Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cyclones Heading For East And West Coasts

What's climate change? Don't be alarmed, this is all very normal, global warming is a big Al Gore conspiracy (Andrew Bolt says so) and these kind of bizarre weather events have been happening for millions of years....maybe :
Parks and wildlife rangers have begun evacuating holidaymakers from Fraser Island as an intense low pressure system packing gale-force winds headed for the popular tourist destination north of Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

As the volatile system headed slowly south, threatening to bring huge waves and high winds to much of the Queensland coast, the Bureau of Meteorology said there was a significant risk of a severe tropical cyclone developing on the other side of the country, off Western Australia's northwest coast.

There's a good chance that both 'cyclones' will blow themselves out before they do any real damage. Or not. It's always disturbing to hear meteorologists on TV saying stuff like "We don't really know what's going to happen." And of course they don't.

We just wish that they did.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hicks "On A High"

So the David Hicks saga is over. Finally. Well, the chapters of the saga up to when he walked free from an Adelaide jail earlier today anyway.

No doubt the media will be keeping track of him for most of the rest of his life. You don't invest all that time, energy and column inches making someone incredibly famous just to let them slink back into anonymity again.

Oh yes, we will be hearing much, much more from and about David Hicks, once his media gag falls off after March 30, 2008.

His lawyer read a statement on Hicks' behalf. There was an apology from Hicks, but not for running around with the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden before 9/11 :

"I had hoped to be able to speak to the media but I am just not strong enough at the moment, it's as simple as that. I am sorry for that.

"So for now, I will limit what I have to say - I will say more at a later time.

"I would ask the media and the public understand and respect this.

"Right now I am looking forward to some quiet time with my wonderful Dad, my family and friends.

"I ask that you respect my privacy as I will need time to readjust to society and to obtain medical care for the consequences of five and a half years at Guantanamo Bay.

"I have been told that my readjustment will be a slow process and should involve a gentle transition away from the media spotlight."

Attorney General Robert McClelland all but begged the media to go easy on Hicks :
"Mr Hicks is now entitled to start rebuilding his life."

"I urge the media and members of the public to respect Mr Hick's privacy."

Yeah, as if that is going to happen.

Here's a preview of the next decade of tabloid headlines : 'Hicks Gets Job', 'Hicks Assaults Daily Telegraph Photographer', Hicks Public Breakdown', 'Hicks Falls In Love With FHM Model', 'Hicks To Become Father Again', 'Hicks Marries In Secret Ceremony', 'Exclusive : Terror Dave Wedding Pix', 'Hicks' Divorce Drama', 'Hicks Found Unconscious In Nightclub Toilet', 'Hicks Goes Into Rehab', 'Terry Hicks' Heartbreak : "At Least In Gitmo He Was Off The Gear".

Of course the media's interest level in David Hicks in the years to come will depend on how he performs in his first media interviews in April 2008. If he's full of remorse and has interesting stories to tell, they will probably go easy on him, for a while.

From The Orstrahyun Archive :

David Hicks : 'I've Met Osama 20 Times And He's Lovely'

December 2006 : David Hicks - Unconvicted, Tortured, Broken

February 2007 : John Howard - I Can Free David Hicks AnyTime I Want, But I'm Not Going To

March 2007 : Hicks Admits To 'Backing' 9/11 Attacks In Plea Deal, Is Given Suspended Sentence

October 2007 : John Howard & Dick Cheney Cut A Deal To Release Hicks

Former Prime Minister On John Howard & George W. Bush's "Evil Purpose"

The David Hicks Hex & Mocking Phillip Ruddock
Nothing Worth Billions

Australia's richest man, valued at $9 billion, is a mining entrepreneur. The remarkable thing is that his mining activities have pulled absolutely nothing so far from the ground :
West Australian mining entrepreneur Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest yesterday emerged as the richest man in Australia by a clear margin, having seen the shares in his recently restructured Fortescue Metals Group jump 17 per cent or $1.27 a share to $8.47 after reaching as high as $8.75.

He owns 1.023 billion shares in the company, which - as its critics like to point out - is yet to ship a tonne of iron ore.

The price jump puts his personal worth at about $8.66 billion. His nearest rivals in Australia are gambling and media tycoon James Packer, whose wealth was estimated mid-year by the BRW Rich List at $7.25 billion, and shopping centre magnate Frank Lowy.
If Coca Cola can make hundreds of millions of dollars in Australia selling us our own spring water at prices more expensive than petrol, then why shouldn't a super-smart ex-jackeroo turn a few billion mining nothing?

Jars of air for sale! Genuine air! Fresh, fresh air! Anyone?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Howard Legacy Not So Pretty, Liberal-Party Loving Media Got Screwed

This piece by Michael Duffy, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald is one of the better short pieces looking at the Howard legacy, and it is a marker for Howard really will be remembered by historians and political addict alike. Duffy is particularly harsh on the Howard lackeys, propagandists and spin masters in the mainstream media for rarely holding Howard to account, or to even shine a harsh light on some of his more questionable policies and lack of reform :

There's a real possibility that people in the future, especially those on the right, will look back on the Howard years as we now view the Fraser ones: as a time of wasted opportunity.

The main achievement of both men was to bed down the reforms of their predecessor, in Malcolm Fraser's case Gough Whitlam's social policies, such as multiculturalism and changes to divorce law; in John Howard's case Bob Hawke's economic reforms.

The main claim made for the government is that it managed the economy well for 11 years, but the notion on which this is based, that governments these days actually do run the economy, is largely false. One reason it's false is that the Howard government gave the Reserve Bank more independence: it deserves credit for this, but the action further reduced the extent to which government can be said to "manage" the economy.

The main influences on the economy are various national and international trends, plus the hard work and ingenuity of the Australian people.

The Howard government deserves little credit for these.

Duffy then details how Howard failed to deliver on a number of nation-changing reforms, including the Aboriginal intervention, until it was all but too late...

Howard was able to get away with all this partly because we were in a boom where there was little demand for reform, and partly because the intellectual right did not criticise him sufficiently. Conservative and liberal commentators, think tanks and magazines got too close to the government and generally allowed the agenda of public debate to be set by politicians, rather than themselves.

In contrast, conservative governments in other countries receive more vigorous and wide-ranging comment and criticism from friends outside their ranks - just as Labor does in Australia.

Howard attended conservative and liberal functions and told those there how important they were. His attendance was most useful for fund-raising, but in the longer term I suspect he played the conservative movement for suckers.

They got played all right. Howard told them exactly what they wanted to hear, and the reaction from the committed-Liberals media was like that of a cult hearing from their leader about how he was going to lead them to paradise. Yet again.

The genuinely bizarre Quadrant dinner where John Howard basically said that those on the right were the saviours of the nation (from all those Evil Lefties) received not a word of caution or criticism from the likes of Andrew Bolt, Tim Blair, Miranda Devine, Janet Albretchson, Piers Akerman or Dennis Shanahan. They all fervently lapped up Howard's praise and lock-step agreed with him : "Yes, the prime minister is right. We really are wonderful and important!"

Of course, Howard screwed them all, in the end, and destroyed the Liberal Party as a political force for years to come.

Which is probably why so many once-proud Liberals are repeatedly referring to themselves as 'conservatives' instead of 'Liberals'.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What A Way To Spend Christmas

You invite the relatives to come and visit for Christmas Day, but then, thanks to some of the most welcome, but heaviest, rainfalls in nearly a decade they're forced to stay for a week :

Residents in the north-west NSW town of Coonamble are preparing for a tense Christmas Day, with the rural centre set to be cut off by waters from the flooded Castlereagh River.

