Thursday 31 January 2008

"Moggy Musings" [Archived material from Boy the Wonder Cat)

Post-election musing:
Well it's all feeling rather flat at my house. Watching the tellie is no fun because my human has stopped shaking her fist and yelling at the pollies. Though I did catch her saying a rude word when little Morrie Iemma told everyone in rural NSW that we have to give up the security of a state-owned electricity supply so that Sydney can get an expensive metro train service.
Warning musing:
I saw you girl! Just because you wear young Butcher Bird feathers doesn't mean you can sneak into the kitchen and steal my breakfast. What is the world coming to when a cat has to fight off impertinent youth in the middle of a quiet meal.
Cautionary musing:
Bruce the Superdog from Yamba was thrilled to learn that he had won 480,152 pounds in a British lottery this week and most disappointed when his human pointed out that the email personally addressed to him was a scam. Bruce would like to warn anyone receiving this sort of email to junk it immediately.
First 2008 musing:
Happy New Year to every living thing with fur, feathers, fins, shells or scales!
I am pleased to report that I tolerated the noise of local fireworks with never a care. However my little canine friend, Veronica Lake, hid under clarencegirl's desk and wouldn't come out until all those big bangs ceased.
Hip, hip, hooray! musing:
On the third day of 2008, Diff the bull mastiff was rescued from a cliff on Mt. Maroon in south-east Queensland.
Welcome back down, Diff. Congratulations to Mark Gamble who climbed up to save him.
Well done, chaps musing:
Saw this in the news as I looked over clarencegirl's shoulder.
Two Australian kayakers have completed their journey across the Tasman Sea.
James Castrission, 25, and Justin Jones, 24, reached shore at Ngamotu Beach, about 4km west of New Plymouth on NZ's West Coast, on Sunday 13 January 2008 after spending two months paddling across the Tasman Sea.
Well done, James and Justin. Me - I'll just stick to paddling in the bath.
Natural disaster musing:
A thought to ponder.
In case of bushfire or flood - do you have an emergency evacuation plan for the family pet?

Australian business has poor record on climate change action

"A new survey has found that despite the warnings, just 22 per cent of Australian businesses have taken action in response to climate change.
The report surveyed more than 300 business groups around the country that had an annual turnover of $150 million.
It found that four out of five corporate leaders want to take a more active role but expressed concern about the quality of emissions data available."
ABC News:

Such a typical response from Australian business - blame someone else, preferably government.
Action on climate change could start tomorrow with most companies, when it comes to waste generated, transport, electricity consumption and product packaging.
Companies with potentially high emission levels are also quite capable of contracting their own assessments of greenhouse gas produced by the company.
However it seems that many businesses has eyes firmly on carbon trading offsets as the easy way out, rather than actual greenhouse gas reduction at production sites.

Crikey gives Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty a serve

Greg Barns writing in yesterday gives Mick Keelty a well-deserved serve.

"Are there two Mick Keeltys? Last night a man calling himself Mick Keelty and claiming to be the Australian Federal Police Commissioner told a Sydney audience that he wants a black-out of all media coverage of terrorism investigations and cases. This Mr Keelty claims that police records of interviews are being leaked to the media to help the person under investigation get public sympathy. And this Mr Keelty thinks there should be a secret society of editors that he and his fellow security agency heads can brief, on an off-the-record basis, so that matters are set straight.
Now, let's turn to the other person who calls himself Mick Keelty and who also claims to be the nation's top cop. This is the Mick Keelty who revels in media publicity about terrorism cases, whose organisation leaks to the media and who runs a police force which wrongly accused a Gold Coast Indian doctor of terrorism offences (besmirched his name in the media in the meantime).
Could the real Mick Keelty please stand up? Is it the man calling for media black-outs and secret briefings, or is it the man who uses the media relentlessly to chase his quarry? The evidence suggests it's the latter."
"Aunty ABC" took a more measured approach which canvasses similar views.
"After taking sustained criticism for the Australian Federal Police's handling of the Mohamed Haneef saga, AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty has gone on the front foot to defend his organisation's handling of terrorism cases.
In a speech to the Sydney Institute last night, Mr Keelty took a swipe at media coverage of such cases, saying it is often uninformed and gives an incorrect perception that the AFP is failing in its duties.
But lawyers and journalists involved in the Mohamed Haneef case say Mr Keelty is simply shooting the messenger in what they say is a crude attempt to regain credibility for the AFP.
When Mr Keelty addressed the Sydney Institute last night, he had a few things he wanted to get off his chest.
"For most people, their sole source of knowledge regarding the AFP's counter terrorism investigations is in the mass media," he said.
"As such, it would be perfectly understandable if they mistakenly thought or held the belief that the AFP has failed the community.'-------
The Australian newspaper's Hedley Thomas won Australian journalism's highest award, the Gold Walkley, for his coverage of the Mohamed Haneef affair. He describes Mr Keelty's reasoning in the speech as strange.
"On the one hand he was saying that defendants and suspects deserve a much better go in the court of public opinion, as he described it, and that the media should treat them more kindly," he said.
"But the facts are that in the Mohamed Haneef case and others, it's been the police, the security agencies and the politicians using police information, that have smeared the character of the suspects before they have even been charged."
Dr Haneef's barrister, Stephen Keim, is equally perplexed with Mr Keelty's views about media coverage of AFP operations."
ABC News report yesterday:

Ex-Ministers get the begging bowl out

What a joke. Yesterday The Australian let us all know that ex-Howard Government ministers were having a little difficulty adjusting to lower pay as ordinary MPs.
The Liberals Tony Abbott apparently "has taken a $90,000 pay cut on the $200,000-plus salary he earned as federal health minister. With three daughters and a mortgage to pay in Sydney, it's blown a sizeable hole in the finances."
An annual MP's salary of $127,600 plus electoral allowance, mailing allowance, living away from home allowance and some travel expenses.
My heart bleeds for you, mate. Try living on less than $20,000 a year like a good many other Australians, then go crying to the media. I might have some sympathy then.

Wednesday 30 January 2008

Japanese whaling fleet's false advertising

Photograph of MV Yushin Maru, a 1,025 tonnage whale catching vessel in Japan's whaling fleet, showing the large spurious signage "RESEARCH".

With both protest vessels returning to port, Japan's whalers are now free to resume the whale kill.

"Greenpeace claimed its actions had saved more than 100 whales by effectively rendering the rest of the Japanese fleet impotent. "Without the factory ship, the remaining hunter vessels have been unable to operate, bringing the entire whaling programme to a halt," it said.
It estimated that the whalers needed to catch about nine minke whales a day, and an endangered fin whale every other day, to meet its quota of 835 minkes and 50 fins by the time the hunt ends in mid-April.
Though commercial whaling was banned in 1986 Japan is permitted to conduct annual culls for what it describes as cetacean research.
The campaigners' exit from the southern ocean whale sanctuary will allow Japan's six-vessel fleet to resume the cull within days.
The Oceanic Viking, an Australian coastguard ship that was dispatched to collect evidence for a possible legal challenge to the annual slaughter, is still tracking the fleet but will not attempt to frustrate the whalers."
Guardian Unlimited yesterday:

Exactly who did the Northern Rivers Area Health Service consult with before deciding on 'surge' beds?

