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$1.1 Billion Wasted on Solar Panels

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

More than $1 billion of taxpayers’ money was wasted on subsidies for household solar roof panels that favoured the rich and did little to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, a scathing review has found.

The review of the now scrapped federal government solar rebate scheme, conducted by ANU researchers Andrew Macintosh and Deb Wilkinson, also found the rebates did little to generate a solar manufacturing industry in Australia, instead sending hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars offshore.

Mr Macintosh, deputy head of ANU’s Centre for Climate Law and Policy, told The Age yesterday the rebate had been ”beautiful politics, terrible policy”.

 ”I can’t see there is anything to be gained continuing to subsidise rooftop solar PV [photovoltaics] in areas where households have easy access to the energy grid,” he said.

Electricity bills for the rest of us could be more than 20% higher to cover the cost of the ridiculously high feedback tariffs paid to people who own solar panels – which were also paid for by the rest of us.

‘Beautiful politics, terrible policy.’  That is the Labor way, of course – intentions count for more than outcomes.

If it all goes wrong, eg, insulation, immigration, overpriced school buildings no-one wanted in the first place, laptops for every student, no dams, no water, carbon tax, the NBN, etc, etc, they can say in all honesty, ‘But we meant well.’ And the sad thing is, they probably did.

They just didn’t think.

Last Gasps of the Legacy Media

The Age reports that:

A Melbourne private girls’ school that prevented a lesbian student from attending the school formal with her girlfriend is being inundated with messages from irate readers around the world accusing the school of discrimination.

Sorry, what?

A private school, at a private dance for its students, should be forced to allow a sixteen year old to bring her fifteen year old sex partner?

Good grief!

Sadly, but not surprisingly, given the Age’s ever decreasing demographic, the school is being accused of homophobia, discrimination, etc, while the girl and her parents are presented as victims of moralising conservatism.

The only thing the girl and her parents are victims of is a bit of common sense and decency.

Fat Facts

The People’s Republic of San Francisco has decreed that happiness is no longer permitted. At least, not in the form of happy meals. Or any other meals that include toys and TOO MANY CALORIES. Such meals are now banned.

Meanwhile, back in less ‘liberal’ and consequently, less authoritarian, Australia, a professor of health education and nutrition has pointed out that fears about childhood obesity have been exaggerated by the media. She goes on to say that restrictions on the availability of junk food will do lttle to resolve the problems that do exist:

“People have to stop exaggerating the numbers about childhood obesity – that’s not to say that it is not an issue but you know, hysteria, fear campaigns and exaggeration are not very scientific,” said Dr O’Dea.

Professor O’Dea also points out that childhood obesity is largely a problem for the poor. Tackling poverty, she suggests, is the best long-term way to tackle childhood obesity and many other children’s health issues.

But it seems to me that childhood obesity is evidence of one of the key attitudes that keeps some people poor.

There is nothing wrong with take aways as an occasional treat. But good quality day to day food; fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, fish, lean meat, etc, is cheaper than McDonalds or KFC.

Of course, such meals take a little longer to prepare, and need some thinking in advance.

So if take away food (take-out if you’re an American) is more expensive, why do people on low incomes eat more of it?

It is easy to claim that poverty is caused by structural injustices. And some is. The anti-development policies of organisations like Greenpeace, and their lobbying of governments and organisations like the Word Bank, have kept incomes and life spans in some third world countries much lower than they would otherwise be.

But in wealthy western countries this is less often the case. Poverty, and the disadvantages to children it causes, cannot be changed by acts of government.

‘The poor will be with you always’ Mt 26:11

Alex Anderson, Rest in Peace

One of my wife Kathy’s relatives was Alex Anderson, the creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

I have never visited the US, and am sorry I never had the chance to meet him.

Alex was one of the great pioneers of animation, and the creator of the first animated programme for TV, Crusader Rabbit.

Rocky and Bullwinkle were amusing to children. To intelligent adults, they were frequently remarkably insightful social commentary.

Time has published a thoughtful reflection on his life, and especially on the crucial role he played in the development of animated movies and TV shows.

Perhaps even more important than his obvious energy, creativity and insight, he was a caring man who was much loved by his family and friends.

Rudd Worried About Tanner Leaking?!

This is little short of farcical.

Leaker and big noter in chief Kevin Rudd, along with Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard, were so concerned about the possibility of then Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner’s leaking sensitive budget information that after bogus meetings at which he was present, they held other meetings at which the decisions were made.

Three points to note about this:

1. There was no evidence Tanner was leaking anything. In contrast to some of the others in those meetings, he has a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy.

2. Tanner knew he was being shut out, because his staff spoke to him about policy decisions he had not been told about by the gang of three.

3. Tanner has a brain cell. I suspect his disagreement with the three-fold consenus on some key budget issues was the real reason they did not want him around.

So much easier to get things done in an atmosphere of consensus.

It’s just that, when an atmosphere of consensus is built by shutting out anyone who might have a different view, it is usually the wrong things that end up being done.

Engineering, Medicine, Whatever …

Bombs found on planes in Dubai and Britain were large enough to have destroyed the planes mid-air, killing all on board, and causing further casualties if the bombs exploded over populated areas.

A woman named Hanan al Samawi has been arrested in Yemen. The Telegraph headline says she is an engineering student, while later in the text it reports: She was arrested at a house in a poor area in the west of Sana’a, where she is studying medicine at the university.

Engineering, medicine, whatever. These are not areas of study which the poor usually take up.

There are three points here.

First, the Telegraph needs to get some new copy editors. Accuracy is important. It is not good enough in a major national daily to have a headline contradicted by the text immediately below it.

Second, the female of the species is as dangerous as the male. There is no justification for policies which discriminate against men in relation to being held in detention centres, for example, on the basis that they are likely to be terrorists whereas women are not.

And finally, terrorism does not have its roots in poverty. There is a great deal of talk about understanding the causes of terrorism. The commonly identified causes in such talks are Western imperialism and Western monopolisation of consumer goods.

This is nonsense. The major source of terrorist activity is radical Islam. Thai Buddhists, African animists, and Orthodox believers living in Siberia, all of whom suffer poverty compared with the West, are not burning down schools and blowing up planes.

Osama Bin Laden, of course, is a multi-millionaire. Terrorism has nothing to do with poverty.

It has everything to do with what its perpetrators keep telling us is the reason for their actions: They hate infidels, and believe they are commanded to destroy them.

Chuck Norris Kicks a Hole in Time

Did you know that when Walker: Texas Ranger was first screened in France, the French surrendered to Chuck Norris, just to be on safe side?

Now there is evidence he has kicked a hole in time itself.

An unknown elderly woman has been spotted talking on a mobile phone in 1928 footage of the Hollywood premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.

The only plausible explanation for this is that Chuck Norris threw a roundhouse kick so fast it disrupted time itself, and the woman, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, just walked through the portal this created. She’s probably still confused about why she can’t get any reception.

Before you dismiss this, keep the following facts in mind:

Chuck Norris is so fast, he can run around the world and smack himself in the back of the head.

Ghosts are caused by Chuck Norris killing bad guys so fast that death cannot keep up.

Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone.

Some people wear Superman pajamas, but Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas.

Actually, Chuck Norris really is a bit of a superman. As well as being a competent actor, genuine martial arts champion, and all around decent guy, he is a clear thinker and talented writer.

You can find his columns on Town Hall, including his latest on the extraordinary and frighteningly wasteful growth in US Federal government spending.

No More Naughty Nurses

Nurses nationwide are banned from flirting with patients after the number of complaints about nurses with professional boundary issues tripled in 2009.

Tripled! Oh gosh. What an appalling problem. Those nurses are just going nuts. Sex crazed poodles the lot of them.

Except that in 2009 there were a total of 17 complaints in New South Wales. No mention of how many of those were found to have any substance. A major problem? Hardly.

Nurses who cross the line will be disciplined. Can I help?  Oops, sorry.

Of course there need to be professional boundaries. And people who are unwell are perhaps particularly susceptible to emotional manipulation.

But I doubt a long list of rules formulated by a bureaucracy is going to hinder the very small number of nurses, male or female, who are inclined to take advantage of  their patients, or more commnonly, I suspect, make a joke or off the cuff comment which someone finds offensive or takes the wrong way.

And this is just ridiculous: Nurses must also keep an eye out for any patients developing a crush, as failing to recognise attraction of a sexual nature is also considered sexual misconduct or assault.

Not being aware that someone finds you attractive is an offence? An assault? For heaven’s sake, get a grip.

Ready or Not

Boats of illegal immigrants are arriving in Australia, or being intercepted on the way here, at a rate of one every second day.

Liberal churches and community groups claim they must be welcomed, given the benefit of the doubt, not placed in detention, made part of the community.

This a regular theme in the Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide’s column in the Adelaide Church Guardian. Be compassionate. Be hospitable. Be welcoming. After all, Jesus was a refugee.

Of course, Jesus wouldn’t have jumped queues or taken short cuts to get ahead of anyone else, there were no language barriers (the common tongue in Israel and Egypt was Koine Greek), Israel and Egypt were both part of the Roman Empire, Joseph had skills that were in demand and would have made them a welcome addition to any community, etc.

But let’s just go with the be compassionate, be welcoming idea.

As long they are being welcomed somewhere else. 

I couldn’t help but laugh at the response of residents of the Adelaide Hills to plans to use army barracks at Inverbrackie as a detention centre.

The Adelaide Hills are home to all sorts of green, loving, trendy type folk. Get your crystals or homespun ethnic clothing here! Of course asylum seekers should be treated compassionately and welcomed into Australia. We can share.

What? You mean here? Where we live?

But darling, don’t you think they’d be happier at Murray Bridge or Salisbury? There are already lots of those sort of people there. They’d feel so much more comfortable.

And besides ‘It basically puts a blight on our area .. And property prices will decrease.’

And the Survey Says …

In the latest episode of Climate Family Feud, activist paper Scientific American ran a survey to guage its readers’ opinions on IPCC traitor Judith Curry and her opinions.

The results show that Scientific American’s readers (over 4,000 of them) are better informed than its editors.

A couple of examples:

What is causing climate change?

Greenhouse gasses from human activity 31.4%

Solar Variation  33.8%

Natural processes  76.7% 

(responders could choose as many answers as they wished)

The IPCC is..

A corrupt organisation, prone to groupthink, with a political agenda  81.9%

How much would you be willing to pay to forestall the risk catastrophic climate change?

Nothing  77.1%

That’s because while climate changes all the time, there is no evidence of any impending catastrophe, and even if there were, we would be better off preparing for it, rather than making Canute like efforts to stop it (unfair to King Canute, but that’s another story).

Via Small Dead Animals

Are There Apprentiships or Trainieships for Peopel in Your Inderstry?

A couple of weeks ago a Year Twelve student from the local school gave me a questionaire on employment in the IT industry.

That was one of the questions. Most of the others had similar errors.

I have two questions of my own.

1. Does the school check questionnaires, letters, etc before they go to members of the public?

Well, obviously not.

Or at least I hope it was not checked by a staff member, because if it was, our schools are even worse than I think they are.

2. How is it that a reasonably intelligent boy in Year Twelve has such appalling literacy?

If a person who is no dimwit can get through twelve years of schooling and have no idea how to spell or construct a sentence, what the heck has he been doing all that time?

And what have schools been doing with all my tax money?

Another Kind of Marriage

With the boundaries of what marriage means being vigorously stretched, this comes as no surprise:

Taiwanese Woman to Marry Herself.

“Age 30 is a prime period for me. My work and experience are in good shape, but I haven’t found a partner, so what can I do?” Chen said.

“I’m not anti-marriage. I just hope that I can express a different idea within the bounds of a tradition.”

Ah, yes. The old ‘different idea within the bounds of a tradition’ trick.

Sadly, Taiwanese law discriminates against such unions, and Ms Chen’s marriage will not be recognised by the state.

But I say, if one person truly loves herself, then why not?

Rare Earths, Monazite, Thorium and China

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!

Keynes Is Out

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.