Friday, July 03, 2015

Indebted to pond scum

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150701-the-origin-of-the-air-we-breathe
Gee blogging with a tablet is still harder than it should be. I'll try the link again, and fix it latter from the laptop if it doesn't work.

Life and movies

After a recent spate of shark attacks along one part of the American East Coast, some people were quoted as saying it was rather reminiscent of "Jaws".

It seems we might have a similar thing developing around parts of the Australian coast, at least if this morning's story is true after yesterday's shark attack just down the road at Ballina.

Some action required...

...not about the ABC or Q&A, but the extraordinary, are-they-quite-right-in-the-head obsession that (The Australian editor) Chris Mitchell/Tony Abbott/ whoever-the-heck-is-behind-all-this have about Q&A and the ABC.

It's getting so bad I'm starting to wish something actually bad would happen at the head office of The Oz so as to give them justification for the tens of thousands of fevered words being written about the ABC and its role in the Muslim threat, amongst other tabloid obsessions.

I'm daydreaming along these lines:  Tony Jones' secret ice addiction finally sends him into a psychotic episode in which he dresses up as a Muslim terrorist, breaks into the Oz's offices and holds Mitchell and his editorial team hostage with a semi automatic he found under the seat on the ABC bus they use for Q&A audience runs from Western Sydney.    If only Tony Abbott was visiting the office at the time it would be even better.  

No, wait:  if only Jones could also threaten the room with a rabid dog that Jonny Depp secretly didn't return to the US, we would have the Most Perfect Murdoch Tabloid Story ever conceived. 

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Oh great...

ISIL warns Hamas in video message - Al Jazeera English
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has threatened
the Palestinian armed group Hamas, vowing to end the faction's rule in
the territory.

In a 16-minute long video shared by social media accounts sympathetic
to ISIL on Wednesday, fighters based in Syria's Aleppo province
condemned Hamas for its crackdown on Salafist groups in the Gaza Strip,
and its failure to implement a rigid enough interpretation of Islamic
law. ..
"The road to liberate Palestine goes through Iraq and we (ISIL) are
getting closer, day by day ... while they (Hamas) are moving away from
that goal."

Another fighter condemned the Palestinian faction for referring to
ISIL and its supporters as "khawarij", a term used to refer to a group
of Muslims in early Islamic history, meaning "those who have
transgressed".

The fighter later refers to ISIL's seizure of parts of the Yarmouk
refugee camp in the Syrian capital of Damascus after clashes with
Palestinian groups, including a faction associated with Hamas.

"What is happening today in Syria, especially in the Yarmouk camp, we swear by God, will happen in Gaza," the fighter said.

Hamas has clamped down on alleged supporters of ISIL in recent
months, in a campaign to snuff out purported attempts by the group,
which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, to establish a foothold in
Gaza.



Planets approaching

A nice view could be had from Brisbane tonight of the close approach of Venus and Jupiter in the evening sky.  It's not a great or carefully planned photo, but it gives you the idea:


As if written by the IPA

Palm oil: scourge of the earth, or wonder crop?

Actually, the headline of this article written by a Professor described in part as an "independent researcher" (a term I'm more familiar with as being applied to climate skeptics, I have to say,)  and an adviser to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, should just have been "Palm Oil:  Wonder Crop".

It's a piece that is so obviously PR spin that it automatically engenders skepticism.  

Just following the Saudi lead

Isis militants behead two Syrian women for witchcraft | World news | The Guardian: Islamic State militants have beheaded two women in a province in eastern Syria after accusing them of witchcraft, the first time such an execution has been carried out under the rule of the self-proclaimed caliphate, activists said.
This is terrible, of course.  But I would have thought it could have been mentioned in the article that Saudi Arabia still executes people (including women) for witchcraft and sorcery too.

To go a bit science fiction-y for a moment, this horrible playing out of a centuries long religious war between the two arms of Islam is something that 20th century science fiction writers  might have resolved by using advanced technology to send a peace message that people would perceive as supernatural.  (I dunno - giant holograms in the sky, or something like that.)  I would presume that there is a team in PsyOps in the US who has been thinking about this; certainly they have a target audience primed to believe in the supernatural.   I wish they would try something:  it could hardly hurt.

Why staffers shouldn't use social media

That Jason Wilson in The Guardian wrote at length about how Lefties can't trust libertarians (rather obvious, really), but he did do us a service by linking to a site showing a twitter exchange which shows Helen Dale being upfront about the cynical use of "wind turbine sickness" by her boss to attack the wind energy sector.

Here is part of the relevant sequence:
Of course, everyone sensible knew that this is the motivating factor behind Leyonhjelm and his adviser's interest in wind turbines and infrasound.

But it's funny to see his staffer confirming it....
 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Appeal

I know little of defamation law, but it is rather odd that, apparently, you can be defamed by a headline on a poster when the newspaper article itself does not defame.  Who believes that newspaper headlines are always literally true?   Are Gillard and Rudd now free to cast their eyes back over 5 years of stupid Daily Tele and Herald posters to see which are defamatory?

I hope there are grounds for appeal on the Hockey case.

Even if there are not, unless this dud of a Treasurer declares that he is giving his damages to charity, the win is not actually likely to improve the public's poor perception of the guy.

Update:  having watched 7.30's explanation last night, the most interesting thing is the way the case found that the tweet with a link to the story (with the story itself not defamatory) was still defamatory.   The logic was that the hundreds of thousands who saw the tweet but did not follow the link had been given the defamatory claim without checking the detail which would have set them straight.

But surely the fact that so few people who got the tweet clicked on the link can be used to argue that people know not to trust headlines, and the fact they didn't follow the link shows they did not interpret the headline to be literally true.   I mean, if they thought the tweet meant that the Treasurer had literally changed policy due to a bribe, then many more would surely have wanted to follow the link to the story.

I can't see why the judge made law shouldn't be aligned with what people actually expect from the media:  attention grabbing headlines that are given proper explanation in the article.   

Not allowed to take comedy seriously?

Manohla Dargis gave a detailed, serious minded critical review of the latest crude movie by the wealthy, but tragically stuck as a permanent 14 year old, Seth MacFarlane (the move being the not particularly well performing Ted2), and people (including Steve Sailer) are mocking her for it.

I dunno.  When a movie features an attempt at humour described as this:
Mr. MacFarlane’s fixation on anatomy is especially striking and reaches its nadir in a scene at a sperm bank. There, John accidentally knocks over a shelving unit and ends up splashed with ejaculate that, a nurse explains, has been excluded because the donors have sickle cell anemia. As John writhes, Ted laughs. “You’re covered in rejected black guys’ sperm,” Ted says. “You’re like a Kardashian.” Mr. Wahlberg plays the moment with the right level of desperation, but Ted’s lines are depressing and desperate. 
I don't see at all what is wrong with some serious discussion of what is meant to make comedy funny.  This section by Dargis is spot on:
In “Ted 2,” he generates squirms, largely because his humor is so tone deaf. A Freudian might enjoy trying to figure out if his repeated references to black male genitalia represents a fear of black (male) power or something a wee more personal. And Mr. MacFarlane may believe that mechanically reciting words will drain them of their force, which superficially recalls Lenny Bruce’s idealistic claim that the repetitive use of a familiar racial slur would do the same. “The word’s suppression gives it the power,” Bruce said in 1962, “the violence, the viciousness.” History has proved otherwise, and the word, its violence and viciousness are still with us. I think that Mr. MacFarlane knows this, and that’s why he cast a few well-known black actors in authority roles, as if to signal, wink-wink, that the race stuff is just all in good fun.
She talks a lot more about the race aspects of the attempted jokes.

There is nothing wrong with a review of this kind.

The party line fails

What, so I don't get a fresh Newspoll after all?  Disappointing.

But what wasn't disappointing was Media Watch and Q&A last night, which made it perfectly clear (if it wasn't already) that the Abbott government massive over-reaction to the Mallah appearance on Q&A was ridiculous from the get-go and utterly fails to bear calm scrutiny.

It was hard to pick who came out looking stupidest last night - bloviating, needs-to-retire bore Paul Kelly, fumbling his way around trying to explain why his paper could do an article painting Mallah as a reformed jihadist but Q&A was the worst show in the world for having him ask a specific question about how proposed citizenship rules could affect him; or Tim Wilson getting upset that people laughed at him when Jones had a silent dig at his selective take on when we can hear free speech on the ABC and when we can't.  

The most absurd thing about all of this Abbott hypersensitivity to his government being asked pointed questions is that, in fact, the Australian media (including the ABC) has collectively  let his government get away with unjustified secrecy and cover up of a major issue of national interest (boat turn backs, lock ups on the high seas, and what goes on in Manus Island and Naru) to a disgraceful extent.

But Abbott, being the dumbest Prime Minister of at least the last 50 years, doesn't realise the soft glove treatment he's received on this. 

