P.S. Barack Obama is apparently against prosecuting those who carry out torture.
P.P.S. Both he and Kevin Rudd are boycotting a U.N. conference on racism, because they support the government of Isreal.
Fuck both those snivelling cowards.
Tue, Apr. 21st, 2009, 11:47 am
Really, World? Leaf blowers?
I mean, sure, the leaves are in a nice little pile, but the air stinks of diesal and is full of dirt, which is all slowly settling to cover the ground you just "cleaned". And you just pissed off everyone in the vicinity with exposed eyes, ears, or allergies.
And i watched you doing this for a period of time that surely exceeded the amount of time it would have taken to sweep.
In fact, i'm not sure anyone would have bothered to sweep such a paltry scattering of leaves. And you had this (big, expensive) generator sitting on your back the entire time, that cannot possibly have been good for you.
I don't know why they even exist.
I don't know.
*throws arms up in the air*
Mon, Apr. 13th, 2009, 11:39 pm
Really annoyed at world.
Hate real estate agents.
*Absolutely* hate blinkered, mean-spirited, selfish and evil people.
Hate the way that such people get their poisonous ideas normalised because their psychopathic nature makes them open to threatening and intimidating the other people in their life. Maybe we should all go around shoving people about, then we'd all be so fucking happy. (I wish we would all just shove such arseholes back.)
Hate washing dishes. Hate mould. Hate copper in tapwater. Hate cracks in walls, broken flywire and doors that don't close properly. And lack of room.
(Did i mention landlords?)
Most of all, hate missing out on kismet, time, space and security with friends.Especially
as a result of any of the preceding hateables.(Yes, that broken flywire is always foiling my plans with my friends.)
(that last one was a joke.)
'Dramatic footage obtained by the Guardian shows that the man who died at last week's G20 protests in London was attacked from behind and thrown to the ground by a baton–wielding police officer in riot gear.
Moments after the assault on Ian Tomlinson was captured on video, he suffered a heart attack and died. ...
The video shows the guy ambling along, a group of police with batons, dogs, etc... come up behind him, he gets prodded and has a dog nip at his heels for a bit, one of the cops gives him a nasty shove (the guardian says it looks like he's hit with a baton, but i don't think the cop is holding a baton - still, hardly the point (but see the link provided by an anonymous commenter; a BBC reporter playing the footage frame-by-frame says "one officer appears to hit Tomlinson in the back of the legs with a baton")
) and the guy falls over.
The police kind of crowd over him while he's on the ground. You see him protesting his treatment from the vantage point of the sidewalk, and apparently he had a stroke soon afterwards.
Also note, as the friend who sent this to me puts it, "it's interesting that it was a hooded anarchist who helped the man up to his feet after the assault...supposedly the anarchists were throwing bottles at him in the fairy-tale released to the media by the police.
From the Guardian article again;'Witnesses said that, prior to the moment captured on video, he had already been hit with batons and thrown to the floor by police who blocked his route home.
One witness, Anna Branthwaite, a photographer, described how, in the minutes before the video was shot, she saw Tomlinson walking towards Cornhill Street.
"A riot police officer had already grabbed him and was pushing him," she said.
"It wasn't just pushing him – he'd rushed him. He went to the floor and he did actually roll. That was quite noticeable.
"It was the force of the impact. He bounced on the floor. It was a very forceful knocking down from behind. The officer hit him twice with a baton when he was lying on the floor. ..."
Fri, Apr. 3rd, 2009, 03:23 pm
Oh my! Abusive TV star and occasional abusive chef Jamie Oliver served dinner at the G20;http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=1797
He could have made a friendly joke out of the G20 leaders support for "austerity measures", and given two of the delegates (say, Barak Obama and Gordon Brown) access to the fairly heavy menu advertised, while everyone else got tins of beans.
To cut down on government spending (i know thats something they all beleive in!), a single spoon could have been shared between the bean-eating delegates.
And because they're such supporters of free trade, a competition could have been held to determine who gets hired to help Jamie prepare the meals! Talent scouts could have been sent around the world to find the right kitchen staff. Start at a dollar an hour wages, and see who can bid the lowest! Bonus points if you're willing to put up with a few floggings to make up the night's entertainment.
He's such an intelligent, witty person, i'm sure he could have come up with something.
I caught some of the G20 protests on Lateline last night.
The bias in the journalism was fairly predictable, there are some things about it that struck me as worth noticing;
* No exploration of the problems people have with the G20 conference and those involved. Nothing but vague references to there being "a range of groups". Compare this with the unquestioning
relaying of news from within the G20 itself - we get lots of information about the disagreements between G20 members, and the plans these people have come up with - almost nothing at all on any plans or opinions or disagreements from outside the conference.
* Despite the violence of the protests, we only ever get to see a couple of short clips or shots of broken glass. Nothing to indicate widespread violence.
* A lot of the shots of the "violent" nature of the protest look a lot like police officers pushing people around (and getting yelled at in return), but the narration always discusses protestor violence. In stark contrast to the clips already on YouTube showing lines of shield & helmet clad police waving batons and surging forward into masses of unarmed, unprotected people. Clips not used in "official" news reports.
* A report that one protestor was killed, with no follow-up comments, analysis or signs that the journalist tried to figure out what the circumstances were. Leave it to crazy lefties to fill in the witness reports and analysis that the media aren't interested in reporting.
* A predictable bias in favour of the
World Leaders inside the G20 conference, with the reporter making adoring reference to those brave men and women working to solve the worlds problems.
The journalist involved was practically suckling on their toes.
I guess some
of us know our proper place: kneeling before these mighty Giants of the World Stage as they tirelessly work - outside of democratic oversight or public input - to decide what should happen in the world we adoring servants dwell within.
Okay, i'll move on then.
* The interesting suggestion - implicit in everything the reporter said - that the smashing of windows at the Bank of Scotland was somehow innapropriate.
Okay, we can argue about whether or not "destruction of property" is an appropriate form of protest. I argue about that with myself.
But the scale of destruction supported by various G20 attendees should surely get some comparable treatment by a noble, objective journalist - why not be consistent? Or at least recognise the power imbalance in what is being reported.
And the lack of distinction between violence against people
and violence against the Bank of Scotland's windows
is a little terrifying, when you dwell on it. If one were to draw a coherent message out, one would have to be a little concerned that journalists have trouble making such distinctions.
