Monthly Archives: November 2011

Brutally slashing public service jobs in the execution sector

The Governor of the US state of Oregon declares he will not execute any more prisoners:

The change of heart comes as a surprise for a governor who twice before — in his first term as governor — allowed executions to go forward. Despite his personal opposition to the death penalty, Kitzhaber said he was upholding the will of the people in allowing the 1996 execution of Douglas Franklin Wright and the 1997 execution of Harry Charles Moore.

“I have regretted those choices ever since,” he said in a prepared statement. “Both because of my own deep personal convictions about capital punishment and also because in practice, Oregon has an expensive and unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice.”

The announcement is a win for death penalty activists who had asked Kitzhaber to declare a moratorium on executions until the state conducts a thorough review of its death penalty system.

Kitzhaber said his decision is not out of compassion for Haugen or other inmates. But the death penalty is not handed down fairly — some inmates on death row have committed similar crimes as those who are serving life sentences, he said. It is a criticism Haugen himself has often made and cites as a reason that he has volunteered to die, protesting the unfairness of the death penalty.

But without the killings by the occasionally reliable state, how will the victims of terrible murders be brought back to life and the wrongs committed by serious criminals be undone? How will the victims’ families get to feel the brief satisfaction of enjoying another person’s death? What about the jobs of the hardworking executioners?

A sad end to a beautiful bloodthirsty tradition.

V for vastly increased sales

Professional grumpy person, and original V for Vendetta author Alan Moore, finds something ironic in the sudden popularity of Vendetta-style Guy Fawkes masks for anti-corporate protests:

“I find it comical, watching Time Warner try to walk this precarious tightrope.” Through contacts in the comics industry, he explains, he has heard that boosted sales of the masks have become a troubling issue for the company. “It’s a bit embarrassing to be a corporation that seems to be profiting from an anti-corporate protest. It’s not really anything that they want to be associated with. And yet they really don’t like turning down money – it goes against all of their instincts.” Moore chuckles. “I find it more funny than irksome.”

Although I doubt any corporations are really ashamed of flogging stuff to anti-corporate protesters. I suspect they giggle to each other about it.

Threatening to cut off Centrelink payments from teenage mothers in disadvantaged areas

Thank God we’re finally going to cut poor teenage mothers off welfare if they won’t find the magical time they don’t have to do Year 12, so their children can grow up in cardboard boxes while their mums go to school. And until they get the message, they and their children can starve. It’s an important message – YOU’RE BLOODY FAILURES IN LIFE YOU LOSERS GO BACK TO SCHOOL YOUR BABIES DON’T NEED YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE PROBABLY CRAP MUMS ANYWAY – and if we have to sacrifice the health or lives of some poor kids (infants and teen mums) to make it clear, then that’s what we’ll do.

Young mums in NSW suburbs Bankstown, Wyong and Shellharbour will be among the first in Australia forced to take part in a federal government trial of 10 disadvantaged areas that will strip them of their benefits if they don’t finish Year 12.

About 11,000 teenage parents receive a parenting payment worth up to $641 a fortnight and 90 per cent of them have not completed Year 12.

Under the government’s welfare crackdown, teenage parents will be required to attend six-monthly interviews with Centrelink once their baby is six months old and, on the child’s first birthday, will have to have a plan for completion of school.

Serves them right for living in a disadvantaged area. They should be grateful it’s not as disadvantaged as the aboriginal communities in Central Australia. At least we’re not telling them how to spend their meagre Centrelink payment.

You know what I heard on the deranged right-wing radio I spend a lot of time listening to because I enjoy hating the people it claims are destroying this country (particularly the evil lying Prime lying Minister LIAR LIAR LIAR) because, obviously, they despise us and don’t share our values? Well, I heard that young girls – sluts, the lot of them – deliberately get pregnant for the luxurious welfare that’s made single mothers on Centrelink famous as the most privileged people in our community! It’s true! Someone said it and provided no evidence for this frankly absurd claim, and I believe them!

Those darn people poorer than me. Man, it’s just so satisfying making their lives more difficult, isn’t it?

High school student hurts Governor’s feelings

Please tell me that the blowback for Brownback on this has seriously done him some political damage:

FAIRWAY, Kan. – Eighteen-year-old Emma Sullivan never thought her tweet about a field trip would be seen by Gov. Sam Brownback. The Shawnee Mission East High School senior went to the Capitol and heard Brownback speak. She didn’t like what she heard.

“I don’t agree with a majority of the things that he is trying to pass,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan tweeted her thoughts about what she wanted to do during the speech.

Sullivan’s tweet stated: “just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”

Sullivan said she ended up in the principal’s office the next day.

“He explained to me that someone from Brownback’s office got a hold of it and sent it to someone in charge of the district,” said Sullivan.

She said her principal wants her to write an apology to Brownback

Any politician who thinks it’s okay to bully a high school student for having a political opinion should be an object of both disgust and derision.

Remember when you could have shared this?

Okay, I’m really missing being able to share posts from Google Reader with friends also using Google Reader, and see what they’ve shared in return. Google+ is just irritating, its share system is incompatible with my RSS reader, and friends aren’t using it anyway.


True for Facebook, true for Google.

So. Is there a new way to do it, now that Google has decided to act like the nasty big company we feared it was, and just remove features with which it smothered its original competitors?

Pepper Spray – the new tool for extrajudicially punishing people police don’t like

It was supposed to be a non-lethal alternative to police having to seriously injury someone. Instead, capsicum spray is regularly used instead of

When pepper spray became a mainstream law enforcement tool in the 1990s, it was hailed as a relatively peaceful alternative to harsh physical violence.

But as demonstrated by the routine spraying of Occupy Wall Street activists, culminating in the horrific assault at the University of California, Davis, pepper spray can too easily become a tool of first and excessive resort…

Far from being what one Fox News pundit called a “food product,” pepper is a dangerous and sometimes deadly weapon

Like pepper sprays, Tasers were supposed to be tools of intermediate physical force, an alternative to hitting a resisting suspect with batons or grappling them to the ground. But Tasers also became alternatives to less-violent tactics and were used in situations where suspects had not physically resisted arrest.

Rather than talking, police too often go straight to the electricity — and the same may also happen with pepper spray.

The reason is obvious, according to Ana Yáñez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition:

“When you have something that is readily available to you, something that’s on your belt like pepper spray, and you have a confrontation in front of you — the first thing you’re going to do, because you’re human, is use whatever is right there… All of the training that you might use, anything that allows you to use your other skills, goes out the door. The first thing you do is say, ‘I’m going to pepper-spray that kid.’ That’s a natural response.”

The studies discussed in the article are worth a look.

I wonder whether it’s just that O/C spray and tasers give police a greater sense of authority, a greater sense of power, and that makes them more assertive and aggressive, escalating confrontations. There’s also the fact that both O/C spray and tasers are extremely painful.

Not that any present members of our police forces would ever use such an opportunity to dole out some extrajudicial punishment to someone who, say, questioned their authority. But if some ordinary people who might succumb to that temptation were to join the force, are we certain they wouldn’t?

I think we should be very, very careful before adopting any of these new punitive weapons. Very careful.

Don’t you dare oppress my religious beliefs by wishing me a happy holiday!

I must have signed up to some loyalty program at Strandbags when I bought a briefcase some time. Tonight I received this:

Dear Jeremy,

We have received a number of complaints in relation to our ‘Happy Holidays’ promotion.

It was never our intention to offend or in any way reduce the importance of Christmas, and if it has done so, we sincerely apologise.

To this end, we have instructed our stores to remove the ‘Happy Holidays’ promotion immediately.

As always, your valued input and feedback is welcomed and appreciated.

Yours Sincerely

Rory Crawford
Chief Executive Officer

You have got to be kidding. Somebody actually complained that saying “Happy Holidays” didn’t pander sufficiently to their religion? And instead of responding with something pointing out how silly that is, and how even Christians can have happy holidays, they actually caved?

Well now you’ve pissed off people who aren’t insane fundamentalists. And there are a lot more of us. And our objection – that you think we’re some kind of theocracy where you must pander to the religious in order to do business – makes a hell of a lot more sense than theirs.

Strandbags’ contact details, if you’d like to let them know what you think of their cowardice.

PS Talking of cowardice, despite ending the email with “your valued input and feedback is welcomed and appreciated”, Rory’s email comes from the presumably not-checked “noreply@loyalty.strandbags.com.au” and there’s no return email address given. Funny, that.

