06 August 2010

Australian internet filter dead in water

Forners may not be aware of an extremely boring federal election in Australia right now. Indeed, few Australians seem aware of this. This is as it should be. Elections that are Interesting usually turn out to be Dangerous. But there is one good that has come out of this. The Coalition of conservative parties has decided not to support the mandatory internet filter. Given that the party most likely to hold the balance of power in the upper house, the Greens, is opposed to it, the filter is dead no matter who wins the election. Excellent, outcome I hear you say in my head. And yes, it is. But there remains a deeper problem: Australian censorship is among the most draconian and pervasive in the western world, and both major parties have reiterated their devotion to it. This means that any attorney general can refuse a classification to a game, a book, a video that they dislike for no stated reason, and it becomes a crime to own it then and there. And right now, the religious own both major parties. Even though 70% of Australians want no censorship apart from violent and child exploitative material, there is no option. We will be treated like criminal children until proven innocent. This is why I am voting for the Australian Sex Party. Not because I am a major consumer of pornography or terrorist materials, but because, if it harm none, nobody has the right to tell me what I may or may not see as an adult citizen. The ASP is the only party whose priorities are in the right order: freedom, secularism, and humour. Forgive my suggesting to my six Australian readers that they vote this way too.

26 July 2010

The first casualty

The increasing intention of western and non-western governments to censor the internet is usually put in terms of "child protection", although it is very unlikely to be affected by censorship, merely by using uncensorable techniques like Torrents. But one has to wonder if the real reason is more to do with preventing this sort of thing. It turns out that we have been lied to about civilian casualties and targeted assassinations in Afghanistan, two things that any civilised society should repudiate. Aeschylus is supposed to have said that in war, truth is the first casualty. Governments and militaries who prosecute wars do so for their own reasons, which are almost never the reason they give to their populace. Controlling information is crucial. We went into Iraq on a lie, and it looks like we are behaving in Afghanistan in ways that are contrary to what we are being told. This is not the fault of those on the ground, but it is the fault of governments. Without services like Wikilinks, we would never know these lies until it was too late to act on them. So, of course, governments wish to block access to information about the lies. I note also that Wikileaks is providing a service for whistleblowers to notify the media securely. Whistleblowers are usually well motivated individuals with a civil conscience, and so they are usually the only ones blamed and punished for the things they blow the whistle on, despite supposed protection laws. This is a marvellous idea. Media outlets can put a form to notify them on their own websites, and Wikileaks will anonymise the posts. Wikileaks is available from here. It's under a heavy strain right now, for obvious reasons, but I wouldn't put a DDoS attack out of the question either. In any even I expect that the Australian internet filter will include Wikileaks. If it does, I'll post a way around it. Think about why people are criticising Wikileaks: they are providing us, the people, with the truth about things that governments and vested interests do not want exposed. Why would anyone think that was wrong? Nobody who is open and honest could. Yes, I mean you Conroy, you weasel.

05 July 2010

A letter to the PM

It turns out you can write to the Prime Minister via an online form, Roger Lamb pointed out to me and others via Twitter. Here's what I wrote:

Policies that will make me not vote Labor

Dear Prime Minister

Congratulations on your accession to the office. I am impressed that you eschew faux religiosity and do not apologise for your marital state. It's about time we had such honesty in our politics. But I wish to express my concern, both as a voter and as an academic (I teach philosophy at Bond), about some existing Labor policies and statements you have made in recent times

1. Internet filtering: this is a regressive and paternalistic policy that will, incidentally, not work. Drop it immediately. I would also suggest that Senator Kate Lundy is a good person in this discussion. That is, if you are unable to appoint Senator Ludlam to the ministry.

2. Gay Marriage: Some 10% of Australian citizens or so are discriminated against. You may not like gay relationships, but they deserve the same protection of law as every other citizen.

3. Asylum seekers. Must we really defer to xenophobia here? Asylum seekers are a minuscule problem in population growth (and you have adopted the right slant on that matter); say so and make the process more humane.

These policies as they stand are deal breakers for me. I know they are deal breakers for many others who might be classed as "swinging voters". You won't change the minds of the entrenched, but you can for those who are social progressives, who were once the constituency of Labor.

With respect

John Wilkins

Cardinal Fang gives notpology, and evades real problem

Cardinal Fang, also known as George Pell the Ignorant, has avoided an apology (at least his Melbourne colleague gave one) for child abuse by priests int he Catholic Church, on the grounds that he did that already, and isn't it time to move on?

George, if you have any decency at all, open up the Church's correspondence on pedophilia. Let us know what the Church knew, when and who. Hide no details. Don't act like the Mob does, as the Church is doing in Belgium. Full and frank disclosure is the only way to rescue the reputation of the Church, if anything will. Go on, I dare you.

Later: See these letters regarding Archbishop Rabbit's "apology", in the Melbourne Age.

26 June 2010

Parenting and the law

Sydney Morning Herald has a couple of well expressed opinion pieces about legal aspects of adoption by homosexual parents and on abusive fathers and the Family Law Act. Both are sensible and you should read them.

25 June 2010

On recent developments, and a prospective

So, we have a woman PM. I'm not particularly impressed by that - we should have had equal representation in the Parliament thirty years ago and it's no great achievement to get a female executive now. We beat the US. Hoobloodyray.

But that she is unashamedly unmarried, and took the affirmation rather than the Anglican Oath, now that impresses me. I wonder how long it will take for Cardinal Fang Pell to declare that she is anti-Christian and communist, or something, followed by Archbishop Lapdog Jensen soon after. And she's Welsh! That has to mean something heretical.

So fine, a Labor female unreligious PM. This is what Labor should have delivered years back, and not merely because, as is the Labor way, a woman is appointed/anointed in expectation of electoral failure shortly thereafter. Once it was a progressive party, back in the 70s, for about ten minutes.

No, the real issue is whether we will see Labor resile from the regressive social policies that it has pursued cynically and in the expectation of cheap success. Obviously I mean the internet censorship issue, but more importantly, gay equality in marriage and adoption, and a reduction of government interference in personal lives. Once we hoped for liberty; now we just hope that the "security" excuse won't mean we get called sex offenders, terrorists or witches.

I weep for my country. I'd really love not to. Julia, don't disappoint me like those other messiahs.

14 May 2010

On preventing illegal content

Stephen Collins of EFA has a nice post to follow up Scott Ludlam's excellent speech to Parliament, in which he notes that the filter will not prevent child porn, and that there are more effective ways to deal with it. Here's my one-line summary:

The mandatory filter is a way to avoid having to do anything substantive about porn, because that would take effort, money and not get politicians a public profile.

The way to deal with illegal content is to prosecute, after police investigation. If that content is overseas, then contact the host nation. We all have pretty much the same goals.

This takes money, time, personnel, and will not get headlines in the Murdoch press, but it is the only way to deal with these crimes. It is also the only way that has worked in the past. If Conroy and Rudd really want to do this properly, then appoint more police and fund the states to have more police aimed solely at this sort of crime. Prosecute these crimes. Enact sensible laws against them. And most of all, stop hiding behind the Censorship Board. In fact, I think we would as a community be a lot better off if we abolished the Censorship Board entirely. It has shown itself to be easily manipulated by both political and special interests for decades.

Australia has become one of the most draconian of all democracies in its paternalistic control over what we can and cannot do and say. I am ashamed of my country's placing style over substance and passing off responsibilities to government and bureaucracies that should be taken up by individuals.