Monthly Archives: December 2009

Well, we’re living in a “deadbeat” country

Regardless of how much taxpayer money it gets to spend ruining family relationships, or how nasty it is while doing it, the Child Support Agency can’t keep up:

$1b in deadbeat parents debt

PARENTS owe their children more than $1 billion, despite a crackdown on those who don’t pay child support.

The child support debt has grown by 12.8 per cent despite a 20 per cent increase in child support agency staff and a $900 million funding boost to help the agency improve the system, the Daily Telegraph reports.

There’s that pejorative word again, “deadbeat”. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why non-custodial parents would have a problem paying what the CSA demands, and it’s not because they can’t pay their debts.

And that first sentence is oddly worded. They mean -

FATHERS “owe” their children’s mothers more than $1 billion, despite millions of taxpayer dollars being spent to make these toxic parental relationships worse.

First, it’s a scandal that non-custodial parents can’t ensure that the money they provide IS actually spent on their children.

But here’s a better idea than spending vast sums of public money enforcing the inequality between mothers and children – don’t. Continue reading

Fix it

The state government isn’t bankrupt. It has the capacity to find money, to raise money, to borrow money. So what the hell is its excuse for this?

MENTALLY ill Victorians who should be in psychiatric care spend up to four days in emergency departments because of a shortage of beds…

Dr Eddey said that, depending on how unwell people were, they could be behaving violently and require restraint in a secure room with constant supervision. Regardless of their behaviour, he said it was inappropriate for them to be treated in emergency departments.

”If you don’t have a specialised quiet room, which only some places have, general cubicles subject you to 24-hour light, 24-hour noise and 24-hour activity. If you’re mentally ill, it’s probably the worst place to be.”

The closing of mental health facilities over the past twenty years and the reduction of funding to those that remain – under both Liberal and Labor – is one of the stupidest and most short-sighted forms of cost-cutting in Victorian history. It makes the condition of desperately unwell people worse (making it more expensive to treat them in the long run) and, for some, it makes certain crimes inevitable, creating further public expense in police, lawyers and courts – not including the cost of the crimes themselves. And most importantly, it’s inhuman and unjust.

This is an emergency department. It is not a place to shove mentally-ill people while you wait for a bed to become available.

What’s the Mental Health Minister have to say for herself? Continue reading

Why only 94 percent?

Okay, it’s good that the US Senate finally approved some improvements to healthcare in the country (although of course since the House of Representatives only approved a much weaker version, it’s unlikely that the Senate bill will ever actually become law).

The bill would extend health coverage to more than 30 million uninsured, covering 94 per cent of all Americans, and halt industry practices such as refusing insurance to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

But while Democrats are celebrating that “victory”, it’s probably worth standing back and asking: why only 94%?

It isn’t.

Who are the 6% of Americans, the eighteen-and-a-half million people (almost the population of Australia) who would not have health coverage, even under the strongest version of the Bill? How is it that the most “progressive” of the parties in that country can proudly trumpet “94%” as if it isn’t an obvious failure?

UPDATE: I don’t know why I was optimistic even about the Senate bill. They’ve abandoned a “public option”, too. And their version, according to Howard Dean, is actually about forcing people to join the private health insurers:

“You will now be forced to buy insurance. If you don’t, you’ll pay a fine,” said Dean, a physician. “It’s an insurance company bailout.” Interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” he said the bill has some good provisions, “but there has to be a line beyond which you think the bill is bad for the country.”

“This is an insurance company’s dream,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said. “This is the Washington scramble, and it’s a shame.”

That country is broken.

Mix n’ match religion

Interesting results from a survey into Australia’s religious beliefs, indicating that whatever Australians call ourselves when asked by the census, what we actually believe is much more personal and varied – no matter what some might like to claim.

We’re coming up to a day that for many people is the only day of the year – or one of only two days – on which they remember the faith they check on the census form. Hey kids, it’s the day we go to church! And then there are those for whom it does have great religious significance – so much so that it makes them angry that anyone could celebrate the occasion without any attachment to the religious meaning their ancestors added to it when they took a pagan event and gave it a new name. They even see declining to call it “Christmas” as a personal affront and call it a “war” on their beliefs.

But it seems like there are a lot of different versions of any given religion, even beyond the official variations. I know people who call themselves “Christian” but don’t actually think Jesus Christ was literally God in human form. Or who say they believe in God but what they mean by that is a sort of guiding presence in nature, rather than an immortal all-powerful omnipotent being who interacts with human beings in the quietness of their minds – and who judges them according to a set of arbitrary rules laid down in a particular religious text. I know many who have, like the survey suggests, an eclectic mix of beliefs that you’d think were largely incompatible, and the way they reconcile them is by ignoring the parts they don’t like.

I’m curious – are there any readers of this blog who consider themselves Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or whatever, but don’t necessarily hold to the fundamental beliefs on which the administrators of that religion publicly insist? If you’ve added parts in from other religions, or other sources, which bits have you chosen, and how do you reconcile them? I know it’s generally considered not the sort of thing you discuss over the dinner table, but we’re all friends/anonymous pseudonyms here, and we’re all muddling through the issue together.

Even fervent believers can get confused which event they’re celebrating

As I’ve written before, I abandoned the religion with which I grew up because ultimately I couldn’t convince myself that it was real, that it made sense. That God would create minds that could reason and then tell us to abandon that reason on the most fundamental question of existence. That a God that loves us would decide how we spend eternity based on whether we guessed right on an impossible riddle. That I wasn’t just fooling myself because I desperately wanted this short life not to be all that there is.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that I’m absolutely convinced of the opposite, either. The only thing I’m confident of is that it’s impossible to be certain. As a bumper sticker on the back of my car used to declare – “Militant agnostic. I don’t know and you don’t either!”

