They are taking the piss

With the (government regulated) fuel price reaching a new record level today, that same government (the one that also imposed a 1% increase in VAT, a 7% increase in the Fuel Levy and a 18.4% increase in the Road Accident Fund Levy just a couple of months ago) tweeted this:

Sure, it might look like they are trying to help us cut our petrol use, but it does seem a bit like the school bully giving you a plaster for your bleeding knee when he was the one who tripped you up in the playground.

They’re taking the piss, right?

I mean, check that incredible starter:

Make Fewer Trips

Wow… Revolutionary.
Thanks, Einstein.

A better way of saving South Africans money on petrol would surely be to revisit all those recent tax increases or tackle corruption and run the economy a bit better so that the currency wasn’t always struggling against the USD oil price benchmark.

But given that neither of those things is ever going to happen, I guess that I’ll just have to “accelerate smoothly” and “close my windows”.


QOTD – Science and Racism

Here’s an interesting piece on the misuse of scientific data by right-wing groups.

I especially enjoyed this quote:

In an argument between a logical person and illogical person, the logical person is always going to lose because the illogical person isn’t playing by the same rules.

This has long been my approach to discussions with religious people about religion. I’ve found that they (the discussions, not the people) are a lot more educational and enlightening when both parties enter the dialogue accepting that:

you’re not going to change anyone’s mind.

But there’s a lot more of interest than just that quote in the ScienceMag article linked above.

Delve in.

French railway workers strike: an update

‘Update’, ‘alternative opinion’, ‘unfeeling porcine capitalist viewpoint’… whatever.

You choose.

I wrote the other day about the public sector strikes that are sweeping France at the moment and how it might affect our upcoming trip there. In doing so, I wasn’t (intentionally) belittling or trivialising the issues at hand. I recognise that the striking individuals feel that they have grievances and they’re exercising their legal right to strike. That’s why I touched on the reasons why they are striking instead of just being irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday.

It’s good to be informed.

At the same time, I’m pretty much powerless to assist them in their crusade, so I am actually irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday. Fair play to me too then.

And then, I received an email with a link to this article on the strike:

Now, for the record, je ne sais pas what the general political standpoint or reputation of news site is, although their coverage of Asian Giant Hammerhead Worms invading French gardens is quite superb.

That’s for another time though, ok?

Anyway, the first thing I noticed when I logged on was this headline:

Oh. Great.

Anyway, seems to feel that the French railway workers – les cheminots – actually have a pretty good working life:

President Emmanuel Macron’s government unveiled plans to push through reforms of France’s mammoth rail system.
But the plans have not gone down well with rail unions who are threatening all-out war against the government, or in other words major strikes.

What has really angered them is the announcement that new recruits will no longer benefit from a special employment status of rail workers, which is fabled for the perks it offers.

What follows is a list of those perks, which include (but are not limited to) early retirement, guaranteed employment (no retrenchments), automatic career advancement, free rail tickets for family members, excellent pension benefits, above average wages, plenty of annual leave and subsidised housing.

Yes, it does seem very good. It seems very nice.
It does seem like they enjoy some sort of special status.

There are a number of thoughts that stem from this, none of which I’ve suitably ruminated over and I’m about to disappear back into the lab, so I’m just listing them here.

Firstly: why should the cheminots enjoy such special employment status? There are a lot of other jobs out there that are arguably more important (TB scientist, for example), more worthy (er… TB scientist again) and demand better qualifications to enter (cough… TB scientist) (not that sort of cough, I hasten to add) than working on the railways, but which have far less favourable working conditions.

Secondly: but then, shouldn’t we (humankind in general) be working towards having these sort of special conditions as standard for workers, rather than constantly dragging standards down to the lowest possible levels? I recognise that this is a pipe dream, but still, it’s surely not a bad way to start any process like this.

Thirdly: of course, on the flip side of this is that if there are going to have to be cuts across the public sector, then surely you cut from the ones that have the most, first. That does seem to be the cheminots.

And fourthly: the unions represent the interests of their members. If they simply stood back and allowed these cuts to pass with no objection, then they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. You can argue the validity of their claims and efficacy of their methods, but as unions, protesting against this kind of thing is basically what they’re there for.

And finally: I would just be much happier if this was all sorted before we go over there. (Spoiler: it’s not going to be)

This is a nice image

I spent a lot of time awake last night wondering about writing a blog post. It was to have been a contentious blog post, and would have required some defence against forces of ignorance and prejudice. I don’t mind stepping up to the plate for this sort of thing, but it does require time and effort. I really don’t have the time at the moment and the effort would have been mainly used up shouting at a brick wall. I have better things to do with my effort right now. I’m not writing that blog post.

Part of the post was going to relate to how the opposition party (and/or anyone else who criticises corruption in SA) cannot afford to bend any rules at all, even when it would clearly make good sense to be able to do so, for fear of losing the moral high ground. We’ve already seen examples of how this can hold us back as a community – for example, the protracted time for the tender processes for aquifer drilling and desalination plants. The blog post was going to feature another example.

For me, this is a sad situation which has been exacerbated by the rampant looting of the state over the past 9 years. In my opinion, Jacob Zuma has caused immeasurable damage to this country and set us back in so many ways. So this was a nice image to log on to this morning:

Yes, that’s our ex-President in the dock on 18 charges of Racketeering, Corruption, Money Laundering and Fraud. The likelihood of him ever going to prison for these crimes is, at best, slight. The wheels of justice may be turning, but they turn very slowly. There will be appeals upon appeals, and every legal delaying tactic will be used. That’s his right, and that’s how justice works.
In this case, it’s unlikely ever to be done.
We’re looking at years and years and years.

His court appearance today took just 12 minutes.

But it was very important that those 12 minutes took place.

This is a nice image.


Addendum: I’m getting a lot of interest in the subject of the original planned blog post. See here, and do the maths. Don’t @ me. 🙂


Today might be the birthday of former Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. I say “might be”, because while most sources tell us that he was born today in 1890, there does seem to be some disagreement, with several others insisting that he came into the world on February 26th that year.

Vyacheslav popped his clogs on the 8th of November 1986 so we can’t ask him. And, by most accounts, that was no great loss to the world, given that he didn’t appear to be a very nice man. Although he had many roles throughout his political career, he will be best remembered (politically, at least) for his negotiating and signing the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact (aka the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) with Nazi Germany in August 1939, which was one of the major precursors to the outbreak of World War II.

Soon after the war started, Soviet Russia invaded Finland. During their occupation, they dropped bombs and incendiaries on Helsinki. When challenged, Molotov is credited with countering that this was incorrect, and that the Russians were merely dropping food and drink to their comrades. This was fake news misinformation on the scale of Saddam’s “Comical Ali” or anyone in the Zuma government might give us.

Molotov’s equation of incendiary bombs with drink quickly resulted in the coinage of the black-humorous term ”Molotov breadbasket” to describe a multiple incendiary bomb, and then ”Molotov cocktail” to describe an incendiary bomb based on gasoline. The Finns used these weapons effectively against Soviet tanks then invading their country.

Since then, the easy-to-make firebombs have been used in protests and conflicts all over the world.

And to make astounding slo-mo videos