Archive for January, 2010

112 Emergency’s grand finale: tonight 8:30 on SBS Two

Alright, I have a confession to make. I am totally addicted to 112 Emergency. It is possibly the most awful soap-opera-dressed-up-as-an-emergency-show ever to grace the small screen, but it is so bad that it is good…and the soap opera side of it has improved significantly of late.

The show is basically a drama series about a fictional “joint co-operative unit” of police, ambulance and fire brigade personnel in Düsseldorf, Germany. The show only lasted on series in Germany, but appears to have been a nightly show as it has about a hundred episodes. I get the distinct impression that the writers knew ahead of time that the show was being axed as they appear to have written a show which should compellingly tie up all of the loose ends in tonight’s final episode.

The main plot at the moment revolves around the corrupt station manager Nils Sellman who replaced, on a temporary basis, Martin Carstens when he fell in to a coma. Martin’s main enemy was head administrative woman Dr. Kristin Driesen who wanted to run a tight ship with a tight budget, constantly getting in the way of Martin’s plans.

When Sellman came on the scene, he managed to blackmail Dr. Driesen so that she wouldn’t get in the way of his enormous spending. Sellman is being bribed by medical equipment supplier Rhine Rescue to drastically overspend the station’s budget so that the government (aka “the ministry”) will deem the joint co-operative unit a failure and shut it down in favour of separate stations…a move which would apparently result in more sales for Rhine Rescue. In return, Sellman would get a place on the Rhine Rescue board.

Dr. Driesen, seeing through the plan, arranged to get Martin treated in some foreign hospital so that he would come back to work, however Sellman took credit for Martin’s transfer and won the support of the staff by also promoting them and offering them a lot of overtime pay.

Ingo Bender, chief firefighter, also saw through the plan and, after Dr. Driesen disappeared around the time of her miscarriage, became suspicious of all the stuff arriving from the “expensive” Rhine Rescue. He attempted to get station secretary Jenny Sauer (at least I think it’s Jenny) to assist him in uncovering the truth…but as her boyfriend is a police officer and was promoted by Sellman, this was difficult. She eventually came around.

In recent times it has become apparent that Sellman’s accomplice, his secretary Franka Tiefenthal, is being used by Sellman. He has pretended that she is his lover and that he will divorce his wife for her. In truth, he intends on dumping her as soon as the station is shut down. Jenny and Franka hate each other, which has made it hard for Jenny to get any information our of Franka.

In the last few days, Bender, Driesen and Jenny managed to plant a recorder in Sellman’s office, which recorded a conversation he had with the Rhine Rescue salesman, outlining how much he dislikes Franka and his plans for her. This conversation was played to Franka, and she then, after a lot of sobbing, agreed to bring Sellman down by giving Bender, Driesen and Jenny access to the incriminating documents.

Tonight is D-Day. The ministry will shut the co-operative unit down if nothing is done, so tonight our fabulous foursome must somehow get Sellman arrested before the ministry make their decision. There might also be a wedding between a paramedic and one of the other staff…who knows.

Tonight should be enthralling. I know that I won’t miss it for the world. 112 Emergency, SBS Two tonight at 8:30.

Update: I had to bolt earlier as I had already gone over my lunch break by a couple minutes when I published this. I do have a little bit to add.

The show’s emergency scenes are, to say the least, laughable and unrealistic. Nobody (with the exception of a would-be murderer the other night) has ever died on this show and the emergencies always seem to involve some bizarre hocus-pocus field medicine and end up with everyone standing around smiling at each other while the orchestra plays. In fact the show was scolded by medical professionals when it aired in Germany for its incredibly dangerous and wrong depiction of medical procedures…it looks like the writers thought it was science fiction and just made it all up.

I mentioned earlier that the show is based in a fictional joint co-operative unit…and when I said fictional, I meant fictional. It’s not the non-existent police station type of fictional…it’s the “there is no such thing as a joint co-operative unit” type of fictional. This certainly gives the writers more room to make stuff up (such as the blind woman answering every emergency telephone call in Düsseldorf and sending half the town’s emergency personnel to every incident.

Early in the series the acting was so bad that it was funny…now the emergency scenes are so much worse that they are funny.

The other night when the would-be murderer was shot by his victim and died, he was found in a park. The police and ambulance attended (one ambulance with two paramedics plus two police cars with one officer in each). When the paramedics declared the man dead and the police recognised the MO of the crime and wanted the paramedics to come with them to the victim in a nearby house, some other paramedic who looked more like a bush than a person and has never been seen before, suddenly appeared from nowhere, couched over the dead man and agreed to stay with him.

Last night a man dialled 112 simply be taking his phone out of his pocket. The mind reading phones must work well in Düsseldorf.

Station-manager-in-a-coma-induced-exile Martin Carstens has, despite appearing in nothing except the opening titles for about the last month, been at the top of the credits for every single episode.

But my favourite bit of all is something which hasn’t happened much lately as, with Martin out of the picture, Ingo Bender has spent more time at the station and less time out fighting fires (why a fireman fills the duties of a policeman is beyond me, but we won’t go there). It seems that the word for “out” (as an indication that you have finished your radio message) in 112 Emergency German is “ender”. Back when Bender was out fighting fires he would often yell something hysterically in to his radio and then exclaim “Bender ender!”, usually this would happen a few times in the space of a minute.

Alas, tonight, Bender’s show does come to an ender, and I am going to miss it. I think I will have to contact SBS about buying it on DVD. The show is clearly an attempt to steal the format of Third Watch (a show of which I am a huge fan), and is so hysterically funny in its awful attempt to do so…and so mindlessly addictive, that my DVD collection will not be complete without this show.

Samuel Ender!
Ender update

Samuel

January 6th, 2010 at 03:24pm

Hot year? Hot decade? Here’s the cold hard facts

Some of you may have noticed that Mick posted a comment yesterday asking me to “explain why we just had the 2nd warmest year on record and the warmest decade?” which, in many ways, I am thankful for. You see, the farce of hot year/decade alarmism is a story which I noted while I was away last month (along with about four or five others) which I never got around to writing about (again, like the others) and Mick reminded me of it, prompting me to more-or-less write the story as a reply to his comment.

It deserves a wider audience than being a mere comment though…so I’m posting a slightly updated version here to share with you all.

The simple answer to why the last decade has been measured as being the hottest on record is the after-effects of the el nino event in the late 1990s stayed with us for much of the decade. As it happens, much of the decade was above average, but was not rising. Temperatures overall have not risen since the el nino event, and have in fact dropped in recent years. The complex answer is much more convoluted than that, but can still be boiled down to that simple answer.

If you’re interested in a full summary, take a look at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/10/countdown-to-an-unprecedented-warm-decade-2-months-to-go/ which, back in November before the UN started making noises about hot years and decades, examined how el nino affected the temperature record and, if the el nino affect is taken out of the record, the temperatures were quite normal.

You may also be interested in some information about how the temperature records have been altered to “hide the decline” (to quote the leaked CRU emails). http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/08/the-smoking-gun-at-darwin-zero/. This quite clearly shows that a number of methods used to “adjust” the temperature records are erroneously inflating records so that instead of showing their natural downward trend, they show an upward trend.

There are a couple follow-ups to that post as well. A search for “Darwin zero” on Watts Up With That will show them to you.

I’m also trying to find the graph which shows global temperatures but I don’t think the monthly update has been issued yet…and I’ve misplaced the end-of-November report. That said, the US data is interesting:

(click to enlarge)
source: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/cag3/na.html — change the end year to 2009 and hit submit. I’ve also unticked the trendline generation from this graph as it appears to be drawing a straight line from one end of the graph to the other…something which is completely useless on any graph with variable up and down points. Direct point-to-point trendlines are only accurate on graphs which only go up, only go down, or do not move at all. They are generally misleading on variable graphs.

An honest analysis of that data would say that we’ve really just been recovering from an abnormally cool temperature in the 1970s, we were then hit with el nino warming, and we’re just cooling off again. In fact, that graph shows something even more interesting…the UN weather agency (admittedly using a different dataset) are very very wrong to claim that we just had one of hottest years ever. But I’m not surprised by it…the Australian Bureau of Meteorology claimed that 2008 was abnormally hot, a claim which is false. It’s funny how that press release never made it in to their online archives.

For a more in-depth analysis of that data (from a couple months ago) see http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2009/11/09/another-normal-year-for-us-temperatures/

Admittedly this is a huge answer to a simple question, and I apologise for not being briefer, however like most things in climate science, the answer is not as simple as the question.

Samuel

3 comments January 6th, 2010 at 12:27pm

Las Vegas court house shooting: the details

Given that I spent so much time this morning tracking the news coverage of the Las Vegas court house shooting, I thought it would be a good idea to bring you the actual story courtesy of Channel 13 Action News.

My sincere condolences to the family of Stanley Cooper, the court security officer who was killed in the gunfire.

I appreciate that, for the vast majority of readers of this blog, this story is not particularly relevant as most readers of this blog are Australian, however it does tie in with my previous story about the delay in getting this story out nationally and to the world. Regardless of whether this story is relevant to you, watch the video…what is extraordinary about this is just how good the local news coverage is in the United States, especially when compared to local news coverage over here.

Las Vegas as a city, has a slightly higher population that Canberra (an extra couple of hundred thousand people) and, when you include the surrounding areas, is probably in line with Perth. Despite this, the local news coverage over there is far more thorough and regular than what you will find anywhere over here. Many TV stations have multiple full-length local news bulletins each day, for example. Additionally, this level of coverage is mirrored in many places right across the US…and yet it seems that we can only get this level of detail over here when a dust storm invades Sydney.

I suppose that a lot of this can be put down to the fact that the US has a much greater concentration of inland settlement than Australia, and as such has much more room and incentive for a competitive news business. In many ways I consider this to be one of Australia’s great problems…we are so coast-bound that we inhibit our own growth and prosperity as a nation. If more people lived inland, our coastal cities wouldn’t be choked and over-stretched, the potential for inland industry would grow significantly and, best of all, would probably lead to a self-fulfilling increase in inland rainfall based on more water being used and evaporating, which in turn helps our farming industry to sustain population growth.

Anyway, back on topic. I tip my hat to the staff at Channel 13 Action News. Your coverage of this story was excellent.

Samuel

January 6th, 2010 at 12:25am

John Howard on global warming and nuclear power

A few weeks ago, former Prime Minister John Howard weighed in on the global warming debate. I completely missed it at the time and stumbled upon the video this morning. The substance of what John Howard was saying wasn’t really my main interest at the time as I really just watched the video to see how he is holding up. Back in September he was rushed to hospital due to a potentially life threatening allergic reaction, and I haven’t anything from him or about him since then…so I was a bit concerned for his welfare.

I was very pleased to see that he is looking extremely well, although I think his speech has slowed down a bit. With him looking well, my focus then shifted to his comments on global warming. (Video | Transcript)

I disagree with John’s view that we should “play on the safe side” because “we will all be long dead when we actually know the answer” to whether humans are heating the planet. The evidence is quite clear that we are not heating the planet and it’s a pity that John doesn’t acknowledge that considering his apparent familiarity with the science and the climategate emails.

Still, John did have a good point about what we should be doing to reduce pollution…after all we all agree that actual pollution (Carbon Dioxide is not a pollutant, regardless of what the Environment Protection Agency try to sell to you) is bad, right?

It’s well known that “renewable” energy such as wind is not currently capable of maintaining base load power. Maybe one day it will be, but at the moment if we’re serious about cutting pollution and doing so in viable ways, then our only option is to use nuclear power. Tony Abbott has recently raised this topic as being in desperate need of discussion, and it was refreshing to see John Howard weigh in with some sensible views on the topic:

I think we have to — I think countries that now don’t have nuclear power, including my own, should focus very heavily on nuclear power.

I think we should put enormous amounts of additional resources into things like clean coal technology, ways of making the fossil fuels we now use less polluting.
[..]
So, common sense tells me that what we should focus on is doing things that neither side of the debate can possibly object to, and something that utilizes a clean source of energy such as nuclear power — and it is the cleanest source of energy of all — anything that reduces the polluting impact of the use of coal and gas, things like that, where nobody can really argue.

Nuclear does raise the spectre of storing nuclear waste, and this alarms a lot of people, but not me. I am of the firm view that nuclear waste is only “waste” because we don’t know how to utilise it. I have no doubt in my mind that, given enough research, we can find a way to use nuclear waste for useful purposes, probably further power generation.

We mine so much uranium in this country that it’s a shame that we don’t have a nuclear power industry of our own. Hopefully Tony Abbott is successful in starting the national discussion and acceptance of nuclear power.

Samuel

2 comments January 5th, 2010 at 01:54pm

Slow news day or slow news organisation?

When I was gasping in disbelief about how slow the Associated Press and other national news agencies were this morning in covering the Las Vegas courthouse shooting, I completely lost it and burst out laughing when I saw a particular story from AP on the CBS website which was about three and a half months late.

Yes, you read that right…three and a half months late!

On September 24 last year, the Sun newspaper in the UK ran a story about the people who live underground in Las Vegas which was subsequently picked up by The Drudge Report and led to an hysterical conversation between KXNT’s Casey Hendrickson and Heather Kydd:

Lost Vegas
From PETE SAMSON
US Editor
in Nevada
Published: 24 Sep 2009

LOVEBIRDS Steven and Kathryn share a well-organised home in bustling Las Vegas.

They have a neat, if compact kitchen, a furnished living area, and a bedroom complete with double bed, wardrobe and bookshelf featuring a wide selection including a Frank Sinatra biography and Spanish phrase book.

And they make their money in some of the biggest casinos in the world.

But their life is far from the ordinary.

Because, along with hundreds of others, the couple are part of a secret community living in the dark and dirty underground flood tunnels below the famous strip.

Rather than working in the bars or kitchens they “credit hustle”, prowling the casinos searching the fruit machines for money or credits left by drunken gamblers.

Despite the risks from disease, highly venomous spiders and flooding washing them away, many of the tunnel people have put together elaborate camps with furniture, ornaments and shelves filled with belongings.

Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/2651937/The-people-living-in-drains-below-Las-Vegas.html#ixzz0bffyxJHd

Casey and Heather’s conversation about the “zombies” of Las Vegas was so amusing that the story stuck in my head quite prominently. So you can imagine how surprised I was when I spotted this story from AP on the CBS website this morning:

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 4, 2010
Las Vegas Tunnels a Refuge for Homeless
Hundreds, Many Struggling with Addictions, Live in a Pitch-Black World, Surviving Off the Excesses of the Strip Above

(AP) Underneath its glitzy casinos, far from the bright marquees, there is another Las Vegas, a pitch-black, dank underworld virtually unknown and unseen by those who live, work and play above.

About 300 people – mostly men battling demons of various addictions – live in the underground storm system built to protect the desert playground from the infrequent cloudburst.

There’s no sign or word of welcome down here. Drug use is nearly universal. Most people carry makeshift weapons and the police don’t often come unless they’re called.

But the denizens have found a haven in the labyrinth of concrete tunnels that snake beneath the city and its suburbs.

I suppose it’s possible that the Associated Press don’t believe in electricity and had to have the story sent from the UK by boat before they could consider running a similar story…but seriously, three and a half months to run a story? I don’t care why it took that long…that’s just late, so late that the late note from Mummy Associated Press just can’t be accepted.

Samuel

January 5th, 2010 at 11:46am

Thank you WordPress

I couldn’t sleep last night (which is half the reason I was able to spend so much time tracking the Las Vegas shooting story’s coverage) and wrote a few blog articles in scheduled form. Unfortunately WordPress (the software which runs this blog) seems to have changed the way scheduled posts work in its latest update and is now capable of missing schedules.

That Rush Limbaugh update was supposed to appear around 7am. It didn’t, but somehow the later story about tracking the Vegas shooting did appear on-schedule. More annoyingly, WordPress then refused to publish the Limbaugh story which meant I had to go and play with the database to make it appear.

If I wasn’t so used to random bugs appearing in new versions of WordPress, my paranoid nature would be convinced that the WordPress developers were trying to censor us right-wingers!

