This is the archive of the original tigtogblog

tigtog now posts at the new and improved Hoyden About Town. She also blogs at Larvatus Prodeo and Finally A Feminism 101 Blog. If the new Hoydenspace is down you should find updates below.

Posts begin below the Feed Modules from the blogs named above.

Hoyden About Town

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2006-06-30

The Dr. Mengele of Philanthropy

Even cynical people have noted that by giving his money to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Buffet has resisted the inevitable egotistic temptation to reinvent a working wheel by aggrandising his existing charity foundation in his wife's name, but there's just no pleasing some people.

Pro-Lifers Against Buffett-Gates Alliance:
Warren Buffett's new philanthropic alliance with fellow billionaire Bill Gates won widespread praise this week, but anti-abortion activists did not join in, instead assailing the two donors for their longtime support of Planned Parenthood and international birth-control programs.
The Gates' Foundation has donated less than 1% of its grants to Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood, which is the leading provider of abortions in the United States, has received $34 million from the Gates Foundation over the years - out of a total of $10.5 billion in grants worldwide, according to foundation spokeswoman Jacquelline Fuller. She said the foundation does not fund abortion services, earmarking the grants for other Planned Parenthood programs.

Joseph D'Agostino, a spokesman for the anti-abortion Population Research Institute, said the foundation position "is simply dishonest."

"Abortion services are the primary mission of Planned Parenthood," he said. "If you fund one side of an organization, that frees them up to transfer funds to the other things they do."

Besides, it's not just abortion that's baaaad anyway.

Beyond the issue of abortion, some critics oppose the Buffett and Gates foundations' support for global family-planning and population control programs.

"Some of the wealthiest men in the world descend like avenging angels on the populations of the developing world," wrote Population Research Institute president Steven Mosher, a frequent critic of Gates and Buffett. "They seek to decimate their numbers, to foist upon vulnerable people abortion, sterilization and contraception."

Most of the time such extreme antiabortionists merely make me sigh. But occasionally they exhibit a real flair for polemic one can't help but admire while deploring its targetting:

"The merger of Gates and Buffett may spell doom for the families of the developing world," said the Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, a Roman Catholic priest who is president of Human Life International.

Referring to Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi death camp doctor, Euteneuer said Buffett "will be known as the Dr. Mengele of philanthropy unless he repents."

Hat-tip Stefan, who is jealous that no matter how many zombie books he writes he'll never have enough money to afford that nickname.

2006-06-28

Oh, this brought back bad memories

Rumours have been flying about the death of Sofia Rodriguez-Urrutia-Shu:
Police in Perth have been forced to deny that a man accused of murdering an eight-year-old schoolgirl is one of the killers of British boy James Bulger.
I was living in the UK from mid-'94 to the end of '95, and I remember the effect that the Bulger murder had there. Like the rest of the Western world, the tradition of leading-reins to keep small children close had been on the way out. No more. The way that little James Bulger was lured out of a shop by the older boys while his mother was buying the family groceries was on everybody's mind, and sales of leading-reins had boomed - every parent wanted to make sure they were physically attached to their small children at all times.

I was looked at askance when we returned to Australia and I was still using the reins. But I was grateful for the control over an active toddler while still carrying an infant, and I was still hyperaware of the Bulger case, particularly of the tragic details of eyewitnesses who saw the two older boys tormenting Jamie and thought "something looks wrong" but "didn't want to interfere". None of them called the police.

Not long after returning I saw a group of young teens with a child in a stroller. They picked the stroller up and wheeled it along the top of a traffic barrier, and were putting their faces into the stroller very closely and, as seemed to me, aggressively. My "Bulger!" alarm went off, and I called the police. Initially they weren't too concerned by my description, until I said "I know it might be nothing, but I can't help thinking of all those people in the UK who saw Jamie Bulger with those two boys and didn't call the police. I don't ever want to have regrets like that." Their whole attitude changed.

I was hugely relieved an hour later when they came around and told me that they'd checked out the boys and the kid in the stroller was really the younger brother of two of the teens and they were just mucking around with him. But I was nonetheless glad that I rang.

It was just such a horrible story, lurking naturally in the mythic consciousness, that for this to arise in the wake of Sofia's equally dreadful death was almost to be expected as an urban folklore rumour. Because tapping into people's fears and yearnings for justice is what urban legends do.

Below are some excerpts from the circulating e-mail:
About 3 yrs ago when I was working at the prison we found out that one of the boys (at the time aged about 12) that abducted James Bulger from a shopping centre in the U.K., then brutally raped and murdered him, had reached the age of 18 and had been sent out to Australia with a new identity for his family, etc.
[. . .]
Soon after he got here he assaulted a 12 yrd old girl in a park in Canning Vale and consequently came to Hakea prison but for only about 6 weeks as they couldn't get enough evidence on him and the incident was brushed under the mat.
[. . .]
His parents used to visit him and their photos were on the computers at work and I clearly recall seeing his mum at the Livingston shops one day. I even had his address and because I've got friends and family in the area, I felt I had a right to tell them, stuff the prisons!!
And here we get to the moral meat of the myth:
That innocent little girl and her poor family will never ever be the same again - all because the p*ss weak Justice System and Govt allowed him to live in our country! There is a register for paedophiles so that the community are allowed to know where they're living and yet this piece of sh*t can live on our back door step with a new identity. People winge about illegal immigrants, what about this?
This is a very typical format for the "moral outrage" type of urban myth. There be monsters, and those we've designated our guardians aren't protecting us properly! Note that the person who allegedly worked at the gaol is not named, and there are few checkable details. This is typical of these email chain letter warnings.

The above email has almost certainly merely had material added to the top and tail of an email that's been circulating since last year alleging that the killers had been relocated to Australia (an unsubstantiated claim). The website Break the Chain says:
In October, 2005, Jamie's mother and killers were once again in the headlines as Denise Fergus publicly objected to reports that both of her son's killers may have broken the terms of their release. In June, 2005, a national (UK) newspaper reported that Jon Venables had been treated in a Merseyside hospital for injuries stemming from assault. A term of his probation is that he is not permitted to enter the county of Merseyside without official permission or an escort. A September article in the same paper reported that Robert Thompson, now 24, had been prescribed methadone, presumably to treat a heroine addiction. Use of an illegal (or Class A drug) is illegal and, thus, a violation of his probation. Fergus is publicly calling for an investigation of what she feels is a blatant mishandling of the killers' probation.
Obviously, if the claims of hospital/methadone treatment in the UK in 2005 are true, claims of relocation to Australia are most unlikely. Also, Thompson and Venables are subject to supervision orders in the UK, where they have to report weekly to a police station. There is no way that either man could have been living in Western Australia since 2001, as it is illegal to leave Britain when under a supervision order.

It seems that the coincidence of the suspect's family having gone to the UK in 1992/3 and returned to Australia in 2001 has been enough to get someone who'd seen the earlier email to make 2+2=5. Yet remember all the coverage of the Bulger murder? If one of those boys had been living in Australia before going to the UK and committing the murder, it would have been big news here, with all the neighbours in Perth doorstopped about what sort of kid he was. That never happened. This suspected murderer of Sofia is neither Thompson nor Venables.

Whenever a death as horrific as Sofia's occurs we all want to know why. Everybody wants someone to blame, and a 21-year old man charged with the crime about whom we otherwise know nothing is hardly satisfying. There must be a bigger reason, someone to blame, and governments soft on crime is an easy mythical target.

It's rarely as simple as someone just dropping a ball that should have been kept in the air. The reason these horrific crimes linger in our imagination is that they are so rare, and rare events are hard to predict. Imprisoning the murderer (assuming that the man arrested is in fact the murderer) is the best we can do, and despite the outrage last week over "pampering" convicted killer Ivan Milat with a TV and toasted sandwich maker, being deprived of freedom of movement is harsh punishment indeed. And at least an adult offender will be given a longer sentence than the child-murderers of James Bulger, which hopefully means he'll never have the opportunity to murder again.

We always want to know who to blame. There are no easy targets to blame here.

Hat-tip: lauredhel
This post has been edited to add incoming information since first published.

US Commentariat schadenfreude

Right-Blogistan is all het up about an email from the founder of top-ranking blog DailyKos to other progressive bloggers asking them to not report on a story unfavourable to an associate of his. This request from Markos Moulitsas is being spun as him having a stranglehold on the talking points of Left-Blogistan. Oh yes, that man's a brilliant one for herding cats. Billmon makes a good case for the spin being the beginning of a swiftboating. In particular, a swiftboating that is aimed at tainting the entire left of blogdom with the evils of "our leader" who counts the beats of our lockstepped keyboards.

Notorious right-wing talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh has been found with falsely-prescribed Viagra and other drugs in his baggage when he returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic. Limbaugh is currently on probation for illegally obtaining the painkiller Oxycontin. Right-Blogistan is het up about the possibility of Limbaugh being set up, because after all, there could be no general reason that the Customs Service would otherwise be searching personal jets entering the USA from the Caribbean, would there?

No, no reason for Customs to search a small plane like drug-smugglers use, coming from a small country full of drug-smuggling bases, which is also a haven for sex tourism. No reason at all.

So yes, Right-Blogistan, you've finally convinced me. Up until now I thought Kos was just a cyberaggrandiser who was more interested in party politicking than issues blogging, and was not actually nearly as powerful as he's made out to be. I was wrong. Obviously, the length of Kos' reach is astounding: he must have told a progressive Customs agent to put those pills in Limbaugh's luggage. Expose this maniac, for all our sakes!

2006-06-26

A whale of a weekend

Had a nice weekend away from the house enjoying the fine weather, so haven't blogged.

On Saturday, the family and I met up with Morgspace and The Other Andrew for lunch at Coogee. It was a perfect Sydney winter's day - bright blue sky, clear air after the rain, and everybody out enjoying the sun.

We had fish and chips and some wine at a picnic table in the beach reserve, then indulged in gelato, then wandered up the hill to the cliffs.

Half of the fabulous selection of gelato; two of those kids are mine.

Having heard reports on the radio all week about migrating whales, I brought the binoculars along, and my confidence was rewarded! Gorgeous leaping whales just offshore from the South Coogee cliff-walk. All along the path cliffward of the dog-park people lined up to watch, the dogs wondering why they weren't getting the attention from all the passersby that they're used to. As we watched people called their friends on their mobiles and the numbers swelled. The whales almost seemed to know we were watching and put on a show for us, continually breaching with huge twisting leaps.


Long shadows and gathering crowds, including police on bikes

When the whales rested, we had dogs to make a fuss of. Couldn't be bettered.


Looking westward back at the watchers; kid with sooky dogs

My lens had insufficient resolution for a good whale image (I have merely vague distant splashes and spumes), but Morgan's lens was better, and so are his photos, so go over to his Flickr page to check them out by clicking on the picture below.



Sometimes I really love this city.

2006-06-23

Please don't suck

Relax, it's not the Twisty bj wars [warning - flameproof underwear required, and you can follow it around lots of other blogs too]

No, Futurama is going back into production.

Zack of Shakespeare's Sister captures my response to this news exactly.

America needs its celebrities to do the RIGHT thing

Every now and then, when I feel I need a good snicker and an invigorating rush of blood to the obstreperal lobe, I read the USA-based conservative punditry website Townhall.

I didn't even bother with the usual wingnut fare of anti-immigration, anti-judges, anti-gay-rights and global-warming-isn't-happening stuff, because that's all just retreaded pap, and I wished for novel pap. (There was no way either that I was going to read the trophy bilebag's column desperately touting her new book by including its name in the title of her column - AC feeds on our outrage, so starve her, people!)

One title stood out though "Anderson and Angelina" (I thought the Anderson would be Pamela, but no) by Debra Saunders. Ooh, Townhall does celebrity smackdown: this should be fun!

Saunder's column was about Ms Jolie appearing on Anderson Cooper's show on CNN. The column opened with a gratuitous swipe at Cooper for low ratings when he took over that timeslot in November 2005 from Aaron Brown. (CNN says the ratings increased when Cooper joined Newsnight as co-anchor, and his book is currently a bestseller, but she wants to paint him as some sort of failure, it seems). Then in terse, pursed-lipped prose she almost reflexively mentioned Jolie's tattoos, her divorce from a Hollywood actor (but not her earlier divorce from a British one) and her recent delivery of a baby "sired by a movie star who just last year was someone else's husband".

Then she got onto describing the actual interview:

It promised to be a package of everything annoying about celebrity culture -- the rich and statuesque preening as they bemoan the plight of the destitute and forsaken.

Not so. As a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency, Jolie, 31, is doing important work as she spreads the word about people who have nothing.
The rest of the piece is fluff about how Jolie is a truly admirable activist (as indeed she is):
I like Jolie's message of hope. Celebrity interviews often emit a vampire-like quality, as breathless interviewers feed on stars' personal tragedies and setbacks and the celebrity-victim comes across as the latest pouty facelift with a story that says, "Poor me."

For Jolie, the focus is on the truly poor, and the many things Americans can do for them if they open their wallets. She sees the suffering, but also she sees the resilience of people who have endured unspeakable loss -- yet it is not too late to help them.

By this stage, with the article nearly finished, I was confused. Why has Saunders been so complimentary of this very non-traditional woman? Where is the extended wingnut whine about her unconventional lifestyle choices I've come to expect? WHERE'S MY FIX!?!

I should have known that Saunders wouldn't let me down. She waited until the very last sentence, after those laudatory paragraphs above emphasising how Jolie's charity work encourages Americans to open their wallets for poor people in other countries. You see, if Jolie wants Americans to do that for other people, then she needs to do something for America in return:

Now, Angelina, think of little girls in this country who see you as a role model. Marry your baby's father.
Oh. Yes. Finding yourself a man who wants to be a hands-on coparent and co-adopt all your children, not just the one he "sired", isn't nearly good enough unless you get that ring on your finger, missy. It's downright anti-American, asking people to donate money to poor people when you're blatantly unmarried with a new baby and we see that the baby's father hasn't run out on you. Why, it's cheating the American people, that's what it is. That's the stuff. Give it to me, baby.

The marital status of Jolie is a recurring theme in Right-Blogistan. Apparently, Pitt going through all the bother of legally adopting Jolie's children and changing their surname to include his own means that obviously he is going to be a meaningless and impermanent feature in their lives, because all that means nothing without a wedding certificate. In fact, the wingnuts would be much happier if Pitt and Jolie had got married without him adopting the other children at all, as apparently then he would "really" be their daddy, instead of just legally their daddy.

Forget about doing good work for people in danger from trivial things like starvation and disease. America needs you to protect all those little girls from unwedded bliss. Right now! Before they get minds of their own!

Give something back to America, you selfish pair - walk down the bloody aisle.

Oh, that was good wingnut.

2006-06-22

Hey, Barista's back

with a lyrical post about nearly dying during his recent surgery.

Wow. So worth reading, and so glad he's back with us.

NYC cabbies cheer as woman's throat slit in street

because she was a transgendered woman.

RIP Amanda Milan.

2006-06-21

Happy Solstice!


Solstice at Stonehenge - picture from here.

So, who does the whole Xmas in July thing, eh?

US Ambassador in Baghdad - grim picture

A cabled memo signed by Zalmy Khalilzad, the US Ambassodor to Iraq, has been leaked to the Washington Post. The Memo is titled "Snapshots from the Office: Public Affairs Staff Show Strains of Social Discord" and The Independent offers a summary:

"The vulnerability of the US position in Baghdad is so great that the Iraqi military units guarding the perimeter of the Green Zone, the heart of US power in Iraq, are now considered untrustworthy."

Australians all, let us read Joyce

(who definitely knew how to explete) for on Wikipedia's list of fictional expletives, at least 5 are credited to the character Stingray Timmins, of Neighbours.

He may possibly be responsible for more, (my eyes started to water), but I rather like "foccacia'd", and I'm pleasantly surprised that the writers gave a nod to Douglas Adams/the Pythons in having the character use "Belgium".

I'm not so pleasantly surprised I'll start to watch it, mind. The only time I've ever sunk so low was when I was living in the UK and homesick for some blue skies and Aussie accents (I wasn't in London, so I rarely heard the latter).

2006-06-19

Fundraising for Medecins sans Frontieres

Mark Bahnisch of Larvatus Prodeo had a great idea - since one of our commentors there had issued a comments challenge that if met would net the LP collective $1000 for our running costs (and the commenters came to the party and kkkkkkk cheerfully coughed up), it was time to shamelessly run with that idea for an even better cause - the quietly efficient and ubiquitous NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (aka Doctors Without Borders) and their ongoing efforts to save lives and limbs in places subject to war, disease and famine all around the world.

Mark, Kim and I are going to jointly donate up to $500 to MSF - $2 for each comment up to 250 comments on the thread Mark's just started - Darfur and the LP MSF Comments Challenge. The comments have to be substantive as per Mark's posted rules, not just "count me in" posts.

Come on over, leave a comment and help us help MSF help out.

UPDATE: we reached the comment target, with help from j_p_z's sub-challenge (see comments to this post) so we raised A$500 from us, US$500 from j_p_z, A$100 from Shaun, and another $250 from j_p_z and cal - over $1350 (haven't bothered doing the conversion from US$).

A big thank you to everyone who read this and headed over to LP to take part.

2006-06-16

Friday Furry Fun: Cat chases bear

From the National Geographic:
June 13, 2006:- Perhaps not since the Cowardly Lion has an animal's appearance been so at odds with its attitude. On June 4 a black bear wandered into a West Milford, New Jersey, back yard, was confronted by a 15-pound (7-kilogram) tabby cat ... and fled up a neighbor's tree. Hissing at the base of the tree, Jack the clawless cat kept the bear at bay for about 15 minutes, then ran him up another tree after an attempted escape.
It's such a great picture.

Hat-tip to Susoz of Personal Political.

Civil unions and same-sex entitlements

So, for the moment, the ACT's civil unions legislation lies in tatters on the Federal Parliament floor.

The conflict between socially conservative ideals about marriage and politically conservative ideals about states' rights* to self-government led to such a tight vote on a Greens' motion to overturn the Attorney-General's veto on the ACT legislation that fourteen senators (including the Democrats' Natasha Stott Despoja - WTF?) stayed away from the session ("paired" so as to not affect the overall vote), and for the first time since Howard came to power a Coalition senator crossed the floor to vote against him, giving Family First senator Steve Fielding the chance to cast the deciding vote.

It ain't necessarily so

Yesterday I spent half the day wondering whether I really needed to go to the dentist about that disturbing cracking sound and brief shooting pain I experienced when taking an inoffensive bite from a Rich Tea biscuit. When I realised that, despite the lack of further pain, I could actually hinge the back cusp away from the filling with a gingerly tongue, I decided that yes, indeed, I did need to go. Even though I was booked to have the temporary filling prepared for a crown in only ten days, it didn't seem like I could wait that long.

But it was getting on. I had to pick up the togster from school by 3:30, then had to be at the tigling's school by 6:30 to collect her from the bus returning from a 3-day school camp. I didn't have time to negotiate with my health insurance provider's dental production-line (sited a half-hour's drive away as well), so I decided to go to a local Newtown dentist for emergency crack-fixing instead. I knew that the dentist I used to go to had had provisions to "bulk-bill" health funds, and hoped that the person who'd taken over his practise still did so.

You see, when I came back from living overseas a while ago, I was informed that my dentist had sadly died, in early middle age, from cancer. This coincided with my health fund setting up their own dental factory, so I thought I might as well go there. As it happens, my GP and my dentist were brothers, but as we'd been away and this had apparently happened a while ago, we didn't feel like saying anything to the GP about his loss. That whole WASP reticence about emotional matters thing.

I was surprised to see in the phone directory that the surname was still the same. Did my doc have another dentist sibling? Had the deceased dentist had a child both willing and able to take over the family business?

No. He wasn't dead. In fact he looked extremely hale and hearty, and was the same efficient practitioner I remembered, with a nicely renovated surgery. And when, after the treatment, he asked whether I used to be one of his patients years ago, I came clean: "well, I know this is going to sound strange, but..."

He howled with laughter, and we both agreed that it was pleasant all round that he was not, in fact, dead. Also that I should have said something condoling to his brother, because then bro would have told me that he was not, in fact, dead. I have no idea why the person I spoke to thought that he was, in fact, dead: because I don't think she was pulling my leg about such a thing.

So the moral is (and I'm sure you'll all find this immensely useful): if someone tells you your dentist is dead, don't automatically believe them.

2006-06-13

Tip for the domestically inexact #2

When one has, due to a throbbing migraine 2 nights ago, inadvertently omitted a crucial step in making pea and ham soup such as say, sauteeing the onions/garlic before browning the bacon hocks (resulting in a soup of almost 1970s homecooking blandness), it is in fact possible to still rescue the rest of the soup! Hurrah!

What one does is make up an onion broth separately, almost as if one were intending to make French Onion soup. The crucial difference is that instead of cooking the onions until they are caramelised with just the right amount of crunchy black bits, one only cooks the onions until they are soft and translucent. Then add a few glugs of medium sweet sherry, and some beef stock, and simmer until the onions start to dissolve into the broth at the edges. Then bring out the wand-blender, puree the onions and broth, and add to the soup in need of rescue.

This is also a good time to remind the domestically inexact that salt should never be added to a soup/stew containing legumes (peas/lentils) while it simmers as it will make the legumes tough. However, once the legumes have discorporated into pea/lentil sludgy yumminess, adding salt will no longer toughen them (it's a reaction with the outer coat of the legume, which by this stage has denatured and dissolved). So, if one's migraine also meant that one neglected to salt the soup after the peas' discorporation and before serving, this reheating-with-onion-broth time can be usefully employed to correct that error as well.

Time for another bowl!

2006-06-12

Best wishes for Barista

David Tiley of Barista is recovering from surgery. There were apparently some minor complications and his stay will be longer than expected, so his break from blogging will also be extended.







Drop by his blog and say something nice, eh? And/or leave him an interesting hungry-mind link to follow when he's up to it.

2006-06-11

Some Current Carnivals

The Tangled Bank
Science Writing: Tangled Bank #54 at Get Busy Livin' or Get Busy Bloggin'.

The Carnival of Feminists: The 16th Carnival is now up on Welcome to the Nut House.

Fifth Radical Women of Colour Carnival at Fabulosa Mujer

Carnival of Education 70th Edition at The Education Wonks

The 36th Skeptics' Circle is meeting at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles.

Some good reading for a rainy long weekend.

2006-06-10

Howard's dad: not just a battler, also a dummy

As in dummy fronting for a corporation rorting the ex-servicemen land grants in New Guinea after WW1, that is. The full story is in The Age.

Two corporations, W.R. Carpenter and Burns Philp, are well documented as having given ex-servicemen the stake money to apply for land grants to copra plantations that were then managed by the corporations until the full price was paid off, and then usually sold by the soldiers to the corporations.. The ex-soldiers didn't receive any income from their plantations (which on paper made them wealthy landowners) but generally received an annual fee from the companies for acting as dummies.

Howard's father and grandfather were both investigated with regard to acting as dummy plantation-owners for W. R. Carpenter, but both they and the company managed to avoid any charges. Howard's father bought the plantations in the late 20s just after losing his job with CSR when he and his wife were expecting the birth of their first child, yet despite losing that job he was able to put down deposits not only on the New Guinea plantations but also on the famed garage in Dulwich Hill. This ran to thousands of pounds, a fortune at the time, which it is hard to account for otherwise than as the Age alleges: from money received by W R Carpenter in return for acting as their dummy in New Guinea.

It's a far cry from the story of saving up to open up your own business without relying on government handouts that Howard likes to tell. Howard Snr conspired with a corporation to defraud the government (and thereby the taxpayers) - it's just a different way of relying on government handouts, and a far less honest one than registering to receive social welfare benefits. By all accounts, Howard's not wrong that his father worked hard to make the garage and mechanics business a success once he bought it. But it appears that it was only corrupt practises that enabled him to build the stake he needed to buy it in the first place.

Ah, yes: but if all the rest of us bludgers just worked hard enough, we could own our own businesses too. You tell us, Honest John.

2006-06-09

Someone in Friendswood, TX, is asking the web an important question

Friendswood, Texas, is the town adjacent to which Ellington Field, the joint civil/military airport servicing Houston, is situated.

Someone from there came to my blog with the Google search string "am i a prophet".

Mr President, I'm sorry to say that no, I really don't think so. I think someone nasty might have been telling you stories to trick you, and make you do mean things. I think you should have a good long hard think about who around you is nasty and who around you is nice. Perhaps the nasty people around you have a noted resemblance to certain Dark Lords of the Sith? Perhaps you should fire them.

Now, don't show this to anybody. Particularly not Mummy, because I'm afraid she's very nasty indeed. Just go sit down quietly while the nice Secret Service people are doing whatever they need to do with organising AirForce One or the motorcade, alright? Don't sign anything. Please, really, not anything. Not until you've cleared your Cabinet of the Sith Lords and their minions in your advisory offices. Then I think you should have a long chat with Colin Powell about what to do next.

I know this is a big thing to think about, but try and enjoy your weekend at the ranch anyway.

A Transhumanist Future?

The whole 666 Number/Mark of the Beast thing and the fact that I'm reading Peter F. Hamilton at the moment has got me thinking about biochips and the future of other technological augmentations of the human body, and how those technological advances will be received in society at large.

Hamilton's futurist novels revolve around the idea of transhumanism, which is the use of genetic engineering and artifical implants (augmenting memory, strength, endurance etc or enabling electronic interfaces to datanets) to enhance chosen human capabilities. He speculates about artificial intelligences (AI), longevity/rejuvenation treatments, interplanetary travel methods, human/AI symbiosis, megascale engineering, terraforming, contact with alien spacefarers and threats of human extinction.

Into this fairly standard science fiction (almost space opera) mix Hamilton throws deeper themes like life after death, genocide and the question of the borders between humanity, transhumanity and possible posthumanity. Definitely epic and more complicated than most, but an excellent read.

Here's some transhumanism references:
World Transhumanist Association and their FAQ
Wikipedia's article on Transhumanism
Introductory Texts about Transhumanism

As one might imagine considering the huge level of individual and societal change that would be involved, there are a lot of critics of the transhumanist ethos, both on practical and ethical grounds.

So, I've got two questions:

A) If someone invents a biochip implant that can interface with external ethernet wireless systems to do at least everything your PDA/mobile phone does, with the capacity for upgraded functionality typical of the electronics industry we see today, that runs off your own body's nerve impulse energy and is proven medically safe over a lifetime, how many here would go for it?

B) Hamilton managed to pull together the wandering strands of his sprawling epic yet again in the conclusion to Judas: Unchained, in a satisfying fashion, but for me it didn't have the "wow, how the hell did he pull that off" factor that the conclusion of the Night's Dawn trilogy did. Was it just that I was expecting him to pull it all together again, so I was a bit jaded, or did he genuinely struggle this time so that the warp and weft was more obvious? (Obligatory spoiler alert: plot details may be revealed in the comments thread)

Crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo

2006-06-08

One thing in favour of compulsory voting

is that the Powers That Be can't put in restrictive local electoral roll practices to prevent the poor and minorities from enrolling to vote.

Hat-tip: Clive the Internet Manager

Fake "Pregnancy counselling services" deceive Aussie women

Weez at Machine Gun Keyboard tells you all you need to know about the law currently waiting to go before parliament that will stop this government-funded scam.

This scam has been imported here from the US anti-abortion activists, where pregnant women phone for advice and are told lies about the effects of abortion and the service refuses to refer them to any clinic that does give accurate abortion advice.

These services exploit a loophole in the false advertising laws because they don't charge for their services. The law to go before Parliament seeks to close that legal loophole.

Rock beats scissors beats paper beats lawyers

Think of the fees that could be saved if this catches on.

Found while googling something else entirely


Just had to share.

2006-06-07

Not a bad start, Kimbo

From The Age, at the end of an article discussing a maverick MP's plan to draft a bill to legislate for same-sex civil unions in Victoria in the wake of the govt's statement that they intend to block the ACT's legislation:

Mr Beazley says he does not support the federal government's move to scuttle the ACT's homosexual union laws.

Prime Minister John Howard today said the ACT's laws challenge the Commonwealth's Marriage Act.

But Mr Beazley said that was not the case.

"I regard the Marriage Act as sacrosanct, I regard marriage as an institution between a man and a woman," Mr Beazley said.

"The ACT's legislation does not offend against the commonwealth Marriage ACT," he said.

"The (ACT) chief minister and his colleagues were very careful to make sure it didn't.

"It's a matter of discrimination and I am against discrimination. That is what the ACT is talking about.

"I do not support the commonwealth doing this to the ACT government.

"I will certainly argue that view within caucus."

Mr Beazley said the Commonwealth should only contemplate intervening in state and territory law when lives are at risk.


With the Howard government arguably framing same-sex unions as a wedge issue, making the Labor response come in the form of a nod to States' rights is probably a wise way to play it. But stop waffling, Kim. Make your message clear.

Stronger language, please. Tell 'em to get a bloody brindled dog up 'em.

2006-06-06

Misanthrope, much?

Initially, when one looks at the site statistics meter and sees a sharp rise in one's pathetic hit rate, one is overjoyed: at last the peeps are listening to me!

But no.

They merely want to know the latest c*l*brity birthing news, or c*l*brity divorce news (especially if it involves parties with missing limbs), or secondary s*x**l organ scandal news, or something even more perverse which you have, unthinking of the ramifications, recently blogged about, even if in the most tangential and nonserious fashion.

Shallow bastards. It's satire, you freaks. Get a bloody life.

He's a dickhead, she's a bitch and the kid is a spoilt brat. All of them.

The rest of you who appreciate snark for its own sake are welcome to remain.

Number of the Beast = AntiChrist (but does it really?)



There is so much ink and electrons spent on the question: who is the AntiChrist revealed by the Number of the Beast? Type "antichrist" or "666" into a search engine and watch the sponsored links to any number of sites theorising the matter appear.

So who can the AntiChrist be?

He snorted cocaine ... He dodged the draft....His friends knew him as an alcoholic womanizer with a bad temper....a complete failure at business until his wealthy friends rescued him. Yet within a few short years he was elected Governor of Texas, and quickly catapulted into the White House in spite of losing the popular vote. Then he was re-elected with last minute help from Osama Bin Laden, in spite of high disapproval ratings. He still couldn't think his way out of a wet paper bag without the advice of his staff .....and yet he's been able to declare an endless war and institute some of the most radical changes in American history ....

....... How has He done it?

I submit to you that George Walker Bush is the ANTI-CHRIST.

There follows here a glorious exploration of numerology, using multiple numbering systems, to prove that George W. Bush's name comes out to 666, the infamous number of the Beast. This particular example is pure whimsy (despite the emails he has received from people taken in, which he answers with a straight-faced tongue-in-cheek), but there are many more serious sites and cites regarding an attempt to prove that somehow the Bush administration fulfils Apocalyptic prophecy. There are rumours that even the late Pope John Paul II feared that Bush might be the AntiChrist, or at least a harbinger.

Of course, a huge number of rigid Protestants have attempted to prove that the entire office of Roman Pontiff over the centuries is the embodiment of the Antichrist. In this they are expanding a theory initially put forward by the Albigensian Cathars, a heretic Christian movement beginning in the eleventh century which the Roman church ruthlessly suppressed via Crusade and Inquisition in the 13th century. (A massacre at Bezieres of heretics and townsfolk alike was infamously ordered by the papal legate "Slay all, God will know his own", an utterance the Catholic Encyclopaedia hotly denounces as both "monstrous" and fictional) This Albigensian theory initially only accused the Pope of being an antiChrist, a term which originally referred to anyone perceived as a false prophet. The accusation has gradually been refined into the Pope being the AntiChrist. Luther certainly bitterly denounced the papacy as the AntiChrist, and popular Protestant art of the time often shows the AntiChrist wearing the papal tiara. The Roman Catholic church has countered with its own interpretations of the AntiChrist as one who will be separate from the papacy and enthroned at Jerusalem, an interpretation now widely accepted amongst the eschatological.

Interestingly, despite popular misconceptions, the word antichrist is never used in the Book of Revelation, the Book of Daniel or the Epistle of the Thessalonians, which are the three most popular books of the Bible used to refer to End Times prophecies. The word is used in only two books of the entire Bible, all in the letters of John:

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. (1John 2:22, ESV)
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. (1John 2:18, ESV)
and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (1John 4:3, ESV)
Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist (2John 1:7, ESV.)
The names used in Revelation are actually Beast, Dragon, Whore of Babylon and False Prophet. Thessalonians refers to a "man of sin" and "son of perdition". Daniel refers to a four beasts, and then a great beast with multiple horns. Certainly they are all meant to be figures that deny Christ, and thus are all antiChrists, but the idea that there is one ultimate AntiChrist corresponding to the Beast of Revelation is one that's developed over time and is never explicitly stated in the Bible - an excellent example of the biblical exegesis/eisegesis conundrum.

And so we come to the effort over centuries to identify the ultimate AntiChrist by the number of the Beast, which is, depending on the scholarly authority one follows, either 666 or 616 (if the latter it means we missed the Apocalypse this year, as it was either on the 6th January for us Imperial Calendar types, or last week on June 1st for the American calendar types).

There's an impressive lineup of contenders :

Paul of Tarsus (alleged subverter of the true message of Jesus)
Nero (according to Preterists)
King Arthur of Camelot
Peter the Great of Russia
Various individual Popes and the Papacy itself (this was actually part of most Protestant confessions of faith until the early 1900s)
The son of Martin Luther (scion of an ex-priest and an ex-nun, of course he would be)
Napoleon
Rasputin
Adolf Hitler
Joseph Stalin
Ronald Reagan
Charles, Prince of Wales or his son Prince William
George W. Bush
The United Nations
The European Union
Dick Cheney/John Ashcroft

The thing all these putative AntiChrists have in common is their political influence. As rotten.com point out:

"It takes a lot of bureaucracy to run the Antichrist enterprise, so he needs to be in charge of something. This provides a convenient excuse to (literally) demonize powerful people whom one resents. Feel free to designate your least favorite public figure as the Antichrist. Go on, try it! It's fun!"


So:

It's David Hasselhoff that really is the Antichrist!

How can one explain the phenomenal global success of one of this country's least talented individuals? There are only three ways.

1. Mr. Hasselhoff actually is talented, but this goes unnoticed in his own country.
2. Mr. Hasselhoff has sold his soul to Satan in return for global success.
3. David Hasselhoff is the AntiChrist.

I vote for the latter -- and perhaps, after seeing the facts involved, the rest of the world will agree.


No, it's Harry Potter author JK Rowling!
(or the books pave the way to the AntiChrist at least)

But wait, there's more: Bill Gates? Paris Hilton, particularly now that she's singing? Even our cashless society itself?

The longstanding obsession with clarifying and anticipating the End Times prophecies sure does distract a lot of people from real things that are happening right here and now.

Crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo, where we've dedicated today to discussing the Apocalypse amongst our usual fare.

2006-06-05

Access to obstetric services in rural Australia as "third world" standard

Tonight there will be a Four Corners programme on shortcomings in rural medical care, particularly for obstetrics and cancer patients.

