Monday, 28 February 2011

Laughable game to attack Thèrése Neumann - could Ignatius refute it?

Yesterday, whilst we were in a hotel in Newcastle so I could see an old friend who moved there during the 2009/2010 summer, my brother – always on the alert for me talking about anything he views as failing to fit essential scientific evidence – wrote a programme to simulate what he believes to have been the true life of German mystic and stigmatist Thèrése Neumann. In this programme, my brother assumes dogmatically that Thèrése Neumann ate in secret and did not enjoy the Eucharist so much that she could not live without it for more than a day.

In a later version, my brother changed the writing to German and added more detail, like saying “Ich bin durstig” if Thèrése was not given water (Wasser) but once he had the problem of it failing to say she was dead if she just had the Eucharist. What I said to him was that in reality, when she was given the Body of Jesus, Thèrése would say “Das schmeckt so gut, daß ich Darohne nicht leben kann” (“That tastes so good I cannot live without it”)!

In the words of Joan Carroll Cruz, Thèrése Neumann’s life is supposed to be ebbing away just before she received her daily Holy Communion, and she was revived as soon as she received the Bread of Life. However, as you can work out from the attached diagram which my brother sent me, there are some key assumptions that people who knew Thèrése Neumann had strong eyewitness evidence against.

The most basic is that Thèrése Neumann was capable of eating ordinary nourishment. The impression one received from reading Joan Carroll Cruz and Michael Freze is that she and other stigmatists would suffer illnesses such as vomiting and fevers as soon as they were given food or drink other than the Eucharist. Freze says quite definitely that such occurrences have been observed by eyewitnesses. If Thèrése Neumann really could not eat ordinary food, then she would have felt very bad if she ate donuts (Krapfen) or fried potatoes (Bratkartoffeln) at any time, which would make what my brother says absurd. Sophy Burnham says that people who were anything but mystical have had the problem of coughing up any solid food given to them, as with Xiong Zaidong who had a fever of 42˚C. If Thèrése Neumann had such problems, she would at the very least have had to take a very special diet to survive, which might not include typical food from the Germany of her time.

Another is that Thèrése Neumann actually was carrying out normal bodily processes. Eyewitnesses like those cited by Adalbert Albert Vogl say that as a result of her illness, Thèrése’s body no longer carried out normal functions like excretion. If as eyewitnesses say she was not excreting, Thèrése would have been able to retain minimal nourishment and might have struggled even more to add something like fried potatoes.

Some have also suggested that Thèrése’s stomach contracted because she was not eating, though I have no evidence for that claim being medically examined.

Still, if any of this is true for whatever reason, it means that we must be careful about assuming Thèrése Neumann could eat freely and/or could be fed as an ordinary person would be.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

A mega-arid Perth is the key feature

In yesterday’s Yahoo news, they are saying that under present CO2 conditions the southwestern US state of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada would suffer from a much drier climate. This data is based on work from a dried lake bed in New Mexico called the Valles Caldera, which shows that in hotter periods this region of the United States had rainfall even less than those observed since instrumental records began about 125 years ago. it points out that settlements in this area depend greatly upon access to water, and that under projected climate conditions there would be much less water available.

What is problematically overlooked, however, is that the southwest of Western Australia, which has almost no paleoclimate data apart from very specialised research that does not go back even to the Medieval Warm Period (read Climates of the Southern Continents for the best available data) has suffered both from a larger population increase and a greater reduction in rainfall, and yet is not discussed. In fact, though the far southwest of Western Australia has been historically much more humid than any region of the southwest of North America, last year saw almost all this region have its driest year since records began. In fact, the very limited rainfall data going back to 1882 strongly suggest that the observed rainfall in 2010 would not be possible had greenhouse gas levels remained at what they were before the Industrial Revolution.

Even more critically, runoff in southwestern Australia (and Australia generally) shows much more sensitivity to precipitation changes that that in southwestern North America. For example, a decline of forty percent in rainfall (as observed in 2010) has caused runoff into Perth’s dams to decline from 338 gigalitres to just eleven gigalitres, which is a decline of 96.7 percent. In California, by contrast, a decline of 40 percent from normal annual rainfall is a regular occurrence, but never causes runoff to fall below 20 percent of the average. More than that, there is no evidence years so dry as 2010 ever occurred in southwestern Australia even during glacial conditions when most other parts of Australia lost up to ninety percent of their rainfall. This means that at likely future CO2 levels Perth could have a runoff of a few gigalitres to serve a million people with its formerly renewable groundwater rapidly depleting.

The only solution is for basic necessities in this unique and fragile environment to be realistically priced. Realistically priced would necessarily mean a price that would be able to keep CO2 levels low enough to maintain the region’s unique ecosystems, and total consumption low enough to keep aquatic systems in order. It is clear that with 2 million people southwestern Australia is quite grossly overpopulated. Based on current runoff levels, that is around 100 litres per person per year or one tenth the accepted minimum of 1000. That would mean prices for energy and water would have to be sufficient to exclude all but the most frugal people.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The battle over rhinos is heating up

2010 saw poaching of rhinos reach levels never seen in the past, as the price of Asiatic rhino horn reached the unimaginable levels of $50 or higher per gram, whilst less expensive African horn reached much higher prices than it has historically been at. Three hundred and thirty-eight rhinos were killed in South Africa alone during 2010, or about one-thirtieth of that country’s rhino population (and South Africa holds 75 percent of the world’s rhinos).

As I have observed the increasing poaching of rhinos through a Google Alert throughout 2010, I have long wondered why the governments of the countries concerned have not been either doing something about rhino poaching or asking themselves whether, as Robert P. Murphy says, rhinos could be handled better by profit-oriented groups? Murphy argues that the political leaders would have to personally benefit from maintaining stocks of rhinos for there to be any possibility of their numbers stabilising. My brother, myself and other relatives doubt this very much because:
  1. the conservation of rhinos would need to be more profitable than other land uses
  2. those who hold rhino horn have an interest in extinction of rhinos to increase its price as it turns into a rigidly non-renewable resource.
For this reason, it is encouraging for me to see that governments in Southern Africa, often viewed as incompetent and tending towards lawlessness, have actually in recent weeks managed to prevent at least nine rhino poachers from killing this year even more than the three hundred and thirty eight rhinos killed in 2010. Since rhinos breed only once every two or three years, at the present rate of increase in poaching all five rhino species would be extinct by 2035.

One cannot question the need for park rangers in areas with such poaching-sensitive species as rhinos to be armed. Rhino poachers are naturally armed, and unarmed park rangers are not likely to be able to simply tell a would-be rhino poacher to move away. Rhino poachers, being generally members of well-structured and well-resourced criminal gangs, are not likely to back down against even someone from the government.

One much deeper ethical issue that these shootings produce is whether it is just to kill proven rhino poachers - or even those who would kill rhinos, which contravenes laws on the trade in endangered species (of course most rhino species are now Critically Endangered). In general, there is a very strong resistance within me to allowing killing of anybody, even the worst criminals. Nevertheless, with rhino poachers, killing may be the only way that can serve even as a deterrent to killing rhinos, so that one can make the most extremely exceptional case here. The killing of rhino poachers as far as I know has not been seen before, though Kenya, with the fourth largest rhino population after South Africa, India and Namibia, began arresting rhino poachers in 2009 and seems not to have been in the rhino poaching news so much (correct me if you can). Although it is not easy to tell how many innocent people could be shot if a really hard-line policy was adopted by those eager to control rhino poaching, it does seem to me that it is not as tough to identify those profiting from the extinction of rhinos as many other criminal cases. This provides further support for a tougher line on poachers than has been taken by governments in Africa and Asia ever since the rhino crisis began over a hundred years ago.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Christian Ganaban’s zero stroke

Today, for the first time since Sports Delivered closed at the end of 2010, I met up with Name A Game boss Christian Ganaban in order to list for him the games I had ordered which needed mastering from VHS. Ganaban had been to the master library only once since returning after handing over the offices to a woman called Even during the first two weeks of 2011, but for this trip he was getting the master tapes for twenty games from 2002 - the last year during which Name A Game sold VHS tapes. The person who was buying these 2002 games was buying them to do a university examination in which he was examining the statistics of many players. Because of the greater variety of ground conditions before Docklands and global warming, I felt that it would be better to look at games from 1997 or better still 1996 to see the details this person wanted, but when I asked why this student was not buying games from 1996 or 1997 I was told the student was required to buy and study games broadcast by Channel Nine, which date only from 2002 or later.

