I hate hypocrisy – my own as well as other people’s. Today I choose to attack hypocrisy in progressive western democracies about the death penalty.
We are quite willing to bomb people whom we suspect of doing bad things, without any trial and in the knowledge that those bombs will kill, maim and dispossess people whom we suspect of nothing at all. But we go bananas if some other country, after due judicial process in accordance with its own laws, dares to execute a convicted criminal.
I am thinking chiefly of the drug smugglers who were executed in Indonesia, over whom the Australian Government set fire to much of its political capital in that country. That still makes me stroppy.
I understand, I really do. Nutella offers to print special labels with their customers’ name on them, but the marketing people don’t foresee a request to personalise a jar for a little girl called Isis. Nutella refused to print the label, as they would refuse to print a label for someone called #&%@ or %&?!.
Until very recently Isis was most prominent as the Egyptian goddess of health, marriage and wisdom, and an Oxford student magazine. Any child called Isis could have been proud of her name. Now it is soiled. It could happen to any of us with a short name.
When I came close to finishing my sci-fi trilogy (The Eeks Trilogy) all the experts said, “You must start a blog. People will read your blog and then they will want to buy your books.” So I did. So far it has not attracted enough interest to crash the servers.
Then when I decided to self-publish The Eeks Trilogy in the form of e-books, available through the big online retailers, the experts said, “The key to self-publication is clever use of social media.” So I hired a social media consultant to set up Twitter and Facebook accounts and feed interesting titbits daily to the world, whipping up a frenzy of fascination.
It’s early days, I know, and as Mrs SG keeps reminding me. But ‘Eeks‘ has been available FREE for 13 days and the download tally is only 104. Did J K Rowling have to wait this long for overnight success?!
Like almost everyone else outside the Republican Party, I find myself staring in stunned disbelief at the popularity polls. How could anyone consider Donald Trump to be in the Top Ten Million for consideration as the Leader of the Free World?
But I have to interpose my body between Mr Trump and the howls of protest that his latest reported remarks have drawn. He said that refugees could be “the greatest Trojan horse of all time.” Whatever the motives and prejudices that may underlie that statement, it is undeniably supported by two very obvious precedents.
First, US foreign policy has for many years been hostage to Zionist lobbyists, whose power depends on a Jewish population (only 2% nationally, but disproportionately influential) which derives in large part from past flows of refugees from persecution in Europe.
Second, the recent outbreak of sanity with respect to US-Cuban relations has been delayed for decades by the Cuban exile population – refugees from Castro and his communist regime, implacably opposed to détente.
Mrs SG and I have seen all the Bond films, and we really think ‘Spectre‘ may be the worst. The song is certainly the worst – an instantly forgettable tune and unintelligible lyrics. I couldn’t even make out the recurring line ‘The writing’s on the wall‘ until I saw the title on the screen.
I am not only disappointed, I am indignant and resentful. James Bond is no longer private property, he is part of the global cultural heritage. Therefore every film must conform to a certain template. The makers of ‘Spectre’ have misunderstood this requirement. They have simply mined the archives for a dozen old Bond film clichés and hung them on the flimsiest of plots, like damp sheets on a clothes line.
And in doing this they have managed to brush away almost all the self-mocking humour that we have known and loved for 50 years. I say ‘almost all’ because there’s a nice bit in the inevitable overlong car chase where he tries to shoot the Maserati behind and finds that the gun’s not loaded. Even the sex lacks the true Bond’s playfulness with sadistic undertones.
I say this having been telling people for years that Daniel Craig is the best Bond ever. I don’t know whether to blame the script, the direction, the casting, over-anxious box-ticking, or Daniel’s Craig’s falling out of love with the part. Something’s not right and I really, really hope it gets fixed before the next one.
I’ve mentioned before that I was writing a science fiction trilogy. Well, I’ve finished. More than that, it’s uploaded and for sale! The first book is called ‘Eeks’ and until the end of 2015 it’s FREE!! The 2nd and 3rd books (‘Speeks’ and ‘Squidgies’) are priced at US$2.99. You can find them all at Smashwords. Just click on these links:
Book 1 – Eeks
Book 2 – Speeks
Book 3 – Squidgies
All three book are also available (or will very soon) at Apple iBooks, Barnes&Noble, Diesel eBook Store, Kobo, Scribd, Sony and WHSmith. Amazon won’t retail free books, so will have to wait until 1 January when the price of ‘Eeks’ goes up to an absurdly low US$0.99.
