It seems years since I've eaten chicken pieces from KFC. The occasional burger, yes. But pieces of chicken, no.
But two nights this week, I've eaten cold KFC chicken. (I got home late, that's all.)
I found it nicer than I remembered. Much nicer. Not very greasy, really. Especially as it was cold. I sometimes think I prefer cold chicken to hot.
It might also be partly because of being on a 5-2 diet. It seems to heighten appreciation for the taste of food, even on a non fasting day.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
It seems years since I've eaten chicken pieces from KFC. The occasional burger, yes. But pieces of chicken, no.
That is, once you know the intrinsically damaging nature of boxing as a sport, how can you intellectually consider it as a endeavour worthy of support?
Chronic traumatic brain injury (CTBI) associated with boxing occurs in approximately 20% of professional boxers.
The repeated head blows sustained by fighters during their battles link to slower cognitive processing speeds and smaller volumes of certain brain parts.Not sure that I would ban it if I were Benevolent Ruler of the World. Perhaps pay for an advertising campaign designed to shame people out of supporting the sport, though. Or put money into developing exoskeleton boxing. (I have my doubts that people are ever going to get sufficient thrill out of watching boxing robots, like in that silly Real Steel movie. Maybe if they build in blood bags ready to be splattered?) But what if there's a human in a suit designed to prevent a head taking a full blow? But why am I worried about satisfying the desire for biffo anyway? It's all something to do with testosterone and evolutionary biology I suppose, and I feel I need to accept that in some fashion or other.
OK, here's a compromise: professional boxing allowed, but it's mandated by law that it has to end with a bonobo style, bonding-despite-the-fight-we-just-had, same-sex love in between the competitors before they leave the ring.
There, the problem of professional boxing solved. (I'm sure Jason Soon will be impressed.)
Yet another good, long, read from Krugman on austerity, Keynesian and anti-Keynesian forces, and England in particular. (The way The Guardian presents the article graphically is pretty neat too.)
I especially find this section pretty convincing, especially when you read the never ending defence of corporations and businesses (along the lines "how dare anyone accuse Google or Apple of not paying enough tax!") that comes from the IPA associated economists:
Beyond that lies a point made most strongly in the US by Mike Konczal of
the Roosevelt Institute: business interests dislike Keynesian economics
because it threatens their political bargaining power. Business leaders
love the idea that the health of the economy depends on confidence,
which in turn – or so they argue – requires making them happy. In the US
there were, until the recent takeoff in job growth, many speeches and
opinion pieces arguing that President Obama’s anti-business rhetoric –
which only existed in the right’s imagination, but never mind – was
holding back recovery. The message was clear: don’t criticise big
business, or the economy will suffer.
But this kind of argument loses its force if one acknowledges that job
creation can be achieved through deliberate policy, that deficit
spending, not buttering up business leaders, is the way to revive a
depressed economy. So business interests are strongly inclined to reject
standard macroeconomics and insist that boosting confidence – which is
to say, keeping them happy – is the only way to go.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
She quite suddenly took ill on Thursday night and died peacefully at home this afternoon, aged close to 16. The only pet our children have know (we got her before our eldest was born), her sudden departure is being keenly felt tonight...
Henderson interprets the letter as being a call for sympathetic understanding of pederasty, but it's a bit of culture war cherry picking if ever there was one, given how the letter goes on to refer to uncivilised behaviour. How outrageous, says Gerard, that the current ABC Chairman refuses to apologise for this. If it had been a Catholic Bishop who had done this, how different things would be. (The implication - "everyone has to agree with how I read the letter.")
I think it's clear why Henderson raises this again this week: it's one of the near routine, and pathetic, attempts at a counterattack you see from the Right wing culture warriors any week in which someone from the Churches has come out badly in the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse. In this case, a retired Catholic Bishop who apologises for taking 3 years to stop a pedophile priest from having contact with children, and then writing a character reference for him. Rather more dire, by a magnitude or three, than an academic head of the national broadcaster saying a documentary about pederasty was not intended to offend.
Gerard is scrapping the very bottom of the faux moral equivalence outrage barrel on this one. He really ought to retire, it's becoming so embarrassing some of the lines he chooses to pursue.
He also has a characteristic that Andrew Bolt and a host of other Right wing commentators now routinely display: they don't just spend time trying to explain why a particular take on a matter is wrong; they devote a huge amount of effort to complaining about how people - the media, celebrities, academics - don't agree with them.
It's boring and tedious, and I mainly put it down to a "chip on the shoulder" that they have developed about not being able to convince scientists, academia and sufficient politicians that climate change is a non-issue.
Update: there's also a remarkably good set of World War 1 photos (including some from Gallipoli) up at The Atlantic.
The only reservation I have about them is the way black and white photos tend to make the past look more distant that it really is...
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Update: Well, that put an end to the fun that Brisbane papers had been been following for a while. From the Sunday Mail on 31 March 1929:
Why am I searching old Brisbane papers for reference to nudists? Because I can....
Update 2: this cable news report from America turned up in several Queensland papers around 24 August 1931:
Quite the moral panic...
Update 3: whoever it was who was filing reports for the Australian Cable Service liked to keep the nation informed about the New York nudist threat. On 14 December 1931:
Update 4: Oh no! By 16 December, the arrested indoor nudists had had a win:
Update 5: Good Lord! There were serious nudist outbreaks happening in Sydney, as reported on 1 January 1932:
Update 6: By 16 August 1932, there were news reports which combined both Hitler's rise to power, and the German government crackdown on nudists and women wearing pajamas in restaurants. (I'm not sure, but there's a fair chance that might be the only time Hitler and PJ's ever made it into the same news story.):
John Daly, who impressed lots of people on Q&A recently, thinks the Labor changes to superannuation tax should be much, much tougher. I'm scared for Judith Sloan's bold button if she gets to read this - it will be overworked to oblivion.
A bit tough, I think, Kristina...
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
And although it's not fermented meat, I recently found that beef jerky has fairly low calories, and eating some with salad makes for a pretty satisfying lunch when on a "fast " day on the 5:2 diet.
I also realised recently that I didn't know much about how the International Space Station maintains a healthy atmosphere. Some initial looking at websites indicates it's pretty complicated. This also made me realise that I don't know if NASA has any good idea as to the system to use on a Mars mission. Or, for that matter, if Mars One has any idea. Electrolysis of water is a key part of the ISS system; I guess having a Mars base near ice would be very handy, then, for a permanent base. Provided you can trust your equipment to never break down.
I need to do more reading...
Update: a site with the grand name "SoyInfo Centre [World's Most Complete Collection of Soy Information]" has a lengthy essay on the history of fermentation generally, with this somewhat interesting section:
The first solid evidence of the living nature of yeast appeared between 1837 and 1838 when three publications appeared by C. Cagniard de la Tour, T. Swann, and F. Kuetzing, each of whom independently concluded as a result of microscopic investigations that yeast was a living organism that reproduced by budding. The word "yeast," it should be noted, traces its origins back to the Sanskrit word meaning "boiling." It was perhaps because wine, beer, and bread were each basic foods in Europe, that most of the early studies on fermentation were done on yeasts, with which they were made. Soon bacteria were also discovered; the term was first used in English in the late 1840s, but it did not come into general use until the 1870s, and then largely in connection with the new germ theory of disease.Gee. It's easy to forget how something so spectacularly important to 20th century improvements to longevity was only being worked out in the late 19th century.
The view that fermentation was a process initiated by living organisms soon aroused fierce criticism from the finest chemists of the day, especially Justus von Liebig, J.J. Berzelius, and Friedrich Woehler. This view seemed to give new life to the waning mystical philosophy of vitalism, which they had worked so hard to defeat. Proponents of vitalism held that the functions of living organisms were due to a vital principal (life force, chi, ki, prana , etc.) distinct from physico-chemical forces, that the processes of life were not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone, and that life was in some part self determining. As we shall soon see, the vitalists played a key role in debate on the nature of fermentation. A long battle ensued, and while it was gradually recognized that yeast was a living organism, its exact function in fermentations remained a matter of controversy. The chemists still maintained that fermentation was due to catalytic action or molecular vibrations.
The debate was finally brought to an end by the great French chemist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) who, during the 1850s and 1860s, in a series of classic investigations, proved conclusively that fermentation was initiated by living organisms. In 1857 Pasteur showed that lactic acid fermentation is caused by living organisms. In 1860 he demonstrated that bacteria cause souring in milk, a process formerly thought to be merely a chemical change, and his work in identifying the role of microorganisms in food spoilage led to the process of pasteurization. In 1877, working to improve the French brewing industry, Pasteur published his famous paper on fermentation, Etudes sur la Biere , which was translated into English in 1879 as Studies on Fermentation . He defined fermentation (incorrectly) as "Life without air," but correctly showed specific types of microorganisms cause specific types of fermentations and specific end products. In 1877 the era of modern medical bacteriology began when Koch (a German physician; 1843-1910) and Pasteur showed that the anthrax bacillus caused the infectious disease anthrax. This epic discovery led in 1880 to Pasteur's general germ theory of infectious disease, which postulated for the first time that each such disease was caused by a specific microorganism. Koch also made the very significant discovery of a method for isolating microorganisms in pure culture.
But it still doesn't help with my fermented meat issue, in particular.
Update 2: turns out European fermented sausage is not so old:
From the 1995 book Fermented Meats.
Update the Third: Tim, I know you have a particular interest in fermentation, and did a post on a book all about it. Does it explain how fermented sausage making got started?
Update 4: Brilliant! From Meat Fermentation at the Crossroads of Innovation and Tradition - A Historical Outlook:
The states' arguments taste of rather weak tea, but the line-drawing point should give pause to even the liberal justices. In framing their view as one of "marriage equality", and in urging a shift from procreation to state-recognised intimacy as the basis of marriage, the challengers of the state bans open themselves up to worries about where this all ends. We don't have to revert to Rick Santorum's ridiculous comparison of homosexuality to "man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be" to imagine polygamists pressing for their day in court were the justices to affirm a new constitutional right to same-sex marriage. There may be much better policy arguments for a ban on polygamy than for prohibitions on gay marriage (and there certainly are strong state interests in maintaining age-of-consent laws) so the worry is not that handing gays and lesbians this new right will destroy marriage as we know it. But the issue will come up, and the justices need to find a way to expand the boundaries of marriage without erasing them.
One of my impressions of the downside of recreational drug use is that it can lead to relationship breakdown - with parents and siblings - often in families that previously seemed happy.
If this research is correct, it could well give a partial expectation at least for the cannabis user.
A rather odd article this, that mainly concentrates on the rise of douching in Mexico. As people in the comments following say, the article is a bit light on with what doctors actually know about the detriments it causes.
Good post here by JQ talking about Piketty.
I can't imagine this policy not being popular with the electorate. I just wonder whether it really goes far enough.
But I will have to wait until Judith Sloan breaks out the bold button until I can tell if it is a really good policy. (If she hates it, it probably is.)
Update: Hilarious, especially if the Coalition ends up doing something similar...
Update 2: Yes! Judith has bolded her objection to this outrageous attack on the cashed up retirees who manage to draw in more than $75,000 per year. That's less than average weekly earnings, she tells us. What she doesn't mention is that average receiver of average weekly earnings pay tax on it - about $16,000 worth.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
I had missed Bee Hossenfelder's suggestion, referred to in the open of this decent article on dark matter, that weakly interacting dark matter passing through humans might be capable of causing cancer. (But the effect would be way less than the risk from cosmic rays.) Another suggestion is that it may contribute to volcanism.
Both rather interesting suggestions. As is the one I read elsewhere today, that perhaps there is evidence for dark matter interacting with itself via a force only it feels.
Parts of Bangkok may be hit with temperatures of up to 41 degreesCan't be healthy for those in slums.....
Celsius today. High humidity could create additional problems for those
without access to air-conditioning. By Thursday, it will be much cooler,
Here's a good article summarising the present state of understanding of the risk from carbon leaking out of melting permafrost. Long story short - catastrophic bursts of methane are still considered unlikely (despite craters found in Siberia), but the long term issue of carbon leaking as permafrost melts is still serious - like adding another United States' worth of emissions.
Scenarios like this make me wonder whether research should be more about carbon sequestration - not from carbon capture from burning fossil fuels, which should stop anyway, but capture and sequestration from the atmosphere. The only serious method proposed for that is ocean fertilization, as far as I know. I'm not sure that it has been looked into in enough detail...
That headline doesn't quite gel with the body of the story, as it sounds as if the UNHCR does not know the details of the "screening" at all.
I also consider it rather likely that a boatload of Vietnamese on a boat may have better reason to be leaving their country than the average Muslim Middle Eastern refugee leaving Indonesia or Malaysia to get to Australia.
And I still think it is a scandalous matter the way this government uses "operational matters" to refuse to disclose details of what they have just done.
Why is the lazy media just shrugging their shoulders about that?
Monday, April 20, 2015
This was an interesting article about the new sales mechanism for heroin in the United States, and its relationship with the apparent over-prescription of opioid painkillers in that nation.
The opening paragraph sets the scene:
FATAL heroin overdoses in America have almost tripled in three years.As I have commented before, this startling fact about the number of people who die in America via prescription opioids surely should make people somewhat skeptical of one of the key arguments for drug decriminalisation at least with regard to heroin - that it is not so much the drug that kills, but the poor and variable quality of the black market version that people are forced to buy.
More than 8,250 people a year now die from heroin. At the same time,
roughly double that number are dying from prescription opioid
painkillers, which are molecularly similar. Heroin has become the
fallback dope when an addict can’t afford, or find, pills. Total
overdose deaths, most often from pills and heroin, now surpass traffic
If people can't even safely self administer a high quality legal opioid, what do reformers suggest as an the answer to that problem if you allowed them to be legalised? A massive expansion of the type of supervised drug taking that is inherent in the methodone program? (In Australia, at least, the addict attends the pharmacy and has to drink their dose in front of staff.) Yet drug legalisation proponents are often libertarians who hate the nanny statism that would be part of that. And besides, not everyone can fit a daily visit to a clinic discretely into their work or domestic life...
Sinclair Davidson, quite possibly the only academic in the land who couldn't see how calling an aboriginal man an ape could be racist, also can't see the tackiness problem with Woolworths alluding to their advertising slogan in an ANZAC poster. Even Andrew Bolt could see that one.
Judith Sloan discovered the bold function about a year ago and now can't stop shouting at everyone in every post. She's an expert on caesarean birth rates too, apparently.
And yet, shouting, sarcastic Judith has done some useful - shown in comments that Catallaxy favourite (well, except when it comes to gay marriage and the conservatives) David Leyonhjelm made up a policy suggestion in ignorance of the background. Who could be surprised - it was about clean energy, something the Bald One thinks is completely unnecessary.
The details are here: Leyonhjelm had a suggestion published in the AFR as to how to "fix" the RET:
With this problem looming and negotiations between the Government and Opposition stalled, late last year I developed a detailed reform package for the RET. Since most opposition to reform is based on cuts to the 41,000 GWh large scale target, my plan is to maintain this but to recognise established hydro generation in the calculations – essentially Snowy Hydro and Hydro Tasmania – which together produce about 15,000 GWh.But as Judith notes in comments:
David, I don’t think this is going to work. Hydro is defined as renewable (see Section 17 of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 and is already counted in the 16 to 17K of MWh being produced from renewables currently. It is already being counted.And then Leyonhjelm admits:
After this was published I was informed that “old” hydro had been counted when the original target was established under Labor. I was told the total electricity market was estimated at 300,000 GWh in 2020, of which 20% is 60,000. Deduct 15,000 for existing hydro leaves the target of 45,000. Of this, 4,000 was allowed for small scale solar (ie roof top panels) and 41,000 for large scale (mainly wind). It is reduction in the latter target that is now the subject of dispute.
Adding back old hydro (without attracting Renewable Energy Certificates) would bring us close to 20% renewable anyway (as we won’t be anywhere near 300,000 by 2020) so the case is still arguable, but I acknowledge it would be double counting.
Quite a "whoopsie".
So thanks Judith! Can you give me a big, bold, shouty call out?
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Given the number of comments following this article, there certainly is a lot of interest in the question of why more women are choosing not to have children. "Education" is given as the main answer, but then it dwells on the question of whether or not it is fair or right to call the decision selfish.
While I am fully supportive of the use of contraception to limit family size, I always took the view that having at least one child is just a natural part of most permanent sexual relationships, and is educational in itself. I tend to be cautious about calling the decision "selfish", but I have always questioned why normal, basically happy, people would want to keep themselves out of this part of the natural aspect of life, and not want to learn more about themselves and others by going through the experience directly. In this way, I think I have viewed it in an intellectual way, just that I have come to a different conclusion to the educated who do not want kids.
I think the latter are misguided when they argue that they just never felt like they wanted kids - that's an appeal to emotion, and lots of people find their emotional response changes once they have a child. In a similar way, I have repeatedly argued that couples who say they are emotionally crushed if they cannot have fall pregnant (and therefore demand experimental procedures such as "3 parent babies" just so they can have their own) are putting emotion at an far undeserved premium.
That's how I see it, anyway.
The main reason for doing this was to see the more recent Sherlock episodes, and last night we watched the Watson wedding one. I thought it was terrible - meandering, quite dull for most of its length, and with the stupidest "locked room murder" resolution possible. [Spoiler]: Apparently, you can put a skewer through a standing person's back and if you do it in the right spot, they won't notice. It looks like a show on its last legs.
More successful has been re-watching The IT Crowd from the beginning. My mental chronology of when TV shows were on has gone rather wonky - I actually thought it was older than it is. But re-watching (through the first two seasons anyway) has been a pleasure; it was often a very funny, if silly, show. I never cared for Lineham's Father Ted at all; I just found the comedy in it too simple, and the characters completely unconvincing in any sense. I could watch an episode and not laugh once. It reminded me of the cringeworthy nature of Australian sitcoms.
While I can see how someone could make an argument that the IT Crowd style of humour is very similar, and therefore it's odd that I can dislike one and laugh madly at the other, that's just how it is for me. I think I could make a case that the nerds of IT are at least recognizeably real, if exaggerated, whereas the Father Ted crew bear no resemblance to any priest I've ever met; but perhaps I haven't really tried watching FT long enough to properly put my finger on it.
I also seem to recall that one of the series of IT - perhaps the third, which I haven't re-watched yet - was going downhill. But it happens with most shows.
As for the Stan service, it seems to work well and has a pretty good back library of TV and movies. Still not sure if I will stick with it after the first month, though...
Friday, April 17, 2015
I have one quibble - I can't see on-line shopping meaning the complete death of shopping malls. It's a bit like the predictions that TV, or cable TV, would spell the end of cinema. They are different experiences.
2. the fact that when on the ground, it doesn't look like one or two real people acting in front of a gigantic green screen (which is what made the prequels and the LOTR movies uninvolving - that and the fact George Lucas can't write a good screenplay to save himself and I am completely uninterested in Tolkien-lore)
3. Harrison Ford looks better than expected as a aged Han Solo
Lomborg has next to no credibility amongst climate change scientists and policy analysts who take climate change seriously.
And all you really need to know is this:
The Institute of Public Affairs responded to Lomborg’s new Australian operation by saying, “Bjørn, it’s great to have you!”
Good question about medical treatment. That could certainly be one of the contributors to falling death rates. I’ve also seen a suggestion that mobile phones have made a difference, because they mean medical help can be called out more quickly. It would be interesting to look more closely at these possibilities.If she had read this article before, I would have thought she would have answered more along the lines of "yes, there are certainly some experts in America who believe that is the case."
And I just noticed, further down in the comments thread Simon Chapman turns up with a pointed question to the author as follows:
Samara, in your declaration you say you "hold memberships with, and volunteer for, a range of not-for-profit firearm-related organisations." Could you please list these for the sake of transparency, and tell us whether any of these organisations or you personally are an advocate for watering down Australia's firearms laws in areas like ending gun registration, opposing restrictions on semi-automatic hand guns, allowing self defense as a reason to own a firearm, and introducing "right to carry" legislation in Australia of the sort supported by the US NRA and law in many US states. Do any of the organisations you are affiliated with have mutually supportive relationships with the NRA.She hasn't answered yet....
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Seems much more plausible to me than lab grown meat ever being particularly tasty, or texturally as good as, or economically viable compared to, the real thing from a cow.
The only environmental concern, I suppose, would be if there was ever a chance that escaped milk producing yeast could interfere with the alcohol producing "natural" variety used in wine and beer making. A great scientific dystopia it would be if in a 1,000 years beer brewing had to be abandoned because it kept going half milky!
Still, the evidence suggests that America’s wealthiest faced a significantly higher tax burden during the country’s years of midcentury prosperity. Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, for instance, find that, once corporate and estate taxes are added into the mix, the top 0.1 percent of earners paid 71.4 percent of their income to the IRS in 1960, compared to 34.7 percent in 2004. Reaching further back and using slightly different methodology, the Congressional Research Service finds that 0.1 percenters paid an average effective personal income tax rate of 55 percent in 1945, compared to around 25 percent during the late 2000s. The tax code really was more progressive back in the day—and more aggressive.Here's the link.
It's from the Lowy Institute blog, but it covers the issue pretty well.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
If you sweep a laser pointer across the moon, will the spot move faster than the speed of light? Every physics major encounters this question at some point, and the answer is yes, it will. If you sweep the laser pointer it in an arc, the velocity of the spot increases with the distance to the surface you point at. On Earth, you only have to rotate the laser in a full arc within a few seconds, then it will move faster than the speed of light on the moon!Now a bit more explanation:
This faster-than-light motion is not in conflict with special relativity because the continuous movement of the spot is an illusion. What actually moves are the photons in the laser beam, and they move at the always same speed of light. But different photons illuminate different parts of the surface in a pattern synchronized by the photon’s collective origin, which appears like a continuous movement that can happen at arbitrary speed. It isn’t possible in this way to exchange information faster than the speed of light because information can only be sent from the source to the surface, not between the illuminated parts on the surface.Oh, and your average laser pointer won't still be visible on the moon, and I have my doubts a laser strong enough to be visible is available from scientific supplies shops.
But, it's still fascinating.
(And it's posts like this that I sometimes re-read years later and think "Geez, I do run a great blog!")
From the link:
"Whether an advanced spacefaring civilization uses the large amounts of energy from its
galaxy's stars to power computers, space flight, communication, or something we can't yet imagine, fundamental thermodynamics tells us that this energy must be radiated away as heat in the mid-infrared wavelengths," Wright said. "This same basic physics causes your computer to radiate heat while it is turned on."
Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson proposed in the 1960s that advanced alien civilizations
beyond Earth could be detected by the telltale evidence of their mid-infrared emissions. It was not until space-based telescopes like the WISE satellite that it became possible to make sensitive measurements of this radiation emitted by objects in space.
Roger Griffith, a postbaccalaureate researcher at Penn State and the lead author of the paper, scoured almost the entire catalog of the WISE satellite's detections—nearly 100 million entries—for objects consistent with galaxies emitting too much mid-infrared radiation. He then individually examined and categorized around 100,000 of the most promising galaxy images.
Wright reports, "We found about 50 galaxies that have unusually high levels of mid-infrared radiation. Our follow-up studies of those galaxies may reveal if the origin of their radiation results from natural astronomical processes, or if it could indicate the presence of a highly advanced civilization."
In any case, Wright said, the team's non-detection of any obvious alien-filled galaxies is an interesting and new scientific result. "Our results mean that, out of the 100,000 galaxies that WISE could see in sufficient detail, none of them is widely populated by an alien civilization using most of the starlight in its galaxy for its own purposes. That's interesting because these galaxies are billions of years old, which should have been plenty of time for them to have beenlled with alien civilizations, if they exist. Either they don't exist, or they don't yet use enough energy for us to recognize them," Wright said.
Since returning to Fairfax, Jessica has been doing a pretty good job with explaining some economic issues.
The problem with economics (and I'd be sure this is not an original thought) is that there is "always something else going on" which makes pinning down cause and effect of particular policy settings very hard to work out. And it enables economists from opposite and set ideological positions to look at the same set of global evidence and both claim they are vindicated.
Hence, with company tax, you can complain that the Australia rate is now uncompetitive, yet the American rate is even worse (and there appears little prospect of it dropping soon), but America is still achieving an economic recovery. "Sure" the anti tax, small government economists will say "but if you look at countries X, Y and Z and their growth, consider how much faster the American recovery could have been!" (And, of course, you can often look at some aspect of how country X, Y and Z operates which the ideologically committed would disagree with, so it's virtually impossible to find a country that you could say is a perfect example of following one consistent economic ideological line.)
I'm not saying that is impossible to ever get to a "truth" in economics; just that the very nature of it means that there are always going to ways for dubious economists to convince politicians that they are the ones who are right.
As with the world of moral philosophy, it pays to not tie oneself to any one analyst, and let intelligent common sense from outside the field guide your actions.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
J. Allen Hynek wrote very sensible books in a measured tone about UFOs at the peak of public interest in them, and ended up being a consultant to Spielberg for Close Encounters (as well as making a cameo appearance.)
Interestingly, the letter at his link shows that, despite his reputation for leaning towards the "alien spaceship" side of likely explanations for UFOs, he did have an interest in the possible interconnection between psychic phenomena, including ghosts and poltergeists, and UFO sightings.
I wonder whether it was conversations with him that got Spielberg interested in writing the story for Poltergeist. I guess the answer to this might be in a biography of Spielberg on my shelf that I've never got around to reading.
Speaking of the very enjoyable Poltergeist, the remake is due out soon. The first trailer left me a bit underwhelmed, but the second one that came out recently is making me much more inclined to see it. It is, I think, a great example of a scary movie trailer, particularly when you consider most viewers probably know the story.
Watch it in a dark room with headphones on, and see if doesn't cause a jump or two:
Funny how he doesn't mention either population growth (21,542,000 in September 2008, and 23,581,000 in September 2014 - close enough to a 9.5% increase). Or the growth in GDP. (Not sure if inflation has been factored in; maybe it has?)
In short - of course revenue should have grown over the period in dollar terms; the question is whether it is growing at expected rates to cover expected needs of a growing, aging population. To dwell on the rise without context is just ideological propaganda.
And as for arguments about what government is better at covering rather than private enterprise: the recent DeLong/Krugman writings about it are of great interest.
Update: I see Andrew Bolt continues his gullible following of any argument Catallaxy runs and re-posts the Davidson graph and line.
* 10 Reasons we Should Tax Corporations
* Why corporate taxes are good for you
* Why we need the corporate tax income tax
The IPAers end their article as follows:
But even if the government wishes to keep the corporate tax fiscal illusion going, there's hope. For all the handwringing about the double Irish Dutch sandwich, one point often missed is that Ireland has been very clever. That country's low corporate tax rates have brought in multinationals, and with them jobs and investment.
It's not obvious those low rates have come at a cost to the Irish budget. Corporate tax revenue as a percentage of total revenue in Ireland is almost exactly the OECD average. There's no reason we couldn't copy the Irish example – get in on the Irish-Dutch sandwich ourselves. The Irish make their own luck. So should we.Of course, some countries can do well out of the race to the bottom, by being first to get there. And they win at a real, impoverishing, cost to other nations who recover diminishing revenue from economic activity in their country.
But people with a moral sense above that of Scrooge McDuck can see that you can't expect all countries to succeed in this race. There's only so many multinationals minimising tax to go around...
(Or perhaps I should just stop reading Benjamin Law. Then I might even stop spelling Homicide as Homocide.)
It's hard not to be convinced by Peter Martin's explanation here.
A great article here with some fascinating photos and details about Lincoln's death and aftermath.
I can't say I've heard of this before, for example:
After performing the inquest into Lincoln's death, U.S. Surgeon General Joseph Barnes cut off a lock of the dead president's hair and gave it to one of Lincoln's servants, a man named Thomas Pendel. Pendel, who became Lincoln's chief doorkeeper in 1864, was noted for his striking resemblance to Lincoln: The doorman's lanky frame nearly matched the president's odd dimensions and his facial features were so uncommonly similar to Lincoln's that Pendel was sometimes mistaken for the president himself.
It was this uncanny similarity that initially endeared the doorkeeper to Lincoln's son Tad. And it was Pendel who was ultimately left to comfort Tad after news of the president's death reached the family home and Lincoln's son came running to his father's lookalike, screaming, "Oh Tom Pen! Tom Pen! They have killed papa dead. They killed papa dead."
Later that May, Mary Todd asked the servant to put on her husband's black broadcloth coat and model his presidential office suit in a posthumous portrait painted by the famed Boston-based artist William Morris Hunt.
If this had happened today, there would be an online community of Lincoln assassination conspiracists who have the real Lincoln living in Argentina, and 25% of the population would believe it.Though Pendel was later described as a "simple, uneducated" man, his possession of this snippet of hair, cut from the head of his dead presidential doppelgänger, along with the
elegant broadcloth, made him a person of particular interest for Lincoln's archivists.
Using sliders to adjust weight and height, it's also accompanied by a graphic of a body that grows fatter as BMI increases. The trouble is, it might have a bit of a problem with the gradation.
Here it is at a BMI of 25 which, at this morning's DNW (dry nude weight, a term of my invention with which I dismay female workers at the office), I have achieved, the illustration is this:
Yes, I can live with that image - seems pretty accurate to what I'm seeing in the mirror.
But move the weight scale up 1 kg, and at a BMI of 26. this is what the drawing becomes:
Monday, April 13, 2015
Could that line about Tasmania be true?
In 2013, the Premier was claiming 27,000 public servants, but the person who wrote this post said that if you add in employment in Tasmanian government owned bodies, it's more like 33,000. Then someone in comments points to a 2010 report which said this:
New figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday show 40,900 Tasmanians were employed by the State Government in June, more than 17 per cent of the entire state workforce.And, by the way, this report from Tasmanian Treasury in February this year says there are about 241,000 employed workers in the State.
The wages bill for state public servants also leapt by nearly 19 per cent in the past year, gobbling up 53 per cent of the state’s limited Budget in salaries.
The State Government now provides more than one in six of all jobs in Tasmania, compared to an average of one in eight jobs being state government-reliant across the rest of Australia.
But when all public servants over three tiers of government federal, state and local government are taken into account more than one in five workers are employed by a government of some kind in Tasmania, compared to one in eight nationally.
Seems to me that for Judith's claim to be correct, there would need to be at least 3 times more public servants there than there actually are.
Quite the gaff from an economist who is routinely rudely dismissive of all economics commentators she disagrees with.
Update: more facts and figures on Tasmanian workforce here. Seems to me that, even if you were talking full time employees (about 145- 150,000), and also treating every public servant as such, there is still no way her quip could be true.
I am failing to see how the mistake could even have been made...
The mass beaching of over 150 melon-headed whales on Japan’s
shores has fueled fears of a repeat of a seemingly unrelated event in
the country — the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed
over 18,000 people.
Despite a lack of scientific evidence linking the two
events, a flurry of online commentators have pointed to the appearance
of around 50 melon-headed whales — a species that is a member of the
dolphin family — on Japan’s beaches six days before the monster quake,
which unleashed towering tsunami and triggered a nuclear disaster.
The only losers would be the major wind-energy generators, which are eagerly waiting to build dozens of new wind farms in an effort to meet the target and get on the subsidy gravy train. Against that, many people are hoping these are never built, among them those who suffer adverse health effects from the inaudible infrasound they generate...
Saturday, April 11, 2015
I had heard that there was one anti-malarial drug that often gave people vivid nightmares; I assume it was Lariam as described in this interesting first hand account of how it sent one young guy completely psychotic for a time. I didn't realise that it could have that drastic an effect. Lots of people in comments tell of their bad experiences with the drug, too.
Friday, April 10, 2015
People who are underweight in middle-age – or even on the low side ofThis will set the
normal weight – run a significantly higher risk of dementia as they get
older, according to new research that contradicts current thinking.
The results of the large study, involving health records from 2
million people in the UK, have surprised the authors and other experts.
It has been wrongly claimed that obese people have a higher risk of
dementia, say the authors from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical
Medicine. In fact, the numbers appear to show that increased weight is
At highest risk, says the study, are middle-aged people with a BMI
[body mass index] lower than 20 – which includes many in the “normal
weight” category, since underweight is usually classified as lower than a
BMI of 18.5.
These people have a 34% higher chance of dementia as they age than
those with a BMI of 20 to just below 25, which this study classes as
healthy weight. The heavier people become, the more their risk declines.
Very obese people, with a BMI over 40, were 29% less likely to get
dementia 15 years later than those in the normal weight category.
Good news for me, at least, with my determined effort to keep at the very edge of BMI of 25. (Actually, it seems according to one calculator, a 1 cm difference in my height is the difference between 25 and 26. I must measure myself, somehow, again.)
In other weather/climate news, there was a story last night on 7.30 about the drought conditions out in Western Queensland, with many properties around Longreach being completely de-stocked. As this is happening with (at best) a weak El Nino, it is not a good picture if a strong one develops later this year, as I think some suspect is on the cards.
Well, this sounds all very preliminary, and as if it is sponsored by a coconut oil manufacturer, but the claim is that adding a small-ish amount of coconut oil to cooking rice, then cooling and reheating it, makes it better for you by increasing the amount of resistant starch. (It's funny how making starch indigestible seems to be a good thing for the gut, but there you go.)
The article also makes some points about being careful with re-heating rice so as to avoid food poisoning.
I've always had the intuition that, of the things that could give you food poisoning, reheated plain cooked rice would have to be on the low end of the scale of risk. But, I was told decades ago by someone who worked in the microbiology, water and food safety field, that this was not true. It's one of the riskier foods for it, apparently, but I don't know why.
The story above says to not keep rice in the fridge for more than 3 days. I'm sure we often go way past that, and there is not a time I know of when eating re-heated rice has apparently made me sick. In fact, I have been thinking lately, it's been a long, long time since I've had a stomach upset of any variety.
Re-heated rice from the microwave is a marvel. In fact, if you only had a microwave for melting butter, defrosting meat, and re-heating cold or frozen rice, it would still be worth it.
And speaking of food poisoning, in my other wanderings around the net lately, I have come across a blog that is absolutely chock full of food poisoning news - the Barfblog. (It's a more serious site that the name suggests.)
The main author at the site, Doug Powell, appears to be a Canadian who worked in Kansas, but his blog entries make enough references to Brisbane to make me suspect he might live here now. Maybe he can tell me what has caused a repeated series of food poisoning outbreaks at the wonderful (well, provided you don't eat there) Brisbane Convention Centre in the last 6 months? I have never heard if the cause had been definitely identified.
The bad news for future human ice miners: the planet also seems to have high levels of the toxic to the thyroid chemical perchlorate. Bummer, hey?
How disappointing of Australian journalism was it that Arthur Laffer, on his recent IPA promoted comedy tour here*, was not asked about the complete failure of his policies in Kansas?
* well, I didn't watch all of the video of his IPA talk, but it certainly opened with a sustained string of jokes to an adoring audience.
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Would have been something to see - a Mars size planet smashing into the early Earth. If time travel is invented, that event should be high on the list of "to do's".
With the Senate asking questions about how the multinationals shift money around to minimise tax, the whole question of whether international tax competition is an ultimately harmful "race to the bottom" that countries ought to stop is of greater interest than ever.
The article above (which you may have to answer a question to get to) seems a decent summary of the controversy regarding the matter. (Of course, seeing libertarians are of the view that tax competition is fine and dandy, I think its a very reasonable conclusion that of course tax competition has become harmful, and that it can all be fixed by war being declared on Ireland, Bermuda, Singapore and any other country that is getting rich by enabling companies to impoverish the rest of the world.)
In other tax musings, I see that many are talking about the advantages of increasing land tax for revenue, and reducing stamp duty and other taxes.
While Jessica Irvine did a good job the other day explaining the advantages, transitioning to such a system would surely be complicated, and the idea that people having attained the "Australian dream" of home ownership with no mortgage now having to pay for the privilege is surely a hard, hard sell politically.
How much easier from a fairness point of view is it to say that companies have to pay local tax in the country where they generate the profit? Of course, achieving that result with international co-operation is the trick. I think my warfare plan, as well as rounding up the libertarians as enemies of the State to be interned until the cessation of hostilities, might have trouble being endorsed by politicians: although I may be in with a chance with the Greens.
I've asked this before on this blog, probably quite a few times over the years: why is it that out of all the peoples in the world, Middle East Muslims seem to be the most extraordinarily prone to believing in persecutory conspiracy theories? Take this, from the rather good article linked above about the situation in Iraq:
The conversation soon turned to Daesh (known as ISIS in the West), and how the group had formed. A common view I’ve heard in the region, propagated by Sunni and Shiite alike, is that Daesh is the creation of the United States. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq orAnyhow, the article in total is well worth reading.
Islamic State before the U.S. invasion in 2003. Therefore, so the twisted reasoning goes, the United States must have deliberately created the group in order to make Sunnis and Shiites fight each other, thereby allowing the U.S to continue dominating the region. Local media had reported on alleged U.S. airdrops to Daesh. Some outlets even referred to Daesh's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as an Israeli-trained Mossad agent.
Update: well, to state the obvious, isn't Google great? Here's an article from New Statesman last year asking the very same question, and mentions some other "greatest hits" of Muslim nonsense, which the writer notes, extends far beyond the Middle East:
A Pew poll in 2011, a decade after 9/11, found that a majority of respondents in countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon refused to believe that the attacks were carried out by Arab members of al-Qaeda. “There is no Muslim public in which even 30 per cent accept that Arabs conducted the attacks,” the Pew researchers noted.The explanations are limited:
This blindness isn’t peculiar to the Arab world or the Middle East. Consider Pakistan, home to many of the world’s weirdest and wackiest conspiracy theories. Some Pakistanis say the schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai is a CIA agent. Others think that the heavy floods of 2010, which killed 2,000 Pakistanis, were caused by secret US military technology. And two out of three don’t believe Osama Bin Laden was killed by US navy Seals on Pakistani soil on 2 May 2011.
Consider also Nigeria, where there was a polio outbreak in 2003 after local people boycotted the vaccine, claiming it was a western plot to infect Muslims with HIV. Then there is Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, where leading politicians and journalists blamed the 2002 Bali bombings on US agents.
Why are so many of my fellow Muslims so gullible and so quick to believe bonkers conspiracy theories? How have the pedlars of paranoia amassed such influence within Muslim communities?
I once asked the Pakistani politician Imran Khan why his fellow citizens were so keen on conspiracy theories. “They’re lied to all the time by their leaders,” he replied. “If a society is used to listening to lies all the time . . . everything becomes a conspiracy.”
The “We’ve been lied to” argument goes only so far. Scepticism may be evidence of a healthy and independent mindset; but conspiracism is a virus that feeds off insecurity and bitterness. As the former Pakistani diplomat Husain Haqqani has admitted, “the contemporary Muslim fascination for conspiracy theories” is a convenient way of “explaining the powerlessness of a community that was at one time the world’s economic, scientific, political and military leader”.
Nor is this about ignorance or illiteracy. Those who promulgate a paranoid, conspiratorial world-view within Muslim communities include the highly educated and highly qualified, the rulers as well as the ruled. A recent conspiracy theory blaming the rise of Islamic State on the US government, based on fabricated quotes from Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, was publicly endorsed by Lebanon’s foreign minister and Egypt’s culture minister.It's all rather depressing.
And what about the irony of how in the United States, the biggest long term dangerous conspiracy going around (climate change is a hoax) is held by those on the Right who are most rabidly anti-Muslim? Just thought I would throw that in for good measure.
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
A great, eye catching photo starts this article on the Pentagon spending billions on technology that doesn't live up to its promise.
The LA Times also has a story today about the Cold War era games of Putin:
U.S. F-22 fighter jets scrambled about 10 times last year — twice as often as in 2013 — to monitor and photograph Russian Tu-95 "Bear" bombers and MiG-31 fighter jets that flew over the Bering Sea without communicating with U.S. air controllers or turning on radio
transponders, which emit identifying signals.
The Russian flights are in international airspace, and it's unclear whether they are testing
U.S. defenses, patrolling the area or simply projecting a newly assertive Moscow's global power.
"They're obviously messaging us," said Flores, a former Olympic swimmer who is in charge of Tin City and 14 other radar stations scattered along the vast Alaskan coast. "We
still don't know their intent."
U.S. officials view the bombers — which have been detected as far south as 50 miles off California's northern coast — as deliberately provocative.