Of course, that’s why they call it “faith”. Still, it always surprises me how little you can tell from what religion a person claims to follow, about what they actually believe on the questions of life, the universe and everything.

Tasteful and dignified

Freebie for the Obama haters. Via Darryl Mason, check out what the White House doormen are wearing this holiday season:

Awww, they love their boss so much that they’re choosing to wear flag pins – the kind that before the election he refused to be bullied into wearing – with his face in front of the stripes. Isn’t that sweet? I wonder where they all got them.

Hey, it’s that annual event again

Hey, you. I am not officially closing the blog for the year, and there could well be more posts before the annual present-exchanging solstice remembrance event, but – while we’re all running around organising things at the last minute – I just thought I’d put up an open thread for regulars to chat about the splendidly chaotic couple of days we’re all about to have. If you’re a reader who only visits from work, have a good break and we’ll look forward to seeing you when you return in the new year. If you’re hanging around – I’ll try to make it worth your while.

Once a year, I like to show the trees who’s boss by getting one that’s been chopped down and then covering it in heavy lights and random shiny crap.

See you shortly.

An indictment of our governments

They do insist on maintaining policies that are making housing ever more unaffordable:

A MELBOURNE house costs at least $100,000 more than it did a year ago.

Why would we address that? To hell with the consequences for society! It’s making us all rich!

Well, except for the next generation. But they don’t have as many votes as we do.

UPDATE: From the comments, here’s a suggestion that a government wanting to tackle the problem could and should consider: increasing renters’ rights at the expense of landlords’. Make it harder for landlords to raise prices, particularly ahead of inflation. Make it harder for landlords to kick tenants out. Talk with tenants’ organisations – I’m sure they have a list. After all, if we’re creating a generation of permanent renters, then don’t they deserve some of the protections the rest of us enjoy?

And every landlord that goes “to hell with this” and decides to invest somewhere else, is one more house one of those renters can buy to live in.

Can the world’s leaders agree on an easy treaty that will barely restrain any of them and will really only be an issue for their successors?

I’m not optimistic.

UPDATE: Dammit, I hate being right.

But check out the polishing of that turd:

Mr Rudd says the agreement represents progress and recalled seven times in the final stretch when the 194-nation summit could have broken up in disarray.

“There was a grave risk that these negotiations would collapse altogether and we would have had a triumph of inaction over action,” he said. “Instead we had a result that underpins action. That represents substantial progress.”

Sure, it isn’t action. But it “underpins” that we might consider some kind of activity that could vaguely be called “action” at some time in the future. Maybe.

Yeah, we suck.

I can’t believe there’s so much stuff on the internet about this. (For now, anyway.)

Some more filter-links:

  • Google warns that the Great Firewall is “the first of its kind amongst Western democracies”. Listen to them – after years of caving to China with its Great Firewall, they know what they’re talking about.

  • Senator Kate Lundy tries to walk the fine line between letting voters know she isn’t really comfortable with the filter, and admitting that as a Labor senator she’ll vote for it anyway.
  • Tea Brennan’s a parent, and she’s sick of fundamentalists and their representatives in Canberra justifying their power grabs in the name of her children.
  • And Bernard Keane has some very handy hints for making sure your letter to the Minister is read by as many human beings as possible.

Listen to what Conroy’s telling them, not what he’s telling us

The thing about Conroy’s shameless attempt to pander to fundamentalists by crippling the internet for the rest of us is that to sell it, he needs to tell two completely different stories.

To internet users, he needs to convince us that only really evil stuff we wouldn’t look for anyway will be blocked, and we can trust the “independent” body he’s going to set up to secretly add things to this list not to go overboard even though it won’t be in any way answerable to the public. That the lobby groups who’ve successfully pushed for this legislation won’t be able to quietly expand the list as soon as the legislation passes. It’s no biggie, he’ll be telling us.

In contrast, to the fundamentalists calling themselves “Christians” and claiming to represent “Families” (seriously, please don’t forget the appropriate quote marks whenever referring to the Australian “Christian” Lobby and the Australian “Family” Association), he has to argue the opposite, otherwise the whole effort is wasted. He has to convince them that this is a major step to “protect the children”. He’s going to be blocking “pornography” and discussion of the things they find “immoral”. He’ll imply that it’ll help stamp down on “child pornography”, although the only way of doing that is shutting down peer-to-peer traffic and he’s claiming to the rest of us that he won’t do that. It’s important that they know that, whatever he’s telling the rest of Australia, they’re getting what they wanted – a foothold on the internet through which, over time, to enforce more of their “morality” on the rest of us.

There’s a reason he met with them first.

He’d also be wise to remind the TV networks to go easy on him – after all, once the filter’s in place, it will be trivial to start blocking the sources of free competing video content that have freed Australians from the networks’ control. They scratch his back, he’ll be happy to scratch theirs.

The rest of us should concentrate on what he says to the latter two groups, not what he says to us.

UPDATE: You know the ACL is campaigning to have nonviolent erotica criminalised – well, here’s Wallace to his supporters today:

  • Government moves to filter porn from internet.
  • Sex trade and civil libertarians violently oppose this.
  • Please write to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to thank him for protecting kids.

It’s not going to stop with the “worst of the worst”. Indeed, based on the trials, it’s not even going to start with that.

PS “violently”?

UPDATE: GetUp has set up a link for faxing Conroy and his opposition counterpart. This is my fax: Continue reading