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Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life still isn’t for me

Piracy and the recent … er… I’ve been tweeting and not blogging for such a long period now that this huge plank of lettered buttons in front of me and this vast empty square on the screen is making me feel…

*suffers panic attack*

*runs back to Twitter*

Ok, cement milkshake consumed, hardening the fuck up has commenced. Now, piracy and the recent attempt by part of the Australian Liberal Party to sack its leader and our Prime Mentalist Minister. What has one to do with the other? Well, Game of Thrones. Okay, I admit the connection is a bit tenuous but bear with me here.

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Naked lies

Tee shirt design – click for linky

Back in February I wrote a very angry sweary blog post about airport scannersand about how the Australian federal government had decided that they’d be installed at all Australian international airports, and I explained, not for the first time, how that would influence my travelling decisions in the future.

PASSENGERS at airports across Australia will be forced to undergo full-body scans or be banned from flying under new laws to be introduced into Federal Parliament this week.

Well, if that’s the attitude then I bloody well will drive, fuck you very much. Well, really I mean I’ll carry on driving because this airport security theatre bullshit has been building up to this for several years, and since I really object to paying a lot of money to be treated as a potential terrorist instead of a paying customer I’ve sworn not to fly unless it’s really urgent and/or there’s an ocean in my way. If I can plan ahead I’ll go overland, even if it takes a few days.

Fuck. You. All.

I think one of the things that particularly infuriated me was the knowledge that my action alone, and that of the relative handful of other people who recognise this kind of security theatre for the useless unnecessary charade it is – well, perhaps not useless if you’re a politician with shares in the companies that make this stuff – also avoid flying if at all possible, is pretty futile if it doesn’t catch on. And sadly I think we can take it as read that as we head into the northern hemisphere’s summer hordes of people will soon be marching meekly through these electronic sheep dips at major airports all over the US and Europe, and in six months or so the same will apply here as people on their way to family holidays at the Gold Coast’s resorts stand tamely in line to have their children’s gonads lightly irradiated in the name of assuring everyone that they and their glowing, ah, I mean growing offspring will not explode en route. Even though any such assurances are questionable at best when they’ve failed to detect a fucking gun down someone’s knickers.

Baaaaa, baaaaa.

I despair, I really do. I mean you do get the occasional reaction, the odd burst of noise, from the herd when the cast and crew of the security theatre do something particularly stupid and/or egregious. You hear complaints when exactly the kind of abuse we were told would never happen does in fact happen. You hear them when kids – even babies barely able to crawl and kids in frigging wheelchairs, for Christ’s sake – get patted down by the security drones. You hear them when cancer survivors are left humiliated thanks to hidebound, unthinking and almost robotic adherence to badly written rules, or just covered in their own piss through pure ham-fistedness. You hear them when they loudly ask septuagenarian women if they’re wearing a sanitary towel. And then the next episode of Your Country’s Masterchef’s Got A Talented Voice Factor appears on the magic fishtank and the complaints fade. A relative handful carry on objecting, either writing about invasive searches afterwards, refusing to fly and encouraging others to do the same, or actually pitching up and the airport and then publicly refusing to be scanned or treated like a recent arrestee. But the majority just grumble before falling silent and accepting their new role as guilty ’til screened sufficient to be presumed innocent again, if not enthusiastically embrace their loss of liberty and presumption of innocence.

Did I mention that I despair? I did? Oh good.

And I will despair even more if Australia doesn’t go completely screaming batshit over the latest development. Because back in February we were told that in the interests of privacy, though not actual fucking liberty, the scanners to be installed in Australian airports would be the ones that display the stick figures on the screen. Not that that cuts any ice with me.

It’s also keen to allay concerns raised on travel online forums that passengers would appear nude on security screens as they had when similar scanners were introduced at US airports.

The technology will show passengers on a screen as stick figures of neither sex.

Not the point. As I’ve explained above and at some length in the past, my objection was never that someone might see my knob or my wife’s tits, it’s that neither of us are terrorists and there’s not a single goddamn thing in the whole fucking universe to suggest that we are. …I feel that it’s not unreasonable that I don’t get treated as a possible member of Alkyfuckingaida at airports, especially when the bastards know who I am well before I fly and can assess my potential risk in advance, leaving not much more than a need for me to satisfy them that I am, as I claim, Mr A Exile who’s never been in trouble with the police and was vetted before getting an Australian visa.

But with the Anglo-Saxon nudity taboo that’s relatively strong in western societies I’m sure for most people, and perhaps especially for women, it was indeed the thought of their personal sweater kittens and other bits being up on someone’s screen somewhere in the airport. Yes, we’re assured that staff wouldn’t be able to record images or identify who they were looking at, but the problem there is that as I recall the same assurances were made everywhere that has in fact happened. So the gingerbread man scanner was a sop to keep those folks happy. I can only hope that they find the rage coming back and, for a change, remaining as they realise that this too has turned out to be a false promise. Because the stick man scanners are still going to reveal more than some people would wish.

CONTROVERSIAL full-body scanners due to be introduced into Australian airports next month will identify prosthesis wearers, including breast cancer survivors and transgender passengers.

Earlier this year the federal government announced the new scanners, to be installed in eight international terminals, would be set to show only a generic stick-figure image to protect passengers’ privacy.

But documents released under freedom of information show that, in meetings with stakeholders, Office of Transport Security representatives confirmed the machines would detect passengers wearing a prosthesis.

Like I said, I hope those concerned about privacy will get angry about this, but I can’t help but note the time of year that this news comes out and that the scanners will be installed: the Australian winter, when fewer people are flying. Is it paranoid of me to wonder about this? Would there be anything in the idea that doing it several months ahead of the summer rush would give people time to forget about the scanners until they were at the airport in December, by which time it’s too late to buy your scanner proof undies or really do anything at all unless you’re prepared to write off the cost of your flights?