Update:  am amused to read that the readers of Catallaxy seem to think Wilson and Kelly came out looking good last night.  It's like a public service now, that blog:  it lets the dumb, the blind, the immature and the offensive who can't get a gig on Bolt's threads comfort and support each other in one little corner of the 'net that's safely cordoned off for people who don't want to hear from them.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekend movies reviewed

Far From the Madding Crowd:  unfamiliar with the source material, or the 1967 version which seems to be held in pretty high regard, I was quite satisfied with this beautifully shot romantic melodrama.  I should really write melodrama with a capital "M":  I didn't realise that Victorian authors other than Dickens were so much into co-incidence as a plot driver, but Hardy certainly was.  As reviewers have noted, the movie makes the story feel modern, but now having read a bit about Hardy's work more generally, I see he tended to upset quite a few with his take on marriage, women and sexuality.  (And he wasn't gay - something that the 1990's run of Merchant Ivory films has sort of conditioned me to expect for the source material of period drama.)

There's a very enthusiastic review of the film in Salon which I pretty much agree with, as well as fascinating article in The Conversation about some real life women who managed agricultural estates in that period.

The movie is well worth seeing - but if you are male, be prepared to be in an audience that is about 80% not of your gender, and to look out of place if you are there alone...

Noah Goes Psycho:   That's what they should have called that Noah movie from last year.  What a disaster, from concept to execution.   I just can't get my head around the point of it all:  reinventing a Bible story to make it a modern eco parable and in the process attempting to make some of it more "plausible" to modern minds (by the "drugging the animals" bit, so they don't eat each other) while making other bits more bizarrely improbable (rock encrusted angels - apparently the "giants in the earth" - but of somewhat uncertain allegiance; the Tolkien-esque CGI fighting off the hoards; not to mention the glowing Adam and Eve.)   In this movie, God sure has an oblique way of passing on messages to Noah, so much so that he seems not to understand the ultimate point at all and starts to go all serial killer.   And while the issue of God and "natural evil" may be one that a modern agnostic Greenie does not fret about in his or her love of all animals not human, surely any sensible post-Fall Old Testament figure would have worked out that nature as it is around them is not the same as it was meant to have been in the Garden of Eden?  

Look, getting into the mind of the authors of some of the Old Testament is a challenge as it is*; but I hardly see the point of making odd myth even stranger than it was originally.   None of this movie made sense at any level.  If you want a detailed explanation of where it invents things for no clear reason, you can check out  this article in Slate.

* Eg, no one seems to have a clue what the whole Noah getting drunk and being seen naked was all about, but the movie keeps it in, and indicates it's mere prudery.  So something that deserves some creative explanation doesn't get tackled at all.)

Jurassic World:   a lot of fun and a very worthy sequel; in fact, probably what should have been the only sequel to the original movie.  (I consider Lost World to be a one of Spielberg's worst, perhaps second only to Always, which I think is at the bottom by a country mile.  I haven't ever watched the whole of JP3, but it didn't seem too bad.)

The movie looks fantastic from the very start (that's one realistic dinosaur hatching that alone indicates how special effects have improved since the original) and the theme park setting as a whole looks completely convincing, no doubt due to the wonders of modern CGI when used to make realistic looking sets as opposed to gloomy, fantasy landscape.   (It also looks like it has a budget significantly bigger than the first film - but with the way they can fake crowds and buildings these days, who knows?)  The dinosaurs all look great and all, to my mind, significantly better than in the first film.  The least realistic looking thing - the oversized mosasaur - was still fun to watch.

The movie reminded me somewhat of the disaster films of the late 70's but with some mild modern skewering (the near kiss of the co-workers was quite witty), and it was about ten times better than any of Emmerich's awful films. 

Sure, it's not perfect, but well directed, likeable enough actors and moves with a pleasing amount of mayhem.

I really don't think they should try to re-visit it, but the huge success means they inevitably will. 

It's the vibe

I'm curious to see what Newspoll says tomorrow (even if one poll is never entirely trustworthy, especially when the company is changing its polling methods) to see whether it reflects what the nation's political commentators have already decided.

It seems to me that we're in one of those weird bits of self fulfilling punditry you see overwhelm the Australian media from time to time.  They've all decided, whether from the soft Left or the tabloid right, that Tony Abbott is looking in "winning" form again, and Shorten is on the skids.   And all this despite nearly all polls being stuck for a very lengthy period on a Labor winning 52/48 TPP, not to mention the latest polling appearing to boost the Greens to 13%.  And also despite the fact that, as even a cursory look at social media show,  Abbott's performance last week on "national security" bombast has confirmed him in the minds of a huge number as the biggest numbnut of a Prime Minister in a lifetime.

We've seen odd periods like this before, and I'm not sure how it happens.  Gillard had terrible runs with media commentary too, when Labor polling was behind but not necessarily disastrously so.    I guess it could be that they (Canberra journalists) get the inside mood from the dissatisfied in the parties, and then that colours their own views; but it always strikes me as having a enormous amount of seemingly unrealised self fulfilling prophesy to it, yet they keep at it.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Inappropriate, alright

Today's Saturday Paper alerts me to Helen Dale's 14 June Facebook post which is, indeed, completely inappropriate for a Senator's staffer to be writing with respect to a person her boss wants called to give evidence before his committee.  In full:
Okay, this is a message for those skeptics friends of mine in Australia who are into Public Health.
You need to pull the likes of Simon Chapman and Nathan Lee into line. First, you need to teach both of them to stop with the ad hominem. Then you need to teach the former statistics and how to read them. Then you need to teach both of them how to argue and clarify their thoughts.
David and I can turn both of them into mince on Twitter - yes Twitter - without much effort. This should not happen. I'm a lawyer with a finance major and David's a vet with an MBA.
Now while it's very nice to win arguments all the time, that's not the same as being right. And I'd rather be right than feel smug about my own argumentative aptitude.
My suspicion is - like many people on the left - they live in a bubble and get neither their arguments nor their evidence tested severely or regularly (the very opposite of this Facebook page, for starters).
I'm relying on you to fix this. And if it isn't fixed, I will take great pleasure in ensuring the individuals in question aren't just minced on Twitter.
Getting minced by a Senate Committee is a lot less fun, I assure you.
It also shows her tenuous relationship with sound judgement in that it is extremely unlikely that in a Committee match up between Chapman and Leyonhjelm that it's Chapman who will come out looking bad.

Dale doesn't seem to realise that outside of her small circle, most of the public already consider Leyonhjelm an eccentric kook.

Conspiracies considered

Why Conspiracy Theories Aren’t Harmless Fun

Not a bad article here, arguing that conspiracy-think is not the harmless, funny thing that some like to think.

Not that they get a mention in the article, but this is particularly true when it comes to the gullibility of large parts of the Muslim world, and climate change deniers.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Weekend movie plans

I am planning on going to see the rather Merchant Ivory-ish sounding, but well reviewed,  Far From the Madding Crowd tonight (I have a cinema gift voucher to finish using, and frankly, I would prefer to see it over ugly Australian Mad Max violence), and Jurassic World tomorrow.   My wife will only be accompanying me to the latter.  My gender reassignment surgery is booked in for the end of the year.*

*  not really.  The waiting period is 12 months.**

** none of the above is to be taken seriously, unless you are a reader from Catallaxy, in which you are free to believe this along with all the other nonsense filling your head.

Leyonhjelm and his "look at me" enquiry


So the Bald One with interests in seriously minority views on anthropology, inaudible sounds,  climate change, compulsory voting and gun control is now wanting to hold an enquiry that will include the following topics in bold that the Commonwealth doesn't even legislate about?
So we'll be looking at the sale and service of alcohol, smoking and e-cigarettes, bicycle helmets I've already mentioned, classification of films and video games. That sort of stuff.
OK, the Commonwealth taxes alcohol, but AFAIK it doesn't legislate about opening hours and who it can be served to.   Bicycle helmets probably have a national standard, but that's it for the Commonwealth.

Even most smoking laws are State based, no?  

But anything to have an attempted "look at me" moment, hey?; pretty much like the way the Republicans call pointless committee meetings that invite that handful of climate change contrarian scientists to give evidence again and again each year while their actual reputation in mainstream science diminishes.


Leyonhjelm and anthropology

Apparently, David Leyonhjelm is up on anthropology to a much greater extent than the average person who has a fair idea that aborigines as a group who looked pretty much like the ones when the First Fleet arrived had been here for some thousands of years previously.

He's quite the woo-meister, hey Jason?

I'm interested in his views on UFOs too.

The worst thing about the ABC...

...is listening to them being enthusiastic about women's team sports.

It's unnatural and there ought to be a government inquiry into it.

(Even allowing for the fact that I can barely muster interest into men's teams sports more than 3 times a year, I still have my doubts more than perhaps 10% of the total population have any interest at all in women's team sports.*  And every single one of them apparently listens to the ABC.)    

*  women who do well at individual sports like swimming or running - that's different.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Grow up, media

A minor kerfuffle going on about Bill Shorten lying about the leadership situation.

Come on, media morons.  Everyone knows politicians on all sides of politics lie to the media in the lead up to a spill.  It's unfortunate, but routine. 

California drought charts

CA H2O | Open Mind

I'm not sure if El Nino is likely to put a sudden end to it, but here are some worrying graphs about the current state of the Californian drought.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What an absurd, glass jawed, posturing government we have

I was reminded on Radio National this morning that on Q&A years ago, John Howard had a shoe thrown at him, was offered immediate and sincere apologies by a clearly upset host, and he (Howard) reasssured Jones not to beat himself up about it.

