Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turon River in a flash flood

My fortnightly river escape is known for its flash floods, having destroyed my great-great granpa's gold fossicking venture in 1851, killing some of his mates. I have thought about the risks of camping on the riverbank and keep note of the rain outlook. I didn't go up last weekend but if I had this is what I would have faced: Video shot by James DeVere at Green Point, just upstream from my usual campsite. This is the actual camping area. Hmmmn.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Interesting takes on the extended GFC and the occupy movement

As Europe lurches towards its crisis, youth unemployment in Spain is already 50% and American kids graduate in deep debt with little prospect of a job, no-one is confidently predicting the future. I liked this story in The Guardian and the perceptive comments below it, both pro- and anti-. Two comments that impressed cut-and-pasted here:

From Joe McCann:
Something most people do not understand about the form of capitalism we have.
The central idea is that all wealth should be extracted from the general population and handed over to a tiny "capitalist class", as supposedly they can more "efficiently" apply that wealth as capital. It's a similar idea to Soviet state capitalism - except in our instance, it's a social class confiscating property and not the state. And yes they have been confiscating your property and wealth, with a little trompe l'oeil.
Of course what the capitalist class really do is apply the capital to buying big houses and private jets, gated compounds, armed guards.
We've been duped into a system that just makes most of us poorer and poorer.
In the US in 1960, a single average wage was all it took to support a family, buy a house and a car, and not live in poverty. Supposedly we're wealthier than we've ever been. When you take rubbishy hi-tech gadgets out of the equation we're worse off than 1960. Though our rich are outrageously better off than they've ever been. How in a democracy can the majority chose a path that makes their live worse.
Our elites are just as bad as Mummar Gaddafi when it comes to screwing their own people.

From 'Raffine':
Public demonstrations still seem to have an effect in nations where civil society is restricted or non-existent (see the "Arab Spring") and in France (in the form of the general strike), but this political style is pretty much exhausted in the USA, almost to the point of becoming a cliché. The declining significance of street protests is made worse when organizers promise more than they can deliver, in this case occupying Wall Street. Until what happens? The closing of the DJIA? What Graeber purports to be one of the signs of the fall of the American empire, the tribal drumbeats echoing through the canyons of lower Manhattan, is nothing more than a local spectacle; meanwhile, for criminal banksters and feral traders (like the USB thug Kweku Adoboli) it's back to business as usual.
The anarchist vision apparent in this commentary ("This is why protesters are often hesitant even to issue formal demands, since that might imply recognising the legitimacy of the politicians against whom they are ranged") is no substitute for a real political theory of how the widespread change its author envisions might be actualized. Hardt and Negri suffice for the sound bite imagination of the well-meaning demonstrators; the rest of us can still hope for something more profound.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meanwhile, up on the river...

Click to see the full animated image. Watch it for a while for a deeply peaceful feeling. Enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Prohibitionists Drug Free Australia well rebutted

The usual prohibitionists recently commissioned a critique of the Vancouver injecting centre, Insite, but the critique has been shown to be without scientific merit and dependent on false methodology.

Gary Christian
Drug Free Australia (DFA) and its honorary secretary Gary Christian passionately oppose harm reduction measures such as injecting centres. Mr Christian has lately turned his attention to Vancouver's Insite, a facility comparable to the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross, which itself was previously targeted in a DFA attack based on a particular interpretation of statistics.

This time, DFA's ally the Drug Prevention Network of Canada (DPNC) critiqued a peer-reviewed study published in Lancet that had demonstrated significantly reduced overdose deaths from illegal drugs in Insite's local area. This was unacceptable to the prohibitionists. Their critique, which was not peer-reveiwed,  claimed the original Lancet study was flawed and denied that the centre had saved lives, a claim DFA had also made in Kings Cross. This is remarkable as what these centres DO is professionally treat people who have overdosed, immediately and on site. Getting to the OD victims so quickly means nearly all can be treated simply with oxygen.

It's a bit like saying that people who suffer heart attacks in an emergency ward have worse outcomes than those who have heart attacks at home.

Now the critique itself has been critiqued, and found wanting. The response, by the authors of the original study, maps the many flaws in the DPNC work, starting with the following:
Using BC Vital Statistics data, they argue that overdose deaths increased rather than decreased during the period considered in our study. This apparent discrepancy is explained by several flaws in their analysis. First, our study in the Lancet focused on a defined area of interest in close proximity to Insite that included 41 city blocks... However, the data considered in the... DPNC report examined the entire Downtown Eastside Local Health Area (LHA)—an area that is much larger and includes approximately 400 city blocks.
That's comparing 400 city blocks with 41, a 10x difference. If you ignore the tyranny of distance you can come up with all sorts of wonderful conclusions. The DNPC critique seems to assume that addicts will travel up to 200 blocks or more before they inject. From what I've seen, addicts desperate for a hit can't wait to inject - in Kings Cross they almost run to the MSIC the second they score.

And that's only point 1.

I won't quote the whole document here - if you want to read the full story you can download the easy-to-read 5-page pdf at the link above or, for your convenience, here. If DFA or its allies have a credible rebuttal to this rebuttal, feel free to comment. They seem to have gone pretty quiet on this one though.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Remind me please why I am subsidising oil companies?

You know how climate sceptics go on about the chardonnay-sipping tree-hugging socialists who are dependent on the nanny state, and how governments shouldn't subsidise renewable energy projects because that would be "picking winners"? Well today's Australian Financial Review lists $10 billion in annual subsidies we the taxpayers give to coal, oil and gas companies. (Story summary below)

Meanwhile today's Australian reports that squillionnaire Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest, the most aggressive critic of the mining tax, admits that his Fortescue Metals Group has never paid a cent of tax (although they say they will start this year).

That's awesome - I pay them to pollute the planet while they avoid tax and lobby against a sustainable economy. The big end of town is truly running the place to their benefit at our expense.

Here is my paraphrase of the AFR story by Marcus Priest (I can't link because of the AFR's paywall):
While Prime Minister Julia Gillard said coal would supply energy in Australia for at least another four decades, Greens leader Bob Brown said he had lobbied treasurer Wayne Swan to abolish subsidies to fossil fuel companies and apply the savings to education, health and transport.
Treasury and the Department of Resources last year identified $8 billion in fossil fuel subsidies including a concession to North West Shelf gas. After Greens deputy leader Christine Milne marked the passing of the carbon tax legislation with a call for a “national conversation about how we can move away from fossil fuels”, Nationals leader Warren Truss said The Greens would never be satisfied.
 The Australian Conservation Foundation has identified further benefits of up to $2 billion from depreciation allowances to the oil and gas industry under rules which should be overhauled according to the Henry tax review. But David Byers, chief executive of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association said the depreciation provisions had attracted investment that helped Australiawithstand the GFC. 

Thursday, November 03, 2011

How much we pay to pollute

OK we know this is Wallerawang and that's steam rising
in the background but steam still requires energy and
this is the most relevant power station shot in my photo library.
I know most people don't get excited about politics but I think you and your families need to know just HOW MUCH our governments subsidise coal-fired power stations, as recent inquiries in NSW have established. You are paying a fortune to subsidise the big polluters, a far cry from the bullshit being spread by climate change deniers. Note this quote:

"In short, this inquiry tells us, the coal-fired power stations in NSW are unable to compete... unless their coal is supplied at around one quarter of the cost of export coal. Given that Cobbora has the potential to supply 30 million tonnes of coal to the state’s coal fired power plants by 2020, as noted by the Australian Energy Market Operator, the lost export revenue potential from the mine could amount to some $2.7 billion a year, at current prices."

That's $2.7 BILLION a year from one publicly owned mine alone. Even the Arab states are investing heavily in solar because they can't afford the price of their own oil... Full story at

[And read the comments to see how this doesn't even include the power price hikes we are all paying.]

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Echoes of Max Dupain

A bit of fun - an animated update of Max Dupain's famous shot of the same intersection in Kings Cross C1940, which was shot from the opposite corner and had trams, not buses. Note the guy exercising in the gym, top right. I snapped this from the Kings Cross Hotel during intermission last Thursday night at the highly recommended "Mum's In" show. Might be fun to set up a Saturday night version.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The utter misery prohibition creates

Always my favourite and perhaps the most visually stunning gallery in Sydney, White Rabbit in Chippendale is exhibiting among its typically quirky offerings a photographic journey into prisons for drug users in the Shan states between Burma and China, shot by Lu-Nan. There, inmates are shackled for the length of their term; the longer the term, the heavier the shackles, up to 63 kg and most hobble around holding them up with a short cord as their ankles chafe. They are also caned and subject to harsh conditions typical of jails in autocratic countries.

This is drastically unjust because on the whole these men and women (and their children who are also sometimes incarcerated) have done nothing wrong, just fallen foul of prohibition which arbitrarily allows some drugs like alcohol while banning others. It's especially ironic as opium and heroin are the main exports from this area and I would bet my butt to a barnacle that the very government which imposes these sentences is making big bucks from the trade. These ruined lives illustrate once again that prohibition does more harm than the drugs it fails to control, and all prohibitionist governments bear some degree of responsibility for this travesty of justice, this almost invisible crime against humanity. You can also bet the rich in these countries escape this outrageous fate.


MEANWHILE former Mexican president Vicente Fox has implored the US to end prohibition, blaming it for the 40,000-50,000 murders committed in his country's US-financed drug wars in recent years (give or take 10,000 souls).