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69 responses to “Saturday Salon”

  1. Brian


    On Thursday we had three lines of storms go through, which finally broke the dry spell we’d been having since the beginning of July. The last was accompanied by some lightning strikes, I’d guess within about 400m of our place.

    Unfortunately I’d forgotten to turn off my computer and you can guess what happened. The nice man from Computer Help thought it might just be the power supply, but I’m afraid the motherboard is kaputt. So he’s taken it away and on Monday will tell me if the data on the hard drive is still there. I had backed up the Documents and Pictures folders on an external hard drive, which is OK.

    Thing is the modem which was on the same power point is OK and my son’s computer which was running in the next room is also fine.

    I’m currently posting from my wife’s computer, which is not really satusfactory for me or her. I suddenly feel very naked without my bookmarks. Also my email is not web-based.

    The bottom line is that I won’t be around much until about the middle of next week.

  2. Brian

    I’ve noticed that I can see my gravatar, which I haven’t seen on my computer for years. About half of them don’t show up, including tigtog’s and Paul Norton’s. They are all there on this computer!

  3. Graham Bell

    Sorry about your computer problems.

    “it’s an ill wind that blows no good ” as the saying goes; hoping the storm has put enough water into neighbours’ tanks so that we don’t have to haul jerricans of drinking water for them each time we go into town.

  4. Fran Barlow

    Wandering up to the local shops on Thursday evening I came across someone wearing a T-shirt on which the easiest to read portion promised:

    10 reasons why beer is better than a woman …

    I imagine the T-Short was meant to be ironically humorous, and had I had the opportunity to read all 10 points perhaps I’d have discovered self-deprecation and parody, but of course, that wasn’t possible in practice, and I was left to conclude that the chap (a youngish fellow) wanted to communicate to anyone who cared that he was a misogynist beer-swilling yob.

    I guess that’s a kind of disclaimer. People should know what they’re dealing with and one can thank him for his candour.

    Wandering around Bunnings at Seven Hills I came across some chap with a T-shirt which simply stated “I’d do me”. Unable to resist, I asked — so does that mean you endorse Freud’s view on homosexuality?.

    He seemed bemused by my question, and I don’t mean that he started talking about Rudd or Gillard. He shook his head and said “excuse me?”

    Your T-shirt” I continued. “Freud speculated that gays were driven by the desire to have sex with themselves.”

    His wife (assuming that’s who she was) snickered.

    Are you saying I’m gay?” he challenged.

    Well if you believe Freud,” I added, “that T-shirt says you do. Of course, there might be some other message about your lifestyle impulses buried in that claim.”

    His “wife” snickered some more. As he seemed stumped for an answer, I offered “then again, it might be just another meaningless meme put on T-shirts sold on Fathers’ Day and given by people who aren’t sure what to get the males in their lives. Is that it?

    Again he paused and spotting Hubby in the distance I said … oh never mind … and scurried away.

    In a third sighting in the Toongabbie Woolies I saw some man with a pronounced paunch wearing a T-shirt that seemed to be of Sheldon from Big Bang but in a Star Trek style with the endorsement “Chicks dig the uniform” or something. Hubby gripped my arm and cast a withering look. I drew a breath and bit my tongue.

    I do wonder why people wear things that so obviously make them appear foolish.

  5. drsusancalvin

    I do wonder why people wear things that so obviously make them appear foolish.

    Karl Largerfeld’s lawyer rang and said Karl wants his preferred epitaph back.

  6. drsusancalvin

    oops Lagerfeld….

  7. Casey

    You could provide warnings, Fran. I spat my coffee out on the screen. Hilarious.

  8. Mindy

    Thanks Fran. Made my day.

  9. jungney

    Ooh, Fran mentions Freud. Goodoh. I’m in the middle of a first class piece of intellectual detective work by Masson (1985) who repudiates Freud, and all of psychoanalysis, for Freud’s abandonment of ‘the seduction thesis’. Masson immaculately provides evidence that Freud turned his back on his knowledge that many of his patients had suffered sexual and physical assaults as children, often at the hands of their parents, and that real trauma was at the core of their later age ‘neurosis’; he did this at least partly because he was sent into professional isolation after publishing his initial findings in the mid-1890’s. Old hat for some, I suppose, but the book itself is compelling reading. Now, there’s the power of patriarchy right there. There is also an horrific account of Freud and Fleiss’s absolute quackery involving Emma Eckstein’s nose.

  10. peter

    I’m coming shopping with you Fran. What a hoot. I’m often tempted but I think a bloke would run the risk of getting king hit…or scratched depending on sex.

  11. Hoa Minh Truong

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  12. paul burns

    Oh, Fran, you didn’t?! Love it.

  13. paul burns

    Sorry to hear about your computer, Brian.
    People tell you these things happen in a thunderstorm, but you never really expect them to, do you? Thank goodness I’m a little paranoid so I always turn my computer on and off at the power switch, every time. Which is a good idea in Armidale at this time of year anyway, because you never know when a sudden 5 to 10 minute full-on lightning/thunderstorm will blow through.

  14. drsusancalvin

    @1 Brian sorry to hear. You are no doubt across this but there might be some financial relief available from either the power company or your Contents insurer. Good luck.

  15. Geoff Henderson

    Some people use T-shirts to attract attention, entertainers seem to have no limit on their zany dress or antics. I did see a picture of a nice young lady wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed “I don’t need sex any more, the government f**ks me everyday!” Now had I seen her in person, I think I would have smiled at her, but would not have taken her too literally – that would be judging a book by its cover.

    That is bad about your computer Brian. We are expect serious storms this time of year. We had a very close strike a few years ago, and even though we are off-grid, the induction blew every appliance on one of our two power circuits. Now we pull the plugs from the wall, including the land line.

  16. Flann O'Brien

    Mainstream media apology with style (even if it’s a bit late)

    A few days before the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg has retracted an 1863 editorial that dismissed the speech. The Patriot-News now concedes: “Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time, called President Lincoln’s words ‘silly remarks,’ deserving ‘a veil of oblivion’. The Patriot-News regrets the error”.

    Partisanship and strong drink – a dangerous combination

  17. Fran Barlow


    I’m coming shopping with you Fran. What a hoot. I’m often tempted but I think a bloke would run the risk of getting king hit…or scratched depending on sex.

    I love to play court jester, including when I’m out, and the idea that one could have an intellectual exchange in a place as prosaic as a Bunnings store struck me as something I’d like to try doing. Hubby isn’t as keen on playfulness in public as I am. I love him dearly but he sees shopping as an entirely pragmatic exercise that ought to be completed as quickly as possible with a minimum of frivolous diversion.

    I once engaged the chap in the paint section in a discussion about the underlying rationale for graffiti. I was buying touch-up paint in a spray can and the cans are now all kept behind locked mesh and you need to be at least 18 years old to buy it.

    I put it to him that the wall in my local park tended to be painted over with new graffiti on at a minimum, a one-week cycle and given the expense of the materials and the careful time involved, I wondered how these works of art could be continually reproduced.

    He shrugged his shoulders, and I asked him if he thought that graffiti artists were incipiently Buddhist, and felt the part they played in creating these palimpsests indicated an acknowledgement of the transience of all we knew — and whether it was this very thing that we should learn from graffiti.

    Sadly, he wasn’t able to say, but he did remark that it was above his paygrade before suggesting that the person beside me was looking for Brunswick Green.

    Oh well … 😉

    Maybe you just can’t have a serious intellectual exchange in a Bunnings. Maybe they should have a corner set aside for this purpose to catch the overflow from the decking workshops on Saturday.

  18. Fran Barlow
  19. faustusnotes

    Japan have announced a revision of their greenhouse gas reduction target from 25% reduction to 3.8% by 2020. The reason? They shut down their nuclear powerplants and now they are screwing their balance of trade figures and their greenhouse commitments by importing coal and gas for older power plants.

    Germany are facing the same problem if they go down their suicidal nuclear decommissioning plan – despite having never had a serious accident.

    So at a time when things are getting desperate and every high income country is staring down the barrel of a huge renewables challenge, two of the world’s heavy industry powerhouses just made the job a whole crapton harder.

    I really think we’re not going to rise to the AGW challenge. This planet’s going to be in the wastebasket by the time our children are old.

  20. Terry2

    Faustusnotes @18:

    Tony Abbott to the world: ‘see, I told you it was crap’

  21. Mk50 of Brisbane

    I find this to be rather interesting – from the Sydney Morning Herald.

  22. Fran Barlow


    The reason? {Japan} shut down their nuclear powerplants and now they are screwing their balance of trade figures and their greenhouse commitments by importing coal and gas for older power plants.

    As you know, despite being a Green, I’m not opposed in principle to nuclear power, and in the case of Japan, it makes little sense for them to abandon nuclear power, assuming they are confident that they can get substantial capacity back on line some time soon. That’s the part I’m not sure about. I very much doubt they’d shut down nuclear merely because people held irrational fears about it. They are pouring serious state money — enough to convert a loss into a profit — into TEPCO even now, and if that was their agenda, you’d wonder why they would.

    Technically, it would be possible for them to import power from China, which would help them meet their targets, but politically, that would be embarrassing as they aren’t diplomatic BFFs.

    They do have some geothermal they could use, but again, that’s longer term. They could buy off-shore credits — which would probably be the cheapest abatement option. Offshoring their industrial capacity would also be an option.

  23. faustusnotes

    Fran, Abe went to the election and won a landslide on a platform that included reopening the stalled plants, but I think there is a safety problem holding them back. This is the legacy of years of nuclear corruption, that they suddenly realize they have been too cozy with the power companies. Apparently the removal of rods from Fukushima is delayed for reasons of damage that predates the earthquake. I think there must be a lot of behind-the-scenes work going on to fix up the safety situation in a lot of these plants, and they must be expecting to have to mothball a lot of them. I don’t pay much attention to the details of the continuing mothballing though so I don’t know.

    I don’t know if they’ll be improving trade relations with China any time soon. Abe reportedly described China as a “detestable” country this week, and said Korea is foolish (sorry that link is in Japanese, I can’t find English language news about it). I doubt that will help Japan right now …

  24. Terry

    It is interesting to see discussion of nuclear power return, albeit in a very muted form, in the world’s largest uranium producing nation (Australia: 11% of the world’s uranium mined annually).

    The response of the UK government’s decision to commission the Hinkley Point nuclear reactor in Somerset a month ago was quite muted, with more criticism being about the financial arrangements than the decision to go nuclear as such. In particular, Labour was notably reluctant to criticise the decision to commission a new nuclear plant, not least because of Ed Miliband’s commitment to freeze energy prices, which raises issues about how to boost non-coal-based energy supply.

    China is constructing another 26 nuclear reactors on top of the 15 it currently operates to reduce its coal dependency and the resulting pollution. Importantly, China has chosen nuclear over wind power as the latter consumes too much available land that can be put to other uses. Nuclear and solar are not seen as alternatives in China, but rather as two prongs of a common response to reducing the reliance on coal.

    What Australia probably needs in this arena is a Green Paul Keating, who is prepared to take on vested interests and established orthodoxies (particularly on their own side of politics), in pursuit of a strategy whose benefits will be more apparent in the medium-term than they are at present. It is interesting to contemplate who such a figure may be.

  25. Fran Barlow

    What Australia probably needs in this arena is a Green Paul Keating, who is prepared to take on vested interests and established orthodoxies (particularly on their own side of politics), in pursuit of a strategy whose benefits will be more apparent in the medium-term than they are at present.

    I’m parsing that as an appeal for a pro-nuclear (or at least not anti-nuclear) leader of the Greens. While I’d have no problem with that, I don’t imagine it would make a scrap of difference in practice to the probability that nuclear power would be taken up in this country or any other where it hasn’t already.

    Most obviously, while the major parties are willing to wedge each other on this, there is a Mexican Standoff (although on the positive side, it would remove one red herring from the debate). Secondly, there are many other more impressive obstacles to nuclear getting a run. It’s fairly expensive up front and these days debt is seen as something dirty. cf: The NBN controversy.

    To make nuclear viable would entail shutting down coal and probably most gas, which in political practice would mean coerced closure and compensation, adding to the cost of nuclear. Again, the debate would clarify but the vested interests would troll the proponents to pieces. The scare campaign over the carbon “tax” would be nothing compared to this one.

    PS: If I’ve misread you, now would be a good time to say what you mean.

  26. Val

    FN, Fran and Terry, I am opposed to nuclear for all the usual reasons, so I won’t go over all those again – but here is something I think you should definitely read, if you haven’t, because it’s new


  27. Terry

    Fran, I think you are absolutely right about trolling on the issue. Attitudes to nuclear in Australia are paradoxical, in that the opposition to nuclear power plants in Australia is a lot stronger than the opposition to the mining and export of Australian uranium, or nuclear power plants in other people’s back yards. Any shift towards a more positive view is also quickly reversed, especially if accidents occur overseas, such as Fukushima.

    The “Green Paul Keating” line refers to Keating’s historical role in reversing the politics of free trade/protection in Australia, as well as his current topicality. As you would no doubt be aware, from Federation to the 1970s, being on the left in Australia meant being a protectionist. Certainly for those who enrolled in political economy courses at the Univeristy of Sydney in the early 80s, which ranged from the Labor Left (Anthony Albanese enrolled there on Tom Uren’s advice) through to a quite prominent International Socialist contingent, the working hypothesis from Ted Wheelwright and others was that to be on the left was not only to be pro-unions, but to also be pro-tariffs.

    It took Hawke and Keating – and it needed to be both, because union leaders generally loathed Keating – to shift that political axis. Moreover, it could only have been Labor leaders who could have shifted it, because it needed a change in attitudes among ALP members and trade union leaders. I think history would suggest that it was Keating who led this shift in terms of the debates in the wider community.

    I doubt that there could ever be a Greens leader in Australia who did not define themselves as anti-nuclear, but while that remains the case, there are questions begged about how quickly any shift from coal-fired power stations could actually occur. A problem of the debate in Australia is that those most likely to be pro-nuclear are also the most prominent climate change sceptics (John Howard an obvious case in point), whereas the green movement in Australia is defined as much by its roots in the anti-nuclear movement as it is in the contemporary politics of climate change.

  28. Val

    Can I also take the opportunity to remind everyone about the National Day of Climate Action tomorrow – you can find details of nearest local event to you here


    Hopefully I’m preaching to the converted, but if you hadn’t planned to go, can I urge you to? It’s important to send a message to the Abbott government that we won’t lie down and give up on climate action.

  29. faustusnotes

    I don’t care about the cost of nuclear. As I said on my blog the other day, we’re past the point of having choices. Shutting down coal is our only option, and whether we compensate anyone for it is just a debate over First World Problems. Banning coal now is the only way forward that I can see. That means installing huge amounts of baseload power before the grid has been reconfigured for the distributed systems of solar, wind &c. If that means nuclear, then we need to build nuclear. Which also means overriding any local nimbyism (and yes, green objections).

    Also any debate about “adaptation” should be ditched as well. Typhoon Yolanda is going to cost 5% of Philippines GDP. They’re suffering these record-setting disasters on a yearly basis. That is adaptation, happening right now, and not many people in the Philippines are very happy about the adaptation they’re having to do.

    The reality is that if we don’t have serious reductions in place – and a mechanism for carbon neutrality on a pretty tight timeframe – by the end of this decade, we have locked in a certain and unavoidable quantity of catastrophe. Those catastrophes are primarily going to be experienced in the tropics, and maybe also the Eastern seaboard of the USA, and of course in Australia. That means every developed nation needs to get serious about mitigation right now. It is criminally reckless for Germany and Japan to be shutting down nuclear plants when they don’t have an alternative in place – and dialing back on their mitigation commitments is not an alternative. We can deal with decommissioning nuclear power and cleaning up the inevitable accidents at our leisure, but we have less than 10 years to prevent serious damage to the planet.

  30. jungney

    @ 18:

    Germany are facing the same problem if they go down their suicidal nuclear decommissioning plan – despite having never had a serious accident.

    Suicidal? Geman suicidality linked with nukes? Is this hyperbowl or serious, rational analysis? What, the whole of Germany will be dead without nukes?

    The Germans may never have had a ‘serious’ accident, which assertion is contestable, but they sure were downwind of Chernobyl. But what, you whine, that was a Russian accident, not a German one?

    Oh horse feathers. You’re on the payroll.

  31. Fran Barlow


    I doubt that there could ever be a Greens leader in Australia who did not define themselves as anti-nuclear,

    Well “ever” is a long time. Let’s keep it to “the next 15 years”. Most of my party is hostile to the idea and now strongly associates nuclear advocacy with climate change denialism and big business more generally. This latter theme small/local v remote/global is a theme within all populist parties (left and right) and sometimes gets missed when people are pitching the arguments for nuclear. Solar/wind not only looks “greener” it also looks more authentic precisely because it appears as a “local” solution.

    Really though, the smart thing for a Greens leader to do would be to decalre themself “technology-neutral” and focus on the feasibility and fit of each proposed solution. Nuclear power is almost certainly going to fail schedule feasibility in a place such as Australia, and it might not pass reasonable tests of accountability. We ought to insist that “commercial-in-confidence” be rejected outright in infrastructure and likewise reject compensation for shutting down CO2 intensive energy sources. That puts the FHC crowd into direct conflict with the nuclear crowd and reverses the wedge.

    but while that remains the case, there are questions begged about how quickly any shift from coal-fired power stations could actually occur.

    Hmmm It doesn’t beg the question but I also don’t agree it raises it either. We Greens are simply not politically important enough in this country to block anything the political class really wants. They don’t really want it and wouldn’t even if we did.


    I don’t care about the cost of nuclear.

    Nor do I, but then again, I also don’t care about the cost of solar or wind, or tidal or geothermal or wave power or pumped hydro. What I want is for the alternatives to coal/gas to be built now at whatever cost they are. If most people don’t want nuclear power and would delay it for 20 years but live with massive renewables development right now, then I’m for that even if it turned out to be a lot more expensive than our best guesses at nuclear (which as we’ve seen haven’t been all that reliable elsewhere anyway)

    I agree that coal should be put on a radical phase out schedule — with energy generators told that they must reduce the intensity of their output to 200gCO2e/kWhe by 2020 and 5gCO2e/kWhe by 2030. Simultaneously, the output of other toxics per unit of output would also be capped and decremented over the same time schedule. No licences would be issued for those unable to meet this schedule. This would force generators to build/buy renewables to avoid sunk cost losses on plants or result in closures.

    If we are not doing an explicit price, then this is what must occur, IMO.

  32. faustusnotes

    I would go further than that, Fran. I think Australia needs to announce to the world that coal exports will stop in 2020. The simple fact of global warming is that most of the fossil fuel currently in the ground cannot be dug up if we want to maintain our biosphere. No amount of faffing around with carbon prices or legislated limits will change that – especially since some fossil fuels are unavoidable (coking coal and jet fuel being obvious examples).

    If the coal needs to stay in the ground then political will needs to be found to make that happen. Which means banning digging it up.

    I think a lot of economists and luke-warmist delayers see their carbon pricing instruments and “adaptation” as some kind of magic device that will enable business to continue but somehow reduce CO2 output. But we won’t become carbon neutral if we continue digging up coal. Full stop. Any mechanism that is going to work needs to be strong enough to stop people digging up coal. Similarly, I think a lot of people who prefer “adaptation” think that it is a magic wand that will prevent storms and floods. It’s not. In an “adapted” world we will continue to have huge storms, just somehow we’ll be able to resist them. It means less people dying in terrible events, not that the terrible events won’t happen.

    Most of our policy-makers haven’t woken up to how bad the future is going to be. They’re thinking way too fuzzily about what is going to happen, and as a result are way to sanguine about the speed at which our choices are being restricted. If they don’t wake up soon we are going to face some seriously drastic policy decisions in 15 or 20 years…

  33. Katz

    Hmm. Let’s see. A choice between an energy source where negative externalities are distributed and an energy source where negative externalities are concentrated.

    What form of political control will compel nations to accept bans against the former if it is agreed that the only viable alternative is the latter?

  34. faustusnotes

    That’s been the problem for the last 20 years, hasn’t it Katz? And look where we are now: on the edge of a widely distributed climate catastrophe.

    Those negative externalities weren’t just distributed in space – they were distributed across time too. Now we’Re going to start to see the full effect of those externalities …

  35. Fran Barlow


    I would go further than that, Fran. I think Australia needs to announce to the world that coal exports will stop in 2020. The simple fact of global warming is that most of the fossil fuel currently in the ground cannot be dug up if we want to maintain our biosphere.

    I’d be fine with that, but I imagine you’d have a tough job selling that concept given the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the modest carbon price we had.

    One alternative might be that everyone who buys Australian coal has to buy an equivalent amount of passive geo-engineering. If they want a ton of coal they need to fund an algae farm large enough to draw down a 3.7tonnes of CO2 and sequester it in the deep ocean or some place else secure for all eternity. We could look after the scope 1 emissions from extraction ourselves in the same way.

    Then we wouldn’t need to ban digging up coal. Some would source it elsewhere, driving up the price and those who didn’t could claim carbon neutrality for every ton of coal they bought and burned.

  36. faustusnotes

    Nice idea Fran, but carbon capture and storage is not going to happen. And sequestering carbon in the deep ocean is a recipe for disaster (due to acidification).

    Every alternative to drastic action is going to run into the same problem: we need to lower our CO2 output, and we need to do it fast. Gradual solutions would have worked twenty years ago, but we squandered the chance. So now here we are, with all our options slipping away.

    If these radical options can’t be sold, then we’re toast. If instead we sit around twiddling our thumbs pretending a carbon price will magically appear in 2020, and will somehow be radical enough to control emissions; or boldly declaring that somehow we will get CCS up and running on a massive scale – from its current state of nothing – in the time frames available to us; or arguing that we can adapt in 20 years’ time as our food supplies collapse and whole nations begin to migrate; well, then we’re quite simply doomed.

    What we need is a massive engineering project now with technology we know is reliable and effective, coupled with radical adjustment of consumption patterns now to target the two worst sources of CO2 pollution (coal and oil) now.

    There is no chance this is going to happen. If people think the way asylum seekers are being treated today is cruel, wait until whole populations begin to flee climate devastation 20 years from now…

  37. Fran Barlow


    Nice idea Fran, but carbon capture and storage is not going to happen.

    Not in the form it has been mooted in realtion to coal here, but certainly, algae farms are technically feasible.

    And sequestering carbon in the deep ocean is a recipe for disaster

    It depends how deep you go. Under pressure and away from light and at low temperature the mass should be stable, especially if ingots were compressed and encased in some non-permeable material.

  38. Salient Green

    Well fn, I don’t know if you have read any of Paul Gilding’s work but you have just described pretty much how things are going to go down.
    Transnational capital is in control at the moment but their time is nearly up. A series of extreme disasters will galvanise the world into action, not only on climate change but the more important issues of sustainability, ecological footprint and consumption.
    As much as you and I would rather see action now it won’t happen because too many people are disengaged or fighting it.

  39. Val

    Because I am on auto mod, my contribution to this discussion keeps getting left behind. So moderators I am very sorry that I have been rude to people and questioned your decisions in the past, but could you please let my contributions through a little more quickly, because if am doing research in this area and do have useful things to add to the discussion?

    Fran, FN et al, please look at the latest research on energy sources which takes water onto account http://phys.org/news/2013-11-energy-climate.html

    Also a reminder about the National Day of Climate Action tomorrow for anyone who isn’t already planning to come. You can find your local event here https://www.getup.org.au/get_togethers/climate-catchup

    I really hope everyone will come, it’s important

    [Val it depends on whether someone is around or not. Happy to let you out when I am here ~ Mod]

  40. faustusnotes

    Fran, that’s the same cavalier attitude that nuclear proponents are accused of taking with nuclear waste. And as I said, we don’t have time to be arsing around with “technically feasible” options that haven’t been actually successfully implemented anywhere. We know nuclear power works, we know coal is a poison that is slowly destroying the planet, we know the limits of solar and wind and we know what we have to do.

    I agree Salient Green. I have no positive expectations for the future. Twenty years from now – when I am old – things are going to get desperate, and then we will see climate fascism for real. Until then, we’re going to do nothing …

  41. faustusnotes

    Val, the water issue may be relevant in Australia, but it’s not relevant to the two most reckless de-nuclearizers (Japan and Germany) who have plenty of the stuff.

  42. Val

    Should the nuclear discussion go on overflow thread? Because I think it is a perennial stoush. I’m disappointed to disagree with you on this one FN, because we have agreed on so many things on the past, but I have to. I have seen several reports – can’t send details now because I am supposedly doing some work on my thesis [ sad boring PhD candidate on Saturday night] but will try to soon – that show how we can transition to alternative energy sources without going down the nuclear track (plus all the objections to nuclear which I won’t rehash).

    Also I know a bit about Germany because my youngest daughter lives there, and I think the coal powered increase is probably just a glitch – emissions may go up temporarily while they transition from nuclear, but they are doing so much more than we are, I’m sure they will get back on track.

    I tried to take some photos of the many solar arrays in Germany (in fields, on houses, on factories) when I was there in August, but the trains were going so fast I couldn’t. So please take my word for it, they are all over the place.

    Anyway maybe should move comments to overflow if we are going to argue about nuclear? I wish we weren’t, but we probably are.

    [Excellent plan Val ~ Mod]

  43. Val

    So I also sent a nitpicking comment to Casey about the proper way to spell nitpicking on the Keating thread, and I’m not sure if this belongs here on on overflow, but it’s definitely not stoush material and I really loved it


    So this is just like me nitpicking with my kids, except there were three of mine, they had long hair, I couldn’t shave it off for gender reasons, and this woman looks ecstatically happy compared with what I think I used to look like!