Fast forward to the obnoxious Abbott government, and a posturing minor figure in it gets to tell someone that he deserves to be booted out of Australia under laws which in fact will not apply to him (assuming the reports I read are correct that the guy in question is not a duel citizen, just an Australian citizen.)    The ex-crim in question, who has appeared on other shows without the hosts being in fear that he was going to knife them live on screen, then says that this sort of talk encourages some to go join ISIS. 

Well, according to the Murdoch press, this is the biggest outrage to have ever occurred in the history of the ABC.

This government is a clown act supported by a clown press.

How do the "middle of the road" Murdoch journalists live with themselves?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Malcolm putting on a show?

The Coalition's reaction to Mallah's appearance on Q&A is completely over the top, with our proto fascist  PM delivering his obnoxious "you're either with us or agin us, ABC" line again today.



But not only that, in what one suspects is a bit of Malcolm turning it on to placate the idiots in his own party, we get this:

Politics Live: June 23, 2015: 3:03pm: Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is asked about Zaky Mallah's appearance on Q and A.

Mr Turnbull essentially asks what would have happened had Mr Mallah threatened the safety of guests and audience and crew members present for the filming.

"Mr Mallah was a known quantity....It beggars belief that he was included in a live audience. Surely we have learned to take threats of this kind, people of this kind, extremely seriously. The idea that there were no physical security checks on this audience or that this man was allowed in is extraordinary."
 I presume he hasn't read what appeared on the News.com website today:

Back home he has spoken out against clashes between the Islamic
community and police and actively discouraged radicalised Australian
Muslims from joining the Islamic State.

“Young people in Sydney
and Melbourne who are considering joining ISIS, you don’t know what
you’re doing to your family,” he told The Project.

“You are harming yourself, you are harming the Islamic community.”

He called young Australians fighting in Iraq and Syria “idiots and wankers who are giving Islam and the Muslim world a bad name.

“I hope ASIO is on to you, I hope your passport is refused and I hope you’re arrested and locked up.”....
Mr Mallah said: “The Islamic community in Australia is one of the worst communities in the world.

“Every
time I jump on Facebook, all I see is negativity ... Look at what we
have become. I don’t care if you follow a specific ideology or school of
thought, the Islamic community has dropped to a new low.”
Sure, the Mallah's still an idiot for his temper tantrum too, but it sure doesn't sound like he's someone who's a threat to a studio audience.  Can everyone calm down?

 

Victoria gone thoroughly Labor

Wow.  Even with the total cost of the cancellation of the East West link now known, Victorians appear completely happy with their new Labor State government:

Matthew Guy shrugs off Newspoll gloom on Victorians voting Liberal | The Australian: Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has shrugged off polling showing less than one third of Victorians would vote Liberal if a state election were held now.

Responding to the latest Newspoll in Victoria — the first major published poll since the election — Mr Guy said today it was early days and his personal numbers were strong.

The poll put Daniel Andrews’ Labor government in a commanding position with a 58 to 42 lead after preferences that would translate to a landslide victory if replicated in an election.
Judith Sloan must be contemplating a permanent move to Queensland.   Oh wait - Labor seems pretty settled here too.  New South Wales then, which might be the main place where Liberals are looking strong(ish).   

As noticed on Landline

I forget to watch it most weeks, but Landline remains a quality show (and of the kind a commercial TV network is never likely to make.)

Two interesting things in last Sunday's episode.  First, this commentary on free trade agreements:
The Australia-America freed trade agreement signed in 2005 is a classic example of how hype rarely matches reality.

Australia was promised an el-dorado - but as far as benefits go, we've ended up in that well-known proverbial street.

The figures don't lie - the bilateral trade gap between the United States and Australia continues to grow - in America's favour.

American goods exports to Australia in 2013 - 26 billion dollars - Australia's exports to the U.S. - 9.3 billion.

So the lesson is - when politicians talk about the Australia-China free trade agreement meaning an 18 billion dollar boost over ten years - take that advice with a cupful of salt - and remember what was said about the deal with America.

However, on the plus side - farmers and graziers should be happy - in fact Chinese dairy farmers are said to be very unhappy - which can only be a good thing for our dairy farmers.
 And second, this fascinating story (you must watch the video) about cave diving beneath farms in South Australia.  Wish I could embed the video...

Gravity and that Cat

I strongly suspected that there was some poor science reporting going on with that story in Nature News "How gravity kills Schrodinger's Cat".  And I was right.

Go read Bee's explanation of the matter to understand it properly.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Quite a range

Charles Aznavour: 'I wanted to break every taboo' | Music | The Guardian

Well, who knew this guy was still out there, making music?  

