Saturday salon 9/9

1. Hurricane Irma

Having just finished with Harvey, Hurricane Irma, said to possibly be the biggest and meanest on record in the north Atlantic basin, looks set to make landfall in Florida by Sunday, but flanked by Hurricane Katia and Hurricane Jose.

James Hansen worries that, given what happened during the Eemian, the last time we had temperatures roughly this high, all hell could break loose. Maybe it’s happening.

Here I want to talk about the impact Harvey, Irma el al could make on the US budget and immigration policy. Seems Trump may be bypassing the Republicans to do a deal with the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.

At the same time Trump has:

    ended a policy that has shielded nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation – but has called on Congress to pass legislation to let the so-called ‘Dreamers’ stay in the US.

These are people born in the USA who have never seen Mexico or points south.

I’ve heard on radio two salient facts. First, if the Dreamers go the construction industry ceases to operate. Secondly, Trump has piggy-backed building his Mexican wall with hurricane aid.

So I’m not sure where any of this is going to end up.

2. Bennelong

Last weekend we went to see the Bangarra dance performance of Bennelong. We’d seen them once before and heard that this was simply the best production they had ever mounted.

Don’t know about that, but it was stunning – awe-full, if you like. The portrayal of death by smallpox was truly agonising. And, from this review, the ending powerful:

    Bennelong finishes on one of the most poignant and shocking endings I’ve seen in dance: in a symbolic and literal imprisonment, he is, panel by panel, entrapped and encompassed in a shiny mirrored box.

There may have been artistic licence, I don’t know, but the impact of first contact was so powerfully portrayed that I feel it is just a matter of time until we will be celebrating our national day on a different date.

Essential poll says we don’t want Australia day on a different day, but remember Wikipedia tells us:

    It was not until 1935 that all Australian states and territories had adopted use of the term “Australia Day” to mark the date, and not until 1994 that the date was consistently marked by a public holiday on that day by all states and territories.

I think change will come slowly, one local council at a time. Eventually I’d suggest we make it the first Monday in February, to mark the end of the festive season and the beginning of business as usual. I’d suggest the last Monday in January, except sometimes it would fall on 26 January

3. Capitalists behaving badly

Four Corners again exposed capitalists behaving badly, this time in the building industry. The program Combustible:

    Across Australia, governments, councils and the building industry are grappling with a problem so large, it almost defies belief.

    “It’s unquantifiable…” Senior Fire Officer

    Residential buildings, hospitals, shopping centres and commercial buildings, have been built with flammable aluminium cladding, posing a potentially serious fire risk.

The cladding is the equivalent of having five litres of petrol in every square metre.

The reason? Architects like the look of it, and it’s cheaper than the stuff that doesn’t burn.

It’s against regulation, apparently, but industry practice was to use it any way. There were suggestions that it could be “used safely” on low-rise buildings, even though those buildings do not have sprinkler systems. Building inspection has been privatised, and the implication was that building inspectors “want repeat work”.

I suspect it is being used in some of the single story monstrosities appearing in our street.

44 thoughts on “Saturday salon 9/9”

  1. Merely as a side note to the Hurricane, it’s reported that a resort in Florida called Mar a lago has been evacuated.

    Sounds Mexican to me.
    Could it be owned by criminal Mexicans, you know, those undocumented, bad, bad people? Staffed by Dreamers?

  2. It may have happened but I have not seen it – that is that the hurricanes in the US region and Asian region are a (predicted) consequence of climate change.

    On Australia Day, I think the concept is tainted when viewed through a contemporary lens. Too much dreadful history and failed reformations. Australia Day is I think, indelibly linked to our abuse of our First Australians.
    Pearson is apparently seeking and end to the victim mentality of his people, and the end of white mans guilt that is arguably behind the significant welfare dollar directed to the First Australians. I don’t know if that is enough but if that could happen that might be a good starters gun for a new Australia Day.

    Capitalist behaving badly implies that the government oversights were lacking as well. But the building/construction industry has been corrupt for a very long time in many ways. You can include politicians, large corporate, unions and perhaps even the banking sector (CBA?). But the scale of the fire risk associated with cladding surprises me. I spent 25 years in the domestic building industry and saw building standards, especially safety matters, tighten up enormously. From where I was, I had no suspicion that fire safety was being compromised. I do wonder if this story was an American import that was “Australianised ” for impact.
    Lots more to hear from this one yet.
    Last point on the fire/safety item – behind a lot of compromises can be found the high cost of compliance driven by regulation.

