Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Russian Weirdness

OK, there is something strange going on.  Russia thinks the West was behind the overthrow of the Russian friendly government in the Ukraine.  This could be true.  I don't know.  But I think it is likely to be true.

However the Russians fought back, starting unrest in the eastern part of the Ukraine, and supplying men and arms to pro-Russian elements in the Ukraine.  And it appears that the Russian backed separatists shot down MH17.  Immediately after it happened, there was a tweet from a pro-Russian separatist happy that they'd shot down a Ukrainian plane.  But of course it wasn't a Ukrainian plane, it was MH17.

But I'm noticing a lot of pro-Russian sentiment around.  I bought a newspaper that I'd never seen before on December 11th.  It was pro-Russian.  It had an article about the Rothschild's and the way they still run the world.  It was a weird newspaper.  It assured me that the shooting down of MH17 was not done by the Russians or their separatist friends.

Then on Facebook I see this:

Following the link I find that a supposedly former Lufthansa pilot has concluded that the plane was shot down by Ukrainian jets.  This pilot, a Mr Haisenko has also written a book, "England, the Germans, the Jews, and the 20th century; the perfidious strategies of the British Empire".  The title suggests that this book is anti-semitic, and pretty much bullshit.

So in a couple of days, I come across two pro-Russian, anti-semitic, publications.  The website stuff is cheap.  But an actual paper newspaper takes money.  And where is that money coming from?  Really, that is the question.  Any comments Vlad?  No, you don't want to say anything?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Why you should go to uni

The Australian Government (hereinafter known as "that bunch of useless morons") have decided that, rather than actually tax rich people, they will dramatically increase the cost of going to university.  Now they figure, for some unknown reason, that they need to convince young people that going to university is a good idea.

So they made an advertisement - you can read about it and see it here.

A highlight is when they point out that uni graduates can earn 75% more than school leavers.  Its the first thing they say.  Because it is the most important thing to that bunch of useless morons.  Money.

Anyway, each year I meet young people who are considering doing physics at uni.  And while they and their parents are concerned that they will be able to make a living, they really don't care about the money.  What they seem to care about more is that they or their offspring have an interesting life.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Raise income taxes

The top rate of personal income tax needs to be raised.  Let me explain why.

First you'll need to imagine a world that doesn't exist.

Its a world where there is perfect competition.  The sort of world that the right supposedly want.  In this world, there would not be a shortage of medical specialists, because existing medical specialists would not control the number of new members admitted to the ranks of their union.

Its a world of perfect information, so you'd know that the spiv who signed you up for their financial profit was going to get 0.3% of the balance of your account each year until you died.  And you wouldn't sign with him.

In this world, medical specialists would be in much greater supply and would earn around $300,000 per year.  A reasonable return for a lot of skill and training.  Financial advisors would not have hundreds of thousands of dollars of trailing commissions rolling in each year - income for which they did nothing.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that virtually no one actually deserves any income in excess of $300,000 per year.  Where they are paid that much, it is because of flaws in our economic system.  Therefore, I see no problem in simply removing the majority of their earnings over $300,000.  Because if our governments had the guts to stand up to medical specialists, financial spivs, pharmacists, and a host of others, they would not earn so much.  But since our governments don't usually have the stomach to tackle these special interest groups head on, we should do it via the tax system.

As I've mentioned before, high tax rates do not discourage people from working hard.  In the case of CEOs, they are probably more interested in power, prestige and influence than money.  In the case of medical specialists, maybe a higher tax rate would see them work less hard and allow more new specialists to pick up some of their workload (maybe waiting times would even fall?).  And since the financial spivs weren't working for their trailing commissions anyway, who cares what they do?  In the 1950's in the US, the top marginal income tax rate was 92 cents in the dollar.  Nothing bad happened.  The world didn't end.  By all accounts it was a very prosperous time in the US.

