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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

Saturday, 30 April 2011

See if anyone ever invites Australia to anything ever again

There's just no getting away from it - UPDATED

Apparently, if this morning's papers are to be believed, in England a quite pretty girl called Kate has married an apparently quite nice bloke called William, who happens to be a prince.

Click for embiggerfication and extra brain damage

This is of such resounding importance that there's even a special Google Doodle for it. I can only assume that since this is this morning's news rather than yesterday evening's news this must be an entirely separate story to that of Prince William marrying long term partner Kate Middleton yesterday. That Channel 7 were showing just before the Sydney vs Carlton game, and which they marked by some complete bollocks about the match being a meeting of footy royalty and a special commemorative coin being used for the toss. And which we just had to hear about in an update at half time.

We fucking know, okay? Give it a fucking rest.

Yes, yes, very nice, happy couple, hooray, and Harry resisted the temptation to draw an enormous shaving foam cock on the bonnet of the car or put a turbot on the exhaust pipe.* And absolutely nothing else happened overnight, did it?

< sarc > Not much, apparently. Oh, some tornados killed some people,
but they weren't royal and probably not as pretty. < /sarc >
Look, media fucknuts, there are more important things going on than the bloody royal wedding, okay? We do not need to hear every single last trivial detail about her aunt who bought them a blender from John Lewis because she always buys a blender as a wedding gift, or his distant cousin who bought the gold plated 18 slice custom made toaster and a man to turn it on and off. We don't need to hear how Phil the Bubble said something offensive at the reception, or that Charles made an arse of himself dancing, or about whether Harry got off with both the bridesmaids. And the only people who really need to hear where they are honeymooning are the people who've taken the bookings, though with the continuing policy of invasive and highly personal physical searches by the TSA I'd advise them against going to the US unless they're either exempted or up for someone copping a feel of their new spouse.

Honestly, unless it turns out that David Icke was right all along and that either Kate Middleton is also a shape shifting lizard being and always has been (or is going to be turned into one - I'm really not sure how it's supposed to work) you really can stop now. Report something else, anything else.

Please?

UPDATE - Thanks to Dick Puddlecote leaving a comment about how Aussie PM and part time republican Gingery Dullard's shit hat I had to go looking at pictures. Dick was quite right but in fairness to Jules hers wasn't the worst. I genuinely laughed out loud when I saw Princess Bea's beige door knocker hat and the nightmare image of Tara Powder-Tomkinson with a giant blue vagina nailed to her head by a rose will haunt me forever.

* Actually this is very old hat. Every intelligent royal groom these days knows that he should check the exhaust for turbot. If a royal best royal man wants to stink the car up he should put some Beluga caviar down the heater vents.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The spy is not in your pocket, it's on your dashboard

With all the hysteria going on about Apple's and Google's smartphones at the moment it might be easy to forget that as far as anyone knows they've really not done anything with the info apart from maybe used it for tailored advertising.* It seems the same can't be said of Tom Tom, who are helping the police catch speeding motorists.
Dutch GPS maker TomTom went into damage control today after it emerged that Dutch police have been using data collected from drivers who use the company's products to set speed traps.
Earlier, TomTom had reported weak first quarter earnings in which it cut 2011 sales forecasts and said it was seeking to compensate for a decline in demand for personal navigation devices by growing service revenues - including selling traffic data to governments.
National newspaper Algemeen Dagblad reported that police had obtained the information from the government and used it to set targeted speed traps, prompting angry reactions from TomTom users.
Advertisement: Story continues below
In a written apology, chief executive Harold Goddijn said the company sold the anonymous data believing it would be used to improve safety or relieve traffic bottlenecks.
Now while this doesn't involve tracking specific users the thought occurs that that's also a possibility. My satnav remembers where it's been and how fast it went there, and that information can be downloaded to a computer. What's to stop the program on the computer that manages that information from being collected and sent off to the manufacturers who in turn flog the info to Vic police so they can see how hard I hit the pedal on the freeway? Not much if we don't take action to prevent it as far as I can see, which is a slight worry as my satnav's records have me once doing nearly 140km/h several hundred feet underground below Port Phillip Bay.** Obviously an error and in any case probably not something I'd get a ticket for, though with Vic police's constant hard on for speeding I wouldn't too sure, but I've known satnavs to get a little confused about speed in other places now and again. Not often, but if it thinks you're a block away from where you are and then works out your real position it's going to think you've just moved very quickly. Fifty metres in two seconds is 90 km/h and could get you a ticket on many urban and city centre roads round here, which would be a real pisser if it was just a figment of your satnav's moronic imagination.

Don't think it could happen? Look at that second paragraph again (my bold).
Earlier, TomTom had reported weak first quarter earnings in which it cut 2011 sales forecasts and said it was seeking to compensate for a decline in demand for personal navigation devices by growing service revenues - including selling traffic data to governments.
Yeah, they're back-pedalling like crazy now but if they need the money it could get awfully tempting to build this kind of feature into future units if everybody's smartphones aren't already grassing them up by then. And the moral of the story is we'd all better start thinking about firewall rules to stop things doing an E.T. or avoiding plugging them into the computer at all.


* Not that I am saying that they are not arseholes, but I'm not sure this is particularly arseholish of them.
** I was actually holding it while standing still in a car port at the time, and while I'm not sure of the elevation I was certainly not in the bay, much less underneath it.

So what?

So the birth certificate is out and it says Obama was born in Honolulu. Or rather the full birth certificate, since the short version was out ages ago. Which also said he was born in Honolulu. And this changes what exactly? The Birthers, none of whom would have voted for him or want him to win a second term, will want to know why it took so long and will say that it's because this is just a new fake - as if it would have taken anywhere near this long to produce a fake with the resources Obama's mob have available to them. Even if they were all persuaded they're still not going to vote for the guy. And as I've said before where he's born became almost irrelevant once he was in the door, and certainly far less important than what he actually does.

So if it doesn't change anything what was the point in even bothering? Just to make Donald Trump look silly? First shot fired in the re-election campaign, maybe?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The reliability of waterboarding

From The Age:
The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks warned that al-Qaeda has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe which will unleash a "nuclear hellstorm" if Osama bin Laden is captured, leaked files reveal.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told Guantanamo Bay interrogators the terror group would detonate the nuclear device if the al-Qaeda chief was captured or killed, according to the classified files released by the WikiLeaks website.
And it was very sweet of the Americans not to catch him so that nobody would be embarrassed by the complete lack of nuclear explosions in European capitals that would no doubt have resulted. I imagine that in terrorist circles to threaten that sort of thing and not come good on it is nothing short of social death, and unfortunately that's not the kind that comes with 70 odd virgins as an upside. Very odd virgins, possibly, but I can't see much of a queue forming for that.
The German weekly Der Spiegel, also citing WikiLeaks, said that Sheikh Mohammed had told his interrogators he had set up two cells for the purpose of attacking Heathrow in 2002.
[...]
Der Spiegel noted that his "confessions" should have be treated with caution as they could have been extracted through torture. Sheikh Mohammed is known to have undergone the method known as "waterboarding".
Look, of course it should be treated with caution. Does anyone imagine that if they had a nuke they wouldn't have let the bugger off by now? Clear and present bullshit! If this stupidity is the kind of intelligence water boarding people generates I think they should try something else. Would a perpetually looped tape of Rebecca Black be over the top?

It's our fault, now pay up - UPDATED

A couple of weeks back I had a rant about the insanity that is allowing governments to sign contracts which extend far beyond the few years of their term and commit both their successors and the poor bastard taxpayers to what may turn out to be a bad deal. The rant was prompted by news that the Wonthaggi desalination plant, a multi-billion dollar project to secure Melbourne's water supply against drought and which was agreed by the last state government shortly before a particularly rainy year almost doubled the amount of stored water, was at least six months behind schedule because of delays caused by rain. Extra levels of Exile outrage were caused because the bastards were talking about taking legal action against the state because the profit forecast had dropped 98%. My feelings were, and still are, well boo fucking hoo - it was up to bidders to allow for the possibility of bad weather and factor that into their tenders. If the winning bidder failed to do so and is now up shit creek that's nobody else's responsibility but their own, and that Premier Ted Baillieu should make this absolutely crystal clear to the company.

