Archive for February, 2013

The replacement Watson suburb sign

Last week I reported that the old Watson suburb sign at the corner of Knox and Antill Streets had been removed to make way for one of the new style suburb signs.

The old sign was taken down on Thursday last week around lunchtime, and the frame for the new sign was put in a couple days later. Today, a week after the old sign was removed, the new sign was put in.

New suburb sign for Watson

This photo was taken from the opposite side of the road to the photo I took of the old sign last week.

The new style of sign contains a little bit of information about the person after whom the suburb of Watson was named, Prime Minister John Watson.

Closeup of Watson sign

It is certainly different to the old sign, and as nice as the new sign is, I will miss the old one.

Samuel

February 28th, 2013 at 07:12pm

I might be alone on this, but I think it looks good

Fairfax’s Drive.com.au had a story a few days ago about the new Jeep Cherokee. Apparently people don’t like the look of it.

“Kill it with fire”, “epicsupermegafail face”, and “the catfish”.

Those are some of the harsher critiques that greeted Jeep’s “bold” new Cherokee on automotive websites around the world within hours of its unveiling.

The all-new mid-size SUV features polarising styling, with the recognisable seven-slot grille sporting a prominent horizontal crease through its centre. Slimline headlights and larger, squared-off fog-lights and a thick, angular front bumper

(h/t Matt Campbell, Drive.com.au)

So, what does is actually look like?

2013 Jeep Cherokee (image credit: drive.com.au)
(image credit: Drive.com.au)

I quite like it. I’ve never owned (or even driven) a Jeep, but I’ve always liked their bold styling and the fact that they have been unafraid to have a tough looking vehicle while the rest of the market tried to look softer and smoother. This, I think, holds true to that tradition, just with a tiny bit of ensuring that they vehicle doesn’t look out-of-date.

I’m not entirely convinced that those tiny headlights would pump out enough light…but then again I have been surprised by how much light can come out of very small lights.

Am I alone on this? Am I the only person other than Jeep employees who thinks this looks good?

Samuel

February 28th, 2013 at 03:27pm

Could Warragamba be the next Cotter Dam budget blowout?

It seems that, in the light of how much people liked the federal Coalition’s plan for dams across Australia, primarily in the north, Julia Gillard has taken notice of how much people like dams because they supply potable water, can supply electricity, and help to prevent flooding, and has decided that she needs a dam plan of her own…and seeing as she’s taking in the sights of western Sydney, it might as well be a plan for a dam which affects Sydney.

Enter Warragamba Dam. This dam provides the majority of Sydney’s drinking water, and helps to prevent flooding along the Napean River in the far-west of Sydney.

About 20 years ago there was a report which said that Warragamba Dam might fail in a really really bad flood and doom Sydney’s far-west. Well, good news, Julia has a plan.

Simon Benson, with a Daily Telegraph exclusive:

INSURANCE premiums for tens of thousands of western Sydney homeowners will be slashed under a federal government plan to finally raise Warragamba dam and prevent a potential $8 billion flood disaster.
Almost 20 years since the first warnings were given to the state government that Sydney’s primary water storage dam could fail in a major flood, the Commonwealth will provide the first funding to get it started.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard will announce $50 million a year in federal government terrorism re-insurance premiums will be diverted to flood protection across the country, with the plan to raise Warragamba dam by 23m listed as the major priority.

That, I’m afraid, is where the good news ends. That $50 million is just the tip of the iceberg and, as usual, Julia wants the states to do her bidding at their own expense.

The Commonwealth would initially provide $50 million to begin work and then provide increased funding over time if the O’Farrell government will also commit to the $500 million project which its own infrastructure agency has already identified as critical to the NSW economy.

(h/t Simon Benson. See more of Simon’s article in today’s Daily Telegraph at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/prime-minister-julia-gillard-dams-sydney/story-e6freuy9-1226587250656#sthash.a3fkpaLO.dpuf)

This plan requires, in order federal government to be involved (and undoubtedly run it on their own terms), the New South Wales state government to cough up an unspecified amount which could very well be $400 million before the federal government even considers tipping in more money.

The federal government is broke because of Julia Gillard and her government. The New South Wales government is walking a tightrope to fix the budgetary mess left by over a decade of state Labor incompetence. Neither of them have the money to spare for this, and yet with federal Labor’s amazing track record of wasteful, untargetted spending (economic stimulus, Building the Education Revolution, coffee machines for National Broadband Network staff, etc), inability to even come close to balancing the budget, and difficulty delivering things on time (Building the Education Revolution again, and the National Broadband Network), one has to conclude that the phrase “increased funding over time” is accurate simply because this project will almost certainly turn out like everything else federal Labor has attempted while in government.

In fact, I think we can look at a similar ACT Labor project to see how this would turn out. The Cotter Dam expansion started in 2009 and, as ACT Senator Kate Lundy pointed out at the time, was supposed to take two years and cost $363 million.

The cost estimate is approximately $363 million for the dam and associated works, which includes construction, commissioning and alliance costs of $299 million, environmental and recreation mitigation costs amounting to $13 million and owner’s costs to ACTEW for project inception, planning, design, approvals and costs from now until completion of $51 million. It is expected to take two years to build.

