The bank share gets bigger. The banks’ share of the Australian finance market just keeps getting bigger. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures out this morning who that permanent building societies and credit co-operatives in September had just a 4.9% share of the market.

Back in 2002 when the ABS began its statistical series on lending by different sections of the Authorised Deposit Taking Institutions the non-bank share was 6.4%

10-11-2010 banksandhousingfinance

The fast food diet. The efforts of the social engineers to pretend they are doing something to curb the health problems caused by obese people continue apace. Hardly a day goes by without some do gooder somewhere in the country calling for a ban on fast food advertising or the introduction of new food labeling laws.

Hence my interest in the intriguing research by Mark Haub, a professor at Kansas State University, who eschewed meals and instead, every three hours, ate a junk food item like Twinkies, Oreos, Doritos or a sugary cereal. The junk food made up two thirds of what he ate and he also consumed a daily vitamin pill, a protein shake and either a tin of green beans or a few celery stalks each day. And the result of this unusual intake?

After two months, reports the London Daily Telegraph, he two months he went from 14st 5lb to 12st 6lb and his body mass index fell from 28.8 to 24.9, taking him out of the overweight category and into the normal one. His body fat fell from 33.4 to 24.9 per cent. Other results showed that his “bad” cholesterol fell 20 per cent and his “good” cholesterol rose by 20 per cent.

Defending the indefensible. Perhaps it is inevitable that politicians occasionally say silly things in the heat of debate. On programs like the ABC’s Q&A there is no time for mature reflection. It is open your mouth and into it. But surely Liberal Senator George Brandis should be a little embarrassed by the ringing endorsement he gave this week to the American Tea Party movement.

The discussion on the Tea Party went like this:

JONATHAN BIGGINS: … The other thing about the Tea Party that’s particularly dangerous and particularly when it’s fuelled by Fox News, which has got to be the right wing equivalent of Pravda, is that it undermines the institutions of government and it’s a direct attack on the president. It’s a direct attack on government and it is, in fact, I think, a direct attack on the very thing that they purport to be supporting, which is government by the people.
GEORGE BRANDIS: That’s an extraordinary…
TONY JONES: Let’s hear from George Brandis, who is jumping in anyway.
GEORGE BRANDIS: That’s an extraordinary thing to say. I mean, that’s what elections are for. That’s what democracy is about, so people can criticise the government, so people can criticise the president and the government and the…
JONATHAN BIGGINS: There’s a difference between criticising the government and the…
GEORGE BRANDIS: Well, let me – may I finish?
JONATHAN BIGGINS: …officers and the institution.
GEORGE BRANDIS: …and the president’s administration. Now, I followed the American elections closely, as, no doubt, did you, Jonathan. I don’t think that anything that was said by people in the Tea Party or the more mainstream elements of the Republican Party was beyond the bounds of legitimate but very heated criticism of the president, the current administration and their policies, and to that extent I think – you know, the problem with you people on the left is whenever there is a popular move against you, you try to de-legitimise it, just as you – just as you have done with the American elections.
JONATHAN BIGGINS: No. No. No, I’m not de-legitimising it. No, that’s not true at all.
GEORGE BRANDIS: You try to de-legitimise it or condemn it because it is an attack upon the president. Well, there should be political attacks.

To give you an idea of what things Senator Brandis endorsed as not being beyond the bounds of legitimate but very heated discussion, I offer these examples from the About.Com political humour pages:

”I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that here was a relatively small country that from a strictly military point of view accomplished incredible things.” — Ohio GOP House candidate and Tea Party favorite Rich Iott, explaining why for years he donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments as part of a group that calls itself Wiking (Atlantic interview, Oct. 2010)

”[An] Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug.” — Mark Williams, national spokesman for the Tea Party Express, on President Obama

”American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.” — Christine O’Donnell, discussing cloning with Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, 2007

”I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners — I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant — but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.” — Kentucky GOP Senate nominee and Tea Party favorite Rand Paul, arguing that government shouldn’t require private businesses to serve customers of all races, interview with Louisville Courier-Journal, April 25, 2010

There are many more examples of the same kind of remarkable statements and I have posted some of them on Crikey’s The Stump blog.

And don’t forget the racism. And I wonder what Senator Brandis thinks about the legitimacy of the kind of Tea Party debating reported recently by the Texas Observer?

A group of Tea Party activists in Washington D.C. recently told two Hispanic Texas border congressmen to “Go back to Mexico” as they were on their way to vote on the House floor. Apparently, even elected officials should be carrying their documents these days. Even when they’re on their way to vote in the U.S. Congress.

[Congressman Ruben] Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, said he and Congressman Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, were confronted by five Tea Party supporters. “There were five men, all white,” Hinojosa said.

“They first asked Silvestre Reyes, ‘Are you a congressman?’ ‘Yes, I’m from Texas,’ he answered. ‘Are you both congressmen?’ ‘Yes, I am a congressman too,’ Hinojosa replied. ‘Why don’t you go back to Mexico?,'” they said.

The prevailing attitude isn’t much better on the House floor. Like much of America, Congress is also becoming increasingly divisive and reactionary about Latino issues including immigration. Hinojosa told the audience in Edinburg about this exchange with the Tea Partiers after people asked in the audience why the DREAM Act, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrant students, was killed in Congress.

“I am telling you, things are not anywhere near the mindset you think they are in Congress,” Hinojosa said. “Some of them want to kill the Department of Education. You think they would be sensitive to our needs? Absolutely not.”

The bitter end. Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has a team of of his Treasury boffins poring over a newly compiled list of tax concessions in the search for new ways of getting the budget back into surplus.

Publication of the list this week was the first stage of the process which will culminate with decisions announced in the Budget next April. Clearly on the endangered species list are these two concessions, numbers 246 and 247 out of a total of 1042 that are under examination:

9-11-2010 bittersexemption

The threat to biological diversity. “There are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record.”… “Never before has a single species driven such profound changes to the habitats, composition and climate of the planet.”

10-11-2010 biologicaldiversity

These are two of the troubling conclusions reached in a just published special issue by the Royal Society. The publication contains 16 articles by leading scientists and the abstracts are all online along with an introduction by the editors. Read it and think!

Peter Fray

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