Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category
Proof of psychic powers? Actually, no.
Just proof that academics are not easily able to think beyond their preconceived notions.
He conducted nine different experiments on over 1000 students. Eight of the experiments showed some psychic ability.
I am willing to bet that the experiment that didn’t was the only one that was properly designed.
One experiment asked students to memorise a list of words, and then asked them to recall as many as they could.
The students were then asked to type a list of the words randomly selected – which tended to be the words they had earlier recalled.
It suggests they knew which words were going to be selected to be typed.
No it doesn’t.
The question is, how were the words to be typed selected ‘randomly’?
If they were just picked by another person, all this means is that some words have more impact than others, and that those words are more likely to be remembered, and chosen.
It is amazing to me – a non academic, but someone trained in problem solving – how quickly academics jump to the wrong conclusion, and how firmly they then insist on those conclusions being accepted.
I have a friend who is a PhD candidate. She is studying changes in Black Brim populations. Black Brim are a common fish in South Australian waters.
Her thesis is that Black Brim numbers have declined over the last fifty years because of changes in water quality.
She is extraordinarily diligent in examining ear bones from Black Brim. This enables her to track changes in water quality over the life of the fish.
I have no doubt she can get an accurate picture of water quality over the life of any individual fish.
But there are three problems with her thesis.
She has no idea how many Black Brim there really were fifty years ago. There were no accurate counts.
She has no idea whether water quality now has deteriorated in ways that affect Black Brim compared with fifty years ago. There were no accurate measures.
She has no idea whether other factors (eg, fish just move) might account for changes in Black Brim populations in the small area she is studying.
I asked her, since her theory was that fish numbers had declined because of changes in water quality, whether she thought it important to have accurate measurements of fish numbers and water quality from fifty years ago.
She insisted it was OK, because she had accurate measures of fish numbers and water quality now.
But surely, I insisted, if she was claiming changes in fish numbers over fifty years were a result of changes in water quality, she had to know what the numbers and water quality were fifty years ago.
She told me she could measure changes in water quality through studying ear bones.
OK. That tells you about changes over the life of an individual fish, but nothing about what the starting point was fifty years ago.
Nope. She just didn’t seem to understand the question.
Well, it doesn’t matter, really. She’ll get her PhD and work for Natural Resources and ruin a few fishermen’s businesses, or spend her life telling farmers to use less fertiliser.
Not much harm done.
But lots of harm is done in other ways.
As an example, there are reduced rates of HIV infection in males who have been circumcised.
So of course there claims that male circumcision acts as a ‘vaccine’ against HIV infection.
A couple of days ago the Deputy Speaker of the Ugandan parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, called on male MPs to be circumcised to give a moral example to others, and to help reduce the rate of HIV infection.
It seems blindlingly obvious to me that many men who are circumcised are either Jews or Muslims, and that differences in sexual behaviour in those groups would better account for the very small measured differences in rates of HIV infection.
Certainly behavioural differences might be worth investigating before spending vast amounts of money ramping up ‘circumcision services.’
This won’t work. It is cruel and irresponsible. In fact, like dishing out condoms, it is likely to increase rates of HIV infection, because it encourages people to think they are safe.
The only thing that has been shown to make a long term difference to rates of HIV infection is changes in behaviour.
But that is an unacceptable conclusion, so Africans continue to be given advice which is known to be, or should be known to be, wrong. And more Africans die.
Africa has suffered enough from AIDS.
We have all suffered enough from the consequences of shoddy thinking.
Even the San Fancisco Chronicle notes that this recent trip to Asia extends a long losing streak which grows out of catastrophically declining credibility in the US and overseas.
The lack of credibility grows out of perceived inconsistencies between policies and reality, promises and actions.
Like Ed, I can honestly say that I thought right from the beginning that such an outcome was inevitable.
Barack Obama has no business experience, no military experience, and has never run anything in his life.
I was gobsmacked when he was elected, and am gobsmacked still, that anyone seriously thought they had any reason to believe he was qualified to be the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.
I wouldn’t give him a job running a cake stall.
I am starting to feel something akin to outrage at the way Kangaroo Island’s doctors continue to hold medical services on the island to ransom.
See my earlier post for more details about the background.
Briefly, after a long period of negotiation between government and doctors’ organisations, a contract was offered to rural doctors under which they would provide medical services through local hospitals.
Doctors were under no pressure to accept the contract. If individual doctors or practices believed they could not take responsibility for providing the specified services, or that the remuneration offered was insufficient, they could decline CHSA’s offer.
Country Health SA would still have a responsibility to provide those services, and would then need to set up their own clinics, or supply visiting doctors. Obviously, local GPs would hardly then be in a position to complain about unfair competition!
The contract was designed to provide consistent services in rural and remote SA, at a fair cost to the taxpayer, and with fair remuneration to local GPs.
The Rural Doctors Association of SA recommended doctors accept the contract, although not perfect, as the best possible outcome for a first attempt at a uniform contract.
Although some practitioners believed that the amount offered as an on call allowance was inadequate to cover the costs of disruption to practice, the vast majority of doctors accepted the contract, knowing that it was essentially a ‘trial run’ that would only last for eighteen months, while further fine tuning was done.
The amount of the on call allowance is $135,000 per annum, or approximately $370 per day. It is the highest rate of on call allowance paid to doctors in any state in Australia. It is a payment simply for being available. If a doctor is actually called out to the hospital both travelling allowances and normal fee for service rates are paid.
Doctors on KI have said they are willing to accept the contract except for the on call services, or that they will agree to provide those services if more money is offered.
CHSA has said said right from the beginning that neither of these are options. One of the reasons for the negotiation of a new contract was to break the old system which was inconsistent, unfair to taxpayers and the majority of rural doctors, and frequently offered higher pay to doctors in monopoly practices for no other reason than that they were willing to blackmail the health department by refusing to provide services until their pay demands were met.
Everyone agreed that this was unfair and had to change. Again, see my previous post for more detail on this. It would simply be wrong for CHSA to agree to a special deal for KI doctors. There is nothing to justify treating KI as different from any other remote SA community.
Sadly, despite the fact that CHSA has been perfectly consistent in its message, KI doctors continue to represent themselves as victims of some sort of government conspiracy.
Claims are made that CHSA has acted in bad faith. It hasn’t. That locums have provided sub standard services. They haven’t. That CHSA has issued threats. It hasn’t.
What CHSA has said is that doctors are free to accept the contract or not. If they do not, then those services have to be provided in some other way.
I am pleased to see that CHSA has finally bitten the bullet on this.
After nearly a year of waiting, discussions, and disruption to local medical services, they have given doctors a deadline, the 12th of November, by which the contract must be signed. If doctors do not agree, then CHSA will begin to consider other means by which services may be provided.
The doctors will say that the island doesn’t need this, and doesn’t need another clinic. That is debatable. What is not debatable is that the people of Kangaroo Island have a right to reliable medical services.
If local doctors choose not to provide those services, they can hardly complain when Health SA does.
Darn good advice.
From The Mercury:
A well known Hobart psychologist has got some advice for those people still consumed with grief for Packed to the Rafters character Mel Rafter – get real.
Dr Harry Stanton said people still feeling sad over the TV death were likely to be bored with their own lives, and therefore identifying with people who are more exciting even if they are not real.
So basically – ‘Get a life.’
It sounds a bit harsh, but the opposite (which is the more common practice), of encouraging people to think about their feelings, to go over what has upset them, and worst of all ‘to try to remember’ past traumatic incidents, does more harm than good.
If you are feeling down, get some sunshine, go for a walk, do something nice for your neighbour. You may not have a choice about how you feel, but you always have a choice about what you do about it.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
More than $1 billion of taxpayers’ money was wasted on subsidies for household solar roof panels that favoured the rich and did little to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, a scathing review has found.
The review of the now scrapped federal government solar rebate scheme, conducted by ANU researchers Andrew Macintosh and Deb Wilkinson, also found the rebates did little to generate a solar manufacturing industry in Australia, instead sending hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars offshore.
Mr Macintosh, deputy head of ANU’s Centre for Climate Law and Policy, told The Age yesterday the rebate had been ”beautiful politics, terrible policy”.
”I can’t see there is anything to be gained continuing to subsidise rooftop solar PV [photovoltaics] in areas where households have easy access to the energy grid,” he said.
Electricity bills for the rest of us could be more than 20% higher to cover the cost of the ridiculously high feedback tariffs paid to people who own solar panels – which were also paid for by the rest of us.
‘Beautiful politics, terrible policy.’ That is the Labor way, of course – intentions count for more than outcomes.
If it all goes wrong, eg, insulation, immigration, overpriced school buildings no-one wanted in the first place, laptops for every student, no dams, no water, carbon tax, the NBN, etc, etc, they can say in all honesty, ‘But we meant well.’ And the sad thing is, they probably did.
They just didn’t think.
The Age reports that:
A Melbourne private girls’ school that prevented a lesbian student from attending the school formal with her girlfriend is being inundated with messages from irate readers around the world accusing the school of discrimination.
A private school, at a private dance for its students, should be forced to allow a sixteen year old to bring her fifteen year old sex partner?
Sadly, but not surprisingly, given the Age’s ever decreasing demographic, the school is being accused of homophobia, discrimination, etc, while the girl and her parents are presented as victims of moralising conservatism.
The only thing the girl and her parents are victims of is a bit of common sense and decency.
The People’s Republic of San Francisco has decreed that happiness is no longer permitted. At least, not in the form of happy meals. Or any other meals that include toys and TOO MANY CALORIES. Such meals are now banned.
Meanwhile, back in less ‘liberal’ and consequently, less authoritarian, Australia, a professor of health education and nutrition has pointed out that fears about childhood obesity have been exaggerated by the media. She goes on to say that restrictions on the availability of junk food will do lttle to resolve the problems that do exist:
“People have to stop exaggerating the numbers about childhood obesity – that’s not to say that it is not an issue but you know, hysteria, fear campaigns and exaggeration are not very scientific,” said Dr O’Dea.
Professor O’Dea also points out that childhood obesity is largely a problem for the poor. Tackling poverty, she suggests, is the best long-term way to tackle childhood obesity and many other children’s health issues.
But it seems to me that childhood obesity is evidence of one of the key attitudes that keeps some people poor.
There is nothing wrong with take aways as an occasional treat. But good quality day to day food; fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, fish, lean meat, etc, is cheaper than McDonalds or KFC.
Of course, such meals take a little longer to prepare, and need some thinking in advance.
So if take away food (take-out if you’re an American) is more expensive, why do people on low incomes eat more of it?
It is easy to claim that poverty is caused by structural injustices. And some is. The anti-development policies of organisations like Greenpeace, and their lobbying of governments and organisations like the Word Bank, have kept incomes and life spans in some third world countries much lower than they would otherwise be.
But in wealthy western countries this is less often the case. Poverty, and the disadvantages to children it causes, cannot be changed by acts of government.
‘The poor will be with you always’ Mt 26:11
One of my wife Kathy’s relatives was Alex Anderson, the creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
I have never visited the US, and am sorry I never had the chance to meet him.
Alex was one of the great pioneers of animation, and the creator of the first animated programme for TV, Crusader Rabbit.
Rocky and Bullwinkle were amusing to children. To intelligent adults, they were frequently remarkably insightful social commentary.
Time has published a thoughtful reflection on his life, and especially on the crucial role he played in the development of animated movies and TV shows.
Perhaps even more important than his obvious energy, creativity and insight, he was a caring man who was much loved by his family and friends.
This is little short of farcical.
Leaker and big noter in chief Kevin Rudd, along with Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard, were so concerned about the possibility of then Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner’s leaking sensitive budget information that after bogus meetings at which he was present, they held other meetings at which the decisions were made.
Three points to note about this:
1. There was no evidence Tanner was leaking anything. In contrast to some of the others in those meetings, he has a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy.
2. Tanner knew he was being shut out, because his staff spoke to him about policy decisions he had not been told about by the gang of three.
3. Tanner has a brain cell. I suspect his disagreement with the three-fold consenus on some key budget issues was the real reason they did not want him around.
So much easier to get things done in an atmosphere of consensus.
It’s just that, when an atmosphere of consensus is built by shutting out anyone who might have a different view, it is usually the wrong things that end up being done.
Bombs found on planes in Dubai and Britain were large enough to have destroyed the planes mid-air, killing all on board, and causing further casualties if the bombs exploded over populated areas.
A woman named Hanan al Samawi has been arrested in Yemen. The Telegraph headline says she is an engineering student, while later in the text it reports: She was arrested at a house in a poor area in the west of Sana’a, where she is studying medicine at the university.
Engineering, medicine, whatever. These are not areas of study which the poor usually take up.
There are three points here.
First, the Telegraph needs to get some new copy editors. Accuracy is important. It is not good enough in a major national daily to have a headline contradicted by the text immediately below it.
Second, the female of the species is as dangerous as the male. There is no justification for policies which discriminate against men in relation to being held in detention centres, for example, on the basis that they are likely to be terrorists whereas women are not.
And finally, terrorism does not have its roots in poverty. There is a great deal of talk about understanding the causes of terrorism. The commonly identified causes in such talks are Western imperialism and Western monopolisation of consumer goods.
This is nonsense. The major source of terrorist activity is radical Islam. Thai Buddhists, African animists, and Orthodox believers living in Siberia, all of whom suffer poverty compared with the West, are not burning down schools and blowing up planes.
Osama Bin Laden, of course, is a multi-millionaire. Terrorism has nothing to do with poverty.
It has everything to do with what its perpetrators keep telling us is the reason for their actions: They hate infidels, and believe they are commanded to destroy them.
Did you know that when Walker: Texas Ranger was first screened in France, the French surrendered to Chuck Norris, just to be on safe side?
Now there is evidence he has kicked a hole in time itself.
An unknown elderly woman has been spotted talking on a mobile phone in 1928 footage of the Hollywood premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.
The only plausible explanation for this is that Chuck Norris threw a roundhouse kick so fast it disrupted time itself, and the woman, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, just walked through the portal this created. She’s probably still confused about why she can’t get any reception.
Before you dismiss this, keep the following facts in mind:
Chuck Norris is so fast, he can run around the world and smack himself in the back of the head.
Ghosts are caused by Chuck Norris killing bad guys so fast that death cannot keep up.
Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone.
Some people wear Superman pajamas, but Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas.
Actually, Chuck Norris really is a bit of a superman. As well as being a competent actor, genuine martial arts champion, and all around decent guy, he is a clear thinker and talented writer.
You can find his columns on Town Hall, including his latest on the extraordinary and frighteningly wasteful growth in US Federal government spending.
Nurses nationwide are banned from flirting with patients after the number of complaints about nurses with professional boundary issues tripled in 2009.
Tripled! Oh gosh. What an appalling problem. Those nurses are just going nuts. Sex crazed poodles the lot of them.
Except that in 2009 there were a total of 17 complaints in New South Wales. No mention of how many of those were found to have any substance. A major problem? Hardly.
Nurses who cross the line will be disciplined. Can I help? Oops, sorry.
Of course there need to be professional boundaries. And people who are unwell are perhaps particularly susceptible to emotional manipulation.
But I doubt a long list of rules formulated by a bureaucracy is going to hinder the very small number of nurses, male or female, who are inclined to take advantage of their patients, or more commnonly, I suspect, make a joke or off the cuff comment which someone finds offensive or takes the wrong way.
And this is just ridiculous: Nurses must also keep an eye out for any patients developing a crush, as failing to recognise attraction of a sexual nature is also considered sexual misconduct or assault.
Not being aware that someone finds you attractive is an offence? An assault? For heaven’s sake, get a grip.
Boats of illegal immigrants are arriving in Australia, or being intercepted on the way here, at a rate of one every second day.
Liberal churches and community groups claim they must be welcomed, given the benefit of the doubt, not placed in detention, made part of the community.
This a regular theme in the Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide’s column in the Adelaide Church Guardian. Be compassionate. Be hospitable. Be welcoming. After all, Jesus was a refugee.
Of course, Jesus wouldn’t have jumped queues or taken short cuts to get ahead of anyone else, there were no language barriers (the common tongue in Israel and Egypt was Koine Greek), Israel and Egypt were both part of the Roman Empire, Joseph had skills that were in demand and would have made them a welcome addition to any community, etc.
But let’s just go with the be compassionate, be welcoming idea.
As long they are being welcomed somewhere else.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the response of residents of the Adelaide Hills to plans to use army barracks at Inverbrackie as a detention centre.
The Adelaide Hills are home to all sorts of green, loving, trendy type folk. Get your crystals or homespun ethnic clothing here! Of course asylum seekers should be treated compassionately and welcomed into Australia. We can share.
What? You mean here? Where we live?
But darling, don’t you think they’d be happier at Murray Bridge or Salisbury? There are already lots of those sort of people there. They’d feel so much more comfortable.
And besides ‘It basically puts a blight on our area .. And property prices will decrease.’
The results show that Scientific American’s readers (over 4,000 of them) are better informed than its editors.
A couple of examples:
What is causing climate change?
Greenhouse gasses from human activity 31.4%
Solar Variation 33.8%
Natural processes 76.7%
(responders could choose as many answers as they wished)
The IPCC is..
A corrupt organisation, prone to groupthink, with a political agenda 81.9%
How much would you be willing to pay to forestall the risk catastrophic climate change?
That’s because while climate changes all the time, there is no evidence of any impending catastrophe, and even if there were, we would be better off preparing for it, rather than making Canute like efforts to stop it (unfair to King Canute, but that’s another story).
With the boundaries of what marriage means being vigorously stretched, this comes as no surprise:
“Age 30 is a prime period for me. My work and experience are in good shape, but I haven’t found a partner, so what can I do?” Chen said.
“I’m not anti-marriage. I just hope that I can express a different idea within the bounds of a tradition.”
Ah, yes. The old ‘different idea within the bounds of a tradition’ trick.
Sadly, Taiwanese law discriminates against such unions, and Ms Chen’s marriage will not be recognised by the state.
But I say, if one person truly loves herself, then why not?