Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Welfare Bastardry

Rudd defends 'hardline' benefits plan

Families face losing their welfare for three months if their children continually skip school, under legislation to be introduced to Federal Parliament this week.

Under the Federal Government's proposed scheme, regular school attendance will become a condition for receiving all welfare except the Family Tax Benefit.

If the legislation is passed a pilot scheme at eight schools will begin next year.

"Hardline?" I call it punitive. It won't prevent truancy in families who are rich enough not to need welfare - it's easier to skip school when both parents are at work. It won't help those unemployed who are dedicated to giving a better life for their kids. What it will do is penalise those families who are dysfunctional enough to be affected by the scheme. They may not be that many, but they exist. And if the parent(s) are that fucked up, then they probably don't get the crude cause and effect reasoning ("truancy implies no welfare") behind the plan. Given that, their kids probably need all the money they receive from the dole. Even if much of it is lost at the bottleshop or goes up mom and/or dad's arm, some of it may spill out into food and textbooks and uniforms. Cut off the cash, and you're going to have a lot more kids hungry in class. Unfortunately, empty stomachs are a poor way to motivate children to concentrate on their studies. From this, a small problem (truancy) is aggravated, as kids feel even worse at school. Their studies decline. They get picked on by richer kids for torn and worn uniforms (with mum and dad less able to afford to fix the things). Given the conditions, do you blame them for escaping school?

The only bright note in the plan is that it is a trial. Howard would haven't even bothered to experiment - he'd implement the scheme everywhere and le the chips fall where they may. But governments have a bad habit of ignoring bad experiences. I expect Rudd to pronounce it a success even if children are literally starving as a result.

Howard may be gone, but his authoritarian heavy-handedness lives on. Let Jarvis explain:

Thanks to Wombo for passing on the YouTube on this
Larvatus Prodeo thread.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm bored.

I'm the chairman of the bored.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Google Street View in Việt Nam?

Perhaps that's a premature question to ask at this time. Only four countries have Google Street View now, with Australia possessing the best coverage of them all. (Even Canada misses out, and that's a surprise. Located next door to the U.S., it's generally the second stop for new ideas and tech coming from there.) I know Google Street View would be mostly popular in Việt Nam. My wife told her friends about it, and they want one too. Mostly popular. But I see a few issues in the way.

If Google Street View comes to South-East Asia, it's likely to hit Singapore first, because it is small and thus easily mappable - and also prosperous. Then bordering Malaysia, which is a little less prosperous but shares a border and English - then Thailand. All three of these countries have excellent coverages under Google Maps, with Thailand's being utterly superb - it displays place names in the original Thai with their transliteration underneath. Both are represented well in Map View and Satellite View - all countries are displayed in the latter, but it's the fortunate few that have city streets shown in the former.)

Alas, Google's coverage of Việt Nam is lousy. It's not that it limits itself to showing highways, and misses city streets - let along missing the common hẻm - the alleys in which most people live. I expect the granularity - the detail - to improve in time, and the company has to start somewhere. What gets my goat is that Google makes mistakes with the place names they've written. There's an attempt to get the tone markers right (to its credit), but either misses a few or gets the letters in the wrong order. For example, Biên Hoà (a satellite city of Sài Gòn) is rendered as "Bein Hoa". It's like they got their information from an old encyclopedia. I can complain to them (and I will), but I also take it as a sign of how important Google considers the country. Not very.

Having said this, do I need to mention the paranoia of the Vietnamese government - the one who would be certain to nix any deal? I doubt they'd like foreign companies taking detailed pictures of their roads - no matter how pure their intentions are. It's not just the military angle, although Street View allows the United States China foreign governments to case the place without even visiting. It's the vested interests of the local party hacks that are endangered. Imagine if Street View could show roads as they really were? Not a nice yellow line on the map, but potholes and rubble where streets should be? And that the same people who were in charge of maintenance are suspected of embezzling the budget blind? I know these people are quite vicious when their interests, livelihoods, or lives are threatened.

Street View won't stand a chance.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

That Newfangled Google Street View

Corner Barkly and Stuart Highways, Northern Territory

This is the new Google "Street View" as applied to Australia. One day of publicity gone, and already the variety of our pictures exceeds that of the United States. Over there, they've limited themselves to a paltry few cities, and even big ones like Washington, D.C. are excepted. I suppose security theatre is to blame. 

Google Australia may have started with the cities, but they've gone one better with photographing all major highways - from the cities through the bush and into the centre of the outback. They may not have succeeded, but one can see the lines of blue stretching from sea to shining sea when zoomed out all the way. 

Yes, I may have concerns with privacy and terrorism, but they can wait until tomorrow. For now - hats off.