May 31, 2014

Stalin killed millions. A Stanford historian answers the question, was it genocide?

When it comes to use of the word "genocide," public opinion has been kinder to Stalin than Hitler. But one historian looks at Stalin's mass killings and urges that the definition of genocide be widened.
Jack Hubbard
In his new book, historian Norman Naimark argues that the definition of genocide should include nations killing social classes and political groups.
Mass killing is still the way a lot of governments do business.
The past few decades have seen terrifying examples in Rwanda, Cambodia, Darfur, Bosnia.
Murder on a national scale, yes – but is it genocide? "The word carries a powerful punch," said Stanford history Professor Norman Naimark. "In international courts, it's considered the crime of crimes."
Nations have tugs of war over the official definition of the word "genocide" itself – which mentions only national, ethnic, racial and religious groups. The definition can determine, after all, international relations, foreign aid and national morale. Look at the annual international tussle over whether the 1915 Turkish massacre and deportation of the Armenians "counts" as genocide.
Naimark, author of the controversial new book Stalin's Genocides, argues that we need a much broader definition of genocide, one that includes nations killing social classes and political groups. His case in point: Stalin.
The book's title is plural for a reason: He argues that the Soviet elimination of a social class, the kulaks (who were higher-income farmers), and the subsequent killer famine among all Ukrainian peasants – as well as the notorious 1937 order No. 00447 that called for the mass execution and exile of "socially harmful elements" as "enemies of the people" – were, in fact, genocide.
Central State Archives of Photo, Audio, and Video Documents of Ukraine named after G. S. PshenychnyiKulaks being dispossessed.
A dispossessed kulak and his family in front of their home in Udachne village in Donets'ka oblast', 1930s.
"I make the argument that these matters shouldn't be seen as discrete episodes, but seen together," said Naimark, the Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of Eastern European Studies and a respected authority on the Soviet regime. "It's a horrific case of genocide – the purposeful elimination of all or part of a social group, a political group."
Stalin had nearly a million of his own citizens executed, beginning in the 1930s. Millions more fell victim to forced labor, deportation, famine, massacres, and detention and interrogation by Stalin's henchmen.
"In some cases, a quota was established for the number to be executed, the number to be arrested," said Naimark. "Some officials overfulfilled as a way of showing their exuberance."
The term "genocide" was defined by the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The convention's work was shaped by the Holocaust – "that was considered the genocide," said Naimark.
"A catastrophe had just happened, and everyone was still thinking about the war that had just ended. This always occurs with international law – they outlaw what happened in the immediate past, not what's going to happen in the future."
In his book, he concludes that there was more similarity between Hitler and Stalin than usually acknowledged: "Both chewed up the lives of human beings in the name of a transformative vision of Utopia. Both destroyed their countries and societies, as well as vast numbers of people inside and outside their own states. Both, in the end, were genocidaires."
Central State Archives of Photo, Audio, and Video Documents of Ukraine named after G. S. PshenychnyiShipment of grain from the Chervonyi Step collective farm to a procurement center, Kyivs'ka oblast', 1932. The sign reads 'Socialists' bread instead of kulak's bread.'
Shipment of grain from the Chervonyi Step collective farm to a procurement center, Kyivs'ka oblast', 1932. The sign reads 'Socialists' bread instead of kulak's bread.'
All early drafts of the U.N. genocide convention included social and political groups in its definition. But one hand that wasn't in the room guided the pen. The Soviet delegation vetoed any definition of genocide that might include the actions of its leader, Joseph Stalin. The Allies, exhausted by war, were loyal to their Soviet allies – to the detriment of subsequent generations.
Naimark argues that that the narrow definition of genocide is the dictator's unacknowledged legacy to us today.
Accounts "gloss over the genocidal character of the Soviet regime in the 1930s, which killed systematically rather than episodically," said Naimark. In the process of collectivization, for example, 30,000 kulaks were killed directly, mostly shot on the spot. About 2 million were forcibly deported to the Far North and Siberia.
They were called "enemies of the people," as well as swine, dogs, cockroaches, scum, vermin, filth, garbage, half animals, apes. Activists promoted murderous slogans: "We will exile the kulak by the thousand when necessary – shoot the kulak breed." "We will make soap of kulaks." "Our class enemies must be wiped off the face of the earth."
One Soviet report noted that gangs "drove the dekulakized naked in the streets, beat them, organized drinking bouts in their houses, shot over their heads, forced them to dig their own graves, undressed women and searched them, stole valuables, money, etc."
L.A. CiceroHistorian Norman Naimark
Historian Norman Naimark
The destruction of the kulak class triggered the Ukrainian famine, during which 3 million to 5 million peasants died of starvation.
"There is a great deal of evidence of government connivance in the circumstances that brought on the shortage of grain and bad harvests in the first place and made it impossible for Ukrainians to find food for their survival," Naimark writes.
We will never know how many millions Stalin killed. "And yet somehow Stalin gets a pass," Ian Frazier wrote in a recent New Yorker article about the gulags. "People know he was horrible, but he has not yet been declared horrible officially."
Time magazine put Stalin on its cover 11 times. Russian public opinion polls still rank him near the top of the greatest leaders of Russian history, as if he were just another one of the powerful but bloodthirsty czars.
There's a reason for Russian obliviousness. Every family had not only victims but perpetrators. "A vast network of state organizations had to be mobilized to seize and kill that many people," Naimark wrote, estimating that tens of thousands were accomplices.
"How much can you move on? Can you put it in your past? How is a national identity formed when a central part of it is a crime?" Naimark asked. "The Germans have gone about it the right way," he said, pointing out that the Germany has pioneered research about the Holocaust and the crimes of the Nazi regime. "Through denial and obfuscation, the Turks have gone about it the wrong way."
Without a full examination of the past, Naimark observed, it's too easy for it to happen again.
Toward the end of his life, Stalin may have had another genocide in his crosshairs. We'll never know whether the concocted conspiracy of Jewish Kremlin doctors in 1952 would have resulted in the internal exile of the entire Jewish population. Whatever plans existed ended abruptly with Stalin's death in March 1953, as rumors of Jewish deportations were swirling.
One of Stalin's colleagues recalled the dictator reviewing an arrest list (really, a death list) and muttering to himself: "Who's going to remember all this riff-raff in ten or twenty years' time? No one. … Who remembers the names now of the boyars Ivan the Terrible got rid of? No one. … The people had to know he was getting rid of all his enemies. In the end, they all got what they deserved."
Who remembers? If Naimark has his way, perhaps we all will: "Every family had people who died. I'm convinced that they need to learn about their own past. There'll never be closure, but there will be a reckoning with the past."

The Lib Dems are finished – a squalid end for the heirs of the greatest party in history – Telegraph Blogs

It’s over for the Liberal Democrats. They may not realise it, but it is. Before the 2010 general election, the party was pursuing two contradictory strategies at the same time. On the one hand, it presented itself as a moderate, centrist party, liberal on both social and economic issues, broadly pro-business if occasionally interventionist. On the other, it was a radical, anti-war alternative to Labour.
As long as the party was in opposition, these two stories could be maintained simultaneously. As with Schrödinger’s cat, both states were, so to speak, co-existential. But, when the Lib Dems entered government, the box was opened. Only one version of events could now be true. And it was clear which version that had to be.
Nick Clegg could no longer lead a protest party of the Left: half his voters had walked away in disgust at his deal with The Evil Heartless Tories. The Lib Dems’ sole remaining option was to make the Coalition work, to show themselves to be competent and responsible, to make a virtue out of having put the national interest first. To behave, in short, like an adult party of government.
Oh, dear. For once, the string of mixed metaphors that the Daily Mail often makes its house style is apt: "The poison at the heart of the Liberal Democrat party burst into the open last night after an explosive resignation statement which rocked the political establishment…" The impression of haplessness and hopelessness, to say nothing of nastiness, is overwhelming.
The Lib Dems have, in short, managed to make a mess of both strategies, showing all the inept crankery of a party of permanent opposition, but without any commensurate principles. Schrödinger’s cat lies cold and stiff.
What a miserable, tawdry end for a party with such noble antecedents. The Whig-Liberal movement was responsible for the finest developments in our history. It gave us parliamentary supremacy and religious toleration, meritocracy and a wider franchise, the equality of all citizens before the law and the supremacy of that law over monarch or minister. Not only did Whig principles elevate Britain above the run of nations;they created the United States of America.
Has this sublime tradition, the tradition of Edward Coke and John Hampden, of James Harrington and Algernon Sidney, of John Milton and John Locke, of Pitt the Elder and Edmund Burke, of Earl Grey and Viscount Palmerston, of Richard Cobden and John Bright – and, yes, of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson – truly found its quietus in the person of Nick Clegg? The thought is almost unbearable.
But the truth is that the Lib Dems had long since abandoned classical liberalism. Though the Homeric figures I have just cited would be astonished to see it, Whig-Liberal principles survive best in a goodly part of the Conservative Party.
The takeover happened slowly, through successive transfusions. The first occurred in the late nineteenth century, when traditional Palmerstonian Whigs, alarmed by the Liberal Party’s drift towards social democracy, sidled up to the Conservatives, formally amalgamating in 1912 (the “and Unionist” bit of my party’s official name dates from that merger). There was a second transfusion with the assimilation of some of the “coupon” Liberals following the First World War, and then a third with the absorption of the National Liberals during the 1950s and 1960s.
These transfusions left the surviving Liberals weak and anaemic, but still recognisably the heirs to Gladstone. Indeed, as their electoral prospects became poorer, they attracted unusually high-minded supporters: men and women who cared more about principle than office.
When did things go wrong? In 1988, when the Liberals merged with the Social Democratic Party. People sometimes think that the SDP was founded on some issue of principle: opposition to nationalisation, or to unilateral nuclear disarmament or some such. In fact, it was created because the Labour Party wanted to make incumbent MPs subject to reselection by party members. To be sure, there were some honourable Labour moderates, including David Owen himself, who had long agonised about his support for his party. But the mass of his followers were actuated by grubbier considerations: they didn’t want to lose their seats.
Suddenly, the high-minded Liberals were overwhelmed by a horde of petty, calculating careerists. The remaining heirs of the Whig tradition broke away under Michael Meadowcroft, and still hold several council seats under their old name, the Liberal Party, mainly in Merseyside. The rest of the party became what it is today: a tricksy, self-righteous alliance of convenience, prepared to say whatever local people want to hear.
But Whiggery is not confined to Meadowcroft’s admirable Liverpudlians. Ralph Harris – whose memorial service was the subject of one of my first ever posts on this site, back in 2007 – once told me that he had held a number of meetings with other classical liberals in the 1950s. They had concluded that their best tactic was to convert one of the two potential parties of government. Since Labour was hopelessly statist, they would try their luck with the Tories.
It worked. A party that was still imperialist, militarist and mildly protectionist in its outlook began to make space for what we would nowadays call libertarians. A few key individuals were convinced, including Keith Joseph, who after reading Hayek (a self-described “Old Whig”) declared that he thought he had been a Conservative all his life, but now realised he had only just become one. Keith Joseph had several disciples in the party, one of whom was the daughter of a Methodist grocer with a classic Whig-Liberal background. She, too, was convinced, and went on to become our country’s greatest ever prime minister. The revolution had happened peacefully and benignly in one generation.
Pure liberalism will always struggle to secure an electoral majority. While some of its positions are popular – tax-cuts, welfare reform, Euroscepticism – others are not. I always tell libertarian students to focus on the big issues, such as the economy and education, rather than fighting losing battles on relatively minor questions such as drugs and pornography. As part of a wider conservative alliance, as under Thatcher or Reagan, classical liberalism can enjoy meaningful triumphs. On its own, it will only ever be a fringe movement.
As for the Lib Dems, they have long since ceased to be liberal in any meaningful sense. In recent years, they weren’t really anything at all. And, as King Lear observes, nothing will come of nothing. Thursday was the beginning of the end. Nothingness – annihilation – is coming.
And yet, more than a century after its death was proclaimed, Liberal England lives on in large parts of the Conservative Party. We Whigs are not finished. We shall carry on even as the Lib Dems slide away, unwept, unhonoured and unsung.

May 29, 2014

“No Mind Has Stamped More of Its Impression On American Institutions” « Commentary Magazine

Lynne Cheney has written a splendid new biography, James Madison: A Life Reconsidered
There are many things one could focus on in a book on Madison, from his personal modesty and his “remarkable sweet temper” (in the words of William Pierce), to his loving marriage to Dolley and his lifelong, intimate friendship with Thomas Jefferson, to his indispensable role in the creation of the Constitution and his wartime leadership as president. Madison was a man of unusual self-possession and a steady temperament, brave in his struggle with seizures (which may have been caused by epilepsy), and fervently committed to religious liberty. 
But there’s one part of Madison’s life I want to concentrate on for the purposes of this post, which has to do with the fight for ratification in Madison’s home state of Virginia, which at the time was the nation’s largest and most important state. Mrs. Cheney sets the scene:
On June 14 [1788], the delegates finally began the point-by-point debate on the Constitution that George Mason had proposed eleven days before. Soon a pattern developed. [Patrick] Henry, George Mason, or James Monroe, who also opposed the Constitution, would claim there were reasons for grave concern in this clause or that one, and Madison would rise to explain briefly and cogently why their worry was unfounded. To Madison it often seemed a Sisyphean effort. He later told Edward Coles, his secretary, that Patrick Henry could undo an hour’s work with a single gesture… He wrote to Hamilton, “My health is not good, and the business is wearisome beyond expression.” … Two days later, Madison wrote to Washington, “I find myself not yet restored and extremely feeble.” He was, nevertheless, putting in a magnificent performance. One observer reported that although “the division” in the Virginia Convention was very close, a narrow win could be expected for the Federalists – “notwithstanding Mr. Henry’s declaratory powers, they being vastly overpowered by the deep reasoning of our glorious little Madison.” One of the delegates, Archibald Stuart, wrote to a friend on June 19, 1788, “Madison came boldly forward and supported the Constitution with the soundest reason and most manly eloquence I ever heart. He understands his subject well and his whole soul is engaged in its success…”
On June 25, 1788 delegates voted 89 to 79 to ratify the Constitution. If Virginia’s vote had gone the other way, Cheney points out, in all likelihood so would New York’s, in which case the whole constitutional enterprise might have come crumbling down. A French diplomat wrote home saying this: “Mr. Madison is the one who, among all the delegates, carried the votes of the two parties. He was always clear, precise, and consistent in his reasoning and always methodical and pure in his language.”
This underscores one of Madison’s most impressive qualities. In an assemblage filled with extraordinary minds, Madison was equal to them all. But he was also the best-prepared person at the Constitutional Convention. Prior to it Jefferson, then in Paris, sent Madison crates of books–more than 200–to study various forms of government. (This led him to author “Of Ancient and Modern Confederacies.”) When Madison submitted his recommendations for the ideal legislator’s library, he cited the works of Locke, Hooker, Plutarch, Hobbes, Hume, Montesquieu, Machiavelli, Plato, and Aristotle, among others. No one studied harder or knew more about the requirements for self-government. 
Several years after the death of the “father of the Constitution,”  the lawyer and politician Charles Jared Ingersoll would say, “no mind has stamped more of its impressions on American institutions than Madison’s.” 
Different people will argue over who was the greatest founder. Some would argue that George Washington was America’s “indispensable man.” Others would point to the brilliant mind and beautiful pen of Thomas Jefferson. But on careful reflection, taking all things into account, it would be difficult to place anyone above the remarkable man from Montpelier.

