McCarthy good; Stalin bad


We are off to see Death of Stalin tonight, but unfortunately, as this article by Diana West makes all too clear, Stalinism is still not dead and can be seen at every turn and in what ought to be the most unlikely places: A Short, Communist History Of “McCarthyism”. Here’s the start of her article, but read it all:

It was one thing for the Communist Party organ, the Daily Worker, that pre-Twitter roadmap of every zig and zag of Kremlin directives, to have ramped up the information-war against Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s by turning the name of our greatest anti-communist hero into an epithet mouthed by the Left.

It is quite another for conservatives nearly 70 years later to keep pounding what was, after all, Stalin’s line.

And then from there onto M. Stanton Evans Blacklisted by History followed by Diana’s own American Betrayal.

Just yesterday we find that something like a third of millennials had never heard of Auschwitz or the Holocaust: Kids don’t know about the Holocaust because schools are pre-occupied with social justice.

This year, while studying World World II, my 11-year-old learned about the Holocaust for the first time. We studied books, watched a few short documentaries, and discussed the facts first, before I asked him finally, “What do you think?” He shook his head. “How could anyone do such a thing?”

That is a good start, to find out that people can do such things. And there is then Stalin’s gulags, and even modern Venzuela to catch up on. It’s not that those who forget history get to repeat it, but those who do not learn history end up being led around in chains.

Posted in Conservative politics, Politics of the Left | 34 Comments

Live from Syria

Is the use of gas by Syria against its own population a vital American interest?

Posted in International | 113 Comments

Just how corrupt is this?

Happening right before your eyes.

Posted in American politics | 45 Comments

Open Forum: April 14, 2018

Posted in Open Forum | 1,427 Comments

David Leyonhjelm guest post on motorists

Australians love their cars. It’s not hard to see why; cars can be comfortable, convenient and liberating. Yet our governments seem intent on making life for motorists more difficult.

First, there are the taxes on new cars.

There’s a 5 per cent import tariff, unless the car is made in a country with which Australia has a free trade deal. So an import tariff of more than $1,500 is imposed on entry-level Commodores, which are now made in Germany.

Then there’s the luxury car tax, which imposes a 33 per cent tax on the value of new cars over $65,000. This adds more than $6,000 to the price of a basic Landcruiser, and more than $120,000 on a top-of-the line BMW.

The GST of 10 per cent applies on top of that, after which comes state duties of around 3 per cent on top of the GST-inclusive value. That’s quadruple taxation: a tax on a tax on a tax on a tax.

The tax penalty for buying a new car is a key reason why Australia has an old car fleet, with the average age of cars in Australia around 10 years. This is a key contributor to our road toll, because older cars are not as safe in an accident, and it doesn’t help our pollution and emission levels either.

The high price of new cars in Australia is also the result of government-imposed restrictions on competition from used cars. Quotas on used car imports mean that only around 6,000 used cars are imported into Australia each year, compared to more than a million new cars. If these quotas were removed to allow unrestricted imports of used cars which are less than five years old and meet Australian standards, including right hand drive, it would only lead to the import of around 30,000 used cars each year. However, it would put significant downward pressure on new car prices.

Such a removal of quotas occurred in New Zealand with great success, and has been recommended by a succession of reviews including the Government’s own Competition Policy Review. But the Coalition, intimidated by the manufacturers and their dealerships who sell new cars into Australia, is now threatening to make used car import arrangements even more restrictive. This would further increase the price of cars in Australia.

After you’ve purchased a car, our governments continue to make life difficult for Australian motorists. Before you’ve even pulled out of your driveway you’re hit with hundreds of dollars in registration fees, licence fees and surcharges on your insurance.

Once driving, you’re hit with fuel tax of 40.9 cents a litre. The unfairness of this is plain to see; those with a fuel efficient car pay less tax than those stuck with an old clunker despite using the same public roads. Those with an electric car pay nothing.

In fact, the burden of fuel tax falls heaviest on those in regional Australia who enjoy little road funding, and on those in the outer suburbs of the major cities who also pay for their road use with tolls.

Overall, Australia’s motorists are not only paying for the road infrastructure they share with cyclists and pedestrians, but are also paying for everything from the ABC to the welfare state. Each year the revenue from road-related taxes and charges exceeds spending on roads by more than $4 billion.

None of this includes local government rates, most of which should be viewed as road-related given that the proper role of local government is roads and rubbish. Nor does it include hundreds of millions of dollars in speeding fines collected each year, which reflect a focus on revenue rather than safety on the road. Speed limits on many roads, particularly multi-lane highways and arterial roads would not be so dismally low if there was genuine concern for safety and convenience.

And as if all that’s not enough, harmless modifications lovingly undertaken by car enthusiasts are regularly used as an excuse by police to impose even more fines, or even to impound their pride and joy.

Given how much they are taxed, regulated and fined, it is remarkable that Australians are still in love with their cars. Perhaps it shows they have more sense than our governments; cars are, after all, a lot of fun. Even miserable, mean-spirited governments can’t change that.

David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats

Posted in Guest Post, Taxation | 55 Comments

Who is the most connected right-winger in Australia?

Well I reckon it would be Alan Jones, or Andrew Bolt, or Paul Murray – or a think tank executive director like John Roskam or Tom Switzer. Maybe the prime minister? You know connected people.

But no; not according to a (very creepy) infographic published this week at The Conversation.

That is a screen shot – for the original you’ll have to click through to the link.

This shows a map of the Australian “right-wing”. It can be neatly divided into two broad groupings – politicians and politician wannabes on the right hand side and think tank type organisations on the left hand side. No media people, so sorry Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and Paul Murray. You guys just don’t cut it.

The map shows a number of organisations with people clustered around them – the more connections any one individual has the bigger the dot representing them. By hovering over the dots anyone can quickly and easily observe the relative influence and connectedness of these individuals.

So back to the original question:  Who is the most connected right-winger in Australia? According to The Conversation – an organisation that has as its byline “Academic rigour, journalistic flair”.

Here is the great Satan himself (alas sharing joint credit with John Humphreys).

Very annoying having to share top billing with John H – so please update to reflect that I often give talks to the Victorian branch of the LDP and sometimes to local branches of the Liberal Party.

More seriously – how useless is a document like this that identifies random academics as being more politically connected than actual elected politicians?

Posted in Libertarians don't live by argument alone | 72 Comments

Happy Birthday Mr Jefferson

Today would have been the 275th birthday of Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the US Declaration of Independence and the 3rd President of the United States.

The importance of his words in the Declaration of Independence, even today, should never be under-estimated:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Happy birthday Mr Jefferson.

Follow I Am Spartacus on Twitter at @Ey_am_Spartacus

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TSR – The Spartacus Review

Yesterday, Spartacus was reading Marcus’ contribution on energy “policy” – We Need the Government to Do What?!.  (PS highly recommended to the Cats).

Marcus’ description of the exchange between Credlin, Bernardi and Reece did not really surprise Spartacus, but given some 90% of communication is non verbal (voice and face), and Marcus’ description was second hand, Spartacus wanted to go to the horse’s mouth and see for himself.

So off to FoxTel Go he went.  And almost threw a shoe at the screen.  Dear Marcus did not do these clowns the disservice they deserve.

But before going into the substance, one cannot but what this particular performance of Peta Credlin and get a better insight into what and why so many counselled Prime Minister Abbott to let her go.  She was high handed, arrogant and wrong.  But importantly, she was not in doubt.

On to substance.  The key debate was on electricity and AGL and their plan to close/re-purpose the Liddell Power Station.  Here is Senator Bernardi’s contribution:

The big problem we have got is that the government is too involved in this business

But then Senator Bernardi proposes that the government get further involved:

You could take out all the speculators and the only purchaser will be the government.

Does this mean the government will also get back into the distribution, billing and call centre business?  Perhaps in South Australia?

But moving onto AGL, Credlin suggested that the government, unable to convince management cow tow should try to influence to the board and institutional investors of AGL.  Wow.  Just Wow.

Credlin has (repeatedly) mocked the Turnbull government for their attack on superannuants through the tax system but she now proposed to attack superannuants through other means.  And then Credlin says this:

The company (AGL) has to act in the national interest.

Perhaps in a totalitarian state ,but to suggest that AGL had a duty to act in the national interest above shareholder interest is just breathtaking.  Ms Credlin frequently likes to wave her legal credentials around, so perhaps before her next outing she should familiarise herself with the Corporations Act.  If Ms Credlin happens to be a reader of Catallaxy, here is a snippet from the ASIC website talking about director duties:

General duties imposed by the Corporations Act on directors and officers of companies include:

  • the duty to exercise your powers and duties with the care and diligence that a reasonable person would have which includes taking steps to ensure you are properly informed about the financial position of the company and ensuring the company doesn’t trade if it is insolvent
  • the duty to exercise your powers and duties in good faith in the best interests of the company and for a proper purpose
  • the duty not to improperly use your position to gain an advantage for yourself or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company, and
  • the duty not to improperly use information obtained through your position to gain an advantage for yourself or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company.



And if the Government is going to try to force AGL to act otherwise (against the interest of the company), well there is then there is section 51 xxxi of the Australian constitution that requires the acquisition of property on just terms.

Then Senator Bernardi suggests a punitive and targeted strategy to take away all of AGL’s subsidies and Credlin says:

Giddy up.  That’s it.  Giddy up Corey.

Wow.  Just wow.  These are the people who seek to govern this nation.

Don’t get me wrong.  Spartacus does no like what AGL is doing.  But Australia is a country of laws and AGL is acting within the law.  Private companies acting in the national interest and punishing companies for not cow towing to government.  That is Venezuela.  that is Cuba.

You know that there is a big problem when, in a debate between Peta Credlin, Corey Bernardi and Nicholas Reece, it is Nicholas Reece that comes across as the most sensible.

Follow I Am Spartacus on Twitter at @Ey_am_Spartacus

Posted in Uncategorized | 50 Comments

Energy Battlegrounds and Furphies

I have this piece in this morning’s Australian which addresses the direction of energy and climate policy in light of Josh Frydenberg’s Press Club address.  Aside from demonstrating how the renewable program has wrecked the electricity supply industry and brought a doubling of prices, it has two main themes.

First, it demonstrates that government statements bend the truth in saying that the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) will be neutral between energy sources.

The NEG will be set to achieve aspirations for a level of greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector in line with the government’s Paris commitments on greenhouse gas emissions and will oblige suppliers to adjust their energy sources accordingly.  It is, in short, a mechanisms under which suppliers contract more renewable energy than they would without the NEG and less from fossil fuel generators.  This is accomplished by, in effect, the fossil fuel generators paying a price penalty and the renewables getting a price bonus.

Secondly, there’s the Liddell closure issue.  Supply security and price is uppermost in the battleground over this and has brought calls for some Coalition MPs for direct investment in new coal fired generators.  The outgoing head of the electricity industry lobby group, Matthew Warren thinks the planned Liddell closure would not be a problem but politicians and regulators are not so confident.

The government is resisting calls for direct investment

“but leaning heavily on AGL to keep Liddell open – the firm’s claims that its alternative investments will be superior just do not pass the credibility test.  AGL has said it needs policy certainty.  A prominent ALP spokesman, Nicholas Reece, made it clear on Wednesday night’s Bolt program that a Shorten Government would not permit Liddells’ closure prior to 2025.”

In other words, we have bipartisan policy that will ensure the plant is kept open – and it is a safe bet that the ALP would be more ruthless in ensuring this than the Coalition.

One important feature of the address by Josh Frydenberg was his observation that the renewable industry is adamant that it is now competitive with fossil supplies but equally resolute in demanding on-going subsidy programs to effect this.

The Minister says that wholesale prices are likely to fall a bit.  Maybe, but we won’t see the $40 per MWh level that prevailed before politics destroyed our competitive supply.  Interestingly Josh Frydenberg also says the forward price of RET contracts is falling (to $38 per MWh from $80).  What this means, even if the wholesale price for electricity falls to $70, (AGL said it had contracted wind at “$60 real” for five years) renewables need $108 per MWh to be viable. Some way from parity with the Minerals Council’s research showing even High Efficiency Low Emissions coal generators may require as little as $40 per MWh to be viable.

Meanwhile,  someone has leaked Ben Potter at the AFR (Clue? see the pic of Vic Minister Ambrosio with Al Gore) a copy of the latest officials’ NEG report.  His article misses the big picture but allows him to say that the draft “won’t require electricity contracts to specify physical sources of generation or privilege coal generation over other forms of on-demand supply that can “firm” up intermittent wind and solar energy”.

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Kevin Rudd’s 2020 summit symphony fell flat

Today in The Australian

Listening, on the eve of its 10th anniversary, to recordings of the Rudd government’s 2020 Summit, it was hard not to be reminded of Rossini’s quip about Wagner. “One cannot judge Wagner’s ­Lohengrin from a first hearing,” said the maestro, “and I certainly do not intend to hear it a second time.”


Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments