megpie71
megpie71
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An Open Letter To Helen Garner, on Ageing, Invisibility, and Thing-dom

Dear Ms Garner,

Letter below )

Sincerely,

Megpie71

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/53244.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: cranky cranky
An Update on RLB Solution

So, since I posted my original scam post about RLB solution, I've been getting a lot of responses from people who have also been contacted by this company. Most are saying "thanks for the warning", which is nice, because I'm glad I've been able to help people avoid being hit by this scam. A few have been along the lines of "oh god, I said yes to the job, and now what do I do?"

Tackling this last first: what to do if you've said "yes" to the job offer by RLB Solution, and have just realised what a mistake that might have been.

1) If you're in Australia, get in touch with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). They're the ones who are responsible for penalising scammers, as well as the main regulatory body in this area.
2) Contact your bank and get them to "hold" any transactions coming in to or out of your account from RLB Solution.
3) If you have had money go missing from your account, you should go to the police. Take with you as much documentary evidence as you can about the company (print out emails, preferably with full headers; take screenshots of web pages you're asked to use; write out as much as you can about what the company expected you to do, and when things happened). The more information you can provide, the better.
4) Whatever you do, don't continue working for them!

Next up, I've had a couple of people forward me the text of the latest email they're sending around, so I'm going to be pulling that to pieces and pointing out what's fishy about it:

Letter and analysis under the fold )

One final note: I am not affiliated with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the trade union movement in Australia, the Australian Federal police, the police force in any state in Australia or any other body with the formal ability to do anything about this situation. I am also not an employment lawyer, and any statements I make regarding the applicability of various laws is purely hearsay. I am a person who primarily works as a housewife at present, is without paid employment, and who put the original warning up as a public service because I was annoyed at the scammers for targeting me. So while it's sort of nice that people want to ask me for help in this matter, I have to point out: I've already done everything I can in this case by putting up the information in the first place.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/52222.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: determined determined
26 JAN 2015

Two hundred and twenty-seven years ago, a fleet of eleven vessels illegally made land on the eastern shores of this continent. Approximately 1480 people landed in the area now known as Sydney Cove, along with an additional cargo of livestock (horses, sheep, cattle, pigs and rabbits - these last two are now known feral pests) without permission from the traditional owners of the area, and without consultation with their elders. This group of illegal immigrants proceeded to make camp, and to occupy the lands of the Eora people without permission.

They were the first of many. Battles between the illegal arrivals and the original inhabitants were inevitable. Who won? Well, whose language am I using to write this?

This story provides a lesson for people seeking to enter this country by sea. Stop meekly presenting yourselves to the customs cutters, stop meekly surrendering to the Navy vessels. Come in force, well armed. Dodge the patrols, and set up camp on the mainland, raise the flag of your past homeland, and refuse to acknowledge the government in Canberra. Claim the land was empty when you arrived.

It's already worked once. Who's to say it won't work again?

I recognise the house I am living in is built on land once part of the traditional lands of the Beeliar group of the Whadjuk Nyungar peoples. The name of the suburb I live in is a word from their language. Their land was taken from them without compensation, without recognition of their ownership, and without recognition of their essential humanity. This was wrong when it happened, and it is still wrong now. My direct ancestors did not necessarily take part in the actions of dispossession, but they benefited from them indirectly by being of the same racial and ethnic group as the dispossessors (three out of my four grandparents were born in England, and emigrated here at the invitation of the Australian government in Canberra).

Australia Day commemorates the day a bunch of thugs sanctioned by the government of a foreign power started a campaign of robbery with violence. What is there in that to be proud of? I stand with the dispossessed, and hang my head in shame at the lack of action from successive generations of Australian political "leaders" towards a realistic acknowledgement of the wrongs done to the indigenous peoples of this country, and the lack of work toward a treaty.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/50970.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: ashamed ashamed
Apparently, I am Useful...

It appears one of the employment scammers I've written about is trying their tricks again. I got a whole heap of comments just today from people thanking me for putting up something warning about RLB Solution and their Hiring Coordinator, Anna Stern.

To be honest, I'm glad it's been helpful to other people - this was what I wrote the piece for in the first place. I wish it wasn't necessary (and if "Ms Stern" decides to stop attempting to exploit job seekers, that suits me just fine too), but I'm glad it helps.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/50263.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

The SIWOTI[1] Fund

As some of you may know, over the past year, I've been dropping small change into a jar (well, a yoghurt container these days - the jar got broken some time earlier in the year) when faced with egregious stupidity online. Essentially, the rule of the SIWOTI fund is either 5c per comment which gets moderated down by moderators, OR a minimum of 10c per article which raises my blood pressure or makes me stressed. Yesterday was the maturation date for the end of the fund's "year", and I totalled up how much it came to.

The SIWOTI fund this year came to $128.85 AUD. $64.85 of this is going to buying booze, probably a bottle of rum for the household "liquor cabinet"[2] and a bottle of wine for my parents' Christmas present. The other $64 of it is going toward games.

The main thing which contributed to the fund's size this year was the bountiful harvest of stupidity, daftness, and sheer WRONG from the Australian Federal Government. Their antics proved the leading contributors to the fund, and I'd like to thank our Prime Minister and his cabinet for providing such a wide range of things that annoyed me. Other big contributors included #gamergate, and various other MRAs online.

