Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A case to bring back ration cards

Imagine paying $200 for a steak. Some who have an endless supply of cash already pay this for a meal.
Most of us are happy with cheaper cuts. But...even cheaper cuts of meat are being priced out of the reach of normal families.
Not long ago, ox cheeks were a cut of meat used for cat food. Now that cut is served in trendy eateries at a premium price. Once pig trotters were almost given away at the butchers, now a delicatessen will sell the pigs' hocks at T-bone prices.
People who look into the future are becoming alarmed at the future of meat availability. There is a suggestion that in 50-100 years the cost of raising cattle to sell a normal cut of meat for home meal will be so expensive that only the very rich will be able to afford to add meat to a stew.
That's not fair.
Rationing is an artificial restriction of demand. Although, in reality rationing doesn't stop demand, it equalises supply. It is intended to stop wealthy consumers and black market traders corner the market in essential goods.
In Australian, Europe, the USA and Britain during WWII, most good food was scarce. Meat, sugar, tea eggs and fruit and vegetables were in short supply. Not only food, but petrol and clothes were included in the drought. Choice of brands, products, and choices were cut to the bone.
As a means of promoting "fairness" in the distribution of scarce supplies, a ration card system was imposed.
When few vital goods are available, as during the war, in the future, they should be shared fairly amongst all, regardless of wealth.
The best way to do this is to bring back ration cards.
The local butcher may, in the future, be allocated a half a steer a week. How could the meat be fairly distributed to all in his suburb?
If a family has a set amount of meat coupons, allowing them 1 kilo of meat a week, then now matter how wealthy or poor the family, they have a better chance of getting some protein in their meals for the week.
Although some cheats and barbarians try to grab more than their fair share of scare items, most people soon settle into the system. They can have a little when it is available, or save their coupons for a bigger share.
Just a few years ago, when petrol was scarce, and queues to fill the tank were two or three days long, rationing was imposed. Cars with a numberplate ending in an odd number could buy some petrol on odd numbered days, those with even numbers could buy on alternative days.
Rationing works, and creates a fairer society.
The sooner we start to bring back rationing cards, the sooner the community will accept the process for dwindling supplies of meat and petrol and other things that  disappear from the shelves.

I would like to see rationing introduced into Sydney for home ownership. Why should the wealthy have two or three homes, while there are so many homeless without any accommodation at all?

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Paywall for news

I decided today that I should pay the $25 monthly fee for online subscription to the Sydney Morning Herald. This will stretch the budget. 
Its not the best world's source of news, information or opinion. on-line or on paper. For world news I prefer The Guardian, which is still free. But there's little here on local events. I certainly won't pay for access to the Daily Telegraph. Compared to what The Australian paper charges online, the SMH figure of $25 appeared to be over the top.
Generally I only buy the paper about eight times a month, at a cost of $20. Considering the number of times I checked a story on line while the SMH web content was free, I would use their now barrier of free 30 stories a month, in the first week. So I guess i either give up my addiction to news, or give up some other luxury.
Such is life

Monday, June 17, 2013

Buy one, get one free

The trouble is, I don't want two, I want only one.
Just as frustrating is the marketing nonsense of: “Price for two - $15, Single Price - $10”. Why am I being taxed 50% because I only want one item? I lose.
I go into the supermarket to buy an ear of sweetcorn for my evening meal; why are they wrapped in threes? If there's two people to feed, who gets the third ear? If I am eating alone, and super hungry and willing to eat two, it means the third cob goes in the bin. I lose
In the department story 'sale' they are offer 20% discount on a second shirt if I buy two. I lose. Surely they can sell me one with a 10% discount.
The same sort of trick is used when offering an item for $39.99. The cashier won't give me 1 cent change; the marketing morons expect the price to be rounded up to an even $40, but they reckon shoppers will be frightened to buy of they label the item at $40.
Its all a game to retailers. They know that over a year the extra sales they wrench from gullible shoppers and extra cents will add up in the profits.

I am sure there is one born every minute, fools willing to have their pockets raided by retailers; but in balance, ten shoppers switch to retailers who don't try to play their customers for fools.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

A glut of gluten?

Why oh why is wheat so popular with processed foods manufacturers
On a whim, I recently decided to go "Gluten Free" in my diet. 
I don't have coeliac disease, and I have sympathy with those who have a genuine aversion to gluten. For some people, avoiding gluten may be a matter of life or death
So I am alarmed at the number of products on grocers' shelves that have wheat added without an obvious need for it. 
Sometimes the presence of wheat flour or gluten is hidden in secret little chemical codes, sometimes the presence of wheat is only suggested in  tiny print, hidden in a part of the label that is folded out of sight. I've taken to looking carefully at the small print on packets and tins, using a powerful magnifying glass.
Only rarely does a manufacturer's list of ingredients warn clearly 'May contain traces of wheat', but why do they think they are obliged to support the annual grain harvest from wheat farmers in the first place.
Sure, I can see a need for gluten when making commercial bread, and biscuits, and cakes, and pizza, and noodles, and pasta and beer and thick gravies.
It seems illogical that a packet of rice bubbles has wheat, or that corn flakes has wheat added. If I want wheat, I'll buy a box of weetbix, thanks very much.
Does a tin of pumpkin soup really not sell unless wheat is added? I can't for the life of me (pardon the weak pun) see why ice cream really needs to contain wheat. Isn't that a dairy item?
No wonder there is an epidemic of obesity around the globe, everyone is stuffed with gluten and wheat gas.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

light saving

Forgive me, I have been off air for a while. My need to grumble had blown a fuse with overload.
But with the return of daylight saving, I can't hold my tongue.
What real use is putting the clocks forward by an hour during the hot months. It means we spend longer in the burning heat of the peak sun damage, and get more skin cancer.
Some bright spark saw this as a way to get people to work early, before they could start to enjoy the day. It gets people into the shopping malls earlier.
In fact, this is Orwellian newspeak - we get to spend more daylight hours in summer, no matter what the clock says, not save them.
There's no point in kiddies or old people trying to save daylight hours. I'm am of an age that I've already retired; what more can I do in the day because my clock shows a different time? There's no point in my saving time, I can't take it with me when I go.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wait Australia

Why is there so much angst on the arrival by leaky boats of a few refugees or asylum seekers. 
"Send them back" is the general Australian jingoism from politicians, radio talk backs, loud-mouthed taxi drivers and other weak-kneed opinion makers.
It seems that everyone in Australia would be happy to accept a few more miserable refugess, if only these people would wait their turn. There is an irrational fear that a trickle of refugees could mean an insidious weakening of our comfortable life. 
The loudest argument now is about where this small dangerous herd should be penned. Anywhere, but not in our own backyard.
The main excuse for this meanness of spirit is that those damned foreigners didn't wait long enough for official permission to seek refuge on our 'golden soil'. 
Individuals and families who need urgent shelter should knock politely at the doors of the nation, then wait till the security guards check the colour of their souls. 
Dark swarthy strangers, including children, might be dangerous. 
One day, we promise them, sometime in the future, their claim for help will be checked and rubber stamped by a dedicated public servant, working strictly to government rules.
If  genuine refugees try to sneak under the radar by arriving on a leaky boat, they will sent to wait in holding pens in another country where they have little or no welcome.
We try to deter more arrivals by forcing those who have already crossed our girting seas to wait with infinite patience in a stalag camp , wait in a detention centre, wait in a prison, wait as beggars. While they wait, Australia offers second degree protection from their traumas, limited rights, feeble benefits, remote from friends, from support and comfort.
There is no queue for refugees. It is in only the kafka-esque minds of bigots and bueraucrats refugees must wait patiently in a queue to be processed.
Our national understanding of immigration queues seems to have been formed by visions of a cattle pen on an outback staion, or the late-night queue outside a trendy nightclub, where fashionably dressed desirables are scrutinised and either admitted one at a time or rejected and sent home with their tails between their legs. 
National psyche
Very few people can, or do, now sing the words in the second verse of our national anthem " For those who've come across the seas, We've boundless plains to share"
The other verses of the original poem, that we never sing, say all that is needed to know about Australia policy on refugees and asylum seekers

"Shou'd foreign foe e'er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We'll rouse to arms like sires of yore
To guard our native strand."

The Labor party finally voted to delete White Australia from its platform at its 1965 conference.   There was a similar struggle inside the Liberal Menzies government. 
"The cabinet felt that the proposal put forward could not do other, if approved, than give the impression of significant relaxation and reduction of Australia’s immigration policy. The cabinet made it clear that it was not prepared to approve or permit such a result." (Cabinet Decision, 15 Sept 1964, NAA 6980T1/ S250469)
So,  while the official platforms of all major political parties in Australia vigorously reject discrimination of new arrivals based on race, the practice, in the latest parliamentary debate, is in fact a way of appeasing those who want to discriminate.
In December of 1901, the federated colonies, through the Immigration Restriction Act, brought the White Australia Policy into being. That Act used the infamous dictation test so that any potential immigrant to Australia had to sit for a dictation test in any European Language. This made non European immigration to Australia almost impossible and it was not until 1959 that this form of discrimination was officially repealed.
Now it is back as a 'queue' for refugees to wait their turn.
The old 'White Australia' policy is still alive in many minds who support the "Wait Australia' policy

Monday, August 29, 2011

Anzac Biscuits.

I like a good Anzac Biscuit, almost as much as I enjoy a good grumble.
Anzac biscuits were originally baked by anxious wives and mothers during World War I, packed in food parcels, and sent to the Australian soldiers in the trenches
Last week I started a civil confrontation to protect the traditional biscuit in a shiny new chain coffee shop which opened in my local suburb.
On the counter, near the cash register they had a jar labelled "Anzac Cookies” .
I politely explained to the staff that this was a major faux pas, a heresy; showing disrespect for the ANZAC tradition in this country.
Put into plain words, in this country we eat biscuits, not cookies. Put the two words together - as in ‘Anzac biscuit’ - and you have a national icon.
They smiled, and nodded and said ‘Oh’.
Two days later, I saw when passing, they hadn’t changed the sign, they were still trying to sell Anzac cookies.
OK, I thought. Let’s up the ante. So I pulled out my always handy camera, and photographed the offending jar. And I handed the manager a copy of a sheet I carry for such emergencies, copied from Wikipedia (it looks semi official).

Legal issues

The term Anzac is protected under Australian law and therefore the word should not be used without permission from the Minister for Veterans' Affairs; misuse can be legally enforced particularly for commercial purposes. Likewise similar restrictions on naming are enshrined in New Zealan law where the Governor General can elect to enforce naming legislation. There is a general exemption granted for Anzac biscuits, as long as these biscuits remain basically true to the original recipe and are both referred to and sold as Anzac biscuits and never as cookies.
This restriction resulted in the Subway chain of restaurants dropping the biscuit from their menu in September, 2008. After being ordered by the Department of Veterans' Affairs to bake the biscuits according to the original recipe, Subway decided not to continue to offer the biscuit, as they found that their supplier was unable to develop a cost-effective means of duplicating the recipe.

Having read this, the offending staff changed the label on the jar in three minutes  I’ll check back later to see they’ve kept the proper use of the name.
I’ve taken this battle on mis-naming of Anzac Biscuits to the food trolleys on an airline, to a shopping centre (mall) and to the volunteers in a school tech shops.
Some might say I am obsessed, but I don't think I am the only one who is touchy on this subject. There's a coffee shop in Noth Sydney with a jar of Anzac Biscuits labelled differently on each side. The side which faces the public most often says "Anzac cookies". When a complain is lodged, they turn the jar around, so the label reads" Anzac Biscuits". Then when the grumbly customer has gone, they turn the jar back around.
Alright, I can’t hope to hold back the tide of language or cultural corruption completely. Let them sell their chocolate brownies, and their oatmeal cookies.
Some things are essentially Australian, and if  I - or you- accept their greedy corruption, really, what’s left to be proud of?.
That means I need to make a bit of a fuss when something in which I believe is challenged, or changed through ignorance and disrespect. There have to be some limits to tolerance
I become what I accept.
If I passively accept changes to the culture I cherish then me, and my culture, becomes tangibly eroded.
There are some Australian expressions which are semi sacred, and I will fight their sloppy replacement with an American-ism, as hard and as often as I can.
One such profanity is this habit of American wannabes to call an ‘Anzac Biscuit’ an ‘Anzac Cookie’. No, NO, and NO BLOODY WAY.