Stakeholders, including Muslims and civil libertarians, were consulted by the Office of Transport Security and raised numerous concerns.

[…]

The policy to use generic stick-figure images was introduced to placate these privacy concerns.

Internal documents also revealed a proposed privacy quality assurance program to check privacy issues was scrapped late last year.

Scrapped. Got that? Even something to address the bit most people are getting worked up about has been quietly ditched. I wrote more than two years ago that this would continue and even escalate unless everybody began voting against airport security theatre with their wallets, so if you don’t like it cancel your summer holiday plans NOW and go local instead.

This is not about making you safe, it’s about making a quid for companies that can jump on the bandwagon with products that gullible politicians can be persuaded to spend your taxes on to create an illusion of safety. As has been pointed out about a squillion times, even if the scanners were completely effective they’re going to look pretty stupid reduced to a smouldering heap of twisted wreckage the first time someone sets off a bomb while standing in the queue to be scanned. The only way to prevent that will be the next escalation and loss of privacy and dignity.

Flight number QF1984 to an unpleasant future is now boarding at gate 14.
You won’t be fully naked as you’ll be made to wear a taser bracelet – sadly not made up.

And part of me suspects we might have got to this point already if it wasn’t for the fact that there’s money to be made selling security technology in the meantime, though I suppose the taser bracelet might still be an option for the security theatre mob even when we are all expected to fly in the nip.

No right to buy

Say I’m selling something and you want it. Do you have some kind of right to buy the thing? I don’t think so. I think most people, at least ones who understand what’s supposed to happen in a free market, would say that I’ve got the right to set whatever terms and conditions on the sale that I like (and are legal) from the asking price to what’s included to the kind of person I want to sell it to. Potential buyers have the right to negotiate or tell me I’m dreaming or, if they’re happy with all those things, to cough up the readies and make the buy. There is no more a right to buy something than there is to have a buyer on your terms for something you wish to sell – transactions are about finding what suits both parties in the exchange, and now and again that means a deal doesn’t go through at all.

Say it was a classic car that I want a certain price for, but don’t want to include the CDs in the glove box and do want to ensure goes to someone who I don’t think will take it onto some outback highway and rape it. Obviously I can’t do anything once the deal’s done and the keys and money handed in opposite directions, but I can say that I don’t want to sell it to some kid with no belt and a hat on back to front who rocks up in another classic car that appears to have been first heavily modified and then crashed. Or I can bullshit him about having given some middle aged enthusiast who came in this morning first refusal and then hope that some middle aged enthusiast really turns up. People might think it’s a bit dickish of me but I think most would shrug and say something about how much I actually want to sell the thing. before forgetting all about it.

So I’m struggling to understand why it is that Nissan has attracted some press attention for vetting potential customers for it’s new Leaf electric car (I will not call anything that runs on power generated from burning brown coal a zero emissions vehicle).

Some customers have “failed” a Nissan test to see if they were suitable for the new Leaf electric car.

Nissan has knocked back some customers interested in purchasing its first electric car, the Leaf, because they have been deemed “unsuitable” for ownership.

The plug-in electric vehicle officially hits the market on June 1, but interested customers need to pass a two-stage approval test before being issued with a certificate that will allow them to purchase the $51,500 car from one of Nissan’s special EV dealerships.

The test involves answering five questions about their intended usage for the car, followed by a visit from Nissan’s electrical supplier Origin Energy for an assessment of the suitability of the customer’s home electrical network.

[…]

Some intending customers have also been declined. “If you answered that you regularly drive from Melbourne to Sydney, then we might have politely informed the customer that this is not the car for them,” Staveley says.

“The majority of customers we have declined have been because they don’t have off-street parking available to them, which we consider essential for a safe and convenient recharging environment.”

Whaaaat? How dare Nissan try to prevent future criticism for selling people a product that’s unsuitable for their needs by checking out it’s suitability for individuals beforehand, the corporate monsters! The Age’s Drive section empathises and asks:

Has Nissan rejected your application to buy a Leaf? Tell us about it here

Yes! I told them I do the occasional road trip to Adelaide and Canberra and that I planned to park in the side road and chuck the extension lead over the back fence, and they said to me… <sniff> … they said: “Sorry, mate, but you need a proper car.”

How am I ever going to get over it?

Well, who could possibly have seen that coming?

[sarc] No, really, this is completely unexpected, isn’t it? [/sarc]

A series of hacks perpetrated against so-called “smart meter” installations over the past several years may have cost a single electric company hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the FBI said in a cyber intelligence bulletin obtained by KrebsOnSecurity.

The US law enforcement agency said this was the first known report of criminals compromising the hi-tech meters, and that it expected this type of fraud to spread across the country as more utilities deploy smart grid technology.

[…]

… insiders and individuals with only a moderate level of computer knowledge are likely able to compromise meters with low-cost tools and software readily available on the internet.

Sometime in 2009, an electric utility in Puerto Rico asked the FBI to help it investigate widespread incidents of power thefts that it believed was related to its smart meter deployment. In May 2010, the bureau distributed an intelligence alert about its findings to select industry personnel and law enforcement officials.

Citing confidential sources, the FBI said it believed former employees of the meter manufacturer and employees of the utility were altering the meters in exchange for cash and training others to do so.

“These individuals are charging $300 to $1000 to reprogram residential meters, and about $3000 to reprogram commercial meters,” the alert states.

The FBI believes that miscreants hacked into the smart meters using an optical converter device – such as an infrared light – connected to a laptop that allows the smart meter to communicate with the computer. After making that connection, the thieves changed the settings for recording power consumption using software that can be downloaded from the internet.

