Friday, July 27, 2007

BP Profiles; Ruthie Zaftig

Described by Crushed as 'earnest and thoughtful - someone I could see myself sitting in a cafe with discussing the Bush administration', here is Ruthie's profile. She blogs here.

I was born and raised in New York, but I've lived in Minnesota for several years, where I attend a state university. My major is journalism, my minor is philosophy. I'm a senior in college, I'm in the midst of applying to grad schools, and I hope to end up back on the east coast within the next few years. I'm a single mother to a two-year-old son. I'm 22 years old.

Why do you blog?
For many of the same reasons that I chose to pursue writing as a career: I enjoy it, I think it's worthwhile, and it's cathartic. I like the (relative) anonymity of this medium, and the fact that I can inject my posts with my own opinion, something I try to avoid in news writing.

Why did you join BlogPower?
I joined blogpower primarily because James asked me to. But it grew into a great way to connect and network with other small bloggers around the world... I've discovered some wonderful blogs and formed some great friendships via blogpower. It was definitely worth it.

How do you find the time to work, raise Little C and blog?
I don't sleep. I sleep about five hours a night, sometimes slightly more or less, but it's always been that way, even before I was a mother. During the school year, my most productive hours are usually between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m., when Little C is asleep and I can (theoretically) get lots of work done. Often, too, I blog because I enjoy it more than the work I should be doing, like balancing my checkbook or studying for an exam.

What is your best and worst blogging experience?
I wrote an open letter to NBC after the Virginia Tech shootings that someone linked to from the NBC message boards. Suddenly, I was getting thousands of hits in the span of a couple of hours. A lot of people emailed me about it. Some of them were nasty, but most people had positive things to say, along the lines of, 'thanks for writing this, NBC's producers should read this-- they were out of line.' It suddenly felt like I was writing for the benefit of other people, instead of just for my own indulgence.

I haven't had a particularly bad blogging experience yet. Every so often someone (usually anonymous commenters) will leave a profane or nasty comment, or email me something inappropriate, but that rarely happens. It isn't enough of a problem that I've felt the need to enable comment moderation yet, anyway.

Who are your favourite small bloggers?
I'm not sure what constitutes small, but I enjoy Crushed by Ingsoc, Thunderdragon, Sinclair's Musings. I think Westminster Wisdom is a consistently well-thought-out and clever blog, even when I disagree with its author. I've also recently discovered a blog called Rethink which is easily one of the best blogs I've ever read. (ed - Sinclair's Musings and Rethink are new ones on me - others enjoy them?).

Which sites do you visit every day?
I check my university email, Facebook and NPR's website. I don't always have time to get around to all the blogs I like, which is unfortunate. That process can take up to an hour and a half, because I get absorbed in it.

Why are there so few female bloggers?
Female bloggers have a big share in the market of celebrity/entertainment blogs and then there's the whole 'mommy blogger' phenomenon. Every so often I think my blog dips into that territory. But there seem to be far fewer female bloggers with political, theological, philosophical, or academic blogs.

I think there are so few female political bloggers for a couple of reasons:

1. Women, on the whole, aren't as interested in politics as men are. This isn't true of all women, of course, but anecdotal evidence would suggest that many women find politics simultaneously unsavory and boring, especially women who have their hands full raising families.
2. The blogosphere sometimes nurtures a sort of petty, argumentative culture that many women find off-putting. Women tend to avoid confrontation more than men.

Why Rudy 2008?
When I was a little girl, New York was filthy and dangerous. Now it's visibly cleaner, safer and more vibrant than I ever remembered it. My support of Rudy has very little to do with 9/11, although his leadership during that crisis was something to be proud of. He cut the legs out from under the mafia, nearly single-handedly. He wasn't afraid of the Gambinos or the corrupt unions. Murder rates dropped in half. He's blunt. He's Italian. He's a New Yorker. He reminds me of my grandfather.

Are you an Italian-American or an American?
I'm an American of Italian descent. My family has been in the U.S. for three generations, counting mine, and the fact that we're still so close to our immigrant roots has had a great deal to do with my upbringing and the person I became, but ultimately I'm an American before all else.

What is your favourite post?
I think it would be 'The Postmodern College Student,' which I wrote after reading a couple of books by Francis Schaeffer.

Generation Y; self-indulgent loafers or those with their priorities right?
For the most part, as much as I hate to say it, my generation often disappoints me. I don't know if I'd put it as strongly as 'self-indulgent loafers', not necessarily vaguely principled, but taking the path of least resistance. I read a study a few months ago that concluded that my generation is more narcissistic than any that came before us. That does not surprise me.

What are your favourite three books?
I don't think I could pick three. I've read and re-read Pablo Neruda's 'Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair' more times than I can count. 'The Elements of Journalism', (by Kovach and Rosenstiel) is a great book about journalism, easy to read, highly enlightening and totally useful to anyone in my line of work. Anything by C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Tolkien, Isabel Allende, P.J. O'Rourke, Ignazio Silone.

I read the 'No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' series to my grandfather before he passed away. I would come to visit a couple of times a week and read to him by his bedside, one chapter at a time. So Alexander McCall Smith's books will always have special meaning and fond memories for me too.

What was the last good film you saw?
Stranger than Fiction. I was really surprised by the depth of Will Ferrell's character, and the departure from his usual goofy, one-dimensional frat-boy role. I also liked that all the characters were named for mathematicians, and that one of the characters was a watch.

Which film character do you most relate to?
Miss Kenton in 'The Remains of the Day.'

What major political issue have you changed your mind on?
The death penalty. I've come to the conclusion that I can't be simultaneously pro-life and pro-death penalty. Besides, the system isn't reliable enough for me to feel comfortable allowing a person's life to be ended or saved by it. Better a guilty man live than an innocent man die.

Who are your political heroes?
I'm a big fan of Abraham Lincoln, because he was (somehow) a principled pragmatist. Cesar Chavez, who was a Mexican-American version of Martin Luther King Jr and I'll also say Nelson Mandela.

If you could have any three dinner guests, who would they be?
Jesus, the theologian Francis Schaeffer (he died the year before I was born, and even though I know his wife I've always wanted to meet him), and my late grandfather.

What would be your 5 Desert Island albums?
James Morrison: Undiscovered
Nek: Una Parte di Me
Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Maroon 5: Songs About Jane
Maroon 5: It Won't Be Soon Before Long


Generation Y

More young people aged between 18-34 voted in Big Brother than in the last General Election.

An appalling indictment on the state of British politics and politicians? Make it more relevant to 'yoof' suggests the Guardian by introducing online voting and Presidential style debates. But whatever you do, 'curb your inclination to condemn the new generation of voters as lazy'.

Well my inclinations are not so easily curbed. Criticising 'young people' is one of the last taboos but the only conclusion one can draw from this fact is how badly it reflects on Generation Y (roughly those born between 1976 and 2000).

