Monday, February 28, 2011

Mad Men - Mad about things ...

Have just finished viewing Season 2 ...



Why we love Mad Men

A gorgeous cast, flawlessly recreated settings
and styles, and the backdrop of one of
the most interesting periods in modern
American history: there are many reasons
why the TV show Mad Men has been such a hit.
Perhaps the most compelling is the portrayal of the
cultural and political environment of the late 1950s
and early 1960s, which contrasts, often pleasingly,
with the present day.
Read more here

It's true, I am actually consuming more scotch since since I started watching the series. Is it too early for one now? Click here for my scotch of the moment ...

Past proof that smoking is good for you?



Smoke, food and drink fascists, tee totaling do gooders, piggish moralists, and pompous bureaucrats ... spare me ...


There's some in the house but as yet, haven't reached for the Stuyvesant's ... My business if I do ...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Carbon Tax ... Julia Tax .... Whatever, it's wrong ...

From: Otto Marasco

Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 10:18 PM
To: Tony Abbott, Andrew Robb, Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Joe Hockey

Subject: Carbon tax

You do understand that the exact wording of this email must remain private but the general premise is this:

Arm and launch all party attack dogs ... Force an election before tax is enacted ... bring this government down by years end!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They said it:

August 12 2010 Wayne Swan:
"We have made our position very clear, we have ruled it - Carbon tax - out.”
August 16, 2010 Julia Gillard:
"There will be no carbon tax under the Government I lead"
August 18, 2010 Wayne Swan:
"What we rejected is this hysterical allegation that somehow we are moving towards a carbon tax.”
August 20, 2010 Julia Gillard:
''I don't rule out the possibility of legislating a carbon pollution reduction scheme, a market-based mechanism, I rule out a carbon tax.''
The Australian Federal election was held on Saturday, 21 August 2010 ...

Joe Hockey poses a question for Wayne Swan ...



A picture says a thousand words:


What others said:

Bluescope Steel Chief Executive Paul O'Malley:
I'm very concerned that the Government is proposing to 'offshore emissions' by taxing and potentially killing manufacturing in Australia
Origin Energy Managing Director Grant King:
Unless that price was probably at least $25 per tonne it's unlikely to cause much difference
Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout:
These missing details will impact on key questions such as the continuity of electricity supply and preventing the erosion of competitiveness for large and small business
ACCI Chief Executive Peter Anderson:
The extra lead in the saddlebags of Australian business will not reduce overall global emissions, nor will it help save jobs that will be exported offshore to countries without a carbon scheme
Carbon Analytics Research Firm Reputex:
A $25 a tonne price would cost ASX 200 companies $3.3 billion a year, of which $1.56 billion would be passed onto consumers
THINK
  • It's not smart but fact is, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with politicians changing there mind however in Julia Gillard's case it's quite different. If Gillard has changed her mind on her tax, there is just one honourable way to introduce it - to ask voters at the next election for a mandate, as John Howard did when he changed his mind on a GST.
  • How will Australia's export and import competing industries remain competitive if the tax is not integrated into an international trading system.
  • For those hoping the tax will be set low I'm afraid it's bad news. If the price is too low the tax is useless because it won't lead to any behavioral change; it's purported purpose.
  • It will be even worse if the carbon tax does not apply to Indian and Chinese steel producers, meaning importers will have a price advantage over their local product in addition to lower wages.
And what's this about ...
Billions of dollars raised by Australia's carbon tax will end up overseas, helping poor countries battle climate change.



So what was the PM's answer?

NSW Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell has his say on the tax ...



This will stick the knife in ...



More to come ...

For now help stop this madness: The conservative Menzies House is running the petition here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thanks for the cost of living hikes Labor

A very big and warm thank you to Federal and State Labor governments and there progressive cohorts for this:

POWER prices will double from their 2008 level by 2015, according to a report to be released today ... The Australian Industry Group report also claims that the Federal Government's small-scale renewable energy scheme is expected to add a further $1.2 billion to electricity costs for consumers this year alone ... The forecast rises will wipe out the Baillieu Government's extended help for low-income Victorians ... Under the scheme, more than 815,000 pensioners, war veterans, single parents, people with disabilities and carers will receive year-round 17.5 per cent discounts on bills from March 1. Concession-card holders with an annual bill of $1500 will save $262 ... While admitting the need for a carbon price, to provide certainty for investment, the report warns that resultant price rises will be inevitable. And, if designed poorly, it will add even more to the already ballooning cost of energy for consumers and business ... Ai Group chief executive Heather Ridout said it was clear Australian businesses and households needed to prepare for escalating electricity and gas prices over the next decade. 
What really annoys me is the extent that Labor went to ... to tell us otherwise:



Oh, and who could forget this:



I think it's labor who has been there too long ... Working families had never been better off as they were back when the much maligned Howard first said it.

H0W ARE VICTORIAN FAMILIES FAIRING NOW:
  • Melbourne CPI (Consumer Price Index) up 14.9%
  • Average full-time wages up 25%
HOUSEHOLD BILLS 
  • Water up 79.6%
  • Electricity up 59.1%
  • Gas up 39.2%
  • Rates up 38.1%
  • Insurance up 27.5%
  • Rent up 25.5%
  • Mail up 21.6%
  • Home loan costs up 12.9%
  • Financial services up 3.2%
  • Telcos up 1.7%
FOOD
  • Fruit, vegetables up 30.3%
  • Bread, cereal up 23.5%
  • Dairy up 21.7%
  • Meals out, takeaway up 21%
  • Drinks, snacks up 20.6%
  • Meat, seafood up 15.8%
HEALTH
  • Hospital and medical up 32.8%
  • Dental Up 22.8%
  • Medicines up 8.9%
  • Optical up 6.9%
TRANSPORT
  • Tolls, rego, charges up 37.2%
  • Car parts, accessories up 17.5%
  • Public transport fares up 14.6%
  • Car repair, service up 13.6%
  • Fuel up 7.2%
  • Cars down 2.8%
 CHILDREN COSTS 
  • Secondary school up 35.8%
  • Preschool, primary Up 27.8%
  • University up 22.5%
  • Child care down 29.2%
BOOZE AND SMOKES
  • Tobacco up 50.2%
  • Spirits up 35.2%
  • Beer up 28.5%
  • Wine up 4.6%
FASHION
  • Shoes down 1.2%
  • Men's down 6.1%
  • Children and baby down 11.1%
  • Women's DOWN 13.4%
BODY BEAUTIFUL
  • Hairdressing and beauty up 18.9%
  • Toiletries up 3%
RECREATION
  • Sport up 14.3%
  • Books, newspapers, magazines up 9%
  • TV, stereo, computer Down 21.9%
HOME AND AWAY
  • Repairs, maintenance up 17.8%
  • Holidays up 9.2%
  • Cleaning agents up 3.3%
  • Furniture up 2.1%
  • Appliances, utensils, tools down 1.9%
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics CPI data. Dec quarter 2005-2010. St Vincent de Paul Society analysis.

On the back of this Julia Gillard still clains labor is the fair party, as noted by The Age's Shaun Carney, "Gillard has also now embraced a more traditional, collectivist Labor rhetorical style, eschewing the presidential tone of her recent speeches. She told Mitchell (3AW) she was":
''a Labor Prime Minister. I'm from a Labor government. We do things in a Labor way, which means fairly, and when we do things fairly that means we assist people with the most needs, and high-income earners like you and me do get asked to look after ourselves - and we can.''
We do things fairly?

See also: Working families have never been better off?

UPDATE

Melburnians face massive hikes in water bills for desalination plant
Premier Ted Baillieu admitted today the contract signed by the former Labor Government couldn't be broken and the "white elephant'' desalination plant could cost a maximum $23.9 billion ... The desalinated water will cost up to $13.58 a kilolitre - compared with just $1 for our current supplies.

Twitter, tweets and twits

Aside from the pointless babble that dominates the micro blogging site we know as Twitter, it's fair to say that the Iranian presidential election protests of 2009 were both a clear and pronounced demonstration of the value of Twitter as a quasi news network. As Time put it:

After the election in Iran, cries of protest from supporters of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi arose in all possible media, but the loudest cries were heard in a medium that didn't even exist the last time Iran had an election ... Twitter practically ideal for a mass protest movement, both very easy for the average citizen to use and very hard for any central authority to control. The same might be true of e-mail and Facebook, but those media aren't public. They don't broadcast, as Twitter does. On June 13, when protests started to escalate, and the Iranian government moved to suppress dissent both on- and off-line, the Twitterverse exploded with tweets from people who weren't having it, both in English and in Farsi. While the front pages of Iranian newspapers were full of blank space where censors had whited-out news stories, Twitter was delivering information from street level, in real time ...
But I cannot help but cringe when hearing of anyone who would choose to tweet what would otherwise be intimate or personal details. This is especially so when celebrities choose to do this. As a Melbourne Age reader recently put it:
I remain mystified as to why anyone, much less highly recognisable celebrities, would choose to tweet intimate details of their private lives in a world of strangers. But I'm grateful to my Oxford dictionary for giving me a clue; one meaning of the verb "twitter" is explained as to "talk rapidly in a idle or trivial way". Now I need to look up the noun "twit" and I'm sure all will be revealed.
 Take a bow Judith Caine of Donvale Victoria.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kristina Keneally's "Sorry" ad

Is it meant to be a slogan? "SORRY" ... "LOST OUR WAY",  it makes one cringe ...



