September 30, 2009

Death penalty is costly

The death penalty in the US doesn't just cost the lives of the criminally and humanly abhorrent, it's damned expensive!
The eventual cost to taxpayers in Maryland for pursuing capital cases between 1978 and 1999 is estimated to be $186 million for five executions.

Perhaps the most extreme example is California, whose death row costs taxpayers $114 million a year beyond the cost of imprisoning convicts for life. The state has executed 13 people since 1976 for a total of about $250 million per execution.
And that's not counting the cost of a bullet or finding a functioning vein in which to inject a lethal dose.

High cost of death row

Wednesday Wisdom

The ordinary resources of empirical observation and ordinary human knowledge give us no warrant for supposing that all good things are reconcilable with each other.

Isaiah Berlin

September 29, 2009

Philosophical Interlude


PS.
No one ever died wishing they'd had less sex - no one. Better sex, different sex, sex with different people to those actually encountered, maybe, but never less.




Roman Polanski

From child rapist to Oscar winning director to international incident.

And that's excluding the most difficult and heart-breaking aspects of his life.

Angry celebs and European pollies are joined in their outrage, as Roman Polanski sits in a jail in Switzerland awaiting extradition to the US.

I truly don't know what to make of this brouhaha.

When all is weighed up, I have to side with the victim, who has long said she didn't want any further action taken against Polanski, in essence, because it drags her back to a rape that she wants to forget. I'd much prefer to see her feelings being the decider.

Meanwhile, celebrities and pollies publicly foaming at the mouth to defend Polanski, is a tawdry spectacle.

If this is killed off for the wrong reasons, we will all be complicit in something deeply shameful, intrinsically abusive and hypercritical.

International bid for Polanski release

September 27, 2009

Religious groups will still have to put up with breastfeeding women

Mr Hulls will protect the right of hundreds of church-run organisations - including schools, hospitals and welfare services - to refuse to employ or provide services to people who they believe may undermine their beliefs.

Under the deal, Mr Hulls will allow church groups to continue discriminating on the grounds of sex, sexuality, marital and parental status and gender identity. But they will be unable to discriminate on the basis of race, disability, age, physical features, political beliefs or activity, or breastfeeding.


Leading discrimination law expert Professor Margaret Thornton said it was a win for fundamentalist religious groups. ''In terms of a person's private life … their sexual preference or marital status really has nothing to do with their ability to perform a job. Being able to discriminate on marital status is particularly absurd. It is really out of date. It really amounts to the policing of women because the focus is on single mothers, not on men.''

Government bows to religious right

First time for everything

Airline chief executive, Philip Meeson, was given a telling-off by the police instead of being awarded a special medal of some kind for showing outstanding, once in a lifetime, leadership and inspiration.

Life's unfair like that.

The first chief executive in the history of mankind to genuinely give a shit about customer service and his precious front line staff got the vapors, calling in the police.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Meeson was unrepentant, saying he didn't want his customers having to queue to check in.


"There was a great long queue, which is not what we want, and staff were sitting there doing nothing,” he said.

Mr Meeson, reasonably, had reacted by vigorously swearing at his staff, which, in due course, led to his chat with police.

So wrong.

Police called as airline chief berates staff

September 26, 2009

Random prayer

"The Brooklyn Tabernacle operates a prayer line on which people can call or e-mail requests. The evening I visited, Cymbala read a request from a woman who had recently been evicted. “She’s either from Virginia or her name is Virginia,” he said, squinting at the paper in front of him. “Either way, I want God to help this person and the others who have contacted us for prayer."
Err, so, will it be the whole of Virginia that gets a little heavenly help, or all the Virginia's scattered across the US?

Accepting personal requests, yet being a little sloppy, careless, over the intended recipient strikes me as false advertising. One way or another, Virginia, she of much implied faith, was short changed.
"The tabernacle’s missionary to Haiti then took the stage and launched into a long, bitter account of her difficulties getting her car out of customs in Port au Prince. In heavily accented English she asked the congregation to pray against the Haitian customs assessors. Cymbala stepped in and asked the congregation to pray for a miracle — and to help make it come true by donating $8,000 to liberate the mission’s automobile. I calculated my share at $3 and paid gladly. In the absence of faith, works."
I'll have to take it on faith that the missionary was providing an example of the wrong way to pray. I'm sure the Haitian customers assessors didn't warrant a prayer inviting vengeance or smiting against them.

Journalist Zev Chafets goes in search of the intricacies of good prayer practices ...

The right way to pray

Father Bob's public tanty pays off

The little suburb of South Melbourne is home to 16 brothels, with a 17th on the way.

This is the suburb that is also home to the "alternative face of Catholicism" that Father Bob offers and presides over.

Turns out that Father Bob is another of those Catholic priests who believes his personal brand of religion is superior to that of the church for which he works.

He hasn't articulated what his "alternative" Catholicism is, exactly, and there seems to be no particular narrative, other than something or other with Father Bob at the epicenter.

Father Bob, has done a deal with the church to delay his retirement until February 2012, on the condition that he hand over all financial management of the parish to Archbishop Hart.

Bob, on breakfast radio during the week, carped that he would no longer be able to feed the poor.

It was a perplexing statement, given that Father Bob insists he has never taken money from his church to pay for the activities of a charity that bares his name and collects donations from the public. Left hanging was the question why, without his hands in the church plate, Father Bob's personal charity would, as seemed to have been suggested by the man himself, be instantly broke and unable to deliver deeds of good for the down and poor.

The day after the announcement of the offer of reprieve from the Archbishop, Father Bob was pictured in the daily tabloid with his thumbs held up to his ears, fingers splayed, dumb grin on his face. It was the gesture of a six year old saying "nah, nah, nah, nah". The only thing missing was a poked out tongue.

This vain, childish man, this inarticulate fool, has the "popular support" of the public, and the Archbishop, wimpishly, in my view, fell for it.

Father Bob gives atheism a good, and almost godly, image.

Stays until 2012

National Punctuation Day

Oops, a tad late with this, but I'm sure you were all on top of National Punctuation Day, right?

Visit the "Dear John" letters, here ...

Punctuation matters folks, yes siree.

September 25, 2009

Irony

All of the gaming consoles in America use about the same amount of electricity each year as the whole of San Diego.

Also in the US, households now contain about 25 consumer electronic products, compared to just three in 1980.

Energy needed to run appliances has decreased, thanks to legislation, but no one has mandated energy efficiency for "gadgets", the latter category including energy guzzling flat screen televisions.

Just as we're daily being exhorted to reduce, reduce, reduce our electricity consumption, life is such that there's almost nothing we do that doesn't require energy.

Remember when making a phone call or reading a newspaper didn't entail using electricity?

Yep. It wasn't that long ago folks. And look at us now.

We may as well hook ourselves up to a power grid IV drip.

No need to guess the nightmare of energy dependent humans trying to figure out, some time in the future, how to get through a day with no gadgets, no electricity.

Meanwhile, despite there being no pig to human or human to pig transmission of swine flu, Egypt went ahead and needlessly killed 300,000 pigs earlier this year. Now the blow-back of that irrational act: piles and piles and piles of rotting garbage in the streets of Egypt. The pigs used to be excellent garbage disposal units.

Plugged-in age feeds a hunger for electricity

Belatedly, Egypt spots flaws in wiping out pigs

Duck Friday

September 23, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

Wit makes its own welcome, and levels all distinctions. No dignity, no learning, no force of character, can make any stand against good wit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

September 20, 2009

Not ƒυςќing sorry

Kev is refusing to say ƒυςќing sorry to his comrades for ƒυςќing well swearing at them in a private meeting.

You know private, right?

The type of meeting to which journalists and cameras are not invited, and, therefore, the contents of which could only leak to the outside world if one of the attendees decided to have a bitch to the media, all on the quiet, of course.

Allegedly
:

"The outburst two weeks ago left the hardened ALP operatives shocked."
Oh puh-leaze.

Suck it up you hardened little operatives.

Stop wasting your faux shock on something so utterly mundane.

Kev's F-bomb blitz

A little too much Turnbull

Australian pollies, thank god, rarely resort to the religious or the biblical.

Malcolm Turnbull, the vigorously unpopular leader of the opposition, dipped his toe into biblical territory during the week, proving that the path to hell is paved with pollies daring to use the lord's words in convoluted and mortifying ways that are best left to the privacy of one's home.
"Turnbull turned his eyes to the heavens and declared, "Now in the New Testament we are told in Corinthians of faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love, and that is so true. Both Lucy (his wife) and I believe very firmly in and practice love to all we can."
Way too much information.

Not dwelling too long on his marital love practices, Turnbull attempted to reassure his audience over the global shortage of water:

"Malcolm ... got very wound up about the shortage of water on the Earth, and turned to the Bible to reassure us things can improve.

"It is interesting that in the Bible water is a constant metaphor," he extolled. "Of course, that is how we are baptised as Christians in water, literally.

"But as a dry country the idea of water, its unpredictability and its importance occurs throughout the Bible, so I was pleased to see that you have highlighted in Isaiah 41, verse 17, this passage: When the poor and needy/are dying of thirst/and cannot find water/ I, the Lord God of Israel,/will come to their rescue. I won't forget them. I will make rivers flow on mountain peaks. I will send streams/to fill the valleys./Dry and barren land/will flow with springs/and become a lake."

Malcolm the lover of all then turned to Psalm 126, verse 4, which reads "Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the streams in the Negev".

And just like that, a little gaze to the heavens, a little random scripture, and our water woes were solved.


Turnbull's love is never in short supply


September 18, 2009

September 16, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

Love can be sordid only if you work at it.

Brooke McEldowney

September 14, 2009

Educational tid bit

Genuphobia: fear of other people's kneecaps.


September 13, 2009

Slow news week drags on

Wasn't there any important news in the country or the world this week?

Not according to the Melbourne media, who have kept us breathlessly updated on the mandatory retired processes of the Catholic church, most especially as it affects one Father Bob of South Melbourne.

The church holds onto these guys until the overly-ripe age of 75 years, after which they keep them housed and supported until death.

Father Bob, just incidentally, has kept his parish in deficit, to the tune of millions, for eight out of the last 11 years.

Apart from the adoring support of his parishioners, Father Bob apparently has the vigorous support for his ongoing priestishness of "leading politicians and business leaders who were trying to convince Archbishop Hart to let Father Bob continue his work".

Which is noice.

My care factor?

Jack shit.

When one Catholic priest hits 75 and has to retire, why are we all forced to take an interest?

Congregation gets behind Father Bob

When we play god

Inadvertently disrupting the ecosystem is unfortunate, albeit, most often far more foreseeable than we pretend (hell, how difficult is it to think through consequences people?!). Playing god, on the other hand, applying the full force of our arrogant vanity, is - or should be - inexcusable.

Our collective goal of "reversing" the temperature by one or two degrees over the next 100 years is fraught with dangers, as are the many geoengineering solutions being touted and tested.

Geothermal solutions, to extract heat from the Earth, a new, cleaner source of energy, are already proven to cause earthquakes.

It takes barely a jot of imagination to think through the opposite geoengineering solution so enthusiastically being promoted by the doomsayers: pumping carbon emissions into the Earth.

We really need to step back from the precipice before we cause some real damage folks.

German geothermal project - Earth rumbles

Code Red

Not very original, not based on extreme weather event warnings, and I fear it will engender a large number of otherwise civilian people urgently donning scubs, running around with furrowed brows yelling "stet, stet!": extreme danger fire days will henceforth be called "code red" days.

Here ...

September 11, 2009

Are we sentivitve or what?

Yet more leadership and sensitivity from the Australian media!

There is no end to our bravery!

Announcing to the whole world that an 18 year old girl is a hermaphrodite, this information stemming from a unofficial leaked report, before the lass has been informed, counseled, or in any manner consulted about whether she wants to share, with every stranger on Earth, the state of her sexual organs - jeez our journalistic standards know no bounds. Really. None.

BTW folks, look out for all the assumptions around the amount of testosterone naturally being generated by the not yet officially confirmed testes tucked away, and therefore plying the lady with an unfair advantage: just because testosterone is being released doesn't mean it's all available for use by the body. Hormone level, and therefore the benefit of that hormone, is affected by binding proteins and whatnot (the latter being the technical medical term, for our purposes).

Caster Semenya - World champ's gender mystery solved

Duck Friday

September 9, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

Every man is wise when attacked by a mad dog; fewer when pursued by a mad woman; only the wisest survive when attacked by a mad notion.

Robertson Davies

September 8, 2009

Out of order

Family First Senator, Steve Fielding, has a learning disability, and aren't the media having a field day!

Truly uncool.

Drop it you stupid shites.

Steve Fielding ...

September 6, 2009

Poor, poor, pitiful him

Chris Brown “rose to fame” as a teenager, so did his former girlfriend Rihanna. Truly, I wouldn’t recognize their music if it was the only thing playing on the radio.

Big stars they might be, but only to those under, err, 14 years old. That’s a wild guess on my part, but it’ll do.


As we all know, Chris Brown beat-up Rihanna earlier this year. His punishment is some community service and to keep away from Rihanna. The latter sounds altogether sensible, and should not have required the wisdom of a judge.


Now that the legalities are out of the way, Brown is parading himself around as some poor misunderstood man full of passion and goodness.


His latest song is titled “Changed Man” – oh yeah, should have seen that coming.


“Ima make it up to you / and show the world / I’m a changed man / And everybody hates Chris / they can never understand / so can we love? / can we love again?”


Brown is throwing himself a pity-party and we’re all invited.


He’s hoping that redemption is a cheap as a pop song, which, these days, it just about the right going price.


It’s tough to figure out what lessons he has learned, or from what he seeks to be redeemed, being as he can’t remember and won’t admit to having done any wrong.


Brown claims he can’t remember bashing his girlfriend in February. He says – surprise, surprise – “that’s not who I am as a person, and that’s not who I promise I want to be”. Must have been who he is as a flowerpot, or a ballpoint pen.


Brown is boggled by the police reports “I just don’t know what to think”, he told Larry King. Maybe he thinks it was his evil twin, or some random guy from a parallel universe.


Turns out that Brown’s fuzzy-wuzzy memory problem extends to other lost moments of violence. February wasn’t a first for Brown. Two other confirmed incidents, both involving Rihanna, did not result in police reports. Brown insists he is “unaware of those instances”. Don’t you hate it when you just plain forget stuff like breaking car windows her throwing your girlfriend against a wall?


Youth, it’s damned hard. So Brown tells us:

“Nobody taught us [sic] a book on how to control our emotions or our anger,” he said.

Hey, don’t we all wish we’d been taught that book, the one about not bashing people up just because we’ve got the shits about something?

“But I’m not saying domestic violence is part of relationships”.

Phew. Glad he cleared that up. All is forgiven. *Hugs*


During his full-time and full-on tour of redemption, Brown also appeared on Oprah.


During the program, Oprah repeated one of her well used, and irrefutable mantras: “Love doesn’t hurt. And if a man hits you once, he will hit you again”. (Once in a while, even Oprah resorts to sense instead of new-age gibberish.)


Poor Chris Brown, knocking himself out to mend his image and Oprah tries to make him out to be some sort of woman-beating jerk. Come on, the guy can’t even remember hitting anyone!

“I commend Oprah on being like, ‘this is a problem, but it was a slap in my face.


