Monthly Archives: August 2010
Despite what some people have said, this election result is terrible. Hung governments are impotent governments. I had a lot of sympathy for the ALP; how could anybody achieve their reform agenda when they’ve got an irrationally hostile Senate? Now they’re going to attempt their agenda with a hostile Senate and House of Representatives.
There were a few good points. I’m yet to find a seat where the informal vote was lower than the primary vote for the Secular Party. I’m an atheist and even I can’t stand them.
There were some surprising points. Check out the distribution of votes for the ALP and the Greens in Melbourne.
ALP Primary: 27,771
Greens Primary: 25,387
ALP 2PP: 31,154
Greens Primary: 39,172
Notice how little the ALP vote changed after preferences? There were 14 thousand people who voted for the Liberal Party, but the ALP vote doesn’t move nearly that much. Therefore, the bulk of Liberal voters gave their preferences to the Greens over the ALP. How extremely weird.
And then there was the just plain stupid. I feel sorry for Senator Steve Fielding. As downright silly as he is, he’s a genius in comparison to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. During the election coverage, she noted that if the rules were completely different and we had proportional voting, the Greens would have taken 17 seats. What she neglects to say is that proportional voting would have given the CDP Christian and Family First parties several seats as well. Thank Zeus, we don’t have proportional voting. She also neglects to mention the huge number of seats where the Greens primary vote was less than the number of informal votes cast. The Greens Party is just a stunt party who couldn’t even manage to draw the protest vote in places where people were literally throwing away their votes.
I propose a new system for elections. Instead of voting for a candidate, you vote against them. The candidate with the least number of negative votes wins. We’d never hear from the Greens Party again.
In other news, congratulations to the Australian Sex Party for their excellent first time showing. The question will be whether they can sustain it. I’ve been trying to work out the number of votes per candidate (parties with more candidates obviously end up with more votes) and a rough measure seems to put it up at the One Nation level of support. That makes me feel slightly better about Australia.
So… I’m still not entirely sure how I’ll vote.
I feel like this is less of a choice between candidates and more a choice between voting formally or informally. Given the lack of candidates in my electorate, I feel like an informal vote is entirely justified. I don’t support the political options we have and voting informally is a valid form of protest.
At the same time, a lot of the things for which I detest the current government was largely a creation of the Coalition and Greens Party acting in concert. We shouldn’t be limiting our immigration growth, but the C&G vandals in the upper house have forced us into rather a deplorable public debate. The inability to act on climate change was similarly a result of their vandalism. And so on and so forth. Instead of giving the Greens the balance of power, I think a much better political situation would be ALP dominance in both houses for three years. Unfortunately, we’ll get the usual unrepresentative swill we always get with the Senate.
I guess I’m in shock that an election between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott could possibly be described as a cliffhanger.
For those of you in Victoria, vote for the Sex Party. At least they’ve got principles.
I bought a large parcel of nerdshit from Amazon including — and hold on to your hats everybody — the Daria box set. Oh yeah. It also included the very worst version of Beowulf ever produced, a few books, and some cult television shows.
Usually, I just use the normal mail. It goes to the local post office which is a short walk from work and I pick it up. It tends to take about a fortnight.
This time, I thought: ‘Ooooh, for a bit more cash, I could get it sent express.’ Amazon sends the parcel through DHL, it arrives in a few days, and the courier gets my signature when they deliver the parcel.
Except it doesn’t work like that at all. Apparently, Amazon have authorised DHL to deliver the parcel without a signature. So instead of delivering the parcel to me, they left it somewhere near my apartment.
To make this more baffling, I was at home when it was supposedly delivered. I checked its status this morning, an hour after it was delivered somewhere near my building. So if it was delivered to my door, it went missing within an hour.
So if DHL are to believed, somebody has a $200 parcel worth of the nerdiest nerdcrap (including an untranslated New Testament).
DHL have informed me that it’s not their problem. This seems rather odd given that I feel like I’ve paid them to perform a particular task (ensure that I receive a parcel) which they don’t seem to have done.
Ah, well. It’s a shame that my experiment with DHL was so expensive and disappointing.
EDIT: The parcel was found (with no help from DHL). It had been delivered to the incorrect address.
The average voter has no sense of perspective.
Tony Wright of the Sydney Morning Herald noted a comment at one of Tony Abbott’s press conferences:
[O]ne of his inquisitors pointed out that a $6 billion debt – which Abbott says will be Australia’s annual interest payments under continued Labor spending – is about equal on a GDP basis to someone on a wage of $100,000 having a mortgage of only $6000. Abbott himself has a much larger mortgage than this – did it make him a poor financial manager? Well, in short, no.
When he got that final question, he pointed out that Prime Minister Julia Gillard used to say every boat equalled a policy failure. Every boat, he might just as well have said, meant one fewer question on his economic credentials – Tony Wright.
$6b debt sounds massive, but it’s tiny in comparison to our GDP.
“Remember the $900 cheques? Forty thousand went either overseas or to dead people. I don’t know what economies they were stimulating but it wasn’t the Australian economy. There was a better way to do it.” – Joe Hockey, ABC News Online
According to the ATO, at least 8.8 million cheques were sent. Let us imagine that only 8.8 million were sent. 40,000 is only 0.45%. As far as error rates go, that’s amazing.
Why does this narrative of outlandish mistakes persist? I don’t remember the media’s pitchforks being waved when Turnbull (then a minister) wasted $10 million on Russian cloud seeding technology.
By all accounts, Tony Abbott’s appearance on the 7:30 Report was a disaster. While many people saw it as a failure of Abbott to understand technomancy, I saw it more as a failure of communication. It seems to be a repeated problem for the last few years.
The ETS died a horrible death because few people bothered to explain it in terms which engaged the public. This caused two problems ripe for exploitation by the vandals of the upper house.
1) There was space for the argument that the world wasn’t warming, thus change was unnecessary.
2) There was space for the argument that the ETS would have been ineffective.
After the various mutinies of the parties, the Coalition exploited (1) and the Greens exploited (2). Neither, by the way, were true. The ETS was designed not to shock the system (the ‘It pays big polluters’ argument) and was designed to give the government a lever with regard to emissions (because (1) is obviously false).
The ‘Mining Tax’ suffered the same problem. There was no message around the Henry Tax review and everybody bought into the outright lie that the resource sector saved us from the recession (mining companies went cap in hand to the governments asking for handouts). The end result was a butchered policy.
These were mistakes by the government, so you would think that the Coalition would have recognised the problem and avoided the same pitfalls. Apparently not. In the above interview, Abbott gets cluttered with absurd detail instead of providing a clear policy message which differentiates his plan from that of the government.
KERRY O’BRIEN: Professor Rod Tucker from Melbourne University with a string of qualifications in this field as long as your arm – very impressive I might say – including the Australia Prize for his contributions to telecommunications had this to say today: “The idea that we could use very fast broadband based on mobile technologies and existing fibre,” – which is what you would do – “… defies the laws of physics.”
TONY ABBOTT: Well I accept, Kerry, that not everyone is gonna like our system, but I just don’t believe that you can trust this government to roll out a $43 billion bit of infrastructure.
KERRY O’BRIEN: But does that preclude you if the plan itself is good?
TONY ABBOTT: Well, as I said, I think we can do something that will be good for a lot less price. Our system will give Australians national broadband, but it won’t be nationalised broadband and it won’t depend on just one fibre technology. – 7.30 Report, 10 Aug 2010
The policy message appears to be: ‘You can’t trust the government with money. Thus, our broadband plan is better.’ It is even more strange considering that all the objective evidence suggests that we can trust the government with money. Basically, the approach is ‘The government has said X; therefore, not-X is true.’
We’ve already had the Coalition apply its hand to our IT policies. They had a decade to get us up to speed and we languished. Do we really have such incredibly short political memories?
Back in ye olde post about the Australian Sex Party’s policies, I noted that one of the policies was to overturn restrictions on aid to overseas family planning organisations that reference abortion and remarked that I understood that they had already been overturned. Given that it was odd that a policy would exist to overturn something that had already been overturned, I decided to write an e-mail to them to ask if my understanding was incorrect.
This is a big deal, by the way, because I generally worry about people who write to political parties. They’re even worse than the people who write to the newspapers. ’You should write to the Prime Minister’ is never uttered by a reasonable and rational person.
