01 September, 2015

Thinking of linking

Last week I was mostly reading...

Australia:
Tax, Economic Management and the Long Slow Death of the Abbott Government

The Sydney schools becoming Anglo ghettos

Alternate V/Line routes across Victoria

Tony Abbott pushed for US request to join Syria air strikes

Where's our ambition? Quit stalling and get on with reform

F is for farce: how Australian Border Force united the nation against it

The Guardian view on Australia and gay marriage: all out of step except Tony Abbott 

Hot air fills the leadership vacuum

If George Brandis won't stand up for the rule of law, why is he attorney general? 

US:
It’s time for Latinos to unite against Donald Trump

OK, This Trump Thing Isn’t Funny Anymore

Harry Shearer Katrina-anniversary BBC radio documentary to stream Saturday

World:
South Korea is trolling North Korea by using loudspeakers to blast K-pop over the border

Apparently a gorilla is on the cusp of learning to talk

Music:
Habitat for Humanity hosts an intimate concert featuring Randy Newman

Morrissey's Debut Novel 'List of the Lost' Out This Fall

Media:
How did the Australian media get it so wrong with Kathy Jackson?

ABC's Leigh Sales cleared of bias in Joe Hockey budget interview

Max Markson swears by Mark Latham 

History:
Windows 95 20th Anniversary: 20 Years of Tech Advancements

In 1975, this Kodak employee invented the digital camera. His bosses made him hide it. 

Vale:
Oliver Sacks, Renowned Neurologist And Author, Dies At 82

The least boring photo on my camera roll:




22 August, 2015

Thinking of linking

This week I have been mostly reading...

Australia:
New Speaker Tony Smith pushed to his limit

Australia needs a new prime minister 

Peter Tregear leaving ANU School of Music

Out of plebiscite, out of mind

Abbott leadership linked with Royal Commissioner’s fortunes

Tony Abbott's leadership 'all over' if Canning byelection lost: nervous Liberal MPs

Matthew Guy distancing himself from Tony Abbott, with good reason

Is anti-intellectualism killing the national conversation?

Knives out with gay abandon in Liberal Party 

Climate Change Authority head says Coalition's $600bn carbon bill claim 'weird'

Here’s How We Confirmed Mark Latham Has Been Tweeting Abuse At Women or, Part 2 of how Buzzfeed is kicking traditional media's arse when it comes to covering Australian politics. He'd have got away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids.

Government running costs to reach record high as disability expenses mount

Keating hits back at Howard's 'charm' offensive on Labor's reform era

Power giant tells state government it should close brown coal generators

Damned Lies, Minister Hunt and Climate Models

Review questions Coalition push to end 'legal sabotage' of resources projects

Economists' concerns with emissions reduction target not what you'd expect

Explainer: Dyson Heydon and claims of ‘apprehended bias’

Adani mine a $20b project creating 10,000 jobs? The Abbott government's myths busted

Sting allegedly captures security guard in Nauru detention camp confessing to fake assault story

Blunt Instrument: What if politicians had no parties to stand on?

The chequered past of former Victorian Liberal Party director Damien Mantach

Canning by-election looms as make or break for Tony Abbott's leadership

GST to apply to all imports into Australia from July 2017

Mark Latham in foul-mouthed tirade at Melbourne writers' festival

Gay marriage: the business case

Woman reducing Indigenous suicide rates through 'care factor'; new program launched to tackle issue

HESTA decision to dump Transfield marks turning point for shareholder activism

Nauru rapes: ‘There is a war on women’ This is being done in our name.

US:
Street Wise: How Do You Pronounce M-E-L-P-O-M-E-N-E?

The Atlantic's Katrina-anniversary symposium: What's it about? Who'll be there?

Donald Trump Just Stopped Being Funny

World:
Dozens of migrants die on boat in Mediterranean

Royal Marine who lost three limbs in Afghanistan Mark Ormrod: I have to beg, borrow and steal for the care I need

Bangkok explosion: deadly blast near popular shrine kills at least 19

Media:
How Alan Jones guides Tony Abbott

The Late, Great Stephen Colbert

Gun Advocate John Lott Was The Real Author Of A Viral FoxNews.com Op-Ed Written From Perspective Of A Female Stalking Victim

Facebook and the Tyranny of the “Like” in a Difficult World

Don’t feed the troll: The five stupidest Brendan O’Neill articles

Coalition approves primary channels for HD 

Waleed Aly shuts down Steve Price on The Project over 'greenies'

Science:
Astronomers discover enormous Jupiter-like gas giant 96 light years away

Snapshot shows powerful Typhoon Maysak from space

Tech:
Apple's iPhone design patent is finally being invalidated, so they can't sue people for making smartphones

History:
A Coup Fails – August 21, 1991

Society:
We Want Plates founder: bad presentation in pubs is "epidemic"

The Ash1ey M@dison hack, and the value of averting your eyes

The least boring photo on my camera roll:

15 August, 2015

Thinking of linking

This week I have been mostly reading...

