Wednesday, August 29, 2007

there's battlelines being drawn

For the fans only: Two Halo 3 trailers. The first is a live action teaser called Halo 3: Arms Race, from Weta and the proposed director of the Halo movie, Neill Blomkamp. Personally, I think it looks right tasty. They have it looking the way it should - in that it looks pretty much exactly like Aliens.

The second clip is the first Halo 3 trailer from back in 2006. That music always puts a prickly chill through my scalp (especially when the trumpets and chorus come in at the end). By the seven gods I hope they release a soundtrack CD.

a bad desire

I want to return to the subject of my post on police car chase policy. For the advocates of unrestricted police action in pursuit of the bad guys there seems to be an unspoken assumption that once you have broken the law, anything that happens to you thereafter is a fair cop, no matter how disproportionate that consequence is to the original crime. And I understand that impulse.

There is a small, dark part of me chained up in the cloisters of my soul that lets loose a hearty cheer anytime a boyracer drives into the side of a bridge and bursts into a ripe ball of flame (I hasten to add - as long as no one else was hurt). But that's because deep down in the cockles of my heart, just like a lot of the population ... I'm a complete bastard. It certainly shouldn't excuse the phenomenon.

Nonetheless. As befits the dirty pinko liberal that I am, I think a society can be judged on how well it treats it's loathsome scum. And by that, I mean that we should not descend to the level of the criminals we revile by treating them as badly as they treat us*. And I am of the opinion that life is singularly precious - as an atheist I only get one of them, and it's safest to assume everyone else is the same (... in only having one life, not in the atheism. Heck, I wouldn't want you buggers joining our little club, you'd drive property prices down). And the bad guys only have one life too, and that fact has to be given some respect, even if they don't.

Now note I'm not delving into the death penalty here - that's a whole 'nother debate for another day, and one I find myself quite torn by. I'm purely just looking at the treatment of people prior to conviction.

Recently there was the case of a farmer who fired upon 3 would-be-thieves who had attempted to convert his farm bike in the middle of the night. As the thieves fled in a truck, the farmer fired at them, hitting one of them in the posterior. The police prosecuted him (as well as the thieves), but a jury refused to convict.

In in cases like this I wish that along with "guilty" and "not guilty" we had a third option of "you did something really damn stupid, and therefore are guilty of breaking the law, but we don't really want to punish you because we might do the same thing in your position" (I'm pretty sure if you gave it a latin name it would sound much, much cooler). Because, really, this guy was an idiot. He fired a gun at a fleeing truck, and could easily have killed one of the felons, or, with a particularly unlucky ricochet, just about anyone close by (admittedly this was a farm in the middle of nowhere ... but it could have killed him). And he was effectively shooting them in the back, which in the books I read whilst growing up constitutes Not Cricket and a Bad Show. And to top it off, he was shooting at them over a farm bike. Is a farm bike really worth a person's life? Heck, do you have any possessions that you would value more than the life of another human being?**

But on the other hand I can understand the guy being pissed off (if memory serves it was the umpteen time he'd be robbed), it being a rural area the police were unlikely to be much help, and heck, if I found 3 thieves on my property after dark I'd be shit scared and not thinking properly to boot. But I still think he did the wrong thing to fire the gun at them.

Now, it seems that police, or the attorney general agrees with me, hence the attempted prosecution of this farmer, and the investigation of another farmer who fired warning shots at some miscreants intent on taking his petrol. The general public, I would hazard a guess, are not so keen on seeing these guys given even a slap on the wrist. And the real shame of it all is that it seems that neither side of the equation is prepared to talk to each. Outside of the slackjawed crackpots scrawling venial letters to the editor there seems to be little debate on the merits of the use of deadly force by Joesph Public in the defense of property. Personally I have but one argument.

We're the Good Guys.

No, seriously, that's my argument.

Alright, I'll expand just a little.