"RDA federal president Dr Ross Maxwell has told Four Corners that, on the current trend, there will not be a single rural doctor trained to deliver babies in five years' time.

"It will be catastrophic for the people, the women who live in rural and remote Australia, and there will be a group of women who can afford or it may suit to come to Sydney to have their babies, but the majority of women that won't be the case," he said."

Successive governments at both State and Federal levels have stood by while rural medical practitioners are not replaced. What needs doing to attract more and better trained doctors and nurses to our rural areas?


Crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo.

2006-06-04

PowerPoint Is Evil

This is the title of an apparently well-known essay of which I only just became aware, from Wired magazine in 2003, by Edward Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale.

The subtitle is "Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely."

"Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials. Elementary school PowerPoint exercises (as seen in teacher guides and in student work posted on the Internet) typically consist of 10 to 20 words and a piece of clip art on each slide in a presentation of three to six slides -a total of perhaps 80 words (15 seconds of silent reading) for a week of work. Students would be better off if the schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something."


Now I think Tufte has a point, (a huge pointed pointy point) but I will raise a small defense of Powerpoint as a tool in developing a thorough writing style for children like my high-functioning autistic son, aged 13, who has large verbal challenges and is strongly visual-information oriented. This is an approach I've taken with him since he was about 9.

Typically, I make him read several encyclopaedia articles before getting on the web, we do a Google search together and find a few other information sites for him to read, and I get him to write down the dreaded bullet points in a text document as he reads the source material.

Then I get him to set those points up in a Powerpoint presentation, grouping the points together in logical progression 3 or 4 to a slide, and reward him for having done that work by allowing him to choose an illustration for each side (simple animations were allowed when he was 9 and 10, but are now strictly verboten). He loves this visual representation part of the assignment. Does it waste time? Sure, a little bit, but it keeps him engaged with the task.

Then, for the essay/speech he's been assigned, I tell him to write a paragraph expanding each bullet point on the Powerpoint slides.

The last, tricky part that he's still coming to grips with: make sure that the logical link between one paragraph and another is clear. If it's not, then a short linking paragraph needs to be written. This is the only point in the process where I'll actually help him put his sentences together (I do give him broad editorial advice at earlier stages, and I do sub-edit the final product for obvious howlers).

At the end of this process, he usually has a reasonably well put together essay or speech, at least for a 13 year old. It's certainly not the way I learnt to write essays, but it seems to work for him. Thoughts?

Hat-tip: An Anachronistic Mom, who hatessssess Powerpointsss, yessss she doesss.

2006-06-02

Why does this woman hate everything I stand for?


Angelina prefers cheerios cereal for breakfast.


I prefer Swiss muesli.

Why doesn't she like what I like?


Can't she see that muesli is good for one? That by choosing muesli I am
doing not only what is good for my body, but that which has the flavour and
texture I prefer? That I am following a family tradition that I cherish?
Setting an example of values and good life habits for my children?

Clearly, by choosing cheerios she is displaying her contempt for my choice
of muesli. She must hate muesli, and want to have it banned so that
everyone will eat cheerios instead.

Why does she have to oppress we mueslists so by speaking positively of
cheerios?

And that's just the beginning of her evil.

Because she adopted, she must be anti-those who bear their own offspring.
Because she's just given birth, she must be anti-childfree.
Because she fed her daughter bottle-formula, she must be anti-breastfeeding.
Because she's a working mother, she must be anti-stay-at-home mums.
Because she's pro-gay-unions, she must be anti-traditional-marriage.
Because she's non-religious, she must be anti-faith.
Because she's bringing her son up Buddhist, she must be anti-Christian.


Why yes, I am thinking of certain public debates about manufactured conflicts between groups of people who've simply made a different personal choice from other people they see around every now and then.

Why do you ask - are you an anti-allegorist?

Oppressor!

Friday Random 10 - Almost an IMS dream edition

My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme From Titanic) - SwitchBlade Kittens
I Can Make You a Man (Reprise)- The Rocky Horror Picture Show
New Morning - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Wild Wild West - Escape Club
Rock The Casbah - The Clash
Joy - PJ Harvey
OK - Ani DiFranco
I Say A Little Prayer - Aretha Franklin
Kawaii - Coda
The Anchor Song - Bjork

If only Escape Club and Rocky Horror Picture Show hadn't snuck their way into the list. So much more cred if I'd had the original Oz Rocky Horror stage show soundtrack- although whilst we love the Reg Livermore, Tim Curry conveys eyebrow lifts so perfectly just with his voice that he's irresistible. I have absolutely no excuse for Escape Club. Shut up.

It's going to a rainy grey weekend, with plenty of time for reading and listening to music. I think we'll re-aquaint ourselves with Laurie Anderson this weekend while wrapped up in the toils of Peter F. Hamilton's latest tome - what are other people's favourites for a wet weekend?

2006-06-01

Women with weapons

Well, this thread over at Larvatus Prodeo has all your Amazonian inspiration needs in stock. You have to go about halfway down the comments thread before they start appearing, but black catsuits and sharp pointy weapons are abounding.

That'll teach Liam to make bets about economic policy debating etiquette threads.