I’ve always thought there was a certain amount that’s pretty dumb about ‘smart’ meters but that they could be hacked – and let’s face it, illegal meter fiddling has a long and inglorious history anyway – I thought was a foregone conclusion. Personally I have no clue at all how to fiddle an old fashioned meter and I’ve only ever met one person who claimed to have done it, and I took that with a pinch of salt, but if anyone can download the software from the internet I’d expect meter fiddling to become much more common. This doesn’t thrill me much since I’m stupid enough to be honest and so I’ll no doubt be paying someone else’s share once everyone in Victoria has a smart meter and hacking the fucking things has made its way here too.

And the way some of them can be hacked… oh dear!

The bureau also said another method of attacking the meters involved placing a strong magnet on the devices, which caused it to stop measuring usage, while still providing electricity to the customer.

“This method is being used by some customers to disable the meter at night when air-conditioning units are operational. The magnets are removed during working hours when the customer is not home, and the meter might be inspected by a technician from the power company.”

A magnet, FFS.

Because the meter continues to report electricity usage, it appears be operating normally. Since the meter is read remotely, detection of the fraud is very difficult. A spot check of meters conducted by the utility found that approximately 10 per cent of meters had been altered.”

Palm, this is face. Face, meet palm. I don’t suppose we can call a halt to the roll outs now, can we?

Expect more of the same

An announcement and an observation. First the announcement: I’ve added a new blog to the blogroll in the Smokers And Drinkers section. Frank Davis is, in his own words, banging on about the smoking ban, and I’ve been reading his stuff over the last couple of weeks since our friendly neighbourhood blogger impersonator used his ID in the comments here. I’m sure his intention wasn’t to increase Frank Davis’ readership but that’s what’s happened, and it hasn’t taken me long to decide to add it to the blogroll.

And on the topic that Frank Davis favours, that observation I mentioned. It’s not the first time I’ve said so but there’s plenty of evidence that the creeping intolerance of a legal product that a significant minority still want to use leads to undesirable side effects. Tax a desired product to the point of unaffordability – or worse, ban it altogether – in the hope that people will stop using it and all you really do is create a strong incentive for the black market to step in, often with a product that’s inferior in some way. We’ve seen it with the American’s unsuccessful experiment with Prohibition, with the disastrous decades long policy of drug prohibition, and we’re seeing it with tobacco.

A former tax office investigator has been jailed for corruptly taking bribes from illegal tobacco producers.

A County Court judge said today that Philip James Roper, 52, had been motivated by greed and had tarnished the reputation of other investigators in carrying out important duties.

Roper, who served for nine years as a federal policeman before joining the Australian Tax Office, was found guilty by a jury of dishonestly asking for a benefit, dishonestly receiving a benefit and theft.

He also pleaded guilty to dishonestly receiving a benefit and abuse of public office.

In sentencing this morning, Judge Joe Gullaci said Roper had come into contact with Jimmy Wang, and a middle man, who were involved in the illegal tobacco, or chop-chop, industry.

The jury decided that Roper’s relationship with both men was corrupt.

The offences occurred between June 2001 and the middle of 2004 by Roper asking Wang for the names and addresses of other chop-chop sellers. Roper told Wang, who he met at the Gotham City brothel, he would look after him.

Judge Gullaci said that Wang had believed that the arrangement was beneficial because it would remove competitors.

The information Wang provided also allowed Roper to steal tobacco leaf and cutting machines, which were sold and the profits taken by Roper.

Roper also stole five 100 kilogram bales of tobacco leaf from a Dandenong property. These were sold and he shared in the profits.

He also “parked” a prosecution of a woman who had sold chop-chop at the Caribbean Garden Markets by telling his colleagues that her address could not be determined.

Note that the offences took place before the illiberal and anti-property rights smoking bans, before the point of sale display bans and before you had to spend $16 or so for a single packet of cigarettes. Does anyone believe that those things have hurt the chop-chop industry or made them less able or inclined to find corrupt officials to bribe? Does anyone think that at least one of those things hasn’t helped the chop-chop industry? And can anyone seriously believe that the chop-chop industry will either not care about the pending mandatory plain packaging or will welcome anything that harms their principle competition, the legal and regulated tobacco industry?

I’d give you a pound to a pinch of shit that there is probably Roper or two meeting more Wangs in various private rooms right now, and there’ll be even more in the future. If you want that future then support your local illegal tobacco industry and your local corrupt public servants by supporting more anti-tobacco legislation. You know it makes no sense.

Be scanned or be banned

Oh, great.

PASSENGERS at airports across Australia will be forced to undergo full-body scans or be banned from flying under new laws to be introduced into Federal Parliament this week.

Well, if that’s the attitude then I bloody well will drive, fuck you very much. Well, really I mean I’ll carry on driving because this airport security theatre bullshit has been building up to this for several years, and since I really object to paying a lot of money to be treated as a potential terrorist instead of a paying customer I’ve sworn not to fly unless it’s really urgent and/or there’s an ocean in my way. If I can plan ahead I’ll go overland, even if it takes a few days.

Fuck. You. All.

In a radical $28 million security overhaul, the scanners will be installed at all international airports from July and follows trials at Sydney and Melbourne in August and September last year.

And this is what I hate about security theatre. We’ve been sold this technology as a solution but really we’re no safer. The bombing at Domodedovo airport in Moscow a year ago demonstrated how much damage and death could be dealt by a suicide bomber in a crowded terminal, and I can’t see how things would be much better if someone did exactly the same thing in an airport with scanners. Hell, they could do it in the queue for the scanner and wreck the bloody thing as well as kill a bunch of people, and what would the scanner’s contribution have been? Apart from to use up several million dollars that could have been spent on something else.

The Government is touting the technology as the most advanced available, with the equipment able to detect metallic and non-metallic items beneath clothing.

Would that include metallic objects such as guns? I ask only because it’s barely a year since we heard that an undercover TSA agent was able to smuggle a gun through the body scanners at Dallas-Fort Worth airport on multiple occasions by the devious technique of – and I’m not making this up – hiding it in her knickers.

Still, they know about it now so they’ll have fixed that problem, eh? Er, no. Because an 65 year old woman boarded a flight with a gun in her carry on bags after going through the screening, and this happened just a few weeks ago. At Dallas-Fort Worth. And it wasn’t the scanners that saved the day either. The gun was spotted when the bag went through the X-Ray machine – you know, that layer of security that’s been around for years and suddenly isn’t up to snuff any more. So how’d she get on board? Because she was able to pick up the bag with the gun in it and wander off “before the TSA could notify police”. Presumably the multi-million dollar scanners just sat there holding their electronic dicks having contributed precisely nothing, and humming with embarrassment over their 51% false positive rate and their inability to tell the difference between explosives and someone’s sweaty pits.

And we’re buying these things? Oh, fucking great. I feel so much safer now.

It’s also keen to allay concerns raised on travel online forums that passengers would appear nude on security screens as they had when similar scanners were introduced at US airports.

The technology will show passengers on a screen as stick figures of neither sex.

Not the point. As I’ve explained above and at some length in the past, my objection was never that someone might see my knob or my wife’s tits, it’s that neither of us are terrorists and there’s not a single goddamn thing in the whole fucking universe to suggest that we are. In the days when the IRA were blowing up bits of London and other British cities I could have understood if my Irish surname briefly raised an eyebrow if I tried to get in certain places, though I’m sure that as soon as the inevitable computer check came back and said that (a) I was born in England and (b) was about 14 I’d be instantly ruled out as almost certainly not an Irish Republican terrorist and allowed to carry on. Similarly I feel that it’s not unreasonable that I don’t get treated as a possible member of Alkyfuckingaida at airports, especially when the bastards know who I am well before I fly and can assess my potential risk in advance, leaving not much more than a need for me to satisfy them that I am, as I claim, Mr A Exile who’s never been in trouble with the police and was vetted before getting an Australian visa.

The system has approval from the Privacy Commission.

Well, good for the fucking Privacy Commission, and if it had more than two fifths of fuck all to do with privacy concerns I might even give a shit that they approve.

The proposed Aviation Security Amendment (Screening) Bill 2012 will make it mandatory for any passenger selected to participate in undergoing a body scan.

The “no scan, no fly” amendment closes a loophole in the legislation, which allows passengers to request a pat-down instead of having to pass through a metal detector.

Which won’t be welcomed by those concerned by the potential health risks, such as the EU who are worried about the risk of cancer. I’m not convinced by this myself, but I’d always have gone for the pat down just to take the extra opportunity to register my objection to and contempt for the whole, sorry, pointless exercise. Maybe others already have and this is because too many of the fare paying flying public are failing to behave like the self loading freight and passively march through the scanners. Fine, we understand what’s wanted from us now:

Baaaaaaa!

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said mandatory body scans were necessary to ensure the safety of airports.

No it isn’t necessary, Tony, you abject twat. It’s not fucking necessary at all. Go to Israel and see how they do it. They’re surrounded by people who either hold a cordial dislike for Israel and Jews or who want them wiped off the face of the planet, so of course they inflict this bullshit security theatre on the flying public? Er, apparently not, and they haven’t had an incident for bloody decades.

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel’s largest hub, Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Ben Gurion is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

“Two benign questions. The questions aren’t important. The way people act when they answer them is,” [Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy] said.

Once you’ve parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.

Armed guards outside the terminal observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behaviour. At Ben Gurion’s half-dozen entrances, another layer of security is watching. At this point, some travellers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer.

“This is to see that you don’t have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious,” said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

“The whole time, they are looking into your eyes – which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds,” said Sela.

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil’s advocate – what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

“I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with Play-Doh in it and two pens stuck in the Play-Doh. That is `Bombs 101′ to a screener. I asked Duchesneau, `What would you do?’ And he said, `Evacuate the terminal.’ And I said, `Oh. My. God.’

“Take (Toronto’s) Pearson (airport). Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let’s say I’m (doing an evacuation) without panic – which will never happen. But let’s say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, `Two days.’”

A screener at Ben Gurion has a pair of better options.

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain `bomb boxes.’ If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

“This is a very small, simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports,” Sela said.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben Gurion airport shares with Pearson – the body and hand-luggage check.

“But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America,” Sela said.

“First, it’s fast – there’s almost no line. That’s because they’re not looking for liquids, they’re not looking at your shoes. They’re not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you,” said Sela. “Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes … and that’s how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys.”

The goal at Ben Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in 25 minutes tops.

Twenty-five minutes? For Christ’s sake, I’ve been at western airports where I’ve spent longer than that in each of several queues, surrounded by people any one of whom could have been about to do a Domedodovo for all anyone else knew.

And then there’s intelligence. In Israel, Sela said, a coordinated intelligence gathering operation produces a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies.

“There is absolutely no intelligence and threat analysis done in Canada or the United States,” Sela said. “Absolutely none.”

No, but there’s lots of rote working to checklists that will only spot a terrorist who’s too stupid to have spent some time considering ways around the bored staff doing mindlessly repetitive tasks. Jesus, they once confiscated a small blunt butter knife to prevent it being used to hijack the cockpit despite the fact that the guy they took it from was one of the fucking pilots.

Do you see the problem, Albanese? Do you really expect us to believe things will be markedly better here? Do you really expect it not to deteriorate into queues and queues of people doubled up like game snakes waiting to be herded through the scanners? Do you see why a trip to Tel Aviv to learn from a country that’s no more loved by the Islamaloons than us or the UK or the US but has had just one incident in the last decade, which even then was a frigging mistake, could have been so much more effective?

Because if you can’t then I’m inclined to put it down to one of two things: you’re either a fucking incompetent waste of meat or you’re a sucker for a sales pitch (supported by some lobbying, natch) for some expensive piece of kit that promises to make your scary problem go away. I very much hope that it isn’t the third possibility, that like some American politicians you bastards in Canberra have been buying shares in L3 Communications, the company that makes the scanners used at Aussie airports.

Oh, and also the gun-blind ones at Dallas-Fort Worth.

‘Kinell!

Ill windmills

In case either of my readers (hi, Mum) were wondering the lack of posts this week isn’t a sign of anything more than that I’ve been a bit busy. I certainly haven’t suddenly started believing that all is right with the world after all because clearly it isn’t. I just haven’t had the time to seethe about it at length in the blogosphere and have had to settle for occasional quiet seethe-lets in the car instead.

And I can’t offer much this evening either for the same reason, but I just wanted to point out this from The Daily Mash the other day:

Chairman Lord Turner said: “The only problem we can possibly foresee is if it’s not as windy as we think it’s going to be.

[…]

The report was welcomed by the large energy providers who said that if they were going to pick a figure of out of thin air for how much more they felt like charging people then they would probably have chosen £110 as well.

Lord Turner added: “It’s not that green technology is, in itself, massively expensive, it’s that if it doesn’t actually work then you have to get the energy from somewhere else. Usually from people who aren’t very nice.

“So you end up with an expensive thing that doesn’t work all the time plus expensive energy from horrid people. And that is massively expensive.

“But it’s fine, because it’s going to be windy.”

Yes, and just the other week we saw that they’re just as good when it’s a bit too windy, didn’t we?

Free energy from the wind

Well, I suppose if it fell on your house like that it’d warm the place up.

Click for link
Yes, this is indeed a different one

Let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for the warble gloaming catastrophism and the way so many governments, not least the UK’s, have indulged various associated rent seekers these bloody things would be used in those rare locations where it’s not economic to connect to the grid. Instead Britain is expected to rely increasingly on a form of generation which, if it’s a bit too windy, can turn the generator into a £2 million sparkler. Or just knock it down. In fact the only positive thing I can think of right now is that they’re not as useless as they could be.

Give it a few years and and someone will scale this up

Sloppy filter

I haven’t blogged on the proposed webnanny/internet filter/Great Firewall of Australia plans down here for a while because things have gone a bit quiet. There have been enough colours nailed to masts, reputations staked and interests vested that I’m not all that hopeful that sense has been seen, particularly when it needs to be seen by a Communications Minister whose paternalist streak might be coming from both religious beliefs and leftie-ness, but it may be that it’s been realised that a filter that promised much and failed to deliver would be worse than none at all. And I’m quite confident it would fail. Much of the illegal stuff is being shared by P2P anyway, and the filters proponents were forced to admit almost from the start that it couldn’t do a thing about that. And then there’s TORs and VPNs – basically it’ll affect people who don’t google for a way around the filter before the thing goes up, which is more or less everybody that doesn’t need a filter because they won’t be searching the web for baboon porn or whatever in the first place.

More interesting if you’re a baboon, I imagine

But it’s not just that because ISP level filters will be under attack from the other side too, as TalkTalk in the UK and some of its customers have found out.

Britain’s third-largest broadband provider has been promoting its new “HomeSafe” security product to its 4.1 million subscribers as a way of blocking pornography, viruses and other potentially harmful content.
Unlike the child safety products offered by other providers, it operates at the network level so parents do not need to install or maintain any software. The approach has attracted praise from MPs and campaigners seeking to restrict the availability of pornography on the web.
But for more than a week the system has failed to restrict access to Pornhub, which offers thousands of free explicit videos and is ranked as the third largest pornography provider on the web.
The failure was discovered by Cherith Hately, an IT expert and mother of three teenagers in south London, who tested the service last week. She found that on the Pornhub website the HomeSafe blocking page had been relegated to a small box normally reserved for advertising, leaving its adult content fully accessible.
“The ‘you have been blocked’ page has been diverted to an advertising slot within the Pornhub homepage thus opening access to it,” she said.
“The HomeSafe barrier has been knocked down, technically and literally. TalkTalk should inform all their HomeSafe customers that their children are still able to see pornography so that parents can supervise more.”

Far be it from me to tell me how to bring up your children, Cherith, and I’m sure you’ve already had the awkward conversation with your teens about which one had visited that site, but I’d say that parents should take this as an indication that the best filter system is the parents themselves.

A spokesman for TalkTalk acknowledged the failure and said technicians were working on a fix. He was unable to say whether the HomeSafe system had been deliberately circumvented by pornographers.

Perhaps not, but it occurs to me that if it had been to circumvent another filter that worked the same way it could affect TalkTalk too. In the Aussie context since what the nannies want is effectively ISP level filtering under government supervision all ISPs would have the same filter, and when a website manages something similar to what Pornhub’s done to TalkTalk’s HomeSafe this single point of failure would mean it won’t affect just Telstra or iiNet or Optus customers – it’ll be everyone. Hardly the end of the world because we’ll be about where we are right now, but it does make the whole exercise seem a bit pointless.

“As the only network-level filter, TalkTalk’s HomeSafe is the most effective way of protecting children from content parents consider harmful,” the spokesman said.

No, I repeat: parents are the most effective way of protecting children from harmful content. The filter can’t unplug the computer, withhold their pocket money or threaten to stop paying the broadband bill so there’s no service whatsoever. But it can create a false sense of security.

“While no technical solution alone is able to solve the issue of child internet safety or be a substitute for parental supervision, we firmly believe that HomeSafe is a step in the right direction.”

Providing that false sense of security doesn’t take over leading parents to assume that the filter is doing its job and little or no supervision is necessary, because when you concede that there’s no substitute for parental supervision that would be a step in the wrong direction. Not that Britain’s nannies are any more clued up about that than Australia’s.

Under government pressure the rest of the big four internet providers – BT, Virgin Media and Sky – recently agreed to offer all new customers software to restrict which websites children are able to access, but stopped short of implementing network-level filters.
TalkTalk’s approach is meanwhile supported by the campaigners, and MPs including Claire Perry, a Conservative backbencher who is leading a parliamentary inquiry into online child protection. As well as network-level filters she wants broadband providers to switch them on by default.
“When I started campaigning to make access to internet pornography an ‘opt-in’, many industry experts said it was technologically impossible to provide a network-level filter,” Mrs Perry said.

You idiot. Of course it’s impossible, we’ve just bloody seen that. This looks like it was circumvented at the other end without any effort on the part of the person sitting at home, and it’s not like the person sitting at home doesn’t have ways and means anyway. Look, I can’t put it any better than an Australian blogger, Stilgherrian, put it nearly four years ago (my bold):

Real-world experience in everything from spam filters to the record industry’s futile attempts to stop copyright violations always shows that filters only block casual users. Professionals, the desperate or the persistent will always get through.

However if a politician demands a filter, pretty soon a shiny-suited salesman will appear, ready to sell him a box with “filter” written on the front. It’ll work — well enough for the demo, anyway.

“Look, Minister! Nice Minister. Watch the screen. See? Filter off, bad website is visible. Filter on, bad website gone. Filter off. Child in danger. Filter on. Child happy and safe. Filter off. Voter afraid and angry. Filter on. Voter relaxed and comfortable. Cheque now please.”

When elected nannies like Stephen Conroy here and Claire Perry in the UK wrap their heads around this and stop spunking taxpayers’ money at things which at best will work until someone defeats them and at worst will never work at all they might start giving out useful advice. Advice along the lines of: the government can’t stop your kids from seeing tits and arses and rooting baboons online…

… but if you get off your arse and look at what they’re doing you can.

They just can’t stop, can they?


Click images for links.

In his long-awaited Autumn Statement, the Chancellor will outline a £650 million scheme to provide free “early education” for about 40 per cent of two year-olds.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, will today announce a £1 billion scheme to pay firms more than £2,000 for each young unemployed person they hire.

And all this at a time when some think the UK is already back in recession and may need a decade of austerity to really recover. So what’s the Cobbleition’s response? Copy the policies of the deranged madmen who fucked the country into this hole in the first place, that’s what.

I can’t carry on with this, I really can’t. I’ve said umpteen times that they’re as bad as the last lot and that there’s no appreciable difference between the the main parties anymore with the possible exception of how quickly they’re going to fuck the country into a hole. The issue of how deeply they’re going to fuck it into a hole has long had cross party support. If I blog this again anytime soon something is going to get fucking broken. Instead I’ll just point out that Douglas Carswell, the Tory party’s favourite for MP Least Likely To Be Given A Front Bench Job, has been wondering what the government would be doing right now if it was still a Labour government with Gordon Brown leading it. His list looks depressingly like the actual policies of the Cobbleition.

The attitude alone should be worth an extra couple of years – UPDATED

Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court, and it is now my duty to pass sentence. You are an habitual criminal who accepts arrest as an occupational hazard, presumably accepting imprisonment in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences: you will go to prison for five years.

From the titles of Porridge

Of course that was from both fiction and another time. These days an habitual criminal can look forward to having to write a letter, and even though that’s likely to be a tortuous exercise with many products of the British educamakayshun system at least one burglar has treated it with the contempt it deserves and not even taken the trouble to disguise his equal contempt for his victims.

Now on one or two levels he’s actually doing everyone a favour. You can’t argue with the advice of a professional thieving little bastard as far as things like curtains and open windows go, and since we can expect his attitude towards this so called punishment – apparently described as the most rigorous form of non-custodial sentence for young criminals, which I guess means there’s no help with the spelling and punctuation – to be shared by many who do take the trouble to hide it and go away smirking to themselves this guy’s open display of contempt tells us what a pointless waste of fucking time it is for someone like him. It’s probably not intentional but in effect his twisted form of honesty is a kind of public service, so he probably deserves some kind of thank you.

I’d suggest a few years bed, board and possible buggery in HMP Slade.

UPDATE – Same with more serious crimes if the Ambush Predator’s latest post is any indication.

“Mr Hussini was punched by two of them, who then held him back while the defendant leant forward and stabbed him in the stomach.”

Yes, you heard that right – they held him while this little savage stabbed him in the stomach.Is that not attempted murder?

The boy handed himself in to police the following day and pleaded guilty in court to wounding with intent and possessing an offensive weapon.

Sentencing the youngster to a two-year detention and training order, Judge Hamilton said: “But for the fact that there was a surgeon living nearby, the man you stabbed would have died.”

A two-year detention and training order. For stabbing someone in the stomach…

This country is doomed.

This Private Frasier-itis I’ve come down with seems to be catching, but perhaps we’re being unfair. I suppose it’s not attempted murder if someone is only slightly stabbed. /sarc

A modern parable

Spotted by Fausty.

Once upon a time the government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of nowhere. Parliament said, “Someone may steal from it at night.” So they created a night watchman position and hired a person for the job.

Then Parliament said, “How does the night watchman do his job without instruction?” So they created a planning department and hired two people, one person to write the instructions, and one person to do time studies.

Then Parliament asked, “How will we know the night watchman is doing the tasks correctly?” So they created a Quality Control department and hired two people. One to do the studies and one to write the reports.

Then Parliament said, “How are these people going to get paid and administered?” So they created the following positions, two time keepers and three payroll officers, and then hired four human resources consultants and five health and safety executives.

Then Parliament said, “Who will be accountable for all of these people?” So they created an administrative section and hired fifty people including administrative officers, assistant administrative officers, legal secretaries and a chief executive on £250,000 per annum.

Then Parliament said, “We have had this in operation for over one year and we are £25,000,000 over budget, we must cutback the overall cost.”

So they laid off the night watchman.

True, that.

Let’s get the flock out of here

Or if we’re talking about pigs, the herd. And obviously that’s a lot easier if the herd has its own fully signed, designated escape route which it knows because there have been escape drills. Yes, we’re still talking about pigs, and no I’m not making this up. I’ve banged my head on the desk once or twice but this bloody article is still there.

Click for linky and loss of will to live

If fire engulfs a piggery in Monto, its residents can rest easy. That fluorescent exit sign above the doors will save their bacon.

And also saves me making that joke. Predictable, I know, but better than the ‘hamstrung’ one the Courier Mail used in their headline.

In one of the most ridiculous rules stifling small business in Queensland, piggery operators are required to install illuminated exit signs inside pens occupied solely by pigs.

Okay, look, I know pigs are supposed to be relatively intelligent creatures but I can spot two flaws with this. Flaw number one is that I’m pretty confident they’re not that intelligent. Flaw number two, and this is important for anyone who believes you can teach a pig what a sign’s for, is that’s a running fucking MAN on the emergency exit sign.

But it’s okay because after that the rules begin to make sense. No, just kidding, they don’t.

Regulations also demand an escape door for pigs to use in case of fires…

You might already spot the potential problem here.

… but which farmers fear the animals can use any time.

Which suggests that someone in the Queensland government has failed to recognise that emergency exits aren’t used all the time because you can explain to people that this exit, this one over here, is for emergencies only and that one over there is for coming and going as you please. This is simple enough even for a fairly young child to grasp, but I wish you the very best of luck if you’re hoping to explain it to farmyard animals. You’re going to need every bit of it.

Oh, and then there are the fire drills. Fire drills! That must have been funny enough to sell tickets for.

“Right, we’ll try again. Now, Napoleon?”
“Oink?”
“When I blow this whistle you call Pinkeye and Squealer…”
“Squeeeeeeaal!”
“No, listen…”
“Squeeeeeeeeeeaaal!”
“Just listen a minute…”
“Squeeeeeeaaloinkoinkoink.”
“Ah, screw it. They’ll all be in bits on cold shelves in a few weeks anyway.”

“A concrete block shed with steel roof trusses and corrugated iron roof, built to hold 60 pigs in four pens, had to have a fire hose, an illuminated “EXIT” sign above each of the two doors and an evacuation procedure displayed in a prominent position,” former pig farmer Darryl Stewart told an industry survey.

A fire hose? But how… ?

“The biggest difficulties were teaching the pigs to read the signs and procedures, conducting fire drills so the building could be evacuated in orderly fashion and training the four most intelligent pigs as fire fighters.

Presumably chosen from among Pugh, Pugh, Barney MacGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Snouter.

And it had to be done all over again every three months because that is when a new batch replaced the old batch.
“Oh, and rounding them up from anywhere within a 5km radius after every fire drill was not much fun either.”

Okay, I am actually laughing now because I’ve got this mental picture of pigs running in every direction apart from back to the piggery, and there is Benny Hill music. Still, this is a former pig farmer and he’s probably kidding, right? Right?

Ian Hill, of Bailey Creek Piggeries in Mulgildie, confirmed to The Courier-Mail exit signs were legally required in pens.
“It’s one of the council requirements that when you put a building in that they want illuminated exit signs at every piggery building,” he said.
[…]
A Biloela piggery owner confirmed signs and particular types of doors that pigs could use in a fire were a legal requirement.
“We had a fire inspector come through here when we put up sheds years ago, and he made us put in fire extinguishers, put up the illuminated signs … There’s no deviation,” he said.

And of course the serious side to this is that of costs to business. Someone’s got to go out and buy signs which are meaningless to the inhabitants of the buildings they’re put up in, plus install and maintain equipment that those inhabitants can’t operate with trotters or even comprehend the purpose of – with the exception of the pig operable doors that are supposed to be for emergency use. Not only that but you can’t cut corners because there are inspections, and to cap it all your taxes are helping pay not just for the inspectors’ wages but also the clown who I’m guessing saw Porky the Fireman while stoned off his dial and thought it was a good idea.

Memo to the Queensland government. Don’t attempt to teach a pig Occ. Health and Safety. It wastes your time and annoys the pig, but really infuriates the poor sod who has to pay for it.

A perfect storm of stupid – UPDATED

So we’ve just had the Greens’ carbon tax rammed through with the support of the minority Labor government, and now it’s the plain tobacco packaging, which I read…

…will pass the Senate with the support of the Greens.

Is it speculative to wonder if the price for supporting Labor’s pointless plain fag packets – pointless not least because it follows recently introduced laws that generally prevent the fucking packets being on display anyway – was the carbon tax and vice versa?

Who knows? But what I am very confident of is that these two pieces of legislation, one extremely divisive and the other egregiously illiberal, will each achieve as near to nothing as makes no odds.

“If this legislation stops one young Australian from picking up a shiny, coloured packet and prevents them becoming addicted to cigarettes then in my view it will have been worthwhile,” Labor senator John Faulkner told the upper house today.

It won’t. Hell’s bells, I’m getting tired of saying this, but just look at the illegal drug trade. Just fucking look at it. Do they have trademarks? Do they have shiny, coloured packets? No. Does the trade have any difficulty in retaining customers? No, but of course the nanny screams of “Addiction!” will be starting any second, so let’s ask a different question. Does the drugs trade have any difficulty attracting new business despite the complete lack of trademarks and shiny, coloured packets? Again the answer is no. And the reason is that people want to take the bloody stuff. No, I don’t particularly get the attraction either, but there’s a very good chance that someone somewhere in this very suburb is getting wasted right now and we all know that whatever s/he’s on came in some kind of plain and most likely ad hoc packaging. Hell, even illegal chop-chop tobacco already comes in plain packaging, and I’m sure the suppliers are just delighted that their main competition, the legal and regulated tobacco trade, are taking one in the crotch and losing one more thing that distinguishes the legal from the illegal product. And, er, correct me if I’m wrong but they don’t even pay tax, do they? Christ, they must think all their Christmases came at once.

Via the Real World Libertarian

And if in return for that utter pointlessness, unless the idea really is to benefit the criminal tobacco trade, Labor brought in the carbon tax for the Greens it doesn’t seem to me to be any more likely to achieve anything noticeable. As I mentioned the other day other countries seem quick to praise Australia for the carbon tax but oh so reluctant to follow suit, and with such a small population we could cut emissions to nothing at the cost of utterly destroying the economy and going back to being a pre-industrial society, and the self-sacrifice would have a measurable effect on the climate of zero. And that’s making the assumption that the whole warble gloaming catastrophism bandwagon isn’t garbage to begin with. The reality is that we’re on our own.

Earlier this week Climate Change Minister Greg Combet rejected the idea that there are serious issues with international carbon trading and yesterday spoke rosily about the global carbon market’s prospects while the EU carbon price crashed.
To support his argument Combet cited the World Bank’s Carbon Finance Unit State and Trends of the Global Carbon Market 2011 report that the market has now grown to $US140 billion ($136bn). But he’s clearly only read it to recite convenient anecdotes.
According to the report “after five consecutive years of robust growth, the total value of the global carbon market stalled suffering from the lack of post-2012 regulatory clarity”.
Meanwhile the price of some emissions permits “fell by double-digits for the third year in a row” and “shrank as well in 2010”.
A carbon market recession should hardly come as a surprise.
[…]
Before its closure in the middle of last year, the price of voluntary Chicago carbon exchange permits plunged from $7.40 a tonne to a mere 5c.
And Europe’s carbon price has not been in parity with Australia’s $23 a tonne price since June and now sits at about $10 following a downward price trend.
As long as the EU’s emissions trading scheme accounts for 97 per cent of the global carbon market, the price will be set in Europe and a price drop there will significantly influence whether emissions cuts will be achieved in Australia.

And as that article also points out, arguments between the industrialised and developing worlds over a replacement treaty for the Kyoto Accord, itself not credited with achieving a measurable temperature change as far as I’ve heard, are deadlocked on the issue of whether the developing world is included this time.

Worse, like the tobacco legislation, it seems that criminals are going to gain from this too, or at least have a bloody good try.

The Australian Federal Police is preparing to investigate cases of serious fraud that could arise from Labor’s carbon pricing scheme, including the possible sale of bogus carbon credits.
The AFP’s deputy commissioner of operations Andrew Colvin said a working group had been established with the Department of Climate Change to discuss possible responses to carbon tax breaches.
Appearing before a Senate committee hearing today, Mr Colvin said the AFP’s efforts would focus on serious fraud offences, particularly those involving the sale of counterfeit carbon permits or credits.

And of course they’re quite right to if experience elsewhere is any guide.

Click for link – H/T to WUWT

So to recap, what we’ve got here is a couple of bits of legislation that will attract and likely benefit criminals, add to the workloads of the police, and achieve two-fifths of fuck all. But on the upside they’re ideologically sound, keep wealthy lobby groups onside, and of course Australia gets to say it’s leading the world even if the world isn’t all that keen to follow.

Marvellous.

UPDATE – Coincidentally WUWT has a post looking at Kyoto’s effects which concludes that it did nothing in signatory countries that didn’t happen in the US too, and did quite a lot less than the financial crisis. Now, about that carbon tax, Jules and Bob…

On taxing the sixth element

Or rather one of its oxides. Via the Real World Libertarian and quoted en bloc, a post by Viv Forbes of the Carbon Sense Coalition.

Back to the Dark Ages

The passage of the carbon tax bills today is no reason for celebration. It is a step back towards the dark ages.

Just a few generations ago, humans lived in a “green” world. There was no coal, oil or gas providing light, heat, transport and traction power.

In this green utopia, wood provided heat for cooking fires and forests were felled for charcoal for primitive metallurgy; farmers used wooden ploughs and harvested grain with sickles and flails; the nights were lit using candles and whale oil; rich people used wind and water power to grind cereals; horses and bullocks moved coaches, wagons and troops; there was no refrigeration and salt was the only preservative for meat.

Towns were tiny as the whole family was needed to work the farm. For most people, the daylight hours were filled with heavy labour to produce, preserve and transport food. There was no surplus to support opera, bureaucracy or academia.

Humanity was relieved from this life of unrelenting toil by carbon energy – steam engines and electricity, machines, tractors, cars, ships and planes.

Today the pagan green religion celebrates the first step in their long campaign to destroy industrial society and reduce population.

They should be careful what they wish for.

For example, just a few more bitter winters in Britain will see their wind powered lights going out.

A British observer once said of the Whitlam government: “Any fool can bugger up Britain, but it takes real genius to bugger up Australia”.

The Gillard-Green Government is showing the sort of genius needed to dim the lights in the lucky country.

I would say that this should serve as a warning to those outside Australia to do their damnedest to prevent their governments joining this madness, but as I mentioned at the weekend it seems that no other governments are all that keen anyway.

Great work, Jules. Really fucking outstanding.