all right

Occasionally adding corroborative details to add verisimilitude to otherwise bald and unconvincing,
but veridicous accounts
with careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination.

25 May, 2013

We Can’t?

Andrew Denton opines that, in Australian politics, “there’s before Whitlam and after Whitlam … and you can’t say that of many politicians.”
We can’t?

In Australian politics there’s before Barton and after Barton;
In Australian politics there’s before Lang and after Lang;
in Australian politics there’s before Lyons and after Lyons;
in Australian politics there’s before Chifley and after Chifley; 
in Australian politics there’s before Menzies and after Menzies; 
in Australian politics there’s before Askin and after Askin
in Australian politics there’s before Bjelke-Peterson and after Bjelke-Peterson;
in Australian politics there’s before Reece and after Reece;
in Australian politics there’s before Hawke and after Hawke;
in Australian politics there’s before Howard and after Howard;
in Australian politics there’s before Hanson and after Hanson;
in Australian politics there’s before Rudd and after Rudd;
in Australian politics there’s before Barton and after Barton;
in Australian politics there’s even before Bandt and after Bandt;
in Australian politics there’s before Slipper and after Slipper; and
in Australian politics there’s before-Gillard and—deis volentibus, fiat mox—after Gillard.
Oh, it seems we can.

UPDATE (26 May):  I added Jack Lang, an interesting and influential cove, to the list (at the succinct suggestion of Mark Bolton in comments).

19 May, 2013

Labor’s Last-Ditch Lament

The Axes of Evil Cuts

With constant repetition
of tricks, conceits and tropes
we say the Coalition
is cutting all our hopes;

with sickles, scythes and axes,
with hammers, hoes and knobs,
they mean to cancel taxes,
and take away our jobs!

If the voters have a mind to turf us out of hand,
we’ll ensure we’ve left behind a devastated land.

You’ll see but ash and embers
or hear but one long groan,
“The Coalition members
reduce us to the bone!”

Our weary composition
of slogans and clichés
must stop the Opposition
determining our days.

One Member’s Trick*

Michelle Rowland has
a sick child; what does she do?
She calls for a pair.

(Were your child ill whilst
you were away from home, you
might want to be there.)

Michelle Rowland stayed
in the House to watch Gillard
shed fake tears.  What care!

*  posted, on 16 May, as a comment to a Catallaxy Files forum whence you may find further information and links anent the strange case of the duplicitous MP and the debilitated bairn.
†  see Andrew Bolt’s “Turning off Gillard’s tears” wherein he reveals that some journalists suggest that the PM wept real tears and did not, say, merely force out some superfluous bile; for instance, Michael Gordon, of The Age (of course), asserts that the PM’s teary performance was a “rare and clearly genuine display of emotion”; and see “Sunt lacrimae rerum” in “The Prime Minister Is a Liar”.

Ms Rowland failing to convince the PM to take her baby.

“Half the World’s Troubles”

