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And in other news…

Nice to see that the media are all over the hugely important issue of Tom Thumb, er Cruise being divorced by Katie Thingy… not Perry, the other one… Holmes! Yes, that’s it, now where was I? Oh yes, being divorced by Katie Holmes and wanting sole custody of the kid (unless it’s kids). The state of the marriages of all actors should be a matter of huge concern to absolutely everyone and far more important than such trivialities as, say, some uncontrollable wildfires in Colorado that have destroyed hundreds of homes, caused millions of dollars of property damage and appear to have resulted in at least one death. In fact this prioritisation of the coverage of news events is such that I have just one question for the media and everyone in it:

 

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

 

 

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Come live in Australia… er, but not you with the funny kids

Peter Threlfall is a man after my own heart: he wants to migrate to Australia. Okay, in fairness it must be said that he wants to move to South Australia where, I am reliably informed by Mrs Exile, they’re all a bit weird (no idea, I think it might some long standing rivalry over who’s got the best arts festival or something). And also he wants to be a cop, though without actually knowing the guy I wouldn’t hold that against him, and really it’s pretty understandable seeing as he currently goes by Sergeant Threlfall in his job with the Metropolitan Police.

And he’s keen to live and work in Oz. From personal experience I can tell you that you have to be. The process is neither brief nor cheap, not even when your significant other comes with the blue passport with strange animals on. Just for a spouse/fiancé/partner type visa you have to have a medical with blood tests and chest X-rays, police certificate, references from two or three Australian Citizens who aren’t your partner, a shitload evidence to show that the relationship is genuine, and you both have to fill in a huge form which you send off with your pommie passport and all the other stuff to Australia House in The Strand, making sure to include the most important item of all on the very top: a big cheque. And then you wait for a call and if they’re happy with what you tell them over the phone they send your passport back with a visa in it, and you’re finally allowed to come and get sunburned at Christmas.

That’s a potted version, but let me say again that this is for people whose better halves are Aussie citizens. Peter Threlfall was applying through the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme, which is about getting foreign nationals to fill jobs in places out in the arse of nowhere that are vacant because the Aussies mostly want to live near the bigger cities. And that means he probably had bigger forms to fill in and more hoops to jump through than I did. It certainly cost him more – about $8,000 or £5,000 – and you also have to have a job offer already. Which Peter Threlfall did, as South Australia Police were going to give him a job as a constable in Ceduna, a small town of a couple of thousand souls a bit west of Adelaide. In fact quite a bit west of Adelaide – it’s nearly as far west as Melbourne is east, and if his missus had fancied nipping into Rundle Mall to do some shopping she’d need to allow for a good 9 hour drive. Each way. Ceduna isn’t exactly one of these pub + petrol station bush towns out in the middle of the GAFA* but it’s still pretty small and fairly isolated. But all the same Peter Threlfall and his family were prepared to live in Ceduna if that was the deal for being able to live and work in Oz, and it probably suited SA Police just as much as it did the Threlfalls.

Except the Immigration Department have just given him the flick.

AN English policeman and his family are devastated after being told they cannot move to South Australia because his stepdaughter, Sarah, is autistic.

[…]

Mr Threlfall was preparing to move his wife and family to South Australia, but was told in December they had been denied visas under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme.

He had been offered a job as a constable at Ceduna, on the state’s West Coast, and was due to start work as soon as his visa was approved.

Mr Threlfall has spent the past few months trying to reverse the decision but his family is now resigned to staying in the UK.

And it appears that this is because to the Immigration people autism = will cost the state money. Not ‘might’ – ‘will‘.

The refusal to let the Threlfalls into the country was based on the presumption his step-daughter Sarah’s condition would place a burden on healthcare and community services in Australia.

This despite the fact that there’s autism and there’s autism, and you don’t have to be an expert to be aware that not everyone diagnosed with what’s now being called an Autistic Spectrum Disorder mumbles about being a very good driver and freaks out at the suggestion of flying with anyone other than QANTAS. Sure, some people with autism do, but not all. So you’d imagine that maybe they’d look at things on a case by case basis, which I thought was what they were supposed to do with visa applications anyway, and then see that Peter Threlfall’s stepdaughter seems to be on the high functioning end of the autistic spectrum.

Mr Threlfall said Sarah worked part-time as both a cleaner and a store assistant. His family was not seeking any assistance for Sarah…

She’s also a volunteer for the Scouts and Guides and planned to study hairdressing here. So, Immigration people, this girl may meet the medical criteria to be called autistic, but Rain Man she certainly isn’t. Volunteer work and two part time jobs? For Christ’s sake, she’s almost certainly paying taxes and if hairdressers in Ceduna cost anything like what my wife has to pay she’d end up a taxpayer here as well. And if she’s capable of paying taxes what’s the fucking problem? She’d put in like everyone else, and for all we know might even choose to buy health insurance and be even less of a potential – potential, Immigration weenies – drain on SA’s health resources.

But perhaps we can’t blame the Immigration Department (my bold).

