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Anonymous said: You really don't understand BioShock infinite or the series do you?

I understand that it thinks it is much cleverer and more original than it is. Beyond that you’d need to be a bit more specific about what it is you think I’m missing…

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citizen-cam:

I was playing Skyrim and have been married for about eight or nine months of game time to a woman who lived in my house, always was happy to see me when I came home after a long time away questing and raiding burial chambers and blacksmithing and so on.

Anyway, I was returning home to the house…

Art is about making you feel something, increasingly games are an artform.

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BioShock Infinite. Don’t bother.

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Spent the Easter long weekend in Canberra so I did what any ordinary person would do. Planned to catch up on some work and instead binged on TV (Netflix autoplay is a bitch, House of Cards is fantastic) and videogames.

I never played the previous BioShock titles however I’d heard good things about them and great things about BioShock Infinite so I thought I’d give it a go. Two marathon sessions, seriously I could/should have run a couple of actual marathons in that time, later it’s done. I just wish it had been better.

I’ll break this down into gameplay (no spoilers) and story (spoilers dah).

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naysayersspeak:

Not because I prefer Rudd to Gillard- I don’t.

Not because this increases Abbott’s chances of winning- he was going to win anyway, and I’d really rather he didn’t.

Not because it means Turnbull has a chance- there’s not a hope in hell he’ll regain the leadership of the Liberal party.

But…

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bernietb:

thinkquipper:

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Well having finally managed to get and stay connected to a server long enough to actually play the game I may as well do a quick summary of my feels.

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This is an excellent summary.

Just to tack on, aside from the obvious DRM/always-on things, there are a few other things I’d change in Sim City…

Yeah I’ve been thinking a bit about changes as well (wish list for a mod)

  1. I don’t think it’s worth ‘fast switching’ across a region, just play a region as one giant (read actual) city.
  2. Actual bus/streetcar/train routes is something which fascinates me, on that note I know it’s an American ‘thing’ but I don’t see the point in operating separate bus networks for schools. Also if the scale was larger then below ground rail.
  3. Streetcars on medium or even low density roads? Would make connecting areas a bit cheaper but it’s pointless unless you’re operating on a bigger playable area. Not sure what the point of stops on tracks is, sims have no way of getting there? (without adding a footpath road type)
  4. YES. GOD YES.
  5. YES. GOD YES.

(via bernietb-deactivated20130628)

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SimCity - feels

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Well having finally managed to get and stay connected to a server long enough to actually play the game I may as well do a quick summary of my feels.

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Tags: sim city feels
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the-metres-gained:

It is so bizarre, but Robert McNamara saying “we were wrong” about the Gulf of Tonkin incident is just… cathartic.

The most interesting part imo was him talking about his experiences in WWII.

the-metres-gained:

It is so bizarre, but Robert McNamara saying “we were wrong” about the Gulf of Tonkin incident is just… cathartic.

The most interesting part imo was him talking about his experiences in WWII.

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I HAVE AN EXERCISE OUTFIT

the-metres-gained:

IT CONSISTS OF CUT-OFF LEGGINGS, A SPORTS BRA, AND A RECLAIM THE NIGHT T-SHIRT.

WILL I ACTUALLY EXERCISE?

NO!

Do it, exercise is the best (also reclaim the gym, from douches in bintang singlets).

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Pushing single mums into sex work?

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There was a short story on the AAP wire today which, as they do, ended up in every publication. It included some well researched and not at all sensationalist gems like this:

A spokeswoman from a Brisbane brothel told AAP there had been “influx” in applications from single mothers looking for work since the welfare changes came through. She said there had been about 20 applications.

Time to get more specific (but no less sensationalist) though: 

Single Parents Action Group spokeswoman Katrina Rae said she was not surprised women in her position were turning to sex work and stripping to pay the bills. “I wouldn’t personally, but you would do anything to feed your family,” she said. “The cuts have made people desperate.”

Ms Rae, a Sydney mother of four teenagers, said she had done her family budget on Sunday morning and was $287 behind for the next fortnight. “I don’t have breakfast or lunch. If there’s not enough food for dinner I’ll have toast so the kids can eat,” she said. “We look at our budgets and we cry ourselves to sleep.”