In her novel, The Last of the Wine (1956), set mainly in Athens during the conflict now known as the Peloponnesian war, Mary Renault has Phaedo, the young friend of Sokrates, say:
Half the world’s troubles come from men not being trained to resent a fallacy as much as an insult.
Earlier in the novel, Lysis, the friend of Alexis (the narrator), says:
Men are not born equal in themselves […] so I think it beneath a man to postulate that they are.  If I thought myself as good as Sokrates I should be a fool; and if, not really believing it, I asked you to make me happy by assuring me of it, you would rightly despise me.  So why should I insult my fellow-citizens by treating them as fools and cowards?  A man who thinks himself as good as everyone else will be at no pains to grow better.  On the other hand, I might think myself as good as Sokrates, and even persuade other fools to agree with me; but under a democracy, Sokrates is there in the Agora to prove me wrong.  I want a City where I can find my equals and respect my betters, whoever they are; and where no one can tell me to swallow a lie because it is expedient, or some other man’s will.
UPDATE I (30 May): from Why Don’t We learn from History? (1971), by Sir Basil Liddell Hart:
Neither intellectuals nor their critics appear to recognise the inherent dilemma of the thinking man and its inevitability.  The dilemma should be faced, for it is a natural part of the growth of any human mind.
An intellectual ought to realise the extent to which the world is shaped by human emotions, emotions uncontrolled by reason—his thinking must have been shallow, and his observation narrow, if he fails to realise that.  Having once learned to think and to use reason as a guide, however, he cannot possibly float with the current of popular emotion and fluctuate with its violent changes unless he himself ceases to think or is deliberately false to his own thought.  And in the latter case it is likely that he will commit intellectual suicide, gradually, “by the death of a thousand cuts.”
A deeper diagnosis of the malady from which left-wing intellectuals have suffered in the past might suggest that their troubles have come not from following reason too far but from not following it far enough—to realise the general power of unreason.  Many of them also seem to have suffered from failing to apply reason internally as well as externally—through not using it for the control of their own emotions.  In that way, they unwittingly helped to get this country into the mess of the last war and then found themselves in an intellectual mess as a result.
UPDATE II (30 May):  in Phaedo, by Plato, Socrates says to Simmias:
ἀνδρεία καὶ σωφροσύνη καὶ δικαιοσύνη καὶ συλλήβδην ἀληθὴς ἀρετή, μετὰ φρονήσεως, καὶ προσγιγνομένων καὶ ἀπογιγνομένων καὶ ἡδονῶν καὶ φόβων καὶ τῶν ἄλλων πάντων τῶν τοιούτων: χωριζόμενα δὲ φρονήσεως καὶ ἀλλαττόμενα ἀντὶ ἀλλήλων μὴ σκιαγραφία τις ᾖ ἡ τοιαύτη ἀρετὴ καὶ τῷ ὄντι ἀνδραποδώδης τε καὶ οὐδὲν ὑγιὲς οὐδ᾽ ἀληθὲς ἔχῃ, τὸ δ᾽ ἀληθὲς τῷ ὄντι ᾖ κάθαρσίς τις τῶν τοιούτων πάντων καὶ ἡ σωφροσύνη καὶ ἡ δικαιοσύνη καὶ ἀνδρεία, καὶ αὐτὴἡ φρόνησις μὴ καθαρμός τις ᾖ. (69 β-ξ)

([C]ourage and self-restraint and justice and, in short, true virtue exist only with wisdom, whether pleasures and fears and other things of that sort are added or taken away.  And virtue which consists in the exchange of such things for each other without wisdom, is but a painted imitation of virtue and is really slavish and has nothing healthy or true in it; but truth is in fact a purification.” —Harold North Fowler’s translation.)

[I]t is
wisdom that makes courage and self-control and integrity or, in a word, true goodness, and the presence or absence of pleasures and fears and other such feelings makes no difference at all; whereas a system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.  The true moral ideal, whether self-control or integrity or courage, is really a kind of purgation from all these emotions, and wisdom itself is a sort of purification.”—Hugh Tredennick’s translation.)

10 May, 2013

A Hard-Earned Worst

The Best Cold Fear*

You could be setting up a shonky trust,
or helping to make the mining-boom bust;
you could be faking a “gay-marriage” row,
or breaking a vow… well, we’ve got it now!
A government that is our nation’s worst,
ever claiming an historical first,
needs a nice cold fear, and the best cold fear
is this:  industrial chaos is near
if the Coalition rule again here.

You could be inventing another tax,
and saying it’s one which each party backs
(claiming that the “levy” isn’t so dear);
you could be deferring a promised rise
by saying that right now one isn’t so wise!
A successful, scaremongering campaign
needs a nice cold, fearful, constant refrain,
and the best cold fear in this modern sphere
suggests that union reform’s very near.

You could be lying yet again that we
are in the world’s greatest economy
but still infected by the GFC;
but what will appear? It has to be clear
that a nice cold fear is clutching our rear,
hoping we’ll last if we scare and we smear
for the best cold fear is one which says we’re
lost if the Coalition persevere
in planning to stop corruption this year.

*  with thanks for some inspiration from Keagan Federici and the innocent Craig Thomson.  The words are partly based on those of a famed series of advertisements for a popular Australian beer.

the Australian PM with her customary glass of bile


05 May, 2013

Rise and Fall

O homines ad servitutem paratos!

Whilst technology
improves, our political
quality decays

as far too many
politicians are fawning,
incompetent knaves.

