Archive for March, 2007

Discussion policy for RSMG

March 27th, 2007 10 comments

One of the reasons I’ve taken a break from this blog is that I’ve found the effort of dealing with various kinds of disruptive commenters to be more than I can justify. Unfortunately, the same problems emerged at the RSMG blog, so I’ve developed a new discussion policy. The policy prohibits flames, snarks, trolls and especially sock puppets. When the new improved version of this blog returns, I’ll be adopting something similar, though probably a little less restrictive (I enjoy a good snark from time to time, but you so rarely get a good one).

So, if you’re interested, pop over and take a look. If you’re so minded, make comments, bearing in mind that the policy is already in force.

Categories: Metablogging Tags:

New posts at RSMG

March 24th, 2007 Comments off

While taking a break here, I’ve put up a couple of posts over at RSMG, and there’s an interesting piece from Nanni over the long-running fight to stop leading academic publisher Elsevier from running arms fairs.

I’ve posted on why I’m glad my frequent flyer status has been downgraded, and a newly-published critique of the McKibbin-Wilcoxen plan for reducing CO2 emissions.

Categories: Environment, Metablogging Tags:

Taking a break

March 20th, 2007 9 comments

With a hugely successful fundraising appeal just completed, this seems like a good time to take a break for a few weeks. When I come back I hope to have some new ideas, new features, better defences against trolls and spammers and some policies to promote discussion and discourage flamewars.

In the meantime, I’ll probably post a bit at the Risk and Sustainable Management Group blog, and maybe also at Crooked Timber occasionally.

While I’m on this topic, I should note the departures of Mark Bahnisch from Larvatus Prodeo and Helen Dale (Skepticlawyer) from Catallaxy. Both have made big contributions.

Categories: Metablogging Tags:

Thanks to everyone

March 20th, 2007 Comments off

I just banked the cash and checks I collected as part of the World’s Greatest Shave. Along with contributions on the site the total came out at $6037.10 towards an Australia-wide total of nearly $2 million. You can still make a last-minute donation if you want to, but I’m really thrilled with the effort.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Four years on

March 19th, 2007 49 comments

The Iraq war began on March 20, 2003. I’ve run out of things to say on this tragedy, but feel free to discuss it in the comments thread.

Categories: World Events Tags:

Monday message board

March 19th, 2007 9 comments

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Rip van Winkle

March 19th, 2007 11 comments

When Rip awoke from his 20-year sleep, he had a beard a foot long, and had missed out on some big political events. I’ve been paying attention to politics for the past 30 years or more, but events in the world of shaving have mostly passed me by. I was aware that it was no longer possible, as it once was, to get a shave and a haircut for two bits, but I was surprised to discover that you can no longer get a shave at all, at least, not at a barbershop – perhaps a long-delayed reaction to The Man from Ironbark.

Instead, having had my hair trimmed and my beard clipped down to Number 0 (as shown here), I was left to rely on my own devices to remove the stubble. Of course, I had no such devices, but I thought that the relevant technology would be fairly much as I remembered it. On the contrary, shaving now appears to require five blades and a power supply. Actually, I did read about this on CT a while back, but of course skipped over it as being of no relevance to me.

I’m slightly bemused by it, but I’m the ideal target market for this kind of thing, since the only memories of shaving that have survived three decades are the painful ones. So, I’m now on the bleeding edge of technology, literally, but hopefully not bleeding as much as I would be if I stuck with the old gear.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

And here’s the result!

March 17th, 2007 25 comments


update The whole event is now documented at Flickr

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Today’s the day!

March 17th, 2007 1 comment

In a few hours, my younger son Dan and I will be heading to Indooroopilly to deliver on our side of the Great Shave bargain. Photos of the results will be available shortly.

