Monthly Archives: February 2012

Satirical legislation

Satirical legislation:

The Republican march against adult Americans’ right to make their own decisions about really private matters remains so unbelievable that parody has become a legitimate legislative response. Oklahoma got the “Every Sperm Is Sacred” protest amendment. Virginia got a measure to require prostate exams for Viagra prescriptions.

And now Georgia State Representative Yasmin Neal has a bill that would ban vasectomies. After a Republican lawmaker introduced a bill taking away women’s reproductive rights, Neal decided that fair is fair.

So, which utterly infuriating Australian legislation deserves this kind of a response? A retort to the 2004 changes to the Marriage Act, perhaps, with an amendment demanding that it be limited to Non-Christians. Or Christians, whichever makes the point most clearly. How about an amendment to the Fair Work legislation that makes it almost impossible to strike by adding a section declaring that any employee who even mentions the word “strike” be strapped to a rocket and fired at the sun? And surely we can have an amendment to the ALP’s recent backdown to the pokie lobby adding a section that expressly gives Clubs Australia the power to ignore any part of the legislation that still mildly inconveniences it?

Got some better ideas? Share them in the comments.

We need a Prime Minister to tell us how to feel

Like most Australians, I look to the Prime Minister to inspire me on a day to day basis. I need a Prime Minister to lead me, to point me in the right direction when I’m feeling lost. I need a Prime Minister who enjoys the same sports I enjoy, who enjoys the same television shows I enjoy (who doesn’t get a thrill when the PM says something indicating she watches MasterChef! It makes me feel like watching MasterChef is alright after all). A Prime Minister who has the same religious beliefs as me, who has the same sexual preference as me.

The office of Prime Minister is about so much more than speaking for a parliamentary party and explaining the policies on which they’ve agreed in consultation with each other. It’s about much more than implementing legislation that does things consistent with the approach they told us they’d take before we voted for them.

It’s about leading us. About telling us what to do. About helping us think the right way.

That‘s why it’s so important who is PM. Because it’s their job to seem cool and likeable and like they’d only do good things.

That’s why I am frustrated and confused about why it is that the parliamentary Labor party and the parliamentary Liberal party both choose their own leaders rather than letting me vote on the subject, although if you asked me directly I’d say that the US system is un-Australian and the last thing we want to emulate here despite it being what I just demanded.

Kevin Rudd really spoke to me. I liked the way it seemed on the TV news that everyone liked him and he was happy and popular. I liked being told I liked him. I liked the way he and Tony Abbott abandoned the carbon trading scheme they’d promised us, just as much as I hate the way Julia Gillard gave us the carbon trading scheme she’d said once she wouldn’t. I liked the way Kevin hasn’t ever been drawn as an evil witch with a pointy nose. I liked the way Kevin said “Vegemite” and “fair suck of the sauce bottle” and how easy it was to forget how much I hated those things two years ago when the Herald Sun was telling me I should. I like the way Kevin’s name doesn’t rhyme with “liar”. I liked the way his policies were apparently better in some way. That’s why I supported him again.

And it was all for naught. I don’t understand what’s going on.

Theories about why there’s still anger in the community about the ALP replacing Rudd with Gillard ages ago before the last election when she won more seats than Abbott but is clearly still less legitimate than he is

  1. We don’t have civics classes in schools.
  2. Many people don’t understand why those drafting our constitution avoided cursing us with a US-style Presidential system (where power resides in one person who’s somehow supposed to represent a country) and blessed us with a parliamentary one (where legislation is voted on by diverse* members representing different views in the community) instead.
  3. The media keep telling people that we have a vote for PM even though we don’t.
  4. Big political parties keep pretending to agree with the media telling people we have a vote for the PM even though we don’t.
  5. The former PM keeps pretending we voted for him as PM even though we didn’t.
  6. It’s much easier to be angry with the people working within the system you don’t understand than to acknowledge your ignorance and be angry with the people who deceived you.
  7. We enjoyed kicking out John Howard so much (oh boy, that was awesome – remember when he even lost his seat! What a fitting end to one of the country’s worst governments of all time) that we thought it’d be just as fun to kick out Rudd, although the Rudd removal was more a sad necessity than a joy and if we’d done it we’d have had to replace him with Abbott.

I do enjoy when media outlets report how “confused” and “bewildered” voters are about what’s going on, as if that’s not an incredibly damning indictment on the quality of their political reporting.

*Yes, well, we would be if we had a more democratic electoral system than single-member electorates where smaller parties simply have their votes handed over to big parties on preferences.

Cost-cutting that costs us all

Step 1: Cut funding for mental health services, or continue to underfund them.
Step 2: Spend more – much more – on

  • Police
  • coroners
  • courts
  • prosecutors
  • legal aid
  • prisons
  • victims of crime
  • insurance

Genius.

Oh, and turn police into suicide prevention counsellors and executioners. Because that’s what they signed up for.

PS: And of course that’s not even counting the cost to those with mental health issues and their families when they are left without necessary care and treatment. Or to members of the community when those with anti-social forms of mental illness are untreated and put in situations where crime or violence are more likely to arise.

Why even a free market fundamentalist should oppose DRM

Cory Doctorow on how “Digital Rights Management” technology and supporting legislation stifle technological innovation:

The primary value of DRM to technology companies: because many countries’ laws prohibit breaking DRM even if you’re not doing anything illegal, DRM gives companies the right to sue competitors who make compatible products and services.

The law has always recognized that interoperability is good for competition, markets, and the public. From generic windshield-wiper blades and hubcaps to third-party hard-drives and keyboards and inkjet toner, and software like Pages and Keynote, the law recognizes that there is a legitimate reason to reverse-engineer a competitor’s products and make new products that replace, expand and augment them.

Companies don’t like this. It interferes with the “razor blade” business model of subsidizing one part of a product and charging high margins on some other part. It undermines efforts to corner markets and freeze out disruptive innovation. It lowers prices and forces you to spend more money on R&D to get the next product out because the profits have started to fall on the old products.

But these are not bugs, they’re features. High prices on inkjet cartridges and proprietary cables and other consumables and accessories hold us back from realizing the full utility of our property. Allowing carriers to lock handsets to prevent the introduction of VoIP and tethering software to preserve high tariffs is good for telco investors, but bad for those of us who buy their products, and it removes the incentive to improve voice-call quality to compete with VoIP. Artificially prolonging the profitability of last year’s invention means that this year’s invention doesn’t get made as quickly — or at all.

Fortunately for those who want to slow innovation and hold back humanity so that those holding patents on outdated technology can gouge a bit more money out of the rest of us, they’re the ones the politicians have been listening to. As long as ordinary people don’t realise how much we’re being dudded by this rent-seeking, market-distorting, anti-competitive, corrupt system, then the extra money the established parasites have to spend lobbying will, in the minds of decision-makers, vastly outweigh the votes of the many, many more people negatively affected by it.

If only the Bible didn’t clearly indicate that a foetus is not a person

If you’ve listened to any fundamentalists lately, you might think they’ve always held that a foetus is the same as a human being, with full human rights, and that this is what the Bible says about it.

Fred Clark points out that that’s bullshit, and until the late 1970s, non-Roman Catholic Christians regularly argued with the Vatican position on the subject:

Keep in mind that this is from a conservative evangelical seminary professor, writing in Billy Graham’s magazine for editor Harold Lindsell:

God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

Christianity Today would not publish that article in 2012. They might not even let you write that in comments on their website.

Yes, but mainstream Christians of the 1970s were really heretics.

The Bible is the inerrant word of God, and apparently sometimes we need to change it and then pretend our new version is the inerrant word of God.

Shut your damn pie hole, Worf

The power of the press

A place to collect the stupidest media commentary on their long sought-after “leadership spill” they appear to have almost manufactured.

For example:

  • THE AUSTRALIAN PM IS LIKE A PRESIDENT Commentary suggesting that the Australian PM is basically like a President and effectively elected by the voters and has special powers beyond simply being the leader of a parliamentary party that can vote for a replacement spokesperson at any time (how weird that the drafters of the Constitution declined to even mention the office);
  • ELECTING A NEW LEADER OF A PARLIAMENTARY PARTY IS SOMEHOW SHOCKING Commentary suggesting Rudd was “knifed” by Gillard and then she grabbed control of the ALP against the ALP’s wishes, instead of a majority of her colleagues voting for her as in reality;
  • I PREDICT ONE DAY THIS PM WILL NOT BE PM Self-congratulating commentary being smug that the “leadership spill” they’ve spent more than a year saying is days away might now actually happen. What’s that saying about a stopped clock?
  • WHY SHOULD VOTERS GET A CHOICE? Commentary from opponents of Labor’s reform agenda suggesting if only the Labor leader would be more like Tony Abbott than Tony Abbott they could “win back” the support of conservatives who’d never vote for them in a blue fit (eg Andrew Bolt’s “if only Rudd would promise to reintroduce WorkChoices, then he’d be a Labor leader I could support”!)
  • STOP HITTING YOURSELF Complaints by the media that Labor keeps on making them talk about “leadership tensions” as if pretty much everyone in authority in Labor isn’t desperate to talk about their actual achievements instead. It’s like a child grabbing another child’s arm and forcing them to strike their own heads, saying “stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!”

That’s a powerful collection of dumb – but I doubt we’ve seen the end of it.

What else should police officers be doing?

More insanity from the “War” on “Drugs”, as authorities in the US try to destroy the lives of high school kids:

Last year in three high schools in Florida, several undercover police officers posed as students. The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends and flirted with the other students. One 18-year-old honor student named Justin fell in love with an attractive 25-year-old undercover cop after spending weeks sharing stories about their lives, texting and flirting with each other.

One day she asked Justin if he smoked pot. Even though he didn’t smoke marijuana, the love-struck teen promised to help find some for her. Every couple of days she would text him asking if he had the marijuana. Finally, Justin was able to get it to her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said he didn’t want the money — he got it for her as a present.

A short while later, the police did a big sweep and arrest 31 students — including Justin. Almost all were charged with selling a small amount of marijuana to the undercover cops. Now Justin has a felony hanging over his head.

In the cops’ defence, there isn’t any actual crime in Florida that they could be solving.

Through the looking glass

A thing the Daily Telegraph and sister News Ltd tabloids actually published this morning:

The revelation comes as… middle- and high-income families struggling with cost of living pressures brace for cuts to private health rebates and the impact of the carbon tax.

Who’s notably “struggling with cost of living pressures”? “Middle- and high-income families”! Everyone, apparently, except those on low incomes.

Yeah, “middle- and high-income families” have it the worst. No wonder they’re so resentful of refugees and the poor.

Utterly insane.