Well said, Bert

Dreadful choice we have in this year’s election, but perhaps some things really are more dreadful than others. This morning in the Sun-Herald is a letter from Bert Candy.

The decision by the executive of the Liberal Party to give Cory Bernardi the top position on their Senate ticket in the forthcoming federal election – despite his speech asserting that there could be a link between homosexuality and bestiality, as well as his association with an extreme right American organisation (”Smoking Gun”, January 27) – says a great deal about the political leanings of the Liberal power brokers.

A person with these questionable views can hardly represent a modern Australian electorate and, by endorsing him again, the Liberal Party is guilty by association. With pundits indicating a Liberal landslide, it appears that the extreme right have the numbers.

Bert Candy Lemon Tree Passage

Here is the man concerned:

He is clearly on the right of Genghis Khan. The recent story about him, to which Bert refers, appears online as Abbott’s man under fire over extreme right lobbying.

TONY Abbott’s handpicked former parliamentary secretary Cory Bernardi has apparently breached strict rules by failing to declare his ties to a right-wing, pro-tobacco group fighting gun controls.

The organisation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, was involved in a High Court challenge against the Gillard government last year and has financial ties with big tobacco.

The US-based council is working with the National Rifle Association to block President Barack Obama’s guns crackdown after the Newtown school massacre. An ALEC member since 2009, Senator Bernardi was dumped as Mr Abbott’s personal parliamentary secretary in September after he made a speech to Parliament that warned against legislating for gay marriage on the grounds it could open a legal path to bestiality and polygamy….

To get some idea of what kind of fruitcakes and downright subversives Bernadi sleeps with see ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection and Three States Pushing ALEC Bill to Require Teaching Climate Change Denial in Schools.

ALEC Celebrates Groundhog Day 2013

Groundhog Day is on Feb. 2 and fittingly, ALEC and its corporate patrons continue to sing the same tune, simultaneously promoting fracking, blockading a transition to renewable energy and pushing bills mandating teaching climate change denial on par with actual science.

"It’s the same old schtick every year, the guy comes out with a big old stick, raps on the door,"actor Bill Murray said in the classic film Groundhog Day. "They pull the little rat out, they talk to him, the rat talks back, then they tell us what’s gonna happen."

Replace "guy" with "corporate lobbyist" and "legislators" with "rats" and that’s ALEC in a nutshell, serving as a mere microcosm of the current American political system at-large.

And of Cory Bernadi’s idea of a mate and a good thing for Australia’s way of conducting business. And of where his brain really lives.

A person with these questionable views can hardly represent a modern Australian electorate and, by endorsing him again, the Liberal Party is guilty by association. With pundits indicating a Liberal landslide, it appears that the extreme right have the numbers.

No way, I say. Some things really can be worse than Julia.

And speaking of the Right, cop the things crawling out from under logs to greet the bouffanted boofhead from Holland.  And look closely at the group who invited him.  I see they have the obligatory Oz flag at the top and a quote from Mary Gilmore. I wonder if they realise she was a life-long Communist.  Mind you she is an under-rated poet who certainly deserves to be better known, as this poem (not on that site) shows:

Nationality

I have grown past hate and bitterness,
I see the world as one;
But though I can no longer hate,
My son is still my son.

All men at God’s round table sit,
and all men must be fed;
But this loaf in my hand,
This loaf is my son’s bread.

On that anti-Islam group’s site you will find Robert Spencer at al, pretty much as you would expect, but you also find this, which I reproduce exactly as it is:

Ayn Rand: The Collection.
Her book ‘Atlas Shruggs’ is considered by many in the International Counter-Jihad and Freedom Movement as foundational work for the relation between the free individual, the state and the collective society.

Surprise, surprise!

tea-party-vs-ows

They are all so sane and balanced, these people, are they not?

Meanwhile here are a couple of free eBooks from ANU that you could read as a way to ensure your own sanity.

Australia: Identity, Fear and Governance in the 21st Century, Edited by Juliet Pietsch and Haydn Aarons (November 2012).

The latter years of the first decade of the twenty-first century were characterised by an enormous amount of challenge and change to Australia and Australians. Australia’s part in these challenges and changes is borne of our domestic and global ties, our orientation towards ourselves and others, and an ever increasing awareness of the interdependency of our world. Challenges and changes such as terrorism, climate change, human rights, community breakdown, work and livelihood, and crime are not new but they take on new variations and impact on us in different ways in times such as these.

In this volume we consider these recent challenges and changes and how Australians themselves feel about them under three themes: identity, fear and governance. These themes suitably capture the concerns of Australians in times of such change. Identity is our sense of ourselves and how others see us. How is this affected by the increased presence of religious diversity, especially Islamic communities, and increased awareness of moral and political obligations towards Indigenous Australians? How is it affected by our curious but changing relationship with Asia? Fear is an emotional reaction to particular changes and challenges and produces particular responses from individuals, politicians, communities and nations alike; fear of crime, fear of terrorism and fear of change are all considered in this volume.

Multiculturalism and Integration — A Harmonious Relationship, Edited by the late Professor Michael Clyne and Dr James Jupp (July 2011).

Multiculturalism has been the official policy of all Australian governments (Commonwealth and State) since the 1970s. It has recently been criticised, both in Australia and elsewhere. Integration has been suggested as a better term and policy. Critics suggest it is a reversion to assimilation. However integration has not been rigorously defined and may simply be another form of multiculturalism, which the authors believe to have been vital in sustaining social harmony.

May help you counter the dogs’ breaths that are so noisome out there, and will no doubt get worse and skankier as the year goes on, God help us.

As so often, a “yes but” reaction…

Did that annoying trick (to some) of posting yesterday’s lunch on Facebook.

P1210290

And a fine $10 roast lamb lunch as one could ever hope for from the lovely Sophia at the Wollongong Hellenic Club. Ex-SBHS student Russell Ward noted: “Nice lunchtime reading!” Indeed.

The book (Lawrence, Bruce (2006) The Qur’an: A Biography) is a delight to read and very informative. It is a salutary reminder that “civilised” readings of the Qur’an are not just possible but have existed for centuries and still exist. This is a very necessary corrective to the crudities both of the more rampant and murderous jihadists and the paranoid rejecters of almost one quarter of the world’s population and their ideas on the other – the latter leading me in the past, based on my actual dealings with actual Muslims as well as on my reading, to oppose what is called, I think more than a bit unsatisfactorily at times, Islamophobia. The latest manifestation of that is recent attention to (in my view) the quite unbalanced Dutch MP Geert Wilders.

Wilders believes Islam is a political ideology, not just a religion, and should be compared with totalitarian belief systems. He has compared the Koran to Fascism and Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He advocates ending immigration by Muslims because the Netherlands was losing its demographic and social stability. For this he was taken to court for hate speech. He won, but the case occupied three years.

Wilders is opposed to what he calls the Islamification of Europe by a combination of demography, immigration and accommodations by multiculturalism that are not reciprocated by Muslims. Two other Dutch political activists who were similarly critical of Islam were subject to numerous assassination attempts. One was murdered, the other fled to America.

Debbie Robinson believes the fear she has encountered in Australia merely confirms her reasons for arranging Wilders’ visit: ”With every refusal I asked why, and was almost always informed that management had concerns about the repercussions. The audience was never the issue. The issue was offending Muslims. Looking at the number of cancellations and refusals it is apparent the Islamic community are not getting their message across about being the religion of peace.”

But.

Yes. BUT…

Revelations are sorted out into chapters and verses, and the causes of each revelation provide context for its content. The number of revelations exceeds 200. They came to the Prophet Muhammad via a divine mediary (the Archangel Gabriel) between 610 and 632 CE. They are now arranged in 114 chapters. All but one begin by invoking God’s Name, then qualify the Name as at once Compassion and Compassionate: "In the Name of God, Full of Compassion, Ever Compassionate". Different people close to the Prophet Muhammad heard these revelations as he uttered them. They remembered the words and repeated them orally. A few wrote them down. In all they total at least 6,219 verses. The contents of the surahs (chapters) and ayat (verses) are informed by the causes of revelation – that is, by events and circumstances that marked the Prophet’s life and the early Muslim community.

Through a complex process, the recitations that had been revealed in verses and chapters became, over time, a book. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, ‘Ali, his close relative and supporter, worked with others to compile them into a written text. Then 20 years later, during the rule of ‘Uthman, the third Caliph or Successor to Muhammad (after Abu Bakr and ‘Umar but before ‘Ali), all extant versions were arranged into one "standard" version. This version persists substantially unchanged to the present day.

The Qur’an is a book unlike any other: it is an oral book that sounds better spoken than read silently, but it is an oral book that is also a scripture. More evocative in recitation than in writing, the Qur’an is only fully the Qur’an when it is recited. To hear the Qur’an recited is for Muslims unlike anything else. It is to experience the power of divine revelation as a shattering voice from the Unseen. It moves, it glides, it soars, it sings. It is in this world, yet not of it.

That is from an article by Bruce Lawrence summarising the book. Now of course I do not really believe “They came to the Prophet Muhammad via a divine mediary (the Archangel Gabriel) between 610 and 632 CE.”  Yes, Muslims do believe that, and so it appears does Lawrence, who in the book goes on to explain Muhammad as being in a prophetic line  from Adam via Abraham and so on.

Unfortunately both Adam and Abraham exist pretty much on the same plane as Harry Potter and Gollum, as far as I am concerned. And I regard this fairly typical statement by a Muslim apologist of no great distinction in an eBook I have as promulgating historical idiocy and terminal dishonesty.

If there were two books and there was the possibility that one of them were not true without knowing which one, then both of them would be unreliable. Why? Because there is a probability that each of the two books is wrong. These errors can be detected by the healthy human mind and brain.

