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Maryam and Marzieh

Maryam and Marzieh Languish in a Teheran Jail
Maryam and Marzieh Languish in a Teheran Jail

Maryam and Marzieh are Christian women. They are from Islamic families. They live in Iran.

So of course, they are in jail.

They are denied medical care or contact with the outside world. One of the prison guards told them they should be executed for apostasy. They were arrested in March. Neither has yet been charged, but when they are, the death penalty is a real possibility.

Maryam and Marzieh’s story in detail at Elam Ministries.

Elam is a Iranian Christian ministry and advocacy group. Support them if you can.

Governments Cannot Create Jobs

Only business can. While the government may seem to create jobs when it hires people or buys things, it destroys at least as many jobs as it creates when it does so.

Via Hyscience, which links to this article from the Wall St Journal about the lessons to be learned from government economic policy in Texas and Ohio.

When governments try to create jobs, or stimulate the economy, or support industry or ‘good causes’, they can only do so by taking money from business. Which means fewer people employed, less reason to take the risk of investing in business, reduced production of saleable commodities, lower profits from which to pay taxes, less income to government, less capacity to care for the poor.

Ohio has an economy burdened by high taxes and work rules that impose heavy costs on employers. Texas embraces free trade, keeps taxes low, doesn’t impose unions on business and has tooled itself for 21st century global competition. Ohioans may not like to hear this, but for any company considering where to locate a new plant or move an existing one, the choice between Ohio and Texas isn’t even a close call.

Texas has lower unemployment, higher average personal income, and creates more jobs and more exports.

The lesson is, the less government tries to do, the better off everyone is.

Government cannot create jobs, only business can.

Are you listening Mr Rudd? Mr Obama?

Art Without Bludging Off the Taxpayer

I know, I’ve said it a thousand times before, almost all subsidies are a waste of time, and end up costing more than any benefit they provide.

There are three reasons:

First, if you are getting a subsidy, you don’t have to worry so much about careful planning, or financial responsibility (because someone else – the taxpayer, usually – is picking up the bills), or whether anyone will like or buy what you produce. In other words, subsidies enourage a lack of efficiency, and the production of goods and services which nobody wants.

Secondly, subsidies are inefficient. Subsidies mean taking money off some people and giving it to other people at the whim of a politician or lobby group. This bad enough, but the process itself, its planning, administration and record-keeping, all cost time and money – which means substantially more money is taken from the taxpayer than ends up in the hands of the recipient. In some instances, the cost of assessing a person or group’s eligibility for a subsidy is more than the value of the subsidy itself.

Thirdly, subsidies (and food and clothing and other material aid, except in the most dire emergencies) discourage potentially viable businesses, and therefore discourage investment of both time and money in creativity, in business, in research and industry. The long term consequence of this is that businesses, artists, causes, etc, that might be successful on their own merits are disadvantaged.

In developing nations, local business people cannot compete with shiploads of food and clothing aid. So the West’s generous subsidies mean local people have no incentive to invest in developing the primary production, trade and industry which produce long-term wealth.

In relation to art, it is sometimes argued that good art is not necessarily commercial. Something may not sell well, and yet be worthy of support.

But who decides this? If no-one wants something enough to pay money for it, on what basis is it judged to be good?

I cannot think of a single piece of visual art or music, or a play or film that people have wanted and enjoyed, or which has shown itself to have lasting value, which depended on subsidies for its production.

On the other hand, there are hundreds of talented artists, musicians and playwrights who stand on their own feet, and who have made the world a more interesting place, by showing us truth or beauty or meaning where we had not seen it before.

My friend Neil Sheppard is one. Neil makes a good living from producing good paintings – that is, paintings that say something worthwhile, and that people enjoy enough to be willing to pay for.

Neil’s (Shep’s) website is on visualartist.info, but you can see more of his work on Flickr.

Enjoy!

First Australian Woman to Win A Nobel Prize

Well, this is cool.

Elizabeth Blackburn was born in Tassie, and studied in Melbourne before completing her doctorate at Cambridge. She is now the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology at the University of California.

Her Nobel prize was awarded for her research into cell aging and regeneration, and in particular, chromosome structure, teleomeres (bits of repetitive DNA at the ends of chomosomes which Professor Blackburn says are like the tips on the ends of shoelaces to keep them unravelling) and telomerase, the enzyme which maintains them.

Well done!

But Blackburn is wrong to support embryonic stem cell research, and the cloning of human beings so that the clone’s tissue and organs can be harvested.

Not only is embryonic stem cell research a waste of money, not having  produced a single useful result (whereas other forms of stem cell research are promising), but more importantly, any culture whose members  deliberately destroy the lives of other human beings to enhance their own longevity or comfort is corrupt and immoral and will fail.