  44. Val

    But they were – and are – beautiful (not just physically), in spite of the nits. Anyway I’m getting sentimental (over nits?!!!) so better shut up.

  45. Fran Barlow


    Fran, that’s the same cavalier attitude that nuclear proponents are accused of taking with nuclear waste.

    I don’t accept that there is a cavalier attitude to nuclear hazmat (I prefer this term to “waste” as the material is potentially re-usable in some types of reactors) amongst most proponents of nuclear power. Yet even if there were such an attitude, I don’t accept the relevance of it to what I’ve suggested. You need to identify something I’ve overlooked to make that claim. Demonstrate why compressing algae and encasing it in some non-permeable material and dumping it at depth where the pressure would be maintained and the material sequestered from light and heat would be at risk of decomposition and return to the upper clines of the ocean.

    We know nuclear power works,

    We know that it works, but we are unlikely to be put in charge of infrastructure policy or environmental policy and we are unlikely to be able to summon the investment funds needed to build nuclear at the scale needed to put a dent in emissions or overcome the Mexican standoff between the majors on the issue, and even if Australia’s net emissions fell to zero, unless other major emitting states began doing the equivalent of what we were doing and that right now we would be making at best only a very modest impact on the problem. My fear is that if in this country, knowing the lay of the land, we continue to pour all of our political energy into pressing for nuclear, we will not only delay whatever abatement we might achieve here, but unwillingly aid those protecting fossil hydrocarbon usages in energy production.

    What is needed by us is a “full court press” on the matter. There can be no doubt that we are in a worse position than we were in this country six years ago and that we need to re-engage the public with the urgency of mitigation. A comparative handful of well-intentioned people including you and me putting all of our passion into nuclear renaissance is not going to do that.

    Rather, we need to take the public from where they are to where they need to be, and that very quickly. For good or ill, the mass of people (including those resisting explicit carbon pricing on parochial/populist grounds) believe in the tangible and the local, and renewables tick both those boxes. The regime, rhetorically, advocates “direct action” and since the slogan is vacuous and non-specific we can pour into it anything at all that we care.

    Demanding robust regulation, not just of CO2 but of what the disingenuous right calls “real pollution” wedges them. Demanding “community-based renewables” and an end to “dirty exports” wedges the polluters, especially if we propose a clean alternative. We can out them onto the defensive. Let everyone think that they too are personally playing a part in authoring a cleaner country and we meet the “no regrets” test so beloved of the right.

    we know the limits of solar and wind

    I don’t agree that we “know” any such thing. Certainly, solar and wind offer very considerable scope to engage people in the notions of clean air, low footprint technology and local action. Wind development can help keep money in rural communities and even right-of-centre urban folk like that idea.

    If we are to win this battle — or our corner of it anyway — then our first task is to politically disrupt our enemies. They have chosen misdirection, ironically claiming that market forces aren’t able to solve the problem. We on the left can absolutely use that against them, and should.

  46. Fran Barlow


    Japan’s Solar Energy Market Surge Blows Away Earlier Forecasts

    The newly projected 350 percent growth of Japan’s solar market from 2012 to 2013 dwarfs estimates made earlier this year.

    “The Japanese feed-in tariff is one of the most lucrative in the world,” explained Adam James, GTM Research Solar Analyst for Global Demand. “As a result, there has been a gold rush. In the first half of 2013, we saw twice as much solar installed in Japan as in all of 2012. From 1.7 gigawatts last year, we expect the Japanese market to grow to well over 6 gigawatts of installed capacity in 2013.”

    The latest forecast is almost a full gigawatt higher than the 5.3 gigawatts expected by analysts earlier this year.

    It notes also:

    Two nuclear reactors have come back on-line on an interim basis since the 2011 tsunami and nuclear emergency, and applications to restart several others are pending. But anti-nuclear sentiment became further entrenched in the country after recent reports of radioactive water spills at the Fukushima facility. “Turning their nuclear power industry back on would likely be the government’s last option before letting the country go without electricity,” James said. “The impetus is to build capacity of any other kind.”

  47. peter

    Maybe Australia should offer a traumatised Japanese public a deal whereby we take all their nuclear waste in return for their restoring 2020 targets and technical assistance developing an Australian nuclear industry including third and fourth generation reactors the latter capable of reprocessing high level waste. Japan has experience here and Abe ought to be interested in restoring public confidence in nuclear power to a country with physical limits to siting reactors, Fukushima being a prime example. Australia could do as Faustus notes – exit coal and finance itself into advanced nuclear by ‘direct action’. Other nuclear nations could also be interested. A faustian challenge no less!

  48. Val

    I hope this gets published before the discussion moves on much further. I have suggested above that it goes to Overflow – endorsed by Mod – and have started a discussion there.

    Am now getting ready to go to Day of Action. If you care about climate future I urge you to go.

  49. Fran Barlow


    Maybe Australia should offer a traumatised Japanese public a deal whereby we take all their nuclear waste in return for their restoring 2020 targets and technical assistance developing an Australian nuclear industry including third and fourth generation reactors the latter capable of reprocessing high level waste.

    I’d not be opposed in principle but

    a) I’d want a better deal than that. We could ask and get a better deal.
    b) I’d be astonished if the LNP would contemplate such a deal without express ALP support.
    c) I’d be almost as astonished if the LNP would contemplate such a deal at all even if the ALP would support it, given that they are celebrating Japan’s abandonment of thier target in order to play beggar-my-neighbour on abatement and wants greater coal and gas sales and better prices.

    The LNP would have to begin defining climate change as an emergency, and they clearly want to say that it isn’t one.

  50. peter

    Agree Fran. Australia should drive a very hard bargain, in effect Japan building one or two reactors meaning say $20 billion worth plus the experimental reprocessing reactor. Assuming Japan decides to cap their nuclear power facilities at existing sites we would roughly know what waste quantities would go to Mucketty NT over time. Penalties for Japan failing to restore 2020 targets ought to be advantageous to us.
    And it won’t happen for political reasons you lay out in (b) and (c)

  51. Fran Barlow

    Just in terms of the “bargain” Peter, I had in mind Japan going 80% below 1990 by 2020 and neutral by 2030. They work with us developing algae sinks.

    We agree to do whatever is needed to support them in their target. We agree to take 100% of any hazmat they generate and either store it or use it and store the residual.

    No, I don’t imagine that will happen.

  52. Fran Barlow
  53. Fran Barlow

    And now for a woman who is working for humanity …

    Seattle Elects Socialist Candidate to City Council

    Seattle voters have elected a socialist to city council for the first time in modern history.

    Kshama Sawant’s lead continued to grow on Friday, prompting 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin to concede.


    While city council races are technically non-partisan, Sawant made sure people knew she was running as a socialist — a label that would be politically poisonous in many parts of the country.

    Sawant, a 41-year-old college economics professor, first drew attention as part of local Occupy Wall Street protests that included taking over a downtown park and a junior college campus in late 2011. She then ran for legislative office in 2012, challenging the powerful speaker of the state House, a Democrat. She was easily defeated.

    This year, though, she pushed a platform that resonated with the city. She backed efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15; called for rent control in the city where rental prices keep climbing; and supports a tax on millionaires to help fund a public transit system and other services.

    “I will reach out to the people who supported Richard Conlin, working with everyone in Seattle to fight for a minimum wage of $15 (an) hour, affordable housing, and the needs of ordinary people,” Sawant said in a statement. {…}

  54. Brian

    Thanks for the sympathy about the computer. I have worked out how to log myself in, but my wife’s computer has a different version of Windows and I don’t feel at all comfortable.

    drsusancalvin @ 14, I rang Suncorp today and yes, I am covered with an excess of $200. Any repairer with an ABN will do. So it’s a matter of finding the extent of the damage, what it will cost and making a decision from there. They didn’t query why I had the damn thing turned on, which surprised me a bit.

  55. Graham Bell

    Hoa Minh Truong @ 11:
    Congratulations on your nomination. It really annoyed me that mainstream arts people in Australia were so slow to realize that Vietnamese have a long and rich tradition of poetry, prose and painting.

    Fran Barlow @ 4:
    That was naughty. Ha-ha-ha 🙂 It’s a pity some people don’t have what they desire to wear translated into English before they wear some t-shirts (removable) …. or have some tattoos done (rather un-removable). Litigation, anyone?

    On nuclear power.
    As I keep on saying: (1). Reduce energy demand; the technology is there already and it’s generally cheap – so use it. (2). Redesign nuclear power systems from the decommissioning, decontamination and site-rehabilitation stage backwards. (3). Find a modestly profitable alternative investment to coal-mining, reserve it for the current coal miners for twenty years and coal mining will stop overnight. Of course that is interfering in the Holy Untouchable Perfect Market we’re all supposed to be worshipping – and so too is the interference we tolerate and encourage, for instance, in the health, education, transport, defence procurement, housing and tourism markets – so there is nothing special about interference in the coal market.
    Peter @47: That is an appalling suggestion – but – unfortunately, it is one that would delight Australia’s failed decision-makers and other vermin so there’s a high likelihood it would happen.
    And @50: ” Australia should drive a very hard bargain”. You have to be kidding; they’re congenitally incapable of even imagining themselves driving a hard bargain let alone actually doing so.

  56. Val

    Doris Lessing is dead – http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/nov/17/doris-lessing-dies-94

    Most of my mother’s generation is gone, but this is how I think of Doris Lessing – the outspoken voice of those women who lived through the war and did not go quietly back to being housewives afterwards (some went back, but not quietly). This is what my own mother was like

  57. Patrickb

    On a slightly different note, “experts” are apparently “baffled” that despite out-performing boys at schools and and university:

    “men continue to earn more than women in the workplace and overwhelmingly dominate leadership roles”

    Shock fricking horror!!!

    Dog forbid that someone might propose that it’s due to unbending structural sexism, that would be too PC. And the baffle-o-meter must have gone off the scale when they pointed it at the current cabinet.

  58. drsusancalvin

    Magistrate Charles Rozencwajg’s decision to not proceed with the agreed diversion comes as a surprise. It seemed a done deal, but he’s having none of it. A conviction followed by a by-election in which the Ambulance Employees Australia of Victoria ran a single issue candidate might be worth pulling up a chair for.

  59. Russell

    Just reading Australasian Science magazine and was taken with this ignobel candidate from Prof Peter Drummond (from my alma mater, Murdoch U):

    “Drummond placed ibuprofen gel on a patch of one cheek of 30 subjects and a control gel on the other. Both were then covered with sensors to check blood flow before the participants were invited on stage to sing Gloria Gaynor’s karaoke classic I Will Survive.

    “To heighten their embarrassment, we interjected every now and then asking them to sing louder, be more expressive, sing in tune” Drummond says. While it may seem surprising that the study won ethics committee approval, Drummond found blood flow was only half as intense on the cheek to which ibuprofen has been applied”

  60. Brian

    To update on the computer, I got it back late on Tuesday afternoon. The nice man at Computer Help called by on his way home and set it up for me, without a charge as far as I can see.

    Turns out that the power supply was OK and the only thing wrong was the motherboard. This raises for me the question as to whether the storm had anything to do with it.

    The man set up Windows Backup for me so that every night it will now back up everything that’s changed onto the external hard drive.

    The only problem now is that the printer won’t work, but son no. 2 (the mathematician) who shares the printer with me is going to reinstall, so this neo-luddite will be fully enabled once again.

  61. drsusancalvin

    Glad to hear that Brian. These little glitches can be quite discombobulating.

  62. Taylor

    Michael Kirby for G-G. Can’t be a better candidate.

  63. Graham Bell

    Kirby is indeed a brilliant and just candidate …. but I prefer to change the Constitution so that the GovernorGeneral (or President) shall always be someone who has at least one ancestor of the Australoid race who was born in Australia prior to 1788 (that would automatically include an ancestor from Torres Strait Islands too).

  64. Casey

    shall always be someone who has at least one ancestor of the Australoid race

    Listen, old fella, there is no such thing. There is only one race. Give it up or people might get to thinking you are a troll.

  65. Taylor


    I think there should be an Aboriginal (or Torres Strait Islander) Governor-General very soon. However I would prefer to open the position up in the long term to any Commonwealth citizen who is appropriately qualified.

    Like Kirby, I think that the Commonwealth has the potential to be a much greater international institution than it currently is. Allowing international appointments of Governors-General (once again, but in a more inclusive way) also has obvious benefits in broadening Australia’s international outlook.

  66. Casey

    See, Graham?

    “Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander”. Taylor is showing you the way. It’s not hard. In this way you can make leaps and bounds into the, well, at least the 20th century.

  67. drsusancalvin

    @66 Meanwhile Graham, can you advise on the best wig powder? And my quill sometimes sticks when I poke the keyboard. Any help would be much appreciated.

  68. Graham Bell

    [email protected]:
    Basic lead subacetate powder; better than talc powder – but why do you ask? 🙂

    [email protected]:
    I just heard that The Society For The Preservation Of White Supremacy are delighted with your comment.

    Now you have given them a simple yet powerful legal argument to reject outright the concept of having our Governors-General and Presidents selected from among all the Australians descended from at least one Aboriginal Australian ((since I am forbidden to mention the Australoid race)) who was born here prior to 1788.

    Oh good one you. The triumph of form over substance – and to blazes with the actual outcome.

    [email protected]:
    Governors, Governors-General, High Court Judges, Chairman of Directors, Arch-Bishops, Generals, Admirals, Air Marshals, Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors, Ministers of The Crown, Lords-Mayor, etc., etc. have, with only a few isolated exceptions, all come from a tiny weeny gene-pool.

    Requiring our Governers-General and President have at least one Aboriginal or T.I. ancestor would give us a far bigger, and potentially better, pool of selectees. Tokenism writ large? Of course it would be – but tokenism that would benefit us all.

    Perhaps if Michael Kirby did become G-G, he might be able to guide that step forward …. and in so doing show the way for a lot of talented people to reach their potential in a many, many other fields. What harm would it do to have an Aboriginal Chairman (Male or Female!!) of the ABC or an Aboriginal Prime Minister.

    For some people, the film “Barbaku Area” was a horror-story…. whereas for me it was a vision of the future.

  69. golly

    Casey @64:

    Listen, old fella, there is no such thing. There is only one race.

    A meaty topic for a a rainy Saturday! Is race real? The first problem with this question is the lack of agreed upon definitions of taxonomic categories. Even the keystone concept of species has no neat definition (in fact there are dozens of definitions in operation) and consequently researcher X may look at taxa A and divide it into 2 species whilst researcher Y might divide it into 10 species. If you follow Australian botany, you may be aware of this issue playing itself out with the Mulga complex within Acacia. The definition of race is even more problematic than that of species, in part because it is a less significant concept.

    What we do know is that researchers can very easily assign humans to a racial category based on things like skeletal remains. This is done in forensics all the time and it is useful for crime solving purposes.

    I generally prefer the work of young Asian hard scientists on this topic as they are less inclined to self-censor and yield to the dead hand of political correctness. See Stephen Hsu (a physicist) for example. As Hsu and others note, you can assign an individual to a genetic cluster without difficulty provided you have sufficient markers and these clusters in most cases follow the dominant folk categories.

    Also note Hsu’s debunking of Lewontin’s fallacy, that is the false claim that racial categories are invalid because variation within the category exceeds variation between categories.