Friday, June 30, 2006

Hypocrisy of the world media

The global media is obsessed with Israel. In a negative way. Here is overwhelming proof. For the first time I can recall, I came across a photo via Yahoo News, of the huge concrete wall Egypt built along its border with Gaza to keep out Palestinians. Unlike Israel, who also have a defensive wall on their border with Gaza, the Egyptians are their beloved Arab brethren, who have never ever carried out or planned acts of terrorism against Egyptian civilians.

Now that I think about it, Saudi Arabia also have plans to build a 900km fence along its border with Iraq. Saudi Arabia already have a fence along their border with Yemen too !

In recent years, Israel has also constructed a security barrier along its border with the West Bank. 90% of it is chain-link fence with only 10% of it being concrete barriers. Now which wall do you think receives more criticism ? Which wall is demonised as the racist, imperialist apartheid wall ?

Try googling the words Apartheid Wall and see which tiny little democracy with maniacal Palestinian terrorists as neighbours gets mentioned every time.

Palestinians (L) are blocked by Egyptian police after Palestinian militants exploded a part of the border wall in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah. Palestinian militants have blown a hole in the Palestinian border wall between the Gaza

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hurricane Katrina - 2 disasters in one

When a natural disaster occurs, there is often nothing that can be done to avoid the disaster. Tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, flash floods, bushfires and violent weather can wipe out towns, villages and cities and spread disease. Natural disasters can't be stopped, but sometimes they can be anticipated and prepared for.

Meteorological services sometimes give a few days notice for winds and storms. Historical records show regions that are prone to earthquakes. Sometimes information comes out that can be used to avoid massive loss of life and property.

But who are the people who need to act on that information ? Clearly, its the owners of life and property in the threatened areas who need to take measures, be it barricading the home, buying food and water, filling the car with petrol, stormproofing the house, or simply packing up and making a run for it.

And then the storm hits. And in the aftermath, with the media scurrying to show the destruction and damage, people in the rest of the nation feel compelled to "do something to help", usually in the form of private charity and relief efforts. And often people learn from the experience and take future precautions. If an area is extremely prone to flooding like New Orleans, perhaps half the population will abandon the city altogether:

The 2000 U.S. census put New Orleans's population at 484,674, but Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused the city's evacuation. Population estimates as of June 2006 range from 192,000[6] to 230,000.[7]

But political parties like to score political points and look like they are "managing" the situation. The US congress approved massive spending on relief and aid, and rebuilding. Even though the individual people are smart enough to get the hell out of there, government decides to waste huge efforts to restoring the city. But one year later, the NY Times has a brilliant and devastating summary of how wasteful government has been in this affair.

WASHINGTON, June 26 — Among the many superlatives associated with Hurricane Katrina can now be added this one: it produced one of the most extraordinary displays of scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles in modern history, costing taxpayers up to $2 billion.

Gregory D. Kutz, a G.A.O. official, testified before a House panel about fraud and held up one of the $2,000 debit cards given out by FEMA.

A hotel owner in Sugar Land, Tex., has been charged with submitting $232,000 in bills for phantom victims. And roughly 1,100 prison inmates across the Gulf Coast apparently collected more than $10 million in rental and disaster-relief assistance.

There are the bureaucrats who ordered nearly half a billion dollars worth of mobile homes that are still empty, and renovations for a shelter at a former Alabama Army base that cost about $416,000 per evacuee.
The estimate of up to $2 billion in fraud and waste represents nearly 11 percent of the $19 billion spent by FEMA on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as of mid-June, or about 6 percent of total money that has been obligated.
The $7.9 million spent to renovate the former Fort McClellan Army base in Anniston, Ala., included fixing up a welcome center, clinic and gymnasium, scrubbing away mold and installing a protective fence between the site and a nearby firing range. But when the doors finally opened, only about 10 people showed up each night, leading FEMA to shut down the shelter within one month.
The mobile homes, costing $34,500 each, were supposed to provide temporary housing to hurricane victims. But after Louisiana officials balked at installing them inland, FEMA had no use for them. Nearly half, or about 10,000, of the $860 million worth of units now sit at an airfield in Arkansas, where FEMA is paying $250,000 a month to store them.

WOW.. what a waste of money. Money that was stolen, taxes taken by force with the threat of imprisonment, from working Americans. Money that *could* have even been given to private charities who are accountable to their donors and have to show that they are spending the money wisely on important priorities, or else they risk not receiving future donations.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

March for BMW owner's rights !!

Yeah, get angry. Get out there marching. Its a national day of protest ! Show John Howard that he can't step on our rights !

Every BMW owner should get out there to fight for their rights. Like the right to get a sunroof installed at no extra cost. Or get the leather upholstery or sports kit at cheaper prices. Government should get in there and stand up for Australians. BMW owners unite

(okay okay, I'm being completely sarcastic)

Well, the way I see it, workers "rights" are not really rights at all, any more than they would be BMW owner's "rights" or cinema-goers "rights" or ice-cream eaters "rights".

What those angry unions and public sector workers are protesting isn't really for "rights" at all. Because at the moment, Australians mostly have the *FREEDOM* to form voluntary employment agreements with each other. (I say mostly because there is still too much regulation in the labour market).

If I offer to employ someone to wash my car for the wage of either a home-cooked meal, back massage or $5 cash, what business does the government have in determining whether I can make that offer or not. People who value freedom will conclude that so long as the car-washer VOLUNTARILY ACCEPTS my offer, then the transaction should go ahead.

There are thousands of households, individuals, small and big businesses out there who are all employers. At the moment, they are regulated heavily. They are forced to pay a minimum wage. They are forced to contribute 9% superannuation if I am a permanent employee. They are forced to give me 1 month notice and provide a strong reason to terminate my employment (or else be sued for unfair dismissal). They are forced to give maternity leave to pregnant women which costs them an arm and a leg. They are forced to provide 4 weeks annual leave and some sick leave too.

If an employer does not offer all of these conditions, government says they cannot offer any employment at all.. the offer is illegal. We don't even get to see if there are workers in the market out there who would accept the terms and conditions that the employer offered.

Sometimes, there are workers who are more than happy to work for the conditions that would have been offered. I would gladly work for an extra 30% or even 25% salary if I didn't receive annual leave and super. In fact, my employer would be able to save a fortune if they didn't have to provide those benefits. Sometimes workers, especially those approaching retirement, put a high value on job security. So we sympathise when government legislates that their employer give them 1 month notice and cannot wrongfully dismiss them. But if a worker values something, shouldn't they be the ones to negotiate for it with their employer? Why does every job in Australia need 1 month notice and all the leave and entitlements ?

The free market will solve all these concerns. Even if I worked for an employer who dismisses workers unfairly and without notice, and has no concern for employees happiness, then I wouldn't be fooled into being complacent and having a false sense of job security. I would be on my toes looking for a job elsewhere, where workers are happier and employers try to establish some goodwill to motivate their workers and keep them happy and productive.

On a side note, isn't it funny how the socialists out marching call themselves "workers" when its a Wednesday and they aren't at work like the rest of us ?

Milton Friedman video

Here is a fantastic 28 minute video of Milton Friedman filmed during the late 60s. I urge all of you to take the time to watch it and listen to his arguments carefully.

I think its absolutely brilliant. Its not just the fact that he echoes the same arguments that I believe. Its especially brilliant because he is attacking socialist and welfarist economic fallacies that are still prevalent today. His discussion is as relevant today as ever.

Stupid lefty rant of the day

A female PhD student at Melbourne University called Karmen was asked about studying at the University of Auckland. Her short response is one of the most idiotic and deluded responses imaginable. I paraphrase:

Well with the current climate here in Australia under Howard for the past 10 years, I think the situation in New Zealand is much better. And New Zealanders have much better relations with their indigenous population.