Update: Ugh, there goes another one missing its schedule. I’m really unimpressed now. End Update

Further Update: WordPress have released an update (version 2.9.1) in the last hour or so which allegedly fixes this bug and a few others. I’ve updated…now we wait and see. End Update

Samuel

January 5th, 2010 at 11:39am

Rush Limbaugh well, on the mend, returns to work Wednesday

I know, I know, I’m about as late as I can be with this, but I need to provide a quick update.

Following Rush Limbaugh’s admission to hospital last week, Rush was released from hospital on the weekend and held a brief press conference to thank people for their support, praise the existing American health system and announce that he is taking it easy for a few days. Doctors have confirmed that Rush is fine and they’re unsure as to what caused his severe chest pains.

I am quite relieved to see Rush up and about. I last saw video of him a couple months ago and it looks to me as if he has lost a bit more weight since then…but I do have to wonder if he, much like 2GB’s Alan Jones, is a bundle of energy and pushes himself a bit too hard.

There is one really good thing to come out of all of this…an extra two days of Mark Steyn filling in for Rush. Mark is compelling and entertaining, but even better than that, was so good at filling in on December 23 that the far-left “anybody who opposes Obama must be banned” Media Matters nutters who scrutinise every moment of Rush’s show were so overwhelmed by Mark that they packed up an hour early and haven’t been heard from since. Mark, the world owes you about seventeen debts of gratitude for that one!

Samuel

January 5th, 2010 at 11:25am

News is just as slow in the US as it is in Australia

Two federal agents have been shot and are being reported as dead in some places in Las Vegas, but you wouldn’t know it if you were listening to the last set of US national radio news bulletins. It’s bizarre, but it almost seems as if the national news outlets didn’t bother to call their local affiliates for information.

Here’s the basic rundown of events as I noticed it (note that all times are in Las Vegas local time/Canberra local time format)

Approximately 8:10am/3:10am: Shooting occurs

A few moments later: Newsradio 840 KXNT takes a call live-to-air from a witness. Sirens are audible in the background.

8:18am/3:18am: KXNT traffic runs a brief report on the area being locked down by police
Approximately 8:20am/3:20am: Around this time I went and checked other news outlets. The Las Vegas Review Journal had a brief “breaking story” blurb on their website, KDWN 720 had nothing on their website, TV Channel 13 (local ABC affiliate) had a brief story with flashy graphics (OK, a screengrab of their “breaking news” graphic…but still). National news outlets FOX, CBS and ABC had nothing on their websites.

Approximately 8:23/3:23: KXNT news runs a story including an update from the local police spokesperson advising that two federal agents have been shot, one offender has been shot and another may be on the loose.

Approximately 8:40/3:40: The Associated Press releases a very short story advising of a shooting which looks like a cut and paste from a government press release. National outlets FOX and ABC put it on their websites with no further details. KDWN have the story on their website.

8:49/3:49: KXNT runs an out-of-cycle “breaking news” report from Metro Police that the two federal officers are dead. Also note that the area has been completely locked down while police search for a second shooter.

9:00/4:00: Top of hour national radio bulletins run with the “condition unknown” AP report. FOX update their story with a line about the lockdown. CNN don’t have a story as such, but rather a headline which links off to the Vegas FOX TV station’s news story which seems fairly comprehensive.

At some stage a little bit after 9:10/4:10: CBS add the story to their website, merging AP information with KXNT information.

9:20/4:20: KXNT run another out-of-cycle “breaking news” update with some further information and a failed cross to their reporter at the scene (the phone line dropped out).

By 9:30/4:30: NBC get the story on their site, with minor additions to the AP story. ABC bump the story to top billing (which it should have had everywhere for a lot longer than this) including an aerial photo, presumably from the local ABC affiliate Channel 13.

9:30/4:30: KXNT run another out-of-cycle update (I shudder to think how many ads they’ve dropped) with a cross to the reporter on the scene relaying information from police at the scene that Metro Police’s previous release about the federal agents being dead is possibly wrong, plus a description of the scene.

9:45/4:45: National networks seem to be close to catching up with the local outlets, with the notable exception of NBC which continues to run the ancient AP story. CNN actually have an article now.

