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 every year by monsoons  sufficiently intense to drown a land that has retained its fertility indefinitely under the most intensive use. Such destructive flooding of amongst the most proven farmland in the history of agriculture would stand very costly globally, especially should less proven land be dried out or leached by global warming.

I firmly think petitions must instead focus on those countries most responsible for emissions of gases like CO2, CH4 and N2O. Relative to its population, and more so to its ecological character and 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 per capita 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. For instance, the approximate ratio of typical Australian to typical northern hemisphere water yield to precipitation ratios for a climate on the arid/Mediterranean boundary is 1:100, so sustainable Australian per capita emissions might be one percent of the Enriched World’s. (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 Australia and its exceptionally high per capita carbon emissions are to blame and actively attempt to combat this. If 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

As I noted in a previous post, long overdue is an Australian transport policy in which all investment is directed towards either railways or road demolition, despite the best Victorian rainfall for fourteen years. 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 makes negligible 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 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 require governments to spend all transport funding on railways or road demolition
    3. lowering road capacity to pre-1974 levels, when public transport paid its way profitably with zero subsidies
  3. to campaign for ultimate 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.
More difficult and critical is informing the ultraconservative outer suburbs that equal mobility is attainable at much lower environmental costs via first-rate mass transit, a fact currently incomprehensible to them. However, the climatic consequences of not achieving ZRB and CFC by 1985 or 1990 become severer by the year. Were it generally known that Melbourne and Perth will be amongst 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 of extant agriculture, goals already overdue 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.