Monday, April 30, 2018

Another pop culture post..

I find Beyonce very easy to ignore.  Maybe that's an age thing, although I suspect that her appeal is much more American based than with other pop stars.

For what it's worth, with my very tiny exposure to her music and videos*, one thing I've never liked is her fashion sense which has always seemed to emphasise legs with thighs that I personally find too thick to be too attractive.  Is she responsible for the several years we have had of teenage girls/young women wearing very short shorts when going out for fun, regardless of bodily attributes?  Did other  groups popular (I presume) with teenage girls, like Little Mix, get their inspiration for their somewhat trashy fashion from her?

How young women dress and its implications is a vexing issue.   In theory, we all know that being more-or-less undressed does not necessarily have to correlate with messaging of sexual availability:  tribes of topless women and near naked men tell us that.  We can also all agree that extreme conservatism in modesty - such as in Saudi Arabia - shows the ridiculousness of taking the connection between dress and sexual availability too seriously.  

But there's this fine line where the logic hits the biology, particularly when you're the father of a teenage daughter; and you really do wonder, as I was a few weeks ago when seeing a stream of high school teenagers going to an alcohol free concert/dance party thing, that it's kind of odd how the teen guys are all dressed with much more baggy-short-T-shirt modesty than the tight tops and maximum thigh baring shorts fashion that is so "in" with teen girls now.**   Or has a disparity between young male and young female fashion (in terms of apparent sexual signalling) always been a thing?   I guess you could say that a shirtless guy at an outdoor concert or sporting event might be signalling something (maybe, more often, just that they are drunk), but in any event my impression is that straight young men are now much less likely to do that in public than they were in the (say) the 70's or 80's.   And how much of that is that just because of greater sunburn awareness?  

Anyway, this is all prelude to linking to an article at the Catholic Herald, of all places, that takes a somewhat cynical view of the much lauded performance of Beyonce at the recent Coachella festival.   The article notes that, despite the female empowerment theme  coming off the stage from her performance, the festival was noteworthy for the number of groping and sexual harassment complaints from the female attendees.  The article doesn't reference the libertine fashion of many of the young women attending (just Google "Coachella 2018 fashion" for an idea), but it does reference  the conformist liberation vibe from B:
Still, it is illuminating to compare her performance to the music festivals of yore. Woodstock opened with Richie Havens’s improvised performance of Freedom and closed with Jimi Hendrix’s noodling national anthem. Both expressed a sense that liberation was found in individual challenges to authority. Now that the counterculture has gone mainstream, liberation is achieved by conforming to the commands of the new authorities. Cops march in the gay pride parade and suits issue HR directives on diversity.

Beyonce’s brand of lockstep sexiness is the artistic expression of conformist liberation. Rather than an individual improvising on stage, she is the leader of phalanxes in freakum dress uniform, backed by a marching band. It is amazing how many of her lyrics take the form of commands – “Bow down bitches, bow bow down bitches” or “OK ladies, now let’s get in formation.” Freedom is now enforced.
I think he has a point:  although the attendees at 60's and 70's music festivals were no doubt also being accused by conservative oldies of conformist fashion, the music performances were (I suppose) more loose and individualistic.   God knows some of the 5 minute electric guitar solos were self indulgent...

So how do I end this ramble?   I don't know - you never want to blame the young women (however dressed, or whichever female performer they like), for being groped, or to excuse the utter jerks who do it to them - and while it seems impossible to not mention concern about sexual signalling in fashion if you're a normal parent, it is next to impossible to do so without it being interpreted as placing an unfair onus on a daughter for their safety. 

I suppose parents have fretted about this forever - or at least over the last 70 years - and it seems no  closer to a really satisfactory resolution.

*  I've just watched bits of several of her songs - I remain completely underwhelmed by her style of music.

**  (My daughter wasn't going there; it just happened that I was having a beer in a bar next door to entry to the teen event that was starting mid afternoon.)

There's something odd about me and tomatoes...

Like all normal people, I like a nice tomato, be it in a sandwich, salad, on a cracker with cheese, or in the form of pizza sauce, paste or canned for cooking stews.  I'm a little bit lukewarm on them heated whole on the plate, as the English like to do with their protein heavy hot breakfasts, although if they are slow baked down further in an oven they are great again.  

But for some reason, I cannot enjoy tomato juice, or any juice combination that is too heavy with the tomato element.   I just bought a combination juice and yes, it has way too much tomato.  I can drink it, but find it unpleasant, like taking medicine. 

I do have another, related issue about them:  some people can eat a ripe one like an apple.   Something about the idea of doing that myself I find off putting.   Even in a salad, I don't like the pieces to be too large, and will often cut a wedge in half.  Maybe it's just that I feel tomato is a flavour that always needs to be with something else?

I think this is a bit odd, as I can't think of any other food that I cannot enjoy in its juiced form, or to have too much of in one bite.   I've never tried a Bloody Mary for this reason.   Maybe I should give that a go as a way of finishing this unfortunately large bottle that I just bought....

PS:  I did, a few decades ago now, once make an observation to someone eating with me how I preferred sliced tomato more than wedges, and he agreed.  Maybe it is more common than I know, although I am basing that on precisely one instance in my life of someone who shared this feeling.   

Were the prison authorities in Batman right?

At NPR there's a report about prison reform (at least for young offenders) in one US state:
In Massachusetts, over half of young adult men released from jails and prisons go back within three years. The state's largest county wants to disrupt that cycle by teaching responsibility.

In Billerica, a suburb northwest of Boston, a select group of inmates at the Middlesex House of Correction and Jail are at this effort's forefront. They're part of the People Achieving Change Together, or P.A.C.T. unit — a program designed specifically for 18- to 24-year-olds who want to make sure that this period of incarceration is their last, like 22-year-old Eric Darden.

"I just kinda want to break the cycle and try to be better instead of coming back," said Darden, who is finishing up a two-year sentence for armed robbery and assault and battery.

Inmates in the P.A.C.T. program reside in the prison's top floor, where the unspoken rules of jail politics fall by the wayside. Inmates and corrections officers have more relaxed, friendly relationships. The floor has a barber shop, a library and a meditation room, and its cell doors stay open all day until 9 p.m. or later.

Besides having a cell all to himself, Darden says the atmosphere in the P.A.C.T unit is distinctly different from the rest of the jail. In his last cell block, he'd always been on guard. Here, he says, "you don't have to worry about looking over your back. If you have a situation, you can talk about it instead of someone trying to hype it up."
You know what I thought of when I read that?   The ridiculing of rehabilitation in jail that used to turn up on the (Adam West) Batman TV series.   I didn't understand it as such when I first saw it as a 7 or 8 year old, but then I watched a bit again as a adult many years ago and recognised the satire of "bleeding heart liberals" in the way they portrayed some villain or other having a great time in jail.  A couple of decades later and it had all turned around with (mainly Republican inspired) tough on crime, three strikes you're out, attitudes, and now it seems the circle might be turning again?

I also find it a bit wryly amusing to see it's Germany that's apparently an example of soft touch rehabilitation as the best model for young prisoners. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Reviewing Infinity

So you all want to know what I thought of Avengers: Infinity War?  No?  I don't care, I'm telling you anyway.

Just so you know:  I haven't even seen the previous Avengers movies, or Captain America: Civil War.  I tried watching some of Age of Ultron, which I think was the worst reviewed Avengers outing, on Friday night, but couldn't be bothered sticking with it.  (Even my more superhero tolerant son didn't care for it much.)

However, given that I am fine with Marvel as long as it is being funny, and I knew enough to know that the Guardians of the Galaxy crew were involved, as well as the recently humoured up Thor, I was curious enough to go see it and its "shocking" ending.

And yeah, I'm pretty glad that I did.

What I liked:  yes, it does make room for some pretty good humour - the Guardians of the Galaxy were funnier than they were in their second movie, which disappointed me.

Secondly, there's a key role for Dr Strange, who I find an oddly pleasing Marvel character.  I still love the slightly retro sparkly special effects they give him.   He badly needs to be given a second movie of his own.

Third:  there is a sort of gravitas about the ending which is something of an achievement for a silly superhero scenario.

What I didn't like so much:

Did we really have to spend so much time back on the fields of Wakanda?  Look, I'll say it:  I'm finding the overly serious African-English accents and delivery of anyone from that part of the Marvel universe pretentious and annoying.  And the Black Panther costume (or more specifically, the headpiece) still strikes me as silly.   If Thanos had to be offered some place to destroy to placate him, that would be the first I would offer.

Next:  did anyone else get the feeling that the motivation given to Thanos sounded like it could have been pandering to modern, dimwitted conservatives?   I could just imagine some Trump voting idiot thinking "yeah, he's like a pathetic Green Lefty, talking about 'limited resources' and being prepared to kill humans to 'protect the environment' - he's evil, just like all Lefties".   Now, I know that some Bond villains were given a similar "we have to kill to save the planet" motivation back in at least the Roger Moore era, but the difference is that at that time, the Right had not yet gone off the deep end like they have now and taken conspiracy belief so much to heart that they really do think all environmental concern is evil and anti-human.  (In fact, they virtually don't ever believe that the environment is any danger from anything anymore, such is the stupifying power of the culture wars.)   So I am a bit dubious that this motivation was a good idea in the current political climate.

Third:   honestly, the abilities of the Iron Man suits are getting so ridiculous that I find the mystical powers of Dr Strange more credible.

Fourth:  Thanos is a bit of flip flopper between invulnerable one minute and easily vulnerable the next.  He's kind of too, I don't know, flesh and blood in a way.  His sidekick had the psychokinetic powers that I thought he ought to, and overall, I don't find him that impressive as a villain.

But, despite those whinges, I did enjoy most of it and am somewhat curious as to how easy the resolution will be in Avengers 4.  This article at Slate - which you should definitely not read until after seeing the movie - points to the same resolution that is kinda obvious (one of the crystals controls time, so how hard can "resurrection" be?)  It also points towards something I think the movie is hinting at - a comic book storyline had Thanos changing sides.  Seems likely to me, too.

Update:   the movie has made an absurd amount of money - $630 million - in about 5 days of international release.  And it hasn't even opened in China yet.    Truly, Marvel is like a licence to print money for Disney. 

Update 2:   why haven't Marvel settled on doing a Dr Strange sequel?  It was a much better movie than the relatively modest international box office suggests.

Disastrous sea level rise past 2100 removes the "uncertainty monster"

Further to my complaint about climate change policy considerations misleadingly concentrating on effects up to 2100, I see that last year Andy Revkin responded (in his overly mild way) to Bret Stephen's "let's just wait to see what is happening with more certainty" column in the NYT with a piece in ProPublica. 

The problem for Revkin is that his thing for criticising environment advocates for not being careful enough with details enabled him to be cast as a supporter of the Judith Curry style "do nothing, it's all too uncertain" crowd.   But, in the article linked above, he talks about the really big picture, going beyond 2100, to show that he's not really aligned with the "do-nothings":
Kenneth Caldeira, a much-published Carnegie Institution climate scientist, now divides his time between studying unfolding impacts of climate change, including on coral reefs, and research on possible clean-energy solutions — and occasionally fact-checking the internet with others. On Saturday, he posted a critique stressing the dangers in the Stephens interpretation of uncertainty and lack of attention to what is clearly known:

“Bret Stephens writes of ‘sophisticated but fallible models’ as if ‘sophisticated but fallible’ gives one license to ignore their predictions. A wide array of models of different types and levels of complexity predict substantial warming to be a consequence of continued dependence on using the sky as a waste dump for our CO2 pollution. It doesn’t take much scientific knowledge to understand that the end consequence of this process involves approximately 200 feet of sea-level rise. We already see the coral reefs disappearinga predicted consequence of our CO2 emissions. How much more do we need to lose before recognizing that our ‘sophisticated but fallible models’ are the best basis for policy that we have?”

Caldeira is hardly alone in this view. There are entire issues of scientific journals devoted to understanding and responding to deep climate change uncertainty.

So those calling for nothing but delay and debate, as Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt did on MSNBC in March, have some explaining to do. What is it they are waiting for?

In fact, if anything, the core challenge of global warming is both clearer and vastly bigger than most of those debating it either understand or care to talk about. What is perhaps the most important scientific analysis pointing this out went largely uncovered early last year — a paper describing, with essentially no uncertainty, the enormous “consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change.”

I hope Stephens will stay on this issue, but perhaps looking beyond the uncertainty red herring toward common-sense ways to build a durable relationship with energy and climate that any conservative can embrace.
So, lets go the 2017 paper in Nature Climate Change which is at that last link.  (I don't think I have posted about it before.)

Unfortunately, apart from the abstract and supplementary material, it's behind a paywall, and I have not yet been able to find a full free copy at anyone else's site. But, the key results were summarised in some reporting, Chris Mooney at the Washington Post being a decent example:

From 1750 to the present, human activities put about 580 billion metric tons, or gigatons, of carbon into the atmosphere — which converts into more than 2,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide (which has a larger molecular weight).

We’re currently emitting about 10 gigatons of carbon per year — a number that is still expected to rise further in the future. The study therefore considers whether we will emit somewhere around another 700 gigatons in this century (which, with 70 years at 10 gigatons per year, could happen easily), reaching a total cumulative emissions of 1,280 gigatons — or whether we will go much further than that, reaching total cumulative levels as high as 5,120 gigatons. (It also considered scenarios in between.)

In 10,000 years, if we totally let it rip, the planet could ultimately be an astonishing 7 degrees Celsius warmer on average and feature seas 52 meters (170 feet) higher than they are now, the paper suggests. There would be almost no mountain glaciers left in temperate latitudes, Greenland would give up all of its ice and Antarctica would give up almost 45 meters worth of sea level rise, the study suggests.

Still, anyone observing the world’s recent mobilization to address climate change in Paris in late 2015 would reasonably question whether humanity will indeed emit this much carbon. With the efforts now afoot to constrain emissions and develop clean energy worldwide, it stands to reason that we won’t go so far.
“With Paris, it does get us off the exponential growth, and we might level off at 2,000, 3,000 gigatons,” said Pierrehumbert.

Still, what’s striking is that when the paper outlines a much more modest 1,280-gigaton scenario — one that does not seem unreasonable, and that would only push the globe a little bit of the way beyond a rise of 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial temperature levels — the impacts over 10,000 years are still projected to be fairly dramatic.

In this scenario, we only lose 70 percent of glaciers outside of Greenland and Antarctica. Greenland gives up as much as four meters of sea level rise (out of a potential seven), while Antarctica could give up up to 24. Combined with thermal expansion of the oceans, this scenario could mean seas rise an estimated 25 meters (or 82 feet) higher in 10,000 years. There is, to be sure, “a big uncertainty range on that prediction,” Pierrehumbert said by email.

Once again, a key factor that could mitigate this dire forecast is the potential development of technologies that could remove carbon dioxide from the air and thus cool down the planet much faster than the Earth on its own can through natural processes. “If we want to have some backstop technology to avoid this, we really ought to be putting a lot more money into carbon dioxide removal,” Pierrehumbert said.

Pierrehumbert said he believes that we will manage to develop such a technology in coming centuries, so long as human societies remain wealthy enough — but he added that we don’t know yet about how affordable it will be.

The new study fits into a growing body of scientific analysis suggesting that human alteration of the planet has truly brought on a new geological epoch, which has been dubbed the “anthropocene.” Taking a 10,000-year perspective certainly reinforces the geological scale of what’s currently happening.
Interestingly, I note from the supplementary material that the modelling work which forms the basis of the paper did include using runs with a Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity of 1.5 degrees to see what difference that made - and that figure is below the recently revised Nic Lewis/Judith Curry median estimate discussed in my last post.  (It also references modelling at an assumed ECS of 3.5 degrees.)

As I cannot read the whole Nature Climate Change paper (jeeez, I ask again of philanthropists - if you want material widely read, make it free) I don't know for sure what difference the lower ECS may have made for their 10,000 year sea rise estimates.  But clearly, they did take some account of the possibility of a low end ECS.  One suspects that in the long run, it doesn't make that big a difference.

OK, I hear some reader, presumably Jason Soon, saying "if even the low end total emissions still gives rise to 25 m sea level rise, doesn't this support my argument that it's too late to do anything effective and we will just have to deal with this technologically?"

But there are two important points to make in response:

1.   Look at the graphed rate of sea level rise using the different scenarios, which I get from the supplementary material to the paper:

Even at this low resolution, it's clear that the rate of sea level rise in the first 1,000 years is sharply faster in the next higher carbon emission scenario they considered than in the lower, achievable, scenario they worked on.  (And I'm just guessing here, but I suspect that even on the most optimistic guess, the process of removing CO2 back to 20th century levels will be a project requiring centuries of effort.)

2.  Surely that means that that the work involved in a technological fix can be undertaken at slower rate, which also surely means at less cost and less risk of failure (given that there is more time to adjust, change and improve the technological fix.)   And this would apply regardless of  whether the fix be by CO2 extraction or the (much, much more potentially environmentally risky*) use of something like spraying sulphates into the upper atmosphere. 

The point is - even these long term dramatic sea level change predictions do not mean that defeatism is an appropriate response.   That actually seems to be the motivation of the authors of the paper, too.

It makes sense that taking steps now to ensure that total carbon emissions are limited gives more chance to reverse the millennia scale disastrous sea level rises that are bound to happen if you keep pumping carbon into the atmosphere. 

I know that there is a libertarian idea that (when they are not busy disgustingly actually promoting climate change denial, as is the wont of a large section of the movement) the right way to deal with climate change is to race ahead with economic growth, because riches can deal with all climate change problems.  (Air condition the Third World, develop fusion power, spray sulphates into the air.)

That idea is fanciful for many reasons (it is at heart, a statement of faith not dissimilar to Evangelicals who can't believe that God would let humans destroy the Earth, and deserves a post of its own); but for now, the point here is to make it clear that if ripping ahead with economic growth means releasing high end CO2 emissions, they are advocating for a dramatic long term problem that, if not addressed, will literally re-write the shape of the inhabitable globe and inundate scores of those things we currently consider cultural and economic centres of civilisation - cities.

They will also be kicking the economic can for any possible solution to that down to future generations.   The least you would think they could do is to agree to give their descendants more time to deal with it.  (No one has any reason to think that removal of CO2 is going to be easy.)


*  Apart from very uncertain regional effects, the biggest worry is that if the program is stopped, the planet would undergo rapid heat increase that species - including humans - would not have time to deal with.  Read this article at Science.  

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Back to the "maybe climate sensitivity is at the lower end" argument

It's been ages since I've posted much about climate change, but a climate change mega death post is probably due soon.  (I've started mucking around with fonts lately, because I have an urge to feel shoutier, given the current numbskullery on abundant display in the world.)

But before I get to that, it's time to re-visit the Nic Lewis/Judith Curry revised attempt at showing that their energy budget/observational take on Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity shows that it is at the lower end of the range given by all the other methods.   (They suggest possible medians of 1.5, 1.66 or 1.76 degrees.  The last is said to allow for "time varying climate feedbacks, which sounds to me like something which ought to be assumed, so I would take their highest median as the most likely.)

There's a good discussion of the paper (particularly in comments, where Nic Lewis condescending joins in) over at And Then There's Physics.   As someone notes, Judith Curry's involvement in this work seems just a tad inconsistent:
It is interesting that Judith has, in the past, argued that internal variability could explain a lot of the observed warming, but now authors a paper essentially suggesting it plays no/little role.
But it's all grist for the mill with climate inactionists, isn't it?   Any argument will do, damn the inconsistency, as long as it ends at "we should not be doing anything now."  

Which brings me to the point of this post.   Even if one takes the optimistic (but not particularly well justified) view that the Nic Lewis estimate of  ECS is (say) 1.7 degrees turns out to be the correct figure, what does that really mean if you hope for the planet to not go over the guesstimate that over 2 degrees would be dramatically dangerous?

This was addressed in a paper I seem not to have linked to before:  Implications of potentially lower climate sensitivity on climate projections and policy.  

The answer:   not as much as one might guess.   I would strongly suggest reading at least the end discussion section, from which I extract this (my bold):
Drawing upon the combined information of these multiple lines of evidence shows that there is no scientific support to diminish the urgency of emission reductions if warming is to be kept below 1.5 or 2 °C, the two temperature limits currently being discussed within the United Nations (UNFCCC 2010). Even the lowest ECS estimate assumed in this study only results in a delay of less than a decade in the timing of when the 2 °C threshold would be crossed when emission trends from the past 10 years are continued. Alternatively, if significantly lower ECS estimates were to be confirmed, following a low emissions trajectory (consistent with RCP3-PD) would become consistent with limiting warming below 1.5 °C by the end of the century with high probability (>80%) instead of only low probabilities (around 40%), and limiting warming to 1.5 °C would require about the same emission reductions as are now consistent with 2 °C when assuming the current IPCC ECS assessment.
Ah, why stop there, the rest of the discussion is so good I may as well cut and paste that too:
Relatively small shifts of ECS distributions towards lower values have a small influence on the temperature outcome and on compatible emissions, when compared to the overall uncertainty. As international climate policy is concerned about limiting warming below 2 °C with a 'likely' chance (UNFCCC 2011) ('likely' denoting and 'at least 66% probability' (Mastrandrea et al 2010)), shifts that robustly constrain the high end of the ECS or TCR distributions would be most important.

With this study we show that betting on the optimistic message of a few recent studies is risky at this point for two important reasons. First, as pointed out above, recent low ECS estimates are only part of the story. Alternative, and equally convincing methods point to higher values of ECS and only looking at the lower estimates would thus obfuscate an important part of the available scientific evidence. Second, not taking into account the combined evidence and delaying emission reductions in the coming decades would lead to lock-in into energy- and carbon-intensive infrastructure. This would thus not only result in a lower remaining carbon budget for the rest of the century, but the world would also be on a much more costly path by 2030 (Rogelj et al 2013b, 2013a, Luderer et al 2013, Riahi et al 2013). If current policies would bet on the optimistic end of the range, and more pessimistic estimates turn out to better capture the Earth system's behavior, limiting warming to low levels (like 2 °C) might well become unattainable (Rogelj et al 2013a, 2013b, Luderer et al 2013).

In conclusion, in light of the large uncertainties that still exist, the lack of consensus across different studies and lines of evidence, and the weak constraint that the observations provide, we argue that the possibility of lower values for ECS and TCR does not reduce the urgency for climate mitigation. On the contrary, a risk-averse strategy points to more ambitious reductions compared to what countries presented so far (Rogelj et al 2013a, UNEP 2013, Riahi et al 2013). Hedging against this uncertainty can be done by reducing global carbon emissions without delay, as to limit cumulative carbon emissions to within a budget in line with medium and higher climate response estimates that currently cannot be excluded. For our current generation, early and deep reductions of carbon emissions will undoubtedly be an important global societal challenge, despite the multiple opportunities and benefits that they bring along, such as reduced air pollution, energy security etc (McCollum et al 2013). However, those challenges are likely small compared to what future generations otherwise might possibly face: high climate impacts or emission reduction rates and associated costs that are substantially higher than the ones that would be necessary, if mitigation action commenced today.
I will also take the opportunity to link back to my 2013 post that discussed the first Nic Lewis paper, and pointed to papers arguing that some very slow feedbacks may well mean a long term  "earth system sensitivity" that could be double the fast feedback ECS.  

Friday, April 27, 2018

Too much oxygen?

Who would have guessed that too much oxygen for seriously ill patients is probably a bad thing?:
The McMaster-led team of researchers searched electronic academic databases from their inception through to October 2017 for randomized controlled trials done worldwide which compared liberal versus conservative oxygen therapy and death rates, as well as impacts on such aspects as disability, infections and hospital length of stay.

The 25 randomized controlled trials encompassed more than 16,000 adult patients with sepsis, stoke, trauma, emergency surgery, heart attack or cardiac arrest.

Data analysis demonstrated that, compared to the conservative strategy, liberal administration of oxygen resulted in increased in-hospital death by 21 per cent. Additional analyses suggested that the more supplemental oxygen patients were given, the higher their risk was for death. However, the incidence of other conditions, such as infections or length of hospital stay, were similar between the two groups.

The researchers estimated one additional death for every 71 patients treated with a liberal oxygen strategy.

"Our findings are distinct from the pervasive view that liberal oxygen therapy for acute illnesses is at worst, harmless," said Alhazzani.
Count me as surprised.

Self domesticating mice

Rodent science stories are always welcome, and here's one about a study suggesting mice can "domesticate" themselves.

The Alfie story

The Guardian finally explains the background to some of the hangers-on who have politicised the Alfie Evans story for their own polemic purposes.   That really is sickening, especially when hospital staff should be getting death threats from right wing nutters.  And now, it would seem that the father might have had enough too, as he has issued a statement in which he appears to be reconciled to the fact that the British doctors may have had his child's best interest at heart, after all.

The weirdest thing about this case, I reckon, is the story that the Italian defence force had been authorised to fly the child to the Vatican aligned hospital, and that there was an Air Ambulance waiting to go.  I can understand (although regret) the Pope shoving his nose into this, but why would the Italian government lend its active support as well?   Strikes me as weird and strange.  Especially when the hospital was giving no hope of a cure at all:

Three experts from the Bambino Gesù hospital visited Alfie in Liverpool at the request of the parents, but they agreed with the doctors that further treatment would be “futile” in finding a cure.

However, they also said they were willing to take the tot to Rome to undergo operations to help him breathe and receive food, which would keep him alive for an “undefined period”.

Alfie’s parents hope that the specialists at the Bambino Gesù hospital will be able to pinpoint what is wrong with Alfie.

Dr Mariella Enoc, the president of Bambino Gesù, said: “We are ready to welcome Alfie, as we do with many children who come here from all over the world.

“We certainly do not promise to heal him, but to take care of him without overly aggressive treatment.”

Although acknowledging there is probably no cure for Alfie, Enoc said they would continue to provide a ventilator for him.

She said: “We do not argue that the diagnosis made by the British hospital will be changed, we only offer the possibility that the child can go on living. It is a bit difficult for us to understand why they will not allow him to be transported.”

She explained how the hospital would insert a breathing and feeding tube, which would not cause undue suffering.
So, simply offering to prolong keeping the kid alive until the parents get to the inevitable point of saying "OK, enough now", which may only be a matter of a week or two away?   I read somewhere, I think, that the hospital was talking about 2 weeks worth of treatment to identify the cause of his brain eroding illness.    Why would the Italian government get involved in spending money on such a purpose?

Fortunately, the Catholic Herald, as it did in the Charlie Gard case, gives a reasonably balanced account of what has happened, noting that English bishops have actually appeared to side with the hospital.   You don't see that reported on Fox News.  

I hate to say it, but you know what the problem with the Right wing media frenzy seems to come down to?   As with the Gard case, if the child, regardless of actual health, is handsome, it makes for easy, purely emotional PR campaign to appeal to the sentiment "how could the hospital wish death on such a beautiful looking boy"?  I would bet that if the illness was a disfiguring one, you would get no where near the public interest.

Look at the company Chris Berg keeps

Chris Berg's recent pro-libertarian column in the Conversation (which I have already disparaged) noted at length his support for the Friedman Conferences that attracts "hundreds" of libertarian/classical liberals each year.  (In other words, about the sum total of every Australian who has ever deliberately voted for libertarian parties.)

So, lets see who's included on the list of speakers at the next one coming up (courtesy of Catallaxy, where Sinclair Davidson promotes the conference every year):

Professors Ian Plimer

Climate Skeptic Blogger Jo Nova 

Yeah, there's your Libertarian anti-science, anti coherent policy on climate change right there.

Berg should be pilloried about this every time he appears on the ABC with his "I'm the nice, reasonable face of libertarianism/classical liberalism" facade.

And Jason Soon - you need your head read too for supporting the branch of politics that is determinedly anti-science on the most important science policy issue of the century.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Mr Robot, Season 3, episode 5

As I have written before, I find some of the episodes of this show pretty slow and tedious, and then along will come a particularly impressive episode that's pretty thrilling, like the one in the post heading.

It's a "one continuous take" episode (or at least, a looks like one continuous take episode) like Rope (or, so I believe, Birdman - that recent Oscar winner that no one saw.)    But apart from technical brilliance, it had more humour and tension than nearly all previous episodes.   Very satisfying.

Pimento praise

I keep forgetting to watch the latest series of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but caught one episode last night which featured the welcome return (perhaps only for an episode?) of Adrian Pimento.   This character would have to be the funniest sitcom character of the decade.   The series in which he featured regularly was all the more hilarious for it.  

Australia's reputation re-affirmed

See the pretty amusing tweet here.

But primarily - an A1 self promotion opportunity

Gaaaa, can't anyone make him stop?   Tim Wilson's nauseatingly self-centred promotion of ANZAC Day continues:

Let's talk appliances

Two in particular:

*   electric (battery powered) lawnmowers:    I recently bought one and I'm quiet (quite, I meant, although they are quieter too) impressed.   I've never enjoyed mowing, partly for the fumes and the messiness of petrol spills and (in the case of two stroke) getting the right proportion of oil.   Electric mowers do away with all of that aspect, making the whole experience cleaner and lighter work (my Ryobi weighs considerably less than the old Victa, and is easier to get up the few stairs necessary to get to the back yard.)  It's no longer the case that I necessarily feel the need for an immediate shower after finishing.

And something I didn't realise would be a benefit:  you know how on all TV gardening shows they encourage not cutting lawn too low because that helps weeds get ahead of grass on regrowth?   And then how, with a petrol mower, you think "I don't care, I'm going to cut as low as I can 'cos I hate this job and don't want to do it again for as long as possible"?   Well, with the electric one, there's no doubt that on longer lawn it is less powerful than any petrol mower, meaning you really do have to cut at higher height.   But the result has been - yes, I can see what those gardening/lifestyle shows have been saying all those decades is right.   The lawn is thicker and any weedy parts do seem to be being out-competed.   Who knew that having a less powerful mower would force me into doing the right thing by my lawn?

*  front loading washing machines:    I think they are terrific, especially if you have a model like ours which have a short cycle for things that aren't all that dirty.

But, right from when it was installed, we were warned that fabric softener can cause problems with glugging up their pipes.   Finally (it has taken years, though), I can see what they mean.

Which led me on the weekend to investigate the way the fabric softener gets from the "drawer" into the machine:   it would seem that nearly all front loaders use a syphon system to get the softener section of the drawer empty of the water that sprays into there to wash the conditioner into the machine.

This strikes me as peculiar:   I just didn't expect that the old fashioned idea of a syphon would be so crucial in a modern and fairly complicated bit of electro-mechanical gear like a front loading washing machine.   I was somehow expecting something mechanical - a hatch that opened and shut.  But no, just a syphon effect.

I must admit it works, though, and apart from the ease with which the hole through which the conditioner passes can clog and prevent the syphon working, I suppose it is kind of elegant in its simplicity.

I wonder who came up with that idea....

Update:   Look, I've even found a website with drawings and way more detail than you ever thought you needed to know:

Anzac Day 2018

Just your average suburban ANZAC Day memorial service from yesterday: 

There were lots more people behind where this was taken from, too.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Continuing tourism success is never assured

It must have been about 1994 when I was last in the Whitsunday Islands, and it certainly seemed at that time to have a thriving tourist scene.   Airlie Beach on the coast was chock full of backpackers accommodation and youthful night life; the choice of short (and cheap) small boat cruises for 2 or 3 nights through the islands was large; and I also stayed at the modest but pleasant enough Club Crocodile Long Island, going on my first (and only) scuba experience.

I've had the impression over the last decade, however, that the tourism scene there is vastly diminished.  It seems a combination of factors are to blame:  the Australian dollar became more expensive, making us less attractive to backpackers and giving Australians more incentive to travel overseas;  several resorts have shut, including the Club Crocodile on Long Island I stayed at (apparently currently looking for a buyer); and as this depressing story on the ABC shows (via lots of drone shots), a formerly mid to low end resort like South Mole Island now lies in embarrassing ruins due to cyclones and a lack of interest or money from the new owners to rebuild anytime soon.  (It does look like it would be a massive job.   I see the new owners say that they will definitely rebuild and make it a 5 star resort.  Actually, I reckon that could be unfortunate overkill - the islands just needs some affordable 3 to 4 star resorts, like it used to have.) 

And now, the whole Queensland coral coast is facing the awful publicity about how much global warming is harming the Great Barrier Reef.   I can just imagine the Queensland tourism bodies grinding their teeth over this - but they really do need to be proactively trying to counter the impression that news skimming local and overseas readers are no doubt getting  that the entire reef is now getting so damaged it is hardly worth visiting.  In fact, as I understand it, it's mainly the far northern section, which has next to no tourist infrastructure anyway, which is the worst hit by the warming, for now.

Mind you, I think the other thing tourist operators need to do is to make access to decent reefs more affordable.   The cost of a family to go on a one day visit to the one popular reef platform off Cairns is $651 - that's getting up there for the cost of a one day experience.

It all goes to show how the tourism dollar is something that is very hard to rely upon in the long term.  For example, oddly, after many years in the doldrums, I get the impression that the Gold Coast is doing pretty well again.   You wouldn't have necessarily picked that a decade or so ago, when the Japanese tourism influx was drying up and the replacement Chinese had not arrived.  (Although, I see from this recent article, that nearly 80% of Gold Coast tourism is domestic.)

It's a very fickle industry, subject to nature, and the economy both local and international.

I presume it hasn't been much of a story on Fox & Friends

Wouldn't you think that Trump might have enough nous to think "I can show I'm a very fair, non racist President by tweeting a sincere thanks to the young black guy who disarmed the white nutter who shot up that Tennessee Waffle House"?   But so far, nothing.  I'm presuming it hasn't been a big enough story on Fox & Friends for this thought to occur to him. 

Speaking of which, here's a CNN clip showing Trump and Fox going virtually word for word.  

It very much reminds me of that scene in Broadcast News in which the good looking but vacuous newsreader gets fed his interview lines by (I think) a producer.    That scene has been on my mind for months even before I saw the CNN clip.

It would be hugely amusing, and somewhat disturbing, if Trump ever does tweet a thanks after seeing the guy mentioned favourably on F&F.

Always all about him

My God, has there ever been a politician more in love with himself and self promotion than Tim Wilson?   He self tweets photos of himself endlessly, as well as re-tweeting any compliment that comes his way.  And here's his ANZAC Day message, for which you might have thought he could find an image with a vaguely military theme, but no:

More Golda

My studying for my daughter's Golda Meir essay continues, with news last night that said daughter suspects that her modern history teacher (a pretty young guy) didn't recognise who she (Golda) was during a discussion regarding what the essay should address.   Should that concern me?   I mean, that Haaretz review I linked to in my first post said that lots of Israelis prefer not to commemorate her legacy given the blame they put on her for not pre-empting the Yom Kippur attacks.   But seems to me a modern history teacher should know of her.  Or maybe my daughter's mistaken?

Anyway, I was reading another Haaretz article from 2013 which went into detail as to her actions at the start of that war.  But more interestingly, it discussed her recurring nightmares:
Golda Meir, it turns out, suffered from recurring nightmares. Obliquely, she revealed a glimpse of them during a discussion held on the third anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War, during the War of Attrition. Posing his question in a challenging, defiant tone, the writer Amos Oz asked: "What do you dream about?" Meir replied tersely: "I don't have time to dream. I don't really sleep because the telephone rings at night to inform me about Israelis who have been hurt."

After Meir's death, Yaakov Hazan, a leader of the left-wing Mapam party, wrote in the kibbutz movement journal Shdemot that Meir told him about her recurring bad dream. "`Do you remember, Hazan,' Golda told me, `the question that Amos Oz posed to me? I was surprised. I knew which dreams he was referring to. Because what sort of person worthy of being called a human being doesn't dream? His question struck me as being offensive. I mumbled my answer because I didn't want to, and I couldn't, tell him what I dream about.

"`Yes, I dream, intensely. But it's all one nightmare. Suddenly all the telephones in my home start to ring; there are a lot of phones, located in every corner of the house, and they don't stop ringing. I know what the ringing means, and I'm afraid to pick up all the receivers. I wake up covered in a cold sweat. It's quiet in the house. I breath a sigh of relief, but can't get back to sleep. I know that if I fall back to sleep, the dream will return. I sometimes wonder when that dream will go away - when it does, I'll once again dream about our happy lives.'"
Update:   I briefly mentioned in the previous post that I have never read Leon Uris's Exodus, which (rather like The Kon Tiki Expedition)  I remember as something of a 60's publishing phenomena, in that you would see it on every household bookshelf (OK, I'll correct myself - every Council library) or in every second hand store, but it seems half forgotten now.

Looking at the Wikipedia entry on it, I was interested to read this part about how it came to be written:
Numerous sources say that Uris, motivated by an intense interest in Israel, financed his own research for the novel by selling the film rights in advance to MGM and writing articles about the Sinai campaign.[9][10] It has also been reported that the book involved two years of research and involved thousands of interviews.[11]
According to Jack Shaheen: "In the 1950s, when Americans were largely apathetic about Israel, the eminent public relations consultant Edward Gottlieb was called on "to create a more sympathetic attitude" toward the newly established state. He therefore sent Leon Uris to Israel to write a novel, which became the bestseller Exodus... Exodus introduced filmgoers to the Arab–Israel conflict, and peopled it with heroic Israelis and sleazy, brutal Arabs, some of whom link up with ex-Nazis. The movie's only "good Arab" becomes a dead Arab."[12] Shaheen did not identity the person or collection of persons who sought Gottlieb's assistance.
 I didn't realise there was a perceived need to raise American consciousness of, and support for, Israel.  I more or less assumed that the Jewish influence was big enough that Americans as a whole would be enthusiastic about Israel.  But then again, Gentlemen's Agreement only came out in 1947 on the topic of hidden anti-Semitism (never seen it either), so the point is - I don't really know anything about post War World 2 American popular sentiment towards Jews and Israel.   

Monday, April 23, 2018

American priorities

Noticed this on Twitter about that Wafflehouse shooting:

Actually, it seems that is inaccurate.

Two days ago, the Governor signed a law that let wine be sold on Sundays.  

Adolescence and the mid life crisis

I like the short extract from a book here at The Atlantic.

About that funeral

Drum Frum re-tweeted something that I am sure struck a common sentiment across the world:

Yeah, the Barbara Bush funeral surely made everyone remember sharply how we used to feel that the White House, and federal executive generally, was at least being run by serious, well intentioned, people.  It now feels like a clown show.  

I also last week stumbled across this quote, from a very hilarious entry in Mother Jones "Trump files" - a list of absurd, immoral and inconsistent things Trump has done:
Mark Bowden, the reporter and author of the book Black Hawk Down, was “prepared to like” the aging and increasingly hefty Donald Trump when he set out to profile the mogul for Playboy in 1996. The two men took a trip down to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for a weekend, but the reality of The Donald quickly made any affection impossible.

“Trump struck me as adolescent, hilariously ostentatious, arbitrary, unkind, profane, dishonest, loudly opinionated, and consistently wrong,” Bowden wrote last year in Vanity Fair, recalling his time profiling Trump. “He remains the most vain man I have ever met. And he was trying to make a good impression.” Any remaining chance of that went out the window when Trump unleashed his fury on an equipment box at the Mar-a-Lago tennis courts, as Bowden wrote in the profile:
You should go to the link and read what he did at Mar-a-Lago that day:  it was a bit of slapstick comedy that would not be out of place on the Simpsons.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Golda reading

My daughter has to do a school history essay on a "Great Person" of the 20th century, and wanted it to be a woman.  She had first thought about Margaret Thatcher, but then couldn't be bothered understanding English politics, so was asking me for other suggestions.  I think she is now doing Golda Meir.

As it happens, I've never read all that much about the creation of Israel: not even Exodus (or watched the movie.)

But reading up a bit today on Golda Meir so I can write the essay (just kidding), she's a far more interesting character than I realised:   born in Russia with her family experiencing Jewish pogroms there, they moved to Milwaukee (!) before she got into Zionism at a young age and was over in Palestine kibbutz-ing before heading back to the US.  I won't bother summarising the rest, except to say that I didn't realise that she had been so entrenched in the whole Zionist movement so early, and had a prominent diplomatic type role in the very creation of Israel.   Her politics were also very Left wing, generally speaking, and she was culturally Jewish but an atheist.  She had to deal with the question of using nuclear weapons during Yom Kippur war, perhaps bluffing her way into the huge American support that meant they weren't needed.

Actually, it's funny imagining how confusing the alt.right might find her, if it had been around at the time.

Perhaps I should read her autobiography, if I can ever start reading properly again...

Update:  after I typed this, I read a good review of a new biography of her in Haaretz.  Didn't realise her reputation needed "rehabilitation" in the eyes of many Israelis for the following reason:
A tragedy, because, for several generations of Israelis, Meir, if she’s remembered at all, is perceived as the leader who disregarded the signs that the country was about to be attacked on two fronts, leading to a defensive war in which Israel sustained devastating losses; someone whose hard-headed arrogance led her to reject Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s peace feelers or to recognize the long-standing costs of Israel’s holding on to the territories conquered in 1967, and whose lack of social awareness made her insensitive to the needs and simmering grievances of the non-Ashkenazi half of Israel’s Jewish population, thus contributing to Likud’s rise to power in 1977 and everything that portended.
 Yes, it sounds like I might do better reading this detailed biographer rather than her autobiography.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Kevin's having trouble walking back

I found that I was able to read the whole of a WSJ article by recently fired conservative opinion writer Kevin Williamson, in which he (as you would expect) bemoans the unfairness of his treatment for his views on abortion.    I don't know if this link will work for my reader, but here it is.

I think there are two remarkable things about the piece:

*  no where does he simply say "Of course I do not genuinely support capital punishment for women who have abortions."   Instead, his statements all seem to contain hedges:  "I am generally opposed to capital punishment"  No one asked him "Did I really want to set up gallows, despite my long-stated reservations about capital punishment?"  "I’m not eager to be any sort of executioner."   Yeah, way to convince us you're not a little bit disappointed you were born in the wrong era to be a member of the witch hunting Inquisition, Kevin.

*  his thinking on abortion is problematic because it is so fundamentally over-simplified, of course it is going to make him wonder whether it would be a good idea to execute a woman or two as an example for the rest:
Let’s not equivocate: Abortion isn’t littering or securities fraud or driving 57 in a 55-mph zone. If it isn’t homicide, then it’s no more morally significant than getting a tooth pulled. If it isn’t homicide, then there’s no real argument for prohibiting it. If it is homicide, then we need to discuss more seriously what should be done to put an end to it. For all the chatter today about diversity of viewpoint and the need for open discourse, there aren’t very many people on the pro-choice side, in my experience, who are ready to talk candidly about the reality of abortion.
That sentence in my bold - it's so patently not obvious, it's startling that Williamson can't see it.

Of course you can oppose abortion morally without thinking it is the same as,  or classified as,  homicide. Of course people draw distinctions between interference with something with the potential for fully formed human life, and something that has achieved capacity to have independent human life.   If Williamson wants to be consistent, why isn't he writing articles calling on pro-lifers to rally in protest in front of fertility clinics which can hold a thousand tiny embryos on ice, and then let hundreds of them defrost and die.   Is that the same as Hitler gassing Jews?   Williamson seems so incapable of drawing the most obvious of distinctions, I wouldn't put it past him to argue it is.

As long time readers would know, I do have pretty conservative views when it comes to sex and reproduction - I regret the IVF industry as going a step too far in commodifying a process which should be a more natural.  I certainly think surrogacy is morally flawed for similar reasons, especially when used by gay men.   

Yet I am capable - as every normal person with common sense is - of drawing distinctions between, say, a woman who takes a "morning after" pill that might prevent a pregnancy by stopping a fertilised egg from implanting, and a woman who demands a right to abortion of a fully formed fetus capable of independent life if she discovers it has a feature she does not view as desirable.   (The case of a Melbourne woman who wanted a very late abortion due to dwarfism being a good example of the latter.)  

If Williamson's only point were to be to criticise the "fundamentalism" of pro-choicers who argue that abortion right up to the day before the birth of a healthy baby is something a mother should never be criticised for - well, very few people could disagree.  

But the formulation of what he sees as the problem with abortion just reads as complete and unthinking fundamentalism of the most extreme kind in the other direction - and one which indicates a desire to punish women more than men.  (Not only that, as I mentioned in my previous post, historically, even religious authorities with political power have rarely considered it an appropriate response.)    

What Williamson did was troll about women deserving death for doing something against his fundamentalism.   Yes, he deserved to be sacked from writing for a respectable magazine.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Lost looks great

Lost in Space, that is.  On Netflix.  Watched the second episode yesterday.  Was better than the first.

I heard some critics talking about it on Radio National yesterday.   It's being taken that seriously.  It seems everyone likes Parker Posey as the female incarnation of Dr Smith.  (I'm not so sure, yet.)  Much discussion about how Maureen is now the smart spouse instead of being the Housekeeper in Chief, as her character was in 1966.   John Robinson seems a bit of a resentful "you need to respect me more"  meathead so far.  Yet Mum's not perfect - their two girls are the smart kids easily selected to leave Earth, while poor old Will only got on board by his Mum's (easy as pie) computer hacking.   Yet I would still say that Will (played by a likeable boy actor) and his now somewhat creepy Robot are still at the emotional heart of the show.  

Nevertheless, I get the feeling the show must be being despised by 4Chan and alt.righters due to the modern girl power aspect.  (At least the gender reversal of Doctor Smith makes sense in that it balances out any suggestion that all women are smarter and more sensible than men.) 

All of this is prelude to making my key point - I'm loving the production design.   The Jupiter 2 is just like the perfect update of the old TV version.  (I realised last night that I love spaceships in a flying saucer design.   I fondly remember a toy spaceship of generic, Jupiter 2-ish design given to me as a birthday or Christmas present in the late 1960's.  I kind of wish I still had it.  I guess other people like saucer designs too, given the fondness people have for the Millennium Falcon.  Perhaps there is a Jungian explanation to be contemplated.)  The new chariot is a pretty cool update too, although I had to laugh when what's-her-name last night (one of the girls, I forget who is who) used a corded radio microphone.  Maybe it was done as a deliberate reminder of the 1960's looks?  

Good work on the ABC

I saw most of the Leigh Sales interview of James Comey on 7.30 last night.  I thought it was a good interview - both performed well.   Apparently, Helen Razer doesn't think so, but fortunately her verbiage is mostly behind a paywall.

You know, she works as a strong disincentive for me to consider subscribing to Crikey.   I would like to be able to read Bernard Keane and even Guy Rundle in full when I want to, even though I get the impression the former's output has lessened in recent months. (Is he well?  I always worry he might be verging on actual depression).  But I feel can't indirectly support Razer.


According to Axios:
President Trump told former FBI Director James Comey at their private dinner in January 2017 that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn "has serious judgement issues," according to the Associated Press which obtained Comey's memos.
That would have to be the blackest pot calling out of a kettle in the history of kitchenware.  

The shallowest of shallow analysis

While I'm in an anti Tim Blair mood, he today claims that California is "broke", linking to a LA Times story to show it.

What's this?,  I thought - I recently linked to stories showing that tax increases under Jerry Brown had paid off $32 billion of debt, leaving it debt free for the moment.

And indeed, that is still true, as the LA Times article shows.

It goes on to note, however, that long term commitments - payments to retired public servants is the biggest one mentioned - means that there is a lot of future projected debt. But the article shows it is Jerry Brown himself who has been warning of this future problem, which certainly indicates he is not avoiding it as an issue.    And it's a long term thing - the article does not specify over what period the projected $242 billion relates to.

If that's Blair shallow definition of "broke" - governments that have large future projected budget debts but haven't yet worked out how it will be funded - then he may as well be talking about the entire US government being broke and being made far more broke by Trump and the Republicans.  Oh, but they're part of his tribe, so he'll just talk about Trump Derangement Syndrome instead.

He's pretty dumb, let's face it.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bit of an oddball, really

This TLS article, about theatrical productions based on Charles Dickens novels, starts by noting how Dickens as a young man was very attracted to the idea of being a professional actor.   But he missed an audition and gave up on the idea, even though his behaviour when alone could still be very "theatrical":
...the fact that Dickens could imagine such different outcomes with equal conviction indicates that he did not simply abandon his theatrical ambitions when he became a full-time writer. Instead he absorbed them into his daily routine. His daughter Mamie once observed him in the process of composition:
. . . my father wrote busily and rapidly at his desk, when he suddenly jumped up from his chair and rushed to a mirror which hung near, and in which I could see the reflection of some extraordinary facial contortions which he was making. He returned rapidly to his desk, wrote furiously for a few moments, and then went again to the mirror. The facial pantomime was resumed, and then turning toward, but evidently not seeing, me, he began talking rapidly in a low voice.
It was like a private version of the “monopolylogues” Dickens had enjoyed watching as a young man, farces at Covent Garden and the Adelphi Theatre in which the virtuoso actor Charles Mathews took on all the parts himself, swapping facial expressions and voices like a series of hats. For Dickens the blank page had become a stage on which he could perform his own inimitable one-man show.

Makes me think of boxing, for some reason...

A single concussion may increase risk of Parkinson's disease

People who have been diagnosed with a mild concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury, may have a 56 percent increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease, according to a study published in the April 18, 2018, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"Previous research has shown a strong link between moderate to severe traumatic brain injury and an increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease but the research on mild traumatic brain injury has not been conclusive," said senior study author Kristine Yaffe, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Our research looked a very large population of U.S. veterans who had experienced either mild, moderate or severe traumatic brain injury in an effort to find an answer to whether a mild traumatic brain injury can put someone at risk."

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury was defined as a loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes, alteration of consciousness of more than 24 hours or amnesia for more than 24 hours. Mild traumatic brain injury was defined as loss of consciousness for zero to 30 minutes, alteration of consciousness of a moment to 24 hours or amnesia for zero to 24 hours.
Article may be read here.

Tim Blair and suicide

Recently, Tim Blair posted about the 60 year old American lawyer who committed suicide by self immolation and left a note making it clear it was a "lack of action on climate change" political protest.

Blair made light of it in a ironic "solar proponent needed fossil fuel to kill himself properly" way, which I thought in poor taste; but somewhat worse was that the photo at the top of the post was captioned "Brooklyn lawyer David Buckel died hilariously".   Given the odd ways you never quite know who in a newspaper is responsible for captions or headlines, I let it pass.   But seriously - since when does anyone consider suicides "hilarious" regardless of motivation?   Especially the patently gruesome style of suicide that is self immolation - which all normal people just think are awful for onlookers and emergency services to deal with and wish would not happen - and about as far from hilarious as it is possible to get.

So, object of Blair's obsession, Jonathan Green, then tweeted that this was a "new low" for Blair.

Personally, I think his utterly unwarranted ridicule/attack on a Labor politician for having a husband who has completely rehabilitated himself after being a heroin user and serving time for some dealing was worse, as it had obvious potential to be read by said politician and her children, and made no moral sense whatsoever.

Blair now posts that he has received a polite note from some mental health advocate asking that he edit or delete his original post.  Blair has declined, arguing as follows:
You know, it just might be that the reverence and solemnity now surrounding suicide is adding to the problem. It just might be that socially-enforced solemnity over poor decisions actually helps validate those decisions, and may encourage others to follow similarly ruinous paths.
He makes half a good point.   The media reaction to, say, teenagers who have suicided claiming bullying as the motive does concern me as indeed inadvertently encouraging other teenagers who feel victimised to think that, at least in death, they will get the respect and a kind of revenge.  This is legitimate concern, and is well discussed in recent years, such as the reaction to that Netflix show "13 Reasons Why".

But is Blair not bright enough to understand that the appropriate counter-reaction to "overly solemnise"  does not have to be "finding hilarious" actual gruesome suicides?  

It occurs to me about twice a week that Tim is not very bright - given that he swallows and repeats all climate change denialist claims completely uncritically - obviously not caring to look up the wealth of material on the net about what is actually happening; preferring to be a mini Delingpole going "ha ha ha - as if".    The faults and errors in his ignorant attempts to defeat science by laughing at it like an idiot laughs at something he doesn't understand are so obvious that critics have largely stopped engaging with him on that point.  Similarly with Bolt.  They are not serious; yet the consequences of their position is serious.

So when it comes to suicide in a far away country and one by a Greenie, it's all worth a "hilarious" reaction too.  It's letting dumb-ass culture warrioring make him think and sound like a minor psychopath.

And he can't see that.  But as I say, not very bright.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

And now to quote Adam Gopnik

I liked Gopnik's article about the danger in Trump's appalling tweets, and it's worth reading it all.  But I think these are the key paragraphs:
The trouble is that the damage done by Trump’s words is damage enough. In a contestatory democracy—where the core notion, however debased by overuse and however degraded by money and power, is that political differences are settled by debate—words have, of necessity, a quality not so much sacred as practical. They’re the currency of open societies, which rest on the primary foundation of having exchanged weapons for ideas. There’s a reason that the great crises of this democracy have been met by an efflorescence of language, a reason that we turn to Hamilton and Franklin and Lincoln and King not just for wisdom about crises past but for a vocabulary for crises present. Words are what governments with a liberal public face have to live by. We know tyrannies by their temples; we know democracies through their tongues.

Trump’s words don’t debate or even discredit. They degrade and delegitimize. They’re insults so crude that it’s difficult to believe that anyone could find them persuasive, but that are clearly intended to appeal to a part of what is called the “base”—an unintentional, if somewhat Shakespearean, pun. One miserable truth of humanity is that cruel impulses are easy to awaken in large numbers of people, if they’re told by those in power that those impulses are now acceptable, and the form that such permission takes is invariably a reawakening of the language of demonology.....

Trump, in maintaining that the opposition is not merely wrong but criminal, not mistaken but illegitimate, undermines not a norm or a manner or some stuffy curlicue of liberalism’s house rules; he assaults its essence. We are shocked by Trump’s language not because we’re prim but because we understand intuitively, instinctively, that the language is itself an assault on the rule of law, not merely a prologue or preface to it. It’s not a puff of air. It has real consequences. James Comey registered this shock just the other morning on NPR: “President Trump, I don’t follow him on Twitter, but I get to see his tweets tweeted, I don’t know how many, but some tweets this past couple of days that I should be in jail. The President of the United States just said that a private citizen should be jailed. And I think the reaction of most of us was, ‘Meh, that’s another one of those things.’ This is not normal. This is not O.K. There’s a danger that we will become numb to it, and we will stop noticing the threats to our norms.” To which one might add only that it isn’t norms but premises that are being undermined. Every time Trump calls his critics or political opponents “crooks” or “slime balls,” it poisons the possibility for open debate.

Rupert runs a propaganda network to troll his son?

Well ain't this grand news (assuming it is accurate)?

I have complained often about Rupert Murdoch's role in not moderating his pro-Trump propaganda network (Fox News.)   According to Vanity Fair:
Rupert Murdoch has not been pleased with the current Fox leadership team’s crisis-management abilities, sources said. The 87-year-old mogul has been recovering from a severe back injury at his Bel Air estate after falling on his son Lachlan’s yacht shortly after the Christmas holiday. Earlier this month, Murdoch was upset that Fox didn’t forcefully defend Laura Ingraham, who faced an advertiser boycott for mocking Parkland survivor-turned-gun-control activist David Hogg.

Now, Murdoch is back at work. According to a source, Murdoch returned to the office yesterday and appeared invigorated. “He looked taller,” the source said. In ultimately deciding how to handle the Hannity crisis, Murdoch is facing competing impulses. On the one hand, Hannity is a ratings machine and winds up liberals, including his son James, in a way that is entertaining to Murdoch. But Hannity is also Trump’s most unapologetic booster at a time when sources said Murdoch may be cooling on Trump. One person close to Murdoch told me Murdoch called Trump to complain about the trade tariffs. (A Murdoch spokesperson denies this.) Another source said Murdoch was not invited to the upcoming state dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron, and only was added to the list after calling the White House. (Murdoch’s spokesperson denies this.)
Good grief - the Laura Ingraham comments re Hogg were low and she deserved ridicule and an advertiser boycott.

But even worse - Rupert finds it funny that Hannity winds up James?? 

As I have said before, he doesn't care as long as the network brings in cash by catering to conspiracy minded wingnts, and he's still getting invites to state dinners.

A pretty appalling man.

What's in a name

John Quiggin has decided to reclassify his political position as "socialist", rather than "social-democrat".

I tend to agree that this political classification stuff has become all rubbery and a tad pointless.  I liked this line in JQ's post:
As has been true for most of the history of the modern world, the only serious threat to democracy is now coming from the right.
Not sure about the part before the comma, but agree with the second part while ever Trump is in the chair.

On the other side of the political spectrum, I suspect Australian would-be libertarians have embraced "classical liberal" instead with relish in recent years to avoid association with American Rand-ian inspired libertarianisn,* which still has something of an air of obsessive nuttiness about it.   I've noticed that one defining thing about Australian "classical liberals":  their complete policy indifference  on climate change.   Yeah, they fret a lot about whether bicycle helmets are really worth it, people's right to inhale lead and formaldehyde laced e-cigarette vapours, and Andrew Bolt claiming trauma by going to court over the Racial Discrimination Act; but something that is literally going to re-shape the face of the planet  - well they have no interest, apart from whining about market distortion when governments support renewables.   They're about the last people who should have political power at the moment.

And by the way:  Graeme Bird is apparently commenting at JQ's post, and managing to sound eccentric, but not entirely mad.  The medication must be helping...

*  yeah, yeah, she denied she was one, but she was an unreliable nutter generally


More entertainment to be found from the dude who does RSL and pub gigs for a living (I'd love to know if he was playing near Brisbane:   I would think of getting a triggering T Shirt made up to wear - "Make Australia Great - support UN Agenda 2030").

TV viewed

*  Netflix's Lost in Space:  only seen the first episode, and while not totally thrilled, it's promising enough to keep going.   Oddly, though, I don't understand why people like to rubbish the movie version (which I am one of few people to defend - I really quite liked it) on the grounds that it  made tension within the Robinson family a key part of the plot, when this update does something similar but is generally receiving kinder reviews.   Netflix is promoting it very heavily, which I have read is a ploy to get more family friendly material, and I like that the company is doing that.  

* Netflix's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency:   I was dubious on viewing the first episode: too many plot threads and I was finding Dirk a bit, I dunno, verging on camp fey?   But I came back to it recently and watched a few more episodes, and it has grown on me considerably.   Most episodes have a good few laughs, and a surprise or two, and the leads are good together.   It takes a too violent turn every now and again, and the basic plot is as silly as a Doctor Who episode, but I'm glad I came back.

* Mr Robot Season 3:  3 episodes in and I think it's moving faster than some of the glacially paced talky episodes in Season 2.  The weirdness of the writing of some characters continues.  Got a good laugh when it incorporated the matter of how Trump got elected.   He obviously hasn't seen the show, or he would be decrying it as fake news, even though it's not news.   Given the key "Dark Army" out of China aspect, I can imagine Jason Soon getting a thrill from it...

Tony was wrong? (Read as sarcasm)

Australia's renewable energy capacity is set to exceed a target the Federal Government said was impossible to reach by 2020, according to new research from Green Energy Markets.

In its quarterly Renewable Energy Index, GEM said the amount of renewable energy generated in 2020 was set to exceed the original 41,000 Gigawatt hour (GWh) Renewable Energy Target (RET) that was in place before being scrapped in 2015 by the federal government led by then prime minister Tony Abbott.

The original RET was put in place to help Australia meet its 2030 climate change commitment to cut emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels.

It was replaced by a less ambitious target of 33,000 GWh after the Abbott government characterised the original RET as impossible to achieve, while arguing there was already too much generating capacity.

The GEM study funded by activist group GetUp found estimated eligible generation would hit 41,381 GWh by 2020, not only exceeding the current RET, but the original RET as well.
Mind you, it is so hard to understand disputes about energy policy in Australia that I wouldn't be surprised if someone turns up pointing to some misleading aspect of this perhaps overly positive report.    I mean, you do get the feeling that each side exaggerates in their own self interest.  And as for what the Liberal's National Energy Guarantee even means, let alone an objective assessment of it - well, I have yet to see a good, clear explanation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Must make Murdoch proud

I'm referring to Hannity failing to disclose during rants against the (judicially authorised) Cohen raid that he was a client of Cohen.  How spectacularly self-interested and unethical was that?

What I don't understand is why the few allegedly neutral journalist/commentator types who work at the network don't all resign due to the network's overall design of being the ultimate pro-Trump/conspiracy  network.  Have some self respect, guys.

Chait on the failure of moderates to moderate the GOP

Good article by Jonathan Chait on the problem of Republican "never Trumpers" just giving up.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A bad look for UQ

At the ABC, a rather surprising story:
The University of Queensland (UQ) and two international medical journals are investigating alleged ethical violations in research around Universal Medicine (UM), an organisation based in Lismore in New South Wales, which touts the healing power of "esoteric breast massage" and other unproven treatments.

Founded by Serge Benhayon — a former bankrupt tennis coach with no medical qualifications who claims to be the reincarnation of Leonardo Da Vinci — UM is a multi-million-dollar enterprise with 700 mostly women followers in 15 countries.

UM practitioners are also taught by Mr Benhayon to carry out esoteric ovary massage to "help women connect back to their body".

An ABC investigation can reveal three members of UQ's faculty of medicine have publicly advocated for the controversial group.
Eminent medical educator John Dwyer, the former head of immunology at Yale University, said the researchers had "an unbelievable conflict of interest" as "apostles for Universal Medicine, heavily involved in the organisation and the teachings of the group".
UM is linked to Mr Benhayon's Way of the Livingness religion, with UM followers urged to follow his strict lifestyle instructions from diet and sleep to sex.
Mr Benhayon's acolytes include Christoph Schnelle, a UQ faculty of medicine researcher who was the lead author of three articles on UM health practices.
He and eight co-authors are now under scrutiny for an alleged failure to declare their roles in what has been described as "a dangerous cult" by Professor Dwyer, who is now based at the University of New South Wales.
The ABC has obtained video of four of the researchers publicly advocating UM practices, including two doctors.
 How very odd...