To summarise.  What we really need is microeconomic reform.  But if we don't have the stomach for that, high marginal tax rates for high income earners will achieve much the same result.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Educating the US (and Australia too, for that matter)

We've seen numerous cases in the US where police have behaved in a ridiculously violent way.  Its often against blacks.  Australia is not much better.

New Zealand is better.  The show "Motorway Patrol" is just another reality tv show following NZ traffic cops in their daily work.  But I find it incredibly uplifting.  Everyone is so nice!  The police are polite.  The offenders are polite.  They laugh and joke with each other.  They wish each other well.  Sometimes offenders don't take things seriously.  The cops give them their fines, but don't lecture them, and don't insult their intelligence.  They are fantastic.

By contrast, when I watch (rarely) US reality cop shows, my heart sinks every time someone is pulled over.  Most likely their lives, already difficult, are about to get a lot worse.  There's no friendly banter.  Its all deadly serious.  With such high stakes, and high gun ownership, its no wonder that every now and then these confrontations end in tragedy.

So everyone should watch Motorway Patrol and think, "How can we make our society work this well?".

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bored. Maybe depressed...

OK, my work for the year is basically done.  I'm on holidays, but right now not going anywhere.  I'm bored.  Maybe depressed.  Just how hard is it to adjust to doing nothing?  I've done all the puzzles in the West.  Sudoku, Kakuro, cryptic crossword.  I've played Tetris Battle.  2048 Tile.  I'm bored.

I've got the kitchen clean.  Got the NBN installed and working.  Renewed my Dockers membership.  Paid my tax.  I went for a swim at the beach.  400m nearly killed me.

I've blogged lots.  I've tried so hard to insult people on Facebook.

What else is there?  Please!!!!

Well that was fun...

So last year I did some work for an organisation.  Work that required a little expertise and a lot of discretion.  I had to not talk about it.  So  I go to sign up for next year, and they need a national police clearance.  Despite the fact that they employed me in two sensitive capacities this year.   A police clearance costs around $50.  I said that if they paid for the clearance, I'd do the work.  But they didn't think so.  The work I'd have done for them would have only paid around $500.  So I'd lose 10%.

A police clearance just tells them that I haven't been caught doing bad things.  It doesn't tell them that I haven't done bad things, or that I won't do bad things in future.  I had to get one a few years to do some temp work for Australia Post.  Its just a pain in the neck to have to get your ID together, fill in the forms with your last umpteen addresses and go to the local police station.

Oh well.

PS - This was the organisation that stole my superannuation a few years ago by automatically signing me up for some insurance racket when I worked for them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I hate tipping, but...

In Australia we are ambivalent about tipping.  For the most part we assume that people are adequately paid for the job they do, and that we don't need to give them extra.  If we visit the US, we understand that restaurant staff are underpaid, and that it is customary to tip a fraction of the bill.

There will be pressure here from dodgy restaurant owners to encourage tipping so that they can pay staff less.  But it seems we are ok still.

However, there are people who do work for us who are very underpaid.  When you pay $10 for a t-shirt at Kmart, think about the person who made it.  They work for you, in a factory in Bangladesh, and they don't get paid very well.  What if you could tip them?   I understand that Coles and Woolies try and get their prices as low as possible.  It make sense.  After all, we shop around to find cheap stuff.  And I have no qualms about buying a $15 shirt.  And when I do, I'm happy that it is cheap.  But in that moment when I buy it, if I could give an extra couple of dollars, knowing that it would end up going straight to the person who actually sewed it, I probably would.  And I'm not just being charitable.  There is something terribly subversive about giving that money.  A bit like tipping a waiter $10000, knowing that it will really annoy the restaurant owner.

Of course any system to tip seamstresses in Bangladesh will only work if the tipper has absolute confidence that the money does end up with the seamstress.  Because God knows there are any number of people who would do most anything to see that money in their own pockets.  And I'm thinking that the internet may be able to help here.  Not sure how yet, but there must be a way.