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The punchline to an un-asked joke

The news this weekend has been dominated by the disembodied punch-lines to a pair of surreal jokes. First, there's the Kazakhstan national anthem scandal at the Arab shooting championship in Kuwait — not the first time that a Google search has triggered a diplomatic incident, but certainly one of the most embarrassingly peurile. (The film "Borat" was banned in Kuwait; so when Kuwaiti officials googled for "Kazakhstan national anthem" it probably didn't occur to them that a parody might be the top search result ...)

Then there's Dick Cheney's heart transplant. (What exactly did they remove from his chest to make room for it?)

What next? Are we going to learn that the Conservative party have been quietly selling personal access to the Prime Minister in return for quarter million pound back-handers? Well, maybe. But that wouldn't be particularly funny: we already know this is the party of granny muggers, road privatisers, and a political witch-hunt by anti-abortionists. And that's just in the past month! Hang onto your hats, folks, the silly season this year is going to be epic.

96 Comments

1:

Who was it who said that the big problem that science fiction authors have is that reality turns out to have stranger outcomes than the wildest and craziest predictions of authors?

2:

"Arab shooting championship in Kuwait" is just an tragedy waiting to happen.

3:

The Greens have been arguing for road pricing for decades. I find it quite funny that the Tories have arrived at essentially the same policy, albeit coming from an ultra-Thatherite direction. Still, I'd expect the same results - less traffic, reduced CO2 emissions, greater use of public transport - no matter what the justification. Bizarrely, privatising the roads might make the Tories "the greenest government ever" by accident...

4:

Meanwhile W is still waiting for the brain that wizard guy promised him.

5:

I suspect the item to have been removed from Mr Cheney's chest may have been a stock ticker.

Meanwhile, our leader of the Federal Opposition Down Under is busy suggesting that should his party be elected in the next election, he'll make people who are dealing with the difficult business of maintaining a full-time job and raising children by employing a nanny eligible to receiving the child-care rebates. The argument is that "there needs to be greater flexibility in childcare to enable women to participate more fully in the workforce".

While I won't argue with his premise, I will point out that a lot of the women who work in the childcare industry at present aren't paid wages high enough to be able to afford to put their own children in full-time child care while they return to work (so effectively, the childcare industry isn't paying its workers enough to be able to afford its own product). Subsidising nannies isn't going to alter this, because the women who'd be employed as nannies probably wouldn't be earning enough to be able to put their children into full-time childcare either.

The facts:

Hourly rate for Child Care/Day Care Worker Jobs: AU$12.16 - AU$22.15
Costs of various forms of child care as listed at CareForKids.com.au - an online childcare resource - start at approximately $4.50 per hour for family day care (depending on where you live) and tops out at about $35 per hour for a live-out nanny (plus agency fee) after the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate have been taken into account.

What it translates to is that if you're working full time in the childcare industry, you're probably just likely to be able to afford to pay someone else to look after your kid while you're looking after other people's kids. You won't be able to afford anything else, but you will be able to cover your childcare costs...

Remind me again why I go looking for satire, I keep forgetting.

6:

As usual, The Onion got there first: New Heart Device Allows Cheney To Experience Love. I laughed.

7:

Ahem: the problem is, the British railway network is (a) privately owned, and (b) the most expensive per passenger mile in Europe -- largely because the privatisation process was deliberately rigged to make it a lucrative feeding trough for private corporations. The subsidies today exceed the cost of running the nationalized entity that was British Rail prior to 1993, but we're still being soaked for fare increases that exceed the rate of inflation while putting up with deteriorating, overcrowded services.

If the roads go the same way, may Cthulhu have mercy upon us.

8:

Over here Harris sold off the 407 Highway (built mostly with public funds) to balance one year's budget. Tolls are now the highest in North America, the actual formula for setting them is apparently a business secret and can't be revealed, but includes a provision for rising tolls when traffic rises, and if the company claims you have used the highway you must pay the bill before you renew your vehicle plates.

(It's also common for people to get bills years after they used the highway, with interest charges far exceeding the principal.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontario_Highway_407

9:

I'm updating my organ donor preferences to specify that no part of me may ever be put into Dick Cheney.

If Cheney's new heart doesn't "take", it may actually be the first case in medical history in which a transplant patient is rejected by an organ.

10:

Re: Cheney, one is reminded of the old Monty Python joke.

"Nixon's had an arsehole transplant. Apparently it rejected him."

11:

If the roads go the same way, may Cthulhu have mercy upon us.

There was that other little tidbit about the Army being trained to drive petrol tankers in anticipation of industrial action by the usual delivery drivers.

12:

Oh yes, it's going to make driving a nightmare. It's going to cost drivers a fortune. It's going to waste them endless hours dealing with tedious bureaucracy. But that's ultimately a *good* thing, right? Because it'll gets cars off the roads, it'll reduce emissions.

It's an old argument I know, but worth repeating - state provision of free roads is a huge indirect subsidy to the car and oil industries, a government intervention into a transport market which might otherwise have favoured rail (or tele-commuting). Road pricing rebalances the situation.

13:

I am hoping for what Marx would call a combined uprising in the summer.

14:

Also, did you know that gay marriage will endanger the works of Shakespeare? http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/03/23/kent-mp-if-gays-marry-will-shakespeare-be-in-danger/

15:
the British railway network is (a) privately owned

No it isn't. It used to be - and the trains themselves are - but as of 2002, when Railtrack died, the network (track and stations) are owned by Network Rail, a company with no shareholders and owned entirely by the UK government. There's lots of things wrong with how the rail network operates, but it can't really be described as privately owned.

As for the road privatisation story: a number of Tories have proposed this in the past, but that Guardian article is almost painfully misleading. It's based on a couple of paragraphs halfway through a long speech that Cameron gave on infrastructure investment. Here's what he had to say on roads:

We need to look urgently at the options for getting large-scale private investment into the national roads network – from sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and other investors.

That’s why I have asked the Department for Transport and the Treasury to carry out a feasibility study of new ownership and financing models for the national roads system and to report progress to me in the Autumn.

Let me be clear: this is not about mass tolling – and as I’ve said, we’re not tolling existing roads…

…it’s about getting more out of the money that motorists already pay.

I'm not going to defend a Tory, but judge for yourself whether he's really talking about privatising roads.

16:

As for the road privatisation story: a number of Tories have proposed this in the past, but that Guardian article is almost painfully misleading.

I'm not really basing my comment on the Guardian report; I'm basing it on scuttlebutt among Highways Agency staff about what they've been told to expect. Ahem.

17:

Obviously the Brit taxpayer should subsidize the building of roads which are then given to companies who extract tolls from the taxpayers.

18:

Dick Cheney had a heart? Who knew?

Now if we can only get Obama some courage...

And if would be nice if the American Electorate got a brain...

Frankly, I think we all got a Baum deal.

19:

What he's talking about is dodgy accounting, basically. We sort-of-sell a motorway. They give us cash that gets booked as revenue this year. In return, they get the contract to maintain it, plus an annual payment from the (notional) stream of road tax (notional, as it's not hypothecated), over the life of the contract.

As a result, the chancellor gets to go "yippee! lower deficit!" in year one when the sale is booked. What happens after that is another matter.

If you're really good, like the Austrians, you may be able to bring this trick off by selling them to another public sector entity that isn't for some reason counted under the EUROSTAT definition, like they did with the lakes of Carinthia (which were sold for €3bn from the Republic of Austria to its Federal Forestry Commission, which paid for this with a loan from the Republic - therefore, the Republic booked the sale of the asset, and the acquisition of the loan as an asset, i.e. a net balance sheet change of zero, plus the €3bn in cash, i.e. plus €3bn assets. The Forestry Commission was of course on the hook for the €3bn but the legal opinion was that it wasn't counted for EUROSTAT purposes. Then finance minister Karl-Heinz Grasser, later disgraced in an unrelated matter, declared that the budget was balanced and was lionised. trebles all round!)

20:

One of these events is merely proof that the Laundry Files are nonfiction: The offering-up of a still-beating heart to fill the void in the center of the thoracic (?) cavity of an Old One...

21:

Dick Cheney hasn't stopped crying since he regained consciousness.

22:

Time for me to hang out with anarchists, to restore my faith in government.

23:

I expect road pricing will increase CO2, because it adds another incentive to fly to London, and to take holidays abroad.

24:

You appear to have failed to notice the level of duty there is on fuel here.

25:

Blarkon@1, the reason truth is stranger than fiction is that fiction is supposed to make sense. Hail Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan!

26:

I believe it was Mark Twain who pointed out that the reason why truth is stranger than fiction is that fiction is required to make sense.

27:

Some people have been saying that we're in what Heinlein called "The Crazy Years", which he predicted from seeing the flagpole sitters, the marathon dance contests, and the wacky political ideas that came out of the woodwork during the early years of the Great Depression. What they don't understand is that while Heinlein was talking about the craziness of the populace, we're seeing the craziness of our leaders. I wonder if there's something going on like the lead poisoning from water pipes that affected the Romans rich enough to afford them.

28:

And by "epic" I suspect you mean, "Oh God, oh God, we're doomed!"

29:

As a citizen of the small but utterly delicious country of Sweden I have, I belive a lot to thank Mr. Cheney for.
Who else could possibly have kept Baby Bush from declaring the Axis of Evil to be I-rak, I-ran and I-KEA?

30:

Reply to 29... I'm glad to see the Swedes still have they their dry sense of humour... have you any idea how to stop a Swedish Cardamon Cake from rising out of its baking tin... I want it flat...

31:

HA, HA!!! Had you come across this interesting little Item ...

" Gene flaw linked to serious flu risk "


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17474197


Now let us Speculate .. Props Chin on Steepled Fingers in a " So, Mr Bond " sort of way .. that there is a form of Virus /Rogue Protein or hitherto unsuspected infectious causative Agent that makes some people to go MAD with Power ..political/Pack Status POWER that is. The Agent would remain dormant until the victim achieved modest Political Status and Influence at which time it would go into uncontrolled Uber-drive as it were...and STRIKE !! Thus the present condition of The Torylibdems Party of the UK and The Republicants party of the US of Aliens. Or, put another way...


This is MY Theory !!!!! .. Which is Called My Theory and is Mine ....


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAYDiPizDIs

32:

"The Greens have been arguing for road pricing for decades. I find it quite funny that the Tories have arrived at essentially the same policy, albeit coming from an ultra-Thatherite direction. Still, I'd expect the same results - less traffic, reduced CO2 emissions, greater use of public transport - no matter what the justification. Bizarrely, privatising the roads might make the Tories "the greenest government ever" by accident..."

I'd expect the destination of the money to be quite different.

33:

I was going to say that the answer to "I suspect the item to have been removed from Mr Cheney's chest may have been a stock ticker. " was that whatever was removed was put in the deepest vault of the US equivalent of the Laundry.

34:

Exactly. There's two issues here: the first is car drivers paying for the damage they do to the environment and to society; the second is where that money goes.

The first is bleedingly obvious. Some of the damage that's done increases per unit of fuel burnt (carbon emissions), so drivers should pay per litre of fuel. Some of the damage that's done increases per mile, so drivers should pay per mile (hence road mileage charges in NZ, and nothing equivalent in the UK, I think). So far, so bog standard Pigovian inclusion of externalities and an economically sensible idea.

However, the second issue is a pure grab for rent. There is no economic justification here, it's just selling UK citizens down the river.

35:

Well, Cheney's not out of the woods yet. A small but significant percentage of transplants fail within the first few weeks, and given his history of heart auto-abuse, I won't be surprised if he's one of the ones who has trouble with the graft vs. host disease.

Anyway, he'll be on immune suppressants for the rest of his life, so be sure to sneeze in his vicinity if you ever find yourself there.

36:

Mark Twain died long before late 20th century French Science Fiction came into existence. Otherwise he would not have made that statement.

37:

I'm rather the money from road pricing went to the treasury than into some fund manager's pocket - but we all get to enjoy the benefits either way.

38:

Charlie, in your country the anti-abortionists are typically unethical, but still remotely sane. For those of us in Amerikkka, this forced-rape-by-a-doctor bill is our most recent anti-abortion horror.

I can't begin to explain the rage this makes me feel.

39:

Some of the damage that's done increases per mile, so drivers should pay per mile (hence road mileage charges in NZ, and nothing equivalent in the UK, I think).

NZ has 'Road User Charges' for trucks (and diesel powered cars), which are per km charges based on (essentially) gross allowable axle wieghts for the vehicle configuration. This approximates to damage done to roads for those vehicles.

40:

Thinking about it a little more, the UK's congestion charge is a charge for the social ill of drivers being in the way of other drivers. It's not quite a per mile charge, but it's charging for the use of road space.

Now, if the income from that goes to supporting public transport then the charges the drivers are paying directly helps those drivers, by making it easier for other drivers to use public transport, by making the roads less congested, and by providing a personal benefit for a personal payment.

If the income from a congestion charge goes to a private fund manager, then you're just screwing over a captive demographic.

41:

It's not the UK's congestion charge; it's London's congestion charge.

Also note that by law, all profits raised by the London congestion charge must be reinvested in the capital's transport infrastructure. It's not a huge amount, but it's mostly going on bus network improvements, road safety schemes, walking and cycling programs, and road and bridge upgrades.

42:

Exactly, and that's why it is politically feasible. It is a tax on London for the benefit of Londoners, rather than for the benefit of some anonymous overseas financiers. So why is the UK government thinking that road privatisation is politically feasible enough to even mention? It's an obviously toxic idea. Are they that out of touch, or just in the pockets of those overseas financiers? Or are they just working with a broken understanding of the UK economy?

I am baffled by teh dumb and predict Poll Tax-style riots if they contine.

43:

why is the UK government thinking that road privatisation is politically feasible enough to even mention? It's an obviously toxic idea. Are they that out of touch, or just in the pockets of those overseas financiers?

You just answered your question.

44:

... and here was me thinking I was being too cynical in my middle age...

45:

Weelll,
although the labour party appears to be against the NHS "reforms", we actually have something like 2 main parties that are far right and one that is centre right, economically speaking. One is far more progressive on social issues and was at least interested in spending on welfare, so at least centre left on that side of things. The other two are slashing welfare as we speak. Unfortunatetely the progressive on social welfare issues party was also in thrall to managerialism and the primacy of the market, thus introduced or continued 'market' based policies and people (The revolving door between private companies and civil service jobs is a disgrace) in public services.

The end result is There Is No Alternative.
The particular no alternative is the same one that runs off the incomplete views of how the world works that failed to see any sort of economic crash coming and promotes austerity when that is the wrong thing to do.
Exactly how much it is because the cabinet people are rich bastards who havn't worked in the real world, instead spending their lives within the media political bubble, and how much it is because they see themselves as global capitalist citizens, is uncertain.

46:

Soon we will once again return to a Golden Age of motoring as the paupers are priced off the roads.

47:

Some things which I suspect would have been too strange for sf writers to use: UK adopts decimal currency. Tories choose a grocer's daughter as Prime Minister. Bagels reintroduced in Warsaw as an American delicacy. Flavored vodkas. Martinis without either gin or vermouth. Canada's highest court legalizes 1) women going bare above the waist and 2) same-sex marriage -- both well before the US Supreme Court does so.

48:

Actually Andrew, the more reasonable interpretation of that speech is that there's going to be a committee, and that committee will come to a preconceived policy after cooking up suitable almost sensible rationalisations and garbage stats to support pushing through the policy the PM wants to push through.

That's pretty much what any talk by a PM (regardless of party affiliation–this is a parliament thing rather than a tory thing) about setting up a committee means; The rare exception is when the committee is forced by the opposition to be independent enough that it'll come up with stats and arguments against the PM's eventual scheme, at which point the committee's recommendations will be ignored. The key thing is that once a committee is announced the PM already has a scheme which he's going to implement, and the committee's conclusion will be irrelevent.

The most plausible privatisation schemes that I see likely to come out of that committee however are either that road maintenance will be sold off to the lowest bidder in the same style as happened with hospital cleaning - and thus will a potholes/mile ratio be achieved that will make british roads comparable with those found in the rural areas of northern nepal.

49:

Mind you, Ikea is actually pretty evil; one of the top ten companies on earth and pays no taxes because it's structured as a charity in the Netherlands, which charity hands out 0.001% of the income to medium-good causes and streams the rest back to the founder.

50:
The key thing is that once a committee is announced the PM already has a scheme which he's going to implement, and the committee's conclusion will be irrelevent.

While this has been known to happen in the past, it's not the norm, and the current government hasn't yet done it.

road maintenance will be sold off to the lowest bidder in the same style as happened with hospital cleaning - and thus will a potholes/mile ratio be achieved that will make british roads comparable with those found in the rural areas of northern nepal

Road maintenance in the UK has always been contracted out to private companies - the government (local or national, depending on the road) pays for it, nothing more. That tends to shoot down your hypothesis about the ability of private companies to maintain roads. And I don't see any scope for this to be "sold off" any more than it already is.

My best guess is that we'll get a handful more new toll roads built, like they have in Europe. Since selling off existing roads has been ruled out, and almost everything else about roads is already done by private companies, there aren't many other things it could be.

51:

Was it really a good use of medical resources and donor hearts to allow a 71 year old to get a heart transplant at all?

52:

Almost certainly not, but I suspect that Cheney left the hospital and doctors with no other options if they didn't want to find dead horses in their beds.

53:

Cameron, as they say, has form.

They were not going to reform the NHS, said it needed stability, when they were in their election campaign.

There are far too many examples of Cameron saying something different from what he chooses to do. He has all the integrity of a bridge made from santorum-soaked sanitary towels.

54:

American healthcare: blessed are the rich, for they have the money to pay the bills.

55:

On the subject of the 'granny tax': I don't see why pensioners should be exempt from sharing the pain the rest of us are being asked to shoulder. Either we're all in this together, or we're not.

Politically I can see it wasn't a smart move, but when you look at the actual losses incurred (less than £2 per week) in the context of lovely index-linked pension rises, my sympathy evaporates.

PS Sorry to be a pedant, but it's 'puerile', not 'peurile'. These things matter, damn it! [Despite checking this comment over twice, the 'pedants curse' will no-doubt mean there are at least 3 errors in it somewhere.]

PPS Nadine Dorries, Champion of the Unborn(TM), is a fruitcake of the first water. Why she gets so many column-inches is beyond me.

56:

But the funds which the government are targeting to invest in these infrastructure projects are (primarily) UK pension funds. So basically, the upside will deliver better pension performance for us.

Of course, the slight worry is that the reason pension funds aren't normally allowed to invest in infrastructure, is that it doesn't make any money.

57:

#Various on the subject of the UK's "free roads" - I'm going to guess that it's escaped everyone who's commented except Feorag (and probably Charlie) that fuel duty, insurance premium tax, Road Fund Licence and VAT on parts and labour for buying and servicing a vehicle raise somewhere between 3 and 5 times the UK government's entire spend on transport!

58:

Yes, but guess how much of that revenue is ring-fenced for spending on transport infrastructure?

(If it was, we'd all be happy travellers.)

59:

I can only spot one, Smoochie; it should be "pedants' curse", or possibly "pedant's curse"

;)

60:

P.S. Congratulations to Charlie for getting on the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist for Rule 34.

61:

If they did ringfence the money raised from road transport then the Government finances would be a lot worse off and they still wouldn't be able to spend it all, at least not without achieving the aims of that venerable Usenet group alt.pave.the.earth.

The last figures I have found for the taxation take from road users is from 2009 when it raised 48.1 billion quid for the Exchequer. Taking that sort of lump sum out of the piggy-bank and dedicating it entirely to transport infrastructure (but not icky roads of course, ewww) would mean the NHS, welfare provisions and other big-ticket government operations would have to find other sources of financing to maintain their existing levels or be cut back drastically which is not on. The construction business would love it though.

Basically road users in the UK are seen by Government and the population generally as rich types who can afford to be taxed heavily to fund other parts of the national good. By comparison the amount raised by income tax is about 150 billion a year, only three times the amount raised by road duties and taxes.

62:

BTW Charlie, speaking of newspapers, here's a Spanish interview with William Gibson in El Pais

http://cultura.elpais.com/cultura/2012/03/21/actualidad/1332343728_403857.html

In answer to a request for reccommended reading:

"Anything by Charles Stross"

63:

#59 & #62. I wasn't proposing that even all road fuel duty should be spent on transport. I was just making the point that actually using the road network is far from free, and that road transport actually directly subsidises other government activities.

64:

Rather interestingly, there was a big effort last week by the Scottish Executive (or Scottish Government, dependent on the vanity of Wee Eck) to make sure that a certain statement by the Scottish Health Minister happened on Budget Day - a "good day for bad news" as it were.

Said statement revealed that contrary to the Minister's previous statements to the Scottish Parliament, certain departments within Lothian Health Board had indeed been fiddling its waiting list figures in order to meet targets - and not the few that were feared, we're talking well into five figures here. The offenders had been offering patients an appointment in England, with 24hrs notice; and when they turn it down, classing them as having refused an appointment. Or worse, just lying by marking them as having refused without contacting them.

Other than that... at the weekend, I was talking to a friend who's a consultant -ologist (and true believer in the NHS) and who is convinced that the English effort to do GP-led commissioning will fail in the same way as the two previous Scottish attempts to implement it. The less polite version was not at all complimentary of Ms. Sturgeon, and offered an opinion that she wanted a Soviet-style health system... It's interesting that while Westminster is arguing over NHS reforms, the BMA has actually walked out of negotiations with the SNP; something that they've only ever done once in the past. Perhaps we're not any better off than the English in that respect.

The full form of this story has just given me a few more data points as to how politicians exemplify the Dunning-Kruger effect.

65:

How many 20-year-olds need new hearts?

How many 70-year-olds?

66:

Cat Valente's take on the state of American Politics:-
http://yuki-onna.livejournal.com/

67:

"Oh yes, it's going to make driving a nightmare. It's going to cost drivers a fortune. It's going to waste them endless hours dealing with tedious bureaucracy. But that's ultimately a *good* thing, right? Because it'll gets cars off the roads, it'll reduce emissions."

Nobody (okay, excluding the odd sadist) drives in this country for fun anymore. You drive because you have to. People drive to work; they drive because they can't afford the insane train fares or can't rely on patchy bus services; they drive because centralisation of essential services like hospitals means people in rural locations have no option.

That's not to mention those who literally have no choice but to drive, i.e. the disabled, for whom public transport or even walking or cycling is just not an option (and if you think they'll get some kind of free pass, well they don't currently get any reduction in fuel costs even though it's an essential cost of living, so there's no reason to think road tolls would be handled differently).

Road charges will make a negligible impact on road use because the vast majority of road users simply have no alternative (although I'm sure this will price a fair few people out of their jobs which I guess will reduce road use in a roundabout way, but that's certainly not a desirable outcome). Even worse, it's likely that charges on big, out of city roads like motorways will force more drivers down poorly suited roads through towns and villages, causing them to incur higher maintenance costs and likely increasing the accident rate into the bargain.

This is just yet another badly though out policy designed specifically to enrich those who are wealthy/powerful/influencial enough to be first in the queue to snap up the primary routes.

68:

Off topic I am afraid, but interesting news. Charles Stross nominated for Arthur C Clarke award.

http://www.sfx.co.uk/2012/03/26/arthur-c-clarke-award-2012-shortlist-announced/

Well done sir. You are in some mighty fine company there. Hope you do well, though I am also rooting for China Mieville, cos his stuff is damned good.

All the best

Iain

69:

"How many 20-year-olds need new hearts?"

More than there are currently donors for. I don't necessarily believe that one's age has any direct bearing on whether they should be given a transplant (other than if there is a substantially increased risk of rejection and therefore it's a waste of a precious donated organ), but don't assume that there are plenty of organs out there and the reason 70 year olds are getting them is that everyone else is well catered for. There are plenty of young people who will live out the remainder of their lives on a donor waiting list (and on that note, the sooner we get over whatever societal hangups are preventing an opt out system for organ donation, the better).

70:

"the more reasonable interpretation of that speech is that there's going to be a committee"

And often the predetermined conclusion will include elements that the Leader had said he would never, ever push for -- but now that it's the rational consensus of all parties, reasonable folks will have to go along with it.

This obvious little ploys --- and the putatively high IQ fools who keep on falling for them -- drive me crazy.

71:

"This is just yet another badly though out policy designed specifically to enrich those who are wealthy/powerful/influencial enough to be first in the queue to snap up the primary routes."

Well -- just check out places like Florida where this program has been in effect for years. It hasn't even lead to political changes to expand public transit as a tertiary effect of the hellishness of the roads --- the lack of political organization that lead to this situation hasn't lead to organization.

This kind of thinking was par for the course among early 20th century radicals --- that things had to get worse before they could get better, by forcing people to radicalize. History shows us how much nonsense that is --- things getting worse makes things get even worse.

72:

This kind of thinking was par for the course among early 20th century radicals --- that things had to get worse before they could get better, by forcing people to radicalize.

Actually, I think the evidence is that it does work -- but only for values of "things had to get worse before ..." that involve lots of unmarked graves, special military units with jump leads and bloody pliers, firing squads, secret police, and the like. And even then, they don't automatically get better (as we're seeing in Syria this year).

As a way of fixing the public transport infrastructure it sucks.

73:

When David Cameron says "It's not about" X, it's probably about X

74:

"For those of us in Amerikkka, this forced-rape-by-a-doctor bill is our most recent anti-abortion horror."

Just so you know: the transvaginal ultrasound part was added to the bill because it's already a requirement by all of the Planned Parenthood offices in that state. They tacked it onto the law because it's considered necessary for a safe abortion after the first few weeks of pregnancy. It's used in 98% of abortions in the state already...

In other words, you just accused Planned Parenthood of committing "anti-abortion horror" in all of their abortion procedures. Oops.

75:

From what I understand, they do this in only specific circumstances. Do you have a reference?

76:
I'm going to guess that it's escaped everyone who's commented except Feorag (and probably Charlie) that fuel duty, insurance premium tax, Road Fund Licence and VAT on parts and labour for buying and servicing a vehicle raise somewhere between 3 and 5 times the UK government's entire spend on transport!

I'm going to call doubt on this. You haven't given any figures or sources, but I assume what you really meant was:

"3 and 5 times the Department of Transport's spend on transport"

What you need to understand is that the DoT only handles spending on "top level" infrastructure - motorways, mainline rail, etc. The road outside your house is not funded from their budget. Nor is your local bus service.

There are thousands of bodies within the UK government which spend tax funds. I have on my desktop a 4Gb postgres database containing most of the larger line items from about 4500 such bodies over the past few years, as a result of some work I was doing recently. Hundreds of these bodies spend money on transport. The street on which you live, and the buses that go past your house, are funded from your local council's budget, and have nothing to do with the DoT.

I've been working with the raw accounting data released by (a subset of) the UK government bodies as part of the coalition's government transparency programme. I can state with confidence that the way in which the accounts are kept does not support answering questions like "How much money was spent on transport?", or even "How much money did the UK spend on maintaining roads over the past decade?". It would be great if we could answer questions like "How much of road tax is spent on maintaining roads?", but I am quite certain that not only does nobody know the answer to this question, but also that it is infeasible to obtain an answer to this question.

It's even more of a farce than this post would lead you to believe.

77:

Just because Planned Parenthood are able to perform an intravaginal ultrasound, does not mean they perform this diagnostic on all their patients. This is like saying that because Johns Hopkins is one of the top-tier cancer hospitals in the U.S. - and where the "immortal" HeLa cell line originated - that all Johns Hopkins patients will automatically undergo chemotherapy. I seriously doubt it.

78:

An amusing take on Cheney:
www.derfcity.com/newstuff/newtoon.html
Organlegging for the .01% at gitmo?

79:

Dick Cheney had a heart? Who knew?

Actually, for last 14 months he did not. I am surprised nobody yet answered Charlie's question "What exactly did they remove from his chest to make room for it?" because the answer is quite fascinating:

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-01-05/entertainment/27086458_1_mechanical-heart-artificial-heart-surgical-director

From January 2011 until now Dick Cheney had no pulse because prosthesis which just got replaced with a transplant provides continuous flow.

80:

I knew it - Cheney's a zombie!

81:

Another link whose content is commentary upon the aforementioned medical procedure:
http://amultiverse.com/2012/03/26/change-of-heart/

82:

Just clarifying the comments from Jez and Errol.
re "NZ has 'Road User Charges' for trucks (and diesel powered cars)"

The Tax is added to the price at the pump for Petrol.

For Diesel, it is prepaid by the vehicle owner, and is charged for distance traveled (on the public roads).

The intention is thus that Diesel used exclusively off road by farm machinery etc, and I presume also boats etc, doesn't include a tax to pay for roading (which IIRC actually goes into the Governments general coffers).

83:

About that Kazakh anthem gaffe. I wonder if anyone else remembers a faux pas the US State Department made back in Reagan’s day. I recall that there was a big White House dinner, and all the bigwigs stood around looking serious and respectful as a band played ‘Edelweiss’ for the Austrian ambassador’s entrance. Much embarrassment when it turned out the Austrians had never heard of the song, which was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for a musical picture. But hey, at least it said nothing about the cleanliness of Austrian prostitutes…

84:

"Just because Planned Parenthood are able to perform an intravaginal ultrasound, does not mean they perform this diagnostic on all their patients."

No, just the ones undergoing most surgical abortions at a certain time in the pregnancy - when the foetus is too small to show up on a standard-issue external ultrasound, or when closeup scans are needed for a surgical procedure.

Even after the foetus is larger, they use the higher-resolution vaginal ultrasound to check for problems. This is one of those "really, it's a doctor preference" issues that wasn't an issue until someone decided to use it for a political point. The amazing part is that some people decided to call inserting an ultrasound probe "rape" when they don't call "inserting a number of tools to perform the abortion" the same thing.

It's for prenatal testing in a lot of situations, too - something like a quarter of all prenatal checkups in Planned Parenthood offices use it for normal checkups, but people weren't freaking out until it was mentioned in this bad piece of legislation.

85:

Labour won't get to far on the political donations issue. What with Miliband being to ill to attend to save the NHS rally yet turn up the same day to Hull FC match to meet a big party donor (£100,000)who is having some planning diffculties with Hull city council or his own 'private' dinners with certain lobbyists.

86:

a tax to pay for roading (which IIRC actually goes into the Governments general coffers).

From memory, there are various specific taxes and levies (which go into the 'right' buckets), plus GST (VAT). The GST on petrol (and other fuels?) used to go into the 'Consolidated Fund', until a bit of a fuss a few years back. Since then, for at least some years, it has been added to the 'Transport' bucket. I'm not sure what the current situation is (and it would be easy enough to game the numbers anyway).

87:

I'm fairly sure that on a few occasions the instrumental version of 'Advance, Australia Fair' has been played when 'God Defend New Zealand' was called for. In revenge, we have been insulting Finns (which, unsurprisingly, hasn't turned out well).

88:

How many lawyers do you have to shoot in the face before you find a heart of the right tissue type?

89:

If what you're claiming is true, then why would a woman need an invasive ultrasound to get a medical (non-surgical) abortion, i.e. a prescription for pharmeceuticals? At 30 days, there's no medical need for an ultrasound of any sort, but the proposed legislation would have required it.

90:

It's very hard to figure out what the real procedure is. Most of the current Google results are linked to one side or the other of the abortion debate. After considerable reading I now understand the following:

If there is to be an abortion in the first 4-5 weeks of pregnancy, a transvaginal ultrasound is frequently done to make sure that there is not an ectopic pregnancy. At this age, only a transvaginal ultrasound can properly locate the blastocyst.

A regular (jelly on the belly) ultrasound is frequently done during weeks 5-12 to make sure that there is not an ectopic pregnancy or other possible complication.

After a miscarriage or abortion, a follow-up ultrasound is sometimes performed to make sure that everything is OK a week or two later.

What is Planned Parenthood's actual policy? Unfortunately, that didn't penetrate the noise with any useful level of signal. Assuming that the same people who always lie about Planned Parenthood aren't lying this time, you might have it right. Or you might have believed one of the usual liars.

Regardless, medically necessary ultrasounds outside the laws of some very backwards states do not require the mother to "listen to the baby's heartbeat," or "watch the monitor and hear the doctor describe the baby," or force the doctor to "...explain the body parts and internal organs of the fetus as they’re shown on the monitor." In the proposed Alabama law the doctor is required to share the pictures with the patient even when the doctor is removing an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarried fetus. There's frequently a 24-hour waiting period - intended to prolong the pain - built into these bills.

And speaking of bills, ultrasounds cost money. This means that it's harder to get an abortion.

Rape is obviously a matter of context. A woman may accept vaginal penetration if the objective is to perform a necessary test prior to a medical procedure. On the other hand, if the procedure is not used as a matter of medical necessity, but to humiliate and psychically batter the patient, then yes, it's rape.

91:

How many lawyers?

Not enough.

92:

guthrie @ 45
EXCEPT
The NuLieBour Party are the control freaks - remember?
ID cards. "It's all for your own good". "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" ???
Whereas the tories are merely greedy.
Ignore the anti-abortionists. Here they have NO traction - we "don't do god" - which is why the vile and unpleasant BoJo will beat the even viler and more unpleasant Pink Ken at the upcoming Greater London mayoral election. (Ken made the terminal mistake of crawling up the backside of a Dark-ages woman-hater, and is now claiming to "do god" - shudder)

smoochie @ 55
WHAT IS THIS "index-linked pension" of which you speak?
I'm 66, and I've now gone back to part-time working to help pay the beer-bills.
And quite frankly your comment stinks of ageism and petty spite, unless I've seriously misinterpreted it?

Oh &: Nadine Dorries, Champion of the Unborn(TM), is a fruitcake of the first water. AND THAT IS WHY she gets so many column-inches!
Idiot.

delinear @ 67
because the vast majority of road users simply have no alternative
Simply NOT TRUE.
Vast numbers of people drive especially in the outer areas of big cities, because they are too idle to walk, or use a bicycle, or use the public transport.
Or have ultra-right-wing "political" objections to "subsidising the Unions" - by using public transport.
You don't hear about the latter, but they do exist ... quite loopy the lot of them.

Rational Plan @ 85
Precisely.

@ 87
You REALLY shouldn't have done that ... see erm, "note" at end .....


FINALLY
A very old and "Honoured" comment from the Land-Rover usegroups....
"Paved roads: another form of Government waste."


Well, not actually:
"Advance Austraila Fair"
( a different version -written by a friend )
.......
Our ancestors were criminals
Sent far across the sea;
Their recreations alcohol
And bestiality;
The perfect Sheila’s four foot tall,
Flat-headed,with no hair;
I rest my lager on her head –
Advance, Australia fair!

We sodomoise the bandicoot,
We rape Kaola bear;
No furry creature’s safe with us –
Advance, Australia fair!

Our cultural diversity
Goes on and never stops:
We may have killed the Abos, but
We’ve let in Greeks and Wops;
We rule not just the swimming-pool,
Nor yet the cricket-square;
We top the melanoma leagues –
Advance, Australia fair!

We mount the duck-billed platypus,
Pork-sword Echidnas rare;
No monotreme stays virginal –
Advance, Australia fair!

Our interests intellectual
Are broad and wide and deep;
From group projectile vomiting
To buggering of sheep.
We’ve urbanised green coastlines, and
We’ve turned locations rare
Into a blight of bungaloids –
Advance, Australia fair!

We masturbate marsupials,
Screw dingoes in their lair;
The native fauna’s safe with us –
Advance, Australia fair!

93:

This is at least partly an Urban Legend: The Austrians are well aware of "The Sound of Music", or "That Film" as they call it. Their view is that it has some nice songs, but takes horrible liberties with their history and geography.

94:

I would just like to point out that I misread Austrian (in post 93) as Australian, which caused interesting spluttering effects in conjunction with post 92.

There's always John Bangsund's "Australian Notional Anthem", of course.

95:

The really sad part about USian politics is that Washington DC really _does_ have lead in its water supply pipes, or why the most intelligent decisions appear to come from those who indulge in more alcohol than is probably good for them.

You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up.

96:

The story with the Kuwait mistake is really funny.
I am sure Sassa baron Cohen has been inspired a lot from this event.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 25, 2012 1:01 PM.

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