November 14, 2014

Tim Flannery

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Lee Kump:
We have made the natural world our laboratory, but the experiment is inadvertent and thus not designed to yield easily decipherable results …
There are unsettling indications that [the] models are underestimating rather than overestimating the climatic consequences of greenhouse gas build-up.
(Reducing Uncertainty about Carbon Dioxide As a Climate Driver, Nature 419, pp 188-90, 2002)

Yadowsun Boodhoo: President, World Meteorological Organization Commission for Climatology:
It is inconceivable that humankind, with all its noble achievements, its aspirations and goodwill, will stay indifferent to the cry of the climate community.
(World Meteorological Organization Bulletin, 2003)

Tim Flannery:
Under existing projections, just two countries — Canada and Russia — will reap 90% of the benefit that global warming brings to food crops, while other regions such as Africa and India will lose out heavily with only a small degree of warming.
(The Weather Makers, 2005, p 288)

The Weather Makers (2005)

Carbon Nation

[At] their most extreme, Milankovich’s [orbital] cycles bring an annual variation in the total amount of sunlight reaching Earth of less than one tenth of 1%.
Yet that seemingly trivial difference can cause Earth’s temperature to rise or fall by a whopping 5°C. …
(p 42)

As early as 1992 it was realised that … temperatures in Australia may rise as much as 5°C in response to a global increase of just 2°C.
(p 179)

For the first target period of the [Kyoto] treaty (2008–2012) the European Union has a carbon budget of 8% less than it emitted in 1990 …
Australia, on the other hand, has a budget of 8% greater than [baseline (108%).]
Only Iceland did better … with a 10% increase (110%) …

Australia has the highest per capita greenhouse emissions of any industrialised country — 25% higher than the US when all sources are accounted for — and Australia’s growth in emissions over the last decade has been faster than that of other OECD countries. …
Ninety% of Australia’s electricity is generated by burning coal [despite having] the world’s best geothermal province and a superabundance of high-quality wind and solar resources.
(p 225)

[At Kyoto, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics argued for special treatment on basis of the] MEGABARE economic model [which] predicted that Australia’s real gross national expenditure would fall by between one-quarter and one-half of 1% per annum if a European-style cut in emissions was implemented. …
[Documents obtained under Freedom of Information later revealed that the MEGABARE study] had been funded … by the Australian Aluminium Council, Rio Tinto, Mobil and other [fossil fuel interests,] all of whom had received a seat on the study’s steering committee.
(p 226)

Of all industries, the most vulnerable to a rise in the cost of electricity is the aluminium smelters. …
Australian households pay 12–20 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, while aluminium smelters pay around 2 cents, which means that a significant part of everyone else’s power bill is a direct subsidy payment to the smelters.
(p 230)

Given Kyoto’s manifest problems, it may seem best to tax carbon emissions at the smokestack, yet this simple and effective solution finds no favour in Australia or the US.
(p 231)

Eternal Summer

Fred Palmer, [formerly] head of Western Fuels (now company vice-president at Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal producer) [believed] that the Earth’s atmosphere ‘is deficient in carbon dioxide’, and that producing more would herald an age of eternal summer.
… Western Fuels wanted to lead the charge in creating a world with atmospheric CO2 of around 1000 parts per million [(equivalent to a 4°C rise in global average temperature).]

Palmer’s views were the basis for the propaganda video The Greening of Planet Earth, which cost a quarter of a million dollars to make, and which promoted the idea of ‘fertilising’ the world with CO2 to boost crop yields by 30 to 60%, thus bringing an end to world hunger. …
The Greening of Planet Earth was widely circulated in Washington in the lead up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, and among those who saw it were [George H W] Bush and his chief of staff, John Sununu …
[Bush’s] energy secretary, James Watkins, cited it as a credible source in interviews about climate change.
(p 240)

With the election of George W Bush, the fossil fuel lobby became even more powerful …
Philip A Cooney, a Bush aide and an oil industry lobbyist fighting against the regulation of greenhouse gases, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors … had already approved. …
At the most recent count a dozen major reports on climate change have been altered, suppressed or dismissed by the White House, including … studies by the National Academy of Sciences …
In September 2002 the White House released the Environmental Protection Authority’s annual report with the entire section dealing with climate change deleted.
(p 241)

George Marshall:
[State of Fear is] by far the bestselling book yet written about climate change and includes dense technical appendices to prove that it is a concocted myth. …
[George W Bush] spent an hour chatting with [Michael] Crichton about the book in the Oval Office, after which, according to his chief of staff, they were in near-total agreement.
The novel was then presented as “scientific” evidence into a US Senate committee and Crichton gave briefings on climate change around the world at the invitation of the US State Department.
(Don't Even Think About It, Bloomsbury, 2014, p 108)

Here on Earth (2010)

Poisoning Children

Between 1932 and 1968 [the Chisso Corporation] dumped twenty-seven tonnes of mercury into [Minamata Bay in Japan].
Ironically, it was the villagers of Minamata who, in 1907, had persuaded the founders of the Chisso Corporation to establish their factory in the area.
They were poor fishermen, and the prospect of employment was a great attraction.

