Saturday, 31 May 2008

Best blog pic found this week

A truly frightening pictorial comment on John McCain as a future US president.
Displayed by Club Troppo in its regular Missing Links feature.

You vs George W. Bush

Yesterday Barack Obama tried to make his e-mail money drive personal with this subject title:
You vs George W. Bush.

Right now you have a unique opportunity to go head-to-head with George W. Bush.
This week, John McCain and George Bush gathered behind closed doors, away from the cameras, to raise money for McCain's campaign.
McCain used Bush to raise a reported $3.5 million from a group of about 500 Republican contributors.
That's a lot of money that will undoubtedly be used to attack us and make the case to continue George Bush's failed policies.
But I have an idea about how we can match it. And we don't need George Bush.
Right now, someone who has already given once to the campaign is ready to give again -- but only if you make your first donation right now.
If you take the next step and decide to own a piece of this campaign, that supporter will double your gift.
You'll see the name and hometown of the person who matched your donation. And you can even choose to exchange a personal note about why you've decided to support a different kind of politics.
Double your impact -- your donation of $25 will equal $50 for our cause.
Now is the perfect time to make your first donation:
https://donate.barackobama.com/match
As the presumptive nominee of his party, John McCain has had a three-month head start to build his campaign. In that time, he's made his fundraising strategy clear.
In the words of one reporter, the gala fundraiser with Bush was "part of McCain's delicate effort to find the balance between embracing an unpopular president and taking advantage of his huge continuing draw with well-heeled Republicans."
We'll see more of this dance in the weeks and months ahead, but we already know the steps.
As we prepare to take on John McCain, now is our first chance to show that a grassroots movement of people giving only what they can afford can go toe-to-toe with the Bush-McCain fundraising machine.
And with the last three contests of the Democratic primary coming up in the next five days, the resources we're building right now are an urgent necessity.
Help build our movement by making a matching donation today:
https://donate.barackobama.com/match
John McCain can run from the cameras, but he can't hide from the fact that he's aiming to continue George Bush's policies for a disastrous third term.
Let's show that we're ready to take him on.
Thank you,
Barack

Exxon runs but it can't hide from DeSmogBlog

DeSmogBlog lays bare Exxon's claim that it no longer funds climate change denialist groups.

Exxon Mobil Corp. has cut funding to groups raising questions about climate change from human-generated carbon dioxide, a move taken on the eve of its annual meeting in the face of criticism that the oil giant isn't as green as some of its rivals.
Spokesman Gantt Walton confirmed Tuesday that in 2008, Exxon Mobil (XOM) scrapped funding for the Capital Research Center, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute and the Institute for Energy Research.
"We discontinued contributions to several public-policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner," Walton said.


On the surface, this looks somewhat promising, especially considering that Exxon
cut funding to the notorious climate change skeptics at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) last year.
But a healthy dose of skepticism on our side is important. Let's dig below that glossy corporate surface and follow the money.
Last year, Greenpeace pointed out that although Exxon stopped its handouts to the CEI, it was still
up to no good:
ExxonSecrets has obtained the company's
Exxon Foundation 2005 report to the IRS. Exxon told the IRS that that it funded 14 groups specifically for their climate change work. But somehow the company didn’t mention this in public.
[Emphasis added.]

In addition to those 14 groups, Exxon was also still giving millions to other front groups that faithfully pump out global warming denier propaganda (pdf , pp. 10-15).

Full article here.

Friday, 30 May 2008

farm machinery

I found a rotary hoe out in one of the machine dumps that that old farms seem to accumulate. It was covered with rust, crud and years of sediment. The basic structure looked sound enough, so I pulled it out and brought it into the house yard then hosed it off for closer inspection.

When I had taken the hoe arm out and removed the bearings, to my surprise the chain drive worked and looked in good condition, the gear box did not look to bad either. The bearing would need replacing since they had considerable wobble in them. I started to think that may be I could get this hoe working again.

I called an engineering place for their advice; they will be out next week. I also started an internet search for parts.

Then it struck me the hoe was a Howard Rotovator and I could not help comparing the hoe to the ex prime minister. Both are old, carrying the crud and rust of many years and both have lost their bearings.

This started me thinking what sort of farm equipment the current batch of politicians would b like.

Peter Garrett sprung to mind, he is defiantly a fence strainer, spare lean and under pressure.

Brendan Nelson's a star picket, extremely useful but mainly overlooked, place every where as a temporary support and bashed around a lot.

Malcolm Turnbull caused me some problems because as hard as I tied the best I could come up with was a ride on mower. Too much of a silvertail to be a true farm machine.

Kevin Rudd is obviously a laser level, sharp and to the point could miss the bigger picture?

If you have other examples I would be keen to hear them.

Look Mum, we're floating! Continuing inaction regarding projected sea-levels on Australian east coast

Local government and residents in New South Wales coastal areas were promised data, fine resolution mapping and specific projections on rising sea levels last year by both the Federal and State governments.

The map will identify coastal roads, homes, businesses, transport and port facilities in danger of going under water if sea levels continue rising.

A report from one or other of the two higher governments should have been lobbing onto desks in draft form by now.
Instead many coastal residents are still waiting for news, as it seems are some councils.

Central Coast residents have seen one version of their projections.
Ballina knows its in the firing line, but residents apparently have no firm details yet except for one specific area.
Clarence Coast residents are aware that there will be coastline change and some saltwater inundation, but only have CSIRO basic data to refer to.

There isn't a soul on the coast by now who isn't aware that property values and insurance cover are going to be affected by climate change impact predictions, yet the Rudd and Iemma Governments are seemingly intent on keeping us all in the dark for as long as possible.

All we are hearing is talk, talk, talk. For heavens sake, Prime Minister and Premier, don't wait until the water is lapping our ankles before giving us a choice of how we respond to rising sea levels.


The Sydney Morning Herald reported
yesterday.

THE prospects for waterfront properties in NSW are "stark", say experts addressing a local government conference today on sea-level rises due to global warming.
Governments are planning for rises of up to a metre by the end of this century. That would flood tens of thousands of properties along Australia's east coast.
Councils have asked the State Government to reveal its interim projections for rising sea levels until 2100 so they can assess development applications properly and plan measures for coastal areas and estuaries.
Governments at all levels, and the public, are yet to appreciate the scale of the threat, some at the conference believe.
"At the moment, we're in a state of paralysis," said Peter Cowell, a marine scientist at the University of Sydney. "It's very difficult to get people to think long-term on this."

Rudd, Iemma, Scipione and all make fools of themselves for art

Recently I've been tripping over the media reports on Bill Henson's art and the move to lock it away (presumably along with artist, models and gallery directors).
Yesterday the media told us that our elected wowsers and their police lackeys were now
going after images of Henson's art on the Internet.
This sounded rather an interesting exercise so I decided to see what
Rudd, Iemma and Scipione would be up against.
Stone the crows! There are tens of thousands of copies of Henson's photographic art on thousands of sites out there on the world wide web.
Pick a country, gallery, media or blog type and Henson's art is likely to turn up somewhere.
Google Images is chocka.
Hey fellas, perhaps you need to give
Tony Abbott, Brendan Nelson and Hetty an atlas and a large box of matches if you want the job done.
If you think I'm laughing at you all, you'd be right. But then I'm old enough to remember the last dying gasps of the long controversy over Norman Lindsay's art.
Psssst, Scippie - wanna buy a postcard?

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Thought police rule: Senate internet surfing spy blocks senators from reading gay newspaper website

The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration budget estimates hearing on Monday 26 May 2008 is throwing up some strange instances.

Apparently the desire to stop senators accessing inappropriate material on the internet, also known as research censorship, had resulted in a well-known gay newspaper being blocked from view.
It took Senator Nettles' staff a good week to get permission for, wait for it,
"temporary access to the site".

Senator Nettles was also blocked when researching the ramifications of recently announced NSW Government policy on the agricultural production of industrial quality hemp. The site she was attempting to access was considered in the category of "illegal drugs".

It seems that the Senate IT filtering program is being supplied by Websense.

This is what Websense, with its head office in California and an office in North Sydney, has to say about itself.
Websense provides a unique combination of Web, content, and user intelligence to stop threats at their source, and accurately control the "who, what, where, and how" of network security.

The Senate appears to have opted for a filtering program which has the following features:
Websense Client Policy Manager (CPM) provides a comprehensive endpoint security solution for desktops, laptops, and servers that proactively protects organizations against known and unknown endpoint security threats. CPM prevents the installation and execution of unauthorized applications and enforces application use policies with its comprehensive database of categorized applications, which is updated daily. CPM is an easy-to-implement, low risk, and highly effective alternative to behavior-based Host Intrusion Prevention Systems (HIPS). The comprehensive coverage of both “whitelist” (good) and “blacklist” (bad) applications allows for granular, dynamic, and highly flexible application policies. This provides a critical layer of application awareness that complements desktop antivirus and personal firewalls while stopping today's fast-moving and blended security threats.

Websense Client Policy Manager benefits:
Addresses weaknesses in existing antivirus, anti-spyware, personal firewall, and patch management processes to render today’s attacks harmless.
Provides application awareness and usage policy enforcement on the endpoint for blocking malicious software while ensuring compliance and productivity.
Prevents malicious applications from changing registry settings and tracks suspicious registry activities.
Protects remote and mobile users operating outside of the network or without standard security updates or patches.
Includes protection from the threats and compliance risks around web access and URL content for remote and mobile users.
Works with Network Access Control (NAC) solutions to enforce policy on devices trying to enter the network, denying access to non-compliant endpoints.
Via integrations, enables network-level protection from inbound threats and creates dynamic and application-aware firewalling.
Provides multiple levels of control to prevent the launch or mitigate the propagation of security attacks.

What all this apparently means is that the Senate has blocked senators' PCs from seeing websites on a blacklist based on broad categories of 'bad' types (inclusion decided by Websense) and, that any use of a senator's PC can be tracked right down to the last millisecond of any search or email sent/received.

Although it is still rather strange that this supposed protection against security threats just happens to block the pet hates of Family First's only elected representative and self-appointed moral guardian of Australia, Senator Fielding.

A quick Google shows that Websense has a history of inappropriately blocking sites from Amnesty International, through to the Red Cross, Air America, service blogs and individual bloggers who make political comment. Last year it was blocking Yahoo mail.

As the problems with Websense seem to continue up to date, here is a website advising on how to bypass this filter.
Perhaps senators should consider using this information if the President of the Senate doesn't come to his senses, or alternatively switching to IE7 which Websense is
said not to currently filter.

As it is unlikely that mere voters are going to get a straight answer from either Harry Evans or the Rudd Government on how much this gigantic invasion of privacy is costing or why it is even necessary, perhaps it's time to ask the source about blacklists, why it blocks certain content, why it takes so long to change instructions and costs associated with its security/filtering programs. Here is a Websense email contact.
Annoy the company as much as it is obviously annoying some senators.

Don't muck with the ducks

Five foot under the worst head cold of the season and I couldn't care less about politics.
So, in North Coast Voices just-for-fun tradition - a para from ANU's student mag
Woroni on the wonderful world of Canberra ducks.

The ducks own the campus.
They own the creek. They own the ovals. They most definitely own the roads, defiantly taking way too long to waddle across the pedestrian crossings (yes, they use them) while cars are backed up into the distance. University regulations place harming a duck alongside killing a unicorn, and you must learn to respect their dominion.
You may wonder why I conclude with this observation. But by spring, you too, fresh first year, will understand the dominance of these creatures when you’re running for your life from a fiercely maternal duck going straight for your shins, after you dared to enjoy the sight of her ridiculously cute offspring.

Even as I write this, somewhere in the Chancellery, Professor Chubb is sitting at his desk, receiving orders from a militant duck barking over his shoulder.
Don’t muck with the ducks.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

This sort of political self-indulgence has got to stop, Mr. Rudd

ABC News this morning.
 
The Senate Estimates Committee has been told that the 2020 summit in April has already cost the Government $1.9 million in contracts and other invoices are yet to be received.
The costs cover things such as uniforms, catering, events management and transport.
Liberal Senator Michael Ronaldson has been particularly critical of a funding for a time capsule he has described as self-indulgent.
"What a lot of fluff, honestly and truly, $11,000," he said.
The Federal Government has also faced a grilling over a media contract for the 2020 summit, which was awarded to the wife of the Defence Minister's media adviser.
The Opposition has questioned the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet about a contract that was given to a media company called CMAX.
 
On the NSW North Coast we have some of the least affordable housing, lowest individual incomes and longest public dental treatment waiting lists in Australia.
So it is a real slap in the face when the level of indulgence displayed by the Rudd Government is exposed.
This is the same government who cries it's budget is too restricted this year to bring disabled pensioners up to the same financial status as other pensioners receiving Centrelink or Dept. of Veteran's Affair's payments.
 
It is even more galling when it is revealed in the estimates committee hearing last Monday that taxpayers footed the bill for the Clerk of the Senate to attend because of the position he held but not in any official capacity.
Apparently the taxpayer was paying for all manner of politician and public servant to attend as recipients of unsolicited invitations.
It seems we paid a great deal of money for government shepherds to herd the summiteer flock.

The other side of the debate about Bill Henson's art

The Age has this full text of writer Alison Croggon's letter on behalf of "Creative Australia 2020 Summit representatives".

"As members of the Creative Stream of the Australia 2020 Summit, we wish to express our dismay at the police raid on Bill Henson's recent Sydney exhibition, the allegations that he is a child pornographer, and the subsequent reports that he and others may be charged with obscenity.

The potential prosecution of one of our most respected artists is no way to build a Creative Australia, and does untold damage to our cultural reputation. The public debate prompted by the Henson exhibition is welcome and important. We need to discuss the ethics of art and the issues that it raises. That is one of the things art is for: it is valuable because it gives rise to such debate and difference, because it raises difficult, sometimes unanswerable, questions about who we are, as individuals and as members of society. However, this on-going discussion, which is crucial to the healthy functioning of our democracy, cannot take place in a court of law.

We invite the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, and the NSW Premier, Mr Iemma, to rethink their public comments about Mr Henson's work. We understand that they were made in the context of deep community concern about the sexual exploitation of children. We understand and respect also that they have every right to their personal opinions. However, as political leaders they are influential in forming public opinion, and we believe their words should be well considered. We also call on the Minister for Environment Heritage and the Arts, Mr Garrett, to stand up for artists against a trend of encroaching censorship which has recently resulted in the closure of this and other exhibitions.

We wish to make absolutely clear that none of us endorses, in any way, the abuse of children. Mr Henson's work has nothing to do with child pornography and, according to the judgment of some of the most respected curators and critics in the world, it is certainly art. We ask for the following points to be fairly considered:

1. Mr Henson is a highly distinguished artist. His work is held in all major Australian collections including the Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery of SA, Art Gallery of WA, National Gallery of Victoria and the National Gallery of Australia. Among international collections, his work is held in the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Denver Art Museum; the Houston Museum of Fine Art; 21C Museum, Louisville; the Montreal Museum of Fine Art; Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris; the DG Bank Collection in Frankfurt and the Sammlung Volpinum and the Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna. Major retrospectives of Mr Henson's work at the Art Galleries of NSW and Victoria attracted more than 115,000 people, and produced not one complaint of obscenity. His work has also been studied widely in schools for many years.

2. Mr Henson has been photographing young models for more than 15 years. Until now, there has been no suggestion by any of his subjects or their families of any abusive practices. On the contrary, his models have strongly defended his practice and the feeling of safety generated in his process, and have expressed pride in his work. We suggest that the media sensationalism and the criminalisation of laying charges against Mr Henson, his gallery and the parents of the young people depicted in his work, would be far more traumatic for the young people concerned than anything Mr Henson has done.

3. The work itself is not pornographic, even though it includes depictions of naked human beings. It is more justly seen in a tradition of the nude in art that stretches back to the ancient Greeks, and which includes painters such as Caravaggio and Michelangelo. Many of Henson's controversial images are not in fact sexual at all. Others depict the sexuality of young people, but in ways that are fundamentally different from how naked bodies are depicted in pornography. The intention of the art is not to titillate or to gratify perverse sexual desires, but rather to make the viewer consider the fragility, beauty, mystery and inviolabilty of the human body. In contrast, the defining essence of pornography is that it endorses, condones or encourages abusive sexual practice. We respectfully suggest that Henson's work, even when it is disturbing, does nothing of the sort. I would personally argue that, in its respect for the autonomy of its subjects, the work is a counter-argument to the exploitation and commodification of young people in both commercial media and in pornographic images. Many of us have children of our own. The sexual abuse and exploitation of children fills us all with abhorrence. But it is equally damaging to deny the obvious fact that adolescents are sexual beings. This very denial contributes to abusive behaviour, because it is part of the denial of the personhood of the young. In my opinion, Mr Henson's work shows the delicacy of the transition from childhood to adulthood, its troubledness and its beauty, in ways which do not violate the essential innocence of his subjects. It can be confronting, but that does not mean that it is pornography. Legal opinion is that if charges were laid against Mr Henson, he would be unlikely to be found guilty. The seizure of the photographs, and the possible prosecution of Mr Henson, the Rosyln Oxley9 Gallery or the parents of Henson's subjects, takes up valuable police and court time that would be much better spent pursuing those who actually do abuse children.

4. Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the trial-by-media to which Mr Henson and his work has been subject over the past few days, is how his art has been diminished and corrupted. The allegations that he is making child pornography have done more to promote his work to possible paedophiles than any art gallery, where the work is seen in its proper, contemplative context. It is notable that the attacks on Mr Henson's work have, almost without exception, come from those who are unfamiliar with the photographs, or who have seen them in mutilated or reduced images on the internet.

If an example is made of Bill Henson, one of Australia's most prominent artists, it is hard to believe that those who have sought to bring these charges will stop with him. Rather, this action will encourage a repressive climate of hysterical condemnation, backed by the threat of prosecution.

We are already seeing troubling signs in the pre-emptive self-censorship of some galleries. This is not the hallmark of an open democracy nor of a decent and civilised society. We should remember that an important index of social freedom, in earlier times or in repressive regimes elsewhere in the world, is how artists and art are treated by the state.

We urge our political leaders to follow the example of Neville Wran, when in 1982 a similar outcry greeted paintings by Juan Davila. At that time, Mr Wran said: "I do not believe that art has anything to do with the vice squad". With Mr Wran, we believe the proper place for debate is outside the courts of law."

Alison Croggon, Writer

Signatories:

Louise Adler, CEO & Publisher-in-Chief, Melbourne University Publishing
Geoffery Atherden, Writer
Stephen Armstrong, Executive Producer, Malthouse Theatre
James Baker, Tax advisor and accountant
Geraldine Barlow, Curator
Larissa Behrendt, Professor of Law, University of Technology Sydney
Cate Blanchett, Actor
Daryl Buckley, Musician
Leticia Cacares, Theatre Director
Karen Casey, Visual Artist
Kate Champion, Choreographer, Artistic Director Force Majeure
Rachel Dixon, New media developer
Phoebe Dunn, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Commercial Galleries Association
Jo Dyer, Executive Producer, Sydney Theatre Company
Kristy Edmunds, Artistic Director, Melbourne International Festival of the Arts
Saul Eslake, Economist
Richard Gill, Artistic Director, Victorian Opera
Peter Goldsworthy, Writer
Michael Gow, Playwright
Marieke Hardy, Writer and broadcaster
Sam Haren, Artistic Director, The Border Project
Frank Howarth
Cathy Hunt, Creative consultant
Nicholas Jose, Writer
Andrew Kay, Producer
Ana Kokkinos, Film maker
Sandra Levy
Matthew Lutton, Theatre director
Nick Marchand, Artistic Director, Griffin Theatre
Sue Maslin, Producer, Film Art Doco Pty Ltd
Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, Director, Museum of Contemporary Art
Callum Morton, Visual Artist
Rosemary Myers, Artistic Director, Windmill Performing Arts
Rachel Healy, Director Performing Arts, Sydney Opera House
Liza Lim, Composer
Jan Minchin, Director, Tolarno Galleries
Helen O'Neil, Executive producer
Charles Parkinson, Artistic Director, Tasmanian Theatre Company
David Pledger, Theatre director
Marion Potts, Theatre Director
Katrina Sedgwick, Festival Director, Adelaide Film Festival

Additional signatories:

The following support the appeal contained in this letter without necessarily endorsing the detailed argument:

John Coetzee, Novelist
Ramona Koval, Writer and broadcaster

Bloggers who may have posted Henson images as part of their participation in the public debate on this issue should be aware that NSW Police have issued thinly veiled threats relating to such postings.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

They say that laughter's the best medicine

There's one thing you can always rely on a Aussie pollie for - a good laugh.

Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson
raised a laugh on Monday for calling the values police out on the Labor candidate in the Gippsland by-election because he was a Water Water cultural festival director when Beautiful Losers was performed.
The laugh arose because Nelson himself had so recently endorsed the anti-social behaviour, chair sniffing.
Yesterday we all found out that Nelson had forgotten to look into the
history of this risque musical.
It seems that another festival director and a Liberal Party state leader to boot, was in the chair when the same musical was performed much earlier at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
So if Wee Brennie were to try to hold to his twisted logic, then 'Red' Ted Baillieu would also be displaying behaviour inconsistent with expected standards.
Can't have it both ways, mate.

The second guffaw of the week came when the Prime Minister was caught out in a very similar way.
Rudders has spent much of his air time since Budget night hammering the Opposition for its behind the scenes disunity over fuel policy, only to have
one of his ministers outed as opposing his own pet petrol scheme, Fuel Watch.
The PM's mouth did the cat quince thing during Question Time everytime this was pointed out.
What's sauce for the goose....

Their hypocrisy appears to be plastered on so thickly, that I imagine before either Rudd or Nelson lay their heads on the pillow each night, their wives have to breakout a chisel and hammer to find the man underneath.

You make the rules: Appsie sends a letter to Rudd and Swan

Prime Minister and Treasurer,

We elected you to make the decisions and frame the legislation for the good running of this great country.

You have been in government now for six months so take the "bit in your teeth" and start telling the Banks not to put extra on their rates just because they want to.
Stop letting the likes of Woolworths and Coles have a mark up percentage of up to 1000%.

We as your constituents have to manage our money to make ends meet, these big companies just do what they like to please their share holders.
It is time for you and your government to tell them what to do and that failure to do so will incur huge fines. Eliminate the "loop holes" and the "shades of grey."

In the 50's and 60's shops were only able to have a mark-up percentage of 33 1/3 % with perishables being able to be sold with a mark up of 100%.
My late father had a small shop in the little town of Maclean, he employed two men to help out with the running of the business.
One of these men had three children and a wife and the other had seven children and a wife.
Dad met all of his commitments and supported a wife and two children and in many cases gave stuff away to help the less fortunate survive.

If the country could survive with such small percentage mark ups in those years I can't see why the country can't manage now on the same margins.
Forget what the economists say, as in most cases they are looking after their own interests and probably getting a "sling" for doing so. The mere threat of introducing such a form of price fixing would send a shudder right through the business world.
Many people in the electorate would applaud such action, particulary if it was like old "true Labor practices."

We are depending upon your Government to set the ship on a true course and eradicate the practices of the Howard Government.

It is you and "The New Broom" that we depend upon to get this country, (and if you will allow me to use the good old Australian term) "out of the sh*t." We must stop "greed" or control it if we are to receive the benefits of what our Soldiers fought for to make it a better place for all.

You probably won't agree with what I have written but may I tell you, at the age of 68 years , I and my peers have seen the best of this country and would greatly appreciate it if our children and grand children were able to enjoy the same.

The "Ball is in your Court", you don't need a miracle all you need is common sense and a will to look after those who put you in the position that you now have.

For Authentication Purposes :-
[redacted for privacy reasons]
Clarence Valley NSW

* Guest Speak is a North Coast Voices segment allowing serious or satirical guest comment from Northern Rivers residents.

British academic freedom definitely in WTF territory, as allegedly 'illegal' al Qaeda documents found absolutely everywhere

On Saturday 24 May The Guardian reported that a UK uni student was held for six days, then released without charge, because he had downloaded information from a US Government site concerning the training practices of al Qaeda.

The post-graduate student was held under the Terrorism Act 2006 and could have been held for up to 28 days.
He was reported to authorities by a staff member at Nottingham University.
The student, his supervisors and tutor say that he was researching for legitimate study purposes in order to complete his masters degree and appears to have downloaded the edited version.

From the newspaper's description this downloaded information is very similar to information which has been freely available for years from a number of sites, including the US Dept.of Justice.

In fact a 28 page excerpt from the so-called al Qaeda training manual were released in 2001 for PR purposes and can still be found on the world wide web
here.

In 2003 the blog Smoking Gun published around 160 gif images of the manual pages
here.

The Federation of American Scientists has a 140 page version complete with cover gif
here.

As this manual is almost always found on the Internet in alleged translation, the blogosphere is still unsure of its provenance and it may be that it is part of a
government propaganda exercise.

An allegedly third edition of this document around 5,000 pages long is supposedly found at Yahoo Geocities
here.

This is what Global Security says
about the document.

The legend that ricin can be made from a recipe on the Internet using only household chemicals will probably never die. A big reason for this is its regular vetting by authority figures and government agencies.
The best example of this can be seen in how the "al Qaeda training manual" is regarded. Discovered in a search of an al Qaeda member's home in England and entered into the public record in the January 2001 trial of the embassy bombings in Africa, the manual includes a page devoted to explaining how to purify ricin from castor beans. With minor changes, it is the discredited formula that was common in "anarchy files" uploaded to private bulletin boards and the web over the past decade. In other words, it's the same useless lye and acetone procedure that has long been in residence on the Temple of the Screaming Electron web site. (See National Security Notes 02/20/2004.)
The al Qaeda training manual was translated in its entirety and made into an Adobe Acrobat file prior to September 11. With some searching copies can still be found on the Internet.
However, on September 11, America was seized by fear. The manual's section on poisoning and ricin concoction was expurgated by government authorities and subsequently republished on the Department of Justice's web site. The surgical removal of this section granted it gravity, effectively validating what was actually a procedure of no worth.
The validation was echoed in other places, notably the popular Smoking Gun web site, which displayed a fragment of the item.
"The manual ... instructs [al Qaeda] members on how to produce poisons from readily available materials," read an article in the National Journal on December 3, 2001. "For example, dimethyl sulfoxide, which is used as a topical analgesic by veterinarians, can be mixed with herbal poisons such as ricin, which is obtained from castor beans."
Even simple common sense broke down when considering the al Qaeda training manual and its supposed recipe for ricin. The expurgated portion also contains a passage which suggests that the consumption of three cigarettes could be used in assassinations. While this might be inspirational to those searching for a reason to give up smoking, normally it would raise doubts in even the most disinterested reader on the knowledgeability of the author of the section of the manual in question.
But the war on terror is not a normal time and often clear thinking and sophisticated analysis goes right out the window when evaluating potentials for mayhem.

Literally thousands of people world-wide have viewed one or all of these 'training' documents.
In fact this particular 10 minute search appears to indicate that a credit card will get me a complete copy of the manual.

Given that all this information is out there and freely available in hyperspace, why was this student detained under British anti-terrorism laws and why is the person who printed out the document for him to be deported?
One has to suspect that ethnicity and religion played a big part in the minds of Nottingham police.

In response to the wrongful detentions, academics from the University of Nottingham will be doing a public reading of the research material that led to arrests under the Terrorism Act on campus, outside the Hallward library, University Park Campus, at 2:00pm, on May 28. The reading will be followed by a silent protest where students and academics will symbolically gag themselves to object to the attack on academic freedom.

This establishment stupidity is a salutary lesson for us all. Reading material on the Internet, downloading and emailing it, is dangerous for your health and safety in our topsy-turvey world.
The Australian Federal Police also tend to lose their commonsense whenever the word 'terrorist' is mentioned.
I wouldn't be going anywhere near His Holiness when he visits in case either Sydney or Commonwealth police decide to look at me sideways.

After all I clicked the links to that manual - ooh aaah.

The Beeston Quakers on the subject of arbitrary arrest and censorship
here.

Little Brennie unleashes the values police, but gets nabbed himself for supporting snedgers

Everytime I switch on the radio or open a newspaper these days, it seems that the thought and values police are setting the dogs on someone.
Yesterday was Little Brennie Nelson's turn, as he suddenly decided that Labor's candidate for the Gippsland by-election (caused by a former Howard Government minister deciding that the money we pay isn't good enough for him to hang around and do the job for which he was elected) was a B-A-D man when he promoted a musical as director of a Gippsland cultural festival.

Fer gawd's sake Brendan, mate. Fancy saying stuff like;
"(Mr McCubbin) has been promoting a show which is sexually explicit, would offend the vast majority of Australians and is inconsistent with the sort of values we would want to see represented in a candidate for the federal parliament.", when you personally support strange snedgers in your own party.

Need I remind you, that you
went on the record less than a month ago.
"FEDERAL Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson says the chair-sniffing Western Australian Liberal Leader has his "full support and confidence".
Troy Buswell, WA's Opposition Leader, yesterday admitted to sniffing a female Liberal staffer's chair in 2005.
He broke down at a press conference yesterday as he confirmed the woman's account but said he would not be standing down.
Dr Nelson said Mr Buswell was apologetic and still had his backing."

Know whose character I would be backing here and it wouldn't be the snedger over the musical featuring a blowup doll.


And Glen Milne loses it because he thinks he IS the values police

Glen Milne in The Australian yesterday.

"And just as Rudd's failings are beginning to make an impression nationally, along comes Darren McCubbin, the ALP candidate for Gippsland. McCubbin, you'll remember, was shoehorned into Gippsland by Labor's Melbourne head office over the local branch's preferred candidate, David Wilson, a veteran party member.
McCubbin, a local mayor, only joined up as a true believer on the day of his preselection. It was apparently enough to satisfy the moral conscience of a once great movement.
Labor's Victorian headquarters is in West Melbourne, spitting distance from the inner-city theatre district. Which might explain McCubbin's tastes. And his enthusiastic party endorsement. He is, you see, among other things, a director of the local Gippsland cultural festival, Water, Water, whatever that means.
In fact, we do know what it means, in part because McCubbin, as a director of the festival last year, chose to include and promote a lovely little act called the Beautiful Losers in his local show in the regional city of Sale, slap in the middle of the conservative rural electorate.
Listen up. According to a laudatory review in Melbourne's InPress magazine the Beautiful Losers consists "of three men, a piano and a guitar, not to mention some very wrong and rather amusing lyrics about all manner of depravity".

Monday, 26 May 2008

American politics have always seemed strange, but Obama has just made the whole scene weirder

The Obama for America team, US Democratic candidate Barak Obama's official campaigner, has recently sent out an invitation for supporters to take part in a survey which supposedly will assist him in planning further strategy.

Quite an innocuous exercise, except.....

On the first of three pages is
this little question.

How often do you attend religious services?:
More than once a week
Once a week
Less than once a week
On important holidays
Never

It seems in Obama-style politics, your churchgoing is just as important (or even more important) as which political or social issues concern you most.


Does Barak Obama think he is running for presidential nomination in a democracy or a theocracy?

National Reconciliation Week 27 May - 3 June 2008

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) was initiated in 1996 to provide a special focus for nationwide reconciliation activities. It’s a time to reflect on achievements so far and on what is still to be done to achieve reconciliation.NRW coincides with two significant dates in Australia's history which provide strong symbols of our hopes and aims for reconciliation.May 27 marks the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum in which more than 90 per cent of Australians voted to remove clauses from the Australian Constitution which discriminated against Indigenous Australians. The referendum also gave the Commonwealth Government the power to make laws on behalf of Aboriginal people.June 3 marks the anniversary of the High Court of Australia's judgment in 1992 in the Mabo case. The decision recognised the Native Title rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the original inhabitants of the continent, and overturned the myth of terra nullius - that the continent was empty, unowned land before the arrival of Europeans in 1788.

The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2008 is: Reconciliation: it’s all our story.


Online Events Calendar here.

In the Clarence Valley:
Free bus tour of Lower Clarence significant sites - May 28 10am pickup The Boulevard, Maclean
Clarence Valley Council free BBQ breakfast - May 29 7.30am-11.30am Market Square, Grafton
Official opening of ceramic art exhibition, Grafton Regional Gallery - May 30 5pm

Mal Borough's messianic delusions of granduer

The Libs and Nats as teh Coalition do not hold government anywhere in Australia.
Not in Canberra, not in the states and territories, and not in any little bush shire.
Yet still we have this Coalition disrupting Parliament whenever it chooses to dummy spit and in the last fortnight we see it threatening to block budget measures.

Now former Howard Government minister, Mal Brough (thrown out on his ear at the last federal election) has the hide to call the Labor Prime Minister
"un-Australian" because he won't appoint Brough to a commission covering indigenous affairs.

It seems that Mal (B)rough is away with the fairies along with his more electorally successful compatriots Nelson, Turnbull, Downer and Abbott.
You lost the election, mate - the country had jack of you.

And, it wasn't just high interest rates, the leadership issue, or the fact that your government had been in power for over a decade.
You were all heartily disliked, chum. Especially when one of you cried that it was un-Australian not to think like you. Then you stank like seven day-old fish left out in the sun.

Just last week the Australian Election Study 2007 was released and was reported
here.
It shows that the Coalition mob had virtually lost the election before the writs were issued.

So try to be a man, Mal - accept that you're in civvy street now and your opinions and desires don't matter more than the next bloke's.
In fact, because you made a bit of a dog's breakfast of your ministerial portfolio, they probably matter a lot less.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Obama seeks campaign feedback

Yesterday's Obama for America email.


This is a pivotal moment in the election, and right now your feedback will shape the next phase of this campaign.
We have three more contests to go, and we're going to fight for every delegate to secure the Democratic nomination.
But we've also been through more than four-dozen contests in the states and territories, and your experience so far is an important factor as we plan for a 50-state campaign to take on John McCain.
Your feedback is crucial. Whether you've been involved heavily or just a bit, been a supporter since the beginning or are new to this movement, your feedback will inform the planning for the next phase of this extraordinary campaign:
http://my.barackobama.com/feedback
Millions of people across the country have been engaged in this campaign at the grassroots level.
Your work, your passion, and your stories have defined this movement and have been instrumental in our success -- and as we move into the next stage of this race, your input is more valuable than ever.
What was successful? What wasn't? How can our campaign organization improve moving forward?
Share your feedback now -- it's essential to moving our campaign forward:
http://my.barackobama.com/feedback
Thanks to you, Barack Obama is within reach of the Democratic nomination.
We've learned a lot together over the past 16 months, but we're preparing for a journey more demanding than any challenge we've faced.
Yet in this challenge we also have an opportunity to run the broadest, most effective grassroots presidential campaign in American history.
Thank you in advance for your participation in this important survey. You and people like you in communities across the country are the heart of this campaign.
Thank you,
Jon
Jon Carson

Voter Contact
Director
Obama for America

A Sunday stroll through Northern Rivers art....




Jan Pilgrim Blue Fairy Orchid
Digby Moran Blackfish
Louise Mann Pink Delight
Guy Gilmore Railway Sunset
Ruth Rich Dancer 1

What's younger than John McCain? Almost everything according to blogosphere pundits

Now that the heat is going out of the Clinton-Obama contest, here's a little something on the U.S. Republican presidential candidate.

It seems almost everything is considered younger than John McCain, including:
the state of Alaska, jet engines, Daffy Duck, polystyrene, the bikini, credit cards, microwavable food, Tupper Ware, hulahoops, the CIA, atom bombs, air bags, duct tape and velcro.
Of course a quick flick around Google shows it's not hard to find things greener than this Republican candidate.

If the world's population is around 6.6-6.8 billion and the median age is about 28 years of age, then John McCain is definitely older than at least half the people in the known world.

As the US population is now thought to stand at over 304 million and its overall median age is around 35 years; then John McCain is, without fear of contradiction, older than 152 million of his fellow Americans and counting.
And with one birth occur every 7 seconds or so in the U.S., McAncient is getting older than more people by the minute.

With my age being nearer this candidate's than further away, I should have some sympathy for him with regard to this ageist attack led by the Democrats.
But even though an old man gum is a venerable sight in the bush, an old pollie is simply an old pollie, and a U.S. president in his seventies is a good few years too old for comfort in a world where America rides roughshod over us all.


There's even a song on the subject found at a Democrat-leaning blog Younger than John McCain and video at a number of sites.

Here's another little offering at:
http://www.capsteps.com/sounds/mccain-84.mp3

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Warning, warning! Google Health may be injurious to your privacy

Now I'm sure that the good people at Google have no intention of harming a soul with their brand new product Google Health, a free online medical record storage facility.

However, before you plunge into another commitment to supply or store personal details on the world wide web, think of the implications of storing your most personal details out there in hyperspace.

Robert Merkl commenting at Core Economics last Tuesday gave us
one scenario:

I’d have to strongly disagree with your statement that there’s no extra privacy implications.
If your doctor gets broken into, maybe a few hundred medical records get stolen. If Google Health gets hacked, millions of health records get stolen.
Furthermore, because it’s all electronic, it’s in a much more easily searchable form.
Here’s a for-instance. Say you’re an intelligence agency, looking for somebody in a large organization to blackmail. With the old system, there’s no way in the world you could burgle every doctor every member in that organization has visited.
Now, let’s rerun our hypothetical with everybody’s medical records on Google Health. Your crack team of hackers breaks in and gets you full access. You do a search for STDs, abortions, mental illnesses, etc. etc. etc on the entire organization, until you find somebody to blackmail.
And, yes, in this case it is entirely plausible to imagine such a technically-adept attacker as an intelligence agency.
Back when I was in the CS department at Melbourne, there were some people doing work on computer security. You might want to consider having a chat to some of them at some point. You may never use internet banking again…

Google Health's own
privacy policy also gives pause for thought as it does not completely rule out selling-on some medical data from the site and handing personal data on to law enforcement agencies or third-parties etc:

Google will not sell, rent, or share your information (identified or de-identified) without your explicit consent, except in the limited situations described in the Google Privacy Policy, such as when Google believes it is required to do so by law.

The current Google Health
medical advisory board has some interesting CVs on it as well.
I'm not sure that having a history with RAND or Wal-mart, or indeed being a super accountant, is going to make me feel confident in this product.

One of the first entities to 'utilise' this new site will probably be that digital superspy,
Server in the Sky.

Six months on from election of the Rudd Government and Cynthia is no longer willing to sleep on the wet patch

As today marks six months since the November 24 election brought the Rudd Government to power, this piece serves as a gentle reminder that all is not well with Kevin On Earth's agenda.

Cynthia Flobberbutton (in New Matilda) think it's time that the Federal Labor honeymoon was officially declared to be over and done with.

Oh come now, I hear you gasp. It's only been six months; it's a bit fanciful to expect a new government - especially one that has been out of office for more than a decade - to right all wrongs in six months.

To a certain extent these sentiments are true. Labor may have wrested control of the ship but it will take time to prise off all the nasty barnacles that burgeoned under the previous administration, let alone to reorient the vessel. But this is not an issue of petulance regarding changes not yet enacted. Rather, it's a call to question the course that has already begun to be charted.

Me-too-isms aside, the election of the ALP arose predominantly from the distinction the Party was able to establish between itself and the incumbent. In addition to his Fresh Approach for Working Families, Rudd himself was put forward as the anthropomorphic representation of the future: shinier, sprightlier, more culturally sensitive, more compassionate, more intellectually rigorous, and less likely to be swayed by xenophobic populism.

But now in office, the ALP is arguably working hard to subdue those elements of civil society that risk exposing the reality that it will not herald anything close to a social democratic utopia. In days gone by, these tactics were referred to as co-option. Under Rudd they have been shrewdly repackaged as the
2020 Summit.

In addition to offering the chance for delegates to be considered one of the New Labor Government's 1000 most trusted confidants, the 2020 Summit cemented the elitist idea that hand-picked "
experts" should drive public policy. Tripping over egos in the rush to be anointed as among "Australia's best and brightest", the foundation was neatly laid for the influential class's support for the "Kevin Again in 2010 (Three Years is not Nearly Enough)" campaign.

Summit delegates were not only conveniently encouraged to ignore the pivotal role of broad-based, grassroots social movements in delivering electoral success for the ALP, but to forget how those movements managed to stave off some of the worst excesses of the Howard government, even when it controlled the Senate.

All this is by no means an effort to downplay the significance of some of the Federal Government's policy announcements. An apology to our Indigenous people, abolition of temporary protection visas for refugees, repealing (parts of) WorkChoices and a commitment to withdrawing (some) troops from Iraq are important shifts in rhetoric and practice. But for those of us who have grown used to fighting for the crumbs hurled in our direction, it is tempting to mistake ALP initiatives as dramatic steps forward rather than an amelioration of policies that should never have been countenanced in the first place.

It would be a mistake to unquestioningly accept these initiatives as sufficient compensation for failing to actually move public policy in a progressive direction, or as balance for new regressive measures. An apparently greater willingness to talk with advocacy organisations should not be confused with a commitment to meaningful consultation - and action.

Ultimately, the Federal Government must be judged on the strength of its policies, not on how they compare to the policies of the previous administration, or to hypothetical horror scenarios imagining 15 years under Howard.

So while there may still be some reluctance to call an end to our starry-eyed rebound affair with Rudd, it's time for those of us who are committed to creating a truly just and sustainable Australia to begin pointing out that we're no longer willing to sleep on the wet patch.

Mr. Rudd hasn't given up, but he is in danger of losing his way

The first six months of Kevin Rudd as prime minister heading a Labor government has not been the complete waste of time that the Opposition tries to portray.
Nor do I believe that Mr. Rudd has given up this early in the piece.
However, in an effort to be seen as the 'reasonable' face of Labor he is beginning to lose his way.
The aims and aspirations of today's working families may be valid, focussing on reviewing the taxation structure may or may not be necessary, an education revolution may be long overdue, but gearing policy to populist end of these notions and virtually ignoring the destructive elephant in the room is not the best idea.
So here is a word portrait of that elephant to remind Rudd and his minsiters exactly what the bottom line is.

climate change, water security, global warming, prolonged drought, climate change, food shortages, global warming, coastal erosion, climate change, death of the Murray Darling, global warming, species extinction, climate change, environmental refugees, global warming, renewable energy, climate change, greenhouse gas abatement, global warming, destructive storms, climate change, property loss, global warming, carbon trading, climate change.

A Saturday smile

From Kudelka

Friday, 23 May 2008

It's QANDA season on the ABC

I have to confess that last night I switched off the ABC's new show Q and A after the first few minutes of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's flat delivery when answering the first audience question.
I've promised myself that I will try to make it through next week's program when, hopefully, my tolerance for political whaffle is higher.
 
However, the QANDA webpage did deliver evidence of a few interesting questions for Mr. Rudd. 
 
Author
ConcernedScientist
Date/Time
22 May 2008 2:04:19pm
Subject
>Re: What would you ask Kevin Rudd?
Mr Rudd...

When it comes to Global Warming, it would appear to me that your government's first budget is 'rearranging the deck chairs whilst the Titanic is sinking'.

Ok - some passengers might deny the ship is sinking (the water used to be 4 metres below their cabin's port-hole, and now its gone up to 6 metres - so from their perspective the ship is rising!), but the scientific consensus is the HMAS Earth is sinking and we have to do something about it NOW!

So why are you making it MORE difficult for Australians to 'use our existing life-boats' like installing solar cells on their roofs ?

Why are you investing large sums of money in trying to develop a new super 'lifeboat' (so-called clean coal - which might not even float), when there are existing technologies available TODAY (like solar thermal, wind, geothermal, photovoltaic, etc )?

Why are you not putting in the same effort to fight Global Warming as you are to fighting inflation?

You said recently "Hi, my name is Kevin, and I'm here to help" - Didn't you really mean "... and I'm here to help the Coal Industry" ?

There's a moggy in there


With all the back arching, hissing, scratching and spraying that's gone on around Canberra these last few weeks, I'm beginning to think that Bill Hall's catty look at politicians may be close to the truth of the matter.

In short, a cat can look half its size when attacking and twice its size when bluffing. Hence a cat looks four times as large on defense as on offense.

The same is true of politicians. The more trouble they are in, the louder they yowl and the larger and more terrifying they try to appear.

FEVHA Visual Arts Festival, Bangalow & Byron Bay, May 28 - June 1 2008


This year's FEHVA festival will be held from Saturday until June 1 at the Bangalow A&I Hall, with special events also staged at local venues in Byron Bay and Bangalow.

The festival was developed five years ago as a two-day event with the aim of raising money for The Buttery, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Bangalow.---

Australia's top visual arts practitioners will be guest speakers at the festival weekend, including Pete O'Doherty and Reg Mombassa who will talk about their experiences as brothers, artists and musicians.

Well-known international musician and patron of The Buttery, David Helfgott, will perform at the opening of the FEHVA art exhibition next Monday.

The flag event, according to Ms Tipping, is the art auction and banquet which will be held on Thursday, May 29.

Tickets are $100 per person and include champagne on arrival, canapés, gourmet dinner platters, wine and dessert.

Ms Tipping said the reason for a visual arts festival was because the Northern Rivers was thriving with talented artists.

Go to FEVHA wesite
here for information on art prizes, workshops, lectures etc.

Art work shown above "And the brightness begins" by Emma Walker
http://www.timolsengallery.com/

Rudders - will you stop being a purient old wowser and leave that young woman in peace

"Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has confirmed the Defence Department is investigating whether Australian celebrity Tania Zaetta had sex with Australian special forces soldiers while on a recent tour of Afghanistan. "

Even after the experience of the Howard years, sometimes it's hard to believe that any man who leads a national government can be so mindboggling stupid.

With the young woman in question saying that the allegations are untrue and even the nasty, barrack's rumour not charging that anything occurred under duress, it is hard to see why the Prime Minister didn't pour cold water on the Dept. of Defence
investigation into the entertainment tour of Afghanistan.

The whole thing has the feel of a fair dinkum furphy.

Rudders, I'm not going to remember this week as one where you made a statement about the "obscenity" of homelessness in Australia.
I'm going to remember this week as the one in which you allowed a bunch of old soldiers to invade the privacy of a young woman.

Getting your knees dusty next Sunday won't change anything - you've done a fool, fool, thing.


And then the story changed......

"The Defence Department has issued an unreserved apology to celebrity Tania Zaetta, after she was named in a leaked Defence note detailing inappropriate conduct.
The Federal Government has announced an inquiry into the leaked briefing note about allegations Ms Zaetta had sex with soldiers during her recent entertainment tour to Afghanistan.
Defence has tonight issued a statement saying the document containing Ms Zaetta's name was a draft and it was withdrawn minutes after it was written because of privacy concerns."


How many pork pies in a day does that make?

Thursday, 22 May 2008

US Mormans swallow Howard's line, hook and sinker

The Salt Lake Tribune reports on John Howard's chase of the almighty dollar last Tuesday.
 
This time his paid speaking trail led him to the Zions Bank International Trade and Business Conference at the Downtown Marriott in Salt Lake City, where he continued to tell America just what it wanted to hear.
 
A former Australian prime minister and a senior Bush administration trade official on Tuesday pressed their cases for open-trade policies at a time of sudden global food shortages and criticism that free trade has led to job losses in the United States.
    "I think the world cries aloud in 2008 for a reaffirmation of the view that protection is something of the past," said John Howard, who led Australia for over a decade until he was turned out of office by voters in November.
    "Because if the world goes back into protection we will aggravate some of the difficulties that are now being faced and I think that will present very significant challenges and very significant difficulties for all of us," Howard said.....
Howard spoke repeatedly about his faith in global trade as a vehicle for lifting undeveloped countries from poverty. He said the rapid rise of food prices during the last year is causing enormous social and political consequences in poor countries worldwide that call into question the basis for subsidies and tariffs.
    "This is really a time for scaling down rather than scaling up or maintaining agricultural subsidies," Howard said.
    "If you have a relatively heavy demand for a commodity, it doesn't make sense to maintain subsidies that were designed to protect producers at a time when people didn't want to buy their product," he said.
    Howard called for developed countries to engage China and not fear its rising economic clout. With a population of 1.3 billion, it is helping to lead a profound adjustment of buying power from North America and Europe that by 2030 will have produced a middle class in Asia that numbers in the hundreds of millions.
    "The center of gravity of the world's middle class is shifting from the Atlantic to Asia. This is, in a way, one of the most significant developments since the industrial revolution," Howard said.
 
It is beginning to look as though Howard will be able to mine gullible Americans for pin money for some time to come if this Utah Pulse blurb is any indication.
 
John Winston Howard, who served as Prime Minister of Australia from 1996 to 2007, will be the keynote speaker at the half-day conference, which will run from 8:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m...
In his first visit to the United States since his term in office ended last November, John Howard will discuss his uniquely global approach to leading the most prominent Western stronghold in the Asian-Pacific Rim. He will candidly share his vision for the international economic future, with special focus on the roles that China, India and the Pacific Rim will play.
As Australia's second-longest serving prime minister, Howard pursued broad pro-market economic policies. During his period in office Australia experienced economic growth averaging 3.6 percent per year. What's more, in the face of criticism from many, Howard initiated unprecedented efforts to broker a free-trade agreement with China, paving the way for China's willingness to participate in a free market. Because of his work in developing ties with China, the country is now Australia's largest export market.
 
Although it must be added that he was only considered to be a crowd drawer if the keynote address ticket cost was kept under $40 per person.

We know about Australia's GDP and GNP, but what about its GPI?

The Institute for Economics and Peace has released its Global Peace Index [GPI] 2008.
The other ANZAC, New Zealand, ranks 4th (1.350) on the international index of 140 countries.
Australia ranks 27th (1.652).
America ranks 97th on this list.
Something for the Rudd Government to aspire to here, after a decade of our nation playing deputy-sheriff to the US - catching up to New Zealand.

Full index list here.
Breakdown of how Australia's GPI was calculated
here.

The Institute for Economics and Peace is dedicated to developing the inter-relationships between business, peace and economics. Through its global reach, it aims to empower the private sector, academic community, civil society, international institutions and governments with the knowledge to proactively use peace to achieve their desired goals.
It appears to be the brainchild of Australian businessman Steve Killelea and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies [UNSW].

Malcolm thinks a cigar is always just a cigar

Shadow Treasurer and all-round pukka Malcolm Turnbull's reply during question time at the National Press Club on Wednesday, 21 May 2008.

"I'm not going to engage in self-analysis."

Sort of says it all about Malcolm doesn't it?

Transcript of Address to the National Press Club
here.

And wants his tax review to look at the Goods and Services Tax

"
The Review will involve all aspects of the tax system that are amenable to reform in the national interest.
This will involve an examination of taxation:
At the Commonwealth level, including but not limited to: income tax, company tax, dividend imputation, the goods and services tax, international tax, excises and customs duties, fringe benefits tax, revenue from any emissions trading scheme, capital gains tax, superannuation taxes, and resource rent tax; and
At the State and Local level, including but not limited to: transactions taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, and gambling taxes.
In conducting the Review, Professor Ergas will consult widely, including through the release of public discussion papers and a tax reform conference. The Review will be completed by the end of 2008."

I take some comfort from the fact that Turnbull and Ergas (both believing the 'great unwashed' adhere to the politics of envy) are reviewing the tax system while the Coalition is in opposition. Otherwise
the Prof might just lumber us all with a higher rate of GST in his almost one-size-fits-all view of our society.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Snapshots from Obama's campaign album

The Obama for America
team is so proud of their
man's ability to pull a
75,000 strong crowd in
Portland, Oregon last
Sunday, that they are e-mailing out these photos from the family album.

Mark your calendar for the Lismore Lantern Parade, Saturday 21 June 2008


Lismore Kids Arts Festival - 10.00 am
Playing in the Streets, street theatre - 11.30am
Market deLight - 2.00pm
Ceremonial Gates open - 4.00 pm, entry Gold Coins Donation
Winter Warmers, Charity hot food stalls - 4.30pm
Parade - 5.30 pm
Fiery Finale - 6.45 pm
Great Street Party - 8.00pm arts, crafts, workshop, regional cuisine, spectacular parade, lanterns, parade bands, street theatre, carnival dancers outdoor theatre,illuminated puppets, fire art and pyrotechnics......
and much, much more.
Festival website here.

Portraits of an exploding man




Cartoons of Malcolm Turnbull found at:
http://www.nma.gov.au/
http://www.nicholsoncartoons.com.au/
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/
http://blogotariat.com/