Thursday, August 28, 2014

Silly Americans, again

Americans Clearly Don't Understand How Deadly HPV Is

I've posted about this before, but here's another detailed story about the pathetically low US rate of immunisation against HPV.

I didn't know this point (about its effectiveness):
He proceeds to debunk several common misconceptions about the HPV vaccine's effectiveness (it is virtually 100% effective at preventing the most common cancer-causing HPV infections, for at least 30 years), safety (the vaccine has been shown to cause no serious side effects), and propensity to promote promiscuity (it doesn't).  
My son had his first shots for it at school earlier this year (along with some other vaccine), and I don't think he had any idea of (or care about in the slightest) the details of the disease he was getting it for.  Sorry, but it's absurd that Americans are squeamish about it. 

Making a photo with photons that weren't there

Entangled photons make a picture from a paradox 

What a brilliant experiment, based on the entanglement of photons.

I feel sure there must be some science fiction use this technique could be put to....

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The marijuana headline that will probably confuse

Marijuana compound could be used to treat psychosis in young people

I wouldn't be surprised if the headline alone, if noted by yoof interested in marijuana, made them think that smoking cannabis might actually help mental illness.

As the body of the article makes clear, this is definitely not the case.  Interestingly, the "good" compound seems to hardly be in the street cannabis at all now:
She said there was a small, but growing number of studies suggesting
CBD relieved psychosis, anxiety and insomnia, and that her team was
trialling it in about 10 people withdrawing from cannabis use to see if
it helped them through the process.

But Professor Copeland said people should not try to source
CBD in street-based cannabis because tests on seized portions of the
drug in NSW showed it contained virtually no CBD.

"It has high levels of THC, around 15 per cent now, but
almost no CBD ... so it's definitely not the same thing as smoking
cannabis," she said.  
I also note the other claim in the article relates to the relatively high number of people who may face increased risk of mental issues due to THC:
The director of Orygen Youth Health Research Centre said while
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis was widely thought to be
dangerous and increase the risk of psychosis in about 10 per cent to 20
per cent of people, another component - cannabidiol (CBD) - appeared to
relieve psychosis, depression and anxiety. 
So, if you were going to legalise marijuana, I wonder if it could be done only on the basis that the strains sold have to be bred to have a high amount of the apparently protective compound in it?

Still, as I have said before, if that product is more expensive, the black market for the normal stuff will likely continue to be strong anyway.

Palmer-ing about China

It must be a blue moon - I'm linking to an Andrew Bolt post with approval.

It's about Clive Palmer's boyhood (very young boyhood) adventures in China.

I too trust nothing that Clive claims.

Yes, you're magnificent, Sam

As a person who's really disliked Sam de Brito's writing for many years (search the blog if you don't believe me), I am amused to see this satire of him at Crikey, which is no doubt inspired by this recent column.

The truth is, I don't actually bother looking him up on Fairfax any more, so I hadn't read the tale of his fantastically orgasmic bedmates.  The puzzle remains as to why he is engaged by Fairfax at all...

Can't be too much of a ratbag for Catallaxy (and let's look at renewables again)

Well, my question earlier this week as to whether someone booted out of the IPA for being too offensive to Muslims could still post at Catallaxy has been answered in the affirmative, with Alan Moran still posting there today (about renewable energy.)

Well done, Sinclair Davidson!  Previously, extreme views of Islam were restricted to those visitors in threads; now we know they're held by (at least one) who posts there too.

Speaking of renewable energy, Moran points with approval to a Leyonjhelm piece in the Australian today, which (as usual) is big on claims but short on evidence.

The Bald One apparently accepts uncritically a Deloittes report from earlier in the year that figured the RET would "cost the economy" $29 billion.

But as this article noted, this is based on some very dubious assumptions about the ongoing cost of installing renewables, when we know that they have been becoming cheaper.   And besides, this way of modelling and adding up a cumulative amount over years of "costs to economy" exaggerates the effect for political purposes.   And even more crucially, the Deloittes report is open about not taking into account any environment benefits of renewables at all.

This last point is, of course, at the heart of nearly all criticism of the RET:  those fighting it do not really believe there is an environmental benefit to it at all, because they don't believe in climate change.

Update:   here's Leyonjhelm as apparently quoted in The Australian today:
“I have seen so much levy money being poorly spent on ridiculous fantasyland things such as climate change and sustainability; ..."
I thought he used to take a more "well I'm just being open minded" line on climate change, saying things like:
Nobody disputes the fact that atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing, although there is debate about what effect this is having and whether it justifies government action. 
 So it's good to see that he has outed himself as a clear denialist, then.  



Interesting science and technology

1.   Here's a handy potential plot device if you are writing a spy or crime story:
The cold boot attack is possible because of a little-known property of the random access memories used in computers to store and read data quickly. Random access memory is volatile meaning that it has to be constantly rewritten over periods measured in milliseconds. This property means that anything stored in random access memory is temporary–when the machine switched off and the memory loses power, the date is soon lost.

At least that’s what everyone thought. In 2008, the Princeton group showed that data stored in the random access memory turns out to be preserved over a period of many seconds after it loses power. What is more, cooling the memory can extend this period to many minutes and possibly hours. (One way to cool random access memory is to spray it with an upside down can of liquid air, which releases cold liquid rather than gas.)

During this short period after power is lost, any information in the random access memory is there for the taking. And this is exactly how the cold boot attack works.
The idea is to cut the power to the device and then immediately reboot it to a USB flash drive so that the operating system does not immediately overwrite the contents of the random access memory. Next, search the random access memory for sensitive material, download it and be gone.
Speaking of USB flash drives, using one of the them with a "portable" version of a browser would have to be one of the safest ways a teenager could browse the web with no risk of browsing history being detected by parents.   Maybe even safer to boot a simple version of Linux, I guess?   I wonder how commonly this is known amongst teenagers.   (Mine doesn't read this, and working on the assumption that children don't care to read their parent's writings, it will likely be years before he does.)

2.    An interesting laser experiment that may, or may not, indicate that we are all holograms has started working.    (Actually, I think physicist Bee is skeptical that it is really relevant to the holographic idea, but she thinks it worth doing anyway.)

3.    Feynman's famous book version of his lectures is now fully available on line.
 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The case of the comedian accent

Well, this is rather odd.

Josh Thomas is appearing on TV a lot on Optus ads, and I tend to find him likeable in them.   (My daughter does too, and I think I have withheld the "gay" information from her so far.)  But then, I assumed he genuinely had an accent picked up from somewhere in England.

But reading this lengthy Guardian interview about his critically praised (but little watched) dramedy show, I learn (from comments after it) that he grew up in Brisbane.  My side of Brisbane, in fact.   Googling around, it is clear there has been chatter for years about why he sounds (by most people's reckoning) Irish.  Either that or Welsh.  And it seems a fair few people claim it is genuinely a fake (or greatly exaggerated) accent, although others say he has Irish parents and kids sometimes pick up accents that way.   

Someone at The Guardian thread says this:
you may be right about the accent, though he himself has said that he didn't grow up with that accent, he "just woke up one morning talking like that." I don't know how to feel about that story, but it does suggest that the accent is utter affectation.
And in one interview on line Thomas himself sounds ambiguous:
You’re from Brisbane, so why do you have a Welsh-sounding accent?
I don’t know – your guess is as good as mine. I didn’t even know I had it until I started going on television and I started getting asked in interviews all the time.
Your friend Tom Ward said you sounded like a female Elmer Fudd in high school. Is that fair?
Yeah, that’s pretty good. I used to be really bad at pronouncing my words. If I was doing stand-up I’d get into trouble for it, so I had to put some effort into pronouncing my words. That’s why I got this stupid accent. There was one point where I was so sick of being asked about it every day I was going to get lessons to learn how to stop talking like this, but then I realised how contrived that would be.
 His voice and, um, comic persona, certainly grates on some people who read the Guardian:
HE's totally unbearable! His accent is Y-gen medication. Or Woolloomooloo Yank. Or ADHD teenager. Or Antonioni-ennuied young monotonal adult. Like one of those obnoxious brats on the bus going to private schools. Like, like and um like they can't stop talking, like OMG I shouldn't have said that. I just find the show and the persona the most irritating things I've ever seen on a television set. Even compared to yet another irritating, nasally whining gay performer, Adam Carr whose range at least extends beyond A to B and sometimes beyond......The endless pursuit of self-absorption through self abnegation as a performance style is cringe worthy even before he gets through the first line of dialogue. I mean monologue. And if this is "writing" I'm , um you know, err straight.
And somewhere, buried in this supposed comedy is the idea that we should be nice to him and the show because he's, um, you know gay.
So am I but I would rather go to an execution than watch him again.
Well, I can't say I feel that strongly about him, one way or the other, but I am surprised about the questionable authenticity of the accent.   It seems that it may be another case of Ben Elton-itis.  As noted in the Telegraph last year:
When it turned out that Elton wasn’t quite as seditious as the comrades had hoped, and, by his own admission, was slightly bewildered to find himself being cast as any kind of political figurehead, his reputation in right-on circles began to wither. The process was accelerated by the discovery that he came from a well-to-do family, the son of a prominent physicist, had been educated at a top Surrey grammar school, and that his street punk London accent had been adopted in the hope that comedy circuit audiences would find it funnier. 

Come to think of it, the other British person who used to "bung it on" (to use an Australian-ism, I guess) was Cilla Black.   I clearly remember her embarrassment and quick reversion to exaggerated accent in some interview or other she was giving on Australian TV way back in perhaps the late 70's or 80's, where she had to started to answer (accidentally) without accent.

But what is the truth?   Can't someone who knows Thomas let the world know whether he used to sound Australian when he was at school?

[Incidentally, I just think Please Like Me - which I've caught in bits and pieces - is not very funny.  Self involved in a very young 20's way, a bit mawkish, a bit too obvious in many respects, but not very funny.  Hence I am pleased it actually doesn't rate well.]

*  (Don't know that anyone has ever mistaken me for being from Liverpool, although the European looking man in the post office near my home in 1980 did insist that it seemed to him I was from mainland Europe.  "Where are you from" he asked when I was buying a stamp.  "Here!" I said, "Just down the road".   "No, originally, where are you from?"   And so on, until he explained he felt sure English was probably a second language for me.  (!)  He was from somewhere mid-Europe himself, I believe.   Honestly, the guy seemed quite normal despite this surprising line of interrogation.

This was when I was at university, just after I had been backpacking in New Zealand, and many fellow backpackers could not readily pick that I was Australian.   It would seem my accent is considered pretty indeterminate both within and outside of Australia, so perhaps I am not the most obvious person to be criticising other accents after all....)

Hello, Gullible Fools

What is more likely:  that the temperature at Amberley (well inland from the ocean) changed from increasing to cooling in 1980,* despite surrounding areas continuing to warm; or that an unrecorded change in how the temperature was being taken introduced a spurious cooling that should be adjusted if you wanted a true idea of the actual changes to the longer term temperature record?

What is more likely:  that climate researchers at the BOM have for years been looking at temperature records and simply saying "that one's going in the wrong direction:  let's just increase this one by 1 degree and no one will ever notice", or that they are consistently applying technical and widely accepted scientific procedures to try to make the complete record more accurate? 

What is more likely:   that idiots will claim that the BOM is "destroying" raw temperature records, even when the very story they are wetting themselves about is based on comparing raw records with adjusted records; or that they will recognise they are being inconsistent idiots?

I know what is likely, or beyond question, really:  people who are convinced by Marohasy and Jonova are fools.



* note Ken's statement in comments - "When Amberley anomalies are compared with anomalies from neighbouring sites, there is a distinct drop around 1980. Certainly it doesn’t look right. But the adjustment doesn’t look right either."   Yes folks, that is what this is all about - a bunch of politically motivated self aggrandising amateurs in the field saying "that doesn't look right - it must be wrong!"

Update:   Nick Stokes at his Moyhu blog shows why the Amberley adjustment makes sense.

The point being:  there is much less common sense in what Marohasy and Jonova want their rabid followers to believe than the obvious explanation - the 1980 change was spurious and needed adjustment.  (And the adjustment applied is nothing remarkable or dishonest.)

Update 2:   the focus has shifted to Rutherglen, with a hysterical Jennifer Marohasy wanting "heads to roll" because a retired scientist says there was a thermometer in a different location, but it wasn't used; whereas it appears the BOM believes there was a thermometer move.   Even if (and I do not concede the point at all) the retiree is correct, surely there is enough there to indicate mistake rather than fraud.  But no, the bile filled climate change denialists think every discrepancy (even apparent discrepancy) is conclusive evidence of fraud.  What a joke.  

Hotwhopper looks at Rutherglen too, and notes a big break in the raw data, which certainly indicates something amiss in that site.

And back at Moyhu, Nick Stokes shows that homogenisation does not mean all local trends only increase.

How does Greg Hunt live with himself?

Renewable energy target in the spotlight

Excellent article by Peter Martin that effectively raises the question in the title to this post, without directly asking it.

Just stop pandering to adult's sense of entitlement to make and experiment with babies

Medical dilemma of 'three-parent babies': Fertility clinic investigates health of 17 teenagers it helped to be conceived through controversial IVF technique - Science - News - The Independent


Why the hell is Britain so keen to be pressing ahead with "3 parent" embryo techniques to cater for the tiny, tiny number of women who want to be pregnant with their own genes, but should not because of mitochondrial problems?

I cannot fathom this.

As much as I dislike surrogacy, even it using a donated healthy egg from a woman with a similar genetic profile of the mother would be preferable.   Sure, surrogacy also involves the commodification of babies; it doesn't involve direct experimentation on how to make one in a completely unnatural way with completely unknown consequences for their future health.

Why are people so prepared to experiment with their own children, and why is the government prepared to facilitate the use of science in support of experiments for the tiny number of potential parents so affected?

It seems the near universal sense of entitlement to a baby has become so overpowering there is no scandal in a patent desire to experiment on human lives.   

Monday, August 25, 2014

TV comedy noted

Been meaning to say, I quite like Brooklyn Nine Nine.   It reminds of some 80's ensemble comedies, but sped up somewhat.

Do other countries have to put up with McTorment

How McDonald's conquered France.

Here's a somewhat interesting article on how McDonalds got to be a big success in France, of all culinary places.

I see that the company has recently suffered poor sales in Australia, and as I think I have said here before, I'm pretty sure it is because of both a price increase for their standard fare that pushed lunch time boundaries of what is reasonable to pay for family of four, and the ridiculous amount of changes that have been going on menu wise.

I mean, look, the McFeast must be a popular item if they chose to run a whole ad campaign about how you would travel across the world to get one while it's making one of its "limited time" appearances.   But doesn't this just reek too much of cynical marketing to keep taking it off, and putting it back on, the menu?  

I know they have done limited "special" burgers for ages, but why take off a menu item that was on for years and then start tormenting your customers by saying "you'd better come back and get it while it's here [because we believe in "treat them mean, keep them keen".]

Do they follow such marketing in other countries?  I see you can get something that looks like a McFeast in France on the permanent menu:

Why can't we get the equivalent permanently here?

And while you're at it, drop most of the "loose change" items save for the cones.  They are all low quality crap that surely don't develop brand loyalty, and I'd prefer they dropped them and made the main items just a little bit cheaper.

We now resume normal programming.  

Out of the IPA, still good enough for Catallaxy?

Ooh, that's interesting.   Professional renewable energy demoniser Alan Moran has been booted out of the IPA for being over the top in the last week or so about Islam (and on other politics too, apparently.)

Yet only a couple of days ago, he was still posting at Sinclair Davidson's Catallaxy blog (where open threads are full of similar sentiments to those of Moran.) 

True, Sinclair makes the odd appearance in threads (as do a couple of the regulars) saying that people are carrying on too much about the religion,  but it's rather interesting nonetheless if Moran will continue to be able to post there if he's too extreme for the IPA!

Ideologue looks at medicine - evidence, not so much

There is so much pure ideology running through David Leyonjhelm's take on medicine, I really don't know why anyone takes him seriously.   (I'm looking at you, Jason Soon.)

His whole comparison of doctors being like car mechanics ignores things like, oh, how not everyone needs a car mechanic, but every single person needs a variety of medical services during their life; and the almost universally accepted view that the more privatised US system has helped make for an unhealthier population at greater expense.  And what's with this line?:
Opposing the Government’s proposal [for co-payments] in its entirety will only maintain a situation where the well-off and healthy receive the same level of medical support as the poor and chronically ill, a level that is inadequate for those most in need.
While I accept that some highly socialised medical systems in other countries do have co-payments, I would still like to see the evidence that a "price signal" is really needed in Australia.  As I have noted before (although I forget which expert said it), the rate of use of GPs here is not unusually high  compared to other countries, and the increasing cost in the health system is not coming from there.

Leyonjhlem goes on to have his ideological fantasies about how medicine could work:
In an ideal world we would shop for health services based on quality and price, protected from unaffordable costs by insurance. The government’s role would be limited to ensuring that the poor and chronically ill are insured, and collecting and publishing information about the providers to help us make better choices.
The bald one also seems to think that if people have too much access to doctors, they don't take responsibility for their own health via diet, exercise, etc.  Yet I'd be pretty sure that in those areas of Australia with less access to doctors do not show such an effect at all.   I imagine this is because doctors help identify health problems earlier, and thereby increase the general health of the population.   David's just off on one of his ideological day dreams again.

Libertarians never get want fully they want, because most people can readily recognise that their ideas won't and don't work.


This'll be controversial...

Some can’t be satisfied: multiple partners points to marriage misery for women, researchers say | The Australian

The Huffington Post has a lengthier article on the study, which includes some somewhat skeptical takes:
"There are a wide variety of reasons that may lead people to have multiple partners before marriage and, independent of how many partners they have, also be less satisfied in marriage," Dr. Jim McNulty, a social psychology professor from Florida State University who has published a plethora of research on the topic, wrote in an email.

"For example, people who tend to avoid commitment in general may have more
sexual partners and be less happy when they settle down. It’s not the fact that they have more sexual partners that leads them to be less happy, it’s the fact that they don’t really like commitment. I would be very surprised if having multiple sexual partners before
marriage, independent of any other factor, has a direct causal influence."

In other words, correlation should never be confused with causation.

"We cannot make any conclusions about cause-and-effect," says Justin Lehmiller,
PhD, sex educator and researcher at Purdue University, adding, "Could it be that multiple premarital partners impacts marital happiness? Maybe. But it could also be that people who have more partners have different personalities or different attitudes toward marriage or relationships."
That point about causation may well be right, but nonetheless, if the study is correct, doesn't it indicate that men should legitimately be cautious about marrying a woman who has many partners (and be increasingly cautious the more she has had?)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Thanks, Medical Board

Cocaine-addict surgeon linked to sex workers' deaths, continued to operate on patients - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Dr Yong said not every regulatory system is perfect and the NSW Medical Board acted on the information it had on Dr Nair.

"Inhindsight now we can see that he, at some stage, even under our
program, was still affected by drugs. He was able to conceal that from
us, from his colleagues, from his patients, from his supervisors," he
said.



In May 2009, a psychiatrist said in a report to the Health Care Complaints Commission:
"It is my belief that Dr Nair is in stable remission from cocaine and
alcohol abuse and that he is fully fit to practise medicine.


I further believe that matters came before the Medical Board that would
have been more suited to a casual chat between colleagues rather than a
s.66 inquiry."
At least with alcohol, you can have a simple and quick breath test  at the start of every work session to see that a suspect addict is not under the influence at that moment.

The inability to so readily test for other drugs is another reason I am leery of the "legalise it, and nearly everyone will work out their own safe level of consumption" idea.

If the electrical brain stimulation doesn't help me in old age, maybe this will

Young blood to be used in ultimate rejuvenation trial - health - 20 August 2014 - New Scientist

A stimulating future

BBC News - Warning over electrical brain stimulation

I still think that the intriguing research into brain stimulation for increased cognitive performance hasn't attracted as much general attention as it should.   But hobbyists are apparently running current through their heads with amateur equipment, and that might just not be that good an idea, yet...

Don't you dare speculate, lay person

I forget where the story first ran recently about some new research on anaesthesia being possibly supportive of the Penrose suggestion that quantum effects in the brain might be at the heart of consciousness.

In any event, it appeared last week in a post at Mysterious Universe, but it has made the doctor who did the experiment very cranky.  From the comments following the post:



Followed up by the post writer:



Dr Turin responds in rather arrogant fashion:



The good doctor goes on to explain in more detail, but he does sound a bit of a jerk.



Steven Moffatt has killed Dr Who

This is my considered opinion after the first 20 minutes of the awful opening episode of the new Dr Who.

As far as I'm concerned, lurid quasi science fiction with a large children's audience is not a place to compulsively go on about sexual politics.  It now does so pretty much continuously, and is ludicrous, boring, not funny, and only worth viewing to see how bad it has become. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Time slip government

Guy Rundle writes amusingly in The Saturday Paper about a strange aspect of the Abbott government:
Good political fun with out-of-touch ministers. Traditional, except for one thing: the hopeless targets of this stuff are usually relics of a bygone age. Joe Hockey is 49, Christopher Pyne 47. They were toddlers in 1969 – the year of Woodstock and equal pay for women. They are products of a post-’60s Western world, bound within it, but their mindset comes from somewhere else. It’s as if they’ve had a Philip K. Dick-style mind implant from an earlier era.

Perhaps the whole frontbench got a bulk deal on such, for what can explain this government’s unique inability to understand the real-life impacts of many of the measures it is proposing? The Howard government had the basic nous to refrain from antagonising low-income people who voted for them on culture-war grounds. There seems to be none of that on display in the Abbott government. Indeed it is worse. They seem to have no conception of the life-world of those on low incomes, the everyday structure and texture of existence for those in precarious or poor situations.

What else can explain Joe Hockey’s remark that the $7 Medicare co-payment is no more than a “couple of beers”? Quite aside from the inherent anachronism – it’s barely one beer in a pub – it suggests Hockey is unaware that many people on benefits have to budget with the expectation that they will spend the last two to three days of a fortnight with no ready cash at hand. How else to explain the six-months-on/six-months-off dole scheme for the under-25s, which would make it impossible for a dole recipient to, among other things, rent a flat with a standard 12-month lease. How are they then supposed to move to areas of lower unemployment to seek work, as they have been urged to do? The scheme is meticulously designed to punish initiative and reward stasis. It is anti-brilliant. You don’t have to come from a low-income background to understand these demands. You only need to buy a pie and a Coke at a convenience store – close to $10 – to realise that it constitutes about 10 per cent of a week’s discretionary income on benefits, or the part-time wage of a worker who needs a full-time job.

Friday, August 22, 2014

While I don't disagree...

....that the militarisation of the US police forces has become ridiculously over the top (and note that a significant part of it is due to Congress and the Pentagon thinking that recycling military equipment is a thrifty and useful thing to do), I find myself a bit chagrined when those Americans of a libertarian bent get upset about it, because of their support of the other side the ledger (the public) being armed to the back teeth.

Mark Steyn's recent column, for example, quotes with approval the tiny number of police shootings in other Western countries compared to the US.   Yet this is him talking before about his home State:
New Hampshire has a high rate of firearms possession, which is why it has a low crime rate.  You don’t have to own a gun, and there are plenty of sissy arms-are-for-hugging granola-crunchers who don’t.  But they benefit from the fact that their crazy stump-toothed knuckle-dragging neighbors do.  If you want to burgle a home in the Granite State, you’d have to be awfully certain it was the one-in-a-hundred we-are-the-world panty-waist’s pad and not some plaid-clad gun nut who’ll blow your head off before you lay a hand on his seventy dollar TV.
Is it such a stretch for Steyn to imagine that police in a place where (as he thinks is fantastic) nearly every household has a gun (or on the street, anyone might be carrying a concealed gun) might be more inclined to shoot first in many situations?

Wayne talks Kevin


This is the full extract from Swan's book in last weekend's SMH.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Don't get too carried away with your bacteria

Microbiology: Microbiome science needs a healthy dose of scepticism : Nature News & Comment

I forgot to mention that Catalyst last week was the start of a 2 part story on microbiome science, and was very good.


But perhaps my "time travelling doctors who change history with fecal transplants" series needs to wait.... 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Black market continues

Black market boom lays bare a social divide in Colorado’s marijuana market | World news | Guardian Weekly

Yeah, yeah, it's early days yet, but this article about the black market reaction to legalisation of marijuana is interesting.   (One odd thing I have noticed in other articles too - the amount of medical marijuana sold in that state seems astronomical.) 

I would add one other observation - the issues with what happens to a black market for this particular drug is probably very, very different to the experience with alcohol and prohibition for the simple reason that making your own, good tasting and consistent quality alcoholic beverage is not as simple a matter as growing a dozen plants in your backyard.  The ease with which the black market can produce a "quality" product probably helps ensure it does not go away when the legalised, highly taxed, version becomes available. 

About the metadata freakout...

I find it a bit hard to understand the metadata privacy freakout, given that surely everyone should assume that any old bored 21 year old working late at an ISP could be looking up the browsing or message history of any customer he's interested in.   As for what the metamind of Google knows about what you were up to last night - well, what they don't know is probably easier to answer.

A key point I was interested in was "how long do ISPs currently hold metadata anyway?"  and according to the ABC, the answer seems to be this:

What Telcos/ISPs are doing?

There has been a proliferation of ISPs in Australia in recent years – there are now more than 200.
There are variations between each company on what data they store and for how long. Industry retention patterns vary from "months" to "years".
There has been a trend towards telcos/ISPs holding metadata for shorter periods of time.
Some telcos already hold data for seven to nine years, government officials say. Those companies would not be affected if the Government proposes a mandatory two-year retention of metadata.
and this:

What would be different for telcos/ISP with mandatory retention of metadata?

Nothing, if they are already holding it for more than two years.
Some telcos/ISPs who hold for shorter periods would be affected if the Government seeks to "standardise" a two-year retention period.
So, privacy freaks, is this another case of you  blithely living with something that hasn't had an effect on your life for like, 10 years or so, but now that the government wants to regulate it a tiny bit more it's full blown panic mode?

And as for Topher, a professional Tosser in my books, it is rather ridiculous to be suggesting that it is the ISPs themselves who want the change.

Update:   to be sure, if the argument was about who within the government metadata was being released to, and whether it was with or without warrant, and the purposes for which it was being sought - that's fine if there are outrageous cases, but I can't say I've seen such examples within Australia being publicised.

But the mere fact that the government is seeking to set a minimum standard for how long it is kept, when an unspecified number of ISPs are already keeping it for that long or longer,  well that's a minor issue when the main one is "how is it accessed".

Fan news

RET worries

I see that IPA aligned economists are getting all aroused at the prospect that, having lost out on the fake and hysterical free speech crisis they tried to whip up because Andrew Bolt wouldn't apologise for mistakes made in a column, they may have an Abbott government "win" on the Renewable Energy Target.   (The rumour being that key figures in the government are wanting to have it killed off entirely.)  Julie Novak, for example:



From what I can make out, the economics of electricity production in this large country are rather complicated, and in an ideal world, all countries would price carbon with consistency and at realistic levels to wean the planet off burning carbon, and all electricity production, retail and transmission would work the same across our own country, and you genuinely could have a situation where you let energy companies work it out for themselves without the need for the additional spur of a government mandated RET.

However, given the world (and Australia) is not so simple, the RET is one element of a multi-pronged approach to energy, and letting it stay does not represent an economic problem of any significance.   Removing it now that it has been in place for so long is actually a lot more trouble than it is even theoretically worth. 

And one thing is clear - given that the free marketeer economists aligned with the IPA have no problem at all with it actively promoting pubic and political disbelief that there is even a problem to address regarding climate change, their opinion on the merit of the RET is not worth a pinch of poop. 

Julie Novak is, of course, completely and ludicrously wrong in this morning's tweet, in response to a rare column in The Australian supporting the RET:



Get real, Julie.