Commenting.


COMMENTING
Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Keeping the lights on - II

Just a brief one, this. On Monday night (though it was just gone midnight Tuesday morning when I hit the publish post button) I said I thought it was good to see alternative ideas for nuclear power, specifically a thorium based reactor, finding their way into the mainstream media (though I'd be interested if anyone reading this from the UK bought The Telegraph and can shed some light over how much coverage it got in the print edition). Nearly 24 hours later and I can add that it's even better that it seems to be getting a decent amount of interest.


Hopefully Polywell fusion might get a page or two next.

Blogroll additions.

I don't care if some feel it's old hat. If I'm blogging I prefer a blogroll to RSS, and for that reason I'm adding a few blogs that, well, I'd read more often if I could see recent posts that were on the blogroll rather than going through a lot of RSS clutter. And yes, I know that means that needs to be tidied up, and that's part of the reason why there are so many additions this time. Jeez, I had heaps of duplicated ones in there. I'm going to try to keep RSS mainly for news feeds from now on and as a result the blogroll has grown quite a lot. Mostly in no particular order we have:

Fausty's Libertarian Blog
The View From Cullingworth (those two are in order because I've been meaning to add them both for a while)
Dizzy Thinks
The Ranting Penguin
SkeptiClawyer
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights (I nicked the sidebar's Jefferson quote there)
Raedwald
The UK Libertarian
Fuel Injected Moose
Charlotte Gore
All Seeing Eye
Ludwig von Mises Institute
Heather Brook (in the MSM section, 'cause she's proper not like wot we is)
The Snowolf
Longrider
Corrugated Soundbite
Tea And Cigarettes
Looking For A Voice
Oldrightie
The Adam Smith Institute

And three in the US which, since things are mainly Anglo-Ocker round here, are all going in the Other Interesting Sites section: Random Nuclear Strikes, Jim Bovard and the US Libertarian Party blog.

Gone (behind that paywall), and clearly forgotten, is The Times from the MSM section. Clearly I was so busy slagging them off I forgot about removing the link.

Mortgage rationing.

Oh, great. Another authoritarian twat deciding for businesses who they may deal with and for customers what contracts they can enter into.
Mortgage lending would be “capped” to stop borrowers taking out risky loans under radical Bank of England plans to prevent a repeat of the credit crisis, a senior official has disclosed.
Charlie Bean, the Bank’s Deputy Governor, said “direct constraints” may be needed to restrict access to credit, and that homebuyers could be forced to put down sizeable deposits before being granted a mortgage by their banks or building societies. This would mean that prospective buyers would have to put down between 10 per cent and 25 per cent of a property’s purchase price as a deposit before being able to obtain a loan.
It is the first time that a senior official has indicated that the Bank may intervene directly with new rules on so-called “loan to value ratios” to stop risky lending. In the years before the credit crunch, some borrowers were lent 125 per cent of their property’s value and became stuck in negative equity when prices crashed. The move would also mark the return of so-called “credit controls” — scrapped in the early 1980s — which made it difficult for many borrowers to get a mortgage.
The Bank of England is expected to be given responsibility for regulating the overall banking market in the autumn after new laws are introduced by George Osborne, the Chancellor.
Over the weekend, Mr Bean published a policy paper at an international conference detailing how the Bank would approach its new role. There had been speculation earlier in the summer that Mr Osborne favoured a “mortgage cap” although he has never publicly discussed the scheme.
/facepalm

It's like Labour never really went away, isn't it?
Last month, the Financial Services Authority, the current banking regulator, said that a policy of limiting mortgages was “too blunt” and could “unfairly deny” loans to creditworthy Britons.
But, in a speech to other central bankers in America, Mr Bean raised the prospect for the first time of the Bank restricting the size of mortgages as part of a package of measures to stop the economy overheating.
He indicated that, in future, the Bank of England should take a multifaceted approach that included setting interest rates; ensuring banks had sufficient capital to stop them going bust; and intervening directly to restrict mortgages or other credit. After describing the other policy measures, Mr Bean said in his speech: “Finally, there is the option of introducing direct constraints on the terms or availability of credit, for instance imposing maximum loan-to value ratios in the mortgage market.
“The best approach seems likely to involve a portfolio of instruments.”
Pardon this humble amateur for disagreeing, but I feel the best approach is to stay the fuck out and let people and businesses get on with things themselves for better or worse. Yes, it probably was stupid to go letting people 125% mortgages, and it was equally stupid of those individuals to over extend themselves to that extent (actually, over extending yourself at all probably isn't a good idea). But the biggest disincentive to borrowing that much ought to be personal bankruptcy, and the biggest reason not to loan money in those kind of proportions is the risk of the entire bank collapsing around your ears. All that is achieved by trying to put in some kind of hard ceiling is a lot of people looking for ways to squeeze through the gaps around the edges, if not actually knock holes through the bloody thing. On top of that there will still be lenders for whom lending to the limit is still just a little too much for their institution, and borrowers for whom the maximum allowed mortgage is still a little more than would have been wise. And we all know what will happen, don't we? The cries will go up:
'But it's not our fault. It was within the new guidelines. It was within your rules. It's not our fault. We only did as much as you said we could do. It's not our fault. Help us!'
And what can you do then? How can you say no? Not only did you not say so last time but actually they will be right - you will have taken control and responsibility away from them and should not then be surprised when it turns out they are not in control and are being irresponsible. So someone will go on TV to say that lessons will be learned and others will dream up new limits and regulations to fail to prevent something similar happening again.

Alternatively you could just make people 100% responsible for their choices now. Lenders loan what they like and borrowers borrow what they can in the strict understanding that they will go bust if they lend too much, and the state will not lift the smallest finger to save them. The only regulation that the BoE ought to be thinking of insisting on is that all mortgage applications state in 72 point bold on the front page and above the signature box, "You're on your own."

Keeping the lights on.

Having seen a link to a video about fission energy from the thorium fuel cycle on someone's blog recently (I'm sorry but due to my chaotic RSS I can't remember where I saw it and in whose direction I should tip the Akubra) I've been getting interested in the idea lately. Without going into detail thorium based reactors answer a lot of the objections to safety, weapons proliferation, waste management and the long term supply of the fuel. So it's good to see the idea making its way off the internet and into more mainstream media, though I don't agree with everything Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says in the article. That starts at the very beginning:
If Barack Obama were to marshal America’s vast scientific and strategic resources behind a new Manhattan Project, he might reasonably hope to reinvent the global energy landscape and sketch an end to our dependence on fossil fuels within three to five years.
We could then stop arguing about wind mills, deepwater drilling, IPCC hockey sticks, or strategic reliance on the Kremlin. History will move on fast.
Muddling on with the status quo is not a grown-up policy. The International Energy Agency says the world must invest $26 trillion (£16.7 trillion) over the next 20 years to avert an energy shock. The scramble for scarce fuel is already leading to friction between China, India, and the West.
It might well be literally true that the government of the US or any major industrialised nation could throw the resources at such a project, but I think it's likely also to be true that those same governments share some of the blame for us not basking in the glow of incandescent bulbs lit from thorium sourced electricity. This is not some wonderful new technology that scientists have just discovered - the basic idea is more than four decades old and a working reactor, albeit using a different fuel, was designed and operated in the late 60s (my emphasis):
The Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) was an experimental molten-salt reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); researching this technology through the 1960s. The MSRE was a 7.4 MWth test reactor simulating the neutronic "kernel" of an inherently safe epithermal thorium breeder reactor. It used three fuels: plutonium-239, uranium-235 and uranium-233. The last, 233UF4 was the result of breeding from thorium.

...

The fuel was 7LiF-BeF2-ZrF4-235UF4-232Th (70-23-5-1-1 mole %).
This reactor could breed more of its 233U fuel from thorium. Thorium is at least four times as abundant as uranium in the Earth's crust and at least 500 times as abundant as uranium-235. Compared to conventional light-water reactors, this breeding had the potential to eliminate the difficulty and expense of uranium enrichment, as well as the need for fast breeder reactors to make plutonium fuel from 238U.
And it bloody worked, too.
The MSRE operated for 5 years. The salt was loaded in 1964 and nuclear operation ended in December, 1969,[2][12] and all of the objectives of the experiment were achieved during this period.

...

After the final shutdown in December 1969, the reactor was left in standby for nearly a year. A limited examination program was then carried out, including a moderator bar from the core, a control rod thimble, heat exchanger tubes, parts from the fuel pump bowl, and a freeze valve that had developed a leak during the final reactor shutdown. The radioactive systems were then closed to await ultimate disposal.

...

The broadest and perhaps most important conclusion from the MSRE experience was that a molten salt fueled reactor concept was viable. It ran for considerable periods of time, yielding valuable information, and maintenance was accomplished safely and without excessive delay.
The MSRE confirmed expectations and predictions.
The late 60s for fuck's sake. They shut the bugger down before I was even conceived. Are we to believe that left to their own devices nobody anywhere would have taken it to market? The unfortunate thing was that around that time the Cold War was in full swing and both sides were worried about the other shooting down their warheads if the button was ever pushed. The answer to that was obviously more warheads, ooooh, lots more. And the answer to that was reactors that produced more bomb material, and since this kind of reactor didn't the US government probably wasn't all that interested in taking the research to the next stage. So why no privately constructed LFTR reactors in that time? Well, governments have a tendency to do a couple of things that would form barriers to a privately funded and constructed thorium based reactor: they pass laws to force you to ask permission to build practically anything from a garage extension, much less a nuclear reactor, and they like to use taxpayers' money to subsidise construction of things they do like - which, if you remember, when it comes to nuclear reactors was mainly the type that produced lots of nice fissile material that worked in bombs. (Incidentally, I'm making no comment here either way on the pros and cons of nuclear deterrents - I'm just saying it was a poor time to want to build a reactor that didn't produce much handy bomb material.) And as a result of all that, plus a few incidents that made the word 'nuclear' by far the most socially unacceptable n-word for some people, by the time the Cold War was thawing the whole world was heavily invested in uranium fuelled reactors, and coincidentally 500 foot tall bird shredders and other bullshit, to be keen on anything like LFTR.

In fairness to him Ambrose Evans-Pritchard does point this out:
After the Manhattan Project, US physicists in the late 1940s were tempted by thorium for use in civil reactors. It has a higher neutron yield per neutron absorbed. It does not require isotope separation, a big cost saving. But by then America needed the plutonium residue from uranium to build bombs.
"They were really going after the weapons," said Professor Egil Lillestol, a world authority on the thorium fuel-cycle at CERN. "It is almost impossible make nuclear weapons out of thorium because it is too difficult to handle. It wouldn’t be worth trying." It emits too many high gamma rays.
In other words it might be technically possible to produce weapons material from it in the same way that it's technically possible to walk on your hands all the way down the M1 in morning rush hour - in both cases it's almost certain to kill you and in any case there are much easier ways to get where you want. Besides that the gamma rays will apparently play hell with electronics, and it's a fairly solid bet that nuclear weapon arming and triggering systems aren't made from clockwork.

And then we run into the next of the government made problems.
You might have thought that thorium reactors were the answer to every dream but when CERN went to the European Commission for development funds in 1999-2000, they were rebuffed.
Brussels turned to its technical experts, who happened to be French because the French dominate the EU’s nuclear industry. "They didn’t want competition because they had made a huge investment in the old technology," he said.
Well, quelle fucking surprise!
The UK has shown little appetite for what it regards as a "huge paradigm shift to a new technology". Too much work and sunk cost has already gone into the next generation of reactors, which have another 60 years of life.
Cheers, fellas. It's not like we're in any rush, you know.
Another decade was lost. It was a sad triumph of vested interests over scientific progress. "We have very little time to waste because the world is running out of fossil fuels. Renewables can’t replace them. Nuclear fusion is not going work for a century, if ever," he said.
Now that I'm not so sure of. I'm not convinced by the peak oil doomsayers but even assuming that there's still a few hundred years worth waiting to be dug up we're going to have to do without it eventually, and I think anyone who seriously believes that renewables on their own are going to be anything remotely close to an adequate replacement is certifiable. The bottom line is the dreaded n-word is going to have to be spoken in polite conversation once more. Go on, try it.

New..... kleee..... ahh.

See, the world didn't end. Now, the nuclear options are fission and fusion, and in theory the better of the two is fusion if only we could get it to work for us. We know that it does work because we can build small scale fusion reactors cheaply and simply (cheap as in a few thousand - yes, thousand - dollars and simple as in a high school student can do it) but they don't produce net power. And we also know that fusion can produce net power because it's been going on in the sun and every other star since the year dot and we ourselves know how to get surplus fusion energy out of an H-bomb. Finding the middle ground of getting out more energy than you put in with a stable and controlled reaction and without needing storage for several billion, billion, billion tonnes of fusing hydrogen has been proving a little tricky. On the one hand we have ITER, the latest in the 'tokamak' approach to fusion, which is going to be both enormous and enormously expensive. On the other hand we have the Inertial Electrostatic Confinement approach, which is the one used in the cheap small scale working reactors that have been built already, and which is a technique that may just need refining to produce net power from something like the Polywell (H/T to the Devil - I first saw it on DK's old blog and the post doesn't seem to have made it to the new one yet). My physics isn't anywhere near strong enough to predict which of the two, if either, will eventually win out but if I was a betting man I'd have a few quid on the relatively small and cheap Polywell option.* Even assuming that it takes them another 50 years to make it work - and the Polywell mob think it might be much less if they can just get the money, a fraction of what is being hosed at ITER - fission power is the obvious stopgap solution. And if we're going to have fission why not do as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard suggests in The Tele and base it on thorium? Well, aside from the vested interests he mentioned there is that hysteria about the n-word that I mentioned earlier, which he seems to think is on the wane.
Anti-nuclear neorosis is at last ebbing. The White House has approved $8bn in loan guarantees for new reactors, yet America has been strangely passive. Where is the superb confidence that put a man on the moon?
I suspect a combination of government policies that favour and protect the status quo over anything that seems new, even if it is actually where we should all have gone in 1970, and also a lot of the world still hasn't got over the n-word. The Greens have done well in recent elections in Britain and here in Australia, and both are singing the usual song - renewables are good and nuclear, despite its obvious advantages if you have bought into man made warble gloaming, is verrrrry baaaad. How they'd feel about LFTR (or a Polywell fusor for that matter) I have no idea, but they are fundamentally opposed to nuclear power. Full stop, end of. Yet LFTR would answer their objections to nuclear power - it's inherently safer since any overheating will simply cause the fuel to drain safely away into holding tanks, and importantly this will happen without human intervention. It's highly unlikely to result in any weapons proliferation, and since it needs a fissile material like uranium or plutonium to start the reaction** it has the potential to actually use up decommissioned nuclear weapons. Worried about Osama getting his hands on a second hand nuke? Not just weapons either, but possibly some nuclear waste materials as well. Feed it to LFTR and let the cave dwelling fucknuts go piss. You only need to mine a few tonnes of ore at one end of the process to get the same output at the other end as a couple of hundred tonnes of uranium ore would have given you, and since it uses up nearly all its fuel there would be only a fraction of the nuclear waste, and even that would mostly be relatively short lived and apparently need only 300 years or so of storage. And at the other end of the process the waste products are all short lived isotopes since thorium is far more plentiful than uranium there's probably enough for thousands of years. If you're feeding waste to it at the same time it's probably going to be solving the waste storage problem faster than it can contribute to it. Grid managers should prefer it to current reactors since it's supposedly (as in I haven't seen an explanation for this yet) capable of load following, whereas the current designs are pretty much base load only from what I understand. Best of all, compared to uranium there is shitloads of thorium. Absolutely shitloads. Australia alone has enough to supply its domestic power for well over ten thousand years if my back of envelope calculations were anywhere near right, though even if I'm off by an order of magnitude there's still a hell of a lot of the stuff. Bearing in mind that even though we still haven't hit peak oil yet some people are already muttering about peak uranium (and I'm not saying they're wrong) what's not to like about thorium?