  3. True Geoff, my time has predominantly been in commercial building industry and it’s far from being a capitalist free for all.

    Firstly all plans, specifications and even finish schedules must be submitted and approved by Council before a sod is turned.
    Lastly, Council must pass the project before the owners take possession.

    All along the way everybody in any decisional position has passed stringent licensing conditions.

    If this product has been used on either Local,State or Federal projects then it would have have complied/seemed to have complied with the relevant AS in the eyes of the bureaucrats there.

    On the Grenville tragedy, the finger is pointed at the bureaucrats not the Capitalists.

  4. The first line in the Four Corners transcript ;

    Combustible: The dangerous legacy of failed regulation in the building industry.

    Turns into ” Capitalists behaving badly. ‘

    When exactly did these Capitalists implement these failed regulations ?

  5. “Failed regulation in the building industry” and “Capitalists behaving badly” are not mutually exclusive.
    The question then becomes

    When exactly did these Capitalists implement exploit these failed regulations ?

  6. I think I’d like to know more about the regs.
    How is cladding tested?
    Do they simulate tall buildings?
    (For example if you don’t get a chimney effect on a one or two storey building, might be safe to use on low rise jobs?)
    Sprinklers inside I can understand.
    Do some buildings have sprinklers outside also?
    Is it time all buildings had tooftop water you see in NY, dating from catastrophic building fires there (“only” 3 or 4 storeys).

    Time to bring back external, metal fire escape stairways?
    Safety before aesthetics?

    “In case of evacuation do not use the lifts…..”

    Fire doors to reduce wind?

    So many questions…..

  7. wmmb, seems you are right, my apologies. I had to go to Toowoomba today to see my brother-in-law in Toowoomba Hospital, leaving fairly early for me, and did not have time to research everything properly last night. I was going from what I heard on radio, but may have misinterpreted.

    Vox has a further explainer.

    DACA means Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, so arrivals means they were born elsewhere.

    Vox says:

    To apply for DACA, immigrants have to have come to the US before 2007, and have been 15 or younger when they arrived and younger than 31 when DACA was created in June 2012. They had to have a nearly spotless criminal record and be enrolled in high school or have a high school diploma or equivalent.

    Importantly, it says they have to apply.

    A recent survey found “the average age that respondents said they’d arrived in the US was 6-and-a-half years old.”

    Then this:

    When defenders of DACA say that the immigrants who benefit from it are “American in all but paperwork,” or that the US is “the only country they remember,” this is what they’re talking about.

    Some of them didn’t know they were unauthorized immigrants until they were teenagers :

    when they discovered they couldn’t join their peers in getting a driver’s license or filling out financial aid forms for college, because they didn’t have Social Security numbers.

    In life experience they were more like second generation people, born in the USA.

    Trump says he loves them and it appears he may look after them if Congress doesn’t. However, on this occasion he may be right, their situation should be regularised.

  8. Saw Bangarra dance years ago. At that time it still had the tensions and lots of the moves of the traditional dancing I was familiar with – so I saw it as a productive extension of something traditional in a similar way that modern Aboriginal art is a development of traditional art forms.
    Benelong may have been about an aboriginal experience but the dancing seemed to me to have only a tenuous link to the more traditional stuff and I don’t think it captured the foreigness of Aborigines and their response to the invasion.
    Perhaps my problem was that earlier in the week we had talked to a missionary we knew when we lived on Groote and an Aboriginal singer whose grandmother and great aunt we had also known. What we needed that night was something that linked more closely to our longing for something closer to what we experienced on Groote Eylandt.

  9. Re cladding I tend to agree with Jumpy and Geoff that it was a failure of the bureaucracy rather than capitalists behaving badly. The number of buildings affected point at something more than the actions of a few cowboys
    Apart from the potential for people to be killed the economic consequences could be serious including:
    -Cost of the fix. Someone suggested $50,000 per unit the other day.
    – A big drop in the value of affected units and a boost in the value of units etc. that are OK.
    – A sudden jump in the number of units where resale will not cover the outstanding mortgage.

