Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

General Debate 17 July 2015

July 17th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Rather die than fly on this plane

July 16th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar


From Stuff.

Hard to think of a more hideous way to fly.

This seat design — called Economy Class Cabin Hexagon — can increase the number of passengers who can fit on a typical Boeing 767 by up to 80 fliers, depending on the existing layout.

That’s huge. But how many will book on such a plane? I guess some budget airlines might use it, but they already have very cheap airfares without you being crushed in like a sardine.


General Debate 16 July 2015

July 16th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 15 July 2015

July 15th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 14 July 2015

July 14th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

A reader on obesity

July 13th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader writes in:

Obesity is the new thing for the statists.

Unfortunately, nutrition science is now more shonky than climate science.

It’s not a matter of calories-in — calories-out; or we that are eating more and exercising less.

Traditional people’s didn’t run around much.  Hunter gatherers lay about in the sun!

It’s been understood for over a hundred years that it’s a matter of dysregulation and the focus has been on the cause and especially the recent cause for the dysregulation.

Think of everything else about an animal and the concept of homeostasis.  It’s the same for satiety and nutrition.  Animals on their own food don’t get fat.  You fatten them by feeding them different food.  We know that from zoos and feedlots.

The science is hard because controlled experiments are very hard.

It would seem that the shift from saturated fat to refined carbohydrate has caused a major disruption.  The issue here is sugar regulation and insulin and insulin sensitivity.

It’s increasingly likely that the cause of the obesity crisis is nutrition experts getting government to demonise saturated fats and the resulting increase in refined carbs and seed oils.  The problem also appears to transfer epigenetically to children.

I am not wanting to lecture you but simply to highlight what is a fascinating and truly shocking area.  Most of what we popularly think is so is not and has been knowing as not for decades.

It’s vey much like the argument over markets versus central planning.  Positions are entrenched without knowledge.

A couple of good places to start are Gary Taubes Why we Get Fat and Nina Teicholz The Big Fat Surprise.

The point is that the very people calling as experts for a tax on sugar are the very people who caused the obesity crisis and the sickness and death of millions.


General Debate 13 July 2015

July 13th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 12 July 2015

July 12th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

This will make for fun dates!

July 11th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

National Review reports:

A “yes means yes” advocacy group, the Affirmative Consent Project, is instructing college students to take a picture with a contract before they have sex with each other just to make absolutely sure both parties are officially consenting.

Well that would make for interesting dates. Hey, before we start getting heavy, can I just take a photo of us with this contract that says you have consented to second base.

Also as consent is ongoing, and not one off, does this mean you should also keep taking photos throughout the activity, to show consent is still being given?

No tag for this post.

General Debate 11 July 2015

July 11th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 10 July 2015

July 10th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Hehir on Internet fury

July 9th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes:

From time to time you happen to stumble upon a concept that so clarifies an aspect of the human condition that you can’t help seeing it everywhere afterwards. This happened earlier in the year when a podcast by pseudonymous blogger Ace of Spades introduced me to the idea of “altruistic punishment”.

The subject was raised in connection with a discussion of novelist Douglas Preston’s book Trial by Fury. The book is about Amanda Knox, the American woman wrongfully imprisoned in Italy after being accused of murdering her flatmate in 2007. Knox was exonerated in March this year, which is good given the enormous holes in the case against her (which Preston’s book documents in convincing fashion).

In many ways, however, the most interesting part of Trial by Furycomes at the end, when the author discusses the unflinching hatred of Knox evinced by many people he encountered on the internet. No matter what the evidence showed, many had an unshakeable – almost religious – belief in the need for Knox to be punished.

This is what led Preston to the phenomenon of altruistic punishment which, briefly stated, is the manner in which people will punish perceived wrongdoers despite not personally being affected by the wrongdoing. Brain scans show that when we punish somebody for violating a social norm, we are rewarded with feelings of self-satisfaction. This is what drives us to stick up for people being bullied, report shoplifters to store security and castigate people who park in disabled people’s parking spaces. 

Most of us have done that.

It goes without saying that this instinct is a good and necessary thing. It is easy to see how altruistic punishment is an essential ingredient of any justice system – and is therefore a big part what allows us to build and live together in civilisations. The desire to punish wrongdoers is therefore part of what makes us human. In fact, this is so much the case that no other animals, including chimpanzees, punish third-party offenders in this way.

What Preston was interested in was the idea that the internet can overload this sense of righteousness, leading users to take leave of their sense of proportion. There’s a lot to be said for the idea. …

An entirely foreseeable result of this is that zealous punishers have little trouble finding each other, feeding off one another and organising themselves into digital mobs to mete out digital mob justice.

And that’s how people like Sir Timothy Hunt lose their jobs.

Hunt is a Nobel Prize-winning British biochemist and cancer researcher. A few weeks ago, at a conference in Korea, he gave a talk to an audience of female scientists. An audience member tweeted parts of his talk that – as reported – included sexist observations about men and women working together in laboratories.

The rise of the virtual lynch mob.  His career was destroyed because of this.

Now that a transcript has been leaked, however, we can his remarks were made with ironic intent. Lame though the joke may have been, it was actually part of a larger observation about the importance of getting women into the sciences.  And instead of attacking women, Hunt’s poor attempt at humour was actually aimed at himself and his own supposed reputation for chauvinism.

Oh yeah – it also turns out that “after the fact” media vetting of Hunt’s principal accuser raises serious questions about her reliability.

But to update a saying of Mark Twain, outrage will go round the world while context is pulling its boots on. The man has been personally destroyed and his career is in ruins. UCL has said that reappointing Hunt now would “send entirely the wrong signal”.

Personally, I’m not convinced that bringing Hunt’s cancer research to an end will make the world a better place – however unwise his words were.

People need to start understanding that fury on Twitter, is not the same as fury in the real world. Every hour of every day there is a group of people getting outraged on Twitter. Just leave them to it.


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General Debate 9 July 2015

July 9th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 8 July 2015

July 8th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Should NZ Commerce Commission be acting?

July 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A controversial slip and slide event that originated in New Zealand could face a hefty financial penalty as it comes under scrutiny from an Australian consumer watchdog.

The Queensland Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said it had received three complaints from Monster Slide customers seeking refunds for an event scheduled for May in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. 

Monster Slide organisers postponed it until September because ticket “sales were not high enough to make the event viable”.

They did the same scam in Wellington. And they have not come back with a new date, and as far as I know not a single person has been refunded who paid in advance for the Wellington event.

So shouldn’t the Commerce Commission here be acting, like the OFT is in Queensland?

The spokesman said OFT had contacted Templeton, who indicated Monster Slide would refund customers.

The spokesman said OFT was also aware that Monster Slide did not have approval of the Sunshine Coast Regional Council to hold the September event.

A Monster Slide Australia Pty Ltd spokesman said all customers who requested had been “promptly refunded” but the company was made aware of two customers who were “delayed”, which it was resolving.

You shouldn’t have to request a refund. The event people purchased tickets for never happened. Everyone should get a refund automatically.


General Debate 7 July 2015

July 7th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 6 July 2015

July 6th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Venture Philanthropy

July 5th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

By the late 1990s, the Bethesda-based Cystic Fibrosis Foundation had spent decades searching for ways to alter the course of the deadly lung disease. Researchers had identified the genetic cause of the condition a decade earlier, and incremental improvements in care meant that many patients were living into their 30s.

But frustrated that no game-changing treatments were in sight, the group’s leaders in 1999 placed what many considered a risky bet, deciding to invest millions of dollars in a small California biotech firm. Robert J. Beall, the foundation’s president, believed that putting money into drug companies directly, rather than merely making grants to academic investigators, might persuade the industry to focus on the disease and turn existing research into real-world treatments.

So what happened?

That initial risk, which over time grew into a $150 million investment, has paid off in a big way. It led to the approval in 2012 of a breakthrough drug — the first that treats the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis rather than the symptoms, in a small subset of patients. On Thursday came another big win: The Food and Drug Administration approved a second drug the group also helped fund, which eventually could aid roughly half of the 30,000 patients in the United States.

So by investing in a drug company, and targeting that investment into the area they were interested in, they achieved a major benefit for their cause.

And last fall, the CF Foundation sold its rights to future royalties of the drugs for a jaw-dropping $3.3 billion, the largest windfall of its kind for a charitable organization.

And they got a 2000% return on their investment, meaning they can spend 20 times as much now on helping cystic fibrosis sufferers, or funding more research. A win-win.

The pioneering success of Beall and the CF Foundation in the practice of “venture philanthropy” is prompting a growing number of nonprofit groups to explore whether they, too, might be able to benefit their patients, and bottom lines, by investing in similar ways.

Dozens of organizations, from the Michael J. Fox Foundation to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, have embraced the approach over the past decade.

A great mixture of capitalism and philanthropy.

“There’s a reason why corporate America exists, and there’s a reason why philanthropic organizations exist,” said David Cornfield, a professor of pediatric pulmonary medicine at Stanford University. “When that distinction becomes invisible, it becomes very difficult to know where philanthropy ends and venture capital begins.”

Proponents counter that venture philanthropy has helped to fill a persistent gap that exists between basic academic research funded largely by the government and later-stage clinical trials typically funded by large pharmaceutical companies — a gap known as the “valley of death.”

 “It’s where great ideas, unfortunately, go to die,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, who as a researcher at the University of Michigan helped identify the gene for cystic fibrosis in 1989. “If foundations can pitch in there, that’s great. … We need as many models to get there as possible.”

One size doesn’t fit all. But for some charities, it looks like a really good thing to do.



General Debate 5 July 2015

July 5th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 4 July 2015

July 4th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Dangerous celebrities

July 3rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Public figures such as Kiwi celebrity Jemaine Clement should seek the facts before sharing their opinions on the vaccine debate, an immunisation expert says.

Clement, best known as one of the Flight of the Concords duo, has posted messages on his Twitter feed backing Hollywood star Jim Carry’s anti-vaccination comments.

Carey’s own Twitter ravings to his millions of followers criticised the danger of immunisation, saying jabs poison children with mercury and aluminium.

In a series of tweets, Clement defended Carry’s right to make such observations, saying: “well I guess anti anti vaxxers are important too! My argument is about not closing down debate.”

But this has earned the oprobrium of Dr Nikki Turner, director of the immunisation advisory centre at the University of Auckland.

She said public figures had a lot of influence through their words and they should undertake some basic investigation before taking stances.

For example, in New Zealand, vaccinations no longer contained thiomersal, a neurotoxin Carry said he was against.

And in another story:

Dr Barham-Floreani insists that her position on vaccination is “pro-choice” rather than anti-vaxx. But the vaccination chapter in her book Well-Adjusted Babies (with which Miranda Kerr is apparently so enamoured) is heavy on anti-vaccination content, including:

She implies links between SIDS and vaccinations, quoting a “medical historian” who says, “there is absolutely no way a pathologist can tell the difference between crib death and death caused by vaccination.”

Carrey, Kerr and Clement are experts in acting. If you want to learn how to be a better actor, you should listen to them.

However taking the advice of celebrity actors on whether you should vaccinate your children is stupid and dangerous – it’s like getting medical advice from some bloke in a pub.


General Debate 3 July 2015

July 3rd, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 2 July 2015

July 2nd, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 1 July 2015

July 1st, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 30 June 2015

June 30th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel