“The new mediocre …”

I have an op-ed in the AFR this morning that talks about Australia’s fiscal strategy over the past ten years and the need for a return to “the old-time fiscal religion”.

Right now politicians tax as much as they think they can get away with, spend as much as they can, and borrow to make up the difference.

Putting the budget onto automatic pilot with a debt and deficit trajectory and then borrowing to pay their own salaries is symptomatic of the new mediocre.

As they say in the classics – read the whole thing (ungated version here).

Posted in Budget, Economics and economy, Taxation | 19 Comments

So coal fired power plants are unbankable?

Japanese companies plan to develop about 45 additional coal power plants, adding more than 20 gigawatts (GW) of capacity, in the next decade, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Fossil fuels accounted for about 82% of Japan’s net electricity generation in 2015, up from 62% in 2010. The share of fossil fuel-powered generation rose substantially for the first time in several decades in the wake of the Fukushima disaster when electric utilities turned to hydrocarbons as substitutes for the lost nuclear power generation, the EIA said.

According to the Japan Electric Power Information Center, there are more than 60 major thermal power plants owned by the top 10 electric utilities and J-Power and numerous combined-cycle LNG-fired or coal-fired plants are under construction or are in the planning stages.

Domestic coal production dwindled to virtually nothing in 2002, and Japan began importing all of its coal, primarily from Australia. Coal imports grew to 210 million short tons of coal in 2015 from 193 million short tons in 2011, after more coal-fired generation capacity came online. Japan, which was the world’s top coal importer for decades, dropped to the third-largest importer in 2015, just below China and India.

Some coal-fired power plants located off the coast of Fukushima experienced significant damage following the 2011 earthquake. As a result, coal use declined slightly in 2011 when the country relied heavily on natural gas and oil to replace lost nuclear capacity. Once new coal-fired capacity was commissioned in 2013 and international coal prices dropped, electric utilities increased coal purchases for power generation. According to the EIA, coal accounted for 23% of the power sector market share before Fukushima and increased to 31% in 2015. The government plans for coal to account for 26% of the market share by 2030, maintaining the fuel’s importance as a baseload for power generation.

Japan has the highest efficiency rate of coal-fired technology in the world, the EIA said. It is installing new, clean coal plant technologies, such as ultra-supercritical units or integrated gasification combined-cycle technology, to meet environmental targets and to replace some of the decades-old coal power plants. Coal is expected to displace some of the expensive oil-fired power generation.

“The pace of development depends on how many nuclear units can return to service and whether the government will grant environmental approvals to each coal-fired power plant in light of Japan’s commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emission levels by 2030,” the EIA said.

Posted in Uncategorized | 50 Comments

Crony capitalism: green style

I picked up this piece from Alan Moran about Elon Musk and his mates ripping off the taxpayers in the US – to do green good, of course.

We should not think that this stuff doesn’t happen here and note also the links between the union industry super funds and the renewable industry.

With the ACT and other state governments getting it to the mother of all rorts – these reverse auctions – in fact, Australia is just warming up.

 

From Enron to Bernie Madoff, at the end of every great American financial scandal, the totality of the perpetrators’ greed seems to be matched only by the public’s incredulity at how such a thing could be allowed to happen.

And thanks to Elon Musk, there’s a good chance we may all be asking this question again soon.

The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee have launched a probe into tax incentives paid to solar companies, according to the Wall Street Journal. The committee probes, led by their respective Republican chairmen, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, have found an appropriate and disturbing target to begin this work.

SolarCity, a solar installation company set to be purchased by Tesla Motors Inc., is one of the seven companies named in the initial investigation.

Renewable Crony Capitalism

Already grossly subsidized, Musk’s SolarCity has become an albatross of waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars. As legitimate earnings and cash become even scarcer for SolarCity, its entanglement in the Tesla empire suggests that a drastic reckoning is not only imminent but emboldening Musk to become more outlandish and reckless.SolarCity has been doubling down on the failed model of taxpayer support.

Notably, SolarCity is run by Musk’s cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive. During his chairmanship at SolarCity, Musk’s family enterprise has taken in billions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies from both the federal and local governments. But the subsidies and sweetheart deals were not enough, as losses and missed projections continued to mount.