It now turns out that it wasn't an empty threat.
THE companies building Victoria's multibillion-dollar desalination plant are seeking compensation from taxpayers because of the impact of this year's floods on construction.
The state government has confirmed that the Aquasure consortium has lodged a ''force majeure'' claim under the contentious 28-year contract signed by the former Brumby government in 2009.
Force majeure - French for superior force - refers to an event beyond the control of government or contractor.
This is a new legal term for me, but a quick web search tells me that it's fairly common clause in contracts that allows for both parties to walk away without there being any liability. It actually sounds rather like the 'acts of God' stuff you see in the fine print of your insurance policy and it seems like it's being used much the same way in this case. Now I'm no lawyer but to me this whole force majeure thing sounds ripe to be abused. To exaggerate the point, why bother doing any due diligence at all when you can just put in a clause saying that the contract is voided if anything happens which you hadn't thought of? I'm not saying that Aquasure didn't do any due diligence but clearly they didn't allow for the possibility of a severe rain delay, and I still don't see why the financial consequences of that should be borne by the poor bloody taxpayers.

Oh.
[...] the Brumby government agreed to share the risk for ''act of God'' events with Aquasure.
Wonderful. John fucking Brumby yet again.

Now I know that Brumby is hardly unique in this and that lots of governments sign up their taxpayers for all sorts of long term deals of varying degrees or value and shittiness, but isn't it about time somebody somewhere put the fucking brakes on this?

Baillieu's government is at least taking the same line I would.
The government is resisting the compensation claim. ''We believe this is a matter for Thiess and its insurers and [we] will not comment further on this as it is a commercial matter under the contract,'' said a government spokeswoman in a written statement.
Couldn't agree more, but it shouldn't be necessary. As I've said here a couple of times we need to have contracts limited to the lesser of a single parliamentary term or halfway through the next parliament unless approved by a referendum. The more the whole Wonthaggi business drags on the more certain I am of it.

UPDATE - In the comments Geo points that force majeure is a legitimate clause in most contracts. I'm prepared to believe that it is but it's not really the point I was making. You can put whatever you like in a contract as long as it's legal, and if it's unacceptable it's for the other party simply to not sign the thing. My problem is that governments are able to sign up to all sorts of things with costs and effects that far outlast the government and even the political careers of those involved, and that since governments are also known to be a little too free with other people's money and to pay less attention to details than they might if they personally were going to take the financial hit this is something that ought to be stopped.

As to the validity of the force majeure in this instance, Geo notes that
The unusual rain will almost certainly be accepted by the Adjudicator as a force majeure event if the dispute is not settled.
However, a look at Bureau of Meteorology records for rainfall in the area suggest that the rain wasn't particularly unusual. Australia is, as Dorothea Mackellar wrote a century ago, a land of "droughts and flooding rains" and so I suspected it might turn out to be unusual for recent years but not out of the ordinary in the medium to long term, but not even that as it turns out. The 2010 rainfall (1131.2 mm, not yet QCd) is above average but isn't even in the 90th percentile (1153.3 mm) and has been exceeded many times. Even in recent years during the drought (if it really was a drought rather than increased water consumption - I'll look into that now if I can make time) we've had more rain in one year, 2001 (1157.2 mm). 1995 (1379.0 mm) and 1996 (1182.2 mm) immediately preceding the 'drought' were both much higher and 1991 (1151.7 mm) was also a wetter year, though the 80s and 70s were drier overall. Nor was 2010 affected by a freak month of really high rainfall since none of the monthly figures were record highs. In addition the proposed site was actually flooded in 2007, two years before the winning bidder was announced, which you'd imagine would have rung some alarm bells. With all that in mind I'd have thought they're batting a sticky wicket but of course fuck alone knows what the arrogant twats signed us all up to. For all we know we might be on the hook for the fucking lot.

Be heard

Via email, an update from the I Deserve To Be Heard campaign:
[...] The Government has recently announced that they intend to introduce plain packaging. Now is the time to tell the Government that plain packaging for cigarettes just makes no sense and will not work. Click here

It's just another policy like the alcopops tax that they have not thought through. On top of unreasonable tax increases and outdoor smoking bans, this is just another example of the Government unfairly targeting you as a smoker.

With cigarettes already hidden behind doors in most shops across the country, plain packaging will just make it harder for you to identify and purchase your cigarettes, causing long queues and all for a policy that has not been proven to prevent or stop people from smoking.
As I've said often enough I'm not a smoker, so I'm not being unfairly targeted for being one. But I have no doubt that I will be unfairly targeted for entirely new things in the future, along with virtually everybody else. So if you're in Australia please do click the link and support the campaign even if you're not a smoker, and if you're not in Oz please lend whatever verbal support you can - blog it, tweet it, email it, chat about it over a beer in the pub, whatever. Most of all watch the situation where you are like a hawk, because I guarantee there are people where you are who want this to happen there too. Don't think they'll stop at smoking either. There is almost no limit to the number of things that someone somewhere would happily ban because as they see it it's for your own good.

The choice is a simple and stark one. You support the smokers right here and now, or you hope like hell some of them are still around to support you when it's your turn.

That smartphone tracking thing

I've probably mentioned before that as far as phone apps go I feel that the absolute best app ever is the Talking To People Far Away Without A Landline app, which has been around since the days when mobile phones were actually called car phones because they were so big you needed a fucking car to cart the bloody thing around. I'm happy that the march of progress has shrunk things to a more convenient pocket size, improved the battery life and generally made it able to do more things. Mine plays a game about a snake that gets longer as it eats, which is a feature that I'm immensely indifferent about and only one of literally some features that the phone came with and which I never, ever use. But that Talking To People Far Away Without A Landline one is so good that when the phone eventually carks it I will be demanding that its replacement can do the same thing. Text messages are occasionally handy so I'd quite like the new one to do those too.

Clearly then the smartphones tracking their owners thing is an issue that has largely passed me by. Yes, I know that if they really want to the powers that be can get a rough idea of where my old 'dumb' phone is, and therefore where I am too, but I feel it's pretty clear that smartphones are likely to make the job that much easier. More accurate too if they're GPS enabled, which I believe most are, and sneakily programmed to report on their whereabouts to 10m from time to time, which they're probably not but potentially could be at any time by way of an OS update or something. And you just know that the sneaky bastards have probably covered themselves with a clause in the EULA that almost everybody overlooked because they were too keen to get the wrapping off and play with the new shiny to read 49 paragraphs of impenetrable small print. My feeling is that if this is objectionable then a smartphone is probably not for you, and if you're concerned even at the possibility for being tracked anyway then buy a second hand dumb phone and turn it off most of the time or do without one altogether. If you bought one anyway and now don't like it because it spies on you I will buy it off you. I'm prepared to go all the way up to five dollars, which I realise is a shit price but it's about what the thing is worth to me personally.* Someone else will probably give you a lot more if you're wanting to get rid of it.

So not being a smartphone user (I LOLed at Max Farquar's 'spyPhone' video but to me it's always been more whyPhone) it never occurred to me that this tracking and data logging might actually be there as a consequence of some users wanting their smartphones to be able to do dumb things (en bloc from the von Mises blog)
My initial reaction to the alarmist news that the iPhone collects (but doesn’t use unless you tell it to) information about your whereabouts is: no kidding. I mean, people WANT their iPhones to do this so that they can use them as GPSs and so that they can update their status on FB with a “check in.” It’s not my thing but it is what people want to do. There is probably good reason to make that information more secure but truly this is not a flaw but a feature, and generally a response to customer demand. In any case, it is not the case that Steve Jobs knows the location of all the opium dens you have been visiting and plans to blackmail you with that information.

A final note: 10 years ago, the idea that you could hold in your palm a device that would reveal your precise whereabouts and also permit you to broadcast this in an instant to millions of people of your own choosing would have seemed like impossible science fiction. Now that we have it, the punditry class screams in outrage.
Unsurprisingly some of the comments say that this is downplaying the issue but I think there's a good point being made here. I don't get the appeal of social networking either (anti-social networking, now that might interest me) and most of the features look like solutions desperately looking for problems, but I can see that there are people who do want their phones to automatically let their friends know where they are. God knows why you'd want this because if my Facebook account is any guide nearly all your friends will be people you've never met or even heard of, and in any case how hard is it to just tell the handful you really do know that you're going to the pub if anyone wants to meet you for a beer? You've got a fucking telephone right in your hand, for Christ's sake! I don't understand it but then the appeal of soap operas are a mystery to me as well, yet I'm prepared to accept that lots of people do actually want their minds melted by whatever implausible thing has happened in Summer Bay today. That's supply and demand and people are currently demanding that their phones do as much of their live's heavy lifting as possible, which is why you've got services like Foursquare and Google Places being launched. People really are signing up for this shit so inevitably the phones have to have the capability, right?

That being so is it really so much of a shock that companies are looking at using this info to make a quid by sending targeted and location specific advertising at the users? Not like nobody saw this coming, is it?


Extra irony points for all the personalised advertising going on in a movie scene bagging personalised advertising

Irritating? Yep. Creepy? Potentially. Worrying? Well, when you can vote with your feet and sell your phone (seriously, I am good for five dollars for a used iPhone) or not buy one to start with unless they come without all that extra crap that the media is currently busy scaresturbating itself into a frenzy over, I'd say it's not all that worrying. Especially when it turns out that while it is enabled by default, which is annoying but since hardly anyone would enable it voluntarily it's also exactly what nearly all of us would do if we were in the same position, you can still actually turn it off. You won't read that in the Mainly Fail smartphone spying scare stories, but then they're trying to make a quid selling advertising too and leading an article about it with the solution to the problem is no more in their business interests than making a phone which allows personalised ads but has them disabled by default.

It's not a conspiracy, folks. It's just a reminder that the free market ain't perfect, it's just free.


* If it's an iPad I'll pay $4.50. 

Monday, 25 April 2011

ANZAC Day

As well as being Easter Monday it is also ANZAC Day here, and a public holiday in recognition of more secular and personal sacrifices made by Australian and New Zealand service personnel over the decades. It is a day for dawn services at War Memorials, for parades of old soldiers through city centres, and for the Last Post and a minute's silence at the annual ANZAC Day game between the Aussie Rules clubs of Essendon and Collingwood. It's a day on which remembrance of those who fought for freedom comes before sweary blogging about it, and therefore one on which I won't post anything else.


Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives. You are now living in the soil of a friendly country, therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk 1934

Sunday, 24 April 2011

I'm fucking dog sick hearing about this bloody wedding

An open letter to the world's mediocre media:

Despite my long standing republicanish tendencies I don't harbour any ill will towards William and Kate. Okay, it does annoy me slightly that unless Australia ditches the monarchy he'll be 'my' king one day, but that's not his fault.* The poor bugger never asked for the job and for all any of us know may turn it down when the time comes. So no, I have nothing against them, but I don't know them and they don't know me and it's vanishingly unlikely that that will ever change, which means I have nothing but indifference towards them either. Sorry if this is entering the flag-waving spirit that seems expected of everybody British born, but I'm just not prepared to jump on the bandwagon and sit here pretending that it's in any way meaningful to me.

So can the media kindly stop with the endless fucking wedding-a-thon coverage? Please? We all hope they have a nice day for it and that the drunken uncles don't make complete arses of themselves at the reception, but beyond that some of us really don't give a rip. It's becoming so excessive - this is just the most extreme example I know of here in Oz - that even the T-Mobile 'funny' wedding advert with the lookalikes just annoyed me. In this digital age every network has a spare channel or two so can you please just put one aside for the wedding and have at least one just doing business as usual. Even the main one would be okay since I realise that so many people addicted to the House of Windsor soap opera really are interested. But other things will happen on April 29th and no doubt some bastard somewhere will take the opportunity to bury any bad news he needs to get out in what is passing for the open. It might be nice if someone was prepared to fucking report it for the benefit of those of us who aren't busy going ooh-ahhh at footage of the coach and the dress on the TV or sitting lulled into a trance by the tones of whichever Dimbleborg is doing the commentary.

In short, if they don't re-enact the one from the Vicar of Dibley where Alice and Hugo get married, which would still be utterly irrelevant but funny as all fuck, then I'm not interested.

Many thanks,
An angry and curmudgeonly Exile.


Or the UK does it first. I've always wondered what would happen then. Do the Royals have a second favourite Commonwealth country to go to and be king/queen of?

Easily confused

Via the Ranting Kingpenguin, a story of breathtaking offence seeking to the Nth degree. A persons who is a living, black woman with a lack of facial hair consistent with her gender claiming offence over the similarity she has with a scale model of a dead white guy with a beard you could insulate your roof with.

Yes, really.
For a poster advertising a primary school parents’ meeting, it is certainly unusual.
Using models, it depicts scientist Charles Darwin surrounded by an angry mob wielding flaming torches and makeshift weapons.
According to the school governor who created it, City executive David Moyle, it is a satirical joke about pushy middle-class parents demanding higher standards.
But...?
Yet when black headmistress Shirley Patterson saw it, she believed it represented her surrounded by white parents.
Do fucking what? What, did she think it was supposed to represent?
She reportedly compared it to a scene from Mississippi Burning, a film about the Ku Klux Klan’s racist lynchings...
Starring Morgan Freeman as Charles Darwin? Oh, wait, no.
... saying it left her ‘fearing for her and her family’s safety’.
Oh, please. Anyone with a torch is evocative of Deep South Klansmen lynchings? Really? Indiana Jones? The Statue of Liberty? The Fellowship of the Ring? Shall we go on?

Torch and a scale model. Also bearded.
RAAACIST!
Needless to say the constabularists were called in although they said there was no law against it, which is slightly surprisingly since the definition of racism seems to have been broadened to include anything that anyone anywhere might perceive as racist even if it's not aimed at their own race. But you just know that's not going to be the end of it, don't you?
Although the police realised Darwin was white, and said no crime had been committed, Southwark council insisted it had ‘appropriately’ investigated the ‘deeply disturbing’ poster.
Seriously, guys, the only thing that's deeply disturbing is how quickly some people are able to see a race issue in something so patently unrelated to anything to do with race, and even a fairly cursory investigation should have found that out simply by asking David Moyle.
He found the image on a website mocking ‘creationists’ angered by Darwin’s theory of evolution...
And a few minutes googling backs this up since I've found the same scene photographed from a different angle in a piece dated March 2009 about Darwin and the creationist/evolution argument. So you'd imagine the investigation would be over pretty quickly, eh?

I'm kidding. Of course you wouldn't. Not only is it a local council and almost certainly shot through with political correctness, but it's a Labour run council and likely more prone to PC bullshit anyway. And so inevitably...
‘A two-week investigation was carried out into the toy Charles Darwin’s ethnicity, before it was ruled “indeterminable”.
[...]
The Labour authority refused to reveal details of its inquiry – which involved half a dozen officers at a time when 500 jobs are set to be cut.
And it will not discuss how a model of a white, bearded, Victorian scientist could be confused with a black 21st century headmistress.
I doubt it's justifying its assessment of the image as disturbing either. Oh, sorry, not just disturbing but
“deeply disturbing and damaging to children”
Altogether now: Won't someone think of the chiiiiiiildren?

Fucking twats.

And the poor sod painted as a racist by this collection of idiot offence seekers, self righteous arsewipes, and bullying pricks? What of him? Well, having been suspended as a school governor over this lunatic claim he's not surprisingly thinking of taking his kids out of there and sending them to another school. Personally I think he has another lesson to learn.
"[...] as an ardent supporter of local government, I was taken aback by the reaction of the council, who not only fully endorsed the disproportionate reaction of the school management, but also contrived additional charges about the poster that had no relation at all to the original complaint.
An ardent supporter of local government, eh? Mr Moyle, I think I've just spotted your mistake.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Apropos of nothing much...

... except Captain Ranty put up one of these earlier, but this one happens to be my favourite.



POhhh..... POhhh..... POhhh..... miaow indeed.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Another follow up

Following on from the fresh warble gloaming date for your diary from WUWT the other day comes something similar via the Von Mises Institute. No memory holes for some of these they're just too well known, but we shouldn't let them be forgotten or glossed over either. Enjoy the fail.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Nice to know the Cobbleition have fixed Britain's finances - pt 2

Further to yesterday's post about the Cobbleition spending yet more money the UK hasn't got, I see this:

Click for linky



For one thing, while Cameramong's call for austerity is no bad thing it's somewhat undermined by the sums of money the Cobbleition are continuing to spunk away. For another the EU's track record of financial probity is not exactly golden, is it? When was the last time the auditors were willing to sign the books? Yes, exactly, I had to look it up too because it's been so long - sixteen consecutive years now. And I'm sure part of the reason is because of things like this:
Audits of EU funded projects for 2009 found “quantifiable errors” affecting £9.5billion of spending, with “non-respect of public procurement rules” calling into question contracts worth £4billion.
Nine out of 10 audited road building projects across the EU were identified as proceeding with “unlawful use of award criteria” despite the breach of rules being detected before contracts were paid.
It'd be nice to think Cameramong will tell them to go piss up a rope on a windy day but I wouldn't bet on it. Oh, what the fuck, it's only money after all. Have some more, why don't you, you loathsome shower of troughing bastards. But please try to remember one thing:

IT'S NOT YOUR FUCKING MONEY!

