Friday, January 09, 2004

Today's Yoof

I did a quick drive by Asymmetrical Information today (it's listed for the Koufax "Best Conservative/Non-Librul Award") and, from there, on to this article from The Economist on the fall of yet another once proud and flourishing British industry:

“Standards are down,” asserts Terry Smith, who carried out a string of security van robberies in 1980s London. “Most robbers now get caught up in drugs, and they don't plan properly. The professionalism has gone.”

Old crooks nearly always resent upstarts, but those who used to make a living out of armed robbery have particular reason to be bitter. Tracking devices, hidden cameras and improvements in forensic science have hardened banks, vans and other traditionally lucrative targets so much that pulling on a balaclava scarcely seems worthwhile.

Further evidence, as if any were needed, of the continuing decline in standards of personal and professional conduct. And to think people used to bitch about the Kray Twins (aka the Piranha Brothers).

Vote the Graveyard

And, while you're at it, vote the entire east side of the Esplanade in Surfer's Paradise (apparently it's a fine old Labor tradition in Queensland).

Like several other Aussie bloggers, I'm up for a couple of those Koufax Awards. I figure I stand a better chance there than I do at the 2004 Oz Blog Awards where the smart money would probably be on Tim Blair to win the most Humorous Blog award.

At least one blogger, WA's Robert Corr has been nominated for the most Humorous Blog by his blogfoes, in much the same spirit as a Canadian student was recently elected Valedictorian for his high school graduation. Which makes you wonder how many nominations Tim is getting from people who think his blog is funny and how many he's getting from people who think that he just can't help being funny. The answer to that question is obviously an unknown, but is it a known unknown or the other kind?

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Google Poetry Redux

After a visit to Boynton, I just couldn't resist running another old song through the Google language grinder.

I remember you.
They are that one,
my dreams come made true, it give some kisses.

I remember you.
They are one, that said
"I you to like therefore. I. They did not know?"

I remember therefore a distant bell and the stars,
which are fallen outside of the blue
as the rains.

If my crossing life is
and the angels ask me to remind of the whole quake from them to then
I will say to them that I remember you.

Was it on Tahiti?
Were we on Nile?
Long before very long time for example hour, or in such a way I remember that I saw your smile.

And I remember therefore a distant bell and the stars,
which are fallen outside of the blue
as the rains.

If my crossing life is and the angels ask me to remind of the whole quake from them to then
I will say to them I remember,
say them that I remember you.

Chewing the Fat

Lean, mean thinking machine Andrew Norton of Catallaxy Files and the Australian Libertarian Society seems to have developed a morbid obsession with fat recently. Principally it seems to be other people's fat: lesbian fat, lefty-columnist fat and most recently whiny fat people fat. In this last post, Andrew links to this Medical Journal of Australia article which identifies a number of causes of the increase in the number of whiny fat people in the Australian population. The article also canvasses and quickly evaluates possible approaches to the problem, commenting:

Even when "individual" treatment programs are effective (and they require continuing follow-up and involvement), the costs of making such programs widespread are likely to be prohibitive. Such programs are also unlikely to be accessed so readily by disadvantaged groups — increasing the already apparent socioeconomic differences. Public education should also be wary of overpromoting the virtue of thin bodies and inadvertently contributing to the development of eating disorders — the emphasis needs to be on healthy bodies. We must also guard against the victim-blaming approach, which can lead to obese people being labelled, if not bullied or demonised, and parents being criticised for their fat children to the point that issues of cruelty and child abuse are raised. A gain in physical health could easily be offset by deterioration in mental and social health. [my emphasis]

On that last sentence Andrew has this to say:

In individual cases, a tactful and kindly approach may well be the right one. But the language of 'victims' is likely to be counter-productive, encouraging people to think that their weight is the result of forces beyond their control, rather than their own actions. How many fat people have you heard saying 'it's my metabolism', as they tuck into another over-sized meal? Why justify such excuses? Fat people are mainly to blame for their own weight, and to the extent that they are not it is usually their parent's fault.

It's pretty obvious that Andrew is no endomorph. My guess is that he's a mesomorph; ectomorphs (like me) generally learn from experience that we can eat like pigs without turning into whiny fat people, much to the envy of our whiny fat friends. Comfortable in this knowledge we can turn an indulgent ear to their complaints about their metabolisms and respond with a sympathetic remark such as "Yes, I'm glad I don't have a lousy metabolism like yours. It must be hell being a whiny fat person."

Erect but not Aroused

I was hunting through my book collection last night, searching for suitable candidates for another exquisite corpse piece like The Big Afternoon Nap at the Vicarage. Nothing much turned up, except my copy of The Final Count by 'Sapper', where I came across a good illustration of how much English usage has changed over the past century:

... And then I took a pull at myself: I was jumping ahead with a vengeance... It seemed a perfectly ordinary erection, though considerably larger than I had thought when I saw it with the naked eye.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004


..The final step came ... when the Swedish government implemented a program of old-age or retirement pensions that quickly became universal. The underlying act here was the socializing of another dependency function, this time, the dependency of the "very old" and the "weak" on mature adults. For eons, the care of the elderly had been a family matter. Henceforward, it would be the state's concern. Taking all of these reforms together, the net effect was to socialize the economic value of children. The natural economy of the household, and the value that children had brought their parents—be it as workers in the family enterprise or as an 'insurance policy' for old age—was stripped away. Parents were still left with the costs of raising the children, but the economic gain they would eventually represent had been seized by "society," meaning the bureaucratic state.

The predictable result of this change, as an economist of the "Gary Becker School" would tell you, would be a diminished demand for children, and this is exactly what occurred in Sweden. Starting in the late 1800s, Swedish fertility went into free-fall and by 1935, Sweden had the lowest birthrate in the world, below the zero-growth level where a generation just managed to replace itself.

Allan Carlson at the Ludwig von Mises Institute explains how the welfare state means fewer rug-rats. And the solution to this problem? Simple:

The agenda here is simple, radical and pragmatically anti-bureaucratic:

1. end state-mandated and state-controlled education, leaving the training and rearing of children up to their own parents or legal guardians;
2. abolish child-labor laws, again reasoning that parents or guardians are the best judges of their children's interests and welfare, vastly better than any combination of state bureaucrats;
3. and dismantle the Social Security system, leaving protection or security in old age to be provided, once again, by individuals and their families.

These acts would restore the economic benefits of children to parents, and so end the anti-child contradiction that lies at the center of the incomplete welfare state.

(Link via John Ray)

Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie

With several sources raising rhetorical eyebrows at the fact that Steve Irwin remains in the running for Australian of the Year, and with the support of Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie to boot, it seems a good time to check out the Australian of the Year contenders. It's a solid field which will present Steve with some stiff competition despite his recent pioneering efforts to develop a more family friendly workplace at his crocodile farm.

The ACT's Finalist is Professor Judith Whitworth AC, Director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research and the Howard Florey Professor of Medical Research at the Australian National University. It sounds like the sort of job where you could probably get away with taking the kids into work occasionally without scoring a lot of adverse publicity.

New South Wales has put up Steve Waugh, an ex-cricketer. I've never seen Waugh take up strike with a baby tucked under his arm but I don't watch a lot of cricket. I doubt too many top level cricket batsmen would be too keen to take their kids out onto the field to get acclimatised to bouncers and wrong 'uns anyway; the risk of junior dislodging the bails while you're hitting a cover drive to the boundary is probably a big disincentive, regardless of the potential benefits to the child.

The Northern Territory is represented by Patricia Miller who:

... has worked throughout her life to challenge racial discrimination and address the fundamental causes of the problems that beset many aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. She has been involved with the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service since 1978, commencing as a filing clerk, and rising to her current position of Director.

Once again, Steve is up against it here; no-one is going to take too much exception to children being taken into a law office occasionally to get used to dealing with lawyers and vexatious litigants. It's a reasonably safe way of building them up for the salt-water crocs.

South Australia has put up children's writer Mem Fox, author of Possum Magic, Time for Bed and Hattie and the Fox. At worst, she's put a lot of kiddies at risk of getting a nasty paper cut.

Tasmania has nominated Michael Kent who "has contributed significantly to Tasmanian business, economy, community, charity and sport". Michael is also eminently child-safety neutral.

Victoria's Bernadette McMenamin:

... founded and championed Child Wise Limited, a not for profit company which works towards the attainment of a world free from child exploitation, child sex abuse and child sex tourism. Bernadette is also the co-author of Choose with Care, a resource which promotes world best practise techniques to ensure that organisations are as child safe as possible.

West Australia's Dr Fiona Wood made headlines in October 2002 when

... she and her team treated badly burned Bali victims at the Royal Perth Hospital ...

So Steve is up against a pretty tough field, especially with Steve Waugh and Fiona Wood as competitors. I wouldn't be surprised if he misses out but he's still in the running to replace one of our 15 Living National Treasures (Deceased).

Tuesday, January 06, 2004