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.