Month: May 2014

Time to end Tony Abbott’s deceitful debt scare campaign

Time to end the lies, deception and scare-mongering of the Abbott government and their agenda to harm everday Australians at the expense of their wealthy benefactors.

The Australian Independent Media Network

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

Let’s get real here and start talking facts. Cold hard incontrovertible facts.

I have already outlined the truth of the situation in, Facts speak for themselves, Australia still lucky country. Now to get into the details.

$44 billion worth of net assets were inherited by the Labor Government in 2007 from John Howard’s Liberal Government.

This is after a strong period of economic growth and private investment following the dot com crash, from 2002 to 2007. Not to mention, ever surging commodity prices and resources demand, mainly from a booming China.

$70 billion of government owned assets were sold off under by Treasurer Costello, most of them at bargain basement rates. Incidentally, as an aside, he now wants the Queensland Government to engage in such reckless practices.

This means the net assets on the books (63% of the overall cash generated from asset sales) were as a result of…

View original post 1,063 more words

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Why I support The Greens

A few moths ago I read an article in the Guardian suggesting The Greens were irrelevant, a spent force in Australian politics.

I begged to differ and wrote this comment in reply:

Sure, the Greens have made some mistakes – show me a political party who hasn’t? Anyone recall how WorkChoices took down a sitting Prime Minister or the mindless destructiveness of the Labor leadership struggle?

No matter what they do, the cards are deliberately stacked against the Greens by the mainstream parties and a complicit media. As are all attacks against any party or individual that poses a threat to the established structure as defined by the Lib/Lab duopoly.

If the Greens stand firm on an issue, they are attacked as ideologues who place the environment above the economy and jobs. But when they take a pragmatic stance and support a less progressive policy they are accused of being sell-outs. When they take on big issues such as climate change they are cast as unrealistic idealists, but when they shift downward to smaller issues like gay marriage, they are said to said to lack vision of big issues.

To me, the Greens stand as the only viable choice for those of us with a humanistic view, who sit left of centre.

As the Lib/Lab duopoly lurch further and further to the right, I find myself in a state of constant frustration and aggravation with our current governmental structure, with nobody apart from the Greens prepared to stand and represent my views and ideals in the mainstream political sphere.

While I may never fully agree with all of their policies (show me any party that perfectly fits an individual’s beliefs), the vast bulk of the Greens policies fit neatly within my viewpoint, principally;

– That the economy should work to benefit all members of society, not just a select few. Therefore the economy should be directed to achieve the aims of society as a whole, rather than as a means for a small group to accumulate disproportionate wealth, at the expense of everyone else.

– That our shared environment is is paramount because sustains us all – without access to food, clean water, and a safe, secure environment, we all suffer. Therefore it should be a major consideration in all planning, developments and discussions.

– That equity is vital for society to progress. Access to quality health and education, basic rights and protections and resources is a right of every member of society. That in the richest nation on Earth, we should not have a sub-class of people left unsupported. That we all have a duty of care to pay according to our means toward supporting every member of society that they too may contribute to the best of their ability, because in doing so we all benefit.

The Greens espouse these values far more than either of the Libs or Labor, and while they continue to do so, they will have my unequivocal support.

Discussion with a supporter of mining

Yesterday a friend of mine posted a Facebook message lampooning Joe Hockey’s claim he finds wind farms to be offensive and ruinous of gorgeous landscape around Canberra.

Image

Joining the comments was one of her friends who works for the mining industry.

Below is a summary of the various discussions:

Friend: OMG just awful. Isn’t it? Wind farms are ruining our landscape everywhere. We really need to stop this before our entire landscape looks like this.
Oh wait. I just realized. That’s them in the background.

Mining Supporter: The mining process looks bad but they do extensive environmental rehab and put a lot of resources into environmental issues 

Friend: Spoken like a true industry expert. Love you XX

Mining Supporter: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

Me: The hand of mining doesn’t feed us, it feeds upon us all – like a vampire.

Generous subsidies, environmental destruction on a massive scale, distortion of our dollar adversely affecting other industries like manufacturing, tourism, education and agriculture , diversion of funds away from renewables and other government programmes like health and education, excessive political influence, exacerbation of climate change, manipulation of markets, overt funding of media manipulation, death, injury and numerous health issues, air pollution, widespread tax avoidance and off-shoring of profits, expansion of 457 Visa scheme, damage to public infrastructure, strategic litigation against opponents, despoiling of aquifers, lies, distortions, bribery and overselling their economic importance, displacement of species, housing and workforce dislocation, and increase in social and wage inequality.