Ms Rae works a full time job in insurance, commutes 22 hours a week for work, and only manages to stay $25 above the poverty line each week.

"I’ve considered moving our family into a garage and living in the car," she said. "At the moment I sleep on a lounge so the kids can sleep in a bed."


Now normally I think it’s pretty cheap to argue anecdotes but seeing as the door’s been opened let’s look a bit closer at Ms Rae, how much she earns and how the changes would impact on her.

With some determined sleuthing (Google) it’s pretty easy to turn up some more details about her in this article from the WA Today find out that she earns $1860/fortnight (~$48k annually) working full time in insurance and supports four children*.

Take out tax of $280 a fortnight and you’re left with $1580. This puts her on $790/week or $203/week below the Henderson Poverty Line (a measure of relative poverty).

Let’s not forget though that Ms Rae has other income. Looking at the Family Tax details on DHS’ website she is eligible for the full rate of Family Tax Benefit A, this is netting her a healthy $220/fortnight for each child, she is also eligible for the full rate of Family Tax Benefit B of an extra $100/fortnight and as an FTB recipient she is eligible for Rent Assistance of up to $160/fortnight. All up then an extra $1140/fortnight in total.

This brings her income up to $3000/fortnight. What about tax? FTB and Rent Assistance are tax exempt so still just $280 tax (a ~9% tax rate), meaning Ms Rae is left with or $1360/week after tax. She is now a significant $367/week above the Henderson Poverty Line.

So that’s our baseline scenario, how did the changes effect her? Again drawn from the DHS website, she was on Parenting Payment Single which is paid at a max of $663, she was working full-time though so didn’t receive anywhere near this. From the income/assets test: 

For maximum payment, your income must be no more than $176.60, plus $24.60 for each additional child, per fortnight. Income over this amount reduces your payment by 40 cents in the dollar.
So with her four children and income of $1860 her payment is reduced by $640, leaving just $23/fortnight.
Ms Rae’s income means she is ineligible for NSA so she as a result of the changes she will lose that $23/fortnight. She will however continue to, fortnightly, receive $1140 of welfare, earn $1860 and pay $280 in tax, meaning this is less than a 1% reduction in her net income and she stays $367 above the poverty line.

Disclaimer: I have had some exposure to this through my employment however my views are entirely my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employers of colleagues. All facts and figures referred to are in the public domain. 

*Clarification: WA Today says her daughter is doing the HSC, I have assumed this is the eldest, therefore all children are in school and/or under 16 
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the-metres-gained:

o-bravenewworld:

freecrackgiveaway:

Shane Oman from Mean Girls is Mike from Homeland. 
You can go shave your back now.

Holy fucking hell.

OH MY GOD
mind = blown

Also Amy Poehler was Regina George’s mum…

the-metres-gained:

o-bravenewworld:

freecrackgiveaway:

Shane Oman from Mean Girls is Mike from Homeland. 

You can go shave your back now.

Holy fucking hell.

OH MY GOD

mind = blown

Also Amy Poehler was Regina George’s mum…

(Source: )

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"

The idea of local people going up to Westminster to represent the views of their neighbours changed radically.

They were replaced by bright young graduates, often with little or no connection to the constituency they were representing.

They went straight from university to a job in public relations consultancy, became assistants to party functionaries or ministers, then stood for a hopeless constituency in an election and finally got themselves parachuted into a safe seat with the respectable salary, generous allowances and long holidays they had always been aiming at.

It is no coincidence that in parallel with this change we have seen public respect for MPs sink to its lowest level in history.

We no longer feel they are our representatives. We see them as self-seeking careerists out to feather their nests and line their pockets at our expense.

Of course, there are exceptions. But we see them as the exceptions, not the rule.

"

- Anthony Jay in The Sun

Replace “Westminster” with “Canberra” and you’ve just about got it.

(via naysayersspeak)

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My GOD

the-metres-gained:

I am never making the mistake of telling a bunch of libertarian dudebros that, while I agree for the most part with it, Ron Paul’s foreign policy approach is not terribly sophisticated from an IR theory/practice perspective.

I think you will find your confusion is the natural result of not reading enough Rothbard. Did you know that everyone who is not Rothbard is a statist (PS: statists are bad. PPS: clarifying because you are a womens).

I’d suggest that you read these million links and probably watch a few anti-semitic videos before asking more questions… I mean really it’s frustrating to have to answer the same questions over and over again.

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A poverty of thought and imagination

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The supposed paucity of New Start Allowance (NSA) is the story which won’t die, canvassed in the Henry Tax Review it has since been the subject of some parliamentary inquiries, study by NATSEM and a whole lot of hot air. The most recent iteration of this has been because grandfathered parenting payment recipients were transferred to NSA on the first of January.

In all of the discussion though there seems to be a remarkable lack of knowledge about what the changes mean, how welfare/employment programs work in Australia, what living on NSA is like and the rent-seeking happening. I’m going to try and address some of that here.

Parenting Payment Background:

Back in 2006 as part of the Welfare to Work reforms under the Howard government the eligibility requirements for Parenting Payment (PP) were changed so that all new applications after 1 July 2006 only received PP if their youngest child was aged under 8 (single rate) or 6 (partnered rate). All existing recipients were ‘grandfathered’ and continued to receive PP until their youngest child turned 16.

When recipients moved off PP if they moved onto New Start Allowance which includes a requirement to undertake employment services, e.g. attend meetings with a Job Network (now Job Services Australia) provider, look for work and complete training courses.

In other words where in the past parents weren’t encouraged to find work until their child was in year 10 they would now be encouraged to find work soon after their child started primary school.

DEEWR studied the impacts of this and released a report in 2008 and found that the changes significantly increased the number of parents leaving welfare and moving into work. How significant? Try a 150% increase with the rate of people leaving in under six months jumping from 15% to 38% (page vi).

Parenting Payment Changes:

The changes which just happened moved the grandfathered recipients from the old regime onto the new one, what is the actual impact though? DHS (Centrelink) has a nice breakdown on their website,

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So no change for partnered payment and a $130/fortnight reduction in maximum payment rate and a $440/fortnight reduction in maximum earnings for part payment.

Note that in all cases these figures exclude rent assistance which is worth up to a further $121/fortnight and health care/pensioner cards reduce many expenses.

Living on Newstart Allowance:

Interestingly in all of the complaints about reduced payments there has been very little mention of the fact that these parents have been receiving higher payments than other slightly younger parents for five and a half years.

But what’s it like to live on NSA? Over at Fairfax living on $120k is “struggle street” so NSA is inconceivable: 

it’s a breeze living on $35 a day, IF YOU LIVE IN A PRETEND SOCIALIST AGRARIAN SOCIETY!

Bloody hell, when will politicians understand – really properly understand – that you cannot live on $35 a day in Australia – let alone Sydney, ranked recently as one of the most expensive cities in the world? A place where those on an income of $120,000 a year profess to be on Struggle Street?

Meanwhile on the The Drum they deploy some admirable reasoning to explain that by them having lived on NSA they actually proved that it can’t be done:

After paying rent and bills, I had $100 a week to live on. I don’t actually remember how I did it. I think it’s safe to say that, actually, it can’t be done. 

Enough heckling from the cheap seats though. It’s data time. Back in August last year NATSEM released a study on NSA and financial distress. In brief their findings were:

  • Unemployed people are more likely to be poor (shock!)
  • Unemployed households are likely to be poor for 2+ years (shock! in high employment it’s only the most disadvantaged who aren’t working)
  • After housing unemployed households have $242/wk disposable income (actual shock! more than you’d think) or 33% of nat. avg (shock! unemployed are poor)
  • After housing, utilities and food unemployed households have $154/wk in disposable income (actual shock! a lot more than you’d think)
  • 36% of unemployed households experience financial deprivation and 45% experience stressors (shock! unemployed are poor)

As an aside it certainly doesn’t help their case that many of the progressives advocating an increase point to things like the the indignity of not being able to afford (or having to budget for) a night out drinking with friends.

What they seem to be confusing is the purpose of NSA. It isn’t meant to be a comfortable life, it’s meant to be an uncomfortable and short life because you’re meant to move into employment quickly.

Not enough money to find a job?

A lot of the discussion has alleged that NSA is too low to find a job on but really when when your argument rests on the idea that someone with $154/wk in disposable income can’t afford a shirt and tie I think you’re fighting a losing battle and may have (perhaps mercifully) never seen an ad for Lowes or Rivers.

Now sure $154/wk isn’t exactly a lot and you won’t be building up savings which leaves you vulnerable to unexpected expenses, but on the other hand this is Australia not a developing country (or the US) so bulk-billing exists, you’re on NSA so you have a healthcare card to reduce prescription costs to almost nothing and in a worst case Centrelink will provide a $500 advance payment.

Rent seeking churches:

The NATSEM study was commissioned by a group of leading churches and one of the leading advocates for increasing NSA is ACOSS, the church’s lobby group, so it’s worth looking at their motivations in some detail.

Firstly though some background on how employment services work, if you receive New Start Allowance (NSA) then you will be required to register with a Job Services Australia (JSA) provider and look for work. JSA providers are private sector organisations, often charities though occasionally for-profit (for example Thérèse Rein’s old business Ingeus).

At registration and regularly thereafter jobseekers level of disadvantage is assessed based on time unemployed, homelessness, drug addictions, disabilities, etc. This leads to a classification of Stream 1 (limited), 1, 2, 3 and 4. Essentially someone in Stream 1 (limited) can be expected to find work with little to no assistance and someone in Stream 4 will need significant assistance.

JSA Providers are paid in a relatively complex fee structure (p117 Annexure C) which is designed to incentivise them to find people long term employment and the amounts range depending on the level of disadvantage, this breaks down into:

  • Employment Pathway Fund: an initial payment intended to cover costs of jskrs obtaining licenses/etc, this ranges from about $10 to about $1100
  • Service Fees: a small ongoing payment for having a jskr on the books, this ranges from about $60 to about $500 and is paid every thirteen weeks.
  • Placement Fees: a small payment for getting a jskr into a job, this ranges from about $380 to about $550
  • Outcome Fees: large payments for keeping a jskr in employment, these are paid after a jskr completes 13 weeks work and then again after a further 26 weeks. This ranges from $0 for Stream 1 (as they typically need no assistance staying in work) up to about $3500 for Stream 4 who have been unemployed for 5 or more years

JSA Providers then are receiving a significant amount of money (about $1.6b annually in total) to help people find work.

When Mission Australia, Salvation Army, etc allege that jskrs do not have enough money to buy a shirt and tie they are wrong but they are also omitting that they were given money to spend on shirts, ties, boots, licenses, etc for jskrs and they chose not to.

So when JSA providers ask for NSA to be increased to pay for things then at best they are saying that they want to be able to increase their profit by earning more (place more people in jobs) without spending more (actually helping people). At worst they are saying they want to be able to increase their profit by earning the same or more (place the same of more people in jobs) and spending even less (even less actual help).

Unfortunately it’s a bit beyond back of the envelope stuff to estimate the effect which a NSA increase would have on JSA revenues. I can certainly say two things though, (1) it definitely wouldn’t be 1:1 however (2) it would be positive.

Conclusion:

Jenny Macklin wasn’t being insulting when she said she could live on $35 a day, she was being insulting when she said she couldn’t. She was being insulting to the hundreds of thousands of people who do and she was being insulting to the millions of people who pay for it.

When the commentariat gets worked up about this they are failing to imagine a lifestyle other than their own, they are failing to rationally think about the issue and they are falling for the rent seeking of the major churches.


Disclaimer: I have had some exposure to this through my employment however my views are entirely my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employers of colleagues. All facts and figures referred to are in the public domain. 

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"The moral advantage of a market liberal society over a social democratic society is that it does not discourage [leisurely] forms of life. It allows people to pursue their own work in their own way, giving people the freedom to work less for less pay or to work more for more pay. That is one reason it is essential to protect economic liberties, in order to ensure that people have the right to build the life of their choosing.”

When social democrats talk about reshaping society around a 15 hour work week/similar they are doing two things:

1. Presuming that their subjective preferences are objectively superior and should be imposed (or nudged) on others.

2. Seeking to consign the world to a more frugal existence and slower technological progress because with only a third as much work happening there would only be a third as much products and services to consume and new things would be being invented at a third of the speed.

These are morally and intellectually bankrupt beliefs.