Sunday, June 29, 2008

An argument against censorship under defamation threat

“The media should not live in constant fear of facing a libel suit every time a provocative commentary is published or broadcast, the Supreme Court of Canada said on Friday in a major [unanimous] ruling won by controversial Vancouver radio broadcaster Rafe Mair.” Globe & Mail

Mair, formerly a BC MLA for the Social Credit Party, is on the tame end of the shock jock scale. Mair had taken issue with a prominent activist promoting public support of a Surrey school board decision to ban three books depicting same-sex parents. He was sued for his provocative images of Nazi Germany and the Ku Klux Klan in a broadcast.

Ironical his anticensorship carried right through to the Supreme court hearing, the defamation case becoming a censorship case.

“An individual's reputation is not to be treated as regrettable but unavoidable roadkill on the highway of public controversy, but nor should an overly solicitous regard for personal reputation be permitted to ‘chill' freewheeling debate on matters of public interest,” Mr. Justice Ian Binnie said.

Judge Binnie said that the key to a defence of honest belief – particularly in an era when extravagant overstatement is common – should lie in whether an honest person could have held the same opinion. Globe & Mail

Even way over here in Australia we can rejoice such a profound finding. I’m no lawyer and don’t fully understand the mechanics of cross jurisdiction precedent, but I am aware Canada and Australia tend to share ‘common law’ findings.

While I personally try to avoid inflammatory language I’m sure I cross the line into potential defamation at times. It is the nature of passionate commentary. In a world increasingly monstered by mindless litigation it is heartening to have a clear and sensible precedent if I am ever called.

LINK to the finding WIC Radio Ltd. v. Simpson

Friday, June 27, 2008

Canadian Federal election looming?

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has created the team he plans to lead into the next federal election by shuffling his cabinet to fill the critical vacancy at Foreign Affairs and provide lift in the key battlegrounds of Quebec and British Columbia.

Well that is the scenario, though it is hard to see the point. According to all the polls Harper will come out of a contest with a minority government – hardly his preferred outcome. One commentator described the cabinet reshuffle as:

“…was arguably the best selection from a shallow gene puddle of Cabinet-ready MPs.”

To make things worse for Harper, his star, the turncoat Liberal, and now Foreign Minister is highly unlikely to see re-election. Reports are that David Emerson has had a gutful of political pettiness and prefers to deploy his economics PhD and blue-chip connections in a business world featuring super-sized paycheques and perks.

Even if he runs, his reputation as the Liberal cabinet minister who crossed the floor to the Conservatives before the official election results were posted will ensure he's not re-elected in that Vancouver riding unless there's a catastrophic meltdown in Liberal support.

So that rules out and expected BC benefit for Harper. Pandering to Quebec will also count against Harper in the Western provinces. Not fatally, but certainly enough to ensure continued minority status. The big failing of Harpers government is the poor representation of women. There are just seven women in a 32-member Cabinet and most of them in junior jobs with zero visibility.

Canadian voters seem to be content with their ‘not really a government’ situation. It might seem like voters are ‘cutting off their nose to spite their face’, but the fact is they have gone through difficult periods of corruption revelations and genuinely lack lustre representatives.

Perhaps it is time for some candidates with a real fire in the belly to stand up, but then perhaps that is just not the Canadian way.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Free traders going for the throat

AWB, the Australian monopoly wheat exporter planted the seeds for the destruction of our last great ‘single desk’ marketing exercise. Heavy handed corruption in capitalising on the Iraq food aid program led to the inevitable collapse of the monopoly export concept under a Rudd government.

AWB lost its monopoly in 2007 after the revelations of the Cole Inquiry and new laws will allow Australia's wheat industry regulator to accredit new companies to market and export wheat, and ensure they are granted access to bulk grain port terminals.

The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) gave the original heads up on AWB’s Iraqi cheating, in a cheeky query to the UN Oil for Food administrators. It was little more than snipe, but led to the opening of a giant can of worms. Now that can of worms is spilling onto the CWB as well.

Harper’s minority Conservative government has been frantic to break the monopoly (more correctly monopsony) of the CWB. Opposition parties blocked a move by the Conservatives to "fast-track" an end to the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on barley.

