January 31, 2011

Leaker leaks the leaker

Leaking is getting a bit incestuous.
This week, long-time leak site Cryptome, which was launched a decade before WikiLeaks in 1996, published virtually the entire contents of the then hidden OpenLeaks website. That forced the site to go live in an "alpha" version, but organisers say they don't expect to begin leaking documents until the second half of the year.
Apart from not being able to keep their own site build a secret, apparently OpenLeaks are finding the job they've set themselves a little harder than they thought it would be; this, despite the years of experience they bring from WikiLeaks. 

WikiLeaks rival goes live ... sort of

Annual Stella Awards

It's time again for the annual Stella Awards. For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued  McDonald's in New Mexico, where she purchased coffee. She took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving away. 

These are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head and say WTF?

The top Stellas for the past year:

Kathleen Robertson of Austin , Texas, was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.

Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles , California , won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. This all came about as Carl apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.

Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, had just burglarized a house and was exiting through the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he couldn't get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for EIGHT days and survive on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's insurance company claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish.

Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor's beagle — even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.

Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, got a jury to order a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. Hmmm.

Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware, sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Ms.Walton acknowledged that she sneaking through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. Despite that, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000 — plus dental expenses.

This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was: Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Mrs. Grazinski subsequently sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.

January 30, 2011


Dear Julia

You don't read Wednesday Wisdom™, do you?


Let me run this little reminder past you:

"Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't." Margaret Thatcher

The concept holds equally true if you have to tell people that you're: the Prime Minister; the smartest girl in the room; in charge around here; making tough decisions; getting things done; spending tax payers money wisely; standing together with [insert person or nation of choice]; or the real [insert name of choice].

These mantras, and others like them, if repeated often enough will not bestow authority and brio on the speaker.

Yours sincerely

Safer way to take a country out

Back in the day, wiping a country off the map required at least a nuclear weapon or two.

Fast forward to the new improved - 'no children were hurt in taking this country down' - modern fandangled way to take a country out:
"[I]n Egypt on Friday ... the government of a country with 80 million people and a modernizing economy cut off nearly all access to the network and shut down cellphone service. 

“In a fundamental sense, it’s as if you rewrote the map and they are no longer a country,” said Jim Cowie, the chief technology officer of Renesys, a company based in New Hampshire that tracks Internet traffic.
“Almost nobody in Egypt has Internet connectivity,” Mr. Cowie added. “I’ve never seen it happen at this scale.” 
It's also a new handy-dandy way of knowing whether the revolution has started:  can you download Desperate Housewives, can you SMS, can you tweet, can you Google?  If not, stick your head out the window.
“The government has made a big mistake taking away the option at people’s fingertips,” he said. “They’re taking their frustration to the streets.” 
And when things are really bad:
“Blogs are not important right now. Things have moved beyond that point.” 
Egypt cuts off internet and mobile services

America moves out of dark ages

America is finally moving into the modern era, but they're not rushing it:
In May, the government will no longer pay someone eligible for benefits with a mailed check. Instead, the money will be electronically deposited directly into a bank account or made accessible by a debit card. And by March 2013, the 10 million people who receive checks, out of 70 million people in all, must switch over to direct deposit or use a card.  
Benefits going paperless

January 28, 2011

Julia rolls a losing dice

There's a fraction too much stupid going on at the moment.

Astoundingly stupid is Julia Gillard staking her authority as Prime Minister on the passage of the flood levy to raise a measly $1.8B.  Her intention, so she thinks, is to prove that she, as our leader, can "see what needs to be done and I will do it" confident that Australians will"understand the need for these decisions".

The only obvious "need to be done" is to rebuild Queensland and Victorian regions that have  been flooded.  It's a no-brainer, in the literal sense; it's a decision requiring no thought at all.  Surely it doesn't require stating that even the most intellectually challenged politician can "see what needs to be done".   These activities are not optional and can't be subject to some waffly prioritisatiion against other government spending programs.  No one is questioning the need.  None of us needs be in high office to understand and to agree with the decision.  It's not a demonstration of brilliance or authority.

Just as stupid was the undignified and shrill Gillard demeaning herself and her position by getting into a snippy argument with radio jock Neil Mitchell.  (Although hearing her ask a right-wing talk back radio shock-jock to not patronize her was ironic.) If Rudd had a glass jaw, and that was unarguable, Gillard, it turns out, taken out of the safety of a private office and negotiating extreme compromises, has a disturbingly low stress threshold.  She rattles easily.  Her brittleness was painfully on view (or painfully on aural?  A link to the interview can be found on The Australian site).

