Boing Boing 

Scarface, re-enacted by children as a school play (or not)

scarfaceth.jpg Video Link. Spotted on Dangerous Minds. Truth squad: It's not really a school play. Perhaps someone in internetlandia knows. Update: The LA Times is actin' like they know who's behind it. (thanks, Tara McGinley)

Hutaree suspect is fond of gel shoe insoles (He's gellin' like a felon!)

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow may have ID'd a Hutaree arestee: "Found on the Hutaree militia site, 'The End of the World as We Know It' Man. When the apocalypse comes, TEOTWAWKI Man recommends using insoles &mdash 'Gels or what-have-you' — and generally taking care of your feet." Oh dear, I imagine REM isn't any happier about the appropriation of their song title than the Sisters of Mercy will be about providing the soundtrack to the widely circulated Hutaree Jesus-jihad video.

Ratmobile kit and mushroom puzzle in the Boing Boing Bazaar!

 System Product Images 2880 Original Img 0238-20 Andrew and Michele (aka Xylocoopa Design) are selling several lovely laser-cut items in our Boing Boing Bazaar at the Makers Market. Above is their Build-Your-Own Ratmobile Kit, $18.95, which unlike the above specimen comes unpainted and unfinished. Just add glue! And at left is the Mysterious Mushroom Puzzle, available for $38.95. The engraved shrooms only fit into the 6" square in one configuration. Each piece is based on a real species of fungus.

An honest person, or a very convoluted scam: You be the judge

Now on New York Craigslist Lost & Found: One suitcase containing $78,383.

National Geographic Explorer: LSD

 Staticfiles Ngc Staticfiles Images Show 40Xx 409X 4094 Explorer-Inside-Lsd-05 04700300
In a recent episode, National Geographic Explorer tripped out on acid. Or rather, they explored the science and culture of LSD. A series of online clips from the show look at the science of the molecule, a fantastic gallery of blotter art, and a young lady turning gummy candies into psychedelic treat for a friend. The narration isn't too far down the sensationalism path, but still, it is TV. From the program description:
LSDs inventor Albert Hofmann called it "medicine for the soul." The Beatles wrote songs about it. Secret military mind control experiments exploited its hallucinogenic powers. Outlawed in 1966, LSD became a street drug and developed a reputation as the dangerous toy of the counterculture, capable of inspiring either moments of genius, or a descent into madness. Now science is taking a fresh look at LSD, including the first human trials in over 35 years. Using enhanced brain imaging, non-hallucinogenic versions of the drug and information from an underground network of test subjects who suffer from an agonizing condition for which there is no cure, researchers are finding that this "trippy" drug could become the pharmaceutical of the future. Can it enhance our brain power, expand our creativity and cure disease? To find out, Explorer puts LSD under the microscope.
National Geographic Explorer: Inside LSD (Thanks, Xeni!)

Science of cocktail shaker vacuum

Ever notice that cocktail shaker cans get vacuumed together when you shake a drink? The encoldening of all the stuff inside is doing it, creating enough vac that you need to apply about 13.6 pounds of force to pull a small shaker apart.
First, the air that's in your shaker starts off at room temperature. As you are shaking, this air gets cooled just like your drink does. Cooling the air causes the pressure to go down, which causes a vacuum. That isn't all that's happening, though. Ice is less dense than water. When ice melts, it actually contracts in volume. When the volume of liquid plus ice in the shaker contracts, the volume of air in the shaker increases. Since you aren't adding more air molecules, increasing the volume decreases pressure, causing more vacuum. Third, as your liquor gets colder, its density increases, again shrinking in volume and creating more vacuum. A third factor may be a small amount of expelled air when the bartender slams down on the cans before the shake.
More Cocktail Science: Why Do My Shaker Cans Get Sucked Together? (via JWZ)

(Image: Cocktail Shakers, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from walkn's photostream)

Tim O'Reilly defines "the Internet operating system"