So, we say to the Christians: do not expect Muslims to prove to you that the Bible (the Old and New Testaments) that you have, has not been changed and is the true Word of God. It is definitely not a Revelation sent from the Lord.

Muslims deny that these Books are an Inspiration from Almighty God.

If one who denies the facts is in doubt about their authenticity, then proof must be brought forward in justification of the fact by the one who claims to be telling the truth. This statement has been made and agreed upon by the wisdom of humankind.

Muslims are not called upon to bring evidence that their Holy Book is true because the Truth and legitimacy of the Holy Quran has yet to be questioned. However, Christians must prove to the Muslims that their Holy Book is true.

As a matter of objective fact the Qur’an is heavily dependent on Jewish and Christian writings and traditions. It even had much the same cast list, and many of the nastier things in the Qur’an echo quite closely the dark side of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. And all these texts buy into accounts of the past that have very problematic connection to anything that may really have been happening in that part of the Ancient “Near” East that God/Allah unaccountably singled out over the heads, it appears, of around two thousand generations already living down here in Australia, not to mention other parts of the world.  In other words, :faith: in all three Abrahamic religions can involve a very large degree of patent nonsense.

And of course much that is good. Lawrence does remind us of that.

Nor am I picking on Islam especially.  A figure much respected in evangelical circles in Sydney, one whose lectures I attended during Evangelical Union meetings at Sydney University in the 1960s, was Canon Broughton Knox of Moore Theological College. Nowadays, sadly, I find his arguments of “propositional revelation” alarmingly and patently circular and little better than the Muslim apologist cited above. For example:

knox

Sydney Anglicanism still follows suit: see for example articles posted by MatthiasMedia.  I, rather, see much merit in The Bible and Interpretation: Dedicated to delivering the latest news, features, editorials, commentary, archaeological interpretation and excavations relevant to the study of the Bible for the public and biblical scholars. I might add that around the time I was listening to Broughton Knox I had also studied the Ancient Near East in Ancient History I at Sydney Uni and maintained an interest. Later experience teaching Ancient History, especially in an Orthodox Jewish school, augmented that journey.

Now I could offend another group by saying that at least the writings that over some centuries emerged and became in due course the Tanach and the Christian Bible have what antique collectors would call provenance. That is, they are real documents with real histories, much of which scholarship in the past couple of centuries has recovered. The Qur’an is hobbled in that respect by its own very strong exceptionalism, though as Lawrence does demonstrate there has been a very active history of interpretation. The group I could offend are the Mormons whose text, in my view but also objectively, bears no relationship to any history whatsoever, aside from what happened to the believers after the composition of one of the most effective works of fiction in American literature.

Just goes to show there is no accounting for what people will believe.

Anyone seen The Master, by the way? Doing rather well, isn’t it.

Given a choice between romantic piffle and actual history…

… most of us prefer piffle, especially patriotic piffle or piffle serving some political agenda, be that left or right.

We may get a serving of piffle tonight on SBS on the subject of Eureka, which has attracted much well-intentioned piffling and some not so well-intentioned – a bit like Ned Kelly.  Tonight’s SBS offering (Dirty Business) won’t all be piffle, of course, if one is to judge from last week, some of which was most interesting. But it will be very scrappy and rather too obviously thesis-driven, as certainly was last week. It is not nearly as good, in my view, as The First Australians, currently being repeated on NITV.

The Victorians (the royal era, not the Aussie state) were excellent at patriotic piffling, inventing whole rafts of tradition. The Irish and Scots have been excellent pifflers – take for example the oeuvre of Sir Walter Scott – and of late – well almost twenty years ago – we had Braveheart. Last night ABC2 offered The True Story: Braveheart. I was impressed.

BraveheartMel Gibson’s Oscar winning box office smash of 1995 tells the story of real life Scottish rebel and freedom fighter William Wallace. With savage battle scenes, a cast of thousands and a tragic love story at its heart, it is a sweeping historical epic brought to the screen with stunning photography set amongst the highlands of Scotland.

But ever since it was first shown historians have asked questions about the accuracy of the movie. No one doubts that William Wallace was a real historical character – as was Edward 1st, Robert the Bruce, and many others who feature in the film. But was he really the “ordinary joe” made good portrayed by Mel Gibson, and did his life unfold in the way Braveheart depicts?

Interviewing script-writer Randall Wallace we discover that the inspiration for the movie was the stories generated by an ancient Scottish poem about the life of Wallace. But an analysis by modern historian’s show that this poem, as much as any movie, was designed to create a legend rather than explain history

On the poem see Blind Harry’s Wallace: Introduction and Index.

…There are many episodes in Harry’s poem which will never be possible to prove as having occurred. However, there are passages that have been proven false. One example comes from the opening stanza, in which Harry states that Wallace was the son of Malcolm Wallace, yet the letter Wallace wrote to the Hanseatic League after the Scots’ victory at the Battle of Stirling carried Wallace’s seal, which clearly states that he was "Wilelmus Filius Alani Walais" – William, son of Alan Wallace. Harry’s recounting of the Battle of Falkirk, July 1298, provides another example: it is documented that this battle was won by the English side, yet Harry’s version maintains that the Scots had the advantage, and concludes with King Edward fleeing in fear for his life.

Regardless of whether Harry had sources beyond oral tradition upon which to base his poem, and the fact that the poem reads as a biography of William Wallace, it should be considered historical fiction – a long-lived ballad that expresses profound pride in a nation’s patriot hero.

braveheart-3

Blue face Mel – nice idea, but around a thousand years out of place for William Wallace

See also BraveHeart – The 10 historical inaccuracies you need to know before watching the movie

So Braveheart is, one could say, piffle.  Very convincing piffle for some. Compare How accurate was "Braveheart"?

In brief, the history in "Braveheart" is absolute garbage.

William Wallace did indeed lead a rebellion against English occupation in 1296. He won a surprising victory at Stirling Bridge and lost at Falkirk. After his capture, he was tried and executed as depicted. That’s about all that matches history. The rest of the film was inaccurate, grossly distorted, or absolutely made up. I can’t cover it all (and I should have done this when my memory of th film was fresher) but here are some, er, "highlights".

Wallace was portrayed as a poor man who was secretly married right before he got in trouble with the English. Actually, he was a landed commoner with a good education, and in peaceful times he might have been a scholar. All landed men were required to sign the Ragman Roll, which bound signatories in loyalty to England’s King Edward I. Those who refused, like Wallace, were outlawed. In response, Wallace and Andrew Moray organized other outlawed men into an army. Moray was killed at Stirling Bridge and mostly forgotten, and was not mentioned in the film. Wallace was invovled in a romantic relationship, but he was unable to settle down due to spending his entire adult life at war or in hiding. He was with her when the English discovered his hiding place. When they discovered she had stalled them to give Walalce time to escape, she and the rest of the household were killed.

From watching "Braveheart", one would think that Wallace invented the use of spears against cavalry in a moment of improvisation. Everyone in the Clann knows that this tactic is literally ancient. From the film, a viewer would think that these Scottish peasants could find swords and axe heads, but somehow couldn’t manage spearpoints. Also, they didn’t stand in one big mob, but in circular formations called schiltrons, the predecessors of our pike blocks, and a formation Wallace might have invented but certainly perfected. At least they looked impressive with their painted faces, which was indeed a Celtic practice—during Roman times, over a thousand years before.

During the battle of Falkirk, Wallace was shown going into battle against the wishes of the other Scottish commanders. The accounts I’ve seen indicate the opposite, that he opposed fighting then on the grounds that the field did not offer the advantages of Stirling Bridge. It was a neat scene when the Irish troops with the English switched sides as they were supposed to charge into battle, but I never heard of this incident. We also saw the Scottish nobles desert Wallace and ruin his plans right as the battle started, but I haven’t heard of this happening either. The cavalry did withdraw without orders, but the circumstances are unclear, though he might have won with them available. It’s true his hold over the Scottish lords and chiefs was weak. He wasn’t knighted until after Stirling Bridge (quite possibly by Robert Bruce) at which time he was made Guardian, which gave him the power of a king. However, having no land or vassals, his leadership depended wholly upon success in battle. When he lost his luster he was replaced.

In the aftermath of Falkirk came the scene that almost made me yell at the screen. When Wallace goes riding after King Edward, one of the knights accompanying Edward turns to stop Wallace and knocks him off his horse. When his face is uncovered, this knight turns out to be—-Robert Bruce. A great dramatic twist, but why don’t the histories mention Bruce at Falkirk? Most likely he wasn’t there, or else he fought with Wallace but did nothing significant. "Braveheart" portrayed Bruce so villainously that the English chroniclers who demonized him would have been envious. When, at the end of the film, Bruce asks the soldiers at Bannockburn if they will fight for him, he wouldn’t have reason to doubt: they had been following him for years already. I’ll admit having Bruce as narrator was a great idea, but that doesn’t alter my opinion of his portrayal.

Hollywood thinks movies have to have romance, but Wallace and Princess Isabella? I’ve never heard of a princess being used as an envoy, and with such an important mission to boot. I don’t even know that she had gone to England and married Edward II during Wallace’s lifetime. It’s difficult to believe she ever met Wallace or that she was this delicate flower who was ashamed of English cruelty toward the Scots. On the contrary, she had her husband imprisoned and murdered when he refused to abdicate in favor of their son, and she then launched her own invasion of Scotland….

Mel later went on to make The Passion of the Christ, of course…

Another documentary on William Wallace:

Now for something completely different.

Lately I keep encountering in novels and newspapers the idiom “bored of” – which strikes my ear with a very loud cacophonous clang!  When did this happen, I ask?

So I did ask Oxford.

Which of these expressions should you use: is one of them less acceptable than the others?

