Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Equal Opportunity and Nanny Statism

I've been, er, busy. And have moved overseas. Anyway...

On the face of it "Equal Opportunity" sounds like A Good Thing. When you apply for a job, it shouldn't matter whether you are blind, deaf, white, black, Irish, Chinese, homosexual, Jewish, Muslim or Sikh. Your ability to do the job is the only thing that matters. From this, I would have thought that the information about your ethnic/racial background, disability status, religion (or lack thereof) and sexual orientation would be completely irrelevant.

In Britain, it's not.

I recently (yesterday) applied for a position with a public institution (a university) where at the end of the application form it had a page labelled "Equal opportunities application monitoring". This page proceeded to ask my gender (irrelevant), nationality (irrelevant - I'd already confirmed my right to work in the UK previously in the application), cultural background (irrelevant for this position*), whether I consider myself to have a disability (irrelevant), religion I affiliate with (irrelevant*), sexual orientation (irrelevant), if I'm related to any member of the University (relevant), criminal activity (irrelevant for this position**) and whether I'd worked for the university previously.

My response to those - which I didn't write down - was to ask why is is information then collected, and why does it matter? If it really is "equal opportunities" then the only pieces of information where I could see some relevance was whether I had a relative in or had previously worked for the university - I would guess to prevent any unfair advantages through the interview and candidate review process.

Of course, I forgot. I'm in Britain. There's a reason that it gets labelled the nanny state.

It's not the first time I've noticed this theme - the cameras are the obvious ones, but it's also the news. Currently there's a "credit crunch" going on, and the overriding theme from people seems to be that it's the governments' fault, and that the government should be the white knight to protect them from all the ridiculous decisions they've made in their lives. Example: a "documentary" called "The Cost of the Credit Crunch", where you were shown a range of sob stories where people have made decisions that weren't financially wise, and one and all they blamed the government. Exactly what the government is meant to do when you don't read a contract properly and only use the company you're dealing with's lawyers, I'm not sure. Or when you overreach on the number of products you've ordered and paid for and suddenly your debtors don't, won't, can't pay up.

I'm not denying it that there's people are doing it hard nor is it the case that I don't feel sorry for them (sometimes, to be honest), but there's a culture here to blameshift, and to try avoiding any personal responsibility. Of course, perhaps it's that these documentaries have the same amount of credibility as TodayTonight, A Current Affair and newspapers... or pretty much 90% of media in Australia.

* There would be some cultural backgrounds that would prevent a person from undertaking some roles. There are also some religious backgrounds that would prevent a person from fulfilling a role properly - say, a Catholic in an abortion clinic. Which reminds me of the new legislation in Victoria - discussed at Hoyden About Town and An Onymous Lefty.

** Mind you, perhaps if I had record for fraud, libel (which is possibly a civil offence?) or stealing equipment from my work offices...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Alexander, thanks for all

Alexander Downer (referred to as 'Dolly', 'Lexi', 'Sir Lord' or 'that buffoon' by a fair few blogs; he prefers 'Alexander') has announced his retirement.
At Grods, it's mostly for his blog, which is always full of interesting bits (i.e. constant name-dropping). Despite having a section allowing comments, they don't actually get published. I did try, and my comments were always polite - if, perhaps, difficult to answer (which he's been noted to have problems with previously).

There were also some lovely tributes from writers with well-known predilictions and biases such as Janet Albrechtson and Greg Sheridan. They were more entertainment, though - and I doubt the authors meant them to be taken that way...

Downer himself also had to swing in and defend himself, in doing so claimed that Timor was "his" achievement (Howard didn't flick the leash? Really...) and Iraq was mere "trivia". Obviously not content to leave the mules to do his braying for him.

Anyway, this means that as I'm still on the roll for Mayo (despite being overseas) I should be voting. Fortunately, there's still a little time to go before the by-election is held, but I still need to print out and post off an 'Overseas Notification Form'. Which pisses me off.

Especially as Downer did say that he'd stay the full term even if the Coalition lost government in the last election (sadly, not in the Advertiser. Only in the Courier, the Adelaide Hills newspaper). It's also good to see that he hasn't lost that lack of sense of hypocrisy:
"If Mr Rudd doesn't run a candidate in Mayo, well then he's slinking away in a cowardly way and he should be prepared to face up to the judgement of the people of Australia whenever that judgement is called to be made.

"I think they're treating the people of Mayo with contempt if they're not prepared to run a candidate when they're the Government of Australia."

Oh, yeah? And, what, precisely, is cutting and running less than 12 months into a term when more than 40,000 people voted for you to represent them for 3 years?!

Note 1: no-one asked him his thoughts on Howard and the Liberals "strategically" not offering a candidate in the various by-elections while the Coalition was in power. It'd be interesting to see him squirm out of that successfully without placing the blame squarely on Howard's door.

Note 2: funny how there haven't been any big business job offers that Lexi or Peter Costello said they'd be receiving...

Monday, July 7, 2008

On the Olympics

Somehow, Graham 'Arnie' Arnold has decided that Nathan Burns and (to a lesser extent, I don't rate him as highly) Bruce Djite are "only 20", and "they can't play in the heat, no matter who they are.".

Moreover, he was looking for "maturity, quality, athleticism, speed and tactical nous."
Burns: check, check, check, check, depends on form (can still drift in and out of games occasionally).
Djite: check, check, check, check, check.

Wait. They've ticked all the boxes, so why really aren't they there? The adage that "if you're good enough you're old enough" should hold: Rooney played for England at 17, Messi was a first team regular at Barcelona and Argentina at 17/18, Robinho for Brazil at 19, and Fernando Torres for Spain at 19 (as well as already captaining Atletico Madrid)? What does Arnold know about age in football that the Brazilians, Spanish, Argentinians and English don't? (Note: I'm not saying Burns and Djite at as good as those mentioned: for Australia, though, they may be as important.)

The both of them ticked all of the boxes. Furthermore, Burns has the habit of changing games - for Adelaide United, he was the go-to man (boy!), even if it sometimes didn't come off. He put Binh Dong to the sword in the Asian Champions' League with a hattrick of assists, dribbling the ball past the entire defence before setting up Travis Dodd (twice) and Diego Walsh (the American "Brazilian"). Even out of form, Burns was still more than able to control the ball, hold off some monster defender twice his size, and lay off a ball to a man in space - a lot more than could be said for most of the rest of the A-League.

Djite was taken to Kunming, China with the Socceroos for a vital away clash, and before his training ground injury, was going to start before Archie Thompson (way more overrated than Djite in my not so humble opinion, too). Pim Verbeek obviously thought he was good enough, and Kunming was one of the more challenging locations at just over 1800m above sea level. Even with my scepticism of his ability (mainly in the finishing department), Djite is still painful to play against - strong, quick, can play with his back to goal all day - and was playing as a lone striker for all of the last A-league season. Being up front by yourself isn't an easy job, yet Djite did it.

Oh, did I mention that Burns and Djite were actually the fittest members of Adelaide's squad? Yet, Kristian Sarkies is on the plane. Every time that kid got the ball, he'd kill an attacking move. Adelaide do like playing on the counter - with players that can run like Burns, Djite, Dodd and Lucas Pantelis, why not - but Sarkies was often too slow to either get the ball moving, or always chose the wrong option. His set piece delivery (which is delightful) would have had to have been his only saving grace.

Anyway, I'm ticked. I haven't seen James Holland (Newcastle Jets) play much (and I was fairly tipsy during the A-League GF), so I haven't an opinion on his ability, nor David Williams. However, these four young attackers have been left out for Thompson (who isn't good enough as a striker for the senior side anyway). David Carney (a left wing(er/-back) has also been selected despite James Troisi being in the squad. Waste of a couple of over-age places, what?

I guess don't mention that Burns proved his maturity as a person in his response - despite being devastated, he was an absolute gentleman.

So: seriously, Arnold, what are you doing?

Monday, June 2, 2008


You, News Ltd, have been pwnt.

As of now, they haven't even tried to print/post a correction.

Kate McCulloch is an opponent of a Muslim school in Camden, Sydney, and was labelled/claimed to be the new Pauline Hanson. Not only did Hanson hang up when contacted (she doesn't want much to do with this? Surprise...), but McCulloch has also been slapped down after claiming:
The Macarthurs will be proud of us...
Yeah, good one. As Wah and VTAY have also mentioned, racist.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Almost speechless...

Britain, what are you doing?

The notion of having free speech in Britain seems to be paper thin, rather than solid rock.

Update: Ok... how thin would you like your free speech? Wafer?

As a sidenote, sadly Manchester United won the European Champions' League this morning (my time). On second thoughts, perhaps not so sad; I would have been sadder had Chelsea won.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hmmm, innerestin'...

To start with, a couple of interesting links:
And then some entertainment. Online Opinion is a space where opinion pieces are posted. There can be some really interesting articles - and there can be some absolute dross. One issue I have is some of the women's issues articles in the last two months - they're poorly researched, not very well written and come to conclusions like "OMG NOT PRON, THINK of the CHILDREN". To me, the articles' lack of quality almost denigrates the issues.

In the last month, there's been a bit of controversy over articles on Anthropogenic Global Warming and in the ensuing debate, starting with former astronaut Phil Chapman saying an ice age is coming. This proposition was rebutted in an article by David Karoly (a Professor of Earth Sciences at Melbourne University) labelling it mischievous misinformation.

The lines were drawn, with a former astronaut versus Professor of Earth Sciences...

Two more articles in the following days by two marine scientists, one by Charlie Veron detailing the damage that will be done to the Great Barrier Reef, the other by Walter Starck rebutting (some of) his points.

On the 14th of May, journalist/businessman and JP Terry Dunleavy criticised the hysteria over AGW, and the lack of public discussion. However, he started his article with this paragraph:
It has become commonplace knowledge, and is unchallenged, that global average temperature has not increased since 1998. This corresponds to a nine-year period during which the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in contrast, did increase, and that by almost 5 per cent.
Unfortunately for him this wasn't a good idea, since it shows a lack of understanding of the basic data. To start with a falsehood in an article complaining that no-one's listening to the skeptics... I wonder if he's a sockpuppet, 'cos that's not a good look.

This article was followed up the next day by an article by the publisher of Online Opinion (and former(?) member of the Queensland Liberals), Graham Young, complaining about the introduction by Robyn Williams (ABC's experienced science journalist) of Don Aitken (a political scientist and historian) in a radio broadcast. In the piece, he also mentions that factual errors in Veron's article are "demonstrated" by Starck on OLO - except there are no references to any studies or data in any of the rebuttal paragraphs, and indeed only calls them "comments" in the disagreement. In the final page, Young also labels Williams a Marxist (whatever happened to freedom of expression?) and introduced economist John Quiggin and computer scientist Tim Lambert, labelling them as bullies and brownshirts - invoking Godwin's law. Lambert himself shows up in the comments, responding to each of Young's points, including correcting his "mistakes". Young then claims that Lambert is doing that to take attention away from his mistakes (at this point, I could post a lolcat with a "wtf" expression)...

Geoff Davies writes the final article in the series, "A cool look at Professor Aitkin’s global warming scepticism". The difference (to me) with Starck's article is that Davies includes numbers which are able to be checked straight out, rather than general statements which in themselves require some ability to analyse the data.

In initial responses on their own blogs Quiggin has claimed the Godwin here, and Tim Lambert has called it "On-line abuse". Quiggin has also made the point of Fred Singer's influence on the skeptic/denialist scene.

The comments thread are the ones that have really caught my attention. Don Aitkin (to his credit) is commenting regularly and calmly, as is Geoff Davies. Lambert is attempting to address the issues put to him, and most entertainingly, a commentor by the moniker of "jc2" spends his whole time attacking him, labelling Lambert a "ridiculous clown". Pleasant stuff. (I am, however, impressed by the arguments by a number of other commenters. Sadly they often don't get their very valid questions responded to by Young.) The dry comment by Lambert in Club Troppo's Missing Link Daily from Tuesday also apparently rates high enough to allow more abuse.

Through all this, the number of AGW skeptic pieces has been given larger airplay as compared to their supporter numbers on OLO, leading to many commenters to wonder at OLO's publishing and editing policy and direction. The editor, Susan Prior, has commented at least three times about this, saying the second time (with some understandable exasperation):
...each day I make the decisions about what goes into the journal. I try to achieve a balance but it is dependent on what I get sent to me or can procure myself. I have no political barrow to push, am happy to publish well reasoned/well written articles from all parties and strive to provide material that will get readers thinking and considering other points of view. If I published articles and opinions from one viewpoint you (and I) would soon get pretty bored. OLO is about opinions, debate and ideas. It is about expanding horizons and thinking. It is not about reading what you necessarily want to hear.

Doesn't seem to matter to Young. In his responses to Lambert's post that came in the "Best Blogs 2006", he's the one that initiates the abuse, labelling Lambert as "dishonest", and his post as "raw and barely digestible".

Perhaps a "cool look" needs to extend to discussion practices... and an improvement in the setup of those comments forums. They're a right pain to try to interpret...!

Update: I forgot the final article thrown into the mixer: Clive Hamilton's Death Rattles of the Climate Change Skeptics at New Matilda.

I have also apparently been beaten to the punch by Lyn at Public Opinion...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Budgeting pain...

So, the new federal budget is out, and there's obviously a lot of people doing it tough in the community.

I've been fairly critical of the media in previous posts, and this case wouldn't be an exception.

Choice quote:
Their combined income of more than $150,000 is quickly swallowed by the cost of raising two children, an average-sized mortgage, running a financial planning business and meeting car payments and private school fees.

"Average-sized" mortgage. Like what, over $200,000? More than $400,000?

Running a financial planning business... so they "only" pay themselves $150,000p.a.? Does that mean the business isn't going that well? Are they blaming the government for that too?

As for car payments:
They would have been hit with the luxury car tax, which jumped to 33 per cent for $57,000-plus cars, had they delayed buying a 4WD.

What kind of 4WD, and why do they need one? Do they really go out and use it (bush), or is it for carting the kids' friends around?

The article says nowhere what private school the kids are attending. Should I take it to mean he's going to Prince Alfred College, and she's at St Peter's (two of the most expensive schools in Adelaide)? Or are they going to some of the "cheaper" ones?

It seems to me that they expect the government to support them through their lifestyle choices, which they say are bad by complaining how much it costs, but do it anyway. And further, the lack of detail on exactly why they're "doing it tough" implies to me that the article is simply a beat-up for the Liberal party, because they're having trouble finding something relevant to complain about.

Remember, every baby is created equal. Of course, some are more equal than others.

Did you know Brendan Nelson's a doctor?

Update: Somebody's thinking of the children. I'm thinking along the lines of Senator Conroy not actually knowing what he's talking about, and some muppet from his department sent him out to face the media under-prepared.

And two: Ross Gittens gets stuck in.