Archive for January, 2014

Somehow the NBN seems to be decommissioning itself in Canberra

The National Broadband Network regularly posts on its website updated figures regarding the number of households to which the NBN is available. Michael Still (who, unlike me, is a proponent of the NBN) has been tracking these numbers and has found something odd…the NBN seemingly no longer reaches 24 houses in the ACT that it reached two months ago.

NBN rollout in the ACT December 2013 - January 2014. Image credit Michael Still
NBN rollout in the ACT December 2013 – January 2014. Image credit Michael Still

On the face of it, the numbers don’t make sense for two reasons:
1) As the project is built, it should continue to reach an increasing number of houses. If more houses were being knocked down in Canberra than being built, the decline might make sense, but then you’d have to wonder whether it would be better to prioritise the rollout in places which aren’t being demolished.

2) That amazing drop late week which mostly undid itself this week. The numbers are dodgy. Something is very wrong with the way they are being calculated.

This leads me to the inevitable question of “how many homes have actually been passed by the NBN?”. It’s possible that there was an overestimation of the number and they are now slowly auditing and correcting it, or it could be a more sinister and deliberate exaggeration of the numbers from before the federal election with a gradual correction of the numbers so as to not raise suspicions with a sudden drop.

This all leaves me wondering how much it is actually costing per house passed, and how much more over-budget this places the project than we already knew about. The NBN seems to be quickly devolving in to another TransACT rollout…over budget, behind schedule, unlikely to ever reach all of the people it initially said it would, and likely to risk leaving people high and dry if it collapses under its own weight or doesn’t get bailed out somehow.

The inescapable conclusion is that this should have been left to the private sector to do in a cost-effective manner in response to consumer demand. The rollout wouldn’t have been as quick (not that you could call the NBN’s rollout quick) and the speeds might not have been as high as offered by NBN Co. initially, but at least it would have been done in a responsible and commercially sustainable manner which didn’t require tens of billions of taxpayer dollars (perhaps close to $100 billion) at a time when the federal government really can’t afford it.

Samuel

January 31st, 2014 at 07:22pm

The joys of foreign voltage

One of the more interesting parts of arranging my trip has been what devices will and will not accept the US voltage (they use 110v while Australia uses 240v).

I plan on taking my laptop, phone, camera, electric razor, and electric toothbrush. They (or the more precise, their respective chargers) will all accept 110v except for the toothbrush. Unfortunately finding one in Australia which will accept 110v is quite difficult, and I don’t really like the ones which take AA batteries as they seem to run out of useful power pretty quickly. Taking a heavy and expensive transformer is not feasible either, and I’m not keen on buying a toothbrush over there which will have the same problem when I bring it back to Australia.

It turns out that Braun do make US chargers for their toothbrushes but don’t usually sell them outside the US (given how small the charger is, I doubt it has room for a multi-voltage power supply). I was able to find one on eBay, however as it is located in the US, it would probably reach my PO Box after leave Australia. Thankfully the nice people at the Quality Inn Petaluma were willing to accept and hold the parcel for me.

The other consideration is the plug style. Even if an Australian appliance can take 110v, it still requires a US style plug. Adaptors for this are common and cheap.
Korjo power plug adaptor for Australian plugs in US sockets
Korjo power plug adaptor for Australian plugs in US sockets
Korjo power plug adaptor for Australian plugs in US sockets

I’m taking two adaptors with me. This isn’t enough for all of my appliances, but I have a reason for that. One will go in the bathroom for my razor (which requires mains power to operate…it is not a chargeable one) and another for the main room. I’m only taking one for the main room as I can’t guarantee that there will be more than one powerpoint in all hotel rooms, and why take half a dozen adaptors when I can take one of these?
A cheap and basic powerboard
A cheap and basic powerboard

Plug the adaptor in to the wall socket. Plug the powerboard in to the adaptor, and plug my Aussie appliances in to the Aussie-style slots on the powerboard.

I went for a cheap and basic powerboard because it won’t have any problems with a foreign voltage as long as it is not being used to draw a large amount of power. A powerboard with surge protection or other fancy circuitry (such as on/off functions controlled by remote control, as I saw with one powerboard) could have problems with a foreign voltage, whereas a cheap and simple one shouldn’t have any issues.

So, with that done, I am almost completely ready to go with a bit over a week until I depart.

Samuel

January 31st, 2014 at 12:14pm

The unelected government would like you to spend more time cleaning

I nearly fell off my chair the other night when I heard a radio PSA from the US Government’s Environmental Protection Agency (the massive bureaucratic nightmare that it is) which spent 30 seconds advising listeners that vacuuming the floor of your house is a good idea. Good heavens Uncle Sam’s overbearing cousin…really? I would never have guessed.

But then, when I thought it couldn’t get stranger, Jim Ball brought my attention to this bizarre idea from the gigantic unelected government known as the bureaucrats who seem to wield most of the power in the European Union. They’ve decided to take decisive action on that most pressing issue: overpowered vacuum cleaners.

Under European Commission ‘eco’ rules that will come into force next September, the power of new vacuum cleaners must not exceed 1,600 watts.

That figure will be lowered further to 900 watts by 2017. Current cleaners boast an average of 1,800 watts.
The move angered manufacturers, who say it will do nothing to make cleaners more environmentally friendly and will simply reduce efficiency in the home.
[..]
Critics say cleaners satisfying the new rule may use less power, but householders will have to use them for longer so they are likely to use the same amount of electricity in the long run.

(h/t Lucy Osborne, Daily Mail)

So people will either spend double the amount of time cleaning, reducing productivity, or they’ll live in dirtier homes. Maybe the EU will be able to put together a European version of the EPA’s radio spot…at least people will have something to listen to while they spend those extra hours cleaning then.

Samuel

January 31st, 2014 at 06:35am

Sydney’s roads: what a mess

A truck has been driven in to a major Sydney tunnel with the tipper trailer up, causing damage to the roof of the tunnel, an electronic sign, and most importantly breaking some fire sprinklers and flooding the tunnel. This is causing major delays, not least of all to people trying to get to the airport. Sadly it seems that major delays on Sydney’s roads whenever something silly happens anywhere is a very regular occurrence, and the airport is often one of the worst affected places, which is really silly considering how time-sensitive and economically important that airport is.

I wrote this email to 2GB’s Ray Hadley:

G’day Ray,

The numpty in the tipper truck is one of the main reasons why, when I fly out of the country from Sydney airport next month, I’m paying the extra amount to fly from Canberra to Sydney rather than driving up or getting a bus to Sydney.

The Sydney road network grinding to a halt whenever one person does something silly is costing Sydney’s economy a fortune because tourists from outside Sydney will do anything to avoid those roads.

Regards,
Samuel Gordon-Stewart
Canberra, Australia

Update: Just after I posted this I heard about a traffic problem in Canberra. This is about the worst you ever see in Canberra and it’s nowhere near as bad as Sydney. There is an accident on the Tuggeranong Parkway southbound near the Cotter Road exit. Traffic is backed up to Belconnen Way (about 8 KM). This is a fast-flowing road with minimal exits so traffic does back up quickly when something goes wrong, but it clears quickly and other roads handle the extra traffic well. End Update

January 30th, 2014 at 09:34am

Dodgy goings-ons in unions…is anyone surprised?

Yesterday’s revelations about some of the things which go on in unions (the CFMEU is named, but other unions have their problems too) came as no surprise to me or, I would think, many Australians.

A FORMER senior union official in Queensland has pledged to provide Attorney-General George Brandis’s planned royal commission into unions with evidence of alleged corruption, dodgy elections and unlawful industrial actions in the state’s mines and energy sector.

(h/t Hedley Thomas, The Australian)

The claims came from Stuart Vaccaneo who used to be the CFMEU’s senior vice-president.

At the same time, there were also claims of similar activities within the CFMEU in New South Wales involving corruption and the Barangaroo construction project in Sydney. Sadly, but not surprisingly, death threats have been made against certain people who have tried to expose the grubbiness within the CFMEU.

A building union stalwart says he received death threats after he tried to stop his union’s dealings with a Sydney crime figure.
Brian Fitzpatrick, a senior industrial officer and 25-year veteran of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union in NSW, said the infiltration of organised crime into the union had plunged it into a “crisis” and called for “a very serious clean-up.”

(h/t Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker, Sydney Morning Herald)

Tony Abbott has taken aim at Labor for abolishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and quite rightly so. The ABCC was very effective at stamping out this sort of behaviour and ensuring people were prosecuted for breaking the law. Not that you’d be able to draw the link clearly enough for a legal case for “proceeds of crime”, but it’s fair to say that Labor benefited from this illegal activity by way of the revenue they receive from the union movement, and how much extra revenue the unions were able to rake in through dodgy means after the ABCC was abolished.

The sooner Tony Abbott can restore the ABCC, the better.

Is it any wonder that I refuse to let my superannuation be managed by one of those union-owned funds. Apart from the fact that the non-union funds tend to perform better (the union-run funds claim they perform better, but they use very carefully manipulated data to make that false assertion), I just don’t want any of my fees going towards the unions. The unions already openly push for and fund socialism and the Labor Party…that’s bad enough without them helping organised crime groups along the way. I won’t help them do it.

Samuel

January 29th, 2014 at 07:13am

Quick note about comments

Update: It’s funny how a lightbulb appears above one’s head just after one makes an announcement like this. The problem has now been found and worked around, but not fixed. It’s not as serious as I feared, but I’m not pleased about the workaround…but it’s OK for now. The comment system is now back to normal. End Update

Further Update 29/1: The cause of the original issue has now been fixed, which pleases me greatly as it was a bug in a spam filtering system, and without that spam filtering in place I was being bombarded by emails due to robots registering for the site in the hope that they could post spam messages for you to see. My thanks to Filidor Wiese for his excellent spam filtering system and his extremely fast fix to the problem. End Update

My attention has been drawn to the fact that the comment moderation system on this blog is currently not functioning correctly. I was made aware of this by a handful of comments slipping through in recent days which should have required my intervention and approval before appearing (some of those have since been removed as I would not have let them through).

Unfortunately the obvious solutions to this problem have not fixed it, so as an interim measure until I have a bit more time to find and fix the problem, I have turned on the function which requires all comments to go through the moderation process. I apologise for the inconvenience this causes. Hopefully it will be fixed within the next few days.

Samuel

January 28th, 2014 at 10:19am

The Sunday Bits for January 26, 2014

Happy Australia Day, and welcome to the first Sunday Bits for 2014.

Australian Flag

If you watched the tennis last night then you probably saw Billie Court sing the national anthem before the match. Normally I am not a fan of the public performances of Advance Australia Fair as it is a beautiful and important song, but most singers are just not capable of performing the song with the respectful gusto which it deserves. In fact I believe that Julie Anthony is almost the only person who has ever done a good live rendition (and excellent recorded version) of it…but last night I was very pleasantly surprised by Billie Court who did an absolutely fantastic job.

Being Australia Day I had hoped to provide you with Billie Court’s rendition of Advance Australia Fair from last night, but I can’t find it. I did, however, find her rendition of it at the cricket a few years ago. The picture quality is a bit dodgy, but the song is excellent.

If I can get my hands on last night’s rendition, I’ll post it for you.

In This Edition
*A change of format
*Best wishes to Ian Ross
*Socialised medicine kills
*Kevin Andrews’ interest in marriage counselling
*Impending deflation
*Aliens running America?
*Upcoming climate change discussion
*Obama administration has been covering up Benghazi from the start
*The war on Christianity is alive and well
*The electric chair is making a comeback

***

A change of format
A quick note before we delve in to more interesting subjects. When I started The Sunday Bits it was supposed to be a quick summary of things which I either couldn’t get to during the week or were interesting but didn’t really deserve their own blog post. Unfortunately I found myself effectively writing a dozen full blog posts in one blog post, and spent over an hour on it. It was unworkable and didn’t really fit the intended purpose. To correct this I have changed the format a tad by introducing a word limit of 1,000 words, with a target of 750-800 words. WordPress (the software behind this site) keeps a word count as I write, so it’s count will be used for this purpose. Due to the room taken up by this note, I’m giving myself a little bit of extra room this week.

***

Best wishes to Ian Ross
I’d like to take a moment to wish former television newsreader Ian Ross all the best after it was revealed yesterday that he has pancreatic cancer and has been told he only has five months to live. Ian was a great credible newsreader on multiple networks. He has opted not to undergo chemotherapy and try alternative treatments. Here’s hoping Ian sees much more than five months in relatively good health.

***

Socialised medicine kills
It might be for the best that Ian Ross is not undergoing chemotherapy, especially as a public patient. A news article today shows something which is plainly obvious.

MORE than 840 people – 16 a week – died waiting for surgery in Victoria in the past year.

The revelation comes as the length of time patients spend on elective surgery waiting lists continues to grow.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information laws show almost 841 people died on hospital waiting lists in 2012-13, an increase of 246 – or 41 per cent – in three years.

(h/t Peter Mickelburough of the Sunday Herald Sun)

Sadly it’s common sense really. Government-managed systems are ultimately controlled by a finite government budget sourced from finite tax revenues. As such they can only afford to perform a maximum number of operations in a year, which results in rationing and waiting lists. This is a problem which a market-driven (not highly-regulated like here in Australia) private system doesn’t have as competition between insurers and consumers helps to ensure people can be seen quickly. There have been cases of Australians on a surgery waiting list going to the US and ending up in hospital for unrelated treatment, only to have the US hospital treat the waiting list condition there and then (I wish I could find the link I had to such a story) and have it covered by the medical component of their travel insurance, and save Australian taxpayers a motza in the process.

***

Kevin Andrews’ interest in marriage counselling
Earlier this week I expressed my concerns about the federal government’s mooted scheme to hand out $200 marriage counselling vouchers to newlyweds. Larry Pickering has come up with some interesting information about the minister responsible for the scheme:

More concerning is that the holier-than-thou Minister Andrews and his wife also run a Catholic marriage guidance counselling company.
He maintains he has not actively done so since the latest election but his marriage guidance web page tells a different story.
“He is advertising group sessions at $240 per couple”

Hmmm, I do hope this scheme, silly as it is, has more behind it than ministerial self-interest.

***

Impending deflation
I pay to subscribe to a few U.S. talk radio shows, including Coast To Coast AM. Coast specialises in some very odd topics and often the shows are of little interest to me, so I don’t usually listen to the live show, but it usually has a couple of interesting shows each month which I listen to after they’ve aired. Recently it had a very interesting show in which demographic economist Harry Dent explained that he thinks the world’s economy is about to hit a tipping point where the number of newly-retired baby boomers will cause a crash and long-term deflation. He believes the markets will climb until May, and then a large crash and deflation will hit. He doesn’t expect recovery for at least five years.

***

Aliens running America?
Later in that episode a discussion was held about a bizarre revelation from a recent Edward Snowden NSA leak. According to PC Tech Magazine’s summary of the leaked reports, a bunch of tall white aliens are in control of the US government and were also responsible for the rise of Nazi Germany. Worryingly, some other aliens apparently favour Russia and oppose the tall white aliens.

Make of it what you will.

***

Upcoming climate change discussion
In an upcoming edition of Coast To Coast AM which I will be listening to live (many radio stations stream it live if you wish to join me) on Thursday afternoon (Wednesday night/Thursday morning US time), Space historian Robert Zimmerman will be on for the shows first two hours (5pm – 7pm Canberra time) to “discuss the fraud and dishonesty which has permeated the sciences of climate and environmental studies including how scientists at NASA and NOAA have consistently manipulated the temperature records”.

Sounds good.

***

Obama administration has been covering up Benghazi from the start
The Obama administration has to take a lot of the blame for the lethal attack on the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. It has tried to deflect blame and cover up the truth. Fox News is one of the few places where the truth has not been in short supply on the subject, but even they’ve had a hard time reporting it. Noel Sheppard at the Media Research Center’s NewsBusters.org website explains the lengths the Obama administration has gone to in an effort to avoid the truth from getting out, including omitting Fox and only Fox from multiple briefings and press conferences, and even trying to get a friend of Fox anchor Greta Van Susteren to silence Fox reporter Jennifer Griffin. Despicable, but typical of Obama and friends.

***

The war on Christianity is alive and well
I read a story the other week (no link, sorry…I didn’t think I’d need to keep the link) where somebody tried to claim that there is no war against Christianity in popular culture and public institutions. They took particular umbrage with Todd Starnes who relentlessly reports on the subject. I wonder then, what that person makes of these stories?
First grader, while telling her class about a family Christmas tradition, as was the task at the time, told she was “not allowed to talk about the Bible in school” and was prevented from telling the class about her family’s tradition of remembering the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas.
Detroit 8-year-old told he can’t bring a Bible to school after reading it, quietly, in a free-reading period.

There mightn’t be any missiles or bullets, but there is definitely a cultural war happening here.

***

The electric chair is making a comeback
The electric chair is set to become the primary method of death penalty executions in Virginia. Ironically this change in method, which is undoubtedly more painful than lethal injection, is being brought about by the producer of the lethal injection drugs trying to be nicer.

European pharmaceutical companies last year stopped selling the three-drug mix used for injections on ethical grounds, forcing several states, including Virginia, to consider alternative methods to carry out lethal punishment.

(h/t Fox News)

A Democrat is complaining about it being a barbaric way to kill someone (oddly he hasn’t proposed a firing squad which would be as quick, effective and “non-barbaric” as a lethal injection), but I don’t see a problem with it. The electric chair never went away and was always available upon request to death-row inmates…and we should not forget that people on death-row have been convicted of the most barbaric of crimes themselves. It seems fair, in my view, that they receive an unpleasant sentence. It’s certainly a better option than an alternative lethal injection method which was tried in Ohio earlier this month in which it took 26 minutes for the convict to die. The electric chair works, is a real punishment, and gives the family of the victim some comfort in seeing with their own eyes that the assailant is not getting off lightly. I’m all for it.

***

That’s all for today. Have a wonderful Australia Day. I hope your day of celebration is a good one for the anniversary of the fantastic day on which the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove and started the process which eventually created our great nation, and equally I hope your day is not sullied by that annual countdown done by that communist taxpayer-funded radio station.

Samuel

6 comments January 26th, 2014 at 10:01am

Some recommended weekend viewing

Just after the beginning of the year, C-SPAN Book TV’s “In Depth” program spent their monthly show interviewing author, constitutional lawyer, and radio host Mark Levin. This show sits down with a non-fiction author each month to discuss their books, subjects related to their books, and a little bit of the personal life of the author.

Peter Slen interviewing Mark Levin on C-SPAN Book TV's In Depth programMark Levin has written a number of best-selling books on the current state of U.S. politics, governance, and society, and on his ideas for solutions to the problems facing America. In Mark’s most recent book “The Liberty Amendments” he proposes a few amendments to the U.S. constitution which he believes would address some problems by making government more closely resemble what the framers of the constitution envisaged, and in the process make society freer. The book goes in to some details as to how Mark’s proposals fit in with the historical writings of deliberations of the Framers. As this is his most recent book and also his most solution-filled book, Book TV made it the “book of the month” for their book club and more time is spent on this book in the interview than any of the others.

Mark has also written a more personal book titled “Rescuing Sprite” which is a story about a dog (Sprite) which Mark and his family rescued from a shelter…the book details how they dealt with some of the health issues which arose from abuse and neglect which Sprite received prior to being rescued and how they overcame some of these issues. The book also, quite candidly, deals with the difficult subject of having to put Sprite down, as well as some details about some of the other dogs in Mark’s life. I read this book a few years ago (and have read most of Mark’s other books) and found it difficult to read emotionally, but also quite comforting in helping me deal with Nattie’s death last year. I was pleased to hear Mark say during the interview that, when he retires, he would like to permanently work rescuing dogs from abuse and neglect.

The interview goes for three hours. There are no commercial breaks although the interview does stop for a break roughly each hour, in which time they run some pre-recorded packages about Mark. The first roughly 40 minutes is conducted as a straight interview, and after this the interview continues but also contains callers asking Mark questions. It is a very worthwhile three hours of viewing and I found it to be very interesting and thought-provoking.

The interview (minus about the last minute) is available on YouTube as embedded above, although it should be noted that the YouTube version was uploaded by a third-party and contains some video glitches. There is a much cleaner version available on the C-SPAN website (and the Book TV website), but it can not be embedded here as they have disabled that function. It can, however, be purchased from the website in DVD or Audio CD format…I enjoyed the interview enough to purchase it on DVD.

I hope you find it as interesting as I did. I had already planned on taking some of Mark’s books with me to read on my US trip (along with some other books) but after this interview I plan on taking another one along as well as there were a few points raised in the interview which made me want to revisit some of Mark’s earlier work…but that’s a story for another day.

Samuel

January 26th, 2014 at 12:19am

Friday Funnies: Which file extension are you?

It’s rare that I find an online personality quiz which is remotely accurate, and it’s even rarer that I come across one which is amusing. This morning I came across this one which fits both bills. A decent bit of geek humour which isn’t (for most file extensions) out of the understanding of non-programmer types. Some of the questions are quite amusing too.

You are .html You are versatile and improving, but you do have your limits.  When you work with amateurs it can get quite ugly.
Which File Extension are You?

I’m not 100% sure about the “improving” bit (I never really think I’ve improved until the proof whacks me across the head) but the rest is accurate. I like a certain amount of routine but I adapt when I have to, but I can get more than a bit frustrated when dealing with people who don’t know what they’re doing…especially if they should know what they’re doing.

I was hoping to be a .inf file which apparently is informative and without which life can be difficult for whoever is left. Alas this is one of my delusions…I may be informative, but everyone’s life carries on quite well without my input, even if I think my input is indispensable at times.

Good luck.

Samuel

2 comments January 24th, 2014 at 08:57am

No boat arrivals for five weeks!

One thing the federal government has been very good at is following through on their promise to stop the boatloads of illegal immigrants and customers of people smugglers. Today the good news came to light that there has not been a single illegal boat arrival in Australia for five weeks, which is the first time we have had such a five-week period in five years.

In other words, from late 2009 until this past five weeks, we have had at least one illegal boat arrival in each five week period, and more often than not it was multiple boat arrivals every week and sometimes every day. Those arrivals were due to Kevin Rudd scrapping John Howard’s Pacific Solution and the utter incompetence of his government and Julia Gillard’s government in failing to address the problem when the human costs of their policy became apparent.

Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and the Australian military should be proud of their work in reducing the human suffering caused by the awful people smuggling trade. The vast majority of people who used the boats of the people smugglers were not refugees as they did not stop at the nearest safe port of call and instead paid to continue on to another location, and in many cases they weren’t even refugees to begin with and instead were paying to knowingly illegally enter Australia. The reduction in the false asylum claims which have to be processed will mean that the federal government is able to resettle genuine refugees who are currently living in refugee camps, and will be able to save an awful lot of money as well.

There is more work to do, but for now it is very safe to say to everyone involved in Operation Sovereign Borders “well done, and keep up the good work”.

Samuel

January 24th, 2014 at 08:42am

Sean Hannity would make a good US President

When I selected a few people recently who I would support if they chose to run for the presidency of the United States, I deliberately did not select radio and Fox News host Sean Hannity as I didn’t think there was any serious chance of him running, especially not in 2016. While I still think he won’t run in 2016, it does look like his interest in running for public office is increasing in the wake of his decision to (eventually) leave New York state after Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that “ultra-conservatives” are not welcome in the state.

A source who was on Hannity’s Fox News show last fall told The Hill the conservative commentator mentioned the possibility — off camera — of running in Florida.

“He wasn’t joking,” the source said. “It was definitive, but he didn’t mention a specific office in Florida.”
On his radio show, Hannity said he “can’t wait” to leave New York in the wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) remarks that extreme conservatives have “no place” in the Empire State.

Hannity, a native New Yorker, has repeatedly ripped the state’s tax rates. He said he would move to Texas or Florida, which don’t have state income taxes.
[..]
During an appearance on Greta Van Susteren’s “On the Record” Fox show Tuesday night, Hannity said his departure isn’t imminent.

Hannity noted his son is still in high school, and he has more than 100 staffers who work on his television and radio shows, suggesting it would be irresponsible to immediately move his media operation elsewhere.

He added, “As soon as I am able, some time probably when my son graduates from high school, I’m getting out of here as quick as I can.”

(h/t The Hill’s Bob Cusack)

Sean Hannity is an interesting creature in conservative circles in that he is one of the few genuinely conservative people who is both unafraid of standing by his convictions and has good friends in the more moderate “establishment wing” of the Republican Party. As such, Hannity could be one of the few people who could unify the GOP behind a truly conservative platform.

I have been critical of Sean in the past for giving some of his moderate Republican guests (especially regular guests like Karl Rove) a bit too much room to explain their point of view without challenging it, which isn’t to say that he doesn’t eventually challenge it, but I have thought he has sometimes left a few too many points unaddressed, however I have noticed that he has been much more strident in his promotion of conservative principles and solutions ever since his radio contract negotiations were finalised and he gave his Cumulus Radio affiliates the heave-ho in favour of Clear Channel affiliates. I put this down to not having to expend energy on contract negotiations, and not having to deal with pressure from Cumulus to be a bit more moderate in his views.

I think Sean would do a good job as US President and would be especially effective at “rallying the troops” in the House and Senate to support his conservative agenda. His lack of governing experience could be made up for with a good Vice President and also by his business experience. I’m not convinced that Sean would greatly enjoy the job, but I think he would be very effective.

That said, he has made no mention of a run for President and seems instead to be giving consideration to some other public office such as a congressional seat. I think Sean’s talents would be wasted in Congress or in a state government (although after two terms as President I would love to see him become a state Governor…but after, not before) as his ability to influence public policy from the media on a national scale is of much greater importance and value to the nation than his ability to be a conservative vote in the House or Senate, or to reform a state. If he is to run for office, then I think his talents dictate that the most suitable office is the top job.

But as much as I would like to see it, I doubt it will happen, and certainly not before 2024. He will be 63-years-old in 2024 so it’s not out of the question, but I rate the chances of it happening as being quite low.

Samuel

January 24th, 2014 at 05:37am

Federally-funded marriage counselling is the wrong priority in a time of federal budget deficits

I’m not entirely against the idea, but while the federal government is dealing with continuous budget deficits it is a bad time to start handing out vouchers for marriage counselling.

NEWLYWEDS across Australia will be given a $200 voucher for marriage counselling from July 1, as part of a $20 million trial to strengthen relationships and avoid family breakdowns.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews confirmed the Federal Government’s $200 voucher scheme would proceed with a 12-month trial of 100,000 couples starting on July 1.

The Federal Government believes the move will strengthen relationships, create more happiness and stability in the home and create a better environment for children.

“The evidence shows that strong relationships between parents make a substantial difference to a child,” Mr Andrews said.

(h/t The Courier Mail’s Laura Chalmers)

Based on current averages, the program’s 100,000 vouchers would be handed out to newlyweds within a year.

While Kevin Andrews is right that having children grow up with their biological parents in a loving household where the marriage of those parents is a strong and loving bond is by far the best option, I see two issues with the planned trial.

1. Newlyweds are the wrong target. If the vouchers are going to be handed out, they should be given to couples who are actually having problems, not couples who may or may not one day run in to problems.

2. The federal government currently spends more than it takes in. This is mostly due to the profligate spending of the Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard governments, however Tony Abbott’s government has not yet shown much initiative in reigning in the budget. An argument could be made that this program might lead to reduced federal benefits for single parents being paid to divorced parents at a future date, but it seems unlikely that this would save the federal budget much money, and the initial and ongoing expense of the program makes it the type of high cost to potentially minimal yield program which should be trialled when the budget is in a much stronger position.

Ultimately I’m not sure that the government really needs to be involved in this area at all, but if it insists on being involved, then this program should surely be of a much lower priority for implementation than reducing immediate spending and paying off the federal government’s debt.

Samuel

January 24th, 2014 at 12:28am

US Trip long-range weather forecasts

As my US trip gets closer and I’m trying to plan some more of the finer details of the trip, the weather forecast is of some interest to me as I may need to plan around snow, ice, or other inclement weather. As such, AccuWeather‘s 45 day forecast is of some interest to me. As it is such a long-range forecast, I don’t expect it to be perfect, but if it can be somewhat accurate with general weather trends then it could be a useful planning tool. I’ve been keeping an eye on it for a while and haven’t seen any huge movements in the forecasts so I’m willing to give it some credence.

To that end, each week (probably on Mondays as of next week) I plan to post the current forecast, both to see how it changes over time, and compare it to the actual conditions on the day. For my convenience, I will be posting the forecasts using Celsius temperatures.

February 11. Los Angeles, San Francisco. (I will be flying in to L.A. and then flying on to San Francisco). It looks like there might be a bit of light rain, but nothing to worry about.
Los Angeles AccuWeather forecast for February 11, 2014San Francisco AccuWeather forecast for February 11, 2014

After arriving in San Francisco I’ll be driving to Petaluma and staying there for a few days. It looks like some good weather.
Petaluma AccuWeather forecast for February 11-14, 2014

On the 14th I depart Petaluma and drive to Las Vegas. I should pass through or near these places. The weather looks OK.
Coalinga
Coalinga AccuWeather forecast for February 14, 2014

Bakersfield
Bakersfield AccuWeather forecast for February 14, 2014

Barstow
Barstow AccuWeather forecast for February 14, 2014

My time in Las Vegas looks like it should be pretty nice, and similar to Canberra in Autumn
Vegas AccuWeather forecast for February 14-15, 2014
Vegas AccuWeather forecast for February 16-21, 2014

On the 21st I fly from Vegas to Kansas City via Phoenix. The forecast for that is all good.
Phoenix
Phoenix AccuWeather forecast for February 21, 2014

My time in Kansas City looks good too. Positively balmy in fact.
Kansas City AccuWeather forecast for February 21-22, 2014Kansas City AccuWeather forecast for February 23, 2014

But when I drive to Fort Dodge, look how quickly the temperature drops.
Des Moines
Des Moines AccuWeather forecast for February 23, 2014

Fort Dodge looks like it might be a little wet, but still OK.
Fort Dodge AccuWeather forecast for February 23-25, 2014

The drive to South Bend is looking like a slow one. It’s already likely to take all day, but might take a little longer than I expected.
Cedar Rapids
Cedar Rapids AccuWeather forecast for February 25, 2014

My other main route option bypasses Cedar Rapids and takes me near Rockford, but the forecast is roughly the same.
Rockford
Rockford AccuWeather forecast for February 25, 2014

No matter the route, I have to go through or near Gary.
Gary
Gary AccuWeather forecast for February 25, 2014

South Bend is looking as cold as I would expect, but without the snow I was hoping to see.
South Bend AccuWeather forecast for February 25 - March 1, 2014
South Bend AccuWeather forecast for March 2-3, 2014

On one of the weekdays I plan on going to Hillsdale. I see a chance of snow on the Thursday.
Hillsdale AccuWeather forecast for February 26-28, 2014

The drive to the Washington D.C. area looks very hospitable.
Toledo
Toledo AccuWeather forecast for March 3, 2014

Cleveland
Cleveland AccuWeather forecast for March 3, 2014

Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh AccuWeather forecast for March 3, 2014

Hagerstown
Hagerstown AccuWeather forecast for March 3, 2014

AccuWeather’s 45 day forecast does not yet stretch all the way through my Washington D.C. area visit, but the bit it can see looks nice.
DC AccuWeather forecast for March 3-6, 2014

So far it looks like the weather will be nice to me and not be as cold as I had expected, but I have to admit the trip from Fort Dodge to South Bend has me a tad concerned, but if the early-morning ice is minimal then it should be fine.

Samuel

January 22nd, 2014 at 07:33am

It’s difficult to write with liquorice while skydiving

I had a rather odd dream yesterday that I decided to go skydiving before work. Skydiving in this instance could be done from a private airstrip in Fyshwick, but because I was a bit short on time I decided to park in Woden and walk to Fyshwick (how this is quick in any way is beyond me) as the wind was blowing in that direction and if I was to start a skydive over Fyshwick I would land in Woden.

After parking I came across a mobile phone on the ground. Upon examination it turned out to be the phone which was stolen from me in 2009 and I decided to take it to the police station for forensic examination, but due to time constraints decided to do so after my skydive.

Due to a quirk in dream geography, I merely had to walk through a park to get to Fyshwick. Before long I was airborne but the whole process of returning to land was taking too long. Due to the wind rushing past I could not vocally advise people that I needed to return to land faster, so I reached in to my pocket and got out some liquorice sticks and started to spell out “I have to go to work”, but the wind prevented any of the liquorice from staying still. One of the supervisors of the skydiving misunderstood my message and put me parachute in reverse, which caused me to start ascending. Before I knew it, I was over Hobart (which looked suspiciously like Mount Ainslie with buildings on it) which was OK as I knew of a shortcut tunnel in Hobart which would get me back to Canberra with a five minute stroll…the only problem was that I couldn’t figure out how to land and continued to ascend.

The dream ended there, so I’m not sure if I ever did manage to land or get to work. The way things were going though, I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up flying all the way around the world before getting to work.

Samuel

2 comments January 22nd, 2014 at 06:22am

Bigger Better Bolt Report

Update 6:59pm: Andrew has since noted that his show is now delayed by a month due to Ten’s coverage of the Winter Olympics. It looks like I might not be in the country for the start of it after all. End Update

Andrew Bolt has posted some exciting news on his blog. The Bolt Report returns to Channel Ten on the 2nd of February and has been expanded from half an hour to a full hour. Andrew hinted at this at the end of last year, but it’s nice to have confirmation.

He has also dropped a hint about a new segment on his show. The segment will “balance something on the ABC” which sounds to me as if he is taking his “Media Watch” segment from his Monday evening radio appearance and putting something similar to it on his TV show. Perhaps he can get Gerard Henderson to be a contributor to this new segment.

I’m pleased to see Andrew returning in February. His show is great, and I’ll get to see two episodes before I head off overseas. Hopefully the videos of it on the News Limited website are locked down to just Australia as, if I get time, I would like to watch the show while I’m overseas.

Samuel

January 21st, 2014 at 05:27am

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