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Quote of the Dirt Hour

Okay, a bit premature since Dirt Hour isn’t even on us yet here in Oz, let alone all those slacker countries hours and hours behind us. Still, I saw this in The Australian by the environmentalists’ least favourite environmentalist, the eco-apostate Bjorn Lomborg. Do go read the whole thing, but almost the first thing he says is this:

Now there’s a new advertiser among the neon signs [in Copenhagen’s central square]: a brightly lit billboard exhorts everyone to participate in Earth Hour, the 60 minutes tonight in which the whole world is urged to dim the lights to cut greenhouse emissions. There is a certain irony in renting brightly lit advertising space to exhort us to save electricity for one hour, but this is apparently lost on the organisers.

Quite, but as I’ve said more than once I don’t think it’s about saving resources, energy or the planet so much as getting people to join in an otherwise pointless belief reinforcement ritual, PR for Big Eco and selling some more copies of Fairfax’s newspapers.

Incidentally, on the subject of Lomborg in The Aussie earlier in the week he wrote on biofuels and how eco-politics now has us burning food for transport. Also worth a read if you’ve got a few spare minutes.


The inevitable AV post…

… was making my brain bleed, but fortunately via a comment over at Devil’s Kitchen I’ve found something that covers everything I was thinking of and a couple of other points beside. Pop over and have a read when you’ve a spare ten minutes.

Intolerance needs to have a price

And that price must be the business of those who smoke, those who can’t bear the self righteous intolerance of the anti brigade and those who recognise the truth that Martin Niemöller laid out for us all those years ago: that when the hate fuelled are finished with one group of people they’ll move onto another, and then another and another. The march is relentless and sooner or later we will all hear the boots marching in our direction, unless we stop them. And a good way of doing that is to starve the bastards of what they need most – money.

Since the anti-smoking zealots set the ball rolling and are furthest along in their aim of reshaping a free would into one under their authority they deserve much of our attention, and since they, like most of the rent seekers and parasites who want to control others’ lives, rely largely on government largesse one obvious way to hurt them is to pay less tax. Zaphod, Smoking Hot and Pat Nurse are among those who bring their smokes in from abroad, while Leg-iron is progressing from rolling his own into growing it as well (and not the only one as Pat Nurse blogs here) and has also been a leading light of what he calls Smoky-Drinky Place. All of which is very admirable of them, not to mention practical too, but obviously is only a way of fighting back for those who are smokers. For those of us who simply stand with them for whatever reason it’s no weapon at all (well, the drinky bit of Smoky-Drinky Place is for those who drink, which is probably a healthy majority).

So what can the rest of us do? Well, we can still pay less tax by looking into all legitimate means of minimising our tax exposure, and if we are also drinkers looking at home brewing has got a lot going for it. Drinkers should be aware by now that they’re the next in line anyway. But we can all refuse to deal with the antis and their supporters as a matter of personal choice. Which brings me on to a comment left by a fella by the name of Kevin on a post about anti-smoking zealots that I wrote a couple of weeks before Christmas, and in which I gave the example of a bloke in Ireland called Phillip Tobin who flat refuses to hire smokers:

… according to the firm concerned, not only might they take a smoke break (seems prejudicial) but even if they don’t they will smell and get ill, and they must be stupid – no more evidence being required for that last half-formed thought than that they chose to continue smoking.

“I would consider smoking as interfering with standards. I’m talking about smoking breaks but not only that – their smell, their intelligence, their illnesses are all factors. That’s why the line was there. Smokers will not be employed, so there is no point in coming for an interview.”

Interviewed on an Irish radio station, Tobin added that anyone who could continue to smoke despite health warnings was obviously not intelligent enough to work for his company.

This reminds me of the kind of spittle-flecked nicophobic hatred that Duncan Bannatyne spouts, the anti-smoking zealots favourite kind of anti-smoking zealot – a convert. Dear fuck, save me from people like Duncan Bannatyne and Phillip Tobin, and as Kevin suggests a step in the right direction is to give the bastards the flick and take your money elsewhere:

Oddly enough I was looking at possibly employing Tobin’s company (Dot Com Directories) for my company. We had earmarked 50,000 quid for the project but now, sadly, I’ll have to take his company off the list of potential suppliers because… well anyone stupid enough to make comments like he did is obviously not bright enough to handle our needs.

Please pass the word so others are not tempted to employ a company led by such a cerebrally challenged individual.

Good for you, Kevin, and sound advice for the rest of us whether we smoke or not. If there’s a practical alternative to doing business with a rabid anti-smoker, take it. If you’re giving someone a voucher for a weekend away or looking to take a break yourself don’t choose one of Duncan Bannatyne’s Strength Through Joy health camps clubs (even though at least one of his places does have smoking rooms*) but choose a competitor.

In short, starve the antis. They may get off on hatred, but they need our money to do it.

* Not, I notice, for disabled customers. I wonder what would happen if a disabled smoker wanted a room there that they could smoke in.


In the comments on Katharine Birbalsingh’s blog yesterday on why she feels she can’t call herself a Tory is this gem by someone called edtheted:

‘Political Correctness is a doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rapidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.’

At least one has already said he’ll steal it and I’ll probably use it as well one day, forgetting where I saw it. Just gold.

Faith and the art of compromise

The legal change in the UK allowing gay couples to marry have their civil ceremonies in churches has made a fair bit of news in British media and even a few headlines here in the off world colonies. Recognition of such ceremonies is not uniform across Australia and while some polls support the idea of gay marriage – marriage rather then just a civil ceremony – others oppose it. No surprise in a country where some states still have a significant religious vote and where politicians with strong religious beliefs are pretty common. Nor is it a surprise that in the UK both CofE and Roman Catholic denominations have said that regardless of what the law permits they will not permit it in their buildings. Fair enough too – since they own the buildings they get the final say on what can and can’t be done in them. What is a bit of a surprise, although less so given the individual concerned, is that a very well known Melbourne based Roman Catholic priest is taking the side of gays on more or less those terms. At a time when the world leader of his church is denouncing the idea of gay marriage as dangerous, insidious and against the common good, in South Melbourne Father Bob Maguire is being far less Old Testament about it.

Fr Maguire said he does not have a personal view on gay civil unions.

The 75-year-old said he understood Catholic leaders would not want a gay ceremony in a Catholic church so he would arrange a private event.

“I’d probably consult the bosses and then I’d go back to the clients and tell them we can’t do it in here – it’s not personal, it’s institutional,” he said.

Fr Maguire said it was “his duty” to help people in need, including gay couples.

“Not only do I have an administrative responsibility but I have also pastoral responsibility and pastoral care would be taking care of the two people involved and their friends and their associates,” he said.

I’m as lapsed as they come and this won’t change that, but I can’t help but admire the man. I’ve never quite got my head round how Christians who say they’re libertarians (or Muslims who say they’re libertarians, come to that) manage to square that circle but I’ve generally accepted it at face value and assumed that they’ve found a way that they’re comfortable with, which for a libertarian should be all that matters. And really there’s not much doubt possible when a priest comes out with what is basically the most libertarian approach to gay partnerships possible with the law we have right now and the policies and teachings of his Church. I mean, doesn’t it tick nearly all the boxes? The property rights of the owners of church buildings are being respected, as are the desires of a couple who care for each other enough to want to remain partners for life but who happen to have the same set of chromosomes. Fr Maguire has even said he’ll go ask the church higher-ups despite everyone knowing that he and the clients will be knocked back.

The Catholic church yesterday reiterated its opposition to gay civil unions.

The Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Bishop Les Tomlinson, said civil union ceremonies involving homosexual couples were not allowed in any of its Melbourne’s churches.

In fact as far as I can see the only remaining fly in the ointment is the government, who still insist on defining marriage the same way the churches do, which in turn means they’ve taken a side instead of sensibly remaining out of it. Repeal of the Marriage Act, as I’ve said before, would allow people to define it for themselves without obliging anyone else to agree with their definition. The most demanding section of the gay marriage lobby would have to get to grips with the fact that the Bible and other religious books say what they say about homosexuality, and the reality is that nobody else has any right to tell believers which bits of those books they may and may not agree with. In turn those believers need to understand that they don’t get to dictate terms to everyone outside their churches, or even to fellow believers who wouldn’t lose sleep at the idea of two gays getting a contract drawn up or something and calling that marriage, especially if they’re not actually asking the Vatican to recognise it as such. And for those who want a religious element, regardless of whether they call it a wedding, a partnership or what, there is always the option of looking for someone of the cloth who is willing to bless it, do a Bible reading, make some kind of sermon or whatever that couple need for them to feel like the thing’s been done right. They don’t have the right to to be able to find someone, but they do have the right to look and ask, and if they’re happy with, say, the Quakers (I found this out via a recent QOTD by Deusexmacintosh at Skepticlawyer) or the compromise offered by Father Bob then what’s the problem? The last remaining hurdle to the fairest possible solution is for government to become truly neutral on the matter and restrict itself to insisting that both sides agree to disagree and that neither restricts the liberties of the other.

