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

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The price of justice.

Early last month I blogged on a guy called Farah Jama, who'd spent 15 months in prison for a rape he didn't commit due to a forensic balls up. A post script to the story is that it's now cost the taxpayer $525,000, the amount of compensation for Mr Jama. I don't mention it because I begrudge him the money. Not as bit of it, since the poor bloke must have gone through hell. I mention it because it adds a dollar cost to that of an innocent man's reputation and liberty. And all because we're so regularly told about the reliability of forensics in general and DNA in particular that unless someone actually spells out to a jury that it can and does get it wrong now and again they're often prepared to convict in spite of contrary evidence. CSI probably has a lot to answer for.

Things I still don't get about Australia - no 26.

Hair loss adverts. Non bloody stop hair loss adverts. If it's not this lot it's other bunch who've got Shane Warne talking about looking like a new cricket ball (and acting more wooden than his favourite bat) or shampoo companies wittering on about their new hair retention formula. "Feel the confidence?" Oh, go fuck yourselves with a steel comb. Are Aussie men that vain about a bald spot? Or is TV advertising cheap enough here that these companies can bombard us with ads all the time?

Fuck off, the lot of yous.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Witch's tit - UPDATED

I know weather isn't climate and all that, but can we have the warble gloaming back for a bit?

UPDATE - if this bugger painting mountains has anything to do with it I'll drown him in his environmentally sound whitewash.

They shoot, they score.

Hard to argue with this.
The use of television has been a source of controversy in the sport, but experts insist it offers a fool-proof method for determining whether a team is good at football or whether it is simply a collection of absurdly over-compensated, second-rate commercial brands with ghastly, vulgar wives, locked in a sado-masochistic relationship with a cretinous media that merely reflects a society that has taken its natural intelligence, its sense of perspective and its values and violently drowned them all in a bucket of piss.
World class stuff, but from The Daily Mash rather than the England team.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Training cats.

It was just an idea since it occured to me that house training cats is pretty straightforward and plenty have been taught to crap in the toilet instead of a litter box. Ours differentiate between the noises of containers and kitchen cupboards on the basis of what might involve food or treats for them so they're clearly capable of making connections. And if they can make connections it must be possible to teach them things, so much to the amusement of Mrs Exile I thought I'd have a go.

Jesus, it's hard. While one of them seems to have grasped the concept of "stay" when she really wanted to follow me calling "come here"achieved absolutely nothing apart from getting the dog to put in an unwanted appearance and send the cat off in a huff. "Sit" seems to work sometimes on the other one but I have a feeling he was usually planning to sit anyway, and again has an undesired side effect if the dog is nearby. In fact about the only common command all three of our pets are able to understand is "lookI'mnottellingyouagainjustfuckofforI'llminceyou".

The dog's algebra lessons have been postponed indefinitely.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Credibility gap.

One for the Ambush Predator, who's built quite a collection of these sorts of cases but can be forgiven if she's missed this one.*
A WOMAN is facing charges of making a false complaint to police after claiming she was raped in Port Melbourne last month.

The 22-year-old's story prompted a man-hunt for the alleged offender and a significant police investigation, costing thousands of dollars in time and resources.

On May 28, Victoria Police contacted the Sunday Herald Sun with the story in a bid to alert the public and appeal for help to find the alleged offender. When contacted on Friday by the Sunday Herald Sun, the woman, who is receiving counselling, said she was sorry for lying.

"I haven't meant to upset anyone," she said.
Which is nice of her, but what the hell did she think would be felt by any poor bloke unfortunate enough to be arrested for this non-existent attack? Upset? That'd be an understatement. Hopefully the lack of any mention of an arrest means the false report emerged before anyone was nicked.
The woman claimed she was still the victim of a sexual assault, which occurred "somewhere else".
Oh really? You say there was an assault but you just lied about where it took place? Okay, I'm sold, though it doesn't sound like the police are.
Detective Sgt Paul Toogood said a brief of evidence was being compiled to determine whether the woman would be charged with making a false report.

Sgt Toogood said the Port Melbourne community needed to be informed the rapist did not exist.
Christ knows why some women do this when half a second's rational thought should tell them how much this must twist the knife for genuine rape victims. With everything else they'll be going through they must also then wonder if they'll be believed because some attention seeker cried rape before.
Police said they hoped the false report would not discourage victims from coming forward for help.

Detective Sen-Constable Mark Feehan said: "Victoria Police encourages all victims of sexual assault to come forward so police can provide support, investigate and prosecute offenders."

Centre Against Sexual Assault spokeswoman Carolyn Worth said false reports, while rare, were a "tricky issue".

"It makes everybody slightly wary when there is a similar allegation, which we cannot afford," she said.
Rare? Maybe they are here, I don't know. But I do know someone who can put her hands on an ever increasing list of British examples. Would it be that much better here? I'd certainly hope it's rarer, and if they do prosecute false reports it might be, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's not all that different.

*Though given the sensitivity of her antennae (er, not that extinct sabre-tooths probably had antennae) I wouldn't be surprised if she's blogging it right now.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Football's coming home.

Or, according to one German pundit, England are going home. Psychic Paul apparently has a good track record at predicting Germany's results (insert any jokes about wars here) including 100% accuracy for this World Cup. His method of divination is fascinating. He doesn't go in for the showmanship and theatrics of other psychics and settles for simply having keepers put a bit of food in his tank and... wait, whut?

A fucking octopus? Oh bloody hell, and there I was ready to take ESP and psychic powers seriously.

Mind you, he'll be a hell of a goalie when he gets a bit bigger.

Friday, 25 June 2010

The end of

Well, no, but the end of the most useless three quarters of government webshites and the saving of about £100 million.
Mr Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, said he would be scrapping three quarters of the Government's 820 websites.
Whitehall sources were reluctant to name which sites will close although one suggested that – a website run by the marketing department of the Potato Council – would be unlikely to survive the cull.
Bye-bye, you parasitic cockstains. If these fucking sites were worth having in the first place you can bet Harry Ramsden's or someone would have been happy to - I'm so sorry about this - chip in for them. But £100 million really isn't very much compared to the size of the financial hole the UK finds itself sitting in, and Boy George's budget hasn't made any significant cuts by the sounds of things (I haven't got round to reading much about it so I'm going on what little I've skimmed through), so why stop with the webshites? Why not scrap the Potato Council as well? Like the webshite if they're useful the potato growing industry should be happy to pay, and if they're not then they shouldn't exist at all.

The current Potato Council

The relatively small amount you save on the webshites is certainly worth doing but the UK's quango bill is supposed to 50 times that, and £50 billion a year you don't have to spunk away on quangos would help hugely with the deficit. It'd almost be worth leaving the webshites up, possibly with a new .kak top level domain, to remind everyone not to waste money on the quangos responsible for many of them.

A thank-you to the people of Mid Bedfordshire.

