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On Elections and Referendums and Policies.

Apparently the Liberals are claiming the recent Australian election was a "referendum" on the various policy packages of the major parties, and that as they won the majority of seats in the lower house of parliament, they therefore have the right to implement all their policies (even the ones there's strenuous opposition to for practical reasons, such as their NBN-on-the-cheap one).

Let's just break this down a bit. If an election is a referendum on policy, then clearly these policies should be readily stated in detail, adequately debated, and fully costed, and all of these details supplied to the public at the beginning of the campaign. As it stands, neither of the major parties supplied all of this detail to the public even by polling day (and the Liberal party was by far the most egregious offender in this regard - there were more and better costed policies from the Greens than from the Liberals).

In a referendum, the winning answer needs to get a majority of votes nationally, AND a majority of votes in all the states. Referendums, being voted on yes/no questions, don't go to preferences, because they don't need to - it's straight first past the post all the way. Yes, there are a majority of Liberal and National party members in the House of Representatives at present (if we're going to be continuing with the "referendum" analogy, presumably they'd count as "yes" for the Liberals, and "yair" for the Nationals), and there are more of them than there are members for the ALP (who are presumably the "no"s in this analogy). But where does this leave the Greens, the Palmer United Party, and the other few Independent MPs in the chamber? They don't readily analogise to a straight yes or no response.

As regards to the majority of the states, the composition of the new Senate is still being decided (further complicated, of course, by the fact that only HALF the senate seats were up for contest in this election, so we still have a senate which is being half-decided by responses we made to questions asked back in 2010), but it seems likely the Liberals and Nationals won't have a clear majority there, and will be required to do some horse-trading with the various minor and opposition parties in order to get policies passed. Or, in a return to our referendum analogy, the Liberals did NOT get a majority of senators in all the states... and thus the referendum doesn't pass.

The Liberals don't have a simple "mandate" for their entire policy list. Particularly since at least some of their policy list is stuff which is disputed even within the party itself.

Now, if the Liberal party really does want each election to be a referendum on policy rather than the current popularity contest, here's a suggestion for how it would need to work. Firstly, the parties would be required to have their policies worked out, costed, and ready to defend at the beginning of each electoral campaign period. These policies would need to be summarised into single line items, and each line item policy would be placed (with its costing - no costing, no consideration) in a list, with tick boxes at the end of each line - one for yes, one for no.

Incidentally, this could be a big saving, because it would mean only a single ballot paper for both the House of Representatives AND the Senate, and only a single ballot paper Australia-wide. Yes, that does mean people in Melbourne and Sydney would be voting for and against pork-barrel measures aimed at people in the rest of the country. On the other hand, the rest of the country would be voting for and against pork-barrel measures aimed at people living in Sydney and Melbourne. Just think, winning Federal policies would most likely be the ones aimed at the entire country, rather than the ones aimed at winning individual seats.

In each seat and each state, the respective yeses and noes would be added up. For the House of Representatives, the candidate for the party whose collection of policies best conformed to the wishes of the voters for the seat would be chosen as the member for the individual seat. The current parliamentary convention of the Prime Minister being the parliamentary leader of the party with the greatest number of members in the House of Representatives could still apply. In the senate, the votes would be counted at a state level, and as each constellation of policy choices which matched a particular party's platform reached a quota, a senator from that party would be elected.

In addition, the AEC at the end of the day would have the ultimate opinion poll on which policies were supported and by which percentage of the population - and they could basically hand this to the incoming government with instructions that THIS is what they have a mandate for. Each individual member could also be given the same sort of run-down for their individual seat as well, thus indicating which way they were mandated to vote by their electors.

It would certainly change the How-to-vote cards.

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music: Traffic going by the window
On Asylum Seekers and Boat People

The Australian government is busy attempting to do nothing about asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Australia by boat (aside, of course, from trying to shuffle the responsibility for dealing with them off to Nauru). In the meantime, I've finally come up with the ideal solution to the problem.

Like so many problems, this one can be solved by a bit of education. The trick is to educate the asylum seekers before they leave on their journey. They need to be correctly equipped for the occasion, and they need to approach the Australian coastline with the correct attitude.

To start with, refugee boats should contain at least 5 - 10% armed troops (if possible, they should have better quality weapons than the Australian army). Rather than attempting to make landfall at any of the known ports, the boats should instead be aiming at landing on an unregarded bit of land. Once landfall is achieved, the new arrivals should set up a flag, and claim the area in the name of their former homeland. They should then make a camp, and set up a base.

If confronted by officials or representatives of the Australian government, they should deny the legitimacy of said officials, argue the land was vacant when they arrived, and point out that they don't recognise any extant governing body on this continent. Declaring the current occupants of the area to be sub-human vermin is purely optional, and is left up to the governor of the new country to declare.

While this plan may seem to be inhumane, unspeakably arrogant, and contrary to all known international law, it does have one major advantage: it's been shown to work in multiple circumstances across multiple countries and multiple centuries. When performed by white Europeans, it's called "colonisation". We know it's been successful in this country at least once.

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location: In a snit
Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Julian Assagne Does It Again

Does it strike anyone else that in seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, Julian Assagne is doing just about everything known to (highly privileged) humankind in order to avoid the consequences of his own behaviour?

I would hate to be in the position of the two women who reported his actions to the police in Sweden, watching as the man who violated their trust[1] twists and wriggles in every possible way he can to avoid having to answer for his actions. I would hate to be watching as he moves from one form of avoidance to the next, always trying to dodge the consequences of his behaviour. I would be as angry as all hell as one group of expensive friends after another comes to his rescue, offering monetary assistance, accommodation, legal aid, etcetera.

Oh, but he's lost so much, everyone says. He's effectively stateless, he's relying on the kindness of strangers, he's being persecuted by all these shadowy conspiracies, and besides, the charges aren't for anything serious so why should he have to answer them. To which I say: he chose to be where he is. He chose to start Wikileaks. He chose to poke sticks at a US government which had shown itself to be highly defensive, highly paranoid, and willing to go to extreme lengths in order to preserve what it saw as its rights. He chose to travel freely around the world (something not everyone can do) and to investigate any number of countries as potential new homes. He chose to rely on the hospitality of friends, and to abuse that hospitality.

Julian Assagne's current situation with regard to the US government is something he chose to get into of his own free will. He chose to poke a dragon with a long pointy stick. The dragon noticed.

His position with regard to the Swedish government is something he could have chosen to avoid as well. All he had to damn well do was keep his fucking dick in his fucking daks and not presume that all women exist in a permanent state of "yes, please!". He didn't do that. And he didn't do that in a country where the laws regarding sexual consent are different to the laws where he grew up - from what I can gather, the laws in Sweden presume that women (and men) don't exist in a permanent state of consent to sexual activity, but rather that consent is something which has to be explicitly granted each time.

Julian Assagne is not a martyred hero of the left. Julian Assagne is a highly privileged male who is trying everything he can think of in order to get out of accepting the responsibility for actions he chose to take. Julian Assagne's actions are not unique - there are countless other cases of privileged men fleeing justice in order to avoid being charged with and tried for rape. He's just one more highly privileged moral coward.

[1] I'm stating this as a definite because quite frankly, I doubt anyone would have gone to the same sorts of lengths Mr Assagne has gone to were they entirely innocent of the actions performed.

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location: Same as usual
Current Mood: irritated irritated
Today in the News

Okay, clearly I don't understand Big Business. There's an article in today's ABC newsfeed which is basically another round of the mining companies and the Business Council of Australia howling "we'll all be rooned" because things aren't going 100% their way. They're busy saying that the Australian economy costs too much to do business in, that it's too damn risky and too damn costly, and we should be altering our business to remove our "low productivity and outdated work practices".

They basically argue that resources projects here cost about 40% more than those on the Gulf Coast of the USA - and I'd argue that yes, there's any number of reasons for that:

1) I don't know whether they've realised, but Australia has a smaller population than the USA - we're about 1/15th the size of the US population, and we're at about the carrying capacity of the continent as it stands.
2) We're a bit more geographically isolated than the Gulf Coast of the USA - and certainly a lot of the areas where the resource projects are happening here are a lot further removed from large centres of infrastructure too.
3) We have different legal frameworks to the USA, being a different fucking country and all. This includes things like insisting that all staff be paid a decent wage and that things like environmental regulations and OH&S requirements aren't just optional extras that have to be dealt with if (and only if) you can't afford to pay off the inspector. Oh, we also don't have the concept of "at will" employment enshrined in our social support systems - so we ask that if people are going to be sacked, they're sacked for a reason, given a decent notice period, and paid their redundancy money. We also insist that the indigenous peoples of the location be compensated for any damage done to their tribal lands - and if you're not sure whether a particular location is part of the tribal lands, you can just submit a request to the Native Title Tribunal to find out, can't you!

They point to our labour being "35 per cent less productive" than the labour in the US Gulf Coast for projects near cities (it's up to 60 per cent less productive in remote locations) - and I have to admit I'd like to know what the yardstick they're using is, when the measurements were taken, which projects they're comparing and to what, and how they're categorising "near cities" and "remote". Or in other words, show me the figures, show me the original research - don't just give me the conclusions stripped of all possible context.

But the thing which really stuns me is the following:

"We are in a global competition for capital and in things like iron ore or in coal, we've got growing competition from other countries in the world. And if we become more expensive, or too expensive, then those projects may not occur or may go elsewhere," Mr Shepherd said.

It's the last bit, the notion of "projects going elsewhere" which really stuns me - what, do they really think it's possible to dig up the iron ore in Australia's north-west from say, Somalia? Do they really think that this petty bit of blackmail is going to succeed in basically turning around our entire culture and economic system, just in case one or two big companies decide they don't want to spend their money here? (Well, yes, probably they do. And what's more they're probably right in expecting it given the past track records of various Australian governments, which is depressing).

However, I'd point to a statement made by our PM fairly recently. Ms Gillard apparently located her spine, and pointed out to a whole heap of mining company executives that, contrary to their apparent belief (as expressed via their corporate behaviour) they don't own all the minerals in Australia. Instead, these minerals are owned in common by the peoples of Australia. Mining companies don't get freehold rights to the areas they mine. Instead, they're given mining leases. I think it's about time for the Government to grow a spine and basically point out to various mining companies that if they don't like the damn conditions here, they don't have to put up with them. There's bound to be someone else who's willing to pay the prices associated with doing business in Australia who'll come along and pick up the leases. Heck, if all else failed, there's still a chance that either the state or the commonwealth governments could go into the mining business themselves and start hauling in the wonga for all Australians, not just the shareholding few.

Australia has one of the most stable and productive economies in the world. We've managed to stay out of recession and actually had our economy growing for the majority of the time since we discovered that the US banking system had been playing ducks & drakes with the global money supply back in November 2008. We're a country which has a lot of resources available to exploit, we're also a country which is both tectonically and politically stable (we don't change governments with revolutions, we use elections instead) with a culture which is remarkably phlegmatic on a global scale (last reported riots were in Cronulla, back in 2005). When a company sets up a mining venture here, they don't have to factor in costs like bribes, armed guards, private armies, bodyguards for executives, or similar. They can generally rely on a lot of cooperation from both state and federal governments. We have a skilled workforce (even if it is a bit small for the demand being put on it at present). We have very good quality infrastructure, and we're willing to put money toward making it better (for example, the National Broadband Network project which is currently ongoing, as an effort to make it possible for just about everyone in the country to access high speed internet). If a mining company sets up business in Australia, they're going to get a good return on their money - mining here is nowhere near as marginal as, for example, farming.

They're just not going to get to keep all of it. We're going to ask for our share, in the form of wages, taxes, and so on.

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Current Mood: somewhat incredulous somewhat incredulous
Seems Like the Psych Research Unit is Doing Some Good

I was busy reading through a lovely little article on the ABC this morning about a group of doctors who have submitted a statement to the Senate enquiry into marriage equality here in Australia. The position of this group of doctors (about 150 in all, one of whom is a member of the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) is that "marriage between a man and a woman is the "basis for a healthy society"."

Their contention is that ""It's well proven that children who grow up with a mother and a father in a biological mother-and-father family do better than children who don't have the opportunity to grow up in that kind of family,"

Now, my immediate thought when faced with this was along the following lines:

Show me the research - This is always my response to ninety percent of these sorts of statements in news articles. I want to see the studies these people are pulling their quotes from, and actually figure out whether their justification is accurate.

teal deer underneath )

Really, if you get past the first page of their submission, it's just the same sort of small-minded, socially-conservative idiocy that you'd expect from the Christian (Always) Right - "Don't Do It Because We Don't Like It; Our God Says This Is EEEEVUL!!!"[4]. It's a bit disappointing that 150 doctors hold these views, but then again, so long as they don't let their views get in the way of their practice, I've no problems with that. They're entitled to hold opinions as private citizens. It's when they try to use their position as doctors to force those opinions on the rest of the population that I have problems.

Footnotes below )

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Current Mood: nitpicky nitpicky
Some thoughts on SOPA and PIPA from a non-US citizen

Firstly, may I say congratulations to the USAlien Media and Entertainment sector for creating one of the biggest showings of unity I've seen online in nigh twelve years of using the internet. Couldn't have done it without you guys, although I'm sure you're hating to see it happen.

Secondly: a word of warning to the USAlien Media and Entertainment sector, as well as to Mr Murdoch's News Corporation and any other group who thinks these acts are Good Things overall. Should they go through, SOPA and PIPA aren't going to reduce the amount of copyright piracy occurring online by one tittle or jot. Yes, they may black out sections of the web, temporarily. But the pirates aren't going to let that stop them - they get their jollies from working around things like this in the first fscking place.

I foresee a certain amount of revival for a few of the older internet communications protocols - newsgroups may see something of a resurgence, along with mailing lists, and other forms of communication which aren't hosted by a single site, but which rather exist as an amorphous entity of ever-changing data being passed around from host to host, like the prize in a gigantic online game of pass-the-parcel. Good luck dealing with those, guys; I seem to remember that the thing which eventually took down a lot of the alt.binaries newsgroups wasn't any effort from the MPAA and the RIAA, but rather that web hosting was cheap, readily available, and distributed file sharing networks could handle things without too much strain.

But hey, guys, feel free to try and take down global email using lawyers if you really fancy re-running the labours of Heracles. Try killing NNTP. Have fun. It'll keep you all busy for a bit.

As has been said repeatedly: the internet as a whole, as an emergent entity, interprets censorship of just about any kind as damage, and figures out ways to route around it.

Thirdly: even if the USAlien Media and Entertainment sector should get their will, and kill the internet deader than a dead thing in a graveyard, I still won't be connecting my television up to the aerial or purchasing a Foxtel subscription. I still won't be turning on the radio to anything other than the ABC. I still won't be going to the movies. I still won't be buying any Australian newspapers on a regular basis. I still won't be getting magazines from Australian Consolidated Press or the News Corporation stables. And I won't be spending any money on those things for the same damn reason I don't spend money on them now: I refuse to let my money go where I'm not welcome. The news and entertainment sector here in Australia doesn't want to cater to me as a viewer, listener or reader, they just want to sell me as a potential set of eyeballs to advertisers. As a person, I'm not welcome in their world.

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location: Outside the USA
Current Mood: irritated irritated
An Open Letter to WA Senator Michaelia Cash, regarding the Carbon Tax

Dear Senator Cash,

My partner recently received your lovely little screed in the mail - the one about the carbon tax and how this is going to cost local employers and local industries vast amounts of money, and leave them vulnerable to excessive competition from overseas interest. You cited a total of ten companies which employed people in the electorate of Brand (or, more specifically, on the Kwinana industrial strip) by name. Curious, I decided to do a little bit of research on the internet.

Of the ten firms your leaflet mentioned by name, precisely two are actually based and headquartered here in Western Australia (Wesfarmers and Coogee Chemicals - both of which are fairly large companies). Of the rest, six are owned pretty much entirely by multi-national corporations. The other two are Australian-based, but one is based in Queensland, and the other is based in Melbourne.

To give you a quick run-down of the rest:

* BHP-Billiton is a joint Australian-Dutch company (so no, it's no longer the Big Australian, and you'll notice BHP-Billiton doesn't use that slogan any more);
* Alcoa is an alumininum mining and refining multinational firm, with the overall headquarters for the company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;
* Tiwest is a joint-venture between two Australian subsiduary companies of two different multinational firms - Tronox Incorporated (USA) and Exxaro Resources Limited (South Africa);
* BOC is part of the Linde Group, a large German-based multinational corporation;
* Air Liquide is part of the Air Liquide group, a multinational corporation first incorporated in France, and headquartered in Paris;
* Bradken (while having a wholly Australian company name) is actually owned by a combination of Castle-Harlan Australian Mezzanine Partners (a subsiduary of Castle Harlan, a US-based private equity firm); ESCO Corporation (US owned and based multinational) and Bradken Management (as minority shareholders);

Forgive me for seeming sceptical, but aren't these multi-national corporations exactly the sorts of international competition that your leaflet is implying our local industries and employers will be attempting to match? Given this information, I doubt they'll be having huge amounts of trouble.

(Incidentally, finding all this information took me approximately thirty minutes all up. It's amazing what you can find out from the internet. The information was on the websites of the companies concerned - all it took was a few seconds on google to find each one).

I took a look down the rest of the list of "facts" you provided, and noticed you failed to mention the various tax offsets which were planned (an important part of the carbon tax package) in order to compensate average Australian householders for the increased expense. Since these offsets and compensation are being introduced at the same time as the carbon tax, not mentioning them seems a little disingenuous, to say the least. Particularly since energy bills (both domestic and industrial) in WA have already risen by at least 10% thanks to the actions of the (Liberal) state government.

You failed to mention whether carbon emissions will continue to be rising by the same amount under a carbon tax package as is currently forecast. You failed to mention whether overall carbon emissions per capita will be rising, falling, or remaining steady (and whether there are any changes expected in the size of the Australian population between now and 2020 as well). You fail to mention whether the rise in carbon emissions overall between now and 2020 (from 578 million tonnes to 621 million tonnes) will be a greater or lesser rise than the equivalent period between 2002 and now.

Your leaflet also fails to mention anywhere (a grievous omission, given your final "fact") that you, in fact, represent the political party which gave the Australian political environment the terms "Core" and "Non-Core" promises. It was the Liberal Party of Australia, under John Howard as Prime Minister, which made it excessively plain to the Australian people that the majority of political promises made by them during an election campaign were in fact "Non-Core" promises - or in other words, outright lies made in order to get elected.

