Saturday, February 03, 2007

Portrait of a surge

The following is a graph showing the surge in page views targeting a previous post. It turns out that a Ron Paul quote was lifted out of that post and featured at this discussion site.

It’s like being the Muftim of Blair for a few hours.

Note: The flatlining prior to Tuesday was due to the fact that I hadn’t installed the sitemeter until then.

graphic courtesy

Benefits of schooling demonstrated

Former Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone demonstrates the native inquisitiveness that made her such a success in the portfolio:

Asked if the humanitarian crisis in Iraq – where up to 50,000 Iraqis are leaving their homes each month – is comparable to the refugee crisis triggered by the Vietnam War, Senator Vanstone said she could not remember because she was in school at the time.

Bleeding obvious laboured

There seem to be a lot of websites experiencing problems this week – including the Muftim, Margo’s, and indeed the whole Google/Blogger universe.

When it encounters a connection failure, Internet Explorer 7.0 helpfully enumerates all the possible causes thus:

Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage

Most likely causes:

  • You are not connected to the Internet.
  • The website is encountering problems.
  • There might be a typing error in the address.

Gee, thanks Microsoft, that just about covers the gamut of possible causes in all their complexity.

Armed with that invaluable advice, users are tempted with the option to “Diagnose Connection Problems”.

No thanks.

I couldn’t stand yet another session with another lobotomised diagnostic “wizard”. The more sane option would be to make another cuppa or crack another tinny.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Blair factor maxes out

The Blair factor has reached a new ‘high’ in that celebrated brand of – er .. humour, is it? – with the following gem of wit from the Muftim:

Twelve hours of Al [Gore]! Try that in Abu Ghraib and they’d be begging for the old pyramid treatment.

Charmed, I’m sure... Where’s the bucket?

And don’t the crowd love it?

Goat Friday of the Full Moon

image source

Yes, today in Australia it is Goat Friday of the Full Moon, a relatively rare occurrence. (Go here to verify whether it’s the full moon in your part of the world.)

Roughly similar to lycanthropy, human beings are prone to capranthropy on any Goat Friday, particularly if it coincides with the phase of the full moon. Manifestations begin from simply ‘acting the goat’, progressing through relatively harmless expressions such as bleeting at the full moon, or inexplicable cravings for raw dandelion shoots.

In rare cases, particularly on Goat Friday of the Full Moon, the sufferer spontaneously sprouts a goaty beard and horns, cloven hooves for feet, not to mention a rather fetching fluffy tail.

Then there are the more extreme behavioural manifestations. For example, if your prize rhododendrom bush appears to be half-eaten on the morning after a Goat Friday of the Full Moon, chances are that one of your neighbours is a capranthrope.


Meanwhile, from the Google Goat News Feed this week, I note sadly yet another sorry tail tale of goat abuse. This latest case is not from some third world backwater, but from the most advanced nation on the planet.

In the well-known township of Mahopac in supposedly civilised New York State, USA ...

Drew A. Gagnon is accused of breaking into a barn on Croton Falls Road on Nov. 23 and spraying three goats in their genital area with orange construction-style paint. He also was accused of leaving on the barn floor pornographic magazines, which sickened the goats after they ate them, police said.

That final detail about the magazines just underlines the depravity of this evil-doer. He could at least have left clean magazines in the barn, like Harpers Bazaar or Vanity Fair.

Nevertheless, the unfortunate goats seem to have recovered well from their ordeal:

The Fiero family, which owns the goats and considers them as beloved family pets, said today the animals were doing well and that evidence of the orange paint had all but disappeared in the more than two months since the spraying.

I’m feeling a bit better now.

And no, this was not a case of capranthropy. It was neither Goat Friday nor Full Moon on November 23 last year, when the execrable Mr Gagnon did his dastardly deeds. And anyway, a capranthrope just wouldn’t do that sort of thing to a fellow goat.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Clark verdict reportage queried

Of yesterday’s civil jury verdict against former ATSIC leader, Geoff Clark, ABC News Online reported late yesterday:

Mr Clark left quickly, saying the finding is the greatest injustice in the history of this country.

He also asked the media whether they were happy with themselves.

His actual words, quoted here, were:

“It’s an injustice,” he said. “Do you feel proud of what you’ve done, the media? You’ve interfered in the rule of law, you know that? So in effect it’s a victory for nobody.”

When asked whether it was the lowest point in his life, Mr Clark replied: “It’s the lowest point in the history of this country, I think.”

Yes, the self-serving hyperbole is still there – in spades! And the ABC reportage, arguably perhaps, may distil Clark’s actual meaning admirably.

However, the careless paraphrasing by the ABC of Clark’s off-the-cuff outburst seems just a little too cavalier for a straight news report.

On the other hand, Clark’s careless declamations arguably deserve to be lampooned.

Our Hero!

Following Bush Senior’s criticism last week of the media’s “overt, unrelenting hostility and personal animosity” towards his son, President George W Bush has apparently paid out on a few journalists from behind the wheel of a massive Caterpillar D-10 tractor.

As the engine roared to life, White House staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety. ... Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor’s window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned. The episode lasted about a minute, and Bush was still laughing when he pulled to a stop.

Mr Bush’s stunt with the tractor trumps for all time Jeff Kennett’s legendary shovel-wielding escapade in which he sprayed a gathered press gallery with dirt.

Gee, those guys are all class, aren’t they? And don’t the crowd love it?!!

“If you’ve never driven a D-10, it’s the coolest experience,” said the common man’s President, who it might be supposed has one on his ranch for “cool” joyrides. Oh, and for practical reasons, too, of course...

(via Tim Blair)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Timing is all

Believe it or not, but all the following is apparently documented fact:

  • Obstetricians’ conferences coincide with a depressed national birth rate.
  • There was a large movement of births in Australia from June 2004 through to July 2004, after the introduction of the $3,000 ‘Baby Bonus’.
  • There was a drop in deaths in Australia in the week before the abolition of inheritance taxes on 1 July 1979.
  • Mortality rates decreased in Israel during a doctors’ strike.

All this and more in a fascinating edition of Radio National’s The Health Report – read more or listen to downloadable audio from here.

First do no harm...

In mid-December 2006, two of the authors of the Johns Hopkins/Lancet studies, Doctors Les Roberts and Gil Burnham, gave a briefing on their work to a bipartisan Congressional hearing on civilian casualties in Iraq, convened by Congressmen Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) and Ron Paul (R-TX).

See here for a transcript of the confronting material laid before the US people’s representatives.

It’s a longish document, but worth a read. Roberts and Burnham make a good fist of explaining the methodology and limitations of the study in everyday language. Les Roberts also makes some interesting remarks about how their results more accurately reflect reality than do other sources.

Roberts and Burnham also note that the cluster survey model is increasingly commonly used by the UN, USA and others, to measure mortality and other health issues in situations of conflict and other settings, where more conventional or direct measurement has been rendered impossible. Roberts cites Kosovo and Darfur as theatres where the method has been successfully employed. It emerges also that USAID has accepted the method as a reliable tool for measuring health effects in conflict zones.

And I quite liked these closing remarks from Congressman Ron Paul (a Republican from Texas, no less):

I’d like to thank my colleague and friend, Representative Dennis Kucinich, and his staff for their hard work in organizing this important oversight hearing, and I appreciate the opportunity to have sponsored this event along with Representative Kucinich.

As a medical doctor, I’ve spent a good part of my professional life trying to reduce pain and suffering. It is something I feel very strongly about. Various reports, including the very important Lancet study, suggest that the level of pain, and suffering, and worse, among the non-combatant population in Iraq is on a scale almost unimaginable.

While the administration has shown little interest in the extent of civilian deaths in Iraq, it is important that we in Congress treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves.

We need to have a better understanding of the unintended consequences of this war, not the least in the hope that in the future, Congress will take its constitutional responsibilities regarding war and declaration of war more seriously.

It is also clear we have failed to consider carefully enough our own dead and wounded in this Iraq war. Recent reports suggest that some 100,000 U.S. soldiers have been permanently disabled fighting in Iraq. We need to think of their terrible pain and suffering, and that of their families.

This pain and suffering will not end when this terrible war finally ends, it will continue for the rest of their lives. This is the tragedy of the unnecessary war — both sides suffer needlessly.

I hope this hearing, and others that hopefully will follow, mark the beginning of congressional oversight of this misguided war in Iraq that has sorely been lacking in the three-and-a-half years since the war started.

Synergy and prolixity observed

“If I ever develop reservations, well, I hope I would have the grace to keep them to myself because I think you take a position and you’ve got to live by that and be judged by it, and that’s my position.”

“Even if they were my thoughts, I think perhaps it would be better not to speak them.”

A couple of idle observations:

  1. There’s a certain synergy among the outposts of the Pax Americana.
  2. The Australian Prime Minister dubiously distinguishes himself with his prolix reticence.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Rosella update

Glad tidings!

The injured rosella rescued by this blog on Australia Day seems to have made a full recovery.

Today we phoned Rose, the wildlife rescue lady who took the bird into her care; she told us that the wing wasn’t broken after all. Rather, she thinks he was disabled by a pulled tendon. After a couple of days rest, he now seems to be able to fly without a problem.

Rose says she will soon release the lucky rosella back into the wild. This has been, for us all, a very satisfying outcome.

And hats off to Rose and her fellow wildlife rescue volunteers, some of the many unsung Aussie heroes that make all our lives that much richer.

Global sun-block proposed

The US Government looks set to order the world’s scientists back into the lab to find solutions for global warming.

It says research into techniques such as giant mirrors in space or reflective dust pumped into the atmosphere would be “important insurance” against rising emissions.

Brilliant solution! So elegantly ad hoc!

Then, after those scientists have kicked global warming, they can get to work on solutions for global cooling. And the global health effects of ubiquitous “reflective dust”. And chronic Vitamin D deficiency from sunlight depletion.

In an endless race for solutions, they’ll be in the lab in perpetuity. What better way to keep those pesky scientists from turning back the clock on progress.