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Some thought starters from Ben Peter Terpstra’s blog Weekend Libertarian:

1. Government schools aren’t necessarily public schools. BP quotes from an article by John Stossel:

Politicians claim that education and health care are different — too important to leave to market competition. Patients and parents aren’t real consumers because they don’t have the expertise to know which hospital or school is best. That’s why they must be centrally planned by government “experts.”

They should be called government or union schools, because those are the two groups whose interests come first, and in whose ideas and values your children will be inculcated, rather than those of ordinary people – the public.

More from John Stossel:

Teachers’ hourly wages exceed what most architects, accountants and nurses make.   (Unions and government) .. constantly demand more money, but tripling spending and vastly increasing the ratio of staff to student have brought no improvement.

They claim that public education is “the great equalizer.” Rich and poor and different races mix and learn together. It’s a beautiful concept. But it is a lie. Rich parents buy homes in neighborhoods with better schools.   As a result, public — I mean, government — schools are now more racially segregated than private schools. One survey found that public schools were significantly more likely to be almost entirely white or entirely minority. Another found that at private schools, students of different races were more likely to sit together.

James Tooley spends most of his time in the poorest parts of Africa, India and China. Those countries copied America’s “free public education,” and Tooley wanted to see how that’s worked out. What he learned is that in India and China, where kids outperform American kids on tests, it’s not because they attend the government’s free schools.

Government schools are horrible. So even in the worst slums, parents try to send their kids to private, for-profit schools.   How can the world’s poorest people afford tuition? And why would they pay for what their governments offer for free?

Tooley says parents with meager resources still sacrifice to send their kids to private schools because the private owner does something that’s virtually impossible in government schools: replace teachers who do not teach. Government teachers in India and Africa have jobs for life, just like American teachers. Many sleep on the job. Some don’t even show up for work.   As a result, says Tooley, “the majority of (poor) schoolchildren are in private school.” Even small villages have as many as six private schools, “and these schools outperform government schools at a fraction of the teacher cost.”

It has never been clear to me why government needs to be involved in the delivery of medical and educational services at all, except perhaps in very small or remote communities. They don’t do a very good job of either.

2. On the religion of organic food. Quoting from an article by David Leyonhjelm in The Land:

It is assumed that organic food is free of pesticides. In fact, certain pesticides are permitted under the various organic codes and many organically grown plants produce endogenous pesticides that are chemically similar to man-made pesticides. And there are also occasional organic farmers who are forced to apply pesticides to save their crops. Not surprisingly, they don’t talk about that much.

It is assumed that organic production is better for the environment. That this is false is shown by the approach to controlling weeds. A conventional farmer will use herbicides to kill weeds and avoid disturbing the soil to conserve moisture, minimise erosion and preserve topsoil organic matter. Organic farmers are not permitted to use herbicides, so they have to use cultivation.

I remember reading somewhere that while ‘organic’ food constitutes about 5% of total food supply in the UK, it accounts for some 25% of food poisoning cases, because of the far higher incidence of highly allergenic mould and insect residues. It is all very well for cosy well-off Westerners to talk about the importance of being organic, but if everyone did as they asked, half the world would starve. Modern scientific agriculture, with its very carefully applied and non-toxic fertilisers and pesticides, allows high levels of productivity which provide affordable food for the majority of the world’s people. But I guess they don’t figure for the organophiles.

3.  On gay divorce and gay marriage; an article worth reading in full. A couple of sample paragraphs:

In the National Review, Charles C. W. Cooke writes, “In Norway, male same-sex marriages are 50 percent more likely to end in divorce than heterosexual marriages, and female same-sex marriages are an astonishing 167 percent more likely to be dissolved. In Sweden, the divorce risk for male-male partnerships is 50 percent higher than for heterosexual marriages, and the divorce risk for female partnerships is nearly double that for men.”

This is important to note, for many reasons, if one values children’s welfare. But first, and most obviously, it appears as though many gay-marriage activists don’t respect society’s time-honoured institution of marriage, period. After the honeymoon period, they fly. Within only years, many divorcing gays, in media-approved progressive nations are already beating broken straights to Splitsville.

The claim that high rates of infidelity, divorce and domestic abuse among homosexual couples don’t matter because those things happen in heterosexual relationships as well, is so dishonest as to be farcical. Rates of infidelity, violence and breakup are not just slightly higher in homosexual relationships; they are much higher. It is monstrously wrong to refuse to consider this when placing children for adoption.

Just one little note on marriage breakup. It is sometimes claimed that 50% of all marriages now end in divorce. This is (almost) true. But it is also highly misleading. Only (only! – still far too high!) one quarter to one fifth of marriages between previously unmarried heterosexual partners will end in divorce. If you and your spouse have never been married before, the chances are very good that you will be together for life. The overall figures for divorce are dragged into disproportion by serial divorcers – those who divorce and remarry more than twice.

Via John Ray’s Political Correctness Watch:

Why should we in Australia care? Well, many of us have friends and family in Europe. That is reason enough. Many of us also care about reason and democracy.

Another key reason is that Europe is China’s biggest market. If the Euro collapses, as now seems almost inevitable, Europe’s buying power will also collapse. China’s exports will crash, and China will stop buying Australian coal and iron ore. Australia not in good financial straits now, thanks to the most incompetent government in its history. It will soon be worse, thanks to the EU.

I had a very odd message on my home phone tonight from someone with a Scottish accent, I think. I couldn’t tell whether it was fake or genuine, and I couldn’t make out exactly what he was saying.

It sounded like he was ringing about his sister. I had, I think he was saying, linked to something that said something about her she didn’t like, and he wanted the link removed. But he didn’t say who she was or what the post was.

If whoever it was is reading this, please leave a comment on the post you were talking about, tell me what concerns you about it, and if what you are saying makes sense, I will probably do as you ask.

From the Daily Mail:

At 14, Britney Marshall is apparently going through something of a ‘funny phase’. She works hard at school and dreams of going to university one day. And if that isn’t strange enough, she has absolutely no desire to have breast implants. This disturbing state of affairs has left her mother Chantal, who had great hopes for her youngest child, wondering where she has gone wrong.

‘Britney is going through a funny phase at the moment and saying she doesn’t want to get her boobs done,’ said Mrs  Marshall, a 53-year-old mother of nine.

Britney, however, dreams of being the first in the family to go to university, making her way in business and travelling the world beyond the family home in Kirkby in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. ‘I’m too young to be thinking about having a boob job – I just want to work hard at school,’ she said.

Plainly, Britney is some sort of weirdo. Either that, or she is the only member of her family with a brain.

Here they all are:

’nuff said.

When I say bullying I don’t mean the annoying schoolboy who looks down on the other boys and finally gets a slap around the ear. That’s not bullying.

I don’t mean the girl who demands everyone do everything her way, and then finds that she is being excluded because no one will play with her. That’s not bullying.

Bullying is deliberately causing harm to others for the fun of it, or as a means of getting your own way.

Bullies do not bully because they are lonely, need attention, or have low self-esteem. Every reliable study shows that bullies have no problems with self-esteem. Bullies bully because they enjoy it.

Corporations can be bullies as easily as individuals.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my experience with the National Australia Bank.

We asked for a simple (but expensive for us) mistake to be fixed. Our request became a complaint, then a dispute.

There was only one response from the NAB to my blog post. It was a misleading comment, sent using a false name and fake email address. That pretty much exemplified the level of integrity in the bank’s interactions with us following our complaint.

The NAB has a bullying, if not sociopathic, corporate culture; a long standing attitude of disregard for the needs and rights of its customers.

Based on our experience, and that of many others (see my earlier post on this) no matter how many nice people you know at the NAB, sooner or later you will come up against the corporation, to your cost. I recommend choosing another bank. However, just because the NAB’s corporate culture is sociopathic does not mean everyone who works for the NAB is a bad person.

There are no nice people working for scam businesses like JBC Global, CFS-live, or ESL Trader.

I should add that there are genuine businesses with these or similar names. That is part of the scam. But none of the genuine businesses sell useless stock trading software. The stock trading software scammers JBC, CFS and ESL attempt to trade on the names and reputations of others, even claiming support by producing fake press releases in the name of people like Anthony Green, and other well-known financial sector personalities.

The people who run JBC, CFS and ESL are thieves, con men, sociopaths.

If you are a con artist, you are a sociopath. You cannot be willing to lie, to cheat people out of thousands of dollars of hard earned money and savings if you have any regard for the needs and feelings of others.

Confronting such people is dangerous, because sociopaths have no compunction about saying and doing things would not even occur to normal people. Like Anton Chigurh in Cormac McCarthy’s masterful ‘No Country for Old Men,’ they will happily destroy you and your family, just for inconveniencing them.

Nonetheless, stand up. We must. But take care.

First trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby:

Visually impressive, in the usual (except for the dire Australia) Luhrmann style.

It will be worth seeing, but it is not Gatsby.

The July New English Review is online.

A couple of highlights:

Geoffrey St John on why a nuclear Iran is a risk Israel cannot take.

The argument that Iran is justified in seeking nuclear weapons because it cannot trust the US or Israel seems to me to be utterly bizarre. The US has profited not one iota from its costly and painful interventions in Kuwait, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. It has tried to build peaceful stable societies, and has largely failed, because it is not possible to build a peaceful democratic society where people do not want a peaceful democratic society.

Israel has a history of responding successfully to attacks on its borders and people. It has no history of attempts to enlarge its borders, or of unprovoked attacks on anyone. As St John points out, that is not true of Iran, which already supplies weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas.

And contrasting but equally insightful articles by Theodore Dalrymple on Haydn and the relationship between talent and its fruits, and character:

The difference between the significance of the work and conduct is likely to increase with time, at least if the work survives the death of its author. If it were to be shown conclusively from impeccable sources that Shakespeare had been a villain all his life, it would hardly affect our estimation of his work at all. A man can be a sublime artist but an unattractive figure, and in the long run it is the former that counts.

And Mark Anthony Signorelli on the continuing impact of TS Eliot:

One of the most admirable causes taken up by Mr. Scruton over the years has been his crusade against the hideousness of modern architecture. In much of his work on this topic, he has argued persuasively that the totalitarian impulse which has deformed so much of modern politics manifests itself as well in the overbearing concrete structures of modernist architecture. That is to say, Mr. Scruton has recognized that in the case of modernist architecture, style is not philosophically neutral, but rather embodies a certain perspective and way of approaching the world. ..

This is also true of literature and music; character affects the work so deeply (how could it not!) that the work necessarily marks the reader, listener, watcher with that same character.

Matthew Walter’s review of Lucas’s Style, the Art of Writing Well makes the same point:

Lucas admiringly quotes Anatole France’s recipe for good style (“First, clarity; then again clarity; and, finally, clarity”), but it is not one that he endorses. Character, according to Lucas, is the true “foundation of style.” Why did Lancelot Andrewes, Dr. Johnson, and Jane Austen write better prose than, say, John Donne, Jonathan Swift, and George Meredith—consistently? Simply put, to their rivals and contemporaries, they were morally superior.

Here I think Lucas is correct. Certainly Lucas’s style—vigorous, free of cant, occasionally playful but never frivolous—seems to owe a great deal to his own admirable character.

I doubt whether Jane Austen was really morally superior to Jonathan Swift. She was inclined to a kind of smug judgementalism, as this excerpt from a letter to her sister Cassandra demonstrates:

I am proud to say that I have a very good eye at an adulteress, for though repeatedly assured that another in the same party was the She, I fixed upon the right one from the first. A resemblance to Mrs. L. was my guide. She is not so pretty as I expected; her face has the same defect of baldness as her sisters, and her features not so handsome; she was highly rouged, and looked rather quietly and contentedly silly than anything else.

But whether Swift or Austen was the more honourable, the purposes of art are truth and beauty. The expression of those things depends on the ability to identify them, and that ability depends on the artist’s depth of character; his commitment to truthfulness in all things.

The works of an artist who is also a liar, whether in commercial dealings, his relationships with women, or his politics, may be convenient for a time, but can never have lasting value.

The trouble is, we have all failed. We all fall short. This does not mean that none of our works have value. It does mean that if we want to better artists, we must first try to be better people.

Ray Evans & Tom Quirk have a comprehensive article on the folly and ruinous expense of so-called renewable energy in the current issue of Quadrant Magazine.

A few sample paragraphs:

The low-cost electricity we once enjoyed was obviously of great advantage to ordinary families, whose standard of living was thereby enhanced. But it was of greater importance to commercial and industrial consumers, who were able to offer goods and services at lower prices, and to employ more people. Cheap electricity is a major contributor to national prosperity and to economic diversity, and the increases in prices that have taken place, with more in the pipeline, will spread through the economy with continuing deleterious consequences. We will see the closure of industries which have relied on cheap electricity for their international competitiveness.

The mechanism through which electricity consumers pay greenmail to the owners of windmills and solar panels is the mandatory Renewable Energy Certificate, introduced by John Howard in his 2001 MRET legislation. As James Delingpole explained in the Australian on May 3, writing about the ghost town of Waterloo in South Australia (now depopulated by the impacts of the sub-audio frequency vibrations generated by the nearby wind farm), a 3-megawatt wind turbine, costing $6 million, will be lucky to generate electricity worth $150,000 in a year, but will receive $500,000 in RECs, paid for by the hapless electricity consumer.

The Commonwealth’s responsibility has been both direct—as in Howard’s MRET legislation of 2000 and Rudd’s legislation of 2010—and just as significantly indirect, as the continuing attack on coal, both under Howard12 and more recently under Rudd and Gillard, has made investment in new coal-fired power stations far too hazardous for private investors to contemplate. The MRET scheme, on its own, has led to so-called investments, mostly in South Australia but also in New South Wales, of at least $3 billion in wind farms. These wind farms are economically worthless13, in that their output is unpredictable and cannot be sold without government coercion. So the NEMMCO system operators who allocate output, on the basis of competitive bidding, to the generators for the next day, have to arrange for at least 90 per cent back-up for whatever wind-farm output is proposed by the owners. Because of the MRET legislation this output gazumps all other generators, as the coal and gas-fired generators have to purchase the RECs required by the Act.

Solar panels are much worse than wind-farms. They are at least four to five times as costly as coal-fired power. They only operate when the sun shines. They are a mechanism for transferring large sums of money from poor families to rich families, who not only receive hugely inflated sums for electricity they feed into the grid, but who advertise their green piety with large solar installations on their roofs. These solar installations are rarely seen on modest homes; they are the green equivalent of the Mercedes in the driveway.

Now the Gillard government’s tax on energy production has come into effect, the impact of this madness will be multiplied. Every aspect of the Australian economy will be less competitive; primary industry, manufacturing, retailing and service industries.

This graphic from Andrew Bolt’s blog shows a doubling in the wholesale price of electricity in the two days since the carbon tax began:

Carbon Tax – Change in Wholesale Electricity Price

Does anyone really think a couple of hundred dollars in bribes is going to compensate for this? If you wanted to undermine an entire economy, you could hardly come up with a better plan.

This is economic terrorism, and Labor and the Greens are the suicide bombers.

Last November Herbert London wrote an article about Israel and just war theory. It is worth reading in full; it perfectly summarises the difference in the philosophies of Israel and its enemies.

A few paragraphs:

There were even times when the Israeli soldiers put their own lives at risk to avoid killing an innocent person. Time after time a known terrorist hiding behind “human shields” in an apartment complex was spared to avoid the death of people who were innocent. Rockets launched from a school roof remained untouched until children had left the premises. In the heat of battle Israeli forces maintained a level of moral behavior that was exemplary.

Many commentators on this subject point to an Arab boy of about fifteen crying as he approached a checkpoint. Soldiers on the scene went into high alert. It seemed clear that this distraught youngster was recruited to be a suicide bomber. One Israeli soldier, recognizing the boy’s agitation, called out to him, “Brother” in Arabic. He could not be sure when or whether the boy would set himself ablaze. Nonetheless, the IDF soldier continued to walk to the boy, took him in his arms and disarmed the explosive device around his waist — all the while knowing that often the Palestinians use a remote control device to explode suicide bombers. The episode also tells a great deal about the Israeli military psychology.

Arab attempts to paint a different picture of the IDF have been successful. Many in the Arab world see these well-trained and disciplined troops as amoral. That, however, is far from the truth. These Israeli eighteen and nineteen year olds are told from the first day of national service that they carry the banner of a civilization that puts a premium on life. Their job is to protect and defend. They are given a green light to kill only when other methods to stop an enemy fail.

At a training session for IDF entrants at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, teenagers drafted into military service discuss the roots of war, the conflict in the Middle East, the history of this new nation. But most significantly, they study just-war theory and a moral stance for fighting those who rely on terror methods. Of course, no system is foolproof; occasionally a soldier will act improperly. This, however, is the exception. Israel is in a daily struggle. After all, 250 million Arabs in 22 Arab and Muslim countries want to destroy this nation. But Israeli leaders do not modify their moral code one iota. As the commander of this training center noted, “If we altered our approach, what effect would it have on soldiers when they leave military service?” One fights not only to save a nation, but to save values.

This is about Obamacare, but much of it applies anywhere medical services are paid for by anyone but the end consumer, including Australia:

A magnificent homily from Pope Benedict XVI on Friday morning. A couple of paragraphs:

Christian tradition has always considered Saint Peter and Saint Paul to be inseparable: indeed, together, they represent the whole Gospel of Christ. In Rome, their bond as brothers in the faith came to acquire a particular significance. Indeed, the Christian community of this City considered them a kind of counterbalance to the mythical Romulus and Remus, the two brothers held to be the founders of Rome. A further parallel comes to mind, still on the theme of brothers: whereas the first biblical pair of brothers demonstrate the effects of sin, as Cain kills Abel, yet Peter and Paul, much as they differ from one another in human terms and notwithstanding the conflicts that arose in their relationship, illustrate a new way of being brothers, lived according to the Gospel, an authentic way made possible by the grace of Christ’s Gospel working within them. Only by following Jesus does one arrive at this new brotherhood: this is the first and fundamental message that today’s solemnity presents to each one of us, the importance of which is mirrored in the pursuit of full communion, so earnestly desired by the ecumenical Patriarch and the Bishop of Rome, as indeed by all Christians…

.. in today’s Gospel there emerges powerfully the clear promise made by Jesus: “the gates of the underworld”, that is, the forces of evil, will not prevail, “non praevalebunt”. One is reminded of the account of the call of the prophet Jeremiah, to whom the Lord said, when entrusting him with his mission: “Behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you!” (Jer 1:18-19). In truth, the promise that Jesus makes to Peter is even greater than those made to the prophets of old: they, indeed, were threatened only by human enemies, whereas Peter will have to be defended from the “gates of the underworld”, from the destructive power of evil. Jeremiah receives a promise that affects him as a person and his prophetic ministry; Peter receives assurances concerning the future of the Church, the new community founded by Jesus Christ, which extends to all of history, far beyond the personal existence of Peter himself…

In the light of these parallels, it appears clearly that the authority of loosing and binding consists in the power to remit sins. And this grace, which defuses the powers of chaos and evil, is at the heart of the Church’s ministry. The Church is not a community of the perfect, but a community of sinners, obliged to recognize their need for God’s love, their need to be purified through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sayings concerning the authority of Peter and the Apostles make it clear that God’s power is love, the love that shines forth from Calvary. Hence we can also understand why, in the Gospel account, Peter’s confession of faith is immediately followed by the first prediction of the Passion: through his death, Jesus conquered the powers of the underworld, with his blood he poured out over the world an immense flood of mercy, which cleanses the whole of humanity in its healing waters.

And from the entrance procession at that morning’s Mass:

The Westminster Abbey and Sistine Chapel Choirs together. Sound quality in this clip is not very good, sadly, but the voices are wonderful.

Sensible and well-spoken as always:

Traffic light tendency: greens who are too yellow to admit they are red. Wonderful!

I discriminate every day.

When buying products for the shop I discriminate against products which are poorly made or over-priced. I discriminate against suppliers who do not have items in stock when they say they do, or who charge too much for delivery, or don’t respond to questions.

I do the same when at the supermarket or liquor store. I discriminate. I choose based on my perception of differences between products. I do it every day.

Social welfare organisations also discriminate. They have to.

Several years ago I was a member of Synod in the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane. Legislation was introduced which would enable to provision of welfare services to particular groups. There was a page listing the ways in which those groups and individuals would be identified. In other words, how services would be offered in a discriminating way, so as to target people most in need. Then at the end was the assertion that all services would be provided without discrimination.

I objected to that on the basis that the entire preceding page set out the kinds of discrimination that would be used to target services. The Church is supposed to be about the truth, always and everywhere. It was doublespeak to set out at length what kinds of discrimination would be employed, and immediately after to say “all services will be provided without discrimination.”

They couldn’t even say “without discrimination on the basis of race or gender,” because some services were to be offered to refugees, to women, to aboriginal people. So why say “without discrimination” at all, except to appear righteous, pious, etc?

Of course, I was howled down. “We can’t discriminate!”

“But the whole preceding section sets out the ways in which you intend to discriminate.”

“No it doesn’t.”

It was a bit like this:

John Stossel writes in praise of discrimination when it comes to health insurance.

I have never had car insurance. I have been driving for over thirty years; cars, tractors, trucks, motor cycles. I have never had an accident. Motor vehicle insurance is a scheme designed to allow bad drivers to be subsidised by good ones.

Insurance only makes sense when you have no control over the level of risk. In every other circumstance, insurance will always be the careful and responsible subsidising the careless and lazy.

Health insurance is a perfect example. It is a scheme designed to allow the fat and lazy, smokers and heavy drinkers, the sex addled and gluttonous to be subsidised by people who make choices which lead to better health.

I have never smoked. I have a couple of drinks most nights, never more. I am approximately the right weight for my height. I run or walk every day. I look after my teeth. I have only been in hospital once, for one night. It makes far more sense for me to put aside a little money for health care on a regular basis than to put money into a collective in which I not only pay for the foolish choices others make, but also for the bureaucracy that supports them.

Other people have the right to make whatever choices they want. If they want to chain smoke, have casual sex and live on chocolate and beer, well, more joy to them. But I don’t see why I should have to pay for the consequences of those choices. Of course, if they had to pay for the consequences of their choices, they might choose differently.

Until then, until someone offers health insurance specifically for people who don’t make those choices, and which doesn’t offer expensive non-therapies like chiropractic, homeopathy and reiki, I’ll just look after myself.

Is that discriminatory? You bet.

Michael Coren on MRC TV:

To pick just one Islamic Brotherhood lie, take “Copts are not real Egyptians.” The word “copt” is the “gypt” in Egypt. The Copts are the original Egyptians. Like the Jews in Israel, they are told by Hamas, the Islamic Brotherhood, the New York Times and other fellow travellers that they have no place in their own land.

That lie is used to portray them as invaders or parasites, so violence towards them becomes OK.

Lies can be powerful weapons.

From James Delingpole:

Here we are in a world turned so ignorant, self-hating and wrong that not just thwarted lefty journalists but a host of celebrities too actually believe that there is some merit in the argument that a failing left-wing media organisation should be permitted by some special charter arrangement to go on spewing drivel regardless of the bottom line or who owns the business or whether the readership gives a damn anyway. 

In a letter to Fairfax’s Melbourne newspaper, The Age, a range of prominent Australians including Malcolm Fraser, the former prime minister, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Peter Doherty and the actor Geoffrey Rush today urged the Fairfax board not to abandon the charter.

The fact that we live in this World of Stupid is precisely what makes Gina Rinehart’s move on Fairfax both so heroic and so very necessary. It’s heroic because so few business people put their money where their mouth is these days, never championing free markets when they can do better via cosy regulatory stitch-ups with big government instead. And it’s very necessary because, as I argued yesterday and will no doubt many times again, the world economy is on the brink of a precipice.

The things that have brought us to the edge of that precipice are the things that Gina Rinehart has spent her business career opposing: over-regulation; destructively high taxes; bureaucracy; government meddling; and insane overspending by the state.   Gina Rinehart is doing what all business people should be doing, but which so few of them are. She is sticking up for the free market system which is the only way we’re all going to get of this mess in one piece.

Gina Rinehart is a totally bloody heroine – and Australia should count itself very lucky to have her. As should those wretched ingrates at Fairfax Media.

James also has some nice things to say about Australian coffee.