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31 May 2004

Hurray for my QMA tutor

I didn't fail my maths quiz. In fact I did good. I got completely the wrong answers, but because he's the rocking sort of purist maths guy, he doesn't care about arithmetic errors, only about process. So cheers to that.

And I still have a peanut butter sandwich in my bag. Which might even be OK if I eat it before it gets too badly squashed.

I had breakfast just before I left home. My stomach was already gurgling loudly and embarassingly half way through my social science lecture, which is my first one of the day.

Oh oh. And I saw Susan. Twice actually. The other day I did too. But today I stopped and chatted to her for a while. That was nice. Except my QMA tutorial folk made fun of me for chatting her up and being late to class as a result. It didn't matter anyway because our awesome tutor was late. And besides, I wasn't even chatting her up.

There are four people in that tutorial who are doing my same double degree with social science bit. Five people in my social science tutorial, and two in my economics tutorial. That's pretty good. I thought I'd be all alone. But I won't.

Denim Mini-skirts and Ugg Boots

I'm a bit manic today. I've decided it must be the snazzy new hair and shoes that I got yesterday. The problem with my hair, is that before a hair cut my hair pokes out stupidly over my ears. And after a hair cut my ears poke out stupidly under my hair. It's a bit of a fine balance.

The local high school has a mufti-day today. You always get some funny combos.

30 May 2004

My Wonderful Textbook

My economics textbook sucks arse. The authors were saying that corporate profits are good for the poor, and that we shouldn't try too hard to even things out. Because corporations pay tax, and the government uses taxes to help the poor.

By that logic, stealing money isn't really bad, because I'll go and buy stuff with the money, and the shopkeeper will pay tax on that. And they'll buy stuff. And more tax will get paid. Before too long, all of that money ends up in the pockets of the government. So it's not really stealing at all. It's just indirect philanthropy.

UN Convention of the Rights of the Child

There are only two United Nations members who have not ratified the CRC - the USA and Somalia - making it the most widely ratified convention in the history of the UN. HREOC Report

From the same chatper:

Furthermore, while the CRC does not explicitly define 'best interests' it is clear that in the case of actions and decisions affecting a child, it is the best interests of that individual child which must be taken into account rather than children generally.

I had to read that a few times to understand what they meant. It's referring to the government's justification that mandatory detention is justified in the sense it stops other children from attempting to come here in the future. Which the government believes isn't in their best interests. The children here are made to suffer, purely to deter parents from bringing other children. We accepted the deterrent argument for adults, but HREOC isn't suggesting it doesn't hold for children.

The exact words of the convention:

the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children (article 3(1))

It's hard to know if the authors meant this to suggest that the rights of any given child must be protected, even at the expense of children in general.

It's like having a law forbidding soldiers from interrogating child soldiers. It will, theoretically, protect child soldiers who are captured. But it will also encourage armies to use children to perform roles where they are likely to be captured.

What would the UNHRC view on that issue be I wonder? They'd probably be purist about it, and wouldn't go with the messy "greater good" line. I don't know what I think.

It's a bit similar to what Tom was saying. Should we violate international human rights agreements, if we think that doing so will result in a more humane outcome? The odd thing, human rights conventions are meant to be uncompromising - unsullied by political pragmatism and all that. It's our democratic laws that are supposed to be impure and practical at the expense of compassion. If you think that human rights aren't actually all that humane, what do you do?

Not sure how I feel about the original point. I'm probably inclined to believe that if making life less than perfect for a few hundred child can keep 1000s of others out of danger, then that's reasonable. Fortunately, this probably isn't one of those situations. If we were really concerned about children and the bigger picture, then we'd just let them all come here. If it's a choice between putting children in detention or having lots drown in boats on the way here, then that's very tricky. But if it's a choice between putting children in detention or paying a few hundred million dollars a year in welfare payments to all the refugee families that can't get jobs, then it's easy. You just pay the stupid money.

29 May 2004


I just discovered there have been 8376 issues of the Economist since 1843. You could drown in that many magazines. And quite happily I might add.

Never fear, the Bosnian Meat-packers will save us

Some depressed regions actively court immigrants: the chamber of commerce at Nashville, Tennessee, sees them as a source of dynamism, as does Tom Vilsack, the governor of Iowa, whose state has a meat-packing industry relying largely on Bosnian refugees. The Economist

I don't know why I find that so funny.

Hold off on the Thresh

Imagine if the government had the ticker to raise the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $20,000. ACOSS, in their 'Info 347' June 2003 paper, say that the average tax rate on all income for someone earning $20,000 a year is presently 12 per cent, or $2,400. Andrew Murray

We can only dream. If John or Pete did this, I'd toast my boots and eat them with dorse.

Oh dear. An economics post. Stop it. Stop it. Must.... force.... self.... to read racist right wing immigration propaganda.

I Concur

I agree with David. I know the best people. I keep deciding that I must have met all the absolute best people in the world, and there couldn't possibly be any more of them, and then I meet some more. The world is a lucky place.

Nuther Social Science Study Day

So much to read. I've got three seperate browser windows full of unread tabs. At least, today, I'm being distracted by blog posts about social science instead of economics. It's a step in the right direction.

Completely unrelated - last night on the train home, I was sitting quietly by myself, eavesdropping on the conversation of the three people sitting near me. One of the girls was telling a story, and the other one said "Fuck off!" really loudly in response something. Then she realised how loudly she'd said it, and slid down a bit in her seat. She looked around and said quietly "Sorry everyone, I meant........ Oh my word, I can't believe she said that."

Right Wing Assimilation

I don't like conservative, whining, racially-discriminating newspapers that talk about assimilation. But this, otherwise crappy article, aptly titled Too Many: Looking today's immigration in the face brought up an interesting point. One that, happily, isn't really to do with immigration at all.

But assimilation is much more than learning to speak English, or driving on the right side of the road. It involves what John Fonte of the Hudson Institute calls "patriotic assimilation," the belief that American history is one's own history. A century ago it meant that immigrants and their children came to see America's past as something "we" did, not something "they" -- white people of European ancestry -- did. To the extent that immigrants are assimilating they are doing so, in many cases, as "multicultural" Americans.

It made me think about patriotism, and what it means. Is it about where you draw the lines between "we" and "them"? I don't think I like the implications of that sort of idea. But what does it leave you with? Did "we" commit genocide? "We" as white people? "We" as Australians? "We" as British descendents? "We" as the children of the individuals that did it? "We" as people that have benefited? "We" as people that still do bad stuff? "We" as people that wouldn't have stopped it, even if we'd been alive? Is "patriotism" even relevant? Is it outdated? Is it a racism-like prejudice that was useful in the old days of constant war between countries? Can a Chinese immigrant who came in the 1850s feel responsible for the genocide? For the stolen generation? What if they came in the 1950s? Or in the last 20 years?

What relevance does it have to feel that "American history" is "your own history" apart from being a useful, and evocative (because racism often tries to be), "us vs them" line for conservatives to garner support?

Can you be anti-assimilationist but not anti-patriotism? I'm both I, but I don't know how strongly I the second one. Actually, that's not true, I would support assimilation to the extent that immigrants are willing to assimilate to make immigration more palatable to conservative voters. If immigrants are willing to go to English classes every week, and that means that we can have 100,000 more of them, then I would support it.

Does expecting people to value the UN Declaration of Human Rights count as being pro-assimilation? Would I be happy to have 5 million conservative Americans immigrate here, if that meant the destruction of our, already shaky, social welfare system? I'm not sure. Would John Howard permit more immigration, if immigrates could be prevented from voting for a few decades? Would that be a compromise I would be willing to accept in the interests of refugees? If I was a refugee I would be quite happy to move somewhere under the condition that I'd never be able to vote. But if there are a lot of people in that situation, what sort of a society does it create? A pretty shite one I reckon.