They declined to consent to a government plan to directly send the barley bill to the agriculture committee, meaning it will follow the usual track of debate and a vote in the House of Commons before going to the committee.

In 2006, in an attempt to win Western farmers more freedom to conduct their business as they see fit, the Harper government initiated a number of extra-Parliamentary measures designed to break the CWB's grip on the grain market. Without a majority in the House of Commons to change the CWB law, the Tories tried, instead, to introduce market freedoms through the back door. This was only ever a second-best move, and it was fraught from the start with political and legal risks.

Last week a federal court judge ruled unconstitutional a two-year-old ban by the federal government prohibiting the CWB from spending farmer's money advocating for its continued monopoly over western grain sales. However I suspect unconstitutional relates to the board rather than the country.

Rudd managed to get his bill through because the opposition conservatives here are split on the question of single desk marketing verses free trade. While farmer supporters might have protested the end of the old agrarian socialist model the AWB had already ensured it was dead in the water here.

The Canadian dynamic, however, is more about the pure politics than it is about economic ideology. The opposition Liberals would dearly love to pick up the support of those farmers under threat from Harper’s grand plan. I expect the CWB will survive the free trade push.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Economics a catch-all stew

I suggested on a recent post - Economics of the pendulum swing – that I would be trying to get a handle on the Rudd government’s attempt at creating an economic concept -Market Democracy. Well what I did, while economics writer Ross Gittins was busy looking at the Aussie creation I went off looking at some comparative economics.

Gittins first, with his summary – “So Dr Emerson’s [Craig Emerson - the Minister for Small Business] ideal world fits John Kenneth Galbraith's ironic summation of the conservatives' position: the rich need more money as an incentive and the poor need less money as an incentive.

In a nutshell, the new political philosophy of "market democracy" he proposes is that "the role of policymakers is to allow the market to create prosperity and out of that prosperity to expand opportunity, not the welfare state".

Meanwhile I was looking at the Canadian and US economic dynamic where Conservatism still rules, albeit with a Rudd like change likely in the US. What I am seeing, across the board, is that blanket isms simply distract us from a far more complex reality.

George W and Stephen Harper, for example, believe John McCain is far too soft for their liking. In Harper’s case he even seems more willing to support Obama instead of his ‘natural’ ally. Yet George and Stephen both insist on maintaining powerful socialist sectors in their economies. Very selective socialist policies mind you, focused mainly on corporate welfare and agricultural subsidies.

Obama, during the primaries, was all in favour of dismantling NAFTA – “I didn't just start criticizing unfair trade deals like NAFTA because I started running for office - I'm doing it because I've seen what happens to a community when the factory closes down and the jobs move overseas.” Obama

It seems, with the primaries over and the need to win the labor movement diminished, Obama has decided that NAFTA is not such a bad thing after all. To be fair to both Rudd and Obama, rushing in with wholesale structural change would simply cause economic chaos. However it is difficult to see where either of them would seriously contemplate straying too far from the current agenda.

At least the Keynesian economic model was honest, from top to bottom. It was predicated on the notion of an interventionist, hands-on approach by government. If the requirement for one sector was socialist and for another market forces so be it. These current models seem to simply pander with words and deliver the same old market based solutions.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Media and the five floating feet

Google News provides an incredible opportunity to follow a specific news story in minute detail. It also allows the opportunity to do a forensic investigation of dubious reporting. Let’s start with a proposition from the Vancouver Sun:

“The RCMP has refused to release photos of the shoes, or information about their make or size, which could help people identify missing loved ones.”

A few news reports have stressed that the police are keeping a tight hold on information, and some have even gone on to quote police sources for information. I know, from personal experience, the pressure an editor can exert on a reporter to dramatize this kind of story.

I also know how embarrassed the reporter can feel when the facts are skewed under their byline. After all, it is the journalist in the field building rapport with news sources, including police, who pay the price for false attribution of quotes.

In a recent post - Five feet of pure mystery in Vancouver – I detailed a number of ‘facts’ so far revealed in the case of the disarticulate feet. Since that post I’ve become aware that any actual police revelations have come from local cops not really involved in the investigation. Often those quotes appear to be a little tongue in cheek and certainly not official.

The other source of ‘police’ revelations can be found in other reports to have come from witnesses, and we know witnesses are not always very accurate. But then exactly the same quotes will turn up elsewhere attributed to cops.

…but anyone with secrets is under scrutiny. Especially the police. There's a strong suspicion on blogs that the police know more than they're saying. Times Colonist

The bottom line is that none of the facts I detailed have been officially verified, they are in essence little more than speculation. The trouble with the cops withholding information is that the media will quickly fill the gaps.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Economics of the pendulum swing

The political cycle is something I talk about from time to time, with the latest posts on the issue being:

The political pendulum is still swinging February 26, 2008

Swing your partner to the left then dosado December 27, 2007

However part of the unknown was just what sort of economics would be involved in a swing away from the creeping national socialist model we were/are being subjected to. Certainly there was never going to be a wholesale repudiation of market economics, but there were signs that a social agenda would need to be part of the new model.

It seems the new model is emerging, but it doesn’t promise any sort of instant fix, in fact the main gains would seem to be at least a generation away and on into the future. I guess given the healing process we now face globally the quick fix is a pipe dream anyway.

Market Democracy is flagged as the future, for the Rudd government at least. The only “professional economist” in Rudd’s line-up, Minister for Small Business Craig Emerson, has “proposed a ‘unifying political philosophy’ that embraced the universal values reaffirmed in the Millennium Declaration - freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility

For those with a little curiosity Market Democracy is well worth a look. I’ve been doing a mental sidetrack however, given that name Emerson. In Canada, apart from PM Harper his only experienced economist is another Emerson, David . I met David Emerson briefly when he was first standing for a Canadian Federal seat in 2004, as a Liberal. He later jumped to the Conservatives when they gained power.

The name is no doubt coincidental, and neither will become party leader, but both seem to be winning respect in the right places. According to a recent score card of Canadian leadership in the National Post - Who makes the grade? A report card on senior Conservatives:

Stephen Harper… Loyalty in his caucus is wafer thin because their respect is commanded not earned and thus vulnerable to backstabbing the minute he goes from asset to liability.

David Emerson: (interim Foreign Affairs Minister) The only one minister who will stand toe-to-toe against Mr. Harper in a showdown and live to declare victory.

I will be watching the developments of this Market Democracy proposal with interest. I have a feeling that the politically pragmatic David Emerson would find the concept of immense interest as well.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Scandal to the left of me, scandal to the right…

“This so far is only a media scandal, not a matter of law-breaking or obvious moral depravity.” Jim Hoagland, Washington Post, on Jim Johnson scandal.

This blog was born out of my fascination with political scandal and corruption. Not that I do it myself, and despite being caught up in a few no one has ever actually offered me a bribe. I never know how to take that.

Part of my interest is in understanding the management of scandal exposure, why some bad ones can become a ‘storm in a tea cup’ and some relatively minor ones result in major head rolling. Just lately we are watching (well some of us) a fascinating series of scandals and their management:

  • Canada: Superboob - Maxime Bernier - Julie Couillard. PM Stephen Harper has already lost a senior cabinet minister and a top aide to another minister as a result of the growing scandal over how his government operates.

  • US: VP vetting committee - Jim Johnson. “This so far is only a media scandal, not a matter of law-breaking or obvious moral depravity.”

  • Australia: The Iguana Joes Big Bight Out - NSW MP John Della Bosca and his wife, federal MP wife Belinda Neal - “I will have your f***ing license… You will not be trading in three months time... Don’t you know who I am,..”

Canada’s Stephen Harper does manage to get through rolling scandals reasonably well, though might eventually pay the price if he doesn’t sort out the numerous weak links in his governing party. Part of his problem is that the Conservatives were cobbled together and include a number of problem personalities. He manages scandal well, by dropping the axe on ministers and others who are exposed.

Obama shows a great flair for scandal management, he does a great mea culpa and has learned to quickly cut loose and problem staff or supporters. The Jim Johnson affair was only ever a media event, but Obama wasn’t waiting around for it to grow.

His approach seems far more effective than Bush’s bumbling through scandal, seeming to direct loyalty to his own people rather than to the country.

The Aussie Iguana Joes gives us a good look at how two separate leaders handle the same scandal in their own jurisdictions. PM Rudd dealt with his federal MP Belinda Neal by insisting she immediately undergo anger counseling, but he left himself exposed by leaving her in parliament. The fact is he can’t really sack her as an MP, but at the same time he has kept her at arms length. So far so good.

In NSW Premier Iemma botched his part from the start. Sure he stood down Education Minister and husband of Neal, John Della Bosca. But right at the start the Premier’s staff were involved in a ham fisted cover-up attempt.

Iemma’s other problem was the he is also fighting on a few other fronts, notably the sell-off the States power assets. Being personally unpopular doesn’t help when faced with scandal allegations.

This is one I have been able to watch unfold, and perhaps can see even more of the dynamic. For example, as Belinda Neal looks worse by the day Rudd is simply getting on with business. On the other hand Della Bosca is actually looking better as each day passes and Iemma is visibly floundering.

The pattern we are seeing on scandal management seems to be:

  • Do not attempt cover-ups
  • Distance the subject of the scandal as quickly as possible
  • Know that there are more important loyalties than those to staff, colleagues and friends

As Bush has shown numerous times, that loyalty is often counter-productive. The longer an issue is receiving air time to more likely someone is going to pay the price. It is the drip-drip effect.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Five feet of pure mystery in Vancouver


Sixth foot a 'reprehensible' hoax: B.C. coroner

A sixth foot believed to have washed ashore on Vancouver Island was not human, although it was found inside a sock and running shoe, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

"A forensic pathologist and an anthropologist have examined the shoe and remains, and determined a skeletonised animal paw was inserted into the shoe with a sock and packed with dried seaweed," BCCS said in a statement Thursday.

Five feet have been discovered over the last six months in the Islands Georgia Strait off Vancouver. The story, which I’ve followed but not blogged here, tickles me for a number of reasons. First is the pure mystery and the various elements of evidence slowly surfacing; the second is some of the inane reporting, either attempts at creating a more sensational story or just the fun of wordplay.

Let’s get the wordplay out of the way first. I had my fun on Ragebot - Five foot nothing in Vancouver It has also been described as a ‘podiatric speculationfest’; gotta love that one. A “disarticulated human foot is cute.” Hold back evidence” is term that has surfaced here to describe the information investigators do not release for various reasons. “Severed Feet Plague Canadian Beaches;” one way of putting it…Jaunted describes itself as “The Pop Culture Travel Guide”

To the mystery

First up is the speculation as to where four right feet and one left foot, all in sneakers and socks, might come from. Well we’ll hang on a bit before we get to the various theories, first we need to look at the bits of evidence leaking through from investigators.

The feet were discovered on Gulf Islands beaches: Jedediah Island (Aug. 20), Gabriola Island (Aug. 26) and Valdes Island (Feb. 8), Kirkland Island, near the Massey Tunnel, on May 22, and the latest on (June 16) on Westham Island in Ladner, south of Vancouver at the mouth of the Fraser River.

The supposed facts emerging

  • All five of the feet had been submerged in water all in socks and men's sneakers
  • All apparently separated from the bodies naturally by decomposition
  • The footwear in which all five feet were found saved them from further disintegration.
  • All the feet, according to one report, are of similar shape, but then we don’t see many feet not shaped like feet
  • The first four were right feet, the fifth a left foot. Apparently the left foot does not match the previously found right feet.
  • Police refused to comment on the possible sex of the victims belonging to the feet
  • The feet have been found within about 95 kilometres of each other
  • The first two found were size 12
  • The feet could have drifted down the Fraser River, from any number of communities and tributaries in the B.C. interior.
  • On the other hand they might have drifted on sea currents into the Strait of Georgia, which separates the B.C. mainland from Vancouver Island.
  • The third was found inside a man's Reebok sneaker on Gabriola Island.

The speculation

Some believe the feet belong to victims of a float plane crash in 2005. Others say they may be those of suicide victims or fishermen gone overboard. Still others fear they are the dumped remains of biker gang murders, even though there is no evidence the feet were sawed off. Another popular suggestion is that they are Tsunami victims.

I was all for the tsunami theory until the report of one sneaker less than two years old. I’ll just keep watching, and maybe add to the list of reported ‘facts’. As long as I don’t have to hang around the Vancouver forensic scientist charged with boiling down the feet to extract usable DNA.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tale of two cities

There seems to be a few political certainties which transcend geography and cultures; one being that federal parliaments tend to attract a disproportionate number of lawyers and local and state/provincial bodies a strong core of property developers. Although the latter bodies, involved as they are with planning approvals, might actually create the developer along the way.

These thoughts stem from a comparison of two widely separated cities, well Port Macquarie/Hastings on the NSW coast has never realized actual city status, though it does have roughly the same population base as the regional city of Chilliwack BC. They both share rapidly declining rural roots and are both now depending on ‘growth’ to go forward.

Oh, and both have identities under investigation for potential development malpractice, and overspending on developments supposedly of value to the community. The Port Mac council has actually been dumped and replaced by an administrator after the fiasco surrounding the building of an arts centre. Chilliwack is being criticized, apart from other development issues, for moving ahead with construction of an arts centre.

The Port Mac Glasshouse project, initially expected to cost the council $ AUD 7.3 million, had blown out to over $41.7 million, and with interest repayments likely to extend the council's liability to $66 million. Chilliwack has long been planning a Cultural Centre, a similar facility to the Glasshouse, but no price tag has been yet announced.

The Port Mac council is now under administration and their Chilliwack counterparts are in moderate disarray, following the allegations of developer deals against former mayor and now sacked BC Solicitor-General, John Les. Any real differences are in the political ties for the two councils.

Both NSW state government and BC provincial government are equally corrupt, but unlike BC the Port Mac council is on the wrong side of the current political divide. Former mayor Rob Drew still tries to conduct council from the back stalls, but unlike Les he has no buddies upstairs to shore up his position.

The issues for both go much deeper than cosmetic cultural centres, taking in the broad sweep of land and infrastructure development as well. Releasing and rezoning land is always open to major corruption, as is letting contracts for civil developments. Like most communities these two will probably just live with it; ‘it happens everywhere, what can I do about it?’

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Not everyone laughs

In the whole of the industrialized world, the OECD ranks Australia's and New Zealand's farming sectors as the healthiest. Not coincidentally, they are also the freest and least dependent on government handouts. Lorne Gunter - National Post

I don’t necessarily accept the OECD take on healthiest. Given the choice, if I were a farmer, I would prefer to farm in Canada. As a consumer I think our antipodean produce is far superior, but I’m damned if I can afford a good feed of fresh veggies, or a succulent piece of fresh meat or fish here.

Given all that, the world is moving toward a food crisis and it’s time for me to resurrect a long held vision. Whenever I suggest the idea of Canada and Australia, and lets throw in New Zealand here, forming into a tight trading bloc I get laughed at. Well, not everyone laughs, most people just yawn and turn their attention back trimming their toenails. But hey! If I repeat it often enough…

Ok, all up the two countries have a population just one sixth of the US, a rest room queue in China; but they are also major mineral and agricultural sources. The synergies are all too obvious, with cross holdings between Canada and Australia in the mining sector and a shared reputation as food bowls.

The countries have every similarity except that Kiwis and Canucks talk funny, but there is a major fundamental factor which could turn these geographically separated economies into trade powerhouses: they are both gateways to major markets.

Well I shouldn’t need to draw a map here for you to realize the importance of Canada’s position in the Americas, and Australia is increasingly a part of economic as well as geographic Asia.

The main problem seems to be that we are out of synch politically. No sooner does the Conservative Harper become Canadian PM does the conservative Howard lose power in Australia. But we now have Rudd and the Kiwi honco Helen Clarke. If they aren’t the epitome of modern economic pragmatism I’ll give the game away.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Affairs Up North

Even after first hand practical experience I still find the Canadian politics confounding. It could be the national ‘niceness’, though that is probably only nice by degree; they are capable of being personally acerbic as any other national group I’ve known.

Still, the curiously timid approach to the US and politics in general makes it a difficult place to really understand. These thoughts were triggered by a media advisory I received last week, from Industry Canada and announcing a major initiative in my old haunt of Chilliwack BC.

Given the dynamics of what I do know I guessed the announcement might be to do with that rural cities major employer, Stream International. Stream is a call centre, attracted to Chilliwack under a raft of government incentives, all due to run out soon. Well a major announcement from all three tiers of government might suggest…

But no, the much publicised announcement was for a new online business permit and licence service called BizPaL! Whacko the chook! So bloody exciting I could shit! Anyway, it drew my attention back to La politique Canadienne.

Canada is not due for a federal election until October 2009 though the Conservatives are hading a minority government and could fail at any time. That doesn’t necessarily mean a new election as the Governor General can invite other parties form a government.

Conservatives a flying high at the moment with as much as 35% of the vote nationally, enough to keep them ahead in the minority stakes. But leader, Stephen Harper, faces the same economic uncertainties as other world leaders. He is also dealing with a weak caucus and bubbling scandals; the latest being l'affaire Bernier.

The main opposition, the Liberals, are determined to continue flying some sort of Québécois flag, ensuring a lingering resentment across much of the country. I guess if some of the more useful Liberal MPs followed David Emerson’s lead and defected Harper might find he has a little more talent to work with. Loyalty is not a strong suit in Canadian politics.

So here I am motivated to bore the rest of the world to tears and start scratching around again in the Politics of the deep north. I might just start with the story off two boobs, the mistress and the minister! We shall see.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A US political up-skirt

Ok, a crude reference, but watching from downunder does give a slightly different perspective. Paul Sheehan is one of Australia’s more respected journalists. Sheehan opens his observation [here] with:

"On the final hour of the final day of the 2008 presidential primary campaigns last week, the three remaining candidates gave three highly revealing speeches in rapid succession on national TV.

John McCain was abysmal but honest. When he smiled his face became a death mask. His crowd was small, their energy smaller.

Hillary Clinton was all about blackmail, packaged as "respect". But her arguments were logical and true.

Barack Obama was all soaring rhetoric and effortless charisma before an enchanted throng of 15,000, with 15,000 more outside. He said nothing of substance, nothing profound, but his is a profound candidacy."

I guess Sheehan has, well we Aussies have the benefit of distance, both physically and electorally. His message resonates here. Our commentators have rarely wavered from the inevitability of an Obama victory, regardless of their individual political stance.

First posted on Ragebot

Sunday, June 08, 2008

China’s hold on US a market illusion

I seem to have wasted a great deal of time in the past few months, on other blogs, debating with conservatives about the cause of the current hold China has over the US. It’s largely economic/trade based and the conservative tendency is to blame Clinton (the cigar Clinton).

I take a broader view of economic cycles and maintain the trend began with Reagan, at the very least, even though Reagan himself was an avowed trade isolationist. A president is still only part of a much larger machine. But blame is only relevant in recognising and fixing a problem, which is why I’m recognising wasted time.

I sometimes complain that the ‘experts’ are delinquent in not seeing economic dramas before they suddenly unfold. Though I suspect the reality is that we are market driven and the economic Jeremiahs are drowned out in the process. The China hold on the US and world economy could well be another of those market illusions.

The way I’m seeing it is that to gain its threatening position China had to become an integral part of the world economy. To do that it had to become dependent on growth resources like the Western developed economies have been for so long. Incidentally another massive market, India, has developed at the same time.

China has 19.85% of world population, India 17% and the US a paltry 4.56%. If the US and already developed economies were straining available resources, where are well over 35% of the worlds population suddenly going to find them?

Certainly the world is in for a major shakeup, but I doubt China will have any real ability to threaten the US or any other economy. On the other hand the rest of us really do need to look at how we are going to restructure our lives. The fact is, the earth simply can’t provide our growing level of demand.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Breaking plates a natural event

Our friend Enigma recently raised the question about strange happenings as potential predictors of major seismic events. Her blog mused about: China 2 Hours Before The Quake… Really Strange Skies. I’m no scientist, just curious, but it did remind me of my own thoughts on major seismic predictors.

It began when I was living on top of the Juan de Fuca subduction zone in BC. If Californians are concerned about their slip faults then they would be really frantic about the subduction zone through the coast of Washington and BC, a big one there would create destructive powers way beyond anything further south.

But the series of Asian quakes, like the 2004 Indian Ocean quake had me thinking that enormous pressure must be relieved on the eastern side of the Pacific plate as the western side becomes increasingly active.

That is prediction one, sure the western Americas coastline will continue to be shaken, probably more so in the South American region. Well, observation suggests that SA is still fairly active where NA has quieted significantly.

But for how long? Well given the massive upheavals occurring around the giant Indo-Australian plate there could be a real reduction of stresses in the north eastern Pacific for centuries. The fact is, the Indo-Australian plate is in the process of breaking apart, and the adjoining African and Arabian plates are changing too.

Now prediction two is more about a potential predictor based on precursor events, or the potential to identify those signs. I’m still slowly gathering evidence, but essentially I suspect that preceding events somewhere along a plate line might give a few days warning of a big one.

Not being very scientific I had focused on the area around Antarctica. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea, subduction earthquake, triggering a massive tsunami. Two days earlier there was a significant (8.1) quake just off Macquarie Island, near the Antarctic.

Of course, thinking this through, the danger is not the size of the quake but its proximity to large populations. The China quake, probably driven by stresses from the north moving Indo-Australian plate, preceded another Antarctic even a few days later. Perhaps my predictor fails on the basis that if first one occurs in a heavy population area we might only hope to save a few penguins.

I’m also curious to figure in South American events, perhaps they are related to the Indian/Southern Ocean events, making it a North South, rather than an East/West prediction model. I’m sure a computer modeling program could correlate the data we are constantly receiving. Unfortunately, lacking the skill or patience, I’m stuck with patchy observation.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

When a top cop goes bad

One of the bosses of the NSW Crime Commission, Mark Standen, has been charged this week with conspiracy to import 600kg of pseudoephedrine - used to make the drug ice. The Sydney arrest follows those of 12 people in The Netherlands last week.

It is alleged he used his position, as assistant director with the highly secretive crime commission, to tip off the international syndicate on how to evade detection and told them of drug law enforcement activities.

Bad enough for the cop in charge of particular investigations should breach the trust, but Standen has cast a shadow over a number of key agencies. Before he took on the Crime Commission role he was with the Australian Federal Police (AFP); his ‘mistress’ works for the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Investigations show he has used some notorious ex-cops for collections among other things. The whole affair shows that police corruption is deeply entrenched here, at some freighting levels, despite some very encouraging signs of front line policing improving out of sight.

So this top cop has managed to cast a massive cloud over the integrity of policing agencies. Not only that, it has also cast doubt on any prosecutions this bent bastard has been involved with.

No doubt he will face enough charges to bury him for a few lifetimes, but that is still too good for him.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Flim flam man

If bullshit was music the NSW state treasurer, Michael Costa, would put John Philip Sousa to shame. Costa just bought down the budget promising major infrastructure spending over the next decade.

This is a government which has regularly promised infrastructure development, then quietly buried projects at their earliest convenience. It is a sham budget, by the sham treasurer of a sham government.

The whole big spending budget is predicated on Costa’s desire to sell off the state’s power generation assets. I’ve been there before; we don’t want our assets sold. The ‘promised’ $57.6 billion spend up, $20 billion covered by surplus, is a pathetic con. Even that amount could and should be covered by debt.

Instead Costa wants his corporate buddies to have access to that debt rather than the people. He wants his corporate buddies to own the profits too – after all, they are they ones who will pay him off after politics.

I won’t bore you with an image of this faux bald headed pub thug. The hard man obviously has delusions of brain cells that simply don’t exist. Costa thinks he can panic us into a trade off; have our essential development but sell off our assets.. Bugger him with a fish fork!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Mugabe bloody obscene

The presence of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at a United Nations summit on food security in Rome is "obscene", Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Monday. Africasia

ROME - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe flew into Rome for a global food summit on Sunday, his first official trip abroad since elections condemned by Western and opposition leaders as fraudulent. Reuters World News

As much as the Zimbabwe situation pains me, I haven’t jumped all over the general current situation. Australia has a range of odd relationships with the country once known as Rhodesia.

I can recall when there were mixed feelings about the unilateral declaration of independence, the split from what was still the Commonwealth of British Nations. That move, in its own right, was laudable.

History invariably proves us wrong, and even though my quotes are early news I’m more than happy to have the Australian Foreign Minister call Mugabe’s Rome visit obscene; doubly when I considered my own verbal responses o the news.

No plaudits to Reuters here, but if you want a bit more info about this obscenity: Key facts about Zimbabwe's President Mugabe