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31 August 2007

Phillip of Rights

Bills of rights do not protect essential freedoms - all they do is present the very real risk of having judges imposing personal opinions as law, leaving everyone to guess about what the law might be.

In Canada, for example, without direction from the parliament, judges have decided that all asylum seekers are entitled to an oral hearing, that there should be gay marriage, that persons awaiting trial must be released after eight months on remand, no matter how serious the crimes involved (this position was later reversed), and that tobacco advertising is free speech.

Phillip Ruddock

I don't think Phillip is going to persuade many Bill of Rights advocates by using the example of asylum seeker and gay rights. They're interesting examples of what he presumably thinks are extreme outcomes of a Bill of Rights. Are gays and asylum seekers the worst groups he can think of that might accidentally be protected by a Bill of Rights? No, people who commit serious crimes seem to be a bit scarier. And possibly tobacco companies. I thought he was a Liberal - why does he even oppose tobacco advertising?

In the article he does make some good points about why people are choosing to support a Bill of Rights now. And it's mostly because those people disagree with the majority of Australia and are wanting to give the courts the power to override that majority.

30 August 2007

Bike

I bought a new bike today. I've been planning to for about 9 months - ever since the physio told me my knees were bung and needed strengthening. I finally got around to it. The bike cost $350, the helmet cost $50, the lights cost $80 and the carry bar cost $70.

I rode it home with a whole lot of vegies on the back. It was heaps of fun and really fast. Faster than the bus at least. I almost got run over by a truck though. It swerved at the last minute and then the car behind it almost hit me. It's good to be back on the rodes.

Although I can't believe I spent $80 on lights. I went in to buy the bike while it was light, but by the time I left it was dark and I didn't have a choice. I bought the same thing at Kmart last time for $15. Well, not exactly the same.

This is totally a fitness day. I went to the gym for two hours as well. Fun fun.

My new bike

Getting Music off an iPod

Perhaps everyone else has already figured this out. You can't easily get music onto an iPod, but you can get it off. And, at least in Windows XP, it's pretty straight forward.

Go to the iPod_Control folder on the iPod and then do a search in Music for *.mp3 *.m4p etc. You can add Artist and Album to the columns of a search results. If you sort by those fields you can copy just the stuff you want. Move the files somewhere and then import them into iTunes. The ID3 tags should mean it doesn't matter that the files have weird code names. If you have iTunes managing your songs it will rename them for you.

29 August 2007

Slovenia

I reckon that Slovenia has to be the quiet achiever of very small bunch of countries that used to be poor and now aren't. It has per capita GDP of US$23,000 which is way near the top. GINI index of 28. Yes. That's right. Only 28. 100% literacy. Life expectancy of 77 years. Infant mortality lower than Australia. And all of this with government expenditure at a hefty 43% of GDP. Who says that governments are evil and drag down the infant mortality stats with all that baby eating? Slovenia is living proof of how much fun a bloated bureaucracy can really be.

So good on you Slovenia. I'm usually a sucker for the heart-warming socialist story. But your capitalist rags to riches epic is a fine effort too. And really, with a GINI of 28 who the hell am I to question your methods.

Abbott: I’m Hopeless, Please Stop Me

In his little editorial today on what is wrong with (can you guess) Kevin Rudd, he spends most of his time talking about how bad the public health system is. This is the same public health system that Tony Abbott, as Health Minister, presumably takes some responsibility for. He is basically saying "Politicians are incompetent. I can't run these blasted hospitals and none of the other guys can either, so please fire us."

Abbott wears his free market crush on his sleave. Rich people will do a much better job of allocating scarce health resources than the government. It would certainly be an interesting experiment to find out if we could recreate the fantabulous bargain that is the US health care system1. But as Abbott wisely says "Hospitals are too important to experiment with."

  1. US spends 15% of GDP on health - more than anyone. They rank about 40th in the world for life expectancy and infant mortality - worse than anyone with two coins to rub together. Go privatization! Go the mind-blowing economies of scale from 300 million health consumers all in the one spot!

Is the CIA using Plone?

CIA using Plone?

How cool would that be? What Plone may lack in goodness, it more than makes up for with open-sourceness.

