Category Archives: Life

From hero to zero politically: Campbell Newman shows how

Doctors_1800187_670334396358324_809804344_n-250All during the 2013 election campaign Kevin Rudd warned voters that Abbott would “Cut, cut and cut to the bone” just as Campbell Newman had done in Queensland. Commentators have remarked on Abbott’s lack of a honeymoon period. Campbell Newman certainly had one, but has now spectacularly squandered his political capital in various ways.

Dominating headlines for weeks on end the doctors’ dispute seems to have become something of a tipping point. Mark at his new blog The New Social Democrat has published an excellent link-filled post Newman v the doctors: a political fight that is poisoning the LNP, originally published at Crikey.

Mark sees the changes proposed in doctors’ conditions as carrying a broader warning for Australian health policy:

The contracts, read in conjunction with changes to the Industrial Relations Act, deny salaried doctors unfair dismissal protections, control over work location and timing of shifts, and require doctors to take direction on appropriate medical care from hospital and health service administrators.

The suggestion is that, having failed to find private operators for public hospitals that could actually provide cheaper services, the government’s agenda is to substitute bureaucratic cost controls for clinical judgement. That’s something the federal policy shifts towards paying hospitals for the “efficient price” of a procedure encourages. (Emphasis added)

The ground is shifting politically:

None of this is a good look for a government that recently lost the Redcliffe byelection to Labor with a massive swing. Polling conducted by ReachTEL for the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation in Ashgrove (the Premier’s seat), Cairns, Ipswich West and Mundingburra shows massive public opposition and significant impacts on the LNP’s vote. Newman would easily lose his seat to the ALP on these numbers, and it could be reasonably inferred that the LNP’s majority would be in danger.

Readers may recall that in 2012 Anna Bligh spectacularly crashed and burned, losing 44 of 51 seats to be left with seven in an 89-member parliament. With a walloping majority “Can do” Campbell may do the impossible and become a one-term government. A tweet from Possum Commitatus quotes a ReachTEL poll which says that if an election were held now the LNP would lose 36 seats and government.

Newman has looked gone in his own seat for some time. If people think he’s not OK as leader let them ponder the alternatives!

Elsewhere Kiwi doctors stand in solidarity with their Qld colleagues and are being advised to stay well away.

The electorate is volatile. Abbott be warned!

For anyone who arrives early

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One day soon, in the middle of the night, a bright new day is going to dawn with the official birth of a new blog about climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff.

Climate Plus is due to put up a welcoming post, shall we say at 12.01 am (Eastern Standard Time of course) on Sunday 6 April. Anyway with a bit of luck I’ll be there.

This is an open thread for anyone who arrives early to chat if the spirit moves them.

Gillard on the world stage

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Wikipedia tells us that post politics Julia Gillard signed a book deal with Penguin, purchased a house in Adelaide and was appointed honorary professor at the University of Adelaide. In that job it appears that she is actually going to do real work.

Now she has been appointed as the new Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

With some billions of dollars to spend and 60 participating nations the prime focus is on 57 million children who don’t go to school. Beyond that GPE advocates for the improvement of the quality of education generally.

Here’s the AAP story, Café Whispers, and Gillard’s own thoughts at the GPE blog.

Given the primacy of education in Gillard’s political philosophy the appointment seems particularly apt. I’m sure she’ll do a fine job and wish her well.

Australia currently provides $30 million pa in funding. They wouldn’t trim their contribution, would they? ‘They’ being Abbott, Bishop, Hockey, Mathias Cormann et al. After all they dishonoured our promise to help build a new parliament for Granada to save a measly $4 million. And to make a point.

Is the Pope a communist?

Hardly, but he is certainly a severe critic of market capitalism. George Weigel sees his recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) as

a clarion call for a decisive shift in the Catholic Church’s self-understanding, in full continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Austen Ivereigh begins his broader treatment this way:

The first teaching document mainly authored by Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, is a bold and thrilling bid to send the Catholic Church worldwide on mission. Energetic, direct, lyrical, its language and style model the evangelization to which the Pope is calling Catholics. In sharp critiques and passionate prose, it polarises the choices faced both by the Church and the world, gently but insistently inviting people to opt for mission – and to a journey of transformation and reform.

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Be sure to read, however, Travis Gettys’ Pope Francis rips capitalism and trickle-down economics to shreds in new policy statement. Continue reading Is the Pope a communist?

Climate clippings 87

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition picks up the theme of activism mentioned in Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality.

1. Blue sky

After the last election some friends of my younger brother, feeling blue, decided to turn blue into an optimistic colour, and invented the Blue Sky movement. To join all you have to do is ‘like’ the Facebook site put something blue on your front footpath visible from the road, take a photo and post it on the site. Yes, and take the Blue Sky Pledge, which includes reducing your own emissions, displaying blue for 12 months, and encouraging others to join.

Here’s one example:

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I notice that people have been using the site to share links.

If you click on “Community” or “About” at the head of the Blue Sky FB page and then click “more” you’ll get the full Blue Sky spiel.

2. Go Getup!

Ben Eltham thinks GetUp! is currently Tony Abbott’s most dangerous opponent. Continue reading Climate clippings 87

Climate clippings 86

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition is mainly about politics and policy rather than the science.

1. Anti renewables tirade

As the forces of darkness are unleashed upon us under the rule of Tony Abbott, people attending the Eastern Australian Energy Outlook Conference were subjected to a “venomous rant” against the renewable energy target from Burchell Wilson, a senior economist at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The tragedy of this is that Wilson’s presentation may have been plain wrong, nasty, manipulative and ideological, but he’s not alone in Canberra….

As Wilson (rightly) pointed out, there is a vast reserve of anti-renewables passion in the rump of the National Party and the Liberal party backbench open to such rhetoric– which insiders say is being whipped up by new Liberal MP Angus Taylor.

Wilson expressed his hope that these views would overwhelm those of moderates such as Environment Minister Greg Hunt, and Energy Minister Ian Macfarlane. He hoped that the economic rationalists at the Productivity Commission would have carriage of the next RET review.

2. Mining lobby targets RET

In the current political climate the RET is under serious threat, being targeted directly by the mining industry.

This is how John D sees it:

Australia’s RET is one of the few emission trading schemes in the world that is actually working. For years it has been steadily driving investment in utility scale renewables. Better still, because it is an offset credit trading scheme that does not generate government revenue it is achieving this with negligible changes in power costs. (The fossil power companies are actually complaining that it is pushing wholesale prices down!)

For this reason it is of some concern to see that the Minerals industry is pushing for the repeal of the RET.

We should all be campaigning for an increase in the RET target and against any attempt to eliminate or scale back the RET.

Continue reading Climate clippings 86

The Heart of the Matter

Over the past two weeks the ABC’s Catalyst program has run a special series under the rubric The Heart of the Matter calling into question the importance of cholesterol as a risk factor for heart disease with Dr. Maryanne Demasi leading the charge. This is how she described the programs:

In the first episode of this two part edition of Catalyst, I investigate the science behind the long established view that saturated fat causes heart disease by raising cholesterol.

In the second episode, I cut through the hype surrounding cholesterol lowering drugs and reveal the tactics used by Big Pharma to make the drugs to lower cholesterol appear more effective than they seem to be.

In Heart of the Matter, I investigate whether the role of saturated fat and cholesterol in heart disease is one of the biggest myths in medical history.

Go here for transcripts and videos:

Dietary Villains

Cholesterol Drug War

First up it must be said that Dr Demasi is not just a journalist. She has a PhD in medical research from the University of Adelaide and worked for a decade as a research scientist specialising in rheumatoid arthritis research at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

I had a triple bypass back in 2000 and have taken statins ever since as well as 100mg aspirin daily and medicine to lower my blood pressure. Except on rare occasions saturated fats do not pass my lips.

Dr Norman Swan told Fran Kelly that his wife had sat next to someone on a plane who had been taking statins for familial high cholesterol levels. After seeing the program he said he had dropped the drugs and was going to tuck into the cream cheese.

To this viewer, such a response would be warranted on the basis of the evidence put forward in the programs. I’m a cautious person, however, so my intention was to stay on course, but was going to consult my GP who I see every four to six weeks. I expected her to advise me to change nothing until I next see my cardiologist in March next year.

Norman Swan was angry. He said people will die as a result of the program. Continue reading The Heart of the Matter

Distractions…

Andrew Wilson queries why nobody writing or commenting on this blog has raised the issue of the really medieval legislation recently passed in Queensland. One reason is that Mark and I have both had certain distractions which will continue for a little while.

de-clutter_mind_map-copy1_300One is the great decluttering project, wherein Mark is consolidating 20 years worth of collected stuff. In simple terms he’s vacating his digs at New Farm at the end of the month and moving back to join us on a temporary basis, which will probably last months rather than weeks. So there has been massive decluttering at his place and ours together with some recluttering of our place.

This is coinciding with the end of university semester in which Mark has a fairly heavy teaching load. The other day, surveying his study, his computer was open revealing that he was in the process of marking 189 assignments. That’s over 60 hours work for one subject!

Earlier tonight after we staggered down the stairs with some book shelves he agreed he didn’t have the head space for blogging right now. Perhaps next week.

I’m fairly busy right now, but my den is being cleaned up for the first time in decades plus the shed has had to be reorganised to accommodate in the first instance about 20 boxes of books. Furniture is being relocated all over the house.

Next Monday my wife and I are flying to Sydney for the wedding of her nephew. A quick trip but it wipes out two days.

So I too have a few distractions. I may be able to squeeze out a bit of writing, but not as much as I’d like.

For those who came in late, I have the privilege of being Mark’s father. And for those who are curious, he’s been calling me “Brian” since he was four years old. One day he just decided that he was too old for this “dad” stuff. I have a policy of avoiding unnecessary arguments, so that’s the way it’s been!

Climate clippings 84

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition is mostly about the doings of our new government, prospective EU targets, a statement by religious leaders and a couple of items on health implications.

1. Greg Hunt’s role diminished

Whether or not Greg Hunt gets to go to the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) Conference of Parties (COP) in Warsaw from 11 to 22 November. Julie Bishop will henceforth be the lead negotiator in international climate talks.

The story in the AFR says Hunt has been “stripped of responsibility for global climate change negotiations”. He still gets to go and hang out at the talks. One might say that Australia’s representation has been upgraded. Suspicious minds might also think that Hunt couldn’t be trusted. He actually believes human activity causes global warming and might join the warmist urgers if not kept on a tight leash. Continue reading Climate clippings 84

Climate clippings 83

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. Again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition contains items, exclusively, I think, in climate science and impacts. The thread is meant to function also as a roundtable to share information and ideas.

1. Climate change picked the crops we eat today

The New Scientist carries a story about how some cereals we know today were changed by the climate as we came out of the last ice age. Researchers at the University of Sheffield, UK took seeds of precursors of modern wheat and barley found with human remains in a 23,000-year-old archaeological site in Israel. They grew these together with four wild grass species that aren’t eaten today, but were also known to grow in the region at that time, and grew them under conditions replicating levels of CO2 then and also the higher levels when farming first arose 10,000 years ago.

All the plants grew larger under the higher levels of CO2, but the relatives of wheat and barley grew twice as large and produced double the seeds. This suggests the species are especially sensitive to high levels of CO2, making them the best choice for cultivation after the last ice age.

The team plan to look at whether other food staples around the world are similarly affected by elevated CO2 levels, for example millet grown in Asia and maize in North America. They also plan to compare the effects of CO2 on legumes such as peas. Continue reading Climate clippings 83

Climate clippings 71b

This post was written in October 2012 trialling the site. I’ve decided to leave it in time sequence and fiddle the numbering.

1. Did climate change shape human evolution?

There’s no evidence yet that it did according to Richard Leakey.

I’m not sure about his four key questions, though. Yes, bipedalism seems to be important as does using tools to make tools. But I can’t see the importance of migration out of Africa as important to our evolution. Apart from picking up some Neanderthal genes presumably in a palm grove somewhere in the Middle East, which did boost our immune system, those of us who left Africa are much the same genetically as those who stayed behind.

I’d say the development of language was important. If you want a fourth I’d suggest our patterns of social organisation – how we interact and how we co-operate within groups. But I don’t know how much of that is in our genes.

2. Aid for climate refugees

Speaking of climate and migration, displacement by extreme weather events does not qualify you as a refugee under present UN arrangements. The International Organisation of Migration (IOM) hopes this will change at the annual United Nations climate change summit to be held in Qatar later this year, gaining access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and other sources. It seems that 42 million people were displaced by storms, floods and droughts in Asia and the Pacific during 2010 and 2011.

3. Ocean heat content update

Skeptical Science recently posted on an update by Levitus et al on ocean heat content, which increases apace. Around 93% of additional warming goes into the ocean which is truly vast with, for example, an average depth of around 3,790 metres. This graph indicates the changing heat content within bands of the upper 2000m:

4. Southern Ocean research shows decrease in dense Antarctic bottom water

Antarctic Bottom Water is a massive current of super dense salty water which used to be which used to occupy the bottom mile of the Great Southern Ocean. Used to. Researchers are now able to report that the current is diminished by 60% compared to what it was in 1970.

Antarctic Bottom Water is colder than the normal freezing point and is a vast store of CO2. Understanding changes in this deep ocean current are crucial to understanding the likely future of global climate patterns as the planet warms. The researchers have not only been able to make direct observations, they have distributed buoys which should be able to provide data at times of the year when field work is impossible.

5. Plants flower faster than climate change models predict

For years scientists have been doing experiments to find out how much earlier plants will flower and leaf with global warming. A new study using field observations has found that plants are responding much faster than they had thought. Their research suggests that that spring flowering and leafing will continue to advance at the rate of 5 to 6 days per year for every degree celsius of warming.

What surprises me is that they thought they could model natural conditions in the lab.

It seems they will have to rethink the impacts of global warming on ecosystems and food production.

See also Science Daily.

6. Climate change experimentation goes bush

Another approach is to manipulate the environment on a large scale and monitor what happens. Researchers are using to control the amount of CO2 available to plants.

The idea is explore the role of “Australia’s large tracts of undeveloped land, known as bush” in storing carbon. They will be able to add carbon or take it away.

I’m not sure it doesn’t suffer from the same problems as experiments with plants, where only one variable was controlled, neglecting changes in precipitation patterns and cloudiness, for example.

7. Wind farms do not cause global warming

There has been a raft of articles in the MSM suggesting that wind farms cause global warming, mainly in the headlines, it seems.

In fact a study of some large wind farms in remote areas of Texas found local warming. The authors don’t know what’s going on but the suggestion is that thermal energy is being redistributed, perhaps by pulling down warmer air from higher altitudes during the nights.

For the spinning blades of wind turbines to increase the overall temperature of the planet some basic laws of physics would need to be rewritten.