Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Krugman's not impressed

And Then There Were None - The New York Times
He wrties:
I do want to weigh infor a minute on Donald Trump’s tax plan — which would, surprise, lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit. That’s in contrast to Jeb Bush’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, and Marco Rubio’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit.
At this point there are no Republican candidates deviating at all from the usual pattern.
Why, it’s almost as if nobody in the party ever cared about deficits except as an excuse to slash social spending, and is totally committed to redistributing income upward.
And there is, of course, no evidence — zero, nada, zilch — that cutting taxes on the rich will yield large economic benefits.
What we’re seeing here is a party completely incapable of reforming

The Possibilist Transactional Interpretation

Quantum Physics And The Need For A New Paradigm : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR

Well, I think I've mentioned the transactional interpretation of quantum physics before, but maybe not the Possibilist TI idea?   I would have to check...

Sounds a good theory for ensuring even more quasi mystical explanations of the universe than ordinary quantum physics did in the 1970's and 80's.

Update:   my post about the tranactional interpretation was in 2009, and the paper referenced does seem to start talking about the "possibilist" bit towards the end.    (Hey, I think I'm doing reasonably well to remember the transactional interpretation at all, given that it seems to get little publicity.)

Please indulge me - it's for society's own good

The battle against inequality will continue until we change our attitudes towards parenting

I don't want to go all Mark Latham on her or anything, but  it is irritating to read this navel-gazing, oh-child-birth-and-baby-rearing-are,-like,-the-hardest-thing-ever,  and all government policy must be geared to allow women like me to get back into the workforce the minute they want to, attitude of Jessica Irvine.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Public transport win

Exclusive figures show Gold Coast light rail’s first year a success | Gold Coast Bulletin

I haven't taken a drive down to the Gold Coast since the light rail opened, so I was curious if it was working as planned.

As the report linked above says, the first year's figures show it has well exceeded predicted usage.

Good to see that something failed Prime Minister Abbott (that has such a satisfying ring to it) didn't have time for (public transport) can work. 

Libertarians and gullibility

So, Sinclair Davidson can still feel it in his bones, or something, that the Bureau of Meteorology uses a "flawed" method for how it makes adjustments for the temperature record.  

I've dealt with the matter of the intense gullibility of anyone swayed by Jennifer Marohasy or "Jonova" before - no need to repeat it.  

But it seems a good time to note out that, no matter what (some) Catholics may believe about a flying, miracle performing monk, the last couple of Popes have at least accepted scientific advice and been promoting government action to address global warming, making them far less of a danger to the future of the planet and humanity than libertarians.

Some gullibility doesn't really matter all that much - other gullibility does.  

Bilocation and gullibility

Last week, after I mentioned quantum teleporting, I was reminded that it was the feast day for the recently canonised Padre Pio, and one of the things claimed about him during his life was his ability to bilocate.  Some further reading was called for.

I've never paid much attention to the Padre Pio story.  I had read years and years ago that it was suspected that his stigmata were caused, or at least maintained by, the secret application of carbolic acid, and that many in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church at the time tried to dampen down what they saw as a dangerous cult-ish devotion to him.  That's not a good start for someone on the path to sainthood, yet John Paul II, the Pope who canonised so many saints that even conservative publications were asking whether it was too many, had met him (in 1948) and was happy to add him to the list in 2002.

There are, of course, many websites that discuss Padre Pio, most of them pious Catholic ones that simply repeat the litany of the claimed miracles.  He was what one might call a paranormal star, with the alleged ability to read minds, emit a flowery odor of sanctity (one of the easiest saintly things to fake, of course), but also there are many claims of  miraculous cures up to and including raising the dead (!).   But when it comes to stretching the limits of credibility, even the revival of the (apparently) dead and the bilocation stories are small change.  (And none of them, incidentally, appear particularly convincingly evidenced beyond anecdote.)   The "best" story about Pio by far is that he could not only levitate, but actually flew into the sky above his monastery and diverted Allied bombers in World War 2.  This weird story is discussed in detail at Beachcomber's blog here.  [Ok, maybe it was more a case of his bilocated image only appearing above his monastery, not his body.  But still....]

As for more skeptical short takes on Padre Pio, the best I have read so far is the one by Alexander Stille called The strange victory of Padre Pio.   It's a review of a book, actually, and it puts some particularly interesting political and social context to the rise of the saint (ha, a bit of a pun there...)

This passage, about a fraudster who attached himself to the local star is particularly odd:
 “A dozen years after the stigmata first appeared on the Capuchin friar’s body his cult looked ready to burn out,” Luzzatto writes. “But there was something that Padre Pio’s enemies had not taken into account.” That something or someone was Emanuele Brunatto, whom Luzzatto describes as “a con man of great talent, infinite imagination, and world-class enterprise…a chronic liar, a ruthless extortionist, and an incorrigible double-dealer.”

Brunatto, who had been convicted of fraud, had found his way to San Giovanni Rotondo in the early 1920s and attached himself to Padre Pio—perhaps to escape from the law, perhaps out of genuine religious devotion, perhaps because of his remarkable instinct for opportunity, and perhaps through some combination of the three. Brunatto wrote one of the first biographies of the future saint (which the Church promptly banned) and skimmed money from the flow of cash arriving from around the world to Padre Pio, according to one Church report. When Padre Pio found himself reduced almost to a condition of house arrest, Brunatto fought back with the methods he had acquired in his earlier life. He assembled a dossier of the alleged misdeeds and sexual misconduct of the Puglese clergy and, at a high-level meeting at the Vatican, threatened to publish it as a book. Not long after, the Church decided to lighten most of the restrictions on Padre Pio’s ministry.

In the early 1930s, this imaginative man cooked up an investment scheme for the followers of Padre Pio, putting himself at the head of a company that would sell locomotive patents. With Padre Pio’s backing, Brunatto raised millions of dollars, set himself up in Paris, and traveled the continent living grandly and supposedly selling patents to the governments of Europe. The one attempt to build a locomotive based on one of the patents proved a fiasco, but Brunatto succeeded in keeping the scheme going for several years while insisting that the company was inches away from a major bonanza.

Padre Pio does not appear to have profited from the scheme. The investors, of course, lost all their money and Brunatto moved on to other dangerous games, among them spying for the Fascist police. During World War II, Brunatto made a fortune as a black marketer and collaborationist, selling rationed foodstuffs and keeping the German army supplied with French wines and champagne. With extraordinary foresight, he placed a portion of his stratospheric profits into a charitable fund to help Padre Pio build a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo. Certainly, this charitable act proved helpful when Brunatto sought (and managed) to avoid a lengthy prison sentence for collaboration with the Nazis.
It is an incredible story, but not quite in the way the hierarchy of the Church now wants to promote.

Another review of the same book is here, extracting a few more details, including that the very lifelike face of the deceased saint (who Pope Francis will have displayed at Saint Peter's Basilica next year) is a silicon mask made by a London wax museum.  (Not that this is a big secret, exactly:  I see it mentioned on several Catholic sites and in the media reports about when the body first went on display.  But I wonder how clearly this is specified at his tomb, which one site says is the second most visited Catholic shrine in the world.)

Of course, while it may be accurate to say his canonization does not necessarily mean the Church believes all of  the very folkloric stories of his living miracles (the couple of post mortem medical recoveries relied on  are detailed here), it's worrying evidence for the gullible mindset of some adherents to the Faith that this Saint carries so much "baggage", so to speak.

But Googling around, I found some even stranger bilocation discussion, this time from a book with the intriguing title of The Quantum Vision of Simon Kimbangu.  (Just Google it and bilocation to find the pages I am referring to below.)   Kimbangu was a controversial Congolese  religious figure of the same vintage as Padre Pio (first half of the 20th century),  who apparently still has a church named after him.

As for the book, it makes some unverified claims (including a repeat of the airborne Pio story):


 The amusing thing is, the story of the appearance of Kimbangu to Ekutu Camile is described on the previous page in the book, but the bilocated visitor claiming to be Kimbangu was a white European (not black, as the "original" Kimbangu most certainly was.)  No problem-o:


When it comes to bilocation, anything seems possible.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dubious about hyperloops

How two L.A. start-ups are racing to develop transportation more amazing than self-driving cars - LA Times

Well, it's interesting to read about two different groups now investigating hyperloop transport ideas, but I remain skeptical about them for a few main reasons:

a.   as passenger transport, it looks like it could readily induce claustrophobia in anyone even vaguely susceptible to it;

b.  why would you build one in such a major earthquake zone such as California?  Seems to me to be rather like inviting trouble in exactly the same way that common sense would have suggested that building many nuclear power plants in Japan may not be the best idea;

c.  even if it works out cheaper than road or rail transport for goods, how many years will it take to recover its high capital costs if you are relying on goods transport as a key source of profit?

Still, I'm not opposed to people working on it.  I wonder if it might work out better as a transport feeder system on a smaller scale than that originally proposed.  

Andrew's love letter

Andrew Bolt is getting much ridicule on twitter for his embarrassing love letter to Tony Abbott which takes the approach that he was too good a man to be Prime Minister:



This is a rather strange take on the matter of a politician who admitted lying to journalists and specifically warned them never to trust anything he said off the cuff.  Also odd when you consider that Abbott dumped his promise to fix up the Racial Discrimination Act so that something like the action against Bolt couldn't happen again.

Perhaps Andrew is suffering from the same sort of syndrome that stops abused spouses from leaving their partner?

Update:   Steve Kates, the nutty economist, joins in the mourning: 
 The media and the left are among the people least capable of seeing goodness in others. And it’s not as if these qualities were invisible even to those of us who were not among his friends. If you are part of the anti-Abbott collective of this country, you are part of the problem and in no way part of the kind of humane solutions Tony Abbott tried to bring to political decision making in this country. We are all the worse for his departure. There are some who do not know this because they are so shrivelled inside that they incapable of knowing this. But there are some, thankfully, who understood what a great Prime Minister we had and know exactly what we have lost.
On the "That's ludicrous!" scale of 1 to 10, that opening sentence scores a 12.   It seems to come from a man who never reads the threads at the blog he posts at. 

Silly but funny

Conan O'Brien has always done silly comedy very well, and this is a great example:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Spring garden scenes, 2015

I usually post garden flower photos in Spring each year, and here are a selection from this morning:




And OK, this may not be from the garden, but it's the pup doing her Ewok impersonation that makes my daughter squeal about cuteness:


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Just getting it ready in case he disappoints


Malcolm, whatever you do, don't be that man.....OK?


Big smoke in Singapore

Singapore closes schools and slams Indonesia over its hazardous-level smoke haze response - ABC News 

Singapore, as well as neighbouring Malaysia, has been cloaked in
smoke blown-in from tinder-dry Sumatra island for about three weeks —
the worst such episode since mid-2013 in a crisis that grips the region
annually during the burning-off season.

The closure of primary and
secondary schools, as well as government-run kindergartens, is
unprecedented, the Straits Times said as the air quality index hovered
above 300.
Makes one feel a bit pessimistic about CO2 reduction when parts of the world can't even their act together over visible pollution.

Not much love for Peta or Tone

When both Barry Cassidy and Janet Albrechtsen agree that Peta Credlin was a massive failure as a PM's  Chief of Staff, I don't think any reasonable person can think otherwise.

Janet's not even showing much love for Abbott in this paragraph:
To be sure, history will record Abbott as the master of his own tragic demise. As prime minister, he bears the responsibility for failures over the first budget, the poor sales pitch, the broken promises, the failure to court independents in the Senate, the search for excuses rather than for a way forward, the belated dumping of the Medicare co-payment and the paid parental leave scheme, the crazy knighthood, and the wrongheaded reaction to Bronwyn Bishop’s greedy use of taxpayer money. And more.
Is she still Michael Kroger's partner?   I don't recall what he used to think of Abbott.

Honestly, apart from the likes of the nutty Steve Kates, and frustrated commentators who have lost their perceived control of the party (Bolt, Jones, Hadley), the amount of sympathy being shown for Abbott is remarkably small.   This must feel pretty humiliating.  (And no, I am not inviting sympathy even for that.) 

Friday, September 25, 2015

First World tragedy played out for all to see

Why I'm ditching my Android phone and going back to iPhone (for now)
To my friends who said I was making a mistake by switching to Android —
Nick, Cory, Brent, James, Chris, Jordan, and just about every single
other friend I have, all of whom seem to have iPhones — I'm sorry. You
were right. I hate being known as "green text message guy"; I want to be
blue iMessage man. Can we still be friends?

I feel like smacking him across the face with my Samsung TabS for being so annoyingly First World, Apple Fanboy, whiny.  Except it might hurt my tablet.

That's all it takes?

Stampede caused by breakdown in pilgrims’ flow | GulfNews.com
“As we were walking towards Al Jamarat, the flow suddenly stopped with
an apparent reason,” Mohammad, a pilgrim, told Sabq. “A few minutes
later, a large group of people came from the back and pushed us, causing
the stampede. Women started to cry and several old people fell on the
ground. Only the intervention of the security and medical authorities
saved us from a bigger tragedy,” said Mohammad who was still being
treated for his injuries.
Um, I don't get why a "stop in the flow" is enough to cause a "stampede".   The ones who push from behind may cause some concern among those who cannot move forward, but why do they keep pushing if it's achieving nothing?   I think there must be some strange laws of crowd behaviour I don't understand here.

Update:  this explanation at the ABC suggests it might be more of a case of a "crowd crush" than a "stampede".  Which would make a bit more sense.   Still, it seems a bit odd to me that crowds, when not worried about escaping from a danger, simply can't stop when it's obvious no one is moving...

Update 2:  some more detailed discussion of how crowd crushes happen is at Wired.

PJ is not impressed

P.J. O’Rourke on why Trump will collapse, Ann Coulter’s a fraud, and how National Lampoon created modern comedy - Salon.com

I think it fair to say that, as a sort of libertarian-lite, PJ O"Rourke has been unhappy with the fuddy-duddy, old man establishment Republicans for a long time; but it appears he thinks even less of the current state of the party, as reflected in its Presidential candidates.  Fair enough.

Retirement home for sweary oldies

We all know that when cranky middle-aged to old white men* (many of them single, unsurprisingly) get too sweary and over the top for Andrew Bolt's threads they go on to find a home at Catallaxy; and if it's one thing that irks them, it's all this blather about domestic violence and women.   Here's the obvious solution to the problem:


Because domestic violence never happened before the 1970's, I guess. (My late Mum, who was nearly strangled by her first husband, might have had something to say about that.)

Turnbull and risk

I see from his twitter feed that PM Turnbull caught a Sydney ferry to work this morning.  He also said the other day that his Federal Police minders are OK with his continuing to take public transport.

Viewed from a distance, it's fantastic egalitarian PR for a wealthy Prime Minister to be seen to be using public transport, but I'm not entirely sure that I would be happy to be on a bus when he and his security detail gets on board.   I would feel a bit concerned that I've just become a potential collateral target.

But it's pretty remarkable that we live in a country where this is not thought of as absolute nuts by our security services, or the media.   Or maybe they do, but Turnbull is pushing on regardless? 

Hot weather coming

This summer's El Nino looks set to bring more heatwaves to Australia's north and east

The article notes that the relationship between El Nino and heat waves is a bit complicated, but for Western Queensland, already in serious drought (in fact, my impression is that after the 2011/12 floods the rain just stopped like a tap turned off,) this looks like it could be a very bad summer.

About Pope Francis

I expected his spoken English to be better.

That is all.

Yet another "renewables and batteries are looking good" story

From Science, a report about a Harvard team that has come up with a cheaper, safer, set of chemicals to use in a "flow battery" which could have domestic application for storing roof top solar power.   The big question - whether it will end up cheaper to run than Tesla's lithium home storage - is not answered, and it sounds like the system could take up more space, but still:
The Harvard team realized that a possible bromine replacement was a charge-carrying molecule called ferrocyanide, which sounds dangerous but is actually used as a food additive. Ferrocyanide, however, dissolves in alkaline solutions, not acidic ones. So Aziz and his colleagues tweaked the chemical structure of their quinone—ripping off a couple of sulfur groups and replacing them with pairs of hydrogen and oxygen atoms—in the end converting the compound into one that readily dissolves in an alkaline solution.

The scheme worked, and as the researchers report today in Science, the battery readily stores power with only components that are cheap, abundant, and nontoxic.

For now, Aziz notes the alkaline quinone battery stores only about two-thirds of the energy per volume as the previous acid-based version. But because it doesn’t require expensive materials to deal with bromine, it’s likely to be far cheaper to produce and friendlier to use. “This is chemistry I’d be happy to put in my basement,” Aziz says. And that may not be far off. A flow battery using the new quinones and ferrocyanide would likely only have to be the size of a couple of hot water tanks to store the energy produced by a conventional home rooftop solar array.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Moonquakes

I knew there were moonquakes, and that they had left seismographs there during the Apollo missions.   But I didn't know some of the details in this neat article:
The first thing to know about moonquakes is this: They last forever. While most earthquakes are over in under a minute, moonquakes can last for an afternoon. In the 1970s, at least one 5.5-magnitude moonquake shook the lunar surface at full force for more than 10 minutes straight, then tapered off gradually over the course of several hours.
“The moon was ringing like a bell,” Clive Neal, a geological sciences professor at Notre Dame, told NASA about the Apollo-era lunar seismic data he and his colleagues examined. A strong moonquake would be enough to devastate a hypothetical human settlement—breaching a moon base’s seal and causing a catastrophic loss of oxygen—which is part of why scientists became interested in studying the phenomenon in the first place.

You don't have to be nutty about Obama - just completely hyperbolic is fine

The National Review's Kevin Williamson suggests that some conservatives may be going over the top in their complaints about this Pope, but look at how he talks about Obama (my emphasis):
Joe Scarborough has been castigated by conservatives for affirming his belief that President Obama, for all his flaws, is a man who loves his country. Barack Obama is a failed president, a practitioner of a deeply destructive, distorted, self-interested, and vanity-driven brand of politics, and every instinct he exhibits tends toward detriment, privation, and chaos. But the fever-swamp version of his presidency — that he is a foreigner, a closet Islamist, a man singularly bent upon the destruction of the United States of America — is wrong. President Obama is himself certainly no exemplar of treating political disagreements with charity of spirit — he is quite the opposite — but his failings need not be our failings.
As my post heading suggests - the Right in America has been completely hyperbolic and over the top in its assessment of Obama over his presidency, and now they have the hide to complain about those who have followed the hyperbole into crazy land, and support Trump.

They only have themselves to blame...

Peta considered

There are two detailed commentary pieces by female journalists out today about Peta Credlin.

The first, by Michelle Grattan, seems to me to be by far the best.   It's a straight forward dismissal of  Credlin's self serving claim that her power wielding in the PM's office was only a problem for others because she was a woman.   No, says Michelle, the way in which she alienated MPs would have caused exactly the same resentment regardless of her gender, and she has to take a substantial part of the blame for her boss losing his job.

Over at The Guardian, Katherine Murphy takes a more feminist analysis, waffling on somewhat about power as wielded by women.  Some of the paragraphs are a bit over the top:
The tall willowy woman was always conspicuous, wagging a disapproving finger, growling like a combatant in the advisers’ box, standing a full head higher than the men.
That disconcerting height, always looming, regally. Shoulders back. Vaguely horsey, absurdly healthy, meticulous, glamorous, glowing – millinery and heels. No stooping. Certainly no shirking.
As someone says in the comment thread:
Thank you, Mills And Boon.
And many others in the thread note that this strangely sympathetic (for a Guardian writer) take on a right wing warrior overlooks the fact that she was working for Abbott when he was making some distinctly sexist comments about Gillard.  (Of course, it might be that she didn't like all of her boss's quips, but the way she would get involved in making derogatory comments at Labor while sitting in an advisers box in Parliament makes me think otherwise.)

I think the fair assessment is just that she was, like her boss, an opportunistic political warrior who still doesn't understand her own inadequacies.

Renewables and the grid

Energy: Reimagine fuel cells : Nature News & Comment

Here's a good, detailed explanation of the different approaches to maintaining grid stability when you have large amounts of power coming from intermittent renewable sources, such as solar cells. Of the three solutions: gas turbines, batteries and fuel cells, the writer argues the potential for a new type of fuel cell.

My impression, once again, is that the overall mood is one of much greater optimism for renewables than there was a few years ago. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tax reform suggestions

Hmm.  Much intrigue, and quite a bit of unhappiness from industry groups that have spent money on making submissions, in the news this morning that PM Turnbull seems to have scrapped the Tax White paper process.

As the SMH notes, this is not the first time Turnbull has entered the tax debate with big ideas of his own.

Could this be a sign of Turnbull "I know best" hubris has re-emerged?  Could it herald a breath of reasonable fresh air around tax?   I like Turnbull, but I suspect it may play out as more the former than the latter.

Anyway, I think I once posted what I thought was some pretty obvious ways to raise more tax which ought to be sell-able to the Australian public:

1.  a modest increase in the GST rate to 12.5%.   This is low enough to not really be noticed, but I'm pretty sure it still raises quite a lot.  As for its expansion - I would be inclined to leave it off fresh food, but wonder whether a reduced rate could be added to education services - say 5%?  OK, that would be a hard sell to Liberal constituents, but it might be something Labor could live with;

2.  superannuation tax concessions at the high end wound back harder;

3.  a staged reduction in negative gearing.  Not too staged.  And didn't I suggest once that it be time limited, to like for the first 5 years?   Increased turnaround in investment property sales would be good for stamp duty revenue too, as well as placing properties back on the market for potential owner/occupiers.   Someone needs to point out to me the downside, as there almost certainly would be one.  

Of course, we should have a carbon tax of some description too, but I don't think even Turnbull is up for that.

Update:    How quickly I forget.  Didn't I also once suggest the obvious solution to our revenue problems - a 300% GST on tattoos and piercings?   The budget will be fixed in no time at all....



The complicated evolution of American public housing

Public Housing Can Work - The Atlantic

Here's an article that handily summarises the history of public housing in the US.  (Makes me feel rather old to read about Lyndon B Johnson promoting public housing in 1937.  I recall - vaguely - his coming to Brisbane in 1966.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A watery apocalypse for Tokyo?

I didn't even realise, until I saw a special (and fascinating) report on Catalyst last year that parts of Tokyo were at high risk of flooding, and huge engineering projects underground have been built to protect the city.

Well, the recent floods just north of the city have led to some dire warnings about how much worse things will be when the same amount of rainfall hits closer to the metropolis.  It sounds very serious indeed:
With the effects of global warming becoming increasingly obvious, the climatic conditions that triggered torrential rain in Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures two weeks ago is no longer a rarity, and the odds are “100 percent” that similar downpours will hit Tokyo, says Nobuyuki Tsuchiya, a civil engineering expert and author of the 2014 book “Shuto Suibotsu” (“The Capital Submerged”)....

“It so happened that the rain zone moved (northeast) after striking Tokyo and stayed over the Kinugawa River. But think what a disaster it may have been if the band of rain had moved about 50 km westward and struck the Tone and Arakawa rivers instead....

The rupture of the Tone and Arakawa rivers would cause “far more severe devastation” than that of the Kinugawa deluge, he said.

With the Arakawa, for example, boasting one of the densest populations in its surrounding areas of any river in Japan, extensive flooding would lead to unprecedented fatalities and an economic catastrophe that would send shock waves around the world, Tsuchiya said.
Well, this guy has a book to sell, but it is  not as if he is alone:
Indeed, a 2010 government report released by a panel of outside disaster-prevention experts calculated several possible death tolls in the event that the Tone and Arakawa rivers rupture. The deadliest scenario was if the Tone River broke its banks near the cities of Koga and Bando in western Ibaraki, in which case the death toll could rise to as many as 6,300, the report said.
Tsuchiya said, however, that Tokyo should brace for an even more apocalyptic scenario, noting the amount of rain that entered the Kinugawa River was far larger than that anticipated by the report.
“If Tokyo is struck by the same level of downpours that hit the Kinugawa, I’d say the damage would be far more disastrous.”
It therefore seems that if an earthquake doesn't kill thousands there in the coming years, floods probably will....

A "doctor caused epidemic"

It's always interesting to look at how and why particular drug abuse problems start, and the resurgence of heroin in midwest America gets this explanation in The Economist:
The heroin epidemic in the Midwest is closely linked to the rampant opiate epidemic. As doctors prescribed opioid painkillers such as OxyContin more and more liberally, their abuse grew. Sales of prescription opioid painkillers have increased 300% since 1999, according to the federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even though the amount of pain Americans report to their physicians has not changed.

 Three-quarters of heroin addicts used to take prescription drugs and switched to heroin, which is cheaper and more easily available on the black market. A gram of pure heroin costs less than half what it did in the 1980s, in real terms. “This is a doctor-caused epidemic,” says Tom Frieden, boss of the CDC. In states with higher prescription rate of opioid painkillers, such as Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, the number of heroin addicts is higher too.

