31 July 2010

Cow Dung Toothpaste and counterfeit chic

Today's NY Times features coverage of the forthcoming Contraband (London: Steidl & Partners) by Taryn Simon, which apart from pictures of dead guinea pigs and hawks includes a shot of cow dung toothpaste (the latter a suitable present for 'appropriationists' doing the Employment & Discrimination Law unit at UC).

Simon recorded a 'ceaseless flow' -
one the public rarely sees: contraband detained and seized from international flights. ...

After setting up makeshift studios at inspection sites in Terminal 4, Ms. Simon photographed 1,075 items that were taken from passengers and express mail. They ranged from banal bags of nuts to a falcon corpse from Indonesia in a package that declared it to be "home d├ęcor".

"This is a look at an attempt to control what is considered threatening to economies, to personal safety and to a nation", Ms. Simon said.

She has meticulously cataloged every item alphabetically for a 500-page book, Contraband, that Steidl will publish this fall. The New York Times Magazine is featuring an excerpt of 40 images.

Viewed collectively, her simple, uniform images offer a fascinating portrait of the world through objects from "alcohol" to "zolpidem" (Ambien).

Some items turn up again and again: sexual stimulants, counterfeit luxury goods and drugs. "I think it's a depressing reflection of what everyone is chasing — all these forms of escape that create quite a flat representation of human desire in all corners of the world", Ms. Simon said.

Fake Louis Vuitton handbags, steroids from Pakistan and counterfeit boxes of Viagra from China (labeled "USA American Visagra") are just a few of the images that serve as a time capsule of contemporary desire. Not everything is so predictable, however. Among the more surprising objects were two dead guinea pigs. They were taken from a passenger flying in from Ecuador, where the animal is considered a delicacy.

"You have people arriving from different cultures with the normal parts of their everyday life, and then these suddenly take on a wild identity under U.S. Customs", Ms. Simon said.
Counterfeits reappear in 'Jailhouse Frocks: Locating the Public Interest in Policing Counterfeit Luxury Fashion Goods' by David Wall &Jo Large in 50(6) British Journal of Criminology (2010) -
Counterfeiting raises some interesting intellectual questions for criminologists, policy makers and brand owners, not least that it differs from the types of offending that traditionally form the crime diet of the criminal justice system. Whilst it is growing in prevalence due to the enormous returns on investment, it is unlikely that the public purse will fund major anti-counterfeiting initiatives in a climate of public sector cut-backs, emphasising the need to allocate resources effectively. This article seeks to locate the public interest in policing counterfeit luxury fashion goods by separating it out from the broader debate over safety-critical counterfeits such as aircraft parts. It then maps out, what is in effect, the criminology of desire for counterfeit goods, before outlining the market incentives for counterfeiting and related criminal activity.

30 July 2010

the Benny Mussolini Club

People sometimes see what they want to see or just what they are told.

Brigitte Hamann's Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler's Bayreuth (London: Granta 2005) for example describes the aged Mrs Wagner enthusing about that nice Mr Hitler - so kind to dogs and children, such perfect manners, such an artist and so very ill-served by ungrateful underlings.

That connoisseur of cream cakes, dumplings and the industrialised murder of several million kids, their parents and grandparents (let's not mention the war, said Mrs W) was a member of the Benny Mussolini Club - people nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The club does include people of great humanity and merit but mere nomination - a very easy process - is no guarantee of worthiness and thus should not be taken at face value. As Gilbert & Sullivan noted, things are not always what they seem: skim milk sometimes masquerades as cream and resounding titles may identify entities that are virtuous but ultimately underwhelming. Titles are sometimes easily spawned.

The preceding post about Ervin Laszlo's endorsement of Akashic Field Therapy (an endorsement that seems consistent with independent statements by Laszlo and might thus be considered to be authentic) has provoked thought about how audiences construe authority and about the reception of NGOs that are concerned with intangibles.

Laszlo is described as founder of the Club of Budapest. The Club's Australian presence is - for a sceptic - somewhat perplexing, with for example an announcement in 2008 (there's nothing since then, so perhaps the members have done a spot of astral travelling in the past two years) that -
we would like to express our deepest gratitude to all of you for having joined the Global Peace Meditation and Prayer Day on May 18.

