PM shuts down satirical website

In another triumph of tolerance and freedom of expression, the Prime Minister’s office ordered the shutdown of a spoof John Howard website which featured an “apology” speech for the Iraq war.

Australian futurist and social commentator Richard Neville created on Monday and received 10,500 visits within 24 hours. It was closed down by domain registrar Melbourne IT on Tuesday, but Neville was only told yesterday that this was “on the advice from the Australian Government”.

Mr Neville says the parody was an act of satire, and now has a PDF copy of the speech on his website.

Fed Police chief proposes “Reprogramming”

You probably missed it, but last week Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty actually proposed forcibly “reprogramming” people’s political beliefs.

Speaking on ABC TV’s Lateline on 8 March, Keelty says we should look at techniques which have been used “successfully” in such bastions of human rights as Indonesia, Singapore and Pakistan — even referring to it as “best practice”.

Keelty equates reprogramming people to convincing an informer to give evidence, and says this is the next step… to re-program somebody who has a belief or holds a belief. It has already been discussed with the government in the context of anti-terrorism control orders.

Commissioner Keelty, just in case you’ve forgotten Articles 18 and 19 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, here’s a refresher…

Continue reading “Fed Police chief proposes “Reprogramming””

4 Corners’ Tabloid Line of Meth

The Ice Age

Flagship current affairs program Four Corners covers “The Ice Age” next week:

A shocking close-up study of the new drug of choice — “ice” — and its trail of human wreckage.

Crystal methamphetamine is indeed more common that a decade ago. I’m glad someone with the respect and authority of Four Corners is taking a look. But I hope this lurid tabloid screeching is only the marketing department.

There’s more…

Continue reading “4 Corners’ Tabloid Line of Meth”

The Future of Privacy

Information security expert Bruce Schneier looks at the Future of Privacy in this article from his Crypto-Gram Newsletter.

Two snippets:

The pervasiveness of computers has resulted in the almost constant surveillance of everyone, with profound implications for our society and our freedoms. Corporations and the police are both using this new trove of surveillance data. We as a society need to understand the technological trends and discuss their implications. If we ignore the problem and leave it to the “market,” we’ll all find that we have almost no privacy left…

Most of us are happy to give out personal information in exchange for specific services. What we object to is the surreptitious collection of personal information, and the secondary use of information once it’s collected: the buying and selling of our information behind our back.

Bruce writes coherently — and presumably knows more than we know he knows. His books are well worth a read too.

Comm Games Commentary Revelations

Enough will be written about the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony itself — about how the flying W Class tram symbolised Melbourne, and how the drag queen and the underage boy with a duck symbolised something else about Melbourne entirely — possibly something connected with the Chippendale with a koala’s head.

No, what interests me is the TV commentary on Channel 9 and what that reveals about the people involved… About their love of money in particular.

Bucket Time (Briefly)

Thankfully the most Purple of Prose was limited to the introductory voice-over, before the ceremony proper started. Carpe diem was the theme:

“The moment must be seized now or it will be lost forever,” we were told. The Commonwealth Games are “a sporting birthright, a reminder of who we are… We love winning, and even more than that we love winning at home. Starting tonight in Melbourne, this is the chance of a lifetime.”

The Australian women’s swimming team is “a generation to be savoured and revered”. And then we were introduced to “the faces we’ve seen but don’t really know”, before seeing token pictures of entrants in other sports.

After that, the script descended into Commentary By Numbers — a recitation of data that’s meant to inspire us: 71 countries, 4000 athletes, 13 days, 52,546 hamburgers, 8,302 shoelaces.

Memo to Channel 9: Numbers do not inspire people, emotions do.

Thankfully we heard the phrase “quintessential Australian icon” only once.

Ray Martin’s Dollar Fetish

Channel 9 wheeled out veterans Ray Martin and Liz Hayes as their commentary team.

Now male-female pairs are common enough. They represent Everyman and Everywoman, and perform different roles. One will take care of the left-brain stuff like facts, figures, announcements of what’s coming up next, the other will be right-brain and talk about colour and emotion.

But last night Ray and Liz took it to extremes — and in doing so, revealed Ray Martin’s true motivator: money.

The first thing Ray had to say about the Games was that “they’ve spent half a billion dollars” tarting up Melbourne. Then immediately after Liz startled us with her emotional revelation (“All my bumps are goosed up!”) Ray was straight back to the filthy lucre, telling us that up next “we’ll be able to see where they spent the money.”

But Ray did reveal his caring and connected side. While describing the chain of symbolic fish running up the Yarra River, he told us that Australia was represented by an eel, “and that’s pretty much what the indigenous people used to eat of out the river at this time of the year”.

Another blow struck for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

Walking on Water

The power of Her Majesty’s Disco Stick inspired Australian Football League (AFL) legend Ron Barrassi to walk on water — looking for all the world like Charlton Heston.

But if Ron then Ascended the Blue Neon Disco Stairs like an American TV evangelist, only to be met by retired long-distance runner Herb Elliott — does that mean Herb Elliott is St Peter?

We couldn’t see for sure, because Ray’s hair had started to interfere with our digital TV reception.