Because I was very eager to help with time until 16:00, and in spite of the horribly hot and humid weather, I decided to sort out a large number of unshelved Name A Game DVDs. In the process I found that several of the games I was looking for had either long been mastered (Round 11, 1997, Port Adelaide v Sydney) or recently mastered (Round 13, 1995, Sydney v Essendon and Round 19, 1996, Melbourne v Carlton).

At first, I sorted earlier games that had recently been mastered (and ordered during 2010), with my first step being to sort out the pre-2000 games from those of 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 (which in conversation are called “oh-oh”, “oh-wuhn”, “oh-too” and “oh-three”). Whilst I was doing this, I noticed some games that did not look as though they could be from 2000, when the St. Kilda softies owing to their virtual amateurism won only two games out of twenty-two despite many talented players. Knowing from experience that 2000 was the most popular year on Name A Game except for 2010, I wondered if Christian had suffered from his urge to write “00” on every DVD case even when the game was not from 2000! When I looked inside the case to see what the game really was, I found that actually Ganaban had labelled a 2008 game “00”!

This process repeated twice. Even as I gradually got through a large number of games, it amazed me that Ganaban was suffering from the same problem that affected Germans during the infamous 1923 hyperinflation, at the peak of which prices doubled every two days. Because of the popularity of games from 2000 amongst Essendon fans and probably many others who are amazed by the Bombers’ 20 game unbeaten streak (in fact 27 consecutive home-and-away wins), Ganaban is consistently having to copy and master these games, with the result that there are seventy percent more games on the shelf from 2000 than from 1998 (a very weak year with all the popular Victorian teams doing badly) and no doubt a faster turnover time. The result is that, perhaps without checking inside the DVD case (which I am very reluctant to do because I do not think he would want it), Ganaban has written “00” on games that were actually from 2008 (a reasonably popular year being recent and with a Victorian team winning the flag). Although during the rest of my session (for my work I obtained the Round 9, 1993 Fitzroy v Collingwood game) I focused on sorting the games by year and earning the reward for terribly hard work in horrible weather, I found it so strange that I could not forget about it even when I had sorted all the games from before 2000 and was at work sorting 2000 to 2003 games!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

An encouraging sign against the anti-hunting lobby

Although I have had contact with the anti-hunting lobby for a long time, I have never had much sympathy for its aims of completely eliminating hunting of wildlife throughout the world.

It is true that in Australia and southern Africa, owing to the lax competition created by scarcity of phosphates in soils, species do not rise to numbers sufficient to allow for hunting on a scale beyond the most basic subsistence. Even their traditional foraging peoples were almost exclusively exactly that and did not in general hunt large game. However, on the enriched continents where young soils from recent tectonic activity and glaciation allow for the most competitive species to reach large numbers, hunting of species can even in the presence of agriculture be extremely valuable. Sharon Astyk in her A Nation of Farmers shows indeed that even after farming became the dominant mode of subsistence, hunting remained of importance for millennia, as is often recorded in English folktales. In the unenriched continents of Australia and Southern Africa, adaptable pests like feral pigs and cane toads produce valuable goods (food in once case, skins in the other) that are much superior ecologically to materials from farming whose sustainability is doubtful at the very best.

In spite of these common sense arguments, most on the Left have for a long time argued against hunting in an extreme way, often arguing that animals must be treated in exactly the same way as humans or even in a superior fashion given the extreme self-centredness of the Left tends to cause it to be often anti-human in its ideals and its behaviour. Pressure to ban hunting and guns has been a major force in most developed nations throughout the world, and with the Port Arthur Massacre became dominant in Australia as John Howard took power. Restrictions on guns - whilst there is very reasonable justification for them when one considers people like Martin Bryant - can be a problem whenever and wherever there are terrible pests like rabbits, cane toads, foxes and feral pigs to control. People in Australia’s very sparsely populated rural areas can do a great service to the country’s unique ecosystems by killing animals that are not native to the country and very dangerous to its uniquely adapted inhabitants designed for a geologically normal low-energy environment where soils have not been enriched by orogeny or glaciations. Frank Miniter in the best book of the Politically Incorrect Guide series argued very effectively for the value of controlled hunting, which I agree with strongly, but this argument is too often ignored under cries of “animal welfare”, though nature in the enriched continents at least is extremely competitive and often, as Annie Dillard shows in what I have read of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, even violent.

In this context, it is wonderful to see the left-wing magazine Mother Jones take a rational view of the value of hunting. Kiera Butler’s essay is a most effective argument for hunting of pests and for, from an ecological perspective, the use of these pests’ bodies for whatever purpose is possible. Having the sympathy I do for localism on the grounds that it uses less energy and creates more community, it would be great for the left of politics to see the value of hunting as more conservative (often to most eyes ultraconservative) groups do. Hunting has been practiced for so long that its sustainability when properly practised is to me not in the slighted doubt, yet environmental groups have tended to rely on blanket protests against any form of overhunting rather than on more rational and historically accurate views. This changing would be a major step forward for the environment and possibly for many species.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Get them back, get them back, get them baaaack

…get them back on “G”, back on “G”

The above line is a parody of AC/DC’s song “Back in Black” that may well be very appropriate from both my own experience and the latest e-mail exclusive article by Human Events under the title “Family Events”.

In their e-mail exclusive “Why Manners Matter”, Family Events are arguing that over the past three decades, American society has become less civilised and that people have much more trouble avoiding really nasty conversation or aggressively criticising strangers’ political or religious beliefs in public:
Only a generation ago, it was still shocking to hear coarse language in public or in mixed company. It was still considered rude to pry about personal subjects like sex and household finances. Children used to learn not to criticize someone's religious or political beliefs …
The way I heard a great deal of coarse language as a child makes me think that the problems Family Events describes have been around for a lot longer than imagined. Whether or not it would be feasible for me with my erratic behaviour, I have always hoped that it would be possible to have a place where people did not bully me for my inability to confirm to “normal” patterns of behaviour. I do know from awfully bitter (and progressively worse with age) experience that much of what I do in public is abhorrent and so unacceptable I get banned from closed public places like libraries, but under conditions where violence and harrassment were less prevalent, then maybe (and only maybe) I would have had more time to think about how I should behave in public.

If kids at school had been more respectful of my behaviour, however, it could equally easily have been worse in the long term because I might been even worse equipped for working on my own in public. However, it is probably fairest of all to say i learned absolutely nothing about how to behave from the bullying I received in school, even though as an adult my mother says to me all the time:
They didn’t hate you, they hated your behaviour

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Resource-free environments don’t moderate as they age

Many political scientists have tended to think of Europe’s population as likely to become more politically moderate as it ages because they believe that Europeans with a median age of fifty or more will possess more knowledge and insight which could counter the tendency to take up such extreme views.

However, the way in which the working classes of Greece in particular have responded to the current financial crises seems to indicate that, as Time is showing here, in fact Europe’s population, although its median age has increased since the 1950s from twenty-five to forty, has not moderated politically at all.

Time in this issue shows that in traditional socialist and anarchist hotbeds of Italy, Spain and Greece, violence by groups describing themselves as “far left” or “anarchist” (in the traditional, syndicalist sense) has risen by forty-three percent. although these groups do not have clear policies, they are at war with government cuts and wish for the wealthy of these nations to have to pay for the economic costs they have created. They are also angry in many cases at the way Italy, Spain and especially Greece have joined the European Union and believe that they should be much more independent of that group. Political scientists also say that the small new European generation is nonetheless activist in tone and urban guerillas (don’t confuse this word with “gorilla”!) are becoming increasingly frequent.

What this comes down to is the fact that Europe, as a result of the devaluing of its one natural resource - its young and uniquely (in geological terms) fertile soils - due to the opening up of the geologically normal soils of Australia and Africa for extensive farming means that its population is left without a single valuable resource to base its economy on. The result is extremely intense competition for the production of technologically advanced goods, and a situation where competition for the few goods these countries are at least disadvantage in producing (tourism, electronics) becomes very intense. Although the resulting poor conditions at the beginning of the devaluation of their soil resources is generally though to be the source of the working class militancy for which these countries are known, the fact that it is continuing and looks likely to continue must make one look seriously at why these nations look to take not from those nations with a monopoly on industrial resources (of course very, very difficult without a global direct democracy) or see the benefits of a less selfish and materialistic society.