  10. John, on Bangarra, I didn’t attempt an artistic critique of the performance, because such would be beyond my competence. I said it was powerful, and I’ll stick with that.

    It was a long time ago when I saw Bangarra before, but I think that performance may have been artistically superior. When artists of any stripe become didactic and try to convey a direct message, the art often suffers, and I suspect that was the case on this occasion.

    My impression is that Bangarra has a ‘Stephen Page’ style of choreography which is somewhere between modern dance and Aboriginal dance, but is mostly anchored in the former.

    I’d note also that almost certainly there were many cultural differences between the many tribes. Page is SEQ, and capturing the essence of aboriginality in Botany Bay in 1788 is clearly a stretch.

    Almost certainly there would be another stretch to Groote Eylandt 200 years later.

  11. On the cladding issue, first some of the questions raised by Ambi, it’s going back 30 years when I was “nominated permanent building head” for a building occupied by public servants, and as such responsible for fire drill etc. I recall being told at meetings that the fire escape well was to remaining structurally sound and safe for exit for a couple of hours, even if the whole building went up.

    Not sure that is still the case.

    But some of the other ideas you mention might be worth pursuing.

    I can’t see, however, that it could ever be appropriate to use a material for decorative purposes that carried the flammable equivalent of five litres of petrol per square metre. Period!

  12. Geoff, Jumpy, John, everyone, there is plenty blame to go around. I singled out ‘capitalists’ and I’ll not let them off, but building inspectors are in the firing line, as well as ‘bureaucrats’, whoever they may be, and elected representatives.

    I think their is responsibility with those who design, commission, build, approve, sell, buy, own and rent buildings. Have I missed anyone?

    The other day my brother told me of some workers digging a ditch and laying a cable to connect a house in his neck of the woods to the NBN.

    The diggers were working for a contractor, who was working for another contractor, who had a contract with Telstra, who were undertaking work for NBN. So I wondered how quality assurance got on.

    Jumpy, I do have sympathy for the building trade. The bloke who built our deck back in 2002, working from a sketchy sketch, explained as he put in a dirty big steel girder that if it fell down, as decks have been known to do, it was his neck on the line.

    We recently had our roof painted, and the painter explained that he would need to erect scaffolding, not to stop him falling off, but because some people are paid $80K pa to drive around the ‘burbs checking up on him. So we paid for the scaffolding.

    I don’t think privatising building inspectors is a good idea, but accept that public servants can be incompetent or corrupted.

    And I still don’t know who these “bureaucrats” are supposed to be. These days they are often the ones left behind in ‘right-sizing’ who are not sharp or entrepreneurial enough to hack it on their own. With too much to do, and lacking the resources to do it with after successive ‘efficiency dividends’.

    End of gripe!

  13. And I still don’t know who these “bureaucrats” are supposed to be. These days they are often the ones left behind in ‘right-sizing’ who are not sharp or entrepreneurial enough to hack it on their own.


  14. Seems to me the main culprit is the genius who had the bright idea of manufacturing flammable cladding equivalent to 5 litres of petrol per square metre in the first place.
    Was the market for fire starters over supplied?

  15. I’m not too harsh on the public service. Sure the public service has its share of less talented folks, but they definitely don’t hold an exclusive on them. The private sector is littered with people who may not meet an approved standard.
    I spent about a year in the PS (local govt.) and I was really impressed with the quality of the people there, their approach to ratepayers and their professionalism.

    A couple of bits on buildings of height.
    * In Adelaide the building height was limited by the ability to get water to the fire. At one time that was just five stories. The installation of booster pumps (you still see them) allowed firefighter a better supply of water, literally sucking the flow from the lower pressure pies. Sprinkler systems added to the height limit.
    * Brian some buildings have a core that is very strong and stabilises the building. It also contains the fire stairs and hopefully allows occupants to escape. Nothing flammable is permitted inside the core.

    Ambi fire doors have several purposes, but one important one is to contain smoke.

  16. Brian some buildings have a core that is very strong and stabilises the building.

    Geoff, you are right. I recall being involved in placing a library in a high rise.

