Thursday, May 29, 2008

Murdoch Media Helps 'Al Qaeda' Spread Fear And Terror

The Australian Uses Online Game Art As 'Al Qaeda' Post-Nuclear Apocalyptic Imagery

By Darryl Mason

UPDATE : The Australian newspaper has been busted using artwork from an online game to illustrate a 'Al Qaeda Wants WMDs To Blow Away Washington DC' piece of war propaganda.

Go Here For More On That

Thanks to reader NikC who revealed the 'nuked Washington' image The Australian said was from Al Qaeda actually came from a videogame.


A private American intelligence agency, which turns considerable profit off distributing 'Al Qaeda' propaganda videos and Bin Laden speeches, has been hyping a new 'quasi-documentary' where some nobody on a message board says, basically, "Hey, you know what would kill lots of infidels? WMDs. We should try and get some of those."

The 'documentary' has been discredited by the FBI, and widely mocked for days across alternative and independent news sites.

So why is The Australian and News.com.au giving this piece of crap fluff prime placement coverage today, under the headline 'Al Qaeda Urges Use Of WMD'?

A few seconds of Google searching would have revealed that nobody, not even the American agency that releases old Bin Laden videos cobbled together to appear as though they are new speeches, gives any credibility at all to this bullshit video.

The video was roundly dismissed as being called 'fan-made.' That's right. Somebody, somewhere in the world, cut together a whole heap of old Al Qaeda propaganda videos and dumped it onto a website, and now Murdoch media is giving it the star treatment.

Why?

Why is The Australian, of all newspapers, helping to distribute and give exposure to this crap, days after it was dismissed as ridiculous fluff by American and international intelligence agencies?

Anyone got an answer?

UPDATE :
As reader NikC points out, The Australian is using artwork not from 'Al Qaeda' but from a video game website to try and ramp up The Fear for its pissweak and thoroughly discredited piece of war propaganda.

Go Here To See The Video Game Art Being Passed Off As Apocalyptic Al Qaeda Imagery By Murdoch Media

Illegal Nipples

UPDATE : I've been advised to remove the uncensored Bill Henson image, sourced from The Age newspaper website. So it's gone. Also I referred to federal police raiding the gallery, it was actually the NSW police.


According to professional idiot Andrew Bolt, the controversial Bill Henson photograph at the centre of a cultural and moral storm is pornography.

(Uncensored image now removed)

Bolt : "Fact is, Henson’s photographs are soft porn."

Really? How disturbing. What kind of pornography does Bolt normally view if he thinks that's soft porn?

But this duplicate, and purposely darkened (you know, to make it more sinister) image is part of a gallery of images featured on various Rupert Murdoch News Limited websites, including Andrew Bolt's own The Herald Sun.



If the first photograph is a "soft porn" image of, according to Bolt, a "stripped 13 year old", and the second photograph is acceptable enough to be featured (without any warnings of nudity) on Bolt's own newspaper website, in a censored form, the entire question of whether or not this is an illegal image seems to come down to the revealing of two nipples. Or the fact that it is a photograph and not a painting or sketch or sculpture.

Now it's 'art', not 'soft porn' :



If Bolt is confused over what is or isn't "soft porn", he can always ask his boss, a renowned pornographer.


The girl in the above images has been identified by police, but has refused to speak to police investigators :
It is understood police have been contacted by a lawyer acting for the girl - believed to be from Victoria - and she wants no part in the inquiry.

It not known how old she is now.

Police had hoped to speak to her and her parents to determine what level of parental permission was granted when she posed for the shoot.

Smart girl, or woman now. Regardless of whether or not a crime has been committed - and so far charges have not even been laid - if her name is revealed, the media will hound her remorselessly, and her parents will cop no end of grief, from the likes of Bolt, for allowing her to be photographed by Henson. Her parents might also face charges, depending on how long ago the photographs were taken, and what kind of consent they gave Henson to photograph their daughter.

The next leader of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull, refused to label the Henson photographs as "revolting", as PM Rudd did:

"We have a culture of great artistic freedom in this country and I don't believe the vice squad's role is to go into art galleries..."

Here's the relevant laws under which federal police will supposedly lay charges against Henson :

Children not to be used for pornographic purposes
(1) Any person who:
(a) uses a child who is under the age of 14 years for pornographic purposes, or
(b) causes or procures a child of that age to be so used, or
(c) having the care of a child of that age, consents to the child being so used or allows the child to be so used,
is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty: imprisonment for 14 years.
(2) Any person who:
(a) uses a child who is of or above the age of 14 years for pornographic purposes, or
(b) causes or procures a child of that age to be so used, or
(c) having the care of a child of that age, consents to the child being so used or allows the child to be so used,
is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty: imprisonment for 10 years.
(3) For the purposes of this section, a child is used by a person for pornographic purposes if:
(a) the child is engaged in sexual activity, or
(b) the child is placed in a sexual context, or
(c) the child is subjected to torture, cruelty or physical abuse (whether or not in a sexual context),
for the purposes of the production of pornographic material by that person.
(4) For the purposes of this section, a person may have the care of a child without necessarily being entitled by law to have the custody of the child.
(5) Where on the trial of a person for an offence under subsection (1) the jury is not satisfied that the accused is guilty of the offence charged, but is satisfied on the evidence that the accused is guilty of an offence under subsection (2), it may find the accused not guilty of the offence charged but guilty of the latter offence, and the accused is liable to punishment accordingly.
It sounds like, according to the law, it will all come down to whether or not the 13 year old girl was photographed in "a sexual context".

In all likelihood, Bill Henson will not be charged with anything, and neither will the owners of the Sydney gallery the police raided or the parents of his teenage models. Of course, his art will now sell for even more than it currently does, now he has become the most famous artist in Australia.

But if Henson is not charged, will such controversial images be allowed to be displayed in Australian art galleries again?

Presumably, if this scandal results in no charges being laid, it will require a change in law for such a prohibition to take place.

Would Kevin Rudd have the guts to push for a law change like that?

Doubtful.


UPDATE :
Tony Abbott has some questions about whether he can now have this kind of "pornography" on his computer :

"If I had on my computer the kind of images that were in that gallery I'd be interviewed by the police, quite possibly face charges."

"If it's pornography on my computer, why isn't it pornography in the gallery? That's the question that I ask.

"And if it's not pornography in the gallery, it's not pornography on my computer.''

Tony Abbott, the moronic twit, hasn't seen the images for himself. He has, however, heard they are "pretty confronting."
"Shocking people is all very well but I don't think we need to be shocked by everything, I think some things are off limits.''
Not off limits for Tony Abbott is bombing the fuck out of 13 year old children in Iraq, a corpse-soaked war of occupation he has enthusiastically supported. As has Andrew Bolt. Curiously, most of those in the media who are kicking up most of the fuss are also active supporters of the Iraq War, including the Sydney Morning Herald's Miranda Devine.

Non-sexualised images of naked children? Pure evil. Children blown to pieces by American Hellfire missiles? Perfectly acceptable.

Now there's a double standard that drips blood.

Note : The first image (now removed - ed) was sourced from the website of the Melbourne Age newspaper, where it remains archived as of this posting.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Two-Thirds Of Australians Meet Mortgage Payments By Staying Home

A new survey claims that two-thirds of Australian households in our capital cities are "coping easily" with rising mortgage payments. How? By cutting back on spending and toning down their lifestyles (excerpts) :

"Even though people in country areas said they are struggling more, the statistics also show that people living in capital cities are more likely to be paying a greater percentage of their take-home household income on their mortgage repayments," MFAA CEO Phil Naylor said.