  • Do you ever get bored with eating out all the time?
  • Delegates were bored by the lectures.
  • He grew bored of his day job.

The first two constructions, bored with and bored by, are the standard ones. The third, bored of, is more recent than the other two and it’s become extremely common. In fact, the Oxford English Corpus contains almost twice as many instances of bored of than bored by. It represents a perfectly logical development of the language, and was probably formed on the pattern of expressions such as tired of or weary of. Nevertheless, some people dislike it and it’s not fully accepted in standard English. It’s best to avoid using it in formal writing.

I trust you are not so bored with this as not to want any more…  Let’s resist it, albeit in vain. BORED WITH! Understand? WITH!

See also Daily Writing Tips.

Perspective

Loved this counterweight to short-termism on the economic front.

AW-friont-420x0

Read the story linked to that graph by all means, but I get enough of a charge out of just looking at the fact that the biggest spenders in recent years were the Howard governments.

Meanwhile, I am of two minds about The Greens still. Today Bob Brown’s exercise in self-canonisation epitomised all that annoys me about him and so many like him.

st_brown-420x0

History is full of this. Gandhi and Mandela went to jail. Martin Luther King was assassinated. Jesus Christ turned up at the businessmen’s tables and look what happened to him. Anti-slavery campaigner John Brown’s ”body lies mouldering in the grave” and suffragette Emily Davidson was killed when she ran in front of the horses at the 1913 Epsom Derby…

So it was that Christine Milne, David Bellamy and I and nearly 1500 others were jailed in Tasmania 30 years ago for getting in the way of premier Robin Gray’s legal bulldozers….

Sadly David Bellamy is now a notorious climate change skeptic, but still and all I do side with Bob’s causes pretty much. Trouble is his article today has that Jesus/Gandhi/Bob thing going that rather makes me puke than cheer. Or am I just an evil bastard. But Bob seems to have been writing on autopilot today and the tone does stick in my craw. It could be called smug. Or puritanical. By some.

He’d have been better off referring is to Bill McKibben 2012/2013 rather than James Hansen 1988 – much as I admire James Hansen.

Robert F Kennedy Jr:           The CEO of Chevron gave an interview this week in which he said that there is really no future in solar, wind and that we should stop subsidizing these industries and that the subsidies going to the industries were grotesque.  At the same day, the National Energy Agency released the numbers for the global subsidies to the oil industry which were $582 billion compared to around $80 million dollars to the renewables industry and this does not include, by the way, the externalities, not the direct subsidies.  The war in Iraq.  The BP oil spill.

Bill McKibben:                 That’s the tax that you throw into the atmosphere for free.  That’s the biggest subsidy of all that we just turn over the atmosphere to them for free.  Your listeners will be pleased to know, I’m sure, that and I’m sure they are fretting about this that in the course of the fiscal cliff negotiations the massive tax subsidies to the fossil fuel industry were preserved intact .  No worries, no tears need be shed for Shell, BP, Exxon at all.  They did just fine as always.

Robert:           Chevron announced a $24 billion profit.  That’s not revenues, but that’s pure profit for this year.  The use of the most profitable industry in the history of humankind of commerce and they are still getting these giant subsidies from governments because of the political clout that they’re able to exercise.  How do we demonize them?

Bill:                 That’s why we’re working very hard on this divestment campaign which is spreading beyond campuses elsewhere.  The first city last week in the country, Seattle, to announce that it was divesting its city funds from fossil fuel industries and increasingly religious denominations are doing the same.  The Congregationists and the Unitarians are leading the charge here.  This is all very good news.  It has to be taken on in a big way and we need more than our small forces at 350.org fighting.  We’re doing everything that we can, but this is the movement of our time and unless we get people fully engaged.  People willing to go to jail.  People willing to spend their lives on it, I’d say our odds are slim.

Robert:           It’s hard working with these pension funds because the oil industry is undeniably profitable for its investors and unlike South Africa which was rather easy to divest in back in the ‘70s, these are the hottest stocks in the world and if you go to somebody who’s managing the pension funds for firefighters or for teachers and they have a fiscal responsibility to the members to make sure that that fund grows enough to pay for their retirement, it’s hard for them to get out of those oil stocks.

Bill:                 Of course the fiduciary responsibility of those guys is to make sure that there will be a way for people to retire and there’s something deeply ironic about investing in stocks in companies whose business plan guarantees that the planet’s going to tank.  It’s at least as ironic as trying to pay for people’s education by investing in companies that pretty much guarantee there won’t be a planet for them to carry out that education on.  None of this is easy.  If it was easy, I suppose we would have done it.  It’s hard.  It’ll be a hard job.  The only thing harder and it’ll be much harder is trying to inhabit successfully and profitably the world that we’ll create if we don’t get to work really soon.

Note also Miners lobbied O’Farrell to pull the plug on legal centre (typical) but also Keep dreaming, boys…..

What can one say of such day-dreaming which, if implemented, would mean every superannuation member in Australia that indirectly owns shares in BHP or other coal-digging companies is suddenly personally liable for climate change? There is a kind of charming naivety and optimism about such legalistic-bureaucratic ‘solutions’ to climate externalities. If only we can punish those nasty shareholders (i.e. most Australians over the age of 30) and finally have proper investments in renewables, all will be well!

But will we really self-destruct the capitalist system by taking away the limited liability construct that has underlain its financing for 400 years? And would full-liability entities (like governments) really do anything different from companies when it came to energy investments in the absence of some world climate police who made them comply with whatever some all-measuring central world committee decided was palatable? Don’t bet on it…

So what you are really looking at is yet another variation of the big world-bureaucracy solution to the climate-change problem, complete with transfer of national sovereignty to whomever decides on how high the externalities are and who is to blame for them, complete with the overthrow of the capitalist system. Keep dreaming, boys, but know this: allowing yourself to live in lala-land by pretending the world political system is yours to dictate does not help the planet’s ecosystem one iota.

On yesterday in The Gong and climate change

Fortunately I have air conditioning. Unfortunately I am a pensioner. But comfort won over the future power bill. In The Gong:

The heat is still on for the Illawarra, with more hot weather predicted for the region, bringing the risk of further bushfires.

Temperatures in the region climbed quickly on Tuesday, doubling between 5am and lunchtime and reaching the forecast 43 degrees.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Albion Park recorded the highest temperature, hitting 43.1 degrees at 1.44pm.

Kiama (42 degrees), Nowra (42.4) and Bellambi (40.1) also broke 40 degrees.

Winds were strong for most of the day, with gusts over 60km/h recorded in several areas.

Bureau meteorologist Jane Golding said the state was in between the La Nina and El Nino weather patterns, meaning more hot weather could be expected in coming months…

Yes, it has been hot before yesterday, and yes, there have been bushfire seasons and conditions before 2013. Just to consider one state, see Victoria. See also my post The bushfire and the Australian imagination.

John Longstaff, “Gippsland, Sunday Night” 1898

But I do believe it is highly likely there is something different right now, and it is captured in two maps.  The first is the most recent world picture from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the USA.

201211

“The average combined global land and ocean surface temperature for November 2012 was 0.67°C (1.21°F) above the 20th century average of 12.9°C (60.4°F). This is the fifth warmest November since records began in 1880. Including this November, the 10 warmest Novembers have occurred in the past 12 years.”

The second rather telling map is in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

art-weather-620x349

To explain:

AUSTRALIA’S ”dome of heat” is becoming so intense, temperatures are off the charts – literally.

When the weather bureau’s model started churning out predictions for next Sunday and Monday of more than 50 degrees, chart producers quietly extended the scale beyond the level previously used.

For now, those days show regions of South Australia with deep purple – indicating 50-52 degrees. As yet, the new maximum scale of 52-54 degrees – to be coloured pink – does not feature.

This IS new.  On Monday Australia experienced its hottest ever day –  measured by the mean of all temperature maxima for that day – since records began, and yesterday, though I have not seen the figure published yet, seems set to make that record short-lived.

Ben Cubby in a very factual article in today’s Herald explains it all rather well.

According to a peer-reviewed study by the Australian-based Global Carbon Project, global average temperatures are on a trajectory to rise a further four to six degrees by the end of this century, with that rise felt most strongly over land areas. It would be enough to tip Tuesday’s 40-plus temperatures over much of mainland Australia close to 50 degrees in some parts.

"Those of us who spend our days trawling – and contributing to – the scientific literature on climate change are becoming increasingly gloomy about the future of human civilisation,” said Liz Hanna, convener of the human health division at the Australian National University’s climate change Adaption Network.

”We are well past the time of niceties, of avoiding the dire nature of what is unfolding, and politely trying not to scare the public,” Dr Hanna said. ”The unparalleled setting of new heat extremes is forcing the continual upwards trending of warming predictions for the future, and the time scale is contracting.”

Around the world, this year could be the hottest ever recorded by modern instrumentation, according to a recent study by Britain’s Met Office.

It said that, based on the rising background warming trend, this year would be 0.43 to 0.71 degrees hotter globally than the average temperature between 1961 and 1990, with a ”best fit” of 0.57 degrees warmer. If that turns out to be accurate, this year would surpass the previous record, held jointly by 2005 and 2010.

The Met Office findings are considered telling in the climate science community, because this year is set to be a relatively ”neutral” year, without a strong El Nino warming cycle to push up temperatures.

The current Australian heatwave, while exceptional, is a continuation of the record-breaking temperatures seen across much of Australia since September, according to the special climate statement issued by the bureau on Tuesday. The last four months of last year were the hottest on record, albeit by just 0.01 of a degree.

”This event is ongoing with further significant records likely to be set,” the statement said.

The weather bureau’s Dr Jones said the background warming was now clearly felt.

”Our oceans are hotter, the tropics are hotter, so any attempt to disentangle climate change from what we see in terms of weather doesn’t make much sense – everything is hotter,” he said. ”There is no alternative world which doesn’t have the fingerprint of warming.”

I really cannot for the life of me see why any of this could possibly be controversial any longer. What may or may not be done about it is, of course, another matter. But, if one is to judge from Loon Pond – and I really can’t be bothered with the likes of Devine on this issue any longer, it appears some still manage to cling to the belief that there is nothing much going on except in the  mind of “alarmists”. I have so often trawled through these waters that again I really can’t be  bothered, but if you insist start at this post.  Every major scientific organisation on the planet and the vast majority of really distinguished scientists have long admitted the reality of both global warming and anthropogenic (or human-affected) climate change.  And guess what: Al Gore really doesn’t figure in that, except as a publicist.

So yes, one summer doesn’t make a global warming, as one day doesn’t make a summer. But if you are inclined to the ostrich position on climate change, I wouldn’t take much comfort from that. The evidence against ostrichism is getting more and more persuasive as our BOM finds itself forced to add colours to its temperature maps!

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From my street last night around 7pm. Temp around 40C.

Oh, in case you wondered: I am not a rusted-on Green. Indeed I related very much to Matthew Da Silva’s post Greens’ deep red heart leaves me politically homeless just now.

Update

See Australia’s heatwave forecast in one animated map.

Consider….

1. You know where you are…

Australia has been inhabited for at least 50,000 years. It was first inhabited by the remote Asian ancestors of the current Australian Aboriginal people. Australia was not discovered by Europeans until the 17th century


1768
Captain James Cook voyage of discovery in the Endeavour

1769
Captain James Cook reached Tahiti on 3 June

1770
Captain James Cook discovers New South Wales and takes possession of the Australian land in the name of Great Britain

1771
Captain James Cook returns to England

1772
13 July: Captain James Cook embarks on the voyage of discovery in the Resolution

1776
12 July: Captain James Cook with the ships HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery look for the Northwest passage but bad weather drives him back to Hawaii

1779
14 February: Captain Cook is killed by natives

1779
Banks suggests founding a convict settlement at Botany Bay.

1783
Plans for the colonization in New South Wales are made in the UK

1788
Foundation of Sydney.

1795
1795-1796: George Bass and Matthew Flinders make voyages in the Tom Thumb

1798
George Bass discovers the Bass Strait and Westernport.

1803
Matthew Flinders circumnavigates Australia.

And so on…

2. Where I now sit there were people living, breathing and walking about 20,000 years ago and more. According to a family tradition I had ancestors among them.

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60,000 years ago:  Age of Lake Mungo 3 human remains (age range between 56,000 and 68,000 years), south-western NSW, 987 km west of Sydney. Footprints discovered at Lake Mungo are believed to be 23,000 years old….

22,000 years ago: Occupation site at Wentworth Falls, NSW.

16,000 years ago: Hearths, stone and bone tools, Shaws Creek near Yarramundi (60 kms north-west from Sydney), NSW. Sea levels begin to rise as ice caps melt. Inland lakes such as Lake Mungo have dried up.

8,000 years ago:  Earliest visible evidence of Aboriginal belief connected with the rainbow Serpent. This becomes the longest continuing belief in the world.

5,000 years ago:  Occupation site, Penrith Lakes (about 50 kms west of Sydney), NSW. Coastline of Australia takes its present form

And so on… Source Australian Aboriginal history timeline.

art-aboriginal-ancient-278

28,000 thousand years old. How many generations of humanity before Abraham is that?

3. All of which makes it very difficult to treat the following with the awe and wonder it may have attracted in the past, or indeed in my own past. How do you reconcile the fact that in light of the above the grand cosmic narrative of the Abrahamic religions looks decidedly less impressive?

4004 B.C.
Creation of Adam and Eve – [Very few accept this “date” as having any connection whatever with anything that really happened in the history of this planet. — NW]


2348 B.C.
Noah’s Flood – [never happened — NW]

1996 to 1690 B.C.
The Biblical Patriarchs lived during this time – from Abraham to Jacob – [totally myth and legend, reflecting certain rather mundane developments in the movements of people and cultures, but having no resemblance to actual history. – NW]

1491 B.C.
The Exodus

1451 B.C.
Joshua leads the children of Israel into the Promised Land

1410 – 1050 B.C.
Time of Israel’s Judges

1050 – 930
First Kings of Israel – King Saul, King David and King Solomon

960 B.C.
Building of the first temple in Jerusalem

930 B.C.
Division of the Kingdom of Israel

930 – 723
The period of the Kings of Israel from Jeroboam I to Hoshea

930 – 586 B.C.
The period of the Kings of Judah from Rehoboam to Zedekiah

840 – 400 B.C.
Period of the Minor Prophets

723 B.C.
The fall of Israel

586 B.C.
Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple

515 B.C.
Temple at Jerusalem Rebuilt

63 B.C.
The Romans occupy Palestine

37 B.C.
Herod the Great is appointed ruler of Judea by Rome

Jesus was born either before 4 BC (when Herod the Great died) or in 6 AD (when the historical Census of Quirinius was undertaken).

jesus1

My childhood vision of Jesus, from one of the several “Uncle Arthur” books that were my primary source of religious imagery between the ages of 8 and 12. Any resemblance to the person born most likely in Nazareth (rather than Bethlehem) around 4BC is totally unlikely. Of course, symbolically…

aboriginal-easter-art

And yet, echoing Justin Erik Halldór Smith:

I know that I am picking and choosing, and that by many standards I’ve failed to meet the requirements of being a Christian. Many, like those with the banners at the sports events, take John 3:16 to contain the core message of the Gospels. I also claim to know what the core message of the Bible is: love and forgiveness (1 John 4:8, 1 Corinthians 13:13, Matthew 5:38), and I claim that there is much extraneous stuff too, which can have little to do with our understanding of the essence of Christianity: the rules concerning marriage, the disregard for animals, the cosmic significance of crucifixion. How do I justify my picking and choosing? Well, who wants me to justify it? The hoarse-voiced goon at the sports match shouting about how Jesus Christ died for my sins? What concern is he of mine?

Those who know me or have read me will probably know that I have often claimed that I am an atheist. I would like to stop doing this, but if I had to justify myself, I would say that it is for fear of being confused with that blowhard with the ‘John 3:16′ banner that I am unforthcoming about what I actually believe. I am infinitely closer, in the condition of my soul, to the people who feel God’s absence– the reasons for this feeling are a profound theological problem, and one might say that it is only smugness that enables people, atheists and dogmatists alike, to avoid grappling with this problem. I am with the people who detect God’s hand, perhaps without even realizing it, where the smug banner-holder sees only sin: in jungle music, dirty jokes, seduction, and swearing. I am with the preacher who puts out a gospel album, then goes to prison on fraud and drug charges for a while, then puts out a hip-grinding soul album, and then another gospel album. I am with the animals, who can’t even read, but can still talk to the saints of divine things. I am sooner an atheist, if what we understand by Christianity is a sort of supernatural monarchism; if we understand by it that God is love, though, then, I say, I am a Christian.

I will be exploring and developing the implications of this post in various ways in the future.

Flying Fox Dreaming–or nightmare?

A year ago I posted “Nightbats” on YouTube.

Well, they have certainly increased since then! See this story, and some excellent pictures, in The Illawarra Mercury.

A flourishing colony of flying foxes at Figtree is driving some businesses and residents batty. It is estimated that tens of thousands of grey-headed flying foxes have turned a patch of bushland just north of the freeway exit into their summer home.

"The smell is overwhelming and they gather at dusk in numbers that completely blacken the sky overhead," said Chris Caroutas from Figtree Cellars.

WIRES bat co-ordinator Sandra Leonard has called for patience, assuring people the flying foxes are crucial to forest regeneration and will move on once the bush food runs out.

But Mr Caroutas said numbers had been steadily increasing each year and so had the stench. "Customers are constantly commenting on the smell, which is not good if that’s the first thing they notice when they get out of their cars," he said.

It has been likened to cat urine, marijuana and lantana.

Hakan Karama from Star Kebab House described the bats as "annoying and smelly". "Customers are always complaining and it seems worse when it rains," he said.

Juliette Fox, an assistant at Pet Barn, said the squealing and flapping did not bother her. "Their numbers have definitely increased but that’s probably because they have been displaced from their natural habitat," she said.

Nearby resident Con Stefanou from London Drive estimates the bats have multiplied 10-fold over the past few years and believes such numbers are unhygienic…

Since I was going shopping at Figtree yesterday I thought I would call in on the bats as I walked by. And the numbers are indeed amazing, something my camera could not really capture.

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Australian poet Les Murray wrote a wonderful poem “The Flying Fox Dreaming” – “finger-winged night workers… Upside down all their days…” They are a significant element in Indigenous culture also, as in this painting by Jimmy Djilminy (2000).

10516

See also a site of questionable authenticity — but nonetheless it may please some – an attempt to do a tarot on indigenous symbols. Very New Age. There is a lot of that around. Nice art work though.

Who remembers the disgraceful Marlo Morgan and her bullshit exploiting Aboriginal Culture?

1996: Dr. John Stanton (Berndt Museum of Anthropology, WA) “said the book contained misleading and damaging information about Aboriginal people” [5]. He was not sure, he said, “whether the damage the book had done to the overseas image of Aboriginal culture, which was complex, diverse and vibrant, could be ever undone.” Morgan promised a written apology, which she actually never produced [6].

Not saying that Wildspeak site is totally doing a “Mutant Messages Down Under” shtick – but one does need to question such things.

This, however, is authentic:

Oh, and after photographing the bats I called in at The Hellenic Club and…

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BUFFET LUNCH
& DINNER
All you can eat with
a combination of
Traditional Greek
and Australian Cuisine