9:50/4:50: I haven’t had a chance to check the other locals again, but KXNT are running yet another out-of-cycle update pushing the locals way ahead of the nationals again with further updates about the situation.

9:55/4:55: Las Vegas Review Journal run independent confirmation that at least one federal agent has died.

Update: 11:10/6:10: Well this is absurd. I can not find a single Australian media outlet that is aware of this shooting. AAP have not mentioned it yet, and nobody in Australia seems to have noticed. This is the top story in all US media right now, and not a peep down under, nor in Britain’s BBC…perhaps the news is coming by boat. End Update

Don’t get me wrong here. I am not surprised by the fact that local stations which have people on the ground are ahead of the New York based networks. What I’m surprised by is just how far ahead the local stations are, and how long it took the nationals to even notice what is probably going to be the top story for the rest of the day. Each and every one of the national networks has a local affiliate with a newsroom to borrow material from, and with the exception of CBS they seem to be failing to capitalise on these resources. If any of these networks used their local resources properly, they would blitz the competition completely.

All of this just goes to show that news travels just as slowly in the US as it does in Australia. If it doesn’t happen near a major news centre, then you will be waiting a long time for details. Is it any wonder that people are relying on the Internet for news over and above the big news organisations?

Samuel

January 5th, 2010 at 04:59am

Monckton to visit Australia

Padders over at The Right Aussie bring us some fantastic news. Lord Christopher Monckton will be visiting Australia later this year to spread some sanity about the whole global warming thing.

The dates haven’t been confirmed just yet, although Lord Monckton’s blog indicates that it should happen later this month. If Canberra is included on the list of places to be visited, then I’ll be sure to let you know. It would be fantastic if his lordship visits Canberra and I can arrange a brief interview…but for the moment that’s wishful thinking, and we’ll see what happens.

Samuel

January 5th, 2010 at 03:29am

Mondays with Maritz: Times of recent of and soon comings

Dear hello and for much is good to write after time away of the much busy. and I am do of hope that you have been doing have of times for good.

I am sorry to be must have to start with the bad newses that I did not pass but did fail of the Englishes examination and have not got the new certfiticate of the Englishes which is much sad and disappointing and was also for frustrations the Mrs. Porritt who does do good teachings but was very much lovely in the hope of do pass. Mrs Porritt has done do of say that I can be take the testings again in end of February month time and but be must do much practice of before then does come.

The newses of bad did do also come in of the work of Gradrens as Nice Mr. Boss is to be spending much time overseas in coming year for the family and business so to must not be able to do have me doing the workings of full time in gradern and I can only be doing workings of the one or two days of week now in mainly doing the maintaining of gadren and not the much busy workings of which the I have been of the do. This newses were much sad for me as I am very much liking of doing workings for Nice. Mr. Boss and though he has been very much lovely and is doing pay of full time for this month as though even I am only doing the partial workings and so I am do have times to be finding other job which nice Mr. Boss did say can be of hard at times. I am have been doing interviews of for some jobs and am doing think did go well of for interview of job for answering the tephlephone to do answering of the questions of place the calling centre. I am do hope this is to happen job as I much like the talkings of tephelephone.

The Christmas times were much lovely and I am did have nice gatherings of the people of from next door neighbour and the jneby for the lunchings as also Mrs. Tina did do the fly of up from down in Melbourne which is town in South Victoria Australia and was previously of doing live next door until day not long time after I did first bakery of Tomato, Asparagus And Chocolate Cake which was new recipe of from Mother Of Russia at time and much lovely and tasty of I did do take to some for Mrs. Tina as present of being lovely neighbour. Mother Of Russia was on telephone speaker for some of lunch times for doing say hello in the Russian to all guests of lunching and did so sing of Christmas Carols with me.

I am did do make special Christmas lunchings for Nice Cat Slavcatchski as well of the turkey fish and he was taking of peppers away for not doing eat which was funny much and laughings but was do of eat.

I am do have more job interview for job of tephelephone centre in morning time and so must be having the sleep now after I am do ring Uncle Boris in Russia who I am do think is having the plans for vist to Australia holiday time. I am do think it is heat much too for him at moment times.

Please to be having lovely week times.

From Maritz
Ms. Maritzkrozlavsky Throrglasnishozly

January 5th, 2010 at 01:54am

The Guardian Angels are coming to Canberra

As The Canberra Times noted this morning (albeit in an alarmist manner), the Guardian Angels are setting up a chapter here in Canberra. This is fantastic news and should be invaluable in making Canberra and safer and more friendly place.

Despite the Canberra Times and, more concerningly, police minister Simon Corbell’s pronouncements, the Guardian Angels is not a vigilante group. The Guardian Angels is not about taking the law into their own hands, but is instead all about conflict resolution and deterrent, both through street patrols and education programs.

I’ll forgive the CT angle on the story as they were really just repeating the whining of Simon Corbell which is, for a newspaper, understandable. The really sad thing here is that Simon Corbell seems to be incapable of doing even the most basic little bit of research and is instead focussing on the political views of the Guardian Angels’ founder Curtis Sliwa, tarnishing a valid and valuable group in the process, and ignoring the fact that the local chapter of the Guardian Angels have already started talking with the police to make it clear what their aims are.

From the above-linked CT article:

Police Minister Simon Corbell said Canberra usually ranked as one of Australia’s two safest cities and there was no pressing crime problem.

He questioned why there was the need for such a group. ”There is no room for vigilante or paramilitary-type groups in community safety,” he said.

Mr Corbell described Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa as a right-wing conservative commentator and encouraged those involved to give their time to existing organisations working to minimise crime, drug and alcohol problems.

I agree with Simon on one point. Other places are worse. As I mentioned to 2CC’s Mike Welsh this afternoon, a place like Melbourne with its highly-publicised attacks on Indians would, on the face of it, appear to be a more likely candidate for this type of group, however that does not mean that such a group is without merit in Canberra. Canberra has a problem with crime, mostly of the assault and assault plus robbery type, and unfortunately there is only one deterrent to that which Simon seems interested in pursuing, and that is a greater police presence. A good idea for sure, but not one which is practical for any number of economic reasons which Simon would be sure to rattle off if pressed about why police aren’t standing on every street corner at every given moment.

The bottom line is that these types of offences are usually done without witnesses. They are, by their nature, opportunistic, and having people around (be it police, security guards or Guardian Angels) acts as a significant deterrent.

As I said to Mike Welsh this afternoon, and as the founder of the local chapter Damian Heffernan also went to great lengths to emphasise, the Guardian Angels is a peaceful organisation with a mission to prevent violence. As Damian pointed out in the CT article and to Mike Welsh this afternoon:

the worst case scenario is to ever have violence occur or an arrest that’s basically considered as a failure

It should also be noted that the Guardian Angels is a citizen volunteer organisation. They have no special powers and are not under the misapprehension that they do. They are fully aware of the fact that their only power of arrest is the power of citizen arrest, however unlike the vast majority of us ordinary everyday people, they have studied the subject of citizens arrest and understand what that entails. They will also call the police, just like you and I would, if a situation warrants their attention (such as an assault occurring). They are not out to take over from the police but, as Damian said, they are out to hopefully reduce the police’s workload by taking lawful means to stop things happening before they start.

The Guardian Angels have a long track record of successful peace-keeping operations (for lack of a better term), starting with their great work in cleaning up the New York subway. It is a proven success story, so it is beyond me why Simon Corbell is so opposed to it except for political reasons.

This theory is solidified by the fact that the vast majority of the Guardian Angels’ planned work in Canberra will be in education, including working with local schools on anti-bullying programs. This is clearly not an extremist vigilante group, and one look at the organisation’s website would have shown Simon Corbell that. Instead, Simon chooses to be of the belief that anything related to a conservative talk radio host (Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, is a conservative New York talk radio host, formerly on WABC with a nationally syndicated program, and now on New York’s AM 970 The Apple) must be bad despite his own police being more than willing to work with the Guardian Angels.

I’ll just be glad that Simon isn’t the police commissioner and doesn’t have any real authority over them.

In the meantime, I fully support the Guardian Angels opening a Canberra branch and applaud Damian Heffernan’s initiative in contacting the Guardian Angels so that he can open a branch here. I also look forward to Curtis Sliwa visiting Canberra to launch the chapter next month…if that is indeed what the Canberra Times meant when they wrote:

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa and the group’s founder in Japan, ”Duke” are expected to launch the Canberra chapter next month.

A visit from Curtis would be absolutely wonderful. I have a lot of respect for him and it would be an absolute privilege to shake his hand if he does come to town.

The Guardian Angels is a great organisation, and I look forward to seeing them out and about in Canberra.

Update: Mike Welsh’s interview of Damian Heffernan is up on 2CC’s website. End Update

Samuel

1 comment January 4th, 2010 at 07:21pm

Cigarette packaging

I’m tempted to send Andrew Daddo another email now, but I won’t bombard him.

Currently he is talking to a professor about cigarette packaging, specifically the idea which keeps popping up of removing everything from the packaging except for the health warnings and horrid images. Naturally the professor thinks this is a wonderful idea because he helped write a government report to that effect…and maybe he is right, maybe it would make people less likely to smoke, but I have to ask the obvious questions…what right does the government have to deliberately ruin a legal industry?

If the government wants to stop people from smoking, then it should have the guts to make tobacco illegal and take the subsequent hit to its bottom line from the taxes which it would lose as a result. At the moment, it is perfectly legal to produce, sell and use tobacco. Taxing tobacco to the hilt does very little to stop people who are addicted from smoking…all it really does is reallocate money which they would have spent on other things.

And as for the tobacco packaging, well a recent German study just proves that the science isn’t settled on gory packaging being the ultimate deterrent:

According to a study, smokers who are continunally confronted with warnings that cigarettes kill actually develop coping mechanisms to justify continuing their habit.

Comparatively, if smokers are shown warnings suggesting the habit could make them unattractive, they are more likely to give up. Teenagers who took up the habit to impress or fit in with their peers were more likely to be influenced by warnings about their appearance, the study found.

“In general, when smokers are faced with death-related anti-smoking messages on cigarette packs, they produce active coping attempts as reflected in their willingness to continue the risky smoking behaviour,” the study said.”

People know that smoking is bad for them, but they do it anyway. If the government is serious about saving lives and not just about increasing their bottom line, then they need to make tobacco illegal and offer assistance to people to wean them off the tobacco.

Samuel

3 comments January 4th, 2010 at 12:59pm

Cashless society

An email to 2UE’s Andrew Daddo

Hi Andrew,

I personally doubt that we are even close to people considering that we're becoming a cashless society. I prefer to pay for almost all of my "over the counter" purchases in cash unless it's more than about $50 when I will generally whip out my Visa Debit card.

I am more conscious of how much cash I carry on me since I was robbed last year, and will generally withdraw cash at an ATM in a shopping centre before I make a purchase, however I would much rather have cash on me just in case I am robbed again in the future as I figure that a would-be robber is not going to take kindly to a "I don't use cash, I use plastic" response to their "hand over all your money" demand.

Regards,
Samuel Gordon-Stewart
Canberra

January 4th, 2010 at 12:19pm

Happy New Year John!

An email to 2UE’s John Kerr

Good morning and felicitations to you John,

I was planning on sleeping through the start of the new year as the changeover from one year to the next doesn't really phase me, however the fireworks at midnight woke me with a decent bit of rattling of the walls. Nattie (the lovely little dog in residence) was quite concerned by the fireworks and insisted on a cuddle and shelter in my room…sadly I have been unable to get her to stay in her own bed since then, and she has taken up residence on my bed, as you can see in the attached photo. I might try to coax her back to her own bed later.

By the way, I would be interested in your thoughts on whether this year is the first or last year of the decade. I have had this debate with myself and with a friend…in one way it's not the start of the decade as there was no year "zero", making years ending in "one" the first year and years ending in "zero" the last year of any decade, but to the same extent we name decades such as the "eighties", "nineties", "noughties" etc. I suppose it could be argued that every year starts a new decade, depending on how you measure decades.

It could also be argued that I give these things too much consideration.

Regards,
Samuel Gordon-Stewart
Canberra

Nattie dozing

Update: Just fixed the image…no idea why it didn’t work properly to begin with. End Update

1 comment January 1st, 2010 at 02:10am

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