28/2/2007

It’s a Small Web After All

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:38 am

Alex’s best friend Lynsey said to her on MSN ‘I found this site on the net with an awesome poem! Go to www.bravus.com/blog and search for this poem‘. Alex then told her ‘That’s my Dad’s blog, and I wrote that poem with him!’ (2 years ago, as it happens.) Apparently Lynsey had googled for ‘Alex Geelan’ (kind of a friend ‘vanity google’), but not realised the connection when she found the blog and poem (not knowing my Bravus alias). Kinda cool.

(and yes, if you’ve ever been to Disneyland you now have that confounded song stuck in your head all day – {evil grin})

27/2/2007

Emulating the enemy

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:11 pm

Glenn Greenwald’s blog is always well worth reading, but today’s post is particularly penetrating, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while:

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/02/23/ahmadinejad/index.html

The ‘might is the only thing they understand’ approach is partly rooted in racism and ignorance – in not according to others the kind of reasonableness and the human motivations that we accord to ourselves – but Greenwald argues that it’s also a kind of pathology.

And now for something really silly

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:09 am

We were discussing the much, much covered country song ‘Green Green Grass of Home’ on a forum. Everyone from Tom Jones to Elvis to Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard and a million more have done versions. Anyway, for various reasons the idea of me doing a version came up. Now I play a little guitar but I really, really can’t sing, or play any other instruments. But technology is a wonderful and terrible thing… I ended up not playing guitar, but singing… (kind of).

Here’s the result: http://www.bravus.com/grass.mp3 (mp3, about 3 MB)

I have zero illusions that it’s any good, but you might get a much-needed laugh out of it… even if it’s impossible to recognise it as the same song.

With thanks (and abject apologies) to my buddies Malcolm and Angus on guitars.

26/2/2007

Keep Saying It Loud (Not that it helped last time)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:43 am

Here’s a forum post I wrote elsewhere that I thought I’d share here (hey, it’s green to recycle electrons):

I’ve said this before but it seems to bear repeating. Uranium as it comes out of the ground is 99.3% U-238 and 0.7% U-235 (two different isotopes – same number of protons, different number of neutrons). But it’s the U-235 that will undergo nuclear fission to produce energy.

It’s very, very hard to separate the two isotopes. Because they have the same number of protons they also have the same number of electrons, in the same configuration, which means they are chemically identical. There is no chemical way of separating them. There is a physical way, using powerful centrifuges, based on the very slight (less than 1%) difference in mass between the atoms of the two isotopes. And the more pure you want the U-235, the harder it gets.

For a nuclear reactor for generating electricity, you need to increase the proportion of U-235 from 0.7% to about 3-5% or so. At this stage Iran has not even achieved this level of processing.

To make a weapon, though, the uranium has to be enriched to something like 85% U-235. That is incredibly far beyond the reach of anything the Iranian program can do at this point, and will be for years. It’s not just a matter of keeping on doing the same processes, it requires a whole different level of technology to do this.

Now, none of this says Iran can’t buy enriched uranium from someone else: but bombing their peaceful nuclear program’s plants will not prevent that anyway.

People – starting with Cheney – are saying ‘it’s worthwhile and important to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons’. I completely agree. But it’s a fake and manufactured threat – they’re not trying to. So taking it for granted that they are, and that then it’s only an argument about the means for stopping them, is arguing from a false (and dangerous) premise.

Saying this stuff last time didn’t stop them, but the political climate is very different now.

23/2/2007

Good News

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:22 pm

Nanosolar’s thin film technology involves “printing” a microscopic layer of solar cells onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil. The resulting panels are lighter, cheaper, and as efficient as traditional solar panels, but they require no silicon, short supplies of which have caused many solar companies to stumble. Others are pursuing thin film, too, but Nanosolar is poised to produce enough to generate 430 megawatts of electricity a year—four times the amount produced by all solar plants in the U.S. combined.

Perhaps more importantly, Nanosolar is the first company to figure out how to produce these cells cheaply. How cheaply? Less than $1 per watt, or one-tenth of the cost of traditional cells. In other words, solar power will finally be able to compete with gas and fossil fuels. This year, the company will begin building the world’s largest solar-cell factory, which will triple U.S. capacity and make us second only to Japan in output.

22/2/2007

Rumours of Theory’s Death and Resurrection Greatly Exaggerated

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:20 am

Hey, remember a couple of weeks ago, I was first excited to discover a review of my book online, then a bit deflated to discover it was a savage critique? At the time I said I’d write a reply, and here it is (Word doc). If it’s accepted it will be published in the journal ‘Education Review’, probably with a reply (to my reply) by the authors of the review. It was fun to write.

Interesting…

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:11 am

(this post is related to the one below)

I normally don’t pay much attention to the ‘sponsored links’ ads Google puts down the right hand side of my Gmail messages based on the content of the message, but the ones that popped up when I Gmailed my citizenship definition caught my eye as an interesting example of (machine-generated) juxtapositions and reactions to my text. Here they are:

Communism Museum Prague
1948-1989 Dream, Reality, Nightmare The Only Czech Museum of Communism
www.MuseumOfCommunism.com

Waterless Urinal System
Save 151,000 litres per year by converting your existing urinal.
www.desert.com.au (perhaps they thought I was extracting the urine?)

Poor Self Confidence?
Discover these lost secrets to gain rapid confidence in any situation.
www.physiologyofexcellence.com

Intelligent Design
As Debates rage in classrooms, Are you Armed with the Facts?
www.RealTruth.org

Cultural Software
A new theory of cultural evolution explains ideology in terms of memes
www.yale.edu/lawweb/jbalkin/cs.htm

Beyond Right and Left
New politics and the culture wars. By David McKnight.
beyondrightandleft.com.au

Environmental
Research all of the articles on NYTimes.com’s Knowledge Network
www.nytimes.com/college

Cisco Examples
Cisco approved certifications Fast track your career success
www.seeklearning.com.au

More about…
Political Process Theory »
Theory of Social Learning »
Cognitive Theory Definition »
Information Theory »

Citizenship (Confusingly) Defined

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:10 am

I’m working with a group of fellow Carnegie Scholars on pulling together a book on ‘Teaching for Citizenship Across The Curriculum’. As part of that we were each challenged to come up with our personal definitions for ‘citizenship’. Here’s my messy attempt:

OK, here goes (the Agalloch – whispery environmental doom metal from Washington state – that I’m listening to as I write this may effect it, so I really think you should find some to listen to as you read it. What the heck, I’ll e-mail you a link when I get home. Actually, I’m completely unserious about this… but not about what follows):

Citizenship

Two issues are swirling in my mind as I try to define citizenship. One arises from some of the things Michael and Howard have said, along with my experience in Papua New Guinea of colonially-drawn boundaries falling apart, and the recognition that much of what is happening in the Middle East as a whole comes down to colonially-drawn boundaries. I’m also re-reading Mary Gentle’s wonderful and terrible novel ‘Ash’ about the late 15th century in Europe, and the first chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes, and realising that none of this stuff is new. But what’s coming out of all this for me is the idea that citizenship as I’m coming to understand it is almost antithetical to nationalism and even patriotism. Perhaps that’s linked too with a cyberpunk and science fiction sensibility and an awareness of globalisation as a force… national boundaries in particular but all political divisions seem to me to be very artificial, to be the source of more trouble than benefit, and to be pretty much irrelevant to our lifeworlds, except rhetorically.

OK, that’s a dense and confusing way to say that we are citizens of our families, our local communities and the world, more than citizens of nations or states.

The other is climate change as a specific headline example of environmental issues to which citizens are expected to respond, and as an icon representing all of the current and developing environmental, social and techn(olog)ical issues (biotechnology, genetically modified organisms and foods, nanotechnology, pollution, space exploration, military spending, medical technology and spending… shouldn’t have started a list because I can’t enumerate all of it).

Being a citizen, then, means being able to participate in an *informed* way in the on-going discourse (ack, hate that word, but need a better one) around the issues and problems – as well as the opportunities and the broad vision – facing a society. That is, a citizen seeks out information and ideas, and makes decisions/takes positions based on evidence. A citizen is able to argue for those decisions and positions, and able to listen to and critically evaluate the arguments of others. I like very much Michael’s paragraph on complexity and ambiguity, and see that as crucial (and as something that is very much under threat at the moment).

(And, on one level, citizenship is antithetical to uncritical consumerism but essential to critical involvement in consumption/production/life.)

Clearly I need to work on and think about these issues more to make them clear and simple, but I think there’s lots there to work with, and some of the play with allusions and connections and pop culture and so on is fruitful for unpacking and including.

In relation to evidence, my conviction is that the evidence for the ability to participate in discourse in an informed way is demonstrated through participating in discourse in an informed way. And that’s so hard to judge fairly and ‘objectively’… if it’s about the process then it’s not about the product: I would have to somehow decide that my Kool-Aid-guzzling right wing friends who seem to me to be ignoring reality and parrotting the talking points are nonetheless participating in informed debate (or not), and decide the same about those with whom I agree. I think there are criteria for levels of depth in a discussion (e.g. Habermas’ ‘human interests’) but the criteria themselves might be seen as biased.

So on the question of evidence I think I know what I want to measure, but I’m not sure how to measure it.

That’s all I got for now…

Here’s Michael’s paragraph, by the way:

Evolving capacity for becoming comfortable with complexity and
ambiguity… Unless citizens can be comfortable with complexity and ambiguity
(and simultaneously avoid empty relativism or, worse, nihilism), they
cannot be very sophisticated change agents, often reduced to a Manichean
worldview that, as we know, does nothing to solve the problems of our
century. Perhaps one measure of effective citizenship education would be
that the entire nation would give a raspberry if another president said
something as inane and empty as “the Axis of Evil.”

21/2/2007

Certifiability

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:15 pm

I try to judge those with whom I passionately disagree more carefully because I know I’m biased. But is this guy plain nuts, or am I?

http://thinkprogress.org/2007/02/20/boortz-teachers-terrorists/

Same As It Ever Was/No Despair

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:33 am

I posted this a few days ago as a reply to a post on Paul Donnett’s ‘Nuggery‘ blog about whether the world is generally getting better or worse… but I liked it enough that I wanted to share it here too:

As you know, I’m not a big Bible quoting guy, but the author of Ecclesiastes pretty much has it covered. This is from Chapter 1:

4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

And remember this was written something like 3000 years ago: everything had already been done by that point, so how much more so now? The world continues to head in both directions – toward utopia and toward hell (possibly in a handbasket) – at the same time, just as it always has, though possibly with increasing speed.

And I guess the other thing is, now we know more about the rest of the world than we did then. We have the threat of nuclear annihalation, but in terms of our individual lives, that’s actually no more significant than for a village to be sacked in Solomon’s time…

Perhaps that’s part of the answer… pay less attention to what’s happening elsewhere and more to our ‘village’. At the same time, we become responsible for destruction in other places… but I guess most days all we can do about that is try to also be responsible for some good in other places. Sponsor a child, give blood, fill out your organ donor card and vote the bastards out when you get a chance.

20/2/2007

A new kind-of-home on the web

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:18 pm

I’d had my home page at http://bravus.port5.com, with Portland.co.uk, for years: ever since I lost the web space at Curtin University after I graduated in 1998, actually. It started out as a free service, and still offers free web hosting, and I’ve recommended it to a lot of people over the years. Once I started this blog, though, my bandwidth needs soon exceeded the bounds of the free service and I moved to a pay service with the same people.

A bit later I needed more scripting power and a few other things, including the ability to host forums, so I got a second paid account at Siteground.com. More recently still the port5 account got shaky and unreliable, and I moved my home page and blog across to the Siteground account. I’ve still kept up the old port5 account though, just as a backup for hosting files and various things. Portland is now moving their paying customers to PortlandX.co.uk, a pay service they’ve been running in parallel for a while.

I guess I could have let my hosting with them lapse – it’s not as though I paid all that much for it, and it’s not as though I was using it that much. But it’s cheap, and it’s always useful to have a backup. I really needed to own my own domain name to shift to PortlandX, or at least it was more convenient that way, so I just registered dgeelan.com and told Portland to move me to that address.

That means there won’t even be a placeholder or redirection script any longer at my old site, but I guess I’ve had a very good run with it: almost a decade on the web, from close to the start of the web, is not bad. So my main home page will continue to be http://www.bravus.com but in a while I’ll put up some sort of site at http://www.dgeelan.com

16/2/2007

Just wow

Filed under: — Bravus @ 3:16 pm

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/storm-riders-miracle-escape/2007/02/16/1171405415598.html

Religion Considered As A Sword

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:05 am

(metaphor is a drug and I’m strung out)

In the discussion with Mark that ensued after my Chaos versus death post, I talked about the notion of ‘religion as fencing sword’, and about not holding it too tightly. I thought it might be fun to play a little more with that metaphor, and discussing it with Suzie sparked off a bunch of other associations.

I know religion has often been used as a sword to kill others, but in a lot of ways that’s the most pedestrian and least interesting aspect of the metaphor. Think, rather than of a sword used in war, of one used in the Olympics. The stakes are high, but they’re not (at least bodily, temporal) life and death.

So the original idea was that great fencers hold their swords lightly – holding on too tight will lead to inflexibility and make success impossible. (Of course, holding your sword so loosely that you drop it is also a kind of failure.)

Perhaps the reason you’d hold your sword too tightly is fear. That seems to make sense for religion – if you’re secure in your religion and your life you’re less likely to have a death-grip on your religion, more likely to hold it securely but loosely.

Those who drop their swords may do it through carelessness, but they may also do it because they’ve been gripping too tightly for too long, and become fatigued. I think I’ve noted before that it’s the highly invested ‘true believers’ who, if they begin to question their faith at all, often feel they have to throw it all out. Those who hold on lightly can hold on much longer.

The light grasp only comes with skill and practice… that is, it’s not something that is effortless and occurs immediately a novice picks up a blade. There will be times when a beginner grips too tightly or too loosely – and there are so many other things to attend to other than the grip. It’s by actively practicing your religion in your life every day that you become proficient… and a training session once a week with no other practice won’t get you there.

I’m sure that, as with any metaphor, there are plenty of likes and unlikes to explore. But I think this metaphor might be a healthier one than metaphors of Big T Truth and rectitude.

15/2/2007

Time – Objective and Subjective

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:07 am

I’ve always loved the Alan Parsons Project’s song ‘Time’.

Time, flowing like a river
Time, beckoning me
Who knows when we shall meet again
If ever
But time
Keeps flowing like a river
To the sea

Goodbye my friends, Maybe forever
Goodbye my friends, The stars wait for me
Who knows where we shall meet again
If ever
But time
Keeps flowing like a river (on and on)
To the sea, to the sea
Till it’s gone forever

It’s certainly a bit bittersweet in the context of the stream of time carrying us away from first our friends in Perth and then our friends in Canada. “Who knows when we shall meet again, if ever?” But I thought I’d play a little bit with the metaphor of time as a river, carrying us on to the sea.

The reality is that time flows at a constant rate. One second per second, tick, tock, tick, tock1. But the river doesn’t always feel like that: sometimes it seems to rush by like a rapid, bumping us into rocks, and sometimes to slow right down, even eddy almost backward. It seems generally to speed up as we move toward the sea. So there’s a difference between the objective reality of the way time flows and our subjective experience of it 2.

For those who believe in heaven, the sea might represent that, where time is no longer linear (since we’re living in eternity) but essentially limitless. For those who don’t it can be death, where our individual lives come to an end and we merge somehow into the great ocean of humanity (sometimes staining the sea with mud for a while or giving a blessing of fresh water for a while, but eventually dissipating). And then there’s the water cycle for those who believe in reincarnation.

No matter how we struggle and try to swim, though… Time keeps flowing like a river.

  1. At least, at the surface of the earth it does. General relativity tells us the curvature of space-time, and hence the rate of flow of time, is dictated by gravitational fields (technically, the nearness of matter-energy), so time flows faster near a massive gravitational source like a black hole, for example, and slower in intergalactic space. But what I said holds for all of our experience.
  2. Hence the joke for relativity of time: ‘if a pretty girl is sitting on your lap, an hour feels like a second, if you’re sitting on a hot stove, a second feels like an hour’

14/2/2007

Procrastination and a Playlist

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:15 pm

So, I’m on deadline for the major grant application I’m working on. About a quarter of a million dollars, three years, an impact on my job security… and it’s due this Friday.

So, of course, this blog – which I have to admit was kinda sporadic for the past couple of months – has had one or more posts every day for the last little while, and will continue to do so for at least this week.

And yesterday I built myself a very seksi ‘playlist’ of all my metal music so that listeners to my metal show on livehardrock.com can see what I have to make requests. Here it is: http://www.bravus.com/playlist/ In fact, I often end up doing web development stuff on deadline, as procrastination.

Cross your fingers for me that I’ll get the grant application done too.

Next week I have a book chapter and a paper due, so we should be good for blog posts then too.

Financial Insanity

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:05 pm

(St Valentine’s Day will be celebrated privately at home and will make no further appearance in this blog.)

The revelation in the press yesterday that a person on the Australian median income can no longer afford the mortgage payments on the median Australian house price (not sure how long that link will stay live) sparked a bit of a discussion on-line about the Australian government’s policy of ‘negative gearing’1 and its influence on real estate prices.

It was a pretty informed debate (on a newspaper blog page and I can’t find it to link it), and a number of points were made. One was that it’s not so much the negative gearing that has led to the dramatic boom but a number of factors including a commodities boom that has driven the Australia market as a whole, and more importantly a government decision in 1999 to halve the capital gains tax paid when property is sold (that is, the government (and therefore the country) gets a much smaller share of the appreciation in the property, which makes the investment even more attractive). Another factor has been the growth of self-financed superannuation funds (government mandated) into which all Australians pay part of their income, which have led to massive increases in the amount of investment capital sloshing around the market.

Basically, the policy settings have meant a net transfer of wealth from poorer to richer Australians2… which is pretty much what the Howard government has always been about. But there are a number of other, major, negative consequences. One is that, with the current market, the investments are no longer as attractive as they were. The increase in property prices has not been matched by corresponding increases in rent, and with both prices and interest rates rising, returns on investment are dropping, so that even the tax advantages of negative gearing may no longer make it worthwhile to invest in property. That’s already starting to bite, which is leading to a lack of rental property and rising rents, so it may to some extent solve itself (to the cost of renters).

Another is that the whole scheme relies on an endlessly upward spiral in property values… but when we’ve hit the point where the average Aussie can no longer afford a house, that looks to be in doubt. We’re basically at a point where a huge amount of our disposable income goes into property… so property prices need to fall or wages need to rise. But if wages rise we get inflation and high interest rates… In other words, there’s likely to be a crash, and it’s unlikely to be pretty… and this is something made inevitable by government policy settings.

There’s another, more subtle issue here. Australia has no shortage of land. Even if we take out the inhospitable interior, we probably have more arrable land per person than most countries on earth (Canada probably has more land in total but most of it is even more inhospitable). So it doesn’t really make all that much sense for small plots of that land to go up and up in cost (not really value) while vast tracts of other land are still available. It’s an artificial situation. Worse than that, real estate investments are not really productive, in the sense of creating new goods, services and technologies. Houses and land just sit there, and their appreciation in price is all relative… And money invested in real estate is *not* invested in science and industry and innovation. When we’re spending so much on houses, it’s ironic that we’re the only OECD country that is reducing expenditure on education. That is true even if private as well as public expenditure is considered.

A lot of Australians are feeling pretty smug these days, because their house has tripled in value. But they still have to live in it, or move to a new one at triple the price too, so in real terms their net worth hasn’t gained that much. (The irony, of course, is that it’s OK for those already on the merry-go-round, but it’s moving too fast for any new people to get on3.) They can borrow against that equity, but that’s just fueling a debt boom that is a whole other rant. But what happens when our kids finish uni and get married, and want to buy their first homes? They’re just starting out in life, and are nowhere near the median income… so the dream of home ownership looks to be just receding further and further out of reach. It’s a set of policies that has basically mortgaged the future for the present.

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  1. ‘Negative gearing’ is allowing losses made on one investment to be used to reduce the tax payable from other sources. So if someone buys a house as an investment and the mortgage and other costs are $3000 a month and the rent is only $2000 a month the lanlord can claim a tax deducation against his/her income of $1000 a month. The hope, of course, it that although there’s a loss in the short term, appreciation of the property will mean it increases in value in the longer term, yielding a large profit when the property is sold. It’s big business, decreasing Australia’s tax revenues by something like 3 billion dollars.
  2. Partly because richer people can invest more, partly because poorer people pay lower marginal tax rates so tax-minimising investments are less attractive for them
  3. Our personal tragic story is that we thought house prices in Kenwick, the suburb we built a house in in Perth, were stagnant when we left there in 2001, and sold our house. Actually, I pushed for that against Sue’s insistence that we should keep it. Boy was I wrong. We bought it for $100,000 and sold it for about $115,000, which after agents’ commissions meant we made diddly. It’s probably worth somewhere over $270,000 now… we could have kept it as an investment or sold it, paid off its mortgage (which would have been significantly reduced in the mean time), paid off all our other debts and still had a big enough deposit to get a very nice house here. It feels like a punch in the stomach every time I think about how stupid I was… but hindsight is 20/20, and no-one was really forecasting the kind of boom we’ve seen in the past 5 years. You just have to get past this stuff, or it can eat you alive. We’ll always be poorer than we would otherwise have been… but I make good money and will continue to do so, so we go on from here… even if we have to try to buy our first house in our mid 40s and have already blown our first home buyers’ bonus.

Too many syllables

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:34 am

Anyone remember the slide, a year or so after 9/11, from Osama (3 syllables) bin Laden (3 syllables) to Saddam (2 syllables) Hussein (2 syllables) as the villain du jour? I remember it from all sorts of angles, even the little internet cartoons mocking these particular demons.

Bet the administration wishes now that Mahmoud (2 syllables) Ahmadinejad’s (5 syllables) name was John Smith.

13/2/2007

School – Is It Doomed?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:55 pm

Alex stayed home from church while Sue and I went this week, and messed about on the computer. She developed her own new MySpace page, and added a template and changed the font colours, created a custom avatar for herself in MSN Messenger, web-chatted with a Canadian friend my age and taught him how to use videoconference (which she had never used herself, so she figured it out on the fly and taught an adult).

She also did some of her school computer course, but said ‘It was so boring!’

That’s the problem we face as educators: because of a whole variety of constraints of budget and curriculum and social pressure and large classes and wide range of interest and ability and behaviour management/discipline, school is never going to be as compelling as kids discovering new fields and ideas for themselves, based on their own interests.

I know Alex is a bit exceptional, and not every kid is doing the same things in the same ways – she tends to just go and ‘research’ any topic that interests her, in detail, just because she wants to know – but the issue remains: what school does best, according to our research, is switch off kids’ innate desire to learn and know.

I don’t have the solution.

More Drums

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:11 am

I posted not long ago about the rising drumbeat for the US to attack Iran. It’s still rising… and the evidence is about as dodgy as the evidence for the Iraq war

Edit: Glenn Greenwald considers the parallels in detail

12/2/2007

On Wishing Evil

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:43 am

Two examples of this have had me thinking recently:

The first was a story in the paper yesterday on Australian politics and climate change. The current perception (in my opinion correct) seems to be that the Howard government has done everything possible to drag its feet and obstruct any progress in relation to climate change. The opposition seems much more positive and future-oriented on this issue. The conventional wisdom seems to be that enough Australians are now concerned about climate change that this issue is hurting the government, and with an election due this year could be one of the things1 that might tip the balance away from the present government. The paper opined, though, that most people still confuse weather with climate, so that if the current drought breaks before the election the climate change issue would be less of a problem for Howard.

Now I think the Howard government has been an absolute disaster for Australia, and has dragged us kicking and screaming into the past on education, social justice, race relations, foreign policy and a range of other issues. So I almost found myself wishing that the drought would continue, at least until after the election, just to make sure we get rid of these evil sods. Of course, I don’t really want to drought to continue, both personally and for Australian society more broadly… but the fact that it crossed my mind worried me.

The other example is the war in Iraq. I was one of those who said loudly and publicly before it ever started that it would end up being a disaster and quagmire and a civil war and destabilising the region. But honestly, I would have been absolutely delighted to be wrong, for the sake of the Iraqi people. Even at the cost of vindicating the evil neocon bastards who planned the war, a happy, healthy, thriving Iraq with peace, safety and water for all would have been a fantastic2 outcome. It’s horrible that it has turned out the way it has… yet I have to admit that, despite not wishing it, there is a small and mean satisfaction in being proved right. Doesn’t make it any easier figuring out where to go next to try to mitigate the disaster we (Australia was part of the Coalition) have caused, and the satisfaction is basically useful for nothing.

Let me try to wish good, and rain, and blessings, for everyone… otherwise the neocons win.

  1. along with the government’s complicity in the Americans’ holding without charge of an Australian citizen, David Hicks, at Guantanamo Bay for 5 years and now his retrospective charging under a law that didn’t exist at the time he allegedly broke it
  2. Well, I guess it was a ‘fantastic’ outcome in the older sense of that word – just someone’s fantasy, with no connection to reality