Archive for July, 2005

What I’ve been reading

July 31st, 2005 8 comments

I’ve decided to do a pre-announcement review of the candidates for the 2005 Hugo Award for best novel. I’ll post a draft before too long, I hope.

But one vision of the future disturbs me. I was reading Charles Stross’ Iron Sunrise (a strong contender, but I liked his Singularity Sky better), set in the 24th century, and he introduces a character who had inherited the masthead of The Times and announced his profession as “warblogger”.

I don’t really suppose our little virtual community is going to last a thousand years, or even 300, but just in case, can’t we find some way to agree on a better name than “blogger”?

Categories: Books and culture, Metablogging Tags:

Credit where it’s due

July 31st, 2005 10 comments

Via Harry’s Place, it appears that the US is going to be evicted from its base in Uzbekistan. Although no reason has been given, it’s reasonable to assume that the Karimov dictatorship objects to US pressure for an investigation into the Andijan massacre.

This is unequivocally good news, and the Bush Administration should be given due credit for not backing down. There’s no mention of the policy of extraordinary renditions (shipping suspects to Karimov’s torture chambers for interrogation), but now that his regime is openly hostile, it is to be hoped that this dreadful practice will cease also.

Categories: World Events Tags:

Cultural criticism

July 30th, 2005 17 comments

My review of Affluenza by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss was in yesterday’s Fin (subscription only). Thanks to all who commented on the earlier draft.

One point that attracts a strong reaction whenever I make it refers to

the vigorous hostile reaction to arguments of this kind. Although this reaction is often phrased in terms of attacks on ‘paternalism’ or (switching genders) the ‘Nanny State’ it is notable that policy proposals for differential taxes on luxury goods attract far less hostility than do purely cultural critiques of excessive consumption. The former threaten only the hip pocket of luxury consumers, while the latter threatens their sense of self-worth.

The response is typically along the lines of “My self worth is fine: I just object to people giving me unsolicited advice to change my lifestyle.”

Well, let’s see. In the time it took me to, read the book, write this review and get it published, I’d say I received at least thirty phone calls from people suggesting that I needed their services in relation to mortgage refinancing, negatively geared investments, telephone plans and so on. I was presented with hundreds of advertisements on TV and the Internet suggesting that I should consume more of just about everything. Even walking down the street, I’m presented with billboards, direct solicitations and so on, all with the same message. And, then, of course, there’s spam. Yet half the blogosphere seems to be upset by the mere existence of a book suggesting they are spending too much.

I don’t object to the TV ads: if I want to watch AFL on TV, it has to be paid for, and the ads are part of the deal. And as long as I don’t get hit with sneaky pop-ups and so on, the same is pretty much true for Internet ads, though I tend to avoid ad-heavy sites, and only run into them by mistake. But if I accept TV and Internet ads a straightforward commercial transaction – my attention as long as the ads can hold it, in return for the content it’s bundled with – then the billboards, spammers and phone pests aren’t just annoyances, they’re thieves, trying to take my valuable attention without paying me for it.

With the exception of spammers and phone pests[1], I don’t have a strong objection to advertising in general, though some examples annoy me. Still, when I see people complaining about the coercive nature of Clive Hamilton’s arguments, I have to wonder if they’re living in the same country as I am.

fn1. I’ve signed up for the ADMA “Do not call” list, but this is purely voluntary, and doesn’t include most of the worst examples.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Dr Who as a blogger

July 30th, 2005 6 comments

Apparently Dr Who returns to Cardiff (what is it with Cardiff?) tonight, to confront a surviving bodysnatcher from an earlier episode in this series. I think I’ll watch the footy instead. But Series 2 (of the New edition) looks more promising, with a return of the Cybermen and (at least so I’ve heard) the Daleks.

Nick Barlow advises that the Doctor will be played by
David Tennant dressed to resemble either Jarvis Cocker or the stereotypical image of a member of Crooked Timber.

Categories: Books and culture Tags:

The Ribena test (Crossposted at CT)

July 29th, 2005 16 comments

In the July edition of Prospect Erik Tarloff reviews What Good are the Arts? by John Carey. Tarloff’s critique (subscription-only link I think, but give it a try) is summed up in the write-off

If I prefer Ribena to Château Lafite, does that make me a fool? No. It’s just a matter of taste—as it is for art. That is John Carey’s thesis, and it’s wrong

I haven’t read Carey’s book yet, but as far as I’m concerned, Tarloff is wrong. Not having read the book, I won’t assert that Carey is right, but he is certainly raising the right questions.

The difference between ‘Art’ (I’ll defend the scare quotes later) and mass-produced cultural products is, in most respects, just like the difference between Château Lafite and Ribena. One takes a lot of skill and indefinable talent to produce, and an experienced palate to appreciate , and the other is cheaply produced in bulk and reliably appeals to basic tastes we all possess[1]

In fact, this comparison is too favorable to ‘Art’ since a lot of stuff produced under that banner, and accepted by its official representatives, has none of the merits of Château Lafite, while lots of things that don’t make into the canon are subtle and complex.
Read more…

Categories: Books and culture Tags:

Weekend reflections

July 29th, 2005 27 comments

An email from Paul Norton reminds me that it’s time, as usual for Weekend Reflections. The idea is that, over the weekend, you should post your thoughts in a more leisurely fashion than in ordinary comments or the Monday Message Board. Paul kicks off with some polling data that does not support the idea (pushed from a variety of perspectives) that Australians are becoming more traditionalist on gender issues. Feel free to discuss this, or something completely different.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue

July 28th, 2005 37 comments

That’s about the best I can say for the agreement on climate change announced today. It appears to offer nothing beyond an acknowledgement that the problem exists.

This supposedly represents the response of the US, China, India, Australia, Japan and North South Korea to the problem of climate change, but if so, the Americans don’t seem to have noticed. There’s a brief item in the NYT, but it doesn’t even appear in the International section of their website. Going directly to the White House website, there’s nothing on the front page, but digging a bit deeper produces an innocuous item headed President’s Statement on U.S. Joining New Asia-Pacific Partnership which I’ve reproduced over the fold.

If this is the Bush Administration’s answer to Kyoto, they’re keeping pretty quiet about it.
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Categories: Environment Tags:

A happy day

July 28th, 2005 4 comments

The release of the remaining children being held in detention brings an end to the worst single part of this sad and shameful chapter in our history. At the same time, the oppressive use of Temporary Protection Visas has been rejected by the Federal Court. I hope the government will not appeal against this decision, and that we can put the whole sorry episode behind us, and start the search for a more rational and humane solution to the problem of responding to asylum seekers.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Carr resigns

July 27th, 2005 29 comments

Bob Carr has resigned as Premier of NSW. Overall, his career looks pretty successful, but it would have looked much better if he’d quit a couple of years ago.

As always in NSW, the choice of successor is in the gift of the Right[1] faction. The big decision they have to make is whether to give it to one of their own or to an outsider. It seems obvious they will go for one of their own, but all the historical evidence suggests they should not. The favorite sons (and they’re nearly all sons) of the Right have been almost uniformly disastrous at the ballot box. Back in the 70s, Pat Hills couldn’t take a trick against the corrupt and not particularly competent Askin government, so they brought in the leftish Neville Wran and enjoyed a decade or more of electoral success. When Wran left, they put up their long-time leader Barrie Unsworth, who lost immediately to Nick Greiner. Carr, his replacement, was aligned with the Right, but was far too bookish and intellectual to be a real part of the Sussex Street machine.

In the decade or so since Carr took over, a string of rightwing apparatchiks has been put up as potential successors: Scully, Costa, Della Bosca and so on. Michael Lee’s failed run for Mayor of Sydney was most probably grooming for a run at State office. As far as I can see, all that is required of these candidates is that they should look OK in a suit and (optionally) be able to string together a coherent sentence together.

It seems to me the obvious choice for Carr’s replacement is his deputy Andrew Refshauge (who is, under the spoils system, necessarily a member of the Left). He’s held a fair number of portfolios, including hot potatoes like health, without incurring fatal damage, and comes across reasonably well on TV. If it weren’t for the absurd and anachronistic factional system, he’d probably be elected unopposed in circumstances like this.

But if elevating a hereditary enemy like Refshauge is too much, how about Frank Sartor? I haven’t liked everything he’s done since entering Parliament, but he’s tough, able and a good campaigner, which is more than you can say for anyone who’s come out of Sussex Street in the last fifty years or so.

fn1. This term once referred to political alignment, along with other equally obsolete factional identifiers like “socialist left”. Now I think it means that they have the “right” to run the party.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Reading the small print (crossposted at CT)

July 26th, 2005 45 comments

This morning’s email included one urging me to sign a statement headed “United Against Terror”. As the email said

The statement begins:

Terrorist attacks against Londoners on July 7th killed at least 54 people. The suicide bombers who struck in Netanya Israel on July 12 ended five lives including two 16 year old girls. And on July 13 in Iraq suicide bombers slaughtered 24 children. We stand in solidarity with all these strangers hand holding hand from London to Netanya to Baghdad: communities united against terror.

The statement ends:

We invite you to sign this statement as a small first step to building a global movement of citizens against terrorism.

Based on these extracts, I would have been happy to sign the statement, for what such gestures are worth. Having read the full statement, however, I decided not to, and concluded that the statement tended more towards disunity in the face of terrorism than unity. After reading some of the supporting statements on the website, I was very glad of this decision.
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Categories: World Events Tags:

A back-of-the-envelope calculation on unfair dismissals

July 25th, 2005 84 comments

The comments thread below arising from my piece on unfair dismissals having gone badly meta[1], let me extract one useful point and do a quick calculation. Suppose we accept the estimate by commenter x-anon that employers typically choose to pay out three months’ wages when dismissing someone for cause (that is, for reasons other than redundancy), rather than face the possibility of unfair dismissal action.

I’m going to guess that an upper bound for the proportion of employees annually dismissed for cause in small businesses is 4 per cent (for large businesses it would be smaller and for the public sector smaller again). Then that implies that the effect of the 3-months payout policy is to raise the average wage bill by 1 per cent. Unless all dismissals for cause are justified, there will be an offsetting effect, since rational employees who regard unjustified dismissal as a possibility will want a higher wage to offset the implied reduction in expected payments. Assuming justified and unjustified dismissals are equally common (here it’s the viewpoint of the average employee that matter), and disregarding risk aversion, the net saving falls to 0.5 per cent. Given a typical labour demand elasticity of 0.5 the net increase in employment demand is about 0.25 per cent for small business (the relevant distinction is those with less than 100 employees). If, say, 40 per cent of workers are employed in firms affected by the changes, the net increase in employment is 10 000 jobs. This is a once-off increase, not an increase in the annual rate of job creation.

Of course, this is a rather simplistic calculation, not taking into account effects on employer confidence, worker morale and so forth, but it gives a feel for the order of magnitude involved. A policy initiative that might generate 10 000 new jobs is worth looking at, but it ought to be put in perspective. Telstra alone has cut many more jobs than that in the past decade, which suggests that a focus on making it easier to get rid of people is probably getting the wrong end of the stick.

fn1. Godwin’s law invoked after only 30 comments.

Categories: Economic policy Tags:

Bahnisch & Quiggin on IR changes (crossposted at LP)

July 25th, 2005 63 comments

Here’s a paper Mark Bahnisch and I have written on the government’s proposed IR changes, aimed at Online Opinion. We’ll try for a more complete analysis when we both get a bit more spare time. Comments appreciated. Crossposted here at LP
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Categories: Economic policy Tags:

Monday message board

July 25th, 2005 7 comments

As usual on Monday, you are invited to post your thoughts on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

What I’ve been reading

July 24th, 2005 26 comments

This and that, including the latest Harry Potter which my son devoured within hours of its release. But more seriously, I’ve finally written my long-promised (draft) review of Affluenza (over the fold). Comments much appreciated.
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Categories: Books and culture Tags:

More bad news from London

July 24th, 2005 77 comments

The news that the man shot dead by police in a London station was not connected with the terror attacks is very disturbing to me. It’s too early to draw any conclusions about whether the police acted properly, but there’s no doubt that, however it happened, this was a win for the terrorists, who have claimed another innocent victim. As the name implies, the main point of terrorism is to create fear, and a situation where people are afraid of the police who are supposed to be protecting them is far worse than anything that can be created by the small risk of being in the wrong place when a bomb goes off.

Terrorism is essentially a criminal activity, and the only way to beat it in the long run is through effective police work. The terrorists of the radical left and right who operated in the 1970s and 1980s were beaten in the end, and the same will be true of the jihadists. But so far at least, the response to the London attacks seems to have more failures than successes. Let’s hope there’s better news soon.

Categories: World Events Tags:

ID Cards

July 23rd, 2005 16 comments

I haven’t followed debate about ID cards very closely, so readers may be able to point to discussion of an issue that I regard as central. There’s a big difference between a card that must be produced on demand by police and other authorities, on pain of arrest, and one that is simply required on particular occasions (for example, boarding an airplane).

The first kind of card would be a big intrusion on our day-to-day liberties, but it might well be useful in fighting terrorism, dealing with illegal immigration and so forth. It would be the kind of thing that they used to have in dictatorships, where the loss of your “papers” was potentially catastrophic, though presumably in the Australian context, it would merely entail a night in the cells until you managed to verify your identity.

The second kind of card would not, as far as I can see, make any practical difference to anyone. The occasions on which it would be used are those that already require photo ID like a drivers license or passport. Of course, you’re not compelled to have these documents, but the same would seem to be true with the card. As long as you don’t want to catch any planes, or undertake similar activities, you can throw the card away and forget about it.

So, does anyone know which of these is proposed, or why my uninformed reasoning on the subject might be invalid.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Planning for pandemics

July 22nd, 2005 10 comments

The news of deaths from bird flu in Indonesia is pretty scary. Although, as I’ve mentioned recently Indonesia has made a lot of progress in many respects, the handling of this threat so far seems to show the worst of both worlds: all the ill ffects of authoritian habits combined with the timidity of weak politicians. There have been a lot of coverups, and an unwillingness to tackle the necessary but unpopular task of slaughtering affected flocks of birds. Things seem to be improving now, but there’s a long way to go.

It seems very likely that, sooner or later, bird flu will make the jump that permits human-human transmission, and quite likely that a major flu pandemic will result. The world, including Australia, is very poorly prepared for this. One thing we could do to prepare is to adopt a national program encouraging annual flu vaccinations for everyone, instead of just for limited categories of vulnerable people.

The main benefit of this is not that the shots would provide immunity against a new and deadlier flu variant (though there might be some limited benefit of this kind) but that we would have the infrastructure, production facilities and so on to undertake a mass vaccination against such a variant if it arose. As it is, it seems likely that many countries will be scrambling to get access to an inadequate world supply of vaccines, but if Australia and other developed countries ramped up normal levels of production, it would be much easier to generate extra supplies for our neighbours.

I haven’t looked into it, but my guess is that, even without considering the possibility of a pandemic, the benefit-cost ratio from such a measure would be pretty high. Flu is very costly in economic terms, and I suspect that, if pain and suffering were thrown into the balance, a program of universal free vaccination would come out looking pretty good.

