December 31, 2008

Happy Hogmanay!

Hogmanay is a Scottish festivity celebrated on last day of the year.

Children traditionally stroll about the neighborhood on this day asking for presents.

Hogmanay also refers to the gifts given or received on Hogmanay. (A tad tautological, non?)

More recently it has become a raucous New Year's Eve party in many Scottish cities at which revelers sometimes do behave a bit swinishly.

Wednesday Wisdom

An optimist stays up to see the New Year in. A pessimist waits to make sure the old one leaves.

Bill Vaughan

December 28, 2008

Protects skin, eats steal?

I'm not ordinarily inclined to become alert or alarmed about stories aimed at alerting and alarming the populace at large.

While others get their knickers in a knot over genetically modified produce and product, for example, for my money, nanotechnology is more exciting in a good and a bad way.

Nanotechnology sounds pretty spiffy, but it's not exactly new, and future applications are airy-fairy, ill-defined. Mostly stuff, like much of what we hear reported from medical science, will never come to fruition in a town near you or me.

Sunscreens, much touted as an essential accessory to protect humans from the death rays of the sun, not to mention premature aging, contain nanoparticles, which might turn out to be a boo-boo.

"The tricky thing for sunscreen makers is this: the two key sun-blocking ingredients, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, come in relatively big particles not easily rubbed into the skin.

Since 1990, makers have pulverised them into nanoparticles 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair or 200 times smaller than a blood cell. This gets rid of the white residue.

But laboratory tests have established that nanoparticles of metal oxides can penetrate cells and damage DNA."

That's not really the bit that got my attention though. Far more alerting and alarming was finding out that sunscreens containing nanoparticles damage steel - in a big way.

"BlueScope Steel has recommended its workers avoid some sunscreens after hand and finger-shaped damage was detected on some steel products.

It seems installers had left nanoparticle sunscreens on the steel and in six weeks it caused damage equal to 15 years' weather damage."

Holy crap: we're told to put this shit on our skin, as often as possible?

[BTW: Sub-editors must all be on holiday, or perhaps made redundant prior to Xmas: note the cumbersome, klutzy headline.]

Holidaying feds leave bathers waiting for suspect sunscreen list

December 26, 2008

Inconvenient alternatives

Even if the entire population of planet Earth was to bleat in unison, green-friendly-soy-based-sparkly-clean alternative fuel sources still wouldn't miraculously morph into something fungible for dirt cheap, reliable, ever-ready, good old fashioned dirty fuels. Wishing it was so won't make it so.
"This time of year, wind turbine blades ice up, biodiesel congeals in tanks and solar panels produce less power because there is not as much sun. And perhaps most irritating to the people who own them, the panels become covered with snow, rendering them useless even in bright winter sunshine.

In January 2007, a bus stalled in the middle of the night on Interstate 70 in the Colorado mountains. The culprit was a 20 percent biodiesel blend that congealed in the freezing weather, according to John Jones, the transit director for the bus line, Summit Stage.

Winter may pose even bigger safety hazards in the vicinity of wind turbines. Some observers say the machines can hurl chunks of ice as they rotate."

Solar meets polar as winter curbs clean energy

Days like this

There are days when you know with absolute certainty that you're in the wrong job.

There wouldn't be many executives in the financial industry who would ever have that thought, not when they're paid so handsomely and pampered and coddled, all while accepting billions in bailout money from sucker taxpayers.

"Goldman Sachs' tab for leased cars and drivers ran as high as $US233,000 ($340,000) per executive. The firm told its shareholders this year financial counselling and chauffeurs gave executives more time to focus on their jobs.

JPMorgan Chase chairman James Dimon ran up a $US211,182 ($310,000) private jet travel tab last year when his family lived in Chicago and he was commuting to New York. The company got $US25 billion ($36.6 billion) in bailout funds."

Imagine how ugly the whole GFC would look if the poor little darlings had not been capable of being focused on their awfully important jobs.

Bailout bank bosses lavished with bonuses

The real world of business

"Before 1999, bribes were deductible as business expenses under the German tax code, and paying off a foreign official was not a criminal offense."

When the tax code was amended in 2000, Siemens kept on going, without the deduction.

"Each year, Mr. Siekaczek said, managers in his unit set aside a budget of about $40 million to $50 million for the payment of bribes. For Greece alone, Siemens budgeted $10 million to $15 million a year. Bribes were as high as 40 percent of the contract cost in especially corrupt countries. Typically, amounts ranged from 5 percent to 6 percent of a contract’s value.

“Bribery was Siemens’s business model,” said Uwe Dolata, the spokesman for the association of federal criminal investigators in Germany. “Siemens had institutionalized corruption.”

the Siemens case is notable for its breadth, the sums of money involved, and the raw organizational zeal with which the company deployed bribes to secure contracts."
Still, it's not all bad for Siemens:
"In its settlement last week with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, Siemens pleaded guilty to violating accounting provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which outlaws bribery abroad. Although court documents are salted throughout with the word “bribes,” the Justice Department allowed Siemens to plead to accounting violations because it cooperated with the investigation and because pleading to bribery violations would have barred Siemens from bidding on government contracts in the United States."
Siemens have paid a $1.6 billion fine for their accounting violations.

They're all paid up and good to go.

At Siemens, bribery was just a line item

Duck Friday

December 25, 2008

Economy hits new low

The GFC whizzed about in an even bigger fizz of depression during this last week when the president elect lost his shirt. The semi-naked Obama did nothing to allay financial fears, as he recklessly ponced about in the surf, failing to signify if he will find a way to procure or borrow a shirt by inaugeration day.
It is believe that the prez-to-be still owns some shirts, but they're all from last season.

December 24, 2008

Silent Night

Wednesday Wisdom

At times one remains faithful to a cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid.

Friedrich Nietzsche

December 21, 2008

ET is seriously moronic

The Rudd government announced their modest emissions trading scheme during the week, aiming for a five percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, with the baseline year being 2000.

Let's just note a couple of things, shall we?

Firstly, emissions trading has failed everywhere and failed unequivocally.

Secondly, we already have ample experience of what can, does, and will happen when artificial markets are created for intangible assets of dubious and over-hyped value: a few people get very rich, others scramble to get a piece of the action, and the rest of us suffer and pay a stupendous price.

In sum, that's what ET will do, no matter how you spin it, slice it, or dice it, no matter the computer model, emissions trading is an opportunity to screw everyone over other than those who will swindle the scheme with a clear conscious, at the urging and with the blessing of governments.

"The trouble is that Kevin Rudd wants ET to be painless, so the scheme will give the generators almost $4 billion of free permits over the first five years — with no quid pro quo.

The Rudd model gives away so much to interest groups that it plans to spend the entire revenue from ET simply to compensate everyone affected. Only a tiny fraction of that would drive changes in behaviour.

Polluting firms, electricity generators, households, motorists and small business: everyone is looked after. Many will be deliberately overcompensated. Treasury predicts that ET will raise prices by 1 per cent. But the Rudd model uses the revenue to pay for a permanent 2.5 per cent rise in pensions, family benefits and all other welfare benefits.

Aluminium smelters whose electricity bills will rise with ET will be given that money back, in spades, receiving permits for one tonne of free emissions for every 0.7 tonnes included in their electricity bill. Come to Australia, polluters' paradise!

Coal-fired power stations will be given $700 million a year to compensate them for the loss of asset value. But if their asset valuations assumed that tackling climate change would not diminish the plants' value, they were unrealistic. That is not taxpayers' fault.

Ross Garnaut envisaged a rigorous emissions trading scheme with few exemptions, and raising $4 billion a year to speed research, development and commercialisation of clean technology. The Rudd model spends everything on compensation, and has nothing left over to help solve the problem."

Meanwhile, mulling over Rudd's announcement, Dr Richard Denniss, apparently incredibly confused about science and policy, is as gung-ho as any convert could possibly be to the 21st century affliction of getting hysterical over wanting to dominate the Earth's climate, and being so confused, he desperately, desperately believes that without an ET scheme we'll all be rooooned, roooooned!

At least he has the sense to recognize that the government policy has a few iss-th-ues:

"The industry assistance package proposed by Kevin Rudd is one of the most generous in Australian history; it should be known as the carbon polluters' rescue scheme.

The dirtiest brown coal-fired plants will receive the biggest slice of the $4 billion of help to coal-fired power stations, and 90 per cent of the permits required by "emission-intensive" activities, such as aluminium smelting, will be provided free. Also, the agriculture industry, which is responsible for about 16 per cent of Australia's emissions, will be excluded from the scheme until at least 2015.

We are told that our "trade-exposed" businesses will leave the country if we don't give them billions of dollars worth of permits, yet when the Australian dollar sailed up to 95 US cents early this year, there was no sign of them packing their bags.

The other argument is that they didn't see this coming and that it is unfair to the coal-fired power stations whose assets are worth less in a carbon-constrained world. Apparently all those highly paid executives ... did not notice that Australia committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the Rio Earth Summit back in 1992.

It seems that when the Government's objective is to protect shareholders rather than protect jobs, the ideological concern with industry assistance is less strident.

Finally, the scheme is inequitable. Not only does it shirk Australia's responsibilities to the rest of the world by concocting some new measure based on per capita emissions, it contains an unexpected sting in the tail for those households and small businesses that want to "do their bit" to save the planet. If it goes ahead as planned, it will mean that no matter how great the efforts that Australian households make to reduce their own emissions, the only effect will be to free up emissions for the big polluters to use.

As the household sector uses less petrol and coal, the big polluters will have more permits available to them to increase their pollution.

There is, however, some consolation for householders who are keen to keep trying to reduce their emissions: the harder we try to save energy, the lower the demand for permits will be. The unlikely consequence of household and community efforts to "do their bit" will, therefore, be a reduction in the price of permits bought by the big polluters."

See how befuddled he is? Poor Dr Denniss probably also believes that hammering households to reduce their water consumption - of which they use around only 9%, or whatever - the lower will be the demand for water by business and agriculture, you know, those users of almost all of our water.

Of course, buiness and agriculture already pay a tee wee, insignificant smidgeon, itsy witsy amount for water (and power) compared with we dumb-schmuk consumers.

Kevin 07 morphs into a classic version of Howard

Households pay as big polluters cash in on climate change

Global O Day

Today is the day to have an orgasm during the allocated two hour local time zone window, so as to effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible instantaneous surge of human biological, mental and spiritual energy.

You didn't forget, did you?

Melbourne dwellers will have to wait until 11.04 pm, but if you live in Algiers, or if you can get on an emergency flight out, you can start your business at 1.04pm.

Global orgasm

December 20, 2008

Manly men

A man should be able to:

1. Give advice that matters in one sentence.

2. Tell if someone is lying.

3. Take a photo.

4. Score a baseball game.

5. Name a book that matters.

6. Know at least one musical group as well as is possible.

7. Cook meat somewhere other than the grill.

8. Not monopolize the conversation.

9. Write a letter.

10. Buy a suit.

75 Skills Every Man Should Master

The boats are a comin'

Expensive white elephant, built during the Howard years, finally opens for business to accommodate a rush of boats penetrating the sea by which we are girt.

At least the refugees will know it's Christmas.

Boat influx

December 19, 2008

Duck Friday

Aussie ducks, resident at the Melbourne Zoo, December 14, 2008, snapped by Timmy, of Tim fame, from the wildly adventurous, creative and popular Will Type For Food

December 17, 2008

The clever species

Humans are so smart, especially economists, politicians and policy advisers.

From today's letters in The Age

WITH so much in the news about global warming, climate change and the need for all of us to do our bit in terms of alternative, renewable energy sources, it seemed an appropriate time to mention our 12 solar panels, installed in April 2007 at great cost to cut back our carbon footprint and ease our energy bill.

We have recently received our first "solar credit" after 18 months of even bigger energy bills. The amount credited was $1.20. Apparently, with the Victorian solar energy scheme, we still pay for all the energy we use (even though we generate it ourselves with our solar panels) and are only credited with anything sent back into the grid.

Needless to say, we are not exactly overjoyed and, in fact, would quite like our money back. No one explained that we would be subsidising the energy company with our solar panels.

In Germany and other parts of the world, solar panels installed on residences actually cover the cost of energy used and you still get paid for any excess that goes into the grid.

There's something terribly wrong with this system.

Anne S. Walker, Carlton

Yes, yes there is Anne.S.Walker of Carlton.

There's also something wrong and evil about emissions trading, but we'll discuss that a little later, shall we?

Right now, let's bask in the knowledge that installing solar panels will cost you mega bucks, on top of which you will still pay a power company for the free sunshine that you use.

Ah, bless. The search for intelligent life continues.


Former rock star Environmental Minister has announced an even more diabolical - and short lived - scheme than the current miserly pretense at supporting alternative energy sources.

Dumb arsed policy replaced by dickheaded policy

Wednesday Wisdom

A word to the wise is not sufficient if it doesn't make sense.

James Thurber

December 16, 2008

December 14, 2008

The price of extending lives

The price of drugs and the pricelessness of extending an individual life for a short while is common fodder in our local newspapers. An anecdote and supporting photo of a dying person clutched to their loved ones is an easy find on any day of the week.

The MSM avoids serious debate on health care, irresponsibly going straight for the collective emotive jugular, which, lets be honest here, is a cheap shot at all of us.
"It’s hard to know that there is something out there that could help but they’re saying you can’t have it because of cost,” said Ms. Hardy, who now speaks for her husband of 45 years. “What price is life?"
That happens to be a couple in Britain, but that same quote is repeated with interchangeable names on and off in our papers though tout the years. It's the plaintive cry from those who have already lost a live and death health battle, but who'd very much like to have a few weeks, or a few months, or - rarely - a few years more on this mortal coil no matter the cost, so long as someone else is paying. With universal health systems that "someone" is invariably the rest of society.
"[The British government agency, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence] has decided that Britain, except in rare cases, can afford only £15,000, or about $22,750 [US dollars], to save six months of a citizen’s life."
That's not an entirely accurate statement. The decision isn't based on what the country "can afford", it's based on an assessment of costs and benefits, and criteria around maximizing the health spend to benefit everyone in need of medical care - concepts all too foreign to the bloated and obscenely discriminatory health system in the US.

But others are now considering the British model, perhaps finally appreciating that emotive public calls for this or that, and a finger in the wind, aren't sound criteria when distributing health dollars.
"As spending on drugs soared in many nations — often haphazardly — overall health often showed little improvement. So international aid agencies are advising governments to adopt British assessments and deliberations to improve their public’s health while lowering costs, and officials are listening — a trend that is likely to accelerate during the present global economic slowdown."
Health care is rationed, it always has been and always will be. Rationing is inevitable with goods or services that have unlimited demand and limited supply. At least the rationing in countries with universal health cover is reasonably fair to all. Meanwhile, the brutal force of rationing in America has a lot of very ugly and disproportionately unfair outcomes.
"The United States already spends more than twice as much per capita on health care as the average of other industrialized nations, while getting generally poorer health outcomes."
British balance benefit vs. cost of latest drugs

December 13, 2008

Tips for not being shot dead

Life isn't like the movies or television shows. This is a fact you need to believe with your whole heart and the entirety of your tiny little mind if you want to avoid being shot dead.

If, for some inexplicable and / or bizarre reason, you ever find yourself surrounded by police requesting that you surrender, your safest bet is to do so, promptly. You can throw in monumental dollops of humility and humblest apologies etc and so forth too, if you'd like, but that's not essential. As soon as you surrender your chances of living another day are increased enormously.

If you hedge your bets, figuring that the nice officers will shoot to fell you with a little wound to the right calf, which will leave you with a scar and a story to tell, you're pretty much on the way out already.

It's really, really, really, really hard to shoot a small target, and an arm or a leg is a small target. If by dumb luck such a wound is inflicted, it won't incapacitate the target.

Police or the military would endanger themselves and others if they went about their business with the intent of inflicting harmless wounds in life threatening circumstances. That's why they are trained - and why they must and why you and I, the public, want them - to aim for the largest mass, the torso. Multiple shots fired ensure that the target goes down and stays down. A wounded person can keep attacking, or threatening, or, if they have a gun, shooting.

So, a little round up:

Real life isn't like the movies.

Police will aim to shoot you in the area of the body where all your life-giving organs are arranged within your person.

Police will shoot until you drop and are no longer a threat to anyone.

Police are legally permitted to do this, it's core to the job description.

Your odds of surviving such a scenario are bleak.

Teen shot dead by police

The lad's MySpace page is now dissected and analyzed. He was part of an anti-immigration group, or a racist group, as we would have called it in the dark days before we cleansed public discourse.

Naturally, clever commentators are pontificating from high, or at least from the heights of their couches:
"Justice activist Father Peter Norden said yesterday that a more sophisticated response was needed in such situations.

‘‘I do not blame police because they do not have the skills and they do not have the resources,’’ he said. ‘‘The answer is not more weapons. The answer is more sophistication.’’

He said police should be able to call on people who are trained in dealing with irrational people in such emergencies. A three-hour stand-off was a better outcome than a dead body."
Sure, sure. It's obvious now. Father Norden speaks with stunningly sophistocated insight. As the lad kept advancing with a couple of large kitchen knives, the police should have made a few phone calls and waited patiently for a psychiatrist to arrive.

(Yes folks, there's a simple, obvious and wrong answer to everything in life.)

Two knives, three alarmed police offices, and a 'scared little boy' lies dead in seconds

, across Europe, youths continue to protest, for what purpose who knows, over the police shooting of another 15 year old in Greece. Here ...

All is well in Zimbabwe

Mugabe has declared his peoples to be healthy, happy and cured of cholera.

Well, that's okay then.

Cholera is raging ...

December 12, 2008

December 10, 2008

Wednesday Wisdom

I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

Umberto Eco

December 8, 2008

Petition for Australian English

The Macquarie Dictionary is attempting the impossible: putting together a petition to try to compel Microsoft and Apple to acknowledge and provide an Australian dictionary with their products.

In the words of the form email provided:

"As an Australian I believe that I have the right to express myself in my own variety of English."


Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!

P.S - Don't let the need for an email address put you off. What? You don't believe Microsoft already know your email address? Use your secondary address, or if you don't have one, get one.

Email your support here ... scroll down the page.


First handy-dandy fact: if you hang about with the page open for too long (say, ten minutes), before eventually get around to remembering to fill in the blanks and hit the submit button, you get thrown out to the logon page because the petition page has timed out. Cure: start again, refresh the page.

Second handy-dandy fact: following my written inquiry, Macquarie kindly provided the following, by way of explanation for the petition, seeing as MS Word 7 ostensibly does have an Aussie spellcheck option (as helpfully evidenced in the comments by Aussie ex-patriot Dylan):
"Regarding the Spellchecker, yes Word comes with an Australian English option. It has, for many years, come with this option but it was Microsoft's version of Australian English which wasn't particularly Australian (for example, it would accept 'realize', with a 'z', as correct). So we produced the Macquarie wordlist and to do this we required Microsoft to give us the software that could produce the correct files specific to Microsoft Word's spell checking system. In recent years Microsoft has upgraded Word and changed the spell checking system but has not given us the updated software to produce the spell checking files in the new format. To produce a Macquarie spell checking wordlist for Word we need Microsoft to give us the right software OR to include our wordlist as the default Australian English. It's obviously a commercial decision for Microsoft (and Apple) to include external data in their software products and one way to influence those sorts of decisions is with consumer pressure. We already received lots of requests for an updated spell checker so we though we'd make the most of that. Hence the petition."
So, there you have it!

December 7, 2008

And that's how it happened folks ...

"... how some of our country’s best-paid bankers were overrated dopes who had no idea what they were selling, or greedy cynics who did know and turned a blind eye. But it wasn’t only the bankers. This financial meltdown involved a broad national breakdown in personal responsibility, government regulation and financial ethics.

So many people were in on it: People who had no business buying a home, with nothing down and nothing to pay for two years; people who had no business pushing such mortgages, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business bundling those loans into securities and selling them to third parties, as if they were AAA bonds, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business rating those loans as AAA, but made fortunes doing so; and people who had no business buying those bonds and putting them on their balance sheets so they could earn a little better yield, but made fortunes doing so."
All fall down

Head of steam getting up

Locally, it seems a lot of people are guardedly optimistic about our economic chances. Some even claim that we'll be able to start putting this momentary downturn behind us by around February next year.

Are these people morons???!!!

In the US, the big recession boiling pot, more than half a million jobs were lost in the last month. In less than 12 months nearly 2 million jobs have been lost, two thirds of those since September. The goal of the new Obama government will be to create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years. That's barely the re-creation of jobs lost in less than one year. Just jogging on one spot to almost (or not even) keep up.

It's a long way from being over folks. It can only get worse from here.

US Loses 533,000 jobs

December 6, 2008


Blue footed boobies

Lucky 13

After 13 hours of continuous jury deliberations and 13 years to the day that he was cleared of double murder, OJ Simpson has been sentenced to 15 years jail, having been found guilty of 12 charges relating to the dumb-arsed robbery / kidnapping of two sports memorabilia dealers.

Stop making cars

Don't believe what the greenies tell you. Buying locally might sound intuitively better for the environment, but when the sums are done, and if you really want to be a rational shopper, you buy your goods from whoever is most efficient at producing the goods, whether that be the guy around the corner or a family in a remote province of China.

Yes, this applies to food too. When all costs, including packaging and transport are taken into account, buying your mango from a local grower most often contributes to greater environmental depletion and direct cost than buying your daily fruit from, say, Brazil. It's true.

So. What to do about the car industry?

We're not efficient at making cars. Neither is America. Asia is.

Yesterday's paper had the automotive chambers claiming that as many as 100,000 jobs are directly linked to car dealerships in Australia, which I suspect is more than just a little bit over-cooked. We only sell a couple of million cars a year. (Do the maths, then work out the margins per vehicle.)

Our Feds are bailing the industry to the tune of a $2 billion fund, on top of $6.2 billion already promised to our car manufacturers.

This is not what you'd call an unusual situation. The car manufacturing industry in Oz exists solely on the back of subsidies from tax payers. I don't even own a car, but my taxes pay for the car industry to exist.

The US has the same problem, only bigger.

It's time to shut it down folks. Cars should be purchased from the most efficient market, and for many decades that has not been Australia or the US.

December 4, 2008


"Dennis Pryor, whose acerbic, witty and pertinent television columns appeared in Saturday editions of The Age for more than 20 years, has died unexpectedly. He was 83."



At 83?

(His obit ... )

Uncool dude

I've long since given up being picky about where things are made, by whom, or the provenance of any given company.

Sure, I have moments of moral judgment. I don't buy hyped-up "green" or "natural" goods or services when it's blatantly obvious that, for example, fresh spring water bathed in by baby tigers, then filtered by 2068 virgin butterflies before being bottled for my consumption will save neither me nor the environment.

I have no qualms whatsoever about Nike runners. Call me careless or callous, but my first Nikes were purchased at the height of child labor campaigns. What can I say? I take my irony literally, or any other way I can get it.

I don't own a fake of anything. I've never bought anything from eBay and never will. (Ah, bless all those sellers / sucker-buyers of Chanel handbags and other enviable Chanelery, with the multiple photo shots and supporting captions to prove authenticity, right down the the "Made in France" label. Small tip people: Chanel finery is made in Italy.)

In other words, I'd rather own one real Armani, or an authentic Jimmy Choo, than to own a dozen fakes. Quality over quantity. Taste over tacky.

But today I stumbled across a line in the sand. I never even knew it existed!

Hugo Boss.

Hugo Boss designed the Nazi SS uniforms and became a member of the Nazi Party in 1931. He produced the uniforms through out that war.

I know it's a while ago and the company has long changed structure and ownership, but now I'll never get it out of my mind that Hugo Boss is the brand that kept the Nazi SS clothed while millions were murdered.

Turns out that a lady has to have a stead-fast conscious about some of her shopping habits after all.

December 3, 2008

Wednesday Wisdom

I know human beings and fish can coexist, peacefully.


December 1, 2008

Solution in search of a root cause

America is furiously printing money and bailing out anything that moves ... err, if we ignore cars that is.

Out one side of their mouth our government has blithely thrown billions at our car industry, while out the other they swear black & blue that Australia will lead the universe in all things carbon-trading (at the cost of tens of billions to our little economy), because, you know, Rudd is greener than green.

Every other government is either bailing or begging to be bailed by someone else.

At ground zero, no economist or politician is daring to dissect and proclaim actions needed to address the root cause of the financial melt down.

The global policy is all about: throw money and they will spend.

Or in the case of financial institutions: throw money and they will, arh, balance their own books, stuff the rest of you.

The desperation, the lack of thought for unintended consequences should be enough for a collective gasp, but instead we congratulate our pollies on their fine emergency reactive skills, their fortitude, the gutsy ways in which they are spending our money by the fist full.

So far the US government has pledged nearly $8 trillion pledged in loans, guarantees and investments, and that's just for the financial markets. Their intent is to save the US - and the rest of the world - from far worse. Let's hope it works, or at least doesn't break anything. Unintended consequences can create a bugger of a mess.

Bailing away

US will print as much money as needed

New euphemism

Not formally in office yet, but our newly minted* Melbourne mayor is off to a flying start with a newly minted euphemism:

"I am a bit sick of really badly talented buskers, let me tell you" Robert Doyle told a local radio station.

So, there ya go: with that pronouncement our mayor will set out to rid our fine city of "badly talented" buskers.

He also sounds hell bent on ridding us of many treasured locals and along with frequent visitors from the outer 'burbs:

"I don't want the city to be a bogan magnet" he was further quoted as saying.

Okey dokey.

(*Well, all rather recycled really. A failed would-be premier finally wins an election, as the local city mayor. Not even a second prize. Sort of a booby-prize as far as political careers go. As if our third tier of government wasn't sufficiently third rate already.)

November 30, 2008

More on the great swindle

"Climates always change," he said. Our climate has changed in cycles over millions of years, as the orbit of the planet wobbles and our distance from the sun changes, for instance, or as the sun itself produces variable amounts of radiation. "All of this affects climate. It is impossible to stop climate change. Climates have always changed and they always will."


Plimer said one of the charts, which plots atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature over 500 million years, with seemingly little correlation, demonstrates one of the "lessons from history" to which geologists are privy: "There is no relationship between CO2 and temperature."
But we knew both of those facts already, didn't we kiddies?

As for the fraud of creating a carbon market: it's the creation of a new industry, plain and simple, an entrepreneurial opportunity that will achieve nothing - much like orange suntans from a can.

Want to cut carbons? Fine, go ahead. The government can set limits on emissions.

A carbon market, on the other hand, doesn't compel any industry to reduce emissions. It will, however, allow big profits from the import and export of carbons from one country to another and one industry to another. It's a secondary device, on the assumption that a carbon cost will be sufficient incentive for industries to innovate and reduce their emissions. Which is not entirely compelling when all they need do is increase prices paid by the consumer to cover the new cost of carbons wafting into the atmosphere.

It's not a primary device. It's a limp carrot that will cost economies around the world trillions of dollars, mostly paid directly by consumers. Yet another illusory and highly profitable business in and of itself. Just like much of the share market, or the housing market, only worse, because the good in question is intangible, invisible and isn't even a guilty party, according to many scientists.

Why won't the public wake up to being duped?

Beware the church of climate alarm

November 29, 2008

Barbarians break through

Desperate to be the first to get a post Thanksgiving bargain at the already dirt cheap Wal-Mart, shoppers at a New York store trampled one store employee to death.
“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”
Here ...

A little levity

November 28, 2008

Why we swoon

Pap falls on her arse trying to get his pic, Beckham stops to assist her to her feet.
What a man.
(Oh, and aren't his shoes fab?)

Duck Friday

November 26, 2008

Wednesday Wisdom

Why isn't there a special name for the tops of your feet?

Lily Tomlin

November 25, 2008

You know times are tough when ...

Russians are cutting back on vodka.

Stockpiles of vodka are six times higher than for the same period last year.

Russian factories are making vodka faster than they sell it.

The exact opposite to the normal vodka circumstance in Russia.

November 23, 2008

In need of definition

From 1934 to 1939 Webster's New International Dictionary carried an entry for "dord", a word that supposedly doesn't exist.

I beg to differ: the word clearly exits and is in need of a definition!

The Oprah Syndrome

"They are calling them the "smug generation". These are the children of American baby boomers who are inculcated by their parents with such faith in their own brilliance that they are shattered in later life to discover that they are not actually much good at anything.

Now, according to research by US psychologists, it is the other way round. Modern parents praise and flatter their children to such an extent that they believe they are the cat's whiskers and destined to rise effortlessly to the top of every tree. Teenagers today think they are bound to outshine their parents in all fields - as workers, spouses and as parents themselves - and so succumb to depression when it turns out that they are mediocre at everything.

The researchers found that there are no grounds for these feelings of superiority. Trawling through the results of previous surveys, they concluded that modern teenagers work less hard and are generally less competent than their parents at the same age. They are just a great deal more pleased with themselves."

The Guardian journalist (unnamed) ventures into a smattering of amateur psychology and concludes this unfortunate situations has been engendered by parents who have themselves been failures in life and attempt some personal compensation by projecting no end of wondrous gifts and qualities on their sub-optimal children.


I would have thought the contrary. Often, not always, a parent who has no sense of achievement in life will resent a child who has more or better options - simply by dint of the era into which they were born. More often though, a failed person will pass on failure to their children, a la, 'inherited' poverty or unemployment.

I blame Oprah and her ilk and their psychological hoodoo pap. A couple of decades worth of telling people that they need more and more and more and more "self esteem", as if a humongous sense of entitlement will lead to success, wealth, and happiness.

Apply ample dollops of self esteem: no personal effort, talent, persistence or sacrifice required.

It's a simple, appealing and dumb equation, certain to lead to Gen X and Gen-Whiners wondering why their brilliance, sterling characters and delightfully stimulating company isn't recognized, rewarded and cherished by the world at large.

Being and doing the best you can isn't as simple as swallowing a few assinine phrases from every new pop-schlock guru, or every Oprah and Dr Phil episode.

Life takes rather more intellectual, physical and emotional effort than chanting: "I have high self esteem, I deserve everything!".

'Little geniuses' forced to face harsh realities

Bikers: tough but floppy

"A survey of more than 230 motorcyclists who ride for about three hours every weekend found that almost 70 per cent had problems getting an erection or emptying their bladders.

About 76 per cent of riders aged 40 to 49, and 93 per cent of those aged 50 to 59, reported severe erectile dysfunction, compared with 37 per cent and 42 per cent respectively among those who did not ride motorcycles."

Born to be, um, mild - and possibly damp

November 22, 2008


Forget Mars and its buried glaciers for a minute, Enceladus is one of Saturn's moons, and what a ripper of a little planet! White as snow to the human eye, Enceladus is wrinkly, puts on amazing performances spouting jets of icy-water into the atmosphere, and accommodates house-sized ice blocks about the place.

Really, have a look at these amazing photo's (some include artistic impressions, not to mention tiny little astronauts, to illustrate scale).

Be dazzled.

Enceladus: Secrets - pic gallery

Secrets of Saturn's strangest moon

America 2004: a global financial collapse in the making

Some of our American friends are resentful of any suggestion that the current global financial collapse is the sneeze that America had and the rest of the world has caught the flu. Sometimes US citizens don't like to let facts get in the way of acting like an overgrown petulant child.

A lot of our American friends, including a vast and illustrious number of MSM commentators and experts, have pointed all fingers at Clinton's policy of promoting home ownership for the poor. 'It all started with Bill' is matra for the intellectually sloppy and ideologically wasted.

They have also, overtly, pointed all fingers at the poor themselves - mostly dark skinned folk and migrants - for taking up sub-prime home loans, as if such an offer to improve their live and the lives of their children, to have stability and a family home, should have been vigorously declined. The covert racism is tacky and reeks of eras long gone.

The really ugly bit (apart from America's continually growing and embarrassingly large and precarious debt levels and trade deficit) wasn't poor people taking up loans they couldn't afford, it was the financial markets convincing the Republican government that they were the best keepers of their own domain - which wouldn't have taken much convincing during the on-going wave of one of the longest periods of remarkable prosperity on record.

If you want the moment in time when it all went pear-shaped (which, gosh darn it, economists are still insisting they could never have predicted it, even in retrospect, using real data), 2004 is that time, long after Bill's blow-job. It was a time when smoke and mirrors, not real assets or real wealth, was formally sanctioned as appropriate business practice by the US government. That policy became a roll of the dice by few that has left us all paying the cost.

"If Hollywood makes a movie about the worst financial crisis since the Great De­­pres­­sion, a basement room in a government building in Washington will serve as the setting for a key scene. There investment bankers from the largest institutions pleaded successfully with Securities and Ex­­change Commission (SEC) officials during a short meeting in 2004 to lift a rule specifying debt limits and capital reserves needed for a rainy day. This decision, a real event described in the New York Times, freed billions to invest in complex mortgage-backed securities and derivatives that helped to bring about the financial meltdown in September.

In the script, the next scene will be the one in which number-savvy specialists that Wall Street has come to know as quants consult with their superiors about implementing the regulatory change. These lapsed physicists and mathematical virtuosos were the ones who both invented these oblique securities and created software models that supposedly measured the risk a firm would incur by holding them in its portfolio. Without the formal requirement to maintain debt ceilings and capital reserves, the commission had freed these firms to police themselves using risk tools crafted by cadres of quants.

The software models in question estimate the level of financial risk of a portfolio for a set period at a certain confidence level. As Benoit Mandelbrot, the fractal pioneer who is a longtime critic of mainstream financial theory, wrote in Scientific American in 1999, established modeling techniques presume falsely that radically large market shifts are unlikely and that all price changes are statistically independent; today’s fluctuations have nothing to do with tomorrow’s—and one bank’s portfolio is unrelated to the next’s. Here is where reality and rocket science diverge."

After the crash: how software models doomed the market

November 21, 2008

Wee & waxing

Ben Cousins doesn't do it for me. Never has. He has a slapable face: pretty, smug, arrogant.

The man brims-to-overflowing with insouciance, which in anyone else would be honey-bee attractive.

A little bit of Ben is too much Ben.

Except when it comes to drug testing.

He's a footballer, but apparently, if any team offers to take him in, Ben will become the world's most drug-monitored individual in the world, with the possibility of thrice weekly urine tests, topped-up with whatever number of hair strand drug tests and whatnot throughout the the year.

Cousins' has never tested drug-positive by the AFL. Never.

Cousins' has never been convicted of a crime of a violent or non-victim impacted nature.

Cousins' has no affect on public policy, the passing of legislation, the economy, or the cultural and social norms of our times.

No footballer warrants such intrusive and abusive treatment proposed by the AFL.

There is always the chance that St Kilda will not take him, and that would leave no team wanting him.

It may all be for the best.

With his game over Ben could continue to wax every aspect of his person without fear of anyone demanding that he grow back a minimum three centimetres worth of head, arm or genital hair so as to facilitate the outrageous testing regime that would be imposed on his being.

Cousins comeback

Cousins on notice

Duck Friday

November 19, 2008


To "testify" was based on men going before the Roman court guaranteeing a statement by swearing on their testicles.

Psssttt: wanna buy some cheap oil?

"They're very well armed. Tactically, they are very good"
Yeah. I reckon!

You don't nic an oil tanker the size of three soccer fields, carrying $100M of oil, without doing a practice run in the backyard.

"The pirates have taken security experts by surprise with their latest strike."
Yeah. I reckon!

You don't expect to wake up one day and find a band of maundering pirates trying to flog a humungous amount of cheap oil down at the local pub.

At this time, pirates around the world are holding onto 16 vessels and more than 250 crew.

Pirates sail oil supertanker to Somali lair

Wednesday Wisdom

Men who never get carried away should be.

Malcolm Forbes

November 18, 2008


Hillary is "gearing up" to be president-elect Obama's secretary of state.

(Cue Jaws theme music)

She's no Condi Rice, that's for sure.

I mean that in a bad way.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie: Oi, Oi, Oi

"Luhrmann also seems so eager to trowel on the Aussie cliches ... that Australia is often simply irritating. The word "crikey" is spouted so often the film often sounds like a tribute to Steve Irwin."

Was crikey a common member of the Aussie lexicon back in WWII?
"As for the visuals, the film is pretty — you cannot point a camera at the outback and not get something impressive — but there are only so many wide shots of the Aussie outback that the human mind can stand."
Aww, come off it: no such thing as too many wide shots of this great brown land!

(Or Jackman's abs.)

Good, but no classic, and way, way too long

November 17, 2008

Why we love petrol: it's cheap


Think a litre of petrol is expensive?


Can of Red Bull, 250ml, $2.95 ... $11.80 per litre!

Cough Mixture, 200ml, $9.95 ..... $199.00 per litre!

L'Oreal Revitalift Day Cream, 50ml, $29.95 ... $599.00 per litre!

Bundy Rum, 1250ml, $51.00 .... $40.80 per litre!

Visine AC

Visene Eye Drops, 15ml, $5.69 ... $379.00 per litre!

Britney Spears Fantasy (50ml) For Her

Britney Spears Fantasy Perfume, 50ml, $29 ... $580.00 per litre!

Evian water, 375ml, $2.95 ...$7.86 per litre!

(Evian spelled backwards is NAIVE!!)

Finally: cost of printer ink: $1,040 a litre.

$1040.00 A LITRE!!!

So, the next time you're at the filling up, be glad your car doesn't run on water, Red Bull, cough syrup, face cream or, God forbid, printer ink.


November 16, 2008

The end of wrap rage?

Whoo hoo!

The end is - almost - nigh for dastardly packaging!

Impenetrable clams, 55 twisted metal ties to make a two inch plastic toy behave in its box, and in the US alone, 6,000 injuries requiring hospital visits each year - all because manufacturers are lunatics (and male).

"a new era of non-hostile containers"

Whoo hoo!

While I'm certain this human folly will not be fully resolved in my lifetime, I'm just happy knowing that the day will come when children don't grow old waiting for their toys to be released from clam shell & metal tie incarceration.

Packages you won't need a saw to open