Wandering blind

It is unfair I know, but I couldn’t help but wonder at my more boganish neighbours who drank their way through the Christmas-New Year period starting about a week before Christmas. The dedication has to be admired, I suppose, but I personally find this as thrilling a prospect as devoting myself to watching paint dry or my toenails growing. Here they sat in the Bates Motel pissing on making of the place a prison and a wall separating them from the quite ravishing beauty just over the wall and round the corner –  celebrating their own personal Groundhog Days again and again and again.

What they were missing out on:

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Life is far too short, people. Look around you!

smiley-happy005Good stuff in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

  1. Eric Jensen: Age of the Amateur with reason in retreat
  2. Ben Cubby:  La Nina brought a cool, wet year but trend is still up
  3. Sergey Radchenko: China’s iron grip on past impairs future on world stage
     
     
     

This post has no title…

Mixed bag today.

Pics of South Sydney – for Trevor

September 2009

Food for thought

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Linked to Ruth Pollard’s story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald

Refugees and asylum seekers

Worth noting:

REFUGEES are increasingly settling in regional towns and filling labour market gaps, according to a major study on the impact of the 700,000 refugees accepted into Australian society.

While refugees find it harder than other migrants to gain work in the short term, the situation improves over time.

They are more likely to become business owners and have highly educated children who suffer far lower unemployment rates than the broader Australian community. The University of Adelaide study, commissioned by the federal government, tracked the fate of both refugees and their Australian-born children.

It highlighted that refugees provided a bigger ”demographic dividend” for an ageing population because they are younger than other migrants and a high proportion arrive as children who will go on to work all their lives in Australia.

The report also found refugees are more likely to be helping dwindling rural communities and labour shortages, with one in five refugees moving to regional towns this year, compared to just 11 per cent in 2004…

Since 1978, Australia has accepted 438,000 refugees. The report found they had made a ”distinct contribution as entrepreneurs”, probably because there were more likely than other migrants to be risk-takers and take up opportunities.

Unemployment was found to be ”substantially lower” among refugees who arrived as children.

More than a third (36.5 per cent) of refugees don’t speak English on arrival, creating ”a very significant barrier” to finding work. The phenomenon of ”occupational skidding” – where refugees are unable to find work that matches their skills and qualifications – was blamed on discrimination in the workplace.

The extent to which Australia’s job market can be hostile to migrants was confirmed in a recent Herald/Age investigation of Iraqi interpreters who were evacuated and resettled in Australia in 2008 after working for Australian troops. Only nine of 223 adults reported finding full-time work, even though well over half the group have university or other tertiary qualifications.

The new report concludes: "It cannot be doubted that discrimination in the labour market is still in evidence. The initial years of settlement of humanitarian settlers are often difficult and intensive in the use of government-provided support.”

Memory stirred

Saturday, April 19, 2003

By 1984 I was back at work, but not in teaching. In travelling about distributing copies of the magazine Neos, within the limits my continuing agoraphobia allowed, I visited a number of bookshops, including a small one, Harkers in Glebe. I got to know the proprietor, a young man who was to be the Liberal Party candidate in the Federal Election that year. I put a proposition to him about an English Teachers’ Book Club, pointing out that thanks to my experience in schools and at the University of Sydney I had good contacts. He bought the idea and employed me to work in the shop six days a week, and to run the Book Club.

The Club really worked, by the way, being the only part of the business that was making a profit by mid 1985, not the proprietor’s fault as he was caught by the floating of the Australian dollar and made a significant loss on the American text books he was importing in quite large quantities for the University and other specialist markets; his profit margins had been cut to the bone to compete with his more established competitors, and though we sold books hand over fist, when it came time to pay for them the drop in the Australian dollar against the greenback took all the profit.

So the business eventually failed, and by that time I could go back to teaching. But I am grateful to Harkers for the experience and the work. The Book Club, or a version of it, though now run by an ex-colleague from Sydney University, continues in modified form as part of Gleebooks and also of St Clair Press.

Thanks to this employment, and to my friend Nina, I moved during 1985 from Glebe to Chippendale. Nina decided she needed a pied-a-terre in Sydney for her theatre and restaurant going, bridge competitions, and Communist Party meetings, so she agreed to share the rent. It was the most luxurious accommodation I had ever had, an enormous two-bedroom apartment in a warehouse conversion in Buckland Street. It had a master bedroom almost as big as the unit I now live in, and a space-age bathroom with spa.

It was also, though I did not know this, very close to a gay bar, known as Beau’s, formerly the Britannia Hotel. As the Britannia it had a formidable reputation. Those who have seen the docudrama Blue Murder will have seen it, as just a few years before it had been the meeting place of Roger Rogerson and Warren Lanfranchi, and it was in a nearby lane that Lanfranchi was gunned down. It’s transformation into a gay venue was something of a wonder with which many of the locals coped very well. The hosts when I first went there were David and Rene; David was about 20 (I’m not joking) and Rene was maybe ten years older, though he didn’t look it.

It was in Beau’s that I first really “came out.” But more of that next time.

The links in that may or may not work!

Point is that in Buckland Street our neighbours in a rather amazing penthouse were couturier Mel Clifford and journalist Alan Mackenzie, a spectacular gay couple indeed. We had never met anyone like them before. This is the Buckland Street apartments:

Today I note an obituary for Mel.

… Melrose Clifford was born on October 21, 1934, in Echuca, Victoria, the youngest of eight children of Walter Clifford and his wife, Daphne Lloyd. He was named after the aviator Jimmy Melrose, who landed his plane nearby in a terrible storm on the night the baby was born, greatly impressing Daphne. At the age of three, Mel decided to go to school with his older brother Gus and also began tap-dancing lessons.

At 14, he completed his leaving certificate and was persuaded by the family to take a job in a bank. The legacy of his year at the bank was exquisite copybook handwriting.

During this time, Madame Bodenwieser’s ballet company came through town and Clifford immediately knew he had discovered the life he would pursue. He fled to Melbourne and at 16, joined the National Ballet school…

He moved to Sydney in 1966 [from the UK] and fell in love with the place. Robert Helpmann became the associate artistic director and Clifford began a fruitful relationship with the great designer Kenneth Rowell. Then he began to work for the Australian Opera and designed the costumes for Turandot.

At that time, Sheila Scotter was the editor of Australian Vogue and was on the board of the opera company. Knowing of Clifford’s interest in fashion, she proposed that he design and make evenings dresses for six singers in the company, which she would feature in Vogue.

The Vogue spread was so successful, it led to another major change in his life. He returned to fashion full time and began running his own business.

For the next 35 years, he concentrated on designing and making clothes for the best-dressed women in Sydney. As well as the cricket uniforms for Packer, he designed a tennis and golf range…

Rather amazing life.

We’ve just had a cool May

Official summaries for the globe and for Australia will no doubt appear soon.

For the globe visit State of the ClimateGlobal Analysis – that’s April 2011 but you will find May easily when it is posted.

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Note the obvious. In April (as in May no doubt) it was cooler in some parts, but much warmer in others…

Our BOM has a good climate data set. Even I get the point of these maps.

The first represents my lifetime; the second the past 30 years.

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But you still get buffoons telling you the world has been cooling since 1998 or 2000… 

Look, I am really quite conventional. I accept the reality of climate change and the high degree of likelihood that this is currently anthropogenic for much the same reason that I accept evolution, plate tectonics, that HIV causes AIDS and a whole lot of other things. Most reputable scientists and all peak scientific organisations say that’s where the truth lies, as best we can tell. In the case of climate change I have been appalled, when I’ve looked closely, at how threadbare and ideologically driven so many of the so-called sceptics prove to be, convincing as they may be to great scientists like George Pell, Alan Jones or David Flint.

But I do agree there is crap on the “other side” too. I’m not a radical anarchist’s bootlace or a hippie’s Indian shirt. I don’t live in a commune. I think some of what I recently read in AdBusters is barking mad. I refer especially to their referencing and quoting a grade A nutjob called Pentti Linkola. According to a fansite this Finnish “deep ecologist” advocates some things that are even scarier than global warming.

Linkola is one of the few voices who advocates:

1) No immigration
2) Downsize population
3) Kill defectives
4) Stop rampant technology

In the eyes of the most credible sources, planet Earth can sustain a half-billion humans without any sizable destruction of our habitat, or any loss in species or stability of our ecosystem. Any numbers higher than that, no matter how much they recycle, will cause environmental chaos. The modern leftist-tinged environmental movement is terrified of telling anyone that they cannot breed and keep buying whatever strikes their fancy, but someone must do this in the future. The sooner we do it, the fewer people in the future will be left without a means of sustenance and thus require termination.

As Linkola himself has said, "We still have a chance to be cruel. But if we are not cruel today, all is lost."

Sorry, that’s just crazy stuff.

Better is the non-peer-reviewed Australian science magazine Cosmos. A recent editorial:

IT’S TIME FOR a reality check: climate change is not the biggest threat to the planet. It does not threaten all life on Earth. It’s not even the end of humanity.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most authoritative assessment of global scientific opinion, estimates that – if we continue with business as usual – mean global temperatures will rise by 1.8°C by 2100 at the low end, and 4.0°C at the top end. Sea levels are estimated to rise a mean of 28 cm at the low end of estimates, and a mean of 43 cm at the top end.

Yes, these forecasts are fraught with varying levels of certainty and uncertainty, but are the best estimates from the best minds. And because the IPCC’s reports are produced by consensus, it is more likely that these estimates conservative rather than exaggerated.

But even the worst-case scenarios are not going to “kill the planet”, as some of fringe environmental groups argue. They are not going endanger all life, not are they going to see the end of humanity.

SIR NICHOLAS STERN, in a report on the economics impact of climate change for the British government, estimated that a ‘business-as-usual’ approach would – at worst – lead to a permanent reduction in per capita consumption of up to 20%.

That’s going to hurt, but it won’t destroy modern civilisation: global GDP grew by almost 3,700% during the 20th century, and per capita world GDP rose by some 860%.

Yes, it will lead to increased drought, crop failure, disease and extreme weather events. The rise in sea levels is more worrisome: half of the world’s people live on or near the coast; in some countries (eg. Bangladesh, population 164 million), nearly all the land area is within a few meters of sea level.

Hence the political, economic and humanitarian consequences may be localised, but nevertheless large-scale and disruptive to global societies: how will rich nations concerned by asylum seekers react when tens of millions of people are displaced and search for a new home?…

There are very few existential threats to life on Earth: sterilisation of the planet’s surface resulting from a nearby gamma-ray burst, and the ignition of a nearby hypernova, come to mind, and are all unlikely.

Even doomsday scenarios of global nuclear or biological warfare and pandemics will not kill everyone.

In fact, it’s hard to think of a plausible collapse in which our species is wiped out or incapable of rebuilding civilisation.

HERE AT COSMOS, we have argued for science as the basis for rational discussion, and that critical thinking is a priceless tool we need apply to important public policy and societal decision-making.

So while we support the scientific consensus on climate change, we heartily dismiss exaggerated claims of an impending apocalypse. It’s the sort of zealotry that undermines the rational case for taking action against climate change.

Even the destruction wrought by a devastating asteroid collision 65 million years ago did not extinguish life; in fact, it made the rise of mammals – and eventually humans – possible.

New evidence suggests that impacts may have been necessary for the formation of life in the first place.

It’s an interesting new take on an old story. It makes me think of Earth as an anvil on which life may have been shaped by what author Arthur C. Clarke once poetically called ‘the hammer of God’.

There is truth in that. But see also Shooting the messenger and Australian scientists take a stand on climate.

The planet will indeed survive. After all for most of its existence it didn’t support any life at all and got on fine without it! Whether our grandchildren like what we have passed on to them is a different matter. So far we’ve done very badly at minimising our descendants’ difficulties. And we’ve missed a vital bus just in the last week:

… If present trends of a 1.5–2ppm annual increase in CO2 levels continue, there is little chance of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations at 450 ppm. This would only result in a 50% likelihood of limiting global warming to 2C. Climate scientists say it would be necessary to achieve stabilisation well below 400 ppm to give a relatively high certainty of not exceeding 2C.

Two degrees is the point that scientists consider to be the threshold for "dangerous" climate change which, once passed, will leave millions exposed to drought, hunger and flooding.

"It’s not too late to stop dangerous climate change if the world acts now – and fast. We need to save energy, reduce demand, and develop safe and renewable alternatives to polluting fossil fuels," said Mike Childs, head of climate at Friends of the Earth.

The new CO2 peak comes as 189 countries prepare to resume the UN climate talks in Bonn. No final agreement is expected this year because of continuing disagreements between rich and poor countries but progress is expected to be made on reducing emissions from forestry and securing cash to enable the poorest countries to adapt their economies to increasingly severe climatic events.

Last Monday’s Q&A depressed me: it confirmed how banal, how pathetic, our pollies are on the issue these days, and how fatuous the public “debate” has become. I agreed with Joe:

JOE HILDEBRAND: Look, I’d like say, gentlemen, yeah, look, can I just say you’re both wrong. The only – the only feasible – you talk about socialising the cost. (Indistinct) sequestration we don’t know if there’s even the capacity for it to work to the extent it would need to to properly offset emissions and it would be a subsidy to polluters or, you know, industry as other people call it. The other question, though, of providing a carbon tax while at the same time just using that to subsidise people for higher power bills seems to me to just be just taking a giant pile of money and setting fire to it, pardon the analogy. The only real way that you can have a genuine process on climate change – it’s what everyone is doing overseas – is to have a proper emissions trading scheme that provides incentives for big polluters to throw their money. They’ll be forced to give their money to renewable energy companies and alternative energy companies. It’s what they’re doing in Europe. It’s what they’re doing everywhere that it works in some states in America. It’s what the Brits are doing now to the nth degree. It will probably involve nuclear and I know that’s a scary word for a lot of people but it’s the only feasible way.

The fact that both major parties are having a debate over this yin and yang of just half assed stupidity on both sides is just unbelievable in a modern democracy.

Too true!

I haven’t been watching any of the Royal Wedding lead-up coverage

Instead I have turned the TV off and watched some DVDs instead, and propose to continue to do so.

However, I did watch The Queen in Australia (1954) again. Such a wonderful time capsule of the Australia of 1954 when I turned 11. I will watch the wedding itself, if only because I do like Westminster Abbey pomp and circumstance – and I do like Prince William.

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I wouldn’t have bothered with the smart-arse version of the wedding on ABC-2 anyway, or with any of the commercial channels, but it seems we now have something to beat our breasts over:

Just two days before Prince William and Kate Middleton are due to tie the knot, ABC TV has been forced to cancel The Chaser’s one-off live coverage of the event due to what it says are restrictions imposed by the royal family. The Chaser’s Royal Wedding Commentary was due to air on ABC2 from 7:00pm AEST on Friday, offering viewers a satirical take on the royal wedding. But now the live special – promised to be "uninformed and unconstitutional" – has been reluctantly pulled due to restrictions imposed over the Easter break.

ABC TV was initially advised by the BBC, and subsequently by Associated Press Television News (APTN), there were no coverage restrictions that would prevent The Chaser’s wedding commentary.

But new conditions of use issued by APTN over the Easter break state footage cannot be used "in any drama, comedy, satirical or similar entertainment program or content".

ABC TV director Kim Dalton says he is disappointed…

The Chaser’s Julian Morrow says the team accepts the ABC has been put in an "impossible position by people acting on behalf of the royal family". "For a monarchy to be issuing decrees about how the media should cover them seems quite out of keeping with modern democratic times… but I suppose that’s exactly what the monarchy is," he said. "It’s traditional for the condemned to appeal to the monarch for a stay of execution, so that’s what we’re going to do. Unfortunately it’s also traditional for people who appeal for clemency to be executed."

Morrow says the move goes against free speech.

"It seems a bit crazy for the royal family to be trying to dictate the way they get represented in the media," he said. "It seems a bit out of step with a modern democracy, but I suppose royalty is out of step with a modern democracy, so there you go."…

I really am considerably less outraged, though no doubt the freedom to exhibit bad taste and terminal smugness is worth sticking up for… On either side I suppose.

Honestly in my old age I am finding it harder to discern just what essential freedom has ever been denied me by the fact we have a shared head of state who lives somewhere else. I even include the sacking of Whitlam in that – after all, we did get to vote. And Malcolm Fraser is these days on the left of Julia Gillard!

See:

Compare Jim Belshaw’s Monarchy, republics & the royal wedding.

The Dowager Empress’s wake

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See Requiem for a Dowager Empress.

Death Is Nothing At All
Henry Scott Holland

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
whatever we were to each other
that we still are
call me by my old familiar name
speak to me in the easy way
which you always used
put no difference in your tone
wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together
pray smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
without the trace of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
it is the same as it ever was
there is unbroken continuity
why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you
somewhere very near
just around the corner
All is well

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For those in the flood areas

Brisbane people had some better news overnight.

The Brisbane River has peaked below five metres, but authorities are still warning there will be widespread devastation.

Police say the river reached 4.6 metres – almost a metre lower than the historic flood of 1974 – and will remain at major flood levels until sometime tomorrow.

Floodwaters, however, have still inundated dozens of suburbs and turned the centre of the Queensland capital into a ghost town.

More than 25,000 homes have been totally or partially flooded in Brisbane. Initial assessments based on the 4.6-metre peak will mean 11,500 residential homes have been fully flooded.

The worst-hit suburbs are Brisbane City, St Lucia, West End, Rocklea and Graceville, while 116,000 homes across south-east Queensland are without power.

Given the amount of water has been greater, it would seem that the Wivenhoe Dam has pretty much done well.

My photo blog is a City Daily Photo blog. I thought today I would look at others in that group who live in the worst affected areas.

1. Daily Brisbane Photo

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2. Brisbane Daily

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3 Clarence Valley Today (NSW)

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Thanks to those bloggers. Our thoughts are with you and all those affected.