Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Archive for the ‘Civil rights’ Category

Homelessness and efficient breach

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-10-27

There is a pernicious bit of contract law theory called "efficient breach", beloved of unscrupulous capitalists, "the view that a party should be allowed to breach a contract and pay damages, if doing so would be more economically efficient than performing under the contract".

But would they want long-term homeless folk reading Posner, breaching not a contract to supply widgets, but the social contract?

Consider, by breaching the social contract, beating well-heeled older capitalists to death, (adult kids, hefty life insurance, it’s a minimal impact murder if such a thing exists), and then immediately surrendering to police, the punishment is a long term guarantee of food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and even TV and other recreation facilities.

That’s certainly "economically efficient" for a homeless person!

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Civil rights, Economics and Business, Ethics, Law, Politics, Society | 8 Comments »

Human Rights – a regressive step in my lefty view

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-10-26

With the possibility of a Human Rights instrument going through the federal parliament, while lefty me thinks overall it would be a good thing, I happen to think that it is a regressive concept.

I’d argue for "Sapient Rights", not "Human Rights".

I’d go into this in more detail if I hadn’t already covered it reasonably well in a post written before this blog was as well-known: "‘Human Rights’ : a regressive concept" (2008-05-04).

Pushing it perhaps to the extreme, think of the impact of the difference between Human and Sapient Rights while recalling movies like "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "2001", and even junk like "Independence Day".

Would we want "Little Green Men" to only have "Little Green Men Rights" in their legal code, or would we be happier with "Sapient Rights"?

…and the way we’re going on planetary policy, you’ve got to wonder if we’d qualify even then!

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

Heartless in Gaza

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-10-22

Israel wants to change the rules about war crimes (The Age, 2009-10-21), using the "must combat terrorism" furphy.

I hope someone goes through the watering down proposed by the Israeli warmongers, and looks at what would have happened if the British Mandate of Palestine had used the same lack of morality to control the Zionist terrorists who were busy blowing up stuff and people in a successful effort to create a state, a state established by terrorists (UN Security Council Resolution 57 of 18 September 1948), a nuclear renegade state that keeps IAEA inspectors away from the 200-odd nuclear warheads in it’s arsenal, an arsenal that makes Kim Jong Mentally-Ill look harmless.

No, Britain let all the terrorists off scot free, to be declared heroes by the terrorist-established state, and some to become Prime Ministers.

I’d imagine that if the British had used the methods Israel now wants legitimized, the state of Israel would never have existed… and the boats bringing the ethnic cleansers to Palestine after the second world war would have been blown out of the water.

But then, we only have to look at the genocide verses of Joshua and Exodus to see what the Zionist tradition considers absolutely fine – as long as it’s only done to us goyim.

After all, what did the Solicitor for the Commonwealth of Australia, seeking to justice tougher counter-terrorism measures, say in 2007 about the historical pretext used by Zionists to justify their land claims:

History provides numerous examples of situations where it has been necessary for a polity to defend itself against a body other than a sovereign state. One could start with the book of Joshua in the Bible. If the Canaanite cities had had a federation with section 51(vi) in it there is little doubt that it could have been invoked against the children of Israel, although at that stage one could hardly describe them as a sovereign state in the traditional sense. Their only territory was the territory they were about conquer.

Posted in Civil rights, Europe, International, Middle East | Leave a Comment »

Nanny state libertarianism

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-10-21

EU courts and commissions are often the target of those critical of "nanny states", but I expect even the most libertarian types will welcome this discussion from the EU Court of Human Rights about the rights of satirists and the EU’s efforts to try and stop fair satire being attacked by commercial and political interests in courts.

The satirists in the cases mentioned were doing things akin to having an effigy of the feral poodle as, well, a feral poodle, or maybe an image of corpulent bogans over a slogan "the people are bigger at Hungry Jacks".

From the ECHR blog:

Both cases could be laughed off as bizarre instances of the kind of situations that reach Strasbourg.  But equally, they point to a worrying development in various European countries in which commercial or political interests are attacking even the most innocuous expressions." In that respect, it is good that the European Court is taking jokes seriously.

I don’t think this worrying development is something particular to the EU… if it hasn’t started here yet, it soon will, and I hope our courts protect us from the powerful and their well-funded lawyers.

Posted in Civil rights, Europe, Humor, Law | Leave a Comment »

Might Bolt attack from the high ground?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-10-16

I wonder what the Bolt will think on the line I’ve taken on a piece of his?  What motivates him more, the desire to inflame xenophobia, or a way of pointing out that KRudd is hopeless at something KRudd touts himself as – a skilled diplomatic negotiator in the region?

On the current debate (too generous a term, admittedly) about refugees coming to Australia by boat, the Bolt wrote a typical Bolt piece ("Check the map: why must Australia take in these people?" 2009-10-16) … and I couldn’t resist a comment that was totally in keeping with my lefty principles, but that shouldn’t get a knee-jerk response from the Bolt or his Boltariat legion:

Surely the best outcome would be if we could encourage other countries in the region to sign the convention on refugees, and then they would also have an interest to stop the root causes of the problems – privations in the countries refugees are fleeing – and even if conditions didn’t improve in the original countries, they wouldn’t have as far to travel to reach safe refuge.

That would be a win for everyone but the people smugglers. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Xenophobes for Labor?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-10-14

It looks like (in Britain, but probably coming soon to the antipodes) that the Labor government is crawling up to xenophobes, (HT: Nature Human Genetics Special 2009, yep Nature… the gold standard of science journals) using methods that would give Mengele and Hitler wet dreams.

The UK government has already introduced dodgy genetic tests that it says will separate the illegal aliens from the citizens… even though the prestigious Nature reckons that not only is the science completely wrong, the government could well be lying about the program getting the tick of approval from scientists, but that the program will actually harm science itself, making research harder.

The Nature editorial "Genetics Without Borders" has the teaser:

A UK government scheme to establish nationality through DNA testing is scientifically flawed, ethically dubious and potentially damaging to science

And a few snippets, after which I’ll add a few thoughts, including some Australian context.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Civil rights, Ethics, Europe, Politics, Science and Tech, Society | 5 Comments »

The Data Liberation Front – being not evil

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-09-15

The Data Liberation Front ( is now public – a part of Google outside the domain (along with which seeks and funds good ideas mainly in renewable energy and health).

The DLF aims to make it easy to both import and export YOUR data to and from the Google Cloud.

This is important – and you’ve got to love the name, which Google admit is a homage to the Life of Brian by Monty Python.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Civil rights, Economics and Business, Information Management | 1 Comment »

If Conroy wants to control the worst web porn….

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-07-23

How about getting the Feds to simply to start up a normal wordpress/typepad/blogger blog – on anything: fluffy kittens, celebrities, whatever.

…then simply use the most offensive links in the spam filter as a clue to track the criminals down.

Hell, if they did a joint op with the Israeli cyberspooks (who have been proven capable of breaking into US government systems) then taking down the evildoers should be no problem.

Posted in Civil rights, Information Management, International, Politics | 3 Comments »

Religious exemption from anti-discrimination law: the inescapable conclusion

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-07-22

As a hypothetical, let’s say that anti-discrimination laws allow discrimination by certain organizations based on the nature of the organization, such as religious institutions, including schools, wanting to be able to employ only those (whether as teachers, janitors or receptionists) of the same sect.

Then we invite the Education Minister to an interview:

  • Interviewer: Minister, how important do you think it is that children in our education system are not only given basic facts, but are provided with the skills to develop questions and hypotheses, analyze information, and come to the best conclusions based on the information available to them?
  • Minister: (cannot answer anything but "very" unless wanting a change of portfolio).
  • Interviewer: So, essential to the nature of a state education system, indeed any education with support from the state, is the need to question?
  • Minister: (cannot answer anything but "yes" unless wanting a change of portfolio).
  • Interviewer: The dictionary would define "skepticism" as questioning, wouldn’t it.
  • Minister: Ummmm, (quivering voice, starting to see what is coming) yes.
  • Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Education, Legislation, Philosophy, Politics, Theology and Religion, Victoria | Leave a Comment »

PSI handling and rights in Vic (3)

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-07-07

This post continues the series on the recommendations from the Victorian inquiry into use of Public Sector Information (PSI), following on from others detailed at the bottom of this post.

8. That the Victorian Government encourage as part of its funding agreements with research agencies and higher education institutions that research results be deposited in open access journals or repositories.  The Government should consider providing additional funds to these agencies to allow them to publish in open access journals that charge a fee for publication.

This is a particularly good recommendation, with PLoS being an example of an excellent peer-reviewed open-access journal (although it mainly concentrates at the moment on biomedical research, this is perhaps the research that Victoria is most famous for).

There are two "howevers":

  • If the research team has a chance of being published in Nature (and other journals in the same stable), it would be mean to deny the team the kudos of such a publisher.  Perhaps it might be worth developing such a list of journals.
  • I’m a bit dubious about "open access" journals that demand a fee for publication – Bentham Publishers infamously accepted a nonsense paper recently as discussed in "Peerless Prank" (2009-06-12), seemingly more interested in the money from authors than the quality of the work.

9. That the Victorian Government encourage divisions operating in the fields of biological innovation and research, including biotechnology development, to consider participating in the BiOS licensing system.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Economics and Business, Governance, Information Management, Politics, Victoria | Leave a Comment »

PSI handling and rights (Vic) : 2

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-30

Following previous posts (here and here) on Public Sector Information (PSI) handling and access recommendations for the Victorian government, here are some discussions on more of the dot-points:

4. That the Victorian Government adopt a narrow definition for the public sector for the purpose of establishing the government Information Management Framework.  Initially this definition should comprise only Victorian Government departments.

Whenever I hear "narrow definition" or "broad definition" I become alert for escape clauses and weasel words.  This is no exception.

First, consider the following phrases:

  • Data created or held by a government agency
  • Data created or held by an agency of government.

These two phrases might seem equivalent.  You’d be correct in thinking that the rules governing the handling of the data are identical under legislation.  However, they are very different in the eyes of many public sector managers and the executive, all too eager to find any excuse to remove accountability for compliance with those rules.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Information Management, Law, Politics, Victoria | 1 Comment »

Public Sector Information Recommendations for Victoria

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-26

Annoyingly, I missed the inquiry into the use and availability of Public Sector Information (PSI) in Victoria, but this isn’t surprising given how difficult it is to find out what inquiries are happening.  (Regular readers will remember my many posts on the procedural problems with the "Melbourne’s Future Water Supply" inquiry).

Still, I did notice the final report come out, and I’ll be commenting on many of the individual dot points in the recommendations, and doing "compare and contrasts" of selected submissions over the next few weeks.

The list of recommendations is over the fold, and taken from the Victoria – 21st Century Approach to Government Information (2009-06-24) announcement published in the Victorian eGov Resource Centre newsletter.

My general feeling is that many of these recommendations have actually have regulations in place for decades and the tools to implement them, but that the Victorian Government thoroughly deserved the public flogging by the Auditor General a little time back about incompetent (or worse) management of information.

If we pare away the motherhood statements, then there appears to be some good stuff here.  Unfortunately, there has been some successful FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) by at least one of the companies making submissions, especially about definitions of terms like "open standards", and pushing the advantages short-term thinking.  (To start with, have a look at the Google and Microsoft submissions…. one muddies the waters and reeks of lawyers, while the other has a conversational tone, pretty clearly stating "this is our philosophical position, and here is a detailed list of various commercial interests we have in this process".  Guess which one is from which company?)

Look a little closer, and we see that there are quite a few escape clauses written into the recommendations… and you can bet there will be more by the time the executive is done with them!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Economics and Business, Governance, Information Management, Politics, Victoria | 3 Comments »

When a government wants to commit ID theft

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-23

From Ars Technica ("City to job applicants: Facebook, Myspace logins please" 2009-06-18) comes something deeply disturbing.

The city of Bozeman Montana, however, has decided that all of that is too much work—it’s now requesting that potential employees hand over the login credentials for any social networking sites they frequent.

It seems to me that this idea is just plain wrong on so many levels, not just an invasion of privacy of the individual with no equivalent disclosure by the city of Bozeman Montana (of all banking records, for example, or better still, give the applicant the city’s digital key to peruse and publish all contract details), but also an invasion of privacy of all third parties that have granted privileges to particular individuals.

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Posted in Civil rights, Information Management | 3 Comments »

Worst Oz international lefty blog ideas ever?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-18

…Perhaps, and it’s mine – indeed this very post.

This comment by Greego (a regular at the Australian Libertarian Society blog) to my post "Worst Oz libertarian blog idea ever" (2009-06-17), itself in response to this ALS blog post got me thinking…

If a central plank generally attributed to states (law enforcement) can be essentially a competitive industry (with presumably different prices offered by different suppliers for different services), then why not open the rest to competition?

(It might be difficult to get parties in a dispute agreeing on the judge, however!  And who says politicians can’t be bought?)

Why not even let people choose the nation-state they want citizenship in?  Change their brand loyalties without friction as service offeerings change? After all, in a globalized market, with states seen as service providers, why shouldn’t this service be subject to competition and GATT?  The geographic restraint of trade is ridiculous and totally against free-market principles.

Meanwhile, think of the advantages.  States can get taxes from people according to their service offerings.  The more efficient the state, the more citizens (sorry, customers) they will attract.

On top of this, warfare between states (sorry, service providers) that destroys infrastructure is almost inconceivable.  There’s an efficiency gain straight away!

Besides, I can’t wait to watch what happens in those states that ultra-capitalists join: no rules… no taxes… no state.

Further, why should there be any barriers to new entries into the market?

Oh dear, does this libertarian train of thought lead to virtual distributed communes?

The only real problem with this system is the difficulty of finding place to train your national sports teams.  Bummer – there’s the showstopper.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Civil rights, Humor, International, Politics, Society | 6 Comments »

Our law permits religiously-motivated violence to infants

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-03

Non-therapeutic male circumcision is discussed in a recent Australian Policy Online report.

Personally, I’d see non-therapeutic male circumcision in the same category as intimate or genital piercing, and covered by a section of the Summary Offences Amendment (Tattooing and Body Piercing) Bill 2008 (Vic) Division 6:

44(2): A body piercer must not perform body piercing on the genitalia, anal region, perineum or nipples of a person under the age of 18 years, whether or not consent has been given to the body piercing.

It’s worth noting that the Current Issues Brief No. 3, 2008 from the Research Service of the Victorian Parliament discusses the Victorian bill, and regulations in other Australian jurisdictions, the paper does not even contain the word circumcision.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Civil rights, Law, Legislation, Victoria | 12 Comments »

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