Category Archives: Social Science and Society

Trump: The world’s most dangerous man?

    Dripping with snideness, vibrating with rage, and gleaming with clarity—a deeply satisfying read.

That’s from the Kirkus review of Mary Trump’s book on Uncle Donald in her book Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man:

Her mission in the book to be published on 28 July by Simon & Schuster is to take down Donald Trump. Continue reading Trump: The world’s most dangerous man?

Weekly salon 4/7

1. Eden-Monaro by-election

The ABC election page has Eden-Monaro too close to call with Labor’s Kristy McBain leading the Liberal Fiona Kotvojs by 50.9 to 49.1 after preferences.

Paddy Manning at The Monthly set up the scene in Southern discomfort: Tomorrow’s result in Eden-Monaro is on a knife edge.

The base-line is that Eden-Monaro has long been a ‘bellweather’ seat, which means that it lines up with the existing government. However, Mike Kelly broke this trend in the last three elections, with a personal following reckoned at about 3%.

So Labor was justified in claiming underdog status, while the Libs point to governments not taking a seat off the opposition in by-elections over the last 100 years. Continue reading Weekly salon 4/7

COVID virus news 20/6

Sundry news about COVID 19.

World-wide, the 7-day average of new daily cases is now above 140,000 and rising, with a spike above 150,000. See WHO warns pandemic is ‘accelerating’ with record spike in new infections.

That article also reports that sampling of wastewater in the northern cities of Milan and Turin shows the virus was in Italy last December, at least two months before the country’s devastating outbreak. There is no concrete evidence that the outbreak came from those early infections, although one would hardly think it faded away. Perhaps the infected people were not identified as having a ‘novel’ virus. Continue reading COVID virus news 20/6

Covid, tourism and the value of a human life

When Queensland behind interstate barriers opened to intrastate tourism, we see that tourism operators were ‘ecstatic’ about easing restrictions if you scroll down this article:

    Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive, Mark Olsen, said… the region lost more than $200 million worth of bookings in March, with the impact to the end of April estimated at $500 million in lost visitor spending and thousands of jobs lost.

    “Over the last 24 hours, the phones have been ringing off the hook with travellers from the south-east corner confirming their accommodation and looking forward to their journeys, ” Mr Olsen said.

It raises the question as to how much scope there is in the intra-state tourist market, and secondly whether business is suffering too much through trying to wipe out the coronavirus. Continue reading Covid, tourism and the value of a human life

Weekly salon 26/5

1. Three first nations people in Queensland parliament

Lance McCallum, newly elected Labor MP for Bundamba now joins Cynthia Lui, Labor Member for Cook and Leeanne Enoch, Member for Algester and Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts in the Queensland parliament:

Continue reading Weekly salon 26/5

We need to talk about China

Here the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on January 28 in Beijing, with appropriate distancing. Dr Tedros later commented that Xi had a surprising mastery of the detail of what was going on. Two days later the WHO declared the novel coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. People have made up stories about this meeting and the sequence, but it seems to me an orderly progression of events, coming 10 days after China had alerted the world to a person to person highly infectious novel coronavirus, then sealing off and locking down Wuhan on 23 January. Continue reading We need to talk about China

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM TAIWAN COV19

Tim Colebatch wrote an interesting article “There is an Alternative to Lockdownsfor Inside Story. The article compares the performance of various countries in their handling of the corona virus pandemic. Tim’s assessment is that the outstanding performer has been Taiwan. It has been the world’s most successful country in fighting the virus. In a land with almost as many people as Australia, only six people have died, and 426 have been infected. This has been achieved without the economic and social collateral damage that has been a feature of the Australian approach.

This post looks at what Tim has reported and asks whether Australia should change the way it is dealing with the epidemic. Continue reading WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM TAIWAN COV19

Run for your life!

Or walk.

Seeing people holed up inside apartments around the world has worried me for many reasons, including people’s access to vitamin D and the necessary exercise to maintain health.

On an earlier thread John Davidson said he had been part of a UQ study on the use of high intensity exercise, and as a result he tries to get 36 mins intense exercise every week at above double his resting heart rate. In this post I summarise the findings of a number of articles that have recently come my way. Continue reading Run for your life!

Care of strangers

Back on August 30, 2004 John Quiggin posted a guest post from me Care of Strangers. He introduced it as being on the philosophy behind our stance on asylum seekers, and saying it raised some important (though not entirely new) questions about the adequacy of utilitarianism in contexts like this.

Here’s the post with minor editorial changes. More commas! Continue reading Care of strangers

The decade in review

There have been reviews aplenty. This one is based on Twenty years to 2020 published in the AFR, with some enhancements.

2009

Bitcoin was born and we had the Black Saturday bushfires. The Copenhagen climate talks failed, ratf*****d by the Chinese, according to Kevin Rudd, who spent the summer break writing a children’s book while Wayne Swan read to Henry Review into taxation.

2010

My wife and I walked the Milford track. 16 year-old Jessica Watson sails around the world. Kevin Rudd squibs a double dissolution election on climate change, and is turfed out in favour of Julia Gillard.

