Congratulations to Mohammad Yunus

Mohammad Yunus has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He's notable for starting the Grameen Bank, which was notable for designing a system that allowed poor people to borrow small amounts of money and pull themselves out of poverty. The concept of microcredit has boomed and helped an enormous number of people.

It's an interesting idea and I've followed it for a long time. Basically it's pure capitalism, except that Yunus designed a different model for lending. They charge commercial interest rates and pay investors competitive rates, so it's not a charity, but the effect is to put power into their borrowers' hands.

One of the key enablers for Grameen's success is that most of the loans go to women. Women seem to be more responsible with money, and the loan default rate the Bank gets would be the envy of many a western bank.

So congratulations to Yunus and the Grameen Bank. Yunus' acceptable speech is here.

I guess I can now say I've met a Nobel Peace Prize winner. W00t!

Amazing use of Google Earth

The Wilderness Society have released overlays for Google Earth that show the scale of the destructive logging going on in Tasmania. It's incredible that we allow this to happen in such a beautiful, untouched place. And for a few dollars a ton, we export the resulting woodchips to Japanese paper mills.

Tasmanian map showing logging

This technique will be very useful for campaign groups. Imagine a map of toxic plumes from exhaust stacks on the M5 and Lane Cove road tunnels? It's a very direct, very "look how close to my house that is" way of bringing the message to the people.

How not to do a viral campaign

The Liberal (that's Tory for you non-Australians, yes it's confusing) party have quickly shoved out an attempt at a viral campaign, Same Old Labor in the wake of this morning's leadership spill. It's comically amateurish and seriously misguided.

The point of these kinds of things is to get people to publicise it for you, sending it on to their mates because they like some part of it. That's what the handy "Email a friend" field is for. And you'll probably end up on some exempt-from-anti-spam-laws spam list to boot.

There's a few problems with their approach though. For starters, the flash animation is neither amusing nor informative. It rehashes the same old attacks the Tories have been making about Labor. Why would you send it to your mate? Hey have a look at this really crap Flash animation. Isn't that embarrassing?

Then the following web page gives a list of reasons it's the "Same Old Labor", the first of which attacks their workplace relations stance. "Controlled by the ACTU on workplace relations": now the reason Labor hasn't gained much traction on this issue is that most people don't know, nor care, who the ACTU is. So the Tories are making the same mistake.

"No practical solutions to address climate change" shows how far the Tory song sheet has been updated in recent weeks. It sounds eerily like what everyone was saying about Howard up to two weeks ago.

Pretty lame effort, really. I can see why you can't find an agency name on it. They'd be embarrassed!

There's Lear Jets over Kulgera

Might be time to dust off the old Red Gum song Lear Jets Over Kulgera.

And there's Lear jets over Kulgera
Where the Dust dances in the heat
Sing a song for the poor young little rich country
As they buy it from under our feet
And LTDs in Hawker
And talk of a tracking base
Talking mineral yields in uranium fields
And looking like they own the place

Well at least the issue has forced the Bomber to find something he stands for. We were wondering what he stood for, other than getting elected.

New Kyoto won't be as sweet a deal

Howard is dissembling about a new Kyoto agreement to take heat off the fact that the largest per-capita greenhouse gas emitter won't sign the existing agreement. Thing is, Kyoto was a fantastic deal for Australia. We scored an 8% increase in emissions where most of the other signatories were required to reduce their emissions. If, as he claims, a "new Kyoto" were to take off, we'd be highly unlikely to get such a good deal.

Of course all he's doing is delaying actually having to do something, because he doesn't believe climate change is happening despite overwhelming evidence. Organizing another Kyoto, and what's more including developing nations this time around, would take years and years.

Kyoto is far from the perfect solution. In fact, it's only the very first step. But you can hardly expect the world to start building on it until it's been implemented by all the people who originally agreed to it, and that includes Australia!

A plan to end farmer welfare

I have a plan to stop farmers sponging off the state. Many farmers in Australia farm extremely marginal land that is regularly very badly affected by drought. Australia is a place that has droughts. Every 7-10 years.

Successive governments have dipped into the public coffers every time a drought comes around for these farmers. Now if I set up a corner shop on a backstreet nobody ever visited, would I be entitled to funds from the government when the inevitable happens and I go broke? Course not. Yet farmers, who decided to farm marginal land in a drought-prone country, get bailed out every time.

So how do we solve this? How about this: the government buys back the land, at a reasonable price given how marginal it is. We then let it go back to its pre-Whitey state, which for different areas would mean different things. Fire would probably be needed.

How do we fund this? Well, why not calculate how much CO2 this cleared land will soak up as it goes back to its natural state? Oh that's right, we would need to have a carbon market and sign Kyoto for that to be worth anything now, wouldn't we.

Back to the drawing board then.

Lovely newspeak from the UK Treasury

Under the heading "Pension Tax Simplification" you can read all about the complicated new rules that have been introduced this year. Orwell had nothing on these guys. Reading around with the experts, they all seem pretty well agreed that this new system has made things a lot more complicated. Bah!

Why am I hurting my brain with this stuff? I need to move my UK pensions back to Australia. Oh joy.