In my world, the Good Guys don't shoot people in the back. They sacrifice their own lives to save civilians; they don't kill civilians, ever, even to get the bad guy, because no one is so bad that it's worth the death of innocents. Torture is not something entertained by a Good Guy. Bad Guys torture - that's how you tell who the Bad Guy is. They always give a second chance; they'll always do their best to get the bad guy back alive and in one piece to face trial by a jury of their peers - because a Good Guy knows he can gendarme, judge, jury or executioner, but not any of them at the same time. Because at the end of the day the Good Guys knows they are as flawed and corruptible as anyone else around them, and it's a constant contention within to do the right thing. If there is anything they are sure of, it is doubt the righteousness of their actions.

Also, the Good Guys are Ninjas.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Is strength of will in fighting illness a factor in whether you live or die?
Are giant sci-fi bugs physically possible? -
yes, we'd all like both answers to "yes". However ....

I'm all about the Bad Science:
Bad Science kicks the Observer's ass about shoddy reporting on autism

Actually, I can't count either:
A transcript of a conversation between a customer and a Verizon rep over a phone bill

- Has to be read to be believed ...

* A raving conservative could agree that a society can be judged on how it treats it's loathsome scum - i.e. a good society would grind them underfoot or use them in lab experiments. And my dark-half heartily agrees.

** Dammit Apathy Jack, put your damn hand down.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

a rider on the tremors

I was intrigued by a paragraph in yesterday's Herald editorial on the subject of the recent finance company collapses:

"In unsecured finance markets that depend on a constant flow of new money to repay maturing loans, fear can be fatal"
I am not schooled in the ways of finance, or economics, law, or even basic hygiene. But even I can read wikipedia, and it seems to my simple eye that all these collapses stink to highest heaven of being ponzi schemes overlaid with only the thinnest veneer of sophistication - but without the common decency to advertise a ridiculous rate of return so at least the first mooks in through the door make a little money. If you are paying investors off with the incoming funds of new investors rather than from the fruits of your wise investment of the original money you scammed from them, then I'm of the opinion that you are a common criminal and should be out on chain gang breaking rocks with the other lawyers and stockbrokers.

The nail in the coffin was David Hutton from the Institute of Financial Advisers, who basically blamed the punters for not doing their homework irrespective of what their financial advisors told them.

What the fuck? Can we have our damn money back from your pack of feeble-minded twats or carpetbagging conmen then? Either the advisors were all too stupid to read or understand the prospectuses they foisted onto their luckless charges, or they were a bunch greedy slackgrabbers in the pocket of the finance companies, selling investors off like a pimp. Either way they should be answerable to the people who have lost their money.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

so your eyes can't see

A few opinions have been doing the rounds lately and I thought I might put my humble two cents in:

Police chases. Look people, we all agree that the Police by and large are chasing in their suped-up Holdens Bad & Ebil miscreants. And we all want them to catch the little bastards.


But there is a risk calculation that needs to be performed. Chasing someone at high speeds inevitably increases the risk that someone is going to come to grief. If a chase is abandoned then the bad guy might get away, but equally they may also slow the heck down, go to ground somewhere and stop being such a danger to the rest of the populace.

Of course, that's where element of calculation comes in. If you started chasing someone because they were already driving exceedingly dangerously, or because they kidnapped someone ... you get the picture - there may be good reasons to continue inspite of the danger inherent to a chase. But we have to expect that good cops will make that calculation, and good cops should also expect that their decisions to be reviewed or questioned. The fact that the bad guy has initiated the situation is not the most important consideration - it is the safety of the general public that is paramount. In today's paper someone wrote a letter saying: "... if people did not run from the police, there would not be a chase", which misses the point entirely; the police have a range of actions they can take, of which chasing a fleeing suspect is but one. And if police hadn't taken up the chase there wouldn't be a critically injured boy in hospital.

Chasing an erratic suspect through city streets is in my opinion somewhat akin to firing a gun at a suspect in a crowded pedestrian mall. In a lot of cases it is an reckless and unjustifiable action.

... and speaking of reckless and unjustifiable behaviours, the video for Snow Patrol's Open Your Eyes is fantastic*:

The footage is taken from a 1976 short film called C'├ętait un rendez-vous, and it is not staged - the guy actually drove through those streets, at speed, putting the lives of early morning Parisians at risk. The director was even arrested when the film was released (although never charged). The director was, without a doubt, a complete prick. But it's a brilliant piece of film nonetheless.

* This is second in my series of songs-I-like-with-great-crescendo. The Crescendo in this case kicks in exactly at minute 4. Smashing.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

through this field of trees

... or in this case, links:

Sailor gets revenge for internet insult - lesson learnt. Don't call people nerds, even on the internet, and especially if they have a name like "Pyrodice".

Phone mast allergy 'in the mind' - alternative title: No. Fucking. Shit, Sherlock. Seriously, if you believe electromagnetic radiation from phone towers is affecting your health then you need to do the following immediately:
  1. Get out of your house. Your TV, microwave, stereo and hot-water cylinder (not to mention your electric blanket!) are emitting death-rays as we speak. Get out for christ's sake!
  2. Get out of town. You're surrounded by houses full of TVs, microwaves, stereos and electric blanket. Everyone you know is wearing an mp3 player. Get too close and you will be infected.
  3. Whatever you do, don't use a car to leave the place. It's chock full of electro-mechanical-jiggery-pokery. To be frank, it's a death-trap. Walk.
  4. Oh crap, you don't have those fancy nikes with the interface with your mp3 player, do you? Sorry, you're right fucked if you do.
  5. Get out in a field along way from civilization and take off all your clothes - they're probably saturated with oodles of electromagnetic waves from all those years of exposure.
  6. Die of pneumonia. Please.
Adolescent rats enjoy cannabis more than their elders and Marijuana wreaks havoc on brain's memory cells - just how the heck do we get in on these experiments anyway?

Aussies to stockpile Kiwi biometrics in central database - sadly, none of us can put away our tinfoil hats just yet. Can you spell "thin end of the fricking wedge"?

Oz mayor stole cash for Darth Vader voice distorter - sigh. In America they call this "thinking small".

Beavis and Butthead in London jihad - On the last UK bomb-plot. Choice quote:
So why is this such big news? Because clowns have got to be passed off as terrorists. Because a vast industry depends on terrorists, real and imagined, to justify its existence. We live now in the grip of the security-industrial complex, and that hungry beast demands to be fed. We feed it money hand over fist, and in return, it feeds us fear biscuits, which we are expected to accept with gratitude.
"I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING": Satan Concedes Coulter Was A Major Fuckup

Try time-outs; spanking suggests to children that violence is OK - 'nuff said.

Violent video games on the brain and Study finds stable personalities unaffected by violent games - if they'd come up with different conclusions I would have KILLED THEM ALL!

Booze worse than Speed or Acid shocker - and guess which ones we ban? Anyone? Anyone?

And finally, a couple of good links courtesy of Mr Kung-Fu Monkey - Why Americans Hate the Media and Hollywood's Profits, Demystified.

This week my favorite song is The Editors, Smokers outside the hospital doors. I do like a good crescendo. Video ain't bad, neither.

A penguin goes on holiday to the Bahamas. He's driving down the road when his car starts spluttering and eventually grinds to a halt. He manages to push the car to the nearest mechanic.

The mechanic warns him that he'll be a while, so the penguin should go and amuse himself for an hour. As he starts off down the road in the baking heat, he is delighted to see an ice cream van. However he can't hold a cone in his flippers, so the ice cream man puts a big plate of vanilla ice cream on the pavement in front of him, and the penguin lies down and gorges to his heart's content.

Having cooled down, he returns to the garage where the mechanic is still busying himself with the car.

As the penguin comes in the mechanic says "it looks like you've blown a seal."

"Nah," says the penguin, "it's just ice cream ..."