And while we're on the subject, what is it with self effacing Labor?

Kristina Keneally Feb 6, 2011

"And while this state government has achieved some great things for families, many would say that we recently lost our way. And they would be right. We lost our way because were too focused on ourselves and not enough on what matters to families in this state. and for that I am sorry."
Julia Gillard June 24, 2010
I think I've made clear my reasons for taking this position. I came that a good government was losing its way ... I think this has been a good government but i do believe we have lost our way".

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Labor record of failure second to none ...

Why on earth would anyone vote for this crowd ever again ... The news today is that yet another of Rudd Gillard or Gillard Rudd's ventures turns to nothing:

TOYOTA’S locally built Hybrid Camry has flunked its first year, selling thousands fewer than expected and attracting just 1400 private buyers despite millions in government funding ... Industry Minister Kim Carr defended the project yesterday. Canberra pumped $35 million from the $1.3 billion Green Car Innovation Fund into the car.
For mine the Governments green Car Innovation Fund was always questionable or at worst, a hand out to unions.

But really federal Labors record of non achievement is a sorry tale. Last years much touted and now scrapped health deal,  the Building the Education Revolution (BER), the free computer delays, super clinic delays, the East Timor detention centre, boat people arrivals, new Asia forum, Aboriginal housing nonsense, ETS,  U.N. Security Council bid, all the failed Green programs, and this is just of the top of my head.

Effective policy implementation has been a non starter, in fact this is the most ineffectual government in modern Australian history. What is also of concern is the lack of media scrutiny given the litany of failures. The Canberra press gallery would rather focus on pop culture politics than policy creation and implementation. Just perhaps though, it maybe more a case of the media's inability to analyse the quality of Government. John Roskam from Melbourne's IPA noted this last week in the Fin Review.
So, in 2011 this is what Australian politics has come to. Prime Minister Julia Gillard looking "wooden" during the Queensland floods versus Opposition Leader Tony Abbott not talking for 12 seconds during a television interview. Why would anyone bother doing policy? Pop psychology deployed against your opponent is easy to do and entertaining for the public. And for the media, it's more fun to discuss the imagined emotional state of our leaders than to dissect the regulatory framework governing Australia's telecommunications industry for the next 20 years. The most popular politician in Australia at the moment is Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. If there were a vote tomorrow for president of an Australian republic, she'd probably win easily .... 
Read the whole piece here

In writing about Labor on/ff off/on health reform package Leo Shanahan puts it nicely:
All of the Rudd/Gillard big policy failures seem to follow a similar pattern: from the ETS to tax reform to asylum seekers we’ve been promised big revolutionary change, followed by broken promises and backdowns, followed by a new Prime Minister who proceeded to reaffirm her support for, then promptly tear up the old plans. All of this becoming so far removed from the originals they hope we’d forgot they were still breaking promises.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Metro's Overcrowding Claim, a Poor Alibi

Melbourne's long suffering rail commuters, those squashed into jammed trains in the morning and afternoon peaks found themselves the subject of remarks by senior Metro trains management today. I refer to Metro boss Andrew Lezala, whose comments appear in this mornings Herald Sun and have sparked a fairly unequivocal response from some quarters.

