

Even before I knew who Tony Cliff was, I listened his followers intensely at Melbourne University, and they seemed to offer a very good explanation for the dreadful, pro-freeway transport policies of Australian governments over the past eighty years. These followers, who formed groups called Socialist Alternative and the International Socialist Organisation, argued that a ruling class has a vested interest in maximising profits, and that building a huge number of cars would bring them larger profits than a modest number of more sustainable public transport vehicles. Despite the fact that I have become wary of the cultural character of these radical groups in demographic terms, there is still much to be said in favour of their argument that working class militancy is the key to good environmental policy.

The effective leader of Socialist Alternative was and still is a woman called Sandra Bloodworth. My brother used to say that she was a mother who abandoned her children to join anti-uranium protesters and turned to socialism with Tess Lee Ack, a veteran of early 1970s radicalism. When I tried to meet the insiders of Socialist Alternative, I certainly saw Tess Lee Ack, who seemed rather bland. Later, I met a woman called Sandra, and assumed she was Sandra Bloodworth, but was terribly unimpressed. This Sandra had the appearance of a witch and - unsurprisingly when one reads Arthur Brooks - seemed totally uncaring and very rude. She would not even introduce herself to me and seemed to want me to go away even though I was then really interested in socialism.

For a long time, I though I had seen the real Sandra Bloodworth and frequently described her in this way to people I met. My brother, however, always doubted that the socialist whom I admired as a student really did look like a classic “witch”, but I never thought I would be able to check until today, when coming home, one of the very familiar Socialist Alternative posters I found hada picture of her. I must say that the real Sandra Bloodworth does not look nearly so much like a witch as I had thought! There is still a possibility Sandra has groomed her hair to make it straighter, but when I saw her face again I really cannot see the wrinkled, witch-like face I recall from that one encounter at Melbourne University!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Rhino poaching syndicate has a curious character

Today, there is news that Limpopo Province police have found the leader of a major rhino poaching gang. the police are adamant (though there is no evidence they are certain) that the members arrested are the most senior members of the active rhinoceros poaching gangs of northern South Africa.

What is amazing is that the leader of the rhino poaching ring include veterinarians (presumably they work for South Africa‘s farming sector) and people who manage game reserves which are supposed to protect rhinos!

The question that this begs is whether and to what extent the involvement of wealthy professionals in poaching of rhinoceroses is evidence that there is popular support in Southern Africa for the kind of moves advocated by Robert P. Murphy in his The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. On one side one can argue that the wealthy professionals who involve themselves at the top of the rhino poaching syndicates are far removed from the masses of South Africans; on the other side one can argue that these wealthy people are supported by the masses and those masses feel that they gain real benefits from rhino poaching. The best thing is to wait for more evidence!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Making the guilty parties pay for natural disasters

A petition site is arguing that because of the devastating Pakistan floods, that country’s debt should be permanently frozen for two years so that it can rebuild.

Whilst doing that would help Pakistan deal with the crippling costs of unprecedented rainfall, there is the trouble that the amazingly fertile Indus Valley – watered by a river through reliable summer floods so large and muddy that the Indus has no real banks – will be under larger concentrations of carbon dioxide flooded by super-monsoons every year in such a manner as to drown a land that has retained its fertility for extremely long periods under the most intensive use. To destroy some of the most proven farmland in the history of agriculture would be very costly to the world, especially should less proven land be dried out or leached by global warming.

For this reason, I firmly think petitions should focus on those countries that are most responsible for emissions of gases like CO2, CH4 and N2O. Relative to its population, and more so to its ecological character and the rate of observed climate change, Australia is by far the worst offender in this regard. Having some of the cheapest energy in the world due to its abundant black and brown coal has meant that, in spite of its extremely fragile hydrology and ecology, Australia has carbon emissions four times higher than the European Union and 25 percent higher than Canada and New Zealand.