From Tim O'Reilly, a major essay explaining what he means when he talks about the "Internet Operating System." It's all about abstraction -- about being the company that provides the infrastructure that everyone else uses when they want to write code or produce services that doe "internetty" things, like payments, location, time, social graph, access control and so on. Tim makes a provocative comparison to the early days of personal computers, before OS vendors produced the services that allowed app writers to hand off device drivers, file-systems, and other messy, low-level junk to Microsoft and its contemporaries. This gave an enormous amount of power to the OS companies.
This is the crux of my argument about the internet operating system. We are once again approaching the point at which the Faustian bargain will be made: simply use our facilities, and the complexity will go away. And much as happened during the 1980s, there is more than one company making that promise. We're entering a modern version of "the Great Game", the rivalry to control the narrow passes to the promised future of computing. (John Battelle calls them "points of control".)...

The breakthroughs that we need to look forward to may not come from explicitly social applications. In fact, I see "me too" social networking applications from those who have other sources of identity data as a sign that they don't really understand the platform opportunity. Building a social network to rival Facebook or Twitter is far less important to the future of the Internet platform than creating facilities that will allow third-party developers to leverage the social data that companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL - and phone companies like ATT, Verizon and T-Mobile - have produced through years or even decades of managing user's social data for communications.

Read the whole thing. It's long, smart and important. I only took one exception to it: Tim talks about access control as "providing streaming but not downloads." I don't think that streaming (in this context) exists -- it's the phlogiston of the 21st century, just a disingenuous way of saying "downloading" used to convince luvvies and entertainment execs that it's possible to "show" someone a file over the internet without sending a copy of it to them.

The State of the Internet Operating System

Apartment building exorcism

Nichole East posted this video on Flickr documenting an exorcism performed by her neighbors last week. She also snapped the above photo of the friendly note she left them.Read the rest

Airplane repo men

Nick Popovich is a repo man, but not of cars. If an individual, or a company, falls too far behind on their airplane payments, the bank may call Popovich to bring back the bird. He's the proprietor of Sage-Popovich, whose repo pilots have repossessed some 1,200 planes. From Air & Space Magazine:
In Russia and Colombia, where foreigners can be kidnapped, the company rolls with bodyguards. The extra muscle is strictly for self-defense, however. If repo resistance escalates to the physical, “you just have to walk away,” Popovich says.

Well, he says that now. During a repo in the mid-1980s, both sides got physical. A U.S. financier had hired Popovich to snatch a Boeing 720 from a tour operator in Haiti who was in default. Though the aircraft had a book value of only $600,000, an airport manager refused to release it unless a million dollars was deposited in a Swiss bank account. Having made arrangements with an entrepreneurial Port-au-Prince airport employee, Nick showed up around midnight with an air starter (720s lack an onboard auxiliary power unit to start engines). The field had been closed for hours when the team fired up the big turbofans. As he began adding power, Popovich says, “I saw the first tracer rounds streak over the top of the airplane.”

He veered to a stop and Haitian troops swarmed the airplane, bayonetting fuel cells in the wings. “I got out and shoved one of them,” Nick says with a sigh. “The rest of them beat the hell out of me and threw me into the national penitentiary in downtown Port-au-Prince. A dirt-floor cell with no roof and 35 people in it.” In addition to the million-buck drop in Switzerland, the Haitians wanted $150,000 to release Popovich. “The American embassy did nothing for me,” he grumbles. A week later, however, the regime of dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier collapsed. The prison gates were thrown open. “Everyone ran out into the street,” Nick laughs. “But that plane is still down there today. The only commercial aircraft that got away from us.”

"Grab the Airplane and Go"

Christian militia group accused of seditious conspiracy, attempted use of WMDs

hutaree.jpg Nine members of a Christian militia group known as Hutaree (website Google cache) were today indicted on multiple charges involving an alleged plot to attack police, including seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, announced the U.S. Attorney in Michigan. Reports: New York Times, Talking Points Memo. No coincidence they're in Michigan, it would seem: the group reportedly planned attacks on Muslims in Detroit and elsewhere. The state is home to some of America's largest and most densely populated Muslim communities.

"I wonder if these fundamentalist extremist terrorists will be waterboarded and held without trial indefinitely," quipped a friend of a friend.

Above, while it lasts, what is purported to be a Hutaree-produced video grabbed from The video features guys in camo traipsing through the forest, over a Sisters of Mercy track (Christian militias are into goth? Okay.)

The website makes much reference to a "Christian Republic," "end time battles," and the voices of "Christian martyrs," "Jesus warriors," and talk of "Jesus and the ten virgins." If you translated this website into Arabic, you'd have the sort of stuff that's presented to America as the reason we're in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While the homepage is inaccessible, some portions of the site are accessible at the publish time of this blog post, including details about a training camp planned for April 24, and their rank taxonomy. The top guys in the organization are known as RADOK [RD], BORAMANDER [BM], ZULIF [ZL], and ARKON [AK], and the lowest guys are "gunners." The Hutaree doctine is spelled out here. From the "About us" page:

Christ is our king of kings and top general of all things, for we are not of this world but we live in it. The Hutaree will one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield if so God wills it. We will reach out to those who are yet blind in the last days of the kingdoms of men and bring them to life in Christ. (...) Oh and don't forget that you can write us through the contact us link on the Hutaree homepage. Once again thanks for visiting and may Christ bless you widely.

(Thanks Sean Bonner / Guav)

Angry man throws chihuahua off a bridge

In a strange case of misdirected anger, a 35-year old Maryland man threw a chihuahua off a bridge after its owners asked him to get off their property — he had pulled into their driveway to make a phone call. He pled guilty to animal cruelty and faces 4.5 years in prison.

What the Hell is Sissy Bounce?

sissycrowd.jpg Sean Bonner has published a must-read post on an underground black musical and cultural phenomenon out of New Orleans known as "Sissy Bounce." Must-hear and must-watch, too: Sean included lots of embedded video and sound. Snip:
So what the hell is Sissy Bounce? Sort of depends who you ask. Katey Red [myspace], arguably the creator of the genre, suggests it doesn’t even exist and instead insists it’s just "sissies" producing Bounce. Other artists such as Big Freedia [myspace | twitter] fully embrace the term. Take some of the most hypersexual bump-and-grind you can imagine, remove everything but the sexed-up chorus, speed it up, and then remove the sexual identity of the artist performing it. What, what? That’s right. Sissy Bounce artists are purposely androgynous, sometimes referred to as queer, sometimes transgendered, a very direct intent is to fuck with people’s heads about sexuality. It’s easy to relate, or be offended when you see one sex singing about the other. But with Sissy Bounce you have no idea. This makes the performances just as important as the music itself, which is perhaps why it’s stayed locked down for so long.

I needed more info, and Scott Beibin had it. His friend Alix Chapman had just spent a great deal of time researching the genre and I asked him to do an interview to try to lay the real truth on the line before people start jumping to conclusions. Here’s that interview...

The interview with Chapman (that's him in the thumbnail below) is fascinating stuff. Snip:
alixth.jpg Sissy Bounce is really not all that different [from the more widely known genre of "bounce."]. It incorporates call and response, the triggerman and brown beat, and a lot of the same dancing and sexually provocative lyrics associated with the rest of Bounce. There's a lot of social critique and explanation throughout Bounce music, just like any other form of hip-hop. The only difference is these "sissies" are commenting and explaining a way of life that is not usually heard. I'm sure if you gave anybody marginalized by their sexuality or gender the chance to speak from their lived experience you're gonna hear something different.
You must see the videos. As Chapman says in the interview, "The pop and whobble moves you see in Bounce are not specific to to the genre, yet all the movement that goes into the pelvis region is somewhat common to black folk and can be seen in everything from Batuko —the forbidden dance in Cabo Verde—to Crunk in California. It's just Africa."

