August 29, 2009

Dah News

"The safest and most effective treatment for hard-core heroin addicts who fail to control their habit using methadone or other treatments may be their drug of choice, in prescription form, researchers are reporting after the first rigorous test of the approach performed in North America.

The Canadian researchers randomly assigned about half of the addicts to receive methadone and the other half to receive daily injections of diacetylmorphine, the active ingredient in heroin. After a year, 88 percent of those receiving the heroin compound were still in the study, and two-thirds of them had significantly curtailed their illicit activities, including the use of street drugs. In the methadone group, 54 percent were still in the study and 48 percent had curbed illicit activities."

Now for the next 'dah' research, can we compare heroin and methadone for pain alleviation for the terminally ill and those at the end of life?

Unfortunately, that little study won't occur in our life time, for purely sociopolitical reasons.

Ethically and medically, those reasons are indefensible.

Study backs heroin to treat addiction

This is why

There's a deep and misguided smugness about women in developed countries rejecting and pillorying feminism as some anachronistic embarrassment.

Of course, for us - you and me - feminism has always been a middle-to-upper class indulgence.

Oh yes, how daring and darling to fight for the right to work and play, when poor women have never had the luxury of choosing either.

Feminism, perhaps, finally, is being ever so slowly replaced, not with the tawdry raunch culture, but with the first and last battle line, the real deal: the long, dangerous and unavoidable confrontation with misogyny the world over, in all its myriad of entrenched and systemic expressions.

While the obese like to claim they're the last permissible dumping ground for discrimination, that is an obscene self-pitying indulgence, the bleat of an over-stuffed child. Fat people might feel taunted, but they are not denied any basic human rights. They are certainly not mutilated, starved, beaten, raped, oppressed, murdered, aborted - cast away before even being born.

Feminism superfluous? A stripper's pole is more empowering?

Try telling that to an Afghanistan school girl prepared to give her life, if need be, for the sake of an elementary education:


"I did not witness the acid attack or report on the event. I had not yet seen the government film. I figured the school would be empty — that it would be boarded up like so many schools for girls in the area and the girls isolated behind the walls of their homes.

And so when I visited the school one morning in January I was stunned by what I found. The Mirwais Mena School had indeed closed after the acid attacks, but only for a week. When I arrived it was crowded and filled with the laughter of 300 girls. Nearly all of the 11 girls and four teachers who were burned by acid had returned as well. Most surprising was the girl in the video, Shamsia Husseini — she was not only in attendance, but animated and lively. I found her seated in the front row of a second-floor geography class. A scarlet scar, the size of a tennis ball, still covered her face.


The Mirwais Mena School is a sprawling and informal enterprise; the girls range in ages from 6 to 23, the older ones playing catch-up after spending their childhoods under Taliban rule.


When geography class was finished, I sat down with Shamsia. “I cried a lot after the attack,” she said. The scar on her left cheek was raised, and since the attack her eyes no longer functioned well enough for her to read.


Arja said, “We just told her to come to class and participate.”


Her mother and father, Shamsia told me, were both illiterate, as were most adults in Mirwais Mena. I asked her why they allowed her to continue coming to class.


“My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed,” Shamsia said.


She exhibited a perfect grasp of the situation, both hers and her country’s: “The people who did this to me don’t want women to be educated. They want us to be stupid things.”


And so unfolded one of the mysteries not only of Shamsia but also of the Mirwais Mena School and perhaps all of Afghanistan. Women in Afghanistan are held to be lesser beings than men; they are accorded fewer rights and fewer opportunities. But build a school for girls, and the girls will come. They will face down death to come. And their illiterate parents will support them. Their illiterate parents will push them out the door.


“My father wants Afghan women to be educated in particular, since they have not been given their rights,” Fatima Ludin, Qadari’s daughter in Georgia, told me.


Following the acid attack, Qadari shuttered the school, but after a few days girls started showing up, sent by their parents. Why is the school closed, the girls asked? When do classes begin? Qadari went to the leaders of Kandahar Province and secured promises for a school bus, a team of police officers and a walkway over the national highway outside. Then he called a meeting of the parents of Mirwais Mena. Send your girls back, he told them.


“I told them, if you don’t send your daughters to school, then the enemy wins,” Qadari told me. “I told them not to give in to darkness.”


And so the girls returned.


One day, standing inside the compound of the Mirwais Mena School and watching the girls rush through the front gate, I suddenly realized that Afghan girls live their lives in reverse. Behind the school’s walls, the girls of Afghanistan comport themselves with confidence and self-possession. They are alive, alert and literate; they run, jump and laugh out loud. They confront male visitors, point their fingers, ask questions.


They do everything, in other words, that an adult Afghan woman, just outside the school’s walls, could never imagine.


Indeed, just outside the school’s walls, in the muddy streets of Mirwais Mena itself, it is rare to see a woman at all. ... without the benefit of literacy, without being allowed to roam outside, the life of an Afghan woman is, by and large, muffled and clipped.


Most of the Mirwais Mena girls, even if they are only 8 or 9, arrive at school fully covered. And as soon as they walk through the gate, they throw off their shawls and race around until the headmaster gathers them in the yard.


t struck me ... that the girls do not have the slightest idea what is in store for them. They do not know that this time inside the walls of the Mirwais Mena School will, in all likelihood, grant them the greatest freedom they will ever experience. The girls might as well be sailing down a stream, toward a waterfall and rocks.


Still, a large proportion of this generation of Afghan girls is attending schools like this one, despite arson and gas attacks. Over the course of the visits I made to the Mirwais Mena School between January and June, I sometimes sensed a revolution was quietly unfolding. In a second-story classroom, one teacher, Mohammed Daoud, stood before 25 girls and delivered what was ostensibly a talk about Islam. But after a while, the talk turned into something else.


“You should work,” Daoud told the girls. “You should serve your country — serve the people.


“You should strive to do great things,” he continued, “and you should try to be independent and self-reliant.”


The girls looked on, wide-eyed.


“A woman can do whatever she attempts,” he said. “But she needs skills, she needs effort and learning. This school, for instance, was built by human beings — people with skills.”


In a country where women’s rights are so curtailed, Daoud’s lecture amounted to a manifesto of liberation.


“A woman should have self-confidence,” he told the girls, “and she should trust in herself that she can do anything.”

The interwebs is a wondrous thing. The ultimate super-sized pamphlet. The locus of instantaneous reporting from around the world, a soapbox of dazzling sudsiness, and maybe, just maybe, a medium, ironically so nano in attention span, yet so tenaciously unrelenting, sufficiently obsessive as to be capable of eroding, post by post, tweet by tweet, the misogyny that still defines our way of life.

"Hawkish sites that have taken up feminism include Little Green Footballs, Jihad Watch and Horowitz’s FrontPage Magazine. On a recent day, the home page of the last featured reports of female prisoners being raped in Iran; prepubescent girls getting married in Gaza; and a possible honor killing by an immigrant in New York. This material is expected to help seal Horowitz’s general case for the war on terror, though he has not yet changed the name of his cause to, say, the war on misogyny."

It has taken an eon, hasn't it, for major global institutions to understand that when you educate or help a woman, you educate and help an entire family, or a village. Educate or help a man, and you help only him.

"There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution."


And yet, and yet ...

" ... we came across an obscure but meticulous demographic study that outlined a human rights violation that had claimed tens of thousands more lives. This study found that 39,000 baby girls died annually in China because parents didn’t give them the same medical care and attention that boys received — and that was just in the first year of life. A result is that as many infant girls died unnecessarily every week in China as protesters died at Tiananmen Square. Those Chinese girls never received a column inch of news coverage, and we began to wonder if our journalistic priorities were skewed.

A similar pattern emerged in other countries. In India, a “bride burning” takes place approximately once every two hours, to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so a man can remarry — but these rarely constitute news. When a prominent dissident was arrested in China, we would write a front-page article; when 100,000 girls were kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn’t even consider it news.


Amartya Sen, the ebullient Nobel Prize-winning economist, developed a gauge of gender inequality that is a striking reminder of the stakes involved. “More than 100 million women are missing,” Sen wrote in a classic essay in 1990 in The New York Review of Books, spurring a new field of research. Sen noted that in normal circumstances, women live longer than men, and so there are more females than males in much of the world. Yet in places where girls have a deeply unequal status, they vanish. China has 107 males for every 100 females in its overall population (and an even greater disproportion among newborns), and India has 108. The implication of the sex ratios, Sen later found, is that about 107 million females are missing from the globe today. Follow-up studies have calculated the number slightly differently, deriving alternative figures for “missing women” of between 60 million and 107 million.


Girls vanish partly because they don’t get the same health care and food as boys. In India, for example, girls are less likely to be vaccinated than boys and are taken to the hospital only when they are sicker. A result is that girls in India from 1 to 5 years of age are 50 percent more likely to die than boys their age. In addition, ultrasound machines have allowed a pregnant woman to find out the sex of her fetus — and then get an abortion if it is female.


The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls and women are now missing from the planet, precisely because they are female, than men were killed on the battlefield in all the wars of the 20th century. The number of victims of this routine “gendercide” far exceeds the number of people who were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century."

Whatever opinions anyone holds about Hillary Clinton, she has been a steadfast, lifetime feminist, and over this, it's impossible to find fault:


"I happen to believe that the transformation of women’s roles is the last great impediment to universal progress — that we have made progress on many other aspects of human nature that used to be discriminatory bars to people’s full participation. But in too many places and too many ways, the oppression of women stands as a stark reminder of how difficult it is to realize people’s full human potential."


A school bus for Shamsia

The feminist hawks

The women's crusade

A new gender agenda

August 28, 2009

August 26, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

It is known that there is an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the product of a deranged imagination.

Douglas Adams


August 22, 2009

The soothing sounds of game theory

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a prominent applied game theorists, which means he can see the future in a way tarot cards can't.
“That’s the outcome,” Bueno de Mesquita said confidently, tapping the screen.

What does 118 mean? It means that Iran won’t make a nuclear bomb. By early 2010, according to the forecast, Iran will be at the brink of developing one, but then it will stop and go no further. If this computer model is right, all the dire portents we’ve seen in recent months — the brutal crackdown on protesters, the dubious confessions, Khamenei’s accusations of American subterfuge — are masking a tectonic shift. The moderates are winning, even if we cannot see that yet."


Rest easy folks: Israel won't have a justification for bombing Iran any time soon. Nice to know.


Game theory is mathematical modeling applied to humans. Humans are awfully predictable. Sad but true. A bit of solid maths, some smart modeling, a big dollop of prosaic human drives and badda-bing: the future is in your hands, not just to see, but to toy with as you will.


Bruce Bueno de Mesquita doesn't give probabilities, he's a yes / no kind of guy, ones and zeros. Something either will or won't happen. Crisp. Sturdy.


He offers up his expensive skills and computing program to both corporate and political clients, telling them what will happen and, one imagines, if asked and paid for, providing strategies on how to influence those events to make them come to fruition, or to change the outcome: game plans, in other words.


According to Bueno de Mesquita:

"Global warming is another area where politics are doomed to fail. World governments are set to meet this December in Copenhagen to commit to firm CO2-reduction levels — but when Bueno de Mesquita modeled the future of these targets, most countries renege on them. No democratic government will seriously limit CO2 if it will hurt its citizens economically.


“When people are asked to make personal sacrifices for the greater good in the longer term, they seem to find 1,001 reasons why their particular behavior is so virtuous that this one particular deviation is really O.K.,”

In that real world, that's a fairly cheap truth that any of us could have dreamed up while brushing our teeth, all without the aid of a computer or a six figure consultancy fee.


Meanwhile, back to Iran, with more soothing words:


"Bueno de Mesquita also approved of Obama’s hands-off approach. Bueno de Mesquita ran an experimental version of his Iranian model without the U.S. in it as a player at all, and the coalitions that oppose Ahmadinejad and the bomb emerge a few months more quickly. In other words, American meddling is indeed counterproductive; the less America tries to influence Iran, the more quickly Iran will abandon nuclear weapons, if the logic of the computer is correct."


Now, if only we could collect enough money to buy Bueno de Mesquita services to find out how many party leaders the Liberal party will chew through during the next decade, and to find out if or when Gillard will make a play for Kev's job.


Can game theory predict when Iran will get the bomb?

Don't mention whose waste

Still shaking my head over a New York Times article that managed to discuss the waste disposal and concomitant pollution problem in China without mentioning or alluding to the long-term practice of first world countries - including the US - exporting their waste, primarily to China and India.

Sure, China creates humongous waste of it's own, but that's what happens when one or two billion people are gathered together on this fine little planet.

The "we're running out of landfill" hymn is ancient. So old in fact, that, surely, the world ran out of landfill entirely, oooh, it must have been 150 years ago, hey?

And yet, we never get to the point of actually running out. We're perpetually on the verge. Like a newly discovered poppet about to hit the big time. We continue to wait for the day when we wake up to the front page headline declaring:

NO MORE LANDFILL: FOR REAL THIS TIME
!

In the voraciously disposable US, daily waste per person is 4.5 pounds, an amount that snails up, rather than multiplies rapidly. Waste output is not increasing exponentially, in other words.

During this entire century, the US will need landfill of 18 miles square and 100 feet tall, which is 0.009% of their available land. Well, roughly that much landfill, minus whatever is exported to China and India, I suppose.

At that rate, the US will need to use up 1% of land to accommodate its waste during the next 11 thousand years.

Yes indeedy. Crisis. Pending. Almost.

China's incinerators loom as global hazard

Machines master the art of being human

The first self learning robots can find an electrical outlet and plug themselves in: basic survival 101.

The next stage in evolution is learning to deceive, to lie:

"After nine generations the robots had learned to follow the blue signals of others who found food, pushing and shoving to get to the source.


By 500 generations, 60 per cent of robots had learned to keep their blue signal light off when they found the food to stop other machines muscling in on their resource."

It would seem that learning human traits isn't as difficult for robots as we'd always imagined.


Robots learn to cheat each other to get ahead

Brain wave

Over in Brazil, the land that spawned Brazillians, along with more breast implants per chest cavity than any other nation, they've caved to the creaking weight of obesity by installing XXXXXL seats on trains.

All good, for the large and small alike, one would imagine.

Pity about the vanity though.

"Priority chair for obese people" reads the speech balloon coming from a cartoon of a fat person on the (large?) signs above the token XXXXXL seats.

For inexplicable reasons, the fat seats, unlike priority disability seats, are wildly unpopular.

August 21, 2009

August 19, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

But if conformity has its dangers, so has nonconformity. Some "advanced thinkers" are of opinion that anyone who differs from the conventional opinion must be in the right. This is a delusion; if it were not, truth would be easier to come by than it is. There are infinite possibilities of error, and more cranks take up unfashionable errors than unfashionable truths.

Bertrand Russell

August 16, 2009

'Memba her?

There must, surely, be days when Schapelle Corby wishes she's sucked it up, admitted guilt and thrown herself upon the mercy of the Indonesian legal system, and in due course, applied for a pardon, or the mercy of the king or something or other - there is a process, and apparently it works, but one must admit guilt before requesting redemption. I figure Corby would have been out within ten years. Sure, her life would have still been screwed, a happy hubby and a swag of kiddies a thought long gone, but not a life entirely over.


For long stretches we hear nothing about Corby, then suddenly she pops up again, as breathless journalists report her latest hairstyle, what she ate on her birthday, and trips to hospital to have treatment for ongoing depression.


Hell, what's not to be depressed about?


You don't get to traffic drugs, end up in a godforsaken foreign jail and expect to have a damned fine time of it. Our own jails aren't a barrel of laffs either.


Within all the sympathetic bleating over the health and well being of Corby, another Australian drug trafficker is never mentioned: Renae Lawrence.


Lawrence is also serving twenty years. Let's take a small wager that she too gets new hair cuts from time to time, and a slightly bigger wager that she too suffers some level of sadness and deep distress at the way her life has turned out, being as it is in the same jail that Corby calls home.


Never once have the trash mags or the newspapers featured Lawrence on the cover, accompanied by a story about her well being and anguish. No one gives a shit. I guess that's what happens if you're a large girl and not obviously attractive. Who knows how Lawrence looks now. Thinner, I imagine, but we haven't seen any photo's of her since I can't remember when.


Corby has relatives living in Indonesia, who visit constantly, provide her with food and anything within reason that she's permitted to have in jail. I have no idea if Lawrence has visitors, but she certainly doesn't have family living there to help sustain her. It's Corby who continues to garner all the Australian sympathy though. Feigning innocence has staying power.


I've always thought that Lawrence would head home before Corby. No small irony. The former had more than 8 kilos of heroin about her person, while the latter had only 4.2 kilos of weed tucked in with her boogy board. Initially Corby got life, or something ridiculous, eventually reduced to twenty years on appeal. Lawrence plead guilty from the get-go, took her twenty years, and has not said a word since. Mind you, our journalists haven't beaten a path to her cell seeking a word either.


This week, another few months might be shaved from each of their sentences, an annual tradition in Indonesia.


So far, Lawrence, who was arrested a year after Corby, has accrued more credits than Corby. Every little bit helps. Every month a little closer to freedom.


Whenever I see yet another hand-wringing story about our poor Schapelle, I always wonder how Renae Lawrence is holding up. At least she knows she was guilty. Perhaps that lightens the burden of her time in an Indonesian jail.


Corby and Lawrence in line for sentence cut

Duped

I'm a sucker for a catchy heading or title, resulting in many duped moments (probably at least several years of my cumulative lifetime).

There are at least three slap in the face, fuck you for wasting my time, disingenuous manipulations about this Bryan Caplan journal article.

First up is that it was published in May 2007, meaning that it would have been months (if not years) in the making prior to the publication date, meaning that the defense of free markets and dissing of government regulations (and voters, by association) oozes with naive idiocy. His idolization of economists, in particular, is embarrassing. If only he'd waited a couple of months, sucked up the full glory of economies melting down from one hemisphere to the other, all because unfettered, unregulated markets in one country imploded in spectacular and unregulated ways. Timing hey, it's a bitch.

Secondly, asking why democracies choose bad policies is nearly as stupid as asking why communism's choose bad policies.

Voters, whether it be the rational or irrational variety, do not choose policies, period, ever. They only get to choose between a few broad brushstrokes, preferred color and movement, vague visions, punchy sound bites.

Policy is what happens long after ballot papers have been pulped. Policies are written by public servants, the contents of which, the intent and outcomes, are not offered up to a vote by the electorate. Policy, most often, isn't what people think it was going to be. Hands up how many people saw Work Choices coming, 'ey? Howard didn't lie, he went under the radar. The policy was never put to the people.

Sure, Rudd & Co vowed to tackle climate change in the Antipodes, which is the feel-good metaphor of the moment, but they didn't tell anyone what their polices would look like, they didn't mention that they'd make a dog's breakfast of it - although, that has been the case everywhere in the world, so it was 100% foreseeable that a government here would botch things with equal vigor. Even if they had told us, we don't go to the polls to vote on individual polices. There's no exemption box, permitting us to note: "I vote for this guy, excluding his policy on dog poop and his policy on homeless people. Thanking you in advance."

Oooh, oooh! Hands up anyone who voted "1" for the ALP, in full knowledge and expectation that they would review the entire tax system, and, maybe, bung a capital gains tax on the family home?

Ha! Didn't see that coming, did ya, did ya!

Yet, Caplan merrily proceeds as if voters have a real say in any of this, and that "irrational" policies are the natural consequence of "irrational" voters. He doesn't present any correlation or causation though, it's given, presented with some bulldozer arguments.

Sure, we might well get to vote "on policy" at the next election, if run, for example, primarily on "climate change" and "taxation reform" - both concepts being vague, at best, but with no detail and no policy documents to review - people would vote all the same, and the winner would then get to spend three years implementing whatever the hell policies they like, insisting all the while that they had a direct mandate from the people to do exactly that.

And yet, we are still left with the truth that voting for a concept, an ideology, or someone with neat hair and trimmed eyebrows doesn't come close to being a vote for any or all government policies that are subsequently implemented.

Democracy as practiced in most countries is the minimalist variety. There are few exceptions, small nations, that do put individual policies to the public, or do allow the public to initiate their own policies. We have representative democracy. That's all it is folks. It's limited.

Finally, by the data he presents, informed voters run neck and neck in the rationality stakes with economists. There's not much between them. Of course, Caplan's argument is that only 1% of voters are informed, while 99% of them are ill-informed dunces.

The latter is mostly true, by the way, but that has to be tempered with the truth that this applies to everything in life, not just politics. People are remarkably attached to their ignorance, they insist and persist in believing no end of stupid things, why would they momentarily discard their way of being and thinking when they walk into a voting booth? Very possibly too, it's the daily grind of of ignorance, bigotry and stupidity that produces irrational communities and societies, and, therefore, irrational policies, not the few moments spent voting.


Irritating and funny (given the timing), to read, but on the up side, Caplan summarizes the standard political science accumulated knowledge of flawed human thinking, and how this affects voting intentions, quite well.

Alas, the flawed human thinking is pretty much intransigent. Caplan doesn't attempt to offer any cures, other than to imply that economists and markets are the saviors and should be left to roam free across the collective metropolis. It's a simple and dumb arsed conclusion to a misleading journal title.


The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies - Bryan Caplan

August 15, 2009

Round up

Some guy in the Northern Territory sees UFOs and tourist dollars.

"People are coming out of the woodwork. They didn't want to say anything before, but now they are speaking up (about sightings).


"It's certainly a great area for it."


Speaking to the Seven Network, ufologist Doug Moffett said there was a history of unexplained sightings in the NT.

"Certainly in the last 18 months it has been an area of unusually high activity," he said.

So, here's the thing that I've never been able to twist my pee brain around: with an entire universe to choose from - and it's a humongous place folks, one of those rare references to "big" when men aren't exaggerating - why would aliens single out a handful of obscure and most often sparely populated locations on planet Earth to hover over on their weekends?


Why not Pluto or some other Milky Way entirely? Or if Earth, then the Caribbean, or New York - I believe central park is quite nice - or the whole of Europe, which is a big land mass, easy to find if flying blind.


Here's a tip for anyone committing fraud, theft and sundry other dishonest activities at their place of employ: if you're a payroll manager and you buy more than forty houses during a brisk 18 months (that's like buying a new house every time you go out to buy a loaf of bread) - newsflash: not subtle!


In the basket of "I'll never complain about my out of pockets again", comes some data that explains why the US is fast heading toward chewing through 25% of GDP just to tending to the bodily well-being of its citizenry:


"A patient in Illinois was charged $12,712 for cataract surgery. Medicare pays $675 for the same procedure. In California, a patient was charged $20,120 for a knee operation that Medicare pays $584 for. And a New Jersey patient was charged $72,000 for a spinal fusion procedure that Medicare covers for $1,629."

Or this:

"... when her son fell and banged his mouth. Ms. Davis ... took 4-year-old Ryan to an emergency room. “He was bleeding a lot, and it looked like he had a bad cut on the inside of his mouth,”


After a long wait, she said, a doctor said he would put in stitches but seemed uncomfortable treating the agitated child. When he said he could call a plastic surgeon, Ms. Davis agreed.


The plastic surgeon, Dr. Gregory J. Diehl of Port Jefferson, “was very nice, very gentle, very kind,” Ms. Davis said. He put in three stitches ...


The bill was $6,000 — $300 for the emergency room consultation and $5,700 for putting in the stitches."

Would you like an old guy with that? Apparently so, at least in Britain.

"A Lancaster University study commissioned by[McDonald's] suggests customers prefer to be served by older workers, and that satisfaction is highest in branches that employ workers aged over 60."

Finally, good news to end the week: we can turn down the temperature at the loose-change cost of $9B.

"Another way to cool the globe would be to spray seawater mist from ships up toward low-lying clouds, which would become brighter and reflect more sunlight away from Earth. (For details, see nytimes.com/tierneylab.)


This cloud-brightening technology might counteract a century’s worth of global warming for $9 billion, according to J. Eric Bickel and Lee Lane. They identified it as the most promising form of climate engineering ... "
The price tag works for me, but then again, I'm more in favor of balmy weather, and I'm sure many in Siberia are thinking much the same and saving up for their very first outdoor BBQ.

Oh, yes, let's not forget to mention Hillary's ungracious and unwarranted hissy fit in front of the kiddies of Africa. Small tip honey: you're married to a former President of the USA - time to come to grips with that little fact.


August 14, 2009

August 12, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow”.


Anonymous

August 9, 2009

Emissions Trading Scheme Sunk

The proposed Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) relies on regulations, not on law.

This matters.

It's the same as circumstance surrounded the failed Australia Card in 1987.

Hawke went to a double dissolution election using the senate obstruction of the card as a trigger. Although Labor won the election and was busy setting up a joint sitting of parliament, the tee wee matter of the start-up date for the card blew everything out of the water. The start date was governed by regulation - not law - a regulation that the senate could and would have voted down.


Outcome: ID card abandoned.

The Clerk of the Senate, and the shadow attorney-general are both of the opinion that the same legal defect surrounds the ETS.

It would seem the script Rudd and everyone else had in mind for the next six months or so will undergo on-the-run re-writes. It's not going to play to plan after all.

Grech keeps on giving


The sideshow of Malcolm Turnbull and Godwin Grech dominated the Saturday papers, to a level of unusual saturation. All this, and federal parliament is not even sitting. The howls will get louder next week, when sittings resume.

First causality upon resumption will be the government's emissions trading scheme (or "climate change" legislation), a basket-case piece of legislation that no one supports, not even the Greens.

Turnbull and co will vote it down, at least first time up, which will handsomely reward Rudd, who can then carp and wheeze over the lack of environmental credentials within the coalition. It won't be true. Bad legislation with long term and damaging consequenses should not be passed by the coalition or anyone else. That's not the story or the spin Rudd and our intrepid Aussie journalists will place in it though.


Second casualty will be the entire country, as the ALP moves to send the Utegate affair off to a senate privilages committee, thereby requiring that Grech eventually be dragged from his bed in the local psychiatric ward, from whence he currently can't even take a stroll around the hospital corridors, let alone outside, because of the rabid public and press interest in his person.

Rudd isn't motived by a new chance to pillar the pitiable Grech; he's after Turnbull, which, quite frankly is superflous to requirements. Kicking a dead man, even a dead politician, is a waste of parliamentary time, money and public oxygen. Turnbull is his own worst advertisment. Rudd doesn't need to, and shouldn't, do anything more. If Turnbull has persistently shown lack of judgement at every step over the Grech collusion, Rudd and everyone else is showing equal lack of judgement by refusing to drop the whole thing, by insisting that the story drag on and on and on and on with a privilages committee. Unseemly doesn't come close to describing the twadry and unnecessary action. We already know as much as we need to. Another commitee isn't going to uncover useful or actionable information.

Knowing that he'll promptly be hauled before another senate committee upon release from hospital can't possibly be a soothing thought for Grech.

There's still time for Senator Fielding to again reject the senate inquiry, but it's looking as though he will support it when proposed a second time, which is unfortunate for all of us - Fielding had it just right the first time around.


Notably, two articles in The Weekend Australia caught up, days late, with my thinking - woot! How nice to see that our top journo's are avidly reading and appropriating from this little blog, albeit, it takes them some time to get with the program.
For what it's worth, senior Labor strategists reckon they'll be fighting Abbott at the next election.
Well, yeah. Said that already, and one hardly needs to talk to a Labor strategist to come up with a bleedin' obvious outcome. The Monk will lead, one way or another. All he has to do is wait until the others fall over and skate to gold. Bit of a no brainer.

Another opinion piece referenced Grech as being from "central casting", which was a turn of phase tossed out on this little blog some days ago.

And, of course, every opinion writer has now jumped on board, after weeks of having to think long and hard, to question Turnbull's capability as a political leader. Two months of thinking about it! But, hey, that's OK. Many online commenters are praising our slow journ's for their balanced and accurate portrayal of Turnbull's performance, vigourously agreeing with what should have been (but apparently wasn't) slap-in-the-face character short-comings in the man who would be prime minister.

Forget government debt, rising unemployment, the education revolution that won't be bought about by overpriced school halls, the price of fuel and groceries (oh how they continue to outstrip inflation by ten country miles!), hosptials, healh, childcare, immigration policies, terrorism activities, interest rate rises, housing affordability. Forget anything of significant meaning and consequence for the proletariate voter, in other words. The whole lot will be drowned out by Turnbull & Grech and the climate bill - specifically it's rejection - and a Labor-induced insistence that an early poll will be needed on that one issue. The whipping up of hysterics over a bad piece of legislation, will dominate politics during the next six months. Despite the fact that there's no chance of the Rudd government losing the next election and pretty much no chance that Turnbull will be leading the coalition to the next election.

Scrutiny of government policies and implementations will be forgone over these diversions.

One wonders what this government would have done in it's first term, what would have been achieved, if not for the diversionary bliss of the global financial crisis, and now the Grech affair.

A cursory glance suggests that the lack luster performance of Labor, who had promised so much during the election, has been saved by two fairly small crisis: one has barely grazed Australia, and the other should be left to bleed out in the quiet suburbs of Canberra.

But let's get back to the Turnbull narrative, which is turning out to be one of significant consistency.

Geoffrey Cousins has jumped in to give Turnbull a big whack to the head and ego, claiming that Turnbull is a tad useless in politics because he stands for nothing (true, by the way), and that his vaunted business credentials are overblown. Oh, he also suggests that Turnbull sits on the unethical side of the divide.

"In a discussion about political ideology, he says he doesn't have any; that he has had all this experience as a businessman," Mr Cousins said yesterday. "Therefore he is saying to the Australian people: 'I can't say what my political ideas are; I am a practical person' and he's really asking people to vote for him on the basis of when he gets in they'll discover how he provides practical solutions to problems."


He even takes issue with Mr Turnbull's central selling point: his business success. "His business experience is not all that impressive -- he is someone who happens to have made a bit of money because he invested in OzEmail, but that is not running a company," he said." [Ouch - ed.]


"Mr Cousins said Mr Turnbull "exhibits a significant lack of understanding of ethics and what I would call proper behaviour". He cited Mr Turnbull's boast in the Quarterly Essay about his betrayal of Kerry Packer during their joint Tourang consortium bid in 1991 to take over the Fairfax Media group.


In the piece, Mr Turnbull admitted that after falling out with Packer he leaked damaging notes by ACP intimate Trevor Kennedy to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, leading to Packer being thrown out of the consortium.


"At that time he was still a director of Tourang and his actions were a breach of a director's duties. I conclude that he is not a person into whose hands you should consider placing government, based on his own words," Mr Cousins said"


Turnbull decided not to "dignify" these "personal attacks" with a response. Lame. Very, very lame. Turnbull is the leader of the Liberal party, and man putting himself font and centre, yet he won't define his beliefs, policies, ideology, nor defend past behaviors that are so well documented that they're almost folklaw in Oz. These matters are not personal attacks, they're legitimate lines of inquiry into the future intentions of a member of our parliament, one who only recently and recklessly attacked, quite personally, the current Prime Minister and Treasurer.


Now some more on the mysteries of Godwin Grech.


Grech is convinced that he did receive an email from the prime minister's office on February 19. That's the email that couldn't be found by forensic search. That's the email that Grech reconstructed to show Turnbull.


How does Grech recall so clearly the date of the alleged email?


Why has a response to the email never been mentioned, by a man who obsessively responds to correspondence, most often with Treasury executives copied in?


Was this the one and only email in his lifetime to which Grech failed to provide a response, not even a courtesy "request noted", or "I will let you know progress", or something?


It's implausible.


Even Grech has not claimed that he replied to the email. Seemingly, no one has put the question to him.


Possibly the date, the specifics and insistence, is nothing more than a red herring.


Anyway, the faked email is a matter for the Australian Federal Police to handle, and is out of bounds for the proposed senate committee. The committee will have its attention trained on Turnbull and Abet, and whether they should, perhaps, be jailed for contempt, which would be a lively outcome.


Grech would be a key witness, even though his email inventions would not be be part of the fodder. Pretty much everything else would be up for grabs and Grech has already documented, with ferocious detail, his dealings with the Liberals and his contempt for Rudd.


And there's the kicker.


Grech is one bitter puppy.


A Rudd hater in the midst of The Treasury, who just might relish the chance - and with nothing left to lose - to sit in front of a senate committee and dump on Rudd, Turnbull, Treasury and anyone else against whom he has festering negative thoughts and big or small grievances.


"The key witness would be Godwin Grech (if medically able to testify), whose distaste for the Rudd government and all its works is visceral, despite the fact that Turnbull dumped on him this week. Creating another forum for Grech would be high risk.

Government advisers reading Grech's extraordinary reply of several thousand words to the Auditor-General's report (at Appendix 1) will find one of the most lethal critiques of the Rudd government.


Grech feels unappreciated, badly treated by Treasury, unsupported in his efforts to manage the OzCar program, resentful at the Rudd government's style, angry about what has happened to Treasury, still keen to implicate Rudd's office in the John Grant affair and only too ready to reveal that an effort was made to influence his previous evidence to the Senate, and that this came not from Turnbull or Abetz but from the Rudd government in the form of a senior Treasury officer.


In his written and considered statement Grech says that about 11.30am on June 19 he was told by Treasury deputy secretary Jim Murphy that "if you are asked any questions in the Senate this afternoon about John Grant and the Prime Minister or the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) you should simply say that you've confused the Grant case with some other case. It is very important that you do not make any trouble."


... if the issue becomes contempt, then Grech has already laid his own accusation against the Treasury and the Rudd government.


The wider point is that Grech is a political missile fuelled with resentment towards the Prime Minister, now rebuffed by the Turnbull opposition, facing the likely end of his career but possessed of a sharp brain still able to do damage."


The humiliation for Turnbull is that he was made a goose by Grech, a sickly public servant with a penchant for self-pity, hard work and political manipulation, who claimed to be his friend. This is Turnbull's sin. The leader universally assumed to be street smart in a Kerry Packer fashion was exposed as lacking in political and human judgment.


... The Rudd government has moved beyond spin: it has succeeded in making the opposition the issue while scrutiny of its own policies is negligible. Watch for the coming debate on the government's emissions trading scheme; this is a deeply flawed bill unacceptable to nearly every group yet observe how the issue will become Turnbull's failure to support it."


If the senate inquiry goes ahead (the proposal needs to be put again, and passed with Fielding's help), the whole country will be watching, on the edge of our collective front row seat, if Godwin Grech provides a return performance. If so, he will be beholden to no one and no Treasury officials will be handling his responses to questions.


On second thoughts, it could be one of the most fascinating pieces of political theatre we've ever seen, rivalling even the outcomes of the Latham meltdown.


Get well soon Godwin! Get very well, very soon!


From bad, to much, much worse

Senate's 'please explain' over fake email

Carmakers left without any say


Ute affair inquiry ignores mysteries

Quest for the perfect trap

Turnbull 'lacks judgment' for national leader

August 8, 2009

Day in the life of a really, really, really big collider

Any perturbation, however, such as a bad soldering job on a splice, can cause resistance and heat the cable and cause it to lose its superconductivity in what physicists call a “quench.” Which is what happened on Sept. 19, when the junction between two magnets vaporized in a shower of sparks, soot and liberated helium
Such was the day when the Large Hadron Collider went bung last year.

Not to mention the day they switched it back on, after repairs, to find that the biggest, most expensive physics machine in the world is still puttering along with thousands of bad electrical connections.

Handy dandy fact: magnets can be trained, and they can, mysteriously, lose their training, especially if trained-up then left sitting about for a year doing not much of anything. Kinda makes me want to rush out and buy a pet magnet.

Giant partical collider struggles

August 7, 2009

August 5, 2009

And Malcolm's excuse was ... ?

Malcolm Turnbull is looking and sounding almost as repellent as Kyle Sandiland & Jackie O.

He's even pulling what could be describe as the Sandy-land defense: er, gee, I didn't know, butter wouldn't melt in my mouth, I'm a great and lovable guy ... blah, blah, blah.

Whatever his employment fate may be (I'm betting a quiet redundancy from Treasury), I think we can all agree that Utegate was, for all intents and purposes, the outcome of what turned out to be Godwin Grech's total breakdown; the final manifestations of a man deeply depressed.

It's safe to suggest that Godwin behaved in an uncharacteristically irrational, even absurd, manner. Behavior that he is intelligent enough to have recognised fairly immediately as being, well, a little bit out on the edge.

Recall, if you will, his high-strung appearance in front of the Senate Committee.
What we know now goes a long way to explaining that show stopping, nerve-racking performance.

So that's Godwin covered. His career, his life's work, is shot to hell and his mental health is precarious.

The best we can do is wish him well, hope he recovers and regains a life with some measure of fulfillment after Treasury.

But we're still left with the scoffing, dismissive, ugly visage of Malcolm Turnbull.

What was his excuse for his behaviour, his schenanigans?

None of it was appropriate coming from the leader of the opposition, or any senior politician.

None of it.

Any takers for the job of leader of the Liberals?

Hands up?

No.

Didn't think so.

I'm Grech's victim says Turnbull


How a smoking-gun email went up in flames


Grech being properly looked after: Rudd

Wednesday Wisdom

Confusion is always the most honest response.


Marty Indik

August 4, 2009

The Grech who vanished

It seems like only six weeks ago that Godwin Grech stole the headlines, yet we didn’t know him at all.

Now the entire country knows Godwin to be a deeply private Christian man, a nervous drinker of copious amounts of coke, a workaholic, a friendly and kind neighbor, a man inclined to do his gardening at odd hours of the night, a person of fragile health, having once nearly been felled by septicemia, a committed Bulldogs fan who helped get $8M in federal government funding to rebuild their Whitten Oval in Footscray, and, thanks to the over-sharing of his worried neighbors, we know that he suffers chronic bowel problems.

All that, and then Godwin vanished into the wards of the psychiatric section of a Canberra hospital, where he remains.

Prior to his hospitalization, Malcolm Turnball & co fed him to the wolves, declaring promptly that Grech was a long term snitch, having provided unspecified information to the Liberals over a long period – how long is puzzling, given that the Liberal party were in power for more than a decade, so would hardly have been in regular need of leaks from their own departments.

The congo line of public servants lining up to feed information to the Liberal party has, oddly enough, shrunk somewhat. Revealing your sources without even being tortured is not a good look; does not inspire leakees to come forth and lavish you with leaks.

The most mystifying aspect of the Utegate affair has always been why, oh why, oh why, would this diligent career public servant concoct an email, and why, oh why, oh why, he would give the fake to the opposition leader to read.

Bemusing.

Unfathomable.

From his hospital bed, Mr Grech has now revealed that his motive was pure: he was desperate to save jobs in the car industry, desperate for the OzCar bill to be passed.

Grech also insists that there had been an email from the Prime Minister's office and that the fake was his best-bet memory of the real thing.

Left hanging, left still utterly inexplicable, is why the opposition needed to be privy to that email - fake or real - and why dumping Rudd and Swan into allegations of mate-helping was going to help pass the bill.

How, how, how did any of this contribute to or influence either major parties in the Senate to pass the bill that was, apparently, so occupying Grech that he suddenly felt the urge, after decades of service, to breach every important code of conduct by which he and others perform their government jobs?

"My concern was that the issue of Grant could be used to frustrate the passage of the bill," he said.

Except that no one knew about the "issue of Grant", no one. Certainly not senators from either side of the fence.


Before Grech himself sat in front of a senate hearing, no one knew anything about anything, and the bill, prior to Grech and the fake email was not at risk, period.


Forging an email might have been an "error of judgment", as Grech now concedes, but this error and his anxiety that the finance bill be passed in the senate doesn't bring clarity, resolution or closure.


We're still left wondering what the hell Godwin was thinking, and more so, what the hell did the grossly intemperate Turnball think he was going to get from this opaque little affair.

In search of Godwin


Rudd, Swan cleared over OzCar Affair


Why I faked OzCar email: Godwin Grech

August 2, 2009

Mysterious cause of obesity identified

Following in depth research by a single journalist, into the life of a never-employed, 25 year old obese British lass, the cause of obesity has been proven: it's the government's fault.

"A 25-year-old unemployed woman who was given an £8,000 operation to help her lose 16 stone is complaining because, as well as her weight loss, her benefits have been reduced."


Laura Ripley, who has never worked, was given the operation on the NHS to help her slim down from 38 to 22 stone.


But the 25-year-old, who receives £600 a month in benefits, is unhappy because as a result of losing weight she can no longer claim disability allowance amounting to an extra £340 a month.


This, she says, means she cannot afford to eat healthily - causing her to pile the weight back on.


'I can't afford to buy WeightWatchers crisps and cereal bars any more so I eat Tesco's chocolate bars and packets of Space Invaders crisps, sometimes four of each a day', says Laura, who spends seven hours a day watching TV.


'People ask why I don't snack on an apple - they're cheap, but emotionally I don't always feel like an apple.'

Indeed, one does not, emotionally, always feel like an apple.


Sometimes, emotionally, one wants chocolates and crisps.

"Since the extra allowance stopped Laura has put on a stone in just three weeks and claims she is being treated unfairly."

'It's heartbreaking that after all my hard work losing this weight someone's come along and ruined it.'

Gastric bypass surgery, gifted by surgeons and taxpayers is, by any measure, extremely hard work for a young lass.

"Laura has been offered another operation on the NHS, which would normally cost £12,000, to remove the saggy skin left behind after the dramatic weight loss, but only if she sheds a further five stone, and until then she has no plans to find a job.


'I'm not even applying for work at the moment because I'm only going to have to have lots of time off when I have more surgery.'"

Let's take a flying guess that Laura won't be losing that five stone any time soon, at least not while she can still claim some benefits, sufficient to cover the crisps and chocolates bill.

"I sometimes feel guilty about all the taxpayers' money that's been spent on me but I only want an extra £100 a month, that's all', says Laura."

Sometimes? Clearly not frequently enough.


"I can't afford to eat healthily" says £600-a-month benefits woman who weighs 22 stone

August 1, 2009

I now pronounce you bangers & mash

The ALP National Conference has, in the way of all good committees, produced a camel with two legs and horizontal strips, to be known as a camnot.

The ALP has declined to pursue legalisation of gay marriage, however they have removed, from their platform, reference to marriage being between a man and a woman.

So as not to offend anyone, marriage will henceforth take place between a --- and a ---.
"the language in the ALP national platform section on same-sex couples will be rewritten to make it clear that while Labor still regards marriage as that defined in the Marriage Act - that is between a man and a woman - the actual words man and woman were removed."
Only a dunce would consider this to be a fruitful or useful development.

Contrary to The Age headline (below), the government has, it would seem, agreed to bend over.

Government refuses to bend on gay marriage

Update

Getting slightly wackier, a gay marriage protest held in Melbourne yesterday was somewhat tainted by a woman - yes a woman! - raining on the parade by expressing out loud the oddness of gay folk desperately wanting to be part of the patriarchal slave trade club.

"Providing a reality check, Radical Women spokeswoman Alison Thorne told the Melbourne rally that marriage was an oppressive institution designed to condemn women to lives of slavery, but same-sex couples should nevertheless be equally entitled to it. She then led the crowd in a chant: ‘‘Kevin Rudd, ALP, we demand equality.’’

What do we want? Equal opportunity for participation in man made oppressive institutions!


When do we want it? Right now!


Wedding protest sealed with a kiss