1999 East Timor war crimes evidence stolen
Wednesday May 31st 2006, 1:16 am

Gusmao: you'd throw your hands up too (image: ABC)

The only thing which could possibly be worse than the recent violence in East Timor is exploitation of the unrest to steal and destroy evidence from the TNI-supported militia killings of pro-independence Timorese in 1999.

Gusmao has gone softly-softly on the massacres since independence… but then again, what else could he do? Trials of TNI soldiers and officers for crimes against humanity so far have been a total farce.

Will Wiranto and his co-conspirators get away with it in perpetuity?

Sure seems like it.


Howard Government gets it right on East Timor
Monday May 29th 2006, 12:00 pm

Little Johnny gets it right for onceJohn Howard and DFAT deserve praise, exceedingly rare from me at least, for prepositioning the ADF in northern Australia, even before the official request for military aid was submitted by the East Timor government. Australian forces were there in hours after the formal request instead of days. Nice work.

The speed at which horrific militia violence spread during and shortly after independence elections in 1999 was a hard-learnt lesson to the UN and Australia.

It’s OK to be smooth as a cue ball if you can cover your bald spot with laurels.

Good onya, John.


Going nucular
Friday May 26th 2006, 11:11 pm

it's new-KLEE-ur, got it?Malcolm Turnbull argued over nuclear power with of all people, Peter Garrett, on ABC Lateline. (video: Real Win) Not exactly a fair fight.

Worse, though wealth and position may give you a particular licence to mispronounce, Turnbull can’t manage to correctly enunciate “nuclear.”

If you can’t pronounce it, you certainly shouldn’t be in charge of it… unless of course Turnbull volunteers his Bondi Junction basement to store the spent fuel rods for the next 24,000 years.


GIGO: When crap journalism creates a new reality
Thursday May 25th 2006, 12:04 pm

Crap news- on the sceneHere’s how journalism is supposed to work:

A. Event occurs

B. Event reported to journalist

C. Journalist gathers information from concerned parties

D. Journalist cross-checks facts to assure veracity

E. Facts wordsmithed into a story, checked for balance and bias

F. Story is published/broadcast

The hardest part is step D. Phone calls must be made, subjects interviewed, translations verified, etc. This takes time and resources.

However, in the modern 24 hour news cycle, driven since 1980 by 24/7 cable news channels and since about 1996 by myriad internet news sites, time is by nature limited. As media continues to be consolidated into the hands of a very few massive corporate news operations, fewer and fewer journalists are employed to do the work. The pressure to publish on a deadline often forces stories to be published with insufficient time spent on fact checking.

When a story is published, it is frequently cited by meta-news services and other commenters like bloggers. The public are accustomed to trusting the fact-checking resources in the past available to large newsgathering operations. However, fact-checking is the first task to be shaved. In many cases, fact-checking is deliberately made more difficult by those who have a vested interest in making your news read a certain way.

A few cases in point:

* Iranian president Ahmadinejad was recently widely quoted as saying that “…Israel should be wiped off the map.” According to University of Michigan history professor, middle-east specialist and linguist Juan Cole, the Ahmadinejad comment was really only a sloppy translation from Farsi. Wikipedia has a rather complete wrap of the translation dispute involving Cole and Christopher Hitchens. The sloppy translation was doubtless a delight to some Israeli politicians and diplomats who announced plans to sue Ahmadinejad for planning to commit genocide.

* Iran was again in the sights of those trying to build the case for a US military strike when it was reported that Iran had plans to force non-Muslims to wear colour coded garb to identify them, in the same manner as Jews were required to wear yellow stars in Nazi Germany. The story was even confirmed by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. Bloggers stepped in and have done the fact-checking- and have debunked the non-Muslim colour-coding tale.

* Sunday Times reporter Hala Jaber was recently caught out on fact checking when she claimed to have seen a video in which Iraqi journalist Atwar Bahjat was stripped naked and beheaded. Bahjat’s family and coworkers denied that the person depicted in the video was the slain Iraqi journalist. That didn’t stop The Australian from running an editorial using the supposed beheading as the springboard for their usual agenda of demonising Muslims, garnering passionate community responses.

Where does slop end and intent to mislead begin?

Regardless of the cause, the old hacker’s maxim of GIGO, or ‘garbage in, garbage out‘ applies. However, in the case of modern junk journalism with slack fact checking in big newsgathering operations, some which have an agenda to drive, that could be reinterpreted to ‘garbage in, gospel out.’


OWS: POW Juice “willfully underpaid” young workers
Tuesday May 23rd 2006, 12:19 pm

image: Rowen at Sailing Close To The Wind

The Office of Workplace Services (OWS) has entered into litigation against POW Juice for “willful underpayment” of young workers, including 16-year-old Amber Oswald.

