Friday, 26 September 2008

Post #84 Hire a Hall / Everything (Again with the bale-out bail-out.)

Well, the free market has done its best work and a bunch of trusting folk are now finding themselves run ashore in their barb-wire canoes at the headwaters of Shit Creek. And the U.S. Government, which hates socialism so much, is being urged to save the very pigs who waved those folks on with cries of "trust the market" and "this boom will never end" and all the usual good stuff. It's the same con that dragged hundreds of millions of dollars into the black hole of W.A. Inc. Unfortunately, that government is listening and heeding.

When the fall-out reaches Australia our government will, no doubt, be subjected to the same exhortations. I say, "Let 'em burn!"

We've been told again and again that these types have to be saved or we'll all go with them. Let's put that to the test. If governments want to make gifts of thousands of millions of dollars of public funds, let the gifts be given to people who are being threatened with mortgage foreclosure. Pay off their mortgages. Pay off the loans of small businesses. Pay off the debts of owner-driver truckies. Pay for timely medical treatment for those whose conditions will worsen while they languish on public hospital waiting lists. Give interest-free loans to viable businesses to help them weather these storms. Then it won't matter what the Hell happens to the screen-jockeys and their blathering masters.

I'm just waiting for the first of those scum to take a pile of that public money to give themselves a golden parachute of several million dollars as they leave the burning wreck of the company they've put into a death-dive. For once, the politicians are showing a speck of sense and baulking at the prospect. I hope they've got the nous to hold their nerve for once and hold off the lobbyists.

Seeing the pigs fall without a parachute would be a mighty fine entertainment.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Post #83 Samso, the Danish island living off-grid (PICS)

"Photographer Nicky Bonne travels to the Danish island of Samso, where the residents have completely eradicated its carbon footprint by using wind power. Everyone on the island owns a turbine, and with its simple grid of solar power, wind farms and sheep, it's selling its power to the mainland."

A story from Digg.

read more | digg story

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Post #82 Poker machines

A blog post by Michael Gorey from Mt Gambier on the insidious devices.

read more | digg story

Monday, 15 September 2008

Post #81 Hire a Hall / Everything (Coughing up some sense)

Enough with the partisan politics. I've meant for some time to address an issue that may be the greatest public health problem in Australia and is, amazingly enough, the most easily solved. Can you guess?

It's tobacco use. Note I don't write abuse. It's a substance for which there is no dichotomy of usage types because there is no safe, responsible level of consumption. Use and abuse are synonymous for this weed. The anomalies in the treatment of this plant are enormous. If someone attempted to propagate its use as a recreational substance today, they would be stamped flat in a nanosecond, but it continues to kill with comparative impunity. Other substances, such as the opiates, cocainoids and cannabinoids have been ruthlessly proscribed without hesitation or regard to the useful pharmaceutical or industrial uses to which they can be put. The only explanation apparent is that reason has little to do with why governments prohibit substances; the social context is the determinant. The exemption of tobacco to this point from prohibition is due purely to the fact that there have been and are, so many addicted to it. Those addicts vote. The dealers who supply them have a lot of money to throw about for lobbying purposes. Governments also have an addiction to the revenues from tobacco taxes. The fact that many more people die from tobacco-related disease than from use of all the prohibited substances put together doesn't make a dent in this situation.

I read recently that Western Australia has the lowest rate of smoking in Australia: one in seven adults. That figure doesn't explain an interesting change in the demographic of smoking; very few of those adults began using tobacco after reaching their eighteenth birthdays. Where it was once unremarkable for people in their twenties, thirties, forties and even fifties to begin smoking, it's now almost unheard of in Australia. The pervasive anti-tobacco education programme has ensured that almost anyone old enough to be called a legal adult has too much understanding of the nature of the tobacco industry and their product to be taken in. The only age cadres from which new tobacco addicts can be recruited are children and junior teenagers. I.e. those who haven't reached their sixteenth birthdays. The industry says it doesn't sell its product to children. I call this one of the Three Great Lies of the tobacco industry. Here they are:

1. Tobacco isn't harmful to your health; it may even be good for you.

2. Tobacco smoking/chewing isn't physically addictive.

3. The tobacco industry does not market its products to children.

The first two were disproven by the research of the tobacco companies themselves, although they kept on telling them until they were proven to be lying by force of scientific argument and leakage of their own studies on the subjects. The despicable history of this behaviour is well-enough documented that I won't waste space on it here. You can find plenty about the lies of the tobacco industry by way of a bit of Googling. You can also find their stooges at work posting about "the lies of the anti-tobacco lobby". Most of the latter is focussed on attacking attempts at punitive taxation of tobacco in the USA; what a revenue-raising rort is all is, etc. Perhaps it is; I don't care at all, because I'm arguing for absolute prohibition of tobacco and the abolition of the industries that purvey the stuff.

The main argument against prohibition is that it hasn't worked with other substances and the prohibition of alcohol in the USA in the early years of the 20th Century is the exemplar of this folly. I've always waited for this factoid to receive the gut-kick it deserves and been disappointed. The anti-tobacco campaigners haven't ever said this to my knowledge; perhaps I'll be the first:

The prohibition of alcohol in the USA is not analogous to any attempt to prohibit tobacco in Australia. The American attempt was effected by a Constitutional amendment which was obtained by focussed, high-profile lobbying of legislators and did not have genuine majority support in the community. How can an amendment to the US Constitution be made without community support? Simple: In the US the Constitution is amended by legislators' votes alone. The proposed amendment is put before the Congress and, if passed, is referred to the State legislatures for ratification. The safety net in the Australian system is a requirement for ratification by the electors in a referendum. Grossly unpopular measures can't be introduced to the Australian constitution because of this. The lack of this in the US explains why the prohibition of alcohol failed so dismally; it never really had the heartfelt support of the majority to begin with.

The other flaw in using alcohol as an instrument of analogous argument is that it is a type of fundamental organic compound which probably occurs throughout the Universe. It can be derived from the fermentation/distillation of any organic matter with a high sugar and/or starch content. You may as well try probiting carbon and hydrogen. Tobacco, conversely, is a plant group which could actually be made extinct. It isn't the only plant type which produces nicotine, but it's the only one which does so in commercially-useful quantities. My ideal solution to tobacco would be a disease which would wipe the tobacco plant completely from the Earth. While we're waiting for that, let's go back to the Third Great Lie. It's easily disproven; if the tobacco industry didn't market its product to the young it would be out of business very quickly in First World countries. It isn't out of business so it must be. Once you've sussed that, it's a question of knowing where to look.

My analysis of their strategy leads me to believe that product placement is the main vehicle of marketing to the young and exceptionally impressionable. Tobacco use appears in connection with macho action movies, sexual encounters (the post-coital cigarette, etc.), sports events (car racing, yachting). They constantly push the edges of the restraints on their high-profile marketing and it takes a long while for the legislators to catch up. One of the saddest things I've seen was a former Health minister of the Commonwealth of Australia bragging in 2004 that, by the end of 2006, tobacco advertising would be banned from yacht spinnakers . That was supposed to be a big achievement...

The tragedy is that the process of education is very slow and every day a new crop of victims are added to the multitude already hooked. Can we really wait for this toxin to abate with time? We can, but I believe we should not. More than 80% of Australian adults are non-smokers; snuff (powdered tobacco) is already banned in Australia; the chewing of tobacco is almost an unknown practice; there's enough in those numbers to make the last push against tobacco feasible.

The last defence of the tobacco industry, when confronted with the death toll, is that theirs is a legal product. The time has come to take that privilege away.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Post #80 Hire a Hall / Everything (A dreadsome day)

Well, I've just read at the ABC News that Brendon Grylls has cast the Nationals' lot with the Liberal Party to form a government in Western Australia. Oh brother...they're back. And Alan Carpenter has gone; resigned from the leadership of the labor Party.

Post #79 SoloPower is latest thin film company with a big raise, taking $200M for a factory

A story about solar-power thin film.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Post #78 Hire a Hall / Everything (A lot of things)

On Saturday, 6 September 2008, an election was held for the parliament of the State of Western Australia. The outcome is still in doubt as there are some undecided contests and a negotiation is ongoing between the National Party and the two main contenders to see who will offer the Nationals the best deal in payment for their support. Colin Barnett, the man I called a "dill" in a previous post, may be the next Premier of W.A. This is an outcome which might be poetic justice for the Labor party and Alan Carpenter, erstwhile Premier.

Alan called an early election in the hope that the Liberals would be caught on the hop and that the Olympics would distract the voters and keep the heat off Labor. It seems that they've been caught in their own trap; the heat was also off Colin and the Liberals. The tough questions that might have tripped him didn't find a lot of traction. I'll ask a few here:

1. What is the Liberal policy on privatisation of electricity supply?

2. What is the Liberal policy on privatisation of water supply?

3. What is the liberal policy on uranium mining in W.A. and the storing of nuclear waste in W.A.?

4. What will a Liberal government do about the disastrous "shared services" concept of public service department management?

5. What will a Liberal government do about "outcomes-based education" in W.A.?

If the Liberals published policies on these matters I didn't hear about them. If Alan had allowed the parliament to run full term these matters could have been examined in detail. The decision to call the early election was a corrupt decision and the Labor government has copped what it deserved. Unfortunately, we, the electors, may now cop what we don't deserve.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Post #77 Finally some sense on the FemoNazis out there

"Is Palin a good choice for VP? The feminists don't think so. She's the wrong kind of woman!" -

Dugg from a story in the Sydney Morning Herald by Miranda Devine. Check out the illustration with it - it's real cute!!

read more | digg story

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Post #76 Hire a Hall / Everything (Costello the Waiverer )

I've been wondering why no-one points something out about Peter Costello. The same ping-pong argument goes on (in defiance of an obvious fact): "He could have been Prime Minister if he had challenged John Howard", says Tweedledill. "Oh, but the numbers were never there; that's why he didn't", says Tweedledumb. I say, like that cute song: Oh no, oh-no, you've got it all wrong!"

This simple truth is that obvious fact: He didn't challenge, because he couldn't win, because the numbers weren't there because...he wouldn't do the necessary to acquire them. Peter was only prepared to be supported by people whom it was easy for him to like and easy to have liking him. That's a satisfactory style in many places. A competitive political group isn't one of them. He just wouldn't do what Paul Keating or John Howard would do: cultivate the support of people whom he found beneath his dignity. A good numbers man has not only to swallow many a curry dinner in Manuka and many a yawn provoked by his interlocutors. He first has to swallow his pride. Peter wanted to have it come to him. And then perhaps he'd deign to accept it.

He started out saying that he was (to paraphrase it to a gist) a technocrat who wanted to get things done in government. Being PM was irrelevant. He was happy to make his contributions from the engine room in the treasury department and let others squabble over the captaincy of the ship of state. I won't digress on what I think of his particular efforts as Treasurer; I'm of socialist inclinations; join the dots. What I find worthy of saying is that he should have stuck to his original position. He may not have been the "world's greatest treasurer" like Paul Keating, but he was passable. As a survivor of W.A. Inc., I'm prepared and qualified to say that any Treasurer who stays on deck and sober is not to be scoffed at. Even a (shudder) Liberal Treasurer.

Peter didn't have the hunger for it and just drifted into a sense of entitlement to the leadership. He doesn't really have the makings for it. He should do the decent thing and lock all that out and do three good years as a constituency MP for the people of Higgins. They voted for him: he owes them that much.