Happiness chemicals

Muso extraordinaire Darren Hanlon, bringing in 2009 on the Fringe!

Imagine there’s no heaven, I wonder if you can …

“A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.” – Nelson Mandela

Ghazza bombed againmilitary might against the occupied and oppressed in a blockaded prison camp, Israel getting away with murder for the past 60 years. As Shalom Rav says:

How on earth will squeezing the life out of Gaza, not to mention bombing the living hell out of it, ensure the safety of Israeli citizens?

We good liberal Jews are ready to protest oppression and human-rights abuse anywhere in the world, but are all too willing to give Israel a pass. It’s a fascinating double-standard, and one I understand all too well. I understand it because I’ve been just as responsible as anyone else for perpetrating it.

So no more rationalizations. What Israel has been doing to the people of Gaza is an outrage. It has has brought neither safety nor security to the people of Israel and it has wrought nothing but misery and tragedy upon the people of Gaza.

Jewish Voice for Peace pleads for an end to the insanity:

Jewish Voice for Peace joins millions around the world, including the 1,000 Israelis who protested in the streets of Tel Aviv this weekend, in condemning ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza. We call for an immediate end to attacks on all civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli.

Israel’s slow strangulation of Gaza through blockade has caused widespread suffering to the 1.5 million people of Gaza due to lack of food, electricity, water treatment supplies and medical equipment. It is a violation of humanitarian law and has been widely condemned around the world.

In resisting these humiliations, Hamas resumed launching rockets and mortars from Gaza into southern Israel, directly targeting civilians, which is also a war crime. Over the years, these poorly made rockets have been responsible for the deaths of 15 Israelis since 2004.

Every country, Israel included, has the right and obligation to protect its citizens. The recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza shows that diplomatic agreements are the best protection for civilian life.

Moreover, massive Israeli air strikes have proven an indiscriminate and brutal weapon. In just two days, the known death toll is close to 300, and the attacks are continuing. By targeting the infrastructure of a poor and densely populated area, Israel has ensured widespread civilian casualties among this already suffering and vulnerable population.

This massive destruction of Palestinian life will not protect the citizens of Israel. It is illegal and immoral and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. And it threatens to ignite the West Bank and add flames to the other fires burning in the Middle East and beyond for years to come.

The timing of this attack, during the waning days of a US administration that has undertaken a catastrophic policy toward the Middle East and during the run-up to an Israeli election, suggests an opportunistic agenda for short-term political gain at an immense cost in Palestinian lives. In the long run this policy will benefit no-one except those who always profit from war and exploitation. Only a just and lasting peace, achieved through a negotiated agreement, can provide both Palestinians and Israelis the security they want and deserve.

While the eve of destruction incorporating stock market crashes exhaled in the last panicky gasps of the print media is ever-present, over in the corner governments are getting busy with plans clamp down on our internet access as if our connections weren’t slow enough already. And now there’s shallow pontifications from UK “Culture” Secretaries … the pestilent, sanctimonious drive for control spreads fast.

The only thing worse than filthy web sites, are the filthy politicians who assure you that they are not launching their campaign to restrict free speech as a campaign to restrict free speech.

The Fringe is preparing a list of the best of the lists of whatever it was about 2008 that got you going. Meanwhile, we’re listening to our collection of live-streaming Darren Hanlon gems.

Invisible Shield Competition

Invisible ShieldI’m grateful for time spent away from my computers and so far have resisted acquiring a net-capable phone device to complete my transmogrification into a 24/7 netizen. I’ll be the last kid on the block with an iPhone – yet today I won an Invisible Shield for an iPhone 3G at Tech Wired Australia.

The Invisible Shield can protect your iPhone 3G and its valuable contents from a range of disasters though perhaps not from intrusion by certain over-zealous members of the constabulary.

In honour of the New Year and recent initiation of consultations coordinated by Father Frank Brennan for (or not) of an Australian Charter / Bill of Rights, I’m putting the amazing Invisible Shield prize up for grabs again.

Though some, including Brennan, are sceptical about the value of such a Bill / Charter, this Australian thinks there would be tangible benefits provided by the invisible shield created from the explicit adoption of the rights expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Australia is the last country standing of all democracies in not having formal human rights protections.

I propose the next winner of the iPhone 3G Invisible Shield shall be chosen from convincing, uniquely ‘Australian’ flavoured submissions for the first clause to a potential antipodean Charter / Bill of Rights to be posted in the comments below. The use of wit, irony and satire as well as a fair command of Australian vernacular may assist. No serious argument will be entered into as the judges’ decision will be final.

Other Terms: You must be in Australia to enter.
Competition closes 9/01/09 11:59PM

New Rudd Thoughtcrimes Proposal

Santa Rudd


No Right Turn looks at Rudd’s plans to replace the existing Australian sedition laws

with new laws with worrisome wording:

There’s this bit:

“The new counter-terrorism laws – to be drafted in the first half of next year – will cover attacks that cause psychological as well as physical harm…”

This current internationally accepted definition of terrorism (as seen in e.g. New Zealand’s Terrorism Suppression Act) includes acts which are carried out for the purpose of “induc[ing] terror in a civilian population” – but it still requires that they cause death, injury, or serious destruction. So, in order to be “terrorism”, it has to involve killing people or blowing stuff up. Allowing psychological as well as physical harm runs the risk of substantially lowering that threshold, allowing the misclassification of other offences as “terrorism”, with all that that entails. Given that anti-terror laws are already overused, that would be a Very Bad Thing.

In view of the sinister scope creep which is becoming characteristic of the Rudd government, let’s consider what might fall under the new Act’s ambit – like the incessant terrifying media reports of recession / depression we’ve come to know and loathe and which proved a self-fulfilling prophecy over the past year or so. What about religious preaching that induces psychological terror in congregations through threats of eternal fire and brimstone for transgressions? then there’s Santa Claus – he knows when you’ve been good or bad, so be good for goodness sake!

More pertinently, what about when government attempts to manipulate its electors into accepting a nanny state by implying that those who don’t back net censorship are pedophiles?

Thanks for all the fish, suckers

The Minister for Digital Obstruction has decided to reduce his mooted 18 day EPIC FAIL blog to 16 days – get in now folks, you have till 3 pm on December 24 to vent your thoughts. And if this is the first you’ve heard about it, follow the links below and in previous posts here to bring yourself up to speed.

Conroy’s signature behaviours are scope-creep, secrecy and lies, in view of which trusting him, the present wowser government and their Hollow Men with upholding our individual human rights is patently unwise. Without revealing precisely who is participating in the ludicrous ISP filter trials yet or which filtering technology will be tested, Conroy’s latest scope creep is to include filtering of Bit Torrent and other P2P protocols in his trials, the commencement of which has now been delayed to mid January. Filtering unencrypted traffic is fraught with difficulties and expense, let alone considering the degrading effects on network performance and potential major dangers resultant from encrypted packet inspection at ISP level.

Pushed by news stories detailing a leaked IIA report commissioned by the Howard government which identified serious flaws in ISP filtering, Conroy has now published the full report himself. Contributor to the report, Bjorn Landfeldt makes further comment about blacklists on his blog.

“So, what is the big issue as I see it? A blacklist requires manual effort in order to determine what should be included. The Internet is a network of networked computers that carry information in many forms and realms, one of which is the World Wide Web. If we restrict ourselves to talk about only WWW, we have a global network with billions of pages worth of information. The information is made up of all different languages of the world and incredible diverse. Some information has a very high profile and some information has very limited visibility. Since a blacklist would rely on user reporting, it is questionable how efficient it would be to locate unwanted content in the first place. Second, every case would have to be tried to see if it breaches Australian law and falls within the categories specified for the filtering list. It will be a very difficult task to do this for content in the grey zone in all different languages. If the point is to stop child pornography, determining if a model is 19 or 25 in content from a different country with different jurisdiction is not an easy task and would be quite labour intensive. The next question is who is responsible for blocking of material that is legal if the wrong judgement is made?

The only way to identify such material quickly and significantly limit the risk of accidental access is to do some form of dynamic content filtering. However, the state of the art of such technologies is very limited in accuracy and if they are to be used there is a consequential performance impact on the response times of systems or at least an increased cost for the service provider. Current filters are rather good at detecting certain patterns of information such as a combination of many images and certain keywords usually means a porn site. However, there are at least two additional dimensions to consider. First, the current filters only look at such patterns, they do not try to analyse the actual content in any meaningful way. It is therefore difficult to distinguish between different types of content where there are similarities. For example, if a web site contains information about sex education or erotic content. Second, more and more content moves to other forms of multimedia and filtering and detecting the nature of content is much much harder in this case. For example, analysing a video and detecting that it has adult content is not a lightweight computational task. Separating sex education from porn is even harder. Third, if indeed there would be widespread filtering of content the providers would see a need to obfuscate content to fool filters. When we step into this realm it becomes very difficult for any filters to keep up.”

Confirming his continued commitment to filter trials, Conroy suggests that “International experience suggests that index-based filtering of a central blacklist is technically feasible.” But is it desirable or sensible?

In the face of the following, if he really cared about children, Conroy should repudiate his censorship plans immediately. The idiocy and counterproductivity of government blacklists in enabling, not preventing child abuse is perfectly illustrated with the publishing of the Danish and Thai blacklists on Wikileaks. Thai censorship was initially focused on child pron sites, and was expanded to include political censorship of sites which criticised the Thai royal family. The Fringe anticipates the leaking of the Australian blacklist is nigh.

Here’s some great Christmas links to remind us that Australians do care about their freedoms, even if government has forgotten it’s the servant of the people, not their ruler:

In Touch With The Obvious. Mostly says:

“In spite of the Senator’s reassurance, this is fundamentally an attack on free speech. Our laws are defined in such a way that whatever is not prohibited by law remains legal. (We legislate against certain behaviours, rather than regulate in favour of others.) Final responsibility for any action ultimately falls to the individual. By introducing an ISP-level filter, Sen Conroy has removed that freedom. In spite of your protests, Senator, you are censoring free speech by introducing this filter.”

The Fringe has read somewhat bemusedly the statement of Mike of Melb, who posted in hit and run fashion on this blog as The Observer. The statement in part reads:

“I have been interacting with several players involved in this whole process for over a year, on an ad-hoc and unpaid basis (advisory on technologies and market developments), however I recently agreed to be contracted with a vendor of ISP-filtering solutions.”

Meanwhile, Hoyden About Town has trouble making sense of this world. So do we!

Alex Byrne’s “The way of the wowser: censorship as a barrier to access to information” is a worthy reference on Australian wowserism:

“The wowser is a killjoy, one who wishes to spoil the pleasure of others especially in entertainment, alcohol and sex. It includes temperance advocates and homophobes. The way of the wowser is to seek to control the lives of others: in our domain, to bar access to information which the censor finds objectionable.”

And from the twitterverse:

@mpesce “”Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” — Groucho

Another example of gross governmental irresponsibility and inadequacy has come to light with the release of the Clarke report on the Haneef affair. Mick Keelty, the AFP, Howard and his Ministers will be protected despite the report’s findings of culpability. Cameron Reilly puts it not so mildly:

The report found that the AFP told the Howard Government that there was no evidence against Haneef – AND THEN CHANGED THEIR MIND. This is what they call “in good faith”?

I call it BULLSHIT.

So the Rudd Government is going to give the Howard ministers and the AFP a get out of jail free card. Does it have anything to do with how Rudd, when Opposition leader, didn’t have much to say about the Howard Government’s handling of the case? Or is it just favours for mates?

Heads should roll.

Over at Tech Wired Australia, Ben Grubb has a stellar piece about the victimisation by police of citizen journalist Nick Hac who last Friday was “threatened with arrest under the Australian Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 for videoing Police performing a search in public.” His phone was confiscated, searched and the video deleted despite him not consenting to search of his phone. Margaret Simon highlights this travesty on her blog at Crikey.