Having set what I thought would be an impossibly ambitious target of raising $5000 for the Leukemia Foundation, I’m thrilled to report that the total including some cash donations and cheques, is just a few dollars short of $6000! There’s still time to donate. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who’s helped make this such a huge success.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

In praise of libertarianism

March 17th, 2007 10 comments

I got a great response from libertarian readers to the Great Shave Appeal, and so the final instalment in my ‘In Praise of ..’ series is addressed to them.

Although they are often at loggerheads, libertarians and social democrats share plenty of ideas, derived in large measure from common sources. Both draw heavily on the 19th century liberalism of John Stuart Mill, who managed to write effectively in support of both classical free-market economics and, later in life, a rather abstract form of socialism.

It’s not surprising then, that I broadly agree with libertarians on the classic civil liberties issues – freedom of speech, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, opposition to government intervention in private decisions such as sexual activity and drug use and so on.

The attacks on civil liberties since the Iraq war have made many of these issues more vitally relevant and led me and others to stress our areas of agreement with libertarian defenders of freedom such as blogger Jim Henley. They have helped to distinguish genuine libertarians from otherwise orthodox authoritarians (typically US Republicans), who happen to take a relaxed view on sex and drugs.

Read more…

Categories: Philosophy, Politics (general) Tags:

Swindle update

March 16th, 2007 10 comments

An interesting report from The Times (hat tips to Rog and Richard Tol).

Following the broadcast of The Great Global Warming Swindle, Dr Armand Leroi, who had been planning to work with Durkin on a documentary, sent him an email expressing concern about the programme and saying “To put this bluntly: the data that you showed in your programme were . . . wrong in several different ways.” He copied the email to scientific author Simon Singh. Durkin responded to Leroi saying “You’re a big daft c*ck.â€? A further email from Singh, urging Durkin to engage in serious debate, received the response “Go and f*ck yourself”. Leroi subsequently stated that he was withdrawing his co-operation with Durkin.

This was the day that Frank Devine chose to begin his column in the Oz, which has enthusiastically plugged Durkin’s work, “Climate change predictors really need to acquire a few social graces.”

Categories: Environment Tags:

In praise of adaptation

March 16th, 2007 20 comments

Reader Taust contributed to the Great Shave Appeal, asking in return for 250 words in praise of adaptation to global warming. This isn’t as hard as it might seem since a large part of my research work is focused on exactly this issue. The only problem is that I find I have to write more than 250 words. Anyway, here is the promised post.

The responses to global climate change have been characterized as ‘mitigate, adapt, or suffer’ ( Weber 2007). Whatever level of mitigation takes place for the world as a whole, and whatever our contribution, global warming is bound to continue for decades to come, probably at rates faster than we have observed so far. So, for any given level of mitigation, the choice comes down to ‘adapt or suffer’.

Read more…

Categories: Environment Tags:

Weekend reflections

March 16th, 2007 12 comments

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

In praise of mathematics

March 16th, 2007 17 comments

As part of my fundraising efforts for the Great Shave, I promised to write 500 words in praise of mathematics in return for some generations donations. I thought this would be the easiest of my promises to fulfil, but it’s actually pretty hard to write in praise of something that is (to me) so obviously wonderful. Anyway, here goes.

The most striking single thing about mathematics is that a collective endeavour, pursued for thousands of years primarily because of its beauty and pure intellectual interest should turn out, in our time, to be so amazingly useful. To take perhaps the most striking example, the amazing fact that


or better still, with five fundamental constants


is, or ought to be, adequate reward for all the effort that went into the discovery of calculus, trigonometry and complex number theory, and the effort each new generation puts into learning these things. But, it gives us, free of charge, the amazingly useful Fourier transform, the basis of all kinds of modern communications, and much, much more.
Read more…

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Nearly there!

March 15th, 2007 6 comments

With two days to go before the Great Shave donations have passed $4800. This is the most successful appeal we’ve ever had here. Only $200 more and we’ll reach the $5000 target! Click on the link above, to push us over the line.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Past $4000!

March 13th, 2007 9 comments

With libertarians stepping forward, the total raised in the Great Shave Appeal has now passed $4000. How about a similar effort from Howard fans? Despite the latest polls, there must be a fair number of you out there. Wouldn’t you like to read 500 words of crisp pro-Howard prose – $250 is all it takes.

Any ideas on more gimmicks gratefully received. Meanwhile you might like to discuss this piece by James Joyner asking why we go for gimmicks to raise money for charity.

Donate here

Categories: Life in General Tags:


March 12th, 2007 158 comments

Apparently Channel Four in the UK has put out a program which, with admirable honesty entitles itself The Great Global Warming Swindle, and offers the same tired set of swindlers we’ve heard for fifteen years or more, although their site breathlessly proclaims

But just as the environmental lobby think they’ve got our attention, a group of naysayers have emerged to slay the whole premise of global warming.

Particularly amusing for those of us who follow these things is the linkup between the US right, represented by Fred Singer, Patrick Michaels and others, and the Revolutionary Communist Party/LM crew at Spiked who put the whole thing together.* George Marshall (no relation to the George C Marshall Institute, which in turn bears no relation to George C Marshall, the soldier and statesman whose name it shamelessly ripped off) details names, track records of and (an incomplete list of) cash payments received by the participants.

*For those who like to keep track of the links between various forms of delusionism, this is the same group that denied ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

Categories: Environment Tags:

Father-son shave

March 12th, 2007 7 comments

The World’s Greatest Shave appeal has reached $3,365.10. I’ve promised 500 words in praise of mathematics (this will be easy, as soon as I get a moment) and there’s still 500 words on offer if any libertarians or conservatives out there want to donate $250.

It’s now time for a new incentive and my son Daniel has bravely offered to help. He’s 17 and has just grown quite an impressive beard. He’s now offered to join me in the shave on Saturday. Before and after photos will be published if we can reach $4000.

To donate, just click here or send me a cheque at School of Economics, University of Queensland.

Update I had a nice phone call today from the chair of the Leukemia Foundation, congratulating us on our effort here. Also, the first libertarian contribution is in, with $100 from Jan Libich. Come on fans of voluntary initiative, put in another $150 and see what nice things I have to say about spontaneous order!

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Monday message board

March 12th, 2007 7 comments

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

What I’ve been reading

March 11th, 2007 6 comments

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, so I’ll just put down a list of books I’ve read in the past few months, and open it up to discussion. If there’s an interest in particular books, I might do a mini-review, so just ask and see. Here’s a list:

The Triumph of the Airheads by Shelley Gare
Gittinomics by Ross Gittins
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Lost by Larissa Behrendt
The Marketplace of Christianity by Ekeleund, Hébert and Tollison
Culture and Prosperity by John Kay
The Long Tail by Chris Anderson (reviewed in AFR)
What’s Liberal about the Liberal Arts by Michael Bérubé
Cosmonaut Keep by Ken MacLeod

Categories: Books and culture Tags:

Past $3000

March 10th, 2007 8 comments

Thanks to a very generous donation of $620 from occasional reader Swarup, we passed the $2000 mark with a couple of days to spare. With my matching donation, and a bit more coming in, the total is now $3055.10. I’ve got some new ideas planned to reach the $5000 target, and any others are gratefully welcome.

As was noted in commens, most of the contributions so far seem to have come from social democrats. So to spread the love around, I thought I’d invite self-identified adherents of other viewpoints to pitch in, and offer a more direct incentive. Give me and make a note in comments that you’re doing so, identifying your philosophical position or political affiliation (libertarian, Howard-lover, neoconservative, radical left or whatever). The first group to reach a total of $250 gets a 500 word post from me, commending some aspect of your position,

To donate, just click here, or send me a cheque at the School of Economics, University of Queensland

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Bullets win!

March 9th, 2007 1 comment

The Brisbane Bullets have just completed a 3-1 win over the Melbourne Tigers in the National Basketball League Grand Final series, for their first win in 20 years. As I promised at the beginning of the season, I’ll never say anything rude about betting markets again.

Categories: Sport Tags:

Weekend reflections

March 9th, 2007 10 comments

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Shave appeal yet again

March 9th, 2007 5 comments

Thanks to everyone who has donated so far. The total raised is now $1180. Donations have been flagging over the last couple of days, so the pace needs to increase if people want to extract my matching contribution. Suggestions for further incentives/ gimmicks gratefully accepted.

To donate, just click here

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Air crash in Indonesia

March 8th, 2007 7 comments

Condolences to those who have lost family members and friends in the air crash in Indonesia yesterday. Of those killed or missing the only one whose name is known to me was Morgan Mellish, Jakarta correspondent for the Australian Financial Review, but others who died were serving our country, and of course any loss of life is a tragedy for the family concerned.

This is also a good time to think about the routine and preventable loss of life and limb on our roads, and about the far larger loss of life caused by poverty and disease around the world. As well as sharing the grief surrounding this tragic event we should act to ensure that such things become less common.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Greatest shave part 2

March 8th, 2007 Comments off

With the skin incentive having raised $1000, it’s time to switch to money for the next round. If the total sponsorship reaches $2000 by midnight next Monday, I’ll put in $1000 of my own to match the extra donations. Bearing in mind that donations are tax-deductible, this is a great way to amplify your gifts, particularly for anyone facing high marginal tax rates (and since I hear complaints about this pretty regularly, there must be quite a few readers in this category). If you’re on the top marginal tax rates, and give $200, the government will give nearly $100 back, so you only pay about $100, while the Leukemia Foundation gets $400. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Of course, not everyone is on the top marginal tax rate, or flush with cash. Just give what you can afford here, or think about joining the Great Shave (colouring is a less drastic option) yourself.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Past $1000

March 7th, 2007 4 comments

Sponsorship for my entry in the World’s Greatest Shave has passed the target of $1000, so you’ll be seeing a picture of me sans beard. I’m as much in the dark as anyone regarding how it will look.

There’s still ten days to go, so I’ve decided to get really ambitious and set a target of $5000, with more incentives/gimmicks along the way. I’m lining up a really good one for $2000, and I hope to make an announcement tomorrow. Remember all proceeds go to the Leukemia Foundation, and all donations are tax deductible, so keep the money coming in!

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Delusions deluxe

March 6th, 2007 102 comments

While Australia has punched a little below its weight in terms of the number of climate change delusionists we have produced, we’re at world’s best practice as far as loopiness as concerned. Our leading delusionist group is the Lavoisier Institute which has, among other things

* Used the work of (now-deceased) astrologer Theodor Landscheidtas the basis for criticism of the IPCC
* Compared the Kyoto Protocol to the attempted Japanese invasion of Australia in 1942(1)

The Lavoiser team got together at Parliament House in Canberra to launch a book by rightwing eminence grise Ray Evans called “Nine Facts about Climate Change”.

As I’ve said before, I don’t plan to bother refuting this stuff any more, but taavi does garbage pickup. I particularly liked the perpetual motion machine in Fact 2.

1. Of course, the official rightwing line now claims that the invasion threat was itself a myth cooked up by notorious appeaser John Curtin.

Categories: Environment Tags:

Close shave update

March 6th, 2007 2 comments

At 5pm Tuesday, the World’s Greatest Shave appeal was up to $695. Only $305 more and all will be revealed!

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Mickey and Winnie

March 6th, 2007 3 comments

My piece in Thursday’s Fin was on the malign influence of the Disney Corporation on copyright. My conclusion

there is room for a reasonable compromise … [but] the latest extensions of copyright have produced a system so lopsided that we would be better off scrapping the entire monopoly system and relying on the ingenuity of the free market to reward authors.

Read more…

Categories: Intellectual 'property' Tags: