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

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

I want to ride my bicycle...

I have a business proposition for you and I wonder if you might be interested in investing. What we're going to do is something I'm calling Truck-Share™ and it involves buying a load of trucks and leaving them parked up in strategic locations in and around Melbourne, and hopefully other cities in the fullness of time when the idea's caught on. The way it'll work is that when people have a load of things to move but don't really want to buy a truck of their own they can just pay either an annual, monthly or daily fee to use Truck-Share™ and that means they have the use of any spare truck from any of the locations where they're left to any other Truck-Share™ parking point. This also saves the trouble of having to make a return trip with an empty truck because the user can simply leave it at the nearest parking point to their destination. The trucks won't need an ignition key but will be left secured by a special electronically controlled wheel-clamp that opens to smart-keys provided to paid up users of the scheme, whose responsibility it is to secure the truck again after they've finished with it. Failure to return the truck or loss of the truck while it's in the user's care will obviously attract a fee to help cover the cost of a replacement truck. Oh, and all the trucks will be painted in an exciting blue and white colour scheme.

Eh? What do you mean it's a fucking silly idea? It's sheer bloody genius. Yes, obviously there's a wee problem with the fact that you need an appropriate licence to drive a truck, but then again you need to have a bike helmet to ride a push bike here and that didn't stop Melbourne Bike Share. Which has been a terrific success, hasn't it?

Hasn't it?
MELBOURNE'S shared bicycles are languishing on city streets, six months after the scheme's launch.

VicRoads figures show an average of 183 trips a day are being made on the 450 blue bikes, which are costing taxpayers $5.5 million over four years.

The bike scheme has been crippled by Melbourne's compulsory helmet laws.
Oh, cock.

Seriously, and piss-taking aside, who the hell are the shared bicycles for if not for the casual user, and when are they going to be wandering around the city with a bike helmet? I know plenty of people who own a cycling helmet but without exception they all own a fucking bike as well. Not only that but whenever they travel anywhere with their bike helmet they invariably take the bicycle too, and being as it's incredibly difficult to ride two bicycles at the same time they won't need to borrow one of the shared ones. At the same time people who aren't regular cyclists are quite likely to have neither bike nor helmet, so while they might like the idea of being able to pay a small fee to use a bike to get from A to B many will be put off by the helmet law. And as the article makes clear it's not exactly a cheap fine either.
Anyone riding a bike without a helmet faces a $146 fine.
That's about £90, or if you want an idea of its worth in price parity terms I reckon that would buy me enough diesel to reach Sydney - a lot of bloody money to get pinged for having decided as a responsible adult to accept the personal risk of cycling half a dozen blocks without a lid. Is it really a surprise that the helmet law is having a negative affect on the Bike-Share scheme?

But maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe it's bike share schemes in general.
Melbourne's scheme lags far behind those in overseas cities. About 140 cities have introduced shared bikes; only Melbourne and Brisbane have compulsory helmet laws.

Dublin City Council's bike share scheme also has 450 bicycles. Launched last September, it now averages 3020 trips a day.
Ah, so that'll be a 'no' then. Still, at least Melbourne has avoided the horrifying carnage that has turned Dublin into something that looks like a cross between the Tour de France and a bad day on the Somme, right? Ah, wait, no.
Dublin councillor Andrew Montague, interviewed recently on bicycle blog about the success of Dublin's scheme, said more than 1 million trips had been taken on Dublin's 450 existing bicycles without a fatality, despite helmets being optional.
Bear in mind that Dublin and Melbourne have roughly similar population densities and so probably roughly similar traffic levels and other hazards, and both have a fairly decent public transport system as an alternative to Bike-Share. They both have trams, even. Granted Melbourne has many more trams and tram routes than Dublin and no doubt some would argue that difference justifies helmet laws here, but I'm very sceptical that a few ounces of foam and plastic will do you much good against a forty tonne tram moving at perhaps as much as 20km/h or so. Yes, it might mean a few more falls but taking that risk or not is still a decision reasoning adults can make on their own.

Some have pointed the finger at the decision to launch the scheme in June this year, the middle of winter and one which turned out to be a colder and wetter winter than Melbourne has seen in recent years. Okay, but then Dublin is a colder and wetter city than Melbourne - sorry, Dublin people, I'm not knocking the place and it's a good city but it is colder and wetter than Mellie - on top of which they launched their Bike Share scheme in September 09 just a couple of months before being hit by the coldest winter for a couple of decades. And still they managed to notch up more than 3,000 trips a day, more than a million a year, with about the same number of bikes that the Melbourne scheme has. Either they kept cycling through a more bitter winter than anything Melbourne gets or they began queueing up for the things once the spring came. Either way, the launch in the actual middle of the Australian winter isn't really a plausible excuse for Melbourne Bike-Share getting a fraction of the use that Dublin's scheme gets. And Dublin, or at the very least Cllr Montague, understands why.
He said Melbourne needed to remove its compulsory laws to succeed. ''It's clearly not working now [in Melbourne],'' he said.
Yes it does, Cllr Montague. And it's been warned and warned and warned, but despite nearly all other cities with similar schemes having either no helmet law to start with or choosing, as Mexico City apparently did (PDF), to scrap it the Victorian government wouldn't be told.
[Victorian Roads Minister (at the time) Tim] Pallas rejected the idea of changing the helmet laws.

''Bicycle helmets save lives and lower the severity of injuries,'' his spokesman said. ''In line with Victorian road laws, helmets are compulsory for people using Melbourne Bike Share.''