Update There’s lots of good background in Foreign Affairs. A piece by Michael Osterholm reprinted in the AFR Review section recently, is very good and stimulated my thinking on this topic.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Weekend reflections

July 22nd, 2005 40 comments

This regular feature is back again. The idea is that, over the weekend, you should post your thoughts in a more leisurely fashion than in ordinary comments or the Monday Message Board.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

China unpegs

July 22nd, 2005 14 comments

China has announced a small revaluation of the renminbi yuan against the dollar, and a move to a managed float, relative to a basket of currencies (apparently this will be like the Australian system of the 1970s, a ‘crawling peg’, with the rate announced on a daily basis). Brad Setser has analysis and links.

I would have thought a revaluation of at least 10 per cent would have been a better idea, giving speculators at least some reason to think the next move might be down, but decisions like this are highly political.

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

One foot on the platform

July 21st, 2005 10 comments

One of the questions that’s puzzled me for a long time is: who would be silly enough to buy US 10-year bonds? Given the massive trade deficit, it’s obvious that the US dollar will have to depreciate a great deal against all its trading partners to restore balance. Despite recent gains, it’s already a long way off its 2002 peak against the euro, and the problem was already apparent then.

The standard answer is that foreign central banks are buying US bonds to prop up the currency and keep their exports going. Reports from the US Treasury International Capital System give some support to this idea – foreign central bank holdings of US government securities have risen sharply. But when you look at the maturity structures reported in Tables 9a and 9b of the Report on Foreign Portfolio Holdings of U.S. Securities (PDF file) something interesting emerges. The median maturity for all holdings of long-term US securities is four years, but for official holdings its only three years. Nearly 75 per cent of all foreign holdings of US securities (and these amounted to $1.3 trillion as of June 2004) are for maturities of less than five years. For private holdings, the median is five years, and 25 per cent are for more than ten years.

This is very puzzling. It looks as if the foreign central banks are keeping their options open. At least if the dollar undergoes an orderly decline, they will be able to unload without too much loss. But private investors are in deep.

If this was equity investment it would be comprehensible – maybe these are people who really have faith in the capacity of the dynamic US economy to generate big profits. But large holdings of long term bonds seem almost impossible to rationalise

Over to you.

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Opportunity costs redux (crosspost from CT)

July 21st, 2005 19 comments

Harry Brighouse has a question about my post on consequentialism and opportunity costs, as applied to the Iraq war, which raises a couple of important points about consequentialism, and also leads me to suggest a specific correction to my post on this topic.
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Categories: Philosophy, World Events Tags:

The Creative Commons as a default rule

July 20th, 2005 6 comments

Reader Ben Lancini points me to this piece by John Dvorak, attacking [or rather, confessing to not seeing the point of] the Creative Commons License. This has prompted me to write a post I promised ages ago, in response to Kim Weatherall and Nicholas Gruen. I won’t recapitulate the debate, but just state my own position.

I’ve chosen the non-commercial, attribution, share-alike version of the Creative Commons License. This says that anyone can reproduce my work from the blog, with attribution and for non-commercial purposes, as long as they share it under the same conditions[1].

I’ve chosen this, not because it’s necessarily the best option in all, or even most cases, but because it’s the best default rule. Anyone who wants to use material from the blog in this way can do so without asking me. And share-alike is a good feature for a default option, because it means that re-use is similarly free under the same conditions.

But if Hollywood wants to use bits of the blog in the forthcoming hit movie Crooked Timber of Humanity, they are not confined to the CC license. They’re free to fly me to LA, and make a stupendously generous offer for the commercial rights. Similarly, if someone wanted to use the posts without attribution for some good reason, they could always approach me and ask for permission.

More generally, if someone wants to do things differently they can propose a contract with me. The optimal default rule is one that protects most rights I might want to enforce, while allowing (without special permission) most uses I’d be unlikely to object to. Public domain fails on the first count, and standard copyright on the second. I think the Creative Commons License, in the particular form I’ve chosen gets the balance just about right.