Free Online Backup

With increasing down and upload speeds, online storage and backup is becoming a viable option.

I have an automatic backup system that copies a full disk image every week to an external drive. But I would still be in trouble if there was a fire, or my gear was stolen, or (and I have seen this happen) internal and external hard disks were both damaged by a power surge.

Mozy offers 2GB of secure remote storage free to home users, or unlimited storage for $4.95 per month.

You really need cable internet or ADSL2 to make this practical for most users. But if you do, it is worth thinking about.

Disclaimer: I do get a (very small) commission (like $1) if you click on the link above and sign up for a plan. So I hope you will. But mainly I just thought it was interesting.

Someone’s Uncle Once Lived in Rio – He, He!

From the always insightful Kate at Small Dead Animals:

In a failed attempt to sway the the IOC’s selection committee into awarding Chicago the 2016 Summer Olympics, which went instead to Rio de Janeiro, the ever-grinning Barack Obama landed in Copenhagen yesterday to deliver a four-“I” plea.

Michelle Obama plied the “wife of I” gambit:

“I was born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, not far from where the Games would open and close,” she said.
(….)
Michelle Obama talked about her late dad who suffered from multiple sclerosis.

Alas, someone in Brazil’s delegation once lived in Rio, and had a great-uncle with angina.

Ridiculously Hot Sauce

Read this column by Jeremy Clarkson for the fun of it. It’s just a silly story about not realising how hot a bottle of hot sauce was going to be.

But in passing, it makes a point I have thought about a few times – that the result of the proliferation of product warnings on every imaginable product is that the few we need to take note of get lost in the blur.

A few examples of amusing, silly or pointless product warnings.

An Australian Film Worth Seeing

I know, it sounds like an oxymoron. But it might just be true.

I haven’t seen Paul Hogan’s new film Charlie and Boots yet. Philppa Martyr has, and has written an intelligent and amusing review, full of praise for what she says is an intelligent and well made film. Two of the things she enjoyed about it were its good-naturedness, and its lack of self-consciousness and preaching. Yet the film does have some worthwhile things to say.

Astonishingly, Margaret Pomeranz and David thingy both enjoyed it too. I just hope that doesn’t put too many people off.

Hold Firm to the Sure Word

That is a quote from Titus 1:9 – the name of the blog of the Reverend Canon Dr Kendall Harmon. Dr Harmon is a traditionalist Anglican (ie, he is one of the few who persists in believing the things the whole church believed until about twenty years ago). He has good political sense and writes well.

A few recent stories linked to from his blog:

A brief and interesting interview on the reason for the war in Afghanistan, and what needs to be done to make a long-lasting positive outcome more likely. From PBS’ s Religion and Ethics segment.

An editorial from The Tablet (UK), about the recent conviction of four young Britsh Muslims who had been plotting to blow up planes over the Atlantic. The editorial asks sensible questions about what the Islamic community could do to reduce the growth of radicalism and hatred of the West amongst its members, and about what the wider British community, and especially schools, can do to be more successful in teaching Western values.

And finally, from The Times, an article about a ‘secret annexe’ to this year’s International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran. The annexe claims that Iran already has the information, materials and technology to build an atomic bomb.

The only thing that is in doubt, apparently, is whether they have the will to do it. Given Imanutjob’s rantings about how blasting the Zionist entity from the face of the Earth would be doing the world a favour, and big chief Ayatollah Ali Khomeni’s claim that an Iranian nuclear arsenal would ‘serve Iran as a deterrent in the hands of God’s soldiers,’  I do not find that doubt very encouraging.

More on this from John Robson, concluding with:

So let me translate those newspaper stories into real world language. The Iranian government is building nuclear weapons so it can blow the Jews off the face of the earth, and our leaders have neither the spine to act nor the wit to perceive their own shameful paralysis. It’s that bad.

The Airless Spectacle of Political Onanism

The title of this post is a quote, not about Australia’s Liberal and National party leadership (though it could be – more about that later), but from an article about China’s official 60th birthday celebrations.

David Burchell, writing in The Australian, points out that there is something obscene about the massive self-congratulation going on in China.

A society that can only survive with the repression of minority religious and ethnic groups, constant and severe censorship of news and internet access, and the control of every part of its citizens’ lives, has no business congratulating itself on anything.

And then, 36 million Chinese died in the famine of 1959-61. This was not a natural disaster, but the result of deliberate and violently enforced policy to coerce millions out of traditional farming and small scale village industry into collective farms and factories. There is no acknowledgement of this man made disaster in official Chinese literature, or of other lives lost in similarly destructive and similarly enforced policies. Well, of course not. That would spoil the party.

What makes David Burchell’s article worth reading is not that he points these things out – they have been pointed out many times before – but this:

Imagining ourselves to be polite, we Westerners avert our eyes from it all. Yet this peculiar, tasteless spectacle of official China locked in joyless self-communion suits us fine. For in truth we’re no more inclined to be confronted with China’s dirty historical laundry than is the Chinese Communist Party itself.

We’re co-dependents, as the psychoanalysts might say. We belong on the same couch.

Tightly Grasp Your Eyeballs

Or if you like, preese not feed fishes with your private.

The Courier-Mail, not quite as dismal a rag as many Australian dailies, has an article about Shanghai’s ongoing crackdown on Chringrish.

The article links to a blog, Mad About Shanghai, which has loads of amusing examples, including a rest room instruction to fall down carefully, and a warning that you should not random through the streets.

I can see why authorities would be embarassed, but I think Chingrish is part of the charm of the place.

Daycare Makes Children Fat

A study of more than 12, 000 British children between the ages of seven and nine has found that children who spend large amounts of time in daycare because both parents (or a sole parent) work, are significantly more likely to become obese, and to suffer other long term health problems.

Naturally there are howls of outrage. An article in the Australian says the results have been refuted by Queensland mums. No they haven’t. To refute something means to show it is untrue. A couple of working mothers saying ‘Well my kid’s healthy, and eats salad and stuff’ does not refute the findings of an independent study of over 12,000 children.

Previous studies have found that extensive time in daycare in the early years can have long term negative effects on vocabulary acquisition and behaviour – effects which may be cause children to struggle at school and in later life.

Time to think again about subsidised daycare.

My general rule is that if something needs to be subsidised, it probably shouldn’t be.

For example, South Australian taxpayers pay about $2 for every $1 a commuter pays for a train or bus ticket in Adelaide. I travel 100 kilometres to work and back each day, with petrol prices on the island about 30% higher than in the city. So why should I be asked to subsidise the transport costs of people who travel 10 kilometres to work and back each day, and already pay less for petrol?

Likewise, why should parents who make the decision to sacrifice income so that one of them can parent their children full-time, be asked to subsidise parents who both work? The only reason would be that doing so provided some clear benefit to the wider community. But the now well established negative effects of long term early day care make it difficult to see any such benefits.

Parents shouldn’t be stopped from sending their children to daycare, of course. But they shouldn’t expect other people to pay for it.

A Brisbane lawyer and mother of four children, Mrs Tempe Harvey, agrees. She is establishing a lobby group for children’s welfare, the Kids First Parents Association of Australia. One of their policies is the scrapping of childcare subsidies. Good news.

The Apocalyptic Cult of Global Warming

I have just finished reading Raphael Aron’s book Cults: Too Good to Be True (out of print now, I think, but his Cults, Terror, and Mind Control is still available). The introduction begins with this quote from Konrad Lorenz, Nobel Prize winner and animal behaviourist:

Some human beings seem to be driven by an overwhelming urge to espouse a cause, and failing to find one, may become fixated on astonishingly inferior substitutes. The instinctive need to be a member of a closely linked group fighting for common ideals may be so strong that iot becomes inessential what these ideals are and whether they possess any intrinsic value.

Some of the defining qualities of a cult are emotional manipulation, especially of the young or otherwise vulnerable, the definition of those who question the cult’s values and beliefs as on the side of evil, material benefits (money, sex, adulation, etc) which accrue to the leader/s, claims of knowing the only path to salvation, and prophesies of imminent doom for an evil and unbelieving world if it fails to heed the warnings of the cult and take the actions it demands.

Al Gore and the IPCC are the increasingly wealthy high priests of the cult. Their problem now is that the prophesies are not coming true. The seas are not rising, and world temperatures are stable or declining. We are more likely to be facing much colder temperatures than much hotter temperatures over the next century.

Nothing especially nasty is happening. They must be terribly disappointed.

In related news, a Russian former traffic cop has proclaimed himself the reincarnation of Jesus, and attracted about 5,000 followers. Well, why not?

Still Here – Just

It has been a long time between drinks, but this blog has not been abandoned!

For the last couple of months my sister Amanda has been in hospital in Adelaide. I have been as busy as a one armed paper hanger at work, and working long hours, and going over to Adelaide almost every weekend to visit Amanda.

So even when I have had time to blog, I have felt so tired that I have not been doing anything except what I had to do to get by.

But Amanda is out of hospital now, and has moved up to Brisbane to stay with our brother Andrew and his wife Sheila.

I have closed the shop for a few days and have been enjoying a break. I have even spent a couple of hours playing WoW.

So normal transmission should recommence forthwith.

To my regular visitors, thank you for your patience over what has been a very difficult year.