27 April 2006

What's your theme song?

I really love the work of Beep! Beep! It's Me.

For some reason, this sort of stuff really appeals to the introverted undergraduate in me.

And I haven't been one of those for about 15 years.

Anyway, this is a site where you answer 3 or 4 questions and find out what your song is.

Mine's Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. Bit surprised at this, although, like all blokes, I was a Floyd fan in high school.

Your Theme Song is Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd

"There is no pain, you are receding.

A distant ship�s smoke on the horizon.

You are only coming through in waves."

You haven't been feeling a lot lately, and you think that's a good thing.

The comfortable part is nice... but you should really work on numb.

26 April 2006

No leads, chief, but I know this medium...

The Amazing James Randi is recovering from his surgery.

He's in a much better spot now to be able to write his excellent weekly column which appears here, but can also be accessed via an RSS feed here.

One that concerned me this week is his take on an AFP officer who was suspended recently for consulting a psychic.

I've gotta say, this is a DISGRACE!

(Not Randi's take, that is, but the fact that the officer concerned was merely suspended.)

Barry Williams is quite correct. This officer should have been sacked.

What is truly worrying is that the AFP take pride in recruiting people who think rationally. This is a bit of a shot to that part of their reputation.

As an aside, Randi takes what appears to be umbrage to the AFP’s "spokesman for homeland security" who is quoted as saying:

"I think, perhaps, this fellow has watched a few too many of the US detective shows."

Randi is only half right, though, when he suggests that Australians only buy this type of show to satisfy our desire for woo.

Granted, quite a few Australians like to watch these shows.

But then, so too do Australians also like to watch TV shows such as Buffy and Smallville.

Australians, I recall, also lined up in droves to watch such gritty realism as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Star Wars.

Given that Australians generally should be able to tell the difference between fact and fiction for shows like these, what's stopping them doing the same for others?

What Randi apparently seems reluctant to accept, is that Australians may hunger for woo because the ideas themselves were planted in Australian viewers by the very "US detective shows" that he seems keen to defend.

Randi's point about Australian-made TV shows pandering to the same beliefs is moot if it appears that these have been developed to "cash in" on a market created from scratch by a US-made show.

Certainly, we have a chicken-and-egg question here, one which Randi appears to have, in his haste to defend the good-ol' US of A, to either have mistakenly missed (my suspicion) or ignored outright (don't believe Randi would do this for one moment).

The AFP spokesman was 100% OK to make this joke about "US detective shows" without any sort of qualifying statement. We (the Australian public) know what is meant by this, and I think that is enough.

However, the AFP now have to fix the situation by sacking the officer responsible. Only then will they be able to fix their reputation and proceed with "normal" policing duties.

A point that Randi would be the first to agree with.

So how badly damaged is the AFP's reputation?

The very fact that they're being reported on Randi's website for what appears to be a major cock-up speaks volumes about how the skeptical world views this sort of thing.

Rest assured, this is being communicated around the world as we speak, and none of it is flattering.

Jokes will begin to fly. People will get irate.

Eventually, someone will lose their job over this. Maybe not immediately, but there would have to be an enquiry of some sort.

But the end result could be a good thing - the force will be told to not do this sort of thing. Explicitly.

Which, hopefully, will mean that it won't happen again.

As a postscript, this poor soul has been nominated 3 times for a Bent Spoon award. Good work, constable.

17 April 2006

Clash jumpers - so what is the deal?

Eddie McGuire has had another go at the AFL over clash jumpers.

This time the AFL are going to make his beloved Pies wear a clash jumper.

The smartarse response initially from Magpieland was a suggested clash jumper that was, rather than white stripes on a black background, black stripes on a white background. A lot like their original jumper, actually.

The AFL rightly hit this suggestion for six, so el presidente Eddie has weighed in and told the AFL that Collingwood don't wear anything other than back and white stripes.

McGuire has a lot of pull, but I doubt that even he will be able to weasel out of this one.

So what is the big deal? Why, says the media, are we only hearing about jumper clashes now? Isn't the system of dark shorts at home and white shorts away meant to solve this?

These arguments are tired and old and have very little basis in reality.

About 10 years ago, which is about a third of my life, the media was pro away jumpers, or clash strips after beating up an incident in a Melbourne vs Essendon match.

What happened in that game, and my memory is about 75% on this, is that a Melbourne player somehow handballed to James Hird who ran past with his jumper down over his (white) shorts.

And every year this gets blown up again after a similar incident.

But hang on, someone is asking, dark shorts and white shorts are traditional, aren't they?

Wrong again. Tradition is black shorts and white shorts. Sometime about 50 years ago or thereabouts, the black shorts became dark shorts to reflect the wishes of clubs like Carlton, Geelong, Melbourne etc who noticed that they were playing at home in shorts that were not in one of their colours.

Clubs like St Kilda, West Coast, Adelaide, Port and the Doggies are already comfortable, and so are their fans, with what is a very simple proposition - clash or away jumpers.

This is the final say that I'm going to have on this matter, so I'll have it now.

Clubs should be made to adopt a "home" strip and a "clash" strip.

Clubs who don't comply, will be considered to have forfeited.

McGuire and co at Collingwood can move into the 21st Century on this, or they can get stuffed.

At the very most, it'll only be twice a year, anyway. Really, what is Collingwood's problem?

16 April 2006

Easter re-visited

I was recently prompted to re-visit an old post of mine ("Uoy Sevol Natas") that I stuck out there in April 1998.

My post was an attempt to put two and two together on some logical inconsistencies that struck me about Christian dogma.

More recently, I have become convinced that it will take a mind a lot more powerful than mine to put it all together in a way that doesn't use God's "get out" clause. That is, His "ineffability".

To gist my post from that period, the key points that I made were as follows:

  1. At least some of the Bible is a lie;
  2. God was not a good bloke;
  3. God is a homophobe;
  4. Judas Iscariot was a saint;
  5. The Holy Spirit is none other than Satan; and
  6. God is neither perfect nor omnipotent.

Anyway, it was with some interest that I read an article this week about a Gnostic Gospel according to Judas which has been recently discovered.

On top of this was an interesting doco on the ABC, narrated by Christopher Eccleston, which investigated who was responsible for Christ's death, called "Bible Mysteries".

Now, while I'm not so quick as some to judge who did what to whom, it always struck me that pinning the blame on Judas Iscariot was more a convenience thing, if nothing else.

What Bible Mysteries did was examine who the prime suspects were, and narrowed it down to three:

  • Pontius Pilate
  • Caiaphas; and
  • JC Himself.

Leaving JI out as a suspect caught my interest.

Actually, in hindsight, I'm gunna start calling him by his name, or at least his "surname". JI sounds a bit like "Jemaah Islamiah".

The doco went through and itemised why it believed that these three were responsible.

I felt that Pilate's inclusion was clutching at straws a little bit.

Basically, Pilate told everyone that he was washing his hands of the whole thing. Well, what was he to do, really?

Caiaphas, Annas and the rest of the Sanhedrin had whipped up a lynch mob which was out for blood. Should Pilate have encouraged them by saying that this gathering was illegal and that if they didn't disperse, there would be carnage?

Pilate, as governor of Judaea, a self-governing Roman province, would not have had any interest in potentially losing troops from the local garrison if he could help it. Yet Pilate handed JC over to the mob despite the fact that he considered Christ to be innocent - again, what was he to do?

The Council of Nicaea sealed Pilate's fate by stating unambiguously that "Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate", indicating that Pilate should shoulder some of the blame for this, but is this warranted? Anyone would have caved in to this mob.

After all, when threatened by the church, Galileo recanted his views. We don't regard Galileo as having "sold out" - we regard Galileo as having been sensible.

Caiaphas was an obvious choice. But no Annas?

It does appear that Caiaphas would have had more impetus to shaft Christ - after all, he was the current sitting high priest. Annas was 'retired'.

I sided with the producers on this one.

If anyone killed JC, it was Him.

The evidence was compelling:

  • Christ came in to Jerusalem in what would have been a pretty defiant entry that would have ruffled a few feathers.
  • Christ was out to get attention when He unleashed a six-pack of whup-arse on the commercial activity in the temple forecourt; and
  • He did, point blank, command Iscariot to betray Him.

