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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

I have just uploaded a brief introductory essay called Profits of Doom – An Introduction to Global Warming. Left click the link to open the PDF file in a new tab, or right click to save. There are quite a few graphs and photos. The file is about 1MB.

This was written just over a year ago as notes to accompany a PowerPoint presentation . There are few minor things I would change now. But I think it is still a good introduction.

Interesting to hear Peter Garrett say that he ‘knows’ changes in the Wilkins Ice Shelf are caused by global warming. Of course the world has been getting cooler for the last ten years, and during these Autumn months it is getting much cooler in the Antarctic. Like, actually, you know, cold. Below zero and stuff. But hey, don’t let the facts stop you. They certainly don’t get in the way of the EU.

It’s 65 years since the landing at Omaha Beach in Normandy. Over 9,000 Americans are buried at the American cemetary there, including the eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt.

President Sarkozy invited President Obama to visit while he is in Europe for the NATO summit. French and US officials walked through the cemetary to plan how Obama and Sarkozy could travel the same route.

But according to White House officials, it was never going to happen anyway.

“It wasn’t going to happen,” said an American official in Washington. “We went through the motions to placate President Sarkozy but giving special treatment to France was not on our agenda.”

I don’t know who should be more insulted – US veterans or the French. Or maybe the Germans – because it is surely insulting to think they would have been insulted by a US president visiting a US war cemetary.

What’s next? Not visiting Auschwitz because he doesn’t want to upset Iran?

Oh dear.

A 19 year old woman drives her car out of a hotel car park into the path of a police vehicle. She is breast feeding her baby son, who is unrestrained. She is so drunk she cannot breathe properly into the breath testing device. In addition, she is already disqualified from driving, and the car she is driving is unregistered.

Police Superintendent Jamie Chalker said: “I find it increasingly frustrating that people show so little responsibility for their actions, but this is without a doubt one of the most stupid and reckless actions I’ve come across. People must take responsibility for their loved ones when they are clearly unable to make rational decisions for their own safety, the safety of others and the risk they pose to the general public.”

I agree. She’s an idiot. And in some ways symbolic of the whole ‘You can’t make me, I can do what I like’ attitude (which is perhaps why this story has got such wide publicity). But surely she wasn’t the only one who was irresponsible that night. Did she not have any friends? Was she drinking alone? And if she was so drunk she couldn’t give a breath sample, why were hotel staff still giving her drinks?

A couple of different reports over the last 24 hours about skimming (information trapping) devices attached to automatic teller machines.

Just take care. If an ATM looks suspicious, don’t use it, and report it to bank staff or police.

Emergency medicine specialists say as many lives are lost in Australia each year because of inadequate ER resources (including staff), as are lost on our roads.

Time to think about your priorities, boys and girls. Or get some decent IT advice. Or both.

National broadband gets the go ahead, but the government will do it itself. There are already some criticisms.

 No time to write in detail about this today, but a few questions spring to mind.

If the Federal Government has over $2,000 to spend for every man, woman and child in Australia, is this the best way to spend it?

Why does this require government intervention at all? If the government couldn’t find any corporate groups willing to invest in optical fibre technology on this scale, what makes them think they can do it 1) at all, and 2) at a profit?

When other nations are moving to high speed wireless (or satellite for remote regions) why are we even considering embarking on massively costly door to door fibre optic cabling?

This would have been exciting ten years ago. Or even five ears ago. But now – this is a horribly overpriced sytem which will be out of date before it is even completed.

Murder rates in Australian have moved up and down at about the same time, in about the same way. 

That’s interesting, because as this NZ Herald article points out, most people believe that crime rates, and especially rates of violent crime, are increasing.

People think there is more violent crime because we see so much more violence than we did. Without the media you could live a lifetime and never hear of anyone being murdered. Most of us will go through our lives without anyone close to us being a victim of violent crime. But we see violent crime everyday on the news and in TV shows and movies. So our perception is that the world around us is much more dangerous than it is.

These results confirms that media has a strong influence, compared with our own experience, on our beliefs about levels of crime:

An institute survey of 1400 people in four parts of New Zealand – including South Auckland – found that 80 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the country’s crime rate was rising. Only 4 per cent disagreed. Yet the same survey – which has yet to be published – found that only a quarter of the people surveyed believed crime was rising in their own neighbourhoods.

Increasing urbanisation, and desensitisation to violence with the rise of TV, may have contributed to the rise in murder rates from about 1970. But what has caused the recent decline?

Interesting…

Several stories on major Australian media sites about extra deaths possibly caused by the Victorian heatwave in January.

But so far, not a single mention of CO2 or global warming.

Quite rightly, of course, because individual weather events, even unusual weather events and their consequences, should not be blamed on global patterns without some evidence that the two are connected.

But it is hard to imagine that some journalists, even a year ago, would not automatically have claimed these deaths as adding weight to the global warming thing.

But I thought that’s what everyone wanted?

Surely that couple of extra Earth Hours didn’t bother anyone? Where are your priorities?

Pretty obviously, if your population increases, and you don’t build new power production infrastructure, you are going to get some shortages of electricity. So this must be some sort of cunning NSW Labor plan to force everyone into reduced power consumption for the sake of the planet.

According to PM Kevin Rudd, Holden is the bright star in the GM firmament, the only good GM news anywhere in the world. This because a new four cylinder car is due to come into production in 2010.

But Holden’s Australian sales fell by 20% in the first quarter of this year, with sales to some export markets falling by 80%. An entire shift at the Adelaide factory is being cancelled. Staff have the option of losing their jobs or working one week on, one week off, at reduced pay. Production is forecast to be about 310 vehicles per day, down from a peak of about 600.

This is good news?

North Korea has fired a rocket over Japan. Pyongyang says this is part of North Korea’s ‘peaceful space development,’ and was intended to launch a satellite.

Right. Why fire it over Japan then?

It is hard to believe this was anything other than a threat, or at least a public display of ability to threaten. That is certainly what Japan and South Korea believe.

Japan did not act to intercept the rocket, as it had said it might, saying (correctly) that it had every right to protect its borders. North Korea said in response that it would take any such action by Japan as: “the start of Japan’s war of re-invasion.”

North Korea’s military has threatened immediate retaliation if “even the slightest effort” is made to intercept its rocket. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted the military as specifically mentioning Japan, the United States and South Korea, threatening Japan with a “thunderbolt of fire” if it interfered with the launch.

Australia is in range of the new North Korean Advanced Taepodong-2 missile. (Thanks to Tim Blair for that link)

Kim Jong-il is unstable. And that makes this worrying.

How can this keep happening?

The woman did not know she was pregnant. Well, OK.

But she is not a medical professional. She doesn’t work at the hospital in New South Wales. But heck, why not, given the apparent skill level of some of the staff they already have?

Whatever she thought was happening to her, she was a young woman about to give birth. Staff suggested she was constipated and asked her wait while they organised some x-rays. After a while she took herself off to the toilet where she had her baby, which then died.

Opposition Health spokes person Jillian Skinner has asked Health Minister John Della Bosca to look into the incident. That’s a start.

But surely there needs to be a much wider enquiry into emergency department culture and procedures, and some serious checking done about whether NSW (and the rest of Australia for that matter) are making any effort to keep up with best practice in ER care delivery.

And what gives John Della Bosca, of all people, the right to say the mother is receiving all the support she needs? I’d be more interested in knowing what she thinks of the care and support she’s received so far. 

The media has been blabbing on about how the Wilkins Ice Shelf is in imminent danger of disintegration because of global warming for years. Now, yet again, scientists are alarmed at the extent of rapid changes. Poor dears. They must spend their lives in a constant state of stress.

Of course, the Wilkins Ice Shelf will collapse someday, maybe someday soon. Climate changes. Ice changes. Everything changes. Things are not going to stay the way they were when you were twelve years old forever.

Record breaking increases in ice in the Antarctic were completely ignored by the media, who at that time focussed their attention on the Arctic, where ice appeared to be reducing. When the Arctic recovered, well let’s just say that wasn’t scary enough to be newsworthy. But hey, thank the heavens, something nasty might be happening in Antarctica after all. This might convince those nasty sceptics (scepticism is actually the essence of science, but let’s not spoil anyone’s fun) that global warming is real. Or at least be a good photo opportunity.

Except that when the Wilkins Ice Shelf does collapse, it could be for any number of reasons. It could be because the world is getter warmer (except that it isn’t). It could be because of local changes in climate unrelated to CO2 levels or global patterns. It could be because of wind and wave action. It could be because of heat generated by friction caused by ice movement, or new ice generation. Or it could be because of undersea volcanic activity.

So dear alarmists, don’t start celebrating yet. This time, let the facts get in the way of the story, at least until there is a story to report.

Professor Neal Stoughton, head of Banking and Finance at the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales, has come out in support of my argument of several weeks ago that the stimulus programmes proposed by US and Australian governments are likely to do more harm than good.

Well, he didn’t specifically name me, but anyway…

Basically what he says is that what is needed is not simply increased spending, especially if that puts us further into debt, but increased employment and increased production. Of course. That’s exactly what I said. This Stoughton’s obviously a pretty bright chap.

“When you get into situations where government makes decisions where to spend money rather than leaving it up to the private sector, it usually is on the basis of influence and politics rather than the basis of sound economics.”

And it’s politics, not economics, that is driving the massive round of cash handouts according to Professor Stoughton.

Essentially, he says, the government has neither the information nor the skills needed to direct tax payer funds to where they will do the most good to improve employment and production, so they would be better off leaving the money in the hands of tax payers, who are already employing, working, producing.

Of course, Mr Rudd has a different perspective, one he feels quite strongly about. Though perhaps not as strongly as he feels about having his food exactly as he wants it.

So to be fair and balanced, I have written a poem about Mr Rudd’s achievements at the G20 Summit.

Our PM

‘Oh gosh, oh golly, gee, oh heck!
All our economies are wrecks.’
The blokes at the G20 sighed
As into their champagne they cried.
‘If only there was someone who
Could tell us all just what to do’
For cold despair had grasped the meeting
Despite Obama’s balmy greeting.
But at that moment – oh what rapture!
A joy no human words could capture.
For in a heavenly flash of light
The mighty Kevin hove in sight.
‘Now listen chaps,’ he sternly said.
‘You’ve stuffed it up, you’re in the red.
But if you promise to be good
I’ll tell you what to do you should.’
(He sounds like Yoda in disguise
Because he’s so supremely wise.
And though to mention I’d forebear
There is a certain likeness there.)
‘You chaps have all spent far too much
You’re with your people out of touch.
So all the debts that cause you worry
You must get rid of in a hurry.’
Delegates the world around
Were stunned and rooted to the ground.
Economists all said with smiles
‘He’s cleverer than us by miles.’
‘Oh Kevin of the mighty mind
And equally enlarged behind
Now we know just what to do
Please tell us how to do it, do.’
The mighty Kevin’s eyebrows lifted
As is quite right in one so gifted
‘You chaps are pretty slow I see
But I’ll be kind, because I’m me.
To get rid of the debts you had
you must go out and spend like mad.’
The delegates all gasped with glee
‘We were all blind, but now we see.
By our advisors we were dudded
But all is clear now we’ve been Rudded.’
By which they meant enlightened then
By thoughts beyond the ken of men.
Then Kevin to the sunset rode
With Caty in his blanket stowed.
And the G20 ended well
Between the nations things are swell
No more economies asunder
Thanks to the PM from Down Under.

I have blogged about the Sri Lankan civil war before.

There are reports that some 20,000 people have fled conflict zones in March. About 30,000 fled in February – but fighting was more widespread then.

The rebel Tamil Tigers have been beaten back to a tiny area of only about 20 square kilometres.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said there will be no cease fire, because this would just give the Tigers a chance to regroup and call in reinforcements.

The Tamil Tigers will not want to surrender, because this will be a defeat from which they cannot recover.

Things could get nasty over the next few days.

Update

As at Thursday evening, fierce fighting is continuing, with both sides claiming they have inflicted heavy losses on the other. According to the Sri Lankan military, the battle has entered its final phase.

Once the fighting is over, the majority Sinhalese government in Colombo must start to treat its Tamil citizens as real people with the full rights of citizens. If it does not, the same anger will continue to grow until to some, at least, it seems as if violence is the only option. An interesting perspective on this from British/Tamil rapper MIA, who was a child refugee from Sri Lanka.

Of course she does not mention that much of the violence and destruction in the North has been caused by the Tamil Tigers, nor that you cannot expect government personnel to go and rebuild roads and hospitals when it is likely they’ll be shot or kidnapped if they do.