Even if it disappoints on half its possibilities it still looks worth pursuing, and if like the Greens you believe that carbon emissions are a problem and object to current nuclear power plants you should be at least provisionally in favour of this. Cleaner, safer, lower carbon, no weaponisation, possible reduction in existing weapons and waste, and enough to produce all the power we need for the foreseeable future? I'd love it to work, because if it does then not only would peak uranium be irrelevant but peak oil could be put off indefinitely. You see, synthetic production of hydrocarbons has been around since the 1920s, and it strikes me that if there was enough spare energy to make up for what will eventually run short then cheap fuel for flights and V8 penis extensions might not be a worry anymore. I'm sure I read somewhere that someone's even working on a way to use atmospheric CO2 to do it, which would be another dragon slain for the Greenies.

And that, I suspect, might be the problem. They, or a significant proportion of them at least, don't want a world with cheap energy, cheap fuel, recreational long distance flying and driving, and a way to deal with the the carbon that comes from them. Technical solutions to the world's problems, even the ones that aren't highly questionable, would be a victory for all of humanity, but not the kind of victory they want. They don't want answers, they want austerity, and for that reason it'll be a globally warmed cold day in hell before many of them get behind anything nuclear.


* If you've got an hour and a half spare and a passing interest in physics I'd suggest watching this video in which the late Dr Robert Bussard explains the concept. Obviously there are obstacles to overcome and the possibilty of problems they don't yet know about, all of which applies to ITER as well, and by nature I'm a cynical bastard and a hard sell anyway. Still, like I said, I'd be tempted to stick a few quid on it.
** As I understand it thorium is not fissile, so it's actually unsuitable for throwing neutrons at to split the thorium atoms and produce power. But it is 'fertile', which means when you throw neutrons at the thorium atoms they can change into uranium atoms. Uranium-233 to be precise, which is fissile and is what the LFTR reactor actually gets power out of. If you have an hour watch this video (H/T and apologies to the previously mentioned blogger where I found it - I feel terrible about forgetting where I saw all this stuff) for more information.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Half marks.

The Telegraph is correct to say that newly elected Ken Wyatt is the first Aboriginal MP, but they failed either to notice or to mention that there has already been at least one Aboriginal parliamentarian, former Senator Aden Ridgeway. I believe there have been a few more in state parliaments.

Even if Ken Wyatt was the outright first this still comes into the same category as the form of Julia Gallard's chromosomes. Eventually there would be a female PM, and eventually there would be an Aboriginal MP. I'll go one further - eventually there will be a female Aboriginal PM. Give it time and it's bound to happen, but is there any chance we can get over it now instead of going hysterical about it when the time comes?

For no reason.

Congratulations on the purchase of your new Harpsichord-Transformer-Film Scanning-Upskirt Fetishist-Squid Robot-9000™ (elfin Icelandic singer not included).



Just be glad to be here.

Another one for the Gallery.



Can be ordered here.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Walking past the Ambush Predator's cave just now...

... and what should I spot in the bones outside but this:
Who's Michael P Jeffries? Well, according to his bio, he's 'an assistant professor of American studies at Wellesley College. His book, Thug Life: Race, Gender, and the Meaning of Hip-Hop, is available for pre-order at major booksellers...'
And I think I can guess what he wrote it on.

Incandescent.

For some people every concession granted to them and every victory they score is never enough, and this is particularly true of the Righteous. Well before the smoking bans, which aren't bans so much as restrictions on the use of private property, they got tobacco ads progressively removed from TV. Then it was the print media and hoardings, and then overt sports sponsorship. And when they'd achieved an almost total ban on any promotion of a product that is perfectly legal to own, use and sell they started looking at the loopholes. Nothing less than total victory would do for them, or they might have felt somewhat disheartened as they turned their attention to drinking and eating. So where logos were still allowed in place of actual brand names they demanded that this too must stop, thereby making certain transactions between one particular type of business and any others illegal - a bank can write a cheque to a racing team to get its logo on the side of the cars, but the same transaction by a tobacco firm became illegal. Smoking in films and TV programmes, where logos are usually hard to make out and often entirely fictional anyway, has almost gone and still they are not satisfied. Evidence of smoking in art and well known photos has been going down the memory holes lately, and now they're concerned about smoking on the internet.
The tobacco industry may be using websites such as YouTube to get around a ban on advertising cigarettes, a study says.
Note the important word there: 'may'.
Researchers in New Zealand studied the video-sharing site and found a number of pro-tobacco videos "consistent with indirect marketing activity by tobacco companies or their proxies".

They say governments should consider regulating such content on the net.
As if the fuckers aren't tumescent with eagerness to do that anyway.
Tobacco companies have always denied using the net to promote cigarettes.
Though why they shouldn't be able to do so is beyond me. As I've said a zillion times before, either ban smoking and live without all that wonderful tax revenue that every fucking government in the world is addicted to - and to a much greater degree than any smoker is to nicotine - or leave the industry and their customers the fuck alone.

No, I don't like the smell of cigarette smoke much either, but since my legs aren't just fucking painted on I'm comfortable taking a step or two backwards and not making my smoking friends feel like shit. Why can't the banstubators do that?
Amanda Sandford, research manager at anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said the study's findings were "disturbing but fairly typical of tobacco industry activity".
Angry Exile, an expat blogger who cares deeply about personal freedom, said that ASH's response is "disturbing but fairly typical of tobacco control obsessives and other authoritarian cock slots."
"As soon as one avenue of promotion is closed, companies will seek out alternative means of promoting their product and will do anything to get round advertising restrictions," she told BBC News.
"As soon as one avenue of free trade and individual liberty is closed, ASH and other bansturbators will seek out alternative means of restricting these legal products and will do anything to make smokers and tobacco firms look like scum," he told anyone who'd listen. And that might even be being a little economical with the facts (my emphasis):
But Catherine Armstrong, a spokesperson for British American Tobacco, one of the firms studied in the report, said it was "not our policy to use social networking sites such as Facebook or YouTube to promote our tobacco product brands".

"Not even the authors of this report claim we have done so," she said. "Using social media could breach local advertising laws and our own International Marketing Standards, which apply to our companies worldwide.
So the study didn't actually say they were using online media to advertise, but it seems to me that ASH want to try and make the connection in people's heads anyway. They really are unbearable cunts.

And being unbearable cunts, this is especially for them.



Declaration of interest - I am not a smoker, having given up a few years ago. I have never worked for or received money from any tobacco firms. Quite the opposite in fact, since I gave them plenty of money when I did smoke. All the same, I'd rather their company than that of ASH and the other ban happy illiberal fucktroons that infest what used to be a free society.



PS - I should have fucking expected it. Quit smoking ads come up on the YouTube ads. Why can't they... Just... Fuck... Off?

Invasion of the righteous.


Goes with the same sort of mentality responsible for this.

Insufferable pricks.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Art.

From Cracked.com.


I think it'll look good on that wall.

Lola the cat dreams of vengeance... - UPDATED

From The Age.



UPDATE - The Sun have got a Whack-A-Mole style game on their website featuring Mary Bale rising from inside wheelie bins. It's a bit shit though.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Why we pay tax.

Via Captain Ranty.



California or the US, Victoria or Australia, or anywhere in the UK, it's the same story all over. We may agree with some or even many of the things our taxes are spent on but I find it hard to believe anyone agrees with all of it. The type of person who might support tax money being spent on the welfare state might oppose corporate bailouts or some of the pricier things in the defence budget, while their oppos would probably agree that the country's defenders need the latest Blast-o-matic and helping corporations through rough patches, even if of their own making, is ultimately beneficial, but those layabouts get enough money from them already. Even in government departments and agencies you'll have people who all agree with the principle of taxation but who will probably disagree quite often, and sometimes quite bitterly, about what should then be funded. There is probably nobody who agrees with every last penny a government spends, and if so then every taxpayer is to some extent paying their taxes not because they agree with how the money is spent but because they fear the reprisal of the government if they refuse.

Pay up or go to court. Do as the court says or be fined. Pay up or go to prison. And at all stages offer no resistance or men with guns will be sent to deal with you. Thank you for your cooperation, we look forward to seeing you again same time next year. Have the money ready or else.

Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs

How much? (Part 2)

Temporarily removed for correction

Britannia rules the waves, rent-a-navy style.

Striking fear embarrassment into Britain's enemies service personnel everywhere.


Why not just fucking buy it off the shelf in the first place?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

This has genuinely happened to me...

... except I didn't think of this solution.

Generous or mugs?

Big hearted this...


... while down here there's been some criticism that Australia isn't giving generously.
World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello has said that Australians have a "compassion blind spot" when it comes to the Pakistan floods.

World Vision has raised about 785,000 dollars in the three weeks for the Pakistan disaster.

"A humanitarian disaster of this size anywhere else would have had, in my judgment, a much quicker, a much more generous, a much more instinctive response," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Costello, as saying.

Other aid agencies have also alleged that Australia's donation hotlines are silent on the issue.
But as a certain Grumpy Old Twat pointed out recently, Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program and an independent space program. That's one more than Britain has and two more than Australia. Christ, having looked at Britain's debt the way I did yesterday I think it'll be lucky if it can afford its own fucking TV programs for much longer.

The politicians aren't shamed, you fucknuts. They've just run out of your money for the moment.

Not that that's ever stopped the bastards for long.

What libertarians are up against.

The normally irrepressible Dick Puddlecote has been linking to Longrider and getting a bit fed up with where both their thoughts are leading.
And there, unfortunately, is the problem. The enemies of liberty are not just the politicians, the bureaucrats and senior police officers. It’s not just the petty jobsworths and town hall officials wearing the jackboot that stamps on the faces of the oppressed. It’s the man on the Clapham omnibus. And that is a depressing thought indeed.
Talk of a lasting rebellion is incredibly premature. We're still nibbling at the edges of a nasty disease. That of spineless 'oh well'-itis. The regurgitating of idiot ideology by those whose life skills have been replaced by blind adherence to poorly thought-out authoritarianism. So much so that their only understanding of responsibility is to replicate the fuckwittery of those they see wielding power, without any thought to the obvious consequences of their actions.

Depressing? Yes. Is there an answer? Fucked if I know ... but I can't see one yet in the new morons we have governing us.
Me neither, though I think Dick Puddlecote is mistaken in even looking to government for the answer (I'd be surprised if he really is). I feel the answer needs to come from outside the government, and indeed outside the government apparatus and the statist bastards who compete to run it. I'd agree more with Longrider, whose blog I've read too little of, that the man on the street is as big a part of the problem as any government. Too many are conditioned to do as they're told and too lazy to do anything but accept the thoughts they're told to think. Too many are to prone to a sharp intake of breath and the stock illiberal phrase, 'Ooooh, there ought to be a law against it', inevitably giving some bastard the excuse to fucking make one. Too many are willing to say 'bloody government' at the drop of a hat, but too few are prepared to demand less government, if such an idea has even occurred to them. And too few, far too few, realise that the individual liberty that they'd very much like for themselves hinges wholly on individual liberty for everybody.



That kind of thinking is what we're up against, folks. Frankly I have no real desire to change it more than necessary for my own freedom. If someone wants to enslave themselves that way it's their business, and if they can't be talked out of it then that's that. I don't want to drag people kicking and screaming to libertarianism - it wouldn't be terribly libertarian for one thing - but that's where I want to go. So they can go be right or left if they like. They can go be statist conservatives who have traditional ideas about marriage and child rearing and what recreational drugs should be allowed, they can go be statist socialists if that's what flicks your switch. But if we have the decency not to want them forced to be libertarian, who the fuck are they to demand that we comply with them?

'Yes, we are all individuals!'
'I'm not.'
'Shhhhhhhhhh.'

Art imitating life, there. And it's not just that we should be fed up with the mob regurgitating their force fed thoughts over us and telling us what we are and shushing anyone who says 'I'm not'. It's also because of what the mob can easily become.



Sorry, that's not it. I meant this.*



It doesn't matter whether what drives this hatred is whipped up religious intolerance based on misunderstandings, half truths, coincidences and bullshit or whipped up anti-smoking zealotry based on misunderstandings, half truths, coincidences and bullshit. There's no justification for persecution.

To quote Brian, fuck off.

* Yes, I know they did it before they turned up outside Brian's in the morning. Doesn't change the point.

Taxing balloons and squeaky voices.

It's only a matter of time before someone will demand it, mark my words.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

YouTube porn.


Some people, say maybe people who've had their videos censored because of some orchestrated whining about the content, might feel that this is poetic justice.

Bloody whinging .coms

Possibly because the UK election got some pretty good news coverage here I think news.com.au are a little upset that it's not wall to wall coverage of the Aussie election in the UK.
THE federal election may feel bigger than Ben Hur in Australia, but it barely caused a ripple in England's press on Sunday.
While Sky News and the BBC have been regularly updating their viewers on TV and online, the uncertainty surrounding the winner saw the coverage thrust deep inside the international news pages of most of the major Sunday papers.
Oh, boo hoo. To use the local phrase, harden the fuck up. Besides, the first place I tend to look for UK news is The Tellytubbygraph, and second item on their home page this evening? Well, just have a butchers.


Would I be a million miles off if I speculated that the Murdoch owned news.com.au is looking first at the other Murdoch owned media in Britain, and that those sister publications aren't showing much interest in the Australian election? Well, to be honest I've no idea because their boss put The Times behind a fucking paywall and I'm not even going to bother checking to see if The Sun/Nudes of the World bothered to make Aussie politics a higher priority than pictures some girl with her sweater kittens out. But they might have.
The Sunday Times had a two-paragraph story at the bottom of its front page on the election, pointing to a larger story in its international news pages.
Well? It was still on the fucking front page, wasn't it? And if it's to be decent coverage then it has to be in depth inside the paper, yes?
But that was as prominent it got in the newspapers, with The Independent initially more titillated with Mr Abbott's budgie smugglers than the results of the election.
On page 23 of the broadsheet, columnist Katy Guest light-heartedly took Abbott to task for being photographed so regularly in his swimmers.
"The Australians are smart people who have voted with their consciences, but have they made the right choice?" she wrote.
"It could be hard for the world to think sensibly about their prime minster's policies on immigration if our minds can't help turning to the last little shrimp on the barbie."
Yeah, okay, I'll give news.com.au this one. That's just fucking appalling journalism. I've been here long enough to know that they're prawns. Besides, a quick look at their sites show Australian election related stories with picture linked on the home pages of not only The Independent but also The Graun and the Mainly Fail (and Julia Gillard didn't even need to put a bikini on). And I'm not even trying particularly hard, here.

Frankly that's not bad coverage for a country still dealing with the results of its own recent general election and the current leadership election of what was until then the governing party.

The Liberal Democrats.

No, not those ones, the ones who are not that liberal and democratic only when it suits them, but these Liberal Democrats, who do actually believe in unashamedly liberal policies. According to the Australian Libertarian Society's blog Thoughts on Freedom, who I hope don't mind me quoting them en bloc below, the LDP had a pretty good night in the three eastern states and missed out on winning a New South Wales Senate seat by only 20,000 votes.
Yesterday’s election result shows Australia has a new political force – the Liberal Democratic Party.

In only our second federal election (and the first under our proper name), the party gained over 2% of the Senate vote in NSW and Queensland and 1.5% in Victoria. It is fifth highest in these states.

We also negotiated an excellent flow of preferences in NSW and will either win a seat or (more likely) be the last ones eliminated.

A couple of parties representing narrow interests did OK – the Sex Party, and Shooters and Fishers for example, but the LDP differs from these because it stands for individual choice and freedom, embracing the interests of all the “freedom” parties and combining them into a coherent philosophy.

Federal elections are tough for small parties. It’s nigh on impossible to win a seat in the HoR and a Senate spot is a long stretch. We have every intention of keeping at it, but our immediate focus will be on building our brand by getting state divisions up and running. There are seats in State parliaments that are a lot easier to win than a seat in the Senate.

Our focus will also be on fund raising. We believe our vote would have been a great deal higher if every voter had known who we were and what we stood for. Achieving that is simply a matter of money.
Pretty good for a party contesting a federal election for only the second time, and perhaps a reason for some cautious optimism for the LPUK. Electoral success in terms of winning actual seats is clearly not going to happen overnight either here in Oz or in the UK, but fighting elections is still worth it for libertarian parties if only to get your parties name more widely known from being seen on ballot papers and on election results. That can lead to people wondering who the hell [insert name here] are, what they stand for and whether they might have been worth voting for, and maybe then a little surfing to try to find out more, which might be why www.ldp.org.au is currently down having exceeded its bandwidth - maybe a few Sex Party or Shooters and Fishers Party voters, and dare we hope even a few disenchanted liberal (note lower case 'l') leaning main party voters, have been checking it out.

Incidentally, the point that it's hard for small parties to win Senate seats and even harder for them to win a seat in the House of Representatives is something that Brits should keep in mind when the Cobbleition's promised referendum on Alternative Voting and the accompanying debate on other electoral systems comes up in the UK. I've not made any secret of my liking, albeit with caveats, for Australian style preferential voting and that I'd be in favour off, though again with caveats, of AV in Britain, but the fact remains that a small party must still grow into what I think of as a minor party for it to be of much benefit. Even then it's worth pointing out that the one of the most well known minor parties, the Greens, has only just this weekend won it's very first House of Reps seat. Not only has it taken them 18 years and has come about 15 years after they first got into the Senate - and I'd say with the benefit of a lot of media exposure in a small g green sense - it's also been after their British co-worriers won a seat in the Commons under First Past The Post. The HoR isn't exactly elected by AV but the preferential voting system used is similar enough that I think the point is relevant, and the Senate election is basically Single Transferrable Vote PR... and yet it's still a bastard for small parties to get in the HoR and a serious challenge to get in the Senate. If anyone thinks adopting AV in Britain will immediately mean results for smaller parties they should think again. They'll no doubt benefit, but I feel the likes of the LPUK (being the only ones I would personally like to see gain from it) will still need to get their name and values known and their arguments heard and won in public before even STV, much less an AV type system, will translate into winning any seats.

Just my tuppence worth, or 2¢ as the case may be.

Declaration of interest: I am not a member of any party in the UK or Australia, though given the option on a ballot paper of either the LPUK on that side of the world or the LDP here they're likely to be my preference (pun not intended but not easy to avoid). I don't always agree with absolutely everything either of them say, but as I've said before, I'm fucked if I'm going to keep holding my nose while voting for people and parties I think are bastards just because they're a safer bet to win than parties whose values are mostly close to my own.

Not just for the Ambush Predator, this one.

JuliaM has a growing stack of examples of men who are spuriously accused of rape but this one is particularly interesting.
Julian Assange, the founder of the Wikileaks website, was at the centre of an extraordinary "dirty tricks" row today after the Swedish government issued and then withdrew an arrest warrant against him for rape.
In a bizarre chain of events, prosecutors initially confirmed he was wanted for questioning about two accusations of rape and molestation following reports in Expressen, a tabloid newspaper. It was understood to have related to complaints brought by two women in Sweden, where the Australian-born internet activist has been staying for the last week.
But just hours, later, they announced that the warrant had been withdrawn, saying that the rape suspicion was unfounded.
In a bizarre chain of events, prosecutors initially confirmed he was wanted for questioning about two accusations of rape and molestation following reports in Expressen, a tabloid newspaper. It was understood to have related to complaints brought by two women in Sweden, where the Australian-born internet activist has been staying for the last week.
But just hours, later, they announced that the warrant had been withdrawn, saying that the rape suspicion was unfounded.
...
As soon as he heard of the rape allegations, he issued a statement of denial. "Why these accusations are popping up right now is an interesting question. I have not been contacted by police. These allegations are false," he said.
Then, shortly after friends said he was preparing to attend a police station of his own accord, there was a further statement from the prosecutor's office saying that the matter had been dropped.
I suppose it could potentially happen to anyone but it's a hell of a coincidence that it happens to someone who runs an internet whistle blowing service and who I'm sure a number of people wish would either shut up or go away, or better yet both. Possibly there was something in it because a less serious and non-arrestable molestation charge is apparently still live but it all sounds a bit odd, especially since it's unclear there was actually a real complaint.
Making false accusations of rape or molestation is a criminal offence punishable by jail in Sweden. Some sources in the Swedish media claimed that the two women did not actually report the case to the police, but that the prosecutor had taken it up anyway.
It bears watching to see if anything else comes out, but one thing should please JuliaM at least. One country is at least prepared to jail people who make false accusations of one of the most vile crimes that exists.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Oh no, not again.

This is like a repeat of the UK election. First Green in the Commons in May, followed by the first Green in the Lower House here.
The Greens have claimed their first seat in the house of representatives at a general election, with Adam Bandt tonight declaring his historic win in Melbourne had returned compassion for asylum seekers and concern for the environment to the national agenda.
And here in Melbourne of all places, showing again that concern for the environment is often a middle class city thing.

On top of all that it's looking like it's going to be a hung parliament here too, though with the Labor party doing a lot better than the Labour party. It's 76 seats for an overall majority here and the TV graphic I can see right now has Labor on 70 seats, the Libs/Nats Coalition on 72, 5 'Others' and 3 seats still in doubt, though I think some of those are still provisional results. I think the worst case scenario would be for the remaining seats to go Labor and/or Green and for the Greens to become kingmakers. They'd put Labor back in but the price will be to bring back swinging mining taxes, emissions trading, and lots of anti-carbon wind-pissing. Since I wasn't keeping track I have no idea which seats are in doubt and what way they might go, but all the TV channels are saying it's likely to come down to postal votes. overseas votes, etc. Prime Minister Gingery Mallard was on TV half an hour or so ago to say that the result might not actually be known for a week or so, and the ilLiberal leader is about to make a speech to the cameras and party rentacrowd where he'll probably say much the same.

Who won? Who knows. But probably not us. I do hope the Liberal Democrats, Australia's most libertarian party, have had a good night though.

Well, that was interesting.



If only it had really been that exciting. So, first experience of voting here and my impressions are mixed. First you had the task of running a gauntlet of assorted party drones, and rather than simply being something breathing and suitable to have a rosette pinned to it as in Britain these people are there to hand out leaflets on how to vote. Sure, Australian political parties aren't unique in not trusting voters to get it right but they're so bloody blatant about it here. It also proves that the idea of preferential voting removing a need to vote tactically is pure bullshit as the How To Vote leaflets are all about ordering your preferences so as to put your party's main opponents as low down the order as possible without putting an even bigger bunch of fucknuts ahead of them. If that's not tactical I don't know what is.

