The Need for Heretics  

Posted by Big Gav

Cyclone Larry has caused quite a stir in recent days (although thankfully the area damaged isn't very densely populated - and it is probably worth noting a "Category 5" Australian Cyclone equates to a Category 3 Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale of things).

The main casualty other than buildings in the Innisfail area appears to be the Australian banana and sugar cane crops, with Woolworths undertaking emergency banana price stabilisation operations.

I imagine this could have some impact on local ethanol prices (though I'm not sure how much is made from sugar cane) and possibly on global sugar prices (which are tipped to soar anyway). I suspect I won't be seeing any cheap bananas this winter either.

I'll make a rare positive mention of Mr Bush by noting he offered help within 24 hours of the disaster - I bet Katrina victims would have enjoyed that sort of response time...

Cyclone Wati is ollowing a similar path but isn't expected to make landfall.

While Larry is the strongest cyclone to hit Oz in many years, and there is no shortage of analysis showing tropical storm intensity is increasing thanks to global warming, I have to say that my personal impression is that we had more cyclones in the 1970's. But it could just be that I pay less attention as I get older, especially as I live in a city that doesn't get hit by them (though who knows what will happen 10 years down the track).

On the topic of global warming this FAQ is a great resource should you ever find yourself arguing with some idiot global warming denier - its more accessible to the layman that RealClimate too (link via RealClimate and WorldChanging).

Energy Bulletin has a good roundup of recent global warming news.

Bruce's latest Viridian Note (461) takes a look at Freeman Dyson's address on "The Need for Heretics" - a concept which I wholeheartedly applaud, being somewhat heretical in nature - see the note for the speech, which is yet to appear online as I type this. Freeman also has an article at Technology Review declaration that the Darwinian era is over. Bruce comments on Freeman's global warming heresy:

Freeman Dyson is the heretic's heretic and the visionary's visionary. In this speech, Dyson opines that climate science is too reliant on brittle computer models and isn't paying enough attention to the facts on the ground: that the warming is indeed very real, but simply not as threatening to us as certain other challenges our civilization faces.

I really hope this old gentleman is right. I've seen him be right before. When I'm as old as Freeman Dyson is now, and I somehow find myself putting my stocking feet up during balmy winter nights when everything else is just peachy, man, that prospect will be grand.

I won't be one bit embarrassed or ashamed that I howled about a wolf that time revealed to be a small, friendly pup. I'll just apologize at equal length and volume to anyone who will listen. I'll be really grateful to have been that mistaken.

Speaking of Bruce, there is a interview which supposedly mirrors his speech at SXSW up at The Well, WorldChanging have an SXSW roundup along with one attendees perspective on Bruce's talk.

WorldChanging also has the latest US wind rankings (don't giggle). Wind power is growing fast, with California expected to be overtaken by Texas as the largest harvester of natures bountry next year.

TreeHugger has a number of relevant posts up - a note on a green power glut in the US Pacific North West (which may be soaked up Oregon's push for all state agencies to be powered entirely by renewable energy by 2010), an article on a flexible LED based substitute for neon lighting (which reduces energy costs by about 70% - on a related note the SMH has an article on energy efficient street lighting in Sydney) and a post on a burger chain that is turning waste oil Into biodiesel.

For fans of peak oil doomer memes, try this piece at CounterCurrents, which bundles together all sorts of interesting ideas.
I had a mild epiphany the other day: it’s not President Bush who’s living in a fantasy world, it’s most of his critics who are. I’m no apologist for Bush – I neither like nor dislike him. He’s no more significant to me than a fly buzzing around outside my window. So permit me to explain my reasoning.

People look at Bush’s invasion of Iraq and see a miserable failure. But a failure to do what? Democratize Iraq? Eliminate Iraq’s WMD arsenal? Reduce global terrorism? If those were, in fact, the reasons for invading Iraq, then the invasion would have to be classified as a failure. But what if the real reason was to secure Iraq’s oil supplies, perhaps not for immediate use, and perhaps not even for use by the United States? Then the invasion of Iraq would have to be judged a success, a “mission accomplished,” so to speak.

Or take Bush’s seemingly irresponsible handling of the domestic economy. How can any sane person fail to understand that cutting revenue while increasing spending will produce deficits, and that those deficits cannot increase in perpetuity? Sooner or later that accumulated debt has got to have consequences. Bush appears to be acting as if there were no tomorrow. But what if there really were no tomorrow, financially speaking? In that case, the reckless economic policies of today would not only be irrelevant, but might actually be shrewd. I mean, if one knows that he is not going to have to pay back his debts tomorrow, then why not borrow money like crazy today? In fact, if civilization is coming to an end, then why not use all that borrowed money to stock up on guns and vital resources, such as oil?

Now, I’m just one person. And I’ve been closely studying economic, environmental, and energy issues for only a few years. And I’m no expert. Yet I’ve come to the conclusion – and I don’t want to be a “Chicken Little” here – that civilization as we have known it for the last century is doomed.


What will matter in this future? Commodities, principally energy, food, and water. Everything else is secondary. Money is far down the list in importance.

So how would you, the government, prepare for a future world in which commodities are king? By securing today as many of those commodities as possible. Hence, the U.S. government’s binge of military base building throughout the commodity-rich regions of the world. What would you not worry about? Money. The only concern you might have for money is to prevent its premature demise. Hence, the smoke and mirrors used to paint a pretty but false portrait of the economy. Some will argue that the government needs more than just energy, food, and water to survive. True, but by controlling the bulk of the world’s key commodities, everything else can be procured, including human labor and loyalty.

I'm glad to see Billmon has started posting again, taking a look at both Zalmay Khalizad's GroundHog Day and John Snow's awesome record of economic achievement.
Just now I came across this passage, describing the furious hotel-room struggle waged at a pre-war meeting of Iraqi exiles in London:
Chalabi was flying in from Tehran after cutting a deal with the Kurdish and Shiite parties to form a provisional government in spite of the Americans. Then the Sunni delegates revolted over their scant numbers. Khalizad, an Afghan-American who understood the bazaar nature of regional politics, brokered the horse trading. Sunnis and independents were added, watering down the Shiite numbers.

You could easily have ripped that passage from a New York Times article on the latest political negotiations in Baghdad. Same faces, same factions, same issues, same conspiracies, same cynical manuevers, same tired lies.

After three-and-a-half years and three elections, this is what "democracy" has achieved in Iraq: a chronic case of deju vu. And, of course, approximately 100,000 to 150,000 casualties. And the death squads. Shouldn't forget about them.

I just wonder: Does Zalmay Khalizad wake up every morning, like the Bill Murray character in Groundhog Day, wondering why he's been condemned to live the same day over and over again?

Zalmay may either be a monster or perhaps just an apparatchik stuck in a swamp, but he has at least managed to avoid getting nominated for Crooked Timber's "Wanker of the week" award, which was prompted by a slew of unreason (amongst saner positions adopted by more rational libertarians) in "Reason" magazine featuring Christopher Hitchens, Glenn Reynolds and Louis Rossetto (who gets my vote - I can't believe he founded Wired - he sounds like a brainwashed zombie) on the best course of action to take in Iraq.
1. Did you support the invasion of Iraq?

Yes, both the one that didn’t happen in 1991 and the one that did in 2003. But Iraq is not the war, it is a battle. The war is The Long War against Islamic fascism.

2. Have you changed your position?

If anything, I believe even more strongly in actively combating Islamic fascism throughout the Global Village. Everyday is Groundhog Day for the anti-war movement, which is stuck re-protesting Vietnam — while we are confronted by a uniquely 21st century challenge: a networked fascist movement of super-empowered individuals trying to undo 50K years of social evolution. Waiting to get hit by an NBC weapon is not an option. Dhimmitude for me or my children is not peace. Righteous forward defense is a necessity.

3. What should the U.S. do in Iraq now?

The US should persevere militarily until we defeat the fascists in Iraq, as we did in Afghanistan, as we must everywhere. The US’s biggest failure has not been on the battlefield — where we are relentlessly reducing our enemies — but in waging media war against the Islamists and their fellow travelers on the Left, and in rallying the American people, who are confused, and perhaps angered, that once again we are being called upon to save the world.

To close, George Monbiot is apparently now a (undeserving) hero amongst the law and order set in Britain. I thought the interesting part was actually the big brotherish note about security camera vision quality these days, with the British being the world leaders at total urban surveillence (during my time in the UK I never ceased to be impressed by how quickly the police appeared at incident scenes in London thanks to the omnispresent camera network).
I ran round the corner but there was no sign of him. I ran up and down the streets for a while and then, coming out of the back of a big commercial building, I saw an old man with a limp, carrying a bag.

“Excuse me please.”


“May I see your bag?”

“Of course.”

It was a paper takeaway bag.

“I’m sorry. It’s just that someone’s been mugged and the mugger came this way.”

“No trouble.”

He hobbled off, and I went back to the woman who had been mugged.

“I spoke to a man with a limp, but it wasn’t him.”

“How do you know?”

“He only had a paper bag.”

“What did he look like?”

“Gaunt face, sunken eyes, shaven head, small grey beard.”

“That’s him!”


I ran back, and of course he had disappeared. Just inside the gates of the offices was the woman’s bag, torn open, its contents scattered on the paving.

By the time the police arrived, they had caught him on the other side of the city.

“As soon as we get a report, we look out for the suspect on the TV screens. We saw him coming into town.”

“But how did you know it was him?”

“The cameras are so good now they can read the numbers on the cash tills.”


Gav - actually the Australian and US systems for Cat 5 storms are very similar.
This is the Australian one
Cat 5 Gusts > 279km/hr Average Wind Speed > 225 Pressure < 930

This is the Saffir/Simpson Scale the Yanks use:

Category Five Hurricane:
Winds greater than 155 mph (135 kt or 249 km/hr). Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away.

Our Cat 5 cyclone is a bit stronger however there is whether they are measuring the strongest gust or average.

The CounterCurrents view is very similar to what Greg Palast recently posted. He titled it:
"Bush Didn't Bungle Iraq, You Fools

Steve - thanks for the comment - I blame Wikipedia which provided the comparison I used.

It seems Oz Cat 5 = Saffir Cat 4 or Cat 5:

WHT - I saw the Palast article (and your post on it) and was meaning to blog it at some point as it had a few interesting points...

Salon just published a long article on Peak Oil.

Thanks Peter.

I did actually get briefly interviewed for that one, but alas, I wasn't controversial (or interesting) enough to get a mention...

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