Monthly Archives: January 2010

Problem grows

More depressing economic developments:

The central bank will almost certainly raise the official interest rate next week

Okay, so it’s good news for:

  • investors (who’ll have less competition from homebuyers and who will be able to promptly pass the rate rise on to their tenants);

  • the rich; and
  • people who prey on social unrest.

But it’s very bad news for:

  • homeowners with mortgages (whose repayments will rise);

  • renters (whose rents will rise);
  • those who’d like to buy a house to live in (who will be even less able to compete with investors);
  • parents (who want their adult offspring to finally move out); and
  • the community as a whole, which benefits from the existence of a healthy middle-class.

Another step widening the gap between rich and poor. Well done, Australia.

Kinglake, Australia Day 2010

Kinglake on Tuesday, almost a year after the fires:

What the Classification Board has taught me #1

This week, the Classification Board has taught me two useful pieces of information:

  • female ejaculation – as opposed to male ejaculation – is an “abhorent” perversion; and

  • adult women who don’t have large breasts aren’t real adult women.

Women with “small” breasts may previously have thought they were entitled to be treated as adults, drink, vote, have sex, etc – well, now they know. As for “female ejaculation” and other matters related to the so-called “female orgasm” – well, I’ve never experienced it AND NEITHER HAS MY WIFE.

What other taxpayer-funded government body would have the balls to impart such controversial social pronouncements so openly, for the good of the nation’s moral health? Whatever we’re paying them, it isn’t enough.

And thank God that nice Mr Conroy, whose filter will block anything refused classification, is going to keep the Australian internet free of such things. Small-breasted women on the nation’s computer screens? SAVE US STEPHEN!

When spite is also expensive

Responding the news that the gay marriage ban costs Australia over $700 million, Fanny asks:

Oh this is a tough one… Does the government hate gays more than they love money??

The answer, of course, is “yes”. Yes, the government “hates” gays more than they love money.

Or, more precisely – they love bigot votes more than they fear losing greedy votes, which they secure in other ways.

It’s a pity, really, because there are actually more non-bigot votes out there, if anyone other than the Greens would care to represent them.

Actually Julie, Tony, I’d encourage my daughters to make their own decisions

Some odd person, prompted by my criticism of Tony Abbott’s fifteen-century understanding of women and sex, has been going round to other blogs making comments in my name (and with a weird email address that looks like it could be mine but isn’t):

Jeremy ( If I had daughters I’d tell them to shag at will.

Apparently, according to Julie Bishop and George Brandis, parents “understand” Tony Abbott’s views because they don’t think their daughters should be having sex either. They are incapable of reconciling the idea of them as independent adults with the same rights as their parents had, with the fact that it’s disturbing to think of a relative having sex.

If Julie had added the word “some” in front of the word “parents”, she might be right. I’m sure there are plenty of self-satisfied sanctimonious bossy people out there with daughters they’d like to make abide by medieval standards of female behaviour, at least so far as it comes to sex. But it’s a big call to assume that that’s all, or even a majority of parents. Even though almost every organisation with the word “family” in the name is a far-right socially-conservative front, not all families are far-right social conservatives.

My anonymous stalker is actually, despite his bad-faith attempt to attack me where he didn’t think I’d see it, right – if I had adult daughters, I would tell them to “shag” when they “will”, as in, when they want to. They should be aware of the risks, and take precautions, and be sensible, but sexuality is a gift – unlike “virginity”, one that keeps on giving throughout a person’s life – and they would be as entitled as every one of their ancestors to enjoy it. They should never be pressured into it; they should feel as confident and comfortable saying “no” as they would saying “yes” – but the critical issue is that it would be up to them. It has nothing to do with me. Parents who think they should have a say in their children’s sex lives are WEIRD. If my daughter asked me my opinion about whether she should “save herself for marriage” then I’d offer an opinion – um, why? – and if I saw that they were being pressured by a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a church, whatever, then I’d make sure they knew they had an alternative – but my kids won’t be a pushover for any such bullies, anyway. The point would be, it always should be their decision, not anybody else’s. And they would know that.

The thing is, Tony isn’t suggesting that unmarried women not have sex when they’re uncomfortable with it – he’s telling them to say “no” even if they want to have sex, because he thinks he and society should have a say in what people do in their own bedrooms. In what their daughters do in their own bedrooms.

And that is creepy.

Some democracy

What’s the point of voting for an alternative to the Republican Party if they’re just going to give the Republicans what they want anyway?

President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday.

Oh no! Some independent voters in Massachusetts voted against a bad Democrat candidate! Quick, we must abandon all our ACTUAL voters and give in even further to our opponents!

Madness. It’s getting to the point, since the Democrats would rather pander to the Republicans than their own voters, where American liberals might as well vote for a third party. Do they really enjoy being taken for granted this much?

Sophisticated reviewing headlines with Apple’s new iPad:

“Good or bad”?

UPDATE: Via LGWS, Lifehacker outlines why the iPad is a very disturbing development – it’s an extension of Apple’s “we will control what you do with your machine” ethos to personal computers. If it was tolerable with a mobile phone, it shouldn’t be with an actual computer.

Solutions offered

I’ve heard it said, unfairly, that political blogging is solely about making empty but vicious criticisms of the people who have to make hard decisions, offering nothing positive or constructive in return. I mean, it’s mostly about that, but not today.

Because I’ve got some solutions to the housing unaffordability crisis. Since letting the market completely off the leash (compounded by badly-targeted government handouts) has condemned most of the generations from here on in to permanent renter status, how about we make up for it by giving tenants some more protections?

I suggest:

  • Giving renters more security – make it more difficult for landlords to kick tenants out when they feel like it;

  • Giving renters more rights to make changes to their homes – fixtures, etc; and
  • Capping rent increases at CPI.

I’d also advocate taxing landlords’ income – ie, capital gains – at the same rate as ordinary taxpayers. Half is not even close to fair.

Limiting rent increases is particularly critical, not only because increasing them ahead of CPI is unjust, but because it gives the government back some ability to control the boom/bust cycle. At the moment, investors are immune from the supposedly cooling effect of interest rate rises because they simply pass them on to tenants. But if they couldn’t… then there’d actually be a way to slow down the overheating market. And, frankly, it’s absurd for tenants to find their basic housing costs increasing faster than the CPI. It drives the poor further into poverty, and keeps those who might have been able to make the leap into home ownership on an eternal treadmill, where it keeps getting further and further out of reach.

Now, landlords being tricky buggers, they’d probably just try kicking their tenants out at the end of each lease and starting anew with a fresh lot at a higher rate – so you’d have to enable tenants to register their current rent on a property, and make it unlawful for a landlord to increase the rate beyond that, even for subsequent tenants.

These clipart people are thrilled that finally they’ll have a chance to buy their own home and they’re going to vote for whatever party implements these awesome ideas.

These sorts of measures would, of course, have the effect of making investment properties much less enticing – which would, in turn, decrease the pressure that’s been pushing prices up so hard. Many landlords (in particular, the ones who were planning on screwing over their tenants the hardest) would sell up and leave the market, enabling those homes to be bought by people who actually want to live in them. Houses would still appreciate – they’re always going to be worth a few years’ income, and there’ll still be competition as the population grows – but at a vastly more reasonable rate. Homeowners wouldn’t be significantly negatively affected – on the downside, their properties wouldn’t be “worth” increasingly ludicrous amounts of money they’ll never actually see, but on the plus side their rates would be lower and their kids would eventually move out of home.

These clipart homeowners are particularly happy at the idea of their kids finally moving out.

Landlords and special interest groups like real estate agents would cry foul, of course. They’ve jumped on the property treadmill and expect it to take them to richtown, and screw the people who’ve missed out and will continue to miss out. But is housing an investment engine to help the wealthy get wealthier – or a means of housing people? I’d argue, strongly, that governments should be looking at the more basic rights of the people increasingly left behind, and consider the social implications of generations who’ll never have a realistic prospect of owning their own property, and the effect that will have on community problems like crime. You take away hope and see what the consequences are.

Obviously it’d be a tough political fight – the people who’d be negatively affected are also the ones with the most money and power – but isn’t it better than the alternative?

Pop quiz for politicians: did you know that there are more renters than landlords, and that many of them live in marginal electorates? It’s true! Can you spell “opportunity”? (It’s easy, it’s right there in the previous sentence.)

The status quo is not the answer.

Celebrating the blessings we were lucky enough to inherit

Like you, I’m a huge fan of Australia Day. When better to celebrate our nation’s restrained approach to “patriotism” and “nationalism”? Of all the nations on Earth, we’re one of the absolute best at recognising how stupid and insular it is to blandly declare that your nation is one of the absolute best on Earth.

Good on this country for breeding a healthy cynicism of the powerful, and of those who seek to shamelessly manipulate historical symbols to make themselves seem “one of us” – or for simple commercial gain. I’m proud that we look with contempt at those idiots abusing the national flag to try to intimidate slightly more recent immigrants, and that we don’t succumb to the temptation on a day like Australia Day to use it to gloss over issues on which our society needs to work. No, we use it as an opportunity to remember the kind of egalitarian, fair country we want to be, and resolve to resist those interests that might try to pull it in another direction. To make sure that the benefits we’ve enjoyed are available for all.

Most of us have it pretty good here, and it’s a fine day to reflect on the blessings we’ve inherited, and resolve to share them more generously with others who’ve not been so fortunate – both here, and overseas. Because isn’t that the kind of people we aspire to be?

Happy Australia Day.

Nice try

A suit from the Retailers’ Association attempts to out-Aussie those “chucking a sickie” today:

The Retailers Association said those who falsely claimed illness were “un-Australian bums”…

“Those staff who throw a sickie to selfishly score themselves a four-day weekend have no concept of mateship and the Australian way of not leaving your mates to do your heavy lifting for you, while you slink off to the beach or the pub,” said Mr Driscoll in a statement.

“Many workplaces around Australia will experience some of their staff who have just disappeared, thrown rosters into chaos and at the end of it all left their workmates to have to work harder tending cash registers, filling the shelves or waiting on the tables.

“If they turn their backs on their mates they are bums.”

Other un-Australian things include the Retailers’ Association’s attitude to employee rights, including fair wages, holidays, and protections against unfair dismissal – and the shamelessness of businesses trying to turn workers against each other.

Still, you’ve got to admire the chutzpah.