March 6, 2012

That’s not a cool business card. This is a cool business card

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:00

The Trebucard is a business card sized mini trebuchet. It is designed to fire jumbo paper clips and uses 16 pennies as a counter-weight. Unlike a traditional trebuchet the Trebucard uses the surface it is resting on as a pivot rather than being mounted on a frame.

Nick Gillespie: Short memories and shorter tempers

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:34

A very funny trip down a memory lane not quite in the same dimension as we currently occupy:

With Super Tuesday upon us like a plague of 24-hour locusts that threaten not just the GOP but the very fabric of the nation itself (a wool and Lycra blend explicitly forbidden in Leviticus, btw) which is being stripped more bare than the bride by her bachelors even or the dessert bar near closing time at a Golden Corral buffet, it’s as good a time as any to wonder:

Was it just four years ago that The New York Times was running stories about the deleterious effects of a long, drawn-out, bruising fight for the Democratic presidential nod?

[. . .]

Good god, how does the nation ever survive the primary process? Isn’t it a scientific fact that nobody has ever won the presidency after having gone through a difficult nominating race? Obama was forced to visit all 57 states (by his count) multiple times until he kept fainting on stage from exhaustion like that guy from the Black Crowes who used to be famous.

After all, hasn’t a poll just scientifically proved that the GOP is hurting its “brand” (you know: Depends-wearing, anti-government crackers who only leave their houses on the Medicare-purchased personalized motor scooters to cruise to the mailbox to pick up their Social Security checks and oil-company dividend checks) by not immediately appointing the candidate most likely to get smoked by Obama in November?

The only subgroup of Americans who have weaker memories than high school seniors (99 percent of whom contend that the War of 1812 was fought between the Crips and the Bloods over the last Cabbage Patch doll between 1983-1986) are political journalists, many of whom, you may recall, took Donald Trump and Herman Cain seriously.

Michael Kinsley: Of course it’s insincere

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:25

I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh and I’m not likely to start listening in the near future, so my concern about “Slutpocalypse” is neither deep nor lasting. Limbaugh used the term “slut” to describe a Georgetown law student who was pleading for free or subsidized birth control. He then was forced to apologize, and the apology was deemed insincere by media commentators far and wide. Michael Kinsley points out that they went about it in the wrong way to garner a sincere apology:

The people who want to drive Rush Limbaugh off the air are not assuaged or persuaded by his apology over the weekend. They say he was not sincere: He only apologized, for calling a Georgetown University law student a “slut” and a “prostitute,” because of pressure from advertisers.

Well, of course he wasn’t sincere. And of course he was only apologizing to pacify advertisers — who were getting pressured to pressure Limbaugh by these very critics. Oh, there might have been a political calculation, too, that he’d gone too far for the good of his ratings or his celebrityhood. But any apology induced in these circumstances is almost by definition insincere. You can’t demand a public recantation and then expect sincerity along with the humble pie. If they wanted a sincere apology, Limbaugh’s critics would have had to defend his right to make these offensive remarks, and then attempt to change his mind using nothing but sweet reason. Go ahead and try.

[. . .]

Of course, the insincerity is on both sides. The pursuers all pretend to be horrified and “saddened” by this unexpected turn of events. In fact, they are delighted. Why not? Their opponent has committed the cardinal political sin: a gaffe.

A gaffe, as someone once said, is when a politician tells the truth. This is a bit imprecise. The term “politician” covers any political actor, certainly including Rush. And the troublesome statement needn’t be the truth, as it certainly wasn’t in this case: more like “the truth about what he or she is really thinking.” The typical gaffe is what they used to call a “Freudian slip.” But, with all due respect to Freud, why should something a politician says by accident — and soon wishes he or she never said, whether true or not — automatically be taken as a better sign of his or her real thinking than something he or she says on purpose?

H/T to Radley Balko for the link.

This is why I haven’t been covering the robocallpocalypse

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:23

Margaret Wente in the Globe & Mail brings a sense of proportion to the robo-call “crisis” in Canadian politics:

What’s happened to my country? I went away for a couple of weeks and all hell broke loose. I came back to find that someone named Poutine stole the last election. At first I thought this was a typo, that they meant Putin. But no. It turns out that Russia is a shining beacon of democracy compared to Canada. Apparently, our country has been hijacked by “the most comprehensive electoral fraud in our nation’s history” (Pat Martin, NDP critic). Voter suppression — lying, cheating and general chicanery — has driven us into “uncharted waters” (Bob Rae, Liberal Leader).

I certainly don’t wish to make light of voter fraud. But this fraud seems to have been engineered by the Keystone Kops. Not a single voter claims to have been prevented from voting. No ballot boxes appear to have been stuffed. Nobody was fraudulently elected. There weren’t even any hanging chads. Elections Canada says 31,000 Canadians have complained, but the vast majority of these complaints (“somebody called me at 10 p.m.”) seem trivial.

The dirty trickster at the heart of this evil scheme turns out to be someone with the nom de plume of Pierre Poutine (real identity unknown). Mr. Poutine and his henchmen were not personally directed by Stephen Harper but are widely thought to have been channelling him. In Guelph, Ont., they engineered a bunch of robo-calls that directed people to show up at non-existent voting stations. This tactic was evidently intended to discourage people who didn’t support the Conservatives from voting. It was so effective that the Liberal candidate won by a margin of 11 per cent.

Meme replacement for “… is my next band name”

Filed under: Humour, Media, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:10

(Remember to mouse-over for the rest of the joke, or click the image to see it on the xkcd site)

Australia’s “Ministry of Truth” founding document

Filed under: Australia, Law, Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:07

A rather alarming report to the Australian government by Ray Finkelstein recommends setting up a News Media Council to exercise control over political speech in the media, both professional (TV, radio, and newspapers) and amateur (bloggers, Facebookers, Twitterers, and other private individuals posting their opinions to the internet). It appears to be directed at climate change sceptics, but the provisions of the proposed body of rules will allow a great deal of control over all political speech:

The historic change to media law would break with tradition by using government funds to replace an industry council that acts on complaints, in a move fiercely opposed by companies as a threat to the freedom of the press.

The proposals, issued yesterday by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, also seek to widen the scope of federal oversight to cover print, online, radio and TV within a single regulator for the first time.

Bloggers and other online authors would also be captured by a regime applying to any news site that gets more than 15,000 hits a year, a benchmark labelled “seriously dopey” by one site operator.

The head of the review, former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein, rejected industry warnings against setting up a new regulator under federal law with funding from government.

[. . .]

“News Media Council should have power to require a news media outlet to publish an apology, correction or retraction, or afford a person a right to reply,” the report states. It says this would be enforced through the courts.

The council would absorb the supervision of radio and TV current affairs by Canberra’s existing regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which ran the “cash for comment” investigation into talkback radio over many years.

The council would scrutinise online news sites that get more than 15,000 hits a year, clearing the way for government-funded action against amateur website operators who comment on news and current affairs. Greg Jericho, a prominent Canberra blogger on national politics, said: “The level of 15,000 hits a year, or about 40 hits a day, is seriously dopey.”

Some media executives privately dubbed the News Media Council as a potential “star chamber” because it would not have to give reasons for its decisions, which would not be subject to appeal

There’s a petition site at http://www.freespeechaustralia.com/ for those Australians who’d like to register their opposition to the new council.

Some excerpts from a Menzies House email from Timothy Andrews:

It is clear from the report, in particular paragraphs 4.31-4.42, that silencing climate realists is a major reason for these regulations: it is unashamedly explicit in this (and even uses the dirty trick of using polls from — wait for it — 1966 as evidence the media is pro-climate skeptic, and that — wait for it — only the ABC is unbiased!)

The size and scope of the proposed Super-Regulator is breathtaking. They will have the power to impose a “code of ethics”, force you to print views you don’t agree with as part of a ‘right of reply’, take you to court, and even make you take pieces down! Even personal blogs that get only 40 hits a day will be covered! To make matters worse, the SuperRegulator “would not have to give reasons for its decisions” and the decisions “would not be subject to appeal.” Even climate change websites in other countries like Watt’s Up With That will be covered by this!

[. . .]

11.69 Another aspect of jurisdiction concerns how the News Media Council will exercise its power over all internet publishers. Foreign publishers who have no connection with Australia will be beyond its reach. However, if an internet news publisher has more than a tenuous connection with Australia then carefully drawn legislation would enable the News Media Council to exercise jurisdiction over it.

Well, unless Australia is going to claim jurisdiction over the entire internet, I would imagine it will only prevent Australians from visiting foreign sites. I guess it’s a good thing that they’ve been getting friendlier with China: they can order up their national firewall from the same division of the People’s Liberation Army internet force.

James Delingpole points out that the usual suspects are involved in the process:

You can read the full 400 pages here, if you’re feeling masochistic. But Australian Climate Madness has a pretty good summary of the key issues of concern, starting with Pinkie Finkie’s proposal to create a new super-regulator called the News Media Council [missed a trick there, didn’t he? surely Ministry of Truth would have been more appropriate] which will impose its idea of fairness and balance not only on newspapers but even on blogs with as few hits as 15,000 a year.

But whose idea of fairness and balance?

It’s an astonishing fact that of the 10600 submissions received by the inquiry no fewer than 9600 were boilerplate submissions from left-wing pressure groups, led by Avaaz “a global civic organization launched in January 2007 that promotes activism on issues such as climate change, human rights, poverty and corruption.”

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