30 asylum seekers drown when their boat crashes into the rocks at Christmas Island.

Scientists develop a functional synthetic genome.

2011

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake hits Christchurch, killing 180. A tsunmami hits Fukushima, blowing up the nuclear plant, killing 15,840. Osama bin Laden is killed, and Qantas grounds its entire fleet in an industrial dispute.

Australia did pass ‘world leading’ climate change legislation, courtesy of the Gillard government, working with the Greens and independents.

The AFR forgot the Brisbane floods, the Toowoomba cloudburst and cyclone Yasi.

2012

Gillard made he famous ‘misogyny speech’, Uber launched in Australia, a Royal commission into child abuse was announced, and Australia introduced plain cigarette packaging.

Not mentioned by the AFR the Bahnisch family had a reunion.

2013

Rudd turfs Gillard out, then loses the election to Tony Abbott, instituting a new dark age which still prevails.

Prince George was born and analog TV was turned off in Oz.

2014

Malaysian Airways flight MH4370 disappeared with 239 people on board, Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine with 298 killed, Gough Whitlam died and two hostages and a gunman were killed in the Lindt Cafe siege.

Some of us had a Red Centre holiday and crossed the Simpson Desert.

Also the blog Climate Plus came into being.

2015

The Charlie Hebdo shooting saw 12 killed and the birth of the slogan “Je suis Charlie”.

The Apple watch is launched and Malcolm Turnbull turfs out Tony Abbott.

The Bahnisch family did a trip from Prague to Budapest, via the Danube which ran out of water at Bratislava. Plus various other European places of interest.

Not mentioned by the AFR, but Germany experienced the VW stuff-up, plus absorbed about a million refugees.

Nor did they mention the Paris Agreement on climate change and the death of a bloke called John Malcolm Fraser.

2016

UK votes 51.9% in favour of Brexit.

Augmented reality game Pokemon Go is released.

Donald Trump is elected 45th POTUS.

2017

Women’s march is the largest single-day protest in US history.

Grenfell Tower fire in London kills 72.

GMH ceases manufacturing in Oz.

Same sex marriage is legalised in Oz.

2018

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Super and Finance Industry makes a stir.

Kim Jong-on crosses into South Korea.

Apple becomes the first trillion dollar company.

Malcolm Turnbull got the chop, making way for Scott Morrison.

2019

Cardinal Pell was found guilty of sexually abusing two boys in 1996.

Scott Morrison wins an election with a little help from Clive Palmer, Bill Shorten and the ALP election team. (There is a rumour that former Greens leader Bob Brown and a coal mine in Central Queensland had an effect.)

Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg inspires the school climate strikes. (Actually that started in 2018, she sailed to New York and addressed the UN in 2019.)

Australia burnt.

Did they miss any?

Of course any list is somewhat arbitrary. I would have noted the rise of social media other than blogging, which I think dates from around 2012.

Then there was the Me Too movement from 2017.

Also in 2018 there was the Thai cave rescue story, and the Christchurch massacre.

Any others?

Where are we now?

According to Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens at The Minefield we’ve reached a point where nothing really matters any more. There are no consequences for bad behaviour, truth has no enduring meaning and can be changed with a tweet to become whatever you want.

All that could be changed if we could clone Jacinda Adern and get her to run every country on the planet. In 2019 she brought down a Wellbeing Budget:

After more than a year of curiosity and speculation, New Zealand’s Labour coalition government has unveiled its “world-first” wellbeing budget, to widespread praise from social agencies charged with looking after the country’s most vulnerable people.

The finance minister, Grant Robertson, unveiled billions for mental health services and child poverty as well as record investment in measures to tackle family violence.

“Success is making New Zealand both a great place to make a living, and a great place to make a life,” Robertson told parliament.

He said many New Zealanders were not benefiting from a growing economy in their daily lives, and this year’s budget had been designed to address the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots.

What will 2020 bring?

We’d best not talk about climate change here or we’ll never finish.

I don’t think killing Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran was a smart move. After Iran did a deal with Obama on nukes the country could have pursued peace and prosperity, one would think. What happened was anything but. However, killing a military leader is unlikely to be followed by an outbreak of peace and love.

Now if Iran misbehaves Trump has threatened 52 strikes, including cultural sites, normally classified as a war crime.

Apart from that, any given year usually brings forth something entirely unexpected.

The New Scientist has a short article suggesting that facial recognition technology will be big, and on another front research on human origins may produce a more settled view on how we evolved from being just another ape.

Then medical research is on the threshold of producing two drugs which may make ageing redundant.

One new drug clears out “senescent” cells out of the brain. The second drug mimics the transfusion of young blood “which has been shown to increase cognition in animals and reduce biomarkers for cancer and heart disease.

They are about to enter phase 3 trials, but could be sold as al-purpose rejuvenation therapies by the end of the decade.

Probably too late for me, and that might be just as well!

The New Scientist asserts that most of us are materially better off, but that puts no price on ‘nature’ and the environment. As top predator we are still on a classic path of a plague species heading for a population crash.

Happy new year!