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Whatever you might say about the aftermaths (and there is plenty of criticism that even the most eager of hawks could provide), one must admit that the primary phase of Bush's wars - the defeat of the Taliban and Hussein regimes and their ejection from power - proceeded swiftly and with the minimum of fuss in both cases.

Libya is ultimately Obama's war, and no greater contrast could be imagined. Bush understood what Obama does not - that in order to topple a demagogue, you must get your hands dirty and go in on the ground. More to the point, you must have the will to do so. Obama certainly did not - the US put in a major effort right at the start, to get things rolling, and then pulled back to let the rest of NATO do its thing. NATO seems not to be doing all that well.

I'm still not sure exactly what has gone so drastically wrong, but I would put it down to terminal self-doubt combined with fear of "legal" consequences and possibly overlain with the dangerously seductive myth that a war can be won with air power alone at reasonable cost (political, military and financial).

It can't.

There are two ways to win a war with air power alone. The first is to resort to the strategic bombing campaign as practised by the Allies in World War 2, or alternatively to nuclear weapons, and make of the enemy's nation a burned and blasted wasteland. Unless there's a pressing reason, which I leave to the imagination, it's something the parliamentary democracies understandably and justifiably steer clear of these days.

The second is to be engaged in a war of specific strategic aims and limitations, in which both sides are either committed to certain goals or constrained by certain factors. If geographic constraints dictate the only way for Nation A to attack Nation B is by use of an invasion fleet, an air force might - by destroying that fleet while it is at sea - eliminate the means of making war at a stroke. Land wars, of the sort that Libya's is, are not like that. To successfully prosecute a land war, one must fight both on land AND in the air, and one must ensure that combat operations in all three dimensions are properly integrated.

Furthermore, one must ensure that one's land forces are evenly matched to those of the opposition AND numerically equal to their tasks. This is patently NOT the case in Libya, where the forces the West is supporting appear to be of dubious capability and are taking major reverses even with Western strike support (supposing that support to be fully effective all the time). The component of NATO with the most resources (the US) has cut and run, doing its little bit to say it was there and then walking away leaving the lesser lights to do the job alone.

Such things are inexcusable when the stated aim is 'regime change'. If it had been stated at the very begining of the Western intervention that NATO aid would strictly be limited to taking out the Libyan Air Force (including aviation assets operated directly by the Libyan Army, e.g. strike and scout helicopters) and then the rebels were on their own, that would have been one thing. What we are trying to achieve now is quite another, and simply cannot be done at a limited cost. Iraq War 1 possibly came closest to ending this way - had we killed enough of Saddam's soldiers, it's theoretically possible he might have decided to withdraw from Kuwait on his own rather than be forced out by the ground phase - but there you have an example of that limited sort of war where the criteria for victory have been very carefully defined.

The Allies could not, without ground forces, have conquered Nazi Germany. The only reason Japan capitulated without an invasion was because of the new factor of the atom bomb, which promised the hitherto impossible goal of complete national and racial obliteration, especially in the context of an island nation whose military had been utterly destroyed and was incapable of defending it.
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ELECTRIC cars could produce higher emissions over their lifetimes than petrol equivalents because of the energy consumed in making their batteries, a study has found.

Why am I not surprised? Rule One of Greens and technology - the first has no comprehension of the limitations (or the power) of the second.

An electric car owner would have to drive at least 129,000km before producing a net saving in CO2. Many electric cars will not travel that far in their lifetime because they typically have a range of less than 145km on a single charge and are unsuitable for long trips. Even those driven 160,000km would save only about a tonne of CO2 over their lifetimes.

129km a day over three years, or shorter drives over a longer time, would just about do it, but there's that annoying range limitation. Electrical energy is very difficult to store 'densely' - petrol is several orders of magnitude more efficient, and far quicker to recharge. I hear the recharge time for an electric is absurdly long (twenty to thirty minutes), totally unsuitable for long-distance driving. You'd be sitting idle for one hour out of three!

The British study, which is the first analysis of the full lifetime emissions of electric cars covering manufacturing, driving and disposal, undermines the case for tackling climate change by the rapid introduction of electric cars.

Assuming that the case for anthropogenic dominance is correct, which I am firmly convinced - given previous ice ages and warm cycles - that it is not. It may be an answer (or part thereof) to a separate and unarguable problem: the finite nature of hydrocarbon reserves at present rates of consumption. This presupposes that one has a significant reserve of non-fossil electrical power which can be relied upon for charging purposes (and yes, I am talking nuclear).

The Committee on Climate Change, the UK government watchdog, has called for the number of electric cars on Britain's roads to increase from a few hundred now to 1.7 million by 2020.

Pointless chasing after numbers plucked out of the air - the worst kind of government policy. This brings me back to what I said at the start, which is that starry-eyed environmentally-deluded bureaucrats (envirocrats???) simply don't understand how to develop or deliver technology.

Britain's Department for Transport is spending $66 million over the next year giving up to 8,600 buyers of electric cars a grant of $7700 towards the purchase price. Ministers are considering extending the scheme.

The DoT would do far better to spend the money ensuring that recharging infrastructure is in place, and that research funds are given for technology development to make that recharging fast (more in the order of three to five minutes) and safe (large currents have a tendency to cause fires if not properly controlled).

The study was commissioned by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, which is jointly funded by the British government and the car industry. It found that a mid-size electric car would produce 23.1 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime, compared with 24 tonnes for a similar petrol car. Emissions from manufacturing electric cars are at least 50 per cent higher because batteries are made from materials such as lithium, copper and refined silicon, which require much energy to be processed.

Provided you can get that energy from nuclear or other such sources, the cost to your precious CO2 balance is a lot less, but it does highlight that these fucking morons are seeing everything in terms of CO2 emissions and not even looking at the fossil fuel conservation aspect.

Many electric cars are expected to need a replacement battery after a few years. Once the emissions from producing the second battery are added in, the total CO2 from producing an electric car rises to 12.6 tonnes, compared with 5.6 tonnes for a petrol car. Disposal also produces double the emissions because of the energy consumed in recovering and recycling metals in the battery. The study also took into account carbon emitted to generate the grid electricity consumed.

Again, the way to solve this is to do what France has done - or to develop more esoteric things like tidal and ocean-thermal, which are not sunlight and atmosphere dependent for their power source. There will always be tides, and there will always be a cold deep ocean beneath the warm upper surface. Temperature gradient = energy.

Greg Archer, director of Low CVP, said the industry should state the full lifecycle emissions of cars rather than just tailpipe emissions, to avoid misleading consumers. He said that drivers wanting to minimise emissions could be better off buying a small, efficient petrol or diesel car. “People have to match the technology to their particular needs,” he said.

The Times


I think Mr Archer is right - the whole "no carbon emissions" sales pitch is excellent for dragging in rich Greenbots with more money and desire for penitence than common sense (or understanding of anything even remotely resembling "science"), but there would appear to be hidden costs. Now those costs might be mitigated by a careful nationwide consideration of technology requirements, but without a lot of expensive research (and, I am happy to admit, road time) that range and time limitation is not going to go away - and there's going to be a glut of shiny new one-owner electric cars on the market, going cheap.

Lord I'm one, Lord I'm... shit, not even two hundred miles from home. Time for a recharge already? On a bright note, here's an excuse for Tim Horton's to put a store up every 150km on the Trans-Canada Highway with squillions of outdoor powerpoints.

"How do you take your coffee, sir?"

"With 1.21 GIGAWATTS, my son!"
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WAYNE Swan will today move to reinvigorate the government's carbon tax sales pitch, unveiling Treasury modelling that predicts Australia's income will be $8000 a person higher by 2020, even with a $20 a tonne carbon price.

The Treasurer - in a major speech aimed at boosting the government's carbon tax plans and cutting down Tony Abbott's cost-of-living attacks - will release modelling that shows average annual growth in real national income per capita will be 1.1 per cent until 2050.

Modelling is only as accurate as the assumptions you feed into it. This government has made a botch job of everything since it's been elected, and hasn't even managed to deliver a surplus budget yet. This despite declaring, three years ago, its intent to keep the budget "in average surplus over the cycle."

The Treasurer will declare that national income will continue to increase under a carbon tax, telling the National Press Club: "This means a carbon price will only reduce growth in GNP per person by about one-tenth of one percentage point."

Carried by the mining sector and what's left of the manufacturing sector until both become uncompetitive, and maybe by the farming sector if the impact of this tax doesn't drive it to the wall.

The Treasurer will argue that carbon pricing is "the next crucial frontier" in economic reform, likening it to the abolition of tariffs and the introduction of compulsory superannuation.

Oh, so THAT'S what it's about. When things like this are said, I really have to doubt whether it's about saving the planet at all - or whether it ever was.

Arguing that as Treasurer, "I refuse to let this country become an old-world, high-polluting, technological backwater", Mr Swan will release the modelling showing real national income per capita will be 16 per cent higher than current levels by 2020, an increase of more than $8000.

This government has had since late 2007 to begin an extensive, integrated program of constructing every "renewable energy" option known to humanity, not to mention the option Britain is currently going for in order to slash CO2 emissions - nuclear power. What we should have seen is something on the scale of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme (look it up). What we've got is... nothing like that.

By 2050, the increase is about 56 per cent, more than $30,000.


So unrealistic as to be unbelievable. This is a carrot dangled before the people they have browbeaten into fear and ignorance - a great big money carrot. It's a political bribe with no hope of realisation; because if they get it wrong (as they have got everything else wrong), just how much will thirty thousand Weimar Deutschmarks Australian dollars buy in 2050?

"That's before you take into account the long-term benefits of carbon pricing - like protecting tourism icons such as the Great Barrier Reef or Kakadu, or the agricultural wealth of the Murray-Darling Basin," Mr Swan will say.

No point in protecting the Murray-Darling basin if you're going to bankrupt half the bloody farming sector!! As for the Reef or Kakadu - sorry, but service industries like tourism just DO NOT MAKE THAT MUCH MONEY. And much of that tourism is international tourism, which (funnily enough) creates heaps more of those "carbon emissions" Mr Swan and his fellow-travellers want to see reduced!

Although the numbers to be unveiled by Mr Swan relate to a carbon price of $20 a tonne, it is understood Treasury has modelled a range of figures and that the government is yet to make a final decision on the starting price.

A painless foot in the door - or wedge in the castle wall - that can be ramped up and up and up without the need to consult Parliament, is what I'm predicting. Our only hope, funnily enough, may be the rampant lunacy of the Greens - who (as with the ETS) will not come to the party unless the starting figure is set ruinously high, even for those who believe in this mad scheme.

Mr Swan's speech comes as the government's multi-party climate change committee enters its final weeks of deliberations on the shape of the carbon pricing package and before the imminent release of a Productivity Commission report into relative carbon prices overseas.

A sensible treasurer waits until after his Productivity Commission reports back, before shooting off his mouth. If the PC report sinks what he says, it will probably be quietly buried. Watch this space.

The modelling will show renewable energy is expected to soar under a carbon price. Renewable electricity sector generation (excluding hydro-electric power) is projected to be 1700 per cent larger by 2050.


WHAT? Just how the hell are they going to build all that with the manufacturing sector crippled by the penalty it needs to pay for the CO2 that is generated in the course of manufacturing the technology, IF it's built here, and the national debt spiralling into unheard-of depths if it's bought off the shelf? Note the exclusion of hydroelectric power - this is the price of political union with the Greens, to whom it is as much anathema as is nuclear, and who will have a large balance of power in the Senate in less than four weeks. I fear for my country.

Declaring that placing a price on carbon pollution is the "most cost-effective way to decouple economic growth from emissions growth", Mr Swan will confront the opposition's campaign against the carbon tax, arguing that "most of our most important reforms were once described as a potential disaster for our economy".

Oh, it will decouple it alright. Economic growth will go into a death-spiral while emissions will continue to rise, because there is no hope in hell they can provide enough solar and wind to run the country (especially with all the people they're letting in - they expect to have an extra ten million by then) and they will have to fall back on coal and gas. It's either that, or go nuclear.

"But in time they reaped big dividends for the country, helping secure two decades of uninterrupted economic growth," he will say.

This is NOT the same thing, and they bloody well know it's not. The other economic reforms of which they speak did not cut to the fundamental heart of the thing which makes our civilisation what it is - electrical power. Strangle electricity and you strangle civilisation - it's that simple. Most of the people who are publicly in favour of this are wealthy enough to keep their heads above water without affecting their standard of living. "Bugger the rest of you, I'm all right thanks, Jack." Well I'm certainly all right, but I know quite a few people who are NOT going to be, and I don't want to see them "buggered". Sure, they're going to give a lot of it back as "compensation", but how do you "compensate" a pensioner who dies of heat-stroke because they know their "compensation" cheque won't arrive in time to pay the electricity bill, and elect not to use the air conditioner in high summer (40-plus degrees CELSIUS for days on end)? I'm not kidding - this happens EVERY FUCKING YEAR in Australia, to the point where emergency departments trot out treatment protocols, and it's only going to happen more often now.

The Treasurer will argue that tax reform opened up opportunities for businesses to take advantage of China's boom and that the superannuation guarantee had achieved a rise in national savings and retirement incomes, setting a platform for dealing with the global financial crisis and the pressures of an ageing population.

I'll say it again - THIS IS NOT THE SAME THING. Also, Swan's and Rudd's way of dealing with the GFC was to play class politics and shove money into the pockets of people who spent it on foreign goods when they spent it at all, preferring in many cases to do the sensible thing and clear some of their debts - something neither Swan nor Rudd seems to understand is a good idea.

"The Liberal Party knows direct-action policies cannot entrench fundamental economic and behavioural changes, but they don't care," Mr Swan will say.

For "behavioural changes" read "we will make electricity so fucking expensive that candles will be a gateway drug to dynamo-powered torches."

In Sydney yesterday, Tony Abbott moved to exploit a Galaxy poll showing 73 per cent of voters believed they would take a hip-pocket hit from the carbon tax, 58 per cent opposed the move and 64 per cent believed Julia Gillard should call an early election to seek a mandate to introduce it.

And rightly he should, because the people polled at least, and possibly the population of which they are claimed to be representative, are fucking furious that the PM swore up and down upon every little hair on her head that she would NOT do what she is doing now, and that any attempt by Tony Abbott to claim that she would was "fearmongering."

I guess that makes it a fully justified fear, then.

"It is pretty obvious a lot of people in our community feel badly ripped off by this government. In particular, they feel badly ripped off by this government's attempt to sneak a carbon tax through a parliament that has no mandate for it," the Opposition Leader said.


This, I believe, is correct. Trouble is, Gillard knew that a Carbon Tax would sink her at the last election: she BARELY sneaked through, and that only with the help of some highly interesting fellow travellers, plus one doctrinaire fanatic whose boss (Bob Brown, the leader of the Greens) is possibly the reason she has elected/been obliged to backflip. Why? Because loss of Greens support means automatic loss of government, and a thrashing at the polls that will put Labor out on its arse for at least two terms and possibly three (which is approximately how much time it will take the Liberal/National coalition to fix the damage done).

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet cited weekend rallies in favour of carbon pricing, support from senior economists, eminent Australians and climate change adviser Ross Garnaut as evidence of support for carbon pricing.

None of these "eminent Australians" is a climate scientist or an engineer, as far as I know. That makes Mr Combet's call an appeal to authority, which is an automatic sign of a lost argument.

"I know the Galaxy poll of course is suggesting people have a considerable degree of concerns about the issue," Mr Combet said. "The government understands those concerns."

Just what the hell do we have to do to make him acknowledge what that poll is telling him? It's telling him that the Australian people think HIS PLAN SUCKS, and maybe we should prepare a plate to print that in 72-point type, affix it to a baseball bat and (metaphorically) apply it to his head over and over again until he gets the message.

He said Mr Abbott's claims were "absurd, unsubstantiated and ridiculous".

Oh - does he mean like the claim that Mr Abbott made before the election - you know, that the Labor Government would introduce a carbon tax if it got back into office? If that's "absurd, unsubstantiated and ridiculous", I'll take Abbott over Combet (or any of these Labor/Green muppets) any day. His predecessor Penny Wong's first act as Climate Change Minister should have been to walk out of the Senate and into the Lower House chamber and slam Kevin Rudd's head repeatedly into the dais until he agreed to nuclear power, and her second act should have been to fire the bureaucrats and administrators from her department and replace them with engineers and industrial chemists. Likewise Combet with Gillard, although she's got the excuse that she's pretty much the Greens' puppet until she develops the moral backbone to do the needful, break the coalition with them and go to the polls all over again (with the grim expectation that she WILL lose).

If she does that, she should wait until after the new Greens senators take their seats and have had time to nail their colours to the mast (you will find those colours a combination of green with a strong tinge of red). Then she should ask for a double dissolution which will wipe them out and take the albatross off Labor's neck when it (one day) returns to power.

One thing is for certain - at the next election, Labor is going to take a hiding. And even if it's not a full senate election, the sitting Green members who are there now (and vulnerable at the next half-senate poll) are probably for the high jump. After that, we might get someone sane like Martin Ferguson in charge of the Labor Party - at that point, and with most of the thumb-sucking special snowflakes cleaned out, Labor might be prepared to rethink its ideological opposition to nuclear power and help the Coalition push it through over the heads of the screaming, fanatical "Greens".

Just how much in the way of hydro, tidal, ocean-thermal and nuclear power could have been bought for the $150bn worth of deficit spending the Rudd/Gillard Labor Government has done since November 2007? And how many Australians (including immigrants, refugees, etc) could have been employed on those projects? THAT is how you build national wealth and "decrease carbon emissions" along the way - not by shuffling money around and making atmospheric CO2 levels an end in themselves (if they are even an end anymore). THAT is something the Chinese and the Indians understand perfectly, which is (among other reasons) why the Chinese built the Three Gorges system and the Indians wanted to buy our uranium to feed their power reactors. Mind you, the Chinese are also building coal-fired power stations at a rate which will match Australia's entire output every YEAR - or to put it in perspective, if Australia reverted back to pre-European conditions TOMORROW and stayed that way, the "accomplishment" in "emissions reduction" would be wiped out in twelve months; certainly less than twenty-four.

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So why penalise them?

A TAX on power used in electric cars should be considered by Treasury, a parliamentary committee says.

An inquiry into the Government's plan to increase LPG fuel excise heard that electric cars should be treated similarly.

The committee's report said while few cars run on electricity, it is an emerging issue.


In other words, electric cars would be free to draw their energy from the power grid at large, putting them at an advantage over petrol vehicles and hybrids. Gotta tax that!

Treasury should start consulting industry "with a view to developing an excise equivalent tax for the electricity used by electric vehicles in the medium term".

"One of the key motivators behind the legislation is to reduce distortions in the fuels sector," the committee said.

The Government said it would consider the report.


With the credit card maxed out and the shopping spree by no means over, the dollar signs will be rolling in the Treasurer's head. For 'consider', I figure one should read 'jump on with obscene eagerness'.

Blade Electric Vehicle director Ross Blade said the recommendation was "breathtaking".

He's not the only one.

"I find it extraordinary to think that's being talked about now, before people have an incentive to drive (an electric car)," he said.

Way to treat an emerging "green" industry - step on it and eliminate one of the few practical incentives for ordinary Australians to get in on the ground level. Under the fucking abortion known as a "carbon tax", electricity would be expensive enough as it is without some sort of "fuel excise" being slapped on it. Is there any decision this government can make that isn't littered with incompetence from start to finish?

The recommendation comes as the heated debate on a carbon tax continues, and Australians are told to use cleaner fuels.

Prof Ross Garnaut sang the praises of electric cars in his final report into climate change this week.

"Zero emissions road vehicles now seem set to be the most promising source of abatement in the transport sector," he wrote.


So why isn't he doing his utmost to bury this obscene recommendation with a stake through its heart and its head lopped off?

Opposition members on the economics committee argued against increasing tax on gas.

The Coalition continued its attack on the carbon tax proposal yesterday, with environment spokesman Greg Hunt calling for the Government to rule out petrol being included.


Why? Because it will hurt lower-income-bracket Australians badly. You know, the blue-collar sort who used to be Labor's guaranteed constituency and who stand to lose the most from Labor's morally repugnant cosying-up to the Greens. And all the "compensation" in the world won't stop that hurt on the day-to-day level.

I want to find the people who made this recommendation, tie them into chairs, fit them with headphones, and blast the song "Greased Lightning" into their heads at maximum volume. As soon as they stop screaming in denial and start tapping their feet and singing along, we'll know its safe to let them make decisions about the future of road transport in this country.


MEANWHILE, IN OTHER AUTOMOTIVE NEWS:

I don't care if you're male or female, I don't care if you're a car enthusiast or not. Just watch this, and let your inner child out to play.


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George Monbiot says what needs saying about Fukushima. Bold emphasis above the line is mine, as is italic commentary within the artice. (The source article has multiple links which I have not reproduced here.)

Let us begin:




You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong, way beyond the worst fears of the designers, and yet the worst did not happen.

Some greens have wildly exaggerated the dangers of radioactive pollution. For a clearer view, look at the graphic published by xkcd.com. It shows that the average total dose from the Three Mile Island disaster for someone living within 10 miles of the plant was one 625th of the maximum yearly amount permitted for US radiation workers. This, in turn, is half of the lowest one-year dose clearly linked to an increased cancer risk, which, in its turn, is one 80th of an invariably fatal exposure. I'm not proposing complacency here. I am proposing perspective.

Something that is sorely lacking here in Australia, at least from official sources and most favoured by the media.

If other forms of energy production caused no damage, these impacts would weigh more heavily. But energy is like medicine: if there are no side-effects, the chances are that it doesn't work.

Like most greens, I favour a major expansion of renewables. I can also sympathise with the complaints of their opponents. It's not just the onshore windfarms that bother people, but also the new grid connections (pylons and power lines). As the proportion of renewable electricity on the grid rises, more pumped storage will be needed to keep the lights on. That means reservoirs on mountains: they aren't popular, either.

The impacts and costs of renewables rise with the proportion of power they supply, as the need for storage and redundancy increases. It may well be the case (I have yet to see a comparative study) that up to a certain grid penetration – 50% or 70%, perhaps? – renewables have smaller carbon impacts than nuclear, while beyond that point, nuclear has smaller impacts than renewables.

Note this - an entirely nuclear energy grid is less environmentally 'impacting' than an all-renewable grid. It is also far more predictable in terms of the power it produces.

Like others, I have called for renewable power to be used both to replace the electricity produced by fossil fuel and to expand the total supply, displacing the oil used for transport and the gas used for heating fuel. Are we also to demand that it replaces current nuclear capacity? The more work we expect renewables to do, the greater the impact on the landscape will be, and the tougher the task of public persuasion.

Try "the tougher the task of construction" too, and the higher the cost, the more steel that needs to be smelted, etc. etc. If you're a CO2 phobic, this needs to be factored into the equation.

But expanding the grid to connect people and industry to rich, distant sources of ambient energy is also rejected by most of the greens who complained about the blog post I wrote last week in which I argued that nuclear remains safer than coal. What they want, they tell me, is something quite different: we should power down and produce our energy locally. Some have even called for the abandonment of the grid. Their bucolic vision sounds lovely, until you read the small print.

Let alone the large print which says ARE YOU COMPLETELY FUCKING DERANGED?

At high latitudes like ours, most small-scale ambient power production is a dead loss. Generating solar power in the UK involves a spectacular waste of scarce resources.

Surely this also applies to Northern Europe, Scandinavia, a goodly portion of Canada, the former Soviet Union, etc.

It's hopelessly inefficient and poorly matched to the pattern of demand. Wind power in populated areas is largely worthless. This is partly because we have built our settlements in sheltered places; partly because turbulence caused by the buildings interferes with the airflow and chews up the mechanism. Micro-hydropower might work for a farmhouse in Wales, but it's not much use in Birmingham.

The more remote you are, the more small-scale your operation (and, it seems, the better your output) and the more that storage batteries make sense.

And how do we drive our textile mills, brick kilns, blast furnaces and electric railways – not to mention advanced industrial processes? Rooftop solar panels? The moment you consider the demands of the whole economy is the moment at which you fall out of love with local energy production. A national (or, better still, international) grid is the essential prerequisite for a largely renewable energy supply.

Some greens go even further: why waste renewable resources by turning them into electricity? Why not use them to provide energy directly? To answer this question, look at what happened in Britain before the industrial revolution.

The damming and weiring of British rivers for watermills was small-scale, renewable, picturesque and devastating. By blocking the rivers and silting up the spawning beds, they helped bring to an end the gigantic runs of migratory fish that were once among our great natural spectacles and which fed much of Britain – wiping out sturgeon, lampreys and shad, as well as most sea trout and salmon.

Traction was intimately linked with starvation. The more land that was set aside for feeding draft animals for industry and transport, the less was available for feeding humans. It was the 17th-century equivalent of today's biofuels crisis. The same applied to heating fuel. As EA Wrigley points out in his book Energy and the English Industrial Revolution, the 11m tonnes of coal mined in England in 1800 produced as much energy as 11m acres of woodland (one third of the land surface) would have generated.

Before coal became widely available, wood was used not just for heating homes but also for industrial processes: if half the land surface of Britain had been covered with woodland, Wrigley shows, we could have made 1.25m tonnes of bar iron a year (a fraction of current consumption) and nothing else. Even with a much lower population than today's, manufactured goods in the land-based economy were the preserve of the elite. Deep green energy production – decentralised, based on the products of the land – is far more damaging to humanity than nuclear meltdown.

Which is why I see the Deep Greens as the ultimate misanthropes - and quite possibly traitors to human civilisation.

But the energy source to which most economies will revert if they shut down their nuclear plants is not wood, water, wind or sun, but fossil fuel. On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power. Thanks to the expansion of shale gas production, the impacts of natural gas are catching up fast.

Shale gas, meanwhile, has its own problems - it apparently leaves large holes in the ground that are no longer pressure-packed, with interesting results. Coal remains an excellent fuel because it is cheap and because the technology to use it is easily designed, constructed and maintained even by a relatively poor and technologically unsophisticated nation.

Yes, I still loathe the liars who run the nuclear industry. Yes, I would prefer to see the entire sector shut down, if there were harmless alternatives. But there are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power.




Dear Green fucktards:

Show me a limitless, continuous source of energy without risk and I will gladly give up nuclear and most fossil fuels (until such limitless source is miniaturised for motor vehicles and the smallest aircraft).

Until then, what we have is the best we've got to keep civilisation going and prevent starvation and horror with deaths on the scale of billions. If you want that on your heads, if you're prepared to go to your graves with that on your conscience (because you will go to your graves if you bring this about, I can promise you that), please have the honesty to say so before ejaculating any more of the diseased intellectual cum you have so far splattered across the face of the world.

If your "Departments of Climate Change" were staffed with and commanded by engineers and physicists instead of ponzi-scheme-addicted bureaucrats and unreasoning, power-mad political fanatics, I might be more inclined to believe that you actually had the ultimate good of humankind in mind. Until then, kindly go fuck yourselves sideways with the most destructive objects you can imagine.

No love,

Me.
pathology_doc: Ginny Weasley (film) clutching Riddle's diary: Ginny/Horcrux OTP (Default)


A devastating critique of the whole "Green Jobs" thing. Myself, I want to spit whenever I hear the phrase. I would argue that the fellow in the video is missing one vital point - that Government does need to guarantee funding for pure basic research - but he's devastatingly right about the economic viability of "renewable" energy. When the scientists get it right, the capitalists will spread it everywhere and everyone will benefit. Until then, it's a niche market with excellent small-scale applications in remote areas for limited use, or on a large scale where there's guaranteed water for hydro power, but not much else. His point that "we've been using solar and wind for a long time and abandoned them for something better hundreds of years ago" is one that should be heeded, as should the very good technical reasons why we find fossil power so convenient. Until we find some equally convenient way of compactly storing large amounts of energy (where are Robert A. Heinlein's Shipstones when you need them?), things will (must!) continue to be the way they are.

As for the nauseating puddle of tuberculous warthog spooge that is the Australian Government's proposed "carbon tax" (which is quite likely to be destined for general revenue with tax cuts as an election sweetener), the less said, the better. No directed research spending, no directed technology development... nothing. Just more money to the slush fund, while China builds a couple of Australias worth of CO2 emission every year or so. This government spits in the face of science even as it uses the word to defend its insanities.

To hell with the "Green Economy." Shoot it, stab it, vivisect and murder it, stake it and behead it, and fry the corpse to ashes. Then scatter the ashes.*


* = Although as HP Lovecraft so adeptly points out in one of his tales, it is better to dissolve the corpse in acid and dump the solution in the sea; for a sufficiently skilled necromancer can, having gathered the ashes, resurrect the corpse. Given the creepy gauntness of Senator Bob Brown, I wouldn't put it past him to have the ability. Best to end all doubt. :P
pathology_doc: Ginny Weasley (film) clutching Riddle's diary: Ginny/Horcrux OTP (Default)
1. An Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in Iran has pleaded to be allowed to hug her children, in a letter attributed to her released by human rights activists in London. Muslim immigrants to the West, please note - either leave shit like this at the door or turn around and go back where you came from. We don't want it here. If this is your culture, fuck your culture. That having been said, those Muslims coming in who do leave their homeland's cultural baggage at the door shouldn't have to deal with shit like this:

2. A US church plans to publicly burn copies of the Koran on the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The announcement, from Florida's Dove World Outreach Centre, has prompted threats from Islamic groups and warnings the move will trigger a rise in hate crimes. Dove World Outreach Centre? More like a pack of vultures to me. No better IMNSHO than the stone-age savages who passed the death sentence on that Iranian woman.

3. Say you're a Brazilian soccer player who's just murdered his porn-star girlfriend and you're looking for a way to hide the body. Why not turn to Man's best friend? Among the macabre details divulged by police: they believe Bruno was in a home near Belo Horizonte home with Samudio last month at the time of her murder, and that her body was later cut into pieces, some of which were fed to Rottweiler dogs kept at the house in a bid to cover the murder. A wise man once said "Murder will out" - and here it has. This strengthens all the prejudices I've ever had about testosterone-overloaded men who keep testosterone-overloaded dogs.

4. Headline: WORLD'S OLDEST MAN LIVES IN JA... wait:

A home visit by Tokyo officials to a local resident to congratulate him on his 111th birthday instead led to a police search that uncovered his three-decade-old skeleton.

New headline: ZOMBIE EMBARKS ON THIRTY-YEAR WELFARE-FRAUD RAMPAGE.

5. What a waste: A British teen girl who fell seven floors from the window of a Spanish hotel on a schoolies week celebration has died of her injuries. Grace Ford, 17, plunged 30m when trying to climb out of the window of a male friend's room in an apartment where visitors were not allowed, UK newspaper the Telegraph reported. Apparently they thought the window was a conduit that led to another part of the building. Please note that "drug-induced coma" almost certainly means "sedated in intensive care" in this context, but she must have been pretty hammered in the first place to make a stupid mistake like this. The saddest part of all is that she died of complications - she seems to have survived the fall itself. Nevertheless, it's why I disapprove strongly of end-of-year debauches by school leavers, something which has become pretty much institutionalised here in Australia in the event known as "schoolies week".
pathology_doc: (controversy)
I'm making a lot of best-case assumptions here, and I'm hoping that people with the appropriate knowledge can check my figures and help me refine them.

As I understand it, energy tapped from wind power depends on the mass flow past the turbine blades and how much of the energy in that flow is taken out by the turbine. This in turn depends on the difference in wind velocities just before and just after the turbine face (assuming it to be a two-dimensional 'black box' turbine and neglecting turbulence issues, the rotational component of the flow imposed by going through a spinning propeller disc, and the influence of hub shape and diameter).

Okay, so mass flow = density times blade area x velocity. This is because velocity determines the length of the "cylinder" of air that flows through the blade face per unit time.

The kinetic energy of that air is ½m.V12, where V1 is the velocity just in front of the blade face. The kinetic energy given up to the blades is ½m.(V1 - V2)2, where V2 is the velocity after the blade face.

The wattage is of course the energy transferred to the blade face, which is energy per unit mass per second, so substitute mass flow for mass in that energy equation. If you make the assumption of perfection, V2 drops to zero. Mass Density of air is about 1.22kg/m3, blade area is πr2 or ¼πd2, V is in metres per second (but 1 metre per second is 3.6kph). Do all the math and if I'm right, it comes to:

Wattage = πd2V3 / 153

Or getting rid of the Greek letter: d2V3/48.8, say 50 to give an even figure for easy mental calculation and to allow for some inefficiences (altered from "48 for an even more optimistic picture").

with blade diameter in metres, air velocity in kilometres per hour (which is how the weather report gives it to the masses).

To put this in context, a one metre turbine (terribly small) operating in a 36kph wind, converting all that wind energy to useful shaft energy with no losses, provides 950W. Just enough to drive a very weak hairdrier in the morning and a low-wattage microwave oven in the evening. If you assume efficiencies of 85% at the blade face and the generator, that drops to 950 x 0.852 or about 710W. Not even enough to drive your hairdrier, but a compact microwave oven might just do it.

Allowing for future growth, there might be 7 million households (averaging 4 persons each) in Australia. Let's assume that a fair use for each household is 4kW. That's a 28 GW power requirement. We have not yet included public utilities, street lighting, transport, hospitals, industry etc. etc. We cannot alter the air density. Gusts much above 36kph tend to damage stuff, and are unreliable, and halving the wind velocity automatically quarters your power availability. The turbines can only be so big, and we can only build so many of them. Downtime for maintenance is required. Startup friction (when the blades start rotating again after a calm day) and ongoing losses plus back-EMF in the turbines are going to diminish efficiency. The blades are made of sophisticated lightweight alloys or synthetic plastics/composites, many of which derive from fossil fuel raw materials.

Then there is the issue of storage to match demand. Storage batteries are expensive, and require sophisticated alloys and chemical compounds which must be manufactured, which requires energy in turn. Batteries are not forever and require replacement. The only really perfect and "environmentally friendly" method of energy storage is to pump water out of the tailrace of a hydroelectric plant and back into the reservoir. This would normally be madness, but when you're tapping wind or solar energy which you essentially get for nothing, it's sort of affordable. The problem here is that good locations for wind turbines are not always good locations for hydroelectric schemes, and then there is the issue of transmission losses from one location to another. Oh, and our Green Party (which if I'm right will soon hold the balance of power in our Senate) objects to new dams. And coal. And nuclear. And restrictions on immigration...

Meanwhile, the Latrobe Valley power generators are sitting right next to seven hundred years of brown coal at current consumption, and we are a prominent exporter of both coal and uranium. And our population continues to grow.


ETA: This webpage advertises a 10kW turbine "enough for three average households" (so my guess per household was pretty close for a pulled-out-of-nowhere figure) based on a 5.5m/s wind speed. On my screen, the tower (described as 12m tall) measures nearly 12cm, and the blades about 4cm (so an eight metre disc area). Plugging these figures into my rough calculation - and remembering that this is back-of-the-envelope, order-of-magnitude, reality-check stuff with all sorts of losses and inefficiences negated - we get:

d-squared = 64.
v = 5.5 x 3.6 or 19.8kph, let's call it 20kph. Cube that, it's 8000.
8000 x 64 / 50 = 10,200 watts. When I repeated the calculation using 19.8kph, I got 9950 watts. Accurate to within 50 watts in ten thousand, or about 0.5%, and no worse than 2%.

Damn, that's close. Possibly too close. What do people think?

Further ETA: General Electric provides some other useful data. A 77m turbine with a rated speed of 14m/s (just over 50kph) and an 82.5m turbine with a rated speed of 11.5m/s are both rated at 1500kw. My equation gives 77 x 77 x 50 x 50 x 50/50 or about 15 MW, and 82.5 x 82.5 x 41 x 41 x 41/50, or 9MW, so they are either terribly inefficient or something is wrong with my equation, which worked so well at smaller scales. It's probably the latter, as they should provide about the same figure and are six to ten times over the rated power of both turbines.
pathology_doc: (controversy)
Debating the Greens could chop them down to size.

The author of this article used to work for former Prime Minister John Howard, so his opinions need to be taken with an appropriately sized grain of salt. My comments, as always, in bold - and then a reversion below the line for the final discussion, to save your poor bold-blasted eyeballs. Let us begin...
Cut for friendspage friendliness )


All in all, I have to admit this article wasn't what it seemed to promise. Its author started off talking about the Greens and couldn't resist veering off into a general discussion of Coalition vs. Labor politics. The Greens were shunted off to the sidelines (which is where I think they belong).
pathology_doc: Ginny Weasley (film) clutching Riddle's diary: Ginny/Horcrux OTP (Default)
My comments in bold.

From The Australian.

The Greens are unprepared for real-world politics

GREENS leader Bob Brown has once again relegated his party to the status of a protest movement, instead of aspiring to join the main political game where real policy change happens. Perhaps he has misread Julia Gillard, because it is plain the new Prime Minister could never entertain adopting the Greens's new five-point plan on climate change and a legislated carbon price designed to end coal-fired power.

Those last six words are the key.

Coal provides more than 80 per cent of Australia's electricity. In the absence of a large-scale nuclear power industry, which the Greens also oppose, that reality will not change in the foreseeable future. Coal also provides more than 40 per cent of the world's electricity and is the backbone of the cement and steel industries that are boosting the living standards of some of the world's poorest people.

Compare with France, which (as I understand it) derives 80% of its energy from nuclear. So far, nobody derives 80% of their energy from renewables - which our Greens tend to classify as either wind or solar. Given the inherently variable nature of both, I think this is no surprise. We might get somewhere with tidal or ocean-thermal systems, but we need something to tide us over (pun intended). Enter the mighty atom... but only if Labor comes to its senses and the Greens are thus able to be ignored.

Were Australia to commit economic hari-kiri and wind back our largest export industry, the consequences for jobs would be dire. It would be worse, not better, for the planet as Australia's coal customers - Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, India and Europe - turned to other producers. Generally, the anti-pollution standards of coal mines in Indonesia, Russia, South Africa, Colombia and Kazakhstan fall short of those in Australia. The Greens' cave economics have no place in mainstream debate.

Just what ARE they thinking? And what do they hope to achieve? Hopefully they'll eventually swing so far to the left that they fall off the political see-saw altogether. Nobody wants rivers so polluted they burn, but these people lack all sense of reality.




LABOR and trade union figures have ridiculed an offer by the Greens to back a carbon tax if the PM agrees to shut down coal-fired power.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, backed by the Australian Minerals Council and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, yesterday rejected an attempt by Greens leader Bob Brown to entice the Prime Minister into talks that would see a carbon tax in place within three months of the federal election.

I'd happily see a carbon tax over an emissions trading scheme, but only if the funds were put directly into research and construction of all-weather alternatives - nuclear, tidal, ocean-thermal. And only because the idea of letting the same people who gave us the GFC dictate the price of an intangible, invisible substance on which our industries would depend is nothing short of FUCKING MADNESS.

And while Ms Gillard did not comment on the Greens initiative, government sources said the Greens were "kidding themselves" and should have backed Labor's attempts last year to create an emissions trading system if they were serious about action on climate change.

But no, they blocked it because it didn't go far enough for them. Idiots.

In recent months the Greens' standing in opinion polls has climbed as voters abandoned Labor under Kevin Rudd.

Note the last four words. These are probably rusted-on lefties who wouldn't go near Tony Abbott with a barge-pole. Now that they don't have a leader who sucks donkey dick, they're flooding back.

But on Monday, after a Newspoll published in The Australian confirmed Labor had regained its lost supporters after it dumped Mr Rudd in favour of Ms Gillard, Senator Brown wrote to the Prime Minister offering to support legislation putting in place a fixed-carbon price of $23 a tonne from July 1, 2011.

The key to negotiating for what you want is to act from a position of strength. Bob Brown appears to have turned this on its head, a perfect reflection of his connection to reality.

Yesterday Senator Brown said the deal would involve "an end to polluting coal-fired power, a national energy efficiency target and an end to clearance of native forests and woodlands". "This is breakthrough politics," he said.

"Breakthrough" only in the sense of what the Germans did to British Fifth Army on 21 March 1918, which amounted to near-obliteration.

