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Missing persons report

Although we’re getting say a 20 per cent decrease in rainfall in some areas of Australia, that’s translating to a 60 per cent decrease in the run-off into the dams and rivers. That’s because the soil is warmer because of global warming and the plants are under more stress and therefore using more moisture. So even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems, and that’s a real worry for the people in the bush.

Professor Tim Flannery, February 2007
(ABC Landline interview)

My house is under water here. Where the fuck is all this water coming from? Did someone say the dam’s full? Nah, can’t be. Can it?

(Probably) someone living downstream of the
Warragamba Dam in NSW, this weekend

The noted environmentalist and warble gloaming activist Professor Tim Flannery is currently presumed missing.

Concerns for Professor Flannery, named Australian of the Year in 2007 and appointed head of Prime Minister Gingery Dullard’s Climate Change Commission, have arisen since he can normally be relied upon to talk very loudly about warble gloaming whenever the weather does anything. His failure to put in an appearance and speak at length on how the rain currently falling and filling the dams proves his point that even the rain that falls won’t fill the dams has been described as ‘deeply worrying’.

Many have suggested that heavy rainfall filling dams in fact disproves Flannery’s prediction and that this may be the real reason for his silence. Meanwhile meteorologists have said that just possibly a mammologist/palaeontologist, even one who’s written books about warble gloaming and has campaigned very publicly on the issue, should leave the weather predicting business to them.

In response a Commission spokeswoman said that Professor Flannery, who is reportedly paid $180,000 a year for a three day week role as the impartial Chairman of the absolutely neutral body set up to sell the need for a carbon tax to the Australian public, is currently in Germany. Whether this was a particular part of Germany with no access to phones or internet and thus leaving him unable to explain why the rain has been caused by the drought was not said. The recent series of cold European winters has been ruled out as a possible cause of being unable to communicate from Germany, allowing speculation as to Tim Flannery’s whereabouts to grow.

Okay, joking aside now. I have to be fair here and say that Flannery is no doubt very busy on something or other in Germany and anyway it is only just the one dam that’s fil… oh.

Yeah, that’s a bit more of a problem, especially as this is of course the second year in a row that parts of Australia have experienced the kind of flooding rains that we were told wouldn’t happen again because of the kind of droughts we were having instead. Perhaps we shouldn’t be listening quite so much to predictions of future doom without bearing in mind voices of past observers, such as one I’ve mentioned here once or twice before.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die-
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my Heart, aka My Country – Dorothea Mackellar, 1911

Obviously there’s a difference between careful scientific observation (a whole other argument which I’m happy leave to folks such as Anthony Watts) and poetry, but really it doesn’t sound as if in a country supposedly ravaged by warbly gloamed climate change things have actually changed much at all. Droughts, check. Flooding rains, check. Cattle dropping dead, check. Steady soaking rain, check. Mackellar’s words are as relevant a century on as they were when she wrote them, whereas Tim Flannery’s talk of what rain we are going to get being inadequate to fill the dams seems debatable after only five. It wasn’t a prediction involving a specific date but nonetheless I’m adding it to the list of warble gloaming dates for your diary.*

It’s been a few months since this list was updated and in all fairness to Tim Flannery it must be said that with a claim that four or five billion people will be dead by the end of this year his prediction is actually one of the more sensible ones on there.

 

* This is actually a double update because I’ve just noticed that I haven’t got that one about British kids never seeing snow again.

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Iran’s Defence Ministry – apparently just like everyone else’s

Click for linky

Well done, geniuses. And how many battleships are currently serving with the navies of the world? With the Yanks having retired their last ones years ago I think the answer is very roughly approximately none. Yes, America has aircraft carriers to sink, but you don’t need to sink one to put it out of business – you just need to do enough damage to bugger its ability to launch aircraft. I’m no expert but I guess that might be the reason the Yanks don’t let them sail around on their own but supply each carrier with a bunch of other ships to support and protect it. All of which makes me think this ‘sink a battleship’ stuff is more about willy waving than anything else. No doubt it will go bang nicely if it hits a ship that gets within the 125 mile range but realistically that’s not going to be the US Navy all that often, and it’s not going to be anyone with a battleship except time travellers from the past. Tankers and freighters on the way in and out of the Persian Gulf, yes, but why make a battleship sinking missile for that?

No, I think this is more about giving the rest of the world the shits, and the only sensible response is the mature and dignified one. We all run up to the nearest Iranian embassy and yell “H4, H5, H6” at the top of our lungs and then run away again.

Your five a day is going to kill you

This was only a matter of time, wasn’t it?

AN APPLE a day is supposed to keep the doctor away, but a small but passionate group of Melbourne medics believes apples and other fresh fruit are in part to blame for the extra kilos some of us are carrying.

And if you’re a bit of a fatty then you’re a salad dodging couch potato who’s already under a deferred sentence of self inflicted death, aren’t you? The Institute of Stands To Reason Dunnit (among others) has told us so.

It is a controversial concept that riles nutritionists, but anaesthetist Rod Tayler’s theory that restricting fresh fruit in the diet can result in weight loss has been borne out by the participants in a trial he is running at the Epworth Hospital.
Dr Tayler believes the biggest driver behind the rapid rise in the nation’s girth is sugar, not fat.

Actually I’m not sure this is all that new. Sugar is a carbohydrate and there are lots of low carb diets, Atkins being probably the most well known, and plenty of people who find that they lose weight that way. And it is, or should be, pretty common knowledge that fruits, berries and vegetables contain lots of sugars. It’s why they taste so good. Sweetcorn? Yes?

Mary McPherson, 60, was astounded to learn how much sugar she was consuming as part of what she thought was a healthy vegetarian diet that included four to five pieces of fruit a day. By reducing that to two pieces – ”some berries and a banana” – Ms McPherson watched excess weight fall off.
”It was a slow loss of weight but in six to eight months I dropped about 10 kilograms and I have kept it off,” says Ms McPherson, who now weighs 60.5 kilograms.
Instead of snacking on fruit, she ate dry roasted almonds. Occasional sweet cravings were satisfied with a single piece of dark chocolate. She also followed Dr Tayler’s advice to reduce refined carbohydrates such as white rice and pasta, replacing them with brown rice and sweet potatoes. But she struggled with his recommendation to cut back on alcohol and continued to enjoy two glasses of wine with dinner

Oooh, they’ll get you for that, Mary. Probably should have kept shtum about it or at least said you’d cut down like Katrina.

Katrina John, 26, a nurse who subscribes to Dr Tayler’s recommendations, says that by cutting out the two to three pieces of fresh fruit she used to eat each working day she not only lost one kilogram in a fortnight, she started thinking more carefully about everything she ate.
”Then I removed the dried fruit from the nut mix I used to have every day and I stopped drinking orange juice on the weekend and I think it all made a big difference,” Ms John says, adding she lost seven kilograms in seven months as she also reduced her alcohol and white carbohydrate intake.

Needless to say not everyone is thrilled to hear this.

Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton rejects the argument, saying there is no evidence for it, pointing out that Dr Tayler’s sweet study has not been published in a medical journal. ”I think what they are doing is mixing up fruit and fruit juice,” Dr Stanton says.
[…]
Dr Stanton says that overall fruit consumption in Australia is low and it is a struggle to get most people to eat the recommended two pieces a day.

Two? I thought it was five? And am I right in thinking that ‘nutritionist’, unlike ‘dietitian’, is not a legally protected term here? Not saying that Dr Stanton is unqualified or anything, and what she’s said there doesn’t seem unreasonable to me (and of course Dr Taylor being an anaesthetist is away from his normal field of expertise here anyway), but my point is that all this advice we get on what to eat and what not to eat is hardly clear. One week butter is good for you, the next it’ll murder you in your sleep. We must eat five pieces of fruit and veg per day, then we get fat if we do and anyway it was really only two per day all along.

What’s the right advice? Don’t ask me, I’m as unqualified to give advice on eating as they come. But what I can tell you is that moderation in all things seems like the most sensible approach as well as the most pleasant (the idea of an all sprout diet doesn’t bear thinking about), but I know it’s not an ideal I live up to in reality. And yes, I could stand to drop a few kilos – I did say I was as unqualified as they come. The point is that there’s no magic food and no magic maximum or minimum number for what’s ‘good’ for you. For many things too much is bad, and invariably too little isn’t a goo idea either. If you’re not happy or not well then probably you need to change something. Otherwise the only thing I’d really suggest is not to read the newspapers too much, because consuming more than five articles on health per week is incredibly dangerous and is likely to send you to an early grave.*

* Research pending. 😉

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.

What did I say?

In the post a few hours back (actually written Friday evening) I mentioned that we in the west seem to get hung up on dates and anniversaries of major events, and if those events are a disaster inflicted deliberately we think that the enemy responsible is likely to do it again on the same date. Quite why he’d want to do that rather than pick another day at random or simply go when he’s ready is rarely addressed, and I can’t help feeling that it might be a western thing anyway. Remember the Alamo! Pearl Harbour! 9/11! So I’m not surprised to read this:

The US has warned of a “specific, credible threat” ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, possibly in New York or Washington DC.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the threat was “uncorroborated”, but security would be boosted at bridges, tunnels and on public transport.

That the 9/11 hijackers chose September 11th rather than February 26th, the anniversary of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, is something else that doesn’t get mentioned much. In fact the only case I can think of offhand in which an anniversary figured was the Oklahoma City bombing carried out by Timothy McVeigh, who chose the second anniversary of Waco to carry out his attack. And since McVeigh wasn’t responsible for Waco but as he saw it was attacking in response to Waco I’m not sure that really counts. If September 11th marked some date in which the US or the west had done something specific to piss off Alky-Aida then perhaps there’d be a reason for them to mark that down in their calendars as getting-killed-for-the-cause day, but otherwise…

I dunno, maybe there really is a genuine cause for concern, but it seems to me that Alky-Aida could just as easily make a few noises about the tenth anniversary as a shit stir and then go back to milking the goat. Or it could just as easily be confirmation bias and we’re twitching at shadows because we’ve half convinced ourselves that the people who attacked ten years ago attach some special significance to that date. I’ll eat my words if anything does happen – and I mean more than some wide-eyed teenager with a milk bottle full of petrol damaging a police station or something – but I reckon any particular day is no less likely than any other. And no more likely either.

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.

We’re all going to die, yet again

I was going to write something about the latest example of greenie toad licking / pushing the warble gloaming bandwagon along to keep those grant cheques coming, this NASA paper paper co-authored by a NASA affiliate about how Earth might be destroyed by aliens as a punishment for our warble gloaming sins (blogged at WUWT and the Real World Libertarian) and enthusiastically printed by The Grauniad. But aside from having little to say that’s not already been said, in particular the point brought up by WUWT that this was a “fun paper by a few friends” that nonetheless ended up passing peer review to be published in the journal of the fucking IAA, I think The Daily Mash have done it far better than I could have.

MORK from Ork will blast your face off unless you reduce your average fuel consumption to 62 miles per gallon, scientists have warned.

Experts said intelligent extra-terrestrials will detect increases in the Earth’s CO2 emissions and wipe us out because studies into 14 different species of intelligent extra-terrestrials have all confirmed that is exactly how they behave.

[…]

Professor Henry Brubaker, of the Institute for Studies, said: “We now need to have a debate about whether angry alien genocide research is more terrifying than one of those book covers that has huge waves crashing against the middle of Big Ben.

“And it has surely got to be more effective than some fucking documentary called ‘The Last Gnu’ or ‘Cry Me a Desert’.”

He added: “My initial research confirms it is now imperative that we pinpoint a likely planet from whence our murderers will emanate and then publish painstakingly accurate drawings of what their flying saucers will definitely look like.

“We should also give them a name. I suggest ‘the Monbions’.”

The Monbions! Priceless. I imagine their flying saucers will somehow look like an archaeologist in nuclear explosion propelled fridge jumping over a shark. While you’re trying to work out how anything could possibly look like that why not go and read the rest?

Welcome to The Asylum

In So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, the late Douglas Adams introduced us to a minor character by the name of John Watson or, as he preferred to be called, Wonko the Sane. Those who’ve read it will probably recall Wonko’s unusual house and the reason for it being that way, but for those who don’t know the story this is how the book put it.

His house was certainly peculiar, and since this was the first thing that Fenchurch and Arthur had encountered it would help to know what it was like. It was like this:

It was inside out.

Actually inside out, to the extent that they had had to park on the carpet.

All along what one would normally call the outer wall, which was decorated in a tasteful interior-deisgned pink, were bookshelves, also a couple of those odd three-legged tables with semicircular tops which stand in such a way as to suggest that someone just dropped the wall straight through them, and pictures which were clearly designed to soothe.

Where it got really odd was the roof.