Australia:
TAFE staff says fee hikes have turned student-less buildings into morgues

Policy poor Libs failing on reform agenda 

Tony Abbott's do-nothing government

Bronwyn Bishop stands down but on the way out makes sure she won't be forgotten

The politics of fear have trumped the politics of courage – more’s the pity

Jacqui Lambie reveals 21-year-old son's ice addiction during welfare debate 

Abbott needs to embrace some policy boldness

The fall of the house of Felafel 

Michael Clarke eroded Australia's team culture: John Buchanan

There's only one science Tony Abbott trusts - political science

Abbott government rocked by gay marriage fight

Tony Abbott: A man out of his times, but is he also man out of time?

Tax cut for rich flagged

‘It sickens me and it should sicken you, Mr Abbott’

UN climate expert warns Australia's emissions target should not be final offer

The huge amount of attention focused on the drug "ice" may be inadvertently encouraging some young people to try it

The dirty secret of penalty rate opponents: business is booming

Union corruption royal commissioner Dyson Heydon billed as star of Liberal Party fundraiser - prompting the question: just how incompetent do you have to be to launch a royal commission into corruption that looks more corrupt than those it's inquiring into?

Labor demands Dyson Heydon resign as union royal commissioner

Commissioner Dyson Heydon must go over perceived bias

Hazelwood mine contractor diagnosed with terminal lung condition after fighting Morwell fire

Tony Abbott: determined to lead the Whitlam government of our time?

It's every man for himself on Tony Abbott's sinking governmental ship

Liberty the loser in the modern-day Liberal Party

Coalition a victim of its own trickiness as colleagues lose faith in Tony Abbott 

US:
Is Trump 'un-presidential'? Not compared to some past presidents. 

The Donald Trump effect: How the GOP’s “conservative principles” gave way to racism, misogyny and infantile rage 

Jeb Bush's privacy-shattering email cache hid another surprise: Viruses

Jimmy Carter: I have cancer that has spread

How Do We Fix the Presidential Debates?

Donald Trump: I whine until I win

Jon Stewart and his wife are turning NJ farm into a sanctuary for rescued animals

Facebook user pretends to be Target help desk and trolls incensed conservatives

World:
Santiago Calatrava's Turning Torso Wins Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat's 10 Year Award

MH17: 'Russian missile parts' at Ukraine crash site

Xavier Bettel: Prime Minister of Luxembourg to marry his same-sex partner

The Day the Music Died: China Blacklists 120 Songs for ‘Morality’ Violations

Music:
A pilgrimage to Detroit’s Grande Ballroom

The Art of McCartney and why can't people who cover The Beatles do them justice?

Media:
Apology to Tony Burke MP & Skye Laris 

Bics for chicks: What is this ad about?

Society:
Welcome to my relapse

Bad restaurant meal: to bitch or not to bitch?

Faith:
Oliver Sacks: Sabbath

Tech:
I spent a weekend at Google talking with nerds about charity. I came away … worried.

History:
The Truth and Myth Behind Animal Trials in the Middle Ages

Humour and satire:
Royal Commission Into Royal Commission Announced

I got stupid on me and now I have to wipe it off on you:
You Can Get Semen-Injected Beer Now (Buzzfeed warning) for everyone who has always thought, "You know what would really improve beer? Horse spunk!"

The least boring photo on my camera roll:



12 August, 2015

How to argue against marriage equality

There is clear momentum in favour of allowing same-sex marriage. There is also clear opposition to it from certain sectors, including the prime minister, and their arguments are becoming more and more bizarre.

If you’re opposed, that’s your prerogative, but if you want to be taken seriously, then you’ll have to make sure your argument is coherent and consistent. Otherwise, you’re just going to sound silly. So allow me to help. Let’s look at some of the angles and some of their shortcomings so that you can avoid the intellectual jiggery pokery and legalistic argle bargle, and put your case in a way that cannot be denied.

