Monday, 27 August 2007

Okay, someone cue the "Yakkity Sax"...

Kung fu hustle as thief flees on bike

A thief in Nelson chose the wrong place to break into a car and ended up fleeing from 110 uniformed martial arts experts, in town for Chan's Martial Arts School's annual training camp.

I don't mind life imitating art, but when it starts imitating bad farce?

Sunday, 19 August 2007

A confession - my Mum had sex

Admittedly, this is not a huge surprise. We're of Irish descent, not Jewish; it is unlikely that any of us deriving from the Emerald Isles were immaculately conceived. But here comes the shocking bit - she had it before she was (gasp) married. In fact, I was a healthy slightly larger than normal baby born "premature", if you know what I mean. My grandad was a farmer; he owned a shotgun.

Now in NZ, better than half of children are "illegitimate". Back then, the sequence of events was very very far from unusual. There's not that much to do in the Wairarapa. So she got knocked up, they got married, they split five years later. Not much of a story, really.

However, my maternal grandparents raised sheep. They didn't make a living pandering to the religious right nutbars who believe unmarried sex is Teh Evil.

"Miss Bush and Mr. Hager became engaged Wednesday 15 August 2007."

Now, let me see - nine months from 15 August will be, oh, about mid May 2008...

Please note, I am not lambasting Jenna. From what I can see, she appears to be a relatively normal fun-loving young woman, if shallow and moderately spoiled (and it is the privilege of the young to be shallow). I'm pointing a finger at Bush and the Family Values crowd that have let him lead the US into a moral abyss involving killing people over the last six years because they believe he shared their obsession with who sticks what into whom.

Jenna seems to have fucked her boyfriend. Bush has fucked his country. Go, Jenna.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

The difficulty with being a political spouse...

You have to make lame excuses and get the media speculating you're a flake.

The simpler explanation is that Cecilia Sarkozy is relatively normal, and simply can't stand being in the same room as the man. Or, for that matter, has a sense of conscience and believes screaming and attempting to strangle a President might not be conducive to international relations.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Tell us again how noble the USA is (part 2)...

And another story:

SANGIN, Afghanistan — A senior British commander in southern Afghanistan said in recent weeks that he had asked that American Special Forces leave his area of operations because the high level of civilian casualties they had caused was making it difficult to win over local people.

Other British officers here in Helmand Province, speaking on condition of anonymity, criticized American Special Forces for causing most of the civilian deaths and injuries in their area. They also expressed concerns that the Americans’ extensive use of air power was turning the people against the foreign presence as British forces were trying to solidify recent gains against the Taliban.

The US army is very very good at breaking things and killing people. This is, in general, a good thing for an army to be - it's considerably better than not being any good in these tasks.

It does not make an army noble. It does not make an army a suitable tool for all political tasks. It does not make every given goal possible by the use of military force.

And it certainly does not prevent war from being evil, those that take part in it from being drawn into that evil, and those condoning it from engaging in a moral evil.

I think this post is mostly filler...

I figure I better throw this in as some kind of break between the last and the next, otherwise I'll be accused of being too negative. And so...

(Blame The Poor Man)

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Tell us again how noble the USA is...

The Black Sites - A rare look inside the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program

Confidentiality may be particularly stringent in this case. Congressional and other Washington sources familiar with the report said that it harshly criticized the C.I.A.’s practices. One of the sources said that the Red Cross described the agency’s detention and interrogation methods as tantamount to torture, and declared that American officials responsible for the abusive treatment could have committed serious crimes. The source said the report warned that these officials may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act, which Congress passed in 1994. The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications.
The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. “It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,” an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. “At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”
According to sources familiar with interrogation techniques, the hanging position is designed, in part, to prevent detainees from being able to sleep. The former C.I.A. officer, who is knowledgeable about the interrogation program, explained that “sleep deprivation works. Your electrolyte balance changes. You lose all balance and ability to think rationally. Stuff comes out.” Sleep deprivation has been recognized as an effective form of coercion since the Middle Ages, when it was called tormentum insomniae. It was also recognized for decades in the United States as an illegal form of torture. An American Bar Association report, published in 1930, which was cited in a later U.S. Supreme Court decision, said, “It has been known since 1500 at least that deprivation of sleep is the most effective torture and certain to produce any confession desired.

Under President Bush’s new executive order, C.I.A. detainees must receive the “basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.” Sleep, according to the order, is not among the basic necessities.

In addition to keeping a prisoner awake, the simple act of remaining upright can over time cause significant pain. McCoy, the historian, noted that “longtime standing” was a common K.G.B. interrogation technique. In his 2006 book, “A Question of Torture,” he writes that the Soviets found that making a victim stand for eighteen to twenty-four hours can produce “excruciating pain, as ankles double in size, skin becomes tense and intensely painful, blisters erupt oozing watery serum, heart rates soar, kidneys shut down, and delusions deepen.”

Words fucking fail me. I will have no sympathy for the Americans killed in the next terrorist attack - by re-electing this criminal administration, Americans - the average Joe Anybody American - have made themselves culpable to torture as an instrument of state policy. Everybody who thinks it was okay to bomb Hiroshima or drop bombs on Berlin should understand precisely why American civilians have no claim to innocence from their government's actions anymore, regardless of which assholes decide to commit the next act of mass murder.

The poodle bites back

UK to ask US to free residents from Guantanamo:

Britain, in a change of policy, has said it would ask the United States to release from Guantanamo Bay five men who were legally resident in Britain before they were detained but were not British nationals.

The decision by new Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government marks a departure from the policy of former Prime Minister Tony Blair's government, which generally held that it was not obliged to seek the release of Guantanamo inmates who had lived in Britain but were not nationals.

It's almost as if Gordon Brown, leader of a sovereign democracy, is putting the wishes of his people before those of the Bush Administration. Is this legal?

But remember - it's all a conspiracy

Extreme weather breaks records in '07:

The world experienced a series of record-breaking weather events in early 2007, from flooding in Asia to heatwaves in Europe and snowfall in South Africa, the United Nations weather agency said.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said global land surface temperatures in January and April were likely the warmest since records began in 1880, at more than 1 degree Celsius higher than average for those months.

There have also been severe monsoon floods across South Asia, abnormally heavy rains in northern Europe, China, Sudan, Mozambique and Uruguay, extreme heatwaves in southeastern Europe and Russia, and unusual snowfall in South Africa and South America this year, the WMO said.

Now, you must remember that any scientists mentioning "climate change" are doing so so they can get their hands on those sweet, sweet research grants, and there is absolutely no evidence to support these wild accusations.

And you'd be a fool and a Communist to say otherwise...

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Getting away with terrorism in the UK

Nuclear Explosions (Prohibition and Inspections) Act 1998:

1. - (1) Any person who knowingly causes a nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life.

"I had no idea that would happen, officer. I swear, I was just trying to get all my plutonium in one place for storage purposes."

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Immigrating to New Zealand - some links

For those interested in further research on immigrating to New Zealand:

The first place to look is here - Immigration New Zealand.

It's possible to get a working holiday in New Zealand - for visitors from the Excited Snakes, this boils down to:

* be at least 18 and not more than 30 years old
* hold a return ticket, or sufficient funds to purchase such a ticket
* have a minimum of NZ$4,200 available funds to meet your living costs while you’re here

Plus some miscellaneous administrative requirements - drug dealers, terrorists and street mimes may have a problem.

For permanent immigration, you can join family here, bring a business here or invest a couple of million, or study here. For skilled migrants, you can work here towards residence or qualify as a skilled migrant. If you're interested in the last category, you may also want to take a look at the immediate skill shortage list or long term skill shortage list. Or you can be an Australian.

As regards New Zealand itself, there's always the official line and the unofficial line.

Hope that helps.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

On insufferably smug SF authors

Charlie Stross, late March 2007:

At the same time, some random gamers in places like the Swedish Foreign Ministry or the French Nazi Party decide they can get some free publicity by staking out some territory and figuratively mooning the straights. Exploding pigs, flying lutefisk, and other whackiness ensues.

And then the tidal wave of mass media awareness arrives, complete with the usual foaming mess of sewage, uprooted trees, and general crap turned out by the tabloid press and cheap news channels as they try to spew one lurid scenario after another through the playground. "It encourages pedophiles! Or terrorists! Kids get into Whizzumajig and fail their college exams! Users get hair in their palms and go blind! Ban Whizzumajigs now, before it steals our precious bodily fluid!"

This is followed by the most desperately attention-hungry members of the political class picking up the stupidest articles written by the most misguided members of the fourth estate, and proposing legislation so jaw-droppingly idiotic that their sane colleagues usually strangle it in the cradle. (See also: the internet, blogs and social network software, YouTube, MP3s, and probably papyrus back in Ancient Egypt. So has it ever been ...)

And now, that Titan of Journalism, the Murdoch empire:

In SL people create their own characters, known as avatars, and live an alternative life, buying goods, real estate and living in a community of more than eight million people from across the world. They go about their lives, attending concerts and seminars, building businesses and socialising.

On the darker side, there are also weapons armouries in SL where people can get access to guns, including automatic weapons and AK47s. Searches of the SL website show there are three jihadi terrorists registered and two elite jihadist terrorist groups.

Once these groups take up residence in SL, it is easy to start spreading propaganda, recruiting and instructing like minds on how to start terrorist cells and carry out jihad.

One radical group, called Second Life Liberation Army, has been responsible for some computer-coded atomic bombings of virtual world stores in the past six months.

More details on Charlie's diary.

The very worst thing about this is that we don't dare annoy Stross even if he is an insufferable know-it-all. It's a bad idea to piss off the man voted Most Likely To Evolve Into A Posthuman Weak Deity-Like Entity.