It folded back on itself like something that M. C. Escher, had he been given to hard nights on the town, which it is no part of this narrative’s purpose to suggest was the case, though it is sometimes hard, looking at his pictures, particularly the one with all the awkward steps, not to wonder, might have dreamed up after having been on one, for the little chandeliers which should have been hanging inside were on the outside pointing up.

[…]

The sign above the front door read “Come Outside,” and so, nervously, they had.

Inside, of course, was where the Outside was. Rough brickwork, nicely done pointing, gutters in good repair, a garden path, a couple of small trees, some rooms leading off.

And the inner walls stretched down, folded curiously, and opened at the end as if, by and optical illusion which would have had M. C. Escher frowning and wondering how it was done, to enclose the Pacific Ocean itself.

[…]

“Your wife,” said Arthur, looking around, “mentioned some toothpicks.” He said it with a hunted look, as if he was worried that she might suddenly leap out from behind a door and mention them again.

Wonko the Sane laughed. It was a light easy laugh, and sounded like one he had used a lot before and was happy with.

“Ah yes,” he said, “that’s to do with the day I finally realized that the world had gone totally mad and built the Asylum to put it in, poor thing, and hoped it would get better.”

This was the point at which Arthur began to feel a little nervous again.

“Here,” said Wonko the Sane, “we are outside the Asylum.” He pointed again at the rough brickwork, the pointing, and the gutters. “Go through that door” — he pointed at the first door through which they had originally entered — “and you go into the Asylum. I’ve tried to decorate it nicely to keep the inmates happy, but there’s very little one can do. I never go in there myself. If I ever am tempted, which these days I rarely am, I simply look at the sign written over the door and I shy away.”

“That one?” said Fenchurch, pointing, rather puzzled, at a blue plaque with some instructions written on it.

“Yes. They are the words that finally turned me into the hermit I have now become. It was quite sudden. I saw them, and I knew what I had to do.”

The sign read:

“Hold stick near center of its length. Moisten pointed end in mouth. Insert in tooth space, blunt end next to gum. Use gentle in-out motion.”

“It seemed to me,” said Wonko the Sane, “that any civilization that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a package of toothpicks, was no longer a civilization in which I could live and stay sane.”

And it’s Wonko the Sane and his house that immediately spring to mind when I read, via Watts Up With That, that fat people are the latest cause of warble gloaming …

Researchers at the Robert Gordon University have completed a study that addresses the link between climate change and obesity.
The academics suggest that global weight loss would result in a drop in the production of the major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO(2)).
The study was carried out by a trio of researchers within the university’s Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology (CORE). It suggests that if every obese and overweight person in the world lost 10 kilograms (or 1.58 stone), the resulting drop in greenhouse emissions would be the equivalent of 0.2% of the CO(2) emitted globally in 2007 (49.560Mt).

… and via this PR that watching TV is as bad for you as smoking.

Every hour spent watching television shortens your life by a little over 20 minutes – on a par with smoking a cigarette, Australian researchers claim.
And the worst couch potatoes – watching more than six hours of TV a day – can expect to die almost five years earlier than people who watch no TV at all, researchers calculated.
Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (online), the Brisbane-led group say Australia’s love of TV poses a significant threat to the health of the population.

Click for linky, and also to increase your risk of developing a need for lithium carbonate

We’ve known for some time that Niemöller’s warning is as relevant today as it ever was, that as victories are won over the smokers and drinkers the rest of us would come in for our turn, and that the salad dodgers would be among the first. And now I think the next couple of phases are becoming clear. Your weight isn’t just your problem anymore and it’s not just for your own good that the swivel-eyed are exhorting you to lose weight. No, it’s also essential to help stop warble gloaming. Yes, folks, we have identified passive obesity, and since we’re also going to be told that TV is as bad as smoking – no qualification, no consideration to the obvious differences between, say, an hour’s telly time after a hard afternoon’s slob and an hour’s telly time after a daily 10km cycle followed by a warm down and a shower – we can expect passive TV watching to be only around the corner. Christ’s sake! I’d intended to sit down with Mrs Exile this evening and watch Sons of Anarchy together over some delicious take-away food from Urban Burger* just up the road in Balaclava.** Actually I still do intend to, but I’m wondering how much longer we’ll be allowed to get away with it if we’re going to be told it’s bad for us and accused of raping polar bears to death with our wanton secondary televisioning.

Wonko the Sane was very nearly correct: the world, or at least quite a lot of people who have a disproportionate say in its running, is completely mad. Where Wonko was wrong is the nature of the insanity. It’s not the harmless*** and almost genteel lunacy of Adams’ H2G2 universe, but a vicious psychosis that increasingly seems determined to stamp out anything it does not approve of – freedom, mostly – and isn’t at all reticent in coming up with all kinds of reasons why having your liberty reduced and removed is A Good Thing. Why you must be nudged into it if you don’t want to and punished if you refuse is rarely far behind.

And so I find Wonko the Sane’s take on house design increasingly appealing. So appealing, in fact, that I might have applied for planning permission if it wasn’t for the problem that there isn’t the faintest hope of the inmates of The Asylum granting it. But I’ve also spotted a critical flaw in the design. Remember that door that Wonko pointed out to Arthur and Fenchurch, the door they had just opened and walked through minutes before to come in from The Asylum?

I reckon it needs a big fucking lock on it.

* Which incidentally serves delicious burgers and chips, and preempts the possibility of food packaging legislation in the future by putting them in plain brown paper bags. I’m absolutely not making that up, and even if it is just coincidental I wouldn’t bet against it one day coming in handy for them.

** Yes, I’m still in Melbourne, not the Crimea, and no, I have no idea why a landlocked local suburb is called Balaclava. After the battle, I think, but why exactly and why that battle I can’t imagine.

*** Okay, mostly harmless.

Aha Shake Nowt Break

Oh noes, we have teh erfquakes.

Click for linky

We’re all going to di… oh, wait.

MORE aftershocks are expected after Victoria’s south was rocked by two earthquakes, including a magnitude 4.4 tremor felt in Melbourne, more than 100km from its epicentre.

The shallow magnitude 4.4 earthquake, which hit at 11.32am (AEST), was felt in Melbourne’s CBD and the city’s southeastern suburbs.

Look, it doesn’t become an 8.8 if you say it twice, you know. There have been a few of these in the last couple of years, the epicentres apparently being in the Korumburra area – or under it, presumably – and to be honest I haven’t even felt them all. If you’re driving a 4.4 wobble is either soaked up by the car’s suspension or indistinguishable from the regular wobbles from imperfections in the road surface, of which Melbourne has no shortage what with having a substantial tram network. Oh, and some shit roads too. As for the possibility of aftershocks, well, we got those after the 4.6 quake in early 2009 but since most were much smaller few got any attention from anyone but the scientists. So why the hell are we hearing stuff like this:

“You would think a truck had driven through the pub.”

Or this:

“It sounded like a truck was approaching up the street and then it was as if the truck had run into the building…”

Orly? Like this kind of thing, you mean?

No? Well, then I think the description you’re looking for is something like “not like a truck hitting the building”. It’s like standing on a bridge when a truck, a big, long heavy truck like a road train, drives past at speed – you get that same shaking felt through your feet and it goes on for about as long as it takes a road train to cross a bridge. It’s weird, yes, and definitely a bit disconcerting, but it is not like having a truck, even a small one, hit your house. There’s a sort of clue in the lack of sudden sky and falling masonry. The poor bloody Kiwis have just had another 6.5 – the thick end of 1000 times more powerful – and even though they seem to have emerged unscathed this time I don’t think we here in Melbourne have any call to exaggerate how our little ≈4 mag wobbles feel, especially when at least one young Kiwi didn’t even notice theirs either.

@UpsideBackwards 8yo didn’t feel #eqnz because…. they were having an earthquake drill at the time! #couldntmakethisup

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.

Be heard

Via email, an update from the I Deserve To Be Heard campaign:

[…] The Government has recently announced that they intend to introduce plain packaging. Now is the time to tell the Government that plain packaging for cigarettes just makes no sense and will not work. Click here

It’s just another policy like the alcopops tax that they have not thought through. On top of unreasonable tax increases and outdoor smoking bans, this is just another example of the Government unfairly targeting you as a smoker.

With cigarettes already hidden behind doors in most shops across the country, plain packaging will just make it harder for you to identify and purchase your cigarettes, causing long queues and all for a policy that has not been proven to prevent or stop people from smoking.

As I’ve said often enough I’m not a smoker, so I’m not being unfairly targeted for being one. But I have no doubt that I will be unfairly targeted for entirely new things in the future, along with virtually everybody else. So if you’re in Australia please do click the link and support the campaign even if you’re not a smoker, and if you’re not in Oz please lend whatever verbal support you can – blog it, tweet it, email it, chat about it over a beer in the pub, whatever. Most of all watch the situation where you are like a hawk, because I guarantee there are people where you are who want this to happen there too. Don’t think they’ll stop at smoking either. There is almost no limit to the number of things that someone somewhere would happily ban because as they see it it’s for your own good.

The choice is a simple and stark one. You support the smokers right here and now, or you hope like hell some of them are still around to support you when it’s your turn.

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.

This explains so much

No comment necessary.

Click for linky

Austria ≠ Australia

Click for linky

Per your own fucking article, folks, that’ll be Austria, not Australia.

Austria’s ORF network has so far banned a total of eight episodes, including one that features scientists Marie and Pierre Curie dying of radiation poisoning.

Australia didn’t get a mention, although the softcocks at Channel Ten have since followed suit.

“All new and repeat Simpsons episodes are, as a matter of course, reviewed before going to air in case sensitive issues are detected, particularly during natural disasters,” a Ten spokesman said.

“In light of this, we have decided to rest certain episodes that refer to nuclear power storylines.” Ten screens The Simpsons on its digital channel, Eleven.

Look, you could find a reason that something in every single episode of every single program ever made might offend or upset someone somewhere. Everyone has sensitive issues at some time or another. What are you going to do, broadcast nothing just to be on the safe side? Of course not. You assume that if someone sees something they don’t like they’ll reach for the remote and turn off or over. And guess what? That’s what they fucking do. Well, normal people anyway. I realise there is a small minority of DOTWs that will carry on watching because it’ll help them achieve offencegasm.* But everybody can tell the difference between cartoons and reality, and if one is an uncomfortable reminder of the other they’re capable of deciding not to watch. They don’t fucking need you to decide for them. Adelaide Now! has a poll up on the subject on that article if anyone’s interested.

Meanwhile at The Teletubbygraph they’ve managed to link detection of trace amounts of Iodine 131 in Oxfordshire and Scotland to Japan’s ongoing problems at Fukushima in a single headline, before going on to say in the article that actually it might not be related at all.

But, just to clarify, Iodine-131 is also used as a radiopharmaceutical.
“So it might just be worth the people checking there that this is not some slight release, just above background, associated with people washing their pharmaceuticals down the drains in Scotland.

And then adding

The risk to human health at the levels that they are talking about, I think, are basically zero.

Nowhere do they mention that 131I has a half life of just over a week and so in a couple of months where it came from will be moot since effectively there won’t be any more than you’d find normally.

in other words it’s the usual bullshit doom laden headline before clarifying in the main article, at a point which the attention deficit generation rarely reach of course, that actually there’s nothing to worry about.

* Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells.

Depressing…

… that somebody thought it necessary to write this sentence.
The latest Japanese disaster is unrelated to the quake that devastated Christchurch last month, which was caused by a fracturing within the Pacific plate.
Really? Two earthquakes more than 8,500km away from each other are not related? Gee, thanks for the heads up, because I was sitting here worrying that when there’s only a couple of weeks or so between two big earthquakes they must be linked even if they are nearly a quarter of the way round the frigging planet apart from one another. And I’d only just finished making my tinfoil hat after reading an news.com.au article titled Moonageddon about the potential (non-existent) for disaster resulting from the Moon reaching the closest point in its orbit next weekend. In fairness the article does explain that it’s complete bollocks being put about by space cadets and astrologers, and I’m not going to take too much notice of someone who thinks that half a billion other people are going to have the same type of day as me because they were all born around the same time of year. It was also depressing that someone though it necessary to write another article explaining that the moon didn’t have anything to do with the Japanese earthquake either. ‘Kinell!
Incidentally, I don’t get much traffic from Japan but on the off chance that anyone there does pop in for a look I’ll just add my belated sympathies to that of practically everyone else in the world apart from the small number of fruitloops on the interwebs who think it’s God’s punishment for Pearl Harbour. I’ve experienced the disconcerting feeling of being in a little earthquake and having driven through areas utterly destroyed by bushfire I can well imagine the creeping horror on looking out at the devastation caused by a natural disaster, but I can’t imagine what a big quake is like or what I’d feel looking into the distance to see a thirty foot wall of water heading my way at speed. As it was last month with the Kiwis, my thoughts have been with the Japanese the last couple of days.