Minimalist Demarchy

This would be my proposed model for a minimalist Australian Demarchy.

The House of Representatives
  • All elections for the House of Representatives are suspended indefinitely
  • Each elected member in the house is given a term of office lasting from between 1 to 6 years. This number is determined randomly.
  • Once the elected member's term has expired, the sitting member is replaced by an Australian citizen chosen randomly from the population.
  • This randomly selected member's term in the House lasts 8 years.
  • After this member's 8 years is up, they are replaced by another randomly selected Australian citizen.
  • If the member's time in office ends prematurely (death, resignation, removed from office) then they will be replaced by another randomly selected Australian citizen whose term in office will be 8 years.
  • The selection of a Prime Minister will be handled normally.
  • No Australian citizen with a criminal record will be eligible to be selected as a member of the House of Representatives.
  • The number of members of the House of Representatives will be 150.

The Senate
  • All elections for the Senate are suspended indefinitely.
  • Each elected Senator is given a term of office lasting from between 1 to 6 years. This number is determined randomly.
  • Once the elected Senator's term has expired, the Senator is replaced by an Australian citizen chosen randomly from the population.
  • The randomly selected senator must be chosen from the State of Australia that has been allocated to that seat. Eg: If the Senate seat is from NSW, then a person randomly selected from NSW will be invited to fill it. If the Senate seat is from Tasmania, then a person randomly selected from Tasmania will be invited to fill it.
  • This randomly selected Senator's term in the Senate lasts 8 years.
  • After this Senator's 8 years is up, they are replaced by another randomly selected Australian citizen.
  • If the Senator's time in office ends prematurely (death, resignation, removed from office) then they will be replaced by another randomly selected Australian citizen whose term in office will be 8 years.
  • No Australian citizen with a criminal record will be eligible to be selected as a member of the Senate.
  • The number of Senators is 12 from each state in Australia, with 2 each from the ACT and the Northern Territory (total number 76).

The Governor-General
  • The selection of Governor General will be handled normally.

This photoshopped image has been shamelessly stolen from Something Awful.

Good Charismatics

As many of you know I'm a big critic of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. Yet in the midst of my criticism I know in my heart that many of these people are fellow believers, and will spend eternity in heaven with me. I think my criticisms are valid, but I love them all the same.

So it is wonderful when I discover Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians who are discerning and who are disgusted at some of the things going on in their churches. The Signposts blog is one place I have discovered, and now I have discovered another one, Fireinmybones, the blog of J. Lee Grady from Charisma Magazine. How about this for a quote:
One friend of mine in Texas recently inquired to see if a prominent preacher could speak at her conference. The minister’s assistant faxed back a list of requirements that had to be met in order to book a speaking engagement. The demands included:

* a five-figure honorarium
* a $10,000 gasoline deposit for the private plane
* a manicurist and hairstylist for the speaker
* a suite in a five-star hotel
* a luxury car from the airport to the hotel (2004 model or newer)
* room-temperature Perrier

This really makes me wonder how the apostle Paul, Timothy or Priscilla managed ministering to so many people in Ephesus, Corinth and Thessalonica. How did they survive without a manicurist if they broke a nail while laying hands on the sick?

I was relieved to know that this celebrity preacher’s requirements in 2007 did not include a set of armed bodyguards—because I just might want to jump uninvited into her Rolls-Royce and say a few words.

It gets worse, if you can believe it. At a charismatic conference in an East Coast city recently, a pastor stood on a stage in front of a large crowd and smugly announced that the guest speaker was “more than an apostle.” Then the host asked everyone to bow down to the person, claiming that this posture was necessary to release God’s power.

“This is the only way you can receive this kind of anointing!” the host declared, bowing in front of the speaker. Immediately, about 80 percent of the audience fell prostrate on the floor. The few who were uncomfortable with the weird spiritual control in the room either walked out or stood in silent protest.


What has become of the American church? What is this sickness spreading in the body of Christ? I don’t know whom to blame more for it: The narcissistic minister who craves the attention, or the spiritually naive crowds who place these arrogant people on their shaky pedestals. All I know is that God is grieved by all of this shameful carnality.

How far we have fallen from authentic New Testament faith. Paul, who carried the anointing of an apostle but often described himself as a bond slave, told the Thessalonians, “Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives” (1 Thess. 2:8).

New Testament Christianity is humble, selfless and authentic. And those who carry the truth don’t preach for selfish gain or to meet an emotional need for attention. May God help us root out the false apostles and false teachers who are making the American church sick with their man-centered, money-focused heresies.
Praise God that he is working His Spirit in the hearts of many Charismatic leaders like Grady. This is a man whose critiques should be listened to - even if he critiques me.

Thanks to SBCOutpost for this link.

Liberal Christians

In many ways you could describe me as a "Liberal" - that is, I believe in a progressive society that is continually questioning its own attitudes and bias and is trying to improve itself over time.

But, on the other hand, I am also a "Conservative" in that I believe in Sola Scriptura, which means that certain beliefs of mine are determined by the Bible and are thus in harmony with the so called "judeo-christian belief".

Of course, the primary source of authority is the Bible - hence Sola Scriptura. Any time "liberal" or "progressive" beliefs come into conflict with the revealed word of God, I always side with God's word (the Bible).

There is, however, much that the Bible does not talk about, and this implies that Christians can still have varying opinions on things. As a "social liberal", I obviously think that greater government spending on welfare and higher taxes to pay for it is not a belief that is against the Bible. But, then again, nor is the idea that governments should be small and tax minimally either.

I'm saying this because Ali has a posting entitled "Social Liberals: Do they know what they are doing?" which is an interesting read. Check this out:
So what do I mean by the title of this post? Am I anti-liberal? No. In fact, I don’t believe a biblical Christian can afford to adopt a conservative or liberal label too strictly because biblical teaching overlaps on both sides and yet remains distinct. However, much of liberal thought has at its base the idea that humans are good and that people just want to get along.
It's good stuff. Go read it.

O'Reilly declares war on Dailykos

Bill O'Reilly - the Fox News person, not the Australian cricketer - has all but declared war on the lefty blog Dailykos.

Unfortunately, O'Reilly seems to have forgotten the power of the internet, which allows previous court documents to be dug up easily. Let's just say that O'Reilly's private life is quite sordid, and has resulted in him being called "loofah" and "felafel" by his critics.

O'Reilly is, of course, as guilty as anyone in depicting people he disagrees with as Nazis. This is going to be an interesting time - lefty blogs like Dailykos and Americablog are getting their readers to write letters to advertisers to try to get O'Reilly off the air while O'Reilly continues to depict these lefty blogs as terrorist-supporting Nazis.

This is, essentially, a battle between the "Old Media" (Fox network) and the "New Media" (blogs). It'll be interesting to see how this turns out. Murdoch (the owner of Fox) can never justify a business that does not make a profit, so aiming at advertisers is a good idea since it would eventually force Fox to shut O'Reilly down if the protests succeed in reducing revenue to the show.

Suffering Iraqis

From AP:
About 8 million Iraqis — nearly a third of the population — need immediate emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, relief agencies said Monday.

Those Iraqis are in urgent need of water, sanitation, food and shelter, said the report by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee network in Iraq.

The report said 15 percent of Iraqis cannot regularly afford to eat, and 70 percent are without adequate water supplies, up from 50 percent in 2003. It also said 28 percent of children are malnourished, compared with 19 percent before the 2003 invasion.
Saddam was evil... but living under his rule seems a lot better than the chaos and suffering that most Iraqis are going through now.

Godwin's law and Global Warming

As many of you know, I am familiar with the concept of Godwin's Law. Put simply, Godwin's Law acts as a warning to anyone who, in the process of putting forth and argument or criticising someone or something, uses the analogy of Nazism and/or Adolf Hitler.

One of the most prominent areas that Godwin's Law is being ignored is in the "debate" over Global Warming. People like me, who accept the expertise of 99.9% of climatologists, believe that anyone who denies global warming is essentially denying reality. In response, global warming deniers are more than happy to smear reasonable people like myself by calling us "Nazis". How about this for an example:
[Y[ou know, Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization. The goal is global carbon tax. The goal is the United Nations running the world. That is the goal. Back in the 1930s, the goal was get rid of all of the Jews and have one global government.

You got to have an enemy to fight. And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power. That was Hitler's plan. His enemy: the Jew. Al Gore's enemy, the U.N.'s enemy: global warming....

Then you get the scientists -- eugenics. You get the scientists -- global warming. Then you have to discredit the scientists that say, 'That's not right.' And you must silence all dissenting voices. That's what Hitler did.
The problem with using Nazi analogies is that, according to Godwin's Law, the first person to do so has essentially lost the argument. Unable to argue effectively with facts, the person's only recourse is to smear and insult. The fact that so many global warming deniers are calling people like me "Nazis" is because they either don't have the brains to mount an effective counter argument or they don't have the testicular fortitude to admit they're wrong.

P.S. If you're reading this, and are a global warming doubter, then click here to read the evidence, which is presented in a factual, objective and scientific manner by a reputable American science magazine.

When Suffering gets personal

John Simpson, a BBC reporter in Iraq and Afghanistan, has seen much suffering over the past few years - including the effects of suicide bombings. Finally it has begun to affect him personally:
I do not just loathe the stench of high explosive, I have come to loathe the attitudes of people who use high explosive for their own purposes: insurgents, terrorists, the intelligence services of a dozen countries, governments which target towns and cities and always have a ready apology when they kill the wrong people.

High explosive means hospitals with blood on the walls and corridors, and ordinary people like you and me, lying on the floor or on a gurney, ears ringing with the noise of the explosion, nostrils filled with the stench of it still.

The screams of others who are worse hurt than us. The fear and despair of the small number of doctors who have to deal with so many life-or-death cases, and know that they are condemning many of them to a slow, painful death.

"The armed struggle," said an African resistance song from the 1980s, "is an act of love." Try explaining that to the people lying in the hospital corridors.

Does the ALP hate Shrek?

Who knows? However I think to write legislation that prevents the use of cartoon characters to advertise food and drink products will be almost impossible.

Ingmar Bergman

I suppose the good thing about his dying is that, finally, video shops the world over will begin stocking The Seventh Seal - a film I really want to see but is nowhere to be found.


Spent yesterday asleep - hence the lack of posts. I am feeling better today.

Those dratted Rhinoviruses!


Ravi Zacharias

No longer has my respect:
But as you look back at the book of Kings and Chronicles you see one difference between every king: either they followed the Lord with their whole heart and blessing came; or they turned their backs upon God and then the entailments were there. And that’s what will happen to this country.
Nice to see this bit of exegetical hoop-jumping afflicting even the more popular Evangelicals.

For the record, Israel and the US are not synonymous, which means that the OT examples of godly and ungodly leaders in Judah/Israel, and the subsequent blessing/cursing of God upon these two nations as a result, does not mean that God will specially bless a country that has Christian leaders.

A misunderstanding of the difference between old and new covenant results in the sort of Jingoistic eisegesis that Zack is guilty of here.


Brian May

A Bear Market

The recent market "corrections" in the last few days have obviously been concerning/exciting (depending upon your point of view), but is this a "bear market"?

According to that always-correct-fount-of-knowledge, Wikipedia, a bear market is broadly defined as when a key stock market index drops by 20% from a recent peak over a 12 month period.

If we just stick to the Wilshire 5000 (which I think is more useful as a sharemarket index than the Dow Jones Industrial Average), we have seen drop from a high of 15,700.95 (on 13 July 2007) to 14,710.78 (27 July 2007). This represents a drop of 6.31% - not a "bear market" yet, but certainly a correction.

So, by the broad definition of a 20% drop, the Wilshire needs to drop to 12,560.76 before we can "officially" call it a bear market.

A question

Does anyone know of any instances where gangs of homosexuals, or a lone homosexual, has gone out and killed Christians because they think that the sexual beliefs/practices of Christians are immoral?

The reason why I ask is because it seems to happen the other way around quite a lot in the US.

A good response to persecution?

From the Washington Post:

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- A dozen Christian men were convicted Thursday and sentenced to up to 14 years in jail for beating to death and beheading two Muslims to avenge the government executions of three Christians in Indonesia last year.

Five other Christians received eight-year terms for burying the pair, who were set upon by a mob as they drove though a Christian neighborhood on Sulawesi island a day after the Sept. 22, 2006, executions of Fabianus Tibo and two other Christian militants.

The three executed Christians had been found guilty of leading a militia that killed at least 70 Muslims during a 1999-2002 religious war on the island that led to the deaths of at least 1,000 people from both faiths.

The One Gigawatt wind turbine

Oil closes within one cent of record

Bracks resigns

The Victorian premier, Steve Bracks, has resigned suddenly.

John Thwaites, the deputy Premier, has also resigned suddenly.

These moves smell very fishy. I remember when Bob Carr and others in his cabinet suddenly resigned and left politics in a chariot of fire, to be replaced by Morris Iemma and a mountain of evidence pointing to corrupt behaviour.

I think the same will happen here. Expect to see lots of exposes of the Victorian ALP and a lot of controversy surrounding the new premier, John Brumby.

Compressed air power

The idea is that wind turbines use their energy to compress air in a storage system nearby, which, when released, drives a turbine to produce electricity.

The advantage of this is that the energy gained by the wind turbine can be stored for later usage, thus allowing greater flexibility when electricity usage rises and falls.

So, in short, all the hoopla about how wind power can't provide proper electricity demand has essentially been proven false by science and modern engineering.

The Economist has all the details.

The bloodbath continues...

The Wilshire 5000 has dropped down to 14,710.78, erasing all gains made since mid-April.

The dropoff is now officially "worse" than the one in late-February to March.



The Share Wipeout

Yeah, yeah, we all know about it. How bad was it?

Well, the Wilshire has dropped to 14938.47. The last time it hit that mark (on the way up) was the beginnign of May. This means that about 3 months worth of gains has been wiped out in the last 3 days. Ouch.


From the Onion

Full article here.