An Immigration Department spokesman confirmed Mr Threlfall and his family had applied for visas. His daughter had not met the legislated health requirement, which was partly to restrict public expenditure on healthcare and community services.

In other words Canberra wrote the laws a certain way and too bad for the Threlfalls, though bizarrely they could appeal this if they were already in Australia – why this should be so I can’t imagine, perhaps it’s just easier to say no to someone ten thousand miles away – and getting this kind of thing overruled is not unprecedented.

Two months ago, Filipino doctor Edwin Lapidario avoided deportation only after directors at his Hackham Medical Centre workplace agreed to pay $52,000 towards his autistic son’s medical costs.

In 2008, a migrant doctor working in Victoria was threatened with deportation because his son had Down syndrome.

It took an international outcry and the intervention of then Immigration Minister Chris Evans to overturn the decision to deport German doctor Bernhard Moeller and his family.

Neither of which is any help to Peter Threlfall and his family since Lapidario and Moeller were both already living and working here, nor presumably SAPOL who will have to find someone else to fill the vacancy in the police force at Ceduna. And all because the rules seem to say that whether someone has a certain medical condition is more relevant than whether or not that prevents them from working and paying tax, which itself is only an issue because Australia, like many western nations, has a medical condition of its own: welfarestateitis. It’s very very difficult to cure, but you’d think there’d be some system that migrants could sign a waiver agreeing that they’d have nothing to do with it and would ensure they’d make appropriate arrangements for their own medical care, in return for which they’d be exempt from the Medicare Levy when it came to paying their taxes… ah, but that could mean a lot of people handing over less money to the federal government than they do now, and might even lead to Aussies demanding to be able to opt out of Medicare as well.

No, now I’ve thought it through it makes perfect sense from the government’s point of view. Far easier to label and pigeonhole individuals and be relatively indiscriminate when it comes to giving people who want to live here the flick. That someone might be willing and able to make a contribution isn’t relevant when Australia seems to need migrant families with mildly autistic hairdressers less than it needs families sadistic rapist kidnappers, though to be fair they did send that bastard back where he came from. Which was Britain.

* GAFA, abbreviation: Great Australian Fuck All. Australia’s secret seventh state, encompassing much of the other mainland states, a large part of the Northern Territory, and indeed most of the continent. Despite the vast areas of sunburned scrub, desert void and eerily silent forest almost all of the GAFA is more interesting to look at than anything in Canberra.

Vale Greg Ham…

… the flautist in Men At Work whose flute riff was added to their international hit single Down Under, only to be found to be in breach of copyright a quarter century or so later for sharing 11 notes with an older song, was found dead at his home in North Carlton, Melbourne, yesterday. It’s clear that he felt pretty bad about the result of the court case, saying that he’d be remembered for being the guy who ripped off a song, and it’s been suggested that he been hitting both the bottle and the needle since.

”I’m terribly disappointed that that’s the way I’m going to be remembered – for copying something.”

Whether that has anything to do with his death we can’t know yet, but in any case I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d beg to differ. He’ll be remembered as a guy who helped make this most memorable song an iconic sound that will be forever associated with Australia, and as someone who died too young.

I’m also sure I’m not the only one hoping, should it turn out that Greg Ham did turn to drugs or alcohol as a result of the case and their use were involved in his death, that some copyright lawyers and holders have a really shitty night’s sleep. I won’t go so far as to blame them or suggest they’re responsible for how someone else reacts, but I always felt that the similarity of Down Under to Kookaburra was bullshit.

Another New Zealand earthquake – UPDATED

A police spokeswoman did not know whether there had been any reports of damage or injuries but said the phones were very busy.Anthony Surynt was working in an electrical workshop in Sydenham when the quake struck.

He said it was the biggest one he has felt since June 13, when a 6.3 magnitude hit struck the city.Surynt and his work colleagues estimated it was about a 5 to 5.5 magnitude quake.

Christchurch again, poor sods. A 5.8. Just what you want a day and a half before Christmas when you’re still picking up after the last one. Fingers crossed that everyone across the ditch comes out of this one okay.

UPDATE – and a few more since then:

An initial 5.8-magnitude quake sent the airport building swaying from side to side and shoppers scurried from a supermarket as products fell from shelves. It was followed by a series of aftershocks, including a magnitude 6 and two more magnitude 5 or above.

Václav Havel 1936-2011

Václav Havel, last president of Czechoslovakia and first president of the Czech Republic, writer and poet, died at the weekend. He was also a man who seemed to understand liberty and individual freedoms well, perhaps through having not had them himself for so much of his life.

If every day a man takes orders in silence from an incompetent superior, if every day he solemnly performs ritual acts which he privately finds ridiculous, if he unhesitatingly gives answers to questionnaires which are contrary to his real opinions and is prepared to deny his own self in public, if he sees no difficulty in feigning sympathy or even affection where, in fact, he feels only indifference or aversion, it still does not mean that he has entirely lost the use of one of the basic human senses, namely, the sense of humiliation.

You may ask what kind of republic I dream of. Let me reply: I dream of a republic independent, free, and democratic, of a republic economically prosperous and yet socially just; in short, of a humane republic that serves the individual and that therefore holds the hope that the individual will serve it in turn. Of a republic of well-rounded people, because without such people it is impossible to solve any of our problems — human, economic, ecological, social, or political.

For me that’s dream as worthy as Martin Luther King’s. May the late Václav Havel become as well remembered for it.

Fireworks – next in the banners’ sights? – UPDATED

Despite the distance from Westminster Australia used to celebrate Guy Fawkes night as well but these days it’s fallen by the wayside, and I suspect the reason is simple: you can’t buy fireworks anymore in most parts of Oz. I’d assumed that this was mostly because of the bushfire risk but I’ve since been told that it was also to do with idiot behaviour involving fireworks, and we all know that governments unable to deal effectively with idiots will often try instead to ban whatever it is the idiots want to play with and never mind the responsible users.

And of course firework idiocy is far from unknown in Britain. Every November for as long as I can remember there have been ad campaigns warning of the risks of handling or throwing lit fireworks, and every November there’s a handful of idiots who take no notice and end up being able to count up only to nine in future. Even if you could somehow eliminate firework idiocy there are still risks involved, even at professional displays. What goes up must come down, and all those rockets exploding up there are showering the ground beneath with bits. It’s inevitable that now and then some land on people or property. Mostly harmlessly, sure, but I once got up the day after Guy Fawkes night and found the stick from a large rocket a few feet from my car. Had it hit the car I expect I’d have had some bodywork damage, and had it hit a person I’m sure it would have been a nasty injury.

But such things are rare, incredibly rare given the amount of fireworks set off around Guy Fawkes night, and since most people enjoy the celebration and the fireworks and the bonfires they’re prepared to accept the risks, doubtless to the dismay of the nannies and banners. To get fireworks banned there needs to be a sea change in public attitudes, and that’s most likely to be achievable if something really nasty, some incident that harms a lot of people, involves fireworks.

With that in mind let’s turn to the tragic multi-vehicle crash on the M5 and the speculation that a fireworks display at a nearby rugby club may have had something to do with it.

The rugby club’s “spectacular” fireworks display is being investigated to see if thick smoke drifted on to the motorway.
[…]
The cause of the crash was being investigated last night but police confirmed they were looking at the possibility that a pall of black smoke from a firework display at Taunton Rugby Club, 300 yards from the scene of the crash, may have drifted on to the motorway.
Mr Bangham said: “We are aware there was a fireworks display nearby happening at a similar time and we will also be looking closely at that and at what kind of planning was looked at ahead of that event.”
A member of the public who attended the display said: “The fireworks display was massive and caused a huge amount of thick black smoke that drifted towards the motorway less than 10 minutes before the crash. Before the display I could see right across the pitch and see the headlights of traffic on the motorway. After the display the visibility dropped to less than 30ft, I couldn’t even see the huge floodlights positioned around the pitch.”
Sam Kotvics, who was at the display, said: “I think the fireworks had a contributory effect. It was a spectacular display. Anything could have happened to cause the accident though.”
Weather forecasters said that smoke from bonfires encourages fog, especially in damp conditions.

And…

Click for linky

Police fear the M5 disaster that claimed the lives of at least seven people may have been caused by heavy smoke drifting on to the motorway from a nearby fireworks display.
[…]
Senior officers investigating the cause of the crash, on the northbound carriageway near Junction 25, said they were focusing ‘very closely’ on a fireworks event at Taunton Rugby Club, located near the carriageway.
Forensics teams arrived at the club yesterday afternoon and sealed off several pitches.
The display at the club finished at about 8.15pm on Friday, minutes before the crash. Experts believe a lack of wind allowed intense black smoke from the finale, when the largest and most spectacular rockets were fired, to hang in the air and render visibility poor. There had already been reports of wet conditions and patchy fog.
Last night no one from Firestorm Pyrotechnics, the Somerset firm that organised the display, was available for comment.
But another fireworks company boss told The Mail on Sunday that he turned down the opportunity to stage a display at the rugby club two years ago because of concerns about safety.
‘It is a very difficult site. My concern straight away was the distance from the motorway,’ he said. ‘It makes it a very difficult site to fire from. You would look closely at the flight line [of the rockets]. Are they going to make drivers look up?’
Taunton Rugby Club secretary Oli Massingham said the organisers had liaised fully with police.
[…]
Meanwhile witnesses spoke of bonfires in other areas nearby also spreading black smoke, including one in particular at a smallholding.
As well as the smoke itself blinding drivers, one expert said it could have caused further visibility problems by encouraging fog to form.

I’m not saying the fireworks display did or did not have anything to do with it. For all I know right now it might have, but that’s not what I’m getting at. My point is that almost certainly someone somewhere is secretly hoping that the investigation does end up blaming the crash largely on the display, and parts of the reporting already make it sound like some of the media is sold on the idea. “Firework fun as displays turn deadly for drivers” – it’s a headline writer’s wet dream, isn’t it? And of course for the banners and nannies the first step to restrictions and prohibition is a scary headline or two.

As I said, I’m not trying to claim that the fireworks display is blameless as I have no idea whether it is or isn’t, and I’m not going to form an opinion either way while it’s still being investigated or second guess the people doing the investigating. This post isn’t about trying to blame or shield from blame anything in particular. It’s just making a prediction: that whatever else was involved if the fireworks display is determined to have contributed even in a small way there will be calls to restrict or even ban fireworks, and even if the club’s display is exonerated there will still be calls for at least tougher regulations.

And I haven’t even looked at The Daily Mail comments section yet.

UPDATED – five minutes after finishing the post I’ve just looked at the comments at the Mail, and while they’re in the minority just as I predicted…

With all the controversy about cutting pollution from things like industry and car emissions we should now be banning bonfires . If fireworks are going to be allowed then it should only be in a properly managed display and away from any major road or built up area…

Are there any regulations covering bonfire and firework displays near motorways and main roads? I was travelling on the M61 near Bolton a couple of years ago on bonfire night and suddenly drove into thick black smoke, which meant I couldn’t see 10 yards in front of me and when this happens to you whilst travelling at 70-80 mph it is incredibly disorientating and frightening. Once through the smoke (I thought it was better to carry on rather than just stop) I pulled over onto the hard shoulder. I realised that the smoke was coming from a bonfire in a field less than 100 yards from the carriageway, at a pub adjacent to the motorway. I rang 999 to report it, it was incredibly dangerous. The organisers of that bonfire were incredibly irresponsible and should never have been allowed to set a bonfire that close to the motorway. If there aren’t any regulations then there need to be before this happens all over again next year.

Time all fireworks were banned, they cause untold harm.

Completely possible. Bonfire night/fireworks are the worst offenders of filling the atmosphere full of smoke. I remember driving this time last year and I could not see a thing, it was like driving with a fogged up window. Especially with the fireworks display being so close to the motorway, it would explain why the ‘fog’ had cleared up by the time emergency services arrived. It doesn’t help with the wet floor and speeds of a motorway, even if all of the vehicles were obeying the speed limit. The fog probably came out of nowhere/was unexpected.

And over at the Tele:

I have listened to the radio media and I hope there is a law against holding a firework display next to a motorway. Clearly the reason for the crash may never be known. However a distraction on a wet dark motorway by a firework for less than five seconds is enough to cause this course of tragic events…

It might have been better if health and safety jobsworths spent less time stopping kids playing conkers and more time giving serious consideration to issues like a firework display next to a motorway…

Obviously the fireworks were a distraction and the smoke reduced visibility. It was a bad idea to have a display like that at the side of a motorway. I noted on the way home, there was strange dense patches of fog around Mid Devon.

Again, a minority (most commenters there seemed to be into the Afghanistan comparison), but you can expect the same things are being said by people with the ear of those with the clout to do something. Don’t be surprised if the question of a fireworks ban or tougher regulation pops up in Parliament over the coming weeks.

Predictable attack on private ownership

Not a recent sign in Ohio as far as I know,
but don’t you just wish it was? 

The slaughter of dozens of lions, tigers, bears and wolves set free from a private Ohio farm has sparked calls for restrictions on the largely unregulated ownership of exotic pets in several US states.
Police in Ohio shot dead almost 50 animals in a frantic hunt after the owner of an exotic farm freed the dangerous animals and then killed himself.
The bloody toll – which included 18 endangered Bengal tigers – has sparked outrage from conservationists, who say it should be a call to action against private ownership of exotic animals.

No argument from me, this is sad. I don’t know the ins and outs of this story, why the guy kept all these dangerous animals or why he set them loose before topping himself, but the unnecessary loss of 18 individuals of a species numbering only a couple of thousand or so – plus the other animals – is a bloody shame. That said I don’t think I agree with the conversationists and anyone else whose knee jerk response is not just sadness but outrage and the stock statist cries of ‘It shouldn’t be allowed’ and ‘There ought to be a law against it’. Yes, there are all sorts of practical problems to keeping an animal in captivity, and the bigger and stronger and more fearsomely armed it is the greater the problem and the expense needed to tackle it. A dog and two cats? Easy. Fifty or so assorted large predators? Different ball game.

Easy? You’ll pay for that in your sleep, Exile.

And yet should that alone be a barrier if someone has the resources needed? Sure, if you live near a private zoo and the lion keeps coming over your fence and taking a dump in your veggie patch there’s an issue, but isn’t that sort of thing what tort law is for? Wouldn’t it still be an issue if an animal escapes from any other zoo, private or public owned?

Not only that but banning private ownership means losing one of the advantages of private ownership – property rights. Think about who owns all the endangered species in the world. Generally it’s nobody, isn’t it? Oh, states and governments and maybe monarchs might claim ownership but even then for all practical purposes there’s no real owner, and if the animal is either a resource itself or getting in the way of a resource someone else wants to get at then tough. This is tragedy of the commons stuff, and the way to avoid it is private property rights and the threat of someone coming along and suing the arse off anyone who causes damage or loss, i.e. hurts or kills, that animal.

Take the unfortunate Bengal tiger, for example. Wikipedia suggests that the principle threat to its survival is poaching for skins and body parts, which sounds plausible enough. But what if the tigers were all or mostly privately owned? Wouldn’t the owners take steps to protect their property, and if the tigers had value (this is distasteful but presumably the tiger doesn’t need its skin, teeth, bellend or whatever after it’s carked it from natural causes, so is there still a problem with trading in parts then, and if so is it different from telling the doctors they can harvest a dead relative for organs even though they didn’t have a donor card) wouldn’t they also encourage the tigers to make lots of little tigers and feed them up to make even more little tigers, and so on? Yes, you could simply hack up all your tigers now for a quick buck, but every half competent owner would be aware of the downside of killing the goose that lays gold eggs or at least understand the principle. Most owners would want to maximise their return and keep up the supply, which in turn means wanting there to be as many tigers as the market can cope with (and can safely be accommodated without eating said private owners, of course).

Now I agree that it’s a little weird and not a little nasty to think of encouraging a trade in tiger bollocks or rhino lips or shark earlobes or whatever, and certainly my inner and not quite dead lefty is wailing something about the humiliation of noble beasts for profit, but you know what? Fuck it. If it means not seeing the Bengal tiger go the way of the Tasmanian tiger wouldn’t it be worth it?

Really the only concern should be whether or not private ownership would work, and for that I suggest we look at species which are largely in private ownership and see if any are endangered. And as far as I can tell the world isn’t exactly short of cats, dogs, horses, sheep, cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys…..

Could have been put better – UPDATED

‘Live blog’? Really? You don’t think that perhaps that’s an unfortunate phrase to use?

And has this obsession at The Teletubbygraph with live blogging got a little out of hand? Of all the things you could live blog is the death of a well known businessman, or even the death of anyone at all, the right sort of event? It lends itself to ongoing stories, so floods, earthquakes, political party conferences and other disasters are all suitable for live blogging. But this? How’s that work?

1.55 Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has died.

2.20 Steve Jobs still dead.

2.40 He’s still dead.

3.05 Still dead.

3.20 The Daily Telegraph has spoken to medical experts who have confirmed that not being alive is a very common symptom of being dead.

3.30 Steve Jobs persistently not alive at this point.

3.45 Still not alive.

For Pete’s sake, Tele, you’ve probably got obits for every other famous name all teed up somewhere ready to go the moment they drop off the twig, and sometimes before. Why not just dust it off, update it and click publish? The only reason I can think of for live blogging this is that Steve Jobs’ death has been falsely reported a few times by reputable sources as well as hoaxers (that one was only last month), so there’s an outside chance of an update to the effect of ‘It’s just another bloody hoax’ around half five or something. Since even Apple’s home page is showing a tribute photo and ‘Steve Jobs 1955-2011’ – which The Tele must know as they’ve used it too and they said where they got it – this seems a lot less likely than parts of the MSM still trying to work out this new media thingummy.

As for Steve Jobs himself, whatever I’ve had to say about his company (and there’s more on the back burner) and some of its products, his death is still sad. I’m not joining this trend for mourning people you’ve never met, but the guy had a family and 56 is no age at all these days.

UPDATE – Oh, Christ.

Click for linky

Quote of the Day

Via the Pistonheads forum, Sky’s Kay Burley turning a tragedy into an embarrassment:

KB: What’s this colliery used for?

Interviewee: It’s a coal mine.

Subtext: Coal, woman, fucking coal. Do you not know what the word colliery means? Are you asking for the benefit of an audience with a room temperature IQ? Get a dictionary, for Christ’s sake. Sheesh!

For all the reasons I’ve spoken of

No comment necessary.

Remembering those important dates

Tomorrow marks a date we’ll all be expected to remember. The papers will be full of it, it’ll be mentioned on every news and current affairs show, the blogosphere will no doubt add its contribution (and in a way this post is a part of that) and the never-mind-liberty-give-me-security-or-at-least-the-illusion-of-it paranoia brigade will spend the whole day shitting themselves in case the alky-aida bogeyman blows something up. And on that point, look, if the alky-aida bogeyman can blow something up tomorrow I don’t doubt that he will, but I doubt he’ll be hung up on anniversaries and special dates like most of the west seems to be. He’ll be just as happy to blow something up a fortnight next Tuesday or this time next month. Or a fortnight last Tuesday or this time last month. Whatever suits him, really.

But it suits our media and the governments which pushes their buttons, and the corporatists which in turn push their buttons, to get hung up on this specific date: September 11th 2011, the ten year anniversary of the attack which damaged the Pentagon and destroyed, among other buildings, the two main towers of the World Trade Center. I’m not saying we should forget it and pretend it didn’t happen, but I am saying we haven’t had a chance to forget it when, a decade on, the date 9/11 has been trotted out to justify every loss of liberty and every state intrusion into the lives of private citizens, not to mention the fact that Ground Zero is still a building site. And why? I know the site had to be cleared and that there were human remains there, but still… ten years? Construction of the originals began in August 1966, with the first tower opening just over five years later in December 1971 and the second tower being completed about 18 months after that. Following their destruction it took longer than that to decide what to replace them with. Perhaps they were just asking the wrong people.

“We’re chucking away what we should cherish most, motherfuckers” doesn’t really work as well.

Anyway, I don’t want to forget or avoid mention that ten years ago tomorrow close to three thousand people lost their lives in one of the most despicable acts in human history. Learn, accept, move on, but never ever forget. But the tenth anniversary will be marked by many other people who get paid by their networks and publications to write about it. Apart from HuffPo, obviously. Well, I’m on my own time and dime here, and I thought that instead, or rather in addition, I’d consider some other dates that I feel are worth remembering as well.

  • October 7th 2001, less than a month after the attacks, US led forces invade Afghanistan. First prisoners captured will begin to arrive at Guantanamo Bay before the end of the year.
  • October 26th 2001, just 45 days after the World Trade Center towers were destroyed, President George W. Bush signs the USA PATRIOT Act into law.*
  • Novermber 19th 2001, 69 days after 9/11, Bush signs into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which among other things created the Transportation Security Administration the following year. 
  • December 14th 2001, 94 days after the towers were destroyed, the UK’s Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act, granting the government powers to intern non-British citizens without trial, receives Royal Assent.
  • December 18th, 98 days later after the attacks, the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act receives Royal Assent.
  • December 22nd 2001, the actions of a complete cocksocket called Richard Reid make authorities suspicious of the shoes of all air passengers. Millions of shoes have doubtless been checked since. Number of other shoe bombs reported in the media, as near as I can recall: zero.
  • January 5th 2002, British police forces begin a series of raids and make a number of arrests in relation to the so-called Wood Green ricin plot. Despite being cited as a need for tougher laws no actual ricin is ever discovered, but this information is not revealed to the British public until trial two years later.
  • October 12th 2002, the Bali bombings kill 202 people, including 88 Australians.
  • November 25th 2002, President Bush signs the Homeland Security Act.
  • 11th February 2003, troops in Scimitars deploy at London’s Heathrow airport due to fears of a missile attack on a civil aircraft. No such attack occurs, and no explanation of what light tanks designed for armoured reconnaissance would have done if there had been an attack is given.
  • February 7th 2003, in the US the Center for Public Integrity obtains a copy of draft legislation for a Domestic Security Enhancement Bill, nicknamed Patriot Act II. Opponents claim that some provisions violate the US Constitution. The Bill never becomes law and is not even introduced to Congress.
  • March 25th 2003, the TSA moves from the US Department of Transportation to the newly created Department of Homeland Security.
  • November 20th 2003, in the UK the Criminal Justice Act, which among other things doubled detention of terrorist suspects without charge to 14 days, receives Royal Assent.
  • December 2003, British parliament approves additions to the list of state agencies allowed to access data under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000.
  • March 11th 2004, bombs on trains in Madrid kill 191 and injure around 2,000.
  • March 31st, June 17th and June 24th 2004, new Anti-terrorism Bills pass in Australia.
  • December 18th 2004, the Civil Contingencies Act allowing the government to suspend almost any law it wants by ministerial fiat receives Royal Assent in the UK.
  • March 11th 2005, introducing ‘control orders’, the UK’s Prevention of Terrorism Act receives Royal Assent.
  • April 2005, British parliament approves further additions to the list of state agencies allowed to access data under RIPA.
  • April 7th 2005, in the UK the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act receives Royal Assent, restricting the right of protest in an area near the Houses of Parliament – the precise area is defined by Statutory Instrument and can thus be altered by ministerial fiat. 
  • July 7th 2005, the London Tube bombings kill 52 people and injure hundreds. A fortnight later a similar, though failed, attack follows.
  • December 6th 2005, Australia’s Anti-terrorism Act passes.
  • March 30th 2006, drafted in response to the bombings the previous year the UK, the Terrorism Act receives Royal Assent, creating some new terrorist offences and reclassifying some existing offences as terrorism, and also extending the period of detention without charge (to 28 days after the government’s desire for 90 days was rejected).
  • July 2006, British parliament approves yet more additions to the list of state agencies allowed to access data under RIPA.
  • November 8th 2006, British government successfully grants itself powers to amend legislation by Statutory Instrument with the granting of Royal Assent to The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act. Occasionally called an enabling act in all but name, as originally drafted it granted the government such wide powers that it was sometimes sarcastically referred to as The Abolition of Parliament Bill.
  • May 15th 2007, Schiphol in Holland is the first airport to begin using body scanners.
  • June 30th 2007, two men attack Glasgow airport, attempting to crash a car full of propane gas cylinders into the terminal building. Bollards stop the vehicle, which catches fire without causing much harm except to one of the occupants, who later dies of his burns. The only other injury is sustained by taxi driver Alex McIlveen, who hurts his foot kicking one of the attackers in the balls. McIlveen is rewarded by having his trainers and clothing confiscated by police and by finding a £30 parking ticket on his car when gets back to the airport.**
  • July 1st 2007, Dr Mohammed Asha is arrested on the M6 in Chershire on suspicion of involvement in the Glasgow airport incident after lending money to one of the attackers. He will eventually be acquitted of all charges, but will then remain locked up while the government attempts to deport him instead.
  • July 2nd 2007, Dr Muhamed Haneef is arrested at Brisbane airport, also on suspicion of involvement in the Glasgow airport attack. Like Dr Asha he will also eventually be released.
  • July 27th 2007, the Director of Public Prosecutions withdraws charges against Dr Haneef. He leaves Australia voluntarily, and despite not actually having ties to the Glasgow airport attackers his visa is cancelled shortly afterwards.
  • February 2008, London’s Metropolitan Police launch a campaign targeting people taking photographs. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is used against numerous innocent photographers. Number of photographers subsequently reported in the media as being charged with a terror offence, as near as I can recall: zero.
  • July 1st 2008, The Washington Times reports that a senior Homeland Security official has expressed interest in the idea of all air passengers wearing a bracelet with a taser-like function (video). ***
  • July 11th 2008, an American pilot writes for Salon.com that he has had a small, well used and pretty blunt butter knife confiscated from him by airport security despite pointing out that it’s the same kind that they’ll give to first and business class on the plane and that he has no need to use a knife to storm the cockpit since he’s paid to sit in it.
  • August 30th 2008, the Australian Federal Police finally announce that Dr Haneef had no involvement with the Glasgow airport attack. The hospital where he worked has kept his job open for him but he chooses to practice medicine in Dubai instead. In December 2010 he will be awarded an undisclosed sum in compensation.
  • November 26th 2008, the UK’s Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 receives Royal Assent. Among other things the Act removes the prohibition on post-charge questioning, allows DNA and fingerprints to be taken from people subject to control orders (which are civil rather than criminal), and Section 76 appears to prohibit anyone from photographing a police officer.
  • December 16th 2008, Dr Asha cleared of any involvement in the Glasgow airport attack. The judge criticises police for interviewing him without a solicitor present on no less than two occasions. Prosecutors also were forced to admit that officers had falsely told Dr Asha that more evidence against him had been found. Having been cleared Dr Asha is returned to prison pending deportation instead. He will contest the deportation order.
  • August 8th 2009, the day after Dr Asha finally wins his fight with the UK Immigration Service to stay in Britain, the “I’m A Photographer, Not A Terrorist” campaign is launched in response to persistent use of Section 44 against them by British police forces .
  • Christmas Day 2009, another fucknuts attempts to ruin air travel for the overwhelmingly innocent majority of passengers by trying to blow up his underpants. Happily he only causes a small fire, sustaining second degree burns to his hands and genitals in the process. That he roasted his own wedding veg is of scant consolation to the rest of the travelling public who will soon be on the receiving end of pat downs and body scanners, partly as a result of this arsehole.
  • January 14th 2010, a clip of a German TV (video) show is uploaded to YouTube in which an airport body scanner is demonstrated to fail to detect bomb parts.
  • February 2010, British parliament again approves additions to the list of state agencies allowed to access data under RIPA.
  • November 2010, in the US the TSA begin a policy of “enhanced screening procedures” of all aircrew and passengers, which will result in news stories of children being patted down, elderly people with catheters ending up covered in urine, breast cancer victims having to remove prosthetic breasts, and breast feeding mothers having to drink milk they’ve expressed earlier for their babies. Strip protests will take place at several airports around the world and the phrase “Don’t touch my junk” will end up on tee shirts.
  • January 7th 2011, undercover French journalists are reported to have smuggled a dismantled 9mm pistol through security at two French airports and were able to assemble the gun in the toilets on the plane. 
  • February 21st 2011, in the US a female undercover TSA agent is reported to have carried a handgun through Dallas/Fort Worth airport body scanners in multiple tests by hiding it in her knickers.
  • May 7th 2011, TSA agents at Kansas City airport pat down an 8 month old baby.
  • June 13th 2011, it is reported that 30 staff at Honolulu International Airport are fired for not having screened luggage properly. 

A litany of balls ups, war, pointless security theatre and erosion of freedom, and since I just kept to incidents well known in western nations and legislation I’ve heard of and can easily find links for, that list is far, far from exhaustive. I could have gone on, of course, but I’ve long since lost the will to fly and have no desire to lose the will to fucking live.

And with so many notable dates perhaps it is easier just to remember September 11th 2001 after all. Not just as the day the world ended for nearly 3000 people or the day it changed forever for their loved ones, though that’s certainly the first thing we should remember about it, but also as the day liberty began slipping away for all the rest of us, slowly taken a piece at a time here and there but always being taken and so rarely being returned. And worst, this theft is not at the hands of those who attacked the west supposedly out of hatred for its freedom and free citizens, but at the hands of those who claim to be protecting us and our freedoms from those who hate that freedom. It’s also worth noting that the legislation rushed onto the books in the immediate weeks and months after 9/11 failed to prevent Richard Reid from getting on that plane with explosives in his shoe or the Wood Green plot or the Madrid bombings or Bali etc etc. But there doesn’t seem to be much of a rush to repeal much of it.

So this Sunday if anyone asks you where you were when the towers fell, remember all of it – both the people who died then and the liberties lost since. And in return ask the other person where they were when the day the free world responded to an assault on our freedom by locking it away for safekeeping.

* Or to give it its full and less snappy name, “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. There really ought to be a law against starting with the acronym when thinking of names for things.
** Sadly, I am not making this up. I don’t know if the ticket was cancelled and he got his clothes back, but I’d hope so.
*** This seems to have gone away quietly before much of a fuss was made and it became more widely known, but the outrage I felt when I read about it was such that I’d have sworn off travelling to that country in which a government official has seriously considered it except that flying to the US had already got so bad that I’d foresworn it long before anyway. But it deserves wider attention and I’ve been meaning to work it into a blog post ever since. I’d very much hope that if taser bracelets ever come into use the vast majority travelling public introduce both the airlines and authorities to their extended digius medius and simply refuse to fly. I just wish I could be confident that they really would.

The (inevitable) riot posts #2

The beginning of this video is heart breaking – a small business owner who’s done nothing wrong having to look around at the destruction of her stock. The end of the video just boiled my piss – just listen to the stupid, selfish bitch.

http://www.reuters.com/resources_v2/flash/video_embed.swf?videoId=218100605

Until they’ve burnt down and robbed everything, they’re not going to stop. This has just started, this is just proving to the police, this is minor stuff, this is just showing what they can do. And people with guns are going to come out next, start killing people to show the police that we’re not standing for this.”

What the fuck are you proving to the police by burning and stealing? What the fuck kind of protest is it that involves destroying other people’s property and committing murder?

‘Kinell!

And in case we needed convincing that he’s a nut…

Click for linky

A uniform? What the hell for? As far as anyone knows right now he’s an army of one. Completely cuckoo.

Amy Winehouse

Great voice, damn shame. The ‘genuinely sad’ tag is getting a lot of use the last couple of days.

It was always going to happen eventually – UPDATED

Obviously this may be premature since the investigation into the horrible events in Norway has only just begun, but reports are starting to come out describing Anders Behring Breivik, the arrested man, as a Christian fundamentalist.

There are a few caveats to mention before we go on. He’s also been described as a nationalist and a right-winger and is said to hold anti-Muslim views. For all I know at this early stage all of them might be true or none of them at all. And of course they’ll have barely begun questioning him, much less have charges ready1 and a trial is even further off. If he is charged1 and tried there is the possibility that he’ll be acquitted, and for all we know he could be released tomorrow with an apology and an admission that they’d arrested the wrong man – it happens to every police force now and then, as we all know.

However, assuming for the moment – and this is the Exile assumption, meaning it is uncertain but let’s just say, rather than the media assumption, meaning we’re not allowed to actually say we think he’s guilty but we do and we know you know we do – assuming for the moment that the right man was arrested, that he’ll be tried and convicted, and that these reports that he is a Christian fundamentalist turn out to be accurate, then we will have had what I’ve long thought would probably happen one day: an act of Christian terrorism.*

And if so I have no doubt that Christians in general will be appalled. They’ll say, quite rightly, that this man is in no real sense a Christian, that he’s twisted his beliefs to fit his hatred and that he is, at least on some levels, quite insane. And they’ll get no argument from me, but… it would still be a Christian terror attack, wouldn’t it? But also quite wrong to treat all Christians as being latent Breiviks, and sadly for Christians there will be people who’ll do just that.

The other day James Higham, occasional commenter here and one of the older kids at the Orphanage who makes sure the rest of us brush our teeth and so on, and also a Christian himself, said in response to my post on moderate Muslims speaking up:

… there are the Christian fundamentalists too I don’t like the look in the eyes of.

It’s the fanaticism which is the problem.

I think he’s spot on. A fanatic is a fanatic is a fanatic – what flavour of fanatic doesn’t really matter much if they’re setting off bombs and spraying bullets into crowds.

Of course, and as I said at the top, this could all be completely irrelevant if these reports turn out to be wrong, like the very early ones saying some Islamic nutters were claiming responsibility, or they’ve got the wrong guy. In the meantime I’ll repeat what I said earlier today, the one fact we can be sure of: this bloodshed was the work of a lunatic. I’ll add only that being mad doesn’t rule out being bad as well.

UPDATE – the same caveats apply to this as above, but I’ve seen mention in comments elsewhere that some stuff on the web supposedly written by Breivik refers to Atlas Shrugged and that there’s a possible ‘libertarian’ (massive quote marks) aspect to his politics. Don’t know if it’s true, and the only references I found in the document linked to referred not to Atlas Shrugged but to a URL with ‘atlasshrugged’ in it it might be a misunderstanding, but as a libertarian the thought doesn’t exactly give me a warm fuzzy any more than the religious link will Christians. Whatever else may be claimed to be a motive in the coming days the act was one of evil and insanity.

* Depending on their view of certain historical events some might say another act of Christian terrorism.

1 – Via the comments JuliaM informs me that the BBC are now reporting that Breivik has been charged with both the bombing and the shooting.