Cunts.



And we never suspected

Iraq. It seems - and I realise this will come as a shock to many people - oil was a consideration before the invasion. Yeah, I know, me too. But apparently it was.
Government ministers discussed plans to exploit Iraq's oil reserves in the months before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, documents have revealed.
The secret papers, obtained by an oil campaigner and published by The Independent, are minutes of meetings between senior oil executives and Labour cabinet members, and highlight for the first time the hollow nature of Western governments' public denials of national self-interest in the decision to invade Iraq.
Still, at least it's all coming out in the open now, eh?

Oh, wait, no it isn't (my bold).
The documents, which have not been provided to the continuing Chilcot inquiry into Britain's involvement in the Iraq war, appear to contradict statements made by Shell in 2003, just before the invasion, that reports of meetings between the oil giant and Downing Street about Iraqi oil were ''highly inaccurate''.
And it sounds like it wasn't just the British government with it's eyes on the black gold.
The published papers cover October and November 2002 and show that just five months before the invasion, Baroness Symons, then the British trade minister, told BP that the government believed British energy firms should take a share of Iraq's enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Mr Blair's military commitment to US plans for regime change.
The minutes reveal that she also agreed to lobby the Bush administration on behalf of BP because it feared being ''locked out'' of discussions and deals purportedly being thrashed out between the US, France and Russia, and their oil companies.
Now I'm sure it wasn't the only consideration - I expect some really thought Saddam had a hand in 9/11, and some really thought it'd be good for the Iraqi people, and some really thought we needed to finish the job left over from 1991, and some really thought they had weapons of mass destruction, and some really thought that Dubya was right to go after the man who tried to kill his 'daddeh'.* In hindsight it doesn't look now as if any of them were actually very good reasons, and a lot of people didn't think much of them beforehand either. Oil got mentioned a lot from the word go but everybody in industry and governments alike protested that it wasn't, no, really it wasn't.

You can admit it now, fellas. It was a bit about the oil, eh? Might not have been the prime concern but it was a sufficiently attractive side benefit to have ministers bouncing about trying to broker the best deal for their nation's companies. I'm sure that's a great comfort to the families of dead coalition servicemen and women.


* One day the world will discover how to type in cod accents and the internet will be better for it.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Nice to know the Cobbleition have fixed Britain's finances

Well, they must have if they're still spending more than £11 billion on foreign aid including £800 million to India, which despite a lot of poverty is a growing economy with a nuclear weapons program and a space program, and can now afford even more money not only for a gunfight in Libya but for aid there as well. I've no idea where they found the money but my hat's off to them.

'Kinell.

The march of intolerance grinds on...

... and the talk now is of not being free from persecution even in your own home.
Scoff if you like about improbability of home smoking bans. How they would not only be unfair but unenforceable. Dismiss the concept as ridiculous.

Huff and puff about civil liberties, individual freedom of choice and the home being the family castle. Thump the table about government interference and intervention. About the spidery intrusion of the nanny state. But ignore the looming reality at your peril. The smokers’ nagging fear, that their final bastion will be invaded by smoke police, is already here.

...

The Cancer Council of South Australia says home smoking bans are a genuine possibility.

“As people’s awareness and understanding of the harm of second hand tobacco smoke increases, expectation is growing that there be no smoke in shared places,” the Council’s Chief Executive, Professor Brenda Wilson says.

...

“It’s entirely possible and even probable that people sharing apartment blocks will want those to be smoke-free too here in Australia."
Backdoor criminalisation, cry some, pointing to the existing ban on smoking in any kind of business and increasing numbers of smoke free areas out doors. And it's true that attacking smoking in people's homes will mean it's illegal to smoke almost everywhere, though of course the dilemma for governments is that while they really want to be seen to tackle smoking they don't want to be without the tax revenue and know damn well that the rest of us will kick up about increased taxes if we have to make up the difference. And don't kid yourself, governments make more from tobacco tax than even the anti-tobacco crowd claim smoking costs society. Give all that up? Not in a hurry, though they'll continue to make life as difficult as possible for those who still smoke, the poor bastards.

But as I've mentioned before, a rather nasty side effect has been the creation of a wave of hatred directed at smokers. They've been denormalised and dehumanised and demonised, and this wasn't so much a bug as a feature, a needed step to prevent the rest of us shrugging and saying 'oh, they're not harming us, just let them smoke in peace.' That wouldn't achieve anything so every cough, tickly throat, headache, asthma attack and feeling of nausea that could conceivably be blamed on tobacco smoke had to be blamed on tobacco smoke, all so that one minority - the anti smoking authoritarians - could use the majority to pressure and cajole and eventually impose their will on another minority.

The hatred that this has generated for smokers chills my soul. Dick Puddlecote has a collection of more extreme examples of hatred and bile aimed at anyone who smokes and you don't have to look far for more. On news.com.au's page reporting the possibility of home smoking bans there are plenty more.
I would love this to happen here. The neighbour below me is a chain smoker and on days where I have to open my windows, I will get all the noxious fumes. For those like me who live in public housing. Isn't it up to the government to make sure tenants live in safety especially according to OH & S rules?
[In response to an earlier comment complaining about the infringement of rights] you're making a big assumption there. Smokers have no rights.
Yay! Does this mean I might be able to open my apartment windows without the cloud of my neighbours' cancer-ridden smoke wafting in at all hours of day and night? It's not before time. Why not go the whole way and just place tobacco on the long list of dangerous chemicals not available to the general public?
How about a federal order that all non-smokers be permitted a loaded water pistol to extinguish smokers cigarettes?
Yes! About time. I used to live in Liverpool in an apartment and my neighbours used to smoke on their balcony... the smoke would drift into my apartment so i'd have to leave the door closed making my place stuffy... then i would find half a dozen butts on my balcony where they insisted on littering! I couldn't even sit on my balcony without smelling it... i agree it should be banned from balcony's of apartments at least.
Fantastic - bring it on ! We have a smoker who lives in the apartment underneath and the stench from his smoking is nauseating. You can smell it whether you have the windows open or shut , and sitting on the balcony is not enjoyable when he lights up ! A filthy habit !
I wish they would just make it illegal
[...] Smoking is the least private vice and no-one should have a right to do it anywhere but in a sealed box.
20 years over due - bring it on!!! so over the filty smell - its gross and australia wide ban is next!!!!
Smokers have absolutly no rights, They are second class citizens IMO. [...]
Die deutsche Frau raucht nicht!
Oh, sorry, that last one is from Nazi Germany. Can't imagine how it snuck in there, but it is kind of appropriate. Not because old Adolf was the driving force behind the world's first anti-smoking campaign but because denormalisation, dehumanisation and demonisation was the Nazis' stock in trade. Just re-read those comments and mentally amend them so that references to smokers and smoking are references to Jews, communists or gypsies. And consider that in the minds of these hateful little authoritarians the program to control other people and reshape them into an more approved form is never over.

I don't smoke, or at least not any more, so the first wave of marching boots isn't interested in me. I don't drink either (something else Adolf would have approved of, the miserable little shite) so the next wave is marching straight past as well. I hear the marching boots all the time these days, though as yet they've never marched all the way up to my door. But among other things I do like to eat meat, I put sugar in my tea and coffee, I could lose a couple of kilos, I drive a fast car, am not carbon neutral and refuse to do anything out of the ordinary for Dirt Hour. For these and possibly other reasons, some of which I can guess at and others which may not yet have been identified as incorrect behaviour to be denormalised, I know all too well that one day I can expect to hear the marching boots stop right outside, followed by an aggressive knock on the door.

I hope to put that day off indefinitely, but if it happens I know that at least I'll have the sympathy of smokers and drinkers because I've stuck up for them. The commenters above don't yet realise it but even though they've been helping the boots eventually they're going to come marching for them too. Who knows why but there'll be something, some way in which they don't quite conform to the someone's ideal. And even though they're being such a bunch of illiberal, bullying arseholes I'll sympathise with them and stick up for them too when their turn comes, just as I do for the smokers and rinkers. Or at least I would do apart from the fact that the smokers and drinkers and I will all be gone by then.

As Niemöller warned, there'll be nobody left to speak up for them.

Monday, 18 April 2011

If you think I'm angry now...

... you should know that apparently it's all due to my age and it's likely to get worse for at least a few years before it get better.
Satisfaction with life starts to drop as early as a person's late 20s and does not begin to recover until well past 50, says Bert van Landeghem, an economist at Maastricht University in Belgium.
...
"From the mid-40s, people tend to become ever more cheerful and optimistic, perhaps reaching a maximum in their late 70s or 80s."
...
According to a study by the American National Academy of Sciences, based on a survey of 341,000 people, enjoyment of life begins an upward trend in the late 40s and does not peak until 85.
So by the sounds of things the late 30s and early 40s are the peak of one's angriosity, which is where I'm heading now. And there I was thinking it was just that I'm more aware of utter twats who won't fucking leave me alone than I used to be.

Buying local from far away

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh seemed to be doing so well, and then this happens.
THE Bligh Government has made a complete mockery of its "Buy Local" flood recovery campaign after buying cheap imported T-shirts from overseas to promote the program.
Ooops. So obviously the government's response was to man up and admit that it was a cock up and... oh, wait, no it wasn't. Well, to be fair it did, but it seems another approach was to try to hide it.
The Sunday Mail can reveal public servants even tried to cover up the embarrassing bungle by cutting off the shirts' tags displaying the country of origin.
...
A furious State Development Minister Andrew Fraser yesterday confirmed public servants discovered the error, then cut tags off the US shirts to hide the true origin of the clothing.
However, the public servants were unable to conceal the origin of the Bangladesh shirts one of which was obtained by The Sunday Mail as the labels were instead printed on the inside neck.
Again, to be fair here it sounds rather like it wasn't the elected part of the government that chose to import shirts promoting a buy local to help support struggling Queensland business (ones that make and print tee shirts, for example) but one of the bits that's supposed to answer to them.
Mr Fraser hauled Department of Employment and Economic Development director-general Ian Fletcher over the coals when he discovered the matter on March 22 and ordered the shirts not be worn at the launch event later that night.
"It was completely inappropriate to have sourced the shirts from outside Queensland, and even worse to remove the tags," Mr Fraser said.
I feel a little sorry for him because it was actually cheaper to import than buy local and with all the other costs the Queensland government is in for every penny counts, but surely someone might have thought about it and wondered firstly if the tees would have the country of origin on and secondly how that might go down with Queensland businesses that would have loved to have had the work. Now the cat's out of the bag the end result is that the tees weren't even used, thus not only not saving the money at all but costing Queensland the entire amount of the order for absolutely fuck all benefit.

And this is why governments should avoid doing this kind of thing. It's not just that they're bad at picking winners but that when presented with two options with clear downsides they often look forge ahead with one of them without considering that there is always a third option - do neither. The hardest thing for a government to do is nothing, but it's what we should be demanding they do vastly more of.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The old Star Wars movies were the best



Looking at that it's only now I realise how derivative the George Lucas remakes were.

Climate memory hole - UPDATED

Watts Up With That has caught out the UN in another bit of climate exaggeration followed by a clumsy attempt at revisionism.
In 2005, the United Nations Environment Programme predicted that climate change would create 50 million climate refugees by 2010. These people, it was said, would flee a range of disasters including sea level rise, increases in the numbers and severity of hurricanes, and disruption to food production.

...

It so happens that just a few of these islands and other places most at risk have since had censuses, so it should be possible for us now to get some idea of the devastating impact climate change is having on their populations.
The short version is that far from crashing populations as the people living there escaped their drowning and/or parched lands and fled Gaia's fury, populations in the examples given have gone up. Hardly evidence of a number of climate refugees as large as the population of England.
After Asian Correspondent posted the story on April 11th, it was picked up by news outlets around the world such as Investor News, American Spectator and was cited in the Australian newspaper. It was also a report on Fox News.

Since that story appeared, the “handy map” he cites in his original story, which has this URL:

http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/fifty-million-climate-refugees-by-2010

…seems to be gone down the memory hole.
Yep, they 404'd it. But as WUWT reports it's not 404'd by Google Cache, which still has a copy of the original albeit minus the map. However, WUWT also points out that the page where the map lives has not been deleted and so it can still be downloaded from http://maps.grida.no/library/files/storage/11kap9climat.png - at least it can until they wake up on Monday, have a look at their feeds for WUWT and rush to memory hole the map as well. Bit late since Anthony Watts has already put both it and the page up on WUWT.

Click to biggerfy
Go read the whole thing, including how the 50 million climate refugees by 2010 claim has been quietly repackaged and re-released as 50 million by 2020 - a nice touch that - and I'd suggest you grab copies of the map and the page while you're at it so you have the evidence at hand with which to call bullshit when some warmist ecolyte regurgitates this claim at you.

Of course this means I need to update my too infrequently revisited list of bogus claims of ecotastrophic carbon driven warble gloaming disaster. The list is now as follows:

We are now a third of the way down that list. Please remember that I don't put vast amount of time and effort into this so I'm sure this list of warble gloaming dates for your diaries is far from complete, not least because we probably won't have long to wait before one of them predicts something else that then doesn't happen. I'd like to add to it if either of my readers knows of a catastrophic warmist prediction that isn't on the list and which has already been proven wrong by dit of the predicted date passing by with nothing at all happening, or which is only a few years off and can be waved at the doom mongers if (I'll allow the possibility and not say 'when') it proves as false as NY's West Side Highway being underwater and covered in the boats of climate refugees. Let me know in the comments or via the contact me form.


UPDATE - starting with the 50 million climate refugees claim Watts Up With That has added a permanent feature along similar lines to my list of warble gloaming dates for your diary. The WUWT Climate Fail Files will detail specific claims with link(s) to where it was made - or evidence that it was - and by whom, in what way it has failed to materialise, and if applicable how the goalposts have been shunted to account for the fact that disaster hasn't happened on schedule... again. I'd still like to add to my list but WUWT is a more specialised site and gets much more traffic than I do, so if you do have anything along these lines please consider sending them to WUWT, currently via the comments section of this post, either instead of or as well here. Cheers.

Two gays walk into a pub

And if the landlord throws them out for playing tonsil hockey I'd certainly sympathise with them, but as Longrider points out it's his pub not theirs, which he gets to make the rules and those who don't like it are free to deprive him of their custom by going off to another pub where the rules are different. However, I was reminded that in fact publicans don't get to make all the rules in their pubs when I read that one of the gay couple had this to say:
“I felt so belittled, and to be made to feel so dirty and cheap over something like that – it’s just wrong.”
They have plenty of company - this is how smokers have been made to feel for the last four or five years.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Whaaaat?

Click for linky
What the fu... Matron!


Recommended surfing - UPDATED

Due to being short of time lately I haven't said anything about the news that Australia's Nannies have overtaken those of Britain in the race to be the first to introduce mandatory plain packaging for tobacco and actually unveiled a design.

For some reason this one features somebody
doing a Lord of the Rings tribute act
So not as plain as I'd thought since they're sticking with the usual 'shocking images', which most smokers have long since tuned out and which have no effect on non-smokers since they never look at the packets anyway. But certainly plain as in stripped of identifying branding such as logos and trademarks, and with a boring shade of olive green claimed to be the least attractive colour to smokers. It might be now but slap it on every single cigarette packet and I'm sure it'll soon become the smokers' firm favourite, being as it'll be associated with doing something they enjoy, or perhaps their new favourite colour will not in fact be a colour at all but a state of transparency similar to that of the bags containing the illegal ciggies and chop-chop some will turn to. Because that's the other elephant in the room - illegal drugs, including tobacco, come in plain packaging already and don't have any problem in either maintaining customers of attracting new ones. Only the Nanny minded campaigners and paternalist politicians could possibly have failed to notice that, which makes me wonder what they'll do when the grateful black market suppliers take up the slack. Ignore it probably, and point to decreasing tobacco tax revenues as evidence that fewer and fewer people are smoking, which falls in Robert McNamara's category of making important what can be measured rather than measuring what's important, while determinedly avoiding looking at the figures for smoking related illness or trying a more indicative look - sampling numbers of cigarette butts in household refuse, perhaps - at how many cigs are actually being smoked.

Having considered myself a non-smoker for a while now none of this concerns me except for two things: I'm certain it will fail and I'm positive that the Nannies, paternalists, health Nazis, control freaks and rent seekers will not stop there and will eventually target something I do like to do. To that end I stand with the smokers even though I stopped a few years ago, just as I stand with the drinkers even though I don't drink anymore either. Britain's drinkers, as related by Dick Puddlecote (here for instance), have been let down by self appointed representatives such as CAMRA and industry bodies alike, presumably because they hope that not making too many waves will keep the banners' attention focused elsewhere, such as their old favourite the tobacco industry. And of course it's true that the tobacco industry has steadily given ground as well, putting up with being told it may not advertise its still legal product, then that it may not promote it either, and then that it must add to the packaging images that look like something from a John Carpenter movie. Now it's to be told it may not even use its normal colours and logos and finally, belatedly, it's decided to draw a line in the sand and fight back.

In addition to the threat by several cigarette manufacturers of legal action over the loss - actually confiscation - of their intellectual property Phillip Morris has launched a new website in Australia called I Deserve To Be Heard. This is what they have to say about why they've done it.
www.ideservetobeheard.com.au is an online resource for Australian adult smokers, supported by Philip Morris Limited, Australia.

Excessive tax increases on cigarettes, more smoking bans planned in outdoor areas, cigarettes not on display and now the latest idea is plain packaging for cigarettes - what's next?

It's time to have your say on these issues that directly affect you.

That's why we at Philip Morris decided to put together this website. It's your public forum. It's a place where you can have your say:

  • send a letter to your local MP
  • share your stories online
  • spread the word to others to get them involved too.

You deserve to be heard.
Even if you don't smoke, or like me did once but got bored and stopped, don't go thinking that you do not have a dog in this fight. The Righteous going after the smokers have also been going after the drinkers and depending on where in the world you are they have already added burger munchers, salad dodgers and people who don't exercise enough (by the standards of the Righteous, natch), along with people who like to add salt to their food, play adult oriented video games, use extreme porn (again, 'extreme' is being defined by the Righteous themselves for lack of any subjective measure), surf the web as you wish or ride bicycles without crash helmets, while recreational shooters have been, ironically, targets of Righteous thought for many decades. You may still eat meat, though you probably don't have to look far to find people who'll happily tell you how horribly you're going to die if you eat more than a certain amount per week. You may still breathe and have sex with other consenting adults, though since you're producing carbon dioxide and more planet bashing humans there are plenty among the more extreme ecolytes who'd prefer you not to do either. You may still drive but there are people who want to ban your car from cities and to have semi-control over it elsewhere. You may enjoy doing any number of things, but if someone whose only enjoyment comes in stopping others having fun feels it's bad for you, or even insufficiently good for, then you can be sure that eventually one of them will ask you, and then tell you, to put a stop to it. If there's the slightest chance they can claim it effects or offends others, especially children, even if the chance is microscopic or totally bogus, you should expect it to happen all the sooner.

We are all living in Niemöller's poem and will eventually hear the sound of boots marching in our direction if we chose to remain silent while others get worked over. You don't have to be a smoker, you don't have to learn to like smoking or smokers, you don't have to let them smoke in your house, you don't have to give them any respect and they don't ask for any. But you do need to understand that if you don't stand with them then you'll have to stand with someone else later, or continue to wait until there is nobody left and you are forced to fall alone. Those are your choices. Tobacco is where the main battle is right now, and they're finally beginning to shove back. They say they deserve to be heard and you'd be wise to listen and support them unless you want to be silenced and shut down in your turn.

Stand with the smokers. Add ideservetobeheard.com.au to your bookmarks.


UPDATE - also recommended is Cracked.com's rather Bioshock-y guide to Five Surefire Ways To Piss Off A Smoker. I'm sure using an ice plasmid instead of fire when someone asks for light is probably up there too.


Friday, 15 April 2011

My flabber is gasted

I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling a bit downcast at goings on in LPUK at the moment. Whether it's coincidental or linked I don't know, but I'd been wondering why the LPUK blog has been absorbed into the party site and why Looking For A Voice, the personal blog of the new(ish) party leader Andrew Withers (AKA Guthrum if I recall) has become viewable by invite only. This morning I read this at Anna Raccoon's and this on LPUK.org, and I can't help but wonder. I'm not going to go into it all - if either of my readers are interested they'll either know already or follow the links and read it for themselves - and I'm not going to take sides except to say that Anna Raccoon so clearly feels aggrieved that I can't help but sympathise. Beyond a denial in a comment on the second of those links Andrew Withers has yet to put his side of the story out there that I've seen, so until he or LPUK have anything further I guess we wait and see and make up minds as and when.

What I will say is that it's all very depressing and unedifying. LPUK is a very young party and this seems to be a hell of a case of birthing pains. People are already wondering if it will survive and I'm wondering the same thing. Doesn't matter how much is true and how much is a misunderstanding or whatever, with such a tiny party there's a real danger that enough people will just turn their backs on it for it to go from being a micro-party to an ex-party. If it turns out that there's truth to the allegations I expect that risk to be quite high, and that would be a great shame. I'm not a member and I don't do anything here for LPUK apart from mention them  now and then and have links to the blog and the party site on the sidebar, but I liked a lot of the manifesto and I supported the ideals. Above all else I think it's a good thing for the UK to have a party for libertarians to get behind (despite the contradiction involved) and to promote libertarianism to those used to thinking in terms of left and right. Not much of that all important promotion is going to be going on at the moment, or if it is it's optimistic to think that it'll be done as well as it would otherwise.

I dunno, maybe it's actually a good thing that LPUK is still so small. I'm not suggesting all this be covered up - far from it - but escaping wider attention while it resolves all this might be the way LPUK can survive and grow.


P.S. - I am about to send the link to Looking For A Voice and the LPUK blog off to the suspended animation room. This has nothing to do with what's gone on and is purely because neither are live blogs at the moment, or if they are they can't be visited. I need to do some blogroll maintenance anyway and this might be the spur for it.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Come fly the unfriendly sky

What have we come to when a government that likes to think of itself as the leader of the free world has its airport security drones conducting physical searches of children?


"I'm sorry mummy. I don't know what I did wrong."
You don't even need to be a parent to feel that one like a punch to the guts. How do you explain it to a child? How do you explain that they haven't done anything wrong but that the airport staff have been instructed to think they might have? How do you tell them that their own government, in its paranoia and fear of not only them out there but also those that might be them in here, has granted itself the presumption of guilt and the power to invade their personal space? How do say that this may happen every time they fly and that they have no rights in the matter, none at all? How do you explain that despite the embarrassment, shame or discomfort they may feel while being searched they have no grounds for complaint because 'the agent followed proper procedures'? Or that the way things are going there will soon be a generation that has grown up to believe this is normal and who will not make much objection when its suggested that the same thing be done at railway and bus stations? How do you tell them that they should say 'no' when you yourself are unable to?

Except, of course, you can say 'no'. You can say it simply by not going anywhere staffed by people who have been directed to think of you a a suspect to be checked, interrogated and searched. You can say it by refusing to fly anywhere unless absolutely essential, as the Drexels are now considering.
The family has changed plans for an upcoming trip: they'll be driving instead of flying.
Which is what I'd encourage everybody to do rather than meekly submit. Drive, get the train, sail, video-conference - do absolutely anything but get on a fucking plane unless there really is no alternative. And I really mean no alternative. Don't just look at the map and think that places are a long way apart so you have to fly and put up with all the crap that involves these days. Plan ahead and work out how much time is needed to go by other means, and then balance that against the aggro of flying. Sure, if I had to go to Brisbane tomorrow I'd fly, and if I had to go to New Zealand there's not much option when there's more than 2,000km of sea to cross, but if I had to be in Brisbane in a month's time I'd consider taking 3 days extra to drive there and if I needed a face-to-face on the other side of an ocean I'd loo at doing it with Skype. Anything, anything at all, to get out of the purgatory-like experience of spending time in an airport queueing up and being questioned and queueing up again and being scanned and queueing up again and being patted down, all in the knowledge, as shown by the events in Moscow back in January, that none of this makes you safe if someone has thought about bombing the security queues instead of an aircraft.

And it's saddest of all to see the Americans putting themselves through this. I rather like the bits of America I've seen - and of course like Australia the place is big enough that it should have something that appeals to nearly everybody - and I have a lot of time for Americans in general. More than two hundred years ago they went further than anyone before or since in their efforts for individual liberty, and that so many still revere the document that was written to guarantee their freedoms and is still is their highest law is something I really admire them for. But what a shame it is their government no longer pays more than lip service to it, toeing the line rather than the ideal and spirit, and spinning the idea that such egregiously intrusive measures - physically searching toddlers, for example - are needed to keep Americans safe, in spite of the fact that even Israel, surrounded by people who want it destroyed, doesn't bother with all that unnecessary and pointless crap. Despite my admiration for America and its people these days, thanks to their governments, I'm simply not willing to go there anymore.

The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave has become the land of the sheep and the home of the slave, and in a way gave away the easy victory over terrorism by changing its values and way of life in favour of a climate of fear, suspicion and never ending checks and screening. And the men responsible for it? Well, here's one of them.


I can't imagine how to explain that to a six year old child either.



Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Royal Air Fail

Having never served in the military I'm far from being an expert in such matters, but I'm reasonably sure that it's considered normal practice for an air force with ground attack capable aircraft to employ aircrew who do actually know how to drop a fucking bomb on someone. This is apparently not the case with the RAF in 2011.
The Ministry of Defence announced last week that RAF Typhoons would drop bombs on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's tanks and other ground targets.
But so far this has not happened, because the planes' pilots are not considered to be properly trained in ground attacks.
In a further embarrassment, laser targeting pods for the Typhoons, which cost £160 million, have been left in packing crates because the RAF has not been able to pay for its pilots to train to use them.
And here I've been taking the piss out of Cameramong for his sabre-rattling at Mad Mo early last month with, to mix metaphors, a nearly empty gun cabinet, and it turns out that what's left in there can't be used because not enough people know how. Did you know that when you were talking tough, Dave? Did you actually ask the RAF what they could and couldn't do first? Or did someone at the RAF tell you 'Bombs? Oh, yeah, sure, we can do bombs' without checking and let you make a complete tit of yourself? Because committing the UK to action for which it does still have the equipment but lacks the rather important component of trained personnel means that someone has fucked up.

Eat this, Gaddafi! Bombs awa... oh shit, wrong button. *
And remember that with all this scaling back and cost cutting hitting the UK's ability to defend itself and its citizens, almost the only thing I think it's worth having a fucking government for in the first place, money wise the country is still chest deep in the shit and continuing to sink. The national debt is, as we all know by now, both eye watering and understated thanks to the Brownian practice - a little reduced by the Cobbleition - of pretending some things don't count despite still having to pay for them, and since overall expenditure is continuing to rise the deficit isn't shrinking either. A huge amount of money is being spent, and clearly a fair bit of it has to be going on interest on the mountain of debt Brown ran up as PM and Chancellor, but that's 'only' 47 billion quid or so.** Public spending is £702 billion and rising, and the rise is across most areas of spending (including defence, oddly enough). What the hell are they spending it all on?
Head of Quality & Efficiency Services
Salary: £57,288 - £66,762 pa
Following the realignment of Quality and Commissioning a new service area, Quality and Efficiency, has been created. We are now seeking to appoint an inspiring Head of Service to join the talented senior management team.
...
Lead Manager Policy and Strategic Partnerships
Salary: £60,192-£75,897 per annum
Part of the Chief Executive’s Office and reporting to the Head of Policy and Performance, you will lead on all corporate policy and strategic partnership issues. This will include:
  • working across the Council and with partners to develop innovative ways of improving outcomes for Surrey residents while reducing overall costs; and
  • maximizing the benefits of the Coalition Government’s approach to local government in Surrey.
...
Member Insight& Engagement Manager
Salary: £50000 - £60000 per annum
Morgan Hunt are looking for a Member Insight& Engagement Manager for a top government organisation until the end of December 2011.

The successful candidate will have responsibility for the following deliverables and activities:
  • working with the Head of Member Engagement to develop the member engagement strategy and plan
  • developing a deep understanding of key member segments and acting as a champion for their needs, both within the Department and across the organisation
  • Working with the marketing communications team to brief and deliver member engagement content and products
  • Planning and managing targeted communications to key member segments
  • Working with the Insight & Analytics team to deliver the 2011/12 member research programme
...
Oh yeah, I was forgetting. Well, I'm sure everyone will be happy that the country can still afford these and an Associate Director of Integrated Community Services when it wants someone to empty the bins, a Media & Stakeholder Relations Manager when it wants a nurse or a doctor, a Delivery Assurance Director when it wants a cop or a prison officer, and of course 300 or so town clerks calling themselves CEOs... when it needs someone able to drop a bomb from an aeroplane without missing the fucking ground, much less the target. A great comfort, I'm sure.

Frankly it's becoming increasingly difficult to decide whether the end of Britain is going to come as a result of being turned into the EU's second most western district, being invaded as a result of being forced to defend itself with nukes and shotguns and having kept next to nothing in between, or being taken over after all the loans are called in. What we can be sure of is that until Cameramong and his Cobbleition chums sit down and work out what the fucking essentials are and what the UK really cannot afford as a result of their predecessors' profligacy - QUANGOs and aid to countries wealthy enough for a space program and their own nuclear weapons, for instance - one of those situations seems increasingly likely, though to use the phrase of the late Douglas Adams, it is possible that this has already happened.

'Kinell.



* I found this photo of a Typhoon releasing flares on a UK airshows forum. The photographer - and I can't credit him or her with any name other than their forum ID, GyRob - has posted a number up there and to my eye they're rather good. If you like images of fast aircraft doing their thing click the photo I used above to be taken there for a look.
** Say it fast enough and it doesn't seem so bad. But it is though, really it is. It's not just money they're going to take from you to pay for their profligacy, it's Keynesian wealth redistribution the Keynesians don't like to talk about - taking money from middle and low income earners who are the majority of the tax base and giving it as interest payments to those who are wealthy enough to loan money to governments. Incidentally, the £47 bn spent on interest is nearly as much as is spent on the ability to defend Britain's borders and citizens.

Hope

There is some for libertarianism in the UK. After yesterday's Veil Fail post (below) I had a quick look at the website of The Daily Mail, half expecting to find something worthy of a Mail Veil Fail follow up. Well it's true that I did notice a couple of op-eds by Mail journos suggesting that a burqa ban in the UK was a good idea - possibly they too believe that telling women what to do and what not to wear is somehow increasing their freedom to do as they wish - but more interesting was the result of an online poll on the subject.


I checked just now and it's still up and currently about 86% opposed. Now it doesn't say how many have voted and newspaper online polls aren't exactly subject to much rigour, so it's probably not an indication that large numbers of Britons have suddenly found the scales dropping from their eyes and now understand that banning things only reduces liberty. But unless the word's gone round all the Islam websites that the polls there and they should all vote no it does look like at least some people do understand that bans are always a loss of freedom for someone, and worse that bans often beget bans.

So often I read things in the media that send the needle on my misanthropy dial smashing into the stop at high speed and occasionally out of the meter and into the wall, so it's a pleasant change to see something that actually offers a smidgeon of hope for a freer future.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Veil fail

Well, we all knew the French were going to go ahead with their plan to liberate women by ordering them about what they should wear, and predictably enough the tiny minority who do go veiled are a bit pissed off about it.
Kenza Drider, a 32-year-old, travelled to Paris from her home in Provence to force a confrontation with police, and was one of those arrested.
There were minor scuffles as officers apprehended her outside Notre Dame Cathedral together with another niqab-wearer staging an illegal demonstration against the new law.
So not just dictating to women over their choice of clothing but also telling them they may not protest and arresting them if they don't comply. Yep, that's women's lib alright. I'd recognise it anywhere.

/facepalm
Although Belgium has approved a ban in principle, France is the first to introduce a full ban on a garment which immigration minister Eric Besson has called a "walking coffin".
While French women face fines and "civic duty" guidance if they break the law, men who force their wives or daughters to wear burkas will face up to a year in prison, and fines of up to £25,000.
Don't get me wrong, I think it looks daft as well, though I've always described it as looking like a Ninja version of Demis Roussos, and it should go without saying that I have no problem with the law going after men who force females in their family to wear veils when they'd rather not. But if a woman wants to then for fuck's sake let her. I haven't hit my head and come over all PC here. I just feel that it's her life, her choice, and respecting her wishes even if we don't like them or view them as archaic is what's truly liberal. Forcing her to dress as we'd prefer is anything but.

Still, in the spirit of compromise I've had a look through the interwebs and found that someone has already created an ensemble outfit which should be an acceptable middle ground. Or at least offensive to everybody.

There is only one appropriate word...

... and it is 'bastards'.

Actually, no. The more I think about it the more I can come up with lots of appropriate words.

Contract traps

Back in January I blogged about the upcoming Melbourne Grand Prix, its ongoing cost to Victorian taxpayers, the fact that we were stuck with it because the previous Premier, John Brumby, signed a contract which Bernie Ecclestone is, not unreasonably, expecting the government to stick to, and that I thought this was very, very wrong.
... I do, reluctantly, have to side with Bernie Ecclestone when the unpleasant little prick points out that he has a contract.
Mr Ecclestone, chief executive of the London-based Formula One Group, told 3AW yesterday that the amount of money the Victorian government had to pay to his organisation for the rights to the race could not be re-negotiated.

''Whatever the contract says is what it will be,'' Mr Ecclestone said.
And though I loathe the man both for screwing Victorian taxpayers and for adding more negatives than positives to what was once one of my favourite sports, he's absolutely right - a contract entered into honestly must be kept, even when it's not doing one party any favours. If we lose contracts, if agreements between parties can be rewritten unilaterally by one of them, then we're all fucked.

But saying that is it right that a contract can be signed that affects third parties against their will? I'm not talking about the way governments commit taxpayers to shell out for things they might feel they neither want nor need, or at least not just about that. But here we have Bernie Ecclestone pointing out that he's got a contract with someone who did not sign it and who seems unhappy with the uneven terms he's been committed to by his predecessor, and, since the contract is until 2015, the year after the next state election is due, might not even be in office when it comes time to renew it. ...

Now that can't happen in normal life, but because it's a government signing deals it's believed that it's different for some reason. ... With a government it affects everyone whether they like it or not, and the opportunities to oppose moves are limited to protests that may be ignored and elections several years apart. In this way in 2008 the last Premier, John Brumby - who was not even elected Premier by the people of Victoria but was voted in by his own party to replace Steve Bracks, the guy who actually won the election and then resigned less than a year into the term - was able to sign Melbourne and Victoria up for a further five years beyond 2010, the year in which the Grand Prix contract would have expired.
But I'm not completely unreasonable and felt that there could be a fair solution.
So if Ted Baillieu is pissed off about this and also wants to make a mark as Premier I have a suggestion for him. It won't fix the problem for him but it is something radical that will prevent subsequent Premiers from screwing their eventual successors the same way. ... Make all contracts signed by the government constitutionally limited to a maximum of four years or two years beyond the date of the next election, whichever comes first, unless approved by a referendum. This prevents a government from cursing the one after it with the need to abide by shitty contracts that it can't change for the whole term or possibly even longer. At the worst this would mean a half term of being stuck with a poor deal, though a new government committed to ending it would be able to prepare to do so long before that, and while electorates still remembered who'd signed the thing in the first place. But it would still allow medium term contracts of 2-3 years to be agreed late in a parliamentary term, which should be a motivator for the contractor to provide something of value in order to maximise their chances of seeing it renewed by the next government. And if something really, really has to be agreed for a longer term there's still a mechanism to allow for it - simply agree pending a referendum and put it to the voters themselves.
And the reason I bring all this up again is that another one of John Brumby's timebombs is ticking away in our laps: the Wonthaggi desalination plant.

I've mentioned this white elephant in passing once or twice before, and blogged briefly on the hare brained idea to use taxpayers' money to compensate the losing bidder and the irony that something designed to secure Melbourne's water supply against warble gloaming induced drought has been damaged by flooding months before it's even ready to be switched on, and I'm sure I've mentioned that the cost is $5 billion or so. What I may have missed out is that once again Victoria and it's current government were contractually committed to the bloody thing by - wait for it - the previous government under John Brumby, now comfortably in opposition and one step removed. And because the news is quite recent I'm quite certain that I haven't mentioned that the builder is now expected to miss the agreed December opening as construction is six months to a year behind, partly because of all that rain we're not supposed to get anymore and the lack of which requires a five billion dollar desal plant to cope with.

Now let me ask you this: if you were signing a contract to have something delivered by a certain date, and subsequently the whatever it is turns out to be so far behind schedule that there's no hope of it being ready on time (and possibly, though only incidentally, no longer necessary), wouldn't you expect to be able to get out of the contract without penalty or at least to be compensated for the late delivery? I bloody would. I mean a day or two and I'd probably just bitch and moan and give them a bollocking about it when they finally did arrive, but there'd come a point where I'd be on the phone telling them that either I get a refund or a sufficiently large discount to make me forgive their failure to live up to their end of the deal. But of course the less than wonderful world of government doesn't work like that, and just as Britain's Ministry of Defence signs contracts that mean they don't just have to pay for late delivery but actually have to pay extra so Victoria's last government signed a contract that the contractor seems to believe makes the fucking state rather than themselves liable for the delay. And so they're making noises - and the fucking front this must take must be almost unquantifiable - about suing the state of Victoria because they're now expecting to make only about $6 million profit.
Construction giant Leighton yesterday acknowledged the project had become a physical and financial quagmire, dogged by bad weather, poor productivity and extraordinary underestimates on design, construction and materials costs.
...
The company revealed it now expected to make just $6 million profit from the desal project, a fraction of the initially anticipated $288 million.
It would not rule out suing the state government, raising alarm bells for taxpayers already facing a $24 billion bill over 28 years for the controversial public-private partnership project. ''[We] will be pursuing our rights to recover what we believe we are entitled to,'' said Leighton chief executive David Stewart.
The mind just fucking boggles. Look, I'm terribly sorry to hear that their investment isn't going to deliver the kind of profits they'd hoped, but my sympathy is tempered by the fact that the taxpayers are still going to have to shell out on it and the fucknuts who signed us up to this will be in his 80s by the time its 28 years are up. Oh, and also by the fact that they do still expect to make a profit, even if it is much less than hoped for because of the cost overruns and because, slightly to my surprise, the last government did put in a penalty clause.
As forecast in The Age last week, Leighton said it was unlikely to meet the December deadline to produce desalinated water, and had allowed for a $15 million penalty.
Mr Stewart said the company would ''target'' a second deadline of June 2012 for full operation. But a senior insider described this as ambitious.
The company faces $1.8 million a day in penalties from June if the plant is not fully operational by then.
And now they want to sue the state government, which isn't the one that actually signed the contract, and by extension the taxpayers who weren't asked if they wanted to be sent the invoice but were always going to be the ones who had to pay? Because of bad weather, which you'd expect a contractor to allow for when submitting their tender, below forecast productivity rates, which you'd also expect them to allow for, and massive underestimates, which are surely nobody's responsibility but their own, they want to sue us all for the money they think they should have made if everything had gone according to their sadly unrealistic plan. Their balls must be the size of the fucking moon.

So no matter whether he has stones big enough to tell them where to go, and to advise them exactly how much government work they can expect to be considered for in the future if they don't take responsibility for their own late delivery of what has always been a contentious project, I repeat my earlier advice to Premier Ted Ballieu. Write an amendment to Victoria's constitution which restricts the ability of the current government to sign a contract which binds its successors for more than half the next term unless approved by voters. As I said before, it doesn't stop you doing long term deals with industry but it does oblige you and your successors to ask the people who'll have to pay for it before you're able to commit the next government to it as well. Write the amendment and submit it for referendum as soon as practical. If it was me I'd aim for sometime around a year from now - just after the 2012 Melbourne Grand Prix which we're contractually obliged by the last government to host at great expense and just before the Wonthaggi desal plant is now hoped to be operational, and for which we're also obliged to pay thanks to your predecessors.

You, your government and everyone living in the state are stuck with anything and everything Brumby and his predecessors agreed contracts for and which are still going today. We can't do anything about that now without changing contract law and wrecking the principle that an agreement someone puts their signature to is a binding agreement, and despite the short term attraction that really is a can of worms we're much better off not opening. But if you're prepared to rise above politics and sacrifice your ability to stiff whatever government comes after yours the same way yours was stiffed by the last Labor governments - and no doubt they in turn were stiffed by the Coalition government before them - then you can give us all the chance to break the cycle.*

Come on, Ted, what do you say?

The Angry Exile checks skies for flying pigs, crosses his fingers and waits... more in hope than expectation, sadly.


* In fairness to Brumby, and Bracks and Kennet and so on, I'm not suggesting that any of them did deliberately sign a shitter in the expectation of making life difficult for whoever came along next. I'm sure that nearly all politicians really believe that they're acting in everybody's best interests when they do this kind of thing, but unfortunately they are often poor judges as to what's in the best interests of millions of disparate individuals. In addition as long as the ability to sow poison for your opponents in office exists you can be certain that now and again there will be someone willing to do so. Better for all that governments of all stripes lose the ability altogether.
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