With more than 200mm of rain falling in the area in the past few days - more than Coonamble's entire three-month average - the State Emergency Services predict that 5.2-metre flood waters will reach the town by 9pm.

Several thousand people could be isolated for up to a week as waters continue rising, with flood waters already destroying fences and killing stock. least 20 rural properties on the outskirts of the town have already been cut off due to the flooding, and at least 50 more are bracing themselves for up to a week without contact with the outside world.

"As the flood moves downstream, more of these rural properties will become isolated," a spokesman for the State Emergency Services, David Webber, said.

"They are used to experiencing these kinds of events and they are all well stocked up with supplies. At this stage no one has requested supply and we have not had any emergency call outs."

Would you be pushing it to get emergency services to airlift out the annoying uncle who's threatening to drain your Christmas week beer supply by Boxing Day?

By the way, I hope all of The Orstrahyun's regular readers and occasional visitors have a great and safe Christmas. I hope you get to spend it with the people you love, and those who love you.
I'll be posting here through the Christmas and New Year's break. It's not hard work, so why take a holiday?

If you're stuck for something to read in your time off, it's not too late to dive into ED Day, the free online novel I've been writing for the past few months. There should be a new chapter or two posted over the Christmas break, but if you're not already a regular reader, you can start at the beginning with Chapter One, right here.

Love to you, and yours.

Monday, December 24, 2007


The above photo of the Pasha Bulka is by Simone De Peak

The Sydney Morning Herald has a magnificent slideshow of their 'Photos Of The Year' up for viewing here. You need no further proof than this that Australia has the best sports photographers in the world.

The Herald, and other Australian online newspapers, have got to work out a better way of presenting the brilliant work of their photographers online, on a daily basis. The images they use on most stories are far too small. Most days, the work of these very talented photographers are no bigger than thumbnails. It's a damn shame.

And the showcasing of the Herald photographers work won't get any better in the dead tree editions once they go to a tabloid size later next year.

Here's my pick for two of the best political photos of the year.

The first is by Glen Macurtayne:

"You're Not A Quitter, John."

This fantastic shot of former prime minister Bob Hawke, in electioneering mode, is by Peter Morris.

"Ladies...I'm Back!"

(Note, the above two photographs are screen captures of much larger, and more impressive, images here)
Tears Of A Clown

Akerman's Latest Conspiracy Theory : Beware The "Third Force" In Australian Politics

By Darryl Mason

Liberal Party propagandist and, surely by sheer coincidence, Murdoch media columnist Piers Akerman is shocked, shocked and outraged, by the revelation that the union movement spent some $14 million dollars in 2006 and 2007 telling Australians workers how the now former Howard government's now former WorkChoices regime would eat into their paypackets and family time.

Incredibly, as he half-heartedly tries and fails to fire up some more union-related fear-mongery, Akerman doesn't even mention that the Liberal Party has now utterly dumped its WorkChoices regime and will not stand in the way of the Rudd government freeing Australian workers of it completely in the next few years. WorkChoices is dead and buried, and Brendan Nelson hand-carved its tombstone, but Piers hasn't noticed yet.

Akerman also clamps on his tin foil hat and becomes all conspiratorial as he warns of a "third force" in Australian politics. Outside of the "third force" that is the mainstream media, and the "third force" that is the public relations budgets of our largest corporations, and the "third force" that is the accumulated ad spending power of the business community and the "third force" that is the multi-million dollar budgets of energy and oil industry lobbyists.

He means that other "third force", the one he doesn't like much. The Unions, and GetUp. Boogah!

Akerman thinks it's disgusting that a bunch of unionists can raise millions of dollars at public rallies and spend that money on advertising their point of view. The hide of them participating in public debate and democracy like that. Shocking.

The ACTU funded the anti-WorkChoices advertising campaigns, to little opposition from its members. Whereas you, the taxpayers, funded the former Howard government's pro-WorkChoices advertising campaigns.

The former Howard government spent more than $17 million on advertising its WorkChoices boondoggle in less than 10 months, and that's only until mid-way through 2007. We still don't know how much of taxpayers money Howard And Friends blew flogging WorkChoices from July 2007 through to the eve of the election, but it's easily another $15-$20 million.

Of course, Piers Akerman mentions all this absolutely nowhere at all in his one-eyed screed.

Akerman also refuses to tell readers that former Workplace Relations minister Joe Hockey had a report on his desk at the start of October, detailing how many taxpayers dollars his government was shoveling into its pro-WorkChoices campaign for the 2006-2007 financial year. Nor did Akerman report that Hockey refused to release that report before the election.

And here's some more details of the millions Howard And Friends blew marketing, hyping and generally flogging WorkChoices, which achieved little except annoying the hell out of television viewers every night for months on end :
More than $1 million was spent researching the effectiveness of the ads with the Open Mind Research Group.

And $12.6 million was spent buying advertising space for “welfare to work, support the system and workplace relations system campaigns”.

Dewey and Horton was paid $44,404.25 to take photos for Work Choices advertising while advertising agency Whybin/TBWA received $1.4 million for “creative services” that were part of the Work Choices campaign.
The final tally for the advertising and marketing alone on WorkChoices could hit more than $50-$60 million.

So out of control was Howard's ad blitzing on WorkChoices that in May, 2007, he had spent more on WorkChoices ads than he spent on national security awareness. Terrorists? What terrorists?

Akerman, like the Herald Sun's Andrew Bolt, and like half the op-ed writers at The Australian, still can't believe that the Howard government lost the election, and the Labor Party is now in charge of country.

It's like some kind of waking nightmare for them all, and they've still got their fingers in their ears and their eyes squeezed tightly shut as they chant "This is not happening. This is not happening. This is not happening."

It'd be funny, if it wasn't so sad, bizarre and downright disturbing.

Bolt and Akerman are promoted by their respective newspapers as "leading journalists".

But leading journalists where exactly?

Andrew Bolt is having such a hard time adjusting to the new political reality of Australia that he has now abandoned his Herald Sun blog for more than a month, if not forever :
I hope and expect at this stage to be back in a few weeks - perhaps around Australia Day. I toyed with the idea of keeping the blog going during my holidays, but my wife got angry cross (wife’s edit) and I think I probably need the break, to be honest. I need to look around me for a while, read a bit more, draw breath and recalculate perspective.

Terrorists? What Terrorists? Howard Spends More Flogging WorkChoices Than He Does On National Security Awareness

May 2007 : WorkChoices Forces Grim Future On Workers - Millions Already Work Overtime For No Extra Pay

May 2007 : Taxpayers To Foot Astounding $110 Million And Counting Howard Advertising Bill

June 2007 : WorkChoices Killing Liberals' Election Chances - Millions Of Australians Demand Return of 40 Hour Working Week

June 2007 : Howard's Claim That Australian Families "Have Never Had It So Good" Will Haunt Him All The Way Into The Election

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Quote Of The Year Tim Blair Somehow Missed

Daily Telegraph light-relief columnist Tim Blair has rounded up a bunch of quotes from 2007, including some examples of the fear-mongering associated with climate change and global warming.

But how did he miss this one from Rupert Murdoch, which must surely rate as one of the most fear-mongering quotes of the year?
"Climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats."
Or this one from Murdoch where he explains how he will use his vast global media empire to inflict psychological warfare on the public and make them believe climate change is a dangerous reality :
"We need to reach (our audience) in a sustained way. To weave this issue into our content-- make it dramatic, make it vivid, even sometimes make it fun. We want to inspire people to change their behavior.

"The challenge is to revolutionize the message.

"We need to do what our company does best: make this issue exciting. Tell the story in a new way.

