Friday, 23 January 2009

I am thinking of the children. That's why I think you're an idiot

What's going on with politics at the moment?

I tend to be more Labour than Liberal in Australia, and decidely
not National. This isn't due to any sort of Union tendencies, blue-collar sense of camaraderie or anti-bourgeoise sentiments - it's because, when social policies are discussed, the Liberals tend to sicken and disgust me, and only Labour (of the major parties) has a history of being progressive and supportive, even if they're still sort of living off Gough Whitlam's reputation there.

I also have a great deal of respect for Kevin Rudd. Not necessarily
like, not necessarily always agree with, but the man is highly intelligent, and survived the Bjelke-Petersen era as an extremely tough, clever politician.

So how come I'm cheering a Liberal politican and wanting to use Rudd as a blunt instrument to beat one of his ministers to death?

A quick background on the proposed Compulsory Internet Filter:

  • Claim: We need to filter pornographic material in order to Protect The Children
  • Counterclaim: This won't work beause no filter is intelligent enough to do this reliably, and there are more websites than it is possible to block.
  • Claim: We need to filter pornographic material in order to Protect The Children
  • Counterclaim: Also, it will severely limit Internet speeds, and Australia is already a bit of a laughing stock internationally.
  • Claim: We need to filter pornographic material in order to Protect The Children
  • Counterclaim: Also, it's ethically reprehensible
  • Claim: We need to filter pornographic material in order to Protect The Children
  • Counterclaim: Also, people sharing child pornography don't even use the bits of the network that the filter will filter, so it's useless.
  • Claim: We need to filter pornographic material in order to Protect The Children
  • Counterclaim: What happened to parential monitoring and responsibility?
  • Claim: We need to filter pornographic material in order to Protect The Children
And so on. No, I'm not making this up. The debate really has gone like that. At one point, Minister for Fucking Up The Internet, Stephen Conroy, was asked an intelligent, comprehensive, informed question about the filtering trial, by a National MP who is on record as supporting a filter, and his response was
  • Claim: We need to filter pornographic material in order to Protect The Children
He did not answer one single part of the question asked - not how the trial will be conducted, not who will be assessing the results, not what the requirements will be, not what how the results will be judged.
  • Strike: Can't answer a straight question
  • Strike: Fails to communicate important parts of government policy to the voting public
  • Strike: Is going to keep the list of filtered sites secret. See point two, above
  • Strike: Is not engaging in dialogue with experts in any of the fields of technology or criminal behaviour who might be able to inform this policy
  • Strike: Is a smarmy-looking git
  • Strike: To return to being serious for a moment: Is being referred to internationally as a sign that the fight over freedom of speech is being lost.
  • Strike: I think I'll pass out now.
  • Strike:
  • Strike:
  • Strike:
Sorry, just had to slip in a little Red Dwarf joke, there.

To return: Why am I cheering a Liberal politician?

Because, damn my eyes, I'm agreeing with him.

Senator Simon Birmingham has
replied to a letter from a member of the Australian Whirlpool Internet forum-about-the-Internet (Somebody think of the Children!):

  • "I believe the right to free speech is fundamental to the Australian way of life and to Australian values." (So did you speak up about Howard's anti-sedition legislation?)
  • Whilst I acknowledge the need to protect children from undesirable elements on the internet, the proposed compulsory filtering risks being flawed in both ideology and practice.
  • ... would potentially dramatically slow internet access ...
  • ... the absurdity of Senator Conroy’s bizarre remarks on this issues and his refusal to address the conflict between his competing goals ...
  • Placing responsibility in the home is the best way to ensure that children do not access inappropriate material online, through both voluntary access to filters and closely monitoring the internet use of children.
  • Of paramount concern to me is the risk that parents may become complacent in monitoring their children’s use of the internet if a mandatory filter is introduced. If Senator Conroy thinks that blocking access to child pornography will make the internet safe for children, he is severely misguided. There are many dangers for children online, ranging from chat rooms to sites about drugs, legal pornography, racism etc.
  • Furthermore, the technological capabilities of current filters make accurate filtering impossible
Maybe he just has good advisers, but give that man a gold star.

Somebody think of the Children! is a website and blog which monitors censorship and moral panic in Australia, and is well worth keeping an eye on, at

Thursday, 22 January 2009

High-octane kelp

I'm torn.

On the one hand, I don't believe in using ethanol for fuel. It's really great for drinking, cleaning optics and sterilising skin, but fuel? No. Bad. It's harder to build an engine that can cope with the corrosive powers of ethanol than one that can cope with petrol or diesel. And where does it come from? Food stocks, mostly. So, no: We need better electricity production and usage, and we need biodiesel as the intermediate step, not bioethanol.

On the other hand, science like using seaweed to generate ethanol faster, simpler and cheaper (New Scientist) is really cool.

Seaweed grows faster. It's a better, and faster, carbon sink. I'm not sure about this "avoid taking up land altogether" - the ocean is important too, you know - but this is a great lateral-thinking approach which can lead, potentially (and somebody has to actually do this on a commercial scale, so don't cheer just yet) to higher-production ethanol that doesn't mess with food prices. And if I owned a vehicle I was prepared to put ethanol into, I'd cheer.

Instead, I'll just cheer the science being done.

Link to New Scientist article Invention: Biofuels from the ocean.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Yes, religion really is child abuse

This may well be the most disgusting thing I've read about any apparently modern democracy, in a lifetime of being cynical and disgusted by other apparently human beings:

"About 300 children have died in the United States in the last 25 years after medical care was withheld on religious grounds, said Rita Swan, executive director of Children’s Health Care Is a Legal Duty, a group based in Iowa that advocates punishment for parents who do not seek medical help when their children need it. Criminal codes in 30 states, including Wisconsin, provide some form of protection for practitioners of faith healing in cases of child neglect and other matters, protection that Ms. Swan’s group opposes."
Trials for parents who chose faith over medicine (New York Times)

I can understand when the uneducated and otherwise ignorant, the frightened and the confused seize hold of bullshit told by the charismatic and refuse to vaccinate children - I will tell them to their face that they're being ignorant and conned, but I can understand it.

But the degree of blind faith that sees people chose prayer which continues to fail as a cure when their child has reached the point of "“Kara laid down and was unable to move her mouth,” the report said, “and merely made moaning noises and moved her eyes back and forth.”" - that is child abuse of the highest order.

"We knew that once we went to the doctor, we would be cut off from God."

That, to me, is a God it is not worth being connected to, not worth believing in, not worth paying any sort of lip-service to. That God, who consistently fails to act when petitioned through prayer and lets children die in frequently horrible circumstances, is deserving only of condemnation and hatred. If you must believe in God, then be angry at this God's conduct.

I don't really have the energy right now to say what I really think, so I'll close with the fervent wish that the people who claim that the neglecting, murderous little family are being "persecuted for praying" burn for all eternity in the hell they believe in.

Link to New York Times article

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