Sissy Bounce, a taste of the real underground

(PHOTOS: Top, crowd at a Sissy Bounce show; bottom, Big Freedia; both shot by Aubrey Edwards)


Blindness cure was actually LSD pickles

Alex Pfeffer of Fehmarn, Germany, paid £20,000 to Patrick Baecker, an out-of-work barber, to cure his blindness. The "cure" was gherkins laced with LSD. Baecker is now serving 8 months in jail. 'You are a hairdresser, not a shaman,' Judge Markus Faerber ruled. (Thanks, Chris Arkenberg!)

Sweet song about evolution and love

babyitledtoyou.jpg <a href="">Baby, It All Led To You (#197) by Jonathan Mann</a>

"How we met" is a pretty common theme for love songs. This one, by song-a-day musician Jonathan Mann, just takes the concept back a bit further in time—staring in amazement and wonder at the bacteria, early mammals and proto-humans that all led up to the birth of that special person. I'll admit it, I teared up a little. (Even if the lyrics are a bit heavily weighted toward humans, contrary to the actual amount of time we've been around. /pedant moment)

Side note: Jonathan Mann is looking for animators to help bring "Baby, It All Led to You" to life. If you've got skillz/ideas, email him.

Image courtesy Flickr user Joelshine_mk2, via cc

Alleged human "Holocaust soap" for sale

Abraham Botines is selling a bar of soap that he claims may have been made from the fat of people who were murdered in the Holocaust. According to CBC News, the soap, "inscribed with a swastika and displayed in a glass case with a card that says 'Poland 1940,'" was displayed in the window of Botines's curiosity shop in Montreal, Canada. A controversy erupted and Botines has since removed the item from the shelf, making it available only to potentially serious buyers. From CBC News:
On Friday, Abraham Botines, a Spanish-born Jew who has operated the quirky boutique since 1967, admitted he has no idea whether the soap is really made of human remains.

"I'm 73 and I was collecting things from the Holocaust and from World War II because I belong to that period," Botines told The Canadian Press in an interview Friday in the cluttered shop...

Most Holocaust experts say the stories that have circulated over the years about Nazis mass-producing soap from the remains of Jews and others who died in concentration camps are largely untrue although there is evidence the Nazis experimented with soap-making using human remains...

Fake or real, the soap is outrageous, and "this individual, and others like him, are not preserving history in any way," said Alice Herscovitch, director of Montreal's Holocaust Centre. "The sale of objects which glorify Nazism and hatred, to me, do nothing. They certainly don't help us remember."

The idea is also disgusting, she said.

"These are items that should not be out there in a promotional, sales kind of way."

"Shop owner defends sale of 'Holocaust' soap"

The US government's war on Wikileaks

Glenn Greenwald in Salon: "It's not difficult to understand why the Pentagon wants to destroy WikiLeaks. Here's how the Pentagon's report describes some of the disclosures for which they are responsible: The Pentagon report also claims that WikiLeaks has disclosed documents that could expose U.S. military plans in Afghanistan and Iraq and endanger the military mission, though its discussion is purely hypothetical and no specifics are provided.' " The war on WikiLeaks is not so much about opsec, in other words, it's about avoiding embarassment.

Gadget and video game-themed baked goods

2725220759_199231391f_b.jpg Geeksugar has a fun and delicious-looking photo gallery of geeky baked goods, including this chocolate cupcake with an Apple logo on it. Yum.

Sweet treats from around the web

UK record lobby has vehement feelings on Digital Economy Bill debate, won't say what they are

My latest Guardian column, "Does the BPI want MPs to debate the digital economy bill properly?" addresses the British Phonographic Institute's weird, vehement silence on Parliament's debate on its pet legislation, the dread Digital Economy Bill. Vehement silence? Oh yes.

