Recently I was watching some more of Robert Sapolsky’s lectures on human behaviour and biology, given at Stanford. They’re absolutely brilliant. If you were one of those kids who loved documentaries, these might be the most satisfying viewing you’ve had in a while.

Not only does he go through the science involved, but often puts it in political context. You get something of the development of the ideas as well as the studies themselves.

The one I’d like to highlight here is lecture 20, part 4 on aggression in humans.

What really jumped out at me was the fact that Conrad Lorenz wrote a book on aggression in humans after WW2 and some of his assumptions seem to have persisted in the public mind, particularly among those who consider Ayn Rand to have been a genius. Lorenz was an unrepentant Nazi who was certain that violence was inevitable in humans. Seriously, that’s not a Godwin.

Along with certain other ideas that prop up Social Darwinism and callous, extreme right wing tea bagger type views, it’s shit science pushed by vested interests to try to maintain the idea that domination by violence is legitimate authority. Like that deliberate misreading of the selfish gene that was used in an attempt to explain the sociopathic values of Big Oil. Like inserting the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ into Darwin’s work when it was a contradiction of what he’d written about human development. Seems the lunar right is as bad with science as it is with spirituality.

I’d recommend the Stanford channel on youtube for more decent educational stuff as well as UCSD and CARTA. Put CARTA on your reading list for Anthropogeny, if you’re at all interested in the state of research into what makes humans human. Ideas have developed somewhat in the last 60 years. The symposium on Autism, in particular, is a fascinating insight into how well we know our own minds.

Do genes have a part to play in violent behaviour? Yes. Is it significant? Well, not as much as your socio-economic level. Seriously, by age 5 that’s had an influence on a growing child that will affect their entire life. You’d think anyone interested in research or religion would be all over supporting early intervention and adequate welfare, in response to that.

Posted in pollyticks, social justice, teh interwebs | Tagged , , ,


AGL seniors discount letterA friend wrote the following in response to an advertising scam by AGL:

Thanks, but no thanks AGL. Yes, I’m a senior, and you may think that all I’m concerned about with energy costs is to get a discount on my bills when I pay them on time. You’re wrong if that’s the case.

I’ve been keeping an eye on AGL’s enthusiasm for undermining the Renewable Energy Target (along with the other big two energy retailers.)

I’m well aware of the negative impact your undermining tactics have had on the renewable sector, the loss of business confidence and their willingness to invest, the impact this has had on communities across the state. It’s led to uncertainty, unemployment and distress. That’s not something I want to support, not even if I happened to win a $10,000 holiday voucher.

Perhaps you assume that seniors aren’t aware of greenhouse gas emissions or the massive role played by burning brown coal. In 2013-14 apparently 94 per cent of AGL’s reported facility level greenhouse gas emissions was generated from just one brown coal fired power station: Loy Yang A in Victoria.

In addition there are other significant environmental and human impacts from coal mining, including the immediate and after effects of last years Morwell mine fire.

You could do so much better AGL. You could be looking to transition away from brown coal in Victoria. It’s clear you have some ability to diversify. Your name appears on some pretty neat projects including the solar array in Nyngan, yet you’re undermining the RET, so you’re giving the consumer a very mixed message.

At present it seems that basically you don’t want the Australian consumer to benefit from any competition from renewables:

“…weakening the RET would drive up the value of their fossil fuel assets, such as their investments in polluting coal fired power plants and coal seam gas mining. And, of course, it would limit new competition in the energy market, which lowers power prices for consumers, too.”

So, AGL, until your messages are consistent, and until your track record shows clear and unambiguous support for renewable energy, I won’t be switching.

Finally, while an enclosed leaflet notes that the Seniors Card Program doesn’t endorse products, the formal letter using the seniors logo and “age friendly partners program”  as well as the words “Seniors Card selected AGL as its energy partner” certainly looks like an endorsement to me.

Posted in Australia, environmentality, pollyticks, social justice, what's wrong with these people? | Tagged , , , , , ,

Garden update: Veggie patch overhaul

This is what the yard’s been looking like for most of Winter. Overgrown, muddy and in need of finishing off. I’d started the raised beds after overhauling the second veggie patch out the back, before the cold weather intervened.








I started this post just before I had to move from the old house, it’s been sitting in drafts for five years. The veggie patch at the new place doesn’t have the art installation yet, but it’s about time to plant the broad beans.

There’s baby kale and chards everywhere. Frost kills lettuce up here, so I’ll go radishes and broccoli instead.The marshmallow takes care of itself.

Posted in Australia, environmentality, green thumbs | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

More on privatisation

bill and letterA couple of letters arrived in the post yesterday. It seems Origin have declined to address their errors and Lumo have caved rather than create any division in the monolith that is private utilities’ business model. Bend over further, pensioner, we can’t stab you in the heart from that angle.

I recant what I said about private utilities being like dealing with The Mob. The Mob have some honour. And bikers. In school a bunch of friends had friends and rellies who were bikers, I’ve yet to meet one who would sell Grandma down the river for $457.66. But for private utilities, that’s bread and butter. Rather than foot the bill that ran up while they were farting around, they’ll pass it on to a disabled Grandmother. And the icing on the cake was the offer to negotiate a payment plan. Lumo are based in New Zealand. I’m guessing Kiwi, not Maori, since they shy from a fight with someone their own size.

The next step is to contact Senators again regarding that Federal inquiry into private electricity utilities. At present it’s related to price fixing and nerfing of solar feed, but given the sheer number of people experiencing problems like these, that needs to be expanded. The Ombudsman can only do so much.

By their own admission the whole issue was caused by an “error” made by Origin. They didn’t really mean to transfer my account without my knowledge or consent. It was sheer accident. Honest.

When clarification was requested, whether this was standard treatment of accounts and how insecure the accounting is, the reply was that it was actually a database error. The databases held by private utilities are such that any clerk can upload an old file by mistake and oops, there goes your account. Too bad, so sad.

Redress? Haha. Surely you jest, peasant. They’ll harass you to the point that you’re happy for your phone to be disconnected. Then stuff around for months, then send you an accrued bill, all because they lack the skills to drive a fucking database. And customers are expected to pay up and shut up. At the same time that the utilities have been colluding to restrict and hamper development of local and sustainable energy.

Private utilities’ business model appears to be, let us all hang together lest separately we all be hanged. Fortunately there’s a bunch of people around looking for public, local distributed energy models. Energy Search negotiate bulk representation and discounts for households and small business, if you’d like to give them a look. Expanded local advocacy is another option, to join together and hound the bastards on social media and in VCAT.

In the same mail Lumo have made me an offer to start doing business purely on the internet. Golly gee, folks, what an offer! The people who can’t resolve a database bungle want me to expose more of my private information on their web servers and not get things in writing. I can’t wait!

When Origin and Lumo are rendered obsolete, which will be very soon, they’ll have only themselves to blame. I’ll be too busy partying to shed a tear. And if you vote LNP this Saturday and you or your friends or family end up in a similar situation, consider this warning of what you’re in for.

Posted in Australia, pollyticks, social justice, sustainable community | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Reframing the narrative of separation

Something Russell Brand said the other day caught my attention. It’s important to reframe this. It was in the context of mainstream media reporting on the Ferguson riots. His insight into the way those headlines lead the train of thought was appealing to me.

Well, shake if off cop now has more than 30 million views.

In my mind, the people he’s waving and giving way to are Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

Posted in partnership society, social justice, sustainable community, teh interwebs | Tagged , ,

The illusion of suffering

I’ll grant you, it can be a pretty unpleasant illusion. I mean, people are cutting themselves. It’s not fun.

Why do we do it? This is another of the ‘glitch in the myth’ series, which should all be in the Mysticism category.

Every so often when discussing making changes to the paradigm, improving the lifestyle of 95% of people on the planet, one of the objections that comes up is if you don’t suffer for what you get you don’t appreciate it.

As the great Saint Terence would say,

that’s bullshit.

Russell Brand, who may or may not be a Saint yet, as he’s aiming for Messiah, replied but isn’t that what everyone’s looking for, to be happy?

That’s a good question Rusty. Is that what we’re looking for?

Our evolution has gifted us with a system of neurotransmitters and hormones that orient around us being fairly content. Our baseline physiological homeostatic benchmark is happiness.

The suffering bit in Western myth comes from the doctrine of redemptive suffering. Jesus died on the cross for you, whore, so you can just fucking suffer.

Seems a bit out of date, now that you put it like that. I mean, whose interest does that serve?

Personally I’d rather see all those hours and centuries of mantras envisioning the end of suffering for all beings put into action with our global speed of light communication and open source technology. That seems like the 21st century approach.

Or would you rather play with the bullies a bit longer?

Suffering for your art only counts as long as you want to approach it that way. Authenticity can be elegant. ZEF looks pretty good, eh?

Posted in meditation, mysticism, partnership society | Tagged , , , , ,


Here comes the cavalry.

The CIA got rid of Gough. And who knows what happened to Fraser, who checked out unexpectedly as he was organising a new Party.  Gillard had to fly home from trade talks that came a bit early.

Abbott has three daughters. And a Marine base in Darwin. And Pine Gap.

Even if the LNP did have a vision, spine and a soul, they don’t have a whole lot in the way of options.

We’d best get onto that Transition Towns thing, then. We are the cavalry. Ride a broomstick, if it tickles your fancy, to spray your electronic graffiti. It makes great chaff as well as downloading from the Hivemind fairly reliably. What’s on our mind today, world? Water rights for family farms?

It won’t take long, since the US is grotesquely over extended. Even US military personnel have had a gutful. Keep doing what we need to do until it sinks in at the MSM level. Murdoch’s the only one in that game anymore and who wants to play with a bully?

The US is the home of Occupy. It fits together with Solidarity, Jubilee, Permaculture and Open Source. They’re like the fingers on the hand of the Hivemind, that’s going to save the world.

It’s going to happen as a practical joke. Future me said, in hindsight, how else could we do it, we were so spun up.

Posted in Australia, ausvotes, pollyticks, sock puppets, teh interwebs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Food security in Australia

John Muir hemp farmingThe plight of farmers is of particular concern to me at the moment. Farmers losing their livelihood is a personal face on the huge issues of food sovereignty and production. It is another area where the current flawed application of the free market system is causing a great deal of heartache, not to mention starvation.

You’d think someone who busts a gut humping a tractor 18 hours a day to produce food, which everyone needs, would get a bit of respect. Instead, price wars between the duopoly and free trade agreements see farmers being offered $6 a tonne for pears.

At a time when some are claiming humans lack the ability to feed the world.

Food price speculation is a battleground. Proponents claim that the free market theory applied to food results in distribution according to demand. Progressives point to evidence of starvation in the two thirds world, monopolies on production and distribution and the sheer waste produced in industrialised nations as demonstration that the free market is bastardised by the faulty economics of externalities. If social and environmental costs are tallied up as normal operating costs rather than passed off onto struggling public agencies, things run a lot more smoothly. And do what trade’s supposed to do, which is get people fed. Find a need and meet it. That’s what business does. The share/profit bubble is the result of bad accounting, which is being addressed by people in business and government all over the planet now.

sa farmer

If the free market was going to work with arbitrary national laws and the public wearing the cost of the accounting error with externalities, the people growing our food would be paid a fair amount for the work they do. Everyone knows that’s not what’s happening. Not only are farmers not being fairly paid, their basic security is down the sewer. The story of Charlie Phillott is particularly interesting, he wasn’t even behind on his mortgage and the bank threw him out. Those social and environmental externalities need to be entered as debits, not credits. Pay them like you pay the rent for a tower office building. Palming off the social costs of kicking people off the land does not result in more profit, it’s a bloody accounting error. It looks good on paper for five minutes before you realise something’s really fucking wrong.

Aside from being paid fairly, how about a bit of bloody respect? Agriculture is one of humanity’s oldest technologies. We’ve been farmers for 10,000 years. Everything else we’ve done, culture, technology, language, art, cities, is all built on reliance on farming. Yet the livelihood and social collateral of family farmers in Australia seems oddly understated in debate about food security. Our illustrious PM blamed suicide rates in the bush on the Carbon tax.

Now that we’re able to build pos-net housing, have automated most farming including ploughing and harvest, and anyone can get on the net for education, socialising, travel and games, why would people not aspire to grow up to be market gardeners? It’s about the most constructive thing a person can do. Everything else humanity does depends on it. And farming and gardening provide most of what they produce by growing things that take Carbon out of the air to grow. How ambitious do you want to be? Is saving the planet on your bucket list? How about feeding the world?

