Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You may not have noticed...

...but we have a woman PM. Interesting. But frankly, it doesn't interest me a whole lot. Namely, the way Gillard became PM. I never liked Rudd, but from the ALP's perspective, he was a savior. John Howard was seeming indestructible. He took on the ALP right in the 98 and 01 election against Beazley, and when Labor put on a comparative lefty, Latham, Howard didn't just win-he even took the holy grail of mandates, control of the Senate. The concept of Rudd becoming PM in the next few years would be as ludicrous as saying that Obama would be the next President back in 04. However, with some luck, Rudd pulled it off and put Labor back in power after 11 years in the wilderness.

However, all it took was a few bad opinion polls to turn the factional bosses against their savior, ditching him with an obvious lack of loyalty and replacing him with a fresh face. I understand Julia really didn't have a choice; it was going to happen anyway. My problem isn't with her; it's with the ALP culture of winning the next election at all costs. I doubt Labor would be terribly troubled by the concept of Abbott winning. He would be unlikely to last more than a term, and would probably scare so many centrist voters, it would be the 13 year golden age of Hawke/Keating all over again. It's clear the ALP doesn't mind the far-right too much; the right faction, after all, was willing to preference fundie Steve Fielding over what should be Labor's coalition friends, the Greens.

All in all, it's the ALP culture that I dislike the most. The Liberal Party may be comprised of the big business/industry's bitches and lunatic theocrats, but it's clear there's more flexibility toeing the party line and voting with your conscience. There's a good reason why the LPA factions get more news coverage than the ALP factions; LPA factions are allowed to freely express their thoughts. As we've seen with Garrett, there is no such freedom within Labor. It's toe the party line all the way.

I was quite pessimistic about the amount of 'change' a supposed member of the ALP's left faction would bring about as well. Gillard had continued Howard's policies of a two-tiered education system, wherein the children of the wealthy received a better education than the children of the poor. This pessimism was vindicated today, when Gillard confirmed that she would continue the ludicrous and discriminatory policies of preventing gays from marrying.

Once again, the Greens have proven to be the only party progressives should vote for.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Steve Fielding's descent into madness

I think the stress of the upcoming federal election has finally broken Mr. 1.9%'s tenuous grip on reality. Faced with the undeniable facts that he will be booted out of an electorate he never deserved in the first place, Steve has been driven, as the Joker would say, stark slavering mad. That's the only reason I can come up with for his increasingly erratic press releases and speeches.

Firstly, his attack on the Greens' drug policies:
Family First Leader Senator Steve Fielding says the Greens are up to their old tricks with their plan to stick heroin injecting rooms on street corners across the country.

Senator Fielding’s comments come after it was revealed that the Greens will continue their soft stance on drugs ahead of this year federal election.

“As a community we should be getting tougher on drugs not softer,” Senator Fielding said.
Because the war on drugs has worked out so well for the US and Mexico. But here's the gold:
Senator Fielding said the policy of introducing heroin injecting rooms would only support the supply of illegal drugs and line the pockets of dealers. “Melbourne has already had one drug war too many, just imagine the increase in demand for these illegal narcotics if the Greens were able to get their way,” Senator Fielding said.
To quote Robot Chicken: Seriously dude, what the fuck. The whole point of decriminalisation is to negate a drug war and take the criminal element out of drug use, the freakin' opposite of what Steve claims will happen. Steve isn't just for supporting a failed drug policy, he simply doesn't have a clue of the issues he's talking about. Which, frankly, is unsurprising as Sarah Palin being a clueless liar (maybe they should bunk together sometime).

And having finished that sideshow, it's on to the main attraction:
Parental leave open to abortion rorts: Fielding
Only a true fundie could link a parental scheme to the dreaded surgical procedure. Long rant cut short, the Fluke is adamant that if the Bill is passed, welfare queens all over Australia will be getting pregnant just so that they can have an abortion at 20 weeks and collect the parental payment. Even Andrew 'Wormtongue' Bolt is saying "Dude...that's just low."

Steve has also written an opinion piece for the Punch. The entire piece reads like grade 6 material. Scattered with childish phrases like "mums who slog their guts out all day", the writing doesn't even achieve basic logical sense (even Piers 'Scattergun' Akerman can convey his messages). The notion is that the Bill will treat prisoners better than stay-at-home parents, which is bizarre as the point of the Bill is to treat them equally. The Fluke writes that these parents "don't receive a dime", a problem which the Bill Steve is lambasting is designed to rectify. Like I said, no logical sense.

Finally, to add insult to desperation, he writes " even prisoners and prostitutes are valued more highly than stay-at-home parents" which ignores the truly horrifying thought that sex workers may be entirely normal people with children themselves.

After this election, the Senate just won't be the same.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Kevin Rudd: stuck between a rock and a hard place

Life isn't all to good for Kevin at the moment. Trying to implement his RSPT is proving more difficult than imagined, as the mining industry and its bitch, the Liberal Party, are doing their best as Rudd destroying the 'golden goose.' I can't imagine for the life of me why so many people are opposing the tax. I can understand why the mining magnates are furious, as they will probably be able to buy one less luxury yacht because of it. But asides from them, everybody stands to gain from the tax. However, smears are notoriously effective, and Rudd stands to lose several seats in WA because of the intense opposition there. Whether this will be enough to give us an Abbot Administration (**shudder**) is to be seen.

However, running parallel to this is a growing narrative about Rudd. He had been elected on a plank of action on climate change, and his collapse on the issue and deferment of it to 2013 has pushed many Kevin07ists to the Greens, which can now legitimately claim to be the only party that's willing to take action. This policy backflip-after Rudd had called it "the greatest moral challenge of our time"-created the appearance of a weak leader. A guy who wanted to make change, but was too spineless to push for it. If Rudd were to collapse on the RSPT, the narrative would be complete, and he would become almost as untrustworthy as Howard.

If Rudd were to junk the tax, the only possible way he could salvage his reputation would be to immediately claim to plan on implementing a new carbon tax in 2011, and state his to negotiate with the Greens on this issue. Doing so might reestablish his green cred, and signal a push to a more progressive Australia, which would reduce the primary Green vote. Unfortunately, Rudd is a firm right-winger, and the idea of negotiating with the Greens to him probably sounds worse than negotiating with Abbott (there's a reason why Labor dedicates so much time to hating them). Thus, Rudd is stuck: continue with his RSPT to the (very) bitter end, or dump it to push for the green vote. Neither is attractive.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Let's see if we can lower our international standing even further!

That seems to be Israel's current thought process. After the colossal fuckup that was an attempt to flex her muscles, the bastion of Arabian democracy is now soiling her image on the domestic front.

ISRAELI MP Haneen Zoabi faces being stripped of her citizenship for joining last week's aid flotilla that ended in a bloody showdown with Israeli commandos.

The move to strip Ms Zoabi of her citizenship is being driven by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who has accused the Palestinian Knesset member of participating in an act of treason.


''In recent days,'' Mr Yishai wrote, ''Israel's citizens have witnessed how an Israeli member of parliament, Haneen Zoabi, headed a group of terrorists who aimed to hurt Israel Defence Forces soldiers, under the protection of her parliamentary immunity.

''This is a premeditated act of treason and there is documented proof of this,'' he wrote.


Last night, Israeli MPs were set to begin debating a law that would allow an MP to be removed from parliament ''if he or she acts in support of an enemy nation or terrorist group engaged in armed struggle against Israel, participates in incitement to racism and rejects the existence of Israel as a democratic Jewish state''.
To recap: to oppose Israel's brutal, Punisher-esque, vigilante style attacks on activists is to warrant being stripped of citizenship and is SIDING WITH THE TERR'ISTS. With logic like that, why doesn't Ben just dissolve parliament for the national crime of holding terr'ist sympathisers? It's hardly that much more of a step to a dictatorship.

Monday, June 7, 2010

In which I agree with Andrew 'Broken clock' Bolt

Yes, it does, on rare occasions, happen. It certainly doesn't excuse the filth he's written, but Andy does sometimes write worthy stuff.

Case in point:
Australian doctors are considering introducing a controversial form of genital mutilation carried out on baby girls.
The Royal Australian New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) says the practice of "ritual nicks" could meet the cultural needs of some women and potentially save some people from drastic surgery.

The practice is said to be common among some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities but has been known to leave some young girls scarred for life when not carried out in proper clinical facilities.
Andrew writes:
Will police will instruct husbands on the “safe” beating of wives to avoid worse damage?

What’s at stake here is not just the abhorrent mutilation of girls, but an abhorrent presumption that these wicked things need to have their sexual appetites permanently and sugically controlled and drastically reduced. It’s that presumption that also suggests we will surrender our principles without actually convincing many to surrender their practices. I suspect the reality of the mutilation is desired more than the mere ritual.
His anti-multicultural rant notwithstanding, I agree entirely. If human rights and cultural views clash, there is no debate. Misogyny isn't acceptable in any way, shape or form, especially a form which has no use but to control a girl's sexuality. And to anybody who thinks there's a double standard between male circumcision and female genital mutilation, the difference is obvious: circumcision doesn't inhibit a boy's sexual pleasure. Genital mutilation does. The whole point is to prevent girls and women from enjoying sex.

Equally, I highly recommend this.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hiatus 2: revenge of the work overload

My last post was three weeks ago. That's OK, because it featured wonderful/tasty pictures of Daniel Craig. To recap: I've finished two presentations, and hand in an essay on flight strategies tomorrow. After that, I may be able to do some more regular posts.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

T to the A to the P: 10th Anniversary Special!

It's time to celebrate. This post marks the 10 post I've done on various dazzlingly attractive people. I won't bother linking to the previous folks, because a) I'm lazy and b) it's cool to see other sex-related posts. Anyway, I thought that for the special ed. I'd go back to where this topic started.

And for General "Kiss that whole chest from top to bottom. And then everywhere else" Bron:

Monday, April 26, 2010

But pathetic mud-slinging is all we have!

Jebus. After the Greens-Liberal deal, the tireless ‘legalisedrugslegalisedrugslegalisedrugs’ tirade that gets rolled out every election, and the simple fact that there is no actual reason why lefties should keep voting Labor, those bloody hippies should’ve gotten the point; that we are going to keep smearing them with every ridiculous fictional attack until the end of time itself.

But no. Instead, that jackass Richard Di Natale is trying to get all parties to sign pledges not to smear each other! Did you hear him? “There’s been a trend, I think, over a number of years for increasingly deceptive and misleading conduct in election campaigns…it’s really quite easy of all political persuasions to lie, to deceive and to make false allegations.” Get stuffed, you communist.

Look Richie, haven’t you seen the headlines on the Spencer Street Soviet? The Myki fiasco? The cronyism, secrecy and corruption that’s continually leaking out? The millions wasted on the North-South pipeline and the comically expensive desal plant? The urban sprawl where we’ve done nothing to support public transport? Do you actually think most voters would still support Vic Labor after 10 years of increasing incompetence?

Of bloody course not. Especially when we are still pushing further to the right to take Liberal seats, and our own seats are at risk of being taken by you dope smokers. There’s no way we’re not going to hit you with everything we have and hope that the electorate is dumb enough to buy it (which is likely, given that they have been buying it for the past few elections in other states).

Or, as I put so well, “The November election will be decided on the issues…we will be campaigning honestly on the issues and keeping other parties accountable for their alternative election promises.” In other words, sending out leaflets claiming that voting Greens will result in the destruction of civilisation itself. Hey, these idiots bought those all other smears, why would they see through this one?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why Feministing is teh awesome.

Because sometimes, other people say what you think in ways better than you could ever imagine.

Slut. What a word. It simultaneously describes and dominates, classifies and corrodes its subject. Its most basic use is to describe someone who is sexually promiscuous, but it has come to entail so much more these days--worthlessness, dirtiness, even the very state of being a woman.

Who is it used by? It's used by men to justify their insecurity about the power they see in women's sexuality. It's used by women to establish their own superiority over other women. It's used by rich people to hold onto and exercise their privilege. It's used by poor people to grasp at having value in a society that often makes them feel invisible. In other words, it's used by people with an agenda. A self-serving agenda. You know, that thing they're accusing you of having by being such a slutty slut? In the real world, the "dirtiest", "easiest" thing anyone can do is degrade another person by feeding into the social and cultural oppression that already exists against them.

So their intentions aren't exactly "pure", but...are they right? Let me set the record straight, right here, right now, for good: People who call other people "sluts" are always, inherently, insufferably wrong. No matter the sexual history of the person they are addressing. Because people who buy into the concept of a slut- that someone who has more sex is worse than someone who has less sex- are fundamentally, logically, morally, spiritually erroneous. Having sex doesn't make you a bad person. Having sex doesn't make you a bad person. Having sex doesn't make you a bad person. (Yes, I'm going for a Good Will Hunting moment here!) Having sex doesn't make you anything other than a person who has sex. The end. I promise!

In reality, purity is a myth. You are not weaker, or stupider, or less important, for each time you choose to have sex with someone. That's not to say there aren't universal social truths about good and bad behavior that you should be accountable to- there are. But these "positives" and "negatives" don't correspond with numbers of sexual partners- that would be ridiculous and meaningless. They revolve around things like kindness, intelligence, compassion, and wellness. These things matter inside and outside the bedroom. Having sex does not define who you are or what you do in any arena other than your sex life! There is no simple dichotomy where more sex equals bad and less sex equals good. There is only you. Your state of mind, your experiences, your health and well being, your contribution to this world. It is a more complicated, more nuanced, more evolved system of valuing people. Which should tell you right there it is probably right.

But that voice. That voice inside and outside your head is saying "I know what you're saying is right, but deep down inside I don't believe you. Why would the whole world keep telling me I'm worth less because of my sexual history if it weren't even a little bit true?

That is a good question. Why do people call other people sluts? In my experience, I have found that it is because they are scared. They are scared that they won't be able to find a partner that they love who will love them back, and they would like to be able to have someone else to shoulder that terrifying responsibility. They are scared of their own sexual desires, and what those desires say about their true selves. They are scared of living a life based on a value system that will be proven by time to be false, cruel, and unjust, so they work even harder and more ferociously to justify and reinforce it, to prove to themselves that they, their parents, their grandparents, are on the right side of history (they are not). They are scared of women who are free, because it reminds them of the ways that they themselves are not. And of course, they are scared of their own mortality, and so they grasp at anything that could guarantee them immunity, moral superiority, or holy benevolence in the face of the ultimate terror- death.

This fear drives them to great extremes. Fear is powerful, and many people's lives are completely dominated by it. Women, in particular, are an easy target for people who are very scared, because there are already social checks in place to make women less threatening, less powerful, less scary. So they latch onto this, and contribute to it, and perpetuate it. They actively degrade women. They take satisfaction from putting them in their place, and from taking away their power. They remind them over and over that their bodies, their sexuality, their autonomy, their choices, and their power, are not their own. They exert control- over their own lives, and over the behavior of others, as well as they know how- by perpetuating fear and pain.

I have been called a slut many times in my life, along with many women, but never by someone who I suspected was genuinely interested in my well being, nor by anyone who was very brave, or who loved themselves very much.

Ok, you are saying, even if I am convinced of this myself, it still hurts to operate in a world in which not everyone is on the same page as this. Being viewed as a slut by others still hurts, and still has real negative ramifications for me in this world. How can one find comfort, truth, and transcendence in such an unjust system?

Love yourself, love others, find feminism. In that order!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Who's REALLY got those 'special rights'?

A common argument against gay rights is that it amounts to 'special rights.' That is, if G-BITs have the same rights as their straight counterparts, they will in fact end up with more rights-hence 'special rights.' The argument goes roughly that gays already have equal rights-the right to marry a person of the opposite sex, the right to serve in the military, the right to a job, etc. And if anti-discrimination and same-sex marriage legislations are passed, this amounts to extra rights.

This argument is wrong for one reason, and entirely hypocritical for another reason. To begin with; the wrong argument. The conservative argument is wrong because it assumes that gays will somehow have more rights than straights. For example, a common line of attack is that anti-discrimination laws are 'special rights' because they protect gays from straight persecution, but not the other way round. This is, to put bluntly, bullshit. If a straight person were to be fired because of their sexual orientation (a borderline non-existent example, but bare with me), under current legislation they would simply have to suck it up. With proper anti-discrimination laws, however, this hypothetical straight person would not be allowed to be fired. Pro G-BIT laws don't give anybody 'special rights'-they enhance the rights of everybody. It's just that some people will benefit from anti-discrimination laws more than others.

The coup de grace, however, is the inherent hypocrisy of 'special rights.' Religious organisations claim that gays will be receiving 'special rights' when it is in fact those same religious organisations that possess rights that nobody else has.

From The Age:

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Rob Hulls will today announce a controversial compromise struck with the state's religious groups that will allow them to continue to discriminate against gays and lesbians, single mothers and people who hold different spiritual beliefs.

In a move that has delighted religious groups but angered gay activists and discrimination experts, Mr Hulls will protect the right of hundreds of church-run organisations - including schools, hospitals and welfare services - to refuse to employ or provide services to people who they believe may undermine their beliefs.

Quick translation: if you are religious, you are endowed with rights not granted to others. Nobody has the right to discriminate based on a person's personal beliefs-except for religious organisations. The same religious groups that rail against some people possessing 'special rights' (despite, as shown above, to be a lie) are the ones to seek special rights for themselves.

It is entirely correct to say that some people have more rights than others. True to form, those with special rights are those who have the most political power.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lindsey Tanner throws a hissy fit because our political system isn't locked between two major parties like in the US

Resident ALP whiner Tanner doesn't like the Greens. Last election, he ran a few Fieldingesque home movies attacking the Greens and this election, apparently stripped of his video playthings, has been forced to go for a more low-budget response: the opinion page.
Green voters typically either have or are getting a tertiary education. Support is concentrated among tertiary disciplines focused on more than making money. Their viewpoint is increasingly at odds with that of Labor voters who aren't tertiary educated. On issues like asylum seekers, forests and civil liberties, differences can be stark. The Greens seek to exploit them.
No, the Greens aren't 'exploiting' any factions. We're just representing environmentalism and human rights. By adopting Howard's policies, the ALP has abandoned its left faction. That more lefties and not just environmentalists are supporting the Greens is your doing, not ours.
Whatever Labor does, it is never good enough for the Greens. Even when we're repealing WorkChoices, apologising to indigenous Australians, or tackling climate change, they attack Labor for their own cynical purposes. If the Greens had voted with Labor, the Senate would have passed the climate change legislation.
No, that wouldn't have happened at all. You're conveniently forgetting Steve "Thank for the ALP Right is so cynical in its preferences" Fielding. The guy who your party got elected in 2004, and has adopted the Abbott policy of flat out denialism. Even if the Greens had supported your total sellout of a policy, which had been so watered down by working with Turnbull it was in every way worse than useless, the bill would've never gotten past Fielding. That you couldn't pass it is your doing, not ours.
We now have no legislation at all. The Greens' political posturing took precedence over action. Their policy would have no chance of passing the Senate, even if Labor supported it.
Of course not. We don't yet have the balance of power. This election will (hopefully) change that. And stop with this 'obstructionist' meme you're running. The Greens didn't support it because the bill would've locked in failure. Australia would have unable to reduce its emissions by any more than a pitiful amount. The Greens were right in opposing it, and were supported by the overwhelming majority of greens.
The Greens are not some benign group loosely allied with Labor. They're not a middle-ground party. They're not idealistic activists changing the world. They're just another political party, no less cynical or manipulative than the others.
No, we are less manipulative and cynical. That's seen every election. The ALP routinely lies about, and demonises the Greens in the constant hope that throwing every smear it has will keep its dwindling progressive supporters on board. The Greens advocate three simple things: public services, civil rights and liberties, and protecting the environment. Those three objectives are far less extreme than you'd like to think.
It might seem like a good idea to support those who yell the loudest, but it's unlikely to produce good outcomes. Labor is the only worthwhile option for achieving progressive change through parliamentary politics. It might be a bit piecemeal and gradual, but it beats the hell out of doing nothing.
No, the ALP doesn't represent "progressive change." It abandoned progressive values when it sought to out-Howard Howard. The ALP support the internet filter, the draconian anti-terror laws, an inhumane refugee policy, tax cuts over public services, the forestry industry over forests, keeping gays from expressing their love, and I would imagine a whole host of other anti-progressive policies. Because Labor is a 'big tent' party, as a progressive voter I have no idea if you will represent my left-libertarian views in parliament (actually, I do have an idea. It's a big fat 'no, you'll keep treating me as a chump while remaining a fundamentally rightwing party'). But when I vote for the Greens, I actually know what I'm voting for. I know that they will represent my views in parliament (not precisely, of course, but they're by far the closest to my beliefs).

If you're so afraid of the Greens taking your precious votes because people are beginning to realise that the Greens actually represent the mainstream left, then you can start by actively trying to represent the mainstream left yourself. You could start by lobbying the ALP to legalise same-sex marriage. Then, you could adopt Latham's Tasmanian forestry policies and support treated pine plantations rather than logging and wood-chipping native forests.

Above all else, if you want lefties to keep voting for you, than you have to actually represent them in parliament. Instead, you've just taken the easy route-pushing further to the right, whilst assuming lefties are too brain dead to recognise just how Liberal you've become. But this isn't America. Australia actually has a proper, representative democracy where minority views can be expressed. I know just how much you hate that.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Old rice and monkey nuts*, religion and atheism.

The latest from Andrew "Manlier than Teddy" Bolt:
Another example of how atheists seem to be walking, ranting evidence of the need for Christianity’s civilising influence.
His evidence?
That's it. Catherine used a naughty word, which makes her "uncivilised." I don't see how Christianity is a necessarily 'civilising' influence: christianity has been a justification for countless atrocities-from the Inquisition, the KKK, the American Taliban, and just about every abortion bombing in the history of the US.

However, ol' Rusty isn't finished yet. For his next column:
...if the Christian God really is dead, then there’s not much to stop people here from being barbarians.

I’d have hoped that the Atheists Convention’s speakers would have reassured me not just by fine words but finer example that a godless society will nevertheless be a good one.
How about the obvious: that despite the US being one of the most outspokenly Christian countries (certainly in the Western world), on every parameter it fails in its Christian teachings? The US has an infant mortality rate worse than Cuba. It's the only developed country without universal health care. It's education is worse than most other developed countries.

Compare this with the Scandinavian countries, all of which are amongst the least religious countries of the world. Sweden and Norway are among the best in preventing infant mortality. They are ahead in literacy. They have among the best public services while in comparison, while the US's infrastructure is on the verge of collapse.

I'm not saying that there's an inverse causation between religion and the of a country (ie, that the more religious a country is, the more it fails on actually meeting its religious convictions in protecting its citizens). What I'm saying is that religion is irrelevant to morality in services. A country can be highly religious and deliver health-care that would shame the Scandinavia countries. It may be entirely atheistic and be reminiscent of Zimbabwe. Either way the concept that Christianity is somehow 'civilising' by itself is nothing short of crock.

To go even further, there is evidence of non-human moral behaviour; that the ideas of justice and ethics aren't exclusive to humanity. This, more than anything else, would put to rest the notion that atheists are inherently less moral than theists.

I have no idea what Bolt's religious convictions are. Given how he so intensely defends Christianity, I'm inclined to believe that he has some sort of spiritual belief. Perhaps he doesn't, I don't care. However, before he starts with the classic 'if we become atheists we won't have any skydaddy to tell us what's right and wrong so we'll all go back to the caves and smash each others' heads in with clubs and crowbars' meme, he may want to see how the smear holds up to reality.

*Hattip to the original Pure Poison.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Now *that's* embarrasing.

Either that, or it shows just how much of a mercenary Rupert Murdoch really is. From the Australian:

Reminds me distinctly of the shenanigans between Rupert and Andrew "If Sarah Palin can get a gig at Fox News, why can't I?" Bolt.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Songs for a Sunday

Because everybody else is doing it, because I'm lazy, and because there is almost no new blogging material. Therefore, I present: Michael Jackson: The Orchestra!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I couldn't put it any better myself

So I won't. From Chris Middendorp and Kenneth Davidson:

Without taxation, life would be less liveable

It was that protean genius Albert Einstein who said that the hardest thing in the world to understand is income tax. We can only speculate that with the great man cogitating on whether or not God was playing dice with the universe, he was too preoccupied to see how the revenue collected by government actually made life here on earth bearable.

If you bother to reflect on the role that taxation plays in a democratic state, it's almost impossible not to conclude that it is what makes a civil society achievable. Not just by funding a police force, a fire brigade or a defence force. Not just by paying for roads, public transport, gardens and parks. Not just by building hospitals, libraries, schools and sewerage systems. But by funding practically everything that makes it possible for human beings to flourish.

All this raises the question: why is the paying of income tax so reviled? How is it that elections are often won or lost over such a beneficial concept? Taxation is a synonym for an unpleasant obligation.

Many on the political right would go even further and view taxation as virtual government theft of an individual's hard-earned cash. The truth about taxation is rarely stated. It is a privilege and nothing less than our opportunity to make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of our nation.

Nevertheless, the politician who does not comprehend the public's general antipathy towards taxation is doomed. In 1993, when Liberal opposition leader John Hewson was unable to explain his new tax ideas during a TV interview, he generated widespread fear and lost the "unlosable" election. In the US, when George Bush snr failed to deliver on his triumphant neo-liberal promise "read my lips, no new taxes", he condemned himself to being a one-term president.

In recent times, the Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, has achieved some traction by evoking the great taxation demon. In seeking to discredit Labor's climate change initiatives, Abbott endlessly repeated the childish mantra that the policies were nothing but a "great big new tax". He knows that pandering to our fear of taxes is a better strategy than actually engaging in a debate about policy content.

Our fear and loathing of taxation has generated a vigorous culture of tax evasion in Australia. Through trust rorts alone, it is estimated that our community is robbed of about $1 billion a year by companies and wealthy people who conceal their true taxable income.

I'm advised by senior academics who specialise in taxation that there have been few, if any, studies into the full extent of tax evasion in Australia. In an era when research is conducted into navel lint, this omission seems staggering.

It is telling that the Australian Taxation Office is spending more than $774 million over four years to help identify what it calls "gaps in compliance".

Its goal is to energetically prosecute those who would avoid their tax responsibilities, thereby raising an astonishing $6 billion. What unfathomable amount, you wonder, will still slip through the Tax Office's lavishly funded dragnet?

In the meantime, we can read almost daily in the media how there isn't enough revenue to fund vital community programs. Treasury figures estimate that in four decades Australia will require $40 billion more in revenue just to fund age pensions and maintain aged care services.

The recently completed and much awaited report into tax by Ken Henry will be giving Treasurer Wayne Swan a lot to think about and will hopefully generate fresh strategies to capture the significantly increased revenue we require.

You will often hear conservatives posit how Australia is a high-taxing nation, but the truth is we are among the lowest taxers of the OECD nations. There are countries such as Sweden, for instance, that understand that a full public purse equates to a higher quality of life.

While it is true that there are many possible debates about how a tax system should be structured in terms of efficiency and fairness, what isn't debatable is that tax evasion is stealing from the community.

Many of us are clearly infuriated by the thought that people we know might be shirking their fiscal responsibilities, and this is reflected in the year's 56,000 phone tip-offs to the tax evasion report line.

Contrast this with the National Security Hotline, where reports of suspicious behaviour and potential terrorism are made. Even during the paranoid days of 2005, following the second Bali bombing and the London attacks, it only managed to peak at about 30,000 calls.

When politicians promise tax cuts we should be suspicious, not euphoric. A promise like that should make us contemplate what the community will be going without. By not paying tax, we will all pay in the end.

Australia faces some significant hardships ahead. Depleted resources for childcare, aged care, mental health support, housing, schools and hospitals are not just boring statistics. These inadequacies will destroy lives.

It is clear that we need to improve the efficiency of our tax system if we are going to continue to cherish the proposition that Australia is the lucky country. We need to grow up and acknowledge that paying income tax is not a burden; it ought to be our proud contribution.

Private health? It's enough to make you sick

There is not much point in starving the health system of funding to minimise taxes if it shifts the burden from citizens as taxpayers by creating an even bigger burden for them as consumers.

The debate is seldom framed in this way because the recently released 2010 intergenerational report, the Rudd government's first, is set up to ask only about budgetary costs of health, not the total cost.

I suspect that it was deliberately set up this way by the Howard government, which initiated the process, to avoid questions that involve confronting powerful vested interests, especially the private health insurance industry.

This industry has administrative costs that impose an unnecessary 10 per cent tax on premiums because its overheads are higher than Medicare's overheads. It also enjoys a $3 billion subsidy - dwarfing that given to any other industry - yet its major purpose is to give its customers the chance to jump the queue for elective surgery while allowing providers to over-service and over-charge their patients.

A sensible report would take into account all the costs of medical services and whether they were delivered efficiently and fairly.

The provision of medical services is a classic area of market failure. Fear of ill health reinforces the tendency of those who can afford to over-insure to jump the elective surgery queue.

Private health insurance subsidies encourage specialists who are otherwise available to public hospitals to shift to the higher paying, less stressful, private system. They undermine the idea that access to health services should be based on need rather than income. (Even so, it is still true that if you are really sick or have a medical emergency, the probability is you will end up in a public hospital.)

Cost shifting from the budget to individuals and stampeding them into private insurance - whose prime motive is profit rather than bearing down on health costs - is a recipe for a US health system - indisputably the developed world's least efficient. This is why the US spends 17 per cent of its gross domestic product on health, while Canada and Australia spend 10 to 11 per cent and have better health outcomes in terms of longevity, infant mortality and morbidity than the US.

The bloated incomes of US providers have allowed the industry to capture enough Republicans, and a minority of Democrats, in the Congress who will lie and filibuster for as long as it takes to prevent any diminution of the health industry's ability to gouge its customers and lock some 40 million Americans out of access to reasonable healthcare. Australia's political health vandals haven't been nearly so successful.

Medicare remains popular, despite the best efforts of the Howard government to wreck it by providing a massive subsidy to private health insurance; imposing a tax surcharge on higher income groups who sensibly chose to self-insure by putting aside savings to meet the cost of private elective surgery; and by attempting to push as many people as possible into private insurance with a none-too-subtle threat to run down public hospitals.

The Coalition is frustrating the government in its attempts to claw back some of the $3 billion a year subsidy to private insurers. To add a farcical touch, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said last week that, in government, he would sell Medibank Private.

Hello? Medibank Private is the biggest private health insurer because it is public. Hockey said it could be worth $3.5 to $4.5 billion, based on its revenue. This may be why the Coalition is obstructing means testing the $3 billion health insurance rebate - to maximise the sale price.

Don't laugh. The first thing the Kennett government did in Victoria was to boost electricity prices by 10 per cent to fatten up the sale price of the State Electricity Commission.

Meanwhile, the government is spinning the intergenerational report to show the burden that an ageing population will impose on future budgets, using it to justify a continued high level of immigration to offset the ageing population.

It won't achieve this, but continued high population growth based largely on immigration means that Australia's unconditional promise of a 5 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 translates into a 20 per cent cut in per capita terms.

This is an impossible dream, unless greenhouse gas reduction policies are put ''front and centre'' in election debates and the winner has a mandate to undertake real climate abatement policies.

Like its predecessor, the Rudd government is obsessed with the burden an ageing population will put on the budget.

It is a red herring. We will be richer and healthier in the future. Healthier people want to work longer. The bulk of spending on hospital costs occurs in the last two years of life, irrespective of whether average life expectancy is 80 or 84 and medical technology is likely to reduce health costs in the future.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Did you know there was more than one Fundies First Senator?

I didn't-probably because ol' Steve spends his every waking moment thinking of news ways to gain attention/make a total arse of himself.

The FF doesn't just have coverage on the federal level; there are two senators in the South Australia and one on the NSW Legislative Council. The NSW guy is the most interesting, as he was in the Christian Theocratic Party before a hilarious fallout with Fred Nile, and then moving the the slightly-less-overtly-bigoted-yet-still-ironically-named Family First.

True to form, if anybody told him that there were gays in families, his head would explode.
“Most of the people promoting same sex adoption speak about the right of gay and lesbian couples to have a child to satisfy their own instinct for parenting. Our point is totally different. The concern of Family First is for the right of a child to have the role modelling and contributions that are given throughout a child’s life by a mother and a father.”
Reality notwithstanding, of course.

And then there's his painfully ironic press release titled '
The damaging consequences of bullying into adult life' despite his clear endorsement of homophobia. There's also the mandatory 'fertilised cells are people too!' posts, and the "EXTREME GREENS EXTREME GREENS EXTREME GREENS!!1!!"

In SA, the work experience kid has been assigned to graphic design and layout, while Pastor Evans is just as reality-immune as Moyes. The fundie roots are exposed in this funderful newsletter:
On Family First’s insistence, we no longer have ‘de facto’ marriages in South Australia – with all non marriage relationships being placed in a lower category called ‘domestic partnerships’. Further, the bill was worded in such a way as to place an obstacle in the path of gay adoptions and artificial insemination (which are heavily promoted by the Australian Greens and are the gay lobby’s stated next objective).
The Greens: more pro-family than FF, despite the former beginning as a single-issue environmental party and the latter beginning as a 'pro-family' party. And finally, there's a Palinesque dig at at Senator's Hanson-Young's age:
Tony Bates is a senior executive with Adelaide’s G.M. Holden operations. Tony's main competition in the fight to gain a South Australian Senate seat for FAMILY FIRST will be the Australian Democrats' "human shield" Ruth Russell, and SA Greens' 25-year old law student Sarah Hanson-Young.
And yet this 25 year old beat your sorry butt and and took the seat.

Well, thankfully, that's it. Steve is hellbound this year, stripping Fundies First of its most prominent Senator. This will significantly reduce the FF's national presence and hopefully bring them to where they belong; a minor, fringe party, of which most people would be embarrassed to admit their support for.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tony Abbott for President (of Uganda)!

Because he'd fit right in.
Tony Abbott urges women to save their virginity for marriage and reveals mixed feelings about contraception in a new interview.
I could easily do a massive speal on the sheer misogyny and ludicrousness of these beliefs-that a woman's morality is destroyed along with her hymen and that these standards are, as always, not applied to men-but thankfully, I've already made such speals. Even so, another, if shorter, rant is fun.

Tony, fuck you. Fuck you and your 1890s penile-supremest ideology. If you think you can win the women's vote with token gestures such as keeping the 2nd most incompetent woman minister (Kosky being the first) as shadow treasurer, whilst promoting such bollocks, then you give women even less credit than anyone thought. There's a bloody good reason why, as a society, we've moved on from these ideals-because, unlike you, we understand that a woman is more than a set of reproductive organs blessed by some magic Jewish zombie. If you couldn't keep it in your pants when you weren't married, then to expect others to do so is pretty much the shameless hypocrisy I'd expect from you and your medieval ilk.

As Health Minister, you proved incapable of governing without allowing your religious beliefs to interfere with your political decisions, which broke our separation of church and state. I have no doubt that if you were elected, you would further undermine this democratic pillar with abstinence-only indoctrination and erode women's access to reproductive rights. I cannot wait for this year's election; if you thought you've seen a Ruddslide before, the coming avalanche will truly decimate the Liberal Party. And like your God before you, you will bear the responsibility for it.

Topic cross-posted here, here and here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The spectacular Massachusetts non-election.

I call it that because, despite being a tremendous win for the Republican Party-winning in one of the Bluest states in the country, where one of the least conservative Congressmen comfortably won for almost 50 years, and which Conservapedia has an entry for-the politics of negotiation in Congress and future policy developments will not change one iota. The Republicans will continue to whine and bitch like the arrogant, born-to-rule hacks they are. And the Democrats will continue to cave into their demands, like the spineless hacks they are.

Obama and the Democrats had a full year of filibuster-proof Congress to pass healthcare reform. Instead, they proved that they are, as a party, gutless on any progressive issues. The healthcare plan by the end was even worse than the status quo, as it forced people into dodgy insurance plans. It was the type of reform one would expect from the GOP. That the Dems have now lost their 60 votes thus means nothing, as it was useless to begin with.

The whole situation makes me even more thankful we have a) preferential voting and b) proportional representation. This means that protest votes can be sent to genuine leftwing parties without aiding the major conservative ones, and that, in a true democracy, all (or at least most) political views get their rightful representation.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hiatus time

It's the time of the year, folks. Tomorrow, I will be spirited away to Fort Lorne, in which I will engage in long-distance fitness, intellectualisation (Thomas Paine, bitches!), cleaning and repairing my barely-functioning Vickers, learning stealth and diversionary tactics, and earning a well-earned brake from the front line.

Anyway, I'd like to show a few photos/paintings of my one and only.

And these...

...are the bastards I'm repairing. I'm still on my first guns, and this is how they repay me. Charlie's gone through 11 sets since his first Pup. If he wasn't winning us the war, I'd shoot down that bloody Haig.