Thursday, November 20, 2014

Falling rates of heart disease - why?

In Australia, since about 1970 the rate of death from heart disease has plummeted.  The link shows the male heart disease mortality rate dropping from around 850 per 100,000 in the very late 60s down to about 250 per 100,000 by about the year 2000.

This is quite spectacular, and people have tried to explain it.  The linked article shows some risk factors and protective factors, like meat consumption, oil & fat consumption, fruit & vegetable consumption and alcohol consumption.  But really, looking at the way these things have changed with time, it is very hard to make a case that they have anything to do with heart deaths.

I'm assuming that there is some lead time here.  For example, if bacon consumption causes heart disease, it won't do it overnight.  You might expect a lead time of anything up to 30 years from an increase in bacon consumption to an increase in heart deaths.  Of the factors shown, only butter consumption showed a prolonged decrease before 1970.

Another factor is smoking.  Now this link shows that among males the rate of smoking declined sharply from 1945 to 1970.  During this period, male heart deaths were part of a steeply rising trend from around 1920 that finished in the early 50's.  Then there was a bit of a plateau until 1970, when death rates plunged.  This is consistent with the idea that smoking caused the heart disease.

Woman's death rates from heart disease peaked in 1950, plateaued until 1970, and then followed the spectacular decline of males.  But women's smoking rates gradually rose until 1980 and then started a steady decline.  So if it was smoking rates for women, why did we get the rapid decline in heart death rates before smoking rates peaked?

So, imho, we need another explanation.  Why did heart deaths rise rapidly from 1920 to 1950, and then plunge from 1970?  Maybe exercise?  Maybe improvements in dental health?  The advent of antibiotics?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Libs fail to help spivs!

In a great tragedy Jackie Lambie, Ricky Muir and the disgusting Labor and Greens have combined to stop a great financial reform.

Tony, Mathias and Joe are furious.  While Tony was happy to break his pre-election promise to the nation not to cut the ABC's funding, they are not happy about breaking their promises to banks and financial spivs.

Labor (the economic incompetents) introduced some ridiculous legislation that required financial advisors to act in the best interests of their clients.  It was nasty tricky legislation that meant it wasn't enough for the spivs to tick a box saying "I acted in the clients best interests", they actually had to.

Now imagine you work in a bank, selling some or other financial product.  When someone comes in and asks, "How does your product compare to product X from a rival bank?", if you are acting in their best interests you might have to say, "Well, based on the information they publish, theirs is a better deal."  And of course that is ridiculous!

Worse still the stupid Labor legislation made it that you had to declare your commissions!  So when offering clients a choice of A or B, they will have to say, "A is much better than B, but in the interests of full disclosure, I have to tell you that if you choose A, I can send my kids to a better school".  There is no way they'll trust you if you tell them you are flogging stuff in the hope of getting commissions.

Anyway, to their great shame the forces of darkness have put back the cause of the banks and associated spivs into some sort of pre-industrial dark ages.  Shame Jackie, Ricky and everyone.  I hope you can live with yourselves.

Pedestrian crossings

There is a ring road around UWA that has several pedestrian crossings.  Cars are, at the best of times, loathe to stop for pedestrians.

So yesterday arvo, riding out of the campus, I use a crosswalk.  Slowly - maybe 10km/h.  As I arrive at the crosswalk, an elderly lady (anyone older than me is elderly these days) is driving a car towards the crosswalk.  I see her, and I assume she sees me.  Anyway, having ascertained that its my right of way, I just roll gently onto the crosswalk, fully prepared to stop if I have to, but not giving any indication that I'm going to.

It takes her a while to register that I'm not stopping, and she slams on the brakes and skids slightly.  Just to be safe, I stop anyway.  I didn't stop to chat, but I hope she thinks twice before assuming that people will give way to her on crosswalks.

A note on language.  I would describe my actions as "bolshie".  Which is I presume an abbreviation of bolshevik.  The meaning, as I understand it, is to be a bit recalcitrant.  In this case, I know that accepted practice would be for me to stop for the car (despite it being my right of way), and they give me a nod of appreciation.  But I was being a bit bolshie, and insisting on my rights.  I've looked it up now - it is British slang.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Global warming - what is Australia's excuse now

Well, the conservative side of Australian politics has long argued that they'll tackle climate change if the rest of the world starts doing stuff.  Well now the US and China have set reasonably ambitious emission targets for 2025.

So what will Tony's excuse for doing nothing (well nothing effective anyway) be now?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Compulsory voting

One of the cleverest things in Australia is compulsory voting.  You get fined for not voting in a state or federal election without a good excuse.

Of course you don't actually have to vote.  You have to turn up to a polling booth and have your name crossed off.  What you choose to do with your ballot paper(s) is up to you.

The proponents of voluntary voting are a bunch of wankers who are trying to disenfranchise sections of the population who don't vote for them.  Of course they dress it up as some sort of liberty thing, but it is crap.

Another rather clever thing we do is have elections on Saturday, so that it tends not to interfere with the working day.  You could put it on a Tuesday, but only if you were bananas.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Love her or hate her...

...Jacqui Lambie is hard to ignore.

The Australian government (hereinafter referred to as "the scumbags") have told our soldiers that they are getting a pay rise of 1.5% per year, while the cost of living is rising faster than this.  In other words, they are getting a pay cut.

Jacqui Lambie used to be in the army.  She has an abiding hatred of the top brass in the army.  She left on health grounds and was screwed by the insurance people.  She is also an intolerant bigot, especially when it comes to Islam.

But in the case of the army, she has told the scumbags that she will vote against all their legislation if they don't improve the pay offer.  And quite frankly, I wish all independent MPs in Australia would vote the same way.  I'm getting increasingly angry about the meek acceptance of wealth flowing to the wealthy.  This usually comes with a sort of shrug of the shoulders, as if to say that it is a law of nature, and you must be some sort of King Canute to oppose it.

Anyway, I'm sure right now that MPs of all persuasions are finding Jacqui Lambie's behaviour wrongheaded.  As if somehow, actually taking a stand at any point is "bad form".  "Good form" is a continual and honourable retreat.  Go Jacqui!

A low tax country

Taxes, at least income taxes have been a lot higher in the past than they are now.  During and immediately after the second world war, the top rate of personal income tax in many countries was over 90 cents in the dollar.  If you believe modern day conservatives, all the productive people actually stopped working during that time, because of this excessive taxation.  Strangely enough, most people look back on the 50s and 60s as good economic times (but not the war years or the immediate aftermath when rationing was still in place).

Anyway, now we in Australia, and most of the western world are proudly low-tax.  Every tax cut has been a reward for how wonderful we are, a cause for celebration.

In 1970, I started at Kent Street Senior High School.  The school was then around 30 years old, and used temporary demountable class rooms to house all the students.  In the next few years, Como high school was built, and took the pressure off Kent Street.  Shortly after I finished at Kent Street in 1974, the demountables were gone.  When I arrived, we had this lovely science block.  During and immediately after my time there a swimming pool, a gymnasium and a new library were added.

In 2006, my son started at Kent Street.  There were a few more new buildings, mostly added by the mid 1980s.  But in 36 years, nothing much had happened to the science block other than it getting older and more run down.  It was no longer something to be proud of, but rather an embarrassment.  My son stayed at Kent Street for 2 years.

The other day I did a tour of the school, and was surprised to see the science block refurbished and looking pretty good.  Not fantastic, like the private schools, but pretty good.

In Australia, in 2007, we got a Labor government after 11 years of Liberal rule (in Australia, Liberal = conservative).  And shortly after Labor were elected, the GFC hit.  And Labor did the Keynesian thing, and spent money.  They gave everyone $600 (or something like that).  They had a cheap home-insulation scheme (I wish I'd taken advantage of it!), and they threw money at schools.

Kent Street is a government school, which means that its money comes from the government, not from student fees.

So Kent Street in 2014 looked a lot better than Kent Street in 2006.  And it was probably because of the money thrown at schools by the Australian government.  The thing is, Australia ran big budget deficits during Labor's time in government.  Because the tax revenue coming in was much less than the expenditure going out.

So from Kent Street's point of view, the era of tax cuts from the mid 80's onwards was the time when the school gradually declined.  Until 2008, when money was put into schools in a successful effort to prop up the economy during the GFC - when Kent Street improved again.

Except that money came from running budget deficits - because we no longer tax at a sufficient rate.

Put simply, Australia needs to raise more taxes.  And they need to be progressive taxes, because our high income earners are doing very well thank you, and can easily afford to contribute more.