Lesson in spin, by James Jansson

Joe Hockey says “The poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far”. I couldn’t afford to own a car until I was 25. I would actually agree with Joe Hockey for a definition of “the poorest people”.

alboEnter Labor/media spin. Take the quote, then imply that Hockey actually said something different, like “The bottom half of the country don’t drive that much”. Ignore that this is not what he said. 

Enter all the faux impoverished who get on their high horse and say “I’ve got a $300k mortgage in the burbs and a car so I’m poor, Hockey is SUCH a dickhead.”

Hey listen up Labor propaganda consumers, until your money leftover after rent, vegetarian meals and the bus to uni is in the single digits, you don’t know what it is like to be “the poorest people”. I do. As much as I think that Hockey is a self entitled grub, in this case, he’s not actually wrong.

One last thing: opposing indexing the fuel excise to CPI on the basis of “It’s going to hurt struggling families” is the same argument Tony Abbott used against the Carbon Tax. Just saying. 

Please Google, destroy ResearchGate

ResearchGate has been gaining infamy with scientists all over the world. It’s almost everyday that you get an email from ResearchGate asking you to join. This spam is annoying but is easily fixed by blocking ResearchGate in your email. Unfortunately, ResearchGate is doing the worst thing possible to scientists across the world: breaking search and making it hard to access information. 

An example of this is found in this page. It came up as the number four result while searching on Google for mathematical modelling terms. It has the abstract to a paper, the DOI for the paper, but no link to the paper itself. There’s a button which says “Request full text”, but pressing this does not take you to the site hosting the paper, but to a registration page instead.

ResearchGate isn’t just a slightly annoying social layer to engaging with scientific content; it actively breaks the systems that researchers, government bodies (such as the NIH) and journals built to make accessing scientific content easy on the internet (such as the DOI system) by replacing high ranking search results with their rubbish. Meanwhile it uses those very same systems to scrape for data to build their business.

ResearchGate is actively destroying the functionality of search and hence productivity of scientists across the world. Google should stop serving ResearchGate results for general searches of scientific terms. 

Facebook is down

Facebook today broke not only itself, but broke much of the internet as like buttons everywhere exploded into “Sorry, something went wrong.”

Facebook being down is confirmed here.

Update: we believe this happened

Joe Hockey is a massively entitled grub.

Centrelink_Innaloo,_Western_Australia
in a blunt response to a question about how a young person who had lost unemployment benefits would be able to afford it, the treasurer said: “I would expect you’d be in a job.”
You would expect that, because either you don’t understand just how hard it is to get a job as a young person, or you don’t care. Let me break down why your expectations are unreasonable.
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The youth aren’t responsible for the economic climate of the day
Joe, show me a country where youth unemployment is lower than general unemployment. Or a country where the young, the poor and the unemployed run the economy, where the rich and the old have to sit back and take the scraps of what the government has decided to give them. Oh you can’t? Maybe it’s because the young and the marginalised are ruled over by the old and the wealthy. Employment availability is controlled by people like you and your self-righteous mates in parliament, along with business some of whom donate to your party. Young people have high unemployment in pretty much every country in the world, and it has nothing to do with the availability of welfare programs.
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Inexperienced youth can’t help that they are inexperienced
In fairness, it’s only partly the government’s fault for not looking after the young people to ensure they have appropriate skills and there’s jobs available. Getting someone to put faith in you to get your foot in the door, and getting that experience you need to maintain stable employment is actually pretty fucking hard. Youth unemployment is high simply because it is much easier for a company to hire someone with existing job experience. Until you get that first job, it’s an uphill battle convincing employers of your worth. Even if you happen to be in a job as a young person, you are more likely to have a lower skilled job. There’s also a culture of last in first out in many workplaces, meaning younger people get the sack first in difficult times.
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People in their twenties need to eat, just like old people
I just thought that I would remind you of that fact, Joe. What do you think they should do? If you think that it is bad that a person aged 30+ temporarily losing their job means they go hungry and lose their accommodation, why do you think it is okay for it to happen to someone aged 18-30? Why don’t these rules preventing unemployment benefit access apply to people over 30? Given the above two points, the only conclusion I can come to is that you have nothing but contempt for the younger generation.
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Conclusion
So before you go expecting young people to have jobs, maybe you should remember that the circumstances that young people find themselves in is not of their own making. Out of all the people that you expect to have a job, why is it the young? One thing is for sure, simply wanting really badly to have a job, and going for interviews, and getting an education is not going to guarantee you getting a job. And your changes, Joe, mean that some of those who try hard will end up hungry and on the street. Life is dangerous in Hockey’s Australia.

Tony Abbott- economic and strategic failure of our lifetime

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It’s not really a surprise to me that a minister from the Howard government, who took us to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, would claim that we have to make deep cuts into the public sector (including cuts to scientific research) while pulling $12B out of a hat for new planes to defend against an invisible enemy. That’s about 4 times the budget of the Australian Research Council, CSIRO and NHMRC combined. It represents a grand change in the focus of the government from promoting development to defending what we have currently.

For the sake of this ludicrous argument that “we need to defend ourselves” let’s look to the north for this invisible enemy. There are 230 million Indonesians (10x our population), 1.2 billion Indians and 1.3 billion Chinese (56x our population each). When you rank Australia in terms of density, we’re 266 out of 280 countries. Our north is either not worth stealing, or we’re not capable of defending it even with fancy planes. What will protect our sovereignty is acting as an ally not just to the US but also to major partners in Asia. Last time I checked arms races are not part of being good neighbours.

It is a false premise that 23 million people will be able defend our fronts simply through technological superiority. It assumes, most importantly, that we are more technologically capable than China. Hate to break it to you guys, but we don’t make microchips. We don’t design microchips. Let that sink in for a little while.

This is probably going to be the most unpopular thing I ever say, but we should really just assume that if it came down to a fire fight between Australia and China that we would have our arses thoroughly whooped. Even if you think that somehow our army is smarter or whatever false glorification you give to the Australian military, they have the bomb. They have nukes attached to ICBMs. We don’t and it would be a violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty if we were to obtain them.

Even accepting the “big army” mindset, Abbott’s just spent 3.3% of our current budget on a single piece of equipment. That doesn’t include weapons, pilots, engineers etc needed to service these planes. And it doesn’t include the rest of the cost of the armed services. “But it’s over several years” you claim. That just means we don’t have any capacity to buy new technology in the future. One thing about war is that the modes are never the same, and heavy commitment to a single type of military technology leaves us wide open to attack if that technology is not relevant to a future war scenario. 

Not only is this decision a bad decision in terms of the raw cost involved. It is also a bad decision in terms of the type of equipment purchased.  These fighter jets are US produced. The US have bases all over the world, control of GPS systems, aircraft carriers and a country with hundreds of medium sized cities. Australia has basically no appreciable overseas presence, no control over GPS systems, no aircraft carriers, and 6 medium/large sized cities with basically nothing in between over distances measured in the thousands of kilometres. What makes anyone think that a jet optimised for US use would be any good for an Australian setting?

It’s a good thing that we aren’t a European nation, otherwise Abbott would take us to war with Russia this winter.

7 things you probably don’t know about the Racial Discrimination Act amendments

Conclusion: these amendments are bad. I would probably side with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity commissioner in 1991 in saying the ‘offence’ and ‘insult’ should not be prohibited by the law. But these amendments in their current form basically make any sort of incitement of racial violence or hatred legal. Ironically, I don’t believe that Brandis intended to make inciting racial violence legal, but the amendments are so poorly written that this is the likely consequence. While it can be said that the Liberals went to the election promising to repeal section 18c, the Brandis amendments significantly change 18D as well, for which the government cannot claim to have a mandate.

Why I’m cancelling my SMH subscription: letter to the editor

Edit: the editor, Darren Goodsir, called me personally tonight to discuss these issues. In particular, the article about using alternative therapies to treat cancer received a lot of attention both internally and externally, and it appears it has been amended to address the concerns raised in my letter.

To the editor, Darren Goodsir,

I have been a long-term reader of SMH.com.au. I used to think that the Sydney Morning Herald represented some of the highest quality journalism in Australia, independent from the News Corporation empire and from the influence of government which is increasingly becoming a problem at the ABC. Unfortunately, two recent issues have made me cancel my paid subscription to SMH.com.au.

The first issue is to do with what I consider to be a racist headline that appeared on the site on January 28th 2013. The headline was “Blind woman groped on train by refugee who asked for a kiss”. The mention of refugee is unnecessary and I cannot imagine the SMH writing “Woman groped on train by white person”. The headline focuses attention of the criminal actions of one person on to an entire group in an unjust way.

I believe that this headline appeared on the front page as part of an editorial decision to participate in ‘click-baiting’, as the issue of refugees surely generates plenty of attention on the site. While I find the process of click-baiting itself problematic, the click-baiting that occurred in this case amounts to race-baiting, and I can no longer financially contribute to an organisation that does this.

The second issue is to do with the promotion of ideas which are harmful. On the 29th of January, the SMH published “The way of the wellness warrior“, a story about a woman who ignored medical advice for her cancer and instead chose to self medicate using alternative dieting. A link was put at the bottom of the article to the Cancer Australia website. On that site it states “There is little evidence that alternative therapies are effective. Most have not been assessed for efficacy in randomised clinical trials, though some have been examined and found to be ineffective.” No mention of this position is made in the article, and a link as an afterthought does not wash the SMH’s responsibility of the anti-science propaganda that you have promoted.

Convincing people to ignore medical advice, especially with conditions as serious as cancer, is extremely dangerous. One of the great minds of our time, Steve Jobs, died as a result of not taking medical advice to treat his pancreatic cancer which had a good chance of survival. Promotion of such ideas is just as bad as the promotion of anti-vaccination ideas. They can have deadly results and the SMH will have blood on its hands if even one person dies as a result of becoming an adherent to this.

The new payment method for the SMH allows me to do something that I was unable to do previously; I can financially punish the SMH for both of these sins. I therefore request that my subscription be cancelled.

James Jansson

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