On a national level, while most survey respondents across Australia said they were easily meeting their loan obligations, around 31 per cent are struggling to meet repayments.

Of these, 0.5 per cent of respondents were one to three months behind on payments, representing just 27,000 loans out of a possible 5.5 million across the country.

...this showed the majority of Australians had been able to make lifestyle adjustments to help them make ends meet.

"They are eating out less, reducing costs at home, taking their lunch to work and buying food from bulk or lower cost outlets.

"These are all sensible adjustments in response to increases in interest rates to ensure they manage their repayments."

Some good news in there, but still, hard-working Australians left with less disposable income are also left with fewer choices to get out and enjoy themselves, to shake off the hassles and stress of the working week. For too many people, choosing to own the home they live in has become a lifestyle-slackening burden. You may be living the Australian dream by owning your own home, but at what cost to the rest of your life? Should going out to dinner once a week, or once a fortnight, or catching a movie with the family, really be seen as far too expensive luxuries?

UPDATE : The news is not so good for those with property investments. This story claims that one in two property investors will suffer hard if interest rates rise another 1%.
Patients Smoke 'Medical Marijuana' On Grounds Of Sydney Hospital

Will Millions Of Baby Boomers Choose To Fade Away In A Cloud Of Dope Smoke?




In the next two decades there will be more Australians over the age of 60 than under the age of 25. The Baby Boomers are hitting voluntary or forced retirement age, and health resources are likely to be extremely, perhaps dangerously, stretched as millions enter their last years and their physical and mental needs will hammer state and federal health budgets.

Hospitals will only become more overcrowded, publicly-funded pharmaceutical programs will cost billions a year, with most boomers are expected to survive well into their late 80s or early 90s, soaking up more health care resources the longer they live.

There will need to be a much greater revolution in health care in Australia to cope with the demand from Boomers, for prescription medications alone, but what if hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomers start demanding access to alternative medicines now deemed illegal?

I've been a regular patient at St Vincent's in recent years and have watched widely varying reactions from doctors when confronted with the reality of patient marijuana use.

There seems to be a "don't ask, don't tell" mentality. But I use marijuana and always want the doctors taking care of me, in and out of hospital, to be aware of it. I wait for the smoking question to tell them.

...younger doctors will much more comfortably share views on cannabis and its uses and are far more inclined to acknowledge its positive effects.

They are becoming aware, too, that baby boomers who first inhaled some 30 years ago are now demanding medical marijuana - and these doctors will have to deal with it. Few boomers want today's hydroponic horrors, the toxic response to prohibition, but rather the milder garden-grown weed of our youth.

It eased period pain back then, will it ease my arthritis pain now?

It works as well as a sleeping pill - which will I choose? And in emotionally traumatic times - valium or a cannabis cookie? And when the cancer pain comes and the surgery pain comes and you're allergic to morphine? Who will stand and refuse us?

Marijuana took the pain away, while morphine made me sick. Other hospital offerings either made me sick or didn't work.

The patients who used cannabis (I was aware of four smokers on the ward) had their own favourite spots in the hospital's garden. I was far from the only criminal in-patient. But I was the oldest. And that's the point. I'm a baby-boomer. And most of us did inhale.

There is no possibility of governments controlling marijuana use among ageing baby boomers. Many of us will choose marijuana over morphine, marijuana over valium, marijuana over blood pressure meds, marijuana for appetite. And, of course, some shameful old boomers will partake for simple pleasure.

We don't need to rake over the efficacy of cannabis yet again - the pros and cons have been articulated ad nauseum. It is a totally unsuitable drug for some people. However, almost unbelievably, few on either side of the marijuana debate are differentiating between the indoor and outdoor grown varieties of the drug. Equating today's hydro to yesterday's home grown is ludicrous. An apples with oranges comparison.

Last week Dr Wodak predicted marijuana use would exceed tobacco use in the next decade. Well, yes. That will be us baby boomers coming home to roost.

Retired Baby Boomers will become one of the most powerful political forces in Australian history, if they unite in the majority behind key issues. The pressure of their voting numbers alone will force politicians to give them just about everything they want, short of far more generous pensions and tax breaks.

If hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomers begin demanding the right to use cannabis for medicinal or even recreational purposes, politicians will eventually cave in. It may not be full legalisation, but busting hundreds of old people for anything is always a bad look. They've already proven that their public acts of dissent can shock the hell out of evening news viewers. How many half-naked elderly protests in city centres over anything could younger Australians take?

So in 2018, when your teenage son shows a curious interest in repeatedly visiting grandpa at the Happiest Nursing Home In The World, to "help him out in the garden", you will understand why.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pssst! Wanna Score Some Fully Heaps Wicked Sea Cucumber?

UnderCrabby : Organised Crime Gangs Now Stealing Fish



"I don't know nothing about no crime gangs, man..."

Sure, there might be lots of money made to be made dealing cocaine and crystal meth, but if you were a gangster would you really want to spend your weekends hanging with all those gacked-out, self-obsessed, motor-mouthed film and fashion industry arseholes?

Hell no.

It might not be as perceivably glamorous as snorting rails off the shuddering chest of a tweaking Kate Moss wannabe in a limo on the way to the Logies, but ripping off oyster racks at 3am and hijacking fresh catches of barramundi, and then selling them to a favoured Chinatown restaurant, or Uncle Maurie's fish n' chip shop, is quickly becoming the new wave in profitable action for crime gangs :

Mud crabs, prawns and barramundi are among prized species being targeted by organised crime groups to fuel an illicit domestic seafood market.

Thieves - including bikie gangs - are moving beyond abalone and shark fin to native and coral fish, oysters, eel, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and seahorses, a study by the Australian Institute of Criminology warns.

The chief targets in NSW are oysters, eels and deep-sea species such as tuna. Aquaculture farms are also victims. The main tactics are sending illicit catch to legitimate processors in Sydney and Queensland, and stealing other people's catches.

Outlaw motorcycle gangs are infiltrating the industry in some states. Bikies are believed to have been involved in pearl theft in Western Australia, the trading of fishing licences in the Northern Territory and abalone poaching in South Australia.

The study was prompted by research showing there had been growth in organised crime involving abalone and rock lobster, and an increase in criminals using the industry to launder money and make drugs at aquaculture farms.

Sydney Awash With Vacant Apartment, Empty Homes

What housing shortage? Sydney has more than 120,000 dwellings, where people could make a home for themselves, currently sitting empty and unused. But if all that housing came on the market, outrageous inner city rental prices would drop.

The number of unoccupied residential dwellings in Sydney...122,211, with the highest number found in the inner city. That does not include the thousands of empty warehouses, pubs, churches and shops.

"It's an amazing figure, isn't it? It begs analysis," said Col James, the director of the Ian Buchan Fell Housing Research Centre, in the University of Sydney's architecture faculty. The number was up from 97,889 a decade ago.

"The numbers would be swelling now there are more mortgage defaulters," he said. "There are empty properties all over the place if you know how to look for them."

Meanwhile, the NSW state government bleats on about how it is riding to the rescue of savagely fleeced young Sydneysiders with a few thousand new rent-controlled apartments, to "ease the rental pain" or whatever twaddle they've come up with recently to whitewash the fact they have failed to provide affordable housing for low-paid, but utterly essential, workers.

Of course, these few thousand apartments to be provided by the NSW government won't be ready for years, as thousands of new families arrive in Sydney to set up home every month.

Maybe squatters have the right idea.
Claiming Someone Is UnAustralian Is UnAustralian

It's been a while since politicians have been heard calling each other "UnAustralian." A 'while' being about the same period of time since the Howard government lost office. But here we go again, and shockhorror, it's a former Howard government minister dealing out the accusations of UnAustralianism :

Former indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough has accused the prime minister of being "un-Australian" for not including him in a war cabinet to tackle Aboriginal disadvantage.

"It's putting politics before Aboriginal children," Mr Brough told Sky News. "I think that's very disappointing and very un-Australian."

Not just UnAustralian, but very UnAustralian.

More accurately, it's UnMalBroughian behaviour, but for legitimate reasons.

The former indigenous affairs minister also denied he would have had a conflict of interest if he'd participated in the policy commission.

Mr Brough has a business interest providing services to indigenous communities.

PM Rudd claims that they're more interested in experts for the 'war cabinet', instead of politicians, particularly former politicians, which seems fair enough.

Mal Brough is so upset by even the thought that he could have a conflict of interest by running a business supplying housing to indigenous Australians, while insisting he should be part of a government consultation and policy body dealing with indigenous housing, that he's come over all George Constanza, and has started referring to himself in the third person :

"(We wanted) to tender in a joint venture with the Tiwi islanders to build houses on the Tiwi islands that Mal Brough would not make one cent out of. But we weren't even allowed to tender."

Yeah, that's not a good look.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Senior Liberal : Brendan Nelson Won't Fart Without Permission

If opposition sorta leader Brendan Nelson wants to let rip with a strawberry tart, he has to seek permission from his "Svengali" Nick Minchin.

I read that in a Glenn Milne story, so it must be true.

The same story also reveals that Alexander Downer is planning his return to the front benches of the opposition, throwing away a booming career as a morning radio personality in Adelaide, for starters. It must have been a hard decision for Downer to make, to sacrifice personal wealth and international acclaim so he could drop back into the front lines for the war on Ruddzilla, having turned down all the multi-million dollar executive positions he has been offered with some of Australia's leading corporations. Just like former treasurer Peter Costello.

You know highly respected politicians like Downer and Costello have been fighting to surface from beneath the avalanches of offers of blue chip executive positions since they lost the election. Don't you remember? Downer, Costello and Tony Abbott kept telling us, all through the Howard government's third and fourth term, that supremely talented men like themselves could always make millions in the private sector.

We really are a blessed country to have dedicated servants of the public, like Downer, make such supreme financial sacrifices for the good of the nation.

Please do the right thing and make a run at the leadership of the Liberal Party yourself, Mr Downer. Don't listen to the polls that claim you're as popular as bowel cancer. Your country needs you. And more laughs, too.

At your expense.

UPDATE : Damn, it looks like Downer is going to quit within weeks, instead of providing further, occasionally painful, unintended amusement for the masses. Typical. Selfish bastard, thinking only of himself and not of the needs of financially depressed Australians who could do with a few more laughs. At his expense.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Professional Idiot Andrew Bolt Announces Boycott Against "Global Warming Hypcocrisy"

But Will He Boycott His Own Newspaper?

Dammit, you've got to have standards if you want to be viewed as a credible journalist. Which is why Rupert Murdoch's pitiful Australian Bill O'Reilly clone, the Herald Sun's Andrew Bolt has announced he is going to boycott Virgin Airlines over it's "global warming hypcocrisy (sic)".

In order to stay true to his boycott of corporations that undertake hypocritical promotion of global warming, and to avoid accusations of hypocrisy himself, Andrew Bolt will now have to boycott his own newspaper and blog.

Why?

Because his boss, Rupert Murdoch, is a self-admitted true believer in the "dire consequences" posed by global warming induced climate change.
"We need to reach (our audience) in a sustained way. To weave this issue (climate change) into our content-- make it dramatic, make it vivid, even sometimes make it fun. We want to inspire people to change their behavior.

"The challenge is to revolutionize the message.

"We need to do what our company does best: make this issue exciting. Tell the story in a new way."
And keep on a few flacks, like Bolt, to keep those who think Al Gore is the AntiChrist happy, and to sustain the illusion that Murdoch media haven't already chosen a side on the climate change controversy.

Rupert Murdoch announced last June that he was going to use his worldwide media empire, including Bolt's Herald Sun, to 'change peoples' minds' about the "dire consequences" of climate change. In short, Murdoch admitted that he was going to use the 70% of Australian newspapers he controls to ramp up the fear and terror of how global warming will destroy Australia unless we cave in and pay a carbon tax.

Rupert Murdoch is now the world's most powerful and influential promoter of the "dire consequences" of global warming-induced climate change, but Bolt, supreme hypocrite that he is, is quite happy to take Murdoch's money while he rails against the ABC and nobody columnists and non-influential university professors who don't own media for pumping global warming hysteria.

Show just how principled a journalist and man you are, Bolt, and in the process show just how huge your alleged unspoken for mass of Australian conservatives are, by quitting your hypocritical corporate salary and becoming an independent blogger.

Your boss is the world's biggest promoter of the "pagan religion" and "myths" you claim will send us back to the Dark Ages, and your own newspaper refuses to give reasonable coverage to deniers of the global warming theory. You can rant all you like in your own columns, but it doesn't mean zero unless your own newspaper is showing the other side of the story in its news pages. Unless of course, you are just a professional contrarian and entertainer instead of a principled journalist and a man who stands by his beliefs.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Get Away From Me, You Loser


A brilliant piece of photography by The Age's Jason South. I think that's my pick for political photo of 2008, and probably 2009 as well. Unless one turns up of Alexander Downer being mauled by chickens. Or Tony Abbott being assaulted by wombats.

Or Wayne Swan being savaged by, what else?, a swan.

Brendan Nelson is extremely, supremely confident that he will be battling Rudd in the federal trenches next election. He's so there. How confident is he?
“As confident as I can… yes, very confident.”
His confidence is lacking some confidence.

It's comedy genius. Groucho Marx would have been proud.

Grods Corp noticed that the creaking Liberal spin machine is cleaning up Nelson's verbal splutterings in transcripts. To make him sound more confident.
Nelson's Liberals Are The Spinal Tap Of Australian Politics

Shock : Real Questions On Real Issues From The Opposition


While opposition leader Brendan Nelson was trying to rally the weight of the Rudd government to save a rural post office yesterday, opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull set about finally dismantling some of the whirling flurry of Rudd rhetoric :

...what we got from the shadow treasurer was something quite novel: a cogent and intelligent critique of the Rudd Government's first budget, coupled with a vigorous defence of the Liberal tradition.

The Rudd Government's first budget isn't bulletproof, by any means - the only reason it might have seemed a bit that way over the past 10 days is that the Opposition has been firing dum-dums directly into its own feet.

But Mr Turnbull yesterday managed to articulate some of the uneasy questions raised by last week's budget, with none of the mawkish sentiment of a Nelson oration.

Questions like: How can a government on one hand claim that climate change is our greatest challenge, then on the other hand remain silent about the budgetary impact of an emissions trading scheme, while simultaneously penalising the solar energy industry?

How can a government carry on about our crumbling public hospital system, while simultaneously making money by tipping hundreds of thousands of new patients into it?

There must be dozens of other simple and powerful questions like these the Turnbull-led opposition (or Nelson led opposition if you insist on dwelling in fantasy) can trumpet to finally get some momentum back on their side. There's a fair bit of confusion for many people on what the first Rudd government budget means for them, and now the Liberals have an opportunity to ramp up the pressure.

Well, maybe. If they can stop stabbing each other in the back. When federal Parliament staff take an inventory of the dining rooms' cutlery, they will only have to take a look at Nelson's spine to find most of the missing sharper implements.

