No Illusions Notes – 16/06/2011

In the news today…

  • WikiLeaks Haiti: The Earthquake Cables – The Nation has some background (via Wikileaks) on what was happening in Haiti after the earthquake. Remember all those troops that the USA sent in with the excuse of “security”? Well it turns out the US troops weren’t there at the request of President Préval or the Haitian government. They might have been sent to protect the assets of US manufacturers with operations in Haiti. Or, just as likely, they were there to prevent a revolution against the US-backed puppet government of President Préval. As I discussed in NIP05, the US has a long history of over-throwing Haitian Presidents who don’t tow the US line, such as democratically-elected Jean-Baptiste Aristide who was ousted in a US-backed coup in 2004. Interesting quote: “But other countries carried out rescue and medical relief efforts without the presence of military troops. For example, in the six months after the quake, the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade, a 1,500 member contingent of doctors who graduated from Cuba’s medical school, treated 70,300 patients, and performed more 2,500 operations, all without deploying soldiers or bringing in weapons, according to a Henry Reeve Brigade report in June 2010.”
  • Bitcoin – A Scam? Or Brilliant? – An interesting analysis from various people (some pro-, some con-) about Bitcoin. Worth reading if confusing. Still trying to get my head around Bitcoin. Had to stop running the app yesterday as it was totally taking over my CPU. (HT @willozap)

No Illusions 23 – “Atomic” Rod Adams on Fukushima

As I mentioned on episode #22, Rod Adams (@atomicrod) is a self-professed nuclear energy “obsessive” since 1981. He writes at the Atomic Insights blog and has produced the Atomic Show podcast on TPN since 2005. He chatted with me tonight about Fukushima – why the risk to human health is extremely small, how it’s different from Chernobyl, what to do with nuclear waste (see ‘Traveling wave reactor’ below) and his theories on why we’re seeing so much hysteria about it in the mainstream media.

Shownotes:

The nuclear accident underway in Japan does not raise doubts about the safety of nuclear power, and calls to abandon it altogether are just another example of the strange irrationality that surrounds the issue. – Cosmos Magazine

Traveling wave reactor – Wikipedia

IAEA warned Japan over nuclear quake risk: WikiLeaks

Chernobyl health effects

Whatever Happens Next, Lets Think Clearly About Nuclear Risks

Japan worst-case scenario unlikely to cause catastrophic radiation release

BTW, have you seen Stitcher yet? It’s a great iPhone app that STREAMS podcasts – no need to sync with iTunes! Listen to No Illusions on Stitcher here.

No Illusions 22 – News Roundup for March 15, 2011

Show notes for this episode:

A Different Perspective on Fukushima from Atomic Insights by @atomicrod

Atomtronics, Or Atoms Spun By Laser Beams, Could Replace Electronics

Glenn Greenwald: WH forces P.J. Crowley to resign for condemning abuse of Manning

The liberal game of silencing the messenger by John Pilger

Ross Garnaut says science on climate change is stronger

As we sleep, speedy brain waves boost our ability to learn

Buddhism and the Brain

Melvyn Bragg & The Philosophers on Free Will

The Feds Poisoned Alcohol during Prohibition and Murdered at Least 10,000 People

No Illusions 20 – John Cook from Skeptical Science

My guest IN THE STUDIO today is John Cook, astrophyscist, web developer, and founder of Skeptical Science, an absolutely brilliant resource for anyone needing to refute the common climate change denialist.

We talk about what motivates climat change denialists (and the difference between being a SKEPTIC and a DENIALIST) and some of the refutations of their most common arguments.

Follow John on Twitter at @skepticscience.

Could The QLD Floods Have Been Prevented?

QLD Premier Anna Bligh has been getting a lot of positive comments over the last few days for her leadership during the flood crisis. But the question needs to be asked – could she have done more to prevent it from happening in the first place? It’s not like Brisbane hasn’t suffered massive floods in the past (as we’ve all heard repeatedly over the last couple of weeks).

I’ve copped some flack on Twitter this morning for asking the question – I was called a “cock” and told to shove some cigars up my ass by some of the less erudite members – but I think the true test of leadership isn’t when you clean up after a disaster that costs lives and billions of dollars, but when you prevent the disaster from happening in the first place.

People are dead.

Homes are destroyed.

Businesses are destroyed.

QLD taxpayers are going to have to foot a massive clean-up bill in the billions of dollars.

Could the QLD floods have been prevented?

Obviously the government can’t control the weather (I think that’s coming in IOS4.3), but they are charged with policy regarding water management and building permits in flood zones.

I don’t know anything about water management, but I have some questions.

Did the Bligh Govt do a good enough job managing the amount of water in our dams over the last year?

Did the Bligh Govt do enough to prepare homes and businesses in the flood danger zones for the possibility of major flooding over this period?

Did the Bligh Govt have the right people on the job?

“Seqwater spokesman Mike Foster said yesterday if Wivenhoe’s flood gates were opened, there should be no fears about flooding in Brisbane, because even when full, the dam retained the capacity for an additional 1,450,000 megalitres (almost three Sydney Harbours) in flood storage.” – Courier Mail, March 8, 2010. I wonder what Mike Foster is doing this week?

“Premier Anna Bligh and water managers say there will be no easing of permanent water saving measures. “We can’t be complacent and we must treat water as a precious resource not to be wasted whether our dams are 50 or 100 per cent,” Ms Bligh said.”Courier Mail, March 8, 2010. In retrospect, would better planning have allowed us to keep less reserves in the dams in the lead up to summer, meaning we wouldn’t have had to release so much overflow?

“It is expected that during a flood similar in magnitude to that experienced in 1974, Wivenhoe’s flood mitigation factor will cut flood levels by about 2m.” – Journalist Brian Williams, Courier Mail, March 8, 2010. Nine months later, the actual peak of the Brisbane River scraped in just under the 1974 peak, surprising everyone, as the general consensus for the previous few days had been that it would EXCEED the 1974 peak.

As of October, the dams were all at full or near full – and we knew it was going to be a very wet summer (Courier Mail, “Major Wet Season Tipped For QLD”, October 1, 2010) – but the myth that, in the event of another 1974-scale flood, the Wivenhoe dam would cut 2m of the river levels was still being perpetuated. I wonder who came up with that prediction and what methodology they used? Was it a myth the government wanted to believe because it relieved them from having to do anything?

Lockyer Valley farm owner, Raleigh Davey, recalling the 1974 flood, said back in August 2010 “There is a cycle sequence through drought, flood and fires and even dust storms, it is part of the Australian scene. Should another cycle cross the Coral Sea and the Toowoomba Range gets eight or 10 inches of rain, the Lockyer Creek would get a major flood. If the country is sodden wet with the storm rains, there will be a backsurge on Tenthill Creek and the council workers will be sand bagging the library, you mark my words.” (Gatton Star, 31 August, 2010).

Maybe the Premier should have listened to Farmer Davey instead of Mike Foster?

Should we have built MORE dams? Bigger dams?

(Photo of Anna Bligh from her Flickr page.)

No Illusions Live #17 – All About Wikileaks

Last night Chrissy & I chatted for an hour about Wikileaks. We point out the mistakes a lot of people on Twitter (mostly Americans) are making when it comes to Wikileaks. We talk about the major stories that Wikileaks have broken with Cablegate, as well as the truth behind the Assange “rape” allegations. Chrissy also talks about how her perspective of US politics has changed in the 18 months she’s been living in Australia.

Continue reading

Australia: The Unlucky Country?

While waiting in the Apple Store Chermside today (waiting, that is, for them to replace the hard drive on my 5 month old 17″ Macbook Pro for the second time in a week), I started reading the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 report. The report was recently released by Beyond Zero Emissions, a non-profit group based in Melbourne. Their report details how Australia can become a zero carbon-emitting country by 2020. In their introduction, they remind us that Australia has the highest carbon emission per capita ranking in the entire world.

I had forgotten that fact, so I tweeted:

Let’s remember during this election that Australia has the highest emissions per capita IN THE WORLD. We are a disgrace.

A few hours later I saw this tweet in response:

I wish to express my utter disdain for what @Vzzzbx just retweeted from some twat called @cameronreilly (see next tweet)

I don’t know who this Ches Trulson guy is, but it always amuses me when someone just slags me off and doesn’t try to debate the facts. It’s usually the sign of a limited intelligence. But I popped over to read more of his Twitter feed, just in case he was someone to take seriously.

Here’s a sample of his Twitter feed, following on from the ‘disdain’ post:

We live in a first world country, this means our emissions are worse than much of the world. Bad? Sure.

France is also a first world country, but their emissions are one-third of Australia’s. And France’s emissions per capita have reduced by 40% since 1979, while Australia’s have grown by 40%.

It’s also really fucking big, and our population is spread across a large area. Again, bad. We also have a varied and harsh climate. Bad.

Russia is a pretty big country as well and their climate is pretty harsh. Their emissions have dropped by 30% since 1992, while Australia’s have grown.

Except of course, that none of that is practical to change, or any of our fault. Yet I should feel ashamed? Get fucked.

This is what amuses me the most. “None of that is practical to change or any of our fault.” That kind of lazy, defeatist attitude is precisely WHY we are the worst emitters in the world. Huge brains like Ches just throwing up his hands and saying “not my fault”. Of course it’s not your fault, Ches. Meanwhile, the ZCA2020 report says it *is* practical to change – in fact, we could be a zero carbon emission country within ten years – if we can get people like Ches to pull their heads out of their asses.

I’m all for living sustainably, but Aus is not a significant problem IMO, and making us feel bad about it is helpful in no way whatsoever.

Aw, diddums. Did Bad Cameron make you cwy? Grow up, dude. It’s precisely because we are a first world country that we are a significant problem. The rest of the world (read: the developing countries who are still trying to pull themselves out of poverty) are looking towards the first world countries as guidance. If we don’t seem to be taking this stuff seriously, then why should they? Australia should (IMHO) be leading the world on this issue. We have the wealth. We have the political stability. We have the intelligence (well…. some of us). Perhaps most importantly, we have huge sources of renewable energy. Let’s lead the world for once in something other than sport and racist actors.

Hard to argue convincingly over twitter, but whatever, rage subsiding.

Well here’s you chance, Ches. Argue convincingly here. If you can.

Oh, and this from a guy who does marketing for cigars and pergolas? Hilarious.

Yeah I see what those things have to do with each other. No, wait…. I don’t. Please enlighten me. Of course, this is all coming from a self-confessed “car nerd”. I guess when you’re a “car nerd”, the whole idea of reducing carbon emissions is likely to induce cognitive dissonance.

On other Twitter fronts….

My mate Ben Wilks took umbrage to my retweet about how stupid Gillard’s “small Australia” policy is.

@cameronreilly umm, ok. Population has doubled in the last 15 years. Property prices and traffic ARE QUALITY OF LIFE. Seriously, WT?

Actually, Ben – no. Property prices and traffic are NOT quality of life. At all.

This whole “small Australia” policy is seriously dysfunctional. Here’s why:

According to the IMF, Australia ranks #10 in GDP per capita.

On top of that, we have one of the lowest population densities in the world.

If we can’t have quality of life while we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world with one of the lowest population densities – then we are seriously messed up.

This all reminds me of a story Clive Hamilton (he of the internet filter) wrote about in one of his earlier books, Affluenza.

I don’t have the book in front of me, so I’ll paraphrase it. He wrote that the average net household income in Australia has increased by something like 300% since 1950. And yet when you survey the Australian population and ask them “do you have enough to get by”, something like 75% of people say “no”.

We’re messed up, dysfunctional.

When you have an individual who has everything going for them and yet they feel oppressed, it’s often a sign of a psychosis or mental illness.

When you have an entire population who has everything going for them and yet they feel like they don’t have enough to get by, what does that say about the general psyche of the country?

(pic via suburbanbloke’s flickr)

My Top 15 iPad Apps

Getting an iPad?

Here’s my TOP 15 apps you should definitely check out.

Zinio: the iPad is great for reading magazines and although the Zinio app is (at present) a little clunky, it does the job.

Sketchbook: draw everything from simple diagrams and flowcharts to works of art.

Word Monkey: awesome game to work your brain.

Lifelike Clock: the app that wakes me up in the morning.

Analytics: check your site stats on the fly.

GoodReader: read PDFs with ease, great integration with Dropbox.

1Password: never forget your passwords again.

ABC (as in Australian Broadcasting Corporation): Watch TV, listen to the radio, read the news.

Reeder: Amazing RSS reader that integrates with Google Reader.

Dropbox: Get access to all of your files from your iPad.

Evernote: Take notes, retrieve notes, anywhere, anytime. I live in this app.

Twitterific: Very slick Twitter app.

Remote: Control your music collection from your iPad. Will be nicer when they come out with a true iPad version.

Stanza: Read the latest books and the classics. Unlike Apple’s iBooks app, you can actually buy books to read outside the USA. And they are usually a quarter of the price.

Osmos: AMAZING game, probably the most beautiful iPad app I’ve seen. Mesmerizing.

Launching Twittories #3!

It’s been 18 months…. time to try again!

On December 6 2007, I had this crazy idea about collaborating with people on Twitter to write short stories. I called it TWITTORIES (a portmanteau of Twitter and Stories). I invited 140 people to sign up to write 140 characters each of the story. Our first attempt, a story called “The Darkness Inside“, made it to about 99 entries before it ran out of steam. The main issue back then, I think, was that many people who signed up for twittories just didn’t check their twitter messages very often. So when they were alerted that it was their turn to write, they just didn’t show up. And it stalled.

About a year later I tried again. This time the story was called “Action” and it lasted 54 entires.

Well, another 18 months has passed and I’ve decided it’s time to try again. I still think Twitter could be an amazing tool for collaboration and there are obviously a lot more people using Twitter now and they are using it more often.

Go to this wiki page to register your name for the new, as-yet-unnamed, twittory. The first person to sign up gets to pick the name of the twittory and write the first 140 characters.

No Illusions Podcast #10 – Ministry of Ethics

On this episode, Chrissy and I chat with our friend Angus Scown (@angusscown) about living on a hippy commune (Angus, his wife and kids live at Crystal Waters, an eco-village a couple of hours north of Brisbane) and why Australia needs a MINISTRY OF ETHICS.

Chrissy and I were smoking Perdomo Lot 23 Maduro cigars and Angus was smoking a Perdomo Patriarch Maduro cigar.