Friday, March 05, 2004

It's a Man's Game

A LAWN bowls fracas left a man in hospital after violence erupted during a quiet Sunday match at a suburban club.

All Our Trade Will Be Free but Some Will be More Free than The Rest

[Labor trade spokesman Stephen Conroy] said the [Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement] also appeared worse for Australian farmers than first anticipated, with fine-print clauses giving America the ability to reimpose tariffs on Australian beef and some horticultural products if US prices dip significantly below average levels.

Well, he would say that, wouldn't he? Here's what the agreement actually says, in Chapter 3: Agriculture. First there's this interesting article:

1. Notwithstanding Article 2.3 (Elimination of Duties), a Party may impose a measure in the form of an additional duty on an originating agricultural good as provided in that Party’s section of Annex 3-A (Agricultural Safeguard Measures), provided that the conditions in paragraphs 2 through 6 are met. The sum of any such additional duty and any other customs duty on such good shall not exceed the lesser of:

(a) the prevailing most-favoured-nation (“MFN”) applied rate of duty; or
(b) the MFN applied rate of duty in effect on the day immediately preceding the date of entry into force of this Agreement.

2. The additional duty under paragraph 1 shall be set according to each Party’s Schedule to Annex 3-A.

In other words, although both parties have agreed to eliminate duties, either party will be able to impose dutiers on agricultural goods, as long as the duty has been set out in the agreement and a few other conditions are met.

Here's Australia's list of agriculutural goods which might in future be subject to Agricultural Safeguard Measures:

And here's a summary of the US' list:

Onion Powder, Dried Onions, Garlic Powder, Dried Garlic, Packaged Whole Tomatoes, Tomato Paste, Tomato Puree, Asparagus, Pears, Apricots, Peaches, Canned Fruit Mixtures containing Pears and Peaches, Canned Fruit Mixtures containing Oranges or Grapefruit, Frozen Orange Juice, Unfermented Grape Juice and Must and Tomato Sauces.

It's quite a revealing list, when you consider that the Agreement has to be ratified by the US Congress. Until I saw it I had no idea that the US' onion and garlic lobby was so influential.

Afterword: there's more on this topic from Josh Gordon in The Age.

Islamic Paintball Jihad

Three American Muslims accused of training for holy war against the United States by waging paintball battles in the Virginia woods have been convicted of conspiring to support terrorism.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

The Spammegorical Imperative

Proof positive that at least one spammer has never read Immanuel Kant:

To: gummo.trotsky
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Oops, I left out the hyperlink.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Tractatus Theologico-Geopoliticus


1. Anyone who criticises the current US President is anti-American.
2. The USA is the most Christian nation on Earth.
3. The current US President is the most Christian US President in world history.
4. Anyone who is anti-American hates Christianity.
5. Anyone who hates Christianity hates civilisation as we know it.


C1: Anyone who criticises George W Bush hates civilisation as we know it.

This follows from Axioms 1, 2, 4 and 5 (whose truth has been established by frequent repetition elsewhere): to criticise George Bush is anti-American and because the USA is the world's most Christian nation it is therefore anti-Christian and hence (Axiom 5) demonstrates a hatred of civilisation. Additional weight is given to this conclusion by the fact that Bush is an openly Christian President (Axiom 3), so C1 also follows from Axioms 1, 3 and 5.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Infamous Plays

I've just been reading over the last scene of Nahum Tate's revised version of Shakespeare's King Lear. I couldn't help myself; I had to find out how Tate contrives to leave Lear alive and Cordelia married to Edgar.

The scene starts with Lear and Cordelia in prison. Lear is asleep. Cordelia makes a moving speech - it's best not to dwell on what, precisely, gets moved by Cordelia's impassioned words. As soon as she finishes speaking, a "Captain and Officers" enter with Cords. The Captain gives his officers these sinister instructions:

Now, Sirs, dispatch, already you are paid
In part, the best of your Reward's to come.

After a short verbal and physical fracas, Lear shows that he is still sprightly for his age; he

Snatches a Partizan, and strikes down two of them; the rest quit Cordelia, and turn upon him. Enter Edgar and Albany.

(A partizan is a medieval weapon similar to a halberd - I think).

With two of the murderous officers out for the count, Edgar reveals that the Duke of Albany is now in charge. An anonymous gentleman helpfully informs the audience of the fate of the two "officers" struck down by Lear's partizan:

Look here, my Lord, see where the generous King
Has slain Two of 'em.

Albany still has some important business of state to conduct, for which he requires witnesses. So he gives the following orders:

Bring in old Kent, and, Edgar, guide you hither
Your Father, whom you said was near,
He may be an Ear-witness at the least
Of our Proceedings.

Once the witnesses are assembled, Albany gives Lear back his kingdom. Well, most of it anyway:

For to your Majesty we do Resign
Your Kingdom, save what Part your Self conferr'd
On Us in Marriage.

Edgar reveals that Goneril and Regan are both dead:

Gonerill and haughty Regan, both are Dead, [420]
Each by the other poison'd at a Banquet;
This, Dying, they confest.

And yes, Edgar does get the girl (Cordelia), with her father's blessing:

... Edgar, I defer thy Joys too long:
Thou serv'dst distrest Cordelia; take her Crown'd:
Th' imperial Grace fresh Blooming on her Brow;

I just love a happy ending, don't you?

Remember When?

... recently ... I received an e-mail entitled "If you are over 35, you should be dead." As I am in fact over 35, I decided to read it to clear up the mystery of why I was not dead. On opening the message, I thought (an act that provided axiomatic evidence of my being) that I recognized the contents as an antiregulatory diatribe I had already received a few times. And if I've gotten this note a few times, perhaps some Scientific American readers have received it as well. Therefore, I decided to respond here, because I don't have all your e-mail addresses.

First, some highlights of the e-mail: "According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 40's, 50's, 60's, or even maybe the early 70's probably shouldn't have survived. Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint. When we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. As children, we would ride in cars with no seatbelts or air bags. We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. Please pass this on to others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before lawyers and government regulated our lives, for our own good! People under 30 are WIMPS!"

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the target audience for this message is people who are alive. In data analysis, this is what's known as selection bias. Indeed, many kids didn't wear seat belts way back when. Some of them are now, in technical medical terminology, dead. The dead ones don't write such rants. Kids brain-damaged by lead or preventable blunt trauma may write, but they are probably not responsible for the above e-mail. Probably.

Still, life unfettered by bureaucratic interference remains tempting. And so I find myself musing on the good old days. I mean the really old days--30,000 years ago. Bureaucrats and lawyers didn't even exist yet. We were on our own and took responsibility for our actions ...

Steve Mirsky in Scientific American