Monthly Archives: July 2010

Epuc fail

Apart from the fact that he’s a New Zealander, can someone explain to me why News.com.au has illustrated this story about Apple’s iPhone launch problems in New Zealand with a picture of Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords?


One man whose face says “New Zealand iPhone launch”

I crunged.

PS It’s funny because they pronounce words slightly differently.

Your human worth, defined

You know how your medical records are supposed to be private? How your tax records are between you and the tax office?

Well, Corporate America, with its now much more invasive credit reporting agencies, has implemented its own system for monitoring every facet of your life and punishing you if you transgress against their secret rules – their own Meritocratic Utopia. A system where they determine your human worth on often irrelevant and always self-serving criteria and then, through their dominance of every facet of modern life, make sure you’re kept in your place.

Fred Clark at Slacktivist has written a series of posts on this rather disturbing development, in which your credit score rises and falls not on whether you’re in debt or not, but on magical formulae which are proprietary and secret, and the consequences of which are that you’ll find it harder to find everything from housing to – cruelly – a job.

They are well worth a read, and quite chilling:

It’s depressing and worrying that authorities in the US have let this shamefully discriminatory and oppressive system get that far. Keep your eyes open – there’s no reason they won’t try the same stuff here.

Aren’t the media bored of it yet? (Because we are.)

Oh, FFS Labor. You are being creamed on this irrelevant, stupid “leaks” distraction. How hard is it to turn around to the media and say:

“Look, this whole “leaks” thing is irrelevant. It’s political trivia. It fascinates political tragics in the media; it is something those who want to form government with as little scrutiny of their own record as possible would love to talk about instead; but it’s an INSULT to the majority of Australians who are much more interested in what the two big parties* have to offer them and the country. So what if Cabinet has vigorous debates? That’s the whole point. And so what if a broad church party like ours has the occasional ambitious member who wants to play a bit of internal politics on the side by leaking to journalists? Happens all the time. Happens to the Liberals, happens to us. In what large party, in what government, are there no leaks? The only way for it not to happen would be if MPs were all sheep. Well, we here in Labor are not sheep. The Australian people expect us to debate amongst ourselves to determine what the best policy is going to be, and then together advocate and implement it – and that’s what we do. The old, boring leak story is a distraction from that. We just think the media should grow up and get back to the actual issues of the campaign.”

And just repeat that every time they’re asked. “Oh, seriously – are you still on about that? How about the issues of what we’re actually going to do? Of what it would be like if the country fell back under a Liberal government again? That’s what this is about.”

Why would turning it back in the face of the media like that not work? Or, at any rate, be better than their present strategy?

*this is for Labor to say; they’d want to pretend it’s still a two-horse race.

Pile-on planned

SBS is doing a program on the Greens next week. See if you can guess what sort of a program it will be from this callout (now removed):

Media outlet/Publication:
SBS TV Insight

Does your source need to be local?
No

Summary:
Are you a disaffected Greens voter, who thinks the Greens should have been more pragmatic on the ETS? SBS wants to find someone for Insight!

Details:
Are you a Greens voter who thinks they should have done more to introduce a CPRS when the going was good?

Are you thinking of changing your vote because of it?

Are you someone who thinks “something is better than nothing”?

We want to speak to you.

Contact james.west@sbs.com.au with your mobile number, and we’ll chat.

Cheers,

James West
Deadline:

28 July 2010 @ 5pm Eastern Daylight Saving Time

(Successful sources will not be paid.)

I couldn’t see where they asked for Greens voters who are not disaffected and and have come to support the Greens as the only real progressive party remaining in Australian politics, people who do not fit the News Ltd stereotype as lentil-eating drug-addled hippies in hessian bags. Ordinary voters who actually support the Greens standing for principle, and not just passing counterproductive Liberal-Labor legislation the ALP utterly refuses to negotiate with them at all. I asked if SBS would like one such voter and they said, no, they had some Greens MPs to defend themselves. Well, of course – if you’ve got the MPs, why would you need to give a fair representation in the audience of Greens voters? Why not portray them as Labor would like, as dissatisfied dupes who’ve come to their senses and who should go back to Labor?

I suspect this is going to be another pile-on.

Leaders in Parliament

I just want to make a point about political party leaders and how important they really are, as opposed to how important the media and public (and, often, they) seem to think they are.

The answer: not so much.

You know what a parliamentary leader is? A spokesperson. Someone who represents the other MPs in public. Someone they’ve appointed to debate on their behalf. They serve at the other MPs’ pleasure, not the other way around.

You know what a parliamentary leader is not? The MPs’ boss. They can’t sack them, or hire them. The leader can’t make MPs vote a certain way, or say certain things.

A parliamentary party is not a company, and its “leader” is not a CEO.

Now, certain parties – cough, the ALP, cough – have adopted conventions in which most of the time they act as if the above was not true, as if they were a company where the MPs work for the Ministers who work for the PM. (And, because that fiction is easier to understand and more dramatic to portray, the news media go along with it.) But that system regularly breaks down, because in fact that’s neither how the parliament, nor the electoral system, nor the party branches, are actually set up.

Other parties, like the Greens, who have not adopted the ALP model – because it’s contradictory and undemocratic – are regularly attacked by journalists who don’t seem to understand what parliamentary democracy actually is. Bob Brown, for example, is excoriated for not having up-to-the-minute knowledge of what the party’s preference committee, mid-deliberations, has negotiated , as if he was their boss and they worked for him. Which he isn’t, because they don’t. The media like to speculate on who would “take over” from Brown, to the bemusement/frustration of Greens members and MPs – because although it matters to the extent that the Greens will need an effective spokesperson when Brown retires, it will make no difference to the party’s policy positions, whoever “leads” them.

I suspect the only reason the Greens even nominate a “leader” is that the collective heads of the national media would explode if they didn’t. “Does not compute! Does not compute!”

But a bit of perspective wouldn’t go astray. The issue for voters on August 21 is very simple: which candidate on your ballot paper will most consistently advocate for your views in parliament over the next three years? That’s the question we should each be tackling. All this garbage about leadership battles and leaders’ personalities is, at the end of the day, an irrelevant distraction – even if it does seem to make up most of the national coverage.

But it only does that because we let it.

Anyway, about the actual policy debate…

I see the media have decided to make the campaign interesting by giving the Opposition a leg-up. Tony Abbott calls the government “deeply dysfunctional” and it’s headline news (imagine, an Opposition leader calling the Government names!). Andrew Robb says the leaks (probably by a former Cabinet member like Lindsay Tanner) show a government “in chaos” and it leads the ABC News site – on which the other top election stories are “Gillard heads ‘a dysfunctional government”, “Swan in damage control over leaks”, “Swan frustrated by talk of rat in Labor ranks” etc.

FIVE of the seven election stories on ABC News right now are about Laurie Oakes’ bloody leaks story.

Some “left-wing media”. They’re giving Abbott free kicks all over the place. And boring the rest of us silly.

ELSEWHERE: News Ltd grudgingly gives the ALP a bit of play now that they’re pandering to its laura norder fixation.

Much easier than providing a fundamentally necessary service like dentalcare. Much less constructive, of course, but when success is measured in column inches…

UPDATE 30/7: Next day’s ABC News: two of the four stories are about the leak. The other ones are Gillard taking a “poll hit”, and the Coalition appointing an environment commissioner. See if you can detect a pattern.

MPs argue in Cabinet. HEADLINE NEWS

So… another big Laurie Oakes “scoop” that Gillard didn’t get everything she argued for in Cabinet before she was PM. And this is headline news?

Has Laurie broken any news this campaign that wasn’t an irrelevant distraction?

On Penny Wong, and other MPs who stand for discrimination

On the subject of Penny Wong and her I don’t believe in marriage equality either remarks, it’s important to be fair. The fact that she’s gay herself doesn’t make her support for discrimination any worse than that of any other MP. All MPs who failed to vote for the Greens’ marriage equality bill last year (which is all of them except the Greens) deserve to lose the support of every fair-minded Australian.

Let’s be clear: there is no rational justification for the government to discriminate against gay and lesbian Australians. Not one. There is not a single logical argument in favour of the present indefensibly discriminatory legislation. Marriage as regulated by government should not be subject to religion – which is why we have civil marriage in this country. It is an enduring mark of shame for our nation that in the second decade of the twenty first century, even after many countries around the world have enacted equality (without losing elections), all our government could manage was lame legislative tinkering around the edges.

But there are two points about Penny in particular. First, like every other MP or public figure who’s made a point of going on the record arguing against equality – not just voting with the party, but specifically advocating for discrimination to continue – she deserves criticism. If she was too gutless to stand up for principle, she could’ve just said “the party has a clear position on that subject”. Or nothing.

And, secondly, how can an openly gay person not understand just how serious it is for gay Australians to be treated as second class citizens? She can’t even rely on the ignorance (I don’t know enough gay people to realise they’re just like the rest of us) or religious (my God says it’s wrong) explanations – there’s simply no explanation in her case other than cowardice. She’s also someone the Labor Party put up as a reason for gay and lesbian Australians to vote for them, on the “hey we’ve made one of you a Minister” line – so you can understand why they feel particularly betrayed by her.

That said, every MP who voted against marriage equality in 2010 deserves our contempt. Penny’s just one of many.

PS: Another reason to have contempt for Ms Wong is her shameless shouting down of Christine Milne on Q&A last night.

ELSEWHERE: George Washington explains why it’s vital to all of us that we give “to bigotry no sanction”.

UPDATE: News Ltd’s Samantha Maiden chimes in with this lame attack on those criticising Wong, on the basis that two of the betrayed and angry gay and lesbian people resorted to somewhat racist gibes against her ON THE INTERNET. She snidely dismisses Bob Brown saying he’s “horrified” by Wong’s advocacy against equality as being “sanctimonious” – apparently the News Ltd put-down for “principled”.

And she approvingly (“the only one making any sense”) quotes Graham Richardson’s lame defence of Wong on Q&A, which was basically “hey, you don’t know what she’s done for you behind the scenes!” Well, Richo, whatever that is, it’s no excuse for standing for discrimination in public, and voting against it in Parliament.

Callous disregard for others’ suffering is worse than a mental illness, Minister

Memo Labor – this is not enough:

Mental health experts say Labor’s proposed suicide prevention measures do not address essential reform needed in the mental health system.

Today Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that a re-elected Labor government would spend $277 million to help people at risk of suicide.

And she said the Government would be willing to commit to a longer-term mental health plan, with the issue to be a second-term priority for Labor.

Ah, the old Labor “we won’t promise anything, but maybe we’ll consider doing something about that issue you care about after the election” ruse. I can’t believe people still fall for it.

Meanwhile, whilst unfortunately I can’t go into specifics about the injustices that our stretched and inadequate mental health services present at court on a regular basis – trust me when I say it’s a serious problem. We have people forced to choose between housing and health services. People stuck in jail for petty offences because no treatment facilities can be found. It’s a cruel and false economy, that wrecks vast numbers of lives and imposes huge costs on our community in terms of crime and poverty.

Even the Liberals are promising to put some sorely-needed funds into improving the system, Prime Minister. Is “we’ll look at suicide and maybe consider something else later” really the best you can do?

Could sanity return to some aspects of copyright law?

You might have noticed that recent US-pushed developments in copyright law have led to the apparent criminalisation of a lot of things people like to do with their electronic equipment that do not involve piracy, but that do involve breaking the control the manufacturers seek to impose on their customers. You can’t play that content you’ve bought on that device you own! We do not give you permission!

Well, there is hope – however mild, given the massive imbalance in power between users and the corporate giants determined to maintain control. Two developments this week in the US:

  • A New Orleans judge rejects the interpretation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act that would make it an offence to break such controls even on embedded systems (like garage door openers) that have no piracy connection whatsoever. And it might, although it contradicts other precedents the content industry has obtained, be able to be applied more generally. Said Judge Garza: “Merely bypassing a technological protection that restricts a user from viewing or using a work is insufficient to trigger the (Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s) anti-circumvention provision.”

  • And now the US Copyright Office amends its rules for DMCA prosecution. There’s a list of six exemptions in the link, but basically if you’re “jailbreaking” technology for a legitimate purpose – running your phone on a network that doesn’t support it, overcoming technology locks that are obsolete, trying to run software on your device that would run if not for the DRM – you’d be exempt.

Expect the corporate content industry to immediately shift into gear to squash these developments.