Friday, October 22, 2010

A Small Misconception

Neville J. Angove

I was watching the TV program, "The Boneyard: Biowaste." In a segment on Tennessee's "The Bodyfarm" I was once again treated to a repetition of a common fallacy by someone who should have known better, but was too ignorant to do some elementary fact checking (similar to a 2010 journalist).

The chap who initiated The Bodyfarm commented that mediaeval knights were actually only small people, about five feet in height or so. This is a common fallacy, and the small suits of armour that have survived from this period, along with the fact that many commoner entrances only had small doorways, is used as evidence to support this misconception.

The average height prior to the 1800's was not much more than about five feet. This was due to poor diet. But poor diet was not a constraint amongst the wealthy. These people could afford suits of armour, for example. They could also afford large doors.
Several decades ago a museum guide commented that the kitchen doors to a mansion were small because of the average height of the users. Might be, except kitchen staff were unlikely to be poorly fed. The guide did not comment on why internal doors were as large as we use today, even those not seen by any visitors.

Small doors were common because of expense and defence. It cost money to make a large door or window, and only the wealthy chose to be ostentatious enough to do so. Of course, the back doors used by staff and hidden from view were only as large as needed. Smaller doors could also be only entered sideways, meaning that any invader had his defenceless back to one side.

It is true that a number of famous warriors were small. Admiral Nelson was small, but he had a commoner origin. Boneapart wasn't as small as we think, but he also had a commoner origin. But nobles were well-fed and were fairly large people. In fact, only oversized men could wear suits of armour and wield mediaeval weapons.

Little armour used in mediaeval times survived to this day. A recent survey of Agincourt could only discover one coin and part of a knight's spur. The rest of the metal was salvaged and recycled. The suits of armour that have survived were generally of two types: 90%-scale suits made by armorers as sales aids; or suits made for the adolescent males of wealthy noble households. None saw battle and so needed no recycling.

Anthropologists who have examined mediaeval noble skeletons and surviving armour and weapons, and historians who have looked at the forced evolution of horses, will correct these misconceptions.

This type of unchecked error passes into common knowledge because its suits the misconceptions of those who should correct them. Perhaps we like the idea of the old nobility being smaller than modern man, because it makes us feel better.

Unfortunately (and here I am on my hobbyhorse again), the Internet is very good at perpetuating fallacies, and destroying electronic evidences of the truth.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Deathly Lies

Lies and Incompetence Were Almost the Dearth of Me (and the Death of Me)!

I was trying to understand why I recorded a blood oxygen saturation levels of 99% after just smoking several cigarettes. This test was done using a finger stall. Carbon monoxide binding should have made my oxygen saturation as low as 70% (but at that level, I would need a higher oxygen flow, hence a higher pulse rate and blood pressure in smokers). The normal long term binding is supposed to be about 10% in heavy smokers, and takes weeks after heavy smoking stops to reduce the CO saturation (the red blood cells have to die).

The problem is multifold.

Arterial blood gas analysis machines measure oxygen saturation by using complex calculations based on a number of separate reactions, creating a selection of products whose concentrations are used to interpret the readings obtained. Specifically, large levels of carbon monoxide can skew the results which then need a different interpretation. But a reading of other results obtained simultaneously will indicate that the oxygen saturation results are unreliable. It is better if the analysis is done with the operator already knowing that the blood sample comes from a smoker.

Pulse oximetry use the frequency of light transmitted by the sample. High carbon monoxide levels can skew the results, since oxygen saturation is actually measured as a result of the combination of different results, both of which are affected by CO saturation.

While I was a patient at Bankstown Hospital early in 2007, no account was taken of any possible skewing of my test results, in spite of knowledge that I had been (I was in a coma, and could not smoke anyway) a heavy smoker. No account was taken of the results provided by the blood gas analysis that cast strong doubts on the reliability of the measured oxygen saturation levels.

No test was done on my CO levels, and no venous blood gas analysis was done.

Basically the medical staff saw what they thought they should see, and not what was actually measured.

They were obviously comforted by the fact that the separate monitoring of my blood oxygen saturation via a finger stall also showed a 95% oxygen saturation. But this is a simpler measurement, easily confused. Blood with carbon monoxide saturation actually comes out a brighter red, and when mixed with oxygen-saturated blood, inflates the measured oxygen saturation levels.

Unfortunately, the correct interpretation of these results is beyond the competence of even the most highly qualified nurses in public hopsitals. The doctors, who believe that since they can occasionally revive patients who are technically dead, and therefore obviously must have some god-like attributes, are actually worse. Talking to a doctor about a medical issue is like being the customer in the Monty Python dead parrot sketch!

