Disclaimer: Following text has been copied from now archived forum post, but we felt the resources contained in here might be valuable to some, so we have reposted it on this blog.

Diet has a huge effect on your pet’s health. You can’t do much about genetics or bad luck, but you have total control over what your pet eats everyday. If your pet scratches a lot, has dandruff and a dull coat, farts constantly, smells awful, or takes enormous paint-peeling dumps, better food is likely the solution. If your pet seems totally normal and fine, better food will probably contribute to a longer, healthier life.

Why should I spend more money on pet food?

• Most low-quality foods have lots of “fillers”, or cheap ingredients with less nutritional value. High-quality foods tend to be more nutritionally dense, meaning you will be feeding a much smaller amount for the same number of calories. If you do the math to figure out the cost for the number of calories you need to feed your pet, many premium foods are CHEAPER than the awful crap you’re buying at the grocery store. You can afford this!

• There are about a million medical problems associated with diet. If you feed terrible food and it turns your dog/cat into a farting, itchy basketball with legs, there will be health consequences, and they will not be cheap to fix. 

• If you’re feeding a smaller volume of food, your pet will typically shit a smaller volume of shit.
 READ THIS DISCLAIMER OR YOUR PET MIGHT DIE: If your veterinarian has recommended a prescription diet in order to manage a medical condition, do what your vet says!
This means foods like Hill’s C/D, K/D, S/D, anything/D; Royal Canin SO, LP, MP, HF, DS, etc.; Purina NF, UR, DM, etc.; or any other diet prescribed to manage things like bladder stones/crystals, kidney disease, diabetes, etc. These diets are scientifically tested and proven to help manage the condition your pet is suffering from, and the foods recommended in these posts will almost certainly do harm to your pet. See the FAQ for more info on prescription diets.

Ingredients

Every ingredient in commercial petfood is there for a reason, but sometimes the reason isn’t a very good one. The process of turning meat into kibble isn’t easy, so sometimes “filler” ingredients are added just for the purpose of food consistency. A lot of these fillers have little to no nutritional value, and your pet basically just shits them out.

Ingredient quality also affects absorption. Shoe leather and chicken meat are both mostly protein, but your pet is going to digest and absorb a lot more protein from one than the other.

Ingredients on a label are listed by weight. So when “corn” is the first ingredient on the label, there is a whole lot more corn than when it’s the 10th ingredient listed. (Pet food companies can and will try to trick you with this tactic, called “ingredient splitting”. If you see 6 different ingredients involving the word “rice”, there is probably a whole lot of rice in the food, even if the first two ingredients are meat.)

In feeding dry foods with more corn (or wheat, soy, etc.) than actual meat, we’re basically feeding our carnivores cornflakes and a multivitamin to balance out the deficiencies. They’ll survive on it, but it’s far from a healthy diet.

Here are some good ingredients to look for…

Meats (chicken, turkey, beef, etc.) – This is muscle meat and doesn’t include organs or anything weird. Lots of protein and good stuff in here. If you don’t see a meat or meat meal in the first 2-3 ingredients on the label, you should probably run away.

Meat Meals (chicken meal, salmon meal, etc.) – Meals are basically rendered meat bits. While this may include some animal parts that most people don’t want to eat, it’s still really nutritious and good in pet food. Because it’s rendered, it doesn’t contain a lot of water-weight like whole meats do. This means that pound-for-pound, “chicken meal” typically contains even more protein and good stuff than “chicken”. Good foods will usually contain both whole meats and meat meals.

Veggies & Fruits – In lower-quality foods, you’ll see lots of corn, rice, and grains being used as binding agents or carbohydrate sources. In higher-quality foods, you’ll see healthier sources of starch and fiber like sweet potatoes, apples, peas, and carrots. These ingredients also contain more vitamins, minerals, and other good stuff.

Next, ingredients to avoid…

Most of these are cheap alternatives to healthier ingredients, and therefore indicate lower-quality diets. However, they’re not all inherently bad for your pet, especially if they’re only present in small amounts, so try to keep in mind the order in which the ingredients are listed. If you see all this stuff listed at the beginning of an ingredient list, it’s probably not good food.

Corn / Maize (whole grain corn, ground corn, corn gluten meal, etc.) – Corn is typically used as a carbohydrate source or binding agent. Of carb sources, corn is arguably the worst in terms of its effect on the animal’s blood glucose (hint: having a diabetic pet sucks). Corn is also the cheapest carb source, which means its presence usually indicates a lower-quality food. Corn gluten is a protein source, but animal based-protein is better for feeding carnivores. Corn is also a common allergen.

Soy – Avoid soy-based protein in pet foods, especially for cats. The reasons are basically the same as for corn gluten — it’s cheap, it’s a common allergen, and it’s not part of a species-appropriate diet for dogs or cats.

Wheat / Wheat Gluten — Avoid for the same reasons as corn or corn gluten. Wheat is one of the most common food allergens.

By-Products – This includes anything with the word “by-product”, including “by-product meal”. By-products are basically the garbage of the meat industry. While they often contain ingredients with good nutritional value (i.e. organs), by-products also contain a lot of stuff that’s not as digestible or nutritionally valuable (i.e. chicken feet, heads). The real problem here is that “by-products” is intentionally ambiguous, and therefore its quality and makeup are going to be inconsistent.

Ingredients containing vague words like “Animal” or “Poultry” (meat and bone meal, animal fat, etc.) – Again, this is about lack of specificity. If the pet food manufacturer can’t tell you what species the ingredient comes from, it’s a safe bet that quality and consistency are lacking. Of these, “animal” is definitely the worst. Yuck.

The next two are up for debate. I’m not going to argue about whether or not these chemicals are safe, but I will say that the companies making really high-quality foods aren’t using them.

Menadione (typically “Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex” or “Vitamin K3″) – This will be really far down on ingredient lists if present. It’s a precursor to Vitamin K, and not an actual vitamin. While legal to use in animal food, the FDA has banned its use in humans due to the potentially fatal effects of large doses. There is no conclusive evidence that small amounts of menadione are dangerous in pet food, but it’s iffy. Menadione is cheap, and natural sources of vitamin K (alfalfa, kelp, green leafy veggies) are expensive. You won’t see this ingredient in high-quality foods.

Artificial Preservatives (BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin) – These are added to cheap foods to increase shelf-life. In high-quality foods, you’ll see natural preservatives like Vitamin E, Vitamin C, tocopherols, rosemary, etc. Like with menadione, there is no conclusive evidence that these things will hurt your pet, but there are enough people arguing about the safety of these chemicals that it’s probably better to just avoid them.

Food brands are up next! But first, here are two things you should know before you change your pet’s diet:

• Transition Slowly – If your pet eats the same thing every day and you suddenly feed him something new, he’s probably going to get the runs or barf everywhere. You need to make a gradual change. Decrease the amount of old food and increase the amount of new food (mix them together) over a period of at least a week. If your pet starts having softer stool, you’re probably going too fast. Sometimes a little unflavored yogurt (provides good bacteria) or canned plain pumpkin (provides fiber) can help during the transition.

• Don’t feed “exotic” protein sources without a good reason – A lot of brands offer “fancy” flavors of food like bison, venison, rabbit, duck, etc. Unless your pet has a food allergy or won’t eat anything else, pick a normal flavor of food like chicken, turkey, beef, etc. Food allergies can develop at any time in a pet’s life, and the best way to manage them is to feed a protein source that the pet has NEVER eaten before (a “novel protein”). If you feed your pet a bunch of weird protein sources, and then he develops food allergies a few years down the line, you’re not going to have any good options for a novel protein.

Dog Food Brands

Premium – brands that have no corn, by-products, or other fillers. These brands have a reputation for quality amongst the PI regulars as well as other pet-knowledgeable communities. If you’re just looking for a few quality brands to jot down before heading out to your local pet store, this is a good list of commonly available pet foods.

Acana
Applaws
Artemis
Avoderm
Blue Buffalo
By Nature
California Naturals
Canidae
Castor and Pollux
Chicken Soup
Earthborn
Fromm
Go!
Halo
Holistque Selects
Innova
Instinct
Natural Balance
Nature’s Variety
Now!
Organix
Orijen
Merrick/Whole Earth Farms/ BG
Pinnacle
Solid Gold
Taste of the Wild
Timberwolf
Wellness
Ziwi Peak

Acceptable – These foods contain corn, by-products, or other lower quality ingredients in small to moderate amounts.

Authority
Eagle Pack
Bil Jac
Eukanuba
Iams
Nature’s Recipe
Nutro
Royal Canin
Science Diet – Nature’s Best
Purina Pro Plan – Pro Plan Selects
Wysong

Poor- These foods contain mostly corn, wheat, and by products. These brands also contain artificial colors and preservatives. These foods contain more bad stuff than good.

Alpo
Beneful
Beef N More
Ceasar
Chef Michaels
Evangers
Gravy Train
Kibbles and Bits
Nutrish
Mighty Dog
Pedigree
Purina Dog Chow
Purina ONE

CAT FOOD BASICS:
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they require nutrients that are found ONLY in animal tissue. Cats need tons of protein and have no need for carbohydrates in their diets. Carbs basically just make cats fat and cause diseases, but dry cat foods are loaded with carbs because they help the kibble stick together in the manufacturing process. Canned foods are all very low in carbohydrates. Canned foods also have the added benefit of forcing your cat to consume more water, which is great because many of the most common cat diseases are improved by increasing water intake (kidney disease, UTIs, blockages, crystals, etc.). [If people want more info on this stuff, I'll add something later.]

So here are the criteria for a good cat food:
• High Protein
• Low in Carbohydrates
• High in Moisture
• High-Quality Ingredients
If we’re looking at just carbohydrates and protein, canned food is better than dry food. Even the cheapest grocery store generic canned food is better than 99% of dry foods. Canned food is more expensive and less convenient, so to keep things simple, there are separate lists for canned foods and dry foods. The brands are primarily ranked on nutrient makeup (carbs & protein), and then bumped down a notch or two for containing low-quality ingredients.

For brands in this list, if one company makes grain-free and non-grain-free foods, you can usually assume that their grain-free food is at least marginally better (lower carbs, higher protein). You can also assume that any formula labeled “light, diet, weight control, or indoor” is at least marginally worse (higher carbs) than the regular stuff from the same brand.

Some flavors of food are significantly better than other flavors of the same brand. There is a huge amount of variation. If you want more detailed and accurate information, post in this thread and we’d be happy to help you choose.

CAT FOOD BRANDS

Premium Canned Foods — These foods are very low in carbohydrates and very high in protein. They also use excellent ingredients (no corn, soy, byproducts, or anything like that). Generally <15% of the calories in these foods come from carbohydrates, which is what your cat is designed to eat.

Blue Buffalo
By Nature (95% Meat formulas)
California Naturals
Chicken Soup
Innova
Innova EVO
Merrick
Nature's Variety Instinct
Solid Gold
Wellness

Good Canned Foods — These foods are mostly a little higher in carbs and a little lower in protein, or they use some lower-quality ingredients in relatively small amounts. But they’re still very good foods and better than most dry foods.

Authority
Avoderm
By Nature Organics
Fresh Pet
Natural Balance
Nature’s Variety Prairie
Nutro
Organix
Pinnacle
Purina Pro Plan (regular & Selects)
Royal Canin
Taste of the Wild

Acceptable Canned Foods – These foods are mostly still better than dry foods in terms of nutrients, but many of them use byproducts, corn, and soy as protein sources. They may also use artifical presevatives/colors, menadione, and other low-quality ingredients. How good these foods are varies A LOT from flavor to flavor. If you have to feed these foods, I recommend that you 1) look at these two charts (here and here) and choose flavors with the biggest numbers in the protein column and the smallest numbers in the carb column, and 2) read the ingredient labels and pick the flavors with the least awful ingredients. You should also know that most of these “cheaper” canned foods contain significantly more water than the premium foods, which means you may not be saving as much money as you think. For example, if you compare the cost based on calories (instead of ounces), many Fancy Feast flavors are more expensive than Wellness.

By Nature Goldleaf Selects
Fancy Feast
Friskies
9-Lives
Science Diet
Sophisticat
Special Kitty
Whiskas

Next, Dry Foods. In case you missed this before, CANNED FOOD IS BETTER THAN DRY FOOD FOR CATS.

Good Dry Foods — These are the few dry foods that are almost as good as canned food (in terms of being low in carbs and high in protein). If it weren’t for the fact that they lack moisture, these would be equivalent to Premium or Good canned foods. These foods are also extremely dense in terms of calories per cup of food, so many cats will eat 1/3-1/2 cups a day or less. In short, you’re getting more bang for your buck.
(For example, if you compare the costs based on calories (instead of lbs or kgs), Solid Gold Indigo Moon is cheaper than A LOT of dry foods, including Purina, lots of grocery store crap, and almost every food on the Acceptable list. These foods are expensive by the pound, but they really only cost $6-12 per month to feed an average sized cat.)

Innova EVO
Nature’s Variety Instinct
Orijen
Solid Gold Indigo Moon
Wellness Core

Acceptable Dry Foods– These foods use good ingredients, but they’re too high in carbohydrates and/or too low in protein. Nutritionally, they’re not as good as almost any canned food, but you could do a LOT worse. (These are mostly in the range of 25-30% carbohydrates; there are almost no canned foods this high in carbohydrates.)

Acana
Before Grain (Merrick)
Blue Buffalo
California Naturals
Chicken Soup
Halo/Spot’s Stew
Felidae
Healthwise
Innova
Nature’s Variety Prarie
Pinnacle
Solid Gold Katz-N-Flocken
Taste of the Wild (Rocky Mountain Formula)
Wellness (formulas other than “Core”)

Poor Dry Foods — These aren’t quite as bad as the Awful Dry Foods, but they’re close. These foods either have decent ingredients but huge amounts of carbohydrates, OR they have awful ingredients and moderate amounts of carbohydrates . Most of these are also pretty overpriced for what you’re getting.

Authority
By Nature
Drs Foster & Smith
Eagle Pack
Eukanuba
Flint River Ranch
Natural Balance
Natural Ultramix
Nutro
Organix
Purina Pro Plan (regular & Selects)
Royal Canin
Taste of the Wild (Canyon River Formula)
Wysong

Awful Dry Foods — These foods are the worst – awful ingredients and tons of carbs. They’re loaded with corn, soy, and byproducts. Many of these contain the minimum amount of protein required to be legally labeled “cat food”. Many contain more carbohydrates than protein, which is a recipe for greasy, obese, diabetic cats.

Fancy Feast
Friskies
Iams
Meow Mix
9-Lives
Purina Cat Chow
Purina ONE
Science Diet
Sophisticat
Special Kitty
Tender Vittles
Whiskas

FAQ
(We’d be happy to give you more specific advice if you post your question in the thread. This is just meant to cut down on posting the same generic information over and over.)

Is there a better alternative to the prescription diet my vet recommended? The ingredients are bad.

No. Prescription diets are formulated and tested to have very specific effects on your pet to manage a disease. If you want what’s best for your pet, you should feed the prescription diet. The ingredients suck, but the diets work. There are no companies that use great ingredients and make prescription diets that work. The poor-quality ingredients will not kill your pet, but the disease you’re trying to manage probably will.

If your pet refuses to eat the prescription diet your vet recommends, or you genuinely can’t afford it, feel free to post in this thread. We may have some ideas for you.

The only exception to this rule is food allergy diets (Hill’s Z/D, D/D, Royal Canin Limited Ingredient Diets, etc.). Sometimes non-prescription Limited Ingredient Diets can work, too, and they tend to be much cheaper. You should still consult your vet first. See the next section on food allergies for details.

We see a lot of questions about cat diets for crystals/stones/urethral blockages (Hill’s C/D, Purina UR, Royal Canin SO). Yes, these diets are expensive. They also work REALLY well. If you’re wondering if you can switch back to your cat’s old food to see if the crystals/blockage were just a one-time thing, you should search through the old nutrition thread. You will find a lot of posts by people who decided to ignore their vet’s (and PI’s) advice and do just that. In every case, the condition came back, and they ended up having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to unblock their cat again so it didn’t DIE PAINFULLY. These urinary problems are rarely a one-time thing. If your vet says your cat needs to eat a prescription urinary diet for the rest of its life, you are foolish if you do anything different. In case you were wondering about any non-prescription “urinary health” diets or powder/pill additives that are supposed to help cats with these problems – they don’t work.

What is “ash” and why is it in my pet’s food?

Ash is the technical name for the minerals. It’s called ash because it’s literally what’s left over after they burn everything else off. It includes important stuff like calcium and doesn’t really indicate the quality of the food one way or the other.

How do I calculate the percentage of carbohydrates in a food?

Look at the guaranteed analysis.

100 – (protein + fat + fiber + ash + moisture) = carbohydrates

[If other things are listed on the GA (omega-3s, calcium, etc), ignore them. If ash isn't listed, you're going to have to estimate (or contact the company). For most dry foods, ash will usually be 5-8%. I usually use 7 or 7.5%. For canned food, ash will usually be 1-3%.]

The number you get is telling you the carbohydrate percentage by weight in the food. You cannot compare carbohydrates from food to food if the percentage of moisture is different, even by 1%. You need to convert everything to a dry matter basis.

How do I calculate “dry matter basis” (DMB) values?

DMB values take water out of the equation, which allows you to compare foods with different amounts of moisture.

100% – moisture% = total “dry matter” in the food
Protein% / total dry matter = %protein on a dry matter basis

In that second step, you can use carbs, protein, or whatever. If you’re doing it right, all your dry matter values will be bigger than the guaranteed analysis values, and they’ll add up to 100. Sometimes it helps people to think of all the percentages in terms of grams, i.e. if a food is 78% moisture and 10% protein, think of it as 100 grams of food, where 10 grams are protein and 78 grams are just water. If you’re terrible at math, you should probably just post in this thread so you don’t screw up.

What premium foods are available in the UK/Europe?

You will find some of the brands on the main food list in the UK. Here are some other good ones that aren’t on the list -

Dog foods: Read notsoape’s writeup on dog food options in the UK! (Thanks, notsoape! )

Cat foods: Applaws and Nature’s Menu make very good wet foods. (Please note that Applaws wet cat foods are NOT nutritionally complete — they are intended to be fed alongside a complete dry food.) For dry foods, Applaws is really excellent and would be “Good” on the US list. Arden Grange and James Wellbeloved use good ingredients but are rather high in carbohydrates, so they would fit in at the bottom end of “Acceptable” dry foods. You should check out notsoape’s UK dog food guide linked above because a lot of it applies to cat foods, too.

Am I feeding too much? Too little?

The feeding instructions on your food bag/cans will tell you to overfeed 9 times out of 10. These guidelines are for intact (not spayed/neutered), active animals. Intact animals have higher energy requirements than spayed/neutered animals. The food companies would also much rather tell you to overfeed than to underfeed because 1) they don’t want to accidentally tell someone to starve their pet, and 2) they sell more food if you overfeed. If your dog is a couch potato or your cat is indoors-only, you will almost certainly need to feed less than the bag recommends.

If you’re not sure if your pet is at its ideal weight, try comparing to these charts: Dog / Cat
If you’re still not sure, talk to your vet. They should also be able to give you an estimate of what your pet’s ideal body weight is. We can also help if you post pictures, but not as much as your vet can help by actually feeling your pet.

If you’re switching from a low-quality food to a high-quality food, you will almost certainly need to feed a smaller amount. High quality foods may contain over twice as many calories per cup of food as low-quality foods.

If your pet is overweight, your pet needs more exercise, less food, or both. If you need help with a safe weightloss plan, we can help! Be sure to post how much you’re currently feeding and what food. You should also know that cats (especially obese cats) can become seriously ill or die by losing weight too rapidly or having their food reduced too drastically, so please post for guidance or talk to your vet before you cut calories.

User posted:

“It doesn’t seem like a good idea to just take away the dry food and offer wet.”

You might be surprised how effective this can be. I thought one of my cats would never touch canned food (he hated it so much that he wouldn’t eat his dry food if there was canned in a bowl nearby), and all it took was 24 hours with no food to change his mind.

Hunger is a really strong motivator. Hepatic lipidosis is a good thing to be scared of, but a healthy (not obese) cat is not going to get sick from going 24 hours without food. This page is sort of rambling, but she has a lot of really good tricks:http://catinfo.org/docs/Tips%20for%…F%201-14-11.pdf (The author is slightly nuts and advocates some pretty extreme tactics like syringe feeding. She also says that cats won’t develop hepatic lipidosis if they’re getting 50% of their normal calories, which I’m not sure is true. Personally, I wouldn’t go that far.)

Are you free-feeding dry food? You need to set mealtimes. They need to eat their portion in 20-30 minutes twice a day, 12 hours apart. Free-fed cats have no motivation to try something new. If they’re used to being free-fed, you can try offering a little canned food between meals when they’re throwing temper tantrums about their empty foodbowl.

After they’re used to being meal-fed, offer a meal of canned food only. If they don’t touch it, relax. Your cat ate 12 hours ago and is not even close to starving to death. Leave it a few hours, then try some tricks — a different flavor, a different texture/brand, warm it up, sprinkle a little crumbled dry food on top, add tuna, etc. — anything that might get them to try it. The website above has a bunch of good tricks to try if those aren’t working.

If they’re still on hunger strike after 18-24 hours, give them some dry food and try again later. Whenever you have to give in and offer dry food, keep track of the calories you’re giving them. It can take weeks for really stubborn cats to transition, but a (not obese) cat is not going to develop fatty liver from occasionally going 18 hours without food as long as it’s getting plenty of calories the rest of the time.

I think I’m not designed for capitalism. What led me to think of this was a slightly interesting experience that just happened at work. I have a little catch phrase I like to use every now and again, “the three most beautiful words in the English Language are “not my problem” (it came about when a minor issue at work was found, but it wasn’t anything my department could deal with so we had to introduce the reporter with the people that could fix it).

Anyway, I said my glib little phrase when a colleague turned around and mentioned “that’s not how you get ahead in this world”, and that made me think. I mean, of course, he’s right. Shrugging off unnecessary responsibility for problems isn’t how you get ahead, but more relevant to me – why do I want to “get ahead”, and who, or what, am I “getting ahead” of? Am I trying to push myself forward in the eyes of my colleagues? Am I trying to push myself OVER my colleagues? I’m not letting them down in my performance, I’m quite happily pulling my own weight and innovating within the scope of my job. The big issue here is the expectation that everyone wants to “get ahead”. That we want more responsibility, more money, bigger car, bigger house. I just don’t seem to have that underlying drive to push me towards that increased consumption that is the holy grail of capitalism and the infinite growth dream. I guess that makes me Unamerican.

Just read the new Avengers 1 – supposed to be a jumping on point for new readers? I’m pretty au fait with my comic characters, but I had no idea who the villains were or half the people on display at the end of the book. Who was the robot? The guy with the wing head and the giant Omega on his chest? Is it a skrull? Does Thanos have a new fashion designer?

It’s that weight of continuity and backstory that is the biggest barrier to getting new people into comics. Also an issue 1 shouldn’t have a “PREVIOUSLY” at the front of the book. That’s the point of an issue 1. A new start, a fresh read. A jump on point.

So in brief, 2/5 from me. Too much baggage without exposition, too many cliches.

We’ve all heard that expression. Anyone over the age of 25 has probably uttered it more than once. But have we really stopped to understand what it really means? Oh sure, we’d LIKE to think it means people being more neighbourly. More trust. Keeping our front door unlocked at night.

But what we all forget is the dark side of the Good Old Days. Women forced to leave the workplace when they got married. At-Fault divorces that left people in loveless abusive relationships with no escape. Segregation and endemic racism that makes the stuff Scott Morrisson says seem mild.

The Good Old Days weren’t really all that good

Every now and then I have what I’ve heard described as lightbulb moments. Moments when you’ll be watching something, talking to someone, reading something, or just musing, and suddenly it’s as if a lightbulb gets switched on, lighting up an idea or concept that you previously didn’t grasp. You may not have even been aware that the idea was in there or that you didn’t understand it. I actually had one of those moments today.

While reading an article on outrage over an over-sexualised comic cover today (yes, I know how to party, obviously), I came across the following amazing paragraph. I’ll give you a few minutes to have a read of it:

I know you like to pretend that people only ever say that a thing is sexist because they want to be cool or popular or attractive to girls, but I think you know that’s not true. People talk about this stuff because it matters. It may stir up attention and it may increase circulation, but you have to understand that throwing bread to hungry people tends to cause a fuss.

You’ve never had to worry about getting scraps from someone else’s table. The culture serves you, sir. You are, and always have been, and always will be, the primary audience. Yet there are little corners of the world that serve other people – sometimes with you in the room, and sometimes when you’re out of it. And every time you notice it happening, you complain.

Every time.

Every.

Time.

Every time the culture serves someone who isn’t you, and every time someone who isn’t you comments on culture, you moan, you jostle, you threaten, you splutter with indignation. “What is this? People are mocking the ample bosoms that I so enjoy? Fetch my blunderbuss.” And because the culture is almost always about you – so much so that you’ve never even consciously acknowledged it – you see anything that isn’t about you as a threat. But it’s not a threat. It’s not a mob, or a gang, or even a bandwagon. It’s just the rest of the world. And you’re not excluded from it; you’re just choosing not to participate because you know you’ll have to share the spotlight.

You are never going to stop being the primary audience. So put down the blunderbuss and throw the rest of the world some scraps from your table.

(Taken from here Dear Sir, Regarding Your Affection for A Compacted Catwoman )

If that passage didn’t sink in, go back and read it again. While in this context it’s used to describe outrage by fanboys over people daring to complain about anatomically impossible cheesecake art, the idea contained in it is so much more than that, and applicable to so many areas of life. The point of this post is to take that idea – that a lot of outrage is based on a misunderstanding of the experiences of others and try to apply it to solely how it impacts on themselves.

My immediate thought is the current state of affairs with immigration “debate” in this country. Cries from the populist opposition that Australia is being “drowned” in an “epidemic” of boat people is actually ringing a chord with the voting public. While it’s easy to sneer with derision from the moral high ground at anyone who opposes Australia’s refugee programmes, we’re missing the underlying reason why it’s there.

These aren’t necessarily bad people, they’re just facing something they don’t understand. Something their friend’s don’t understand. Something their parents and kids don’t understand. I mean, they’re not racist… they get Chinese from the local every week, they love different cultures!

Was that paragraph condescending? Yes, yes it was. It’s also pretty accurate. You’d be VERY hard pressed to find anyone who considers themselves racist. Even the alternate term, xenophobe, has such negative connotations to it it’s automatically rejected, but there is a more innocent explanation to what is going on implicit in the word itself.

Xeno; from the Greek meaning foreigner
Phobia; extreme or irrational fear or dislike of a specified thing or group

It’s an underlying fear of the unknown that drives the reactions of these people, and it’s something that is very hard to combat. It’s even harder to combat when half the “authority figures” in politics are demonising people, reinforcing people’s fear. Scaring people to try and convince them that only one side can protect them from this menace. It’s a classic tactic. It works. It’s working now.

And it has to stop. But how? Media shows no momentum to change its behaviour of unquestioningly repeating opposition press releases. The Government couldn’t give away free ice cream on a beach (GOVERNMENT WASTE! WHAT ABOUT THE LACTOSE INTOLERANT?!). So people for whom news is dictated by ACA and Today Tonight, or what’s glanced at as they flick to the footy pages in the Herald Sun, where are they supposed to get insight into the reality of the immigration situation? The real plight of asylum seekers? The cessation of this dogwhistle politics?

That’s the big question I have no answer to. But if we can understand WHY something is happening, maybe we can start to take steps to changing it.

One of the most annoying phrases that I have ever heard seems to have been popping up in all sorts of places lately. On Q&A, Lateline, in Parliament, on Q&A again…

“I am not a climate scientist, but…”

I’m not a brain surgeon. If I was chatting to someone who had a sub-arachnoid haematoma I wouldn’t dare offer a suggestion on how I should get in there and have a fiddle to fix it.

I’m not a structural engineer. Outside my office window I can see Melbourne’s “Southern Star” Wheel being reassembled. I wouldn’t go over there and tell the people rebuilding it where I think some of those big white metal bits should be stuck.

I’m not a lot of things. And I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m pretty sure most of us could sit down and think of a heck of a lot of things we’re not, and for most of us, that would include being a climate scientist.

So why the hell do people feel as though that phrase entitles them to follow on with a raft of suggestions issued with such urgency they’e bordering on demands?

“I’m not a climate scientist, but how the hell can less than 1% change in emissions change the climate?” “I’m not a climate scientist, but we’re talking a few parts per million right? What effect would THAT have?”

You know what? If you WERE a climate scientist you’d be able to answer those questions. The simple fact that you outlined the fact that you’re NOT a climate scientist thereby invalidates anything else you have to say about what might or might not happen to the climate.

So shut the hell up about it and stop playing cheap politics with a potentially catastrophic global issue.

Today Joe Hockey released details of the Coalition’s “Direct Action Plan” for combating climate change. The entire policy can be found right HERE and is actually not a bad read.

I applaud the coalition for some sensible action plans to assist in reducing future emissions growth and graduated energy generation and augmentation schemes, especially the focus on solar – something that should be a real “no brainer” in a country with as much low density usage arid land as we have.

Unfortunately, and I am more than willing to stand corrected on this matter, there is a dire lack of information on how this plan will work towards reducing existing emissions. The only real section addressing that issue is this:

The Emissions Reduction Fund will use the existing National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme (NGERS) to determine proposed emissions reductions beyond overall base levels already determined for individual firms. Businesses that reduce their emissions below their individual baseline (‘historic average’) will be able to offer this CO2 abatement for sale to the government. This will provide businesses with a direct financial incentive to take direct action to reduce their CO2 emissions below their baseline levels. Small businesses and other entities not covered by NGERS will be able to participate on an ‘opt-in’ basis.

Ignoring the potential misuse of the acronym NGERS, there’s no real drive to get polluters to reduce carbon emissions. Sure there’s a payment offset for businesses to reduce emissions, but there’s no real driving force to do it. Add this to the speech going around the fringes of the Coalition lately, namely that anthropogenic climate change is a myth and nothing humans do matters, would lead one to wonder what corporate supporter of the coalition would actually voluntarily chose to disadvantage his or her business to get an as yet undefined amount of compensation for that action?

All carrot, no stick, and ultimately without a little bit of stick very few businesses will do anything to change their existing business methods.

Nice try Coalition, but it needs more.

I’m just putting this information forward without comment. I received an email from an aid to Scott Morrison, Shadow Minister for Immigration. What I present here is the policies that the Coalition want to use to “stop the boats”

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There is no doubt that the Gillard Labor Government has comprehensively failed to manage our borders and has lost control of asylum seeker policy. Since August 2008 when Labor wound back and abolished the Coalition’s successful policies, more than 200 boats have arrived unlawfully carrying more than 10,000 asylum seekers. These include the ill-fated SIEV 36 that was set alight killing four people, and the tragic SIEV 221 that crashed against the rocks of Christmas Island in December 2010, killing 50 people.

As a consequence of Labor’s failure, our detention network is stretched beyond its capacity. When the Coalition left government, only 4 people who had arrived illegally by boat were in detention. Today that figure is more than 6,300 including more than 1,000 children.

The annual budget has increased seven-fold since Labor came to power, with a total blowout of over $1 billion in running costs alone – and the boats continue to come. Of the more than 10,000 people who have turned up by boat, only about 160 people have been returned to their countries of origin.

A further impact has been the reduction in humanitarian visa grants to offshore applicants who are being crowded out of our refugee and humanitarian programme. In 2009-10 there were just 3233 offshore humanitarian visa grants, compared to a peak of 6736 in 2005-06 under the Coalition. Public support for our immigration and refugee program has also plummeted as Australians lose confidence in the capacity of this Labor Government to contain a problem of their own making.

Despite leading Australians to believe there would be no expansion of our onshore detention centres prior to the last election, the Gillard Labor government has added another 4,900 beds to the detention network – costing more than $400 million – since the election.

The Coalition supports an immigration and humanitarian program that is non-discriminatory and believes that our process for selecting those who come to Australia should be open and transparent. The Coalition will continue to honour our international obligations in relation to asylum seekers but will not support any process that creates a bias in favour of illegal arrivals; or that provides people smugglers with a product and encourages more people to get on boats.

The Coalition has urged the Government to adopt the Coalition’s plan to restore control over our borders and integrity to our immigration and humanitarian programmes.

At a domestic level the Coalition will:

· Reintroduce temporary protection visas for all illegal entrants and apply mutual obligation to payment of benefits;

· Reintroduce third country processing of all illegal boat arrivals on Nauru;

· Turn boats back where the circumstances permit;

· Presume against refugee status for those who are believed to have deliberately discarded their identity documentation;

· Return failed asylum seekers to their country of origin;

· Restore the single case officer appeal process for asylum;

· Provide priority processing for offshore asylum applicants over illegal arrivals;

· Restore the requirement for on shore asylum applications to be made within 45 days of arrival (the 45 day rule);

· Introduce mandatory minimum sentences for people smuggling crimes, and longer sentences for aggravated offences;

· Introduce a full private sponsorship programme for offshore asylum applicants; and

· Oppose the introduction of “complementary protection” which widens the grounds for asylum seekers to make successful onshore claims.

At a regional level the Coalition will:

· Continue cooperation with regional partners to combat people smuggling through joint enforcement, intelligence gathering and surveillance operations;

· Encourage the establishment of tougher laws to combat people smuggling within the region;

· Encourage the development of tougher border controls within the region to discourage secondary movement of refugees and other displaced persons into the region;

· Work with and assist countries of first asylum within the region, to address the humanitarian and resettlement needs of asylum seekers generated from within our region;

· Identify new areas for regional cooperation through the Bali Process, initiated by the Howard Government in 2002.

At an international level the Coalition will support reforms that:

· Seek to curtail secondary movement of refugees and other displaced persons beyond the country of first asylum;

· Foster the development of international agreements to address issues in source regions for asylum seekers, in particular Central Asia, that discourage secondary movement.

· Seek to improve conditions for refugees and displaced people in countries off first asylum, including access to case assessment;

· Prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable refugee populations, in particular women and children at risk;

· Ensure that re-admission agreements are in place so that failed asylum seekers can be returned to their countries of origin; and

· Support the safe repatriation of refugees and other displaced persons to their country of origin, including the placement of UNHCR observers to monitor their safety and treatment.

Regards,

Troy Loveday

Office of Scott Morrison MP

Shadow Minister for Productivity and Population

Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

Federal Member for Cook

My original political leaning, like most people I guess, came from my parents.

My mother was never (and still isn’t, truth be told) very interested in politics. She’s a classic swing voter. She’ll vote based on whatever issue is brought up each election that moves her enough to vote a particular way. In some ways, she is what all political parties dream of – someone available to be “won over” to their way of thinking.

I took after my father politically, however. Growing up, he was a firm supporter of the Liberal party. Australia’s “conservative” party. As a child growing up during the Menzies years of the 1950s, Dad came into his own political awakening during the Holt/Gorton/McMahon/Whitlam years and all its associated strife and turmoil (compared to the stoic, static years of the 50s.) (I’m not adding McEwen in there, he was only PM for 23 days.)

Working for the Public Service, I assume Dad was confronted fairly constantly with the CPSU and regular strike actions, which gave him a fairly determined anti-unionist stance. (In fact, I know that he wasn’t a member of the CPSU for his entire time at Social Security, which annoyed his Union Representative work friend to no end.) We lived in regional NSW, in what used to be a safe Labor seat. Unlike rural areas of NSW, the regional areas had a lower socio-economic grouping that lead itself to Labor leanings without the conservative rural/farming stance that gives the Country/National party it’s base.

As a teen myself, I saw the outcomes of Hawke/Keating era policies – 18% interest rates, a collapsing AUD and what to me looked like penalisation of any attempts at earning additional income (in the form of the introduction of the CGT, etc.) Along with that, the cultural cringe factor of the LARRAKIN AUSSIE Bob Hawke and the general smarminess of Paul Keating, I firmly entrenched myself into a Liberal party way of thinking as well.

I have voted Liberal at every state and federal election since I turned 18. I’ve supported what I thought were free market enabling policies. Border security. Encouragement for people to return to work (“them dole bludgers” etc.) and paralleling that, my own work career has gone ahead in leaps and bounds. From technical support over the phone, right through to travelling internationally selling computer software, designing multinational rollouts and talking to high level executives and politicians around the asia-pacific region – I’ve done a lot with my various jobs.

But the older I’ve gotten, the more disenchanted I have become with where the Liberal party has headed. I no longer see policies to enable free market interactions – I just see more deregulation to enable already rich executives and investors become richer off the work of others. I’ve watched a property market swell beyond the reach of average people due to the greedy acquisition of “investors” who see their want to make money as more important than the need for housing for the public. I’ve seen the disadvantaged masses from around the globe be marginalised further and demonised for political gain (i.e. “STOP THE BOATS!!!”) I’ve seen state sanctioned wealth concentrations and fearmongering.

I can’t put up with any of that any more.

I can no longer conscionably consider myself to be a Liberal any more. I am no longer a conservative political thinker. I have grown up from my childish view.

As a species, as rational, sentient, emotional beings, we have a duty to look after other people in the form of economic, medical and social support mechanisms. (Welfare. Health care. Social inclusions.) We have a duty to look after the environment, if only for the selfish reason that if the environment is destroyed, we are all destroyed. We have a duty to encourage people to become the best that they can be in whatever field they feel passionately about. If someone wants to cure diseases, they should be supported, nurtured and encouraged. If someone wants to entertain others either in the visual arts, theatre, or even sports, they should be given every opportunity. If someone wants to accumulate personal wealth, then that too should be enabled. Maybe not encouraged or nurtured though. :)

What we need is a baseline lifestyle provided and supported by the state, with mechanisms in place to enable those who want to strive for more to do so and to be able to do so successfully.

I think I have finally, after 36 years of thought, become a free market socialist. I don’t even know what that is.

There are so many important news issues out there at the moment I’m having trouble keeping it all straight.

Australia still has no clear government. It looks like power in the House of Representatives will be decided by 4 Independents (with Andrew Wikie set to win the seat of Denison) along with the Greens. The Greens member, Andrew Bandt, has already declared his support for Labor so you can just about pencil in a +1 of Labor’s total.

There are still 4 seats undecided, but if they follow current counting trends, it will still leave neither of the major parties with a majority and needing to negotiate to form a minority government. Fun for all.

One thing that is confusing me, however, is repeated assertions that “the Australian people have spoken and have said that neither party deserves to lead” (for example by ABC’s Barrie Cassidy). While this makes for a great tag line for an article, it really does nothing to add to the current debate. If someone DID write “neither party deserves to win!” on their ballot, the ballot would be declared invalid and thrown away. What the result does show is that the Liberals won most of the seats they were aiming to win, but Labor managed to hold off from losing all the seats they COULD HAVE lost. In that respect, the targeted nature of the campaign seems to have worked.

What do I mean by that? Well both party leaders spent an inordinate amount of time during the campaign visiting marginal seats in Western Sydney and Queensland (mainly SE Queensland). This isn’t a bad thing, and really is a bit of common sense. Polls had shown that a lot of existing seats were looking like staying with the sitting member, but there were a raft of seats that could change hands in the previously mentioned areas. So the election campaign appears to have been engineered around winning/retaining the people in those electorates. Well, that’s nice, but the latte set in Melbourne aren’t as scared of boat people as people in Western Sydney. Folks in Perth aren’t as concerned by “bringing the budget into surplus” as they are by stopping a mining tax they’ve been told will cost jobs in WA.

So what have we seen in the results? Well, a lot of people were pissed off with both parties, so the Greens vote in the house and senate went up. Independents have retained their seats with increased margin. A new independent is likely to be elected (my Mum has said she would have voted for Andrew Wilkie if she could, as he is a ‘Very Nice Man’. Her electorate is over the river from Denison, though).

The electorates so ruthlessly targeted by both parties have seen a fairly heavy swing away from the Government. A few Labor expected to retain have fallen. A few the Libs expected to win haven’t. Fairly mixed.

As for the rest of country? Minimised swings in Vic and SA. Swing towards the ALP in Tasmania. The rest of Queensland and NSW voted in protest of Labor for federal AND state issues. WA was busy crying and rending it’s clothing about it’s poor miners forced to possibly give up some of their $14bn profits in taxes. NT and ACT did… well… who cares honestly.

People voted for issues that affected themselves. They always do. Where millions have been spent in trying to sway electorates, it’s sort of worked. But both parties have ignored local issues at their own cost.

This seems to be something that the Independents understand and are pushing for in negotiations with both parties. A local vote is for a local REPRESENTATIVE – not for a contribution to a party. Both voters and parties appear to have forgotten this, and I hope it’s a concept that can come back to Australian politics.