He said the government was confident the scheme would become popular. ''We are pleased with the numbers and expect they will continue to grow with the progressive rollout of the scheme and with warmer Melbourne weather.''
Except of course the numbers haven't really grown with the warmer weather, have they Tim? And why not? Fucking helmets, mate, that's why. I mean, just look at this transcript from an ABC program on the topic (listen to the podcast here, complete with obligatory Queen sample - this brief vox pop is at 38:42):
Chinese tourist: Oh, yes we need helmets. Where are these helmets? I didn't know....

[Presenter] Wendy Carlisle: You have to bring your own.

Chinese tourist: Oh, really? Oh no, we don't have it, so, it's not useful I think, yes.

Wendy Carlisle: OK, thank you very much.

Chinese tourist: Thank you. 'Bye.
So there we have it. A casual user who, being a tourist, didn't have a bicycle on her and would have happily coughed up a few bucks to use a Bike-Share bicycle, but she was stuffed by the helmet law and put off from using it. Think she's alone, Tim? Of course she bloody isn't - 1.4 million people visited Melbourne in 2009, and how many of them do you think would have chosen to pack a bike helmet. Any that came having planned to hire a bike during their stay may have found out they needed to bring a helmet or would have brought one anyway, but casual users? Come on. A tourist or even a local could conceivably walk past the bike racks and make an impromptu decision to ride a few blocks, which the scheme allows for by selling daily and weekly subscriptions from automated credit card machines found by the racks. And then they see the notice saying that wearing a helmet is required by law, and since they don't have one they go and get the tram instead. The obvious solution is to allow a free choice whether to risk it or not, but that's really not the kind of thing Nanny State Victoria, aka the Labor government, would be at all interested in. Hence not only Tim Pallas's response to the idea of scrapping the law but the actual "solution" the government came up with.
The Victorian Government will trial disposable helmets, to encourage use of Melbourne's bike share scheme.

The $5 helmets will be available from vending machines at Melbourne University, Southern Cross Station and 30 city convenience stores, from today.

Riders can return the helmets after use for a $3 refund.

The Roads Minister Tim Pallas says the helmets meet all the safety standards.

"If you want a top quality good loking helmet maybe you'll want to pay good money for it," he said.

"If you want a helmet for the purposes of a short term hire, these are more than adequate for the job and they'll do a good and safe job."

The helmets that are returned will be disinfected and rented out again.
Wonderful, though if you can't see it being cleaned how do you know it was done properly? Still, as The Age point out the fucking things cost the Victorian taxpayer $8 each in subsidies, which is on top of the $5.5 million cost of the scheme itself. Fair enough, it's not a patch on some of the other sums Labor have spunked away while it's being running the state (Grand Prix, Wonthaggi desal plant, etc) but all the same ... oh, wait, is that jingling sound the noise of even more money being spent?
A $25-helmet is given free to people who sign up for an annual subscription. Helmets have also been made available cheaply at some city stores and hotels.
I'd like to thank you, Tim, from the very bottom of my wallet, for identifying the opportunity to allow people to take responsibility for their own safety and its costs and then ignoring it in favour of spending even more fucking money on nannying people. The good news is that Labor is no longer in government and with luck the new Roads Minister, whoever it turns out to be, might revisit the helmet law issue, though since the Coalition aren't really much more into individual choice and personal freedom than the ALP I'm not hugely optimistic. And to be frank if it doesn't happen I expect the scheme to wither and die, as ably argued on these videos (found here).

Depressing that so many of the Melbourne people spoken agreed that the scheme was going to struggle with the helmet law but immediately ruled out the obvious solution of repealing the law. I can understand the guy in the bike shop - he has a stock of bike helmets to sell after all. But the rest? They just parroted the Nanny state line about safety, happy in their inability to account for the lack of injuries and fatalities on all the other schemes in cities around the world. I wonder if I could interest any of them in a couple of hundred bright blue DAF light-rigids? They're all hardly used.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Betting in hindsight.

Commenting on the Victorian state election and the probable hung parliament in the wee hours of yesterday morning I wondered if it was too late to put $50 on the first Ashes test being a draw as well. Lo and behold it is a draw and I wish I'd put the money on. Oh well, probably would have got crap odds anyway.

As far as the election result goes it's looking like... er, well, not a draw after all. The Labor Premier conceded defeat a couple of hours ago, and as of now his party have 41 seats in the 88 seat lower house. The Liberals have 35 and their coalition partners, the Nationals, have 10 with the last 2 seats still in doubt (though Labor lead both). Still, another election with a close result, which is starting to become a bit of a repeating pattern as The Age point out.
First it was Western Australia, then Tasmania and then the entire nation that waited impatiently for the votes to be counted and deals to be done.

Now it is the turn of Victoria to face the prospect of a hung parliament.

The state that proved vital to the federal ALP hanging on to power in August has turned against the same party in a landslide vote.


But in a continuation of a curious trend, the Victorian result is both close and confused.

Along with the federal election, the most recent polls in Tasmania, WA and South Australia produced multi-party governments and tight results.

Victoria seems likely to go the same way, as did the nation that produced Australia's parliamentary system: Britain.

The common thread in each of these electoral outcomes has been the length of time each of the incumbents had held office.

When they called their most recent elections, the governments of Australia, the UK, WA, Tasmania and Victoria were all seeking fourth terms.

"There seems to be no particular reason for these tight elections than voters feeling like a change," said political scientist Nick Economou.