It’s against my religion.
Fair enough. But there are a lot of things that are against a lot of religions that are still perfectly legal. Some of these things include, but are not limited to,

Eating pork; eating beef; eating shellfish; eating meat on particular days; eating meat that hasn’t been killed a particular way; eating meat at all; mixing meat and dairy in any way, shape or form; eating at all at particular times; consuming alcohol; consuming caffeine; not consuming cannabis; shaving; cutting your hair; contraception; masturbation; divorce; having sex outside of marriage; having sex other than for the purpose of procreation; having sex at all; exposing certain parts of the body; not cleaning your bottom a certain way after going to the toilet; working on particular days; wearing makeup; using electricity; photography; charging interest; blood transfusions.

No-one in their right mind would expect the law to ban any of these things, even if they do have a moral, ethical or religious objection to them. I’m not even going to bother mentioning the separation of church and state. If your religion objects to homosexuality and/or same-sex marriage, there’s a good chance it also objects to one or more of the things mentioned above. You may even enjoy a few of them. So you can’t expect the government to legislate against one thing your religion forbids unless you expect the government to legislate against everything your religion forbids. It makes you look like a hypocrite.

But it says so in the Bible.
No it doesn’t. The Bible doesn’t say anything about who can marry who, but before we get to the part I think you’re alluding to, let me ask you something:

What are you wearing?
No, I’m not trying to make a pass at you; it’s a serious question. What are you wearing?

I ask, because the book of the Bible that is usually quoted as forbidding homosexuality, also specifically forbids wearing a garment made of two different types of fibre. Ever worn a poly/cotton shirt? A wool blend coat? Got any elastic in your underwear? Not a fibre, I grant you, but you can’t be too careful, especially since other translations call it materials. If so, then I’m afraid you’re with the Sodomites. That’s okay though, because it’s not illegal.

If we’re going to follow Leviticus, we have to follow all of it if we are to avoid accusations of cherry-picking and opportunism.

It’s not government’s place to redefine marriage.
Oh, but it is! The only way you can say it’s not government’s role to RE-define marriage is to also say it’s not government’s place to define marriage in the first place. That’s a fair enough position, but that would mean completely deregulating marriage. That would make it a free-for-all and anyone could marry whoever they liked. Is that what you want? I get the feeling it isn’t.

Defining things is what government does. Possession isn’t nine tenths of the law, definition is. Pretty much all law is about definitions of things like murder, rape (hint: marriage doesn’t negate it) and citizenship, to name but three, and the government has already considered tinkering with the definition of the latter without any public consultation.

And don’t forget that the current definition of marriage has only been in place since 2004 when the Howard government chose to define marriage as being between a man and a woman as a tactic to ward off the possibility of same sex marriage. Were we worried about that act of redefining?

I believe in traditional marriage.
Good for you, sunshine! What tradition?
You see, some would consider traditional marriage as being where the bride and groom are chosen for each other by their parents. There are many proud and ancient cultures that originally defined marriage as being between a man and as many women as he could afford. Is that the traditional form of marriage you believe in, or do you favour the fact that marriage was redefined to be monogamous?

If we are to avoid charges of bigotry, then we shouldn’t present traditional marriage as being merely our tradition.

It defiles the sanctity of marriage.
Really?
So you’re cool with Larry King being on wife number 8, starlets’ marriages that are literally shorter than the reception hangover, and the existence of television programs like Farmer Wants a Wife and Married at First Sight, but two people who have loved each other for years or even decades but happen to have the same shaped genitalia getting married is a bridge too far?

I’m sorry, that’s unworthy. Maybe you’re against all those other things too, but are you lobbying the government to make them illegal? Yes, that would be a bit extreme, wouldn’t it?

Children deserve both a mother and a father.
I don’t think any reasonable person would disagree with that. You do realise it’s a complete non-sequitur, though?

In case you’ve been living under a rock all your life – and if you make that argument, then I’m forced to assume you have – marriage doesn’t equal children and children don’t equal marriage.

It would be nice if every child had a mother and a father but millions don’t for a multitude of legitimate reasons. People’s lives change, people die and sometimes, people have to flee an abusive partner for their own safety and, get this, to protect their children.

If we allow same sex marriage, what’s to stop men marrying goats, women marrying horses and sheep marrying tractors?
Seriously? Did you really just ask that? How old are you?

Notwithstanding the laws of physics, marriage is a contract between consenting adults. As you are probably aware, there are certain places where the “adult” bit is optional and there’s a lot of wiggle room in “consenting,” but I think we all agree that those kinds of marriages should be redefined at the earliest possible opportunity.

So if, and I stress IF, the goat or horse or sheep or whatever is of legal age for a farm animal and is able to express a desire to be joined in marriage with a human of any gender, and if you claim to believe in freedom of the individual, then why should anyone else care? Let them be happy with each other.

Seriously though, how old are you? That’s just embarrassing.

Alright! I admit it! I just don’t like homosexuals. They gross me out. I believe everyone else should be like me and I can’t stand anyone who isn’t like me being happy about it.
Congratulations. You’ve come up with an honest and intellectually consistent argument against same-sex marriage.

However…
It is not the government’s role to make you feel comfortable with your beliefs.

As mentioned earlier, there are many things that certain people don’t like or disagree with that are still legal. Likewise, there are many things that people do like which are illegal, for varying reasons. We can debate whether it’s right or wrong that these things are legal or illegal but the argument has to be a bit stronger than “I don’t like it.” I don’t like football but who am I to begrudge others enjoying it?

Not everyone is always going to be happy with every law. That’s why we regularly look at them and often redefine them to make sure they reflect the will of the people and community standards. Like those who favour legalising heroin, cockfighting or, get this, polygamy, if your views on a subject don’t align with those of the majority of citizens and their elected representatives, then that’s just too bad. It’s an ancient and sacred tradition we have called democracy.

Don’t worry though. You’ll probably live.
  
 

08 August, 2015

Thinking of linking

This week I have been mostly reading...

Australia:
Mr. Abbott – These People Had a More Difficult Day Than Bronny.

PM is doubling down on Bishop's extravagant slap in the face to Taxpayers

Abbott promises no more captain’s picks on Speaker

After Bronnie: The next Speaker

Bishop gone: Abbott finally bows to the inevitable

It wasn't Bronny. It was the system. Seriously, Prime Minister?

Bronwyn Bishop had to be forced out – but some good may come of the scandal

There are two problems: the system, and the woman who treated it as though she was responsible to no one.

Thanks to the internet, the lives of politicians are about to get a whole lot harder

Top Entitlement Claiming Federal Politicians in Australia

Bishop Imbroglio Highlights Uncomfortable Patterns In Tony Abbott's Leadership

Bronwyn Bishop: child of the Uglies felled by her own excess

Inability to pass meaningful legislation is just one of many areas where the government has substantially failed

Tony Abbott: out of probation but not out of jail

The Abbott government's evidence allergy

Green with envy: twenty years in Bronny's Mackellar

Reform adrift in pointless politics of Abbott government

Coalition paying $150,000 to outsource higher education negotiations 

US:
Nine Shot at Backyard Party in Brooklyn

Hitchhiking robot dead as cross-country trip cut short by vandals - technology giving people brand new ways to be arseholes.

BART Riders Racially Profile via Smartphone App 

Donald Trump’s Six Stages Of Doom

Donald Trump just gave a master class on how to get away with sexism

How Donald Trump Really Made His Fortune: Inheritance from Dad and the Government's Protection 

UK:
Edward Heath: police appeal for victims to come forward over child abuse claims

World:
Israel wrecked my home. Now it wants my land.

German news anchor Anja Reschke uses slot to attack 'little racist nobodys' in impassioned call to end hatred towards refugees

Music:
Tug of War/Pipes of Peace deluxe editions

David Byrne: Open the Music Industry’s Black Box

Noel Gallagher slams 'Orwellian' Apple Music

Science:
Excerpt: ‘A Brief History of Light,’ by Upulie Divisekera

Latest Pluto map in Google Earth

NASA Railroad reaches the end of its line

NASA uploads Voyager's 'Golden Record' audio to Soundcloud

Tech:
One downside to digital innovation: as formats die, we lose our past

Facebook says it’s now streaming more video than YouTube. To be able to make that claim, all they had to do was cheat, lie, and steal

Faith:
Heavens above: what Earth 2.0’s discovery means for God

Revealed: the stone that 'translated' the Book of Mormon

Humour and satire:
A presentation on Bronwyn Bishop's legacy from Fiona the Unemployed Bettong 

Ian the Climate Denialist Potato's inquiry into the wind turbine inquiry 

I got stupid on me and I need to wipe it off on you:
Senate inquiry recommends national standards on windfarm noise levels

Can rice give you cancer? 'Not if you cook it in a coffee percolator' - or indeed, cook it.

I also got lots of stupid on me from that four-time bankrupt with the dead squirrel on his head who thinks he can be US president, but I will take one for the team and not wipe that off on you

Vale:
Cilla Black dies, aged 72

George Cole actor dies, aged 90

The least boring photo on my camera roll:

And finally...
Thank you Jon Stewart for always restoring my faith in America.






02 August, 2015

What’s really wrong with the system

Bronwyn Bishop has accepted the inevitable and resigned as Speaker. Whether she jumped or was pushed will be debated for the next week.

However, if you believe Tony Abbott as he announced the resignation (and why would the head of government call a press conference to announce the Speaker’s resignation anyway?), it’s not Ms Bishop’s fault. She just got caught up in a flawed system.

Abbott was right to look contrite during the announcement as well he should. He knows full well that when it comes to dubious expenses claims, there but for the grace of God goes he. It’s no wonder he should seek to blame the system:
“What has become apparent, particularly over the last few days, is that the problem is not any particular individual; the problem is the entitlement system more generally.”
What utter rubbish!

Bronwyn Bishop has always maintained that all her claims were allowed under the rules and there’s a good chance they probably were. That certainly shows a problem in the system, but no-one forced Ms Bishop or any of her colleagues to make those claims.

The biggest flaw in the parliamentary expenses system is that it assumes MPs are honourable and decent people who will not abuse it. There’s nothing wrong with the system that can’t be fixed by MPs behaving ethically and honestly.

So if Mr Abbott’s argument is that the system makes it possible for the selfish and unscrupulous to milk taxpayers for millions over a parliamentary career as long as Ms Bishop’s, then I agree. But is he sure that’s how he wants to present himself and his colleagues – as people who will grab as much as they can possibly get if they’re given the opportunity? If you say so, Tony!
  
 

I, for one, welcome our new clickbait servants

Last week, a reporter asked a question of Peter Dutton that should have been put to him and his predecessor as minister for immigration, Scott Morrison, every week for the last 23 months:
“How can the government with a straight face say that you’ve stopped the boats when there are actually boats arriving, you just won’t talk about them?”
That shouldn’t be particularly notable. You’d think any journalist worth their press pass would be asking similar questions – perhaps a little more politely at first and then going for the straight-face comment if that didn’t get anywhere. We live in strange times though, where the gallery dutifully reports that the prime minister has placed the speaker of the house “on probation” without bothering to mention that it has no constitutional or parliamentary meaning whatsoever.

The other notable thing was that the question did not come from some hard-nosed press gallery veteran, but from Buzzfeed. That’s right, the inescapable waste of bandwidth better known for helping you find which character from Selina is your kindred spirit, ZOMG! they actually have coffee and bakeries outside of Sydney, and (I am not making this up) the 21 most important celebrity bulges of all time, asked a question that no-one in the “proper” press has managed to.

For sure, the article still looks like it was written by a precocious 16-year-old about a school excursion, and it made the entire story about the question not being answered, but the fact that the government refuses to answer such questions is a bloody big story that no-one in the serious media is making enough fuss about.

With this, Buzzfeed has become to the Canberra press gallery what Bono is to geopolitics and diplomacy. Much to everyone’s embarrassment, the entertainers are doing a better job than the grown-ups – not that that’s a particularly high bar.

It’s the same reason that Jon Stewart became the most trusted man in American news after the death of Walter Cronkite. Stewart will be the first to tell you what a sorry state of affairs that it, but the serious journalists only have themselves and their proprietors to blame. While mainstream news has adopted the myth of “balance,” – So, Professor deGrasse Tyson, you say the world is round. To provide obligatory balance to that reasoned and studied assertion, let’s ask a crazy person – it takes a comedian to look at bullshit and say, “That’s bullshit!”

The existence of Buzzfeed and the way they present stories still shits me up the wall, but if they are going to ask the questions that the professionals, for whatever reason, choose not to, then I applaud them. Traditional media needs to stop complaining about the young upstarts and do their job the way they used to.