While Ms Gillard, who is reviewing Labor's climate change policy, refused to comment yesterday, Ms Bligh, whose state relies on its coal industry for export revenue, said Senator Brown could have backed Labor's ETS proposals last year.

"We can't simply exit coal-fired power when it makes up 80 per cent of the state's power," Ms Bligh said.

Absolutely correct. (Not to say that we wouldn't if we could wave our hands and get the power from somewhere by magic.)

CFMEU mining division national president Tony Maher said the Greens would never find a place in the serious debates about climate change until they abandoned their "stupid" call for the closure of the coal industry.

And their equally stupid objection - which the Australian Labor Party shares, BTW - to nuclear power.

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon, whose NSW seat of Hunter relies on coalmining, said constituents wanted action on climate change "but I'm just as confident they will reject any approach which fails to recognise that coal will have an important role to play in our economy for many years to come".

Smart man. Pity he couldn't be as smart about close associations with foreign nationals who had close ties to their military when he was DEFENCE MINISTER.

Minerals Council of Australia chief Mitch Hooke said Senator Brown's proposal would smash Australia's competitiveness, jobs and investment with no conceivable environmental benefit.

Because China will build the equivalent of Australia's annual emissions every year. If we were to wipe Australian industry out AT ONCE, the "environmental gains" would be lost in less than a year. That's if we completely ruined this country.

Show me alternatives to coal, gas and diesel, yes - but make them realistic or get out of my face.


pathology_doc: Ginny Weasley (film) clutching Riddle's diary: Ginny/Horcrux OTP (Default)
Having (cautiously and with some qualifications) sung Julia Gillard's praises, I now proceed to take apart someone who is nominally "on my side". I'd like to think he is, but I'm dreadfully concerned that he's got a gun pointed at his own foot.

Here's the source; my comments in bold.

Australians deserve more than a factional puppet show in government, writes Senator Cory Bernardi.
It is like the longest and most painful episode of The Thunderbirds ever.


The crises are just as contrived, the characters are equally wooden and occasionally the strings are visible.

Um... no. The crises contrived by the Rudd Government to justify doing this, that and the other crazy, stupid thing were certainly contrived. The main character was certainly wooden, but had he had half Jeff Tracy's brains and common sense, we'd not be in this situation.

But last week we had a rare glimpse at the faceless factional fixers who are actually pulling the strings of the lead players.
After two years of government lurching from one faux war to another, the Labor warlords made Kevin Rudd their target. One can understand their anxiety and willingness to despatch a Prime Minister in a brutal display of their factional power.

Um, no. It was more like a brutal display of "Holy fuck, this guy is incompetent and out of control, and we are careering towards electoral annihilation and the ruin of the country."

After all, Mr Rudd refused to recognise their greatness through ministerial preferment. Some of these powerful figures were left languishing on the backbench or in junior portfolios - positions considered beneath their undoubted talents.

Don't belittle your opponents. They may be ruthless, they may be fumbling the ball, but they're not that stupid or that selfish.

Kevin Rudd survived while he had the public confidence but, as the mal-administration of the Labor Government became increasingly evident, the ruthless Labor machine kicked into gear.

And so it should have. Kevin Rudd had the public's confidence for far longer than he deserved, and it's mostly due to Labor-friendly political commentators and a refusal of previous Opposition Leaders to take him seriously to task.

Now was the time for payback under the guise of giving the Party a shot at winning the next election. Drafting a willing accomplice in Julia Gillard, the unprecedented betrayal of a first-term Prime Minister began.

Betrayal? Please, that's how the Westminster System works. The precedents are Hawke/Keating and (in Britain) Asquith/Lloyd-George.

When the factional forces combined against him, Rudd had less than a dozen supporters and decided not to contest the leadership in order to avoid further humiliation.

A vain, narcissistic and fragile mind that couldn't stand losing. That much I agree with. He did not want to risk defeat in a double-dissolution election over the Emission Trading Scheme. He did not put candidates up in two by-elections which were contested in the wake of "Climategate", in case his candidates were butchered and made his polls look bad - a critical error in that by contesting them and winning them, he might have had the numbers to force the ETS through. Instead they were contested by raving lunatics who dribbled on about the suspension of democracy being necessary to cope with climate change, and cybernetic appreciations of connections to Greater Gaia and the like - who were systematically slaughtered at the polls as they deserved, and did the climate-change position far more damage than a thousand "skeptics".

Now the process of redefining history has commenced in an attempt to distance Julia Gillard from her predecessor. It should make for an interesting display

After two years of being the 2IC in the Rudd ‘kitchen cabinet’, Gillard claims the Government had lost its way.

She stated nothing more or less than the truth.

After two years of defending senseless programs and waste, she wants us to believe it had nothing to do with her. The spin doctors expect us to forget that Gillard was responsible for the greatest and most expensive mismanagement of a government program in history - the rorted Building the Education Revolution - where billions of taxpayer dollars were wasted.

I think we'll see evidence of Kevin Rudd's involvement in that plan in a BIG way. I'm suspending judgement on that one.

After years of defending, deploying and denying the failures of this Government, we are now expected to believe that Julia Gillard was not a part of the problem.

History will be the judge of that. I am the last person on Earth who will defend the way Kevin Rudd ran his show - he was a minor megalomaniac who wouldn't take no for an answer; it was his way or the highway, and no questions asked. It MIGHT be proven in the long run that his colleagues tried and tried to argue him out of courses and were loyal to a fault. Until then, judgement should be reserved.

I agree with Ms Gillard that the Government has lost its way. I agree that the policy failures and their negative impacts on our nation are too many to list. I agree that their few achievements are modest and mostly spin, but I cannot accept her playing Pontius Pilate and washing her hands of the decisions she made.

Hmm. Maybe, maybe not. Ultimately it was Rudd's show, but I think we're going to have to wait until he's out of Parliament for the full truth to emerge. Given his reputation for being foul-mouthed, abusive and tyrannical, I can understand why Ministers might have been more concerned with trying to run their portfolios as best they could. I still think Julia Gillard's got a lot to answer for, but she made a better Acting Prime Minister than Rudd ever made Prime Minister, and she may do a better job with a lot of the load off her plate. I suspect with three portfolios to run and the Big Chair to fill whenever Rudd was out of the country or on leave, she was simply overloaded.

Ms Gillard's ascension to the leadership of the Labor Party is a desperate attempt to hide the failures of this Government under the political corpse of Kevin Rudd.

There's no hiding the failures; the question is whether you're willing to concede the Government the possibility of rectifying them. I am. If Senator Bernardi is not, and generalises this belief to the entire electorate, he's on the cusp of a major political error that could lose his party the election.

It is a muscle flexing exercise by the hidden men of Labor who have demonstrated once again who really pulls the strings.

The Australian Labor Party was formed to be the political representation of the unions. Imagine Kevin Rudd allowed to run riot and do more of the damage he's already done this country. We should be glad they took him out and replaced him with someone who, whatever her failings, doesn't share his.

The Australian people deserve more from their government than a puppet show and instinctively know that changing the lead puppet will never change the flawed factional culture of the Labor Party.

It won't change the culture, no. But it will change something abysmal to something possibly salvageable. If Julia Gillard's got half the balls (metaphorical ones) I credit her with, she'll make some real changes. I'll say it again - I despised Rudd, and I would not have been willing to bear the thought of another three years under his governance. With Gillard, we have the beginnings of a reasonable alternative to the Coalition. So long as prominent Coalition senators like Mr Bernardi indulge in paranoid fantasies about hidden, faceless puppetmasters, that alternative will seem increasingly more reasonable.

Senator Cory Bernardi is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition and a Senator for South Australia. This article is courtesy of his personal blog which can be found at http://www.corybernardi.com.

Senator Bernardi, if I recall correctly, did a lot of good work opposing the insanity of the ETS. Unfortunately I think he's gone off the rails here. I hope the rest of his party doesn't follow suit - although even if it is that flawed, it would have been better than three more years under Kevin Rudd. Julia Gillard has shown the second most priceless gift a politician can have - knowledge of when (and more importantly how) to compromise. She's also shown signs of the most important gift, one I've only ever seen in one other Labor politician (Bob Hawke, former Prime Minister) - the ability to sell a viewpoint your audience disagrees with in a way that doesn't insult or demonise them.

There are those who believe that immigration should be curbed because of serious concerns about lack of supporting infrastructure and the inevitable sprawl of suburbia. Because much of that immigration is of people who do not have white skin, English as a first language or Christian faith, these critics (who quite often are on the more conservative* side of politics) have been decried as racists hiding behind a cloak of legitimate concern. Prime Minister Gillard has stated their position bluntly: "It's all very well to talk of a 'big Australia' but when you talk to the people of Western Sydney and Western Melbourne, they're going to say 'but where are you going to put all these extra people?'"



* Conservative politicans in Australia are more in the British mould (thus corresponding more to the centre-right) than the American (far-right creationist-fundamentalist Republican). Please do not confuse the two. We have a few of the latter, most notably Steve Fielding, but even they are well to the left of the worst the United States has to offer. I would like to see "Conservative" removed from its present usage. Most of those who claim the title in the US are, from my perspective, actually extremist-reactionaries. True conservatives move forward when they are convinced that progress is warranted and safe. As I see it, a true conservative would not indefinitely oppose gay marriage on principle even if they had started out doing so, and might happily have voted for Barack Obama had he been four to eight years older and more experienced.

Conservatives do not refuse to change their minds. Only reactionaries do that.

pathology_doc: Ginny Weasley (film) clutching Riddle's diary: Ginny/Horcrux OTP (Default)
From The Australian (my comments in bold:)

No place for Rudd in new Gillard cabinet as Crean takes over her key portfolios.

SIMON Crean will take over Julia Gillard's key portfolios in a federal cabinet reshuffle that finds no place for former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

The new Prime Minister has made minimal changes to her ministry, handing Mr Crean responsibility for her former portfolios of education, employment and workplace relations.

Probably best to ditch her encumbrances. She's learned one lesson from her obsessive, self-overworked master.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith will add Mr Crean's portfolio of trade to his responsibilities.

A good choice, seeing as the two portfolios are a natural fit. Smith was the biggest (or smallest, as you will) cipher of the Rudd Government; Rudd took delight in doing all the diplomatic legwork himself. Now we'll see just how good Smith really is.

Ms Gillard said while Mr Rudd will not return to cabinet immediately, after being ousted as leader last week, he could take up a senior position if Labor is re-elected.

I think this is a mistake. He has proved his incompetence and should be kept at a distance. If he's given a portfolio, it should be something fairly meaningless.

Mr Rudd said later in a statement he remained prepared to serve the government in the future.

“Ultimately, decisions on cabinet appointments are a matter for the Prime Minister. I respect that," he said.

“For the immediate future, my family and I have decided to take a break.

“Following that, I will be working in my own electorate of Griffith and in any other way deemed appropriate to support the re-election of the government.”

Ms Gillard said of the former leader: “There is nothing about this period of time that is easy or happy for Kevin Rudd."

You can say that again.

She said she completely understood Mr Rudd's immediate desire to spend time with family.

I predict it will become a more permanent desire.

“What I've said to Kevin is, that I think that this is the best course and it would enable him, if he chose to do so at this time, to spend more time with his family which I know is one of his key priorities in life.”

Ms Gillard's announcement came after The Australian reported today she was set to exclude Mr Rudd from cabinet, and that she was not expected to appoint any new faces.

Ms Gillard said Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner will remain in the portfolio until the election, when he plans to retire from federal politics. She said she would not nominate who his replacement would be before the nation went to the polls.

That's possibly a mistake. Coming into government from opposition, you're probably OK not telling people who your Cabinet Ministers are. When you have an active Minister who's bowing out, you should probably start thinking about announcing their successor first.

Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra she had tried to minimise changes in Labor’s ministerial line-up ahead of the election.

"It is best to have as limited a reshuffle as possible to keep the maximum stability amongst the team,” Ms Gillard said.

That's sensible.

The new Prime Minister also said she would be restoring the full cabinet process. This follows criticisms that Mr Rudd sidelined cabinet members in government decision-making.

If that's true, it'll be a welcome relief. Even if PM Gillard was one of the clique which seemed to rubber-stamp all of Rudd's decisions until the very end, she'll win bonus points for being more consultative. It was a lack of experienced people (such as Crean) in the inner circle which cost Kevin Rudd (and indirectly, all of us) badly.

“My intention as Prime Minister is to run a cabinet system of government… all substantial decisions will go through the full cabinet,” Ms Gillard said.

“That means that my colleagues in cabinet will shape cabinet committees.

“We have commenced work on that and that set of cabinet arrangements and rules but I couldn't be clearer here about my end-point and my intention, I want to see a traditional system of cabinet government where the cabinet is the highest decision-making body in the government.”

Ms Gillard made her announcement flanked by both Mr Crean and Mr Smith.

She said Mr Crean had served in an earlier Labor government as minister for employment, education and training.

“He also comes to this task having been a president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.”

Mr Crean said he was delighted to resume some unfinished business in portfolio areas in which he had extensive past involvement.

This is IMO a very good decision. Ms Gillard is seen among some Right-wing commentators as ideologically very far-left with respect to labour relations. Handing this portfolio to someone who's had previous experience in the role as part of a sitting government means that those who are uneasy about the new Prime Minister's doctrine can breathe a little - Crean's a known quantity, whom some of them will have dealt with before.

He said employment was fundamental to the economic security of the nation.

“So anything that can be done to connect people much better with the workforce, to develop its skills, to give people the opportunity to continue developing those skills in a lifelong learning sense is fundamental to sustainable economic fortunes for the nation,” he said.

Mr Smith indicated the government's trade priorities would be pushing for a successful resolution of the Doha talks on liberalising world trade, and for bilateral trade deals with India and Indonesia.

Please, oh please, let this include uranium exports to India. Kevin Rudd was bloody-minded about this because of his aversion to nuclear weapons and his unwillingness to risk any moral involvement - however indirect - with their possible construction (India hasn't signed the non-proliferation treaty). I say fuck it - if we don't sell it to them, someone else will and they'll get more warheads anyway. Who cares whose uranium goes into it? So long as some of it is going into nuclear powerplants, I don't.

As the new trade minister, Mr Smith said he would work hard on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and on bilateral free trade negotiations, “in particular, and importantly, India and Indonesia”.

Asked if there would be a bigger reshuffle if Labor won the next election, Ms Gillard said the focus was winning re-election.

Badly put. I suspect she's issuing warnings about counting unhatched chickens, but IMO a "focus on winning re-election" sounds too much like seeking power for its own sake.

“Consequently I am not really wanting to be drawn on speculation for the days beyond,” she said.

“Our focus is on governing for the nation now and then when the election is called our focus will be on campaigning to gain again the trust of the Australian people to be their government,” she said.

“The team is the team that you see here,” she said.

A sensible approach.

Earlier today, Ms Gillard met shoppers and supermarket workers during a visit to Queanbeyan, near Canberra, in the key marginal seat of Eden-Monaro.

Ms Gillard cut a casual and relaxed figure as she spoke with shoppers, stopped to sign autographs and took time to have a morning snack with supermarket staff.

After exchanging small talk over a cup of tea, Mr Gillard said in a short speech she would be standing up for the rights of working Australians.

“I'm not here to tell you when election day's going to be. But we're going to have an election soon and that's your time to make a choice about who you want to be prime minister, whether you want me to continue or whether you want Mr Abbott to be prime minister,” Ms Gillard said.

Well said.

“In the lead up to that election day there are going to be some big debates about some really big issues that affect working Australians here and right around the country."

Leader of the opposition in the Senate, Eric Abetz, attacked the changes, claiming the appointment of Mr Crean, a former president of the ACTU, showed Labor was beholden to the unions.

Oh dear, Senator Abetz. Major fail. Go back and study your history, and re-learn WHO founded the Australian Labor Party and WHY. Of course Labor is beholden to the fucking unions - it was formed to be their political arm!! More howlers like that from you and yours, and I MIGHT just take my chance with voting Labor this time around.

“The appointment of Simon Crean, the former president of the ACTU, clearly is an indication of the direction the Labor Party will take,” he said.

“The trade union movement and its former officials are clearly rewarded by this appointment.”

Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb also claimed the decision not to nominate a successor to Mr Tanner before the next election would fuel business uncertainty.

“Julia Gillard's failure to replace the retiring Lindsay Tanner in the key finance portfolio confirms Labor has no credible replacement for him,” he said.

Not necessarily true, but I've already said my piece on that.

“The failure to nominate Mr Tanner's successor raises serious further questions about Labor's economic credibility and results in a great deal of uncertainty within the business community and instability within the government.”

Stretching a long bow.

Conclusion: I'm starting to like this Gillard Government, and I'm prepared to give it a shot - or at least, not to damn it out of hand before it's learned to crawl (so to speak). I haven't gone anywhere near being able to vote for it, and if there's any hint of Kevin Rudd returning to the front bench, then frankly that's an absolute deal-breaker. But there's hope.

Equality - it's all about the best person for the job getting the job, regardless of gender. In that respect, PM Gillard is a stirring example. With the benefit of hindsight, the mystery is that she didn't get it earlier. Like, say, November 2007. We might have avoided a hell of a lot of strife.

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Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been enjoying (??) a steady slide in his popularity ever since late last November, when his Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme was defeated, his moment in the Copenhagen limelight turned to failure, and Tony Abbott replaced Malcolm Turnbull as Opposition Leader.

Since then, things have steadily got worse for him - and everything he's tried to do to deflect attention from the previous failure has gone into an even faster tail-spin.

Now it looks as though his days, possibly even his hours, are numbered.

If this happens, the likely successor is Julia Gillard (deputy PM). That would make her Australia's first female Prime Minister. Things to bear in mind:

1) She will not be an elected Prime Minister.

2) She must be judged on her competence, not on her gender. Unfortunately for her, the "Building the Education Revolution" program over which she presides as Education Minister has been far from stellar; with reports of gross mismanagement, total failures of consultation with expressed wishes of the schools being overridden, and horrific fiscal waste to the tune of FIVE BILLION DOLLARS. I have no problem with a female Prime Minister per se. I have a lot of problems with this particular woman as Prime Minister.

3) The next election is due no later than April; the best she can hope for is to be regarded as a stable caretaker. Essentially everything this government has done is going to have to be overhauled, and possibly undone and redone, before the Labor Party can regard itself as fit to govern beyond then.

10:19pm - according to the news sources, it's all over bar the shouting. From the ABC, the Government broadcaster:

One senior party source said: "This crypto-fascist made no effort to build a base within the party and now his only faction - Newspoll - has deserted him. He is gone."

His only faction - Newspoll. Says it all about the man. This is what happens when you're driven by the polls rather than by conviction. Even Whitlam - sacked in disgrace by the Governor General and then slaughtered at the polls by the electorate - had conviction. He who lives by the popularity poll will die by the popularity poll - metaphorically speaking, anyway.

ETA 24 June, 10:15.

Rudd is out. Good riddance to you, sir. You have besmirched the reputation of this fine nation for long enough.

Congratulations to Julia Gillard on a clean kill, elected unopposed. Prime Minister Gillard, you have approximately six months and not more than nine* to begin the undoing of Rudd's damage and start governing this country the way it ought to be governed. Show that you can be a principled leader, and not merely a poll-driven narcissist like the pretender you just toppled, and the country might give you another chance.

Congratulations also to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, without whom Rudd would never have entered his curious self-driven death spiral. Your job - to provide an effective opposition and pull the government up on its shortcomings - has been done well, but your other job (getting into government) might just have got a hell of a lot harder. If you can win against a resurgent Julia Gillard come the next election, you'll deserve the position.


* = Not a threat, but a constitutional and electoral reality. The next election MUST be called by then.
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Not content with its all-inclusive super firewall, the Rudd Government - you know, the one that ended Howard's era of fear and repression - now wants to put you under the microscope. Original article here.

Cast them out. Smash them at the ballot box and fling them into oblivion.

Full text of article:

Companies who provide customers with a connection to the internet may soon have to retain subscriber's private web browsing history for law enforcement to examine when requested, a move which has been widely criticised by industry insiders.

The Attorney-General's Department yesterday confirmed to ZDNet Australia that it had been in discussions with industry on implementing a data retention regime in Australia. Such a regime would require companies providing internet access to log and retain customer's private web browsing history for a certain period of time for law enforcement to access when needed.

Currently, companies that provide customers with a connection to the internet don't retain or log subscriber's private web browsing history unless they are given an interception warrant by law enforcement, usually approved by a judge. It is only then that companies can legally begin tapping a customer's internet connection.

In March 2006, the European Union formally adopted its data retention directive (PDF), a directive which the Australian Government said it wished to use as an example if it implemented such a regime.

"The Attorney-General's Department has been looking at the European Directive on Data Retention, to consider whether such a regime is appropriate within Australia's law enforcement and security context," a statement from the Attorney-General's Department to ZDNet Australia said yesterday. "It has consulted broadly with the telecommunications industry."

The EU regime requires that the communications providers from certain EU member states retain necessary data as specified in the Directive for a period of between six and 24 months.

One internet service provider (ISP) source told ZDNet Australia that the Australian regime, if implemented, could go as far as recording each URL a customer visited and all emails.

That source said such a regime "would be scary and very expensive".

Another industry source said Australians should "be very f***ing afraid".

They said the regime being considered by the Australian Government could see data held for much longer than EU Directive time of 24 months — it would be more like five or ten years.

"They seem quite intent [on implementing the regime] and they keep throwing up the words 'terrorism' and 'paedophiles'," the source said. "We're talking browsing history and emails, way beyond what I would consider to be normal SMS, retaining full browsing history and everything."

Internet Industry Association (IIA) chief executive officer (CEO) Peter Coroneos also confirmed that the industry was having discussions with the Attorney-General's Department.

"There has been some preliminary discussions with the Attorney-General's Department about a proposal for a data retention regime in Australia, but I think those discussions are at a very early stage," Coroneos said. He said the IIA hadn't "seen any firm proposals yet from the government".

"It's more along the lines of [the Attorney-General's Department asking] 'What do you see the issues of being if we were to move to a position similar to the EU'," he said.

"But as I say, there wouldn't be any intention, I wouldn't think, to move to any policy position on this unless there was a full public debate about the proposal."

If the idea were to move to a more "serious proposal", Coroneos said the IIA's view would be "to engage not only with the industry but also the community in a proper discussion".

Electronic Frontier Australia (EFA) chair Colin Jacobs said the regime was "a step too far".

"At some point data retention laws can be reasonable, but highly-personal information such as browsing history is a step too far," Jacobs said. "You can't treat everybody like a criminal. That would be like tapping people's phones before they are suspected of doing any crime."

He added that browser history could reveal all sorts of personal information. "And furthermore, the way the internet works, it's a huge amount of data to be kept and it requires some snooping on the part of the ISPs into which [web] pages people are looking at."

In February, the senate passed a Bill allowing ISPs to intercept traffic as part of "network protection activities". According to an ISP source, it's likely another Bill would be required for a data retention regime to be implemented.

"It is likely that new legislation will be required to put any [data retention] obligations in place," the source said. "It seems to be early days yet, and we have an election looming, which means there will be some time required to get any new law in place."

And no, I'm not putting it behind a cut. It's too important that people see this.
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CONTROVERSY over Education Minister Julia Gillard's Building the Education Revolution program has been growing for many months.

Pearson's in truly fine form here and makes a good argument which I wanted to share. My comments are in bold.

Debate has centred on whether the sheer scale of the $16 billion program was a justified economic stimulus response to the financial crisis. The debate between the neo-Keynesians and the neo-liberals about the benefits of stimuli in the face of such crises was not as pronounced in this country as in the US, where the Republicans have indulged in a Coolidge-esque insistence that creative destruction is part and parcel of capitalism and threatened firms should be allowed to fail. No matter that the Troubled Asset Relief Program rescue package was instituted by former president George W. Bush; the Republicans insist bailouts are for socialists.

Some degree of 'stimulus' was definitely necessary. The true question revolves around how much was appropriate and on what the money should have been spent. As far as the US is concerned, the Republicans need to get slapped about a bit - they're never going to be a viable party if they don't, and that imperils democracy.

I can say little of worth in relation to the debate about governmental intervention via stimulus spending. There is legitimate debate to be had about whether "timely, targeted, temporary" should not turn into too much, too long, but it is not this facet of the BER with which I am concerned.

Nor should he be. This is so subjective that I'm not prepared to hold any criticism of the Government over this facet any more than Pearson is. Pearson's an Aboriginal Rights campaigner (NOT an activist, please note; they are different in my mind); I'm a pathologist. Neither of us is an economist.

The second focus of the BER debate is the rorting and waste in the administration of the program. A project of this size supervised by bureaucrats was always going to turn into a pig trough. But although this dimension is important, there is a third issue: the question of the education reform value of the BER.

The rorting and waste have been horrific, and deserve close scrutiny. It's a travesty that the inquiry set up by the Government did not include this rorting among its terms of reference. Smells to high heaven.

There will be little, if any, education value from this colossal investment. The program has been inaccurately and unfortunately named. It should have been called the Building Revolution Program or the Construction Employment Program. It is wrong to place this investment in the nation's education accounts because it will not yield educational reform.

Pearson is right - this is the greatest issue of all. And no, it will not lead to a single child being better educated, especially not the ones who need it most.

For those concerned with supporting national investment in education reform, it would be a shame if the public ends up thinking "we've done the big educational investments" of this era.

It seems a particular policy idea and a particular political consideration came together to form the basis of the BER.

The policy idea is that investment in physical facilities can be a decisive contributor to school reform. In Britain, Tony Blair developed a program for the comprehensive overhaul of failing schools where the facilities were dilapidated and substandard. The thinking was that ghetto schools could not be helped with education reform as long as they felt and looked like ghetto schools.

The policy idea has merit. There is a strong case for failing schools in Australia to receive investment in their physical facilities. Students from distressed communities need to study in schools that transcend their backgrounds and neighbourhoods; schools that tell them they are worthy of backing and that there are high hopes for their future.

Agree completely.

With the kind of money available under the BER, the country's most disadvantaged schools requiring large capital investments could have found the solution they needed. Alas, $16bn later and these neediest schools still don't have the comprehensive infrastructure they require.

Agree. Utter fail.

This is because the policy idea was met with a political consideration. The BER was not premised on the principle of need. Electorally wedged by the Howard government over the private-public debate, and the drift from public to private schools by the aspirational lower middle classes, federal Labor's response has been to move from a sectarian to an ecumenical approach. Kevin Rudd made Labor's shift clear on his election in 2007. He underscored Labor's pledge to fund education regardless of the choice made by parents about public or private education: "We are blind to these matters because we want the best government schools in the world and the best non-government schools in the world - we want a world-class education system while preserving parental choice."

Fine words, but look how it turned out. What they have invested in is bloated, overpriced infrastructure which in some cases is substandard and in many cases isn't what the schools in question either needed or wanted.

The federal Labor government does not want to alienate the legions of aspirational families who have drifted to the private system. It does not want to open itself up to the kind of accusation recently made by Tony Abbott: "You just can't trust these people. They don't like private education. They will, after the election, if they're re-elected, as sure as night follows day, they will try to cut private schools funding."

This means there is no willingness to discriminate between public and private schools when it comes to federal government investment. And the problem is that needs-based funding automatically invokes the public-private dichotomy, even though there are needy private schools as well.

So the BER sought to spread the largesse across public and private schools regardless of need.

Again, fail.

A program that was large enough to provide a revolutionary change in the circumstances of the neediest schools ended up having more limited effect across the full range of schools.

Schools requiring new facilities have surely benefited from the program, but schools also have ended up with facilities without any strong rationale.

Frankly, the most privileged schools have ended up with a windfall they didn't need and should not have received.

I completely agree, and I'm very pro-private-school.

While controversy rages on the first two dimensions of the BER policy - its role in economic stimulus and its administration - there is near silence on this third dimension. The federal opposition has no interest in championing an educational investment policy based on need, and the Rudd government does not want to expose itself to the electoral accusation it is the party of public schools.

I would disagree with the first statement of that last sentence as a statement of absolute truth, but there's certainly every indication that the Opposition has failed to attack Labor on this point.

While the position of the conservatives is understandable at the level of politics, it is highly unfortunate from a policy viewpoint. They should consider at least two arguments against their approach.

First, why spend public funds in redundant ways? The most privileged schools do not need this kind of government spending.

I agree completely. Alas, we'll never know what John Howard might have done in the same circumstances. I suspect, however, that he would not have seen private schools as targets for a specific economy-stimulating public works package. There's a very well-to-do private school here in town that I was surprised to see having received funds.

Second, focused investment in revolutionising Australia's neediest schools will benefit all Australians. Failing schools are a cost to the whole country, not the least to liberals and conservatives. Lifting the productivity of young Australians whose fate is to end up in our neediest schools is an interest shared by everybody. Why make the defence of privileged schools the singular priority?

I wouldn't make it so, and I think it would be a mistake to generalise the Opposition's policy as being embraced by all its supporters or even all its MPs and Senators. Pearson has a very good article in Quarterly Essay on the importance of education for indigenous Australians, which I might comment on if I've got time, but the gist of it - I haven't had time to do more than skim it yet - seems to be that the best education an indigenous Australian can receive is the same education that his white private-school-attending fellow Australians in uptown Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide (for example) get. The Rudd Government, obsessed with "apologising" for past mistakes, has IMO blown its chance to give that to them on a platter.

When the Government puts its hand out for my vote and claims it spent sixteen billion on education, I'll know it's lying its arse off.


Noel Pearson is director of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership.
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TWO suicide bombers dressed in burqas have struck a crowd of displaced people collecting aid handouts at a camp in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 41 and wounding more than 60.

The bombers struck minutes apart yesterday in the Kacha Pukha camp on the outskirts of the garrison city of Kohat, a registration centre for people fleeing Taliban violence and Pakistani army operations close to the Afghan border.

The attacks underscored the grave threat posed by extremists despite stepped-up Pakistani offensives and a significant increase in US drone attacks targeting Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked commanders in the nearby tribal belt.

"We have 41 dead in the twin suicide bombing. There are 64 injured," local police chief Dilawar Khan Bangash told AFP by telephone.

He said the bombers walked into the crowd wearing burqas, the loose-fitting head-to-toe outfit that obscures the face, worn by conservative Muslim women in parts of northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Body parts of the bombers were recovered and most of the victims were members of the Mani Khel and Baramad Khel tribes who had gathered for registration after fleeing fighting in their home district of Orakzai, he said.

Mr Bangash said the first bomber detonated his explosives while displaced people gathered to register and receive relief items. A few minutes later the second bomber blew himself up in the middle of the gathering crowd.

Akhtar Jan, 35, a taxi driver, said he heard a huge blast soon after dropping passengers at the camp.
"I rushed to the blast site and put a wounded man into my cab. And when I went to bring another blast victim I heard another blast," he told AFP by telephone from his hospital bed.

"I fell unconscious and don't know how I was brought here," said Jan, who received injuries to his head and abdomen.

Northwest Pakistan has suffered a major internal displacement of people as a result of Taliban violence and a series of military offensives concentrated on flushing out the armed Islamists from parts of the northwest and tribal belt.

The United Nations says 1.3 million people are currently displaced.


I don't give a fuck what "anti-imperialist struggle" these medieval savages are waging; this sort of shit is not on. If our elected representatives on the Left want to scream and shout every time Coalition troops accidentally shoot or bomb someone they didn't mean to, that's fine. But I don't want to hear the sound of their silence every time the other side deliberately butchers the same civilians - or worse, hear them blame OUR presence for the butchery these criminals are practising in order to shame us into leaving.

Their atrocities are THEIR responsibility - not ours.
pathology_doc: Ginny Weasley (film) clutching Riddle's diary: Ginny/Horcrux OTP (Default)
The creature you elected to 'end the culture of fear and suppression under Howard' has plans for you.

Australia came under fire today from the United States for its proposed internet filtering system, which, if implemented, would be the strictest of any democracy.

A US state department official said that it had raised concerns with Australia over the plans, which are to be voted on by its parliament.

"We remain committed to advancing the free flow of information, which we view as vital to economic prosperity and preserving open societies globally," Michael Tran, a state department spokesman told the Associated Press.

"We don't discuss the details of specific diplomatic exchanges, but I can say that we have raised our concerns on this matter with Australian officials."

Internet companies Google and Yahoo have already condemned the proposal as a heavy-handed measure that could restrict access to legal information.

Australia's communications minister, Stephen Conroy, said the filter would block access to sites that include child pornography, sexual violence and detailed instructions in crime or drug use. The list of banned sites could be updated based on public complaints. But he declined to say what the US had told Australia.

National censorship of overseas sites is becoming a trade issue. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, told the Guardian last week :"Since services and information are our most successful exports, if regulations in China effectively prevent us from being competitive, then they are a trade barrier."

Many countries – including the UK – use filtering systems to limit access to outlawed material: in the UK the independent Internet Watch Foundation lists sites internet service providers (ISPs) are asked to block. The list is secret, and frequently updated. In Germany and Canada ISPs use similar blocking systems; in Italy gambling sites are blocked.

But critics say that the Australian plan, which has been proposed repeatedly over the past five years, exceeds what is necessary and strays into matters of free speech.

"Our primary concern is that the scope of content to be filtered is too wide," Google wrote in its submission to the Australian government, suggesting that the filter – which would be mandatory and state-controlled – would slow browsing speeds.

The company said it already had its own filter to block child pornography.

"Some limits, like child pornography, are obvious. No Australian wants that to be available and we agree," Google said. "But moving to a mandatory ISP-level filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material is heavy-handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information."

Lucinda Barlow of Google Australia told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the proposal raised the possibility of banning politically and socially controversial material and went beyond filters used in Germany, Canada and Italy. Other critics say the filtering would put Australia in the same censorship league as China.

Yahoo said the filter would block many sites with controversial content such as euthanasia discussion forums and gay and lesbian forums that discuss sexual experiences. Yet it would not block peer-to-peer file-sharing, nor prevent predators approaching children in chat programs or social networking sites.

Conroy said his department would take the comments from Google and Yahoo into consideration before sending a proposal to parliament later this year.

The US State Department sided with Google in its row with China over censorship when in January the search engine company complained that its systems had been hacked into in what it implied was an attack all but government-sanctioned by China. Last week Google moved its search systems to the Chinese island dependency of Hong Kong. The communist government responded by blocking searches from the mainland for forbidden topics such as the pro-democracy movement.

David Vaile of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Center at the University of New South Wales said China and Australia had markedly different approaches to restricting the Internet.

"China's filter is explicitly about discouraging access to and discussion of certain clearly political topics," he said, while Australia's filter would focus on specifically restricted material.

While some critics of Australia's filter have said it puts the nation in the same censorship league as China, Vaile pointed out that the freedom-of-speech argument used by American companies follows a legal tradition that other countries do not necessarily share.

Yahoo and Google are accustomed to the protections of the First Amendment of the US constitution,which guarantees freedom of speech and elevates it to a very high legal status, Vaile said.

"In Australia there is no equivalent," he said. "There is no law that says you've got free speech. Having a lack of any legal protection for free speech for any effective restraint on [filters] is something that's worrying."


This is not about stopping paedophiles and never has been, because it simply won't work for that purpose. Yet anyone who objects is being treated as a paedophiles' friend.

Rudd must go, as must every one of the sockpuppets who form his Cabinet.
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Democracy for sale.

CANBERRA-born British MP Patricia Hewitt looks set to end her career in humiliation after being suspended from the parliamentary Labour Party for offering to sell her political influence to corporate clients for pound stg. 3000 ($4935) a day.

Ms Hewitt, 61, and two other former cabinet ministers were banished yesterday after being caught on camera explaining how they could help to influence government MPs for cash.

Ms Hewitt has taken on lucrative advisory roles to corporate clients since leaving the cabinet in 2007 and in footage broadcast by Channel Four yesterday she appeared to boast of helping one of those clients get a seat on a government inquiry affecting its business prospects.

The two other suspended MPs are former defence secretary Geoff Hoon and former industry secretary Stephen Byers, who are due to retire along with Ms Hewitt at the election expected on May 6.

There was little sympathy for the trio at 10 Downing Street because Ms Hewitt and Mr Hoon attempted to depose Prime Minister Gordon Brown in January, and Mr Byers has long been a critic of the Labour leader and factional sword carrier for former prime minister Tony Blair.

Ms Hewitt, the daughter of Australia's former top public servant Lenox Hewitt, shifted to Britain in the 1970s and has spent 13 years in the House of Commons, including six years as a member of Mr Blair's cabinet.

The sting by Channel Four and the Sunday Times involved a woman pretending to be an employee of a fictitious US communications firm interviewing MPs for jobs as lobbyists.

Ms Hewitt and the other MPs insisted yesterday that former MPs could legally work as lobbyists. Only one Conservative Party MP took part in the faked job interviews after another Tory MP who had been approached became suspicious and warned Conservative Party officials.

Mr Byers faces the most serious allegations because a camera hidden in a bowl of pot pourri showed him saying he could get confidential information from 10 Downing Street. He detailed cases in which he claimed he had used his contacts to influence government policy for companies.

Admitting that "I'm a bit like a sort of cab for hire", Mr Byers said he worked for pound stg. 5000 (pound stg. 8225) a day and had once successfully lobbied the Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson to change food labelling rules on behalf of the Tesco supermarket chain.

Mr Byers boasted that he had convinced Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis to allow the rail firm National Express to withdraw from a loss-making franchise without financial penalty.

The two cabinet secretaries described Mr Byers' claims as lies, with Lord Mandelson saying it was "very sad" that Mr Byers had made his "grubby" claims for money. Lord Adonis described the claims as "pure fantasy."

Tesco and National Express denied paying Mr Byers, and Education Minister Kevin Brennan suggested Mr Byers had simply been "trying to big himself up."

Mr Byers issued a statement saying he had exaggerated his influence on both policy decisions and had never lobbied ministers for corporate clients.

Ms Hewitt, who is married to a judge, was filmed saying she had helped one of her clients, the buyout firm Cinven, to get a seat on a government inquiry that was looking into the psychiatric care industry in which it was involved.

Conservative leader David Cameron said Mr Byers' activities showed Labour "had been in power for too long and lost touch with what it's meant to be doing".


Given that one of them seems to be pulling a Stan Shunpike - i.e. boasting about criminal activities he actually has no part in, in order to fluff himself up - I'll settle for a swift trip to one of HM's prisons and cold gruel for life. The Conservatives, should they win Government, have an obligation to reverse the damage Labor has done to the House of Lords and to British culture. This includes taking Britain out of the EU for good. They should also reverse the ban on fox hunting, which was a stupid decision given how weepy-eyed the Left normally gets about cultures being destroyed (except when that culture is theirs).
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ORGANISATIONS which campaigned for the Rudd Government's election in 2007 are among those given hundreds of thousands of dollars from Australia's foreign aid budget.

Under new rules announced in 2009, Ausaid can now fund education and awareness campaigns in Australia.


Labor-friendly organisations are big winners from the $1.3 million handed out so far.

The ACTU has collected $147,000 for a campaign to educate workers on the Rudd Government's international development aid program.

Another $150,000 has gone to the Oaktree Foundation, founded by former young Australian of the Year Hugh Evans, for 1000 young people to travel the country educating the public about poverty alleviation and the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

The foundation was part of the 2007 Make Poverty History campaign and during that year's election Mr Evans said it was planning a "full-scale" campaign urging people to support Labor's position on foreign aid.

Other winners include a program to bring Australian and Afghani youth together via the internet for an arts project showing they understand poverty and a rickshaw ride for 400 from Queensland to Tasmania.

Under the new rules, 10 per cent of Ausaid's Australian NGO Co-operation Program's budget can be spent in Australia on awareness campaigns.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the foreign aid budget should be used to improve the lives of people in developing countries.

"Australians are generous and want to support other nations, but they expect their funds to be spent efficiently in support of less fortunate people around the world," she said.

The Government did not respond to a request for comment.


The ACTU is the Australian Council of Trade Unions. What it's doing with $147,000 of money that could do a lot of good in the Third World, I have no idea. Why someone shouldn't be strung up by their gonads and flogged senseless with wet noodles for this, I also have no idea. But as with the building business, it looks fishy.

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