Monday, January 28, 2008

Many tributes to Paddy

Paddy always despised Stalinism so an amusing and rather curious thing that nobody mentions below is that Paddy worked at one stage for The Moscow Narodny Bank -- during the Soviet years. Peter Coleman mentions it here

TRIBUTES flowed in yesterday from around the world for Padraic "Paddy" McGuinness, a unique character in Australian life and a man who had been central to the country's cultural, journalistic and academic life for more than half a century. The renowned commentator, journalist and self-proclaimed dissenter, a one-time daily columnist on The Australian, died aged 69 at his Balmain home on Saturday after a struggle with cancer.

McGuinness first came to public attention as a student activist - his ASIO file is now on the National Archives website - and was a leading light during the heady days of intellectual ferment in the late 1950s and early 60s that saw the formation of the group known as the Sydney Push. A baffled ASIO officer who examined the McGuinness file summed him up as "an individualist, a non-conformist and an anti-authoritarian".

Both loved and reviled, always dressed in black faux-clerical garb, schooner in hand and holding court in his many favourite drinking holes across Sydney, McGuinness prided himself on pricking intellectual pretension wherever he found it. His exposure of cant and hypocrisy earned him friends from all sides of the political divide.

Greg Lindsay, founder of think tank The Centre for Independent Studies, argued and drank with McGuinness for 30 years. "Paddy was always passionately interested in ideas," Mr Lindsay said. "He was one of the great Australians; dying on Australia Day was very fitting."

Most of McGuinness's career was in journalism - as a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian and as editor of The Australian Financial Review. In recent years he was editor of the magazine Quadrant.

Senior columnist with The Australian Frank Devine, who knew McGuinness for 35 years, said: "Paddy was the quintessential independent thinker, scorning humbug and stupidity. He was a bloodthirsty predator among those he identified as members of the chattering classes."

Long-term friend and columnist Jane Fraser said he was a proud man who had intensely disliked showing his vulnerability in his final months. "He refused to discuss his illness with those close to him and would tell us: 'Mind your own bloody business - and don't send any bloody priests'," Fraser said. "He had that natural charisma which meant people were always fascinated by him. But he was more than generous with his time, whether you were famous, infamous or the cleaner. He wasn't some big blustering crass thing; he was a very sensitive man."

Peter Coleman, former editor of Quadrant, described McGuinness as "a terrific editor to work with, courageous and imaginative". "He published articles no one else would," Coleman said.

Author and new Quadrant editor Keith Windschuttle said of McGuinness: "He had a very strong eye for cant, humbug, hypocrisy and people who clothed the incoherence of their ideas in obfuscatory language. When he became editor of Quadrant in late 1997, he declared one of his targets would be postmodernism, which was then the main intellectual infection in our humanity departments of our universities. Within five years, postmodernism was dead."

Windschuttle said McGuinness was also one of the few voices brave enough to raise debate about Aborigines and the Stolen Generation at a time when even to question the topic was derided by the Left as immoral. "He gave a voice to the carers, the workers and the officials whose voices had been deliberately excluded," Windschuttle said.

Professor of economics at the University of Singapore, Henry Ergas, who first met McGuinness in the 1970s, said: "I will always think of him as a reader over my shoulder, reminding me that ideas are so important they need to be expressed clearly, allowing them to genuinely form part of the great conversation of mankind."

McGuinness's funeral will be held at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney at 2pm on Friday. The two speakers, both former employers, will be Devine and former governor-general and long-term friend Bill Hayden.



Below is what passes for high-powered intellect among Australian Leftists. It is from the blog of the "Lowy Institute for International Policy" which seems to have high pretensions.

No mention of scientific facts is made but "feel" is given prominent mention. Once again it is nothing but ad hominem argument and abuse -- which is totally disreputable intellectually. I suspect in fact that our poor old Leftist did not have a clue about how to address the scientific issues involved and thought he could get away with bluff. I think that Frank Lowy, the magnate who founded the Lowy Institute, should be looking for more high-powered employees.

I follow the spurt of superciliousness below with a reply that DOES address the facts. I suppose it is something that they published the reply. The reply is by Alex Avery, son of skeptical author Dennis Avery, mentioned below. Alex is Director of Research at the Center for Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute. He hits the poor old Lowy lamebrains with an actual journal abstract -- almost unfair to such simpletons -- who probably would not even know which way up to hold an abstract, let alone being able to make anything out of it!
Climate skeptics tilting at windfarms

A few weeks ago I, along with most of my colleagues on the staff and the board of the Lowy Institute, received a complimentary copy of a book called 'Unstoppable Global Warming - Every 1,500 Years', by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery. When I arrived at work there was an enormous pile of these tomes sitting at the Institute's reception.

The book appears to be a fairly standard example of the `climate change skeptic' genre. Contrary to the overwhelming scientific consensus captured in the most recent report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the authors argue that most global warming is not caused by human activities but by a natural 1500-year climate cycle, and that it is not nearly as dangerous as the Al Gores of this world make out.

I regret to say that this book does not have an authoritative feeling about it, starting with the spelling error in the publisher's name on the title page. A search of the authors' names by my colleague Kate Mason took us to the far-right reaches of the Internet, including links to research questioning the link between passive smoking and lung cancer, jeremiads against organic food, and the websites of various American think tanks with the word `freedom' in their title.

Anyway, people can write whatever nonsense they like; I'm more interested in the fact that someone, somewhere is sending out thousands of copies of this book to anyone they can think of who may be in a position to influence the public debate. The book's Preface states that: `A public relations campaign of staggering dimensions is being carried forward to convince us that global warming is man-made and a crisis.' It looks like an expensive campaign is being run against those propositions, too.

I doubt whether it is a very effective campaign, though. The sheer oddness of the whole exercise - both the message and the means of communicating it - leaves the distinct impression that history has passed these people by.


A climate sceptic replies

Your comments about my father's book are lacking in any substance whatsoever. Spelling errors and perceived lack of 'authoritative feeling' aside, where is any mention of the reams of cited peer-reviewed research indicating exactly what the title of the book states: global temperatures today are not historically unusual in comparison to relatively recent times (i.e. most recently the Medieval Warm Period) and the existence of a natural, roughly-1,500-year climate cycle?

By all means, let's ignore any and all substance and impugn motives instead. How noble. How enlightened. How . . . sad.

Just so you're not completely in the dark: Dr. Singer's most recent peer-reviewed scientific paper on climate change was published last month (Dec. 2007) in the International Journal of Climatology published by the Royal Meteorological Society. Does that lack an 'authoritative feeling' as well?

As the abstract of the paper states, the authors examined 'tropospheric temperature trends of 67 runs from 22 "Climate of the 20th Century" model simulations and try to reconcile them with the best available updated observations (in the tropics during the satellite era). Model results and observed temperature trends are in disagreement in most of the tropical troposphere, being separated by more than twice the uncertainty of the model mean. In layers near 5 km, the modeled trend is 100 to 300% higher than observed, and, above 8 km, modeled and observed trends have opposite signs. These conclusions contrast strongly with those of recent publications based on essentially the same data.'

Oh, and here is the latest peer-reviewed scientific paper supporting the argument that current temperatures are not alarming and not unusual:

Loehle, C. 2007. A 2000-year global temperature reconstruction based on non-tree-ring proxies. Energy & Environment 18(7-8): 1049-1058.


Historical data provide a baseline for judging how anomalous recent temperature changes are and for assessing the degree to which organisms are likely to be adversely affected by current or future warming. Climate histories are commonly reconstructed from a variety of sources, including ice cores, tree rings, and sediment. Tree-ring data, being the most abundant for recent centuries, tend to dominate reconstructions. There are reasons to believe that tree ring data may not properly capture long-term climate changes. In this study, eighteen 2000-year-long series were obtained that were not based on tree ring data. Data in each series were smoothed with a 30-year running mean. All data were then converted to anomalies by subtracting the mean of each series from that series. The overall mean series was then computed by simple averaging. The mean time series shows quite coherent structure. The mean series shows the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) quite clearly, with the MWP being approximately 0.3øC warmer than 20th century values at these eighteen sites.


