April 29, 2010

Horse 1088 - Everybody Knows... Or do they?

"Yes, but cigarette taxes pay for a third of the cost of the National Health Service. We are saving many more lives than we otherwise could because of those smokers who voluntary lay down their lives for their friends. Smokers are national benefactors."
- Sir Humphrey Appleby - "The Smoke Screen", Yes Minister.

Mr Rudd's proposal to remove all branding from cigarette packaging whilst it sounds like a noble idea, is in the long run quite counterproductive, for you see over the long run, the actual costs to the community of those people who would have ordinarily died of lung cancer and/or associated heart attacks, will instead die of other diseases in old age, which will invariably cost the taxpayer more in health care costs.

Consider the following:
A young man who starts smoking can expect to generate as much as $12,700 in excess medical costs over the course of his life. For a young woman,smoking will increase her lifetime medical bills by $14,800.

The increases, which raise the federal cigarette tax from 39 cents a pack to $1.01, applies to all tobacco products. It comes as more than two dozen states, desperate for revenue in a sunken economy, consider boosting their own tobacco taxes this year.

Smokers on average live between 7 and 12 years less than non-smokers. Assuming a worst case scenario, on average the life expectancy for the US (I don't have Australian figures) is 78 years. If we assume that someone starts smoking a pack a day from age 20, then the government will collect over their lifetime, $16957.90 in taxes, which is actually about $4000 more than that additional associated medical expenses. In effect smokers actually subsidise everyone else.

If you don't believe me, perhaps you'd like to see a peer reviwed paper on the subject:

This paper assesses the appropriate cigarette tax needed to address potential market failures. There is no evidence of inadequate risk decisions by smokers regarding their own welfare. Detailed calculations of the financial externalities of smoking indicate that the financial savings from premature mortality in terms of lower nursing home costs and retirement pensions exceed the higher medical care and life insurance costs generated. The costs of environmental tobacco smoke are highly uncertain, but of potentially substantial magnitude. Even with recognition of these costs, current cigarette taxes exceed the magnitude of the estimated net externalities.
Published: Tax Policy and the Economy, vol. 9, ed. James M. Poterba, MIT Press 1995

The awful truth is that the overall death rate is 100%*. Everyone who lives will eventually die. What they happen to die of is the question. Whilst you might point to the increase of the incidence of cancers in the late 20th and 21st Century, it's probably almost exactly the result of people living longer into old age. People's cells replicate themselves making worse copies as time goes by; therefore if you increase the potential to create rogue copies of cells, which are otherwise called cancer by definition, then obviously the rates of cancer will go up.
People who aren't dying of cholera, TB and polio anymore, go on to die of something else... but eventually they will die; that fact is unavoidable.

Really all that these advert on telly; you've seen them, the Everybody Knows adverts, is telling us what we already knew. If "there is no evidence of inadequate risk decisions by smokers regarding their own welfare" then is it really worth the effort to legislate against something which they have decided to do? Basically, can you legislate against stupidity? Or, is it worth the economic expense in the long run?

Though I am for anything that reduces smoking (though for reasons that it smells and I don't much like the litter) there is something that has not been thought about. Only a small percentage will stop smoking because of the price rise. The rest will sacrifice something else to keep the habit such as food, fuel and clothing and sadly the kids will suffer. I know because I grew up in an area with a great deal of social housing, and eveytime the price of cigarettes and alcohol taxes went up, invariably the kids got less food, less school excursions and less new clothes etc.

Addressing peoples behaviour never works. Their worldview must be addressed as values and behaviour stem from people's worldview. The Alcopop Tax showed this, kids still went binge drinking but with beer or spirits instead. Making Alcopops expensive did not change their behaviour. It is their worldview that needs to be changed for changes to behaviour to occur. Just a thought, if pricing discourages people then good, but only insofar as much as their addictive behaviour is not transferred to something else that is cheaper.

The fact is that it is far cheaper to die of lung cancer and/or associated heart attacks than to live into old age and die of something else. In the long run, I will end up paying more in taxes because people are healthier...
... now isn't that ironic, don't ya think?

*Lazarus died twice, whereas Enoch and Elijah were "taken" without dying; even Jesus died once. This perhaps is worth a whole post unto itself.

April 28, 2010

Horse 1087 - New Socceroos Kit Scores Own Goal

This is the kit that the Socceroos will be wearing in South Africa. Now admittedly it's not the worst kit that Australia has ever played in, but to be honest, it's not that great either.
The bottom line is that it looks aesthetically wrong.

To be fair, green and yellow (or rather gold) aren't exactly the easiest colours to work with. It must be said though that the Wallabies, the Kangaroos and heck even the Australian Cricket team have all done pretty well with those colours and produced decent kits.
The Wallabies made their mistake several years ago with a flashy strip, and the Kangaroos have basically played in the same green kit with yellow Vs on it since 1910.
The question then is, how hard is it to come up with something?

The bottom line basically when designing a football kit, is that simple is best. I had a look through a brilliant database (?) of English football kits, and found that the team which most resembles Australia is Norwich City:

Personally I like a halved or quartered look:

Though even something more recent with just a yellow kit with green collars and flashes is also quite reasonable:

See? If I'd been in charge, we'd have had something nice and respectable. Not the weird wierd weerd wiird kit that we have now.

Oh, groovy, funky Channel 27. Big smegging deal.

April 23, 2010

Horse 1086 - Financial Problems Are More Important Than Rape

By now you would had heard the reports that the Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club have been stripped of two premierships and whatnot for breaches of the salary cap. If you were to believe the newspapers and especially the toilet paper that is the Daily Telegraph, then this is a very serious crime.

The question is how serious?

If you were to equate seriousness, or the importance of a news story with the number of newspaper column inches that was written about it, then what sort of results would you end up with?

Is the breach of the salary cap more important than say... rape?

The Coffs Harbour woman claimed six players pack raped her at the Pacific Bay Resort after a pre-season match in February.

A number of second grade rugby league players have been interviewed by police over an alleged rape of a woman in Queensland, a rugby league boss says.

Perhaps wikipedia might be instructive. This is a list of of off-field incidents involving rugby league players just for the year 2009.

- Canberra Raiders star Todd Carney went on a rampage in Goulburn, damaging property, jumping on a car bonnet and damaging the entrance to a Fone Zone store. He received a 12 month suspended jail sentence, was ordered to undertake alcohol counselling, and was banned from the local Government area for 12 months.
- Anthony Watmough was accused by a Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles sponsor of punching him and harassing his daughter in a derogatory manner at a season launch party.
- Brett Stewart was charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in the stairwell of an apartment block after a club function. A magistrate issued an apprehended violence order (AVO) against Stewart.
- Anthony Cherrington sent to anger management counselling after violently assaulting his girlfriend.
- Cronulla Sharks Greg Bird was convicted of recklessly wounding his girlfriend, and was later sentenced to 16 months jail with a minimum of eight months. The verdict was quashed on appeal.
- Leon Pryce and Stuart Reardon were convicted of assault in a UK court and were ordered to do 100 and 200 hours community service respectively.
- Jake Friend was charged with drink driving after being caught by police in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs.
- Trevor Thurling of the Canberra Raiders was charged with drink driving after being involved in a motor vehicle accident in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs on April 9.
- Willie Mason was fined $2,000 by Sydney Roosters after being photographed urinating in a public place.
- Cronulla Sharks player Reni Maitua returned a positive drug sample for clenbuterol.
- Cronulla Sharks captain Paul Gallen was fined $10,000 for using a racial slur against Tongan St George Illawarra forward Mickey Paea. Gallen subsequently apologised and resigned from the club captaincy.
- Melbourne Storm players Brett Finch and Cooper Cronk were each fined $5,000 for urinating in public.
- Brisbane Broncos player Joel Clinton was fined $50,000 for breaking the club's code of conduct and inviting a woman to his hotel room in Sydney.
- Hull Kingston Rovers' Ben Cockayne pleads guilty to assault, along with friend and fellow rugby league reserve player for the Castleford Tigers, Steven Hayward. Cockayne receives a 12 month sentence, whilst Hayward receives a six month sentence, both of which were suspended for two years.
- Sydney Roosters' Jake Friend and Sandor Earl under investigation for allegedly assaulting a woman at a Sydney nightclub.
- Wigan second-row Gareth Hock is suspended pending results of a 'B' sample following results of an 'A' sample confirming the presence of benzoylecgonine, the main metabolite of cocaine.
- Five players belonging to York City Knights were suspended for a breach of club discipline at a function in Leeds, along with the club's director of rugby.
- Cronulla Sharks player Brett Seymour is fired by his club for another alcohol-related incident, his second such sacking following his dismissal by the Brisbane Broncos in 2006.
- Sydney Roosters coach Brad Fittler was reported in the Townsville Bulletin for drunkenly trying to gain access to the wrong hotel room while wearing only shorts. The incident occurred at the Holiday Inn in Townsville at 3am. Fittler consequently fined himself AUD $10,000 and apologised for his behaviour at a televised press conference.
- Sydney Roosters player Nate Myles was suspended for six weeks and dropped from the State of Origin team after defecating in the corridor of a luxury resort hotel whilst drunk. The club was also fined $50,000 for repeated offences.
- Cronulla Sharks player Greg Bird appeared in court charged with five counts of assault after allegedly attacking a woman in a Cronulla night club in January 2008. He was subsequently cleared by the court.
- Melbourne Storm player Greg Inglis was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend.
- In August 2009 six Australian Celtic Crusaders players were ordered to leave the United Kingdom after the UK Border Agency identified breaches to their visa conditions.
- Sydney Roosters' Braith Anasta was king hit without retaliation in a Sydney hotel.
- Sydney Roosters player Setaimata Sa was charged with assault, resisting arrest, criminal damage and failure to leave a licenced premises, after a drunken episode in a Sydney hotel.
- South Sydney Rabbitohs player David Fa'alogo and coach Jason Taylor were both fired after an altercation at an end-of-season function.
- Wests Tigers player Daine Laurie was charged with assaulting his girlfriend.
- Sydney Roosters player Stanley Waqa was charged over a knife-wielding incident in which a young woman was wounded in Sydney's east.
- Huddersfield Giants player Paul Whatuira was arrested and underwent a psychiatric assesment after he allegedly assaulted two men.
- Brisbane Broncos player Tonie Carroll was detained by police on Sunday 28th November following an alleged altercation with a woman, believed to be his partner.
- Cronulla Sharks' Paul Gallen was issued with a criminal infringement notice for urinating in public near the head of a drunken friend.
- Sydney Roosters' Jake Friend was arrested and charged by police following an altercation with a taxi driver.
- Newcastle Knights rugby league star Danny Wicks was charged by police in relation to drug supply offences.
- Canberra Raiders' rugby league star David Shillington was arrested for drink driving after testing more than twice the legal limit.

Sexual assault, property damage, drink-driving, knife-weilding, wounding, assault, cocaine possession, drug supply charges, urinating in public... what?!

Guess what, I bet that this "scandal" involving what basically amounts to an artificial financial breach in a civil case, will probably score more column inches that all of the above combined. When an incident like any of the above happens, it is usually hushed out of the media and we hear of "privacy issues". Bascially what we have here is a case where the media itself if it equates the value of what is newsworthy by what it reports, has suggested that this is more important than criminal activity.

Guess what? Financial problems ARE more important than rape according to the media.

April 22, 2010

Horse 1085 - I Will Never Own My Own Home

More young Australians see themselves as lifelong renters as the dream of home ownership fades, a new survey has found.
“We have never seen such pessimism amongst prospective first-time buyers throughout the past five indexes,” Vittoria Shortt, chief executive of Bankwest Retail said. “Seventy per cent of respondents were very concerned about the level of debt they will be committed to if they buy a property.”
One in three generation Y respondents, those born between about 1980 and the early 1990s, said they expect to be permanently locked out of the housing market.

I am one of them.

There are some interesting things to be said about this:

1. I honestly expect never to be able to afford a house.
As it currently stands, the bank will lend me $194,000 to buy a house. On that sort of money, it is impossible to buy anything within the Sydney Basin. To this end, I have for about the last 12 months been looking for employment in another state. I figure that I'm more likely to be able to own a house in Adelaide than Sydney.

The scary thing is that I wrote about this six years ago:
Generations Y & E therefore face a really huge challenge. No job security, the prospect of being priced out of home ownership and paying rent forever (to the Baby Boomers), living in debt from age 18 (to be educated) and above all, having to listen to their retired parents say "it wasn't like this is our day". Sadly it means that the most childish and selfish generation in history will never grow up and their kids will be too old to listen to them.
- HORSE 98 - 22/04/04

Also scary was that we were told this by The Age two years ago:
THE average Australian family can no longer afford the average home mortgage, according to new figures that paint a devastating picture of how unaffordable housing has become in capital cities like Melbourne.

2. I honestly expect never to see any sympathy.
Why should anyone ever even care about my plight, or even the plight of our generation? As far as Governments are concerned, their largest single chunks of voters are still the Baby Boomers. Generations X, Y and Z (who can't vote yet), aren't numerically large enough to make any difference. Secondly, Generation Y is more than likely to be paying rent to the Baby Boomers, or by virtue of the fact that the Baby Boomers still live in their homes, are locked out from buying them.

3. What's wrong with Pessimism anyway?
I mean what is the point believing that things are going to be OK when their clearly not? As the population increases, the demand for housing is going to get tighter; as the Baby Boomers get older and start to have serious health problems, they are going to want to withdraw their capital from financial markets which is going to drive the costs of money even higher; therefore the criteria under which money is lent in the first place is also going to get tighter.

Also, over the past 10 years especially, there has been a trend from owner/occupier dwellings to institutional investment. Thus, if investors increasingly are coming from even larger pools of money such as superannuation funds and banks outright, this should tend to force out smaller entities. This of course leads to an increase in house prices and thus unaffordability, which is borne out by real world statistics.

So if you decide to tell me that "you had it hard in your day" or that "things will get better" then Nuts to You; what a load of bosh. If you are an older person, you probably had a shot at owning your own home and/or probably do so, but things are certainly not going to get better.
And don't you dare tell me that as a generation that we "had everything given to us" because I most certainly did not.

April 09, 2010

Horse 1084 - The Vengabus is Coming


We like to party
We like, we like to party
We like to party
We like, we like to party

The Vengabus is coming
And everybody's jumping
New York to San Fransisco
An intercity disco

- The Vengaboys, "We Like to Party" - annoying 1998 Eurotrash Dance Thing.

Before everyone starts to complain about Kia being cheap and nasty Korean rubbish, you might like to know that the new Kia Venga is made in Slovakia, so this means that the Venga isn't Korean rubbish but is genuine Eurotrash.

The word Venga in Spanish is supposed to mean "Arrive", which I take to mean that this is the car which Kia itself says that they have finally "arrived" as a real car company. I already liked the Magentis and the Cerato Koup, so I suppose that maybe the Venga might be on my list of likes... maybe.

The car scores 4 stars from NCAP's crash test program and given that it's shooting at the lower end of the market, this is actually quite a result. Also the car has taken out the German iF product design award which recognises design quality, as well as a number of other criteria, including workmanship, level of innovation and eco-friendliness; and that's even before the car has gone on sale.

Admittedly I have no idea what or whom the Kia Soul was built for, and Kia does have a horrid past having built such dog droppings of cars like the Rio and Shuma, and let's try not to remember the Kia Carnival in which the engines were so badly thought out that they were dropped out of the vehicle on a lift and replaced with whole new engines as part of a regular service, but the Venga appears to have been built properly. They come with variable valve timing (which is sure to get some sort of VVT, CVVT, VTEC yo type abbreviation) and the diesels have Common Rail fuel injection.

Still, the sorts of people who are most likely to buy this car will be females aged 19-29, and typically they're going to be more interested in either the styling known as the "Tiger Nose", or the name. I warn you, with Kia's previous names of Carnival & Rio and with a retro sort of thing going on at the moment, it's almost a dead cert that you're going to hear The Vengaboys, "We Like to Party" blaring out of every TV and radio for about six months during the adverts when the car is launched.

Be warned: The Vengabus IS coming.

April 07, 2010

Horse 1083 - Power Balance Wrist Bands are POWERFUL

The NRL has confirmed it will investigate the use of Power Balance wrist bands after Benji Marshall last week exposed one of world sport's best-kept secrets. As he lifted his arm in triumph, Benji Marshall revealed he was wearing the Power Band during his man-of-the-match performance against the Sydney Roosters at the SFS. It is claimed the wonder band can increase an athlete's core strength and power by as much as 500 per cent.
And as The Sunday Telegraph began investigating the mystery band on Marshall's wrist, we discovered he is not the only athlete using it. Parramatta's Timana Tahu and Eric Grothe, St George Illawarra's Matt Cooper and Bulldogs half Brett Kimmorley were also said to be fans of the bracelet.


The power of holograms taped to your wrists is obviously one of the greatest things ever developed. Imagine what a Power Balance Hologram Bracelet could do for you. If it can as claimed "increase an athlete's core strength and power by as much as 500 per cent" then what would happen if you made an athlete wear ten of them? Would their strength and power go up by 5000%?

I just love the blurb in the company's brochure as reported:
"Power Balance holograms are imbedded with frequencies that react positively with your body's natural energy field to improve balance, strength and flexibility".

Ahah, so it's all about frequencies, and your "natural energy field". In theory would if you wanted something which reacted with "frequencies" wouldn't you just buy a radio? Yeah, tape 17 digital radios to various points on your body... that'd be mega-awesome.

Stuff like this has been thought of before. Just think about the power of crystals, and more recently Firepower tablets which you could put in your petrol tank.
Firepower also had amazing powers; most notably the power to bankrupt the Sydney Kings, fiancially choke the Western Force Rugby and South Sydney Rabbitohs teams so that they lost key players, and the power to send certain V8 Supercars teams to the back of the grid...
... but most importantly it didn't have the power to lower your petrol consumption as claimed, and nor did the the company have the firepower to withstand appeals in the High Court of Australia on fraud charges.

There was a rather famous product that employed the use of a "natural energy field" to increase power; that was Peter Brock's Energy Polariser. Of course it also had amazing powers; namely the breakup of the Holden Dealer Team and effectively the end of Peter Brock as a force in the Australian Touring Car Championship.

But the thing that convinces me the most that the Power Balance wrist bands must almost certainly work is the following:

Dr. Bateman demonstrated the bracelet on one of Today Tonight's sceptical reporters, Jonathan Creek, with amazing results.

Ah yes, Today Tonight. If it's shown on Today Tonight then it obviously must work. More amazing is that it was tested on their reported Jonathan Creek, who unless I am mistaken, is actually the titular character of a BBC television series starring Alan Davies.

I'm sold. Anything which is endorsed by QI's permanent panelist who is renowned for giving "answers which are not only wrong, but pathetically obvious", must by inference work, surely?

Let's see them rig up a few hundred of these Power Balance wrist bands on Tony Abbott, have his power boosted to over 10,000,000% and we'd have Super Opposition Leader, capable of taking on Chuck Norris, Mr T, BRIAN BLESSED, Lord Vader and His Holiness The Stig all at the SAME TIME!!!

April 01, 2010

Horse 1082 - Beckham to Become Technical Advisor to the Socceroos at World Cup.


Former England captain "David Beckham" announced he was joining the Australian soccer team - the Socceroos - as assistant manager, The Sydney Morning Herald reported - and ABC radio took up the story.

"I'm really thrilled to be part of this group, I just can't wait to meet up with the lads and get the campaign underway," the footballer told ABC radio of his decision to join the team for the 2010 World Cup.

Personally I think that'd be somewhat of a boon for the Socceroos, as even just having a talisman in the room like him is likely embolden them a lot. Beckham has made a great deal of his career from set pieces, and if he could pass on some of those technical skills, then it would be a boost and possibly see them escape the Group stage.

When you think about it, if you only have three group games, a goal from a set piece in any of them might be the difference between escaping the group and not. A win is worth three points, and generally two wins in a group is usually enough to get you out.