Not everyone will be happy of course. There will always be someone demanding that the government enforce their brand of dogma as the law, and there’ll always be someone demanding the right to be married to their gay partner in St Peter’s Basilica. The answer to both is simple – tough. Everyone else, including members of the clergy with, shall we say, a Maguirean approach, is in the middle ground. Join or not as you please.

PS – just to get the Journalistic Crap tag in on this one, the Herald Sun’s headline was originally “I’ll Do Gay Weddings” (as suggested by the URL of the link). Father Bob, who for a guy in his 70s is a pretty connected technophile, blogged and tweeted that that wasn’t actually what he said:

”Spread the word, comrades. I will not do gay weddings. I cannot do gay weddings. The H/S headliner is wrong.”

Thanks to Father Bob we see that Christians can be libertarian and that there’s something in old cliché: is that true or did you read it in the Herald Sun?

It’s QOTD everywhere else

Well, not really but a lot of people have talked about what Cleggy Nick said about government the other day (QOTM at the UK Libertarian for instance).

“I need to say this – you shouldn’t trust any government, actually including this one. You should not trust government – full stop. The natural inclination of government is to hoard power and information; to accrue power to itself in the name of the public good.”

Not just there either. Three days before he said that to The Observer he was saying similar things in The Teletubbygraph in support of the govenment’s disappointingly watered down and limited Freedom Bill.

The nature of power is such that, the longer a government has it, the less inclined they are to give it up. We must not take our chances. When it comes to cherished British liberties, even the most well-meaning of governments cannot be trusted.

What the hell was going on there? Is some inner classic liberal trying to claw its way out or was he temporarily channeling the spirit of Ronald Reagan?* Whatever the reason it’s important that someone reminds him of his own words every time he or the government he’s a part of falls short on that ideal, and since that seems to be almost all the time – the Freedom Bill itself being an example – I expect he’s going to wish he hadn’t said anything before long.

* Not that Reagan lived up to those words since the US government still grew during his time. Still, at least he said it like he might have believed it, or am I just cynical about that because he was an actor?

Quote of the Day.

From Deusexmacintosh at the Skepticlawyer blog.

… it’s been my experience that when we can’t live with difference, people are inclined to die.

Do go and read the whole thing.

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

Just been reading an interesting article over at The Register on e-readers and how most British users are prepared to pay for legit copies of e-books.

Eight per cent of UK adults have paid money for an electronic book since Christmas, with the average reader getting through 5.75 titles by the end of January.
[It was also] found that 7 per cent of UK adults got some form of e-reader as a Christmas gift, and the majority of those people had managed to download a book or two since then.

So about the same proportion of people who got an ebook reader in their stocking paid for an ebook, suggesting that legit downloads are in the overwhelming majority.

Those who got an e-reader for Christmas top the figures, buying (on average) 5.9 books each, while downloaders who had to make do with an iPad or smartphone only bought 5.3 books – though that’s still a lot of reading to get though in the 35 days following Christmas.
Those with a dedicated e-reader unsurprisingly downloaded the most, with 84 per cent of them sourcing additional reading material (we assume the remaining 16 per cent are still getting through the pre-loaded content, or can’t work out how to get the covers open), but almost 60 per cent of those who received any kind of e-book-compatible device had also downloaded something by way of reading material.

The Reg go on to note that this is probably good news for publishers, but that it’s probably got a lot to do with ease of use. Getting an ebook from a legit source, they say, has been made pretty straightforward by most of the online sellers, and going from my personal experience I’d say they’re right. Not only that but here in Oz paper books are inexplicably expensive (actually it is explicable: stupid, protectionist parallel import laws – what’s inexplicable is why we still have them), and while ebooks are also a bit dear compared to sources in Europe and North America there’s no reason you can’t buy from them instead. Well, except for when they manage to run out of stock of a PDF.


What I buy from Australia based sellers is what tends not to be available from those in the US or Britain – you know, very Australia specific and written in upside down text – and I imagine it’s hard to find pirated versions anyway. Otherwise I’m happy to pay to download it from the UK or the US, ignoring their funny spelling in the latter case. Either way, the point is that as the article suggests, legit downloading of books is the path of least resistance, and that’s a big part of why people are prepared to pay. I suspect another part is the pricing and the fact that there’s an absolute shit-ton of free ebooks, mostly out of copyright classics, legally available for bookworms who want something to read but are feeling a bit cheap – if I wanted to replace my Penguin Popular Classic version of Dracula with an electronic copy why would I pay $10-12 from or when I can get a free and legal download from Project Gutenberg or Planet eBook?* But ease of use is a biggie and a contrast to other digital content.

… it seems more likely the reliance on legitimate sources of material has more to do with ease of use than willingness to pay – the electronic book stores have made buying an electronic book really easy, even for obscure titles, while buying a film in electronic form is often harder than BitTorrenting the same title.

I’m not sure I wholly buy that since I tend to use torrents for the same thing as I’m beginning to use TV: checking out a recommended or well regarded series before committing the dosh to buy the whole thing on DVD. Movies I tend not to download because I like DVD extras and what’s on our shelf is largely stuff we saw on TV or at the cinema or from borrowing the disc off someone, and enjoyed enough to want it on disc ourselves so we can watch it whenever we like. But I might not be typical, and I can certainly see that people who just want to watch a film or a TV show without a it being an effort might look at the alternatives – advert heavy TV that doesn’t start on time, unnecessarily complicated legal downloading, or simple torrenting – might say fuck it and take the illegal but simple and free option.** The lesson, as the Reg suggest, is that the KISS principle makes good business sense.

Booksellers have made it easier to spend money than steal, which is enough to push most users down the legit route.***

Hollywood take note.

* And with Dracula freely available why would I download Twiglet or whatever it’s called at all?
** I have a similar situation, though without the legal issue. Say I want to buy Iron Man 2 (which I do) but don’t want to spend over forty fucking dollars?! on it from an Aussie retailer. I’d consider a legal download from a big name like Blockbuster or Foxtel except Blockbuster is for US based customers only and Foxtel haven’t got it. That’s aside from all the registration bullshit that I’d rather not do. What I want is here’s my card number now send me a download link. Even if I use a VPN or something to make the download site think I’m somewhere else, and even if I accept the registration crap, I still don’t know if I’d get all the content the DVD would have. But I’m still not paying 42 bucks when I can order it online from the US or UK for about half that. I’m far from being the only one and Australian retailers are having what’s known here as a bit of a sook about it, demanding that the government lower the threshold for applying GST at 10% to imports from A$1,000. I think they’d rather it was about ten bucks so that everyone ordering books and movies and other low value goods will be caught by it. They’re wrong, of course, but if it happens it happens – it still won’t get me to pay fucking $42 for Iron Man 2 when it’s ten quid in the UK. Even after shipping and GST it’s still a lot cheaper than buying it here. And if that’s what someone who actually wants the DVD is thinking then someone who simply wants to see the movie is certainly going to choose a free and illegal download over a cheap and legal one if you make things too much like hard work.
*** British booksellers, anyway. Australian ones seem to think charging $20 for an ebook version of a $13 paperback makes sense (yes, really – well spotted, Mrs Exile).

Links and quotes

Two of the first and one of the second. Joining the blogroll and the interesting sites thingy respectively are Down With That Sort Of Thing and Liberty Victoria, while added to the quotes is this one of James Madison, our American cousins’ fourth President and often thought of as the Father of the Constitution, particularly that bit of it that is supposed to stop the government getting out of control and using its citizens as doormats. Madison came out with some corkers in his time, but thinking of the widely blogged news (see Dick Puddlecote for example) that in Britain a mother has been cautioned for leaving her 14 year old son in looking after his 3 year old brother for half an hour – quite legally as far as anyone can tell – and that parents are now asking what the actual law is, I felt these few sentences he wrote in The Federalist No. 62 back in 1788 seem apposite.

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”

That those words are more than 220 years and three thousand miles from 21st Century Thames Valley doesn’t make them any less true.

We’re all doooooomed. Yet again.

Or so some say. However, I’m not going to rush out and blow every cent I have on every single legal and illegal high just to try them all before the whole place goes splat since one of them is the knobber responsible for Jar-Jar Binks.

Seth Rogen, a comedian and actor, said that he was left speechless by a recent conversation in which George Lucas, the producer of Star Wars and other Hollywood hits, told him of his belief that the world would end in 2012.

Rogen told the Toronto Sun: “George Lucas sits down and seriously proceeds to talk for around 25 minutes about how he thinks the world is going to end in the year 2012, like, for real. He thinks it.
“He’s going on about the tectonic plates and all the time Spielberg is, like, rolling his eyes, like, ‘My nerdy friend won’t shut up, I’m sorry …’

No, George. It won’t, but watching the six and a half hours of furniture advertising you called the Star Wars prequels all in one go might make it feel like the world is ending.

Nor is George Lucas the only one.

Actor Ashton Kutcher is preparing for the end and has ramped up his workout routine to protect his family.
“I’m going to be ready to take myself and my family to a safe place where they don’t have to worry,” he told Men’s Fitness. “All of my physical fitness regimen is completely tailored around the end of day,” he explained. “I stay fit for no other reason than to save the people I care about.”

And that extra fitness will come in handy, because when the sun rises on December 22nd it will no doubt shine down on Ashton Kutcher running around the shops doing all the Christmas shopping that he didn’t see any point in doing up ’til then. Never mind, Ashton. You’ll be able cheer yourself up by dropping the fitness kick, letting go and having extra Christmas pud instead.

Rapper Lil Wayne agrees with Lucas that 2012 will be the end of the world.
“The world is about to end in 2012,” he told Bender magazine. “The Mayans made calendars, and they stop at 2012 … The world is about to end as we know it.”

Yes, they made calendars. So what? Ryan Air, who trump the ancient Mayans by knowing how to fly in big metal tubes even if they’re not so clued up on landing the fucking things near the place you want to be, keep making calendars which stop at December 31st, but nobody – not Ryan Air and certainly not the Mayans – says that they believe this means the end of the world happens then. What they usually say is something like: “A little less clothing next year, please.” And I feel this is partly because there’s no logical reason it would, partly because, as Sadbutmadlad points out over at Anna Raccoon’s, apocalypse theories come and go but as far as accuracy goes they’ve not got a great track record, having so far predicted precisely square root of fuck all, and partly because the Mayans say all this is bullshit.

… the prophecies are news to the modern Maya of Guatemala and Mexico who use a different calendar system and are scornful of what they see as a sensational Western hijacking of their culture and traditions.
They believe that the end of the Long Count cycle – if it indeed does end in Dec 2012 – is simply the closure of one particular system of calendar measurement.
“There is no concept of apocalypse in the Mayan culture,” Jesus Gomez, head of the Guatemalan confederation of Mayan priests and spiritual guides, told The Daily Telegraph…

No doubt what will really happen on Dec 22nd next year is that George, Ashton, Lil Wayne and everyone else in the Make-Tom-Cruise-Look-Sane club who thinks that the ancient Mayans could predict the end of the world, even though if shown a block and tackle would have complained that it was too blunt to sacrifice anyone with, will convince themselves that the calculations are off and the end is coming later than thought. Doomsayers are known to do that sometimes. So here’s my prediction. In 698 days time when the world wakes up as normal up to 35,000 books are going to start to be re-written, possibly arguing that our stupid advanced society miscalculated the records of the wise and all-knowing Mayans and that they actually meant 2020, or 2062 or maybe even later.

Mark it in your calendars, folks.

One rule for us and another for them.

The Age:

One of Victoria’s top cops is carrying a gun for his protection after receiving death threats.

The Herald Sun said Deputy Commissioner Sir Ken Jones had received threats at his home and carries a high-powered Glock pistol.

Okay, leaving aside The Age’s meaningless and misleading labelling of the pistol as “high-powered” – Glock pistols are available to appropriately licensed shooters in Australia (modified for local laws*) and are roughly as high powered as any other 9mm pistol using whatever ammunition Ken Jones is using – let’s get straight o the nitty gritty of this. Does anyone else have a problem with this? I don’t mean a cop being allowed to carry a gun outside of work. Police are, after all, supposed to be both responsible, law abiding citizens and to be trained to handle firearms safely (unless of course the whole point of firearms use in a certain situation is to cause an aggressor to become very unsafe indeed). As I said back in June when commenting on Ken Jones’s boss, Commissioner Simon Overland, getting into some trouble over inadvertently carrying some live rounds onto a domestic flight:

If the most senior officer in a state police force can’t be trusted with a weapon on board an aircraft then seriously, where the fuck are we? The fact that he didn’t even have a weapon when he flew back from Canberra, just some bullets for a gun he’d left locked away in Melbourne, makes it even less of a big deal. An official bollocking is more than sufficient if you ask me, and that only because it caused embarrassment to his office and his force. But what if he’d been a regular citizen?

…senior crime investigators and aviation experts have criticised the decision, saying any civilian making the same mistake would have been arrested and charged.

Obviously I’m not suggesting that Simon Overland should have been jailed or fined for what is in effect a pretty trivial error. Like I said, I wouldn’t be concerned if he’d carried a gun on board as well, at least I wouldn’t if he’d made it known to the AFP and airline people in advance. For the oversight of forgetting he had a few rounds in the bottom of his bag a reprimand seems about right. But, and it’s a big but, the same should apply to any other law abiding citizen.

I certainly don’t begrudge Sir Ken Jones the chance to defend himself against possible threats to his life but should we believe that he’s the only person in Victoria, a state of about 5.5 million people, who has reason to fear for his life? Would any other citizen, and bearing in mind that cops are also civilians would any other police officer? And for that matter is Sir Ken even a citizen yet? I suspect that in actual fact he is not, unless I’m missing something here:

Australian Citizenship Act 2007 Residence Requirements

To satisfy the residence requirements you must have:

4 years lawful residence in Australia. This period must include 12 months as a permanent resident immediately before making an application for Australian citizenship
absences from Australia of no more than 12 months in total in the 4 years prior to application, including not more than 90 days in the 12 months immediately prior to application.
Lawful residence means residence in Australia on a temporary or permanent visa.

Sir Ken Jones was made the Deputy Commissioner of Victoria Police in May 2009 and took up the job in July. Even taking the earlier date and doubling it to allow for a very extended holiday around Oz while his application was processed he would still be a year from being eligible for citizenship. Either his citizenship has been fast tracked because of his job or he’s being given rights as a Permanent Resident denied to those with full citizenship, even those born and bred in Australia. Even assuming the former he’s still being allowed a gun for personal defence, a reason which objectively is perfectly fair but legally is insufficient for anyone else to be issued a licence.

Any way you cut it Sir Ken Jones is getting special treatment, and that’s not on. His job may make him a target but he’s not the only one. Do other police officers get this treatment? Do prosecution witnesses to serious crimes? Do people who’ve received threats of violence from society’s lawless, the scum who ignore laws and rights equally, treat the police with contempt, and can commit murder in the knowledge that 99 times out of 100 they’ll be gone before the cops arrive? Of course they don’t. They’re made to rely on the police for their protection – 11,000 or so officers, less than a third of whom will be on duty at any given time, and not all of them on the streets.

As I’ve said, I don’t begrudge Ken Jones his gun, and since it might not even be enough to save himself against a serious and determined attack (though even then it would at least even the odds a bit) I don’t envy the situation he’s in either. But I do have a problem with special treatment. The gun sooks may not be able to face these facts but even though Victoria is a pretty safe place to live cops are not the only ones in danger, and this is illustrated by the fact that the state’s murder rate was 1.88 per 100,000 (2008 figures from here, ironically given by Sir Ken Jones), which works out a little over 100 per year for the state as a whole (though no doubt some of these are criminals killing other criminals and I haven’t found any indication of what sort of proportion that might be). Now compare this with police deaths: since 1853 when the Victoria Police was formed 157 Victorian police officers have been killed on duty. It does not diminish the tragedy of those officers’ deaths to note that the long term rate of police deaths is about one per year, less than a hundredth of the current murder rate for Victorians in general.

While I have no wish for a handgun myself (not least because I do not feel in any danger, and also because I’m not a particularly good shot and they cost money I’d rather spend on other things) I certainly don’t object to anyone else having one without needing to justify it. But the reality is that while the police face dangers the rest of us don’t they’re still 100 times less likely to be murdered. Even assuming that in 90% of murders the victims are themselves criminals that would still mean that Victorian police officers are ten times less likely to be killed than other law abiding citizens are.

So with that in mind can someone explain to me why Joe Average can’t have the means to defend himself?

* I had to Google this. I was under the impression that the former PM and great modern liberal** John Howard had banned many handguns and before moving to Australia I assumed that this would mean anything beyond target pistols of the type which are also banned in Britain, forcing its own Olympic team to train abroad and making some of the events at the London games technically illegal. To my surprise this wasn’t the case at all and so 9mm semi-automatic pistols are still available providing they’re 9mm/.38″ or under, hold no more than ten rounds and have barrels at least 120mm (4.72″) long. Presumably on Planet Howard only the 11th round is ever lethal and the first ten are dangerous only if the barrel is 119mm long or less… /facepalm. Initially that did indeed mean that a lot of guns did become illegal overnight, including any Glock 17s which might have dealt with the capacity requirement by using smaller magazines but would always fall foul of the minimum barrel length. Sensibly Glock dealt with the problem by making a version with a barrel a few millimetres longer just for Australia. Functionally it’s the same gun and has exactly the same safety requirements (except possibly inside John Howard’s head) but I imagine the loss of economies of scale means it costs Aussie shooters more to buy one. Cheers, John, you tool.

** Sarcasm very much intended.

The violence of democracy.

Via Dick Puddlecote, an excellent short animation on the use of violence by democratic states.

You and George also helped pay for those bloody Segways that ordinary Britons aren’t allowed to use in public.

Nuclear missive.

As it’s been more than ably covered by WUWT and James Delingpole I’m a bit late to this, I know, but there is one aspect to Hal Lewis’s superb resignation letter to the American Physical Society I want to draw attention to, and that is its timing. The very same weekend the 10:10 mob had intended to launch their little promo movie in which anyone displaying scepticism or apathy to The Cause is summarily executed by being exploded, a respected physicist writes such things as:

When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago).


… the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.


It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.


I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.


The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch…

The whole thing is worth a thorough read and tends to support what I’ve suspected for a long time, namely that there is now so much money involved that the whole field of climate research has become an industry in itself. And like any industry Big Eco moves to promote it’s interests, though as the 10:10 film showed it’s just as capable of publicity own goals. It’s only natural that it will also want to protect them, and we shouldn’t forget for a second that 10:10 showed us how that might work as well.

10:10 regret to announce that Professor Lewis
is no longer available for comment.

P.S. – I hope the fact that next month’s talks on warble gloaming are (a) being talked down and may not get the same level of government attendees as in the past, and (b) is yet again being held in a beautiful and luxurious tourist resort – and, incidentally, to which nearly all the attendees will presumably fly by magical no carbon emitting aircraft as the citizens of the majority of their respective countries hope for a warmer winter than the last one – isn’t being overlooked what with all these resigning professors and exploding children. If you’re all very good Chris Huhne might spend some of your money on a postcard.


Filling a lake, Keynesian style.

Via the ALS blog I’ve just come across the best demolition job I’ve seen on the whole idea of stimulus, quantitive easing, nicking even more money from taxpayers and spunking it away at random, call it what you will. It’s in a transcript of an interview with Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, that aired last night on ABC’s Lateline program. The whole thing is worth a read despite what look like a couple of annoying transcription errors (“government ‘limbed’ to the Constitution” – ‘limited’ surely) but there’s one part that really caught my attention, and that’s a very simple explanation about why government stimulus is flawed.

LEIGH SALES: Is it a good idea to be cutting spending when America’s economy is still weak. Because there is of course the counter-argument that the economy needs to be stimulated, it needs to be stimulated by the government?

GROVER NORQUIST: Yes. Um, this is a very interesting argument that the government’s gonna take a dollar from somebody who earned it, either in taxes or debt and give it to somebody who’s politically connected. And if you do this 800 billion times there’ll be more money in the country.
If you take water from one side of the lake and put it back into the other side of the lake in front of the cameras, that there’s more water. It doesn’t work, it isn’t true. We’ve wasted almost a trillion dollars and nothing has happened. It’s time to stop wasting money.

This is what governments and their spendthrift supporters have been trying to tell people – that taking water from one side of the lake and pouring it into the other somehow makes more water, and that’s clearly bollocks even to a six year old. Sure, some would say that the money is actually from borrowing and so there really is more water, but that’s simply taking the water from the stream that feeds the lake instead of the lake itself. You do have more water right now but less water will come in the future than would have if you’d left things alone. Anything governments borrow must be repaid, and one way or another it is the taxpayers who must repay it.

Now, could someone put it in a join the dots book and give it to Red Ed (for a giggle – if he gets it he won’t be allowed to make anything of it) and the twins and their pal Georgie over on the government benches? But don’t waste your time with Vince Cable, eh.

NB – this is a repost of an identical post earlier today which lacked a comment link because of a setting I’d fiddled with and hadn’t put back.

Where to draw the line.

The other thing I wanted to post just before I unplug myself from the blog for the weekend relates to another round of the interminable debate on capital punishment between me, JuliaM and some of the other commenters that hang around the Ambush Predator’s cave. As usual Julia and others take the view that sometimes capital punishment is justified because the world has got some proper fucking scumbags in it, while others oppose for various reasons while conceding that there are indeed some scumbags, but it’s the fact that the state itself is the biggest bullying scumbag of them all that is the reason why I’m personally against putting that power back into its hands. I was going to copy and paste the arguments I made at Julia’s and edit them a little to make a quick post on it here but really there’s nothing much I didn’t say in this blog back in May last year. In short, the state has a habit of granting itself powers and abusing them before you can even say, ‘Hey, I’m just a photographer, leave me alo-aaargh,’ and with that in mind how can we trust that the same mission creep would never be applied to capital punishment? Even if you trust the current crop of politicians you can never be certain that will always be the case. As I said at Julia’s, the Weimar Republic were happy to keep capital punishment on the books just for murder and probably never envisaged a deranged demagogue being democratically elected and going on to pass Enabling Acts so the law could be changed to suit his regime. The handful of murderers the Weimar Republic executed became 40,000 under the Nazis, many of whom were guilty of nothing more than speaking out against the state.

And where is Britain now? Populist leaders democratically elected recently, check – Thatcher on one side, Blair on the other. Enabling Acts, check – Blair and Brown passed lots of mini-Enabling Acts that add up to a great deal of executive power and which, rather worryingly, the Cobbletion doesn’t seem at all interested in repealing. They probably wouldn’t but there’s not much to stop a future fucknuts PM as it is. Still, like Sophie Scholl they can only cut off your head for it once, eh?

But it doesn’t even need that to happen for death sentence mission creep to occur. All it needs is a government under some pressure to save a few quid and look tough for the tabloids.

Minister: Can we release a few more of the minor criminals early?
Advisor: Sorry Minister, that’s political suicide.
Minister: Alright, what about speeding up the death penalty procedures and executing more of the worst criminals? Surely that would be popular?
Advisor: Well, we could certainly streamline the process a little more.
Minister: Only a little?
Advisor: To be honest Minister, after removing the right to a final appeal for clemency to the Queen there’s not that much scope left beyond processing the paperwork more quickly.
Minister: Right, do that then. Anything else? Could we extend execution to other serious crimes?
Advisor: Such as, Minister?
Minister: Well, what have we got now? Murder, obviously.
Advisor: Yes, and terrorism, rape and sexual assault of minors.
Minister: Okay, then we just need to know what the papers are baying for blood over at the moment. You take The Daily Shriek and I’ll look through the Gnash Of The Teeth.
Advisor: People seem very concerned about drugs again, Minister.
Minister: Okay, shall we say any second offence of dealing Class A?
Advisor: I can draft it this afternoon, Minister.

First offence? You’ll probably get off with crucifixion.

So without rehashing the case against capital punishment any further I’d like to expand this whole argument into a simple principle of restraint on the power of the state. A golden rule on limiting executive power, if you will. Simply put it is this:

Never give your government any power that you wouldn’t also be comfortable
entrusting to a genocidal dictator.

Now I’m definitely off. Enjoy your weekend.