Pat yourselves on the backs for a job well done. If people get the government they deserve then it must also be true that they get the quality of representation they deserve, and that can be the only justification for the 28,815 complete twunts who re-elected god whisperer, serial expenses apologist and occupier of a first class seat on the Westminster Gravy Express, Nadine bloody Dorries. The ink was barely dry on the election result headlines when the topic of Parliamentary expenses reared its head again, and specifically it was Nadine Dorries' payments of public money to her mates that time. This is kind of a post script in that last month the sum being mentioned was
...more than £40,000 in expenses for services provided by Marketing Management (Midlands), owned by her friend Lynn Elson. They live near each other in the Cotswolds.
Now it's being reported that it's actually in excess of £51,000 and living "near each other" means, well, it seems to mean this:
Mrs Elson’s company, Marketing Management (Midlands) Ltd, is based in her house in a small village in the Cotswolds. Accounts filed in August 2009 showed it had assets worth £4,527.
The house is yards away from a tiny lodge-keeper’s cottage that Mrs Dorries tells the Parliamentary authorities is her “main home” for expenses purposes.
I'd love to know more about that arrangement. Does Dorries own the cottage or does she rent it from her mate, and if the latter what sort of rate are we talking about and can that be verified? You see, a suspicious person, and with the kind of abuses that were going on until the expenses scandal broke last year (Were? More on that in a moment.) I'd say everyone should be suspicious, a suspicious person might wonder if a person might be charging another person a peppercorn rent if the second person was in a position to put a certain amount of "work" the way of the first person. And let's be blunt, you can buy a receipt book down the local Post Office providing it hasn't closed down - it doesn't mean money's changed hands. Am I saying Nadine Dorries has this sort of arrangement? Nope, but I am saying that the question should be asked. I'd hope that she owns the cottage since -
The unusual arrangement allows the MP to claim thousands of pounds in “second home” allowances for her much larger constituency farmhouse.
- and so ought to be saving enough on furnishing her actual home to be able to afford the mortgage on the cottage. Not exactly the idea of the whole second home payments thing.
MPs are entitled to claim up to £17,500 a year to cover the cost of a second home “required for the performance of the Member’s parliamentary functions”.
Most have a constituency house and a flat in London. Mrs Dorries’s designated “main home”, however, is 90 miles from Parliament and 55 miles from her constituency.
MPs are supposed to designate as their second home the property where they stay least often. Neighbours have previously alleged that Mrs Dorries spent most of her time at her constituency house.
Still, if she's spent the bunce on buying the cottage rather than pocketing it and pouring more at her mate it would leave only the question of whether she's overly generous to her friends and family with taxpayers money for the quality of service they provide. If she's always getting the best for the job then there's no problem with her hiring her daughters and paying her mates for marketing, is there? If not...

And talking of which, what really caught my attention is that Nads didn't slow down much after the scandal was all over the headlines.
New figures released by the Parliamentary authorities yesterday showed Mrs Dorries claimed £17,825 to pay Mrs Elson’s marketing company between July and December last year.
The fucking expenses scandal was still rolling on in the latter half of last year what with people being charged and announcing their intention to stand down at the next election in order to spend more time with their wallets, and throughout the period Nads was still chucking money at her mate. She'd better have been damned good, except of course the Mid Beds mob voted Nads back in anyway so by the time 2015 rolls around the issue of whether Nad's mate was damned good or not will almost certainly have been forgotten.

In the meantime Nadine gets another five years doing... whatever it is that she's doing (my bold).
Mrs Dorries was yesterday elected to the Commons Health Select Committee. She sat on the Science and Technology Committee between October 2009 and May 2010. According to a report on its website she did not attend any of its sittings.
Nice work if you don't have to actually turn up and fucking do it. Do you see, Mid Bedfordshire? This is what you have voted for, a representative who over seven or eight months attended preceisely zero sittings of an important committee, but who has managed to get an awful lot of money out of the expenses system that until we know otherwise we just have to hope was well spent. If that's all you demand of your representative in Parliament then good luck to you, but forgive me if I suspect that Mid Bedfordshire might be one of those areas where there are enough tribalist voters that the quality of the candidate is infinitely less important than the colour of the rosette. Be honest, some of you would have voted for fucking Chairman Mao if he'd come knocking on the door and introduced himself as your Conservative candidate, wouldn't you?
A spokesman for Mrs Dorries said she did not wish to comment.
I can't imagine why.

Are her chromosomes really that important? - UPDATED

Okay, maybe it's because I grew up with a female PM running the country that it's really not a big deal to me, but is all this 'Australia's first female PM' shite really necessary? She might be the first here in Oz but it's 20-fucking-10 for Christ's sake and there have been female PMs before elsewhere. I can think of at least four beside Thatcher. So can the world please just get over the contents of her underpants and focus on the contents of her head.

UPDATE - and although it's "first" in a different sense, "First Bloke"? Really?

For fuck's sweet sake.

Pound sign of The Times redux.

Guido mentions that the paywall is up and traffic is down, and they're not even asking for money yet. That's slightly surprising but thinking about I gave up as soon as registration was required so why wouldn't lots of others?


Via the Real World Libertarian.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The first thing Australia's new PM got wrong. And right.

A couple of the articles about the recent change of Prime Minister have mentioned that a few weeks ago then Deputy PM Julia Gillard was asked about the potential for a change of leadership of the Australian Labor Party, and I think I recall watching it on TV actually. You couldn't really call it one of those hard hitting questions journos ambush politicians with since the program wasn't anything even vaguely Newsnight like and rather than being a Paxo the interviewers were a collection of sports presenters and sports-turned-presenters. Yes, the new PM is a footy fan and keen supporter of the Western Bulldogs (based appropriately in Footscray next door to her own parliamentary seat), and when asked about the leadership she said:
“[I have] more chance of lining up in the Western Bulldogs forward line than there being a change in the Labor Party leadership this year.”
Well, you called that wrong, Jules, didn't you? Not that there's any danger you'll be asked to play this weekend even if your footy kicking skills are as good as your Rudd kicking.
“As much as we would love to have Ms Gillard floating around as a dangerous small forward, I think it is safe to say that she will have enough on her agenda in the coming weeks and months."
Not sure they wouldn't need to make special arrangements regarding the post game shower.
On the other hand almost the first thing she's done since becoming PM is to stop pissing away millions of dollars on TV ads trying to get everyone on board the mining Super Tax idea. I'm still not expecting to become her biggest fan by a very long way but if you ask me that's no bad start at all.

Picture fail of the day.

Yesterday I mentioned the Dumb and Dumberer story of the two guys in rural Victoria shooting each other with an airgun to see if it would hurt. Today I see that The Telegraph have got the story with a nice big picture, presumably to show us what an air rifle looks like.

Yep. That's an air rifle all right, I'd recognise one anywhere.


I'll tell you something for nothing, if they were insane enough to try shooting each other with one of those they would not have waited a day and a half to go to the fucking hospital and I think it's pretty unlikely that they'd have taken it in turns. Just imagine how it would go.

"Right, you go first..."
"Holy shit, mate, are you okay?"
"Tell you what, I'll just go and call the ambos."

How the hell is it possible to have used a picture of a side-by-side shottie for a story involving an air rifle? For heaven's sake, surely you don't need an awful lot of knowledge about guns to be able to tell the difference? I could understand someone who doesn't know much mistaking a .177 or .22 rimfire rifle for an air rifle, but a shotgun? A quite clearly double barrelled shotgun? How much knowledge do you need to not have to fuck that up?

Or is it just a case of "meh, it's some sort of gun, it'll do"?

Message from the Australian Labor Party.

And that, ladies and gentlemen of parties with unpopular leaders, is how you do it. I'd like to think there are a few Labour MPs and ex-MPs wondering why they weren't able to do that to Gordon Brown. The answer, as the man in the mask said, can be found in a mirror.

Whether Julia Gillard will be any good remains to be seen. As I said last night I expect she'll be better than Rudd but I'm sure I'll be slagging her off soon (wouldn't surprise me if she ressurects the Emissions Trading Scheme, the shelving of which I feel is one of the few things Rudd's done that's been of real benefit). It's a pity she took over just now when I had an almost ready post about Rudd pissing away $38 million on adverts to persuade everyone that squeezing the mining companies with the Super Tax was a good thing. Now I'll have to wait and see what Julia Gillard does.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Can Aussie Labor show British Labour how it's done? - UPDATED

As I type this PM Kevin Rudd is on TV giving an emergency press conference. Newsflash suspension of normal programming type press conference.

