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Cheers - AE

Friday, 30 April 2010

Party games.

Cameramong says...


... stand on one leg.

Oh, and Gordon? The Australian media reckon you've had it too.

Rudd on taxes - a lesson too late for Gordon?

From The Age:
The federal government aims to cut the amount of tax faced by the vast majority of Australians, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.

In a key speech delivered three days before release of the long-awaited Henry tax review, Mr Rudd hinted he was also aiming to help small businesses and working families.

The review, by Treasury Secretary Ken Henry, is due to be published on Sunday when financial markets will be closed.

OECD table: How Australia ranks in tax take

The government is due to deliver its response on the same day.

Speaking to the NSW Business Chamber today, Mr Rudd said the review and the 2010/2011 budget, due to be delivered on May 11, presented an opportunity to usher in a new "generation of prosperity".

"In our response to the Henry review, the government will make the tax system stronger and fairer," he told a breakfast meeting of the chamber.

"Improving the structure of the tax system by replacing inefficient taxes with more efficient ones and streamlining governments and administrations reduces complexity and makes the Australian economy more productive.

"Australia needs to respond, to remain an attractive place to invest and to do business."
Perhaps this makes him a bigot in Gordon Brown's book?

Smokescream.

The federal government's campaign against smokers just stepped up a couple of gears with the recent announcements that cigarettes were going up more than $2 per pack of thirty (as of last night) - brought forward out of spite to fuck up people who were buying extra smokes now to stockpile - and that plans are being made to completely debrand all cigarette and tobacco products. Yes, you thought it was bad enough that the British nannies are getting worked up about a fucking barcode, the knobbers here are getting their cocks in a knot about the colours and designs on the packets.*
Needless to say this isn't going down too well with the tobacco companies, who have raised the interesting argument that being prevented from using their logos amounts to property confiscation. They've got a point there, but newsflash for both sides: I smoked for years and never once gave a shit about what the packets looked like, and I'm not the only one. This was partly because I often handrolled and kept my baccy in a pouch but mostly because when I changed brands it was invariably from having scrounged a ciggie off someone else and found that I preferred it to what I'd been buying up till then. For the same reason advertising and sports sponsorship, when they still could, was equally irrelevant. It's kind of like being offered a beer or a glass of wine at someone else's house and mentioning that it was a nice drop and what's it called and where can you buy it - in the sense that it's advertising at all it's word of mouth advertising and simultaneously out of the control of the manufacturer while costing them absolutely nothing. Forcing them to stop wasting money on advertising to smokers like me (and most others I've known) who learned the brands by smoking each others' fags will have done the eeeeeevil tobacco companies a favour. I suspect forcing them to stop wasting money on periodic redesigns of logos and packets will have a similar effect.

I also suspect the prediction of cutting the numbers of smokers to 10% of adults or 87,000 will quit this year are optimistic. For one thing tobacco grows quite well here in Australia, and if Kevin Rudd and the bansturbators believe the black market in chop-chop - illegal tobacco - isn't tumescent with delight at its legal competition being forced to massively increase prices they're fucking dreaming. The point that when the legal product is ridiculously overpriced many people simply switch to the far cheaper illegal alternative is made repeatedly in this article:
"My corner store sells me half a kilo of chop chop under the counter for $70," says a hard-core smoker in Geelong, who does not want to be named. "That makes me 400 cigarettes and costs me less than half it would to buy them legitimately."

Sydney University professor Renee Bittoun runs Australia's only dedicated smoking cessation clinics in two of Sydney's hospitals. She believes illegal tobacco, both locally grown and imported, is widespread and could account for a quarter of all tobacco being smoked in Australia.

Bittoun fears that the government's increase in excise will further increase illegal tobacco's market share, doing even more damage to the lungs of those who inhale its smoke.

"It is not hard to grow and, given it looks like big spinach, might not normally attract much attention. I have been told the Tax Office loses $400 million a year in excise due to illegal crops. Given the size of government excise, chop chop is very cheap and it is often sold under the counter by weight by unscrupulous tobacconists, grocers and even service stations."

She says that although the regulated industry is gone, farmers can easily plant tobacco in an an isolated back paddock.
Wow. $400 million? Oh, wait, it might actualy be a lot more than that.
According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report that was commissioned by the tobacco industry, illegal tobacco now accounts for a staggering 12.8 per cent of total tobacco consumption in Australia, resulting in a $624 million revenue loss for the federal government.
And why?
Former Australian Customs investigator Richard Janeczko says tobacco smuggling has become as big a problem as the smuggling of drugs, weapons and wildlife ... [and that] when governments raise the value of goods, such as cigarettes, law enforcement agencies worldwide have found they have had to step up their efforts to stop criminals flooding the market with illegal products.
See, Kev? This guy understands. Why is it so difficult for you and the bansturbators? And it gets worse, because having put legal tobacco out of the acceptable price range and driven some of those who want to carry on smoking into buying chop-chop instead you lose them forever. Chop-chop will almost certainly always be cheaper as long as governments remain paternalist and authoritarian, and once people start buying at half the price how many will go back if you ease off on them later? Some, yes, but many will continue buying chop-chop instead. On the face of it Rudd's claims of an extra $5 billion revenue over four years seem fairly reasonable based on the average smoker going through about four packs a week (bigger packs here than the UK remember) but it does seem to assume that the problem of illegal tobacco will not simply increase, and that flies in the face of all experience. But I imagine chop-chop makes a pretty shitty tasting smoke and that many users will continue to buy legal tobacco, albeit in smaller quantities than at present. And of course this suits the government just fine. Not only would they still be getting some income but they can point to the decreased consumption of regulated tobacco as if it's the only kind there is and claim a great victory for their policies.

Do you know, I think I hate them.



* Actually I have a vague memory that debranding has already been suggested in the UK. I think Australia is likely to be first to actually do it though.

Charity Appeal.

As a change to the usual style of blog I'd like to make an appeal for a worthy cause. Here in Australia, at the end of the 21st century's first decade, there are still people stuck in the desperate and pitiable plight of not having a dictionary in which to look up the word 'liberal'. The result of this is that the Australian Liberals still include some of the most deeply illiberal people you can imagine. People who feel that a woman's ownership of her body does not extend to her uterus, for example.
CONTROVERSIAL Liberal MP Bernie Finn has sparked outrage by suggesting pro-choice cabinet minister Maxine Morand should not be ''let loose'' on kindergarten children.

After seeing Ms Morand on TV news on Tuesday night campaigning at a kindergarten in her marginal seat, Mr Finn wrote on the social networking site Facebook: "Bernie Finn doubts it was such a good idea to allow Early Childhood Destruction Minister Maxine Morand loose in a kindergarten. A few years younger and those kids would be right within her target range!"

...Mr Finn stood by his comments, saying it was "sickening" that Ms Morand would use children for electioneering after sponsoring legislation to decriminalise abortion.

"I find it appalling that here is an individual who is responsible for a piece of legislation which legalises the killing of children up until the moment of birth, and there she is parading around with young children in order to win votes," he said.

"Some people know no shame."
Ironic coming from a someone who wants women's reproductive systems to belong to the government yet joins a party called the Liberals. Eff Why Eye, Bernie:
Liberal

Adjective
1. Showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions".
2. Having political or social views favoring reform and progress.
3. Tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition.
4. Given or giving freely; "was a big tipper"; "the bounteous goodness of God"; "bountiful compliments"; "a freehanded host"; "a handsome allowance"; "Saturday's child is loving and giving"; "a liberal backer of the arts"; "a munificent gift"; "her fond and openhanded grandfather".
5. Not literal; "a loose interpretation of what she had been told"; "a free translation of the poem".

Noun
1. A person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties.
2. A person who favors an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets.
Now as I said in this blog's second ever post, I personally find abortion rather distasteful and feel that there are far better methods of birth control, but since I don't have a uterus I really don't feel that I have any right to lecture those who do on what they can and can't do with it. In response my saying this either here or in the comments at hers JuliaM once came out with some Clinton quote (Bill or Hill, I forget) along the lines that abortion should ideally be legal, safe and rare, which more or less sums up where I'm coming from. Where I think I'll differ from the Bernie Finns of the world is that while I dislike abortion I'm not prepared to use violence* to stop it. He's perfectly entitled to say what he likes, of course. He can hold whatever personal beliefs that make a mockery of the dictionary definition of 'liberal' that he likes, and he can call himself liberal or anything else that he likes (and Christ knows he's not going to be alone in the Liberal party in that respect).

In turn I can call him an authoritarian twat who needs a dictionary.

* By which I mean state violence rather than the physical violence sometimes directed at abortion services and their staff. However, there's really not much difference if it's illegal - break abortion law and you'll be arrested, resist arrest and you'll be physically restrained, resist strongly enough and eventually someone will point a weapon at you.

And that's why I hate them.

The Tories would not change the size of the State dramatically from its pre-crisis levels.
Similar warnings there about the LibDems. If only they could all lose... and no, a hung parliament wouldn't count.

Banana republic Britain - UPDATED

Via Grumpy Old Twat I see that the government's twatter scar Tsar(ina) has done whatever the female version of shutting your balls in the drawer.*
Looks like Kerry McCarthy the twitter twat tsar has already, and apparently illegally, published some postal vote results online via her twatter account.

Kerry's tweet has now disappeared. No change there then.

However, the results were also tweeted on the official Labour Party twitter feed too...
And GOT has a nice screencap of it too, which is just as well because it has now disappeared. Horses and barn doors, much like Colostomy Brown's slagging off Labour voters. Plus Guido's got Kerry McArsehole's tweet anyway.

Labour: A Future Fair Fixed For All Us.

UPDATED: Also here and here and here. From the first one of those:
For reference, Ms McCarthy was a lawyer and then a Government whip. In both capacities, she might reasonably be expected to have a decent grasp of electoral law.
For reference, Ms McCarthy is a politician and a member of the parliamentary Labour party. In both capacities she might reasonably be expected not to give a flying fuck.

* UPDATE 2 - thanks to commenter delcatto, who tells me that the female equivalent is catching your tits in a mangle.

All your house are belong to us... sort of.

Let me take you back to mid-February when I blogged on Pauline Hanson.
Pauline Hanson, one time federal MP for the Queensland seat of Oxley ... is apparently going to migrate to Britain. She's apparently fed up with the nanny state here and says that this is no longer the land of opportunity...

Ahahahahahahahaha. Ha hah hahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahahaahhahaahahahahaahaahaaaaahaa.

Pauline, love, if you think Australia is over taxed and over regulated just wait till you get off the plane at Heathrow.
Oddly enough it was just the other day when I found myself wondering if she'd gone yet, and then the very next day it turned out that she was in fact still here. Can't sell her house apparently. Actually it's more like not allowed to sell her house, at least not on her terms. Being who she is it's not a great surprise to learn that she doesn't want to sell to certain people, namely Muslims or non-resident asians. You can call it stupid, unreasonable and xenophobic if you want but it's her house to sell to whom she wants, right?

Wrong. There's actually a law against it.
Ms Hanson this afternoon hit back at Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Commission for saying she would be breaking the law if she knocked back a potential buyer on the grounds of their race or religion.

"I'm the one who decides if I want to put my signature on my contract, it's my right I will decide whether I want to sell my land to a certain person on that contract or not," the former One Nation leader told Fairfax Radio 4BC.
Personally I think she's an idiot but she has got a very good point. It's her decision to sign the contract and it's very hard to see how the law can make her sell to someone she doesn't want to deal with. More to the point it's hard to see why it should even try. If she's offered X dollars from someone who slots neatly into her views as being okay by her and is willing to turn down a much larger offer from someone else because of his religion then she's the one losing out. And beyond that all this anti-racisim pro-tolerance legislation is having a rather nasty side effect which means all of us, not just Pauline Hanson, lose out. The right to associate freely is sliding slowly away from us, and while we may chuckle and sneer at the Pauline Hansons of this world we do so at our peril. Today it's them being told what they can and can't do and who with. Tomorrow it could be any of us.

Needless to say Chez Hanson is now off the market, though that hasn't stopped the hate mongers - no, not the xenophobes but their equal and opposite counterparts - abusing the poor real estate agent who was unfortunate enough to have been hired by Hanson before the controversy broke.
[LJ Hooker Yamanto agent Keith Edwards] expected the fall-out to continue, with the real estate agent receiving a "torrent" of abusive emails and phone calls.
Anti-racists once again becoming something very much like that which they say they hate.

Recycled news.

Oh for fuck's sake, is this self righteous, offence seeking fucknuts still going on about that bloody Tintin book?
A Congolese man is trying to get controversial cartoon book Tintin Au Congo banned in Belgium over its racist and offensive depiction of Africans.
Bienvenue Mbutu, a Congolese national living in Belgium, has asked the Belgian courts to ban the book, but has said he would accept a ruling that the book must display a warning about its content.
Would this be the same bloke who was whining about the same book over six months ago? Why yes, despite a minor variation in the spelling of his name I do believe it is. And did I see this in the same place on both occasions? Again, yes.


I don't know if it's the lazy recycling of an old story that adds almost nothing beyond the point that the self-righteous wanker will settle for a warning sticker on the book or the self-righteous wanker himself that annoys me more. Actually I do - it's the wanker, of course. Not being offended is not a right and, despite what certain legislators would wish and maybe even believe, for a single very simple reason it is completely impossible to make it a right: it's utterly incompatible with free speech. In fact any attempt to create a right never to be offended should itself be offensive to anyone who values free speech, which means it would break its own terms. If I thought this would then become some kind of legal black hole that would begin to suck in all the shit laws and the tools that created them it'd be worth putting up with, but sadly that's not going to happen. All I can do is repeat what I said last year...
[This] is about history and how we can learn from it. Mbutu Mondondo and his lawyer should consider that if those who forget the lessons of history are frequently doomed to repeat them then those who would deliberately bury a chunk because it offends them are likely to be partly responsible for future repeats. But I agree with [Mbutu's] lawyer that it is also about the law - specifically whether we can ever apply it retrospectively and remain fair.
... and hope the Belgian court tells him to harden up and fuck off. Yes, it's archaic and patronising, but do we look at it and learn better or do we look at it and demand that it must never be seen again? A warning might be a happy medium if - and I stress 'if' - the publishers are willing, though I feel that a page one note simply pointing out the historical context would be better, especially if it ended with the point that it is wholly up to the reader whether they take offence or not and if they think it's likely that they will they should please put it back on the fucking shelf.

B.I.G.O.T.

Apparently it's short for "Brown is going on Thursday".

Bwhahahahahahahahahahaha.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The word is "bullshit".

Colostomy Brown is still trying to get the bigot genie back in its bottle.
A day after insulting an elderly widow who asked him about immigration, the Prime Minister visited a factory in Halesowen, in the west Midlands, where he told workers he was focused on the economy rather than his encounter in Rochdale.
So focused that he managed not to notice that more of Gillian Duffy's questions related to the economy than to immigration (as well as his microphone).

Bullshit.
In a speech to staff at Thompson Friction Welding...
Who, given Brown's well known inverted Midas touch, should really have their fingers crossed that the place isn't closed down on Monday.
...he said: "Yesterday was yesterday. Today I want to talk about the future of the economy."
So did Gillian Duffy, you fucking imbecile. But you were far too busy seething inside about what a bigot you thought she was and which one of your staff was to blame for allowing her within a hundred yards of you.
One worker asked Mr Brown what Labour would do to stem immigration, telling him: "It's way too high in this country."
Did he really? The fucking big... er, oh. Probably can't say that now, can you, Gordon? The thing is that millions now believe that you'd be thinking it in private. You can apologise and draw lines under it and talk about the future and move on as much as you like, but you can't unsay what you said and you can't change the impression it gave that you're a crotchety, remote, two faced, control freak, power addicted cunt. Okay, for a lot of people - a few people with Nokia embossed back to front on their heads, for example, but also just lots of people who've thought you were a bastard to begin with - you weren't so much giving the impression as reinforcing it, but the point is much the same. Still, you want to keep trying to gloss over it for the last week of the campaign, you go right ahead. Watching you squirm will help people not to forget.

As JuliaM said in the comments this morning, it's like having a birthday and Christmas all at once.* Really the only downside is that the benefactors are going to be a couple of parties I dislike almost as much as Brown and Labour.



* Except that he's not on fire.

Not so much winning friends, but sure as hell influencing people.

Still too busy to blog properly but now it's mainly because I'm too busy laughing. The Cyclopean Disaster of Drowning Street's latest fuck up - by his standards almost unique in that it damages him personally more than anyone else - is just too funny for words. Not only did he show his true colours and his contempt for voters by bad mouthing someone who supports his party, and not only did the hypocritical bastard do this seconds after being all smiley and nice to her, and not only did the bumbling tool forget he was still miked up for the TV (not the first time one of his strops has come unstuck because of a TV microphone), not only did he have a pop at one of his staff for allowing awkward members of the public near him with their awful opinions, but on top of all that he never noticed there was a camera on him during the subsequent radio interview and so we were all treated to the glory of a full 25 second facepalm.



I'd like to imagine Cameron and Clegg were on the phone to each other not long afterwards:
"Did you just see that?"

"Yeah. Did he say what I think he said?"

"I think so."

"I'm not dreaming, am I? He really did say it?"

"I've watched it three times. Yeah, he really said it."

"Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah."

"Ahahahahahahahahaahahhahahahahahahahahahahahaah."

"Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha."

"Here, I'll give you a fiver for every time you can get the word 'bigot' into a speech between now and the 6th."

"Yeah, I bet that's what you said to Gordon."

"Ahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahaha."

Simply fucking glorious, and needless to say The Mash didn't waste any time.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

24 hours in a day.

Just not enough sometimes. Certainly not enough to get some blogging in as well, hence some pretty lightweight stuff over the last week or so (apart from the ANZAC Day post). Still, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and providing it's not the proverbial train I might get some blogging in maybe Thursday.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

ANZAC Day (Some Aussie culture - part 9)

While Aussies do mark Remembrance Day as well it takes a bit of a back seat to ANZAC Day. It's not so much an upside down Remembrance Day as the other way round as instead of marking and end to fighting it marks a beginning for the Aussies and Kiwis involved - the landings of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps on the Gallipoli peninsula on April 25th 1915. As I understand it, and I'm no military historian so don't expect much in the way of details, the British plan was to land the ANZACs who would have a bit of a bunfight with the Turks before driving them back all the way to Istanbul, which would fall more or less immediately and take Turkey out of the war, and in turn that would screw Germany and everything would be over by Christmas and so on and so on. Instead it was a monstrous fuck up of epic proportions which for various reasons wasn't really going well even before it began, and eventually kicked off with the troops being landed in the wrong place. It didn't really get a lot better from then on and eight months later the Allies gave up and pulled out, though since the Turks lost far more lives it could be argued that it was a battle that both sides lost.

Public opinion of ANZAC Day in Australia has apparently swung back and forth as different conflicts and wars, and associated protests, have gone on but these days (and I can only go on the few years I've been here) a good balance seems to have been found. For instance there was a time when there'd be no sport played but now ANZAC Day is a special fixture for both Aussie Rules football and Rugby League, and there are two minute silences and playings of The Last Post before traditional rivals square up and knock seven bells out of each other. This is all on the same public holiday once set aside for things like dawn services and parades of current and former service personnel at various memorials and shrines. So I find ANZAC Day can be tricky to describe - it's solemn without being sepulchral, it honours members of the armed forces without there being any glorification of war, it's respectful without being overly deferential, it marks the loss both of individuals and of a nation's sons and daughters, but without it turning into a day for grief and mourning. For some it's fallen heroes, for others it's missing mates, it's sad and beautiful and formal and informal all at the same time. It's given too much weight and respect for it to be a once a year formality where you get the impression the TV stations all send out memos three weeks beforehand to make sure all staff have poppies on for the cameras, but nor is it the gung ho thing it might have been. Like I said, I think just the right balance is struck and so ANZAC Day is one of those things that set this corner of the world slightly apart.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Some Aussie culture - part 8

This whole thing started because something reminded me of a TISM song, and since yesterday's post featured a dead celebrity it's ironic that the same thing's happened here.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Some Aussie culture - part 7

One of Mrs Exile's favourites.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Ah, them again.

Okay, you can't blame the Met Office for a volcano erupting but I can't honestly say I'm shocked to hear that fingers are pointing the way of the 'Barbecue Summer' gang for fucking up the predictions of how it would affect air traffic.
The Met Office has been blamed for triggering the “unnecessary” six-day closure of British airspace which has cost airlines, passengers and the economy more than £1.5 billion.
The government agency was accused of using a scientific model based on “probability” rather than fact to forecast the spread of the volcanic ash cloud that made Europe a no-fly zone and ruined the plans of more than 2.5 million travellers in and out of Britain.
A senior European official said there was no clear scientific evidence behind the model, which air traffic control services used to justify the unprecedented shutdown.
Eleven major British airlines joined forces last night to publicly criticise Nats, the air traffic control centre, over the way it interpreted the Met Office’s “very limited empirical data”.
With the Met Office involved I think we should count ourselves lucky that instead of accepting that volcanos sometimes, y'know, just erupt sometimes, some fruitcake isn't blaming it all on warble gloaming instead.

Oh, wait.
Global warming may trigger more volcanoes.
Oh dear God.

/facepalm

Even small changes in the environment could trigger activity such as earthquakes and tsunamis.
Straight from the 'Warble Gloaming Causes Everything' school of thought. For fuck's sake, small changes in the environment happen all the fucking time and more than a few will be a result - rather than a cause - of vulcanism. Jeebus Aitch Ker-rist on a fucking tea tray.

You know there are days when I just think the smartest thing to do is get all the guns and ammo I can and head for the hills. We can all come down again when these fuckknuckles have all starved themselves to death.

Inflexibility.

When someone gets a three year driving ban for being pissed while driving a toy that only goes at a brisk walking pace it's a little tricky to see what the law is serving beyond itself and its processes. Possibly a fine would have been appropriate depending on when and where he drove it (presumably it wasn't insured, registered or road legal) but a ban? Seriously?
He was given a mandatory three-year ban because he had received another drink-drive ban within the past ten years.
So in this case the law says that if X applies when caught doing Y then Z must follow no matter what, even if if Y consists of being a twat with a kid's toy rather than being off your dial while actually driving a real car. Maybe where he was caught was a bit of road with a lot of high speed traffic where an idiot in a 4mph kiddy car is at least anti-social and more likely bloody dangerous and so a heavy driving ban might be appropriate, but that's not why he's suspended for three years, is it? It's just because he's got a previous drink driving conviction. Seems to me that either the law is treating him too harshly because of that or it would probably be lenient if he had not been done before, but either way it's left looking silly because there's no room for common sense to be applied in unique situations that couldn't have been foreseen when the law was written.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Not your friend.

Whether they're granting themselves powers to spy on you or enriching themselves at your expense, or simply assuming that everyone is a complete mong and unable to make the simplest decision for themselves, governments are good at providing evidence that they are not your friend. The latest, and one of the most glaring examples, comes courtesy of the French government.

The ban on flights in European airspace - which itself might be a huge overreaction according to at least one big mouthed journo and some airlines - has left a lot of Brits crossing Europe overland only to get stuck in France because all means of getting across or under the English Channel are now booked solid. This might be a good thing for those who are fans of the wine and cheese but a pain in the arse for people who just want to get home. So, in the Dunkirk spirit and coincidentally just a few weeks before the 70th anniversary of Operation Dynamo, TV historian Dan Snow planned to get a few boats and make five trips across the Channel to take people back to the UK on a first come first served basis. He'd set it all up via Twitter, had arranged unpublicised rendezvous points to avoid lots of people turning up that he couldn't possibly take back, and organised the immigration details. Hard to say how much more responsible he could have been really so you'd think the French government would be happy that some private citizens were stepping in to help, even if it they could only cope with 42 people per trip.

And you'd be wrong. AFter getting barely two dozen people onto three boats the French government put a stop to it.
Asked why the operation had been halted, Snow said: "They didn't like the idea of all those RIBs turning up and taking Brits back.
"They just told us they didn't like us doing it and said it was bad competition for the ferries."
Do fucking what? This was only happening at all because everything else was either grounded or fully booked. With all the extra revenue they were getting with the airlines out of the way who the fuck could possibly imagine the ferries and Eurostar services would even notice the loss from a couple of hundred people going home on some kind soul's RIB? Not just wrong but retarded.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

I shouldn't laugh, but...

Oh, I'm going to hell for laughing at this.
A suicidal man connected to a Samaritans-style helpline in Sweden was left pondering his options when the priest at the other end fell asleep and started snoring down the line.
The suicidal man called emergency services at around 2am on Friday, saying he felt "psychologically unstable". He was forwarded to the duty Church of Sweden pastor. About five minutes into the call, the troubled 44-year-old man had the feeling that he was talking to himself.
"I thought maybe he was taking notes, so I asked: 'Are you taking notes?'" the man told the Barometern local daily.
"I could hear his heavy breathing before he woke up," he said.
But, according to the man, the pastor's alertness did not last for long. After another frustrating few minutes with no response from the priest, the man rang off.
Ffffffnorkle! Oh, Father, I get the feeling that nobody listens to me... Father? Father?

On the plus side the guy was so pissed off with the priest that he forgot all about topping himself. Mysterious ways his wonders to perform, and all that.

Cameron the small stater.

Where the fuck did this come from?
David Cameron unveiled an ambitious plan to roll back the size of the state with an election manifesto that placed responsibility and self-reliance at the heart of the nation's regeneration.
Excuse me one moment.

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Ahahahahahaha.

Ahaha.

Okay, I think I've got that out of my system. This is a man who said he's not a libertarian because
... freedom can too easily turn into the idea that we all have the right to do whatever we want, regardless of the effect on others. That is libertarian, not Conservative - and it is certainly not me.
It's certainly not you, but it isn't libertarian either, you cocktemptible fucking goon. Libertarianism is not the right to do whatever you want regardless of the effect on others but the right to do whatever you want providing there is no negative effect on others. If the man who hopes to run the country in a few weeks time can't understand that fundamental point then he's not fucking bright enough even to be considered. Beyond that for someone who wants to reduce the size of the state he's (a) making no obvious plans to do so and (b) talking an awful lot about governing Britain. Dave, you're just another paternalist, authoritarian, statist cunt, aren't you?

Fuck off. Next!

Religious nutjob of the Week.

A fella by the name of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone who, according to El Tel think gay is the same as kiddy fiddler.
"Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated there exists no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia," Bertone told a Santiago news conference during a visit to Chile.
Okay, I'm prepared to go along with that. In fact if by paedophilia he's specifically referring to pederasty it's hard to see any logical conclusion other than that since, according to my dictionary:
cel·i·bate |ˈseləbət|
adjective
abstaining from marriage and sexual relations, typically for religious reasons : a celibate priest.
• having or involving no sexual relations : I'd rather stay single and celibate.
noun
a person who abstains from marriage and sexual relations.
DERIVATIVES
cel·i·bacy |-bəsē| noun
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: from celibacy, on the pattern of pairs such as magistracy, magistrate.

ped·er·as·ty |ˈpedəˌrastē|
noun
sexual activity involving a man and a boy.
DERIVATIVES
ped·er·as·tic |ˌpedəˈrastik| adjective
ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from modern Latin paederastia, from Greek paiderastia, from pais, paid- ‘boy’ + erastēs ‘lover.’
In other words celibacy and pederasty are mutually exclusive - priests, or anyone else for that matter, who fiddle with boys cannot claim to be celibate. Therefore no relationship with celibacy except in the negative sense.
"But many others have demonstrated, and have told me recently, that there is a link between homosexuality and paedophilia. This is true, this is the problem."
So a man who likes rooting young girls is what, Cardinal Fuckhead? Or a woman who likes boys? Come on, tell us. Because they'd certainly be paedophiles - along with a number of other things such as filthy, perverted bastard and suchlike - but I can't see any sensible way in which they could also be described as homosexual.

Look, paedophilia is an age thing, homosexuality is a gender thing. The two can certainly overlap, which is pretty much what the definition of pederasty is above, but a link? The bottom line, if you'll excuse the term, is that some pederasts join the priesthood because of the access it grants them to boys, and that embarrasses the shit out of you and much of the rest of the Church. But this no more makes a link between priests and pederasts than it does between gays and nonces. Why not try arguing that point instead?

Quote of the Day.

Daniel Hannan on The Wire being his favourite cop show.
Several times, on the campaign trail, I have had to force myself to say “yes” rather than “true dat” or “mos def”.
I'd fucking love to be there when he finally slips up and says it.

Gordoom's new strategy.

Denying he fucked up hasn't convinced many people so Colostomy Brown's latest tactic is to admit he fucked up. Yep, really. .
Gordon Brown admits for the first time on Wednesday that he made mistakes that contributed to the financial crisis.
Wow. Though of course he went on to blame someone else almost immediately.
... the Prime Minister concedes that he bowed to pressure from the City and failed to regulate the banks properly.
Oh, they maaaaaade me do it, says the Prime Mincer.

Wanker.
"In the 1990s, the banks all came to us and said: 'Look, we don't want to be regulated, we want to be free of regulation.'
"And everybody in the City was saying you know and all the complaints I was getting from people was, 'look, you're regulating them too much.'
"And actually the truth is that, globally and nationally, we should have been regulating them more.
"So I've learnt from that. You don't listen to the industry when they say: 'This is good for us.'
"You've got to talk about the whole public interest. And so we are tougher on the banks and tougher on the way they behave and we can be relied on to make sure the banks act in the national interest so you'll see more measures to do that."
For the umpteenth fucking time, this was not, NOT, a failure of deregulation because the banks were thoroughly fucking regulated. Or did your bastard lovechild the FSA spend all day sitting on its fucking hand, Gordon? Much like Westminster and the troughing MPs there was plenty of regulation but no fucking responsibility, nobody stopping and asking if what they were about to do was right or even sane. They simply went as far as the regulations allowed and assumed - 100% correctly - that they'd be bailed out by someone in government, perhaps the kind of dim cunt who'd announce well in advance that they were going to sell several hundred tons of gold and then scratch his head in comical bewilderment when the price had smashed through the basement floor and into the sewer by the time it hit the market.

'Kinell. I know that people get the government they deserve, but does Britain really deserve that?

UKIP has lost the plot.

'Don't vote for us.'
The UK Independence Party made an unusual appeal yesterday to some of its supporters: “Don’t vote for us”.

There was a slightly Alice in Wonderland feel to the Eurosceptic party’s campaign launch as it entertains hopes of capturing its first Westminster seat.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the party leader, began the day by urging some of his own candidates to tell their supporters to vote for someone else.

He wants them to follow the example of Steve Parker, who is standing for UKIP in Stroud, and has produced a leaflet in which he declares: “I ask you to vote for David Drew [the Labour candidate] if possible. He is a committed Eurosceptic, who will continue to fight for our freedom in Parliament and I don’t want to stop him getting there.”
In that case why bother standing against him at all?

As they say in these parts, mad as a cut snake.

Some Aussie culture - part 6

Showing me age here. I've just looked in my iTunes library and it's not there, which saves me having to blame Mrs Exile for it.



Actually I could have sworn this was by Fergal Sharkey. What the fuck happened to him anyway?

Legal raid.

Fuck knows how three of the most egregious troughing cunts qualify for legal aid to defend themselves against the charges of being thieving bastards, but you know what? I'm not that surprised. This is a country that is almost criminally profligate with money taken at gunpoint from taxpayers. You can get 'free' money from the state having hijacked an airliner to get to the land of milk, honey and asylum so how much of a shock is it that three elected mongs who are charged with abusing their positions or privilege to enrich themselves by ways that are not just unseemly but actually crooked can have the poor bastard taxpayer ripped off yet again to pay for their defence? Not fucking much. It's the fucking mentality of it that gets me. Like children with chocolate all over their faces and mouth almost too full to speak they denied any wrongdoing (to say nothing of the shameful whoring of the Bill of Rights to try to get out of it) and having been caught they then head straight back to the taxpayer funded sweetie jars, pausing only to say 'What, me? I'm not doing anything wrong.' when their asked to kindly stop fucking helping themselves to money they don't fucking need or deserve. Incidentally, it's worth noting that it's just the Labour troughing bastards who went after legal aid and Lord Hanningfield, the Tory facing charges, did not. Still a bastard, but perhaps one with a slightly better grasp of what people are likely to think of him if he asked for legal aid than Morley, Chaytor and Devine.

A better grasp than Colostomy Brown as well, who began by saying nothing until DING said the Tories would put a stop to this sort of thing so pleeeeeeease vote for him. Finally, having been put on the spot during a radio show phone in, the Cyclopean prick said they'd have to repay the legal aid money.
"I think this money will have to be paid back by these politicians.
"I think the evidence is that people in their position will have to pay back the money - or most of the money - they get in legal aid.
"We have actually abolished this free legal aid from the end of June, so it has to be means-tested from the end of June and they wouldn't have got it in these circumstances.
"The law has changed, so I think the money will have to be paid back."
First off, it's not yet the end of June so this is Gordon wanting retrospective application of laws again. Remember that if the cunt wins on May 6th - what is legal for you to do now may not have been in the future* if he gets his way. Secondly, it's more likely that this is just empty noise and that he knows he can do precisely square root of fuck all about it. NuLab have had thirteen years to prevent legal aid abuse and didn't think it was as important as covering the country in cameras while persecuting any citizen wanting to use their own, destroying the pub trade via the smoking ban, putting everyone possible on some form of database, giving the police carte blanche to go DNA harvesting, and creating a few thousand new laws that no-one can possibly be expected to remember but that can get you fitted with a Peckham Rolex for selling a fucking goldfish. But since legal aid abuse will have the cracks papered over be fixed in a couple of months we're supposed to be deliriously happy and re-elect the cunts?

Well, we'd certainly have to be delirious.

Vote early, vote often.

Via the Devil, I see there's a poll at www.publicservice.co.uk, a site for 'Public Sector & Government News' and I'm certain no circle jerking whatsoever, which asks:
Should public sector workers have to pay more to maintain the value of their pensions?
Needless to say I voted 'No' because I believe the precious darlings should be kept in perpetual fluffiness at the expense of people working in the private sector who have to top up their own pensions, the value of which ain't what it used to be thanks largely to Colostomy Brown.

Did I fuck!

If they have to even ask the fucking question it shows how insulated and out of touch the public sector tends to be. That just over a quarter of respondents think they deserve special treatment not available to private sector workers reinforces that. I can't help but think it'd be more if the Devil's Kitchen and his missus weren't encouraging pollbombing the bastards.

Monday, 12 April 2010

I'm a malfunctioning Apple customer...

... and hopefully they can fir me in to be fixed once the faulty iPad customers are dealt with.
MALFUNCTIONING iPad customers are to be 'fixed', Apple confirmed last night.

... the company has admitted that many iPad buyers have experienced a mental bug which has caused them to question whether the machine works as perfectly as it obviously does.

Apple is now offering an offline 'fix' for the problem where owners hand themselves in for psychological reconditioning and massive electric shocks.

A spokesman said: "It's a simple mental readjustment to make users more compatible with their iPads.

"Through a combination of shouting and targeted electricity we are able to erase the creeping sense that they've been duped by their own pathetic desire to be cool into buying something that doesn't really work."

He added: "Clearly there can be nothing wrong with the iPad. Like all Apple products it is terrifyingly perfect, like something beamed back from a future time where everything is brilliant white and humans have evolved into beautiful androgynous beings in shiny jumpsuits who don't do poos."

Reconditioned iPad owner Tom Logan said: "My iPad works perfectly, it's simply that the rest of the universe, specifically the internet and my hotmail, has yet to fall into sync with its utter perfection."
I know how he feels. The gravity round here was so incompatible with the mouse that came with my Mac that it filled the upper trackball with shit and made it unusable. As for the way the crappy laws of physics make my MacBook overheat, sheesh. Shall I just lick the wall sockets under a picture of Steve Jobs and hope for the best?

The states we're in.

According to The Australian support for scrapping the state governments is rising as around four in ten now see them as the least effective level of government. Four in ten people may well have a point, but I wonder if a large part of that is because the states have ceded far too much power to the federal government in Canberra. It's harder for state level government to be effective when it's restricted either legally or financially or both by a layer of government above it. It's just as hard for the state level government to be truly answerable to its citizens when it can simply shrug and pass the buck up to the federal level. Small wonder several Australians I know have said they'd be quite happy to ditch the states altogether. A good look at Britain and its place in the EU should show them why this view is dangerously wrong. If you want your life run by a powerful and remote government and for the elected representatives from where you live to have less and less significance then sidelining state governments is the way to go.

Now federalism in itself is not a bad thing. Quite the reverse. There is a lot to be said for having a level of government that deals with borders and relations with other parts of the world, but leaves much of the internal running to a number of smaller governments who are elected and look after their own areas according to the wishes of the people who actually live there. A federation of competing states, which I'm told is what Australia was supposed to be, has the benefit of offering a la carte rather than Hobson's choice to citizens and business. If one state has high local taxes and/or poor services then it faces the prospect of people moving to another state with lower taxes and/or better services. If someone disagrees with a law in one state they may find that it doesn't apply somewhere else. In the US there are fifty options just at the state level, with county and city ordinances providing for even more variation. Want to be able to just pop out and buy a gun, no questions asked? Move to Vermont. Want to pay no sales taxes? Move to Alaska. Don't mind gun laws and up to 10.75% sales tax as long as it's warm? Try California. Even here in Oz where there are only six states and two territories it's possible to make choices about where to live based on how things are done. Take abortion for example - if you're pro-choice Victoria and the ACT are most in line with your views, New South Wales to a lesser extent. If you're opposed to abortion you'll find the toughest laws are in Queensland. Similarly if you think prostitution should be illegal then South Australia is probably for you, and you should certainly steer clear of the eastern states, especially NSW. Similarly certain taxes such as stamp duty and payroll tax vary from state to state, so if that's a hot issue then again you have a choice. On issues where there is no choice and the law, services, the tax regime, whatever is the same everywhere then this is usually because the decisions are being made one level further away from the citizens.

Choice means individuals get to live nearer to their ideals and preferences. Choice is good. Unfortunately choice is not what you get if you give the federal government too much power. I'm all for federalism - yes, even in Europe - but as a way to promote choice for all individuals in a federation, not to make everything the same. That is what the EU is doing wrong, and that is why 60 million plus people in Britain, not to mention the thick end of half a billion across the rest of the EU, are finding ever greater areas of their lives run by a remote central government that has little knowledge of their situation and even less reason to care. If that's the model Australians want then abolishing state governments is the way to go. But if it's the end of ivory towers and a move towards government that understands the local issues that matter to individual citizens then far from abolishing state governments Australians should be demanding they take on much of the federal government's roles and powers, and perhaps even to have some of that brought down to city or shire level. The problem of irresponsible and ineffective government is rarely improved by moving responsibility further away from the governed - the closer it is to the voters the more incentive there is to get it right.

Depressing.

I came across one of those voting advice type webshites earlier today, and it's left me feeling throughly depressed. Vote Match 2010 is pretty easy to use, starting with a simple 'select country to begin' and then presenting 30 questions along the lines of 'do you support such and such' with the options of agree, disagree, open minded and skip. Okay, fair enough, but Jesus it's shallow. Question 1 - 'New prisons need to be built to ease over crowding'. Well, that rather depends, doesn't it? If nothing is done about the massive number of newly created crimes along with plenty of other activities that could be legalised (why the fuck are we still locking people up for a bit of puff?) then probably you do need to build more prisons, but if you're going to reduce the number of crimes then you immediately take the pressure off the prison system, right? So I chose 'disagree' in the expectation of getting a question about drug legalisation or repeal of some or all of NuLab's nu-laws. Unfortunately there wasn't one so I had to go back and skip it. Similarly number 5, 'The Bank of England should have overall responsibility for financial regulation', presupposes that there's a need for financial regulation beyond theft and fraud laws. Simply disagreeing could mean that I'm happy to leave it with the FSA, which I'm not. Same with 16, 'The cost of NHS administration should be cut by one third'. What if I think it should be 50%? What if I think the NHS should be abolished and broken up into a mix of private and local authority hospitals? I'd be disagreeing with the statement but not in a way that supports the status quo. No. 22 ' The number of MPs should be reduced by 10%' - again, if you think it should be reduced by much more than 10% you're disagreeing, but simply saying disagree is probably going to be taken as being happy with the current numbers. There are a few more along those lines but that's not as depressing as what came next. At the end of the 30 questions I was presented with a list of issues and asked to highlight the ones that matter most to me, followed by the ones that matter least.
  • Crime and justice
  • Defence and foriegn affairs
  • Economy
  • Education
  • Employment and equal opps
  • Environment
  • Health
  • Immigration and asylum
  • Parliamentary reform
  • Pensions and retirement
  • Soverignty and devolution
  • Tax
And since the most important issues for me are personal freedom and individual liberties, the ever increasing surveillance state, the also increasing influence of the nanny state and the gradual infantilisation of the population where the cunting fuck does that leave me? 'Parliamentary reform' and 'Crime and justice' are connected to those things that most concern me but it's pretty tenuous. The reality is that what's most important to me isn't there. Votematch clearly isn't catering for any libertarians, which is confirmed by the final screen where you select the parties with which you want your views compared. The choices are Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Greens and BNP, and it recommends that you don't select any party that you would never consider voting for. Since all six have at least one deal breaker as far as I'm concerned I tried to select none and was informed that I had to choose three.

 /facepalm.

Well fuck it, in for a penny, so I selected the lot. I wasn't too surprised that UKIP came out top for me, but the second place is hilariously inappropriate. The BNP? Really? I'd said let asylum seekers work, don't make them have ID cards, and don't deport people convicted of serious crimes (not really my views but the test is so superficial it was the least inaccurate option) and that makes the BNP marginally voteworthy for me? Behave.

Okay, I understand that such a quick and simple online quiz can't possibly be expected to cater for all the complexities and the presence of independents and very new 'micro' parties like LPUK, and in fairness they do say that it's not supposed to tell you who you should vote for as to get you thinking. But my real beef is that it doesn't seem designed to get anyone thinking about individual liberty who isn't already doing so. Perhaps too few people still give a shit about it to make it worth including in online politics quizzes, which is probably also why it's becoming a rare commodity in Britain. And that's why Votematch left me feeling depressed.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Low fidelity Speaker.

Usually I don't have a lot of time for Simon Heffer. I could be mistaken but he's always struck me as being one of those people who are only conditionally for liberty, particularly when it comes to an individual's own body and what they might want to put in it. From reading Heffer's articles it seems that enjoying booze, fags and rich food is fine but other recreational drugs and genitals that look like your own are not, and for me that makes him little better than any other paternalist wanker who claims to know what's best for everybody. However, on the character of many politicians I tend to sing from the same hymn sheets, and in the case of this piece on the Speaker (more a tweeter than a woofer) John Bercow I think he's spot on.
The disgusting spectacle of this saponaceous little creep shaking hands with various expenses fiddlers as they left the House of Commons on Thursday, of his boasting that (since being rumbled for a bit of taxpayer-funded extravagance himself) he has in fact been very cheap to run, and of his gall in using the Leader of the Opposition (who, I would wager, cannot stand the sight of him) to endorse him on his website, is of a piece with the atrocious behaviour that led him to occupy the Chair in the first place. The Speakership should be an act of public service: but for Little Bercow it is simply an act of ambition.

His own party cannot stand him. The Labour party, outrageously choosing to score a political point in the aftermath of the expenses scandal, rather than to salvage the reputation of the House of Commons, thought it was frightfully funny to elect him to his post. He has neither the experience nor the gravitas to do the job properly. As he sat in his Mothercare-supplied robes, presiding over the most corrupt House of Commons for centuries, looking like a man waiting for a spot on a toadstool by an ornamental pond to become vacant, one could conclude that he and they deserved each other. But we, the electorate, have done nothing to deserve him.

Since he is notionally a Conservative, that party has no candidate against him. Nor do the Lib Dems or Labour, and they would look foolish if they did: after all, they wanted him to be Speaker in the first place. There are (so far) various independents, and a bonehead from the BNP. But there are two serious candidates: Nigel Farage, the charismatic former leader of Ukip, and John Stevens, a former MEP standing on a "democracy" ticket. I have nothing against Mr Stevens, but his politics are too bland for me. I am in no doubt that the people of Buckingham, not least to perform the public service of removing the smear of Bercow from British politics, should vote for Mr Farage.
Quite. The idea of giving the little shit a fucking free ride back to the trough on May 6th just because the Speaker is traditionally unopposed is as repellant as it would have been if it was still Gorbals Mick. More to the point, Bercow wasn't appointed to halt the gravy train but to keep it on the fucking rails, and for that alone he should go. If that's spelled out clearly enough to the Buckingham voters I'd hope that Nigel Farage could win as a result.

Fantasy island.

A cynic might say that it's not that surprising that ten thousand public sector workers didn't have anything better to do than march on central London to protest job losses. I am a cynic, but what really leapt out of the article at me was this:
... speaking at today’s event, Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison warned against punishing public sector workers for private sector failures.
Poor bloke. Whatever this guy is taking for his condition clearly isn't working since he seems to believe that the private sector is responsible for the state spending more that it gets, in fact more than half of what the whole fucking economy produces.
“There has never been a more urgent time to show our support, as the current economic recession shows that we cannot rely on the private sector to provide our essential needs."
Essential needs, you say?



Yes, that's true. There were plenty there that the private sector won't provide, though whether you can use the phrase 'essential needs' to describe them all without every bible for miles spontaneously combusting and your nose putting out eyes on the other side of the street is another matter. However, some of those have actually been copied from the private sector because of the mistaken belief that if Multiblivits International PLC has appointed a Carbon Neutrality Media Diversity Control Advice Officer to do whatever the fuck it is that Carbon Neutrality Media Diversity Control Advice Officers do all day then the local council, police, NHS Trust etc must all have a Carbon Neutrality Media Diversity Control Advice Officer each too, and preferably more than one. The difference, for the benefit of poor, deluded people like Dave Prentis, is that if a private company voluntarily chooses to spunk away money on some bullshit, makework non-job instead of equipment or workers that help it do more of what it's in business to do then it's the company and its shareholders who lose out. When the public sector do it the same thing happens, except that being the public sector the company and shareholders are the whole fucking country. Of course sometimes the reason why both private and public sectors end up hiring Carbon Neutrality Media Diversity Control Advice Officers is that some regulation happy cunt in Westminster has shoved some fuckwitted law through, past or around the supine pigs in Parliament saying that every organisation must have one. You could save many billions before you get round to putting a question mark over the first nurse, doctor, soldier, teacher, fire fighter or cop.

On the other hand the private sector certainly can provide health cover, unemployment insurance and retirement funds, quite possibly for less than what the state takes by force to provide its own inferior alternative. All depends on what you call an essential service really, Dave.
“The result of the failure of the private sector is that ordinary people are paying the price, while the bankers retire to their guarded homes with their multimillion-pound pensions."
Ah, so not like politicians - who are public sector 'workers' - with their generous pensions? Not like their guarded homes that make the local area a fucking security zone? And this not paid for in any way, shape or form by ordinary people?

And how the fuck did the private sector 'fail' in the first place? Regulated to buggery and given a fucking safety net, it has not been able to operate as a free market should. Due diligence became box ticking and the balance of risk and reward became unnaturally one sided. If the private sector has failed, and the fact that much of it is still getting by suggests that in spite of the government's best efforts it hasn't, it didn't fail from within. Yes, in a real free market individual companies can fuck up and go to the wall, but what the Dave Prentises of the world can't wrap their brains around is that this is supposed to happen.

Allowing bad companies to self destruct is not a bug, it's a feature.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Things I still don't get about Australia - No. 23

Insulation. Like I said in the last post I can't understand why a country where everyone seems to own at least one Esky, which is basically a well insulated box for beer and barbecue food, doesn't build houses that are insulated so as to keep out the winter cold and the summer heat alike.

I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

According to the late Ronald Reagan, speaking as US President in 1988, these nine words form one of the most worrying sentences one person can say to another. If you want evidence for Reagan's astuteness there then you need look no further than Australia in 2010 and the Federal Government's Home Insulation Programme. The government men indeed came to help with 'handouts', and when they were finished 'helping' cowboy fitters had pockets full of taxpayer's cash, hundreds of thousands of Australian homes ended up with substandard, badly fitted or simply unneeded loft insulation, more than a hundred houses were damaged by fire, thousands of jobs were put at risk* and four deaths had been linked to the programme.

Now in one sense, that of being an expat Brit who moved from a house with double glazing and several inches of insulation in the roof and wall cavities to one which is probably not much more thermally efficient than a tent, I can see where the Federal Government was coming from. Despite the winter minimum temperatures being typically a few degrees warmer than where I lived in the UK - probably more with the last couple of British winters covering the country in globally warmed snow - many here have a choice of either walking around inside their homes dressed almost for the outside or having an enormous gas bill sometime around September. Conversely in summertime fans, coolers and air conditioners mean higher electricity bills, and for much the same reason - houses seem not to be very well insulated compared to what us poms are used to.** This could so easily be 'Things I Still Don't Get About Australia - No 23' (in fact it will be) because when it comes to keeping beer and sausages cool until they're wanted Australians understand perfectly well that good insulation serves to keep areas of warmth and cold separate, because when it comes down to it all an Esky really is is a well insulated box and almost every Aussie home seems to have one. It's the extension of that to living in a much larger well insulated box that seems to be pretty rare.

But while I understand where the Federal Government is coming from that doesn't make government intervention the answer, particularly when the decision is also influenced by its beliefs that warble gloaming demands energy efficiency (as if simply saving money isn't a good enough reason) and that the global financial crisis means government needs to spend money (taxpayers' money, natch) where it wants instead of allowing individuals to spend money where they want. This goes double when the government intervention takes the form of simply offering 'up to' $1,600 towards getting insulation fitted which would be paid directly to the company fitting it (link to PDF).
Under the Home Insulation Program the assistance is paid directly to the insulation installer, on behalf of the Householder, and $1,600 is expected to cover the cost of insulating an average home, so for most people there should be no more to pay.
The first thing that should have been expected from this is that many smaller jobs would now come in at around $1,600 regardless of size. The second is that having created an artificial boom in the supply and fitting of insulation it's natural that new companies would jump in to try and grab a share of all the taxpayer's money being hosed around. This is fine if the demand created by a subsidy becomes self sustaining, and I'm sure the wonks in Canberra hoped that this would happen, but if that doesn't occur by the time a subsidy scheme ends then suddenly, almost overnight really, the market is oversupplied. I'm no economist but this does not seem like A Good Thing from where I'm sitting. People like Tom Black, who started up an insulation installation company some months before the scheme began and who now faces bankruptcy, might well agree.
... Tom Black is due to be evicted from his home next week after the sudden closure of Kevin Rudd's $2.5 billion insulation scheme left his installation business without a single customer.

...

But Mr Black said that since the government suspended the scheme last month, business had dried up as customers waited for a new $1000 rebate program to start on June 1.

...

Mr Black said his business had failed through no fault of his own. He said while backpackers and others had come into the area and used sub-standard batts, or in some cases not installed insulation at all, he had done everything properly.

Mr Black said he was still owed $1600 by the government for an installation job last November. He said Assistant Climate Change Minister Greg Combet's office had told him they would try to ensure he was paid next week.

"By the end of the week it will be too late," he said.
Following on from the issue of new entries to the market, and mentioned in that article, is the third and most serious problem: that whenever the government gets out its chequebook almost inevitably cowboys and fraudsters are attracted in the hope that the government is too busy giving away taxpayers' money to look too carefully at the work it was supposed to pay for. Sure enough the Home Insulation Programme, despite supposed safeguards such as a government approved list of companies, saw everything. There was the merely deceitful, such as falsely telling people that insulation batts need to be replaced periodically. There was the fraudulent, such as submitting claims to the government for non-existent work. And there was the downright dangerous: fires blamed on ceiling downlights igniting the insulation and even whole roofs becoming electrified because of badly installed foil insulation.***

All this would have been avoided had the simpler option of taking less money from taxpayers been chosen instead. If householders have surplus money and high bills for heating their homes in winter and cooling them in summer then some will decide for themselves to get improved insulation, and some of their friends will do the same when the chat comes round to bills and how much insulation has reduced them by. Eventually insulation becomes the norm because word has got round that it makes financial sense for most homeowners. Unfortunately this becomes harder and harder when the government takes more and more money in tax in order to pay for subsidising its pet projects, and this is what happens in practice because governments like to take on these things and deal with them the way they deal with everything they think is a problem: bury it with money and hope it goes away.

Some might argue that lower tax will only benefit owner-occupiers and not renters since landlords might not bother spending their extra disposable income on insulation, but that assumes that well insulated properties would not then become more desirable (and perhaps attract slightly higher rents) than poorly insulated rentals. But even if you assume, as governments apparently tend to do, the mathematical impossibility that the whole population is of below average intelligence and therefore nobody can be trusted to decide for themselves how and on what they should spend any spare money they have, and that no landlords will choose to insulate their rental properties, is paying the subsidy to the fitter the best option? Looking at things from a wider point of view, by paying the fitters the government has put $2.5 billion of its stimulus into one small sector. Had the government taken the simpler option of taking $2.5 billion less tax that money would have been spread more or less evenly throughout the whole economy. Sure, money circulates and naturally plenty will go from the insulation fitters' pockets out into the wider economy, but that ignores the fact that there is always an administration cost with any subsidy. Simply taking less tax should require no extra administration and, with a little thought, might even mean administrative savings. Instead, having thrown $2.5 billion in a well intentioned but, as it turned out, ill considered and poorly controlled attempt to insulate more houses, the Federal Government has had to offer to pay for safety checks or remedial work on the 50,000+ houses where foil insulation was installed and a full audit of the standard of work carried out at 150,000 other properties. As much as $1,000 per house is being budgeted for the 50,000 or so homes where foil was used, which means more than $50 million for that alone (though some estimates are far higher). If the government is eventually forced to check all homes the cost will be substantial, since more than a million houses were insulated as part of the scheme.

This leads me to finish in the way I began, by quoting Ronald Reagan.
Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.
Which also implies that there's often an unpleasant mess involved that then needs to be cleared up. With an election in the UK in under four weeks time Britons want to consider this when the usual suspects stand up and say their government will be there to help.


* Of course it can be argued that some of those jobs may have existed only because of the scheme rather than because the market for home insulation demanded them. However, unsustainable jobs being created and then lost aren't really anything for a government to be proud of.
** I have to admit that this is something of an assumption on my part. Based on the house I live in, the loft of a much newer property that we looked at and the fact the Federal Government thought there was a need to subsidise loft insulation on such a large scale in the first place, I'm guessing that poor insulation is fairly common. So yes, an assumption, but I think it's a fair one.
*** Metal roofs are fairly common in Australia and are sometimes still used even on brand new houses despite costing more than concrete tiles.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Some Aussie culture - part 5

1980s breakfast TV meant people doing weird keep-fit routines, which for some reason made TISM ask are you a yob or a wanker?



Put me down with the yobs. Sorry.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Labial Conocrats again.

A couple of days ago I mentioned the new webshite that the Liberal Democrats Labial Conocrats have set up to attack the other two parties for their mainstreaminess (was not a word, but is now) and contemptible similarity, and that I was slightly surprised when a comment I left there taking the piss actually passed moderation.


Since I've had a pop at their party wing of The Party in the past for being liberal by name and illiberal by nature this came as something of a surprise. Okay, I thought. Maybe what I said left some wiggle room and came across as actually agreeing with them and supporting the Labial Conocrats without pointing out that the obvious flaw in their reasoning. So I left this comment and waited to see if they'd put that up or not.


Again, to their credit and my surprise that did eventually make it through moderation and get posted. As I said two days ago, looks like there's an element of creeping liberalness invading there, and if so it's pretty welcome.

Still, it doesn't take away from the basic oversight that the LibDims having a pop at Labour and the Tories for being alike and/or mainstream choices is a bit pot and kettle of them, especially as all three are currently engaged in trying to out-fair each other. Thus, from the labour webshite we have this 'future fair for all' guff:


While from the Tories we have an even more prolific use of the F-word (all Osbourne but I seem to recall DING saying the same sort of thing).






But streets ahead in this game are - drumroll, please - the Liberal Democrats, whose main webshite goes overboard on the whole 'fair' thing as shown by this short video (apologies for the crap quality at the start but it really doesn't matter).



Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? Actually, who gives a rip - it's not like any of them are remotely believable, and since they're all saying the same shit it's not like there's much reason to choose any of the three over the other. They truly are all Labial Conocrats.

Pretty Reasonable Friday



For those who celebrate it, Happy Easter. For those who don't, enjoy the chocolate anyway.

Got to be an April Fool?

A writer winning a libel case in England? 'Kinell! Things must be looking up.

To be more accurate this was actually the appeal so in fact Simon Singh lost last year when his now-officially-not-a-libel libel case was heard and the judge, Mr Justice Eady (a familiar name) decided that
...Mr Singh's comments were factual assertions rather than expressions of opinion - which meant he could not use the defence of fair comment.
Good result, but justice in England doesn't come cheap. £200 grand apparently. Nor can campaigners for reform of the laws that make England the place to go for all your libel law suit needs rest easy.
After the ruling, Tracey Brown, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Libel Reform, said: "We are delighted with the judges' ruling, but it does not go far enough.
"There is a cardiologist currently being sued by a device manufacturer, we have researchers who have been unable to publish their critique of lie detector technology because of threats of libel action.
"A major science journal is also currently being sued and our academics are being told to pull down blogs.
"We urgently need a public interest defence so that we can all be sure of our rights as publishers, writers, authors and academics."
All too true.

Start spreading the news.

I've been invited to contribute a few upside down stories and ravings to the uknewsnetwork blog, so it's only fair that it gets a bit of a shout out and a link. I'm going to do something a bit more eye catching than a regular blogroll link but for now that's where they'll be, joined by Angryteen, Freedom-2-Choose and Tom Paine's The Last Ditch.

Not a good day for blogging.

I know I did a couple of posts yesterday (it's the 2nd here now) but really they were the arse end of Wednesday night, but being April Fool's Day I've resisted the temptation to blog because for the last 24 hours because it's so bloody hard these days to spot the wind ups. Mr Eugenides demonstrates this by blogging three stories that ten years ago might have stood out as being as likely joke stories but are in fact genuine. Satire may not be quite as dead as he says but it's not in good shape when you have to go to Daily Mash/Newsarse/Onion lengths to write something that's obviously a spoof, and even then I've felt TDM have been sailing depressingly close to reality on one or two occasions. To give you another example, a very hoaxy looking story bearing a hoaxy looking pun in the headline, and oddly in the wimmin's section despite not having anything especially to do with wimmin as far as I could see, was in The Times today.
Hole sale robbery: how to mend those potholes.

Fed up with all those holes in the road? Then pay for them to be repaired yourself, suggests one council leader.

As mad ideas go, they don’t get much pottier than the pothole solution proposed by the leader of Ashford Borough Council in Kent. Fed up with that crater in the road outside your house? Tired of waiting for the council to mend it? Pay for it yourself, suggests Councillor Paul Clokie (below), and use it as a memorial for a pet.

Is he serious? Apparently. He points out that a scheme is already under way in the German village of Niederzimmern, near Leipzig, where for a mere €50 you can sponsor your local pothole, ensuring not only that it is filled in but that your name, or your company’s, is etched into the asphalt.

Clokie is not alone in taking an interest in Niederzimmern: from New York to Krakow, councils have picked up on the idea and are considering similar schemes. Yet in spite of the concept’s popularity, Councillor Clokie’s idea has yet to get off the starting blocks.

In the wake of the harshest winter for three decades, Kent County Council, the body responsible for mending the potholes, has filled in 45,300 of them this year but has yet to dedicate any of them to deceased dogs or cats. “Councillor Clokie has been saying this for a while,” said a spokesman yesterday, who sounded as though the county wished the Ashford leader would stop.
And so on and so forth. Several commenters pointed out that the date was April 1st and that it had to be The Time's joke article. Could be, I thought, but didn't seem as entertainingly stupid as, say, installing a particle accelerator on London Underground's Circle Line. But then neither did changing the name of Queen Street in Melbourne to Republic Street - oh ha ha chuckle guffaw there goes the other rib.* So I googled the Councillor's name and the word 'pothole' and found two stories in the Kent locals that backed it up, one from March 19th and one from the 11th. Yes, I suppose a determined hoax could have involved planting the story elsewhere in advance in case anyone checked but it seems more likely that the mad bastard is serious about charging for road repairs that people already pay taxes for. And that's what made me think it might not be a joke - because the idea that the state would charge you again for what it's always claimed you pay tax for seems neither amusing enough or fantastic enough to be much of an April Fool prank story.

And even if I'm wrong and it does turn out to have bells on the fact that it seems so plausible for modern Britain isn't funny. Not funny at all.


* I may have mentioned before that I'd cautiously go along with the idea of Australia becoming a republic but I doubt that's going to win much more support that making up something about the Queen feeding orphans to the Corgis.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Furball warming.

Thanks to Dirt Hour we have idiocy such as this.
VICTORIA — B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner was hoping to spark a little romance with his wife over a candlelit dinner Saturday during Earth Hour.

Instead, he accidentally set his cat on fire.
He fucking what?

You know, I sit here now with a (not at all) miraculously un-scorched cat gazing at me from her perch on a shelf, and I marvel at how I can turn day into night without all the danger of flames. Even last Saturday evening Dirt Hour passed by without so much as a single incident of feline or canine immolation in the Exile household. And how can this be when someone as wise as an Environment Minister might still inadvertently barbecue Kitty?

Oh yes, it's because we use ELECTRIC FUCKING LIGHT BULBS.
"We actually enjoyed a very romantic candlelit dinner that was only interrupted when our cat set himself on fire by brushing up against the flame, which caused some excitement," Penner deadpanned to reporters Monday.
I can't think of anything more romantic than sitting with some fair trade Pinot and talking about Gaia across an eco-candle* while watching pets leaving smoke trails around the room.
"But we quickly got our cat, whose name is Ranger, under control. His hair is a little bit singed and his pride is somewhat affected. It will be a night that we'll remember for a long time."
And by that do I take it to mean that you have, as other politicians might say, learned a valuable lesson from this and elected to use electricity to light your home in future? At least while doing so would be safer for your pet cat?

Well, no, and I didn't fucking expect so to be quite honest, but this really is pushing the recycled paper envelope of eco-wibblery.
The environment minister held firm to the no-electricity rule by refusing to power-up an electric fan to clear the room of the smell of singed cat hair. Instead, he opened the window.
Tell me, you fucktroon, if you'd set your house alight would you have insisted the fire department use non-carbon emitting pumps to supply the water to put it out? I hope this was less about you greener-than-thou fucking grandstanding and more because the smell of burnt cat fur wasn't actually that strong.

Anyway, I'm going to let you into a little secret - if you set up enough fans just past a windfarm you'll get more green electricity out of it.** So they're a Good Thing.
The cat wasn't hurt.
As a lifetime cat lover may I just say that I'm very glad about that, that I'd have been happier still if the article had lead with that, and that Ranger's lack of injury should not put him off taking a huge dump in one the Minster's shoes and being sick in the other one. For Christ's sake, cats are at worst mentally ill and at best only moderately bright representatives of the animal kingdom. In other words they're thick as mince and don't understand things like how fire spreads. Yes, I'm sure a cat would run like buggery from a roaring inferno because big flames and heat and noise would be properly frightening for any animal. He probably wouldn't get too close to an open fire either, because the point at which the cat's decided he's warm enough would be far enough away not to set him alight. But a candle?
"I thought he'd have a natural aversion to flame, but apparently that's not the case," said Penner.
From Ranger's perspective the candle flame was a shinylightthing that the bigfoodgiftbringermonkeys were sitting around and was therefore harmless. Part of being a responsible pet owner is not putting your pets into harm's way and doing the thinking for them that they're unable to do for themselves. This means not letting your pet rat nibble electric cables, not throwing your dog's favourite fetch toy across the freeway and not, as you've no doubt gathered, letting the cat wander around by naked flames. Not too hard if bigfoodgiftbringermonkey gives it a couple of minute's rational thought, is it?

And was it worth it? All this cat burning and Gaia saving? Well, not in California according to WUWT, where it's claimed that it was 'just as ineffective as last year'. In British Columbia?
The near-loss of Penner's beloved cat marked an otherwise uneventful Earth Hour for British Columbia.

The province's electricity load dropped only 1.04 per cent, the smallest decrease in the three years since B.C. has participated in the global event.
Aside from how unimpressive that sounds at face value I can't help but wonder if it's even more unimpressive. 1.04% lower than what? The hour before? Same time the day before? Previous Saturday night? What? Without that knowledge the number is meaningless. Worse, by the greenies' own standards what should be measured is not electricity load but carbon emmissions, and for that there's no figure at all.

On the other hand this religious ritual has wormed itself so deeply and firmly into the brains of some people that at least one seems happy to have taken part despite setting fire to his cat, and will presumably do so again next year. Hopefully there'll be no repeat of setting fire to Ranger, but then the priests of Gaia aren't actually demanding burnt offerings yet.

H/T to Mr Eugenides.


* Which emits plenty of CO2 for the amount of heat and light it gives off, but which seems not to count since you don't have to plug the fucking thing in.
** Yes, I know. But when this sort of thing is being considered, even installed, the idea of an electric fan powered wind farm would probably be taken seriously too. In fact, fuck it, let's all draw up some proposals and see if the government will fund it.
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