You won’t believe what they’re slashing!

And trust me, it’s not the budget I’m talking about. It’s the quality of the news reporting.

Generally I try to stay clear of political issues on this blog. It’s not what the blog is about, I’m not particularly partial to any one party, and I have readers here from around the world; Australian politics just won’t interest some of you.

So rest assured this post isn’t about favouring one political party over another. That’s not what Inquisitive Bliss is (generally) about. This post is about a poor excuse for a news story, and how people should go about reading between the lines to detect the bullshit.

 

This article in question can be found here:

http://mobile.news.com.au/finance/economy/you-wont-believe-what-theyre-slashing-and-spending-in-the-federal-budget-2014/story-fn84fgcm-1226916439095?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=post&utm_campaign=Budget2014

 

Go have a quick read of it. I won’t be surprised if you’re initial reaction is “Gah! Terrible cuts!” Hell, when the first point is about cutting science, that’s my first reaction too. But let’s go through these one at a time. Put on your bullshit detectors people.

 

So. #1. Apparently some science funding is getting cut. Definitely not a good thing. Considering it’s the CSIRO I doubt they’ve been pissing money up against a wall, so this probably isn’t good. But we’re after the bullshit here, so where is it?

First off, nowhere does it say how much these institutions are still getting. For all we know they might be getting billions, so who gives a shit about ~$150million? Alternatively they might be only getting $20 once these cuts are made. I don’t know. With a bit of research I could probably find out, but that’s not the point I’m trying to get across here. This is a news report. News reports are supposed to be unbiased. Why haven’t these guys done that research? Why aren’t they giving us the full story?

Secondly, notice how the first figure says this cut will happen over 4 years? Why doesn’t it say how many years the ANSTO cut will go over? Maybe that’ll happen next year? Maybe it will happen over 50 years? Who knows? I’ll bet the reporter knows, so why isn’t he telling us?

 

#2. They got rid of a word. Poor fucking diddums. The only point of number 2 is to try and make the Government look like they don’t support clean energy alternatives. Which may be true. But take note of what this program actually does. It’s mean to help supplement Australians struggling to pay their energy bills. So the removal of this word may in fact mean they’re expanding the program to include more Australians. That…kinda sounds like it might be a good thing. Or maybe it really is just a ploy to reduce clean energy. Again, who knows? The article doesn’t make it clear.

 

#3. Get rid of those damn windfarms. Boy is that some emotive language. But…did anyone else notice how they’re not actually getting rid of any fucking windfarms!? What a load of crap. This heading is completely false. Yes, the program is getting the axe. Yes, that’s $1.3billion not going into that program anymore. Isn’t that enough to rid on, without having to blatantly lie?

 

#4. Not sure on this one. I’m not a big fan of PETA, but they’re actually axing the Animal Welfare Strategy program, which I’m assuming are two different groups. Some extra info would be nice, but at least I can smell any bullshit here.

 

#5. “The major schemes either axed or deferred for several years”. That’s okay, I didn’t want to know what those schemes were anyway. Just feed me the fear factor. I don’t need additional information to generate an informed opinion.

I mean really, what is actually being cut here? Maybe these were good cuts and help clean up a very messy set of systems? Maybe it’s streamlining several systems into one, thus finding ways of saving money. Or maybe they’re bad cuts and we’d be better off if they didn’t make them. Buggered if I know.

 

#6. So a certain amount of money has already been sunk into these programs (thanks for telling me just how much…NOT), and the leftover funds are being put somewhere else. So, does that mean these projects were successful and completed under budget? That’s awesome! Or is the Government just cutting whats left of the funding despite the programs not being finished? Again, no idea.

 

#7. What education are you talking about? Is this in schools? Primary or secondary? Somehow I doubt they’re closing all the universities that teach law. So what exactly are you talking about here? Don’t be specific or anything.

 

#8. Oh no, a whole program has been cut! Not a quarter, not even half a program, but a whole program! Come on, careers advice programs are a dime a dozen. There’s plenty more out there. Okay, maybe this was a really important program. One that was having a lot of success and getting parents back to work. Or…you know…maybe it wasn’t? Who knows!?

 

#9. I can understand why some people would be pissed about this one. Personally, until tobacco is actually made illegal I don’t have a problem with it. Why should the Government spend money on something we already know. Coz really, it’s kind of hard to miss the whole “smoking is bad for you” thing. Seriously, people living in caves know that.

I love this next section, which doesn’t actually have a number (I’m guessing the author couldn’t count past 9). Listen to this:

“If this isn’t enough for you, don’t worry. The Abbott government loves getting rid of laws.”

Oh boy, this sounds like it’s going to be terrible. So what are they doing? Are they cutting our freedom of speech? Reducing woman’s rights? Getting rid of that whole messy thing where gays can now have civil unions?

“So much so, it’s going to hold at least two ‘Repeal Days’ every year where they get rid of red tape.”

Oh my gawd!! That’s…that’s….wait, that’s pretty fucking good isn’t it?

“The first Repeal Day, held earlier this year, got rid of 50,000 pages of legislation. It’s all to “reduce regulatory compliance costs on businesses”.”

So, they’re essentially making it easier for businesses to conduct their business and do it cheaper. Hey, I own a business. Isn’t this a good thing?

Well, to be fair, who knows? They haven’t actually said what laws are being cut. To be fair, 50,000 might be a couple too many to list, but couldn’t they have at least picked one or two of the bad ones? You know, assuming there are bad ones.

Seriously, why is the author wording this like it’s the apocalypse? There’s nothing bad in here!

 

$200,000 to bring back Matthew Flinder’s original 1804 Chart of Australia. Can’t be sure, but that sounds like it might have some historic value. Somehow I doubt they’re wanting to use it to replace Google maps mate.

 

Hey, the ballet students are getting their own residence. That’s good right? You could be forgiven for thinking it wasn’t with the language being used here.

 

I didn’t actually know what the mushroom spawn levy was, so I Googled it and got this:

“The Australian Government introduces levies and export charges at the request of industry. These levies variously fund research and development, marketing, residue testing, plant and animal biosecurity programs and emergency responses for industry.”

I dunno, sounds kind of reasonable. Considering I have no idea what the current levy is, it’s hard to have an opinion on it. Damn, wouldn’t it have been useful if this article told you that…

 

The Lodge refurbishment is a bit of a tougher one. Considering it’s the PM’s home, I think a certain amount of privacy isn’t a bad thing. But, if this is coming out of our tax dollars, I’m afraid you kind of need to tell us. Sorry dude, if you’re spending my money I have a right to know where it’s going. So yeah, that’s a good one to call out.

 

Okay, so after more than 1,300 words, what’s the point of all this? No, the point isn’t that the Abbott Government is good. It’s not that I’m a secret bleeding heart Liberal. I’m a swing voter and I think any government can be corrupted and that all governments get some things wrong and some things right. This isn’t a post about taking sides in a political war.

The point is that far too many ‘news’ stories have an agenda, and that if you’re not careful you’ll be taken along for a ride. Everything in this article might be right and every single one of these points might be valid. The point is that as an average reader without a lot more insight into the political spectrum, you have absolutely no idea.

Please, don’t be taken for a ride. It’s perfectly all right if you have a strong political opinion. Frankly I wish more people would take a stronger interest in politics. Then we could hold authors like this to account and let them know we expect more from our news publications. But don’t have a strong opinion based on bullshit like this. Learn to read between the lines and know when an agenda is being set.

 

Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.

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Stealing Christmas

How the grinch stole christmasThis is a much bigger issue in America, but it’s becoming an issue in Australia and I’m sure many other countries are having to deal with this as well. Considering the time of year, I think it’s time we tackled this one and set it to rest once and for all.

The ‘problem’ (and I use that word loosely) is that people of faiths other than Christianity are coming into our schools and insisting that the schools stop celebrating Christmas. (See the link at the bottom for one example). Generally the culprits of such actions are those pesky Muslims, and we know how the media loves to stigmatize these people, so I’ll use this religion as reference, however the same applies to any other religion.

This act is often considered an invasion by those of us who celebrate Christmas and many people, atheists/agnostics included, find it intolerable that these people have come into our country and are trying to take away our greatest holiday, depriving our children of the wonders of Santa, Rudolf, presents and pine trees. Oh, and Jesus. Can’t forget Jesus.

I mean, it’s one thing to have your own beliefs, churches and celebrations, but to come into someone elses country and try to take away theirs…well that’s just a step too far right? Right?

Well, that probably depends on the particular situation. If the school in question is private and religious, then yes. Sit down, shut the fuck up or go somewhere else. You put your child there, now suck it up.

However, I have a hunch that most of the time it’s not a private school that is being given the run around, but a public school, and this is where it gets a little different.

What people don’t understand is that Australia, the US and likely many other countries that are experiencing this debate are secular! For those playing at home, that means the Government is not allowed to endorse any religion over another.

By celebrating Christmas in public schools that is exactly what the Government is doing.

At this point there is two things the Government can do. They can celebrate the holidays of every religion, which means your child would probably spend more time at home than at school. Or they can celebrate none. Obviously the latter has to be the choice, as it would be impossible to celebrate every religions festivities.

These are the facts. Not only is it spelled out nice and clearly in Australian law (116), but it’s the way it damn well should be. You don’t get to force your religion (even the fun parts with fictitious characters that have little to do with the original religion) on other people, any more than they can force your children to attend their churches or wear a burka. Suck it up princess.

Here’s the quote taken from the ‘Commonwealth Of Australia Constitution Act’

116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

I still feel a good long break at the end of the year to spend time with family and take a well deserved rest is something we shouldn’t give up. The fact it happens to fall on Christmas (or more to the point, Christmas was moved to fall at the end of the year) is just a coincidence. But that’s no excuse for forcing your ancient dogma on unsuspecting children. And as commercialised as ‘Xmas’ has got, it can’t be denied its originals are buried in religion and is still celebrated as a religious holiday.

So to all you people who will be bitching and moaning again this year about those evil Muslims who keep trying to destory Australia’s traditions…shut the fuck up. Try actually learning Australia’s true traditions; those that embrace other people and cultures, and allowing people to practice their faiths without forcing any particular religion on them. That’s True Blue.

 

Sydney school accused of stealing Christmas – One such article accusing schools of stealing Christmas.

 

Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.

Things polititians can’t say…

You know, we really don’t need to cover this. We all know what’s coming. It’s so frightfully obvious when a politician gets caught. They get that wonderful ‘deer in the headlights’ look in their eyes that would usually elicit a feeling of pity, but considering how often these buggers screw us it just makes you feel gleeful. Then again I am known for being a bit of a jerk so maybe it’s just me that loves seeing politicians getting nailed.

Just so we’re all on the same page, here’s the top three things politicians can never do!

  1. Can’t admit they were wrong.
  2. Can’t agree with their opponents.
  3. Can’t give the answer “I don’t know”.

And just to clarify, I’m an Aussie (Australian), so my point of view is skewed towards our politics. But from what I’ve seen it seems to be pretty universal.

1. Can’t admit they’re wrong:

I’m going to give politicians the benefit of the doubt and assume they actually do know they’re wrong sometimes, and not just in theory, but in practice. It is possible some of them are so deluded they genuinely think they aren’t wrong, but I’m referring to the majority here. They wouldn’t get that deer in the headlights look if they truly believed they were right. And I’ve seen people spouting absolute crap without that fearful look, truly believing every word they say. Seriously, just watch any episode of ‘Bullshit‘.

So, let’s start with the assumption they know they’re full of crap and that they’re just trying to put the right ‘spin’ on it. Now I’m not a political analysis, a journalist or even a psychologist so this is purely my own conjecture, but I’d like to explore why this is.

The best way to learn is (sadly) by making mistakes. We usually get hurt a little in this process so it’s more likely the lesson will stick in our heads. Making mistakes is essential.

Now when you’re running a country with millions of people depending on you making good choices I can understand the pressure might be stacked a little higher than whether to drink the week old milk.

The problem is the perception that if a politician makes an error they are unfit to govern. Now we in Australia are pretty tough on our politician (well, on everyone really) and we give them a lot of cheek and a lot of crap. But I’m not sure we expect them to be perfect. And therein I think lies the problem. At some point in history it was decided that our leaders need to display perfection in everything. And not just their leading abilities, but in their social and family lives too. I’m not sure who decided this; whether it was the populous or the leaders themselves, believing that if it they were thought of as perfect they would win out over their adversaries.

But this is the modern era! We should know better than that by now. We don’t expect perfection from anyone and there’s no reason we should expect it from our leaders.

So the question is, does this expectation come from within the leaders themselves, or from the public? Are our leaders just so arse-backwards they think displaying themselves as perfect beings makes them the superior choice, or is it something we push them towards?

I can’t wait until society grows up enough that politicians can openly say “Yeah, we cocked up. This is how we intend to fix it”. First politician to say that gets my next vote.

2. Can’t agree with their opponents.

Heaven forbid your opponents might have a good idea! The problem is that the two major parties pretty much can’t agree on anything! (Ironically one of the few things they do seem to agree on is the continued banning of same-sex marriage, something the majority of the public is against!) The minute one party makes a statement or policy the opposition is immediately up disagreeing with it. Often they don’t appear to be genuinely against the policy, it just seems to be a childish notion that they can’t be seen to be in agreement. Because admitting your opponent is right is of course an excuse for all your voters to ditch you and go with the other guys.

Look, I can kind of understand this. I mean, we have different parties because we want opposing views. But the fact of the matter is eventually we’re going to find a ‘best’ way of governing (odds are we’ll probably find several) and that over time different governments should streamline into similar structures, not unlike how most cars these days look pretty similar because there’s a ‘best’ way to be aerodynamic.

Having to always oppose your opponent on every issue has an immediate benefit to your party, but in the long term it’s doing damage and is slowing us down from getting closer to that ‘best’ model. Stop disagreeing for the sake of it. Disagree on things that you actually disagree on and start agreeing on the rest of it.

3. Can’t give the answer “I don’t know”.

This I assume is for the same reason that politicians can’t admit they’re wrong. At some point it was agreed that the best leaders are those that have all the answers. And that would be true if they actually had all the answers. But they’re not omniscient. They can’t possibly be expected to know everything.

The problem with these issues is a bit of a catch 22. People still have the mindset that their leaders should be infallible, so that’s a standard they try to live up to. They even employ ‘Spin Doctors’ to make this part of their job easier. The problem is that society is now smart enough we can pick up when a story is being spun and we bludgeon our leaders for it. Despite that, we still want this mythical perfect leader. So the poor politician is stuck trying to spin everything to appear perfect to a public that asks for it, but then gets trampled if they get caught trying to spin.

I have so much more respect for someone, whether they be a politician, teacher, parent or friend who says “You know what, I don’t know. I’ll try to find out for you”.

And now to throw my spin on things. You see, politics isn’t the only place you see this kind of attitude. It’s also really prominent in…you guessed it, religion! And we should hardly be surprised, modern government is a spin off from religion. Way back in time the religions were the government. It’s only in more recent times when we have communities made up from multiple religions that a more impartial government has become necessary.

1. Can’t admit they’re wrong:

You see this all the time in religion. Whether it be taking over 350 years to pardon Galileo, lying to 3rd world countries about the effectiveness of condoms or sticking to crazy-arse stories about the age of the Earth and talking snakes, the Catholic church is absolutely terrible at admitting they’re wrong, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. And this kind of stupidity is prominent in most religions, particularly the major ones.

People allow themselves to become too invested in their belief systems that trying to tell them they’re wrong becomes a personal insult rather than a simple sharing of ideas.

2. Can’t agree with their opponents.

Most religions start with a strict following. Everyone for the most part agrees, and what they don’t agree on they either happily debate or put to the side as unimportant. Then a few generations later you find splits or schism where a religions followers part ways and become two or more religions. Over time this happens again and again and again, eventually leading to the multitude of belief sets we have today.

Heaven forbid these different sects should ever agree with each other. It becomes even worse when they’re different religions rather than just different sects. Then again, are Islam, Jewdaism and Christianity different religions, or just different sects? They all share a common history.

There is however, always an exception to the rules. There are religions out there that are starting to agree with each other and form singlular groups. I’ve only recently learned of the Baha’i through a blog I’ve been reading.

http://blog.commongroundgroup.net/

A good blog with good writers. Even if we don’t see eye to eye on the facts they’re good topics and good people. Worthy of a read and even a comment if you’re that way enclined.

I don’t know enough of the Baha’i faith to really comment on it just yet. To me it seems to be the next stage in the death throws of religion whereby the different religions are grouping together to preserve their teachings. An interesting idea though, and one I hope to learn a lot more about in the future.

Look, I really don’t like religion in general and I wish the world were ready to move on from dismally disappointing gods. But the fact is there are a thousand possibilities for how the universe came into existence and the only way we’re going to find the answer is to explore the possibilities. As a species we’re slowly exploring all the ideas and over time rejecting the less effective ones. It’s actually rather scientific. I just wish people would treat it as a mass experiment, rather than getting so personally and emotionally involved in their own little idea that they can’t move on from it, even in the face of overwhelmingly contradictory evidence. It’s one thing to be actively exploring ideas, it’s another to be so invested in a single idea.

3. Can’t give the answer “I don’t know”.

This isn’t so much something that religions do as it is the reason for religions. A long time ago someone looked up at the stars and wondered aloud “I wonder what’s up there?” Rather than giving the honest answer of “I don’t know”, others came up with explanations for these types of questions and thus were gods and religions born.

You even get this kind of evading with the typical response “God’s ways are a mystery”. It’s just a cleverly worded way of saying “I don’t know”. You know what, it’s spin.

But here’s the real head fake. This isn’t really just a problem with politics or religion. It’s a problem with society and people in general. We’re terrible at admitting when we’re wrong. If there’s an idea or a person we don’t like we often can’t see any good in them. And given the option of saying “I don’t know” or making up stories we’ll often choose the latter as this beautiful advertisement by Telstra demonstrates.

A little over the top maybe, but a demonstration of what I’m sure happens every day.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s politics, religion, business or any other form of human interaction these are ideals we need to get past.

Admitting you’re wrong about something takes great courage but will ultimately make you more enjoyable to be around and a better, more informed person in general.

Disagreeing with people is the cornerstone of good democracy, but often I see people who are unable to dissect the good ideas out of people they don’t like. A good idea is a good idea, no matter who says it.

And my personal favourite, let’s start admitting when we don’t know something. We’re all ignorant of many things and the sooner we can suck it up and admit that the sooner we’ll start filling those gaps in our knowledge. Let’s stop thinking of ‘ignorant’ as an insult but as a fact of life that can be overcome.

Ignorance may not be bliss, but getting over our ignorance can be. Searching to fill those gaps in our knowledge can be wonderful. It can also be a painful process if we’re too invested in our own ignorance. Regardless of the pain though it’s almost always worthwhile to push through it and overcome that ignorance.

-Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.