Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

“Hate crime” seems like bad law

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-02

With the understandable agitation of Indian students over violence apparently motivated by racism, Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls has made noises about being tough on "Hate Crimes".

Personally, while considering the internals in the mind of an accused very relevant to sentencing (or deciding things like mens rea), I think "hate" has no place being part of a charge.

For one thing, if "hate crimes" attract a stiffer penalty than plain aggravated burglary, this will motivate a violent racist criminal to choose which member of an ethnic/whatever group and steal as much as they can, to make it look like a "normal" crime rather than a hate crime.

If you were a target of a hate crime, are you better off being bashed while left with your iPod, or bashed and your iPod stolen?

For another, if the crime is motivated by hatred for a class (ethnicity or belief), then we get into a number of logical problems:

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

Submission made to Gene Patents Inquiry

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-03-19

After discussing the gene patent inquiry a while back, I almost forgot to send my thoughts in… but I did.  Most of the submissions were pretty good, and the criticism of American patent law by American Law Professors (Sub 17 and Sub 17 Attachment 1) is a beauty.

It is also worth looking at the Australian Law Reform Commission’s submission (Sub 18), which was pretty much "we had this inquiry in 2004, nothing was done, we still say the same things, so get off your loathsome spotty behinds and DO something this time."

I was happy that I stressed that specific legislation and regulations could be counterproductive in the future, as no other published versions (I didn’t refer to them until after I wrote mine) mentioned this, although a later one did, and much better than I.  I also think I was the only person to suggest crowd-sourcing the scientific community to reject intellectual property claims that were really discoveries or prior art.

Anyway… my submission is over the fold (with a touch of reformatting…. no spelling errors changed) or you can pull down my PDF which is a bit prettier.

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Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Economics and Business, Governance, Law, Legislation, Politics | 1 Comment »

Is rendering countries uninhabitable terrorism?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-03-01

New Scientist and Scientific American are now saying that a "tipping point" has been reached with the climate, and that massive readjustments are necessary, including mass migration away from the equator, and large areas once dependent on glaciers for food and water (including Spain) will become unproductive if not uninhabitable.

If giving aid and comfort to terrorists who would destroy a city, even in ignorance, is treated as a serious crime, then perhaps politicians who have given aid and comfort to highly damaging industries that are about to render entire countries uninhabitable should be treated likewise.

So… giving carbon credits to industries like coal?  Especially when none can claim ignorance of the damage?

  • "Sue Big Carbon like Big Tobacco" (2008-01-03)
  • "Economic Destruction Is Terrorism" (2008-01-03) includes comments from the Australian Attorney General’s website by Prof Taylor on the equivalence of wilful economic destruction (one consequence of climate change) with terrorism, even to the relatively insignificant (in climate terms) destruction wrought by corporate shenanigans.
  • Kevin Rudd described the arsonists that set fire to Eastern Victoria in the early 2009 as terrorists
  • "The scope of treason and sedition: Has the executive offended?" (2007-08-01) looks at interpretations of the criminal code, and changes mooted under Howard (I cannot remember if they got through) that include economic damage under treason and/or sedition.

Posted in Environment, International, Law, Politics | 7 Comments »

Better than a lynching

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-18

Rather than clamor for the arrested arsonist to be lynched, (especially before any conviction), shouldn’t such people as the Facebook vigilantes push for funding of psychological assessments of firefighters, both volunteers and permanents, so the "hero-firefighter" types are rejected?

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Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Environment, Governance, Law, Politics, Society, Victoria | 1 Comment »

Science journals, commercial censorship, law and social security benefits

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-17

Nature News reports something very troubling in doi:10.1038/news.2009.99 (2009-02-16), entitled "Swedish authorities embroiled in furore over academic freedom" and with the teaser "Journal removes paper from website after company threatens legal action".

In this post I’ll give the abstract of the original paper, some background, and discuss the serious consequences of what will happen if this censorship by corporate pressure on scientific journals is permitted.

The original paper [citation: Eriksson, A. & Lacerda, F. Intl J. Speech Lang. Law 14, 169– 173 (2007)] was entitled "Charlantry in forensic speech science: A problem to be taken seriously", and in it were explicit statements that claims of "lie-detector" manufacturers had no scientific basis.

It wouldn’t surprise me if someone has died or committed suicide already because of these machines.

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Posted in Civil rights, Governance, International, Law, Science and Tech, Society | 1 Comment »

LE on Vigilantes, Facebook and Arsonists

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-16

"Hear, hear" to LegalEagle’s "Publication with prejudice"(2009-02-16) on the arrested arsonist and stupid vigilantes on Facebook.

Vigilante types say they want the benefits of a society government by the rule of law and fair procedures, but jeopardize it.

I think our legal authorities ought to bring-in the ringleaders of any vigilantes at least to read them the riot act, and get a message sent individually to each Facebook vigilante warning them about what they risk.

And if any of those vigilantes are in the finance industry that caused the current economic hardships through recklessness and greed… perhaps they’d like their personal details made known to each person that gets laid off or thrown out on the street?

As I commented on LE’s post, I wonder how many vigilantes would want me on charges if I smashed their windscreen on seeing them endanger lives by driving past a stopped tram, or holding a mobile phone to the ear while driving.  Probably most of them.

Posted in Civil rights, Law, Media, Society | Leave a Comment »

Bushfires, privatization of profits, socialized risk, AS4360

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-15

In a really essential service, privatized profits and socialized risk will be highlighted by the upcoming class action for the recent tragic bushfires against the power distributors and the Victorian Government (The Age: here and here)

Hopefully, the plaintiff’s lawyers will demand to see the AS/NZS 4360-compliant risk registers and risk treatment plans of both the distributors and the government, as both were exposed to risks.  There are even specific adjuncts to AS4360 dealing with fire in a Victorian context.

If the risk registers and treatment plans are inadequate, then demonstrating negligence is an open and shut case, and you wouldn’t need to get into highly technical engineering arguments about power-pole lifecycles, melting points of wires, and predictability of meteorological phenomena.

This post include a rough quantitative analysis of the requirements, not just rant in qualitative terms, as well as a quick demonstration that the relevant outsourced risk management handbooks are mentioned in the Victorian government internet domain.

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Posted in Australia, Economics and Business, Environment, Ethics, Governance, Information Management, Law, Politics, Victoria | Leave a Comment »

Incentives for the finance industry I’d like to see

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-13

If you are after a way to treat the financiers who have blown the world’s economy out of the water, who’ve effectively been loaning money (and charging for it) they didn’t have…

Forget wage limits… maybe inspiration from this is the way to go (from Legal Theory Blog).

Posted in Economics and Business, Law | Leave a Comment »

Open Letter to LE, SL and other legal types

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-12

Dear LE and SL at Skepticlawyer,

As you know, I’m a fan of both of you… wit, whimsy and smarts on legal philosophy.

So I’m hoping you’ll write something, together or separately (although a compare and contrast could be fun) to this Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into Australia’s Judicial System and the Role of Judges

Hey, just make a list of previous posts on the issues you’ve done and I’ll cut and paste and plagiarise.  A couple of jokes gleaned from your posts are probably just what the Senators would like to see!  (Maybe a cartoon from DEM?)

It’s a very wide-ranging inquiry (see the terms of reference or below the fold), and you’ve only got until 2009-03-30 to email your submissions into, although the report from the committee isn’t due until 2009-08-17.

You two live and breathe (and laugh!) this stuff.

Seriously though, this is probably one of the most important general inquiries we’ve had in decades, and I’d really appreciate any efforts your two minds (and hearts) might make.

Regards, Dave

p.s. LE: say hi to the kids from me. SL: Don’t eat the yellow snow.

Hmmmm.  Maybe without your input I’ll write something like this….

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Posted in Australia, Law, Politics | 4 Comments »

Nalliah bad enough… but who is Trevor?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-12

I’ve updated my post on the incendiary Nalliah to include some scary comments back in November from readers of his "prophecy" post, particularly "Anne" and the deeply worrying "Trevor" (who said "When you see the fire I start…").

I included part of their comments just in case they are moderated conveniently deleted… and how many have already disappeared, I wonder?

As I’ve now included in the 2009-02-10 post (and there is more added than just this excerpt)…

Nalliah should turn over to investigators details about scary comments: the IP numbers, emails, etc, and indicate whether ANY comments were expunged/moderated to cover himself, and assist recovering any such comments from caches, RSS feeds of comments, etc.

Posted in Australia, Law, Society, Theology and Religion, Victoria | 2 Comments »

OMG! I’m kinda on the side of Microsoft!

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-11

I’m an open-source unix-loving bigot, so it is very strange for me to urge qualified support for Microsoft when M$ is under attack in an anti-trust case.

What is happening is that Opera, with less that 1% of the Browser Hit Marketshare, has gone to the EU anti-trust groups (which have a history of justly hassling M$) complaining about bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows, and Mozilla Firefox (who have over 20% of the market) have weighed in on the case.

Firefox is being unfair in my view, although not for the reasons outlined in ArsTechnica who rightly say that M$ market dominance is dropping.

If there is abuse by Microsoft, it is that IE has never yet released a production browser that correctly renders standard html – and with their market, this makes it much harder for those products that generate standard html to be viewed fairly, more than the browsers (like Firefox, which I heartily recommend) that do render standard HTML properly, but have problems dealing with the non-standard HTML generated by M$ products.

Admittedly, M$ are promising that IE8 will be much better rendering standard html, but that’s still a promise about a product that is still Beta, not production.  Other browsers render standard html fine… it’s the FIRST thing they try and do.

To fix this, the EU anti-trust mob should force Microsoft to include one or two other browsers with each installation of Windows until such time as a production version of Internet Explorer is included that renders standard HTML as well as it does Microsoft non-standard HTML.

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Posted in Economics and Business, Europe, Information Management, Law, Science and Tech | 3 Comments »

Christian cleric incites terrorism: prosecute him!

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-10

UPDATED: Includes scary comments by readers of the 2008-11-11 "prophecy" blogpost by Nalliah

SEE ALSO NEW POST: Internet pastoral responsibilities of clerics: Nalliah and Trevor

The Christian Taliban claim the bushfires are a divine message, and thereby, by extension, that the arsonists are "messengers of the lord", and thus praiseworthy.

Given the way politicians and public have equated these arsonists to terrorists, how different is this from when a Islamist cleric talks of suicide bombers and matyrdom?

I think changes to law a year or so ago meant that it was possible to charge people for careless utterances that incited violence or terrorism… careless in the sense that you had not only to worry about what a reasonable person would infer from your words, but what a nutter would infer.

If this interpretation held up in court (any lawyers out there remember details??), then clerics like those at "Catch the Fire Ministries" should be at least charged with inciting terrorism the next time an arsonist is arrested and discovered to be Christian.

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Posted in Australia, Ethics, Language Use, Law, Media, Politics, Society, Theology and Religion | 16 Comments »

Punishing arsonists

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-09

I can’t condone calls for capital punishment of arsonists who’ve caused death or left people with nothing but the shirts on their backs.  However, there are some things that could be done as well as conventional prison sentences.

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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Ethics, Law, Society | 2 Comments »

Phone-in and blog launched by Oz Law Reform Commission

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-09

A new government blog as a means of conversation with citizens has been launched, by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), together with a two-day "phone-in".

Unlike "Conroy’s stillborn attempt at openness" (2008-12-28), the new blog is concerned with one issue as part of the "Government Secrecy Review" (2009-01-20).

The ALRC has been a lot smarter than Conroy: even if you aren’t interested in this particular consultation, it is well worth while browsing around the site if you are interested in how any consultation could be organized.

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Posted in Australia, Governance, Information Management, Law, Legislation, Politics | 1 Comment »

Long Bow Contender : The AG

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-04

Our Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, is drawing a long bow for a headline with this media release on his website (2009-02-03), co-signed by Lindsay Tanner.

The headline?


What next, a grant to the gum-leaf whistling championship being touted as "strengthening the Australian Economy"?

If the changes to the legal system can make a significant difference, then the economy must be on a lower base than I thought.

Perhaps I should have put this in my category cloud under "humor".

Posted in Australia, Language Use, Law, Politics | Leave a Comment »

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