What was even weirder was that instead of the ‘Thank you for your letter. Your letter is important to us. We have taken note of your letter. Here is a link to our website. Good day’ response I was expecting, I got some answers. It was even more awesome because I admitted in the e-mail that I couldn’t vote for them (no candidates in the ACT) and that I was probably the exact opposite of their target demographic.
I also asked if I could put the answers up, so here they are:
Me: ‘On the policy page, the Australian Sex Party says that it wants to ‘[o]verturn restrictions on aid to overseas family planning organisations that reference abortion.’ The website for the Minister for Foreign Affairs suggests that there aren’t any restrictions. Am I looking in the wrong place?’
ASP: We are currently in the process of reviewing (and fleshing out) all of our policies. This will be one of the first policies to get an overhaul.
There was a 13 year ban on any overseas development funding being used for activities that involved the termination of a pregnancy (introduced by the Howard govt in a deal with former Tas independent Senator Brian Harradine.)
This ban was lifted in march 2009. However in announcing the lifting of this ban the Foreign Minister Stephen Smith did say ‘Australian aid funding would still focus on avoiding abortions’
Australian and international NGOs continue to be able to choose what services they deliver in line with their philosophies and policies. So while a termination may be legal in a particular country the NGO providing health care in that region may refuse to provide that as an option.
Me: The policies seem particularly interested in protection of children from exploitation due to sexualisation. The Australian Sex Party puts the focus on education campaigns — which is reasonable and sensible. At the same time, it doesn’t recommend putting restrictions on the market place to restrict private companies from creating a demand for the sexualisation of children. At what point does tastelessness become unacceptable in society?
ASP: There are strong laws currently in place to protect children from exploitation and sexualisation. We believe that educating people about these laws and enforcing these laws are much more important than implementing regulations that determine what one should or should not find tasteless/ unacceptable.
For example some parents find ‘Bratz dolls’ unacceptable and charge them with sexualising young girls. Others dont. Who are we to determine who is correct? It is up to parents to make their own judgements.
Me: Do you have policies particularly to help prevent the exploitation of women in the sex industry? Is it unreasonable to believe that — if the regulatory frameworks regarding pornography and the sex industry were relaxed — an improvement of the protection frameworks for women in those industries would be required?
ASP: If the production of x-rated material and prostitution were legalised throughout Australia, I dont believe you would see a relaxation in regulation – quite the opposite. If sex work was legalised it could then be regulated and work places from which sex workers operated would be obliged to function under OH&S standards applicable to the industry.
Me: If a person happened to live in a territory without a candidate from the Australian Sex Party but thought that the ASP represented their best interests, what could that person do to help the party?
ASP: I would be happy to send you some flyers or stickers that you could pass on to other interested people. You could make a donation (big or small) which would really help. And just by blogging about us you are helping to spread the word about the Sex Party – we really appreciate that!
It’s interesting about the ‘Bratz dolls’ thing because my intuitive response is to think that they ought to be removed from the marketplace. The market doesn’t respond to social reaction; it counterfeits it. Similarly, marketing skimpy clothing to prepubescents creates a demand. At the same time, educating children about self respect and the legal frameworks which protect them from exploitation would probably do more to get those products off the shelf than banning them.
Anyway, I thought getting an answer to the questions I sent was fairly epic but it got better. The person responding to my e-mail also went and read at least part of my original post. Regarding my initial reaction to the name of the Australian Sex Party, the Party responded:
Firstly I notice on the piece you wrote about us you mention you thought that we weren’t named well. To be honest we get a lot of questions about why we decided on that name. We did think long and hard about the name ‘The Australian Sex Party’ and one of the reasons we chose it was because we didnt want to hide where we originated from. The Sex Party grew out of the Eros Association which is the national association and lobby group for the adult retail industry. We didn’t want to hide behind any euphemisms (you know… like Family First!).
We were also advised by the late Don Chipp (who was a mentor to our president, Fiona Patten) that the hardest thing a small political party had to overcome was being ignored. With our name we get a lot more media than if we were called the ‘Australian Civil Liberties Party’ or some such thing. In fact I believe that even factored into our recent debate on Sunrise with Family First – do you think we would have been invited if we weren’t called the Sex party?
Okay, now begins Operation: Convince Victorian Friends and Family…
Comb your hair and paint and powder. You act proud and I’ll act prouder… but not too proud to admit a mistake
I think I might have been incorrect regarding the net filter.
To recap the argument I made:
1. There are restrictions on what you can bring into Australia.
2. Restrictions should be consistent: if you can’t bring an item into Australia one way, you shouldn’t be able to bring it into Australia another way.
3. Therefore, the restrictions already applied when a person enters Australia should apply to material brought into Australia through the internet.
I argued that most of the criticisms of the filter were misdirections. They were arguing against the restrictions already in place; not against new restrictions of material on the internet.
All of the above is correct. Unless somebody has a good argument against those positions, I’m fairly certain I’ve got that right.
Where I’ve gone wrong is the end application: the state of affairs if you follow that line of argument isn’t the optimal state of affairs.
We don’t want to filter the exploitation of women and children, hate speech, or other criminal activity. We want to stop them.
There are already laws regarding the downloading and distribution of the material. Instead of putting vast resources into creating and maintaining an internet filter, we should redirect those resources into working with overseas partners to classify and combat the exploitation of women and children, hate speech, &c., as transnational crimes.
Check out this trainwreck from ProudAtheists.wordpress.
Check out this trainwreck from Andrew Bolt.
As social creatures, we rely on the social discourses to provide us with the social identities to understand ourselves. We’re the products of cultural progressions which go back generation after generation. What happens when you identify as an atheist, but the social discourse doesn’t support you? What happens when you’re a conservative, but the social discourse doesn’t support you?
I talk a lot about my conservatism and why the link between conservatism and the most extremely ugly prejudices, intolerances, and nastinesses are undeserved. I don’t discuss my religious views often. I often wonder why this is.
The fundamental and most problematic feature of modern secularism is that it isn’t actually secularism. It’s just a way for religious influence to render itself invisible inside the cultural and political frameworks. While people can point to the obvious examples of insidious religious influence — such as the prohibition on homosexuals from marrying, such as the refusal to acknowledge intersexuals, &c. — it’s significantly more difficult to engage with the more deeply entrenched aspects: are our views on justice, virtue, and morality influenced by religious views to the extent that they cannot be explicated without reference to them? Even more troubling, are our views on science and education influenced by religious views to the extend that they cannot be explicated without reference to them?
Atheists used to engage in these debates. Voltaire and Nietzsche, for example, were deeply troubled by them: if we were to create a secular civic, how do we filter the secular from the non-secular?
In many ways, the ancient atheists had it easier: fundamentally, there was only one religion to contemplate — Christianity. The modern atheist has a significantly more difficult time with the age of religious pluralism and multiculturalism. Outspoken atheists like Pat Condell, Dawkins, and PZ Myers have a fundamental difficulty with cultural pluralism. Pat Condell in particular is extremely racist — or ‘xenophobic’, if you live in the dark ages of racial ontology — regarding Islam: he cannot distinguish between the secular Muslim from the secular Christian.
‘If that makes me a racist or a bigot… then so be it.’ — Pat Condell.
I use that latter term precisely. The modern atheist — especially the so called ‘antitheists’ — are little more than secular Christians. The hostility shown towards people of other cultures — particularly Muslim women in western countries who choose to wear traditional dress for the same reasons that secular Christian women in western countries wear high heels, make up, and bras — is intolerant vulgarity.
Just as there are two kinds of theist — the outspoken, common theist who gets their views from the mainstream prejudices of their peers; the significantly more silent, contemplative theist who takes the time and opportunity to explore their identity in a rational, dialectic fashion — there are two kinds of atheists. Where atheists used to distinguish themselves by having more of the latter and less of the former, the modern atheist has no such luxury. Indeed, the latter sort has to spend significantly more time defending itself from the former sort than it does spending time working through the issues of atheism in a multicultural, pluralistic society.
Reading over this, it’s striking that the same complaints can easily be made about conservatives. Unfortunately, the rational, contemplative conservative is an endangered species.
Cream rinse and tobacco smoke, that sickly scent is always there… when is insufficient choice undemocratic?
I set out with the best of intentions. I was going to be a responsible voter and check out the policies of all the parties and try to work out which best represented my views. The process was good: it established that my feelings towards the Greens were legitimate (it was interesting to note that — despite somebody‘s assertions that the Greens don’t really believe all of their policies — Bob Brown was there on Insiders claiming that ‘we have worked very hard on many of these policies in the Senate‘).
It was also interesting that, as a conservative, I was more comfortable with the policies of the Australian Sex Party than I was any of the other parties (that I’d examined so far: and, let’s face it, I was already into fringe crazy land). Despite wanting to send an e-mail about their stranger policies, I was so impressed that I was going to volunteer handing out ‘How to Vote’ cards. Of all the parties, they seemed the most sane even though they were essentially a political party for the sex industry (and I still have concerns about the commodification of sex).
I live in the ACT. Today, I had a look at the list of candidates on offer…
Absolutely shit all.
In the senate, for example, we have Libslabs Greedems and an ungrouped person who has nothing to offer. All of the candidates (except the last because next to nothing is known about the last) are essentially the same person.
Oh, I forgot to add that there’s more disdain for the Greens this week. In an attempt to show that they’re just as willing to lower themselves into the political shit flinging match like the bigger parties, the Greens boohooed about Abbott’s use of ‘No means no’ when referring to Julia Gillard.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said it was an inappropriate phrase to use. – ABC news Online.
((My own 20c: Abbott ought to have been aware that it would cause offence. The correct — that is, the PC — way out of the problem was to say: ‘I can understand why some people might have found it offensive. I certainly didn’t mean for it to be offensive, but I sincerely apologise for any offence caused.’ The current approach appears to be along the lines of: ‘But I am a white male and Tony is a white male. Therefore, when we use words, they mean exactly what we say they do. Shut up an make me a pie.’))
Unfortunately, this gave a free kick to probably my most hated news ‘personality’, Andrew ‘I won’t accept a tearful apology from you barbarians’ Bolt. He correctly noted that a Greens senator had used the phrase and hadn’t been hounded by Sarah Hanson-Young. The only possible way to spin the event is to say that the Greens senator was quoting somebody else. Even then, it’s a flimsy reply.
So I’m in an election campaign where all of the major candidates are indistinguishable in their deplorable behaviours and where I can’t vote for my party of choice. At least GetUp won their constitutional challenge, meaning more people can vote for parties which won’t represent them.
Long story short: Kristy Fraser-Kirk was allegedly sexually harassed by Mark McInnes, the then CEO of David Jones. She’s suing both Mark McInnes and David Jones. The curious part of the story is that she’s seeking punitive damages (which are more commonly granted in the US to serve a ‘lesson’ to other would-be miscreants).
She is seeking punitive damages of 5 per cent of the profit generated by David Jones from 2003 to 2010 and 5 per cent of Mr McInnes’s salary. – Source.
Not unreasonable by any stretch of the imagination. Claims based on a percentage make a lot of sense: if you’re suing a wealthy party, the amount they’re going to understand as punitive is going to be proportional to their income. Fining me $1,000 is a pain in the arse but loose change for Croesus. Given the size of David Jones and the salary of Mark McInnes, the total of the two amounts is $37 million.
Notice how each part of that follows naturally from the part before it? Wealthy defendant → percentage of earnings → total equal to $37 million.
In Greg Barns world, this doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
So how is it then that lawyers for a young woman who alleges sexual harassment against the boss of the company that employs her, argue that she should receive a payout of $37 million? – Barnes.
Actually, I’m being unfair. The natural reasoning probably does make sense to Barns but Barns is probably unaware of the details. In fairness, he’s probably skimmed the details and is outraged that a woman who was sexually harassed could possibly be awarded compensation for it.
It’s hard not to read misogyny in his article. It stinks of the whining of men who claim sexual harassment is a victimless crime and of men who perceive a bias in the justice system towards women. This perception isn’t helped by his abandonment of logic:
[I]t seems philosophically unsound for a justice system to accord such a gargantuan difference in monetary worth in cases involving what might be termed ‘invasions of personal dignity.’ – Ibid.
Nope. It’s not sexual harassment in Barns’ world. It’s ‘invasion of personal dignity’. Further, instead of arguing that rape and assault victims (the latter, by the way, includes Fraser-Kirk if her claims are accurate: unwanted touching, &c.) should receive greater compensation, Barns argues that Fraser-Kirk should receive less. It’s only fair, apparently.
The comments to his post are odious and I recommend you avoid them.