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Tin men and paper tigers

It might be blogging ego that makes a blogger quote themselves but I’m going to do it here just because of a vague prediction I made some months back.

Cigarette cases – I bet they will be making a comeback here, and I’ll bet you that […] there will be branded ones, either legit or made without the approval of the IP owners, appearing before long.

And sure enough, today I read this:

At least one tobacco company has moved to frustrate the Gillard government’s plain packaging laws by distributing metal cigarette packets for sale.

Peter Stuyvesant-branded metal packets are available for sale ahead of regulations which will outlaw the sale of packets bearing any brand or logo.

Okay, it’s a pretty obvious move for the baccy firms so it wasn’t a very impressive prediction. But one of the other things I mentioned in that five parter series on possible ways around the plain packs laws – some of which I still believe would be very difficult to legislate against and very hard to enforce if legislation was created – is that certain measures the industry can take would be effective only for as long as it takes the government to get it’s self righteous cock in a knot and ban them too. And so it’s not at all surprising that the article went on to say:

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek warned retailers not to get burnt by stocking metal cigarette tins, claiming they would not comply with the plain packaging regulations, due to take effect in December, and would become illegal to sell.

Ah, but illegal to give away? Illegal to just bring into the country after a nice holiday to a more liberal country? And what of those other ideas I came up with after really not a very great deal of thought? Are internet sites with templates to print out your own design of cigarette packet going to be censored? If so then I’m buggered since I have two, a blank one to make your own design and a DIY job I did recently because it was the most sarcastic thing I could think of. Am I breaking some ludicrous law that says I’m encouraging children to smoke by this? Who knows? Probably not yet, but perhaps one day.

And then there’s my other long standing prediction, that there’s a group people who are looking forward to plain packs as much as the tobaccophobic healthists, and that group is the illegal tobacco trade. Let’s be very blunt here, their principle competition is the industry that for all its faults is prepared to be regulated and bound by law, and trades both it’s products and its shares openly. Weaken that legal industry and it will surely be to the benefit of the shadow industry that laughs at regulations, has no need to check quality if it doesn’t want to, does not offer refunds to customers, and cannot be moderated by the actions of shareholders since it’s largely controlled by criminal gangs. If you could buy shares in tobacco smuggling operations they’ll probably pay nicely in the not too distant future, which is something that the government and the bansturbators have always either denied or glossed over. But now…

The government is also about to introduce draconian penalties against tobacco smugglers, following industry claims that plain packaging would cause an influx of black market tobacco.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon will today announce jail terms of up to 10 years for smuggling tobacco as part of tougher customs laws aimed at black market tobacco traders.

And I’m sure that would work well in a densely populated country with physically small and largely urbanised borders, because it’s a hell of a lot easier to catch smugglers. Australia has 25,000 kms of coastline and most of the population live along half a dozen stretches of it totalling perhaps a couple of thousand km or so. If you have a boat and can manage to avoid just the Brisbane/Gold Coast area, Sydney and the easternmost coast, Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay, and Adelaide – which you probably would do anyway unless the base of your smuggling operations was New Zealand or Antarctica – there is an absolute shitload of places that are a long way from anywhere that a small boat could come in unnoticed. And that’s before you get into the more sophisticated smuggling operations involving anything from computerised tracking of containers to bribing customs officials (yes, at least one of those stories was more about drugs but it’d be naive to imagine that the tobacco smugglers aren’t at it too). As for the counterfeiters, it’s well known that most of the enforcement action there is not done by the authorities at all but by the tobacco companies taking people to court for trademark infringements, and since those trademarks are the very same ones the government will soon prohibit the tobacco companies from using there doesn’t seem to be much incentive for the industry to carry on doing that after December.

It’s all very well making the consequences if caught more severe, but when the government is unable to significantly alter the actual risk of getting caught and is simultaneously working to increase the potential rewards it’s breathtakingly optimistic to think that the illegal tobacco trade is going to do anything other than increase. As I have continually pointed out since this idiocy was first mooted, cannabis, ecstasy, acid, heroin, cocaine, meth, you name it, and for that matter chop-chop tobacco too, all come in unbranded, cheap, plain packaging, and not only do they manage to keep their customers they don’t have a problem getting new ones as existing customers quit or die. Big Tobacco won’t either, not once it’s made the transition and people have got used to it, but the criminals have a big advantage over Big Tobacco even besides the obvious one that they don’t feel obliged to comply with those tiresome law things.

