Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Is that what you REALLY meant?

There is a news report online (VicHealth report reveals Australians turning blind eye to rape and violence against women) that makes the claim that "A disturbing number of Australians are prepared to justify the actions of rapists and domestic violence perpetrators and shift the blame on to the victims."

Curiously, the article offers up some interesting statistics about attitudes to rape and domestic violence without offering a link to the report, although it offers "SOURCE: 2013 National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women Survey" as a citation.

Apart from the inherent bias in the assumption that domestic violence is always against women, I was drawn to the following statement attributed to Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay,

“Let me put this simply — there is no circumstance where violence against women is understandable or acceptable.”

I am appalled. The Commissioner is obviously making the right political noises - he got to be Police Commissioner after all - but is he really saying that he cannot imagine a scenario where violence against a woman is appropriate? Is he really saying that he could not understand - not condone, just understand - that someone could be so hurt by a woman, physically or emotionally, that violence might be seen as their only option?

I have been married to the same woman for 25 years. In that time I have seen friends' marriages break up, and I have seen both men and women struggling with the viciousness that is often associated with separation and divorce. In some of those circumstances I would have understood if violence had resulted. Hell, in a couple of cases, I expected it, and would have called it justified.

I cite that only to say, as Ned Kelly did - "Such is life.

This is the normal stuff of living and breathing, of striving to make sense of the universe, and to carve out a place for yourself, and your family. Imagination isn't required so much as observation. Look around you, and you'll see men and women doing wonderful things, and other men and women behaving badly.

To say that there is no circumstance where violence against a woman is justified (to paraphrase) is absurd.

 - Imagine being the teenager on the train who is assaulted by a woman because he looked at her
 - Imagine being the young husband facing a spurious molestation allegation from his estranged wife
 - Imagine being an elderly couple watching TV when a gang of young women invade your home

To have a POLICE COMMISSIONER say it is worse. This is supposedly a man who has a better appreciation of the underbelly of society than most, purely by the matter of his job. He says that he can't imagine a circumstance where violence against women is justified, but I bet he doesn't say that about men.

The only consolation is that this isn't a reasoned statement; it's a politically correct pronouncement intended to be nothing more than public opinion theatre.

Well bless his heart ...

I am told that the title of this post is a common insult in the southern US. It apparently means that the person referred to is a few sausages short of a barbecue.

In that vein, I present Professor Will Steffen, contributor to the Climate Council, and one if the authors of a newly released report predicting 1 metre sea-level rises by 2100, and hundreds of billions of dollars in damage to Australia's economy. (Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding).

Do a quick internet search using the search terms "will steffen climate council" - one of the returned references will be to the ARC Center of Excellence page where you will find:

"Professor Will Steffen completed his Bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Missouri.  He was awarded his Masters degree and PhD in Chemistry from the University of Florida."

Now, I fully understand that the natural world is made up of chemicals. I further understand that the interactions between these chemicals involves the transfer of energy. However, I REFUSE to accept that a qualification in chemistry makes one a climate expert. In fact, the ARC biography for the man reports that not one of his manifold "achievements" during his working life is in the field of chemistry.

From his biography, he is a gadfly "mouth for hire" having been climate spokesman for this and that government advisory body around the world. Nice work if you can get it.

The other author - Leslie Hughes - has a brief biography on the Climate Council website (Lesley Hughes at the Climate Council)  that curiously mentions neither her qualifications nor her alma mater.

The two are associated with the impressively named "Climate Council" which is, according to its own propaganda:

"The Climate Council is an independent non-profit organisation funded by donations by the public. Our mission is to provide authoritative, expert advice to the Australian public on climate change."

That's an interesting statement, and yet revealing in an unintended way. Think about it - Climate Council - sounds very official, even governmental, doesn't it? But it's not. It's a private organisation, funded by donations. That's right there in that brief paragraph. So "independent" means "not funded by government" apparently, and I don't doubt for a minute that are we somehow meant to construe that "non-profit" is in every way better than "for profit", as though not being able to sell your expertise for money is a good thing.

The second line needs some corrections though. Somehow, "Our mission is to provide authoritarian, non-expert advice to the Australian public on climate change." seems to better reflect what they do.

The people working for the Climate Council are largely the same as worked for the now abolished, government-funded Climate Commission, the most high profile of which is arguably geologist and paleontologist Tim Flannery. Professor Flannery is yet another "climate expert" with no credentials in the actual, you know, climate sciences.

Why was the Climate Commission abolished? I suspect that things like lying to the government and the public had a hand in the decision - How dare the Climate Commission complain at being caught out. The fact that it was costing at least $1.6 million per year for advice of dubious value probably helped seal its fate.

Oh, and finally, it's about as independent as my left foot is independent from my left ankle. The organisation is beholden to its donors, and the green agenda that they hold. The first time that the Climate Council presents something that fails to adhere to the green agenda of "man is evil, Mother Gaia is hurting" will be the moment that all that lovely money dries up.

At that point Professor Steffen might need to go back to the US, and get a real job, in chemistry even - bless his heart.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

It never rains, but it pours ...

Here in West Oz, it rains infrequently, and lightly, but sometimes we get a cloud-burst. This happens less often that the Climate Change alarmists would like us to believe, but it does happen.

When it does rain, however, the falling sky-water hits roads that are laden with the drips of oil from many thousands of cars, and lo, the roads become skating rinks. It is one of the developed world's less admirable magic tricks. The collision rate goes up, as drivers unused to such conditions fail to modify their driving behaviour, and slides become OOPS, OH SHIT, CRASH!

We had such a cloud-burst recently (well, "recently" relative to how often I post here), but this post is not about a collision, it's about the fact that drainage systems designed around light and infrequent rain cannot handle a deluge, and how standing water in a hollow at night is almost impossible to see in street lights.

I hit the damn puddle at 20 kph - it would have been 70 kph, but for the stab at the brakes prompted by a fleeting reflection of the moon off a wind-blown ripple. The bow-wave was impressive. Just as impressive was the gluteal clench - the air intake on my 944 is low in the nose (better for to breathe cold air, my dear), and I was convinced that the engine would ingest enough water to hydrolock and break something. Stunningly it didn't. I changed down to first gear, kept the revs low, and emerged, apparently unscathed, on the far dark shore.

I say "apparently" as a few days later, strange noises began to emanate from under the bonnet. It rapidly got worse, until it was impossible for anyone with any mechanical sympathy to drive it. It sounded like three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were having a bar fight in full medieval armour, while the fourth played drums.

Of course, all the good tools I own are at my workshop, along with the hoist, and getting there with the car was now impossible. What fun - working on my back under a car, in a two car garage, at night, in the cold, without the right tools.

Surprisingly, the culprit was easy to find - bearings in both alternator (probably original) and AC compressor (recently replaced - for some values of recently) complaining about their recent bath.

Exchange Alternator - $600+
Exchange compressor - $800+
Bearings to do it myself - $35

Even buying a cheap Chinese press to make the job easier would leave me $1000+ to the good. Guess which option I chose.

With the car on ramps, I removed all the stuff the paint shop conveniently forgot to replace, then the alternator and compressor, conveniently both driven by the same belt.

Four hours to remove; two hours to clean, disassemble, and clean; two hours to replace four bearings and reassemble; three hours to reinstall, button up, and put the tools away. Normally one long day, but done over three nights.

Result? Success! It's not silent - there are too many heavy, greasy bits whirling around, not to mention the whole suck-squeeze-bang-blow thing going on - but the bits that shouldn't be making noise now can't be heard.

Anybody want to buy a cheap Chinese automotive press? Only used once!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

It's baaaaaack...

Well, I finally collected my car... and there are STILL issues.

The afore-mentioned "unavailable parts" are obviously not fitted.
This is particularly galling when the repairer removed the perfectly functional parts to repair other areas, and then somehow forgot to replace them , then lost them, then claimed that they were unavailable.
I have the new fender liners in the garage (six days from order to pick-up), ready to be fitted when I get some fasteners (6.3mm x 19mm self-tapping screws - this is, of course, a standard 1/4" x 3/4" screw relabeled to a metric size).
Total price was $554, covered by a cheque from the insurer.

The protective kevlar film on the trailing edge of the front wheel arches is not fitted. I have these parts also - $35, included in the cheque from the insurer.

There is (was!) a smear of blue-green BMW paint on the rear corner. Fortunately, 25 year old two-part paint is harder than freshly sprayed whatever-they-used on that poor BMW, and it polished off fine.

These parts are still available from the manufacturer after 25 years, so most people will realise that I don't drive a Ford, Holden, or Japanese import. Those companies have a statutory requirement to carry spare parts for seven years, measured from the last date that a model using that part is sold in Australia. In fact, a childhood friend was employed in the warehouse of Nissan and a significant part of his job was destroying the parts that were outside this age limit. When I say "destroy", I mean "smash beyond recognition" - anything plastic or glass was broken into pieces, steel panels were bashed flat under the forklift's wheels, and "hard" assemblies like gearboxes, differentials, and engines were smashed with hammers and sold for scrap. No doubt the company claimed a tax write-off for the parts (at full retail price).

My car is a Porsche. I bought it used, and I have driven it for nearly 20 years. For some reason, Porsche treats the spare parts market differently. You can still buy body shells for a 1950s era 356 fresh in-the-white from the factory. They are NOT cheap, but they are still available. In fact, over 95% of the parts in my humble 944 are still available ex-factory, and more than a few have been re-engineered with better design and new materials since the model went out of production.

.. and there is NO comparison between the driving experience in a 25 year old 944 and that in a nearly new Toyota Corolla. It's like the difference between a rapier and a blancmange in a sword fight.

I find that I don't care that I don't have Pandora, or air-bags, or auto-headlights, or rain-sensing wipers. I don't care that the steering is heavy at car-park speeds, or that you need muscles in both leg and arm to change gears - get moving and everything lightens up. Sure you can tell the brand of a cigarette butt when you run over it, but you can change lanes by thinking about it and there's not much that will beat you in the traffic light grand prix unless they are really trying.

I am happy that the old car is back - and now I'm going for a drive.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

An Unexpected Call

I posted earlier on troubles with getting my car repaired after a minor bingle.

I have been calling the car repairer every week about when I can expect to get the car back. I have had just about more than I can handle driving either a hire car or my daughter's "shopping trolley".

The Thursday before Easter, I get an unexpected call - the repairer tells me that the car is ready except for a couple of parts that are no longer available from the manufacturer, and that they can't buy anywhere.

Given past history, I have some difficulty believing this, so I make some checks myself over the weekend.

Several suppliers in the US have the items in stock - new.
Several other vendors in the US have the same items - used.
Even Ebay sellers here in Australia have used parts for sale.

I can't check with the manufacturer due to it being Easter, so I call on Tuesday. The parts are available (but not in stock in Perth) - order before noon Wednesday, and they will be available for collection Friday.

My next call is to the insurer. Their response is to arrange for the assessor to have another look at the vehicle, but that can't be done until Thursday - the day before the Anzac Day holiday.

So here I am, waiting to hear the outcome, and wondering just when I'll get to drive my car again.

It has been at the repairer for over nine months in total - six for the initial botched repair, and three and a half to make good their failings. I should have fixed it myself.

Monday, 14 April 2014

ID or not to ID

Should people have to identify themselves before being permitted to vote? By which I mean more than the current, perfunctory "Last name, first name, address" malarkey.

Apparently, voting is important, so they tell us (just exactly who "they" are is not germane); too important to demand proof that you are entitled to cast a ballot. Besides, the poor can't be expected to be able to identify themselves!

Huh? In this country, being "poor" (try looking up how that is actually defined some day) means that you are receiving some of my money (you know, taxes and redistribution and stuff), and to do so, the .gov GIVES you an identity document called a CentreLink card. I would be TOTALLY nonplussed if that was different in any other western country.

So you are either "poor", and thus have a FREE ID, or you are not, and you have some other form of ID that you may or may not have paid for - like a driver's license, a firearms license, a student card, a passport. You know, one of many official documents that come with a photograph.

Just exactly how is it a burden on the free exercise of your right to vote to make you reach into your pocket and flash a plastic card before getting to make your mark?

If it IS a burden on voting rights, then why is it NOT a burden on your right to free stuff to have to carry your CentreLink card to claim payments?

On a related note, I have discovered a way to win the war on poverty overnight.

Define being "poor" as being unable to afford tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, a smart-phone, and an overseas holiday because all the money that you EARN goes on food, shelter, clothing, and other essentials.

I bet you see a 95% reduction in the list of people living in poverty. Now give a million dollars (once) to all those left on the list - it would still be cheaper than the system we have now.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

To serve and protect ... themselves

The militarisation of the police scares me. That they dress up in black, arming themselves with tanks, smoke grenades, "flash-bangs", and automatic weapons is bad enough. That they then adopt the attitude of the soldier is worse.

A recent attempt in Victoria to arrest a man believed to have been involved in a violent crime is case in point.

Picture a small country town. Police arrive to arrest the man. He doesn't want to be arrested, and a stand-off ensues, leading to a siege. The Specialist Operations Group arrives on scene at about 6:00 PM, and about 7 hours later an explosion occurs, injuring two of SOG's members and apparently vapourising the wanted man.

What did the Superintendent have to say?

"The families of the injured officers have been notified and they are with their injured relatives, one of whom was admitted to The Alfred hospital and the other was taken to Geelong Hospital.
Both are in a stable condition.
“It’s of great concern to us. We judge the success of operations by the way our members return home safely," Supt Downes said.

You statist prick - success means that your members come home safely - what about the poor bastard that WON'T be coming home safely? The guy that is likely dead, without charges being laid, without benefit of a trial, and no conviction. We'll likely never know if he was the guilty party, because you'll close the case and investigate no further, and it doesn't matter to you because your team "returned home safely."

Given your attitude, I am not at all sure that the explosion wasn't one of your team playing with one of his "toys", and maybe not even accidental. If your sole criterion for success is coming home safely, then get a job as a mattress & pillow tester.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Truth in politics

I read an article - I don't remember where - that stated that the new NSW Senator from the Liberal Democrats believed that citizens of Australia should be allowed to carry guns.

Yes, yes, I now what you are thinking. I didn't believe that he said it either, so I checked.

From this ABC report, it appears to be true.

Of course, the report elicited all the standard strawmen, hyperbole, and false equivalences in the comments, along with the "I can't believe this guy was elected legitimately" BS.

I want to comment on ONLY one class of comments. It's MY blog, I'll post whatever I like.

"This appeals only to those neanderthals that want to kill someone".

This is a fallacious statement stemming from gross ignorance and preconception. I don't want to ever have to shoot someone, but I would carry a gun if the price for being caught doing so was not so high as "go to jail - for a LONG time".

My refutation is this:

Many people carry a fire extinguisher in their car. It's not that they WANT to have to put out a fire.

Many people also carry a first aid kit. It's not that they WANT to have to treat an injury.

How many cars come with a spare tyre, and related tools? Are you telling me that they WANT to have a flat tyre while on the way to the restaurant and dressed for dinner?

Many people have smoke detectors in their homes (more now that the .gov has made it compulsory). That doesn't mean that they WANT the house to catch fire while they sleep.

Those same houses all have RCDs (Residual Current Devices aka Safety Switches) installed. They certainly don't WANT someone to try and electrocute themselves.

Just about everyone has insurance. They are betting that a disaster will happen (just as the insurance company is betting that it won't). They don't expect to lose their possessions to a fire or flood or theft, let alone WANT a disaster to happen.

Sane people don't WANT to face possible disasters, but they DO want to be ready if it happens anyway. Insurance, extinguishers, fire blankets, first-aid kits, spare tyres, seat-belt cutters on the key-ring, the torch in the glove box - they are simply useful things to have in the event of an emergency or a disaster.

Why is a gun on your hip, that you likely never need to use, any different?

... and don' try the "but it's dangerous" inanity. Have you never heard of the number of people killed by cars every year?

Monday, 7 April 2014

Modern Customer Service

I like old cars - none of the modern electronic stuff (except ABS) interests me. I particularly loathe air-bags. So it should come as no surprise that my daily-driver is 25 years old. With no salt needed on the roads to clear ice here, and reasonable corrosion protection on a decent base, rust is not an issue, and I can get a lot more car for a lot less money, without a car repayment.

Of course that brings problems. Even regular maintenance can sometimes require parts that are hard to obtain, and they are sometimes exorbitantly priced even when available. Still, I'll stick to my older cars while I can.

Not so recently, I stuffed up, and collided with another car while trying to turn into a major road. The idiocy of reducing six lanes to four during peak traffic to allow buses to run on time is not discussed. Repairs were necessary to both cars, but what the heck, that's what insurance is FOR, right?

Off to the assessor, thence to a repairer, reputed to be THE premier repairer for that make. It takes SIX MONTHS before I get my car back. I check the stuff that I can, and force them to repair the problem items that I find (lights not working mostly) before I accept the car. Stupid me, I assume that the repairer has done the job right in the areas that I can't see. Well, I did until I had the chance to check it on a hoist.

What did I find? It's more a case of what did I NOT find. There were parts missing. Parts that needed to be removed to repair or replace the damaged parts, but that were not themselves damaged. They were simply not re-installed.

Missing were:
1) Engine under trays
2) Fender liners
3) Under-body moldings
4) Headlight washer hoses
5) External air temperature sensor and alternator cooling hose
6) Under bonnet warning stickers (I knew about these)
7) Headlight motor limit switches
8) Air-conditioning condensor

I complained to the repairer - no joy.

I complained to the insurer - no joy.

I complained to the Insurance Ombudsman - that got some results.

I just happened to have photographs of the car from all angles, including the underside, from before the collision, and from before it was transported to the assessor. When I presented these to the Ombudsman, along with current photographs of the "repaired" car, it was a slam dunk. The repairer was ordered to finish the repair, and the insurer was ordered to make any necessary provision to expedite the work.

Today marks three months that I have been waiting for the repairs to be  completed. It also triggers the penalty phase of the Ombudsman's orders. The repairer was NOT happy when I rang this morning to remind them. The insurer's drone-on-the-phone was too thick to comprehend the situation, so I insisted on going up the chain. The supervisor was NOT happy - with me. Apparently it's MY fault that the whole saga has not been resolved.

The supervisor's supervisor however was VERY unhappy, and apparently concerned about a negative finding from the Ombudsman, as he is falling all over himself to encourage me not to report the issue, but accept some largesse from the company instead.

I just want someone to commit to fixing my car, and let me get back to driving what I choose to drive rather than this shit-box hire car.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Orwell's Electioneering

It's that time again. The pigs with their snouts in the trough of the public purse are demanding that the other animals validate their position and confirm their right to govern.

If that's too Orwellian for you - it's time to vote (again) for those who will represent WA in the Federal Senate.

The last time we did this, some of the pigs weren't happy with the outcome, and protested, demanding a recount. The number of votes found in the recount was 1300 or so fewer than the original count, but the Electoral Commission pigs decided to change the result anyway. That made some other pigs unhappy with the outcome, so they protested to a different set of black-robed pigs, who decided that it was necessary to spend another twenty million dollars so that all the other animals could re-validate and re-confirm the right set of pigs this time.

I don't understand why this is being billed as a do-over. I know several people who were too young to vote last time, but will this time (remember, in Australian State and Federal elections, voting is compulsory). More oddly, the pigs running for election have changed - and some of those squealing for the right to represent Western Australia don't even live in the state.

We don't have Citizen Referenda, but if we did, I would get completely behind one that required all politicians to wear a pig costume when out in public - and declared open season on feral hogs.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Notes on Public Medicine

For any that actually read my scribbles:- please accept my apologies for my LONG silence here.

Now that has been said, I have some comments to make about the public health system in Oz, from personal first-hand experience.

I have been feeling generally unwell for months - more than the normal price of aging I mean.

Eventually, the pain in my belly helped me overcame the tendency of the majority of the male of the species to avoid seeking medical help, and I went to see a General Practitioner. Not having been to the clinic for *cough* several years, I had no preferences and saw the first available doctor.

He was excellent - thorough, knowledgeable, and experienced. Diagnosis - sigmoid diverticulitis. Treatment - mix of antibiotics. Followup - CT scan to confirm.

So, solved, right? Unfortunately not.

CT scan showed blocked blood vessels in the mesenteries of the gut, so off to hospital I go.

Now this is where it gets ridiculous. In Oz we have "free health care" funded by a "Medicare tax", and because of the amount I earn, the government requires that I have private health insurance or pay a penalty tax. All this means that I had a choice - private hospital a few minutes from home, or public hospital ten times further. Here's where my usual luck swung into action - the private hospital didn't have a surgeon available, and it looked like I would need urgent surgery, so off to the public hospital I went.

While ensconced on the "Acute Surgical Ward" I had:
1. IV antibiotics
2. IV blood thinners
3. IV pain killers
4. IV potassium supplements (also orally)
5. Multiple blood draws for tests

The one thing I did NOT have was surgery.

In all the time that I was there (several weeks), I did not learn the name of even ONE of the doctors that I saw. Bed-side manner was non-existent. I know that all of them received training in that area. After all, I know that it was part of the medical school curriculum in the seventies and eighties, as I had to pass it.

Public hospital, so I had nothing to pay, right? Wrong. Even with my private insurance, it still cost me thousands because the government only pays a percentage of the fee that the bureaucrats set in the first place, and it is illegal for my private insurer to cover the gap between the government mandated maximum fee, and the (lesser) amount that they actually pay.

If I had been able to go to the private hospital, the total cost to me would have been less than $20 - for the taxi to get there.

Public, single payer (ha!) medicine SUCKS!

... and the ultimate irony? The surgeon that was available at the public hospital ALSO operates at the private hospital - but when the query was made, the drone-on-the-phone assumed that the information in the database was incorrect, and modified it to what she thought was more likely.