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For their communities, for those who are lost, for the dead and dying, for courage in the days ahead:

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and bring them the joy of your salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The devastation caused by one of the most powerful earthquakes in the last century is horrifying:

Japan Earthquake - Before and After

The death toll is expected to exceed 10,000. Many more are still missing.

The Japanese are a brave and resourceful people. They will rebuild.

They have been our trading partners, friends and allies for the last fifty years. We owe them whatever help we can give.

That might begin with honesty in reporting.

Ten thousand dead, massive devastation, and the ABC TV news led off last night with a story suggesting a nuclear explosion. There was no ‘nuclear explosion.’

The two plants at Fukushima shut down automatically and successfully following the earthquake. The dramatic looking explosion was was caused by steam expansion.

Drastic measures were taken to keep the reactors cool following the quake, and the tsunami which flooded the backup diesel generators. Minimal radioactivity (not much above normal background levels) has been released. The Fukushima reactors have three levels of containment, the third of which is designed and tested to contain even a core meltdown.

To be instigating a panic about this, or demanding urgent answers and updates, as Foreign Minister Rudd has been doing, is to show an appalling disregard and disprespect for the people of Japan.

A bit like like coming across a major car accident in which several people have been killed, others seriously injured, and then demanding that one of the victims do something about the stain you got on your pants getting out of your Rover.

If any lesson at all can be taken from the experience of the Fukushima reactors, it is that nuclear power is extraordinarily safe.

These are older reactors. Safety and containment has improved dramatically since they were built. They survived a massive earthquake, following which their backup power generators were flooded by a tsunami. Yet their containment procedures worked, and virtually no radiation was leaked.

So please, Mr Rudd and media organisations, stop the grandstanding, and get on with the job of honest reporting and helping our friends in their time of need.

There is one of these on just about every conceivable subject. A few are clever and amusing. This is one.

Carbon Tax Downfall:

A selection from some patient and thoughtful replies by Mark Shea to an enquirer at his blog Catholic and Enjoying It!:

1. Do you believe women should be ordained into the Catholic priesthood?
The question is not whether they should be, but whether they can be. And the Church has already given its answer: She lacks the authority to do that in the sacrament of Holy Orders, just as she lacks the authority to consecrate chocolate eclairs and milk (which I would much prefer) in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

The faith is not the private property of the Pope which he is free to alter on a whim. Jesus and the apostles never ordained women, just as they never baptised in olive oil or wine (though they do use these elements in other sacraments). We can’t improve on what they handed down.

7. Is Catholicism a repressive religion?
No. Catholicism is the most joyfully liberating thing I have ever encountered. The repression lies in a culture that constantly tells you what you may and may not think, say, and do. My culture tries to squeeze me into a box everyday. Standing alone against all the parties, shibboleths, tribes and code words is one thing: the Catholic faith which, as Chesterton says, alone can save you from the degrading slavery of being a child of your age and which, by the way, is the only thing that can get rid of my sins.

If anything, what really terrifies most postmoderns about the Catholic Church is that her intellectual subtlety and freedom of thought is too terrifying for those who are only comfortable with slogans, catch phrases and simplistic labels.

8. Do you believe that the Church eventually accept homosexuality due to society’s acceptance of the act?
If by “the act” you mean homogenital sex, then no: the Church will never accept it because it is unnatural, contrary to nature, and cannot be reconciled with Scripture or tradition.

If by “homosexual” you mean the homosexual person who feels desires that are intrinsically disordered, then the answer is that the Church always has and always will accept such persons, just as she accepts persons like me, who likewise feel disordered desires in the area of another bodily appetite: eating.

The problem is not that homosexuals feel disordered desires. The problem is when the person with disordered desires demands that the Church and the world pretend those desires are not disordered.

Just found this quote, and thought it was worth sharing.

We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days.  But so said all before us, and with just as much apparent reason …  On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?

 Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Tim Wilson has a delightful piece at The Punch, cross-posted at the IPA, which explores a day in the life of Carbon Bob.

Bob’s a model citizen and busy man trying to save the world from the hundreds of big bad carbon polluters required by law to report their environmental vandalism to the government.

Tim’s article shows just how much of our ordinary daily life depends on the productivity of the ‘carbon polluters,’ how much of our economy would be undermined by a carbon tax, and the sheer hypocrisy of those who campaign for carbon reduction while swanning around the world in business class chewing nuts and drinking pinot noir.

We have a bit of a mouse plague on Kangaroo Island at the moment.

I caught four last night – three with traditional traps, and one by hurling the cat in its general direction.

But after reading this story from the New York Times, I have been expecting an unwelcome knock on the door:

The trouble began, Theresa Smith said, shortly after she bought a hamster for her 9-year-old son. A few months later, the hamster, Princess Stephanie, was playing in its exercise ball on the floor of their apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, when an older son, who is 25, flew into a rage.

“He kicked it deliberately, the ball flew across the room, the hamster flew out of the ball, and it died,” Ms. Smith said. After he had calmed down, the older son felt terrible, she said.

“He was very remorseful,” Ms. Smith said. “He bought my son three more hamsters.”

This act of contrition, however, only angered Ms. Smith’s daughter Monique, Theresa Smith said. Monique picked up the biggest of the three hamsters, Sweetie, “took it out of the cage, and she slammed it on the floor,” Theresa Smith said. “It died on impact.”

This was on June 7, 2010. Tuesday night at 7, after a nine-month hunt for a suspect they described as evasive and uncooperative, law enforcement agents from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals arrested Monique Smith, 19, along Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick.

She was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals — a felony that carries a sentence of up to two years in prison — along with two misdemeanors, torturing animals and endangering the welfare of a child.

A nine month hunt. By ‘law enforcement agents.’ For someone who killed a rodent. Quickly and painlessly.

Clearly, gratuitous hamster killing is not something to be encouraged. But a nine month hunt ending a in a felony charge and possible two year jail sentence?

Monique and her brother have some issues, but so do the ‘law enforcement agents.’ And theirs are a lot more worrying.

Via Riehl World View.

I guess most people have noticed that pharmacies seem to be expanding the range of their stock to include jewelry, perfume, lollies, etc.

It seems redundant, but if it works for them, why not?

But the core of their business is health related products, and most fundamentally, the dispensing of prescription medications.

Pharmacists are well trained, and have a high degree of credibility. Not unreasonably, they take advantage of this, and their advertising suggests that one good reason to buy goods from a pharmacy that could be bought elsewhere is the quality of advice available.

But Choice Magazine has pointed out that a large number of pharmacies also sell products which do not do what they say they will. These include anti-snor rings, herbal weight loss programmes, plastic ‘power’ bracelets and homeopathic remedies.

Pharmacists should know better. Offering this kind of quackery is a betrayal of their customers’ trust.

“There is an onus on pharmacies to sell products that work and for pharmacists to stand by the safety and effectiveness of products in their store,” said CHOICE spokeswoman Ingrid Just.

“Pharmacists hold a four year specialist degree in chemistry, and consumers rely on their expert advice.”

The sale of non-pharmaceutical products was not an issue, she said, where items for sale did not have a therapeutic of health claim attached to them.

“But when it comes to health products, they should stick to selling ones that are safe, effective and supported by scientific and clinical evidence,” Ms Just said.

The CHOICE probe also asked pharmacists about the efficacy of certain products and some offered “insightful, medically sound advice when asked.” Others were “indifferent or who gave advice on quack products with no scientific or medical basis”.

 Ms Just said the problem was consumers could find themselves out of pocket, and with no relief for the problem they are seeking help for.

“When products don’t work the consumer may not only have wasted their money, they may have also delayed the opportunity to seek more appropriate treatment,” she said.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia agrees.

That’s reassuring.

“Pharmacists take their professional responsibilities very seriously,” a guild spokesman told AAP.

Except that Choice has just found that a significant number of them don’t, at least to the extent of being willing to offer scientific sounding advice on products which have no value whatever.

“The guild agrees with CHOICE’s recommendation that the best course of action is to speak to the pharmacist about any new or novel product you’re considering, and ask for further information.”

No, the best course of action is for the Pharmacy Guild to advise its members that stocking quack products, no matter how profitable, damages the reputation and standing of all pharmacists.

And even more importantly, potentially damages the health of consumers who rely on their advice.

Via John Ray’s Australian Politics Blog

According to news.com.au:

Being born black in Australia is as much of a health risk as being a regular smoker or drastically overweight.

Many of us start planning a Friday night pub session, with alcohol, cigarettes and junk food… your lifestyle choices take years off your own life. And here is a sobering thought – Indigenous Australians face a similarly shortened life span even from birth.

What nonsense. Being aboriginal does not automatically make you unhealthy or shorten your lifespan.

The news.com story has an interactive thingy (which I couldn’t get to work) which purports to show how much fatty food and alcohol you would need to consume, and how many cigarettes you would need to smoke, to reduce your lifespan to that of the ‘average’ indigenous person.

They have unwittingly hit the nail on the head. It is not being born black, white or purple that makes you unhealthy. It is your lifestyle choices.

Incidentally, this is another argument against socialised medicine (in addition to inefficiency of service provision and the massive additional cost of the bureaucracy required to administer it). That is, as long as people know that someone else will pay if they get sick, there is less incentive to make positive choices about food, alcohol, smoking, exercise, etc.

Indigenous Australians are not less healthy because of the colour of their skin. Like everyone else, their health depends largely on the choices they make.

To suggest that this must be somone else’s fault, and therefore someone else’s responsibilty to fix, is effectively to claim that indigenous people are not able to make responsible choices about their own lives. That is racism.

It is also to condemn them to continuing, paralysing, victimhood.

At the moment, of course, many do not make responsible choices.

But the answer is not to pat them on the head and say ‘Oh dear, it’s all our fault, let us fix it for you.’

Nor is it to continue to spend vast amounts of money trying to repair damage already caused by those lifestyle choices:

COAG calculates $40,228 is spent on indigenous people per head of population compared with $18,351 for non-indigenous Australians.

That cost is for total services provided, not just health services. No one would mind this expenditure if it was making a difference. But it is not.

Nor is clear what can be done.

The welfare management system that applies to vulnerable people in the Northern Territory ensures that up to 50% of welfare payments is quarantined – set aside for use on essentials like food and clothing.

It is possible to get off the scheme by demonstrating you can manage your own affairs responsibly. More than 75% of the people who have been able to do this are white.

Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda says this shows the scheme is racist. Withdrawing or managing people’s benefits is ‘punishment’. What he says is needed is rewards, incentives, for people to send their children to school, to behave in ways that will help them stay healthy.

But for heaven’s sake. If people need to be promised rewards before they will send their children to school or stop using the grocery money on alcohol and gambling, then no government programme, and no amount of government spending, is going to affect health or educational outcomes.

Indigenous Australians taking responsibilty for their own choices will make a difference. Until that happens, nothing else will.

Oooh…!

That big scary Mr Garnaut has a big scary splash in the Daily Telegraph claiming that rising seas and increasing incidence of extreme weather events mean that Sydney will be swamped by the sea every year instead of every 100 years.

What is really scary (for Garnaut and Gillard) is that of 38 comments on that story as at time of writing, not one is supportive of Garnaut and the Carbon Tax.

Here are just a few:

Thanks Professor, for your thoughts. I accept without question your ‘global warming’, whoops sorry, I meant ‘climate change’ warnings. As soon as we introduce the carbon dioxide tax (on the air we breathe!) I am sure the oceans will take head and not inundate us any more!!!

Interesting report, from what is undoubtedly the Gillard government’s stooge, no science or data to back up the claims, yelling from the roof top that disaster is upon us unless we act now, confirming the Looney Lefts view on climate change and Labour calls Tony Abbott a fear merchant. I suspect we have a Chicken Little in our midst

Hell we are about to be flooded and the one of the biggest polluters America hasnt signed up to reduce emissions. Damn that, Julia was just over there giving speaches and she forgot to tell them.

Oh Puurrlleeese, enough already. The carbon tax is starting to bite into Labor’s stocks so in rides the White Knight (Professor Garnaut) on his White steed to save the day. The climate is going to change as long as we (the world) keep chopping down trees that breathe in Carbon Dioxide and breathe out Oxygen. So start talking honestly instead of this big Con of just trying to get more money off us.

And even if it were true, the carbon tax would not save us. The nonsense coming from these people just gets louder, shriller, and more bizarre…

 Exactly.

As I noted a few days ago, the only way a carbon price can have any affect on CO2 output is by reducing the use of fossil fuels.

It does this by making the use of those fuels more expensive. This increases the cost of electricity, of water (especially if that water come from a desalination plant), of manufacturing and mining, production of agricultural goods, transport and travel. A carbon tax increases the cost of everything, because everything in our economy depends on fossil fuels.

When the cost of production goes up, the price of the items produced goes up. People buy less, production goes down.

This is what the Prime Minister said would happen:

“It has price impacts. It’s meant to, that’s the whole point,” Ms Gillard said. “If you put a price on something, then people will use less of it.”

But now Simon Crean says money taken from CO2 emitting companies (ie, any company that produces anything) will be fed back into the economy in the form of compensation to consumers:

“The cost to the families will be compensated,” Mr Crean told ABC radio this morning.

“We have made that clear. We will ensure that the compensation is totally adequate. We will return all of the monies raised to people through the tax mechanism.”

So there won’t be price impacts, so people won’t be using less of anything, so there will be no reduction in CO2 output.

So what is the point? What is the Gillard government trying to achieve?

Ms Gillard also warned that Australia would miss out on new green jobs and be left behind the rest of the world if it did not create a “low carbon economy”.

But a paper released a few days ago by Verso Research confirms what other studies have shown – that every ‘green’ job created costs four jobs somewhere else.

The Verso study finds that after the annual diversion of some 330 million British pounds from the rest of the U.K. economy, the result has been the destruction of 3.7 jobs for every “green” job created.

The study concludes that the “policy to promote renewable energy in the U.K. has an opportunity cost of 10,000 direct jobs in 2009-10 and 1,200 jobs in Scotland.” So British taxpayers, as is the case here in the U.S., are being forced to subsidize a net loss of jobs in a struggling economy.

This is the grand plan: a huge bureaucracy to manage a tax to reduce carbon output that won’t reduce carbon output, and a green job scheme that will cause higher unemployment.

US Department of Justice statistics show that although they constitute only 1% of America’s population, Muslims have been responsible for 186 of 228 terror cases investigated since 9/11.

The Tamil Tigers and Columbian FARC are next with 32 cases between them.

And, no, of course we shouldn’t blame all Muslims for this. And we don’t. Despite scare stories about Islamophobia, Jews in the US are ten times more likely to be the victims of a hate crime than Muslims.

Why are Muslims in America and Australia so over-represented in terror related offences?

It is a question I would have thought moderate Muslims were as anxious to answer as the rest of us.

Yet the response to Republican Peter King’s investigation of the extent of radicalisation of American Muslims and the response of the Muslim community to this radicalisation has been protest rallies and personal attacks including death threats.

A little more from Rick Moran at Frontpagemag.com:

Why this has developed into such a wildly controversial matter says more about those who are threatening, smearing, and hysterically criticizing King than it does about radical Islam. When the left allies itself with extremist groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in order to wave the flag of political correctness in America’s face, you realize that the problem is bigger than simply rooting out extremism. The exaggerated, over-the-top, self-righteous posturing coming from media outlets like The New York Times bespeaks a refusal to face up to the challenge of radical Islam in America and how to combat it.

And if we’re not prepared to address the threat of extremism in our own country, how can we possibly fight it overseas?

Leftists and their Muslim grievance-monger allies are deliberately seeking to block efforts to discover the extent of the problem of terrorism by viciously attacking the New York congressman. They are opposing King in the name of some misguided belief that because terrorism comes from a specific religious group, we must blind ourselves to the danger, else we would be guilty of “bigotry.”

Canadian blogger Publius questions the priorities of government spending.

While refusing treatment for a 35 year old mother of two with cancer (cost $40,000), Canada manages to find $42,000 to fund extra classes in French for a dyslexic tax collector.

Here’s part of what he has to say:

These two stories are eloquent expressions – for those still paying attention – of the nature of modern Canada. Bilingualism in its current form, especially as it relates to employment policies in the federal government, is a continual act of appeasement toward Quebecois nationalism. Rather than being an attempt to promote a more bilingual Canada – which is an impracticality – official bilingualism was instead a covert form of pro-Francophone affirmative action.

Yet so central has this policy of appeasement become to our government that nothing is thought of paying a small fortune to educate a dyslexic paper shuffler in French. There is, of course, no practical reason for training this bureaucrat in another language. Unless we are to believe there is a shortage of Francophone tax collectors in Canada.

The myth of national unity through appeasement contrasts with the myth of socialized health care. We are told that a system of socialized medicine is more compassionate than private alternatives. There is nothing in the story of Jill Anzarut that suggests compassion. There is also no such thing as socialized health care. It is a polite euphemism for monopolistic and bureaucratic health care. The Medicare Cult’s defenders argue that the alternative to government care is a heartless free market, interested only in penny pinching and profit making. Does not, however, the actions of the Ministry of Health sound exactly like the caricature of a heartless corporate penny pincher?

In a free market Jill Anzarut would have had the choice to buy private health care insurance that provided coverage for the treatment being sought. Instead she – and the other twelve million residents of Ontario – have no choice in what OHIP will or will not cover.

On Monday March 7th Tim Blair alerted his readers to the work of blogger Alene Composta.

Andrew Bolt picked up the story the following day.

Alene’s writings were a mixture of demented rantings about current political debates, meditations on her state of mental health, and personal attacks on people who disagreed with her.

So naturally she was immediately invited by the ABC’s Unleashed editor Jonathon Green to write a guest post for ABC online. After less than a day, that post was removed from the ABC website. It is still viewable through Google’s cache.

Alene’s article is a wildly paranoid take on Sean Nicholl’s story in the Sydney Morning Herald about a single New South Wales Liberal (conservative) Party member’s description of the coming NSW election day as ‘moose day.’

Right from the start there was speculation on Tim Blair’s blog that Alene Composta was a hoax.

Yesterday Gavin Atkins noted that a commenter on Tim’s blog had found that Alene Composta’s publicity photo actually came from another blog with very few posts. The subject of the blog is Wartrol, a purported treatment for genital warts. It belongs to someone called Marian Roldans.

There really is a treatment called Wartrol. War troll? It sounds like Crikey and the ABC already. Also, it’s homeopathic so it doesn’t have any active ingredients, or do anything useful. Another similarity.

At very least, Alene Composta’s photo is a fake. Or Marian’s is. Or both. I suspect the latter.

Alene Composta is one of the best thought-out and most amusing hoaxes for a long time.

Alene is a Dutch name, incidentally, related to ‘alleen’ – ‘alone.’ It could also be Celtic, in which case it means a revealing light.

Roldans? Well, there is a basque story called Roldan’s Bugle-horn, which tells of a terrifying adventure and a horn which when blown causes rocks to break and mountains to catch fire.

And Composta? How did the ABC fall for that? She might as well have been called Ophelia Bullshit.

So, a Dutch name, manure, bugle-horns and genital warts? More than fairly played by Tim and Andrew, and well done!

Update:

JF Beck points out that Alene Composta is an anagram of ‘moose placenta.’

This just gets better and better.

I have a 700 word piece about the proposed National Curriculum on Quadrant Online.

I agree with Kevin Donnelly of the Educational Standards Institute that the National Curriculum is a fluffy and disconnected mess.

I suggest that this may in fact be a good thing, because it may encourage more parents and students to consider independent schools.

However, I note that even independent schools are required to implement the Curriculum as a condition of continued Commonwealth funding.

At first, this appears to be (and probably is) an attempt to limit the autonomy of independent schools, and the range of choices available to parents.

In some states, South Australia, for example, independent schools are already required to teach the State curriculum.

Yet independent schools in South Australia do offer real choice in teaching syles and content, because funding agreements cannot prevent them from teaching more than the approved curriculum requires.

Despite efforts to make them conform, independent schools around Australia will do the same.

Dallas Primary School in Broadmeadow, Victoria, went from well below national standards in the 2008 NAPLAN test to well above in 2010. How?

Former education department bureaucrat John Nelson said the Dallas results were ”gobsmacking”. Despite a large migrant population and low socio-economic status, year 3 students were reading, spelling and understanding grammar and punctuation at significantly higher levels than the national average for year 5 students. In grammar and punctuation, the school’s year 3 students outstripped its year 5 students, by a score of 596 to 522.

The students’ improvement from year 3 in 2008 to year 5 in 2010 was enormous, putting year 5 students at near year 8 levels.

 But:

In the 2010 test last May, only 74 per cent of Dallas Primary students sat the test; 20 per cent were ”withdrawn” and 7 per cent ”absent”. The national average attendance was 96 per cent.

Leading to suggestions that children who were struggling may have been told to stay home, or not allowed to take the test.

Other Victorian principals are suspicious. Doug Conway, principal of the western suburban Kings Park Primary School, believes the ”lowest-performing kids were told to stay at home”.

”If you did that at my school, the low SES, high non-English-speaking background children, we’d get a colossal spike,” he said. ”I think the pressure on schools has led some schools to have lower participation rates than they should have.”

The school says this is not so. But they have refused to talk about what methods they used to achieve such a massive jump in academic performance.

Mr Nelson, who quit his Education Department job because he thought a departmental investigation into Dallas was ”a whitewash”, asked: ”What did they do that took a kid in Broadmeadows from the bottom 10th or 20th percentile and put them in the top percentile? Whatever they did needs to be copied by everybody, so why hasn’t it? Why didn’t they celebrate their methods?”

 Indeed.

Dallas Primary, if you did get it right, if you did achieve this miracle, please share your methods so children in other schools can benefit too.