Addressing the externalities and resulting bubble fixes a lot more than just dodgy accounting. It gives us a more honest, authentic way to assess value. It provides the economic support to find needs and meet them, sustainably. Instead of hamstringing new technology in the interests of corporate monopolies, it encourages development and local secondary industry. Put the externalities in the debits column and suddenly the whole world looks different, can you picture it?

I think this is what the US Libertarians are on about, except when they say “de-regulation” everyone’s picturing factories exploding. So don’t say “de-regulation,” say “pay the rent.” It’s a different psychology. A different feel. Puts us all at the table because we’re all in business here. That’s what humans do when they’re not fighting over shit. They get on with business. SME’s already pay their rent. It’s the multi-nats who are tax dodging and raking in corporate welfare that are at issue here. It’s not too much to expect the same rules to be applied fairly whether you’re dealing with one market garden or sheep stations. Especially when the application of said rules will result in better conditions for 95% of the people on the planet.

If we organise business tax well, we could eliminate income tax.

To have a profitable, stable business environment, you like people to be secure and be able to spend enough money to keep everything ticking over. Unless you’re a member of the Bush family and milk a bubble by arming both sides of a fabricated conflict. Again with the social costs. When they’re your legs getting blown off, you tend to tally that a little differently. A stable business environment is preferable to anyone who prefers a t-shirt to a kevlar vest. You’d have to be pretty keen on 3D prosthetics to sign up for a war these days.

I am unable to find an image of the amputee chorus line from the movie War Inc. You’ll have to imagine it.

Food security is up there with housing as one of the most basic things any community needs in order to function, let alone survive sustainably. Can we start thinking about real production and the lives of the people who grow food and eat it, rather than share prices in some hallucination in a stock exchange built on an accounting error?

That would be great, thanks.

Posted in Australia, environmentality, pollyticks, social justice | Tagged , , ,

Electric bikes

There’s a mob in Barcelona making vintage styled electric bikes.

I love the styling on these Oto cycles. The colours, the shape, they’re gorgeous.

This is the sort of project that could be adapted for Australia really nicely. Here you need more than 26 km of range, but that’s doable. I wonder what we’d end up with if we put a couple of sheds on properties in towns outside the cities and played with some of the Tesla engine designs?

My idea for the design was to have panniers on the back of a utility bike and put an engine in one side. Depending on how far you wanted to ride the battery could be in the same side, or a larger capacity one in the other pannier. The idea is to get around the restrictions on electric bikes until there’s enough of them, and they’re developed enough, that hundreds of cyclists can turn up at the local council office and wave money in their faces. Here’s $25 for my permit for the year. No council is going to say no to that. There’d be a bit of a chat with the roads people, but the State Governments are desperate for money, too.

By building up the tech off road you get a chance to develop it and do it in numbers. There’s scope for testing tracks to be built and lots of videos to be uploaded, telling the stories of the people building them and what they can be used for.


That way any public body that tries to shit on the idea is visibly trampling hundreds of people’s lives and stories. In general Government tries to be a little more furtive about that sort of thing.

There’s the bonus that you can use shipping containers as sheds for construction and run the whole show off those you-beaut stirling engine micro power plants. While you’re developing your electric bike engine, set up a few stirling engines in shipping containers. (Again, put the videos and blueprints online.) Build some as well, depending on how you go. Then truck them out to small towns across rural Australia to set up distributed power and electric transport.

Extra points to whomever holds the first Australian electric go-kart regatta. This needs to be within a few hours travel of larger cities so that a million bogans can get in on it. Modified versions of the Tesla engine and battery design can have us in electric cars and bikes in no time. It’ll be like the Yarra Bird Man rally, on wheels. No doubt there’ll be Sydney Pride entrants doing Priscilla, electric queen of the desert.

The purpose is not to make a million dollars, it’s to make the point. We’re going to have the Living Income before long anyway, so you’ll be able to live reasonably well and spend all your time playing in the shed. Once the videos get around, you won’t need to buy your own beers down the pub any more and if you travel, there’ll be other folks around the world working on similar stuff that you can visit.

Travel in the new global paradigm is going to be a lot of fun.

Posted in design, environmentality, sustainable community | Tagged , , , , , ,