Monthly Archives: December 2010

First home buyers give up

It looks like first home buyers in NSW have given up:

FIRST-homebuyers abandoned hope of snapping up a house during 2010 – with new figures revealing applications for Government hand-outs dropped by two thirds.

Eligible buyers backed away as the Federal Government wound down its grants. After claiming $1 billion in grants in 2009, the numbers dropped Australia-wide this year.

In 2009, an average 19,000 first-homebuyers a month took advantage of the grants, while this year the figure fell as low as 7460 a month, according to ABS statistics.

Note that despite the article’s misleading headline, it’s not prices that have fallen. Investors still have plenty of equity to leverage, and plenty of discouraged would-have-been homebuyers to rent to.

UPDATE (1/1): The ABC does another of its pathetic “journalism by press release” stories, giving an entire article to the Real Estate Institute’s self-interested claims that it’s “potential rate rises” that are “scaring off” first home buyers – rather than the ridiculously inflated market.

UPDATE #2 (1/1): In its list of “winners” and “losers” in 2010, The Age includes as “losers”:

HOME OWNERS: Hit by four interest rate rises totalling one percentage point, then additionally slugged when the big four banks increased rates above and beyond the Reserve Bank’s cash rate rise in November.

Typical for The Age, the plight of the people it only just yesterday reported were no longer able to buy a home of their own doesn’t even occur to it.

Sorry, what bred our “most crucial freedoms”?

One News Ltd columnist, supposedly on holidays but apparently not far from the internet, is outraged that a school history curriculum could decline to evangelise for Christianity, leaving children “ignorant of the faith that bred their most crucial freedoms”.

Begging the question – precisely which of our “crucial freedoms” were bred by Christianity?

Seriously, which? I’m genuinely curious.

UPDATE: While we’re talking about the boons granted by religion: Hospital saves woman’s life; is told by Catholic leadership not to do it again.

Anyone gullible enough to fall for the Wager, we’d love to have you

The Punch today publishes a silly piece by a fundamentalist Christian (“Steve Kryger has a passion for Jesus, Rachael (his wife), social media and politics – in that order!”) running the “but what if there’s life after death” line as if that leads naturally to the conclusion that the Bible is “authoritative” and some kind of rational response to this human desire:

Generally speaking, Australians are pretty confident that ‘this’ isn’t all there is, and when life’s umpire raises his finger to the sky and sends them back to the dressing room, they will find themselves in a ‘better place’.

While this is certainly a nice thought, whenever anyone expresses this sentiment I usually respond with two follow-up questions.

Firstly, what evidence do you have that there is a ‘better place’?

And secondly, what confidence do you have that you will be going there?

And he then tries to pretend that he does have this “evidence” and can provide some “confidence” as to who’ll be going there. But, as I commented over there –

You don’t have any “evidence”, either (that’s what “faith” is for – arriving at a conclusion without evidence).

I’d love there to be an afterlife, because the idea of this being all there is is rather depressing. But how do you get past the suspicion that you’re just fooling yourself to avoid facing a depressing reality?

Funny, isn’t it, that the world is full of religious people of all different faiths, absolutely convinced that theirs is the right one and that everyone else is going to hell. And yet they can’t all be right. Funnily enough, hardly any of them have genuinely considered alternative religions – the vast majority of religious people have picked the religion of their parents and/or the country in which they live.

And it’s no more rational to say “I’m going to believe every word in this arbitrarily-constructed Bible” than it is to say “If there’s a heaven I think I’ll get there because I’m a good person”. Just because your creed is more complicated and convoluted doesn’t make it more likely to be right.

Do Christian apologists really not understand the massive logical holes in Pascal’s Wager? Or do they understand them perfectly well, but don’t mind playing on potential converts’ ignorance?

They hate Lara too

Unhappy customers to mount a class-action lawsuit against Vodafone?

Colour me surprised.

“A triumph for ignorant medievalism”

Because the NSW Discrimination Act has ridiculous exemptions in place to enable religious organisations to discriminate against people on the grounds of gender, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal has confirmed that in that state, religious organisations are free to simply ban gays from being foster parents.

Cardinal Pell could hardly contain his glee, breaking out his special “now I get to put people I don’t know down for stupid reasons” smirk.

I only get this smug when I’m about to pointlessly and spitefully discriminate against someone.

The Tribunal suggested parliament should review the law. As the Council of Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy argued:

Churches who receive taxpayers money to provide services for the state – as was increasingly the case – should no longer be exempt from discrimination laws.

“It’s outrageous,” he said. “If a non-religious organisation tried to do this they would be in breach of the law. If they want to run a foster care agency they ought to be looking after the best interests of the child, not trying to push their religion on the community.”

Exactly – why should taxpayer money (and gay people are taxpayers) be used to discriminate against other citizens?

And again we see the real problem with governments outsourcing their social obligations to private organisations, here relying on churches to find foster care, provide orphanages, hospitals and charities. In my line of work, people charged with drug offences are often given the choice of jail or doing a rehab program run by a religious group – and one which takes advantage of them at a vulnerable time in their life to heavily indoctrinate them while they’re stuck there.

This is wrong. These are all things the state should be providing from our taxes. And if it did, it could bloody well tax religious organisations appropriately without them being able to blackmail it on the basis of the necessary services that they presently supply.

I’m absolutely sick of the state having to pander to “ignorant medievalism” (the phrase of one of the commenters on the News Ltd story) because it won’t do its damn job.

*Discriminating against a couple because they’re gay is discrimination on gender, since you’re discriminating on the basis that one of them isn’t a woman or a man.

Happy solstice plus three

Happy annual gift-exchanging day, everyone. Hope you have a wonderful time with your families and/or loved ones.

I like to dismember a tree, weigh it down with lights and baubles and then fail to adequately water it so it dies slowly over the month. As our dear Lord demanded.

Enjoy the Xmas atmos!

UPDATE: Isn’t it weird that they call it Christmas Day, even though it’s nearly a day before the event it’s named after (the Doctor Who Christmas Special)?

St Kilda, AFL, establishment vs teenage girl

This is a much worse look than a couple of naked footballers:

St Kilda vice president Ross Levin, speaking after the Federal Court extended an injunction preventing the girl from publishing photographs taken from footballer Sam Gilbert’s computer, vowed that she would not get off “scot-free” and that today’s hearing was only the start of the club’s legal response.

“If she thinks that because it is too late and she is going to get off scot-free and she has already put the photos out there, well she is wrong,” said Mr Levin, who is also Gilbert’s solicitor.

“This is only the start of the legal process against her. The next stage is seeking that this injunction becomes permanent and suing her for damages and costs for breach of copyright, breach of confidence and also adding claims of deliberate infliction of mental distress and trespass. The unjustified attack on the players and our club will be met by us in the strongest possible way.”

I suppose they’re banking on being able to run her into the ground with the significant funds at their disposal – certainly they’re not skimping on the high-powered legal representation. Big football club vs 17 year old nobody: what kind of a fair fight is that?

I will devote my energies – my professional knowledge, my money, the skills I’ve spent a lifetime developing – to grinding this teenager into the Earth LIKE A BUG.

That is unless the courts resist being used by the powerful to bully the powerless, and refuse to make oppressive orders just because expensive QCs have demanded they do so. Let’s hope they remember that just because someone’s unrepresented – or even absent – doesn’t mean they have to give the party present everything it demands. Particularly if it’s massively over-reaching.

Seriously, St Kilda and the AFL are in trouble here because of the allegations that their players abused and took advantage of a teenage girl. Do they really think upping the ante and crushing her as thoroughly as they can will improve their image?

UPDATE: From The Age‘s version of the story:

Mr Houghton proposed to Justice Shane Marshall that the teenager be ordered to destroy any pictures she took from Gilbert’s computer, printed or electronic, and ”without limitation, copies stored on an internet account or website, computer hard drive, memory stick, MP3 device, camera phone or in any electronic repository or format”.

