Saving the cat

Quite a while ago, I raised a question about the practical implications of the “rapture” doctrine, held by large numbers of evangelicals.

Do they install automatic watering systems for their gardens and arrange for unsaved neighbours to feed the cat? Or do they just pay into their IRAs as if they expect the world to last forever?

Now it appears, some enterprising atheists have set up a service addressing one of the problems I raised. In the event of rapture, they guarantee that , assured of being left behind, they will look after the pets of those who are taken up. (video here)

Some amateur political theory

As I mentioned, I’m at a conference on Logic, Game Theory and Social Choice. Attending a session on experiments in voting theory (some very interesting ones for which I will try to find links) I started thinking about a case for Instant Runoff/Single Transferable/Preferential systems (like many Australians I’m a big fan of this system which works well for us, with none of the disasters we’ve seen produced in the US and UK by plurality voting). For those interested, an outline of an idea is over the fold. It’s not my field, so I’m quite prepared to be told my argument is wrong, well-known or both.

Update 29/8 The original claim I made was wrong, but now I have one that, I think, works better.

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Turning Japanese

I’ve been in Japan for the last few days, at a conference on Logic, Game Theory and Social Choice where, among other things, we’ve had some interesting discussions on electoral mechanisms. Meanwhile, Japan appears to be on the verge of tipping out the almost-permanent LDP government.

But, as a (non-Japanese speaking) visitor, I can hardly tell there was an election on. I’ve seen no rallies or badges, only a handful of posters and one loudspeaker truck, with a decidedly non-strident woman’s voice issuing what may have been a political message. The English language media I have access to (Asahi Shimbun and so on) has been giving the election about the level of coverage I’d expect for a boring state election at home. I’ll give some very ill-informed thoughts over the fold, but can readers say anything from their own knowledge, or point to useful sources?

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Brendan Nelson leaves politics

As the recipient of two Federation Fellowships, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for their originator, Brendan Nelson. So, I thought I’d do a quick post marking his departure from political life. It was his misfortune to be thrust into the job of Opposition Leader, thanks to Peter Costello’s refusal and the unwillingness of his colleagues to accept Malcolm Turnbull. This was just too tough a job for Nelson. Maybe if he’d had a few more years as a minister or frontbencher he would have been ready for this challenge, but as it was, he wasn’t ready and it showed. He’s done the right thing by leaving.

Two degrees of warming

Now that it looks as if some sort of agreement may come out of Copenhagen, its natural to ask what sort of agreement we need. The current targets being proposed suggest that warming should be limited to 2 degrees over the next century. That implies stabilising atmospheric C2 concentrations at 450 ppm, and an agreement to cut developed country emissions by 20-25 per cent by 2020, with convergence to a level 90 per cent below current developed country levels by 2050 would be adequate (note that this part of the post is based on my reading of Garnaut, Stern & IIPCC, not my own expertise).

At least some discussion in Australia suggests that these targets are hopelessly weak and by implication that it would be better to oppose any action than to lock ourselves into an agreement of this kind. I disagree, and I will try to spell out why.

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