Saturday, September 26, 2009

Google's Project 10^100 results pending

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When I first heard that Google was running this project to elicit community interest in projects I was going to sign up some ideas myself. In the end I decided against participation because they were not offering any financial support for the project, and there was no assurance of driving the project. That is their choice. I would say their folly. Any here are the ideas that people came up with, with my comments about each of them.
1. Help social entrepreneurs drive change
Of course is would be nice for people in the developing world to become commercially astute but the idea of a group of Americans going to Liberia or other countries to teach entrepreneurship is naive. People don't just embrace any set of values; it has to reconcile with their existing values. If you want to encourage entrepreneurship in Africa or Asia it has to start with the parenting.
2. Make government more transparent
This was a superficial solution to the tyranny of government. It does not address the core problem with representative democracies - the absence of reason as the standard.
3. Provide quality education to African students
One can certainly understand the need to educate people in Africa, and the African continent does have one of the largest populations, but if education is a value it makes more sense to start with those with address to online resources. This initiative plus the $100 computer make a lot of sense, though computers require electricity, which is not so cheap for the poor just yet.
4. Create real-time natural crisis tracking system
This is a good idea though we must remember that natural crisis occur because countries cannot fund these systems. It is a funding crisis not a technology crisis. The reason these countries can't deal with natural disasters is because they have the wrong political system. This is a long term problem. But so is a natural disaster system in as much as natural disasters are irregular. It is not a bad idea though, so this one is semi-plausible. The best so far.
5. Promote health monitoring and data analysis
This suggestion is a good idea. It will of course take a lot of money to develop and distribute so it is going to be a commercial decision.
6. Enhance science and engineering education
If there is a lack of regard for science and engineering its not because of lack of awareness of education, its actually a cultural folly. I do however think that engineering could be developed as a subject in school. The problem with physics education in school is that it is too abstract. Greater emphasis needs to be given to grounding physics in real problems, and of course introducing engineering to schools is a useful means of doing that.
7. Create real-world issue reporting system
This is not a bad idea. The problem of course that its a commercial solution which will eventually be developed. In fact its the type of solution that Google should be developing since its a commercial application that is consistent with its current business model. This type of solution will be developed soon as the technology is being rolled out to support such software solutions. Each of us has a cell phone and most have a computer. All it needs is the software to drive it, and integration with a platform like Google, which is already part of our lives.
8. Create genocide monitoring and alert system
This is a hopeless idea. The problem is not that genocide occurs or is inadequately reported. The problem is a lack of sound ethical principles in host countries or Western countries to do anything about it.
9. Work toward socially conscious tax policies
Consumption taxes are a fairer form of taxation but the problem remains governments who fail to reign in their spending, and who attempt to position themselves at the centre of the economy. There is no justification for having a government which accounts for 25-35% of an economy. They would be a fraction less than 1%. The problem is their arbitrary powers.
10. Build better banking tools for everyone
This is already being done in developing countries, and some of these suggestions offer no value.

I see no great value in these suggestions for several reasons. They are problems likely to be resolved in the fullness of time, or they are not fundamental enough. I would have been looking for ideas which offered a better solution for government. I was disappointed. In any respect Google's original conception was flawed by not committing any funds to the program. If it had it would have attracted more interest. Maybe it wanted to avoid corruption of the process by its staff. Who knows? For some reason 'community initiatives' is like code for altruism or other such Christian nonsense.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, September 25, 2009

How to deal with the contemporary political scene

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Lately I have been coming to terms with the current political system. Trying to establish a path through our political legacy which does not offer much in terms of protection of civil liberties. The other day I was listening to George Carlin to see that his solution is 'not taking an emotional stake in the outcome'.

I have difficulty accepting this strategy. He is not necessarily suggesting this strategt for everyone, since his concern is himself. Everyone cannot be comedians. It could be argued that if things were not as they are he might not have any material.
Regardless I cannot detach myself from the reality in which I live, so I want to fight for freedom. I do not believe it will necessitate civil war as he suggests, but I think whilst we might be going sideways, as we over-invest in material possessions, I think its probable that the world will wake up at some point. Maybe it will take a war with China or Russia. My guess is that they will align with the West in future. The answers will be found within communities, whether through some charismatic leader, maybe as a result of judicial activism, or maybe because of civil unrest or some unforeseen constitutional reform that bestows rights to all people.
I have just 50 years (max) of life left on this planet. I want it to mean something in terms of values. I want to relate with interesting people. I don't want to be constrained by idiots, and I want it to be a satisfying existence. Does it both me to pay 30% taxes? Yes, but that is not the end of it. Its the knowledge that government changes the way people think and act. It rewards the wrong type of behaviour, it encourages crime. It makes the world an unpleasant place to live. Governments shape values - not just through law, but through education and other subordinate institutions. This is not a conspiracy theory. There is no purpose from the 'top'. Its just unthinking people acting in what they consider their (expediate) interests. I favour acting in your interests, but not self-indulgence, but with a philosophical, rational standard of value.
I relate to a lot of what George saids but I do think he lacks some philosophical integrity in his approach to life. Damn funny guy though. I recommend most of his videos on YouTube for those who are unaware of him.
Andrew Sheldon