"They'll give you a third term, but draw the line at a fourth."
Make of all that what you will. A measure of how long political parties tend to take to become arrogant and assuming government is their entitlement? The time it takes an electorate to realise what a bunch of pricks they are? A touch of both? For me the interesting point is that the closeness of these results shows that the opposition can no longer expect to benefit automatically from the unpopularity of a government - in itself a pretty arrogant attitude to take. What I hope it all means is more voters looking at alternatives to the usual suspects, because maybe then the message might get across that neither Left nor Right have all answers and know how best to run the lives of millions of individuals, and that the only people who can are individuals themselves.

What price injustice?

The more serious the crime the more important it is that the police get the right man, surely? And if the crime is rape then this is important not just from the standpoint of seeing justice done but also because stuffing things up and convicting an innocent man inevitably means a rapist is still at large.* That's one price of injustice, but the innocent man in gaol bears a heavy cost too and deserves to be compensated when the truth emerges. That may not come cheap when it's occurred by mistake - a simple matter of cross contamination of DNA samples for example cost Farah Jama 15 months of his life and eventually cost the government of Victoria half a million dollars. But when someone believes he was jailed for something he didn't do, that it wrecked his life to an irreparable degree and that the police concealed exculpatory evidence, what price then?

45 million dollars?
An Australian pilot who spent almost 1000 days in prison after being wrongfully convicted of child sex offences will this week launch a $45 million lawsuit against the Australian government.

The statement of claim by Fred Martens against the Commonwealth alleges Australian Federal Police withheld and removed evidence which they knew cleared him of the allegations.


Mr Martens was jailed in 2006 for the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl in Port Moresby. Queensland's Court of Appeal quashed the conviction in 2009 after Mr Martens' family was able to obtain flight records which proved Mr Martens was not in Port Moresby at the time of the offence.
In fact they show he was about 1,000km away.
The statement of claim alleges AFP officers deliberately concealed the existence of the aviation records at Mr Martens' court hearings, despite them being readily available from PNG authorities. It alleges the AFP was more concerned with successfully prosecuting Mr Martens than investigating the facts of the case.

''The defendants failed to investigate the matter to find the truth but instead endeavoured to amass evidence to bolster a case against the plaintiff regardless of its truth or falsity,'' the document alleges.
Okay, so he's lost two and a half years which he'll never get back, and if it's true that the AFP withheld evidence that's very bad and they do deserve to be hammered for it (even though it's the poor old taxpayer who will end up coughing up for it), but $45 million?
Mr Martens said because his passport had been confiscated and his funds frozen while he was awaiting trial in Australia, he was not able to fly to PNG to prepare his own defence. He said a magistrate had ordered the AFP to investigate any leads raised by his legal team but the statement of claim alleges officers failed to do so.
Mr Martens is claiming $45 million in losses, including for the death of his infant daughter Stephanie who he says died in PNG of malaria because he was unable to provide funds to care for her.

The statement of claim also alleges that a number of Mr Martens' PNG businesses, which included the nation's Royal Flying Doctor Service, were lost or collapsed because he was not there to run them.
It also states he lost several large properties because he was not there to secure them. Mr Martens said the properties had since been taken over by settlers and removing them would result in violent confrontations.
And I thought Farah Jama had had it bad. Losses of businesses and property aside I cannot imagine what this guy felt as the news that his daughter had died was brought to him in his cell.

$45 million is a lot of money, though I wouldn't be surprised if a settlement is reached out of court for a secret but certainly much smaller sum, but this is a fair bit beyond the normal suffering when a miscarriage of justice occurs. But if his claim is true, if evidence that supported his alibi was suppressed, isn't that obstruction of justice? A cock up is one thing but the allegation is that it was done deliberately because getting a result was more important than getting the right result. Shouldn't the Director of Public Prosecutions at least be looking into how the hell this happened and whether or not any individual officers bear any responsibility?

Maybe that will be decided after the suit but for now there seems to be no mention.

* Obviously this doesn't apply to the Ambush Predator's collection.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A good sign for Captain Ranty?

Does this mean the Captain's message is starting to get across? Surely the least it means is that more people are starting to look into it. Fingers crossed, and if you read this, Cap'n, then I'd say keep on keeping on.

Bloody hell, not another one?

UK election, Australian federal election and now the Victorian state election. Is it too late to put $50 on the first test being a draw? On the other hand this could be a bit premature since there're still a lot of votes to count and it looks like despite the compulsory voting laws quite a lot of people didn't vote at all (bad weather may have prevented some). I'm not going to complain much even though hung or not the Parliament will still be full of professional politicians as usual, but I'm wondering if this is the beginning of a change to a desire for something other than the usual suspects. We can but hope.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Apropos of almost nothing.

That reminds me. I need a haircut.

Professional offence seeking reaches new heights.

Okay, maybe I should have put that another way because no doubt the Campaign for Equal Heights, ah, sorry, I mean the Walking with Giants Foundation would probably be upset if they read it.
The charity said it considered all such jokes as a form of harassment, contrary to equalities law, that enhanced negative stereotypes.
Oh, that's a bit of a stretch, isn't it?

Shit. Done it again, and clearly having no intention to offend makes no difference at all.
Mr Cameron's spokewoman said he had made ''light-hearted comments not intended to cause offence''.
But John Connerty, WWGF co-founder and charity secretary, launched a fierce condemnation of the Prime Minister's decision to ''glorify'' the previous incident.
Look, John, I honestly feel you'd be better off talking about the work your charity does for people who actually suffer from dwarfism rather than taking offence on behalf of all of them over a comment aimed at someone who is perfectly normal but a bit of a short arse. Bercow should certainly not be confused with a dwarf when he's plainly just a pint sized twat. Anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly Dopey.