Then we have the punters who can't, or refuse, to differentiate between billions of dollars to rebuild infrastructure - something "donations" won't and don't ever pay for - and their voluntary giving, the latter being administered on a needs basis for direct distribution to individuals and families to meet their immediate and personal recovery priorities, whether it be food, new cutlery or clothes or the cost of temporary accommodation.  In fairness to the public, fund raising activities continue and the Premier's flood appeal will almost certainly continue to increase, but it has already slowed and likely won't be sustainable given the abysmal political judgment of the Gillard Government.  Consequences and blowback:  the Federal ALP has still learned nothing. 

Stupid too is a government insisting on a new tax when they have a long record of abusing and misusing our money.  The Rudd Government, with Gillard behind some of the worst spending, had an embarrassing economic record, the worst parts of which were defended in the most arrogant, condescending and dismissive manner by Gillard as the then Minister for Education.   This is the woman now asking us to trust her to with more of our money, to trust her to spend it on essential, not frivolous, reconstruction, and to do so in an economically responsible, rather than accepting the most inflated quotes.  Anyone with half a mind to think will anticipate the bucket running dry and the hat being passed around, again, with a year - and again, Gillard will tell us how well the money was spent, with almost none of the work done.  Let's hope it doesn't pan out that way, but the contemporary federal ALP have only themselves to blame for such cynical assumptions.

We can already see poor judgment in relation to the rebuilding of Queensland with the suggestion that several Queensland projects designed to stop flooding on the Bruce Highway will likely be cut from federal spending to help rebuilding necessitated by ... oh yes, that's right, by flooding! 

Meanwhile, Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, who I'm pretty sure voiced support for the flood levy in the first instance, has now turned a cold shoulder.  Perhaps he noticed that Gillard, in her lengthy speech to the National Press Club, didn't once mention the floods in her home state.  With more than fifty town affected, you might have thought Gillard would give Victorians under duress a word or two of encouragement, if not any funding.  Apparently a Prime Minister can only stand together with select Australians at any given time, not all of them.

And stupid, stupid, stupid is the Prime Minister (yes, lets keep banging on about Julia, because she is single handedly destroying her own government) calling upon mateship like the last recourse of someone entirely bereft of an argument. That's it?  That's the best you've got?  As an intelligent, highly educated woman with 30 years of political experience trying to swing a Bob Hawke is the best you can do?  Sweetie, you're not even in the right decade, and you sure as shit don't have the nonchalance to pull it off.  In fact, your chalance is on show for all to see.  

The Gillard Government is only five months into its term.  Feels like forever.

Big Ted unhappy with flood levy 

Gillard faces battle over levy

Duck Friday

January 27, 2011

Levy - Intellecutally and economically lazy

Dear Prime Minister

The flood levy, to partly fund the Federal Government's contribution to the rebuilding of Queensland, will not be paid by anyone earning less than $50K, which is good, and will not be paid by anyone "hit by the floods".

Hmm, now let's contemplate how that last little bit is going to be written and enacted in law, and how much it will cost to administer, not to mention the cost of prosecuting all those who fraudulently claim an exception from the levy on the basis they were "hit by the floods".

[Update: criteria for the levy exception will be based upon whether or not the person has claimed and received the flood related emergency Centrelink payment, which is not means tested, and, anecdotally, is not being claimed by everyone who meets the criteria.  Eligibility kicks in if the person could not occupy their home for 24 hours, or were without electricity or gas for 48 hours, with the same payment applied to the death of a family member because of the floods ... here.  Ex-gratia income recovery subsidies are also available to individuals and small business ... here.]

It's an odd little precedent to set too; some might suggest innovative or compassionate, but does it mean in future we might see that people going through catastrophic health problems will not be required to pay the Medicare levy for the duration of their illness; will people who have a car accident be spared  petrol taxes for a little while, to help salve the inconvenience; will sufferers of eating disorders be exempt  from GST on food, so long as they promise to eat it and keep it down; will home owners be exempt from rates until repairs are done if they have a house fire or if their roof leaks?

As I say, it's an odd one, and shows very little thought given to the intended and unintended consequences and costs of the levy exemption.  In general, consequences (all of them) are an essential analytic component when developing any government policy, no matter how minor or temporary.

You've said that the Federal Government will contribute $5.6B to the rebuild, of which only $1.8B will be raised by the temporary flood levy.  So, rounding up to $6B and $2B, the levy will only contribute 33% of the rebuilding budget.  In the overall federal budget, again rounding up, for convenience, the $1.8B represents a mere 0.4%.

What’s the point?  That’s the loose change under the middle cushion on the couch.  So, you’re going to incur the wrath of voters across the country - and yet another endless chorus of "no, no, no not going to rehab" from Tony Abbott -  for a pittance?  Why so?  Has the federal ALP simply given up; years out from the next election you’ve decided you’ve lost already, so, hey, why even try?  Is that the story?  Because nothing else would make any sense. 

(Just by the way, flood damage in Victoria is running at about $2 to 3 billion: will you be bunging on another levy to fund the Federal Government's contribution, or will Victoria be getting no assistance?  Certainly no one is raising donations for Victoria, so I guess we're entirely off the federal radar and agenda too.  The mateship thing only extends to Queensland, it seems, and besides, Victoria is littered with safe ALP seats, with plenty to spare.)

I fully understand that the goal is supposedly a political one, that is, to meet a commitment to bringing the budget back into surplus in 2012/13, which also happens to be an election year.  Is achieving the surplus really contingent on such a slim margin, hanging by a thread of 0.4% of the overall budget?  You can’t find this loose change over the next 24 months and still start moving into a surplus?  If not, I'd suggest you're already in deep and sticky doo-doo.

And please, let’s not forget that a surplus means you’ve taken more money from tax payers than you needed to meet all outlays.  Why that’s something to boast about I’ve no idea.  Sounds like poor work performance to me.   All the same, you're going to add this little bit of tax for 12 months, so as to be able to demonstrate that you took far more taxes from us than you needed, inclusive of the $1.8B flood levy, and you'll use all of that surplus tax to do nothing more than show what good economic managers you are, and/or to splash around on pork-barrel promises during the next election?  I'd be impressed at such amateurish politics if I wasn't so appalled.

Everything the Federal Labor Government does seems designed to inflame, infuriate and alienate a perfectly malleable and willing public.  hell, we’ll do a little happy dance over pretty much anything you do, if only – if only!! - it was intelligent, logical, made economic sense, and if only you – you most of all, because you’re the PM – can justify it without being condescending, arrogant and dismissive.

Most of all, if you can justify it without using any hideous hand gestures, which seems to have possessed you in recent months, and which you’re now determined to maintain, in much the way other people might don a necklace of garlic to keep vampires at bay.  The ritual of hands perpetually in motion (is it a case of “out damned spot, out”?) is no substitute for a defensible policy, and that includes new taxes, no matter how temporary the intention or how worthy the cause. 

The Treasurer’s emotive threat that the alternative was to sack teachers and nurses is a lie – the Federal Government has no jurisdiction over the employment of either group of workers.  Treating voters like fools with such spurious nonsense will not win support.  Defending a policy decision with a rubbish alternative, that would never happen, is manipulative, deceitful and shows the level of contempt in which your government holds the public.  Ditto your assertion that you cannot, as a responsible government, borrow money for rebuilding.  For pink batts and empty school halls that aren't needed, yes, but for a catastrophic infrastructure rebuild ... err, no.

I can’t think of a more intellectually and economically lazy and sloppy response to the floods than this pitiful levy.  

You've created a stoush that isn't even worth the dollars raised.  The blowback will linger.  I can already see the irritating telly ads authorised by the Libs during the next election campaign.

The only bright spot is that the ill-conceived "cash for clunkers" scheme has been given the kibosh in favour of spending that will have demonstrable and measurable benefits.

If the garden-variety tax payer isn't already juggling never ending increases for life's essentials and the odd disaster, now we'll be hit with the added cost of living imposed and passed onto every single consumer via an idiot-minded carbon tax.   That's the dirty deal you've done for cutting some of the more costly and demonstrably useless "green" programs.   I'd like to have Bob Brown - he who doesn't actually govern anything, and can therefore be as irresponsible as a two year old and suffer no personal consequences -  declared a danger to the nation.

Yours sincerely 

Incompetence and greed ... guilty, but still profitable

The US financial crisis, which morphed into a global financial meltdown that has yet to see an end, was entirely avoidable.   I think we kinda worked that out already.

It's unlikely anything will change in the American or global financial industries. 

Note, in particular that the American unemployment rate still hovers near 10 percent, but profits have never been better - they're growing fantastically!  The only teaching moment from that for American industry will be:  just keep doing the same old, same old, but with fewer employees. 

Notably, the inquiry wasn't interested in how the gross political weaknesses in the US or how the gross incompetence and greed of the US financial industries bought the rest of the world to its financial knees.  Not America's problem, apparently. 
The commission that investigated the crisis casts a wide net of blame, faulting two administrations, the Federal Reserve and other regulators for permitting a calamitous concoction: shoddy mortgage lending, the excessive packaging and sale of loans to investors and risky bets on securities backed by the loans.

The 2008 financial crisis was an “avoidable” disaster caused by widespread failures in government regulation, corporate mismanagement and heedless risk-taking by Wall Street, according to the conclusions of a federal inquiry.

While the panel, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, accuses several financial institutions of greed, ineptitude or both, some of its gravest conclusions concern government failings, with embarrassing implications for both parties. 

The report does knock down — at least partly — several early theories for the financial crisis. It says the low interest rates brought about by the Fed after the 2001 recession ... and the “aggressive homeownership goals” set by the government as part of a “philosophy of opportunity” were not major culprits.

“The crisis was the result of human action and inaction, not of Mother Nature or computer models gone haywire,” the report states. “The captains of finance and the public stewards of our financial system ignored warnings and failed to question, understand and manage evolving risks within a system essential to the well-being of the American public. Theirs was a big miss, not a stumble.”

Though the report documents questionable practices by mortgage lenders and careless betting by banks, one striking finding is its portrayal of incompetence.

It quotes Citigroup executives conceding that they paid little attention to mortgage-related risks. Executives at the American International Group were found to have been blind to its $79 billion exposure to credit-default swaps, a kind of insurance that was sold to investors seeking protection against a drop in the value of securities backed by home loans. At Merrill Lynch, managers were surprised when seemingly secure mortgage investments suddenly suffered huge losses.

By one measure, for about every $40 in assets, the nation’s five largest investment banks had only $1 in capital to cover losses, meaning that a 3 percent drop in asset values could have wiped out the firm. The banks hid their excessive leverage using derivatives, off-balance-sheet entities and other devices, the report found. The speculative binge was abetted by a giant “shadow banking system” in which the banks relied heavily on short-term debt.

It calls credit-rating agencies “cogs in the wheel of financial destruction.” Paraphrasing Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” it states, “The fault lies not in the stars, but in us.”

Of the banks that bought, created, packaged and sold trillions of dollars in mortgage-related securities, it says: “Like Icarus, they never feared flying ever closer to the sun.”
 Financial Crisis was Avoidable, Inquiry Concludes

January 26, 2011

Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister

I have no experience in being a Prime Minister, nor experience in being a world leader of any description, and by the look of things, neither do you, despite holding a job title that would suggest otherwise.

You bludgeoned your way into the top spot during 2010, and have since blundered at every step, even the baby steps.  When the inevitable comparison meanders into view, the reviled and  departed Kev Rudd looks and sounds cherubic, rational, cogent and statesmanlike  - yes, we almost miss his ways, even if his reign did involve the odd tantrum and working his staff and public servants into early divorce or death.  It turns out they were not the bad old days.

Superficial things matter, and I'm nothing if not superficial, so we'll start there, shall we?

Before I continue, I should remind you that even John Howard - and no one would ever accuse him of being vain; this is the man who had an entire collection of matching top and bottom tracksuits, which he wore in public - eventually succumbed to eyebrow trims, rimless glasses and the occasional new suit.  Howard understood that a Prime Minister's utterings would never receive anyone's undivided attention if his eyebrows were threatening to encroach on nearby suburbs.

So let's jump into the superficial blunders that undermine you, and therefore, the entire country:

1. White jackets, or white anything (other than undies, so long as we can't see them). 

Every time I see you I expect you to start chopping up ingredients, whipping out a skillet and then plating-up a quick, simple and yummy meal  for a throng of journalists.

You're not on MasterChef, you're the fυςќing Prime Minister!  Throw out those hideous white jackets - all 358 of them.

Ditch the pearls too; not because I don't love the occasional pearl necklace as much as the next person, mostly it's because I was already sick to death of them on Julie Bishop, but now that you seem to be sharing jewelery across the floor, I want to scream.

I know someone has told you - no point in denying it, since we can all see the advice writ large across the widest part of your hips - that pear shaped women should wear dark on the bottom, light colours on the top, for a slimming illusion.  It's a lie. (Like the one about "size doesn't matter ...")  It's delusion, not illusion.  It makes you look cut-off, stumpy, and, yes, much larger than you are.

The dark bottom / light top advice is as old as the hills, and just as silly as the makeup guidance that suggests bronzing the sides of your nose and under the chin will give a slimming effect ... the latter just means brown smudges on the sides of the nose and under the chin.  (Not that you attempt to use this 'trick of the trade', as far as I can tell.  Mostly, of late, you are so smudge-free that your appearance has become a walking, talking "before" shot of everything for which there could be a "before".)

Your colouring and the colour white are incompatible.  Where ever did you get the idea that pale redheads look fabulous in white?  You look washed out, sickly, not saintly, medicinal too, but only in the sense of needing medical care.

Finally, white is not authoritative - unless you are, in fact, a doctor or a chef - nor does it  make you stand out in a crowd of men in dark suits, except in a bad, silly, girly way. 

2.  The orange hair has to go, for good of the country.

I know you're proud of being a ranga, but really, who are you kidding?  The years are long gone that there was anything natural about your (or my) hair colour.

My natural hair colour is black.  Truly it is.  Even now, I still tell people that.  I don't dye my hair black, because it would look harsh, fake and would wreck my hair.  Also, at a certain age, all women look a little better with a hair shade a little lighter than their natural colour, whatever it once may have been - that includes you Julia, yes it does.

We all know that women use L'oreal "because you're worth it", but some L'oreal products are not quite their worth, including the hair dyes that fade just a little bit each day, so that by every Monday morning you are sporting a new - faded, brighter - hair colour than the one you had last Monday, and it gets worse every week, until for a few brief and glorious days, right after you have your hair freshly coloured, you look kind of normal, and no one has to wear sunglasses when they're looking directly at you.  Yes, that's the glorious time when you hair looks as if the colour might have come from nature, not L'oreal.

If you're using the do-it-yourself boxed L'oreal, stop, right now - the colour fades faster than a Shane Warne romance.   If your hairdresser is using the usual L'oreal -  and I'd say they are, otherwise you wouldn't have that glow-in-the-dark red going on, and it wouldn't start fading three minutes after you leave the salon - ask them to stop, right now.  You can still use L'oreal (because you're worth it), but you need to use the Matrix range (yes, there is such a thing).  You, or your minions, will need to scout around for the rare hairdresser who offers their clients only the best - non-fading - tint (as they call it in the trade) products.  L'oreal Matrix doesn't have luminous colours, which is great, because you need to move to a light-to-mid brown base, perhaps with a little caramel and a few (very few) blonde and red foils, to keep things lively.  

3. Blunt bobs are frumpy.

Yes, we're still talking about hair - yours.  There's not much of it, but it leads to an awfully long conversation, which is not how it should be, is it?

The blunt cut bob, chin length, is not for you.  Sorry to be so brutal, but you don't have a strong enough jawline for a chin length cut.  You need to bring it up or let it grow down.  Much in the way that a cropped white jacket cuts you in half at the widest part of your person, so too the chin length bob hovers at exactly the wrong point.

And while you're trimming, or growing, a little bit (very little) of movement is urgently needed in the cutting and blowing.  A gentle layering should be sufficient, and keep away from the straightening iron.

4. A nice heal is your friend.

You're a trouser suit type of woman, and I'm fine with that (mostly, although you do look fab in a formal frock on special occasions), but that doesn't mean you have to forgo a heal.  A nice wedge or an interesting court shoe with a good two or three inch heal is not going to hurt your feet or require hours of practice walking.  No need to pretend that you're tall, but no harm in giving yourself a little boost when standing amongst a bunch of tall, and just as often short, men.

5.  Only in the midst of flood, plague or famine can you go sans makeup. 

Yes, I know that Anna Bligh won every heart by repeatedly fronting up to the cameras sans clean hair or makeup, and having had little sleep or food (other than the occasional ham and salad sandwich, which I like to imagine one of her staff insisting she eat from time to time).  The women was in the midst of a flood, a big one, and with no ark at hand all she could do was watch her state go under and do a goodly job of empathising, sympathising and generally making sure she was fully and accurately informed of the location every rain drop and every muddy mass of water.  

You, on the other hand, are unlikely to be in that circumstance on a regular basis, so there is no excuse for presenting yourself with a washed-out face.   A quality foundation, powder and appropriate blusher, a bit of brow colour, a touch of mascara and lipstick, at minimum, are essential; when time permits, whack on and blend some eyeshadow.  Sorry, but you're at the top of the ladder, no one is going to think that your mind has turned to mush because you take a little pride in your public appearance, or because you take a few minutes to ensure that the country is being led by a woman who does, at a certain age, "make  an effort".   The alternative is unforgivable. 

In summary:

Clothes:  same colour top and bottom to elongate the body; in other words - dark jacket and trouser; light or bright coloured tops under the jacket, which can be anything from block colours to florals.

Jewelery:  no pearls, ever; try some light gold or silver strands, and choose from wide range of semi-precious stones that are available just about everywhere (keep it classy, not strashy costume jewelery). 

Hair:  the ranga days must be banished, other than sentimental homage by way of a few foils; get thee a good cut with light layering; snoop around to find the rare hairdresser with the skill to use the Loreal Matrix range of colours and put an end to the never-ending colour fade.  Do not - ever - have a block colour again, you need some life in there - foils are your future. And step away from the straightening iron.

Shoes:  add a bit of height with a nice wedge or a stylish court, and don't be afraid of colour. 

Makeup:  yes, it's not optional.

Yours sincerely 

Wednesday Wisdom

If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking. 


January 22, 2011

Survival of the morooons

 If you've often wondered (as have I) whether the idiots will eventually inherit the Earth, along with the cockroaches, unfortunately we have a little more evidence to support the proposition.

Ashton Kutcher has explained to Men's Fitness magazine that he's in training for Armageddon.
So what's a soothsaying star supposed to do when he sees the end of the world? Kutcher is stocking up on guns and spending hours and hours running the canyons near his home, pushed on by visions of being chased by wild boar. He's also taking daily bikram yoga sessions, and learning Krav Maga, a deadly Israeli combat technique taught to high-powered special ops.

"All of my physical fitness regimen is completely tailored around the end of day. I stay fit for no other reason than to save the people I care about."
Wonder what Kutcher's (and Demi Moore's) backup plan is for when he can no longer obsessively tweet.

Ashton Kutcher in training for Armageddon

Gambling with appeasement

"One day Australia will live under sharia; it's inevitable," he said. "If they (Australians) don't accept it, that's not our problem. We hope, and our objective is to have a peaceful transition, but when you look at history that has never been the case. There's always been a fight. It is inevitable that one day there will be a struggle for Islam in Australia."

Siddiq-Conlon formed Sharia4Australia last year. He said he had three objectives. The first is to persuade Muslims they must hate "taghoot", the worship of any God other than Allah, which includes democracy.

"They must hate it, speak out against it. And, if that doesn't work, take action against it."
His other objectives are to advise elected governments they have no authority to rule, and to educate non-Muslims on the benefits of sharia, including punishments such as stoning adulterers and severing the hands of thieves."
Meanwhile, the apologists continue to crap on about moderate Muslims and the world's politicians, academics and public intellectuals get the vapors at the notion of judging religions or cultures ... or terrorists. 

Let the Muslims take over

Oprah gives little gets big kudos

All a bit icky when you think it through:

Those cars in 2004, for instance, were donated by General Motors, and the people who received them had been selected by Harpo as worthy (on the grounds of poverty or need or good works done for others). In scenes that foreshadowed the great Aussie giveaway, Oprah told everyone ''You get a car. And you get a car. Everyone gets a car.''

Everyone was a winner: Oprah looked generous, General Motors looked generous, the audience members looked ecstatic. Only after the credits rolled did it emerge that some of the recipients would have to forgo the gift because they couldn't afford the $7000 taxes payable on the gift (and which Harpo was unwilling to cover). Bummer, but no harm done to Brand Oprah.

In Australia, Oprah ''gave away'' $1 million worth of computer gear to a needy school (donated by IBM and Hewlett Packard). She gave away $250,000 to a cancer sufferer and his family (donated by X-Box). She gave away 6000 pearl necklaces (donated by West Australian pearl producer MG Kailis) and 6000 diamond pendants (donated by Rio Tinto). And, of course, she gave away the trip of a lifetime to each of the 302 ultimate fans who accompanied her from Canada and America (donated by Australian tourism bodies).

None of which is to say there is not a lot to admire in Oprah's generosity. It's merely to make the point that when Oprah gives, there's a very good chance someone else is picking up the tab - even as she is picking up the glory.
So those car recipients weren't so worthy that they would all actually get a car.

Yep.  A bit icky.

When Oprah gives someone else pays

January 19, 2011

A land of flooded plains

From Kae, who has reported and photographed extensively on her little blog ... in the midst of flooded plains up north:

Global Warming Explained

The truth ... changes nothing

Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom.

Continuining the uninterupted human propensity for being greedy for data and information, but steadfastly refusing to use if for anything, research about how people react to DNA screening shows that it matters not a jot.  Human behaviors and thinking are, as always, persistently resistant to change, no matter the information presented.
While about a quarter of the people discussed the results with their personal physicians, they generally did not change their diets or their exercise habits even when they’d been told these steps might lower some of their risks. 

“We had theorized there would be an improvement in lifestyle, but we saw no sign whatsoever,” Dr. Topol says. “Instead of turning inward and becoming activists about their health, they turned to medical screening. They had a significant increase in the intent to have a screening test, like a colonoscopy if they were at higher risk for colon cancer.” 
This is consistent with public reactions to pretty much anything in the political sphere, such as was amply illustrated when the Pentagon Papers were leaked all those decades ago, and more recently, anything published on Wikileaks - including the US killing of two Reuters reporters and the diplomatic cables.   Give people the truth and they look at it, acknowledge it, and then forget about it.  Nothing changes.  Well, nothing other than the continual whinging about bad governance and, err, gosh darn, lack of government transparency.

A last resort for one recent leaker (although how valuable the leak, since he left Swiss banking in 2002?), was to hand over his data to Wikileaks - at a press conference, not in a dark alley.  (Well, that's progress, in a sense.)  He'd previously offered the information to universities and governments -  the latter of whom always wring their hands over money stashed away, not being taxed, in Swiss accounts - yet no one wanted it, not even the governments with a vested interest in having the information.  They don't want to know the truth either, most probably because, like the rest of us, they wouldn't bother to act on it.

Truth doesn't set us free, it just makes us complicit.

DNA data ... few side effects 

Ex-banker gives data on taxes to Wikileaks

Wednesday Wisdom

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.  

 George Orwell

January 18, 2011

Geoff on the spot

Geoff has been on one of the wet spots, helping a friend in Queensland.

Difficult to fathom how big the collective and individual clean up job, the daunting scale of the recovery. 

Oddly - at least I think it's odd - many people underestimate water; can't grasp the destructive nature of a body of moving water, certainly not in the way they viscerally understand a fire front. 

What's left of a flooded home in Queensland, after being cleaned up? 

Not much, not much at all. 

January 14, 2011

Gillard's discomfort

One of the worst visions offered up by the floods in Queensland has been the continued and repeated inability of our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard to act and be seen as a leader of a nation, and in this instance, her singular inability to eek from her inner self, and to give to the people of  Queensland, the appropriate elements of empathy, compassion, comfort or courage.

Her stiff, stilted presence and utterings have been jarring to watch.  These are the events over which leaders make, break or mend their reputations and legacies.  This is the moment for Gillard to have redeemed herself for the backstabbing, the near-loss election and the subsequent lackluster performance, but she has failed, firstly, as a person, secondly, as a Prime Minister.

Persisting with cloaking her person in white, even when visiting a rain and mud drenched state, is a visual reminder of Gillard's clumsy inability to grasp the nature of her job role and her inability to connect with anything going on outside what increasingly appears to be her strangely limited world.

The woman continues to fail at every step, which is an almost mystifying achievement.

Duck Friday

January 12, 2011

Wednesday Wisdom

The humourless as a bunch don't just not know what's funny, they don't know what's serious. They have no common sense, either, and shouldn't be trusted with anything.

Martin Amis

January 11, 2011

Canberra gets all jumpy about year of rabbit

As many of you will already know, the year of the rabbit kicks off in early February.

The Australian Capital Territory Government has allocated $500,000 to fund rabbit control during the year ahead.  


Canberra warns of impending rabbit plague

January 10, 2011

A fine portrait of Gillard, by Bob Ellis

"She's not well-informed," he says. "She hasn't, I think, read a novel or seen a film with subtitles and I doubt if she has read Encounter or the New Statesman or Vanity Fair or Harper's or the London Review of Books or The New York Review of Books and therefore she doesn't have hinterland. She has not much except a kindergarten sandpit response to things: 'Nyah, nyah you're just jealous because I'm prime minister and you're not.'

"It's perfectly all right for some reason if you are deputy prime minister to do that but when you are prime minister, you have to speak for the nation and I don't think she has discovered what that is.

"One thing is sure - there will be no Gillard era. This is not a 20-year stretch. Civilised people's hands are already over their faces every time she speaks. That cannot last. She has no power, no influence, no friends, no learning. There's not much there."

Julia Gillard's Mouse Pack and Other Dumb Stuff

January 9, 2011

Ken turns 50 and girly

According to Mattel, Ken Carson (former long time boyfriend of Barbie) has been given a makeover for his 50th birthday to ensure that he's still culturally and visually relevant.

The fashion industry has recently gone ga-ga over a cache of young male models who look like very attractive women, which definitely makes the 2011 face of Ken visually and culturally on trend - all he needs is a replacement long blonde wig and he looks, to me, exactly like a very pretty girl.

(Sorry guys, I know you were all heaving a contented sigh over the passing of the whole metro-man thing ... who knew it could get worse, 'ey?)

Business as usual in Mexico

If the daily murder rate in your city reached 27, and if a trip to the local shopping mall held even a chance that you'd trip over 15 decapitated bodies on your way in to buy a loaf of bread, a pair of PJs and a couple of coffee cups, you might think you were dreaming (literally), or leading the sort of terrifying life that would see you and your fellow citizens rescued by a surge of local and/or foreign armed forces in a mega shoot out with the bad guys.

Not so in Mexico, where headless bodies are merely commented upon if the number in the batch exceeds previous records.

The drug trade has won, which means Mexico has been sacrificed for the illicit drug pleasuring of others, most especially the US (a pretty big market), and the rest of the world.

Mexico is a modern country and it is being slaughtered.

This mostly goes by, day after day, with no comment, no action, no hope of improvement and no ending.

15 headless bodies found outside Acapulco mall

January 5, 2011

Wednesday Wisdom

Don't you wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There's one marked 'Brightness,' but it doesn't work.


January 2, 2011

The flood begins

The first of the baby boomers turned 65 yesterday, 01/01/2011.

In Australia, 200,000 of them will turn 65 this year and the retirement flood will continue until 2030.

A generation used to be defined as 15 years, but nowadays is moved around so often - by academics, public commentators and journalists - that one is almost inclined to believe that none of them understand the notion of "generation" at all.

The year 1960 was once the cut off, the last of the boomer babies, but 1964 seems to be the new generational divide, which is pretty much when the first generation of the pill kicked-in, thereby slowing the baby flood.  (And note that the 18 year block shifts all other generational cohorts out significantly, so that Gen X, Y and Millenniums need to revisit within which group they're allegedly defined.)

We already know that the boomers have no inclination of aging gracefully; are not, apparently, content to fade away, but will be the demanding, whining, grasping elderly versions of their younger selves:  they will be heard - loud and often.  

If the prospect of a lot of whinging old folk (all of whom will insist that 65 is the new 50) isn't bad enough, we'll also witness the career whingers - that would be the X and Ys - stepping up to fill the management and leadership roles that they've spent a decade demanding are rightfully theirs for the taking, if only their elders would get the hell out of the way.  Well, now they will be out of the way, and  a lot of resentful and unprepared X and Ys will become the new masters of minor things, as well as masters of the universe. 

May [insert deity of choice] have mercy on all of us.

January 1, 2011

Kodak-Colored Moments are Dead

In a little town in Kansas, the last processor in the world of Kodachrome has discontinued processing.
"In the span of minutes this week, two such visitors arrived. The first was a railroad worker who had driven from Arkansas to pick up 1,580 rolls of film that he had just paid $15,798 to develop. The second was an artist who had driven directly here after flying from London to Wichita, Kan., on her first trip to the United States to turn in three rolls of film and shoot five more before the processing deadline. 

The artist, Aliceson Carter, 42, was incredulous as she watched the railroad worker, Jim DeNike, 53, loading a dozen boxes that contained nearly 50,000 slides into his old maroon Pontiac. He explained that every picture inside was of railroad trains and that he had borrowed money from his father’s retirement account to pay for developing them. 

“That’s crazy to me,” Ms. Carter said. Then she snapped a picture of Mr. DeNike on one of her last rolls."
Kodachrome: 1935-2010