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Archive for April, 2008

>Obama’s Jeremiah Wright abandonment smells like a set up to me

April 30, 2008 4 comments

>The Jeremiah Wright issue has been a festering sore in the Obama campaign for too many weeks now and it was clear that he was going to have to exorcise his petulant spiritual guide sooner rather than later in order to have some time pass until the November election in which he could recover.

After defending Wright and making a speech on race in America (vapid though it was) Obama would have hoped the controversy would die down but the fact that even a supine press, enamoured as they are with the idea of President Obama, continued to labour the point showed him that the issue was more of a danger to his campaign than was anticipated.

Clearly, he couldn’t switch positions overnight and therefore needed some other, glaring reason to throw Wright under the bus.

What better way than to have Wright come out and make a series of profoundly loopy and way out there statements that Obama could then use as a catalyst to distance himself from Wright?

It smells like a set up to me.

The other thing it does is that it puts John McCain in a position where he will come under massive attack from the media to disown John Hagee who has endorsed McCain. Even though there’s a world of difference between a person who supports a campaign and one who has provided spiritual guidance to Obama for 20 years of his life the press will run an equivalence argument and go hard after McCain. As soon as McCain throws Hagee under the bus (which he may or may not do) then it completely wipes the Wright issue away for Obama.

Let’s see how this plays out over the next few weeks.

I’m re-listening to Obama’s press conference today as I write this. In spite of previously describing Reverend Wright as being “like family to me” only a month ago he then claims to never have heard the man say the racist, anti-American things that have now caused so much trouble. It beggars belief.

The other thing I’ve noticed about Obama is that when he’s not reading a prepared speech he is very faltering in his speech, indicating that he does not have his thoughts together, and he comes across as completely lacking confidence in what he’s about to say. Obama has been compared to JFK but JFK never lacked confidence when he didn’t have his notes in hand.

There are some comparisons that can be made between political leaders and Obama:

When Obama is reading from a prepared speech then he sounds like JFK.

When he’s talking off the cuff he sounds like George Bush.

Compare Bill Clinton’s natural, folksy manner when he’s talking off the cuff with Obama. There’s a gulf between them.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Politics, United States

>ElBaradei criticises US, Israel over Syrian nukes

April 30, 2008 2 comments

>How’s this for having more front than city hall?

Mohamed AlBaradei, head of the comically ineffective International Atomic Energy Agency aka the United Nations Agency Helping To Ensure Rogue Nations Get Nuclear Weapons, has criticised the US and Israel for not giving them information (that they could then pass on to Syria) that their nuclear development facility had been rumbled.

VIENNA, Austria – The head of the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency angrily criticized Israel on Friday for bombing an alleged Syrian nuclear facility, and chastised the U.S. for withholding information on the site.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei also was not provided information about the site until Thursday, the same day U.S. officials briefed members of the House Intelligence Committee about evidence including dozens of photographs taken from ground level and footage of the interior of the building gathered by spy satellites after the Israeli strike seven months ago.

ElBaradei was briefed by telephone by John Rood, the U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control.

I made a joke about it earlier on but it seems remarkable that the IAEA would be kept in the dark by the United States and Israel. What motivation could both nations have for doing so other than to ensure Syria didn’t find out ahead of the Israeli bombing? The IAEA, ElBaradei and the UN itself have been shown to be useless and feckless. Not that there’s anything new in that.

“The Director General deplores the fact that this information was not provided to the Agency in a timely manner, in accordance with the Agency’s responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to enable it to verify its veracity and establish the facts,” ElBaradei’s office said.

Additionally, “the Director General views the unilateral use of force by Israel as undermining the due process of verification that is at the heart of the non-proliferation regime,” it said.

ElBaradei did not criticize North Korea or Syria in his statement.

That is truly unbelievable. It reinforces ElBaradei’s real personal agenda to do as much damage as possible to US interests, which has been on display throughout his career.

The IAEA’s mission includes trying to keep nuclear proliferation in check, and it depends on member states for information in trying to carry out that task. It is currently probing allegations Iran tried to make nuclear weapons using not only its own research but intelligence provided by the U.S. and other members of the 35-nation IAEA board.

How can the IAEA board function when it has 35 nations involved? And how’s it going on its mission to try and keep nuclear proliferation in check?

Intelligence committee members also expressed anger Thursday over the seven-month time lapse before their committee was briefed.

Top U.S. intelligence officials who briefed reporters in Washington Thursday said they had high confidence in the judgement that North Korea had aided Syria with its nuclear program and the intention was to produce plutonium. But they claimed only low confidence for the conclusion that it was meant for weapons development, in part because there was no reprocessing facility at the site — something that would be needed to extract plutonium from spent reactor fuel for use in a bomb.

The Syrian reactor was within weeks or months of being functional when Israeli jets destroyed it, a top U.S. official told The Associated Press in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The official said the facility was mostly completed but still had needed significant testing before it could have been declared operational.

US intelligence agencies have little credibility on the issue of declaring that a nation has the capability of developing nuclear weapons, as Iraq has shown, but if the Israelis think it is then I’m rather inclined to go with their view given the consequences of Syria having a nuclear weapon are rather dire for them.

Repeating its previous stance, Syria, in a statement issued Thursday denied the allegations.

Now there’s a huge shock!

How is the stable world going to ensure that the unstable world doesn’t become nuclear armed if the IAEA is not only useless but so politically aligned with interests in the Middle East?

(Nothing Follows)

>Sharkey the dolphin performs last trick

>Sad news from Orlando, Florida, today that Sharkey the dolphin has died while performing aerial tricks due to a mid-air collision.

Who knew that the life of a performing dolphin could be as dangerous as that of the Blue Angels or Red Arrows and that mid-air catastrophe was only a bad jump away?

A dolphin has died after colliding with another dolphin while performing aerial tricks at a US marine park.

Sharkey, a 30-year-old dolphin, died after the accident on Saturday at the Discovery Cove park — a sister property to Sea World in Orlando, Florida.

About 30 visitors were standing in a lagoon while the dolphins did tricks, but something went amiss when the two mammals leapt from the water and collided mid-air.

The second dolphin did not appear to have been injured, but was being monitored, Discovery Cove spokeswoman Becca Bides said.

“This is a very unfortunate and very rare incident,” Bides said.

It was the first accidental death of a dolphin since the park opened eight years ago.

Located across from SeaWorld, Discovery Cove offers visitors the opportunity to swim with dolphins, rays and tropical fish.

Park officials are reviewing their dolphin training protocol “to ensure that even such a random incident like this can’t occur again,” Bides said.

Vale, Sharkey, and thanks for bringing so much enjoyment to so many people.

That last paragraph has got me, though. Officials want “to ensure that even such a random incident like this can’t occur again”…how does one prevent random incidents?

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Miscellaneous

>Enviro-fundamentalists never factor in the power of free markets to solve problems

>The Law of Unintended Consequences must annoy unwashed, sandle wearing, hemp clad, earth first environmentalists by ensuring that solutions are found to the most hysterical of ‘problems’ that allow humanity to prosper rather than revert to some relatively advanced form of hunter gatherer society comprising only a few million on the planet.

The most glaring recent example is the increase in interest in nuclear energy as a means of solving the ‘CO2 crisis’. Nuclear energy is, of course, anathema to environmentalists – in spite of it having a most remarkable safety record and being so safe that if provides 75% of France’s energy requirements – and would never have made it onto the public agenda if it were not for Big Green’s attack on capitalism and freedom under the guise of taxing carbon. Wind and solar energy are the solution cry these misanthropic scientific muppets who refuse to accept the appalling efficiency of both forms of energy when compared to nuclear.

We’re repeatedly told to use less water, recycle more (as if that helps) et blah in order to ‘help’ the planet. People are off their rockers, really, when you look at the facts involved. We’re also told to use less energy and here in Australia the government is intending to introduce energy use reporting for business in a scheme that will see companies having to provide information to the government on how much energy they are using. It’s actually completely barmy not to mention immoral.

Leaving that aside, the bleating has seen an increase in research into biofuels and the results are already looking really interesting. No longer will we have to drill for oil when there are such options available such as in the video below:

Bio-energy is an obvious alternative to nuclear and has the advantage of being able to power our cars and planes. Advances in genetic modification are seeing plants being grown that need very little water and produce an extremely high yield meaning that relatively small areas of land are required, which doesn’t need to be high fertility anyway, and the impact on food crops is removed.

None of this makes enviro-fundamentalists very happy, of course. Their whole argument is that there are too many people on the planet and that there are finite resources. It’s one of the great inanities of our time.

What must drive these people completely nuts, though, is that it’s the private sector – driven by free market capitalism – that is coming up with the solutions, as always…

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Climate Change, Energy

>I’ve been tagged

>Darren at Right On The Left Coast has tagged me, the bastard. Answering the questions is OK but finding 5 people to send the tag onto is a challenge. I’ll get him back somehow! PS – you should stick that one on your list of blogs to view daily.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?
Preparing to acquire another IT company and merge it with my own.

2. What are the 5 things on my to-do list for today?
I have to do things? Go to work, prepare a tender, submit it, interview someone, go for a beer.

3. Snacks I enjoy
Cheezels. Sour Cream & Onion chips. Fruit Tingles. Jelly Babies.

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire
I’d spend my money sitting on the beach drinking Crown Lager, chomping lobster, chatting up the beach beauties and picking the sand out of the crack in my arse. The rest I’d waste.

5. Three of my bad habits
Talk too fast (unless I’m public speaking, presenting etc), eat too much crap food, immediately forget the first names of people I’ve just met

6. 5 Places I have lived
Moscow, London, Washington DC, Nairobi, Rangoon to name a few…

7. 5 Jobs I have had
Only had 3 job types: programmer (part time in a government department when I was going through uni), senior manager in Information Technology (my own company for 15 years), currently general manager of a professional services business

Now that I’ve got that done who should I tag?

Darren, I’ll get back to you on that one…!

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Miscellaneous

>Labor hikes ‘alcopops’ tax knowing it will have no effect

>Is there any better example of Labor’s true tax for its own sake attitude than the massive hike in tax on ‘alcopops’, ostensibly to curb teen binge drinking?

A war of words has erupted after federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon accused the former Howard government of fuelling teenage binge drinking.

Ms Roxon said a decision in 2000 to cut excise on pre-mixed alcoholic drinks – so-called alcopops – helped fuel the surge in excessive drinking by young people, particularly girls.

A furious Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson branded the claim an “outrageous slur”.

Ms Roxon said the Rudd government’s decision to lift the excise by 70 per cent would help tackle binge drinking by making the sugary, innocuous tasting drinks between 30 cents and $1.30 a bottle more expensive.

The tax increase will deliver about $2 billion a year to the government – a “big chunk” of which will go to preventative health schemes, Ms Roxon said.

The first point to make is that the change will have zero, nil, nada, no impact on the supposed problem of teen binge drinking. One only has to look at the problems in the UK compared to ours to see that there’s not only no comparison but there’s not even a cultural issue to deal with. Teens will simply change drinks and keep drinking anyway.

The second point is that if the tax changes are meant to reduce consumption and positively effect teen health then why is the government expection to raise $2 billion when it should actually expect the tax to be revenue neutral at best?

The right of governments to control taxes carries it with it the responsibility to use that power wisely. Raising taxes always imposes the heaviest burden on those who can least afford it and, thus, tax increases such as we have just seen with alcopops – sold to us in order to help fix a minor problem (at best) and pay for health services – is immoral.

Not to be outdone, the anti-smoking lobby has also joined the fray:

After lifting the excise on alcopops, the federal government should also raise the tax on cigarettes, the Rudd government’s chief preventative health adviser says.

…Rob Moodie, from the National Preventative Health Task Force, is now calling on the government to lift the tax on cigarettes by 2.5 cents per cigarette, Fairfax newspapers have reported.

Dr Moodie said the alcopop changes were “terrific”.

“Using taxation or pricing as a lever for reducing harmful consumption is a really good idea,” he said. “There is certainly room to move (on cigarettes) (and) this issue will certainly come up in the taskforce.”

Is there any item on earth more heavily taxed than cigarettes? Why not slug smokers some more? I’m not aware of anyone that has ever smoked a cigarette, become violent and bashed their spouse or got into a pub brawl. I’m not a smoker and hate the smell (which gives me a headache) but I reckon smokers get a raw deal when compared to drinkers.

This government seems to be getting carried away with symbolism over outcomes by trying to be seen to be ‘doing something’ rather than getting on with the actual job of governing.

Into the ‘doing something’ category falls the FuelWatch program aimed at reducing petrol prices at the pump.

MOTORISTS will have a better chance of saving money under FuelWatch, the competition watchdog says.

But Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Graeme Samuel has warned motorists not to expect the saving to be obvious.

Rather than seeing a universal two cents drop across the market, Mr Samuel said FuelWatch would give motorists the knowledge they needed to go to service stations where fuel already was cheap.

“The really important saving for motorists is the power it gives them to know when prices are going to be lifted and when prices are going to be reduced,” Mr Samuel told the Nine Network.

Motorists will also know where they can buy the cheapest fuel in their suburb or town under the scheme.

“If you know the price of petrol is going to be lifted by 10 cents tomorrow, you’ve got 15 hours notice under the FuelWatch scheme to buy today, that’ll save you 10 cents per litre,” Mr Samuel said.

The head of the ACCC says that fuel savings may “not be obvious”? FuelWatch is an extension of a similar program that has been operating in Western Australia. How’s it going over there? They now have the highest fuel price of any state. Terry McCrann explained why it’s all wrongheaded a couple of weeks ago.

AFTER five months of seemingly endless ever-more-flatulent rhetoric, the no-longer-new Rudd Government has finally made its first real major policy decision.

And it’s a stinker.

It is in any event a decision driven by spin. To seem to “do something about petrol prices”. With the scheme starting in December, voters will have nearly two years to decide what that something actually delivers at the pump.

Here’s a long-term prediction: they’ll be pining for the bad old days of rampant discounting.

…Sure, consumers have “voted” for greater stability in petrol prices.

The rude shock will be the price at which they get it. Not those low prices through the fuel cycle, but at best some midpoint.

And more likely above the mid-point.

I don’t care what colour the government is – because both types are guilt of this sort of nonsense from time to time – it’s lunacy to think that government interference can do anything but raise prices.

Populism reigning, grocery prices are next.

SUPERMARKET giants should be banned from opening new stores in areas where they already have a stranglehold, the nation’s independent grocers group has told an inquiry.

Anti-price discrimination laws should also be reintroduced to ensure smaller grocers, such as IGA, can buy products at the same price as major supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles.

National Association for Retail Grocers of Australia (NARGA), which represents around 4500 independent grocery retailers, addressed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) grocery inquiry in Canberra today.

NARGA chairman John Cummings said Coles and Woolworths enjoyed a 80 per cent share of the grocery market in Australia, which lead to a lack of competition and higher prices for shoppers.

The fact that Coles and Woolworths have an 80 per cent market share didn’t put off Aldi from opening stores all around the country and offering good quality product at lower prices. News late last year was that Costco was looking to establish itself here, as well. All of this is to the good, as prices are reduced and that helps those at the bottom of the earnings scale.

This government really needs to get into the role of governing and take the tough decisions that need to be taken in order to strengthen our economy and increase employment. Focus on reducing government red tape that impacts business to no positive effect, remove inefficient taxes like stamp duty and the fringe benefits tax, and take on a big issue such as improving our education system through the introduction of school vouchers.

Those changes alone would mean that Labor could enjoy a successful first term in government.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Australia, Politics

>Sunday night rock ‘n’ roll

April 27, 2008 1 comment

>The Allman Brothers Band is a band from Macon, Georgia, labeled by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “the principal architects of Southern rock.” Formed in 1969, two years later they were described by Rolling Stone’s George Kimball as “the best damn rock and roll band this country has produced in the past five years.” They have been feted for their live performances. The band has been awarded eleven Gold and five Platinum albums between 1971 and 2005. Rolling Stone ranked them 52nd on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2004. The band continues to record and tour to the present day.

Not only are they in the Rolling Stone top 100 bands of all time but Duane Allman sits second only to Jimi Hendrix as the greatest ever guitarist. He was killed in a motorcycle accident when he was only 24.

At Filmore East
is considered one of the great live albums of all time.

The Allman Brothers Band 1973 Sat Night In Macon Part 1

The Allman Brothers Band 1973 Sat Night In Macon Part 2

The Allman Brothers Band 1973 Sat Night In Macon Part 3

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Music