Corruption Fatigue

It’s just too much now. Over the past few years, story after story about corruption and state capture has broken, and nothing has been done to fix matters. I’ve even blogged about it a few times. And that was before the latest revelations.
Several weeks ago, a trove of hundreds of thousands of emails from Gupta owned businesses were leaked to investigative journalists. What they reveal is that the extent of state capture and looting is far worse than even the most pessimistic individuals suspected.
From Dairy Farms at the provincial level to contracts at State Owned Enterprises to Cabinet Ministers’ appointments, the Guptas have captured the state completely and extracted huge amounts of money for their own benefit. The revelations are shocking and enraging. Large sums of money have been spirited abroad, confirming that when South African banks closed all accounts linked to companies confirmed as being owned by the Guptas over suspected breaches of the financial Intelligence Centres Act (FICA), they were correct.
One of the most shocking items was the Optimum takeover. The Optimum coalmine, owned by Glencore, had its contracts with Eskom placed on “review”, threatening its sustainability. Eventually, Glencore folded and sold the mine to a Gupta owned firm. All of a sudden, the issues with Optimum miraculously resolved. In addition, Eskom advanced large sums of money to the company, helping speed the sale.
If even half of what has been revealed in the emails is true, Glencore could probably sue Eskom for millions.
And in the midst of it, the ANC heads towards another conference. Discussion documents have been circulated and are available for download on the ANC’s website. Disappointingly, the documents show that the ANC either doesn’t care about the severity of state capture, doesn’t “get it”, doesn’t have the courage to confront and fix the problem or some combination of the above.
When will it end?

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Adventures in new car buying

I have a new car.
Last month, I was driving to attend a SIGiST Meeting when I was in an accident. I can’t go into any more detail as the matter is not yet finalised.
Weirdly, I’d left work earlier than usual, went shopping, and missed a turn. If any one of those three things had been different, I’d never have had the accident.
The damage was very minor and my Polo was still driveable, but it was eight years old and had over 105,000km on the Odometer, so my insurer decided to scrap it and pay me out. It had been an absolute lemon, so I consented.
So began the process to purchase a new vehicle. It needed to be a sedan (I drive around with a laptop occasionally), fuel efficient and reliable (unlike my Polo which cost me dearly in repairs). In the end, I settled for a Toyota Etios.
I had to retain my Polo until the Etios could be delivered. I also had to dip into my savings to put down a deposit.
Eventually, the car was delivered and the financing organised. After that, an acquaintance and I drove down to the designated scrapyard and dropped off the Polo. My insurer paid me out a few days later. Yesterday, my numberplates and license disc were issued and mounted.
A few months ago, I got broadband at my flat, so I’m able to get permission to work from home. This was a great help. Without this, sorting out a new car would have taken even longer. As it was, it still took me over a month.
The Etios differs from the Polo in several respects. The engine is larger, so I have to be gentler on the accelerator. More than once, I’ve used the same pressure as I used on the Polo, only to look at the speedo and have to decelerate as I was going too fast. It also has a lot less space to put things than the Polo.
I suppose that once I get used to it, I’ll find it fun to drive.

Posted in Life

Thoughts on James Bond

Roger Moore, famous for playing Simon Templar in The Saint and James Bond from 1973 to 1985, passed away from cancer last week. I was a James Bond fan years ago. I’m not one any more.
The character of James Bond was created by Ian Fleming and named after an ornithologist. The first book was Casino Royale, published in 1953. Fleming died in 1964 and the novel The Man with the Golden Gun and the short story compendium Octopussy and the Living Daylights were published posthumously.
In 1962, Dr No became the first official Bond film (there had been others). The actor chosen to play Bond was a relative unknown named Sean Connery. Connery played Bond for five films in a row. After You only live twice another unknown actor, Australian George Lazenby, was chosen for the role. He made only one appearance as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Connery came back for Diamonds are Forever. He would also play Bond in the mediocre 1980’s remake of Thunderball, Never say Never Again.
In 1973 Live and Let Die, the first film with Roger Moore as Bond, was released. The Producers had considered him earlier, but he was under contract to play Simon Templar and was thus unavailable. Moore played Bond seven times, ending in 1985 with A View to a Kill. He was 58 at the time, the oldest actor to play Bond.
Timothy Dalton was the next Bond. Sadly, he was very ill-served by the scripts and played Bond only twice in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989). After the latter, the series took a hiatus.
In 1995, Pierce Brosnan appeared as Bond in Goldeneye. As with Moore, the producers had wanted him earlier but he was under contract to play Remington Steele and couldn’t appear as Bond. Brosnan played Bond in four films and lent his likeness and voice to Bond videogames. Daniel Craig was the last Bond and also played him in four films and several videogames.
I used to think James Bond was awesome. He had genius combat skills, brilliant gadgets, and great success with women. Now I view him very differently.
There have been numerous criticisms of the character of James Bond. Sean Connery in particular despised the way Bond treated women. This is unsurprising. In the films Goldfinger and Thunderball Bond sexually assaults (if not rapes) two women.
In both the books and the films, Bond is a murderous psychopath. He is also sloppy, reckless and indiscreet, and in reality a terrible secret agent. Some people calculated the amount of alcohol Bond is depicted as drinking in the novels, and concluded that Bond is an alcoholic. That is one of the last things a spy should be.
Licence to Kill is a particularly bad film. At the start, Bond and Felix Leiter (a CIA member and Bond’s friend) capture a druglord named Sanchez. Sanchez escapes and has Leiter fed to a shark (a scene that originally appeared in the book Live and Let Die) and his wife raped and murdered. Furious and determined to take revenge, Bond disobeys orders and pursues Sanchez.
Q gets some weaponry to Bond. Bond finds Sanchez and sets an explosive charge to blow out a huge window so he can shoot him. He blows out the window, but just as he is about to fire, he is attacked by two Hong Kong Narcotics Bureau officers, who have been observing Sanchez and are enraged that Bond almost ruined things. An MI6 agent comes to take Bond back to England. Then Sanchez’s men rescue him and kill the officers, believing them to be the would be assassins. Once inside Sanchez’s inner circle, Bond proceeds to bring him down.
The film is a revenge fantasy, and not a particularly good one at that. Bond’s interfering makes everything worse. M orders Bond off the mission because he knows Bond can’t be objective. Bond’s attempt to murder Sanchez winds up costing several agents their lives. Finally, it is unlikely that Bond captured/killed everybody. If Bond had stayed away, Sanchez would have been recaptured and his entire operation shut down. Instead, any survivors will regroup and start where Sanchez left off.
The last Bond film I saw was “Die another Day”. Even if the series reboots, I don’t think I will buy a ticket.

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Religious exemptions and a Measles outbreak in Gauteng

There has been an outbreak of Measles in Gauteng.
According to the front page of The Saturday Star dated April 6, the outbreak is centred around a family that refused vaccination for “religious reasons”.
Refusing vaccination for “religious reasons” is utter hogwash. Judaism has no proscriptions on vaccination as far as I could find, Islam has actual fatwas supporting vaccination, and the mainline Christian denominations all agree that vaccination is beneficial.
In the US, the problem of outbreaks due to people refusing to be vaccinated has led to several states banning all but medical exemptions. There is currently a measles outbreak underway in Minnesota.
According to the JustAnswer website:

The only requirement that is currently mandatory in South Africa is proof of immunisation against yellow fever for any person that enters the country from a country that is deemed by the WHO as a country where yellow fever transmission is present.
Compulsory vaccination can also be enforced where there is a threat to public health.
It should not be seen as child abuse and is in discretion of the parent.

In other words, in South Africa vaccination is voluntary, except in certain situations.
The Bill of Rights bans discrimination against religion. It is disappointing that some hide behind this to refuse vaccination.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination | Tagged , , , ,

No, autism and psychopathy are NOT the same!

So I’ve been reading Adam West’s serialised deconstruction of “Atlas Shrugged” on his Daylight Atheism blog.
One thing about Rand’s protagonists is abundantly clear – they are all psychopaths.
In the comments section, one misguided soul asked if Rand was maybe autistic. The short answer is no. Another example of this misguided but widely held belief is the Ben Affleck starrer “The Accountant“, where the lead character is an autistic who is an accountant working for organised criminals, and a stone cold murderer.
The association of autism with psychopathy is fractally wrong. It misunderstands autism, empathy, psychopathy, and empathy’s relationship to autism and psychopathy.
There are two broad types of empathy: affective and cognitive. Affective empathy is the capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental states, including the ability to feel what others feel. Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand what somebody else is thinking or feeling. Autistics score poorly on cognitive empathy but highly on affective empathy. They are bad at working out what other are thinking or feeling, but feel it intensely when they do. Psychopaths are literally the opposite: they score highly on cognitive empathy but minimally on affective empathy. They can easily work out what others are thinking or feeling, but hardly feel it themselves. And this is what makes them so dangerous.
Autistics are not psychopaths. Please stop making that mistake.

Posted in Autism Awareness, Background Data | Tagged , , , , , ,

Measles, measles everywhere

Several Measles outbreaks are currently underway.
In Romania, a major outbreak there has already killed over 20 people. The number of cases is heading to 5,000.
In Italy, over 1,600 cases of Measles have been reported since the start of the year, higher than the total number of cases seen during all of 2016. Some blame has been placed on the antivaccine Five Star Movement. Also, a nurse was caught faking giving children vaccines.
In Minnesota, the Somali community has suffered an outbreak. Fears over the discredited link between vaccines and autism led to a fall in vaccination rates to 42%, which has now culminated in the current situation.
In Portugal, a 17 year old has died.
Measles is one of the most infectious diseases around. The Community immunity threshold is 95%. This means that in order for the disease to not spread, 95% of a community must be up to date with their MMR/MMRV vaccinations. The ongoing outbreaks are the inevitable result of the fearmongering and lies spread by antivaccination groups and individuals, and the loss of Community immunity.

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Mad March? More like Mad April

April is Autism Awareness Month. Several organisations and areas (like Guam, for instance) have “lit it up blue”. I, like many self advocates, am “toning it down taupe”, as “Light it up blue” was started by “Autism Speaks”.
There has been a Meningitis C outbreak in Nigeria. The WHO and others have been supplying vaccines to contain infection.
I’m going to a SIGiST Meeting next week Wednesday. I’ll write about it.
Finally, even I’m getting fatigued with what’s happening in South African political circles. Shortly after Midnight on March 31, President Jacob Zuma dismissed Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, and replaced them with Mmalusi Gigaba and Sfiso Buthelezi respectively.
The response was immediate. Ratings Agencies Fitch and Standard and Poor’s downgraded South Africa to Junk Status, and Moody’s will almost certainly also do so. On April 12, Jacob Zuma’s 75th birthday, mass protests organised by opposition political parties called on him to step down. ANC insiders have also urged Zuma to reverse his decision or resign the presidency. Zuma, however, has declared he is staying put.
Hoo boy.

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