On this day, hundreds of thousands of people resonated in high consciousness and sent powerful bright thoughts to humanity and to our beautiful Planet Earth from five continents, from Australia and Uzbekistan to the United States, from Italy and Uganda to Costa Rica. Participants from 45 countries registered with us and we imagine there were more countries involved.
People "resonated in high consciousness"? And "sent powerful bright thoughts" - as distinct from the dull grouchy thoughts that you are reading, thoughts transmitted via HTTP and optical fibre rather than the Blavatsky aether - "to humanity and to our beautiful Planet Earth"? No doubt our beautiful Planet Earth is suitably appreciative and resonated back.

The site notes that Laszlo is -
head of the General Evolution Research Group, which he founded.

He is an advisor to the UNESCO Director General, ambassador of the International Delphic Council, member of both the International Academy of Science, World Academy of Arts and Science, and the International Academy of Philosophy. He is the former president of the International Society for Systems Sciences.
Another bio states that he is -
the author or co-author of forty-seven books translated into as many as twenty languages, and the editor of another thirty volumes including a four-volume encyclopedia. He is Founder and President of The Club of Budapest, Founder and Director of the General Evolution Research Group, Chancellor-Nominee of the GlobalShift University, Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences, Member of the International Academy of Philosophy of Science, Senator of the International Medici Academy, and Editor of the international periodical World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution. Laszlo has a PhD from the Sorbonne and is the recipient of four honorary PhD's, from the United States, Canada, Finland, and Hungary. He was awarded the Peace Prize of Japan, the Goi Award in Tokyo, 2002, and the International Mandir of Peace Prize in Assisi, 2005.
For a grinch such as myself, inclined to look on the dark side, it is terribly funny - redolent of 1920s fads for mysticism, homeopathy, nut cutlets, international committees, little journals with long titles and larger ambitions, secret handshakes and gatherings of the true believers around gurus such as Keyserling, Gurdjieff or Steiner. (Steiner was of course a fan of the Akashic Field, reflected in works such as The submerged continents of Atlantis and Lemuria, their history and civilization: being chapters from the Akashic records. Lemuria and Atlantis!) You can have fun researching bodies such as the International Delphic Council, the International Medici Academy, the GlobalShift University and the World Academy. Along the way - take a cut lunch and a torch, as some of the entities are obscure - you'll be entertained by serendipitous discoveries.

Recipients of the Goi Award include Deepak Chopra. (Alas, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has levitated, if that's the word, to the great beyond, and thus wasn't available for nomination or continued association with TM University.) What appears to be the Mandir site includes treats such as promo for LifeWave patches -
based on the principles of new biotechnologies for improving health of people around the world to make them feel good and live well. LifeWave patches stickers are based on the principles of acupuncture which dates back to 5000 years ago but without using needles due to the development of nano and biotechnology, by stimulating the nerve centers with microcrystals of silicon compounds in contact with the human body creating flows energy to the meridians and clear.
Hmmm, one cannot, it seems, have too many high thoughts and too much resonance. Microcrystals are so much more stylish than the quackery that saw Katherine Mansfield's tuberculosis being treated by immersing the author in a large pile of cow manure.

Some of the dot points are merely worthy. The Club of Budapest (complete with a World Wisdom Council and associated with the World Commission on Global Consciousness and the World Spirit Forum) is elsewhere described as -
an informal association of ethical, globally as well as locally active opinion leaders in various fields of art, science, religion, and culture, dedicated to our common future. Its members include the Dalai Lama, Vaclav Havel, Mikhail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, Peter Ustinov, Peter Gabriel, and young and creative people in many parts of the world. They place their names and energy into the service of what they consider the crucial mission of our time: catalyzing the emergence of adapted vision and values in society by evolving our individual and collective consciousness.
"Evolving our individual and collective consciousness" by resonating as one with the universe and thereby furthering a New Age version of Intelligent Design?

quantum mysticism?

One of my more skeptical friends, knowing of my interest in 'neo-naturalist' claims that 'quantum holism' offers a uniquely scientific and authoritative answer to questions of jurisprudence, has pointed me to an endorsement by Ervin Laszlo, the World Futures editor, quantum mysticism guru and Akashic Field exponent ... modestly described as The Theory of Everything or unkindly dismissed as a repackaging of Theosophy.

Laszlo is claimed by CJ Martes, an Akashic Field Therapist [sic], as endorsing Akashic Field Therapy -
AFT Endorsed by Nobel Peace Prize Nominated Physicist ...

Akashic Field TherapyTM is an integral method of healing that allows an individual to reveal important information that is creating subconscious barriers or blocks to happiness & well-being. As we continue to discover the profound role of the Akashic Field in our everyday lives, we open humanity to embrace a new interpersonal frontier. This has far reaching implications for each of us as member's of the global community. I am pleased that Akashic Field TherapyTM is an avenue for personal/spiritual self-discovery based on my 2004 Theory of Everything, which offers all people the opportunity to make a harmonious, greater connection to the world around them.
Gurdjief, come on down. Let's ignore inconvenient details such as the fact that nomination for a Nobel is easy and isn't the same as being awarded the prize. (It's the Peace Prize, btw, not one for science ... with Laszlo joining nominees such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini.)

dialing up your Akashic Record


Martes explains that -
Mystics and sages have long maintained that an interconnecting cosmic field exists at the roots of reality that conserves and conveys information, a field known as the Akashic Record. The most notable mystic and psychic who routinely assessed the Akashic records in the form of readings for individuals, was Edgar Cayce. Edgar Cayce lived from 1877 to 1945 and during his lifetime performed thousands of such readings for people all over the world.

Cayce was very well respected for all of his intuitive insights. He greatly influenced the lives of his clients. He also influenced the holistic health field with some of the natural remedies he brought from the Akashic Records. It is easy to study his work because he carefully documented each person's reading and follow-up for many years past a client's initial session with him. Because of this, he gained perhaps the most concrete evidence and information about the way the Akashic Records work for each of us.

Cayce believed that the Akashic Records contained a history of every soul since the dawn of creation. These records connect us to each other he often said. They contain the stimulus for every symbol, archetype or mythic story that has ever heavily touched the patterns of human behavior.

When asked where the records reside, Cayce would say they exist within "the skein of space and time" and told many people interested in his work that the "records are everywhere". He further believed that the records are inscribed on some kind of "etheric energy" similar in nature to the energy of thought. This could be correlated to the "aether" of scientific interest.

The records are impressed or encoded into energy they are continually rewritten based on our choices, thoughts and emotion. He believed that revealing the past for a person in his readings was useful to bring about conscious awareness of the soul's growth. He never stopped emphasizing that the records are written by each of us by our own free will and choices made in the present. He reinforced also that our choices in the present moment allow the future possibilities to unfold in our lives from our Akashic Records. ....

Cayce explained that the Akashic records not only store everything in the past of an individual but they also contain all the future possibilities and potentials for our lives. He believed that we basically call into potential an array of possible futures as we interact in our daily lives and learn subconsciously from the data that has already been accumulated.

The theory Cayce had that all the future potentials for us already exist in the Akashic Records simply waiting for our free will to call them into action, is strikingly similar to a view that would emerge many decades later in the newest area of science called Quantum Mechanics and then with Ervin Laszlos Theory of Everything.

It also further supports that our thoughts do indeed create our reality and that it is our perceptions that drive what is real for each of us.

Quantum scientists recently discovered a new area of time and space called the Quantum vacuum. There are newly discovered properties of time and space happening all the time but it seems clear now that this vacuum is a super dense cosmic frictionless medium that carries light and all the universal forces of nature. A well known scientist and philosopher named Ervin Laszlo, in his recently published book, Science and the Akashic Field shows that it may not only be a super dense sea of frictionless energy but also a sea of information conveying the historical experience of matter.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Martes offers to read your Akashic Record and treat your problems using Akashic Field Therapy.

How, you ask? The answer, it seems, is simple -
How are sessions done, especially if I'm not seen in person?
The wonderful thing about these sessions is you not have to be in person or on the phone to have one. Reading information from the Akashic Field is done using very minimal information: full name and birthdate. All information, results and interpretations are recorded onto your own audio cassette which is sent to you via US Priority Mail or Global Priority Mail if not in the Continental United States.
Ah, so past, present and future can be discerned by the adept using only your name and birth date. That claim had my friend rolling on the floor. I merely wondered whether the same therapy would allow me to confer with Cleopatra.

But wait, as they say, it gets better. Martes goes on -
Is this like getting an Akashic Record Reading or Psychic Reading?
Yes and No. It is similar to a reading in that spiritual intuition is used to provide an accurate interpretation of the information found, however it is not limited to just a few past lives or a reading of information. The way it differs is the depth of real information about limiting beliefs, traumas and other negative patterns that directly influence your life now and your potential future possibilities.

How are the patterns identified?
Through CJ's research into various methods of psychology, quantum healing and other holistic methodologies has developed a set of 17 charts that encompass the majority of patterns that could be present for a person. These charts are used to provide very real and beneficial insight into sub-conscious states that cause you to block positive potentials in your life. Dowsing is used to locate the specific patterns on the indicated charts for you.

Is it possible to do a session for a child?
Children also carry various blocking patterns into a life experience just as adults do. Even with a younger child who is not consciously aware of the session material have shown tremendous benefit from this work. A child session consists of 3 major life programs and is less cost than an adult session. The cost for a child's session is $125.00. A child is considered from birth to 16 years of age.

What information do I need to give CJ for this session?
CJ needs your full name, birth date and a photograph to conduct your session. Photographs are not necessary, that is the personal preference of CJ to see who she's working with.
eye of newt, entrails of cat

From my perspective that seems much like tea-leaf reading, palm-reading, consultation of chicken entrails or use of a crystal ball ... presumably of comfort to the therapist and patient but somewhat lacking in scientific credibility.

It would be hilarious if delightful claims about telepathy, 'remote healing', changing the weather through "community consciousness", premonitions, communication with the dead - or is it the undead - and other weirdness were not being recurrently made in publications such as World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution, in my opinion eroding the claimed authority of Laszlo, of his fans and of that no doubt very prestigious journal. Madame Blavatsky, L Ron Hubbard, Rudolph Steiner and Edgar Cayce just do not work for me, irrespective of whether an author has used (or misused) words such as quantum, holism, mesodomain or singularity.

Some people will agree with Deepak Chopra - exponent of quantum mysticism, advocate of 'cosmic ordering' (ie wish hard enough and the good things will happen ... presumably people in Darfur and Auschwitz omitted to wish hard enough), author of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and claims such as "contrary to our traditional notions of aging, we can learn to direct the way our bodies metabolize time". Metabolize time? Direct the way time is metabolized? That's a weirdness that's consistent with Laszlo's enthusiasm for "communication with entities that are no longer living in the familiar form in this world but are alive nonetheless".

Chopra stated that -
Ervin Laszlo provides the most brilliant, comprehensive, and intellectually satisfying integral theory of everything that I have ever read. ... His work transcends the vision of Darwin, Newton, Einstein, the quantum pioneers, and many other scientific giants of history.
Well, at least he didn't say that Laszlo was bigger than Jesus Christ.

Chopra has moved on from the days when he was promoting levitation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the exponent of the simple life whose collection of bling featured over 100 Rolls Royce cars. In my opinion we would be well advised to be wary of such expansive claims or discoveries by World Futures contributor Stanislav Grof that the A-Field (rather than the LSD supplied to some of his cancer patients) accounts definitively for their recollection - while in "holotropic states" - of past lives as aristocrats, gorillas, insects or plants.

Combs, Arcari & Krippner's 2006 article in World Futures on 'All of The Myriad Worlds: Life in the Akashic Plenum' calls on the A-Field as an explanation for parapsychology. The authors are arguably correct in arguing that "interest in esoteric traditions such as Gnosticism, Sufism, Vedanta, Shaivism, Kabbala, Hermeticism, Theosophy, Neoplatonism, Wicca, neo-shamanism, and Tibetan Vajrayana" involves "a widespread search for answers beyond the rational confines of scientistic reductionism and the standard Judeo-Christian worldview", creating an "alternative reality tradition".

That creation is however not new and, with all respect to its adherents, is not "hard science". It is evident in the writings of fin de siecle spiritualists and other enthusiasts who, although often sincere, have been recurrently debunked by hard science, the same science that has addressed nonsense such as witches on broomsticks, saints who cross the sea on a millstone or levitate, neighbours who curdle milk or cause impotence with magic spells, and demonic possession. Just as importantly, for me 'alternative reality', however comforting to its adherents, does not replace rationality and "scientific reductionism" as bases for understanding the world. Readers might want to consider the cautions provided here before embracing hocus pocus - or mere hypothesis - as 'scientific proof'.

'Alternative realities' - such as reincarnation (as a potplant, cat, film star or otherwise) or using prayer to make it rain - in my opinion lack a certain credibility. They militate against action that might improve the lives of people in the ordinary world, not the alternative one inhabited by Cthulu, Xenu, Baron Samedi, the Little Green Men from Mars, the Prince of Darkness or other phantoms. Some of us will thus not be calling the Akashic Field Therapy hotline or using our credit cards (of the psychic or dollar variety) to pay the therapist.

Gellner

From Brendan Simms' WSJ review of Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography (Verso, 2010) by John Hall -
Gellner's most celebrated demolition was of the literary critic Edward Said (1935-2003). When Said accused Gellner of writing about North Africa without having a command of the native language, Gellner was too modest to respond that he was in fact conversant in the language of the Berbers. He did, however, make a strong case that the whole theory of "orientalism" — Said's idea that Western interpretations and depictions of the East were designed not to understand the East but to control it — was based on erroneous assumptions about the political power of literature. The viceroys of India, he pointed out brutally, were not known for eagerly scanning the pages of late-19th-century literary magazines. ...

Gellner believed that there really was a clash between "liberty and pluralism," on the one hand, and "authoritarianism and oppressiveness" on the other. In a passionate riposte to Noam Chomsky, who had accused him of ignoring Western crimes, Gellner charged that his critic had "obscured" the fact that "the survival of freedom and accountable, limited government is an enormously important value even when some of its defenders are occasionally tarnished."

This was the authentic voice of Ernest Gellner: honest, cool and reasonable. Mr. Hall is to be congratulated for reminding us of how much we miss it today.
And from 'Deconstructing Prince Charles' by Martin Filler in the New York Review of Books blog -
Like Mount Vesuvius but at briefer intervals, Prince Charles erupts in high dudgeon over various and sundry affronts to his very particular and sometimes very peculiar notions of how life should be lived. The ghastliness of modern architecture and the superiority of homeopathic medicine—in 2004 he endorsed an alternative cancer treatment that prescribes, among other things, daily coffee enemas—are but the foremost of his many contrarian beliefs. Perhaps because mental illness runs in both sides of his highly inbred family, his state of mind has been questioned more than once.

29 July 2010

another emperor with no clothes

Adam Kirsch in The New Republic biffs the nonsensical Slavoj Zizek ...
To recap: Writing to TNR, Zizek suggested that Gandhi was more violent than Hitler because his peaceful protest movement "effectively endeavored to interrupt" British imperialism. Now, speaking in an Indian newspaper which most of his American readers will never see, Zizek says the precise opposite: Gandhi was more violent than Hitler because he failed to disrupt British imperialism, and so was objectively responsible for continuing the violence of the Raj. (If Gandhi had taken up arms, presumably, Zizek would consider him less violent, because anything that ended British rule would have been a net gain for peace.) He then adds a grace note — that Hitler was a better anti-imperialist than Gandhi, because he "never wanted" the British Empire to be preserved!

... What matters is that Zizek now explicitly denies what he tried to imply in TNR, that he has any kind of admiration for Gandhian nonviolence: "I don't respect him for his peaceful ways". I am not surprised by this; Zizek is, after all, the author of a book called Violence in which violence is quite openly defended. What does surprise me is the pure hypocrisy that his interview exposes, and the total absence of consistency in his thought and public speech. In the same interview, Zizek also complains that "In the last two years, the tone has changed" in the West regarding him and his work. Let's hope so.
Indeed.

Send lawyers, nuns and money

Another day in the shabby election campaign - choose between tweedledum and tweedledumber in a race to demonstrate which managerialist is tougher on the supposed wave of 'illegals' arriving by boat (the far greater number of people arriving at Sydney Airport apparently are not a concern, but don't let facts get in the way of an appeal to anxieties and resentments) and who is more religious than the other (no living in sin in the Lodge, collecting Bill Henson artworks or omitting to genuflect to Family First).

Today's treat is m,edia coverage of the promise by the Opposition Leader to spend $179 million to "tackle organised gangs and knife crime" if the Coalition wins.

What are "organised gangs", as distinct from the disorganised gangs that appear in law reports and in law enforcement studies? The James Hardie mob? The HIH boys? Directors of the former packaging cartel, inc colourful entrepreneur Richard Pratt (the big sugar daddy who believed in sharing the lerv)?

The answer is not clear, but there are media opportunities to be generated and uncritical reporting, so disregard inconvenient statistics or research such as this month's AIC note on '(Mis)perceptions of crime in Australia' and ramp up the fear. (The AIC elsewhere states that "The number of homicide victims has declined steadily at a rate similar to that of homicide incidents. There were 266 victims in 2006-07, and 351 victims in 1990-91.")

The Coalition promises to 'target gang crime with a national squad and database'. Sounds good ... until you recall that there are already mechanisms for cooperation and that most gang crime is a state/territory matter.

Realists might similarly raise an eyebrow over the promise to "toughen penalties for those caught carrying knives and increase restrictions on knife imports". The Commonwealth can readily restrict imports, given its power under the Constitution. Whether that will make 'the knife problem' go away - if there is indeed a fundamental knife problem - is another matter. The forces of darkness (and I'm of course referring to knife wielding criminals rather than what one Coalition member dubbed the 'Sussex Street Death Squad') will presumably be able to buy their own knives domestically or even manufacture their own.

'Knife restrictions' are broadly a matter of state/territory law. The Commonwealth would need to persuade the state/territory governments or engage in 'extreme constitutional ingenuity' (what one colleague refers to as the legal equivalent of 'extreme sport', ie involving bruises and tears and broken bones and ruptured spleen).

Mr Abbott claims that -
The current Government has let our country down when it comes to policing.

Knives are helping to make our streets far less safe.
Are they? The statistics don't show that.

Shadow attorney-general George Brandis said "more could be done nationally" to stop organised crime and that "Increasingly people see crime as a national problem". Heaven forbid that we should disabuse people of dubious perceptions and allocate finite law enforcement resources on a rational basis rather than to reinforce the noise from a political dogwhistle.

The Home Affairs Minister, Brendan O'Connor, is not much more persuasive, proclaiming that -
These things have come into this country - it's really important we restrict the capacity for that to happen.

If we can restrict the access, if we can make it really hard for people to access these weapons, we just reduce the likelihood of people possessing them and of course committing certain assaults.
Expect the SWAT boys to confiscate your cutlery drawer in the near future?

That is presumably the implication, if we take Mr Abbott's words at face value, because he stated that -
We have towards 300 homicides a year in Australia, and almost 50 per cent of these homicides involve knife crime.

It's important that we crackdown on knife crime.
The reality is that several hundred people a year are not being killed in the street by strangers, organised crime gangs, disorganised crime gangs, terrorists or the strange looking, gay alien predator from LA Zombie. Instead, the dicing, slicing & deceasing (as one criminologist friend puts it) involves intimates. You are more likely to be stabbed to death with kitchen implements in your own home by a maddened (or substance-affected) spouse, friend or child than by the 'feral with the flick-knife' that apparently looms large in the minds of the politicians and pollsters.

The Coalition's site, apart from reiterating recent rhetoric about funding for CCTV, offers a few more details. The promise is to
provide $179 million over four years to tackle violent gang and knife crime and build safer communities.

To support the crime-fighting efforts of local communities and the states and territories, the Coalition will establish a National Violent Gangs Database so that law enforcement agencies can better track 'bikie' and other violent gang activity across jurisdictions. Funding of $33 million will be committed to establishing the database.

We will also establish a National Violent Gangs Squad through the Australian Crime Commission (ACC). Funding of $95 million will be committed to the establishment of the Squad. At least 200 additional investigators will be recruited to the ACC through secondment from the Australian Federal Police and state and territory police. These investigators will have with an on-ground presence across the country to work with local police and investigative services.

The Coalition will also implement a National Knife Crime Action Plan to tackle the growing incidence of knife crime in the community. Initiatives under the Plan will include additional funding of $1 million for hand-held metal detectors to assist police in the search for concealed weapons.

We will prohibit that importation into Australia of dangerous hunting knives and standardising the issue of permits for the purchase of dangerous knives online. We will also work with the states and territories to harmonise knife crime laws and penalties.
No permits for nice knives and nothing about sharpening the nice variety.

28 July 2010

Ghosts n ghoulies

A friend has pointed me to a Geelong Advertiser report that alleges self-described witch Eilish De Avalon claims she is immune from mere temporal laws. (De Avalon earlier attracted attention from a Victorian colleague for the pronouncement that "There is enough fluoride in one tube of toothpaste to kill a child".)

Under 'Witch Eilish De Avalon drags cop 200m at high speed after claiming Earth laws don't apply' the Advertiser reports -
A "WITCH" told a traffic cop she was above the law because she was "from another world" before dragging him at high speed down a busy street.

"Your laws and penalties don't apply to me. I'm not accepting them, I'm sorry, I must go, thank you," Eilish De Avalon said, before driving off with Sen-Constable Andrew Logan’s arm caught in her driver's side door ...

The officer was left seriously injured in the incident after being dragged nearly 200m.
De Avalon has pleaded guilty to recklessly causing serious injury, dangerous driving and driving while suspended, using a mobile phone while driving and failing to stop on police request on February 23. The Advertiser states that -
"De Avalon was a suspended driver and that is why she took off," Leading Senior Constable Geoff Lamb said.

The court heard that the policeman had feared for his life when De Avalon drove off with his right arm pinned in her car window.

Senior Constable Geoff Lamb said De Avalon ignored repeated calls to stop and instead accelerated, reaching up to 60km/h as she dragged Leading Senior Constable Andrew Logan 190m along busy Moorabool St.

De Avalon had only stopped after being forced to slow in traffic and the officer grabbed the keys from her ignition.

De Avalon, 40, a marriage celebrant, of Victory Way, Highton, had initially been stopped after she was seen using a mobile phone while driving about 10.40am.

"When asked to produce her driver's licence, De Avalon replied that she did not have one," Sen-Constable Lamb said. "When asked why not, she said, 'I'm a being from another world and don't require one.' When asked to state her name and address De Avalon replied, 'I have a universal name that is not recognised here'."

Sen-Constable Lamb said that when asked for ID, De Avalon said, "Your laws and penalties don't apply to me. I'm not accepting them, I'm sorry, I must go, thank you.

"De Avalon began to wind her window up and Sen-Const Logan reached through in an attempt to remove the keys from her ignition. She continued to wind the window up pinning the officer's right arm to the door frame.

"She then drove off dragging him along with her."
In the old days, of course, she could have just kick-started the broomstick, told her black cat to hang on tight and flown off home. The Force - or the Akashic Field - obviously just wasn't with her. Maybe mobile phones make the Field go away.

25 July 2010

Rahoon

Alexander Pope's friend John Arbuthnot, criticising scabrous publisher Edmund Curll (1675-1747) - infamous for penny dreadful biographies and unauthorised publication of correspondence, including stolen correspondence - quipped that Curll has added new terrors to the grave.

Some people may feel like that regarding Australian defamation law, which provides no posthumous protection for saints and crooks alike. The powerful may chill criticism while they are alive but denunciations of shameful practice or outright criminality lie asleep on databases and in secure storage, ready for publication - as obituaries and exposes - once word of death has been confirmed.

Today's Age starts a belated critique of colourful entrepreneur Richard Pratt, variously accused of bribery, tax offences, Trade Practices Act contravention, standover tactics and association with criminal groups (ie the outlaw motorcycle gangs that are the subject of controversial SA and NSW statutes highlighted elsewhere in this blog). Nothing yet about arson or other nastiness but presumably that will come.

Pratt is alleged to have employed members of the Hells Angels, an entity that its advocates picture as a philanthropic body (santas on wheels but with tats) and its opponents as bloodcurdling practitioners of organised crime straight from Satan. Last week filed a writ of summons in the High Court, preempting a hearing by NSW Supreme Court judge Peter McClellan.

The Hells Angels are appealing to the High Court to have the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2009 (NSW) - ie the NSW anti-bikie law - declared invalid. Wainohu's writ claims the NSW statute is unconstitutional, arguing that it "undermines the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court of NSW, is outside the legislative powers of the defendant, and is invalid".

The Supreme Court was to consider a NSW Government application, filed earlier this month, that would allow NSW police to gain control orders over Hells Angels members. Those orders would restrict the movements and activities of the members, leaving them facing jail terms of up to five years without being convicted of any other offence. The restriction would affect contact with other parties and potentially penalise those parties ... if successful it could have been used against figures such as Pratt.

McClellan has stood the matter over for two months, indicating that he did not want to have to go through the police's weighty brief unless absolutely necessary: "I could be wasting my time if the High Court says this application is invalid. The proposition is that I stand the matter over for some eight weeks to enable me to understand what the High Court has done or intends to do."

The application for an order remains contentious, with criticism that the legislation enables a denial of justice through the suppression of evidence (ie evidence can be kept secret and not sighted by defendants) and comment - for example by the author of this blog - that the legislation is unnecessary, given that existing statutes and protocols cover illegal activity by OMGs. NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery for example condemned the statute as unnecessary and as offending against the rule of law.

$eattle

From 'The Official Microsoft Blog' an 'our stats are better than their stats, nyaaargh nyaaargh' post -
Number of Windows 7 licenses sold, "making Windows 7 by far the fastest growing operating system in history" - 150,000,000

Projected PC sales in 2010 - 355 million
Projected netbook sales in 2010 - 58 million
Projected iPad sales for 2010 - 7.1 million

Percentage of US netbooks running Windows in 2008 - 10
Percentage of US netbooks running Windows in 2009 - 96

Number of paying customers running on Windows Azure in June 2010 - 10,000 (up from zero in November 2009)

"Number of students, teachers and staff using Microsoft's cloud productivity tools in Kentucky public schools, the largest cloud deployment in the US" - 700,000 (factoid of the day)

Number of customer downloads of the Office 2010 beta prior to launch, "the largest Microsoft beta program in history" - 9,000,000

Number of new Bing search users in one year - 21.4 million (ah yes, but did they keep searching?)

Global Windows Live Hotmail users - 360 million (versus 284 million global Yahoo! Mail users and 173 million global Gmail users)

Rank of Windows Live Messenger globally compared to all other instant messaging services - 1

Active Windows Live Messenger Accounts worldwide - 299 million

Total Microsoft revenue, FY2000 - US$23.0 billion

Total Microsoft revenue, FY2009 - US$58.4 billion

Microsoft Net Income for fiscal year ending June 2009 - US$14.5 billion
A commentator in the New York Times responded that -
Bing, its search engine, attracted 21.4 million new users in one year, Mr. Shaw says. Very well, but he does not mention the following: in 2007, the company’s online services group lost $604 million; in 2008, $1.2 billion; and in 2009, the year of Bing’s introduction, $2.25 billion.

Mr. Shaw also points out that in its 2000 fiscal year, Microsoft’s revenue was $23 billion, and that it grew to $58.4 billion by 2009. He does not, however, go on to compare this growth with that of Apple and Google, whom he had just called upon to illustrate another point. But let’s call Apple back to the stage: from 2000 to 2009, when Microsoft’s revenue grew 153 percent, Apple’s grew 436 percent. (Google’s number, beginning from a tiny base in 2000, is too large for use as a fair comparison.)