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Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts over the last six weeks.

I won’t bore you by explaining what the problem was. Let’s just hope that 2011 is more restful year!

I have been thinking lately about the seven virtues, and in particular, the first of the cardinal virtues, prudence.

Prudence is sometimes portrayed as having three faces. This is because prudence learns from the past, and thinks about consequences in the future, in order to act rightly in the present.

Prudence does not mean refusing to take risks. Prudence is not fear, but a careful regard for right outcomes.

Prudence is a quality leftist politicians lack.

They do not learn from the past. They do not think about consequences in the future. Consequently they act in the present in ways that, however well intentioned, will not bring about desireable results.

The Clinton administration’s pressure on the banks to increase home lending to under-represented groups in the housing market effectively forced banks to make loans to people who could not afford to repay them.

The intention was good – more members of minority ethnic groups owning their homes. This would, if successful, have been a good thing. People are more careful of what they own, and have a greater stake in maintaining their local community and environment.

But it didn’t work. People who had been given loans they couldn’t afford, well, couldn’t afford them. So they didn’t pay them. So they lost their homes.

The people targetted to be helped were made worse off, because they lost the money they had put into their homes, and were now less likely to get a loan in the future, even one they could afford.

All this was easily predictable.

Consequences for the banks, and therefore the economy in general, and therefore people in general, were also dire.

That was also predictable.

The intention was good, but there was no prudence – no learning from the past, no thinking through of consequences in the future.

In Australia, refugees and the NBN are two obvious examples of a lack of prudence in government action.

Intending to be kind, the Labor party implemented policies which lead to a dramatic increase in the number of illegal immigrants arriving by boat.

‘We will be nicer to you,’ they said. ‘We will welcome you.’ We are not nasty like John Howard.

People who would not have made the journey to Australia except for these changed policies, and for their belief that things were different in Australia now, have died.

That is a bad, and foreseeable outcome. 

Large numbers of people (from three boats a year to 2-3 boats a week) arriving in Australia without proper identification need to be accommodated at taxpayer expense, either in detention or in local communities. This stressful for the immigrants, stressful for workers and communities, and means money has to be diverted from other projects – roads and hospitals, for example.

That is a bad, and foreseeable outcome. 

When people who arrive illegally are accepted as refugees, the number of those people accepted as residents is deducted from the number of people who will be accepted from refugee camps. People who are the poorest and most in need, who have provided identification and waited for processes to run their course, lose their places to those who have the money to bypass the safeguards and make their own way to Australia.

That is a bad, and foreseeable outcome.

Planning for the proposed National Broadband Network demonstrates a similar lack of prudence – of willingness to learn from the past and to think carefully about consequences in the future.

The NBN will cost a vast amount of money. At the planned cost of $43 billion, over $6,000 per household, plus the cost of connection and in-home cabling, plus of course, ongoing plan costs.

Even now it is clear that the NBN offers little advantage over cable or ADSL2+ to people living in metropolitan areas. Those are current technologies.

Two things we learn from the past are that new technologies double the speed of internet access every five years, and that large projects are almost always slower and more expensive to implement than first thought.

On present planning/costing, the NBN will make back the taxpayer’s investment if 70% of people take it up.

In Tasmania, where need was considered significant, the take-up rate has been about 1%.

So the NBN is needed, and will succeed, only if there are no developments in internet technology over the next five years, if competition is stifled, if the price of constructing it does not increase, and if people are coerced into paying more for internet plans that are only marginally faster.

In effect, the government is spending over $6,000 of your money on a plan that will deliver no improvement over likely commercial plans which would have cost the taxpayer nothing.

There is an argument for government subsidy of better satellite based internet access for people in remote areas where commerical provision of fast internet is not viable.

That would be prudent. The NBN is not. Nor are our current policies on illegal immigration.

95% of my customers are great – patient, considerate, etc.

And then there’s the other 5%.

Just two examples.

It is time to close. I have swept the floor, closed all the photo processing equipment down, and am tallying up the till.

A woman comes in. ‘I need some photos done,’ she says.

‘Sorry, we close at 12. I have turned all the machines off.’

‘But I need these done today.’

‘We’ll be here at 8.30 on Monday. If you come in then we’ll do them for you straight away.’

‘That’s no good to me. I need these this afternoon.’

‘I’m sorry. I can’t help you. Even if I turned the machines on again, it would take at least half an hour to process, and I have appointments after work.’

Assorted insults…

Hmm…

What I felt like saying, of course, was that if it was that important to her that her photos be done that day, she should have made sure she got to the shop before closing time.

It’s the same with those airport documentaries showing people having hissy fits because they are late for their planes.

If it is that important that you get on your plane, make sure you get there on time, for heaven’s sake. And if you don’t, it’s your fault, not the airline staff’s. Grow up and take some responsibility.

Second example.

Sleazy, smelly guy with bits of food crusted around his mouth, married to attractive and intelligent woman 25 years younger than him. Has got several nasty viruses on his wife’s computer because he has been using it to look at porn while she is away. Has to be fixed before she gets back.

OK, whatever. I fix the thing. He takes it home. Three days later he rings again.

‘This computer is infected again.’

‘OK. How did that happen?’

‘I don’t know. I was just looking at some websites and these warnings started coming up.’

‘Ah. All right. Well bring it in to me, and I’ll clean it off again.’ 

‘You’ll do it free this time, right? This is follow-up service.’

‘No.’

Assorted insults.

This was a customer I wasn’t anxious to please anyway, but even if it had been someone I liked, the answer would have been the same.

It would be like someone driving thier car into a tree, taking it to the panel beater and getting it repaired, then driving into the same tree again and demanding the panel beater fix it free the second time.

And it comes down to the same thing – people not taking responsibility for their actions.

It is a disease our governments encourage.

I am starting to feel something akin to outrage at the way Kangaroo Island’s doctors continue to hold medical services on the island to ransom.

See my earlier post for more details about the background.

Briefly, after a long period of negotiation between government and doctors’ organisations, a contract was offered to rural doctors under which they would provide medical services through local hospitals.

Doctors were under no pressure to accept the contract. If individual doctors or practices believed they could not take responsibility for providing the specified services, or that the remuneration offered was insufficient, they could decline CHSA’s offer.

Country Health SA would still have a responsibility to provide those services, and would then need to set up their own clinics, or supply visiting doctors. Obviously, local GPs would hardly then be in a position to complain about unfair competition!

The contract was designed to provide consistent services in rural and remote SA, at a fair cost to the taxpayer, and with fair remuneration to local GPs.

The Rural Doctors Association of SA recommended doctors accept the contract, although not perfect, as the best possible outcome for a first attempt at a uniform contract.

Although some practitioners believed that the amount offered as an on call allowance was inadequate to cover the costs of disruption to practice, the vast majority of doctors accepted the contract, knowing that it was essentially a ‘trial run’ that would only last for eighteen months, while further fine tuning was done.

The amount of the on call allowance is $135,000 per annum, or approximately $370 per day. It is the highest rate of on call allowance paid to doctors in any state in Australia. It is a payment simply for being available. If a doctor is actually called out to the hospital both travelling allowances and normal fee for service rates are paid.

Doctors on KI have said they are willing to accept the contract except for the on call services, or that they will agree to provide those services if more money is offered.

CHSA has said said right from the beginning that neither of these are options. One of the reasons for the negotiation of a new contract was to break the old system which was inconsistent, unfair to taxpayers and the majority of rural doctors, and frequently offered higher pay to doctors in monopoly practices for no other reason than that they were willing to blackmail the health department by refusing to provide services until their pay demands were met.

Everyone agreed that this was unfair and had to change. Again, see my previous post for more detail on this. It would simply be wrong for CHSA to agree to a special deal for KI doctors. There is nothing to justify treating KI as different from any other remote SA community.

Sadly, despite the fact that CHSA has been perfectly consistent in its message, KI doctors continue to represent themselves as victims of some sort of government conspiracy.

Claims are made that CHSA has acted in bad faith. It hasn’t. That locums have provided sub standard services. They haven’t. That CHSA has issued threats. It hasn’t.

What CHSA has said is that doctors are free to accept the contract or not. If they do not, then those services have to be provided in some other way.

I am pleased to see that CHSA has finally bitten the bullet on this.

After nearly a year of waiting, discussions, and disruption to local medical services, they have given doctors a deadline, the 12th of November, by which the contract must be signed. If doctors do not agree, then CHSA will begin to consider other means by which services may be provided.

The doctors will say that the island doesn’t need this, and doesn’t need another clinic. That is debatable. What is not debatable is that the people of Kangaroo Island have a right to reliable medical services.

If local doctors choose not to provide those services, they can hardly complain when Health SA does.

Darn good advice.

From The Mercury:

A well known Hobart psychologist has got some advice for those people still consumed with grief for Packed to the Rafters character Mel Rafter – get real.

Dr Harry Stanton said people still feeling sad over the TV death were likely to be bored with their own lives, and therefore identifying with people who are more exciting even if they are not real.

 So basically – ‘Get a life.’

It sounds a bit harsh, but the opposite (which is the more common practice), of encouraging people to think about their feelings, to go over what has upset them, and worst of all ‘to try to remember’ past traumatic incidents, does more harm than good.

If you are feeling down, get some sunshine, go for a walk, do something nice for your neighbour. You may not have a choice about how you feel, but you always have a choice about what you do about it.

It was perfectly innocent. It was.

I was in a shop in Kingscote (where my shop is, just by the way, on Dauncey St, opposite the cafe/newsagency) and the lady behind the counter asked me to sign a petition for state funds to build a skate park in town.

I said no. Well, what I actually said was that I was happy to, but I would wait until local young people had done some work, and raised a reasonable part of the cost.

The woman almost turned purple. ‘B, b, but the kids have nothing to do. They need this.’

Neither of those things is true. There is plenty to do on Kangaroo Island, including active sporting clubs of almost every description. There are several different art groups, a drama club, a writers’ group, craft groups, walking and hunting clubs, etc, etc. And even if those facilities did not exist, young people hardly ‘need’ a skate park.

But if they want one, I am more than happy to support them by signing a petition, writing letters, making a donation, even coming and helping to build it, as I did for the playground at American River.

But why should I put time and money into it, or ask other tax payers to do so, if the people who will benefit won’t?

Just read the last line of this obituary. I guess every little helps.

Bob sounds like he was a great guy, and I hope his family is going OK.

I ended my post featuring Morgan Freeman with the suggestion: ‘if you don’t think race should make a difference, stop acting like race makes a difference.’

So I was interested to read in Qantas’ in flight magazine about how jolly well some of those indigenous football players are doing.

Qantas even has a program to help them along, poor dears. Because, you know, of the extra help they need.

The whole tenor of the article was ‘Oh. you’re black, and you’re good at something. Gosh. Well done!’

This is a perfect example of Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls ‘the racism of low expectations.’

It is promoted by race relations commissioners, social workers and the media. It is applied to Australia’s indigenous peoples and to non-white immigrants.

It is insidious, insulting and destructive.

I saw a bumper sticker this morning that said ‘Free Tibet.’

I thought, ‘Well, I’ll have it if no one else wants it.’

It was like being back on Ansett.

On Tuesday Kathy and I travelled from American River to Geraldton.

it was a long day. Drive from American River to Penneshaw. Ferry to Cape Jervis. Drive to Adelaide. Fly to Perth. That was with Qantas, and it was OK. One of the lunch choices was chicken korma. That might have been a mistake. It was a bit smelly, in a stinky sort of way. And the elderly lady behind me kept swearing at her husband. But otherwise the flight was fine. Check-in staff were helpful, cabin staff were polite.

The flight from Perth to Geraldton was a different matter.

The young woman at the check-in counter looked and sounded as if she had several better things to do than check in passengers.

She barely spoke, other than to ask for ID, which we already had open for her.

She did manage ‘There you go’ as she dropped the boarding passes on the counter.

I asked which gate we were boarding from. ‘Just look at the screen’ she advised.

‘OK. Thanks. And where do we go from here?’ I said, not being familiar with the airport.

‘Just go through security.’

‘And which way is that?’

This was met with a deep sigh, as if passengers who did not know the airport were an appalling trial which no staff member should be expected to tolerate.

‘To your left. Look. Just go through security.’

Going through the gate, the staff who boarded guests were more interested in talking to one another than assisting passengers. You could have strolled onto the plane with a dozen sticks of dynamite wrapped around your head and the conversation would still have been about what Gerald and Tiffany did on their date last night.

We found our way across the tarmac to the plane, through a labyrinth of barricades and an occasional staff member staring into space.

The first thing that struck me when I got on the plane was the smell of urine. The toilet was near the door and smelled as if it had not been emptied any time in 2009.

I showed the stewardess my boarding pass. She looked at it as if it was a used tampon. ‘H8’ she said. Was this the standard greeting on Sky West? Or had she mistaken me for a member of some secret society like the Seven Dials?

Actually, I didn’t wonder either of those things. I had looked at my boarding pass when I was trying to work out which gate I needed to go to.

I knew H8 was my seat number. I didn’t need anyone to glare disdainfully and growl it back to me. Perhaps a ‘Good afternoon, welcome to Sky West’ or even ‘Hi, two thirds of the way down on the left’ would have been appropriate.

Then dinner arrived. There was no choice, but hey, it was food. Well, sort of.

It looked like Chicken Caesar salad. ‘Looked like’ was as close it got.

The chicken was a gluey concoction, apparently made of gristle mixed with chicken flavouring, and a streak of brown paint to make it looked as if the glue and gristle had been grilled.

There were soggy croutons, and wilted lettuce, and ‘Caesar Dressing’ in a little plastic pouch. And a stale bread roll.

I rarely drink on flights, but consoled myself with a mid strength beer.

There was a 1 inch by a half inch bar of Cadbury chocolate in the dinner box.

That was nice.

And our bags arrived in Geraldton at the same time we did. So I guess it wasn’t all bad.

I have a number of friends who are members of The Voice of the Laity, an organisation of lay people in the Anglican Diocese of The Murray.

Their website was recently hijacked. They have started a new website at murraydiocese.org

The contents are an older copy of the original website, so some updating needs to be done, but it is still interesting reading.

The situation in relation to the leadership of the Bishop of The Murray is complicated by two factors – one legal and one political.

The legal complication is that each diocese within the Anglican Church of Australia is a separate incorporated body.

The Primate or Archbishop can ask for an enquiry or tribunal into a diocesan bishop’s behaviour, but the bishop concerned is under no legal obligation to co-operate with any such enquiry, nor is he obliged to act in accordance with any recommendations such an enquiry may make.

In the case of the Diocese of The Murray, the Diocesan Council has already passed a vote of no confidence in the bishop. This was ignored.

The Bishop has indicated he will not co-operate with an enquiry, and that he will not comply with recommendations made by any tribunal.

In these circumstances the only purpose of an enquiry into his behaviour as bishop, or a tribunal to consider whether he has acted in ways which are scandalous or bring the church into ill-repute, is to give the Synod of the Diocese, or Diocesan Council, which is Synod’s standing committee, a clear and legally defensible reason for ending his employment, and the courage to do so.

The political complication is that there have also been moves in the Diocese of Ballarat to force an enquiry and tribunal into the behaviour of Bishop Michael Hough.

Enquiries and tribunals are expensive, time-consuming and embarassing.

But the real difficulty for the Primate and for the Archbishops of Adelaide and Melbourne is that the Dioceses of Ballarat and The Murray are the last two traditionalist Anglo-catholic dioceses in the country. Starting tribunals into both bishops at the same time may look like persecution by a large liberal power group of a small, unpopular and largeless voiceless minority.

The traditionalist minority in the Anglican Church of Australia (I am part of this minority) has been quick to claim persecution, and quick to demonise its liberal opponents. It is possible, even likely, that claims of theologically based persecution would be made in the media if tribunals were called into both bishops.

It would not be persecution. For the sake of the complainants, the persons complained of, and the wider church and community, allegations of abuse of any kind need to be promptly, carefully and impartially investigated.

I am not suggesting there is any parity between the situation in Ballarat and in The Murray. I have little knowledge of allegations made against Bishop Hough, and have deliberately distanced myself from events in The Murray.

From publicly available information and news reports, it appears the complaints in The Murray are largely from lay people, with some 200 written complaints made to the Archbishop over the course of Bishop Davies’ ministry, and nearly 100 statutory declarations made in support of a tribunal, the declarations alleging various kinds of verbal, spiritual and emotional abuse.

In Ballarat, the move for a tribunal seems to have come largely from a group of disaffected clergy.

In both cases answers and closure are needed.

But I seriously doubt it.

Six male members of the Mohler family in Missouri have been charged with various sexual offences after being accused of raping and sodomising a group of children over many years.

Such things do happen.

But in this case, the accusations rested initially on ‘recovered memories.’ In other words, likely fantasies.

I have seen people severely psychologically damaged after being told by therapists that people with eating disorders (depression, forgetfulness, diffculty sleeping, etc, etc) have often suffered sexual abuse as children, and that if the client does not remember being abused he or she (usually she) probably was anyway, and should try to recover those memories, and that doing so will help her find the cause of her illness, and then recover.

Rubbish.

The only things we know for certain about ‘recovered memory therapy’ is that the memories recovered rarely have any basis in reality, and that the longer a client stays in such ‘therapy’ the worse his or her mental health will become, for example:

Suicidal ideation or attempts by patients increased by a factor of 6.7 during therapy, from 10% to 67%.

Hospitalization of patients increased by a factor of 5.5 during therapy, from 7% to 37%.

Self-mutilation increased by a factor of 8, from 3% to 27%.

Other people have since come forward to support the first complainant’s story in the Mohler case. They have told stories which, if true, would be able to be confirmed by clear physical evidence.

But so far, despite a week of intensive searching around the Mohler house and yard, no phyiscal evidence has been found.

The police must investigate, of course. But the media focus on this story has all the hallmarks of Salem type, Azaria Chamberlain type, witch hunt hysteria.

The Parents’ Jury, whoever the heck they are, take a shot at McDonalds in dishing out their inaugural Fame and Shame Awards.

McDonalds won the Techno Hack category for their Maths Online programme – a free (and very good) online maths tuition available at no charge to every Australian teacher and student. Well, we certainly don’t want businesses providing high quality educational resources to just anyone, now do we?

McDonalds won the Pester Power award for Happy Meal ads which showed kids actually, you know, being happy and active and stuff. Well, we certainly don’t want businesses encouraging children to be happy and active, now do we?

McDonalds won the Bad Sport category for its sponsorship of Little Athletics. Darn those McDonalds restaurants for encouraging children to participate in athletics. What devious plans will they come up with next?

I assume that all this vitriol is based on the idea that McDonalds sells unhealthy food and therefore anything they do is evil.

But there are all sorts of healthy choices at McDonalds, which is also one of Australia’s leading employers of young people.

The Parents Jury (which seems to have no idea of the proper use of apostrophes) needs to get a life.

Christopher Booker summarises the arguments of his new book: The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is the Obsession with “Climate Chanage” Turning Out to Be the Most Costly Scientific Blunder in History?

Long title, but the answer is almost certainly yes. The cost in human life of the greenies’ DDT ban is in the tens of millions. But our obesession with non-existent global warming could end up costing even more.

This graph from Lord Monckton’s presentation helps to explain why. Cheap energy has brought much of world out of poverty, reducing infant mortality, extending life. Denying that cheap fuel to developing nations willl ensure they continue to suffer from starvation and from diseases now virtually unknown in the West.

Infant Mortality Correlated With Energy Use

Infant Mortality Correlated With Energy Use

Bernard Baruch said ‘Every man has a right to be wrong in his opinions. But no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.’

Global warming hysteria is not morally neutral. The people who believe and promote it may be ‘Not evil just wrong,’ but that won’t stop their policies from deepening poverty and suffering.

Ban Ki Moon and the IPCC need to get out of their airplanes and offices, and start talking to real scientists, and looking at that is happening in the real world. Arctic ice is not melting disastrously, for example.

According to Roy Spencer, AGW has all the hallmarks of an urban legend.

One of my best friends is a highly intelligent and capable woman who has raised four lovely daughters, run a successful business, and is a respected teacher whose students have produced consistently good results.

This will be her last year of teaching. She just does not have the energy to struggle every day with children who are rude, have no interest in learning, and for whom everything is boring. Of course it is they who are boring, because they have no interests, no skills, no informed opinions to share.

My friend is also dismayed by the level of verbal and physical abuse directed at staff and other students, and by the inability or unwillingness of Education department staff and politicians to recognise the problem, and to put reasonable structures in place to encourage learning, or even to ensure schools are safe places to work and learn.

The always interesting Boris Johnson makes a case for greater support for teachers, and more meaningful (though not necessarily corporal) discipline policies and processes.

It’s not my fault I’m a drunk, a womaniser and a liar, says Carey in his book The Truth Hurts – my Dad was mean to me.

Well maybe. Dad says otherwise of course.

This reminds me of the old saw about what a patient learned in therapy: I am responsible for all my own decisions, and everything bad that has happened in my life is my parents’ fault.

I’m inclined to believe the abuse stories. But for heaven’s sake, Carey is no longer a child.

Our background certainly influences our feelings and perceptions. But we still make choices about our behaviour. We still know what is right and what is wrong. Having sex with your best friend’s wife is wrong. Treating people as objects to be used is wrong. Lying to people who trust you and rely on you is wrong.

Shouting about it in the media a few years later to make yourself look better isn’t exactly kind or considerate either.