I did a lot of stuff for her, like going to Africa and performing for her school. She could have been more helpful, like, ‘OK, I’m going to help both of these people out’.”

Cry me a river.


What a pathetic, driveling little excuse of a man.



Chris Brown forgets stuff, like whenever he bashes up women

Girly swat strikes again

Managing global and regional interdependence: the future of the G20 and an Asia Pacific community by Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia.


Yep, Kev has been at it again. Another week, another essay.


You’d think he was still in high school trying to make head prefect, rather than the dude who should be putting his time and oomph into running this little country.


Is the G20 under threat of any kind? Is the Asia Pacific community verging on being in tatters?


Nah.


Yet, our Kev thought this non-happening was worthy of a 28 page essay in an international journal.


The essay title isn’t what you’d call compelling, and the content is fulsomely presented in bland, meaningless English, the use of which Kev is a guru.


Big surprise that the American journal of Foreign Affairs declined to publish Kev’s essay.


This might be why:

''For some, this may seem a pointless theoretical discussion of political taxonomies,''


''incremental bifurcation'' in the Asia-Pacific region between China and the United States


''remain vigilant against the possibility of alternative contingencies''


''need to work with the extant political vocabulary within China's national discourse''


''China is the elephant in the living room that can no longer be ignored'', he writes, one that ''stands in a league of its own'' and ''needs a seat at the main table''.


''The core challenge here is that the current edifice of global institutions is not strong enough to carry the weight of the challenges we face,'' he writes. ''There is a yawning gap between the capacity of existing global institutions designed to deal with the challenges of the past, but insufficiently mandated, resourced or representative of emerging power realities to deal with the challenges of the future.''


Rudd variously describes the G20 as an ''incubator of global initiatives'', ''an enabling agency'' and ''a brokering mechanism'' for international action.


''In short, the G20 should act as the lightning rod for global leadership: articulating principles, defining broad objectives and crafting political consensus.''

China the “elephant in the room”? China ignored? China without a seat at the table?


Jesus H Christ, where the hell has Rudd been? China has always been too big to be ignored. No one has ever ignored China. As for legitimizing the Chinese political regime by offering them the status and influence of membership in all kind of forums is repugnant.


Elephants, yawning gaps, incubators, lightening rods, taxonomies. Sheesh. Someone, please, keep Kev off the keyboard. It's embarrassing.


Spiked! The essay that never went to print


Full essay

September 5, 2009

The axis of evil

Populate or perish. Save the dolphin, save the world. Reduce carbon emissions or die.


Pick a platitude, we have plenty. None of them especially compatible or complementary.


Life is getting a bit heavy with the hackneyed, which is irritating in itself, more so when it makes dolts of us all.


Somewhere along the line, sooner or later, hither or thither, we’re going to have to make up our fucking minds what “survival” means, whose survival, why it matters, and which crisis is the most morally pressing of our age, because we can’t keep dicking about over every friggin’ crisis that pops up. It’s tiring.


Each new crisis diverts from the last unsolved crisis. Each new moral imperative diminishes the blushing compulsion of the last 326 moral imperatives.


I’m worried about Japan. Aren’t you?


They don’t make babies, mostly because they don’t have sex, and even when they have sex, many of the women don’t want any babies (or marriage), because breeding results in 70% of women in Japan retiring, permanently, from the workforce. That’s an awful lot of productivity lost to the world’s second largest economy, but never mind. Let’s not quibble over matters of repression and equality when the future of Japan is at stake.


They don’t like immigrants in Japan either. They do let foreigners in, as temporary labor, they let them stay for a while, but it doesn’t matter what they do, they can never be a citizen. It’s not that the Japanese are racist or anything (that's only true of Australians; we're the most racist country in the world), they just prefer to keep the purity of their country and culture to themselves, thanks very much. You don’t think their economy got to where it is by diluting the bloodlines, do you?


But seriously, Japan’s population is going to plummet into a pit, and bang goes the neighborhood, not to mention their economy and superfluous and the daily flow of electronic gadget consumption the world over.


I figure if the population of Japan drops by 25% during the next 40 years, we should all do a happy jig for the environment. Well, someone has to be sacrificed to save the planet, and if the Japanese are offering to go first, who are we to stop them?


But, noooooo. Instead of celebrating this willing human sacrifice, our thought leaders are in a lather, fretting over Japan’s inability to populate. This is especially troublesome for Australia, since Japan is one of our most important trading partners.


Totally sucks to have to choose between economic prosperity, resource-leeching humans, and the environment, doesn’t it?


Although not much.


Seems the decision is pretty easy.


Let them breed, let humans flourish across the lands, because, you know, there aren't enough of us already.


Survival rests on social revolution

Can't keep their hands off it

Men still write history, still determine community, culture, politics and society. Men frame the way we all see and speak of the world and its inhabitants. Which is strange, deeply disappointing, given that women use the interwebs just as much - some studies suggest more - than young lads and young men.


I feel as though I'm being a bit harpy about this (not that's there's anything wrong with being a harpy), but so little has changed in my life time, so very little. Well, it's becoming rather depressing.

"As he spoke, a chart showed the self-reported demographics of Wikipedia contributors — more than 80 percent male, more than 65 percent single, more than 85 percent without children, around 70 percent under the age of 30.


Some Wikipedias are dominated by articles about pop culture, Mr. Wales pointed out, especially Japanese Wikipedia; according to one of his slides, barely 20 percent of the articles on Japanese Wikipedia are about anything else.


More profoundly, he said that Wikipedia was losing sight of its commitment to give everyone in the world a free encyclopedia, particularly people in sub-Saharan Africa. “Is it more important to get to 10 million articles in English, or 10,000 in Wolof?” he asked."

Wikipedia tries to figure out how to get anyone interested other than young guys with no life

September 4, 2009

September 2, 2009

Wednesday Wisdom

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.


Ralph Waldo Emerson

September 1, 2009

Super sized warning

In the week leading up to the weekend of February 7 & 8 2009, Victorians were warned, repeatedly and forcefully, from everyone with a modicum of authority, including the Premier, that fire conditions were dire - worse than dire: the perfect bush fire conditions were pending. Those conditions, we were told, were guaranteed to result in fires. "Extreme fire danger" was the standard label. This was not a drill.

The English could not have been more plain.

The warning could not have been more unambiguous.

Responding to the Bushfire Royal Commission's interim report, the State Government is going to implement new fire warnings, based, oddly, on cyclone category warnings.

The highest "megafire" warning, along with other, yet to be announced warnings, are *designed* to give clearer guidance on conditions.

Will that translate to "Mega fire danger"?

If so, WTF does that mean, you know, in relation to FIRE?

Mega refers to large numbers.

Is mega a clearer expression of of the confluence of conditions that create extreme fire danger conditions? Really?

Here are the standard cyclone warning categories:

Category 1
Strongest gust less than 125 km/h
Typical effects (indicative only) - Negligible house damage. Damage to some crops, trees and caravans. Craft may drag moorings.

Category 2

Strongest gust 125 - 170 km/h
Typical effects (indicative only) - Minor house damage. Significant damage to signs, trees and caravans. Heavy damage to some crops. Risk of power failure. Small craft may break moorings.

Category 3
Strongest gust 170 - 225 km/h
Typical effects (indicative only) - Some roof and structural damage. Some caravans destroyed. Power failure likely.

Category 4
Strongest gust 225 - 280 km/h
Typical effects (indicative only) - Significant roofing loss and structural damage. Many caravans destroyed and blown away. Dangerous airborne debris. Widespread power failure.

Category 5
Strongest gust More than 280 km/h
Typical effects (indicative only) - Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction.

So, are we all clear about the conditions that create fire danger in Victoria?

'Megafire' warning set to be introduced