It is no wonder why I, but one of many, suffered severe oxygen stress while in a coma. I can be thankful that the attempts to reduce my blood pressure failed, because if it had been reduced, the oxygen stress would have increased my neural atrophy to the point where I would have not revived.

The alternative view is that if I had died permanently, or been so neurologically challenged that I would be in a home, then I wouldn't have to put up with Banktown Hospital's view that I should stop beiong crippled by them and be thankful I am still alive.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Uncivil Serpents Win Again

Gillard Gushes, Abbott Has No Costello

Julia Gillard has agreed to the demands of a group of three independents, in order to form a government. Tony Abbott, on the other hand, rejected them outright, displaying a nonchalance that tells me he thinks he knows something.

Accept that the Coalition is completely owned by the Public Service. Accept that Labor follows Public Service advice with no question, because it knows it can be ruined and lose power if it upsets its mandarins.

Then it all makes sense.

The promises made to the independents, although the specifics are not revealed yet, pretty much folllow Labor stated policy (except for the mining superprofits tax).

The public servants have shown the ability to only recommend policy they think should be done, and provide cogent arguments against policy they don't like. The same public servants have been very willing to administer government policy in such a way to minimise benefits to the electorate while maximising embarrassment to the government.

Perhaps Abbott has been promised that Labor will be put in such a damaging position by faulty Public Service advice that it will be forced to renege on its promises to the independents. Only one independent MP has to change his side in a crucial vote and we are heading for a new election.

If Gillard is dumped by Labor, as most predict, that could also provide an impetus for instability. The keeping of promises, even if in name only, is tied closely to the power of the leader of the government.

We will be heading for a general election well short of the three years we are guaranteed. That is certain. What are unknown are the twin answers of when and how.

A confusing issue concerns honesty. This concept is ignored by party politicians, not if they want to keep their seats. But independents must keep their electorates happy. The independents' electorates show a preference for their members to side with the Coalition. Abbott might be counting on this. The problem for the independents is that they choose which government is best for their electorate, and this may not be the choice of the electorate (although they did vote for independent representation).

ISPs and Asps

I've Been Filtered!

I had a few problems with this account, taking unnamed people to task for failing to do their jobs, and then they doing disturbing things when they were challenged.

It took five weeks to get my account running. I must have upset people more, since I found that while I could access overseas sites OK, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook overseas servers could not send me anything except bare text. The IMs worked OK, but nothing else. When I found that I could not even update Windows, I complained.

Bigpond's Helpdesk responded incredibly quickly. Incredibly quickly, as if it was waiting for me. It suggested I had corrupted IE's cache, and detailed how I was to fix it. I spent two hours doing this and testing it, and found that clearing the cache actually made things worse. So I complained again about 2am Tuesday morning, commenting that the same problem occurred with Firefox (my default browser), and then quit.

About 9am, I opened up again, but after about three access doing my mail (using Firefox), suddenly I was getting timeout mesages that could have only been caused by my ISP intercepting my requests and blocking my access to these servers by sending a notification back that the connection had timed out.

Basically, a version of the proposed Internet filter, but applied to requests from my account.

I tried IE8, and everything worked (but with a little initial delay on the requests). Even the sites I could not receive from previously talked to me. But despite repeated attempts to use Firefox, it never worked again.

It is now Thursday morning, and Firefox still doesn't work. Repeated communications with Bigpond show that it is not treating the request seriously (or the last person to e-mail me is literally challenged). I was finally advised to pay for help from a third-party service

Basically, in revenge for being a pain in the arse, Bigpond stopped three US sites from sending me information, but in such a way as to suggest the problem was at my end. Before I could hook up another machine to show my hardware was not at fault, Bigpond changed its assault by simply blocking all communication if I used Firefox. The ultimate answer they can give now is that it has to be something in the browser, since IE8 works.

I have tried another laptop on my account, one which worked well on another account for three years. It has the same problem, so the issue is with elements within Bigpond fucking up my account.

And with other elements either refusing to repair it or too incompetent to see that there is a problem. My past history with Bigpond argues that either is likely.

I have followed my son's advice and installed Opera. It works well, so far.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What Farce?

We just had a federal election, and no one won. The electorate lost, but that is nothing unusual.

None of the candidates attempted to blame the Public Service misadministration of government policies for any of the problems raised in very negative campaigns. So nothing has been done, except to show that ALL the politicians are running scared from Public Service displeasure.

I'd rather deregulation and be at the mercy of market forces. At least the financial sector knows that consumers must consume to ensure that the market maintains existence.

My experience shows that it takes only a few low-level types to cause incredible trouble.

I needed to replace my naked DSL service in June. No provider would treat with me, because I had moved to a new residence that did not have a landline installed. I had to pay for one to be installed, even though I would never use it, in order to purchase a service that didn't require a landline.

I finally went with Telstra on July 6th. I applied online from a friend's connection, and was told it might take as long as three weeks, but I would be contacted within a few days.

On the 12th, with no contact, I used a friend's telephone to apply for priority assistance for a connection. I was told I could not get it until I had a connection!!!!!

I e-mailed my local (Federal) member (Jason Clare) and the Federal Minister with my complaint about Telstra's web site offering a Catch-22 solution. I copied my State local member (Joe Tripodi) as a matter of course. On the 15th, my local member's office (Robyn) called me to say my local member was taking up the issue.

On July 21st, Telstra e-mailed me to say my application was stalled because I had not supplied enough ID (a damn lie), and I should apply again. I bet there were staff waiting for my name to appear, so they could show how efficient was Telstra!

Unfortunately, I did not get online to receive this reply until late July 25th. I sent an angry answer (I had earned the nickname "aggro" while in the Federal Public Service), and then applied online to a different marketing section for a relocation of a non-existent service to a new residence (yes, that was an option the web site allowed me).

On the 27th, after three calls from this section (starting with Dale), and in response to my interminable struggle with Telstra, I was given a new telephone number, a broadband account (with equipment for self-installation to be supplied in 6-8 days), and promised a speedy connection for my phone/broadband bundle. I had to delay the telephone connection until the 29th, because I was at my friend's, being taken care of.

On the 28th, though, some Telstra twit vindictively cancelled both my telephone and broadband accounts. The technician who arrived on the morning of the 29th hadn't been told of the cancellation, and connected me to the best of the poor lines available. He found that the number I had been assigned was now naturally unavailable, and gave me a new number.

On the 30th, I was contacted by a more senior Telstra official (Peter Alford(?), from an unhidden Sydney number), replying to a Ministerial request to investigate my complaint. He was surprised I had a telephone connection, and promised to get back to me. He didn't.

On the 6th August, my Federal member's office (Robyn again) called me to say that Telstra's Customer Service (a chap named Max) had replied that my complaint of July 12th had no substance, because I had a telephone connection and had cancelled my broadband connection. I explained how this was untrue.

On August 9th, Max called me to have me reapply for broadband. What he offered was not what I had agreed to on July 27th, and I said so. He agreed to continue with the original offer, including the original broadband account name. On August 10th, I received another call from Telstra (a Melbourne number, again not hidden), referring to the calls made by Peter and Max, offering me the July 27th deal (with a few changes to accommodate re-bundling the bundle). On August 11th, Peter from Telstra called again, confirming the order, but telling me the original broadband user name was not available (of course, it had been cancelled and was therefore reserved for three years LOL), and we agreed to a new user name.

The "modem" arrived early the next morning, and I installed it. I then began to rebuild my system, to use the software upgrades that had occurred in the previous two months.

On August 20th, Peter from Telstra called again, but rung off before I could answer him (I was napping). About 30 minutes later, Robyn from my Federal member's office rang, to see how things were progressing. I explained it seemed to be worked out, and I had sent an e-mail to that effect to the office (on the 18th). Robyn explained how Jason Clare worked tirelessly for his electorate. That afternoon I received a reply to my earlier e-mail, not referring to the telephone conversation.

Interestingly, the header on the August 20th reply indicated that my e-mail of August 18th had automatically been sent to the spam folder. I wonder if my e-mail of the 12th July had been also sent there, and only acted on because Joe Tripodi's office had accidentally sent my copy to it to Jason Clare?

That day I also received a letter from the Ombudsman's Office saying that my complaint had been forwarded by the Federal Minister, and after the election it would be acted on. Fat chance: public servants love to ignore politicians unless it is to their benefit.

This explains a lot of things. Except for e-mails sent to my previous Federal (Chris Bowen) and State (Ninos Koshaba) members, the only political action I ever received was when my local members had sent my e-mails on to other politicians. Maybe that's the way to ensure I don't get treated as a spammer?

The Ombudsman will have a lot to examine. From the time I installed my broadband equipment, and activated my account, I have had problems. Firstly, any page that had a connection to Facebook was slow to load, stalling at the Facebook link. If I attempted to log into Facebook, all I got was a minimal text page. Then my Yahoo home page would not load, and if I tried to load my Yahoo Mail page, again all I got was minimal text.

At least I got that diminished text. When I tried for Live Mail, I didn't even get that!

Someone has attached a filter to my Bigpond account, to stop me getting image downloads from overseas sites run by Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft (at least the Yahoo and Microsoft messenger sites still work, as well as the "ninemsn" home page, since the images are local). Looks like the Telstra twits are at it again. The problem only occurs only with my Bigpond account, and both of my laptops.

I wrote that being censored like this was a possibility of the proposed internet filter. My only pain is not getting updates from Microsoft for Windows 7. I have complained formally to Bigpond. I hope it doesn't get worse before it gets repaired.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Manufactured Ignorance Part 2

For 60 years, we were taught that between 1939 and 1945, the Nazis killed four milion Jews and two million others in the concentration camps. The Holocaust.

In 2009, in his mini-series of the war in Europe, in the penultimate episode, Tom Hanks reported that it was six million Jews and four million others killed in the Nazi concentration camps. This figure was quoted by the Israeli PM in a speach early in 2010, and became the new history (thanks to the Internet and the demise of accurate print reporting).

In the series "The Lost Films," shown here (Australia) in opposition to Hank's "The Pacific", the last episode said the the Nazis killed 14 million people between 1939 and 1945, more than half of them Jews. These figures were quoted while scenes from the concentration camps (more than 1500 claimed) were shown. How long before this figure becomes the new Holocaust figure?

The Nazis killed many civilians outside of the concentration camps: in the occupied countries when caught or during the invasions; in East Europe (courtesy of Nazi sympathisers using the occupation as a chance to settle old scores); the bombing of Britain; and in Russia. This figure could also include the number of soldiers killed on both sides.

But the authors did not bother to say just what they included in these figures. Ignorance of the facts, or an attempt to push an agenda?

Manufactured Ignorance Part 1

Recent advertisements in the press are now touting "manufactured diamonds" instead of "artificial" ones. Seems the old term has too many negative connotations. The sale of mined diaminds is controlled by a world diamond federation controlled by De Beers. Too many diamionds available means prices drop.

The idea of engraving a serial number was introduced to stop the flow of so-called "blood diamonds" and the sale of arms to such countries as Angola. Very commendable. Nothing was said, though, about the working conditions of the African labourers who mine the bulk of "legitimate" diamonds.

A mantra of the diamond trade is the search for the perfect flawless diamond. It is the imperfections in diamonds that make them characteristic, and flawless diamonds are considered most valuable.

Industrial diamonds have been manufactrured for many years, but have been too small for any use except high-grade abrasives. It is no conincidence that the manufacture of larger stones (1/2 carat and larger) occurred at the same time as De Beers demanded that legal diamonds be etched with a serial number. Any diamonds without this number would then be considered to be illegal blood diamonds, or artifical ones.

It is no surprise that manufactured diamonds are indistinct from mined diamonds, except that they are perfect (and lack the diamond merchants' serial number, of course).

How long before a small miner begins salting its leases with manufactured diamonds made to look like mined diamonds?

This notion came back to mind after the Australian miners started their campaign against the super profits resources tax. Surprisingly, the biggest complainer is Exstrata, based in Europe. The tax does not negatively affect a miner's profitability. In fact it increase the manouvering room a miner has in market negotiations. But what the tax does, and no one seems to mention this, is guarantee the entry of small miners into the resources business. Now, this added competition is definitely not in the interests of the established miners, but they can't say that the tax will actually increase competition and reduce prices of manufactured goods (and coal-based power) to consumers.

Australia is the first country to introduce a financial incentive of this nature for competitive resource exploitation. This has international ramifications, and it must be stopped here, hence Exstrata's involvement.

No way, Jose! Let the lies begin, and the public servants manipulate those lies to serve their own ignorant agendas.

***** *****

Monday, March 1, 2010


Doesn't time fly when you are having fun?

In November 2009, I argued with the Assistant Treasurer that if the government was going to fund an economic stimulus, then it should not be giving money to banks. Perhaps it should give pensioners a taste of the increased pension rates instead.

I was surprised when a few weeks later, the government announced the $1200 grant to all pensioners and carers.

It seems I was the only voice calling for an economic stimulus. I could find no other comment calling for one. But I did find calls for the governments of the world to bail out the financial institutions, if they were going to give any stimulus at all.

In Australia, Treasury was calling for increased money for the banks, while Finance was saying that the consumers should be helped first. Of course, the political opposition was also calling for any help to be given direct to the financial institutions.

A few months later, and everyone worldwide was praising the Australian government for its foresight and its success, and its stimulus was being repeated (except in the US, where the financial giants such as IAG were being helped, and the fat cats were getting fatter).

Last night I was watching a repeat of a comedy show from late 2009, which showed that a whole raft of people has supported the Australian government's financial stimulus package. Funny, none of these had supported the government's package a year earlier.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gil the Armless

A few decades ago, US author Larry Niven wrote a series of stories concerning "Gil the Arm", a detective in a near-future society. This society had so well-perfected transplant techniques that there was a severe shortage of donor organs. The government responded by introducing the death penalty for a broad range of offences, so that the convicted could be harvested for organs. Such heinous crimes included exceeding the speed limit or running a red light.

This science fictional future has now become reality. The Australian government's Organ and Tissue Authority has introduced a system where Australia hospitals can receive up to $A11,400 for each patient they can turn into an organ donor (Sunday Telegraph, February 21, 2010).

All the hospitals have to do is convince patients' families to authorise organ donation consent for critical patients that the hospital claim should not be revived if they should technically die. The patients are then kept alive on life support until their organs can be harvested. Not revived and kept on life support in the hope they can recover (as many do), but kept alive as a source of organ donations for profit.

Doctors seem to have expressed criticism of the scheme, not because it removed the requirement to keep a patient alive at all costs, but because it encourages hospitals to pressure families to allow patients to become organ donors before they are dead. Already, hospitals have the right to deny commencing life support to critical patients (but not turning it off once commenced, since there is a risk that the next-of-kin will sue unless they give permission for cessation of life support).

All that a hospital need to do is convince the next-of-kin that the patient should be allowed to die. Currently, hospitals prefer to keep patients in an ICU because they are paid $10,000 per day for little extra expenditure. If there is no room in the ICU, this is a good way to make extra money (the hospital can be paid $A7,218 for transferring a patient from emergency to the ICU with the intention of harvesting organs, even if such harvesting never occurs; meaning no bed space is required).

This is off interest to me. I decided decades past that I would not consent to organ donation, out of fear that this system would be implemented. In January/February 2007, my fears were partly justified. While I was in a long and serious coma, the hospital told my next-of-kin that my critical condition might deteriorate into death. When I prolonged my agony by refusing to die (and in fact tried to escape from the hospital bed while in a coma), my next-of-kin was told that by keeping me on life support, he was only prolonging my agony in a hopeless case. What would have happened if the hospital could make extra money by declaring me irredeemable?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ignorance, Well-meaning or Malicious

A few weeks ago, Australian Olympic representatives in Vancouver reported to the media that their "Boxing Kangaroo" flag display had been classed as illegal. They claimed that the AOC had approached them to say that the IOC had complained that the trademarked flag violated its branding regulations.

The IOC said that it was surprised about the claims, since it had not begun examining any branding breaches, and would not object to the flag if the trademark owners did not object. The AOC then announced it had not contacted the Olympic team, so why the false news reports.

The media became very quiet. It would be easy for anyone within the AOC to call Vancouver and quietly tell the Australian team chief that the flag was illegal and would be banned by the IOC. The caller could even tell the team chief to call the AOC and ask for his/her extension, and he/she would confirm the comment.

No names, nothing in writing. Just mischief caused. The caller could have been well-meaning, and trying to stop a problem before it began, or could have just been maliciously attempting to prove his/her power. I doubt it was the trademark owner trying to get some free publicity.

It seems that too many people in official positions are trying to author events without accepting any responsibility.

On a point raised yesterday: the media claimed that the Clean Air Commission (CEC) claimed that the current installation of domestic solar panels was a fire hazard. Today, the CEC said it had not said such a thing. The media outlets who made the original report did report this, but took the story no further. It seems that all you need to gain media attention is a newsworthy statement that offends no one who can fight back. Never mind the truth, just feel the publicity!

Contend In Vain?

Neville Angove

 I applied for medical priority government housing in March 2007. There was no way I could obtain private housing suitable for wheelchair access and with room for occasional full time care. I kept applying for 18 months (the Housing NSW mission statement said about a two week wait), and none was offered. Finally the local allocations officer said that although I clearly qualified and had extensive medical references, there was simply none available, and none planned. As well, there was another disabled person ahead of me on the waiting list.

I escalated the matter to the political level. Then my full-time carer asked me to leave (using the police as her vehicle), since she had agreed only to three months (after which I was supposed to spontaneously grow new nerves). I spent six weeks trapped in a third floor unit, unable to leave without assistance, and able to move around the unit only on my hands and knees.

Then I was offered a semi-detached unit, organised without the knowledge of the local office. Housing had spent over $2 million dollars buying a half-completed eight-unit complex, with the condition that one unit be modified for wheelchair access. I moved in during November 2008.

Because of the hurry completing the unit, it had been relocated to no longer enjoy the passive temperature control with which it had been designed, and the ground had not settled. As well, some features designed for wheelchair accessibility were absent. I did not quibble at the time, since my prognosis gave me little time to live.

When I moved in, Housing's local office could not do enough for me. Over the next few months, this changed. When my prognosis changed to an expectation of an unfortunately longer life, I began to take interest in what would be the last independent living dwelling I would have.

I had to take Housing to the tenants tribunal to force it to allow me to install some passive temperature control features, so at least my second summer in the unit (and the worst one here for decades) was tolerable. Even my local politician, Joe Tripodi, eventually stopped fighting for me, having been "told" by the civil servants to cease and desist.

Only two days ago (late in the evening of February 16th 2010), I telephoned through a list of maintenance needs to Housing's new customer dissatisfaction system. Many could only be handled in the Department's regular maintenance review (about four years hence), but repair orders were drawn up to handle some others.

Now Housing maintenance is supposed to take from two to four weeks, but there is a long backlog (one chap waited 18 months for a window to be fixed). I had two teams arrive within 12 hours to fix a broken security lock and replace a leaking water pie. As well one team promised to submit a report recommending a new pressure relief valve and fixing a leak in my toilet pedestal (leaking sewage does not appeal to me). I do not know when this will be done, since I reported it months earlier.

And this morning, I received another call to say that another repairer wanted to fix my wall oven (which had trouble turning off when requested), but could not specify an arrival time except somewhere in a four-hour period (since I have to see my doctor in that time, I had to schedule the repair visit for the following Monday).

I mention this because it seems I am now high up in the list again. Perhaps someone has noticed that I am still getting my complaints published, or need to be satisfied? I still can't get some major faults fixed, but I will keep on trying (it seems that there are a few small factions within the civil service who still want to do their jobs; it is just a matter of getting their attention).

While you generally contend in vain to get the civil servants to actually do their jobs, the fight isn't always fruitless. Now I just need to get my vertical blinds reattached, some settlement cracks repair, something done about doors and windows no longer being square, and a bug infestation removed.

The Godless Themselves (that's meeeeeeee!)

Neville Angove

 No followers yet. Then, I am not following any blogs myself, simply because I can't find any!

Peter Garrett has received a lot of media flack about problems with the home insulation and solar power schemes. His problem is that he doesn't know he is supposed to fall on his sword, even though the problems are the result of avoiding responsibility by his civil servants.

When the schemes were first touted, his Department received loads of complaints and concerns. He claimed that these had been addressed by his Department when the schemes were implemented. History has shown that he was mislead by his civil servants.

We have seen poor workmanship, poor product quality, price gouging, and buck passing (the bucks mainly passed from the public to industry sections that used to be honest). The media has been highlighting four deaths that occurred during the installation of ceiling insulation, and a large number of house fires causes by improper installation.

If a house fire is caused by faulty installation of electrical wiring (as most are), should the government be condemned? If house fires are caused by faulty ceiling insulation, where the Australian Standards are clearly documented, should the government be condemned? The media reticent to comment.

My comment is drawn by an ABC news item tonight that gave more details of the four deaths previously mentioned. Three deaths were caused by electrocution in Queensland during mistakes in the installation of foil insulation. This is simply evolution in action. The other death occurred in NSW, where a young man was forced in enter a roof cavity to install insulation batts during one of the hottest November days in history. He died of heat stroke. I consider this to be actionable against the employer; a young worker would not know of the hazards of working in such an environment in extreme conditions, nor know he was legally entitled to refuse without fear of retribution. Interestingly, the media has not called for charges to be laid against the employer. The media is too busy attacking the politicians.

Against Stupidity?

Neville Angove

 One day I will learn how to use Typing is such slow torture that I have trouble following through with my plans. I started well with a blog when I subscribed to Bigpond three years ago, but when I changed ISPs, the blog disappeared.

Trying to keep up to date via the media is hard. My experience is that the media invariably gets it wrong, and later media items reference earlier media items that managed to get it wrong (but being medias, mist be a reliable source). In "Band Of Brothers", the penultimate episode refers to the finding of the first Nazi concentration camps. I have a few bones of contention.

It was known for several years before the Allied invasion that the concentration camps existed, and what they did. The magnitude may have been hidden, but the purpose wasn't. This TV show implies that the existence of the camps was unknown until 1945. Since TV is how most people get their information , then this misinformation will continue to the nth generation.

Not long after this show premiered, the Israeli prime minister was quoted as saying that the world should not forget the deaths of six million Jews during the Holocaust. I was taken aback at this number quoted, since I had been taught from many sources, that the deaths of Jews due to murder in the Nazi camps was between three and five million. The accepted estimate was four million Jews and two million others (including ethnic groups, political enemies, forced labourers, and POWs).

I saw where this misinformation quoted by the Israeli PM was sourced: in the penultimate episode of "Band of Brothers", the credits included the written quote that six million Jews and five million from ethnic groups were killed in the Nazi concentration camps.

This seems like another William Safire/USS Aegis controversy in the making.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Canute and Climate Change

Neville Angove

 As a school student, I was taught a lesson abut playing god. King Canute, tired of being overly praised, showed his politicians that for all his power he had no control over the tides.

The same applies to global warming and climate change. Unless we cause a nuclear winter, there is little we can do to affect global warming. We can affect climate change; in fact, the growth of cities creates heat plumes that affect weather patterns in interesting ways. A fractional increase in global temperatures has also affected weather patterns. More importantly, if you live in Europe, the Gulf Stream is showing signs of stopping, causing a new ice age.

The planet is on an upwards trend towards increased warmth. This is a problem of celestial mechanics and a 44,000 year cycle. About this trend there will be upwards and downwards shocks, and these will confuse the issue.

In Australia, there is a big political bunfight over the Emissions Trading Scheme. What is going unsaid is that we are in the midst of a global economic crisis that has been largely caused by speculation in derivative stocks. Stockbrokers are already salivating over the profits they can make in trading "carbon credits", with this derivative market poised to become larger than the derivative market in sub-prime mortgages. Apart from the costs to consumers from the initial and continued sales of carbon credits, trading in them will cause even worse problems.

The whole area of climate change and global warming is hugely confused by hyperbole, deliberate misrepresentation, misuse of statistics, abuse of the scientific method, and pure profit taking (notice how solar hot water systems have more than doubled in price, relative to the CPI, or how photovoltaic systems still cost much more than buying the equivalent electricity, even though household electricity prices have doubled relative the the CPI)?

Everyone seems to be after a quick buck, or after more power by determining who will make the bucks. The consumer is the one who pays for it, and will suffer repeated bumchuming for being ignorant. But those who make the wrong decisions (or enforce them) have made sure they get the income to shelter them. Trust civil servants to look after themselves, and make money from the tragedy of others.

Medical Negligence

Neville Angove

I caught part of a reality show about ICU operations. Some poor bugger had caught an infection after neural surgery, and was not responding to antibiotics after three days administration. The hospital asked the parents if it could take him off life support and let him die. They agreed, and it did.

In 2007, I did not respond to antibiotics for over a month. Luckily, I did not catch pneumonia, and the hospital decided to keep me on dialysis and breathing support. I had entered hospital in a coma after developing legionella sepsis from an antibiotic-resistant version. My kidneys failed, my liver failed, my lungs failed, and then my heart gave up the fight. I was revived, but i spite of showing no response to antibiotics, the staff kept me on life support.

To add insult to injury, I contracted a multiple-resistant version of MRSA (EMRSA-E15) and MRAB, after more than two weeks of antibiotic treatment. It seems I only survived by also developing rhabdomyolisis, which caused me to burn off half my body weight and kept my kidneys from functioning. A combination of losing weight that made the inadequate oxygen support become adequate, and my immune system finally killing off the infections, and I started to come out of the coma.

Unfortunately, although I survived the treatment, I ended up about 75% crippled. It has been described as either a generalised stroke, or a rare case of late onset cerebral palsy. The hospital refused to acknowledge my condition, in case it meant it had to admit I had acquired at least two infections in hospital because of inadequate hygiene. I have been fighting for support ever since.

As of this date, my poor mobility status is officially described as being caused by a mental condition. I can't apply for medical support because I have be examined for each request, and the law says I have to pay for each examination (which I can't afford). On my three admissions to hospital for related problems since I was crippled, the hospitals have refused to perform even the most rudimentary examinations (in April 2009, my report stated that I had no physical or medical problems, in spite of being kept in isolation, and needing a wheelchair to be kept on hand so I could be evacuated if required).

The reason I am writing this is that the TV program saw seemed to publicly argue and justify that if a patient does not respond to antibiotics after three days, then it is OK now to cease life support. Glad my month in a coma occurred three years earlier. Seems that doctors are trying to increase the amount of responsibility they can now avoid. Already, it is accepted that the deaths through medical negligence in hospitals of up to 30,000 Australian hospital patients a year is "...a minor matter."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thick As Two Planks

Neville Angove

Today's Sydney Sunday Telegraph ran a story highlighting the plight of a father who wrote to the Environment Minister and the Prime Minister. He had written to complain about faults in the free home ceiling insulation system that was causing deaths by electrocution. It must be said that installers who do not realise that connecting metal insulation to live wires will make the insulation definitely dangerous: think of their deaths as evolution in action.

The mistake lies in anyone thinking that letters to political Ministers actually reaches the Ministers. Instead, they are read by civil servants, answers written by civil servants, and the justification for the answers written by civil servants.

I have been writing letters to various Ministers for three years. Only once did one actually reach the Minister (John Della Bosca, the deposed Health Minister of NSW), and a reply written by him received. The letter was a copy hand delivered to him of a letter written to a local politician.

This problem applies to the US, the UK and Australia. It could apply elsewhere, but I do not have sufficient contacts in other countries. Accept the fact that governments are run by civil servants for their own ends (enjoy a little power, fertilising the ground for post-retirement remuneration), leaving the game of getting elected so they can enjoy the perks of office (and occasionally slip in some good works, civil servants not being the brightest lights around).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All Your Fault

Neville Angove

 Have been having an argument with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission. This brought to mind a comment made late 2009 on TV by a spokesman for the NSW Department of Health, Dr Ian Smyth. He said something typical of doctors and civil servants, about a report that about 400 hospital patients in NSW were dying from golden staph infections each year (this is less than a third of the number calculated for hospital acquired golden staph infections, and golden staph deaths account for only 25% of deaths due to hospital acquired infections).

He said that these deaths were a minor matter.

If the NSW Commissioner of Police said that the deaths in custody of 400 people per year, regardless of their medical state when arrested, was a "minor matter", than he would face certain charges.

But doctors are immune. And the civil service employees control their own destinies (they write the rules, decide what rules will be enforced, and then report on how well they are doing their jobs). This point was sorta highlighted by cardboard cutout, NSW Premier Keneally, about laying the blame for an expensive stuffup in the new public transport fare system. She said the persons responsible would be found and punished.

THIS I GOTTA SEE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Typically, instead of highly-paid civil servants finding the mistakes, it was consumers who found the mistakes. I wonder who will be paying at least the cost of reprinting the faulty brochures?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Own Ignorance

Neville Angove

 I really should have read the manual first.

I saw the film, "Law Abiding Citizen", yesterday. At his first court appearance, the protagonist (Butler) seems to go over the top by claiming that the judge "...took it in the arse...." This was not needed at this time in the plot. But at the movie's end, it was obvious why it was inserted by the director (no pun intended). It reinforced the director's argument that no matter how hard we tried to abide by the rules, those who claim to live by the rules will change them to win, effectively giving all of us it " the arse...."

Since I am a victim of this behaviour by the public servants of New South Wales and its Health Department, I do feel some sympathy. It is hard to struggle against people who only care to retain power and avoid responsibility, and who do this by changing the rules to make sure no one else has any power to even suggest that some of these servants of the public are avoiding responsibility.

At the moment, government in Australia is determined by whatever faction of the public servants is the most persuasive. The politicians can play their games, but the public servants control the information flow to and from the politicians, determine what policies will be implemented, and self-assess how well they implement these policies. Even a hunk of the media is subservient to the wishes of the public servants, if it wishes to receive government advertising. The Fairfax media is a prime example, always pushing the public service viewpoint and criticising the politicians. Murdoch's media, in the other hand, criticises anything according to its news value.

You would think that the avoidable deaths of between 5,000 and 30,000 hospital patients a year because of negligent hygiene would generate some attention. It doesn't.
It does get much of the supporting medical literature censored, though. The fact that most of those in the medical profession tend to be scientific and statistical illiterates does not help. Then, since medical professionals believe they are gods, they can't be taught, can they?

In any event, junior members of the medical profession cannot take their seniors to task over their negligence, not if they want careers. And the senior members can't take junior members to task over hygiene negligence, since they have been involved in covering up negligence cases for their whole careers.