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myshkin press


Democracy v2.0

Hey, check it out, pretty cool website this. It's all about keeping representatives accountable and all that. It's hot stuff.

But the best part is just about anything Bill Heffernan says. The Heff is a veritable treasure trove of wacked-out, moonbat-crazy ramblings. And now I can get it in a weekly mailing. I love it.

* disclosure: I am not entirely unassociated with the website above-linked ;)


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Teen Hacks Tram Network With TV Remote

For those who pooh pooh security threats or believe they're all a result of lazy programmers or devious marketers here's a story worth noting.

In the classic security hack scenario a teenage geek with too much time on his hands reverse engineered the infrared protocol used to control tram track changes in Poland. He modified a TV Remote to send the appropriate signals and then treated the tram system as his own personal train set.

Security holes arise because of unimagined scenarios usually involving incredibly knowledgeable people with way too much spare time, new technologies becoming cheaply and widely available or very clever solutions to problems previously believed to be practically intractable.

Basically in response to my Dad's complaints about Windows updates (Quote: If they don't get it right the first time, then bad luck to them!), I'd like to point out that the people involved here were not programmers. Engineers left the infrared communication system wide open and failed to foresee this mischievous teen geek.

If that's not enough for you then think that virtually every car security system is cracked shortly after its release and professional thieves are able to enter almost any car within seconds. The reason this isn't a bigger problem for owners is (a) because the auto manufacturer community isn't as open as the software industry, and doesn't feel the obligation to notify owners of their insecurity or provide improvements, and (b) because stealing a car is still very hard due to the difficulty of selling it on, whereas stealing data (or causing other problems) anonymously is relatively easy and isn't always done for profit.

...read the full story.

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Paleo-conservative Indigenous Policy

If you can't takes the kids off the land, take the land off the kids.

So it's been a little while since I posted and a lot has happened, but Howard's "send in the army" NT farce was a bit too much to ignore. Especially with the mainstream press dropping the ball 'children overboard' style.

All we hear is victim-porn about all the horrible things happening in indigenous Australia. Since it's suddenly okay to care about indigenes, there's so many stories to write it's hard for journalists to know where to start. But the one story not being told, is the one that is news: in the sense of novel/something that hasn't been the case for the last decade.

The NT plan is a land grab. It has nothing to do with children. And the only paper that has the story is The Australian of all places.

For months we've been hearing media reports about Mal Brough's ham-fisted attempts to get communities to agree to 99 year leases of their land to the government. The government would lease the land the people live on back to them and develop the rest of it without pesky things like consultation and such like.

From the article:
Pat Anderson, spokeswoman for a group of Aboriginal health experts that met in Sydney yesterday, said if the Prime Minister was seriously concerned about child sexual abuse in the Territory, he should implement the recommendations from the Little Children Are Sacred report, which he said had triggered his intervention.

She said it provided "an excellent and evidence-based framework for intervention", but that Mr Howard's actions bore no resemblance to the Territory report's findings.

Now, under the cover of a 'national emergency' in indigenous child abuse, Brough and the PM have taken the curiously irrelevant step of compulsorily acquiring 73 NT indigenous communities' land on 5 year leases. They'll be paid 'fair compensation' for the value of their land, but presumably the Mutitjulu people will no longer have a veto over whether hotels near Uluru can be built on their sacred sites, or others over whether mines are built on theirs.

From another article:
Ms Turner believed the reason John Howard called the intervention a national emergency was because he wanted to get hold of Aboriginal lands ceded to them under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act of 1976.

"I believe that's why the Prime Minister called it a national emergency, because the Land Rights Act has a national interest clause,' she said.

In 5 years when nothing of value to the people is left, they'll be offered Brough's original 99 year leases again or some reason can be dreamt up to compulsorily acquire the land for another 5 years. Howard made his plans clear when he refused to guarantee that they would ever own their land again.

Concerned about indigenous child abuse? Get set for the Prime Minister's master class in how to rape an entire generation of their land, their culture and any possible connection to their history.

The army, police, some naive volunteers and a bunch of well paid bureaucrats will run around trying to look like they're making a difference for six months which is (oh, look!) just long enough to get past the next election. Fairfax and the ABC will run countless stories on just how horribly terribly awful it is to be an indigenous child in Australia but miss the land grab until it's too late. And Howard (if he wins the election) will declare 'Mission Accomplished' cut all funding to the plan and still have 4 1/2 years to rape and pillage the land.

At least that's the cynics view of why John 'White Australia' Howard (who hasn't even spoken about Aboriginal issues since he abolished ATSIC, rolled the self-determination era back to paternalism and told indigenous peoples if they wanted something they could advise his department and they'd see if they felt like doing it) was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion by the fifth, sixth or maybe seventh report in recent years to say that horrible unspeakable things are happening in indigenous Australia that nobody is doing anything about.

Of course, with the land grab Howard finally pushes Aboriginal policy back to where he wants it, Assimilation policy. It's "Stolen Generation II: The Empire Strikes Back" or "If you can't takes the kids off the land, take the land off the kids."

N.B. Check the Guardian's take (archived).

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Gotham's needle weilding heroines

Among the darkness of an urban cityscape a fleeting shadow leaves a sinister trail. Between graffiti, syringes and broken glass the dark figures dance and fade, impossible to discern for more than a moment. Then with a flash of needles and eerie laughter there is nothing - silence descends. In the morning an unassuming streetlight, a public monument or a power pole blooms with riotous polyester/cotton colour. Knitta have struck again.

In an ongoing ministry to rehabilitate graffiti, to rescue it from the depths of "Scuz was 'ere '06," and revive the concept that public space can be more than functional grey boxes and tubes, inner-city artists began stencilling. Instead of writing a call sign, like "Air," "Wizz" or "Jazz," in as many places as possible - always exactly the same - they choose interesting, often political images and used a stencil to spray paint them in the places people usually tag.

Now a Houston group called Knitta have gone one step better. They decided to recycle unfinished knitting projects into colourful artistic statements on public space. This has the added benefit that the 'graffiti' involved isn't permanent or in any way damaging, but still makes the point.

I'm still mystified as to how they get their stuff wrapped around poles with the speed that graffiti surely requires.

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A Picture of Wealth

The following image was produced by NASA based on images of the Earth taken at night. City lights make major cities and populated areas easily identifiable - at least for those countries that can afford street lights (click for a closer view):

NASA's Earth at Night

Credit: C. Mayhew & R. Simmon (NASA/GSFC), NOAA/ NGDC, DMSP Digital Archive
Astronomy Picture of The Day: 27th November, 2007.

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Hillsong Investigated

Late last year a blog called 'randomness exemplified' reproduced one of the best articles I ever seen on the subject of the Hillsong mega-church. The picture is not a pretty one. Remarkably this good journalism comes from News Limited of all places.

Others have reported that Head Pastor, Brian Houston, while not earning anything directly from the church does earn significant "love gifts" for speaking at the churches of other mega-church pastors (who also earn similar gifts speaking at his and so on). This reporter goes further noting that Houston and wife have sold multiple properties to a Hillsong-related entity that Houston directs in some cases at significant profits. Then the entity involved turned these properties back over to the Houstons to continue to use.

However, most damning are the interviews. Geoff Bullock is almost a household name among evangelical and pentecostal Christians for his highly popular worship songs. He worked for Houston in the early days and was a significant player in building Hillsong's dominance but these days the interview leaves one wondering if he's still a believer or whether his encounter with the Houston machine completely destroyed his faith. Notably when he and Houston first observed the American mega-church model (the commodification and consumerisation of faith) they had polar-opposite reactions with Houston enthused and Bullock aghast.

There's a lot in there but its in closing that the important question is raised: what happens when the mega-church bubble bursts? Australia may be getting set to see its own Jimmy Swaggart or Benny Hinn emerge and what will the Hillsong throngs do when that happens? The steep hierarchy of their organisation seems prone to leaving the grassroots hanging in the wind if the leadership gets caught up in scandal.

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Government give aways

So it's green slips time for me and I've been wandering the net in search of enlightenment. I've never managed to get a straight answer out of anyone on exactly what green slips insure you against. Even Wikipedia turned out to be too US-centric to know.

Resting my hopes on a Googling I finally discovered that green slips insure you against legal liability for personal injury to anyone else from a car accident where you're at fault. They don't cover any property -- not yours, not the other guy's car, not anything else.

Basically they're compulsory as the government's way of keeping things sane in this age of limitless liability and a litigous population.

Anyway, seems I'm not the only clueless one since the NSW Motor Accidents Authority (who I didn't know existed and would've thought was just doing a small part of what the Roads and Traffic Authority is for) is running a competition trying to educate people about green slips aka Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance. Entering is easy and they've ponied up for 160 prizes per month over this year (yes, ending this month). The prizes aren't iPods and cash but nevertheless 1,920 car detailing kits, first aid kits and chamois' isn't nothing. It'll be interesting to see if they find it worthwhile and we start to see more educational giveaway's from government agencies.

Obviously, the relatively small number of people who visit the MAA website on a regular basis probably means if you want a chamois/first-aid kit/car detailing kit you stand a reasonable chance of winning one.

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