As soon as commodity prices fall, the abandon their mines and sack thousands of workers, taking their profits with them and leaving insufficient funds behind for remediation and compensation – anyone remember James Hardy, Bernie Banton or the mine closures of the 1980’s.

http://theaimn.com/…/so-what-have-the-mining-companies…/

Mining Supporter: Are you prepaed to give up the lifestyle we get from mining. It brings you your lifestyle. No renrwable energy can yet match it. Any business ceases to operate in an unfavourable market look at the car industry. Compensation is handled by insurance companies and is met by that company.

Me: What lifestyle and why can’t we have it under a renewable energy regime? The distortion mining has made to the dollar and the economy hasn’t benefited anybody apart from making overseas holidays and imports cheaper – both bad. Critical industries like our exports, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism all lost-out bug time from the high dollar and those industries combined generate far more jobs and way more incomes than mining ever can or will. They are also sustainable – mining on the other hand is finite, once we’ve dug it up, we don’t get any more.

The only reason why renewables aren’t cheaper is because mining has been deliberately sucking oxygen and investment dollars away from renewables, largely thanks to the political manipulation they get from sponsoring politicians and through a programme of media misinformation. Wind is actually cheaper in Oz now that coal over the lifecycle, as outlined in the latest bree.gov.au report (sorry don’t have the link with me now) and solar PV fast approaching parity as manufacturing costs reduce with scale and household uptake increases. If we hadn’t diverted investment into mining we likely would already have cheaper, more efficient renewables already including localised and mass storage, but in our stupidity and lack of foresight, we forwent those opportunities and squandered years we should have been devoting to innovation and development.

Sure mining gives us metals and we can sell it OS for bucks and not all of it is hideous, open-cut wholesale destruction, but what never gets mentioned in all the discussions is the massive subsidies and tax offsets afforded to mining, accelerated write-downs, fuel rebates, and then there are the externalities like the impacts upon health and the environment that mining conveniently overlooks, but that burden is always borne by the taxpayer, while miners scarper with their tidy profits.

Mining Supporter:  Where do you think the power for manufacturing came from? This power has transformed our lifes. If we left coal before another source could offer the same power do you think people would accept that? New sources can come in but expecting one industry to go before another is ready is a step back. Money is available for research. The mining companies don’t take it. They bring in or did bring in signifant funds to the state that’s why politicians listen. If we killed that industry where is those funds replaced by? Its the same as saying banks killed manufacturing they should have funded it for no return. Nice idea nut not our present society. It is never as simple as it appears. The mining industry is still a contributor to the state kill it and we are where you started with your abandoned workers. Mining got us to the point where we have the luxury of debate about alternative energy. Baby’s cant walk until they past the roll over stage.

Me:  Mining’s impact on our society is undeniable; in particular fossil fuels have transformed our lives immeasurably over the past few centuries and allowed us to expand economically, technologically, scientifically and socially.  But that amazing progress has come at a price and that price has largely been to pollute our atmosphere and degrade our environment.  In enjoying the conveniences of modern life we have degraded whole ecosystems and destroyed entire species, tainted our water supply and destroyed land we need to grow food to sustain our population.  It has generated wars, killed millions and feeds into a corrupting power structure, whose money, wealth and influence undermines the very fabric of our society and our threatens our democracy.  

Fossil fuels are, in essence, concentrated sunlight created over geological timeframes and the rate at which we have consumed them is frightening, because once it is gone we can’t just create more, the present push toward non-conventional sources comes at an even greater cost in manpower, water and intrusion onto areas previously untouched by mining, and that is why people are fighting back.
 
I agree 100%, we can’t simply switch it off because it has become so deeply interwoven into our lifestyle, our societal development and our economy, to go cold turkey risks destroying everything we have built.  But our need to keep expanding mining is counter-productive, stupid and wasteful, when we really are smarter than that.  

Instead we need to scale back and wean ourselves off the stuff.  Much like a heroin addict, we need to recognise that while the high may have been fantastic, the ongoing cost and detriment to our health is simply too great to sustain, because that cost is being borne by billions of people in the shape of pollution, accumulation of greenhouse gasses driving climate change and subsequent ocean acidification.  We need to look at alternatives that could just as easily support our lifestyle and our development but aren’t going to kill us or place and additional burden onto other people or future generations, who are the ones who will ultimately have to be affected by and clean-up the mess we created.