"...we can change the way the public thinks about these issues..."

Al Gore and Tim Flannery are fine targets if you want to highlight how public figures are terrifying the public about the possible effects of climate change. But Gore and Flannery can only dream of having the media influence and control to get their message out that Rupert Murdoch has. Murdoch is the biggest promoter of climate change in the world today, and his newspapers and cable channels regularly ramp up the fear-mongering.

But of course, Tim Blair is thoroughly compromised. Rupert Murdoch is, after all, his boss, and like all good Murdoch employees know, you don't diss the boss, even when he's making you look like a massive hypocrite.

September 2007 : Murdoch Media Launches 'Coup' To Take Down Australian Prime Minister

Rupert Murdoch Lectures Australians On The Dangers Of Becoming Too "Anti-American"

Hey Rupert? What Happened To All Those Post-Saddam $20 Barrels Of Oil?

Murdoch Admits He Tells His Newspapers What To Print - "We Can Change The Way People Think"

Murdoch : "Climate Change Poses Clear, Catastrophic Threats" - Fear Monger In Chief Warns Of Apocalyptic Future

Tim Blair's Bush-Mandela 'Gaffe' Gaffe

Blair Forced To Trawl Blog Comments When 'Anti-War Lefties' Fail To Live Up To Soldier-Hating Cliches

Tim Blair Just Can't Stop Lying
Internet Censorship Clampdown Begins In One Month

Chatrooms Will Be Forced To Undergo "Professional Assessment" To Continue Operating

Will Fight Against Child Pornography Prove To Be The Trojan Horse For Far-Reaching Online Censorship?

By Darryl Mason

A new wave of "restrictions" on mobile phone content, websites, chatrooms and message boards will be introduced in Australia by late January, 2008.

Do you like the way this has been announced only days before Christmas, and will be in place by the time most Australians return from their Christmas holidays? Surely, it's just a coincidence?

The first push in this new wave of censorship of Australian internet content begins with what may well prove to be a 'trojan horse' of sorts - the almost unanimously supported push to keep children from viewing "unsuitable material".

You are supposed to immediately think of child pornography, or graphic adult pornography, but the censorship regime is wide open to interpretation. For example, "violent imagery" also falls under these news bans. It doesn't simply mean photographs of children being abused or raped. It also means imagery that shows the results of acts of violence. War violence, for example. The censorship body in Australia has already tried to ban imagery from a video game that showed two animated android-like women kissing, and backed down to widespread outrage and mockery.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will be able to force content providers to take down offensive material and issue notices for live content to be stopped and links to the content deleted.

But ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said adults will not be affected by the new laws.

Of course not. Not yet, anyway.

"In developing these new content rules, ACMA was guided by its disposition to allow adults to continue to read, hear and see what they want, while protecting children from exposure to inappropriate content, regardless of the delivery mechanism," Mr Chapman said in a statement.

Providers of live services, such as chatrooms, must have their service professionally assessed to determine whether its "likely content" should be restricted.

And what if you are a one man chatroom operator who can't afford what is likely to be very expensive "professional assessment"? You won't allowed to operate your business online.

story continues after...

Other Blogs By Darryl Mason

Go Here For The Latest Stories From 'Your New Reality'

Go Here For The Latest Stories From 'The Orstrahyun'

Go Here To Read The Latest Chapter From Darryl Mason's Online Novel About Life After The Bird Flu Pandemic

story continues...

Earlier this year, The Orstrahyun reported on moves to censor online content that is deemed, by the government censor, to be supportive of terrorism, or supplies information on how to carry out acts of terrorism. President Bush tells us we must read what Osama Bin Laden has to say to understand the threat of terrorism, but the Australian internet censorship body will be moving to stop you from getting access to that kind of information. Which must also mean you can forget about reading histories of Jewish terrorists fighting for the establishment of Israel, and the history of the IRA.

The new censorship regime for internet content was introduced by Howard government in September, and emulates the steel fist approach used by China. More on that here.

Back to the current story :
Personal emails and other private communications would be excluded from the new laws and so would news or current affairs services.
Is that all news and current affairs services, or just the ones approved by the government censor?

The censorship of website content will begin with tough restrictions on access to pornography and "violent images", but the temptation will be strong to broaden the scope of what material is deemed to be unsuitable for under-18s. Or what should not be available online to Australian web surfers at all.

Pornographic images of children are clearly unacceptable to all Australians, but what about an image of children torn apart by NATO bombs in Afghanistan?

Will a particularly feisty message board about government corruption or filled with commenters voicing great displeasure at the 'War on Terror', with lots of swearing, fall under the censor's blanket bans and restrictions?

Not yet.

But what about six months from now?

And what happens when independent internet media in Australia start pulling the same sort of visitor numbers as the mainstream media news sites?

This is already happening in the US, where sites like Crooks & Liars and PrisonPlanet, on a good day, can pull the same volume of readership as CBS News. Will the mainstream media work behind the scenes to freeze out the new competition? Will they push for tighter censorship and restrictions that makes it all but impossible for the independents to remain in business?

The use of the extremely distressing issue of child pornography is the beginning of the widespread censoring of internet content in Australia. It remains to be seen just how far this new censorship will go, or how far independent media and bloggers will allow it to spread before they start fighting back.

Government Expands "Black List" Of Banned Internet Sites

Porn, Violence, 'Terror' And Social Networking Sites Now In Firing Line

Australia Now Bans More Video Games Than Any Other Country In The World

'Terror' Books And Movies To Be Banned Under Extraordinary New Censorship Laws

"Patriotic" Movies, Video Games That "Glorify War" Will Be Excluded From New Ban Regime

Friday, December 21, 2007

"I've Met Osama 20 Times And He's Lovely"

David Hicks In His Own Words

In only a few days time, David Hicks, a convicted terrorist supporter, will be released from the Adelaide Prison where he has spent almost nine months, after being freed from five years of controversial detainment in Guantanamo Bay.

Saying that the detention of any Australian citizen, without charge, without trial, for five years by a foreign government was wrong doesn't mean you automatically supported the prisoner's views, or beliefs. But that argument was clearly too complex for the thin minority of Australians who praised former prime minister John Howard's decision for many years not to ask the US to send Hicks home, as he admitted he could have easily done. At any point during those five years.

Federal police believe Hicks still poses a threat to the Australian public and will monitor his movements through the use of a control order. This has been supported by the Rudd government, and has drawn only scant criticism from the vast number of Australians who previously opposed his detention in Guantanamo Bay. Which surely proves that they were not supporting David Hicks' views, actions or beliefs, but merely the fact that his detention was illegal and unjust.

John Howard moved quickly to get Hicks set free, earlier this year, when he realised that the scandal had already become an election issue. He cut a deal with US Vice President Dick Cheney, and Hicks found himself facing greatly reduced charges before the Gitmo military commission. Where one week prosecutors were confidently claiming he would be convicted of trying to kill American troops in Afghanistan, the next week he was preparing to come home after a plea deal that saw him only being charged with supporting terrorism. The military prosecutors were stunned and humiliated. You can thank Dick Cheney and John Howard for Hicks going down as a 'terrorist supporter' instead of something perhaps more applicable.

Below are excerpts from David Hicks letters home to his family from early 2000, to mid-2001. When Hicks wrote these letters, there was no official 'War On Terror' and there were no laws in Australia or the United States to convict foreigners for fighting against "Jews and Christians" in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

That these letters were not referred to more often in the media, to help explain why he was viewed by authorities as a possibly dangerous extremist who supported Osama Bin Laden's brand of terrorism, was an inexcusable failure.

