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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine took about $87 million on its opening weekend.

It’s a good, but not great film. $87 million is enough to bring it into the top 20 all time biggest movie openings. Number one is Dark Knight, which took nearly $160 million.

Looking at the top 100 list, it is clear that the reason people go to the movies is to be entertained. You might think this is obvious, but if you do, you are brighter than many movie producers, and especially Australian movie producers, who seem to think that people go to the movies to be lectured about the trendy leftist cause of the month.

Lantana is a perfect example. Boring, self-righteous, and of course the critics loved it. Then there was Black Balloon. The critics loved that too.

Baz Lurhmann’s Australia is possibly the most boring movie of all time – such a disappointment after Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet, and Moulin Rouge. But the critics hated it as much as I did, perhaps because it tried to be entertaining, and the preaching only occurred occasionally. It wasn’t bad because it was preachy, it was bad because it was bad.

Happy Feet was preachy too. I hated it. It made some money though, because it was cute.

The only Australian movie I have enjoyed in recent years was Kenny. Go Kenny! It had a message, but not one the critics would enjoy – amongst other things, hard work and honesty are more important than a university education. Being smart doesn’t make you good, etc.

Kenny made money because it had characters you could care about, a great, if simple, story, and was funny without trying too hard.

Kenny had no public funding.

Public funding kills the arts.

Climate Change Hits Indigenous Australians Hardest

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma, recently returned from the UN’s Conference for Racism and Anti-Semitism, says that Australia’s indigenous people will be hardest hit by climate change.

If temperatures in North Queensland continue to rise, icebergs in the Torres Strait will begin to melt. This will result in dangerous sea level changes, distressing crocodiles and poisoning banana trees.

OK, you got me. He didn’t say that. But what did say was almost as ridiculous.

“According to all the experts, Australians will be hard hit by climate change and none more so than indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples are at risk of further economic marginalisation as well as perpetual dislocation from, and exploitation of their traditional lands, waters and natural resources.”

Wow. All the experts. It must be true then.

It isn’t clear how economic marginalisation, or exploitation of traditional lands and natural resources, could be made worse by climate change. And in any case, there is no evidence of sea levels rising at unusual rates, nor of changes in average temperatures in northern Australia, nor of any increase in extreme weather events.

But hey, Tom, don’t let that stop you.

Wait a minute. I thought women were going to be hardest hit by climate change. Or was it minorites? Or Africa? Or Southeast Asia? Or fish? Or formerly common species of salamander? Or snow?

Or beer?    Arrrgh! No! Australians must unite in demanding a stop to climate change now!

Those Gentle Caring Greenies

A $1.2 million arson attack on forestry equipment. Selfish, irresponsible, idiotic, criminal. But pretty much no risk of anyone being harmed.

But attaching wires to trees where loggers cannot see them to make those trees fall in ways loggers will be unable to predict?

MP Daniel Hulme claims activists have put lives at risk by setting up booby traps. He said they were to blame for a trap in the Styx Valley, which Forestry Tasmania said could have seriously injured or killed a timber faller.

A strand of fencing wire was strung between two trees in a forestry coupe last month, 30 metres above the ground so the wire could not be seen from the ground, Forestry Tasmania told police.

A contractor discovered the trap after a tree limb was snapped by the wire as a tree fell to the ground, fortunately missing the faller. Such traps redirect the path of falling trees or limbs, meaning workers, believing they are standing in a safe spot, can be struck.

This is a callous disregard for life – greenies believing their political views are so important that it doesn’t matter if workers are killed or injured.

I wonder what their views on waterboarding are?

Anthropogenic Global Warming Could Have Been Right

In laboratory conditions, increases in the proportion of CO2 in air result in a small, but proportional increase in heat retention. It was reasonable to ask whether a similar effect might apply in the real world.

If increased CO2 was responsible for warming, then this warming would occur more quickly in the upper troposphere, and at the poles. This has not happened.

Most obviously, if human produced CO2 emissions had an effect on global climate, then there would be a correlation between changes in CO2 levels and changes in climate. No such correlation has been observed.

So we know, and have known for some years, that anthropogenic global warming theory is wrong.

Jennifer Marohasy has posted a discussion of the work of Hungarian physicist Ferenc Miskolczi which helps to clarify why it is wrong.

If more care had been taken with maths and research when the theory was first proposed, it would have been clear right from the start that it was wrong.

Some years ago this Hungarian physicist, then working for NASA, discovered a flaw in an equation used in the current climate models  discovered a flaw in how those constructing the IPCC climate models deal with the issue of the atmosphere’s boundary conditions.  In order to progress this research Dr Miskolczi eventually resigned from NASA claiming his supervisors at NASA tried to suppress discussion and publication of his findings which have since been published in IDŐJÁRÁS, The Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service.

The key point:

.. the Earth’s atmosphere dynamically keeps its greenhouse effect right at its critical value, regardless of our continuing CO2 emissions, regardless of any change in atmospheric CO2 concentration in the past ten thousand years. Miskolczi’s dynamic constraint keeps the greenhouse effect “climatically saturated”: emitting CO2 into the air cannot increase the normalized greenhouse factor g because any impact of human addition of CO2  is dynamically countered by about 1% decrease of the main greenhouse gas, water vapor (moisture) in the atmosphere.

In other words, changes in ‘greenhouse gases’ do not affect the climate because any increase in CO2 or other heat retaining gas causes a corresponding and counter-balancing reduction in the concentration of the main greenhouse gas – water vapour.

Global climate can and does and will change. This has been and will continue to be primarily because of changes in the amount of heat and light received from the sun.

D-Day (Dimwit Day) In South Australia

The Rann government’s ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags starts today. I predict chaos and frustration at supermarkets around the state.

Tim Blair notes that the people who grow marijuana are subject to a fine of $300, while those who provide their customers with a plastic shopping bag are subject to a fine of $315.

This is a letter I wrote to my local paper about this late last year. ‘The Islander’ is the Kangaroo Island paper. The arguments still apply.

I am all in favour of more thought about environmental issues, including the use of plastic shopping bags.

Thinking without acting is pointless, but acting without thinking is dangerous.

A basic level of thinking is ensuring that one has one’s facts correct. Bernard Baruch once said “Every man has a right to be wrong in his opinions. But no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.” Those who undertake to change public policy have a special responsibility to ensure they present their case fairly and without distortion.

This is one of the reasons I have become concerned about the debate over the use of plastic shopping bags.

Three weeks ago the front page of The Islander claimed that the government was going to ban single use polypropylene bags. This claim was repeated on page nine of the November 6th edition: “Old Bags Day is about shoppers saying no to single-use poly-propylene bags.”

I would wholeheartedly support a ban on single use polypropylene shopping bags. Polypropylene is a tough plastic which does not easily break down.

There is only one problem. The government is not proposing to ban single use polypropylene shopping bags, because single use polypropylene shopping bags have never been available in Australia. What the government is proposing to ban is light-weight polyethylene bags.

I was astonished to see, also in the November 6th edition of the Islander, a photo of a shop employee putting a product packaged in plastic into a reusable bag printed with the words “Put an end to plastic bags.”

This is almost beyond parody, given that the bag with these words printed on it is made of a highly durable plastic – about fifty times as much as plastic as a light-weight shopping bag. Just as astonishing was the caption “(the shop assistant) packs a reusable bag instead of using plastic.” No, the reusable bag is made of plastic.

Imagine this conversation. “So you’re going to ban light-weight plastic shopping bags to benefit the environment. Sounds great! What are you going to replace them with?”

 “Well, instead of giving people light-weight bags made in Australia, we are going to sell them bags which contain about fifty times as much plastic, of a type which takes much longer to break down, and which are made in China.”

“Oh.”

The argument is that because they last longer, re-usable plastic bags will in eventually result in less plastic waste.

The state government, on its Zero Waste website, thoughtfully tells us that its calculations of the environmental benefits of the ban are based on the assumption that one reusable polypropylene plastic bag will replace ten ordinary light-weight plastic bags each week for two years. Does this strike anyone else as manifestly ludicrous?

This means that if you take home ten bags of groceries and other products each week, the government’s case for banning light-weight bags is based on the assumption that from now on you will take all those groceries home in a single reusable “green” plastic bag.

A more reasonable estimate would be that each reusable plastic bag will replace two light-weight shopping bags a week for six months. At the end of the six months the total amount of plastic used is about the same.

But instead of light weight polyethylene mixed with starch or oxidising agents, which breaks down over 12 to 18 months, you are left with a dense mass of polypropylene which may take up to 1000 years to break down.

But it gets worse. Once ordinary shopping bags are replaced by denser reusable plastic bags, people will have to buy other plastic bags; bin liners, dog poo bags, nappy bags, etc to replace the light-weight shopping bags they used to re-use for those purposes. The end result is more plastic waste, not less, much of it a harder plastic to dispose of.

People are right to be concerned about the impact of plastic waste on wildlife. Plastic shopping bags are a very small part of this problem. Of course any wildlife lost to plastic bags is unacceptable. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that the best solution is to ban them, any more than rusting car bodies left in the bush is a reason to ban motor vehicles.

Instead, we should ensure that litter regulations, and the already stringent international laws banning the disposal of plastic at sea to which our government is a party, are rigorously enforced.

Don’t be bullied into a “solution” which is inconvenient, more expensive and offers no benefits to the environment.

Menacing Matriarch Moans

Poor Rabiah.

Former surfie chick turned jihad groupie Rabiah Hutchinson is complaining about the nightmare of living under ‘constant surveillance.’ After all, she is just a 55 year old grandmother with diabetes and arthritis. So why is anyone picking on her?

To start with, she looks like something out of a teen slasher flick.

Jihad Groupie Rabiah Hutchinson
Jihad Groupie Rabiah Hutchinson

Rabiah has the right to wear whatever she likes. But then the people who see her have the right to be alarmed and suspicious. Or annoyed when she terrifies their children in the aisles at Woolworths.

But her appearance is not why she is of interest to Australian security forces.

After backpacking in to Bali in the 1980s, Hutchinson married a muslim and converted to Islam. Through some student friends she met Abu Bakar Bashir, eventually becoming a close friend.

Bashir is regarded as the ‘godfather’ of terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiah. JI was behind the Bali bombings, and Bashir was found guilty of conspiracy in relation to those bombings in an Indonesian court in 2005.

Well, maybe she is just unlucky in her choice of friends. And by the time of the Bali bombings, Hutchinson was no longer living in Indonesia.

In 1984, she married engineering student Abdul Rahim Ayub in a ceremony at Bashir’s school. They returned to Australia, where Ayub was appointed the leader of JI’s Australian branch, Mantiqi 4.

Maybe she was just unlucky in her choice of husbands as well. Ayub was her third.

But in 1990 she divorced him and took her six children to join jihadi forces in Pakistan. There she met Osama bin Laden, and eventually travelled to Afghanistan.

She married a member of al-Qaeda’s governing council, Mustafa Hamid. She got know to bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, and his wife became one of her closest friends.

al-Zawahiri is regarded as one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, the ‘brains’ of Al Qaeda, and a consistent planner and promoter of violence and suicide bombings.

His latest message of peace and goodwill, released only a few days ago, can be found on the NEFA Foundation website.

After the 9/11 attacks and subsequent US attacks on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Hutchinson fled to Iran, where she was detained before being returned to Australia.

In 2006 her two sons Abdullah Mustafa and Mohamed Ilyas were arrested in Yemen and accused of being part of an Al Qaeda cell smuggling weapons to Somalia. They were eventually released wihout charge, but were deported to Lebanon. They were forced to leave Lebanon after authorities there refused to renew their visas.

