Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Friday, 31 July 2009

Oi! That's our fucking money!

In my working life I have, like most people, applied for jobs I didn't end up getting. C'est la vie and no hard feelings. Well all right, actually I'm bitter and twisted because the bastards didn't give me any compensation to make up for me not getting the job. No, come on, it's only fair that applicants who lose out are compensated... just like companies who bid for government contracts are.
The Victorian taxpayer will compensate the losing bidder for Australia's biggest desalination plant - by up to 10 million dollars.

AquaSure has been awarded the three and a half billion dollar contract to build the plant, with the state government underwriting finance for the project.

Bass Water would also get some return for it's failed bid.
What the cunting fuck? I have more to say about the Wonthaggi desalination plant but for fuck's sake, surely both bidders knew that only one of them would win. What in fuck's name is the fucking state government doing giving the losing bidder taxpayers' money? If this was a contract between private firms does anyone think that losing bidders would get some dosh out of it? Why the fuck are governments everywhere so fucking eager to spunk away the money they fucking rob off the rest of us?


That's the way the money goes.

Via Thoughts On Freedom, a handy website that shows anyone their tax dollars at work in terms of their own approximate tax contributions. Interesting for Aussie tax payers or anyone wanting to compare figures here to elsewhere. It's broken down into quite some detail. Let's say for the sake of argument and simplicity that someone $100,000 income for this tax year - it says they will pay $25,450 in income tax, which will be spent roughly as follows:

$8,157 Social security & welfare
$2,945 Assistance to the aged
$2,207 Income support for seniors
Residential care
Veterans' community care and support
Community care
Mature age income support
Flexible aged care
Allowances, concessions, and services for seniors
Aged care workforce
Other aged care spending
Ageing information and support
$2,211 Assistance to families with children
$1,311 Family Tax Benefit
Parents' Income Support
Child care fee assistance
Baby Bonus payments
Child support
Support for the child care system
Family support
Family relationship services
Other assistance to families with children expenses
Early childhood education
$1,259 Assistance to people with disabilities
$870 Disability support pension
Income Support for Carers
Disability employment services
Services and support for people with a disability
Other assistance to people with disabilities expenses
$663 Assistance to the unemployed and sick
Assistance to veterans & their dependants
Administration expenses
Assistance to Indigenous Australians not specified elsewhere
Other welfare programs

$4,472 Payments to State & Territory Governments
$3,317 Non-earmarked payments to states & territories
National healthcare specific purpose payments
Payments to states & territories for aged care purposes
Payments to states & territories for National Skills and Workforce Development
Payments to states & territories under the National Disability Agreement
Payments to states & territories for child care

$3,010 Health
$1,597 Medical services and benefits
$1,129 Medical benefits schedule
Private health insurance rebate
Veterans' medical benefits
Other medical services expenses
Primary care practice incentives
Medical indemnity
$743 Pharmaceutical services and benefits
$410 Pharmaceutical benefits for Centrelink concession card holders
Pharmaceutical benefits for non-concession card holders
Other pharmaceutical benefits expenses
Pharmaceutical benefits specifically for highly specialised drugs
Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (for veterans and their dependants)
Essential vaccines
$346 Health services
Hospital services
General health administration
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
$2.48 Administration expenses
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
Medical services and benefits
Health services
Pharmaceutical benefits and services
$23 Health care agreements

$2,535 Education
$647 Government schools
Higher education
Non-government schools
Specific school funding (including grants, specific education programs, infrastructure spending)
Payments to students
$177 Tertiary Student Assistance (including AUSTUDY)
Higher Education Loan Program (HELP)
$71 Vocational and other education
$53 National Training System
Adult English Migrant Program
VET Higher Education Loans Program
$54 General administration expenses
$14 School student assistance
Veterans' Children Education Scheme

$1,577 Defence
$1,336 General public services
$428 Financial and fiscal affairs
Foreign affairs and economic aid
$278 Official development assistance
Assistance to PNG and the Pacific Region
Assistance to East Asia (including assistance to Indonesia for tsunami-related reconstruction)
Other foreign affairs and economic aid expenditure
Assistance to Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East, and other regions
International deployment services
Payments to other international organisations
Emergency humanitarian & refugee programs
Other, including AusAID departmental expenses
UN, Commonwealth & other international organisations
Passport services
NGO Volunteer and Community Programs
Consular services
International agricultural research & development
Public Information Services & Public Diplomacy
$230 Government-funded superannuation benefits
General research
$87 Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Miscellaneous general research expenditure (including the Australian Research Council and the Australian Institute of Marine Science)
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
$66 Legislative and executive affairs
General services

$1,109 Other purposes
$511 Nominal superannuation interest
Interest payments on public debt
Local government assistance
Contingency reserve
Natural disaster relief

$684 Housing & community amenities
$552 Housing (including the First Home Owner Grant and social housing expenditure)
Environment protection
Urban and regional Development

$632 Fuel and energy
$382 Fuel Tax Credits Scheme (for commercial users of heavy diesel vehicles)
Energy efficiency and climate change Action
Resources related initiatives and management
Energy related initiatives and management
Other fuel and energy expenses
Resources, Energy and Tourism departmental funding for fuel and energy
Cleaner fuels scheme

$616 Other economic affairs
$175 Labour market assistance to job seekers and industry
Other economic affairs not specified elsewhere (including the Export Markets Development Grants Scheme and other industry programs)
Immigration (including settlement services for migrants)
Vocational and industry training (including payments to apprentices and employers)
Industrial relations
Tourism and regional promotion (including Tourism Australia)

$413 Transport and communication
$295 Road transport
Communication (not including the proposed National Broadband Network)
Rail transport
Sea transport (including the Australian Maritime Safety Authority)
Other transport and communication expenses
Air transport (including the Civil Aviation Safety Authority)

$294 Public order and safety
$227 Miscellaneous public order and safety
$102 Australian Federal Police
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
$66 Courts and legal services

$256 Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
$123 Natural resources development (including water programs in the Murray-Darling Basin)
Rural assistance
General administration
Assistance to fishing, horticulture, and other agriculture
Assistance to the cattle, sheep, and pig industry
Assistance to the grains industry
Assistance to the dairy industry
Assistance to the wool industry
General assistance not allocated to specific industries

$233 Recreation & culture
$109 Broadcasting
$44 ABC Television
ABC Radio
SBS Television
ABC Analog Transmission
Access to digital TV services
Other broadcasting expenses
SBS Digital Transmission and Distribution
Broadcasting and Digital Television
$72 Arts and cultural heritage
$5.04 National Archives of Australia
National Library of Australia
National Museum of Australia
National Gallery of Australia
$26 National estate and parks
Sport and recreation

$126 Assistance to the mining, manufacturing, and construction industries

On top of that apparently you can add $3,999 for the budget deficit. Phew! And on top of that Tax Check says:
Note that income taxation provides only around half of total Federal Government revenue. Other major revenue sources include the GST, corporate taxes, excise taxes, superannuation taxes, tariffs, and so on. Thus total direct and indirect contributions to federal spending could potentially be multiple times higher than the values listed above, especially when an individual’s income is relatively low. In addition, beyond where categories have been distinctly labelled, no attempt has been made to account for independent revenue raising or spending by state or local governments.
Taxation by state governments I suppose, though I understood the GST revenue went to the states anyway. I'll look at this a line at a time and post thoughts in the next few days, but for now I'll just say that the ABC and SBS cost less than I thought.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Driving us crazy.

There is no shortage of examples of daft situations created by the tendency of governments to go for knee jerk solutions to what they perceive as pressing problems. As Sir Humphrey Appleby put it, and Yes Minister looks more and more like a documentary as time passes, politicians need activity; it's their substitute for achievement. Admittedly he was talking about a politician wanting to reduce expenditure in the Civil Service, which might well be an achievement rather than just activity, but in general it does seem that being seen to do something is far more important to them than. And so I wasn't particularly surprised to read an article in last months RACV magazine about power restrictions for new drivers (Google HTML version of a PDF is all I could find online - it's the article called "Turbo Discharge" on pages 20-21).
Which car would you be happier to see your 18-year-old P-plater drive for their first foray into solo motoring: a 90kW 1.4-litre car that tootles along minding its own business, or a 184kW 3.2-litre hot hatch with twice the power output, 50% faster acceleration and an award for Australia’s Best Sports Car sitting in its importer’s trophy cabinet? Interestingly, both are variants ofone car: Volkswagen Golf. Not surprisingly, P-platers are barred from driving one of them. Amazingly, the one an 18-year-old can drive without impunity is the 184kW hot hatch.
So in English that's a car with a 120bhp engine being banned to provisional plate drivers while the law is fine with them driving a 246bhp version. Slow car, banned. Fast car, okay. What the fuck?
The Graduated Licensing Scheme, the Victorian Government’s initiative to produce better and safer young drivers, has been a great step forward since its introduction in July last year. RACV has been a major advocate of such a system and has had a great deal of input. But the GLS’s revamp of the high-powered vehicle restrictions on P-platers has provided some alarming anomalies.
Under the new regulations, a P-plater may not drive a vehicle with an engine of eight or more cylinders, a turbo or supercharged engine or an engine modified to improve performance.


Some vehicles under the broad criteria are exempted. Currently these are turbo or supercharged diesel vehicles (without engine performance modifications), and nominated vehicles with low-powered turbo or supercharged engines, including Suzuki Cappucino, Daihatsu Copen and all Smart cars. Also exempt are vehicles used as a part of the driver’s employment and at the request of the employer.
Well that's the first are of stupidity. Presumably that means a P Plater can drive a fucking Lambo if he's being paid to, but not if it's his own regardless of how much insurance he's bought or how responsible he might be. The assumption is that in a fast car he's going to be a dangerous and irresponsible twat. Unless it's for work of course, in which case he'll miraculously transform into a fine, upstanding and trustworthy young citizen until clocking off time. Fucking hell! Who dreams this stuff up?
There are clearly more turbo and super-charged cars not in the ‘high-powered’ cate-gory than those already exempt. The issue is the association of forced induction [which improves] combustion efficiency. While that does enable more power, this in itself does not make a car fast.
It could be argued that there is nothing inherently high-powered about a V8 either, but in practice virtually all V8s in the past 10 years have had performance pretensions, so the restriction is reasonable.
Is it? Why? Again, this is a presumption that they'll drive dangerously. I can understand the concern, and I have to admit that I might have hospitalized or killed myself if I'd had my current car when I was 17. But since a Victorian P Plater could legally drive that too the regulations really don't help much. The reason I didn't is mainly that the Bank Of Mum And Dad only funded something that had the top speed of a continent and pulled like Joseph Merrick in a convent. Oooh, fucking hell, parental and personal responsibility. Can we have that? That okay with you, RACV? For fuck's sake, stop sucking up to pointlessly stupid and presumptive authoritarian government cockwads and fucking stand up for your members.

But back to government stupidity:
Many makers are introducing smaller turbo models which have adequate performance but much improved fuel efficiency. The 90kW entry level Golf, for example, has a five-star ANCAP crash rating and barely enough power to worry a rice pudding, yet it’s prohibited for a P-plater. Perversely, the 184kW Golf R32 is permitted as it does not have a turbo charger. Likewise, placid versions of the very safe Mercedes C-Class and Saab 9-3 are also banned.
Typically the government has been too damn clever for its own good and ended up banning P platers from cars they should, by their own standards, be encouraging the P platers to use. Muh. Muh. Muhhhhh. But I have to return to the issue of presuming they'll be poor drivers, or more so than average. Yes, they probably will be less able to handle a more powerful car but I'm not comfortable with this blanket ban approach. I could write at length on road safety issues both here and in the UK, and I probably will one day, but I do feel that it's another area where the authorities are trying simple solutions to complex problems and, when they don't work, trying more of the same thing that just failed to deliver. But I think the presumption that they’ll be shit before they even start driving is unfair and probably doesn’t improve road safety much, and also suggests that the powers that be lack confidence in the driving test. As for banning the over simplistic approach of banning turbos without looking at how the car actually performs…
The Victorian Government has noted this growing anomaly and in March announced that P platers will be able to apply for exemptions for vehicles.
Oh great. The implied concession that they've fucked up is a good one, but wouldn't have been better to just ditch what is clearly a bad rule and rethink the whole idea?


No easy way out.

It's not often I disagree with the Ambush Predator, and not because of the teeth and claws but because I usually find myself nodding at what she has to say. But while I was picking though the bones outside her cave I found something that she's left some meat on.
"Life clocks are a lie! Carousel is a lie! There is no renewal!"
Much kudos for the Logan's Run reference there, O feasome toothed one. This is going to be about the state offing old people then, yes?

Er... actually, no. Not really.
Mixed feelings about this move:
The Royal College of Nursing is to meet Scottish MP Margo MacDonald to discuss proposals on legalising assisted suicide after the organisation dropped its five-year opposition to the policy.
I might be taking this a little too literally, but that sounds like nothing more than a professional body representing nurses no longer supporting the state preventing people who want to end their lives from doing so with expert assistance.
It seems there’s a movement afoot to ‘normalise’ this, supported by polls:
The move comes as a poll found that 74% of people want doctors to be allowed to help terminally ill people end their lives.

The survey in today's Times found that six out of 10 people said they wanted friends and relatives to be able to help their dying loved ones to take their own lives, without fear of prosecution.
When the alternative for most is likely to be a drawn out and miserable, and possibly painful, ending on the NHS is it surprising? I suspect the fear of being dead is now smaller than the fear of the process of dying, but also that people are starting to want the ultimate - in more ways than one - control of their lives.
However, while I can’t say that I think those who take their relatives abroad to Dignitas should be prosecuted (far from it)...
Excuse the interruption because that point is not black and white. As I mentioned in a comment at Julia's, we would currently expect an investigation if there was good reason to believe that someone jumped off a bridge at the urging of grasping relatives who wanted Gran's money early or freedom from the hassle of looking after her or whatever, and if there was evidence we'd expect a prosecution as well. There is no reason this should not be applied to someone who was coerced into getting on the plane and going to Dignitas, and in that respect the law shouldn't change. But it certainly should stop routinely going after the grieving relatives of someone who has chosen to end their life of their own free will and has asked for help in doing so. The law simply should not have anything to do with that decision unless there is reasonable suspicion of coercion.

I doubt Julia and I actually disagree here and imagine that she'd still want someone prosecuted for buying the Olds a one way ticket to Switzerland and dragging them out of a bridge game and onto the plane against their will. I'm more clarifying where I stand on this point than having a pop at Julia.
... I’m wary of this becoming the norm. And I’m not alone.
The Christian Nurses and Midwives organisation said today it regretted the RCN's policy shift. Secretary Steve Fouch said it sent out the wrong signals "at a time when there is growing anxiety about how we will care for the elderly and severely disabled in the future".
Their statement will be pooh-poohed as ‘religious scaremongering’.
Not necessarily religious scaremongering, but certainly religiously influenced thinking. Couple of points here. First, without wanting to go on about invisible sky fairies or sound like Richard Dawkins when a group of people believe something is Holy Writ you simply cannot have a rational debate with them about it. This is a deal breaker for most Christians, something that they'd see as quite un-Christian to support. Fair enough. I don't think they should support homosexuality either when their Holy Book tells them not to, but nor should they get in the way of those who are gay or those who want an assisted walk towards the light. Second point is that I think the Christian Nurses mob are attacking a straw man by talking about growing anxiety over aged and disabled care in the future. There is indeed anxiety about it in the UK because it's largely state provided and the fund, if you choose to dignify it by calling it such, is well and truly fucked. But the fear that legal assisted suicide will be offered as an alternative to increasing poverty and misery and despair is illogical when suicide is always going to be an option anyway for the majority who are physically able to take it. Naturally they'd be forced to use methods that tend to be crude and messy rather than being offered something that will send them to sleep and prevent them from waking up again, but the point is that when Britain can't afford to care for pensioners and the disabled in a humane way because of the Ponzi scheme that NI has always been some will choose suicide over slowly starving and freezing to death anyway. All that would be changed by allowing assisted suicide is that those who want out but are unable to take their own lives because of disability or because they left it until they were too frail have the same choice as those who are more physically able. In some respects it's like putting in a wheelchair ramp to the shops so everyone can go, except of course that those who do won't be coming back.
...a glance across the Channel to the continent will show this has already been experienced in the Netherlands:
Euthanasia critics have talked about the "slippery slope" as a possibility; in the Netherlands, it is a fact.

Many old people now fear Dutch hospitals. More than 10% of senior citizens who responded to a recent survey, which did not mention euthanasia, volunteered that they feared being killed by their doctors without their consent. One senior-citizen group printed up wallet cards that tell doctors that the cardholder opposes euthanasia.
Is this just panic and scaremongering?
Well, I wouldn't call it an entirely rational fear, though not entirely irrational either given what this guy did. But since the survey specifically didn't mention euthanasia the 10% who fear their doctor killing them may not be afraid they'll be euthanized so much as murdered for more prosaic reasons. There is also the point that elderly people suffering from dementia can be a bit paranoid sometimes (I have personal experience of this though fortunately we see far more good days than bad ones). Needless to say dementia patients who are too far gone to be able to make a rational decision shouldn't even be in consideration for assisted suicide. Also euthanasia will probably remain illegal since it doesn't necessarily imply consent of the one being euthanized, whereas assisted suicide does. I feel the distinction is quite an important one and not just semantics. The whole issue after all is about individual choice.
Can it be dismissed as ‘something that can’t happen here’?

Well, we are on the right road to it:
What makes the Dutch comfortable with euthanasia? One factor is that their doctors became comfortable with it. "The Dutch have got so far so fast because right from the beginning, they have had the medical profession on their side," Derek Humphrey, founder of the Hemlock Society, told the Toronto Globe and Mail last September. "Until we get a significant part of the medical profession on our side, we won't get very far."
Have the Dutch got so far particularly fast? I think that's a matter of opinion. We could just as easily say that the Dutch have simply been less slow than everybody else. In any case it seems inapplicable to the UK where, according to those surveys, the majority of British people are way ahead of the doctors in becoming comfortable with it. To repeat what I said at the beginning, all that is happening is that one, aha, body in the medical profession no longer supports the state actively obstructing assisted suicide. That's it, and I'd hardly say it qualifies as having the medicos on side.
So, how has this gained such a grip on the doctors?

Glad you asked:
How did Dutch doctors change their thinking so dramatically in the space of one lifetime?

The path to the death culture began when doctors learned to think like accountants. As the cost of socialized medicine in the Netherlands grew, doctors were lectured about the importance of keeping expenses down.

In many hospitals, signs were posted indicating how much old-age treatments cost taxpayers. The result was a growing "social pressure" from doctors and others, says Arno Heltzel, a spokesman for the Catholic Union of the Elderly, the largest Dutch senior-citizen group, which favors voluntary euthanasia. "Old people have to excuse themselves for living. When they say that all of their friends are dead, people say, 'Maybe it is time for you to go too,' rather than, 'You need to find new friends.' "

I bet NICE has some of those posters ready to go to the printers already…
I'm no fan of the grossly inappropriately named NICE* and wouldn't put much past them. But given that this comes from a spokesman for a Catholic organisation I have to wonder if there's a little bias in there. In fact the emotionally charged phrase "path to death culture" makes me wonder about bias in the whole article.

However, I do concede that British doctors are forced to think like accountants, or more probably are actually controlled by accountants. And obviously from a cost point of view there's a lot to be said for encouraging the old and sick and disabled to save a few bob for the increasingly cash strapped state, stuck with the consequences of its own NI Ponzi scheme, by holding their breath for the next 20 billion years. But as I said above, suicide is an option right now so the state can already drive people towards it to save money. It could be argued that it in fact it's already done so in the past and continues to this day, though more through ineptness and stupidity rather than as a deliberate aim. Still, the point is that I don't think the availability of a comfortable assisted suicide is going to change much when the pensions cesspool hits the fan because in the absence of a Dignitas style option I expect orderly queues to form at bridges and cliff tops instead.

All the same I don't trust the government as far as I could throw it and have used pretty much this same lack of trust and thin end of the wedge argument against letting the state bring back capital punishment (or retain it where it already exists), and I argued it with the Ambush Predator herself when we discussed it here and here. It's ironic that Julia is now making a similar argument to me opposing assisted suicide. We're both using the same argument to oppose deliberate action to cause death, and on both occasions we're taking opposing sides of the argument. But as I said in the comments to Julia's "Carousel" post, if you trust the government not to abuse the power to execute criminals why not also trust them on assisted suicide? Equally I could be asked why I distrust the government on execution but support assisted suicide, and the answer is because I don't think it's the same thing anyway. Again, I want to make assisted suicide distinct from euthanasia - one implies choice and the other does not**. Aside from the fact that the British government lacks the balls to kill murderers and rapists and therefore seems unlikely to have an appetite for wasting grannies, we're not actually talking about giving the state more power anyway. Quite the reverse, we're talking about taking away the power to obstruct that it already has. Fundamentally I believe that people own their bodies and when they don't want to use them anymore they should be able to seek expert help. I'm not saying the state should provide the service. In fact for the reasons Julia mentions, and for the reasons I oppose the state having the power of execution, I'd say it certainly should not provide the service. It shouldn't even ensure that anyone does. It should simply keep out of the way of rational adults who wish to end their lives without resorting to the crude options that are mostly all that's available to them now. In other words, if I should actively choose to die at some point in the future, rather than sticking the end of my Beretta in my mouth and trying to reach the trigger or traumatizing a train driver by jumping in front of his office I ought to be free to look for someone with the medical know how to send me into the forever in a state of supreme fluffiness***. And providing there is no suggestion that I was coerced this should be absolutely no concern of the government. It should be a decision made by one individual and a service provided by one or more others, a transaction for a song sheet and seat in the Choir Eternal. It should be much the same as buying a car or a computer except that presumably you won't come back to life three months out of warranty or have to pay extra for the essential update to Decomposition 2.0.

In short, and as usual, what I want is more freedom. Our bodies and lives are our own, and whether we choose to end them ourselves or to seek assistance should be no business of the state unless there is a good reason for thinking it might not have been entirely voluntary. That aside the state should fuck off and leave us all alone.

* I've long suspected NICE is also an example of coming up with the acronym first and then finding a vaguely relevant name that fits the acronym. Given the often not nice nature of NICE we might as well change it to the Clinicians' Unit for Nationwide Treatment, and yes I did come up with the name the same way.
** Doesn't necessarily imply coercion either. I'm just saying that someone can choose to be euthanized OR someone can be euthanized regardless of choice, as opposed to an assisted suicide which by definition strongly suggests a decision to end one's own life. Suicide that comes as a result of coercion would be suicide in name only and in practice more like euthanasia, or possibly even murder.
*** I might not be able to find anyone, but that's not a concern of the government either.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Things I still don't get about Australia - No. 8

Competitive swimming. It's an Aussie obsession in the way that athletics, er, isn't. Sure, there was plenty of attention on both during the Olympics but since then I've seen various Aussie swimmers advertising different products, but none of the athletes who made news in Beijing. But that's not what I really don't get. That's just like being keener on Rugby League than Rugby Union. No, it's that swimming is such a big deal that the arguments over high tech swim suits are in the news, and I don't understand the controversy. Why don't they all just use the same suits and then everyone's even again? Some people are saying that using these high tech suits is just like cheating by using drugs, but surely that's bollocks. Drugs come with downsides so those sports people who don't want to risk their health hand an advantage to drug cheats, but a swim suit is something you take off again after you've finished. At a push I can see why holders of old records might take a little dent to the ego when it falls to someone wearing a clever suit, but is that really worse than seeing it taken by someone who's just better? Let everyone use the new suits. I just don't get why it's an issue.

You'd have thought they'd be nearly recession proof.

All businesses do deals from time to time, and in these financially tight times it seems brothels are no different. German brothels have nicked an idea long used by Chinese restaurants and are offering a flat rate fee for the pleasurable company of as many prostitutes as your, ah, stamina can cope with.
...imaginative offers include rebates for pensioners and people on benefits, 10 per cent discounts for men who arrive by bicycle or public transport, and free shoe-polishing for customers who stay overnight.
But it is the flat-rate deals – which are priced as low as £60 (€70) – that have attracted particular controversy in a country where prostitution is legal and generally well-tolerated.
The promotion is popular which brothel owners who have to pay their sex workers a fixed daily wage whether or not they have any clients.
If it happens here I'm sure it'll be called All-You-Can-Root-For-A-Hundred-Bucks or something.

The strange thing though is that they need to do this. I thought sex would be mostly recession proof, but maybe when money's tight guys will go for cheaper alternatives. Being happily married it's not something I've ever given a great deal of thought to, but I'm certainly not bent out of shape about the idea of a legal business promoting itself. Unlike some.
But conservative politicians have expressed disgust at the innovation and have ordered a wave of police raids on sex clubs in an effort to bring it to an end.
“This is an outrageous violation of human dignity,” Heribert Rech, the Baden-Württemberg interior minister, told The Times.
“So-called flat-rate sex is an immoral development which cannot be tolerated in our society.”
Oh, piss off. Who the fuck are they to rule on morality and what can and can't be tolerated? Locals who object can always move away or avoid that road but look, if you're going to get bent out of shape about that sort of thing you are, not to put too fine a point on it, fucked - brothels exist, okay? End of. Get over it.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Fucking Mr Toad.

Just as pay per mile motoring seems to have been quietly dropped David Camernong has popped up to say that the Tories will charge tolls for new roads.
The road tolls are among a range of new taxes David Cameron is being forced to consider as public borrowing is forecast to rise to more than £1trillion.
Well, you know what, Dave? You could always try spending less, much less, as suggested by a number of bloggers and probably felt by a significant proportion of the electorate who don't understand why they deal with cash flow problems by cutting down and governments deal with the same thing by spending even more. I applaud your honesty but tolls and making hard up people pay more is neither going to work without some massive spending reductions nor win many repeat voters over for the circa 2014 election.


Savaged by Porridge.

The government has been accused of failing to develop a green economy for the 21st Century by its own outgoing adviser on sustainable development.
Sir Jonathon Porritt, who left his role at the weekend, criticised ministers on the environment and social justice, and for failing to protect UK prosperity.
He told the BBC the biggest problems were in the Treasury, business and transport departments.
The government said it had a "strong record" on environmental policies.
Sir Jonathon told BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin that the three departments singled out were dogmatically following an outdated Thatcherite model of economic growth regardless of the social and environmental consequences.
Oh, what bollocks. Did Porridge spend the fucking 80s in a coma? Whatever you think of Thatcher, and I'm no fan, you can hardly say that a key feature of her economic policies was to spunk away billions and billions on wankery and state expansion. I'm not saying it didn't happen at all, but that at least she said it wasn't desirable. This is just the whining of some anti-human tit who feels he hasn't got his way because the government, deranged as it is, won't take the country back to the dark ages or kill half the population.


More bullshit reporting about guns.

What the fuck is it with The Telegraph these days? Does nobody read through articles for consistency, let alone do some fucking research to see if the line taken actually stands up to scrutiny. Can they in actual fact fucking count?

Read this carefully:
Three children have died in the US after being shot at home, apparently by siblings who stumbled upon loaded weapons, over the past few days.
Three have died - remember that, because it'll be important shortly.
In the latest incident on Friday evening, a nine-year-old boy was shot in the head while at home near Beaumont, Texas.
Three children were at home alone while their father was at work when the shooting occurred. The father is a single parent and raising the children - whose ages have not been disclsoed by police - with the help of relatives. A neighbour called police after a child came running to her describing the incident.
Okay, one.
Elsewhere in the US, two other young children have been shot by their siblings in the space of 48 hours.
In Las Vegas, a two-year-old girl was in a critical condition after being shot by her four-year-old brother at their home, police said.
In South Carolina, a four-year-old boy was shot in the stomach by his three-year-old brother after the younger boy found a gun. The injured boy was expected to make a full recovery, police said.
That's er... still one. "Critical condition" is not dead, and neither is "injured and expected to recover". Yet the sloppiness that passes for journalism at The Telegraph these days permits the headline to scream "THREE DEAD". They don't even say for certain that the poor kid who was shot in the head actually died - not likely but it's not unheard of for people to survive being shot in the head.

And it's not just the writer's confusion over dead and injured and numbers.
In the US, the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the Constitution. The pro gun lobby wields enormous power and more than 200 million firearms, including military grade machine guns, are in private hands.
I'm pretty sure military grade machine guns in private hands are as rare as rocking horse shit. There's bound to be some but with regulation on such weapons going back 75 years to the 1934 National Firearms Act, and since that says that machine guns - and we're talking selective fire or fully auto weapons here, not semi-auto guns that just look the same - owning one is illegal for civilians without special permission from the Treasury Department. That makes it arguably more a privilege than a right these days (despite the Second Amendment) and I suspect the relatively small number of owners, like the minority of British and Australian people who are also privileged among their respective citizens by being gun owners, take that more seriously and therefore behave responsibly. Gun owners generally do not want to give the state an excuse to turn them into former gun owners, and the harder having a given gun is the more that applies. In fact legally owned "military grade machine guns", as the writer puts it, have apparently been used in only two murders since 1934, and one of those murderers was actually a policeman. In short, the whole "military grade machine guns" is misleading and meaningless bullshit. There's violence involving machine guns, sure, but we're now moving into the realms of illegally held weapons, and criminals are noteworthy for not obeying the law whatever it says.

The estimate of 200 million guns is wrong as well*. It was about 223 million back in 1995 (PDF) and it doesn't seem likely that it would have gone down.

Then we have:
Critics of the current gun laws link high levels of gun crime and gun-related injury with high levels of gun ownership.
This is factually correct but where's the opposing point of view for balance? Er, nowhere. So I'll provide it by going back to what I wrote on this topic in March.
We should count only homicides and maybe accidental deaths because a fair number of gun deaths are suicides, and it’s a reasonable assumption that in the absence of guns they’ll just stick their heads in the oven or something and the number of deaths won’t change. Normally the rate of gun violence in the USA is brought up at this point, and it is true that America has both a very high level of gun ownership and a much higher rate of gun deaths than most western nations. However, when looked at in detail the correlation between gun ownership and violence breaks down. Firstly, if 2001 is a typical year, and I don’t know of any reason why it wouldn’t be, well over half are suicides. The level of accidental deaths is about 2.5% of the total, which is pretty bad but arguably could be improved with better training for gun owners. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s very very low compared to car crash deaths, almost all of which are going to be unintentional. That’s despite there being more guns (PDF) in the US than cars, bikes, trucks and buses put together. Secondly, while the famous Second Amendment and various federal gun laws apply in all states, both local gun laws and rates of gun violence vary from one state to the next. Washington, DC has a shocking homicide rate (nearly 6 times the national average and about 400 times that of the UK), often involving the use of guns, and yet until recently had extremely strict gun control laws that were comparable with those in the UK. In fact handguns were effectively banned there two decades before the UK, although it’s only fair to point out that the UK has never had a rate of gun ownership comparable to that in the US. Conversely some states with very relaxed gun laws have a far lower rate of gun crime. Vermont has virtually no gun control law at all and the total homicide rate is less than half the US national average and gun homicides make up only a fifth of those – it has the second lowest rate of gun homicides the US. How is it possible to argue that tough gun laws make us all safer and very loose control is dangerous when Washington is a relative bloodbath and Vermont isn’t? Or to put it another way, how is it possible when the murder rate is roughly the same in Vermont as Scotland? This is used by some pro-gun people to argue that more gun ownership actually increases public safety and fewer guns just allows criminals with illegal guns a free rein to terrorise the innocent. Personally I think there may be something in that but it’s a bit of a stretch since the relationship across all states doesn’t seem to be linear, and in any event correlation no more proves causation than do correlations between high gun ownership and high gun crime. But a poor correlation should certainly dent any confidence in causation, and Vermont, Scotland and Washington show that the correlation between liberal gun law and gun crime just doesn’t exist. There are other places in the world where there the expected trend doesn’t happen. Many nations with tougher gun laws than the US have significantly higher murder rates, while the relatively Swiss are armed to the teeth since they retain National Service in the form of a civil defence duty for all adult males, and it’s the accepted norm for them to take their assault rifles home with them. And I’m not talking about “assault rifles” as usually used by the anti-gun lobby, but a proper military weapon capable of selective fire (automatic weapons were banned in the US in the 30s so any talk of “assault rifles” legally in private hands is largely bollocks). The gun murder rate in Switzerland is higher than that of the UK or Australia but far lower than that of the US overall, and that ignores the fact that some particularly violent states and cities are skewing the trend in the US. And leaving aside political violence the situation is similar in Israel – loads of armed citizens not killing each other very much. Looking to the past, the UK has not had gun laws for as long as many people suppose and had far less gun crime than it does now. Pre gun control Britain was, believe it or not, a safer place to be. Well, not safer as such, but despite guns being legally in private hands you were very unlikely to be shot before the cholera or something got you.
By the way, the whole thing deals with a number of issues and arguments surrounding guns and gun control so it's not a quick read, but I'd hope worth it if you've got half an hour to spare.

Lastly, and missing altogether is a very salient little stat regarding children and guns in the US - that vastly more drown in swimming pools than die from being shot. In fact swimming pools are said to be 100 times more dangerous, and yet the demand in the US to ban swimming pools for the sake of the chiiiildren, or from condescending Europeans clicking their tongues at the American gun culture, is virtually non-existent.

I don't wish to diminish the tragedy of the death in Texas or the deaths sorry, injuries, suffered by the other two children, or the approximately 175+ children likely to die in America each year from gun shot wounds. Nor do I think there isn't something to be said for better gun control to help prevent tragedies, though I use the term "gun control" to refer to individual responsibility rather than more laws inflicted on gun owners. For example, guns locked in a gun safe by the owner are pretty much under his control. Leaving loaded guns lying around where toddlers can find them is not under control. Should gun owners be made to keep them in safes all the time? Well, we are here in Oz and also in the UK, but in the US I believe that's not the case. I think it depends on the circumstances. I'd always want a safe because Australian law doesn't let me just wander around with the things all day long, and frankly they're not cheap and I'd always want them safely under lock and key. In most of America you can have a gun for defence (not an acceptable reason in Australia or the UK even for those guns that are allowed by law) and so if that's why you bought one then locking it up kind of defeats the object of having it. Yet not everyone will want or be able to find room for a gun safe, and that leaves only two options - take it with you or leave it at home and cross your fingers. Part of the debate in the US revolves around permits to carry concealed weapons, and needless to say the anti gun lobby are up in -ahem- arms about the idea. But if we accept that a gun left unattended and not secured within a house is not a gun that's being controlled then isn't it better and safer to be somewhere on the owner's person? It'd be interesting to look into whether concealed carry permits have increased or decreased in recent years, and if so whether there's been any effect on tragic accidents involving children. The numbers might not be enough but one thing is a given: children can't misuse and accidentally fire a gun which isn't in the home at the time. That's what I call gun control, keeping guns safe and kids and guns apart.

UPDATE: By coincidence Counting Cats has a link to a bit about the self defence part. I'll have to have a look later.

*Yeah, I know he said "more than 200 million" but he could have done some research and said more than 220 million, couldn't he?

Glass houses and pizza cutters.

Over at Dick Puddlecote's place I left a comment on his post about the Tasered petrol sniffer. He'd talked about the law against possession of a sniffing substance and brought up a few other daft ideas either already in place or in the pipeline and said
So that's their libertarian credentials well and truly gone.
I replied:
Not entirely, but Australia can be fairly inconsistent. Most states have legalized prostitution in brothels, and amazingly the sky didn't fall in. On the other hand it sometimes seems you need a licence to fart in a westward direction... and three more licences for north, south and east. It is true that failure to win The Ashes will mean that Ricky Ponting must be smeared in Vegemite and staked out in the middle of Melbourne Cricket Ground for a week, though apparently it's not an actual law but a penalty clause in his contract.

Mostly it's low level and mildly annoying nannying, and while that's disappointing and shattered my illusions of a country of free spirited and independent minded Aussies I have to say it's not as bad as the UK was when I left (and of course more lunatic nannying has happened there since - we had a good laugh about the clown shoes).
I think I've said it before but just in case I'll say it now: one disappointment about Australia is that the independent minded and free spirited Aussie stereotype that I thought the place would be full of is either endangered or mythical. My own father in law told me that I'd moved to the most bureaucratic and over-regulated state in the most bureaucratic and over-regulated country, which is something of an exaggeration on his part but as I said to Dick Puddlecote, there's a fair amount of that low level nannying and it is annoying.

That said there is far less of the really worrying Orwellian shit that we left behind, and of course the UK does annoying low level nannying as well as or better than anywhere else in the world - so much so that it's a specialty of one of my favourite bloggers. And today I see that a woman in her late twenties was asked for ID before being allowed to buy a £1.50 pizza cutter. Yeah, the most fearsome weapon in the gangstas arsenal... not. Even here they haven't reached the stage of demanding drivers' licences for a fucking pizza wheel, and only recently I bought some big, shiny and very fucking sharp kitchen knives - yes, DP, they were getting on for the size of that one that Paul Hogan had in Crocodile Dundee, and came in a wooden block that could be used to batter someone to death if you didn't want to fillet them - without providing them with anything other than payment.

There's stupidity in both countries but as I've said before, on the whole it's less intrusive here in Oz. Or at least it feels like it.
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