Monday, January 14, 2008
TRAIL OF DEATH
The New York Times reports:
Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.
The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.
Via Alan R.M. Jones, who emails: “Undoubtedly some service men and women returning from combat areas suffer mentally – as is the case in every war. Stars and Stripes has already pointed out the numbers seeking and receiving counseling. Some of these people had serious problems well before they entered the armed forces. However, 121 cases from a pool of 1.6 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans does not support the Taxi Driver Vietnam Hollywood narrative the NYT is trying on. Department of Justice homicide stats bear this out. Moreover, the ‘killings’ cited by the Times also include accidental homicides, e.g. vehicular.”
The NYT piece also ran in Melbourne’s Age. It’s only a matter of time - possibly a century or so - before the Iraq vets I keep recklessly associating with eventually add me to their deadly “patchwork”.
Computer models that form the basis for future global warming predictions have projected significantly more warming in recent years than has actually occurred, concludes a comprehensive new scientific study.
“A Comparison of Tropical Temperature Trends with Model Predictions,” published in the December 2007 International Journal of Climatology, is the latest study to cast doubt on the efficacy of climate modeling. Climate scientists David H. Douglass, John Christy, and S. Fred Singer analyzed 22 climate models and found their predictions at odds with actual warming over the past 30 years.
No problem - as Roger A. Pielke Jr. points out, warmenists can always rework their predictions if models are astray:
The IPCC actually has a pretty good track record in its predictions, especially after it dramatically reduced its 1990 prediction. This record is clouded by an appearance of post-hoc curve fitting. In each of 1995, 2001, and 2007 the changes to the IPCC predictions had the net result of improving predictive performance with observations that had already been made. This is a bit like predicting today’s weather at 6PM.
And among other prediction problems:
Europe’s environment chief has admitted that the EU did not foresee the problems raised by its policy to get 10 per cent of Europe’s fuels from plants.
Revised reports indicate some biofuels do not reduce carbon emissions as had previously been thought, and warn of rising food prices and rainforest destruction from increased biofuel production.
Brad Hogg will tonight invoke the spirit of Sir Edmund Hillary in a bid to clear himself of a racial vilification charge.
Hogg will insist at his 8pm hearing at the Perth Hyatt that he meant no malice when he described Indian skipper Anil Kumble and Mahendra Singh Dhoni as “bastards” during a tumultuous final day of the second Test at the SCG.
He is believed to have said to the two Indian batsmen: “I can’t wait to run through you bastards” ...
Hogg will argue that he meant no malice, in the same way that Hillary famously quipped after coming down from the summit of Mt Everest: “We knocked the bastard off.”
Hogg’s defence team is apparently considering using Hillary’s line as an example of the word “bastard” being used in a non-racial sense.
Case should be over in minutes. Should.
UPDATE II. Charges against Hogg dropped by India.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
An Age alarmist activities update:
What does the Australian of the Year, Tim Flannery, do in his spare time? He writes another book. But not one espousing the science of climate change.
Rather, it’s a work of fiction ...
Rather? Oh, tee hee! (Do read on for this elegant avoidance of the f-word: “Most of it was penned at 35,000 feet while the Melbourne-born university professor, one of the world’s most eminent and engaging advocates for action on global warming, scooted between speaking engagements ...”) Meanwhile, despite all of Flannery’s carbon scootering, Indian glaciers keep multiplying:
The present number of glaciers at 84, with the mapping exercise still underway to find about out more ice caps in the state has grown by about four times over the past six years ...
Why, they’re even outpacing local dam levels.
New York t-shirt designer Bill Kingston hits on two winning images:
Kingston said he wanted to a good design to go with the statement: “Global warming is not cool.” The designer made a print of a penguin floating under a hot sun and the Statue of Liberty drowning in the background.
He said that has been one of the most popular T-shirts, as well as anything with Chuck Norris on it.
Its flopperooniness is something to marvel at. In its first three weeks on release, the movie earned $60,456 at the box office. Which would be a disappointing take for your cousin’s summer stock production of Brigadoon in a leaky barn theatre in Maine, but is apparently a respectable haul for an award-winning motion picture ballyhooed for weeks on end in the national press. “The film traffics in, and clearly means to provoke, strong, unbalanced emotions,” declares A O Scott in his review for The New York Times. The strongest unbalanced emotion it provokes is a powerful visceral urge to say, “Well, I was thinking of going to the movies this weekend but I figured I’d stay home and wash my hair.” In the same period, Beowulf grossed $75,983,000.
It’s probably just a simple matter of the film being one-and-a-half steps ahead of public interest.
War continues between Greenpeace and their Sea Shepherd rivals as both seek credit for menacing Japanese whalers. The SS are upset that Greenpeace won’t reveal the whalers’ location, but claim to have enemy support:
“We have our sources in Greenpeace. There are quite a few disgruntled Greenpeacers who are opposed to Greenpeace’s policy of non-cooperation. They are being very helpful,” said Captain Watson.
But who needs Greenpeace double agents when the whales themselves are volunteering their whaley detection abilities:
Greenpeace declined to comment on Esperanza’s position, but the western location confirmed Sea Shepherd president Paul Watson’s belief that the whalers were likely to be working north of Prydz Bay, in the Co-operation Sea, where he was headed.
He also said a whale showed him the way. “Yesterday a large humpback whale surfaced beside the Steve Irwin and seven times raised his long flipper into the air, and seven times brought it down pointing in a direction due west, as if to say ‘go this way’.”
Possibly. Or perhaps that alert humpback was warning everybody to stay away from Greenpeace engineer Bent:
The only smell that turns me on is the smell of diesel. This is why, especially at night, I used to go down to the Engine Room, stroke my engines, then dip my hands into the diesel. Unfortunately, I was caught in action one night, so I had to think of other ways to make it look more “natural”. This is why every now and again, I start breaking engines into pieces, only to reassemble them again. Not that there is anything wrong with our propulsion system on board, or because of lack of maintenance, but this is the only way for me to get my hands dirty in diesel oil.
(Via Adrian the Cabbie)
UPDATE. Dave S.:
Yeah, verily did the leviathan seven times raise his flipper, and verily did he let it drop seven times, and by this reckoning didst we follow, for yea, it was like unto a sign from the Lord. Amen.
And lo, the whaleth pointeth the way to the yellow brick road, not seven times, but I sayeth unto you, seventy times seven times!
The Guardian, last Thursday:
New manufacturer Tesla Motors, based in the technology hot spot of Silicon Valley rather than the automotive heartlands of America’s midwest, is hoping to launch its first electric sports car early this year.
Maybe not. Tesla’s roadster - a kind of eco-engineered Lotus Elise - is beset with development problems (“the first production models will come with an ‘interim’ transmission that will get you from zero to 60 in 5.7 seconds instead of the originally touted sub-4 seconds”) and the company itself is in turmoil:
A few weeks ago, we asked Tesla Motors whether a pending departure of one employee we had heard about was part of a wave of layoffs at the company.
No, said Daryl Siry, vice president of marketing. It was an issue involving a particular individual.
It turns out that that more terminations were going on behind the scenes. Ousted Tesla CEO Martin Eberhard writes in his blog that 26 employees, including some vice presidents, have recently been cut from the company. That’s about 10 percent of the company.
Tesla’s corporate vision statement:
Historically, it seemed to us that electric cars had been designed by people who thought we really shouldn‘t be driving at all - but if we must, we should suffer every minute of it. Electric cars have had terrible range and embarrassing styling. To those who say electric cars have been tried and failed we say, of course electric cars won‘t catch on if no one actually wants to drive them.
They’re even less likely to catch on if nobody builds them.
Melbourne University Law School Masters program has changed its subject “Fundamentals of Islamic Law” to “Principles of Islamic Law”. He He He.
(Via Dan Lewis)
Saturday, January 12, 2008
CLIMATE, GEARS CHANGED
“It is the first time we’ve seen snow in Baghdad,” said 60-year-old Hassan Zahar. “We’ve seen sleet before, but never snow. I looked at the faces of all the people, they were astonished,” he said.
“A few minutes ago, I was covered with snowflakes. In my hair, on my shoulders. I invite all the people to enjoy peace, because the snow means peace,” he said.
It’s a snow surge! Another positive development - Baghdad motorcycle racing:
Ali Imad, a 24-year-old motorcycle mechanic who takes part in the races, said he has an “odd love” for motorcycles and simply enjoys the recreation, especially popping wheelies for the crowd.
“Life is difficult and hard and suffering. We had sectarianism. Thanks be to God, we overcame that,” he said.
In the parking lot amid the whirl of engines, he said, “People are happy and comfortable.”
UPDATE. “You people are fooling yourselves,” chides Penguin. “That is the warmest snow to ever fall on Baghdad since records have been kept.”
YESTERDAY’S COLUMN ...
... linked a day late. More about that Roebuck fellow.
UPDATE. Great line from The Serve:
Roebuck single is a hit but the album is a flop
UPDATE II. Menza:
Peter Roebuck is calling for the sacking of Ricky Ponting as he doesn’t play the game in the right spirit.
Well let’s sack Peter Roebuck for writing crap.
UPDATE III. Best comment thus far at the Telegraph:
Stripping your shtick back to its foundations you are an unashamed supporter of economics over society. So its no surprise to see you support the win at all costs mentality of Ponting and Co, as cricket is all about money according to you. So is everything else. The notion of fair play or doing something that is not do with making money is a foreign and indeed contemptible concept to your way of thinking. I know your form. To presume to equate yourself with Roebuck on cricket is just another example of your patrician arrogance. I know Nov 24 is hard to accept but stick to fear mongering and reinforcing pre existing prejudices. That’s your line of work. I look forward to your views on nuclear fusion in the near future.
Does anyone see Ponting resembles Bush? one more reason to dislike him.
UPDATE V. The Age’s Rohan Connolly:
The Australians did shake Indian hands last Sunday, including those of Anil Kumble and the feisty and the equally demonstrative Harbhajan Singh, as they congregated at the boundary minutes after notching up their 16th straight win.
Sadly, the “time limit” imposed by the self-appointed guardians of acts of sporting chivalry had apparently been exceeded. And unfortunately those all-important cameras were by then trained elsewhere.
If they had caught those gestures, given the tendency to turn a momentary graphic image into a philosophical argument, things might have panned out differently.
We might have been spared some of the gratuitous sermonising about sportsmanship. Spared the stream of “Outraged from Beaumaris” letters to the editor. And spared the hysterical calls for the head of one of our finest Test captains and the further denigration of one of our finest Test teams.
Get lucky in this journalism caper and you can easily enjoy a millionaire lifestyle - without the needless complication of massive personal wealth! For example, this week Daily Telegraph exec Drew Gibson dropped by my place to (briefly) hand over a Porsche Turbo Cabriolet he’d liberated from our paper’s road-test fleet:
These things retail here for around $350,000. Property values went up in my street just because it was parked there. Cost to insure? Probably more than the accumulated purchase price of all the cars I’ve ever owned.
A brief tasering and the keys were mine. First impression: seats are hard. Snug and supportive, but way solid. Also, when you aim your right foot at where the brake pedal should be, you hit the accelerator. The pedals - possibly because of an intrusive front differential (the Cabrio is all-wheel-drive) or possibly by design - are offset towards the driveline. Curious.
Doesn’t stop this complex device being absurdly simple to drive in slow traffic. Controls are as light as any you’d find in a sissy hatchback. The only hint of potential awesomeness is in the engine’s growly tone, menacing even at low revs. Hearing it, anyone who spent time at race tracks in the late 70s/early 80s would recall the vomp-vomp-vomp pitlane note of Porsche’s raw and violent 934 - a production-based racer that generated around 485 horsepower and treated timid or inexpert drivers cruelly.
A few decades on, the easy-rolling Cabrio pumps out 480 horses - and beats the 934 for torque and top speed. Plus it has electric/computerised everything (seats, windows, roof, traction) where the 934 required forceful manual control by people capable of biting through steel billets.
Drew is a terrific driver and very familiar with race-level cars, but is an anxious passenger, a condition I may not have improved. For the driver, though, this car is so overwhelmingly able that what should be scary-fast just ... isn’t. I’ve never driven anything that accelerates so rapidly. Scary? It was positively soothing.
Beyond certain speeds, those little quirks - rigid seats, weird pedal placement - begin to make sense. You need a serious bunch of lateral and fore-aft bracing, and the offset pedals are positioned perfectly for heel-toe downchanges (only logical; the angle of your right foot is reduced). Steering weights up beautifully. Gearshifts are practically subconscious. Brakes will dislodge eyeballs.
Only a couple of decades ago you needed a huge amount of money and sublime driving skills to get around quickly in a fast Porsche. Now all you need is the money. Or just get yourself on the gold-level Gibson friend list ...
MINISTER FOR CREVICES
It’s a bizarre set of circumstances when the federal Environment Minister appears in the Federal Court arguing for a project that even those closest to it admit will be an environmental disaster ...
Not that the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, was actually in the Federal Court this week to spin the Port of Melbourne’s fairytale on its planned dredging of Port Phillip Bay. Oh, no. This Environment Minister left it to his lawyer to tell the people who care about protecting the bay’s environment that gouging a whopping crevice into the sea floor will cause a permanent rise in the tide level.
So it’s seafloor crevices that’ll cause rising oceans? I blame icebergs: “Recent sonar surveys off the southeastern coast of the United States have detected dozens of broad furrows on the seafloor—trenches that were carved by icebergs during the last ice age, researchers suggest.” Back to Traceeee, becoming increasingly bitcheeee towards her old friend:
Apparently this Environment Minister isn’t bothered by permanent tide rises. That must be why part of his portfolio was given to his younger colleague, Penny Wong.
ROWRR! Hiss! Hiss!
Who needs climate change when you can dredge the bay? That must be the other reason the federal Environment Minister doesn’t have it in his portfolio.
Should’ve voted for someone else, girl.
This Environment Minister isn’t big on detail. What else can explain the three weeks it took him to realise he’d referred to Western Port Bay in his approval statement about dredging in Port Phillip Bay?
Imagine how Age letter-writer Tim Hamilton must feel now that Traceeee’s become a Garrett critic: “Tracee Hutchison’s article on Peter Garrett was like a silver bullet of insight that blew apart the shallowness of the attacks on the former lead singer ... Leaving a Midnight Oil concert you always felt inspired and motivated to make a difference. Listening to the critics of Peter Garrett ... only fills you with indignation.” Get ready for another load, Hamilton:
And where did our esteemed Environment Minister disappear to this week? Oh, he jumped on a joy flight to Antarctica. Apparently to check on the rising sea levels.
Let’s leave the lass to her misery:
Just like Alice when she gets greedy and eats that nasty bit of cake, the port’s plans have got bigger and bigger. And just like Alice, the port will leave behind a salty pool of tears for the rest of us to swim in.
WANT TO FEEL OLD?
Here’s Human League.
“C’mon, Mr Anonypussy, why so shy?” Mark Steyn has fun swatting around dimwit supporters of the anti-free speech Maclean’s human rights case.