Capital punishment: Davis v Brewer

The death penalty. It’s wrong not because of doubt, such as any in Davis’s case. Brewer was executed too and it seems no doubt existed there. The penalty isn’t wrong because it’s barbaric: Davis was anaesthetised before the lethal drug was administered so he was never in physical pain.
The death penalty is wrong because it’s the only penalty a state has against it’s own citizens that it can not apply to itself.
In other words, it’s not justice. The family & friends of the victim that led to the penalty don’t get justice, and the state potentially adds another family to grieve.
The death penalty is wrong because it should always be penalty of last resort, not the first. The functions of prison are to separate dangerous people from civil society, punish the convicted and to attempt reform on convicted. When we remove any of these functions, prison no longer has a role in society.
The death penalty is wrong because our judgement on what is a deliberate act, usually murder, is arbitary and flawed. You shoot and kill a civilian in the street? Murder. You drive you car, killing a pedestrian? Not murder. For the same outcome the penalties are different. Sure, you’ll argue killing the pedestrian was an accident, and juries will believe you because they can empathise as fellow drivers: that jury won’t empathise if you’re a shooter, though.
The death penalty is wrong because, and you must forgive an atheist for saying this, the bible on which our justice is based tell us that killing is wrong and vengeance is not a trait that we humans should aspire to. If someone wants to argue “yes, but…” then I simply say this: if you accept that there are circumstances to ignore just one Commandment, then there are circumstances to reject all Commandments, and therefore there is no basis for a civil, just society- we will be living in a society free to ignore the laws we don’t like and arbitrarily enforce we believe should exist on anyone that offends us.
This issue is emotive. No amount of reason will ever persuade an ardent supporter of capital punishment. In part this is why there was support for Davis and not Brewer. Yet if we want to call ourselves a civil society we must argue that if we had wished to spare Davis’s life, then sparing a vicious, hateful, murderous man by the name of Brewer was equally important. Reverse that, if a vicious, hateful murderous man does not deserve clemency to live, then any person who kills anyone for any reason also forfeits their right to live. That being the case, we lose the very thing that has made us the most advanced, successful animal to ever occupy this earth; our humanity.
The death penalty is wrong. Period.

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How to spend a fortune and get nothing.

Twitter is a wonderful beast. Almost real-time updates of any subject you care to think of.  By chance I was able to read running commentaries on what Republicans were saying during a nomination debate.  As an Australian, I don’t hold that much interest in the spectacle that is the lead up race for the White House, except this time the Republican side is led by a comedy troupe of Tea Party candidates.

One candidate in particular, Ron Paul, struck me as the freakiest of carny folk in Republican side show alley.  Yet this isn’t about Paul.  This is about where some of the claims about him has led me; the vaults of official statistics by the OECD.

You see, some people believe that government shouldn’t be in the business of looking after its citizens, specifically their health.  One tweeter, in defending Ron Paul’s decision not to pay the $400,000 medical debt owed by one of his campaign managers – who had died – told me:

@rfisk

Rick Fisk might be on to something.  The Texan Governor Rick Perry signed an executive order to fund a cervical cancer vaccine that targets HPV, a position he has now thinks is poor policy.  Michele Bachmann adds the HPV vaccine caused mild retardation in a young girl and is therefore potentially dangerous.  Paul simply says: “It’s not good social policy and therefore I think this is very bad to do this.”  So obviously any government involvement in health is bad.  Obamacare must be bad.

Ever since Jesus played fullback for the Saints*, leading political figures have told us that the private sector is always more efficient that an equivalent government sector.  It’s certainly a mantra of the Tea Party, that and the idea of universal healthcare is inherently toxic.  The arguments can appear convincing, but once stripped of emotion, are they really?  Hence delving into the OECD health statistics.

There are remarkable things to discover.  For example; in 2008, the US spent $7220 per capita on healthcare (all figures in 2011 USD).  This represents 17.4% of GDP.  More than half of that is what Americans are paying privately.  Every woman, man and child in the US forked out more than an average $3610 for private healthcare and almost the same again indirectly through tax.

Second place in the staggering statistics department goes to the Netherlands, who spent $4241 per capita, or 12% GDP.  Unlike the US, the Netherlands has a universal health care system, and only about one-sixth of that is in the private sector.

In twenty-third place is Australia, possibly the best match for the US in health after Canada.  After all, Australians eat roughly much the same amount of rubbish, watch a similar amount of terrible television and speak (mostly) the same language (but without the weird accents).  Australia’s figures for 2008 are $3445 per capita or 8.7% of GDP, below the OECD average of 9.5% GDP.

Keeping in mind this total is the private and government sectors  combined per capita, and yet it’s less than what the US pays privately per capita.  Despite this, Australians on average live longer and have better health outcomes than Americans.  The OECD data demonstrates Australia’s universal healthcare system is more efficient than the US private fend-for-yourself system and more effective.  Surely that can’t be right?  Believe me, the healthcare system in Australia isn’t exactly a shining beacon of efficiency, no matter how hard or magnificently those at the coal face work.  How can such a sector, two-thirds funded by governments (i.e. Australian tax payers), be better than the equivalent private sector in the US, the land where the consumer rules?

One explanation is the private US medical system is fraudulent, syphoning off billions of dollars from governments, insurance premiums and individuals when they present themselves for care.  Maybe that’s a little harsh.  Perhaps the private healthcare sector is so grossly incompetent, inefficient and ineffective Americans would be better off without it?  Best not to confuse a mistake for malice, but either way, small wonder President Obama wants reform.

What does it take to convince the fans of the Perrys, Bachmanns and Pauls that they are willing to continue spending a fortune to get very little in return?  I mean people like Fisk who told me that if we pay tax for such things as healthcare, the government should also pay for our car loans (no, I’m not joking and I wish Fisk was).  It’s a serious question I wish the American people would ask of those who aspire to be called, one day, President of the United States.

*Obviously Jesus didn’t play fullback for the Saints; Jesus is a fictional character.

Update: Rick Fisk informs me – which I haven’t verified – that Ron’s Paul’s campaign manager, Ken Snyder, couldn’t be insured because he had a pre-existing condition, and that Snyder died of pneumonia.  Fisk assures me Paul had no moral obligation to help Snyder.  Is Paul seriously wanting to be the Republican Party’s nominee?

