Wednesday 31 December 2008

New Year's Eve 2008

From everyone at North Coast Voices

Twittering Gaza in December 2008

Photo from Al Jazeera

صحف فرنسية: حقائق وراء الهجوم الإسرائيلي

#Israel allows some 100 lorries of humanitarian supplies to cross into #Gaza in coordination with Palestinian Authority

If Rumsfeld and Ashcroft go before the courts, can Bush, Blair and Howard be far behind?

Some of the best news to come out of 2008 turned up in News Week earlier this month.

The United States, like many countries, has a bad habit of committing wartime excesses and an even worse record of accounting for them afterward. But a remarkable string of recent events suggests that may finally be changing—and that top Bush administration officials could soon face legal jeopardy for prisoner abuse committed under their watch in the war on terror.

In early December, in a highly unusual move, a federal court in New York agreed to rehear a lawsuit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft brought by a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar. (Arar was a victim of the administration's extraordinary rendition program: he was seized by U.S. officials in 2002 while in transit through Kennedy Airport and deported to Syria, where he was tortured.) Then, on Dec. 15, the Supreme Court revived a lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld by four Guantánamo detainees alleging abuse there—a reminder that the court, unlike the White House, will extend Constitutional protections to foreigners at Gitmo. Finally, in the same week the Senate Armed Service Committee, led by Carl Levin and John McCain, released a blistering report specifically blaming key administration figures for prisoner mistreatment and interrogation techniques that broke the law. The bipartisan report reads like a brief for the prosecution—calling, for example, Rumsfeld's behavior a "direct cause" of abuse. Analysts say it gives a green light to prosecutors, and supplies them with political cover and factual ammunition. Administration officials, with a few exceptions, deny wrongdoing. Vice President Dick Cheney says there was nothing improper with U.S. interrogation techniques—"we don't do torture," he repeated in an ABC interview on Dec. 15. The government blamed the worst abuses, such as those at Abu Ghraib, on a few bad apples.

High-level charges, if they come, would be a first in U.S. history. "Traditionally we've caught some poor bastard down low and not gone up the chain," says Burt Neuborne, a constitutional expert and Supreme Court lawyer at NYU. Prosecutions may well be forestalled if Bush issues a blanket pardon in his final days, as Neuborne and many other experts now expect. (Some see Cheney's recent defiant-sounding admission of his own role in approving waterboarding as an attempt to force Bush's hand.)

Now the Bush Administration may still be able to sidestep American laws, but one has to wonder if the day is drawing nearer when the Iraqi Government will have the courage to take the United States, Britain and Australia before The Hague on the basis of breaches of international law and war crimes.

Saffin ends the year as she began it - with good news for the NSW North Coast

Photograph showing Federal Member for Page, Janelle Saffin, with Big Scrub Landcare Group chairman, Dr Tony Parkes, in regenerated lowland subtropical rainforest at Binna Burra.

The Northern Star reported last Monday:

THE TREES towering over Dr Tony Parkes are only 16 years old, yet they show what is possible when the Big Scrub Landcare Group decides to regenerate a forest.
Now it has bigger, more ambitious plans.
The environmental group, whose myriad partners include Rous Water and every local council from the Clarence to the Tweed, has just won a $369,000 Federal Government grant to rehabilitate some of the most significant lowland rainforest remnants in the country.
“Some of the vegetation around here is 20-odd million years old, and can trace its genesis back to 100 million years ago,” Dr Parkes said. “We are dealing with a very ancient rainforest that has evolved over time.”

The Member for Page has had a charmed year in the local media and is held in high esteem by many in local communities and groups which have benefited this year from Federal Labor funding.

However, when push comes to shove in 2009 and informed policy accompanied by firm action is urgently required on climate change, water security, the environment and human rights; Ms. Saffin may have to work harder to retain that political honeymoon mood within an electorate which cannot be brought.

A personal and poltically incorrect list of the leading Aussie idiots and semi-idiots of 2008

For their active support of climate change denialism in the face of evidence that anthromorphic global warming is occurring:

  • Dr John Nicol
  • David Archibald
  • Professor Bob Carter
  • Professor Lance Endersbee
  • Dr David Evans
  • Viv Forbes
  • William Kininmonth
  • John McLean
  • Professor Cliff Ollier
  • Professor Ian Plimer
  • Dr Walter Starck
  • Dr Tom Quirk
  • Tim Blair
  • Andrew Bolt
  • Jennifer Marohasy
Prime examples of their work are highlighted at the denialist website Australian Climate Science Coalition and at Tim Lambert's Deltoid.

For their sheer political ineptitude in Federal Opposition:
  • Malcolm Turnbull
  • Brendan Nelson
  • Julie Bishop
  • Warren Truss
  • Tony Abbott
  • Joe Hockey
  • Wilson Tuckey
  • Alby Shultz
Just read Hansard or search Open Australia for the many examples of why these nongs are ensuring their parties are still so far behind in opinion polls.
My personal favourites were the collective dummy spit after losing government which saw the Coalition Opposition force both the Speaker and Acting-Speaker to suspend the House of Reps and the Tuckey-Shultz boycott of the historic Apology to the Stolen Generation.

Sheer political ineptitude as an individual state MP:
  • Steve Cansdell (Nationals MP for Clarence) - constantly bleating to the media but never actually getting anything done in Macquarie Street.
Sheer political ineptitude as an individual federal MP:
  • Luke Hartsuyker (Nationals MP for Cowper) - the best instances of his performance can be found here and here.
The most disgraceful state government since the Bjelke-Petersen government:
  • The Labor Iemma & Rees governments in New South Wales - enough said!
The most disappointing Rudd Government ministers:
  • Kevin Rudd - failing to actually create policy which will keep his election promises on water security, climate change etc.,
  • Peter Garrett - failing to protect the environment across Australia when large commercial interests are involved and abandoning the whales in Antarctica
  • Stephen Conroy - for being his politically dishonest and prissy self
  • Jenny Macklin - ensuring the former Howard Government's racist policy towards indigenous remote communities continues
  • Julia Gillard - failing to eradicate some of the most contentious elements of the former Howard Government's WorkChoices legislation
The silliest political/lobby group:

  • The Young Liberals - trying to recreate McCarthyism in 2008. A free belly laugh at their expense can be found here.

Most inane blog:

  • Australian Women Online - just read that blog's opinion on Internet filtering and debate here and here.

Most opinionated private citizen:

  • Gerry Harvey - a very wealthy business man who obviously declared himself an expert on both 'no-hoper' welfare recipients, Centrelink payments and charitable donations.

Tuesday 30 December 2008

As December draws to a close, a short list of quotes

Some rapes can be of minor effect on the victim.
Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine loses his gloss in a radio interview he now supposedly regrets.

I was shocked to read this article and find that none of the quotations bear any resemblance to what I sent in writing to the reporter. I have asked the news agency to remove the article from its website because it grossly misrepresents my written responses to the reporter as shown below.
Nihad Awad
who optimistically expected better after doing an interview with Trend News Agency on modern Islam.

Judas betrayed his friend, Benedict Arnold his country, and now a brightly lit billboard on I-91 in Springfield accuses State Representative Angelo Puppolo of betraying the sanctity of marriage.
Lisa Tanner
, CBS3 Springfield, with an unfortunate turn of phrase concerning the U.S. senator who came out in support of gay marriage.

NCV is in my opinion a slimy piece of dirty gutter risk taking "journalism at its worst".
A not so anonymous reader from Sydney.

If you think anyone is seriously going to consider setting up shop here with a mandatory internet filter and 12Mbit/s residential connections, you need to get out more. I've had friends leave Australia and take their business with them because our speeds are too slow to be remotely competitive. The mere fact that the filter is even on your agenda is spooking the people who aren't rolling on the floor laughing.
Posted by Alex12 on a Rudd Government consultation blog.

"In my view, the magistrate was correct in determining that, in respect of both the commonwealth and the NSW offences, the word 'person' included fictional or imaginary characters ...," the judge said.
And I suspect the Judge might have just inadvertantly granted human rights to cartoon characters.
Neil in Neil Gaiman's Journal on Monday 8 December 2008 on hearing that an Australian court dived fully-robed into a bowl of Fruit Loops.

Stephen Conroy appears to be completely immune to reality - the worse the situation gets, the rosier the picture he paints. Tomorrow he's probably going to come out with a statement that the filter will be powered by unicorns and reduce greenhouse gasses.
Stuart Anderson
commenting via No Internet Censorship for Australia website on the Rudd Government plan to censor the Internet.

Have a bit of fun and vote in the 2008 Creamy Baileys Nobel Peace Prize for Science poll

The Poor Man Institute is having a bit of fun with a poll at the expense of climate change sceptics.

Here are the candidates for the 2008 Creamy Baileys Nobel Peace Prize for Science:

  1. Chad Myers, "Global warming is a cover-up for ACID OCEANS!!"
  2. Camille Paglia, "A new blog will bring scientific rigor to the global warming debate"
  3. Charlie Daniels, "Global warming is a yankee conspiracy!"
  5. James Inhofe, "The IPCC agrees: Al Gore is fat"
And here are the votes as at early evening of 28 December:
Total Votes: 873

You can cast your vote here.

Monday 29 December 2008

The weird world of Bernard Salt

FORGET about the global financial crisis and focus on what really interests Australians over summer: contemplation of the perfect seachange.

So said Bernard Salt in The Australian last Saturday.

I have generously decided that Mr. Salt was stuck for an opening sentence in the opinion piece Wanted: new universe by the beach, because such a broad statement begs dissent.

As does his tactless assessment of what comprises the perfect sea change:

The perfect seachange town should also not be jam-packed with old people waiting to die (how depressing). Equally, such a town should not be filled with screaming kids (how annoying).

Ouch! With the Australian population now skewing towards larger blocs of older age groups and children being a prized asset in any healthy community, this is an incredibly insensitive opinion.

Thankfully, only Byron Bay on the NSW North Coast was mentioned in passing by Salt in his heavy-footed piece, but the companion article by Stuart Rintoul on upcoming property hotspots did list Ballina, Iluka and Woolgoolga.

I suggest that anyone seriously considering settling in the Northern Rivers region, should think again if they believe that the elderly or the young are disadvantages in a neighbourhood.
Perhaps they might like to explore RP Data and search its website for the most atypical coastal village which can be found elsewhere.

A little quiet reflection between those festive days


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata.

Ooops! Kev's running late with more than his Chrissie present buying.........

At the official Prime Minister of Australia website something strange is going on.

I can find press releases for December 2008 at its media centre for the days leading up to Christmas:
24 Dec
22 Dec
21 Dec
20 Dec
19 Dec

But where is Rudder's 2008 christmas message to the peasants citizens?
All I can find is his message for 2007.
I suppose that as most of his message is the usual generic pap, and he also visited our troops in Afghnaistan in December 2007, his staff decided that they couldn't be bothered to update the sentiments with a newer entry.

Sunday 28 December 2008


Which NSW North Coast resident is mischievously spreading a story that the local newspaper's reporting is biased and North Coast Voices is being written by the police and **** *******; in an effort to bolster his chances of obtaining a change of venue in the criminal court proceedings which have him as defendant?
Tsk, tsk......

Rudd Government asleep at the wheel as whale war escalates once more?

With the Southern Ocean whale war manifesting itself as skirmishes and a collision in Australia's Antarctic economic exclusion zone last Friday, I have to wonder what if anything the Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for the Environment are doing about this situation.

Are all three men too busy with their Christmas partying to notice that Japan is once again thumbing its nose at Australian law?

Japan's front for commercial whaling, the Institute of Cetacean Research, is alleging terrorist attack in its media release and the Sea Shepherd organisation is countering with a right protected by the United Nations Charter for Nature - if this sea chase goes on for much longer the chances of a real incident developing grows.

How many years is this issue going to be allowed to drag on so dangerously?

Oi, Senator Conroy! Can you hear me now........

Am I yelling loud enough, Stevo?

On Clarencegirl's advice, at the beginning of December I put this LOL up on the automated publication schedule just in case the Rudd-Conroy trial of the Great Firewall of Australia currently underway made it difficult to post on North Coast Voices.

You can read this LOL from Britain or America, but can I still read it from Australia?

Saturday 27 December 2008

Kiwi speak for beginners

Credit: Thanks to Media Works Radio, New Zealand

Click image to enlarge

Wednesday 24 December 2008

A letter from Santa Claus to all the children on the NSW North Coast

Click to enlarge

Revisiting Federal disability discrimination and human rights legislation

Thanks to Dave Bath of Balneus for alerting North Coast Voices to the following Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry:

On 4 December 2008 the Senate referred the provisions of the Disability Discrimination and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for inquiry and report.

This bill amends the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (the Act) to implement recommendations made by the Productivity Commission in its 2004 review of the Act. The bill also implements the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs' recommendation to remove the 'dominant purpose' test from the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Older People and the Law, 2007), and makes various other amendments to the human rights legislation going to the general operation of human rights law in Australia.

Key amendments to the Act include those that seek to:

  • make explicit that refusal to make reasonable adjustments for people with disability may also amount to discrimination;
  • make the defence of unjustifiable hardship available in relation to all unlawful discrimination on the ground of disability, except harassment and victimization;
  • clarify matters to be considered when determining unjustifiable hardship;
  • clarify that the onus of proving unjustifiable hardship falls on the person claiming it;
  • make clear that the definition of disability includes genetic predisposition to a disability and behaviour that is a symptom or manifestation of a disability;
  • replace the 'proportionality test' in the definition of indirect discrimination with the requirement to prove that the condition or requirement imposed has the effect of disadvantaging people with the disability of the aggrieved person;
  • shift the onus of proving the reasonableness of a requirement or condition in the context of indirect discrimination from the person with disability to the respondent, and
  • extend the power to make standards under the Act.

The bill also seeks to assist people with assistance animals and service providers by recognising animals accredited either under a State and Territory law or by a relevant organisation, and by clarifying each party's obligations. The bill also consolidates the provisions in the Act relating to carers, assistants and aids, and addresses the issues raised by the Full Federal Court in Forest [2008] by clarifying that discrimination on the basis that a person possesses or is accompanied by a carer, assistant or aid, is discrimination on the basis of disability.

The bill also includes proposed amendments to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986. This implements the Government's decision to change the name of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to the Australian Human Rights Commission. Other key amendments to that Act include the extension of the period within which a person can take a terminated complaint to the Federal or Federal Magistrates Court from 28 days to 60 days, and a number of amendments to improve the efficiency of the complaints handling process, such as allowing the President of the Commission to finalise a complaint where the complainant expresses no intention to pursue the matter.

The reporting date for the inquiry is 24 February 2009.

The Committee invites written submissions by Monday, 12 January 2009. Submissions should be sent to:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Department of the Senate
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Rudd Government to implement ALRC sedition law reform recommendations?

Australian Law Reform Commission President, Professor David Weisbrot, welcomed the Government's positive response to the ALRC's report Fighting Words: A Review of Sedition Laws in Australia (ALRC 104, 2006), announced today by the Commonwealth Attorney-General, the Hon Robert McClelland MP.

The ALRC made 27 recommendations for reform of the law in this area, and the Government has accepted 25 of these unconditionally and two of them 'in principle'. In effect, the Government will be implementing the ALRC report in full.

Prof Weisbrot commented that "we are naturally delighted with the Government's formal response. The ALRC Report recognised that free speech and robust political debate are the cornerstones of our democratic society.

"The basic thrust of our recommendations was to create a bright line in the law between free speech—however robust, confronting or unpopular—and conduct calculated to incite violence in the community, which properly should be regarded as criminal activity.

"The law also has to be clear enough to ensure that media commentators, satirists, artists and activists are not only safe from criminal prosecution, but also from the 'chilling effect' of uncertainty."

"Context is critical in these circumstances, so the courts should be required to take into account whether the conduct in question was a part of artistic expression; or genuine academic or scientific discussion; or a news report or commentary," Prof Weisbrot said.

Prof Weisbrot outlined the major recommendations in the Fighting Words report accepted by the Government, which include:

  • eliminating the 'red rag' term 'sedition' from the federal statute book;
  • refining the existing offences to ensure that they only cover circumstances in which a person urges others to use force or violence against community groups or the institutions of democratic government (including elections), intending this violence to eventuate;
  • leading a process through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to reform state and territory laws in this area "which mostly are a good deal worse than the federal law";
  • amending the offences of treason and 'assisting' the enemy, to clarify that this refers to material assistance—such as providing arms, funds, personnel or strategic information;
  • repeal of the outdated 'unlawful associations' provisions in the Crimes Act, which have been superseded by more recent laws dealing with terrorist organisations;
  • reviewing some old, related offences—such as 'treachery' and 'sabotage'—to determine whether these should now be 'modernised' or simply repealed; and
  • pursuing other non-punitive strategies, such as education, to promote inter-communal harmony and understanding.
    However, it would be wise not to break out the champagne just yet as this process will go at a snail's pace and there is no certainty that either the letter or spirit of the ALRC recommendations will be honoured in full.
    In fact, given the conservative nature of the current federal government, it is a certainty that most of the onerous provisions of the Howard-Ruddock sedition laws will simply be given a superficial facelift and remain on the books.

    Because it's Christmas Eve......

    From the year-round LOL factory, Icanhascheezburger

    The Beer Prayer - an alternative plea skywards during the Yuletide season

    Beer Prayer

    Our lager,
    Which art in barrels,
    Hallowed be thy drink
    Thy will be drunk, I will be drunk,
    At home as it is in the pub,
    Give us this day our foamy head,
    And forgive us our spillages,
    As we forgive those who spill against us,
    And lead us not into incarceration,
    But deliver us from hangovers,
    For thine is the beer, The Bitter, The Lager.

    Found at a Scots-Canadian football club website of course!

    Tuesday 23 December 2008

    Bjorn bags Rudd Government national ISP-level filtering - says plan 'completely politicised'

    According to The Age today:

    TRIALS of mandatory internet censorship will begin within days despite a secret high-level report to the Rudd Government that found the technology simply does not work, will significantly slow internet speeds and will block access to legitimate websites.

    The report, commissioned by the Howard government and prepared by the Internet Industry Association, concluded that schemes to block inappropriate content such as child pornography are fundamentally flawed.

    If the trials are deemed a success, the Government has earmarked $44 million to impose a compulsory "clean feed" on all internet subscribers in Australia as soon as late next year.

    But the report says the filters would slow the internet - as much as 87 per cent by some measures - be easily bypassed and would not come close to capturing all of the nasty content available online. They would also struggle to distinguish between wanted and unwanted content, leading to legitimate sites being blocked. Entire user-generated content sites, such as YouTube and Wikipedia, could be censored over a single suspect posting.

    This raises serious freedom of speech questions, such as who will be held accountable for blocked sites and whether the Government will be pressured to expand the blacklist to cover lawful content including pornography, gambling sites and euthanasia material.

    The report, based on comprehensive interviews with many parties with a stake in the internet, was written by several independent technical experts including a University of Sydney associate professor, Bjorn Landfeldt. It was handed to the Government in February but has been kept secret.

    It has also been revealed that Conroy's filtering trial commencing tomorrow has been expanded to include traffic using P2P and BitTorrent.

    I think that one can almost call it official - the Rudd Government is doing all it can to ensure that the Internet is an issue at the next federal election, with at least a third of all potential votes in the Federal Labor seats of Page and Richmond now up for grabs and the hope of winning other NSW North Coast seats in 2010 fast slipping away because Internet use is a fact of life for many residents and businesses.

    Want to tell Conroy where to go on Internet filtering? Phone Tim Marshall, Senator Conroy's office, 0408 258 457

    Warning, Warning! The Great Firewall of Australia is being live trialled from 24 December 2008

    Because the Australian Government's live trial of its mandatory national ISP-level filtering scheme is fully functional from tomorrow, North Coast Voices apologises in advance to its readers for the incredible stupidity of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy which may cause our blog to disappear from view over the life of the trial.

    International visitors to our blog will still be able to read all posts and we will endeavour to keep publishing.


    Senator Conroy has announced that the live trial will not be starting now until mid-January 2009.
    Presumably both the minister and department have run into a few obstacles on the way to the Great Firewall of Australia, given the less than enthusiastic response from Australian ISPs.

    Graphic from Google Images

    Christmas madness and sleepless nights

    Cartoon from XKCD

    Yes we have all experienced 'the madness'.
    Have you finished shopping for presents yet - only 1 more day until Santa arrives.

    Flying Santas at 12 o'clock high

    Skydivers over Sydney NSW

    One final word before Senator Conroy [insert crow calls] the Internet

    I went onto the Australian Communications and Media Authority website th' other day and happened on an 8th December media release.

    Did you know that at June 2008:
    • There were 1,009,347 registered domain names

    • There were 7.23m Internet subscribers - 5.66m being broadband and 1.57m dialup

    • There were 22.12 million mobile services in total, and quite a few able to access the Internet on the move
    Now I might be a bit of a dunce, but that seems like an awful lot of voters to p*ss orf if Senator Conroy and his Prime Minister still want to keep the ship steady until 2010.

    The website also threw up another little morsel - want to know just how much personal information sharing telecommunications companies are doing?

    See ACMA's 2007-08 report chapter National interest matters

    For those too lazy to have a shufti, here's a bit of a graph (includes 000 calls):

    Monday 22 December 2008

    Buying political influence: getting in on the ground floor?

    US ABC News has highlighted an interesting aspect of American political life - how Obama is finessing political donors' expectations of influence.

    He's banned lobbyists from the transition team and stopped companies from giving money to the effort – some of the boldest limitations on money in a presidential transition

    But big donors -- particularly bundlers -- still play a key role in his transition efforts. And good government groups say the real test for whether President-elect Barack Obama will change the culture of lobbying depends on whether he can address the broader question of special interests funding campaign donations.

    "They are important for sending a signal but let's not confuse the low hanging fruit with the real hard fruit," said Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center..........

    Despite the ban on lobbyists, not all big money people have been banned from the effort. Bundlers, many of whom raised hundreds of thousands for Obama, are still allowed to play a role.

    Public Citizen has identified at least five members of the transition team so far who raised upwards of $50,000 for the Obama campaign, including Valerie Jarrett, a transition co-chair; Susan Rice, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute; Julius Genachowski, managing director of Rock Creek Ventures; Donald Gips, a vice president of Level 3 Communications; and Michael Froman, a Citigroup managing director.

    Meanwhile, the Presidential Inaugural Committee lists those privately contributing to his inauguration splurge; including shareholders/employees of a numbers of companies such as Agvar Chemicals, Innova Aviation Consulting LLC, Kpmg LLP, Verizon Telecommunications, Google Inc, Cheyenne Exploration Inc, Tyco International.

    It looks as though companies might get to pay and play after all.

    Full list of Obama bundlers at White House For Sale

    Want to have a say on political campaign funding in Australia?

    It hasn't escaped attention that, in the last few decades, the dollar amounts of both public funding of candidates/political parties standing for federal election and private political donations for these same parties have been growing at such a pace that Australia is now seeing election campaigns actually begin long before an election is declared.

    It has never been more obvious that the biggest political parties are attempting to buy their way into government via expensive sustained media campaigns.
    Incumbent governments in recent years have also barely concealed the fact that they will use government advertising budgets for the same end.

    So it was interesting to see that this week the Australian Special Minister for State released the Electoral Reform Green Paper: Donations, Funding and Expenditure.

    The perception of undue influence can be as damaging to democracy as undue influence itself.
    It undermines confidence in our processes of government, making it difficult to untangle the
    motivation behind policy decisions.
    Electors are left wondering if decisions have been made on their merits.
    Restrictions on the use of money in election campaigns and the raising of money by political parties and other political actors enacted in other jurisdictions have as their aim the limitation of the potential political influence exercised by private sources of wealth, by controlling either the supply of, or the demand for, campaign cash – or both.
    The central priority of this approach is to maintain a degree of fairness between the individual participants in the political process, and equality of opportunity between the candidates and parties contesting the vote.
    Many countries have pursued electoral reform to reduce or remove these problems.
    Limiting or eliminating donations to political parties, limiting spending, increasing public funding and other support and extending electoral regulation to third parties are solutions pursued or proposed elsewhere.
    These and other remedies are discussed in this Green Paper.

    Copy of green paper can be read here.

    The Australian Government invites written submissions in response to this paper.
    General comments are invited.
    Interested people are also invited to respond to some or all of the specific issues raised in the paper, and, in particular, some or all of the questions at Chapter 11.
    The closing date for submissions is 23 February 2009.
    Late submissions may not be considered.

    Details on how to make a submission here.

    Favourite Wikileak of 2008

    From Times Online and Wikileaks this month on the folly of pollies.

    "JACQUI SMITH, the home secretary, has suffered fresh embarrassment from a new Whitehall leak disclosing that ministers are seeking new powers to search the homes of staff working on ID cards.
    An 11-page confidential Home Office document – which was sent to a campaigner against ID cards – suggests that the employees’ homes could be entered without the need for a police warrant."

    U.K. Home Office document is here.

    Sunday 21 December 2008

    Fred Singer is a 'climate scientist'? And here I was thinking he was an Exxon Mobile superannuant!

    Club Troppo has pulled a really entertaining rabbit out of the hat since 19 December, with its online debate headed by David Evans a well-known greenhouse sceptic.

    This is a serious debate worth visiting and, if you have a mind to obey the rules, participating in.

    It made my day to read Evan's describing Fred Singer as a climate scientist.

    Now S. Fred Singer may be a lot of things (including a man with a couple of decent university degrees, an extended work history in atmospheric physics and a published author), but a reputable voice on climate science he has not been for some time.

    As far as I can tell he is fatally compromised by his perceived longstanding relationship with Exxon and other big oil/energy companies as well as his association with the discredited Frederick Seitz petition and, his constant repetition of a fear that developing climate change policy will in turn distort energy policy, a principle argument that there is no global warming trend and there might even be a cooling trend and, an assertion that an emissions trading scheme would just be a tax ruse.

    Indeed Singer has been a denialist since at least 1998 when this correspondence occurred.
    However, almost every argument he has floated over the years seems to be easily refutable by academics and working scientists.

    This has led Singer to assume the position of front man for the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) which appears to represent the published opinion of around 23 authors who reputedly are not all scientists and, his Science & Environmental Policy Project founded in 1990 is beginning to sound distinctly nutty.

    Now I am aware that there has been legitimate scientific opinion which has swum against the tide in the past and later been proved right, but Fred Singer appears to have done no independent or collaborative science in years and apparently relies on a anti-global warming stance he developed years ago before much of the current data had been either gathered or collated.

    The fact that the NIPCC document published this year online has purportedly 'peer reviewed' the same primary sources as the UN international panel does not give cause for comfort because of the small number of participants involved.

    As Singer has reportedly also published his doubts about the links between second hand smoke and lung cancer and between UV rays and skin cancer one has to wonder at anyone citing him as an expert.

    NIPCC's 2008 Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate can be found here.

    The former candidate objects!

    It would appear that it isn't only the Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy who wishes to censor content on the Internet.
    At least one failed local candidate for political office also has a personal list of 'unwanted content', if a comment recently posted on North Coast Voices is any indication.

    It's seemingly quite alright to keep a 'sanitised' campaign website alive long after the event and cheerfully link a current blogger profile to that site, but having another's legitimate political opinion still posted for the world to see apparently goes against the grain for one who obviously would rather forget a foray into the political arena earlier this year.

    I wonder if newspapers were also asked to remove any mention of the candidate from online articles commenting on that local government election campaign? I suspect not.

    After all - that would be changing the Clarence Valley historical record.
    A record of which North Coast Voices is now part, along with a number of other blogs, bloggers and letters to the editor correspondents.

    Scheduled posts during Australian national Internet censorship trial 24 December 2008 onwards

    Due to the fact that the Rudd Government intends to run a trial of its national ISP-level filtering scheme and because some Australian ISPs are now participating, North Coast Voices is uncertain if it can reliably publish over the next six-seven weeks or if it will be able to be read by local visitors.

    Predictably the Minister's office refuses to clarify his recent obtuse remarks about a new 'closed' trial without customer involvement.

    However, it now appears that the 'live' trial is to go ahead based on the existing ACMA black list and a further 'closed' trial will be conducted using a vastly expanded dummy list to test performance levels.

    In an effort to keep online we have pre-scheduled a number of posts for the festive season.
    Please pop in to see how we are faring and leave a comment or two.

    Cha ghéill sinn!

    As the world turns.......

    As we approach the end of 2008 it seems odd that a year begun in the bright promise of a new Federal Government should have limped to such a pedestrian end.

    Kevin Rudd can't keep his staff or his feet on home soil, Peter Garrett can't keep his word, Stephen Conroy can't convince the electorate that he knows what he is doing, Barnaby Joyce can't keep with the flock, Warren Truss can't be found, Malcolm Turnbull can't keep a Coalition functioning, former prime minister John Howard can't keep his mouth shut, and Australia is no nearer solving its water security crisis or truly confronting the climate change disaster knocking on our door.

    Still, looking skywards at the echo of another exploding world, a sense of perspective is inevitable.

    A Vivid View
    More than four centuries after the brilliant star explosion witnessed by Tycho Brahe and other astronomers of the era, NASA's Spitzer and Chandra space observatories and the Calar Alto observatory in Spain captured this image of the supernova remnant. This composite image combines infrared and X-ray observations. The explosion left a blazing hot cloud of expanding debris (green and yellow). The location of the blast's outer shock wave can be seen as a blue sphere of ultra-energetic electrons. Newly synthesized dust in the ejected material and heated pre-existing dust from the area around the supernova radiate at infrared wavelengths of 24 microns (red). Foreground and background stars in the image are white. Image Credit: MPIA/NASA/Calar Alto Observatory

    Saturday 20 December 2008

    Age and gender profile of NSW North Coast electorates

    It will soon be a new year and, although it won't exactly be a political new day, it will be time for all good community lobbyists to gird their loins and go forth once more to front all three tiers of government and explain our wants and needs here on the NSW North Coast.

    Here is a little something which will help in gauging the electorate in which you live; AEC NSW Elector Count by Division, Age Groups and Gender, September 2008.

    For those who just like a bit of trivia; this elector count shows that one voter in John Howard's old seat of Bennelong has no assigned gender - and is listed as indeterminate-unknown.
    It seems that if you have a gender neutral first name, the good folks at AEC can only assign you a gender if you tell them and 8 people across the state (and 22 across the nation) have forgotten to say.

    PDF copy here.

    Windows Error Message #1926



    A poem for Mr. Five Per Cent courtesy of Salter-Duke & Crikey

    Linden Salter-Duke writes:

    In 2007 we listened to Kevin
    And we thought he was boring, but probably straight.
    He'd put his green garb on and vowed to cut carbon,
    So we thought he'd deliver in 2008.

    The Murray is drying, the Reef may be dying,
    Kakadu's flooding and farmers face drought.
    The evidence clearly says we'll all pay dearly
    For ignoring the facts with inaction and doubt.

    Rudd consulted with Garnaut, but then he said, "Ah, no,
    Even those feeble targets are out of our range.
    It's too much ambition to cut our emission
    To the point where we'd actually stop climate change."

    "It might cause job losses, or so say the bosses
    Who make buckets of money from coal and cement.
    They can keep on polluting, while I'll be diluting
    My promises down to a mere five per cent."

    "So bugger the science, I'll propose an alliance
    With the Libs -- that'll make 'em break ranks.
    In my new coalition, Greens can go to perdition.
    I won't save the rivers, but I might save the banks."

    Friday 19 December 2008

    NSW Health enters a patient care phantasy land

    "DOCTORS will have to justify to bureaucrats why they admit patients with common conditions such as blood clots, breathing problems and cellulitis to hospital, following an order from NSW Health to slash the number of people given a bed.

    The "please explain" directive comes as hospitals try to meet a demand from the director-general of health, Debora Picone, to reduce so-called "avoidable admissions" by 30 per cent this financial year.

    Medical groups say they are sick of administrators telling them how to care for their patients and argue the policy contradicts an undertaking yesterday at a Garling report forum by the Health Minister, John Della Bosca, to improve communication between clinicians and hospital management.

    NSW Health's Acute Care Taskforce has identified 12 medical conditions, including pneumonia, bronchitis, urinary tract infections, chest pain and gastroenteritis as suitable for community-based acute treatment, such as hospital-in-the-home, where nurses visit patients to administer medication."

    Area Health Services in country areas have well-documented problems with levels of funding and attracting staff and now these peak bodies are being asked to hide sick people in their homes and rely on patchy community nursing to provide treatment.

    What a laugh - those poor nurses are often so stretched that it is impossible for them to provide daily care for every referred patient and on weekends care in the home is frequently completely absent.

    Della Bosca and Debora Picone should hang their heads in shame.
    Unfortunately that won't stop deaths occurring as the wheels fall of this insane policy.

    Have either of these two looked at the age demographics for the NSW North Coast or considered the fact that many of the retirees living here do not have family support in the area?

    Stephen Conroy ignores the elephant herd as it files through his office

    Stephen Conroy's Digital Economy Future Directions departmental blog has been up and running for the last nine days or so.

    In his welcome post Lindsay Tanner said:

    We are also genuine about wanting to use online consultation to improve government-citizen relationships around public policy. We want real outcomes from online consultation, not a new channel to distribute a press release.

    We hear you... posted this blog on 12 December.

    Really? Then why does this particular post try to avoid mentioning the hundreds of anti-Internet censorship comments that were lodged on the blog.
    According to Conroy's spin meisters all is rosy in the garden, despite most of the comments received being considered irrelevant by their calculations. Using a coy and corny tactic to inform us of the fact - FDB suggested.

    The majority of the 744 comments on Minister Tanner's welcome were against mandatory national ISP-level filtering.

    What does the digital economy encompass? What does it mean for Australians? post is littered with criticism of Internet filtering.

    Open access to public sector information contains anti-censorship comment.

    Everyone had given up by the time Setting the right regulatory framework was published - not a soul had commented by mid-afternoon last Tuesday.

    Ogugu Obama email scam

    Here's an email scam with a slight difference - a very famous surname.
    The American Embassy in Ouagadougou is bound to get a call or two about this one, if the gullible latch onto the Obama name.

    "Dear Friend,
    I know that this message will come to you as a surprise.
    I am the Auditing and Accounting section manager with African Development Bank, Ouagadougou Burkina faso.
    I Hope that you will not expose or betray this trust and confident that I am about to repose on you for the mutual benefit of our both families.
    I need your urgent assistance in transferring the sum of ($39.5)million to your account within 10 or 14 banking days.
    This money has been dormant for years in our Bank without claim.
    I want the bank to release the money to you as the nearest person to our deceased customer late Mr.George Small who died along with his supposed next of kin in an aircrash since October 31st 1999.
    I don't want the money to go into government treasury as an abondom fund, So this is the reason why I am contacting you so that the bank can release the money to you as the next of kin to the deceased customer.
    Please I would like you to keep this proposal as a top secret and delete it if you are not interested.
    Upon receipt of your reply, I will give you full details on how the business will be executed and also note that you will have 30% of the above mentioned sum if you agree to handle this business with me.
    I am expecting your urgent response as soon as you receive my message
    Best Regard,
    Mr.Ogugu Obama"

    Thursday 18 December 2008

    This Christmas the Northern Rivers has its own Grinch

    For a number of rural industry-related workers on the NSW North Coast this month is not looking too rosy.

    A local employer, who loves to spend his money on a very expensive thoroughbred stud and racing stable, has laid off certain workers.

    This same employer has a reputation as a serial offender against freedom of association and industrial relations legislation and, a rumoured predilection for setting up dummy contracting companies to make sure that sacked workers leave with the minimum amount of money.

    It seems that the Grinch is alive and well and still stealing Christmas.

    An open letter to Kevin Rudd from Samlara.......

    I came across a copy of this Northern Rivers open letter at Write Across Media:

    15th December 2008

    Dear Prime Minister,

    My name is Samlara Canin-Henkel. I met you at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali several times.

    I followed your campaign back in 2007 from Clunes, New South Wales. I got right into the Kevin '07 vibe and wore your t-shirts with pride to school. I assisted my local member, Janelle Saffin, in her campaign and did scrutineering. I am a friend of Jenny Dowell, mayor of Lismore, and also helped her in her successful campaign earlier this year.

    I am 16 years old. And I have your poster on my wall.

    I was ecstatic when I got the opportunity to meet you in Bali and was incredibly proud to call myself Australian when you ratified the Kyoto Protocol. You featured in my parents' documentary "The Burning Season" (which has just won an IF award) and every time I hear your speech I cannot help but smile. Your campaign poster claims "New Leadership" in large letters and I was excited by the promises you were making, especially in regards to Climate Change. I believed that new leadership had finally arrived.

    About 10 minutes ago I was informed that you have committed to a 5-15% reduction of carbon emissions by 2020.

    I am assuming, Mr Rudd, that you have bought land on the Moon and will be relocating there when the Earth can no longer sustain human life.

    I will not go into the severe effects of climate change- you have advisors and Greenpeace and Bob Brown and other environmental organisations to pester you about that. What I will say is this: your campaign promised "New Leadership". Your speeches promised hope. Your actions in Bali symbolised a new beginning for Australians. This emissions target is just not enough.

    Your response will be predictable I'm sure... "We need to maintain solid economic growth during this financial crisis" or something along those lines.

    Quite frankly, "economic growth" will mean nothing if the Earth's temperate continues to increase, if the Great Barrier Reef continues to die and if carbon emissions continue to rise.

    You claim "New Leadership" Mr Rudd but this is not new at all. There is nothing new or promising about this decision. It is old and conservative, something I would have expected from the previous government.

    In fact, this kind of leadership is not leadership at all. You should be taking a lead on this issue, not waiting to see what the rest of the world does. Do not wait until you have to respond to a disaster. Take action to prevent it.

    Although climate change has gone far and beyond what is comfortable to think about, you can at least do everything in your power to reduce the effects it will have on our planet.

    In 2002, when I was 10 years old, I wrote a letter to Prime Minister John Howard demanding to know why we were sending troops to Iraq. I received wide press coverage including an interview on the "Today Show". I really thought my 'writing letters to the PM' days were over.

    It seems not.

    Please Mr Rudd, don't make me take your poster off my wall. Don't make me sigh and change the channel when my Prime Minister comes on TV, like I did under the Howard Government.

    Don't make me lose the pride I have in our country for choosing you as our leader.

    I hope that somehow, this letter makes it past your secretaries and ends up in your hands.

    I'll be seeing you in Copenhagen in 2009. Please Mr Rudd, don't let planet Earth down. Don't let the Australian people down.

    Don't let me down.

    Yours sincerely,

    Samlara Canin-Henkel