Thursday, 15 December 2011

A panic we do not need

In this article, there is what I would call a rather unnecessary panic over Canada's failure to remain within the Durban Protocol - whose best thing is being located in one of the most fragile of ecosystems that can have something far, far more useful and telling about the issue of global warming. People are suggesting that Canada, one of the worst per capita emitters in the world, is a key issue in the context of global warming and that Peter Kent, a prominent minster in Canada’s Harper government, does not want to extend the 1997 Kyoto targets.

As I have said many times, the 1997 Kyōtō targets reflect no ecological knowledge that Tim Flannery and Tom McMahon showed even before they were signed, and the result is that on a global perspective free markets tend to encourage conservation in the very regions with least need – the very low-diversity, heavily glaciated polar, montane and boreal regions where growing seasons are too short and terrain too steep for economic farming, even though these regions have the advantage of reliable rainfall and that their soils are continuously forming today when those of Australia and most of sub-Saharan Africa have not been forming for 300,000,000 years. For this reason, how nations could panic at Canada's withdrawal when they have done nothing about the constantly rising emissions from Australia is quite ludicrous. If they should panic at Canada, they ought to be invading Australia until the final car and last coal-fired power station within the continent is demolished, regardless of the immense bloodshed that would result.

Reduction in or elimination of government welfare services, industrial regular, farm and fishing subsidies and even environmental regulations in Canada may have the effect of actually reducing per capita and possibly total greenhouse gas emissions since with cheaper housing and more business opportunities families that are at present unaffordable may become more nearly so than anywhere in the Enriched World (though never so much as in land-rich Australia and Africa).

The realisation that Canada, despite its very poor per capita greenhouse emissions, is of peripheral importance, especially with its likely future population decline from a very low fertility rate of under 1.5 children per woman (about 80 percent that of Australia) would be a huge step forward. The only thing I can say about the present reaction is that Canada’s presence, by virtue of its geographical nearness and ecological similarity, is felt much more than the more critical presence of Australia.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Sports market overload and the need for care in proposing relocations

In this article, renowned sports writer David Berri looks at the problem teams in unviable markets have for both the cities that must support them and the leagues in which they work.

His particular focus in on the National Basketball Association, which in recent weeks has been stalled by a recently-resolved dispute between owners and players over revenue, and where one might relocate those teams whose present cities cannot afford to support them. Berri makes a look at those markets without a present NBA team which his data show as able to support one based on the average cost of an NBA team. He compares it with the requirements for the NFL and NHL (slightly higher), Major League Soccer (much lower) and Major League Baseball (extremely expensive presumably due to the epic season length). Whilst given the tiny talent pool of the NBA it is hard to see how an NFL franchise would not be cheaper even with the much larger roster size, it is still a valuable look at the costs involved.

Berri and Arturo Galletti look at:
  1. the income provided by each city
  2. the amount spent by each team on its existing teams in:
    1. The National Football League
    2. Major League Baseball
    3. The National Basketball Association
    4. The National Hockey League
    5. Major League Soccer
  3. they then deduct the cost of these teams from the income to see which cities are overburdened with teams.
The analysis is very revealing and sensible in most areas. The notion that more than one city could support a team is very sensible and more generally applicable than just the Green Bay Packers. The income data are very useful because I have never seen so concise a table with so much data on US city incomes.

There are problems, though. The first is that of relative income or cost of living. It remains revealing to realise that the poorest region of North America is in reality the heavily glaciated, mineral- and land-poor, and snowy New England region, due to the costs of living in a chilly climate. What that does suggest is that cities in that region really have much less money for sports teams than those in hotter regions with same or even lower income. By the same token, cities in the low-cost Sunbelt would on this basis be more able to support teams.

A second factor is that marianismo in outer suburban and exurban Sunbelt areas, as I noted earlier with Australian suburbs, tends to produce a noncombative, noncompatitive culture which tends to be very hostile to competitive professional sport on the grounds of its ethical influence which tends to value extreme hardness and aggression. This factor makes markets like Atlanta and New Orleans very poor despite their abundant population and low living costs, and probably makes other Deep South cities like Birmingham and Baton Rouge totally unviable markets since only the income of a small proportion of the city’s population might support sports teams.

The third is that interest in the various North American professional sports is not evenly distributed. Ice hockey, obviously, is of interest only in the colder regions of the country and has caused problems moving to hotter regions. Gridiron is likely to be of little interest in Hispanic regions where soccer is more popular, but of great interest where Polynesian Americans are concentrated. This factor would rule out many (if not most) possible relocation destinations that would look financially feasible.
In this table, I have isolated all the cities that could potentially support a relocated NBA, NHL or NFL team, since there are such teams as:
  1. In the NHL:
    • Phoenix Coyotes
    • Nashville Predators
  2. In the NFL:
    • Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Minnesota Vikings
    • Buffalo Bills
  3. In the NBA:
    • Milwaukee Bucks
    • Minnesota Timberwolves
    • Cleveland Cavaliers
    • Indiana Pacers
    • New Orleans Hornets
that really have little choice but relocation for their survival. Two of these teams have been “re-possessed” by their league for an indefinite duration as the Sydney Swans were in the middle 1990s after three successive wooden spoons, whilst many of the others, like the Timberwolves, have never been profitable since formation.

The logical choice of the “Inland Empire” of southern California makes sense, but there is the huge problem that government regulations make it difficult for a private entrepreneur to build a stadium to attract an NBA team or even MLB’s struggling Pittsburgh Pirates.

Connecticut may seem easy but is terribly tough due to its high living costs which could easily cut the income in half, along with its cold winters that are certainly a factor in the problems of the Bucks and Timberwolves. Even with the NHL where its cold climate is an asset teams have not been successful in nearby Rhode Island, though a general Connecticut team may do well in ice hockey.

Las Vegas, were the major leagues to lose the fear of its gambling associations, would be a very good choice for relocating a struggling NBA team since it has a large income and a hot climate that because of the paranoid fear of winters that are not warm attracts many people who cannot grasp the ecological costs of living in a hot climate.

There are several choices that were not seriously discussed by Berri or so far by myself, which I will briefly assess:
  1. Richmond and Virginia Beach, both in Virginia. Virginia, if we exclude Washington teams, has no major league franchise, but it has a big population and lacks the extreme marianismo that makes Atlanta a terrible market even with its huge population: that population abhors the competitiveness and aggression inherent in this level of sport.
  2. Louisville, Kentucky is also a possibility on these grounds with similar qualities to the two Virginia markets, and has had success in the ABA before its merger with the NBA
  3. Honolulu would be an extremely good choice for NFL relocation because gridiron’s short schedule would allow long-distance travel and Polynesia is a great centre for gridiron talent. It would be logistically impossible as an NBA market, however, with the long season and distances for teams from the contiguous States.
  4. Austin, Texas would likewise be an extremely good NFL choice since Texas is very much a hotbed for gridiron
  5. San Juan, Puerto Rico as San Antonio is with the Spurs, could be potential single-team NBA market: it has the size and culture to be effective. Tucson and Alberquerque, though more marginal, would also be possibilities in the NBA, though likely to have too little interest for the NFL.
  6. Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington are really marginal and should, owing to their highly atheistic culture, really only attempt to attract one or two NHL teams since that is the most popular sport relative to other cities.
  7. Omaha, Nebraska may be a viable market for gridiron or ice hockey, but that is doubtful since it has been a “failed” NBA market in the past.
  8. Orlando and Sarasota in Florida are doubtful since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Rays and heavily indebted Orlando Magic may be in part supported by these cities (though this would be tougher to calculate than for the Packers).
  9. Allentown, Pennsylvania ; Worcester, Massachusetts and Albany, New York are very unlikely due to the rapid emigration and high living costs which would make a team impossible to support.
  10. Tulsa, Oklahoma is more questionable than it looks because it is on the edge of the the sunbelt with its noncompetitive culture, and has a (very unsuccessful) WNBA team.
I think that sums up the potential of all listed cities. I intend to look at how efficiently teams might be organised in a later post.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A weakness for outside backs

Having a look at a few rugby players on the web for the first time in a while, I foundthis 2008 list of the thirty best players of the past thirty years, excluding those not eligible to play for Australia:
  1. Andrew Johns
  2. Wally Lewis
  3. Brad Fittler
  4. Darren Lockyer
  5. Allan Langer
  6. Mal Meninga
  7. Peter Sterling
  8. Laurie Daley
  9. Brett Kenny
  10. Bradley Clyde
  11. Mick Cronin
  12. Steve Walters
  13. Glenn Lazarus
  14. Steve Rogers
  15. Gorden Tallis
  16. Shane Webcke
  17. Steve Roach
  18. Terry Lamb
  19. Ricky Stuart
  20. Ray Price
  21. Andrew Ettingshausen
  22. Danny Buderus
  23. Jonathan Thurston
  24. Cameron Smith
  25. Graham Eadie
  26. Steve Mortimer
  27. Benny Elias
  28. Wayne Pearce
  29. Nathan Hindmarsh
  30. Cliff Lyons
Although I have not access to enough rugby league footage to tell if this list really is accurate, what I do know about rugby league (the Super League war reduced my interest in the game I must confess) I can state that the main flaw with the list is positional. There is not a single winger in that list; though wingers never win player-of-the-year awards, that should hardly mean they should be omitted.
  • Eric Grothe senior would be the obvious choice to rectify this omission: for one thing he was one of only two players
Also, with fullbacks and centres, the list is not only weak but also places the few in those positions in odd places:
  • Darren Lockyer
  • Mal Meninga
  • Mick Cronin
are all very high given the lack of outside backs in the list as a whole. Then Graham Eadie, though from my limited experience watching the sport the bets player I have seriously seen, is a little too old (he first played in 1971) to be a part of a list covering the period from 1978 to 2007.

As for inside backs, it is hard to see apart from his bad injury record (his last injury-free season was in 1989) how Greg Alexander was not preferred over Steve Mortimer or Cliff Lyons.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Why Australia must be attacked hard and seen as THE priority issue

According to today’s issue of the West Australian, global greenhouse gas emissions have been rising as steadily as ever in spite of efforts to reduce them.

The paper says that, largely owing to the influence of China’s and India’s industrialisation along with that of many countries in Latin America, greenhouse emissions exceed worst-case scenarios despite efforts under the Kyōto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions having been fairly successful in other Enriched World nations. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), however, these emissions were what would be expected.

Whilst the MIT does not provide major projections for the future, demographic data suggest that fertility in most of the nations which have experienced rapid growth will taper off to below replacement fertility and most likely to lowest-low fertility of below 1.3 children per woman. Under this condition, China, India, Brazil and other countries experiencing rapid industrialisation today would cease to have growth in greenhouse emissions. A recent article in The Spectator goes further and suggests that as these nations age they will lose not only their youth but also their working-age populations. Since most of these newly industrialising nations have had highly militant working classes, they are likely to have especially strong environmental movements even with the pollution problems (temporarily in practice) affecting their major cities. India, China and Brazil also are likely to have the same problems with welfare states and the potential for mass emigration that European and East Asian nations do. Ultimately, this could force many working immigrants into the ecologically sensitive land of Australia where no economic restraints on energy consumption exist because of the abundant land and coal reserves.

Such a scenario, which is in fact the logical result of industrialisation because of the precise reversal in resources between pre-industrial and industrial economies, could see the Earth transformed far beyond transforming its atmospheric CO2 levels to those found during most of geological history when climates, soils and ecology were globally akin to Australia and Southern Africa today. Burning all the fossil fuels available could transform the Earth into an extremely hot and even un-habitable planet, rather like Venus with its dense CO2 atmosphere and no water or free O2.

Although such would never be reached before the life-support systems of the Earth were degraded, what is much more likely is that the degradation will begin slowly when it is too late to reverse. Such occurred with Perth’s now-decrepit surface water supplies which require atmospheric CO2 under 300 parts per million to have frequent enough cold fronts to nourish them. It was not until the 1980s that concern about their viability was raised, but by then the damage was done even had Australia adopted a rigid 100 percent rail transport policy. The same could easily happen with diseases of plants and crops or frequently higher crop prices from tropical cyclones in the future.

The real solution, then, is for the governments of Eurasia and the Americas to set aside their differences, make cuts to welfare spending and even on local environment protection and really do something to press Australia for a rigid zero emissions target or to pay fully for the costs of climate change abroad brought about by its emissions. If all the energy devoted to local conservation had been so directed over the past twenty to thirty years, much more would have been achieved in the fight against runaway global warming.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The myth of a Catholic Spain that never dies

In today’s Christian Science Monitor, there is a serious discussion of Spanish protests against the government funding the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. According to the Monitor, the protesters are not anti-Catholic per se, but are arguing that a government that is in terrible financial trouble should not spend up to 100 million euros (132 million Australian dollars) on this when it is making cuts in other areas to deal with a huge public debt.

What is troubling about the Monitor is how it calls Spain “one of the world's most Catholic countries” and says:
“While Spain has been a Catholic bastion for centuries, in recent years the Vatican has clashed with governmental leaders here over the country's turn toward secularism as they have legalized gay marriage, banned mandatory religious education in public schools, and eased abortion restrictions.”
What it does not realise is that for at least eighty years and probably more nearly one hundred and twenty, Spain’s politicians and wealthy classes (especially landowners) have consistently sided with the Catholic Church against the urban working masses over political issues such as religious education and sexual morals. When the Catholic Church was openly campaigning against eugenics in the 1930s, working classes in eastern Spain (Aragon) were strongly campaigning for it and the legalisation of extramarital sex – a legalisation that would have taken place decades earlier than the 1970s if mass opinion in urban Spain had been reflected in the ruling classes. Even when Francisco Franco’s dictatorship tried to use education to promote the teachings of the Catholic Church, it had no long-term, inward effect on a Spanish psyche that was firmly secular, even anti-religion.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

“Tourist” architecture?

By reading a recent post from a rather slyly named website called “adamsmith.org – Europe’s favourite think tank website”, Rod Dreher has argued that one of the reasons for the rebellions that have been taking place in London over the past few months is that modern architecture in the Enriched World has been designed by socialist planners rather than people. The result is that the Enriched World’s population lives almost exclusively in inhuman environments which are exclusively focused on the short-term material wants and give no room for emotional or spiritual development.

Dreher says that people like Jonathan Hale in The Old Way of Seeing say that architects formerly understood “natural” patterns of community that governments pressurised to provide for a working class that would otherwise have voted in outright Marxists. These governments provided what Stephen Masty describes as:

populated by large groups of unsupervised children and teenagers, where peer socialisation can occur between them without the influence of adults.
I can see how such housing systems, typified even in Unenriched Australia by the old housing estates – which look older than they are – leads to people wanting to socialise without any supervision from older people. This is a problem I had as a child: my peers bullied me for bad behaviour which I with hindsight realise I could do little or nothing to correct. The influence of adults would have helped schoolboys realise that they had to work together to

However, my experience of housing in the Enriched World from living in Germany in the Australian summer of 2006/2007 gives an interesting impression: that in fact the growth of mass tourism may be what creates the kind of architecture that people like Dreher are so deploring. For one thing, far more than even Hans Hoppe admits in a brief e-mail I had with him some time ago, tourism in the Enriched World is more often than not a source of extremely selfish and present-oriented attitudes. This is epitomised by the ultra-macho adventure sports that dominate the economies of what before industrialisation were cultures of marianismo where land was used seasonally to provide food and not inhabited during the very cold mountain winters. The tourist apartments I lived in whilst in Germany remind me a lot more of these Italian apartments (from Naples) that any residential architecture I have seen in the Enriched World or the densely populated tropical city of Singapore. Tourism grew extremely rapidly in Europe and Japan during the 1950s and 1960s as a response, perhaps, to the demands of their working classes for more wealth.

Tourist houses will inevitably have a “temporary”, extremely “trendy” feel about them because they serve to house one or a few people for very short periods – and as I said what they seek is a very short thrill of less long-term value that the kind of cultural study I have taken of the evolution of the Enriched World, which looks more deeply at the psyche of these people today as traditional cultural studies biased towards either the past or the desires of conservative ruling classes. The short-term nature of the interaction between tourists and locals who over time have in many places become almost totally dependent upon tourist income undoubtedly shapes the culture of tourism-based Enriched World cities. It is hard to see how this can lead to anything other than an ultra-materialistic culture totally focused upon wealth and money.

As Human Events says:
No. 270 of 365
Ask how come, if liberals are so keen on equality and fairness, they're so much more money-grubbing than conservatives.

According to both the World Values Survey and the General Social Survey, left wingers are more likely to rate "high income" as an important factor in choosing a job, more likely to say "after good health, money is the most important thing," and agree with the statement "there are no right or wrong ways to make money." This was confirmed by Doug Urbanski, former business manager of libtard documentary-maker Michael Moore, who said: “He is more money obsessed than anyone I have known — and that’s saying a lot.”
If liberalism can lead to an obsession with money, it is likely to have worked the other way round in Enriched World cities ever since the Industrial Revolution. Seeing money, as much as mere poverty, has led the working classes of the Enriched World to advocate bigger and bigger government without looking at what motivates them.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Javan rhino extinct on Asian mainland

This year has been a very bad one for rhinos. Poaching, which increased in 2010, has multiplied by about the same amount this year.

Most tragically, following the extinction of the northern white rhinoceros in 2006, the last Javan rhinoceros has disappeared from Vietnam. The species was known before 1988 only from its remaining stronghold in the extreme west of Java, but the a small population was discovered in Vietnam’s Cat Tien National Park. There were even before the current rhino poaching epidemic began grave concerns that the rhinos in Cat Tien were not breeding, but still this news was very surprising since almost all the news about today’s epidemic of rhino poaching comes from Africa or Nepal. In fact, it is popularly thought that the reason for the Critically Endangered status of the Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses is purely and simply the immense destruction for timber and agriculture of Southeast Asia’s forests. However, in reality the Sumatran species at all events is actually much more able than is popularly thought to cope with disturbances in primary rainforest – and a huge proportion of its original range was and is much too steep to farm.

Thus, we are left with poaching for horn as the culprit for these two most critically endangered rhinoceros species – this in spite of the fact that the Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses yield a very small amount of horn and prices for them are not nearly so well-documented as those of Indian and African horn. It is interesting to imagine if rhino horn dealers actually hold stockpiles of Javan and/or Sumatran horn that they do not offer for sale to rhino horn customers even at much more than the typical asking price of $100 per gram for Indian rhino horn??

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Are Rolling Stone’s readers copying Blender?

A few years ago, the now-defunct magazine Blender made a list of the fifty worst songs of all time. The number 1 choice was Starship’s “We Built This City”, a song that was the 66th top single of the 1980s in Melbourne and a staple of my travels in an old XC Ford Falcon to Currajong Special School on the modern 624 bus route.

Now, Rolling Stone, which has probably absorbed a lot of Blender’s readership since the latter magazine ceased publication, has asked its readers to vote for the worst songs of the 1980s. Although as a child I listened consistently to the commercial music of the eighties, since reading Joe S. Harrington I have been completely turned away from it. The list voted for was:
  1. Starship - “We Built This City” (On Rock and Roll)
  2. Europe - “The Final Countdown”
  3. Chris de Burgh - “The Lady in Red”
  4. Wham! — “Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)”
  5. Men Without Hats — “The Safety Dance”
  6. Falco — “Rock Me Amadeus”
  7. Bobby McFerrin — “Don’t Worry Be Happy”
  8. Toni Basil — “Mickey”
  9. Taco — “Putting On the Ritz”
  10. Rick Astley — “Never Gonna Give You Up”
The strange thing is that according to those who reported on the list, “We Built This City” was nominated as the worst song by a huge margin, and that the reason it was so hated was not the song itself, but the fact that so many fans of Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick’s former band of the 1960s, did not want her singing stadium rock which was designed only for commercial success.

in fact, I have never found “We Built This City” anything like so bad as Jefferson Starship’s other songs of the 1980s like “Jane” or “No Way Out” which were less successful but far worse examples of “We Built This City”. All the other songs on the list, however, really are very bad, and most are staples of these lists with at least three being repeats from the 2005 Blender list. The similarity with “We Built This City” and the more-deserving “Mickey”, “Don}t Worry Be Happy” and “The Final Countdown” is so striking I really wonder if the readers took their cues from it.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Greenhouse sceptics as a carryover from Stalinism in China?

Today in the Sydney Morning Herald, there is some strange news that it is not only Australia where greenhouse sceptics have tremendous political influence. I outline in the link the fact that greenhouse sceptics are more often than not ordinary working people who would suffer a great deal from serious moves to reduce greenhouse emissions and believe adaptation is cheaper and more efficient than mitigation. The trouble with this view is that adaptation is very likely to make the problem worse, especially in a nation like Australia possessing a surfeit of fossil fuel resources.

What the Sydney Morning Herald is surprisingly showing is that in formerly Stalinist China, despite privatisation and extremely rapid economic growth, greenhouse sceptics may have more influence in academia than they do in Australia:
"Global warming is a bogus proposition," says Zhang Musheng, one of China's most influential intellectuals and a close adviser to a powerful and hawkish general in the People's Liberation Army, Liu Yuan.

Mr Zhang told the Herald that global warming was an American ruse to sell green energy technology and thereby claw its way out of its deep structural economic problems.
According to another Australian source, Zhang is a "left leaning" intellectual. If this is remotely true, it suggests that for all its rapid economic growth, China remains in many ways a fundamentally Stalinist nation whereby the interests of a dictatorial ruling class dominate despite growth of a type Mao Zedong could never have wanted or even imagined. What the ruling class of China will do in the future is an interesting question given the country's demographic decline as outlined by The Economist in Graysia a month ago. It may make it hard for China to adapt new technology, especially with such an old population and extreme scarcity of flat land. China is also turning to the much-discredited policy of farm subsidies to stabilise its economy: Beijing now pays more in farm subsidies than even France or Germany. As I outlined with Japan here, this may be a key cause of its low birth rate since removing farm subsidies would permit construction of affordable housing.

Still, once China's population falls into free-fall, one cannot say even a China that lags behind Europe in efficiency is a threat to the planet's ecosystems as an Australia with a pacified working class and a surfeit of fossil fuels.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Name changes that are silly beyond belief?

Time magazine this week has made a list of the top ten most absurd name changes.

Whilst I have loved to note name changes and even love to use the phrase g.k.a. (generally known as) for a pseudonym and to refer to a person by their real name, I have rarely laughed at the use of pseudonyms, even though I know that in some spheres of sport and religion changing names is mandatory for those of high rank.

Time's list was:
  • Lisa Bonet to Lilakoi Moon
  • Ol' Dirty Bastard to Big Baby Jesus
  • Caryn Johnson to Whoopi Goldberg
  • Mark Duper to Mark Super Duper
  • Mark Sinclair Vincent to Vin Diesel
  • Ron Artest to Metta World Peace
  • Prince to a Symbol
  • Steven Demetre Georgiou to Cat Stevens to Yusuf Islam
  • Puff Daddy to P. Diddy to Diddy
  • Chad Johnson to Chad Ochocinco
Of these, I can easily see a great deal of merit and reasoning in all Time's inclusions with the exception of Cat Stevens, for the simple reason that if Stevens was converting to Islam then there is every reason why he should want to change his name as the Islamic faith in its strictest forms requires him to do so.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A traditional home night

Last night, despite the absence of my brother in Singapore, was a traditional party night for our family when the Brownlow Medal was counted. Although for the past couple of month I have been under an awful daily rhythm whereby I get to bed at 2:00 and do not get up until 12:00, am often not washed and dressed before 13:00, am frequently not out to do basic jobs like checking my post office box or buying essential meal supplies until 16:00, and typically back home for dinner at 21:00 or three hours after my mother has cooked and eaten it.

The Brownlow count, like few other events, motivated me to do something to change this habit, so that after a stint in the State Library, I hurried quickly home with traditional party chips, pies and sausage rolls. An excellent Bolognese sauce was cooked for me - though I cooked the spaghetti myself since my mother prefers to have it on toast when I am not home at 17:00. After that, I rested for an hour and when I came down to cook the pies and sausage rolls the Brownlow count had already began.

When I sat down - rather awkwardly I will admit because of the angle I had to view the television at - I was disappointed at the early rounds because the long-familiar method of reading had been changed and the votes were being read at generally too fast a speed. There was also a somewhat erratic manner in showing this early footage and, as is so often the case with sports broadcasting these days, too much emphasis on overblown, noisy music to try to add drama to the skills of the players. With a clear eye I can see how this drama makes footy more appealing and exciting to casual fans, but it does the game discredit in my eyes since it tries to make the game more aggressive and violent when footy should be a game of skill above all else.

A result of this was that when people like myself became eager to see whether a player near the top had won votes after his team was announced, there was less suspense than in previous Brownlow counts. A lot of ridiculous and irrelevant time wasting about developing footy overseas - environmentally ludicrous given footy requires a surfeit of land only the southern and western states of Australia can provide - would have been better replaced by slow and more relaxed reading of the votes. An alternative was to provide more and better footage of the games where Brownlow votes were taken - the would have been enough space for nine games as we will have from next year with good footage if all irrelevant program material were deleted - even perhaps for slow motion highlights.

At first, I told my mother I was not enjoying the Brownlow count, but later, even as she politely declined more than one pie or any sausage roll as part of the party, I found it fascinating. As a number of rank outsiders like Andrew Swallow and Matthew Boyd obtained considerable numbers of votes, I noticed for the first time in watching Brownlow counts that North Melbourne have had the second-longest Brownlow drought in the VFL/AFL, not having won for twenty-eight years. Though Boyd and especially Swallow faded out, Hawthorn's Sam Mitchell attracted constant attention as he led the count for most of the night despite being ineligible due to a one-match suspension. there was no precedent apart from Chris Grant of the Western Bulldogs in 1997 for an ineligible player obtaining nearly so many votes as Mitchell did. Moreover, the highlights became better-broadcast and I came to enjoy watching it even if I was generally lolling about the fragile couch to get a good view.

Another twist that made the night fascinating was Gary Ablett junior reaching twenty votes for newcomers Gold Coast even though they received the wooden spoon. No player for a wooden spoon team had received twenty votes since Gary Hardeman of Melbourne in 1974, when votes for teams losing a game were much more frequent due to the lack of scrutiny during the count.

Then, when Mitchell finally faded there was the surprise of Nick Dal Santo winning 3-vote after 3-vote during St. Kilda's form recovery. My mother being a strong Saint fan, she was really excited at a Dal Santo Brownlow making up for a disappointing year for the Saints, but by Round Twenty, when I was really enjoying the count, it seemed clear that he had little chance as the familiar and expected name of Collingwood's Dane Swan received votes in most of the games he was predicted to. Moreover, the suspense returned as Collingwood's and swan's unbeatable form his a peak from the early August matches, and he received votes even when the Magpies got an expected scare from Brisbane.

As a finale to a day that delivered more than it promised, Swan received in the end more votes than any other player, and I, utterly tired, managed still to watch him receive the award. It was really exciting, though, to hear the discussion of Swan's record.

Friday, 9 September 2011

What the list says about Australia

It is unfortunate that I forget the site from which this 2011 list of the best Australian albums of all time was taken. However, I still feel I should have some sort of look at it as I had planned to do a long time ago.
  1. Odyssey Number Five – Powderfinger

  2. Frogstomp – silverchair

  3. Back in Black – AC/DC

  4. The Living End – The Living End

  5. Kick – INXS

  6. Internationalist – Powderfinger

  7. Apocalypso – Presets

  8. Wolfmother – Wolfmother

  9. Since I Left You – The Avalanches

  10. UNIT – Regurgitator

  11. Like Drawing Blood – Gotye

  12. Guide To Better Living – Grinspoon

  13. Crowded House – Crowded House

  14. Vulture Street – Powderfinger

  15. Slightly Odway – Jebediah

  16. The Hard Road – Hilltop Hoods

  17. Eternal Nightcap – The Whitlams

  18. Woodface – Crowded House

  19. Innerspeaker – Tame Impala

  20. Conditions – The Temper Trap

  21. 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1– Midnight Oil

  22. Diorama – silverchair

  23. The Calling – Hilltop Hoods

  24. Sunrise Over Sea – The John Butler Trio

  25. Get Born – Jet

  26. Hourly, Daily – You Am I
  27. Neon Ballroom – silverchair

  28. The Cat Empire – The Cat Empire

  29. The Sound of White – Missy Higgins

  30. Themata – Karnivool

  31. Down the Way – Angus & Julia Stone

  32. Universes – Birds of Tokyo
  33. Diesel and Dust – Midnight Oil

  34. Memories & Dust – Josh Pyke

  35. Hi Fi Way – You Am I

  36. In Ghost Colours – Cut Copy

  37. Highly Evolved – The Vines
  38. A Book Like This – Angus & Julia Stone

  39. Birds of Tokyo – Birds of Tokyo

  40. Echolalia – Something for Kate

  41. Double Allergic – Powderfinger
  42. East – Cold Chisel

  43. Freak Show – silverchair

  44. Tu-Plang – Regurgitator

  45. Sound Awake – Karnivool

  46. Walking on a Dream – Empire of the Sun

  47. Black Fingernails, Red Wine – Eskimo Joe
  48. Ivy and the Big Apples – Spiderbait

  49. Whispering Jack – John Farnham

  50. The New Normal – Cog

  51. I Believe You Liar – Washington
  52. Murder Ballads – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

  53. Three – The John Butler Trio
  54. Tea & Sympathy – Bernard Fanning

  55. Blue Sky Mining – Midnight Oil

  56. Bliss Release – Cloud Control
  57. The Honeymoon Is Over – The Cruel Sea

  58. New Detention – Grinspoon

  59. As Day Follows Night – Sarah Blasko

  60. We Are Born – Sia

  61. Hold Your Colour – Pendulum
  62. Cruel Guards – The Panics

  63. Grand National – The John Butler Trio

  64. Polyserena – george

  65. Cold Chisel – Cold Chisel

  66. Running on Air – Bliss N Eso

  67. Flying Colours – Bliss N Eso

  68. The Experiment – Art vs. Science

  69. Gossip – Paul Kelly and The Coloured Girls

  70. Young Modern – silverchair

  71. Beams – The Presets

  72. Beautiful Sharks – Something For Kate

  73. Highway To Hell – AC/DC

  74. The Overture and The Underscore – Sarah Blasko

  75. Living in the 70s – Skyhooks

  76. Human Frailty – Hunters & Collectors

  77. Immersion – Pendulum

  78. Lovers – The Sleepy Jackson

  79. Gravity Won’t Get You High – The Grates

  80. (I’m) Stranded – The Saints

  81. Feeler – Pete Murray

  82. Up All Night – The Waifs

  83. Wonder – Lisa Mitchell

  84. 16 Lovers Lane – The Go-Betweens

  85. State of the Art – Hilltop Hoods

  86. This Is the Warning – Dead Letter Circus

  87. A Song Is a City – Eskimo Joe

  88. Imago – The Butterfly Effect

  89. Pnau – Pnau

  90. The Long Now – Children Collide

  91. Gilgamesh – Gypsy & The Cat

  92. A Man’s Not a Camel – Frenzal Rhomb

  93. Moo, You Bloody Choir – Augie March

  94. Everything Is True – Paul Dempsey

  95. Stoneage Romeos – Hoodoo Gurus

  96. Paging Mr. Strike – Machine Gun Fellatio

  97. Begins Here – The Butterfly Effect
  98. The Boatman’s Call – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

  99. Thrills, Kills & Sunday Pills – Grinspoon

  100. Two Shoes – The Cat Empire
On the whole, it is very hard to say much abut this list for the very simple reason that I know so little about most of the albums in that list. Powderfinger, who top the list, are a band I have always disliked since first hearing them on Triple M as a young Melbourne University student, and Silverchair are a band I have hated ever since hearing many times awful songs like “Pure Massacre” (which I heard as “New Mexico”) and “Israel’s Son” - though they have actually disowned Frogstomp today.

When one looks at Australia’s comfortable, conservative culture, it is hard to with hindsight see ultra-macho AC/DC as being part of it. They really were a part of the European rock scene that lived in Australia, though some aspects of their music - its very basic rock and roll character - are Australian. INXS have not held up that well with age since Hutchence’ suicide in 1997, and the Presets are totally retro even in the middle 2000s. Those artists lower down on the list are mostly “alternative” rockers whom I have come to realise really are not properly an “alternative” to the mainstream of the post-grunge era. Critics outside of Australia have never remotely been attracted to these groups even though they are generally not without experience of Australian music.

When one looks through the rest of that list, one sees more than anything that Australia’s extremely high “connectedness” or natural unity leads to a stifling conformity even with the incentives of perhaps the freest market in the world. Newspapers have long notices Australia’s lack of distinctive music - I recall such being noted by The Age in 1996 - but the cause is never considered.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Culture mod and pop music linked? I am not sure at all.

My brother - firmly established in singapore and just as well since recent rainless weather is almost certainly where Melbourne will be forever headed - sent me today an article by "Elliott Wave" that aims to show how popular culture is related closely to swinging economic fortunes, based on a 2009 study by USA Today.

The argument is that the angry mood of the late 1970s "punk revolution" reflected the way in which markets were collapsing due to stagflation, and the same with the Bush Senior Era's rap revolution.

On the other side, the "Oh, wow, I feel great and I love everybody" sentiment of the 1960s is seen as reflecting the long boom since World War II. Author Susan C. Walker even extends her idea before rock even existed, arguing that the atonal music of Bartok reflected the downturn from World War I and the Great Depression. To me, that is unlikely; rather atonal music - which is wrongly seen as rebellious I think - may reflect the highly sensual culture found in developed sectors of the Enriched World during the 1920s. "The Waste Land", with hindsight, was a reaction against the materialistic excesses that some saw as philosophically responsible for the colonial struggles crucial for producing World War I. (The same is basically true of, say Patti Smith's decadent mysticism in the late 1970s which combines almost-religious tones with extremely sensual poetry). Another big problem is when they say:

Some darker rock bands even get back together when the mood sours. AC/DC hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 2008, and The Sex Pistols returned to the concert circuit after the Dow peaked in 2007.

they fail like so many to recognise how AC/DC and the Sex Pistols were anything but dark. Rather, they were about trying to eliminate all rationale for restrictions on hedonistic pleasure as hand existed in Western culture since Christianity. Their music was celebratory like no other bands before: to the point of celebrating violence. It is more likely that the period between punk and the Bush Senior Era reflects the rise of the Baby Boom Generation and its frequently hedonistic and extremely selfish attitudes. If these have been repressed by commercial radio since the Bush Senior radicals faded, they could come back if later generations are equally selfish and not because of economic factors.

Are people in agreement with me about music?

As a whole, I have always found it tough to agree with what the public says about music, even though I have been a music listener for a long time.

When in 1995 I heard of Triple J being a major source fo new Australian music, I was suspicious because I hated the aggressive noises which formed a wrongly and badly stereotyped vision of "alternative rock" for me for almost a decade.

10. 4 Non-Blondes, "What's Up?"
I have never liked this one: its drearily annoying lyrics and syrupy hard rock sound really stands as terrible

9. Right Said Fred, "I'm Too Sexy"
Have no definite recollections of this song at all, but cannot imagine it beging great after the techno/dance style music of the 1990s I did hear

8. Baha Men, "Who Let The Dogs Out?"
If I recall correctly, I would have to agree with this one even more than the previous two

7. Celine Dion, "My Heart Will Go On"
Not as offensive, perhaps, as the others, but even more syrupy.

6. Hanson, "MMMBop"
Not as bad as the previous four, to be frank, and not as bad as songs by Corona or The Real McCoy I did hear, but still has no substance at all

5. Chumbawamba, "Tubthumping"
This is one I never recognised from its title in the day but now do see as an utterly awful song, distinctly worse than any of the previous five. Despite having an interest in anarchism myself, I do not see any message exept partying here.

4. Vanilla Ice, "Ice Ice Baby"
Though it became awfully unfashionable soon after ceasing to be a hit and I have not a single memory of it on the readio thereafter, I do not find this one as bad as the previous two - which does not mean it's remotely good or has redeeming qualities!

3. Billy Ray Cyrus, "Achy Breaky Heart"
If anything, I would say this huge it is worse than what Vanilla Ice did the previous year. Though in the cloistered suburbs I saw nothing of the Bush Senior era cultural revolution, I never liked "Achy Breaky Heart".

2. Los Del Rio, "Macarena"
Now we have an utterly awful song! Probably the line "return of the Mac" was the single song that had the most decisive effect in turning me awya from contemporary hits even before I was seriously exposed to songs that I though went "I kill you"/"What's that gonna change" which in an environment where people nearly murdered me with a heavy rock naturally made me think of as awfully dangerous to young kids who at times confessed to watching Double Dragon, saying "Double Dragon is rated R"!

1. Aqua, 'Barbie Girl'
It's hard for me to say this is nearly the worst song I have ever heard, but it really is rather childish and, as my mother once said when she thought Triple J played songs saying "you must have big (expletive)" and that Triple J was designed for 11- or 12-year-olds, I cannot sympathise with the message.

However, I feel as if Rolling Stone's readers have not recalled a few songs at least that were worse than most of those here:
  1. TISM "Shut Up, The Footy's One The Radio" - one of the most awfully noisy songs trying to commercialise a sport that had no need for it
  2. Corona, "Rhythm of the Night" and The Real McCoy "Love and Devotion" - the most utterly tuneless noise for a spoiled generation (of course I'm much worse so maybe it makes no difference)
The odd thing is how I hate every song listed by music listeners whose experience since I first read Joe S. Harrington a decade ago a so vastly different! It's as if, even if I had no understanding of music history and saw no seriousness in listening as I hope I do now, I still could see something even in the 1990s!

How costly will climate change in the Enriched World be?

Although for years I have emphasised the cost of man-made global warming in the fragile environment of Australia and the dreadful failure for the past thirty years of Australia’s ruling classes to act as if they were interested in maintaining the value of Australia’s environment by preventing greenhouse emissions with a rigid one hundred percent renewable energy policy, I have always thought the impacts on the Enriched World (and even the Tropical World) would not be of any importance.

However, Time this year has shown that the effects of climate change even in the robust environments of North America have the potential to be serious. Last month, when there was still hope for good rains that have been quashed by a bone-dry spell in Victoria that I would rather believe will last forever, Time published an article about drought in the American South and Southwest that made me suspect climate change’s effects could be felt in areas with greatly higher runoff ratios and essentially zero (as against 200-400mm in southern Australia) runoff thresholds. Evidence of extreme patterns of dryness and wetness in the US, as can be seen from last “year”’s rainfall data by state and district, is as with Australia in recent years proof that carbon emissions are chnging the climate immensely.

The way in which the eastern part of the affected region has been affected by a hurricane and flooding is perhaps a suggestion that in the future the American South may acquire the rainfall variability of a tropical region, which as those who understand Central Queensland (which does not even include people in southern Australia) will know, can have drastic effects. At the same time it is these very regions (actually in the hottest parts of the Enriched World) which are gaining people through their more hospitable (less masculinised) cultures as regions further north lose people to high living costs, big government and glaciation-generated lack of mineral resources. A potential problem in these regions is that as hotter regions become drier or harsher, market reforms in cooler regions (which invariably have little land and hence no economic agriculture) could force more production onto hot regions that have even less water than before anthropogenic global warming.

Such a change could make global warming even worse if hotter regions resort to coal-based desalination, since they will either lose soil nutrients from erratic tropical rainfall or become even drier and have to irrigate more with less – and there are limits to what can be done here because crops cannot withstand heat above a certain point. This gives a good reason to try to farm in cooler regions for the future and to try to get around the huge governments: it could mean a lot for the world if sustainable demographics return in cooler regions even without the extreme living standards.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Anti-elitism does not mean anti-competitiveness; Human Events wrong again

No. 232 of 365
Pick a fight with a liberal on:
ELITISM.

Liberals believe in egalitarianism. They don't often get called on it, though, because no one bothers to defend elitism—but you should. Ask a liberal, “So you really disapprove of competition and hierarchy and achievement and want everything to be equal do you? Well, answer me this, if you were president and you needed a handful of troops to do a delicate, dangerous job, who would you turn to—a unit of racially and sexually and disability diverse troops or the elite: Special Forces, Navy Seals, Delta Force? When you watch football, assuming you're willing to watch something so violent and competitive, do you want to watch the elite, the best of the best, the professionals who made it to the NFL on the basis of their talent and training, or a United Nations coordinated rainbow coalition of teams drawn from men and women from around the world to make it a truly global unisex game? Or suppose you needed serious surgery, would you prefer the operation to be done by a surgeon with years of practice behind him, drawn from the elite of the medical profession, or by a deserving recent immigrant, selected for the task as a result of the new Obamafair™ social justice program designed to boost the self-esteem of low-skill workers while simultaneously combating society's sexist, racist, elitist hegemony?”

This is a familiar argument from the Right against the radical egalitarianism of the Left which they think so consistently undermines all incentive for achievement. The case study is problematic in an odd kind of way: whilst the Left really want equality of outcome, they equally love competition in the most aggressive manner possible.

The relationship between these goals is at first sight hard to see, since equality of outcome would rule out activities where one gender and some races (e.g. Asian-Americans and Native Americans, owing to their light bones) are at the most extreme disadvantage. However, even before the radical masculinisation of the Enriched World during the 1970s and 1980s, it is noteworthy how the most violent sports, like ice hockey and gridiron, were popular in the most socialistic and egalitarian regions like Scandinavia and the Pacific Northwest. This does suggest that aggression, even hypermasculinity could be inherent in the whole idea of socialism - and if you believe Hans Hoppe, in democracy itself.

The whole idea of showing the world that America is the best or the biggest seems to attract the attention of liberal leftists. At least showing that America can equal Europe and East Asia in environmental sustainability and income equality seems to be a goal.

The problem with this whole idea is the very notion that most people are attracted by these things. In fact, the government spending and taxation required for these things, especially in a country which is fairly well-endowed with coal and other fossil fuels does not attract migrants or investment. Russia’s restrictive government in its resource-rich Far East is a good example. Trying to encourage noncompetitiveness and harmony, which require a limited government, actually is much more conservative than the reverse.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Understanding the British riots and the decay they symbolise

Ross Douthat, a commentator I have had links to for some time but have not seriously read until now, has recently provided a devastating critique of the welfare state culture that has swamped almost all of the Enriched World over the past ninety-five years.

He argues quite strangely but not unrealistically that even those who see the riots as a logical response to government austerity programmes à la Green Left Weekly or Socialist Worker: they are not defending government programmes, but are arguing instead by rioting that they fear that the specialty goods they seem desire greatly to symbolise their individualism may not be available if the government cuts welfare spending.

The quote:
“A street of shuttered shops, locked playgrounds and closed clinics, a street patrolled by citizens armed with knives and bats, is not a place to build a life”
tells exactly the same story as Richard Nisbett does about culture of honour in the inner city. As I have emphasised before, an industrial Britain has the key pre-requisites for a culture of honour if government is absent:
  1. glaciation of most of Britain has deprived it of the essential mineral resources
    • fossil laterites in glaciated areas suggest strongly that before the ice sheets came northern Europe had essential industrial minerals but soils akin to the infertile soils of Australia and Southern Africa today
  2. mineral resources (or at least their products like cars and so many technological gadgets) tend to be portable so that theft is not difficult. This is especially true of the electronics and boutique clothing that angry masses tend to target as Victor Davis Hanson shows.
  3. without government or with the police ineffective the masses would have to regulate law themselves, and with scarcity of resources prevalent the prevailing means of doing so is by force
Both these viewpoints suggest that they key issue is that the masses of Britons really care about little more than having the most fashionable goods - a tale on instant gratification gone beserk that explains why long-term stability has been confined to the isolated suburbs of Australia and to a decreasing extent Red America where the influences of the radical individualism preached by businessmen is least.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

More than materialism: envy

In a telling post - actually from 2002 but revealed to me only today and still resonating with me - Rod Dreher has shown the troubles the demographically crippled Netherlands faces with a culture dominated by hedonistic atheism.

Dreher argues in essence that the culture of the Netherlands is living on capital from a time when Christianity was the dominant force and encouraged people to work for a living. He argues that the libertine, militantly atheistic hedonism that has overwhelmingly characterised the Boom Generation has led to the country importing migrants and weakened the work ethic that allowed the Netherlands to become a wealthy country.

Whilst I cannot deny these claims - indeed I feel that the response of the secular left should be not to deny them but to twist them to their own advantage as I have often demonstrated with environmental policy elsewhere in this blog - there is certainly more to it than just libertine hedonism. It is materialistic envy of the knowledge that so many companions are moving to a country that in the short to medium term offers them a much more comfortable and cozy existence at apparently no cost whatsoever. The result is that people in Europe - even more today as the inefficiency of using any of their land for a purpose for which it was more nearly designed than any other land in Earth's four and a half billion year history (intensive production of food) - want to have everything people in land-glutted Australia and Red America receive naturally for little effort.

For this reason most of Europe's working masses have for a century and a half campaigned constantly to be given whatever wealth they can by government, whilst at the same time they have bought inventions of dubious long-term value as far as maintaining a demographically sustainable culture.

Meanwhile, Europeans have never become as comfortable as Australia, Red America, or in some ways even the extremely poor people of sub-Saharan Africa which has the same glutted land supply. The lesson that Europeans really have to learn is that they should not desire this because they live in a land endowed with a gift immesurably rarer (in geological terms) than a glut of land or minerals.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

An urban dead sea?

In today’s issue of Time, there is a story of how the excessive use of the Jordan River has reduced the level of the Dead Sea by as much as twenty-seven metres since 1980. It also says that the extraction of potash for the making of fertilisers has contributed significantly to this reduction, which almost rivals that of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Whilst the rains of 2010 and 2011 have eased the problems with the Coorong at least for the moment, in southwestern Australia the situation has got creepily bad to say the least. So altered is Australia’s climate by global warming that in the year from April 2010 to March 2011 the lowest rainfalls were as far south as Corrigin in the heart of the Western Australian wheatbelt.

The map presented here from the Bureau of Meteorology shows that if we make our judgments based on the location of the area of lowest rainfall, then Australia’s rain belts have shifted about eight degrees poleward from their pre-anthropogenic-global-warming location (represented by the year from April 1955 to March 1956 with similar positive SOI values for realistic comparison). Most of the rainfalls observed in the super-monsoon belt today have no parallels even during the wettest years before man-made global warming took over. However, this is not likely to create new species very quickly: it is simply likely to expand monsoonal vineforests at the expense of tropical grasslands. Monsoon forests occur when there are wet and dry seasons and the wet season is longer than the dry season, a situation observed definitely in Darwin today when the wet season of 2010/2011 broke the pre-anthropogenic-global-warming record by a whopping 780 millimetres, or thirty-one inches – more than the average annual rainfall in most of Australia.

The result has been that Perth’s water storages, and indeed all rivers in the southwest of Western Australia, have become the same thing as the Dead Sea. Moreover, because in the pre-anthropogenic-global warming age southwestern Australia’s rivers – even if clearing for grain production made those in drier areas saline – were able to support life, the loss stands much, much larger. The western swamp tortoise has already survived artificially for thirty-five years – its existence depends on levels of runoff not seen in southwestern Australian rivers since 1974 when the CO2 level was 100ppm lower and climatic belts about eight degrees closer to the equator.

Ian Smith, the main CSIRO climatologist, has said that the same trends have occurred in the Middle East, though I do not have rainfall data to say how they compare with what is observed in southwestern Australia. Still, if there is anything in common between them, then we really are faced with the need to restrict water use in hot climates. The trouble is that it is much more economic to farm in hotter climates than in cooler ones because:
  1. more crops can be grown per year, so that even if yields per single crop are lower, total yields on the same amount of land can be higher
  2. higher-value crops can be grown in hotter climates than in cooler ones since the most valuable crops – which of course do not grow naturally in large numbers – are in the more biodiverse hot regions
This creates serious economic problems since cool climates tend to be much less fragile and less greenhouse-intensive to live in than really hot ones. (Even though properly cold climates require large amounts of energy for heating, they always have reliable hydroelectric power to produce it, which hot climates rarely do). Nonetheless, the need to avoid the disasters that have already occurred within an expanding tropical belt is something that really should worry people in cool climates who are willing to realise that a major focus on global environmental concerns means growing local even if it means a less high living standard.

Monday, 25 July 2011

How the tsunami has revealed a crisis

According to today’s Bangkok Post, the March tsunami has actually had the serious problem of exacerbating the demographic crisis that has been hitting Japan over the past thirty years.

Whilst the statistics are familiar, what is new is the fact that Japan, despite its exceptionally high population density from the richest fisheries in the Earth’s geological history, and its reputation for encouraging older people to continue working as long as they are physically able to do so, is suffering from an acute labour shortage that will only get worse as the proportion of its population of working age declines by fifteen percent over the next forty years.

The remedies offered, however, really do not look at the problems of Japan’s land scarcity or even the issue of whether government spending is the cause of Japan’s appallingly low fertility, especially with the extreme scarcity of usable land to complement its super-rich seas. Although Wendell Cox says:
As for agricultural subsidies… they would not be the cause of higher housing prices, in my view, unless they block the construction of housing. The subsidies themselves are unlikely to raise the price of land sufficiently to make it too expensive to purchase for home building.
firsthand experience in Japan certainly does suggest to me that agricultural subsidies, which encourage part-time farmers to remain working on very small plots with low-value crops like rice, are blocking the construction of housing that would alleviate Japan’s high prices and most likely increase its birth rate at least somewhat. I have not researched this question myself, but the extent of Japan’s farm subsidies is such that one can doubt Wendell Cox’s claim: rice prices are set orders of magnitude above the world level and imports are very severely restricted. Still, the long-term consequences for Japan of industrialisation are at the same time:
  1. more severe than other Enriched World nations due to the country’s lack of flat land for its large population
  2. very different because, like the rest of East Asia it has the paradox that:
    1. like the polar regions, much of its economy was dependent on fishing rather than agriculture
    2. but owing to the humid, hot summers it could grow at high yields crops designed for hot climates
This has profound effects on Japan’s post-industrial demographics, because the ability of fishing to support communities without demographic decline is in fact weaker even than farming. Even in the cold and rich North Pacific, fisheries cannot compete economically with extensive pastoralism as a protein source, no matter what Martin Taylor might say about government aid to Australia’s pastoralists. Thus, it would take a lot of thought to see how to make Japan’s main natural resource valuable enough to allow for family formation and encourage a less materialistic culture. This is especially true when one considers that the ethos of East Asian culture has been less hostile to materialism than Christianity.

The terrible dilemma for Australia

Yesterday’s Age had the depressing note that the carbon tax - however inadequate and misguided it is - is going to be overthrown most likely at the next election, with Labor’s primary vote down to a record low 26 percent and Gillard’s preferred Prime Minister down to 39 percent. Most of this is clearly over the issue of a carbon tax - which like the far more efficacious mining tax that cost Rudd his job, is a too-late effort to deal with Australia’s dreadful greenhouse gas emissions.

It is rather pointless to think what Australia will be like under Abbott in the long-term future, but simple demographic shifts to growing outer suburbs do point to the potential long-term demise of the Labor and Green parties, whose support is very dependent upon low-fertility academic communities in the inner city. With the carbon tax eliminated and threats to mining company power gone, Australia’s still-unexplored mineral resources (on left-wing political websites one never hears of any new mineral finds or of campaigns to stop proposed exploration abroad) will be able to carry out such greenhouse-emitting steps as:
  • coal production in the Namoi Valley
  • oil exploration in Ningaloo Reef
  • underground coal gasification in the Flinders Ranges
Taken together, these will increase Australia’s advantage in terms of cheap and abundant energy, and raise further the discrepancy in fertility between the car-dependent suburbs and the less conservative inner city (representative of the rest of the OECD). What this will mean over the long term is:
  1. that Australia’s carbon emissions continue to rise as its cities develop into some of the largest in the world by area and even population
    • it has been forecast that both Sydney and Melbourne will be among the five largest cities in the OECD by 2050 as larger European cities decline
  2. that as countries elsewhere in the world shift under scarcity and political pressure to renewable energy Australia retains an abundant supply of fossil fuels to fund its population at energy efficiencies possibly even lower than today
    • especially since a hotter climate means higher household energy use from air conditioning
  3. that the often-ridiculous laws being implemented (such as the recent fatty food tax in Hungary) in the Enriched World serve further to encourage migration to the very national that ecologically can least afford it.
  4. that even if Abbott really is serious about his criticisms of excessive immigration, that his opposition to artificial birth control can be enforced to produce higher birth rates as it cannot in the Enriched World.
    • thus, Australia’s birth rate, which at present is higher than that of other OECD nations but not exceptional, could easily become the highest outside sub-Saharan Africa under Abbott
    • thus, Australia’s already excessive population could well grow even more rapidly than demographic models currently predict, even as the declines in Eurasia, the Americas and New Zealand precede as expected
  5. if this is the case, Australia would be able to maintain its present very high electricity and fuel consumption without having the problems of:
    1. importing fuel or electricity
    2. excessive housing prices from a lack of flat, unfrozen land
The problems for Australia’s already endangered soils and ecosystems this likely scenario poses are severe to say the least.

Even if the vastly increased rainfall over the arid interior, which the super-monsoon has already brought, does bring increased pastoral yields in the short term, there is no likelihood this can continue because once rainfall reaches 900 millimetres per flood season, soil fertility will necessarily decline from the intense leaching of the cracking clays upon which the pastoral industry originated.

In the former winter rainfall zones of southern Australia, the situation is even worse. Even if the super-monsoon brings significant October to April rainfall to the southeast, the likely loss of the peaty soils through this super-monsoon rain will mean much lower runoff to rainfall ratios in the alpine catchments like the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Goulburn, Snowy, LaTrobe/Thomson and Yarra, as I show here. In southwestern Australia, anthropogenic global warming has, if we use 2010 streamflows as a guide, reduced runoff by an astonishing ninety-six percent. Even rivers such as the Warren which before anthropogenic greenhouse emissions flowed year-round would become dry streambeds that would not flow even after rare heavy storms should this scenario eventuate. This illustrates a deadly effect of Australia’s old soils: vegetation of wetter climates can actually absorb enough water under anthropogenically reduced rainfall to cause runoff reductions that would not occur under an extraordinarily rare natural drought. Only when the vegetation of drier climates moves to southwestern Australia would occasional heavy cyclonic rains (like April 2008) produce significant runoff.

These threats are terrifying - as much as the pathetic response of ordinary Australians to the small long-term costs of the mining tax. Similarly terrifying is how Europe and China mingle over their own emissions without realising that in the long term there is a far more pressing threat even if they can achieve zero emissions.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

My prediction for the 2011/2012 Rock Hall ballot

For the past two years, I have during each winter predicted what artists will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following summer and autumn. I will admit my predictions have been terribly wrong: for both 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 I got a mere two candidates right. Still, I feel as though I should continue making these predictions since I enjoy learning from the debates that result and from people with more experience dealing with the influence of important rock artists - which I never saw during my cloistered childhood in suburban Melbourne.

The 2011/2012 Rock Hall ballot is highly notable because of its critical quality for backlog artists who have been seriously considered for some time but have not been elected in or even reached the ballot. In 2012/2013, a number of critical artists of the radical Bush Senior era (the rap revolution) become eligible and for a number of years I have strongly felt 2012/2013 shall see more newly eligible artists than any year since the “punk revolution” class of 2002/2003, when the success of newer artists became rather constrained by the conflict between critical reputation and the stiflingly restrictive policies of major labels and commercial radio, which punk produced in the US.

There is at this stage not the slightest evidence that any artist newly eligible for 2010/2011 was ever discussed by the Nominating Committee. 2011/2012, however, I have always seen as having two artists certain to be considered very seriously in Guns‘n‘Roses and Soundgarden. Both of these groups were key artists in the late 1980s heavy rock scene: Guns‘n‘Roses recycled the scariest moments of rock, whilst Soundgarden made heavy rock more melodic than anyone before without losing emotion. There is also Salt‘n‘Pepa, whom Digital Dream Door said deserved it but of whom I have no belief they could be inducted before rappers on the current backlog, especially as they lack credibility in critical terms. Eric B and Rakim are a little better respected critically but are also unlikely to get in before backlog rap artists.

In looking at the 2011/2012 Rock hall ballot, I will assume the Nominating Committee is not going to allow any further artists on the ballot as it has been doing lately. The effect of key Bush Senior Era artists starting to become eligible will not really be seen until 2012/2013, and my predictions are for the following fifteen artists to make the 2011/2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot:

- Chuck Willis: A long-praised pioneer rhythm and blues artist with hits “C.C. Rider”, “Betty and Dupree”, “Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes” and the number nine “What Am I Living For”, Willis may be undergoing a major revival that ought to see him on this year’s ballot. He influenced Buddy Holly and Otis Redding in later years.

- Joe Tex: Nominated for the fourth time in 2010/2011, Joe Tex’s vocal style has been seen by many as a precursor to the spoken-word vocals of rap. He was not commercially successful until a decade after he first recorded, but in the late 1960s Tex was a key performed in the soul arena and it is likely he will keep getting chances until induction.

- The Five Satins: In the shuffle of vocal groups, the Satins, chiefly known for “In The Still of the Night”, should have a strong chance of making the ballot for the first time. They defined the meaning of “doo wop” with their chief hits “In the Still of the Night” and “To the Aisle”, and influenced many later vocal groups.

- The Moody Blues: The first progressive rock group - later like so many to have overblown pop hits after the “punk revolution” tightened up record company and commercial radio playlists - the Moody Blues seem likely to have a chance this year after Genesis were inducted for 2009/2010. They have often been critically derided but writers like Mark Prindle suggest this is less general than I thought.

- Donovan: The second long-eligible artist to be nominated despite never having been seriously discussed by the Nominating Committee after Leonard Cohen in 2006/2007 and 2007/2008 (inducted), Donovan has long been seen by outsiders as deserving of the Rock Hall due to his success as part of the psychedelic Zeitgeist in the 1960s, although he has not retained a great critical reputation and has recorded only four albums since 1976.

- Captain Beefheart: His death, if we look at the history of reappraisals of dead rock musicians, could well help him to get onto the ballot after having been for a long time considered without a nomination. His disciple Tom Waits’ 2010/2011 induction would give Beefheart a much better chance of getting in the Hall if he is nominated than I thought beforehand, too.

- Laura Nyro: Being a big fan and a semi-regular at her sites, I need to be careful, but despite the reasonable and severe criticism of her nomination by Sampson, it does seem likely that her influence - which is I must admit concentrated outside the mainstream of commercial and critical success - seems to be seen as strong enough to keep her on the ballot whilst the Bush Senior era revolutionaries are ineligible. It may not be enough to get her in whilst she has her chance, but so original an artist would be most welcome in the Hall.

- The J. Geils Band: One which seems likely more because of the enormous support from Dave Marsh, Steve Van Zandt and Jon Landau than because of their critical or even commercial reputation, the J. Geils Band (actually fronted by Peter Wolf who later had a solo career and co-wrote “We Built This City” with Bernie Taupin) are widely rumoured to be a frontrunner for 2011/2012 induction so I cannot leave them off despite their lack of influence and not even a single Grammy for their popularity.

- KISS: One group on the Rock Hall backlog which has had a lot of pressure in its favour, KISS have often been seen as unlikely. However, their immense commercial success in the 1970s and their essential role in the development of pop metal makes KISS an important part of rock and roll history.

- Chic: More critically respected (and in my own experience more listenable) than most acts of the disco era, Chic have been, like Sabbath and the Stooges, consistently on the ballot but opposed by a sufficient number of voters to prevent them from getting in. It seems that in this circumstance it is almost impossible for an artist to be fully rejected, so Chic would have to be likely.

- The B‘52s: New Wave is one genre of substantial popular support which I have not otherwise catered for on this ballot, and the B‘52s, as the most commercially successful act form that genre not in the Hall of Fame, have a good chance this year. Although their true leader was keyboardist Fred Schneider, it would be interesting to see how the presence of two women affects their chances.

- Afrika Bambaataa: The most important hip hop pioneer with their song “Planet Rock”, Afrika Bambataa have long been the only artist first eligible in 2005/2006 to have had a chance. He may not be well-known to the general public beyond his signature song, but that signature song, which was number two hundred and thirty seven on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 songs, is sufficient to make his place in rock history and give him one nomination already. Another seems surely likely.

- The Beastie Boys: Essential as one of the first artists to popularise rap despite being the only significant white rappers until Eminem emerged in the 2000s, the Beasties are also of critical importance in the way in which their sampling of metal groups like AC/DC paved the way for the link between metal and rap that is an often overlooked part of the radical Bush Senior era culture. They were nominated in 2007/2008 and 2010/2011, so it would be predicted the Beasties will appear again this year.

- The Red Hot Chili Peppers: As one of the premier modern rock acts, the Chili Peppers were nominated in 2009/2010 but missed out in 2010/2011. However, it would be hard to see them not having another shot in the near future, despite the fact that the Nominating Committee membership, now better known than before, does not have anyone under forty who might have been exposed to more modern genres of music.

- Guns‘n‘Roses: Although extremely derivative in their musical style, Guns‘n‘Roses were critically and popularly praised during the late 1980s for recycling the scarier moments of the Rolling Stones and 1970s Aerosmith. They attracted a lot of controversy in what was to be a highly controversial age with the cover of their mega-selling album Appetite for Destruction, still acclaimed as one of the best heavy metal albums ever. Their reputation as recyclers of what the critics who make up the Nominating Committee see as the essence of rock give them a strong chance.
BUBBLING UNDER:
If the fifteen artists listed above fail to make the 2011/2012 ballot, it will likely by because one or more of the following artists gets on:

- The “5” Royales: On the ballot in 2001/2002 and 2003/2004, the “5” Royales are the most famous of the doo-wop groups so beloved of the Nominating Committee that have not actually made it. Another chance may well be coming.

- Dick Dale: A commercially unsuccessful guitar god, regarded as the prototype of the whole persona, I have tended to see Dale as a left-field choice for the Rock Hall backlog for some time. With no genuine guitar gods on my list, this may provide Dick Dale with a space of his own.

- The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: Described as the inventor of jamming in a rock context with their eleven-minute “East West” and eight minute “Work Song”, Butterfield and his band have already reached the 2005/2006 ballot despite never reaching the Top 50 on Billboard, which shows the influence they had in the following few years. Another nomination for somebody so influential on hippie jam bands is not improbable.

- The MC5: After the Stooges and the Velvet Underground, the MC5 are the third in a trio of critically lauded underground bands who were the ancestors of the “punk revolution” in the late 1970s. Nominated in 2002/2003, the induction of the Stooges has not yet given their Detroit brethren another chance, but it may soon.

- Deep Purple: Often thought of as a very bad snub by the Hall, the problem with Purple is the small output of their classic Mark II lineup and the number of personnel changes they have had. If it could be decided to induct only the Mark II line-up they would have the most genuien chance.

- Jethro Tull: If as happened in 2010/2011 the Rock Hall in the absence of newly eligible candidates chooses to put one from deep in the backlog, Tull would have a strong chance. The presence of a small number of instantly recognised monuments from early in their career (“Living in the Past”, “Bungle in the Jungle”, Thick as a Brick, Aqualung) may help them over arguably better qualified candidates.

- The Last Poets: Will the movement towards the beginnings of the Bush Senior era and the rap revolution lead to a re-consideration of a key prototype of hip-hop, who reached number twenty-nine on Billboard with their first album but did not draw attention until rap’s influence became obvious? Maybe, I say, given the way Rolling Stone has focused on rap to much criticism in recent years.

- Donna Summer: The most successful act of the frequently derided disco era, Summer has already had many nominations without an induction. Such a situation has been observed ever since the Rock Hall was first created to ultimately give all but the oldest artists (who thus might not be known to younger voters) a certain pass into the Hall.

- The Cure: An artist who may be passing into favoritism if there is any turnover in the Nominating Committee, the Cure even as it is have a lot going for them as the first “alternative” (I can testify from record stores in the 1990s) group to reach genuine mainstream status.

- Janet Jackson: Although eligible for some time, the way in which Donovan was considered from obscurity last year makes one wonder whether, with her first acknowledged album Control reaching its twenty-fifth anniversary this year, the Nominating Committee might wish to re-consider the most commercially successful singles artist in the US over the late 1980s, 1990s and 2000s?

- Soundgarden: The first prominent grunge group, with a unique sense of melody, lyrics that symbolise the Bush Senior era, and a rhythmic complexity that distinguished them from other bands in the genre, Soundgarden have long had critical and commercial respect but the question of whether they are too “metal” for those in the Nominating Committee looms large over their certain credentials.