Sadly, I suspect this really is the best case against marriage equality

Long-term readers of this blog may recall that I have asked, on many occasions, for someone to present a justification for continuing to discriminate in marriage law between couples depending on the gender of the participants.

Today someone pointed me to a paper by Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson trying to put the argument that, in essence, marriage is about teh children, and gay people can’t have teh children, so the state shouldn’t encourage people to think marriage is not about teh children by stopping discriminating against gays and lesbians in marriage legislation. Because then people who want to have children might not get married (like now) and people who want to get married might not try to have kids (like now). And stop thinking about all the exceptions to the rule. Exceptions to the rule don’t count, unless they’re gay.

And marriage is different from, say, a pair of really supportive tennis partners because of the sex. And before you tell us that gay people also have sex, let us quickly define which sex counts. ONLY SEX THAT MIGHT RESULT IN PROCREATION. Gay sex, sex between infertile couples, sex with contraception, none of that counts because it’s not “mutual coordination towards a bodily good”. Sex could NOT be about intimacy between the couple, it just isn’t, which is why married couples stop doing it after they’ve finished having children. In the authors’ experience.

There are 43 pages of this.

Anyway, the article was thoroughly and convincingly rebutted by Kenji Youshino in Slate, The Best Argument Against Gay Marriage – And why it fails.:

We all know that the common-procreation argument declares war on all same-sex marriages. But it is worth reviewing just how demeaning it is to opposite-sex couples who do not produce their own offspring. They are like losing baseball teams. They are not the real parents of their children. True, their status is not directly on the line in the gay marriage debate—George and his co-authors are not coming after their marriage licenses. But if common procreation were to be accepted as the central basis of marriage, it would necessarily treat their marriages as inferior. In its broad and unforgiving sweep, this argument is self-destructively over-inclusive. It succeeds only in diminishing the institution of marriage itself.

Needless to say, the response by George, Anderson and Sirgis, does not meaningfully tackle Yoshino’s point.

Here’s their summary of their awesome argument, their challenge to equality advocates:

We also show that those who would redefine civil marriage, to eliminate sexual complementarity as an essential element, can give no principled account of why marriage should be (1) a sexual partnership as opposed to a partnership distinguished by exclusivity with respect to other activities (including non-sexual relationships, as between cohabiting adult brothers); or (2) an exclusive union of only two persons (rather than three or more in a polyamorous arrangement). Nor can they give robust reasons for making marriage (3) a legally recognized and regulated relationship in the first place (since, after all, we don’t legally recognize or closely regulate most other forms of friendships).

We were explicit in framing these as challenges to proponents of gay civil marriage. And if anyone is capable of meeting them, surely it is Professor Yoshino. So his decision to pass over those challenges in perfect silence confirms and reinforces our belief (also amply defended in our article) that only the conjugal view can answer them.

That’s right. Their arguments are all deflections. How about incest? How about polygamy? How about getting rid of marriage altogether? Why don’t you resolve these things nobody’s arguing about and which you’re not advocating before addressing the specific proposal on the table?

In short:

  1. Marriage doesn’t require sex even now. If two people of the opposite sex who cohabit want to get married without having sex, the law doesn’t stop them. Incest has its own problems, but they do not arise in gay marriage. If you want to propose legalising incest, then we can consider your proposal on its merits.
  2. If you have more than two people, then you have a whole range of practical problems with, for example, consent when parties wish to join or leave some but not all of the other people. And how do you divide marital property when one person leaves the others? Needless to say, those problems do not arise in same sex marriage. Again, if you want to debate polygamy, put forward your proposal for consideration on its merits.
  3. Marriage is desirable as a civil institution because it helps protect people in terms of issues like inheritance, taxation, etc. In any case, whether the state should withdraw from the area or not is clearly an entirely separate argument, and not one that illuminates this issue. Because nobody here is actually proposing it. Both sides of this debate agree that marriage is of benefit to society. The question is whether it should be arbitrarily excluded from some people on the grounds of gender or not.

Wow, that was difficult.

And these are supposed to be the best arguments against equality!

I agree with George et al that a central question to be resolved is “what is marriage?”

But the problem is that the answer to that question will vary on the person answering it. If you’re looking at what are the necessary conditions for a union to be a marriage, then you need to find ones that don’t exclude a whole host of existing non-controversially married couples.

For example – marriage is about committing to each other for life, that you will look after each other and support each other. About joining the lives of those within the marriage together, distinct from the rest of the world.