From the OWS media release:

The proceedings filed in the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney relate to alleged breaches under the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (WRA 1996). The Court may impose a maximum penalty of $33,000 for each breach.

The alleged breaches arose when the Pulp Juice franchise went into administration in March 2006, with staff transferring to POW Juice. The OWS alleges that POW Juice had failed to comply with the terms of the relevant industrial instrument in place at the time. As a result, OWS believes that POW Juice has wilfully underpaid its employees.

OWS alleges that POW Juice willfully underpaid 12 workers, one only aged 14. If found in breach on all 12 cases, POW could be up for $396,000 in fines.

While the OWS handling of this particular matter appears to hold some hope for young workers under the new ‘WorkChoices’ industrial relations laws, it is possible that POW could indeed have gotten their way in slashing hourly pay and abolishing penalty rates- if the young workers had voluntarily signed away their award entitlements.

POW Juice apparently sacked and rehired the young workers on the day before ‘WorkChoices’ came into effect. Clearly, POW intended to use ‘WorkChoices’ to disadvantage young workers. However, POW completely bollocksed their attack, doubtless based upon advice provided by Enterprise Initiatives (a.k.a. EI Legal), which was also responsible for drafting the AWA presented to Amber Oswald. This AWA contains a prohibition against employees involvement in actions which may affect the profitability of the company, effectively giving the company the right to sack workers who blow the whistle on bad labour relations.

Teen workers cannot possibly be expected to be able to understand and negotiate complex employment contracts. However, ‘WorkChoices’ now imposes fines of up to $33,000 against unions for representing workers. ‘WorkChoices’ also prevents union stewards from coming to the worksite to assist workers in negotiations without the union giving the employer 24 hours advance notice. Employers thus have a 24 hour window of opportunity to try to force your kids into signing legal contracts which the kids won’t understand. Parents of under-18s have an opportunity to protect their kids as AWAs are binding legal contracts, which cannot be negotiated by a minor.

The ACTU’s Sharan Burrow alleges that OWS does not have the staff necessary to monitor all employment agreements made in Australia and also that the POW Juice case would not have been pursued, had it not been for intense media scrutiny. (Listen: ABC Radio News MP3, 1Mb)

The POW case is the first legal action taken by OWS against an abusive employer post the implementation of ‘WorkChoices’, but it’s certainly not the first case of abuse. A number of Cowra abbatoir workers were sacked and were told they would have to reapply for their positions at lower pay rates. The abbatoir backed down and rehired the workers before OWS took action, so the POW case is the first against an employer since Howard’s Dickensian IR laws took effect. Due to the date POW sacked and rehired the young workers, POW is being held to conditions of the award in existence prior to the legal effect of ‘WorkChoices,’ so this case may not be a good test of the new IR laws. The Newington College case in which teachers are being forced to re-apply for their positions and work 4 more weeks per year may be a better test.

The High Court is presently deliberating on the states’ challenge case to the IR laws as the Commonwealth enacted them under the corporations power under the Australian Constitution. If the states lose, federalism itself in Australia is under threat. In 1901, Australia selected a federal system as it decentralises authority and creates checks and balances against Commonwealth powers. A federal system may appear to have redundant personnel and politicians, but it is a fairly good hedge against totalitarianism.

The Orwellianly named ‘WorkChoices‘ means more choice in the workplace- for employers, not you… and especially not for your kids.

At the polls in 2007, don’t forget which party rolled back 150 years of workplace protections and which shamelessly supports exploitation of your working teenage children.


NSA domestic spying lawsuit moves forward
Tuesday May 23rd 2006, 9:02 am

image: John Sherffius for the Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera

The class-action lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) against AT&T for warrantless disclosure of calling records of US residents to the National Security Agency (NSA) for data mining has taken one step forward.

The court has denied the intervening motion made by US Department of Justice to dismiss the matter on national security grounds and also has ordered AT&T to work with EFF in redacting some of the evidence for later release to the public, though the majority of the evidence yet remains sealed under court order. The court also denied a motion by DoJ to hold proceedings against AT&T in a closed courtroom.

However, EFF has yet to see all critical documents in the case. The DoJ’s motion to dismiss was itself, in part, redacted.

Secret evidence and secret trials are the domain of dictatorships in totalitarian nations- not the United States.

No matter where you are, keep your eye on this one. Governments all over the world follow the lead of the US when acting against their own citizens under the blanket excuse of suppression of terrorism.


Rove indicted in Plame leak?
Wednesday May 17th 2006, 11:17 am

Has Rove been indicted?Truthout.org says yes.

Wonkette says no.