David Hicks, in his own words :
Dear family I spent around three months in a muslim military training camp in the mountains.I learnt about weapons such as ballistic missiles, surface to surface and shoulder fired missiles, anti aircraft and anti-tank rockets, rapid fire heavy and light machine guns, pistols, AK47s, mines and explosives. After three months everybody leaves capable and war-ready being able to use all of these weapons capably and responsibly.

There is a very heavy war in the north (of Afghanistan) I have arranged to go to the front. Slowly I am becoming a well trained and practical soldier. As a muslim we believe in destiny that when it is my time then so be it. If it is my time that is called martyrdom I will always fight for Islam.


There is one thing I wish to explain about jihad the non-believers, Jews and Americans in the western world are determined to prevent it to come back again. Jihad is still valid today and will be for all time. The West is full of poison. The western society is controlled by the Jews with music, TV, houses, cars, free sex takes Muslims away from the true Islam keeps Islam week and in the third world.

Real jihad is possible just like before in the Prophets day where martyrs die with a smile on their faces and their bodies stay smelling of beautiful perfume for weeks after death.

The West lives in the dark in a narrow sort of living. Allah will use his servants to punish non-believers in this world.

As a Muslim young and fit my responsibility is to protect my brothers from aggressive non-believers and not let them destroy it.

One reward I get in being martyred I get to take ten members of my family to heaven who were destined for hell

But first I also must be martyred. We are all going to die one day so why not be martyred?

The only true Muslims are those fighting.


The Western World has mastered the art of propaganda global ignorance stresses me at times.

The Muslim world is ready for war but not the governments...It is exciting and promising but it is not the answer. The other governments are worried about losing their luxurious lifestyles and wont take serious action.


I have told you about the non-Muslims they send a lot of spies here especially to Osama Bin Ladens Arab organisation which is where I am.

I have met Osama bin Laden about 20 times he is a lovely brother the only reason the West call him the most wanted terrorist is because he got the money to take action.

If David Hicks ever agrees to, or is allowed to, be interviewed by the media, hopefully he will be questioned on whether or not he still holds many of the repellent views he expressed in these letters.

December 2006 : David Hicks - Unconvicted, Tortured, Broken

February 2007 : John Howard - I Can Free David Hicks AnyTime I Want, But I'm Not Going To

March 2007 : Hicks Admits To 'Backing' 9/11 Attacks In Plea Deal, Is Given Suspended Sentence

October 2007 : John Howard & Dick Cheney Cut A Deal To Release Hicks

Former Prime Minister On John Howard & George W. Bush's "Evil Purpose"

The David Hicks Hex & Mocking Phillip Ruddock

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The 'Government Gazette' Becomes The 'Opposition Oracle'

We keep hearing how the new Liberal/National Opposition government is lost. They don't have a clue. They are "Me Tooing" the Rudd government, with their acceptance of the reality of climate change, the need to ratify Kyoto and that WorkChoices is about as popular as a rusty razor to the nipple being just a few of their "We're With You Guys!" whiplash-inducing policy turnarounds.

But before the Libs go out and blow much needed money hiring policy experts and advisors to shape their party platforms, they should just turn to the main op-ed page of The Australian today, where the editor is, once again, telling the Libs exactly what they need to do to win back the public support.

When the Libs were in government, The Australian was known in the blogstream as the 'Government Gazette' for its near ceaseless support of the Howard government and its constant hyping of utterly abysmal poll results for Howard & Friends. 'Howard Stages A Comeback' and all that.

Seeing as The Australian already looks like it will stick to helping the Liberal Party in every way that it can, it's time for a rebranding of the newspaper that "keeps the nation (and the Libs) informed". Forget the 'Government Gazette'. It's now the 'Opposition Oracle'.

As long as Nelson and the Libs do what they're told by the editor of Opposition Oracle, and its conservative-heavy op-ed writers, they can expect plenty of good press this year.

But only if they do what they're told.

So listen up Mr Nelson, the Opposition Oracle is speaking. Get out your highlighter pen and mark up Your Brand New Policy Platform For 2008-2010 :

In charting a course back to government, the Coalition leadership needs to...learn the lessons of recent history. They will not win power by fighting the centralist Rudd Government from the rigid Right, any more than the Labour Party in Britain was going to beat the Thatcher/Major Conservatives fighting from the rigid Left.

Rather than trapping itself in a time warp, the Opposition's job is to exploit the weaknesses in the Rudd Government's IR policies. Later in the election cycle, when the impact of the Government's changes are clearer, the Coalition should refine andrebadge its alternative and sell it positively as the way of the future.

Just as the genesis of New Labour's victory in Britain was the pragmatic dumping of sacred "white elephants" such as socialism and nationalisation of the means of production, Australia's Coalition needs to review some of its positions. Welfare reform is now long-standing and was central to theHawke/Keating governments as well as to the Coalition. It is no coincidence that single mothers were heavily over-represented in eight of the 10 seats in which the Coalition suffered its heaviest losses. This suggests that too many felt antagonised at being forced off welfare and into the workforce.

To be competitive, the Coalition must learn how to soften its sales pitch, using more encouragement and less of the big stick. And while the culture wars are of no interest to many in marginal seats, the Coalition could make ground by focusing on issues such as what is taught at school.

So the advice is : keep sticking it to single mothers and the poor, but don't be so obvious about it. You've got to find yourself some new punching bags, preferably ones that don't have a lot of voting power.

Labor campaigned cleverly on interest rates and petrol and grocery prices, which are largely beyond the control of any government.

But if the Rudd Government fails to meet voters' expectations in a worsening economic climate, the Coalition could argue that they were indeed more competent at steering Australia through challenging times, such as the Asian economic crisis.

In 1996, John Howard won by promising not a conservative revolution but to govern "for all of us" and to make Australians feel "relaxed and comfortable". He wooed the battlers by lifting their aspirations, just as Kevin Rudd did 11 years later. Such a strategy should also mean uniting disparate groups in the national interest, rather than playing the politics of division.
Translation : The Liberals should stop basing their policies on the hysterical opinions of Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman (eg - Global Warming is an evil Green conspiracy), and realise that all the bitterness hacked up from their religiously committed commenters only represent the nuttier fringes of conservative Australia.
While playing the competing interests of one group off against another can appeal to particular constituencies in the short term, punters wise up over time and tend to reject such cynical politics.
Punters know that self-appointed extremist spokespeople-provocateurs for Australian conservatives, like Bolt (who regards Pinochet as a hero), are crazier than a burning cat dumped dumped into a bucket of ice water.
In its new role, the Coalition should understand why fighting on the fringes is no place for an alternative government.
Translation : The so-called 'Culture Wars' are a mind-numbingly tedious bust for most Australians, those that have actually heard of them, and nobody reads Quadrant, but the few that do are hardly representative of the Australian people as a whole, or even a broad slice of Australian conservatives.

Maybe the New Liberals could adopt an anti-globalisation platform, considering the globalised economy is one of the key reasons why our economy is getting hammered right now by the financial meltdown in the United States. Or fight with the unions against Labor as it stalls the winding back of WorkChoices. Or start demanding that Labor do more to embrace alternative energy. Now that would be interesting.
More Than 1200 East Timor Veterans Now Suffering PTSD

Almost one in ten Australian veterans of the East Timor conflict have sought out help to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. It's a stunning figure, and is reflective of the horrors that many Australian servicepeople experienced during that deployment. Events that most Australians remain blissfully unaware of.

It's too early yet to know how high the PTSD numbers will be for Australian veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The last figure I heard was about 500, but PTSD has a nasty habit of taking more than three or five years, or a solid decade, to really kick in, therein making normal life next to insufferable.

More on this from the Sydney Morning Herald :

He served in Afghanistan for just six weeks, but it was enough time to see things that would haunt Andrew Paljakka long after his tour of duty ended.

He told of having witnessed an atrocity with a civilian victim, and of having to listen to the sounds of a man he had shot slowly dying.

After Captain Paljakka, 27, returned to Australia last year, he began drinking heavily and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and severe depression. In February he was admitted to a private hospital, but discharged himself.

On February 26 he was found hanging from a bootlace in a cupboard in a Kings Cross hotel room. He left a young widow.

Captain Paljakka was the youngest army recruit ever to graduate as an officer from Duntroon Military College in Canberra. He went on to become a specialist weapons expert in the field of major explosives and their destruction.

He was based at the army's Explosives Ordinance Distribution Ammunitions Centre at Orchard Hills. His expertise in destroying unexploded bombs, bunker systems and booby traps led to his deployment in Afghanistan with an SAS group in April last year.

His suicide is the second to have occurred among troops who have returned from Afghanistan.

In May, a former SAS trooper, Geffry Gregg, took his life in Perth. He was a signalman, and had been among the first SAS soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. He had been involved in a bungled mission in which 11 civilians died and many were injured in an attack by Australian troops.

Mr Gregg's family were angry that the Defence Department did not try to find out why he missed psychiatric appointments in the nine months before he killed himself. He had been suffering from post-traumatic stress, and they said he was frustrated at having to deal with three different agencies.

In August, war veterans urged the Government to provide greater access to psychiatric treatment for former soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress, particularly those who had served in East Timor.

About 1200 claims for shell shock and post-traumatic stress from the 16,000 veterans of the East Timor peace-keeping operation have been filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

There have also been suicide attempts.

In August 2005, two years after being discharged from the navy after rising to the rank of lieutenant commander, David Buck, 53, a Timor veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress as a result of seeing machete-wielding mobs and hacked bodies, tried to get police to shoot him by staging a robbery at the Umina Bowling Club with a fake bomb. He hoped the police would kill him in the belief he was a terrorist.

Last year the District Court judge Michael Finnane, in deciding not to jail Mr Buck, described his case as tragic and bizarre, and a case of post-traumatic stress.

"He is a tragic and broken man who has been exposed in the course of the service in the navy to terrible events which it is hard for me to fully comprehend," Judge Finnane said.

In many cases it's not just hard, but downright impossible, for the friends and family of Australian war veterans to understand how the sound of a traffic helicopter, the backfire of a car or the cry of a distressed child can reduce the veteran to a quivering mess years, or even decades, after they've come home.

The Rudd government promised during the election to increase and ease up the avenues through which veterans can seek help to deal with PTSD. It's a promise they better keep, and keep expanding on, particularly if they are going to keep Australian combat troop in Afghanistan for another decade.

For far too many Australian veterans, the war doesn't end when they come home.

Australia's Driest City Comes Back From The Brink

Great news from Goulburn, as the rains fill the city's vastly depleted dam and the locals are freed from the harshest water restrictions faced by any city dwellers in Australia.

The dam was down to 14% capacity earlier in the year, but the rains began to fall in June and water restrictions started to be eased back in July. The rains have kept falling and now the Level Five Restrictions have been wound back to Level Three.

Goulburn's water restrictions became infamous when we learned that many showered surrounded by buckets to collect every splash, so they could try and keep their gardens and lawns alive.

But the ultra-tight water restrictions have had an interesting effect on Goulburnians. Even though they don't have to conserve every spare drop of water like they once did, the years of restrictions have ingrained a conservatism when it comes to water that will delay the day, if the regular rains fade away again, when they have to go back to Level Five once more.

Goulburnians are using less water than they did before the drought hit their city, and the water they do use, they are using more effectively :

For three years, Goulburn in southern NSW endured the tightest water restrictions in the country. But as rains continue to bring relief to swathes of eastern Australia, the town's dams are more than half full, kids are playing on the ovals again and the deputy mayor even has his vegetable garden growing again.

Under Level 5 restrictions, residents were allowed only 150litres a person a day, but they were so water conscious many cut their use to closer to 100 litres a person a day.

Under Level 3 restrictions, residents are allowed to water for an hour a day by hose, and there is no limit on watering cans.

Sally Nelson, from Goulburn's Gehl Garden Centre, said the business had had a good spring. Townspeople had stopped buying plants during the severe water restrictions, she said, but after the June rain they began to garden again, opting first for vegetable and annual flower seedlings.

Playing fields that were rock hard and closed at the height of the drought are now green and in use again. (The mayor) Mr Sullivan pointed out the local racecourse and soccer fields were being watered with recycled water, and there were plans to increase recycled water use on all sports fields.

Goulburn's water supplies are now at 60%. There were predictions earlier this year they would run out of water completely by May, 2008.

By the time the next drought arrives, if it actually does, Goulburn should have a new pipeline in place, but even then they won't use as much water as they did before the drought began in 2004.

These are lessons in water conservation that are, and have been learned, in towns and cities all over Australia in the past few years.

For the world's driest country, these are lessons we probably should have learned a long time ago.

July 2007 : The Skies Finally Open Over Australia's 'City Of Drought'

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Brendan Nelson Hand Carves WorkChoices Tombstone

Radical New Liberal Policy : "We Are Listening To The Australian People"

What exactly are the Liberal Party going to be opposed to in opposition?

Apparently, the Brendan Nelson led Liberals have vowed to fight to ensure that the Labor Party lives up to promise to rollback the WorkChoices regime they forced onto the Australian people, against their will.

At a news conference with Deputy Leader Julie Bishop, Dr Nelson said the Coalition would now scrutinise the Rudd Labor Government's scrapping of the laws to ensure it was "implemented as stated''.

"We will be working very hard to make sure that the legislation the Labor Party and Mr Rudd present to the Australian Parliament is consistent with the last stated position of the Labor Party,'' he said.

Wow. who needs drugs? Just try and wrap your head around that. The Liberal Party is now going to "scrutinise" the Labor Party's windback of WorkChoices to make sure that they live up to their promise to get rid of the John Howard's biggest political ambition : utterly stripping away the most essential rights of Australian workers, destroying the unions, and handing control of Australia's workforce to the country's biggest corporations.

Nelson is basically saying : "We introduced it, now we're going to make sure that you really get rid of it."

Parliament next year will be hallucinogenic if this is any indication of how Monty Pythonesque the Liberal Party will be in opposition.

The rest of the story :

"We have listened and we have learned, and one of the issues that was very important to the Australian people in changing the Government on November 24 was that of WorkChoices," he said.

"We've listened to the Australian people, we respect the decisions they have made, and WorkChoices is dead."

Dr Nelson said the package of industrial reforms was "one of the reasons'' Australians voted to change the Government.

The Liberal Party insist they are now listening to the Australian people. Talk about a revolution. Actually listening to the majority collective opinion of the Australian people? WorkChoices was brought in because the Liberal Party had spent so long listening to the opinions and demands of Australia's business community.

So WorkChoices is dead. Well, that was a complete waste of another $700 or $800 million dollars.

How many hospitals and schools would that kind of money brought up to world's best standards?

Brendan Nelson is busy chipping away at a new tombstone today. The one that will mark the political grave of Australia's biggest champion of WorkChoices - Joe Hockey.

It's no exaggeration. John Howard really did destroy the Liberal Party.

Dry your eyes.
Australian Metal Band Loses Singer In Van Crash

UPDATE : There was much confusion in the media about which rock band was in the van that crashed earlier today in New South Wales. It is now being reported that the van belonged to Australian metal band The Red Shore, from Geelong, who were touring with US act All Shall Perish. The lead singer of The Red Shore, Damo, is now believed to have died in the accident.

From ABC News :
Melbourne death metal band's lead singer and merchandiser were killed when their mini-bus crashed on the Pacific Highway, north of Coffs Harbour, earlier today.

The Red Shore were on tour with US band All Shall Perish at the time of the accident.

Earlier reports claimed members of All Shall Perish were involved. But a spokeswoman for touring agency Destroy All Lines has confirmed the mini-bus was not carrying the US band.

The Red Shore's lead singer and merchandiser were killed when the driver of the mini-bus lost control of the vehicle near Moonee Beach and crashed into a tree at 7:00am AEDT.

The Red Shore's My Space is here. You can hear some of their songs at the top right of the MySpace page. Sounds like they carved.

Considering the amount of ks a van or bus tour of Australia wracks up, it really is amazing that there aren't more tragic tales of life on the rock road like this one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

McKew Farewells The "Brutishness" Of The Howard Era

At the launch of the book that chronicles her fight to overthrow John Howard's 33 year reign in Bennelong, Maxine McKew finally spoke her mind on the legacy of the man she removed from Australian politics :
"I think Paul Keating got it right...this election has wiped away the toxicity. People are smiling, a sort of sense of, we can get on and do things.

"And I think we all want to get on and do things in a certain way, in a civil way, in a sensible way, and get rid of perhaps I think that brutishness that has characterised our politics probably since 2001.

"A terrible thing happened then, but we all, we all have assembled here today, haven't we? And I think it's time to get rid of that horrible absolutism - because it's just not going to get us through the complex issues we need to solve."
The Liberals should be thanking McKew. They wanted to get rid of Howard, but they couldn't do it. Too scared, too gutless, too spineless. So they had to rely on a former ABC host and Labor candidate to do the job for them.

The Battle For Bennelong book was launched by Julian Morrow from The Chaser, who showed how easy it already is for comedians to rip the Rudd government, as they so enthusiastically shredded Howard & Friends :
The Arts Minister, Peter Garrett, he was going to be here today, he even penned a short jocular speech for the occasion. Unfortunately Penny Wong couldn't be here to deliver it, so …
Garrett is set to replace Alexander Downer as the most popular power figure for comedic mockery in Australian politics. At least until Alex Hawke gets a position of some power in the opposition, around the same time that Brendan Nelson gets ousted from the leadership.
10 Weeks Of Stockpiled Food Needed To Deal With "Inevitable" Bird Flu Pandemic

When The Supermarket Shelves Grow Bare, Where Will You Get Your Food?

By Darryl Mason

The massive floods in northern New South Wales and Queensland have led to hundreds of people being isolated in their homes, with only neighbours in boats and the occasional SES volunteers turning up with food and emergency supplies. Some farmers expect to be cut off by floodwaters for two or more weeks. Hundreds of roads and bridges have been washed away. The damage bill is expected to top more than $100 million.

While some of those affected by rapidly rising floodwaters are used to dealing with floods every few years, for most it was the worst flooding they'd seen in decades, and there was no advance warnings. Not everyone was prepared - that is, with food stockpiles and a few boxes of emergency essentials.

Some of the experts who have been planning for a bird flu pandemic in Australia use flood disaster models to explain what life will be like for millions of Australians when the "inevitable" bird flu pandemic begins.

Like those now trapped and cut off from the world by floodwaters, a full blown bird flu pandemic would see entire towns, huge stretches of suburbia, and cities, literally cut off.

Trucks delivering food to supermarkets and 7-11s will grow more infrequent as voluntary and mandatory quarantines kick in, electricity and water supplies will likely be effected and may cut off altogether as those responsible for maintaining infrastructure fall ill, stay home to care for sick relatives or simply refuse to turn up for work in fear of catching what would be an extremely lively and deadly virus.

I clearly remember laughing at the thought of stockpiling food and water when YK2 threatened to end civilisation as we know it. But last year, a few days worth of truck deliveries failed to turn up at the local supermarket (a smallish one) for a variety of reasons (illness, maintenance problems, industrial disputes) and it was chilling to see how quickly the shelves and fridges emptied, or thinned out.

Not just bread and milk, but things like jars of peanut butter, nappies, toilet paper, fruit juice. In less than six days with no deliveries, an old shelf stacker said, most of the stuff they sold would be gone and they'd shut up shop. And then what?

If the bird flu pandemic became real, if hundreds of thousands of Australians fell gravely ill, all at once, if there were quarantines, many Australians would find themselves in a similar position to those in northern NSW and QLD cut off by floodwaters.

Stockpiling food, water, batteries, and yes, toilet paper, doesn't seem like such a crazy idea anymore. In fact, we are likely to see a government sponsored, or at least government 'inspired' marketing push in the coming months to make the stockpiling of food and essentials something every Australian family should begin to do. You know, just in case.

From the Courier Mail :

Every Australian household should stockpile at least 10 weeks' worth of food rations to prepare for a deadly flu pandemic, a panel of leading nutritionists has warned.

World health experts now agree a pandemic is inevitable and will spread rapidly, wiping out up to 7.4 million people globally and triggering rapid food shortages.

....Woolworths and Coles, the nation's two major supermarket chains, will run out of stock within two to four weeks without a supply chain – or even faster if shoppers panic.

This has prompted a team of leading nutritionists and dietitians from the University of Sydney to compile "food lifeboat" guidelines to cover people's nutritional needs for at least 10 weeks.

Their advice – published in the Medical Journal of Australia – would allow citizens to stay inside their homes and avoid contact with infected people until a vaccine becomes available.

The lifeboat includes affordable long-life staples such as rice, biscuits, milk powder, Vegemite, canned tuna, chocolate, lentils, Milo and Weet-Bix.

Jennie Brand-Miller, professor of human nutrition at the University of Sydney and co-leader of the study, believes it is common sense to stockpile food before a pandemic strikes.

"It's really not a question of if: it's a question of when," she said.

"It will spread very rapidly just like flu does normally because it's a highly contagious organism, except this will be a really lethal one. What we suffer from is a false sense of security that someone else is looking after all this."

The short version is, as was made clear by BushCo. in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, don't rely on the government to come to your rescue when a pandemic, or another major disaster, hits. You're pretty well on your own.

And the better that you can take care of yourself and your family, and feed yourselves, the more likely you are to get through two months of quarantine without having to go and queue for hours in a local carpark with thousands of others, waiting for food and water.

What the story doesn't tell us is that most bird flu experts believe that if there is a pandemic, it is likely to come in 'waves', two or three, over a year or more, with each 'wave' lasting eight or ten weeks.

Life might get back to normal between each 'wave', which would mean you'd probably have to go out and build up the stockpile again.

More on all this from the Medical Journal of Australia :
  • Influenza pandemics are a real risk and are best managed by self-isolation and social distancing to reduce the risk of infection and spread.

  • Such isolation depends on availability of food of adequate quantity and quality.

  • Australia has one of the most concentrated food supplies of any country, making rapid food depletion more likely in a crisis.

  • Food stockpiling by both authorities and citizens is an important safety precaution that should be given greater media coverage.

In the event of a lethal pandemic, emergency measures such as closing schools, staying home with family and friends, and avoiding contact with other people (until all have been immunised) will be instrumental in avoiding infection.

The Australian Government and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) have been planning for such a scenario for several years and have advanced plans in place

Australia has one of the most concentrated food supplies of any country, being dominated by two large supermarket chains. These organisations operate with such efficiency that their logistic chains hold only a few weeks’ supplies.

If the supply chain shuts down, or if there is no delivery from central stores, supermarkets’ stocks will be depleted within 2–4 weeks. If domestic stockpiling begins at this late stage, then depletion will be accelerated.

Food supplies in the home will need to last as long as it takes for vaccine development and production. For ordinary seasonal influenza vaccines, there is a lag of 6 months or more after a new virus strain has first been discovered until a new vaccine is available for distribution. For weather-related catastrophes, food stockpiles might be required for much longer.

A destabilised global climate, where small changes in atmospheric and ocean circulations have major consequences for temperature, rainfall, wind and storm patterns, may precipitate food stockpile dependence for several years.

While long-term food stockpiling could be considered a governmental responsibility, we suggest that home stockpiling of food to last about 3 months might be done by individual households. This would allow a window of time for governments to put emergency action plans and food deliveries in place.

The MJA has a detailed list of what foods, and in what quantities, they recommend you stockpile for emergencies here.

The idea isn't that you rush out and rack up $500 on your credit car tomorrow filling the spare room, or the space under the stairs, with 40 jars of Vegemite and 20 kilos of powdered milk.

The way I've been building my stockpile is to simply toss in a few extra cans of soup or baked beans or an extra jar of peanut butter, each time I do a shop. Considering the variety of canned and dried and 'ready-to-eat' meals that crowd our supermarket shelves, you can actually put together a pretty damn tasty stockpile, most of which will last months, or years, beyond the 'use-by-date'.

You can also expect to see lots of stories in the coming months about the benefits of planting herbs, vegetables and fruit trees around the family home, or on the balcony if you're an apartment dweller. Very little of the vegetables and fruit that you see for sale in supermarkets in Sydney, for example, are actually grown locally. In a pandemic scenario, the fresh fruit and vegetables will, obviously, run out much quicker than just about everything else on the supermarket shelves.

Short of wheat and corn, you can grow a wide variety of herbs, fruits and vegetables in even the smallest suburban backyard, and on apartment balconies, if you plan your garden efficiently.

You can get by on canned carrots for months, if you were forced to, but ripping a handful of fresh carrots from an old metal tub on the balcony is going to feel extra special if you can't go up the road and buy them.

Opening a cupboard and seeing three months worth of stockpiled food and water is still pretty weird. But it's also remarkably reassuring, and satisfying. Just remember to buy a couple of spare can openers.

Regardless of whether or not a pandemic hits, you're going to save money in the next year or two on what you buy and stockpile, or plant, now. Food from the supermarket is only going to grow more expensive in 2008 and 2009. If widespread food shortages hit, a three month food stockpile is going to seem like a very worthy investment, indeed.
What Scares Australian Children?

Spiders, Monsters, Bullying, Being Hit By A Car

Interesting results from a study on what really scares the children of Australia. Climate change and terrorism don't rate very high. This is why four year olds are not allowed to vote. If they did, you'd have the prime minister out there campaigning on how he/she is going to deal with the "threat of monsters" :

Children are more scared of spiders, monsters and being in the dark than terrorism or war, research shows.

When asked what scares them, a survey of 220 Australian children put animals, bullying and getting hurt ahead of war or natural disasters. Only three mentioned terrorism.

Being lost and The Dark were the most common answers for one third of six to twelve year olds.

Second most cited general fears were of snakes, spiders, dogs. Being hit by a car, death, injury, the school principal and bullying also ranked high.

More boys than girls were fearful of The Dark, or of being lost. More girls were scared of animals and injury. Being unable to breathe also scored highly for boys and girls.

Younger children are more likely to be concerned about monsters, with 26 kids listing them as their greatest fear.

The researchers concluded that for children, the most common fears had "remained very stable over the past 25 years."

Melbourne Zoo's invertebrate specialist Patrick Honan said children should be cautious about approaching animals they don't know.

"People do get bitten by snakes and dogs, but generally when they are touching them or, in the case of snakes, trying to kill them," he said.

"But there is no logic to the fear of spiders. Spiders and people coexist very happily."

When I was a little kid, I had a bastard of a teacher tell my class that we shouldn't be afraid of spiders and cockroaches, because they crawled over our faces all the time when we were asleep anyway, particularly in winter, when they were attracted by the heat of human breath.

No kid in that class slept well that night, or any night for the next week or two.

I can still vividly remember a young friend telling me he had started sleeping with his head inside the pillow case. Why? Because he woke up in the middle of the night and there were all these tiny little hairs in his mouth. The same kind of tiny little hairs that might have fallen off the long, spindly legs of a very big spider. Brrrrrrrrrr.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Revelations On A Rooftop

From the online novel ED Day, about life in Sydney after the bird flu pandemic :

There was no moon, and with no huge glow of city lights, the star field seemed to be suspended just out of reach. Bright pure pindots of light, planets flashing colours, the occasional satellite blinking past.

The dogs were quiet last night. We could hear the dolphins in the harbour chattering away to each other. It seems like such a normal sound of this city now.

This is it then, I thought, this is how my new life really begins, in this new society in this new world after ED Day, it begins here, with Kat, kissing her under falling stars on the rooftop of the Imperium, in Dead Sydney.

One day, I said to myself, years from now, I will look back at this moment as the punctuation mark to when my old life ended and my new life began. Everything that happened between ED Day and now was just preamble, the prologue, this was the new start. With Kat, this was my new life.

I had to tell her. I knew it was too soon, but it felt like it was going to be the right thing to say...

I felt the words, I could taste them in my mouth, like I could taste the wine and chocolate on Kat's breath. I had felt this way for weeks now. I was sure she felt this way, too. How could it be too soon when we had both lost so much?

We needed to hear each other say this.

Go Here To Read The Latest Chapter From ED Day

Go Here To Read ED Day From The Beginning

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Howard's Final Betrayal

Try explaining the meaning of "non core promises" "caretaker period" and "election commitments" to a kid concerned about the fate of endangered orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo.

During the election campaign, Howard promised the kid he would help save the orangutans. Now the kid has been told Howard's bitterly cynical election stunt was meaningless :
The father of a Sydney boy with cerebral palsy claims his son was used for an election stunt by former prime minister John Howard.

Mr Howard paid a visit to the Terrey Hills home of 11-year-old Daniel Clarke on November 5, in the midst of the election campaign, to announce funds to save endangered orang-utans...

Daniel's father, Rodney Clarke, 40, said he has now been informed the $200,000 is no longer going ahead because it was an election promise.

"The prime minister looked into my son's eyes and made him a promise," he said.

"Daniel had worked so hard and faithfully to make a difference and at no time did the prime minister indicate that this commitment would be an election promise.

"My wife and I raise our children on values in which your word is your bond, which made it particularly difficult for us to explain the prime minister's actions to Daniel."

A letter from Malcolm Turnbull, dated November 9, confirms the funding and does not specify it as an election promise. It reads: "I am delighted to advise that the Australian Government has agreed to provide funding of $200,000 in 2007/08 to the Australian Orang-utan Project (AOP) to continue the valuable work of the orang-utan protection units."

Heritage Strategy Branch assistant secretary Greg Terrill withdrew the funding commitment in an email.

Turnbull's names on the letter saying funding had been agreed to, so why shouldn't he and Howard reach into their pockets to keep the promise made to Daniel?

Howard, of course, made sure the media was with him when he went to see Daniel Clarke and made his promise of funding to help save the orangutans. The media pit stop resulted in literally hundreds of newspaper stories, radio and television reports.

The bastards. They didn't even have the guts to send someone to see the kid face to face and explain what had happened.

That's downright cold.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dogs Drag Drowning Boy Out Of Dam

How can anyone say that dogs are any less smart, or brave, than the average human being?

The dogs, a rottweiler cross and a Staffordshire terrier named Muck and Tank, were today praised by the animal welfare group after they dragged their two-year-old owner from the dam on a property near Mackay, on the central Queensland coast.

Police said the dogs' heroic actions were discovered when the Andergrove property owner heard a noise and found the boy and his dogs on the embankment of her dam about 11am (AEST) yesterday.

The boy was covered in mud, had marks on his upper arms, and there were drag marks from his body in the mud, consistent with the dogs pulling him from the water.

Police said the boy had wandered from his home to a nearby property, and his dogs had followed.

Give the dogs bravery medals by all means, but why not the free run of a butcher shop as well for, say, half an hour?

The dogs' owner should get a medal as well for the best dog name of the year : Muck!
Australia Loses Half Its Wheat Crop To Drought

How would Australians cope if such a staple food source as bread rose to $8 or $10 a loaf?

I'm not talking a handmade rye sourdough, but your basic white or wholemeal loaf of bread. With warnings of further inflation to come, and the stunning news that Australia's projected wheat crops for 2007 are down by almost 50%, a $10 loaf of bread might not be such an unthinkable reality in a few years time. If the drought continues, and there's not many climatologists or scientists out there claiming its going to end any time soon. In fact, it's more than likely to get worse.

The problem with wheat shortages, or vastly more expensive wheat, is how those costs soak into the price of nearly everything in your fridge, from milk, yogurt and ice cream, to steak and eggs.

More here :

Wheat is a hardy plant. But without essential follow-up rains the crops were devastated. The country's official forecaster has now slashed the year's wheat production from the 22.5 million tonnes projected in June to 12.7 million tonnes.

In a further blow to farmers, the optimistic start to the season meant many sold their projected wheat crops on the futures market for the security of a fixed price.

When the crops failed, they were left without the means to pay back the advance. To make matters worse, they have to repay it based on the current wheat price, which has skyrocketed given global shortages.

"There are blokes that owe a million bucks and they've got no crops," Duncan Lander said.

The wheat price advance deal discussed above is stunning, and clearly someone is making huge profits off it, but it's not the Australian farmers.

Here's how it works. Say you're a wheat farmer who did it tough last year, and the year before, after years of drought and huge financial losses. Your family's under pressure, your mates are taking their own lives and your local town is breaking apart as more and more people walk off their farms, sell up and head to the cities, or to the mines, to find work.

Earlier this year, you get some rain, and there's talk that there will be more rain to come. Probably.

You take the gamble. You'll give your wheat farm one more season. You decide to sell the wheat crop you're about to put in for, say, $260 a tonne. You score an advance on that crop, at $260 a tonne. You'll owe the bank, or an international wheat broker, a decent amount when you harvest that crop, with all the interest, but you figure you'll make some money. You might not get too far head of the debts from the previous three or five years worth of losses, but it will be a step back onto the road towards something close to prosperity.

You get the advance, you put the crop in, the rain keeps falling, your fields start to turn green. There's money coming in from the government as well, to help people cope with 'The Rural Crisis', so you start thinking about buying that new farming equipment you should have brought a few years back.When you drive to the bank to talk about about a loan for new machinery, the roads are flooded. You laugh.

But then, a few weeks after you walked through those green fields of young wheat, the rain stops falling. The heat hits. In ten days your crop is dead.

But there is still more pain to come, because the wheat crop failures, and shortages, are now worldwide. So the price per tonne is rising, as the second half of 2007 unfolds. $280 a tonne. $320 a tonne. $360 a tonne. $400 a tonne.

You don't have a crop, so you can't cash in on a 12 month 40% increase in the price of wheat anyway. If you'd been flush, or flush enough, and not needed to borrow so big, and if you'd put that crop in and if the rains had kept falling...if, if, if...

But you don't have a crop and now have to pay out that loan. That $260 a tonne advance for a crop now worth $400 a tonne. You know farmers in other states who put in crops and got the rain they needed. But like you, they pre-sold their wheat crops for $260 a tonne. They harvested their crop, they sold it, but they didn't get rich. They barely broke even. But the international broker who lent them the money made $140 a tonne profit in just a few months.


Between 50% and 60% of all the land in Australia that was farmed for food - for wheat, for sugar, for fruit, for vegetables - in the late 1990s is now ravaged by drought. Wheat crops died, and now fruit trees are being bulldozed because no rain means those farmers can't afford to pay the increased prices for water access.

It's mind-boggling to even think about, let alone live. Which is why so many people in Australia's cities have such a hard time getting their heads around what is going on 'out there.' There are more farmers blowing their brains out in their sheds today than there are leaning on a fence, tilting back their hat and admiring the sunset.

What happens to a country when half of its primary food production capability is lost?

What happens when it loses 70% or 80%?

The drought continues...

Drought Causing Long Term Price Rises For Food

January 2007 : Monster Floods Bring Smiles To Drought Devastated Country Towns
Australian Anti-Terror Official 'Attacked' By Undercover Police In Indonesia

This story is about two weeks old, but there's some interesting differences between how the story was originally reported, and then later 'corrected'.

Here's a report from November 29 from the Associated Press, which appeared in The Age :

Police are investigating an armed attack on the Australian head of an anti-terrorism school in Indonesia.

Lester Cross, director of the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation, was unharmed when three men riding motorcycles fired at his car on Sunday after he refused to stop, local police chief Doddy Sumantyawan said.

They hit his bulletproof window and a tyre, but caused little significant damage, he said.

"We strongly believe it was an attempt of violent robbery," Sumantyawan said, adding that Cross was with his family when the attack occurred in the Central Java city of Semarang.

Nine days later, on December 7, the story changes dramatically, in this report from the Australian Associated Press :
An Australian Federal Police agent shot at last week was attacked by Indonesian police, authorities in Java have revealed.

Lester Cross, the head of a joint Indonesia-Australia anti-terrorism school in central Java, was not injured when his vehicle was shot at on November 25.

Central Java police chief Dodi Sumantyawan today said the shots were fired by Indonesian drug squad officers, who mistakenly thought Cross was dealing drugs.

Four Indonesian police officers fired on the vehicle after receiving a tip off a drug dealer was in the area, he said.

The police had seen the driver of Cross' vehicle stop and speak to someone, and believed it may have been the drug vehicle.

When the car started to move again, the police fired three warning shots, and then shot in the direction of the vehicle twice.

Cross and his family had been on the way to a friend's wedding, when they stopped and asked a passer by for directions.

And there's this version, which also appeared on December 7, from the Associated Press :
Undercover officers opened fire on a bulletproof vehicle carrying the Australian head of an anti-terrorism school in Indonesia after mistaking him for a drug trafficker, police said Friday.

Four police officers, acting on a tip from an arrested drug dealer, had been lying in wait for a vehicle believed to be carrying narcotics, Central Java police chief Maj. Gen. Doddy Sumantyawan said.

Police initially said they believed the attackers were robbers or terrorists.

"It was a big mistake by our members, who were not aware Cross was inside the car," Sumantyawan told reporters. "I met Cross to apologize and he fully understands that it was an accident."

So what happened to the guys on motorcycles who supposedly carried out the shooting? Three guys on motorcycles pull up alongside a car carrying an anti-terror official and open fire. No wait, it was undercover police, lying in wait, who opened fire on the vehicle.

It sounds like an attempted assassination.

But then, if that's what it actually was, you can understand why they'd want to bury the story. Or least change 'the facts' a few times to add to the confusion.

The story doesn't appear to have been mentioned in any media since December 7.

It should be noted that both of the very different version of events came from the same Central Java police chief.