27 August 2007

The iPod

My 40gb iPod arrived today. I was expecting it to be dumped in box and probably to have scratches and stuff on it. "Refurbished" makes it sound second-rate. I wasn't worried though, because for $200 less I was happy to get a second-rate iPod.

But it is beautiful. It has everything you would need. It was all beautifully packaged. Each and every component has several layers of specially designed plastic wrapper. And the iPod itself is lovely. So shiny and sturdy.

I'm putting music onto it now. My whole music collection will fill up about a third of it. But even that is going to take many hours to move on my poor old USB 1 computer.

Update: iPods are truly wonderful devices.

Update 2: iTunes 6 is slow and crap with my iPod. iTunes 7 is better.

25 August 2007

APEC

I'm planning to go and "protest" at the APEC meeting if I can. Quite a few people have asked me what I'm going to protest against. I've thought about that, and I've decided I'm going to protest everything. It is almost like there are so many issues that it becomes impossible to reasonably pick any particular one. And then people feel like if you don't have a specific beef, then it's silly to go and protest. But I'm not happy with many of the government's foreign policies (nor a policies of many of the leaders attending). If going and standing around with a bunch of people is able to cause the tiniest bit of embarrassment to the current government, then I think it's worth it.

For the record, as of August 2007, I am opposed to:

  • our treatment of indigenous people,
  • undermining the unions,
  • our treatment of asylum seekers,
  • our new anti-terror laws,
  • killing people in Iraq,
  • our occupation/liberation of East Timor,
  • the nature of our relationship with China,
  • the nature of our relationship with Indonesia, and
  • our opposition to Kyoto and pretty much anything that looks green.

NTEU

I joined the National Tertiary Education Union on Thursday, finally after trying a few times over the last couple of years. I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to afford the $200 a year on my income, but then I met a union fellow at the food coop and he said that you contribute based on your yearly salary. So I paid him $55 and joined up. I've never been a member of a union before. But I love em, so I'm proud to be in one.

He said that their general membership fee is 1% of your gross income. Unions are the bargainest of all bargains. Think of everything the unions do, and for just (1% of income) * (20% population coverage) = 0.2% of GDP. Totally brilliant.

24 August 2007

Fluffy Socks

Jo brought me some special socks back from Chile. They are the best, warmest socks I have ever owned. I wear them every night. I stick out the end of my little loft bed, and my feet used to get very cold some nights, so they have made a big difference. Thanks Jo.

Warm Glow

When it comes to do without reimbursement of drugs that help against minor complaints the Swiss population even seem to exhibit a small positive WTP for such a restriction. This can be interpreted as an instance of 'warm glow', i.e. the tendency of (at least some) respondents to choose alternatives they believe to be socially acclaimed (Andreoni, 1995).

This is what is wrong with economists. They've done an experiment with people, asking them what sort of health care system they want. The economists assume the only thing that matters to the participants is what they get out of it. So they ask these people how much less they would need to pay in order to accept only getting their insurance to pay for drugs treating serious ailments. When people say they would actually be willing to pay more for a health system where only drugs treating serious ailments, they attribute this to a 'warm glow' which is just people wanting to feel good about themselves.

Isn't it possible, that people want a good health care system, and not simply the system that most benefits them personally? It's not a particularly new or original idea. But the researchers seem a little confused by it. They are later reassured when they discover that it's only healthy people who feel that way. Sick people start to become more self-interested. So homo economicus is more like the sick person unable to afford to keep themselves alive, hoping that the people living around them will pay for them.

I read a bit more of that paper and they're arguing that you shouldn't regulate health insurance because everyone wants something different, and if you restrict everyone in the same way you get a bad outcome. One of their examples of this is that people who are sick or have been recently put more value on unrestricted choice than others. This isn't particularly remarkable, because these people are probably using far more health services than the average person. So they'll probably be more upset if you restrict what they use. That definitely isn't an argument against regulation. Regulation might be a bad idea if some people are willing to pay much more for some aspect of health care than other people are. But the sickest people are willing to pay slightly more in return for much better health care, much of the cost of which is borne by other people. I'm not suggesting that society shouldn't pay for sick people, just that differences in preferences between high users of health care and low users isn't sufficient to make regulation inefficient.