Shut your goddamn carbon-taxin’ mouth

The following was originally blogged by Geoff Lemon here, and I’m reblogging it because a few people on Twitter have posted links, but for whatever reason the links point to a suspended account (I’m sure it’s nothing sinister; never blame malice for a mistake.)
(n.b. I haven’t asked Mr Lemon for permission to reblog; the usual rules apply.)
Shut your goddamn carbon-taxin’ mouth.
Three days on from Julia Gillard’s policy announcement, and the most striking characteristic of the carbon tax debate is just how closely it resembles a dozen retards trying to fuck a doorknob. The only apparent solution is a massive airdop of Xanax into our reservoirs, because really, everyone needs a few deep breaths and a spell in the quiet corner.
Sure, the weeks leading up have all been hysteria: Tony Abbott marching that bulldog grimace up and down the length of the country, like a Cassandra made of old leather and stunted dreams, cawing grim warnings of imminent ruin and destruction at the gates of Troy. But you might have expected, once the details had been released, there would arrive a little more perspective.
Nothing doing.
Far from being objective carriers of information, media outlets have been trying to manufacture furore. “Families earning more than $110k will feel the pain of the carbon tax,” warned the Herald-Sun, straightfaced. “Households face a $9.90 a week jump in the cost of living.”
$9.90.
Cry me the motherfucking Nile.
Households on less than that income would be even less affected. Those in the upper range would have their ten bucks a week at least partly compensated, while others would be fully or over-compensated.
The tax, after all, was not on people, but on 500 high-polluting companies. The compensation was to guard against costs those companies might pass on to their customers.
So, no big deal, I said to myself when the details were announced. Surely this’ll all blow over. And then, found myself more than a little surprised when a Herald-Sun commenter (one step above YouTube on the food-chain, I’ll admit) said “Somebody needs to assassinate Julia Gillard NOW before she totally destroys our way of life.”
Just… hold up a minute. Ten bucks a week? Our way of life? Aside from incitement to murder a head of government being ever so slightly illegal (and something the Hun mods should probably have picked up on), the response just doesn’t make any sense. Here is legislation that might make some things marginally more expensive. Probably not much. It isn’t going to drive industries offshore, because things like power generation and mining Australian resources kind of have to be done in Australia.
And yet the hysteria, even when not reaching Lee Harvey Oswald levels, has been constant throughout, led by the paper who defines ten bucks a week out of a hundred grand as “feeling the pain”.
“Social demographer David Chalke said the tax threatened values at the core of Australian society. ‘To an extent it will make people question, “is it really worth the bother?” They’ll smell in this something of a class war,’ Mr Chalke said.”
Ten bucks a week. Core values. Class war. Then, “Generous payments to those on low incomes and higher taxes for high income earners would anger hard-working Aussies.” Because, people on less than $110,000 don’t have to work hard. That’s why they get paid less! Scrubbing toilets is easy and only takes five minutes, while high-level boardroom execs spend 20-hour days chained to some kind of awful lunch machine being beaten with lobster foam.
I also enjoyed “On 3AW yesterday, Treasurer Wayne Swan was unable to say how the carbon tax would affect a Falcon. He also couldn’t say what the price change for a can of tomatoes would be.” The random grocery quiz had undone the Treasurer yet again. “Wait, wait, wait, got one…uh… large box of Libra Fleur? Nope. Uh, Sara Lee Chocolate Bavarian? Hah, you got nothin’, Swanny!”
Then there were the numerous headlines about airfares set to “soar” (geddit!). Well-meaning travellers were interviewed saying higher airfares would make it much harder to afford family holidays. Tres sad, especially when Qantas “said it would need to fully pass on the carbon price to customers, with the price of a single domestic flight ticket to increase on average by about $3.50.”
Three dollars. Fifty cents. They currently charge you more than that for a bottle of water. They charge $7.50 to buy a ticket online, $8 for a cup of noodles, $25 to use their check-in counter, and $6 to board the plane first. The best comment left after that article was, “So people won’t be able to buy a newspaper for the boarding lounge anymore? Good.”
So let’s never hear any talk of ABC bias ever again, because the Sun has well and truly picked its horse on this one. Any online article on the tax was headlined by a video of the lovely Andrew Bolt, telling us it was “the greatest act of national suicide we’ve ever seen.” Funny, I thought that was when they gave him a TV show. There was also a great line about “so-called solar energy” – because now solar energy is just a theory too. Like gravity, or Adelaide.
I am a sometime journalist. In that sense, the staff in the Herald and Weekly Times building are my colleagues. This makes me feel a bit like whorehouse linen. No doubt they all say they’re just doing their jobs, looking for opportunities. Nonetheless, they’re still actively promoting harm for the sake of attracting an audience. Concentration camp guards are just doing their jobs, too.
And with that level of reporting, the effort from their readers is no surprise. “Co2 is not a pollutant. It is vital for life on Earth. Without it, trees will die,” said John. Get that man on the climate panel.
“How much will Australia’s temperatures decline once the tax is implemented?” asked Marty. Well, Marty, the atmosphere takes notes about where its constituent particles come from, so we’ll get a full report from the Hole in the Ozone Layer each quarter. He wears a jaunty hat, and gives every boy and girl a delicious melanoma.
The dumbshititis was also evident in the audience of the Prime Ministerial Q and A on Monday, where the average question could be summarised as, “I’m a person, and I don’t like paying money. Can I not ever pay money for things?” My favourite line, from a surgical swab of a man towards the end of the show, was that because he earned too much to be eligible for low-income handouts, “I feel I’ll be taxed into poverty.”
This taps into a very prominent feature of our political landscape: the constant line from Tony Abbott that Australian families are hurting, that Aussies are doing it tough, that life is somehow getting harder, that the cost of living is on the rise.
Shenanigans, Tony. Let’s get one thing very clear. Australians, en masse, are enjoying a better standard of living than has ever been enjoyed in this country’s history.
And not just marginally, but by a huge degree. Really, along with a few other developed countries, we are enjoying a better standard of living than any group of people has in human existence. We have every kind of food and beverage from around the world deliverable to our doors. We have technological advances that make a decade ago look archaic. We have goods and luxuries of every conceivable kind; cheap and accessible. We have more and better options with transport, entertainment, comfort, place and style of residence. We have the most advanced medicine and best life expectancy of all time.
While there is still poverty in Australia, it does not even touch the kinds of poverty experienced in most countries on earth. Support systems and sufficient wealth exist to cover at least basic needs. The small proportion of genuinely homeless usually have other factors that keep them away from those systems. Being poor in Australia means living in a crappy house, in a crappy area. Maybe a commission flat. It means living on welfare, getting by week to week, not having any money for nice things. It might mean the kids have to go to their friend’s house to play X-Box, or that they don’t get sweet Christmas presents. It sucks, but it’s safe. It’s solid. It keeps you alive. It’s a level of stability and security that half the world would kill for, and even the basic amenities of a commission flat are amenities that half the world doesn’t have.
Poor people in Australia do not starve to death. They don’t die of cold. There is clean water running in any public bathroom. If they’re ill, they can walk into a hospital and be treated. If they’re broke, they can get welfare. They can get roofs over their heads, even if they’re temporary. They have options. If the utilities are shut off, they can find a tap, or a powerpoint. They can make it through the night.
And those poor aside, the rest of the country is doing very fucking nicely indeed, thanks very much. Reading these stories of parents bitching about working long hours to afford their private school fees just makes me want to give their little tow-headed spawn a spew bath. The lack of perspective is astonishing. Their kids are safe and fed and healthy and getting every opportunity to do whatever they want with their lives. They’re not getting sent out to suck tourist dick for enough US dollars to get their siblings through the week.
It should make us ashamed that there are people with good earnings ready to claim victim status on national television over a worst-case scenario of five hundred bucks a year. This is what is driving people into a panicky rage. Five hundred dollars, if you can afford it. Less if you can’t. If you run a red light camera in Victoria it’s $300. Do 40 ks over the limit, $510. If we get fines, we bitch about it, but inherently accept the rationale: the fine is levied as a penalty by someone endangering others in the society. It’s the basic structure of how a society works. We all agree to abide by certain rules as a form of insurance, to make sure that we’re not on the receiving end of the negative consequences of lawlessness. When people refuse to abide by those rules, they’re variously censured by or removed from that society.
If we obtain energy by burning irreplaceable fuel, and the consequences threaten the safety of our society, then surely we should pay a penalty for that (adding to a fund to guard against those consequences). The rule is basic: you make the mess, you clean it up. Ten bucks a week is a sweet deal.
But in being part of the luckiest couple of generations of people to yet walk the earth, most of us still like to imagine we’ve got it tough. It’s that same sense of entitlement that I was discussing regarding Raquel a couple of weeks ago. When you grow up with a certain standard of living, you come to regard it as the natural state of affairs. If someone threatens that state, they are depriving you of what is fundamentally yours. To your mind, you have a right to live like this, purely because you’re lucky enough to have lived like this.
Well, you don’t. So if you claim you can’t afford ten bucks a week, I call Shenanigans, with a healthy dash of You’re a Dick. One dinner at the Flower Drum would make up your year’s liability in one hit. Genuinely struggling people will get compo anyway. But even they could afford it if they had to. Buy one less deck of Holiday 50s a week. Buy two less beers. Leave off the Foxtel subscription. Wear a franger, save half a mil. What the fuck ever. Remember that you live in a country where drinkable water comes out of a tap inside your goddamn house, and where the power runs 24 hours a day. This in itself is a goddamn privilege, and if you are going to bitch and moan about having to pay for that privilege, you can fuck off and die in a ditch.
Because you do not have a right to this way of life. No-one does. We just have the extreme good fortune of enjoying it, and that won’t last forever. We should appreciate it while we can.
Perversely, part of me wants to see what would happen if the sea levels rise a couple of metres, the coastal cities get swamped, the rainfall dries up, the power goes out, the militias take to the streets. Part of me would love to see these squawking indignant right-to-luxury dickwipes learning how to live in the dust, scraping out dried plants from the earth and hoarding their remnants from the Beforetime. It’ll be a sight if it happens. Dirty red skies will rise up from the ground each morning like a curse. The only creatures that seem to thrive, the cockroaches and carrion birds, will swarm black against the sand and the sunset, rasping dry songs with their throats and with their legs. The water will be gone. The world will not remember ice floes. And for her sins, for ten dollars a week from each and every one of us, Julia Gillard will hang from the garret at the gates of Troy.

Religion is a very serious business.

It’s not always easy being an atheist.  Too often I get caught in religious debates.  The same old stuff comes out; Pascal’s Wager1, Darwin didn’t prove life came from nothing, so evolution isn’t true2, our eyes are proof of intelligent design3, and so on it goes.  As an atheist, I’m not one to jump down believers’ throats and shout at them to tell them they are deluded.  It’s one of the fundamental human rights as laid down in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; people have the right to observe their religion.

I don’t believe religion is intrinsically a rort. However I do believe it’s protected by the Law more than secular belief such as humanism and is easily corrupted.  Yes, believe in whichever deity you want and you should not be persecuted by the state for that belief.  I say “the state” because it’s perfectly reasonable for any individual to question the integrity of such a believer; if such a believer is honest with nothing to hide, then the answers should flow freely, as any statement of faith should.

Yet this isn’t what really happens.  The very well publicised Harold Camping said the rapture would occur on 21st of May 2011.  He was (not surprisingly) wrong, and not for the first time on this matter, either.  Conservative Christians in the US, UK and here in Australia oppose gay marriage using 2 common arguments as a basis; 1) it would undermine heterosexual marriage by removing rights from heterosexual marriages, and 2) the law (at least in Australia) defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  Both these arguments are, to be fair, weak.

Now I wouldn’t personally mind this kind of debate if it were on a fair playing field.  Dare I suggest most religious conservatives believe it is, or if not it’s slanted in favour of the “homosexual agenda.”  If only it were!  Organised religion is exempt from discrimination laws; religious schools can expel students and sack teachers on the basis of being gay, pregnant and unwed, or even being nonbelievers of the school’s religion e.g. a Buddhist can be sacked in a Catholic school.  That wouldn’t be such a problem if governments didn’t give such schools no strings attached subsidies!

This is nothing short of hypocrisy.

For all that, my biggest beef is that religions don’t pay tax.  Religions hold the cards here, because in nearly all democratic nations, religions are exempt from paying tax.  They are assumed to be not-for-profit organisations.

(Now to be fair, most religious organisations are not-for-profit, but how do we know if the books are kept in secret, and religion is exempt from Freedom of Information laws?)

These exemptions have their basis in medieval law, when the church and state were cosy bedfellows.  The church even had powers to tax.  That may have changed since the French and American revolutions and the resultant separation of powers, but religion remains untouchable when it comes to tax. It’s unreasonable, and unjust.

To make things a little more fair, organised religions should be taxed like non-religious charities, trusts and companies.  If a registered religious group is truly not-for-profit, then nothing changes; they won’t pay tax.  If they do make profits, or accumulate wealth through property, gifts, bequeathments, grants and so forth, then they should have to declare their income, assets, fringe benefits, etc., and thus pay tax.  Like anyone else.  The same rules should apply equally to all.

To demonstrate the hypocrisy, the Church of Scientology was taken to task by a few individuals who believe the organisation is quackery and fraudulent, claiming that Scientology is not a religion but a philosophy.  This may be true, and as an atheist I have little doubt that the accusations are true.  However the means of attack against Scientology was about their tax status, not values or ideology.  The High Court of Australia ruled that Scientology is a religion and therefore exempt from being taxed.  Anyone can form a religion as long as there is a belief in a supernatural something, and cannons of conduct exist and are accepted by the believers.  That’s all.

I’m not going to try to figure out how much governments – and therefore citizens – miss out by religious organisations not paying any tax, but as a guestimate the figure would be in he order of $1 billion.

In the meanwhile, approximately $600 million is being spent by the Federal Gillard government to place chaplains in all schools; private religious and government secular alike.  The Victorian Baillieu government is injecting a further $200 million.  These chaplins aren’t allowed to teach or proselytise, so what is the point of them being there?  I can only see them as bargain basement counsellors with no qualifications at all other than to have a working with children check like this or this.  Seriously, no teaching, psychology or any tertiary qualifications are needed at all; equivalent experience is enough.  Far from being representative of the non-secular make-up of Australia, these chaplains are all Christian4.  It’d be interesting if an atheist was appointed as a school chaplain under the NSCP.

Is it not galling enough that that secular entities don’t pay tax and yet many are given government grants, or paid contracts to provide essential services?  How is it fair that a church can “syphon” off funds from government to build a chapel instead of, say, a computer lab for students?  How is it fair that an organisation like The Salvation Army can purchase a vehicle tax free to provide for a Salvation Officer or employee in lieu of income?  (In any other context this is seen as Fringe Benefits and is thus taxed.)  This is a double dip that no other business can get away with.

I specifically mention the Salvos because they have many government contracts to provide services to the community, such as employment and food, clothing and transport.  It goes without saying the Salvation Army don’t do it for nothing, but we won’t find out how much profit they earn from these deals because they are exempt from FOI because they are a contracted service provider (and a religion).

Why can’t a secular charity or organisation provide these services?  Well, some do, but without the tax breaks afforded to them that religious organisations automatically get, secular organisations aren’t competitive in a bidding process.

All this makes me uncomfortable.  I’m not suggesting all nonsecular organisations are corrupt, but they are certainly open to corruption and have more mechanisms at their disposal to cover up any corruption.  It’s difficult to prosecute when wrongdoing is exposed, too.  Such as when a private religious school principal and his brother were taken to trial for fraud, but they were acquitted on appeal despite the obvious rort.

It’s time to stop giving religious organisations a helping hand at becoming asset rich whilst they cry poor.  Praying should not be conceded to be a public service.  Religious charities should not be allowed to discriminate when they are contracted to provide a government service to all members of the community.  Most of all, it’s time for the books to be open and tax paid in the same way, under the same rules, that secular organisations have to.

1. Pascal’s Wager suggests it’s a good idea to “hedge one’s” bet and believe in God.  If God doesn’t exist, then no harm done.  This logic fails because there is more than one god.  Also, any god who chooses humans because of their gambling habits over their value as humans is vain and capricious and therefore not worth aspiring to be with.

2. Darwin’s seminal work On the Origin of Species isn’t about first life, rather how new species evolve from common ancestors by natural selection.  It’s not just an idea, but a testable theory with observable predictions, just like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  Further, debating anything in science using the premise “but x isn’t true” does not negate a theory in it’s entirety; just because science doesn’t explain everything doesn’t mean it can’t explain anything.

3. Human eyes are terrible at many things.  They aren’t like camera at all, and only a small part near the centre of the retina, near the blind spot, can detect colour.  Even then it’s not very good.  If the eye were designed, then the designer did less than a half-arsed job.

4. This blog here does an excellent job of dissecting chaplains in school, and why the commissioned report (which I linked here) for Access Ministries should be viewed as propaganda, or the very least, extremely subjective and biased.  Not one acceptable metric was used.

>What shall we do with the rioting refugee?

>

Much debate is raging in Australia at the moment over refugees.  It makes me angry and sad that we are still arguing over details in the foreground rather than it being a background topic, as if asylum seekers are a sign of end times.  For those in mandatory detention, it must be beyond anger and sadness, as the rioting demonstrates.
Now the government has had enough.  Enough of the rioting.  Enough of asylum seekers burning down perfectly good squalor for attention.  So Chris Bowen, the Minister responsible, has angrily come out, fists flailing, saying that any refugee charged with a criminal offence in a detention centre run will fail the character test and therefore be deported.  Further, the government will be reintroducing the much reviled Temporary Protection Visas.
The real reason this is such a crisis isn’t mandatory detention, it isn’t offshore processing, it isn’t a failure to “stop the boats.”  It’s a simple problem with a secretive mission: ASIO.  No asylum seeker is granted refugee status within Australia until ASIO has done a background check.  These background checks have, over the past 2 years, blown out to more than 60 days per detainee and growing.
What is the solution?  More ASIO staff to do background checks?  Maybe, but not really practical.  Bigger detention centres?  The prison management company Sirco can barely staff what exists now.  Naru?  Naru still hasn’t signed the Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, despite promising to do so, which effectively means any asylum seeker (or indeed refugee) has no rights when in Naru.
A the risk at being unpopular, this is what the government could do: use detention centres only for medical checks and quarantine, then release the asylum seekers into the general Australian community with a visa within 30 days.  Once released, the asylum seeker would have to report to Immigration once a fortnight, inform the department of their whereabouts at all times where practical, is barred from work and would not have access to Centrelink or Medicare services.  In other words, they would be for all intents the same as a tourist on a tourist visa (except for the reporting requirements).
Some may say this is inhumane and doesn’t give the asylum seeker certainty.  This is true.  Australia’s obligation is to protect asylum seekers and process their claim, and we should do this better.  What better place than for some poor wretch to be housed with family or friends or people of the same culture or refugee advocacy agencies who can provide until refugee status is granted (or declined)?
It’s time to stop treating asylum seekers as the problem in need of easy but tough solutions for political games, or as potential terrorists or criminals.  Sure, not all asylum seekers are genuine, but the vast majority are.  Those who are are no more a criminal risk to the broader community of citizens and permanent residents.  I’d even risk a frown or two to suggest saying they are less of a criminal risk.

>You’ve got to… accentuate the positives.

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It’s somewhat remiss of me having successfully ignored my blog.  The trouble is about my lack of confidence and esteem; I don’t have anything worthwhile to say, I’m not interesting and so on.  The point isn’t about whether I am dull and uninspiring, it’s whether I believe I’m insipid and tedious.  Which, unfortunately, I do, and since today is Australia Day (or Invasion Day if you prefer), now is the time to write something that will be buried in the bloggosphere amongst all the other national day blogs.
2010 was a tempestuous year for me.  End of a long term relationship, death of a pet, homelessness, multiple hospitalisations.  Oh, for a quiet, boring life.
Yet even as it’s easy to look at the negatives, many positive things happened too, and the year ended on a surge of positive self-discovery and that’s pretty much due to my American mate.  He views the world with child-like wonder.  His philosophy is simple; it is what it is.  His ability to extract joy from the simplest pleasures is astounding.  And this is what triggered my urge to look at myself anew.  Who am I really?  What do I like?  What makes me happy?  Sad?  Indifferent?  So here is a short list of what I’ve found so far:
• I’m not a leader, I’m a follower.  Yes, I’m fine with that now.  Not everyone can be a leader, which is just as well as I’ve often found myself frustrated in situations when there are too many chief and not enough indians.
• I like rules, except when they are stupid.  Yes, it sounds like a stupid thing to say, a bit like “I obey the laws I believe to be just and disobey the laws I believe to be unjust,” but really it means that I don’t control the rules of the game, and ought to stop thinking that I should.  A simple example is a game.  Sometimes a rule makes no sense or doesn’t reflect the real world; this frustrates me, but it’s about time I stopped worrying about it, getting bogged down in its syntax and semantics, and embraced the game as a whole, the broader picture.
• I ought to stop trying to justify myself when I don’t like something.  Not everything ought to be liked, it’s fine to have tastes and be discretionary and discriminating at a personal level.  I don’t like Tom Hanks films, for example.  Full stop.
• Now is the time to thank people instead of thinking “I don’t deserve any praise, well wishes or compliments.”  If someone says something lovely to me, it’s probably because they’re sincere and the proper thing for me to do is to humbly accept.
• I have friends, mates, for a reason.  If I were truly repulsive physically and emotionally then I wouldn’t have such terrific, loving people around me.
• Ask.  So what if someone thinks I’m an idiot for asking.  If I don’t ask, I can’t get or, worse, won’t be told.
• Rejection is as normal as acceptance.  It’s time to stop taking things personally; if I ask and someone says “No”, it probably isn’t because of me and in any case they don’t have to justify it.  After all, if I’m going to attempt articulate what I like and don’t like, want and don’t want without justification, then I shouldn’t expect anyone else too.
It’s a start.

>So much to do, so little time.

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There are so many things to do and I have no clues how to do it all.  That’s life in the big city.  There are hermetically sealed crates after hermetically sealed crates to get through (not my idea).  Clothes I’ll never wear ever again, books I can’t throw away, hats for display and hats for wearing, a TV from the dark ages and a monitor from the Cretaceous period.
I’d be happy to take them to a Good Sammy’s bin, but as I’m without private transport, that task is simply beyond me.  Some are easily solved: bin it.  Others not so simple, such as how do I move a 30kg TV when I can’t lift more than 10kg without my back simply collapsing under the strain.
However, I haven’t been idle.  I’ve been preparing for the arrival of my newly found American friend.  It’s meant drawing up an itinerary of activity, booking hotels, hire car, and so on.  I was hoping to book a room at Karri Valley Resort, but the last room was snapped up less than 1 day before I tried to book it, nearly 3 months out!  But that turned out to be a good thing: I found something cheaper in Margaret River, and we will travel through Pemberton to see the Karri forrests – Gloucester Tree & Diamond Tree included – on our way to Walpole’s Treetop Walk, Albany and Esperance.  Besides, Karri Valley will be full of, shudder, children being, well, annoying little children.
Christmas with the folks should be interesting: my American has never had a summer Chrissie, let alone all the delights of cold meats followed by a arvo nap then possibly a swim in the shark infested waters of the Southern Coast of Western Australia.  Not just any old sharks.  White pointers: The Great White shark.  Think Jaws.  But my mind is at ease knowing I’m more likely to die in the hire car during the trip there than be killed by a shark.
I’m quite looking forward to the journey as well as the destinations.  Plus I’m sure my guest will have the experience of a lifetime.  Something that so many of my fellow Westralians take for granted.