Monday, July 19, 2010

The day I lost the snark...

It used to be so easy to snark away here on my blog, but lately I have found it hard going in terms of subject matter. Im not sure if this is because the media is pulling their head in when it comes to alarmist reporting post-Climate Gate, or whether Im easily distractable. In truth, I think it could be a bit of both, there seems to be less blatent idiocy popping up in my news feed (and I do love an easy target), and I keep getting sidetracked by involuntarily picturing my male colleagues sans accoutrements.
Its not my fault, I can't help it. I am attracted to intelligence and self-confidence, which is oft-times in short supply, but seems to be a pre-requisite for doctors. As a medical student, my job is to generally follow along behind the other doctors on ward-rounds, and well, the end result of this is that I seem to find myself looking speculatively at a lot of bums. Even that short Scottish guy. Sorry Mr. Paua.
Anyhoo, about the only thing I could find to talk about is a recent study that worked out that if you frame climate change in terms of a public health risk, it seems to have more of an impact. Researchers discovered that linking climate change with asthma tends to increase the "positive" response from readers, more so than linking it with more remote issues, such as polar bears and the arctic.
Halfway though reading this, I realised that this isn't a health study, this is market research. I should know, because for one brief, poor stage of my life I worked for a market research company doing telephone interviews. (Sorry. To everyone. I'm really sorry. I was scarily good at it, BTW).
This "study" isn't interested in unbiased research into what peoples attitudes are to climate change, you would do that with a focus group or a survey, this study is trying to work out how best to sell us something we may otherwise be reluctant to buy.
Just ewww, frankly.
This will probably annoy the crap out of me for just so long as it takes for me to get distracted by a pathologists abs.
Sorry, what were you saying?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Winter Sundays...

Some of my cronies in the blogosphere have been posting about the glory of a hot saturday in summer, complete with soundtrack. Well, some of us live in the southern hemisphere, and its been a pretty cold winter. I even had to scrape ice off my car a couple of times (only an Australian can understand the deep and abiding horror of this), so I feel an alternative soundtrack may be in order:

You're welcome.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Living proof that you can't legislate against stupidity....

Professor David Shearman has been at it again. When not busy doing secretarial things over at Doctors for the Environment, he can be found publishing books calling for the end of democracy as a solution to impending climate doom. Seriously, is this the guy you want to perform a rectal exam on you?
He also has his own website, the address of which is his own name with the designation .org. Cute. If you listen closely, you can almost feel the hysteria.
Anyway, he's managed to publish a poorly disguised propaganda piece / self-advertorial over at The Australian calling for the end of coal power due to its alleged deleterious health effects in first world nations. He doesn't actually cite anything, just some "studies" that apparently show that coal particulate is bad for you, but then gets confused between pollution in the form of particulate matter and "pollution" in the form of carbon dioxide that, yawn, will kill us all via climate (but forgets to mention the offshoot of bigger tomatoes). He does a particularly poor job of seperating out the sources and impact of coal pollution, and manages to generate a big cloud of poorly thought out hysteria. For example:
The health burden of coal in Australia is estimated conservatively at $2.6 billion a year. There are also economic losses due to land pollution and degradation and the open mining of good agricultural land in the face of the projected world food crisis.
The main health impact of coal is caused through climate change. The World Health Organisation ranks climate change as one of the greatest threats to public health.
Morbidity and mortality are increasing in the developing world as the effects of climate change take hold of the environment. As the world's fourth largest producer of hard coal and the world's biggest exporter, from which we garner $20bn each year, our contribution to this pollution is far greater than our culpability as the world's greatest domestic per capita producer of greenhouse emissions.

Etc. Etc.
Im not sure exactly what Dr. David lectured in to make him an emeritus professor of medicine, but I somehow think it wasn't epidemiology or public health, at least not in the conventional sense, and begs the question of why he is no longer a professor?
For starters, yes, coal fire particulate is definitely bad for you, but it is particularly bad for you if you are burning it in your loungeroom, which is what people without central, coal-powered (or nuclear) electricity plants do. A quick read through the WHO publication "The health effects of indoor air pollution in developing countries" may prove informative for him. If he doesn't have the time, or finds that reading about babies dying of pulmonary disease or women with premature cataracts makes him go soft, I could probably sum up the entire booklet with just one of their diagrams:

Oh, look. Electricity is better for you. Who'd have thunk it.
I would also hazard a guess that his emeritus status didn't stem from a career in health economics, either. To wit:
Renewable energy industries create more jobs than coalmining; they are generally safer and much healthier for workers and communities. They will offer sustainable economic development in an area where Australia already trails other developed nations. The federal government's proposed resource super-profits tax -- now recast and rebadged as the minerals resource rent tax -- will aid this transition.

Ha ha ha. Thats hysterical in the freaking funny sense. Just ask Spain or New Zealand how their green jobs and their ETS are working out for them.
Once upon a time we had religion for guys like this to feel bad about. Instead of worrying about saving the planet from a trace gas that is, frankly, the least of our worries right now, he would have been wearing a hair shirt in a cave somewhere. Unfortunately, if he gets his way, he'll have all of us doing just that.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Laissez les bon temps rouler

I remember on one occasion during my childhood a lady from Louisiana attempting to teach me how to Cajun dance one night while my parents were out drinking at a folk club. For an eleven year old, it was excruciating. Through the haze of tween-age embarassment, though, I do remember learning the Cajun maxim of "Laissez les bon temps rouler", or "Let the good times roll". Keep this in mind while you read the following.
I haven't been posting as much as usual because to be honest its a slow news month for my usual climate change related ranting, I think the globe has largely started to lose interest in climate hysteria, and I will have to branch out more in my topic matter if this keeps up. Added to which I have been going through the "just-shoot-me-now-and-be-done-with-it" agony of having to find a rental property in today's ghastly, overinflated Australian property market. For those of you who havent had to find a 3+ bedroom house in an Australian capital city lately, they actually bid on rental properties now. Which has led me to really, really dislike real estate agents. More than I usually do. In fact, I can honestly say there is only one real estate agent I've met that I haven't wanted to hand a photograph of and a sum of cash to a large tattooed Polynesian named "Sione", and mention that I don't want the agent's legs to look that way anymore. The real estate agent I liked rented me a commercial property some years ago, was a raging alcoholic named Kevin, and would conduct business in thongs (the footwear) when his gout played up. I liked Kevin.
The Australian housing bubble is running at the level of property values up to 8 times the annual family income. The global standard is from 2 to 3 times the average family income. This bubble is going to burst, and how. Although the vast majority of people here refuse to believe its possible, in fact, even with property analysts finally being forced to admit the bubble can't always keep getting bigger, they still would prefer to believe that the outcome of all of this is that property prices may just stay on hold for a decade until they readjust, like they did in Japan a while ago. Excuse me while I laugh bitterly and take a swig from a port bottle in a brown paper bag. Forgetting for a moment that Japanese interest rates for housing loans are set at something like 1%, I could list you a host of reasons why this is unlikely here, from variable interest rate hikes, the Chinese commodity market problem, to where Australian banks source their finance from (i.e. Overseas). For my US readers ,its also worth pointing out that when you default on a mortgage in this country, you continue to owe the bank the money into posterity, even while they sell the property at the market value. The only way out is bankruptcy, and that isn't so easy to do, here.
Meanwhile, in Europe.....Oh, never mind. Too depressing. Well, in the States.....Oh, don't worry. In short, things aren't looking too rosy in the global financial sphere at the moment, and in other news, Japan let Pete Bethune off on a suspended sentence which allowed him to immediately run back to the welcoming arms of that idiot with the white beard and the black boat.
Then, just to top off my sorry news week, the Climategate whitewash review finally replied to allegations of fudging data. "Shut up." They explained.
Finally, I discovered that even brothels have been forced to close due to an economic slump. When the world's oldest professional, traditionally considered recession-proof, becomes insolvent, then surely the end-times are upon us.
It could be worse, though. I could own a large dog. Or live in California. Which is why, while the world seems to get closer to teetering on an economic precipice, I am reminded of the Cajun directive to Let the good times roll. For instructions on how its done, I refer you to Louis Jordan:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pikinini bilong rot boskru bilong Sea Shepherd gone bagarup

I love Pidgin English, so forgive my attempt in the title at expressing my thoughts on the functionality and moral character of the Sea Shepherd crew. I thought Pidgin might give this rant a bit of panache. FYI, "pikanini bilong rot" is an illegitmate child. You can work out what I meant by that.

Prior to, oh, about one week ago, I just really disliked Paul Watson (or "Kapten Kok" as I like to think of him in Pidgin. Yes, it means exactly what it sounds like it means. Its not swearing if its in Pidgin.) Then he decided to go to war on Tuna fishermen in the Mediterranean. Thats when it got personal. Now, I hate him. First of all, I like fishermen. Actually, I like sailors in general, but it sounds a bit questionable when I say it out loud like that. Secondly, I like tuna. Alot. And I'm not buying into the hysteria about the species' tenuous hold on the land of the living.

For starters, forgetting for a moment that marine science is as plagued by hysteria as that of climate science, common sense would dictate that since its impossible to actually fish up all the tuna that are out there with our current fishing technology, that one would expect to see a realistic (I stress this) decline in fisheries production should the stocks be getting low, to the point where the industry is no longer economically viable. One has not seen this yet, has one.

To add to this, the actual taxonomy of the "endangered" northern blue-fin is a little hazy, to say the least. Part of a CITES listing for an endangered animal requires that inspectors be able to correctly identify them, which is problematic with bluefin tuna, as even taxonomists have trouble differentiating the northen bluefin from the pacific one, they don't taste any different, and as the kicker, their DNA isn't different enough to tell them apart that way, either.

Unfortunately, saving tuna is the latest hippy cause du jour, and Sea Shepherd and their ilk need to justify their drain on society somehow, so off they went to the Med to harass legitimate and hard-working fishermen during the very brief tuna fishing season. How they managed to fit this into their busy schedule in between selling erstwhile poster-boy Pete Bethune down the river, while he awaits sentencing in Japan, is anyones guess. Poor old Patsy Pete found out the hard way who his mates were when Sea Shepherd threw him out of the organisation and severed all ties with him when it was revealed Pete had taken a bow and arrows on board. Being a supposedly non-violent organisation and all, someone had to go down for it in order to keep their "never convicted" record clean. Which makes me wonder who is going to carry the can for the rubber bullets they have been packing lately? Which brings me to their latest escapade...

Following on from the Greenpeace fail attempt at sabotaging legitimate tuna fishermen in the Med, Sea Shepherd decided to ram a Maltese fishing enterprise. One poor Maltese diver was injured, and another said he was hit repeatedly with rubber bullets. Malta is not impressed.

Luckily for Malta, Japan has just succeeded in getting Interpol to issue a blue notice for Kapten Kok himself. Paul Watson has shrugged it off, since a blue notice does not compel Interpol associated nations to arrest him, but rather that they pass on information about his whereabouts and activities. However, methinks some of Sea Shepherd's overworked lawyers should point out that any country can detain the subject of a blue notice if they feel like it, even if no valid national arrest warrant exists. Which is what they recommend doing for certain Yemeni terrorists, who are also subject to a blue notice.

Things are going to get interesting for Watson now, as Japan has many friends, and Watson is rapidly gathering enemies. A brief check of Japanese foreign aid recipients in the Pacific should put things into perspective for him, if Paul Watson isn't careful, he might find himself, as they say in pidgin, "lookem closeup hallelujah time" at one of his refuelling spots. Et tu, Tuvalu?