Laws to cut costs in family disputes

Anything that keeps money out of the hands of the legal parasites is welcome

LAWYERS profiting from the misery of families fighting over wills will have their fees capped after a string of cases where the bill has exceeded the final inheritance. In one case where the total legal bill was more than $600,000, the plaintiffs were awarded $360,000.

Capping fees will also discourage lawyers caught up in explosive family situations from letting their clients use the courts to vent spleen. They will have more incentive to settle, rather than prolong the process to make more money. Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said he wanted to stop lawyers wiping out estates with excessive charges.

Legal costs in family will disputes routinely ran into tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said. "Costs can wipe out a huge chunk of a deceased person's will, leaving family members and dependants with virtually nothing," he said. While judges had the power to cap costs, they rarely did so, and that provision applied only if a case made it to court.

"The proposed reforms give lawyers an incentive to settle before the case gets to court, and will strengthen the judge's hand to cap costs when and if it does," Mr Hatzistergos said. The reforms could include setting a sliding scale of costs, taking into account the size of the estate and the number of claimants, or setting a maximum fee.

It is understood some lawyers are charging more than $30,000 for one-day Supreme Court cases, while more complex cases regularly attract fees of more than $100,000. Most disputes are decided in court. About 600 cases are heard in the Supreme Court each year, and 250 or so settled out of court.

Paul Versteege, from the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association, said older people wanted assurance that the wishes set out in their wills would be followed, and their estates would not be consumed by legal fees.

Law Society president Hugh Macken also welcomed the move, saying the legal profession acknowledged the need to address costs. "For a long time now the legal profession has been driving alternative dispute resolution," Mr Macken said. "These proposed amendments reinforce the importance of mediation."


Qld. Emergency wards facing crisis

The good ol' government "planning" again. This is a government that REDUCES the number of beds when it rebuilds a hospital! Despite steady and quite foreseeable population growth

A DRAMATIC increase in the number of patients turning up at public hospital emergency departments has stretched the system to its limit, says State Health Minister Stephen Robertson. He has called on Queenslanders to give overworked hospital doctors and nurses a break after a survey showed 75 per cent of those who go to public emergency rooms for treatment are there because they couldn't get access to a GP or didn't want to pay doctors' fees.

The number of people who sought treatment at Queensland hospital emergency departments last year increased 8.7 per cent from 2006 - nearly five times the usual annual increase, and four times the state's population growth for the period. The flu epidemic in August boosted the figures and the state's 23 largest public hospital emergency departments treated nearly 1 million patients in 2007. "This is what we have to try and deal with . . . we can't just keep forever expanding our emergency departments to cope with ever-increasing numbers," Mr Robertson said. "We have to find ways to deal with this very challenging, increasing demand."

The survey, commissioned by Australia's health ministers, revealed that one out of every three emergency room patients thought they actually needed hospital treatment. But about two out of three went to hospitals because their doctor was not on duty, or that doctor's clinic was closed. The overload has flowed through to add months to elective surgery waiting lists, hospital staff say.

Mr Robertson said new and refurbished emergency departments would be the priority in the Government's record $5 billion capital works spending in 2007-08. "But the problem is that emergency medicine is one of those specialties where there is a worldwide shortage," he said. Mr Robertson today will release the public hospitals' performance report for the December quarter. It will reveal that 929,093 people attended emergency departments in 2007, up from 854,550 in 2006. The 82,774 December total in emergency rooms was the highest in Queensland history.

Mr Robertson said the number of doctors in Queensland had increased from 8453 in 2001 to 9352 in 2006. But the number of GPs per 100,000 people had fallen from 238 to 227, and an increase in the number of female GPs and an ageing male sector had resulted in a decrease in doctor-patient hours.

AMA Queensland president Ross Cartmill disagreed with Mr Robertson that people attending hospital did not need treatment. He estimated that less than 5 per cent should have seen a GP first. "The fundamental issues in our Accidents and Emergencies are not enough staff and a lack of beds."


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