There is an old Chinese saying of 'rice paddy to rice paddy in three generations' i.e the first generation of poor workers (Baby Boomers) takes risk and with little to lose succeeds in creating wealth. The second generation (Generation X), brought up by parents who experienced poverty are constantly reminded of the need to work hard and save, succeed only in maintaining the family fortune but not in expanding it (as this would require risk). Then, the third generation (Generation Y), raised indulgently by helicopter parents who never knew hardship, reject the work ethic, place their hedonistic lifestyles first and fritter it all away.

Are we at the third stage of a natural cycle of prosperity that began after World War II? I think we are but thanks to globalisation and immigration, help is at hand.

In science, there is a deadly process known innocently as a 'positive feedback loop'. The vast majority of interactions in nature are 'negative feedback loops'. For example, your brain sends signals to your hypothalamus when the body is low on carbohydrate and you eat. During the eating process, your hypothalamus relays signals back to the brain, indicating that enough calories have been ingested, you feel full and you stop eating. A positive feedback loop feeds on itself to increase the action as opposed to reducing it, for example in a nuclear reactor.

One of the consequences of the State's malign involvement in education has been the failure of its schools to educate children. As a result, children are leaving school knowing less about the world. Politicians then appear who can appeal to this dumbed-down audience and play on their ignorant concerns. Television also dumbs itself down to ensure viewers and news programs become news-lite, celeb-focused or get shifted to unsocial hours. This in turn produces an even more ignorant generation. This positive feedback loop can reduce educational standards in our schools incredibly quickly.

What can be done to reverse this dumbing trend?

i) Get the State out of the business of managing education. Its role should be one of funding only.
ii) Open immigration. Whilst our Anglo kids are exploring their inner selves by shovelling elephant shit in Kenya, hordes of Indian, Eastern European and Chinese kids, whose parents knew only hardship, are taking their place on the prosperity pecking order.

Once the Trust Fund runs dry, the cycle will begin again. But for now, it sure is painful to watch this indulgent, pampered, Prozac-dependent generation.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fat Friends

Overweight? Can't slim down? Looking for someone else to blame? Then help is at hand.

A new study by the Harvard Medical School, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that obesity is "socially contagious", demonstrating that if your friend becomes obese your chances of becoming obese go up by 57%.

So in addition to blaming your glands, or your large bones, you can now blame your mates too!

An alternative and radical theory for obesity was put forward by Dr. Bleedinobvious, who stated that 'people who are overweight eat too much and take too little exercise'. But blaming someone else is so much easier.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why I'll Never Be A Hard-Core Libertarian

A proposal by England's chief medical officer,Sir Liam Donaldson, to introduce a system of 'presumed consent' to tackle organ shortages and endorsed by the British Medical Association, has been met with outrage by the liberal blogosphere.

Conservative shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, rightly said

"The state does not own our bodies or have a right to take organs after death."

And a system of presumed consent has already been rejected by MPs when they voted on the Human Tissues Act in 2004.

But here's the problem;

Due to advances in medical technology, young people are not dying young anymore. Hence the pool of suitable organs is shrinking. Only 46% of families consent to organ donation resulting in about 360 deaths per year from failures to find a suitable donor. And efforts to persuade more people to either carry donor cards or sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register has failed, according to Sir Liam. Only 20% of the population are on the register, despite the fact that surveys showed that as many as 70% of people wanted to donate their organs after death.

i.e. apathy is the problem not principle.

Two European countries offer evidence of what will happen if donor consent is presumed.

i) Spain; donation rates have almost doubled since a system of presumed consent was introduced in 1990. Spain runs a so-called "soft" opt-out system, where even if the person has not themselves opted out of donation while alive, the views of relatives are sought and they can refuse consent.

ii) Austria runs a very strict system where the views of relatives are not taken into account at all. After Vienna passed the presumed consent law in 1982, the donation rate quadrupled and by 1990 the number of kidney transplants performed was nearly equal to those on the waiting list.

To the outraged libertarians;

i) people can opt out if they do not wish their organs to be used. No-one is being forced to donate organs.

ii) even if the person forgets to opt out, the views of their families are still sought.

iii) 360 lives may be saved by this simple piece of legislation.

I fail to be outraged.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Saltie Is Back!

The northeast coast of Australia is facing an explosion in its population of saltwater crocodiles, which are protected by law but are becoming a menace to swimmers, surfers and the inhabitants of some towns’ outer suburbs.

An endangered species in the 1960s, by 1974 the Saltwater Crocodile was finally protected by authorities. Today, a combination of a successful hunting ban and a decline in the number of dingoes (which eat their eggs), has seen their numbers return to levels not seen since the the time of the settlers in 1788.

However, the problem is now so serious that there are calls for the country’s strict gun laws to be relaxed and hunters to be given open season on crocodiles.

Bob Katter, an independent MP, said that crocodile numbers had reached“plague proportions” and the huge reptiles were moving into places where they had never been seen before.

Locals have reported man-eating crocodiles basking near popular swimming spots and boat ramps. In Cairns and Townsville they have even been seen sunning themselves on surf beaches.

"There are some 50,000 people living on river banks and shoreline between Townsville and Cairns. If you’re going into these areas you really need to take some sort of firearm to protect yourselves,” Katter said.

Crocodiles have killed about a dozen people in Queensland in the past 10 years, half of them tourists from other countries.

via Australian Politics

Kids, don't try this at home,


London - MultiCulti Paradise or a Ghetto?

Celebrating diversity in London?

Interestingly an ethnic map of Sydney and Paris would look the exact opposite.

via A Tangled Web.


Monday, July 23, 2007

An Open Letter

Matthew Carter (above), a binman from Burnley has been banned from wearing a St George's Cross bandana by Pendle Council, who stated it could be offensive and racist.

This is an open letter to all those would approve of this action.

Dear Sir or Madam

I despise you.

I despise your petty, vindictive rules and your tedious way of life.

I despise you for dreaming up and enforcing rules such as these. Rules that make people shake with anger and seek solace in the arms of truly unsavoury folk.

I despise you for making this man feel guilty about taking pride in his own country.

I despise you for presuming to tell me what I can and cannot do. How dare you tell me that I cannot smoke or drink myself to an early grave. Should i wish to dine at McDonalds or mainline Class A drugs of an evening, that is my look out not yours. I care little for you, why do you care for me? Is it my health that concerns you or is it really the power to order me around?

I despise you for the destruction you have caused to Australia's Aboriginal communities with your cradle-to-grave welfare and your paternalist condescension. But i despise you more for not having the guts to admit your appalling mistakes. And yet now you seek to impose this morally bankrupt creed on the rest of us.

I despise you for infantilising grown men, in particular the working class, the entire continent of Africa and our migrant communities. Kipling could not have been more proud of your adoption of his 'White Man's Burden' mantra. Try for once treating adults as adults and you might be surprised at the results.

I despise organisations such as Oxfam, Greenpeace and the WWF, unelected institutions that seek to impose their nannying, dogmatic beliefs wherever they go, that do little more than provide gap-year jobs for the sons and daughters of middle class bankers and lawyers.

I despise you for trashing the good names of words such as 'diversity', 'tolerance', 'respect', 'progress', 'charity' and 'community'. Words and concepts that have made this country such a magnet for others have now become little more than Orwellian IngSoc. '1984' was written as a warning not a fucking instruction manual.

I despise you for your dishonest corruption of the environment - the single greatest gift to mankind. You have lied about its imminent demise, you have arrogantly presumed mankind is is to blame and that nature revolves around man, you have sown the seeds of guilt and doubt and made people turn and inform on one another. All in the name of a science that is as unproven as your fascism.

I despise you for presuming to know best how I should raise my children. Well, I treat my children to junk food, I let them watch TV and I discipline them for stepping out of line.

I despise your attempts to censor my right to speak, all in the name of not giving offence. Well, you offend me deeply, you mealy-mouthed jumped up middle class prick.

I despise you for your attempts to destroy families and communities all in the name of 'progress' and 'change'. In business, they teach you not to try to fix what isn't broken, but you wouldn't know this, as the closest you have come to creating wealth is sucking the interest out of Daddy's Trust Fund.

I despise you for your double standards and hypocrisy; you viciously attack and ridicule some Gods and Prophets whilst choosing to ignore the nihilistic actions of others.

I despise you for sowing doubt in the fields of right and wrong. 'Thou shalt not kill' or ''do no harm to your neighbour' are universal morals, not cultural artefacts of a bygone era.

But most of all i despise you for carrying out these destructive, nihilistic actions in the name of progress, of the poor, of charity, of selflessness, of helping one's neighbour, of doing one's bit. No such moral reasons are in your thoughts. It is power that drives you, intereference that delights you and bossiness that appeals to you.

C.S.Lewis once remarked that 'of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies'. How prophetic these words seem today.

So let me tell you, you Fairtrade-coffee drinking, tofu-munching goody-two-shoes, the single biggest problem facing the planet is not Global Poverty or Environmental Annihilation, nor is it No Child Left Behind, but your arrogance to presume to interfere and poke your beak into every aspect of my life, and the viciously smug puritanism of your totalitarian creed.

Now just fuck off and leave me alone.



Saturday, July 21, 2007

Posh Spice in Hollywood

I watched crash-TV the other night; the excrutiating Posh Spice 'Coming To America' show.

Stolen from the inestimable Theospark (don't click his site if you are at work or are offended by pictures of scantily clad women).


Friday, July 20, 2007

Friedman Friday

In honour of the great man, once a week i will scour the blogosphere for stories that might bring a wry smile.

i) Markets are like weeds. Despite the best efforts of government bureaucracies to nail them down, they will spring up where you least expect them. Hit & Run reports that due to punitive and unfair driving laws, a market has opened up for French licence points .

ii) Chris Dillow thinks that us liberty-lovers are complete pussies at marketing our cause. He has five suggestions for us to become more evangelical.

iii) The man who is neither a Bishop nor a Hill makes a promising start at a UK Bill of Rights.

iv) New blogger, Mark Wadsworth, discovers that British single mums are paying a 70% tax rate.

v) We all know that 'it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner', but the argument against corporate social responsibility (CSR) is so much more powerful when sung... I give you the Milton Friedman choir.

'The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits'
Milton Friedman

vi) Question; What is the only telecoms market in the world without any government regulation? Answer; Somalia. And guess what - it's thriving. Funny that. The BBC are astonished,
'but how do you establish a phone company in a country where there is no government? In some respects, it is actually easier. There is no need to get a licence and there is no state-run monopoly which prevents new competitors being established. And of course there is no-one to demand any taxes, which is one reason why prices are so low.'

mmm.... penny dropping?


Tomorrow Is Harry Potter Day

And who says our society has become emasculated and feeble?

"I wouldn't want my kids to read it, and after all these years they die. They become so involved it becomes a little hard to take. I wouldn't want my 12-year-old to feel cheated, almost. I know they have to learn about a certain part of life but today's children grow up too fast. They should be entitled to enjoy it and dream about it when they are finished reading it."

Esther Segelman, a Miami Beach mother of eight.

'J K Rowling has said two major characters will die in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Speculation is rife that hallowed Harry Potter himself may meet his maker.

This could be devastating for some impressionable children who have grown up with the bespectacled boy wizard for the past 10 years.'

Oh, purleeeeasee.

My boy can barely contain himself and he can't even read yet.


The World's Top Blogger

100 million page views in 600 days....

Chinese actress-turned-director, Xu Jinglei, is the world's most widely read blogger.

Her blog.

Xu won international acclaim when she won the best director award for Letter From An Unknown Woman at the 2004 San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain.

100 million...working on it.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Government Subsidies Don't Work!

John Howard announced yesterday that the government will provide $1,000 per household so that up to 225,000 homes can upgrade to an energy-saving solar hot water system.

For fuck's sake, laboratory rats learn faster than governments.

Subsidies don't work. They merely enable producers to lift prices. Here are three real life examples from personal experience;

i) We have decided to install a water tank. We are lucky to have both a garden and a decent sized swimming pool. In the summer, the pool water evaporates at the rate of 1,000 litres per week. Given that Australia has a water shortage and that i am still a guest in this great country, we have decided to 'do our bit' by installing a 5,000 litre rainwater tank. This decision is not remotely driven by economics as despite our using a disgraceful 500 litres/day of water (i still dispute that, Sydney Water), the government charges me a derisory $1.26 per thousand litres. One witty plumber described the situation as 'like buying your own cow rather than getting milk from a supermarket'.

Households who set up a water tank are entitled to a subsidy of up to $1,500 depending on the size of the tank. The total cost of installing a tank is about $4,000. My tank guy, Jim, a pleasant ocker Aussie, had this to say,

"this is wonderful news for us as it means we can now raise our prices".

Nationals Member for Lockyer, Ian Rickuss, did some research on the rising price of rainwater tanks since the introduction of subsidies and the drought, and discovered that prices had gone up by between 40% to 75% from June 2006 to May 2007. He has since referred the manufacturers to the Office of Fair Trading for the crime of err, 'profiteering'.

( I swear to you that i haven't made this up).

Unsurprisingly, the Greens want to double the size of the rebate.

ii) With the rising price of crude oil, petrol is getting more expensive. Hence we recently looked into converting our car to LPG (net about 25% cheaper than unleaded petrol) and supposedly greener (cuts emissions by around 20%). Last year the Liberals announced a subsidy of $2,000 to help motorists convert their cars. Labor small business spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, thinks Howard should go even further.

Not surprisingly, industry body, LPG Australia, welcomed the move.

"The government subsidies for new LPG vehicles and conversions are a sensible response to current petrol price trends because they recognise that LPG Autogas is a readily available alternative fuel,"

Autogas Supplies converter, David Tangey, also supported the $1.6 billion tax-payer package adding that his company was going through its busiest patch in its 20 years.

In December 2003, the cost of converting your car to LPG was a maximum $2,500.
I got three quotes for our car. The cheapest was $4,400.

No wonder Dave's happy.

iii) We have two young children, and hence use Sydney's marvelous childcare centres. The daily cost is now around $50. If you earn less than $110,000, the government will hand you a significant rebate (can be up to 40% for lower earners). Despite the government already shelling out an annual $2.4 billion, there are now calls for child care fees to become entirely tax deductible.

A Parliamentary paper from 2004 raises this insightful question,

'There is the possibility that child care fees may rise and that much of the extra support available from the CCTR [rebate] will be soaked up by these higher fees.'

Really? No shit sherlock.

Child care fees rose 12.4% in 2006, four times the rate of inflation.

There can only be three explanations for continuing with these useless subsidies,

i) government officials have shares in tank, solar heating and child care businesses.
ii) government officials are stupid.
iii) government officials know subsidies don't work but the pressure to be 'seen to be doing something' is too overwhelming.

For their sake, i hope it's option (iii).


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Blogger Profiles; Crushed By Ingsoc

Crushed by Ingsoc blogs here. A political blogger and self-proclaimed left-libertarian, CBI is one of my favourite reads. Thanks for being the first 'profiles' victim.

I can honestly say I have few regrets in life. That doesn't mean that there aren't many things I might have done differently if I had my time again, but to regret past mistakes, is to regret who you are now.I think there are a lot of things in life you only truly understand when the scales fall from your eyes. Trying to understand the world around me and interpret it has always been one of my main life objectives. I'd like to leave this life with as much understanding of what it was I went through in the process as I can. Everyday I learn something new, or see something differently is a day, that has acheived something for me.

i) Why do you blog?
I guess it gives you the chance to show people the world as you see it, in a way you wouldn't in the flesh. It's a good medium for exchanging ideas, or seeing things you mightn't otherwise see. I spend considerably more time reading blogs than reading my paper and I guess many bloggers are the same.

ii) What is your best and worst blogging experience?
To me the best blogging experience is simply meeting intelligent people with points of view to offer. To me, the great people I have met and share views with regularly are the best bit.
Worst Experience? Difficult one that. I had an anonymous comment from someone who knew who I was a while back.

iii) What do you most dislike about your blog?
I'm never quite happy with it's appearance. I do keep moving things and altering things. There are a few things I want to do but can't quite get to grips with.

iv) Who are your favourite small bloggers?
It's difficult to say who's small and who isn't. Bags Rants springs to mind immediately as an underrated blog. I have a lot of respect for Ruthie, that she finds the time to blog at all, Ian Appleby is probably one of the most courteous of bloggers, Liz of Finding Life Hard, actually one of the cheeriest. There are other blogs that give me daily wisdom, like Alexys Fairfield.

v) Which site do you always visit every day?
There are quite a number I visit at least once a day. With Nourishing Obscurity, you have to go several times a day, because new posts appear all the time. Welshcakes has a steady output as well. I think generally I visit the blogs most often where the author responds to all comments, rather than just posts and never responds to opinion.

vi) Why did you choose the name Crushed By Ingsoc?
I found 1984 to have kind of happened, but cleverly disguised. I think Oligarchical Collectivism pretty much sums up the realities of our so called liberal democracies, and INGSOC sums up the prevailing mindset. Doublethink is a daily activity we all perform. We accept the mindnumbingly stupid, so as not to appear out of line.

vii) What are you reading now?
The Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch, a book on Judaism,
Seven Million Years of Human Evolution, by Douglas Palmer
and I'm rereading the Conan stories.

viii) What is your favourite book?
Lord of the Rings. Easily.

ix) What was the last good film you watched?
Dead Men's Shoes, which I watched a week or so ago.

x) Which film character do you most relate to?
Jack/Tyler in Fight Club.

xi) What major political issue have you changed your mind on?
Scottish Independence and the death penalty.

xii) Who are your political heroes?
I suppose people like Rousseau and Paine who developed rational approaches to government that continue to inspire. As far as politicians go, I admire Eamonn De Valera as a politician, but Churchill would probably be the greatest statesman I could think of.

xiii) If you could have any three dinner guests, who would they be?
Jesus, Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzche.

xiv) Do you have any prejudices?
Yes. I'm prejudiced against Aston Villa supporters.

xv) What would be your 5 Desert Island Albums?
Violator- Depeche Mode
Wish You Were Here- Pink Floyd
The Doors Live in New York
OK Computer- Radiohead
Substance- New Order

with copyright thanks to Norm.


A Handy Baseball Bat

PG elsewhere

I was (bizarrely) interviewed by Radio 4's The Today program yesterday on why i keep a baseball bat by my bed.

Sadly they edited out the part where i said i would keep a handgun were it legal.

Hit the 07:00 - 07:30 link and it's at 20 mins, 20 seconds.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Has Ricky Gervais Lost The Plot

Yes, says The Mirror,

'It's hard to say exactly when Ricky Gervais stopped being the endearing, ingenious wit behind The Office and became the tiresome embarrassment he is today. There were the endless, nauseatingly matey, appearances on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross; his mediocre episode of The Simpsons ; his mutual appreciation society with overrated US comics Ben Stiller and Larry David. His cameo in A Night At the Museum (with Stiller) was sub-sitcom standard and, like The Simpsons, another example of him re-hashing Brent. After years refusing to "do" The David Brent Dance, these days you can hardly stop him.He was at it again during The Concert for Diana, where the sight of Gervais dying on his feet confirmed his demise.'

No, replies The Spectator

'The miracle of the man is that he has managed to escape the role of David Brent – one of the greatest comic characters of all time – to produce another excellent series (Extras), establish himself as a top-rank stand-up, produce the best podcasts I have ever heard, and write a series of splendid children’s books (the Flanimals). Having been at Live Earth on Saturday, I do not remotely recognise Shelley’s description of Gervais’s performance – nor did he “die on his feet” at the Diana Concert where, forced by technical trouble to improvise for much longer than he expected, he kept the stadium in stitches with – yes – the Brent dance. He is without question the most talented British comedian since Peter Cook and John Cleese and deserves better than this sort of nonsense.'

Did he really die at the Diana Concert?


Internment To Return To The UK?

Did this senior police office really say this? Surely it's a wind-up?

'We are now arguing for judicially supervised detention for as long as it takes. We need to go there [unlimited detention] and I think that politicians of all parties and the public have great faith in the judiciary to make sure that's used in the most proportionate way possible."

Ken Jones, the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers in England and Wales.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of human rights group Liberty, said:

“We elect politicians to determine legislation and we expect chief constables to uphold the rule of law, not campaign for internment.”

Quite, Shami.

A reminder of the erosion of Habeus Corpus over the years;

Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974 - 2 days
The Terrorism Act 2000 - 7 days
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 - 14 days
The Criminal Justice Act 2006 - 28 days

Gordon Brown is now said to favour extending detention to 90 days.

Also seen at The Last Ditch
Laban Tall has a nice quote from Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples writing about the 1679 Parliament.

"This short-lived legislature left behind it a monument. It passed a Habeas Corpus Act which confirmed and strengthened the freedom of the individual against arbitrary arrest by the executive government. No Englishman, however great or however humble, could be imprisoned for more than a few days without grounds being shown against him in open court according to the settled law of the land. The descent into despotism which has engulfed so many leading nations in the present age has made the virtue of this enactment, sprung from English political genius, apparent even to the most thoughtless, the most ignorant, the most base."


Monday, July 16, 2007

A Top Weather Gizmo

What a fantastic weather and geographical gizmo.

Did you know that in the past 24 hours, there has been

  • a major forest fire in Oregon
  • an earthquake in Honshu, Japan measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale...
  • ...and one measuring 6.4 in Alaska
  • a volcano has erupted in Halmehera, Indonesia
  • a flood in Gujurat, India affecting 72 villages
  • and in Perth, there has been an epidemic hazard (?)
Nope, neither did I.

A Climate Changer's wetdream.


The Changing Face of the Working Class

Every journalist, celebrity and politician worth their salt claims to be of working class origins. In fact there are more claims from this lot to have started life in the bosom of a decent but poor working class family than there are poor, decent working class families. It is now very fashionable and trendy to originate from such stock as it demonstrates one possesses a certain moral fibre and intellect.

Two years ago, Michael Collins wrote a book called 'The Likes of Us', which asked the question,

'Why have the white working class gone from being the salt of the earth to the scum of the earth'?

Matthew Parris writing in the Spectator provides an answer with a must-read article.

Parris starts by describing a visit made by Radio 4 presenter, John Humphrys, to his old neighbourhood in Cardiff.

'Humphrys reflected sadly on the contrast between the lack of self-respect and mutual respect, and of ambition, he encountered this time, and the proud and self-reliant working-class society he remembered from his youth.'

Like Collins, Parris ponders why this should be so.

'And I wonder too whether, perverse as this may sound, the plight of the poorest in modern Britain is a result of, rather than a reproach to, social mobility.'

In other words, in a truly meritocratic society (which all political parties support - in Australia and in the UK), those with get-up-and-go, do just that, and those lacking drive, ambition or wit remain behind in 'sink estates and social housing - concentrated pockets of deprivation.'

Importantly, Parris highlights that the make-up of the classes is vastly different today than in the post-War years,

'Plenty of people in the working class were cleverer and more capable than plenty in the middle or upper classes, and knew it. Your class-affiliation was not a grading of calibre, character or talent. The existence of social barriers (though permeable) to upward mobility sharpened self-definition and a sense of belonging and shared responsibility.

The same, incidentally, could also be said of the upper classes, where even the dimmest and most useless were found a place.....They were not allowed to sink to their natural level, which might have been under the arches at Charing's underclass are neither the equivalent of nor the successors to the old British working class.'

The more encouraging news, though, is that the numbers of this 'underclass' (welfare dependents, the long-term sick, career criminals and drug addicts) are much smaller than those of the traditional working class - perhaps just 5% of the population.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

TinTin Banned - Sales Rocket

Is the tide finally turning against Political Correctness?

Sales of comic book, Tintin in the Congo, have rocketed 3,800%, reaching No. 6 on the 'Amazon Hot 100 Books', since Britain's Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) claimed it was racist.

Borders, a British chain of bookstores, said Wednesday it had yanked copies of Tintin in the Congo from its children's sections following these comments from the CRE,

"This book contains imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice, where the 'savage natives' look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles. How and why do Borders think that it's okay to peddle such hideous racist prejudicial material?"

Tintin in the Congo, which first appeared in Belgian newspaper Le Vingtieme Siecle as a comic strip in 1930-1931, is part of the series The Adventures of Tintin by the Belgian author and illustrator Herge.

But its tale of boy reporter Tintin's trip with his dog Snowy to what was then the Belgian Congo is seen as controversial by some because of its depiction of colonialism and racism, as well as casual violence towards animals. Herge later said the book was merely a reflection of the naive views of the time.

Update; 'field' in the comments section provides some less than savoury background on the author, Herge. However, just because it makes us queasy today to look back at what was considered acceptable language 80 years ago, does not mean we should ban it and pretend views like these were never aired. Erasing history is what they do in the book '1984' - not in real life.

Other bloggers' opinions;
A Tangled Web
Tim Worstall
The Brussels Journal


Prince Charlies

via Laban Tall and Mick Hartley


Atrax Robustus

Look who joined us for a swim in our pool this weekend...

From Wikipedia;

'The Sydney Funnel Web spider should not be handled without taking substantial precautions, because their fangs have been known to penetrate soft shoes...deaths may occur within a period ranging from 15 minutes to three days....'

Australia's wildlife is very culturally diverse - there are thousands of the bastards that would kill you in a heartbeat. However, the funnel web spider is different. Most of the nasties run a mile if they see you coming. If you disturb one of these hoodlums, it will rear up on its hind legs and take you on - despite only growing to 3 inches.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Killing Babies Will Reduce CO2

“Each new UK birth, through the inevitable resource consumption and pollution that UK affluence generates, is responsible for about 160 times as much climate-related environmental damage as a new birth in Ethiopia.”

Professor John Guillebaud of the Optimal Population Trust calling on the UK government to urge families (order families?) to "stop at two children".

Is this the logical extension of the hairshirt Global Warming crowd?

And here's the Catch 22.

The best way to reduce fertility is through economic development (mothers from rich countries have less babies). But getting to rich country status involves burning more CO2.

via Samizdata


Friday, July 13, 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle

"The Great Global Warming Swindle does not represent the views of the ABC. It is an independent film and is only opinion."

That much is clear. Last night, the ABC aired the 'misleading and scientifically flawed' documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, by Martin Durkin.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss the merits of Durkin's arguments as the film is not new and has been available on YouTube for ages, but to take a look at the reaction in Australia.

In a nutshell, TGGWS is to Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth as Chalk is to Cheese.

Since it first aired on Channel 4 earlier this year, the chorus of voices trying to drown out or discredit its message has been overwhelming. Hence the editors at ABC made a very brave decision to air the documentary. However they sensibly (for their careers, that is) hedged themselves by

i) issuing the disclaimer at the top of this post

ii) discrediting Durkin, by showing previous documentaries he had worked on including one on silicon breast implants, that ABC gratuitously saw as a great opportunity to show footage of naked busty women.

iii) discrediting Channel 4 for commissioning the program, describing them as having a history of producing controversial material (not a million miles off the mark, i have to say)

iv) aggressively questioning Martin Durkin. Jones' interview with Durkin was excellent (even if he did have to fly all the way to London to film it!). He did what all good journalists should do to all controversial film-makers - he tried to pull his film apart. It is sad that the ABC have not felt the need to subject Al Gore and Stern to the same rigorous cross-examination.

v) discrediting the scientists featured in the film. For example, Fred Singer, who has questioned the relationship between sunlight and skin cancer ( i don't know the science behind this one but i thought this was largely agreed) and second hand smoke and lung cancer (definitely not agreed), was portrayed as some sort of moonbat.

Following this sledgehammer approach, the program gave way to a panel discussion whereby firmly entrenched people expressed firmly entrenched views. When the panel attempted to besmirch the reputation of Richard Lindzen, one of the scientists in the film, because he 'smoked three cigarettes during our last meeting' i realised i was not about to learn anything new. We didn't really learn a great deal more from this panel except that Tony Jones has less understanding of the science of global warming than my Aunt Gladys.

A commendable decision by the ABC, a good day for the sceptics, a good day for science (as a scientist myself it was wonderful to hear one of the green scientists on the panel utter the immortal words, 'I am a scientist. It is my job to be sceptical!') and a good day for freedom of speech, something head honcho Ben Stewart of Greenpeace needs to remember,

"We have a policy at Greenpeace that we no longer debate people who don’t accept the scientific reality of anthropogenic climate change. It’s similar to the policy undertaken by cancer specialists who used to debate the tobacco industry but discontinued doing so."

However not everyone was happy. The biggest casualty of the program has been the hapless MIT scientist, Carl Wunsch, who saw his career disappearing faster than an Antarctic iceberg when he first watched the film. He was furious with the ABC's decision to run the program, saying

"Anybody who tells you they know what is going to happen 20 years from now, 100 years from now, is not a good scientist. The science can only say, at this stage, that there are certain possibilities that we are aware of."

Well, err, quite, Carl. But isn't this the precise point the program was making?

Other bloggers with opinions
Jack Lacton
Tim Blair's Army
The Road To Surfdom
Larvatus Prodeo
John Quiggin


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Perfect Riposte To A Greenie

He may be a pretentious snob and an unmitigated wanker, but AA Gill sure can write,

"But let me tell you, you Peruvian-hatted puritan apostles of grassy nihilism, the single hottest problem facing the planet is not global warming, but the viciously smug fundamentalist prohibitionists of the green movement. Those wholemealy-mouthed ecologists, who devoutly wish to reduce everyone else’s existence to a self-righteous nose-drip probity that never moves more than four miles from the communal yurt, never eats anything that hasn’t been grown in the communal dung and never thinks anything that isn’t collectively miserabilist, are going to destroy life as we know it faster than an equator of traffic jams, a continent of unlagged lofts and a squadron of circling jumbos.

What is stopping vast numbers of perfectly decent concerned folk getting with the programme is the eye-rolling, dismissive loathing of the people yelling at them to get with the programme. Frankly, they would rather go up in smoke than share a tent with you lot"

This was his response, at a literary festival, when asked if he could any longer be considered Green as he uses aeroplanes to travel.

My, i wish i'd thought of that.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

'The Ugliest Face of Capitalism'

One of my wife's favourite movies is the modern day Cinderella story of Pretty Woman. The lead male character, played by Richard Gere, is a private equity financier. He buys companies, plys them full of debt, and then asset strips them, selling the parts for more than he paid for the whole. The principle female character, a hooker played by Julia Roberts, says they are the one and the same - 'We both screw people for money'.

During my visit to the Mother Country, I have been surprised by the amount of media coverage of the private equity (PE) industry. And it's not to sing their praises.

The sticking points appear to be

  • the low tax rates they attract on profits
  • the miniscule amount of corporate tax they pay
  • the 'cloak and dagger' nature of the industry
  • that they load companies full of debt and then asset strip them
  • the egregious sums of money that accrue to the partners
Having worked in the industry for many years (i used to work for a hedge fund that provided private equity firms with leveraged finance), i have some insight into these issues.

i) Do they pay too little tax?
In a word, yes. There is no need for PE firms to only be subject to Capital Gains Tax on their earnings (which if held for two years reduces to 10%). The much earlier seed financing of Venture Capital has a legitimate case to argue for tax breaks but PE firms don't invest in small businesses. Nicholas Ferguson, head of SVG Capital, remarked that it was unfair that private equity partners should pay less tax than their cleaners, saying

"generous tax breaks were designed not to make private equity executives very rich but to encourage investment and entrepreneurship".

He is right. The tax break on 'carry' must end.

ii) Do they pay too little Corporate Tax?
No. In a nutshell PE works by buying under-geared (too little debt) but cash-generating businesses and plying them full of debt. As interest payments on debt are fully off-settable against profits, they are highly tax-efficient and often PE companies end up paying no Corporate Tax at all. However, this tax break is open to all companies, both public and private. And Corporate Tax is a very poor form of tax.

iii) Is it a 'black box' industry?
No. PE owned companies are privately owned, are not listed on Stock Exchanges and therefore not subject to the intense media and shareholder scrutiny that applies to all public listed companies. That they don't have to answer to the tyranny of quarterly reporting or to comply with th onerous Sarbanes-Oxley laws enables them to take a longer term view of the business and to actually focus on making money. Is this a good thing? Well, Polly Toynbee has a predictably old-fashioned view,

'They rarely appear in public to be called to account. How often do you see one on Newsnight?'

Polly neatly demonstrates that her ignorance of finance is matched only be the envy of her politics. PE firms are private. They do not need to be in public to be held to account. They most certainly do not need to be on Newsnight defending themselves against hysterical journalists.

However they do have to provide full disclosure (often quarterly) of their business to the bond and bank market so it's not to true to describe them as black boxes.

iv) Don't they just load companies full of debt and then asset strip them?
Yes and no. PE firms do load their companies with debt. That much is true. Often to eye-watering levels (banks are now happily funding business models with debt levels of up to 10x EBITDA or earnings). However, they are not asset strippers. The most common strategy i came across was quite the opposite - 'buy-and-build'. This is where a PE firm buys, say, a publishing business, then buys a market research company, combines the two, takes out costs and refloats on the Stock Market at a fat premium.

v) Don't they earn obscene sums of money?
Yes, they most certainly do. And this is what the debate is really all about. The fact that they turn around failing businesses, that they buy gems from fund managers too sleepy to notice them, and the fact that they add jobs in the long term, is all irrelevant against the charge of excessive wealth generation for a few greedy evil capitalists.

Dave Calhoun was recruited from GE to run VNU, a Dutch media group for a reported $100m package.

And this is where i take issue. Capitalism makes people richer. Only the most dogmatic head-in-the-sand socialist would now dispute that. However, it does so at a very uneven rate. I think people are prepared to accept the likes of Richard Branson becoming billionaires because they have risked their own money time and time again, created thousands of jobs and have paid millions in taxes. However, they are not prepared to accept the likes of Dave Calhoun earning $100mm for three years work as he is taking minimal risk and he is not building a business.

And it is in this area, individual wealth creation, that the PE model is most at risk. When the credit cycle turns, as it inevitably will, this industry will take a beating.

Sources; Eclipse of the Public Corporation, by Michael Jensen
'The Business of Making Money' - The Economist
Title 'the Ugliest Face of Capitalism is a quote from ex-Guardian editor, Seamus Milne


Need A New T-Shirt?

Nice T-shirt gift ideas from red molotov

As sported by Perry de Havilland


The North-South Gap

You can ask a Northerner for directions, but unless you already know the positions of key piles of rubble, canals, coal mines, railway crossings, and where factories used to stand, you're better off trying to find it yourself.

~ Noel Coward on the Grim North
Here is an astonishing statistic;

In the 33 years between 1971 and 2004, The North (Northeast and NorthWest England and Yorkshire) has created just 10,100 new jobs (net).

The number of new jobs created in the South during this same period was 2.73 million.

And here's another;

Public spending in Northern Ireland now accounts for 76% of the economy.

Source; The Times


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Why Cutting Tax Works

Income taxes have to be lowered, in particular marginal income tax rates (the tax paid on the last $$ earned). Not so that the rich can get richer, and not so that health and education spending can be cut.

I believe in cutting taxes because
  • it incentivises people to work
  • it incentivises people to take risk
  • it increases freedom for individuals
  • it is fairer
  • it raises revenue for the government. That's not a typo.
You never ever read this final point anywhere in the press. But the evidence that cutting income tax actually raises revenue is overwhelming. Here it is;

Several economies that seemed on the verge of bankruptcy in the early eighties were suddenly revived once marginal tax rates were reduced.

i) In 1983, Turkey's marginal tax rates were slashed: the minimum rate dropped from 40% to 25%, the maximum from 75 to 50%. Real economic growth jumped to nearly 7% in the following four years and to 9% in 1990.

ii) South Korea was deep in debt to international banks in 1980, when real output fell 2%. Korea subsequently cut tax rates and expanded deductions three times, and economic growth averaged 9.3% a year from 1981 to 1989.

iii) In the early 1980s Mauritius faced an unemployment rate of 23% and massive emigration. Tax rates were cut from 60% to 35%, and the economy grew by 5.4% a year from 1981 through 1987.

The same pattern was repeated in most major industrial countries.

iv) Economic growth in Britain had averaged only 1.2% for a dozen years before tax rates were cut in 1984 and 1986. The British economy subsequently grew by 4% a year from 1985 to 1989.

v) Economic growth in Japan from 1983 to 1987 had slowed to 3.9%. Japan cut higher tax rates by 15 to 20% in 1988, and economic growth and investment subsequently boomed.

vi) In the 1980s economic growth had slipped to around 1.5% in Belgium, Austria, and the Netherlands before each country cut marginal tax rates. In the first year or two of tax reform, economic growth jumped to 4% in Austria, 4.1% in the Netherlands, and 4.3% in Belgium.

vii) The economies of Canada and West Germany likewise experienced brief booms when tax rates were reduced in 1988 and 1989 respectively, but Canada slipped into recession in early 1990 after reversing course with surtaxes and a new sales tax. Germany likewise added surtaxes and sales tax in mid-1991, with immediate adverse effects on the stock market and the value of its currency.

viii) In the United States it is commonly believed that the Reagan administration 'slashed taxes,' particularly for 'the rich.' Actually, real federal receipts increased by 33% from 1980 to 1990. Moreover, the most affluent 5% of all taxpayers paid 45.9% of all federal income taxes in 1988—up from 37.6% in 1979. Apparent "tax cuts"—from a top marginal rate of 70% to 33% — became actual tax increases, particularly for 'the rich.'

ix) In Ireland the highest marginal tax rate on personal income went from 65% in 1984 to 42 % today. The highest corporate rate went from 50% to 20%. The result? - employment soared, government spending fell, government revenues rose, the budget moved into surplus, and the public debt declined.

x) Thanks to reform in the tax code, and a lowering of rates, income from taxes has gone up three and a half times in Pridnestrovie in Moldova.

Conversely, when country's raise top tax rates productive activity ceases, moves abroad, or vanishes into inefficient little "underground" enterprises. The losers are the poorest and those most dependent on the State for help.

Why is there not one single party in the UK demanding lower taxes?

What is the point of David Cameron's Conservatives?


Friday, July 06, 2007

More Discrimination At The BBC

In a Times report of the extent of viewer funding of the BBC, one paragraph about BBC bosses' bonuses caught my eye,

'No BBC boss took home a bonus because targets for ethnic-minority recruitment were not met.'

The flip-side of the benign sounding 'ethnic-minority recruitment' is discrimination against non-ethnics. Why are the BBC deliberately choosing staff on the basis of their race and religion? Is this legal? Why are they not simply looking for the best person for the job?

As a taxpayer, i am paying for the BBC. I despise racial discrimination. Why the hell do i have to fund an organsiation that is promoting racial discrimination?


Winning the Propaganda War

Last night i tuned into Question Time.

The programme was a special Schools Question Time with an audience comprised of 14-22 year-olds. I thought this would be a good opportunity to take the pulse of what are 'youth' are thinking about the world.

The Panel comprised Cabinet Office Minister Ed Miliband, Conservative shadow minister for community cohesion Sayeeda Warsi, Big Brother presenter Davina McCall, writer Douglas Murray and 18-year-old winner of the Schools Question Time panellist competition, Charlie Bell.

At the end of a stupifyingly depressing program, i realised the enormity of the battle those of us who value a small state and individual freedom have. For my sanity, i have to hope that the audience was unrepresentative of young people. If this is not the case, then we are losing the propaganda war.

Douglas Murray, Director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, (what looks like a Civitas-funded organisation) was cast by the BBC as the 'Evil Rightwinger'. He spoke up for the Jews in Israel, he spoke against Hamas, for University tuition fees, against anthropogenic Global Warming and refused to cede that terrorism is 'all our fault' - unlike the panel's two women (Davina and Sayeeda - unbelievably a Conservative Shadow Cabinet Minister) who were so awful it was excrutiating to watch.

Douglas made numerous good points. However, the manner in which he made them was truly atrocious. He instantly alienated the entire audience, spoke in a Lord Snooty accent with real venom against his targets. It was almost as though the BBC had scoured the land for the 'person most like to sully classically liberal thinking'.

If libertarians and liberals are to win the arguments we must start recruiting decent spokespeople. Contrast Douglas' appalling delivery with the chatty and easy manner of Ed Miliband who won over an audience hostile to Iraq with consummate ease.

A wasted opportunity. We have to do better than this.

Other opinions at A Tangled Web


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Noel Pearson

I really, really like this guy.

Noel Pearson on the seven dysfunctions within Indigenous communities in Cape York.

'Lack of child protection, alcohol, drugs, petrol sniffing, gambling, poor school attendance, and dysfunctional housing tenancy arrangements.'

Noel Pearson On Welfare

'Far from participating in a real economy, people in Cape York have been almost completely dependent on passive welfare for over three decades. By removing the incentive to work, passive welfare delivery has embedded dependency, effectively sapping people of motivation and eroding personal responsibility.'

'Welfare is a perpetual drip feed, a completely poisonous situation. We have got to stop seeing welfare as some kind of inalienable right. We have not got the right to sit under the mango tree and do nothing.'

Noel Pearson On Work

'Work is not just a necessity - it's a cultural principle and a value. And it's not just a Lutheran or whitefella value. It's a principle from 40,000 years ago.'

Noel Pearson On Charity

'In particular, those members of the progressive middle class who are involved in the so-called helping industries contribute most to the misery of those whom they believe they are helping.'

Noel Pearson On Housing

'Individuals and families must be given (and must take) greater responsibility for their housing in all its forms. This involves a movement towards a functioning property market based on home ownership.The current system of public housing in Cape York communities is at odds with the goal of personal responsibility for housing. For example, no financial investment is required by the tenants towards construction of their house; rental rates are very low and are frequently not collected; tenancy agreements frequently do not exist or are not enforced; families do not pay for repairs and maintenance even if they cause significant damage.'

Noel Pearson On Alcohol

'The epidemic of alcoholism is now deeply embedded in Cape York communities. Social and cultural relationships between drinkers are expressed, reinforced and reiterated, such that non-drinkers are pressured either to participate or provide money to support the dysfunctional lifestyles of the drinkers. Critically, an effective response must involve restricting alcohol supply.'

'The current health outcomes for Indigenous Australians are unacceptable, with Indigenous life expectancy on average 17 years lower than for non-Indigenous Australians.'

Noel Pearson On Howard's 'Land Grab' Proposals

'I'm amazed that anybody would put the protection of children secondary to anything, particularly when those children are subject to imminent abuse, abuse that takes place on a regular basis that's the subject of binge drinking, week in, week out. I think that those who have objections to immediate intervention have to ask themselves whether they're willing this whole exercise to fail, and geez, if you're willing the whole exercise to fail, what kind of priorities do you have in relation to the wellbeing of Indigenous children?'

'I've got as much objections as anybody to the ideological prejudices of the Howard Government in relation to land, but this question is not about a 'land grab'. The Anderson Wild Report tells us about the scale of Aboriginal children's neglect and abuse. This is what this is about. It's an absolute alibi to try and characterise this debate as being about land grabs and so on. Who wants a land grab in main street Hopevale, for goodness sake?'

Noel Pearson On Education

'In every year level, Indigenous students are between two and four years behind the non-Indigenous average.

The Cape York Institute believes that reform needs to occur on both the “demand” and the “supply” side of education. On the demand side (ie the demand for education by parents), reform efforts need to occur to ensure that parents send their children to school and that children are properly fed, clothed and rested. There should be no excuses for children not attending school. On the supply side of education (ie the education providers), reforms need to be made to deliver better services. This includes ensuring that there is a focus on the basics of literacy and numeracy in the school curriculum, that the very best teachers are employed, and that children’s performance is regularly tracked and additional assistance provided where they are falling behind.'

Noel Pearson On Liberal Do-Gooders

'The greatest impediment to policies that are needed to relieve suffering is the confusion of those parts of the middle class who think themselves progressive.'

Noel Pearson On The Aboriginal Bureaucracy

'I used to think it was just money we needed. But it's not the money - it's the people they can give us. Boston Consulting Group wouldn't know Aboriginal affairs from a bar of soap before we met them. And we achieved more from three months with a high-calibre person from BCG than i've seen from the bureaucracy in three years.'

'The great majority (of the family services and welfare services) have an intense dislike for our program (The Cape York Institute). There's a big industry in Aboriginal dysfunction. There's jobs involved.'

Sources; The Cape York Institute
The Australian


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Voters Are Dumb

Winston Churchill once said that the best advert against democracy was a brief chat with a voter. Brian Caplan, economics professor at George Mason University, has produced evidence in his new book 'The Myth of the Rational Voter', showing the great man was right all along.

Unlike audiences in 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' (who are right 91% of the time) and financial markets (where the 'wisdom of crowds' does seem to often work), Caplan argues that ignorant voters do not vote randomly and have four inherent and ill-informed biases, He accuses populist politicians of preying on these biases to the detriment of the economy.

1. Voters exhibit a strong anti-market bias.
For example when asked why petrol prices have gone up, most voters blamed greedy oil bosses. Most economists pointed to supply and demand. Voters are clearly wrong because how do they explain falling prices?

2. Voters have a strong anti-foreigner bias
Most Americans think the economy is harmed by jobs being sourced from abroad and from immigrants taking 'local' jobs. Both the Democrats (via protectionist policies) and the Republicans (via anti-immigration policies) feed off these misinformed views. Most economists, on the other hand, take the view that a company's ability to source its labour from overseas or utilise cheaper labour from home increases its productivity, raising living standards for all.

3. Voters have a 'make-work' bias
i.e they equate prosperity with employment rather than productivity.

This is best illustrated by an apocryphal story of an economist who visits China under Mao Zedong. He sees hundreds of workers building a dam with shovels. He asks: “Why don't they use a mechanical digger?” “That would put people out of work,” replies the foreman. “Oh,” says the economist, “I thought you were making a dam. If it's jobs you want, take away their shovels and give them spoons.”

For an individual, the make-work bias makes some sense. He prospers if he has a job, and may lose his health insurance if he is laid off. For the nation as a whole, however, what matters is not whether people have jobs, but how they do them. The more people produce, the greater the general prosperity. It helps, therefore, if people shift from less productive occupations to more productive ones.

4. Voters have a bias toward pessimism
Most voters believe their children will be worse off than them, new jobs will be low-paying and that society in general is going to hell in a handbasket. Surprisingly, despite their reputation, economists tend to be more upbeat.

Caplan's solutions are that we rely less on government and more on private choice. He points out that just as industries tend to do better when deregulated or privatised, so religions thrive when disestablished.

Churchill may not have liked democracy but he did add that 'it may be the worst form of government but it's better than all others that have been tried'

Further Reading; Caplan at the Cato Institute
Podcast with Caplan at the Cafe Hayek
Tim Worstall writing at the Adam Smith Institute

source; The Economist


Gordon Brown's New Terror Policy

Gordon Brown has banned ministers from using the word “Muslim” in ­connection with the ­terrorism crisis - an attempt to avoid offending Muslims.

Officials insist that no direct links with Muslim extremists have been publicly confirmed by police investigating the latest attempted terror attacks.

Huh? wtf? really?

Jack Straw was on Newsnight last night advocating an alternate strategy,


Why It Rains In England

One of the reasons the PG family upped sticks and headed for Sydney last year is that it in Britain, it always rains. Not those two hour drenchings you get in Queensland, but two month drizzles.

Well, now i know why. And it isn't to do with Global Warming or Britain's geographical location.

Oh, no.

It's God's judgment on the immorality and greed of England, the introduction of pro-gay legislation, the environmental damage, our greedy explotation of poorer nations and the decision to ignore Biblical teachings.

Or so says The Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle (above). And he should know.

The Rt Rev James Jones (a prior candidate for Archbishop of Canterbury) also threw in his tuppence worth,

"People no longer see natural disasters as an act of God. However, we are now reaping what we have sown. If we live in a profligate way then there are going to be consequences"

As did the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Bishop of London,

"Instead of living as if we owned the earth we need to recover a sense of being participants in a web of life with responsibilities to other life forms and to our children."


Good job the Aussies are so well behaved, charitable, moral, religious and environmentally sound. Taxi!