  17. Geoff
    Lots of high rises have rooftop swimming pools as a gravitational feed for the sprinkler systems like Townsvilles “sugar shaker
    My Best Man is a Firey up there.

  18. Yes Jumpy

    You can rely on gravity when pumps and power supplies have failed.

    As long as the pipes are still carrying water downwards….

    Designing with a “strong core” was the downfall of the ill-fated NY Twin Towers, not that large airliner-loaded-with-fuel-impact is a fair test; but then engineers and architects are supposed to build in strength and resilience way above ordinary, average conditions, si?

    I tend to agree with Brian and zoot, that the material seemed badly suited to the purpose: cladding on high rise residences.

  19. Yep, bad choice in cladding.
    The bureaucrats [ Government ] made a terrible value judgement at Grenville.
    May as well cover the joint in recycled car tyres.

  20. What made me cranky was when this bloke went to Germany for an industry briefing to be told they don’t use the stuff over there, because it’s flammable, but they still make it because they supply it to places like Australia.

    That supplier didn’t supply it any more but was serially undercut by cowboys who would.

    Geoff, Jumpy, I said “often” with the public service, not “most” or even “many”. Different narratives are true, I can’t work out the numbers. I have some rellies in the PS and they are certainly not amongst the wasters.

    At my wife’s suggestion, we’ve just watched the iview of Series 3, Episode 7 of Utopia on The Defence.

    Rob Sitch plays the head of a fictional Qango, the National Building Authority. Pure gold, and leaves Yes, Minister for dead.

  21. Geoff, upthread you said:

    It may have happened but I have not seen it – that is that the hurricanes in the US region and Asian region are a (predicted) consequence of climate change.

    I’m aware of general predictions, which say that water in the atmosphere increases by 3% for every degree of warming, which doesn’t sound a lot, but the relationships are not necessarily linear. For cyclones you not only need warm water and still surface air, you need a lack of shear winds in the upper atmosphere. Most say there will be more severe ones and the severe ones will be more severe.

    Storm surges make a lot of difference and the changes there are certainly not linear.

    If I find anything I’ll post it, but for now there is this article which says everything has changed, but:

    In summary, human warming affects weather in two ways. It changes the odds that any given extreme event will occur. But more importantly it makes the events more severe.

    And this one:

    What this study does is to show, using just data and no model projections, that flood risk is indeed increasing but at the rare to very-rare flood end. The milder floods that are more of a nuisance than a threat to property and lives, are actually decreasing. This is worse news than before though, as it is these milder floods that make up the bulk of the refill to our water supply reservoirs.

    On cyclones/hurricanes, you need about a century of data to make real sense, and we only have that in the Caribbean, more or less, because there was shipping there in 1900-1950. Studies I saw a long time ago now said there was a step up in activity late last century, but not in storms that made landfall in the US.

    So it’s all very complicated.

  22. Hay bales are OK for small abodes but not ideal for high rise.
    David Irving plans to use them.

    Not sure how that relates to my comment re the fire starter market, but according to Wikipedia one of the advantages of hay bale construction is it’s naturally fire retardant.

  23. Brian “Most say there will be more severe ones and the severe ones will be more severe”
    The energy for a cyclone is drawn from the warm ocean waters. Moisture-laden air rises and condenses into rain, lowering air pressure and releasing a lot of heat – that process becomes continuous, rotation starts and we get a hurricane. It follows that is ocean temps rise, cyclones will become more powerful.

  24. A bloke on the radio said the Carribean ones can start when the sea surface temperature is 26C or higher. As the storm moves, it may reach zones where the temp is higher.

    Implication: storm may then strengthen even further.

  25. The underwater topography can also affect the storm surge too. As the wind driven surge comes to shallow water it can raise the water height. The low pressure can also form a lens-like bump in the ocean just as a function of the lower pressure generated in part by the cyclone/hurricane itself.

    But a lot of the natural mitigating land features such as lowlands, natural drains are gone, and large areas of non-permeable surface such as roads inhibit natural drainage and enhance fast flowing runoff and floods.
    I think you could point to capitalist drive accommodated by government as a culpable element in the quantum of floods, just as in New Orleans. Very neoliberal.

  26. Three cheers for the Kudelka cartoon in the Oz, not behind a paywall.

    A quantum mechanics political cartoon, featuring Erwin Schroedinger. It’s an unusual genre, to say the least.

  27. Nice find Ambigulous. I couldn’t breach the Oz paywall, but I found the cartoon (currently) at Kudelka’s home page, where it is accompanied by a very witty commentary.

  28. Mother Jones says that both Tampa and Miami are disasters waiting to happen because of poor planning, ridiculous subsidies and…….. For example:

    Add to this, short-term planning decisions by real-estate developers and homebuyers, who keep building in floodplains despite the known risks. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIB) only manages to fuel this unwise building by promoting federal investment in these flood-prone areas. The NFIP has historically heavily subsidized even the homes that repeatedly flood, pouring billions into infrastructure that is unlikely to survive in the long-term.

    Then there is :

    Trump’s recent executive order reversing Obama’s elevated flood standards will only make bad federal planning worse, because it will mean federal disaster relief won’t necessarily take into account sea-level rise when funding redevelopment. On Friday, Trump’s Homeland Security advisor Tom Bossert suggested the White House may already be thinking of walking back its reversal of the stricter flood standards. Obama’s order in 2015 directed the government to incorporate resiliency planning into all its projects, but the recent change has reverted us to an unsustainable status quo, says insurance experts at the conservative R Street Institute.

  29. I used to think I knew Prof Schroedinger’s position, but now I’m not so sure.

    [adapting, “I used to think I was indecisive, but now I’m not so sure!”]


    though how people can make jokes, when all those poor teams missed out on the AFL finals, I really don’t understand. goodness gracious.

  30. Brian

    Your son and several reporters were on the ball re the Centrelink “debt recovery” letters.

    Fairfax headline: 20,000 owed Centtelink less or nothing.

    Centrelink foolishness. Will we hear from a contrite Minister?

    That wasn’t theatre Mr J.
    That was real lives.
    People on low incomes.


  31. I never downplayed the damage Our Nanny does to us Mr A.
    But on Global level it’s small beans.
    Other Countries Nannys are far worse.

  32. But it wasn’t our Nanny was it? It was the people who believe anybody worse off than them must be morally inferior and should therefore be shown the wickedness of their ways (take a bow Alan Tudge).
    A real Nanny would have followed the teachings of our Lord and Saviour such as, “Turn the other cheek” or, “As much as you have done it for the least of these you have done it for me” and the rest of our Judeo Christian heritage.

  33. Emphasis on ” are ” not “you “, regretfully I need to point these things out otherwise it gets taken as hostile or something.

  34. Can’t speak for zoot, but the “Nanny State” usually refers to a State which constantly interferes with citizens for their betterment and welfare, e.g. persuading them not to smoke, to eat less fat, to exercise regularly, to keep warm and breathe clean air, to behave pleasantly towards others, to learn, to avoid drugs, to gamble responsibly.

    You know this.
    Some citizens hate this.

    But real nannies are not supposed to threaten the little people they are in charge of, not to accuse them of imaginary crimes, and not to give them less to eat because of untrue accusations.

    And real nannies don’t make mistakes in arithmetic.


  35. “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”

    That said, I just wanted to ask zoot the subjects of his comment.
    Was it taxpayer charity or coal plants that Mr A took my ” theatre ” remark from ?

    But tomorrow I’ll read it, long day at work in the Sun today. Actually one day off in six weeks, not as young as I once was…

  36. Last night was spent in helping one of my wife’s singing mate’s significant age birthday. I went to bed with a sore head and it’s still not great this morning. It wasn’t the alcohol, may have been the noise, not sure, but they were lovely people and a good time was had by all.

    I’ve set up an interim Saturday salon will be delayed, probably until late tonight, so I’ve put this up to provide the facility for anyone else to post whatever they like, within reason, of course.

    Jumpy, I took a walk last night to listen to the rugby league at half time, and again 10 minutes from the end.

    All the top eight teams this year are chockers with great players. I think it’s seven finals matches we’ve had so far and they have all been ferociously contested and very even. The winning team has to win three matches in a row against top teams, not an easy thing to do.

    The standard has been awesome, the refereeing not so much, but Manly and Cronulla are sore losers.

    The Townsville Cowboys have been a surprise, having more than half a team injured for much of the season. I’ll be watching tonight.

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