Fish are an important part of the diet of the people of Minamata. …
[By] the 1950s people were reporting numbness in their limbs, slurred speech and problems with their eyesight.
A few began to shout uncontrollably and were thought to have gone crazy [like Alice's Mad Hatter]. …
By 1959, doctors working for Chisso had established that mercury pollution from the factory was the cause …
(p 184)

The company responded with years of deceit, cover-ups and bullying.
[By the time] it stop polluting [in 1968] over ten thousand people, many of them children, had suffered severe, irreversible physical and mental damage. …

Astonishingly, around two-thirds of the mercury circulating in Earth's air and oceans … comes from the burning of fossil fuels, mostly coal.
Some coal is rich in mercury because coal is a natural sponge that absorbs many substances dissolved in groundwater, from uranium to cadmium and mercury.
When the coal is burned to provide steam for electricity production, these elements are released into the atmosphere, then blown by winds over the ocean, into which they eventually fall. …
Abandoned coalmines are another source of mercury, groundwater often accumulates in the mines, and then finds its way into creeks and rivers. …
(p 185)

Mercury remains in its elemental form while at the sunlit surface of the ocean.
But, aided by the same plankton and krill that absorb radioactive particles, it soon reaches the abyssal depths, and there it is transformed into a highly toxic form known as methyl mercury. …
Methyl mercury is dangerous because [it bio-accumulates] up the marine food chain, until the largest predators such as sharks and swordfish accumulate dangerous levels of mercury.
And what eats shark and swordfish?
The world's ultimate top predator and repository for anything that bio-accumulates: humans. …
(p 186)

Not all methyl mercury is created in the deep ocean.
Some forms in deep lakes and in landfills, wherein lie countless mercury-containing discarded batteries, fluorescent lights and other products. …

In the US, mercury levels are four times higher in fish-eaters (defined as those who have eaten three or more servings in the past thirty days) than others …
There may be as many as 4.7 million women with elevated levels of mercury, which puts 2,000 newborns at risk of mercury-related brain damage each year. …
(p 187)

Under the Obama administration, the EPA is moving to address this threat, and has said it will propose standards for coal fired power plants by 2011.
And [in 2009, the US endorsed] negotiations to finalise a global treaty on mercury. …

While most cadmium enters our bodies via our stomachs, it most efficiently absorbed via the lungs.
Tobacco plants accumulate cadmium in their leaves, which means that smoking is a major cause of high cadmium levels.
(p 188, emphasis added)

[Potential complications] include softening of bones (sometimes to the point where they fracture merely from the weight of the body), lung diseases and possibly cancer. …

Two, albeit, controversial studies [have shed light on possible] ramifications of lead poisoning in children …
(p 189)

A 2007 study across nine countries revealed a 'very strong' correlation between high lead levels in preschool children and subsequent crime rates, with murder showing a particularly strong correlation with the more severe cases of childhood lead poisoning. …
[And] a second study [of] twelve thousand children born in Oakland, California, between 1959 and 1966 … found that children exposed to high levels of lead in the womb were more than twice as likely to become schizophrenic. …

Lead, copper, silver and zinc have been mined and processed at Mount Isa in Queensland's Gulf Country for decades.
[In] 2005-06 alone an estimated
  • 400,000 kilograms of lead,
  • 470,000 kilograms of copper,
  • 4,800 kilograms of cadmium and
  • 520,000 kilograms of zinc
were released into the atmosphere.

Blood tests carried out in US laboratories on six-year-old Stella Hare, who lived in Mount Isa revealed dangerously high levels of lead and ten other metals in her blood.
She suffers learning and behavioural difficulties, and her family is now suing mining company Xstrata.
[Of another] four hundred children … tested by Queensland Health, forty-five [ie more than 10%] had lead levels above the dangerous threshold …
(p 190)

Some in the company [have argued that the lead] comes from natural sources.
Lead levels in soil in residential areas of Mount Isa are thirty-three times higher than federal limits, while lead in swimming holes near the town exceeds those limits several hundred times.
In a newspaper advertisement Xstrata claimed that '
[A] few simple steps related to hygiene and nutrition will ensure … lead levels remain below World Health Organization standards.
(p 191)

[If climate change is allowed to continue unabated, there is a real risk] of exterminating up to six out of every ten living species [by century's end]. …

[And while humanity is likely to survive as a species,] James Lovelock believes that nine out of every ten of us living this century will die from climate impacts, leaving a population of just a few hundred million [and destroying] our global civilisation.
(pp 198-9)

Adapting to Climate Change

[Humans] are one of the most genetically uniform [mammalian species;] there being more genetic diversity in a random sample of about [50] chimpanzees from west Africa than in all seven billion of us. …
[This human monoculture was caused by] a brush with extinction, known as a genetic bottleneck, [which] may have been [due to] the eruption of the Tambora volcano [70,000 years ago] in what is now Indonesia.
[It's estimated] that the average surface temperature of the Earth dropped by [2-3°C,] killing all but between [1,000 and 10,000] breeding pairs of humans. …

The glue that holds complex superorganisms together is not genetic, but social — yet it is enhanced by a sufficiently narrow genetic base to enable universal understanding.
(pp 122-3)

[Paradoxically,] while agricultural societies are powerful, they are composed almost entirely of incompetent individuals. …
This tendency towards civilised imbecility has left its physical mark on us ….
One study estimates that men have lost around 10%, and women 14% of their brain mass when compared to ice-age ancestors. …

If you doubt how far our civilisation has turned us into helpless, self-domesticated livestock, just look at the world around you. …
Does it seem to have lost its commonsense? …
[How] often does a visionary leader arise among us?
So few are truly wise that it seems a whole generation can pass without such a presence.
But of course it need not be so.
We can challenge ourselves — shed our complacency and love of ease — and so reinvigorate our shrivelled virtues.
That's what a well-rounded education is supposed to do, and even those with the most repetitive jobs can in their leisure hours expand their minds.
But while we sit in our air-conditioned homes and eat, drink and make merry like cattle in a feedlot without the slightest thought about the consequences of our consumption of water, food and energy, we only hasten the destruction — in the long term — of our kind.
(pp 125-7)

August 24, 2014

Satyajit Das

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Jay Gould [Financier]:
[The trick is to hire] one half of the working class to kill the other half.
(March 1841)

Alan Greenspan:
What we have found over the years in the marketplace is that derivatives have been an extraordinarily useful vehicle to transfer risk from those who shouldn't be taking it to those who are willing to and are capable of doing so.
(Quoted by Robert Manne in Is Neoliberalism Finished?, Goodbye To All That?, Black Inc, 2010, p 27)

Kenneth Galbraith (1908–2006):
The salary of the chief executive of the large corporation is not a market award for achievement.
It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself.

Adam Smith (1723–1790):
All for ourselves, and nothing for anyone else, seems, in every age, to have been the vile maxim of the Masters of Mankind.
(The Wealth of Nations, 1779)

The Masters of Mankind

Empty words like governance and oversight masked a lack of adult supervision of business and markets.
[It was management by neglect: a business culture that] presided over increasing debt, greater leverage, higher risk, lower capital, and accounting fudges. …
(p 290)

[In 2006, the] average weekly wage of investment bankers was $8,367, compared to $841 for all private sector jobs.
(p 313, emphasis added)

In Fairfield County, Connecticut, where many hedge funds were based, the average pay was $23,846 a week.
{[In 2007, the] leading 20 hedge fund and private equity managers earned … $12.6 million a week [— equivalent to] the $29,500 average annual income in the US in just over 8 minutes [or] the President's salary (around $400,000 per year) in less than 2 hours.}
[The] combined remuneration at the five major Wall Street investment banks alone exceeded the world's total foreign aid budget [for 2007] of $850 billion. …

… CEO of Macquarie Bank Allan Moss … earned $35.5 million in a single year …
(p 314)

Larry Summers believed that the market allowed skilled talent to capture their fair share of returns, consistent with productivity and contribution to economic outcomes.
Between government jobs, Summers earned $5 million at hedge fund DE Shaw & Co, playing down his role a mere part-time job. …

Large bonuses were based on high profits, the product of excessive risk and leverage.
Some of the earnings were imaginary, based on mark-to-market accounting, not true cash profit. …

In 2006 [Dow Kim, head of Merrill Lynch's] fixed income business, including mortgages, received a bonus $35 million on top of his salary of $350,000. …
Merrill ultimately lost vast sums when the basis of the profits, mortgage investments, fell sharply in value. …
(p 315, emphasis added)

Merrill was taken over by [Bank of America,] after a short and troubled period with John Thain at the helm. …
(p 201)

[Thain, distinguished himself by spending] $1.2 million redecorating his office [as] Merrill slipped closer to insolvency.
(p 330)

Joining CitiGroup after his term as Treasury secretary, Robert Rubin was paid $20 million a year as a non-executive board member with poorly defined duties.
During the tenure of Rubin and CEO Chuck Prince, Citi lost over $50 billion and its market value fell by more than $60 billion, ultimately requiring a government bailout.
(p 315)

[Prince,] a lawyer appointed to deal with regulatory problems, lacked the requisite risk skills. …
Prince's nickname was "one Buck Chuck," a reference to the fact that Citi's stock price barely moved $1 under his leadership.
Losses on mortgages drove Citi's stock price perilously close to the one-buck figure as the bank struggled to survive.
(p 201)

[On leaving Citi, Prince] was paid an exit bonus of $12.5 million, additional to $68 million already received in stock and options, a $1.7 million annual pension, as well [as] an office, car, and driver for up to 5 years.
Prince signed a 5 year noncompete agreement.
Citi may have benefited more by allowing their former CEO to manage a competitor, give the results of his tenure at the bank.
(p 315)

The top five executives of Bear Stearns and Lehman [Brothers] pocketed cash bonuses exceeding $300 million and $150 million respectively (in 2009 US dollars) [even though] the earnings on which the remuneration was based were reversed in 2008 …
(p 316)

… Lehman's Richard Fuld and Bear Stearns' James Cayne, took nearly 2 decades to become multimillionaires and finally billionaires. …
[By contrast,] Brian Hunter, responsible for energy trading at hedge fund Amaranth before it imploded, earned between $75 million and $100 million [in one year,] ranking him a middling 29th highest paid in his profession [for 2005.]
Several hedge fund managers routinely earn $1 billion each year.
(p 318)

[Remarkably, Richard Fuld] did not use a computer and did not have the ability to open attachments on his BlackBerry.
(p 290)

In 1994 Warren Buffett tried to stop bonus payments until Salomon Brothers' profitability returned to satisfactory levels.
Buffet was forced to abandon the proposal when many senior staff left, joining competitors.
(p 319)

In 2009, Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs … who earned $54 million for a year's work just before the crisis, remained unapologetic about the firm's behavior.
In [an Orwellian] piece of of historical revisionism … Goldman Sachs claimed that it never needed government assistance and would have survived the crisis without it.
(p 364)

(Extreme Money: Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk, 2011)

Ponzi Prosperity

Economics is not a science.
At best, it's an ideology.
And, at times, a very dangerous one. …

Generally these people are influenced by one of two novels.
There are two novels that can change a bookish 14 year old's life, like Ben Bernanke.
Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and Ayn Rand's, Atlas Shrugged.

One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes; leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world.

The other, of course, involves orcs. …

(The End of Ponzi Prosperity, Big Ideas, ABC Radio National, 23 May 2012)

A Financial Singularity

James Kunstler [17 October 2005]:
The mortgage industry, a mutant monster organism of lapsed lending standards and arrant grift on a grand scale, is going to implode like a death star under the weight of these nonperforming loans and drag every tradeable instrument known to man into the quantum vacuum of finance that it creates.
(p 203)

Alan Greenspan:
[Government] regulation cannot substitute for individual integrity
[The] first and most effective line of defense against fraud and insolvency is counterparties' surveillance [eg] JP Morgan thoroughly scrutinizes the balance sheet of Merrill Lynch before it lends. …
(p 279-280, emphasis added)

Alan Greenspan was mistaken …
Creditors can be just prone to greed as the latest wizard of Wall Street [and] they are often the last to understand the risks that would ordinarily help fear counterbalance greed.
(Quoted by Peter Temple, Hedge Funds: The Courtesans of Capitalism, John Wiley & Sons, 2001)
(p 282)

August 20, 2014


Free Market of Ideas


30 Link Lisa Wilkinson
23 Link How Adolescents Make Decisions
10 Post Sugar Man
Ethnic minorities in China, India and the US
9 Post The Honored Dead
Link The Palestinian Struggle for Self Determination and the Ordeal of Occupation
7 Post The Last Tree
Link Is Australia still the land of the fair go?
6 Link Epidemic of ink
Roads for Trees
Deep Sea Mining
Can democracy survive a disappearing middle class?
4 Post Local (Mal)Adapatation
3 Post (LIBOR^2 x 1/LIBOR) — (LIBOR^4 x LIBOR^-3) = ?
Link Greenway votes
How Does A Person Go From Believer To Atheist?
2 Post Supernatural — Natural
1 Link Making Climate-Science Communication Evidence-based — All the Way Down
What Does It Mean To Be A Teenage Feminist Today?


30 Post Culture of Greed
Debt Slavery
Link Is Conflict Good For Progress?
29 Post Economic Irrationality
Link Can Hacking The Stratosphere Solve Climate Change?
Can Hacking The Brain Make You Healthier?
What Are The Dangers Of A Single Story?
What Makes A Good Story?
What Are The Clues To A Good Story?
What Do China And The Banjo Have In Common?
28 Post Killing our way to Perfection
Link Afterlife
27 Link WA traditional sites lose protection
Assessing water resources
26 Post Cultural Theory
The Foundation of Civilization
24 Post The Righteous and the Wicked
Andrew Harper, UN operations leader in Jordan
Greed, Ideology and Antiscience
Are Engineered Foods Evil?
24 Link Albinisim in Tanzania
23 Link Col Allan returns to Australia
Kim Williams leaves News Corp
Kristi Mansfield, philanthropic fundraiser
Paul Davies, physicist and cosmologist
Alison Wolf, Author of The XX Factor
22 Post Freedom of Communication
Link Science and Global Warming
20 Link Faith leaders demand commitments on climate change
Churches condemn Opposition and Government asylum seeker policies
Pope Francis says church should not be "obsessed" with abortion, birth control and gays
The upsurge in Islamist violence
16 Link Spider Woman
The early years of the mobile phone in Australia
Patents are only inventive sometimes
Attributions to climate change
Innovation policy
Media in India
Quid Pro Quo: News Corp and the 2013 election
Speaking for the Dead
15 Post Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis
Link Change and the Integrity of Science
14 Post The Fallback
Link Mongrel Nation
13 Link Russia and the middle east
Legacy of Swami Vivekananda
Philip Nitschke's memoir
Pink Sari Revolution
The moral case on Syria
Child jihadis and other threats to childhood
Do the middle class want democracy?
Should the West intervene in Syria?
8 Post Food Security: Availability, Access, Utilization and Stability
Link Migration in the 21st century
Women and sexuality in global conflicts
The war on female sexuality
Middle East meltdown?
China and the world's environment
JFK's last year
6 Link Australian Apartheid
5 Post Fighting the GM Food Scare
Link The storms of James Hansen
4 Post Simplistic Ideological Solutions
The Love of Power
Link The Political Economy dispute at Sydney University
Great Australian political speeches
Bennelong Sings
3 Post Moral Codes
The Future of Work
Say No to Crime!
2 Post George W Bush: Gentleman
George W Bush: Ethical Failure
Link You're never too young to be targeted
1 Post The Folly of Manicheism
George W Bush: An Honest Man?
A Path
Link David Cameron, Lynton Crosby and Philip Morris International


30 Post The Human Dimension
29 Post Amateur Philanthropy
28 Post Four Degree World: Projected Impacts on Agriculture
Link The long African Spring
27 Post I am not a climate change denier
The Personalities of God
Link The Price of Vengeance
The Australian Climate Council
IPCC: World tracking for dangerous climate change
26 Post State of Denial
Sharing the Costs and Benefits of Technological Change
25 Post Serenity, Unity and Tolerance
Link Sex and the Citadel
Copyright is dead
24 Post Reality
23 Post Migrants and 'Dirty Work'
Link What MOOC's mean for universities
22 Post Fear of the Disabled
Fear of Food
Link Living in the edge
21 Post Peace
20 Post Vasili Arkhipov Saves the World
Invisible Killers
Droughts and Flooding Rains
Link The Modern Australian Soldier
19 Post Infernal Numbers
Failure of Governance in the United States
Nice Guys and Bad Boys
Link Changing the Brain
18 Link The disability nightmare in our prison system
Opening up the Arctic
16 Link Cyber attacks: how war and economics are being transformed by computerisation
15 Post The Myth of Professionalism
The American Miracle
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
14 Post Dreaming of Star Wars
Another American Century
13 Link A literacy deficit
The narrowing of politics
Is it treason to have the wrong reason?
12 Post Seeing the world through another's eyes
Link Hume and Buddhism
11 Link Asylum seekers: drowning on our watch
Ageing on the edge
The family trap
10 Post The House I Live In
Link Our Buggy Brain
Turning Points
Link Giving It Away
Peering Into Space
7 Post Compassion for those in need
6 Post Riding The Climate Escalator
Women at Work
Religion is Legacy Software
Link Where Ideas Come From
Building A Better Classroom
5 Link The jellyfish threat to salmon farms and the human threat to the oceans
How commentators and the blogosphere treat climate sceptics
Why Judith Curry and Steve McIntyre are wrong about IPCC climate model accuracy
4 Link A Clean Energy Future?
Food chains at risk as krill threatened by heat and higher acidity
Climate science: beyond party politics
Rising seas to push out 500 million
The Cutting Edge of Radioastronomy
The Science Show goes to Hell
3 Link The coming crisis for the oceans
The slaughter of dolphins
2 Post Religious Fascism
1 Post Monopoly Power in the Australian Information Market


30 Post Anywhere but here
Link Photographing and saving the icy realm
Great Southern Land
Michael Smith: Soldier
The inner workings of political polling
29 Post Malaysian refugee policy
Link MOOCs in Australia
28 Post Outrages Upon Human Dignity
A Malignant Way of Life
27 Link Egypt and Military Might
Leader of the Pack
26 Post Psychological Contagion
25 Post American Justice
The Nocebo Hypothesis
24 Post Climate Science Rejecters of the World Unite!
Bipartisanship and the National Interest
Link AI: think again
Disengaging in Afghanistan
Political surveillance in the democratic state
The death penalty
The Australian car industry
Egypt: after the revolution
23 Post It isn't weird to believe in 'Wind Turbine Syndrome'
Link Inside the new America
21 Post Australia Under Siege
Link Rupert Murdoch: A Fit and Proper Person?
Objectivity in Journalism
Raoul Wallenberg
Egypt on the brink
20 Link Darwin, denialism and climate change
Biggest solar PV farm in Southern Hemisphere
Australians want action on climate change
19 Link Invisible Commodities
18 Post Global Health Risks
Link Trayvon Martin verdict
Egypt and the future of political Islam
Late lessons from early warnings: the precautionary principle 1896-2000
16 Link Micro-spacecraft and macro ambition
Rudd's resurrection
15 Post 2013 Australian Election Coverage
Renewable Energy
Link Untold history of the United States
Blue Labour
14 Post A New Dark Age — Part 2
Media Issues
13 Post A New Dark Age — Part 1
Link Technology: why is it still a man's world?
10 Post The Ethics of Asylum Seeker Policy
8 Post The Annual Holocaust
2 Post Iraq: After the War
Labor — Capital
Link Animal Minds
Does Population Matter?
A Bit of Give
Unstoppable learning
The Austerity Delusion
Who rules the culture wars?
The FairPhone
A truly useless machine
Whose views skew the news?

Date Title Page


30 Happiness and Freedom from Suffering Matthieu Ricard
28 The Dark Side American Experience: Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson
17 Henri Cartier-Bresson 40 Eridani A: Prose and Photographs
10 Why should we be concerned? John Houghton: Climate Briefing 1
10 Climate Change: Doing the Math Green Army: Communications
8 The Orwellian Problem Naomi Oreskes: Merchants of Doubt
8 A Great Big New Tax on Everything The Conversation
3 Opinion Live Long and Prosper: Propaganda


31 Emissions Trading: Theory and Practice Future Leaders
28 Making a Virtue of Cruelty ABC Radio National: Breakfast
27 Changes in Extreme Temperatures Four Degree World: 21st Century Projections
27 Environmental and National Security Implications Security Implications of Climate Change: Planetary Defense, Summary and Implications
26 Ethics George W Bush
20 Trust, but Verify Scientific American
18 A Malevolent Threat: Mass Terrorism Security Implications of Catastrophic Climate Change
12 The Biology of Organisations Bertrand Russell: Power
7 Fear of Wind ABC Radio National: Background Briefing
4 Media Coverage of Climate Change Green Army: Finance, Research and Development


26 Political Dissent as Heresy ABC Radio National: Rear Vision
18 Global military expenditure and the arms trade treaty ABC Radio National: Future Tense
17 American Hegemony George W Bush: The World 2
17 Gun control in the United States Counting the Dead
15 Stealing from the Poor ABC Radio National: Big Ideas
14 Doubling Down on Denial Merchants of Doubt: Climate Science 2
13 Of Free Speech and Free Markets Merchants of Doubt: Climate Science 1
12 Maturity and Mastery Public Broadcasting System: American Experience
8 Budget pressures on Australian governments Grattan Institutue
1 Systemic Effects of Severe Climate Change Security Implications of Severe Climate Change


31 Fasting and Longevity ABC Radio National: Science Show
29 The Rush to War George W Bush: The World 1
26 Extreme Events in the Period 2000–12 Four Degree World: Observations and Impacts
24 Earth Days Public Broadcasting System: American Experience
22 Effective Governance Radio National: Sunday Extra
20 Echoes of the Wise Men George HW Bush
15 Corporate Governance Power: Forms of Government
12 Disease Security Implications of Expected Climate Change
7 Executive Summary World Bank: Four Degree World
4 The Last Believer Lyndon Johnson
4 Exodus 22:18 Carl Sagan


28 The Dream The Kennedys
22 Preface Climate Change Research Centre: Climate Science Update
22 Projected number of days over 35°C in Australian capital cities Climate Commission: Climate Change and Health
22 Introduction Climate Commission: Climate Science, Risks and Responses
19 Extremism in the Defense of Liberty Tony Abbott
12 False Hope The Guardian
8 Zombie Banks Background Briefing: 2012
6 Singular, Abrupt Events Security Implications of Climate Change: Three Scenarios
2 Tony Windsor ABC Radio National: Late Night Live


31 The Heart of Democracy Live Long and Prosper
31 Syria: A Multilevel Conflict Rear Vision: 2012
31 Using Tobacco to Defend Free Enterprise Merchants of Doubt: Tobacco
30 The Arab Spring Rear Vision: 2011
23 Counting the Dead: Sri Lanka ABC Radio National: Saturday Extra
15 Cold War Harry Truman
14 Australia's Responsibility ABC Radio National: Ockham's Razor
9 Langton Takes Umbrage ABC Radio National: Boyer Lectures
7 Fanaticism Power: Money, Propaganda and Fanaticism
6 No Commercial Advantage Scientific American: 2011
2 Mann with a Hockey Stick Scientific American: 2012
24 Costs and Potential IPCC: Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage


23 What could I have done to stop it? Counting the Dead: My Lai
18 History of Western Philosophy Bertrand Russell
17 Future Eaters Tim Flannery
15 Eradicating Ecocide Green Army: Finance, Research and Development
15 A New World Order Richard Nixon
8 Vaccine Frauds and Fallacies Rear Vision: 2010


27 True Progressivism The Economist
23 Antarctic Climate Change Ockham's Razor: 2012

The Physical Science Basis

Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change: AR5 Working Group I

Detection and Attribution of Climate Change

Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes (Figure SPM.6).
This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4.
[There is 99% confidence] that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
(p 12)

There has been further strengthening of the evidence for human influence on temperature extremes since the SREX.
It is now very likely that human influence has contributed to observed global scale changes in the frequency and intensity of daily temperature extremes since the mid-20th century, and likely that human influence has more than doubled the probability of occurrence of heat waves in some locations. …

There is high confidence that changes in total solar irradiance have not contributed to the increase in global mean surface temperature over the period 1986 to 2008, based on direct satellite measurements of total solar irradiance.

No robust association between changes in cosmic rays and cloudiness has been identified.
(p 13)

Future Global and Regional Climate Change

Relative to the average from year 1850 to 1900, global surface temperature change by the end of the 21st century is projected to …
  • likely … exceed 2°C for RCP6.0 and RCP8.5 (high confidence) …
  • as likely as not … exceed 4°C for RCP8.5 (medium confidence).
(p 15)

Cumulative CO2 Emissions (b) (GtC)Surface Temperature (c) (°C)Sea Level Rise (d) (m)
Scenario (a)
(ppm CO2e)
Mean (Range)
Global Mean Increase (likely range)
(Relative to 1986-2005)
RCP2.6 (475)270 (14-410)1.0 (0.4-1.6)1.0 (0.3-1.7)0.24 (0.17-0.32)0.40 (0.25-0.55)
RCP4.5 (630)780 (595-1005)1.4 (0.9-2.0)1.8 (1.1-2.6)0.26 (0.19-0.33)0.47 (0.32-0.63)
RCP6.0 (800)1060 (840-1250)1.3 (0.8-1.8)2.2 (1.4-3.1)0.25 (0.18-0.32)0.48 (0.33-0.63)
RCP8.5 (1313)1685 (1415-1910)2.0 (1.4-2.6)3.7 (2.6-4.8)0.30 (0.22-0.38)0.63 (0.45-0.82)

(Adapted from Table SPM.2, Table SPM.3 and Box SPM.1)

Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) (a) are identified by their approximate total radiative forcing in year 2100 relative to 1750:
  • 2.6 W m-2 for RCP2.6,
  • 4.5 W m-2 for RCP4.5,
  • 6.0 W m-2 for RCP6.0 and
  • 8.5 W m-2 for RCP8.5.

Cumulative CO2 emissions for the 2012–2100 period (b) compatible with the RCP atmospheric concentrations simulated by the CMIP5 Earth System Models.
  • Most of the CMIP5 and Earth System Model (ESM) simulations were performed with prescribed CO2 concentrations reaching 421 ppm (RCP2.6), 538 ppm (RCP4.5), 670 ppm (RCP6.0), and 936 ppm (RCP 8.5) by the year 2100.
  • Including also the prescribed concentrations of CH4 and N2O, the combined CO2-equivalent concentrations are 475 ppm (RCP2.6), 630 ppm (RCP4.5), 800 ppm (RCP6.0), and 1313 ppm (RCP8.5).

Projected change in global mean surface air temperature (c) and global mean sea level (d) rise for the mid- and late 21st century relative to the reference period of 1986–2005.
  • The total increase [in combined land and ocean surface temperature] between the average of the 1850–1900 period and the 2003–2012 period is 0.78 [0.72 to 0.85] °C, based on the single longest dataset available.
    (p 3)
  • Based on current understanding, only the collapse of marine-based sectors of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, if initiated, could cause global mean sea level to rise substantially above the likely range during the 21st century.
    There is medium confidence that this additional contribution would not exceed several tenths of a meter of sea level rise during the 21st century.

[The decrease in surface ocean pH due to ongoing ocean acidification] by the end of 21st century is in the range of
  • 0.06 to 0.07 for RCP2.6,
  • 0.14 to 0.15 for RCP4.5,
  • 0.20 to 0.21 for RCP6.0 and
  • 0.30 to 0.32 for RCP8.5 (see Figures SPM.7 and SPM.8).
(p 19)

Carbon budget required to limit global surface temperature rise to less than 2°C
(531 [446 to 616] GtC was already emitted by 2011)
LikelihoodMaximum cumulative CO2 emissions since 1861-1880 (GtC)

Climate Change Research Centre:
In 2000-2009, about 350 [GtC of CO2 were] emitted …
(Abrupt Change, Tipping Points and Past and Future Climate, The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009)

[Annual emissions of CO2 alone] have grown between 1970 and 2004 by about 80%, from 21 to 38 gigatonnes (Gt), and represented 77% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2004.
(Climate Change 2007, Synthesis Report, p 36)

A large fraction of anthropogenic climate change resulting from CO2 emissions is irreversible on a multi-century to millennial time scale …
{[Up] to 40% of emitted CO2 will remain in the atmosphere longer than 1,000 years.}

Surface temperatures will remain approximately constant at elevated levels for many centuries after a complete cessation of net anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
[Ocean] warming will continue for centuries.

It is virtually certain that global mean sea level rise … due to thermal expansion [will] continue for many centuries.
[For] scenario RCP8.5, the projected rise [by 2300] is 1 m to more than 3 m (medium confidence).

Sustained mass loss by ice sheets would cause larger sea level rise …
There is high confidence that sustained warming greater than some threshold would lead to the near-complete loss of the Greenland ice sheet over a millennium or more, causing a global mean sea level rise of up to 7 m.
Current estimates indicate that the threshold is greater than about 1°C (low confidence) but less than about 4°C (medium confidence) global mean warming with respect to pre-industrial.
(p 20, emphasis added)

Abrupt and irreversible ice loss from a potential instability of marine-based sectors of the Antarctic Ice Sheet in response to climate forcing is [also possible.]

[With respect to geoengineering, there] is insufficient knowledge to quantify how much CO2 emissions could be partially offset by [Carbon Dioxide Removal] on a century timescale.

[Solar Radiation Management, if realizable, has] the potential to substantially offset a global temperature rise, but they would also modify the global water cycle, and would not reduce ocean acidification.
If SRM were terminated for any reason, there is high confidence that global surface temperatures would rise very rapidly to values consistent with the greenhouse gas forcing.
(p 21)

Would you like to know more?

(Working Group I, Summary For Policy Makers, 27 September, 2013)

Jonathan Haidt

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Marcus Aurelius (121-180):
The whole universe is change and life itself is but what you deem it.

Siddhartha Gotama:
What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616):
There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
(Hamlet, ~1600)

Jonathan Haidt:
An ideology of extreme personal freedom can be dangerous because it encourages people to leave homes, jobs, cities, and marriages in search of personal and professional fulfillment, thereby breaking the relationships that were probably their best hope for such fulfillment.
(The Happiness Hypothesis, 2006, p 133)

The Happiness Pill

Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment.
Would you take it?

Suppose further, that the pill has a great variety side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy and trust.
It even improves memory.

Suppose finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing.
Now would you take it?

The pill exists.
It is meditation. …

(The Happiness Hypothesis, 2006, p 35)

February 26, 2014

Rupert Murdoch

Blue Army: Persons of Interest

Rupert Murdoch (1931):
[Our] first responsibility [as journalists, is to earn] the trust and loyalty of our readers.

James Murdoch 1972):
There's an inescapable conclusion that we must reach if we are to have a better society:
The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence, is profit.

Nick Broomfield (1948):
[Rupert Murdoch] paid Sarah a $3 million salary [as a news analyst for Fox News] and a $7 million [book] advance for Going Rogue.
[The] Koch brothers are massive contributors to Sarah and the Tea Party.
(Sarah Pain: You Betcha!, Gravity Films, 2011)

Rebekah Brooks (1968) [CEO News International]:
[Eliminate] in a consistent manner across NI (subject to compliance with legal and regulatory requirements as to retention) emails that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation in which an NI company is a defendant.
(Email, January 2010, emphasis added)

Chris Bryant (1962) [Labour MP]:
Do either of your newspapers ever use private detectives, ever bug or pay the police?

Rebekah Brooks [Editor, News of the World, 2000-2003; CEO, News International, 2001-2011]:
We have paid police for information in the past …

Lawful Bribery

Chris Bryant:
Andy Coulson, who was sitting beside her, tried to say:
But only within the law!
And I pointed out it's against the law: bribing a police officer, suborning a police officer …
Andy Coulson (1968) [Editor, News of the World, 2003-2007; Director of Communications to David Cameron, 2010-2011]:
No, no, no, without — as I said, within the law.
Chris Bryant:
And then the chairman chose to close the meeting, for some bizarre reason …

Lowell Bergman (1945):
[After the story broke] Rebekah Brooks wrote to the chairman of the parliamentary committee [accusing] The Guardian of deliberately misleading the British public.

(Neil Docherty, Murdoch's Scandal, PBS Frontline, 27 March 2012)

Rebekah Brooks:
My intention was simply to comment generally on the widely-held belief that payments had been made in the past to police officers.
If, in doing so, I gave the impression that I had knowledge of any specific cases, I can assure you that this was not my intention.
(Rebekah Brooks: I have no knowledge of actual payments to police, The Guardian, 11 April 2011)

Would you like to know more?

(Marian Wilkinson & Janine Cohen; Rupert, Rebekah and Andy, ABC Four Corners, 30 June 2014)

The Face of Humility

[The hacking of Milly Dowler's (1988–2002) voicemail] was done … when Brooks was editor [of the News of the World. …]
Brooks flatly denied knowing about any hacking under her editorship …
Gordon Rayner & Andrew Hough:
The payout will include
  • a personal £1 million donation to charity from Rupert Murdoch … as well [as]
  • a £2 million settlement directly to the Dowler family.
(Daily Telegraph, 20 September 2011)

By March 2010, News International had spent over £2 million settling court cases with victims of phone hacking. …
(15 April 2015)
[Throughout] 2010 the civil cases against over News of the World over phone hacking kept coming …
Prosecutors say, at this time, Brooks approved a sweeping policy to delete emails en masse across the UK company.
The deletions were partly explained as an overhaul of News' old email system.
But Brooks specifically demanded her own emails to 2010 be deleted in what she called 'a clean sweep'. …
Brooks stepped up the email deletions just as the £8 billion takeover bid for BSkyB was announced in July 2010. …
James Murdoch:
I'm convinced that Rebekah Brooks' leadership of the company is the right thing. …
It's her leadership that has really gotten to grips with this whole period in the company's history.
Days later James told Brooks to go because the police were about to arrest her.
She would negotiate an £11 million pay out. …
Rupert Murdoch:
I would have thought that … at least 90% of the payments were made at the instigation of cops …

(Marian Wilkinson & Janine Cohen, Rupert, Rebekah and Andy, Four Corners, ABC Television, 30 June 2014)

A Better Society

Ha Joon Chang: Professor, Faculty of Politics and Economics, Cambridge University

The success of the Conservative economic narrative has allowed the coalition to pursue a destructive and unfair economic strategy, which has generated only a bogus recovery largely based on government-fuelled asset bubbles in real estate and finance, with stagnant productivity, falling wages, millions of people in precarious jobs, and savage welfare cuts. …

A government budget should be understood not just in terms of bookkeeping but also of demand management, national cohesion and productivity growth.
Jobs and wages should not be seen simply as a matter of people being “worth” (or not) what they get, but of better utilising human potential and of providing decent and dignified livelihoods.
Ways have to be found to generate economic growth based on rising productivity rather than the continuous blowing of asset bubbles.

Without a new economic vision incorporating these dimensions, Britain will continue on its path of stagnation, financial instability and social conflict.

(Why did Britain’s political class buy into the Tories’ economic fairy tale?, 19 October 2014)

Abbott on Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

I’m an American citizen and [I] consider myself an American.


On 4 September 1985, Murdoch became a naturalized citizen to satisfy the legal requirement that only US citizens were permitted to own US television stations.
This resulted in Murdoch losing his Australian citizenship.

(21 February 2013)

Tony Abbott

I've got a lot of time for Rupert Murdoch because whether you like his papers or don't like his papers he's one of the most influential Australians of all time.
Aussies should support our hometown heroes — that's what I think … Rupert Murdoch is.

(Tony Abbott hails Rupert Murdoch as 'hometown hero', The Guardian, 6 September 2013)

[Apart from] John Monash, the Commander of the First AIF [who] saved Paris and helped to win the First World War, and [Howard Florey,] the co-inventor of penicillin [who] literally saved millions of lives, Rupert Murdoch is probably the Australian who has most shaped the world …
For our guest of honour … experience trumps theory and facts trump speculation.
His publications have borne his ideals but never his fingerprints.

Rupert Murdoch is a corporate citizen of many countries, but above all else, he’s one of us.
[And most especially] he’s a long-serving director of the IPA

[Tonight we] renew our commitment [and] our faith.
In a hundred years’ time [may] it be said of us that we … passed the torch of freedom [on] to our successors …

(70th Anniversary Dinner, Institute of Public Affairs, 4 April 2013.)

Murdoch on Abbott

Rupert Murdoch

Conviction politicians hard to find anywhere.
Australia’s Tony Abbott a rare exception.
(19 August 2013)

Great first day by PM Abbott firing top bureaucrats, merging departments and killing carbon tax.
(19 September 2013)

(Robert Manne, Why Rupert Murdoch Can't Be Stopped, The Monthly, November 2013)

Brothers in Arms

Wendy Bacon: Professor of Journalism, Australian Centre for Independent Journalism

[The] most critical point … was the hysterical overreaction by News Limited [to the proposed Public Interest Advocate.]
I don't think anyone could read this legislation and think there was anything remotely like a star chamber. …
Tony Abbott:
Not since the days of the Committee of Public Safety have we seen an attempt by a government to do something as Orwellian as the Public Interest Media Advocate is.
[The] Public Interest Media Advocate, the government's version of the Ministry for Truth, will be vetting every aspect of the media for fairness, accuracy and the professional conduct of journalists.
[This is] a complete distortion of what the law is actually proposing.

[Which] is that, after a whole lot of consideration of different factors, some of which are set down in detail, the advocate would have the power to approve a self-regulatory body.
Which would then, as it does now in the case of the Press Council, take complaints.
There is no suggestion … that this advocate would be in any way dealing with day to day content of the media. …

What we've got here, is News Limited and Abbott in unison … overstating and misleading the Australian public about the powers of the advocate.
The Minister … can't direct the advocate at all.