Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, July 30, 2012

Nothing like rent-a-crowd!

Two angry posts in one day - yet another sign of me becoming more of a grumpy old man, breathing ever closer to the 50 year mark.

It seems to be impossible for any Olympics to go by without there being a major administrative screw up. So it was just a matter of time before something burst on the 2012 scene in London.

Many parents of Australian athletes were unable to get tickets for the events their children were in. Not surprisingly they have become rather enraged at the sight of vacant seats at these same venues that they were unable to obtain tickets to.

The organising committee of the London Olympics has come up with a simple - for them - solution. Rather than allow more families the opportunities to see their children, their brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles etc, these vacant seats are now going to be made to disappear by giving entry to members of the British military - for free!

It was the families that supported and stood by athletes in their years of preparation. Why should they be then denied the opportunity to be there for the big event despite their being available seating?

Hey - what's wrong LOCOG - worried that you don't have big enough hometown crowds and doing a spot of rent-a-crowd?

Bloody pathetic.

Long live th' Confederacy - NOT

"Why, thar's a couple of blacks wanting to marry th'selves in our church! I's telling you Pastor, them's blacks ain't coming near our church!!"

Now you could probably understand such sentiments being expressed in Mississippi of 1860. Maybe even 1960. But in 2012??

It is being reported in the media that Charles and Te'Andrea Wilson, a black couple, had set the date for their wedding at the predominantly white First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs and posted the invitations. Yet the day before their happy day, the church's pastor, Pastor Stan Weatherford, had to turn them away, claiming "a small number of church members had virulently opposed holding the event at the church, and he faced being sacked if he went ahead with it." Pastor Weatherford compromised by marrying the couple at a nearby church which had a largely black congregation.

What makes matters even worse (if that were possible) is that Te'Andrea was already a member of the flock at the Crystal Springs First Baptist Church.

Apparently, no black couple has ever married in the white First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs since its founding in 1883 and clearly these narrow-minded bigots calling the shots were going to make damned sure that record wasn't going to be broken on their watch. Of course if they had the slightest scrap of brains between their ears, they would have seen that this was in fact an opportunity to end that relic of Confederate jingoism, acting in the true meaning of the Christian faith by loving thy neighbour.

So far it seems that this small number who appear to be opposing the fact the Confederates lost the Civil War, let alone the successes of the Civil Rights movement, are now keeping their heads down. So all we can do is imagine what they must be like. Now if they had the power to ensure sacking of Pastor Weatherford, then they had to be in a position of authority with that particular church, perhaps the congregation's Elders. It is not difficult to imagine them being older, still missing the good old days when those 'black varmits knew they's place' and possibly with a pillow case or two laying around their homes, complete with eyeholes cut out. And once they discovered their precious record was about to be broken, shocked telephone calls and secretive meetings going on so they could stop that heresy! And I don't care much for Pastor Weatherford's future there either as he would fall into the KKK's definition of a 'nigga luva'. And even if those leaders of  the congregation aren't members of the KKK, they sure as shit are acting like they were.

In fairness, a member of that Crystal Springs congregation has been reported as stating she and the bulk of the congregation were unaware of this stunt, stating they were ashamed of the decision. If so, then now is the time for the apparently silent majority of that congregation to stand up to this incredibly bigoted minority, sending them on their way.

Now there are those who might be uncomfortable with an Australian, with our less-than-stellar record of treating indigenous Australians, now criticising treatment of African Americans. But should a church here turn a couple away merely because of the colour of their skin, there would be hell to pay in our modern society. And yes, I am well aware of the (unjust and unfair) irony that they can turn people away because of their sexuality. But if this sort of act, so terribly reminiscent of an era best left way behind, is allowed to stand, then we are sure as shit never going to progress!

I have said it before and I shall say it again. Sometimes one really has to wonder if the human species is indeed worth saving. Well it seems that while the rest of us are grabbing our snorkels and heading to the hills to escape the oceans rising from global warming, there is a group of Christian elders at the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs who should be left behind, firmly tied down on the beach.

Here endeth the rant... for now.

Now if you have an opinion on what I'm blathering about or even just feel like saying hi, then don't be afraid to leave a comment or post something to me via Twitter or Facebook. I don't bite - at least not always.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Food production - a longer term view

Some folk in the struggling nation of Bangladesh, have come up with a rather remarkable and far-sighted idea for addressing future food and economic need.

This is a poor nation. Its location has it assessed as being greatly at risk from impacts of environmental change. And, just like everywhere else, its population is growing. So how will the future Bangladesh manage to continue feeding its citizens?

Bangladesh already has extensive rice farming with a great many rivers and other water sources to support the water-needs of rice. A new proposal has been brought forth that this rice farming be combined with fish farming, by stocking the water-rich rice fields with fish. Thus the production of one staple – rice – is used to produce more of another staple – fish. It even provides the opportunity to produce crops of prawns in conjunction with the rice growing, thereby producing a product for export and increasing the flow of economic wealth into that impoverished country.

This is quite wonderful stuff. There would be issues needing to be addressed to make harvesting of the fish a viable process. Similarly as rice fields hold shallow water which is more subject to warming which in turn reduces oxygen retention and increasing water temperature to a level not conducive to fish of an eatable size, provision of cooler water refuges would presumably be necessary.  And the overall scale of fish-rice production would need to be at a level to make the fish harvesting economically viable. However these issues would surely not be beyond resolution?

If fish are increasingly introduced into the rice-growing process, then might that not also see through the natural food cycle, fish helping reduce the presence of other aquatic life that might not be so beneficial to the rice crop, making this a much more environmentally sustainable option?

Consumption of rice in Australia has been increasing. The Ricegrower's Association of Australia point out that Australian rice harvests are sufficient to feed “20 million people, 365 days a year.” That's a lot of rice. Continuation of water supply to satisfy the rice crop needs would be an issue to Australian growers. Yet it occurs to me that the more temperate northern zones with monsoonal water falls, might be quite well suited to this combined rice-fish farming.

If we as the human species are to survive, then I suggest this sort of sensible, multi-cropping, seemingly environmentally-friendly approach is one to be emulated and encouraged. What else might benefit from similar, wide-ranging thinking? 

Now if you have an opinion on what I'm blathering about or even just feel like saying hi, then don't be afraid to leave a comment or post something to me via Twitter or Facebook. I don't bite - at least not always.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

There once was a dog called Lennox

Lennox was a dog in Belfast. And he has been put down by Belfast Council officials.

The ultimate justification for the destruction of Lennox was under Northern Ireland’s Dangerous Dogs Order, “any dog of the type known as the pit bull terrier,” is considered dangerous. Dogs that fall under the definition of dangerous according to that law can be seized and killed.

I am uncomfortable with the concept that any breed may be automatically deemed dangerous and subject to seemingly immediate destruction - unless others take legal action seeking to halt it.

There is little doubt in my mind that the pit bull terrier can indeed be a dangerous animal in the right circumstances. However there is also the concept of the animal’s treatment and behavioural training at the hands of their owner. Any dog that is poorly trained and handled can be a problem. I still have vestigial scars on my left shoulder from a poorly controlled German Shepherd deciding to jump me years ago. Another breed that springs to mind is the Australian Blue Heeler. This breed of cattle dog doesn’t have an especially good reputation. They are very much a ‘one-person’ animal, loyal to their owner (not that I am especially comfortable with that description). Yet I have also known a Blue Heeler that was very well trained and managed, being a lovely animal if it had an opportunity to have a quick sniff and decide that you aren’t necessarily a risk. Yet another example comes from acquaintances of mine who bred Doberman Pincers, showing them. These were also properly behaviourally conditioned to be around people, not vicious guard animals. I recall one time their prime stud male curling up on the floor next to me, his head resting on my thigh.

In Australia at least, ‘working’ greyhounds when being walked as exercise for their racing, are required to wear muzzles in public. This is because they are conditioned to chase. Yet there have been significant successes in reconditioning greyhounds after their racing days are over. I regularly see one at a nearby shopping centre. Its reconditioned temperament is simply lovely. I know that it definitely likes a scratch behind the ears.

Is there a need for potential legal action when an animal is genuinely dangerous? Undoubtedly so. In the infamous Michael Vick fighting dogs incident, many of the retrieved animals were hopelessly conditioned to attack and fight. But we also have to consider the owner’s role in any dangerous activity that a dog engages in. In Vick’s case he went to gaol, although not for long enough in my opinion.

Returning to the Lennox matter, this dog was not finally condemned for attacking people or similar, but condemned for being identified as a pit bull terrier and therefore dangerous. There has been a great deal of information all over the Internet on the subject and after going through a heap of it, I am yet to find any suggestion let alone evidence of exactly what activity lead to Lennox even being investigated. However the formal statement by Belfast City Council after Lennox was put down, expressly states that he was an “illegal pit-bull terrier type” with that the justification for his destruction.

Lennox’s owners have been adamant that he was not a pit bull but a Labrador-bulldog mix. Obviously I cannot state with certainty which story is correct. But we can look at a couple of pictures.


Here is a picture of Lennox

And here is a picture of an American Pit Bull, the breed at the centre of Belfast’s Dangerous Dogs Order. Are there similarities to Lennox? Yes. However, there are definitely differences as well.

American Pit Bull

Now here’s a picture of a black Labrador Retriever.
Black Labrador Retriever
Uh oh –which one does Lennox look more like? To me, there Labrador appearance is pretty strong.

I’m hearing alarm bells ringing. Is it indeed possible that this animal was destroyed for being a Pit Bull when it’s owners were indeed correct in their claim it was not a Pit Bull but a Labrador-Bulldog cross, neither of which would seem to be subject to that automatic destruction order?

The nub of the situation, supported by the Belfast City Council statement, appears to be that it is lawful for them to declare an entire breed illegal and automatically destroy any animal for just looking like that rather than investigate on specific circumstances. I really do have problems with that. And if it was a lawfully enacted statute, no matter how much we may dislike it, then court action trying to get around action being taken under that statute was always going to be hard to win, not matter the personal opinions of anyone, including the judges hearing the case.

According to final statements by Lennox’s owners, they were refused permission to see him one last time before the destruction. Now that was definitely unnecessarily draconian by the authorities. All the indications are that this was the family pet.

Things aren’t all good on the side of some of the Lennox supporters either, if other statements by the Council are true, with acts and threats of violence against Council members and employees.  That most certainly was not justified and can only have damaged the cause.

I am unable to ascertain the exact origins of the original action against Lennox but there is enough in this story to suggest that this Dangerous Dogs Order is unnecessarily draconian and based on the Council’s formal statement that Lennox was an “illegal pit-bull terrier type,” based on the photographic evidence above, this identification may well have been incorrect in which case a miscarriage of justice would have been done.

It is too late to do anything for Lennox but I can only hope that a more reasoned, realistic and accurate approach is taken in future.

Now if you have an opinion on what I'm blathering about or even just feel like saying hi, then don't be afraid to leave a comment or post something to me via Twitter or Facebook. I don't bite - at least not always.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Will the real Clive Palmer please stand up?

Picture: Glenn Barnes
Something has just struck me a blinding mental blow.

It has become almost something of a national past-time to ridicule and make fun of Australian billionaire mining magnate, Clive Palmer. But we've been entirely wrong to do so.

Now Clive has been anything but reticent in making all sorts of press statements in recent times. To mention just a few:

  • Picture: Lisa Clarke Source: The Courier-Mail
     he was giving up on Wayne Swan's seat and instead going after independent, former National Party, hat-wearing, gun-toting, redneck Bob Katter's seat (despite Katter's stranglehold that ain't gonna be broken in a hurry - watch out Clive - Bob might just start loading mining-magnate-gauge shot)

     But now the penny has just dropped. Clive Palmer clearly has a quite big picture plan in mind.

    Obviously the grim spectre of the CIA really is controlling our not-so-little corner of the Antipodean world, with President Obama about to declare us the next State within the Union - and Prime Minister Jul-i-ah can do a reprise of her tearful speech to both houses in the US about how the US can do 'anything.' And we'd almost certainly lose all that which is great and good about Australia - cricket and football. And we can't have that, can we! Although perhaps one of the US's super-smart-missiles might be just what we need to regain the Ashes.

    Then adding to the disaster, we've been dodging the pieces of the sky that are now falling in all over the place following implementation of the Carbon Tax so clearly we are definitely in need of saving.

    The key to fixing these terrible disasters is obviously a free press. And now our dear, philanthropic Clive, will come to the rescue with his own online newspaper!

    "Oh no," I can hear you all cry. "Won't the terrible CIA just take that over as well?"

    Fear not, dear friends, because philanthropic and saviour-of-all-that-is-great-provided-it-benefits-him Clive has the answer there too. You see, that is where the new Titanic comes in - Clive will dump all his former Fairfax journos on the ship and sail them gleefully around the world and keeping them out of the clutches of the US spooks.

    See - all we need to do is keep a clear and open mind about things and they all make sense, don't they?

    Now if you have an opinion on what I'm blathering about or even just feel like saying hi, then don't be afraid to leave a comment or post something to me via Twitter or Facebook. I don't bite - at least not always.