Nelson is probably more unpopular now in his own party than he is with larger Australia. And while Nelson may now be 70% cutlery steel, Turnbull is the focus of bizarre suspicion from within his own ranks. Incredibly, a conspiracy is gaining ground among die-hard Liberals (well, some Andrew Bolt readers anyway, which makes up a fair bit of the Liberals support base, those who aren't Liberal staffers anyway) that Turnbull is a Labor double agent, bent on destroying the big Ls from within. Brilliantly amusing.

Up until Turnbull's sweat-heavy but effective speech yesterday, which should mark a turnaround in political fortune, the Liberals had been far too busy showing why they are the Spinal Tap of federal politics. They were once big, but they've fallen on hard times, the reviews of their new product is mostly terrible (two words : Shit Sandwich) and constant touring (by Nelson) is making them only look more pathetic and out of vogue, regardless of the size of their Stonehenge monument or the number of dwarves they have dancing around it.

And no, I have no idea what that last reference means...at least, not yet.
Psychiatrist : "Australians Excel In Smoking Cannabis"

300,000 Consume Pot Daily


If you smoke dope, apparently you have a "40 per cent increased risk of developing schizophrenia", which would seem to confirm the old adage that, as Kurt Cobain put it, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you. Or perhaps it means that if a lot of people were asked to describe what being stoned is like, many psychiatrists would define their
wasted state of mind as being like that of a schizophrenic.

If some dope smokers weren't paranoid enough already, now they're being told that if they consume cannabis regularly, they double the risk of becoming schizophrenic :

A new study by psychiatrists has reviewed the latest evidence of links between cannabis use and mental illness, concluding the association is "stronger and clearer than ever".

A pot smoker is 40 per cent more likely to suffer a psychotic episode than a non-smoker, according to the review of major published international research.

And for people who smoke daily over long periods their risk is 200 per cent higher.

"On the world stage, Australians excel in smoking cannabis, so there are very many people who fit into this category," said lead researcher Dr Martin Cohen, a psychiatrist at the Hunter New England Mental Health Service.

"In fact we're number one in the world. We know now more than ever that this bodes badly for our mental health."

But presumably bodes lots of new business for the psychiatric health industry. Will we be getting a new and official branch of mental illness specifically defined as cannabis-induced schizophrenia?

A third of all Australians have smoked at least once in their life, with about 300,000 using daily.

And while all had increased their risk to some degree, there was growing evidence that genetics predisposed some people even more.

Scientists have found a gene called COMT that, when faulty, is unable to break down the brain chemical dopamine.

An overload of dopamine triggers psychosis and, as cannabis produces an excess of the chemical, people with this "fault" are vulnerable.

Between 10 and 25 per cent of the population are believed to have the faulty gene, but as yet there is no way to test for it.

Not yet. But soon. When you're entire genetic ID is databased, you'll be tagged as a potential mental health casualty if you have a faulty COMT gene, and if drug tests show you use cannabis then you'll be marked up as a more likely candidate for schizophrenia. When insurance companies are allowed to demand regular drug testing of clients, through mandatory, say, twice yearly health checks, cannabis users will be seen as far more risky to insure. If, that is, the claims made by the psychiatrists are correct.

A 2007 national drug survey of 14 to 19 year olds showed 20 per cent had ever smoked marijuana and 13.1 per cent had smoked in the last 12 months.

Professor Jan Copeland, director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, said the levels of cannabis use had declined significantly since 1998, especially among school-aged Australians.

The good news about cannabis-using youth is buried in the last paragraphs. Cannabis use in general is down by a significant margin, with the highest drop in usage amongst school students.

That's great news. School students are far less interested in smoking cannabis than they were in 1998. Better video games?

It'd be interesting to see how those statistics of schizophrenic pot users break down. How many smoke joints, how many are punching breakfast cones? How many are diffusing it into cookies or cakes? How many are consuming hydroponic super-strong gear, and how many are imbibing the far more mild strains usually grown in backyards, or an isolated patch of bushland?

While the figures of schizophrenia as a result of dope abuse are frightening, the statistics overall, including the claimed 300,000 daily users, are vague and many questions remain unanswered.

Is the faulty gene more likely to be affected by hydroponic skunk, or a less brain-fuzzing 1970s-strength strain?

Do those who smoke dope regularly suffer more or less general health problems than, say, heavy drinkers?

Do heavy dope smokers drink as much alcohol, or abuse as many pharmaceuticals, as non-cannabis users?

How many consume cannabis because they believe it relieves their arthritis, their glaucoma, their AIDS symptoms, their Parkinson's tremblings, their cancer pain and lack of appetite?

Of course, one of the biggest questions that has never been answered about Australians and their mega-consumption of pot is simply : Why do so many people take it?

Do they smoke a few joints a day because it makes their lives, and minds, more stimulating, or because they're addicted to the tobacco they mix it with?

Do 300,000 Australians smoke pot every day because they are trying to block out reality, or enhance it?

Perhaps most importantly of all, how many of these 300,000 daily smokers experience side effects that make them less satisfied with their existence, reduce their ability to work, to function normally in society, to maintain close relationships with friends and family?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Just Plain Strange

There could be a whole lot of valid, and very interesting, reasons why extraterrestrials might cross the universe to visit Planet Earth and steal water from our lakes, gold from our mountans and people from their cars. But why the hell would they want to steal thousands of kilos of olives?

Thieves have stripped a NSW Hunter Valley olive grove of its fruit in an overnight raid, the latest of a series of such bizarre thefts.

Quentin Von Essen, who runs an olive grove in Lovedale, was alarmed to find that all but two of his 400 trees had been stripped of their olives earlier this month.

Mr Von Essen said he was dumbfounded how the theft of about four tonnes of olives could have happened without anyone noticing.

"It would take approximately six people up to three days to pick our olive grove," he told ABC Radio today.

"It appears that ... a whole lot of people have come into the grove overnight and just stripped the trees.

"The eerie part is ... there is not an olive on any of these trees and not an olive on the ground.

Apparently five other olive plantations in the region have also been stripped bare in recent months.

Actually, aliens with an olive fixation is the more boring, but still kind of fun, explanation for all those missing olives.

Speaking on radio, Mr Von Essen sounded absolutely flabbergasted at how the thieves managed to do their work and not leave one single, solitary olive on the trees or on the ground. Not one. Even olive picking machines leave some of the fruit behind.

Weird.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Flannery : Use Chemtrails To Fight Global Warming

Carbon bad, but sulphur is good?

Scientist Tim Flannery has proposed a radical solution to climate change which may change the colour of the sky.

But he says it may be necessary, as the "last barrier to climate collapse."

Professor Flannery says climate change is happening so quickly that mankind may need to pump sulphur into the atmosphere to survive.

The gas sulphur could be inserted into the earth's stratosphere to keep out the sun's rays and slow global warming, a process called global dimming.

"It would change the colour of the sky," Prof Flannery told AAP.

"It's the last resort that we have, it's the last barrier to a climate collapse.

"We need to be ready to start doing it in perhaps five years time if we fail to achieve what we're trying to achieve."

Prof Flannery, the 2007 Australian of the Year, said the sulphur could be dispersed above the earth's surface by adding it to jet fuel.

He conceded there were risks to global dimming via sulphur.

"The consequences of doing that are unknown."

Flannery should come clean. Trials of dumping sulphur and other chemicals into the atmosphere from planes to create a 'sun shield', to encourage global dimming, has been going on for years. Distributing a substance like sulphur from planes is the very definition of a 'chem trail', and these test runs have been on show over Sydney in recent months, for anyone who bothers to look up occasionally.

The 'dimming' that Flannery talks of will be similar to the skies we've come to know well over some Australian cities in recent years. The cloud cover spreads early in the morning, and fills the sky, thin cloud but from horizon to horizon, blocking out much of the direct sunlight, and the cloud cover stays around for days. It's not the miserable grey of London skies, it's just...dim.

You will hear much, much more talk of using chemtrails to fight climate change very soon, if Flannery is speaking of such plans on behalf of international interests, and presumably he is.

ABC's Four Corners current affairs program ran a story on the dangers of global dimming in mid-2005. Despite what Flannery claims, scientists have a pretty good idea of what global dimming will do to the planet :

Noticed less sunshine lately? Scientists have discovered that the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface has been falling over recent decades.

If the climatologists are right, their discovery holds the potential for powerful disruption to life on our planet. Already it may have contributed to many thousands of deaths through drought and famine.

Global dimming is a product of the fossil fuels that cause global warming. It is the result of tiny airborne pieces of soot, ash and sulphur compounds reflecting back the heat of the sun.

Scientists have also linked global dimming to the failure of rains in sub-Saharan Africa – and the catastrophic droughts that hit Ethiopia in the 1980s. They worry that the same thing will happen again in areas like Asia, home to billions of people.

The overriding concern expressed by climate scientists in this program is that our climate will be radically altered, rendering many parts of the planet uninhabitable - unless concerted action is taken to combat both global dimming and global warming.

So more pollution will counter global warming, as long as it's sulphur pollution, but we need to cut carbon pollution and then increase the amount of sulphur in the atmosphere to encourage global dimming, which masks the full effects of global warming, which will destroy much of the world if it's not stopped, but global dimming is also destructive, but not as destructive as global warming, which is being held in check by current global dimming so we need to increase global dimming with sulphur while cutting down on carbon to stop global warming...or something.

I'm sure it makes perfect sense, if you're a professor.
Council Hires 'Witch', Council Goes To Hell

This is what happens when you start dabbling in the black arts of 'administrative review' :

Her special powers have cost (Port Philip Bay ratepayers) upwards of $800,000: $600,000 for overseeing a controversial review of the council administration, and close to another $200,000 on the legal drama that flowed from it. The bill is rising.

Four years after Ms Shahbaz was commissioned to weave a spell of success over it, Port Phillip is on its knees, senior staff say.

Her qualifications and experience include a masters of psychology at La Trobe University, a course with the astrologist Stella Starwoman and excursions to ashrams in India.

"I have a vast, vast array of interests," she says, spelling out her suitability for the job to The Age. "I'm a student of, you know, what life is."

Yeah, most living people are students of, you know, life, and living. But how do you convince a council's chief executive to hand over half a million dollars so you can cause absolute chaos?

That's obviously the real majik.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gaffe-y

Tim Blair has settled into his new blog at Sydney's The Daily Telegraph, after howling outrage from many of his readers that he had betrayed them by closing his independent blog. Now if they want to comment at Blair's blog they now have to share comments space with people who actually hold opposing views to their own. The horror.

One day into the new gig, Blair was clearly already well over his mostly Bush-worshipping American readership's endless complaints that their bursts of 'brilliant wit' actually had to be moderated now, and why didn't he get more moderators or work faster so they could more quickly show each other how brilliant and witty they were? Blair's frustration was obvious :

Remember, we’re only 24 hours or so into this. Don’t fear the newness. Only a few years ago my site had no comments facility at all; I used to get slammed for that, too. And later for allowing too many comments. Now, for not posting comments quickly enough ...

We’ll sort things out. Might take a little while, but still.
Blair was then told by some of his most frequent commenters that they didn't think he was all that important to his own blog anyway, and it was the brilliant wit of the commenters that pulled the crowds and kept the blog alive. Nice. Here's Wronwright :
...this blog was built on the comments. This community has essentially crafted a unique situation. I don’t know any other like it. You lose that when you go over to a newspaper blog.

...I can tell it won’t be the same as this blog. For one thing, it’s not enough that moderation is being done. I detest 95% of the trolls and I’d just as soon they’d be eradicated. You can’t do that on a newspaper blog.

Diddums.

Tim Blair is also discovering already how embarrassing it can be to be a newspaper blogger, particularly when you're a blogger that likes to rip into the corporate competition. Witness The Daily Telegraph's Blair going after the Sun-Herald over this story, which claims :

The Australian Army tested chemical weapons on a town which now has deaths from cancer 10 times the state average.

Military scientists sprayed the toxic defoliant Agent Orange in the jungle that is part of the water catchment area for Innisfail in Queensland’s far north at the start of the Vietnam War.

Blair wonders :
A defoliant now counts as a “chemical weapon”? Fairfax staff are traditionally confused over this.
Blair's workmates seem confused as well, because they ran the exact same story on the same day as the Sun Herald over at the Telegraph :



Blair doesn't acknowledge this double-standard, of course. Not yet, anyway.

This is a typical tactic of both Blair and his Yoda, Andrew Bolt at the Herald Sun. They quote global warming hysteria and eco-mania from wire stories run in Fairfax media, and at the ABC, while refusing to acknowledge that their own newspapers are running the exact same stories, often with far more dramatic headlines and imagery. Rupert Murdoch himself announced last year that climate change posed "dire consequences" for the world, and that his worldwide media empire would work hard to convince readers of this truth.

But neither Blair nor Bolt will acknowledge that Rupert Murdoch is a far more influential promoter of climate change than Al Gore, or Tim Flannery (their standard emotional scratching post). Nor will they acknowledge the fact that the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun pump as much, if not more, environment- related Fear & Doom stories into the minds of their readers as Fairfax and the ABC.

But those truths don't tie into the Blair n' Bolt 'Evil Lefties' narrative, of course.
Pharmaceutical 'Cannabis' Trials To Begin In Australia

So it's okay to use cannabis to deal with the pain and nausea of cancer and AIDS, but only now that the drug is being supplied by a pharmaceutical company :

Doctors will prescribe cannabis-based drugs to cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS patients in a planned NSW Government trial.

NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher will write to Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon in the next few weeks for permission to import and trial a drug expected to be Sativex, which delivers cannabis compounds through an oral spray.

"While the Iemma Government is opposed to the legalisation of marijuana, we do support a therapeutic trial of a cannabis-based drug," a spokeswoman for Ms Meagher said.

The Australian Medical Association welcomed the trial.

"We believe medicinal cannabis may be of benefit in HIV-related wasting and cancer-related wasting," said chairman of the association's public health committee Dr John Gullotta, adding that it might also relieve nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The Cancer Council NSW welcomed the move.

UK company GW Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Sativex, grows cannabis then extracts cannabinoids CBD and THC. "The formulation is believed to enhance the pain relief of THC while modulating the unwanted psychotropic and other THC-related side effects, such as tachycardia [rapid heartbeat]," the company says.

It's hardly different at all from natural cannabis, with the exception that the Sativex formulation has been patented, which is something no pharmaecutical company has been able to deal with the real thing.

The support from the AMA and the Cancer Council is extremely positive for the case for medicinal cannabis, and will go a long way to tamping down the conservative hysteria that erupts every time someone dares to suggest that cannabis might actually be the wonder drug it has been claimed to be for thousands of years.
How Science Explains 'Goin' Troppo'

The heat and humidity of Northern Australia, plus lashings of booze, really does send the locals a bit nuts, particularly when the monsoons are on their way :

...surgeons at the Royal Darwin Hospital who analysed facial fracture rates have concluded that the period of extreme heat, leaden skies but little rain, provokes a surge of violence.

In an analysis presented to a medical conference in Hong Kong this week, the doctors showed that fractures resulting in hospital treatment were 40 per cent higher in the months when daily minimum temperatures at night were highest, humidity peaked and the rainfall and hours of sunshine were lowest.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says that the rate of injuries from assaults in the region is at least five times higher than the national average. Nine in every ten facial fracture admissions are the result of violence. Dr Thomas and his team studied monthly hospital admissions over the 12 years to 2006 and plotted them against historic weather data on temperature, humidity, rainfall and sunshine.

“Hot nights spell trouble when there's all that warmth but no rain to relieve it and bring the tension down,” Dr Thomas said.

Dr Mathew Brambling, a lecturer in psychology at Queensland University of Technology, says it may be no coincidence that the Northern Territory ranks second worldwide in hospital admissions of facial fractures behind Greenland, which is cloaked in extended periods of darkness.

Shorter, darker days could affect the secretion of neurochemicals involved in mood, giving rise to the condition called seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, he said. Heatwaves had been found to increase aggression, impulsiveness, risk-taking behaviour, violence and suicide.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Internet Filtering Won't Work Says Action Group

The Electronic Frontiers Australia advocacy group is trying to whip up some outrage amongst Australian internet users over draconian plans by the Rudd government to censor the internet :

...the Government's decision to fund its mandatory "clean feed" internet in the 2008-09 Federal Budget is a waste of taxpayers money.

"At a time when the Government is cutting services to fight inflation, it's bewildering that they would decide to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on a filter before feasibility trials are even complete," EFA spokesman Colin Jacobs said.

The Budget allocates $24.3 million to the Government's "cyber-safety" initiative, rising to $51.4 million in the 2009-10 financial year.

What exactly is the Rudd government planning that requires a doubling of the internet censorship budget within two years?

"Australians are very uncomfortable with the idea of having the Government decide what's appropriate for them and their families," Mr Jacobs said.

...in a survey of 18,000 internet users, only 13 per cent agreed with the policy.

Few countries have made internet filtering work...well, China and Iran have made it work. But should we be holding up those regimes as examples of how we want the internet in Australia to be censored?

Of course, there are plenty of entertainment companies with outposts in Australia who are all for mandatory filtering of the internet, in the mistaken belief that online piracy is stealing their profits, instead of too much average music and far too many deflating films.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Art Of Bon


Photo by Rennie Ellis
Bon Scott isn't just the greatest rock n' roller in Australian history, he's also become something of a cultural phenomenon :

Interest in Scott keeps surging 28 years after his drink-induced death just as the band was hitting its prime. British magazine Classic Rock has named Scott the greatest ever frontman, ahead of Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant.

The Melbourne City Council has named a laneway after his band, his birth town of Kirriemuir in Scotland unveiled a Caithness stone slab in his honour and money was raised to erect a bronze statue of him in Fremantle, Western Australia.

His grave in Fremantle cemetery is now the most visited grave site in the country.

Bon Scott has also become the subject of an art and installation exhibition in Fremantle, Scott's home, which aims :
...to explore notions of masculinity, remembrance and rebellion by deconstructing the charismatic rock star.

"I feel that Bon has always relished his outsider status. He's always been a bit of a rascal and hellraiser, like a Ned Kelly figure, so I wanted to look at other ways we could celebrate his life."

Some of the works include personal letters, photographs uncovered from the late Rennie Ellis' collection, Bevan Honey's Apparition installation, which is visible only in certain light, and a blog written by Lucas Ihlein about the cult of Scott.

They will even wheel out fashion critics to analyse "the ugly/sexy factor" — Scott's allure despite his not being conventionally handsome.

"By wearing kilts and dressing up as a schoolgirl, it's clear Bon had an intuitive understanding about how to play dress-ups," Ms Stephens said. "And yet he was admired so much for resisting the pressure to go glam — he was a denim man through and through."

The exhibition runs from May 17 in Fremantle's Arts Centre. It will probably tour from there.

And there's more AC/DC exhibitfication coming :
The Melbourne Arts Centre also plans to present exhibitions on AC/DC and Peter Allen.
Presumably that will not be a joint exhibition.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Look at the faces in that audience, a moment more than 30 years in the past now. Did anyone who saw this photo in The Age newspaper recognise themselves? Did they get that distinct, electric jolt that comes when a vivid exciting memory of youth suddenly unfolds in the mind?



The girl in the front row second from the left looks like she just might be in love.

(photo and link found at the BonScottBlog.com)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ED Day Update

I've posted some thoughts on finishing the ED Day : Dead Sydney online novel over at the ED Day blog.

Go Here For That

The short version is that I'm rewriting Dead Sydney to include more of the plot elements that turned up when I was writing the last chapters and to more fully detail post-pandemic Sydney a bit more.

I've also decided to do an online book of short stories of how characters who turn up in Dead Sydney managed to survive the first waves of the bird flu pandemic that kills millions across the city. This book of short stories would then act as a prequel to Dead Sydney.

I've also started work on the first few chapters of the sequel to Dead Sydney, which follows the narrator, Paul, on his journey into the Blue Mountains after escaping the 'invisible' wall that surrounds the city centre, trapping pandemic survivors inside a few city blocks. I think it's going to be great fun writing about city office workers and Blue Mountains locals joining together to fight, and survive.

Like Dead Sydney, the prequel and sequel will be free to read online.

I hope to have copies of the Dead Sydney for sale through this blog in a month or so. I'm toying with the idea of printing Dead Sydney with four or more different covers, for a bit of variety, and because not everyone will want to read a book in public that has a cover showing Sydney landmarks strewn with bodies. Some, however, won't mind.

I'll update here when the first short stories go online. The first chapters of the sequel are a few weeks away.

Monday, May 12, 2008

When Being Mauled By A Shark, Always Go The Eye Gouge



This extraordinary photo by James Bickerdike shows two swimmers splashing the water to try and scare away a 4-metre long white pointer shark near Albany, West Australia. You can see the shark's huge fin cutting through the water just above the water splash.

The shark had just attacked a man, who fought it off by finding its gills and then feeling along until he found an eye socket. He then plunged in a finger. Lucky he did :
When it . . . banged straight into me, I knew it was a shark. I was more concerned about getting out of its mouth because it was dragging me backwards under water.
Sharks are supposedly quite the cowards, and are not used to their prey fighting back. Particularly not prey that goes the eye gouge.

Go Here For The Full Story And More Photos

Sunday, May 11, 2008

How To Blow $60 Million

From King Of Online Porn to lord of mum's vacuum cleaner in only a few short years :

Five years ago Greg Lasrado drove a $500,000 black Lamborghini Diablo, rubbed shoulders with high-powered people such as US president Bill Clinton, lived between multimillion-dollar penthouses and bought racehorses for fun. Today his sole asset is a rusty ute, he lives in his parents' spare bedroom and spends most weekends helping his mum with the housework.

During the 1990s, Lasrado went from being a university student drop-out to Australia's No.1 internet porn tycoon, accumulating a $60million fortune along the way. But an extravagant lifestyle and poor business management sent him on a downward spiral to a broken marriage, heroin addiction and, finally, bankruptcy.

Today Lasrado, 38, reveals for the first time his dramatic rise and fall as an international porn baron.

"Up until five years ago, I was living every man's dream," he told The Sun-Herald in a Brisbane restaurant last week. "I'd wake up on a day like today, have lunch, buy a car, then head to the airport and be in another country by the close of play.

"I was convinced it would last forever. Now, I've lost the lot. If you were to turn me upside down, 10 cents would not fall out of my pocket."

If you're going to fall, fall big and fast.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Not Right

Andrew Bolt's green hysteria is becoming deeply disturbing, and deeply offensive to those who view Hitler as something far more evil than merely a symbol to be used in political attacks.

Weird, bizarre political attacks, using modern day Nazi propaganda like this :



Has Bolt never heard of the American government's World War 2 homeland campaign called 'Hemp For Victory'? Americans were told they had to grow hemp to defeat the Nazis.

Bolt also now claims : "I'm not of the right..."

Confused? Obviously you're not quite as confused as Andrew Bolt.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rudd Vs The Media

Christian Kerr, formerly of Crikey, is doing some fine politics vs media analysis at The Australian, and nails PM Rudd for his purposeful denial of access by journalists and television crews :

Television crews had gathered outside the venue to get footage of the PM entering and so journalists could ask a question or two. John Howard was usually up to it. If he wanted to talk, he'd stop. It gave all the media a line from the PM on the issues of the day and vital background shots for the newsrooms to use.

But Rudd didn't appear. Instead, he came in the back door. What's more, he came through an area where media are not permitted to film or ask questions. That didn't stop some media trying, and failing.

Adam Collins, one of the PM's junior media minders, told them to move on and not to ask questions. Security appeared, followed by a senior member of the PM's media team, Fiona Sugden.

She brokered a compromise. The media could stay and film, but not ask questions. It was just another skirmish in the war between Rudd's press office and the media, a war that has seen one of the Canberra gallery's most senior journalists forced to act as an errand boy.

It's a bad look for democracy.
Howard's Rage

Opposition leader Brendan Nelson has tried being a shiny, happy person, as he toured Australia "listening", but with serial-killer levels of public approval, Nelson's remaking of the Liberal Party leadership clearly hasn't worked.

Former Liberal leader, and ex-prime minister, John Howard, suggests a new strategy :

John Howard last night urged Liberal Party faithful to maintain the rage, saying they should work hard to get out of Opposition and promising a federal Liberal government "will come again".

"Rage against opposition," he said. "Work as hard as you can to get out of opposition as soon as you can.

"Opposition is a dismal position in politics. I had my share of opposition, I had 13 years of it, and I hated every year of it, I hated every week of it."
So much hate, for so many years.

John Howard seems to have delayed his promise to fade away quietly, and not become like other ex-MPs, always giving speeches and making public comments and critiques. Maybe next year.
Bob Ellis Challenges Tim Blair To Public Debate

Tim Blair has been having great fun with Labor barnacle Bob Ellis in the past few weeks, on whether or not he deserves to be voted for in the ABC's 'Favourite Australian' poll, and a recent column published at ABC Online where Ellis gruesomely mused on how the world might be a different, and better, place if Hillary Clinton had spent more time orally pleasuring her husband in the mid-1990s.

Ellis responded to a Blair column bagging him in the Daily Telegraph with a letter, that Blair has now published as an opion piece :
Tim Blair said the Iraq War would bring oil prices down, and he still has his job.

He said there would be no humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq and now, with three million Iraqis living elsewhere, and a million of them, probably, dead, he still has his job.

He called George W. Bush a modern-day Winston Churchill, and he still has his job.

I think it's great he still has his job. He shows how wrong the Right are about most things, and how they never learn, and never admit a mistake.

Ellis' easy ire was sparked by this Blair colum and Ellis has now laid down a challenge to Blair that will be humiliating for him to refuse, even though it's clear that Ellis is hoping for a little attention, and money :

If he wants me sacked, impoverished and silenced, he should say why in detail.

Perhaps on a public podium, before a paying audience - one he shares with me.

Any time, anywhere.

Tim Blair's response?

UPDATE : It turns out Bob and Tim have been challenging each other to public debates for almost six years. Blair in 2002 :
...(Ellis) interrupted me with this challenge: we must have a public debate! I'm up for it, Bob. Name your time and place, and my appearance fee.
They're both hoping for attention and money. Six years, and they're still only making goo-goo eyes at each other.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Loser Conservatives Can't Stop Whining

Think tanker Gerard Henderson lashes the "Australian conservative movement", whatever that is, for not being intellectual or influential enough in a humiliatingly whiny rant that is neither intellectual or influential and reads like a letter to the editor of The Australian.

A rejected letter :

...it would be unwise to regard leadership as the only problem facing the Liberals. This issue disguises a deeper cultural problem that turns on the intellectual weakness of the politically conservative tradition in Australia, compared with that which prevails in similar democracies such as Britain and the US.

...towards the end of his administration it was difficult to find even three members of the Canberra Press Gallery who supported Howard on any one of such issues as Iraq, national security, Work Choices or climate change.
Aren't they supposed to be journalists, and therefore neutral? How can you complain about the media being filled with biased Evil Lefties and then bitch about how few in the press gallery "supported" Howard? Henderson shows he isn't concerned about political bias in Australian journalism, just that there's not enough Liberal campaigners disguised as journos (probably the crap wages for most) applauding Brendan Nelson from the press gallery. Fantastic.

During Howard's time there was considerable hype among the left about what were termed the culture wars. If such a cultural battle was ever engaged, Howard did not win it. His appointments to the ABC board did not change the national broadcaster's prevailing leftist culture.

Political cycles invariably turn, and the Liberal Party will almost certainly regain office somewhere, sometime.

That might make for a catchy Brendan Nelson brand slogan, "Somewhere, Sometime".

Meanwhile, the social democrats and the left still dominate the intellectual debate in Australia. This reality contributes to Nelson's evident difficulties and discontents, and especially to the fact that the Howard/Costello legacy is now being trashed.

What absolute twaddle. Nelson goes on a listening tour, it gets plenty of media coverage, he has nothing much to say, he listens a lot and then has few insightful comments on what he heard, and nobody generally gives a shit. Sure, blame the Evil Lefties for that, too. It would be terrible if Liberals actually had to take responsibility for their failing, falling ability to impact on the national conversation.

It's very simple, if your ideas are getting an airing and they're not finding much of an audience, there's a good chance the ideas are not interesting or popular, or worse, they're just plain disturbing and acutely divisive. Like much of Andrew Bolt's production line word vomit.

Part of the problem of shouting 'Evil Lefty!' every time someone disagrees about the reality of the Iraq War or why hanging onto oil and coal as our main energy sources isn't going to be a good idea for the rest of this century, is that conservatives who believe these things are isolated because they don't see themselves as members of 'The Left', that outdated relic of obsession for a bunch of columnists who went to uni together in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Hendersons and the Bolts of the "conservative movement" need to spend less time whining about why they're not supposedly being heard, and more time trying to draw in those who truly believe conservative values are important, and can change the country for the better, without all the hysteria and bitterness.

Why would you want to be associated with the bitter, sulky likes of Andrew Bolt and Gerard Henderson, even if you did think they're mostly right, and not just Right?

If this great unrepresented mass of secret Liberal supporters is really out there, the Hendersons and Bolts have to make the beliefs and values they push far more attractive, and create enthusiasm for these ideas, and ideals, instead of pissing on about Evil Lefties hogging ABC air time and trying to turn every university student into the next Bob Brown or Al Gore.

It's fiction, and it's boring.

The people want to hear ideas they like, and believe in, they want to get excited by the new and challenging, but right now they're not hearing any of this from anyone much in the Liberal Party, or the mysterious "Australian conservative movement."

All they're still hearing from the Hendersons and Bolts is how awesome John Howard was, and how there's not enough appreciation for whatever it was he did during all those years in power.

Yeah, that gets people excited.
Drug Expert : Sell Cannabis At Australia Post Offices

Predicts Spliffs Will Replace Cigarettes

Hundreds of thousands of Australians will light up joints, or punch cones, this or next weekend. All of them will be breaking the law. A country originally settled for the purposes of growing industrial cannabis (hemp) two centuries ago, continues to criminalise adults who think that cannabis is a better way to unwind on Friday night than binge-drinking, and that it provides better mild pain relief than gut-burning pharmaceuticals.

But Alex Wodak, the director of alcohol and drug services at St Vincent's Hospital posits that 'cannabis use will replace cigarette consumption' in the next ten years, and it's time now for the government to get in first and make sure that criminal profiteering and police, corporate and political corruption doesn't run rampant in this new marketplace :

Cannabis would be sold legally in post offices in packets that warn against its effects under a proposal outlined by the head of a Sydney drug and alcohol clinic.

...Wodak said Australia needed to learn from the tobacco industry and the US Prohibition era in coming to terms with his belief that cannabis use would replace cigarette consumption over the next decade.

"The general principal is that it's not sustainable that we continue to give criminals and corrupt police a monopoly to sell a drug that is soon going to be consumed by more people than tobacco," he said.

"I don't want to see that [industry] fall into the hands of tobacco companies or rapacious businessmen."

Dr Wodak believed his idea could reduce cannabis consumption, based on comparisons between consumption in Amsterdam and San Francisco. He said regulated availability would also reduce people's exposure to other illicit drugs when buying the product. His model would make cannabis advertising illegal, ban political donations from the cannabis industry, and demand proof of age on purchase.

He chose Australia Post for distribution as it could be regulated and had branches across the country. "What I'm talking about is not pro-cannabis … it's about reducing cannabis harm."

A spokesman for the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, said the proposal would not be considered.
Instead the federal government will back criminal records and jail sentences for Australians repeatedly caught smoking, eating or growing a weed.
Priorities

From Sydney's The Daily Telegraph :



Only 4000 dead in Burma?

Clearly, a naked newsreader must take priority then in the really big World news stories.

UPDATE : The death toll across Burma is estimated to be hitting 10,000. More than 100,000 are homeless.

A city of 6.5 million people finds itself without energy, without water, with a military unwilling to help them clear the streets of trees and debris.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Coming To Your Living Room, Police-Enforced Alcohol-Free Zones

Many Australians agreed with alcohol bans in violence and sex-crime plagued Northern Territory Aboriginal communities. Sure, the meme went, such catch-all bans mean responsible drinkers in those communities have to go without, but if it saves a community from more alcohol related violence and sex crimes then, well, obviously it's necessary, isn't it?

But what happens when alcohol bans are proposed for communities that not Aboriginal?

That is, what if police decide that a certain part of a suburb, or street or apartment block should be made a no-go zone for booze, due to violence and disorder, but the no-go zone is filled with white, middle-class Australians instead of Aboriginals?

What then?
Drinking a glass of wine in your own home could be illegal under extreme new liquor laws that rubber-stamp the use of no-go alcohol zones in NSW.

Under the plan, drinking hotspots across the state can be labelled as "restricted alcohol areas" for up to three years under new laws that are just 10 weeks away.

A document recently published by the State Government reveals the detail of the alcohol bans outlining that areas of "chronic alcohol abuse" can be slapped with a range of restrictions.

"Restrictions will not be limited to indigenous communities," the paper reads.

Under the new laws, any area of the state can be declared a restricted alcohol zone and it applies to the sale of alcohol as well as possession and consumption in any premises - licensed or not.

...it was still undecided as to what penalties might be imposed if someone was caught with alcohol in a banned zone.

Eviction? Enforced alcohol counselling?

Perhaps instead these no-alcohol zone insurgents will be screened for booze before they can enter their neighourhood or apartment building, or forced to endure in-home surveillance cameras.

It is undeniable that the media hysteria surrounding binge drinking and teenage alcohol abuse in recent weeks, with plenty of story meat processed by police media units, has been part of the softening up process for the implementation of alcohol-free zones that include the interiors of peoples' homes.

You can take away an Australian's right to smoke in public, to not care about seat belts, to burn off the rubbish in the back yard instead of sifting it for recyclables, to ride a train without a ticket once or twice in a year of paid for travel and to shout abuse at referees and opposition sporting teams, but if you try and take away the right to get hammered at home and pass out face down in a pizza box while missing the last five minutes of the Friday night game on the wall screen, then you're rolling down a road filled with neon billboards bearing the warning "Trouble Brewing."
Australians Fear Terrorism Less Now They're Not Being Bombarded With Ads Telling Them To Fear Terrorism

The former Howard government's generous publicity campaign for Al Qaeda and terrorism fell off our TV screens and out of the newspaper ads some weeks before John Howard became the former prime minister of Australia.

The Howard government spent years and tens of millions of dollars trying to position terrorism as the National Fear. It kind of worked for a while, particularly with the in-the-neighbourhood attacks in Bali helping to make the threat seem more real to the people of Broome and Wollongong, but Terror Fear never really took hold, not like it has in countries where state and non-state terrorism is a local, brutal reality.

The survey quoted below claims that Australians are now more worried about meeting their financial obligations - mortgage, credit cards, fuel, food - than they are about the esoteric threat posed by terrorists deciding to attack a concrete bridge they may occasionally drive over :

Australians are more worried about their hip-pocket than being involved in a terrorist attack, according to a new survey.

One in three people are very concerned about meeting essential payments such as mortgages, while fears about national, personal and internet security have all fallen since December.

December, 2007, was about two months after the ads telling you that you must be awesomely suspicious of bags of garden fertiliser, rolls of wire left in carparks, bearded men with cameras and an intense interest in architecture and not really curious holes in fences stopped airing across the country.

The findings graphically illustrate the impact on average families of rapidly rising grocery and petrol prices, and high housing costs.

Fears about meeting financial obligations rose by three percentage points to 33 per cent of people being very or extremely concerned.

"There's no doubt more people are fearful of protecting the family's hip pocket than of being bombed by the Taliban..."

Those promoting Al Qaeda through exaggerating its potential threat must now find a way to blame Islamic bomb fetishists for $1.50 litre petrol, soul crushing drops in the value of millions of Australian homes, interest rate rises that shred hope and break up families, and food prices that leave much more space in the fridge and not so full plates.

All of those financial head and heart kicks are terrorism, too. If what worries you makes you fight with those you love, makes you sleep less, and less deeply, and makes you feel paranoid and fearful, uncomfortable and hopeless, then you are being terrorised. But this is legal, financial terrorism.

You won't, however, see ads telling you that three credit cards with limits all far beyond what average wage earners are every likely to be able to pay off - while bleeding cash on the mortgage, fuel and food bills - will do more damage to the lives, health and minds of Australians than tribal warriors in lands where electricity and water does not flow will ever inflict.

Bin Laden could only have dreamed of unleashing the kind of terror that savage debt now carves across the country.

Friday, May 02, 2008

ED Day Ends

The last chapter of my online novel about life in Sydney after a virus pandemic kills millions is now online. I'll update soon about what I'm going to do with the novel now it's finished (short of a few changes), and why I chose to publish it free online.

Here's an excerpt from the last chapter of ED Day : Dead Sydney :
"This depopulation thing was always going to happen eventually, Paul,” Bossbloke said. “You know that, don't you? The world was already running out of food, water, energy, everything. We had to find 18 million football fields worth of land every year just to keep up with all the hungry mouths being born, while established farmland across the world was turning to fucking desert, or covering over with ice. This had to happen. They would have eaten the whole world.”

“The planet couldn’t sustain so many useless eaters,” I said, I knew what he wanted to hear.

Bossbloke grinned and clapped his hands, once. Crack, like a rifle shot. “Exactly!"

"If selective depopulation didn't happen, billions would have starved to death," I said.

Bossbloke nodded. "Exactly. What was the choice? Depopulation by virus, which means quick deaths, or depopulation by starving people to death? There is no choice. In the end, it really was an act of mercy."

Go Here To Read The Final Chapter In Full


Go Here To Read ED Day : Dead Sydney From The Beginning