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The rare earth elements are not ‘earths’ but metals. Nor are they rare. They are expensive because they are difficult to extract.

Thorium isn’t a rare earth. It is generally found as a by-product of the processing of Monazite ore for rare earths elements (REEs).

Thorium is a radio-active metal approximately three times as abundant as Uranium. I’ll come back to Thorium in a minute.

REEs are used in the production of automotive catalysts, pigments, batteries and magnets. Many of the ‘high tech’ items we take for granted depend on them. Demand for REEs is increasing.

China produces virtually all (97%) of the world’s rare earths. In 2009 China announced that over the next few years it would reduce supply from about 70,000 tons per year to 35,000 tons per year.

In September of this year, China said that it would cease supply of rare earth oxides to Japan completely. Given that Japan is a leading manufacturer of mobile phones, TVs, electronic medical equipment, etc, this is potentially devastating to Japan’s economy.

Japan cannot afford to be without REEs.

However…   China is not the world’s largest supplier of REEs because it has the largest deposits, but because its low labour costs meant that in the 1980s it was able to force every other producer out of the market.

Up until the middle of last century, most REEs were exported from Brazil or India. Later the US (California) was the leading producer.

Global Rare Earth Production 1950 - 2000

The two main ores from which REEs are extracted are Monazite and Bastnasite. Bastnasite has been preferred because the cost of removing Uranium and Thorium in Monazite has been prohibitive.

Australia has good (nowhere near the most, but good) supplies of Monazite.

Two things are happening which will make Australian production of Monazite viable.

First, China’s massive reduction in exports of REEs.

Secondly, new developments in the use of Thorium in nuclear power generation.

A ton of Thorium can generate as much power as 200 tons of Uranium. Thorium reactions do not produce Plutonium.

Plutonium is one of the key ingredients of nuclear weapons. Weapons production was the reason Uranium based reactors became the standard.

Despite this, Thorium based reactors are now on the verge of being commercially viable.

They are safer, more efficient, and more secure – there is no risk of by-products being diverted into weapons production. So Iran, for example, could have nuclear power without giving everyone the heebie-geebies about the possibility of its developing nuclear weapons.

This means that Thorium will no longer be a low value, nuisance by-product, but a valuable resource in itself. Australia has some of the world’s highest Thorium deposits.

So by investing in the development of Australian Monazite deposits, you could potentially make a fortune, help to deliver energy to the world’s poorest nations, and make the world safer, all at the same time.

Cool!

It is probably still sadly true that John Maynard Keynes is the world’s most important economist.

But that doesn’t mean he is right, or ever was right.

More and more governments are waking up to the fact that you cannot spend your way out of debt, and that the responsible thing for government to do in the face of a recession is nothing.

Meanwhile, in a kind of psycho-keynesian effort to stimulate the economy and secure their jobs and pension payments, protestors in France occupy oil refineries, block roads, vandalise fuel depots, and generally do everything they can to disrupt the supply of energy on which industry and employment depends.

Good thinking guys.

I’m not sure that ‘dill’ is the right word. But I can’t think of a polite synonym.

Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer don’t like James Cameron.

They accepted his challenge to global warming sceptics to a ‘high noon’ debate.

He kept changing the rules. They kept agreeing to his new conditions. Finally he pulled out completely.

Now Ann and Phelim have produced a crabby and amusing video about the depth of James Cameron’s hypocrisy on AGW.

Incidentally, I don’t mind James Cameron owning three huge houses, a ranch, a collection of dirt bikes, a humvee firetruck and a few submarines. He is a great film maker, one who loves special effects but never forgets that a good story must be character driven.

It is just the sheer, mind boggling hypocrisy of telling all us lesser folk that we have to learn to get by with less:

My wife has been telling me for some time, and not very kindly, that the picture to the left looks nothing like me, since I am now so old and grey and wrinkly.

So here is a self portrait I took with my new Sigma DP1s a few days ago:

Grey and Grumpy

And this is a more pleasant shot from the same camera, at Destrees Bay on KI:

Destrees Bay, Kangaroo Island

But which parent?

Two articles from the UK’s Telegraph.

Fat Women Have Fat Daughters. No surprises there. Whether being fat is genetic or (my God, surely not!) related to diet and activity, what your mum does is going to have a significant influence. So why is this worth a headline?

What makes it interesting is that the same study found that fat fathers have fat sons, but that a child’s obesity was not correlated to the weight of the opposite sex parent.

Second headline: Diabetic Fathers With Poor Diets More Likely to Pass Condition to Daughters. Ah, what? Not the clearest headline in the history of journalism. But possibly one of the dumbest.

The study that was the basis for this article was a study of rats.

Male rats fed a high fat diet developed obesity and glucose intolerance. When those male rats were mated with normal females the female offspring were more likely develop impaired glucose tolerance and insulin secretion as they grew up.

My first thought on reaidng this was ‘Maybe that Lysenko guy was onto something after all.’ But I doubt it.

But really? A few rats are force fed fatty diets and their female offspring are marginally more likely to develop diabetes, and this means human fathers who eat too many chips are going to have diabetic daughters?

No. Being fat is your fault. The only way to stop being fat is to eat less and do more. Having pineapple enemas won’t do it, no matter what Britney Spears says.

But being diabetic probably isn’t anyone’s fault.

Full and accurate information is an important precursor to any debate, and to making appropriate decisions. One of the frustrations in the recent debate over the provision of medical services on Kangaroo Island has been the limited information available to island residents about the form of the contract and the amount of remuneration on offer to rural doctors.

For most of my adult life I have lived in small rural communities. In most of those communities I have been involved in the delivery or governance of health or social services.

Most recently I was a member of the Murray Bridge Hospital Board. With representatives of other hospital boards from around rural SA I participated in discussions with the Health Department on the State Government’s plans to make significant structural changes to rural health governance, including the proposal to combine the various rural health regions into Country Health SA.

One positive outcome of the formation of CHSA was the opportunity to implement a uniform contract for the delivery by rural GPs of medical services through local hospitals.

The earlier system had resulted in considerable inequities, with wide variations in remuneration to doctors, based not on differences in remoteness or the size of the community serviced, but on the strength of negotiators appointed by individual practices. The result was often that the greatest financial rewards were offered to doctors who were willing to threaten to withdraw essential medical services, and to use those threats as a means to increase their own pay packets. This was unfair to their communities and to taxpayers who had to pick up the extra burden. It was also unfair to other doctors who worked in equally (and often more) stressful or remote locations for less money.

Over a period of eleven months, representatives of SA Health, the AMA and the RDASA met as a working group to formulate a contract that would ensure supply of key medical services to residents of remote and rural communities, and provide fair remuneration to doctors. Rural practitioners from across the state were consulted, and doctors had opportunities throughout that time to have input, either individually, or through their member organisations.

On 19th February 2010, Dr Peter Rischbieth and Dr Graham Morris, President of the RDASA, wrote to members informing them of the final form of the contract and offer from CHSA, and advising them:

“The RDASA negotiating team feel that the offer that has currently been presented to rural doctors is an acceptable one especially in regards to the oncall payments and taking into account a number of changes that CHSA have made in response to significant concerns from RDASA and its rural doctor membership.”

And that:

“The RDASA negotiators and Executive believe that the current offer even though there are some short comings should be accepted by rural doctors.”

The contract did not attempt to direct practitioners about how their practices were to be managed. Doctors were free to make whatever business structure, practice management and rostering arrangements they liked, as long as contracted services were provided in a competent and timely way.

Of course, doctors were not under any obligation to accept the RDASA’s advice, or the contract on offer. Where the contract was not accepted, Health SA would endeavour to provide essential services, including oncall emergency services, either through locums or by setting up hospital based clinics.

Doctors were free to accept the contract or not. What they could not do (because this would make consistent provision of essential services across the state simply impossible) was accept parts of the contract they viewed as easy or profitable, and decline to perform others which were less profitable or might mean some rearrangement of practice rosters.

A sticking point for some seemed to be the requirement to provide oncall emergency services, and the remuneration offered to doctors to be available if required.

Some of the conditions might be onerous for sole practitioners in remote communities, who would effectively be contracting to be on call 24/7. However, the contract includes provision for regular leave, and for CHSA to fund replacement services during emergency leave, for example if the local doctor is ill or has a family emergency.

But it is not sole practitioners in remote communities who have indicated they are unwilling to accept the terms of the contract and the allowance on offer, but doctors in a small number of monopoly practices.

That allowance is $220 per day Monday to Thursday, and $550 per day Friday to Sunday, a total of $135,000 per year per roster.

The $135,000 is simply an on call allowance. If there is a callout, doctors are also paid standard fee for service rates. Where no other fee is applicable, GPs are paid $224.20 per hour of patient contact time. The same rate applies per hour for travelling time for emergency calls during normal comsulting hours, plus a mileage allowance if they travel further than 20kms.

These figures, sample contracts and other documents are available on the RDASA website.

This means that if a doctor on call had, for example, three callouts and two hours of consulting time, his/her income could easily exceed $1000 per day, and, depending on circumstances, be in the region of the $1800 paid by CHSA to a locum. Locums of course have additional travel and accommodation costs, as well as the inconvenience of being away from their own homes and families.

It is hard to understand how it is not deliberately misleading to claim that locums are being offered $2000 per day, while local doctors are being offered $220 per day, as if that were the entire amount of their income.

The contract and offer made by CHSA has now been accepted by an overwhelming majority of SA’s rural and remote GPs. No matter how long threats to withdraw services continue, or what the cost to South Australia’s taxpayers of providing alternative care arrangements, Country Health SA cannot agree to pay any particular doctor or practice an amount greater than that contracted to other providers.

There are two reasons for this.

First, to offer one group of doctors an amount greater than that offered to other GPs would be a betrayal of the good faith of the RDASA, and of the many doctors who have accepted the contract and offer despite reservations. Doctors have accepted the contract as a first step in moving on from a system of negotiation where level of income was frequently based on threats of withdrawal of service, and which everyone acknowledged urgently needed to be changed to provide consistent services for rural communities, and fair remuneration for doctors.

Many who had reservations, or believed a higher rate of on call allowance would have been appropriate (and this included representatives of the AMA), nonetheless recommended or agreed to the contract because it was openly acknowledged as an interim measure. Negotiations and discussions between the RDASA and CHSA would continue, doctors would have opportunity to air their concerns, and a new contract incorporating any changes, including changes to on call allowances, is planned to come into effect from the beginning of November 2011.

Secondly, to offer one group of doctors in a monopoly practice a higher allowance would completely undermine any future negotiations for a uniform contract. Doctors are no more immune to greed and envy than the rest of us. There will always be some who think their situation is special, and that they should be paid more than anyone else, or who suspect that someone else may be getting paid more than them. If CHSA gives way now, every practitioner would be aware that any negotiations or agreements count for nothing, and all that is required to gain a higher rate of pay is to threaten to withdraw services.

That is not a fair outcome for the majority of GPs, for rural communities, or for SA’s taxpayers.

I am no supporter of the present State Government, but in this instance, the Minister for Health and CHSA executives could not responsibly have acted in any other way.

With solutions that don’t work.

I hope soon to comment on the Murray Darling proposals (costing billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs to ‘preserve’ something that never existed until fifty years ago) and SA’s proposed marine parks (costing some 1,000 jobs and approximately $1 billion in lost income from commercial and charter fishing to ‘protect’ fisheries which are under-utilised and not remotely in danger).

But for now, wind farms: Europe’s Ill Wind, a 25 minute video packed full of information.

If you only see, read or listen to one thing about wind farms, this should be it.

And excuse the sometimes shoddy camera work. Unlike global warming alarmists and alternative energy ridiculists, rational people don’t have access to vast sums of government money for high end production work. The facts are what count. Unless you’re a greenie, of course, but then you probably won’t watch it anyway.

Amidst the general left wing media outrage (‘small-minded’, ‘ignorant’, ‘bigoted’ are frequently occurring words) at the prosecution of two young people in Queensland who attempted to abort their baby, I came across this review of the film Never Let Me Go.

Never Let Me Go traces the story of three apparently normal young people who discover they are clones produced to provide spare parts.

In the end they accept their own destruction and dismantlement for parts, even thought this means they are not regarded as human, and that they only have value for the convenience they provide for someone else.

They accept this despite the fact that they think, feel, love, because ‘In fact, love doesn’t conquer all, and the clones don’t fight back, because they’ve been infected with the kind of belief that already is poisoning our society: the belief that humans created in a lab are lesser beings who can be sacrificed for the greater good. These young men and women give up their lives for a misguided idea–the idea that for them to be treated as humans, with worth and value of their own, would be to take all of humanity back to a time of “darkness.”

Chilling.

The Island was a well made 2005 Hollywood film on the same theme. ‘We have a product.’

You can’t be a bloke if you don’t respect women. But ask a group of women if they respect men and you will likely be greeeted with hoots of derisive laughter.

Not true of all women, of course, but true of more than it should be.

Interesting, and not unexpected, then, the instant castigation of footballers and men in general after the latest accusations of sexual assault against some Collingwood players. More work is needed! Players need more sensitivity training! Men are bastards!

I saw one comment by a woman connected with a sexual assault centre to the effect (I couldn’t find it again later) that even if women were throwing themselves at footballers, the footballers needed to behave appropriately.

She didn’t elaborate as to what she thought the appropriate behaviour might be.

But given the currently popular ‘casual shagging does no one any harm and is probably healthy’ opinion of most women’s magazines and popular shows like Sex in the City, it is hard to see why any bloke should not think that the appropriate form of behaviour in any circumstances where a woman is asking for sex is simply to let her have it.

To suggest, as that person did, and as others have, that only men should be responsible for their decisions, and that if a woman later regrets what she has done, the man is the one at fault, is to treat women as lesser beings – more like children than adults.

This is not respectful of women, and it does not encourage respect for women.

Even when both are drunk, and meaningful consent cannot be given, responsibility lies with both, not just with the man, even if he is a footballer.

Of course, life would a lot simpler if people kept sex for marriage. Casual sex devalues both men and women, and makes it easier for persons of both genders to see persons of the other as simply means to an end – their own pleasure. This really means treating a sexual partner as nothing more than a masturbation aid.

Some men do think this way. Anyone who has seen Sex and City, and seen how popular that show is, and how some of its stars are regarded as role models(!) knows that women are capable of thinking this way too.

The harm this way of thinking and acting causes to individual men and women (and their offspring) and to gender relationships and understanding, seems to me to be simply obvious.

Also obvious is the fact that easy availability of contraception, especially the pill, and the easy availability of abortion, has encouraged this ‘if it feels good, do it’ mentality, a disregard of (or deliberate ignoring of) the consequences of sexual activity, and a deepening disregard for the different emotional needs of men and women, and for their value as persons.

Freely available contraception has not enhanced the lives or status of women.

Of course this should have been, and was, clear from the beginning. The Catholic faith said so, and so did sommon sense. Cardinal Pell has recently made these points with his usual no nonsense clarity.

Incidentally, Cardinal Pell points out, and rightly, that the Christian consensus on this matter was first broken by the Anglican Church at the Lambeth Conference in 1930 – the point from which, in my view, the Anglican Communion could no longer claim only to teach and practice the faith once delivered to the saints, and at which it began to come loose from its moorings in Scripture and Tradition in ways that are now disastrously obvious.

But the truth is ever unpopular, especially amongst those whose theme song is  ‘I want to, so dont’ tell me it’s wrong.’

The week’s Weekend Australian Magazine contains a mercifully short article by Susan Maushart called ‘The Bitter Pell.’

I have met Cardinal Pell, and enjoyed several minutes of conversation with him about Anglican – Roman Catholic relations. He is far from bitter. In fact, he struck me as a person of very considerable intellect, who is driven both by a passion for truth, and compassion for those harmed by the lack of it. He certainly was willing to listen respectfully to views which differed from his own.

Susan Maushart, however, gives every impression of harboring deep bitterness against anyone who holds views that do not co-incide with hers.

Her article contains no reasonable arguments at all, just a series of cheap shots about the Chruch and the faith, even including a mention of the inquisition, for heaven’s sake.

The best way to earn respect is to give it. It can be a hard lesson to learn.

Sorry about the lack of posts over the last week.

My wife Kathy has been in Western Australia to spend some time with her mother.

This means I need to run the shop by myself. It is hectic with only one person, trying to attend to people in the shop, answer the phone, get films and digital prints processed, repair computers, and give free advice to tourists all at the same time. And then there is cleaning, ordering, banking and other bookwork.

It’s a good thing us blokes are such skilled multi-taskers. But it means not much time for anything else.

It also means long days, because most of the administrative work gets left till after closing, so I get home late. Time for a couple of beers, an hour’s reading, a defrosted dinner, and then bed.

Not even time for World of Warcraft.

Incidentally, it is now confirmed the release date for Cataclysm is December 7th. I should have  copies in the shop a week later, including one copy of the collector’s edition. Yay!

An expurgated, edited and (slightly) expanded version of a perfect rant from the always interesting Celestial Junk.

Jobs are a byproduct of healthy industry. They are not a goal in and of themselves and they most definitely are not something the government itself should be trying to encourage or create.

Jobs are what happen when someone has too much work to do by himself, so he gets someone to help.

If you want to work, GO AND WORK. Use your savings. Sell your car. Mortgage your house. Use the money to start a business. Find something that you can do and do it and sell the product of your labor to others.

What? You don’t want work for yourself? You want to work for someone else? Fine, but it’s not businessowners’ responsibility to employ people and its not the federal government’s responsibility to somehow force them to.

If you want a job, then AGITATE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO EXPAND BUSINESS AND “JOBS” WILL COME. Make it easier for the people who actually do business and jobs will come as a byproduct.

 Then dress sensibly and clean your teeth and speak politely and learn some skills that will make you useful, and you might be able to convince a business owner you have something to offer.

But what the heck? At the same time as complaining nobody wants to employ you, you’re also asking for higher taxes on the very people you need to create your precious JOBS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

WHAT THE #%&* HAS HAPPENED TO THIS COUNTRY? Why does everyone want to be treated like a child? And the federal government ENCOURAGES this laziness, this ‘I’m entitled’ whinging mentality.

I am so freaking tired of this straight out of Marx crap that somehow people are just entitled to share in someone else’s fortune and capital in the name of “jobs.”

GO MAKE YOUR OWN JOB.

Businesses aren’t in the business of making “jobs,” they’re in the business of CREATING VALUE FOR THEIR OWNERS. When you say that a business should be making more JOBS, you are saying that the capital of those business owners should not actually belong to them and belongs to the “workers”. Thanks a lot, Stalin.

And then there are slogans like “People Before Profits” and “Fund Jobs Not Wars”

Has it ever occurred to these people that all of their social services, free payouts, schools, medical care, etc, only happen because people take risks, work hard, and eventually make a profit, which can then be taxed? Or that only one of defence and ‘job creation’ (what a joke) is actually the responsibility of the federal government to fund? (Hint – it’s not “JOBS”.)

… to paraphrase; our entire society depends on a minority of people risking their own capital, employing their own strategies and skills, to create value, that others then feast on.

And so he should be. But what is he worried about?

Climate change. Of course.

There are two possibilities here.

Either Osama is an ignorant bloodthirsty hypocritical loon, and he really does believe that anthropogenic climate change is a bigger threat to world peace than he is.

OK, it’s certainly possible.

Or he is an intelligent bloodthirsty hypocritical loon, who knows that spending billions on trying to change something that cannot be changed will weaken Western economies and distract Western governments from the real threat. Him and his borg buddies.

And as for this: “What we are facing… calls for generous souls and brave men to take serious and prompt action to provide relief for their Muslim brothers in Pakistan.”

It seems to have escaped his notice that it was Western governments who protected Muslims during the war in the Balkans, Western governments who saved Kuwait from Saddam Hussein, Western governments who came to the aid of Indonesia after the tsunami, Western governments who provide most of the support and aid for the Palestinian Authority, Western governments who are working, at a cost of billions of dollars and the lives of their own young men and women, to build safe and stable societies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Western governments who are providing most of the aid to flood affected regions of Pakistan.

An interesting article from Kelsey Grammer’s Rightnetwork from a home schooling journalist.

Just a sample:

Academically, we couldn’t help but observe that  our fourteen-year-old son was made to watch My Big Fat, Greek Wedding in English class because they’re supposed to be studying Homer — and Homer’s Greek, you know; or notice that he’s seen Al Gore’s carbon footprint infomercial four times already, once each in four different classes; discover that none of the teachers or administrators can spell or operate a sentence, never mind the students, but they’ve seen Supersize Me twice already; or see that all his textless textbooks looked like a cross between a comic book and a collage. Such things indicated that nothing serious was ever going to happen in school. As far as behavior goes, we’ve had enough experience with both sons now to know that males of the species are simply not welcome in public school. That was Samuel Burgos’ real crime. He acted like a little boy, and that’s not allowed.  His parents should embrace it, and never send him back. That’s what we’ve done, and we couldn’t be happier.

Are the Islamists and Greens more like the borg, from Star Trek, or the Necromongers, from the sadly under-rated Chronicles of Riddick?

The Borg - You Will Be Assimilated

Necromongers - Convert or Die

OK. Don’t get the idea I have spent hours on this. But ..

The Islamists are more like the borg. They are not interested in everyone. Some people are beneath consideration and might as well be dogs or pigs. The borg create nothing, but take the culture and technology of others and and use and claim it as their own. They have an ideal of perfection, and destroy without mercy or remorse anything that does not contribute to the achievement of that ideal.

The problem is that the ideal, when realised, is  a kind of living death that only sustains itself through the objectification and demonisation of others.

The necromongers are similar. But they don’t assimilate technology or culture. Their one purpose is to sweep across the universe on their way to a new, pure ‘verse, where there are no disagreements. There are no disagreements because anyone who might have disagreed with them has been converted or killed. Those who are not necromongers are contempuously described as ‘breeders’. Necromongers have no use for children. Their leader is two faced. Or three or four faced really.

So the necromongers are more like the greenies.

But in both cases the message is the same: Join us or die. Resistance is futile. No pressure. Your choice.

Everyone has heard by now of the appalling video produced by the 10:10 climate campaign. It was meant to be amusing, apparently. And to teach a message.

But the only people who could possibly find it amusing are psychopaths, and the only message that could possibly be drawn is that greenies are either complete zomboids, or raving eco jihadis.

Whoever produced this parody version has drawn the same conclusion:

And if you think that is unfair, get into the groove with this cool idea from Franny Armstrong, 10:10 founder:

“Doing nothing about climate change is still a fairly common affliction, even in this day and age. What to do with those people, who are together threatening everybody’s existence on this planet? Clearly we don’t really think they should be blown up, that’s just a joke for the mini-movie, but maybe a little amputating would be a good place to start?”

Still not funny, Franny.

Student Tyler Clementi committed sucide after being videoed having gay sex.

He was the fourth gay teen suicide in the US this month. The national LGBT community is reeling.

The bullying must stop! Gays must be given equal rights now!

That’s the approved narrative.

But actual events do not support that interpretation of Tyler Clementi’s death. He was aware he had been taped, and didn’t seem that bothered by it. Remarkably unbothered, in fact, compared with how I would feel if someone had surreptitiously made a sex tape featuring me.

The gay lobby is using this young man’s suicide to gain political advantage, as they did with the death of Matthew Shepard.

The approved narrative was that Matthew was murdered simply because he was gay.

The reality is that his death had nothing to do with his sexual orientation. He was killed by two drug addicts, one of whom was known to him (Shepard was also a heavy drug user) in a robbery that went wrong.

There seems to be an instant assumption by Ellen DeGeneres and other ‘being gay is my career’ minor celebrities that the murder or suicide of any person who has ever had gay sex, or ever spoken about gay sex, must have happened because they were gay.

That is not only nonsense, it is insulting. Homosexual people live lives as varied as anyone else.

Their lives are no less likely than those of any other citizen to intersect with people who are cruel or dangerous. More likely in the case of Matthew Shepard, who was both indiscriminately sexually active, and a drug abuser.

To claim these deaths for political purposes disregards other aspects of the lives of the victims. It makes them one dimensional, cardboard cutouts suitable for placards, not real people.

It is cynical and exploitative.