Or is it the case that the concept of marriage encompasses a set of aspects, of which some are required in order for society to accept that relationship as a marriage? But where some may be excluded? Because you can find exceptions to even the above. Obviously people do get divorced. And others live very separate lives. Maybe the definition of marriage is simply the state that exists between two consenting adults who wish to marry their lives together – that seeking the state of marriage is what creates the marriage itself. That marriage is an optional state and if people wish to form that connection between each other, then the state should apply consistently the rules and arrangements it has set in place to regulate marriages.

In reality, the vast majority of people will only marry for the above reasons, or a combination of the above reasons. If there’s no genuine intimacy who would commit their life to another person above all others?

In any case, whatever criteria you think are necessary for marriage, it’s clear hardly anyone really believes that having children is one. If having children – or the potential of having children – was a critical element of marriage, so critical that gay people should be ruled out of the institution because they can’t (although we’ll see what happens with lesbians in the coming years), then we would look askance at older people marrying. It would seem odd, not like a real marriage. Women post menopause wouldn’t bother marrying because there’d be no point to it.

In reality, of course, who bats an eyelid at such marriages? Clearly we don’t, and clearly that’s because we realise that marriage has significant meaning to the participants even without children or the possibility of children.

And so it does to gay and lesbian people. Which is why many of them want to get married.

Frankly, I’m tired of waiting for the anti-equality side to come up with an argument that isn’t so easily disposed of.

UPDATE: This is the flimsy effort at trying to distinguish heterosexual sex that doesn’t result in conception from homosexual sex that doesn’t result in conception:

Because interpersonal unions are valuable in themselves, and not merely as means to other ends, a husband and wife’s loving bodily union in coitus and the special kind of relationship to which it is integral are valuable whether or not conception results and even when conception is not sought. But two men or two women cannot achieve organic bodily union since there is no bodily good or function toward which their bodies can coordinate, reproduction being the only candidate. This is a clear sense in which their union cannot be marital, if marital means comprehensive and comprehensive means, among other things, bodily.

You want a “bodily good or function” towards which gays and lesbians’ sexuality can coordinate? Orgasm. Intimacy. Communication. Pleasure. The reasons why humans (and most other creates that have sex) continue to have sex when procreation is impossible. These “bodily goods or functions” are all available in gay and lesbian sexuality. The first sentence even admits that conception being sought is not necessary for sexuality to be valuable. So what’s really the distinction between the two, other than that gay and lesbian sex makes those authors religiously uncomfortable?

Man, the crazy things you have to pretend to believe in order to concoct some flimsy reason to discriminate against people.

Meanwhile, this is how they start their section trying to link marriage to children – with a highly dubious assertion that “most people” agree with them.

Most people accept that marriage is also deeply—indeed, in an important sense, uniquely—oriented to having and rearing children.

Assertion, meet contradiction: No they don’t, and no it isn’t. Exhibit 1: the many childless marriages. Exhibit 2: the many children raised out of wedlock. QED.

Oh, but wait, we have an answer to that:

People who can unite bodily can be spouses without children, just as people who can practice baseball can be team-mates without victories on the field. Although marriage is a social practice that has its basic structure by nature whereas baseball is wholly conventional, the analogy highlights a crucial point: Infertile couples and winless baseball teams both meet the basic requirements for participating in the practice (conjugal union; practicing and playing the game) and retain their basic orientation to the fulfillment of that practice (bearing and rearing children; winning games), even if that fulfillment is never reached.

Oh, no we don’t. That’s just argument by definition. Infertile couples meet the basic requirements, do they? Clearly those basic requirements don’t include having children, or the ability to have children, because infertile married couples don’t. So then how do gay people not meet those basic requirements? Because we’ve added a clause that says that being infertile is a barrier to marriage IF YOU’RE GAY. And why is it a barrier? Because you’re gay. Why must being gay be a barrier? Because you’re gay and can’t have kids. Why is being straight and not having kids not a barrier? Because they’re straight. Why is that not a barrier? Because they’re not gay. Why is that the barrier? Because they’re not straight.

It’s just common sense:

On the other hand, same-sex partnerships, whatever their moral status, cannot be marriages because they lack any essential orientation to children: They cannot be sealed by the generative act. Indeed, in the common law tradition, only coitus (not anal or oral sex even between legally wed spouses) has been recognized as consummating a marriage.

But society no longer determines whether a marriage is a marriage on the grounds of what type of sex the partners have. If a straight couple enjoyed exclusively anal or oral sex, no modern court would annul their marriage. And obviously childless straight couples also lack “any essential orientation to children”, since their sex is not a “generative act” or a potentially “generative act”.

Seriously – we’re down to IT JUST ISN’T again. There’s no reason given why the type of non-procreative sex a couple enjoys is any business of the government’s. And the continued fudging over the “well they COULD have children, you know, even if they couldn’t” line is just embarrassing.

I can see why these guys are so sought-after for their intellectual prowess.

UPDATE #2: They seriously wrote this paragraph, in defence of the line that we shouldn’t discriminate against infertile couples (as if that was actually what equality advocates were suggesting):

What is more, any marriage law at all communicates some message about what marriage is as a moral reality. The state has an obligation to get that message right, for the sake of people who might enter the institution, for their children, and for the community as a whole. To recognize only fertile marriages is to suggest that marriage is merely a means to procreation and child-rearing and not what it truly is, namely, a good in itself. It may also violate the principle of equality to which revisionists appeal, because infertile and fertile couples alike can form unions of the same basic kind: real marriages. In the absence of strong reasons for it, this kind of differential treatment would be unfair.

Welcome to what we’ve been saying, George. Finally you understand why it’s time for governments to remove unjustified gender discrimination from the Marriage Act.

Next for Work For The Dole: full taxpayer-funded slavery

Remember in the old days when slaveowners had to at least feed and clothe their human chattels? How quaint. The new, highly-profitable corporate ones won’t even have to do that:

Britain’s jobless young people are being sent to work for supermarkets and budget stores for up to two months for no pay and no guarantee of a job, the Guardian can reveal.

Under the government’s work experience programme young jobseekers are exempted from national minimum wage laws for up to eight weeks and are being offered placements in Tesco, Poundland, Argos, Sainsbury’s and a multitude of other big-name businesses.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says that if jobseekers “express an interest” in an offer of work experience they must continue to work without pay, after a one-week cooling-off period or face having their benefits docked.

Young people have told the Guardian that they are doing up to 30 hours a week of unpaid labour and have to be available from 9am to 10pm.

Work 30 hours a week for 53 pounds from the taxpayer, the benefit of that labour going not to the community but to profitable private companies.

And how much more profitable will these private companies be able to be now they can force staff to work for free (with a minimal amount of food and shelter covered by the taxpayer) or starve!

I hope Tony Abbott is watching. I bet the Business Council of Australia is already drawing up the formal policy, apologising to members that its British colleagues got there first.

Yes, but you’re the ones causing the health problems

It’s always struck me as particularly objectionable that those opponents of equality for gays and lesbians regularly cite, as evidence for why homosexuality should be discouraged and therefore gays and lesbians discriminated against, that they often suffer from mental health problems. Because the main mental health problems suffered by gays and lesbians are a result of the discrimination on which the homophobes are insisting that we continue.

Today, Paul Martin at The Punch unpacks the lie behind the homophobes smear:

The mental and physical health of same-sex attracted people is measurably poorer than for the population generally. There are higher levels of substance abuse, depression and anxiety. Same-sex attracted people are five times more likely to have had suicidal plans and four times as likely to have attempted suicide.

These issues are not a result of same-sex attraction. All psychological evidence demonstrates that being same sex attracted is not a disorder.

Poor health outcomes are the result of the high levels of psychological distress experienced growing up surrounded by negative attitudes and behaviours to same-sex attraction.

The link with marriage equality is clear:

The link has been highlighted by the American Psychological Association which recently issued a statement citing the growing number of studies into marriage and the mental health of same-sex attracted people.

According to the statement, which was unanimously endorsed by the APA’s governing body, denying same-sex attracted people the right to marry:

a) excludes them from the many health benefits of marriage,
b) reinforces “minority stigma” against them and their families, and
c) may reduce the longevity of their relationships.

In other words, those claiming to demand discrimination against gays “for their own good” are the cause of most of the damage they cite to justify their stance.

Meanwhile, if the Prime Minister could present some kind of rational reason for her support for legislative descrimination besides the vacuous “but it would require changing the current law!”, she might be less of an object of derision and contempt.