The SIWOTI fund re-starts today, and will get closed again on 21 DEC 2015.


[1] Someone Is Wrong On The Internet
[2] The small, reachable space behind the microwave where I store the bottles of cooking brandy and cooking sherry.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/49480.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: amused amused
Current Music: "Nothing To Prove", The Doubleclicks
About the "Requires Hate" thing

[WTF are you on about?]

Under fold for length )

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/48086.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Public Service Message for those in the USA

To all the Americans who read my blog: It’s already Tuesday here in Australia. It’s voting day. Democracy is a participatory system of government. You owe it to yourselves and everyone else around you to get out there and vote.

Yes, even if you don’t like any of the available candidates. One of those people on the ballot is going to be representing YOU for the next however many years, whether you like them or not. So get out there and vote for the one you dislike least. If you don’t vote, you don't get a say in whoever represents you.

Yes, even if you’re in a gerrymandered district where there’s no chance the incumbent is going to lose. The more people go out and vote, the more votes the incumbent needs to win the election, and the bigger the chance they can lose. If 100% of eligible voters vote, the winning candidate needs to have the support of at least 50% of the people. If only 50% of eligible voters in an electorate vote, the winning candidate only has to be supported by 25% of the population. If only 20% of the voters get out there and vote, the candidate needs 10% of the population voting for them to win. The more people get out there and vote, the higher the bar the candidates have to get over in order to win. Even if you’re in a gerrymandered district, and the incumbent is going to get over the bar anyway, you can at least hope they sprain their back doing so!

ESPECIALLY if you’re in a state which has voter ID restrictions, and you have the right ID. Voter ID is essentially an effort to restrict the voting population to those people who will support the status quo. As per my paragraph above, the fewer people are eligible to vote in a district, the fewer people the candidate has to appeal to in order to win the district. Voter ID laws try to restrict the population and knock down the difficulty level for the big candidates.

Even if you “don’t care about politics”. Politics is all around you. It’s in the air you breathe (whether that air is breathable is a political decision); it’s in the water you drink (whether you’re able to drink the water or not is a political decision); it’s in the food you eat; the job you work at; whether you can find a job or not. Politics is in everything, because politics is about power. The one guaranteed, non-criminal way you can affect things in the current system is by voting. So get out there and vote, and start regaining a bit of control over the world.

Even if you don’t think it matters. It matters, because you are taking back the power the politicians are given. Even if you don’t believe your vote will accomplish anything. Your vote on its own will not make much of a change, this is true. But it will accomplish more than not voting will.

Find your nearest polling place. Get out there and vote. The big boys with the big bucks don’t ask your opinion very often, but when they do you’re a fool to yourself and a menace to others if you let the chance go by without taking it.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/47028.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: quixotic quixotic
Vandals attack Sikh temple by spraying anti-Islamic slurs on walls

Found here on the ABC

As a Western Australian, I would like to take this opportunity to call on the Minister for Education to amend the religious education curriculum as follows:

Taking the following set of religions -

* Christianity
* Judaism
* Islam
* Hinduism
* Sikhism
* Buddhism

Cover the following topics:

* Key theological and doctrinal concepts (eg major deity/deities, major prophets/philosophers/theorists, major holidays and the story behind them)
* Key internal splits (for example, in Christianity you'd be looking the difference between Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christianity; in Judaism, between Reform and Orthodox Judaism; in Islam, the differences between the Sunni and the Shia; etc etc etc) and the reasons given for these splits.
* Worship practices past and present.
* Conversion and Exit practices (is it possible to convert to the religion; if so how; is it possible to leave the religion; if so how; what penalties exist for leaving the religion; etc)
* Places of worship, and iconography (How to spot a place of worship for $FAITH from the outside, if you're so daft you can't read the signs at the front gate).

Hopefully such changes to the curriculum would at least ensure future generations of bigoted nincompoops will be able to target the correct places of worship with their idiotic scrawl. This will prevent us all from being embarrassed by their combination of both bigotry and ignorance.

(One or the other of bigotry or ignorance I can handle. Both at once... well, there's something which needs addressing there).

EDITED 7.35am 30 OCT 2014 - post in haste, edit at leisure.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/46193.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: irritated irritated
The Games I'm Playing Lately

When I bought this laptop (say "hi", Orac) it came with a program for "Wild Tangent Games" on it and some games pre-loaded. I was sorta interested, so I took a look, and it turned out to be quite rewarding.

For those not in the know, Wild Tangent are basically a "small games" (what the industry calls "casual games"[1]) publishing and distribution house. They provide marketing opportunities for small games, and offer them on a try-rent-buy basis to people like you and me who can't be arsed chasing things around Steam or Origin or whatever. They're the ones who introduced me to Bejewelled and Plants vs Zombies, so they're not all bad, and every week their little launch application updates with a new selection of games to choose from, as well as links to various MMO flash games out there on the web.

If you download a game from their "store", you get one free play (so you can decide whether or not you like it) and then subsequent plays are on a rental basis, paid for with "WildCoins" - you get 50 WildCoins for about $8.50 Australian, and a typical game use costs between 4 and 6 coins, usually about 5. Lately, they're offering the "buy for WildCoins" option as well - pay about 20 WildCoins, and you get to have the game for unlimited use. It probably isn't the best bargain for the developers, but for an unemployed person like me, it's pretty damn great.