Those bootlickers are
wasting the chance to create
wise, just, golden days;

they’re worse than those whom
Tiberius described as
“prepared to be slaves”.*

UPDATE (6 May):

Nat lupus inter oves

Of course, the voters
are not without blame for each
ill-considered choice

of one more lupine 
demagogue who bleats with a
feigned liberal voice;

, ovine folk
who want to be led are the
easiest to fool.

I want no leader;
our representatives should
represent, not rule.

*  Tacitus, Annales, III, 65.
†  Ovid, Metamophoses, I. 304.

03 May, 2013

The Attorney-General’s Defence

Qantas staff felt obliged to contact Australian Federal Police after Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus—who was determined to check his emails—refused to turn off his smart phone during take-off on a Sydney to Brisbane flight last week.  After he ignored pre-recorded warnings about turning off all electrical equipment, a fellow passenger complained to Mr Dreyfus.  His failure to follow standard safety instructions angered the passenger and a Qantas crew member, who both told him to turn off his mobile phone immediately.
Moments later a flight attendant admonished the former barrister, later reporting the situation to the captain.  The airline took the incident so seriously it alerted the AFP, with officers asked to meet the plane and the Attorney-General at its destination.
Mr Dreyfus confirmed yesterday he had been told to turn off his phone and said he had apologised to those on board at the time.  A spokeswoman said: “The Attorney-General regrets the incident and apologised to the passenger and to airport security.”
Well, that makes it all right, then.
“The AFP has been advised of an alleged incident on board a flight from Sydney to Brisbane on 23 April, 2013,” a police statement said.
“The incident involved a passenger failing to comply with the directions of crew.”
Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association secretary Steve Purvinas said yesterday Mr Dreyfus’ mobile phone could have interfered with navigation systems.
Mr Purvinas said mobile phones were banned during take-off because they could affect radio altimeters.
“The radio altimeters tell the aircraft systems what height it is at,” he said.
“If the aircraft is driving towards 30,000 feet but it thinks its already at 40,000 feet then it would tend to want to decrease altitude.
“That’s not what you like to happen just after take-off.”
The Attorney-General won’t be charged because he apologised, and fair enough—what do you want, blood?  People who do find themselves in court, however, might consider trying the Attorney-General’s defence:
Court Officer:  Defendant, how do you plead?  “Guilty” or “Not guilty”?
Defendant:  Not guilty!
Judge:  Hang on a tick, did I hear you say “not guilty”?  I see that the evidence against you for these heinous crimes—murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, not to mention mocking the Government and even, horresco referens, opposing same-sex marriage—is comprehensive and uncontested; furthermore, I see that you actually admitted that you were guilty to the police, to the media, and on your Facebook page.  Are you sure you wish to plead “not guilty”?
Defendant:  Yes, Your Honour; you see, I immediately apologised.  I regret what I did, and said so at the time.
Judge:  Well, in that case, I dismiss all charges; you’re free to go.
UPDATE (4 May):  an appropriate song for our special Attorney-General, perhaps, is “I’m Special”, by the Mucous Membranes:

02 May, 2013

A Clear Need for Levies

Though some thoughtless critics may lament the number of logical fallacies* within the arguments provided by the Government and its supporters when they defend proposals to fund a National Disability Insurance Scheme by the imposition of a new tax—which we must call a “levy”—, it cannot be denied that we need “levies” because our current taxes are proving sadly insufficient to fund the various progressive but imprudent proposals, projects and promises of our benevolent but spendthrift Government.
Stella Young, in an emotional and persuasive article, “Why fund NDIS? Because one day you might need it” supports the Government’s plan:
For people with disabilities, myself included, discussions about the money are simply beside the point. We don’t think about the NDIS in terms of dollars; we think about it in terms of showers per week, mobility aids that meet our needs and general access to our communities.  […]
The Productivity Commission recommended the NDIS be funded from general revenue. That’d be great wouldn’t it? Imagine if support for people with disabilities were considered core business in a wealthy country like Australia.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case and in the past few days, the Government has raised the prospect of a levy.
The levy would be an addition to the Medicare levy currently paid by Australians – an increase from 1.5 to 2 per cent.  That amounts to an extra $300 per year for the average person.  The Opposition has refused to rule out a levy as a means of funding the scheme, so that’s looking like a pretty likely scenario.  […]
The National Disability Insurance Scheme is an investment in all Australians.  It’s not about people like me who currently live with disabilities, it’s about all of those who might in the future.
With the time to talk about funding comes the time to talk about what kind of country we want to be.  Are we a country who will pay 80 cents a day to ensure that all of us can participate?  Or are we a country who'll bury our collective heads in the sand so we don’t have to talk about it?
On Twitter, some charitable supporters explain that they’d not begrudge a relatively small outlay. For example, one bloke explains that, by paying a barely noticeable new tax, we’d be helping our friends or family:

Clearly, with such support, a new NDIS tax is essential and reasonable; but why stop with the NDIS levy?  Are not many other services required—to help someone you know, perhaps—which ordinary revenues, sadly, cannot fund?  It is surely evident that we need many more imposts.
For instance, you or someone you know may one day require medical attention, and only the most unsympathetic, hard-hearted misers would oppose more funding for hospitals and other health-services, so we need (inter alia): 
an adult incontinence levy;
a cosmetic surgery levy;
a dementia levy; 
a dental levy;

a doctors and nurses levy;
a fighting resistant strains of bacteria levy; and
a provision of wheelchairs and other aids not covered by the NDIS levy.
All sorts of unexpected disasters which could affect any one of us need to be funded, so we need (inter alia):
an affordable insurance levy;
a bushfire levy; 
a drought levy;
an emergency services levy;
a fire-service levy [see update v, below];
a flood levy;
an investigating why predictions of global warming were so wrong levy;
a throwing much more money to prophets of global warming anyway levy;
an unexpected global cooling levy; and
an unexpected and otherwise unconsidered event levy.
Governments can’t be expected to cover the costs of financial crises, so we need (inter alia):
a financial crash levy; and
a supervision of banks levy.
Only heartless citizens would oppose the provision of services to the less fortunate in the community, so we need (inter alia):
an affordable energy levy; 
an affordable food levy; 
an affordable housing levy; and 
an affordable public transportation levy.
Only mean, racist citizens would oppose the provision of services to “asylum-seekers” and refugees, so we need (inter alia)
an asylum-seekers levy;
an encouragement of religious and ethnic diversity levy;

a patrolling our borders in order to rescue boat-people levy; and
a refugees levy.
Only haters of children and uneducated boors would oppose more funding to schools, so we need (inter alia):
a further education levy; 
a literacy and numeracy levy; 
a provision of books levy;
a provision of computers levy; and
a teaching of semi-literate teachers levy.
Only bigoted misophilomophylists would oppose funding same-sex marriages, so we need (inter alia):
an encouragement of sexual diversity levy; and
a same-sex marriage levy.
Only criminals would oppose providing more funds for law and order and an improved justice system, so we need (inter alia):
a justice levy;
a locating and fining people who mock new taxes levy;
a police levy.
No reasonable person would deny that we need countless other levies, of course, such as:
an organic food levy
a plain packaging for junk-food levy;
a protecting forests from rapacious capitalists levy; and
a subsidising former forest-workers unable to find alternative employment levy.

With so many necessary levies, none of us would want the money raised to be frittered away on advertising or administrative costs, so we need (inter alia):
an administration of levies levy; and
an advertising new levies levy.
Each of these levies would cost but a dollar or so a day, which would be an almost negligible impost!  Some carpers may ask “what about all the other taxes we pay; aren’t they supposed to cover the costs of services?” Ha!—any money which remains after funding the administration of our Government must go to our politicians, fools. You don’t want the people who selflessly govern us for a small pittance to starve, do you?

*  including the fallacy of the single cause (wrongly assuming that there is but one cause of a problem), the fallacy of the false choice (whereby a possible solution is wrongly presented as being exclusive), the fallacy of the false dilemma (whereby two contrasting alternative solutions are wrongly presented as the only options), and the argumentum ad misericordiam (whereby feelings of pity or guilt are exploited).

UPDATE Isee “NDIS Scam A Shocking Betrayal” by Will Dallas Brooks:
My research, delivered to the NSW Department of Health […] showed that of every $1.00 spent by the State, 56 cents was inefficient expenditure.  Of that, 30 cents in every dollar was total waste [… but] if we were to eliminate health system inefficiency in public healthcare, we could fund a full National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) four times over. Every. Single. Year.
What the Government is proposing is a brand new bureaucratic nightmare to run alongside the public health system, and I dare say its waste levels would be as high, if not higher, than the current universal health model.
We have only to cut inefficiencies by a quarter to deliver a fully funded NDIS, commencing next year.  No new taxes (as proposed), no new bureaucracy, no new borrowings—a fully funded, working, integrated healthcare system.
The kind of system proposed by Kevin Rudd in 2007, which he could not deliver.  Nor his successor, Julia Gillard.
Because to eliminate that waste you have to make some tough choices, and that would make some very strong unions in the sector very unhappy.
Personally, I’d rather save lives than keep some union hacks happy, but hey, it appears as though I’m in the minority.
UPDATE IIsee “Julia, How Could You” by Larry Pickering:
In a breathtaking performance, and near to hyperventilation, [Julia Gillard] challenged Abbott to support her “half a percent” rise in the Medicare levy.  […]
Anyway, this morning the front bench is off and away suggesting Abbott is preparing to forsake the disabled.  […]
It was Abbott who initially suggested a bipartisan committee to find the best way to assist these poor people. Gillard told him to piss off.  It was her political football and she was the only one allowed to play with it.
Now she is challenging Abbott to agree to the Medicare impost or she will chuck wheelchairs at him in the final stages of an election.  Mmmm.
The jaw-dropping situation is that she doesn’t need Abbott to get the legislation through either House anyway.
So, why is Gillard attempting to publicly drag Abbott into this debacle when it has nothing to do with him?  […]
It’s her legislation.  It’s her Medicare rise!  She has the numbers to pass it!
But she wants Abbott to verbally disagree with the funding arrangements so she can make it appear that he objects to the disabled legislation... legislation he originally promoted!
Why would any person who cares about the disabled hatch such an evil plan?
She intends to use the disabled to disable Abbott.
UPDATE IIIsee “Lazy and lacking: NDIS levy will starve the scheme” by Terry Barnes: 
Last week the Grattan Institute estimated that, over the next decade, government health outlays will consume an extra 2 per cent or Australia’s GDP.  This is not because of an ageing population but due mostly to utilisation of costly tests, pharmaceuticals and procedures, the true cost of which consumers largely are ignorant about, thanks to Medicare subsidies.  By obscuring the real extent of the financial burden, mistaken public assumptions that the Medicare levy is all-inclusive make it harder to contain government healthcare costs, rein in excessive servicing and allocate scarce resources.  An NDIS levy would have exactly the same problem.  If set at 0.5 per cent it would pay only a quarter of projected government disability services costs, but the common belief still would be that it covers everything.
How would those concentric circles of public concern respond?
The inner circle—NDIS-eligible people with disabilities, their carers and families and the disability lobby fronted by former state politician John Della Bosca—are delighted at the prospect of a levy.
The middle circle, people not personally affected but knowing people who are, will grumble but accept the extra impost on their incomes.
But the majority in the outer circle, those to whom living with a disability has no personal relevance, will hate paying what is, after all, a tax increase.
They will lash out at the politicians who impose it but, sadly, too often, also at those with severe disabilities who struggle to exist and to whom an NDIS will be so vital and liberating. That would be a social tragedy and Australia's shame.
An NDIS levy is not only a lazy way of raising money by a government that wants credit for introducing the scheme but not to pay sufficiently for it.  There is also a real risk that if the Australian public assumes a levy covers the full NDIS cost, politicians of both sides will be oversensitive to that perception and starve the scheme of necessary financial resources above the levy revenue.
UPDATE IVsee also “NDIS levy: a general tax hike by stealth” by Julia Novak.

UPDATE V (3 May):  so, you thought I was joking?  You reckoned that governments are not considering imposing a new tax here, and a new tax there, for all sorts of essential services which ought to be covered by existing taxes, under the nom de guerre of “levy”?  See “Households to pay $300 for fire levy”, by Sean Nicholls:
Millions of property owners in NSW face a new levy to fund fire and emergency services, after an overhaul of how land is valued to determine land tax and council rates.  […]
The charge, first signalled in last year’s budget, means every property owner would face an annual charge of about $300 to fund fire and emergency services.
The person who next requires the aid of the fire and emergency services could be somebody you know, sad taxpayer of NSW, so, as Rob Coco wrote, “don’t start complaining about an extra $300 dollars [sic]”!

UPDATE VI (3 May)Wayne Swan helpfully provides an example of the “it’s barely noticeable—for fairness!” argument: