Monday, 31 January 2011

Not amused, Premier

So Premier Kristina Keneally wants to shore up flagging support for NSW Labor by getting a close to free pass on the national flood levy for a good many Sydney-ites. We all know she’s an American by birth and outlook, but I guess few of us thought of her as a Liberal Party acolyte with only the merest passing pretence of Christian charity.

James Creek

* Guest Speak is a North Coast Voices segment allowing serious or satirical comment from NSW Northern Rivers residents. Email ncvguestpeak at gmail dot com to submit comment for consideration.

Planning in NSW in a nutshell

These are the opening lines of a December 2010 Environmental Defenders Office report The State of Planning in NSW: With reference to social and environmental impacts and public participation:

The planning system in New South Wales is at a crossroads.

In 1979, the planning system was complex, inconsistent, highly politicised, ad hoc, disconnected from local communities and non-strategic - often resulting in poor environmental outcomes.

The response to these problems at the time was to introduce a new, forward looking planning Act. Unprecedented at the time, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) was underpinned by principles of genuine public participation, transparency, accountability, consistency of decision-making and comprehensive environmental assessment.

Since 1979, these principles have been buried under layers of incremental amendment resulting in substantial change.

In 2010, while efforts have been made to make the planning system in NSW more consistent (for example, standard Local Environment Plan) and more strategic (for example, Regional Strategies), it is once more become complex and highly politicised, disconnected from local communities, and resulting in poor environmental outcomes.

It is time for an overhaul of our planning laws.

This report poses the question; Can we fix the current Act?

Perhaps what should also be asked is – will the next NSW Government have the political will to address the manifest problems with state planning law and policy or will it continue on like the Iemma-Rees-Keneally governments as a tool of the big developers?

Full report in PDF file here.

Disappointing GMO recommendations in report delivered by review into Australian food labelling

The Labelling Logic - the Final Report of the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy was released this week.

Unfortunately its recommendations concerning new technologies will allow many foods containing ingredients derived from either genetically modified agricultural produce or genetically modified product used in the food making process to remain on supermarket shelves as naked of appropriate labelling as they are today.

Knowing how dishonest some current label declarations are already when it comes to genetically modified ingredients, I can see no incentive for full declarations in the future.

New Technologies

Recommendation 28: That as a general principle all foods or ingredients that have been processed by new technologies (i.e., all technologies that trigger pre-market food safety assessments) be required to be labelled for 30 years from the time of their introduction into the human food chain; the application of this principle to be based on scientific evidence of direct impact on, or modification of, the food/ingredient to be consumed. At the expiry of that period the mandatory labelling should be reviewed.

Recommendation 29: That only foods or ingredients that have altered characteristics or contain detectable novel DNA or protein be required to declare the presence of genetically modified material on the label.

Recommendation 30: That any detection of an adventitious genetically modified event be followed by a period of monitoring and testing of that food or ingredient.

Recommendation 31: That foods or ingredients with flavours containing detectable novel DNA or protein not be exempt from the requirements to declare the presence of genetically modified material on the label.

Recommendation 32: That foods or ingredients that have been genetically modified and would require declaration if labelled be declared on menu/menu boards or in close proximity to the food display or menu in chain food service outlets and on vending machines.

Recommendation 33: That governments ensure effective monitoring of labelling requirements in the Food Standards Code relating to genetically modified foods or ingredients through support for sufficient Australian and New Zealand laboratories, observing world best practice protocols, and with the necessary resources and analytical skills.

Recommendation 34: That the requirement for mandatory labelling of irradiated food be reviewed.

Recommendation 35: That Food Standards Australia New Zealand and other relevant bodies develop as a matter of urgency a standard for regulating the presence of nanotechnology in the food production chain, consistent with the recommendations in this Report relating to new technologies.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

"Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread": US Ambassador Margaret Scobey in 2009

In the face of wide spread civil unrest Egypt's President Hosni Murbarack has sacked one government and installed another. With the head of the secret police Omar Suleiman now designated Vice-president and uncertainty as to whether Interior Minister Habib El-Adly will be dismissed, this may not bode well for protestors and dissenters in light of this U.S. diplomatic cable 09CAIRO79 sent on 15 January 2009:


¶1. (C) Summary and comment: Police brutality in Egypt against common criminals is routine and pervasive. Contacts describe the police using force to extract confessions from criminals as a daily event, resulting from poor training and understaffing. Brutality against Islamist detainees has reportedly decreased overall, but security forces still resort to torturing Muslim Brotherhood activists who are deemed to pose a political threat. Over the past five years, the government has stopped denying that torture exists, and since late 2007 courts have sentenced approximately 15 police officers to prison terms for torture and killings.

Independent NGOs have criticized GOE-led efforts to provide human rights training for the police as ineffective and lacking political will. The GOE has not yet made a serious effort to transform the police from an instrument of regime power into a public service institution. We want to continue a USG-funded police training program (ref F), and to look for other ways to help the GOE address police brutality. End summary and comment.........

¶2. (C) Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread. The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators, certain political prisoners and unfortunate bystanders. One human rights lawyer told us there is evidence of torture in Egypt dating back to the times of the Pharaohs. NGO contacts estimate there are literally hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone. Egyptians are bombarded with consistent news reports of police brutality, ranging from high profile incidents such as accidental but lethal police shootings in Salamut and Aswan this past fall (refs B and C) that sparked riots, to reports of police officers shooting civilians following disputes over traffic tickets. In November 2008 alone, there were two incidents of off-duty police officers shooting and killing civilians over petty disputes. The cases against both officers are currently making their way through the judicial system.

¶3. (C) NGO and academic contacts from across the political spectrum report witnessing police brutality as part of their daily lives. One academic at XXXXXXXXXXXX told us XXXXXXXXXXXX the police proceeded to beat a female suspect into confessing about others involved in the theft and the whereabouts of the stolen valuables. A contact from an international NGO described witnessing police beat the doorman of an upscale Cairo apartment building into disclosing the apartment number of a suspect. Another contact at a human rights NGO told us that her friends do not report thefts from their apartments because they do not want to subject “all the doormen” in the vicinity to police beatings. She told us that the police’s use of force has pervaded Egyptian culture to the extent that one popular television soap opera recently featured a police detective hero who beats up suspects to collect evidence.

¶4. (C) Contacts attribute police brutality to poor training, understaffing and official sanction. Human rights lawyer XXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX speculated that officers routinely resort to brutality because of pressure from their superiors to solve crimes. He asserted that most officers think solving crimes justifies brutal interrogation methods, and that some policemen believe that Islamic law sanctions torture. XXXXXXXXXXXX commented that a culture of judicial impunity for police officers enables continued brutality. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, “Police officers feel they are above the law and protected by the public prosecutor.” Human rights lawyer XXXXXXXXXXXX attributed police brutality against common criminals, including the use of electric shocks, to the problem of demoralized officers facing long hours and their own economic problems. He asserted that the police will even beat lawyers who enter police stations to defend their clients.......

¶5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX explained that since the GOE opened a dialogue with formerly violent Islamists, such as the Islamic Group, following the 1997 Luxor terrorist attacks, torture of Islamists has decreased. XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that the GOE now treats Islamists better than common criminals. Some Islamist detainees are “spoiled,” he asserted, with regular access to visits from friends and family, decent food and education. Before the Luxor attacks, XXXXXXXXXXXX commented, the government would torture Islamist detainees on a daily basis.

¶6. (C) Attorney XXXXXXXXXXXXXX commented that the GOE is more reluctant to torture Islamists, including Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members, because of their persistence in making public political statements, and their contacts with international NGOs that could embarrass the regime. XXXXXXXXXXXX speculated that the exception to this rule is when MB members mobilize people against the government in a way the regime deems threatening, such as the April 6 Facebook strike (ref D). According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the MB-affiliated blogger and “April 6 Movement” member XXXXXXXXXXXX whom police arrested XXXXXXXXXXXX (ref A) falls into this category, and the GOE is probably torturing him to scare other “April 6” members into abandoning their political activities. XXXXXXXXXXXX’s assessment tracks with “April 6” member XXXXXXXXXXXX’s accounts of his own torture and the alleged police sexual molestation of a female “April 6” activist this past November (ref A). Bloggers close to XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that following his arrest he was tortured severely with electric shocks and needed to be hospitalized, but that security forces stopped the torture when he began cooperating.......

¶7. (C) Contacts agree that in the past five years, the government has stopped denying that torture exists and has taken some steps to address the problem. However, contacts believe that the Interior Ministry lacks the political will to take substantive action to change the culture of police brutality. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that following alleged standing orders from the Interior Ministry between 2000 and 2006 for the police to shoot, beat and humiliate judges in order to undermine judicial independence, the GOE made a political decision in 2007 to allow the courts to sentence police officers to short prison terms. XXXXXXXXXXXX described the 2007 Imad El-Kebir case as a turning point in influencing the government to permit the sentencing of police officers.

(Note: Per ref E, a court sentenced two police officers to three years in prison in November 2007 for assaulting and sodomizing bus driver Imad El-Kebir. The case gained notoriety after a cell phone video recording of the torture was posted on YouTube. End note.)

¶8. (C) An estimated 13 cases of officers accused of brutality are currently working their way through the courts, and judges have handed down moderate sentences, usually the minimum three-year prison term, against policemen over the past few months, often for heinous crimes. For example, in October 2008, a court sentenced a policeman to three years in prison for beating and drowning a fisherman. In November 2008, a court sentenced two policemen to three years in prison for hooking a man to their car and dragging him to his death. XXXXXXXXXXXXX characterized the sentences as “light,” in proportion to the crimes, but commented that any prison sentences are an important development toward holding the police responsible for crimes. XXXXXXXXXXXX commented that the prison sentences demonstrate that the GOE is providing political space for judges to operate somewhat independently, in response to criticism from foreign governments and international NGOs. XXXXXXXXXXXXX described the sentences as important in drawing public attention to brutal police crimes, and strengthening the hand of advocates who call for reforming systemic problems within the police force......

¶11. (C) Former senior Interior Ministry official Ihab Youssef, Director of the NGO “The Police and the People for Egypt†told us in late 2008 that his NGO did not receive many proposals from the public in response to its solicitation for ideas on developing projects to build trust between the police and citizens. Youssef said that the NGO’s Facebook site, which provides a forum for the public to complain about the police, has generated more interest. In September 2008, Youssef publicly announced the formation of his NGO, which counts establishment figures such as former FM Ahmed Maher among its board members (ref C). Youssef does not receive GOE funding for the NGO, and has turned to private Egyptian businesses to raise money. XXXXXXXXXXXX.....

¶12. The GOE has not begun serious work on trying to transform the police and security services from instruments of power that serve and protect the regime into institutions operating in the public interest, despite official slogans to the contrary. It seems that the government would have the strongest interest in preventing future accidental shootings of innocents, such as the Salamut and Aswan incidents that resulted in riots. We imagine that halting the torture of common criminals, who are usually poor and voiceless, is lower on the GOE’s agenda. We want to continue USG-funded police training, and we will look for ways to help XXXXXXXXXXXX’s NGO launch productive work.


Excuses used for not reading blogs

It has happened so often now that I am moved to comment on the number of times someone (usually a journalist) tells me that they are aware of a particular post on North Coast Voices BUT….

a) only stumbled upon it when I was searching for something else on the Internet

b) someone read it out to me because I don’t have time to read blogs

c) a friend of a friend told me a bit about it

d) remember hearing about it somewhere or other

To these four common 'explanations' I often like to mentally add another two for my own amusement:

e) the cat dragged it in and left it on the mat

f) I didn’ t actually read it – it was blocking the bedroom door as I tried to make it to the bathroom this morning ;-)

What is fascinating about this attitude is the level of shame it appears to conceal. Apparently online reading is actually a vice akin to one of the seven deadly sins – especially if you are a professional journalist.

It certainly gives me the silent giggles whenever I hear that BUT.

Cartoon from Savage Chickens

Income Management by Basics Card: NSW North Coast Business Shame File

The following businesses operating on the NSW North Coast participate in the Gillard Government’s paternalistic and punitive income management policy applying to welfare recipients (with a focus on quarantining payments to indigenous recipients and long-term recipients of pensions, benefits and allowances) aka the Basics Card.

The Basics Card providor for the Federal Government is apparently London-based Retail Decisions Pty Ltd.

On the NSW North Coast:




Coles, Woolworths, Caltex, Target, K-Mart

Byron Bay

Caltex, Woolworths


Woolworths, Bi-Lo, Coles, Target, Caltex

Coffs Harbour

Caltex, Woolworths, Coles, Target


Woolworths, Bi-Lo, Coles, Target, Caltex, City Beach


Woolworths, Bi-Lo, Coles, Target, Caltex, City Beach, K-Mart

Nambucca Heads

Caltex, Woolworths

Tweed Heads

Woolworths, Bi-Lo, Coles, Target, Caltex, City Beach, K-Mart





The full national Merchant’s List can be found here

Saturday, 29 January 2011

What have we all done to deserve this?

One might well ask; "What have we all done to deserve this?". As a Cat 3 cyclone bears down on the main urban areas of West Australia and, not one but two cyclones are predicted to be heading for northern Queensland between tomorrow and Thursday next.

What we definitely don't deserve is Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's persistent politicking over the rolling natural disaster January 2011 has become.

His offer to sit down with the Prime Minister and find an additional $1.8 billion in savings to save our country from yet another tax grab is an insult to voter intelligence when everyone knows government does not need opposing political parties' permission or endorsement to make budget cuts.

Australian Bureau of Meteorology maps on 29 January 2011:

Thankful to be a fallen, ignorant, parasitic unbeliever.....and female!

Sometimes religion spawns the truly scary individual and the Christian religion more than most......

We Need a Christian Dictator
Uploaded by OnKneesforJesus. - News videos hot off the press.

Language foibles

We have some refugees from the floods that have been camping in the local area - a mob of Angus cattle also colloquially known as black polls.

I have been referring to them as Japanese cattle since they move as a herd in one tight group. Even with the hundreds of acres they have available to them, you never see them more than 20 metres apart from one another. They are a tight knit group used to confined spaces.

This leads me to the meaning of the title for this little piece.

City friends who I had not seen for years rang and asked if they could stay for a night to break their journey north, and since their arrival would be at night I gave them all the usual warnings about the road into our farm house. Go slow: the bumps and ditches have been made worse during the rains, don’t be tempted to leave the track since you will get bogged and the new one watch out for - black polls on the road.

On the night of their arrival the wine was chilled, dinner was ready and the visitors arrived more or less on time.

When asked how their trip was their reply amused me; the number of cattle on our track had surprised and slowed them, but they never saw any timber on the road and wondered why I would warn them about ‘black poles’. They thought that the recent floods must have dumped burnt fence posts on the road into our place and were quite at a loss as to why we hadn’t removed the obstacles from the road.

It seems common language is not so common after all.

A media release concerning GMOs in Australia you may have missed

With so many media releases flooding into cyberspace on a daily basis it is easy to miss some which ask relevant questions.

Such as this one from MADGE on 28 December 2010 which asks why Food Safety Australia New Zealand cleared Monsanto and Co as a suitable company when it clearly has a number convictions which call its good governance/good faith into question.

Sadly, the answer to this might be the fact that Monsanto has also incorporated multiple times in Australia and therefore is probably quarantined from any fallout created by parent company convictions by what is really a form of legal fiction.

As to what FSANZ may not want MADGE to know about Monsanto's legal history in Australia, that is rather intriguing as Austlii kindly documents the more prominent court cases involving this company but not necessarily anything involving a criminal conviction.

Gene Regulator determined Monsanto a 'suitable company'

The Gene Technology Regulator has approved the release of an experimental GM canola owned by the company Monsanto1. This canola has been designed to tolerate higher rates of glyphosate herbicide, and has not been tested for human food (or pollen) safety.

MADGE would like to know how the Regulator determined that Monsanto was a "suitable company" to hold a licence for this release, as required in Section 58 (2) of the GeneTechnology Act2.

Companies applying for a licence are required to list relevant convictions or those of significant shareholders over the last 10 years.

"Many people are aware of Monsanto's record of human and environmental harm caused by products it claimed to be safe" said Madeleine Love of the grassroots group MADGE Australia.

"And in the last 10 years Monsanto has been charged with violating the foreign corrupt practices act and making false entries into its books and records3. It has been fined for misleading the public over the safety of its glyphosate herbicide4 and for misbranding genetically engineered pesticides5."

"As the Regulator had expressed an intention to approve the planting of this experimental GM product in earlier advice, MADGE assumed the Regulator had determined that Monsanto's record was not important."

"On inquiry to the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) we received Monsanto's application, but with pages related to the declaration of convictions missing."

"We requested and received these pages, but the response to the question on convictions had been blanked out."

"When we asked to know the convictions Monsanto had declared, the OGTR replied that Monsanto had not necessarily reported any convictions and that they cannot provide any information about convictions, declared or otherwise."

"In response we asked what bodies have the power to apply scrutiny to the information provided by the applicant and to the decision made by the Regulator. "

"We received information that the OGTR may only be subject to scrutiny under the general principles of administrative law, and we were advised to seek our own legal advice."

"The Gene Technology Regulator knew little about this particular GM canola at the time of approval. The novel code had not been chacterised by Monsanto."

"This GM canola is certain to contaminate commercial canola crops, given the conditions applied to planting. It has a novel chimeric (man made) promoter constructed from viral and brassica material."

"There are many aspects of risk to this release which the GTR has decided to accept on behalf of Australians, in practical effect without their informed consent."

"The Regulator has placed full trust in the hands of Monsanto, which seems to be out of line with community expectations and values."

MADGE had put in a submission in the public review stage.

Contact: Madeleine Love 0447 762 284







Friday, 28 January 2011

And the Opposition flood spin descends into farce

If you thought Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s ''It seems the Prime Minister is going to call this a 'mateship tax' but mates help each other. They don't tax each other.'' was the height of juvenile stupidity, then you are going to love his sidekick's response to the following statement by the Australian Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 26 January 2011:

First, we will deliver a one-off levy. It will not include lower-income earners.

A levy of 0.5 per cent will be applied on taxable income between $50,001 and $100,000 and a levy of 1 per cent will be applied on taxable income above $100,000. Anyone earning under $50,000 will not pay the levy.

In other words it is not like the Medicare Levy, which for most taxpayers applies to all their income – it is like income tax rates which apply only above certain income levels.

Under this levy, someone who has an income of $60,000 will pay just under $1 extra per week. A person earning $100,000 per year will pay just under an extra $5 per week.

The levy will apply only in the 2011-12 financial year and it will raise $1.8 billion.

People who were affected by the floods will not pay this levy.

Anyone who receives the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment for a flood this financial year will be exempt.

Shadow Treasurer and Liberal MP Joe Hockey on 27 January 2011:

It is patently absurd to tax homes that they themselves have been afflicted by the floods.
So their home's drifted down the river and now Julia Gillard comes along and says: good news guys, we're going to put a flood tax on you.

For all those retired teachers out there.....

....especially those who put their hearts and souls into teaching English as a subject in high school.

The original written review was apparently deleted but could still be seen on Google cache last Monday.

Williamson fights against an obvious political reality?

In a March 2011 NSW state election widely expected to give the Liberal-Nationals Coalition a landslide victory, Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson is standing as an Independent.

In The Daily Examiner on 26 January 2011:

INDEPENDENT candidate for Clarence Richie Williamson has dismissed claims that if elected he would not achieve results for the electorate under a Coalition government predicted to win the March state election in a landslide.

Mr Williamson said being an independent he would not have to toe any party line and would fight for the people of Clarence.

“I am totally confident that if elected as an independent in the next government I would be able to get results for the people of Clarence ... I will be able to work with either party,” he said.

I rather suspect that Mr. Williamson is being encouraged to focus his energy and spend his money on this bid for the seat of Clarence by none other than certain elements within the Australian Labor Party, who see the possibility of independents winning seats as a form of moral spoiler on the almost inevitable Opposition victory.

Sadly, if Mr. Williamson should win he would be as politically impotent on the cross benches as the current sitting member has been on the opposition benches and Clarence will continue to be ignored by Macquarie Street for another four years. If at the same time he attempted to retain his position as a shire councillor he would also potentially become a political danger to the aims and aspirations of local government in the area.

The best hope for Clarence voters is if they run the ballot count so close to the wire that a narrowly re-elected Cansdell is thought by the Coalition to need buttressing by state funding largesse to keep the seat out of the hands of either Independents or Labor in 2015.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Gillard Government flood recovery package documents

Peter Martin once again proves that some journalists who also blog are good value, with this posting of the attachments to the Australian Government's Providing Flood Relief to Affected Communities unveiled during Prime Minister Gillard's National Press Club Address today as a downloadable Scribd document:

Complete Flood Package Documents

Keneally fiddles why New South Wales burns. Does O'Farrell intend to throw petrol on the fames?

While the Keneally Government has forced New South Wales to bend over and present to the powerful private energy industry sector with its under the table sell-off of the state’s electricity assets, this is how far we are behind in our undertakings regarding reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation between 14 to 24 January 2011.

Surely not even Premier Kristina Keneally can think that the private sector will seriously address this problem and, at less cost to the consumer?

As for Barry O’Farrell – he’ll probably continue with the sell-off once in office and then consider buying shares in Macquarie Generation, Delta, Eraring, AGL, Origin or Tru Energy.

Last week:

  • Total emissions grew by 4.1% or 78,000 tonnes, due largely to an increase in emissions from coal-fired generation.
  • Emissions from coal-fired generation, which accounted for 90% of electricity generation, grew by 6.4% or 70,000.
  • Emissions from gas grew by 5.7% or 9,000 tonnes.
  • Emissions from petroleum fell by 0.1% or 1,000 tonnes.
  • Electricity demand grew by 3.6%.
  • NSW imported 7.8% of its electricity demand to other states, compared to 7.7% the previous week.

Last year:

  • This week’s indicator is 1.0% higher than the same week in 2010
  • Total emissions to this stage of 2011 were 1.6% lower than the similar stage last year


  • 1990: 22% above
  • 2000: 4.2% above

    Boing Boing blog comes out fighting over word association defamation claim & ACS:Law flounders over mass mail out

    Boing Boing blog on 17 January 2011:

    Boing Boing has been on the receiving end of one or two stupid legal threats in our day but this one from the firm of Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh takes the cake, the little cake topper, the frosting and all the candles, as well as the box and the cake-stand and the ornamental forks……………..

    There's no legal merit to this, of course. "Commercial libel" is damned hard to make stick (that pesky First Amendment!), and it takes a lot more than a blog post that contains the words "academic" "advantage" and "scam" to make a workable legal case.

    No, this is pure legal thuggery, a completely indiscriminate bid to intimidate bloggers and publishers into censoring themselves by threatening dire legal consequences.

    And the sad thing is, it probably works. Most people don't know the law (see EFF Bloggers' Rights articles), and can't afford to ask a lawyer what they should do in a situation like this. All we can hope is that the next time someone gets a letter over "academic advantage scam" or similar false positives, they get to this blog post and discover that our legal pals at Dewey, Cheatham and Howe Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh know even less about the law than they do about the Internet.

    Boing Boing again on 20 January 2011:

    According to this article in California Watch, the tutoring company Academic Advantage has fired the law firm of Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh over its ridiculous legal threats against Boing Boing.

    For those of you who missed it, Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh sent us a letter alleging that we had caused "possibly irrevocable damage" to the reputation of its client, Academic Advantage, by publishing a blog post that contained the phrase "academic advantage" and, later, in one of the comments, the word "scam." Neither the original post nor the comment were related to the Academic Advantage tutoring service, and besides, US law clearly places responsibility for message-board posts on the poster, not the people who put up the message board. Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh's threat was one of the sloppiest, most careless piece of lawyering I've ever seen, a breathtaking example of depraved indifference and bullying.

    Text of the original 13 January 2011 legal letter (apparently written by one of the law firm partners) which caused all the fuss can be found at Chilling Effects here:

    We represent The Academic Advantage, Inc. (“The Academic Advantage”). It has come to our client’s attention that there is a link on your website which defames The Academic Advantage. This unlawful and impermissible link address is causing my client significant and possibly irrevocable damage.
    The Academic Advantage is a well regarded company and community leader, which has received recognition from numerous public officials, including from governors and senators throughout the country, as well as high accolades from scores of parents and children. Unfortunately, however, the BoingBoing website has created an association of “scam” with the Academic Advantage. The following hyperlink is where the
    web address can be found:

    Enclosed is a printout of the webpage for your convenience.

    It is clear there is no purpose to this web address but to falsely accuse the Academic Advantage of being a scam or at least associating the Academic Advantage with a scam. There is absolutely no helpful reason for the website to have the words “Academic,” “Advantage” and “Scam” which leads me to believe it was created for malicious purposes. Claiming that our client’s tutoring services program is a “SCAM” is prima facie defamation and designed to do nothing more than damage our client’s reputation.
    We are respectfully requesting that BoingBoing
    immediately take down any and all such links from the website in order to avoid any further damage to our client’s reputation and business as well as an unnecessary escalation of these matters as between my client and BoingBoing. The Academic Advantage provides tutoring services to thousands of children, from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade. Given the nature of our client’s services, involving the tutoring of young children, false accusations of lying, cheating, and stealing is particularly damaging to our client’s business. BoingBoing cannot in good conscience allow this hyperlink to remain.

    Please kindly remove or rename the above listed link from your site immediately. If you have any questions or would like to discuss things in more detail, please feel free to contact me. In the meantime, I thank you in advance for your cooperation in resolving these matters.

    While over at ACS:Law the problems flowing from a mass mail out to alleged copyright infringers and data breach are perhaps a little more serious and, its now blank original homepage and new web site under construction says it all.

    Update: Antarctic Killing Fields January 2011

    Greenpeace/Culley photograph of Japanese whaling vessell
    pulling in slaughtered Minke Whale
    Location and date unknown,
    Google Images

    After a 26-day pursuit covering over 4,000 miles, the Steve Irwin caught up with the Nisshin Maru at 1800 hours on January 25th, 2011 AEST.

    “We finally have this serial killing death ship where we want them, and from here on in, we intend to ride their ass until the end of the whaling season,” said Captain Paul Watson from onboard the Steve Irwin. “This whaling fleet belongs to us now – lock, stock, and smoking harpoon gun.”

    (Sea Shepherd News, January 25 2011)

    Happy Birthday to The Land

    The Land rural newspaper has been in existence for the last 100 years today.

    Happy Birthday!

    Wednesday, 26 January 2011

    I didn't know Clarence MP Steve Cansdell had a sense of humour?

    That Nationals good old boy Steve Cansdell was out there hunting local headlines last week and he decided to declare that he wouldn’t “accept a ministry as it would isolate him from his constituents in the Clarence electorate”.
    The merriment in our house went on for some time because Barry O’Farrell would have to have rocks in his head to put Steve in change of anything except a chook raffle after the Keneally Government inevitably falls in March.


    Ooops! Obamba's beans get spilled

    Borowitz on the new era of civil political discourse 'sweeping' America

    If one squints when reading this – it could almost be referring to the type of political civility displayed by Tony Abbott et al and News Ltd media.

    WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – Ushering in what it is calling “a new era of civility in American political discourse,” the Republican leadership in Congress said today that from now on it would acknowledge that President Barack Obama was born “near America.”

    “It is no longer acceptable for members of our Party to say that the President of the United States was born in Kenya,” wrote Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a memo sent to all GOP House members entitled
    The Official Republican Niceness Pledge. “From now on, we will say that he was born nearish America, and perhaps even as close as Cuba.”

    The Boehner memo said that the Party would have “zero tolerance” for Republicans who say that Mr. Obama “pals around with terrorists,” instructing members to say instead, “Obama friends terrorists on Facebook.”

    The memo also instructed House members never to call Mr. Obama a “socialist,” and instead to use the less politically polarizing term, “sociopath.”

    Mr. Boehner also warned GOP congressmen to stop referring to Mr. Obama’s health care reform bill as “The Job-Killing Health Care Reform Act,” advising them, “There are many perfectly good synonyms for ‘killing,’ such as ‘strangling,’ ‘terminating,’ ‘annihilating,’ and ‘eviscerating.’”

    In closing, Mr. Boehner wrote, “You owe it to your families and constituents back home to conduct yourselves in a civil manner, just as President Obama owes it to his relatives and comrades back in Havana.”

    Queensland floods 2010-11: little wild roos hitch a ride

    I'm taking this photograph at face value - I'm told it was taken in the Theodore area during the December 2010 - January 2011 Queensland floods and shows wild kangaroos willingly being transported to dry land.

    Theodore was experiencing its worst flooding on record.

    The Good Samaritans remain anonymous at the time of posting.

    Tuesday, 25 January 2011

    Regional Australia Committee offered usual tired old 'solutions' including Clarence water diversion

    From A Clarence Valley Protest today:

    It's more pipelines, bigger dams and inter-basin water transfers

    The Inquiry into the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Regional Australia is being offered a wide range of options to ensure sustainable Murray-Darling Basin river systems.

    Few of which admit to any need to limit current water consumption by reducing diversion caps and, some follow that tired old route of more pipelines, bigger dams and inter-basin water transfers.

    Here are a few examples.

    One option put forward by Wakool Shire Council in its submission:

    Look at alternative supply for productive use – i.e.pipeline from river systems to high value use.

    Another viewpoint from Lodden Shire Council:

    The Authority should also consider the construction of environmental dams in key sites to store significant volumes of water devoted purely to environmental benefits. The cost of such infrastructure projects could be borne by all Australians or at least by those who will receive a direct benefit from the health of the Murray Darling Basin.

    Carrathool Shire Council offered this:

    New infrastructure projects, including additional and/or expanded water storages……….

    Harvesting and redirecting surplus water resources from northern Australia.

    While Hay Shire Council complained:

    There is no possibility of any harvesting of additional water for the environment by the construction of additional dams or further investigation of diversion schemes. Such water would be harvested in wet periods such as we are now experiencing to be used in providing environmental flows as required in drier seasons. Why as a country are we not investigating this alternative?

    Leeton Shire Council put forward these 'solutions':

    Harvesting and re-directing surplus water resources form northern Australia and the eastern seaboard in Queensland and New South Wales;………

    New infrastructure projects, including additional and /or expanded water storages, for example a new storage at Wellington in South Australia, or expansion of storages such as Lake Buffalo and Lake William Hovell in north east Victoria.

    The Citizens Electoral Council informed the Inquiry that:

    The proposed Clarence River Scheme would add upwards of 1,000 Gl/y of reliable flows into the Murray‐Darling Basin, which would transform the Basin's productive power.

    McDonald's Yamba: when promo goes awry

    Finally popped in to see what the old Yes (1,511 members) and No (4,538 members) Facebook sites were saying about McDonald’s new fast food outlet in Treelands Drive Yamba and, I am beginning to wonder what the franchisee rates as busy if this is an example:

    28 December 2010

    Ange Pateman I just saw a post on the no groups wall saying that the town is full but maccas is empty. I'm not sure when they drive past (or came in!!) but we have been FLAT OUT the last two days while the rest of the town shut down. Which just goes to prove the point that if the rest of the food outlets in Yamba would step up and provide real service to the community, there would be no need for us. But they don't, so there is!! I even had a lady from out of town tell me today how glad she and her family is that we are open because she knows she is guaranteed a good coffee there, unlike most other places.
    By the way, we love it when it's busy so keep on coming!!

    28 December 2010

    Dave Fleming Town busy, maccas empty nice one!

    19 December 2010

    Ange Pateman It's been a bit slow this morning... Where is everyone?

    For the record, casual observation suggests that McDonald's car park usually has between 4 and 10 cars at any given time in its carpark during the traditional hours for eating lunch.

    "No kudos for fooling Andrew Bolt -- that's like taking candy from a baby" says Lambert

    If your day started badly and a pick-me-up is required - go to this post over at Deltoid and see Andrew Bolt decapitated, hung, gutted and filleted by an expert:

    Andrew Bolt can get fooled again

    Monday, 24 January 2011

    Keneally bombs in NSW floods leadership stakes

    In NSW Premier Kristina Keneally only rated 13 per cent in the good leadership stakes re floods according to Essential Report 110124 24th January 2011.

    Floods - Leadership

    Q. Thinking about the recent floods across Australia, how would you rate each of the following for providing leadership in dealing with the floods?

    Total good

    Total poor

    Very good




    Very poor

    Don't know

    Prime Minister Julia Gillard









    Opposition leader Tony Abbott









    Queensland Premier Anna Bligh









    Queensland Premier Anna Bligh (Qld)









    Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman









    Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman (Qld)









    Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu









    Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu (Victoria)









    NSW Premier Kristina Keneally









    NSW Premier Kristina Keneally (NSW)









    Nationally, 42% think the Prime Minister Julia Gillard provided good leadership and 23% poor – while the Opposition leader Tony Abbott was rated good by 19% and poor by 32%. In Queensland Julia Gillard rated 42% good/26% poor.

    Nationally the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh was rated 77% good/6% poor and in Queensland 71% good/9% poor. The Mayor of Brisbane Campbell Newman was rated a little lower nationally (61%/4%) but slightly higher in Queensland (75%/7%).

    In Victoria, the Premier Ted Bailieu was rated 47% good/12% poor and in NSW, Premier Kristina Keneally was rated 13% good/40% poor