The NSW North Coast Area Health Service took the region by surprise this week when it announced that it would be withholding some hospital beds from normal use and instituting a policy of 'treatment in the home'.
No mention was made of how such home treatment would be implemented by community nursing already stretched by the North Coast's increasing population and changing demographics.
Nor was there any indication of whether it was expected that local GPs and their practice nurses would play a part. Which given the limited number of bulk-billing medical practices in certain areas, would involve patients in additional costs.
No consultation with local communities was advertised. I'm left wondering exactly which chronically ill patients the NCAHS chief allegedly consulted with, and whether those consulted happen to fall within a socio-economic band which allows them greater facility to draw on other home assistance which would make home treatment an attractive personal option.
Certainly the frail-aged pensioners of my acquaintance, with no family living close by, would not be clamouring to receive home treatment during episodes of illness normally requiring hospital admission.
It is distressing to see North Coast residents short-changed in this way.
According to ABC News yesterday.
"The nurses' association is meeting the North Coast Area Health Service executive this afternoon over a plan to slash bed and nurse numbers across New South Wales north coast hospitals.
The plan would see more than 80 beds at 14 north coast public hospitals converted into 'surge' beds for seriously ill patients at times of high demand.
Less ill patients would be treated at home or at outpatient clinics.
Union organiser Susan Pearce says the initiative was to have come into play today, but is on hold because health management failed to consult nurses.
"We're just amazed that they would seek to introduce such a change today without any consultation with our members whatsoever. It doesn't set us off on a good track for discussion about this particular issue," she said.
The chief executive of the North Coast Area Health Service, Chris Crawford, is defending the surge-bed plan.
He says the strategy is the result of consultations held with medical staff and chronically ill patients.
"Particularly patients have given us feedback that they'd prefer to be treated in their homes if they could be in a familiar environment rather than having to go to hospital," he said.
But the chairman of the Port Macquarie Base Hospital medical staff council says the move has taken it by surprise.
Dr Steven Begbie says it has been working with the area health executive to try and solve the bed crisis at Port Macquarie Base Hospital.
"There is a vision to increase the footprint of the hospital so that we can have more beds, an increase in services, and yet this plan comes out of left field as an option that reduces the beds in our hospital on a day-to-day basis," he said."

Exit polls: Obama campaign sends another email to Oz

Well, I should give the Barack Obama campaign team their due for persistence, and report yesterday's email content on the Democrat presidential nominee from Illinios.
"Here are a few details about our victory in South Carolina. According to the official results and CNN exit polls, Barack won:
  • 55% of the total vote, more than twice as many votes as any other candidate
  • 57% of voters who had never voted in a primary
  • 66% of voters who had never voted before at all
  • Every type of community -- urban, suburban, and rural
  • 58% of voters between ages 18 and 64
  • 67% of voters between ages 18 and 29
The clear lesson from South Carolina is that voters are ready to bring this country together and solve the problems that matter to ordinary Americans."
Although the political system and stats are not exactly comparable, I get the feeling that Senator Obama is starting to poll in a similar fashion to Kevin Rudd in 2007.

The Liberal Party of Australia now a dying duck

Listening to the Liberal Party's new leader Brendan Nelson on ABC News Radio yesterday, I heard a man's fumbling attempt to use pop psychology to feebly defend his rejection of a Commonwealth Government formal apology to the Stolen Generation.
A big mistake. A huge mistake. A monumental mistake.
Nelson and his party are welded to the past, cannot reconnect with ordinary Australians and are fast dwindling into insignificance.
Even a leadership challenge will not save these political troglodytes. Dying ducks one and all.

Tuesday 29 January 2008

hen house thoughts

I was over in the hen house talking to the chooks as I cleaned the roosts and nest boxes.

There were only a few still in the yard the rest were out chasing grasshoppers.

The gang of five were planning their next attack on my vegie garden, I saw a couple head of to the house verandas where they sit on the chairs and listen to the radio (they prefer ABC Classics Radio).

I hope I remembered to shut the house doors. If not they will be inside on the lounge or in the kitchen checking out the compost bucket.

The hens with me in the roosts were the tribal elders; if they were human they would have received the telegram from the Queen years ago. These girls don't travel very far from their home now, they are quite dignified in their movements no flapping and squawking for these old birds.

I babbled on about global warming, explaining to them that if the worst case scenario came to pass we will be sitting on beach front property with large areas of the Clarence Valley water logged and what that would mean for the people who live there.

They listened politely adding a few muted clucks while inspecting my cleaning efforts, then got busy arranging the new nest bedding.

As I walked back to the house I thought that the hens had the right idea, it is no use worrying about what you can't change.

You do what you can and clean up your local chook yard and pressure those in power to take their share of responsibility, all the while remembering the way you decide to live your life has a direct impact on our environment and therefore the planet.

Let's all eat whale!

The Japan Whaling Association newsletter Isana features a whale recipe page.
The latest issue recommends a whale pot dish.
Like much of the newsletter's contents, the recipe page begins with a little crude propaganda.
"Boiled "une" (whale ventral grooves) and "mizuna" (a green vegetable) with a little salt and whale meat sashimi with a lot of grated ginger are two of the regular menus at my home. In Kokura, Kita-Kyushu, western Japan, where I live, whales are popular food. Although I sometimes sigh over the high prices of whale meat after the commercial whaling moratorium was enforced, it is still readily available at stores. In my neighborhood, there are many fish shops that deal in whale meat. In the Tanga Market in downtown Kokura, there are two stores specializing in whale meat. Up until quite recently, there were whale-specialized stores in every market in Kita-Kyushu, and they were thriving. Why are there so many people who like whale meat in northern Kyushu?"
Isana December 2007 issue:

Liberals still can't get their tongues around the 'S' word

Liberal Party Leader and Leader of the Opposition, Brendan Nelson, is urging the Rudd Government to go slow on the planned apology to the indigenous Stolen Generation.
Apparently Mr. Nelson doesn't relish the thought that he might be faced with a decision on whether or not to support a formal apology when Federal Parliament resumes in February.
"Whatever the attitude of Australians towards this generation, apologising for things that were done by earlier generations, you've really got to ask yourself whether this is a high priority for the Australian Parliament," he said.
The Australian article yesterday:
In the same issue of The Australian Tony Abbott, the Liberals new indigenous affairs spokesperson, echoes former PM John Howard's double talk on saying sorry.
"Well, this whole question of a formal apology, I think the proponents, no less than the opponents, are getting hung up on semantics,'' Mr Abbott said last year.
"Because, let's face it, back in 1999 the parliament unanimously carried a resolution of profound and sincere regret about the various mistakes that had been made in terms of indigenous policy over the years.
"So who is playing word games here? This apology ... I would like to see precisely what words the incoming Government is proposing, because finding a form of words that is acceptable to everyone is going to be an extraordinarily difficult business."
While that old Liberal headkicker, Wilson Tuckey, objects to even allowing Australia's traditional owners to dance at the opening of Parliament.
"Mr Tuckey has criticised reports traditional owners will dance at the opening of Federal Parliament next month, when it is speculated the Federal Government may make a formal apology to the Stolen Generations.
Mr Tuckey says it is not what Parliament is for.
"I'm horrified and concerned that we're going to turn the Parliament of Australia into a dance parlour," he said."
ABC News yesterday:
I for one think that the 'S' word is long overdue. One has to admire the resilience of indigenous communities across Australia and on the NSW North Coast - they survived every misguided attempt at assimilation and retain their dignity and culture in the face of enormous social and economic disadvantage.
Not only do I support a formal Federal Government apology, I would also support a national compensation scheme.
As for Wilson Tuckey - this MP should be taken to task by his leader.

What will the the Prime Minister and Cabinet do about their carbon footprints?

In the first year of the Rudd Government the Prime Minister and his senior ministers will rack up quite a few hours in air and road travel.
Perhaps they should all give some thought to how they're going to offset the amount of greenhouse gas these trips will produce.
Leading by example is something I expect from this new Labor government.
Talking the talk has to be followed by walking the walk on global warming if they expect the rest of us to follow.

Monday 28 January 2008

Rudd Government must address the way Australian schools are funded

The independent Australian Council on Educational Research (ACER) recently released a report Australia's School Funding System.
This report highlights ongoing problems with Commonwealth criteria for school funding.
If Kevin Rudd intends an education revolution over the next four years he cannot avoid this issue of disproportionate funding favouring private schools.
"This does not mean the Commonwealth
is giving less money to government schools but
rather that its funding to non-government schools
may be disproportionate to that sector's needs.20
To summarise, "average" school costs are increasingly
problematic as a means of determining adequate
funds to educate real students. Both government
and non-government schools are receiving funding
based on an "average" student even though nongovernment
schools may be recruiting a student
body with below average costs. On the other hand,
government schools appear to have an increasingly
expensive student body.
Other issues include that:
a) The system does not actually measure a
school's resources and in fact ignores a school's
capacity to generate its own income through
fees, investments, donations and fundraising in
measuring need (the stated rationale from the
Commonwealth is that to reduce funding for
schools that exceed a limit on private income
would act as a disincentive to private efforts to
raise funds).
b) The local community's SES may not reflect the
individual student's SES in a particular nongovernment
school. Some students may come
from the wealthiest home in a disadvantaged
area. Barry McGaw has recently described this
phenomenon as "relatively advantaged students
from disadvantaged communities carry[ing]
with them to a non-government school a
government voucher based on the students they
leave behind in their communities" (2007).
c) Although a formula, the SES system is not
applied consistently with scope for compromise
arrangements to alter the formula. As mentioned
above, in 2005, over half of non-government
schools received an adjusted amount because
the strict application of their SES score would
have resulted in less funding."
Full ACER report:

Telstra's Next G being tested by NSW North Coast resident

"Telstra raised Mr Cameron's hackles when it started telling people they'd have to switch networks fast or lose their phone number.-------Mr Cameron said he had just got a Next G handset from Telstra, which he planned to compare with his CDMA handset. He had selected 35 'marginal' locations around Goonengerry, Coopers Creek, Federal, Eureka and between Eureka and Lismore, where he gets coverage on his CDMA phone.
He had tested each location by calling his home and leaving a message on his answering machine describing the location, the time of day and the weather conditions. The next step would be to go through the same process with his new Next G phone.
"However, even if he could get clear messages through to his home phone, most of the new network's features would be wasted in the bush.
"It's really starting to annoy me," he said. "Even if we get to the point where Next G can be said to be as good as CDMA, there's still questions of why we have to go to it.
"Because of the enhanced applications, the video calls and rapid downloads, even if we can get it as good as CDMA we won't get the speed or consistency of coverage for those enhanced functions; so we're having to pay for a new $500 phone to get the same phone coverage as we had before."
Telstra, at the request of Mr Conroy, has set up a 1800 number to answer questions about the new network and the axing of the old one."
The Northern Star article last Sunday:

Time for the Nats to give Libs the boot

Last Saturday Liberal Senator Nick Minchin joined the national conservative chorus calling for one united right-wing political party in Australia.
I particularly loved his comment in The Herald Sun "that internal party factions were "evil in the wrong hands" and repeated calls for a united conservative party to effectively compete with their "great political enemy".
Yeah, just what Australia needs - narrowing voter choice in an already narrow political spectrum.
If the Nationals had any spine they would split with the Liberal Party and form genuine policy platforms to take to the next federal election.
They have been a 'tag along' party for too long. If they stay with their demoralised and disintegrating partner the Nats may disappear from the federal stage within the next few years.
Time to tell the Libs to get on their bikes. The only smart move that party machine has made in recent years was to refuse Liberal Party presidency to Lazarus-with-a-triple-bypass when he lobbied for it within weeks of losing his seat.

Sunday 27 January 2008


I rang Telstra to inform them that my phone is suffering from phonopause ( the telegraphic equivalent of menopause) and to see if they could help.
A very nice young man patiently listened to the list of symptoms I described;
  • sometimes the phone will not ring and sends all incoming calls to message bank
  • one ring then message bank
  • rings loudly, no one there
  • only one half of the conversation can be heard, I can heard the caller talking and they can't hear me or visa versa.
  • sometimes only parts of the conversation can be heard, this has lead to some amusing and annoying conversations. From what I'm hearing I think the conversation is about Soya futures when the other person is talking about store cattle prices.
  • other times the phone is obviously bored with the conversation and just hangs up
  • even when both parties can hear one another there are many and various noises heard, the most common is a loud clicking. Is the phone going to blow-up?
  • the fastest I can get a download is 3.1 kbts, and this only for a few minutes. I think the phone then takes a Valium and has a nice rest before it decides if it will perhaps do a little bit more. With this attitude it can take hours to download virus updates.
  • we have had a fair bit of rain here so is that why some callers sound as if they are under water?
The young man said he had the answer to all my problems, the Next G network had a larger footprint than the old CDMA system and was vastly superior in many ways and all of this I could enjoy as soon as I purchase a better handset then all my problems would be solved. When I informed him I was talking about a landline and that we never had CDMA reception out here I didn't hear the rest of the conversation. The phone decided that it had enough and hung-up. It refused to work for the rest of the day.
I think I will just have to bred a race of carrier ducks, it's too wet for pigeons.

North coast hospitals to cut 86 beds

It appears the annual silly season has been extended in northern NSW.

How else can the ridiculous decision that will see fourteen public hospitals on NSW's north coast lose a total of 86 bed be explained?

The Age reports that North Coast Area's health chief executive Chris Crawford announced the decision in a memo.

What is Mr Crawford's real role with NCAHS? Rather than serve as a health administrator, Mr Crawford is yet again portraying himself as a bean counter who's acting on behalf of a state government that continues to fail to deliver the necessary resources public health so desperately needs.

Does the Sydney-centric not understand the demography of northern NSW?

Read The Age article at:

The U.S. pushes its own climate change agenda - it's all about increasing the reach of American international trade

The Federal Minister for Climate Change and Water Penny Wong would do well to keep her eye on the ball at the Hawaii climate change conference.
Accepting the elimination of trade barriers as the only or principal outcome of this conference would not significantly move the international climate change response forward.
Europe, Asia, South America and Australia, not the U.S., need to drive the agenda.
This is the only way real progress will be made.
"WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States pushed forward with its own agenda on climate change Friday despite criticism that Washington is attempting to undermine the global effort led by the United Nations.-------
Bush has invited Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United Nations to send representatives to the meeting in Hawaii January 30-31.-------
Europeans leaders in particular have approached the US initiative with reluctance and have said they will take a firm approach to ensure the talks do not undermine the progress made in Bali last month.
High on the US agenda is an attempt to eliminate trade barriers for "climate-beneficial goods and services," Connaughton said.-------
Europeans leaders in particular have approached the US initiative with reluctance and have said they will take a firm approach to ensure the talks do not undermine the progress made in Bali last month.
High on the US agenda is an attempt to eliminate trade barriers for "climate-beneficial goods and services," Connaughton said."
Google News yesterday: 

Barack Obama casts his net wide

I received this email message from the Obama for America campaign team yesterday.
For some reason the team seems to think I vote in the United States.
For details of the obscene amount of money the US presidential nominees are receiving and spending, go to:
It looks as though Malcolm Turnbull's former business associates at Goldman Sachs are making campaign contributions to a number of the candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
The email.
"In less than 24 hours, voters in South Carolina will head to the polls.
Before they do, I wanted to show you a bit about what kind of campaign we're running here.
When Michelle and I talked about my running for president, one of the core goals we both had for this campaign was to leave the political process better off than we found it.
Here in South Carolina, a state with a history of some pretty divisive politics, ordinary people have challenged conventional thinking about the process and built a statewide organization based on local community organizing and neighbor-to-neighbor contacts.
Our supporters -- men and women of all ages, races, religions, and backgrounds -- have come together around the idea that we are one people, invested in each other and in our common future.
We've put together a few videos that will give you a sense of what we've built here -- please take a look:
In communities across this state, people who have never been involved in politics before -- or who had given up on what they saw as a broken system -- have built something special.
No matter what the outcome tomorrow, our work here will have a lasting impact on those communities and on the Democratic Party for a long time to come.
We're seeing the same story play out across the country as grassroots supporters in 22 states prepare to cast their votes or turn out to caucus on February 5th.
Remember that tomorrow night, after the votes are in from South Carolina, the playing field will expand dramatically as races in those states come into full focus.
There will be a lot happening, and the intensity will be ratcheted up.
But the spirit of the grassroots organizing we have done here -- of ordinary people taking back the political process -- will be apparent in thousands of communities across the country.
I believe more strongly than ever that this movement for change can do more than just win an election. Together, we can transform this country.
Thank you for being part of this,

Australia Day weekend in the Lower Clarence - rain broken by bouts of sunshine

It's been good to see Hughie sending down enough rain to give the Mighty Clarence a full belly, but it's getting rather damp around the house.
La Nina is doing us proud this year.
Parts of the coastal fringe received between 50 to 99mm in the 24 hours up to 9a.m. yesterday morning.
The frog chorus during the evening and night hasn't been this loud in years, and one large green treefrog has taken up residence in one of my gumboots parked outside the door onto the front verandah.
It's a bit rich when even the frogs are looking for somewhere dry.
Keep it coming, Hughie, there's a good fella - but leave enough fine days so that the NSW North Coast doesn't flood again and the beach dunes have time to recover.

Saturday 26 January 2008

swamp musing

Sitting in the bath last night watching the moon rise over the swamp I was listening to the radio and some presenter  was talking about the Japanese whaling fleet in the southern ocean. A spokesperson for the whaling industry came on and was emphasising Japan's traditional reliance on whaling, this started me thinking if somehow I was transported back in time let's say over 200 years and was standing on Iluka Bluff I would not have seen Captain Cook sail passed but a fleet of Japanese row boats heading south to the Antarctic for the annual whale hunt?
This brings up the question of how far back in time does a practice have to be set to become a tradition?
The type of whaling that the Japanese currently espouse only came into existence after World War II, is that long enough to be a traditional practice?
If the traditional whaling methods were used only whales in the northern hemisphere and close to the Japanese islands would be killed.
On the second glass of wine the questions arrived.
Do the Japanese public know where and how the whale meat sold in their markets gets there?
Are they just told that this is their tradition and some green fanatics are trying to limit their enjoyment of a traditional dish?
I would like to know the answers to these questions, but the bath water is getting cold and it is a busy day tomorrow. I have to mow the pumpkins, they are taking over the ancestral homeland of the tomatoes and eggplants.

Just how much is an old prime minister worth?

Well, we are all now aware that John Winston Howard is offering himself as an international speaker for hire.
The Liverpool City Champion in England has just given us an idea of how much The Washington Speakers Bureau might be charging to hear The Great Man's pearls of wisdom.
How much do you think a tired old neo-con is worth on this fee scale?
"The website does not say how much eager audiences will have to cough up to hear Mr Howard but its billing code offers six categories, in US dollars: $1000-$7500; $7501-$10,000; 10,001-$15,000; 15,001-$25,000; 25,001-$40,000; and $40,001 and over."
The Liverpool City Champion article:
Now The Sydney Morning Herald informs us of at least four US speaking engagements next month.
If John Howard were to fall in the mid-range of the billing code he might potentially be earning US$60,000 over those four weeks.
Subsidised as well by the Australian taxpayer who is paying for that research/personal assistant.
While Howard is overseas talking up his place in history, let us hope that he will refrain from sour grapes.
Because, behind the fine public words of those close to the Bush Administration, there lies a basic lack of comprehension concerning the Australian Labor Party which makes Americans nervous.
The fact that John Howard's visit appears scheduled to closely precede Kevin Rudd's first official visit as Prime Minister leaves Howard with an opportunity for some private political mischief-making.
The Sydney Morning Herald today:

Happy 100th Birthday, BOM

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has been in existence for one hundred years this month.
I may have stood watching the sky and sniffing the air to get a feel for the weather in my youth, but it was to the Bureau's reports that I turned to see if I needed to bring the cattle into sheltered paddocks when winter was at its worst.
Now the Bureau keeps me informed on everything; from when it's unwise to put a foot in the water at North Coast beaches, to when I should batten down the hatches because an east-coast low is on the way.
Town or country - it is a part of daily life.
So Happy 100th Birthday, BOM, and many more to come.

Senator Heffernan loses baby

You almost have to feel sorry for Bill Heffernan.
Out of government and now losing chair of the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce.
A position and body which John Howard appeared to have created just to keep him happy in the sandbox.
Although five other Coalition pollies were booted from the taskforce along with Bill, he must be disappointed that he can no longer chase after his dream of either overpopulating and overdeveloping the north of the continent or stripping it of water.
I guess it's back to allegedly impersonating public servants and spooks.
Anyone seen 007 Heffernan lately? 

Friday 25 January 2008

The real face of Japan's 'scientific' whale research

This is the real face of Japanese
Domestic consumption of whale
meat as food.
Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo
Fukuda can protest about the
Australian attitude to
southern ocean whaling.
The fact remains that someone
eventually makes a commercial
profit from this annual
'scientific' whale kill.
Girl eating whale burger
Photo from

Only seven weeks in office and already the Rudd Government is starting to beat up on the poor

For the last two weeks there has been a rumour on the NSW North Coast that the Rudd Government was contemplating a Centrelink shake up, and that this exercise wouldn't be a look at the agency itself but another free kick at those receiving pensions, benefits and allowances.
Today Minister for Human Services Joe Ludwig stated that he has ordered a crackdown on Centrelink fraud, the old Howard Government code phrase for 'let's see if we can make compliance conditions even harder for all welfare recipients'.
As "National Welfare Rights Network president Michael Raper said tax fraud was a bigger problem than welfare fraud.
"If they want to chase tax fraud, that's where the dollars are," he said. "There's some in social security but it's pretty tight and hard already. Less than half of 1 per cent of social security debt is fraud."
The Australian article today:
Tax fraud recovery had become a joke during the Howard era and most cases were not vigorously pursued because of legal costs. It was much easier to 'breach' welfare recipients for minor offences and run to the media with the few isolated instances of significant welfare fraud.
Senator Ludwig's statement is adding insult to injury here on the North Coast.
As contact with his office (and the offices of local members) clearly indicates that the Labor election promise to grant Disability Support pensioners the Utility Allowance is on the back burner and it is beginning to look as though the Rudd Government is hoping to delay implementing this promise during this fiscal year.
Apparently making the budgetary books look good may yet be considered more important than pensioners being able to meet their winter heating bills.
It had long been obvious that John Howard considered chronic illness or disability a moral weakness. It would be a great disappointment to many if Kevin Rudd was found to hold that same biased view.

176,000 Australian households on public housing waiting lists

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found 176,000 households on public housing waiting lists.
The new Federal Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek says she is shocked.
After asking around, I think the shock will be even greater when she realises that these lists only show people who have been filling in forms for years and not the total number of those on low-incomes needing affordable accommodation.
I mean, whoever thought that we would need homeless shelters here on the North Coast?
Yet it is becoming a reality of life in the Lucky Country.

Thursday 24 January 2008

NSW North Coast "ConVerge" ceramic art exhibition: January 25 to March 1

Compassion Virgins 2006 by Ishta Wilson
Photograph from The Northern Rivers Echo

The new exhibition ConVerge: The Northern Rivers Ceramic Exhibition, opens Friday, January 25 at the Lismore Regional Art Gallery and runs until March 1.
The exhibition features the works of 20 local ceramic artists and demonstrates how ceramic arts in the Northern Rivers have evolved over the last 20 years.
The Northern Rivers Echo today:

Japan's whalers descend to the ridiculous

It seems that Japan's whalers would even risk appearing ridiculous rather than accept a copy of the Federal Court judgment against them.
Surely, after similar antics when they were formally notified of the International Humane Society's application to the Court, they must realise that they will be considered to have been informed in this instance also.

"Conservation group Humane Society International has hand-delivered last week's
Australian Federal Court order to a Japanese whaling company in Tokyo.
The judgement demands it abandon its whale hunt in Australian waters.
As well as faxing and posting a copy of the Federal Court order, today Nicola
Beynon from the society hand-delivered the document to the head office of the

Japanese whaling company in Tokyo.
"They refused to accept them from us, they said they were aware of the orders
but they weren't accepting them and they handed the package back to us," she said.
"We had to leave the package at their feet and quickly leave the building so they
couldn't throw the package after us, but they told us they would throw the package
away after we had left, which demonstrates their disrespect for Australian law."
ABC News report yesterday:

Jesuits worried that Howard mandarins are capturing new Labor ministers

Last Monday Eureka, an online publication of Jesuit Communications Australia, was airing concerns that Immigration Minister Chris Evans is presenting a "worrying picture of a new minister out of his depth on the sensitive people-smuggling disruption issue, and at risk of policy capture by his department whose present secretary, Andrew Metcalfe, was himself the First Assistant Secretary, Border Control and Compliance Division, in 2000-2001." 
The Jesuits apparently fear that John Howard's policy on refugees will continue and so gave space to author Tony Kevin on the issue.
Labor ministers captured? As far as I can tell, most are being led though the nose like Murphy's bull at present and their staffers are not faring much better. 
The article is interesting enough for me to do one of my rare links.

Telstra rather sensitive about its Next G

My post on this blog and a letter to the editor regarding problems with CDMA and Next G mobile coverage must have hit a nerve with Telstra.
Yesterday I was telephoned by a rather nice man from this telecommunications company seeking to find out what the problem was.
This was passing strange, as mobile coverage in the Lower Clarence has been patchy for years.
Blaming handsets for problems with Next G network is rather disingenuous though, as in the instances I referred to these were calibrated by Telstra endorsed personnel.
Still he did promise to send someone out to check the local relay station, even if nothing can be done about its bad siting.

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Greenpeace soldiers on in the face of Japan's intransigence

"The Japanese government said Monday that its state-sponsored whaling fleet had stopped hunting after 10 days of harassment by the environmental activist groups Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary near Australia."
Forbes report yesterday:
"The Greenpeace boat, the Esperanza, has attempted to block the Japanese whaling fleet from refuelling in Antarctic waters.
The fleet's factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, was trying to be refuelled by the Panamanian registered ship, the Oriental Bluebird.
Greenpeace says the refuelling goes against the Antarctic Treaty and that the Oriental Bluebird should not even be there, because it is not part of the Japanese fleet.
Dave Walsh from Greenpeace says after efforts by the Esperanza to get between the two other vessels, the protest became too dangerous.
"They've gone ahead with refuelling now - it was too dangerous for us to continue blocking them because they were pushing their two ships together, which was quite a dangerous manoeuvre with people sitting between on a boat," he said.
"So they are refuelling at this point and if they move on again, we'll be with them and if they try whaling again, we'll be there to stop them."
ABC New yesterday:
 While Minoru Morimoto, Director-General of the Institute of Cetacean Research, Tokyo (which carries out Japan's research whaling in the Antarctic and western North Pacific) blasts Australia and New Zealand for their "cuddly" support of whales.
At the same time he runs with a tired old line on lethal research.
"However, since this is the purpose of Japan's research there are some kinds of indispensable data that simply cannot be obtained by non-lethal means. As a result of Japan's research programme, we now know more about the status of whale stocks and whale biology than at any time in history and this knowledge increases each year. One of the conclusions of the IWC Scientific Committee workshop in December 2006 to review the data and results of Japan's research in the Antarctic was "the dataset provides a valuable resource to allow investigation of some aspects of the role of whales within the marine ecosystem."
The New Zealand Herald opinion piece yesterday:
Mr. Morimoto of course neglecting to point out that "the dataset provides a valuable resource to allow investigation of some aspects of the role of whales within the marine ecosystem." is offset by the International Whaling Commission's own admission that "The difficult question then becomes one of whether the answers one obtains using such data are 'essential', 'reliable enough' or 'critical'? This calls for more than purely scientific judgement."
Nor does he mention that the December 2006 workshop dealing primarily with Minke whales (which had Japan with the largest bloc of participants ie., 29 individuals) shows "there was disagreement at the workshop regarding the analyses presented and the interpretation of some of these data."
International Whaling Commission:
Report of the 2006 Intercessional Workshop:
The 2007 final report, which supercedes Mr. Morimoto's quoted December 2006 Intercessional Workshop, is also critical of many aspects of Japan's lethal 'scientific' research.
A fact that North Coast Voices mentioned elsewhere in a January post "Just how 'scientific' is Japan's whale research?"
The last word should go to the International Whaling Commission which states; "In the discussion
of these permits in the Commission, an additional factor raised is that the catches take place within the Southern Ocean Sanctuary declared by the IWC in 1994 (to which Japan lodged an objection with respect to minke whales). If a Sanctuary is in place, it can be argued that information on improving management of whaling in that region is unnecessary. On many occasions, the Commission has (by majority vote) passed a Resolution urging Japan not to issue a permit for these catches."

Elephant in the ASX room

For the last week I have been careful not to mention the elephant in the room - the recent consecutive days of losses on the Australian stock market.
With the market yesterday having its worst one-day fall since 1989 which wiped around $1 billion off the value of local stocks, it appears that the elephant is a bull in musth.
Unpredictable, moody and violent.
But then markets are never thinking beasts. They react to fear, rumour and contagion rather than fact. Individuals and institutions looking only at perceived weakness rather than apparent strengths.
It seems the Australian stock market is determined to talk itself into further losses.

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Senator Penny Wong to face the US over climate change challenge - will she stand or will she fold?

"Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, today said she would participate in the Major Economies' Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii from January 30-31.
The Major Economies Meeting is a forum established by the United States to foster constructive discussion on a global response to climate change and reports to the United Nations."
North Queensland Register article:

The Rudd Government is just a little older than it was at the 2007 Bali conference on climate change. Hopefully it is also a little wiser.
Climate change is one of the pivotal issues on which the Rudd Government's domestic and international credibility hinges.
I'm sure that many Australians harbour a wish that Senator Wong will finally make it clear to the US that it's time to end American game playing over climate change.

Commonwealth of Australia. Britain's last colony or 51st state of good ol' US of A?

"One of Australia's largest Defence contractors has been granted an exemption from racial discrimination laws in order to comply with tight US security requirements.
BAE Systems Australia says it needs to be able to prevent employees with dual-nationality of certain "proscribed nations" from working on some top secret Defence projects.
Under US guidelines, citizens of countries such as Iran, Syria, China and Sudan cannot have access to some information.
At South Australia's Equal Opportunity Tribunal, BAE argued that it would have to move its Adelaide headquarters and sack hundreds of workers if its application was not approved.
Today, it was given a three-year exemption under a number of conditions.
BAE must ensure staff do not suffer loss from their exclusion and it can only inform particular managers of a worker's exclusion from a project."
Yes, we live in strange days. BAE Systems PLC the third largest global defence company (registered in England and Wales), through one of its subsidiary companies here in this country, just successfully applied to the South Australian Equal Opportunities Tribunal to have Australia's anti-discrimination laws quashed for three years at its Adelaide works in order to appease the 
US Bush Administration.
This is globalisation gone mad.

Malcolm Turnbull - rooster to feather duster in one easy lesson

The Shadow Treasurer, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, goes from one weak media statement to another  these days.
Faced with a Rudd Government determined to live up to its election promise of fiscal responsibility by raising the budget surplus above the projected 1.2 per cent of GDP, this is all Turnbull could come up with.
"But Opposition treasury spokesman Malcolm Turnbull was sceptical about the new plan, saying the previous government was already on track to deliver a big surplus in May.
"Because of the very strong economic management of the Howard Government we've got a very strong economy, very high revenues going into the Commonwealth Treasury, and as a result we've got a big surplus," he said.
"So Mr Rudd, as usual, is just trying to take credit for the hard work of others.
"It is meaningless to set a target that is already going to be met."
The business community appears to have a more optimistic view of Kevin Rudd's 5 point plan.
"However, Paul Xiradis from fund manager Ausbil Dexia says investors will welcome the plan.
He says rising inflation and interest rates have been a particular focus for the local share market."
Here's how CNN International views Kevin Rudd's plan.
"Rudd set a new target of maintaining Australia's budget surplus at a minimum of 1.5 percent of GDP -- or about 18 billion Australian dollars (US$16 billion; euro11 billion) -- from the next fiscal year which starts on June 1.
Rudd had previously set a benchmark of 1 percent while the treasury's latest forecast for the next fiscal year was 1.2 percent."
CNN International yesterday:
It would appear that the Liberal's Malcolm Turnbull remains somewhat rudderless in the new Australian political climate.
Gone is the swagger and certainty he displayed before his party's electoral defeat.

Australia's new federal government is a breath of fresh air

The Rudd Government deserves full marks for holding a federal community cabinet meeting in Canning Vale, Perth last Sunday. Let's hope that this is the first of many. 
Having attended NSW regional state cabinet meetings, I know that ordinary people get great satisfaction from being able to have face-to-face meetings with government ministers that are not filtered through multiple layers of bureaucracy.
Having these regional meetings might also help nobble Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson's rumoured desire to bring on an early election a la the 1970's.
If we all begin to feel closer to this new federal government, why would we then swap it for the known paternalistic approach of the Coalition parties.

Monday 21 January 2008

Server in the Sky? Oh (big) brother!

"THE FBI wants Australia to take part in an international database to be used to hunt down major criminals and terrorists.
A working group called the International Information Consortium has been formed by allies in the war against terror — the US, Australia, UK, Canada and New Zealand — to look into setting up the database.
The program, known as Server in the Sky, would involve the exchange of information about wanted criminals, including their biometric measurements (irises or palm prints) and fingerprints.---
Under the Server in the Sky program, the FBI wants to establish three categories of suspects — internationally recognised terrorists and felons; major felons and suspected terrorists; and those who are the subject of terrorist investigations or criminals with international links.
A pilot project for the program is expected to run later this year."
Given that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Central Intelligence Agency, ASIO and the Australian Federal Police appear to be as paranoid now as they were during the Viet Nam War, one wonders just who would end up in the Australian section of such a data base.
Federal Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus should be very wary of accepting any American guidelines if the Rudd Government decides to go with this dubious invitation.
Especially as the FBI appears to see its own information gathering as a way of allowing employers to spy on employees.
The British reaction to Server in the Sky.
"The plan will make groups anxious to safeguard personal privacy question how much access to UK databases is granted to foreign law enforcement agencies. There will also be concern over security, particularly after embarrassing data losses within the UK, and accuracy: in one case, an arrest for a terror offence by US investigators used what turned out to be misidentified fingerprint matches.----------Although each participating country would manage and secure its own data, the sharing of personal data between countries is becoming an increasingly controversial area of police practice. There is political concern at Westminster about the public transparency of such cooperation."
The Guardian last week:
Media report on FBI aims and objectives.
"CLARKSBURG, W. Va. -- The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.
Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.-----------
The FBI's biometric database, which includes criminal history records, communicates with the Terrorist Screening Center's database of suspects and the National Crime Information Center database, which is the FBI's master criminal database of felons, fugitives and terrorism suspects."
The Washington Post December 2007 article:

Receding floods often leave a mosquito heaven behind

It's always nice to see floods receding and a green bloom developing in NSW North Coast paddocks.
However, pools of water and boggy ground depressions last a while and are a boon for mosquitoes.
As Ross River Fever and Barmah Forest Fever occur in the region, it is also a time to be extra careful about being bitten. Slap on that repellent when outdoors and spray the house before you go to bed. 
NSW Health symptoms of Ross River Fever and managing your home environment:
National Environmental Health Forum floods and environmental health:

Frank Sartor lets fly with ageist insult

Last Saturday The Daily Examiner outed NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor for calling building  inspectors "old and fat".
Since when is being old something to be disparaged and why is it now considered a insult?
On the NSW North Coast a great many people are on the grey-haired side of fifty-five and up.
They are also the backbone of many community organisations and vital to the life of coastal towns.
By the same token, carrying a little weight is not the moral failing so obviously implied by this arrogant and prejudiced minister.
Less of the old, Frank. You're no spring chicken either, mate, and your online official portrait shows a distinct double chin.
Oh, and Frank - we oldies are voters too.

Sunday 20 January 2008

Scientific research or commercial slaughter?

Photograph found at

This is an image of a Minke whale being flenched on a whaling vessel.
It is a scene which is similar to that which is occurring on the factory
vessel within Japan's Antarctic whaling fleet in 2008.
The Institute for Cetacean Research (IRC) which conducts this alleged
research does not insist that whale dead weight measurements are of
the intact mammal.
Instead it apparently weighs the meat and offal, according to reports
from the International Whaling Commission, making no compensation
for fluid lost in butchering.
But then it's the meat rather than the science that is important to the
Institute and the shadowy shareholders of Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd.

How the mighty are fallen or the would-be memoirs of JW Howard

It appears in the case of John Winston Howard, that when the country turns its back on you it turns it for good.
This was Google Trends' reply when looking for January 2008 Australian searches using the term "john howard" yesterday.
"Your terms - "john howard" - do not have enough search volume to show graphs."
Google Trends result for Howard:
While an all-years Google Trends comparison with another recently retired prime minister, Britain's Tony Blair, shows that the world is losing interest in Howard at a faster rate than with Blair.
Google Trends result for Howard & Blair:
Howard's memoirs may be a no-go as well, which might explain his flirtation with The Washington Speakers Bureau. Perhaps he feels that if he says a thing often enough that will make it historical fact and compensate for his lack of a Churchillian autobiography.
"Richard Walsh, consulting publisher with Australia's biggest independent publishing house, Allen and Unwin, said the prospect of books from any of the three was "not creating a lot of excitement" in the industry.
"I think we'd feel that any memoir by Howard would be too self-serving," Mr Walsh said.-----------
Literary agent Margaret Gee, however, was singularly unimpressed by the idea.
"I don't think they are blockbuster material," she noted drily. "I mean, what would you call their books? Perhaps Peter Costello's could be Bridesmaid Revisited, John Howard's could be The Feather Duster Diaries."
The Age article last week:

Labor's Tony Burke on the right track, but...

Federal Minister for Agriculture Tony Burke recently revealed that a review of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service ordered by the Howard government found the organisation is failing in many areas to screen for potential problems.
So far so good. Full marks for the appropriate level of concern the new minister expressed.
But, and it's a big 'but', the Minister of Agriculture's immediate response is to order another review.
After a decade of watching how far our strict quarantine laws were watered down by John Howard's desire to alternatively assist his great and powerful friend, the big multinationals and his favourite free trade agreement, it was rather disappointing to read this initial response.
How about implementing whatever recommendations were in the report from the first review, before launching a second round assessment of the service?
I'm sure we would all feel just a bit safer if something practical was done first - foreign insect colonies and exotic diseases are not going to wait on the political niceties of a new government.

Saturday 19 January 2008

Kevin 08: fools rushing in

"The consensus in the intelligence world suggests the greater threat to Australia is from home-grown terrorists rather than foreigners. Arms of government that have never previously had front-line involvement in developing national security policy, such as Treasury and AusAID, have been asked to come up with proposals to be considered by cabinet, most likely next month.
The Government will significantly broaden the definition of national security to include non-conventional threats such as climate change, natural disasters and the economy.
Australia will look to the annual US national security strategy, which encompasses challenges posed to security by the growth of the global economy.-------------
A key figure in this process will be Mr Rudd's US-style national security adviser, who is yet to be appointed."
You silly, silly, silly sods - is the Rudd Government incapable of learning a lesson from the former Howard Government's slavish aping of the Bush Administration, which resulted (with some active   encouragement by senior Coalition politicians) in that federal government being led through the nose by empire-builders and inflated egos in both intelligence and police circles.

To capsicum spray or not to capsicum spray

Is it just my imagination, or is capsicum spray being used more often these days to subdue the fractious.
There was even a case this month of NSW North Coast police letting fly with a spray in the face of one lonely, bellicose drunk. 
While the TV this week showed us all that other police patrolling the tennis were using the capsicum repellent like Aeroguard.
Whatever happened to the constables of my youth who could talk almost any situation down a level or two without blasting away.
Too many American crime shows and never-die action heroes for role models these days I guess.

John Winston Howard or Speaker No. 6132 offers to bore the world

John Howard is now on the list of public speakers for hire with The Washington Speakers Bureau.
He is apparently available to speak on such riveting subjects as Leadership in the New Century and The Global Economic Future. Fees on application to the bureau.
No wonder that Australian taxpayers are footing the bill for a personal assistant and possibly one other staffer for The Great Man.
It's going to take a very big shovel to gather the necessary for these speech topics.
Leadership in the New Century
Steering the ship of what is the most prominent Western stronghold in the Asian-Pacific Rim requires visionary and forward-thinking leadership. Australian Prime Minister John Howard approached his responsibilities to his country from a uniquely global viewpoint, providing economic vision and security strategies that raised Australia's profile and impact around the world. Howard discusses the role of world leaders in a new century, detailing steps for handling the growing concerns of globalization and global economics, the environment, and threats to international security.
The Global Economic Future
Providing economic leadership in today's world means re-envisioning old economic models to discover new ones. Prime Minister John Howard did precisely that, and so much more, for Australia: in the face of criticism from many, Howard initiated efforts to broker a free-trade agreement with China, a strategic move that was completely unprecedented and, when ratified, will add further credibility to China's willingness to participate in a free market. Howard candidly discusses his vision for the global economic future, and in what ways, and to what degrees, China, India and the Pacific Rim will participate.
Washington Speakers Bureau:

Friday 18 January 2008

Just how 'scientific' is Japan's whale research?

Just how 'scientific' is the whale research Japan has been conducting for the last 18 years?
It seems that even the International Whaling Commission is of two minds on the subject according to excerpts from the 2007 IWC Report of the Working Group on Scientific Permits.
Japan was represented on the working group. Tucked into this verbose 15 page report is the interesting observations I have highlighted in red.
6.1 JARPA Review
An intersessional meeting to review the results from the JARPA research program was convened in Tokyo in December 2006. Bannister, the chair of the intersessional workshop, summarised SC/59/Rep 1. The SWG noted their appreciation to the Bannister, the Steering Committee for the Workshop, the rapporteurs and the Head of Science for their efforts in organising, convening and preparing the workshop report.
The SWG reviewed the findings and agreements reported in SC/59/Rep 1. Annex D of Rep 1 indicates that considerable data have been collected by the JARPA programme by both lethal and non-lethal methods, although there was disagreement regarding the analysis and interpretation of some of these data. A summary of main results is provided in Appendix 2 of this report.
The SWG then reviewed the recommendations contained in SC/59/Rep 1. A summary is provided in Appendix 3.
Members of the SWG supported all of the recommendations reported in Appendix 3.
It was noted by the Chair that workshop participants agreed that a discussion of the respective merits of lethal and non-lethal methodology was important. However, it was agreed that this issue would be discussed at the Annual Meeting of the Scientific Committee in May 2007 because of time constraints. The Chair noted that discussions regarding this issue were reported inter alia in IWC 2004 and 2006.
SC/59/O2 compared the merits and demerits of lethal and non-lethal research methods based on six biological characteristics of whale populations and on four practical matters related to the planning of whale population research. The author noted that scientific research on large whales was carried out in the Antarctic (JARPA and JARPA II) and the western North Pacific (JARPN and JARPN II) using a combination of both methods, as each method has its own characteristics that must be considered in relation to the research objectives and factors such as whale species, research field, research season, research period, and research cost. They further noted that this paper was prepared in order to provide a road map for the consideration of the issue of application of lethal and non-lethal research methods for JARPA II.
In SC/59/O2 the authors compared the characteristics of both methods on 13 items of practicality and indicated that regarding the JARPA research program lethal methods in general have more merit than non-lethal methods. The authors of SC/59/O2 concluded that the effective combination of both methods was necessary to effectively conduct population research on large whales. Some members agreed with the conclusions reached by the authors of SC/59/O2. Others did not. Clapham and Gales responded to SC/59/O2 and stated that its characterisation of the abilities and limitations of non-lethal methods was highly inaccurate. They noted that, among many errors in O2, it was not true that non-lethal methods were inapplicable to large populations or fast-moving species; nor that they were incapable of obtaining large sample sizes or samples over periods shorter than many years; nor that non-lethal studies could only be conducted in good conditions and on small scales with limited funding. They noted that several large-scale non-lethal projects had gathered far more samples (photo-id and biopsies) in a shorter period of time than the JARPA program, and that the results of one of these studies (the YONAH project in the North Atlantic) had formed the foundation for an IWC Comprehensive Assessment. They noted that non-lethal studies are widely used worldwide, and their ability to repeatedly sample the same individuals over often long periods provided a scientific advantage that was not possible with killed animals. Results of such work have been published in numerous refereed journals; the ability of these projects to address issues of importance to IWC management (including abundance, population structure and biological parameters) had been repeatedly demonstrated and was often in excess of the output of lethal-based programs. Molecular-based research, conducted using biopsy samples, was applicable to even the largest populations through genotyping, and such samples could also be used to study a wide range of issues, including contaminants, diet, health status and potentially also age determination. Clapham and Gales further noted that SC/59/O2 had emphasised the importance of cost recovery as a principal motive for JARPA and other lethal sampling programs, and contended that this requirement potentially compromised the research; they said that this problem is not a factor in non-lethal studies that do not need to use base study design on lethal sampling imperatives or to use considerable amounts of field time in hunting and processing whales.
In response, some members noted that the comments of Clapham and Gales related primarily to research on humpback whales. They added that non-lethal research methods cannot be practically applied to other species at least in some cases. They further noted that data on basic biology of large whales, including length and other measurements; various condition indices (e.g., blubber thickness); tissue samples for contaminant analysis, estimation of age, evaluation of reproductive status (e.g., maturity, corpora counts) and overall health (e.g., pathobiology, presence of parasite); and stomach contents could not be obtained from non-lethal sampling. Clapham responded that non-lethal studies have been used worldwide on virtually every species of large whale for a wide variety of research purposes. Others noted that molecular-based research, conducted using biopsy samples, could be used to study a wide range of issues, including contaminants, diet, health status and potentially also age determination.
Hatanaka noted that many of the points raised by Clapham and Gales were discussed in SC/59/O2 and that further discussion of this issue would only be repetitive. He further noted that the traditional label of "lethal versus nonlethal" sampling used by the SWG has led to simplistic and unproductive discussion. He commented that one of the primary objectives of O2 was to present information to refocus discussions towards a more constructive framework of finding an appropriate combination of lethal and non-lethal research methods for a particular research situation. He encouraged members of the SWG to work constructively to this end.
Discussion regarding this research report focused on the representativeness of samples, as well as the impact on the research of having to terminate the field season prematurely. Childerhouse questioned whether the conclusions of the research would have been different, if the planned sample size for minke whales and complete sampling in Area V-west, had been achieved. Hatanaka responded that one of the objectives of this year's research was to ascertain the composition of I and P stocks in Area V-west. Given that samples were not collected from this area, this question could not be addressed. Childerhouse added that he thought standards used by the Government of Japan to evaluate the success of the JARPA II feasibility study were insufficiently rigorous.
Bass commented that she did not agree with the conclusion for fin whales that sampling was conducted smoothly and successfully, given the reported problem in hauling one of the fin whales onto the research vessel. She further asked whether female and calf minke whales were collected as part of JARPA II. Nishiwaki responded that female-calf pairs have rarely been seen during JARPA II surveys, but that when encountered, efforts are made to biopsy one or both animals. However, mother-calf pairs are not killed and subsequently sampled as part of JARPA II protocol.
Clapham asked, given the interruption in the survey design, where research would be targeted next year. Hatanaka noted that the current plans for next year will be to cover Area 5-west to Area 3-east.
Simmonds asked about the methods used to weigh fin whales and whether these methods were comparable to those used in the 1950s. It was noted that fin whales were weighed in sections and that this methodology was similar to that used in the 1950s. Further, no attempt was made to account for the loss of fluids (either as part of JARPA or JARPA II or in the 1950s).
It was noted by some that a catch of 850 (±10%) minke whales during the 2005/6 and 2006/7 feasibility studies for JARPA II was proposed exclusively to meet Objective 2 of the feasibility study, which was to 'examine the practicability and appropriateness of sampling procedures for the increased sample size of Antarctic minke whales.'(SC/57/O1). These members commented that given that this objective was successfully met by extrapolating the sampling rate of the 505 whales taken in the second feasibility study, that the rationale for a quota of 850 (±10%) for both feasibility studies was questionable and furthermore believed that the catch of 856 whales in the first feasibility study could have been reduced. It response, Hatanaka noted in year one of the JARPA II feasibility study, the target sample size had been achieved according to the study design. While a similar sample size could not be achieved in year two of the feasibility study because the survey was terminated mid-season due to a fire on the Nisshan-Maru, the rate at which minke whales were collected was such that the Government of Japan considered Objective 2 of the feasibility study to have been met. Gales and Childerhouse commented that the majority of the methodological approaches in JARPA II remain effectively unchanged. They further commented that this was surprising in light of the many recommendations reported from the JARPA review (SC/59/Rep 1). Finally, they added that in the absence of appropriate adjustments to the methodological and analytical approaches in programs like JARPA II, there can be little satisfaction in the review process. Hatanaka responded that the research protocol of JARPA II had been improved to reflect recommendations from past Scientific Committee reviews. Although the JARPA review was held after the beginning of JARPA II, he noted that the increase in survey effort and the parallel sighting survey effort in the northern and southern strata was consistent with recommendations in the JARPA review. Others commented that the research foci of JARPA and JARPA II were considerably different and that some of the recommended changes in methodology and analysis of JARPA did not apply to JARPA II.
Nevertheless, it was noted that no change to the original JARPA II research program had been made since the JARPA review in December 2006. Gales commented that, for example: (1) the JARPA review made no recommendations that larger sample sizes to achieve research results were needed and (2) problems identified in the JARPA review associated with population structure and the role of whales in the marine ecosystem were highly relevant to JARPA II, yet no changes were incorporated into the research protocol. Others commented that JARPA and JARPA II have different objectives and that sample sizes and the research design in JARPA II were established according to its own objectives. Gales and others noted that several aspects of the data analysis (e.g., role of whales in the ecosystem, population structure) associated with information collected as part of JARPA II would be improved if the recommendations from the JARPA review were adopted."
Report of the Working Group on Scientific Permits in full: