Sunday, 30 November 2008

Moggy Musings [Archived material from Boy the Wonder Cat]

A phishing musing:
Ever since Clarencegirl gave me an email address I have been receiving some very strange offers.
This is one I am tempted to take up on behalf of all Northern Rivers motorists and their pets!
From: Mr Yan (cataniarealty@bellnet.ca)
Sent: Saturday, 25 October 2008 3:53:42 AM
Reply-to:
yan31@btinternet.com
To: yan@dbs.dk
I have a project I want you to run with us. It involves exportation of 35,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Kirkuk, Iraq. If you are interested, email me.
Mr. Yan.
A Bravo! musing:
A big bravo on 1st October 2008 to the many people (including Gold Coast SeaWorld staff, Australian Seabird Rescue volunteers and National Parks & Wildlife Service personnel) who successfully rescued a Bottlenosed Dolphin and her baby trapped in Prospect Lake at Ballina for the last two weeks.
Mum and bub were taken from the lake and released into the Richmond River.
A tolerance musing:
It's September and Spring is here and on the NSW North Coast soft fruits are beginning to ripen on the trees in our backyards.
Please be tolerant of the birds and bats which decide to feed on this fruit. They are only doing what comes naturally.
A rejoicing musing:
A YOUNG adult humpback whale was freed from shark control netting in which it was entangled off Tugan Beach on the Gold Coast on 27 Spetember 2008. Animal rescuers managed to sucessfully release it after 7 hours of sustained effort. Well done!
Anyone who spots a whale or other marine animals tangled in fishing gear or shark netting should call the 24-hour Shark Hotline on 1800 806 891.
An in the dog house musing:
A dog on the Tweed told a cat on the Richmond who whispered to a bird on the Clarence that a prominent local National Party member is out of his house and in the proverbial doghouse after he was found to be repeatedly sleeping in strange kennels.
A Cat v Dog war musing:
The Dog Channel has revealed another outbreak of 'hostilities' in the 1,ooo year Cat-Dog war:
The presidential campaign in recent days has involved statements about a Pit Bull wearing lipstick and a pig wearing lipstick. Now, cats are in on the lipstick debate, and the fur is expected to really fly.
"Can you put lipstick on a cat and call it change?" is a question being posed by the company behind two websites launched Thursday morning:
Catsarebetter.com and Dogsarebetter.com.
Vote early and vote often!
A vice-presidential musing:
Obama's running mate, Senator Joe Biden, has a cat according to Pet Shed. The man can't be all bad!

Sunday's laugh

In The Daily Telegraph last Wednesday

CROP circles have baffled people for decades and now a new phenomenon is stopping residents in their tracks on the state's Far North Coast.

Happy faces painted randomly on hay bales in a paddock on the outskirts of Lismore has given residents something to smile about and got them talking about whether it's vandalism or creative licence.

Landowner Tony Neill said that when he drove out of his driveway and saw the smiley faces for the first time it made his day.

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

ScepticLawyer mentioned a website which dissects blogs, Gender Analyzer.

Just for laughs I ran North Coast Voices through its program with the following outcome:

Results








We think http://northcoastvoices.blogspot.com/ is written by a man (84%).


You just have to admire a website that will confidently assure you that your site is highly likely to be written by a man, when women outnumber men on North Coast Voices (unless you also count in Boy the Wonder Cat!)

Gender Analyzer has a survey of its overall results:

Did GenderAnalyzer give the correct result for your blog?

Votes
Yes 53 % 8555
No 47 % 7713

Web camera trial now operating on NSW North coast bar crossings

NSW Maritime has extended its trial of web-cam vision of the coastal bars to help boat owners in preparing for a voyage offshore.

This is just one part of a suite of measures being pursued by NSW Maritime to address bar crossing safety in this State.

When considering crossing a bar, the best catch phrase for skippers – who are ultimately responsible for the safety of all on board – is 'If in doubt, don't go out'.

Logging on to find live web camera footage may be very useful in making this decision.

Below is a list of live web-cameras currently installed along the NSW coastline:

Other web cameras are to be located at: Manning River, Richmond River, Ballina, and will be online over the coming months.

Howard cost me WHAT in the first nine months?

The Australian couldn't wait to tell taxpayers that:

"JOHN Howard has defended his decision to run up more than $400,000 in taxpayer-funded bills since he was turfed from office as "strictly in accordance" with his generous entitlements.

In a brief statement today, the former Prime Minister rejected any suggestion there was anything wrong in his post-election spend-a-thon on travel and office accommodation.

"All costs incurred are strictly in accordance with the guidelines set for all former Prime Ministers,'' he said in a statement released this afternoon to The Australian Online.

The former Prime Minister, who commands large fees as an international speaker, is spending around $10,000 a week on taxpayer-funded staffing costs, rent for his plush CBD office and other expenses, according to figures released by Special Minister of State John Faulkner...

According to government figures, Mr Howard spent $192,542.77 staffing including $75,674.90 of travel for himself and $11,374.44 on travel for Mrs Howard.

Mr Howard, who is expected to pen his own memoirs as he enjoys his retirement, also ran up facilities and accommodation costs of $124,000."


That bl**dy man may have been sacked by the likes of me but he still knows how to stick the knife in - spending in excess of $400,000 over and above his parliamentary pension in nine months and two weeks.
Proving himself to be a first class sponger (as well as a world's best political liar) while on the NSW North Coast this week there are many, many people scrapping about to find enough money to be able to eat for at least 12 days out of every fortnight.
What was it that another blogger called him recently - cnut?

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Feel like a paddle one weekend? Go to Yamba and kayak

With summer starting to break out all over and Christmas looming, the river and ocean water around Yamba and Iluka is looking so inviting - it reminds me that now is a good time to get out and get moving.

There's nothing like being on the water and one of my favourite Yamba memories is leaning over the side of my Dad's tinnie as a dolphin swam on its side to get a good look at me.

There's also nothing quite like taking a trip by paddle power from Convent Beach at Yamba to Spooky's Beach at Angourie or up the Clarence River and around its many little islands.
Action Adventure Tours has just the thing with its kayaking tours all year round.

Photo from Action Adventure Tours.

A thought to ponder while in the bath




If space is a vacuum, who changes the bags?


Pic of Dark Matter from National Geographic

Friday, 28 November 2008

Full text of Garling's final 2008 report into NSW public hospitals


From the NSW Dept of Premier and Cabinet:

The Special Commission of Inquiry into Acute Care Services in New South Wales Public Hospitals was established on 29 January 2008.
The New South Wales Governor commissioned Mr Peter Richard Garling SC to conduct an inquiry into and report on certain matters relating to acute care services in NSW public hospitals.

The full Terms of Reference for the Inquiry can be accessed here.

The Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Acute Care Services in NSW Public Hospitals was provided to the Governor on 27 November 2008 and was released by the Government on the same day.


The Report can be accessed here.
The Report's Executive Summary and Recommendations can also be accessed here.
In addition, a first report was issued on 31 July 2008 and this report can be accessed here.

* The Northern Rivers needs to take special note of this report as it indicates that the North Coast Area Health Service has been consistently short-changed with regard to funding in the vicinity of $70 million annually.

UPDATE
If the above links are difficult to access go to this link for a full copy of the report: 
nsw.gov.au/Lawlink/Corporate/ll_corporate.nsf/pages/attorney_generals_department_acsinquiry

Bottlenose dolphins say, "The Clarence River is a nice place to live,"



Not so long ago this site carried a report titled Yamba - a nice place to live about Yamba being a very friendly place for humans.

Now, Christine Fury,
a researcher with Southern Cross University’s Whale Research Centre, has found that Northern Rivers bottlenose dolphins agree - the most popular place for them to live is the Clarence River,which runs through Yamba, Maclean and Grafton.

Ms Fury, who has been studying local estuarine dolphin populations for three years, has uncovered some fascinating facts about our warm-blooded mammalian cousins.
SCU reports that Ms Fury's study provides the first published data on Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Australian estuaries.

Ms Fury estimates that about 71 dolphins live in and around the Clarence River compared to about 34 dolphins in the Richmond River.

“The Clarence River is the most popular because it is the largest estuarine river system in NSW and therefore has a greater volume of water. It also has less urban and agricultural development. Both these factors mean the water quality is better,” Christine said.


“Dolphins are the top predators in the river systems, so the cleaner the water, the more fish in the river and the better the ability to sustain a bigger dolphin population.”


During her 2,000 hours on the rivers observing dolphins, Christine found that a dolphin’s favourite fish is mullet, or whiting as a second choice.


The mothers teach their calves how to catch fish, but it takes three to four years for the youngsters to become proficient at catching their own dinner and they are supplemented with their mother’s milk until that age.


Once weaned, the juveniles leave their mothers and hang out in mixed-sex pods, learning from each other and spending a lot of time in play.


As the males get a little older, they break off into pods of three or four, working collectively to catch fish and mate with females using an uncommon herding manoeuvre.


Mothers and their calves, and female pods, escape the more aggressive sexual attention of the males by entering the shallower waters of river tributaries, where the males generally do not follow as they prefer to remain in the deeper, main channels, where they can assert their dominance.


Also, the tributaries have smaller fish, which are easier for the calves to catch and eat. Fish are swallowed whole, head first, after first being either stunned by a tail flap or bitten. Dolphins will often flip a fish into the air and then catch it head-first so as to be able to swallow it properly.


Like humans, dolphins have distinct personalities. Research shows the more gregarious, inquisitive and curious dolphins prepared to stray furthest from mum have the best chance of long-term survival.


Diligent and informed management of future increased environmental disturbances will be needed to ensure the long-term survival of these dolphin populations, Christine said.


You can read the full research paper at
http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/126/paper/MF08109.htm

Possum Comitatus gives a lesson on the folly of small numbers to Andrew Bolt

At his new blog Pollytics Possum Comitatus gives Andrew Bolt a lesson he deserves in the post; Of race and crime and Andrew Bolt.

Andrew Bolt has been banging on about Africans again- Sudanese and Somalian born Africans in particular and their crime rates compared to the Victorian population as a whole. It stems back to some a#sehattery about how Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon might have produced statistics that Bolt found misleading on the issue of Sudanese migrant crime rates in Victoria last year – stats that she gave in response to a Kevin Andrews spiel about the same.

Apparently, Bolt reckons that Nixon "helped to turn voters against the Howard government" in those heady weeks before the poll and that she " fed a campaign of abuse against the immigration affairs minister, Kevin Andrews, that was so vitriolic it may have ended an honest man's career."

(Which we can only take to mean as a Minister of the Crown since he's still a Parliamentarian).

Oh really?

The post goes on to skewer Bolt to the wall:

If Bolt was trying to bring to our attention a few simple facts, but in such a way that it didn't stir the hornet's nest of bigotry – then he failed dismally. Any idiot can produce those numbers – hell, any idiot did. When it was pointed out that the proportion of total distinct offenders born in Somalia was about the same as the proportion of 15-19 year old Victorians of any hue – a little bit of nuance to calm the rampaging hysteria over at Cult Bolt, that's when he got all manbeastly. His d#ck swinging, chest beating attempt at a p#ssing contest in the comments would be pretty funny if it wasn't actually a real community of people we were dealing with here. [Word edits were done by me to avoid any over-eager filter out in the blogosphere]

Go, Poss - you are so beautiful when you are angry!

True Food Network releases GM-free food guide


Click to enlarge

The pocket sized GE-free Food Guide can be ordered or downloaded here.

* This post is part of North Coast Voices' effort to keep Monsanto's blog monitor (affectionately known as Mr. Monsanto) in long-term employment.

A LOL for Senator 'Cleanfeed'

Thursday, 27 November 2008

An interesting snippet on the AFP Big Brother

Yesterday Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie wrote in The Age:

THE internet communications and websites of anti-war campaigners, environmentalists, animal rights activists and other protest groups are being secretly monitored by state and federal agencies.

A Melbourne private intelligence firm specialising in "open-source intelligence" has been engaged by Victoria Police, the Australian Federal Police and the federal Attorney-General's Department to monitor and report on the protest movements' use of the internet.

Which is somewhat interesting as it was only at the beginning of this year that the Australian Federal Police granted contract number CN60721 to a Melbourne firm Global Edge Group Pty Ltd [trading as National Open Source Intelligence Centre (Australia)] for just such work worth $184,800.00.

http://www.geg.com.au/ / http://www.nosic.com.au/

So if your political or social commentary blog has a few visits from IP addresses in the range of 202.125.35.165 or 203.147.239.149, then you have possibly been visited on behalf of the powers that be in Australia.

Or perhaps you should consider yourself to be of interest if you have ever visited No Bases which was obviously on past peek list: 017 http://www.nosic.com.au/cgi-bin/iB/ikonboard.cgi 97 22 119 30-Jun-2004 21:04

Ah! The dubious joys of modern blogging - if Conroy doesn't get you then McClellan or Keelty will :-)

Graphic found at Spy Lab

Andy Borowitz outs Obama's change of direction

Because North Coast Voices has been silent on the subject of President-Elect Barack Obama lately I take this opportunity to present the Borowitz Report on this prominent politician.

In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.

Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama's appearance on CBS' "Sixty Minutes" on Sunday witnessed the president-elect's unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.

But Mr. Obama's decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.

According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it "alienating" to have a President who speaks English as if it were his first language.

"Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement," says Mr. Logsdon. "If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist."

The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, "Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate - we get it, stop showing off."

The President-elect's stubborn insistence on using complete sentences has already attracted a rebuke from one of his harshest critics, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

"Talking with complete sentences there and also too talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can't really do there, I think needing to do that isn't tapping into what Americans are needing also," she said.


Dikipedia also has an updated entry on the new president-elect which ends with:

Barack Obama is married to Michelle Obama (nee Robinson), with whom he has five children: Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy.

Southern Cross academic tells Northern Rivers residents to contact Rudd about climate change

According to The Northern Star on Monday:

THE Rudd Government's commitment to fighting climate change will soon be tested, according to Professor Jerry Vanclay, head of Southern Cross University's school of environmental science.

Dr Vanclay was speaking at a climate change forum held in Ballina on Friday night, organised by Federal Member for Page, Janelle Saffin.

The professor said it was still too early to rate the Government's performance on climate change, but he suspected it would not be following all the recommendations in the Garno Report.

"I sense there has been a softening of their position," he said.....


He said the burning of coal and petroleum created six billion tonnes of carbon emissions each year, of which only four billion tonnes could be offset by Mother Nature.

"An immediate reduction of about one-third will immediately stop the problem of global warming," he said.

Dr Vanclay said reducing carbon emissions by one-third would be easy for most people. "Solar hot water panels, driving a smaller car, having a water tank so water doesn't need to be transported and building homes that don't need air-conditioning would be enough," he said.

Dr Vanclay warned that the evidence to support climate change was very strong. "I don't have a lot of patience for people who question climate change, there is no question about it any more," he said.

Dr Vanclay said people needed to tell Kevin Rudd to take the lead on climate change action because Australia's infrastructure was under threat.

If you wish to have your say on climate change:

The Hon Kevin Rudd MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600

or

Online email here.


Is Rudd's Grocery Choice web site a poisoned chalice?

In the Courier Mail this week:

"AUSTRALIA'S leading voice for consumers, Choice, has been plunged into controversy after bailing out troubled Grocerychoice.com.au website.
One board member has resigned and consumer advocates claim the $13 million bailout of the Rudd Government website
www.grocerychoice.com.au will damage Choice's reputation for independence.
But with consumer interest collapsing - about 54,000 website hits have been recorded this month - the Government is keen to overhaul the stricken service.
The scheme aims to tell shoppers the cheapest supermarket for groceries but has been plagued by controversy - and public apathy - since its launch in August."

The real question here is; how will Choice manage to overhaul and update this site (with a frequency which satisfies shoppers need across the country) with only a one-off $13 million in funding?

Will Choice itself have to be bailed out in another 3-4 years, as it discovers that constantly collecting reliable cost information is extremely expensive.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Has the Australian Computer Society had a change of mind or is it acting as Senator Conroy's stalking horse now that Internet filtering opposition is growing?


On 18 November 2008 iTnews reported that:

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has formed a new e-security task force to look into the Federal government's controversial ISP filtering scheme.

The task force, which meets on November 26, will be expected to take 'a leadership role, provide expert technical advice, and review e-security and ISP filtering proposals' with a view to assisting the ACS to develop its own policy positions.

These issues are of critical importance to the safety and security of Australian ICT infrastructure, on-line business models and internet users, according to Kumar Parakala, chairman of ACS.

The task force will be lead by Vijay Varadharajan, Professor and Microsoft chair in innovation in computing at Macquarie University and director of information and networked system security research.

"We are aware of ISP level filtering testing conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and the recent calls for tenders in the live pilot testing of ISP content filtering. We acknowledge that there have been
strong industry views on these proposals ," said Varadharajan.

"At this stage the task force will develop sound technical advice on the feasibility and governance of the various ISP filtering options being investigated."
The ACS was more welcoming of the Federal government's general action 'on e-security issues', particularly with the NBN RFP process coming to a head.

"Online business activities have potential for huge productivity gains for the community and business with the introduction the new National Broadband Network," said Parakala.

"Appropriate e-security frameworks and policies are necessary if we are to fully harness this potential."

One has to ask what and how big is this society, which to date appears to have an ambiguous position on mandatory national ISP-level filtering.

It called on government to resist calls to censor online content in 1997, welcomed Internet content management by federal government in 1999, was very happy about the NSW backdown on planned Internet censorship in 2002, couldn't decide if government or parents should police the Net in 2003, has been in favour of e-security and real time monitoring since 2006 and supported the introduction of government distribution of the free filtering software, Net Nanny, in 2007.

Then in May this year the society came out in favour of Conroy's internet censorship plan:

Australian Computer Society president Kumar Parakala responded to the plan by saying that the ACS welcomes Senator Conroy's targeted plan to create a safer online environment for Australian children.

"I think it is an excellent initiative and as the use of cyber-technology increases among young children, something like this is a necessity," he told ZDNet.com.au.

Parakala said he doesn't expect ISP filtering to create a major overhead on broadband capacity.

Libs create online Rudd memorabilia store

This has to be one of the strangest pieces of political advertising by the Liberal Party of Australia and Brian Loughnane.

Brian has set up a fake online store called The Kevin Rudd memorabilia store complete with goods allegedly for sale.

However you are bound to be disappointed if you are panting after a Fuel Watch, Grocery Watch or Bank Watch timepiece because the only thing this site actually 'sells' is a free newsletter, an e-card marking the first anniversary of the Rudd Government and assorted potshots at the Prime Minister.

Liberal Party staffers did little better when they flooded the news aggregate site Blogotariat with media releases and are not faring all that well when it comes to Twitter.

No wonder the Libs are still only marking time politically.

Something for Australian supermarket chains to ponder as GM crops spread

Image from The Ecologist online 23 November 2008

The major supermarket chains operating in Australia need to ask themselves if graphs like the one here are likely to translate into consumer resistance to goods containing ingredients such as canola, soy, cotton seed oil, corn, rice etc. and if distinguishing their 'brand' as GM-free would be to their commercial advantage.

Oi, Nathan Rees! Why are we always the poor cousins when it comes to health care?

I'm fed up with that Labor Government mob sitting in Sydney and deciding that the Northern Rivers should pay for past Iemma-Costa mismanagement of the state coffers.
We're told that the
North Coast Area Health Service now has to save $20 million over 4 years to help Premier Rees and NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca out of a budgetary black hole.
Jaysus wept!
Our local district hospitals are already attempting to send elderly patients home without appropriate discharge plans, because either staff or beds are not there due to current financial constraints.
In one instance an old man who was supposedly receiving CAPS-funded care in the home, lay on the floor of his house for two days before being found and returned to the hospital where he then died.
And this incident is not an isolated case.

So Mr. Rees - how many more of us are you going to knock off before you are satisfied with your bottom line?

If you too are fed up with regional health services, use this form to send an online letter to the NSW Minister for Health
here.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Fair Work Bill 2008: full text of proposed new IR legislation introduced on 25 November


Fair Work Bill 2008 home page including full text of bill and explanatory memoranda here.

FAIR WORK BILL 2008
SECOND READING SPEECH
THE HON JULIA GILLARD MP
MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS

I rise today one year on from the election of the Rudd Labor Government to deliver on a promise Labor made to the Australian people. Today we deliver the creation of a new workplace relations system, one that allows Australia to grasp the promise of the future without forgetting the values that made us who and what we are.

Over a century ago at Federation, Australians decided that we would be different to other nations. Democratic, yes. With parliamentary institutions, judicial independence and individual rights similar to those of other great democracies like the United Kingdom and the United States of America, but without their wide social inequalities.

And our Australian version of fairness began with industrial relations:

  • with the concept of the living wage, determined first in the Harvester Judgement;
  • with the idea that people's democratic rights don't cease when they step onto the factory, shop or office floor;
  • with recognition of the need for time for family, relaxation and community; and
  • with an end to divisive industrial conflict.

Before the November 2007 election, this set of values - which instill the essence of the Australian genius for fairness and enterprise - was attacked by the values contained in Work Choices.

The philosophy that underpinned Work Choices said, essentially: make your own way in the world; without the comfort of mateship; without the protections afforded by a compassionate society; against odds deliberately stacked against you. No safety net. No rights at work. No cooperation in the workplace to take the nation forward.

More than anything else, the 2007 election was a contest between these two visions of what Australia should be. And in November 2007, the Australian people settled the matter for once and for all. They chose to be true to the Australian ideal of a fair go. Their decision cost a Prime Minister not only his Government but his seat in this House.

They chose to reject Work Choices and all it stood for, and to put in its place the promises Labor made in its policy statement Forward with Fairness. They gave the Rudd Government the strongest possible popular mandate for the introduction of this Bill.

One year on from our election, the Rudd Government now delivers in full on those promises........

[From The Australian online, 25 November 2008.]

Cleaning up the Net: see how easy it is to removal illegal content, Senator Conroy


As late as last Friday the media were still questioning Senator Conroy and the Rudd Government's motives for seeking to impose mandatory censorship on Internet access from Australia and Perth Now was giving a somewhat tongue-in-cheek example of one of the most common forms of the unintended consequences of such censorship.

The Dept. of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy informs that the upcoming trial of national ISP-level filtering will have funding for those ISPs participating.
The Minister tells us that the Rudd Government is committed to spending many millions in establishing this national censorship.


It seems that taxpayers will probably pay thrice over - for conducting the live trial, for the Australia-wide implementation of the filtering system and as an additional service charge to cover ongoing costs in every monthly account they receive from their ISP after that.

What Conroy is careful not to point out is that for the cost of an email, the Rudd Government and ACMA can get search engines like Google to remove illegal and/or offensive content, as these snapshots from Chilling Effects clearly demonstrate.


In total literally thousands of take down notices have been received over the years by search engines, web sites and blogs in relation to illegal/inappropriate content, copyright infringement or defamation. I have yet to hear of a serious complaint about pornographic or offensive content not being acted on.

NB: the NSW Parliament is now in possession of its own November 2008 E-brief on Internet filtering which raising many of the concerns expressed elsewhere about the Rudd-Conroy Great Firewall of Australia.

North Coast has multiple wins in the 2008 NSW Tourism Awards

Over 700 guests were wined and dined at the NSW Tourism 2008 gala dinner and awards presentation last week.

The NSW North Coast showed that is was up there with the best the state has to offer.

Gold Award Pet Porpoise Pool - Coffs Harbour
http://www.petporpoisepool.com/


Gold Award Clarence River Tourism - Clarence River and Clarence Coast Visitor Information Centres
http://www.clarencetourism.com/

Silver Award Southern Cross University - School of Tourism and Hospitality Management
www.scu.edu.au/schools/tourism/

Silver Award BIG4 North Star Holiday Resort - Hastings Point
http://www.northstar.com.au/

Bronze Award Lismore Visitor Information Centre
http://www.visitlismore.com.au/

Everyone's lining up for a George Dubbya 'closing down sale' presidential pardon

I've always found US presidential pardons a fascinating subject - Jimmy Hoffa, Richard Nixon, Deep Throat, Caspar Weinberger, Marc Rich and Patty Hearst received them to name just a few.
Outgoing presidents often hand out these pardons as they pack their bags to leave the White House for the last time.
Already George Dubbya is getting a request or two according to media reports and Conrad Black, Michael Milken, Marion Jones, John Michael Lindh, Scooter Libby have all been mentioned as possible lucky dip winners.


Bill Clinton is often accused of having been profligate in handing out
140 'going away' pardons on his final day.
Including one for his brother Roger with the convenient cover of "aiding and assisting in the preparation and filing of a false corporate tax return", which is not a good look in Hillary's bid for Secretary of State in the Obama Administration.

But David Latt at The Huffington Post wonders if Bush may have to go even further and pardon virtually everyone who worked for him given the constitutional and human rights excesses during his tenure and concludes:
"So, the question of the hour is: Who will President Bush pardon before he leaves office? Will he put himself at the top of the list?"

Monday, 24 November 2008

Malcolm Turnbull attempts to rain on Kevin Rudd's birthday parade

No wonder Malcolm Turnbull wanted a spot on the televised National Press Club podium today - it was Kevin 07's first birthday as Australian Prime Minister.

Big Mal has posted the transcript of this speech - in which he does his level best to paint the bleakest picture of the national political and financial situation - on his web site.

Nice try, Mal - but is anyone listening?

Speech transcript
here.

Time to fess up - how many Tier 1, 2, & 3 Australian ISPs have signed up to trial the Great Firewall of Australia?

The issue of a national mandatory ISP-level Internet filtering system being introduced in Australia is of more than passing interest to North Coast Voices and many others in rural and regional areas.

Firstly, this blog is administered via a dial-up account and many of our contributors use the same type of Internet connection.

Secondly, all the blog contributors live in regional New South Wales where both broadband and dial-up speeds are already somewhat erratic.

Thirdly, any diminution in Internet function or speed is likely to cripple access to publication on this group blog.

Fourthly, it is beyond the financial capability of this blog to switch to a more expensive (and it must be said, regionally unreliable) broadband connection.

So before the Christmas Eve starting deadline for the Federal Government's trial of the Rudd-Conroy Great Firewall of Australia; would those ISPs who have lodged expressions of interest concerning participation in this censorship trial please put up their hands (I know that some ISPs will have approached the relevant government department because the 18 November EOI deadline has past).

For its own satisfaction North Coast Voices would like to identify those ISPs which think that:
a) the 475 online content complaints, acted on by ACMA in 2007-08 (which related to content that was prohibited or potentially prohibited under the Broadcasting Services Act and including some overseas online gambling sites ) are reason enough to introduce mandatory Internet censorship to this country;
b) indiscriminately blocking up to 10,000 sites identified by ACMA on a 'blacklist'( which may contain lawful content) is a reasonable thing to interpose between the ISP-User contract;
c) taking part in the trial of a filtering system which one of its supporters admits can only potentially block 30-40% of all p*rn sites (and won't block those who regularly access this type of online content) is justified at any level;
d) participating in a 6 week trial that will without consultation impose on the client a combination of dynamic analysis filtering, IP versus URL filtering and DNS poisoning etc., is in the best interests of their business;
e) existing ISP clients will meekly accept any additional account charge allowed under the trial's Draft Deed of Agreement;
f) customers who are negatively impacted by this trial are actually going to use snail mail to inform ISPs that their Internet connection is crippled, rather than just voting with their feet and moving to an ISP not taking part in Senator Conroy's madness; or

g) that Senator Conroy will still respect them in the morning.

Pic from Cleanfeed

First anniversary of the day Australia kicked John Howard out on his a*se!


A small reminder of some of the things which preoccupied us as we went to the polling booths on Saturday 24 November 2007.

Cartoon from First Dog On the Moon

What the heck - take the day off work and celebrate our national good fortune.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Getting the lowdown on PETA and the sheep

The Australian wool industry appears to have suffered a nervous crisis last week when Australian Wool Innovation elected a board which might be perceived to be against the 2010 industry deadline for abandonment of the practice of mulesing sheep.

Now I can sympathise with the graziers frustration at trying to keep to this timetable in the middle of the longest Australian drought in living memory.
However the RSPCA has a point when it speaks of disappointment if the push to end or severely limit this management practice does not go ahead as planned.
Many in this country were quietly thankful that the wool industry was moving away from viewing mulesing as the principal option to prevent fly strike in sheep.

One gets the sense that our farmers are revolting not just because they are faced with significant change or additional financial costs, but because the U.S. based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) successfully led the anti-mulesing charge in the media.

PETA is not always known for taking a balanced position on every issue.
In fact at times this organisation can act like an hysterical pain in the posterior.
Nevertheless, it is a powerful lobby group which has been running for thirty-eight years with a membership of around 1.8 million world-wide and, on the issue of mulesing as it is currently practiced it does have a good point.

Not only does PETA have a large membership; it has a budget that would put many other similar lobby groups to shame:

Income Statement (FYE 07/2007)

Revenue
Primary Revenue$28,858,103
Other Revenue$1,753,581
Total Revenue$30,611,684
Expenses
Program Expenses$25,417,759
Administrative Expenses$1,312,701
Fundraising Expenses$3,680,667
Total Functional Expenses$30,411,127
Payments to Affiliates $0
Excess (or Deficit) for the year $200,557
Net Assets$16,164,783


Its leadership wage bill appears to make only modest inroads into this budget, with individual annual salaries ranging from about US$34,000 - $79,000, and it is not afraid of commencing litigation in furtherance of its aims.

So perhaps our farmers and graziers should think again about dragging feet on this issue.
It would seem that baulking over mulesing could result in all pain and no gain for the industry during a period when it is bound to be affected to some degree by the global financial crisis.

Who dies from blogging? Who gets killed by Taser?

Cartoon #369 from XKCD

Now I know that The New York Times was probably the first to foster the idea that regular blogging is hazardous to health (helped along by Dr. Helen's post), but I'm willing to bet that the cartoonist at XKCD is principally responsible for the fact that at least 2, 360 mentions of people dying by blogging are currently indexed by Google. Have pencil and PC and humour will travel and travel and travel!

Unfortunately if you take the time to Google for mention of death by Taser you'll bring up around 2,870 citations and none of those are remotely funny.

This week we can add another mention or two to that score because it has been reported that NSW Police sought to conceal the fact that; "A MAN died of a heart attack after being repeatedly shot with a Taser in one of the first uses of the weapon in NSW".

Unfortunately NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipionie has seen fit to roll out a general distribution of these weapons (which have been used by specialist units since 2002) ahead of the NSW Ombudsman's report which calls for a moratorium on such weapons until an independent two-year review can be undertaken.

Scipie tells us that he was not aware that a man with serious chronic illness had been Tasered weeks before his death.
Garn! Even a police commissioner would have been aware that the vast majority of people Tasered by NSW police had to receive some form of medical treatment.

NSW Ombudsman's November 2008 report on The use of Taser weapons by New South Wales Police Force.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Kevin Rudd is following 'no_filter Yamba' tweets?

Hi, no_filter_Yamba.

Kevin Rudd (KevinRuddPM) is now following your updates on Twitter.

Check out Kevin Rudd's profile here:

http://twitter.com/KevinRuddPM


Best,
Twitter


Aw, isn't that nice............

If anyone is interested in following yet another of those Joycean stream-of-consciousness tweeters, no_filter_Yamba can be found here.

Reaching for the Moon from the NSW North Coast

With so many night sky watchers living on the NSW North Coast, new Clarence Valley photographer Samantha Jefferson's view of the 2007 eclipse of the Moon from an Australian east coast perspective is appreciated.
Samples of Sam's work can be found at her webpage Stuft.

While canuckdownunder displaying her work at Flickr looks skywards from the Richmond Valley.

Forty-five years ago today in the United States of America

Section of the Zapruder film taken on 22 November 1963


Last night I realised that this morning it would be forty-five years to the day since then U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
Although the years and the dislosures have tarnished the image of the Kennedy Camelot forever, I still remember where I was when I heard the news.

Friday, 21 November 2008

People power saves the day in the Lower Clarence

Lower Clarence residents (particularly those living in Maclean) were rejoicing this week as a grass roots campaign, to stop Clarence Valley Council selling a vital public car park and adjoining green space, proved successful.

On Wednesday of this week, by a vote of 5 to 3, Council decided not to go ahead with offering the land for sale.
Those five shire councillors who opposed the sale are commended for their good sense.

Cr. Ian Tiley deserves individual mention for his speech against the sale which had the visitors gallery break into spontaneous applause.

All who took part in this successful demonstration of people power deserve a pat on the back.
Meetings, letters to the editor, emails and phone calls to councillors, submissions to council - all played a huge part in the outcome.

In particular, Ian McLennan worked hard to gather support from the Maclean community, as well as conducting a survey over a 2hr period in the park - with 74 of 91 surveyed opposing the sale.

Congratulations also to Janet Purcell for her determined effort to get the word around.

See history here and here.
The Daily Examiner article here.

Possum Comitiatus on the national economy

Possum Comitatus writing in Crikey last Tuesday:

The economy is lukewarm to tepid, but not dead.

For a country supposedly in the middle of an economic crisis so grave that it cannot be described without the obligatory passing mention of the Great Depression, yesterday’s ABS retail turnover figures were hardly the stuff of nightmares.

At worst, the national economy appears to be treading water. At best, the national economy appears to be treading water. We might not actually be going anywhere, but it’s a pretty good outcome when you consider that expectations play a sizeable role when it comes to the willingness of people to open their wallets, and the last 6 months of media coverage framing those expectations has been the equivalent of some nutter standing on the corner banging on about the end of the world being nigh......

Retail turnover data is the least worst measure we have when it comes to the rubber hitting the road of the real economy in terms of how money is flowing out of people’s wallets and into the nation’s cash registers. What it shows at its most basic level is that some States are faring better than others as the financial crisis has increased the spread of retail activity between States, highlighting the disparity in economic activity driven by regional factors across Australia....

If NSW wasn’t such a basket-case, the national figures would be looking quite spiffy all things considered. We don’t so much have an economic crisis as we a NSW crisis.

It will be interesting to see if the Rudd Government's one-off payments to self-funded retirees, pensioners, familes and low-income earners (due in December) will actually lift NSW up to the 0.0 line on the graph.

Kevin Rudd discovers Blogotariat

So much to see, so much to do - sometimes a poor blogger misses the most exciting moments.

Fresh from his venture on Twitter, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd now has his KevinPM.com.au blog registered on the Blogotariat.
On 17 November he left a little calling card on his blog excitingly called; Message from the G20.
Days before that on 13 November he deposited; Kevin PM, "Welcome to KevinPM, where we can communicate about the big challenges confronting Australia".

Yep, Rudders is about as exciting as watching paint dry and his team of pithy ghostwriters is not much better.
Still there always the Twitter 'no clean feed' pixies gently protesting his tweets to amuse folk like me.


Thursday, 20 November 2008

Saffin hosts climate change information night for Northern Rivers, Ballina 21 November 2008


Page MP Janelle Saffin is holding a public forum on climate change to provide a local perspective on one of the biggest issues facing the Northern Rivers, Australia and the world.
The forum, Climate Change: A Regional Perspective, will be held in the Richmond Room, Regatta Avenue, at the rear of the Ballina Public Library on Friday, November 21, from 5.30pm until 7.30pm.
The keynote speaker is Southern Cross University's Head of the School of Environmental Science and Management, Professor Jerry Van Clay.
Ms Saffin said the forum would be an opportunity to hear a world-renowned expert on natural resource management and sustainability explain the possible implications of climate change for people living in the Northern Rivers.
She said Professor Vanclay would also discuss the Rudd Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper, which we released in July, and economist Professor Ross Garnaut's Climate Change Review.

Northern Rivers Social Development Council finds Rees mini-budget lacklustre

This media release more or less says it all about the NSW Government mini-budget.

Lacklustre Budget Fails To Inspire

Northern Rivers Social Development Council has welcomed today's NSW Budget announcements on new infrastructure but expressed disappointment at the lack of spending on key priorities for the region.

According to NRSDC President, Jenny Dowell, there are some positives in the Budget.

'The region will receive a $1Million increase in funding for community transport. This will go some way towards meeting the needs of older people and those living with disability,' Ms Dowell said.

'We welcome new funding for health infrastructure including the modest boost to acute mental health services – this is badly needed in our region,' said Ms Dowell.

'We are also relieved that the government will provide indexation of 3.3% to disability services and NGOs funded by the Department of Community Services. This will help vital community organisations maintain current services against high inflation,' Ms Dowell said.

'However, we are very worried that non-government transport and health services will receive indexation of only 2.5%. In real terms this is a cut in funding,' said Ms Dowell.

NRSDC CEO, Tony Davies, points out that there is very little new money in the budget.

'Unfortunately, the claims of record spending on Health, Housing, Disability, Transport, Preschools and Community Services, are largely spin,' Mr Davies said.

'What the government has done is re-announce previous commitments. We are pleased that the government is investing in the services that help our community, but some of these initiatives have been announced four or five times. We would have liked to see more action to address new and emerging community needs,' Mr Davies said.

'There are significant gaps that this budget still does not address. Worryingly there is scant detail about projects to support regional areas with many of the big ticket infrastructure items going to metropolitan centres,' said Mr Davies.

Areas where NRSDC would have liked to see greater investment include:

  • Growth funding for non-government disability, aged and community services to meet the demands of a growing and ageing population.
  • The Department of Community Services to meet the continuing escalation in demand for child protection services and to provide better and earlier support to vulnerable families.
  • Youth services – despite a rapidly increasing population, there has been no real growth in funding for young people for the last decade.
  • Transport – to support planning, coordination, public transport infrastructure and services

NSW forestry - not good enough Minister!

While fiscal difficulties and factional fights are driving the NSW Labor Government into the ground, here is yet another matter for the Northern Rivers (with its numerous forestry tracts) to worry about.


The forest management regimes along the entire eastern seaboard of NSW are currently up for review – in the form of five-year reviews of Forest Agreements and Approvals signed almost a decade ago.

This is an opportunity for major improvements in forest conservation, which are desperately needed in the context of a rapidly warming climate – but the NSW Government seems intent on ticking a box and continuing with business as usual.

The Government is almost five years late in undertaking these reviews, and legally required annual reports for the Agreements and Approvals have not been published since 2002. Numerous key conservation milestones have never been met.
  • There have been no annual reports submitted on NSW Forest Agreements since 2002 despite a legal requirement to do so.
  • The five-year review was legally required for the UNE, LNE and Eden forest Agreements in 2004 and is only now being commenced.
  • The eight-year review of timber volumes required by the UNE and LNE Forest Agreements in 2006 was not conducted, and new long-term (20 year) wood supply contracts were signed without a review of volumes.
  • There have been no threatened species prosecutions of Forests NSW by DECC for five years, despite numerous legitimate complaints by the community.
  • There have been massive shortfalls and time delays in meeting the requirements of the National Forest Policy Statement.
  • The Government has failed to meet many of the key milestones and targets set down in the NSW Forest Agreements.
  • There is a clear bias in those milestones that have been achieved towards the interests of the timber industry and against conservation interests.
  • Key conservation outcomes required by the Agreements have not been met – including proper protection of high conservation value Crown lands and assessment of the World Heritage potential of our northern and southern eucalypt forests.
  • The Forestry and National Park Estate Act 1998 has a requirement for a five year review which has not occurred.
  • Numerous key elements of the Commonwealth-State Regional Forest Agreements for NSW have also not been met, including the five-year review, the annual reports and other important provisions (including a timber review and world heritage assessment).
  • The review of the FAs and IFOAs will be a case of the Ministers reviewing their own failings and shortcomings. An independent review is required.

If you wish to make a submission before 19 December 2008 on the five-year reviews or individual forestry agreements in your area, contact Camel Flint for more information at:

North East Forest Alliance
16 Roslyn Ave
Armidale, 2350
Ph 0267 724904
Mo 0400 521474