Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Archive for the ‘Civil rights’ Category

Latte-sippers on-side with our military – bogans and pollies off-side

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-05

It turns out that the latte-sippers, worried about legal niceties, have been thinking along the same lines as our military – while the jingoistic politicians and bogans who claim to back our soldiers are instead forcing our military to do the wrong thing.

Those legal and ethical niceties about those our soldiers capture that have worried our brass include the practice that means if a single US private (4th class) is alone in an entire brigade of Australian soldiers, and any opponents are captured, it is the US, not Australia, that does the capturing.

As detailed in "Australian POW policies risk: top secret papers" (The Age, 2011-07-04) and "Revealed: Defence confusion over POWs" (ABC, 2011-07-04), show that the military brass were worried about not merely the legality of their operations, but indeed, whether it was principled:

Confidential Defence documents reveal that Australia’s policies on handling prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2003 were so contrived that they ran the risk of being neither ethical nor in line with international law.
The risk was starkly outlined in a top-secret memo from former chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie, to defence minister Robert Hill in February 2002, which warned that Australia’s prisoner arrangement "may not fully satisfy Australia’s legal obligations and in any event will not be viewed as promising a respect for the rule of law".

– The Age

And what does Mike Kelly, now a politician but previously Australia’s top military lawyer in Iraq, have to say about responsibility for prisoners we capture?

He says the country that captures prisoners of war retains a responsibility over their welfare.


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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Ethics, International, Law, Politics, Society | Leave a Comment »

Release of Egyptian rendition records would be explosive

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-02-01

It’s a fair bet by anyone familiar with Egypt’s Ministry of the Interior, that this ministry was a subcontractor providing torture services to some great powers, and the details of those services were well-known by the governments of middle and lesser powers to.

In Western countries, any government in power since rendition entered the vocabulary of the well-read will be desperately hoping Egyptian records proving Western complicity in torture will never become public knowledge.

Who benefits most if the Ministry of the Interior is burnt, if paper and electronic records can’t get leaked to the press or the wider internet?

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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, International, Middle East, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Jan 26 – color matters

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-01-26

I just discovered that January 26 has a significant event, and that color is the issue, and will be remembered all around the world.

OK, not really that significant: Facebook End Colorblind Confusion (For a Day…) – "please" attend by wearing an uncolored shirt – white, grey or black.

Yep…. we aren’t colorblind, we are color confused, we’ll mix them up, give them the wrong name, have trouble if they are similar saturations… (resources to test and simulate what we see over the fold)

So as an example of the 1-in-20 males with characteristics essential to survival of the human race a hundred thousand years ago, the guy in the hunting party who wasn’t fooled by mainstream camouflage, the one who said "throw your spears and rocks over there" at something we wanted to eat, or wanted to eat us, I offer a few giggles, hopefully for all of us, although for different reasons.

Now, I’m told I might need to be careful with one of the following images – but I cannot tell which for sure.

Give Love To The Colorblind 1

Give Love To The Colorblind 2

More images, and some references to tests and simulations so you normal folk can see what we see over the fold.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Civil rights, Humor, Science and Tech, Society | 6 Comments »

Jesus would like atheists more than Xtians

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-07-15

What’s the bet there is a negative correlation between deism and desire for compassate Oz policy for boat people?

The two-thirds majority that approve the Gillarbbott policies on asylum seekers is pretty much the same number that admitted to Christianity in the census. (see wikipedia)

While there are doubtless some non-hyprocritical Christians out there, it’s hard to accuse those godless latte-sippers of being the ones without compassion for the downtrodden, because the godless types are (unfortunately) in such a minority.

So… on the face of it, pick a random person who claims belief in a skyfairy, and more than likely the person is a hypocrite about compassion.  Makes you wonder whether you can trust anything else they say.

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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Politics, Society, Theology and Religion | 2 Comments »

Military Logic

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-07-11

If Afghan boat people aren’t proper asylum seekers, aren’t in danger staying in a place Australian soldiers keep dying, then we must infer that a squad of expensively trained and outfitted Australian soldiers aren’t as tough as the typical Afghani family.

Perhaps we should be encouraging more boat people here, and offering huge incentives for them to join our military forces.

Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Politics | Leave a Comment »

ICANN makes it trivial to block pr0n

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-06-27

Finally!  The net can get a proper red-light district, where R-rated stuff can be regulated, and from which innocent eyes can be easily protected.

Many geeks of my vintage have long advocated a top-level domain (TLD) especially for pr0n, with ".xxx" for such stuff, just like we have ".com", ".org" and ".edu".  ICANN (a peak naming authority) has just approved ".xxx" TLD applications, after the process for rejecting xxx applications was shown to be flawed.

With only a bit of co-operation between international governments, it is not difficult to make all legitimate content of a sexual nature live in the ".xxx" domain (or maybe "", "", "", etc), and come down hard on any content coming from more normal "com" TLDs and such like.

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Posted in Civil rights, Information Management, International, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | Leave a Comment »

Refugee Freedom From Fear Week – yeah, right

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-06-12

Those paragons of love and kind treatment of the unfortunate have declared a week to celebrate our stand on international covenants regarding, the benefits from, and indeed our tolerance of… refugees.

Yes folks, it’s national "Freedom From Fear" week, so a dose of Tom Lehrer’s "National Brotherhood Week" is in order.

"It’s fun to eulogise
the people you despise

Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you:
It’s only for a week so have no fear,
Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year."

Yes… thank goodness we don’t have a day of not being hit by falling grand pianos.

So… Perhaps we might expect a lack of dog-whistling and demonizing of the unfortunate by the leader of the liberal party, Mr Rabbit (calicivirus too good for him – he deserves myxo – and Mr Rabid is a better Mondegreen anyway)…  excuse me while I choke.

Can we even expect anything more than a well-buried press release, or even silence on the matter, from the KRuddster?

Well… how about we take a couple of lines from the DIAC press release… making sure none of us are halfway through swallowing food or drink while we do so…

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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, International, Politics, Society | Leave a Comment »

Conroy – ruling out the impossible

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-04-17

We know Conroy’s insistence on introducing mandatory internet filtering, despite all concerns and technical assessments, cannot be because he believes it can stop obnoxious internet material from reaching Australia.

He explicitly mentions 335 sites as carrying such material, and yet, rather than simply get international law enforcement agencies doing what they are good at, shutting down the sites at their sources and prosecuting the criminals, he carries on.

What possible reasons might Conroy have for his stance.  I can think of two that haven’t been given much play:

  • Conroy does NOT actually want to stop the production and transmission of this noxious material, nor does he want offenders prosecuted.
  • Conroy is taking instructions from Beijing

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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Information Management, Politics | 6 Comments »

Modern Chinese Government – Confucian or Legalist?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-02-05

The cloak of Confucian authority has been used previously by Lee’s Singapore, and increasingly China, as justification for authoritarianism, promoting misconceptions in Western cultures, and possibly a subtext in the forthcoming movie about Confucius.

Many parts of "The Analects of Confucius" are quietly subversive, as I’ll show by quotes that confound the common charges against Confucius of being an authoritarian superstitious pedant.  Legalism is the true fist in the thin Confucian glove worn by Chinese leaders.  Both schools stress strong government for order in society, but have opposite approaches.

Legalism demands consistent application of harsh criminal sanctions to promote a cohesive society through fear, while Confucius demanded firm yet gentle leadership of a cultivated population, bringing harmony through education in virtue, as shown by the following:

If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. 
If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good.

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Posted in China, Civil rights, Ethics, Language Use, Philosophy, Politics, Society | Tagged: | 11 Comments »

Treating cannabis “problems” with cannabis

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-01-27

By the look of a recent paper in Nature Neuropsychopharmacology, the problems of psychosis caused (in the small number of people that are susceptible) by smoking too much cannabis could possibly be cured by…. smoking cannabis!  It’s the strain that makes the difference, suggesting that a "government approved labelling standard" and a different legal status for each strain might be worthwhile – or even that the government should give away seeds from good strains!

There are two major cannabinoids in Cannabis sativa, Δ-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), both of which are psychoactive (especially for medicinal purposes like painkilling), but with THC being the most intoxicating.

It seems that for those few that can be pushed towards or into psychosis by pot smoking, it’s the THC that causes the problems, while CBD not only doesn’t cause the problem, but protects against at least some the dangers of THC.

This might well tie in with the newer strains of cannabis, "skunk", that have much higher levels of THC and lower levels of CBD, probably by a skewing of the metabolic pathways away from CBD in favor of THC rather than simply increasing the amount of THC produced by upping activity of the pathways leading to both.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Civil rights, Economics and Business, Law, Politics, Science and Tech | 2 Comments »

Low bar for overblocking in the net censorship test

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-12-15

Rather than go on about the offensiveness and cost-ineffectiveness of the KRudd/Conroy net censorship effort, and discussion of better approaches, I thought I’d look at one particular aspect – the design and results of the overblocking test.

Bottom line: Low bar, and even then, the results weren’t great.  Lots of evil stuff still got through, and too much innocent stuff got blocked.

Overblocking, the prevention of access to legitimate content, can be a problem with blocking based on the URL (the requested address), and is always a problem with content-based filtering – even when automagically deciding to block based only on text content rather than trying to analyze images, sound or video.

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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Governance, Information Management, Media, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | 1 Comment »

The species intelligence test

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-11-08

I propose a test for whether a species deserves civil rights:

Have members of the species found farts or fart jokes amusing, or have been observed playing fart/poop practical jokes on their fellows for no other good reason than amusement?

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Posted in Biology and Health, Civil rights, Humor, Philosophy | 8 Comments »

Cheers for ECHR: Crucifix in school offends human rights

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-11-04

Congratulations to the EU Court of Human Rights judgement that crucifixes in schools offend human rights – and it was unanimous.  Big thanks to the Finnish parent in Italy that brought the action and a big yah-boo-sucks to the Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, who said the crucifix was a fundamental sign of the importance of religious values in Italian history and culture, and was a symbol of unity and welcoming for all of humanity, not one of exclusion.

The Court disagreed and found – unanimously – a violation of the freedom of religion (Art. 9 ECHR) jointly with the right to education (Art. 2 of Protocol 1). The Court, amongst others, took into account the nature of the religious symbol concerned (amongst the plurality of meanings, the Court held that the religious connotation of the crucifix was dominant) and its impact on young children.

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Posted in Civil rights, International, Politics, Society, Theology and Religion | 17 Comments »

Stalin’s children – Western “democracies”

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-11-03

I propose what seems to be a general rule of politics these days:

The probability of policies being set in harmony with the opinion of experts is inversely correlated to the unanimity of expert opinion and the importance of that policy.

Climate change is but one example where unanimity of relevant experts is near total, yet scientists are ignored at best, and often punished

Economic policy is an example where there is no unanimity, so the politicians choose the expert opinion that suits them or political sponsors.

Nature ("Sacked science adviser speaks out" doi:10.1038/news.2009.1053 2009-11-02) has a depressing interview with a recently sacked advisor on non-therapeutic drug use, who made the following comment.

It just seems to me a nail in the coffin of evidence-based government.

– David Nutt
University of Bristol

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Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Civil rights, Education, Environment, Governance, International, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | 9 Comments »

Would the Libs attack the ALP on this?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-10-29

There are claims that the refugee processing centres in Indonesia, or at least some of them, have horrible conditions and brutal guards reminiscent of the film "Midnight Express".  If so, it may not be long before a legitimate refugee in such a place would either sicken and die, or suffer terrible injuries.

That would put egg on the faces of KRudd and company.

But if the Libs got reliable information about something like that happening at a centre that received any funding at all from Canberra, would they pass it on to the press?

Posted in Australia, Civil rights, International, Politics | Leave a Comment »

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