The books are available only as e-books. I hope that if sales soar one of the old-style publishers will want to put them into print. And I’m open to offers for the film rights right now.
By the way, if you’re thinking of writing a book and you’re willing to self-publish it in electronic form, I recommend Smashwords. Their website is… well, it’s the way all websites should be. And when I had a problem, my written Help! message was answered by email within hours!
My old friend Ron Allan sent me the following link to an interesting article:
The writer, Viscount Ridley, points out that many scientific and technological advances were made by several people, even though we recognise only one. Darwin comes to mind, and last night Mrs SG and I watched a dramatised documentary (‘Genius’) which presented the perfection of television as a duel between the youthful Philo Farnsworth and Vladimir Zworykin, working for the aggressively entrepreneurial David Sarnoff of RCA. But I was always taught that TV was invented by John Logie Baird, and Wikipedia lists a regiment of others.
Viscount Ridley goes on to argue that public investment in basic science is largely wasted and it should be left to the private sector. I’m not sure I agree with that, but please read the article and let me know what you think.
I don’t know the source. The following text was emailed to me by a fellow Hash House Harrier, probably after wandering the internet like a lost soul in the Hampton Court maze. The idiom and spelling are American but this product, WD-40, is sold globally so I think this will be helpful to many.
The product began from a search for a rust preventative solvent and degreaser to protect missile parts. WD-40 was created in 1953 by three technicians at the San Diego Rocket Chemical Company. Its name comes from the project that was to find a ‘water displacement’ compound. They were successful with the fortieth formulation, thus WD-40.
The Convair Company bought it in bulk to protect their Atlas missile parts. Ken East (one of the original founders) says there is nothing in WD-40 that would hurt you. Here’s a list of 43 other known uses:
01. Protects silver from tarnishing.
02. Removes road tar and grime from cars.
03. Cleans and lubricates guitar strings.
04. Gives floors that ‘just-waxed’ sheen without making them slippery.
05. Keeps flies off cows.
06. Restores and cleans chalkboards.
07. Removes lipstick stains.
08. Loosens stubborn zippers.
09. Untangles jewelry chains.
10. Removes stains from stainless steel sinks.
11. Removes dirt and grime from the barbecue grill.
12. Keeps ceramic/terra cotta garden pots from oxidizing.
13. Removes tomato stains from clothing.
14. Keeps glass shower doors free of water spots.
15. Camouflages scratches in ceramic and marble floors.
16. Keeps scissors working smoothly.
17. Lubricates noisy door hinges on vehicles and doors in homes.
18. It removes black scuff marks from the kitchen floor! Use WD-40 for those nasty tar and scuff marks on flooring. It doesn’t seem to harm the finish and you won’t have to scrub nearly as hard to get them off. Just remember to open some windows if you have a lot of marks.
19. Bug guts will eat away the finish on your car if not removed quickly! Use WD-40!
20. Gives a children’s playground gym slide a shine for a super fast slide.
21. Lubricates gear shift and mower deck lever for ease of handling on riding mowers.
22. Rids kids rocking chairs and swings of squeaky noises.
23. Lubricates tracks in sticking home windows and makes them easier to open.
24. Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and close.
25. Restores and cleans padded leather dashboards in vehicles, as well as vinyl bumpers.
26. Restores and cleans roof racks on vehicles.
27. Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans.
28. Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles for easy handling.
29. Lubricates fan belts on washers and dryers and keeps them running smoothly.
30. Keeps rust from forming on saws and saw blades, and other tools.
31. Removes splattered grease on stove.
32. Keeps bathroom mirror from fogging.
33. Lubricates prosthetic limbs.
34. Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the smell).
35. Removes all traces of duct tape.
36. Folks even spray it on their arms, hands, and knees to relieve arthritis pain.
37. Cleans and removes love bugs from grills and bumpers, in Florida.
38. The favorite use in the state of New York, WD-40 protects the Statue of Liberty from the elements.
39. WD-40 attracts fish. Spray a little on live bait or lures and you will be catching the big one in no time. Also, it’s a lot cheaper than the chemical attractants that are made for just that purpose. Keep in mind though, using some chemical laced baits or lures for fishing are not allowed in some states.
40. Use it for fire ant bites. It takes the sting away immediately and stops the itch.
41. WD-40 is great for removing crayon from walls. Spray on the mark and wipe with a clean rag.
42. Also, if you’ve discovered that your teenage daughter has washed and dried a tube of lipstick with a load of laundry, saturate the lipstick spots with WD-40 and rewash. Presto! The lipstick is gone!
43. If you sprayed WD-40 on the distributor cap, it would displace the moisture and allow the car to start.
P.S. The basic ingredient is FISH OIL.
Journalists are very good at challenging politicians’ evasive answers, but they often let people get away with silly numbers. Two Australian examples caught my eye recently, and made me stroppy.
First, an article in our local newspaper (the Advertiser, which has the distinction of being Rupert Murdoch’s first newspaper) quoted the Civil Contractors Federation (an industry lobby group) as claiming that SA Water could be sold for $13 billion. The story was also reported by the ABC and other news media.
SA Water is South Australia’s water supply and sewerage utility, still publicly owned. A private owner would require at least a 7% annual return on a long-term investment, so a valuation of $13 billion implies an annual net profit in excess of $900 millon. SA Water’s total revenue in 2013-14 was $1,100 million. The numbers just don’t stack up.
Second, ACOSS has put out a press release claiming that if the rate of GST (goods and services tax = value added tax) were increased from 10% to 15% low-income households would pay 7% more for the goods and services they buy*. Even if a poor household bought only goods and services that were subject to GST** the maximum increase would be (1.15/1.10) – 1 = 4.5%. So ACOSS’s claim of 7% makes no sense. But no-one has challenged them.
* Quotation from ACOSS press release: “An increase in the GST has a much bigger impact on low and modest income households because they spend more of their overall income to meet their living costs, in comparison to people on higher incomes who are better able to save. An increase in the rate of the GST to 15% would require people in the lowest 20% of the income brackets to pay 7% more, people in the middle 20% 4.2% more, and people in the highest 20% income bracket just 3% more of their income.”
** That would mean no purchases of basic foods, medicines, medical services, water bills, educational services, childcare and other exemptions. See here for the GST-free list.
Australian politicians, commentators and interest groups have embarked on a public discussion about tax reform. The main focus is the GST (goods and services tax = value added tax). Should the rate, which has remained at 10% since inception in 2000, be increased to 15%? Should the base be broadened to include some or all of the 53% of goods and services that are GST-free?
There is one thing that everyone agrees on: whatever changes are made to the tax system, they must be fair. I haven’t heard anyone say, “What this country needs is unfair taxation!” But I suspect that the concept of fairness is not universal.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) describes itself as “the national voice for the needs of people affected by poverty and inequality.” In their eyes ‘fairness’ means not increasing the share of the tax burden born by the poor. In a radio interview this morning an ACOSS representative expressed the view that no household with an annual income below $100,000* should have to pay more tax than they do now.
But some other people see fairness differently. They think that people who work hard, learn productive skills, practise thrift and invest prudently should, in fairness, be allowed to reap and keep the harvest that results from this pattern of behaviour.
What do I think?
- We cannot continue running a fiscal deficit forever.
- The cost of health care will continue rising faster than GDP as more ways are found to cure illnesses and keep people alive.
- The cost of supporting and caring for old people and disabled people will also rise faster than GDP.
- Richer people are better able than poor people to minimise the amount of tax they pay – ultimately by emigrating.
- Multinational corporations will always find ways to avoid paying normal rates of tax in the countries where they make their money.
Putting all these thoughts together, I don’t see how anyone but the very poorest can avoid paying more, either through taxes or by paying the full price for things that they have been accustomed to getting free or at subsidised prices.
* From official statistics for 2013-14 I infer that about two-thirds of Australian households fall below this threshold.