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Friday, July 3, 2009

The week that was!

So the avuncularly named "Bernie" Madoff got 150 years in jail? The scale of it is all for show. Less than 20% of a 150-year sentence for a 71 year old may as well be a life sentence. Still it pales alongside the longest recorded prison sentences in history. This was one of 7,109 years, awarded to two confidence tricksters in Iran in 1969. Bernie's sentence didn't even come close. Anyway, he was due to go into a retirement home. Now he's getting even that for free because "It has not yet been decided where Madoff will serve his sentence for orchestrating what prosecutors described as a $US65 billion ($75 billion) worldwide fraud of small and wealthy investors, charities and financial institutions." Quite! I hear that there are some very comfortable prison farms in upstate New York! Now here's a question: If "Bernie" gets 150 years in prison for running a Ponzi scheme, what do you think the people who designed Social Security and the Superannuation scheme ought to get?

A taxpayer-funded study recently concluded that breast-fed babies spend more time with their mothers. Really??? I could've told them that. FOR FREE! The same study suggests that 3-to-14-months old babies have as good a time in a child-minding centre as they have with their mothers. Who did they ask? The babies? "Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba."

Things are a bit on the nose in The Land of the Long Weekend but it could be worse! Consider Zimbabwe: unemployment is 94% (that's unemployment, people not working!); 80% of the population live below the poverty line; inflation is 231,000,000% (that is 231 MILLION percent!

In the meantime, Governor Schwarzenegger is issuing IOUs to pay his State's debt. Good on you, Arnold! Another Austrian came up with some pretty wild solutions some 70 years ago. Must be something in the water of those pretty little mountain brooks! As for what it all means in economic terms, well, as California goes, so goes America. California has a GDP of $1.8 trillion, larger than the economies of Russia, Brazil, Canada and India. It’s America’s most populous state with 38 million people. And it’s in the final throes of financial death — bankruptcy. In Governor Schwarzenegger’s own words, “Our wallet is empty. Our bank is closed. And our credit is dried up.”

"If you can't beat it, join it!" seems to be the motto of countless parents who invite their neighbours' kids to swine flu parties in the hope that they will get the virus now and therefore build up their immunity. Justine Roberts is the founder of the website Mumsnet.com and says it is better kids pick up the virus now before it might mutate.

Ah well, as long as dad doesn't smoke while he drives the little monster to the party because New South Wales may follow the lead of South Australia and Tasmania in putting a ban on smoking in cars when children are present. Anyone caught smoking in their car with a child as a passenger now faces a $250 on-the-spot fine. Things must be a bit low on the revenue side right now!

Meanwhile, Britain has been in the grip of an official heatwave, with media offering health warnings and advice about how to behave, what to wear and drink. "Britain sizzles in 28 degrees" scream the headlines. Pictures of the gorillas at London's zoo being given cool drinks and ice cream were broadcast on the evening news and the BBC's Antony Bartrom in Nottingham could not believe that the temperature had soared to 28 degrees. Whatever happened to "mad dogs and Englishmen"? Makes one wonder how they could ever have colonised anything beyond the Isle of Wight!

And good ol' Senator Brown from Tasmania thinks that travel taken by MPs after they have retired should only be paid for by taxpayers if it is in the public interest. He calls for the Gold Pass travel scheme for former parliamentarians, which allows those who qualified before 1994 unrestricted demestic travel and those who qualified after that date 25 return trips a year (!!!!), to be reviewed by an independent arbiter. "They're on retirement benefits way above that of the average person in the electorate. We don't extend free holiday travel to pensioners, we shouldn't extend it to ex-MPs. After all, the superannuation entitlements allow ex-ministers retirement benefits of more than $100,000 a year, and some of these travel allowances have been taken to the point where they are way, way above what a pensioner would get in total annual income and that needs to be justified." Good on you, Senator Brown! Make me the independent arbiter and I throw out the lot! However, being the cynic that I am, I suppose if this motion ever got up, it would be arbitrated by a bunch of ex-politicians who are already on the gravy-train themselves and not likely to stop it. In any case, as you get closer to your own retirement, Senator, you no doubt will change your mind again!