(Kate Lundy press release “Cotter Dam extension starts”, November 23, 2009)

Delay after delay. Cost blowout after cost blowout. Only three days ago, on the 25th of February, 2013, was construction at a stage where it was safe to allow water to flow in to the expanded dam. A year and two months behind schedule…even more if you include the removal of the extensive amount of construction equipment. The last update on the cost of the project came in April last year when Actew Water said it would be $405 million, an announcement which came after a series of other intermittent cost blowouts.

It is good that Julia Gillard is giving serious thought to projects which could actually benefit people, although given the track record of Labor governments in recent times of having great difficulty in getting things done on time and on budget, I’m not sure that I would really want to entrust this to them, especially seeing as the $500 million expansion of Warragamba Dam was included in the Coalition’s plan:

Included in the list of dam projects, which the Coalition will consider, is a $500 million plan to raise Warragamba Dam in Sydney

.

I know who, when I’m faced with a choice of Labor or the Liberal/National Coalition, I would trust to get this done on time and on budget, and it certainly isn’t Labor.

Ideally, if this project is to go ahead, I would like to see one level of government take responsibility for it in its entirety so as to not have excessive inter-governmental red-tape get in the way, but given the way government budgets are placed, it probably will have to happen with input from the federal and New South Wales governments if it is to happen in the short term. That said, this seems like a low priority job compared to the benefits of building dams in northern Australia, so I hope it is not used as an election sweetener by both parties for votes in western Sydney, and that it is put on the backburner until government budgets are in a better position instead.

Besides which, one of the stated aims of the Warragamba project is to allow for the release of more land in western Sydney for residential development. Building dams in the north is supposed to, in part, alleviate the need to continue to expand Sydney at a rate of knots. It would be somewhat contradictory to run both projects at once.

Samuel

February 28th, 2013 at 07:44am

On the degradation of societal values

Each month, in my post office box, I receive a copy of Hillsdale College’s Imprimis, a publication which uses speeches delivered at Hillsdale’s various events to promote civil and religious liberty. I look forward to receiving this each month, but I found the latest edition (January 2013) to be particularly interesting as it approached a subject which I have thought about many times, but it approached it from an angle to which I hadn’t given much thought.

Nathan Harden, editor of education news website The College Fix examined a slow and steady degradation of not only the way people are taught in many educational institutions, but also of the values which are promoted in such settings and influence the minds of the students.

I see a similar thing in society as a whole, and although I value the freedom for people to live their lives as they see fit (within legal parameters, obviously), I do also believe that society is at its best when certain basic and fundamental values are upheld by the majority of society. I see some of these as being “the family unit” (religious beliefs aside, I am a proponent of it being natural and best for a child to be brought up by a mother and father, as per the natural order of things) and having a general level of respect for one another. I believe these things have been eroded slowly over many years, and society is suffering because of it.

Nathan Harden sees something similar in the educational system. While Nathan looks at this purely from an educational perspective, I see it as a cycle where the direction of society is leading to educational outcomes and educational outcomes are leading to the direction of society. To that end, I found Nathan’s piece to be very interesting, and to give me a greater understanding of a problem which I have seen for some time.

Hillsdale graciously allow for the full republication of Imprimis as long as credit is given. Before I sign off and leave you with the January 2013 edition, may I recommend that if you find this work to be particularly interesting, that you take a look at some of the previous editions of Imprimis and then consider taking out a free subscription to Imprimis. If you found this as interesting as I did, then I can almost guarantee that seeing Imprimis arrive in the mail each month will be a highlight of the month for you, just like it is for me.

Samuel

The following is Copyright © 2013 Hillsdale College. The opinions expressed in Imprimis are not necessarily the views of Hillsdale College. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the following credit line is used: “Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.” SUBSCRIPTION FREE UPON REQUEST. ISSN 0277-8432. Imprimis trademark registered in U.S. Patent and Trade Office #1563325.

Man, Sex, God, and Yale

NATHAN HARDEN is editor of The College Fix, a higher education news website, and blogs about higher education for National Review Online. A 2009 graduate of Yale, he has written for numerous publications, including National Review, The Weekly Standard, The American Spectator, The New York Post, and The Washington Times. He was a 2011 Robert Novak Fellow at the Phillips Foundation, a 2010 Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute, and is author of the recent book Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered at Hillsdale College on September 20, 2012.

IN 1951, William F. Buckley, Jr., a graduate of Yale the year before, published his first book, God & Man at Yale. In the preface, he described two ideas that he had brought with him to Yale and that governed his view of the world:

“I had always been taught, and experience had fortified the teachings, that an active faith in God and a rigid adherence to Christian principles are the most powerful influences toward the good life. I also believed, with only a scanty knowledge of economics, that free enterprise and limited government had served this country well and would probably continue to do so in the future.”

The body of the book provided evidence that the academic agenda at Yale was openly antagonistic to those two ideas—that Buckley had encountered a teaching and a culture that were hostile to religious faith and that promoted collectivism over free market individualism. Rather than functioning as an open forum for ideas, his book argued, Yale was waging open war upon the faith and principles of its alumni and parents.

Liberal bias at American colleges and universities is something we hear a lot about today. At the time, however, Buckley’s exposé was something new, and it stirred national controversy. The university counterattacked, and Yale trustee Frank Ashburn lambasted Buckley and his book in the pages of Saturday Review magazine.

Whether God & Man at Yale had any effect on Yale’s curriculum is debatable, but its impact on American political history is indisputable. It argued for a connection between the cause of religious faith on the one hand, and the cause of free market economics on the other. In a passage whose precise wording was later acknowledged to have been the work of Buckley’s mentor Willmoore Kendall—a conservative political scientist who was driven out of Yale a few years later—Buckley wrote:

“I consider this battle of educational theory important and worth time and thought even in the context of a world situation that seems to render totally irrelevant any fight except the power struggle against Communism. I myself believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.”

This idea, later promoted as “fusionism” in Buckley’s influential magazine National Review, would become the germ of the Reagan coalition that united social conservatives and free market libertarians—a once-winning coalition that has been lately unraveling.

I graduated from Yale in 2009, fifty-nine years after Buckley. I had a chance to meet him a couple of years before his death, at a small gathering at the home of a professor. Little did I know at the time that I would write a book of my own that would serve, in some ways, as a continuation of his famous critique.

My book—which I entitled Sex and God at Yale—shows that Yale’s liberals are still actively working to refashion American politics and culture. But the devil is in the details, and it’s safe to say that there are things happening at Yale today that Buckley could scarcely have even imagined in 1951. While the Yale of Buckley’s book marginalized or undermined religious faith in the classroom, my book tells of a classmate who was given approval to create an art object out of what she claimed was blood and tissue from self-induced abortions. And while the Yale of Buckley’s book was promoting socialist ideas in its economics department, my book chronicles Yale’s recent employment of a professor who publicly praised terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

My, how times have changed!

There is clearly a radical sexual agenda at work at Yale today. Professors and administrators who came of age during the sexual revolution are busily indoctrinating students into a culture of promiscuity. In fact, Yale pioneered the hosting of a campus “Sex Week”—a festival of sleaze, porn, and debauchery, dressed up as sex education. I encountered this tawdry tradition as an undergrad, and my book documents the events of Sex Week, including the screening in classrooms of hard-core pornography and the giving of permission to sex toy manufacturers and porn production companies to market their products to students.

In one classroom, a porn star stripped down to bare breasts, attached pinching and binding devices to herself as a lesson in sadomasochism, and led a student around the room in handcuffs. On other occasions, female students competed in a porn star look-alike contest judged by a male porn producer, and a porn film showing a woman bound and beaten was screened in the context of “instruction” on how students might engage in relationships of their own.

And again, these things happened with the full knowledge and approval of Yale’s senior administrators.

As might be expected, many Yale students were offended by Sex Week, but university officials defended it in the name of “academic freedom”—a sign of how far this noble idea, originally meant to protect the pursuit of truth, has fallen. And the fact that Yale as an institution no longer understands the substantive meaning of academic freedom—which requires the ability to distinguish art from pornography, not to mention right from wrong—is a sign of its enslavement to the ideology of moral relativism, which denies any objective truth (except, of course, for the truth that there is no truth).

Under the dictates of moral relativism, no view is any more valid than any other view, and no book is any greater or more worth reading than any other book. Thus the old idea of a liberal education—that each student would study the greatest books, books organized into a canon based on objective criteria that identify them as valuable—has given way to a hodgepodge of new disciplines—African-American Studies, Latino Studies, Native American Studies, Women’s Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies—based on the assumption that there is no single way to describe the world that all serious and open-minded students can comprehend.

Indeed, Yale administrators have taken their allegiance to cultural relativism so far that they invited a sworn enemy of America to be a student, admitting Sayed Rahmatulla Hashemi—a former diplomat-at-large for the Taliban—in 2005. Talk about diversity!

Sitting for my final exam in International Relations, I found myself next to Hashemi, whose comrades were fighting and killing my fellow citizens in the mountains of Afghanistan at that very moment. The fact that the Taliban publicly executes homosexuals and infidels, and denies girls and women the right to go to school, gave no pause to the same Yale administrators who pride themselves on their commitment to gay rights, feminism, and academic freedom. In an interview, Hashemi boasted to the New York Times: “I could have ended up in Guantanamo Bay. Instead, I ended up at Yale.”

It’s hard to overlook the paradox:
By enrolling Hashemi in the name of diversity, Yale abandoned the principle of human rights—the very principle that allows diverse individuals, including those of different faiths, to coexist peacefully.

It was my aim in writing Sex and God at Yale to bring accountability to Yale’s leaders in hopes of reform. Yale has educated three of the last four presidents, and two of the last three justices appointed to the Supreme Court. What kind of leaders will it be supplying in ten years, given its current direction?

Unfortunately, what’s happening at Yale is indicative of what is occurring at colleges and universities across the country. Sex Week, for example, is being replicated at Harvard, Brown, Duke, Northwestern, the University of Illinois, and the University of Wisconsin. Nor would it suffice to demand an end to Sex Weeks on America’s college campuses. Those events are, after all, only symptoms of a deeper emptiness in modern academia. Our universities have lost touch with the purpose of liberal arts education, the pursuit of truth. In abandoning that mission—indeed, by denying its possibility—our institutions of higher learning are afflicted to the core.

The political freedom that makes a liberal arts education possible requires an ongoing and active defense of liberty. Try exercising academic freedom in a place like Tehran or Kabul! Here in the U.S., we take our liberty far too much for granted. To the extent that Yale and schools like it succeed in producing leaders who subscribe to the ideology of moral relativism—and who thus see no moral distinction between America and its enemies—we will likely be disabused of this false sense of security all too soon.

February 27th, 2013 at 04:37pm

On Federal Labor’s attempts to muzzle free speech

Last year the federal Labor Party announced an ambitious plan to consolidate existing anti-discrimination laws in to one law. On the surface, it would seem like a sensible idea to try and simplify laws, but this was not just a “consolidation” by any known definition of the word; this was a massive expansion and redefinition of the laws.

Early on in the piece, the Institute of Public Affairs read the proposed draft legislation and noticed that “discrimination” was being redefined as anything which caused offence. The legislation would have made it illegal to offend someone with a political comment, among other things.

This set off alarm bells, and yet it was quite strange that for some months the Institute of Public Affairs was almost the sole voice of opposition to the draft legislation. In the end, their efforts paid off and almost certainly claimed the scalp of (now former) Attorney General Nicola Roxon, and led to the Coalition vowing to repeal the legislation if it ever becomes law. Right now, it’s unlikely to become law, but it’s still a possibility.

Simon Breheny, Chris Berg, Tim Wilson and John Roskam from the Institute of Public Affairs were largely responsible for the organisation’s work to expose the dangers of this draft legislation, and are owed a debt of gratitude by the entire country in my opinion.

Simon Breheny, Director of the Legal Rights Project at the Institute of Public Affairs, was one of the people to give evidence to the Senate committee looking in to this draft legislation. His opening remarks summed up the problems with the draft legislation very well.

The exposure draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 is an attack on our fundamental freedoms.

The draft Bill is not simply a consolidation of existing Commonwealth Acts as the government has claimed. It is a radical overhaul of anti-discrimination law.

There are many problems with the draft Bill.

The most concerning aspect of the draft Bill is the significant threat it poses to freedom of speech. The definition of discrimination has been expanded to include conduct that offends or insults.

Given this new definition of discrimination, the inclusion of “political opinion” as a ground on which a claim can be made is absurd and dangerous. Under the draft Bill, you could be taken to court for saying something that offended someone because of a political opinion they hold.

The freedom to express political opinions in all areas of public life – even those that offend and insult others – is central to the functioning of our system of government as the High Court has found. By undermining freedom of speech the draft Bill poses a grave threat to the health of Australian democracy.

It is wrong to say that the draft Bill could be amended to a point where it is acceptable. Simply removing the words “offend” and “insult” from the new definition of discrimination will not save the draft Bill. The real problem is the whole project itself.

The draft Bill is not about anti-discrimination. Instead, the consolidation project has resulted in a draft Bill that undermines liberty and places the state at the centre of our interpersonal relationships. Rather than making the law clearer and simpler, the draft Bill adds significant complexity to this area of law.

The draft Bill also reverses the burden of proof for claims of discrimination. This is completely unacceptable. The person bringing a legal claim should always bear the burden of proving their case. This principle – the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty – is the centrepiece of a just legal system. Reversing the burden of proof would create an unjust system.

The draft Bill will erode civil society by encouraging reliance on apparatus of the state for the resolution of private disputes. It threatens to lead Australia towards a US-style culture of litigation.

The constant erosion of our freedoms must end. This draft Bill is a disturbing example of the ever-increasing power of the state. It shows that it is now time to swing the pendulum back towards liberty rather than away from it, and to take back control of our own lives.

The draft Bill is a threat to freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion. The Institute of Public Affairs calls on the committee to recommend the outright rejection of this dangerous draft Bill.

Simon, along with Chris Berg, made a formal written submission to the Senate committee which goes in to much more detail about the problems with the draft legislation. That submission can be found on the IPA’s website. I read the whole thing last night and, although it is too long to re-publish here, I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in being able to have an opinion.

It was also interesting to see the Australian Human Rights Commission come down on the side of restricting speech. Apparently freedom of speech is not as important to them as the supposed right to not be offended or insulted. You have to listen carefully, but the Commission’s President Gillian Triggs admitted it on Weekend Sunrise when she noted that it is only public opinion which is preventing her from getting her way at this time.

My sincere thanks to the IPA for all of their hard work.

Samuel

February 27th, 2013 at 03:06pm

Some valuable thoughts for Canberrans in the long lead-up to the federal election

Today I intend to present you with some interesting information put together by people other than myself, which I have come across in recent days.

