SPCA are common thieves

I have lost what little respect I had left for the SPCA.

In their latest exploit they have stolen the meat from a Tongan man’s umu in Mangere, simply because someone at the SPCA didn’t like what they were eating.

Because it was a dog.

Now they are frustrated they can’t prosecute anyone for it because the dog was killed humanely. This is ridiculous. It is the SPCA themselves who should be prosecuted for common theft – taking meat for no reason (they themselves admit that it is completely legal to kill and eat your own animals), and offering no compensation or even apology.

So, because the law doesn’t let them dictate what meat you can eat, they now want more laws so they can prosecute people for this. Derek Haddy of the SPCA says “Unfortunately under the Animal Welfare Act, nothing covers what you can do with an animal after it is dead” – and wants the law updated. But hang on a minute – why should the Animal Welfare Act have anything to do with what happens after an animal is dead? An animal can’t suffer after it is dead, why shouldn’t you eat it then? And what moral standard are they using to dictate what meat is ok and what is not?

I shall now ignore the SPCA until they offer a formal apology and compensation for this blatant theft.

See also: “Let’s eat some dogs”

Smacking referendum campaign

The campaigning around the smacking referendum is heating up. The excellent Vote No website and blog has been lauched, while the Yes Vote website is spouting amusing nonsense. Check out the Yes Vote FAIL blog to see some of the best of it collated in one place for your amusement.

You can also download posters and brochures to encourage the 83% of the country that oppose the anti-smacking law to actually vote in the referendum, and send John Key a message that he would ignore at his own political peril.

Happy debating and campaigning, whatever side you are on!

Thesis completed!

Finally, and only 3 months overdue (which is pretty good), my thesis is currently being printed for submission.

I am so glad to have that done! This blog has suffered a lot over the past few months, hopefully I’ll have more time to keep it going now.

How to make semi-soft butter

Andy’s excellent “Cooking with Andy” series has inspired me to share a recession-busting secret recipe that has been solemnly handed down our family from father to son since I invented it by trial and error last night.

Vegetable oils and butter are natural and healthy, but margarine has been chemically processed creating  unnatural trans-fats your body isn’t designed to cope with, and tastes disgusting. Its only advantages are that it spreads well and is far cheaper than butter. Semi-soft butter, despite being around 50% cheap vegetable oil, is even more expensive than regular butter – an absolute rip-off in my mind. It should be cheaper than standard butter.

So:

Take one 500g block of butter. Melt in the microwave until creamy. Mix in 2 cups of vegetable oil (plain canola oil is fine) until well blended. Pour into containers (fills 2 margarine containers) and place in the fridge to set overnight.

Voila, you have just made your butter go twice as far AND made it spreadable!

Enjoy on your morning toast.

Compulsory “volunteer” work

Gordon Brown has decided he wants to make volunteer work compulsory:

Gordon Brown has announced plans that could see every teenager in the country complete up to 50 hours of volunteer work by the age of 19.

The automatic reaction to something being compulsory is to resent it. No-one likes being told what to do. This is one reason why schoolkids here will play up in class and bunk – school is compulsory. In Africa by comparison, kids will walk for miles in bare feet to attend school, just like people in the West did in former generations – because school is a privilege that they value.

If Gordon Brown wants to ensure kids hate “volunteer” work and don’t choose to do any more than the bare minimum 50 hours, this is the way to go about it.

It can never be compulsory to volunteer. Check a dictionary.

Hat tip: Fairfacts Media

Is an embryo a person 2 – Twinning

One argument commonly put forward for why the embryo is not a human in the first 14 days or so of life, before implantation, is that it may yet divide into twins. If it can become two individuals, the logic goes, how can we say it is now a person? It must be in a pre-person state until it becomes two separate people.

Twinning is basically a cloning process, or a form of asexual reproduction. The one embryo splits into two pieces, which each grow into identical twins.

If we consider this from a purely atheistic perspective, the argument rapidly falls apart. Just because something may later become two individuals doesn’t mean it is not an individual before then.

If a bacterium divides to produce two identical clones, does that mean it was not an individual bacterium before the cloning? Of course not.

If the technology ever becomes available to clone a human adult (some claim it has already been done), a human adult could later become two humans. Does this mean the adult was not a human before the cloning?

The embryo is one human. If at some later point it can become two humans, that does not detract at all from the fact that it is already human. It only means that by killing it you have cut off the potential for two lives rather than only one – which is twice as bad.

Now if we add the Christian perspective, that humans are not only physical but also have a soul, you may be able to say the embryo is not human before it divided because the individual twins were not given souls until they separated.

But how do you know? This is pure speculation. God may do that, or He may give one soul at conception and a second one when twinning occurs, or (knowing twinning will occur) he may give both souls from the start… The Bible never says. We can speculate for ever but will never reach an answer. It is best to forget this line of reasoning and focus on the physical.

So whether you are atheist or Christian, the twinning argument holds no water. And anyway, most embryos don’t twin – how many identical twins do you know?

For a far more detailed refutation of the twinning argument, check out this excellent article by Alexander Pruss of Baylor University (hat tip MandM). Matt’s response is here, but he does not appear to really counter what Pruss says, just disputes some minor points.

I have discussed other issues around abortion in these posts.

Road works and the financial year

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time you try to drive anywhere and have to go through two separate sets of roadworks, where a perfectly good road has been ripped up and is being replaced to use up the funding before the financial year closes.

I like that New Zealand spends a decent amount on roading maintenance. I’ve been in Ireland, driven over the potholes, seen how the cars don’t last long because of the bad surfaces, and New Zealand roads are just a class above. Well, most of them, Ireland does have some great 120kph motorways. And my Irish supervisor did remark when over here that he didn’t like NZ roads because of all the road works…

Sometimes our road works just go over the top. There are still many gravel roads that are major thoroughfares. Diverting a fraction of the maintenance budget from ripping up good roads to sealing gravel ones would be a major boost to rural areas. And reduce the number of car crashes, save fuel, increase property values etc.

But I presume the money to fix roads is in one bag (state highway maintenance), and the money to seal gravel roads in another (local councils), and the bureaucracy won’t allow it.

So we’ll continue to waste taxpayers money.

The origin of life

I have been having a lot of fun debating the origin of life over at Not PC. Nothing like a bit of good scientific debate to provide a break from my normal science!

Most people assume that life originated in some “primordial soup” way back in the distant past. But this doesn’t work scientifically.

Say we assume that by some fantastic miracle, we got a puddle on the early earth that contained all the building blocks of life – DNA, RNA, protein, lipids etc. We can replicate this by taking a plant and putting it through a blender.

If we leave our blended plant for a while, will we get life forming in this soup? No, the chemicals in it will all break down over time following the laws of chemistry and thermodynamics.

If we put this soup in the sun for a while, giving it the input of energy, will we get life? No, the chemicals will just break down faster. The added energy simply speeds up the processes that must happen. We will get cooked soup. If we are lucky it may be tasty.

On the other hand, if we put the plant in the sun – exactly the same molecules, just organised into a complex structure – it will use the same energy through photosynthesis to grow.

So with a pre-organised system such as the plant, the energy input from the sun can be harnessed to create further order. However the disorganised soup will only become less ordered. There is no known scientific way to get over the hurdle from disorganised soup to organised living tissue, even if you did get a soup of all the right chemicals – which is in itself a chemical impossibility.

But when you present this to an atheist, they generally say something like this:

I’m not sure you wouldn’t get life if you left your blender long enough. Obviously, over the kind of time scales that humans are comfortable with, it’s unlikely that the plant will grow back out of its constituent molecules. However, we don’t know what might happen over hundreds of millions of years, with the addition of random other dust, lightning strikes, etc.

Ultimately, the atheist just ends up having faith. Despite all we know about chemistry and thermodynamics, which clearly states that the molecules in that soup would break down over time (they would actually react with each other and break each other down by the way), they are willing to disregard science and believe that somehow, something happened that science says is completely impossible. Just like in Frankenstein, the lightning hits and bang – the soup comes to life!

That is not rational, scientific logic. That is faith.

Science clearly shows life cannot come from non-life. Louis Pasteur showed this over a century ago, and the more we understand about biochemistry the more his early logic is confirmed. You can therefore conclude scientifically that life must come from life, and therefore the life we have today must have originated from another life.

This is rational. This is logical. This is consistent with the science.

The Christian will then believe through faith that original life was God. But acceptance of God or Christianity is not part of the argument at all, you don’t have to be religious to see that life only comes from life. You may become religious after you realise it though! :)

The atheist on the other hand must have faith that our current science is COMPLETELY WRONG! They are not following the science, but rejecting it in favour of some fairytale they hope will be shown in future to be true. All so they can believe in their presupposition that there is no God.

That is a leap of faith I am unwilling to take.

Working on thesis

This blog will be a bit quiet for a few weeks, I’ve got a thesis due in a fortnight and will be knuckling down to do that. If you want some good discussion in the meantime, keep an eye on Halfdone, New Zealand Conservative and Kiwi Polemicist.

Have fun without me!

Sir Roger Douglas’ economic plan

Now I won’t say I agree with every detail of his plan, but Douglas certainly seems to understand why we are in the mess we are in better than any other politician.

As voters, we seem to have bought the false notion that we can all be made wealthy through government. Elections have become an opportunity for politicians to promise they will take more money off you, only to give it back to you in another way – a gold card for superannuitants, a tax credit for working families, or an interest write off for students. If we each pretend that we can be made wealthy through taxing others, then we’re destined for poverty. We are increasingly relying on others – be they foreign lenders or domestic taxpayers – to sustain our way of life.

You don’t hear that sort of straight talking every day from politicians!

Douglas’ plan is to set up an alternative taxation system that you can opt into – with low taxes but you must pay for your own health care and superannuation – or you can stay in the current system. There would certainly be practical problems with maintaining two separate systems alongside each other (such as having some people eligable for state-funded healthcare while others are not), but it is an intriguing idea, and a good contrast with National’s plan. Read his full plan here.

On the tax side, he is proposing a tax-free threshold of $30,000 for individuals, $50,000 for families, and 15% taxation above that, with a flat 15% tax rate for business. That would really draw industry back into the country.

But there is a big “marriage tax” in there – note that if you have two single incomes your tax-free threshold is collectively $60,000, while if you marry it is now only $50,000 (plus a certain amount per child). It would be far better to have a $60,000 tax-free threshold for families, and not incentivise family breakdown. You should never subsidise something unless you want more of it.

On the welfare side, he is proposing:

To ensure that families are able to adequately provide for themselves, there will be a guaranteed minimum income for families. The guaranteed minimum income will ensure that, should they find themselves earning less than the tax-free threshold, families will receive a tax credit to boost their income.

The problem with this is that there is little incentive to work at all – it is unclear but reads like you have a guaranteed tax-free income of $50,000 (inflation adjusted to boot), which you can live on quite comfortably especially if you don’t have the expenses of having a job (fuel to get to work, work clothes etc). Even if you have to be doing some work to get it, there is little incentive to work more than a couple of hours a week. It is only for families, but if you don’t have to be married to call yourself a family it could be claimed by flatmates – this is far higher than the student allowance!

A guaranteed minimum income is a simple way of providing a welfare safety net, however having it set so high is likely to be a strong disincentive to work. Or you can work, and still get your free money. Consider this scenario.

  • You have no job, and are surviving on government handouts.
  • A farmer takes pity on your family, gives you free accommodation in a spare house, free use of a work vehicle and as much produce as you can eat.
  • Out of gratitude you “help him out” on the farm.

It’s a win-win situation:

  • You get almost all your expenses for free and pocket most of your welfare money, effectively earning far more than most farm workers.
  • The farmer gets a cheap worker.

It is impossible to completely avoid such fraud, but it would help if the “guaranteed minimum income” were set at a level of basic subsistence, to provide for those out of work while encouraging them to actually get a job. Requiring a couple to be married to qualify would help the money go to genuine families, although people could marry just to get the cash. Giving part of it in food or accommodation vouchers would help to discourage fraud, although not prevent it. It would also help if you only lost 50c of your tax credits for every dollar you earned – meaning even if you can only get a part-time job you will still end up with more cash in the hand, rather than working hard and ending up with the same pay as if you did nothing.

So Douglas’ plan needs some work, in my opinion. But it offers a good alternative perspective to National’s current big spending plans, and I hope Key is willing to listen and incorporate some of Douglas’ ideas.

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