Monday, February 05, 2007

We Are Your Friends: Justice vs Clark

The Australian's February 2 editorial, on former ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark's sort-of kind-of rape conviction (like O.J. Simpson, he has been forced to pay damages, but incurs no jail term or actual conviction-of-crime, as I understand it), is a good one. I don't know if Clark is a rapist, and most likely there are very few people other than Ms Carol Stingel and Clark himself who do.

But the jury has spoken and that must stand. These cases are horrible: I feel inclined to defend both sides. It is utterly humiliating for a rape victim, man or woman - though, obviously, most often woman - to have to stand in front of a court room - in front of anyone - and detail the heinous acts committed against them. But it is necessary. Even at that point it is near-impossible to tell the truth of each side; in a very real sense that court witnessed a "his word or her word" exercise in finger-pointing. If, as the jury decided, her claim was correct, then justice was done. It is, however, a terrible reality that Stingel had to endure such a process to get to that point of justice.

On the other hand, it is certain that false accusations - for whatever reason - exist. This is equally horrid. A false accusation can tarnish a person's reputation for life, as unfair as that might be. But if we are to ever change that perception, it will not be preventing accusations from being made, but rather by ever more thoroughly seeing such accusations through. The more faith we put in the legal system, its constituents and its purveyors, the more likely we are able to see that faith delivered in fair and (hopefully) agreeable verdicts.

These proceedings are a must: if society ever wishes to protect itself from such crimes then the opportunity to bring criminals to justice must exist. Courts these days are not the witch-hunts of Salem. As much as Clark wishes to express that the ruling was "the lowest point in the history of this country," he is incorrect. Right or wrong - and one must suspect right - the verdict was based on the deliberation of a fair and unbiased jury. If Clark wishes to attack the system, he can. But he better have something to back himself up.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

State Of Disunion

Is there a more damning criticism of President Bush's seventh annual State of the Union address than the fact that in his full forty-eight minutes of ostentatious glory, he failed to mention New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina even once?

It should come as no surprise. As Yahoo! News' article details, even last year's speech, "delivered just five months after the disaster, the devastation merited only 156 words out of more than 5,400." These are President Bush's priorities, or lack thereof.

Criminally though, editorial coverage in both The Age and The Australian also also failed to make mention of either New Orleans or Bush's contiuing avoidance of it.

Often leaders and governments are criticised for refusing to engage in anything more than rhetoric - hollow words which give lip service to apparently important issues but in reality sweep them under the carpet to be never heard of again. This is the end result of that rhetoric: a year later and the issue's so far off the agenda that the President's total lack of compassion doesn't even raise an eyebrow. Unless, of course, you live in New Orleans.

Update: At least 2008 Democrat and presidential candidate Barack Obama knows where his bread and butter is. According to a New York Times blogger's report, Obama, in a CNN interview immediately after Bush's speech, "said he was surprised that Mr. Bush hadn’t mentioned New Orleans, or post-Katrina Gulf Coast needs."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lights Out

Now this is a good idea: Maine City Bans Smoking in Cars With Children.

I think Melbourne prides itself on being a relatively progressive city, but what are we doing? Banning smoking outdoors? Well I'm not entirely opposed to it, if the "outdoor" area is actually an enclosed one. But even then there's a big civil liberties issue that hasn't even begun to be debated.

But smoking in cars with kids seem like a fait à compli to me. It's not just harming you, but other people who have virtually no choice and probably even less real-world knowledge of the potential damage. That really shits me.

Anyone who's ever smoked around me knows I have issues with it. But that's probably me getting on my stupid high horse more than anything else - I would still hope to protect your (absolute) right to smoke with all my willpower. No one should be able to tell me or you what we can or cannot do with our own bodies.

But when those decisions begin to affect those around us - particularly those who can't rationally decide what they want/don't want for themselves - there's a much bigger issue at play. This whole banning smoking in public places seems like we're doing things back to front. Maine are doing it right.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Drink More Water (Ask More Questions)

I am known amongst friends and enemies for my proclivity towards arrogance and distrust of normal people - whatever it is I even mean by that (hopefully, I think, just not me).

But how can even I expect anybody to consider themselves informed when our prime minister makes such sweeping and ill-informed generalisations that it's actually become difficult to tell whether he's just trying to pull the wool over (again), or he truly believes what he's saying.

You may not have heard, but he's telling us to drink more tap water. All of us. I've always been under the impression that this is a fairly healthy idea. For the fluoride, right? If they put it in our water it's just gotta be good for us? Right?

Actually, it's not so simple. And okay, whilst we certainly can't expect the PM to be giving much more than media-agreeable sound bytes in an interview, at the same time it's ethically unsound for him to offer up such broad advice as "I think one of the things we have to try and do though, is get young kids to drink tap water again to do something about their teeth," without any kind of disclaimer.

A letter by David McRae from Water Quality Australia, alerted me to the problem, and a little googling pulls up some interesting (and apparently verified) facts. Did you know that:

* Test results show a serious decrease in reproductivity in many animal species affected by fluoride;

* A union of approximately 1500 scientists, lawyers and other professionals oppose fluoride use on ethical grounds;

* A Chinese study's "results suggest that drinking water fluoride levels over 2.0mg/L can cause damage to liver and kidney functions in children and that the dental fluorosis was independent of damage to the liver but not the kidney".

No? Well, until five minutes ago, neither did I. The thing is, I have no side in this debate - I just wish my country's leaders would be making us aware that there's a debate in the first place. Less dogma, more discussion please.

All that I really know is that I know nothing.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I don't know how many of you have heard of OJ Simpson's upcoming book, but it's a strange one. Titled "If I Did It?", the book has been called a "confession" by its publisher, and OJ himself is apparently to detail step by step how the murders "might" have occurred had he committed them. Er...

Apparently such hypothetical ponderings are not permissable as confession in a court of law, so he can basically say whatever he likes. The truth, more or less. Aside from the rather odd (and to be honest slightly sickening) situation here, there's an ethical dilemma here.

Should the book be published, or is the final frontier that censorship should hold us all back from? I say publish and be damned. No rational person doubts that OJ did the crime. He didn't pay the time. And yes, this book will make him even richer, as the victims' relatives continue to pursue litigation against Simpson to recover money spent.

But if anything, this shouldn't end as an indictment on the freedom of press - or speech - but on the apparently incompetent courts themselves. OJ's trial was, as anyone who remembers knows, a farce. If it had have had any semblance of balance to it, this would never happen. But the law stands stonefaced in the face of all arguments, and if society is to continue onwards and upwards this must remain so. If some retrial ever occurred, then so much the better. But even if we never reach that point, the law has spoken, and its word is final.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Spinning around

Of note:

John Howard, on Sydney ABC radio yesterday, is flattered to be considered the Kylie Minogue of Australian politics:

VIRGINIA Trioli: You've been called today in The Australian not the Placido Domingo of Australian politics like your predecessor, but instead the Kylie Minogue of politics.

Howard: Oh, yeah.

Trioli: Here's the quote. "Her music is safe and predictable which is exactly what John Howard tries to be." Now how do you feel about that?

Howard: Well, if the Australian people believe that the Government I lead has given them a sense of safety and predictability, well I am not ashamed of that. I try to do that. It is part of my job to make the country safe and to give people's lives a sense of predictability. And the low unemployment, the still very low interest rates, the strong economic growth, the greater support for families, particularly middle Australian families, has made Australians lives safer and more predictable and I am proud of that.

Trioli: The Kylie Minogue comparison, though, would never have occurred to you in a million years, would it?

Howard: No, but I'm not, I mean I am certainly not offended. I am flattered. She's a far more, she's a very popular talent and entertainer. I am a, I hope, a safe, predictable, serious, committed Prime Minister.

Trioli: I am resisting the urge here to make some gag about gold hotpants. I just won't go there, Prime Minister.

Howard: No, I think that's wise.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Is this the stupidest eBay auction ever?

Monday, October 30, 2006

A new world: just a flick of the switch away

Climate change (aka global warming) is, in case you haven't noticed, the topic du jour. And everyone's in on it: Al Gore (duh), Mel and Kochie, even our usually reticent PM. But amidst all the "sky is falling" doom and gloom and confusion about how best to do things, the simple solutions seem to be rolled out a lot.

Turn off your lights when you leave the room. Unplug your TV when you're not watching. Keep your showers under four minutes. It all seems pretty straightforward. And as a recent report showed, it's measures like these that could save us bulkloads in the climate carbon challenge. In Britain alone, says the report, 43 billion tons could be saved (by 2010) if only those pesky Brits would turn off their bloody lights. Imagine if the whole world joined in.

But who are we to criticise? Despite these solutions being shouted far and wide, how many of us really abide by them? Or instead, how many of us glance up at the hallway light whilst tapping away on our energy-munching PCs or Macs and think, oh, I'll turn it off in a minute?

As much as I'd love to say I'm always doing the right thing, it's not always the case. When I notice my TV standby light's still on, I'll reach over and turn it off. But more often than not I won't notice at all. I keep my showers, for the most part, as short as possible, but who doesn't indulge in a nice, warm ten or fifteen-minute one every now and then? I know I do. And the lights? Well, typically the convenience of being able to see where I'm going (as opposed to stumbling blindly for a lightswitch when I want to enter another room) wins out over my conscience. I know, I know, I'm the bad guy. But I bet you are too.

I guess it's just a matter of making a little more effort. I will if you do.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Question time...

Just noticed that Hansard is now offering the opportunity to download audio recordings of Question Time.

Unfortunately, according to the page, "Audio recordings of proceedings must not be used for ... the purpose of satire or ridicule".

But if not for satire or ridicule, for what?

Just another example of The Man keeping us down, I guess.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

At least you can trust him with your daughter!

In an Opinion Journal article picked up by today's Australian, James Taranto glibly argues for, er...well, I'm not really sure.

First, he seems sure that disgraced Republican congressman Mark Foley deserves all he gets (and that the Republicans should all get shiny medals for - finally - recognising so): "...the Republicans washed their hands of Foley as soon as they figured out what was going on".

But next he gets all topsy-turvy on us, intimating that perhaps ol' Foley ain't such a bad guy after all. Remember, unlike Clinton's escapades with (the youthful?) Monica Lewinsky, "say what you will about Mark Foley, at least you can trust him with your daughter!"

Taranto sees distinct parallels between the Clinton and Foley scandals: "In both cases, sexually immature middle-aged men used their positions of responsibility to pursue younger people, who were also sexually immature, but had a right to be on account of their youth".

Which is nice, but I'll be damned if there isn't a slight difference between a guy attempting to bed a number of his 16 year-old pages, and another indulging in (uncommendable, but) entirely legal sexual relations with a perfectly consenting adult.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Blog this!

Though I agree wholeheartedly with Age journo Russell Skelton's argument (Alan Jones in "bigoted wanker" shock), does anyone else get the feeling that today's page two (!) admonishment of Jones, "Radio ranter finds some fresh prey", sounds more like an angry blog post than a valid news story?

"Alan Jones likes to fume. The more he fumes, the more his ratings jump", Skelton begins. He ends with the paragraph: "Fume, fume".

Apparently Jones has been another on another of his ugly xenophobic rants - this time about Australian citizens fleeing the Lebanese war zone. They've been given written advice from Centrelink in (shock! horror!) Arabic, and Jones doesn't like this one bit.

Yep, he's a racist.

Sure, he caters to the lowest common denominator.

But is this what should be gracing page two of a newspaper? It doesn't sound like news to me.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Israeli Etgar Keret might well be a brilliant author of fiction, but when it comes to politics he should probably leave it behind - and concentrate more on the facts.

Last week's New York Times piece had him discussing the nostalgia surrounding the good old days of Isreal's "real war[s]", fought "against a ruthless enemy who attacks our borders, a truly vicious enemy".

Which is nice.

Just... This is about as true a war as the "war on terror". Who's the enemy? Hezbollah? Sure, they might have a few seats in Lebanon's parliament and their own television station, but they are not The State.

And while Israel's busy spinning this way and that, Lebanon is being destroyed.

The Greens are occasionally loopy, but if they started bombing people would we really think it justifiable to hold the whole of Australia accountable? I sure hope not.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Israel has never been known for its particularly proportionate responses to "terrorist" attacks (i.e. any guerilla or resistance fighting from a nation who opposes their existence), but this one's taking the cake.

But I guess you need to kill a few children to make an omelette. Or something like that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gone fishing

I haven't really gone fishing. It took me a while to realise that since I'm a vegetarian (nearly a year now, and yes, I'm anaemic), I can no longer go fishing.

Nonetheless, I haven't been updating.


* moved house
* got a new job
* quit uni
* broke my computer monitor.

But I will be back soon, fish or no fish.