Monday, November 30, 2009

A committed socialist on the Cuban revolution

Rather than to attempt to summarize this insider's look at the Cuban revolution I simply suggest you read it, you won't be disappointed.

Copenhagen conference: Hopes and fears

New Scientist, always worth a look, publishes Copenhagen Conference hopes and fears, including this from Richard Lindzen:

I fervently hope that Copenhagen will avoid canonising the absurd notion that climate is determined by any single parameter like CO2. The dubious attempts to link this parameter to every form of catastrophe is producing unwarranted fear. Imposing this notion as a matter of international law will set science back several centuries. The accompanying policies seem designed to do the same for society as a whole. The carbon control movement, like every malicious movement, seeks to cloak itself in an aura of virtue. Sentient citizens should be able to see through this patent ploy.

The outspoken Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The UN: too much Star Trek; not enough Star Wars

In the original Star Trek Captain Kirk was clearly in charge, running the Enterpise as any captain would a naval vessel. He occupied the central position on the bridge, surrounded by a small number of subordinates, soliciting advice only from Mr Spock, the rest doing strictly as they were told -- Bones would sometimes break away from the medicinal brandy to put in an appearance but he was invariably wrong about everything. Their mission: "to boldly go where no man has gone before."

In Star Trek: The Next Generation the Enterprise was run much more democratically. Captain Picard was in charge but the bridge was literally packed with juniors whose advice he actively solicited, always ignoring militaristic idiot Worf (a black Bush with a battering-ram foehead), however. There was even a Ship's Counselor to provide guidance. In this setting Picard functioned more as a wise father figure than an autocratic commander. Very touchy feely stuff for sure but not a realistic means for effectively responding to the many crises confronted -- we're under attack; time for a quick meeting; counselor Troy please accompany me to my quarters so we can discuss this, er, intimately. Their mission: "to boldly go where no one has gone before."

Had the show continued to evolve along these lines Star Trek: Totally Ineffective might have resulted, the captain now replaced by a participatory-decision-making-facilitator tasked with achieving crew consensus prior to any action being taken. The Enterprise would be a mini-United Nations and just like the real thing the Enterprise would never make it out of dock, the crew failing to agree on anything. Their mission: "to boldly go nowhere."

Such a show might attract a small but fervent group of supporters keen on observing inclusive decision-making processes but those expecting action would be sorely disappointed. I mean, no sane person wants to watch continuing episodes of what amounts to a committee meeting. The show would likely be axed after a few action-devoid episodes.

The United Nations, the ultimate committee, endlessly meeting and discussing, is still going strong, however, still trying to design horses and still coming up with camels. Sure the U.N. was a noble experiment worth trying in the wake of World War II but what has it achieved having gobbled up billions in funding? Quick, list five major U.N. accomplishments and don't give me any of that "the U.N.'s a quiet achiever" nonsense. The eradication of smallpox springs to mind but no others -- if you listed "world dialogue" or some such you're an idiot.

The vagaries of elected government can be tolerated but the continuing existence of the U.N. is puzzling. The various levels of government do provide a range of tangible services and through the electoral process voters are at least provided an illusion of participation, albeit indirect, in government decision making. The U.N. is a different beast entirely. No one there has been popularly elected; its massive bureaucracy totally faceless. And the main task of this bureaucracy? From all appearances, talking, report writing and updating.

Like most living in Australia I do not object to the taxes levied by the various levels of government because I get much in return -- medical care, garbage pick up, roads, defence, policing and so on. But I have no idea how much funding is provided the U.N. by my government and can't recall any politician discussing the matter. Even worse, I have no idea what Australians receive in return other than the warm glow achieved from knowing their tax dollars are supporting a worthy enterprise -- cynics such as myself therefore receiving nothing.

Even those most supportive of bloated bureaucracy, the left, know deep down that the U.N. is ineffective, John Quiggin recently letting slip:

As with most international agreements, the outcome from Copenhagen will prove far short of ideal.

Thus the U.N. fails to meet even its supporters' performance expectations.

The Copenhagen Conference, undoubtedly the biggest carbon-generating gab-fest ever, is unlikely to produce much beyond talk and no matter what is agreed isn't going to solve the manmade climate problem (provided it exists). You see, the U.N. is too much Star Trek and not nearly enough Star Wars. Just like Star Trek the U.N. devotes far too much time to talking and pondering and not nearly enough time to accomplishing mission objectives. Star Wars on the other hand is all about kicking ass in pursuit of established goals. If urgent action is required to head off a climate catastrophe we need a Luke Skywalker, not a Captain Picard. Hmm, I wonder how Obama looks in white? Nah, he's more a talker than a light-saber wielder. Maybe Gordon Brown? Kevin Rudd? Seriously folks, unless global warming can be talked to death we're doomed.


Acts of defiance

In announcing a massive expansion of its uranium enrichment program Iran has once again thumbed its nose at the mighty United Nations, which will again repond with strongly worded scolding letters. Hey, maybe an aggressive cease and desist letter to global warming would do the trick.

A similar act of defiance has just occurred in Switzerland where voters ignored the wishes of their own government, the United Nations and human rights groups by voting against further construction of mosque minarets. Fearful of the possible consequences of a "no" vote, the government felt it prudent to "mount a vigorous public relations campaign overseas to try to avoid a backlash in Islamic countries - like the one Denmark faced after publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad".

Iran need not fear the possibility of a similarly violent backlash in countries opposing its nuclear activities, however. Funny how that works.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Radioactive practical joke

Just your typical nuclear horseplay at an Indian reactor:

Indian government officials say workers at a nuclear power plant in the country's south have been treated for poisoning after drinking water was deliberately spiked with radiation.

Routine tests showed 55 employees from the plant in Kaiga in the state of Karnataka had increased levels of the radioactive element tritium, which is used in nuclear reactors.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India, which operates the country's civil nuclear facilities, said in a statement that preliminary enquiries revealed no radioactive leak or security breach.

"It is possibly an act of mischief," the statement said.

Here Sanjay, try some of this glowing water, it tastes like mint. Really.

No matter what happens at Copenhagen we're screwed

Recent developments make John Quiggin optimistic that, contrary to recent expectations, the Copenhagen conference will produce an agreement to limit carbon emissions. Why is Quiggin cheered when we're already doomed?

The Global Carbon Project announced earlier this week that a six degree Celsius temperature increase by the end of the century is virtually inevitable. This was the worst case scenario proposed by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

This prediction is particularly worrisome as the climate policy of the European Union, the UK and many other national and international organizations is predicated on a maximum increase of only two degrees Celsius.

The Global Carbon Project is led by Professor Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey. The team is comprised of 31 researchers from seven countries. The study by Professor Le Quéré and her team was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

A six dregree temperature rise will have rather unpleasant consequences:

It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles.

With the tropics too hot to grow crops, and the sub-tropics too dry, billions of people would find themselves in areas of the planet which are essentially uninhabitable. This would probably even include southern Europe, as the Sahara desert crosses the Mediterranean.

As the ice-caps melt, hundreds of millions will also be forced to move inland due to rapidly-rising seas. As world food supplies crash, the higher mid-latitude and sub-polar regions would become fiercely-contested refuges.

Best we start now consolidating government power in anticipation of the apocalypse.

When the going gets tough who better to be in charge than a bunch of lefties, who do, after all, have a proven track record of being able to make the hard life or death decisions. Hey, everyone recognises the importance of economists so maybe Quiggin will be the first president of the southern hemisphere's remnant population. Or since we're talking lefties here, maybe that should be emperor.

Update: Click the following link for more on lefties and climate change.


A spear in the leg before going to jail

Aboriginal elders in the Northern Territory are pressing for the legitimization of their traditional laws and punishments, which they envision as running in parallel to Australian law. The appropriateness of Aboriginal customs in modern Australian society has long been debated with many non-Aborigines favouring at least some effort being made to accommodate indigenous desires. If more than lip service is to be paid to Aborigines there are major obstacles that need to be overcome, however.

Aborigines want to be able to punish crimes committed within their communities, that is, crimes committed by Aborigines against other Aborigines. According to elder Billy Bunter, failure to deal with local crimes locally causes festering problems:

Mr Bunter wants the Government to officially recognise customary law, including the system of traditional punishment often known as pay back.

He wants the courts to grant bail to Indigenous offenders so they can face traditional punishment before going to jail.

He says the failure to carry out pay back on the offender means the matter is never settled according to Aboriginal law. As a result, he says, revenge attacks between the families of the victim and the accused ensue.

"What's really affecting our people is punishment, what we call pay back," he said.

"[It is] leaving... a great big problem in the community. Two families start fighting - then a killing is going to take place for many years to come."

The punishments Billy Bunter and others in the film want recognised range from public shaming to spearing in the leg for the most serious crimes.

In short, pay back punishments provide closure for all parties concerned.

There is nothing at all unreasonable in the Aboriginal community's expectation that local matters should be dealt with locally prior to being ultimately disposed of by the judicial system. It's not like serious Aboriginal offenders are going to be lynched - leg-spearing is meant to punish, not kill (although I recall that misplaced spears hitting the femoral artery have caused deaths through blood loss). Establishing parallel legal systems is no mean feat, however, especially when international obligations must be considered.

No matter what happens, spearing as punishment will never be recognised by the legal system as appropriate. Even if conducted in strictly controlled circumstances a spearing would likely result in arrest with serious charges being laid. Changing relevant Australian law would pointless because spearing would still violate internationally recognised prohibitions of punishments which inflict physical injury. It could even be argued that public shaming is designed to inflict psychological harm and is therefore tantamount to torture (see Abu Ghraib).

It would be great if Aborigines had greater control over law enforcement and punishment within their own communities but it looks very much like the modern multi-tiered legal system is unable to accommodate their ancient customs, especially when the penalties involved are seen by some as cruel and unusual. Like it or not, Aborigines will remain subject to white man law.

But should a miracle happen and Aborigines be granted a parallel legal system based on customary law, another problem will arise: other groups claiming to live their lives guided by customary law would soon demand a degree of legal autonomy. Sharia law, anyone?

Acts of God, literally

If you live in an area subject to catastrophic floods, earthquakes, storms and the like you had better behave:

A government minister has blamed Indonesia's recent string of natural disasters on people's immorality.

And since Australia suffers relatively few such disasters we must be a very moral people. Right.

Anyway, it's good to see something other than global warming get the blame for a change.

The Left's wealth redistribution scheme

Only a multilevel, multinational bureaucratic pyramid scheme with coercive taxation powers can solve the planet's climate problems. We need more bureaucracy and we need it now! Trust me on this.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Ice Bowl: It's never too cold to play football

The 1967 NFL championship was contested in the worst ever conditions for a football (gridiron) match. With the temperature at -15º F (-26º C) the turf was frozen as hard as concrete. I can remember watching it live. My team lost. Click the link above for a video recap.

Old poor people suck

Today's hot investment tip: Buy garlic

The garlic bulb price has tripled in China and will soon flow on to the rest of us. At this rate prawns will soon cost less than the garlic used to flavour them.

Alternatively, this could be the modern version of the great tulip bulb bubble.

North Korea: Immortal great labor administration programme celebrated

It's virtually impossible to know for certain what goes on in North Korea but it's safe to assume the country is a basket-case. North Koreans were thus cheered to hear that the country's labor administration system is the world's finest:

A meeting took place at the People's Palace of Culture Thursday to mark the 20th anniversary of General Secretary Kim Jong Il's work "On Further Improving Labor Administration".

Present there were Kim Yong Il, premier of the Cabinet, O Su Yong and Pak Su Gil, vice-premiers of the Cabinet, leading officials of the working people's organizations, ministries and national institutions and officials in the field of labor administration in Pyongyang and local areas.

The work published on November 27, Juche 78 (1989) fully systematizes the Juche-oriented idea and theory on socialist labor administration and clearly indicates tasks and ways for improving the labor administration as required by the developing reality.

O Su Yong in a report delivered at the meeting said the work serves as an immortal great programme for the socialist labor administration run through with the Juche-oriented principles and ways as it scientifically clarified principled issues arising in establishing a revolutionary habit of working throughout the society, making an effective use of manpower resources, properly enforcing a socialist system for paying for the work done and fully providing the working people with working conditions.

Recalling that Kim Jong Il made sure that the above-said system was properly enforced and the working people were provided with good conditions for a material life and cultural rest, the reporter noted that his wise leadership and warm care made it possible to give full play to the advantages of the socialist labor system and improve the cultural and emotional life of the Korean people.

Say what?

Anyway, the party's over so it's back to searching for food.

Why Americans are fat

Well obviously, they consume too many calories, the average American gulping down 3,767 calories whereas the Chinese take in 2,954. Thus Amercians consume excess calories equal to 19 slices of bacon. Stating the calorie intake difference in terms of bacon is appropriate because Americans do have this thing about eating sliced, smoked pork belly.

The pitfalls of going green

Thinking about buying one of the new environmentally friendly cars to do your bit in helping to save the planet? Careful, new cars can be planet killers:

According to an expert at the Stockholm Environment Institute, the production of a typical modern car causes around 8 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to driving 23,000 miles. Because of this, unless you currently drive a lot in a highly inefficient car, it will often be greener to stick to your existing vehicle than to sell it and buy a new one.

Click the link to read the Top 10 green living myths.

Friday, November 27, 2009

One of the many advantages of living in Australia

Teenagers in bikinis. Australia is seriously short of 205 cm hot chicks, however.

Dubai dodgy debt debacle deepens

The latest on the Dubai debt debacle, quickly developing into what could be the next phase in the global financial crisis:

Dubai -- self-styled bling capital of the Middle East, nightclub hotspot for the teetotalling Gulf and home to the world's tallest building and biggest mall -- has gone pear-shaped.

"It's gotten pretty ugly out there," analysts at Nomura Investment Banking wrote in a note this week, describing Dubai's property market as "a full-scale frenzy in which speculation went largely unchecked until it was very late."

The result may be a new business model for the emirate, one based less on debt and speculation.

Dubai's response is now being hammered out by a committee of business and government leaders charged with steering the emirate through the crisis and perhaps throwing its high-debt business model out the window.

Big developers have started firing staff and paring projects, banks like Emirates NBD ENBD.DU have blocked consumer credit to employees of companies at risk, and at least one major mortgage company has stopped lending altogether.

"Lenders blinded by rising oil prices and borrowers spellbound by easy returns have helped build a mountain of private sector debt in parts of the region that has generated an illusion of excess and abundance," Nomura said.

Now, investors fear that individuals and corporations alike will have trouble paying back Dubai's non-bank foreign currency debt estimated at just under $70 billion, according to estimates by ratings agency Fitch.

I usually try to avoid long quotes but in this instance thought it important to bring you up to speed on developments shaking world financial markets. Oh wait, that's not current news, it's from November 2008. Here's the latest:

The world's share markets are being shaken today by big debts held by the gulf state of Dubai.

The state-owned conglomerate Dubai World yesterday tried to delay the repayment of some of its borrowings.

In response, European stocks fell heavily overnight because European banks have big exposures to the company.

And today share markets have continued to plunge. The Australian share market closed almost 3 per cent lower.

Dubai was once the glittering crown of the Middle East. The gulf state is well known for its towering skyscrapers, wall-to-wall shopping centres and luxury hotels.

But that edifice could come crashing down.

State-owned company Dubai World has debts of more than $60 billion and yesterday tried to delay repayment on some of that debt.

Macquarie Private Wealth's Martin Lakos says doubts about Dubai's ability to pay its debts have come out of the blue, despite overbuilding in the economy in the past few years.

Out of the blue? You'd think with billions at stake the finance gurus would maybe pay attention to an ongoing problem. Oh well, it's not their money so why care?

Will you marry me? Cool, get those clothes off

Men on the prowl for sex are prone to tell little fibs like "of course I love you". Men in Korea had to be careful to draw the line at promising to marry, however; until now such a promise unfulfilled could land you in jail:

A South Korean court has revoked a law under which men could be jailed for tricking women into bed with false promises of marriage.

The court was responding to petitions from two men imprisoned for the offence.

The law was subject to abuse, of course:

The law had also been exploited by women who used it to blackmail men - threatening to sue after sex, claiming they had only gone to bed with the men after they had been proposed to.

Now men can go back to doing one of things they're best at: lying for sex.

Hatoyama's loving mother

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is being investigated following revelations his elderly mother "loaned" him approximately ¥900 million (something over US$10 million) over a five year period. This is in addtion to her totally legal yearly political donations of ¥1.5 million. As is typical with politicans, Hatoyama claims to have no knowledge of the- "loans" in question.

Asia's Muslim miracle state about to go bust

Dubai, site of the world's tallest building and largest shopping mall, and only recently something of an economic miracle, is in serious trouble:

Concerns about Dubai's ability to repay some of its debts have sent share markets around the world reeling.

Dubai is seeking to delay the repayment of billions of dollars in debt held by the partly government-run company Dubai World.

Around 40% of this debt is owed to European banks, which are apparently sitting on a mountain of very iffy loans to developing countries.

Update: All of that extravagant spending and wheeling and dealing in the deserts of Dubai is going to prove costly even for those who had nothing to do with the excesses:

Australian shares have plunged in the wake of the Dubai Government asking for a six-month debt moratorium for its investment vehicle, Dubai World.

At 1200 AEDT, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 115.8 points, or 2.46 per cent, at 4,592.80 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index had fallen 112.2 points, or 2.37 per cent, to 4,615.4 points.

Macquarie Private Wealth associate director Lucinda Chan said the news had "shocked" the market following what had been a good recovery in markets worldwide from the global financial crisis.

I'm just guessing that filling all of the rentable space in the magnificent Burj Dunai might prove difficult. It could turn out to be the world's tallest white elephant.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Your cheque is in the mail

In 2001 at a meeting in Bonn representatives from 20 developed countries -- 15 from the EU and five others, not including the U.S. -- agreed to kick in somewhere between US$1.6 billion and $2.87 billion in climate change funds to be funneled to developing countries through the United Nations. The UN has apparently just noticed that it received only $260 million of the money as of 2008, when the program was set for review.

The EU now says that it never intended that all of the money was to go via the UN and that contrary to appearances all of the money was delivered as promised, most of it through non-UN routes. There is just one minor catch, however:

Artur Runge-Metzger, the senior climate change negotiator for the European Union, maintains the EU has lived up to its end of the bargain.

"We can say we met the promise, climate finance has really been stepped up," he argues.

However he admits the EU cannot provide data to show it did pay the money through these bilateral and multilateral means.

"It's sometimes very hard to say what is the climate bit of this financing," he says.

So the money is out there, it's just that no one knows exactly where. Now doesn't this just fill you with confidence that the hundreds of billions of dollars developed countries are expected to promise developing countries at the Copenhagen conference will be spent wisely? I for one am fully confident that funneling tax dollars through the faceless government bureaucracy into the grand UN bureaucracy and onto the notoriously efficient bureaucracies of the developing world is a wise and efficient way to distribute billions. This climate change crisis everyone is talking about is going to be solved in no time at all. I mean, the UN has an outstanding problem-fixing track record (sorting out that little problem with malaria killing millions and that little mess in the Congo, for example), so temperatures should start falling straight away, the world's glaciers, ice caps and pack ice quickly returning to their pre-warming robust glory and sea level dropping back to normal. Polar bears will be delighted.

By the way, I am a representative of a Nigerian bank with access to US$15 million in unclaimed funds sitting in an inactive account. I cannot take this money out of the country myself but if you send me $1,000 to cover costs and your bank account details (don't forget to send your account number and password) I will transfer the money to you and we can go halves.

That latter story is actually more believable than the former.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

When dromedaries attack

Life in Australia's outback is not for the weak, so what has so spooked the hardy residents of Docker River southwest of Alice Springs that they're frightened to leave their homes? Raging bushfires? Record high temperatures? Swine flu?

Nope, 6,000 feral camels searching for water:

[MacDonnell Shire Council chief executive officer, Graham] Taylor said residents were not overly concerned when about 30 camels came into the town looking for water a few weeks ago, but that fear had grown as numbers increased steadily day by day.

The unfortunate beasts will be mustered by helicopter, driven into the desert, shot and their bodies left to rot where they drop, all that meat wasted.

Teachers sorted

West Australian teachers require a bit of sortin' out:

Nearly 300 school staff were assaulted by either parents or students in terms two and three of this year.

Education Minister Liz Constable does have a solution for this problem, however:

In the last few months a police sergeant has been seconded to the Education Department to, as a school safety liaison officer, provide first hand advice to principals and to schools and others and staff as they require it.

Whoa, a single police will provide advice from the Education Department in Perth. A teacher in Kununurra, 3,200 kilometers distant, will be greatly relieved to know a police officer in Perth is available to tell her what to do should she have her head punched in.

Check that toilet before you sit

Australian redback spiders have invaded Japan and are spreading rapidly. Since they're indoor spiders they can survive winter by nesting anywhere it's warm:

And with electrically warmed toilet seats in almost every home, it may be best for the Japanese to check carefully before sitting.

"Killed by a redback hiding under the toilet seat" is nothing to be remembered for.

Task simplified

Overwhelmed by sheer numbers Andrew Bolt has restricted comments at his blog to one thread every day. This will certainly make blogging easier for the Pure Poison crew, who will no longer need to search through multiple threads looking for blog-fodder.

Climate change puts the pedal to the metal

Cynical lefties allege that the CRU email hack was a perfectly timed but feeble attempt to discredit climate science in the lead up to the critical Copenhagen conference. Well, how's this for timing?

It has been two years since the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report gave its most recent assessment on the state of the planet's changing climate.

Now, 26 international scientists have collated the most recent data and observations, and they have found that
climate change is accelerating beyond expectations.

Take note world leaders: come up with a carbon reduction agreement now or we're all screwed, and a lot sooner than you thought.

Life or death decision

One day you're walking down the street when a passing doctor stops you and tells you you're not looking well. You go to his clinic with him where he tells you you have a fever; come to think of it you have been feeling a bit warm lately but haven't been overtly ill. Anyway, the doctor says he's pretty sure he knows what's wrong with you even though he and his colleagues don't fully understand your condition but he does know how to fix you up. He tells you that without treatment your condition will probably continue to worsen and might eventually make you very sick or even kill you in 20 or 30 years. The treatment plan he suggests is not painless, however; it's very expensive and requires a top to bottom change in your lifestyle. So you can either:

  1. Ignore his treatment advice continuing on with your life but, mindful of the possible developing effects of your condition, prepared to make future adaptations that will ameliorate your symptoms.

  2. Give the doctor a huge chunk of cash, make ongoing large payments and totally reorganise your life as the expert suggests in the hope that your condition will not worsen.

What would you do if presented such a choice?

Randy Rann

Just to bring you up to speed on the South Australian sex scandal, Premier Mike Rann's former friend Michelle Chantelois says:

  • They had sex in his office, on his desk and on the floor.

  • They had "intimacy" in her car at a secluded golf course location.

  • They had sex on a yellow couch at his house.

  • He wanted to buy her sexy bras and panties.

  • He coached her on how to lie about their affair to her husband and at one point enlisted the presumably unwitting support of his then girlfriend Sasha to that purpose.

  • He sent a text message saying he wanted to pleasure her.

  • He asked her re-enact a steamy sex scene from the movie Unfaithful that had turned him on.

  • He asked her to avoid sex with her husband for three days before their trysts.

  • He insisted they not fall in love or put anything in writing.

  • He asked her to book hotel rooms for them.

Nothing yet on the size and possible distinctive features of Rann's studly organ or on his pleasuring techniques.

If these allegation, strenuously denied by Mr Rann, are true, who's the villain here, the married woman who cheats on her husband or the single 50-year-old man who takes what's being offered by an attractive woman much younger than himself?

Regardless, South Australians should be pleased their Premier remains so vigorous at his age.

Death on a bun

Hungry Jack's tasty - so naturally it's high in fat and salt - Angry Angus burger really riles the food fascists, who are demanding action:

[Heart Foundation chief executive Tony Thirlwell] called on food manufacturers to put pressure on Hungry Jack's to act responsibly before the Government was forced to step in, banning or taxing high-calorie meals.

''This behaviour is not in the best interests of the food industry or the consumers because this burger can cause serious heart disease.''

And the sun causes cancer so let's ban outside activity between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm daily. Better yet, let's figure out some way to tax sunlight exposure -- perhaps all Australians should wear a UV meter and be taxed on their time in the sun. With a bit of thought the government can surely figure out some way to justify taxing the air we breathe. Link respiration to carbon emissions, perhaps.

Update: Jeez, that Angry Angus is one killer burger; I could feel my arteries hardening just watching the Hungry Jack's ad on TV.

Murderous heatwave

The BBC reports the passing of a 23-year-old Australian killed by the recent record heatwave, which was so hot not even air-conditioning could keep the unfortunate victim from baking to death. This story made the news simply because the dear departed was the world's oldest sheep, which at twice the average age of a sheep was due to depart soon anyway.

Update: Global warming causes polar bear deaths.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Second thoughts too late

A political commentator sums up the likely reaction to the expanded powers granted to the European legislature by the Lisbon Treaty:

My God, what the hell have we done?

Too late now Eurotards.

Trust the climate science, it's uncertain but correct

Tim Flannery, Australia's highest profile global warming doom-monger, defends climate science:

The thing is we deal with an incomplete understanding of the way the Earth's system works, we know enough to say as the IPCC said that greenhouse gases cause warming.

They are
90 per cent-plus sure that it's caused by humans, we can go that far.

But there is a problem with the science:

In the last few years, where there hasn't been a continuation of that warming trend, we don't understand all of the factors that creates Earth's climate, so there are some things we don't understand, that's what the scientists were emailing about.

These people (scientists) work with models, computer modelling. When the computer modelling and the real world data disagrees you have a problem. That's when science gets engaged.

So even though the scientists have no idea why temperatures have declined over recent years they know how to solve a problem that seems to have self-corrected. Comfortable investing trillions of dollars in their suggested solution, are you?

Digger druggies

Drug addicted soldiers! Oh no, it's the Vietnam war all over again!

Young Diggers president John Jarrett said many soldiers were mainly developing addictions to cocaine, which he claimed was "cheap as chips" in Afghanistan.

"Soldiers (are) going over there, healthy and normal, and coming back with all kinds of addictions," Mr Jarrett said.

"I do know the [Australian Defence Force] is very concerned about the problem.

"We're seeing cocaine and marijuana as the major ones, but there's heroin around and all sorts of other drugs.

"Cocaine is the biggest problem though, because it's as cheap as chips."

The ADF personnel are understood to be turning to illicit substances, such as marijuana and cocaine, to medicate themselves for psychological problems that they developed overseas.

The drugs are supplied by enterprising, anything-for-a-buck types:

Mr Jarrett said it was likely the soldiers were sourcing the illicit substances from foreign troops, particularly US forces, who serve alongside them in joint operations fighting the Taliban.

Yep, selling drugs is as American as apple pie.

But what's the deal with cocaine being so cheap when Afghanistan produces something like 90% of the opium used to make heroin? It is unlikely that cocaine can be shipped half way around the world to a country saturated with opiates and be priced competitively, especially in the small quanities needed to supply the realtively small number of drug users to be found amongst allied forces serving in Afghanistan - there is drug testing, after all.

And contrary to Mr Jarrett's claim, the military is not worried about a drug problem:

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) refutes claims in the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Mail Brisbane that members of the ADF are using illicit drugs while deployed on tours of duty in Afghanistan and are returning home addicted.

The ADF had recently provided detailed responses to the journalists responsible for this article and deplores the fact that they chose to omit much of the information provided to them in search of a headline.
The ADF has conducted Prohibited Substance Testing in Afghanistan since 2005.
Since testing commenced all test results for members of the ADF deployed on operations in Afghanistan have been negative.

Scandal killed. By the way, the lurid tales of masses of psychologically-scarred, drug-addicted Vietnam veterans didn't pan out either.

Japan worried U.S. will eliminate nuclear weapons

Barack Obama wants to see a "world without nuclear weapons". This greatly worries the Japanese:

Before the shift in political power in September, Japan aggressively lobbied a U.S. congressional nuclear task force to maintain the credibility of the U.S. "nuclear umbrella" to deter possible attacks by China and North Korea, sources said Monday.


Meeting with members of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, senior Japanese diplomats expressed deep concerns about the future capability of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, the sources said.

The diplomats also told the commission, which was created by legislation passed during the George W. Bush administration, that the capability to penetrate underground targets with low-yield nuclear devices would strengthen the umbrella's credibility, they said.

Having already suffered nuclear attack the Japanese would prefer no repeats.

Global warming: Email hackers beyond evil

The big tobacco companies, having attempted to suppress research linking smoking to cancer, have for years been considered the most evil of evil, regarding, as they do, profits as more important than the health of their customers. But with the hacking and release of the CRU emails "big tobacco" is no longer the biggest evil:

Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers.

That's according to science historian Spencer Weart, who adds that the emails are off limits:

There would be a lot to learn if the owner of these emails (I suppose the University) would release them for analysis; for example, you could run up statistics on the types of interchanges and the structure of networks of discussion among researchers. Of course no scholar can make use of stolen material, and in particular one cannot legally or ethically quote a private message without the explicit permission of the writer.

Weart seems a bit confused. On the one hand he supposes (rightly) that the University of East Anglia effectively owns the emails but on the other says that the emails can't be quoted without the permission of the writers. It's like the emails (and other stolen documents) are behind a double firewall of security. Regardless, Weart ignores that all UEA employees are on notice that (emphasis is original):

The [Freedom of Information] Act gives everyone both in and outside UEA a right of access to ANY recorded information held by UEA

As all documents and emails could potentially be released under the Act, you should ensure that those you create are clear and professional

So, yes, the documents were taken illegally but as they are effectively public property, their release could have been accomplished legally through an FOI application, provided the UEA cooperated with a freedom of information request - and given apparent UEA foot dragging on past FOI requests, compliance is no certainty. The hacker was possibly cognizant of this and decided to whistleblow as a public service rather than as an act of malice.

Right, back to the evils of "big tobacco", which Weart mentions for the edification of lefty readers. Always keen on conspiracy theories, the left "discovered" that the big tobacco companies had conspired to further their interests by discrediting science in general in order to cast doubt on research linking smoking to cancer. Thus the tobacco companies are accused of funding a general attack on science with special emphasis on attacking those seeking to remove DDT from the arsenal of weapons used in the fight against malaria. In short, anyone supportive of DDT's continued use was subject to being slandered as a lackey of evil tobacco companies.

The left sees a similar "big oil" conspiracy where anyone sceptical of global warming is effectively a henchman of the big oil companies. Naturally these two theorised conspiracies are co-mingled in the minds of many lefties. Which takes us back to Spencer Weart:

It's a symptom of something entirely new in the history of science: Aside from crackpots who complain that a conspiracy is suppressing their personal discoveries, we've never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance. .... In blogs, talk radio and other new media, we are told that the warnings about future global warming issued by the national science academies, scientific societies, and governments of all the leading nations are not only mistaken, but based on a hoax, indeed a conspiracy that must involve thousands of respected researchers. Extraordinary and, frankly, weird.

Lefties see right-wing, corporate-sponsored, money-based conspiracies all around them but it impossible for a similar left-wing, state-sponsored, money-based conspiracy to exist. With the entire structure of human civilization at stake nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.

Hands up everyone who is totally comfortable with the United Nations (led by those wacky Europeans) effectively controlling the world economy.

'Vegetable' misdiagnosed

With advances in modern medicine no one need fear being mistakenly pronounced dead and then buried alive. But how about being misdiagnosed as in a coma but fully conscious:

A Belgian man thought to have been in a coma for 23 years has told of his "second birth" after doctors realised he was in fact conscious, a German weekly reports.

Medical staff believed Rom Houben had been left in a vegetative state by a serious car accident, but he was simply paralysed and unable to communicate.

It's amazing he didn't go insane.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why kangaroos attack

A large agro kangaroo can do some serious damage as a Victorian man hospitalised by one can attest. Really, something has to be done to keep roos off the alcohol, they just got nuts.

Riot cause discovered

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul knows what caused Christmas Island detainees to go one another:

The Rudd Government has seen fit to continue those Howard government policies and it is now reaping the whirlwind.

All the consequences, all the difficulties that were faced by the Howard government, will be visited on the Rudd Government because they have perpetuated the appalling conditions in mandatory detention.

The horrid Howard government apparently allowed detainees internet access, according to Rintoul now terminated by the Rudd government, and also allowed unlimited use of kitchen facilities for tea and coffee making, which is now claimed to be restricted as a cost saving measure. But as pool cues were reportedly used as weapons during the riot it seems at least one recreational activity remains. By the way, Rintoul has communicated with detainees since the riot so it's not like they're being held incommunicado.

The Prime Minister today told parliament the whirlwinders could suffer a heavy penalty:

Mr Speaker, if a detainee on Christmas Island has committed a serious offence this will be taken into consideration as part of the assessment as to whether or not they are granted a visa.

Gee, you wouldn't be too happy if you got sent home to Sri Lanka or Afghanistan , or wherever, because you were angered by missing out on an afternoon cup of tea, now would you?

Update: A more likely cause for the riot:

The removal of six Sri Lankan men against there will, deported back to Colombo about two weeks ago, had caused some anxiety among detainees.

Yep, forced repatriation would cause some tension.

Opinion for hire

An important point about the high profile pundits and commentators who seek to mold public opinion:

Where do David Brooks, Juan Cole, Ann Coulter, Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, Michael Goldfarb, Michelle Malkin, Matt Yglesias, Richard Perle, Steve Clemons, Fred Kagan, or George Will get their money? How much is salary, and how much is derived from honoraria, royalties, or consulting work? And who's paying the bills?

Are these opinion makers' opinions their own or do they tailor (or even manufacture) their opinions because they are being paid to further the interests of others? Is Ann Coulter, for example, perhaps paid to "consult" for defence contractor Boeing? Or is Andrew Sullivan on George Soros's payroll? Without financial disclosure it's impossible to know.

It's important to bear this in mind when reading or listening to high profile pontificators. It's also important to realise that even though the opinion makers write or speak well, or both, they're not necessairly especially well informed and probably aren't any smarter than you are - you must be pretty bright, you read RWDB at Asian Correspondent!

As for my financial interests, AC pays me a modest sum to express my opinions but, other than interevening when I've written something deemed offensive or overly provocative, exercises no control over what I write. Full-time employment is my major source of income but so as to not cause my employer embarrassment I do not write about work-related matters. So the opinions I express do not benefit me financially. I would be delighted to receive money, and lots of it, if any evil right-wing organisation out there is willing to pay me, however.

Anyway, it was Antony Loewenstein's attack on Fairfax columnist Peter Hartcher the other day that got me thinking about this. Even though Hartcher discloses that his opinion piece came after a paid trip to Israel Loewenstein alleges opinion for hire:

Hartcher’s column in yesterday’s Herald reveals yet another episode in the ongoing saga of minimising Israeli crimes.

Hartcher has returned fire:

Every paid trip always has an inbuilt viewpoint. The journalist’s job is to take information from a trip, assess it in the usual way, and to draw on it as one input among many, as we do with every subject, every day.

My column, on the Opinion page, does not purport to be an encyclopaedic treatment of the history of the conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians. It presents, as it says in its opening, a view from within Israel, with an explanation of the Australian Government’s position, and a comment from the Palestinian delegation. I should have thought that to be self-evident. There is no hidden agenda.

You, by contrast, are a declared partisan in the conflict. You are not in any position to act as a neutral analyst or objective commentator. If you critique my piece, you should disclose your interest, as I have mine.

Yes indeed, how can Loewenstein afford to devote so much time and effort to his various causes and travel internationally on what must be a very modest income from writing? Does he have any other sources of income? He should probably also reveal that he once worked for Fairfax, apparently leaving the organisation in rather unfortunate circumstances.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tricky science

From the boffins at Real Climate:

Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all.

"Trick" does indeed feature prominently in the history of science. Possible past users of "trick" as  "a good way to deal with a problem":

Perpetrators uncertain -- the Piltdown "missing link" fossils

Hwang Woo-Suk -- fabricated stem cell research

J. Ignatz Roderick and Johann Georg von Eckhart -- tormented an arrogant university colleague by planting fake fossils for him to find

Victor Ninov -- "discoverer" of ununoctium and ununhexium

Jan Hendrik Schön -- data fabricator and creator of irreproducible results

Dr Andrew Wakefield -- research linking vaccines to autism

The list of science tricksters is almost endless.

Dictators and terrorists admired

Who would you include on a list of notable people you admire? You might admire Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Fidel Castro for standing up to the West but would you include Robert Mugabe who, with the help of his cronies, destroyed Zimbabwe's economy? It's unlikely that you admire former Ugandan President and notorious nutcase Idi Amin Dada and even less likely that you would nominate convicted terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (aka Carlos the Jackal).

Surely only a serious weirdo would admire and praise all of those above. Yep, South American fruitcake and budding dictator Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Misdirection successful

For the hyper-intelligent leftards at Larvatus Prodeo the CRU emails scandal is all about the hijacking of "private email communication". This, of course, ignores that the emails are not "private" at all. Oh yeah, LP's proprietor Mark Bahnisch does have another concern: the alleged overstatement of Andrew Bolt's monthly traffic, Bahnisch still apparently thinking he has the "best read political blog" in Australia. Irrelevance can be hard to accept.

Parliamentary procedure: Play time follows question time

A former Parliament House barmaid (what, you reckon politicians carry on in parliament like they do when fully sober?) accuses South Australian Premier Mike Rann of having sex with her in his Parliamentary office. So long as he's running the state properly, who cares? As for how this might affect his marriage, that's his problem. Nothing to see here folks, keep moving.

Global warming: More on those hacked emails

Strong words from Andrew Bolt:

The leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit indicate an astonishing conspiracy of the world’s leading warmist scientists, involving collusion, rigged evidence, suppression of dissent, the possibly illegal destruction of evidence under FOI request, and the smearing of sceptical scientists.

Time will tell if that's something of an overstatement but the emails do reveal a very strong desire to prevent troublesome outsiders from gaining access to critical temperature data. This is contrary to what science is all about, of course.

Since some of the emails involve those at Real Climate, the site had to say something, choosing to emphasise the illegality of the hack:

As many of you will be aware, a large number of emails from the University of East Anglia webmail server were hacked recently (Despite some confusion generated by Anthony Watts, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Hadley Centre which is a completely separate institution). As people are also no doubt aware the breaking into of computers and releasing private information is illegal, and regardless of how they were obtained, posting private correspondence without permission is unethical. We therefore aren’t going to post any of the emails here.

Breaking into the UEA webmail server was almost certainly a crime. The emails are not "private correspondence", however. UEA is a public institution. All of the emails on the webmail server in question, and on any UEA computer for that matter, are subject to public access and scrutiny. UEA provides the following Freedom of Information guidance (my bold):

5 key facts that all staff should know about Freedom of Information

  • The Act gives everyone both in and outside UEA a right of access to ANY recorded information held by UEA

  • A request for information must be answered within 20 working days

  • If you receive a request for information which mentions FOI, is not information you routinely provide, is unusual, or you are unsure of, you should pass the request to your FOIA contact or the Information Policy and Compliance Manager

  • You should ensure that UEA records are well maintained and accessible to other staff, so that they can locate information needed to answer a request when you are not there

  • As all documents and emails could potentially be released under the Act, you should ensure that those you create are clear and professional

So whereas breaking into the webmail server was illegal, the information taken and subsequently released to the public was information the public was entitled to scrutinise anyway. Real Climate's bleating about the unethical release of the emails is therefore something of a diversionary stretch.

Regardless, the theft and release of these emails is one of those whistle-blowing events the left normally greatly admires.

Update: ScienceBlogs blogger James Hrynyshyn reckons the emails are "mostly dull little missives", making the whole affair much ado about nothing. His commenters disagree:

What is wrong with you? I'm wondering if you're even reading the same stuff I am reading - I also downloaded the entire file and I'm just SHOCKED at the behavior in them.

This is a truly sad day for Science, the behavior of these criminals reflects poorly on all of us who are scientists (I'm a geologist) and will further feed an anti-scientific meme in the current zeitgeist.

Some scientists seem oddly detached from reality.

Update II: Media Matters charges hypocrisy:

Rush Limbaugh - who had previously condemned the "thugs" who hacked then-Gov. Sarah Palin's email account - joined right-wing bloggers in touting a series of emails that were apparently stolen from the UK's Climate Research Unit [CRU]. .... Limbaugh called Palin email hackers "thugs" and asked: "Do we live in a sick era, or what?" On the September 18, 2008, edition of his show, Limbaugh decried the "thugs" who hacked Palin's email account.

The Palin emails were stolen from a private email account at Yahoo, not from a government computer. Whereas any emails in Palin's Yahoo account relating to offical government duties might have been subject to release under FOI legislation, many were personal and were released simply to embarrass her.

In her book, Palin explains how she felt after the hack. "I was horrified to realize that millions of people could read my personal messages, including the thoughts of a friend who had written of her heartbreak over her pending divorce," Palin writes, adding: "What kind of responsible press outfit would broadcast stolen private correspondence?"

The hacked emails were quickly posted on the Web - and they included phone numbers and email account addresses for her children. They soon began receiving what Palin described as "vulgar email threats and phone calls."

The release of work related emails taken from a government computer is not the same as releasing documents stolen from a hacked personal email account. The Media Matters lefties were really groping in trying to equate two dissimilar events.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Global warming: Story of the year if true

Emails and other correspondence apparently showing a conspiracy to deceive perpetrated by pro-global warming scientists have been released after an apparent hacking of computers at the Hadley Climatic Research Unit. The authenticity of the documents has yet to be verified so no firm conclusions can be drawn. If these documents prove authentic this is undoubtedly the biggest story of the year, if not the century, however. Hell, if this pans out, it's the biggest news scoop ever.

Update: This story was shamelessly stolen from Tim Blair, who updates:

Some emails appear genuine.

Stay tuned.

Update II: Andrew Bolt posts:

The Hadley CRU director admits the emails seem to be genuine...

This looks to be a very big story indeed.

Paper clothing hazards

The paper shoes story reminds me of a guy I know back in Texas who has this thing about wearing clothing made of recycled paper. You know, to be environmentally friendly. Pretty much everything he wears - hats, boots, pants and shirts - is paper. Even his underwear is paper, or so he says. He once accidentally set himself alight but that isn't the main problem; he keeps getting arrested. Texans have this thing about rustling.

Sitting on a fortune

Ever wondered what happens to the fat liposuctioned out of the less than svelte?

Four people have been arrested in Peru on suspicion of killing some 60 people to sell their fat and other human tissue to Italian co-conspirators for cosmetic use in Europe, authorities say.

Police began arrests after discovering early this month a container with human fat that was being shipped to Lima from the Andean city of Huanuco, some 400 kilometres north-east of Lima.

Signs of "an international network trafficking human fat" first surfaced about two months ago, according to General Felix Burga, head of the police criminal division.

Peruvian press cited him as saying the fat can be sold for $US15,000 ($16,325) per gallon in European countries.

That's almost US$4,000 a litre. Hey, I must have at least a couple of litres of lard to spare already; I could have a grand old time eating tasty fattening food and drinking lots of beer and when nicely rotund have the excess sucked out and then sell it. And it would be pretty cool knowing that my arse fat was used to manufacture the pricey cosmetics applied to the faces of rich European women. Jeez, this plan has no downside.

Update: Possible problem: Americans are already sitting on enough fat to supply the galaxy's needs for the next 1,000 years; if they start selling the price is going to collapse. Hmm, better start eating now.

Mango madness

Weather induced insanity is real:

Surgeons at Royal Darwin Hospital who analysed fracture rates found that so-called "mango madness" - a period of extreme weather tension that triggers violence as the wet season hits - is not just a myth.

Thus this weirdness in Broome:

Police arrived at the Cable Beach home late on Wednesday night to find four people with stab and head wounds.

Officers returned to the house the next morning to conduct interviews.

Senior Sergeant Rob Neesham says police were stunned to witness a fifth stabbing.

"A different person was stabbed as the police arrived. So it was fortunate timing for the emergency services," he said.

There is another contributing factor, however:

Police say the victims' intoxicated state is delaying their investigation.

Sort of knew alcohol would be involved, didn't you?

Octogenarian protester arrested

Quirky 82-year-old ABC gardening guru Peter Cundall was arrested for refusing to leave the front steps of Tasmania's Parliament while participating in a protest against the construction of a controversial pulp mill. Congratulations to Mr Cundall for engaging in a totally peaceful protest and for his willingness to go to jail in standing up for what he believes.

Update: Gavin Atkins finds a skeleton or two in Cundall's closet and also discusses the merits of the proposed pulp mill. (Now that I know Cundall's a commie I say lock him up and throw away the key.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mumbai: Sixty Hours of Terror

A superbly detailed account of the Mumbai attack by India-based freelance journalist Jason Motlagh. Read the whole thing, you won't be disappointed.

Comedy fail: Sad little man has sad little rant

"Comedian" Ben Elton has apologised after making over-the-top remarks about the British royal family. Really, he should apologise for the whole pathetic routine.

Israel and U.S. sell weapons to sworn enemies

Israel and the United States will apparently sell weapons to anyone who can afford them:

Use of Israeli-made light arms by militants against security forces in Waziristan has raised several questions amongst many recently.

TheNation has learnt on good authority that militants are using Israeli-made light arms including “Uzi gun” and “Rapid-fire pistol” against security forces in North Waziristan as the operation Rah-I-Rast reached its final stage.

In addition to Israel-made sophisticated arms, militants are making use of the latest version of US-made M-16 carbine with laser designator and binoculars, Bulgarian and Czechoslovakia made Kalakov and M-4 carbine with a grenade launcher and laser designator, which is a unique weapon with the US marines.

Availability of sophisticated Israeli weapons within the militants' ranks and their use against security forces has raised several eyebrows in Islamabad.

Perhaps a cunning plan to supply weapons to Muslims for killing other Muslims has been discovered. Nope, this story is a load of crap.

Uzis fire a pistol cartridge, most typically 9 mm. They're great for personal protection and close quarters fighting or whenever a smallish, reasonably discrete weapon is required. Taking one into any reasonably open battle would get you killed. That's why you can't recall combat footage of anyone carrying one of these popguns into a serious fight. Regardless, if they are being used, they are widely available and could have come from anywhere.

There's no telling what a "rapid-fire pistol" is.

The M-16 is also widely available and could have come from anywhere. Pakistan's army uses them so maybe the Islamists are using seized weapons. Unless the Islamists are using laser-guided weapons a laser designator is pointless, amounting to nothing more than extra weight to carry.

M-4 carbines are also widely used; anyone with the cash can equip it to mount a grenade launcher: the grenade launcher equipped M-4 is certainly not unique to the U.S. marines.

Where does this anti-U.S. and Israel smear job come from? It originally appeared in The Nation, a Pakistani newspaper, and was picked up by "expert analyst" Antony Loewenstein.

Gatling guns

Richard Gatling hoped the gun bearing his name would reduce war casualties:

It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine - a gun - which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease [would] be greatly diminished.

The gatling gun was eventually declared obsolete, later revived as a powerful tool of death and destruction Gatling could not have imagined.



Australian blogger jailed?

Tim Blair, formerly prolific, has only posted once since last Thursday. Considering Blair's driving record, and that he was out test-driving Godzilla, it's not unreasonable to think he was, you know, removed from the road in the interests of public safety. If that happened - without any bent sheet metal or injuries, of course - I won't be the only one laughing my arse off.

Update: Blair denies imprisonment but says nothing about tickets or bent sheet metal resulting from hooning around on the roads. Damn, I bet he had fun. Which reminds me, I'm going to be all bitter and twisted until the AC poobahs pull some strings to secure me a test drive in a hot car. Well Okay, could I maybe at least sit in a Ferrari? Touch a hotted-up Holden?

How to feed the world

A very interesting New Scientist article gives four suggestions for increasing food production - genetic modification isn't included:

1.  Hold on to water

2.  Stop ploughing

3.  Go back to basics

4.  Boost yields

You'll have to go to the article for elaboration. Under 'boost yields" there is this, however:

The yields of new varieties of maize are climbing twice as fast as yields of rice and wheat. This is because maize is bred mainly by private companies, which invest $1.5 billion a year in it. Wheat and rice breeding, by contrast, is done mostly in government labs. Wheat gets only about $350 million a year. Apart from Chinese hybrid rice varieties, rice yields have been stagnant for years.

Score one for private enterprise.

Olympic medals don't come cheap

Australians can be proud of our Olympians' performance at the Beijing games, our athletes coming fifth in the overall medal count. Those medals did not come cheap, however, the federal government investing huge sums in programs cultivating Olympic athletes. It was recently suggested that a further AU$100 million should be invested in Olympic programs; not doing so would likely see Australia perform less spectacularly at subsequent games.

The Independent Sports Panel, chaired by businessman David Crawford, was tasked with investigating sports funding - go here for the terms of reference. The Panel's lengthy report basically suggests that broader funding of community sports programs is a better use of tax dollars than is spending the money on the development of a select few elite athletes. Those connected with non-Olympic sports are delighted; those with Olympic connections are aghast.

Now since huge slabs of cash are involved, a take-no-prisoners battle looms between powerful, well-connected opposing teams, with the goverment caught in the middle. Dan Silkstone covers this developing stoush in today's Age, noting the mobilization of powerful pro-Olympic forces. He also notes that Crawford was well aware of the strong reaction the report would likely elicit:

They will set their big Olympic machine on me.

And a big machine it is. But do we need or even want a machine that cranks out elite athletes, many of these select few achieving personal fame and fortune? Are we getting value for money? Most importantly, how does Olympic achievement benefit me and other "average" Australians? 

Personally, I couldn't care less about the Olympics. Don't get me wrong, it's really great that there are Australians who can jump higher, swim faster, dive more athletically or whatever. If that's what they want to do with their time and they're good at it, great, but they should do it on their own dime.

The Olympics aren't really about sporting achievement anyway, they're about organizational effort. Sure a natural talent like Usain Bolt will occasionally come along but the games will continue to be dominated by the countries with the best resourced Olympic organizations.

Australia won 46 medals at Beijing, India three. Are Indians a bunch or unathletic dorks, or what? Far more likely India (and lots of other countries) would trounce Australia if their per capita Olympic spending matched ours.

Olympic athletes are nothing more than surrogates in a battle of bureaucracies. Really, who cares?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Crikey, nothing's changed

Since Crikey's Pure Poison is the source of much of the nastiness that prompted Andrew Bolt's outburst of displeasure, PP boy Tobias Ziegler has today responded by saying that all of the comments Bolt complains about are old and Pure Poison now holds commenters to the highest standards possible, no longer allowing commenters to play the man rather than the ball.

As if, here are two comments from just yesterday:

What a tosser!


Once I had a blog
and it was a gas
Soon turned out
had a chin of glass

Ziegler nonetheless writes:

Our posts, and many of our comments, use evidence and argument to criticise Andrew Bolt’s writings. But instead of addressing or responding to any of that content, he chooses to focus on the tone of some comments.

Actually, it's the all too common juvenile lefty content Bolt objects to, not the rare evidence and argument.

Viagra for women

Flibanserin is hyped as a treatment for hypoactive sexual desire disorder. That is, it makes non-horny women horny. There is a dietary cure for female libido-loss, however: don't allow your lover to eat wedding cake.

And now for some really important news

A shocking and totally unexpected turn of events (wink, wink... nudge, nudge) at today's press conference featuring "wrestlers" Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair: a brawl and much blood. Revenge could be on the agenda.

Balance and objectivity lacking

In an article generally critical of the United Nations' report on Israel's Cast Lead operations in Gaza, Peter Hartcher, the Sydney Morning Herald's international editor, writes (my bold):

Goldstone found that "Palestinian armed groups were present in urban areas during the military operations and launched rockets from urban areas", and that "it may be that the Palestinian combatants did not at all times adequately distinguish themselves from the civilian population".

This was the whole point of the Hamas strategy. By deliberately positioning themselves in residential areas, the Hamas fighters were goading Israel to shoot back at civilians' homes.

Notice how the bolded text is supported by the direct quote in the paragraph preceding? Just in case there's any doubt about Palestinian armed groups "positioning themselves in residential areas", here's more from the Goldstone report:

While the Mission is unable to form an opinion on the exact nature or the intensity of combat activities carried out by the armed groups in urban residential areas that would have placed the civilian population and civilian objects at risk of attack, their presence in these areas as combatants is established from the information that has come to the attention of the Mission.

Middle East "expert" Antony Loewenstein obviously missed several such references in the report, writing in today's Crikey newsletter (subscription, but provided free at Loewenstein's site):

Hartcher alleges Hamas of “deliberately positioning themselves in residential areas”, yet the UN report, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found no evidence to back these claims.

Uh, yes the UN report did. Reporting like this explains why Loewenstein has established himself as the left's go to guy for anti-Israel material.

He also castigates Hartcher for not seeking out diverse views when visiting Israel:

Hartcher did not explain why there are no voices from Gaza or the occupied territories.

A token inclusion of a Palestinian voice at the end does not change the fact that the article could have been written in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, such is the acceptance of official claims.

The mutually beneficial relationship in these kinds of articles is revealing. Hartcher says that he simply visited Israel, heard a variety of voices and assessed the information fairly. But this is not “balance” or “objectivity”. Being presented with only one side of the story reveals nothing other than what your hosts want you to hear.

Well, if I recall correctly, Loewenstein's best-selling My Israel Question (#1,896,507 at Amazon!) is hardly a balanced report - in researching the book he sought out no Israeli views other than those of his relatives the Greens, who did not know they would be quoted and who Loewenstein quotes from memory rather than from notes.

If you're looking for balanced and objective Middle East reporting, Loewenstein is the wrong place to look.