In depressed areas in the Rust Belt, where poverty and unemployment rates shot up as factories shut down and jobs disappeared, the drug epidemic is ravaging once-idyllic communities. Indiana had a brutal wake-up call earlier this year when Austin, a small rural community just off the interstate between Indianapolis and Louisville, was the epicentre of the largest outbreak of HIV infections ever seen in the state. Nearly 200 people were infected in a population of just 4,200 because addicts injecting Opana, a prescription painkiller that delivers a potent high, shared needles, which is the fastest way for an infection to spread. “We have never documented anything like it,” says Mr Frieden.

The importance of Chinese box office, again

China Box Office: Tom Cruise's 'Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation' Crosses $100M - Forbes

That's in 10 days of release.  In America, it is approaching $200 million but slowing down.

An earlier prediction I posted said some think it might reach $250 million in China.

One might say that it pays to panda to the Chinese market.  (Ha.)

About time

Doctor Who exterminated by X Factor in 10-year low for season opener | Media | The Guardian

I had been wondering whether the now completely unwatchable Dr Who would be suffering in the ratings, and it appears it certainly is.    As I have been saying for at least a couple of years now, it needs to be rested for a decade or so, and then revived (if at all) under a completely new team. 

And the Guardian can stop being Dr Who Nerd Central, too.

A different type of Troll

For those who are using the Australian streaming service Stan,  can I suggest you watch the 2011 Norwegian film Trollhunter.

It's not that it's what I would exactly call a great movie - it's just that it's an eccentric idea for a "found footage" mockumentary that is very well executed and enjoyable.  And you get to see lots of Norway, which looks wet, cold, pretty empty, and (for the most part) pretty spectacular.  I want to go there.

(It also shows how monster special effects look so much better when incorporated into a real background, rather than the Lord of the Rings/later Star Wars problem of the entire landscape looking digitally fake.)

Just being practical, I guess...

Czech pub installs vomitorium for patrons | barfblog

Here's the photo that seems to prove it:

Yet more renewables optimism

The recent (and relatively abrupt) rise in optimism about renewable energy being able to pretty quickly make a big difference to CO2 production continues with stories like these.

I think I had seen some mention of this before, but strangely enough, Texas is leading America in the production of wind power.   This story last week at Slate noted that its peculiar electricity marketing system means that wind farm owners at times offer their electricity at "negative prices", but an article from earlier this year talks more generally about the Texan story:
In 2014, wind generated 10.6 percent of Texas electricity, up from 9.9 percent the previous year and 6.2 percent in 2009, according to the U.S Energy Information Administration. Wind energy generation that falls under the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the grid for 24 million Texans, nearly doubled from 2009 to 2014. Currently, Texas has more than 12 gigawatts of wind power capacity installed across the state — equivalent to six Hoover Dams. That figure could jump to 20 gigawatts in a few years with upgrades to the current transmission system, according to Ross Baldick, an engineering professor at University of Texas at Austin.
And the explanation:
So how has the Lone Star state done it? Strong government incentives, sizeable investments in infrastructure, and innovative policies have played an important role. So has the backing of governors of all political persuasions, from liberal Democrat Ann Richards to conservative Republican Rick Perry. But at heart the profit motive has driven the state’s wind energy boom, with ranchers and landowners seeing gold in the spinning turbines on the Texas plains.
I wonder why Texas isn't also the centre of infrasound complaint, then?  I think David Leyonhjelm should be sent over there on a 3 year mission to find out.

In other optimistic assessments about how much you can achieve (and how quickly), I spotted this story Greening the Electric Grid with Gas about a study out of Harvard:
Much of the nation's energy policy is premised on the assumption that clean renewable sources like wind and solar will require huge quantities of storage before they can make a significant dent in the greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation. A new Harvard study pokes holes in that conventional wisdom. The analysis published today in the journal Energy & Environmental Science finds that the supply of wind and solar power could be increased tenfold without additional storage....

"We're trying to knock out a salient policy meme that says that you can't grow variable renewables without a proportionate increase in storage," Keith said. "We could cut electric-sector carbon emissions to less than a third their current levels using variable renewables with natural gas to manage the intermittency, but this will requires us to keep growing the transmission infrastructure." Keith added, "There is a saw-off between transmission and storage, if siting battles stop new transmission then we must increase storage."

Monday, September 21, 2015

Story prompt that probably isn't original

I occasionally look at Reddit and see "story prompt" postings.  Given last week's story of a physics experiment that will attempt to put a microbe in "two places at once" in a quantum experiment, I thought of my own, but I wouldn't be surprised if it hasn't already been the subject of at least a short story.  Here goes:
Future teleporting won't be about destroying one version of yourself and recreating it elsewhere (as used to be speculated in Star Trek) - it will be about quantum splitting of yourself into two places, with one of you branching off into the (very similar) multiverse, never to be met again.   Quantum computers will make this cheap and simple - so much so that nearly everyone in a country with a modern economy will teleport daily to get to work, the shops, etc.   It'll replace public transport, cars, airlines, etc.  The biggest problem will be limiting the numbers wanting to get to popular destinations.   You just have a home portal, and all major buildings will have there's at the entrance.

One day, however, the Google controlled Universal Teleporting System breaks down (possibly via interference from another universe.)   The quantum duplicates and the original stay in the same universe, every time a person teleports.   Given that (say) a quarter of the world's population teleports at least once daily (many several times a day), within the space of a few hours, the world's population has doubled, with some people finding multiple copies of themselves turning up at their front door, not expecting to find themselves already home.

How does the world deal with this? 
Update:   here's a thread that talks about how "teleportation ethics" has been raised in both Star Trek and other science fiction stories and novels.  But it's based on the problem being that the original person being destroyed or disassembled in the process of being re-constituted somewhere else.  

My prompt isn't worried about that - as the explanation for teleporting will be that the other "you" has gone on to live in another universe - one nearly identical to your own, and the universe if quantum branching all the time anyway, so what's the harm in that?


Monday Wormholes

I've been forgetting to browse the arXiv abstracts for odd physics lately, but here are a few recent ones that have caught my attention:

1.  Can extra dimensional effects allow wormholes without exotic matter?
We explore the existence of Lorentzian wormholes in the context of an effective on-brane, scalar-tensor theory of gravity. In such theories, the timelike convergence condition, which is always violated for wormholes, has contributions, via the field equations,from on-brane matter as well as from an effective geometric stress energy generated by a bulk-induced radion field. It is shown that, for a class of wormholes, the required on-brane matter, as seen by an on-brane observer in the Jordan frame, is not exotic and does not violate the Weak Energy Condition. The presence of the effective geometric stress energy in addition to on-brane matter, is largely responsible for creating this intriguing possibility. Thus, if such wormholes are ever found to exist in the Universe, they would clearly provide pointers towards the existence of a warped extra dimension as proposed in the two-brane model of Randall and Sundrum.
2. Possible existence of wormholes in the central regions of halos 
An earlier study [Rahaman et al. (2014) & Kuhfittig (2014)] has demonstrated the possible existence of wormholes in the outer regions of the galactic halo, based on the Navarro-Frenk-White (NFW) density profile. This paper uses the Universal Rotation Curve (URC) dark matter model to obtain analogous results for the central parts of the halo. This result is an important compliment to the earlier result, thereby confirming the possible existence of wormholes in most of the spiral galaxies. 
3. Analytic self-gravitating Skyrmions, cosmological bounces and wormholes 
We present a self-gravitating Skyrmion, an analytic and globally regular solution of the Einstein- Skyrme system in presence of a cosmological constant with winding number w = 1. The static spacetime metric is the direct product R x S3 and the Skyrmion is the self-gravitating generalization of the static hedgehog solution of Manton and Ruback with unit topological charge. This solution can be promoted to a dynamical one in which the spacetime is a cosmology of the Bianchi type-IX with time-dependent scale and squashing coefficients. Remarkably, the Skyrme equations are still identically satisfied for all values of these parameters. Thus, the complete set of field equations for the Einstein-Skyrme-Lambda system in the topological sector reduces to a pair of coupled, autonomous, nonlinear differential equations for the scale factor and a squashing coefficient. These equations admit analytic bouncing cosmological solutions in which the universe contracts to a mini- mum non-vanishing size, and then expands. A non-trivial byproduct of this solution is that a minor modification of the construction gives rise to a family of stationary, regular configurations in General Relativity with negative cosmological constant supported by an SU(2) nonlinear sigma model. These solutions represent traversable wormholes with NUT parameter in which the only "exotic matter" required for their construction is a negative cosmological constant. 
 Thinking about wormholes seems to be very big in theoretic physics at the moment.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Leyonhjelm Effect?

Gee, I dunno.  Perhaps the Senator for Guns, Tobacco, Infrasound and Things That Annoy Him But Are Not Within Commonwealth Control Anyway (David Leyonhjelm) should ease up on the frequent media appearances and attention seeking tactics.

Because it doesn't seem to be helping his party's candidates, if this weekend's Canning by-election is any guide. Despite being number two on the ballot paper, at the time of writing, the LDP has polled about 5 times less than the Palmer United Party or Australian Christians;  under half of the votes of the Animal Justice Party; about 10 times less than the Greens; and even less than the Pirate Party.

Maybe the more he's exposed, the less his party's vote?   Embarrassing.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Microbes to the rescue

Feeding the world with plant microbiomes | The Saturday Paper

A short but quite interesting report here on how research into newly discovered plant microbiomes may help increase agricultural output.  For example:

Meanwhile, other bacteria can boost agricultural output. Pseudomonas,
which live in the soil around a plant, make hormones goading roots to
grow. In one trial, inoculating wheat with a cocktail of these bugs over
two years increased yields by more than 30 per cent. Another bacteria, Burkholderia,
has been shown to ramp up rice production. O’Sullivan wants to use
these plant steroids to inspire crops to grow during drought. “There is a
lot of potential here,” she says.


Is it too much to hope for the start of an anti-pandering movement?

Donald Trump doesn’t correct birthers, but how is that any worse than the GOP’s standard climate change pandering?

Yes, this is exactly what I want the the sensible Right in Australia (hopefully, in the form of Malcolm Turnbull) to do - to start telling those on their side the truth about how wrong they are (and how stupid, in most cases) on matters such as climate change, and certain economic tropes (such as "reducing taxes always works"; "Keynesian economics is a crock".)

Update:  here's Krugman's acerbic take on the second GOP debate. 

Awesome hyprocrisy of the Abbott mourners

I was expecting one eyed amnesia to some extent from the Right wing commentariat  (a word, incidentally, that I've just realised I've been misspelling frequently - probably because even the correct spelling is not in my brower's dictionary), but the completely hypocritical "a good man undone by the media and the rabid hatred of the Left" mourning of Abbott from the likes of Bolt and his dunderhead followers is still a stunning example of how ridiculous they have become.  Especially in light of the white hot hatred and rumour mongering they encouraged over Gillard - up to and including cheering a royal commission and police investigation looking into whether she got some free work done on her house 22 years ago.

There simply has been no media treatment of a Prime Minister as openly disrespectful and bitterly personal as that by the Right wing schlock jocks and Murdoch tabloid press towards Gillard. 

It's as absurd to argue otherwise as it is to deny climate change is real and deserves a strong political response.  [You can take the "Oh, wait a minute..."  joke as too easy.]

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dangerous drinking

It's a little hard to credit that the person handing over this drink did not realise it was dangerous to consume:
It was an 18th-birthday celebration - and the birthday girl was given a free cocktail to celebrate.
But just seconds after Gaby Scanlon, now 20, drank the Nitro-J√§germeister shot, smoke started billowing from her nose and mouth.
"Immediately she was taken violently ill, retching and vomiting and smoking from her nose and mouth," prosecutor Barry Berlin told an English court.
The liquid nitrogen in the drink, which was used to create a smoking effect, pierced her stomach and killed internal tissue.
The court heard that Ms Scanlon experienced "agonising pain" and required surgery to have her stomach removed and her oesophagus connected to her small bowel...
The bar's director Andrew Dunn had seen cocktails containing liquid nitrogen being served a hotel in London and decided to introduce a range at his newly opened bistro, the court heard.

I think the topic for discussion with the children over dinner this weekend will be "Using your own common sense when at a bar or nightclub". 

Marr on Abbott

Vale, Tony Abbott – both a unique man and a unique failure | David Marr | Australia news | The Guardian

It may be a bit flowery in the Marr fashion, but I don't think he treats Abbott unfairly.


Their base is nuts 'cos they're led by nuts

I've been enjoying the Trump angst sweeping through Republican establishment circles, who can't understand how their "base" can be applauding some politically ridiculous lines coming out of an egotistical, shallow, dill.

But now it's producing something even better - the potential start of a realisation that the base is nuts because the entire party has been led by anti-science dills, more interested in ideology than evidence, for the last decade or so.

As Jonathan Chait writes in his summary entitled At Second Presidential Debate, Republicans Try to Out-Crazy Trump, and Succeed:

The most revealing pair of exchanges came at the end. First, Jake Tapper asked Rubio about former Reagan secretary of State George Shultz’s argument that it would be prudent to take out an insurance policy against the effects of carbon emissions in case scientists are right. The question was designed to cut off every possible escape route. Tapper did not ask Rubio to accept climate science, merely the possibility that it might not be wrong. Nor did he ask him to endorse a specific program. Rubio swatted away the premise of the question, insisting, “We’re not going to destroy our economy.” It was telling that Rubio defined literally any policy response to the theory of anthropogenic global warming as economy-destroying.
Tapper then asked Trump about his statements linking vaccine use to autism, a dangerous conspiracy theory that has been conclusively debunked. Trump cited anecdotal evidence to support his crackpot beliefs. Worse, the two doctors on the stage, Ben Carson and Rand Paul, had chances to correct Trump, and both instead gave him tepid support. It is depressing that a presidential field with two doctors cannot even produce sensible views on medicine, let alone anything else. The party’s decades-long flight from empiricism and reason shows no sign of abating. Alas, from Trump to Rubio to Carly Fiorina, it is filled with talented demagogues well suited to pitch America on nonsense.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What a hide!

Spotted in Gulf News:


Green leafy goodness

Take that kale! Watercress is number one powerhouse vegetable - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Avert your eyes, Jason Soon - an article all about the good things in green leafy vegetables.

I see that kale is said not to be that great a "superfood" anyway.  I'm relieved to hear it - there are few vegetables I actually ask my wife not to buy, but kale is one of them.   Its tough, rough leaves have never impressed me in the slightest - in fact, I positively dislike it - and I always suspected its popularity was a passing fad.

This report talks up watercress, which is one of my favourite bases for a salad.  It can be bought cheaply from some street markets around Brisbane, at some times of the year, but seems to rarely appear in mainstream fruit and vegetable shops.   There should be more of it.

Maybe cold water is the key?

BBC - Future - The secrets of living to 200 years old

I didn't know bowhead whales are believed to live somewhere between 150 and 210 years.

Update:  I just remembered to check again on the lifespan of the orange roughy (what a great bit of PR it was to rename it from "slimehead") that lives in the deep, cold ocean - 150 years!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Disturbing

Why drivers in China intentionally kill the pedestrians they hit: China’s laws have encouraged the hit to kill phenomenon.

I meant to earlier link to this disturbing article about Chinese society and the (to say the least) problematic way they deal with compensation.

I can only assume there is no compulsory third party insurance as there is Australia (and, I presume, nearly all Western countries?)   Certainly shows the value of it.  

Real men used to cry

Is there anything wrong with men who cry? – Sandra Newman – Aeon

A fun article here looking at the way it seems there used to be no shame in men crying, in most societies at least (Scandinavia excepted, it seems.)   But then something changed, and the reasons proposed are curious:
The most obvious possibility is that this shift is the result of changes
that took place as we moved from a feudal, agrarian society to one that
was urban and industrial. In the Middle Ages, most people spent their
lives among those they had known since birth. A typical village had only
50-300 inhabitants, most of them related by blood or marriage; a
situation like an extended family stuck in an eternal reunion in the
middle of nowhere. Medieval courts were also environments of extreme
intimacy, where courtiers spent entire days in each other’s company,
year after year. Kings routinely conducted business from their beds, at
the foot of which their favourite servants slept at night. We can see
this familiarity also in odd details of royal life, such as the nobleman
in the courts of many European kings whose coveted privilege it was to
assist the king in defecation.

But from the 18th through the 20th centuries, the population became
increasingly urbanised; soon, people were living in the midst of
thousands of strangers. Furthermore, changes in the economy required men
to work together in factories and offices where emotional expression
and even private conversation were discouraged as time-wasting. As Tom
Lutz writes in Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears
(1999), factory managers deliberately trained their workers to suppress
emotion with the aim of boosting productivity: ‘You don’t want emotions
interfering with the smooth running of things.’

Hard to believe...

...that Ridley Scott has made a good science fiction film again.   But it appears he has.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I guess I'll miss doing things like this....


Standard hypocrisy from a politician, I guess

I can't say I recall Tony Abbott ever complaining about the media's hand in publishing anonymous and self serving leaks when they were doing it in the Rudd/Gillard years.  Did he not use them as the basis for attack in Parliament?

But now, suffering the same fate, he can see the problem...

Update:  oh, and then there is this point too -

I had no idea...

Saudi Arabia squandered its groundwater and agriculture collapsed. California, take note. - Vox

I was just speculating the other day that the Arabian peninsula countries must grow next to nothing of the food they need.  I had no idea that Saudia Arabia in fact had gone on a ridiculous exercise in my lifetime:
Over at Reveal News, Nathan Halverson has a terrific piece
on how Saudi Arabia squandered its groundwater supplies in just a few
short decades. Back in the 1970s, the government allowed landowners to
dig as many wells as they desired, in order to transform the desert into
lush farmland. An agricultural boom followed, and Saudi Arabia
improbably became the world's sixth-largest exporter of wheat.

"By the 1990s, farmers were pumping an average of 5 trillion gallons a
year," Halverson writes. "At that rate, it would take just 25 years to
completely drain Lake Erie." The problem was that Saudi Arabia doesn't
get nearly enough annual rainfall to replace those withdrawals. Its
aquifers had built up over tens of thousands of years and were now being
drained all at once.

Not surprisingly, the party didn't last. By the 2000s, the aquifers
had become dangerously depleted. Wells dried up. Oases that had
persisted since biblical times were now gone. The country will need to
build costly desalination plants for drinking water. Most important,
Saudi Arabia's agricultural output declined sharply, with the amount of
farmland now less than half of what it was in the 1990s. In an attempt
to conserve what water remains, the country has announced that the 2016 wheat harvest will be its last. An entire industry, gone.
 Why do I get the feeling that libertarian types at the time would have been ridiculing environmentalist's warnings that this was a bad idea.  Let the market decide, etc.

Very witty


A few more post Abbott observations...

*  I am somewhat in agreement with those saying that Abbott not making a statement to the media yet makes it look like he's not "manning up" to his loss, in contrast to Gillard.   But is that too sexist in its own way? :)  Does it mean he is white hot angry about it all?   Would make me laugh if he is.   It would be all very karmic in it's own way, no?

*  It must be hurting the egos of Bolt and Jones that they can't convince their side of politics to follow their direction on leadership.   Particularly when they were instrumental on getting Abbott the leadership based on their promotion of climate change denial, which was always utterly foolish.  The tide's turning, guys.   Are you capable of admitting error?

[Update:  I had forgotten this:
Just over a year ago, Jones, the Sydney broadcaster, told Malcolm Turnbull he “had no hope of ever being the leader, you have got to get that into your head”.]

*  I like Turnbull - intelligent, articulate, humane - but he has a very difficult job dealing with those in his Party (and the Nationals) poisoned by too much influence from the American Right (and the likes of the IPA.)  I would like him to be ruthless in his approach to climate denialists in the party - tell them straight up that they have always been wrong and have been conned by populist fools in the media, and ideological driven economists who don't understand a thing about what actual science and scientific bodies all agree on. Someone has to tell them someday, it will do them good.

[Update:  even better, Turnbull could go on Bolt's show and tell him the same thing to his face - that he's been completed fooled and conned by non-scientists and it's about time he grew up and recognised facts.]

*  Has Steve Kates had to up his blood pressure medication yet?   This nuttily obsessed economist hates Turnbull irrationally and with the same vigour with which he thinks Obama and "damaged women" are causing the end of civilisation:
Malcolm is almost the perfect reflection of media opinion. He is like blotting paper, soaking up every conventional opinion without any actual apparent ability to think for himself. He is a non-entity in the Barack Obama mould, filled with vapid thoughts and a high opinion of his own abilities and intellect that is never at any stage reflected in anything he says or any action he takes.
He apparently won on the promise that he would not change any of the more contentious compromises Abbott had been able to meld, which is to say, he won promising not to do the very things that he wants to do, and which the media will look to him to do. The Great Communicator he is not. He is a shallow and pompous blowhard.
 *  I'll be livid if a few, persistent and potentially damaging rumours about Abbott's private life are only now exposed as true by journalists.

Bird love

Birds reveal the evolutionary importance of love

Sort of a cute study here.  

Was Abbott too ideologically driven, or not ideologically driven enough?

For those on the libertarian/small government right, such as Chris Berg, Abbott was not ideological enough.   And I think it is true that Abbott's ideas seemed to not follow any consistent line.  His overly generous parental leave plan, for example, won applause only from a handful of feminists who would normally align with Labor; his approach to climate change attempted (unsuccessfully) to straddle the divide between those who accept and those who reject science in his party; similarly, he seemed awkwardly positioned on manufacturing policy - not willing to completely abandon shipbuilding in Australia as a rigorously "dry" economic approach may suggest, but not doing enough to make the current industry feel viable, either.

But from my point of view, over allegiance to ideology is bad in politics anyway.  Successful government  responds to situations in a practical matter, without getting too concerned as to whether it fits in with preconceived theories or world views.

The problem with Abbott came down to the opportunism and the lack of practical sense in the contradictory nature of so many of his policies.  

Not being consistently ideologically driven can indeed lead to good, sensible government.  It didn't work that way for Abbott, though.   He needed a set of policies that made sense in a practical and global sense, but not necessarily from a purely ideologically consistent sense.  He failed.

An under-reported effect of an El Nino

I  hadn't even realised, until some recent reports out of the mainstream news media came to my attention, that New Guinea suffered a severe drought in 1997, and is in the midst of El Nino related drought again.

And recall that only last year, a paper predicted a doubling of severe El Nino as a result of global warming.

In light of the dire effect these have on our poor neighbours, you'd think the media might report the tropical droughts more prominently....

Monday, September 14, 2015

Worst PM gone

Quite a few people are noting that Abbott was PM for less time than either Rudd or Gillard.  Couldn't happen to more deserving embodiment of the Peter Principle. 

Let's not forget, Abbott got his party's leadership by waving his finger in the breeze and going with the climate change denying populists of the Right:  Bolt, Jones and a host of Murdoch writers.   He in fact had never been particularly interested in science, or economics, and his sloganeering tactics ever since he took the top job discredits the idea that he's more than a political opportunist with no idea who to take advice from.   He has spent his Prime Ministership with no sense of consistency or principle - the "say anything" PM adjusting his message according to the audience in front of him.  

What's worse, he sought legitimacy through the creepy upscaling  of the role of the military and paramilitary in day to day government.   He shows no remorse or misgivings over the plainly cruel permanent warehousing of men, women and children to deter others from attempting sea entry into Australia; his refusal to support Gillard in attempting the relatively humane Malaysian solution, while now seeking to send people to dirt poor Cambodia, is a stunning case of cynical political opportunism that deserves condemnation.   The swathe of secrecy that he has legislated, or co-opted from pliant military figures, regarding the tactics being deployed on the high seas and in his detention centres  is an absolute low for open, democratic government in this country.  His highly personal attacks on Gillian Triggs and the ABC also showed a somewhat eccentric  political thin skin that wasn't so  obvious until he became PM.

Going back further in time, don't forget his hidden role in funding action that lead to the jailing of a political problem, Pauline Hanson.   People seem too willing to overlook how dirty he has been prepared to get as a political operative.

He may have done some worthy work when a Minister under Howard, but his elevation to leadership has proved to be the long term disaster that even half of his party suspected it may be when he got the job.

I can only say that there was one good thing resulting from his election as PM - the resignation of Kevin Rudd from politics and his poisonous destructive role within Labor.   Yeah, thanks for that, Tony.  Pity you then had to hang around to prove yourself to be the PM with the least worthy legacy of any in my lifetime.  

Seems I may as well be writing this now

Gillard legacies:    some serious education reform (NAPLAN, widespread acknowledgement  of increased funding needed), wide-ranging and permanent change to improve disability services;  world leading public health measures (plain packaging); a carbon pricing scheme that showed it could work. 

Abbott's legacies of value:   [insert cricket sounds]

Spill

While I was thinking about the future of sex in cars, I see that a challenge to Abbott's leadership by Turnbull is definitely on.



Good news - I think.

I actually wonder whether much of the incentive for this was Abbott's disastrously poor interview on 7.30 last week.  The thing that struck me most about it was his apparent genuineness when he was claiming that  he was leading a good government that had achieved a lot.  I can just imagine cabinet members rolling their eyes and thinking "He really doesn't have a clue.  It's time..."