Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Read this and weep

Read this and weep: Abuse of Government Power.

some introductory context:

We all need to reflect seriously on what's going on. Not in anger and not in partisanship, but in keeping with our responsibilities as Senators and with an abiding respect for the fundamental values of our democracy.

Richard Clarke did something extraordinary when he testified before the 9-11 Commission last week. He didn't try to escape blame, as so many routinely do. Instead, he accepted his share of responsibility and offered his perceptions about what happened in the months and years leading up to September 11.

now some of the juicy bits:

The retaliation from those around the President has been fierce. Mr. Clarke's personal motives have been questioned and his honesty challenged. He has even been accused, right here on the Senate floor, of perjury. Not one shred of proof was given, but that wasn't the point. The point was to have the perjury accusation on television and in the newspapers. The point was to damage Mr. Clarke in any way possible.

this is all so juicy I had to quote it all:

When Senator McCain ran for President, the Bush campaign smeared him and his family with vicious, false attacks. When Max Cleland ran for reelection to this Senate, his patriotism was attacked. He was accused of not caring about protecting our nation -- a man who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, accused of being indifferent to America's national security. That was such an ugly lie, it's still hard to fathom almost two years later.

There are some things that simply ought not be done – even in politics. Too many people around the President seem not to understand that, and that line has been crossed. When Ambassador Joe Wilson told the truth about the Administration's misleading claims about Iraq, Niger, and uranium, the people around the President didn't respond with facts. Instead, they publicly disclosed that Ambassador Wilson's wife was a deep-cover CIA agent. In doing so, they undermined America's national security and put politics first. They also may well have put the lives of Ambassador Wilson's wife, and her sources, in danger.

When former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill revealed that the White House was thinking about an Iraq War in its first weeks in office, his former colleagues in the Bush Administration ridiculed him from morning to night, and even subjected him to a fruitless federal investigation.

When Larry Lindsay, one of President Bush's former top economic advisors, and General Eric Shinseki, the former Army Chief of Staff, spoke honestly about the amount of money and the number of troops the war would demand, they learned the hard way that the White House doesn't tolerate candor.

This is not "politics as usual." In nearly all of these cases, it's not Democrats who are being attacked.

Senator McCain and Secretary O'Neill are prominent Republicans, and Richard Clarke, Larry Lindsay, Joe Wilson, and Eric Shinseki all worked for Republican Administrations.

The common denominator is that these government officials said things the White House didn't want said.

I don't think our Australian government is as dodgy as this. But when John Howard recently accused Latham of misleading Parliament and the public over the circumstances of his decision a Labor government would withdraw troops from Iraq by Christmas, I thought:

"Is this an old pot calling the shiny new kitchenware black?"

(Despite Howard talking about strengthening defamation laws, I'm still allowed to think, aren't I?)

Does anybody remember Tampa? What about the children that were being thrown overboard, very close to election time? Do we think John Howard didn't know the contrary evidence, despite the fact that the contrary evidence and opinions were given to senior people in his party well before the election (if I recall correctly)?

What about the constantly repeated, assured claims that there were weapons of mass destruction? Do we believe they were 100% genuinely believed opinions based on rational analysis from the available intelligence?

These are all questions, I'm not trying to tell anybody what they should think. I just think: read up on these topics, look at what Bush's government has done, and criticisms of what it has done, especially around the time of the Iraq war. Decide who you believe more, the critics (Clarke, Wilson, O'Neill) or the senior government figures (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, etc.).

Then do the same for Howard's government. Read up on what happened, say with Tampa and then Iraq and maybe the Ethanol affair, getting both sides of the story. Then decide who you believe more, the critics or the senior govenment figures (Howard, Downer, etc.).

That's all I ask.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Summary of March 9 LathamForPM Meetup

This is a short summary of the discussions at the first "Latham for PM" or "Howard's End" meetup, which took place on Tuesday 9 March 2004 at "The Lounge", on Swanston Street in the City. It was supposed to be at "Sahara", but that venue was closed due to a parent teacher night.

Present: 10 people


Free Trade Agreement:

  • there is a balance of good and bad
  • there are some economic benefits
  • clause change in PBS may have bad ramifications
  • Intellectual Property law changes may have bad ramifications
  • don't want to end up like California, Mexico and Canada under NAFTA where government is sued by corporations for lost profit when they tighten environmental laws.
  • don't know all the details, the devil is in the details.
  • there was a robust discussion, with one person strongly for the FTA, a couple strongly against, and the rest undecided but with reservations. I hope that is an accurate assessment?

Role of Media in Elections

  • Howard Dean: who he is, what can be learnt from his online campaign.

    • some people read "Howard Dean is not a Soap Bar" which I'd printed out

    Role of internet in Australian election

    • some were skeptical that the internet would be important
    • I thought the internet would allow people to "route around" biased big media, making people more informed.
    • point was raised that the internet can make people's opinions more rather than less polarised, as people only need read articles that reinforce their biased opinions.

  • Discussion about big media selling us what they want us to hear

    • "Manufacturing Consent" by Noam Chomsky mentioned. Update: I now have a copy of this book.

Honesty in Politics

  • some people read through "Repairing Politics" by Mark Latham, which talks about the importance of rebuilding public trust in politics and politicians.
  • talked about the role of lobbyists, and the distorting effect money can have on politics.
  • came up with idea: website listing promises made by political parties before the election.

    • the idea is that before the election you sign up to support a party in that election, based on the list of promises they have made. The promises may be broken down into core and non-core? Part of signing up is to pledge that if 1 core promise is broken, or 2 non-core promises, then you will vote for the opposite major party in the next election. The idea is that this would be an incentive for politicians to keep their promises, and the process of deciding which promises have been kept or broken before the next election would also remind people how honest the party in power has been, therefore how much they can trust their current promises.

Allegations of whether John Howard is racist.

  • mention was made of whether John Howard was opposed to apartheid sanctions in the 80's and therefore maybe implicitly supported it. Read the bottom of link or link for more details.
  • mention was made of whether John Howard was opposed to Asian immigration in the 80's. Here is an article which clearly shows this viewpoint link, here are some more which back up the details: link, link, link.
  • I said I would check up on sources, see above.

How does our voting system work?

  • does it matter whether you vote directly for a major party or whether you only distribute preferences to it?

    • answer: in the lower house, almost certainly not. They both mean almost always the same thing.

If you have any comments or corrections please click on the "Comment" link and say your piece.

Monday, March 15, 2004

ABC website readability

I've just sent this email to the ABC, I wonder what their response will be. If you haven't seen the
AM or PM web pages, have a look, the text is REALLY small.


I'm just writing to let you know that whilst I am often drawn to articles on
the AM and PM websites,
I very rarely read them all the way through because the font size is far too
small and trying to read gives me a headache. Take for example:

which I was just trying to read. Why is the main story text so much smaller
than the other text on the page? The other text is clearly legible, and easy on
the eye. The main article text is barely readable unless one squints. I am a 27
year old male with good eyesight and no glasses. I hate to think how my father
or grandmother (who might also be target audience) would cope. Almost all news
agencies these days are pretty good at producing clearly readable web articles,
look at anything from as a good example of news web
page design. How many people are going to read your articles if they need to
squint to do so, and so much other content is available that is easy on the

I had a look in your CSS file "/am/css/rcaff.css" and found the following
section: {~ lines 313-315}

DIV.storytext {
CLEAR: both; PADDING-RIGHT: 12px; PADDING-LEFT: 12px; FONT-SIZE: x-small;
PADDING-BOTTOM: 12px; COLOR: #000000; PADDING-TOP: 12px; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, Geneva, sans-serif

You are setting the text size for the article to "x-small", which would explain
why it's unreadable. Is this intentional? After changing this line to be:
... FONT-SIZE: small; ...

viola, the web page becomes readable. If you want people with non-superhuman
eyesight to be able to read your articles, I would recommend against using
"x-small" font size.

I would welcome any response, even justification for keeping your web
pages with smaller font sizes than almost anywhere else on the web.

I've attached an updated CSS file which makes the change described above.

Thankyou for your consideration,


Will they tell me to get lost? Will they listen? Only time will tell. In the mean time,
I'm using Ctrl-= in Firefox to magnify their articles, but only when I can be bothered.

Monday, March 08, 2004 and

A couple of interesting links: and our NQR dog Harry's website (not working at the moment, not a good endorsement for dogster) -- for events in your local city.

link -- for Upcoming events in Melbourne. -- a pretty cool looking (meta|multi) search engine. It's annoying though that I can't get it to default to Google - other search engines are only useful on the rare occasion that Google doesn't give me what I want ;-)