Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The funnest new game in town

Madonna King is just the latest player of an increasingly popular new game: try to get a direct answer out of Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan.
Previous players, with equally entertaining results, include Emma Griffiths, Chris Uhlmann, Tony Jones (twice), and Kerry O’Brien.

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There goes that "War for Oil" meme…

Oil companies from China, the world’s second-largest and fastest-growing consumer of oil, bid aggressively on Tuesday as Iraq began auctioning licenses in six large oil fields.
...A partnership of BP and the China National Petroleum Corporation, or C.N.P.C., won the first contract awarded, in the latest indication of Chinese interest in Iraq, a country that has until recently seemed to be firmly in the American sphere of influence for natural resources.

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I am charged with treason against the planet. Sweet!

Honest though Guv', I didn't know I's was working for them dirty Martians! Honest!
The Bolter takes up my defence:
Again, I ask: if the evidence for catastrophic man-made global warming is so clear, why the exaggerations, lies and absurd abuse?
That abuse grows even wilder as the alarmists’ case crumbles. Take Nobel [economics] laureate Paul Krugman:
And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.
We now owe allegiance to the planet?  And can commit treason against Mother Earth? Wow.
So what’s Krugman’s evidence for catastrophic temperature rises?
The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate.
But as Thomas Fuller points out:
If these are the reasons he cries treason, he should perhaps reconsider. One ice cap shrunk, as it has before, but is recovering, as it has before. The other ice cap is growing at the rate of 10,000 square kilometers per year. As for deserts, both in China and Africa deserts are actually shrinking.
[And tropical rain forests are increasing, as this article from The New York Times reports.]
Then there’s the alarming reports from a conference in Copenhagen of alarmist scientists (who want us to use less of the gases they just blew out the back of their jets to get to yet another warming jamboree):
The world faces a growing risk of “abrupt and irreversible climatic shifts” as fallout from global warming hits faster than expected, according to research by international scientists released Thursday. Global surface and ocean temperatures, sea levels, extreme climate events, and the retreat of Arctic sea ice have all significantly picked up more pace than experts predicted only a couple of years ago, they said.
In fact, says distinguished climatologist Professor Roger Pielke Sr, none of that seems true.
Niche modeller David Stockwell and Lucia both note tricks with graphs that fed the Copenhagen claim that the world was heating as fast as ever.
David Evans describes the meeting in which Climate Change Minister Penny Wong tried to answer Steve Fielding’s three questions. It’s scary to think the Rudd Government believes so much in a theory it’s had so much trouble defending, or even understanding.
One of the world’s biggest emitters won’t be following Kevin Rudd’s lead and killing jobs to “save” the planet:
India cannot and will not take emission reduction targets because poverty eradication and social and economic development are first and overriding priorities,” a statement on behalf of Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said.
The world’s biggest emitter, China, will not cut its own gases, either. So exactly who will our useless sacrifice inspire? And to what puny effect?

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Green jobs blown in the wind - paying more for less

It just never ceases to amaze me. Our capacity to rush headlong after dreams and mirages that can never come true in the real world that is.
To have governments engaged so disastrously in this, all the while using our money, only makes it worse.
The belief in renewable energy, and that is all it is at the moment, is being pursued without any rigorous analysis or true reckoning of costs versus benefits.
Um, no, it's worse than that even. Everybody who has even glanced at the sums knows they don't add up. They know that we'll have to spend and use more to get less power more infrequently, and yet governments still press on with these absurdly wasteful schemes because they provide "greendressing" for them.

Terry McCrann

June 30, 2009 12:00am

THE expansion of wind and solar 'green power' will waste billions and destroy far more jobs than it supposedly creates.

That is the damning message from what appears to be the first serious analysis anywhere in the world of the actual real world performance and impact of subsidising and force-feeding these very expensive and semi-useless alternative energy sources.
That in itself is damning.

That governments, including both state and federal in Australia, have embarked on massive multi-billion dollar wind and solar schemes, without anywhere engaging in even the most basic analysis of cost.

Let alone, perish the thought, their actual energy effectiveness.
You can search in vain for any serious cost-benefit analysis from our utterly compromised Federal Treasury, which used to be a bastion of reason and intellectual substance.

But is now an institutional apostle of climate hysteria.
Its purported analysis of the impact of cutting emissions was an embarrassing extended 292-page joke.
Indeed, the Treasury homepage announces its new theology of unreason, by actually, linking to this report by blithely unknowingly highlighting the straight-out Wayne Swan and Penny Wong lie with "Australia's Low Pollution Future".
The damning analysis comes from Madrid's Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (King John Charles University).

It is particularly potent because Spain has made arguably the broadest commitment to the construction and production of electricity from these renewable sources.
Click on Terry McCrann to read the full article.

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The Apostrophe Abuse Blog

June 30, 2009

YESTERDAY I ASKED IF THERE IS A BLOG ON UNNECESSARY APOSTROPHES: And many readers sent links to The Apostrophe Abuse Blog! Thank goodness. Unnecessary apostrophe’s are among the most pressing problem’s that American’s face.
Ugh, it hurts just to type that, even in jest. . . .
You can follow it on Twitter too http://twitter.com/apostropheabuse

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Even obesity paradoxes can't "excuse" fatness

Junkfood Science's latest instalment in its series on the obesity paradox, that is, the disconnect between what we believe about being overweight and what the actual scientific evidence shows.
It also manifests itself in the knots researchers tie themselves into when trying to spin their own results so they give the "right message."
This study into the links between excess weight and increased risks of mortality was a null study. That means it found no such link. In fact, it found the opposite. So it was fun to see how this "inconvenient message" was spun in the associated press release and the media coverage of it.
Reporting research finding anything positive about fat is accompanied by disclaimers, caveats and every effort to minimize its significance. It’s even called an obesity paradox, perhaps hoping we’ll think it an anomaly, rather than where the strength of the evidence lies. You’ve probably caught the news stories about a Canadian study reportedly showing that people with “a few pounds,” who are “slightly overweight,” are carrying “a little extra weight,” have “excess pounds, but not too many,” and are “overweight but not obese” will “actually live longer than those of normal weight.” But that isn’t what this latest study found. It’s what the press release said it found.
So, what did the study actually find?

The results of this epidemiological study were published in Obesity, the journal of the Obesity Society. This study found that none of the relative risks associated with mortality they examined were tenable [explained here], except for one. Age. At age 65, the relative risks of dying rose to 44.35 times compared to age 25; and by age 75, relative risks are 119-fold. We should stop right there, as tenable correlations are the only ones that deserve our focus. But that wouldn’t have made a news story, so what followed was splitting hairs among the rest.

Looking at corrected BMIs, according to the breakdowns adopted by the world’s governments, the authors found that compared to ‘normal’ BMIs (18.5 up to 25):


● being overweight (BMI 25 up to 30) was associated with a 25% lower risk of dying


● being obese (BMI 30 up to 35, which includes about 80% of all obese people) was associated with a 12% lower risk of dying.


● And the risks associated with the most ‘morbidly obese’ (BMIs 35+) — the uppermost 3% of this Canadian cohort— were statistically the same as those with ‘normal’ BMIs. [RR=1.09 (0.86-1.39, 95% CI) versus RR=1.0.]


Go to Junkfood Science to read the full post. Unsurprisingly, (I would have thought), it is age that is the most tenable risk factor it seems!

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Does it really matter how your body measures up?

The Figure-Flaw Paradox: Does it really matter how your body measures up? Part 2

The “figure flaw paradox” is really a retake on the obesity paradox. As obesity has proven to be a poor measure of health or mortality risk, new renditions are being proposed. But the fallacies are the same.

We’ve encountered all sorts of spins trying to preserve the myths of the deadliness of fat — from claims that the studies only show a paradox with really old people to that being overweight might be okay but not obese — hoping we won’t actually read the studies to see that that’s not what they found. It’s unpopular to spread the news that most fat — most overweight, as well as most obese — people have lower risks for mortality than those with “healthy” weights; or that thin people, regardless of their age, fair the worst. Some discount the better outcomes among obese people by saying they get better healthcare than thinner people — something completely opposite of decades of documented discrimination against obese people in healthcare.

Full post at Junkfood Science

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship

Somebody thought Romulus was a real person?! And these people teach at universities?! (Says everything you need to know about Women's Studies.)
She may as well have thought that Romulus was the home world of the Romulans until Mr Spock failed to save it from that super nova
Just bear this in mind the next time you hear some "fact" about rates of domestic violence etc repeated without any checking in a newspaper or on the TV.
Very often the fact is nothing more than a myth, a factoid.
No disrespect to women who are the victims of such violence, but there is a bit of a difference between claims that 20-35% of women admitted to hospital emergency rooms are the victims of domestic violence and the real figure, that is, one percent.
Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship
By Christina Hoff Sommers  |  Chronicle of Higher Education
Monday, June 29, 2009
One reason that feminist scholarship contains hard-to-kill falsehoods is that reasonable, evidence-backed criticism is regarded as a personal attack.
Lemon's Domestic Violence Law is organized as a conventional law-school casebook--a collection of judicial opinions, statutes, and articles selected, edited, and commented upon by the author. The first selection, written by Cheryl Ward Smith (no institutional affiliation is given), offers students a historical perspective on domestic-violence law. According to Ward:
"The history of women's abuse began over 2,700 years ago in the year 753 BC. It was during the reign of Romulus of Rome that wife abuse was accepted and condoned under the Laws of Chastisement. . . . The laws permitted a man to beat his wife with a rod or switch so long as its circumference was no greater than the girth of the base of the man's right thumb. The law became commonly know as 'The Rule of Thumb.' These laws established a tradition which was perpetuated in English Common Law in most of Europe."
Where to begin? How about with the fact that Romulus of Rome never existed. He is a figure in Roman mythology--the son of Mars, nursed by a wolf. Problem 2: The phrase "rule of thumb" did not originate with any law about wife beating, nor has anyone ever been able to locate any such law. It is now widely regarded as a myth, even among feminist professors.
A few pages later, in a selection by Joan Zorza, a domestic-violence expert, students read, "The March of Dimes found that women battered during pregnancy have more than twice the rate of miscarriages and give birth to more babies with more defects than women who may suffer from any immunizable illness or disease." Not true. When I recently read Zorza's assertion to Richard P. Leavitt, director of science information at the March of Dimes, he replied, "That is a total error on the part of the author. There was no such study." The myth started in the early 1990s, he explained, and resurfaces every few years.
Zorza also informs readers that "between 20 and 35 percent of women seeking medical care in emergency rooms in America are there because of domestic violence." Studies by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, indicate that the figure is closer to 1 percent.

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China's banks are an accident waiting to happen

And we may all be screwed.
Great. Another accident waiting to happen.
China's banks are veering out of control. The half-reformed economy of the People's Republic cannot absorb the $1,000bn (£600bn) blitz of new lending issued since December.
Money is leaking instead into Shanghai's stock casino, or being used to keep bankrupt builders on life support. It is doing very little to help lift the world economy out of slump.
Fitch Ratings has been warning for some time that China's lenders are wading into dangerous waters, but its latest report is even grimmer than bears had suspected.

Trouble is of course, Australia's hopes of avoiding at least a technical recession and then powering out of the down turn and returning the budget to surplus quickly are basically dependent on China.

But it's banks "exposure to corporate debt has reached $4,200bn. It is rising at a 30pc rate, even as profits contract at a 35pc rate."

While China's Banking Regulatory Commission has urged that lending be devoted to the "real" economy, the problem is that it's real economy is based upon "a mercantilism export model that has crashed and burned. Chinese exports were down 26pc in May."

As the article's author notes, "a trade policy based on the assumption that debtors in the Anglosphere and Europe's Club Med can ruin themselves for ever is absurd."

Oh dear. This means big trouble for everyone if it works out as badly as these people fear it may.

Andy Xe, a Si no-bear and commentator for Caking, said Western analysts are in for a rude shock if they think that China's surging demand for raw materials implies genuine recovery.

Commodity speculators have been using cheap credit to play the arbitrage spread between futures and spot on the oil markets. They have even found ways to trade lumber to iron ore by sheer scale of leverage. "They've made everything open to speculation," he said.

Mr Xe thinks the spring recovery is an inventory spike, to be followed a double-dip downturn into next year as stimulus wears off.

The piece concludes: "If the world's biggest surplus state ($400bn) is too structurally deformed to help offset the demand shock as Western debtors retrench, we are trapped in a long deflation slump."

You can see why the current federal government is itching to call an early general election.

As I say above, the government's strategy is essentially based upon Chinese growth pulling us along with it. If that growth doesn't happen, or doesn't happen strongly enough, then that's the end of the government's strategy.

But wait, there's more!

THE Rudd government's fiscal stimulus packages may provide no more than a temporary boost to growth, and be followed by an extended period of economic stagnation.

The only international body to correctly predict the financial crisis - the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) - has warned the biggest risk is that governments might be forced by world bond investors to abandon their stimulus packages, and instead slash spending while lifting taxes and interest rates.

Thanks to the previous Howard Government, Australia does have one of the lowest levels of public debt in the world, but we are also running the third largest fiscal stimulus package after the US and South Korea and this still represents a huge burden that is going to be placed upon future generations.

I don't believe for a minute that the budget is going to return to surplus when the government says it will, and I suspect it 'aint going to any time soon. The proposition that the Australian economy is going to be growing in excess of the long term rate in just two years is nothing more than wishful thinking I reckon.

Even more so if these fears about the Chinese banking system prove to be correct.

Here's a visual metaphor of what may happen. This is a brand new, but thankfully unoccupied, 13 storey building in the Mincing district of Shanghai. Three days ago it just fell over.

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It's an online juke box

It's a Juke Box!


Click on any year and a Juke Box pops up with 20 hits of that year – and you can play them!!


And no, you don't have to stop at 1979. Just change the year in the URL and keep going.


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Football lays bare Australian racism

The latest sensation for the West Coast Eagles and favourite of the crowd - Nicholas Naitanui

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America's debt tsunami

THE CONGRESSIONAL Budget Office has a tough job: to provide America's lawmakers with a reality check on their tax and spending plans. Not surprisingly, the CBO's projections are not always received cheerfully. Both President Obama and leading congressional Democrats were less than thrilled when the CBO estimated that the costs of universal health coverage would be much higher than advertised. To be sure, projecting the cost of legislation involves making assumptions and constructing models that may or may not prove accurate 10 years down the road. Nonetheless, the CBO, with its tradition of scholarly independence, is the best available arbiter, and Congress must heed its numbers -- like them or not.
Now comes the CBO with yet more news of the sort that neither Capitol Hill nor the White House is likely to welcome: its freshly released report on the federal government's long-term financial situation. To put it bluntly, the fiscal policy of the United States is unsustainable.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

A shift in the wind

In April, the Polish Academy of Sciences published a document challenging man-made global warming. In the Czech Republic, where President Vaclav Klaus remains a leading skeptic, today only 11% of the population believes humans play a role. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to tap Claude Allegre to lead the country's new ministry of industry and innovation. Twenty years ago Mr. Allegre was among the first to trill about man-made global warming, but the geochemist has since recanted. New Zealand last year elected a new government, which immediately suspended the country's weeks-old cap-and-trade program.
The number of skeptics, far from shrinking, is swelling. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe now counts more than 700 scientists who disagree with the U.N. -- 13 times the number who authored the U.N.'s 2007 climate summary for policymakers. Joanne Simpson, the world's first woman to receive a Ph.D. in meteorology, expressed relief upon her retirement last year that she was finally free to speak "frankly" of her nonbelief. Dr. Kiminori Itoh, a Japanese environmental physical chemist who contributed to a U.N. climate report, dubs man-made warming "the worst scientific scandal in history." Norway's Ivar Giaever, Nobel Prize winner for physics, decries it as the "new religion." A group of 54 noted physicists, led by Princeton's Will Happer, is demanding the American Physical Society revise its position that the science is settled. (Both Nature and Science magazines have refused to run the physicists' open letter.)

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This is science?

Certainly a stark reminder that it is politics and not science that driving so much of the climate change debate.

Suppressing the inconvenient facts about climate change

June 29, 2009
Article from: The Australian

Declan McCullagh of CBS reveals that the US environmental agency quashed an inconveniently sceptical report

THE Environmental Protection Agency may have suppressed an internal report that was sceptical of claims about global warming. Less than two weeks before the agency formally submitted its pro-regulation recommendation to the White House, an EPA centre director quashed a 98-page report that warned against making hasty "decisions based on a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data". The EPA official, Al McGartland, said in an e-mail message to a staff researcher on March 17: "The administrator and the administration has decided to move forward ... and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision." The email correspondence raises questions about political interference in what was supposed to be a independent review process inside a federal agency. Alan Carlin, the primary author of the 98-page EPA report, told CBSNews.com in a telephone interview on Friday that his boss, McGartland, was being pressured himself. "It was his view that he either lost his job or he got me working on something else," Carlin said. "That was obviously coming from higher levels." After reviewing the scientific literature that the EPA is relying on, Carlin said, he concluded that it was at least three years out of date and did not reflect the latest research. "Global temperatures are roughly where they were in the mid-20th century. They're not going up, and if anything they're going down."

[The censored report is here.]

Christopher Booker in Britain's The Sunday Telegraph on how to deal with an inconvenient expert:

TOP of the agenda at a meeting of the Polar Bear Specialist Group will be the need to produce a suitably scary report on how polar bears are being threatened with extinction by man-made global warming. But one of the world's leading experts on polar bears has been told to stay away from this week's meeting. Mitchell Taylor has been researching polar bears in Canada and around the Arctic Circle for 30 years, as an academic and a government employee. The (PBSG) chairman, Andy Derocher explained in an email that (Mitchell's) rejection had nothing to do with his expertise on polar bears: "It was the position you've taken on global warming that brought opposition." Taylor was told that his views running "counter to human-induced climate change are extremely unhelpful". His signing of the Manhattan Declaration -- a statement by 500 scientists that the causes of climate change are not CO2 but natural, such as changes in the radiation of the sun and ocean currents -- was "inconsistent with the position taken by the PBSG".

Politicians and policy makers had jumped on the bandwagon and nailed their colours to the mast, (er, I think that's a mixed metaphor, but I rather like it), and now have too much invested in terms of credibility and "face" to easily say they might have been wrong.

In the case of Al Gore the investment is quite literal and he stands to become the first climate change billionaire if he can convince the American congress to introduce some form of cap and trade scheme. Lehmann Brothers, before its collapse, saw such schemes as the next boondoggle from which it would rake billions of dollars out of the system, as does the reinsurer Munich Re.

But even those who should have known better are guilty of suppressing science and pursuing the fashionable over the true.

It is bad enough that Scientific American and New Scientist have sold out to become unabashed campaigners for the hysterical view, but even reputable scientific journals such as Science and Nature have done so.
A group of 54 noted physicists, led by Princeton's Will Happer, is demanding the American Physical Society revise its position that the science is settled. (Both Nature and Science magazines have refused to run the physicists' open letter.)
What ever happened to openness in scientific matters? Even if you thought these people to be wrong, you would not have tried to silence them.

But that is "science" these days.

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Teaching kids to hate Australia

This is what happens when you tell lies about our history for political purposes.
Even for "good" reasons and apparently worthy causes.
This naive child no doubt honestly believes that her rather badly written essay actually depicts the truth about the normal state of affairs in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia.
(And seriously, in terms of the quality of the writing, this was the best piece produced? If so, it is another indicator of just how the standard of education received by kids these days has gone down. Plus, as an indicator of how too much schooling these days consists of indoctrination in fashionable causes, apparently three of the other five essays were global warming doomsday scenarios. Maybe if they had learnt some real geology and not ersatz "environmental studies" they would have had some idea as to just how unlikely such doom mongering is!)
I suppose it is necessary to labour what should be obvious, but may be missed. None of this is to deny that aboriginal people suffered because of dispossession and continue to suffer the effects of dispossession.
But what kind of debauched and dishonest version of our history has been taught to children where they can produce such factually absurd rubbish?

Andrew Bolt

Monday, June 29, 2009 at 12:18pm

How should students celebrate Queensland’s 150th birthday? Well, how about we get them to write something creative, and then reward those who imagine the state as its most violent, racist worst?
So here’s the competition launched by the Department of Education and Training. And here’s excerpts from the winning essay for years 11 and 12:
Maria saw a few of the other mothers around the mission begging at the foot of a very well dressed white man. She didn’t understand at first, but then realised he had taken their children. She ran to the school and took Luke home and cradled him in her arms until dark…
Two days later Maria was dragged out of her hut as she was making breakfast for Luke and questioned by a white government official about her son’s strange absence from school and lack of interaction with other children… The official declared that Luke was to be taken out of her care and placed in a white family… The official seized her by the neck of her mandatory frilly European dress and spat in her face…
The next day, as Maria made Luke breakfast, there was a loud thud and the door to their hut came crashing to the ground. The culprit was the official from yesterday; he had two more officials with him. As he came towards Maria and Luke and put the gun to Maria’s temple, as she trembled with fear, he blew a puff of his cigarette straight into her mouth. She instinctively reached toward Luke but the officials were faster; one seized Maria and the other grabbed Luke, and led him out the door and to a car parked only a few meters away. One official let go of Maria but the fierce official from the day before continued to hold the gun to her face; he dismissed the other official and told Maria they had unfinished business; He forced Maria to the ground and hit her over the head with his gun, knocking her unconscious. He found it easier to deal with the black scum when they were barely alive. He ripped her dress to shreds and forced himself on top of her, he then proceeded to repeatedly hit her and burn her with his cigarette. When he was tired of this, he raped her and stuffed her naked body in the boot of the car outside, with the son inside. As the boy screamed out for his mother the officer turned around and slapped the boy across the face, sending his head into the side of the car door.
Happy birthday, Queensland!  You’ve taught your children to be so grateful for ... for…

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The Forbidding Arithmetic of Health Care Reform

June 28, 2009

BOSTON GLOBE: The Forbidding Arithmetic of Health Care Reform. “The fuzzy math behind the Massachusetts universal healthcare law is starting to add up - just as Washington studies the law as a possible model for the nation. Because of a recession-related drop in state revenues and a surge in enrollment by the recently unemployed, the truth is emerging at an inconvenient time. Massachusetts doesn’t have enough money to pay for the coverage envisioned by the law.”

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wine I wish I was drinking - Mollydooker Velvet Glove Shiraz 2006

Mollydooker Velvet Glove Shiraz (2006)
Mollydooker is just special in my view.
I've had some of their twenty odd dollar wines and they were fantastic. Big alcoholic monsters at 16% alcohol. As I like 'em.
But I can't afford this wine at $184. And I think that's US dollars, not Australian http://www.snooth.com/wine/mollydooker-velvet-glove-shiraz-2006/
"Rich, ripe and harmoniously balanced, this is dense with blackberry, plum, licorice, cream and spice flavors that don't quit as the finish sails on and on. Has tremendous presence, yet remains supple through the expressive finish."
Oh yum. Got to win Lotto on Tuesday night. $90 million would buy a bottle or two of this.

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Wine I'm drinking - Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2006

Damn good for $22.
When Jim Barry first purchased the Lodge Hill property, his intention was to devote the entire area to white grapes. While Jim was conducting a soil analysis, he recognised his good fortune, discovering a very different soil profile on a small north-facing slope. Warmer than the rest of the property, Jim decided it was the perfect place for premium Shiraz vines. His foresight lead to great triumph just before Jim Barry’s death, when Lodge Hill was awarded Best International Shiraz at the prestigious International Wine Challenge in London.
Jim Barry Wines draws some of the Clare Valley's most excellent Shiraz fruit from an august repertoire of mature vineyards. Lodge Hill itself is something quite special. It isn’t just the climate and aspect that distinguishes this vineyard, the terroir plays a major role. The soils here consist of forty to fifty centimetres of rich, chocolatey loam over almost vertically inclined rock sheets. The growing season is usually quite dry, but the fortuitous layout and composition of the site makes the vines resilient, yielding lavish Shiraz grapes with good flavours and varietal intensity. Following crushing and fermentation, Lodge Hill was aged for thirteen months in a combination of American and French oaks
Lodge Hill shows a brilliant deep and dense ruby/ purple-tinged colour. Ripe blackberry and plum aromatics, sweet mocha and vanilla. Secondary impressions of mintyness and hints of pepper, further nuances of aniseed and of black cherry. The sweet cakey, almost leafy expressions of the wine slip onto the palate, Lodge Hill is graced by it's masculine Shiraz characters. The flavours are dense and complex, black cherry and mulberry fruit, with some subtle spice and vanillin oak. The long, juicy finish is balanced by soft and fine grained tannins. Fully suited to robust red dishes such as beef and kangaroo, Lodge Hill Shiraz is a medium-bodied, corpulent and fleshy wine, it is a delicious red and a terrific value.
Which just about pushes all of my buttons! But if this is "medium bodied," then I clearly don't understand what this means!

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Gene for autism? Bollocks!

Dr John Ray from the Food & Health Skeptic blog comments:
This is pretty nutty. Only 5 out of 121 autistic kids had the gene abnormality and they think they have found THE autism gene. What a lot of bollocks!

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Aborigines drove megafauna to extinction

Giant roo depiction (NHM)
2m-tall giant kangaroo Procoptodon goliah
This of course was always obvious to anyone who wasn't stupid.
But we have a lot of clever people who, when it comes to issues of race and the environment, are very stupid indeed.
Aborigines have been romanticised as being these other-worldly and saintly guardians of the "sacred" environment. Some idiot at one point said they trod every inch of this continent and yet disturbed nothing.
Which can only prompt the question, "what the fuck were you smoking?"
I don't subscribe to this idealisation of aborigines. I prefer to see them as normal human beings with all the strengths and failings that we all possess. They were not some kind of environmental saints who lived in perfect harmony with nature and who were somehow different to other people.
This is the fantasy view that white urban middle class people have projected onto them for their own purposes.
Aboriginal people have been reduced to being tools for their own quasi-religious beliefs about nature, and dehumanised in the process.
Now while this recent study focuses exclusively on the extinction of the giant kangaroo Procoptodon goliah, it is absurd to think that somehow the Australian experience was any different to any other part of the world when modern human beings first arrived.
Modern humans always had a devastating impact on newly colonised areas with their combination of intelligence and the use of tools, including those used for hunting.
They changed their new environments completely.
It surely can't be a coincidence that the timing of the disappearance of mega fauna throughout the world just happens at the same time modern human beings arrive in a place for the first time?
While much has been made, rightly, of the influence of natural climatic changes in Australia, especially the progressive drying out of the continent, many of the plants and animals that disappeared thousands of years ago would still be with us today if humans hadn't arrived here tens of thousands of years ago and begun hunting and burning the landscape.
And the burning of land to maintain it as open grassland and promote the increase of favoured game animals has had a profound effect in changing the nature of the flora and fauna of Australia.
It is fair to say that what the British found when they first settled this land was what was left after the aborigines had finished with it, and settled into a balance with what remained.
Certainly natural fire events would have increased and preferentially favoured eucalypts over other types of plants less well adapted to fire, but the sheer frequency of fire in the landscape had much to do with the deliberate use of it by aborigines.
This changed everything forever.
Now we've had our part to play in this. We have worked our own changes on the environment too. The first settlers in the east of the continent report plants such as vines of various types that simply don't exist any more.
But let's get rid of our romantic delusions about primitive tribal peoples. It is modern civilisation that actually cares for the environment, and which has the resources to do so.
This is why there is more forested land in the United States now than 150 years ago. It is wealthy enough and cares enough to be able to make the decision to fore go the use of otherwise productive land and let nature reclaim it.
People living on the edge of survival, and that is always the lot of primitive hunter gatherers, do not have that luxury. They must kill and burn and do what ever else is needed just to survive. Their survival has always been marginal and tenuous. And that has been the same story repeated everywhere there has been such people.

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George W Obama - hope & same!

June 26, 2009

HOPE AND CHANGE SAME! Obama Will Hold Terror Detainees Indefinitely. And yet, I remember a lot of fierce moral urgency on this subject, back before the election. . . .
UPDATE: Obama prepares to hold Gitmo guys indefinitely, just as Bush did. “Ex-Vice President Dick Cheney will be so pleased that the Obama-Biden folks finally accepted his advice to protect national security.”

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Not the right question apparently

A straightforward inquiry from the ABC’s Emma Griffiths:
EMMA GRIFFITHS: How many other dealers did you speak to directly on the phone? Even if it is just for two minutes, how many other dealers?
WAYNE SWAN: Well it’s a matter of public record that I spoke to Mr Grant.
EMMA GRIFFITHS: How many other dealers?
WAYNE SWAN: Well it’s a matter of public record that I spoke to Mr Grant and I spoke to many other people and many other ...
EMMA GRIFFITHS: Put it on the public record who else you spoke to. What other car dealers?
WAYNE SWAN: Well I have put it on the public record that I spoke to Mr Grant, Emma, but that is simply irrelevant ...
EMMA GRIFFITHS: But you’re not answering the question Mr Swan.
WAYNE SWAN: Well it’s not exactly the right question.
If Turnbull hadn't over-reached we might have been rid of this buffoon, and got the man who should have had the job from the start - Lindsay Tanner.

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Hard Gay helps a ramen noodle shop in Tokyo

Oh dear.
At every juncture when you think the Japanese cannot possibly out-weird themselves, they do it again.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Arctic temperature is still not above 0°C

– the latest date in fifty years of record keeping
By Joseph D’Aleo, AMS Fellow, CCM
The average arctic temperature is still not above (take your pick) 32°F 0°C 273.15°K–this the latest date in fifty years of record keeping that this has happened. Usually it is beginning to level off now and if it does so, it will stay near freezing on average in the arctic leading to still less melting than last summer which saw a 9% increase in arctic ice than in 2007. 

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Oxfam sacrifices honesty in pursuit of money and publicity

But of course everything has to be climate change all the time these days, and I guess that outfits like Oxfam have been feeling a little bit neglected and left out of late.
So, you do what you have to do when competing for attention and money in a market already over supplied with endless groups fighting against or for something or other.
You jump on the biggest boondoggley bandwagon the world has ever seen!
However, the devil is always in the detail as they say or, more appropriately here, the lack of detail.
Go on, read the article, I dare you.
As you are reading it though, keep in mind this very simple question - what is the evidence produced to support Oxfam's claim that the situation in West Timor is a result of climate change?
This is it - it is an assertion by Aloysius Suratin, Oxfam's West Timor program manager, based upon - wait for it - all of 13 years of rainfall data!
No, seriously! I know you don't believe me. I know you are asking yourself: "why would News Limited even think of publishing this rubbish?"
Just 13 years of data, when everyone knows that you need decades of records before you can even begin to identify trends from short term variability.
Jumping on the climate change bandwagon, even when they clearly haven't got a clue about the science, has been a very successful marketing strategy by Oxfam.
It's a pity they have sacrificed honesty in the pursuit of money though.

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Environmental Protection Agency gets caught out on CO2

This is not the first time that the EPA in the United States has been caught manufacturing results according to predetermined outcomes.
As politically incorrect as it is to say, they did this in relation to secondhand tobacco smoke and again by simply choosing to ignore evidence that conflicted with what it wanted to find.
Examiner.com's Thomas Fuller describes himself as a "liberal Democrat who happens to lean towards the skeptic arguments regarding AGW."
And he was certainly initially sceptical about the claims made by the EPA insider.
The series of emails between him and the insider are discussed at Watts Up With That?
Hmmm, part 1? Sounds like there is more sceptical goodness to come. Can't wait.
A source inside the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed many of the claims made by analyst Alan Carlin, the economist/physicist who yesterday went public with accusations that science was being ignored in evaluating the danger of CO2.
The source, who chooses not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said that Carlin was rebuffed in his attempt to introduce scientific evidence that does not accord with the EPA's view of global warming, which largely relies on IPCC reports. The source also saw Carlin's report and said that it was 'based on 8 points of peer-reviewed, recent and relevant scientific publications' that cast doubt on the wisdom of regulating CO2 as a pollutant.

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Dating terms for Cricket fans

In the Dark began pondering this after a chat with an American friend about applying baseball terms to dating.
Some would work fairly well, of course. I think  leg bye has an obvious connotation for anyone who strays down the legside. I’m sure we’ve all also been in situations where we might have wanted to run out or even perhaps retire hurt. However, the mind boggles at what might have to go wrong in order for you to have to declare a wide or a no ball;  the latter may well involve a bouncer.  An outside edge would be an unfortunate occurrence, and it may have the same result as being stumped.
The presence of a third man is probably a rarity for most people on a date, but perhaps I’m just making a silly point there. Generally speaking, a fine leg is greatly appreciated, and a long leg would be a pretty good alternative. I’m not myself sure about short leg – let alone a square leg - but whatever floats your bat boat.
Cover or extra cover is usually recommended these days but, even then, there’s a risk of one or more slips. Things would have to go very badly wrong, however,  for there to be a risk of a leg-break. A late cut sounds too painful to contemplate and most would be satisfied with a pull if there was no alternative. I’ve always been partial to a quick single, and would even jump at the chance of a full toss, but most would prefer to make it through to a complete innings which probably involves finding one or more boundaries.
Phew! I’m glad I got all the way to the end without making a corny joke about bowling a maiden over

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A Unified Quantum Theory of the Sexual Interaction

Thanks Drew! At last, someone has made an effort to put the root back into the square root and apply quantum mechanics to human field interactions of varying symmetry states.
Recent changes to the criteria for allocating research funding require particle physicists  and astronomers to justify the wider social, cultural and economic impact of their science. In view of the directive to engage in work more directly relevant to the person in the street, I’ve decided to share with you my latest results, which involve the application of ideas from theoretical physics in the wider field of human activity. That is, if you’re one of those people who likes to have sex in a field.

Inspired by the recent Nobel prize awarded for the theory of quark mixing, we are now able to present a new, unified theory of the sexual interaction. In our theory the “correct” eigenstates for sexual behaviour are not the conventional |M> and |F> gender states but linear combinations of the form


|M>=cosθ|S> + sinθ|G>


where θ is the Cabibbo mixing angle or, more appropriately in this context, the sexual orientation (measured in degrees). Extension to three states is possible (but a bit weird).

Whether single-body phenomena (i.e. self-interactions) can provide insights into this theory  depends, as can be seen from the equation,  on the energies of the relevant states (as is also the case  in neutrino oscillations). If they are equal then there is no oscillation. However,  a detailed discussion of the role of degeneracy is beyond the scope of this analysis.
Self- interactions involving a solitary phase are generally difficult to observe,  although examples have been documented that involve short-lived but highly-excited states  accompanied by various forms of stimulated emission, although the resulting fluxes are generally not well measured. This form of interaction also appears to be the current preoccupation of string theorists.

The full paper is here.

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now? how ‘bout now? now? now? how ‘bout now? now?

I smell a lot of PR tweaking, but it’s great footage. Well done, lads.

How to fight a war with one hand tied behind your back.

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The difference between vegans and meat eaters


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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obama sets the right tone on Iran? Calm down everyone.

I'm reproducing this from the sane lefties at Harry's Place, in part as a counter to some of what I feel has been the unbalanced criticisms of Barry's response to events in Persia and Media.
I know many of the Right in the US are still upset at losing the last election and do have many genuine and well founded policy concerns about Obama's positions on various issues, but really guys, I still think you need to calm down a little.
(And Melanie Phillips should remember what happened in Hungary when the US egged on the locals to rise up, but with no intention of going to war with the Soviet Union over them.)
The Poms have a saying - softly, softly catchee monkey.
We're all angry about what those fucken clerical fascists in Iran are doing, and it is a natural thing to want the leader of the free world to give vent to that anger. But isn't it possible that Barry is just as angry as you are, but feels that he has to tread very carefully and not unwittingly give the mullahs another angle from which to attack and maybe discredit the opposition?
Maybe softly, softly is the correct modulation at the moment?
Tori Egherman, an American, and her husband Kamran Ashtary, an Iranian, lived and blogged in Tehran from 2003 to 2007. She writes:
I wrote about my own wish for an “Ich ben ein Berliner” moment in a previous post that has sparked a lot of discussion. Since then, I have spoken to many people who are demonstrating each day and putting their own lives on the line. They asked me what Obama has been saying about them. I told them that he finds you inspiring and has condemned the violence. “Do you think he should say more?” I asked. Every single one of them told me, “No. He is doing the right thing.” I asked, “If you could send one message to Obama what would it be?” and they all answered, “He should never ever recognize the government of Ahmadinejad.”
I defer to their wishes.
The White House has posted Obama’s latest comments on Iran with Farsi translation and subtitles.
Obama made a point of answering a question at Tuesday’s press conference posed through the Internet by an Iranian– which some people regarded as a violation of the natural order of the universe, but which didn’t upset me terribly.
It’s also worth noting that the Twitter website– an essential means of communication for Iranians in recent days– honored a request from the Obama administration to delay a shutdown for scheduled maintenance so that communication could continue.
On the other hand, Obama has carefully avoided giving the Iranian regime the gift of making himself– rather than the struggle of the Iranian people themselves– the main focus of attention.
And then there’s Melanie Phillips, who managed to convince herself during last year’s campaign– apparently after not much of a struggle– that Obama’s default position on every issue is to blame America and kowtow to its enemies; and who believes without any apparent cause that “If he had put America stoutly behind the protesters and championed them against the regime, by now they might have toppled it.”
If your hatred for Barack Obama– or, to choose another example, for Western “imperialism”– is so single-minded that it clouds your understanding of what’s happening in front of your nose, then you have no right to wonder why large numbers of people don’t take you seriously.

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East German Design

East German Design. Yes, it really existed.
Several of the products featured do have a kind of retro cool about them.
But I always found it interesting that socialist societies had a "look" about them. They always, without exception, looked tired and old-fashioned. Even in the 1990s they reminded you of the 1950s.
You can still see this, not just in obvious places like North Korea, but even in the former Soviet Union, including Russia.
Especially in that inately conservative institution, the military.
The cockpits of even the most up to date fighters produced by Russia, like the Su-35, even though crammed with the most modern and sophisticated of electronics and avionics, still look curiously outdated.
I remember seeing a series of photos just a few years back of one of the Russian Navy's most modern destoyers.
Still typically Soviet in design, with an appearance of being top heavy and just bristling with weapons.
But then there was a photo of a sailor in front of a control panel inside and bang! It was like being teleported right back to the 1950s again.

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Our Friends the Saudis

The New York Times has an article on the extensive ties between top members of the Saudi ruling family and terrorist groups, as new evidence is revealed by the families of 9/11 victims — evidence that is being ignored and suppressed by the US government: Documents Back Saudi Link to Extremists.
WASHINGTON — Documents gathered by lawyers for the families of Sept. 11 victims provide new evidence of extensive financial support for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups by members of the Saudi royal family, but the material may never find its way into court because of legal and diplomatic obstacles.

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What about us gays who are flamers?

The editor of a gay website lambasts those gay activists who want a ‘tolerance message’ added to Sacha Baron Cohen’s new comedy Brüno.

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Slavery and historical memory

"The Senate unanimously passed a resolution yesterday apologizing for slavery," the Washington Post reports:
"You wonder why we didn't do it 100 years ago,"  Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), lead sponsor of the resolution, said after the unanimous-consent vote. "It is important to have a collective response to a collective injustice."
Harkin's resolution contains the answer to his own question: In addition to slavery, it apologizes "for the wrongs committed . . . under . . . Jim Crow laws." Since those laws were still very much in effect 100 years ago, and for decades thereafter, an apology back then would have been the emptiest of gestures. Moreover, Congresses of the past took substantive actions against slavery and Jim Crow, even if belatedly--most notably by proposing the 13th Amendment, which was ratified in 1865, and by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But here is a truly astonishing statement:
Even among proponents of a congressional apology, reaction to yesterday's vote was mixed. Carol M. Swain, a professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University who had pushed for the Bush administration to issue an apology, called the Democratic-controlled Senate's resolution "meaningless" since the party and federal government are led by a black president and black voters are closely aligned with the Democratic party.
"The Republican Party needed to do it," Swain said. "It would have shed that racist scab on the party."
The Republican Party came into existence in the 1850s as an antislavery party. It was the first GOP president, Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, ordering slaves in Confederate states freed. Republican Congresses proposed the 13th Amendment, along with the 14th (granting former slaves citizenship and equal protection under the law) and the 15th (giving them the right to vote). Republicans pushed for Reconstruction only to be thwarted by Democrats.
Segregationists remained a core component of the Democratic coalition well into the 20th century. No Democratic president before Harry S. Truman made any significant moves to expand civil rights for blacks; and although President Lyndon B. Johnson was instrumental in pushing the Civil Rights Act through Congress, a greater proportion of Republicans than Democrats supported it.
True, Republicans nominated a senator who had voted against the Civil Rights Act (albeit on limited-government rather than segregationist grounds) to oppose Johnson in 1964. And beginning that year, some segregationists, including 1948 Dixiecrat candidate Strom Thurmond, switched their allegiance to the GOP.
Nineteen sixty-four also marked the beginning of the period in which, as the Post put it, "black voters are closely aligned with the Democratic party." In other words, the current racial alignment of the parties is the product of segregation's end. To the extent that still-living individuals bear culpability for segregation, it may be true that more of them are Republicans than Democrats. But as an institution, the Democratic Party has far more to answer for.

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