I rambled a bit, all i wanted to do was link to Slackbastard
, who suggests that police are using the protests as a pretense to rummage through the belongings of squatters.
Fri, Apr. 3rd, 2009, 11:56 am
By the way...
...i've somehow managed to not-mention-this so far (you all know how shy i can be when it comes to politics), but i help out when i can with Students For Palestine
, a university-based cross-campus group that opposes Isreali policies re: Palestine.
Recently the Monash Student Council voted to punish one member of the council for using his printer privileges and his good name to support SfP. Their main objection (supposedly) is that he's the Education / Public Affairs Officer, and it's not an Education / Public Affairs issue.
Leaving aside the general uselessness of the Environment & Social Justice officers, and the fact that officers are hardly forbidden from using their position to support issues not immediately related to their portfolio, there's actualy a pretty well-established history of Education officers being involved in international social justice issues at Monash. Unfortunately the current student council is quite conservative, and most of the people involved made up their mind to rather vigorously victimise the dissident council-member (whose crimes also include being an outspoken member of "Socialist Alternative") before semester began.
In any case, the picture at the top of this article pretty evocatively marks out the relevance a violent apartheid
state has to university students in some parts of the world, at least: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10428.shtml
In other news, Antony Loewenstein
spoke on our campus the other day; he mentioned a lot of the ideas in this article:http://newmatilda.com/2009/03/31/time-running-out-israel-adapt
Fri, Apr. 3rd, 2009, 11:55 am
11:55 - Rain reaches Clayton. Woo!
Fri, Apr. 3rd, 2009, 11:42 am
Two cold fronts approaching, one after the other. Thunder and greyness outside (weee!).
I've only started paying attention this year, so i don't know if this is normal or not, but since early March it seems that the belt of low-pressure systems shifted south. I wonder why that is.
Just watching a Channel 7 report about Australian parents who pay upwards of $20-60,000 to have Indian women carry their babies to term.
They pay poorer foreigners to use their bodies as incubators.
One of the Indian surrogate parents in this report wanted more money. The Australian woman involved said, on camera, with full seriousness, "We're being exploited. If we could've had a surrogate in Australia, we would have!"
I just think that ...
Where exactly does a society go from here?
What the FUCK?
I have a new office space, due to department reshuffling. My problem is that i cannot decide whether to rotate my desk...
Allow me to explain using the ancient practice of ASCII art:
| ___________ __________ (door)
| |________ *| | _________|
| |*| | |
| |*| | |
| (me) |*| | |
| |_| |_|
# = powerpoint
**** = unnecessary shelves
This is the current arrangement. The stars show where my (unnecessary) shelves are. Note that i am essentially in a little cave, with no view of the doorway. I would like to just get rid of the shelves, but i won't be allowed to (because there is nowhere to store them). (Maybe i should buy them from the university and throw them in the recycling...)
| ___________ __________ (door)
| |* ________| | _________|
| |*| | |
| |*| | |
| |*| | |
| |_| |_|
# = powerpoint
**** = unnecessary shelves
This is the only other configuration that will work. (I can't put the shelves (stars) against the south wall, because there is a powerpoint there that will be inaccessible (and extension cords are not allowed)).
I'll be able to see the door, but
, then i have much less privacy. And what if i decide i like the shelf space? Also, i will have to position my computer differently. Note that in the current arrangement (top), i can face the door on my computer, in the alternate arrangement (bottom), i will need to either face away from the door - so everyone can see my screen even though i can't see them - or have my computer against the south wall. A sub-optimal arrangement, i'm sure you'll agree.
I like computer screen privacy. It's more important to me than regular privacy.
On the other hand, i like the idea of anyone entering the room being able to see me. I don't want to be like a hermit in the basement. And i have so many cool things to stick on the wall. It'd be nice if someone else saw them. (If nobody can see my charts and diagrams, how will they know how smart i am?)
This might take some lateral thinking to make me comfortable.
I should also mention that my previous officemate will be in the adjacent space... somehow, he ended up with the choice spot, right beside the doorway. I may need to poison him and steal it, but i have gotten used to having him around. What should i do?
Tue, Mar. 24th, 2009, 09:54 am
Something that looks like a tropical low is crossing the continent and coming right for us.
Sometimes those are remnant hurricanes*. We get unseasonal storm winds and rain, trees get uprooted and the SES makes itself busy. I don't think so this time, judging from the looped maps on the BoM website for the last week, it's just a regular low. But on the sattelite images it's accompanied by lots and lots and lots of cloud, and the weather maps are showing lots of rain in South Australia right now, where the cloud is centred.
So yay, weather what-i-like is coming.*Usually i can't stand Americanese - i even get annoyed having to mispell "Centre" as "center" when formatting in livejournal. But hurricane just sounds better than cyclone, and the word "cyclone" technicaly refers to any low pressure system.
I get regular updates from a friend while he's scanning news outlets, so i get to hear all the stupid things that our bespectacled goon of a Prime Minister says as soon as theyre in print.
Today, my friend says that Kevin Rudd says that anyone who questions our place in Afghanistan should "remember the twin towers".
I'm remembering. Yup, still remembering. Not seeing why he wants
us to remember this... i'm sorry, maybe i've missed some vital part of the issue?
Maybe that bespectacled goon is trying to draw our attention to the systematic undermining of human rights groups, democrats, and socialists in the middle east? We did sit back and watch the US wipe them out, one by one, throughout the region. Thus ensuring that the ONLY popular movements left alive in Muslim countries were the most psychotic, most homocidal, most hardline religious extremists imaginable.
I can certainly see the connection between that
and the "twin towers".
Or perhaps K.Rudd is trying to remind us how the U.S. took these psychotic maniacs, gave them craploads of money, shoved guns into their hands, told them to "Go out and cause as much chaos and bloodshed as you possibly can", while slapping them on the back and kicking them into the desert?
I can DEFINITELY see the connection between that
and the "twin towers".
But thats not fair; clearly he's not talking about the past, hes talking about the present! Aussie troops in Afghanistan are working hard to rid the country of extremists like the Taliban...
...except, they won't touch the known war criminals that have been installed in the Afghan parliament.
And, they probably don't want to start a fight with the private armies belonging to some of the most misogynistic, anti-democratic, theocratic nutbags in the entire country.