Jobless lose out to migrant force | The Australian

EMPLOYERS have recruited 37,620 foreign managers, professionals and tradespeople this year, despite a growing pool of 191,000 unemployed Australians qualified for the same jobs.
Official data reveals that while 67,000 Australian technicians and tradies search for work, employers have brought in 10,210 foreign trade workers on 457 work visas during the first nine months of this financial year. Employers also looked offshore for 19,260 professional staff, despite a pool of 83,700 Australians unemployed.
And 8150 managers were sponsored on 457 visas, despite 40,200 Australian managers on the dole queue.
Unions demanded tighter controls on migrant labour yesterday, as employers insisted foreigners were only doing jobs that Australians “would not or could not” do.
Professionals Australia has asked the Abbott government to remove engineering from its approved list of skilled occupations for migrant labour, in light of 7000 job losses in the past year. Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Dave Oliver said Australian nursing graduates, carpenters, cooks, engineers, fitters and motor mechanics were having trouble finding work, at the same time employers were using migrant labour.
“We need foreign workers, particularly under permanent migration,’’ he said yesterday. “But Australians want work in the same areas where 457 visa use is at its greatest.
“We can’t be importing workers and creating a market glut that forces up unemployment, shuts out local workers and halts opportunities for young people trying to get into the workforce.
“If we move to a system where it is easier to bring labour from overseas than to train our own apprentices, that will lead to a major imbalance in the labour market.’’
Mr Oliver said unions had found cases of “significant abuse’’ of migrant labour, with some employers using them as cheaper “bonded labour’’.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has prosecuted 11 employers this year for underpaying migrants — including a restaurant in Dubbo, NSW, that allegedly underpaid a Chinese cook $189,255 over three years, and a Brisbane IT firm fined for underpaying a young Chinese worker $10,000.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kate Carnell said employers’ continued reliance on 457 visas proved that work was available for Australians willing to move to ­regional areas.
“These jobs are either in places Australians don’t want to go, or are the jobs Australians don’t want to do,’’ Ms Carnell said.
“There are jobs to be done, and it would be great if they could be filled with Australian workers.’’
Professionals Australia chief executive Chris Walton said 7000 engineers had lost their jobs in the past year, and the closure of Toyota and Holden would land hundreds more out of work.
“We’re producing fewer engineering graduates than we’re importing, and that’s a travesty,’’ Mr Walton said.
Jeff Bradtke, managing director of contract labour hire business Workforce Solutions, said demand for migrant labour was starting to increase after the global financial crisis.

“There’s not just a skills shortage, there is a shortage in Australia of willingness to work,’’ he said.

May 28, 2014

Startup founders: How to craft your elevator pitch - TechRepublic

As a startup founder, being able to quickly explain what company's goal and vision is imperative. Master the art of the elevator pitch with these tips. 
 Image: iStockphoto/RyanKing999
As a startup founder, you'll often have to explain what exactly your company does. Entrepreneurs are passionate people, and sometimes that passion gets in the way of a clear, concise message of what it is you are trying to accomplish.
This is where the elevator pitch comes in as a short summary of your company, the work you do, and why it matters. Elevator pitches are important in the business world because they are the way you introduce yourself to the rest of your industry. For startups, it's even more important because it could be the tool to open the door to that meeting with a VC, or it could spark the conversation that lands you an acquisition deal.
The idea behind the term is that it is an explanation you could deliver in the time it takes to ride the elevator. So, say you meet a powerful investor by chance on an elevator ride you're sharing. Your elevator pitch is the speech you use to explain your startup while you have him or her trapped on the elevator with you.
Here's how to make your elevator pitch stand out.

Explain your value proposition

"The best elevator pitches tell the audience what is valuable and to whom," said Larry Weidman, executive in residence at Innovation Works. "Entrepreneurs often can do a decent job of describing what their company or invention does, and even offer what they think is cool, but then forget to address value. At the heart of every successful venture is a compelling value proposition best described by the entrepreneur. The audience wants to know."
Properly explaining the value of your startup is, perhaps, the single most important part of an elevator pitch. Part of this comes with explaining the pain point, if it isn't already apparent. This will also come, in tandem, with a quick explanation of the market and opportunity.
The next step is connecting how you solve a problem to how you make money. If people you meet, especially investors, don't see a clear path to revenue they will be less likely to see it as something worth following up on. According to Rui Ma, a venture partner at 500 Startups, you shouldn't be afraid to use numbers.
"Experienced investors are looking for data they can use to benchmark you against other players in the industry," Ma said. "For less experienced investors, provide the numbers but also provide context -- i.e. why are you tracking these numbers, why are you investing to grow them. Either way, revealing your numbers, no matter how poor, actually builds credibility and delaying the revelation of important traction metrics wastes everyone's time."
While you don't have to break down your entire revenue model, you should give some hint as to how your company makes money. So, value exists in two planes.
  1. Intangible - You must establish that your product or service solves a real problem that exists in a viable market.
  2. Tangible - You must explain how your company grows in monetary value by solving said problem.
Weidman adds, "They'll remember the value proposition long after they've forgotten the specific features."

Tell a story

Explain the story that built your company and the story your company is constantly contributing to. By telling your story when you pitch, you are giving your audience better insight into who you, and your team, really are.
"Humans are wired to remember stories and to respond to them emotionally, so the more your pitch can include or resemble a great story, the better people will react," said Kathryn Minshew, founder & CEO of The Muse. "Sometimes I tell my own story; sometimes one of our users; sometimes I simply start out with something like 'Last year, 20% of Americans said they'd rather die than go to the dentist, but they'd rather go to the dentist than look for a new job' that makes people think of their own fear of these things in relation to The Muse."
As many investors or startup mentors will tell you, the team behind the idea is often more important that the idea itself. Condensing your story down to fit within an elevator pitch will be a challenge, but it will give you the opportunity to showcase how you have pursued the goal of building your startup, no matter what, and why you've made the decisions you have. That's going to make the biggest impression.
"Think of it like a consulting interview -- consultants are recruited for their ability to problem solve, and that's what entrepreneurs are. Most companies experience many (often significant) changes in their product or service, and in the absence of mind-blowing success, it is more interesting for us to understand how an entrepreneur thinks and works through issues with limited resources on hand, versus just being told the results of those decisions."
If you are telling your personal story, your passion is more likely to show. You might never get anyone to care as much as you do, but that shouldn't stop you from doing everything you can to get them to.
As you tell your story, remember that your audience might not be in on some of the narrative elements. Cut the jargon, unless you are absolutely sure that the person you are addressing is privy to it. Also, try to be as clear as possible about who you are and what your objectives are. You want this pitch to be something that is easily repeatable so that, if you make an impression, the person you spoke with will be able to share exactly what you shared with them.
Try to explain what it is about your story that is unique. Maybe you were the first company to successfully follow this model. How is your product better than your competitors, or how do you and your team better execute? These are important points that will stick with your audience.
This is going to take some practice on your part to get this down, so dedicate some time to both honing and practicing your pitch. Also, know when it's time to wrap it up.
"Don't go on too long. Pay attention to your listener's body cues and know when to cut yourself off. One of the easiest ways to ruin an elevator pitch is to go on too long, past when your listener is done listening," Minshew said.
Be confident. This is your startup and your story, and no one knows this better than you. So, after your deliver your elevator pitch, stick your hand out for a handshake and don't be afraid to ask for a business card or a time to follow up.

May 22, 2014

Note to Bill Shorten: who pays the compassion bill?

When Julia Gillard was prime minister and her embittered predecessor Kevin Rudd was hovering offstage, and intrigue abounded and Labor was enduring a string of cost blow-ups and shredded budget estimates, and it was flat-lining in the polls, it cooked up one of the great political con jobs.
Labor announced a series of major spending initiatives on education, social welfare and health care. They were unfunded, untested, uncosted and unallocated. To pay for these national schemes Labor announced … almost nothing. The cost was safely postponed to beyond the budget forward estimates, past two election cycles, to 2017 and beyond.
The architects of the "great con" former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.
The architects of the "great con" former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Photo: Andrew Meares
As per plan, when the Coalition confronted these costs in government and said it would not commit to them, it was duly savaged by Labor, and much of the media, as cruel and unfair. It was pilloried for, to paraphrase, “slashing $80 billion out of health and education spending”.

This is slashing something that does not exist in any budget, state or federal. It is why Labor rushed out a TV campaign about Tony Abbott’s “lies”. Because it deflects from Labor’s much bigger con.
There is no doubt this budget has some real bungles. It was badly sold, the groundwork was poorly laid, and the anxiety inflicted on young people who lose their jobs is surely an example of an avoidable blunder. Much can be done to make this a better budget.
But because the debate has been dominated by outrage without costs, and because many people prefer their own political echo chambers, I’m offering an exchange I had on radio this week with a figure who is subject to even more reflexive hatred than Tony Abbott, because I think it foreshadows a coming debate. It was with Alan Jones, who remains highly influential.
Jones: “There is no surprise in the polls. They show support for the Abbott government plunging. And the Labor Party, the arsonists, would be back in charge. That is, the crowd that gave us a $190 billion in deficits in five years … we’re told if an election were held the Labor Party would romp in …  no admission of the financial disaster that Abbott inherited and … promises to spend more for university students, the unemployed, the welfare recipients …
“The arsonists, if you are to believe the polls, are still in control. What to make of all this? Paul Sheehan is on the line.”
Sheehan: “Alan, we now have a leader willing to sacrifice his career for the good of the economy. We have an opposition leader willing to sacrifice the economy for the good of his career …”
Jones: “I think we can end the interview now … You can’t do any better than that. That is exactly where we are …”
Sheehan: “Bill Shorten spoke for 33 minutes in Parliament and I listened very carefully for how he was going to pay for his compassion … And I did not hear a single syllable, not a sentence, not a nanosecond of air saying: ‘These are the sacrifices we will make, these are the hard decisions, these are the choices, these are the taxes, these are the cuts and these are the efficiencies ...'”
Jones: “According to the International Monetary Fund, and I will say this slowly, in the six years to 2018, Australia is forecast … to have the third-largest increase in net debt, as a proportion of GDP, among 17 rich nations, and the highest spending growth. Something’s got to give.”
Sheehan: “This budget process has only just begun. The budget is going to be absolutely whacked by the small parties … The new mantra of Australian politics is show me the money, how are you going to pay?”
Jones: “When you look at polls, let’s be blunt about it, we want the mob back who presided over the border protection debacle, who presided over the building of the education revolution extravaganza. We want the mob back who presided over the home insulation program ...”
Sheehan: “Well, we’ve reached the point in society where the demographic change and the ageing of the population and – here’s the rub – the expectations of the public … [means] there is a tremendous amount of generosity with other people’s money.”
You may think that I, quoting myself, agreeing with Alan Jones, in defence of Tony Abbott, is a self-indulgent provocation to a certain kind of reader. Of course it is. But it’s time for the outrage to grow into a discussion about how we are going to pay for this compassion and fairness.

Read more:

Chemotherapy for Rot

Dave Carnell's Boatbuilding Page

Chemotherapy for Rot

Once rot gets a toehold in wood it is difficult to cure completely -- it is like a cancer. Digging out the rotted wood will still leave spores and water in the sound wood. After you fill in the cavity with something like epoxy, the rot continues to flourish underneath.

Products promoted to make rotted wood sound and stop rot penetrate only until they meet water, with which they do not mix. Under the solid repair rotting goes on. With one exception (more later), the commercial products sold to treat dry wood to prevent rot are completely ineffective against established rot in wet wood because they are dissolved in petroleum solvents and oil and water do not mix.

There are two commonly available inexpensive materials that will kill rot in wood and prevent its recurrence. First, there are borates (borax-boric acid mixtures) which have an established record in preventing rot in new wood and in killing rot organisms and wood-destroying insects in infested wood. Second, there is ethylene glycol, most readily available as auto antifreeze-coolant. Glycol is toxic to the whole spectrum of organisms from staphylococcus bacteria to mammals. All of the published material on its effectiveness against wood-destroying fungi and insects that I am aware of is the result of my investigations over the past 15 years.

Both borate solutions and glycol penetrate dry and wet wood well because they are water-soluble; in fact, penetration by glycol is especially helped by its extreme hygroscopicity -- its strong attraction for water. For both, the fact that they are water-soluble means they are not permanent solutions to rot in wood that is continually exposed to water-below the waterline and in ground-where they will eventually be extracted-dissolved out.

I first was interested in glycol as a wood-stabilizing agent, where it is in many ways superior to polyethylene glycol (PEG), and it was during this work that I realized the useful effect of glycol on organisms, though I was pretty dense in interpreting the first experiment.

The ladies immerse the stems of greenery such as magnolia branches in glycerin to keep them green. Glycol is very similar to glycerin in all its physical properties and much cheaper, so I stuck a magnolia branch in antifreeze. The next day it was brown. After the third attempt I tumbled to the fact that the glycol was killing the greenery. This was the reason that glycol never replaced glycerin in applications such as a humectant for tobacco and an ingredient of cosmetics and pharmaceutical ointments, though it had all the desirable physical properties.

I had two 2" thick slabs of a 14" diameter hickory tree that had just been cut. I treated one with antifreeze and left one untreated. I was looking at wood stabilization, not rot prevention. After about six months stored inside my shop the untreated control was not only cracked apart, but it was sporting a great fungal growth, while the treated slab was clean.

The local history museum wanted to exhibit two "turpentine trees", longleaf pines that had many years ago been gashed to harvest the sap that made everything from turpentine to pine tar. The trees delivered to us after cutting were infested with various beetles and had some fungal growth. I treated them with antifreeze outside under a plastic tarpaulin every few days for three weeks. They were then free of insects and fungus and have remained so after being moved inside and installed in an exhibit over four years ago.

I took three pieces from a rotting dock float that were covered with a heavy growth of fungus, lichens, etc. I treated one with antifreeze painted on with a brush, the second with a water solution containing 23% borates (as B2O3), and left the third untreated as a control. They were left exposed outdoors and were rained on the first night. By the next morning the growth on the antifreeze-treated piece was definitely browning and the borate-treated piece showed slight browning. After two months exposure to the weather the growth was dead on the antifreeze- and borate-treated pieces and flourishing on the control.

I have a simple flat-bottomed skiff built of plywood and white pine, which has little resistance to rot. After ten years some rot developed in one of the frames. It may have begun in the exposed end grain. It consumed the side frame, part of the bottom frame, and part of a seat brace fastened to the side frame. The plywood gusset joining the side frame to the bottom frame was not attacked. I excised the rotted wood, saturated all with ethylene glycol antifreeze to kill all the rot organisms, and there has been no further deterioration in four more years afloat with wet bilges. I have not replaced any pieces, as I am building another boat that can replace it; that is more fun, anyway.

I have a 60+-year old case of the fungus infection known as "athlete's foot". Many years ago it infected the toenails extensively. The whole thing was pretty grotesque. My dermatologist and druggist both assured me there is no known cure. About six years ago I started using antifreeze applied under the nails with a medicine dropper about every five days. The professionals are technically right. I have not completely cured it, but the nails have grown out pink and thinned almost to the ends and I never have any trouble with blistering, peeling, or itching between the toes as I had had for six decades. No drug company is going to have any interest in this because the information has been in the public domain for so long that there is no opportunity for any proprietary advantage. The various wood-rotting organisms cannot be anywhere near as tough.

There are two types of borate products commercially available for treating wood-solid sodium octaborate for making solutions in water (Tim-Bor® and Ship-Bor®) and a 40% solution of sodium octaborate in ethylene glycol (Boracare®). Their equivalents and more concentrated solutions can be easily prepared from borax, boric acid, and antifreeze at much lower cost. Keith Lawrence, editor of Boatbuilder offered to sell me advertising if I wanted to go in the business, but I might run afoul of patents (preparation for individual use is not prohibited), I would have to get EPA registration, and I could not deliver products anywhere near as cheaply as they can be made from raw materials available at your supermarket, drugstore, and discount store.

Glycol by itself has one big advantage over solutions of borates in either water or glycol. Glycol penetrates rapidly through all paint, varnish, and oil finishes (except epoxy and polyurethanes) without lifting or damaging those finishes in any way. You can treat all of the wood of your boat without removing any finish. The dyes in glycol antifreeze are so weak that they do not discolor even white woods. Once bare wood has been treated with glycol or the borate solutions and become dry to the touch it can be finished or glued. IN THE YEARS SINCE I FIRST WROTE THIS ARTICLE, MY EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN THAT GLYCOL BY ITSELF IS GENERALLY THE BEST TREATMENT FOR KILLING ROT.

Gougeon's research has shown that borate solutions weaken epoxy joints in the treated wood. If a borate solution leaves white residues on the surface, it will have to be washed off with water and the surface allowed to dry.

If you decide you need to treat with both glycol and borates, this is my preferred process to treat rot. Once you find soft wood or other evidence of rot, soak it with antifreeze even if you cannot do anything else at the moment. Paint it on or spray it on with a coarse spray. Avoid fine mistlike spraying because it increases the likelihood that you will breathe in unhealthy amounts of glycol. Put it on surfaces well away from the really damaged wood, too. Use glycol lavishly on the suspect wood, which will readily absorb 10-20% of its weight of antifreeze.

Next dig out wood that is rotted enough to be weak. Add more glycol to wet the exposed wood thoroughly. Then add the 25% borate solution of the recipe below so long as it will soak in in no more than 2-3 hours. Then fill in the void with epoxy putty and/or a piece of sound treated wood as required. The reasons I use borates at all are: 1) it is a belt-and-suspenders approach to a virulent attack, and 2) over a long period glycol will evaporate from the wood; especially, in areas exposed directly to the sun and the high temperatures that result.

If there is any question about water extracting the glycol or the borates, you can retreat periodically with glycol on any surface, painted or bare, and with borate solutions on bare wood.

Glycol's toxicity to humans is low enough that it has to be deliberately ingested (about a half cup for a 150 lb. human); many millions of gallons are used annually with few precautions and without incident. It should not be left where children or pets can get at it, as smaller doses would harm them, and they may be attracted by its reported sweet taste that I have confirmed by accident. The lethal dose of borates is smaller than of glycol, but the bitter taste makes accidental consumption less likely.


Tim-Bor®: Solid sodium octaborate; dissolves in water to make approx. a 10% solution containing 6.6% borate (B2O3); about $3/lb. plus shipping.Ship-Bor®: Same as Tim-Bor®; $19.95/lb. plus $2 shipping.

Bora-Care®: 40% solution of sodium octaborate in ethylene glycol; 27% borate content; $70/gal. plus shipping.

Home-Brew Water Solution of Borates:

All percentages for this recipe and the others here are percentages by weight. Based on U.S. Navy spec. of 60% borax-40% boric acid (this ratio gives the maximum solubility of borates in water); 65% water, 20 %borax, 15% boric acid; 15.8% borates; borax costs 54 cents/lb. (supermarket), boric acid costs about $4/lb. in drug stores (sometimes boric acid roach poison, 99% boric acid, is cheaper in discount stores); equiv. to Tim-Bor® or Ship-Bor® at 30 cents/lb. To make this solution mix the required quantities and heat until dissolved. The boric acid, in particular, dissolves slowly. This solution is stable (no crystals) overnight in a refrigerator (40°F.), so can be used at temperatures at least as low as 40°F.
Home-Brew Glycol Solution of Borates:

This is equivalent to Bora-Care® diluted with an equal volume of glycol to make it fluid enough to use handily; 50% glycol antifreeze, 28% borax, 22% boric acid. To make a stable solution you mix the ingredients and heat till boiling gently. Boil off water until a candy thermometer shows 260°F. This removes most of the water of crystallization in the borax. This solution is stable at 40°F and has a borate content of 26%. With antifreeze at $6/gal. and borax and boric acid prices as above, this is equivalent to Bora-Care® at about $15/gal.

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 to hit Australian shores in August

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 to hit Australian shores in August

Graph for Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 to hit Australian shores in August
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is set to hit Australian shores by the end of August, with pre-orders starting today.
The device, revealed overnight, will be available at Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi with the 64GB. The Core i3 model, without a keyboard, is priced at $979.  The new Surface Pro tablet weighs in at 798g, sports a 12-inch ‘ClearType’ Full HD display and a continuously adjustable kickstand, and is offered in multiple configurations featuring fourth-generation Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors.
While there was some speculation that Microsoft might make the latest iteration of its tablet smaller, the company has instead opted to go with more screen real estate. Screen resolution has also been lifted from 1920 x 1080 pixels to 2160 x 1440 pixels.
The emphasis from Microsoft is to pitch the Surface Pro 3 as an all-purpose device designed to replace the laptop.  Microsoft isn’t taking on the iPad -- it’s more interested in cutting the MacBook Air down to size.
Microsoft corporate vice president Panos Panay said while most consumers carry both a laptop and a tablet there’s a gap in the market for a device that serves all of their needs.
“Surface Pro 3 is the tablet that can replace your laptop -- packing all the performance of a fully powered laptop into a thin, light and beautifully designed device,” Mr Panay said.
With the device running Windows 8.1 Pro, Microsoft said the Surface Pro 3 is fully optimised to run all desktop functions.
Photoshop has also been optimised for touch on the Surface Pro 3 with new accessories such as a Surface Pen and a larger Type Cover with an improved trackpad experience also thrown into the mix.
The Surface Pro 3 is the latest attempt by Microsoft to find that sweet spot in the post-PC market, which has been overrun by a plethora of smartphones, tablets and phablets.
Given Microsoft’s nascent presence in the consumer-oriented tablet category, where prices are dropping, the company is hoping to win over businesses and workers -- a segment that might be willing to swallow the price tag and see the appeal of a tablet that replaces a laptop or an ultra-book.
Full specs:
Operating system
Windows 8.1 Pro
Dimensions: 7.93 in x 11.5 in x 0.36 in
Weight: 1.76 lbs
Casing: Magnesium
Color: Silver
Physical buttons: Volume, Power, Home
64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB
Screen: 12-inch ClearType Full HD display
Resolution: 2160 x 1440
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
Touch: Multitouch input
Pen input
Pen input and pen (included with purchase)
Pen features 256 levels of pressure sensitivity
4th-generation Intel® Core™ i5-4300U (1.6 GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost up to 2.90 GHz), with Intel® HD Graphics 4400
4 GB or 8 GB of RAM — dual-channel LPDDR3
TPM 2.0 (Trusted Platform Module — for BitLocker encryption)
Fourth-generation Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 Processor
System memory: 4GB or 8GB memory options
TPM 2.0 chip for enterprise security
Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11ac/802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 low energy technology
Up to nine hours of web-browsing battery life
Cameras and A/V
5MP and 1080p HD front- and rear-facing cameras
Built-in front- and rear-facing microphones 
Stereo speakers with Dolby® Audio-enhanced sound
Full-size USB 3.0
microSD card reader
Headset jack
Mini DisplayPort
Cover port
Charging port
Ambient light sensor
Power supply
36W power supply (including 5W USB for accessory charging)
One-year limited hardware warranty