February 28, 2009

Evil Plan Works



Winslet on Extras - circa 2005

February 27, 2009

Pick the organ grinder

Channel 7 breakfast show host (now that's a job to aspire to), financial adviser, and close bud of one Kev Rudd, has been appointed to the Federal government's organ donation advisory council.

It's not the token sum payable for attending two meetings a year that bothers me.

Since when the fuck did David Koch become an expert in organ donations?

"A spokesman for the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Jan McLucas, said the advisory council had significant responsibilities.

"The People involved have been chosen because of their expertise and longstanding commitment to improving organ donation rates in Australia"

David Koch on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's payroll

Another uncomfortable hunch

This Princeton physicist was fired for disagreeing with Al Gore, few people have such high credentials.

“The earth was just fine in those times,” Happer said. “You know, we evolved as a species in those times, when CO2 levels were three or four times what they are now. And, the oceans were fine, plants grew, animals grew fine. So it’s baffling to me that, you know, we’re so frightened of getting nowhere close to where we started.”

“I don’t think that the laws of nature, physics and chemistry have changed in 80 million year,” Happer said. “Eighty million years ago, the earth was a very prosperous place and there’s no reason to think it will suddenly become bad now.”


Happer claimed that in fact, an increase in CO2 levels wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, but a good thing for humanity."


The more vigorously everyone agrees on an idea, with no robust and replicable testing, the more skeptical we should become.


"But surely everyone isn't lying to us?", you squawk.


No my dear muppets, that's not how proselytizing - nor real science - works. Mere lies would not be sufficiently sophisticated.

"Happer explained to the committee that the global warming movement mirrors the temperance movement that led to Prohibition in the 1920s. He claimed the movement has enlisted various elements of society, including the media, to promote their cause. He noted his opinion that children are being misused to spread the “climate catastrophe” movement’s message.


“Like the Temperance Movement a hundred years ago, the climate catastrophe movement has enlisted the mass media, leadership of scientific societies, trustees of charitable foundations, many other influential people to their cause,” Happer said. “Even elementary school teachers and writers of children’s books terrify our children with the idea of impending climate doom. Children should not be force-fed propaganda masquerading as science.”


Via Andrew Bolt, who also reveals that the bottom has been reached - in the guise of reusable toilet wipes.

Princeton Physicist Tells Congress Earth in 'CO2 Famine' -- Increase 'Will Be Good for Mankind'

Duck Friday

February 26, 2009

The fruition of reality

Sometimes it's difficult not to snort, snirtle and snigger at the younger generations, of which we now have Gen-X, Gen-Y, the Zzzzzs, and the just-being-born generation - the latter currently nameless, because some silly sociologist started at the end of the alphabet, obviously anticipating a not too distant Apocalypse, thus negating the need to allocate a spifffy marketing-ready name to more than only a few generations.

Yes, they will inherit the Earth, the governments, humongous budget deficits, the UN, armies, banks, dodgy derivatives markets, fudged financial instrument, educational institutions, large and small businesses that dot the world, and there's a big part of me that's very grateful I won't ever see what they do with it all.

A goodly dollop of US college students are of the belief that turning up or completing prescribed readings warrant a B grade. If they try really hard, regardless of how abysmal the outcome, they should be rewarded with an even higher mark.

What a happy coinky-dink! That's exactly what employers and the ruling institutions of the world look for too: a warm body to turn up each day and stay awake long enough to grind through some daily instructions.

"I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade," Mr. Greenwood said. "What else is there really than the effort that you put in?"

Err. LOTS. Would be my first and second thoughts.

But, I'm not a senior
kinesiology major, so what the heck would I know.

Jason expanded, for the slow witted:

"If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?" he added. "If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher's mind, then something is wrong."

Yes something is wrong Jason. It really is.

Trying really hard and crying boo-hoo when your very best effort turns out to be half-witted isn't a glowing endorsement of one's staggering intellectual potential.

Trying really hard yet still not having enough common sense to know your arse from your elbow isn't an A grade outcome.

It's too easy to suggest that such dizzying delusions have sprung from the Oprah inspired high-self-esteem movement. While it is without question a load of crap to fill people with the notion that high self esteem is a prerequisite for high achievement, rather than the vice versa, whiny brats spring from many social and cultural sources.

We live in an era when being famous, being a celebutard, becoming a *personality*, possibly even parlaying all of such into a full time job and wealth too, requires nothing more than being exactly who and what you are, no matter how disturbingly inadequate that might be.

Indeed, the greater the delusions out weigh the inadequacies, the more vast room there is for improvement, all the more likely that one will win a spot on a reality television show somewhere.

Reality television requires nothing of the participant other than that they turn up and follow the instructions.

In return, reality television promises everything.

Nothing says "A grade" more than parading one's self-development, letting it all hand out for the world to see, sharing one's *journey* all the way from being a self-adsorbed blithering show-off to being a high self esteem celebutard with aspirations way beyond one's abilities.

Truman escaped, the audience looked away and got on with things without a grumble, as if Truman had never existed. The real ending was left hanging. Not that anyone cared. Reality is disposable.

Which is where British Jade Goody steps in.

Young, obnoxious, inarticulate and dying.

By any gutter level standard, she's a poster-child for
celebuwrecks everywhere. (Notwithstanding the existence of Amy Winehouse.)

"Before television shone its light on her, Jade Goody was surely destined for a life of hardship and obscurity. Crude-talking, hard-drinking, overweight, barely educated, in debt, the child of drug addicts, she appeared on the reality show Big Brother in 2002 as a kind of token lowlife."

As luck would have it, Goody had commenced an appearance on an Indian Big Brother series late last year when she was told - in the safety and privacy of the diary room - that she had cervical cancer. Millions of viewers shared the important moment.

The initial disease was treated. Goody continued being famous for no reason.

A couple of weeks ago she was told - this time, without an audience of millions - that the cancer had spread to her liver, bowel and groin and that there was nothing the medical profession could do for her.

Goody promptly announced her fate to the public at large.

Released from jail and wearing an electronic ankle bracelet, her boyfriend gallantly stepped in - once the cameras had arrived - to propose marriage.

Not too much risk for a 21 year old lad in offering everlasting love and commitment to a rich single mother of two children who is about to die.

An exclusive of the wedding was sold to OK magazine for a million dollar sum.

The young motherless boys will need a trust fund, after all.

A cable channel is filming Goody's last weeks.


The Prime Minister of Britain crossed a once unimaginable chasm, offering comment on Goody at his monthly news conference:


"The whole country will be worried and anxious about her health"

She turned up, she did nothing and now the Prime Minister of Britain worries about her demise.

"I know some people don't like what I'm doing, but at this point, I don't really care what other people think," she told The News of the World."

Of course, Goody is being disingenuous. She never cared what people thought. She turned up and was exactly herself. Being a rather vile piece of work was a fulfilling, full time and profitable job. It was honest work.

It would all be awfully undignified if Goody had, in some past episode, laid claim to having a scintilla of dignity, but she never has. The public has no right to get all sniffy about decorum at this point.


Goody's publicist claims there are three reasons for Goody sharing her last days in the public domain, but at this stage, not the death itself:


"to earn money to leave to her children; to keep busy through the horror of dying; and to alert young women to the need to have regular tests to detect early signs of cervical cancer."

Can't quibble with that.

But as her death looms, no mention is made of Goody ignoring earlier tests that suggested abnormalities. Perhaps too busy being famous for being no-one at all, she hadn't returned to see her doctor. It's a lesson she isn't spelling out. Can't blame her. No point in torturing herself about what might have been different. Why go there now? Mistakes, she's made a few.

Unless she changes her mind, her death will be off camera, but who knows.


A video of her death on YouTube would almost be a natural conclusion, but there's no money in it.

For some commentators this is all too unseemly:


"This is reality television carried out to its most extreme, grotesque conclusion, one not even envisioned in the film The Truman Show all those years ago."

Grotesque?

More grotesque than a person sharing their suicide on the interwebs? That's happened already.

It's not as though Goody is rushing to share an archive of home sex tapes or anything.

This is the ending long envisioned. As a society, we created it.

We don't now get to call it grotesque.

We don't now get, at the last minutes, to beg for dignity where none exists.

This is a reality of our doing.

Suck it up folks.

Jade Goody turned up: Grade A+++

Student expectations are seen as causing grade disputes (What is it with NYTs sub-editors? Have the headlines always been this drippy and I haven't noticed until now?)

Britain's tabloid TV star finds redemption


February 25, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”


Henry Ford

February 24, 2009

Think like a terrorist, walk like a terrorist ...

It's the way of our peoples in developed countries to teach the young 'uns that everything - everything - is relative and all opinions are valid.


Britain leads the charge of utter brainlessness.


"Meanwhile, in a similarly fatuous attempt to combat Muslim extremism, pupils nationwide are to be asked to empathise with suicide bombers, to see the world as a nihilistic Islamic psychopath might see it.


Schools have long since given up on inculcating a sense of right and wrong in their pupils; the whole notion is outdated and, frankly, authoritarian. Which is something to be thankful for when a 12-year-old child screams “fat arse” at you and then detonates himself. At least he was able to empathise."


See story via Steve at Opinion Dominion

February 23, 2009

Oscars 2009

Miley Cyrus dressed as a snow flake.

Angelina Jolie dressed in unadorned, strapless black, and managed to look somewhat more tedious than she did the last 28 times she dressed in the same manner.

The Ledger family were dignified and understated in wretched circumstances.

Lisa Rinna's upper lip appeared to be trying to make a run for freedom and a condominium all its own. They were smeared in mauve frosting.

Sarah Jessica Parker was swathed in white tulle, all very born-again-bride.

Mary Hart dragged an old crinkled floral bedspread out of the attic and flung it about her person.

Heidi Klum indulged her childhood fantasy of being an orange character in The Jetsons.

Kate Winslet rivaled Angelina for absolute boredomness. Navy/black/plain/blah-dee-blah.

Beyonce wore an enormous figure hugging black and gold dress, heavy mother of the bride fabric, with a humongous poof at the bottom.

Whoopi was frightening in a floaty leopard skin number.

Jessica Biel didn't wake up in time to dress, so grabbed the satin top sheet and a pillow slip to tuck into the front of the make-shift bodice.

Some people won Oscars.

The End.



February 20, 2009

Even less like telly

The US report mentioned on this very blog a couple of weeks ago has now been released, providing disheartening evidence that real life is even less like telly than anyone taught us.

Among its many criticisms, the study counted a backlog of 359,000 requests for forensic analysis in 2005, a 24 percent increase in delays since 2002. A survey of crime laboratories found 80 percent of them to be understaffed.

But, but, but ... I thought the best staffed forensic labs in the world only need four people.

“I am troubled by the report’s general finding that far too many forensic disciplines lack the standards necessary to ensure their scientific reliability in court,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.


Indeed, we are all troubled. The precision and confidence of forensic analysis on telly leaves no room for doubt or dilly-dallying.


The report calls into question the scientific merit of virtually every commonly used forensic method, including analysis of fingerprints, hair, fibers, blood spatters, ballistics and arson. Only DNA, which the panel said had benefited from rigorous scientific scrutiny and peer review outside of the forensics discipline, escaped significant criticism.


The panel also found that most of the nation is served by death investigation offices that lack accreditation. It cited an 18-year-old high school student in Indiana who was recently elected deputy coroner after a short training course.


The academy said that in addition, judges and lawyers generally lacked the scientific expertise necessary to “comprehend and evaluate forensic evidence in an informed manner.”


Oooooh, arrrrh. Judges and lawyers aren't going to like that.


On telly, juries always understand evidence. Always.


(Oh, and lamest neutral headline of the week award goes to the NYTs ... )

Study calls for oversight of forensics in crime labs



Duck Friday

February 19, 2009

Grinding practice ends in mince

Reason #156 why men should not practice their technique at work:


A man whose penis met an ill fate with a grinder in Brisbane's north this afternoon has been rushed to hospital.


It is understood the 23-year-old was working in Northgate when he was injured just after 2pm.


A Department of Emergency Services spokeswoman could not identify the type of grinder that had injured the man or detail how he came in contact with the device.


The extent of his injuries is not known. Paramedics did stem the bleeding before transporting the man to hospital.



February 18, 2009

Americans do bad coffee

"the man who set out to improve Americans’ taste in coffee"

So describes the NYTs, with no irony, the man who started Starbucks.

If Starbucks is an improvement, I have no wish to contemplate the dire, direst - much direr than climate change doomsday predictions - state of any other coffee being drunk in the US of A.

Starbucks is going into the instant coffee making business.

Just when you thought the worst days of instant coffee were behind us.

(Oh, all except Nescafe, of course, which is coffee essence, not coffee.)


Starbuck's coffee, now in instant

It's the Indian Ocean

A land of drought and flooding rains.

Ain't that the truth?

Well, drought, flooding rains and the fires of Hades.

Everyone can, and will, keep bleeting about climate change, but it would seem that there is solid evidence that our drought ridden country is all the fault of the Indian Ocean, and always has been.

Which means all we have to do is fix one ocean and we'll be good to go, at least as far as the whole drought iss-th-ue is concerned.

"The main cause of Australia's droughts and floods has been traced to the waters of the Indian Ocean, according to a new report from the University of NSW.


The study shows that the cycle of El Nino and La Nina events, which have long been thought to play a major role in south-east Australia's weather patterns, are in fact less important than the Indian Ocean, a finding that will have major implications for predicting rainfall in areas such as the Murray-Darling Basin.


The report found that a phenomenon known as the Indian Ocean dipole plays a dominant role in determining temperature and rainfall in south-east Australia.


It examined data on changes in the distribution of warm and cool water and found a direct correlation between dipole events and the current drought as well as historical droughts.


"There really is that opportunity to improve seasonal forecasting and seasonal predictions due to these findings, because the Indian Ocean dipole is predictable several months in advance," said the lead author, Dr Caroline Ummenhofer.


"This is something new. This has never, in the historical record, happened before," Dr Ummenhofer said. "So there are some indications that positive Indian Ocean dipole events are becoming more frequent and negative events are becoming less frequent."


The research could explain why the La Nina event, which usually brings more rain, failed to break the drought when it last occurred in 2007.


The research was led by the University of New South Wales, in conjunction with CSIRO and the University of Tasmania."


Should have known that no good would ever come from a dipole event.


(C/O local "CO2" newsletter for February)


Future funds fiddled

In case anyone is wondering where the stimulus cash came from, three future funds have had $15 billion wiped from their allocations for 2008-09.

The Education Investment Fund, which holds $8.7 billion for universities and TAFE colleges will miss out on $2.5 billion.

The Health and Hospitals Fund, which holds $5 billion from last financial year, was going to turn into $10 billion basket this year, but now won't.

The Building Australia Fund, for critical infrastructure, which holds $12.6 billion, will miss out on another $7.4 billion.

The deficit for 2008-09 is currently forecast to be $22.5 billion. I'm betting it goes higher.



Wednesday Wisdom

If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur.


Doug Larson

February 17, 2009

Audacious or outrageous?

Perhaps a taste of Kev Rudd's personally coined oxymoron, "social capitalism" comes a pile of inequitable, bloated funding proposals for the health and dental needs of the nation.

The least expensive would see the Medicare level increased by 0.75% and the inclusion of dental services for all. One could go private or public with the dental scheme, with 85% of the private fee paid by the government scheme.

The report assesses that one third of Australians are going without dental care, and of those 50% need dental work of some kind.

So, the proposal entails a new tax on 100% of working Australians, to ensure that the dental needs of one sixth of the population are met in a more timely manner than at present.

Can we all remember what happens to childcare costs every time the government increases childcare rebates?

Can we all recall the big gap, the out of pocket cost, after the last visit to the GP, with Medicare covering only 80% of the "scheduled fee", as opposed to the fee paid?

Shall we take a shot in the dark what will happen to dental costs under a scheme covering every single Australian, not just those in need? Bearing in mind that a visit to the dentist is already a very expensive treat.

Another proposal entails the federal government taking over everything under the sun - hospitals, nursing homes, dental - all "social" wellbeing services and hitting us up for an extra 14% tax - "social insurance". Ooooh, don't you lurve the name? We'd almost feel like we were living in Cuba! Whoo hoo!

"The plans would be funded by a new healthcare levy set as high as 14 per cent of taxable income to cover all current government health costs. Existing government expenditure on health already equates to 14 per cent of taxable income, but the money comes from general revenue.


The Medicare levy pays for a only fraction of the health costs borne by government."


Err, that would be the "general revenue" made up of the "general taxes" already being collected from us, right?


That would be the health costs borne by, paid by us, right?


But excluding the additional out of pocket costs that we pay directly, right?


Arrhh huh.


A final report from the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission is expected mid-year, when the Rudd government will start mulling over whether or not to put a referendum to the people on the federal government taking hospitals out of the hands of state governments.


As much as the multiple layers of government deliver health services in a less than sterling manner, I'm swooning - in a bad way - at the idea of the Fed's taking over.


Federal report suggests new social insurance scheme

Tax hike to fund dental care plan

Dental scheme targets the poor

February 16, 2009

Direst dire warning gets direr

The Apocalypse is here, lapping at our collective threshold.

Again.

The end is nigh.

Again.

Sure CO2s have increased.

Again.

But the average global temperature hasn't. Not for ten years and counting.

When scientists overplay their hand, when they copulate with politicians, when they whore themselves to interest groups as if they're in some kind of popularity contest, shame on them, and shame on us for letting them get away with it.


Warming 'much more rapid' than climate panel predicted


"We need to get some broad based support, to capture the public imagination,we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective,and being honest." Leading catastrophist, Dr Stephen Schneider ("Discover" Magazine, Oct 1989).

"Unless we announce disasters no one will listen." Sir John Houghton, first chairman IPCC.


In search of a tidal wave

Do you sleep peacefully at night, knowing that $60M of your taxes have been spent over the last four years to keep you and yours safe from tidal waves?


Yeah. Me too.


I used to brood and hyperventilate about getting out in time if a tidal wave hit, but not anymore.


As mentioned here the other day, plans for a national telephone disaster warning system at the bargain price of $20M has been - in the words of the deputy prime minister - "languishing around".


Yeah. You could put it that way.


No cash for phone alert system

February 15, 2009

First the fire, then the lawyers

With nearly $100 million in cash donations (not counting goods & services given) in only a single week, plus government payments to all families affected by the bush fires, plus the hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars that will - quite rightly - go toward rebuilding communities and essential services and facilities, and lets not forget to throw in the tens of millions that insurance companies will cover for loss of lives, homes, businesses, and many benefits and fundraising activiteis in the weeks ahead ....

Well, it adds up to an awful lot of material sustenance for the fire victims.


No one can begrudge them this support in getting them back on their feet.


None of it is intended, nor can it ever, compensate for what has been lost. It would be impossible to attempt to balance such an equation.


So, here is the moral conundrum, the pushing of the envelope if you will: a number of legal firms have already lodged class actions to sue one of the electricity companies and the government of Victoria.


I'm struggling to interpret downed power lines and subsequent fires (if proven true) to be acts of negligence. It's par of the course in extreme weather, winter or summer. It doesn't signify under-spending or lack of appropriate maintenance. It's just as normal, just as expected - in the extremes - as a lightening strike, a wind change, a thunder storm ... or a bush fire.


It's the price you pay for having handy-dandy access to modern utilities, no matter how far off the beaten track you happen to live.


Even in the city, instantaneous fixes aren't available. If the fault is out in the middle of nowhere it takes time for the big city folk to lasso a truck & tradies and get on site to do repairs.
It might take hours to get there, no different to the amount of time it would take for rural residents to travel to or from the nearest city or regional business centre.

So far three regions have been named as locations where fires might have been ignited by electrical wires.

The royal commission (a report from which isn't expected for a long time, maybe late next year), might or might not confirm the suspicion in one or all instances. If it proves true, will that be deemed negligence by a court? I know stranger things have happened, councils have been sued and lost for far lesser deeds.

Will the survivors of this disaster really feel comfortable about opportunistically profiting from their own misfortune, their community misfortune?

They would be the same people who, no doubt, cast a vote one way or another based on who promises to bring them the same facilities out in the boondocks as the city folk have.

They now want to sue because nature has it's way with all variety of man made structures, including power lines?

With so much generosity from across the nation and across the world, given freely, without looking for cause or blame, without seeking to apportion just compensation to this one or that one, surely these class actions are tacky, at the least, or greedy and morally questionable, at worst.


Huge fire class action sought

The good old days

"Senators who came to "negotiate" with [Gareth] Evans in his Parliament House office would be asked to wait in an ante-room. There, on the coffee table before them, they'd find an elaborately designed voodoo doll in their image, complete with pins in the eyes.


That was Labor's starting point back then: let the extortionists in the door, but keep them waiting and treat 'em mean.


...


For one is left with a clear impression that [Chris] Evans Mark II is more disposed to persuading today's recalcitrant senators with dolphin music, camomile tea and tofu crackers than the good old tried and true ("Get your %@!*ng demands out of my ante-room, you &^#%wit, and come back with a realistic offer!") Gareth method."


Bring back days of tough talk and voodoo





February 14, 2009

A history of fire, a history of lessons never learned

We do fire, big time.

There have been big fires across Australia during the last 10 days, not only in Victoria.

We do big deadly fires a handful of times each century.

Following deadly fire comes the inevitable inquiry and report and recommendations and government response.

A Royal Commission will be held into the Victorian fires.

Another report, another set of recommendations and another government response.


"We keep covering the same ground. Essentially, they have all reached the same basic conclusions.

According to COAG: "A consistent theme has been that greater emphasis, resources and activity should be directed towards what are commonly referred to as 'prevention activities'.


"This includes things such as education and awareness, clearing of fuel around buildings, track access and fuel reduction.


"Education is a consistent recommendation in reports from 1939 to 2003. The recommendations refer to both school-based programs and community information and awareness.


"Since 1939, comment has been made consistently about the poor levels of resourcing, in both fire agencies and land management agencies.


"Concern about the need for protective burning has been a theme since 1939.


"Communication and telecommunications infrastructure support have been a consistent theme since 1961.


"The importance of track access and maintenance is a consistent observation in reports from as early as 1939.


"The advantages of local knowledge and engaging people who have local knowledge were identified in most reports and have featured particularly strongly in recent reports."


And so on. Each time the same concerns and recommendations come from evidence of firefighters, scientific experts, landholders, foresters, and ordinary citizens who have been caught up in the terror.


The same "consistent themes" will emerge from the inquiry in Victoria.


Bet on it."


We don't learn.


Government's don't act.


Politicians and the public in this modern era succumb to eco-fundamentalist's romantic and ignorant advocacy of letting nature run wild where humans dare to live.


If more and more people insist on living in forests, they at least have to learn to keep the forest at more than arms length.


Complacency kills yet again





Remember the aggrieved lesbians?

Remember the Canberra-based lesbian couple, so aggrieved by the arrival of their perfect IVF twins that one of them lost the ability to love and their lives were utterly battered as they were mired in the daily tasks required to raise not one but two healthy little babies?

So aggrieved that they sued the doctor for implanting two, rather than one, embryo.


They won their case on appeal, with the doctor ordered to pay them more than $300K and their legal costs.

(The couple, apparently, aren't so forlorn or incapacitated that they can't still earn their $100K plus annual income.)


The original ruling, rejecting all claims by this ugly, greedy couple was based on these facts:

"The mother in question, Ms G, received two embryos instead of one because of flawed communication in the system used by her fertility clinic. But Armellin, in Bennett's view, was not at fault.

Here's why: Ms G had changed her mind about the number of embryos she wanted implanted. And she did so in the operating theatre after earlier signing documents agreeing to have ``one to two'' embryos implanted.

When Ms G told Armellin she wanted one embryo, the doctor believed this information was not new. He thought it had previously been conveyed to the clinicians who had prepared the implant.

The doctor believed Ms G would have conveyed this information during the clinic's pre-surgery procedures. In fact, Ms G had failed to take part in those procedures."

We await some really compelling reasons for the turn-around by the ACT Court.

Dangerous precedent

February 13, 2009

My kingdom for 20 million

Federal and state government squabbling over who would pay the paltry $20M bill prevented the introduction of a national telephone based early warning system in 2007.

The solution was successfully tested by Telstra in Victoria in conjunction with the SES.

They could have run a telethon on Channel 9 and paid for it in one night.

Cover-up exposed


Update: According to Telstra the early warning system could be up and running within weeks. All too late to save any lives in Victoria. Meanwhile, our Premier is hesitant, wanting more testing. He seems unconvinced. Maybe the one dollar cost per person in Australia is worrying him. Who knows.

Early warning system is ready to go

Save the bankers, save the world

Who are these guys?

Executives from various safe, sturdy, secure, financial institutions that collectively received $165 billion from US tax payers in the banking bailout, facing a few light and easy questions about private jets and multimillion dollar bonuses.

No tax payer money was used to fund their lavish ways.

*Phew*


What Rudd did with his Xmas holidays

Kev Rudd wasted his Xmas holidays writing a 7000 word essay. We touched on this a little while ago. "Social capitalism". "New World Order". Remember?

It was one very indulgent, yet utterly wasted holiday. Maybe next year he should play golf.

The Victorian fires have obliterated much, including the normal drone of our quite uninspiring politics, but that should not deter us. Rudd should not be let off so easily, we should keep his intellectual follies front and centre, lest we have cause to later kick ourselves in the butt for not taking this seriously.

"
Rudd's essay has been marketed by its publishers as a unique and lucid insight into the present financial crisis.

Rudd's essay displays his superficial reading of economic history. Even in areas where he has a purported expertise such as foreign policy, he fails to comprehend key political distinctions.


All the way through his essay Rudd tries to have it both ways, cherry picking economic history to support his political prejudices.


If Rudd is to be believed, all the present problems can be traced back to the "neo-liberal orthodoxy" that dominates economic policy making. And the solution is a return to social democratic Keynesian policies that existed prior to the mid-70s.

In Rudd's version "the current crisis is the culmination of a 30-year domination of economic policy by a free-market ideology that has been variously called 'neo-liberalism', economic liberalism, economic fundamentalism, Thatcherism or the Washington consensus." The political ideology of neoliberals has been "that government activity should be constrained, and ultimately replaced, by market forces".


Ultimately, Rudd resorts to the usual interventionist myths to justify his position. The greatest of these, of course, is the myth that Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies saved the US from the Depression.

The effectiveness of New Deal policies is a controversial area of economic theory and history. In a recent analysis, historian Burton Folsom Jr points out that while unemployment fluctuated throughout the '30s, average unemployment in 1939 was higher than in 1931, the year before Roosevelt became president. "


What this critique doesn't mention is that the Great Depression was only knocked off its perch by WWII.


It's important to remember that it took a global catastrophe of an even greater scale to end the Depression. I suppose a world war is government intervention of sorts.


Given that we are in the midst of a global recession, there's not much comfort in any of this, and no comfort at all from Kev's ideology barrow-pushing.


Rudd on dangerous, ill-informed crusade



Not over yet


Despite the very cool weather since Saturday, fires are still raging in some regions of Victoria.


View of Melbourne from the ruins of Kinglake West.

Koala love

Now internationally famous, rescued Sam finds comfort and new love with fellow fire survivor Bob.

Duck Friday

February 12, 2009

More than one quandry

Eco-fundamentalists continually trot out their robotic, simplistic mantra: there will be no economy without "the environment".


It's not even a true statement. If humans obliterated the natural environment and chewed through natural resources lickety-split, there would still be an environment, and an economy, just not in a form we currently recognize.


It's long overdue to turn the tables on this simple-minding thinking, particularly in light of this:


"Controlled burning would be declared a key national threat to biodiversity under a new proposal before government that has been slammed as dangerous to life and property.


While Environment Minister Peter Garrett yesterday gave Victoria carte blanche to do all it needed to control its deadly bushfires, without review by federal environment laws, it emerged he will be asked next year to decide whether prescribed burning to reduce fuel loads puts plants and animals at risk.


A Department of Environment spokeswoman confirmed yesterday it had received a public submission to list controlled burning as a "key threatening process" - the same category that applies to climate change, land clearing and feral cats, pigs and foxes."


With an estimated one million native animals lost in the Victorian fires, and a landscape that will now take a couple of hundred years to resemble the maturity of the environment that has just been turned to ash, how about this: without an environment, there is no biodiversity.


Burnoffs save and enrich biodiversity, save manmade structures, and save lives.


Without burnoffs, sometimes, there's nothing at all.


Burnoffs following Victorian bushfires "a threat to biodiversity"



When being green is deadly

"We have got proof right here. We are the only house standing in a two-kilometre area."

Mr Sheahan is still angry about his prosecution, which cost him $100,000 in fines and legal fees. The council's planning laws allow trees to be cleared only when they are within six metres of a house. Mr Sheahan cleared trees up to 100 metres away from his house.


"The council stood up in court and made us to look like the worst, wanton environmental vandals on the earth. We've got thousands of trees on our property. We cleared about 247," he said.


Fined for illegal clearing, family now feel vindicated




February 11, 2009

Blame game begins

Eco-fundamentalists are all too predictably dancing around the flames and charred bodies chanting "climate change, climate change, climate change", as if this brown, drought, flood and fire ridden land had never before experienced natural disasters that challenge the capabilities of mere humans. Here ... and via Andrew Bolt here ...

Others claim this is god's retribution on Victoria for our abortion laws.

"Incendiary" abortion law reforms last year that made Victoria "the baby-killing state" are responsible for the devastating bushfires, controversial Christian leader Danny Nalliah said yesterday." Here ...

While some survivors have a more pragmatic, not to mention first hand, understanding of land management.

"Angry residents last night accused local authorities of contributing to the bushfire toll by failing to let residents chop down trees and clear up bushland that posed a fire risk."

One survivor at a council meeting explained, eloquently: "We've lost two people in my family because you dickheads won't cut trees down". Here ...

Seems we'll be required to pick our teams.

Wednesday Wisdom

In all recorded history there has not been one economist who has had to worry about where the next meal would come from.

Peter Drucker

February 10, 2009

A little bit of something in between

Intriguing result from a US survey:

1. Which of the following is most likely to occur to the planet Earth ... a period of dangerous global warming, a dangerous ice age, or something in between?

29% Period of dangerous global warming
5% Dangerous ice age
52% Somewhere in between
14% Not sure

Did you notice that 52% of people are rolling the dice and betting on a period of dangerously in between-ness?

When it comes to climate, I would have thought a little, or a long, bit of "something in between" would be excellent, comforting, secure, middling, mild, happy. A little bit of "just right".

Ah well.

Less puzzling is that the same house of surveying of humans found that only 36% of people agree that Al Gore has a clue.

Rasmussen Reports

February 8, 2009

Burning








Victoria and NSW are burning.

Death toll in Victoria now confirmed at 35, and rising.

The army has been called in to assist in Victoria, with fires expected to rage for days.

Update: While firebugs are being blamed for several blazes ravaging Victoria, the Country Fire Authority has confirmed that several fires are being deliberately relit by arsonists.

Update II: 36 confirmed dead, 640 homes lost.

Update III: 65 confirmed dead.

Update IV: death toll 76. Channel 9 has just confirmed that the veteran news reader Brian Naylor, who lives in fire-ravaged Kinglake West, can not be accounted for.

Update V: The bodies of Brian Naylor and his wife Moiree Naylor have been found.

Update VI: 108 bodies found so far, 750 homes destroyed, up to 5000 homeless. Fires in Victoria continue to threaten some townships. South Australian residents warned of extreme fire danger for their region this weekend.

Update VII: "We start coughing and gasping for air. Life is rapidly beginning to narrow to a grim, but inevitable choice. Die from the toxic smoke inside. Die from the firestorm outside." - senior journalist Gary Hughes vividly describes how lives are lost, and some spared, but only just - Cheating flames of death.

Update VIII: Geoffrey Blainey provides a potted history of our worst fires: "We live in one of the world's most hazardous bushfire zones. In our recorded history, there has been no bushfire as spectacular as February 1851 ...". Shocking heat on shocking day. This has not been the worst, will not be the last, but it has been the most deadly. 111 confirmed dead at this time. Nearly a dozen critical cases in hospital, numerous on life support. The search for bodies continues.

Update IX:
126 bodies found. 20 people in hospital with burns are critical.

Update X:
Radio news is saying 176 confirmed dead. Many areas still in danger, coming under ember attack. Police circling in on arsonists.

CFA fire fighter shares some water with a homeless koala. Via Herald Sun


Updates at The Australian




February 7, 2009

Bang goes real forensics

I recently read of a jury demanding to know if a gun residue test had been carried out on the alleged perp. Upon hearing that no such test was done the jury was palpably appalled at such sloppy police work, such shoddy evidential procedures. The gross oversight would never happen on telly. The alleged crim walked free.

The populace at large, and therefore a court's pool of jurors, has been contaminiated by decades of police and legal procedure shows. Once upon a time, a less sophisticated audience fully understood that these programs were fiction. No one believed that Columbo, or Chips, or Cagney & Lacey, or Perry Mason, or Quincey, M.E types really did inhabit police stations, court rooms or coroner's offices, making the world a safer place by solving the most heinous and complex crimes in 41 minutes and 16 seconds.

Nor, once upon a time, would an audience have believed that all crimes could and are (bizarrely) solved by the soft and narrow glow of torch light (for mysterious reasons, the clever folk on CSI are not clever enough to use light switches or open curtains at crime scenes) .


It was once understood that this was all pretend, make believe.


Not so now.


Television
isn't more convincing than it was back in the day, but somewhere and somehow, the viewing public have confused fictitious shows with the real world.

[A small tip, that persists in crime shows to this day, should be a continuing clue to the fiction (but clearly isn't) to viewers everywhere: almost all violent crimes on procedural telly shows are perpetrated by wealthy or middle class white people. Yes dear readers, think about that for half a second.]

If it wasn't bad enough that the CSI and Law & Order franchises had already made a mockery of the limitations of real policing and real law enforcement, things will get a whole lot uglier when a report by the US National Academy of Sciences is released (or if it's released).

The real world of forensics is even shoddier, shonkier, and sloppier than any law abiding citizen dare contemplate.

"Forensic evidence that has helped convict thousands of defendants for nearly a century is often the product of shoddy scientific practices that should be upgraded and standardized, according to accounts of a draft report by the nation’s pre-eminent scientific research group.

The report by the National Academy of Sciences is to be released this month. People who have seen it say it is a sweeping critique of many forensic methods that the police and prosecutors rely on, including fingerprinting, firearms identification and analysis of bite marks, blood spatter, hair and handwriting.


The report says such analyses are often handled by poorly trained technicians who then exaggerate the accuracy of their methods in court.


Legal experts expect that the report will give ammunition to defense lawyers seeking to discredit forensic procedures and expert witnesses in court. Lawyers could also use the findings in their attempts to overturn convictions based on spurious evidence. Judges are likely to use the findings to raise the bar for admissibility of certain types of forensic evidence and to rein in exaggerated expert testimony.


The report’s most controversial recommendation is the establishment of a federal agency to finance research and training and promote universal standards in forensic science, a discipline that spans anthropology, biology, chemistry, physics, medicine and law. The report also calls for tougher regulation of crime laboratories.


In its current draft report, the National Academy wrote that the field suffered from a reliance on outmoded and untested theories by analysts who often have no background in science, statistics or other empirical disciplines.

One person who has reviewed the draft and who asked not to be identified because of promises to keep the contents confidential said: “I’m sure that every defense attorney in the country is waiting for this report to come out. There are going to be challenges to fingerprints and firearms evidence and the general lack of empirical grounding. It’s going to be big.”


Science found wanting in nation's crime labs

The ultimate oops

A Serbian man is recovering in hospital after accidentally cutting off his penis and (accidentally?!) flushing the severed appendage down the toilet.

Deliberate attempts to retrieve his manhood from the town's main drains failed.


February 6, 2009

Be alarmed, this is NOT a drill!

We had some stinker hot days in Melbourne last week, followed by a series of not entirely stinker hot days.

(Are you bored yet? Hold on, it gets more interesting.)

Tomorrow we're going to have another stinker hot day, promptly followed by a cool change so significant that I'll be whining "what the hell happened to summer"?

Last week our handy-dandy Premier had nothing much to say about heat, water security, or massive public transport failures, the likes of which I've not known in my lifetime. He was also sanguine about tens of thousands of people not having electricity during the scorching heat as entire suburbs were shut down to ease the load on the grid.

By contrast he's just a little bit hyper about our single hot, hot, hot, hot day tomorrow.
Victorians should cancel whatever plans they may have had for tomorrow and take whatever steps necessary to prepare for what Premier John Brumby is calling the "worst day in the history of the state".

"If you don't need to go out, don't go out, it's a seriously bad day.


"If you don't need to travel, don't travel.


"Don't go on the roads. If you don't need to use the public transport system, don't use it.


"If you can stay at home, stay at home.


"If you've got relatives who are elderly, if you've got friends, if you've got neighbours, please call on them."


Odd thing is, the Premier wasn't hysterical on any of the three successive working days when we had the very same conditions last week.


What a difference it makes when the "worst day in history" can be held on a weekend.


Worst day in history