Conservatives and abortion

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One might think that I am expressing conservative politics here...nothing could be further from the truth. It is easy to categorise people, still harder to engage in philosophical arguments to establish the origin of your ideas.
Here is a George Carlin attack on conservatives.

Andrew Sheldon

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ayn Rand Institute addresses Republican Party

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The Republican Party has suffered one of its biggest election losses in history. Its fair to say that a great many people will be looking for a re-think on values. It is fair to say that these people were betrayed by the Republican Party. Its fair to say that the Republican Party has lost a lot of these people to the Democrats, not because of the values conveyed, buy because of the better leadership by Barrack Obama.
There are of course signs that the Republican Party is recognising its error, and that have taken steps to rediscover what the party represents. I would suggest the Liberal Party in Australia has to take the same steps since John Howard did as much to betray the history of the Liberal Party as George Bush did to his party legacy. But its not about these men, its a philosophy that was betrayed long ago, and it has generally got worse. The US is stronger because there was a time when it explicitly recognised its core values. That has been lost, so I want to ask people to listen to this convention to appreciate what values made the USA great. See this presentation to the Virginia Republican Party at ARC-TV.

This speech received a standing ovation. It was interesting however that the audience seemed to agree on all the issues presented except two. They did not applause on two issues:
1. A separation of Church and State: The reason why the separation of Church and State is important is because they are incompatible. The philosophy of the religion is to renounce personal values, the role of government is to protect your personal value. The philosophy of religion is to have faith; but the government's role is primarily to protect your rights, which demands attention to evidence, the facts of reality, and the principles of justice. based on rational discourse. Faith is a repudiation of evidence; it demands that you obey, accept God without evidence. For this reason religion is compatible with the coercive state; not capitalism.
2. The virtue of making money: The speaker could have framed this better, or elucidated upon the point. Basically he is not preaching love of material things. He is saying that there is no conflict between one's spiritual or philosophical values and one's material objectives, goals or wants. He is saying that one's primary responsibility and concern is for oneself. I would also add that it is only through self-love that one can truly love overs. Money is really only the monetary unit underpinning the acquisition of goods. What he didn't explain was the importance of self-esteem, efficacy in one's career, the importance of a long range purpose. This was a shame, because in the context of the current political climate, where you have CEOs getting huge salaries for stuffing up companies, and suggesting a desire to reduce regulation; people will just not embrace that idea.
Apart from failing to address those points it was a very good speech. It also highlights a shift I feel in the Ayn Rand Institute to speak in less technical jargon that people can understand.
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Clever advertisement for Chinese market

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This strikes me as a particularly good advertisement by Pantene for the Chinese market. All the better because the message has important implications for thinking throughout Asia. All the better because there is a Chinese element in most East Asian countries. More importantly, these countries have a historical legacy of collectivism, and this advertisement is a repudiation of that value system. So I thank Pantene for creating it. Too many other companies pander to the lowest common denominator. Here is a company which is raising standards. Watch the advertisement!

Andrew Sheldon

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Inquiry into state ownership of Australian enterprises

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I lodged this submission with the Australian Parliament - a little late because I was not watching the debate. I wanted to rebuke some of the statements made by the Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull in the Sydney Morning Herald:
1. In isolation (out of context) I agree with the Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull that its not favourable to have state-owned enterprises own buying stakes in Australian mining companies, but I would make the following points (which provide the ALL IMPORTANT context)
2. An 18% stake is not a controlling stake - its a blocking stake to prevent takeover. Further consolidation of the minerals sector is not in the interests of the mining industry, albeit a wasted effort since there is so much new capacity coming on stream in the commodities that these companies will not control. You might wonder why CEOs like takeovers so much. Its because it helps there careers because they get a huge premature payout, and it artificially increases the stock price from low levels before takeovers.
3. I wonder - if the Opposition Leader is opposed to political parties controlling corporations - why it does not push for the privatisation of state-owned enterprises like Australia Post, the railways (be they state owned), the police. These are all management systems that can be structured as private businesses, just as prisons have been sold in other countries, and detention centres have been contracted here.
4. The Chinese government is reducing its level of state ownership of industry, so in that sense its moving in the right direction towards greater liberty. Its easy for the West to criticise China for its human rights record, but it has changed in a decade more than the West did in 100 years. Part of the context for that is the Information Age, so we should expect China to move quicker, but the other context is, they have moved in that direction despite the mixed ideological (pragmatic) philosophy of the West. My point is that the West does not lead by example. Basically the West suxs as a role model. How can we expect them to act with integrity if we don't.
5. The Chinese government is Communist in name only, like Western governments its really a fascist regime. Why? Well they are corrupt in the sense that they offer personal and institutional abuse of citizens. But that is just like the West, just its rationalised in the West. Democracy is used for all manner of rationalisations, eg. The first home buyers grant of uo to $21,000 adopted by the Liberals, expanded by Labor. That is a fascist policy, no better than price controls. It is government manipulating price signals. Worse because it did it with the intent of overriding market signals.

In the interests of accountability - I'd like to see this submission accepted. Based on previous submissions I have seen no reason to believe that these arguments will make any difference because the real power lies with the arbitrary whim of parliament, as long as the judiciary remains passive in the face of such blatant abuses of process. Those abuses are:
1. The inability of individuals to directly take the government to task (court) over its arbitrary 'democratic' policies. Basically a citizen has to commit a crime in Australia to test the legal system, to challenge the parliament in a forum where reason is the standard, as we know that as long as competition policy is good for companies, but bad for political parties, we are going to get no 'right to life' from government.
2. The unwillingness of the judiciary to ensure that reason is the standard of value. Implicitly this was the intent of the Founding Fathers of the Australian Constitution, in as much as they made reason the standard of value in the court procedures. Not consistently so, but not bad for a pack of Christians over 100 years ago. Sadly the judiciary has remained passive over the last 100 years of arbitrary parliamentary debate. It has no ruled that politicians have a requirement to be rational. In a sense, it is saying the parliament is right because the 'majority' (it thinks 50% of the population) support the party. Well that is of course the mythology of democracy, that it serves anyone. As long as the parliament remains a two-party forum where numbers are more important that facts or ideas, there will be no real accountability.
3. Laws like sedition, which contradict one's rights to free speech remain a huge obstacle to freedom of expression. We of course have a Human Rights Commission, which is a joke because they define what human rights is, and as it turns out its a contradiction in terms. Rights are collectivised (like China), and if there is any intent to personalise then, they are totally arbitrary. They are not grounded in fact (i.e. the nature of humans), such that we have arbitrary assertions of rights, which actually contradict anothers rights. i.e.. the right to education is a claim upon teachers to provide it, the right to welfare is a claim upon others to provide it. That is of course the collectivisation of justice that draws us ever so much closer to China. Why China must love us!
Andrew Sheldon

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How accountable is government?

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One of the blatant contradictions that arises with government is their utter lack of public accountability. Private citizens and business people are required to act with a great deal of prudence in the way they conduct themselves, yet government officers ('bureaucrats') can act with impunity. Under the worst possible conditions they are likely to just lose their jobs. Many of them with just resign before that occurs so they can keep their generous lifetime pension.

We all know that there are laws which require the government to act in a certain way. The problem is that there are no substantive consequences if the government does not act the right way. The public organisations that execute or are enforce the laws are mostly not accountable for their actions. This means that the government is treated differently from companies or private individuals. The implication is that the government faces little deterrence other than bad publicity for non-compliance or poor execution. The reason is that voters have come to expect ineptitude from both sides of politics. Why? Because competition is GOOD right? Oh except for politicians. In politics there is no law preventing parties from forming cozy duopolies. Have you ever noticed that there is a cozy duopoly in every democratic country. Have you ever wondered why that exists? Let's extrapolate a little. Have you ever wondered why politicians are so inept and unethical?
Let's consider NZ - which is a pretty typical Western democracy. Probably freer than most. It was only from 2002 that public organisations were able to be prosecuted for a limited range of offences under the Crown Organisations (Criminal Liability) Act 2002. However, the application of this Act is currently limited only to offences under the Building Act 2004 and the Health and Safety and Employment Act 1992. What is more poignant here is that fact that taxpayers are going to pay any damages. I frankly don't know of any scam that beats that! Why should anyone be free of accountability?
Don't expect the media to do anything about this disparity in political values.
Andrew Sheldon

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Libertarianism - what's in a word?

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I have not had much to do with libertarianism, though on some level I might be considered one. Certainly I am a fan of small government. I might even be a fan of competing governments depending on what grab bag of functions you think government should be taking care of. I tend to think it matters little who administers anything as the responsible party is responsible or accountable and that reason is the standard. This need not just apply to the law......and this is where I depart from a great many libertarians.
I have this problem with them. They are advocates of freedom on the premise that freedom is restraint from initiating force. On this point I am in agreement with them. But this strikes me as law, and not morality. This philosophy of libertarianism has no theory of values. It defines what you can't do, and offers no moral guidance for what you should do. You might argue that you should do anything up until the point at which you start hurting others.
The problem of course is - what constitutes hurt or injurious behaviour? Certainly we can see the impact of stealing something of value, or the hurt or injury of a gun shot wound. But what about more intangible actions like:
1. Giving a child, or even selling their adult parents alcohol
2. Selling pornography to anyone who pleases
3. Selling drugs to kids or adults

Now, depending on your country's attitudes to these things, these actions might be either legal or not. Legality really comes down to repressed religious oppression or self-indulgence on such issues because I have yet to see a rational explanation or a 'theory of values' to explain why these actions are right or wrong.....apart from the general 'consensus' that its impractical to break the law. Clearly people do, and they are tolerated, or they get away with it.

I would argue that these actions are unethical, or immoral, and I make no distinction between these words. Someone might want to waste their time? Just give the job to a bureaucrat. I am only interested in words to the extent that they denote something in reality, and not words that fit into some arbitrary construction, detached from reality. Conclusion...because its the law!

I would argue that pornography, drugs and alcohol are not ethical practices if they detract from your quality of life, and if they medicate rather than solve problems. They detract because they don't resolve issues, and nor are they a stepping stone to finding solutions. They are an act of evasion. Do they hurt other people? No. That is why they are not often illegal. But herein lies the problem, they are not going to help you solve problems, and given a proper theory of values, they are going to just medicate people. This is not an inappropriate thing to do when you live in a police state. The worst police states in the world like Soviet Russia have the worst problems.

So in conclusion I find libertarian valueless - but then its the law - its not supposed to be based on a theory of values. It is the role of the law to provide the context in which the law is applied. Another problem is, after spending all that money on libraries, the government leaves nothing for justice, and that to me is the essence of liberty. Instead we get CEOs, bankers doing all sorts of damage, and the government is too underfunded to do anything about these issues.
Andrew Sheldon

Thursday, March 05, 2009

NSW government to squander privaitsation funds

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According to the SMH, the NSW taxpayers are about to lose $3 billion in public funds. You might be asking why? Well there are several reasons:
1. The NSW government is selling state assets at a time when public assets are at their lowest value in 20 years, and confidence is low
2. The way previous privatisations have been performed is that the government commits the utilities to long term vested contracts which lock in future revenues in order to get a higher price from the sale. The implication is that taxpayers are effectively being taxed
3. The broking industry is paid huge sums to coordinate a privatisation process which would be far cheaper if the government just tendered the sale of each power station, yet made a commitment to sell all of them.
4. The taxpayer would have been better off if the government had reformed the sector prior to sale
5. The taxpayer would have been better off if the industry was structured in a way which delivered competitive electricity services
6. The taxpayer would be better off if

The sale of NSW power assets is expected to raise $10 billion for the government. The decision is being taken because the NSW Labor government has placed the state’s finances in a parlous state. It is now under pressure to sell assets to buy its way out of the political dumpster. This is a political backflip by a government that has long campaigned for public utility ownership. Now it finds itself in a bind, it wants to sell off the family jewels for a song. This is just further evidence of the short-range thinking of politicians. Whilst I agree these assets should be sold, this approach is nothing more than a short term grab-for-cash. The notion that these assets needed to be sold, according to Finance Minister Joe Tripodi, was because “private sector investment was needed to ensure power supplies in NSW into the future”. This is nonsense. There is no reason why the government cannot tender for a build-own-operate power station. There is no reason why these assets need to be sold. This is political party cash raising prior to the next election to find future election bribes. This is a power-hungry party placing its own interests ahead of taxpayers.
Joe Tripodi’s other reason for privatising power assets was to “return proceeds from the sale to NSW taxpayers”. Of course there will be a return because these assets have been held by the government for decades. The question is why now? Why sell when the stock market has fallen through the floor. There is a very good reason and its totally political. They want access to the cash, at a time when they will not get a good price for an asset which is a cash cow.
There are many examples around the world where taxpayers experienced a deterioration of service and a huge increase in costs after privatising power supplies. NZ has amongst the lowest cost power plants in the world, but its power costs have blown out since these businesses were privatised. Why? Because assets which were previously political instruments (and thus not open to service price increases) are now ‘market instruments’ upon which the government has poorly conceived the ‘competitive market model’ such that these utilities can collude to charge what they like. Prices are at the end of the day going to be charged
The problem is that by selling these assets in such bad times most investors will steer away from these ‘cash assets’. The bulk of shares will go to foreign investors who will be using their cheap $A to buy up these assets. The profits will go to foreign utilities and brokers for doing nothing. For cutting staff to trim costs which the government was too scared to do for political reasons. There will also be higher consumer prices after the next election because the utilities will not have the same compelling ‘political’ reasons for keeping prices low.
This is not good policy, this is not goo leadership. This is political expediency from the NSW. We saw the same with the railways in Sydney. Talking up a non-commercial railway then dropping the project after the election. This is typical political electioneering and VERY CYNICAL POLITICS. Taxpayers might superficially think that the state is making money from this deal, but it’s getting a fraction of what it should because the government will squander the benefits. This should be considered as taxation (for the high prices you will pay), higher surcharges (for all the commissions paid to brokers) and kickbacks (for all the money they will spend on marginal seats prior to the next election).
Andrew Sheldon

Brown and rhetorical thinking

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Well I just read the speech by Gordon Brown to the US Congress. I would have to say it was the most boringly predictable, uninteresting speech I have read of late. It talks of course of his love of America, shared values, fighting terrorism, climate change and the perils of economic crisis. The reality is that you can no longer learn the mark of a man from his speeches because they no longer write them. They are fluff pre-conceived to be safe and uninteresting. Its not a platform to influence people but to be magnanimous in the most shallow of ways - with words rather than deeds. The reason I say this is because:
1. The reaction of Arab terrorists is partly in answer to the lack of principle exhibited by the US and Britain in the Arab world. These countries did not care about Arab people, only that they got their oil revenues, and after nationalisation of oil assets, only that they got cheap oil supplies. The price they paid was Sept 11th. Was blowing up the trade towers justification for 9/11? Yeh, if you magnanimously talk about friends and crap without dealing with the levels of disenchantment in the Arab world on the issue of US foreign policy.
2. Greenhouse gas policy - the US has been far from a supporter of 'good oil' policy. It has artificially over-stimulated the US economy, to the point of precipitating a sustained recession/depression. It continues to have among the cheapJustify Fullest petrol in the world. If it was opposed to greenhouse theory, let us here its arguments.
3. Western alliance - how can you talk up an alliance with Britain, Australia, NZ and ignore the absence of other Western countries.
4. Economic crisis - How can you talk about being defenders of economic prosperity when your government is complicit in the unravelling of the global economy.

I personally love crises because that is when I make a lot of money. Crises are followed by commodity booms. In crises people think short term. That is when I do my long term planning. But that does not change the fact that I would happily do something else rather than destroy people's lives - that is those people who depend on economic activity. So such speeches really do speak words of shallow rhetoric. Talk and deeds are transparently different. But no, he is a fitting addition to the US Congressional bench.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, February 23, 2009

The politics of energy consumption

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I am not a greenie by any means. I don't think we should sacrifice human lives or wants for the environment, or the habitat of some obscure species until a personal value proposition can be made for saving such 'values'. If they can be made, then I think it should be a personal commitment, and not the role of government (alas taxpayers) to finance. I am still a little skeptical about greenhouse gas theory, partly because of the dubious rationalisations I have seen made by scientists over the years. There is one piece of evidence that scares me though - and that is the rising global concentrations of methane gas concentrations. One reason why this scares me is because around the world we are extracting methane from coal seams. Unlike conventional gas reservoirs, coal seam gas extraction occurs at depths of just 200-600m, not several kilometres down. The implication is that there is greater probability of methane researching the surface through faults and joints as the hydrostatic water pressure falls from the wells. I can't say I know the dynamics of gas migration, but this ought to be considered as a future time bomb issue given that methane is 100x worse as a greenhouse gas than CO2. I am not concerned with the CO2 extracted, but rather the smaller portion that is wasted, that leaks into the atmosphere.
Another issue that concerns me is the fact that:
1. Products are designed to waste energy - the remote control places appliances into sleeper mode, in which I understand a device uses a third of its operating power. This is a huge waste. I don't know if this is true of modern devices. I'd like to know. It seems to be manufacturer policy to encourage convenience, but is that what we need. Why don't we just build a TV with a bar fridge inclined, lest we have to walk to the fridge to get a beer.
2. Lights in office towers in CBDs around the world are left on 24 hours a day. Is this necessary? I'm sure its aesthetically pleasing.
3. Junk mail: I'm in NZ now, and daily I receive hoards of junk mail in my letterbox. This comes to me care of the government. The post office charges advertisers for postmen to place this material in your letterbox. Only a few of us can be bothered reading it. It is not very effective advertising. Its cheap because trees in the Amazon rainforests are cheap. People are too lazy to put 'No junk mail' on their letterbox. This is something you could campaign to your government about. I think its the same problem in every country. Advertisers should not be able to send you unsolicited paid 'junk' mail. Just they use the government.

Its not all bad news. Here are some positive developments:
1. Annual reports: Several years ago I lamented the waste receiving annual reports by snail mail every year for every stock investment, which I never read because I would read them online, or not at all because the information in an annual report is superficial at best, and its 3 months old by the time you receive it. Now you can elect to receive them by email, download them off the internet or receive a mailed copy.
2. Snail mail for bills: For years now I have been lamenting the slow pace at which utilities and banks have moved to online billing. The banks have been very slow in this respect, but faster than other enterprises. I travel, and live in foreign countries, so its nice to be able to receive my bills by email. I also want to retain a paperless office. We are slowly moving in that direction. My bank has all statements online now EXCEPT my Mastercard statements.
3. Online trading: Its now far easier to buy products online 2nd hand which you would otherwise have bought new. We are setting up a house in NZ, and we purchase most of our home contents online for 1/3-1/2 price. Its good to find a use for other people's rubbish, and it saves a lot. We bought 500 bricks for just $10 on one occasion, a canoe, and some furniture. Auctions, recycling depots and charitable organisations offer even cheaper products.

I am not against businesses advertising. I am against unsolicited junk and WASTAGE. I do love and appreciate our natural environment. Fortunately I am living in a clean, green environment in NZ, but interestingly here they are more neglectful than anywhere. My country town does not recycle at door. You have to use recycling depots. At least there is an option.

Change is very slow in the world. But the message is slowly leaking out.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, February 02, 2009

What to do with speeding fines

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Having recently left Australia, one of the issues that was plaguing me was the silliness of government. Frankly I am not willing to repress my annoyance at these pathetic people, so I decided to protest from abroad. This was my response to their $80 penalty notice.

Dear NDM,
My brother contacted you without asking me. He probably wants me to pay. I asked him to send the notice to me because I am overseas. I am overseas because (in part) the poor state of justice in Australia. Worse than most semi-free countries. I actually don't intend to pay, though nor do intend to pay $12,000 for court action as some Victorians did fighting a silly law in Victoria. Actually I regard the whole issue of taxing speeding fines as illegitimate for several reasons. This is a constitutional matter so that is the proper place for it. The problems are:
1. The tax is a cynical exercise in taxation - there is no evidence to suggest 'speeding kills'. Road fatalities has more to do with teenagers trying to impress friends. I was pulled over by police overseas, they think Australian driving restrictions are a joke.
2. Speed policing actually increases road anxiety. For the next 3-4 hours after copping that camera I was in a state of stress. Why? Because its the 2nd time I was placed in a state of conflict over a silly process. Its the same with drink driving. I remember seeing recently a story of a guy on his 24th drink driving conviction. Miraculously the guy is still alive. I guess we are all just a bit more logical and reasonable than the government gives us credit for. These silly laws exist only because people do not challenge them. People tolerate them too much. I'm tired of it, so I left the country, rather than deal with your stupid fines.
3. Speed limits are non-contextual. They dont consider weather conditions, road conditions, vehicle weight, visibility, driver training/age/experience
4. I have no faith in the judiciary either because (a) judges are not directly accountable, merely accountable to another judge under appeal. Not good enough. (b) Judges are supposed to reach objective (rational) outcomes by interpreting arbitrary rules/laws, which makes no sense at all. Cases in the US with respect to taxation show that the judiciary in Western democracies apply a self-serving interpretation of the law. They are selective about the judgements they take as law. Basically contradictions are allowed. Of course, like you, they work for the government.
5. Judges and the judiciary was a lovely concept 300 years ago when laws were based on common law, which actually had some sense to it, some semblance of objectivity. Legislation is based on arbitrary rules/laws with no sense of reality at all. The public is divided - half believe they should be good slaves, the other half thinking they should pay a cynical tax because the govt would just use other means to reach the same ends. I reject all forms of slavery. It is not a user pay charge.

Thanks for the opportunity to be a slave; but I'll politely decline your offer. If you are not convinced by my arguments I would happily counsel your analysts or whatever thinkers you have in your department about the unethical framework in which you operate. I'd rather focus on being a productive human being, but the only productive human being are compliant slave by your standards. There was once a time when laws were about protecting the right of people, but the law has become so perverted that your concept of rights and obligations are claims on people. Your Human Rights commission is a joke. A theatrical performance to make it look like you actually care about the lives of people. So are your speeding laws. In any respect you seem intent on placing obstacles on the road. I don't speed by my judgement. I'm not an advocate of arbitrary, self-indulgent action, just I don't abide by rules imposed by others who have no sense.

Andrew Sheldon

Human rights - making a difference

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The Australian Human Rights Commission has opened up a dialogue with the Australian people. It is serious about recognising the rights of Australians. I think at this juncture its more important to consider why the right of rights is being raised. I would suggest it is because the government has evidence that people are perturbed by the way 'the system' operates. Identification of the problem is the first step. But what if the government is not interested in identifying the problem. It cannot just say there is no problem as that would invalidate all those Australians who feel the system does not work for them. So we have foremost a process which is intended to give the disillusioned hope. Hope of something better. The problem is that most of these hopefuls don't bother or don't have the resolve to identify why they are so perturbed. Its a responsibility they don't want to shoulder; whether its the responsibility for how they feel, or their lack of prosperity.
The way government resolves this issue is important. You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your government. Of course there is the rhetoric of choosing your government through the democratic process, but what type of choice is it when all the members of parliament are aligned with a two-party duopoly. That's like a choice between the Satan and God.
So the Human Rights Commission is I guess about to do a roadshow. The first one is on the 5th of March 2009. Most Australians will sleep right through it. Its not supposed to have significance, and it won't. Why? Because the framework was established to avoid significance. They wanted you to believe they were doing something, that they had you covered. The process however is all about appearances. Making it look like they are doing something. In fact what they do is just sabotage the process. Create a lot of smoke and haze.
After this series of presentations around the country you will find that you will be given the opportunity to lodge a submission. The problem is you submission, to the extent that you have something interesting to say, will not have its issues addressed. Basically the problem is - the process is not accountable. I've seen it all before. You make a submission and the government just flags an incidental, incontroversial, self-evident point and quotes that in their policy document. They can then say they sought views widely from all quarters of society. The reality however is they are whitewashing the pertinent and controversial issues to ensure that their agenda is upheld.
This is not new. We say it with the Australian Republican issue. The Howard government knew Australia wanted a Republic. It could have canvassed dissent, and gave us 3 options - monarchy and 2 different options for a Republic so that the Republicans votes would be split. This of course allowed the Monarchists to win. Instead it chose a compromised Republican option (indirect selection of president by parliament) rather than the directly-elected presidential option the people wanted. In the process the government made sure the people's vote failed. It was a sabotaged process, just as this Human Rights process is sabotaged.
Maybe the Commissioner of this commission has some integrity, but you can bet they have more ambition to achieve that they will not place themselves in a position of conflict. That remains to be seen. Do they think you achieve more with a consensus approach to ideas, or creating conflict. History tells me they will try to work behind the scenes to achieve their goals. I would suggest based on the speeches of the Commissioner that they are as clueless as the government. These people start out as idealists, but with no coherent ideas. Their souls are dead by the time they become commissioner, and they just don't believe in anything but their own ambition. The reason I know this is because who would try to work in a system which is corrupt at its root. Would you play soccer if your team had to play in bare feet, and the opposition was allowed to wear spiked shoes. That is the nature of the current handicapping system.

If you want to attend this facade - here are the details. Unfortunately I will not be in the country.
Seminar Invitation: A Human Rights Act, the courts and the Constitution
The Hon Michael McHugh AC, QC, distinguished jurist and former Justice of the High Court of Australia, will present his views on human rights in Australia and their protection through a Human Rights Act.
Venue: The Hearing Room, Australian Human Rights Commission
Level 8, Piccadilly Tower, 133 Castlereagh St Sydney
Date: Thursday 5 March 2009, Time: 5:15pm (for 5:30pm start) – 7:00pm
Light refreshments will be served at the conclusion.
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Corrections to President Obama’s Inaugural Speech

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My fellow Americans, I sit before you, an ardent critic of the current political paradigm. For this reason I have taken the time to correct all the contradictions in President Obama’s speech. The standard of value is the coherence and correspondence tests of truth. My corrections are in yellow, so you can read the speech corrected or as it was intended...for an audience of non-thinkers.

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

Humility is actually a weakness. No one ever achieved anything by thinking less of their capacities. We need a man full of pride, who knows their own value, as well as their flaws. But I am sure it was just rhetoric anyway to appease conflicted Christians.

Actually just because Americans elected him does not mean they trust him. Now that's not humility, it's arrogance. The guy needs to earn our trust and respect. At this point, he is just the lesser of two evils. That huge Senate payout doesn’t give anyone confidence.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Thank President Bush! You’re joking. That’s not humility, that’s plain stupidity . 43rd President Bush - The worst president in history. He was also the most stupid. He wasn’t even smart enough to match the damage done by Roosevelt.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace.

Aside from the boring poetry, rising tides are not still waters, they rise.

Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.

Oh, this is the calm before the storm?

At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

Actually under Bush, the constitution was breached without restraint on several occasions. Even the actions to correct the Guantanamo Bay issue took too long. The illegal incarceration of foreign nationals without a court appearance. Shame on you for not mentioning it. Bush was skillful? A man of vision?

Geez, is it just me, or are American leaders just full of waffle. Millions of people are listening to this. Can’t he say anything interesting. I’m falling asleep analysing it. Boring.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans. That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. It was understood a decade ago. The Republicans and Democrats were not listening. Likely you didn’t understand. Now you are president. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Speak for yourself, unlike yourself, I have been critical of Bush for a long time. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights. True enough – first point of value.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They were real a decade ago, they started 100 years ago, they have their primary origins 400 years ago. Nothing changes because the problem is democracy itself. Give us reason, not consensus-based rhetoric ‘good of society’. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. See this is where leaders are bad. Hope is empty. I have reasons for believing in a leader, not vacuous faith. No, I don’t want unity. Basically people don’t get a voice, so issues are only addressed if there is conflict. Afghanistan and Iraq (as problems) were only addressed because they blew up the Twin Towers. Nothing gets resolved without conflict. So lets invite conflict, not evade it. Let’s not pretend that we are all in agreement, we are not. People are not being respected if we pretend they don’t have issues of conflict.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

This sounds so much like fluff. What pettinesses are we talking about? Katrina? Iraq? If these exist as they do, then speak to the problem. If you want our confidence, show us that you actually know what needs to be done.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. Well I studied scripture when I was a child, and it was just as illogical then as it is today. Why embrace a 2000 year philosophy developed in a pre-science era of fear and manipulation? The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

Oh, was that the same enduring spirit that ran up huge debts, committed sexual crimes in Abu Graib, ignores its constitution? Revisionists are we, ignoring the bad elements of US history? Are we free? Hardly. Define freedom please!!!

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. Really. Politics is always about the short term, range of the moment decisions to win the next election. It’s always about settling for less. When has there been a political leader whom you could respect. It’s not humanity, it's the political process that corrupts them before they become leaders.

It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. Well it appears some of them dropped the ‘bankers ball’, or was it an own team goal, or a stolen ball? Something happened?

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

The problem I have with reminiscing back to US colonial history is that it seems far removed from the current context of America. It’s almost a confession that there is no current virtue in US history, so we have to search back to a time when people actually believed in freedom. It's all rhetoric far removed from the USA today. I just look at the PriceWaterhouseCoopers ranking of best taxing nations – the USA ranks 100th plus, lower than Botswana and half the world. I don’t look to Botswana for philosophical guidance – why the USA?

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life.

This is where we see the moral greyness. The idea that life is a sacrifice. Working hard is not a sacrifice. It's an investment. You only work for the promise of gain. If the dice are against you, you want a corresponding higher return. E.g. Free land. These people were not so virtuous when you consider the persecution in England. Now, most people accept or repress the modern variety of persecution. Eg. Taxation, speeding cameras, drink drinking. Good laws? You think?

They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

Well this is collectivism, otherwise referred to as socialism or fascism, and this is scary coming from Obama.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. Fair point.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

I guess he was speaking biblically here as Moses would do. Or was he thinking to part the Atlantic Ocean because you can’t use ‘soil to fuel our cars and run our factories’.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. But this is not the problem – a lack of imagination. Its' the political process.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Really. Well it beggars belief because I can guarantee that Obama will do nothing to undo what was the legacy of Bush. He will not unwind the power of banks, increase the accountability of CEOs, and certainly not politicians. When did the public service earn kudos for service? When did the government, the president, get the experience to justify him holding power over a budget of $4 trillion. I don’t even think the CEO of general electric would think himself experienced enough to justify that level of confidence. That is not a position of humility, but arrogance.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

This market collapse was always known. It is not new news. It was ignored for ‘political reasons’. How is this presidency any different?

As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

You already have. Only the rhetoric remains. Don’t forget Guantanamo Bay, Abu Graib, breaches of the constitution (gold standard, taxation), etc.

And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more. Peace at what price? Peace means nothing if it's not free of coercion. We are not free of coercion.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

Yeh, but in those days the alliances were twofold – those intended to expand power (German-Japan) and the Allies (to keep enemies at bay). Today we have government alliances expanding their powers under an illusion of security threat. We have international alliances intended to entrench the existing political parties. They will rationalise that there is a 2-party competitive party structure, but its really a 2-party coalition or concubine.

I fell asleep at this point. You too? Not surprised. I need content to analyse otherwise my parched lips die.

Andrew Sheldon

ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?