Appeal update

I sent in my donation to MSF just now, and I’ve had confirmation from several co-sponsors that they’ve done the same. The number of comments was a bit disappointing, but I’m happy to say that most people so far have responded by giving more than they promised. I’d like, once again, to thank everyone who participated.

Habib again

The Monday Message Board has a lively discussion of the Habib case, and I thought I’d make my own observations. Based on the evidence I’ve seen, I’m fairly confident of three things

* Habib was up to something connected with Islamic militants in Afghanistan

* After his arrest he was tortured (in Pakistan and Egypt) and subject to cruel and degrading treatment (in Guantanamo Bay)

* The Australian government knew about and approved Habib’s treatment[1].

A lot of participants in the debate seem to assume that, if you accept the first point, the second and third don’t really matter. I would have hoped that this kind of position didn’t need to be refuted, but that’s apparently not the case, so I’ll try.

Update A lengthy comments thread already, but it’s interesting that no-one, as far as I can see has disagreed with my factual conclusions. If there are people out there who think that Habib is an innocent bystander they haven’t shown up here. And, although there are plenty of commenters willing to defend torture, no-one, it seems, is willing to put their name (or handle) to a claim that the government is telling the truth.
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More spam misery

I’m being besieged by spammers and have been forced to crank up the defences, with the inevitable “collateral damage”. What I’ve worked out so far for those who want to avoid this category:

(1) Don’t use lots of hyperlinks
(2) Send from a regular working email account – Spam Karma doesn’t seem to like anonymisers and so on needful things dvd download

Global Fund appeal

As promised, this is the post for my second “cash for comment” appeal. I’ll be giving $1 per comment, once again, up to a limit of $1000 (last time there were about 500 comments). I plan to donate the proceeds to Medecins Sans Frontieres, and express a preference for projects related to the The Global Fund to fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria . These diseases kill over 6 million people each year, and the numbers are growing. Of course, cosponsors are welcome to nominate their own preferred charity.

As before, I’m also hoping for cosponsors, who agree to put in 5,10, 20 or 50 cents up to whatever limit seems appropriate. When the appeal is done, I’ll email to tell you how much you’ve promised. You then send the donation to MSF or your preferred alternative. If you can advise me when you’ve done it (and if you want, send a copy of the receipt) that’s great, but this entire appeal is being done on the basis of trust. I’ve already had one offer of 10c per comment, which I hope to confirm soon.

As regards your comments, anything you want to say is fine (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please), and it doesn’t have to be more than a word or two. But I’d be interested in discussion on the issues raised by exercises of this kind, for example, priorities in aid, the role of private philanthropy vs governments, NGOs, business and so on.

I’ll just mention that I’m financing my contribution partly from the payment I got for a review of Lomborg’s book, Global Crises, Global Solutions, coming out of the Copenhagen Consensus. Although I had some severe criticisms of that exercise, there were some important positives as well, and the assessment of health initiatives was largely consistent with the priorities identified by the Global Fund. So it seems appropriate to allocate the proceeds to a high-priority good cause.

The appeal will continue until 6pm Sunday Queensland time. I’ve got a few things on over the weekend, but I’ll try to post some updates.

Update 11pm Friday The appeal has barely begun and already cosponsors have promised 80 cents a comment, in addition to my $1. That’s a target of $1800. So please, spread the word.

Update Saturday 4pm I expected to get more comments than last time and fewer cosponsors, having already leaned on the generosity of my regular readers. In fact, it’s been pretty much the reverse. Comments have been a bit slow coming on, but the support from cosponsors has been truly impressive. Roughly in order

An anonymous regular reader has offered 50c per comment
Ken Harwood has offered 20c
Jonathan Lundell has offered 10c
Harry Clarke has offered 20c
Mister z has offered 10c
rdb has offered 10c
Emma has offered up to $100 (not sure what rate)
matthew Klugman has offered 10c

If my arithmetic is right, that’s a total pledge of $2.30 a comment. Given that it looks pretty unlikely that the upper limit is going to be reached, I’ll pitch in another 70c, and bring it up to $3. Is this a bargain, or what?

Update 2pm Sunday We’ve just passed 150 comments, so the amount raised is over $500, which is not bad, although there’s a lot more than this still on the table. Let’s hope we can make at least 200 by 6 pm (four hours to go).

Additional cosponsors

Peter Fuller offers 20 cents per comment – up to 500 ($100)
Bill Gardner offers 0.25 / comment, up to A$100.
Caitlin offers $50 if we reach 500

I forgot to mention in the earlier update that Jack Strocchi has offered 10c, subject to the requirement that I should say something nice about Bill Gates and his charitable efforts. Sooner done than said!

Appeal ended 6pm Sunday A total of 156 comments and a bit over $500 raised. Not as successful as last time, but a good effort nonetheless. Tomorrow, I’ll be getting in touch with the many generous cosponsors to tell them how much they’ve promised. Thanks very much to them, and to everyone who took the time to comment and think a little a bit about the issues. Thanks also to Tim Blair, Mark Bahnisch, Claire from Anggargoon(?) and others who linked. My Trackbacks aren’t working properly so there may be others I’ve missed.

fn1. At my absolute discretion, I’ll delete bots, spammers, repetitive commenters etc. If you don’t trust me to act fairly in this respect, or any other, don’t participate.

A new appeal

The fundraising appeal for tsunami relief was a big success, and it seems to me that the exercise is worth trying again. As a community, we seemed to be happier when we were focusing at least some of our thoughts on helping others than in our usual isolated consumer mode, and I can’t see why we shouldn’t consistently maintain something like the effort level devoted to the tsunami appeal. Giving away 2 per cent of our income (say, an hour’s pay each work for a full-time worker) to international relief efforts would make a huge difference. Australia alone could finance a pretty large slab of the various ambitious projects for global health that have been put forward. If all the whole developed countries contributed at this level, much of the misery that afflicts the world could be prevented.

So, I’m going to be giving away $1 per comment, once again, up to a limit of $1000 (last time there were about 500 comments). I’m also hoping for cosponsors, who could agree to put in 5,10, 20 or 50 cents up to whatever limit seems appropriate. I plan to donate the proceeds to Medecins Sans Frontieres, and express a preference for projects related to the The Global Fund to fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria . These diseases kill over 6 million people each year, and the numbers are growing. Of course, cosponsors are welcome to nominate their own preferred charity.

I’m going to give a bit more notice this time, especially in the hope of attracting some new cosponsors. I’ll put up the post calling for comments sometime on Friday, and keep it open until Sunday evening.

Plus ca change

At Troppo and elsewhere, there’s been a lot of discussion of postmodernism, the English curriculum and so on. Nothing appears to have changed[1] since the last round of this stuff nearly three years ago, when one of my early posts began:

The postmodernists have been copping it from all directions lately, mostly in relation to their claimed infiltration of the High School English curriculum in New South Wales and elsewhere.

fn1. Nothing except that linkrot has long since consumed all the links, and the comments are similarly lost
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In an interesting tribute to the impact of blogs, the latest issue Centre for Independent Studies magazine Policy includes a lengthy article by Sinclair Davidson, entitled Taxation with Misrepresentation (PDF), which appears to be a response to this blog post, criticising an earlier article in the same journal. If only all the posts here attracted a similar response.

At this stage, it doesn’t appear that the article adds much to the discussion that took place at the time. For example, Davidson has a lengthy defence of the morality of tax avoidance and of Garfield Barwick’s excellence as a judge, but doesn’t respond at all to the substantive point that his figures on taxable incomes are distorted by the effects of tax avoidance/minimisation/effective planning. Call it what you will, the game is about making your taxable income less than your actual income.

One interesting claim is that 60 per cent of households get more in welfare benefits (including family payments) than they pay in tax. Davidson refers to his own unpublished calculations as the basis for this claim. I’ll wait until I’ve seen a bit more detail before responding.

Anyway, as I say, it’s good to see that blogs are having an impact, at least to the point of provoking a reaction.


Matthew Yglesias had a well-argued piece a couple of days ago on Social Security and the Efficient Markets Hypothesis (EMH), in which he quoted me on the (generally left-wing) implications of rejecting the EMH. This spurred me to start on a post (or maybe a series) on the EMH, the equity premium and the implications for US Social Security reform. Most of what I have to say is consistent with what Matt and others have said previously, but perhaps there will be a bit of a new perspective.
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