In truth, I know little about him, but am kind of amused to read about the topics of his songs:

When Aznavour began writing in the 1940s, sex was something that
happened with the light off. It was OK for women singers to howl over
their broken hearts, but men didn’t sing about their own emotional
despair – and later their dodgy prostates. Aznavour shone a spotlight on
masculinity and libido, singing about depression, sex, prejudice and
rape. His hits ranged from the 1970s story of a gay transvestite in What
Makes a Man, to the once-banned ballad of muggy, post-coital
exhaustion, Après l’Amour, and the controversial You’ve Let Yourself Go –
the plea of a man whose wife has grown dowdy and fat (“I gaze at you in
sheer despair and see your mother standing there”).
Apart from what must be a poor reputation amongst feminists, he's written a song referencing prostate problems?  

Um, what are the chances that Adani donates to the IPA?

The life saving potential of coal | Institute of Public Affairs Australia

According to Four Corners last week, the high cost of getting coal from Queensland's Galilee Basin to off shore markets make it a marginal proposition, at best.

Never mind, here's the IPA with its attempt to convince everyone that coal is the only way to make the poor in India get the electricity which they presumably are meant to use to run the air-conditioner without which they will increasingly die during heatwaves caused in part by the CO2 burnt from the Galilee Basin.  [Not entirely sure that airconditioners are commonly afforded by the poor in India, even if they have electricity, but that's a minor detail when it comes to Coal Being the Glorious Future! (Trade Mark, the IPA.)]

Update:  I see that it is Pakistan's turn to be having lots of heat stroke deaths.

Marxist racism

You Have Only Your Chains to Lose (Unless You Are African) - Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog

Beachcombing reminds us that Marx was certainly not above the racism of his century.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

Big, fast money

I see that Jurassic World is already close to making a billion dollars, and will cross that line in record time:
And that globe continues to be dominated by Jurassic World. Add its overseas take of $583.1M to its estimated domestic take of $398.2M and the film sits with an estimated worldwide cume of $981.3M in worldwide grosses. Given that pace World will likely handily beat the record for fewest days to $1B worldwide, on its 11th or 12th, whereas the previous record holder, Universal's Furious 7, did so in 17 days in April. World has opened in all territories save Japan where Universal says it's now opening August 5th.
One thing I've noticed in the discussion of the film is the enormous goodwill that people now seem to feel towards Jurassic Park.   (Many words have been written on how well the special effects in that film hold up.)

I haven't seen World yet; probably next weekend.

About that flag...

I was last in the United States in, I think, 1990, and was surprised to learn that some of the southern states still flew the confederate flag on government buildings.   I remember a Canadian in the circle I was in during the visit thought this was nuts;  I did too, but neither of us made our views know to the others in the group, as it was clear there were some there (from the south) who disagreed.

So it's interesting to see that, finally, some Republicans are telling a hold-out like South Carolina that it's time to ditch the symbol, and for reasons that were obvious to an Australian and Canadian 25 years ago.

This is causing major ructions within the Right wing websites such as Breitbart (plainly for the flag and putting the boot into Romney), Hot Air (against the flag and getting a hiding for this position in comments) and even National Review is having a bet both ways, but I see the "don't remove the flag" article has got 14,500 "shares".   (Actually, one of the smaller entries for its removal in NR notes that a report in 2000 make a compelling case that by the 50's and 60's, the flag had been adopted by some States as a clear symbol of their resistance to racial integration.)

Obama was wise to let some Republicans make the running on this.   It will be interesting to see what happens...


Better than it used to be

Energy futures part 2: Hydro, ocean waves and wind - The Science Show - ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

When a new technology starts to take off, even if it is the result of a government policy that sees it subsidised, I think its safe to assume that the technology will improve and may even reach a critical mass where its benefits are clear.

This episode of the Science Show, featuring people from the industry of course, indicates that this may be the case with wind power.  For example:

Nathan Steggel: The reality is that it's a relatively new industry; 20 years ago there was pretty much no wind energy installed around the world. But the costs have fallen dramatically, particularly with the increase in size of turbines. One of the interesting things with the wind resource is that as you go higher in the atmosphere, the level of wind gets higher, and so these larger turbines that reach up higher into the sky essentially and have bigger blades that can capture more of the energy are many times more efficient than the older generation of turbines.

Carl Smith:
Back at the Woodlawn wind farm, Miles George from Infigen Energy says not only are wind turbines able to tap into more of the wind resource, they're doing that more efficiently.

Miles George:
There's two factors that go into efficiency. One is the theoretical capture of the wind. A modern three-bladed turbine is very good at doing that, capturing close to the theoretical capacity to capture the wind. And the other factor is what is the energy capture relative to the maximum that could be achieved if the wind was blowing 100% all year? We call that the capacity factor. And in Australia, and including at this wind farm, it's around about 33% thereabouts would be typical for a wind farm. That is, the amount of energy that is generated is about 33% of what it would be if the machine was running flat-out all year. In Australia you can get significantly higher capacity factors than that.
In Western Australia we have over 40% capacity factors. There are others like that, particularly in Tasmania, very strong wind. So it depends very much on the location.

Miles George: It's both. So the technology has improved significantly over the last 15 years. The machines today are more than double the size of machines some time ago. The fact that they are bigger means that they are higher up and the wind speed is higher as you get above the land. That is a big factor. Then the other factor is the wind speed itself, which is very variable. You have people like us and others who go out looking for sites like this one that exhibit all the characteristics you want for a good wind farm, and they are obviously good wind, close proximity to the electricity grid so we can connect our power up, and also importantly community acceptance. It's really important we build assets that are going to last for 25, 30-plus years. We want to make sure we have a good relationship with the local community. So we've always treated that third criterion as just as important if not more important than the other two.

David Leyonhjelm, of course, seems to disagree that wind companies are interested in good community relationships.  But we know who he takes his advice from, and he makes no mention of the activities of the anti-wind activists in drumming up dubious science against wind.

But back to the improvements in wind energy, and how to make fair comparisons in cost:
Miles George: The cost of wind energy has come down dramatically with the increase in scale that has occurred over the last 15 years, to the point now where in some jurisdictions globally, wind is now competitive with other technologies like coal and gas. But it's important that we compare apples with apples. We are talking about comparing new-build technology, like a new wind farm, with a new coal-fired plant, for example, and in particular a coal-fired plant that has the appropriate emissions controls on it. If you are talking about that level, then wind is becoming competitive quite quickly.

The issue in Australian is that wind energy has to compete with 50 and 60-year-old coal-fired plants that are already fully depreciated and therefore is only paying its short-run marginal costs we call it, in other words just covering the costs of its fuel, all of the plant is already written off. So wind is competitive in new-build, not so competing against a 60-year-old plant. But I don't think anything would be competitive with a 60-year-old plant.

Interesting.

In the same show, the one anti-wind person quoted (who follows all of the Leyonhjelm lines about infrasound and seasickness, etc) ends up coming out with this, showing he is motivated by more than just concern for health effects and how they look:
Carl Smith: Do you see a place for them anywhere?
Tony Hodgson: Yes, as long as they are not subsidised, right? Of course.
 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The internet and the intensification of stupidity

Look, modern technology is truly wondrous.  I own a telephone that you can now buy for $59 and it will read the radio signal from a few satellites, do some calculations and pinpoint me on the face of the planet within about 10m, possibly less.   How awesome is that?  $59 to usefully access the signal from atomic clocks in orbit?   I could also be dictating this entire post into the phone, with pretty good accuracy, if only I could work out the weird and convoluted Google account system with sufficient certainty that I was still maintaining some skerrick of privacy.  

But for all of this, what price have we paid as a result of modern communications, including in major part the internet?

This came to mind yet again last night after watching the 1958 Gregory Peck movie "The Big Country".   I'm pretty sure I had seen it decades ago, as I remembered something about Peck navigating across the treeless plains with a compass.  But it was great to re-watch a classic style Western again.

Except, in retrospect, it wasn't all that "classic" at all, really.   It is very liberal thematically:  probably that accounts for Gregory Peck's involvement, as I see he co-produced the movie as well.

Without going into too much plot detail, the retired sea captain played by Mr Peck goes West to meet up with his fiancée and her family, not knowing that her father and the near neighbours ("white trash" she calls them - I didn't know the phrase had that lengthy a heritage) have been feuding for years over water access to a river.  (Although I may have missed it, I'm not sure the story is all that specific about how the feud started.)  Our hero in fact attempts to take on the role of peacemaker between these rather pointlessly fuelling clans,  and restrains himself from fighting for his own honour on more than one occasion.  The resolution of the matter is readily seen as an allegorical take on Cold War era mutually assured destruction, with both sides (sort of) losing.

Why does this all bring to mind the current bout* of American Right wing stupidity?  Because it struck me that George Clooney is the modern day equivalent in terms of politically motivated actors (although with more sex) and the recent example of the pre-emptive attack of the Drudge and Breitbart flying monkeys on his Tomorrowland movie shows the power of the internet to gather and cement political opinion against a commercial product.  (OK, many liberal critics were cool on the movie too, so I am not saying that Right wing nutters offended at a movie mentioning climate change is the only reason it was not a commercial success, but stay with me here...)

The thing is, here in the 1950's (and into the early 1960's, when Peck again trod into race relations with To Kill a Mockingbird) you have a huge Hollywood star making movies with liberal themes in a country with (as now) more than it's fair share of strident right wingers.  But did they have the power to band together and reassure each other that this guy was, like, the death of America and all that is great in the nation because he was a liberal?   No, they did not.

See,  people with idiosyncratic stupidity used to have put effort into finding each other and their favourite figureheads.  They had to buy a book, read a magazine, write a letter, go to a meeting on the other side of town, etc, to find the false re-assurance of shared, nutty, offensive and/or dangerous opinion and interpretation of the world.

Now, they just log on, and have virtually live interaction (or, failing that, daily updates) with their favourite polemicists and dis-informers.   They have a media mogul who can see how to make a megabuck from political opinion he doesn't actually always endorse, and so sets up a cable network that is designed to reinforce disaffection with the state of their culture and demonise the other side of politics.

The example of how Gregory Peck was a Hollywood liberal and how the Right ineffectively reacted to him just seems to me to be a great example of  The Great Unintended Consequence of the Internet and Cable TV - the intensification of stupidity.


* see my post yesterday on reaction to the Charleston killings. (Hey, it's right behind this one, but the link might be useful for someone.)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The American Right doing paranoia, again

Yesterday I posted that Drudge was going with "prescription drugs" as being the real issue behind the Charleston killings.   I see now from LGF that even Presidential hopeful Rick Perry thinks that's a useful diversion:
It’s stunning to watch the entire conservative movement line up to deflect the conversation about the Charleston church massacre away from the truly relevant issues — racism and guns — to ridiculous disconnected talking points like “religious freedom” and now, thanks to former Texas Governor Rick Perry (one of the many GOP presidential candidates): overuse of prescription drugs.
And that’s not even the worst thing Perry said; in the same interview with Steve Malzberg of Newsmax, he called the attack “an accident.” (One of Perry’s spokesmen quickly put out the word that he simply “misspoke,” of course.)
“This is the MO of this administration, any time there is an accident like this — the president is clear, he doesn’t like for Americans to have guns and so he uses every opportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message,” Perry said.
Instead of talking about guns, Perry said, we should be talking about prescription drugs: “Also, I think there is a real issue to be talked about. It seems to me, again without having all the details about this, that these individuals have been medicated and there may be a real issue in this country from the standpoint of these drugs and how they’re used.”
On the other hand, this is what I heard Obama saying on the radio this morning (my bold):
“We don’t know if it would have prevented what happened in Charleston. No reform can guarantee the elimination of violence. But we might still have some more Americans with us. We might have stopped one shooter. Some families might still be whole.  You all might have to attend fewer funerals.
“And we should be strong enough to acknowledge this. At the very least, we should be able to talk about this issue as citizens, without demonizing all gun owners who are overwhelmingly law-abiding, but also without suggesting that any debate about this involves a wild-eyed plot to take everybody’s guns away.”
Exactly.  It is the pre-emptive paranoia of the American gun loving Right - from even relatively "moderate" right wing sites like Hot Air, to NRA officials, right up to Republican Presidential candidates - which is sickening.

There's a psychological and cultural rot that has taken hold of the American Right in the last two to three decades, poisoning it on matters scientific (climate change), social (gun control) and economic (voodoo economics and libertarian obsession with reducing government), and the rest of the world is waiting for them to wake up to themselves.

A Bolt/Blair divide

Perhaps it's because Bolt holidays in relatively gun sane Europe, and Blair holidays in the US (and visits and hosts American right wing bloggers), but I can't recall that I have ever noticed Blair call out any American on any aspect of its gun culture.  (Sure, he condemns the Charleston killing, but that's a given.)

Bolt, on the other hand, deserves credit today for the post he wrote "The Ultimate Blame the Victim".

The Colbert wait

The New York Times alerts me to the fact that Stephen Colbert has been putting up some stuff on the internet to make sure people know he is still around and will, eventually, be hosting the Late Show.

This video is not geo-blocked, and is amusing enough in a Colbert way..

The Leyonhjelm hypocrisy

On Lateline last night, bemoaning that ill health from wind turbines should be taken seriously by a "wind commissioner":
STEVE CANNANE: Alright so David, why not have an energy Commissioner, someone who at coals and gas, someone who looks into wind turbines, someone who looks into coal?

DAVID LEYONHJELM: Well that argument is based on the proposition if you can't solve all of the problems, don't try and solve any of them or don't try and solve this one.
While on Leyonhjelm's twitter feed yesterday, he retweets a link to a an American libertarian site with "the facts you need to know about the Charleston shooting" which ends with this:
President Barack Obama and other activists have tried to make this case about gun rights, saying America needs to make it more difficult to obtain guns. Gun rights advocates have vehemently refuted this, accusing the left of politicizing the tragedy and saying there’s no way to ever fully eradicate violence.
Update:   more specifically on point, a later tweet by the Bald One: