Another carnival of the animals posting

Starting with a new recording of Carnival of the Animals. Saint-Saëns at his harmonious and melodious best. It’s the Kanneh-Mason clan, with additions. Sheku, as of now the most celebrated of this much celebrated classical family, has his big cello moment with the Swan.

Relatedly, “i” reports that the way animals communicate is evolving so that it remains audible above the din made by humans.

This Is Why I’m Broke tells of a squirrel proof bird feeder, with explanatory video.

And then there’s this: Canada battles Norway for tallest moose statue.

More seriously, it is being said the Brexit has enabled Boris Johnson to unveil a ban on live animal exports.

Most significantly of all, when it comes to the ever changing relationship between animals and humans, Singapore becomes the first country to approve the sale of lab-grown meat. See also this earlier posting here, about steps in that same direction in Israel.

LATER: No official ephemera this Friday at David Thompsons, but via the a comment on the latest posting there, here’s a competitive canine in action. The enjoyment is palpable. I love how the dogs in the audience join in with their encouraging barks.

OOPS: There are some David Thompson ephemera today, starting with a couple of cats.

Lomborg on climate catastrophe

It became clear from the very first paragraphs of False Alarm by Bjorn Lomborg that I was going to have to start revising my prejudices about its author. If, later in this book, Lomborg ever tries to downplay the centrality to the climate argument of the claim that our planet is heading for a climate catastrophe, as opposed merely for a dose of mere climate change, and to deny the centrality of climate science to the climate debate, instead banging only entirely about mere economics, he certainly doesn’t start his book by doing anything like that. Quite the opposite (pp. 3-4):

WE LIVE IN AN AGE OF FEAR – particularly a fear of climate change. One picture summarizes this age for me. It is of a girl holding a sign saying:

YOU’LL DIE OF OLD AGE
I’LL DIE OF CLIMATE CHANGE

This is the message that the media is drilling into our heads: climate change is destroying our planet and threatens to kill us all. The language is of apocalypse. News outlets refer to the “planet’s imminent incineration” and analysts suggest that global warming could make humanity extinct in a few decades. Recently, the media has informed us that humanity has just a decade left to rescue the planet, making 2030 the deadline to save civilization. And therefore we must radically transform every major economy to end fossil fuel use, reduce carbon emissions to zero and establish a totally renewable basis for all economic activity.

Children live in fear and line the streets in protest. Activists are cordoning off cities and airports to raise awareness that the entire population of the planet is facing “slaughter, death, and starvation”.

Influential books reinforce this understanding. In 2017, journalist David Wallace-Wells wrote a lengthy and terrifying description of global warming impacts for New York magazine. Although the article was generally panned by scientists as exaggerated and misleading, he went on to publish the same argument in book form in The Uninhabitable Earth, which became a bestseller. The book revels in unabashed alarmism: “It is worse, much worse, than you think.” Likewise, in his 2019 book, Falter, naturalist Bill McKibben warned that global warming is the greatest threat to human civilization, worse even than nuclear war. It could finish off humanity not with an explosion but “with the burble of a rising ocean.” A bookshelf would groan under the weight of recent books with deliberately terrifying titles and messages: Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change; Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity; The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable; and This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America.

Media outlets reinforce the extreme language by giving ample space to environmental campaigners, and by engaging in their own activism. The New York Times warns that “across the globe climate change is happening faster than scientists predicted.” The cover of Time magazine tells us: “Be worried. Be very worried.” The British newspaper the Guardian has gone further, updating its style guidelines so reporters must now use the terms “climate emergency,” “climate crisis,” or “climate breakdown.” Global warming should be “global heating.” The newspaper’s editor believes “climate change” just isn’t scary enough, arguing that it “sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

Unsurprisingly, the result is that most of us are very worried. A 2016 poll found that across countries as diverse as the United Arab Emirates and Denmark, a majority of people believe that the world is getting worse, not better. In the United Kingdom and the United States, two of the most prosperous countries on the planet, an astonishing 65 percent of people are pessimistic about the future. A 2019 poll found that almost half of the world’s population believes climate change likely will end the human race. In the United States, four of ten people believe global warming will lead to mankind’s extinction.”

You can read the first twenty five pages of this book, including the above quote, here.

I am now about to test my Bjorn Lomborg prejudices

I recently got lent a copy of this book by Bjorn Lomborg:

But before getting stuck into it, I wanted to describe my prejudice concerning Bjorn Lomborg, based on such things as reading short articles by him and pieces by others about him. But then, when looking for something else in my old blog, I came across this posting from 2012 that already described my Lomborg prejudices, which started life as a comment on a Samizdata posting:

My prejudice about Lomborg (which is why I have not studied his thoughts in much depth) is that he doesn’t understand the argument he says he is in.

In particular, he doesn’t grasp that the essence of the Climate argument concerns whether or not there is going to be a Climate Catastrophe. If there is, then all Lomborg’s chat about merely improving the lives of the poor is just fiddling while Rome awaits incineration.

But if the evidence for a forthcoming catastrophe is no better now than at any other time during human history, then Lomborg’s arguments make sense, as do all other arguments about merely improving things. Economics, business, capitalism, etc. all make sense, and there is no excuse for global collectivism, because it only makes things worse. The only excuse for global collectivism is in preventing a global catastrophe that is otherwise unpreventable.

The climate argument is about climate science, not economics. But Lomborg, being an economist, can’t make himself accept that. He’s the bloke with a hammer to whom every problem must involve banging in a nail. But the whole reason they fabricated the idea of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming was that they could then stop talking about economics, and switch to something else. They wanted to stop losing their argument to people like Lomborg, and instead to win it, in a field where, to start with, they had the advantage of being early adopters, and where their opponents literally did not know what they were talking about.

To be clear: these are just my prejudices, and they haven’t changed since 2012. But because of them I’ve basically ignored Lomborg, and that will now change. I hope now to discover if my prejudices have any solid basis or if they will have to be dumped.

How construction work suits the archaeologists

They’ve just given the go-ahead for the tunnel “under” Stonehenge that they’ve been arguing about for the last few decades. My ignorant and uninvolved take is that “under” is in inverted commas, because actually, it won’t be. But, tell me I’m wrong and you might very well persuade me.

So, not being that involved, I rather liked this:

They should never have built Stonehenge so close to the A303 in the first place.

To which another tweeter attached this:

Would have thought the builders of Windsor Castle would have learned and not built near Heathrow.

Other tweeters pointed out that having the road near Stonehenge must have made it a lot easier to get those big stones there. And, Heathrow is convenient for visits by foreign heads of state to see the Queen.

More seriously, I think I see something else happening, based on a cursory and univolved scan of this archaeologist lady’s twitter feed. A few years back, I found myself exploring London Gateway and surrounding parts. (Although I promise nothing, there’s more postings at the old blog that need transferring.) And that part of the world is also where a great big sewage pipe that they’ve recently built spews its contents. It also spewed a vast amount of earth that they dug out out of it while making it, and with that vast amount of earth, they constructed … a wildlife park! This park is run by and patronised by the local Greenies, and this surely got the local Greenies onside with the big sewer, and with all the Gateway cranes, on a “look on the bright side” basis. Opposition to the Big Scheme is fatally divided, and ahead it duly goes.

Something similar seems to be happening at Stonehenge, and indeed at several of these big and seemingly environmentally-hostile construction projects, only this time it’s not exactly Greenies, it’s their (I assume) ideological confreres the Archaeologists. The Archies don’t like it when you dig up their precious archaeological sites and build horrid motorways and tunnels and such all over them. But then again, they do rather like it, because before construction proceeds, they get to rootle around in all the earth that’s been dug up, a process they couldn’t normally come near to affording, but which the developers now bestow upon them for free. Again, the opposition is divided. Whenever ancient soil is dug up, the archaeologists have first dibs on it. If they find anything seriously significant, the plan that got the digging started will have to be changed.

No more construction work, and the archaeologists would be in quite severe trouble.

Colourful mural in Chelyabinsk

I get regular emails about new architecture, and trust me, there’s less of it happening now. And what there is now being done is mostly generic machines-for-living-in and machines-for-working-in. The age of starchitecture is pretty much over, for the time being. Covid? That hasn’t helped to be sure. But it felt like it was slowing down well before that.

So, to cause a stir and get noticed, what do “designers” now do? Answer: They paint eye-catching murals on the faces of all those regulation boxes.

Thus:

The official explanation of this mural is that it’s something to do with the environment, human impact on, blah blah. Like that’s a bad thing. But, as Mick Hartley (at whose blog I found this) says:

… you’d be forgiven for not quite grasping the ecological message.

Indeed. It looks more like a celebration of how humans are able to subjugate their environment and make it their own. I’ve never been to Russia, but my understanding is that their “environment” is a lot scarier than ours is, and that they consequently sentimentalise it a lot less than we do.

But whatever this Chelyabinsk mural may “mean”, it is yet another straw in the wind of colourful applied decoration that is now seriously blowing around the world. If you can’t do new buildings of note, you can still paint the buildings you have, old and new, in a newly colourful way.

Also, I suspect that paint for use outdoors is getting better, as in fading more slowly. I tried googling about this, but all I got was stuff about how to become a better painter of indoor pictures. Can anyone offer any pertinent links on that subject?

The rise of global political parties?

I see that Brazil’s President Bolsonoro has been having a go at what Joe Biden said in the US Presidential debate, about Brazil and its rain forests and what he, Joe Biden, was going to do about them.

I am antique enough to remember when only Bolsheviks would plunge into what were then called “the internal affairs” of foreign countries. I suppose the EU was a big old exception to that rule, but that was only in a rather abstract and windy sort of way. Trouble is, modern communications, and I don’t just mean the internet although that is certainly part of this story, make such self-control ever more impossible. Thanks to the electric telegraph, and now its big bully of an offspring, the internet, it is the work of a moment to become acquainted with an argument in a far away country, and now, no matter who you are, you can join in. So, the idea that nobody should is doomed. Gonna happen. Just pick up a phone and start mouthing off to some foreign journo, and if you’re anyone at all big in the cheese department, they print it, or something related to it. Or, just say something about a foreign country shindig in one of your public performances, and those foreigners will maybe pick up on it anyway. Now, just sit down at your keyboard and bang away.

Communists, as I say, have been doing this ever since they got started in the middle of the century before last, during the first few years after the electric telegraph got started (Samuel Morse – 1844). Said the communists, contemplating this latest technological wonder: Workers (which was almost everyone in those days) of the World Unite! And from them on, whether in office or merely trying to be powerful, in public, in private and in the strictest secrecy, they interfered as much as they could in the internal affairs of other countries and they gloried in it. I mean, that was the whole idea.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, however, the world did not abandon nationalism. Quite the reverse. As it turned out, the most important customers of those international electric telegraphs were newspapers, who were printing strictly national versions of world events to suit their strictly national readerships, and businessmen, who didn’t much care and who just want to get rich.

So, towards the end of the twentieth century, most politicians were still going through the motions of not being too public in their disagreements or (perhaps more interestingly) their agreements with politicians in faraway countries. Who the people of The Republic of Elsewhere choose as their leaders is a matter for them, and we will work amicably with whoever they choose, for the greater good of mankind. Blah blah. In private it got more heated, but in public that was the etiquette to be followed, and it mostly was.

Maybe it’s only my personal proximity speaking now, but I’d say that the Reagan Thatcher moment was when this hands-off-the-foreigners rule started being seriously put to one side. Those two made no secret of the fact that the warmth of their connection was not just based on him being President of the USA and her being PM of the UK, special relationship, blah blah. No, they downright agreed with each other, and by clear implication, wanted each other to win all their various elections, against other locals, with whom they clearly disagreed. It helped that all this happened within the Anglosphere.

More recently, I recall President Obama making it very clear who and what he wanted to win the British EU referendum. He was told my many of those who did not share his opinion not to interfere in our internal affairs, but given that he wanted to interfere, there was nothing and nobody to stop him.

Now even the Nationalists are at it, forming what is quite clearly a sort of global National International. Trump and Trumpists everywhere (think Nigel Farage) are starting to show up on the same platforms and to be more than usually friendly towards each other. Trump fights for his corner, which is the USA. And he expects other political leaders to do the same for their countries and to be equally upfront about that. And he wishes them well in their elections, against other politicians who have different tastes in such matters.

Trump has also been sceptical about climate change, as has Bolsonaro, which is all part of why, thanks to all those electric telegraphs, the American Left now hates Bolsonaro with a passion and can spend its entire day hating him, should it be inclined. So, Biden having a go at Brazil is popular with a lot of the people whom he wants to be voting for him. And Bolsonaro makes a similar calculation and hits back at Biden.

There’s lots more I could say about all this, as I often like to say when I am about to stop, but one thing worth emphasising is that the old arrangement – keeping one’s hands off of the other fellow’s back yard and him doing the same – was an unstable equilibrium. It worked if everyone did that, near enough. But once any big time politician breaks from this cosy arrangement, the pressure on the others to follow suit is irresistible.

Trump did this good thing, but …

Ronald Forbes, for The Conservative Woman:

WHY is it that almost every conservative defence of Donald Trump begins by disowning him personally like a distasteful object held at arm’s length?

Sure, they say, Trump gave the economy and the job market an electro-shock that Obama said wasn’t possible and didn’t even try, but …

Sure, Trump pulled out of the Paris climate agreement designed by liberal greenery to throttle Western economies and living standards and also out of the mad deal that freed Iran to go nuclear by the mid-2020s, but …

Sure, Trump rolled back Obama’s kangaroo courts on campuses, stemmed the immigration free-for-all, took on China’s communist bullies, read the facts of life to free-riding European partners in Nato, started a historic normalisation of relations between Israel and Arab states, but …

Sure, Trump nominated Supreme Court justices dedicated to the strange idea that the constitution meant what it said rather than what liberal judges would prefer it to say, but …

Well said mate. I like this Donald Forbes man. Who is he?

Donald Forbes is a retired Anglo-Scottish journalist now living in France who during a 40-year career worked in eastern Europe before and after communism.

A background well suited to make a man understand the vast moral chasm that separates being an evil piece of tyrannical shit from being a great man and a great guy, who has his hair done in a rather strange way.

But reading this excellent piece caused me to suffer a spasm of selfish worry. Patrick Crozier and I recorded a chat about Trump, a couple of years back. Did either of us do any of this distasteful-object-held-at-arm’s-length stuff when we talked about Trump? I listened to what we’d said again this afternoon, just to check. Happily, there was hardly anything like that. I once mentioned that picking a President was not the same as picking a father-in-law. (I would now love to have Trump as a father-in-law.) But that’s as near as either of us got to any pre-emptively grovelling (to the evil piece of tyrannical shit tendency) stylistic criticism of Trump. There was some analysis of Trump’s personal style. (He is a Rat Pack fan, basically.) Plus, there was lots of interrupting, and hesitating and mumbling, and general conversational incompetence. But, I’m proud to report that both us talked of Trump’s style and personality only to tease out why it was working so well, and that I for one repeatedly called him a great man. Okay we missed a few of the great things Trump had already done even then, but he’s done so many great things and that’s easily forgiven.

While I’m boasting about my past pronouncements (if I don’t who else will? (the particular bit I’m thinking of is at the end of that which I am about to link to)) see also, on the subject of the difference between mere stylistic impropriety and gigantic moral evil, this.

Food and drink on wheels

Along the South Bank late yesterday afternoon. I photoed, among other things, food and drink emporia, mostly of the motorised or at least transportable sort:

My favourite by some distance is the one selling CLIMATE POSITIVE BURGERS.

Capitalism, eh? It gives you whatever you want.

Goats in Llandudno

When the humans stay indoors, the goats are emboldened:

My favourite (photo 15 (and their favourite because they also put it at the top)) of these lockdown photos.

See also, a raccoon in Central Park (photo 2), with Big New York Things in the background.

And: fallow deer in East London (photo 7). I hope they aren’t playing a ball game.

Splashdown for SpaceX

John Stossel:

2 Americans just landed safely after spending 2 months in space.

11 years ago, an Obama committee concluded that would take 12 years and cost $26 billion. Elon Musk did it in 6 years– for less than $1 billion.

Private competition is always better.

On the other hand, says the LA Times:

Elon Musk’s growing empire is fueled by $4.9 billion in government subsidies

Los Angeles entrepreneur Elon Musk has built a multibillion-dollar fortune running companies that make electric cars, sell solar panels and launch rockets into space.

And he’s built those companies with the help of billions in government subsidies.

Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The Times. The figure underscores a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups.

“He definitely goes where there is government money,” said Dan Dolev, an analyst at Jefferies Equity Research. “That’s a great strategy, but the government will cut you off one day.”

Like the government is liable to cut Boeing off. Because now, it can.

I’m guessing Musk reckons he could find other customers, if the government stopped paying. But I’m guessing further that a chunk of all that money goes to schmoozing the government to keep on paying. In a decade or two, Musk could be no better than Boeing.

This is “privatisation”, and privatisation isn’t the same as a real market, hence the sneer quotes. Private competition is always better. So are lots of customers spending their own money, instead of just the one, getting its money at gunpoint. Let’s hope that in this case it will turn out to be a step in the right direction. As big as it now feels.