Something inherently sexist.

February 5, 2011 at 5:34 am (Uncategorized) ()

I am going to run the risk of a bombardment of abusive emails here; but there is something I wish to investigate in a ‘stream of consciousness manner’ that may come out well, less coherent than I was hoping.

I think that there are three *really* important days in a man’s life.  One is the day that he gets married.  Another is the day he purchases his own home to live in.  A third is the day he welcomes his first child into the world.

Here’s the thing about two out of three of those days (guess which one it is) – they are days when you are told, “this is not about you, this is a day for her.”  Perhaps not so much with the birth of your children, but most certainly (from experience) on your wedding day.  It just struck me as somewhat extraordinary that on those days which are those which shape a man’s future more than most others, he appears to take something of a back seat.

I suppose some years ago one could have made an argument that it is only fair that women receive this recognition on days in which their effort far surpasses that of their male counterparts, given that they spend a large portion of the remainder of their days in enforced servitude.  In these modern days of women driving and voting (gasp!), it just appeared a little odd to me that those important days – it ain’t about you brother!

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Laziness gets the better of me.

December 12, 2010 at 9:11 am (Uncategorized) ()

Again.  But simply writing on this couldn’t do it justice. Here it is in all of its unedited brilliance:

Political risk in making a martyr of Assange

Malcolm Turnbull

December 9, 2010

Leaders could end up with a second helping of egg on their faces.

IN 1986, I represented former MI5 officer Peter Wright in his efforts to publish his memoirs Spycatcher. Margaret Thatcher was determined that no former MI5 officer should be able to write about his work, regardless of whether the information was still confidential, affected current operations or was otherwise of any real detriment to intelligence services.

While it is true that some of the best legal minds of the day had advised Wright’s publishers he had no hope of success, we always thought that the old spook turned Tasmanian horse breeder would succeed.

That was because of a decision of the High Court of Australia in 1980, Commonwealth v Fairfax, in which Sir Anthony Mason had held that a government could restrain the publication of confidential information only if it could establish that the information was still secret and, most importantly, that publication would cause real detriment, not just embarrassment, public debate and controversy.

It was also a fundamental part of our jurisprudence that a court would not restrain the publication of confidences if their disclosure would reveal the commission of crimes.

The information in Spycatcher was at least 20 years out of date and had no relevance to current operations. Almost all of it had been previously published by the journalist and trusted MI6 mouthpiece Chapman Pincher in his book Their Trade Is Treachery. Further, there was material that revealed acts of criminality on the part of British intelligence officers.

The British government made a martyr of Wright by fighting a furious legal battle not just in Australia (where Wright lived) but around the world, making itself look foolish and Wright rich.

There are a few lessons from this regarding WikiLeaks.

Julian Assange should make sure that any further documents published do not contain information that would impinge on current operations and put lives at risk. We are in a global struggle with terrorism and any material that assists our opponents should not be published. Material that puts at risk the lives of those who help us should not be published and to do so is morally reprehensible whatever its legal character.

Governments and politicians should be careful not to make a martyr of Assange and fools of themselves. Julia Gillard’s claim that Assange had broken Australian laws, when it is clear he has not, demonstrates how out of her depth she is.

One may well ask whether her denunciations would be so shrill if the documents had been handed to a powerful newspaper group – if the contents were being dribbled out by The Australian, would she be accusing Rupert Murdoch of high crimes and misdemeanours?

Assange is an Australian citizen. No matter how much the government disapproves of his actions, it should make it clear that he is entitled to return to Australia if he wishes and to receive consular assistance if the charges of sexual assault proceed in Sweden.

I have heard conflicting reports of whether Assange has invited the US State Department to edit the materials he has received. While it may stick in their craw to do it, the US government should take up that opportunity if it is offered. After all, this is not the first leak of security-related materials. What is shocking is the extraordinary scale of the leak – more than a quarter of a million documents. Harm minimisation should be the order of the day for Washington.

Extravagant demonisation of Assange and the leaks only makes them more exciting than they are. Is it really a story that American diplomats think Silvio Berlusconi is a skirt chaser or that Kevin Rudd was a control freak presiding over a chaotic, dysfunctional government? It would be amazing if they had reached any other conclusion.

Just as the vindictive pursuit of Peter Wright turned his book into an international bestseller, so the furious attacks on Assange are likely to be counterproductive. It is hard to know what to say about the Swedish sexual assault charges, other than to observe that the facts so far outlined by the prosecution would constitute an unlikely basis for a prosecution in Australia.

American politicians might use their time more productively working out how a 23-year-old army private had access to so much confidential material and was able to copy it and hand it over to WikiLeaks. The long-term damage from the leaked cables is likely to be that it confirms that despite spending billions on security and the war against terror, the US government is unable to preserve the security and confidence of those it deals with around the world. It will take a lot of reassurance before the chilling impact of these leaks wears off.

As to the contents of the cables, the material seems to me to fall into three categories. There are the many penetrating glimpses of the obvious such as those relating to Berlusconi and Rudd. I could not imagine Australian legal principles justifying a ban on the publication of that material.

There are some cables with information that is not surprising but the publication of which is diplomatically damaging, such as the report that Saudi Arabia had urged America to attack Iran. Although I should note that this cable was received rapturously in Israel! One can see the argument that this sort of material should not be published, but I doubt whether a newspaper would resist the temptation to print it or that a court would injunct it.

The third category are those cables that reveal enough information to identify people who are informants of the US government in circumstances where the disclosure would put their lives at risk. That is material that should not be published and that a court, were it to have jurisdiction, may well decide to injunct on the basis that the publication would cause “real detriment” as opposed to embarrassment.

Malcolm Turnbull is shadow minister for communications and broadband.

The thing i like the most about it is that it has come from Malcolm Turnbull.  I thought it was a pretty well balanced piece.

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Hardly The Last Wikileaks Post

December 7, 2010 at 5:21 am (Uncategorized) ()

There have been absolute reams written over the past couple of weeks regarding the Wikileaks release of diplomatic materials; so much so that I have not had the opportunity to continue being lazy and simply cutting and pasting them into my blog.  It has caused me though to ride something of an emotional rollercoaster between my thoughts on the release, and where it all fits into the value system in my head.

Part of me, most likely the part of my brain that still wears green, says that the disclosure of secret material (i must stress though; only *actual* secret material – not gossip) is a crime, and is for a reason.  There are reasons why governments have laws regarding treason, espionage and the publication of state secrets.  In some cases, such as the release this morning of high value security sites, this is with good reason.  The publication of these records is nothing less than a hit list for terrorist organisations, and merely provides ammunition for those who would say that Wikileaks believes in nothing more than complete transparency of government.  This is not a realistic aim, and anyone who believes that it is lives in a fantasy world likely occupied by Socialist Alliance nutbags.

The liberal part of my brain says that though there are things that Wikileaks have released that I disagree with – government has gone too far in protecting itself from its own citizenry.  That diplomatic cables regarding Qaddafi’s nurses should be considered sensitive enough to classify at a level at or above confidential is nothing short of absurd.  The lines being trotted out by government officials worldwide regarding the release of the documents merely reinforce to me the distance to which the excuse ‘security issue’ can travel.  I personally find it immensely refreshing to see the honest judgements of those involved in running states; it gives me hope that even if I can’t see effective government occurring – that doesn’t mean it isn’t.

My ultimate feeling (so far) is that the release has generally been a good thing.  The only people who truly give a shit about these releases are politicians and journalists.  The average person could care less that the Chinese are becoming impatient with North Korea – likely because they worked that one out years ago.  Unfortunately, for all of the rhetoric surrounding this new dawn of information release, the Wikileaks saga is most likely to have the opposite to the intended effect – governments will tighten up rather than loosen their information.  Just when I felt that government couldn’t get any further from me, I feel that it is poised to take a number more steps in that direction.

In the meantime, I want to read as much as I can, understand as much as I can – I don’t think that the governed will get such a clear window into the governors again in our lifetime.

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Another cut and paste!

November 30, 2010 at 4:45 am (Uncategorized) ()

I’m becoming quite lazy working on another project at the time being (patience! I will reveal!); so I am again cut and pasting.  This piece is so important to me; that I wish to reproduce the whole thing here.  Apologies to Simon Jenkins of the Guardian – however I think that this needs as wide a readership as possible…

Is it justified? Should a newspaper disclose virtually all a nation’s secret diplomatic communication, illegally downloaded by one of its citizens? The reporting in the Guardian of the first of a selection of 250,000 US state department cables marks a recasting of modern diplomacy. Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing’s snake-oil salesmen claim. No organisation can treat digitised communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.

Anything said or done in the name of a democracy is, prima facie, of public interest. When that democracy purports to be “world policeman” – an assumption that runs ghostlike through these cables – that interest is global. Nonetheless, the Guardian had to consider two things in abetting disclosure, irrespective of what is anyway published by WikiLeaks. It could not be party to putting the lives of individuals or sources at risk, nor reveal material that might compromise ongoing military operations or the location of special forces.

In this light, two backup checks were applied. The US government was told in advance the areas or themes covered, and “representations” were invited in return. These were considered. Details of “redactions” were then shared with the other four media recipients of the material and sent to WikiLeaks itself, to establish, albeit voluntarily, some common standard.

The state department knew of the leak several months ago and had ample time to alert staff in sensitive locations. Its pre-emptive scaremongering over the weekend stupidly contrived to hint at material not in fact being published. Nor is the material classified top secret, being at a level that more than 3 million US government employees are cleared to see, and available on the defence department’s internal Siprnet. Such dissemination of “secrets” might be thought reckless, suggesting a diplomatic outreach that makes the British empire seem minuscule.

The revelations do not have the startling, coldblooded immediacy of the WikiLeaks war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, with their astonishing insight into the minds of fighting men seemingly detached from the ethics of war. The’s disclosures are largely of analysis and high-grade gossip. Insofar as they are sensational, it is in showing the corruption and mendacity of those in power, and the mismatch between what they claim and what they do.

Few will be surprised to know that Vladimir Putin runs the world’s most sensational kleptocracy, that the Saudis wanted the Americans to bomb Iran, or that Pakistan’s ISI is hopelessly involved with Taliban groups of fiendish complexity. We now know that Washington knows too. The full extent of American dealings with Yemen might upset that country’s government, but is hardly surprising. If it is true that the Pentagon targeted refugee camps for bombing, it should be of general concern. American congressmen might also be interested in the sums of money given to certain foreign generals supposedly to pay for military equipment.

The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. If American spies are breaking United Nations rules by seeking the DNA biometrics of the UN director general, he is entitled to hear of it. British voters should know what Afghan leaders thought of British troops. American (and British) taxpayers might question, too, how most of the billions of dollars going in aid to Afghanistan simply exits the country at Kabul airport.

No harm is done by high-class chatter about President Nicolas Sarkozy’s vulgarity and lack of house-training, or about the British royal family. What the American embassy in London thinks about the coalition suggests not an alliance at risk but an embassy with a talent problem.

Some stars shine through the banality such as the heroic envoy in Islamabad, Anne Patterson. She pleads that Washington’s whole policy is counterproductive: it “risks destabilising the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and the military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis without finally achieving the goal”. Nor is any amount of money going to bribe the Taliban to our side. Patterson’s cables are like missives from the Titanic as it already heads for the bottom.

The money‑wasting is staggering. Aid payments are never followed, never audited, never evaluated. The impression is of the world’s superpower roaming helpless in a world in which nobody behaves as bidden. Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the United Nations, are all perpetually off script. Washington reacts like a wounded bear, its instincts imperial but its power projection unproductive.

America’s foreign policy is revealed as a slave to rightwing drift, terrified of a bomb exploding abroad or of a pro-Israeli congressman at home. If the cables tell of the progress to war over Iran or Pakistan or Gaza or Yemen, their revelation might help debate the inanity of policies which, as Patterson says, seem to be leading in just that direction. Perhaps we can now see how catastrophe unfolds when there is time to avert it, rather than having to await a Chilcot report after the event. If that is not in the public’s interest, I fail to see what is.

Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed. Where it is doing the right thing, a great power should be robust against embarrassment.

What this saga must do is alter the basis of diplomatic reporting. If WikiLeaks can gain access to secret material, by whatever means, so presumably can a foreign power. Words on paper can be made secure, electronic archives not. The leaks have blown a hole in the framework by which states guard their secrets. The Guardian material must be a breach of the official secrets acts. But coupled with the penetration already allowed under freedom of information, the walls round policy formation and documentation are all but gone. All barriers are permeable. In future the only secrets will be spoken ones. Whether that is a good thing should be a topic for public debate.

Amen brother. Amen.

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A Quick Cut N’ Paste

November 20, 2010 at 8:18 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I don’t want to dwell too much on this; but I found this piece by economist Ha-Joon Chang this morning (courtesy of an old International Relations lecturer – Scott Burchill) which crystallized in my mind the current state of the English economy.  I’ve been reading plenty from the Tory government about austerity measures and the need to cut the deficit, which didn’t sound right in my mind but I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt that way.  Ha-Joon Chang has done it nicely for me…

“You know, one thing that has to be made clear at the very beginning is that the main reason for these large deficits is not excessive government spending, but the fall in tax revenue due to the collapse in the private-sector demand. So, I mean, if we are in a full implement situation, cutting government spending might create room for the private sector to come in and create jobs and so on. But the very reason why we have this deficit is that the private sector is not investing. And cutting deficit is not going to make them invest, because the root cause of their unwillingness to invest is the problem with their balance sheets. You know, so, I mean, this cut is not going to solve the problem.

But more importantly, in the short run, you know, that this view that it is the best if you cut this deficit as much and as quickly as possible, I mean, that has no economic logic. I mean, for example, the British government says we have to cut this deficit down to basically zero in four years’ time, but, you know, four years is—makes sense in calendar terms, but in economic terms it doesn’t make any sense. I mean, if you want to cut this deficit, you have to cut it to the state of the economy. So maybe that, in some cases, you can cut it in two years; maybe it, in some cases, will have to be 12. Unfortunately, a lot of deficit folks have a hidden agenda. They basically want to roll back the welfare state. They are using it as an excuse to do it.

I hate being a conspiracy theorist; but this last sentence makes a lot of sense to me.

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Oh! The Injustice Of It All!

November 5, 2010 at 3:26 am (Uncategorized) ()

I have many pet peeves.  This makes sense, as I am angry more than the average person, by a fair margin.  I get really annoyed at people when, for instance, I let them in front of me in a line and they don’t acknowledge me.  I learned this morning that I get annoyed when people on the Tube elbow me square in the chest and then wait for me to apologise to them.  I get annoyed that many people have absolutely no sense of the space around them whatsoever.

One of my main peeves though is being treated fairly and consistently.

I was made alert to this peeve today by an instance that made me quite unhappy.  In fact, I have to say that I wasn’t angry at either incident in isolation, it was the combination that really got to me. So, I was in a classroom with a group of people, and a facilitator.  We were going around the room, one-by-one, providing information to the facilitator.  I was last in line, and by the time the group of six reached me, the other five were talking amongst each other, quite loudly in some cases.  Given that I had sat patiently and quietly through their submissions, I spoke, but looked over (in horror I think) to this group of people ignoring me and speaking loudly, and then back to the facilitator in hope that they would ask the group to stop being quite so rude and be quiet.  This did not occur.  Instead, I provided my information to the facilitator, who noted it down and moved on to the next part of the session.  This in isolation is irritating, but not anger-inducing.

Later in the afternoon, the group was going through some leaflets, and I was absent mindedly playing with the mouse on my laptop computer.  I had opened a window, and was messing around with it.  Quite rightly, the facilitator stopped proceedings and asked me to stop playing with my computer.  I went red with embarrassment.  I would have been livid as a facilitator in the past had someone done something similar to me.

But then something occurred to me.  I remembered the earlier ignorance.  I remembered the glazed look over this facilitators eyes as I was providing my information. And it clicked to me.  I am happy for other people to be rude to you, and waste your time – just don’t do it to me. Again, this would be less difficult to fathom if earlier in the morning we hadn’t been told about ensuring that we respect people within the organisation.  And if I hadn’t have been told to tone down my personality (whatever that means exactly), probably a little less so also.

Sometimes, I suppose, there is nothing you can do.

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Social Cohesion Issues

November 1, 2010 at 5:37 am (Uncategorized) (, )

From ‘The Punch’ (sigh):

“Educational for Australia that Europe’s Merkel recently admitted that multi-culturalism hasn’t worked in her country. Trouble is for them, their failed social experiment has been acknowledged as a disaster almost too late. They’ve sold out their history, their culture, their social cohesion in order to appease minorities that succeeded in gravely and negatively distorting the social fabric of their entire population. There’s still time for Australia to resist this ignorant nonsense by saying “NO” to multiculturalism and “YES” to Australian culture, social values, laws and conventions. Or continue with this utter nonsense of defending concealed faces and “toleration” of what is increasing overt defiance of the lifestyle that some immigrants chose for reasons of convenience, but refuse to embrace. The ultimate penalty for enforcing unnatural diversity onto long-term Australians is people displacement syndrome, accompanied by anger, resentment and deteriorating all the way to reactive violence.”

Here’s what I don’t quite understand about the counter-multiculturalism argument.  The above represents a fairly typical viewpoint that I encounter; one whereby maintaining an ‘Australian’ culture is mutually exclusive from multiculturalism.  It describes a world in which the wearing of an Islamic veil presents people from, I don’t know, having a bbq in the backyard, listening to Barnsey and watching Australia smack around a third-world country at cricket.  These Australian ‘values’ seem to be what I am missing.  If they are things like tolerance, mateship and a ‘fair-go’ – why doesn’t wearing a veil, or practicing religion in a different shaped building, or having a different coloured skin count as someone who should receive a fair go? Like all good arguments, there is likely some element of the truth in both sides.  Perhaps there is a message here for some minority groups that they could begin to ease tension by coming some way towards assimilation, breaking down the compartmentalized communities they live in.

Its a difficult issue; but one where simply legislating that Australia will only let people in that it likes will not do.

(note: I also love the apocalyptic way that some frame the situation in Europe.  Having recently moved to the UK, I am yet to see Muslims rioting in the streets, subverting the young of London into mass revolution against the middle classes.  Who would have thought?  Likewise; I dare say that the average German probably doesn’t feel as if his or her social cohesion has been ‘sold out’.)

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blog addiction.

October 29, 2010 at 5:48 am (Uncategorized) ()

Finally tonight; I have spent some time surfing graffiti, and wanted to share these.

My favourite.

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Just Quickly.

October 29, 2010 at 5:18 am (Uncategorized) ()

I have fallen in pop/geek-love again (after Guy Delisle, whose ‘Shenzhen’ I am reading right now) – and I am so smitten I just had to blog about it.  Which says something in itself really.

I want to post this, most likely in violation of some kind of copyright agreement.

'Walken on Sunshine'

Its by a guy named James Hance (you can find his stuff here); who has managed to hit upon things in my life that I am particularly interested in right now.  Pop art.  Star Wars.  Embracing ones self.  Christopher Walken.

This – to me – is just brilliant.  I love it.  And its just one of a few.  The Winnie The Pooh stuff featuring Han Solo and Chewbacca is fantastic; as is Beeker from The Muppets (but then again; I am obsessed with Beaker).

Brilliant.

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a rant.

October 29, 2010 at 4:26 am (Uncategorized) (, )

I hate shopping centres.  There, I said it.

There was a time, not even that long ago, that I used to love going down to the shopping centre.  I’ve spent a lot of time in them, in particular Dandenong Plaza, Oakridge (ha!), Chadstone, Woden and now, White City.  I used to love wandering book and music stores, sitting in food courts, heading to the movies – it was just central to my life.  Now, given the choice between a slice of bamboo under my fingernails, or a trip to the shopping centre…well, I would take the shopping centre.  But I would have to think about it first.

I think its the aimlessness of it all.  Its not the shops.  Its not even the staff.  Its the people who visit shopping centres.  The vapid woman with the hair that cost £100 to do, with the designer handbag and the glazed look in the eyes as she passes a shoe store.  At 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon, which usually makes me think – I know why I am here, why are you? Its the inability of people to know where they are walking, they are just so taken aback by all of the bright lights and music.  Its the parents with the prams which double as battering rams in crowds.  Its the gaggle of…gasp!…younger people, yelling across the centre to each other – because their conversations are important enough to be broadcast across a two postcode radius.  Its the people who cut across your path without acknowledging your existence – because someone else might purchase one of the seventy-four red singlet tops on the rack in the store I happened to walk past.  Its finding a car park.  Its the crowds.  The hawkers.  The superficial.  The Gruen.

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