Lately I've been downloading a lot of Hidden Object games. The basic thing about hidden object games is they're built around the old "find the objects listed below we've hidden in this picture" puzzles, and they're often quite challenging. There seem to be a few separate sub-genres - one in which you're participating in an interactive storyline (where one of the objects you're finding is going to be useful to you in overcoming the next set of puzzles you're going to be facing); another in which you're given a reward for finding the objects (points or money) and you "spend" your reward on improving a scenario (renovating a mansion, updating a farm, decorating a garden, updating a room etc); and a third where the object is basically just to complete all the puzzles and have done with it. I'm fondest of the "interactive storyline" games, because they're usually fairly interesting, and I've always been a plot junkie.

The thing I find about these games as well is they're generally pretty good for sitting down and ploughing through in one sustained burst (which means I can download an "interactive-storyline" hidden object game, and play it all through in one day) and they have (for me) very low re-playability (which means I can do that one burst as the "free try" play through, and then delete the game). If I have to split the game into a couple of play throughs (say if I start one in the evening after dinner but before I go to bed) then I'll usually get about half to three-quarters of the way through before I need to stop.

So this is how I'm doing most of my gaming these days - I download games from Wild Tangent, play them through, and then delete them off the hard drive.

Why am I stepping up to mention this, and starting to review these games? Well, blame the charming young fools from #gamergate for that. I'm female, I'm forty-three, and I've been playing one form or another of electronic game since I was about twelve. I have been an electronic game player for over thirty years now, and I'm annoyed at these nincompoops trying to claim MY identity as being either inferior to their own, or disclaiming it entirely, or trying to claim I stand with them. So I'm going to be looking at games with a mind to reviewing them in future, as a woman, as an older woman, and as a person who isn't socially permitted to claim the label of "gamer" without getting pilloried for it. Just so these little darlings can see they aren't the only fish in the pond, and that there's more to gaming than buying what's latest and greatest on the X-box or Playstation. Hey, if it helps some developers get an idea of what I'm looking for, and what does and doesn't work for people like me, all the better.

[1] I don't like the term "casual gamer" because of the implication it carries that someone who sinks multiple hours into playing Bejewelled or Chuzzles on the "infinite play" levels as part of their daily commuting routine, spends ages trying to get each level of a time management game completed to "gold" standard, and goes through a couple of different hidden object games every month across PC, console and smartphone platforms is somehow inherently not as committed to playing electronic games as someone who only sinks their hours into playing FPPPMSEU[2] on their console on Saturday nights. So I use "small games" instead - because they only ask for a small block of contiguous time, rather than the multi-hour chunks required by the larger games.
[2] First Person Perspective Pseudo-Military Shoot-'Em-Ups.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/45136.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
I'm Not Overly Fond Of Scammers

One of the unfortunate hazards for the modern job seeker is the presence of scammers in the job market. These are people who have the nerve to be sending out emails purporting to be job offers, but which are actually offers to open your bank account to these people for cleaning out. I've received a couple of these, and given I'm unemployed and don't have that many assets to start with, I tend to take it a bit personally. So here's how to spot a scam.

The first big hint is you're receiving a job offer out of the blue from a company you've never applied to. The two companies I've received out of the blue offers from are RLB Solution Company, and Constellation Travels. I know I've never applied to these companies, because I keep track of where I'm sending my applications (I'm required to in order to get unemployment benefit). Genuine employers wait for you to contact them. Genuine employers aren't trawling for employees, because employment in the current economy is a buyer's market - there are more people looking for work than there are jobs available.

(Yes, there is such a thing as the head-hunter, who is seeking to get people to move from one employer to another. The thing about head-hunters, though, is they're hunting up at the top end of the market, for people with highly specialised skill sets. They aren't looking around the bottom of the market for lowly Administrative Assistants and Sales Assistants).

The second big hint is when you receive a job offer with no other contact whatsoever. No interview, no preliminary contact, nothing except the job offer showing up in your email box.

A genuine employer will want to interview you. They're wanting to make you a part of their workforce, which means they're going to be looking for the signs of both psychological and literal bad breath or poor hygiene, or anything else which might make for problems in fitting you into their team. Scammers, on the other hand, are looking to find their victim and bleed them dry with the minimum amount of effort, and keep things as impersonal and distanced as possible along the way.

Third big hint is that the job appears to involve a lot of money for not very much work. One of the primary rules for avoiding scammers of all persuasions is this: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Again, the current economy is a buyer's market for employers. So they're not going to be offering you high wages to try and get you started in a low-skilled position. Instead, they're more likely to be low-balling you. A scammer, by contrast, wants to use your greed to hook you in and get you interested, so they're going to be offering lots of money for not much actual work.

Now, some little things which also contribute to the setting off of the "scam" flag. The first is the employer doesn't appear to be located in your country. Now, both of my out-of-the-blue offers ping this one good and hard. RLB Solution turns out to be a firm which appears to be based in Germany (so why are they looking to hire someone in Australia if they don't have an Australian office?). Constellation Travels is based in the Philippines, and also don't have an Australian office (although they say they're going to be opening one in September 2014... pity it's already October).

(If you aren't an actual, established business broker, why would a company be contacting you in order to set up a new office in a country they don't currently do business with? Again, see the "too good to be true" clause).

The second is the company doesn't appear to have a serious web presence. RLB Solution has a website which appears to consist of one page, in German, plus a PDF file (http://rlbsolution.com/vacansy%28eng%29.pdf) detailing the job they have open[1]. The job description is the only part of the site which is actually in English, and they don't offer an English-language translation.

Constellation Travels, by contrast, has a website which is all about offering bespoke Asian tours to rich customers, mostly in the USA and Europe. They don't have a careers page, and they don't appear to be recruiting. Also their news highlights stop at February 2011.

The third one is the people who are contacting you appear not to have a web presence either. Or rather, their web presence is rather insubstantial. For example, the person contacting me from RLB Solution purports to be Anna Stern, their Hiring Coordinator, Human Resources. Except... she isn't mentioned on their website. She doesn't appear to exist on LinkedIn. The nearest Facebook has for her is Anne Stern. The same goes for the person who's supposed to be contacting me from Constellation Travels, Adrian Forlan. He isn't mentioned on their website. He doesn't appear to exist on LinkedIn. He isn't available on Facebook.

What's even more interesting - neither of them appear to have an online presence anywhere else, either. I'm not on Facebook or LinkedIn myself, but I have a fairly wide-ranging history online.

None of these minor things are really key indicators on their own. It's the combination of all of them which sets my "scam" flag to snapping in the metaphorical breeze.

But of course, the real indicator is in the job descriptions, once you finally access them. If anyone is offering you money to "process online transactions" or "process transactions via Western Union", it's a pretty good warning they're not planning to actually give you money. They're planning to take all of yours. Most banks in most countries these days will deal quite successfully in currency exchange - it's not like it's a huge issue. So what would they need you for? Why would they need access to your bank account to "process transactions"?

They don't. The reason they need access to your bank account is so they can take all your money instead.

So, if any of you out there are getting emails from Anna Stern of rlbsolution.com, or Adrian Forlan of constellationtravels.com, offering jobs you can't remember applying for, just hit delete.


[1] Incidentally, this pings off another warning - the job offers payment in $NZ, not $AU. If they're not even offering payment in my currency, why do they need an Australian representative again?

Edited 06 FEB 2015 to add: I've done an updated post on RLB Solution. It's available at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/52222.html.

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Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Why I Don't Trust This Government

The Abbott government has decided they're going to back down on their proposals to get jobseekers to look for up to forty jobs per month (10 jobs per week, double the current maximum). This is being greeted with sighs of relief in some quarters, and in others by comments along the line of "drop the other shoe, why don't you?". I'm one of the latter.

I'm one of the latter because, as I mentioned on the ABC's comments on the article yesterday, I remember the sighs of relief which accompanied their late-April announcement they weren't going to be seeking a $5 co-payment for GP visits... which turned to shrieks of outrage when they brought in plans for a $7 co-payment for GP visits instead. Now, the word is they've taken this step on receipt of community feedback, but the strong impression is the majority of the feedback they're listening to is from the business community - and the business community basically screamed blue murder about it because it would have meant they'd be inundated with job applications from people who were essentially seeking to meet their weekly targets, whether or not they were eligible for the jobs in question.

So let's be clear on this: the Abbott Liberal Government has not given up on plans to punish the unemployed for being unemployed, and they have not given up on the notion of making all forms of welfare more onerous and unpleasant than they already are - they are neo-liberal ideologues to a man (and woman), and they strongly believe being poor is something which intrinsically deserves punishment. There's already talk of extending income management, and making it a compulsory requirement for receiving welfare - or in other words, your welfare payment will come on a specified card, rather than being deposited into your bank account; it will only be able to be spent on certain things, and you will only be able to buy these things in certain locations; and if you aren't on state housing, it's unlikely your landlord is going to accept it as payment for your rent. They haven't backed down on the six month waiting period for people under the age of thirty, and they certainly haven't backed down on the notion of extending work for the dole.

Quite frankly, I'm still waiting on them bringing back the notion of workhouses.

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Current Mood: cranky cranky
Current Music: The sound of traffic outside
Our Wonderful Government[1]

The latest bit of brilliance[1] on the part of our glorious[1] elected leaders is to continue doubling down on the unemployed. In the next edition of "the floggings will continue until unemployment decreases" thinking, there's a brilliant plan in the works to have the unemployed required to submit up to forty applications for jobs per month (ten applications per week), starting in July next year.

The current maximum rate is ten applications per fortnight, or one application per day.

On top of this, if you're between the ages of 18 and 30, you'll be required to sign up for 25 hours per week of work for the dole; if you're between 30 and 49, you'll be required to put in 15 hours a week; if you're over 50, you get to volunteer for it if you want to.

Have some references:

Unemployed to be forced to apply for 40 jobs a month as part of $5 billion dole overhaul

Industry concerned about Coalition's 40-job-applications-a month plan

Work for dole program to be expanded to include almost all jobseekers

Work For The Dole Doesn't Work And Never Has

Now, as I mentioned in my post of 25 JUN 2014, we're already seeing an increase in the experience required in order to get a job - it's gone up to an average of 2 - 5 years recent experience in role (or equivalent) since the budget in early May. I have a suspicion by July next year, we might be looking at a minimum of five to seven years recent experience in role to be considered. Or in other words "so much for working your way up the ranks".

The business community has already spoken up about this one, concerned they're going to be flooded with applications from people who are mainly concerned with getting together their numbers and meeting their targets. Already, employers have largely ceased replying to application letters unless you're a successfully short-listed candidate - a number of ads are saying explicitly that only short-listed candidates will be contacted. Or in other words, applying for these jobs is a bit like Don Marquis' lovely metaphor regarding publishing poetry in the US market - he compared that to dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon, and listening for the echo of it hitting bottom.

I find this depressing enough when I'm only required to apply for five jobs a fortnight.

One of the more interesting snarky suggestions on the Guardian's comments is sending regular applications and query letters to the offices of Liberal Party MPs and Senators. I'm strongly tempted, I must admit. Just write up a form letter, put together a brief database of names and addresses, and set the silly thing going on a weekly basis. I'd need fifteen candidates a week to bring me up to the level required for forty a month, and it'd be almost cathartic after another week of combing through jobs databases trying to find something suitable to apply for. Oh, and just think, they could bask in the warm glow of helping another Australian do their share of the "lifting" for the economy. What a pity I'm on the wrong side of the country to realistically send applications or query letters to Messrs Abbott, Hockey and Abetz[2].


[1] Yes, I'm being sarcastic.
[2] No, I'm not being sarcastic. I'd love to try out applying for a job in their offices anyway - and see how fast I get sacked for having left-wing political opinions. Maybe I could try a spin on the US Religious Right trick of suing them for discrimination, the same way anti-abortion types are trying to sue for the right to work in family planning organisations...

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/44154.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: irritated irritated
Living with an "Episodic" Mental Health Condition

I have chronic endogenous unipolar depression. This is a technical medical term. Chronic means my depression is always there, as background noise in my life. Endogenous means there is no identifiable "reason" for my depression other than "my brain hates me and wants me to be miserable". Unipolar means I get major depressive downs, but I don't get manic highs.

Continued below the fold )

Employing me, or someone like me, requires a workplace which allows me to vary my workload in order to cope with the changing mental weather. It requires a workplace where my boss is going to accept me saying "I'm having a bad week at the moment; can I please not be put in customer-facing situations unless it's absolutely necessary" without either complaining, attempting to force me into situations I've said I'm ill-equipped to handle, or attempting to guilt me into performing according to their plans. It requires a workplace where I'm allowed to say "I'm feeling overloaded, can I go home?" (and where there's an acceptance this point may well occur twenty minutes into the working day). It requires a workplace where I don't feel required to meet the performance standards set by persons who don't have my rather interesting set of obstacles to performing at capacity. It requires, in short, a workplace which Western Capitalist society is profoundly ill-equipped to supply.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/43903.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: depressed depressed
Why There Isn't Going To Be A Double Dissolution Any Time Soon

There's a lot of talk in response to the budget about double dissolutions, and the term has been floating around in the public discourse since early on in the Gillard government, where Tony Abbott was threatening to try and call an election every single sitting day of parliament (no kidding, one of the standard procedures during the Gillard parliament was the regular call by the Leader of the Opposition for a suspension of standing orders so they could call for a vote of confidence in the government. It got voted down every single time, but was so damn regular that Kevin Rudd's first day back as PM was notable for the LACK of this motion). While I'm right alongside a lot of Australians with wanting to get a do-over on the election (hells, didn't we just have one of those here in WA?) so we can get it right this time, I doubt we're going to see a DD any time soon. Here's why not:

1) Tony Abbott doesn't want to call one.

Tony Abbott is not a complete fool (much as he does a creditable imitation of one). He and his minders are no doubt looking at the dismal figures they're getting in the polls at present (the Liberals are down 45 - 55 against the ALP in two party preferred figures) and realising any double dissolution election is not likely to go their way. At present the Liberals have a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, and a workable majority in the Senate. They'd be fools to risk either of those if they don't have to. Tony Abbott is famous for saying a lot of things he doesn't actually mean, and I suspect his statements about his willingness to face a double dissolution fall into this category. Given he's the one who is supposed to make the "suggestion" to the Governor General regarding when to have elections, I wouldn't expect to see him willing to go to the polls in the near future.

2) Bill Shorten doesn't want one called either.

Yes, the ALP is up against the Liberals in two party preferred figures in the polls. Problem is, "two party preferred" is a polling artefact, rather than an accurate reflection of electoral reality. The question being asked in a "two party preferred" question is "given these two parties as your only choices, which would you pick?". At present, more people, given only two choices, are picking the red box rather than the blue one. But the thing is, at an election, they don't just have the red and blue boxes - they have more choices, and the ALP is still recovering after a rather comprehensive defeat prompted by internal factional nonsense (and there are NO indicators this internal factional nonsense has stopped. Indeed, all the indicators show it's still going strong, and causing more problems than ever; witness the fuss over the pre-selection of Joe Bullock here in WA). At an election, it's more likely people's votes would swing toward other, more minor parties, such as the Greens, the Palmer United Party, and so on. I suspect a more accurate rendition of people's electoral preferences would point toward another minority government situation, with the balance of power being held by independent, Green and PUP candidates, which isn't really something the ALP wants. Yes, they've shown they can deal with it (the Gillard government, for all the poor press reports, got one heck of a lot done during its time in office), but it isn't their preferred situation - they, like the Liberals, would rather have an outright majority to work with.

Expect to see a lot of horse-trading going on in the House and the Senate between the ALP and the Liberals - this would be the more realistic outcome. While there's going to be a lot of talk about the prospect of a double dissolution, I'd not be expecting one until we actually see writs issued.

Incidentally, if we're really wanting a double dissolution, the person to petition is the Governor General. In strict constitutional terms, the GG is the one who calls elections, usually on the advice of the Prime Minister, but not always[1]. Theoretically, if the Governor General were faced with a sufficiently large indication of the displeasure of the Australian people with their elected government, he would be within his rights to call an election, but I suspect the more practical upshot of such a petition would be an immediate call from the GG to the best firm of constitutional lawyers in the country, to find out whether or not he's obliged to pay attention to such a thing (so any such petition would need to have signatures from at least 75% of Australian voters to have an impact, in my opinion).

[1] The most notable example of same is back from 1975, in the Whitlam dismissal, where the Leader of the Opposition managed to persuade the Governor General of the time the Prime Minister could not pass his supply bills (the ones which pay the wages of the parliamentarians, federal public servants, and federal government beneficiaries and pensioners). This led to Sir John Kerr dismissing the Whitlam government, and installing Malcolm Fraser as a caretaker Prime Minister while an election was called. In the subsequent election, the ALP was voted out rather solidly, and the Liberals were voted in. The ructions of this are still echoing around parliament to this day.

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Current Mood: indifferent indifferent
R U OK?

It's R U OK Day here in Australia. It's a national day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues.

So hi, I'm Meg, and at the moment, I'm not OK.

I have chronic endogenous clinical depression. Chronic means this is long-term, it isn't something that's going away any time soon. Endogenous means there's no readily apparent "reason" for why I'm depressed. Clinical depression is the name of the mental illness I have, and as the previous two sentences point out, I don't just have this illness one day a year. It's for life, not just for today.

At the moment, I'm having one of my periodic "black" times. I'm dealing with a depressive attack, which means I'm displaying all the symptoms of depression. I'm feeling vulnerable, self-critical, guilty about long-past offences, unable to be cheerful, unable to find happiness, worthless, useless, hopeless, and I have recurrent thoughts about how I (and the world at large) would be better off if I were dead. Or in other words, I'm depressed. Again.

I've been feeling more or less this way for most of the past two weeks, and I'll probably continue feeling this way for at least another week and a half. I'm not doing much by way of housework, and I'm having to struggle to keep up with my university commitments. I have a lot less energy than I used to have, and while I'm feeling tired all the time, I'm also not sleeping well (I'm dreaming a lot more, and my sleep is a lot more physically restless than it used to be - I woke up this morning with my covers all pulled loose, which is a pretty good indication that there are problems). I'm irritable, and the person I'm most irritated with is myself.

How do I know all of this? I know it because I've been dealing with the depression since I first started going through puberty (my first real feeling of dealing with suicidal impulses was back when I was about ten or eleven, and it just kept going from there). I'm in my forties now, and I'll probably be dealing with this until I die. So I've learned to deal with it.

I've tried multiple anti-depressants. They don't work for me. Or actually, that's probably mis-stating things. Anti-depressants don't work to deal with the sort of depressive episode I'm dealing with now - they're not for acute short-term treatment, because even the most rapid-acting of them take about a couple of weeks to build up to levels where they're going to be effective. The other side of it is that for me, taking antidepressants on a long-term basis is analogous to walking around on crutches all the time just in case I happen to break my ankle again. The effects of antidepressants - the loss of libido, the anorgasmia, the feeling of losing about half my emotional range (yeah, I don't feel as far down... but I lose all the up, too), the mental fogging that comes with doses strong enough to actually stop the depression in its tracks - all of those are a bit too high a price to be paying for the dubious privilege of not being depressed for the year or so it takes my brain to figure out how to be depressed anyway.

I'm also a bit sceptical about anti-depressants in general as well, mostly because we don't know how they actually work to treat depression. By which I mean: we don't know how reduced serotonin or norepinephrine levels, or strange dopamine levels, or odd amounts of endorphins at the neuron level affects things to make depression visible at the cognitive and emotional levels. It's in the bit of neuropsychology which could best be described as "Step Two: ????". There's also no diagnostic tests available to check neurotransmitter levels in the brain - instead, they have to be guessed at from behavioural and self-reported cues. Which means that the medication-go-round with mental health issues is mostly a case of "well, try this and see whether it works", and if it does work, well, that probably meant your levels of whichever neurotransmitter that one was supposed to be targeting were out of whack. Or something. Probably something.

So at present, I'm back to the tried-and-true strategy which got me through from early puberty until I was about thirty: I just bulldoze through it. Because here's the crucial bit: I've been living with depression since I was fairly young. So I'm used to it. I've accepted it's part of my life. I am going to have days where I'm going to wake up and think "oh damn, I'm not dead. Now what?". I am going to have whole weeks where the most I want to do is sit in a corner and cry. I am going to have months where fun just isn't on the agenda, because I don't know how to have fun. I'm going to be living a life where if someone tells me "just cheer up", I'm likely to shoot back with "how?", and actually get a certain amount of sadistic enjoyment out of watching as they flounder. I'm going to be living a life where the "think positive" types are going to receive a quick rundown of just how useless trying to think about the positives in the middle of a depressive storm is - as I've said elsewhere, I've tried it, and what happens is I wind up absolutely positive that the world would be a better place if I wasn't part of it.

So I get up in the morning, think "oh fuck, still not dead," and carry on. I have routines set up. I have an alarm which goes off at 8.30am every morning to remind me to get dressed, and to take my thyroid meds. I set myself limits on what I'm expected to achieve each day, and those limits are low - they're set for what I can achieve in the middle of the worst of the depression. I'm prepared for the days where I don't want to do anything, and where all I want to do is hide, and I give myself permission to take days where all I'm doing is sitting and watching a DVD, because any other form of intellectual or physical effort feels like too much.

It's like the weather. The storm will pass. I'll feel fucking rotten while it's doing that, and any obstacle is going to seem impassable, but it will pass.

So yeah. I'm Meg, and at the moment, I'm not OK. But I'll probably be OK in a couple of weeks. So that's OK.

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Current Mood: oh gods, read the fscking post oh gods, read the fscking post
On Asylum Seekers and Boat People

The Australian government is busy attempting to do nothing about asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Australia by boat (aside, of course, from trying to shuffle the responsibility for dealing with them off to Nauru). In the meantime, I've finally come up with the ideal solution to the problem.

Like so many problems, this one can be solved by a bit of education. The trick is to educate the asylum seekers before they leave on their journey. They need to be correctly equipped for the occasion, and they need to approach the Australian coastline with the correct attitude.

To start with, refugee boats should contain at least 5 - 10% armed troops (if possible, they should have better quality weapons than the Australian army). Rather than attempting to make landfall at any of the known ports, the boats should instead be aiming at landing on an unregarded bit of land. Once landfall is achieved, the new arrivals should set up a flag, and claim the area in the name of their former homeland. They should then make a camp, and set up a base.

If confronted by officials or representatives of the Australian government, they should deny the legitimacy of said officials, argue the land was vacant when they arrived, and point out that they don't recognise any extant governing body on this continent. Declaring the current occupants of the area to be sub-human vermin is purely optional, and is left up to the governor of the new country to declare.

While this plan may seem to be inhumane, unspeakably arrogant, and contrary to all known international law, it does have one major advantage: it's been shown to work in multiple circumstances across multiple countries and multiple centuries. When performed by white Europeans, it's called "colonisation". We know it's been successful in this country at least once.

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location: In a snit
Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Signal Boost: Marriage Equality in Australia

The Australian federal House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs has an online survey up regarding marriage equality. If you're Australian, and interested in the subject (and you haven't already put in a response), have a look.

A few points worth noting:

* The committee has apparently been looking over this matter since 16 February this year.
* The survey expires on 20 April this year.
* As at 15 March, the majority of the 27,000 or so responses they'd received were in the negative.
* The first I heard of this survey (as a person who's in favour of marriage equality, but not passionate about the subject) was about half an hour ago, via Hoyden About Town.

If I were inclined to conspiracy theories, I'd say someone (or several someones) wanted to keep this survey under the radar. Hence my signal boost.

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Current Mood: hopeful hopeful
Reflections on the Internet blackout

News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch meanwhile accused the "blogosphere" of "terrorising many senators and congressmen who previously committed" to support the US legislation. - from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-01-18/wikipedia-goes-offline-to-protest-us-piracy-laws/3781382

Oh gods. How terrifying! How anarchic! How frightening!

Voters actually asking that duly elected representatives represent their constituents and listen to the opinions of said constituents rather than obeying their corporate masters without question!

The End Of The World (According To Rupert) Is Nigh.

Why, anyone would think the USA was a representative democracy, rather than a corporate oligarchy. And we all know that isn't the case...

More seriously and less sarcastically, I'd argue that anything Mr Murdoch publicly supports as a Good Idea these days is probably the option which is more likely to reduce the general public's freedom of speech and expression and increase the gatekeeping role of his family's media empire. News Corporation makes most of its money through being a media gatekeeper, through deciding who gets to be heard publicly, deciding which topics are "serious" and which aren't, and selling more and more advertising space surrounding the scant speech they're permitting through the gates these days. To Mr Murdoch's family corporation, I'm nothing more than a set of eyeballs, a bundle of demographic information (the most important piece of which is "how much discretionary income do I control?") and a wallet to be raided.

Unfortunately for Mr Murdoch and News Corporation, I tend to think of myself as a person, with opinions, tastes, preferences, and values, and as a being with more intrinsic worth than just my demographics and my income. I gave up on their products years ago, when I realised I wasn't going to find anything I considered interesting amongst them. I switched off the television, I stopped buying newspapers, I stopped listening to the radio, I stopped going to the movies, I stopped buying mass market magazines (my preferences are found more in the special interest areas these days) and I stopped attempting to participate in "popular" culture. Which means I've pretty much removed myself from their ambit.

I don't depend on News Corporation or Fox for my entertainment needs. I don't need to wait for the latest thing from Hollywood. I'm not hanging out to hear the latest "celebrity" gossip. I haven't spent money on new music CDs in months (and the last ones I bought were a couple of cheapish compilations from the service station nearest the university I attend). I'm choosy about my books and my magazine purchases. And I can afford all of this because I have the internet to supply a lot of the needs I have for text related materials, for entertainment, for news and for opinion fodder - and not much of what I'm reading online is curated and gatekept in the way Mr Murdoch would prefer.

I get my news via RSS feeds from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Pressenza, and Human Wrongs Watch. I get my community information via RSS from Shakesville, Hoyden About Town, Making Light, and a few other blogs I like. I don't use Facebook, or Google Plus; I've never seen the point of "web portals" when the bookmarks bar in Firefox works just fine, and my Twitter account is used very rarely. I blog on Dreamwidth (because they allow me to crosspost to my InsaneJournal, and they don't regard me as a source of content to use to sell advertising space - something which is positively refreshing these days).

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Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Some thoughts on SOPA and PIPA from a non-US citizen

Firstly, may I say congratulations to the USAlien Media and Entertainment sector for creating one of the biggest showings of unity I've seen online in nigh twelve years of using the internet. Couldn't have done it without you guys, although I'm sure you're hating to see it happen.

Secondly: a word of warning to the USAlien Media and Entertainment sector, as well as to Mr Murdoch's News Corporation and any other group who thinks these acts are Good Things overall. Should they go through, SOPA and PIPA aren't going to reduce the amount of copyright piracy occurring online by one tittle or jot. Yes, they may black out sections of the web, temporarily. But the pirates aren't going to let that stop them - they get their jollies from working around things like this in the first fscking place.

I foresee a certain amount of revival for a few of the older internet communications protocols - newsgroups may see something of a resurgence, along with mailing lists, and other forms of communication which aren't hosted by a single site, but which rather exist as an amorphous entity of ever-changing data being passed around from host to host, like the prize in a gigantic online game of pass-the-parcel. Good luck dealing with those, guys; I seem to remember that the thing which eventually took down a lot of the alt.binaries newsgroups wasn't any effort from the MPAA and the RIAA, but rather that web hosting was cheap, readily available, and distributed file sharing networks could handle things without too much strain.

But hey, guys, feel free to try and take down global email using lawyers if you really fancy re-running the labours of Heracles. Try killing NNTP. Have fun. It'll keep you all busy for a bit.

As has been said repeatedly: the internet as a whole, as an emergent entity, interprets censorship of just about any kind as damage, and figures out ways to route around it.

Thirdly: even if the USAlien Media and Entertainment sector should get their will, and kill the internet deader than a dead thing in a graveyard, I still won't be connecting my television up to the aerial or purchasing a Foxtel subscription. I still won't be turning on the radio to anything other than the ABC. I still won't be going to the movies. I still won't be buying any Australian newspapers on a regular basis. I still won't be getting magazines from Australian Consolidated Press or the News Corporation stables. And I won't be spending any money on those things for the same damn reason I don't spend money on them now: I refuse to let my money go where I'm not welcome. The news and entertainment sector here in Australia doesn't want to cater to me as a viewer, listener or reader, they just want to sell me as a potential set of eyeballs to advertisers. As a person, I'm not welcome in their world.

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location: Outside the USA
Current Mood: irritated irritated
It Isn't Real Until It Affects White Americans - Where the "Occupy Wall Street" Movement Started

There's a lot being written about Occupy Wall Street, and a lot being written about the copycat protests which are now springing up in a lot of other countries (including Australia). There isn't as much spoken or written about where the movement to occupy city areas and public spaces, and calling for a renegotiation of the social contract as it is interpreted by the powerful, actually got started, and where it's been flourishing for the better part of a year.

It started in Egypt, in Tariq Square (where it's still ongoing, to the best of my knowledge). Occupation-style protests have been happening in Iceland, in Spain, in Greece, and in a lot of other European countries since at least June this year. And they're still going on there. See this list of articles from Pressenza to get a better idea of the scope of the actual demonstrating, both in terms of global spread, and temporal spread.

However, there appears to be this strong media (and now internet) -fed meme which says something isn't actually "real" until it affects white citizens of the USA - preferably white, middle-class, male, heterosexual Christian citizens of the USA. Unless they're affected, unless they're doing it, whatever's going on in the rest of the world doesn't matter. The global economic crisis didn't affect anyone (even though the economies of many countries were affected for months, or indeed years, before the US banking system was forced to own up to its iniquities at the end of 2008) until it affected the USAlien middle classes. Various World Wars didn't actually "start", in the opinion of hegemonic popular culture, (despite the involvement and devastation of multiple countries) until the USA sent troops. Poverty in the USA didn't exist until it started lapping at the toes of the middle classes (despite the presence of a growing underclass of persons who were born into poverty, and who have lived their entire lives in poverty, and who could not escape their poverty no matter how hard they tried, since approximately the Reagan years) and more particularly the white middle classes.

It's nice that the USAlien middle classes have apparently finally decided they're part of the world majority. It's nice that they're finally joining in with the rest of the people on the planet to demand a bit of equity, and a bit of fairness.

It would be even nicer if they would just, for once, publicly acknowledge that the problems existed before they'd noticed them or been affected by them; that the movement they've joined (and effectively hijacked) existed before they started to participate; that they were, once again, late to the party, and only joining in once other people had got things started. It would be really good to have this acknowledgement that not everything happens in a vacuum, and that the world outside the window of the USAlien white middle classes is actually present. It would be really good if the ongoing efforts of people outside the USA to renegotiate the social contract weren't erased, or ignored.

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Current Mood: hopeful hopeful
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