In fact, they will sit back and watch Malalai Joya (a highly popular member of Parliament who is highly critical of religious extremists) be forced out of her own Parliament. Out of her own country, even. They'll sit back and watch while she's forced to take bodyguards
wherever she goes, before they even think of lifting a finger against the unpopular US-backed warlords that openly threaten her life.
But then, Malalai Joya is more concerned with religious extremists who murder her fellow Afghanis - they weren't in the "twin towers", you see. Perhaps this is the connection Krudd wants us to draw?
So, Aussie troops are supposed to prevent further terrorist attacks, by... what, exactly? Running around in the desert shooting Taliban? A group whose credibility grows every time the Western forces shoot up villages and bomb wedding parties?
Or are we preventing further terrorist attacks by rewarding homocidal religious extremists, because they're nominally "against the Taliban"?
That worked so
well when we rewarded homocidal religious extremists during the 80s because they were "against the Soviets".
You work constantly to associate Westerners with civilian mass murder. You undermine and wipe out Middle Eastern leftists, the people who are most likely to oppose religious violence. You take religious psychopaths, and you give them political power. You put guns in their hands and money in their pockets. You give them credibility they would never have had without you.
And then you turn around and say we have to do all this, to prevent
Sun, Mar. 22nd, 2009, 09:57 am
Dugout Doug MacArthur lies a shakin' on the Rock,
Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock,
Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan,
And his troops go starving on.
- quoted in Radical Melbourne 2
, by Jeff & Jill Sparrow.
Douglas MacArthur is an American war hero. Apparently he was also incredibly unpopular with the troops, as well as being a bit of a right-wing nutjob.
In Year 10 history classes in Australia, he's known as the man who drew the "Brisbane Line", apparently the idea being that if the Japanese invade, we were to withdraw our troops below this line (which runs across the continent - across vast tracts of troop-free land) and surrender the tropical north. What was interesting about the line was that it had nothing to do with any strategic bottleneck, it represented no particular geographical feature, it was no longer or shorter than a line drawn at almost any other lattitude... it really seems like what he did was walk up to a map he'd mever studied before and draw a random line. (The Australian troops ended up halting the Japanese army on whats now called "the Kokoda trail" in Papua, an actual
strategic bottleneck, but thats not the dumbest bit. The dumbest bit is that an occupation of Australia would have been a massive job for Japan in the first place, you have to wonder why a country that was looking to create a Pacific Empire would even bother
with us when they had the whole of South-East Asia to invest their resources in. Perhaps if the Japanese had known about the Brisbane line, they would've just shrugged and said, "Ok, sure, we'll have it if you don't want it...")
In the Korean War, MacArthur is the brilliant (*cough*) strategist who caused a war that was finished within six months to drag on for another three years. The US troops pushed the North Korean army right back to the border between North and South Korea in half a year. Invasion over.
MacArthur, however, decides to press on and clear the North Korean army out of North Korea as well. However, this would involve US troops invading, which means they had to watch their backs the entire time to prevent the other side from entrenching itself behind them. Which, in human-speak, means they "had" to slaughter North Korean civilians in their homes, and turn towns into wastelands.
But what it also meant was that MacArthur pushed the US army onwards to the North Korean border with China. Which the Chinese were a little upset about. Which triggered them into joining the war. Which made it last another three years. Which resulted in the US being pushed back to the South Korean border, which they could have stopped at three years earlier.Radical Melbourne 2
has more about his role in the secnd world war, recording that he had a full eight hours of warning before a Japanese attack on a base in he Phillipines, and, rather than, say, move his stuff out of the way, he did nothing, letting all his planes be desroyed. The Sparrows write that it was "a far worse strategic loss than the disaster at Pearl Harbour.
The guy was completely incompetent. And the few things that MacArthur was good
at are even worse. The Sparrows say that he's known for sending his troops against a protest in 1932 (read: Great Depression) in which WWI veterans were agitating for payment, and "his troops killed a protester, bayoneted a child, and burned the marcher's shanty town to the ground
." And the way they tell it, he fit in well with fascistic Japanese leaders after the war, helping them out with the Japanese unions and communist movements. Like i said, right-wing nutjob.
He's remembered as a war hero.
...is a bit like law.
The number of different names that have been given to what is almost
certainly the same organism is ridiculous.
It's like fighting a hydra. As soon as i eliminate one name by realising it's a junior synonym
, i discover two more unnecessary names floating around in the literature.
I've got five so far. Two of those seem to be variant spellings. Le sigh!
Is it really so prestigious to name a species yourself that you need to chuck brand new words at fossils that are virtually identical to beasties that've been named three times before?
...by definition, are not rights accorded to humanity in general.NYTime Feb 19th - Judge upholds use of "Section 8" vouchers to help tennants pay for rent
Landlords in NYC were illegally refusing to accept "Section 8" vouchers, which are housing vouchers used in New York to make sure that you never have to pay more than 30% of your income in rent, but the judge thankfully ruled against the landlords (though apparently not anymore
). What i find especially disgusting is that their Mayor Bloomberg said "it was the job of the government to make its program more attractive to private landlords". What the frak? Give me some reason that private absentee landlords should be allowed to exist in the first place! Almost everyone needs a place to live. If you've decided to distribute housing using a capitalist model, fine, but you better frakking well ensure that tennants have full rights over their homes, that nobody goes homeless, and that your "private landlords" profiteering doesn't interfere with anybody's livelihoods. It's not the governments job to "make Section 8 attractive to landlords", it's the landlords job to not be arseholes. If landlords and real estate agents have appointed themselves (by virtue of having money) to be our society's Distributors of Housing, then they should either do their job, or get fucked.
(Obviously, my leftie revolutionary tendencies incline me towards the "get fucked" end of the spectrum of solutions.)
The article also links to New York's "Rent Stabilisation Association" website. (http://www.rsanyc.net/about.html
) Its an association OF LANDLORDS.
Orwellian much! A group of scumbags who make their money by holding properties in their own names, and charging the people who live there for the privilege of having those roofs over their heads - a group of people whose entire business model is to keep charging more and more - who are responsible for the creation of $3000AUD-a-month rents in a city where thousands of people live on the streets - calling themselves advocates of "Rent Stablisation
"? It's like, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery
... it's like a Bush-ism.
They call themselves "the largest trade association in New York" - what "trade" exactly? "Trading" implies you MAKE something and then exchange it with other people. I'm sorry, but real estate agents and landlords are not "Tradespeople" by any stretch of the imagination.
"RSA's goal is to revive free enterprise in New York City's housing market"... I can't think of any argument to justify such a thing. Eliminating profiteering from the rental market would not lead to shortages from hoarding, for example - it's pretty hard to hoard a house. (In fact, the only way you can
hoard a house is with a free-enterprise, landlord-based model.) It would mean people moved around based on things like where they work rather than whether they can afford a new spot. Sure, it would lock up places in popular areas (because you wouldnt want to move out) - but thats what happens now anyway! That's gentrification! The only difference is you wouldn't get a desireable place by forcing the last tennants out due to rent increases/money troubles. We'd get a motivation to spend taxes on public transport improvements rather than new freeways
. People on the tennants side would have more money to spend on basic necessities, and people on the mortgagees (thats actually the bank) and landlords side would have less to spend (not a huge loss for the vast majority of them) - a more equal distribution of resources, a brake on inflation and a stimulus to people who actually do
make and provide the necessities of life - you know, actual
In case you didn't already see this on your flist...
As predicted by everybody in the universe (except for the ALP), internet blacklists are already being used to blacklist both sites that have political content (in this case, a site whose politics i disagree with, but thats not the point)
and sites which tell you what's on the blacklist
Ironically, Wikileaks claims that the Liberal
Party will be joining the Greens in voting against the censorship legislation.
The Liberal Party being the party who recently passed legislation to outlaw expressions of sympathy for groups or causes they considered "terrorist", who presided over an unprecedented level of opaqueness in government
, who used their time in office to attempt to extend censorship of books, movies and computer games (with Phillip Ruddock trying to ban books that had actually passed the censors board), and whose members idolise
Robert Menzies - a man who openly admired both Mussolini and Hitler, who banned left-wing publications whenever he had the opportunity, and who attempted to outlaw the Australian Communist Party during the Cold War.
They're our champions of free speech, now.
So Stephen Conroy says
that Wikileaks doesn't have the real blacklist, because "The published list purports to be current at 6 August 2008 and apparently contains approximately 2,400 URLs whereas the ACMA blacklist for the same date contained 1,061 URLs
". And yet, even though he is certain that the actual list has not been leaked, he says in the same speech that "ACMA is investigating this matter
" and "Any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution
What an idiot. I mean, honestly. Let me count the ways;
1. Clearly ACMA must believe it has been leaked, and Wikileaks does have some version of their own list, or they wouldn't be investigating it.
2. Let's not allow it to escape our notice that Mr Conroy is basically saying that there are some things, politically relevant things, that Australian citizens are not allowed to know. God forbid anyone should know the details of how their country is run.
3. Clearly he's admitting the existence of a secret blacklist in the first place, which is one of the basic criticisms that Wikileaks makes.
What an idiot!
To cap it all off, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, they're not even blacklisting illegal stuff in the first place.
"Already, a significant portion of the 1370-site Australian blacklist - 506 sites - would be classified R18+ and X18+, which are legal to view but would be blocked for everyone under the proposal.
Tue, Mar. 17th, 2009, 02:47 pm
"Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others.
- Slack bastard posted a quote from Bertrand Russel's "In Praise of Idleness
" (1932); i'm wittling Russel's essay down further by quoting a small part of Slackbastard's quote.
I'm quoting the quote because it made me want to link a couple of ideas in my head;
1) Unemployed Protests
; during the early 20th Century (and late 19th), radicals, socialists, anarchists, and the unemployed campaigned for "The Right To Work". I doubt they wanted to be exploited, but they wanted to do work, and get paid at least a 'living wage' for it. Unemployment benefits and Keynesian government contracts/government employment provided two lefty solutions.
; it's used as a term to describe people who are anti-technology, but that's not really fair. Like most leftist history, the story of the Luddites is obscured by the off-hand way they're referred to in pop culture. They opposed technology because of the way it was going to be used
, not because it was "new". They were fighting the development of a factory system that was basically sweatshop slavery, no different from the factories that companies like Nike use to outsource their production nowadays.
3) Star Trek
; like a lot of science fiction and futurist speculation, the idea behind (some of) it is that advanced technologies mean that we will be able to feed, clothe and shelter everyone while putting less effort into doing it all. The point of technology is you get a genuine
increase in productive capacity (as opposed to an illusory increase in production caused by, say, a sudden recovery from recession). As a society, you can use this extra productive capacity to exclude workers from the process and use their former wages as profits, or you can use it to distribute more (or just, "enough") stuff to Everybody, regardless of their ability to pay.
4) Those self-service machines now used in Safeway and Big W supermarkets
; i refuse to use them. I don't believe for a second that they won't use these as an excuse to cut down the number of shifts they need to give their staff. I've already seen it happen at one Big W, with very few staff on at a busy time of day, apparently expecting us all to go through the self-service checkouts. A lot of lower-waged Australians are in some kind of customer service (in my experience it's the easiest kind of work to find when you're unemployed); do the math.
5) Pacific Brands
, who make the "Aussie" Bonds clothing line, just sacked a whole bunch of workers in order to outsource to overseas sweatshops. And so it goes on."Chant no more your old rhymes about Robin Hood,
His feats I little admire,
I will sing the achievements of General Ludd,
Now the Hero of Nottinghamshire!"
Looks like the good guys won; the leftist FMLN party, which arose out of the rebels who fought against a murderous dictatorship ("terrorists", in Americanese), has won El Salvador's presidential elections.http://www.democracynow.org/2009/3/16/fmln_candidate_mauricio_funes_wins_el
"As a child of Salvadoran immigrants and as someone who’s spent time here and as someone who saw the Obama experience, I really can’t tell you what this is like, when you’re talking about ending not just the ARENA party’s rule, but you’re talking about 130 years of oligarchy and military dictatorship, by and large, that’s just ended last night. You’re talking about $6 billion that the United States used to defeat the FMLN, as you mentioned earlier. You’re talking about one of the most formidable—a formerly political military, now political forces, in the hemisphere, showing the utter failure of not just the ARENA party but of somebody in particular, too, who has a special place in many of our hearts: Ronald Reagan. This is the defeat of Ronald Reagan, nothing less." - Roberto Lavato, reporter.
Sun, Mar. 15th, 2009, 10:36 am
Historically, South American nations have been run by right-wing military dictatorships (e.g. Pinochet's Chile) set up during coups or "counter-revolutions" (in the CIA lingo) supported by the USA. They've run government for the sake of business (which is how governments in the West are run, too, btw), to bust unions & encourage sweatshops, and keep certain classes of society disenfranchised from education and other rights of the rich.
In the last few years, a range of South American countries (e.g. Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay) have elected leftist governments that have promised (and begun to deliver) things like land reform and the creation of publicly owned assets, universal rights to education, the rejection of corporate interference in government, rights for indigenous people and the poor, etc.
In response, the USA has already tried to organise a coup against Bolivia (because Bolivia was about to - and now, has - vote in an "anti-colonial" constitution), but they've been pretty distracted with spreading
evil and hatred
*cough* "democracy" in the Middle East, which may be why they haven't been as successful as in the past. Regardless, US politicians have spent a great deal of time campaigning, within America, against the insanely popular Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. (The media has picked up the propaganda and run with it; to the extent that Chavez's attempts to remove the two-term limit from the Venezuelan constitution (a limit that our own government doesn't have...) is practically being reported as an attempt to make himself "dictator-for-life".)
It looks like El Salvador is about to join them, with the former leftist revolutionary group FMLN possibly about to win an election against the right-wing, pro-business ARENA party (whose track record includes involvement with the US-backed death squads that once roamed the country looking for leftists).
And while thirty Congress members apparently sent Obama a letter asking him not to meddle in the Salvadoran election, Democracy Now! also reports that certain members of the US Congress are all in favour of meddling; "On Thursday, Republican Congress members Trent Franks of Arizona and Dan Burton of Indiana said Salvadorans living in the US could lose their immigration status and the right to send remittances home if the leftist FMLN party wins the vote.
Of course, even if the good guys win in El Salvador, i'm sure the Americans will continue meddling through their embassy and business contacts, as in Bolivia.
Something to watch out for.
Fri, Mar. 13th, 2009, 06:08 pm
Our property-owners are increasing the rent!
This is evil. Seriously.
I remember sitting waiting for an appointment with some rental agents one time, and hearing, in the next room, the agent telling someone (obviously a property owner), "Oh, you can ask for more money now, i think we can increase it to such-and-such a week".
And i remember thinking, "Wow. Three feet away from me, two people are discussing one of the fundamental evils of our society, and consciously, knowingly conspiring to commit it against another human being, somewhere out there." Three feet away from me. If i had looked around the corner, i would have seen their faces. It was a really strange thought. What do you do in such situations? I remember, at the time, wondering if i was morally obliged to go in and say
something (or, you know, if i was morally obliged to throw rocks at the fuckers...).
And now we get to be on the receiving end of the exact same evilness.
Have i said "evil" enough yet?
I want a revolution, and there'll be no landowners, and the concept of somebody else owning the roof over your head will be obscene
, and rent-seeking behaviour will be considered punishable. (Ha! "Rent-seeking behaviour" is actually a technical term... it's when you extort money from someone but you haven't actually done anything that requires money (e.g. Connex's behaviour toward government subsidies; or, you know, when a mob boss asks for protection money). In this case, it's actually RENT... so... yes... nerdy joke. Angry, nerdy joke.)
I normally have to backtrack and look around a bit to find Polyester Books when i'm walking there, it doesn't matter how many times i've been. The only surefire way for me to find it is to start walking north from a part of the street that is well south of it.
I tried to find it in GoogleEarth street-view just then, so i went to the spot i'd marked on the sattelite view as "330 Brunswick St" (based on Whereis.com), and looked at the street view at the spot.
It wasn't there.
So i looked around a bit, using street-view, finding landmarks that i recognised, and convincing myself utterly that i was in the right spot. But it's definitely not there.
Then i noticed that street-view has the street numbers attached to each panorama. So i backed out totally, then started fresh, using the street-view numbers. 329 and 333 Brunswick street are both marked on street-view. Polyester Books is nowhere to be seen in either picture (and, by the way, they're the same spots that i thought they were when navigating by memory...).
I told K, and she said, "Maybe they took that picture on the one day of the year when the shop doesn't exist?"
My brain went:
Anyone read Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell? It's like something from that.
Last night we were supposed to have a big storm as a giant cold front came over us, and people 20 km south of me twittered that there was, indeed, a storm, but i saw little evidence for it, besides all the pre-front windiness during the day and some breif spatterings of rain. And it's a clear blue, pollution-y sky this morning.
Kind of disappointed.
Speaking of disappointment, Barak Obama has been president for more than a month now.
And he's boycotting a UN conference on racism because it dares mention the OPENLY and PROUDLY RACIST Isreali government, he's made an attempt to block a civil suit raised against the government for illegal wire-taps during the Bush administration, he has presided over, so far, at least two of those regular (almost weekly) massacres committed by US troops in Pakistan, and his Iraq/Afghanistan policies are becoming difficult to tell apart from Bush's. He's still refusing to hold a truth or reconciliation style commission over Bush's numerous crimes in office (many of the worst of them against foreigners, of course). And so far, no sign of any
progressive intentions at all regarding the economy.
He's like a more attractive George Bush. He's like a Clinton.
America is fucked.
He really needs to just, fire his entire staff and replace them with the people that surrounded him as a "community organiser". Seriously. He needs to fire their asses - no, not just fire, he needs to fricking behead
some of them (i'm against capital punishment, but i'm not that un-serious... some of these people are bona fide war criminals; the suffering they have caused is incalculable). Unless these people are gotten-rid-of, it's just the continuation of the same dynasty that has taught the world to hate Americans for the past fifty years.
Found via Slack Bastard
;"The Australian"'s fuel reduction obsession
If you're a greenie, like me, you probably noticed the traces of commentary blaming conservationists for the current swathe of bushfires hitting Victoria. (In fact, conservationists get blamed for reducing burn-off levels every bushfire season, even though conservationists who actually do
flatly disagree with burn-offs are almost impossible to find, making it difficult for Newstainment programs to set up interviews.)
And if you're a greenie, like me, you probably wrinkled your nose when you heard it, thinking, "What are these people on about? This doesn't resemble any conservationist i've ever spoken to."
Slackbastard blogged recently ("Greens kill! Timber industry saves!"
), linking to a short piece written by Guy Rundle for Crikey:
"Here's some facts:
1. The pros and cons of burning off are heavily debated among bushfire specialists.
2. Forest fuel levels have no effect on fire speed, which was the main killer in these fires.
3. Dryness is a contributor to fire speeds.
4. Forestry activities may promote dryness by thinning forest canopies.
5. Climate change may be a factor, and if it is, a different set of strategies will need to be employed than if it isn't, so it's worth debating.
6. Fires of the "Black Saturday" intensity burn through burnt-off bush because they move at crown and canopy level
7. The burn off levels advocated by green groups, are of the same order as those advocated by those bushfire experts who believe that higher burn-off levels increase risk of fire without giving consequent benefit.
8. Burn-off levels do not play a role in urban green votes, and they never have.
According to Rundle, not only do these enigmatic anti-burn-off conservationists not exist in the first place (most conservationists i know would argue that some native vegetation actually requires burning to propagate), but even if they did
exist, and even if they did
have any sort of traction on fire control policy, it wouldn't have had any effect on the current bushfire season.
Just as an aside - considering the title i've placed on this post - the following facts are also important.
1. One of the predictions of global warming is increased rain in the north of Australia and increased drought in the south,
2. Hot, dry seasons provide the conditions for bushfires,
3. Global warming is definitely linked to human activity,
4. Global warming is defended and promoted by a set of industries and attitudes that actively campaign for the right to continue promoting global warming,
5. Some of the people promoting such activity are required by law to protect their companies profit margins, which they may do by funding right-wing think tanks and lobbying governments - they are paid to say certain things whether they believe them or not, and to promote certain things whether lives are at stake or not,
6. Unlike these people, the scientists and environmentalists concerned about climate change generally do not get paid for their opinions.
So, there are
people in the community who do
support the swing of our regional climate into conditions that will increase the intensity and frequency of bushfires, and this is undisputed outside of vested interests.
Sun, Feb. 15th, 2009, 11:05 am
Okay, that cold front did
swing south, way way way
south. And the low pressure trough it was attached to ended up getting smaller and going north-ish. And now we just have another great big fricking high pressure cell.
I hate those evil "H"'s, sitting in the middle of all their contour lines. I hate them muchly. That's what the "H" really stands for; "Hate". The sky is saying, "I hate you, humans! Now suffer through heat and fires! Now breathe in the ash of your lost towns and forests!"
Um. Yes. That got pretty dark.
Academic Freedom Watch website
(This has nothing to do with the following post, but that Thai professor i quoted recently, Giles Ji Ungpakorn
, when i was trying to figure out who the protestors in Thailand were, has fled to England after publishing a book called "A Coup For The Rich"
. My gods!)
I am researching stuff on Melbourne's public transport system (which was gutted in the early nineties, shortly before being transformed into a massive leech on the community by privatisation...), and came across this year-old blog post: http://www.butterpaper.com/vanilla/comments.php?DiscussionID=1187
, which links to this article: http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/uni-damaged-over-dissident-row/2008/05/20/1211182764879.html
Paul Mees is one of four authors of a 2006 report proposing a method to repair the damage to the state's public transport system by placing it back in public hands and assembling a competent, expert agency to run it.* He also wrote a 2005 analysis of the claims being made by the State Government and pro-privatisation
advocates, in which he shows the statistical trickery and outright lies
used by the Treasury Department and other groups to justify privatisation.**
Last year, he apparently refferred to a bunch of government officials who wrote a report on privatisation as "liars and frauds [who] should be in jail".
Clearly an expression of frustration and anger at some consistently disgusting people (not much different from the kind of language i use on this blog), but I wouldn't be surprised if he was technically, factually correct (except about the "should be in jail" part). Like i said, he wrote a whole paper** explicitly delineating
some of the outright fraud that was coming out of the State Government on privatisation.
So the University, spurred on by a handful of academics who turned-coat (so to speak) against their colleague, apparently obeyed demands by the State Government to "reign him in", and demoted Mees and cut his pay. Mees left the university to take up a post at RMIT instead.
No mention of any legal action on, say, libel or slander, by the frauds and liars Mees was referring to. I'm currently trying to find a copy of the speech to see what he said, exactly; According to the Age article there used to be a podcast on the University's website, but, complying with State Government instructions, the University removed it. If anyone has it, please e-mail me!
And for a reference list on the kinds of people who run universities nowadays, see this post: http://dissembly.livejournal.com/2008/10/16/
* Putting the Public Interest back into Public Transport: A Report to the Victorian Community
(2006) by Paul Mees, Patrick Moriarty, John Stone and Micheal Buxton. *.pdf is available for free online at: http://www.abp.unimelb.edu.au/gamut/pdf/mees-public-interest.pdf
** Privatisation of rail and tram services in Melbourne: What went wrong?
(2005) by Paul Mees, Transport Reviews
, Volume 25(4), pages 433-449
Fri, Feb. 13th, 2009, 01:26 pm
The latest GMS image
shows a massive cold front heading towards us. It looks a little exciting. Hopefully it won't just swing south. They seem to do that in summer.
We're currently experiencing the second half of a big high pressure system. High pressure systems rotate anticlockwise, so now that the centre has passed us by, the weather is coming from the north.
Which must be why the air is full of ash.
About the burning. Things to note.
According to a Fairfax digital article titled "Corporate Australia raises millions for bushfire victims", the following corporations are donating the following amounts:Banks:
National Australia Bank donating $1 million
ANZ - $1 million
Commonwealth - $1 million, plus a sick-sounding game of donating token amounts for runs scored at a cricket game.
WestPac - $1 million.
Bendigo and Adelaide banks - $100,000.
TabCorp - $2 million
Westfield - $1 million
Suncorp - $500,000
AMP - $1 million
News Ltd - $1 million
Fairfax - $100,000
Fosters - $750,000
Santos - $500,000
Myer - playing the "match customer contribution" game. Up to $500,000.
Wesfarmers - $500,000
Crown - $500,000
Telstra - $500,000
Qantas - $100,000
Cricket Australia - $100,000
Rabobank - $100,000
Mercedes-Benz - $100,000
Mercedes-Benz Board of Management - $7,000 ($1,000 each... ...)
Football Federation Australia - $100,000, plus replacement of lost soccer equipment (it may sound trivial, but... thats what they have, so the idea seems good.)
AFL - ticket proceeds for one match
SA cricket association - $25,000
Malthouse Theatre - $11,000
Kmart - $500 Kmart vouchers to Victorians who have lost their homes. (This actually impresses me more than the raw money donations. I wonder what their application system is.)
David Jones - $500,000 in gift cards - Uh, this seems fairly dubious. Especially compared to the Kmart donation. And especially when you cmpare what Kmart sells to what David Jones sells, and what Kmart charges to what David Jones charges.
Companies Known For Screwing Over Farmers On A Daily Basis:
Woolworths - $1 million
Coles - tomorrow's profits.
I haven't counted "ACTU", "WA Government", or "City of Sydney" as parts of "corporate Australia", though, cynically speaking, i suppose they are. *national facepalm*
Rough adding up: Corporate Australia can apparently contribute about $14 to $15 million, give or take a bit.
Three schools have burned down so far. That's about $75 million right there.
$14-15 million is a pittance, especially for the big banks, and the larger corporations on that list.
But it's not about whether they perform the role of government, and give country communities the resources necessary to rebuild and heal... that's what taxes are for.
Except that corporate tax rates in Australia haven't been restored to pre-Howard levels. The capital gains tax is apparently about half of what it once was, and that was already low.
Perhaps they should be donating all their tax savings since Howard was elected?
And the money that corporations in Australia earn has been directed more and more to profits, and less and less to the employees that make profits possible in the first place, so the degree to which "Corporate Australia" spreads money into the community is lower than it ought to be anyway. Which leads onto another point - the donation schemes by Myer, Coles, and Telstra, and the donation 'appeals' by the banks - all designed to place the burden of donation onto people with a hell of a lot less money to spare than them. (It's like the downside of "fair trade coffee", and numerous environmental campaigns: you end up making individual people
responsible for doing the right thing, not the companies with the massive financial and political power
And the Coles-Safeway scheme, in particular, seems like they're treating a massive natural disaster as an opportunity to advertise. Coming from a company that is known for screwing over the people who produce our food supplies, that's kind of sick.
This criticism doesn't apply to every
company on the list, of course. I don't know much about the South Australian Cricket Association or the Malthouse Theatre, but i'd be willing to bet that their $25,000 and $11,000 donations are proportionately more impressive than Commonwealth's $1,000,000. I'd also make a guess that they are less responsible for the transfer of wealth (from employees to owners) than the others on the list. But it still applies to most of this "Corporate Australia" entity whom we're all supposed to be so
(If you want to donate, by the way, try the Australian Red Cross
Sun, Feb. 8th, 2009, 08:26 am
Odometer reading to inverloch: 161 kilometres.
Google Earth straight line distance to Inverloch: about 110 kilometres.
110/161 = 68% efficient. huh. Worse than public transport to Monash.
Sat, Feb. 7th, 2009, 02:30 pm
From a friend whose work involves reading newspapers:
"Rupie seems to have given over all of the Herald-Sun's Weekend to tributes to mummsie dearest. It must be easy to be a philanthropist when you marry into a capitalist dynasty. This is sickening.
to be one of the least important figures in all of Australian history. The only thing that makes her worth discussing - her philanthropy - is a poor substitute for the kind of good governance that her family has campaigned exhaustively against.
But she's the mother of the paper's ultimate owner (who, apparently, has screwed her over
It's all kind of ridiculous.
Sat, Feb. 7th, 2009, 09:40 am
Figured out that i travel at speeds of between 16 and 33 kilometres per hour to get to Monash, depending on how bad the train service is. Modal speed is about 25-ish km/h (i don't think average is appropriate; possibly because the delays are at a small number of fixed points along the journey; i.e. at the train station, then at the bus stop; and they seem to be either very short or very long, no in-betweens).
And last night averaged 50 km/h going to and from a friend's house.
The route to the friends house had an efficiency (actual distance / road distance) of 96%. The route to Monash has an efficiency of 75%, which is probably more normal, as the route to the friend's house mostly lies along a highway that's a straight line.
From an article in the Herald-Scum about a woman who has been accused of stalking Packers (and may be Kerry Packer's daughter):
"Ms Jagla, who is unemployed, receives Centrelink benefits and lives with her mother, was granted bail to appear at Waverley Court on February 23.
...The court case is a distraction Mr Packer does not need as he fights to maintain his personal fortune in the face of the global financial meltdown.
Well of course. He oughtn't have to go through the legal system, he's rich! What is this, Cuba?
At least we have journalists to watch out for the interests of these poor, struggling multi-millionaires.
And the juxtaposition! It's so important
we know that Ms Jagla must be some sort of lower-class scum, whereas Packer has a "personal fortune" to defend. They're not reporting anything relevant to the story, they're trying to paint a picture. And it says a lot
'Fuck you' too, Herald-Sun.
If you vaguely follow neuroscience (i vaguely, vaguely, vaguely do), or if you read a lot of regular newspapers/magazines, you're probably familiar with the idea that we can correlate specific areas of the brain with specific emotions or mental activities.
A handful of researchers at MIT and UCSD have an article in press for Perspectives on Psychological Science
(it will probably appear in the first issue of 2009), where they say they became suspicious of the number of really high correlations appearing between someone thinking about a particular task, and a region of their brain lighting up with activity as they do so.
They have statistical reasons to be suspicious; basically the level of confidence you can have in a statistical correlation between two measurements is limited by the level of confidence you have in your measuring tools.
If somebody is measuring something (say, the average length of a kind of leaf) with a ruler that only measures things in centimetres
, and they produce a report on these leaves that says "the average leaf length is 15 centimetres, give or take 3.948 millimetres
, then you'd start to get a little bit suspicious.
This is the sort of thing that has now been noticed in neuroscience studies; they've been reporting results that should be mathematically impossible to get, and that led the authors of the Perspectives on Psychological Science
paper (Edward Vul, Christine Harris, Piotr Winkielman, & Harold Pashler) to uncover systematic flaws in the way some neuroscience is being carried out and reported.
What i find more disturbing is that these researchers needed to contact the original authors of the studies they surveyed to figure out what their exact methodology was. The reason was that, according to Vul, Harris, Winkielman & Pashler, "the exact methods were simply not made clear in the typically brief and sometimes opaque method sections."
This seems like an even bigger problem than the discovery of systematic flaws in accepted neuroscience methods. The "Methods" section of a scientific paper is supposed to be proof against exactly this sort of thing! We trust the methodology that a researcher has used, because that researcher has
to make their methodology clear. That way, even if a poor methodology gets published, it's easy to follow up on. Vul, Harris, Winkielman & Pashler had to contact the researchers themselves to follow up on it.
What's even stupider is that, according to New Scientist (which led me to the "in press" *.pdf of this paper), some of the researchers being criticised defended themselves by saying that Vul et al.
didn't ask them the right questions about their methodology.
They said this to defend
their papers. Surely the idea that someone would need to contact you personally, and then "ask the correct questions
", in order to be capable of assessing your methodology is a serious
issue, and far worse than having a problematic methodology in the first place?
(cross-posted, with modifications
, to the _scientists_
I always liked pirates better than ninjas.
Partial confirmation from an article by Jeffrey Gettleman published in the New York Times on Sept. 30th last year:
The piracy industry started about 10 to 15 years ago, Somali officials said, as a response to illegal fishing. Somalia’s central government imploded in 1991, casting the country into chaos. With no patrols along the shoreline, Somalia’s tuna-rich waters were soon plundered by commercial fishing fleets from around the world. Somali fishermen armed themselves and turned into vigilantes by confronting illegal fishing boats and demanding that they pay a tax.
“From there, they got greedy,” said Mohamed Osman Aden, a Somali diplomat in Kenya. “They starting attacking everyone.”
By the early 2000s, many of the fishermen had traded in their nets for machine guns and were hijacking any vessel they could catch: sailboat, oil tanker, United Nations-chartered food ship.
“It’s true that the pirates started to defend the fishing business,” Mr. Mohamed said. “And illegal fishing is a real problem for us. But this does not justify these boys to now act like guardians. They are criminals. The world must help us crack down on them.” [
Why? When there are clearly deeper problems, in part caused by the rest of the world, that have generated the "piracy"? ]
The United States and several European countries, in particular France, have been talking about ways to patrol the waters together. The United Nations is even considering something like a maritime peacekeeping force. Because of all the hijackings, the waters off Somalia’s coast are considered the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world.
Googling Somalia's history is making me even more suspicious of the Western governments motives.
Apparently the country collapsed after a "Cold War dictator" was overthrown, and Somalia became a civil-war-zone ruled by Warlords.
This happened in Afghanistan, with the following features:
*Human rights groups that were campaigning against
the dictatorship had no support from the West,
*Conservative and violent terrorist groups (the mujahideen) did
get support from the West,
*The reason that so many warlords suddenly appeared to tear the country apart, is that they were actually the descendants of the terrorist groups armed and funded by the U.S.A.
If "Cold War" is a euphemism for "Russian ally" [...] One would wonder if these people were the same sorts of Western-backed murderers that took control (and still hold a lot of power) in Afghanistan.
Actually it's the opposite (but still kinda the same). The "Cold War dictator" in Somalia was the US-backed one, not a Soviet-backed puppet democracy as in Afghanistan. But conservative and violent terrorist groups did get support from the US (and went on to become the modern 'warlords'); they were just the ones in power.
From an article by Jim Lobe at "Inter Press Service News Agency", about the U.S.'s recent support of Somalian warlords as part of their "War on Terror" (*cough*):http://ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=33514
Ironically, some of the warlords who have benefited from U.S. backing fought its troops in 1993 when Washington was trying to crush resistance to U.N. efforts to pacify the country following the ouster in 1991 of President Siad Barre, a U.S. client during the Cold War, according to Dagne.
[...]To Prendergast, Washington's most recent misadventure in Somalia recalls earlier debacles. "During the Cold War, U.S. officials armed strongmen to carry out our perceived national interests, and the consequences for Africa were disastrous," he said.
"It appears they've learned nothing since, as they're repeating the same strategy of arming strongmen and ignoring institutions. The consequences, predictably, are equally disastrous."
Also interesting is that in most of the articles i've found, Siad Barre is a generic "Cold War dictator
". But as soon as he is described as a US-ally, he becomes "President Siad Barre, a U.S. client
(Note that almost all U.S. "clients" over the last century have been mass-murdering fascist dictators. Currently the U.S. supports dictators in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, not to mention a mass-murdering apartheid regime in Isreal, a puppet democracy in Afghanistan where much of the Parliament is made up of warlords (the US-backed Cold War terrorists), and hideously unpopular puppet-governments in most of the Middle East, most famously Saudi Arabia.)
Most of the articles i've found on Somali Pirates amount to some fairly shameless banner-waving. Lots of mindless British pap about the Royal Navy, comments about how important it is that the Australian Navy get experience working with other navies, generally full of the blustery nationalistic self-celebration you expect from propaganda, with all the required comments about what a terrible effect all this is having on international trade. Very few even mention the history that the New York Times article (above) and the Huffington Post (previous post) cover, but nobody disputes this history. It's suspicious. And it amounts to journalists choosing not to mention crimes committed by their own nations.
(Noam Chomsky tells a story about a meeting with some Russian officials during the Cold War, when one of the officials joked about how efficiently the Western media said what the government wanted them to say, "How do you do it? In our country, we have to break fingernails to get that sort of control!")
What i've read so far has all
of the hallmarks of a problem that was created - not through cluelessness or bumbling, but through direct action - by Western powers. Rather than addressing core Somalian problems like poverty, violence, and lack of human rights, our governments' response is to "declare war on pirates" and "secure shipping lanes for international trade," and cry foul now that some small part of the suffering they knowingly create around the world is finally touching them. (Hello, "9/11".)
It's an obscenity. I want to know more.
Someone on facebook shared this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/you-are-being-lied-to-abo_b_155147.htmlYou Are Being Lied To About Pirates
by Johann Hari
Who imagined that in 2009, the world's governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy - backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China - is sailing into Somalian waters... [t]hey will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth.
In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.
As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it."
At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia's unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving.
This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a 'tax' on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and it's not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was "to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters... We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas." William Scott would understand those words.