But according to Rabiah, this is all just bad luck, and she is just a cuddly old grandma.

ASIO (the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) thinks differently.

According to the article in The Australian linked above, ASIO believes that there is “a strong likelihood” that further travel by her would involve “participation in, or support and preparation for, acts of politically motivated violence”.

Rabiah Hutchinson’s life, and her movement in and around Australia are not restricted in any way. She has full rights of citizenship, except a passport.

But I for one am glad someone is keeping an eye on her.

Swine Flu Transmitted Via Baggage – Not

Any excuse for a day off.

Baggage handlers at Paris’ Orly airport walked off the job claiming their lives and health were at risk from Swine Flu if they carried baggage on flights from Mexico or Spain.

French health authorities say they will issue face masks to customs, police and airport workers whose jobs bring them into contact with passengers. Way to increase the pointless panic, guys.

They might have been better suggesting travellers avoid Orly airport altogether. When the baggage handlers are either lazy or brain dead, who knows where your luggage might end up?

Condi – ‘Do What’s Right’

Former US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice talks with students at Stanford University.

As always, she is intelligent, dignified, respectful of others. She respects the students who question her enough to listen to them, and to give straight answers to their (often poorly informed) questions.

 

Key moments:

First, do what’s right…

Unless you were there in a position of responsibility after September 11 you cannot possibly imagine the dilemmas that we faced in trying to protect Americans. A lot of people are second guessing now but let me tell you the second guessing that would have hurt me more is if there had been 3,000 more Americans dying because we didn’t do everything we could to protect them…

Do your homework…    Read….

In relation to waterboarding, etc:

1) Torture is illegal in the US.

2) The President made it clear that no matter how urgent the need to protect the US from further attacks, anything that was to be done had to be legal.

Of Mice And Maggots

The story of a decorated war veteran being chewed by mice in an Australian nursing home has been much in the news over the last few days, usually with comments about how disgraceful the lack of care must have been, or how this demonstrates systemic failures in the health system.

I am not so sure. There is nothing in the news reports to indicate that this had happened before, or that staff were negligent in any way. But if staff were not negligent, what happened?

At the moment we have a minor mouse plague on Kangaroo Island. We have been catching up to six mice per night inside the house. That does not include mice caught by our two cats, or equally enthusiastic small terrier.

The mice are quick and bold. Two nights ago one strolled across my desk as I was typing. I chatted to it briefly, explaining that its presence was not especially welcome, then went and got a trap and put it next to a pile of papers. A few minutes later, snap, and it was contemplating the mousy version of eternity.

But this is nothing compared to the mouse plagues we experienced in Western Queensland.

Like most people I made bucket traps. This is a ramp leading up to a bottle suspended over a bucket  of water. You smear the ramp and bottle with peanut butter (by far the best bait for any rodent trap). The mice follow the scent out onto the bottle and slip into the water where they drown. I had two such traps and would regularly catch twenty in each per night.

This video, taken in Queensland near Dalby where the nursing home is, shows just how fast and how numerous the mice can be (and a warning, some people might this video disturbing):

 

People in Western Queensland are aware of the mouse problem (how could they not be!), and health services are normally careful to ensure buildings are sprayed, baits laid, etc.

If anyone is to blame for that incident, it is not the nursing staff, but the environmentalists and bureaucrats who demanded that no sprays be used.

On the other hand, this really was neglect, of the most vile and uncaring kind:

A Melbourne woman allowed her mother to be eaten alive by maggots and left her dying on a floor surrounded by her own waste, a court has heard.

Kateryna Pyrczak’s St Albans house allegedly smelt like a “rotting corpse” when she was discovered by paramedics lying on her kitchen floor with gangrenous legs on November 10 last year.

Police allege the 72-year-old’s right leg was gangrenous from knee to foot and was being eaten by maggots and her body was covered in ulcers.  Ms Pyrczak was rushed to the Western General Hospital but died from multiple organ failure and septicemia later that night.

No Caterpillars Injured In The Making Of This Video

You may have some hesitations (as I do) about whether waterboarding or putting a caterpillar in someone’s room can reasonably be called torture. See a couple of posts below.

But there is no doubt about the enhanced business disagreement techniques used by Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan — one of 22 royal brothers of the President of the United Arab Emirates (which include Dubai.)

This link takes you to a clip of an ABC report, which includes parts of the torture video smuggled out of the UAE by US businessman Bassam Nabulsi.

The man being tortured is Mohammed Shah Poor, an Afghan and former business partner of Sheikh Issa’s. Issa tortured Shah Poor for more nearly fifty minutes, assisted by a number of men in UAE police uniforms.

A rifle was shot into the ground around Shah Poor, blasting sand into his eyes. Sand was pushed into his eyes and mouth. He was poked with with an electric cattle prod. He was repeatedly beaten on the buttocks with a board with a nail protruding from it. He was kicked in the head multiple times, lighter fluid was poured on his genitals and set alight. Finally he was run over with Sheikh Issa’s Mercedes.

The tape is gruesome. It has also been censored, because some parts of the tape were thought too horrific for viewing.

I am not suggesting that because worse things are done elsewhere, that makes it OK for us to treat people in cruel or brutal ways.

But the Sheikh’s torture tape puts the debate in some perspective.

Despite the media fuss, not a single person at Guantanamo was actually injured. The ‘enhanced’ techniques in question made three known terrorists scared or uncomfortable. The memos make it clear that CIA personnel and legal advisors were trying to act in ways that would be effective in gaining information to prevent further attacks and save lives, and which were also reasonable and legal.

Were they wrong?

Obama – Tastes Great, Less Filling

And 99 more awesome thoughts about the 100 days of awesomeness, from Doubleplusundead.

Here’s a sample:

12 When his wife twisted off the Queen of England’s head like a beer cap, he reattached it with nothing more than the sweat of his brow
13 You can see his awesomeness from space
14 He fires CEOs like other presidents change socks
15 He can hold two contradictory opinions and still be the model of consistency
16 White House maids report that the Presidential Toilet smells like roses and honey even when he forgets to flush
17 He encourages hate-mongers to moderate themselves via his silent presence, like he did at the Summit of the Americas.  Or in his church.

The Whole Torture Thing

I have been meaning to say something about this for a while.

I have studied ethics, both in secular university classes and in seminary, and those classes and more recent reading have been a useful background. But I have not had time to do the further reading and thinking I need to do to be confident of what I say. I don’t yet have enough information to have an opinion.

There are three basic questions.

First, do the ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques used with three Guantanamo prisoners constitute torture?  I have not been helped by the certainty of some commentators that they were, that everybody really knows they were, and that anyone who disagrees is therefore either lying or morally bankrupt.

Second, if those enhanced interogation techniques were torture, could the use of such techniques ever be justified? Just saying ‘no’ is not an argument.

Third, if the use of torture can be justified sometimes, no matter how rarely, was it justified in the case of the Guantanamo prisoners?

I hope to get my thoughts together over the weekend, and write something more substantial on Monday – normally my day off from the shop.

In the mean time, Ann Coulter has written a typically funny and pull-no-punches column about what she might call the CIA’s Fisher Price approach to interrogation, including the dreaded ‘Caterpillar.’

This involved putting a live caterpillar in the subject’s room. The horror! Although, as Ann notes, the effectiveness of this method was probably diminished by the refusal of Justice Department lawyers to allow interrogators to trick the terrorist into believing the caterpillar was a “stinging insect.”

Ann’s approach to this is entirely different from mine, but it makes refreshing reading after the loud, self-conscious, and complacent breast-beating of some liberal commentators and mainstream news outlets.

 Here’s an excerpt, but it is worth clicking the link above and reading the whole thing.

As the torments were gradually increased, next up the interrogation ladder came “walling.” This involves pushing the terrorist against a flexible wall, during which his “head and neck are supported with a rolled hood or towel that provides a C-collar effect to prevent whiplash.”

People pay to have a lot rougher stuff done to them at Six Flags Great Adventure. Indeed, with plastic walls and soft neck collars, “walling” may be the world’s first method of “torture” in which all the implements were made by Fisher-Price.

As the memo darkly notes, walling doesn’t cause any pain, but is supposed to induce terror by making a “loud noise”: “(T)he false wall is in part constructed to create a loud sound when the individual hits it, which will further shock and surprise.” (!!!)

If you need a few minutes to compose yourself after being subjected to that horror, feel free to take a break from reading now. Sometimes a cold compress on the forehead is helpful, but don’t let it drip or you might end up waterboarding yourself.

The CIA’s interrogation techniques couldn’t be more ridiculous if they were out of Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch:

“Cardinal! Poke her with the soft cushions! …
Hmm! She is made of harder stuff! Cardinal Fang! Fetch … THE COMFY CHAIR!

So you think you are strong because you can survive the soft cushions. Well, we shall see. Biggles! Put her in the Comfy Chair! …

Now — you will stay in the Comfy Chair until lunchtime, with only a cup of coffee at 11.”

Further up the torture ladder — from Guantanamo, not Monty Python — comes the “insult slap,” which is designed to be virtually painless, but involves the interrogator invading “the individual’s personal space.”

Global Warming Is ‘Zombie Science’

From Dr Bruce Charlton at Science Direct:

… that so many vague, dumb or incoherent scientific theories are apparently believed by so many scientists for so many years is suggestive that this ideal does not necessarily reflect real world practice. In the real world it looks more like most scientists are quite willing to pursue wrong ideas for so long as they are rewarded with a better chance of achieving more grants, publications and status.

The classic account has it that bogus theories should readily be demolished by sceptical (or jealous) competitor scientists. However, in practice even the most conclusive ‘hatchet jobs’ may fail to kill, or even weaken, phoney hypotheses when they are backed-up with sufficient economic muscle in the form of lavish and sustained funding. And when a branch of science based on phoney theories serves a useful but non-scientific purpose, it may be kept-going indefinitely by continuous transfusions of cash from those whose interests it serves. If this happens, real science expires and a ‘zombie science’ evolves.

Zombie science is science that is dead but will not lie down. It keeps twitching and lumbering around so that (from a distance, and with your eyes half-closed) zombie science looks much like the real thing. But in fact the zombie has no life of its own; it is animated and moved only by the incessant pumping of funds. If zombie science is not scientifically-useable – what is its function? In a nutshell, zombie science is supported because it is useful propaganda …

I’m not sure that Dr Charlton himself makes the connection between zombie science, the IPCC, and global warming. But Dr Muriel Newman of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, does:

The facts disproving the manmade global warming hypothesis are indisputable: over the last decade man-made greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise, but global temperatures have fallen. That is not what is supposed to happen, according to the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. It means that the climate change policies being considered by our government are a waste of time and money…

The current President of the European Union, the Hon Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, has lamented the fact that no other leaders will stand up against what is effectively socialism in drag. He has always regarded the attempts of the environmental movement to use climate alarmism to restrict economic progress as a direct attack on the freedom and prosperity of free societies. 

I’m not sure Dr Newman is right that the increase in CO2 over the last ten years with no corresponding increase in global temperature proves that anthropogenic global warming theory is wrong. There could be other factors at work which covered the effect of greenhouase gas emissions over such a short period.

The proof is that there has never been any correlation between human activity and changes in climate. The connection between the two was never more than conjecture – conjecture which has now been shown to be false.

Incidentally, Dr Newman lives in my old home town of Whangarei, in Northland, New Zealand. A great place to live!