What would happen if the government gave a coalition of left-wing NGOs "sovereignty" over a big chunk of Australian land, a big chunk of UN funding, and said that they could accept as many refugees as they wanted. How many refugees would the coalition take? All of them? There 10.4 million according to the UN. Australia could support that many with some extra funding.

Maybe it would be simpler if white Australians assimilated themselves into the Aboriginal community. If multiculturalism is as bad as people think it is, that's the obvious solution. From this day forward, if you want to immigrate to Australia, you have to perform spear-throwing aptitude test, obtain references as to your berry picking skills, and learn one of the major Aboriginal languages at an accredited international language school.

The one problem with that is that we are right and they are wrong. Which is lucky for me? It would be hard to be a vegan in a properly assimilated Aboriginal community.

I read a bit more. I love this little bit.

Some conservatives, and even some liberals, have a different conception of assimilation, but it is not at all clear that those who wish to see a more robust love of country inculcated in our children (immigrant or native) are winning the debate. It simply makes no sense, therefore, for a society that cannot agree on its own history or even what it means to be an American to welcome over a million newcomers each year from outside.

In other words: The majority of America disagrees with the author. Therefore, America should do what the author says, at least until everyone starts to agree with the author. Once everyone agrees with the author, America should do what the author says.

I'll have to use that one more often. "If you disagree with me, that's all the more reason to do what I say."

Oh yay. I just found some statistics on maximum ecologically sustainable populations in various countries. Wackernagel and Rees did a few different studies and they seem to be pretty smart, reliable folk. They reckon that Australia can support 154 million people maximum. Most countries seem to be way over their sustainable levels, but Australia is way under. Canada was the only other country in that particular sample (of 10 or 15 countries) that was under their sustainable level. So that's tops. We could take in all the refugees in the world. And still have 144 million places left for conservative Americans..... enough for almost all of them.

Good on Us

Australia shows it's heart. There are only two developed countries in the list. We suck bad.

Countries Accepting Refugees

  • Iran - 1.3 million (UNHCR estimate)
  • Pakistan - 1.2 million (UNHCR estimate)
  • Germany - 980,000
  • Tanzania - 690,000
  • United States - 485,000 (UNHCR estimate)
  • Serbia and Montenegro - 350,000
  • Democratic Republic of Congo - 330,000
  • Sudan - 330,000
  • China - 300,000
  • Armenia - 250,000
  • Pear Slices!!!!

    No one is ever going to guess what I've got for breakfast...... give up? Well, it's tinned pear slices. Except they are in a plastic tub with a lid. Still good though. I love the word tub.

    Cheapest and Best Erectile Dysfunctions

    Twooooo Of The Beeeest Ereeectile Dysfunctiiion Drug Availaaaaable

    I got this is in the mail (e). I'm assuming that these drugs prevent erectile dysfunction. But just out of curiosity, what would you call a drug that caused erectile dysfunction. Although I suppose that's the same with all drugs. Cancer drugs don't normally cause cancer.

    Last night there was a strange man at Rough Edges who gave Jai his address. He had a "Youth Off The Streets" jacket, which I think is a good thing, so he must be nice. On his business card he had "Family and Domestic Violence Coordinator". What a funny sort of thing to coordinate.

    Nice Easy Things

    Why is it so much easier to say nice things about people you know are never going to read your blog?

    Foot Sore, Nose Runs

    Dear me. What a long night. It's 2am, and I only just got home. Cityrail is a bum. Should that be plural? Cityrail are bums?

    Dave the Poet came up to me tonight while I was in the kitchen. He started "Have you had your meeting with James about my website yet?" This is the meeting I never said I'd have, and don't really want to have. "No", I replied. "You're lucky I don't have a gun aren't you," he said suddenly. "What?" I asked. "You're lucky I don't have a gun," he said again. "I suppose so," I offered. Then he chuckled at me, thoroughly pleased with his joke.

    We had a snazzy new volunteer tonight. Who isn't that new, because it's her second night. But I haven't met her before. Her name is Bonnie. She's fun and makes good jokes.

    Apart from all that, my foot is sore, my nose is running, and it's way way past my bed time.

    Patient Grace and Gracious Patience

    Who was ever inspired by quiet patience and grace? If you are to be patient and gracious, you must shout it to the heavens; so that others my be the moreso inspired and uplifted.

    28 May 2004

    Long Comment

    Comment on Tom's post about breaking the law. It was too long for silly Haloscan. Tom said I don't think God would lock up refugees. But should we actively work against those laws illegally?

    I would be breaking asylum seekers out of prison if I didn't think the consequences would be worse than the benefits. We could do that. But we would be breaking democracy, because most people want them in there. We'd be further alienating asylum seekers by making them look like "law-breakers". We'd be further alienating people who are opposed to mandatory detention, and be making us look like "extremists". Which I guess we are. :) They'd probably just get recaptured and automatically deported. Or put into normal Australian prisons, with no chance of getting out. And/or I'd have my right to visit detention centres permanently revoked.

    If Jesus was here I don't reckon he'd be cutting through the barbed wire with wire cutters in the middle of the night. I think he'd be talking to people and convincing them they letting immigrants out might be a nice idea. Although who knows how much influence even Jesus would have on the Liberal party.

    I wonder if Jesus made the lives of anyone worse by standing up for them. Could the tax-collectors and prostitutes have become even more marginalised, because people saw them as "Jesus-pets"? Does that matter? Maybe the sense of value that asylum seekers could get from a few Aussies trying to break them out, would be worth the costs of "middle Australia" deciding they were naughty. But I don't know if I have the right to make that decision on behalf of the hundreds of people in detention. Maybe we should start a petition amongst detainees.

    "Do you want extremist Australian sympathisers to break Australian law on your behalf? Please list laws below."

    That would be fair. :)

    Of course, you can argue that this entire line of argument is a total copout, and really, if I had any integrity, I'd be down the hardware store in my lunch break today buying bolt-cutters.

    Go Sudan!

    Sudan's government signed a peace deal with rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, bringing hopes of an end to a civil war that has lasted for decades. The Economist

    Yay. Poor old Sudan. I hope they stop killing each other for good. Such a nice country. And such skinny people.

    It did also mention this.

    But bloodshed continues in a separate conflict in the western region of Darfur.

    But we'll just pretend they didn't.

    27 May 2004

    Good Fun Gap

    Today in my uni gap I went up to Randwick - as I've done every week for about six - and got some food for lunch. I didn't have much money so I wandered into Coles hoping I'd find something bargain-liked. And boy oh boy, did I ever. I found big packets of chilli Kettle chips for $2.50. And I was going to buy a Ribena popper for 80c, but at the last minute I found some "Brekky Juice". It was a whole litre (as opposed to 250ml of Ribena popper) and it was only $1.48. Such a bargain. It had all different fruits in it, but what really sucked me in was the vitamin C and folate content. Wow. One bottle had 1000% of one's recommended daily intake of vitamin C. And all of your daily folate requirements. And it was yummy as all get out to boot.

    That had kind of already made my day, so I was pretty happy as I left the supermarket. But then, as I walked outside, I got this really strong whiff of South American market, which made me go all nostalgic and even happier. And then a good Bob Dylan cover song started on my MP3 player. All these happy things, converged at the one time on this humble little shopping mall in Randwick. If I believed in an interventionist God, then I'd reckon he was silly buggers with me right then.

    On the train on the way home a girl I recognised got on and came and sat down across the aisle. I wasn't sure where I'd seen her, but she looked at me funny, and smiled sort of. I smiled sort of back. Then I got out my accounting text book and started reading. I couldn't work out where she was from. Then she got out her accounting text book and started reading. I laughed at us quietly to myself.

    Sore of Head

    My head is still sore. I think from last night with my clunk. It hurt all day. And I couldn't think. I sat in front of a EITC supply/demand curve for about half an hour in the library. And my economics tutorial was even worse. And in my accounting lecture I had this funny thing where I thought the room was shaking. Quite odd. I hope it gets better.

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