If ecological and hydrological fragility determined allowable greenhouse emissions, Australia would be permitted maximally a few percent the per capita carbon emissions of Europe, Asia, North America, New Zealand or extratropical South America. One percent is roughly equivalent to the ratio of typical Australian to typical northern hemisphere ratio of yield to runoff for a climate on the arid/Mediterranean boundary. (Typical Australian runoff for this climate is about a tenth that of northern hemisphere streams, but the ratio of storage is inversely proportional to the square of the runoff ratio.)

Thus, those who are concerned with the Pakistani floods should first of all know who is to blame – Australia and its exceptionally high carbon emissions - and actively do something to combat this. If they are outside Australia, they should protest for international pressure or voluntary trade boycotts that might involve working for themselves to reduce the overwhelming dependence of the rest of the world on Australia’s monopoly on mineral resources. If in Australia foreigners should use statistics found in many places on this blog and in linked sites to show that Australia’s ecology tolerates no CO2 emissions whatsoever and regardless of inconvenience follow a strict zero-emissions standard. Australians themselves should also do the above.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

“100 Worst Songs” shows Harrington’s trends spreading

A few days ago, I found that AOL of all people had compiled a list of what it considers to be the 100 worst songs of all time. I had trouble finding it on the web, but today I have found it and decided I should listen to a few of the songs with which I was reasonably familiar.

On the whole, the list is not entirely unfamiliar from previous lists of the worst songs of all time like that by Blender magazine. In fact, one can see twenty-one of the Blender songs on AOL’s list:
  • “Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder from 1982
  • “We Built This City” by Starship from 1985
  • “Party All the Time” by Eddie Murphy from 1985
  • “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel from 1989
  • “Hanging Tough” by New Kids on the Block from 1989
  • “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice from 1990
  • “From a Distance” by Bette Midler from 1990
  • “Rico Suave” by Gerardo from 1991
  • “Achy Breaky Heart “ by Billy Ray Cyrus from 1992
  • “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred from 1992
  • “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes from 1993
  • “I’ll Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meat Loaf from 1993
  • “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” by Crash Test Dummies from 1994
  • “I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts from 1995
  • “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something from 1995
  • “Cotton Eyed Joe” by Rednex from 1995
  • “Barbie Girl” by Aqua from 1997
  • “Make Em Say Uhh!” by Master P featuring Silkk, Fiend, Mia-X and Mystikal from 1998
  • “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion from 1998
  • “She Bangs” by Ricky Martin from 2000
  • “American Life” by Madonna from 2003
What is particularly notable with hindsight about both the AOL and Blender lists is that the vast majority of the songs on both come from after the “punk revolution”.

The only ones on the AOL list that did not were:
  • #07 “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy
  • #63 “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks
  • #79 “Tie a Yellow Robbon” by Dawn
and from the 2004 Blender list:
  • #42 “The Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel
  • #48 “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by the Beatles
This suggests a definite affinity with Joe S. Harrington’s brilliant Top 100 albums list from 2001 to 2003, whereby commercially successful albums from before the “punk revolution” are common but major-label or commercially successful albums afterwards completely ignored. What one notices having read reviews written over the period since 1992 is how commercial albums from the 1980s that were regarded quite well in 1992 are generally disparaged completely. This can be see with the following artists on Blender lists:
  1. Mike and the Mechanics
  2. The Hooters
  3. Arrested Development
  4. solo Mick Jagger
  5. Storm Front by Billy Joel
  6. Was (Not Was)

Friday, 17 September 2010

A dialogue describing an unusual family quarrel

Today, as I was coming home from Irwin & McLaren in Richmond, I had a look in a Salvation Army store. Although the books to be found therein seldom reach the standards I look for, I still enjoy having looks for old Choose Your Own Adventure books and others from my childhood. Given the nasty verbal fights I have had with my brother and mother over the issue of whether miraculous inedia as claimed of Thèrése Neumann, Marthe Robin and other stigmatists is potentially true, I am always interested to see what was claimed by old editions of the Guinness Book of Records before it stopped publishing fasting records. My brother says this was not because of hounding to accept the records of people like Marthe Robin, Thèrése Neumann, Alexandrina da Costa (thirteen years without food and water except the Eucharist) and Nicholas of Flüe (twenty years without food and water except for monthly Holy Communion). He says more likely – and I have confirmed this since – that it was because Guinness World Records were concerned that people would die if they tried to break established fasting records. When I think of how many people have died trying to break the World Water Speed Record since it was set by Spirit of Australia in 1978, I find Guinness World Records’ argument a little weak. I am by no means sure a person would die if they tried to break these fasting records, and if they really need food then a failure ought to be able to be declared!

When I found a 1999 copy of the Guinness Book of Records, I had a look to see if its abandonment of fasting records had already occurred. What I found was they had not, and that it said the longest anyone had gone without food and water was eighteen days. This was by a man named Andreas Mihavecz who was put in a holding cell in Höchst, Vorarlberg and forgotten. He had been a passenger in a crashed car on April 1 and was found on April 18. Some say he survived by drinking water from the prison wall!

My response to finding this later record was to message my brother on my mobile. He was so quick to respond I will describe the dialogue in full:
  • Me: The last edition of the Guinness Book of Records to have fasting records (1999) said that the longest anybody had gone without food and water was 18 days (by Andreas Mihavecz who was put in a holding cell by police in Höchst and totally forgotten). Do you think the real record is closer to this than those claimed of Thèrése Neumann, Marthe Robin or Nicholas of Flüe?
  • My brother: Vastly closer.
  • Me: How much longer would daily Holy Communion add to the time a person could survive without any other food or water?
  • My brother: The wafers have almost 0 calories (based on a google search) so it would change very little.
After that, I tried to tell my brother and mother that people as anti-religion as they are had verified Thèrése Neumann’s miracles. Their response was that newspapers derided by author Adalbert Albert Vogl as “socialistic” (which actually reminds me of my brother in the days when I read the likes of Sandra Bloodworth and Tess Lee Ack) told the truth about Thèrése. I would actually like to read them, but am by no means sure they would be easy to find let alone to translate. I do wish to be open to evidence that people have by experience disproved claims that people like Thèrése Neumann lived for 40 years with no food except the Eucharist, but dislike the way my brother approaches the issue intensely.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Where the best answer is omitted

Today, after looking through an e-mail account for the first time in several days and finding it cluttered, I found a list that aimed to ask which influential band had inspired the worst bands.

Because I have my own opinion about this which I will talk about later, I wanted to see whether or not I could myself comment on the list since I wondered and wonder what the response of people on the site would be. Unfortunately the rules do not permit me to comment, so I have to place my comments here.

The bands listed as possibilities were:
  1. Nirvana
  2. Iron Maiden
  3. Sex Pistols
  4. Jethro Tull
  5. Radiohead
  6. The Velvet Underground
I had a look through a few of the comments in the book, but was really surprised to realise that the band whom I think would rank as #1 - and recall when in the Brunswick Street Off Ya Tree store was ranked as #9 in a list of great bands who were bad influences - was not listed.

The Who, in my opinion, have always been to blame for a good deal of terrible, childish power pop bands. Even through listening to the Who’s music on classic rock radio for a long time, it is clear that, whilst the Who were talented and even mature and deep, they were extremely good at inspiring people without talent to make annoying, tuneless, music. One can take the ludicrous lyrics of Slade and Gary Glitter, who were popular in Australia, as an example.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Why ZRB and a CFC are so overdue, despite what we see in Victoria

As I probably noted in my previous post, those in Victoria will be hopeful that global warming generated by road wastage and the failure of Australians to demand by protest a transport policy in which government transport investment is directed towards either railways or road demolition. Perversely, as the Public Transport Users’ Association has long known, road demolition would likely  reduce traffic congestion by making rail and other public transport investment more profitable and able to carry more people.

This wet season (May to August or MJJA) in southwestern Australia has been certainly the driest since before 1885. Rainfall has, as you can see here, been as much as 47 percent below the pre-anthropogenic global warming average, which I will take as the average up to and including 1967. (Though exact data from 1885 to 1899 are not available, sufficient rainfall records for southwestern Australia do exist to show that including these years will not make much difference.) What is alarming is that of the nineteen wettest wet seasons in southwestern Australia, not one has occurred in the past twenty-two years and only one in the past thirty-six. In fact, not one May to August period since 1989 has had a southwestern Australian rainfall reaching the pre-global warming average.

If we accept Tim Flannery’s view that major climate shifts began in 1976, then we can take a “pre-global warming” average May to August rainfall over southwestern Australia up to and including 1974. Under such a scenario, 1996 is slightly above the pre-global warming average by five millimetres or one percent, but every other of the last twenty-two years has had below normal wet season rainfall. More than that, six of the nineteen driest wet seasons in southwestern Australia since 1885 have occurred in the past decade alone (1894 has no exact average available, but was certainly as dry as the “nineteen driest” wet seasons listed here).

The key point is that everybody concerned with global warming should see that these changes are in fact less than what can be expected with my estimated poleward expansion of the Hadley circulation of around ten degrees since 1967 (data unfortunately only exist from 1979, by when southwestern Australia’s climate was already severely affected by anthropogenic greenhouse gases). On this basis, Perth is climatically today well within the tropical belt and right amidst the descending air of the Hadley circulation, whilst the ascending, rain-bearing air is well south even of Northcliffe, before 1968 the wettest town in Western Australia. The rainfall and temperature data for the winter of 2010 suggest that what we are seeing, as we did in the winter of 1998, the development of a “tropical easterly jet” over Australia that drives moisture in from north of the edge of the Hadley circulation to large areas on inland Australia that have historically been rainless during this time of year. Tropical Australia this drought season has had a remarkable number of rain events, so that parts of the historically arid interior have had totals as high as that of Perth! The observed extremely high sunshine and frosts over southwestern Australia result from the region under this new climate pattern being the centre of a high pressure system north of which moist air is fed into the rest of the continent.

Even should the arid zone become less arid, it will not become more productive because the soils will become like those of tropical Australia: ever since agriculture began the most intransigent obstacle in the world to its spread. What is worse is that at the present rate even the historically humid karri-forest regions will quite soon under present rates of CO2 concentration increase be too dry for the extraordinarily diverse flora and wildflowers of southwestern Australia. Already decimated by land clearing for cheap food, the unique kwongan now faces anthropogenic global warming as its greatest threat.

Saving the kwongan is something that would under present rates of climate change be an amazing feat. Green Left Weekly suggest that the preservation of the Mediterranean climate to which it is adapted would require an actual reduction in CO2 concentrations, a view supported by paleoclimate data.

To achieve such an actual reduction would require the masses of Australians:
  1. to be more aware of how much the climate is drying out, via such steps as using only pre-anthropogenic global warming (say pre-1968 or pre-1975) rainfall averages
  2. to demand:
    1. a restoration of the mining tax
    2. constitutional laws to ensure governments will spend all transport funding on railways or road demolition
    3. a reduction in road capacity to pre-1974 levels, when public transport was able to pay its way profitably
  3. to ultimately campaign for the abolition of private motorised transport from Australia, a step that with climate and biodiversity data known in 1980 could have been demanded then.
    • The Democratic Socialist Party suggest that if the profits of mining and car companies were redirected into mass transit, abolition of private road vehicles could be achieved without any mobility loss
  4. Even if they cannot directly achieve the goals of zero roads budget (ZRB) and a car free continent (CFC), people can take it as a duty to not use roads and to cycle even if it is less convenient. In the gorgeous 15˚ to 17˚C weather southern Australia has in the cooler months, this would be a very good sacrifice to make. In the very warm to hot weather of southern Australia in the summer, it is more difficult but I don’t think impossible for people fitter than myself. Still, ZRB and CFC are such essential goals that any sort of protest is justified to achieve them.
The trouble is to inform the ultraconservative outer suburbs that equal mobility is achievable at much lower ecological costs through really first-rate mass transit. This remains incomprehensible to them, but the climatic consequences resulting from the failure to achieve ZRB and CFC by 1985 or 1990 become severer by the year. If they realise Melbourne and Perth will be some of the most arid places in Australia within a decade or two under likely emissions scenarios and that any carbon-based energy use in fragile Australia is incompatible with the maintenance of present ecosystems or even agriculture, goals that should have been achieved a quarter century ago can be aimed at.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A major criminal break-through in the rhino poaching war

Today, amidst contrasting climate news that I hope to discuss later, I have found some news that in South Africa, five people have been captured on charges of poaching rhinoceroses. They are being held in Limpopo Province in Lephalale Magistrate's Court and should be trialled fully in five days.

They were originally arrested when policemen spotted a vehicle driving near a private game farm. Apparently, they were indeed caught before any rhinos were actually harmed, so that there is hope we are seeing a sustained fight against the killing of these endangered species.

One cannot wait to hear of impoverished governments actually doing something about rhinos being killed to meet the market for jambiyas in Yemen and for medicine in Taiwan (the worst offender) and other Asian nations. One sincerely hope that if rhino poachers are arrested other African adn especially Asian nations will follow suit.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The spread of the super-monsoon

The recent floods in Pakistan have led to questions that should have been answered a year and a half ago when catastrophic bushfires and two weeks of record high temperatures in southern Australia combined with extreme flooding in Queensland.

What people like Ian Smith have shown is the a poleward shift in the Hadley circulation has caused a movement of climate belts approaching ten degrees of latitude since the 1970s. In effect, the pre-settlement climate of Kalumburu is now located near Wolfe Creek, that of Kakadu now near the Barkly region, that of Charleville now in Melbourne, and that of Carnarvon now near Perth. The boundary of the climatological “tropics” in terms of tropospheric height has shifted from around 25˚N and ˚S to 35˚N and ˚S since 1975, and what paleoclimate data exists suggests that it will most likely settle around 45˚N and ˚S. Such a shift would mean the end for Mediterranean climates and a major shift in the arid and monsoonal belts.

Moreover, if one thinks about it seriously, it would most definitely mean more monsoonal rain in Pakistan. Since the Himalayas restricts the passage of the monsoon northwards, unless monsoonal cells can begin to form over Western Asia or Central Asia this will mean a very intense cell over northwestern Pakistan, into which strong winds are drawn with the result that Pakistan receives extremely heavy rain, as would Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry gives clear evidence that, like in Australia, the monsoon belt is changing with reference to the heavy rains in North West Frontier Province:
The only explanation can be the link to climate change. Because that area very rarely receives monsoon rains
The very heavy rainfall over the northern edge of the monsoon belt in Liáoníng does suggest that there is a strong tendency towards more powerful Asian monsoons

Other sources say that rainfall in northwestern China – historically an arid zone – has increased by 33 percent since 1961 (less than observed increases in northwestern and central-western Australia, but relative to natural variability more). This, like the increase over central-western Australia, is almost certainly related to the growth of a super monsoon because, at the very least, more unstable air comes in from the east.

Friday, 13 August 2010

A “tyranny” we forget

The brilliant writer Bill Kauffman has noted how time standardisation has had major deleterious effects on how people organise their life.

Kauffman says that time standardisation began only when long-distance rail services had to schedule themselves to arrive at major stations as consistently as possible. He says that before this, clocks kept time according to the passage of the sun, so that midday would always be when the sun was as far overhead as possible. Over the years, especially with the spread of daylight savings. time has been removed increasingly from reflecting what I agree it is supposed to do. Though Kauffman neglects to mention it, daylight savings time is again driven by big businesses and government to maximise work and leisure during daylight. This reasoning almost becomes obsolete when activities like sport shift to the night to maximise television revenue, so that there is further reason to argue as I have come to in recent hot summers against daylight savings at all in Australia.

The life I have today - where I often am awake until 2:00 and sleep until 12:00 or even 13:00 - is the ultimate reflection of a tendency I must condemn even as I condemn my own behaviour. I know it would be better for me to get up earlier and not work after midnight, but my tendency to shift focus from one obsession to another makes this very tough.

A prediction for the 2010/2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot

Last year, I did a prediction for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot for 2009/2010. I will confess that it was completely wrong with the exception of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Chantels, neither of whom were voted in. Even among my “Bubbling Under” artists only two were nominated: Donna Summer, the Stooges and the Hollies, the latter two being voted in. The fact that there seems to be extraordinarily little activity discussing who will or should get in to the Hall for 2010/2011 makes me nonetheless eager to consider who the likely inductees will be.

In 2009/2010, the Hall of Fame increased the number of artists on the ballot from nine to twelve. For 2010/2011 it is apparently considering reducing the number of years of eligibility from twenty-five to twenty - a move I wholeheartedly disapprove of. Digital Dream Door, in an email to me, said that there is no artist “remotely deserving” who is newly eligible for 2010/2011, so that we are left with looking at artists already discussed by the Nominating Committee as of 2009/2010.

I predict that the following twelve artists will comprise the ballot for the 2010/2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

- The “5” Royales: The Rock Hall has shown a very strong tendency to “juggle” around many candidates from most black genres - which lack the respect of the white critical establishment but which are undoubtedly of major influence. The “5” Royales were nominated in both 2001/2002 and 2003/2004, so they undoubtedly have support from the Nominating Committee and with the need of another vocal group and somebody from before the FM radio revolution of the late 1960s they are a likely shot this year.

- The Chantels: Already nominated last year, they look likely to obtain another chance as the only vocal harmony group remaining for discussion. Girl-group pop, like doo-wop, is an area which one does not generally see discussed by most critics but which is still a very important part of rock as Digital Dream Door notes. Under a genre-based approach the Chantels would seem inevitable on the ballot whether voted in or not.

- Randy Newman: Although Randy did not make the ballot for a second time after I predicted he would last year, reading about the way in which the Rock Hall Nominating Committee seems to be restructuring its choices makes me think Randy must have a chance for a second nomination. His consistent critical acclaim from Rolling Stone is a very important factor in his favour.

- Deep Purple: With the Hall seemingly wanting to reconsider styles for a long time rejected by the critical establishment, Deep Purple appear a very natural choice to represent hard rock or heavy metal. The trouble with them is so many changes of line-up, but the classic group of Ian Gillan, Richie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Roger Glover and Ian Paice did enough with Deep Purple in Rock, Fireball and Machine Head in defining heavy metal that those three albums could easily be judged sufficient for a place.

- Yes: With the induction of Genesis and the Hall aiming for a “style-by-style” approach, Yes seem a natural choice. They have even been cited as an influence by such bands as Metallica, which will not hurt their chances, nor would Rick Wakeman’s links with Sabbath.

- The MC5: With the Stooges finally inducted after I had expected them to be neglected after repeated failures, it would only be natural for the Nominating Committee to turn to their protopunk contemporaries. The MC5 have already reached the 2002/2003 ballot, and it is very tempting to think that this could be their year for actual induction - twenty years after vocalist Rob Tyner died.

- War: Already nominated in 2008/2009, War would fit the bill for a black rock act, though they like Sly and the Family Stone were in fact multi-ethnic. I expected them to get in in 2008/2009, and with the lack of major early funk acts for 2009/2010 it would seem that War would be likely to get another chance with considerable hope of being inducted. The problem of ex-Animal Eric Burdon leaving the band after two albums seems unlikely to affect them.

- Donna Summer: Like the Stooges before and alongside her, she has been a perennial choice of the Nominating Committee who has great trouble managing to get in. Also like the Stooges, I had doubted her staying in line but the way in which Summer got on last year suggests that they have nor given and are unlikely to give up on her.

- The Cure: The manner in which Charles Crossley breaks down the nominations for the 2009/2010 Rock Hall gives me a suggestion that the Cure will be used to represent post-punk or even goth. They are the only band in either genre except Depeche Mode with sufficient recognition to have a chance. so Crossley’s suggestion and their increasing recognition in the late 1980s means this could be their year?

- Def Leppard: The discussion of Bon Jovi gives me the impression that those in the Nominating Committee recognise the cultural impact of pop metal enough to warrant an artist from that genre being inducted. Def Leppard are undoubtedly the most important group in that genre, and would thus be favoured for a berth on the ballot in this scene.

- The Beastie Boys: With the approach of the twenty-fifth anniversary of their classic album Licensed to Ill, they seem to the most likely rap candidate before Public Enemy and N.W.A. become eligible in 2012/2013. Were extremely innovative and rarely followed in sampling metal acts such as Black Sabbath, Slayer and AC/DC and have a similarly unique status as a white rap band. They continued to be commercially successful into the 1990s.

- The Red Hot Chili Peppers: They were overlooked in 2009/2010, but the very fact that the Nominating Committee put them onto the ballot make me sure the Chili Peppers will be inducted soon. Whether Jack Irons and Hillel Slovak are inducted with the “classic” lineup of Kiedis, Frusciente, Flea and Chad Smith is far from certain, but it is hard not to see them on the ballot.
Bubbling Under
If the artists listed above do not make the ballot, it will probably be because the following artists make the list:

- Darlene Love: She failed on the 2009/2010 ballot, but appears to be popular with many in the Nominating Committee such as Steven van Zandt so that she may well have a serious chance this year, especially with the Committee’s characteristic tendencies to juggle around a set of artists.

- The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: Already nominated in 2005/2006, they could fulfil the role of blues in the ballot - one I have not filled in myself. Their role in transforming rock guitar into an improvised format made them highly influential on artists like inductees The Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers Band, but they never had a Top 50 album or any hit single so they might fall short with commercially-oriented sections of the voting body.

- The Monkees: The induction of the Hollies makes me think that they are a likely shot, although they have been consistently disfavoured by many in the Nominating Committee their vital role in popularising video as a medium for music ought to be of very valuable importance - as should their many hit singles.

- T. Rex: They have been long discussed by the Nominating Committee and their critical popularity as a representative of the glam rock movement, along with significant influence on many indie bands and noticeable popular success via the recognisable “Get It On” makes them a very likely chance especially with the Stooges inducted and no other glam band considered.

- Dr. John: Extremely influential upon the singer/songwriter movement (most notably cited Van Morrison), so that if the Hall wishes to acknowledge this unique sector of rock history, Dr. John would seem very likely since he has already been discussed before for a long time and this year could easily be his chance.

- Kraftwerk: Although almost completely neglected by the Nominating Committee since reaching the ballot in 2002/2003, Kraftwerk should not be neglected if the Hall thinks it ought to acknowledge genres of rock missed in the past two decades. As popularisers of electronic music, Kraftwerk are the only potential choice in their genre and that gives them a chance.

- Chic: Perennial candidates even though they have not been inducted on five tries since 2002/2003, Chic seem certain to be here forever until enough voters put them in. Their recognition may be limited to a few hits like “Le Freak”, but the importance of such musicians as Nile Rogers and Tony Thompson gives them a serious chance unless the Nominating Committee decides they have too many enemies within the voting body to get in.

- The B‘52s: The most popular New Wave group not yet inducted, the B‘52s have the recognisable songs that might well appeal to a Nominating Committee that wants to find a branch of rock not discussed in 2009/2010. Doubts exist because they had two incarnations before and after Ricky Wilson died of AIDS, which will diminish voters’ perceptions of them as one group.

- Afrika Bambaataa: The most important artist in “old school” hip hop and the only one to have reached a ballot, Afrika Bambaataa is clearly acknowledged as a major founder of the only genre to maintain both critical and popular acclaim since the “punk revolution”, which may well give him a serious shot in a year with no new chances.

- Stevie Ray Vaughan: “Modern” blues guitarist of tremendous acclaim for his live work and albums before being killed in a helicopter crash, Stevie Ray Vaughan was discussed by the Nominating Committee during 2009/2010 and is generally touted as a certainty. Some question over influence but a genuine chance this year with no worthy new candidates.