Deputy PM Julia Gillard has come to see him and they've been having a long chat this evening, which seems to have ended with her requesting a leadership contest to decide if Rudd should remain leader of the Australian Labor Party, and therefore PM. What he's saying is very familiar to British ears and sound like they've been lifted from a Gordon Clown speech. Lots of guff about 'lurching to the right' and 'I have been elected by the people of Australia' (which of course he hasn't any more than the people of Britain elected Gordon Brown - Rudd's ALP won an election which Brown's Labour didn't, but only the ALP and people in the part of Brisbane where his seat is got the chance to vote for him). What he isn't saying is whether or not Julia Gillard has said she'll stand against him. A lot of ALP members seem to prefer her to Rudd and if she did stand she's likely to be a much heftier opponent than any of the fucking lightweights who opposed, or more often didn't oppose Gordon Brown, despite being well aware of his growing unpopularity. So watch this space, and see if the ALP are able to deal with a leader and PM who's looking more and more like an electoral liability in the way that the British Labour party couldn't quite find the balls for.

UPDATE - Julia Gillard is in the contest, and personally I'd put ten bucks on her to win. I don't particularly want her to but I think she will, and I doubt she'll be worse than the alternatives. Like the UK there isn't one of them I'm happy to vote for in the federal election later this year - yes, the ALP is trying to ditch an unpopular leader before the election, not afterwards - but she might even be the least worst option.

Geese and gander.

What's good for one is supposedly good for the other, right? Uhm, well, that's often not the case when it comes to regular citizens and citizens employed by the state (big or little S, doesn't matter). By way of example let me first introduce you to Australia's, more specifically, Victoria's, version of Dumb and Dumber.
Two Victorian men have been hospitalised after shooting each other to see whether it would hurt.
Make any banjo remarks you want to now and get 'em over with. There are to be no more banjo references hereafter.
Labelled "dumb and dumber" by police, the duo had been drinking beer before they decided to shoot each other with an air rifle.
And that's a double score for the righteous - guns, albeit only an air rifle, and alcohol. The non-righteous are probably just wondering how the hell that works. Does A shoot B and then B has a go at shooting A, or do they do it both together? In case you're wondering they did take it in turns, prompting the further question of having shot a mate with an airgun to see what happens how mad/much beer do you need to have had to let him do it to you? I realise that mateship and a fair go are important concepts in the Aussie psyche but there are limits, surely?
The men, from the Grampians region in Victoria's west, took it in turns to shoot each other in the backside and the leg about 5.30pm (AEST) on Sunday. It is believed the duo thought they had escaped injury, other than experiencing a bit of pain.

Two days later, the men were hospitalised. They will require surgery to have slug pellets removed from their buttocks and legs.
And you'd be forgiven for thinking that this would be sufficient. The crime, if you can call it a crime when the perpetrators are and were intended to be the only victims, provided its own punishment.

You'd be mistaken.
Police have withdrawn one man's firearms licence and have confiscated his guns.
I'm in two minds about this because while it was essentially a victimless crime it's still worthy of police scrutiny. I take recreational shooting seriously enough that I get really annoyed by people dicking around with guns, sober or otherwise, and making the responsible majority look bad. And to be honest the reaction isn't quite in the same league as, say for example, summary five year sentences just for having a gun (see Dick Puddlecote and others - Australia at least still has licences for some handguns despite John Howard's knee-jerk reaction to the Port Arthur killings). But at the end of the day if these two had been hospitalised because they'd drunk a load of beer and decided to chuck rocks at each other to see if it would hurt there'd be laughter and shrugging of shoulders and talk of there being no law against that kind of stupidity and no way to enforce it if there was.

On the whole and providing the guy has a chance to get his licence and guns returned I lean towards supporting the actions of Victoria Police. Except for one thing...

... what about this guy?
... Simon Overland sparked a security scare at Canberra Airport after trying to board a flight carrying ammunition.

[Mr Overland] had already flown to Canberra from Melbourne without the bullets being discovered... [he] had forgotten to take the ammunition out of his carry-on luggage.1
Mr Overland was found to be carrying the ammunition magazine at Canberra airport on the way back to Victoria, but had already passed through security in Melbourne and flown to the capital with the ammunition magazine.

Senior Sergeant Davies said Mr Overland did not deserve any preferential treatment although he acknowledged it was an oversight.

"Our position will be there is one law for everyone," he said.2
And why would anyone think Mr Overland would get special treatment or that there's one law for some and another law for the rest? Because Simon Overland, for readers outside Australia, is the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police. If reports are to be believed taking ammunition onto a flight is a criminal offence carrying a maximum sentence of seven years and a $110,000 fine, but what he got amounted to an official bollocking. In fairness I think this was about right as well. If the most senior officer in a state police force can't be trusted with a weapon on board an aircraft then seriously, where the fuck are we? The fact that he didn't even have a weapon when he flew back from Canberra, just some bullets for a gun he'd left locked away in Melbourne, makes it even less of a big deal. An official bollocking is more than sufficient if you ask me, and that only because it caused embarrassment to his office and his force. But what if he'd been a regular citizen?
...senior crime investigators and aviation experts have criticised the decision, saying any civilian making the same mistake would have been arrested and charged.
Obviously I'm not suggesting that Simon Overland should have been jailed or fined for what is in effect a pretty trivial error. Like I said, I wouldn't be concerned if he'd carried a gun on board as well, at least I wouldn't if he'd made it known to the AFP and airline people in advance. For the oversight of forgetting he had a few rounds in the bottom of his bag a reprimand seems about right. But, and it's a big but, the same should apply to any other law abiding citizen.

And somehow I don't have much faith that the courts would have let anyone else off so lightly. So much for there being one law for everyone.

PS - as far as the Simon Overland incident goes the bigger concern was that he able to get the bullets on his outbound flight undetected and it wasn't realised until he was in Canberra. The person responsible at Melbourne airport was 'stood down'.

1 - story
2 - The Australian

Obnoxio the Clown, the early years.

Ahhhhh, wasn't he a cute baby/creepy looking little fucker? (delete as applicable)

Death cured.

Well, more or less if certain figures are to be believed. I refer you to Velvet Glove, Iron Fist. Having seen the the claim that 40,000 deaths are due to junk food he's done what I've wondered about for ages and added up all the claims of the things that we like to do that supposedly kill us. Interesting reading.
I've wondered for some time what would happen if you added up all the 'preventable' deaths claimed in reports like this. I've never got round to doing a proper estimate but as a very rough, back-of-the-envelope calculation, here's what I've come up with...

As a starting pointing, there are about 490,000 deaths a year in England and Wales (ONS, 2008). Of these, 175,000 involve people aged 85 or over. It's surely pushing it to describe these deaths as 'preventable', so lets exclude them, leaving a total of 315,000.

Of those 315,000, there are some that even the most eager public healthist has yet to blame on lifestyle. For example:

Intentional self-harm: 8,000

Flu/pneumonia: 11,000

Accidents (including traffic accidents): 13,00

Alzheimers/Parkinson's/motor neuron disease: 7,000

There are many, many others but let's be ultra-conservative and just exclude these 39,000 deaths. That leaves us with a total of 276,000.

Now let's look at how many deaths are attributed to specific causes in the newspapers:

Junk food: 40,000

Smoking: 106,000

Alcohol: 40,000

Obesity: 30,000

Air pollution: 50,000

Medical accidents and errors: 40,000

= 306,000 deaths

In other words, we seem to have more deaths from the estimates than we have bodies in the graveyard. Even with the implicit, if ridiculous, assumption that every cancer and every heart attack is preventable, the figures don't add up (and we still haven't taken into account things like fires, assaults, drownings, murders and contagious diseases).
As a commenter over there pointed out we also have to make some allowance for deaths which have multiple causes, though I think using the term 'cause' implies something rather more definite and 'factor' is probably a better choice. Still, if the claims of the various bansturbators, killjoys and Strength-through-Joy types are to be taken seriously it looks like if only we'd put that bloody fag out, board up the pubs and burn down all the take-aways then dying would be a thing of the past.


Any related deaths in the cleansing process will not count towards statistical purposes

Of course, the other way of looking at it is that they pull numbers of dead from [insert hated activity here] out of their arses whenever they need to top the last lot of terrifying headlines, but who'd seriously believe that?

Well, for starters anyone who remembers that these healthist bastards have form in making up the safe limits in the first place.

And the dumbest idea award goes to...

Peppermouth, a device to make you watch your language when you type at your computer.
The playful idea is to deter users from employing bad language by releasing a "disturbing pepper smell" through the device when it detects that they are writing something rude.
The design includes a red light that warns the user to stop using offensive words, and an atomiser that emits the odour if they continue to do so.
Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the deliberate mistyping of naughty words commonly used precisely to avoid word filters blanking out that sort of sh!t. So this pepper sprayer would need to be aware of that and stink up the room when people are doing that as well. But the problem is context, isn't it? For example, the invention of this complete

might make discussion of the contemporary British retail clothing industry and medieval Danish kings a little bit on the tricky side. And Obnoxio the Clown's blog will probably explode.

If you don't want to hear or read people swearing you don't have to. Just fcuk off.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Clangers and Mash.

"If they fail to beat Slovenia I hope there's a camera on hand to catch Wayne Rooney reflecting on how nice it is when your own fans chase you down the street with a credit card bill and a fucking great sword."
Gold. Just gold.

Not so much having a dream as a delusion.

I was going to blog something about Diane Abbott's verbal and mental (very) gymnastics when asked about her decision to educate her son - cue socialist gasps of shock - privately instead of at the state schools she admires so much, but Al Jahom's said it first and better. What a shame Diane Abbott didn't consider her words as fully as AJ did.

Arse about face.

Via JuliaM I see that between all the stories about bikini clad slebs, slebs at some do or other, slebs getting together with other slebs, slebs splitting up from other slebs and so on The Daily Mail have managed to include some actual items of news, one of which is that the world's about to end. And among the predictable doom of that article was this utter gem of the journalistic art.
[Professor Fenner] was also heavily involved in helping to control Australia's myxomatosis problem in rabbits.
I suspect that either the nonagenarian professor has lost his marbles or, and I feel this might be the more likely of the two, the Fail's reporter never had many to begin with. This statement is about as wrong as it's possible to get. Far from Australia having a myxomatosis problem in rabbits it had, and still has, a rabbit problem that it once tried to tackle with myxomatosis. I remember being told that at school years before I ever considered visiting Oz, much less moving here. Professor Fenner was indeed involved in what was basically bio war on bunnies, which depending on your source killed between 80 and 95% of Thumper's little friends Down Under, but how the hell the Fail managed to misinterpret bunny-genocide using the myx as controlling the myx "problem" in the rabbits I don't know. I do know that you can't blame their source as the article says that Professor Fenner was interviewed by The Australian, and when I checked their article the nearest sentence I found to what appeared in the Fail was this:
And his work on the myxoma virus suppressed wild rabbit populations on farming land in southeastern Australia in the early 1950s.
Well done, Daily Mail. Even by your standards getting something 180˚ arse about face is quite an achievement.

Monday, 21 June 2010


Wind farms have truly become like their namesake. In the same way that farmers can be paid to not grow food (old Times link - hope it doesn't vanish behind the paywall any time soon) operators of wind farms are going to be paid to shut down and produce nothing, and not for the usual reason of the wind not blowing. Obviously there's no value in not producing electricity because there's no wind and you can't. That'd just be silly.

No, this is about earning money for not producing electricity when there is wind and you can.
Energy firms will receive thousands of pounds a day per wind farm to turn off their turbines because the National Grid cannot use the power they are producing.
Critics of wind farms have seized on the revelation as evidence of the unsuitability of turbines to meet the UK's energy needs in the future. They claim that the 'intermittent' nature of wind makes such farms unreliable providers of electricity.
Actually this isn't news as such. The solution of paying them to switch the generators off might be, but the problem has been known about for years. As I understand it the electricity produced can't be stored because there isn't a battery big enough and even if there was it's AC and there's no such thing as an AC battery. You can't simply produce way more than you need to be on the safe side because important and expensive things will go fzzzt, pop and boom. You can produce not enough but doing so won't make you very popular with the people whose lights keep going off. So the aim is to produce exactly the right amount all the time, matching supply and demand almost perfectly. As I child someone told me that they increase electricity production at half time in football games or when the adverts are on in the middle of soap operas because of all the kettles going on. Well, it seems there's something in it, though obviously there's more to it than that. For one thing there are transmission losses so it's necessary to produce enough over and above the demand to allow for the loss. For another there are ways of storing excess as potential energy, e.g. pumping water to a reservoir above a hydroelectric dam. Again, there are losses but it does mean you can produce a little more than you think you'll need and use it up to pump water or compress air to store and convert back to electricity later. Combining these things with a variety of generators - some whose output can't easily be adjusted, and some which can be turned up or down as need dictates - management of the grid must be a lot like a magician keeping a load of plates spinning on poles. If he watches them closely and pays attention he can see where he needs to increase the speed of a plate and where he can leave well alone for the moment.

And into the mix comes wind energy, a source which varies on how much wind there is where there happen to be wind farms.
The National Grid fears that on breezy summer nights, wind farms could actually cause a surge in the electricity supply which is not met by demand from businesses and households.
The electricity cannot be stored, so one solution – known as the 'balancing mechanism' – is to switch off or reduce the power supplied.
I've seen stuff on the web claiming that it's not a problem or at least is not a significant issue, but generally such claims seemed to be coming from Big Eco, particularly the parts of it that make wind turbines or depend to some degree on those that do. Besides, such claims look rather less convincing now.
The system is already used to reduce supply from coal and gas-fired power stations when there is low demand. But shutting down wind farms is likely to cost the National grid – and ultimately consumers – far more. When wind turbines are turned off, owners are being deprived not only of money for the electricity they would have generated but also lucrative 'green' subsidies for that electricity.
The first successful test shut down of wind farms took place three weeks ago. Scottish Power received £13,000 for closing down two farms for a little over an hour on 30 May at about five in the morning.
Whereas coal and gas power stations often pay the National Grid £15 to £20 per megawatt hour they do not supply, Scottish Power was paid £180 per megawatt hour during the test to switch off its turbines.
It raises the prospect of hugely profitable electricity suppliers receiving large sums of money from the National Grid just for switching off wind turbines.
Dr Lee Moroney, planning director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, a think tank opposed to the widespread introduction of wind farms, said: "As more and more wind farms come on stream this will become more and more of an issue. Wind power is not controllable and does not provide a solid supply to keep the national grid manageable. Paying multinational companies large sums of money not to supply electricity seems wrong."
You're not kidding, but let's not forget that's only the newest part of the money pit. Because it's not competitive on it's own wind power is generously subsidised, and don't give me that shit about it being just until the technology is mature - windmills have been around for thousands of years and people started generating electricity with them a century ago. It's had a fair go, but still the subsidies in the shape of taxes and/or levies on their electricity bills.
Earlier this year, The Sunday Telegraph revealed that electricity customers are paying more than £1 billion a year to subsidise wind farms and other forms of renewable energy.
Nice work if you can get it, as this 'hippy' turned wind-millionaire can tell you (though you may want to sit down in the dark and do some deep breathing or something before clicking that link).

Still, despite the problem it's, ah, not actually a problem according to the National Grid.
A National Grid spokesman said: "The trial demonstrates that wind can help balance supply and demand just like other generation types: this is potentially useful to us on warm but windy summer days when generation outstrips the low demand – and a higher proportion of generation is made up of wind and inflexible nuclear."
The spokesman added: "The trial is something supporters of wind energy should welcome, as it gives evidence to their case that wind generation does not bring insurmountable problems to balancing supply and demand."
Look, how can you say there isn't a problem, you utter fucknuts? It might not be an insurmountable technical problem, though it's clearly going to become bigger the more of the things you build and the bigger you build them, but there's a financial problem if your business earns gets money for doing sweet fuck all. The long and the short of it is that just as wind sometimes fails to produce power when demand if high it can produce too much when demand is low, and if the only solution is to pay you lot to turn the fuckers off then presumably we're already past the point at which pumping water and compressing air to store potential energy is an option.

But normally when a business overproduces they have to deal with it themselves, so please permit a layman's question: why the fuck are you just sitting back and watching the money roll in when you could be creating more storage for the surplus your fucking bird mincers are producing? Christ, at the very least you could turn things backwards and use electricity to turn the blades in still air and make it look like they're doing something vaguely worthwhile. Or just put some nice lights on it maybe.

PS - Bill Sticker and I seem to have been looking at the same pages of The Tele, though I didn't look at the comments and didn't see the link to a doco about wind generation and money generation called Con With The Wind. Nice title, which I wish I'd thought of first. I'll be watching that when it comes out.

What's yours is mine and what's mine we share.

There's a bit of an argument going on in Australia at the moment, and it's to do with mining.

Quite a lot of mining goes on in Australia since, contrary to the beliefs of the early colonists who thought that the continent was relatively resource poor, there are a lot of things buried here that have value if you're prepared to dig them up and sell them. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Australian history will probably know that there was a gold rush - arguably more than one since gold was discovered separately in all the states, or colonies as they were at the time - and of course gold is still being mined today. There are plenty of applications for the shiny stuff but even if you consider just what ends up in the jeweller's shop window any gold that's come from Australian mines will probably have company from home nearby. Any dark blue sapphires you spot in there are likely to be Ocker and all or nearly all of the opals too. Diamonds? Aren't they all African? Nope. Nearly half are mined in Africa but Australia at least chips in there, and included in its diamond production are some of the rare - and pricey - coloured 'fancy' diamonds. In fact nearly all the world's pink diamonds come from one mine in the Kimberley, and of course wherever there are diamonds beautiful enough for jewellery there will also be plenty of non-gem grade stones for industrial applications. Australian mines may not produce everything from aluminium to zinc but they certainly produce both aluminium and zinc as well as copper, nickel, silver and coal. Australia is the third largest exporter of iron ore, the second largest exporter of uranium (since there is just one small research reactor* in Sydney almost all must be being exported instead of powering and lighting Australian homes - go figure, as the Yanks say) and the largest export of coal. There are open cast mines so large they can be seen from orbit and whole towns that exist today because something worth mining was discovered there, sometimes by pure fluke (like the opal town of Coober Pedy, which owes it's existence to gold prospectors looking for water stumbling across opal by accident).

In short, it's fair to say that mining is an important industry in Australia and, I'm told, raw materials make up a big chunk of the countries exports. I'm also told that the prices of these raw materials in the last decade or so have been pretty favourable towards the country, economy wise. I'm no financial whizz, though I'm vaguely aware that some of the mining company execs are very seriously minted, but if all that's true I assume that the benefit comes not just from the exports but also the employment provided by the mining companies. And in turn mining company employees at every level (as well as any shareholders who live here) will spend the money the industry makes them on other things and spread the mining money around. A miner from West Australia who spends a few dollars on fruit and veg benefits not just the local supermarket but possibly farmers thousands of miles away in the eastern states, who in turn will buy things they need or want. Having first passed through many pairs of hands a mining dollar may eventually a mining dollar end up in my pocket despite my having absolutely no connection with the industry or knowing anyone who has. And in return for this Kevin Rudd's government intends to impose a supertax on mining profits of 40%.

Now I suppose the guy has to balance the nation's books somehow and for all I know this is as good as any of the alternatives, but naturally the mining companies are less than thrilled about it and are running TV ads to explain why they don't agree.

The latest round in this sparring match is that Kevin Rudd has gone on radio to say that it's the mining companies themselves who are to blame for the supertax. Apparently he feels that the industry used to create infrastructure and now it doesn't anymore, so it falls to the federal government to step in and build what's needed and to pay for it by taxing the mining companies.
“The story I get on the ground from a lot of folk is that once upon a time mining companies tended to take on total responsibility for funding the infrastructure of towns, cities, regional developments,” Mr Rudd said.

“But the criticism I hear in various parts of the country over the last decade or so is that they've withdrawn that level of support, putting more pressure back onto local governments and on to state governments.”
Oooooh-kay, let me stop you right there, Kevin. You are the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia and therefore the leader of the federal government, not any of the state governments. If this pressure is being put on the local and state governments why not leave it to them to decide how to raise the money? Thanks to Canberra income tax and GST is the same everywhere, which to me seems odd for what is theoretically a federation of competing states, but various other taxes - stamp duty, for example - are set by each state as they see fit. If the eeeevil miners need to pay more tax because this or that state is under pressure why not tax them just there in that state?

And secondly, Kev, isn't this a change of tax on your part? I mean, the other week the supertax was all about fairness, to use your term. You were telling everyone that the mining companies were making big, huge, fat pots of money and keeping it all to themselves instead of sharing the joy, although as I noted above the profits are indeed shared every time a mining company employee, exec or shareholder spends money on anything made, grown or sold in Australia. They can't eat whatever it is they're mining and they can't eat money, so just leaving them to go and buy stuff will share those profits just fine. Not only that but along the way the federal and state governments are getting revenue from income tax, capital gains tax, payroll tax, GST and for all I know one or two others that I don't know about. But I'm not arguing about whether the various governments are getting their pound of flesh so much as pointing out that until now you've been selling the supertax on 'sharing the benefits'...

... and all of a sudden it's actually because the selfish mining companies aren't building any more.
“We say that the sector of the economy most able to share a greater part of the burden for funding our infrastructure needs for the future is in fact our most-profitable mining companies - asking them to put a bit back in to the community in terms of the road, rail, ports and other infrastructure that the community needs.”
Well, gee, thanks, but weren't they doing anyway that by spending money with people who spend money with people who spend money with people? And while Kevin Rudd may be right that they used to build infrastructure themselves and don't anymore might that have something to do with the fact that local, state and federal government have taken over that function? Look at Broken Hill in New South Wales, the country's oldest mining town. Isolated in the west of the state - and much, much closer to Adelaide than Sydney - and stuffed with silver and tin, it needed a way to get the ore to where it could be refined and exported, and in 1888 the Silverton Tramway was opened to connect the town by rail to Por Pirie in South Australia. The 30 miles of tramway was constructed by a private company (not actually a mining company, though it seems unlikely that the tramway would ever have existed but for the mining at Silverton and Broken Hill), bearing out Kev's point that back in the day it was the private sector building this stuff instead of leaving it to government. Incidentally, the New South Wales government still played a part in the creation of the tramway - they refused permission for the SA government to carry on building their Adelaide line over the NSW border to Broken Hill, leaving little option but the private sector and the way open for the Silverton Tramway Company. Private money also constructed the reservoir, and in the days before Medicare may also have attracted medical staff. Being stuck in a 19th century mining town in the middle of a desert might not have been a lot of laughs but it probably paid pretty well or nobody would have wanted to go. Maybe all the private investment in the town back then was non-mining company money, but you can be sure that those companies in turn profited from the mining companies. How much did the miners pay the Silverton Tramway Company for transporting ore all those years?

But lets imagine a big new find today. Let's imagine that a big lode of an enormously useful mineral is found, say, in a deserty bit of the middle of nowhere between a couple of deserts that contain nothing much. At the very least they'll need transport links, just as Broken Hill did 120 years ago, but if the deposit is big enough the mining companies that move in will be after so many staff that it'll be worth constructing permanent accommodation, and if people are going to live there in any numbers then there'll also need to be shops, schools, medical facilities, water and electricity supplies and so on. And yes, Kevin, just as you say a certain amount will inevitably be paid for out of the public purse instead of by the mining companies. How can it be otherwise when governments insist on doing it anyway. Why would they construct a road or a railway, or rather another road or railway, when you lot are going to build them? Why would they build a school and hire teachers when the state will do that too? For the mining companies it would be a waste of money and for everyone it would be redundant.

So yes, Kevin, you do have a point that much of what was once paid for by the industry must now be paid for by government, and that means it's got to come from taxes. The thing is, though, the mining industry does pay a little bit of tax here and there already. In fact they say they've paid $80 billion in tax over the last decade (PDF from, which they feel is already more than their fair share:
While making up about 8 per cent of the economy, mining companies contributed about 18 per cent of corporate income tax revenue during 2008-9.
And how much extra do you feel they should pay, Kevin?

$12 billion.

$12 billion which won't go into the pockets of the evil, greedy, capitaliiiiist fat cats running the industry, sure. But it's also $12 billion that can't go into shareholder dividends or employee wages, which means $12 billion that they can't spend in regular businesses up and down Australia. Okay, maybe we'll all be happy with whatever you decide to spend the $12 billion on, though it should go without saying that you can't please all of the people all of the time so this is far from guaranteed. But what I can guarantee you is this:

However much mining profits eventually end up in my hands and the hands of any individual in Australia, for certain we'd be happy with whatever we each chose to spend the money on.

* They called it OPAL, which not only suggests the importance of opals to Australia but also sounds suspiciously like another example of thinking up the cool acronym first and then having a meeting to work out what it should stand for.


... hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Own goal - UPDATED

Either you are free to speak as you think and feel, or you are not. Any restriction on what can be said by definition means you do not have freedom of speech. It's one of life's absolutes. Mrs Exile should be free to call me a pom with an unhealthy obsession with the weather and the correct form of queueing. I'm should be free to call her a typical fucking colonial with a cultural inferiority complex. We should be free to refer to the Scots as a nation of orange haired, drunken porridge wogs* who deep fry anything edible, perhaps anything at all in the hope of making it edible. And the Scots most certainly should be free to say they'd rather support anyone but England in the World Cup.

Arguably the performance of Rooney & Co is enough to make English fans consider supporting anybody but the Italian led bunch of overpaid, talent-free, embarrassing, salad dodgers on whom England's hopes rest(ed) anyway, but given that the Scots, as usual, don't have a dog in the fight, why shouldn't they support who they want for whatever reason they want?

Because it's racist, apparently.
High street retailer HMV has withdrawn "Anyone But England" World Cup posters and T-shirts from its Scottish stores following complaints they were racist.

Racist? Oh, behave. I wouldn't call that racist if I heard it from an Aussie, much less a Scot. I might accept that "Anyone But England' has possible racist overtones, though not that it's explicitly racist, if it came from someone black or asian etc, but really it's more nationalist than racist. And even if you do accept as racist, it's about a bloody soccer tournament for Christ's sake. How bloody thin-skinned do you need to be to get upset by this? Harden the fuck up!

And who's behind the complaint?
The Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP) contacted police about the "insensitive and provocative" items which, their website claimed were "criminally irresponsible".
/double facepalm and oh shit. I'd been meaning to link to the CEP since I thought these guys stood for a return to common sense, fairness and liberty for all. I may still but this move seems awfully like a touch of "if you can't beat 'em, join in". The CEP seems to want freedom of speech for England, and of course that's great. I'm all for freedom of speech so I'm absolutely with the CEP on that, but why stop at England? Personally I'd like to see the day when any North Korean can say that Kim Jong Il is a cunt, so England (or Australia, depending on who/where I'm ranting against) is no more than a first step. But if so then restricting the same freedom elsewhere seems like a step backwards, especially if it's within your own country. Would we get more freedom here in Victoria by persuading Canberra to put limits on Queenslanders, or would it be more likely for them to apply the same restriction in all states?

You're not gaining more freedom for yourselves by demanding limits on the freedom of your neighbours, and I think the CEP have scored a massive own goal here. I'd hope that the idea was to try to ridicule the tendency to cry 'racist' whenever anyone says something that someone else (not necessarily themselves) finds something vaguely objectionable, but I think they've succeeded only in legitimising it even for something as trivial as fucking football. In turn this opens the door for the Scots to cry 'racist' if an Englishman says he'd rather eat anything but a clootie dumpling.

As far as I know I haven't so much as a molecule of Scottish glomahaeblin in my blood but I'm on their side. Screw the English who killed Mel Gibson and won't let them support whatever football team they like - HMV should have told them to fuck off. Anyone but England indeed, though in the interests of free speech I'll say I think Scotland's twelfth most talented footballer is Wee Jimmy Krankie.

UPDATE - I left a brief comment to this effect on a post about the Scottish HMV at The CEP blog at 9:58am on 20/6/10. It's still awaiting moderation, though ten comments made afterwards seems to be up. [Shrugs] Wonder why.

* In the Aussie sense a wog is a Mediterranean European providing they're not French and therefore already covered by the term 'Frog'. The people covered by 'wog' have been extended by the use of modifiers. Some, like 'porridge wog' for the Scots, I've heard fairly often. Others. like 'potato wog' for the Irish and 'clog wog' for the Dutch, seem more rare. The fact that Australians have given us English the unique and unmodified term 'Pom' all to ourselves I take to be an indication of the special place we occupy in the cultural hearts of this linguistically gifted people. Either that or the sand-grubbing bastards loathe us so much that we deserved our own insult.

I don't lose any sleep over it either way.

Paywall Fail.

I wonder if The Times is trying to get some award for the most insane business model. Step 1, erect paywall to make sure everyone has to pay to read your content.

Step 2, make some of that same content available for free somewhere else.

Well done, boneheads. If I took that plan to my bank manager he'd throw me into the fucking road.


Oh, I'm so going to hell for laughing about this.
A GERMAN teacher is suing a student for teasing her about an alleged phobia of rabbits and drawing one on her blackboard.

The teacher, named only as Marion V, fled in tears when she saw the chalk drawing at a school in the northern German town of Vechta, De Spiegel reported.

Her 16-year-old tormentor had told classmates that Marion V. was terrified of rabbits and would "flip out" is she saw one, according to court documents.

The victim, who teaches German and geography, has refused to say whether she is afraid of the animals but is suing the youngster for defamation and for "infringing her rights."
Oh, the poor thing. I'd suggest she treats herself to a holiday Down Under but of course we've got something like half a billion of the things, so it'd probably be a case of Where The Bloody Hell Did You Go? So probably she should stay home, relax and put a DVD on to cheer herself up. Something to give her a chuckle. Some Father Ted maybe.

Or maybe not.

But piss taking aside I do actually have a point here. I don't particularly have a problem with one person suing another if there's some actual harm done but is this really defamation?
"The plaintiff, a teacher, teaches the accused pupil at a high school in Vechta and claims the pupil drew rabbits on the blackboard of the classroom and told fellow pupils the teacher was afraid of rabbits and 'flips out' when she sees a rabbit," a court document said.

"The teacher demands that the accused refrains in future from drawing rabbits on the blackboard and claiming that she, the teacher, is afraid of rabbits and flips out at the sight of them."
Oh, come on. It's hardly like saying you stab the bunnywunnies in the eyes with red hot knitting needles and then cook them alive for your dinner. There's also the point that something prompted you to leave the classroom in tears, which, if it was the rabbitness of the rabbit rather than the realisation that you were being teased, leaves the defamation point up for debate. As to the infringement of rights, it's far from clear what 'rights' are being infringed. The right to not see rabbits or even just crappy drawings of rabbits?
Ooops, sorry.

The right not to be frightened? The right not to be offended or upset? Y'know, I'm guessing that we might be getting warm, and as it says up there on the left, there's no right to not be offended. There can't be, because I for one would be offended if anyone tried to enshrine such a right. It was a sixteen year old kid., okay?

And now the serious bit's over I can go back to the giggles.
Kim's mother told reporters: "The teacher didn't talk to me before she filed the complaint.

"My daughter has had rabbit stress all year because of this."
Oh, not her as well. Rabbit stress? Pppffffffttt.

Harden the fuck up, the pair of you.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

End of lifeline -part II

A few days ago I blogged about a paper on involuntary euthanasia in Belgium, or rather on the tabloid misinterpretation that JuliaM's blog on it alerted me to. One point the paper made, which the Daily Mail managed not to include, was that while some questionable things were happening in Belgium they were also going on in other countries which, unlike Belgium, have no legal euthanasia or assisted suicide.
"In previous surveys, physicians reported that nurses sometimes administered drugs explicitly intended to hasten death. Nevertheless, uncertainty remained about the understanding by the nurses of the act that they performed. In our study, nurses did administer life-ending drugs with the recognition that the death of the patient was intended. In the cases of euthanasia, 12% of the nurses administered the drugs. In the United States, where no legal framework for euthanasia is provided, 16% of critical care nurses 10 and 5% of oncology nurses reported engaging in euthanasia. Similar findings have been reported in other countries."
In other words if you look at other countries it doesn't seem to matter if the law allows it or not. Kind of makes the supposed slippery slope that the Fail is getting all excited about seem rather flatter and high-friction than their article suggests, though in fairness they covered this when they said... er... just bear with me, I'll find it in a tick... sorry, no, my mistake. They didn't mention it.
And as if to bear that point out in The Telegraph we have this:
A GP cleared of murdering three patients has broken his long silence to admit that he did hasten their deaths as well as those of dozens of others in his care.
Dr Howard Martin, once feared to be a “second Harold Shipman”, told The Daily Telegraph that he gave what proved to be fatal doses of painkillers to elderly and terminally ill patients.
But he said he only acted out of “Christian compassion” and was merely trying to limit their suffering rather than “playing God”.
He disclosed that, in two cases, he hastened the deaths of patients without their permission, while one of those to whom he administered a final injection was his son, Paul, 31, when he was dying from cancer in May 1988.
Dr Martin, 75, spoke out as the General Medical Council struck him off for professional misconduct, ruling that he had hastened the deaths of 18 patients in “egregious, despicable and dangerous” conduct.
He accepted that his confession put him at risk of “spending the rest of my life in prison” if it prompted police to reopen his case.
If there is a slippery slope then I feel it's likely that most industrialised nations are already on it anyway. It might even be worth asking whether the slope was ever flat. The other way of looking at it is, as above, that recognising that people own their lives and should be free to relinquish them if they want and seek (which is not the same as successfully find) professional help to do so does not necessarily increase the numbers of medical staff who are prepared, for whatever reason, to stick the needle in without asking.

Quote du jour.

How true.
"I guess it's like all these things, it's alright if you're not too much of a prick. So probably the light sabres should be labelled 'NOT FOR SALE TO PRICKS'.

"Then it would be okay."
Words of wisdom there from The Daily Mash.

Rage, rage against the lying of the lights.

Apologies to Dylan Thomas fans for the title.

Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That? fame is on a speaking tour of these parts, and is blogging along the way. Wednesday saw him in Newcastle which, being a coal town, is the New South Wales version of, well, Newcastle. One recent blog entry (and do please go and read the whole thing) relates the amusing sight of a power wasting wind turbine.
We were a bit late getting there due to airplane scheduling snafus, and as we rushed from the airport at 6:15 pm we passed the coal loading terminal at Newcastle. There, as if there was some madcap attempt at sustainability, was one of those huge wind turbines like I’ve seen on the US plains. I attempted to get a photo, but my camera misfired with bad focus due to the car window, and I missed the shot.

The next morning, on the way to the airport again at 6AM, the windmill was still there, just like it was before. My driver (Anthony#2 of Team Anthony) gladly pulled over to allow me to get this shot as dawn crept in. I was incredulous that the shot hadn’t changed.

Ummm. I thought windmills were all about generating electricity, not using it. So why put torches on it that run all night? Want to bet the lighting power is coming from coal? While the turbine probably generates more power than it uses most nights, it sure seems odd.

Of course, maybe the people that run it really didn’t want a wind turbine in their coal town, and this torch lighting is their form of silent protest. Or, maybe they are proud of it and felt it needed to be illuminated all hours of the night. Maybe the lights are to warn off birds and small planes. Nobody seemed to know. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t help but be amused.
It would have been a lot funnier if they'd set up a giant fan to blow directly at it so that it could generate power all the time, but I feel there's another aspect to this. Obviously tall structures need lights and night as a warning for low flying aircraft, but does the way that turbine is lit remind you of anything at all?

Left, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.   Right, Washington Monument, DC

St Peter's Basilica, Rome

Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

The Wailing Wall and Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem 

Buddha, Wat Tum Sua, Thailand

I could go on, but my point is that objects that are lit up at night like that are frequently things that the viewer is expected to view with respect, veneration, or even adoration driven by religious fervour. Not exclusively so, but fairly often.

Now look again at the photo Anthony Watts took of the wind turbine.


I suspect that at the very least it's lit that way to show how right-on and green they are round there despite all that coal, for verily it is the thought that counteth most when it comes down to it. A kind of a proud statement that they believe in the evils of warble gloaming and the redemption to be found in (al)mighty renewable power sources, just like others light up cathedrals and temples and statues. At worst - and here I reach for the tinfoil headgear - it's a mind game, an exercise in lighting up this white elephant in such a way as to suggest that viewers look on it that way, and maybe even buy a small one to stick on the roof in the same way a born again Christian might nail a fish to his car.

Whatever they had in mind I'm not joining their modern religion until they make a decent case for it, and they're not making any headway in that while they keep up this sort of hypocrisy, and stupid hypocrisy at that. I'm sure I don't need to explain exactly where they can shove this wind turbine, but leaving the lights on might be handy due to a distinct lack of sunshine there.

Myself, I'd have plastic surgery done.

Funny, up to a point.
US POLICE raided a bar in Ocean City, Maryland, over the weekend after customers there confused a female drinker for Canadian teen heartthrob Justin Bieber.

Regulars at the Mug and Mallet bar confirmed police entered the venue Saturday night, following reports that Bieber, 16, was drinking underage inside reported TMZ today.

Instead, they found a 27-year-old female Bieber lookalike, with the same petite frame and tousled short brown hairstyle as that of the pint-sized pop sensation.

The woman, known only as Katie, told TMZ she was mistaken for Bieber all the time - and was forced to produce her ID card to police to prove she was not him.
Actually I thought it was hilarious, except for the poor girl. And then I remembered trips to the US and being asked for ID in every pub and bar at a similar age to her, and I'm damn sure I didn't look 16 at the time (my face acquired it's lived in look fairly early). Unless they've suddenly stopped doing this or it's just not a Maryland thing surely the bar stuff asked Biebalike Katie for proof of age, especially since she clearly looks like a sixteen year old boy. Which in turn kind of suggests the cops, who had "had reports", turned up because some concerned citizen busybody called them in.


If they were really that concerned why not simply ask the staff if they'd checked? Because they've got the same attitude as the sort of person who complains that someone's selling takeaways and porn to get them shut down, I reckon. Even if it's not harming them or anyone else the thought process is that it's bad, it's wrong, it shouldn't be allowed, there ought to be a law against that sort of thing.

Why can't these self righteous pests fuck off and leave other people alone?

The hardest word.

Just ran across this about a man who spent three years in jail for a rape that apparently never happened. I'd just dialled the outrage up to 11 when I thought I'd better check the Ambush Predator's cave, false rape claims being one of her regular topics. Sure enough, she's started the day with it, and draws attention to the fact that the woman concerned isn't facing any comeback for her actions, a perjury trial for instance, despite having a history of crying rape.

And then there's the police attitude, which Julia touches on as well. Take a look at the timeline here from the Sky article (my bold).
Warren Blackwell, 40, was jailed in 1999 for a sex attack outside a social club. He was released in 2003 and his conviction was quashed on appeal in 2006, after new evidence undermined the credibility of the complainant.
And the Mail article Julia linked to.
Yesterday the IPCC criticised Northamptonshire Police for taking more than a year to finalise an apology and resolve disciplinary matters with officers involved.
The IPCC probe, launched in 2007, found failings by three officers who had a case to answer on misconduct grounds.
And what year is this? 2010, isn't it? So Mr Blackwell was released after three years, then a further three before the authorities concede he was innocent all along and compensate him - minus the costs of his bed and board while he was locked in the cell he should never have been put in, natch - then maybe a year for the IPCC to even begin an investigation, and another three years for them to work out that the police well and truly stuffed it up and arguably fitted him up. More than ten years of trial, jail, appeals and investigations, all leading up to this moment.
Northamptonshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Derek Talbot apologised to Blackwell in person earlier this week.
Only four years after the appeal court quashed the conviction, which suggests that making the effort to apologise for screwing up someone's life on the word of someone who's clearly as mad as a box of frogs is a high priority for Northamptonshire police. Before you know it they'll be arresting people for crimes they haven't even committed yet.


Friday, 18 June 2010

What not to ask a Queensland cop.

His name, apparently. Yes, really. Via the Real World Libertarian, who seems pretty unhappy with his state's police force, this:
EMBATTLED Surfers Paradise police are embroiled in a fresh misconduct probe after a retired businessman was allegedly brutalised and thrown in a cell.

Lindsay Walters, 61, says he was subjected to shocking treatment at Surfers Paradise police station last month when he went in to pay a fine for his son.

He claims he was sworn at, handcuffed and threatened that his arms would be broken.

The wealthy Paradise Waters businessman has made a formal complaint to the Crime and Misconduct Commission alleging unlawful arrest, deprivation of liberty and serious assault.


In a police statement, Mr Walters said he went to Surfers police station on May 4 after two officers called at his home that day in relation to an arrest warrant for his 28-year-old son Ben over an unpaid traffic fine in Victoria.

He said he arranged to pay the $1000 fine for his son but when he went to the station was told the officer handling the matter was out.

He said he asked civilly several times to speak with the officer-in-charge. An officer eventually emerged and allegedly told him: "You've got two (expletive) choices sit there and wait or I'll arrest you."

Mr Walters said he replied: "Well, that won't happen, because I'll leave." He said he was affronted by the officer's demeanour and turned to walk out.

"Before I exited, I turned and said, 'excuse me, can I have your name please?'" Mr Walters said in the statement. ``At this instant, the officer burst through a door, strode quickly over to me and seized my left forearm. He forced my arm behind my back and said 'you're under arrest'. I felt an intense burning pain in my shoulders and neck. I said, 'why am I being arrested?'. The officer replied: 'An outstanding warrant'."
Which, let's just remember, was for someone else.
Despite his protestations, Mr Walters said his arms were forced back and he was handcuffed, causing intense pain... He said that as he was being handcuffed, the officer said: "Stop resisting or I'll break your (expletive) arms."

Mr Walters said his belongings were seized and he was forced into a cell. He was released about 15 minutes later when the officer who had been handling his son's warrant returned.

The officer apologised for his colleague's conduct and accepted the $1000 fine payment, Mr Walters said.
Oh, so that's alright then? Not quite.
He said the officer who locked him up threatened to charge him with public nuisance but he was released without charge.
Whaaaat? Was he taking the (expletive) (expletive)?
"If I was playing up, why didn't they charge me?" [Mr Walters] said yesterday.
Yeah, I wonder...
"I've never been in trouble with the law and some of my closest friends are serving and retired police, but this bloke (the officer) deserves to lose his job over this. I'm not going to let him get away with it."

A police spokeswoman confirmed an internal investigation into the incident was under way.
But from what the Real World Libertarian says it sounds like there are more reasons to worry about the goes rather deeper than the actions of one cop. There are fines for everything from swearing to inappropriate behaviour, which given that the great Australian adjective is 'bloody'* could well create plenty of work for the fine patrols, er, I mean police.
The latest ploy after massively increasing the existing fine structure, because they claimed it didn’t impact enough, is to give the police the power to issue on the spot fines for “inappropriate behavior.” Some of these fines are in the order of $300.

This is in a state where the police asked for fines for jaywalking to be increased to $75 plus a demerit point off your license. Just what the hell does walking have to do with driver’s licenses? Something as harmless as not wearing a seatbelt costs $300. On one occasion here, in the main street, the cops found a stop sign, which was obscured by bushes and set up a trap for motorists. They were really raking it in for Anna [Bligh, Queensland Premier].

This is a clear indication of how the police view their role, not road safety, but revenue raising. If they were in any way concerned about safety in a slow flowing area, the logical move would have been to point it out to the Council, not set a trap.
Have a read of the whole thing, but just in case you're wondering what constitutes "inappropriate behaviour" I'll spoil the surprise and tell you that it seems largely to be left up to the police. But you probably guessed that already.

* And to prove its long standing status it's Aussie culture time:

The sunburnt bloody stockman stood
And in a dismal bloody mood
Apostrophised his bloody cuddy;
"The bloody nag's no bloody good,
He couldn't earn his bloody food -
A regular bloody brumby.

He jumped across the bloody horse
And cantered off, of bloody course,
The roads were bad and bloody muddy;
Said he, "Well spare me bloody days
The bloody Government's bloody ways
Are screamin' bloody funny.

He rode uphill, down bloody dale,
The wind, it blew a bloody gale,
The creek was high and bloody floody.
Said he, "The bloody horse must swim.
The same for bloody me and him,
It's somethin' bloody sickenin'.

He plunged into the bloody creek,
The bloody nag was bloody weak,
The stockman's face a bloody study!
And though the bloody horse was drowned
The bloody rider reached the ground
Ejaculating, "Bloody?"

                                                                                                                 W.T. Goodge, 1898

It also says so on an old tee-shirt that came from a tourist trap somewhere. It might even have been Queensland.
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