December 1st

Hilary Rodham Clinton, now 72, said on the Graham Norton Show on Friday that she is seriously thinking about entering the race for the Democratic nomination for President. Give me a break. The race is a total mess and is helping ensure Donald Trump’s re-election next November 2020. The very fact that Jo Biden, now 77, is still the front runner strikes me as an indication that the party wants to lose in 2020. Not only is he a little befuddled, but he also does not seem to be connecting with the millennials and younger voters who could push the democrats to victory.

Elizabeth Warren, who is clearly both smart and potentially electable, is being pushed out along with the other women in the race. Pete Buttigieg, at just 37, is a smart, focused and intelligent guy who stands a chance. But the bankers who seem to own the democrats favour Jo – someone they think they can manage.

Meantime, two billionaires – Bloomberg and Stayer – are also running for the democrats, presumably to stop the conversation about the need to eliminate the billionaire class.  Neither deserves a moment of our attention. They should use their funds to challenge Trump and support either Warren or Buttigieg.

Trump, who continues to blunder around the world like a bellicose buffoon with bouffant hair, is headed for an impeachment trial which will help his 2020 chances as far as his base is concerned. Increasingly erratic, bellicose and bizarre, Trump has rebuilt the GOP as a Charles Manson like cult which will support him even when he lies and threatens the security of the United States.

Brace yourselves for four more years of the Tweeting Trumpkin.

December 3rd

Judith Curry is one smart scientist. Former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, she is a leading climate scientist, often criticized by the “evangelicals” since she adopts a Karl Popper like approach to science. Here is an extract from an op ed she crafted on the current climate change “policy” conversations taking place in Madrid:

“For the past three decades, the climate policy ‘cart’ has been way out in front of the scientific ‘horse’. The 1992 Climate Change treaty was signed by 190 countries before the balance of scientific evidence suggested even a discernible observed human influence on global climate. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was implemented before we had any confidence that most of the recent warming was caused by humans. There has been tremendous political pressure on the scientists to present findings that would support these treaties, which has resulted in a drive to manufacture a scientific consensus on the dangers of manmade climate change.

Fossil fuel emissions as the climate ‘control knob’ is a simple and seductive idea. However this is a misleading oversimplification, since climate can shift naturally in unexpected ways. Apart from uncertainties in future emissions, we are still facing a factor of 3 or more uncertainty in the sensitivity of the Earth’s temperature to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We have no idea how natural climate variability (solar, volcanoes, ocean circulations) will play out in the 21st century, and whether or not natural variability will dominate over manmade warming.

We still don’t have a realistic assessment of how a warmer climate will impact us and whether it is ‘dangerous.’ We don’t have a good understanding of how warming will influence extreme weather events.  Land use and exploitation by humans is a far bigger issue than climate change for species extinction and ecosystem health. Local sea level rise has many causes, and is dominated by sinking from land use in many of the most vulnerable locations.

We have been told that the science of climate change is ‘settled’. However, in climate science there has been a tension between the drive towards a scientific ‘consensus’ to support policy making, versus exploratory research that pushes forward the knowledge frontier. Climate science is characterized by a rapidly evolving knowledge base and disagreement among experts. Predictions of 21st century climate change are characterized by deep uncertainty.

Nevertheless, activist scientists and the media seize upon each extreme weather event as having the fingerprints of manmade climate change — ignoring the analyses of more sober scientists showing periods of even more extreme weather in the first half of the 20th century, when fossil fuel emissions were much smaller.

Alarming press releases are issued about each new climate model prediction of future catastrophes from famine, mass migrations, catastrophic fires, etc. Yet, these press releases don’t mention that these predicted catastrophes are associated with highly implausible assumptions about how much we might actually emit over the course of the 21st century. Further, issues such as famine, mass migrations and wildfires are caused primarily by government policies and ineptitude, lack of wealth and land use policies. Climate change matters, but it’s outweighed by other factors in terms of influencing human well being.

We have been told that climate change is an ‘existential crisis.’ However, based upon our current assessment of the science, the climate threat is not an existential one, even in its most alarming hypothetical incarnations. However, the perception of manmade climate change as a near-term apocalypse and has narrowed the policy options that we’re willing to consider.

We have not only oversimplified the problem of climate change, but we have also oversimplified its ‘solution’. Even if you accept the climate model projections and that warming is dangerous, there is disagreement among experts regarding whether a rapid acceleration away from fossil fuels is the appropriate policy response. In any event, rapidly reducing emissions from fossil fuels and ameliorating the adverse impacts of extreme weather events in the near term increasingly looks like magical thinking.

Climate change – both manmade and natural – is a chronic problem that will require centuries of management.”

Powerful stuff and realistic review of the real state of the science – a science of deep uncertainty.

This broadly reflects my own position, based on two decades of serious reading of the climate scientific literature. I am also a big fan of Bjorn Lomborg and his analysis of the policy pursuits of governments.

I understand why so many are anxious and want action, but let us do more of the right thing rather than be herded down a path which will make little difference.

December 12th

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening.

Today the British electorate go to the polls and will determine what kind of government, if any, they will end up with. Odds favour a small majority (between 20-30) for Borish Johnson, but tactical voting could lead to either a hung parliament (and many would like to see this) or a small Labour Party majority. We will know mid-day Friday UK time just how this will pan out. Whatever happens, the election has intensified tribalism, post-truth fact-free claims on all sides and ridiculous policy positions which all know will never be implemented. I really feel sad for my friends and relatives who have to live through this nonsense.

Meantime, Israel will go to the election for a third time this year to see if they can create any kind of government, preferably one in which the Prime Minister is not charged with corruption or genocide. Time for change.

Harvey Weinstein, former movie mogul and predator, has offered a US$25 million settlement to a group of some thirty women who have accused him of sexual assault. The key parts of the deal are that he does not have to admit that he did anything wrong and that none of the $25million is from him (insurance money). What kind of a deal is this, one might ask, when someone who offers to pay settlements for sexual assault does so on the basis of guilt-freedom? A small group of accusers will have nothing to do with this deal. Good for them.

In the US, the House will soon vote on impeaching Vladimir Trumpkin for being Donald Trump, loudmouth mob boss-like President of the US – the liar in chief . Rather than harm him, there is a school of thought that this will actually help him win the US Presidential election in 2020. His “base” don’t but any of the “high crimes and misdemeanours” stuff and think he has been chosen by God to serve, God obviously preferring someone with bone-spurs to someone with intelligence. Nothing much will come of all this, since the Senate will do as the Trumpkin wishes. All this is made worse by democrats not being able to identify a clear front runner and by too many billionaires getting in the way. Happy Trump-mass America.

The good news comes from Finland. There, the new Prime Minister, Sanna Marin (34)  and her key allies in cabinet are all female, young and smart. Iceland too has a young, female and smart Prime Minister – Katrín Jakobsdóttir (43). The contrast between Finland / Iceland and the US/UK is striking. The other good news comes from Liverpool where, once again in a nail-biter, Liverpool are in to the final 16 of the Champions League.

December 21st

Let’s take a walk around the world and see what is happening..                   

As attacks on Greta Thunberg continue, Australia is on fire. In addition to its having the hottest days in recorded history, fires are burning in neighbourhoods around almost every major city in the country. Anyone denying extreme weather and its links to climate change needs to answer to every Australian. Things are especially bad in New South Wales, where a state of emergency has been declared. Friends who live in Adelaide report a serious fire in Cudlee Creek – a small town nearby.

In Britain, Zsar Borish secured a substantial vote in favour of his [revised] Brexit Bill in parliament, so it is now clear that Britain will leave the EU at the end of January 2020 and that work on a trade deal with the EU will begin in earnest, or possibly Leeds. Prince Phillip (98) was flown to hospital to treat a “pre-existing condition” called getting older (good job he is not insured by a US insurance company) and the BBC have put a day/night watch on the hospital. He’s not been well since his car accident earlier in the year and since he saw the TV interview with Prince Andrew. Prince Harry and Meghan called from Toronto to wish him well and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge baked a cake.

The Donald, sometime President of the US, has been impeached. He is only the third President to have been impeached, but he says he is by far the biggest ever to be impeached in all history  – he “loves peaches”, he says. The democrats, who have been trying to impeach Donald Trump ever since he bought the rights to the Miss Universe pageant in 1996, are helping him secure re-election. In explaining their strategy, a spokesman for the democrats said “the situation is hopeless, but not serious. We think we can beat him at the ballot box, but are asking our colleagues in Ukraine for help”.

In Canada, SNC Lavalin admitted that they used bribes to secure a contract in Libya and they have now pled guilty to fraud, which they could have done ages ago. The Ministry of Justice could also have negotiated a deal, but insisted on an expensive court case which made this thing last longer while  also putting the government in a vulnerable position. All’s well that ends well, I suppose – unless you happen to be the fall-guy they will send to jail.

In Alberta, the Kakistocracy that is the Kenney government continues to behave with abandon (definitely not gay abandon) and recklessness. Its Oil and Gas War Room (a.k.a. The Canadian Energy Centre) plagiarized a logo on the advice of its brand consultants (Purger and Prye) and called it its own and got caught.  Obviously, “journalists” (sic) with such high standards can be trusted to convert the truth into lies and lies into fact. After all, we are paying them $30 million a year to this weird entity to do just that. We can expect them to issue a denial that they ever had a logo and that, even if they did, it would comply with all the requirements of the truth and reconciliation commission. All of their background materials and news stories will, in future, be provided in Welsh so as to avoid any confusion.

Meantime, it is some kind of holiday season around the world. In Dubai, Christmas carols alternate with the call to prayer in the Dubai Mall and a performance of the Messiah took place in the Opera House;  in Wellington a variety of people are dressed in traditional Xmas dress: T-shirts, short shorts and Crocs; in Singapore, traditional Malay food is being served alongside Turkey, stuffing and gravy at the Crowne Plaza at the airport; in the Murgatroyd (North) household a wonderful Porchetta is being prepared and in the Murgatroyd house (West), we are brushing up and scrubbing down for a night out. Season’s greetings to all and wonderful wishes for 2020.

December 23rd

The film The Two Popes, with Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins as Francis and Benedict, is a very good film. Strong writing, great acting and a strong and largely true storyline.

It reminded me that Pope Francis will not last forever – he is now 83 and in seemingly good health. But he is the kind of man who will go for a long time and then suddenly stop. He has only one fully functioning lung and invest all of his energy in his mission and work.

Who will succeed him? I checked the betting at Paddy Power (trust the Irish to make money out of the papacy) and currently the two leading papabili are Marc Cardinal Ouellet formerly of Quebec City (odds are 7/2) and Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana (odds are 7/1). While others are in the running, the odds are much longer. One of these is a US Cardinal O’Mally, who came 4th in the last conclave. The other is Cardinal Schönborn from Austria – both are given odds of 15/1.

The conclave may take much longer than the previous few, which lasted 2-3 days. Francis has appointed a great many cardinals from “the periphery” – island states or places where there are few other cardinals. This means that there are fewer cardinals who are part of a voting block like North America, Europe or Latin America. Less opportunity to plan and plot between the end of Francis’s papacy and the start of the voting in the conclave.

Neither Ouellet or Turkson are “progressives” in the way that Francis has been. They are more conservative and cautious, with Turkson in particular more in the tradition of John Paul II and Benedict than Francis.

What the Church needs is a Francis II on steroids.

December 29th

Some meals involve a great deal of time, energy and anxiety and do not qualify as a meal fit for an idler to cook. Anything involving emulsions, requiring tweezers or cooking the delicate rock samphire requires too much work. Why make life difficult?

I once tried to cook Chile en Nogada – Poblano chilies stuffed with spiced, minced meat and then topped with a walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds. Far too much work for a single meal for two.  Almost as bad as the French dish Galatine – de-boned meat that’s stuffed, poached, coated with a savory jelly and served cold.

A good idler meal is a stew. Brown some beef, then fresh onion, carrots, celery and, once these vegetables have started to soften, add tomato puree and then stock and some baby potatoes and forget about it for an hour and half and its ready to eat. If you’re an Irish idler, replace the beef with lamb. If you have part French ancestry, then some chicken will do. If you’re from Yorkshire, as I am, replace the stock with stout and add flour just before you add the stock, making sure to stir the flour in so it doesn’t go lumpy.

Some idler cooks spend too much time peeling and fine chopping their carrots, celery and onion as if fine dicing will add flavour. It makes no difference. Big chunks are fine, just as long as they are bite size.

The more refined stews take more time and energy – adding thyme or rosemary, peas, beer instead of stock, flour to thicken the sauce. But if company is coming it is sometimes worth it, especially if you want to make sure to get a return invitation.

Another good idler meal is a simple and very easy is a mushroom risotto – just a few ingredients and a lot of stirring. The secret here is the addition of hot stock to a sautéed onion, garlic and risotto rice – either add all of the stock at once and stir or small amounts at a time and stir. The end result is the same – a tasty meal in under half an hour.

My grandfather, who was a Paris born and trained chef, always explained that “less is more” if cooking for real flavour. The modern preoccupation with refined plates of food, each item artistically arranged as if Rembrandt might be popping over for meal, and the delicate sauces which “bring the plate together” – all nonsense promoted by chefs so as to persuade us to part with more money. True, they so spend a lot of time making these dishes and plating them, but I just want a fulsome, tasty meal with the least amount of labour possible.

As for edible flowers – fine if you want to go for a walk and pick some, wash them, dry them and then get the tweezers out. Give me beans of toast any time.

December 30th

It’s that time of the year when people make their new year’s resolutions. I don’t. But I will make some predictions.

I will not be losing much weight in 2020. I have been the same weight, except for my period in Keto, for over a decade and it suits me. It also saves me having to buy a new wardrobe.

I will not be going vegan. While we cook a number of vegan and vegetarian meals – thanks Jamie Oliver – we also enjoy a hunk of beef or lamb or the odd chicken, partridge, kangaroo or venison steak.

I will become increasingly concerned and angry about both the 2020 Presidential election (which Trump will win) and the political and economic situation in Alberta, which is where I live. US politics is becoming so messy and brutal that I fear for the future of the Republic. In Alberta, incompetence, ideology and idiocy are shaping the actions of the government which is hell bent on destroying public services as a prelude to privatization. As they plunge the Province deeper into recession, deficits and debt (all predictable), they will blame everyone except themselves. It will get nasty here in North America.

I will definitely get older. In 2020 I turn 70 (and will celebrate 50 years of being married to the saintly lady). Just a year and ten months left to manage my own retirement funds until the Government demand that I convert them to an annuity (unless the Government changes the rules and assumes that responsible adults can manage their own funds responsibly).

I will watch a lot of television. The BBC continues to produce wonderful television – The Repair Shop (a nightly tear jerker), The Trial of Christine Keeler, Would I Lie to You (solid laughter) and great drama (like the second series of Gentleman Jack, Killing Eve and Line of Duty) as well as lots of great films. I am especially looking forward to Little Women, The Duke, Promising Young Women and Beanpole.

I will be listening to some great music. My current preoccupation with chamber music, especially post Beethoven and pre Bartok will continue. But I am also exploring women composers, such as Vivian Fine, Ethel Smyth and Eleanor Alberga.

I will be reading around some interesting topics. In 2019 I explored a variety of aspects of philosophy – especially hermeneutics – and macroeconomics. In 2020 I want to know more about developments in social innovation and social enterprise.

I will be doing a lot of writing. I already have commissions and projects in hand that will keep me busy for the first few months of 2020 and more will follow.

I will have fun. I always do. I laugh a lot, since so much of what I see and hear around me, despite the dark side, is funny. I also have grandkids who make me laugh and smile.

All in all, 2020 looks pretty good from where I sit right now. All I need to do is stay healthy to enjoy it.

I do hope your 2020 is fully of laughter, happiness and joy. Take care of yourself and look after others.