I therefore find it somewhat hypocritical, to say the least, that it is the Liberal Party of Australia who are now harping non-stop on a single "broken" promise made by a member of the ALP.

(Again, this internet thingy is amazing.)

Having said all of this, here is my statement as a voter living in Brand, and a voter living in Western Australia.

I support the carbon tax as an overall good not only for people Parmelia, not only for people in Brand, but for people in Australia, and people the world over. Global climate change is occurring, and we here in the south-western corner of Western Australia have been seeing the effects of it for the past thirty years or more. Something needs to be done to at least begin to tackle the problem. The carbon tax may not be the optimum solution to the problem, but it's better than nothing.

I find the highly negative style of advertising, polling, and campaigning used by the Liberal Party of Australia to be highly offensive. The Liberal Party of Australia has a strong tendency to provide such negative statements particularly surrounding policy areas where their own solutions are lacking either in detail or in existence (I checked your party's website - the last constructive thing I can see about a climate change policy is dated almost a year ago - all the more recent stuff is basically slinging off at the ALP, without offering constructive solutions). I'd be more willing to at least listen to your side of the argument if your party showed any signs of willingness to either fish or cut bait. Instead, the Liberal Party of Australia gives the strong impression of a bunch of whiny toddlers who are sorely in need of being put down for a nap while the grown-ups get on with business.


Meg Thornton (Ms)

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Current Mood: quixotic quixotic
Current Music: "NPWA" - Billy Bragg and the Blokes

The scandal over the phone message data theft in the UK is terrible, and one of the questions which is being asked is "who is responsible?". Who is responsible for this terrible thing happening? Who should take the blame? Who should we punish?

Well, from one angle, the Murdoch family and their News Corporation bear at least some of the responsibility, for creating a news climate where such things can happen, where they can be tried, and where they can be covered up with such success that the true depth of the scandal is only starting to become visible five or six years later. This means everyone in the chain, all the way up from the first journalist to pay the PI for information, right the way through the corporate hierarchy to Rupert Murdoch himself. They profited from the misery of others, and they haven't paid the price. Some of the responsibility is theirs.

From another angle, some of the responsibility lies with the advertisers, who are always seeking the ideal vessel to purvey their product - they want something which will attract a lot of people to see or hear their ads, but they don't want their precious product associated with anything bad. So the advertisers play their part in this, through demanding both the high circulation that the News of the World achieved, and through also demanding the cover-up of sources, and the hiding of illegal behaviour. They were willing to accept the high circulation figures, without asking what was done in the name of achieving this circulation. So some of the responsibility is theirs, also.

From a further angle, there's the responsibility of the telephone companies to provide education and data security for their users. In a large part, the crime of hacking into the message databases was caused by the lack of knowledge on the part of people who owned phones - they didn't know the pass-code existed, didn't know they could use it, didn't know they could alter it. So the pass-codes were left at their default. A simple procedural change, such as ensuring that the account was locked to external access should the user not attempt this within a month of opening their account, would have secured the vast mass of this data. That there was a back-door left not only unlocked, but practically gaping wide open, is not decent data security. So the phone companies bear some responsibility, too.

The journalists who paid for the stolen data bear responsibility, because they knew this data wasn't coming from kosher sources. They knew they weren't respecting the privacy of the people involved. They knew they were effectively breaking the spirit of the law, if not the actual letter of the law, by using this data in order to create their stories. They knew they were encouraging further breaches of the law by paying for the data.

The private eye who figured out how to hack into the phone message banks, and then sold on the data to the News of the World, also bears responsibility, as the one who committed the crime. According to reports, he was paid 100,000 UKP for his services.

There's the politicians who permitted the Murdoch family to purchase so much of the world's news infrastructure (the world's largest news gathering organisation is a privately owned family company). There's the police, who didn't understand the magnitude of the crime when it was presented to them (not to mention the police who were bribed into silence). There's the various managements and journalists of other news organisations, who let their concerns about their own profitability over-ride their interest in the privacy and rights of the people they purport to represent. All of these people are responsible, and all of them will probably be mentioned in articles regarding the whole scandal.

But there's one responsible group the news media won't mention. One group who will be allowed to skate by scot free. One group who won't ever be expected to look their responsibility in the face and name it for what it is. And that's us.

If you've ever bought a newspaper, if you've ever clicked on a link to a news site, if you've ever listened to news radio, or watched the news on television, you bear some responsibility for this as well.

As viewers, listeners, readers, we create the demand for news articles. As viewers, listeners and readers, we've fed the Murdoch machine, given it the money it needed to create a monolithic view of the way news "should" be, a monolithic view of "what sells newspapers, what sells advertising space". We have allowed our news to become tawdry, cheap, nasty, vicious, invasive, insensitive. We have allowed this, because we haven't spoken up and said no. We have allowed this because we've purchased the products the advertisers sell. We have allowed this because we've bought the papers, listened to the radio stations, clicked the links, watched the programs, bought the magazines. We have allowed this, we have facilitated this, by demanding more and more and more and more from the news media; by not criticising it enough; by continuing to feed the maw.

If you feel sickened by the actions of the News of the World; if you feel angry about the actions of the Murdoch family; if you feel self-righteous about the way the advertisers are fleeing the sinking ship, remember: we asked for it.

We asked for it. Now we have it.

Maybe we should start asking for something different.

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Thoughts on The News.Corp Phone Hacking Scandal

Latest news in this ongoing disaster is that the newspaper imprint at the centre of the scandal, the News of the World, is being shut down.

Certainly, the paper has been haemorrhaging advertisers since the scandal started breaking, and as the breadth and depth of the depravity involved has been further exposed, the advertisers are running further and faster to put distance between themselves and the newspaper that published the majority of the stolen voicemail data. But I have to wonder: what about the rest of the News International/News Corporation stable?

It's worth noting that the executive who was the editor of The News Of The World at the time when most of the data theft occurred is still employed. She's now the Chief Executive of News International, and while she's offered to resign, that offer has been resisted - apparently she "knew nothing of the crimes allegedly committed when she was editor" (sourced from News of the World shuts amid hacking scandal). Which, to me, doesn't really sound like an outstanding endorsement of her managerial ability, to be honest. Either she didn't know about such things (in which case, what the hell was she doing in order to earn her salary?) or she did know and pretended she didn't (which leads me to wonder whether she'd do the same sort of thing when faced with evidence of an embezzlement), or she did know, and took steps to cover it up (which means she's criminally culpable too). She's still employed by News International.

That Ms Brooks is still considered a valuable employee by News International leads me to question the management and ethical practices of the entire damn corporation. The problem which was "resolved" by data theft didn't start in the newsroom of The News of The World. It started further up the corporate ladder, with the constant push on all the News Corporation properties to obtain ever-increasing profits, ever-growing circulation, ever-climbing advertising revenues.

Another thing which interests me is the way that the various News Corporation properties tend to pass a story around. For example, here in Australia, the Australian newspaper will report on a story which "broke" in the magazine New Idea (both of these are News Corporation properties), or they'll pass on a story which started off on Fox News in the USA, or in the Sun over in the UK. So there's the potential for the scandal to go far further than just this one newspaper. If we examine stories propagated across the News Corporation stable of properties throughout the period in which one News Corporation property was buying information obtained through data theft, how many other stories are tainted with this same brush? How far did the rot spread? How far up did the rot go? Did it go all the way to the top?

(It's worth noting that the Australian head of News Limited has officially denied that such a thing could happen over here:

Today, News Limited chief executive officer John Hartigan told the company's Australian journalists "the behaviour that has been uncovered at the News of the World is an affront to all of us who value the integrity and credibility of good journalism, the reputation of the company and our own reputations as professionals."

"Phone hacking is the antithesis of everything we stand for. It is a terrible slur on our craft," he said in a statement to staff posted online.

"I am confident that the practices that have been uncovered in the UK do not exist in Australia, at News or any other respectable media outlet."
- sourced from Murdoch accused of tabloid closure 'stunt'

If, like me, you're a fan of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, you know never to believe anything until it's been officially denied.)

[I feel I should mention at this point that I have absolutely no monetary interest in seeing the Murdoch family go down. However, I do feel a certain moral and personal interest in the challenging of their ideology that what people are interested in is solely the cheap, the tawdry, the nasty and the unfriendly. The Murdoch family's News Corporation is a big part of the global kyriarchal bully culture, one which glorifies the petty, nasty side of the human psyche to the point where they present this as the only damn option there is. I don't want to read, watch or hear nasty comments about other people, so I don't purchase their products. Now, if only there were a viable alternative.]

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Fandom vs Money-makers: Round the latest.

Oh dear. The latest episode in "Why Making Money From Fandom Doesn't Work For Non-Fans" is starting up. Grab your seats early, and tune in to the fun, as Keith Mander attempts to monetize LOTR fandom.

Mr Manders starts from a bit of a handicap. For a start, he isn't actually a member of fandom. So he doesn't know the first thing about the history, the background, or the little nuances of the place. He doesn't know the politics, and he doesn't know who to believe when they tell him "yeah, you can do this". For seconds, he apparently doesn't know the first thing about the IP holders either. This means he is blindfolded in the ring with the archetypical sabre-toothed-tiger with a toothache, and he thinks he's dealing with a cute, fuzzy kitten.

This guy is, to use a Discworldism, going to be cheesed (like being creamed, but it goes on for much longer, and the results are rotten).

Elf has the beginnings of a linkspam. The affected archive is The main comparison being made is to FanLib.

Musing below the fold )

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Current Mood: cynical cynical
Oh gods, someone brick up Tony Abbott's mouth, please.

From these articles:

"Mr Abbott [...] says the Australian people should be able to vote on one of the biggest economic changes in Australia's history."

You what?

Well, of course. Let's have a plebiscite about this tax. Just like the one we had about the GST.

Oh, hang on. There wasn't one.

There was a lot of horse-trading between the various state governments and the Commonwealth government, and there was one hell of a lot of political bargaining between the various parties in the House and the Senate. But there wasn't a plebiscite. The idea of asking the Australian people about whether they'd like a brand new regressive[1] tax imposed on them wasn't even floated - possibly because the Powers-That-Be in Canberra knew perfectly well that the answer would be somewhere between "no" and "hell, no!" So we just had the Liberals engaging in a lot of horse trading with the minor parties and independents in the Senate (Senator Brian Harradine? Remember him?) and making the decisions for us based on what they thought we'd like (which led to such thoroughly logical things as condoms and safety razors being GST free, but feminine "sanitary articles" being taxed).

What about some of the other things we weren't asked our opinions of - things like going to war in Iraq; going to war in Afghanistan; participating in the "War on Terror" (what, nouns are a threat now?); the various "solutions" to refugee issues which mainly consisted of "White Australia Policy II"; the health insurance industry subsidies (aka "Medicare levy discount"); WorkChoices; the continuing "deregulation" of the Australian media - little things like those? Should the ALP have been able to stand up and say "we want a plebiscite on this" about every single issue?

I think one of the things Mr Abbott has forgotten is this: Australia is a representative democracy. This means instead of spending $69 million on a giant opinion poll of the Australian public over every single damn issue, we spent that $69 million once every three or four years on a bunch of smaller opinion polls about which person is going to represent our opinions over in Canberra. It's what the parliamentary system is for. We had an election a year ago. The results of that election still stand, even if Mr Abbott thinks the majority of the Australian public got it seriously wrong.

We had our plebiscite a year ago. We voted in a hung parliament rather than a simple majority of either party. We heard both leaders make commitments to work for a "better, less adversarial solution" to the problem of law-making. Funny how only the ALP seems to be keeping those commitments. Mr Abbott, your party doesn't appear to be willing to fish, or to cut bait - so why should we be listening to you?

[1] Regressive taxes are the ones which take a bigger proportion of your income the less you earn - and a 10% sales tax on most goods and services is definitely something which takes a proportionately bigger chunk out of a lower income, as opposed to a higher one. This is because people on a lower income spend a larger proportion of their income on inflexible (unchangeable) expenses - things like food, water, power etc - than people on higher incomes.

PS: For those wonderful people on the comments thread of the second article I listed who strongly implied that the GLOBAL problem of GLOBAL climate change isn't something Australians can (or indeed should) address by internalising the cost of pollution to our polluting industries, I have one simple question: in your opinions, who should be making the changes, and when?

I'm strongly of the opinion that the problem of global warming is somewhat like the problem of emptying the oceans - "every little helps". Someone has to try something. Someone has to go first. Why not us, and why not now?

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Current Mood: irritated irritated
Female, Middle-Aged Gamer Speaks

Just read through that one, and yeah, I agree with the author: the range of games available is decreasing by the year. I've been playing various computerised games for years now (since I was about fifteen or so) and quite honestly, the console gaming range these days is pathetic compared to even the variety available five years ago. Ditto the range available for PC gamers.

This is becoming a common problem across multiple media, where the amount of money required to provide content means the investors are less and less willing to take risks with what they have, so they're only willing to provide a new version of something that's already been proven to have worked. Their justification for this is "everyone liked it". There isn't any money being spent on the smaller, niche markets - instead, colossal amounts are being poured into efforts to capture the eyeballs of the One True Demographic (which appears to be 15 - 25 year old, white, middle-class, suburban, heterosexual, Christian-raised, American males).

The rest of us, unfortunately, get to spend our lives looking through shelf after shelf of what "everyone likes", searching vainly for something even vaguely different to the endless loop of FPS; FPS; oh look another FPS; and gee, did you realise there was an FPS here? We're never asked whether we might want something different. (See multiple previous rants re: choice of salt-and-vinegar crisps or vinegar-and-salt crisps when what I'm actually looking for is barbecue flavour.)

Why I'm not interested in online or 3D gaming )

If there's a game company exec out there browsing around haphazardly, looking for inspiration, here's what I want out of a game (and even though I may be a rare bird as a 40 year old heterosexual, female, Australian gamer, I'm not the only one):

* I want a good story - something that catches me and keeps me interested. Give me plot twists, give me character interaction, give me a reason to keep playing the godsdamned game past the first five minutes and the second cutscene. If you're not sure how to do this, get hold of the writers for the Final Fantasy series and ask them, because they certainly have it down to a fine art. Bioware also appear to have writers who can tell the difference between a plot and a hole in the ground.
* I want gameplay which is consistent. There are four buttons on the average console, and I'd prefer to be just using those. I should not have to remember the equivalent of the emacs macro set (look it up) in order to be able to defeat the second mini-boss.
* I want gameplay which accepts that not everyone is a hyperactive teenager hopped up to the eyeballs on caffeine and energy drinks with the reflexes of a greased ferret on crystal meth. My visual processing and verbal processing are slower than average to start with - they're only going to slow down more as I get older (and I'm part of Generation X, the first gamer generation). So have stuff which doesn't rely on pinpoint pixel perfect accuracy, or exact timing, because otherwise I'll get fed up and switch the game out.
* Oh, on that "growing older" thing, and the slower-than-average verbal processing speed - give me subtitles, and give me a way to turn off the fucking background music (for verily, background music on constant repeat is the number two reason why I'll give up on a game; no subtitles is number one these days, because I don't like trying to guess my way through games).
* Make the game in third person perspective (Third person omniscient if at all possible). I'm one of those weird people who finds First Person perspective (whether shooting or not) makes me nauseous. I get motion sick, because my eyes are telling me I'm moving, but my body is busy saying I'm sitting right there on the couch. I had enough of motion sickness as a kid for a very similar reason (scenery says I'm moving, body says I'm strapped into a seat in the car) to find the combination distasteful. Given the opportunity to avoid it, I will.
* Give me the option not to have to hear about online/multiplayer content if I don't want it. This is something I'm finding slightly annoying in games like Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Little Big Planet - there's such an emphasis on the online stuff that I feel somewhat left out because my PSP doesn't connect to our household wireless network (not a deliberate choice on my part; rather an inadvertent choice on the part of my partner, who opted for a secure network rather than one the PSP could participate in). So I don't play those games much.
* Have a pause function in the game. I'm female, and most of the time I'm the only person home. This means I have to be able to put the game on hold while I do things like answer the door, go to the loo, answer the phone or stir dinner. If there isn't an easy way to put the game on hold (even if it's just ducking into character menu mode), I'm going to get annoyed fairly quickly.
* Don't worry so much about making the next version of whatever everyone else is busy selling. If we want any of the famous franchises, we know where to find them. To be honest, the only franchise I'm really all that sold on is the Final Fantasy one - because they very rarely make sequels. Instead, each new FF number is a completely different plot, a different set of characters, a different world to every other Final Fantasy game. Most of them are mediaeval-style worlds, but there's a few futuristic dystopias thrown in there (FFVII, FFVIII, FFXIII) and the characters from one Final Fantasy plotline generally don't interact with characters from another (Dissidia is a special case of pure fan service, ditto the Kingdom Hearts games).
* Oh, here's a thought: have the guts to try risking a tragedy on the market. Not everything has to end all happy and smiley. Take a hint from Square Soft (now Square Enix) - their big breakthrough game for the English-speaking market was a tragedy: Final Fantasy VII. (No, really, the plot of FFVII is a revenge tragedy of a type which wouldn't have been out of place on the Jacobean stage).

What's On Meg's Consoles, and Why )

Basically, my preferences can be summed up thus:

* If you're going to give me a story, give me a flamin' story. Make it long, make it convoluted, make it tricky to understand - if I'm playing the game to get through the story, I'll come back and play it again to catch the bits I missed the first time (I re-read books for the same reason...). Of course, make sure that the vital plot points are made clear, but the little subtleties can be skipped over.
* If you're not going to give me a story, then give me something I can make a story out of myself - even if the story is just "How I beat the crap out of this next opponent". But don't give me a story which is so scanty it puts some of the costumes on the female characters to shame.
* If you're going to offer eye candy, have some which is suitable for a het female (or maybe even a gay male) to ogle as well. Yes, most of the gamerbois out there won't like it. Did I mention I'm not a gamerboi? It might just be worth doing a little market research and finding out precisely which proportion of the electronic gaming market these days is composed of members of the One True Demographic (see above for description) - I've a feeling they're a smaller proportion than they think they are.

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Current Mood: irritated irritated
Random thoughts about buying online

I do a certain amount of online shopping, because it's convenient for me. As someone who's living in Western Australia, and who has previously spent some time living in the Eastern States, I know perfectly well there are whole heaps of things which never make it across the Nullarbor to the west side of the country. In addition, having worked retail, I know there's not really much scope for ordering things in - if I do this, I'm likely to have to pay extra for the inconvenience to the retailer.

So I buy things I can't find in the stores here online from places in NSW and Victoria, and get them mailed to me.

I do a certain amount of online shopping because it's more comfortable for me. I don't know whether anyone's been looking these days, but a lot of bricks-and-mortar stores appear to have embraced the notion that the more auditory and visual clutter they put in the way of people looking for product, the better. I find this overloads me and leaves me feeling exhausted - I'm more likely to shop in a store which doesn't have loads of banners, or doesn't store items on shelves apparently at random than I am to stop in at some of the "big box" retailers which do. I also don't appreciate mall shopping, for much the same reason. I prefer the comparative quiet of the local shopping centre to the noise of the nearest big mall.

So I buy things in online stores, because I can find what I'm looking for without being distracted and overloaded.

I do a certain amount of online shopping because there are some things which just aren't available from Australian retailers. I'm a fan of yaoi manga, and I've also shopped overseas looking for things like obscure British historical drama series which hadn't been broadcast on Australian TV (to my knowledge) and more obscure films from one of my favourite actors. If I literally can't find it here in Australia (because for one reason or another it doesn't get shipped here) I'll look around online and see what's available.

So I buy things online because that's the only place I can find some of them.

I do a certain amount of online shopping because it's where I can get decent value for my money. If I can get something for approximately half the price from the US than the equivalent item here in Australia, I'm going to buy it from the US. The proof of the difference in prices has been around on my major retail purchase (books) for most of my life. I have books dating back to the seventies where the UK price is 1 UK pound, while the Australian price is $2 - and the difference in prices has increased over the years, to the point where Aussies are sometimes paying more than twice the price of the original product. Why does a translation into English of Ouran High Host Club cost $12 here in Australia, but only $7 in the US? Can't be the distance, because the blasted thing is translated in Singapore. Maybe it's a relic of the old marketing arrangements, or maybe it's something else. Either way, it's annoying and frustrating for me as a consumer.

So I buy things online because sometimes it's cheaper, even factoring currency conversions and the fees for same charged by my bank.

I prefer to do a certain amount of online shopping overseas because I can find what I'm looking for, buy it cheaper, and also get it shipped to me sooner than the corresponding Australian mob can be bothered to manage. Oh, and the service is better - online retailers appear to actually want to keep their customers, which is a nice change from the majority of the big box retailers here, who have the attitude of "take it or leave it" when it comes to selling things.

We're a big country here - the Australian land mass is the size of the continental United States. We're also unevenly distributed across this landmass. But our retail giants seem to have decided that the One True Way of shopping is to go to bricks and mortar stores in mega malls, and purchase from these. If we can find what we're looking for. If we can afford it. If we can spare the time, the energy and the mental fortitude to do so. Online shopping is a godsend for people with energy-management issues (such as depressives like myself, whose get-up-and-go has already got up and left) or for people with mobility issues who may indeed have actual difficulties entering bricks-and-mortar store fronts. Online shopping is a help for people with social issues (for example agoraphobia, social phobia, shyness etc) because you don't have to face people in order to get your purchases done. Online shopping is a great help for folks who are living in rural or remote areas, because it means they don't have to travel hours or even days to reach the nearest supplier of whatever-it-is they're after.

Unfortunately, some of the big retailers here in Australia are currently complaining about the way that purchases online under $1000 aren't charged GST (our goods and services tax, currently set at 10% of the price of the goods). They're complaining it's eating into their margins, and taking jobs away from Australians. Which is interesting, since they're part of the reason why the Australian manufacturing sector collapsed in a heap (can't compete with the cheaper imports from South-East Asia) or relocated offshore. It's also interesting, because at present, online purchases under $1000 make up approximately 2% of the overall Australian retail spend. Further interest comes from the evidence of massive mark-ups which occur simply because a product is being purchased in Australia by an Australian - 100% isn't unusual, higher mark-ups have been mentioned as well.

For some reason, the average Australian online shopper appears to believe the big box retailers might just be having a bit of a lend of us, and trying to protect their oligopoly market.

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Current Mood: cynical cynical
My thoughts on #MooreandMe

I started out participating in this because I was irritated. Irritated with the whole shemozzle surrounding Julian Assagne (who, quite frankly, sounds more and more like a creep the more I hear of him or from him), irritated by the whole business of who said what, irritated by the whole dismissive tone of the arguments of Assagne's supporters. I was even more irritated with the similarity of the whole mess to the Polanski and Gibson accusations and the consequent media furore.

It seems there's a particular little syllogism which operates for many people regarding creative/progressive/liberal/left-wing people - particularly the men. It runs like this:

1) Being creative/progressive/liberal/left-wing is a positive and good thing.

2) A person who does positive and good things would never commit a crime against a person, like assault, mugging, rape or murder. Crimes against property (including intellectual property) are okay, because after all, all property is theft.

So, when a person who presents as creative/progressive/liberal/left-wing is accused of a crime against a person, there's a logical disconnect. Either the person has committed a crime against a person, in which case they cannot possibly be a person who does good and positive things (and thus cannot be creative/progressive/liberal/left-wing) or they're a creative/liberal/progressive/left-wing person, and therefore the accuser cannot possibly be correct. In these situations, it all comes down to a combination of who the accuser is and what proof they have. The best possible accuser is someone who is also creative/liberal/progressive/left-wing, preferably male, preferably white, preferably heterosexual, preferably Christian, and preferably of an equal or higher social class to the accused - in other words, someone who has a greater level of inbuilt societal privilege. The best proof is video footage, preferably from multiple sources, and preferably with a clear shot of the face of the offender.

If, however, you have a situation where, for example, a white, middle-upper class male person is being accused of a crime against a person by a non-white or female accuser, without absolutely unchallengeable proof (such as a copy of the video footage signed by God) you're going to have a situation where the accuser is going to be strongly dissuaded from laying charges in the first place. The argument is that the accuser is just trying to gain attention; just trying to bring down the person they're accusing; part of a conspiracy against them; that what happened to the accuser never happened; that the accuser is outright lying; that the accuser isn't behaving like someone who's had a crime committed against them; that the accuser provoked the crime in the first place; that the accused would never do something like that; that the accused is a good person; and finally, that the accused is creative/liberal/progressive/left-wing.

This is precisely what happened when Michael Moore went on Keith Olbermann's show to speak about why Michael Moore decided to contribute to the bail for Julian Assagne. Two ostensibly liberal, progressive journalists repeated incorrect information in front of cameras. They spread lies. Neither of them has apologised for their actions in a manner which is even half as public as the actions themselves. Keith Olbermann re-tweeted a link which named the accusers in this case; said accusers have been receiving death-threats, rape threats, and are generally being harassed something horrible, because they've had the temerity to accuse a man who is publicly perceived as being creative/progressive/liberal/left-wing of a number of crimes against persons, rather than crimes against property.

Now, rape is one of those weird little crimes - rape as we know it today wasn't prosecuted even a century ago, much less two. That's because rape as we know it today is regarded as a crime against a person. A century ago, it was regarded as a crime against property. If a woman was raped, the person who was offended against was her husband, or her father if she wasn't married, and if the prosecution went ahead, the restitution was made to either the husband or the father. Over the past century or so, progressive persons around the world have been working to alter this viewpoint, so that women have altered from being regarded as property to being regarded as persons.

Unfortunately, as the Assagne case is showing, this change hasn't really sunk in to bone-deep levels yet. Instead, when a woman tries to raise rape as a crime against a person where the perpetrator is on the creative/liberal/progressive/left-wing spectrum, it gets the same reaction as a crime against property - affronted rage that someone could possibly accuse their darling of having committed a crime at all.

Now, my own opinion is if the accusations against Julian Assagne are correct, the man stands accused of crimes against persons, crimes against property, and definitely crimes against hospitality. I don't know about anyone else, but one of the things I was raised to believe is if you're a guest in someone's home (particularly if they're offering you free accommodation), you're on your very best behaviour at all times, and you work hard to avoid causing problems. Which rather rules out assault as being on the list of acceptable guest behaviours. Of course, I was also raised to believe if someone said no to something while they were awake, they meant no to it while they were asleep as well. I also hold the apparently unreasonable belief that if your sexual partner wishes you to take an STD test, you should take one, if only to set their mind at rest. But, as I said above, the more I hear about and from Julian Assagne, the more convinced I become that whatever else he may be, the man is an utter creep.

I'm still participating in #MooreandMe because I want to change attitudes. I want crimes like rape to be regarded as crimes against people, right down to the bone, rather than "excusable peccadillo" crimes against property for the creative/progressive/left-wing/liberal type. I want enthusiastic consent to become the rule, rather than the exception. I want to reduce the lifetime risk of rape from 1 in 6 for women and 1 in 33 for men (even if it's just to 1 in 7 for women and 1 in 34 for men, it's a start). I want more.

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Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
#MooreandMe - A linkfest

So I've been wandering about the internet, looking at bits and pieces regarding the whole #MooreandMe thing. Here's a quick list of some of the posts I've spotted.

EDIT - stuff marked with ** is new since the last time I updated the article.

LAST UPDATE: 1115h Western Australian Summer Time (zone GMT+8) 23 DEC 2010.

THE BASICS: If you spot a broken link, let me know (if you have the corrected link, even better!). If you've been linked here and you want to be delinked, let me know (if possible, let me know whether you're willing to accept a link which is cut-&-paste friendly, or whether you wish to be removed from the list altogether). I read all comments and screen them - your comment may not show up immediately. I read comments from both Dreamwidth and InsaneJournal, and will collate all of them into the one post which is cross-posted. Comment at whichever site suits you.

STATEMENT OF THE BLEEDING OBVIOUS: I just provide the links. I don't provide the content. I don't endorse the content. I didn't write the content at the links except where stated. I also don't guarantee the reader is going to be able to understand it. Some of it them have hard words, like "rape" and "truth" and "consent" and "responsibility". I suggest if you're having problems with anything, you consult a dictionary.

Links under the fold )Again, I read comments from both InsaneJournal and Dreamwidth. Feel free to comment at either site.

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Current Mood: quixotic quixotic
Current Music: "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" - Elton John
Why I'm participating in #MooreandMe

* Because I'm female, and as such have a 1 in 6 lifetime risk of being raped.
* Because Mike Moore has made a career out of being obnoxious and demanding people listen to him; yet he won't respond to his own tactics?
* Because as a woman, as a potential rape victim, as a person who values their personal safety, I benefit greatly if rape culture is questioned and challenged (I'd benefit personally if the lifetime odds of being raped only dropped to 1 in 7). The safer I am, the safer everyone else is too.
* Because as a woman who knows other women, I'm statistically likely to know at least one person who has been raped and/or sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
* Because everything I hear about or from Julian Assagne makes him sound more and more like an utter creep.
* Because any sexual activity which happens without enthusiastic consent is rape.
* Because rape is the only crime where the accusers are on trial rather than the accused.
* Because even if the people bringing the rape charges are CIA agents, only doing it for the publicity, or just seeking to get "revenge" (revenge for what, precisely?) they still deserve a fair hearing in court, rather than a public inquisition via internet.
* Because I want to make it clear that I think rape isn't okay.
* Because it's the right thing to do.
* Because even if it isn't the best tactic in the world to get Mike Moore to reply, it's something we can do to make a point not only to Mike Moore, but also to all the other guys out there who don't understand about rape culture and what rape apologism consists of.

Oh, and for those following it, here's a few apologists and outright trolls I've spotted on the tag:


I'll add more as I notice them. But don't feed 'em, folks.

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Current Music: "She Said She Said" - The Beatles
My 5c on Julian Assagne

Most of this was published yesterday as a comment on Shakesville, and it's something I've thought about for about a week or so. I figure it's quicker and easier to post it once here, and then I can link it everywhere else.

Long screed under here )

Or the teal deer version: playing the martyred hero of the Left doesn't immediately make Julian Assagne into one.

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Current Mood: cynical cynical
Current Music: "The Masochism Tango", Tom Lehrer
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