Having blanked as many of the How To Vote drones as possible and grunted monosyllabically at the rest we joined the queue, which was out of the door of the polling station. In hindsight compulsory voting and the fact the polls close at only 6pm means there probably isn't a really quiet time, but the queue moved pretty quick and inside it seemed a pretty efficient and high speed operation to me. It was a school of course, but no grubby old pasting tables and plywood booths - the whole lot was colour co-ordinated and made pre-fab from thick reinforced cardboard, even the ballot boxes (though they had seals on it seems a little odd having a ballot box that could be opened with a quick kick through the side). The whole lot probably flattens down and fits in the back of a Transit van. The queue lead to a few of these desks (cardboard) on one wall where names were checked and ballot papers handed out, while two whole walls were lined with polling booths (cardboard).

No wonder the queue moves quickly, and it needs to because, as I've mentioned before, effectively you are made to vote for everybody. This means numbering candidates for your MP in order of preference, which isn't too bad as there are only a handful and the ballot paper is about the size of a narrow leaflet. By comparison the Senate ballot 'slip' is like a roll of fucking wallpaper - sixty candidates from twenty parties (and a handful of independents), so hardly surprising that the majority of voters choose the relatively simple option of putting a 1 in the box of their preferred party instead of trying to remember who the fuck John Smith is, what his party is about and where he should go from 1 to 60. However, unless I misunderstand it putting a 1 by a party doesn't mean you're voting only for that party, it means you're allowing that party to decide for you what order to put them all in. So for example, a vote for Labor means your next preferences go to the Greens thanks to a deal for preferences the two parties agreed weeks ago, and presumably they would go on to assign preferences to all the remaining candidates for you. I'm reasonably happy that the Liberal Democrats probably wouldn't have ordered my preferences that differently to how I'd choose but if you're for the ALP but are also a warble gloaming sceptic then handing your vote to Labor might well be less satisfactory than doing all 60 yourself. And there's still the problem that the system does not allow you to rule out entirely one or more candidates in either election. Ultimately one or both my votes will probably end up going to one of the main parties despite the fact that I support neither.

So having filled in my ballot papers I followed Mrs Exile over to the ballot boxes (I did mention that they're cardboard?). Just as in the UK when a General election coincides with local elections or locals coincide with European elections there were two boxes, one for the small green slips for House of Representatives votes, helpfully labelled in green, and one for the white Senate wallpaper rolls. On the way out from there we passed a large bin (colour coordinated cardboard again) full of of the How To Vote leaflets that previous voters had had pressed on them by the party drones outside, leaflets that would have been in their possession for maybe half an hour at most. It could have been a coincidence but when we passed most of the discarded How To Vote leaflets were from the Greens, but hopefully they only pulped trees that were prepared to die in a good cause.

So what do I think? Well, it felt a little odd voting on a Saturday instead of a Thursday, and it certainly seems better organised than the UK. But since the polls are open for less time than the UK and they'll expect better than a 90% turnout it really needs to be better organised. Other than that it was an exercise in annoyance. I don't like people telling me how to vote, I don't like having parties actually decide how I vote if I don't want to spend ages working out a preferred order of several dozen candidates, and most especially I don't like being made to go and vote. That's the real piss boiler. Australia can hardly claim that its citizens all have the right to vote when for decades they've been herded to the polls under threat of fines and presumably prison if someone refused to pay on principle. Ultimately, if someone went that far and also resisted their eventual arrest for it, the threat is probably of violence. As the Liberal Democrats put it:
The right to do something implies that you have a choice not to do that thing. It would be absurd to say that Australians have the “right to pay tax”. Paying tax is not a right, it is a legal obligation. Under current laws, voting is also not a right but a legal obligation.
On top of the fundamentally illiberal nature of compulsory I've never made any secret that I think compulsory voting means politicians have less incentive to be worth voting for. I'd almost be tempted to pay the twenty dollar fine if there wasn't at least one party committed to returning to voting which is free in every sense.


* Mrs Exile explained that this means people who are from out of the area, maybe even another state, but are here on election day for whatever reason. Even if you're out of the country they expect you to vote, so being elsewhere in Australia certainly isn't going to get you out of it. Apparently they'll make up ballot papers for anyone who comes in to cast a vote in another constituency, though I have no idea how they get the papers back to a count that might be going on a couple of thousand miles away. Maybe they just fax them through or something.

Friday, 20 August 2010

The case for an Australian republic.

I've said before that the best argument for Australia becoming a republic can be summed up in three words:

'Charles', 'the' and 'Third'.

Apparently this is now official, though if tomorrow sees Gingery Mallard getting booted out of the Lodge that she hasn't even moved into that might change again. Still, nice to know I'm not the only one who things so.

Charidee.

Still on Australia but leaving election stuff - after one general election to choose between idiots already this year it didn't take long before I was sick of this one - I was interested the other day to read about a controversy with AusAID, which I believe is the Australian version of the UK's Department for International Development. It all sounded so terribly familiar.
Picture this. A government department hands out cash to community activist groups, who in turn use the money to run a campaign to pressure political parties to devote more money to the department.
Ooooh, yes, it's definitely ringing bells.
At minimum, it seems to be a conflict of interest. Foolish, more like it. A betrayal of public trust even. But that's exactly what Australia's overseas aid agency, AusAID, has done.
I'd be appropriately scandalised if it wasn't so often standard procedure in Britain.
Last October, AusAID made grants totalling $1.5 million to various local groups "to raise awareness about global poverty" - a noble sentiment, no doubt, in a world where the gap between rich and poor is an awful blight.

The recipients included Girl Guides Australia - $149,000 for a weekend workshop for 20 young women to learn about the targets set by world leaders in 2000 to tackle poverty and carry out advocacy in their local community. A Rotary Club on the central NSW coast got $27,000 to raise awareness about maternal health, one of the global targets known as the Millennium Development Goals.

But grants were also given in several guises to the campaign known as "Make Poverty History". You might have seen the plastic wristbands people wear. This has been an immensely successful marketing exercise, particularly among young people, gathering in thousands of volunteers and financial donors.

And the No. 1 goal for Make Poverty History is to "accelerate growth in the aid program" - to push the government to devote a larger share of national income to foreign aid. In other words, boost the AusAID budget.
Just as anti drink or anti tobacco groups in Britain get money from the Department of Health to lobby the government and persuade it to 'do something' (usually for the chiiiiiildren), which invariably means the Department needs more money. It's not just bureaucrats empire building and armour plating their jobs, it's like an investment that can't possibly fail, not least because they get to use the taxpayers' money each and every time they do it.
AusAID made a $100,000 grant to the Oaktree Foundation to run a road trip for young people to be Make Poverty History "ambassadors" across the country. The trip took place over a week in early May, gathering signatures for a petition in cities and rural towns and putting on what it boasts are "media stunts" to get attention. Finally, they converged on Canberra, lobbying dozens of politicians over a breakfast.

The problem here isn't the goal of increasing spending on aid - it's the use of taxpayer funds to finance a campaign to pressure elected representatives.
Fucking Johnny Come Latelys. Don't they know that Britain has dozens of fake charities who've been at this for years? I suppose it was only a matter of time before the same people here noticed what a nice little earner this kind of game is, assuming they haven't been doing it for years as well. The only silver lining, and it's a pretty tarnished silver lining, is that it's clearly not just a British scam. To paraphrase the late Douglas Adams, foreign countries are like the past - they do things just the same there.

Nearly over - UPDATED.

Election day is just about on us down here and that'll be it for another three years (apart from state elections, which for Victoria is actually only another three months or so). It goes without saying that as with the British election I can't bear to support the main parties even though their similar awfulness is a little more distinguishable than in the UK. Julia Gillard impressed me a little by not sucking up to the religious vote and stating that she's not going to insult them by pretending to have a faith that she hasn't got, but any hope that she might get what I suspect is a religious inspired internet censorship policy off the table has been shot down. The not-actually-Liberals are being uncharacteristically liberal about it and saying they'll make any such filter optional, which is kind of what the Howard government did at one point before giving up on the idea due to hardly anyone actually wanting it. However, both have been bribing us with our own money in the shape of their respective broadband plans. Labor want to install a 100 Mbps fibre service to cover 93% of the country and high speed satellite for the rest - a snip at $43 billion. The Coalition would rather provide us with a 12 Mbps fibre and wireless service that might go as fast as 100 Mbps, covers 97% of the population (the rest to get satellite again) and which only costs $6 billion. And obviously both are missing the point:

It's not your fucking money, you thieving pricks! You're not there to piss our cash away on rolling out broadband as if it's a public service. Being a telecoms company is not a government function, which is why we have fucking telecoms companies. When 90 plus percent of the population really need that sort of service, whether it's $6 billion or $43 billion, they'll be willing to put their hands in their fucking pockets for it and someone will come along and put the network in. It's called the market, and all that is really required from the government is for it to stay out of the fucking way.

Unfortunately no matter who wins in just under 24 hours we're certainly in for more of the same.


UPDATE - Mrs Exile has pointed out to me that in addition to wanting to censor the whole fucking internet Labor would also like to censor all games and apps for smart phones, though from this article I have no idea if it's the usual nannying or because it's an untapped revenue stream for the government (my emphasis).
THE Labor Party has flagged it will shut down a major loophole in the mobile phone industry.

The loophole has allowed games and applications to go online without any kind of classification.

Amid debate on internet and video game censorship, it has emerged that thousands of smartphone games and applications are being sold or distributed without going through a classification check, in contravention of the National Classification Scheme.

The largest distributor of smartphone applications, Apple, is bypassing millions of dollars in fees, as classification fees range from $470 to $2040 for computer games, costing the government revenue.
I'm not sure exactly how Apple (who I'm more than happy to slag off when I think they deserve it) or distributor is bypassing millions in fees or how it can be in contravention of the censors' rule book National Classification Scheme. If there's a loophole then by definition this is legal and nobody is in contravention of anything, and for 'bypassing millions of dollars' we should read 'not being sufficiently moronic to hand over millions of dollars to the government for which it has absolutely no legal claim'.
More than 220,000 applications are available in Australia for download.

At a conservative estimate, one-third of them are games, suggesting compliance costs would be in the millions.
And if the ALP get their way who will actually pay those millions of dollars, eh? The distributors? The developers? Somehow I doubt that. It will be the customer, as it always is when government make the price of goods or services artificially high. Seriously, anyone want to bet that prices for apps and games would not then go up to cover these compliance fees? Anyone at all?

'Kinell. It's almost enough to make me vote for the fucking Liberals.

Not for the first time...

... the line between a Daily Mash spoof and reality is very difficult to make out.
THE campaign to legalise drugs was today backed by someone whose only qualification is to know exactly what he is talking about.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, the outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians, admitted he did not expect his views to be taken seriously because all he had done was spend 30 years becoming a world class consultant and public health expert, before sitting down and thinking about the issue of drug misuse for absolutely ages.

He said: "I haven't done anything particularly onerous such as waiting my turn to be handed a safe parliamentary seat before confronting the incredibly demanding task of doing whatever the Daily Mail tells me to.

...

Senior Tory backbencher Denys Finch-Hatton, said: "I do find it disturbing when dangerously under-qualified people get involved in subjects on which the Daily Mail has already made its position perfectly clear..."
Did I say difficult to make out? You'd need a fucking electron microscope.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Ex Number Ten, now looking out for Number One.

I've noticed that Guido had been keeping track of how often the much lamentable former Prime Mentalist and now full time Member for Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath has actually shown up in Westminster for longer than it takes to ink some paper to ensure he gets paid (it was two or three times in nearly three months the last I remember), and there was some suggestion there that the Cyclopean fuckwit was too busy writing his book to do any actual representing of his constituency. Certainly he's not been doing much, well, actually any voting.


I don't know, maybe it might not bother his constituents much that he was elected to do a job - hmmm, that phrase sound oddly familiar - that he's not now doing although he's apparently still able to show up often enough to make sure his 65 grand a year is safe. But if Gordon's plans come off he may not have to bother doing even that much. Since the book profits are going to charidees 'associated with the Brown family', though fuck knows who's going to buy it, he's apparently out to boost his income by emulating Tony Blair and charging big fees on the after dinner speaking circuit. Funny, Gordon was supposed to have hated Blair but in some ways it seems almost like he wishes to become Blair.
The former prime minister is aiming to secure bookings worth $100,000 (£64,000) a night, it has been reported.
Or roughly his current annual salary. This might sound like a lot for perhaps three quarters of an hour to an hour's 'work' but at the rate he's going it could be about as much time as he's likely to spend in Westminster anyway.
Mr Brown has asked a London speaking agency to find engagements for him in the Middle East and Asia, according to The Spectator.
So let me get this straight. He's not getting offers, he's just putting himself out there as a speaker. I wonder how long he'll have to wait before the queues form.
The magazine claimed that Mr Brown would also require clients to pay for five-star hotel accommodation, a first-class flight and three business-class flights.
Gosh, that's a shock. I thought he'd be wanting to pay for that out of his fee. Still, makes a change from the taxpayer coughing up for his travel and board, except of course those trips down the the Westminster cashpoint probably aren't coming out of Gordon's pocket.
Mr Brown’s wife Sarah could accompany him to engagements, such as award ceremonies, for an extra $20,000 (£12,800), it was reported.
What a bargain. I can't think of anything a big do needs more than the wife of one of the shortest serving and worst British Prime Minister's turning up not to speak herself but to fucking watch him do it, for only 20% more than the already insane fee he wants for verbally fellating himself in public. You'd have to be mad to pass up such an offer unless someone even better came along.

Look I’ve got my old pledge card a bit battered and crumpled, we said we’d provide more turches churches teachers and we have.
Okay, maybe his Lordshit isn't a great example.
An executive at one London speakers’ bureau said: "We all have a fairly good idea about the general demand out there for different people, and I haven't heard of a single request for Gordon Brown, so I'm surprised anyone wants to pay him that much".
Yeah, that's about what I thought. Good luck getting anything like that, Gordon.
A spokesman for Mr Brown last night said: "Gordon has of course had many invitations to speak from around the world and a range of institutions.
“But at the moment he is focussed on his constituency work...”
What fucking constituency work? Okay, he's done a few surgeries and we'll give him the benefit of doubt and assume he's written a few letters on behalf of constituents, but the record of actually representing them in Parliament remains no votes and not a word said since before the election. According to The Telegraph his friends are saying he's just keeping out of the way while a new leader of the Labour party is sorted out and will be about more later in the year, though since his book is due out round then I'd suggest that his constituents not expect his job to get in the way of book promoting and publicity. And then, since he's said he's hoping for a future in international development, and obviously between all the after dinner speaking engagements, he's bound to find loads of time to look after the interests of the people who elected him.

Isn't he?

Or should the prick just have fucked off to the Chiltern Hundreds back in May?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Busy.

Just can't find time to blog the last couple of days so, so in the meantime why don't you try this?



Incredible, isn't it? I've emailed it to everyone who's ever sent me anything that tells me to forward it to at least X people. I'm sure most of them won't take the hint.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Weekend Weird.

Pity your poor pizza delivery guy. Like the postman, you have absolutely no idea what he's gone through to get that TV dinner to your door. Neither rain, nor snow nor gloom of zombie apocalypse will stay...

... wait, what?



Yes, those are New Zealand accents and no, they don't normally moan and shamble about like that over the ditch (far from it if the recent pasting the All Blacks gave the Wallabies here is anything to go by). This is a viral marketing campaign for New Zealand pizza chain Hell Pizza, where the viewer makes a decision for Steve the pizza delivery guy at the end of each clip in a choose-your-own-ending style of fing. At stake is a year's supply of pizza, at least for those in New Zealand, and presumably all the brains you can eat.

Sticks and stones.

A very small victory for freedom of speech has been won up in Queensland, where a magistrate in Southport has ruled on the case of a man who sent a fax to a local politician in which he used the words 'nigger', 'sandnigger' and 'abo' to refer to people from Africa, the Middle East and, of course, indigenous Australians. I say it's only a very small victory for free speech because unfortunately the magistrate seems to have missed the point.
A SOUTHPORT magistrate has found the terms 'sandnigger' and 'nigger' are not offensive to a reasonable person.

Magistrate Michael O'Driscoll made the ruling yesterday when he dismissed a case against a Gold Coast retiree charged with sending an offensive facsimile to a local politician.

A staff member working for Broadwater MP Peta-Kaye Croft complained to police after receiving the document from 62-year-old Denis Mulheron of Labrador on June 30 last year.

Christie Turner, 28, told Southport Magistrates Court she was deeply offended when she read the one-page fax which called on the Labor Party to tighten immigration laws against 'niggers' and 'sandnigger terrorists' and Muslim women with circumcised genitals.

The fax also made reference to indigenous Australians as 'Abos'.
Okay, first things first, let's get the almost traditional issue of the ethnicity of the complainant out of the way - I'd bet money that Christie Turner is as white as I am simply because it's so often the case that when a white person is denounced as a racist/homophobe/sexist/Islamaphobe/kitten hater/whatever it's actually another white person doing the denouncing. For what it's worth I'm actually inclined to agree with Ms Turner that those words are offensive and so I wouldn't use them myself, but I wouldn't go this far:
Ms Turner said to her, as a young woman, Mr Mulheron's words were both offensive and disturbing.
What has her being a young woman got to do with it? I wouldn't be shocked if the old boy uses some distinctly chauvinist terms as well, but since the complaint relates to racial terms I don't see how her being a young woman has any bearing at all. Does she perhaps feel that being a young woman she is morally superior to an old man and is better qualified to judge offensiveness, and indeed to take offence on behalf of those¹ he has slighted? And if so when is she going to get around to complaining on my behalf that the term 'pom' is offensive to people born in England? Are we supposed to just man up and brave our way through it, or will she get round to it once she's worked her way down a list of assorted aggrieved groups? Or is it entirely up to us poms to decide whether or not to do anything about it? I'd go for this last one since I've never met an expat who's lost any sleep or feels at all hurt about being a pom, let alone one who needs some patronising banana bender² to fight their battles for them. And that's kind of the point. If we decide on behalf of other people whether or not they should take offence and then complain for them aren't we being rather patronising towards them? What if they are offended by this patronising attitude?

Okay, now we've got that out of the way let's move on to the real problem, and the reason why I think that for freedom of speech this is actually a much smaller victory than it sounds. The whole thing revolves around whether or not what Mr Mulheron wrote was offensive. Ms Turner (and me) thought it was. Mr Mulheron thought it wasn't, or at least that was his defence.
Mr Mulheron told the court he believed he was using 'everyday English' in the fax.

He said he had grown up with the slang terms for Arabs and black Africans and did not believe they were offensive.

"I'm not a member of the cafe, chardonnay and socialist set ... to me that is everyday language," he said.

...

Barrister Chris Rosser said his client had been raised in a different time when the words were not as frowned upon.
Okay, I'm sure some people would read that and think it's bullshit. I'm sure some would feel that in this day and age anyone and everyone in the English speaking world would be aware that 'nigger' with or without modifiers to indicate Arabic/Middle Eastern people is normally frowned upon, and I'm sure plenty in Australia would be a bit sceptical about his claim not to have realised that 'abo' is usually considered un-PC.³  On the other hand the guy is so deeply last century that he uses a fax. In any case that defence misses the point as widely as Ms Turner. And the magistrate:
After lengthy consideration, Mr O'Driscoll ruled that Mr Mulheron's words were not enough to invoke criminal sanctions.

"The words used were crude, unattractive and direct but were not offensive to a reasonable person," he said.

But he made it clear the court in no way condoned Mr Mulheron's comments.
And here's where I have problems. By ruling that certain words are or are not offensive 'to a reasonable person' courts are actually ruling on what opinions we may hold and still be considered reasonable. One man's meat is another's poison and it's quite possible for two reasonable people to disagree on whether a particular word is offensive or not and if so how much, which is probably why goldcoast.com.au wrote what Mulheron actually said while the Melbourne Herald Sun, which otherwise chose to rewrite the article almost verbatim, used 'n----r' and 'sandn----r'. But apparently this is not so in Queensland. Since up there the words are apparently 'not offensive to a reasonable person' the implication is that you are unreasonable if you think 'nigger' or 'abo' is offensive. Well, I appreciate the effort you've no doubt made in your decision, Mr O' Driscoll, but I prefer to make my own mind up, fuck you very much.

The other implication is arguably worse. Had Mulheron used a different term and the magistrate then ruled that some people - 'reasonable' ones, obviously - would find it offensive presumably he'd have been found guilty and faced a sentence of up to three years in jail. In other words it's still a crime to offend someone and you'll still be locked up for it if a court can be persuaded that 'reasonable' people would all agree that it was indeed offensive. What a lost opportunity! The courts still get to decide what can and can't be said, the politicians - oh yes, of course they were unhappy about the result - will want to change the law to make more things legally offensive and verboten, and people still aren't left to decide for themselves what they as individuals think is reasonable or offensive.

Did I say this was only a small victory for free speech? I'm no longer sure that it's even that good. In the sense that a man has not been imprisoned for speaking his mind it's certainly a victory, and Mulheron himself might not think it a small one. But for freedom of speech, freedom to say whatever is in your head however you wish to providing it doesn't harm - harm, not offend - anyone else, I reckon it's a Pyrrhic victory at best. The implication that there is some right to go through your whole life without ever being offended has again gone unchallenged, and that's the worst result of all.

So let me lay it out for the Christie Turner's of the world, not to mention any magistrates who think it's for the law to rule on what words are offensive and whether people are reasonable depending on what they think of a particular word. There's no right to not be offended and there never can be (I for one would be offended by being given such a right). This doesn't mean that you can't be offended when Mr Mulheron talks about niggers and abos - it just means that in return you may call him an inbred, senile, redneck fossil with shit for brains or whatever flicks your switch, and if Mr Mulheron is offended by it, tough.

1 - As we all know sometimes minority groups aren't anything like quick enough to take offence and might even entirely fail to notice that they're being offended. Therefore it's left to well meaning and better educated middle class white people with absolutely no sense of irony to do it for them.
2 - Go ahead, Christie, be offended (I know it's feeble but it's the only name I know for Queenslanders) by something aimed at you for a change. My pleasure.
3 - Though I've heard people say that 'indigenous Australians' is also patronising and we were fine sticking with 'Aborigines' provided it isn't shortened. Other people have told me that actually 'abo', 'aborigine' and 'indigenous Australian' are all wrong and we should instead say 'Koori' or 'Tiwi' or whatever the locals called themselves before Europeans arrived. Needless to say all this advice has come from fellow white Europeans and misses the point that not all of Australia's half a million or so aborigines will necessarily want to be referred to the same way.
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