I had to agree that if anyone was out to get Jesus here, it was Him.

The programme's producers were perhaps a little oblique about this, but the truth of the matter is that they could have summed all this up in a few short sentences:

  1. He had to fulfil a celebrated prophecy by dying and coming back to life again.
  2. He had to give just enough powerful people the shits for them to want Him dead
  3. What better place to annoy a concentrated bunch of powerful people than the biggest city in the area, home to the Sanhedrin, and capital of the province?
  4. How better to get noticed than by running amok in the temple forecourt?
  5. He had to arrange for someone to betray him. Judas was a pawn who was used.
  6. He had to be put to death. This would have been easy if you had got the first 5 of these points right.
  7. As high priest, Caiaphas would have been forced to do something. Threatening the power of the high priest by claiming to be the Son of God probably sealed it.
  8. Pilate would cave in to a lynch mob. "Incidents" would have been frowned upon back in Rome.
  9. To summarise, Christ himself played everyone like they were accordions. Not even Macchiavelli could have done it nearly as well.

As far as I can tell, Christ was dead lucky that he wasn't born in this day and age.

Except for a few African countries, lynch mobs are harder to whip up now.

People tend to forget your name if a few thousand others get massacred at the same time.

2 and a half crosses for stringing me along. 2 more for actually having a Semitic-looking cast.

10 April 2006

Vatican: condoms don't stop Aids

Just have a read of this. It's yet another one that Beep! Beep! has found.

I had to look at this several times to make sure that it wasn't April 1.

Seriously, how can anyone support a church that endorses the spreading of life threatening diseases just to support its own dogma? It's pretty awful.

04 April 2006

Tell him he's dreamin'.

In this article penned by David "Kochie" Koch, Peter Costello has given himself 5 weeks to look at ways to reform our horrible tax legislation.

In it, Koch takes a swipe at Costello for even suggesting that 5 weeks is enough time for a serious review.

I have to say that I agree with Koch, here.

5 weeks is an appallingly short timeframe to fix what is some of the silliest legislation in the world.

Lets look at some facts on the our beloved tax laws.

The Income Tax Assessment Act is not one, but two acts of parliament - one from 1936 and one from 1997.

Together, these two acts total over 10,000 pages.

Not including Tax Rulings made by the ATO or the case law interpreting the Acts.

Wikipedia points out that the laws themselves have been amended that many times, that there is actually a sub-sub-sub-sub-section in the ITAA 36 that is denoted as Section 221YHAAC(2)(e)(iii)(A).

The problem with tax in Australia stems from the problem with the law in Australia - consistency is not considered to be important.

Take, for example, juvenile offenders.

In most states, you can be tried as an adult from about age 12 onwards.

Yet you can't vote, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, have consensual sex, and quite a lot of other things until much later on. Usually age 18. Or thereabouts.

Thus, it appears, a 12 year old can think and reason criminal acts the same as an adult, but can't think and reason a how-to-vote card.


Other inconsistencies abound, so we can verifiably conclude that dealing with the law in Australia is a truly diabolical process.

Tax law pretty much takes the inconsistency approach, creates more exceptions and buts and leaves us with the underlying conclusion that all Australians fudge their taxes in one way or another.

Not just that, but tax law in Australia works on the basis that you are guilty until proven innocent. Fairly much different to every other criminal law in Oz.

Koch even points this out in his article.

Over the years, these little discrepancies have piled up into a huge, scary monster.

We have a Tax Pack of over 100 pages, where we once had a little form to fill in (I don't remember this - it's something that Koch points out).

Anyway, tax reform requires a bit more than a small commission looking at it over 5 weeks.

Koch mentions that the commission itself consists of Costello, Peter Hendy and Dick Warburton.

The performance of Warburton, though has not looked promising.

Not long after this commission started, Warburton was heard to remark that compulsory superannuation should be considered a tax on business.

I suppose that minimum wage could also be considered a tax too, eh Dick?


So we await this commission's findings.

I would like to say "...with baited breath..." but I have absolutely no doubt that any changes recommended by the commission will be cosmetic at best.