Last week, the BPI sent me a vehement denial after I published a report that its spokesman had said that there was no need for further debate over the 24,000+ word bill, claiming he'd said no such thing (Parliament hasn't debated the bill at all, and at present it seems like it'll be rammed through with a mere afternoon's debate). But when I asked whether the BPI believed the debate to date had been sufficient, they just ignored the question.

One long-serving MP told me that under normal circumstances, "a bill of this size would probably have a one-day second reading debate and then about 60 to 80 hours in committee, where it would be scrutinised line by line, clause by clause". However, under the current accelerated schedule, "it will receive one day for second reading and at the very most, two hours in a committee of the whole house. The government will programme the debate so huge chunks of the bill might not receive any scrutiny at all..."

The BPI's member companies stand to gain enormous power and wealth from this Bill - including the power to decide which British families are allowed to participate in digital society. They've written sections of it. They produce a weekly, in-depth status report on the bill's progress (albeit these reports are somewhat loony: the leaked one suggested that the MI5 were behind the opposition!).

Are we to believe that they have no opinion on whether this bill has seen enough parliamentary debate?

Does the BPI want MPs to debate the digital economy bill properly?

Microsoft trying to gut EU IT policy, replacing open standards with proprietary junk - your letters needed!

Computerworld's Glyn Moody has been tipped off to a lobbying campaign by Microsoft to get free/open source and open standards excluded from the EU's digital "framework" -- the policy that will determine Europe's IT strategy. Microsoft's been trying to pervert this for months now -- last November, we caught them replacing the definition of "open" (as in "open standards") with a bunch of meaningless drivel that suggested that "closed" was just another kind of "open," only less so.

Glyn's sources tell him that a concerted letter-writing campaign to the European Commissioners responsible for the project would make a difference, and provides links to reach them.

The battleground is the imminent Digital Agenda for Europe, due to be unveiled by the European Commission in a month's time, and which defines the overall framework for Europe's digital policy. According to people with good contacts to the politicians and bureaucrats drawing up the Agenda, Microsoft is lobbying hard to ensure that open standards and open source are excluded from that policy - and is on the brink of succeeding in that aim.
Open Source and Open Standards under Threat in Europe (Thanks, Glyn!)

Apple acquires Fujitsu's iPad trademark.

With only days until launch, the trademark dispute over the iPad name, used by Fujitsu since 2002, is resolved without legal fireworks.

Leaked doc: EU wants to destroy and rewrite Canada's IP laws

Michael Geist sez,
Late last year, a draft of the European Union proposal for the intellectual property chapter of the Canada - EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement leaked online. The leak revealed that the EU was seeking some significant changes to Canadian IP laws. Negotiations have continued and I have now received an updated copy of the draft chapter, complete with proposals from both the EU and Canada. The breadth of the demands are stunning - the EU is demanding nothing less than a complete overhaul of Canadian IP laws including copyright, trademark, databases, patent, geographic indications, and even plant variety rights.

While there are some Canadian requests - for example, Canada plays Hollywood North by asking the EU to introduce an anti-camcording provision - virtually all the changes would require Canadian reforms. In fact, while the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement garners the bulk of the attention, CETA would actually involve far more domestic change. In some sections, the EU simply takes its own directives and incorporates them into the treaty. For example, provisions on the liability of ISPs is taken directly from EU law, including the use of terms such as "information society service" - something that is defined under EU law but is meaningless in Canada.

Notably, the draft includes many new rights for broadcasters. These rights form part of a proposed Broadcast Treaty at WIPO that has failed to achieve consensus. The EU is seeking to build support for the treaty by requiring Canada to implement many new provisions that would give broadcasters a host of new rights and force public places to pay additional fees for carry broadcasts.

Given the magnitude of the proposed changes, the price of a trade agreement is clear. The EU is effectively demanding that Canada surrender its sovereignty over intellectual property law and policy.

EU Demands Canada Completely Overhaul Its Intellectual Property Laws (Thanks, Michael!)