Silly neoliberal economists. They're just setting out to find evidence for their existing agenda. Like all economists of course, but it's worse when the neoliberal ones do it because they have the wrong existing agenda.

How Ethical is Australia?

I've been reading How Ethical is Australia? by Peter Singer. I love Peter Singer, but I didn't like this book. I suppose it's handy for a general coverage of the issues, but a lot of what the book described as unethical was simply "conservative" policy. Any conservative would be able to look Peter Singer in the eye and tell him that what they were doing was totally ethical. Clearly, engaging with all those issues and doing justice to all kinds of politics is incredibly difficult. But I was still disappointed with this book.

Maggot

I just found a maggot in one of my tissues. No wonder I'm feeling crook.

Hostage

Hostage is some Bruce Willis film I'd never heard of, but I got it the other night because Martin and I wanted something more violent than Wah-Wah to settle ourselves. It though it would suck, but in fact, it rocked. Lots of shooting and explosions. And a fun story where nothing seemed that obvious to me. There need to be more good hostage movies with smarter hostage takers. These hostage takers weren't that smart, but they did have a bit of a technological advantages.

I reckon it's one of the best movies Bruce Willis has done, and that is really saying something because he is a total champ.

Wah-Wah

Wah-Wah had some nice moments but most of it I thought was silly. Poor story construction, poor script but with a bunch of fantastic actors. Emily Watson is still my favourite though. She couldn't do anything wrong.

Lady Chatterley

Mum and I went to watch Lady Chatterley last night in Leichhardt. If you're the kind of person that likes 3 hours of flowers, trees, pensive face shots and 1920s sex, then there is a reasonable change you'll like this film. Luckily I am that sort of a person and I really enjoyed it. Mum was getting pretty bored after an hour and a half and starting to feel hungry. A while after that she suggested we leave early to go get pizza. I told her I thought it must be almost finished. It wasn't but I was glad we stayed. And the pizza tasted even better.

I don't know what else to say about the film. It's French. There is a lot of long periods without talking. There's a lot of nakedness and a lot of sex. It's good sex though. And the sex traces their relationship nicely throughout the film, rather than just being one sweaty, consummative final. I might even recommend it to a few people.

22 August 2007

iPod with clickwheel (non-colour screen)

Despite being mostly poor, I managed to buy a refurbished first-generation iPod from Apple today. It was $179 and it's 40gb. It will get here tomorrow. I'm very excited.

I still remember my first MP3 player. It was 256mb and had a tiny screen and a large battery and played for several whole hours. It cost me $200 and I thought it was the bargain of my life.

21 August 2007

Oil Pesto Pasta

Jo Kemp came around for dinner tonight and it was well fun. We made basil pesto pumpkin and pasta. Emily burnt the eggplant but it didn't matter. I didn't take out enough of the pesto oil and it did matter. But it was all kind of OK. Jo Kemp is a good egg.

People are Dumb

A MAN whose heart stopped after he consumed eight Red Bull energy drinks in five hours has called for an overhaul of the product's warning labels.

People are so annoying. Just because this fellow's pansy heart stopped doesn't mean the rest of us need to have ugly warning labels plastered all over our drinks.

20 August 2007

Good God, Bad God

I was listening to Matisyahu and, as usual, he was making me wonder if I should become Jewish. It got me thinking to why, if I was going to call myself anything, I'd choose to call myself a Christian. The main thing l like about Christianity is the whole New Testament vibe. And yet I'm drawn to Judaism. The Old Testament pretty much freaks me out. But that is the main thing Judaism and Christianity have in common.

I often reflect on the strange pair the Old and New Testament present. I know someone like Tom will say they are totally reconcilable, but I think there are lots of things I would be able to reconcile with the Old Testament more easily than Jesus. But perhaps it's possible that the whole bible is God trying to pull a Good Cop - Bad Cop on us all. We're all running to Jesus, trying to create a personal relationship with him because he's so gentle and touchable. And there's God behind him threatening us with the phonebook, which is God-sent pestilence and famine. I suppose Hell is more akin to that scene in LA Confidential where Budd hangs that guy out the window.

Come to think of it, Guy Pearce would make a pretty good Jesus.

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