They’ve been doing it longer and are better at it.

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Image of Jesus seen in picture of Jesus

Well, it’s about the last place the faithful no, gullible and/or desperate for their 15 minutes have actually looked for an image of their lord and saviour, various of them having claimed to have seen him in clouds, random bits of wood, chocolate bars and even ruined cookware.*

Toby Elles, 22, made the discovery after burning the food when he fell asleep while cooking.
After lifting off the scorched bacon Mr Elles, from Salford, Lancs, could not believe his eyes when the Christlike image stared back at him.
The face is complete with eyes, nose, a beard and is framed by long flowing hair.

Well, let’s have a look then.

Okay, I’ll grant you that it looks kind of like a bearded man, but does that mean it’s Jesus and not some randomised scraps of carbonised bacon fat? Not only does it seem unlikely that Jesus, who was Jewish if I recall, would choose to re-appear in bacon fat [and personally] I think it looks like John Lennon without his glasses.

However, let’s for a moment assume that this is a benchmark for what the Son of Man looks like, and of course ignore the fact that what Yeshua of Nazareth actually looked like probably wasn’t the medieval bearded guy from church windows or the BeeGee lookalike from more contemporary Christian art but a regular 1st century Palestinian male. So, if that’s an image of Jesus who’s this guy in the sock?

Sarah Crane, 38, said she was stunned when she saw a bearded man staring back at her from the laundry line.
Her boyfriend agreed the crumpled grey “holy sock” bore an uncanny likeness to the traditional image of Christ, and the couple took photographs to show their friends.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. I’m going to regret this, but let’s have a look anyway.

Really? Look, firstly that doesn’t even look like a bearded man. I can see a face-like pattern, though that’s perfectly natural and happens to people all the time, but to begin with I thought it look more like a robot than a human face before finally deciding that actually it reminded me a bit of Eddie from Iron Maiden album cover art.

Of course we’re talking about the classic 1980s Eddie

And secondly, even if it did look like a bearded man it doesn’t look like the bearded man in the frying pan who, it’s suggested, is not John Lennon but our Redeemer, though unfortunately neither of them look a lot like I’d expect an ancient Palestinian to look and nor do they look like Jesus of Marmite Jar or Jesus of Cheap Interior Door.** And of course there’s a reason for that: not everyone with a bloody beard is Jesus. I mean look up there at Eddie… see it? Beard. And Eddie the Head isn’t even slightly saintly, much less Christ like. I shouldn’t need to spell this out but beard ≠ Jesus.

Plus, and I realise this is obvious to both my readers, these things are not Jesus but are the leftovers of a couple of ruined slices of cured pig meat, a cheap sock, a few cents of plastic with some random blobs of yeast extract, and a fucking door. In fact the only three things that links these and any other example of the Jesus-appears-in-random-everyday-object phenomenon is their different looking Jesuses, their essential non-Jesusness that follows from the inability to agree on what Jesus looked like, and their being obsessed over by nutters. And by nutters I don’t mean religious believers, though no doubt some are, but dedicated non thinkers who’d rather believe that they’ve been blessed by an entity whose existence is unproved, and if you ask me pretty doubtful, than that human beings are so naturally predisposed to recognising patterns that they see them in things that are random and patternless.

I mean, what’s the alternative? Yes, the bloke who burned his bacon might like to think how miraculous it was he didn’t die in the fire, but other people do die in fires all the time. Are we to believe that the Good Lord saves those who nod off while making bacon sarnies but not from dodgy wiring that they don’t even know about? And the others, what do we make of those? Are B group vitamins particularly holy? Blessed are the squeaky doors, for they shall inherit the earth? Is the Bible wrong and Jesus actually say unto Peter “You are my sock, and on this sock I shall build my church” or does he just want to cure corns and verrucas?

Not if the experience of the sock Jesus woman is any indication.

They even talked about creating a shrine to the sock but then the face was lost when they moved it.

I was half expecting the Ascension to be mentioned at this point but fortunately for both my head and my desk it never came up. Instead, and almost as laughable, this:

“We think it’s a bit of a sign – but for what we don’t know.”

Well, I can think of a couple of things that it could be a sign of. One is that you might just be a fucking idiot, and the other is that with electronic media making the space for online news practically infinite every day is a sufficiently slow news day for this stuff to be included, even if it’s so ridiculous and embarrassing that nobody wants to put their byline on it.

I hope that 2012 will be the year this guff goes out of fashion in the MSM, but I’m not holding my breath. In fact I’m afraid that if that happens at all it’ll only be because the 2012 Mayan apocalypse non-prediction and associated cockwaftery will be taking centre stage instead.

And there’s no point saying “God help us” because if he’s there at all he’s probably too busy laughing.

* For those with the patience of Job or who find the whole thing funny (the only way I cope with this kind of lunacy) The Tele has a whole gallery of this stuff.
** Linking that really went against the grain.

You know something’s in bad shape when…

… when its creators begin to turn against it. Ladies and genitals, I give you former president of the European Commission Jacques Delors, who believes the Euro is fucked.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission, claims that errors made when the euro was created had effectively doomed the single currency to the current debt crisis

Admittedly he doesn’t actually say it’s fucked and he is saying that it would all have gone swimmingly if it had been done his way, but all the same there’s quite a bit he says that a lot of people would agree with.

Mr Delors claims that the current crisis stems from “a fault in execution” by the political leaders who oversaw the euro in its early days. Leaders chose to turn a blind eye to the fundamental weaknesses and imbalances of member states’ economies, he says.
“The finance ministers did not want to see anything disagreeable which they would be forced to deal with,” he says.

Can’t argue with that, and nor can I argue with some bits from the interview proper because they sound very similar to what I’ve said more than once myself.

It is a fault in the execution, not of the architects, which he claimed to have pointed out in 1997 when the plans for introducing the euro finally came together. At the time, he says, the best of the eurosceptic economists, whom he refers to as “the Anglo-Saxons”, raised the simple objection that if you have an independent central bank, you must also have a state.
Mr Delors thinks “they had a point”, but the way round this problem was to insist on the economic bit of the union as much as the monetary. As well as creating a single currency, you also had to create common economic policies “founded on the co-operation of the member states”.
I get the impression from Mr Delors that he thinks Mrs Thatcher would have agreed with this view. She certainly would not have agreed, however, on the Delors version of what that co-operation should produce — the harmonisation of most taxes, plans to deal with youth and long-term unemployment, and that social dimension for which he always called…

And when the Euro finally goes tits up the call will be for exactly that and possibly more. I’ve said it in comments on several other blogs as well as once or twice here – the former colonies in America formed the United States first and created their single currency later, and there will be Europhiles and Eurocrats who will seize on this as evidence that the EU attempted to put the cart before the horse and call for the full and immediate federalisation of Europe so that Son-of-Euro can be launched as quickly as possible. A United States of Europe wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if it was a federation of competing states, but does anyone think that’s even a remote possibility if it’s constructed on the foundations of what’s now the EU?

Not. A. Prayer.

We make jokes about the EUSSR now, but I reckon it’s not half as bad as it could be if formal union were to occur any time soon. It’s already been pointed out before that the European Commission and Parliament are not unlike the Politburo and Supreme Soviet, and if all the borrowed money had to be repaid it won’t even look as cheery as 1980s Gorky in the winter.

If they fail and the Euro fails with them it might only be the silver lining round a nasty looking cloud. The breakup of the EU is being warned, but if that sounds good to you my advice would be not to get your hopes up. More likely it’ll be patched together to save egos and careers as the architects of half a billion people’s misfortune say that the death of the single currency is not proof that Europe should remain a continent of independent nations but proof of the need for a federal Europe.

Happy sights, happy thoughts

Click for linky

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not gloating. Well, to be honest actually I am gloating a bit, but not all that much. That partly because it’s not happened yet and we should keep the champagne on ice until it does, and partly because I’m not philosophically opposed to the idea of single currencies or federalisation as such. I think living in a federation of competing states (with a small ‘s’) has got a lot to be said for it providing they really are competing to attract citizens, and as far as I’m concerned people can do business in Altairian Dollars, Flanian Pobble Beads or the Triganic Pu, or even a single currency with a stupid name if they want, as long as both parties agree to it. What I find so objectionable about both the Euro and about EU federalism is the attempts to impose both on half a billion people whether they want them or not, and the lack of any real efforts to make either really worth wanting much.

The only note of caution I’d sound, and this is aside the view of the experts that the whole process is likely to be painful and bloody even for nations not directly connected, is that I suspect the death of the Euro will lay the grounds for the next battle. “We know what went wrong,” they’ll say. “We should have done it like the Americans did when the USA was born: political union first and monetary union second.” Prepare yourselves, Europeans, because this might not be the beginning of the end, but just the end of the beginning.

Flying looks about to get a whole lot… er, similar

Great news! You can go on holiday and take liquids with you. Medicines, baby milk, drinks bought away from the airport at considerable less than ludicrous prices, all will soon be allowed through the ring-piece of steel at international airports in Australia, and no doubt other nations.

International travellers will no longer have water bottles, perfumes and other liquids confiscated as they board planes under a radical overhaul of airport security.

Radical overhaul. Sounds good, sounds like it could be what’s been needed for a while now.

The easing of restrictions will begin next year as Australia’s international airports begin rolling out new explosive detection equipment.

Ah. Now it just sounds like another machine to queue up for.

The shake-up, to be announced by the federal government today, also promises to cut waiting times for passengers by easing bottlenecks at security gates.

Er, but if we’ve got one more machine to queue up for how’s that going to cut times?

The new technology, which has been trialled at Sydney airport, would enable authorities to detect the smallest trace of explosives in liquids.

Okay, and what happens if someone decides to take a pint of the stuff into the queue for the machine and detonate it before they get there? In the queue. You know, attacking the people in the fucking queue instead of screwing around with the impossible task of getting it on a plane. Well, sort of impossible.

  • 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.
  • […]

  • June 13th 2011, it is reported that 30 staff at Honolulu International Airport are fired for not having screened luggage properly.

Still, long as somebody has got a nice big market for their feel good bomb sniffing machines and governments can carry on acting as if they’re doing something, eh?

“It will make air travel easier and less stressful for passengers as well as free airport security staff to better focus on their core screening responsibilities without the distraction of having to confiscate items from people’s bags,” [Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese] said.
“While preventing acts of terrorism remains our number one priority, we’re also determined to minimise the disruption and inconvenience experienced by passengers as they transit throughout major airports, including by deploying the latest technologies.”

Sorry, Tony, but if you’re really serious about that I still think you should be looking at how the Israelis do things. In the meantime one more bloody thing to queue up for having already queued for check-in, the X-ray, the metal detector and the bollock baking body scanner and/or professional groper does not tempt me back into flying anywhere except as a last resort.

Big Eco advertising your forthcoming death… again

Via Watts Up With That.

Okay, this is not as bad as the 1010 mob’s gleeful explosive execution of anyone expressing ambivalence toward warble gloaming or that aborted video with hundreds and hundreds of airliners zooming towards a New York with smoke curling up from the World Trade Centre, but it’s still pretty nasty. “You, you evil sceptics,” goes the message, “You’ll get it first.” Not quite sure how that works – how can the climate tell who believed and us Untermenschen who weren’t convinced? Maybe it’s the same kind of magic by which the climate can tell difference between the evil CO2 emitted by a power station or your breath and the benign and harmless CO2 that’s puffed out from the blowholes of whales and dolphins to feed their dear friends, the trees. Or maybe the climate is relying on the warble gloaming believers to muck and help with a set of matches. I’ve no idea, but somehow or other we’re first in line for death despite the usual exhortations to cut down on our selfish energy use because poor people in developing nations are first in line for death. Consistency? Meh.

And so at this point I want to bring up my intermittently maintained list of warble gloaming dates for your diary, because a few weeks ago I noticed an addition spotted by The Filthy Engineer, who notes that in two-thirds of the spirit of reduce, reuse, recycle this has been reused and recycled since 2007.

Runaway Global Warming promises to literally burn-up agricultural areas into dust worldwide by 2012, causing global famine, anarchy, diseases, and war on a global scale as military powers including the U.S., Russia, and China, fight for control of the Earth’s remaining resources.
Over 4.5 billion people could die from Global Warming related causes by 2012, as planet Earth accelarates into a greed-driven horrific catastrophe.

“Promises” does it? Then with less than two months ’til the start of 2012 we should see some signs of it already, shouldn’t we? And “literally burn-up”? Seriously? Actual fields actually on actual fire? 4.5 billion of the world’s 7 billion people dead (which still wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the most extreme eco-psychos, such as this fucktroon)? As much as I’m prepared to believe that many warble gloaming catastrophists do actually believe what they claim when someone comes out with ridiculously over the top scare claims like this I suspect that even they don’t believe it. It’s the old tactic suggested years ago by the late Dr Stephen Schneider of offering up scary scenarios to get attention even if they’re vanishingly unlikely. I’ve no idea whether to blame overzealous PR of the kind Dr Schneider once suggested or journalistic license, but I suspect there’s probably only one thing that’s literally going to burn up.

Being generous and giving them ’til the end of next year the updated list now looks like this:

Warble gloaming – I refuse to use the term climate change when climate has always been changing since the planet’s ancient beginnings – warble gloaming might not need you to believe in it, but warble gloaming catastrophists very much do need you and everyone else to believe. Because they’re all out of a job otherwise.

The white whale, the whiiiite whaaaa… sorry, whiiiite wombat

Okay, everybody. It’s Rolf harris impersonation time. Just look at Polar, here, isn’t he a brave little fella?

And now place your bets on which newspaper’s online edition will be the first to fuck up and use a picture of Polar the white wombat for a story about piglets, doubtless referencing Babe, and how long it’ll take.

Call me Fishmeal, eh?

The sun won’t fall down tomorrow…

AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH

Bet your bottom dollar, unless of course you’re mad enough to still think that after at least two bum apocraplypse predictions Harold Camping’s still on the money that it’s game over at 6 tomorrow evening. Oh, and also too busy spreading the word to hear that Camping has dialled back the rhetoric slightly and has now only said that the end is ‘probably‘ October 21st. Well, with his track record you can hardly blame the guy for wanting to build a way out into his current prediction, which brings me on to my own prediction which is that by Monday, or maybe the end of next week, Camping will be making similar noises to those Christians who last May were citing reasons why humanity couldn’t possibly know the date for sure. In the meantime if the world’s still here on Saturday morning those of his followers who’ve accidentally forgotten to blow literally all their money will be rapt.

Oh, sorry, poor choice of word? Maybe a very predictable choice of music will make up for it.

And just in case the internet is here and the rest of us aren’t I’ve scheduled the next few posts.

Victory? For whom?

Paul Dacre yesterday

Town halls are to be shamed into bringing back weekly bin collections, it was revealed yesterday.
In a victory for householders and the Daily Mail, ministers unveiled a £250million fund to restore them.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said councils will now have ‘no excuse’ to maintain hugely unpopular fortnightly schemes. ‘My view has always been that people expect a weekly collection,’ he said.

Yes, and the reason people expect a weekly collection, and so the reason why tapping taxpayers for another £250m makes this a pyrrhic victory at best, is because they’ve already fucking paid for it.* Has anyone anywhere heard of a UK council reducing council tax when switching from weekly to fortnightly collections? Anyone?

So what this means is the taxpayers are going to be shaken down again, either in the form of taxes now or in the form of more national debt now to be paid later, all to pay for what they should have been getting in the first place. Some bloody victory, especially as it turns out Eric Pickles can’t even promise that the money won’t be spunked away on fact finding missions to somewhere sunny with hot weather and hotter waitresses or yet another bunch of outreach and upchuck services for the vertically challenged, gender non-specific, gay, disabled, travellers of extra-terrestrial ethnicity community.**

He cannot force town halls to go back to weekly collections, but made it clear that voters should throw out councils which do not – a provocative suggestion, given that many of those that have gone fortnightly are Conservative controlled.
Mr Pickles told the Daily Mail: ‘I’ve had council leaders sitting at this very table who claim their public like a fortnightly collection and are very supportive. Well, good luck to them. Come the elections, there can be no excuses.’

Actually I don’t exactly disagree with this. If people aren’t happy they certainly should kick out their councillors (MPs too) come election time, but of course this isn’t as straightforward as it sounds when parties have similar, and sometimes identical policies. Who do you vote for when they’re all going to do the same thing? Not voting doesn’t help since the people that do vote will still ensure that one of the bastards gets in, and like most (all?) democratic countries the UK still doesn’t have ballot slips with an option to reject all candidates? As the article makes clear, it’s not like this is something one particular party is prone to do when in control of a council, and it didn’t take me long working my way down a list of hung councils to find that no overall control doesn’t mean any assurance of weekly collections either.

So as far as I can tell The Daily Mail’s self congratulatory circle jerk is based on the government tapping taxpayers for another quarter billion to pay for a service they’ve already paid for through council tax, with no guarantee that this extra money will result in householders actually getting the service. Oh wow, let’s break open the champa… er, the really cheap Asti Spumante that someone brought over New Year before last. Seriously, what do British council taxpayers have to do to get the kind of refuse collection service that we get here in Oz, which having come from a fortnightly collection council area in the UK amazed me enough that I blogged it a couple of years ago.

What is it with rubbish collection here? There’s a tip/recycling centre about 20 minutes drive away that is either free or inexpensive depending on what and how much we’re dropping off. We have a pair of 120 litre bins that are provided to all local rate payers, and for a couple of bucks a week per bin we could double up to 240 litres (or reduce to 80 and get a small rebate). One bin is for rubbish and the other is for assorted – i.e. unsorted – recyclables. Seriously, we don’t do any separating beyond what can be recycled and what can’t, so all paper, cardboard, tins and plastics with a recycle logo just get rinsed out if necessary and chucked into the same bin, with everything else going into garbage bags before being put in the other bin. Nobody gets their cock in a knot and insists the bins are put out in the morning rather than the night before, nobody talks about fines if it’s a bit full and the lid doesn’t quite shut all the way, and nobody insists it’s in a particular place as long as the robotic arm on the truck can reach, which is a fair way (vid – not our council but similar machines). And both bins are emptied weekly, and we don’t have to do anything other than take ’em out the night before the bin men ‘garbos’ come round.
[…]
I mean, how backward is that? Apart from the robot arms on the vehicles and recycling some stuff that’s like where rubbish collection was in Britain 25 years ago.

It’s got to the stage now where I think the best chance of that happening is for the councils to have some competition. That means encouraging people to go private and pay for a collections from one of the firms that have begun appearing to provide that service the councils are no longer interested in but still insist on charging for. I’ve no idea what the average council charge for it these days, and even if I could remember what we used to pay that was several years ago anyway, but a very brief search turned up one UK company willing to do weekly bin collections for about 500 quid a year (plus either a one off £50 for a bin or £6 a month to rent one because councils won’t let anyone else empty theirs). That company also does a fortnightly collection for those who might want it, either because they don’t produce much rubbish or because they just want rubbish taken those alternate weeks when the council won’t do it (shame that means having yet another bin).

Of course, not only would all this be more likely if Eric Pickles stopped putting his hands in the poor bloody taxpayers’ wallets and instead told them that they could withhold part or all of the portion of their council tax that pays for kerbside refuse collection if they pay a private contractor to do it instead, but it’s an essential move if there’s to be any competitive pressure on councils to improve their service. And here’s where we run into difficulties, because currently members of the political class or all parties seem congenitally incapable of considering any solution to a problem that doesn’t involve them at some level. It’s not just the empire building attitude, though that’s probably a factor too, but this assumption among politicians and civil servants that people simply won’t be able to cope with buying services themselves. In modern infantilised Britain this might even be true to an extent, but it’s only a problem if council refuse collection is scrapped altogether. It’s not a problem if people can choose freely between continuing to pay the council for whatever it’s prepared to provide in the way of bin collection and paying a private company for whatever they actually need in the way of bin collection. The only remaining issue would then be that councils would likely crack the sads at the thought of losing some of their income, and frankly that’s just a facet of the empire building thing so too bad.

Still, as I say most current politicians are fiercely statist even if they don’t think of themselves as such, so I won’t be holding my breath. But if you’re walking down a British suburban street on hot summer day there’s a fair chance you’ll still need to, because I’m sure many bins will still contain nearly two week old rotting food stinking the place up.

* I can’t see any mention of whether this is one off or annual. Generally I’d expect politicians doing the ‘Have some free money’ routine to maximise the sound of their generosity with other people’s money by saying if it’s an annual thing, but possibly the Cobbleition are getting a bit sensitive to the fact that they promised to tackle the spiralling national debt and they’re abjectly failing to do so. Or maybe Britons are starting to realise that governments have no money of their own and asking who’s really picking up the bills for their largesse. I’m not wildly optimistic about that but I’d very much hope so.
** This is probably about the last group apart from vanilla WASPs who don’t have outreach services yet.

Smug mode

Smug mode activated

It seems like just the other day when I had a nice, satisfying rant about governments’ poor talent for picking winners and how they often end up just spunking away eye-watering sums of money – and not their own money – on activities that shouldn’t be a government function in the first place. Oh, silly me, it was just the other day, wasn’t it? On that occasion I was having a go at the idea that governments are any good at promoting tourism, and also wondering whether they should be doing it even if they are any good, I also mentioned that perennial theme of mine: governments attempting to be sports promoters. And just two days later an article in The Age proves my point.

An independent economic impact report has found that overall, the 2011 Grand Prix increased Victoria’s gross state product by between $32 million and $39 million.

Which would be wonderful except for two things. First is my broken record refrain of ‘It’s not their bloody money’. As I’ve said more than once, including in that last rant on the subject, if the government took the huge pile of taxpayers’ money down to the casino and came back with a few million more than it went with there’d still be hell to pay despite because that’s not what paying taxes is for. And nor is being a fucking sports promoter. Even if you take the statist line and say taxes are necessary to provide ‘essential’ services the widest definition of ‘essential’ doesn’t include motor races, Olympics, tennis tournaments and paying money to randy golf stars to stop shagging for long enough to play some bloody golf. Even if you take the socialist line and believe taxes are also necessary to redistribute wealth I’m pretty certain the idea isn’t to redistribute it into the pockets of billionaires. Doesn’t matter how much money it makes, pretty much any way you look at it it’s not something the government should be taxing people in order to do. It simply isn’t.

Oh, and the second thing that makes the ≈$35 million boost the Grand Prix gave the state’s economy less than wonderful? As the article points out, it costs the government more than $50 million, meaning that even by the most generous estimates of the benefits it ended up costing the state more than $11 million, and with more pessimistic figures perhaps over $18 million.

/facepalm

Actually for me personally there’s a third less than wonderful thing, and that is the possible health effects from my blood pressure spiking when I read quotes from pollies defending this kind of thing.

Tourism and Major Events Minister Louise Asher said despite what is an overall loss to the state, there are other benefits from the event which need to be taken into account.

Yes, Louise Asher again, the very same Louise Asher who was attempting to justify spending vast sums on having Oprah Winfrey over in a failed bid to boost tourism. Now I kind of understood her attempting to defend that cock-up since both the previous Labor government under John Brumby and the current Coalition government under Liberal Ted Baillieu, Lou’s boss, had a hand in it. But the Grand Prix? Aside from the fact that it was a Liberal Premier who poached the event from Adelaide in the first place that’s something that can be laid at the door of Labor party since, as I blogged back in January, they had the last opportunity to get rid of the Grand Prix or preferably just to stop subsidising the damn thing only three years ago. Instead John Brumby signed a new contract to keep the race here until 2015, which was not only committed his own government to carry on subsidising it but, since the term of the contract is longer than the Victorian election cycle, also the Baillieu government too. And since Ted seemed less than happy about the cost of the race and being stuck with a contract he had nothing to do with you’d think that his ministers would be folding it into the pointiest point they can and poking Labor in the eyes with it. To be fair Ms Asher did have a small swipe at Labor for having locked the state into a lousy deal, but only a small one because she seemed a bit busy telling us all that losing the thick end of twenty million was actually A Good Thing and that in any case it’ll be brilliant one day, you just wait.

Tourism and Major Events Minister Louise Asher said despite what is an overall loss to the state, there are other benefits from the event which need to be taken into account.
“You have to look at the whole year, at ongoing branding of Melbourne,” Ms Asher told reporters today.
[…]
Ms Asher said new negotiations on the Grand Prix contract will begin in 2014 and she anticipates getting a better deal from Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, to whom the licence fee is paid.

Is there any danger of getting a politician to consider whether we need to pay him anything at all? It takes place on state owned land, yes? Rather than the government paying him even a cent from petty cash, let alone for the millions from the taxpayer, for the privilege of having the Grand Prix shouldn’t Bernie Ecclestone be paying the state for the privilege of holding it in a public park near the city centre?

I’d hoped after Baillieu’s remarks earlier this year there might be a move towards telling Bernie that if the British Grand Prix can be run without subsidies it would be expected that the Melbourne Grand Prix should as well, and that if that means the race is uneconomic to have here than it’s fucking uneconomic. Ms Asher’s talk of getting a better deal when the contract’s renegotiated in a few years suggests that’s a pretty faint hope.

‘Kinell!

Climbdowns

Yeah, but is Gordon?

No surprises there, then – UPDATED

Well, my support for AV was always more in hope than expectation, and it looks like that as about right.

The last referendum took place when I was unable to stand or talk and spent most of the day asleep or sitting in my own shit. I just hope that Britain has another shot at reform before I end up the same way again, though I feel that the powers that be will treat the rejection of AV as synonymous with approval for keeping it exactly as it is now. Democracy has spoken and it will deliberately be misheard.

Maybe Obnoxio had the right idea last year when he decided to vote for the most insane and incompetent party – Labour – with the idea that they’d bugger things up even more while the Tories would rip themselves to bits over another loss. Maybe things have got so broken that you just can’t use the system to fix itself anymore and even baby steps in the right direction are too much. Maybe the only thing left to do is wait for it the country to self-destruct and then sweep up the mess and start again. And if that’s so then maybe the kindest thing to do would be to help it along. The awful news there is that everything will have to get much worse before it can get better, but is there a realistic chance of anything else happening?

What the hell – AV was never going to be enough and hoping it’d be the start of a chain of reforms was always a hell of a long shot anyway. At least we’ll probably have some entertainment from watching the ilLiberal Dimotwats fall on each other.

UPDATE – while this is being reported as an overwhelming No to AV I see that less than 19 million, plus of course those like Captain Ranty and Leg-iron who’ve had some fun creatively spoiling their ballots, have actually exercised themselves to vote one way or the other. The truth is that by an overwhelming margin, and as other bloggers suggested, Britain has voted Meh to AV.

I can’t decide whether the fact that voting Meh at every election is the norm for millions of people is part of the problem or whether it’s something we should be grateful for.

Vote for Distracted Cat, but if not Casual Cat

Via Skepticlawyer, AV for cat owners.

Incidentally, Skepticlawyer appears less than impressed with some of the crap being spread by the No To AV campaign about the preferential voting systems used here in Oz.*

I’ve learned since the campaign started that Australia uses complex electronic voting machines. The person who runs third in a given constituency also routinely wins the seat, as well. Oh, and we also want to adopt First Past the Post, too, in a perverse bit of ‘the grass is always greener’ copy-cattery.

Which is, as she points out, bullshit. Do go and read the rest.

Come to think of it Reform Cat would be even better, but I’m not sure a 350 foot tall ginger tom that shoots lasers from its eyes needs a more sympathetic voting system.

* I’ve since seen it at Fausty’s as well, though of course without the commentary on the misrepresentation of the Aussie voting system.

Nine years, seven months, and twenty-one days – UPDATED AGAIN

During which time the Yanks alone have, by some estimates, spent $1,118,600,000,000, or about $317,784,091 per day, along with the lives of close on 6,000 of their servicemen and women – not to mention those of other coalition members and civilians in the areas of fighting. All to achieve this result.

George W Bush’s personal fantasy?

Oh, and also reducing liberty across much of the ‘free’ world, especially for anyone who wants to get on a plane without a complete stranger in a uniform either making them stand in a giant microwave or groping them or both. Maybe it’s just me but it doesn’t seem like much of a bargain. In fact it seems like an awful lot of time, effort, money and blood just to get one nutjob who persuaded some people to crash planes into buildings. But at least we can finally knock all that on the head now that someone’s finally shot the bastard, right?

Yeah, right.

Mr Obama added:“The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s efforts to defeat al-Qa’ida.

[…]

“Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort.

“There is no doubt that al-Qa’ida will continue to pursue attacks against us.

“We must and will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

The US State Department immediately issued a global travel alert to all US citizens following the news, warning of “enhanced potential” for anti-American violence.

The US also put its embassies on alert, warning Americans of al-Qa’ida reprisal attacks.

Presumably not the nuclear hell storm variety of reprisal that waterboarding these numpties would suggest, but all the same it does seem reasonable to expect that there’ll be some kind of reaction. Which means that after nine years, seven months and twenty-one days, after more than a trillion dollars, after twice as many allied personnel killed than died in the World Trade Centre attacks, after all that we’re still less safe and less free than we were on September 12th 2001. Nine years, seven months, twenty one days, a trillion dollars and thousands of lives and a billion or more people less free than they were.

Osama Bin Living might now be moshing with the black metal band invisible but I’d say that technically he’s still ahead on points.

UPDATE – The generally less cynical than me but still occasionally pretty cynical Mrs Exile noted that anyone would think there’s an election coming up or something. I see the same thought has already occurred to The All Seeing Eye, who incidentally owes me a new keyboard and a coffee refill for this:

Woke up this morning to hear the news that the world’s most hated man was dead. Imagine TheEye’s disappointment when it turns out it wasn’t Bono.

Gold.

UPDATE 2 – Echoing the views of a number of others, odd decision to bury him at sea. So there’s no grave to become a shrine we’re told, but there wouldn’t if you simply incinerated what was left after the PM and scattered the ashes into a landfill. Or buried the body and never told anybody where. I’m not reaching for the tinfoil and claiming the reason is a cover – it might be and it might not – but it is nonetheless an odd decision to choose not to bring the body back.

Another follow up

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