Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Woosy juice

According to various uninformed sauces, such as Antony Lowenstein, the Juice are afraid of a few home-made rockets.

Yes, one of the strongest military powers in the world wants everybody to believe it’s scared of a few home-made rockets.

For comparative purposes, I did an image search tonight for the results of rocket attacks over the last few decades. Found these two over here:

Our Operations shack after a near hit by an enemy 122mm rocket attack. Bien Hoa Vietnam.

I have only seen photos of the results of rocket attacks on Israel once, and that was on a blog during the war with Hezbollah a while back. The Israeli's don't publish photos of rocket hits because they don't want to tell their enemies where the rockets are landing. The poms performed an intelligence operation on the jerries during WWII in order to make the jerries believe their V1's were landing in central London, when in fact they were dropping short in the east end. Not so much fun for the East Enders, but sometimes the only way to find out how effective your bombing has been is to listen in to what those that have been bombed are saying about the bombing.

Hence Israel is giving nothing away. But the photos that I did see, which were taken privately by someone taking a risk in going into a town that was under bombardment and had been evacuated of all civilians, showed a lot of damage from the rockets. When the warheads are packed with shrapnel, such as ball bearings, the effect is something like what you see above. A nice big bit of shrapnel like that will either kill you outright or maim you horribly if you are caught in the open when it goes off. By maim, I'm talking about it removing an arm or leg in a rather nasty fashion.

Here's a photo from Confederate Yankee of some of these "home made" rockets being prepared for launch.

When the words "home made rockets" are used, we are meant to think that they are harmless little toys. However, these rockets you see here are in fact bigger than those that you'd find attached to this Hind helicopter gunship.

Similarly, if I showed you this photo of a US Cobra helicopter gunship, with its pods of rockets on each side, the average pinko leftie would automatically go, "Oooh, that's bad. Those things kill people".

But checkout these qassam rockets again. They are significantly larger than the 2.75 inch rockets on the gunships above. So if rockets on a gunship are bad and kill people, how can these even bigger rockets be harmless?

Now you could argue that the US and Israeli militaries manufacture a much better rocket in their military-industrial complex than Hamas can put together in a suburban factory (always called a "workshop" by the way, to make it sound crude and pre-industrial revolution, like they are hand carved out of wood by men perched on stools), and they probably pack them with better explosives than Hamas can lay their hands on.

But I still wouldn't want one of these things landing on my kitchen roof. These things are not packed with sparklers. Hamas are not sending flowers. They are sending packed ball bearings.

It's too late for this. I'm going to bed.

Epping Road, part whatever

I have decided to have another crack at finding Epping Road this Friday. There are two reasons for that.

First, the forecast is for a max of 23 degrees. Until we started suffering from the ill effects of global warming, I remember it usually being about 40 degrees in summer. Damn that global warming! We're all going to fry.

The second is that I might be able to convince the Chook to undertake this quest with me. For years, Chook has been my cycling guru. He has three times as many bikes as me, and has done lots more serious riding as well. He's even done one of those crazy Iron Man triathlons. He might be able to do another once he's had both his knees replaced.

But the poor old clucker has been working in Canberra for the past year or so, and has been unable to wear out as many tyres as I have in that time. According to his wife, he is now fat and bald - a kind of hen-like Friar Tuck. We've been having the odd yak on the phone lately about doing some rides together, and he must be serious, for apparently he has been riding every day in order to get in shape for a spin with me.

My idea is to ride up to Crows Nest or Artarmon and meet him there (he's a north shore type, living in the lap of the now unemployed merchant bankers and other assorted worthies). Since he lives over that way, and I used to live in Wollstonecraft, I am pretty confident that between the two of us, we will be able to find the start of the Epping Road cycleway. If all else fails, he has a much better GPS in his phone than I do. And I think he knows how to use it, which is more than I can say for mine.

From there, we'll ride up to the end of the cycleway, then cut down into Ryde, where I'll try to find the route that I took the other day which led me to get lost in the suburban wilderness. Next stop will be Homebush, where Chook has done much road racing, and then home to the land of wogs for a beer or three.

You really wouldn't think it would be that hard to find a major motorway, would you?

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Who blew that up?

Here's a photo from the ABC news website. Fascinating isn't it? Something burning and a big column of black smoke being given off, plus lots of people standing around having a gander.

If you click on the link and go to the ABC web page, you can click on the photo to see a much larger version. I tried that, and still couldn't work out what it is.

The picture is helpfully captioned:

More strikes: Israeli warplanes have continued to pound Gaza (Reuters: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Ok, that may be so - but what the hell is happening in the photo above? It doesn't tell us what is burning. For all we know, this might have been taken on the 5th of November at a celebration of Guy Fawkes Night in Gaza.

Alternatively, it might be the results of a prank gone wrong in a Hamas bomb making factory - something along the lines of the photo below.

Abu: "Hey Farook, Mamood is arming the explosive vests. I'm going to sneak over there and scare him."

Farook: "Huh? You sure that's a good idea."

Cue crowd of curious onlookers, who have come to witness the demise of Abu, the well known prankster.

Now I am not going to try and claim that this is a photo of the aftermath of a normal road accident where a petrol tanker has slammed into a taxi driven in typically Middle Eastern style. I have little doubt this shows what happens when Israeli ordnance meets Hamas.

But I am curious to know exactly what it is we are supposed to be looking at in this photo. The only reason we might be looking at this photo is because an editor at the ABC has a hard-on for fires - like the owner of the TV station in Switching Channels (which is a great movie). The owner has one simple demand - that they have a story about a fire on the news every night. "Everyone loves a fire", he keeps saying. "Have you got me a fire?" The news crews are driven mad with the daily search for a fire - any fire, anywhere - that they can broadcast at six o'clock.

So here we have our Gaza version of "everyone loves a fire". We don't know what is burning. We don't know why it is burning. We don't know what caused it to burn (although we can guess), or how long it burnt for. We don't know what efforts were made to put it out. We just have a pretty picture of a fire, something that we can go "Oooh-ah" to.

The news is secondary. The visuals are all that's important. Like I said, this might have nothing to do with Israeli air strikes, and be the result of a traffic accident, or a fireworks display gone wrong (although you'd probably have to be nuts to believe that......although you can never be too sure, given what Reuters has done in the past).

It's fire porn, plain and simple. Who cares about the what, why, where and so on. Just enjoy the pretty picture. And don't ask so many difficult questions.

[Forgive me if you think I have too high an expectation regarding my desire to see news organisations deliver news, rather than pretty pictures that have no meaning.]

Two comments about Hamas getting zapped

Actually, I am going to make three comments.

First comment. "The people of the Gaza Strip are suffering from extreme poverty".

In that case, why do I count three satellite dishes in the photo below? Either they are not suffering that badly, or they are suffering because the Big Men have siphoned off all the money and lavished it on themselves, allowing the peasants to starve. [I take it this house was bombed because a Hamas Big Man lived here.] Or they've lavished it on rockets.

Guns or butter, guys. Guns or butter. Take your pick. You choose guns? Then stop crying about the lack of butter.

I guess with all those dishes, they can watch themselves being bombed on TV.

The caption on this photo states that it is a "targeted location". I saw the same photo elsewhere described as a Hamas rocket launching site. Calling it a "targeted location" kind of takes all the sting out of the reason why the site was hit. Those evil Israelis might have decided to "target" a baby milk factory - the phrase "targeted location" leaves it open to interpretation, whilst the phrase "rocket launching site" leaves no ambiguity as to why the site was whacked.

Having written that, I can't remember what my third comment was going to be.


Now I remember. The top photo shows a blitzed house. However, when I see a closely framed photo like this, I wonder what it would look like if the photographer walked backwards a bit and took a more widely framed shot. They always take closely cropped photos to give you the impression the place has been more blown up than Stalingrad, when the truth is often that one house has been flattened and the rest around it are intact. I remember that trick from the whatever-it-was "massacre" of a few years ago.

It's interesting how the media likes to distort and manipulate the images that we are shown. However, I doubt my kids will learn about this sort of distortion in media studies classes at school. Nooooo. Because it is the right sort of distortion.

Are hormones getting into our vegies?

Decide for yourself. I've heard of boobs getting bigger due to female hormones in chicken, but what do you make of these recent purchases?

Two vegetables in just a couple of days.... sounds like a conspiracy to me.

Monday, 29 December 2008

How to completely fail to find Epping Road

The opening of the cycleway along part of Epping Road has no doubt been so traumatic for the RTA, they will never open another one. The screeching and hollering from motorists that feel they have been denied an extra lane could be heard over a Spinal Tap concert (with the volume turned up to 11).

I've never been on the thing myself (and according to the NRMA, no other cyclists have ever used it either).

TAXPAYERS are pouring millions of dollars into lining motorways with cycleways that are barely used - and are building a new bicycle lane the NRMA says will effectively cost $300,000 for every cyclist that uses it.

I just had to see this sinkhole for myself.

The Iemma Government is building a cycleway alongside choked Epping Road, despite as few as 25 cyclists using that corridor each day.

At $7.6 million for the Epping Road cycleway, the NRMA says that would amount to spending $300,000 per cyclist on a lane that is unlikely to attract many more riders, based on the experiences of the M2 motorway.

The people that write this stuff might like to consider that most of the "cycleways" that have been constructed in Sydney are the equivalent of the infamous "bridge to nowhere". We have potemkin cycleways. A nice ribbon of concrete that starts nowhere in particular and suddenly stops at nowhere useful. For any transport artery, be it a canal or a river or a road or a railway or a flight path or a space elevator, it has to join up two places that people want to travel between.

The RTA has this wonderful knack of completely failing to get the idea that most people have a particular destination in mind when they leave home in the morning. They want to go to school or work or the shops. Imagine if the RTA built roads that stopped a few kilometres short of your house, and then failed to go anywhere near a mall or university or hospital. Imagine how stupid you'd think they were if you built a multistorey car park, and then they didn't join the road up to the entrance.

Things like that might detract slightly from the utility of the transport medium of choice, and act as a disincentive for people to use it. Luckily, most of us cyclists are not terribly rational, so we don't let the ongoing cock-ups of the RTA from detering us from going for a ride.

From where I am, the most direct route would be to go over the Gladesville Bridge and then straight up to Epping Road. However, I've tried that a few times, and I am not a big fan of the heartbreaking hill known as Burns Bay Road. It's one of the few hills where I defer to vehicles with four wheels and actually get off the road and ride on the footpath, because it's impossible to go up that hill at more than about 9km/h (unless you are Lance Armstrong, who might go up it at 15km/h). It's a complete bastard of a hill - long, winding and steep, steep, steep. Last time I did it, I got to the petrol station at the top of the hill and just quietly expired in the shade by the bowsers for a while. Once my heart rate fell below 200, I felt that I might live to see another day.

So I thought I'd do the sneaky thing and go around the ridge line that runs along the north shore. I figured I'd go out to Rhodes, duck across to Meadowbank and see if there was a less hilly way up to Epping Road.

Well, guess what? There is no way to go around the ridge line. There are no gaps in it. You simply have to go up and over it, via a steep path or an extra steep path. As it turned out, the path I took was steeper than the hill that I was trying to avoid.

Once I got to Meadowbank, I had no idea of where I was going. Therefore, I fell back on that old favourite known as The Force. That, and waiting for another cyclist to appear and simply following them in the hope that they were going where I wanted to go.

As luck would have it, The Force delivered up not one, but two cyclists to follow. The second bloke that I latched on to looked remarkably fit, and he had calves like small hams. I was wondering how he got calf muscles like that, when the hill began.

I could see that it stretched up a long way, that it curved, and that it got steeper just before the summit. And I could also see that it was going to take several minutes of low gear grinding to get up that bastard. Oh dear, why couldn't I have gone via Linley Point like the sensible people do?

By the time we made it halfway up the hill, I swear the calves of the guy in front of me had swelled by 50%. Each calf looked like two avocados in a sock. Big avocados too. And sweaty to boot.

There was just no way in hell I was going to let that guy drag me off, so I hung onto his smelly avocado calves like a baby monkey hangs onto his mum.

After we got to the top, the rest was just a blur. I hung onto his tail for a while, and then he peeled off in a direction that didn't look right. So I studied the "map" that I had brought along, and that got me a few kilometres closer to my destination.

And then I ran out of map. I had printed out the section of map that I required, folded it and stuck it in the back pocket of my shirt. The further I rode, and the more hills I did, the more sweat it absorbed. By the time I was in the upper reaches of North Ryde, my map was no more. It was a ball of mush.

Plus I was out of time, so I did a U-turn and retraced my steps as best I could. I found that just by rolling, I hit 60km/h going down that nasty hill - without even trying, and I really would have let rip, except that there was a T-junction at the bottom, and bike brake pads are only so good for stopping heavy bastards like me.

After 2 hours and about 40km/h of riding, I was home again, never having seen the Epping Road cycleway. I took note of the street names of the intersection where I turned around, and had a look at the map after I had stood in a cold shower for half an hour. I had made it to within a kilometre of the start of the cycleway.

You might ask how I managed to not find an enormous motorway that cuts through the northern suburbs of Sydney. Well, it's easy when you are lost in the tangled back streets of suburban cul-de-sacs and roads that turn back on themselves. In fact, if I didn't know any better, I would have said that I was lost in Canberra.

The good thing is that having gone so far, it shouldn't be too hard to do it again, and then push on the final kilometre to the cycleway. Next time though, I am packing the map in a plastic bag.

The other good thing is that I will sleep like a log tonight. I am utterly, utterly shagged. Those hills were something else.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

More fun with Keysar Trad

Keysar is a spokesman of some sort for some section of the Islamic community. Buggered if I know which bit. Does he represent the Sunni and Shia and the other various offshoots that we rarely if ever hear about? If someone set themselves up as a spokesman for the Christian community, he'd no doubt be asked whether he represents the Anglicans or the left-footers, the Baptists, Presbetyrians, anabaptists, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, born-again, the Mennenites or the Amish.

But it would be rude, and possibly racist, to ask such questions of a Muslim.

Think for a moment about the types of people that have traditionally been held up to represent a certain ethnic community. If you go down to Chinatown, there's a plaque or a statue of one of the early Chinese "community leaders" (as we love to call them these days) - he was a self made businessman who made his fortune here and went on to support various worthy causes with his own money.

If you visit a club from one of the longer established ethnic groups, like the Italian Club or the Croatian Club or the Irish Club, there will be paintings and plaques and statues of the leaders who founded and built those clubs, and who "led" their communities for decades.

Consider the entirely ficticious character of Mario Four-lips, who came to Australia as a PoW in 1942, stayed on after the war and built a fortune in smallgoods and trucking. In the early 1960's, him and his other magnate mates decided that it was time the Italians made their mark as good citizens, so they passed the hat around and ran a few chook raffles and built a club. From this club, they dispensed scholarships and charity and good works to their community, and when they died, they were content that their efforts had been well made and their rewards well spent.

The idea of asking the government for a handout to build the club would have been laughable. These men (for they all would have been men) were not idlers and scroungers and tax-suckers; they were builders (literally and metaphorically). They built these things via the old route of "public subscription".

How many were public servants? Possibly none.

How many were on some sort of government assistance? Definitely none.

It is quite apt to look back and fondly describe them as "pillars of the community".

Now look at the sorry lot that we have today.

Especially Keysar Trad.

According to his bio, he worked for the Tax Office until 1998, then left "for love". It is not clear what he has done for a crust since then, but as he has bred 9 kids, I'd say that "Family tax benefit parts A & B" are his main sources of income.

There are no signs of building or running a business. His only skills appear to be that of annoying governments so that they give him money to shut him up.

I wouldn't mind the bloke if he was a succesful kebab multi-millionaire, handing out his own cash to turn us into an ultra-conservative branch of the Saudi empire, but he's not. He's a bum; a leech; a tick. He takes our money, and then craps on us and wipes his bum on a fistful of welfare provided hundred dollar bills.

Frankly, if you were a community trying to establish yourself as an upright member of the Australian melting pot, would you want this guy as your figurehead? I'd be frightfully fucking embarassed everytime his stupid mug came on the tube, because all he represents is failure. Who respects failure?

Then again, when you consider that most Muslim states are hopelessly fucked up failures, he could make a good living as being an Ambassador for them instead of living off us.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Test of the day

Find the word "democrat" in the following article:

Blagojevich questioning takes up Obama's time

Laugh along with Trad

Keysar Trad is continuing his comedy routine, his latest utterance being described thusly in the SMH:

LOCAL councils around Australia have been warned they risk imposing a "ghetto mentality" on the Islamic community if they continue to oppose religious projects such as the controversial proposals to build Islamic schools at Camden and Bass Hill

What a hoot.

Sydney is a collection of ghettos. People congregate in areas where they feel comfortable with their neighbours. Bellevue Hill is described as "BellJew Hill", for obvious reasons. I should not need to tell you why I call this area "Five Wog". Chatswood has become "Chatswoo". Redfern is full of blackfellas. Tongans get together with other Tongans and squeeze everybody else out. Earl's Court in London has always been known as the kangaroo ghetto due to the number of Australians inhabiting that quarter. Paddington is a gay ghetto.

And Muslims congregate with other Muslims. Go out to Lakemba and tell me it isn't so. To say that this is the fault of councils is ridiculous. This is not Soviet Russia or Aparthied South Africa - you don't need a permit to live here or there. You live where you like (within the affordability and availability restrictions of the free market).

The ghetto mentality is all around us. In many cases, it starts to dissolve after the 2nd or 3rd generation, with the kids moving away for work, housing affordability or other issues. Ghettos do not last forever in our society, unless they are propped up by government (like Redfern). Immigrants move to a certain area because it is cheap. A generation or two later, it starts to gentrify and get more expensive, so the kids move somewhere cheaper. They scatter, and other people move in from elsewhere. Eventually, the entire character of the suburb changes, and the ghetto is just a distant memory.

Apart from government stupidity causing a ghetto to continue to exist, the only other life support reason I can see is for a local demagogue to maintain a ghetto by fear - fear of outsiders. Keysar Trad is bloody brilliant at doing that, constantly playing the victim whilst being nourished at the government teat. Here we see him playing the old card of "western imperialists against downtrodden Muslims".

I laughed at this line:

Mr Trad said the centre, which took 3½ years to be approved by Penrith City Council, will participate in a number of multi-faith and community events, such as Clean Up Australia Day.

How many journalists attending this event bothered to ask him how many non-Muslim community events he has worked on in the last year, such as Clean Up Australia Day? I'm assuming of course that Jonathan Dart attended the event, and didn't just regurgitate a press release.

I doubt that Keysar and his mates have picked up much trash over the years, because I regularly ride through Auburn, and it is a tip. Wikipedia describes Auburn thus:

Auburn prides itself as having one of the largest refugee communities in Australia. The traditionally Anglo-celtic and southern European population has slowly been replaced by a high percentage of immigrants from Turkish, Lebanese and Vietnamese backgrounds. Auburn also has fast growing Iraqi, Iranian, Afghan, Sudanese and Chinese communities. The five most prominent religions in Auburn are Islam (40.9%), Catholicism (15.3%), No religion (10.3%), Buddhism (6.8%) and finally Anglican (3.6%).

[This by the way is fascinating - Several Sydney rappers/hip-hop artists have begun coining the phrase "Representing Southside Auburn to the fullest" in underground records and onstage to indicate their solidarity with the suburb.]

Auburn Council, which covers a wider area, says that the average for the entire council area is 25% Muslim, so even if you don't believe Wikipedia, you can always check the Bureau of Statistics, which says the same thing.

Anyway, Auburn is one of the filthiest, yuckiest, nastiest areas that I have ever had the displeasure to cycle through. I never gave the religion of the area a second thought until Keysar brought it up, and then I did some searching. It's always been just one of many suburbs that I ride through.

Most Sydney-siders never get to see the place, because a motorway goes past it now, and motorists are shielded from the suburb by a thick belt of vegetation. But if you get up close and personal with the place, as you do on a bike, you quickly notice just how badly the locals treat it.

You could have a "Clean Up Auburn" event once a week, and it would still take all year to remove the rubbish from the streets, parks, canals and whatnot around the suburb. The litter in some places is so thick, I used to wonder if I had ridden by accident into a recycling depot.

Face it Keysar, if Auburn Council did what our council does, and dropped of Clean Up Australia sacks at points where there was a large amount of rubbish, the only thing your menfolk would do with them is cut two holes in each one and jam them over the heads of their women. I have seen how much interest your mob have in picking up litter (or failing to drop it in the first instance), and I reckon most would rather tongue kiss a dog than pick up a chip packet.

Friday, 26 December 2008

What's good for NSW is good for the country

Oh hell, Krudd is selecting his senior officials from the ranks of the NSW bureaucracy. Why anyone would ever employ people who oversaw one of the greatest failures of government in Australian history is beyond me.

These people helped to royally bugger up NSW - now they are being given the chance to fail on a truly epic and historic and nationwide scale.

I have only one resolution for the new year - I am going to stop calling Krudd, Krudd.

From 1 Jan, he will be known as "The Gimp".

Murder, firearms and all that

Another bit of superficial reporting from the SMH, this time that murder by firearms is on the decrease.

If the reporters bothered to read the report, rather than just regurgitating the press release, they'd find this gem:

More than 93 percent of firearms used in homicides in 2006–07 were unlicensed and unregistered. Not surprisingly given the low level of legal ownership of firearms amongst those involved in homicide, 48 percent of firearm homicide offenders had a prior criminal history, compared with 37 percent of victims.
So the report is telling us what most of us know - crims kill other people with unlicensed weapons. This never stops the anti-gun crowd from making a song and dance everytime there is a shooting though.

And then this:

Handguns have made up the majority of firearm homicides in Australia in the past six years (see Figure 27). This has been increasing since the inception of the NHMP, and has remained steady in recent years. In 2006–07, 48 percent of firearm homicides were conducted with a handgun.
So why are we so concerned with getting rid of rifles, or making them hard to get hold of? I imagine that rifles outnumber handguns by a factor of 10 or more, yet handguns are used in the majority of murders. Given the circumstances outlined later, the reasoning for this becomes clear (ie, drunk or drugged people arguing over drugs or money).

We also learn that:

Males were most commonly killed for no apparent motive (28%); in alcohol-related arguments (21%); for money/drugs (17%); through domestic altercations (15%); and for revenge (12%). Arguments over money can occur in many situations.

The chances of being killed by a stranger are extremely small. If you have a violent, unemployed, broke, drug abusing boyfriend, then you might have a problem.

As to employment, or unemployment:

Unemployed persons are highly over-represented in homicide incidents, both as victims and as offenders. Thirty-five percent of victims and 41 percent of offenders were unemployed at the time of the homicide incident. Although the percentage of unemployment of homicide victims and offenders has fluctuated over the past 18 years, the rates have always been much higher than the national average.

During 2006–07, the unemployment rate in Australia ranged between 4.8 percent and 4.3 percent (ABS 2006 & ABS 2007), meaning that the unemployed are six or seven times over-represented amongst homicide victims, and about eight times over-represented amongst homicide offenders, in comparison with the general population.

Wastoids kill each other. No surprises there. The unemployment rate does not include those on sickness and disability benefits, who also make up a surprising number of killers. (Who would have thought that someone on a disability benefit would be fit enough to chase someone down the street and bludgeon them to death?)

To drugs and alcohol:

Many homicide cases involved substance use. Sixty-seven percent of victims had alcohol, illicit drugs, or both in their blood system when they died (refer to Appendix D). One-third (35%) had alcohol only; 16 percent, illicit drugs only; and 16 percent, both alcohol and illicit drugs. Male and female victims were under the influence of multiple substances and illicit drugs at similar rates (see Figure 29).

Male victims, however, were more likely (39%) than were female ones (24%) to be under the influence of alcohol only, and female victims were more likely (46%) than male ones (28%) to have no alcohol or illicit drugs in their blood system when killed, which may reflect their greater likelihood of having been killed in the context of a domestic dispute.

Perhaps the most critical comment in the entire report is buried in one line on page 33:

For as long as monitoring has occurred, Indigenous homicide-offender rates have been much higher than non-Indigenous ones. The offending rate per 100,000 Indigenous males in 2006–07 (14.0) was seven times that of non-Indigenous males (2.0) (see Figure 34). The 2006–07 homicide-offending rate of Indigenous females, 5.3, was nearly 14 times as high as the non-Indigenous female offending rate (0.4). The rate per 100,000 per year of Indigenous male homicide offenders has, however, fallen from its peak in 1990–1991 of 38.8 to 14.0 on the last measure, close to a third of what they have been.

This fall in Indigenous male offending has been a critical factor in lowering overall homicide rates in Australia.

The bit in bold was on the last page of the report before the data appendicies started - ie, where no on will ever find it.

If you ask me, the firearms amnesty has had little or nothing to do with a declining homicide rate.

The report tells us that:

The age of offenders (Figure 9) is a stronger predictor of homicide than the age of victims (Figure 4) in 2006–07. In males, there is a steep rise in homicide offending rates until they are in their mid twenties, followed by a gradual falling off through life.
If that is the case, why is no attempt made to correlate the age profile of the population with the homicide rate? Could it be that homicide is falling because there are fewer males in the crucial age group?

But the clanger of course is that last line about the fall in the male indigenous homicide rate being a critical factor in lowering the overall rate.

The report doesn't do it (possibly for fear of being branded racist), but I would be interested in seeing a graph showing the non-indigenous homicide rate. For all we know, it is stable and showing no signs of decline - which is a worry. I'll tell you why.

This report is being trumpeted as one showing a declining homicide rate, which must be due to more effective policing and firearms policies etc by state governments - that's how I would spin it. The intent is to make you and me feel safer and better protected by our competent, caring legislatures, Police forces and justice systems.

But what if that is not the case? Consider the two sets of numbers, which I have made up for illustrative purposes:

Year 1 - 100 + 20 = 120
Year 2 - 100+ 18 = 118
Year 3 - 102 + 15 = 117
Year 4 - 104 + 12 = 116
Year 5 - 105 + 10 = 115

The first number (the non-indigenous homicide rate) is going up, whilst the second number (indigenous murders) is going down, but more rapidly. Add the two together and you get a slowly declining rate.

But the use of a summary number, rather than the broken out statistics, gives an entirely false impression of how safe (or not) it is to walk to streets of suburban Sydney.

As we've been told time and time again, there's lies, lies and statistics.

Am I bringing up a food snob?

Junior hopped on his bike this morning with the intention of meeting us at a park. By the time he got there, he had replicated like a single cell organism and there was him and a mate. After messing around for a while, they disappeared. We went home, and shortly after flopping on the couch, the door opened and we found that the two of them had divided again into four. They proceeded to raid the (new and enlarged) freezer, making off with every icecream in sight. I am worried that when they return for more sustenance, there will be 8 of the little monsters to feed.

They're like tribbles.

The worst of it was that they made off with my cache of smoked salmon. It was what they really came back for.

Think about that. A bunch of 13 year olds chuffing down smoked salmon. And not just any smoked salmon - I made a trip to a very swisho gourmet shoppe in order to purchase a packet of Tetsuya's salmon, which might as well be gold plated for the price they charge. I did this more out of curiosity than anything else - if we are all going to be living out of shoe boxes next year and subsisting on pebbles and cold tea, we might as well find out how super-gourmet salmon stacks up against the more run-of-the-mill variety while we can still afford to eat.

But I intended to do the testing myself, rather than outsourcing it to a gaggle of KFC-devouring youngsters.

I can see that our fridge might end up looking like Mel Gibson's in "Conspiracy Theory", with everything being kept in separate locked containers.

I'm sure Junior is going to return from his latest expedition saying, "All the guys want to eat over here from now on - the food is much better than what they get at home".

God - a house full of them.

Taking reading seriously

Browsing through Samizdata this morning, I found this link to an amazing collection of photographs of libraries. Wow. If you have the slightest interest in books, art, history - that sort of thing - it is a must see.

These were built in a time when reading was a serious business. Great mean poured their fortunes into building libraries that were a cross between a cathedral and the data centres of their age. They are from an age when knowledge was respected, and being a self-taught polymath was something to strive for. The hushed and solemn tones of these institutions speaks volumes about their purpose - the quiet ingestion of information, the contemplation of facts and theories and the overall betterment of civilisation and mankind. Learning for its own sake was an honourable pastime, and those who were learned and witty were sought out by the fashionable and the great and the good.

When Junior comes home from school and mentions talking in class, my mind immediately springs to an internal view of somewhere like the National Library in Canberra, and I want to visit his school and beat the talkers over the heat with a mallet. Preferably of the meat tenderising variety. I cannot fathom how learning can take place in an atmosphere of chattering over skateboard trucks, iPod accessories, surf trips and bike stunts. Most of all, I cannot understand how the teachers can take it. Why do we not read more regularly of fed-up teachers throttling their blathering students?

I look at kids these days, and I see a nest full of newly hatched chicks, heads back, all squawking away as they compete for attention (and food). If their synapses manage to fire, and a random thought emerges, it has to be instantly carried to the vocal chords and tongue for onward transmission to the world. Few have learned to still their tongue under any circumstances.

I am looking forward to someone making a horror movie where ghouls are creeping through a house looking for people to eat, and the teenagers get picked off one by one because they can't hide in a cupboard or under a bed for 30 seconds without having to broadcast inanities to the universe. The only survivors are the adults, who can sit in silence and think without gibbering.

They are awake for say 16 hours per day. When they are at school, the only spend 5 hours in class per day. Is it that much to ask that they cease to flap theirs gums for less than 1/3 of their waking hours? You know the education system has gone to pot when the constant dribbling of teenagers is put on a par with the dissertations of teachers. If teachers want to regain their place and standing in society, then they must stand up and say, "We are better than these little miscreants. We are more knowledgeable, we are move civilised and we are better citizens. We refuse to be dragged down to their level, to wallow in their ignorance and callowness. We want our pedestal back, and we're not going to stop fighting until we are once again standing on it - dressed in a suit and tie and bedecked with gowns."

Teaching went to hell when we started to think that students and teachers are equal, and that students have rights.


So I look at those pictures of the libraries of old, and I think how far we have fallen as a civilisation. And no matter how pretty Google makes its data centres, they will never create an atmosphere of jaw-dropping awe, and a silent reverance for knowledge. They might be good at piping terra-pixels of information around, but the amount of knowledge that Google has passed on to our students could be captured in a thimble (which by the way is why I detest the idea of computers in schools - doing a Ctrl-C and capturing information from a web page is not the same as absorbing knowledge, or learning how to think and argue logically, or how to set out an argument).

J and me are adamant that when we finally build a house, it will have a library. The only electrical equipment that it will be allowed to contain will be light bulbs (assuming we are still allowed to light our houses in the future). It will have comfortable armchairs, and a view out a bay window or french doors onto a garden. I really want it to have high ceilings, so we need to use a ladder to get to the topmost shelves.

In the meantime, I'll just contemplate the Biltmore House library, and dream.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A plaugue of ibis be upon you

Bloody ibis. They're everywhere, and they are breeding like rabbits.

Global warming must be good for them, given that they infest every Sydney park like fleas on a mangy dog.

The council won't allow you to shoot them. I don't know if they make good eating or not - perhaps they could replace the turkey as Christmas fare for the white trash down the hill? They could roast them on spits over fires made of stolen outdoor furniture.

Given that the like flat, open grassy areas, I don't see why the problem can't be solved with some golf carts, a few cartons of beer and some hockey sticks. (If you can't figure it out, it means you get drunk, hoon around the parks in golf carts and brain the birds with the hockey sticks. Golf club shrfts tend to bend when they come in contact with a bird brain, no matter how small).

We call him "stupid"

It has come to my attention that the latest education fad to hit our fair state is to call schools "learning communities". I read this term in the latest communique from our school, and as soon as I saw it, my blood started to boil.

Having spent years working in and around the public sector, I have seen many departmental, divisional, agency, authority, corporation, group and sector name changes. I have seen Directors become General Managers, General Managers become Group General Managers, Group General Managers become Vice Presidents and then Presidents and then Executive Vice Presidents. I have seen authorities turn into companies and then into agencies and then back into authorities. Personnel became HR, and then it became People Management. Bookkeeping became Accounting, and then morphed into Finance. IT became MIS and then IS and then IMT and then ICT. Secretaries became Admin Assistants and then Executive Assistants. Clients became customers. Customers became Stakeholders. Delivering services became Service Delivery.

None of it made a lick of difference.

The constant shuffling of organisation charts, titles, reporting relationships, matrix structures, performance management systems and language made no impact on how competently or incompetently the organisation was run. For one thing failed to change - the utter boneheads working in the engine room.

Call them what you like - WOFTAMs (Waste Of Fucking Time And Money), SLUHFBys (Slack, Lazy, Useless, Hopeless, Fucking Bastards), Zipperheads, Twonks, Zeroes, Fucking Fucked Fuckheads - they stayed the same. Mouth-breathers in polyester shirts and plastic, zip-up shoes. Never at their desks before 9am, computers switched off 10 minutes before leaving time, out the door exactly 7 hours and 21 minutes after starting work. Changing the name of the Department of Clusterfucks to the Agency for Superior Service Delivery and instituting a Quality Management program produced little more than the purchase of a large number of new business cards, and perhaps the upgrade of some mobile phones to Blackberries.

So excuse me if I am a little jaded when our school decides that they are part of a "learning community".


Not long ago, we got to spend the afternoon with the parents of some of Junior's contemporaries. It was an interesting experience on the whole, meeting some new people and chatting about this and that.

One couple in particular blew me away, and not in a good way.

They turned up with two kids - one Junior's age and one a few years younger. We introduced ourselves to the eldest, and then asked the parents for the name of the younger.

Dad piped up with, "We call him stupid".

Queue my jaw clunking into my chest.

"He's a mouthy little bastard, always getting into trouble".

Stupid: "No I'm not"


Queue my jaw flapping open and shut with no noise coming out. At this point, the handbrake in my brain has been yanked on, and I have just slid off the road into a mental ditch in a cloud of tyre and synapse smoke. I just don't know what to say. I am at more than a loss - I am a guppy fish blowing bubbles in a fish tank.

So we pretend not to notice, and carry on.

The youngster seems normal and intelligent, and displays no horrible character traits, such as trying to brain perfect strangers with a half brick, or setting fire to puppies. He doesn't appear to be stupid.

But stupid is what he gets called all afternoon.

So I say to the Education Department; rename as many schools as you like to "learning communities". I am going to put myself into the lotus position on the floor, say "omm" a lot and cease to care. I will not allow my blood to increase in temperature by one degree farenheit. I will be calm and relaxed. I will be relaxed and comfortable.

Because I know that it won't make a lick of difference so long as half the parents are in the habit of calling their offspring "stupid". Do you think that someone with that mentality is engaged at all in the education of their sprogs? I suspect that they don't even know which school he goes to.

Sorry - "learning community".

Some bike stuff

I was doing a bit of browsing yesterday and found four fascinating bike related sites entirely by accident.

The first is the Recumbent Blog, which is all about those lie-down bikes. The blog is now finished, but it was fun to have a trawl through it. I'd love to have a go on one of these things, but I can't see myself riding one to work - I like to be up high so that I can see what is going on with the traffic. Which is a pity, because in so many ways, they are much more sensible than the 100 year old design concept that most of us use.

If you do nothing else, go watch this short movie about locking up bikes. Not because you are interested in locking up bikes, but because the two characters who feature in the film are fascinating.

Because just one look at them, and you know they are HIPPIES. Unfortunately, hippies tend to dominate a lot of the thinking and writing about cycling (not the racing part - the urban design part etc etc), and they tend to have unrealistic, fabian ideals about how society should work, and people should carry out their lives. Whenever this lot get together (like for the annual blockage of the city by bikes known as....whatever....) the cause of cycling is put back 20 years.

From there, I visited the Ghost Bikes site, which is all about memorials to dead cyclists. That's not a particularly fun thing to be thinking of 2 days before Christmas (or anytime for that matter), but cyclists do have an unfortunate habit of dying when hit by a car.

For instance, 20 years ago, I was tail-ended in my car by a drunk driver. I didn't have a single scratch or bruise, although the car was pretty banged up. Last year, I worked with a bloke that was hit from behind on his bike by a drunk driver - he woke up in hospital, and spent the next 3 months there.

A stupid little shunt brought about by carelessness, inattention or impatience that might barely scratch a car will easily put a cyclist in an ambulance. You never see cyclists riding along doing their lipstick, or reading the paper, or texting someone on their mobile, or zoned out with a dreamy look on their face.

On a funner note, there is the British Human Power Club. This is where you take a recumbent bike, wrap an aerodynamic fairing around it, and ride like hell.

Here is some blurb from their site:

Why should we bother with HPVs, when the diamond frame bicycle has been developed to become such an efficient vehicle for translating human power into motion and is in fact the most efficient means of transport known today?

Ian Sheen - camera shyThe answer is AIR RESISTANCE. At 18 mph, 80% of the force acting to slow the vehicle is from air resistance and as the speed increases, so this percentage gets dramatically higher.

How can we reduce air resistance? In two ways: by reducing the frontal area of the machine/rider combination, usually by lying the rider down in a reclining position whilst pedalling; or by improving the aerodynamic shape. The faster HPVs do both. The reclining position also gives a considerably more comfortable ride for your back, neck and - most importantly - your backside.

I like the sound of that. I reckon riding one of them would be a hoot.

The last site was a mob called Streetfilms. I have linked to one of physically separated bike lanes, which is what Clover Moore is trying to build here in Sydney. If you are wondering what the hell she is on about, and why they are a good idea (for cyclists), watch the film. Yes, it is from New York, but the stupid and inconsiderate behaviour of some motorists is universal. These things would not be necessary if 100% of the population used some courtesy and common sense, but we know that's just never going to happen. So we end up with separated bike lanes.

Every time the Daily Telegraph has a story on bikes or bike lanes, the bile of some motorists quickly rises to the surface - a quick read of the comments will tell you all you need to know about the risks to cyclists in every day traffic. There are some bloody idiots out there on the roads. Some of them are so bad, they've lost the right to drive, but that doesn't deter them either - they just keep on driving, even when suspended. Their God-given right to drive like a damned fool (sometimes drunk, always fast) sometimes tragically ends up being the death of someone else.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Three snippets of life

Oops. Spot the boo-boo?

The aftermath of a prang on the Bay Run on the weekend. I was going across the Bay on a kayak, rather than around it on a bike, when an ambulance came tearing up and collected a cyclist from the pavement. This photo was taken from the opposite side of the Bay after the cyclist had been loaded up, because I am still not game to take a camera with me in the kayak. I paddled over to the prang for a rubber-necked sticky-beak, then paddled back to the shore to grab a long distance snap.

I don't know what happened. Two bikes were on the ground. One cyclist was walking around and talking on the phone, and the other was sitting on the ground with both legs outstretched. I could see blood running down his arms from a distance, so he had barked his elbows on the pavement. It could have been two bikes riding side by side that got tangled up, or a head on collision, or a simple goofy tumble. These things can happen to the best of us, which is why I always have my plastic brain protector anchored to my scone.

The sight of blood and an ambulance of course in no way discouraged me from howling past this spot at 50km/h this afternoon.

In response to Romeo Mike's photo of non-Christmas in Oxford St, I present to you how we do things in wog town. This is one of a dozen banners lining the main drag through Five Dock, and it is the favourite of Monkey - he refers to it as "big red chicken" every time we drive past.

It took me a week to work out what this "big red chicken" was all about.

Post Office confusion

Thanks to our insane banking regulations, I had to get some documents certified recently. I wanted to open another account with my bank, and have it attached to an existing account. You'd think that would be easy.


One needs to present proof of identity and all that crap to show that I am who I really say I am.

The simplest way to get stuff certified is at the Post Office. When I was down that way posting some stuff to PNG, I enquired how to get it done.

Post Office flunky: "You bring your passport to us, we copy it and then certify it."

If I had my passport on me, I would have done it on the spot.

A week passes, and I front up at the Post Office with my passport.

Post Office flunky: "You need to bring your own photocopy. We don't have a photocopier".


A good explanation of the impact of meaningless targets

I've been following with interest developments in the use of targets and statistics in the UK over the last few years. Blogs like David Copperfield and newspapers like The Spectator have generally given the impression that they have been an outright disaster. The link that I have posted to Copperfield is worth looking at, since he explains some of the differences between policing in the UK and Canada (having worked in the former and now working in the latter).

In fact his entire blog is worth reading. So is his book.

My worry is that Krudd has been bitten by the "targets" bug. After declaring war on everything, he'll now start setting targets for every department and agency. That will mean our public servants will be gathering even more statistics, and producing more acre-feet of reports. Are they not generating sufficient reams of data and reports now, without having to add another semi-trailer load per week?

Will not someone think of the trees? (Because no public servant can go a day without printing a long report in full colour, binding it with a plastic cover and then filing it without reading it).

Announcing targets is such a wonderful thing. Krudd announced yesterday that the state governments are going to have to hit targets as part of his war on homelessness. Instead of just giving rent money or rent vouchers to the homeless and letting them work it out themselves, an army of bureaucrats at state and federal level will now be employed to generate, manipulate, palpitate and flatulate reports, thus uselessly sucking up money that could have been used to solve the problem at hand.

They will need offices, computers, a computer system (costing millions), mobile phones, artwork, cars, meeting rooms, coffee machines, newspaper subscriptions, conferences to go to, secretaries, travel expenses, pot plants and on and on and on, with every item of overhead keeping one homeless person sleeping under a bridge with nothing but a cat for warmth. Krudd promised to only halve homelessness for $6 billion, because he knows that whilst he could solve the entire problem for that amount, the pubes will make of with 50% of the cash that the Treasury hands over.

On the bright side, it will save public servants from being homeless themselves. I guess you have to look at it that way.

The use and misuse of statistics used to produce some fascinatingly stupid management battles at work. We had a small team of people that took care of our offices in country NSW, and a much bigger team that took care of the Sydney region. We had three guys doing the country - they divided the state up between them, and looked after sites from the fringes of Sydney to the borders of Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.

As you can imagine, they travelled a bit. For a lot of their jobs, they had to be physically on site to do the work. With the city stuff, a lot could be done over the phone from a desk, so the city guys churned through a lot more work than the country guys. That's easy to do when one bloke spends 6 hours driving to a remote site to do 2 hours work, and the other spends 7 hours sitting at his desk taking calls.

The dickhead that managed one of the city teams was always going on about how effective and special one of his staff was - his favourite pet was always top of the class, averaging 40 calls a day or more. He would use that number to browbeat the rest of us in front of our boss, making himself look good in the meantime.

I'd retort that the only reason his pet got such good numbers was because they had been busted "stealing" jobs from other staff to make their numbers look good (the computer system we used allowed you to do that, if you had no scruples or morals - they were the only one who did it). Furthermore, they were dealing with the simplest jobs we had, whilst the guys out in the field got the really tough assignments. It was like comparing the squeezing of pimples with brain surgery.

Plus there was the travel time issue. You can't fix things when you're driving a car, which was part of the job.

None of that mattered to dickhead - the stats said his numbers were better, so he was doing the best job, and the country people were useless.

The funny thing is that if you went out into the field (as I did, and he never did), you quickly found that the customers loved the country guys. They thought they provided great service, they were friendly, and they knew their stuff. They didn't pass on tough problems - they worked on them until they were fixed.

On the other hand, almost everyone that had dealt with "the pet" had nothing nice to say. The pet was abrupt, dealt with problems that a child could fix and immediately dumped any job that looked like it would take more than 5 minutes to fix. The customers wanted less pets and more country boys.

But management didn't see it that way. When the management consultants came in and reviewed the numbers, the country boys were the first to go.

So when people talk about targets, I reach for my shotgun.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Does a burning book give off CO2?

The Spectator has recently introduced an Australian supplement, which I think is mostly a waste of space (apart from the hilarious articles by Patrick Cook).

More annoyingly, when they actually manage to print something that is worth reading, they don't post it on their website. Maybe they think us poor antipodeans have not made it onto the Algore superhighway yet?

So you will have to put up with my memory for a minute, because I read an article on book burning, then finished the magazine and binned it.

The article said that there are many students in Aus planning on holding book burnings when school finishes. One bloke with a Faceplant or Mystupid page apparently had 2000+ idiots lining up to hold a massive book bonfire somewhere or another.

That's nice. Nothing demonstrates how much you valued that expensive taxpayer funded education like burning all evidence of it.

Now these little pyros have sat through 12 years of education, and supposedly been brainwashed by an avalanche of politically correct, environmentally friendly, gaia loving pap.


Hasn't really worked, has it?

If any of the tree hugging guff had rubbed off, surely these trogs would be wanting to recycle these products of gaia, rather than letting off a few tons of carbon.

Then again, given the lack of critical thinking and analysis skills that I have seen in the younger members of our workforce, I doubt that many could work out that burning books = production of CO2.

Which apparently is a bad, bad thing.

If you suggested to my mother, a product of the Great Depression, that one should burn one's books instead of selling them second hand to someone else, she would happily encase you in concrete and dump you off the continental shelf.

I thought we were supposed to be reducing our environmental footprint, consuming less and all that sort of thing.

Well, maybe that's only something that other people should be doing. Like fat yanks perhaps. Doesn't apply to us. Nooooooooo. We're not hurting the planet.

How did we allow so many self-absorbed, materialistic little wankers to survive through to adulthood? Aren't you supposed to be able to buy a hunting license in order to keep their population down?

The $5 billion difference

Sorry about the length of this rant, but this is a very high horse.

Here are two stories in two different papers about the announcement of a government policy on homelessness today:

The Telegraph:

THE Federal Government will spend $1.2 billion over four years to halve the number of homeless people in Australia.

The SMH:

THE Rudd Government will today unveil its white paper on homelessness, committing $6.1 billion to the first five years of its biggest social reform program.

Hmmm. As far as I can work out, these stories are about the same announcement by the same Prime Minister (unless we have two PM's, which is entirely possible. Maybe Gillard announced a different policy?)

One of these newspapers can't do its sums. Which one is it? Is it Kerry-Anne Walsh at the SMH?

I thought there might be a press release on the Prime Target's website, but as of 9am this morning, no such animal exists. If there is no press release, how did the media get this story?

There is nothing in The Australian, but Adelaide Now is reporting the number as $1.2 billion.

Let me disect this accouncement for you.

We start by revisiting the first paragraph:

THE Rudd Government will today unveil its white paper on homelessness, committing $6.1 billion to the first five years of its biggest social reform program.

Its biggest social reform program? The government has a social reform program? Anyone care to tell us what it is? And how is this the biggest? Do we have proof of that? Or is this just a line spun by a spin doctor in Canberra.

As a start, $800 million will be pumped into new support services for the homeless over the next four years and $400 million for social housing for the homeless over two years.

"New support services" - sounds like a whole new layer is going to be added to the existing bureaucracy. "Support services" sounds like a TV awareness campaign and the printing of a stack of pamphlets.

As for social housing, what does that mean? Why do journalists write stuff like this and never explain what they are on about? It might mean something to a Canberra insider, but it means nothing to those of us that live outside the orbit of the bureaucracy. Less public-service speak please, and more plain English.

a new Council on Homelessness will be appointed, and states will be forced to report progress on targets to the Commonwealth

Great, another quongo is being setup. Worse than that, Rudd is going the way of the British with target setting and reporting. Blair and Brown went mad over setting targets for every government agency, and all this has created is massive dysfunction in their public services. Councils meet targets set by central government for child protection, but kids still die under their watch. Effective policing has gone out the window thanks to stupid and meaningless targets. The ambulance services strive to meet targets that have nothing to do with effective care of their patients.

Mr Rudd considers the 12-year plan a "once in a generation opportunity".

What a stupid thing to say. We have many, many opportunities in this generation to do this kind of thing. Whoever wrote that line should be tarred and feathered and run out of town. Furthermore, the richer this generation gets, the more money we'll have to spend on this problem.

His Government will introduce legislation to anchor the plan in a guarantee that "people who are homeless are treated with dignity and respect, and receive quality services".

"His government?" I thought it was our government. Ah well, that's what happens when someone with a swollen head gets the top job.

I love the bit about legislating a guarantee into this. That's like trying to legislate a guarantee that "everyone will be entitled to 50 hours of quality sunshine per month".

As for being treated "dignity and respect", how much dignity and respect to you accord the brain-fried alcoholic who is too far gone to remember to wear shoes, who has not bathed in weeks and who has clearly done a poo in their pants? Do you think someone who is waddling down the street (because of the volume of crap in their undies) and barking at trees feels a great deal of dignity? Have they shown their own brain any respect by drowning it in metho and cheap port?

Spare me.

Every night in Australia, 105,000 people are homeless. About 16,000 of those sleep rough on the streets. The number of homeless children under the age of 12 recorded on census night in 2006 was 12,133, an increase of 22 per cent on the 2001 figure. Twelve to 18-year-olds numbered about 22,000.

When I am told that 105,000 people are homeless, then the first thing I want to know is how you define "homeless". We visited my sister a few months ago, and she had a bloke camping on her couch. He had quit his job in Byron Bay and was on his way to a hippy feral festival down south somewhere. He needed a place to doss on the way, so he fetched up with my sister (don't ask). I think they were on their way to the Dreaming festival (I have probably gotten that wrong). His intention was to go to the festival, get covered in mud, not shower for a few days, eat mung beans and then return to Canberra (ha ha ha ha) and get a job and find a place to live.

Technically, I guess you could call him homeless during that period. He had no official fixed address.

But he was as happy and content as a pig in a wallow, and he was doing what he wanted to do. He was homeless by choice, by concious act. And it worked for him, and I can attest that my sister has couches that are good for sleeping on (I crashed on one last time we were there).

And you know what? I have done the same thing myself, crashing at friend's places in between jobs and finding a place to live etc (back when I was young).

So spare me the estimate of 105,000 until you define what homeless actually is, and investigate the circumstances behind that homelessness. Bureaucrats are just brilliant at throwing big numbers around to justify certain policies, and they are also brilliant at ensuring that you never get to see the underlying numbers, assumptions or definitions. Because we, the great unwashed taxpaying public, are not allowed to question their motives or policies.

If we do have 105,000 homeless, just where are they staying? That number is over double the number of people living in Wagga Wagga (48,000). Wagga is a big town, with lots of buildings. Where exactly are these 105,000 indigent souls?

Staying with friends?

Staying with relatives?

Staying in a hotel?

Hell, our family was almost homeless two years ago. There was a looming gap between when our lease was up and we had to be out of our old place and when we could move into the new one. We were faced with having to spend a week living in a hotel with our stuff in storage. I guess that would make us homeless.

So whenever you see a feel-good statement like this piece of crap from the PM, always question the numbers.

Then we have 16,000 sleeping rough on the streets.

16,000 is a lot of people.

Sydney contains around 21% of Australia's population, so assuming these people are evenly spread across the country, over 3,300 of them are dossing down in Sydney.

3,300 is a lot of people. A lot of people. You'd think that if we had that many sleeping rough in our parks and out the front of shops and under bridges, we'd notice it. Having spent a lot of nights working late in the CBD, or roaming around the back streets of Kings Cross, I have seen a fair number of homeless people sleeping rough. I've seen the queues at the soup trucks at Martin Place. I've had to step over them in the morning to get to the door of my office. I know they exist - I've smelled them.

But 3,300 in Sydney? Get of the grass. If you divide that number by 10, I might believe you.

Then we have the number of homeless kiddies.

Apparently 22,000 kids aged 12-18 are homeless.

Again, I say "pah!".

A study was made of homeless kids in Perth some years ago. It was not a very popular study, because it discovered the following:

  • there were more agencies and charities setup to deal with homeless kids than there were homeless kids. That is, charities were fighting each other in order to get their hands on a client, because for each kid, there was more than one charity or agency.
  • the great, great majority of kids were "homeless" for one night only. Generally Friday or Saturday night, when they went out and partied with their friends, and broke their parental curfew or whatever. For others, they'd had a fight with Mum and/or Dad, and left home. When most teenagers run away, their flight is shortlived. Yes, some split for good and never come back, leading to lots of heartache, but most don't. They have a spat or a hissy fit, then come to their senses, and go home.

Domestic violence and family breakdown are by far the most common cause of homelessness.

I can believe that, but people converting to travelling hippies might be number two on the list.

But here is my question - how long are people homeless, and is a short period of homelessness a problem that really requires billions of dollars of our money to be thrown at it?

People are resourceful. They can generally work things out on their own. Let's say Wayne and Sharon have a fight, and Sharon takes the kids and leaves. Her mum lives in Melbourne, so it will take Sharon at least a day to get there. Sharon decides to drive, but halfway there, she gets tired, so she pulls over for a sleep in a truckstop outside Tarcutta.

Shock! Horror! Sharon is homeless and needs our help! Someone give Sharon a welfare program! Sharon has two kids under the age of 12, and they need a roof over their heads!

Some people are chronically homeless, and others are not - their problem is transient, short lived and they can sort it out themselves. Thinking about it, when travelling around Europe, I slept on trains for over 20 nights. That included one night sleeping in the corridor of a TGV, because we couldn't get seats, and another night sleeping on very uncomfortable seats at a train station.

Technically, I was homeless. But did I have a problem? No.

I have seen fruit pickers who live out of the back of their van during the picking season. Hell, we went for a paddle this morning with a cousin, and him and his wife to be have been living out of their Kombi for months. Junior's dad has just bought a van of some sort, and is planning on living out of that next year. Are all these people homeless? Yes. Would they have been counted as homeless by the census? Absolutely. Do they need a $6 billion welfare program to help them?

Absolutely not.

The new National Affordable Housing Agreement will come into effect next month. It commits $6.1 billion to social housing, help in the private rental market, support and housing for the homeless or those at risk, and help for home-buyers.

Help for home-buyers! How is that supposed to address homelessness? There is a difference between being unable to afford your stupid mortgage and being homeless. Let me explain.

Assume we have 100 housing units and 98 people. 50 people own their own home (either outright or via a mortgage), 45 are renting and 3 are in a housing commission flat or a nursing home.

Then the financial crisis hits, and 5 people lose ownership of their home for failing to pay the mortgage. Those homes are bought by landlords, who now want tennants.

So we now have 45 people owning their own home and 50 renting. The financial crisis is not like the bombing of London or Berlin, where tens of thousands of buildings were destroyed by bombs. The housing stock has remained the same, only the ownership has changed. People simply go from paying a mortgage to the bank (that they couldn't afford) to paying rent to a landlord.

This model only goes haywire if landlords decline to let their properties, and you have more people seeking a house than there are houses available. I will not pursue this further, but I can't see how helping home-buyers into buying a house is going to reduce homelessness. If you can afford to buy a place, I guess you are not homeless - you are just renting. Now renting is not an ideal situation to be in, but where does it say that the government has to help you move from a situation that you don't prefer to one that you do prefer? I'm renting, for fucks sake, so why should my taxes pay for some other bastard to get a mortgage? Aaaarrrrhhh!

The white paper will outline three key strategies to tackle the homeless scourge: early intervention, expansion of services and "breaking the cycle".

Scourge. Don't you love that word.

Then we have "expansion of services", which means more public servants in better offices with a nicer view.

As for "breaking the cycle", I guess that means that homeless people are in some sort of cycle that prevents them from getting a roof over their head.

I had a flatmate like that once. He was earning good money as a carpenter on the set of The Matrix. He pulled in over a grand a week, and a lot more with overtime. Our rent back then was $110 each.

He had trouble making his bond, and when we kicked him out a few months later, he owed us a month in back rent.

He had cash pouring into his pocket, but his priority was to go to the pub as soon as he was paid and to get drunk and stoned. Once his bender was finished, for lack of cash, he would cadge food from us, and beg forgiveness on the rent.

Then he'd do it again.

When we kicked him out, he had ten bucks in his pocket. But he still had that high paying job. He was just a useless bastard, simple as that. After he was gone, we had people knocking on the door looking for him - others that he owed money to. When we explained that he owed us over $500 in bills and back rent, they calmed down and stomped off in search of his next abode.

So spare me this "breaking the cycle" stuff. Some people are drunken fuckheads, or thieving, conniving junkies. They lack a stable place to live because they are useless, unstable turds.

How much sympathy do I have for them?


I guess that is partly supported by this line in the article:

provide day-to-day support to an extra 1000 adults with mental illness

Mental illness brought on by ice addiction or too many years on the bong?

This next bit is going to be hilarious to watch:

build up to 2700 additional public and community houses for low income households at risk of homelessness

Around here, the Greens think that more social housing, or community housing, or whatever the crap you want to call it, is a good thing. They have gone from hugging trees to hugging winos.

However, the are about to be hit by the reality truck - because with land values the way they are in this neck of the woods, the only way you can build affordable housing is to make it...... high rise. And the Greens hate nothing more around here than high rise.

So, how do you think they will vote when this issue comes up? Will they choose to house the homeless in nice, dry, clean high rise buildings, or leave them sleeping rough under bridges?

I bet the answer is "neither". They will loudly and stridently demand that social housing be built, but mandate that it can't be highrise. Instead of the budget stretching to say the construction of 10 flats at $200k per flat to house all our homeless, it will barely stretch to buying one $2 million house, leaving 9 of our 10 people homeless. They will of course then demand that the budget be increased because of our homelessness problem!!

Fucking madness.

My absolute favourite must be this one:

build up to 4200 new houses and upgrade up to 4800 existing houses in remote indigenous communities

Ahh, why exactly do they need new houses, or to fix up the existing ones?

Because some fuckers have gone through and smashed up all the old ones! Talk about throwing good money after bad. You smash up a house, here's a tent. Thanks, goodbye, now fuck off.

As for this twat:

Yesterday, Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Tony Nicholson said: "This is the most substantial commitment we've ever seen to tackling homelessness in this country. It is far more substantial and visionary than anything I've seen in comparable countries."

A comprehensive case of "producer capture" I have not seen for a long time. I guess his job as Executive Director is safe now, given the river of cash flowing his way. Looking forward to a pay rise next year?

This item was missing in the SMH article, but it appeared in the Telegraph:

The Government will also regulate tenancy databases by June, 2010 to ensure people are not being excluded and review the impact of state tenancy laws on the homelessness rate.

Sorry, but some people need to be excluded, because they have no respect for the property of others. You smash up a house, fucked if anyone should ever have to rent you another one. Why are landlords reluctant to enter the low cost end of the market? Because of twat-faced rules like this one. Landlords will only develop and own low cost housing if they think they can make a profit from it, and if their profits are destroyed by useless, property destroying fuckheads, they will leave the market.

Leaving the taxpayer to step in and provide housing that can then be smashed up by the same fuckheads. Like I said earlier, here's a fucking tent. Get used to it.

And are you prepared for more property theft, like break and enter?

The federal Government will also turn its attention to state and territory tenancy laws by encouraging the introduction of compulsory Centrelink rent payments for tenants in public housing to remove the threat of eviction from not paying the rent.

Oh great. Sharon the junkie is down to her last hundred dollars. At present, she has a choice between feeding her brats, scoring a fix or paying the rent.

She scores of course, and your DVD player is safe for another day. Sure, her brats are hungry, but there is still a bit of sofa that they have not gnawed on.

With this new system, Sharon won't be down to her last hundred dollars. Centrelink will have taken it from her welfare payment, meaning she has no cash for that score.

Goodbye DVD player.

Under the Government's strategy, about 9000 12- to 18-year-olds, who have been alienated from their families, will be given access to education, training and employment.

They don't have access now? Why not?

What these two articles have not told me is how many people all this money will help.

We are told that 105,000 are homeless, and that $6 billion is to be spent on the problem over 4 years.

If you divide those numbers, you find that $57,000 will be spent on each homeless person over 4 years, or a bit over $14,000 per year. That comes to $275 a week.

$275 a week! If you spent that on rent, you'd get a fabulous share house in just about any suburb in Sydney. And that's per person, so if you have Sharon with 2 brats, she'd get $825 per week for accommodation. That will get you a waterfront mansion around here.

But remember this - they are only aiming to halve the homeless rate, so Sharon could have $1650 in rent per week for herself and her brood. She could live here for $1300 per week.


This unique sub-penthouse set over two levels,offers 4 bedrooms (2 on each level) with built ins to all, main with ensuite, huge, light filled, open plan lounge & separate formal dining room, large galley kitchen with gas/electric cooking & casual eating area. Luxurious modern bathrooms, internal laundry, ducted air conditioning, gas heating, enormous entertaining terrace with sweeping views across the water to the Harbour inclusive of gas outlets for BBQ. 2 additional balconies, Triple LUG with good sized storeroom. Stunning Pool on the waters edge with spa, tennis court facilities within this magnificent 5 star complex. Easy walk to rivercat, shops & CBD transport.

A must to inspect, this home offers the luxuries of a grand hotel suite at the same time the privacy of a home.

It really makes you wonder how much of this money is going to be swallowed by bureaucrats wallowing in the trough of public subsidy.

Of course if the SMH got the numbers wrong and inflated them by a factor of 4, then Sharon would only have $410 a week to spend on rent, meaning she would have to slum it in Concord in something like this:

Bargain - $400 Weekly

Located in a quiet street with view over the Golf Course, this 3 bedroom home features 3 large bedrooms, large living area, neat and tidy kitchen and bathroom, polished floor boards and off street parking. A definate must see so inspect today!

Prepare for a billion or six to be pissed up against the nearest wall.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Epic fail - I swear this is the last

This is part IV in my series on Epic Fail - how the Police media unit, our local paper and the gormless Michael Mapstone of the Daily Telegraph got a story so terribly wrong.

For those that came in late, I suggest you click on the Epic Fail link and read parts I-III.

Here is Lysaght Park, which a stolen car driven by a drunken teenage driver supposedly "careered" across. Except that the car did not career across this bit of park, which is the park proper.

Instead, the car went across that narrow strip of grass where the tree is.

This is what it looks like when the tide is in - there is maybe a foot of water where it meets the sea wall. And that would be generous.

The sea wall comes out of the mud at a 45 degree angle, and then rises in a "sheer" wall to where it meets the grass. The "sheer drop" is all of 800mm (which you can see me measuring in the photo below). Note the "rock ledge" at the top where the wall meets the grass.

800mm. That's 80cm, or 31.5 inches in old speak. Or a bit over 2 1/2 feet.

The distance to the mud (sorry, that would be "rocks" to the Police Media Unit) is 2.4 metres on the slant. 2400mm. 240 centimetres. 94.5 inches. 7 feet and 10 inches.

Diagramatically, it looks like this from side on. The green bit at the top is grass (the "park"). The blue bit at the bottom is where the fish with three eyeballs swim. It's not really water - more a mixture of toxic sludge and viagra.

Here are some measurements for you.
Since I have forgotten almost all the maths I ever took in, someone else will have to work out the value for the red dotted line. The lower rock wall slopes down at about 45 degrees, if that helps.
Whichever way you look at it, it is not a 5 metre drop. Even I can work that out.