Ultimately, rather than endure the embarrassment of collapse and further damage to the public image of Musk and Tesla, the cousins conspired to have Tesla simply purchase SolarCity this year. The conditions of the deal screamed foul play.

To say nothing of what sense it might make for an automaker to purchase a solar installation company, Tesla stockholders were being forced to absorb a failing, cash-burning company and pay top dollar to do so.

While cost-cutting and corporate restructuring should have been the priority for a company swimming in debt and burning through available cash, SolarCity, in fact, has been doubling down on the failed model of taxpayer support. The desperate thirst for handouts has manifested itself in some of the murkiest political waters imaginable.

Thanks to Musk’s cozy relationship with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, the state has granted at least $750 million of its taxpayers’ money to SolarCity, building the company a factory and charging it only $1 per year in rent.

It would be hard to imagine such an operation would not be lucrative for its shareholders. And yet, somehow, SolarCity has never made a profit.

How Extensive Is This Problem?

It’s not just in New York. In this year’s race for Arizona Corporation Commission, the state’s public utilities overseers, only one outside group funneled cash into the contest. SolarCity has never been able to survive without serious help from government subsidies and grants.

All of the $3 million donated by that group, Energy Choice for America, came from SolarCity. The beneficiaries are candidates who have signaled their willingness to be part of the “green machine” that greases the skids for lucrative government subsidies.

Burning through taxpayer dollars, buying elections, and expanding a network of crony capitalism has become so inherent to the SolarCity model that $3 million to a public commissioner’s race, brazen though it may be, is only a drop in the bucket for Musk and SolarCity.

In 2013 alone, SolarCity received $127.4 million in federal grants. The following year, in which it received only $342,000 from the same stimulus package, total revenue was just $176 million and the company posted a net loss of $375 million.

Despite an expansion of operations and claims to be the leader in the industry, SolarCity has never been able to survive without serious help from government subsidies and grants. The failure to responsibly turn taxpayer dollars into a profitable renewable energy provider has led to SolarCity’s collapse into the welcoming arms of Tesla.

And with Tesla, SolarCity, in fact, will be right at home, compounding a disastrous shell game that Elon Musk is playing with government resources.

You’re Paying to Keep Musk’s Lights On

It has been widely reported that among SolarCity, Tesla, and the rocket company SpaceX, Elon Musk’s confederacy of interests has gotten at least $4.9 billion in taxpayer support over the past 10 years.

This is almost half of Musk’s supposed net worth – taken from the pockets of American citizens and put into companies that can survive only by cannibalizing each other, spending without end, and promising that success is always just beyond the horizon and yet never arrives.

The American people are being taken on a ride by SolarCity, Tesla, and Musk. The ride is fueled by a cult of personality in Musk. And it costs billions of taxpayer dollars as he promises us not only the moon but to harness the power of the sun and send us all to Mars.

In the cases of Enron and Bernie Madoff, in the end, the cheated victims wished to have woken up sooner to the hubris that enabled such a downfall – or at least that regulators had pulled their heads out of the sand before the full impact of the collapse was realized.

We’ve seen this story before and we know how it ends.

The congressional investigations underway are not only necessary but a signal that more must be done, and soon. We may not be able to help Elon Musk stop himself from failing again, but we certainly shouldn’t be the ones to pay for it.

It’s past time for the American people to stand up to Musk and demand that our legislators and other elected officials bring him back to earth before spending one more dollar of our money. He’s wasted enough of it already.

Posted in Uncategorized | 41 Comments

That polluted vehicle

Being the media that is, in a quote taken from Thomas Jefferson by Donald Trump in his presentation today. This is picked up at Ann Althouse.

To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, “by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only.” Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more compleatly deprive the nation of it’s benefits, than is done by it’s abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knolege with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens, who, reading newspapers, live & die in the belief, that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time; whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. General facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will, &c., &c.; but no details can be relied on. I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.

And just for completeness, here is the quote directly from Jefferson. For the rest, a couple of historic quotes on the media from the comments section of Ann Althouse.

1) Everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true except for that rare story of which you happen to have firsthand knowledge.

2)“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

Posted in Media | 23 Comments

David Leyonhjelm: Whatever you do, try not to be poor

According to the most recent Global Wealth Report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, Australia leads the world for having the largest proportion of adults who can be described as middle class, and also the smallest percentage of people who are very poor.

This is nothing to complain about, but the imbalance might explain why our poorest people are routinely confronted by policies that would make Marie Antoinette blush.

In my state of New South Wales – as in most states – the ruling classes are shameless. Let me count some of the ways.

Technical students find subsidies and scholarships few and far between, while their middle class friends go to heavily subsidised universities. Thousands of smokers are fined for not standing in chilly allocated areas. Soccer supporters are hounded by police. The public is locked out of national parks and fishing grounds. Modified cars are confiscated. Late drinks in the city have been banned. And billions of dollars are poured into light rail to ensure middle class suburbs are suitably delightful.

Federal politicians tend to be more subtle about it, but are even more committed to keeping poor people miserable.

Despite around 2.5 million people being unemployed or underemployed, minimum wages, penalty rates and unfair dismissal laws are vigorously enforced to make sure they stay that way. Unless they are worth paying at least $17 an hour, and in some jobs quite a lot more, the Government compels them to remain on unemployment benefits.

Then there is the rising cost of electricity. The impact on prices of subsidising renewable energy has resulted in our poorest people being asked to decide if they want air conditioning in summer, heating in winter, or food.

And if they want to use a short term loan to pay a power bill, they are being told how much they are allowed to borrow.

If any of this makes them sick, their medications are more expensive thanks to the Government’s policy of protecting pharmacies from competition, to satisfy the demands of the Pharmacy Guild.

If they have a television or radio, the poor can discover why all this is good for them via the two media channels they help pay for, ABC and SBS. While they’re at it, they will probably hear about the arts festivals that make the wealthier suburbs such vibrant cultural centres.

Should they enjoy a drink or smoke while watching an arts festival on TV, they can take pleasure in knowing that their taxes are contributing significantly to it, with Australian cigarettes the most expensive in the world and alcohol taxes not far off it. Of course, the most prolific smokers are our poorest people including regional Aborigines. So much for closing the gap.

And should they speak up about the less successful aspects of multi-culturalism, they can be hauled before a bunch of anti-discrimination bodies to explain themselves.

We have arrived at this state of affairs because no major political party is interested in winning the vote of Australia’s poor.

Labor is no better than the Liberals on this. They might claim to stick up for battlers, but rarely take their side on any of the issues mentioned here. This is mainly due to Labor’s relationship with the unions, which care about workers who have jobs rather than those who don’t. And Labor is also now competing with the Greens for middle class progressive voters who couldn’t give a fig about the impact of power prices or the price of cigarettes on the poor.

In fact, every week we hear how progressives have a new idea to make life harder for poor people. Even the push to replace cage eggs with free range eggs will lead to substantial price increases, and now they’re talking about a sugar tax.

The poor are hectored and spoken down to. They have few choices in relation to their education and health. They are told when, where and how they can drink, smoke, eat, gamble and enjoy themselves. They are told they are cruel if they enjoy greyhound racing and too ignorant, stupid or incoherent to manage their own lives. Increasingly they are considered less important than animal rights and the environment.

Our governments are elected by the middle class to serve the middle class, so it’s hard to see how any of this is going to change.

So whatever you do, try not to be poor.

David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats

Posted in Guest Post | Tagged | 57 Comments

Guest Post: Terry Barnes The TGA and nanny staters just can’t help themselves

February’s not turning out to be a great month for the cause of true harm reduction and trusting people to make wise decisions in looking after their own health.

First, schools in New South Wales are banning – believe it or not – birthday cakes.  According to media reports, school authorities consider them a “distraction”, and raise fears about allergies and the so-called obesity epidemic to justify why these Trojan horses of unspeakable evil shouldn’t be allowed through schoolyard gates.

Put aside the fact that birthday cakes, as well as the chocolate crackles and fairy bread, are part and parcel of the kids’ birthday rite of passage, once-a-year treats. To the zealots and puritans who run our schools and determine public education policy, they are merely calorie machines that turn kiddie cuties into unspeakable, voracious lard tubs.

What rubbish.  Like all yummy food, birthday cakes are a source of fun, pleasure and joy.  They mark a big occasion in a kid’s life – and at that age, and in our wonderful Western culture, any birthday is a big occasion worthy celebrating.

Life is, as Thomas Hobbes put it so well, nasty, brutish and short.  A birthday is the one day of the year a kid can truly call theirs, and the fun police and the NSW Teachers Federation want to take it away from them?  A kid’s birthday being considered a distraction, for goodness’ sake: birthdays are part of the socialising experience.  Scoffing birthday cake and other treats may be self-indulgent one-off, but spacing their calorie consumption sensibly (with parental not bureaucratic guidance!) over a year kiddies can still enjoy cakes and sweets without turning into Augustus Gloop.

Pan metron ariston – everything in moderation – as some ancient Greek bloke once said.

And as for the fear of teacher liability from allergies, those self-righteous ninnies who come up with these brainwaves should cast their minds back to the days before 1980 when Aussie kids were fit, healthy and fearless, and food allergies almost unknown. And why? Because parents weren’t afraid of letting their kids try new experiences, and enjoy experimenting with all manner of foods (including, in my case, mud pies).

Now, largely thanks to the nanny-staters, little Johnny and Mary with their gluten-free, macrobiotic, sugarless dietary requirements making diet-observant ultra-Orthodox Jews look like slackers, are breaking out in hives by merely looking at a birthday cake or a bowl of salted peanuts.

Stupid.

Second, there are yet more calls for a sugar tax, especially on the demon soft drink.

Sydney University professor Tom Colaguiri has just published his research that found none out of ten kids aged nine to 18, have sugar intakes exceeding World Health Organisation recommendations.  His solution, of course, is to make a sugar tax a top political priority.

Not that the good professor questioned the sense of the WHO recommendations: as we who have followed the vaping debate know, WHO is never wrong, and writes the gospel of public health.  Anybody who questions WHO’s received wisdom is a heretic in the pay of Big Whatever.  So the nanny staters cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of public health war with their weapon of behavioural choice, taxing the bejesus out of the most convenient consumable scapegoat.

The parliamentary secretary responsible for public health policy, National party MP and gastroenterologist, David Gillespie, is quoted by Fairfax as saying:

Cut to the chase: the thing with all of the proponents of sugar taxes, fat taxes, whatever tax, is taxes will make people angry and it won’t change what they eat.

This is a day-to-day survival, personal choice issue which transcends economics. People buy what they like and we as a government aren’t going to moralise and tell them that we feel better for putting taxes on certain products.

This sounds positive, and it would be reassuring if Dr Gillespie could be taken at face value. But, frankly, he’s an insignificant player in the policy game.

Let’s be honest: the greatest Australian addiction of all is his government’s addiction to revenue.  If there’s a feeling in Treasury that a sugar tax might collect a lazy few hundred million to waste on profligate spending that it and the populist Senate refuse to rein in, then consider it to be on the table.

Think I’m overblowing it?  Then look at one undeniable fact.  Before the last federal Budget, the Turnbull government condemned the Labor plan to raise more revenue by accelerating and extending the phased increases in tobacco excise so that by 2020 a packet is smokes will cost over $40.  Yet, come Budget day, that same government not only endorsed Labor’s plan made it a centrepiece of its Budget sell.

Sin taxes work by assuming sinners keep sinning.  Drinkers, gamblers, smokers, and maybe soon soft drink consumers are taxed because they can be relied on to keep up their habits whatever the price. These are not public health or harm reduction measures.  They are revenue gouges, feeding the reckless and feckless spending addiction of politicians and bureaucrats too self-righteous or gutless to bring their profligacy for wasting other people’s money under control.

After its backflip with pike on tobacco excise this Coalition government, supposedly the intellectual heir of Burke and Mill, cannot be relied upon to resist determined and self-righteous nanny staters and public health fruit loops.  Sad but true.

But third, and most seriously, earlier this month the Therapeutic Goods Administration rejected a measured, evidence-based application from the pro-vaping New Nicotine Alliance to amend the Poisons Schedule to allow nicotine to be legally available in vaping solutions, and give smokers an openly-available alternative to the deadly weed and the toxic contents of cigarette vapour.

The TGA’s interim decision – it will be finalised at the end of the March after a token follow-up consultation involving only those who made submissions on the NNA application – was detailed, referenced and elegantly-written.  But when all was said and done, it simply accepted and repeated the nostrums of the usual vociferous, McCarthy-like public health suspects and the bureaucrats who treat their words as gospel.

The TGA’s reasons for rejecting the application are consistent with the standard orthodoxy of the more prominent public health and harm reduction advocates in Australia, especially the hackneyed claims that not enough is known about the nature and long-term effects of e-cigarettes and vaping on users and bystanders; the concern about “renormalisation” of smoking behaviours; and the claimed “gateway effect” of vaping take-up by young people leading to deadly tobacco smoking.

The quality of the evidence supporting these bog-standard claims was not questioned by the TGA, nor does it seem the steadily-increasing weight of evidence against them, including a comprehensive submission signed but a staggering 40 Australian and international scientific and clinical experts, was even taken seriously by the TGA advisory committee, or by the decision-makers.

What’s more, the TGA released public submissions so heavily redacted that they were meaningless.  Many submitters, including the 40 authors of that major expert submission, and me, agreed in writing that our submissions could be published in full.  Yet, reprehensibly, they were published with not only our names blocked out, but with big chunks of our arguments, and especially any references to specific studies and other evidence cited in the body of submissions, redacted to the point of the documents being unrecognisable, even to the authors.

And, as I pointed out in comments to the TGA on the interim decision, the patent lack of due process and procedural fairness – not just the wholesale redaction but the selective use of evidence, and the commissioning on specially-selected but un-named and taxpayer-funded consultants to critique the NNA application and torpedo it – highlighted a serious flawed and inherently biased consideration of an application that used ideology to answer the simple scientific question at the heart of the application: whether a vaping solution containing nicotine at the proposed concentration is safe for human consumption.

Usually, if it’s choice between a cock-up and a conspiracy, it’s a cock-up.  But in this case, I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy.  As the NNA well knew when they submitted their application, the fix was in from the start, and they should be commended for forcing into the open the ingrained this official hostility to vaping as a harm-reducing disruptive technology.   The TGA decision and how it was arrived at simply has proven the point.

The Senate is starting its next round of estimates hearings later this month, an opportunity to scrutinise government administration and put officials on the spot.  Our senators could do something useful for a change and shine a light on the darkness that is the TGA’s consideration of the NNA nicotine application.  There are certainly lots of curly questions they can, and should, ask.

If these tribunes of the people do ask some of those questions, and force the TGA and Health department to explain themselves, maybe this month won’t be as bad for sensible harm reduction and sensible personal choices as it’s been so far.

Terry Barnes is a part-time Australian fellow of the UK Institute of Economic Affairs, with a special policy interest in sensible harm reduction

Posted in Guest Post, Take Nanny down | 40 Comments

Guest Post: The Beer Whisperer The power of false virtue

There’s an old saying. “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”. Many people, especially in this day and age, with the popularity of geographic mobility – a euphemism for no borders, incorrectly assign this saying as being about patriotism, as though such a thing is inherently immoral, indeed even racist, because people from other places are often representative of different races.

However, a cursory glance at history shows that such behaviour is common across time, while patriotism is a somewhat recent phenomenon – tribalism writ large. Much has been said about corruption in medieval churches, the Spanish inquisition, its abuse of power by individuals to punish rivals, and so on. Indeed today’s pope commands much influence over the world’s 1 billion Catholics, whose utterances make headlines around the world. However, such influence was immeasurably greater when the church was not merely the common religion, but the centre of life and politics itself. Even in today’s shadow of the church’s former glory, the Catholic church (and others) were able to get away with widespread child molestation for decades. Just imagine what the church could do, and did, at the height of its power, or at least by those in positions of immense power.

Today, few people question the self-serving nature of politicians, but if you were to judge politicians only on what they say, you would judge them to be grand, virtuous people of unnatural wisdom and insight. Clearly, the rhetoric does not match the results. Interestingly, when kings held the real power and even nobles only held advisory positions with no actual decision making, virtue was not typically stated, but needs pleaded to the ultimate arbiter. Actual claims of virtue were stated mostly only by royalty, who coincidentally held “divine right”, asserted by none other than themselves, with perhaps the  begrudging consent of the church.

In 2017, CEOs with exorbitant salaries extol their virtue through progressive values enacted by underlings. Politicians have long been accused of uttering empty platitudes, however this appears to have spread to the general populace, in the form of virtue signalling. It could be argued that virtue signalling is highlighted by genuine belief, but this is noticeably distinguished from politicians who are seen as perpetuators of fraud in terms of lack of genuine sincerity.

Even NGOs are now accused of being fronts for political activism, despite their long record of charity and altruism. There are even claims of NGOs being set up for the express purpose of activism, for reasons known only to their creators. The recent proliferation of NGOs adds weight to this assertion. Billionaires routinely give vast fortunes to charities, while conspicuously retaining control. Of course, this is perfectly understandable, given the money involved, however, it enables benefactors to direct money into whatever cause or purpose they choose. Virtue is assumed, but not guaranteed.

What we see across time is a common thread, of which patriotism occurs but once, while those who benefit from claiming virtue in power appear repeatedly across all instances.

As demonstrated, the common denominator is not patriotism, but virtue.

And that virtue is false.

It is often said that to determine intent, simply determine who benefits. Let us, for the sake of argument, ignore the classic go-to bad guy, but choose someone less generic, yet more representative of the false virtue narrative.

Maximilien Robespierre was a french lawyer and politician who was a key figure of the French Revolution. He was characterised by eloquent speeches in the French Constituent Assembly while overseeing the Reign of Terror. While he did not publicly endorse it overtly, he happened to benefit from it, as it strengthened his power.  Enemies could certainly be cowed by angry mobs that could act with impunity. Furthermore, he asserted that, perhaps conveniently, court decisions must be determined within 24 hours, with no third way beyond guilty, punishable by death, and assertion of innocence, which was to apply to all of the accused, time allowing or not, and justice be damned. While it was possibly an aberration of virtue with unintended consequences, any principle of human rights precludes such indifference, lest it encourage such barbarity, yet there was no apparent attempt to address it. Indeed, Robespierre lamented the barbarity as a mere unfortunate outcome of the glorious revolution. Sound familiar?

Hitler was obviously more confronting to western sensibilities, however in the context of German culture and recent historical empirical German expansion, portrayed as the alien virtue of racial purity, it is not the outlier one supposes. Furthermore, racial purity was an extremist extrapolation of Darwinian theory, inadvertently extending  a mere observation into a radical extremist movement resulting in the death of almost untold millions of people. In that context, Hitler was portraying a virtue apparent to Germans of only a particular time, wholly alien to modern day Germans and everyone else.

Vladmir Lenin espoused the glorious workers republic of the Soviet Union before having his associates shot dead as enemies of the revolution, despite strengthening his position in the process. Stalin upped the ante by sacrificing vastly more people than Hitler ever did, and his perceived virtue lasted long after his death despite vast evidence to the contrary, ably assisted by the same state apparatus he conveniently set up.  Don’t you just hate it when misery benefits you personally?

Despite obvious differences, there is a clear progression from the nationalist domination of Robespierre to the internationalist domination of Hitler to the globalist domination attempted by the Soviet Union following the totalitarian inroads of Lenin and Stalin. From that point, the cold war existed as characterised by a series of skirmishes that involved the fate of mere nations. And from left field appears the  medieval scourge of islamic fundamentalist militarism, which was arguably the original globalist ideology.

And yet none of these represent a racial or religious commonality. The only commonality is the claimed virtue of the oppressors. Why is it that old men aren’t suicide bombers? Just young people. Coincidence? Hardly. The Imam gets impressionable youngsters to make the ultimate sacrifice for nothing more than the promise of eternity, with zero guarantees beyond their own mortality. The priest gets to espouse the virtue of faith, without committing his own. The politician gets to espouse the virtue of nationalism, without the bothersome effort of leading one’s countrymen into battle. The actor gets to espouse the virtue of environmental sacrifice of others, while travelling across the globe in pursuit of environmental accolades in his private jet, or espouse disarmament while having his luxury estates surrounded by guards with semi-automatic weapons 24/7. The list goes on. And on.

The history of mankind is littered with the claims of the virtuous, and the sacrifice of the believers. Because it’s not about actual virtue, but the mere claim of it, with the influence over the masses that your sacrifice is supposedly theirs.

But it is not.

It is nothing more than false virtue, such that you sacrifice all you have for nothing more than the enrichment of those that would exploit you. The exploiters are few. But the exploitees are many. Which one are you?

Posted in Guest Post | 21 Comments

Trump in Melbourne (Florida)

There was a time you needed the media to get your message out. That time is now past, and soon it will be long past. First Melania (beginning with the Lord’s Prayer) and then as good a speech from Trump as you are likely to hear. And I don’t do this so that you don’t have to. I do this to suggest you watch it for yourself. Here is the write up from the UK’s Daily Mail.

Posted in American politics | 38 Comments

Activists encourage ignorance

One of the more useful skills students could ever learn is an understanding of statistics. Nanny staters, however, are working to prevent this under the guise of “concern” about gambling:

STUDENTS as young as 15 are being taught gambling in maths classes.

Several schools are teaching students in years 10-12 the probability and statistics of making a buck in sports betting, pokies, sweeps and a “day at the races”.

The program is designed to show the risk associated with gambling.

But gambling experts fear it could introduce the youngsters to betting.

In some lessons, students are asked to play card games with their teacher acting as the dealer. They also bet “play money” and tokens on a mock Melbourne Cup and AFL matches.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform’s Dr Charles Livingstone warned the lessons could be harmful.

“Gambling is not an entirely rational exercise and anything that could encourage an unrealistic view of outcomes is potentially unhelpful,” he said. “I’m supportive of the concept but it really needs work if it is to be helpful and not potentially harmful.”

Because teaching kid maths can be “harmful”.

If you haven’t already done so, read  Peter L. Bernstein’s Against the gods: The remarkable story of risk.

Posted in Education | 46 Comments

Anna Bligh and the Bankers’ Association

Admittedly I, too, did have a “wtf moment” when I saw the news that the Australian Bankers’ Association have appointed former Queensland premier Anna Bligh as their next CEO.  She never struck me as being someone who would know much about banking.

On reflection, however, she does know something about politics and she does know something about the economy (having been finance minister and treasurer in the Beattie government). More importantly, having come through the Labor side of politics, she should have good inter-personal and negotiation skills. I would imagine that these skills should be quite useful in being a lobbyist. (I understand, however, some Queenslanders might not like her. I often have a poor opinion of Victorian politicians that relate to annoyances from their time in office.)  The thing is, as a former career politician, what sort of job could she get? Yet another political analyst would be entering into a very crowded market.

The reaction, however, from the Liberals as reported in The Australian is somewhat over-the-top.

Coalition MPs have called for the big banks to be cut out of the government’s plan to reduce the ­company tax rate after the ­surprise appointment of former Labor ­premier Anna Bligh as their chief lobbyist.

In a possible sign that the ­industry has written off the ­Coalition government politically, the Australian Bankers Association yesterday announced the appointment of Ms Bligh as its new head. It is understood Treasurer Scott Morrison was ­informed of the decision only on Thursday night.

The Liberal MP for the South Australian seat of Barker, Tony Pasin, said yesterday his Coalition colleagues were furious. “It would seem that the ABA has decided to evaporate whatever goodwill ­remained within the Coalition partyroom,” Mr Pasin told The Weekend Australian.

Queensland LNP MP Luke Howarth said there was already a good case not to include the banks in the tax plan, but the hiring of Ms Bligh should give the government another reason.

“She has never worked in a bank, and as premier up here she sold off $15bn in government ­assets, couldn’t balance the books, raised taxes and lost the state’s AAA credit rating,” Mr Howarth said. “The point is that our Enterprise Tax Plan will not go through the Senate as is … and the big four banks already make plenty of money. There was a case to have them excluded prior to this … it is more so now … it is a blatant political appointment.”

Victorian Nationals MP ­Andrew Broad said the role would be better suited to a career banker rather than a politician. “I think it gives more credibility to be clear of politics, I suspect,” he said.

However, Queensland Nationals MP Keith Pitt said former MPs and political staffers often filled such roles, and any backlash was “unwarranted”. Other Coalition MPs privately expressed the view that the banks were doing nothing to help the ­Coalition, which had “gone into bat” for them by resisting Labor’s calls for a royal commission. “We have been the ones who have been defending them, not because we love bankers but because we realise the importance of the banking industry, and they take every opportunity to shit on us,” one said. “Well, bring on the royal commission.”

Arrogance. Pure arrogance. Tax cuts are not a gift of government. Responsible economic policy is not a gift that government bestows on its friends or withholds from its non-friends. Tax-paying citizens should not have to be grateful when politicians do their actual day jobs.

The finance industry provides a magnificent service to Australians, earns huge profits, pays huge taxes, and good franked dividends. As far as I can work out the Australian banking system is a major success story – unsurprising, I suppose, that many in Canberra want to drag it down.

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