Thursday, 9 December 2010

More Wikileaks

So this Wikileaks stuff is still going, and there are two things that I would like to mention.

The first is that Kevin Rudd, the current Minister for Foreign Affairs and former PM has gone on record stating that Assange shouldn't be blamed for the leaks.

And former PM John Howard has also stated something similar.

It's good to see that two people who probably won't have the most flattering things said about them (Rudd is a control freak - US Embassy, Canberra) and Rudd has said that he is providing consular support. It's good to hear that our country is actually doing something.

The other thing is this "insurance.aes256" file that Wikileaks uploaded about a year ago. Since Assange's arrest people have been speculating on what will happen to this file.

So I'm going to jump on the rampant speculation bandwagon.

I think the file contains one of three possibilities:
  1. Nothing
  2. Uncensored documents
  3. Stuff that's really important for various countries
Personally I'm leaning towards #3. Wikileaks has most likely managed to get their hands on some pretty interesting documents that they haven't released for whatever reason (right now I'm guessing insurance) which could be really damaging. Perhaps it's a bunch of "plans to deal with Wikileaks" from various countries, who knows.

The reason I think #3 is that these would be documents that are potentially damaging now, but, when they become irrelevant could simply be released later on.

#1 is more of a jerk move. It might not be nothing, it could just be a text document that says "thanks for downloading this for us". And #2 depends on the nature of the uncensored documents.

I guess we'll just have to be patient and find out when they release the password.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Mr. Squiggle Dies

Norman Hetherington, the man behind Mr. Squiggle died yesterday aged 89. Mr. Squiggle was Australia's longest running children's show.

I loved watching that show as a kid. For those who don't know Mr. Squiggle was the man from the moon, who came and visited us in his pet rocket named Rocket and would draw these pictures from canvasses with squiggles and lines and dots. When he finished it was up to Rebecca, who was basically the token human, to orientate the picture correctly so we knew what it was.

As to the title, Norman Hetherington was Mr. Squiggle. As well as creating the show he drew the pictures and gave Mr. Squiggle his voice. To pretty much every Australian who watched the show as kids he was Mr. Squiggle.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Assange and Australia

Well the debate over Wikileaks does not look like it will die down any time soon. The one thing that I've noticed is that "cablegate" (God I hate that '-gate' suffix) seems to have angered people in some way that makes little sense to me.

For some reason posting all of those Iraq war documents was ok for some reason but leaking diplomatic cables? He should be executed. I've noticed that on the JREF as well and it seems to defy logic. Then again logic seems to go out the window when thousands of diplomatic cables are leaked to the world.

But that brings me to the point of this post. The ABC reported that Assange believes that Australia has abandoned him. Or as he put it on the Guardian Q&A with him:

I am an Australian citizen and I miss my country a great deal. However, during the last weeks the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, and the attorney general, Robert McClelland, have made it clear that not only is my return is impossible but that they are actively working to assist the United States government in its attacks on myself and our people. This brings into question what does it mean to be an Australian citizen - does that mean anything at all? Or are we all to be treated like David Hicks at the first possible opportunity merely so that Australian politicians and diplomats can be invited to the best US embassy cocktail parties.

Although the possibility exists that Assange may have broken Australian law when it comes to leaking some documents (the ACMA blacklist comes to mind), I don't see how leaking US diplomatic cables are a violation of US law.

What disturbs me more is that we have foreign politicians calling for Assange to be executed/assassinated and we have not heard a single thing from the Government. No "don't assassinate our citizens" or anything like that. Basically the Government have thrown Assange to the wolves.

It is here where I can see the parallels to David Hicks. While countries like the UK and France were getting their citizens out of Guantanamo Bay the Australian Government did nothing for David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib were left to rot in that prison because the Government at the time had more important people to worry about like Schapelle Corby or Bali 9 or Van Tuong Nguyen.

The impression at the time was that the Australian Government cares more about drug traffickers then people accused of being terrorists. Now it seems the Government prefers to look the other way when politicians and pundits from other countries are calling for the death of one of their own citizens.

It does make you question whether there is any point in being able to claim that you're an Australian.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


I'm starting to think that the republican movement is full of idiots. Why exactly would you bother holding a plebiscite on a republic around the same time as a royal wedding?

How the hell could anyone think that this is logical?

In a way I'm pretty happy that they are that stupid because I do lean towards the monarchist side of the debate, but honestly.

What I do think is stupid is this whole "plebiscite" business. Quite frankly I don't think it means anything if 80% of the people wanted a republic or only 50.1%, until the republicans figure out a model of government that will appease a majority of people in the majority of states holding plebiscites would be pointless, especially during a time when more people are going to support a monarchy then support a republic.

Monday, 18 October 2010

What I don't like about Mafia II

It's the game that, really, just kept me distracted until Civilization V came out. (As an aside, the latter is pretty much the reason I haven't posted anything.)

I really enjoyed Mafia and I was hoping for something similar with this one. Instead it really did go backwards.

Not graphically of course, graphically Empire Bay is basically scenery porn. The choice of music is good and the story is still good. And the fact that quite a few of the places are designed to be destroyed is nice too.

However it's not really a game that you can play through more then once. Maybe you'll play it through again to get the Playboy "articles" or you'll be playing it for the achievements.

That being said there is quite a lot missing. Empire Bay has a sort of GTA III feel. The city is alive but it isn't. One of the things that made Mafia work was the fact that it felt like the city was alive. You'd see trolley cars on the streets, the rail system worked, people would do things and the aforementioned public transport system actually worked. You could get on a trolley or a train and travel instead of using a car. Mafia II gets rid of that. The rail system doesn't exist, neither does the subway, and the buses don't do anything.

It's more a shell of a city then a city itself.

The other thing is that the main storyline is pretty much it. What sucks is that they basically set up side missions that never existed. In Mafia after some of the missions you could either go back to Salieri's and end the mission or you could choose to go to Luca for a "steal a car" mission. I liked those missions because they were ones where logic and cunning took precedence over superior firepower. I was hoping that this would be the same here.

I was wrong.

We're introduced to two people, Mike Bruski who works at the junkyard and Frederico Pappalardo who is the crooked union boss of the docks. They both imply that you'll do jobs for them outside of the main storyline but you don't. Go there and it's "Sorry Vito, I haven't got anything for you". They're just there to crush or export cars.

Then there is the hammerspace. Mafia worked because you didn't have hammerspace. You could hide a couple of pistols, and maybe a larger gun, but that was it. You were limited in what you could carry so you had to actually think. The other thing was that you had to be careful when you reloaded, reload too early and you'd lose the remaining ammo. No so in this game. You can keep your ammo and you can carry as many guns as you'd like. Also, why can't you shoot while driving? You could in the last game. Oh well.

The last thing that I miss is the police. Sure they're there but they are useless. Really, really, really useless. Sure Joe will tell me that I've missed a red light, but then again I never stopped at any red lights when I'd play GTA. The reason in that game is the same as this one. There is no incentive to. The police don't seem to care (unlike in Mafia), there are only three things that they care about, bar going about killing people. The first is speeding. As long as you don't kill anyone you can escape with a little fine. The second is stealing cars. The third is having weapons out in public. Very realistic there.

Oh well. It was a fun game to play the first time around. Too bad there isn't any real incentive to do it again.

Monday, 23 August 2010

What I've learned from The Chaser

Without Independents there'll be no competition

Given how important Independents will be in forming a new government I'd say that the army of David Szymczaks was right.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Hung Parliament

At the moment that is what Australia might be facing. The ABC is tipping that Labor will have 72 seats and the Coalition (Liberal party, National party, and the Liberal National party) will have 73.

The Greens managed to win Melbourne and there will be four independents, from Denison (Tasmania), New England, Lyne (both NSW) and Kennedy (QLD).

These are the people that the major parties will have to woo to be able to make a government. It would be interesting to see what the Liberals will do given that the latter three MPs are all former National party members who left for differing reasons. In my opinion Labor have the easier job forming a government and actually running it.

The Senate results have made it clear that the Greens will be running the show this time, and they are more likely to support Labor's policies then the Liberals and I'm sure that Abbott knows it.

But the count isn't over yet and some cases the count is close.

Boothby, my electorate, has a difference of about 1000 votes with only 77% of the vote counted. The possibility that Labor will take this seat is still very real. If the State election is anything to go by it will take about a week to find out who wins.

SA itself had a pretty big swing towards the Greens, and because of people who filled out the how to vote cards, gave many preferences to Labor as well. The most common trend was that people weren't voting for Labor.

Neither leader has conceded defeat but I would like to point out something that Tony Abbott said. He said that this election was a "referendum on the political execution of a prime minister". He might be right but this election was telling in another way. Abbott didn't win. This very fact tells us that although the people might not like what happened to Rudd they don't trust Abbott. I suspect that this was the reason that people voted for the Greens in the Senate.

There are three other things that I might as well point out. First the Australian Sex Party, although they failed to win any seats, had a pretty good turnout for their first time with 1.99% of the national primary vote. They polled worst in SA with 1.66% of the vote, and best in NT with 4.43% of the vote. In NSW, QLD and Victoria they managed to get about 2% of the vote.

Secondly, at present, Family First have failed to win any seats in the Senate this election. However uncounted ballots in SA may change this. The ABC results page for the SA senate election has had the Liberals and Family First flip-flopping between them getting the last seat.

Lastly it's the end of an era of sorts. Wilson Tuckey, a man known for his comments ranging from somewhat silly to inane, has lost his seat of O'Connor losing to Nationals candidate Tony Crook.

Based on what happened in the state election earlier this year I think it will be about a week before we figure out if we really do have a hung parliament and how many Independents/Greens the parties will have to convince to join them.

Friday, 20 August 2010

6 Degrees of Ken Doll

It's something from RationalWiki. They're calling it Hunt the Sausage. Basically you start at a random Conservapedia page and then try to find your way to one of the pet articles of the user "conservative". So you are trying to get to either their page on Evolution, Atheism or Homosexuality.

My first try I went from "Geometric progression" to "Interest" to "Interest rate" to "Usury" to "Homosexuality". According to Conservapedia usurers would end up in the same circle of hell as homosexuals.

I did make "Evolution" in three. Dave Rosenberg -> Fiscal conservatism -> Conservative -> Evolution. The link was that conservatives reject "junk science" such as evolution.

I'm playing the Ken Trio, but there are other kinds as well.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Psychic finds body

Just not the body that she was looking for.

The psychic was trying to find 6 year old Kiesha Abrahams who has been missing since July 31. But on Sunday the police called off the search and are assuming the worst.

So this woman, who hasn't been named, got a feeling that there was a body at Nurragingy Reserve.

The Herald Sun reported:

Detective Chief Inspector Pamela Young from the State Crime Command Homicide Squad said the woman who found the remains was from the local area and had been trying to locate schoolgirl Kiesha, who vanished from her Mount Druitt home 11 days ago.

However the torso was that of an adult woman, believed to be Kristi McDougall, and not Kiesha.

So basically it looks like the woman just happened to be "lucky" and found a body. But when it comes to "psychic detectives" it doesn't count as a "hit".

If it turns out to be Kristi McDougall then hopefully the Police can bring her killer (or killers) to justice, and if not then I do hope they find out who it is. When you think of it that way then it doesn't really matter what the motivations of the finder were, a family will get closure.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Liberal Broadband "Plan"

The Liberal Party have released their broadband plan. See apparently Labor's plan, which is spend $43 billion on a complete overhaul of the entire telecommunications network, is too expensive and probably too communist since the government is doing it. So the Liberal Party have decided that the best way to solve this is to spend $6.25 billion (broken down in various ways) and pretty much expect Telstra to do it in time.

The executive summary of "The Coalition's Plan for Real Action on Broadband and Telecommunications" reads:
The Coalition’s plan will deliver a uniform national broadband network, under which 97 percent of premises are able to be served by high speed networks capable of delivering from 100 Mbps down to a minimum of 12 Mbps peak speed, using a combination of technologies including HFC, DSL and fixed wireless.
I don't buy that one bit. I live in a middle class area, odds are I might get the "minimum" speed. I say that because I know that what will happen is that 12 Mbps will be the maximum available speed, and that's if they can even be bothered to upgrade the exchange any time soon.

Frankly I'd be surprised if 97% of the country will be able to get the minimum 12 Mbps peak speed.

As the Liberals go on to say:
Labor is heading down the wrong track. Its government owned and government run broadband network will be a taxpayer funded ‘white elephant’ when it is completed in eight years time. It does nothing to deliver lower prices. It just substitutes one monopoly for another. It gives no priority to those who do not get an adequate service today. Under Labor’s plan Australians will be waiting up to eight years before they see a change.
And? The only reason that NBN Co even exist is because Labor didn't like the offers from private companies and said "screw it we'll just do it ourselves". I do think that it's rather funny to see the Liberal party consider upgrading to fibre to the home as a "white elephant".

The rest is just empty rhetoric. I honestly prefer a government monopoly on telecommunication infrastructure then the current Telstra based monopoly. I don't actually mind waiting up to eight years because I know that my service will be improved.

But I shouldn't worry because apparently the Liberal plan will:
Instead of creating a new, inefficient Government run monopoly, the Coalition will create a vibrant, private sector-based broadband market, with Government involved to encourage competition and ensure services reach all Australians.
I don't see that happening. Telstra own basically all the infrastructure, and because they are forced to share they don't have any incentive to upgrade. That's certainly what I've noticed in my area.

Naturally the Liberal party have 13 points that make up their plan. In an earlier incarnation of this post I went through the points. But there is no point. There isn't a plan. It's not even a "plan", it's just "we'll give money to the private sector".

They want to waste time creating a "National Broadband Commission" so they can ask for tenders (again), they want a "National Broadband Database" which is to apparently gather information for no real reason, but has something to do with being able to "optimise" areas that are "underserved".

Frankly I don't see the private sector doing that any time soon. The underserved areas are either poor or in areas that are to expensive to connect to. They are areas that are unprofitable.

They're complaining that the Government is spending so much money and their plan is to give us much less and save two years doing so. So my options are wait 6 years and possibly get 12 Mbps or wait and extra 2 and get 100 Mbps.

Then they propose satellites. Labor promised satellites for those who can't be connected to the fibres, they also said that they would be 12 Mbps. The Liberals haven't even told us what speed people on the satellites would connect to.

Frankly their offer is a joke, and their section on how Labor has failed is even worse.

But there is a sad side to this. For once the Government have done the right thing, a comprehensive upgrade to our telecommunications systems and we've got a party who are trying to claim that they are "responsible" giving us crap. Who cares if Labor cancelled the coalition broadband policy when they came to power, they actually had something far superior.

But then I've noticed that many Australians fail to understand that the cheap option is not always the best one.

I might be against Labor's internet filter, but I'm now more inclined to preference them over the Liberal party.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Sunrise Political Debate

I never expected to see those three words in the same sentence. For foreigners who happen to read this Sunrise is one of those breakfast shows, I usually have that playing in the morning because David Koch's voice keeps me up. Anyway, they pointed out that many people didn't know who they were voting for and had their own little "debate" between Wendy Francis from Family First and Fiona Patten from the Australian Sex Party.

This was the debate:

Now they covered a few issues from each party. They discussed Family First's idea for "G-rated" billboards. The Sex Party's idea for ending the tax exempt status for religion (that's all religion not just certain religions) and they also discussed each sides opinions on the proposed internet filter and gay marriage.

Essentially they pretty much disagreed on everything, but they both agreed on a Royal Commission that looks at sex abuse in all areas, even the sex industry, something that the Sex Party were happy to mention in a press release. However Patten (the leader of the ASP) suggested a commission looking just at religion.

On gay marriage Francis' argument was basically "the Marriage Act states this so that's the way it should be", and stated that marriage was very important to Australia.

The outdoor advertising thing was the more enlightening thing. Essentially Francis came across as saying "I want this because I don't want to have to explain, to my young children, what certain words mean."

Although she did say that "Australian Sex Party" would be ok on a billboard, it doesn't mesh with her intent. The little kid is still going to ask "mummy, what's sex?" regardless of whether it's from an ad for the ASP or one of those ghastly "want longer lasting sex?" billboards (their solution? A nasal spray).

There is very little to say on the internet filter. That was probably the weakest point from Patten, probably because she got some of the information wrong. One of the criticisms of the leaked blacklist (some of which I wrote about here and here) was that as well as blocking sites that had things like child porn, it was also blocking legal adult content and websites on other legal content. Patten came across as saying that the blacklist didn't have any illegal content on it at all.

Overall though I would have to say that the winner was the Sex Party. Although Francis would disagree though. Apparently there was a phone poll that said that Family First won.

I know that some people think that Family First won. I personally have trouble seeing it. Francis made a big song and dance about the ASP being a lobby group for what can best be described as "Big Porno". She also seemed to think that ending tax exempt status for religions would affect charities like Lifeline or the Salvation Army even though nobody has said that they would be affected.

I also don't think that it's ok for a cathedral to spend millions on a tower when there are homeless nearby because the Salvo's feed them.

Also, I know quite a few people who do not consider being homosexual a "lifestyle choice".

I'm not alone when it comes to saying who won. On Youtube here or here most of the commenters said that the ASP won. Same goes with the people on Crikey and even on Channel 7's thread asking about the winner.

To finish there are two other things I would like to point out. First is this from Catherine Deveny and I suggest you read the comment from James L in this SMH article .

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Family First's preference deals

It doesn't really matter that they approached everyone (so I'm assuming One Nation as well) but Family First approached the Australian Sex Party for a preference deal.

Now these are the policies of the ASP. They want things like comprehensive sex ed in schools, same-sex marriage, protection for sex workers, ending tax exempt status for religions, you know, all the stuff that Family First stand for.

In some sort of parallel dimension.

But naturally Family First are trying to distance themselves from such a monumentally stupid decision:

Family First federal chairman Bob Day said no preference offer was made and that raising the issue was part of a Sex Party campaign to discredit Family First.

Yep because when you do something that stupid it must be because your opponents want to discredit you. That must be it.

The ABC article gives the "official" reason as to why Family First contacted the ASP:

It said Family First was keen to know where the Sex Party was directing its preferences so it would not inadvertently favour the Sex Party.

You know how you don't inadvertently favour the party? By doing what the ASP are doing and give them the lowest preference possible. But I suppose that didn't dawn on them because we all know that One Nation are the party you give the lowest preferences to.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Attorney-General's Department sure likes black highlighters

The Sydney Morning Herald managed to get their hands on a report that says the government pretty much wants ISPs to record all our browsing history.

Unfortunately it seems that Claudia Hernandez, the department's legal officer and person who handles FoI requests, tried to be helpful and highlighted all the important bits for the SMH. Too bad the highlighter was black, and the important parts is apparently 90% of the document.

Now unlike the CIA who've only just realised that they were using them accidentally, the government did this deliberately.

The Document

The document can be found here.

The proposal page is very enlightening:
Mandatory Data Retention Proposal

Telecommunications data is information about a communication, but does not include the content of the communication. Examples include subscriber information and call charge records.

[10 censored paragraphs follow]

That's the entire proposal that we're allowed to know. The contents of the document has a background a section A that discusses... something, and a section B that discusses something else, but Hernandez was kind enough to tell us that B.2 is "defintions" and B.3. is "Illustrative data". And C. is "Industry Feedback".

Of the background section, the "What is telecommunications data?" section is mostly unscathed, but it has the sentence:

This includes information about the identity of the sending and receiving parties ('A and B parties'), when a communication started and stopped, and the type of communication [censored]

The next section is "How important is telecommunications data?". The answer, apparently, is very. Of 5 paragraphs, one is uncensored, and is basically "The UK found that such a policy was helpful when it comes to solving crime".

Then we get four pages of what looks like a contents of some sort, but it's completely censored. Then four pages of a table, at least we know that the numbers are some sort of "Requirement", but what they are means nothing.

Most of the definitions get off unscathed, however the definition for Broadband Remote Access Server (BRAS) has the last line censored, so I know that it is aggregating information into a core network of some sort.

All the illustrative data (it's another table) is censored.

The "feedback" is not actually any feedback, it's a request for feedback. They are asking ISPs to consider 8 questions, of which we're only allowed to know 5.

So basically you can learn nothing from this document.

The Reasons

But the SMH didn't stop there. They've also given us the reasons from the AG department.

Under "Decision" Hernandez wrote:

3. You will see, however, that I have made some deletions to the documents. ...

Which is, quite clearly, an understatement. It wasn't "some deletions", most of the document is censored. There are two pages that don't have black highlighter. The "Information Sheet" page, and the title page.

Then there is, in paragraph 11 under "Reasons for Decision":

Further, subsection 36(1)(b) [of the Freedom of Information Act] requires that it also be shown that disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. I have considered the particular circumstances of the request and those factors which are specific to the facts at hand. Although I acknowledge the public's right to participate in and influence the processes of government decision making and policy formulation, given the early stage of this consultation, the premature release of the proposal could, more then likely, create a confusing and misleading impression. In addition, as the matters are not settled and proposed recommendations may not necessarily be adopted, release of such documents would not make a valuable contribution to public debate. Rather, I consider that release of such documents may lead to premature unnecessary debate and could potentially prejudice and impede government decision making

Yep. The premature release of the proposal could create a confusing and misleading impression. Clearly the answer to that problem is not any form of transparency at all but instead it's to get out the black highlighter.

And why? Because it might lead to "unnecessary debate". This is not an unnecessary debate. The government is potentially suggesting, and Electronic Frontiers Australia put it best, that "if it's logged (or could be logged), the A-G wants it saved."

Frankly I find it more insulting that they even bothered to give the SMH something. If you're going to censor most of the document you might as well not release it at all.

The Greens are annoyed and will probably look into this during their Senate inquiry. Maybe they'll get a more transparent version if the document. They might know what the other two questions in the "feedback" section are and also the four completely censored definitions.

Perhaps they'll be kind enough to tell us what they are.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

#stupidscientology or yes, not logic

I'd like to join in the twitter thing using that tag, but I don't have an account and I can't be bothered making one. If you have one I suggest that you tweet using that tag.

John Dixon a councillor in Cardiff (that's in Wales in case you don't know) made the following tweet when he was in London:

“I didn’t know the Scientologists had a church on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off.”

Naturally CoS decided to complain. Ok, maybe they have the right to, but seriously. Would you really complain about that? Would you?

Now I knew that CoS was thin skinned. Clearly I didn't know how thin it was.

The article I linked to above states the CoS claimed that the comments "impinged on the right to religious freedom". I'd like to see their reasoning for that, especially considering that Scientology isn't a religion in the UK.

Reading the Google update page for #stupidscientology a few people have pointed out that an anagram for Scientology is "Yes, not logic". That probably explains the reasons for this complaint.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


At the start of the interval act of this years Eurovision you can see an audience member with an Australian flag.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Federal election 2010

Well a Federal Election has been announced for August 21 and I've go no idea who to vote for.

Now I know that I'll see pictures on the news (or maybe run in to) both Gillard and Abbott at the nearby shopping centre. It's a popular place and my electorate, Boothby, is smack in the middle of most of the marginal seats in Adelaide.

The ABC has their election page up and I've been looking around.

Now this will be my second Federal election that I'll vote in, and I like to be informed about the candidates etc (except One Nation, I mean who cares about them?) but I don't know how many will be running in the end.

Last election there were 8 candidates, and until I know otherwise I'm assuming that there will be the same this time around. Yes, I'm actually looking at various candidates even though I know that it's either going to be Liberal or Labor (most likely Liberal). However preferences are important, and if I'm going to give other parties preferences I might as well know what these people believe in, you know, just in case there's a crazy swing to someone. Also I don't like the "How to Vote" cards.


We'll start with the incumbent, Andrew Southcott. He is according to his about page, he is currently the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health Services, Health and Wellbeing which I didn't actually know existed. I knew that he was the Shadow Minister for Sport, but I don't know if he still is though.

If you read the about page you will see that Dr. Southcott was a surgeon and has studied many other things as well. I do like that, we have someone who understands the value of education, and someone who understands health issues so I can understand why he has that really long titled position.

I suspect that he will have a battle though, in the last two elections he has lost ground to Labor, which I guess is from preferences to Labor from the Greens and the Independent candidate Ray McGhee.

The downside I have personally with voting for him is what it means. A vote for him is a vote for Tony Abbott.

I don't like Tony Abbott. I don't like how he determined social policies based on his own beliefs, like the banning of the drug RU-486 or his views on sex. I don't agree with Abbott's views on climate change either. Do I really want to give a preference to a party that, if they win, will be led by this man?

I don't know.

The second is the Labor candidate, Annabel Digance. I don't know anything about this candidate. Seriously. She already has one advantage though, she hasn't been chosen because she is a footballer's wife.

Like voting Liberal, voting for Labor means that I'm essentially casting my vote for Gillard. I may like Gillard for some things, like being an Atheist (or at least Agnostic), I don't agree with some Labor positions. The most important to me is the internet filter. Okay, they may have suspended it, clearly because of the (then upcoming) election, but it hasn't gone away.

Leaving the two major parties there are a few other candidates.

The Greens candidate is Fiona Blinco. There is one thing that she stands for that I don't agree with at all. She wants to remove the freight trains from the Adelaide Hills.

Now for people who haven't been to Adelaide I'll have to explain. Adelaide is located on the Adelaide plains. This area is enclosed to the west by the Gulf of St Vincent and to the east by the Adelaide Hills, which is the southern part of the Mt. Lofty Ranges. Now this range pretty much goes all the way down the Fleurieu Peninsula down to Cape Jervois.

The simplest way to get from Adelaide to the East is by going over these hills, and in this day and age it's not much of a hassle. But in order to get the trains out of the hills you have to reroute them, which probably means sending the trains further north only to sent them back down to the city. This would add a few hundred kilometres to a journey, and for a party that wants to lower carbon emissions makes it a really strange proposition.

If she was going to try and get Federal funding to improve the line and make it safer for freight trains then yes, that's a very good idea. But she isn't and I'd assume they won't.

It's a strange position considering that rail is a far more efficient way of moving stuff compared to trucks.

The last candidate that I could find is the Family First candidate. Her name Meredith Resce. The profile there basically says that she's a good Christian wife and mother, and that she's also a novelist.

However it's Family First, I don't agree with pretty much anything that they say. They've come out in support of Creationism, don't like what is taught in sex ed and have come out in support of the internet filter.

The Democrats haven't got anything up yet but they've taken a horrid beating in the last few elections (in 2004 there was a 16.89% swing away from them in first preference votes), so they might not field a candidate.

Last election there was a party that I'd never heard of, the Liberty and Democracy party. This year they are the Liberal Democratic Party. They haven't named a candidate yet. I don't really mind most of their principles. I really don't like the idea of competitive federalism, I also don't think that it compatible with any ideas of smaller government. I'm also not a fan of "everything should be privatised".

I don't know if there are any independents, and the only use for One Nation in my opinion is to answer the question "at what point do I prefer to be represented by a racist over other parties".

I still don't know how I'm going to organise my preferences, but the campaign has only just started so I've got about a month to properly decide.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Don't understand the science therefore religion

Since my last post on the Australian Vaccination Network I've been reading various posts from the AVN site.

I found a post there called "When 'Science' Becomes Your Religion". The title of this post is the summary for the AVN one.

It's a very standard anti-science post by Meryl Dorey (the head of the AVN) who doesn't actually understand the science behind the thing that they don't like. In this case it's vaccination.

Of course the post opens with pretty standard "I like science", "the scientific method is great" sort of statements and then goes downhill pretty quickly.

It all starts here:

This is why, when I first started to look into the vaccination issue after my first son’s reaction over 20 years ago now, the thing that took me so much by surprise was how little science actually went into the development of this medical procedure which we have been ‘worshiping’ for over 200 years.

Yep. Very little science went into the development of vaccination. It just popped out of nowhere, no observations, no testing, nothing. It's not like Edward Jenner (who is, by the way, mentioned in the AVN post) followed the scientific method of the time to come up with his vaccine.

And it's not as if we've stopped testing vaccines. It's no secret that sometimes vaccines don't work, or people have a reaction to them, and because of this we have to keep on coming up with safer vaccines for diseases. Take smallpox, the earliest known instance of vaccination for this disease was in China in the 1500's, the method had at worst a 2% mortality rate. The Jenner's vaccine had a rate of about one in a million. If we are to make the vaccines available for more people we are going to have to work on them.

But I don't think that matters to her, since it was her child who happened to have a problem with the vaccine, so therefore she's going to spread "information" that might kill more children. James Cherry in the 1999 paper Pertussis in the Preantibiotic and Prevaccine Era, with Emphasis on Adult Pertussis wrote that between 1922 to 1931 in the US there were about 1.5 million cases of which 73 000 people died. About 4% of people died of the disease before the vaccination. Another examination from 1983-1992, well after a vaccine was introduced, had 34 325 cases with only 56 deaths. That's only 0.1% of cases.

You may consider the ancient Chinese method to have an unacceptably high mortality rate, but remember that smallpox typically would kill up to 40% of people who contracted the disease.

I know what I'm writing sounds cruel, but this is one of the cases where people have to accept that no matter what you do there will be people who will die or be injured from either the disease or the vaccine, but that it's also our job to make sure that as many people aren't injured or killed from either.

Discouraging people from vaccinating themselves or their children does not protect anyone. I said before that the smallpox vaccine of Jenner's time had a mortality rate of one in a million. If you didn't vaccinate anyone you would have saved one person, but chances are 350 000 people would have died if those one million people all caught smallpox.

The post moves on to discuss the scientific method. That's what I would be saying if Dorey actually understood what a "theory" was and how that relates to the scientific method. Like a creationist Dorey seems to think that a theory is something closer to a hypothesis:

Now theories, as you can imagine, are not proven. They are a way of explaining why something behaves the way it does. They are AN explanation – but not necessarily the ONLY explanation.
This statement completely ignores the fact that theories come about through repeated testing, verification by many different scientists with plenty of evidence supporting it. Until shown otherwise, for all intents and purposes, it is the only explanation.

But apparently the science behind vaccination was disproved when Merrill Chase discovered that the body also used white blood cells to protect the body. She mentiones this obituary which says that he revolutionised immunology, not overturned it.

However in talking about this we do get the following:
We have known since the 1940s that, though antibodies are part of the immune system, their existence in the bloodstream does not indicate immunity. Instead, it indicates exposure.

(My bold)

Well duhhh... That's how most of the immune system works, exposure to infection etc. causes antibodies to be produced to fight it (although apparently there are some antibodies that appear without any exposure). Funnily enough she mentioned that two paragraphs beforehand. But because it isn't just antibodies alone that confer immunity it means that all the science is wrong.

She then uses the paper Measles outbreak in a fully immunized secondary-school population to say that immunised people can get sick. Although the abstract says that was the case, it also said that the seropositive (those that expressed the antibodies) students didn't get measles, but 14 of 74 seronegative did, even though they had been immunised. In other words if you aren't expressing the antibodies odds are you're more likely to get measles.

How this disproves any theories involving vaccination confuses me. From the comments Dorey made to a commenter who said the exact same thing it sounds like it doesn't work because some people got measles, even though the people who had antibodies didn't get the disease. And also because the herd immunity doesn't do what she thinks it does.

She talks of money, and apparently that all of Western medicine relies on vaccination to work or something and various other conspiratorial nonsense.

She then attacks those who oppose her. Yep, Skeptics are evil and if science was a religion they would be the Jesuits (I wonder why people always choose Catholics as a comparison? It's probably because their actions are better known...). Apparently:
Like the Jesuits, the Skeptics look down on those who don’t worship science in the same way they do as barbarians and somehow less than human. Perhaps it is this attitude to others – as lesser beings – that enables them to act in the cold, calculating and often immoral way they do?

Yep, it's not that her straw-skeptics (or sceptics if you prefer, although personally I prefer "skeptic") don't like her for the "information" that she peddles, it's because she doesn't worship science. Clearly the latter is the correct reason. In a way though she does explain what skepticism is:
Scepticism involves having a reasoning mind, questioning everything, never taking facts at face value and treating accepted wisdom with distrust until being shown the proof to your own satisfaction.

It might not be the best definition, but compared to some definitions I've seen from creationists, conspiracy theorists, and their ilk, it's quite good. But I don't suspect she applies this to herself. Her straw-skeptics apparently want to stop others from being skeptical, and also send her mean emails.

She then makes a list, which starts with the HCCC complaint. Apparently the complaint from the McCaffery's upset her. She also writes:
Dana’s parents have charged me with harassing them. They also said that I had invaded their privacy, perhaps because when their daughter’s death was reported in the newspaper, I rang the public health unit to ask if there had been a laboratory diagnosis of whooping cough.

Well of course. It's all just a big mistake. Let's just ignore the fact that she rang the health unit the day before Dana's funeral and that she stated that their daughter "supposedly" died from pertussis (see this Lateline transcript). I'm sure the family just overreacted to being asked to hand over their recently deceased daughter's medical records to a complete stranger.

I like point 3:

3. A group was set up on Facebook and Twitter called Stop the AVN. Though our organisation is acting within the law, these skeptics feel that they have the right to use any and every means within their power to shut us down. The implications of such an effort are shocking and one has to wonder why there apparently is no legal recourse when such anti-competitive, anti-democratic actions are taken?

How dare a group of people take advantage of their right to protest to create a group that opposes what the AVN does. It's not anti-competitive, and it's not anti-democratic. What I think is more anti-democratic is the AVN's opinion that nobody should be allowed to protest them.

Points 4 and 7 are also related to protest. 4 is that "they" (no evidence as to who) rang her advertisers and asked them not to advertise. 7 is that "they" (again) contacted places where she was/is to speak asking them to cancel.

I may as well point out that points 2, 5, 8, 9 and part of point 4 are unsourced. Perhaps I'm being too much of a skeptic to not blindly accept these points on faith alone.

Point 10, however, merits some discussion:
10. The McCafferys contacted the ABC to complain about a program I was on regarding the current whooping cough epidemic. Even though I quoted the government’s own statistics and had the information I was discussing peer-reviewed by a doctor who works as a reviewer for such prestigious publications are the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine, the ABC made a finding that the information was not correct. They didn’t say that my statements were incorrect but that the interviewer had mixed up the years we were talking about, quoting 2001 instead of 1991. The McCafferys have taken this information and used it in many public places to state that I had provided the ABC with incorrect information – a statement that is verifiably untrue.

And the McCafferys have every right to do so. If they believe that something breaches the ABC Codes of Practice they can complain about it. I don't know what the show was, so I can only guess as to which codes they base their complaint on. By the sounds of it the ABC found that they had breached either code 3.2, 4.4 or 5.3, which has to do with accurate content.

Frankly I'm starting to get a little scared at how anti-speech the AVN seems to be. It looks like they should be allowed to say whatever they want, but if someone does something they're being oppressed by the man.

She then asks us whether the skeptics are defending science. Unsurprisingly the answer is no:
All of this is supposed to be a way of defending science. But the thing is, science does not need defenders – if science is true and evidence-based – it can easily defend itself.

The science of the skeptics needs defending however because it is not true science – it is a faith-based conglomeration of twisted facts, lies and anger which form an evil perversion of the study of life and the world around us.

Yep. Apparently you don't need people to defend science, because apparently true science is so perfect that there is not a single way that you can interpret information differently. It's funny to read the second paragraph, since it's typically projection onto opponents.

She then spins the criticism as a sign that they are being successful, and the reason is apparently because people want to stop them from ensuring "free and informed vaccination choice".

We then get a list of stuff that is, again, unsourced. Is Gardasil the most dangerous vaccine ever produced? Did parents really let their kids be used for clinical trials without knowing? I don't know, it looks like I'm supposed to just accept it.

At least Dorey accepts that her organisation is dangerous but not for the reason she thinks. The actual reason is that by fearmongering and spreading misinformation that vaccines will injure your children and don't work it will cause far more people to get dangerous diseases that are more likely to kill them then the vaccine. In 2004 the Muslim states in Nigeria banned the polio vaccine because they claimed that Americans wanted to make them infertile or that they would spread AIDS. What happened was that more children contracted polio and were either crippled or died from the disease. The very reason that there are people here in Australia who want such an outcome for our country are the reason why AVN is dangerous.

Dorey believes the reason she is dangerous is:

If you are a scientific Jesuit; if you have based your career and your income on maintaining the status quo in regards to Western Medicine; if you will benefit from the sale of drugs and vaccines, the AVN is a very dangerous organisation indeed.

That's right, she thinks it's because of money. She may not believe that the Queen is a reptilian or that the Illuminati caused all disease, but she does believe in Big Pharma conspiracies.

She argues that she's there to make sure that people are fully informed. I don't think that's the case. She wants to stop people from being vaccinated by exploiting the fear that parents have when it comes to their children. But does she care that she may be causing far more harm then she thinks?

That is the question.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Australian Vaccination Network accused of harassment

Don't let the name fool you, the Australian Vaccination Network is nothing of the sort. The reality is that they are the "Anti-Vaccination Network".

The ABC reported that the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission recently released a report that accuses the AVN of providing inaccurate information to people and that they harassed the parents of Dana McCaffery.

Dana McCaffery was 32 days old when she died. The cause was pertussis, whooping cough, and at her age needed the herd immunity afforded to her by the community. Unfortunately she didn't get it. In an open letter on their website dedicated to Dana the McCafferys point out that the area they moved to had one of the lowest levels of immunisation. The area in question is also very close to the AVN headquarters.

According to the ABC article and this press release from the McCafferys the AVN decided the best time to start "investigating" Dana's death was the day before her funeral.

Of course the AVN don't really care. They consider the report to be biased because it's from the Government, and of course they are "pro-vaccination". They also claim that the commission has no jurisdiction over them.

According to the About Us page on the NSW HCCC website they say the following:

The Commission is an independent body that was established under the Health Care Complaints Act 1993. The Act defines the scope of the Commission's work, which is to:

  • receive and assess complaints relating to health service providers in NSW
  • resolve or assist in the resolution of complaints
  • investigate serious complaints that raise questions of public health and safety
  • prosecute serious complaints.
If spreading anti-vaccination "information" doesn't raise questions of public health and safety I don't know what does.

But I'm not expecting much of a change from the AVN, considering how the Lateline story (this is a link to the transcript though) shows rather well that they will just weasel their way out of the things that they've said. I've tried to find the source of the comment made in that report ("Isn't it incredible how they have made Dana into a martyr because she supposedly died from whooping cough..."), but I've had no luck. I suspect that the AVN have removed such quotes from their website.

And yet the battle isn't over, the AVN have a right of reply and I suspect that regardless of the outcome the AVN will declare victory.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

"Psychic" Octopus

I'm worried. Anoctopus from the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen has picked Spain to beat Germany on Thursday morning (my time that is).

Now I consider myself someone with a skeptical mindset, but this is football and as I'm sure everyone knows you have to grasp as many straws as possible. That reasoning is why at the start of that game my mum will be singing the German national anthem as loudly as possible (even though she can't sing).

Although the BBC article does say that it only has a 70% success rate for the Euro 2008 and in the game between the two countries picked the wrong winner. Hopefully that will be the case here.

Well I should just be patient, what I want right now is to see the Dutch stomp the Uruguayans.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

New PM

Given that it's a rather big thing I suppose I should write something about it.

Basically, I don't really care. Yes I see it's historical but I also see it as a very clever ploy. Rudd started to do rather badly, I guess that's because he was elected as "Not potentially Peter Costello" and then we learned that he was pretty much a git. I think many people could see that Labor would lose and that the next PM would be Tony Abbott.

Now Labor has a better chance of winning, and if that happens we would see our first elected female PM. Personally I think this change has made Labor more appealing to people who turned away from Labor because they didn't like Rudd.

I think we're just going to have to wait and see what happens.

Thursday, 24 June 2010


Germany beat Ghana 1 - 0 this morning. This I am very happy about, since I was worried that Germany wouldn't get through.

Australia beat Serbia 2 - 1 at the same time.

Sadly they won't get through because they have a worse goal difference then Ghana.

Although I supported Germany in the first match I really wanted Australia to get through to the next round as well, and I really hoped that it would happen, but there weren't enough goals.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Woman wins "right to die".

The SA Supreme Court has ruled that a woman has the "right to die" and the nursing home that she lives in will not face charges for assisting suicide.

The latter was the reason for the case, the home did not know if they would be allowed to fulfil her wishes without being charged. So now they will fulfil her wishes, and not feed her or give her insulin.

This follows a similar ruling in WA, where a quadriplegic man was permitted to do the same thing.

Now I may not be the most up to date person when it comes to the whole "right to die" issue, but I think I'm pretty sure that this is not what is meant by groups that support voluntary euthanasia.

In fact I think this is pretty much the complete opposite of what they want. I have trouble seeing this as a woman winning the right to die, but more as the woman winning the right to kill herself slowly. The man from WA, Christian Rossiter died from a chest infection in September 2009.

They don't say how long he was starving himself, this article suggests that it would have taken him about 2 weeks.

Is this really the option that people in horrible pain can choose if they want to end their life? About 2 weeks of not eating, possibly causing more pain? Frankly we treat animals better then that, and they don't get to choose.

If we are going to be a society that allows people the right to die, perhaps there should be a better option then this.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Westall conspiracy

If conspiracy theorists have taught me anything it's that there are no coincidences.

I saw an ad on TV for some show on Sci Fi about the Westall UFO, and what happens to be this week's Skeptoid? That's right, the Westall UFO.

Clearly this means that Brian Dunning is being paid by Sci Fi to get people to search for the UFO and learn about the show since there is no other explanation.

Now to go cash my cheques from Sci Fi and Big Pseudoscience...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Damned if you do

Christopher Hitchens wrote an article on Slate regarding the French ban on burqas. Essentially as I see it he's arguing that it's a good thing based on two basic prongs, the first being that it frees women from being forced to wear it by their families, and the second is that being able to see each others faces is something important to western culture.

However, if Amanda Hess is right in her article, "But If You're Wearing A Veil, How Will I Know That You're Smiling, Baby? then the "real" argument that Hitchens made is that he just wants to look at the faces of women.

Now I have trouble understanding what Hess wants. Is she saying the burqa, regardless of whether the woman is being forced to wear it, is ok because it prevents us dirty men from looking at their faces? Or that us blokes are to avert our gaze whenever we talk to, or even see a woman?

I suspect that it may be the latter for two reasons. The first is that Hess does not make her stance clear on the issue. In fact she doesn't seem to even consider the merits of Hitchens' argument, instead it's written off as "wrong" simply because Hitchens is a man. The second is in this passage:

In an essay condemning a cultural institution that prevents men from looking at the faces of women, Hitchens instead argues that men have an inalienable right to stare. Of course, Hitchens phrases this in gender-neutral terms—”My right to see your face is the beginning of it, as is your right to see mine”—that assumes social equivalence between the gazes of women and men. In fact, the gender-neutral approach fails to acknowledge the sexist cultural institutions that allow men to exert ownership over women’s bodies through their gaze—like street harassment and sexual objectification. When a guy passes a woman on the street and tells her to “smile, baby,” he’s asserting authority over her face, her feelings, and how she chooses to express them—or not. Those who would declare their “right” to look at women should first note the social context in which women’s faces are often examined.

(my emphasis)

The bold seems, to me, to suggest that I shouldn't dare sully the purity of a woman by looking upon her face. This, coupled with the suggestion in the previous sentence regarding "social equivalence between the gazes of women and men" seems to drive this point home. If a woman looks at me, it's ok regardless of why she's looking at me, but if I look at a woman I'm "exerting ownership over [her] bod[y]".

The underlined part is, in my opinion, completely irrelevant. Just because there are some jerks out there does not mean that all men are dirty pigs. But it does suggest that had Hitchens said that "all women should wear burqas" we would see a similar article. Now if woman wrote an article on the issue in a similar vein as Hitchens' article I get the feeling that we wouldn't be seeing an article from Hess on the subject.

I draw that conclusion (and also the title of this post) on her closing statement:

Forcing a woman to wear the veil is one way to own women’s bodies; declaring that it is your “right” to force her to take it off is just another tactic in the same vein.

If I argue that the ban is good then I'm arguing that I want to own women's bodies. If I argue that the ban is bad then I'm implicitly guilty of owning women's bodies because some women will be forced to wear the veil.

I guess any opinion that I could have on this issue don't matter to someone like Hess because either way I just want to own women's bodies.

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Just as a brief aside, my own opinion of the French burqa ban is more or less that both the French and the French Muslims (ugh, it's an inelegant way of distinguishing them but it'll have to do...) need to come to terms with different issues. The French need to accept that Islam demands followers to dress modestly and should at least allow some sort of "out", say by permitting head scarves, while the French Muslims need to accept that some assimilation is necessary and the burqa is a tradition that they will need to drop. But this is something that deserves its own blog post.

Monday, 3 May 2010

No creationism means censorship?

I saw the headline today in the paper "School censorship danger" and my first thought was "What? Really?" Four words later and my thought was "my arse."

I haven't found an online copy of the article, but its in the today's Advertiser (3/5/10) on page 21 if you happen to be in a place with it. I'll try to find the (an?) online version.

Incidentally it's in "articles of faith". Technically it is the right place to put it, but the view put forward is wrong. Terribly terribly wrong.

Apparently the Association of Independent Schools who represent various types of schools, both secular and religious, are not happy about this ban.

This has been an issue that arose around last year when the Non-Government Schools Registration Board decided to ban the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in science class. The the pdf on their website is here and the relevant section is on page 4, under "Curriculum - Policy, guidelines and procedures (continued)" section B4:
The teaching of Science in relation to creationism and intelligent design

The Board requires the teaching of Science as an empirical discipline, focusing on inquiry, hypothesis, investigation, experimentation, observation and evidential analysis.

The Board does not accept as satisfactory a science curriculum in a non-government school which is based upon, espouses or reflects the literal interpretation of a religious text in its treatment of either creationism or intelligent design
It's really quite clear, you can't teach a religious view and call it "science". If you don't follow this guideline you may lose your registration.

Back in March (I seemed to miss this story though) it was reported by Lauren Zwaans (the same women who wrote this article) that independent schools are seeking legal advice because the government, who regulate all schools including independent schools, decided to actually regulate independent schools.

When the March article was published the Australian Christian Lobby SA/Vic chairman Rob Ward stated that such regulation would turn religious schools into "government schools with RE classes". Oh dear, how horrible. Can you imagine it, faith based schools being forced to teach the same things the government schools teach? Oh the humanity.

Today's article isn't any better, the executive director of AIS SA, Gary Le Duff stated that,
The overarching issue is where does regulation stop, it's not just about this debate.
Right. Clearly the problem is the Government telling independent schools, and remember this include non-religious schools as well, that they can't teach their kids shit and call it science.

He was also quoted as saying:
We have come to some arrangement where the schools communities can manage and govern their schools without excessive intrusion into the right of parents to have their children educated in a particular set of beliefs.
Which is irrelevant to the issue at hand. He also went on about "tolerance", which is also irrelevant. I'm starting to wonder whether the people who try and teach creationism in science classes here in Australia can actually grasp that. It's not about regulation or tolerance, it's about the science.

The Sydney Morning Herald picked up this story as well, with Stephen O'Doherty, the chief executive of Christian Schools Australia, telling us that they are banning the right to teach "biblical perspectives" in science classes.

Good. Seriously, it's a good thing that this is banned. Just like teaching from the perspective of the Koran, or the Vedas or the poetic edda, or even Dianetics. These are "perspectives" that aren't used in science, simply because they are simply rubbish. It doesn't help children understand evolution, in the same way as using these books to teach chemical principles or basic astronomy. Teaching it as true just confuses children, especially if you teach that your specific holy text is infallible.

The Advertiser's article also has a quote from Family First MP Dennis Hood, who said that it restricts parents wishes and that it's "dangerous ground" when you tell schools what they can and can't teach.

Well on parents wishes I think that they can go jump. One of the strengths of our school system is that the average parent doesn't determine the curriculum. The government employs competent individuals who determine what schools can and can't teach children. This ensures that we don't get situations here that we see in the US with creationists getting themselves elected to school boards and trying to force creationism into the curriculum.

And it's not "dangerous ground" at all. Year 12 topics are like that, there are a set number of choices in certain subjects that a school may choose to teach, but what they teach must come from those topics.

Yet we are supposed to see this as a bad thing? I guess it must be, since schools have to teach kids all of that dangerous actual science without being taught "Goddidit".

However, they are still allowed to teach creationism where it belongs, in RE.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Well I haven't written for a month...

... or have I?

Well, from a "what have I published" perspective, no. I haven't written anything.

The thing is that I actually have written posts.

I don't really know about other people, but I get ideas and start writing them down, and then I find them to be stupid. Other times I start writing on certain issues and find that I can't find enough information, or I just get distracted.

I'll start writing something from an emotional standpoint and then I look for information to double check things and I start to lose those emotions and then I start to wonder why I even bothered writing all that stuff.

I think I need to re-think how I write this blog. I'm thinking that I'll make sure I get at least one post per week on something. The topic shouldn't really matter, I should just write something.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Gary Ablett Sr. on things he doesn't understand

Gary Ablett is a well known former AFL player, as is his eldest son, Gary Ablett. However the young Gary Ablett seems to have the intelligence not to "write" an article on the Herald Sun website.

His father clearly doesn't. "What kind of world do we want to live in?" he asks, and proceeds to use 2,777 words to argue that it's essentially "one with God in it".

This is an article already embroiled in scandal, he plagiarised a few sections from American evangelical websites and then some.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Misquotes and morality

The article opens with two quotes:

THERE is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument and which cannot fail to keep man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." (Herbert Spencer)

The famous King Solomon, considered the wisest man of his day, also said, "He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him". (Proverbs 18:13)

Only one of these quotes is actually correctly attributed. Herbert Spencer never said that quote. According to Wikiquote it's misattributed to him. It is, in fact, a quote by William Paley. Yep, that's right, the watch guy.

I think that says a lot for this article, or at least whoever fact checks for the Herald.

However don't think this article is just about misquoting, it's also about morality, and looking back to another unspecified time in the past (probably somewhere from 1973 to 2009). He says things like:

...[T]hat we should each begin to grow and learn; aspiring to live better, more meaningful, more productive and more effective lives. Surely we should each be focused on discovering how we as individuals and communities can learn to live and work together in order to produce a far more peaceful, stable, secure and loving environment?

Sadly, in this once great nation of Australia, this does not seem to be the case, which is why I feel burdened and compelled to speak out.


Today, our newspapers, televisions and computer screens are full of shocking and horrible crimes, detailing a very serious decline in morals and values in our community. We read stories that describe a rapid deterioration in standards of behaviour wherever we look. Our culture struggles under the massive weight of increasing problems associated with hatred, anger, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicide, family breakdown, the devaluing of human life and dignity, and a growing disrespect for law and order, to name just a few - all of which work together to create and subsequently feed an enormous and expanding hole in the moral fabric that once upon a time held our society firmly together.

And also,

However, over recent years we have shifted further and further away from the inclusion of anything godly in our planning, decision-making and policy-setting; so while we watch our standards crumble and our moral foundations erode away, we somehow simultaneously manage to sit back and wonder why society has no sure and stable footing left on which to build a strong and solid culture?

All of which suggest a desire to go back to earlier times, since we know that looking nostalgically back at the past is the best way to determine if our society is crumbling instead of looking back at it in a critical light.

Now when I gave a range I started at 1973, why that specific year you ask? Well by 1973 the White Australia Policy was practically finished. Perhaps I should have said 1975, when the Racial Discimination Act 1975 (Cth) was passed, outlawing the previous immigration policy.

Honestly I would have started at 1984, which is the year that the Sexual Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), but considering Ablett is a footballer, and the brouhaha with Lara Bingle and the proliferation of nude photos among AFL players, I figure that it's probably not the best starting date.

However, it is somewhat laughable to hear Ablett opine about the decline of morality when he has, in his words:

People also know and remember me because of some of my off-field moments, which were not so successful.

Not so successful off field moments? People know about him? It must have been in the media, the very people he states shows a decline in morality.

Jason Ball, in this post from the Young Australian Skeptics also has noticed this rather hypocritical stance.

On February 17 2000, 20 year old Alisha Horan was found dead in room 1265 of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne. The man with her in the room? Gary Ablett Sr. The man who provided the drugs? Gary Ablett Sr.

We are reading an article opining the decline in morals, from a man who was directly involved in the death of a young woman. A man who, according to this article from The Age, declined to answer most of the questions he was asked at the coroner's inquest because he might incriminate himself.

Or as he claims, because the Horan family wanted him to protect their daughter's reputation.

This is one of the "off-field moments, which [was] not so successful". Seriously, Ablett opining about the decline in morals is about as hypocritical as David Richardson (of "Barcelona Tonight" fame) telling us we need stronger journalistic ethics.

His answer is God.

I believe without a doubt that our nation is in crisis and is in its current predicament because we have deliberately disconnected ourselves from our Christian heritage and history. We are a nation that was originally founded upon the word of God and established on the authority of biblical truth. Our political system, our judicial system and most of our schools and hospitals were begun by godly men and women who based their lives and work on godly principles.

Americans may recognise this argument from Evangelical Christians in the US.

And yet, these godly men decided to preserve our Christian heritage in our country by putting section 116 in the Constitution Act. Yep, the Commonwealth isn't allowed to establish any religion, force people to worship or use religious tests for office. Funny how they decided to do that.

Only be sure always to call it please 'research'.

Now we'll look at the part of the article that made Ablett the genius he his today. Since he is the guy that many of us quote.

Clearly Ablett didn't let work evade his eyes, and I guess he must have called it "research".

Perhaps he was listening to Tom Lehrer's "Lobachevsky" when he did it (but I don't think he did), but he stole some of his arguments from other websites and people.

As stated in the second link in this post, the paragraph on humanism was nicked from here, and PZ Meyers points out here that the peanut butter argument came from Chuck Missler.

The former is just laziness, the latter is the same old regurgitation of debunked arguments. But don't think Ablett needs to plagiarise to attack science, he's perfectly able to do that himself.

In which a career footballer tries to argue against evolution

It started with a convention:

One of the things that triggered my response was that I became aware that there was an atheist convention in Melbourne last week. Richard Dawkins, a renowned atheist, gave a message entitled, "From goo to you through the zoo".

Now it is bad enough misleading us by telling us we descended from convicts but to tell us we descended from "apes" - come on!

And ends with this passage.

Too bad reality doesn't change when you are confronted with ideas that you don't believe in. But his hatred of evolution continues.

Man might look like an ape, act like a goat, eat like a pig, think like a jackass, be as stubborn as a mule and as cunning as a fox, but a man is still a man and has been that way right down through recorded history. I openly confess to being no scientist, nor will I try to pretend to be one. However, it is not hard for the average person to understand some of the basic laws and principles within the scientific world. There is so much misinformation out there called "science", masquerading as "truth", and because we've been taught to believe these falsehoods it takes an abundance of information to get these misconceptions unseated. So please bear with me as I may need to get quite technical to get my message across.

I've bolded the most important sentence in this passage. Remember folks, get your science from actual scientists, not former-AFL players who think they actually understand what it is they are arguing against. However he has decided to pretend to be someone who actually understands what it is he is arguing against.

For example, molecular biologist Michael Dentin pointed out in his book, Evolution, A Theory in Crisis, that even Charles Darwin had to admit he had absolutely no hardcore empirical date, no concrete evidence, no substantial scientific facts, nothing to prove any of the major evolutionary transformation he asserted. The fact is that fossil records do not support Darwin's theory. Experts have come to realise that the gaps in the fossil records and the absence of precursor and intermediate forms are such that they can no longer be ignored or his theory be taken seriously. It was Darwin, the author of the theory of evolution himself, that confessed in a letter to Ossy Gray on September 5, 1857 that "one's imagination must fill up the very blanks".
I don't really know whether Ablett is quoting from Denton, or writing his own drivel here, and as far as I'm aware the quoted bit doesn't appear anywhere except in this article. Hell I can't even find the existence of an Ossy Gray. I think I've found the letter in question here (and also here, select page 120) to an Asa Gray, and it appears that Ablett is not beyond using a quote mine. Well I guess it's not lying when you're lying for Jesus.

The part of the letter that includes this bit is actually as follows:
VI. One other principle, which may be called the principle of divergence plays, I believe, an important part in the origin of species. The same spot will support more life if occupied by very diverse forms: we see this in the many generic forms in a square yard of turf (I have counted 20 species belonging to 18 genera),—or in the plants and insects, on any little uniform islet, belonging almost to as many genera and families as species.— We can understand this with the higher, animals whose habits we understand. We know that it has been experimentally shown that a plot of land will yield a greater weight, if cropped with several species of grasses than with 2 or 3 species. Now every single organic being, by propagating so rapidly, may be said to be striving its utmost to increase in numbers. So it will be with the offspring of any species after it has broken into varieties, or sub-species or true species. And it follows, I think, from the foregoing facts, that the varying offspring of each species will try (only few will succeed) to seize on as many and as diverse places in the economy of nature, as possible. Each new variety or species, when formed will generally take the place of and so exterminate its less well-fitted parent. This, I believe, to be the origin of the classification or arrangement of all organic beings at all times. These always seem to branch and sub-branch like a tree from a common trunk; the flourishing twigs destroying the less vigorous,—the dead and lost branches rudely representing extinct genera and families.

This sketch is most imperfect; but in so short a space I cannot make it better. Your imagination must fill up many wide blanks.— Without some reflexion it will appear all rubbish; perhaps it will appear so after reflexion.— | C. D.
I added the previous paragraph for context, but it's rather clear that the quote in question is about Darwin's crappy diagram rather then him stating that evolution doesn't have enough evidence and that you need to use your imagination.

I'm wondering if the Herald Sun actually employ spell and fact checkers, since this article seems to require both.

Beyond that, this paragraph is just wrong, and the article is just getting wronger as you continue through it.
With testimonies like this from the author of evolution himself, I submit to you that the theory of evolution is not only lacking in facts, but has absolutely no foundation whatsoever. If it was only ever a theory, how did it find its way into our classrooms and society as fact?
So we have a "testimony" from Darwin that is a quote mine the misuse of the word "theory".

The next three paragraphs are the peanut butter jar argument. I'm not really going to discuss this, but I would like to say that he has mistaken abiogenesis for spontaneous generation. He also uses the creationist definition of "information" which is I believe "whatever the hell you want it to mean".

To inform us about information
This begs the question that since information is not inherent within matter itself, nor can it be derived from natural law, "where did it come from?"

Take today's newspaper, for example, with the codes and printing on it. To try and derive the information in the newspaper from the natural laws that govern the paper alone is impossible because the information needs to be printed on to the laws that govern the paper.

To attempt to derive the morning's news from the chemistry of the paper alone without the input of information is absurd. Even in a simple newspaper we can appreciate "Intelligent Design". It is the same as a genetic code imprinted according to the laws of information and language on to matter.

Hey look, it's another standard creationist argument. Well, I guess the Herald Sun has newspapers that reproduce, so clearly that proves evolution wrong.

Let's just ignore the fact that we write newspapers to be different every day and that there is massive change between editions.

And we see that pesky "information". I wonder what it could mean? He still hasn't made that clear to us. At least we know it's about genetics. If DNA is like a newspaper then I'd say that Gary Ablett Sr.'s would read something like this:

5' Gary Ablett Sr. Born again Christian, therefore no understanding of science, AFL player, intelligence limitations to be implemented, prone to using drugs and making stupid arguments. 3'

If he hadn't already mentioned that we need God, we would be wondering how long until we get to "needs designer" (next paragraph in his article) and then "who is the designer (hint: G-d)".

Never play probability games with Ablett

More standard creationist canards are presented, this time the old "DNA is too improbable to form" coupled with the "hurricane through a junkyard" and that biological evolution is used to make aeroplanes.

Some of the renowned and respected scientists and mathematicians through the world have concluded that something as complex as the "DNA" molecule of every living thing occurring by chance is 10 to the power 130. In other words, one chance in 10 with a hundred and thirty zeros after it ... that is a huge number.

So remember folks, don't play a game of cards with him for money. He'll try and use crappy statistics to get out of paying you.

Too bad things like non-random selection and the simple fact that the probability of an even occurring that has already occurred is 1, does not factor into this man's head. Perhaps he'd forget his 6 times tables or something.

Where the Bible is quoted to attack science

It's the classic Romans quote. You know, Romans 1:23-25 where Paul says that everyone knows that God exists and you're an idiot for not accepting it?

Well it's in there, and he's calling everyone who doesn't believe what he does and idiot. It's a great way to convert people, until you get to the person who would rather be an idiot then blindly believe the things you do.

He concludes with this:

Advances in microbiology, DNA et al have dealt the final death blow to Darwinism.

DNA is a digital code.

Darwinism cannot explain the origin of life because it cannot explain the origin of information.

I think these three sentences summarise how ignorant he is of the actual science.

I guess he's been reading Ken Ham or something, because someone who has actually looked at what science actually says would not draw such stupid conclusions.

Ending the article with a poem

I'm not going to bother with the last couple of paragraphs. It's just more of the same. Evolution is a lie, no God leads to the self destruction of our way of life. And this:

God's word tells us we are a very special and unique and precious creation, made in God's image for an eternal relationship with God and a purpose and a destiny that is mind-blowing. And God loves and values us so much that He was willing to leave His glory, take on human nature and enter into His own creation to undo the damage done by a dark intruder, and provide a mechanism by which you and I can qualify and be eligible for that relationship, purpose and destiny which is there for the asking. But that is all I will say, as I am aware this is a sensitive area for some. I do not wish to come across as a Bible basher or a religious fanatic, for this is not a church.

A remarkable piece of dissonance here. The thing is Mr. Ablett, you do come across as a Bible basher and/or a religious fanatic. It's that simple. All the stuff above the bold? Bible bashing and religious fanaticism.

It closes with a poem that basically blames godlessness for Colombine. It's as if he wants people who think for themselves to not be swayed by his argument.

Much of his article was a rant against evolution. Since he opened his article with a fake quote from Herbert Spencer, I think I'll let him have the last word.

The quote comes from The Development Hypothesis:
Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution as not being adequately supported by facts, seem to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all. Like the majority of men who are born to a given belief, they demand the most rigorous proof of any adverse belief, but assume that their own needs none.