Shit. Done it again.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Headline of the decade.

Nicked from the Toronto Sun.

And really very little I can add to it other than to draw attention to the last six words. Governments full of useless politicians clinging to power seems to be a modern epidemic.


I'm sure there are some people happy with the Cobbleition over this:
BRITAIN said it would cut the number of non-EU migrants allowed to work in the country by a fifth to a maximum of 21,700 a year, as it seeks to radically slash immigration levels.

Home Secretary Theresa May also announced plans to tighten student and marriage visas, as the government seeks to cut migration from the current level of hundreds of thousands of arrivals a year, to tens of thousands.
Oh dear. Look, I'm aware that I court some controversy by being in favour of open borders at least in principle, though I'm always careful to put a few conditions which I believe are absolutely essential prerequisites such as no taxpayer funded handouts, no free housing, no language assistance and no modification of the local culture. That's not an exhaustive list either, but you get the picture - the circumstances in which I'd support open borders are vanishingly unlikely under a government of any of the UK's main parties. All the same I'm still in favour of the ideal of free movement of money, goods, services and people, but even it's not even necessary to accept that much to see what a dumb idea a hard limit is. What do you do when your cap of 21,700 migrants is full halfway through the year? Tell applicants that they'll have to wait 'til the following year, perhaps. Okay, but it could be that among those number 21,701 and up is the world's most naturally gifted brain surgeon who suffered the misfortune of having been born in some war torn despotic shithole, and that they intended to leave the place and settle in Britain, dedicating their life and skills to the NHS. So what are they going to do when they hear, "Sorry, come back in six months?" They're probably going to go to another country rather than wait, and so Britain loses that talent maybe to here or New Zealand or Canada or whatever country is smart enough to welcome skilled migrants without shutting the door when an arbitrary number is reached. Doesn't even need to be a brain surgeon. It could be the stereotypical corner shop entrepreneur - doesn't matter as long as they're putting in. Why the fuck would any country want to limit the number of people who want to come in and work and contribute? Frankly it makes little more sense than NuLab's long term policy of inviting in every fucker who knows to get off the plane holding a hand out, palm up.

And on the subject of NuLab, or UnNuLab or whatever we're going to call them now, they're not to be out-fuckwitted by a bunch of Tories and LibDems. Oh, no.
As he embarks on a review of the party Mr Miliband, labelled Red Ed during the leadership campaign, warned his party not to expect, what he described as a quiet life.
In an indication of the tax policy he wants Labour to pursue, he said the 50p top rate of income tax for people earning more than £150,000 should be permanent.
Even dafter than Teresa May and the Cobbleition, and showing no greater understanding of the idea that people are free to move. Keeping out people who want to come in is hard but it's not a patch on keeping in people who've had enough and want to get out, and the more monied someone is the easier it is for them to leave one country for another. Either Red Ed is too thick to realise this and too ignorant of recent history to know that lower taxes increased revenue for Nigel Lawson, or he's simply a Laffer Curve Denialist who assumes that you can tax people to the point they simply stop working and still somehow get tax off them.

And this is precisely the kind of thing that keeps me opposed to both parties (I'm counting the Cobbleition as one party for the time being, though I sometimes count all of them as a single party with three wings). In their separate ways they're both equally committed not just to the big state and further loss of liberty but to continued stupidity as well. Dimmer leaders for a dumber Britain.


Increased elbow room in the blogosphere.

Which really isn't a good thing since it's come about as the result of two more blogs hitting the buffers. Mummylonglegs has hung up the keyboard more than once but assures everyone that this time she really means it, although she intends to return to blogging in a new form. At least she's promised not to bin the whole blog this time, though the earlier incarnations of "And There Was Me Thinking....." are lost forever. When she's back, and I hope it won't be long, I'm sure she'll be back on the blogroll but in the meantime he blog moves to the hibernation room. So does that of the man who I believe was one of the first of the original libertarian swearbloggers, the Devil himself. Whether writing as the Devil's Kitchen or more latterly the Devil's Knife he's been one of my favourites. Not only were the Devil's Kitchenware blogs entertaining reads it was there, along with the also recently departed Mr Eugenides, that I found out that I was a libertarian. I wasn't influenced by their arguments in favour of libertarianism because I was already, so to speak, a solid believer who just didn't know what church to go to. I'd heard the term "libertarian" and was even vaguely aware that there was a micro-party in the States by that name, but I didn't know that it meant people like me, people who just want to be left to get on with their lives and enjoy their few decades of existence without the government interrupting every five minutes, usually with a demand for money. The Devil's Kitchen was where I found my badge and I owe that humble Devil my thanks for it - cheers, DK. It should be said that the Devil has not said that he's gone for good and in fact expects he will return to blogging sooner or later, though possibly not as the Devil. No bad thing since he comes across as an imaginative bugger and if the Devil is permanently retired it'll be interesting to see what his next online persona will be like, but in any case the Kitchen and the Knife both leave the blogroll for now.

Lucky for some.

Can someone explain this to me? A guy's wife leaves him for another man, taking their daughter with her. Years later, nearly ten years, he wins a lot of money on the lottery. Ex-wifey who walked out on him all those years before decides she deserves some of it and sues him, and - get this - she fucking wins. How the hell does that work, then?
Friends told how despite being left heartbroken when his wife walked out, taking their then-three-year-old daughter Ella, he generously offered her $1.6 million [£1 million, I guess - AE] after his massive lottery win.

Wendy, a human resources director at an investment firm, went to see lawyers in a battle for up to four times as much.


The $3.2 million [£2 million? - AE] lump sum she agreed to accept is hers to spend as she wishes after a bid by Nigel to pay it into a trust for Ella was vetoed.
Okay, to be fair this was an out of court settlement, and presumably he could have carried on fighting and made her explain why she deserved anything at all, even as much as the million quid he offered, much less the reported ten times that much amount she demanded.

Woolas syndrome has reached Australia.

And the Labor Party has become an acute case.
THE Coalition has given Labor until midday today to drop a negative television advertisement about leader Ted Baillieu or face defamation action.

Launched at the weekend on commercial television, the ad updates a 2006 election theme suggesting that Mr Baillieu gained financially from [former Liberal Premier of Victoria] Jeff Kennett's school sales program in the early 1990s while he was president of the Victorian Liberals.

At the time Mr Baillieu was a director of the real estate firm Baillieu Knight Frank that managed some of the school sales.

The ad row comes after The Age revealed on Saturday that staff members in Premier John Brumby's private office are running an underground campaign smearing political opponents.

The new TV ad includes an extra, contentious element - the sale of a northern suburban hospital in 1999, the final year of the Kennett government.

After reminding viewers of the school sales by Baillieu Knight Frank, the narrator says: ''What none of us knew when the Liberals sold the Preston and Northcote Community Hospital, you guessed it, the same company again got the contract to sell it.'' It closes with printed words: ''Ted Baillieu. Ummmm.''

But by the time of the hospital sale, Knight Frank had dropped ''Baillieu'' from its name. Mr Baillieu was neither a company director nor Liberal president. He was elected to Parliament for the first time later that year.

He remained indirectly linked to Knight Frank through a shareholder and alternate director of holding company DBF Holdings, which in turn was a shareholder of Knight Frank.

Since taking office, Labor has itself used Knight Frank to sell properties including schools, police stations and courthouses.

Last night, Mr Baillieu's office wrote to the ALP threatening that failure to withdraw the ad by midday today would result in defamation proceedings in the Supreme Court.
Who knows? Maybe the ALP are nearer to the truth than Phil Woolas was, though it seems open to some doubt. But even if I believed every word it doesn't make Labor worth voting for. This is very close to David Cameramong's election performance, which from here seemed mainly to be based around the central policy of not being Gordon Brown and continuing to not be him. In Victoria the Liberals are doing a little better and occasionally coming up with reasons (mostly piss weak reasons as far as the Exile household is concerned) why you should vote for them, as opposed to reason why you should vote against Labor and the current Premier, John Brumby, but it's still mostly negative campaigning from both.

At least the bloody Greens were prepared to stand on the doorstep and tell me what they're for rather than try to explain why I should believe they're merely less nasty and/or incompetent than the rest. I have little doubt that this kind of shit stirring is very effective at getting Labor's and the Liberals's own votes out but I'm far from convinced the swing voters, the ones who really decide the election, are impressed by it. Supposedly half of all advertising expenditure is a waste of money, and the difficulty lies in working out which half. I can help Labor and the Liberals with this: whatever you spent putting your crap leaflets in my mailbox was in the wasted half.

Roll on Saturday for the third election of the year.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Quote of the Week.

From Cracked! on environmentalism (my bold):
I learned about their sacred holiday on April 22nd, and about their electric cars. I pored over blurbs on canvas shopping bags and peeing while never flushing. Every new green idea the pamphlet presented was like a spark in my heart. These affluent environmentalists had a swell of initiatives for saving the planet ostentatiously while never putting themselves out in any real capacity.
Go and read the whole thing.

Comment moderation.

Due to some spamming bastard all comments with links will go into moderation for the time being. Hopefully the fucker'll contract something which is both agonisingly unpleasant and hideously disfiguring, as well as preventing him/her/it using a computer.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

They spent how much - follow up

A follow up on yesterday's rant about the continued spunking away of epic sums of money by Her Majesty's Government, or rather the civil servants who tell it what to do. In the comments Jack brought up the point that fake charities are also still enjoying a good old hosing with taxpayers' hard earned, and I'd not long replied to that when I came across this.
The union behind the university tuition fees protest, which descended into violence, has received £80,000 from a Government “crime and policing group” in recent months.
The National Union of Students received the grant from the Home Office as part of a project to help undergraduates “avoid being victims of crime” and to “minimise anti-social behaviour”.
It came just before last week’s march through central London against the planned rise in university tuition fees, which was “hijacked” by anarchists who smashed up the Tory party HQ in Millbank and injured police officers.
Jesus Christ in a row-boat, that's money well spent. Do I have to say it again? Do I? Oh, screw it, I'm going to.

It's not your fucking money!!


Dumming down at The Tellygraff - UPDATED

Okay, everybody makes a typo here and there. I'm no different and now and then I do catch one while re-reading an old post I'm about to reference or quote. However, in my defence I have to point out that the entire staff here at Chez Exile consists of me, myself and I, with cups of tea, additional opinions and interesting links to engage and enrage me occasionally provided by the lovely Mrs Exile. Thorough proof reading is often a casualty if it's late or a nice weekend afternoon or if I'm rushing to get a post off before doing something else because I don't have anyone else to do it. Newspapers do, so I don't feel the slightest bit guilty about taking the piss out of them for poor English. What I am starting to feel a bit guilty about is focusing on The Grauniad and its long standing rep because these days The Telegraph seems to be worse. I screen-capped an article there the other day in which "Philippines" had been given no less than four Ps in one use (still uncorrected at time of blogging), though the correct spelling had been used in the rest of the piece, but I'm not going to put it up to giggle over because I've since seen a better one. How unfortunate for The Teletubbiegraph that the article is about education, falling standards and the plan for pupils to lose marks for using poor English in their exams.

To their credit someone at the paper seems to have spotted and corrected it before the commenters started, but the point is that The Tele do seem to be a bit slack at checking things before hitting the publish button. Not just spelling. Whoever is responsible for pictures and captions has let a few howlers slip through. Aside from several mislabeled animals and other gaffs spotted by the Ambush Predator there's this shotgun masquerading as an air rifle and more recently this "small-calibre weapon" (small compared to what? An artillery piece?). I mean, if you don't understand the terms and can't be bothered to look them up why bother with the picture at all?

And then there's the question of what on earth they're thinking when they select certain pictures for certain stories. Back in January for a warble gloaming doom story about how the decade was the hottest ever the picture caption read:
The Goddard Institute for Space Studies report found temperatures had been getting steadily warmer over the past three decades.
You might expect whoever does the pictures to have used a graph illustrating this claim - and surely there was one in the GISS report - but what they actually chose to show this worrying trend in all its apocalyptic glory was a stock agency photo of a blonde girl in a bikini posing on a beach.

What's that supposed to say about the story? We're all going to die, but some girls have got lovely tits, eh? I can't help feeling it says more about declining standards at The Tele than anything else.

UPDATE - sadbutmadlad in the comments points out that there's another mistake in The Tele's picture caption. Instead of "written English" they've put "written english". Good spot, SBML. The Telegraph slips a little further.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

They spent how much?

And they spent it on what?
The Coalition has spent more than £200million in just five months on consultants, PR and marketing, new figures show.
I'm so sorry to keep banging on about this, but surely it's clear to just about everybody by now that Britain may have changed the conductors but it's still the same bloody music and to a large extent played by the same band.
Among other spending, UK Trade and Investment distributed grants of £550 to a motorsport company and £500 to a private detective agency.
It also gave out £1,100 to a pet products firm and £881 to a yoga company.
Oh, sweet Jesus, make it stop. Just make it fucking stop.

Altogether now:

It's not your fucking money!!

Friday, 19 November 2010

A puzzle encased in an enigma wrapped up in what-the-fuck paper.

I've just tried to buy an ebook and the website said it was out of stock. Can someone explain how the hell an instantly reproducible PDF can possibly be out of stock? Has their binary printer broken down leaving them unable to produce the streams of ones and zeros needed, and if so how come their estock of other ebooks isn't affected as well?


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Wills and Kate II

I've already fucking had enough.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Wills and Kate.

Don't know 'em so don't care, and please get it off the front pages as quickly as possible. I don't have anything against either of them but since I don't know them personally I care about their engagement roughly as much as I do that of any other couple that I've never met in my life. The fact is that the sum change of this event on the lives of everyone in Britain is zero but it'll be covered in depth in print and eventually on TV right up to the altar, and you just know that if the tabloids could get a long lens shot of the wedding night root then some of them probably would. Benedict Brogan has pointed out how the Elder Twin is likely to get some political benefit from it without actually doing anything much other than offer his congratulations:
The Prime Minister led the rejoicing this morning for the royal couple to be. “A great day for our country,” he said. What he won’t add is “and a great day for me”, not only because he is too polite to think in such crude terms, I’m sure, but because we can’t be entirely certain that there will be political advantage for the Coalition and the PM. But we should consider what benefit there might be for a government when the heir to the throne gets married. It will be a moment, like the Olympics no doubt, for national jollity and mutual back patting. Weddings generally are... In what will be a year dominated by cuts and austerity, we will be grateful for an interlude of celebration. And it will be unsurprising therefore if an uplift in the national mood doesn’t benefit to some extent the government and the politician presiding over this moment.
He's probably right, but surely I'm not the only one close to punching the floor in abject rage at the shallowness of so many fellow Brits.

"Royal wedding, hooray!"

Wake the fuck up, people! Britain is still buggered financially and run by a collection of idiots, liars and authoritarians (often embodied in a single person). One royal wedding or a thousand of them won't change that. If you love the royal family and think this is wonderful news, fine, but for Christ's sake treat it as what it is: a momentary distraction. It won't change your lives one iota and if you're daft enough to let the euphoria of the event and months of non-stop media obsessing over it overwhelm any urge to demand the Cobbleition actually fix a few fucking things you'll eventually come to regret it.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Equality before the Law.

Not applicable for men.
The Government has abandoned its pledge to grant anonymity to men charged with rape in England and Wales.
It was one of those many pledges which I had little hope for, particularly as the voices decrying the low rate of conviction for rape are pretty loud. To politicians they probably seem even louder when they're in government than they did in opposition.
Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said there was not sufficient evidence to justify the move.
The decision to scrap the proposal, which was included in the Government's coalition agreement in May, follows criticism from women's groups.
Told ya.
Mr Blunt said: "The Coalition Government made it clear from the outset that it would proceed with defendant anonymity in rape cases only if the evidence justifying it was clear and sound, and in the absence of any such finding it has reached the conclusion that the proposal does not stand on its merits.
"It will not, therefore, be proceeded with further."
He went on: "The assessment has found insufficient reliable empirical evidence on which to base an informed decision on the value of providing anonymity to rape defendants.
Never mind the wittering about evidence and fucking value. What about the very real damage that spurious accusations can and do have on innocent men - the unlucky ones who are convicted or remanded occasionally becoming prison rape victims themselves - simply because, like any other criminal case, the accused is routinely identified but uniquely the accuser always has anonymity if desired?
"Evidence is lacking in a number of key areas, in particular, whether the inability to publicise a person's identity will prevent further witnesses to a known offence from coming forward..."
I suspect there's also a lack of evidence as to whether the inability to publicise the accuser's identity will prevent potential defence witnesses coming forward. What if an accuser has made false claims which are known to associates but, because of an unwise decision to point the finger at someone with a ready and rock solid alibi that was known to all, never went as far as any police involvement? Those people might volunteer that information to the defence but for the fact they have no idea the case they're reading about in the papers involves the same person. Worse, the continued anonymity post conviction means that they might never become aware of it, thus preventing the information from surfacing on appeal as well.

Has this actually happened? No idea, and I'm not suggesting it. But it's a possibility, just as is the possibility that prosecution witnesses might not come forward if defendants have anonymity, and not only am I confident that the evidence is lacking here too I doubt there's been much effort even to look into it. We wouldn't dream of using that as a justification for scrapping the anonymity of accusers, so why is it a barrier for defendants, who are innocent until proven guilty, from being anonymous until/unless convicted?

But the lamest argument of all is this:
"... or further unknown offences by the same person from coming to light."
Utter bollocks. Seriously, a ten year old could spot the colossal fucking flaw in this line of reasoning, and it's really a bit of a concern that the fucking Justice Secretary has missed it. But for Crispen Blunt here it is, avoiding long words as best I can:

If people in jury box say man in dock is bad man then man with wig on bench wave hammer and say you go prison you bad man and no more anonymity* for you, we tell all other people who you are. Then if bad man has been bad man to other people before now they no who he is and that he bad man, and they see in paper and TV and they go police and say what bad man did. And then you drag the fucker's arse out of his prison cell and put him before another court.

D'you see, Crispen? Nobody is suggesting anonymity should stay after someone is convicted, which means that further unknown offences most certainly can come to light. Just not during the original trial, that's all, and since UK courts consider it so important that the jury decides the verdict on the evidence before it that previous convictions are generally excluded until after the verdict is reached I'd expect further offences to be tried separately anyway. In short, anonymity up to conviction will probably make absolutely no difference to the chance of other offences coming to light.

But in all likelihood neither Crispen nor the Justice Department are really that stupid and this will have occurred to them already, but that's irrelevant because it's not the real reason for going back on the anonymity pledge. When the reasons given are so ridiculous I simply can't believe it's much more than a lack of political will. That somewhere a decision was made: too many people will make waves if we do this so fuck it, let's not bother.

Maybe it's good news for rape victims, I don't know. But I'm certain it's bad news for two other groups. Obviously it's bad news for any guy unlucky enough to be falsely accused, but I'd go further than that. It's bad news for the whole of society when the law treats people differently according to nothing more than their chromosomes.

* Sorry Crispen, but I just couldn't avoid that one.

What are they teaching kids these days?

By the approving sounds of some lecturers, rioting, trespass and property damage. I dunno, once upon a time it was apples on the desk. In my school days it the occasional bag of sweets or, for one particular teacher, Monster Munch. Now it seems like if you want to be teacher's pet you have to smash a few windows in and drop fire extinguishers on coppers from a high roof.

Friday, 12 November 2010

The gravy train's penultimate stop.

For Messrs troughers Chaytor, Devine and Morley the gravy train's last but one stop seems to have been the Supreme Court, which told them that falsifying expenses is not protected by Parliamentary privilege. The end of the line can't come soon enough for them and it's only a shame that more of the fellow troughers aren't having to justify their greed to jurors as well.

All change, bastards.

Herman van Rompuy.

Euroscepticism leads to war and a rising tide of nationalism is the European Union's "biggest enemy", Herman Van Rompuy, the president of Europe has told a Berlin audience.
Cunt, and a drama queen to boot..
The controversial comments made on Tuesday come less than a fortnight after David Cameron, the Prime Minister, declared that he was a Eurosceptic after his gruelling Brussels summit battle to block a sharp increase in the EU budget at a time of national austerity.
Also a cunt if he expects anyone even slightly Eurosceptic to believe he's one of them.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Having just done something I found vaguely admirable it was never going to be long before the walking forehead reverted to type and did something to piss me off all over again. Actually that's not quite accurate since this headline in The Age doesn't annoy me so much as induce a fit of the giggles.
British PM warns China on freedom



Yeah, remind me, Davey, how's that 'Great Repeal Bill' coming along? Your Cobbleition made a good start on scrapping ID cards but much of the rest of NuLabour's anti-freedom legislation, all its little mini-enabling acts for example, remains intact. And you didn't exactly cover yourself in glory with your attempt at consulting the public with the comical Your Freedom webshite, especially with the refusal to even consider the idea of any freedom for private businesses to decide for themselves whether they want the custom of smokers. But here you are in China, Prime Minister of a country claimed to have more CCTV cameras per capita than anywhere else, leader of a state noted for its anti-free speech libel laws, its relatively easy ability to gag the media when it feels the need, its regular harassing of photographers by police and quasi-police, and its use of 'control orders' and detention without trial, and you're lecturing the Chinese about freedom issues? Not that China is any paragon but coming from you it must be hard for them to take seriously. As for this American style unequivocal adoration of democracy, a system that at best is a genteel form of mob rule and at worst gives a minority of the population the whip hand over everybody else, you have to be fucking kidding. I'll credit the Chinese with this: at least they don't stand there telling their citizens that they're free while demanding more and more of them at gunpoint.

You, Davey, are a cheeky cunt who should fuck off toot-sweet and get his own house in order - which I suspect has probably been said in Mandarin a fair bit since last night.

Oh God...

Not that I object if Labor gets a kicking in just over two week's time, but that suggests the possibility of a Labor/Green coalition. Which would mean more of the same except worse. As to who I'm likely to vote for, my ballot paper is probably going to end up with "Dear God, is this it? Are these people all that's on offer?" scrawled across it in an increasingly shaky hand.


Hello, tech support?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Life's full of surprises.

Not the least of which is that when asked to remove their poppies by their Chinese hosts David Cameron and his ministers politely but firmly refused. It'd be a bit churlish to suggest that had they complied there'd have been hell to pay with the media back home and that might have been the main reason, but I can't help but feel Cameron is far enough away from an election to expect early controversies to be largely forgotten by the time they'd be really damaging. Besides, I'm not sure that he, like his predecessors, really gives a rip about public opinion unless it agrees with government policy (cf further powers to Europe, referendum U turn, all the illiberal laws passed by NuLabour that we're still waiting for the Cobbleition to repeal, and so on). The most likely explanation seems to me to be that he has unexpectedly grown a set.


As I said back in April, ANZAC Day is a bigger occasion than Remembrance Day here in Oz.
All the same...



Appeal update.

Last month I did something a little bit unusual and made an appeal here for a clever little synching plug in called Xmarks. As I said, I'd been using it for a while mainly because it did something that was, as far as I know, unique among synching apps- it offered cross browser support. What it didn't do was work as a business and it looked like it was going to go the way of the dodo unless people were prepared to fork out a few quid for it, and to help in whatever small way I could I blogged on it and suggested that anyone interested in using it should go and have a look at the site and the Xmarks blog and, if they thought it worth US$10-20 a year, to think about pledging support (of the folding kind). I have no illusions that my little corner of the web with its modest number of readers would have had any noticable impact but if any of you did pledge then you'll be pleased to know, if you don't already, that it seems that enough other people did likewise to save Xmarks.
I’m pleased to announce that we’re in the final stages of completing a sale of Xmarks to a new owner who is 100% committed to keep our great browser sync service running smoothly.

The Xmarks service will evolve to have both a free component and a premium component – we’ll share all the details once the deal is done. For all of you that signed our pledge, or are asking us to reopen the pledge, please hold that thought. When we update the service we’ll have a premium option for you to spend some of your hard earned money on, and we will be very thankful when you do!

I can’t provide more details just yet, but I wanted to publish this update to let you all know that we’re alive and kicking and things are on track for a “new and improved” Xmarks.
And I call that a result, making me a Happy Exile for this evening at least. Anger and ranting will be back on the agenda when I've got some more bloody time.


So bloody short of it the last couple or three weeks, and since this one's been shaping up to be more of the same I'm resorting to some appropriate musical filler.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Things I still don't get about Australia - No. 31

Australians, like many Brits, seem to enjoy having a dig at their national airline despite Dustin Hoffman's famous autistic character's declaration that they never crash. I've flown both Qantas and BA a couple of times each, and I do agree that one of those carriers deserves all the abuse it gets. But here anything that happens to a Qantas plane, any mid flight incident that is not 100% routine, is reported as if the airline is run by idiots and flies planes which crewed by incompetents and held together with string. Seriously, it's fast approaching the point that one of the reading lights not working in row 32 will be reported as "Qantas - latest embarrassment for troubled airline", and from my experience of flying with them that's just not bloody fair. The reporting of yesterday's A380 incident in Singapore is a typical example:

In fairness to the Herald Sun they do at least mention this:

And that should be kept in mind, because if the engine blew up in a taxi you wouldn't first question whether the cab company was in some way at fault but immediately start wondering about the make and model of car itself. Qantas didn't build the plane, Airbus did. Qantas didn't make the engine, Roll-Royce did. Qantas may have stuffed up something while maintaining it but it's far too early for the inevitable investigation to do more than consider it a line of inquiry, and you can be damned sure they'll be considering Airbus and Rolls as well, especially if this is not an isolated incident with that engine type.

Yet I'm not sure the Aussie media see it that way, and it wouldn't surprise me that if a Qantas flight in the next few days runs out of Pinot Gris or has a spelling mistake in the in flight magazine it would be reported as "Latest Qantas shame".

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

'Nothing he can do.'

Prisoners in Britain will soon be able to vote, thanks to the European Court, and apparently David Cameramong is exasperated and furious. Good. He bloody should be. Plenty of other people have been exasperated and furious for bloody years that Europe has so much say over British law, and it's more than time the Prime Minister of the day got a taste of it. What's worrying is Cameramong's admission that there's nothing he can do about it.

Nothing the Prime Minister can do about it? Or nothing that David Cameramong can do about it? They don't have to be the same thing, and if it's the latter we've clearly got the wrong man in No. 10. On the other hand if it's the former then that's something that needs to be changed, in which case I think we've still got the wrong man in No. 10.


Monday, 1 November 2010


Light blogging will continue this week.
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