We need to use our collective intelligence and capacity for innovation to accelerate focused research and investment into alternative energy sources before it is too late.  Our world, and Australia in particular, is showered in vast quantities of solar radiation, or buffeted by winds, we have huge areas of geothermal potential and we haven’t even come close to exploring the theoretical limits of fusion.  But none of these things are going to happen while so much of our money is being diverted away from RnD and into the ever-growing expansion of non-conventional energy sources.  And that money is being sucked away because the cost of accessing non-conventional fossil energy is significantly higher.  These sources are often remote, inaccessible, and/or the techniques required to extract and refine them are labour-intensive, requiring greater infrastructure or are technically complex, and this requires greater funding and resources to secure the same amount of energy, money that could be better spent developing alternatives.

Unfortunately, those who have amassed vast wealth off the back of mining are driven to ensure that wealth grows, and the very competitive (sociopathic) nature of these people ensures they will actively seek to oppose any development that threatens their established position.  Lobbying or buying of politicians is an incredibly effective way of achieving this outcome, because politicians define policy and can shape the direction of government investment on our behalf.  And it is here that the best opportunities exist for mining to exert undue influence, sponsoring campaigns, showering them with bottles of Grange or paying for holidays and bike rides, spruiking for favourable legislation, and corrupting individuals is rife, and it is easy to splash a few dollars around to achieve that when you have enormous wealth at your disposal.  The $22 million spent running an advertising campaign against the Super Profits Tax is the perfect example, for miners that sum was a trifling amount when compared to the billions they saved from avoiding the tax.  Alas the public were too stupid to see this and they continue to be ignorant thanks largely to a compliant and complicit media.  This money and influence also allows mining to stifle opposition, pay people to distort messages and buy or litigate against those who stand in their way.  You only have to look at the recent ICAC hearings to see the undue influence mining has upon distorting our politics.  

In fact, so great is the influence and power of the mining industry, we now have a federal government prepared to slash public services, sack thousands of workers, openly debase and defund science, demonise the poor, dehumanise the disabled, break promises and increase taxes and levies on ordinary Australians, just so they can eliminate several taxes the miners don’t like because they take a few less dollars out of their multi-billion dollar profits.

Big miners and energy suppliers are happy for prices of essential energy supply to increase because it improves their profit margin, especially if we have no other alternatives.  And by deliberately stifling investment into alternatives, the miners are insuring they are the only ones in a position to provide that energy, creating a feedback loop that merely feeds their profits, to our detriment.  Considering too that 83% of our mining companies are foreign owned, considerable profits are flowing into overseas tax havens and away from our coffers, and we are the ones who will be left to clean-up the mess, once the party is all over.

I agree, mining certainly contributed us to reaching this point, but the continued cost of maintaining the same trajectory is growing as energy sources become harder and more costly to find and extract.  We are also now seeing the end result of this progress in our contribution to more dramatic weather events, pollution and degradation of environment that sustains us all; again these are intangibles that never seem to enter the equation around the total cost of mining.  The miners are very good at expounding the virtues of mining, but unwilling to acknowledge the damage it causes.

We need to acknowledge that it’s no longer socially and economically cost-effective to keep pursuing more scare energy resources and that we urgently need to divert those funds into innovation and development of alternatives.  We are fast approaching the edge of the cliff where the cost of non-conventional sources will exceed our capacity to pay for them and if we don’t have viable alternatives ready to go; we face a long, harrowing drop that will undoubtedly impact our lifestyle.

Given the right impetus and incentives, we could easily be at the cutting edge of the next major breakthrough that enables a smooth transition to long-term, sustainable renewable energy sources.  We are smart, well educated, resourceful, technically savvy and rich.  There are plenty of opportunities and much money to be made in the renewables space for development, installation, maintenance, and employment, more than enough to replace the jobs lost in mining.  But the only way we are going to achieve that is for the populace to compel change.  Setting a price on CO2 was a first step, in discouraging polluters and driving energy efficiency.  Simplest solution ever – don’t pollute and become efficient = don’t pay the price.  We’ve seen progress already as electricity demand has dropped significantly in the past 6 years and with the introduction of low cost PV, now installed on over 1.3 million homes and wind farms generating income for many rural properties, feeding communities without impacting their current farming business at all, rather than tearing those communities apart with intrusive, visually offensive, gargantuan open-cut coal mines or CSG fracturing that risks despoiling our aquifers.

Moreover, the price of coal is declining as India and China, criticised for the poor quality of their air and being forced the change by their own concerned citizens, invest heavily into renewables and adopting a long-term transitional vision that will see them at the forefront of development, a place we could be occupying.