Rove’s spokesman denies an indictment.

It sure seems likely.

We shall see.


US Department of Justice moves to dismiss EFF suit on ‘national security’ grounds
Tuesday May 16th 2006, 9:47 am

King George hears YOU!

“If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.”

King George W. Bush, 19 December 2000

Looks like King George is again attempting to assert his Royal powers.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) filed a class action suit against AT&T on 31 January 2006 alleging that AT&T’s divulgence of call records of millions of Americans (the vast majority of whom are unsuspected of any criminal activity) to the NSA without warrants, is illegal. EFF also asked the court to restrain AT&T from further warrantless disclosures.

The US Department of Justice has intervened, countering the EFF complaint with an unusual early Saturday morning filing, which moves to dismiss EFF’s complaint on the basis that public exposure of the evidence would compromise national security.

Is the United States a constitutional democratic republic- or King George’s personal plaything?

We shall see.

The court is slated to rule on the government’s motion to dismiss EFF’s complaint on Wednesday, 17 May 2006.


NSA domestic spying: Worse than Watergate
Monday May 15th 2006, 10:37 am

Big Shrubya is listeningI’ve been wondering for some time now precisely what the catalyst would be for average Americans to finally demand the ouster of King George. We just might be there.

Shortly after 11 September 2001, according to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Congress authorised the President to conduct ‘spying on terrorists.’ Shrubya interpreted that to mean he could wiretap any international calls or emails to the USA from abroad. King George ordered big telcos in the US to turn over call records to the secretive National Security Agency (NSA), without search warrants and without demonstrating probable cause that the callers had any involvement with terrorism.

The exposure of warrantless invasion of privacy of tens of millions of innocent Americans could well be the tipping point for impeachment of Bush and Cheney… but public reaction is a bit delayed.

The New York Times reported back in December 2005 on NSA’s domestic spying program. Civil libertarians and peace activists have reacted, but there wasn’t sufficient detail made public to really scare the pants off of the average American.

King George has asserted that in time of war, he has the right to ignore the Constitution if he feels that consultation with the courts and Congress could compromise defense operations. His Royal Highness’ actions are not being scrutinised by Congress nor the courts as no warrants are sought for the wiretaps. So much for Articles I & III.

USA Today’s exposure that AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon, the three largest telcos in the US, complied with the warrantless wiretaps has driven the point home to millions of their customers across the USA (and quite a number of Americans living abroad, like myself) that they are being treated like terrorism suspects by Shrubya’s NSA. The telcos have divulged calling records and emails without the knowledge nor consent of users, even though the callers on both ends may be US citizens, despite one being overseas.

King George’s terabyte-level private call database makes Nixon’s Watergate reel-to-reel shenanigans look like schoolboy antics. Nixon resigned over much less than what Bush stands accused of. Nixon faced certain impeachment and conviction before Congress- as does His Highness if the political will can be found. Resignation didn’t absolve Nixon of liability for prosecution in Congress, but Gerald Ford’s pardon sure did. Should Congress get off their collective duffs and impeach Bush and Cheney, some boilerplates must be found to prevent them from being pardoned before they do some serious jail time.

Quite a number of people in the US and Australia work with the famous faulty notion that “…if I’m not doing anything ‘wrong’, I shouldn’t worry…” about government invasions of privacy on false pretenses like non-existent welfare fraud or protection from terrorism. Citizens of western democracies have a much, much greater statistical chance of being struck by lightning or being killed in an automobile accident than being killed by a terrorist act.

Erring on the side of caution in violating civil liberties is all well and good until law enforcement makes an irreversible error or the government decides to persecute people for their political beliefs and associations. Remember, if you’re arrested in Australia on a terrorism related offence, all you can tell one member of your family is “I’m safe,” when absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. Australia is in desperate need of a Bill of Rights.

Saint Patrick of Leahy (image: Associated Press)King George must be stopped before he installs the NSA’s General Hayden as head of the CIA. Republican Arlen Specter and Democrat Patrick Leahy are proposing bipartisan investigations and limits on NSA domestic spying and Presidential power.

Go to it, fellas.


Do cellular phone base stations cause brain tumors?
Saturday May 13th 2006, 10:55 am

cellular telephone towerThere’s a widely circulated urban myth that mobile phones cause cancers. Reinforcing this myth is a recent news item being reported by the ABC, indicating seven RMIT staff members have been diagnosed with brain tumors in the last 7 years. So it happens, there is a cellular telephone base station in the RMIT building where these people worked.

Coincidentally, I got a particularly panicky email from a friend not long back on the topic, when she noticed a new mobile phone tower being erected in her neighbourhood. I told her not to worry.

Here’s why. (more…)