The general idea of a default value is familiar to anyone who’s done any computer programming and I imagine that if things were put to Dvorak in this way he’d see the point.

The ideas I’ve associated with default rules are commonly, but not, I think, very helpfully, discussed in terms of the supposedly ‘viral’ nature of licenses, particularly in relation to software and the Gnu General Public License. The idea of a default rule clarifies what is going on here. You can only have one default. At one time this was public domain (since it was necessary to make a specific claim for copright). Now it’s copyright, and advocates of strong IP take this as normal and natural. But if you want to use GPL or CC material with a share-alike license you have to adopt this default. From the viewpoint of people who take copyright as natural, but see CC material expanding, this is like a virus.

fn1. Nothing I do with the license affects rights of fair use (not that these are very extensive in Australia, but this may change for the better).

Categories: Intellectual 'property' Tags:

Some real good news

July 19th, 2005 10 comments

If we’re looking for good news from the Islamic world, as most of us are, can I suggest that the best place to look just now is right next door in Indonesia[1]. The Indonesian government has just signed a peace agreement with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). There’s plenty more to be done, and such agreements have failed before, but the chances this time look better than ever, as GAM has finally abandoned its demand for independence and the central government seems willing, for the first time, to concede real autonomy.

Regardless of whether this agreement holds, Indonesia’s successes since Suharto resigned have been simply amazing. At that time the economy was in a mess, there had been decades of brutal dictatorship, the army was involved mainly in domestic repression and deeply entangled in both politics and business, East Timor was still resisting occupation, Muslims and Christians were engaged in communal fighting, encouraged by sinister interests within the state and terrorist groups like JI and Laskar Jihad operated more or less openly. The odds of coming through this without some sort of crisis, or worse, seemed slim.

In the subsequent seven years, there have been four peaceful changes of government, each of them (in my view) an improvement. The army is out of parliament, and increasingly confined to its appropriate role in national defense, Timor is an independent, and friendly, neighbour, Laskar Jihad has disbanded, and JI has been largely broken up, with many of those involved in terror crimes now facing death or lengthy terms of imprisonment. Communal fighting in places like Ambon has stopped almost completely, and even long-running struggles like that in Aceh seem to be on the brink of peaceful resolution. The economy is still problematic, but it seems to be on the mend.

Things aren’t perfect of course, and in a democratic society that fact can’t be concealed behind a mask of official propaganda as it was in the Suharto years. But if everything in the world was going as well things have gone in Indonesia lately, we wouldn’t have too much to worry about.

fn1. Mark Bahnisch points to more good news here

Categories: World Events Tags:

War and its consequences (cross-posted at CT)

July 18th, 2005 66 comments

Chris Bertram’s recent post on responsibility got me started on what I plan to be the final instalment of my attempts to analyse the ethical justification for war. Comments much appreciated.
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Categories: Philosophy, World Events Tags:

Hassan al-Turabi’s open thread

July 18th, 2005 17 comments

In a fairly standard example of thread-jacking/topic drift, my challenge to nominate disinterested scientists sceptical of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis veered rapidly off-track, turning quickly to the shortcomings of Hassan al-Turabi (a Sudanese politician, it appears). I’m posting this as a separate thread for the discussion beginning with this comment by Michael Burgess who observed, in response to Dave Ricardo,

While I don’t know what to think on the greenhouse issue, I do find it somewhat ironic that many of those who are usually so post-modern in their outlook (there is no objective truth etc and following Thomas Kuhn this applies as much in the physical sciences as it does in the social sciences etc) suddenly get very absolutist when it suits them.

I do think that before making such a claim, MB might reasonably have searched the site using the facility provided. He would have found many references to both left-wing and right-wing varieties of postmodernism, among which this is, I think the kindest (and it’s not very kind).