Metro's chief executive has admitted the packed carriages are putting a strain on the company's engines and playing havoc with schedules. "They just can't do it," Andrew Lezala said. "Physically, they don't have enough grunt in accelerating or braking." "With the amount of heavy loading we've got now on Comeng trains, they can't keep the timetable on Frankston and Pakenham." He said the company had been forced to stretch train journey times to allow for the hold-ups
Little wonder the likes of the RMIT's Paul Mees came out shouting on afternoon talk back.
Metro's claim that overcrowding on Melbourne's trains is slowing down journey times is a poor excuse to defend itself against dismal performance figures, according to a public transport academic. Paul Mees said trains in Tokyo carried as many passengers in one week as Melbourne's carried in a year, yet trains in Japan's capital were not forced to slow down to cope with the numbers. "Anyone would think that Melbourne's the only city in the world where they have to carry a lot of train passengers," Dr Mees, an RMIT transport academic, told radio 3AW today.
Personally, I believe Andrew Lezala has been given the wrong advice. That train braking and accelerating is compromised by passenger loading is nonsense. Sure there would be some effect, even of a quantifiable nature, but hardly decipherable and, in any event, its impact would be insignificant as drivers compensate for the additional loading in there driving techniques. The real impact of the extra load is the time it takes to board and alight trains at the busier stations. That said, Metro is doing a commendable job in controlling passenger flows in the CBD stations. As someone who sits at the controls for Metro, I could add plenty of fodder to Metro's critics, but it would be both foolhardy and stupid for me to delve further.
If you want to know what's really wrong with our train system in Melbourne, I suggest you read  Royce Millar and Clay Lucas's excellent piece, Taken for a ride: how Metro 'inherited a dog' as it appeared in The Age on January 22, 2011.

UPDATE: April 23

For those that asked: How do I know? ..... I drive trains for Metro !

UPDATE: April 27

Shock horror, Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala has confirmed investigations are under way into allegations that train drivers are driving slower and deliberately sabotaging the timetable.

Metro wants to probe every unexplained late running service as Andrew Lezala feels that customers deserved to know why the service has been poor of late.
… we are investigating the services that run late for no apparent reason to get to the bottom of it ...
That Mr Lezala is seeking an explanation is warranted, but are Metro train drivers deliberately driving slower? All I wish to add is that, upon my returning to duty next week (have been on annual leave) I will drive according to operational requirements and, in a manner and way that protects my interests first and this ladies and gentlemen means, below track speed. Incidentally, I am betting that I will also report, at the very least, one train fault on my first day back. Now before anyone makes a judgement about my train driving you might want to reflect upon what I have intentionally omitted.

Getting Candid about a Nuclear Iran

With the world focused on Egypt and the possible rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood there, the new documentary Iranium is a disturbing reminder that Iran remains the truly imminent and terrifying threat to American interests and world peace writes Mark Tapson.

With the Muslim Brotherhood poised to emerge dominant in Egypt, uprisings rocking government foundations in Jordan and Tunisia and Algeria, domestic unrest bubbling up in Syria and Yemen, and Iranian-backed Hezbollah establishing control of Lebanon, the situation in the Middle East is ratcheting up from mere chronic instability to chaos. And looming over it all is the catalyst of a rabidly anti-Western, theocratic regime in Iran, in hot pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Recently I attended a packed screening at Los Angeles’ Luxe Hotel of the new documentary Iranium, about the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran ... Swiftly paced and increasingly gripping, the documentary depicts the rise of the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and the brutal power it wields behind the scenes; Iran’s expansion into South America and its alliance with Venezuela’s crafty socialist thug Hugo Chavez; its shrewd oil deals with China and Russia; and the apocalyptic insanity of Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly promised to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, and who is quoted in the film claiming that the highest form of art is “the art of martyrdom” — a man for whom the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction is not a deterrent but an incitement. Read the whole piece here
True to form the BBC, goes to great legnths to trash the film Iranium, and to label its director as an Israeli Jew.
The movie Iranium premiered on February 8, and has made a lot of noise since then. First, the Iranian Embassy in Canada tried to prevent it from being shown. Then Islamic thugs threatened the organizers. Then the Iranian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying the documentary shows Western countries will do anything to hurt Iran’s nuclear activities. Quite clearly, the Islamic regime is fearful of this documentary, which vividly reveals the truth of Iran’s three decades of terrorism, human rights violations, and the dangers of nuclear arms in the hands of the radicals ruling Iran.

However, BBC Persia, in its recent coverage of the movie, has topped Iran’s own PR attempts. More here
I cannot think of any peaceful instrument that is likely to dissuade Iran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions aside perhaps from providing only improvements of a secondary or marginal nature. A multipolar nuclear Middle East is hardly in the West’s and above all, in America’s interests. Looking ahead, any efforts to contain a nuclear Iran would pose significant challenges in light of both the Islamic Republics inherent nature, its continuing support for terrorism and present regional political order. Aside from the military question, the U.S. will be severely tested as it attempts to manage the instability and insecurity fashioned by a nuclear Iran. By fashioned we mean actual security threats such as terror and subversion, limited military operations under the protection of an Iranian nuclear umbrella and lord forbid, the actual use of nuclear weapons. As hideous as this sounds, and notwithstanding major developments beforehand, Iran may soon become part of the international engine room for the design of a new regional architecture in the Persian Gulf and Southern Asia. Unquestionably, any hopes that Operation Iraqi Freedom would result in the U.S. building on its military success by establishing new regional security architecture actually capable of generating stability have long passed.

Labor takes a big hit in latest Age/Nielsen poll

Prime Minister and her Labor government have recorded their lowest general support since she took the leadership in June last year.

THE Coalition has opened an emphatic 54-46 per cent two-party lead in an Age/Nielsen poll that shows Labor's primary vote and the Prime Minister's popularity sliding.

This is the biggest lead the opposition has had over the Gillard government in Nielsen polls and - depending on preference allocation - probably its best result since early 2005.
Read all about it here

This compares to Two-party vote: Coalition 51% lead ALP 49% (based on 2010 election preferences) back on November 22, 2010.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday titbits

Heading over here to check out Wayne Rooney's latest football miracle. I'd gladly post the video here but embedding has been disabled by request ...

But here's one I can embed:



Cheeky but effective, Virgin Atlantic wants to be the raunchiest airline ever ... No doubt there happy with their ad agancy, here's another:



Moving along now, here's a list of over 500 Australian journos on Twitter, have fun ...

Atlas Shrugged is coming, the movie that is:



Is it true that Atlas Shrugged is the second most influential book ever written?

No one knows exactly how influential Atlas Shrugged is, because there has never been a proper study done to check. The "second most influential" claim comes from a Survey of Lifetime Reading Habits conducted in 1991 by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Library of Congress. Printed surveys were sent to members of the Club, asking them what books had most influenced their own lives. A little over 2,000 responses were received. The Bible ranked first, and Atlas Shrugged ranked a distant second. Because the survey targeted an audience of book lovers (members of the Club) and an active effort was required to mail in a response, it is likely that the results were skewed towards people who were influenced especially strongly by a particular book. Such a result cannot be reliably interpreted as reflecting the entire US population, although enthusiastic promoters of the novel sometimes make such claims. (The survey is also often inaccurately described as a "poll" or "study," and various incorrect sources are cited for it.)

Similar concerns affect a more recent list to an even greater degree. In 1998, book publisher Random House ran an online vote asking readers to name the "best" English-language novels of the 20th century. Atlas Shrugged placed first in this vote, with Rand's other novels placing high on the list as well.
Read the rest here ...

Now for a speech that, in the end, was a long time coming ...



And Pt 2:



Prepare for more of this as Sarkozy weighs in ...

Now the Dutch weigh in too ...
Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen on Monday said the multicultural society has failed.

Tony Abbott vs Seven Nightly News

They may have made their peace but The Australians recent ediorial cuts through on Sevens framing of the Opposition leader:

SADLY, unnecessary additional trauma has been inflicted this week on the widow and family of Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney. The memory of this fallen soldier and his tragic death have been revisited and trivialised, not by politicians, but by the Seven Network. The station went to extraordinary technical lengths to resurrect Tony Abbott’s private battlefield briefing about this fatality, and then misrepresented it. The episode can only undermine public confidence in the media.

On Tuesday, the network breathlessly claimed the Opposition Leader “insults a fallen soldier” and was “caught on camera making an insensitive remark about the death of one of our soldiers during a visit to Afghanistan”. The trouble for Seven and its chief political reporter, Mark Riley, was that these allegations simply weren’t true....

Clearly, in this case a television program has chosen to promote its own interests by dishonestly seeking to damage Mr Abbott....

But what of the rest of the media? As a conservative Liberal, Mr Abbott is seen as fair game by many in the press gallery with some holding him in open contempt. So while they agreed the Opposition Leader had said nothing wrong in Afghanistan, many journalists still attacked him for his awkward response to Seven’s claims. It seems like something of a witch trial to condemn a man for his reaction without taking into account the egregious nature of the allegation to which he is responding.

This is symptomatic of a culture of “gotcha” journalism, where one reporter strikes and the pack feeds. It also amplifies suggestions that hunting conservatives is a favourite sport of the Canberra clique.

Read the whole editorial here
In the end, it was notable that Riley engaged in more damage control than Abbott ...

UPDATE

Mark Riley responds diplomatically, hence damage control!
Dear Otto,

It's regrettable you feel that way.

I can only assure you that my intention on each and every day of my 31years in journalism is to report in a fair and balanced way, without fear or favour.

That is what I did in this case.

Regards,


Mark Riley
Political Editor
See also: Low, deceptive tricks by Channel Seven spark fury