12th May 2005 & 17th May 2005.

- AU 2005 BUDGET -

The Howard & Costello 2005 budget reduced income taxes and set up a "future fund" to act as a hedge against unfunded retirement claims by government employees.  That retirement fund will attain a value of around AU$90 billion within about 4 years.  That represents about 20% of the total value of the Australia stock market.

The income tax rate from about $6k to about $35k was reduced from 17c/dollar to 15c/dollar.  There were also reductions in the higher rates, and the limits were extended.  This had the effect of disturbing the sensibilities of the social welfare platform of the opposition labour party.

Your diarist has two criticisms.
  1. Investment by the future fund will further distort the stock exchange of Australia.  The governors of the reserve bank have had kittens (e.g. made interest rate threats) over inflationary indicators.  Their actions have frosted over the real estate bubble.   Fresh injections of cash into the financial system will revive the real estate bubble problem.
  2. Instead of reducing the rate at the bottom, it would have been socially equitable to have increased the bottom range (presently 6k - 35k @ 17c/dollar) to start at zero income ($0 - $35k @ 17c/dollar) and at the same time introduce an untested universal payment (like a negative income tax) of somewhere between $1,000 & $2,000 to each citizen (from birth to the grave).  That payment would offset the loss due to the extended range for most taxpayers, but would at the same time have supplemented all of those social security payments (unemployment, child support etc.) which could also have been commensurately reduced  The changes to the ranges and rates for higher incomes are long overdue.
I doubt that the ALP will accept my suggestion, but if they did, it would certainly pose a problem for J. Howard.


Michael Jackson, Peter Lewis (MP-South Australia) and Franca Arena (ex MP-NSW).

These three are all names associated with the public procedures of a liberal democracy in controlling criminal activity by persons in power (specifically, in those cases, pedophilia.)  The first named is a victim.  The other two are Australian MP's (members of Parliament) who "named" people accused of pedophilia under "parliamentary privilege".  Parliamentary privilege is a platform against which defamation proceedings cannot be initiated.  Franca Arena was discredited and lost her seat in the NSW parliament.  Peter Lewis has lost his post as speaker of the South Australian parliament.  It remains to be seen whether he will be publicly discredited and pay a further cost at the next election.

The prosecutor of Michael Jackson is playing his swan song. He is due to retire about now.  It is regrettable that no stronger disincentive than humiliation can be applied to retiring prosecutors in the USA who initiate actions on weak grounds.

The power to initiate such public actions must rest somewhere.  It is vital to liberty.


Why is Kerkorian spending billions to buy General Motors stock?

He is not noted for making stupid investments, so the question arises, what is the angle to buying significant proportions of a corporation that seems to be in financial difficulty?  GM has the wrong style of cars for the petrol expensive era, and the company is loaded with employee benefit costs that make it uncompetitive

Australian diarist's suspicion is that Kerkorian anticipates that the US Federal government will intervene, much as it has in the airlines, and act to cancel all those fat employee benefits.

Such interventions carry a high risk.  If the intervention causes a real change in the efficiency of the organization, then the intervention was justified.  If it does not, then the intervention is an unconscionable expenditure of taxpayer's funds.

- VSU -

In Australia, membership to the university student's union costs about $500 p/a and is compulsory.  Prime minister Howard has foreshadowed legislation which would make union membership voluntary (hence VSU)

The university administration and the union executive have reasons to favor compulsory unionism.  The universities presumably could not charge the exorbitant rents obtained for union premises if the unions were voluntary (& presumably, destitute).  The union executive and fellow travelers would no longer obtain the subsidized alcohol and extravagantly funded functions that they currently enjoy if VSU came into being.

A few weeks ago about 5,000 students (from University of Sydney and UTS=University of Technology, Sydney) out of a population of around 50,000 for the two universities staged a march-demonstration.

VSU demo

Diarist attended the demonstration, and took the above photograph looking across the front lawn towards downtown Sydney.

The demonstrators claimed that student life would degenerate without a student union and student subsidized services.

Student objections mainly revolve around the high cost (about $16/week, or over $3 per day) which subsidizes rather ordinary food at rather ordinary prices at the union canteens.  Other purposes for which the funds are officially utilized are subsidizing of university clubs.  (e.g. the winetasting club).  There is an (unconfirmed) rumor that there exists a club which refunds the subsidy as cash to it's members on their only annual attendance.


17th May 2005 In Tuesday's "The Australian" of 17th May was an article by journalist "Angas Kidman" that exemplifies my reasoning as to the inevitable failure of the mainstream media except as a social column: to wit, that the "expert" journalists hired are sycophants rather than expert.

Angus article "64-bit ready for flying start" correctly identifies that the point of a 64 bit address will enlarge the address space, but then he manages to show technical incompetence by indicating that the count of addresses would enlarge from 4 GB to 8 TB (TeraBytes. To give him his due, he correctly states a terabyte as 1024 GB, and Tera = 10^12.  Of course he might be using the English system, where successive expansions double the previous count of "zero's", but in that case a GB would have been 10^12, not 10^9).

So lets put it kindly, in no more than three syllable words.  A 32 bit address will reach 2^32 locations, or ~ 4 GB (10^9).  A 64 bit address will reach 2^64 locations, which is ~ 16 * 10^18, not 8 * 10^12.  And yes, I really think you should refund the fee that you were paid for that piece.

19th May 2005 Another failure of the mainstream media was highlighted.  Newsweek had published a story to the effect that "US interrogators were under investigation for placing copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, on toilet seats in an attempt to agonize prisoners.  There was even an instance of their flushing a copy."

On the 18th May  Newsweek rretracted that story, citing as reason that it was from only one, usually reliable source, and had since been denied.  In the meantime about 20 Muslims had died in riots.  Their denial was "weak", in that nobody was sacked, and readers were left with the impression that Newsweek had reluctantly denied the story under pressure.

If twenty lives are not worth somebodys job, then Newsweek deserves the opprobrium it will suffer.  More than likely, the ultimate responsibility rested with an executive director.