Junkbots galore!

Dark Roasted Blend has a fantastic roundup of junkbots and other robotic ephemera and goodies. I'm really taken with Ultrajunk's creations, which really take advantage of the decay and use-marks on his found-object materials to make robots that have a lot of texture and implied history.

Utterly Irresistible Robot Sculptures (Thanks, Marilyn!)

Kick-Ass the graphic novel

With the film adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.'s graphic novel Kick-Ass about to open in theaters, I picked up the book to see what it was all about. I'd seen the disturbing, high-intensity trailer back in December, and I wanted to read the story before I got to the movies. Having read it -- ploughing through it in a non-stop, intense hour -- I'm pretty psyched to see the flick!

Kick Ass is the story of Dave Lizewski, an average high-school student headed for nothing much in life, who decides that rather than aspiring to being a pop-star or a great athlete, he'll become a super-hero. Why not? So he orders a scuba wet-suit, gets a couple of batons, and sets to work fighting crime.

He doesn't fare so well. Almost immediately, he receives a near-crippling beat-down that hospitalizes him and and nearly bankrupts his hardworking single father. He swears off vigilantism, only to be lured back out of retirement by the appearance of a copycat ("The Red Mist"), another caped "hero" who scores several high-profile criminal empires and attains even greater fame than "Kick-Ass"(Lizewski's super alterego), eclipsing his MySpace page and his Google pagerank.

Quickly, Kick-Ass ends up in a near-terminal situation, only to be rescued by a ten-year-old girl ("Hit-Girl"), who slaughters the bad guys who're about to kill him, dispatching them with a ninja sword and a great deal of bravada. The homicidal pair vanish, leaving Kick-Ass feeling inadequate and worried.

But not for long -- quickly, Kick-Ass finds himself confronting the Red Mist, who turns out to be a megafan of his, and the two of them pair off as a super-duo.

The story rockets along -- it's essentially one long flashback, beginning with Lizewski tied to a chair by bad guys who're electrocuting his testicles -- and comes to an extremely satisfying conclusions. It's a neat and bloody commentary on the mythos of superheroism and vigilantism, and while the contrast between Hit-Girl's innocence and violence is an exploitative trick, it's also a very powerful one, that works to get you thinking about the nature of the "heroes" who fill our four-color dreams.

The end of the book identifies it as the first volume, but even so, it draws to a very neat conclusion that won't leave you feeling cheated.


Highlights from steampunk bazaar at White Mischief

The steampunk maker bazaar at this weekend's White Mischief Great Exposition night at London's Scala boasted a raft of supremely talented vendors and exhibitors. In addition to the publishers of Steampunk Magazine, four of my favourites were:

Brute Force Studios who stole my heart with a brooch made from an ornate, silver-chased telegraph key (alas, not for sale, nor on the website!), and who make this amazing clockwork arm-piece.

Read the rest

Flickr attributor bookmarklet

In response to this morning's lazyweb request, BB reader Cory (no relation) was kind enough to whip up this bookmarklet that makes it easy to attribute Creative Commons-licensed images from Flickr. Drag the bookmarklet to your browserbar, then click it when you're on a Flickr CC image page, and it'll create an alert with the attribution text, like this:

(Image: A Hoot, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (2.0) image from doug88888's photostream)

This is going to save me a buttload of typing. Thanks a million, Cory!

Douglas Adams lecture

Her's an 80-minute Douglas Adams lecture entitled "Parrots, the universe and everything from the University of California in 2001.

Douglas Adams: Parrots, the universe and everything (Thanks, Arkizzle!)

Portraits of attendees at London's steampunk White Mischief night

If you missed the White Mischief Great Exposition at the Scala in King's Cross, London, on Saturday, you missed a hell of a steampunk party -- live music and variety acts, a bazaar selling all manner of homebrew steampunkinalia, and a crowd of thousands dressed to the nines in steampunk finery.

Photographer NK Guy was on-hand shooting portraits of the attendees, and he's already uploaded his best shots. The costumes were stupendous, and here's the proof.

White Mischief

English drunkards of the early 20th century

Here's a set of mugshots of "habitual drunkards" scooped up in Birmingham's enforcement of the 1902 Licensing Act. Their images were distributed to pub owners along with the instruction not to sell them alcohol. The accompanying bust-cards enumerate their professions and crimes -- "woodchopper/prostitute," "polisher/prostitute," "tube drawer" and "grease merchant" all feature.

Bizarrely, asserts a copyright over these public domain images taken by the police over a hundred years ago.

Binge Britain 1904: The rogues' gallery that shows war on booze is nothing new

Battlefield Earth screenwriter apologises

On the occasion of his Razzie prize for worst screenplay ever, Battlefield Earth screenwriter JD Shapiro, explains how he came to write one of cinema's great and foetid turds.
Then I got another batch of notes. I thought it was a joke. They changed the entire tone. I knew these notes would kill the movie. The notes wanted me to lose key scenes, add ridiculous scenes, take out some of the key characters. I asked Mike where they came from. He said, "From us." But when I pressed him, he said, "From John [Travolta]'s camp, but we agree with them."

I refused to incorporate the notes into the script and was fired.

I HAVE no idea why they wanted to go in this new direction, but here's what I heard from someone in John's camp: Out of all the books L. Ron wrote, this was the one the church founder wanted most to become a movie. He wrote extensive notes on how the movie should be made.

Many people called it a Scientology movie. It wasn't when I wrote it, and I don't feel it was in the final product. Yes, writers put their beliefs into a story. Sometimes it's subtle (I guess L. Ron had something against the color purple, I have no idea why), sometimes not so subtle (L. Ron hated psychiatry and psychologists, thus the reason, and I'm just guessing here, that the bad aliens were called "Psychlos").

The only time I saw the movie was at the premiere, which was one too many times.

I penned the suckiest movie ever - sorry! (via /.)

UK government's smoke-filled room legislative process

With an election looming in the UK, the Labour government is making ready to abuse the obscure "wash-up" procedure to ram through great whacks of legislation without democratic scrutiny. In "wash-up," government is able to pass legislation without full parliamentary debate, moving the discussion to a smoke-filled room where party whips, business managers, and government officials hammer out the law. The proceedings are kept secret and are especially vulnerable to being manipulated by lobbyists (like the British Phonographic Institute, which is hoping to get the power to choose who is allowed to use the Internet, and which wrote a web-censorship law that it got inserted by the Lords).
And the losers? For those of us who believe that we cannot have a real democracy without electoral reform, the alarm bells are sounding far beyond Westminster. A possible casualty of the wash-up is the proposal to hold a referendum on the alternative vote - a system that allows the voters to list the candidates in order of preference, and reflects their choices much more fairly than first past the post. The amended constitutional renewal and governance bill, having received substantial support in both the Lords and the Commons, may yet be scuppered by the Conservatives in the smoke-filled room. Why the Tories favour a voting system that disadvantages them, especially in Scotland, is one of the abiding mysteries of politics. But they do. And AV is looking vulnerable.

Something that politicians tend to lose sight of is the old-fashioned notion that they are servants of the people. They enjoy their privileges but too easily forget that it isn't their parliament, it's ours. So we, their employers, have a right to know what they are up to, not only when jousting with each other in public, but in the deals that they make behind closed doors. We take for granted the presence of TV in the main debates and the select committees. We are sometimes appalled by what we see, but at least we see it. And we can draw our own conclusions from the empty benches which are such a conspicuous feature of the place, for most of the day, on the BBC's Parliament channel. In most of my time as an MP I rarely spoke to an audience of more than a dozen of the honourable members.

Parliament's wash-up's a stitch-up (Thanks, Ian!)

(Image: His Station and Four Aces, Cassius Marcellus Coolidge/Wikimedia)