Urrrhhh.. ... MORON !

Thats fine Karmen, go over to the Peoples Republic of Helen-Grad , you won't be missed. I'll stay back here with the rest of the population living under the hypnotic control of Howard. How is it that he manages to stay in power for 10 years and survive 4 elections ? Oh well, shes never met me but she already knows I have bad relations with the indigenous people. Karmen must be psychic.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The UN: "Very, very, very, very " serious

This line from Kofi Annan reminds me of Team America, where Hans Blix threatens to write Kim Jong Il a "very, very serious letter":

The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany have offered Iran incentivAes, including access to advanced civilian nuclear technology, but say Tehran must first suspend enrichment before any discussions can start. “They are considering the package very, very seriously,” Annan told a news conference in Geneva after a nearly hour-long meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.
Other instances of the UN being very, very stern and serious are here, courtesy of the real Hans Blix:
And if the North Koreans move on, well the risks are very, very great. If the North Koreans were to test a weapon, yes, it would be very, very serious.
And when interviewed by the ABC's Four Corners:
Well I think it's a very considerable danger, if they move on I think that they might create incentives for the countries in the region, I think then in particular of course of South Korea and Japan, maybe Taiwan as well, and this is an explosive thing so the working on North Korea to do away with this in my view has very very high priority and I think that the first line of action should be on the field of political and security policies.

Over WMD intelligence:
But he questioned their ability to spot "fakes", such as a report Iraq had imported tonnes of raw uranium.
"Is it not disturbing that the intelligence agencies that should have all the technical means at their disposal did not discover that this was falsified?" he said. "I think that's very, very disturbing. Who falsifies this?"
Kofi Annan, discussing Iranian nuclear technology:
KOFI ANNAN: Yes. I think that -- let me say that the Iranians, in my judgment, hyped up their achievement quite considerably, because what they have achieved is the very, very beginning.
Ok, so I'm starting to see a pattern emerging here. The UN, for all its largesse and splendour, can do nothing more than issue statements. In order to give itself an authority and appearance greater than what it actually performs, they hype up the importance of their statements and use the words "very, very" and "seriously" far too often. Meanwhile, the rogue states are giving it the finger, and all the UN spokesliars can do is be very very concerned.

Aussie Aussie Aussie !!

The Aussies have just drawn with Croatia 2:2, making it through to the final 16. Next Monday, its Italy. Everyone is going absolutely nuts here, and this guy in the crowd sure has balls !

My condolences go out to Japan, who didn't really stand a chance against Brazil. The Japanese fans look like they were having a ball, but next time, you better bring bigger inflatable toys, perhaps Hello Kitty and some anime characters will help !

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Coalition backbenchers fight government for freedom

It looks like John Howard and his government are emerging as strong social conservatives, after trying to bring through legislation that will ban gay marriages and civil unions and that oppose stem cell research.

Mr Howard told the meeting of Coalition MPs last night that cabinet had resolved on Monday to reject the recommendations of the Lockhart inquiry into stem cell laws and retain the status quo.

The battle over stem cell research has split cabinet, with conservatives including Health Minister Tony Abbott and Finance Minister Nick Minchin lining up against Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Education Minister Julie Bishop.

Why the ban on stem cell research, since when is it the role of government to restrict what research should be carried out by scientists ? Who knows what kind of breakthroughs in medicine stem cell research can bring about, obviously there are many experts who are putting resources and efforts into this area, but there are also many religious authorities condemning it outright as immoral.

Whats really shocking is that for the first time I can remember, Steve Bracks is fighting *ON* the side of freedom:

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks has threatened to break ranks and explore state options to allow limited stem cell research if bans remain in place against therapeutic cloning.

Under existing laws governing embryo research and the prohibition of cloning, scientists can use only spare IVF embryos for stem cell research.

However the Howard government is considering relaxing its fairly tough asylum seeker detention laws:
The Coalition partyroom was last night formally briefed on asylum concessions, including offering community housing for women and children, 90-day time limits for the processing of claims and a watchdog role for the Ombudsman.
Immigration laws are usually contentious issues. If we lived in a free country, then I would support much more open immigration, as immigration wouldn't affect me. However our socialist democracy has created a troublesome situation where everybody pays exorbitant amounts of tax and the only way to recover some of that is to be a citizen and consumer social goods (i.e roads, public hospitals, public schools, subsidised tertiary education). So because of our socialist utopia, it actually DOES harm me and all taxpayers if more people arrive and consume the fruits of our labour, because we are compelled to spend on public services and every taxpayer suddenly has an interest in whether additional immigrants arrive.

If this country had minimal taxes and very few people depended on the state for goods and services, then I would rely on libertarian principles. Unfortunately these don't give a clear cut case. On one hand, there are security issues to consider, and most moderate libertarians support the state having a monopoly on violence through , so from a security perspective, I can sympathise with the need to control immigration. But this is balanced against the libertarian instinct for freedom of human movement.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Outrage of the month

I am gobsmacked by this piece of news. I expect to see flying pigs outside my window any second now. Here it is (courtesy of LGF):

JEDDAH, 20 June 2006 — The Ministry of Higher Education and the General Authority of Civil Aviation are offering scholarships to Saudi men and women to study various majors related to civil aviation in the United States.

The forms are available online at the ministry’s website until July 12 for both bachelor’s and post-graduate studies. Nominations will be announced on July 31. Interviews will take place in August and final scholarship winners will be announced on Sept. 2.

The scholarships are available in majors such as communications, electrical and computer engineering, computer science, systems analysis, air traffic control, flight safety, and other majors related to the airline transport industry.

Applicants for the bachelor’s program must have a minimum score of 85 percent in the science section and 90 percent in other sections, such as Qur’an memorizing, administrative and commercial sciences.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What happens when you mix diet coke with mentos ?

Privatise the ABC now !

In a 2004 article about the ABC and its funding, The Age wrote a strong piece lobbying the government to actually increase its funding to the ABC, relying on some dubious statistics and figures to support this.

The writer claims:

A second, more rarely used source of data is to look outward, to compare the ABC with public service broadcasters in other advanced democracies. The ABC ranks near the bottom, compared with national broadcasters in 16 other countries. In 1999, it ranked second-last in terms of revenue per head of population. It received $US29 per year, compared with the mean for the others of $US63.
So every Australian could save $40AUD per year if the ABC wasn't funded by Canberra. Yet the social elitists demand that we all pay our share for the broadcaster, saying its good value for money. Are they saying that there aren't individuals out there who would use $40/year on other priorities which they value more ? Some people struggle to pay for housing, clothing and food. Some students have trouble paying for textbooks, some parents struggly to raise children. Even middle class people struggle with mortgage repayments. Thousands of these people would no doubt, instantly take the $40 over the privilege of watching some publicly funded ABC programs.

The writer also claims that the ABC is efficient because it costs half as much as the commercial networks. (Forget the fact that it has ratings only half of what the commercial networks score).

Anyway, ignoring all of this, isn't it a simple statement of fact that as long as the ABC programs have some value to some people, then ABC can raise revenue through advertising ? If the "Friends of the ABC" think the ABC is so great, why don't they put their money where their mouth is and see if a privatised ABC can compete for advertising revenue and market share against the other commercial networks.

Why the case for public funding, where all people are forced to fund the ABC regardless of how viewers value its programming ?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2006

Andrew Sullivan keeps shifting to the left

Why do I think so ? Especially given that Andrew repeatedly claims his positions haven't changed on issues relating to the Iraq war i.e that he was always a supporter of removing Saddam, bringing stability to Iraq, but strongly against the use of torture.

Whilst he defends his fierce opposition to torture as being consistent with a conservative ideology, the extent to which he has pursued this issue and his placement of it as the most important issue (well second only to gay marriage) leads me to believe he has shifted strongly to the left, where the focus has relentlessly been on highlighting and exaggerating all American abuses of civil rights, all instances of abuse or punishment of suspected terrorists, civilian casualties of the war and other blemishes. The sole focus of the left is to show Iraq is such a failure that the troops should be pulled out, and the war on terror is such an abomination that it should be abandoned. The extreme left openly confess they want the troops out, some of the more extreme voices say they want America and the allies to lose in Iraq and be humiliated.

But Andrew, in a shallow effort to distance himself from the ultra-left and prove himself a conservative, says he still supports the war and success in Iraq. Yet, he cannot bring himself to live with the consequences of fighting a war and imprisoning suspected terrorists. Not only does he highlight every instance of cruel punishment in American prisons, he attempts to show that torture is the current administrations policy, and that every example of a prison guard beating a suspected terrorist is President Bush's fault.

In a recent post on his Andrew Sullivan's widely read blog, he posts a letter which I believe goes beyond being radical to being plain nuts. I don't think that supporters of the Iraq war would every publish a letter, or even sympathise with the following defeatist position:

I cannot support the war in Iraq. Not because I think Saddam was a good leader. Not because I think Iraqis don’t deserve a chance. Not because I think this war we-shouldn’t-have-started has not morphed into the war we-can’t-afford-to-lose.

I cannot support the war in Iraq because after all the lies, the mistakes, the hubris, the Constitution shredding, the cover-ups, the undercover outings and, most importantly, the torture, if we win this war during the Bush presidency, he and his like will take it as a vindication of their actions and they will be emboldened to further damage my country.

This is not Bush bashing. This isn't hyperbole. I truly believe that President Bush is a danger to my country. And winning the Iraq war while he is in office would be the true end of the United States as we know it.

Let’s get Bush out of office. Let’s put in place an administration that will wage this war within the bounds of the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and has the will to do what it takes to win. Let’s put in place an administration that asks the American public for the sacrifices of war time and deals openly and plainly with the public on the successes and failures at the front.

Now conservative ideology does not advocate torture. Nor the death of innocent civilians. Nor the abuse of civil rights. But, how can a war with hundreds of thousands of ground troops, several US prisons scattered through Iraq, possibly be fought with no blemishes ?

For the left, each blemish is used to prove that we should have never gone to war in Iraq in the first place (doesn't mean all leftists are anti-war, they are quite fond of going to war when a Democrat is president). At least they have been consistent.

But Andrew claims to supports the war whilst simultaneously posting defeatist letters and opinions on his blog ? I'm starting to think that a democratic Iraq isn't his #1 priority then.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Environmentalism is a cult

Why do I say this ? Because its not based on science, statistics, economics or reason. Instead, alarmists have been plucking statistics and hyping up any example of climate change as evidence of impending doom and armegeddon.

Tony Blair was in Australia recently and he had the chutzpah to suggest we put more effort into complying with the Kyoto protocols to reduce our CO2 emissions. Not only would it be devastating to our standard of living if we were to increasingly regulate our economy to reduce emissions, it wouldn't acheive much at all. But the funniest thing is how he can't even follow his own advice:

"Any sign of progress on Mr Blair's fabled low carbon economy? If anything, says Cambridge Econometrix (CE), the country's leading readers of the carbon runes, we may be going backwards. Their latest report says that despite recently announced new measures, the government is likely to miss its 20% carbon-reduction goal by 2010 by 'a large margin'. Even the new forecast of a 14% carbon reduction by 2010 requires prices of tradeable allowances under the Emissions Trading Scheme to rise sufficiently to reduce emissions, particularly from coal-fired power plants. That's very unlikely. In the past fortnight they have completely collapsed." (The Guardian, Society Guardian, 'Eco soundings', May 31)
Another shining example of how wasteful "green" policies are, and how they are nothing more than feelgood environmentalism( via Greenie Watch):
In 1999, the Tompkins County Board of Representatives voted to install solar power on the roof of the country library. (In cold, dark upstate NY.)

It will be paid for with $551,025 of County funds -- an addition to the library capital project -- and $455,514 in grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy.
And the results ?
So, how much power has their system generated since $1,006,539 was spent to install it? 460,124 kilowatt hours (kWh) since it was installed, in July of 2001. On the open market 460,124 kWh would cost a commercial user (assuming an astronomically high average price of $0.10 per kWh) about $46,000. Only in The City of Evil could spending over a million dollars to generate at most $9,358 worth of electricity per year make sense.
Way to use tax-payers money !

Terrorist receives a heroes welcome

After spending only 26 months in an Indonesian prison for his involvement in the Bali bombings which killed 200 people, including 88 Australians, Islamic "spiritual leader" Abu Bakr Bashir was released. Instead of being shunned by the public for being a piece of low-life mass-murdering scum, he received a heroes welcome:

Some cultures have some serious problems.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ted Baillieu says to Bracks: You can't outspend me.

And I'm sure Steve Bracks is willing to take up the challenge and respond, "Yes I can ! Bring it on !"

What am I referring to ? Well I can't provide links yet, as it hasn't hit the newspapers. But listening to talkback radio this morning on the drive to work, I heard of the Victorian Liberal's plans to outdo Steve Bracks' $300 per student "school uniform grant". Ted Baillieu is offering a $750 per child subsidy to kindergartens, effectively making all council kindergartens free.

The clueless radio host on 3AW said "this is undoubtedly a good policy". My blood was already boilding. He then invited callers to ring up and discuss which policy was better, the $300 per student school uniform subsidy, or the $750 per student kindergarten subsidy ?

Idiotic fans of the nanny-state glowingly approved of the fat $750 kindergarten subsidy, as it puts the money directly towards "education needs" instead of into parents hands, which in theory they "could spend on anything they wanted".

Now although I hate both policies, as they are nothing more than shameless vote-buying, I can appreciate the school uniform subsidy which gives taxes BACK to parents to spend on what they please (at the expense of non-parents), rather than shovelling even more money to public kindergartens.

Anybody with respect for property rights would realise that the tax should never have been confiscated from the rightful earners in the first place. Giving it back to some people in the form of transfer payments is better than nothing. But throwing fat subsidies at kindergartens is one of the worst outcomes possible.

Not all kindergartens are the same. In fact, no 2 are identical. Some have better services, some have better teachers, some are close to parents home, some might provide religious education, some might provide a very cost effective service, some might be wasteful and expensive. Some may have expenses of $1000 per student, some may cost $400 per student. But the subsidy is a flat $750 per student.

Normally, a business that satisfies consumers desires is rewarded with their dollars. Under a free market, parents will pay for a particular kindergarten, so long as they value it enough. Parents should be able to decide how much they can afford and which kindergarten they like. For some struggling families, the cheaper or more basic kindergartens would suffice. Under the free market, even the *best* kindergartens would have to compete with other kindergartens for parents' money. They would try to compete in terms of quality, and by reducing their pricing, so they could get as many students as possible. The education system would flourish, standards would rise, and prices would fall. Competition always works.

But for nanny-state advocates, this is not enough. We shouldn't be giving parents money and choice. We shouldn't give kindergartens the incentive to innovate, compete and reduce costs. We should just pay the kindergartens a flat amount per student, no matter how satisfied the parents of that student are, or how much they would be willing to pay for that service.

After todays policy announcement, I won't be holding my breath for the Liberals to win power and roll back Bracks' bloated nanny-state that is Victoria. The Liberals have abandoned their ideals. Which party will now stand for smaller government ?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Double-Think - in the news !

Your humble bloggers, Jono (& silent partner Monica) have been interviewed about the whole Cindy-Sheehan circus for this week's edition of Shire Network News. Thanks to Tom Paine for the interview, and full credit to him for producing such a professional and interesting podcast.