Hot Lips Houlihan

26 July 1945

Delirious with joy at the defeat of Hitler and the success of the Allied war machine, Britain decides to dump Churchill as PM.

This photoshopped image has been shamelessly stolen from Something Awful.

NZ interest rates and monetary policy

Allan Bollard, the governor of the New Zealand Reserve Bank (NZRB), has raised interest rates today by 25 basis points - from 8.0% to 8.25%.

New Zealand has some rather interesting problems. The first is that their current account deficit is a whopping 9.1% of GDP. Essentially, their currency appears to be quite overvalued. The second is that their unemployment rate is very low at 3.8%, which while a sign of economic strength, is also putting pressure on inflation (higher levels of employment lead to higher levels of spending). The third is that, in an effort to devalue the currency, the NZRB intervened in the foreign exchange markets by selling off bonds in NZ dollars, thus causing the currency to drop in value.

So, New Zealand is facing inflationary pressures and a large current account deficit. The NZRB, like all modern central banks, controls inflation by monetary policy - raising interest rates will bring down inflation. The problem is, however, that whenever these rates increase, then the currency becomes more valuable around the world - the rates go up which means that overseas investors see it as a good place to invest money. But when this happens, the country's current account goes into deficit (it buys more from overseas than it sells overseas, and makes up the difference by borrowing from overseas).

But then the NZRB has been selling off bonds to lower its currency - but that runs counter to its inflation controls. It is as though it is trying to solve two problems at once and is doing two things that cancel each other out. Let me make it simpler:

Problem #1 Big current account deficit.
Solution: NZRB devalues currency.
Result: higher levels of inflation.

Problem #2 Higher levels of inflation.
Solution: NZRB raises interest rates.
Result: Big current account deficit.

This problem is not, however, as simple as I make it out to be. The action of raising interest rates also dampens economic growth - which means that the purchasing of goods and services, even those from overseas, may drop off. In other words, even high interest rates and the resulting high currency may result in a lower current account deficit.

I'm a proponent of zero-inflation monetary policy - essentially I believe that central banks should aim for completely neutral price stability.

Let's assume that the NZRB chooses to lay off its devaluation scheme and focuses entirely upon inflation. More than that, let's assume that the NZRB chooses to enact a zero-inflation monetary policy. What would happen?

Inflation in New Zealand is 2.0% and the NZRB's actions today (raising rates to 8.25%) indicate their belief that there is upward pressure upon prices. With a zero-inflation policy, it would mean that the NZRB would continue to raise rates until inflation settled at or around 0%. What would this figure be? I'm not certain, but interest rates would probably be in the range of 9.5 - 10.0%

The effect of a raise in interest rates would be dramatic. Foreign investors would buy up NZ bonds. More than that, investors in the New Zealand sharemarket would begin to sell off their equities in order to buy bonds that offer better returns than some companies. This would result in a sharemarket decline.

But what would the average New Zealander do? Households have a choice between spending or saving their money. Since an increase in interest rates would make saving more attractive, household savings would increase. But this would be at the expense of spending - which would result in a slower economy. With less spending, demand for goods and services - including goods and services procured from overseas - would decline, leading to a drop in the current account.

It sounds counter-intuitive to suggest that a current account deficit can be reduced by having circumstances that promote a strong currency - but the issue is not whether the currency is strong but whether demand is too high. Even an economy with a strong currency can have interest rates high enough to choke off demand and rebalance the current account. The Japanese Yen, for example, is quite strong yet the economy it serves runs a large current account surplus.

But getting back to New Zealand and my proposed zero-inflation model - some of you may be asking why I would even bother suggesting this course of action.

As with Paul Volcker's world recession of the early 1980s, sometimes the best thing to do is to force a recession in order to rebalance everything. New Zealand, as it stands, is living on borrowed money.

At this point I'll re-state a little anecdote I often make to prove my point. Imagine a man who is living beyond his means and borrows money to cover his expenses. At some point, this man's interest payments will become so high that the proportion of his income that he spends in debt repayment results in poverty. In order to prevent this slide into poverty, the man must cut back on his spending and begin to spend less than what he earns. As each subsequent payday goes by, he owes less and less money and is able to pay back his loans more easily. Moreover, he can also afford to spend more as a result of his debt reduction.

Just as this anecdote applies to one man so it can apply to an entire economy. If New Zealand is to stop itself from sliding into debt it must reduce its spending. The best way to reduce spending is to restrict the money supply, which means that interest rates must increase. Despite the extra value this gives to the currency, the effect of higher interest rates will be to reduce all forms of spending, including goods and services procured from overseas.

Tight monetary policy, like tight fiscal policy, has a "J curve" effect. The initial effect will be negative, but as time goes on the effect will be positive. The ultra-tight monetary policy that I am proposing will naturally result in, at the very least, a sluggish economy and, at worst, a recession. But, over time, the economy will rebalance, and will grow again - except this time the growth will be more sustainable over the long term and will coexist with a balanced current account.

Dumb conservatives

How about this for an "informed" comment on global warming:

If you want to reduce CO2 emissions, stop breathing. Everytime you exhale, you release co2's into the atmosphere. Also, if you have plants and trees on your property, chop them down because they also release co2's!

America - a Christian nation?

I got my propaganda, I got my revisionism
I got my violence in hi-def ultra-realism
all a part of this great nation
I got my fist I got my plan I got survivalism

- Survivalism (Nine Inch Nails)


King Mal

This photoshopped image has been shamelessly stolen from Something Awful.

Australian Inflation at 2.1% (annual)

So says the SMH.

The good news is that, historically, these inflation figures are light years better than anything we experienced post-1965 and pre-1994. Monetary policy - specifically the role that central banks have in controlling inflation via interest rates - continues to show that it is an effective way to level out the peaks and troughs of economic growth and keep the value of money more or less constant throughout different economic situations.

The bad news is that the 2.1% annualised figure is on the wrong side of the line for the Reserve Bank to reduce interest rates. If anything, the figure is more likely to encourage the Reserve Bank to raise rates in the future. Anyone who is hoping for interest rates to fall in the short-medium term should be quite disappointed.

One last thing - the 1970s showed economists that there is actually no "trade off" between inflation and unemployment. By focusing solely upon keeping inflation low, central banks make medium-long term employment conditions more favourable than if they decided to let inflation "run" a bit in order to boost employment levels.

But, then again, I'm one who argues that monetary policy should be even stricter.


The other day I was showing the music video of Numb (U2) to my kids.

My daughter then began to put her foot in my face and began to lick my ear.

Bush's grandfather planned fascist coup in America?

I would dismiss this as another nutty conspiracy - but it was reported by the BBC. From the link:
A BBC Radio 4 investigation sheds new light on a major subject that has received little historical attention, the conspiracy on behalf of a group of influential powerbrokers, led by Prescott Bush, to overthrow FDR and implement a fascist dictatorship in the U.S. based around the ideology of Mussolini and Hitler.

In 1933, Marine Corps Maj.-Gen. Smedley Butler was approached by a wealthy and secretive group of industrialists and bankers, including Prescott Bush the current President's grandfather, who asked him to command a 500,000 strong rogue army of veterans that would help stage a coup to topple then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

According to the BBC, the plotters intended to impose a fascist takeover and "Adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression."
This is one of those things that needs a Snopes article.

The truth

Freaks - a quick review

Last night I saw the classic film Freaks for the second time. Released in 1932, it is a film about circus "freaks" and how they are treated by "normal" (able-bodied) people.

The film is certainly ahead of its time. The most "evil" people in the film are the circus strongman and a female trapeze artist who work together to rob a sideshow midget of his fortune - even going to such lengths as the woman marrying the midget while planning to poison him later.

The film was made in that interesting period pre-code and post-talkies where certain ethical codes had yet to be drawn up while film-makers began to experiment with their new audio/visual art form. For example, one of the characters, a young woman, is seen to "move out" of her relationship with the strongman and begin a new one with a clown - unmarried cohabitation being clearly implied. Moreover, a very disturbing relationship between the female trapeze artist and a male midget is also depicted. The midget - not a dwarf - is essentially a person who is as old as a normal man but who has the body of a child (proportionate dwarfism, a result of growth hormone deficiency which is now preventable), so the film depicts this strange relationship developing between a full grown woman and a midget who, for all intents and purposes, looks like a six year old boy.

The film is full of humour as well: One man is married to one female siamese twin but not the other, with the other eventually accepting a marriage proposal from another man (how would that work out in practice? The film leaves it up in the air!); The bearded woman gives birth to a bearded baby girl; a "human torso" (a man born without arms or legs) manages to put a cigarette in his mouth a light it without help from anyone else.

The film has a reasonably dark ending and the "freaks" do not come across as people who can be exploited easily. There's all sorts of stuff in the film that is not exactly "PC" but not exploitative either.

US Sharemarkets in plateau phase?

The graph above has been shamelessly stolen from the Wilshire Associates webpage which gives daily information about the performance of the Wilshire 5000.

The Wilshire 5000 is probably the broadest share index available to examine to sharemarket. "The Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 is the best measure of the entire U.S. stock market." Unlike the DJIA or the S&P 500, which only list "blue chip" stocks, the Wilshire 5000 is essentially a marker for the entire sharemarket. Each single number represents $1 billion, which means that the current index of 15,244.07 represents approximately $15,244.07 billion dollars.

So, what happened last night when the sharemarket tanked? Well, according to the Wilshire 5000, there was a loss of 314.21 points: $314.21 billion dollars was wiped out of the marketplace. This represented a one-day fall of 2.02%.

As you can see from the graph above, last nights fall wiped out all the gains made in July so far. But if you look at June, you'll see that June's progress was hardly wonderful either. In fact, the highpoint you see in early June (the peak of the "mountain") has hardly progressed much at all.

Unlike the February/March "dropoff" that you can see there, none of the recent drops have been too bad. The difference is that while the Feb/Mar dropoff ended up being a hiccup on the way up, the last two months have seen the sharemarket go nowhere. It has, in fact, reached a plateau.

Being the bear that I am, I would argue that this plateau may result in a longer-term downturn in the US sharemarket. The subprime bloodbath has affected both the value of the US Dollar and the bond market, and is now threatening the sharemarket.

Another useless news report

Drink-driving arrest for Lohan.

Do we care? No.

Will the media report it? Obviously.

Cutting Greenhouse gases without destroying the economy

Can it be done? Absolutely. Sweden has shown the way:
More than 10 years ago, when oil prices were hovering around $20 a barrel, Växjö announced its aim of becoming a Fossil Fuel Free City. Later it set a date for that goal - 2050, and then added intermediary steps, such as halving the carbon emission per inhabitant by 2010. Already Växjö is well on course. It has clocked up a 25 per cent reduction in per-capita emissions, and at 3.5 tonnes of carbon per person, it hasthe lowest urban level in Europe. It is certainly below the Swedish average of five tonnes and minuscule compared with the United States, where emissions are more than 20 tonnes per person.
What's all this nonsense about destroying 95% of industry in order to be carbon neutral?

US Suicide rates per year

Cactus over at Angry Bear has been having a wonderful 3 months in which he has been comparing all sorts of US social statistics since 1960 - and highlighting which president was in power at that time.

At the moment he is examining US Suicide rates.

This graph shows quite clearly that US Suicide rates dropped dramatically during the tenures of presidents Carter and Clinton - both Democrats, while showing either a deterioration or no improvement in presidents like Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush - all Republicans.

Never underestimate the predictability of stupidity


RFID Chips in HIV positive Papuans

The ABC Reports:
A doctor says lawmakers in the Indonesian province of Papua are mulling the selective use of chip implants in HIV carriers to monitor their behaviour in a bid to keep them from infecting others.

John Manangsang, a medical doctor who is helping to prepare a new health care regulation bill for Papua's provincial Parliament, says unusual measures are needed to combat the virus.

"We in the government in Papua have to think hard on ways to provide protection to people from the spread of the disease," Dr Manangsang said.

"Some of the infected people experience a change of behaviour and can turn more aggressive and would not think twice of infecting others," he said, adding that lawmakers are considering various sanctions for these people.

"Among one of the means being considered is the monitoring of those infected people who can pose a danger to others.

"The use of chip implants is one of the ways to do so, but only for those few who turn aggressive and clearly continue to disregard what they know about the disease and spread the virus to others."

But Dr Manangsang says a decision is still a long way off.

The head of the Papua chapter of the National AIDS Commission, Constant Karma, reportedly slammed the proposal as a violation of human rights.

"People with HIV/AIDS are not like sharks under observation so that they have to be implanted with microchips to monitor their movements," he told the Jakarta Post.

"Any form of identification of people with HIV/AIDS violates human rights."
I gotta say... this concerns me.

24 July 1567

James I becomes King of England at the ripe old age of 1.

This photoshopped image has been shamelessly stolen from Something Awful.

From the Onion

Why is this news?

From the SMH:
Prime Minister John Howard has taken a stumble and fallen onto his hands and knees on the way to a Perth radio interview this morning.

Mr Howard was walking towards the entrance to radio station 6PR when he tripped on uneven ground and fell on his hands.

His minders quickly rushed to help him up.

The Prime Minister is in Western Australia - where he has strong support due in part to the state's resources boom - on a pre-election tour.

The fall comes only two weeks after another embarrassing gaffe, when he forgot the name of a Federal Liberal candidate in Tasmania.

Speaking on Tasmanian radio, Mr Howard could not recall Vanessa Goodwin's name.
My feelings towards Howard and the Coalition are well expressed on this website. However I do not think that this news item - nor the one where he forgot that person's name - is newsworthy in any way.

I fall over sometimes and often forget people's names.

What next? "Howard forced to use 2ply toilet paper in his loo"?

Al Qaeda Supports the emerging church

Quite a few bloggers have pointed this one out. It's quite disgraceful. Here's a sample:
If the world is to be saved from Muslim conquest, it will be America who does it. And if America is to be saved, only conservatism can do it. And if conservatism is to be saved, it will be those Bible-believing patriots who do it–those conservative, evangelical Christians who are the bedrock of the American way of life.

Tom Ascol comments about this at his blog and some of the comments there are worth reading. From what I can see there is a unity amongst non-emerging types against this article. In other words, yes we disagree with the emerging church but no they are not terrorists.

I suppose it shows just how poor the situation has become in the US that people are so willing to call someone a deadly enemy based upon theological disagreements like this.

The Internet Subway (pic)

I have a job interview

Whoever it was who prayed for me yesterday should be thanked.

Pray that I might get some form of employment out of this... and that it can somehow fit in with my wife's work and how our kids get looked after.

Be careful what you wish for

The next JK Rowling?

From the BBC:
Five years ago, GP Taylor was a Yorkshire vicar, former punk, ex-policeman and Sex Pistols roadie, who sold his motorbike to pay to print some copies of his first children's book.

With an almost spooky haste, his book, Shadowmancer, was picked up by publishers, and became a number one best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic.

Like the overnight dot.com millionaires, he became one of the instant successes of the children's literature gold rush, with improbably large sums of money and movie plans attached to his follow-up books.

Cynical me

Half of the UK is underwater. So what does the BBC start reporting?
Human-induced climate change has affected global rainfall patterns over the 20th Century, a study suggests.

Researchers said changes to the climate had led to an increase in annual average rainfall in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.
I mean, I believe in the whole human-caused global warming thing, but this is a bit too "convenient".

"It's raining because of global warming" may not necessarily be true.

Increasing Oil Production?

From the BBC:
Oil prices settled below $77 in London, after comments from producer cartel Opec added to speculation that it might increase output.

Brent oil, seen as the best indicator of global prices, settled 78 cents down at $76.86 per barrel in London as sweet crude settled at $74.89 in New York.

It comes a day after Opec boss Mohammed al-Hamli aired concerns about the economic impact of near-record prices.

Analysts remain unsure whether Opec is likely to change output by year end.
As a peaknik, I'm obviously not convinced. What this report shows, however, is that the market obviously believes that production CAN be increased by OPEC. This is actually a serious problem as it means that the market has either discounted, or is ignorant, of Peak Oil.

Fox News website hacked by Slashdotter

Garrett's Greenness

The Greens are annoyed at Peter Garrett:

Greens Leader Bob Brown says yesterday's Tasmanian forestry announcement by the ALP shows Peter Garrett, the party's environment spokesman, has sold out.

"I can't comprehend how Peter Garrett can have gone through the pantomime of coming down here the day before, flying home again saying Kevin Rudd was going to make an announcement, knowing that announced the death knell for some of the most magnificent forest in Australia," Senator Brown said today.

"He should have stood up to it, but he has sold out on the forests," he told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

"I warned Peter that when he went into the ALP they would eat him up and spit him out and that's just what's happening."

I sort of agree with Brown on this - Garrett was far more suited to be a Greens politican than an ALP one. Garrett has obviously had to "tone down" his opinions for the good of the party but that is hardly the best sort of thing to do for a person who is known for speaking his mind on issues.

I don't want Garrett to be silent. I want him to speak up and disagree with the ALP leadership if he chooses to. Politics seems to muffle and silence too many people, which is really against the whole idea of democracy. If Garrett speaks his mind and is then kicked out of the ALP then at least he has a clear conscience (he could always join the Greens).

But if Garrett continues to be silent then it does him no good at all. It will show how completely he has been corrupted by the political process and the ALP. Who will trust him then?


Christians are stupid

Especially when they're criticising Harry Potter.

Even in relatively secular England a Pentecostal Christian was up in arms about Harry Potter. Teaching assistant Sariya Allan is a “committed Pentecostal Christian” who told a seven-year-old girl she would be “cursed” for reading the Harry Potter books. The school found that action unacceptable and told Allan who then resigned her position and tried suing for £50,000 ($100,000) in compensation saying that she is being discriminated against for her religious beliefs. She says: “It’s a book of witchcraft, and witchcraft is an abomination to God.”
Baptist youth ministries leader Jennifer Zebel said in Baptist Press, “I cannot believe that any secular book, character or movie advocating witchcraft of any kind could be this wildly successful without Satan having an agenda for it. The bottom line is that we know the right choice is to steer clear of these books and movies, but we don’t want to make the sacrifice. Satan is a wonderful writer and movie producer.” To be clear, Baptist Press is an arm of the largest fundamentalist sect in the United States-- the Southern Baptist Convention.

Why does the world hate America?

Mohsin Hamid, a Pakistani American, writes about this in the Washington Post:

Part of the reason people abroad resent the United States is something Americans can do very little about: envy. The richest, most powerful country in the world attracts the jealousy of others in much the same way that the richest, most powerful man in a small town attracts the jealousy of others. It will come his way no matter how kind, generous or humble he may be.

But there is another major reason for anti-Americanism: the accreted residue of many years of U.S. foreign policies. These policies are unknown to most Americans. They form only minor footnotes in U.S. history. But they are the chapter titles of the histories of other countries, where they have had enormous consequences. America's strength has made it a sort of Gulliver in world affairs: By wiggling its toes it can, often inadvertently, break the arm of a Lilliputian.


The residue of U.S. foreign policy coats much of the world. It is the other part of the answer to the question, "Why do they hate us?" Simply because America has -- often for what seemed good reasons at the time -- intervened to shape the destinies of other countries and then, as a nation, walked away.

There is so much about the United States that I admire. So when I speak of that time now, and encounter the pose of wounded innocence that is the most common American response, I am annoyed and disappointed. It is as though the notion of U.S. responsibility applies only within the 50 states, and I have no right to invoke it.


Americans need to educate themselves, from elementary school onward, about what their country has done abroad. And they need to play a more active role in ensuring that what the United States does abroad is not merely in keeping with a foreign policy elite's sense of realpolitik but also with the American public's own sense of American values.

Because at their core, those values are sound. That is why, even in places where you'll find virulent anti-Americanism, you'll also find enormous affection for things American. That's why Pakistani rock musicians listen to Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana, why Pakistani cities are full of kids wearing blue jeans and T-shirts, and why Pakistanis have been protesting to give their supreme court the same protection from meddling by their president held by its model: the Supreme Court of the United States.

All of which leads us to another, perhaps more fruitful question that Americans ought to consider: "Why do they love us?" People abroad admire Americans not because they back foreign dictators but because they believe that all men and all women are created equal. That concept cannot stop at the borders of the United States. It is a concept far greater than any one nation, no matter how great that nation is. For America to be true to itself, its people must broaden their belief in equality to include the men and women of the world.

The challenge that the United States faces today boils down to a choice. It can insist on its primacy as a superpower, or it can accept the universality of its values. If it chooses the former, it will heighten the resentment of foreigners and increase the likelihood of visiting disaster upon distant populations -- and vice versa. If it chooses the latter, it will discover something it appears to have forgotten: that the world is full of potential allies.

This photoshopped image has been shamelessly stolen from Something Awful.

Horse Breeders against Coal Mining

From the ABC:

The New South Wales Hunter region's thoroughbred breeders say their fight against coal mining will not stop, even though the State Government has rejected their calls to reduce mining in the region.

The horse breeders were calling for a moratorium on new mines, a cap on coal exports and a full-scale inquiry into mining.

But Planning Minister Frank Sartor has rejected their request, saying a blanket ban would be unacceptable.

Woodlands Stud manager Peter Flynn says mining is threatening the horse breeders and the campaign against mining will continue.

"We are concerned about it and becoming probably more concerned with the dust issues, the reports indicate to me that it's a fairly serious issue and that is going to affect us all," he said.

"We're definitely going to have to have a look at this and see where we go from here, that sort of news doesn't indicate to us that we need to sit back and wait to see what happens or back off at all."

Iraq war can be stopped by Congress

According to Adam Cohen in The New York Times:

Given how intent the president is on expanding his authority, it is startling to recall how the Constitution’s framers viewed presidential power. They were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not accidentally create a kingdom. To guard against it, they sharply limited presidential authority, which Edmund Randolph, a Constitutional Convention delegate and the first attorney general, called “the foetus of monarchy.”

The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war. They were haunted by Europe’s history of conflicts started by self-aggrandizing kings. John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”

Many critics of the Iraq war are reluctant to suggest that President Bush went into it in anything but good faith. But James Madison, widely known as the father of the Constitution, might have been more skeptical. “In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed,” he warned. “It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.”

When they drafted the Constitution, Madison and his colleagues wrote their skepticism into the text. In Britain, the king had the authority to declare war, and raise and support armies, among other war powers. The framers expressly rejected this model and gave these powers not to the president, but to Congress.

I really hate having no job

Please pray that I get one.

Keystone Cops

From the ABC:

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has accused the Federal Government of "incompetence" and of hiding behind a cloak of anti-terrorism secrecy in the case against accused terrorism supporter Mohamed Haneef.

Speaking on Southern Cross Radio, Mr Beattie said leaks and inconsistencies in the case against Haneef were undermining public confidence in Australia's anti-terrorism laws.

"I've got to tell you I've never seen such an incompetent explanation of what's going on from the Federal Government, they should wake up to themselves," he said.

"I don't enjoy being in this position, they should just wake up to themselves and tell the Australian people the truth."


Yesterday Mr Beattie said the AFP's handling of the case had been reminiscent of the "Keystone Cops".

His comments today came as The Australian newspaper reported that AFP officers wrote the names of terrorism suspects in Haneef's personal diary after he was taken in for questioning in Brisbane.

The paper said police then asked Haneef if he had written the names, before admitting their mistake

10 out of 10 for Otis Gibson

From Cricinfo:

Ottis Gibson, the Durham and former West Indies fast bowler, became the 79th bowler in first-class cricket to take all ten wickets today when he single handedly dismissed Hampshire for 115.

Sydney Anglican stats

  • Census figures show a 7.7% decline of "Anglicans" in Sydney (from 799,573 in 2001 to 738,388 in 2006.)

  • NCLS figures show a 26.5% increase in church attendance in Sydney Anglican churches (from 43,271 in 1999 to 54,768 in 2004.)

Implication: Less nominalism, according to Sydney Anglicans website.

(Thanks to CraigS)


How not to evangelise

The last two sentences in Deathly Hallows

I walked past a bookshop a little while ago and picked up THE BOOK, turned to the last page and read the final two sentences which I duly memorised. I will now provide those two sentences, mingled amidst a bunch of false ones:

  • "I do!" said Hermione, and they kissed. The crowd cheered.

  • "Is he gone?", Lily asked. "For good", said James as he held his son tight.

  • Harry's scar had not hurt in nineteen years. All was well.

  • Harry placed the textbook on the table and looked around his new office. "Well", he said, "I'm back".

  • "You're not going to believe this!" yelled Fred, "He's been made minister for magic!". They laughed.

  • He walked away from the locked gates. No one would go there again.

  • It was then that he realised that he was lying in a bed under a staircase. It had all been a dream.

  • And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.

Haneef countinued

Now it seems as though the offending SIM card wasn't even used in the failed attack, but was in the possession of someone who was not even directly involved.

But if his name is Haneef, he must be a terrorist!


Harry Potter is thinly-veiled homosexual propaganda

From Kuro5hin:

Harry's indoctrination begins in earnest when he is sent to a special school who purpose is to train him to use his wizard powers safely, while still being able to live in a world full of muggles. Young students at this school are forbidden from practicing "magic" (i.e. homosexuality) outside of the school (this is the so-called "restriction on the use of underage magic"). They are also forbidden from using magic in the presence of muggles, who might be frightened or angered by witnessing it, an obvious and heavy handed commentary on gay-straight societal tension.
The students at this school are segregated by gender, a clear attempt to encourage homosexual relationships. The most popular pastime at the school is a game called "Quidditch", which involves riding hard shafts of wood, handling several types of balls, and trying to score points by successfully penetrating the hoop. This activity is enthusiastically endorsed by school officials for obvious reasons. Harry quickly excels at this new game and quickly becomes known for his above-average broom handling.

The Economist refuses to understand Peak Oil

I was a big fan of The Economist for a number of years. I used to get it delivered, despite the hefty price tag attached to it. There were three reasons why this British "newspaper" (even though it is a magazine published weekly, they consider themselves a "newspaper") lost respect in my eyes. The first was their rosy predictions of the world economy in 2001... a year which contained a nasty recession. The second was their support of Bush's invasion of Iraq.

The third is their refusal to understand or at least deal with Peak Oil theory. I lost my respect for The Economist in a period when I discovered that their oil production figures implied that world oil supplies were safe for many decades.

This weekend's Economist has an article entitled The visible hand on the tap which looks at rising oil prices and supply. Look at the following quote (in reference to oil shortages):

This time around, however, facts have replaced fears: the world is consuming more oil than it is producing.

So, has The Economist embraced Peak Oil? Is it now admitting that oil production rates are dropping because the world's oilfields have "peaked"? No. This is the next sentence:

Last summer, as stocks started to rise, Saudi Arabia began cutting back its production. These cuts were formalised, and extended, at subsequent summits of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). As a result, OPEC's members are now producing roughly 1m fewer barrels per day (bpd) than they were this time last year. Meanwhile, global demand has risen by over 1m bpd, to over 84m. The inevitable result is falling stocks, at a time when they would normally be rising.

So, who is to blame? It's the nasty OPEC countries who have "cut back production", that's who!

The problem is that "cutting back production" is one possible answer to the problem of lower oil supplies. Another possible answer is that OPEC nations have the tap open as wide as possible... but less oil is coming out.

In March this year I wrote an article entitled "We've probably peaked". Based upon information I read at The Oil Drum, it is clear that Saudi Arabia (the world's largest Oil producer) has produced less oil in 2006 than it did in 2005. At the same time, Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in oil rigs and other oil extraction equipment throughout 2006 (doubling their oil rigs). Why suddenly build so much extraction equipment - especially when oil prices have been so high for so many years? Moreover, why is it that such extraction equipment has not resulted in an increase in production? The most plausible explanation is that Saudi Arabia has peaked, and that their reduced oil production is due entirely to geological reasons.

One of the revelations that occurred to me when I first understood Peak Oil is that oil production is affected by geology. No matter how many pumps or rigs or pipes are built over/into an oil field, once that field is half empty, oil takes longer amounts of time to come out. Economically, this is a vital thing to understand, since there is an exogenous "force" acting upon the normal supply/demand model that is generally accepted. Yet this information has not reached the marketplace yet, or at least the "experts" who write for The Economist. In many ways I can understand them - if you are ignorant of certain facts, you stick by your "proven" models. In this case, the belief is that oil can always be extracted and produced at a speed that matches demand.

So what is The Economist's reaction to the current oil price problem?

It is not in their (OPEC's) collective interest to derail economic growth or destroy demand for their wares. If they thought the oil price was high enough to do real damage, it would make sense for them to expand production. Unlike last year, they now have roughly 3m bpd of spare capacity they could tap. But such reasoning assumes the cartel is more predictable than the hurricane season or the politics of the Middle East.

So there you have it - if high oil prices destroy the world economy then it is because OPEC are a bunch of unpredictable Arabs who can't be trusted. But, hopefully, this won't happen because OPEC probably believes it can get away with the current price without destroying demand.

Economics is based upon human behaviour - but human behaviour is unreliable and dangerous when it relies upon false information. The science behind Peak Oil is sound. If the marketplace... if people... were aware of the truth of Peak Oil, then the market would react in ways to mitigate it. However, since time is no longer on our side, the market's non-acceptance of Peak Oil becomes more and more dangerous as the days, weeks and years go by. The longer it takes the market to accept Peak Oil, the harder will the fall be, and the more panicked will be the reaction.

© 2007 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

FAQ about the author

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Are sharemarket highs driven by debt flight?

I've been trying to work out why US Sharemarkets are booming while the US Dollar is simultaneously tanking - and I have this theory that it may be because people are fleeing from the debt (bond) markets.

The subprime bloodbath is now going to cost at least $100bn, according to Mr Bernanke, and the result is that investors are taking their money out. It's a bit of a vicious circle - debt-based investment companies are finding it harder to remain solvent because investors are taking their money out and making it even harder to make money out of the market.

But, of course, the bond market is also the place where US government bonds are traded - ostensibly the safest form of investment in the country (if not the world). People who invest in the bond market are both American and international investors.

So, with the bond market tanking, people are taking their money out. Where are they putting it? International investors are selling off their US dollar holdings and buying other currencies (such as the Euro, the Yen, the Pound and the Aussie). US investors are selling off their bond investments and redirecting them in the only place they know which is still making money in America - the sharemarket. So, on the one hand, international investors are driving the US dollar down. On the other hand, US investors are divesting bonds and investing in the sharemarket.

If this is true (and it's only my theory, not backed up by any hard evidence) then it would explain why it is that the Dow Jones is in so called "record" territory while the US Dollar continues to head towards Challenger Deep.

© 2007 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

FAQ about the author

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Tour des drogues

Every year, without fail, the Tour de France is held.

And every year, without fail, it is affected by drug cheats.

A few years ago I was doing some casual teaching in a Catholic School in the Hunter Valley when the school was visited by an Australian female cyclist who was about to go to Athens for the Olympics (she was a former student and was actually a trained teacher). A few of us teachers sat down and talked with her one lunchtime and found out that she spends most of her cycling time in Europe because that's where the money is for professional cycling. She also made it clear that performance enhancing drugs were big, big big in European cycling as well.

Southern Baptist Church growth

Prof tries to help Baptists improve health.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (BP)--Southern Baptists are 30 times more likely to be obese than non-Christians and are the most obese of any denomination studied in the United States, according to a study released by Purdue University in 2006.
Jim Florence is aware of this study. He keeps up with academic studies through his work at East Tennessee State University, where he is associate professor of public health.
But he is more concerned about the trends reflected by this and other studies because he himself is a Southern Baptist and feels called by God "to help Baptists improve their health," he said.

It's good to know that there's a growing denomination in the US that many of us could identify with...


19 July 1919

Luton Town Hall is burnt down by unhappy soldiers.

This photoshopped image has been shamelessly stolen from Something Awful.

Child porn and child molestation

From the New York Times:

Experts have often wondered what proportion of men who download explicit sexual images of children also molest them. A new government study of convicted Internet offenders suggests that the number may be startlingly high: 85 percent of the offenders said they had committed acts of sexual abuse against minors, from inappropriate touching to rape.
Traffic in online child pornography has exploded in recent years, and the new study, some experts say, should be made public as soon as possible, to identify men who claim to be “just looking at pictures” but could, in fact, be predators.

Not a photoshop

SMH poll indicates big ALP victory

At this point it is polling 60% ALP, 26% Coalition and 11% Green.

Obviously not a scientific form of polling - but interesting nevertheless.

Real men love The Fifth Element

After reading this I'm thinking of getting it.

The scene where Korben is almost mugged by a hyperactive crook wearing a hat with a photo of Korben’s hallway on it (in order to fool Korben’s peephole camera) is genius. Period.

Firstly, the mugger is holding the most absurd looking gun ever conceived: there are two different clips, spikes coming out of the barrel, a sight almost as big as the gun itself, and a little yellow button on the side that serves no purpose other than to render the gun useless.

Secondly, after the mugger has the gun confiscated from him, he – again, for no reason – starts dancing nervously.

Thirdly, this weird, crazy, ridiculously-dressed mugger is actually played by Mathieu Kassovitz, an established French writer and director (if you’ve seen Amelie, he played the object of Audrey Tautou’s affection). When the guy who played quiet, introspective Nino Quincampoix starts shrieking “GIMME DA CASHHHHHHHHH,” it’s an odd, yet kickass moment.


Bruce Willis never gets knocked out, by anyone, ever. To see him get (knocked out) by ---ing Bilbo, of all people, is hysterical.

Peanuts Manga

Underground lake to defuse Darfur conflict?

From the ABC:

The recent discovery of a huge underground lake in Sudan could spell an end to four years of conflict in the drought-stricken region of Darfur, a US geologist says.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and some two million displaced in the conflict, sparked in part by competing claims to scarce natural resources in the western region, humanitarian organisations say.

"Access to fresh water is essential for refugee survival, it will help the peace process and provide the necessary resources for the much needed economic development in Darfur," Farouk El-Baz from Boston University said.

The discovery was reported in last month's International Journal of Remote Sensing and the Sudanese Government has since launched its "1,000 Wells For Darfur" campaign to raise sufficient funds to tap the precious resource.

Mr Baz said Egypt has already committed to sinking the first 20 wells free of charge, while the United Nations has sought help in selecting the best sites to sink the wells.

The United Nations needs water supplies for its planned 20,000-strong joint UN-African Union force, due to deploy in Sudan possibly next year.

The lake was spotted by satellite and lies more than 550 metres below sea level.

With a surface area of some 30,750 square kilometres, it is slightly larger than Belgium.

Tasmania to enter SANFL?


Delegations from AFL Tasmania and the South Australian Football League will meet today to discuss the possibility of Tasmania entering the SANFL.Tasmania's licence to play in the Victorian Football League league costs $85,000 a year and expires at the end of the season.With the SANFL keen to add a tenth team to eliminate the bye, AFL Tasmania's general manager, Scott Wade, says a move to South Australia could be more viable.

London Desal plant


The UK's first desalination plant providing drinking water for Londoners and people in the south-east has been granted government approval.The plant in Beckton, east London, will start producing water sometime in 2009, in times of drought or low rainfall.The site will provide up to 140m litres of drinking water a day - enough for nearly one million people.

Megaflood created Britain

BBC reports:

Britain became separated from mainland Europe after a catastrophic flood some time before 200,000 years ago, a sonar study of the English Channel confirms.The images reveal deep scars on the Channel bed that must have been cut by a sudden, massive discharge of water.


Myths of the Common Cold

Click here.

Myth: Becoming cold or chilled leads to catching a cold.


1. ...almost everybody becomes infected whether they are chilled or not, if cold virus is dropped into the nose.

2. ...colds were no more frequent or severe in volunteers who were chilled than those who were not.


Steve Harmison

Worldwide protest against George Bush

Sunday 29 July 2007.

Wear a suit and tie.

US Army Sniper kills his estranged wife

MP3 or OGG?

If you have a digital music player, chances are that you use mp3 files.

Because I use Linux, virtually everything is geared instead towards ogg files. Ogg is a very similar form of software except that it is patent and copyright-free. The mp3 filetype is not.

Wikipedia uses ogg files instead of mp3s for the simple reason that mp3 is not an open standard while ogg is. The creators of ogg (Xiph) also maintain that ogg sounds better.

In the last few weeks I have been experimenting with the creation of mp3 files - especially ones with a low bitrate to reduce the file size. As a result I can tell you quite firmly and confidently that, especially at lower bitrates, ogg files are far superior in sound quality to mp3.

For example, I ripped a Led Zeppelin track into a 64kps mp3 file. I also ripped it into a 42kps ogg file. The mp3 file is 1.5mb while the ogg file is 0.98mb (1004kb). At such a low bitrate, listening to the mp3 file was like listening to a tinny AM radio, while the smaller ogg files sounded more like a bad FM station. In other words, the ogg file sounded much better (though still limited) than the higher bitrate mp3 file.

I therefore recommend anyone who wishes to rip their CD collection onto their hard drive use ogg instead of mp3. There are plenty of players you can download for Windows that can play ogg files. Media players capable of playing oggs are hard to find, but the iRiver T30 series is one that can (I use it and am happy with it generally).

And, of course, ogg filetypes are open source.

SCG Records

Some surprising ones here:

Most amount of Test runs scored: Ricky Ponting (1226 runs @ 81.73)

Most Test hundreds scored: Ricky Ponting (5)

Most Test scores above 50: Allan Border (11 fifties, 0 hundreds. Top score 89)

Most Test wickets taken: Shane Warne (64) (SCG MacGill is 2nd with 53).

Geoff Lawson to coach Pakistan

An interesting choice.

I remember back in the late 1980s when I used to go watch Sheffield Shield matches at the SCG that Geoff Lawson was one of the players there. There are two things I remember about him:

1. NSW vs West Indies, 12 November 1988. Last ball of the day was a bouncer from Lawson to West Indian legend Viv Richards, who was 35 not out at the time. The bouncer almost decapitated Richards and, in his efforts to evade the ball, managed to fall to the ground. It was a great ball and the crowd loved it. Richards survived it, however, and scored 101 the following day - his 100th hundred. Lawson took 5/69

2. Hard to tell which match this was - probably the same day as above. NSW were batting and I was sitting in the Ladies stand. In those days they opened up the Ladies stand for general attendance, which was great because you could sit really close to the NSW dressing rooms. What I remember most was Geoff Lawson walking around wearing nothing but a T-shirt and undies. I wonder if he'll encourage that in the Pakistani dressing room?

Prince's new album

Is free and available for download.

No. of Prince albums in my collection: zero.
Potential no. of Prince albums to be added to my collection in the future: zero.

Dr Haneef and Terrorism

When I heard that Dr Haneef had been arrested on terrorism charges, linked to the series of failed terrorism activities in the UK, my politically liberal antennas went up and began receiving warning signals.

However, given the fact that even political liberals hate terrorism and want peace, I was willing to place my fears into a jar for awhile in the hope that a thorough investigation into the guy would produce the correct evidence.

As far as I can tell, the only evidence that has linked the guy with the terrorists is that he gave them his SIM card. The terrorists were his cousins - which is, of course, problematic - but there doesn't appear to be anything else to link the guy to them.

So. A man is now imprisoned because he lent someone a SIM card.

Of course, the extent of Dr Haneef's involvement in the terrorism case may not be as simple as that. He may have been deeply involved but nothing, as yet, has been proven.

So the question is - should he be locked up based upon an unproven potential threat? And if that is justifiable, how many others should be locked up as well?

One of the cornerstones of western justice is that a person is assumed to be innocent until his guilt is proven. So far the only thing Haneef has been guilty of is providing a SIM card to his cousins (whom he may or may not have known to be terrorists). From a Christian perspective, the Old Testament says that the testimony of at least two witnesses is needed to put someone to death. Dr Haneef is not being put to death, of course, but the requirement of definite proof in order for any crime to be convicted is a legal theory that is backed up by Judeo-Christian belief.

There are plenty of people out there in our society who have committed crimes that have not been punished. Is it right to round up potential troublemakers and imprison them based upon nothing but the potential for crime?

Let me say yet again - Dr Haneef may still prove to be more than just a SIM card donor. He may well be involved in a plan to bring death and destruction to thousands of Australians. But without proof we cannot do anything. He must be let go. By all means subject him to continual surveillance. Monitor his phone calls and trail him wherever he goes. The police do this all the time to people they suspect of being major criminals. But let him go.


Patents don't pay

Today's This Modern World

Firefox threatening Microsoft in Europe

iTWire reports:

A study of nearly 96,000 websites carried out during the week of July 2 to July 8 found that FF had 27.8% market share across Eastern and Western Europe, IE had 66.5%, with other browsers including Safari and Opera making up the remaining 5.7%. The July market share represents a massive 3.7% rise since a similar survey in March.

A particularly worrying sign for Microsoft is that in some key European markets FF is threatening to overtake IE as the market leading browser. In Slovenia (47.9%) and Finland (45.4%) FF usage has reached parity with IE, while in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and Ireland, FF has either reached or is nearly at 40% market share.

Countries where FF market share has now reached 30% or more include, Austria, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia and Latvia.

Strong gains for FF were also reported in France, Sweden and Switzerland where in all three countries FF is now approaching 25% market share.

Harrison Ford is 65

He's getting older. 30 years ago he was only 35. What's the go with that?

US Stocks vs US Dollar

The Dow Jones is in record territory... but so is the US Dollar - a record low that is.

It's difficult for people to understand, but, if the sharemarket goes up but the dollar drops then there is essentially no change. US sharemarket indexes are based upon the US Dollar value of its shares.

Philippe Petit

Tight-roped walked between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974.

Blonde on Blonde