But we need to do more, we need to demand our government and business be actively encouraging investment, to ensure the transition will be as pain free as possible.  We don’t have to sacrifice or impinge upon our lifestyle to achieve this, we just have to be smarter and willing to stand-up to those who want to profit excessively from maintaining the status quo.

The sooner we get started, the better placed we will all be and the less our lifestyle will be affected.  The added benefit is we can all then share in a healthier environment with far less pollution and threats to our health and the future well-being of our children, we can start to mitigate the effects of climate change, and we can ensure the security and safety of our valuable land and our precious water.  All it will take is vision and commitment.

I will never understand religion

I went to two funerals in the last 2 weeks, one for an uncle and the second for an old work colleague, and what struck me (what always strikes me) is that I find religion a bit weird. 

I don’t mind funerals, although I tend to empathically absorb feelings from everyone else and end-up crying, even if I didn’t know the person at all.  To me the best funeral is a celebration of that person’s life, their achievements, their memories, and how they touched the people around them.  A reinforcement that life is finite and that we only have a limited time to leave an indelible mark upon the fabric of space/time, and to celebrate that mark and ensure the ripples of their life continue to affect future generations.

As an Atheist, I find it uncomfortable sitting in a church.  I go because in our society, church attendance is “expected”, but I find myself constantly distracted in analysing the iconography and the imagery, listening to the phasing, pacing and delivery of the priest and others and sensing the mood of the people there.  I find it both fascinating and deeply disturbing, to know the whole edifice if built upon a tissue of lies but to see how many people are sucked in by it, many of them quite intelligent people.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to sound superior.  I’m not in any way special, I just don’t believe in divine entity who watches over all of us, but I am utterly fascinated by those who do believe, even though I find the very concept of “blind faith”, deeply, deeply disturbing.

I understand some people go to church to foster a sense of community, of belonging, and I can see how that aspect would be enormously attractive, but in order to achieve that, you have to buy-in to a series of atrocious lies.  In fact you have to be willing to accept lies upon lies, layers deep, with one supporting the other like a giant Jenga tower of bullshit.  

I comprehend that life, and in particular – mortality, is scary.  That it can be disturbing and confronting to have to face our own certain demise and that of your friends and family.  I know too that people would like to know there is more to life than just this short span of existence.

I don’t want to die either, but I also know it is unavoidable and that no amount of wishing is going to change the outcome.  I had no choice in being born and the same rule applies for death. 

I can hope all I like, but the absolute truth is – there is no life after death.  That is simply a refusal of people to accept the facts of death, bolstered by a bunch of manipulative arseholes, prepared to take advantage of people’s fears and reassure them with a series of lies about some mythical deity who looks after us all and will see us right when we die, so we can all be together again and not be sad any more.

So, every time I go to a church, I have these feelings of annoyance surface at the stupidity and futility of it all, and I wonder how and why people choose religions because I will never understand it.

Despite statements which say the mythical deity is ubiquitous (everywhere), religious people are compelled to trudge along to some grand, very elaborate and often quite expensive building so they can sit around listening to a man tell them how great the mythical deity is.

“You are the best mythical deity”

“We love you mythical deity”

“Thanks for being a mythical deity”

“You’re so powerful mythical deity – you made the earth and the stars”

“You are the only one true mythical deity”

“Thank you for listening to the private thoughts inside my head mythical deity”
 
“Please watch over us mythical deity – like we are children or sheep”

This doesn’t just happen once, it goes on for hours, repeating the same pathetic, pleading lines as though under some form of threat or duress, or like an insecure child seeking constant reassurance from an abusive parent.  I find this terribly disturbing.

Although, even more disturbing is the mythical deity’s demands for ongoing praise, which would imply some severe mental disorder.  To always be needed, told you are the best, the only one that matters, to demand you be thanked for every possible little thing you ever did, even the bad ones – is just freaky.

I mean, if I was that powerful, I reckon I’d know it, I wouldn’t need a bunch of ignorant obsequious cretins telling me something I already knew, and I certainly wouldn’t want them telling me over and over again, unless I was some sick, disturbed freak with a serious mental impairment who craved attention and if he didn’t get it would become violent and kill or maim people.  But I’m so big and tough, nobody can stop me, so instead they resort to placating me through praise, so I’ll be less inclined to KILL THEM ALL!, as I have done in the past, in a fit of rage.

Lots of people ask the mythical deity for lots of different things, but even though the mythical deity is everywhere and can apparently read minds, it doesn’t always have the time to grant wishes.  Depending on what you pray for – results may vary:  

Please MD I lost my car keys – LOOK UNDER THE COUCH YOU IDIOT!

Please MD my daddy went to church every day can you help cure his cancer – SCREW YOU AND YOUR WHOLE FAMILY!  

Please MD let there be the right amount of milk to bake a cake – FOR YOU MY DEAR – PRESTO 1/2 A CUP EXACTLY!

Please MD can you save millions from starvation or war – HEATHENS CAN DIE!

Please MD save this premature baby  (who just happens to be surrounded by the best technology humanity can muster) – OK.  AREN’T I GREAT?  

Apparently too, there are people who are able to talk to the mythical deity or to whom the mythical deity speaks.  These people are held in high regard and they get to look after the elaborate buildings.  The mythical deity says these special people aren’t allowed to get married or have sex, which tends to exclude most normal people.  So you end-up with a collection of hypocritical fruitcakes who hear voices in their heads, think gay people are abominations, believe that women are inferior, stop people protecting themselves against diseases and unwanted pregnancies, think abortion is the worse sin ever, but also like having sex with children.  These people often claim they do lots of good, but mostly they simply repeat the lies from the mythical deity’s book, collect vast amounts of money (mainly from people who can least afford it), which is all tax free when it is sent deity HQ where the maddest of them all sits on a gold throne and rides around in bullet-proof cars.  Some of these people are good, they do help the poor and perform acts of charity, but many of them are merely fascists who like telling people what to do.

Scarier still, this big, freaky, violent, mentally disturbed mythical deity apparently wrote a book based on bizarre lies like; people flying with wings on their back, defying gravity and living in the sky after they die.  

There are some stories about meek people and how we should be good to each other but also lots of disturbing dreams about monsters and scary things, stories about incest and infanticide, wars and atrocities, hatreds and vendettas over land, women and belief in different mythical deities, people being raped and killed and eaten by whales, how the mythical deity got pissed-off and killed every single creature on the face of the planet except for those in a boat because people were doing bad things.  Honestly?  People are doing bad things and the best the deity can come-up with is to kill all the people and every single species on the whole planet, except for a few you encouraged to go into a boat.  You couldn’t just kill the people doing bad things?  Where exactly is the omnipotence?

The grand work of fiction doesn’t seem to mention DNA, instead it cites that women are made from a man’s rib and the tale of a talking snake who suggested 2 people should seek knowledge, but doing that somehow made every single person evil until some guy – the mythical deity’s son (conceived because the mythical deity raped a married woman), who was a good cook with fish, bread and wine apparently, walked on water, mostly hung-around with groups of young men, wandered around the desert and disappeared for a while, didn’t much like bankers, and was a bit of a political activist that got him nailed to a cross and he died.  But afterwards his body went missing and some guy who was clearly stoned on mushrooms claimed he saw him flying in the sky.

But wait, the story gets even more believable…  since the mushroom vision, it now means people are still evil, but they can stop being evil only if they cannibalise flesh and blood of the mythical deity’s son and take a bath.  When they die they get to live forever with the brutish, nasty, vindictive, mentally disturbed mythical deity, surrounded by people a lot like the Eloi from HG Wells “The Time Machine”. 

Bad news however is, if they don’t become cannibals or believe all the bizarre stuff written in the mythical deity’s big book of insane lies, the mythical deity is gonna make sure they go to a horrible place after they die and be tortured forever with all the interesting people who don’t waste their time praying to a mythical being.

Surprisingly, a book written by a deity capable of creating the whole universe and everything in it, in just 7 days, should have a few references to basic scientific principles like gravity, the earth revolving around the sun, our galaxy being one of billions of others, basic medical practices, hygiene and a basic understanding or literacy, mathematics, biological and evolutionary principals.  But alas, none seem to be mentioned, which is strange for a book designed to provide a basis for living and understanding the world.  If you didn’t know it had been written by the great mythical deity, one could easily assume it was instead composed by a bunch of ignorant, opinionated, misogynists around 800 years ago and loosely based on a series of wives tales, myths and children’s stories from an age when groups of uneducated nomadic people roamed the desert fighting over land, water and women.  But of course, we know that isn’t the case, because the book say so.

Amusingly, this book gets held up as a model for behaviour and as the truth about the origins of our species, our planet and as a replacement to science, despite most of the things in it being ludicrous or outright lies.  We even want to teach school kids about this book and all those insane lies, instead of opening their minds and encouraging them to seek their own answers.  We’d rather see our kids cower in fear of some brutish, mentally disturbed bully than taking risks and learning for themselves.

That’s kinda why I’m not a big fan of religion and why I will never understand it.