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

ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?