First up today, a video from John Moulis examining the current state of the federal election in the ACT’s electorates. John makes the very important point that, now that the Liberal Party’s preselections are completed, it is important that the Party gets behind the candidates so as to maximise their chances of winning seats and, even more importantly, ensuring that the Greens do not win a seat.

Without wanting to summarise everything John talks about, he makes the interesting point that regardless of what people might think of the Liberal Party, as they are almost certain to form government and probably hold it for multiple terms, Canberra would be best served by having at least one Liberal senator and at least one Liberal MP, so that Canberrans have direct representation in the government.

I found the video to be very interesting and to make some very important points. I hope you’ll take the few minutes to watch it.

Samuel

February 27th, 2013 at 06:34am

SGS News Alert: Elizabeth Lee wins Fraser preselection

More breaking news from the Liberal Party preselection meeting.

Elizabeth Lee has won preselection to be the Liberal Party’s candidate for the federal seat of Fraser in the upcoming federal election.

Elizabeth Lee during the 2012 ACT election campaign
Elizabeth Lee during the ACT election campaign

Congratulations Elizabeth. I look forward to working with you again.

Samuel

February 23rd, 2013 at 02:22pm

Breaking: Congratulations to Zed Seselja

It has just been announced that Zed Seselja has won preselection for the number 1 spot on the Liberal Party’s ACT senate ticket.

I look forward to working with him on the campaign trail.

Earlier, Tom Sefton was preselected for the federal seat of Canberra.

Fraser has not been decided yet.

Update 1:12pm: I beat the Canberra Times to this by one minute (more if you count my Facebook activity) and now need to correct them. Contrary to CT claims, both candidates in the Senate battle, Zed Seselja and Gary Humphries vowed to respect the process and not challenge the outcome. End update

Update 2:14pm: I see that the Canberra Times have updated their story’s wording to clarify that any challenge to the outcome will come from a meeting of party members, not the candidates. End Update

Samuel

February 23rd, 2013 at 01:07pm

Replacement of Watson suburb sign

One of the things which seems to be happening throughout Canberra, presumably as part of the centenary celebrations, is the replacement of old signs identifying suburbs with new ones containing details about the suburb or the person after whom the suburb is named.

Today, in a case of “right place, right time” I passed by the sign identifying Watson at the corner of Antill and Knox Streets as the contractors were taking it down. They kindly paused, after they had cut the sign’s posts, as they were about to remove the sign, to allow me to get a photo for historical purposes.

Watson sign at the corner of Knox and Antill Streets

I’ll get a photo if the replacement sign when I get a chance.

Samuel

February 21st, 2013 at 01:02pm

100 marching bands for Canberra’s centenary

I had a dream this morning which, as a shift worker, I hope never becomes reality.

It started at 5:42am with me sleeping. All of a sudden I was woken by a large cacophony of noise. I looked out the window and saw a large marching band with the number “100” plastered all over their clothing and instruments. I couldn’t quite see how many people were out there in this marching band, so I put my glasses on and noticed 100 of them including their leader and conductor, Simon Corbell.

At first I thought this was some sort of attempt to annoy me because I’m not a huge fan of the ACT Labor government, so I went outside and confronted Mr. Corbell about this. He informed me that, as usual, I was being far too silly and conservative, and that it was the first day of the government’s special surprise for Canberra: 100 marching bands of 100, playing every day from first light until sunrise, for 100 days, as part of Canberra’s centenary celebrations.

I went back inside and turned on the TV to find out that WIN News were in on it and were running a special news bulletin to “celebrate” it. They were showing two of the other 99 marching bands, one being led by Katy Gallagher and one being led by Julia Gillard. Something seemed a bit odd with WIN News host Danielle Post’s camera angle…it became clear when they zoomed out…Ms. Post was leading one of the bands as well.

It turned out that for the duration of the 100 days, 100 marching bands of 100 people were to be scattered around Canberra every morning, and were to be led by Labor MLAs, federal Labor MPs, and various WIN News personalities. The marching bands were allowed to flout noise regulations thanks to Katy Gallagher using call-in powers to override them…and I was intrigued at how she managed to sign the call-in powers order with a trumpet.

The ultimate amusement came for me when WIN News went to a commercial break and every commercial was for double glazed windows or soundproof home insulation. I, however, did not buy any of this and instead used the most brilliant bit of dream logic ever to soundproof my house by using the television remote’s mute button on every wall and window in the house, although doors were not compatible with the mute function of that brand of TV remote.

This is the second time in about a week that Katy Gallagher has appeared in one of my dreams…either I’m going nuts or the ACT Government has found a way to infiltrate the subconscious of Canberra’s citizens.

Samuel

February 21st, 2013 at 11:17am

Obama lied, and vowed to breach the constitution again — Sean Hannity and Mark Levin examine Obama’s State Of The Union address

Those of us who have been carefully monitoring the activities of Obama for some time have noticed that he has a habit of saying one thing and doing something completely different, especially when it comes to economic matters, so it came as no surprise that, yet again, he used his State Of The Union address yesterday to claim that he was hard at work reducing the debt and the deficit. All of the evidence shows this to be entirely untrue, but that’s par for the course.

It also came as no surprise that, given his flagrant disregard for the rule of the constitution, he vowed to effectively implement some sort of carbon tax scheme (or similar) via executive order if Congress doesn’t produce something along those lines, completely ignoring the facts that executive orders are not constitutionally permitted to produce that sort of scheme, or that the planet hasn’t warmed for 16 years which pretty much completely debunks the theory of man-made global warming.

To that end, it was good to see Sean Hannity and Mark Levin get together today to discuss these and related matters of Sean’s Fox News program. It’s well worth a look.

Segment 1 (h/t YouTube user Massteaparty and Fox News):

Segment 2 (h/t The Right Scoop and Fox News):

(If Fox had uploaded either of these segments to their own site, I would have used their official videos, but for reasons best known by them, they didn’t, so I didn’t).

It’s been far too long since I’ve had the opportunity to link to some of Hannity’s work or Levin’s work. I’m very pleased that they got together to so logically and insightfully discuss this topic today.

Samuel

1 comment February 14th, 2013 at 03:57pm

More dams: A plan which should come to fruition

Simon Benson from The Daily Telegraph got his hands on a draft policy discussion paper from the Coalition, and wrote about it in today’s Daily Telegraph. The plan is for more dams, especially up north, for nation building and risk mitigation.

At first glance, I’m very impressed. Using all of the water which falls in the tropics has been something I have supported for many years. I have generally suggested pumping water down south, but I suppose it makes sense to dam the rivers in the north and use some of that water up there and send some of the water south (where more dams can help with distribution).

UP to 100 dams could be built across the country to prevent floods, fuel power stations and irrigate a food boom to feed 120 million people across the Asia Pacific region, under plans being considered by Opposition leader Tony Abbott.

In the second high-level policy leak in a week, The Daily Telegraph has obtained a copy of the Coalition’s draft policy discussion paper for water management of Australia.

Included in the list of dam projects, which the Coalition will consider, is a $500 million plan to raise Warragamba Dam in Sydney, and new dams for NSW in the Hunter Valley, Central Highlands and along the Lachlan River.

The last major new dam built in NSW was Splitrock – in northern NSW in 1987.

The majority of the dams would be in northern Australia, where they would be used to irrigate arid zones for agriculture and more than double Australia’s food production.

Claiming the environmental lobby had been to blame for the lack of new water infrastructure, the report from the Coalition’s water taskforce endorses a major dam-building program to “help feed 120 million people and beyond over the coming decades”.
[..]
One of the projects involves transporting water from the Kimberley region, 1500km to Perth, using canals, pipelines and ocean super tankers or large synthetic bags towed behind tug boats.

(h/t Simon Benson, The Daily Telegraph)

This is what I call a useful nation building project. Unlike the Rudd/Gillard government’s overpriced school halls, lethal pink batts, or out-of-date-by-the-time-it’s-built National Broadband Network, this plan has tangible long-term benefits for both the growth of the nation, and the reduction of risk from natural disasters.

It has been my belief for a very long time that the interior sections of the country can be reclaimed and used for agriculture and domestic inhabitation if water can be pumped in to those areas. I also believe that having water in those areas will increase the evaporation and precipitation cycle in those areas. I believe that some of the desert areas can be turned in to useful land…not all, but a decent chunk.

We can increase our productivity, increase our ability to export food, and minimise the downtime and expense caused by floods through this type of plan. The $30 billion price tag would be well and truly offset, and probably completely paid for, by the long-term economic advantages. When governments talk about nation building, this is the type of forward-thinking project that should be talking about.

I applaud the Federal Coalition for considering this type of visionary plan.

Samuel

2 comments February 14th, 2013 at 08:19am

I will vote against any constitutional change which turns the constitution in to a history book

I was very disappointed yesterday to see politicians from all sides unanimously support a bill which paves the way for a constitutional referendum, aimed at adding a statement about the inhabitation of Australia prior to British settlement.

PARLIAMENT has taken another stride toward reconciliation on the fifth anniversary of the national apology to the stolen generation, as campaigners urged MPs on both sides not to give up.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott put aside politics on Wednesday as the lower house passed legislation to create an Act of Recognition of indigenous people.
[..]
The legislation, which contains a two-year sunset clause, is to pave the way for constitutional change while giving time to build community support.
[..]
In September, the government shelved plans to hold a referendum on the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people because of a lack of public awareness.

It introduced the Act of Recognition as a stepping stone towards constitutional change.

(h/t Liza Kappelle of AAP, via news.com.au)

The constitution has a very simple and important role. It is there to set up the basic rules by which our society is ordered, to outline the powers which can and can not be granted to the various branches and levels of government, and to outline the remedies available to the people in order to keep the government in check. It is not there to act as an historical record of the comings and goings of people from the country.

The constitution can, to a limited degree, explain things or values which give context to the rules which it sets out, but it should not act as a sounding board for documentation of truth or opinion of events which have transpired.

At the level of the basic format of a constitution, that is why I oppose what happened in Parliament yesterday, but I also have a specific reason for opposing this specific proposed change to the constitution.

Having a constitution which acknowledges “traditional owners” of the land or “prior inhabitants” or anything along those lines gives immediate rise to the very real possibility of Aboriginal people being given more rights or more legal status than other Australians, and would pave the way for racially preferential legislation to be passed in their favour.

It is bad enough that, under current legislation, there is a limited ability for government to treat Aboriginal people more preferentially than other Australians (such as Centrelink payments specifically granted to Aboriginal people due to their racial background), but this will be able to get much worse if the proposed changes to the constitution are approved by the public.

It is not accident that this legislation passed on the anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s dangerous apology to the so-called “stolen generation”. I noted back then that it was a bad idea which would have dire consequences, and we have seen some small-scale examples of the potential fallout since then. It bothers me greatly that Tony Abbott, a usually sensible man, still fails to see the problems with this whole idea.

Hopefully the rest of the population are smarter than our federal politicians and see through this whole thing. Hopefully they will vote against this dangerous change to the constitution.

Samuel

2 comments February 14th, 2013 at 07:36am

The Capital Region Daily Truth

Yesterday afternoon while I was having a nap, I had an interesting dream. The dream took place a few weeks after I had inherited a sum of money and a printing press, and started with me preparing the first edition of “Capital Region Daily Truth”, a newspaper for Canberra and surrounds.

I had hired some journalists to work on the ground in Canberra and some of the surrounding towns, and was looking over the reports I had received from my federal parliamentary reporters for the “House On The Hill” section which took a different approach to reporting on federal politics…they actually reported in detail on what happened in the House and the Senate, rather than just on the press conferences. Looking over these reports reminded me of a few points which I wanted to include in my first edition’s editorial about reporting on the truth of things which have happened rather than on spurious speculation and hearsay.

I had two editorials for the first edition of the paper. One, on the front page, was the one I mentioned a moment ago, and outlined the purpose and mission of the paper, while the other editorial in the paper’s opinion section outlined the paper’s editorial line which would focus on liberty, freedom, and the importance of fiscal conservatism in government.

The first edition of the paper sold reasonably well. It sold more copies outside of Canberra than within Canberra, which I put down to the quality of the reporting on matters which affected areas surrounding Canberra, and Canberra’s habit of being a bit of a left-leaning town which was likely to be sceptical of my “conservative” paper.

Each location had its own page which the reporter(s) were under orders to fill every day, with incentives to fill more space, which is exactly what my Cooma reporter did on the paper’s second day.

The reporter got his hands on an internal plan from Cooma-Monaro Shire Council to install a gigantic loudspeaker on the Council’s roof which would produce a series of tones every hour, allegedly to improve the ability of the soil within the shire to grow grass which had higher-than-normal nutritional value for sheep. The loudspeaker would be loud enough to be heard 200 kilometres away in Goulburn during a southerly wind. The Council’s internal plan noted that the loudspeaker would be approved “by administrative means” so as to avoid the need for it to go in front of a public council meeting, as there was a fear that the public might disapprove if they were allowed to comment before the loudspeaker was built. It also cited research in to the nutritional benefits of tones at various frequencies by a researcher who we were unable to locate.

This story was the lead story for the paper, while The Canberra Times led with a story about Katy Gallagher winning a painting competition. The Cooma page of the paper had other Cooma-based stories filling it, with a pointer to the front page for the loudspeaker story.

As the week went on, we found out that the researcher responsible for this tone idea was flying in to the country to configure the loudspeaker, and had recently changed his name after being disgraced in the University of East Anglia’s dodgy climate change data controversy. Under intense questioning from myself and the Cooma reporter at Canberra Airport, this researcher admitted to his role in doctoring the climate change data, admitted that the planet has not warmed for 16 years and that the evidence supporting man-made global warming has been completely refuted and the data was doctored so that the government grant money would keep rolling in, and that he had completely made up the benefits of tones on the growth of crops in the knowledge that some local government somewhere would fall for it and pay him lots of money to set it up.

As a result of this and other stories which Capital Region Daily Truth published that week, it was outselling The Canberra Times 10:1 by the end of the week, and through the editorial effort to educate on the importance of fiscal conservatism in government, helped to cause Canberra to elect conservative politicians to both Senate and both House of Representatives seats at the federal election, which actually occurred a week later than the announced date of September 14 due to a typo on the writs.

Incidentally, Katy Gallagher’s award-winning painting was very nice. It was a colourful abstract painting based on the idea of Floriade’s flowers being planted on top of a gigantic concrete flower on City Hill, an idea which was later approved, just at Williamsdale instead of the solar power station, not on City Hill.

Samuel

February 13th, 2013 at 04:14pm

Suspending overweight train drivers today; overweight car drivers tomorrow

National guidelines issued late last year by a federal bureaucratic organisation called the National Transport Commission have concluded that being overweight makes you unfit to to a job which requires a lot of sitting down. That sounds silly enough on its own, but the main concern of the National Transport Commission seems not to be that being overweight increases the risk of heart attacks or diabetes (although they are slightly concerned about that, which on the latter point seems pretty silly seeing as the vast majority of diabetics are very good at managing their condition), but rather that being overweight is likely to make someone fall asleep. Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up (unless you’re a federal bureaucrat, it seems).

The Daily Telegraph had a story on this today because the New South Wales government has sadly decided to follow along with the bizarre federal guidelines, and plans to suspend overweight train drivers.

Under changes to national rail safety standards, all safety-critical CityRail workers – including drivers – will now have to keep their body mass index (BMI) under 40 or face being declared temporarily unfit for work.
[..]
Drivers with a BMI over 40 are now required to undergo a sleep study while workers with a BMI between 35 and 40 and who have other risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, will also have to undergo further testing before being allowed to return to the job.

(h/t Henry Budd, The Daily Telegraph)

The article goes on to state that being overweight is the leading cause of sleep apnoea…not that there’s a direct connection between the two things, just that there’s an increased chance.

It seems like a pretty flimsy reason to suspend someone from a job which they’ve been doing without a problem. In fact, it sounds like discrimination, and I’d love to see how this policy would stack up against anti-discrimination laws.

At this point you might be thinking I’m making mountains out of molehills and that it’s a sensible idea to ensure that train drivers are able to safely drive trains. When I heard the story, I thought a similar thing but for a different reason. I thought “surely there has to be more to this…surely they wouldn’t suspend drivers just because of their weight, surely there would have to be another factor involved before they would suspend someone”, so I had a closer look at the National Transport Commission’s guidelines, and it turns out that they’re even tougher than the Daily Telegraph article makes them sound.

On pages 117 and 118 of the “National Standard for Health Assessment of Rail Safety Workers October 2012” there is an explanation of signs and symptoms of sleep apnoea which, if present, warrant further investigation. That’s fair enough, but then it goes on:

The presence of the following risk factors should also increase the suspicion of sleep apnoea, even in the absence of self-reported sleepiness:
• a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 40
• a BMI ≥ 35 and either
− diabetes type 2; or
− high blood pressure requiring 2 or more medications for control.
BMI should therefore be calculated routinely as part of the periodic health assessment for Safety Critical Workers (refer to Figure 22). Sleep apnoea may be present without the above features; however, the standard identifies these risk factors as a basis for further investigation and classification as Fit for Duty Subject to Review (refer to Table 17).

Note the phrase “even in the absence of self-reported sleepiness”…effectively what this is saying is that, even if a person shows absolutely no signs of dozing off while working, if they are overweight, they have to be subjected to an entirely unwarranted sleep apnoea risk assessment and suspended from duty until the risk assessment is carried out. Given that NSW rail systems are run by government-owned corporations, this means that taxpayer dollars have to be spent on:
1) The wages of an unnecessarily suspended train driver and the wages of someone covering their shifts
2) The medical people who are engaged to carry out these assessments (which in this case involves keeping a train driver in a medical facility overnight to watch them sleep)
3) The countless bureaucrats who have to administer this whole scheme

All because a train driver is overweight.

If that’s not bad enough, the guidelines continue by declaring that people who are overweight are just as dangerous as:

• those who experience moderate to severe excessive daytime sleepiness (ESS score of 16–24)
(see below)
• those with a history of frequent self-reported sleepiness while driving or working
• those for whom work performance reports indicate excessive sleepiness
• those who have had a motor vehicle crash or other incident caused by inattention or sleepiness.
Workers with these high-risk features have a significantly increased risk of sleepiness-related incidents.
They should be referred to a sleep disorders specialist to assess if sleep apnoea or another medical condition is causing their excessive daytime sleepiness. These workers should be classed as Temporarily Unfit for Duty until the disorder is investigated, treated effectively and fitness for duty status determined.

I accept that being overweight does make people more likely to have various medical conditions, but I absolutely reject the idea that just because someone is overweight they should be immediately suspected of having all of these conditions until they cane prove that they don’t, or that they should be labelled as being as dangerous as people who actually show some symptoms of a problem.

It bothers me that train drivers are being subjected to this nonsense, and it bothers me that dozens of government bureaucrats who comes up with, and will have to enforce, these silly guidelines.

But what bothers me the most is the next logical step. If train drivers, who drive vehicles which can only travel on very narrow passageways called train tracks and are therefore at a relatively low-risk of maiming or killing members of the general public when compared to other forms of transport which can go virtually anywhere, are subject to these guidelines, how long will it be before these guidelines are expanded to cover drivers of other vehicles, such as cars, which are certainly much more likely to be involved in a serious collision if the driver suffers some sort of medical problem while driving?

First they came for the train drivers…I might not be a train driver, but I won’t stay silent as this is an illogical decision, and it’s very likely that it will have consequences for the rest of the population if people don’t make a noise about it. I shudder to think of the economic impacts if road authorities decide to take overweight drivers off the road until they can prove that they don’t have a medical problem.

This, in my view, is one situation where the presumption of innocence until guilt can be proven is being subverted, and the ramifications could be a serious and unwarranted reduction in freedom and liberty for everyone, not just train drivers.

Samuel

February 13th, 2013 at 09:18am

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