Anyway, as of now, I’m going to delete any further off-topic comments and side debates in the sceptics thread, and request that any discussion of Turabi and similar be directed here.

Categories: Metablogging Tags:

Monday message board

July 18th, 2005 21 comments

As usual on Monday, you are invited to post your thoughts on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Disinterested sceptics ?

July 17th, 2005 121 comments

A research challenge for my readers. The task is to nominate scientists who

(i) have undertaken serious research on climate change
(ii) doubt that human activity is contributing to global warming
(iii) are disinterested, with no financial or political axe to grind

I’m reasonably flexible on (i) and (ii). That is, I’ll count anyone who has published relevant research in a reputable journal or who has done research on the topic and holds a job in a university science department or similar institution. Similarly on (ii) it’s sufficient that the person express doubt as to whether the evidence supports the anthropogenic view: they need not claim that it has been disproved.

On the other hand, as far as (iii) goes, I’m applying a stringent criterion. I’m excluding anyone who has taken money from lobby groups with a political position on climate change policy, is a member of any such group, or has publicly expressed a political position on the Kyoto protocol.

I claim that I can nominate hundreds of scientists who satisfy (i) and (iii), as described, and whose work supports the anthropogenic hypothesis. I suggest that the number of scientists satisfying (i) and (iii), as defined above, but who doubt the anthropogenic hypothesis, is in single digits. My current estimate is one, but perhaps readers will be able to double or triple that estimate, or perhaps reduce it to zero.

Update I obviously need to clarify the point on government funding. I’m not excluding scientists who have received research funding from public research bodies, even where those bodies are funded by anti-Kyoto governments, such as those of Australia and the US. This is making the task of finding disinterested sceptics easier, not harder, a fact which several commenters have apparently failed to observe.

Categories: Environment Tags:

What I’m reading, and more

July 17th, 2005 7 comments

River of Gods by Ian MacDonald. It’s set in a politically fragmented India in 2047. Very promising so far. My plan is to read all the nominees for the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novel, the only one left now is Charles Stross Iron Sunrise, which I’m looking forward to, as I enjoyed Singularity Sky.

Also on the SF front, I started off liking the new series of Dr Who, but now I’m getting annoyed. He can travel as far as he wants through time and space, but he hardly ever seems to leave London or to move more than about 100 years away from the present. OK, he went to Cardiff once, but he could just as well have taken the train. And it seems like just about every episode involves some variant on zombies/bodysnatchers. Not that I have anything against zombies and bodysnatchers, but couldn’t we have a bit of variation: say, sharks with laser-beams attached to their foreheads?

I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much, as the Doctor clashes with the football, meaning that I’ve been tuning in at quarter-time. Last night that was a mercy, I guess, though it left me trying to work out what went wrong in a game that (for the 75 minutes I saw) was very evenly matched. But in future, I think I’ll be watching the whole game.

More seriously, I’m working on reviews of Affluenza and The End of Poverty. I hope to have drafts of these up on the blog before too long. I also read and enjoyed Deirdre Macken’s Oh, No! We Forgot to Have Children. I assume the title is an allusion to this classic image

Categories: Books and culture Tags:

Nairn’s letter

July 16th, 2005 2 comments

For those with an idle interest, I’ve put Gary Nairn’s response to my water piece over the fold
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Categories: Economic policy, Environment Tags:

Blogs on the front page

July 16th, 2005 2 comments

Both literally and metaphorically in today’s AFR (subscription required). There’s a frontpage story about a defamation action taken by a car dealer against the creator of a “” site. The inside continuation of the story shares the page with a piece about Technorati and its woes, and the likelihood that one of the big search companies will make a takeover. And further on there’s a 1.5 page feature article lamenting the boringness of corporate blogs.

As I said in my Festival of Ideas piece, it’s striking that innovation is now flowing from the household sector (bloggers typing stuff in their spare room/study/lounge) to the business and government sectors rather than vice versa.

Categories: Metablogging Tags: