Free Bradley Manning! Or Julian Assange! Or something like that.

I am torn between feeling hate and pity for the misguided individuals who defaced a Melbourne statue with slogans such as “Free Bradley Manning” and “Free Julian Assange” and “Why do we allow ourselves to live in a police state?”

I mean, seriously, “police state”? Some dole-bludging wannabe hippie who has never stepped outside the sheltered existence of an incredibly free and non-corrupt country has this whacky idea that somehow we are in a police state because another country wants to prosecute one of its own citizens for an alleged crime committed entirely within that country?! Or is it because one of our citizens allegedly committed sexual assault on someone in Sweden and the Swedish government is trying to extradite him so that he can be charged under Swedish law? If I went to Sweden and raped somebody, would you expect the Australian government to protect me from facing charges for it?

If Mr Assange is innocent, he should go back to Sweden and be exonerated. If he is guilty, he should go back and face his punishment. Sweden is less corrupt than Australia, so it’s not like it’s a  big worry that he’ll get an unfair trial. USA and UK have an extradition treaty, so if the US wanted to get him for his wikileaking, they could have done it direct via UK rather than some convoluted system of him going to Sweden first.

It seems to me like he is just using his wikileaking as an excuse to avoid paying his debt to society (if any) for sexual assault, and his fans have fallen for it hook line and sinker. Some idiots just don’t seem to understand that people are not one-dimensional figures that fit into a box labelled “good” or “evil”; and just because they did a good thing, it doesn’t give them carte blanche to do bad things (well, apart from Roman Polanski).

Who is sick of the childish comments about Roman Polanski?

Someone on Facebook drew my attention to this little gem.

It seems that Mr Polanski disagrees with male and female equality. Thank god he spoke out! After all, if we aren’t able to learn such valuable lessons from this bastion of morality, then we as a society have surely failed.

Which brings me to another point. Mr Polanski has copped a lot of flak for a certain scandal that occurred lo these many years ago. I must come to his defense, because I really feel that his decriers are failing to understand the complexity of the situtation.

Just imagine if he had spent years in jail for his crime. He may never have made The Pianist. That film was Great Work Of Art. He won an Academy Award for it, and his peers actually gave him a standing ovation at the awards ceremony.

So let me put it on record here that I fully support delaying punishment for child rapists for at least 25 years, to give them a fair chance to create a piece of art so great that people will say “Wow, that was totally worth raping a child for.”

Guantanamo Bay recidivism

I just happened to stumble across this article (from about a year ago), which talks about the recidivism rate of inmates of Guantanamo Bay. That is to say, the number of inmates who then go on to join or return to militant activity.

It seems to me that given the gloriously wonderful conditions of Guantanamo Bay, it would be surprising if inmates didn’t rise up to fight against the oppressive Americans.

If the goal is to turn people against the US, you have certainly succeeded. Well done America!

Culprits may face costs of putting out reckless fires

As reported by The Age, people who start bushfires in Victoria (Australia) may be forced to pay the cost of extinguishing them. It then explains how putting out a large fire could cost millions of dollars.

Now I’m no expert, but it seems to me that the number of multi-millionaires starting bushfires is probably very small. So I’m curious to see how the policy would be implemented. The article references the Sentencing Act 1991, but the Act says that the court must “as far as practicable” take into account the financial circumstances of the offender. So they might squeeze a few bucks from them by that avenue, but not a lot in the grand scheme of things.

The article also mentions it opening the offender up to civil lawsuits. That is just going to lead to bankruptcy. I’m not so worried about the offender, but if they have a family then the family’s lives will be ruined too. Let’s assume it’s a bloke for the sake of pronouns (there is apparently a 6:1 ratio of males to females in the arson world, but I’m only talking about accidental arson so that figure is not applicable). So he goes to prison for a while and when he gets out can’t find a decent job, because who wants to employ a criminal? Meanwhile, his wife and kids are at home – no wait, their home got sold as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. The kids now have an unstable home life; they’ve lost their Dad (for a while at least) and have had to move into a rental house, maybe even changed schools. Their single mother is now working full time to support them, and probably struggling to make ends meet. It sure sucks to be the daughter of an angle-grinding enthusiast!

At the end of the day, maybe that’s not so bad. He did a bad thing and he got punished for it, with a little collateral damage which society is willing to accept. Even without the bankruptcy, the kids would still suffer. But I wonder how much of a deterrent seeking compensation will be? Let’s look at how this might play out both before and after the crackdown:

You are a man, living in country Victoria. It’s a 43°C day, hot, windy, and a total fire ban. You suddenly decide to do some welding.
Before: You think to yourself, “If I do the welding and start a fire I could go to prison! I’ll do it anyway.”
After: You think to yourself, “If I do the welding and start a fire, I could go to prison and go bankrupt! I’ll do it anyway.”

The main problem I see is not the strength of the deterrent, but in the failure of the man to accurately assess the risk of what he is doing. You can tell him it is dangerous, but that won’t necessarily mean he makes the mental connection that it really is dangerous. Humans suck at assessing risk! He has probably been welding for 20 years and never had any problems. Even if an errant spark gets out, he is probably pretty confident he can put it out. And maybe most of the time he can. But it is the one time in 20 years that he didn’t that is the problem.

So will the new sentencing guidelines help? I’m guessing that by themselves, almost certainly not. It is the marketing/advertising campaign that surrounds them that will have the real impact, so long as it is successful in making people evaluate the risk of their actions better and thus avoid dangerous activities on fire danger days.