Justice Marshall replied that he found the proposal ”fairly draconian” and did not want to make any orders in the teenager’s absence. He extended the order banning publication of the photographs, with the hearing set to resume this afternoon.

With the greatest respect to my learned colleague, I can’t say I’m all that sorry to hear that his submission was not accepted.

There’s a reason the right conflates “green” and “Green”

Ever noticed how whenever some shyster releases a dodgy scheme and calls it “green”, its failures are blamed on the conservation movement or the Greens political party? When BHP or the Commonwealth Bank – or News Ltd – advertise some “green” policy they’re implementing, could anyone seriously believe they’ve anything to do with the Australian Greens? (Or that simply using some recycled paper makes a company “green” in any meaningful sense?)

The Greens don’t own the word, and it is easily co-opted by the cynics of the corporate world – and outright crooks – for money-making ventures that the Greens would vigorously oppose: not that it stops their critics from using those failures to bash them. Critics who deliberately conflate “green” and “The Greens” and then, to add insult to injury, pretend that it’s the Greens who’ve fostered that confusion.

When BP changed its logo to one that looks like a flower and allocated a tiny proportion of its resources to “renewable” energy, its failures suddenly became the fault of Green parties around the world.

Senator Christine Milne writes in the Punch today criticising the “Green loans” scheme – a great idea mismanaged into a debacle – but see the name? It’s an ALP scheme to which the party applied the word “green”.

So you can guess who’ll get the blame, even as they’re trying to hold the real offenders to account.

War on fare evaders/cheeky commuters compromised

Public transport ticket inspectors here in Melbourne have outrageously been criticised by the Ombudsman for “improper conduct”. Apparently senseless violence against potential fare evaders/insolent children is somehow wrong.

No ticket!

And what’s worse, many of these incidents were referred to the Ombudsman by the operators in order to prosecute the citizens involved. How could their agents administering blunt justice be so betrayed?

”Closed circuit television footage provided to my office has highlighted a number of examples of inappropriate authorised officer conduct and use of excessive force,” the Ombudsman said.

”Of concern was that the incidents in question were referred to the department by the operators for possible prosecution of the commuters involved” – not the ticket inspectors. ”In my view, this demonstrates that authorised officers and their managers are clearly not aware of the limitations on the appropriate use of their powers, or are ignoring them.”

In another incident in March, a ticketing inspector pushed two young commuters from a moving train.

CCTV footage is supposed to HELP us bully snitty little kids, not protect them when we go ludicrously overboard!

Beginning to regret putting cameras on the trains at all.

Why do we need to divide our schools by race, creed, or wealth?

An article on The Punch this morning argues that kids should be exposed to people from all walks of life. The author is writing about the positive effect for kids at schools in Inverbrackie who will now be exposed first-hand to children seeking asylum:

Some of the asylum seeker children now living in Inverbrackie will be going to local schools.

It would be a fair bet that the children already in those schools will have absorbed the community’s conflicting messages. Who knows what that does to a young mind, which can be curious and welcoming but can also be full of fear of the unknown.

So with any luck that fear will be eradicated once they’re meeting the asylum seeker children in the playground, sitting next to them in the classroom, sharing their food and their stories.

Evolution has left us with a tendency towards tribalism, a tendency that should be overcome through education, starting with children.

Isn’t this also one of the critical arguments against religious schools? Keeping children in their own little religious tribal group, not exposed to those from different backgrounds? It’s not just that it’s wrong to indoctrinate kids with one particular philosophy without exposing them reasonably to alternatives; it’s not even just that it limits their ability to find out about rights they have that their community might not want them to know about – it’s simply this: that part of growing into a healthy, reasonable human being involves being regularly exposed to those different to yourself.

And yet we’ve divided our education system into little ghettoes – the Roman Catholic, the Jew, The Exclusive Brethren, the Muslim, the secular; and the rich and the poor. That’s how to divide a community, not bring it together.

I can’t see it happening in the short term, but surely it would be a positive long-term goal to create a single, unified education system in which all our kids – regardless of their parents wealth, race, or creed – learn together. Why should that be controversial?