Monthly Archives: April 2011

Near which of my vital organs should I carry my phone?

The science on mobile phone radiation is settled?

Maybe not:

Bill Bruno, theoretical biologist at Los Alamos, says otherwise… the traditional idea that microwaves aren’t strong enough to affect human tissues only applies when the number of photons in a space equivalent to a cubic wavelength is less than one. When the density is higher, photons can interfere constructively—that is, the effects can compound and interact in stronger ways than they normally could.

Bruno cites optical tweezers as an example. We know that optical tweezers, which use photons to manipulate very small objects like cells, can do damage to structures. That’s well documented. And that’s because the photons are piled on—the more photons, the stronger the force (and the more potential damage).

…it raises questions about whether the same is true of photons in the microwave range because one thing is clear: the density of photons per cubic wavelength in cell signals is many orders of magnitude greater than one. So, Bruno says, there is a mechanism by which damage could occur, and the conditions for that mechanism to work are present around cell phones and cell towers.

I suppose they want us to go back to cans and string.

Where’s the public dental care we were promised?

The pitiful state of public dental care in Victoria, courtesy of Dental Health Services Victoria:

The situation (if you click on the link) is similar for children. Most Australians are simply not eligible.

Given that dental problems can, if not treated properly, develop into far more serious (and, ultimately, much more expensive) problems, why is it that you can’t bulk bill dental care? Why is it that the poor – which includes people without health care cards – cannot reasonably get treatment, and are encouraged to leave their problem until it becomes extremely serious?

What is the reason for the distinction between dental care and other medical care (also underfunded, but at least covered by Medicare)? And, most importantly, when will a Health Minister simply end it? It’s not impossible. Other countries cover dental care in their national health schemes. It can’t seriously be beyond us.

Sorry, sorry. I forgot – we’re too busy panicking about a couple of thousand asylum seekers to pay attention to something that actually affects every single one of us. Carry on.

(Next: why the hell can’t the deaf get hearing aids?)

Apparently Ball-less Corporation caves to Clarence House

The ABC is supposed to be an independent public broadcaster. So is the BBC. And yet the royal family – our royal family, still – can apparently exert so much pressure over the two public broadcasters that they will cancel a program that might satirise a public event:

New wedding coverage conditions issued over the Easter break state that footage cannot be used “in any drama, comedy, satirical or similar entertainment program or content”.

The restrictions were agreed between Clarence House, the private office of the Prince of Wales, and the BBC.

With the consequence that, in Australia:

The Chaser’s Royal Wedding Commentary was due to air on ABC2 from 7:00pm AEST on Friday, offering viewers a satirical take on the royal extravaganza.

But just two days before Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot, the one-off live special – promised to be “uninformed and unconstitutional” – has been cancelled due to restrictions imposed by the royal family.

Oooh. Because the BBC has control over all footage of central London taken on Friday.

There will be no other people around here with video cameras on Friday

I don’t care whether The Chaser are still funny – that’s not the point. The point is the extraordinary attempt to impose control over a public broadcaster in relation to a public event, and its craven caving to that pressure. Oh, the BBC threatened to refuse to let you use its wedding footage? So bloody what! It’s being broadcast on every other bloody channel. Call their bluff! Go in much harder! Have some bloody balls!

The ABC’s credibility as an independent and fearless media organisation is at stake here. Because if the pathetic would-be autocrats in Clarence House can get this sort of leverage by threatening to withhold footage of something that’s going to be on every Australian TV channel anyway, then what will the really powerful get away with when they’ve got some serious leverage to wield?

ELSEWHERE: Joshua Gans is likewise unimpressed.

Why bother with a trial?

Good news for Americans concerned with the cost of running a justice system in their country. The President is now available to give judgments and decide guilt without needing to hear evidence or give the accused a fair trial:

OBAMA: So people can have philosophical views [about Bradley Manning] but I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source [basis]… That’s not how the world works.

And if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.

We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.

Case closed! Time to lock him up indefinitely… oh, wait, they’re already doing that.

Let’s hope that Julia Gillard starts telling our judges who’s guilty and who’s innocent as well. We can get rid of that criminal justice system our civilisation has spent centuries developing, stupid archaic notions like “innocent until proven guilty” and “independence of the judiciary” and “testing evidence”. We can just leave all these questions up to the whim of executive fiat, just like in the best tinpot brutal dictatorships.

What could possibly go wrong?

The cost of burning your allies

I hope the Labor Party is watching what’s happening to it at the moment very carefully, and learning a few lessons for next time.

Lessons like – there is a cost to completely burning your base.

Gillard’s aping of the Coalition on welfare bashing, refugee bashing, gay bashing, Greens bashing – has left it rather free of friends. (And for little gain – those who hate those things are always going to vote for the Coalition anyway.) So when she’s being beaten up by the Murdoch press, largely unfairly, the natural counter to that – those writers who didn’t detest her the moment she entered politics – is absent. Who’s writing the pro-Gillard pieces to counter the “she’s finished” guff by hacks who always hated her and scent blood in the water while the government endures some bad poll numbers while it figures out the carbon tax details? The attacks are running almost uncontested, because Gillard has so badly, so unnecessarily, so deliberately burnt the people who would otherwise have countered the most hateful rubbish by her opponents.

Gillard probably figured there was nothing to lose by attacking things the left holds dear – what are they going to do, vote for the Coalition? But what she’s missed is that having allies is vitally important in politics – particularly if you want the national conversation to be fair to you. And at the moment, she’s burning through friends far faster than she can afford to.

You can see the price she’s paying by opening any of this week’s newspapers.

“So enormously important that it is contracted out to private companies chosen on lowest price”

Ben Sandilands over at Crikey yesterday on Sydney airport’s recent ineffectual but very expensive security stuff-up:

But whatever the details, tracing these people proved totally beyond the capabilities of the massive Sydney Airport investment in security, which is so enormously important that it is contracted out to private companies chosen on lowest price.

The thing is, that’s true about all sorts of areas that previously were the responsibility of government, where the consequence of taking these sorts of shortcuts – although potentially catastrophic – won’t be felt for some time. Possibly under the next mob’s administration. When those responsible who are completely lacking in shame can blame them for the increased cost of cleaning up your mess, whilst simultaneously contrasting their expenditure with how much money the incompetents saved when they created that mess in the first place.

And our short-term obsessed governments and public agencies keep doing it. And are applauded for doing it.

Other examples of tendering on the basis of price rather than quality of service provision:

I’m sure you can think of many others – please feel free to share them in the comments.

The important thing is to keep this in mind next time a government is crowing about how much more cheaply it can get things done by tendering them out to the private sector. Particularly when it’ll be some time before you see (and are forced to pay for) the results of the corners being cut …

Bad poll no surprise at all

A bad poll for the ALP, as you’d expect while their ability to argue their case is hamstrung by the fact that the carbon price hasn’t yet been agreed.

That said, they could always follow my suggestion