Saturday, November 04, 2006

Nappy plant in the poo

That was the headline over an article in one of my local papers, the Berwick/Pakenham Cardinia Leader, on Wednesday. It reports on the failure of a nappy recycling service, called MyPlanet.

Commencing in 2004, with Casey and Cardinia councils among its first clients, it was hoped the service “would ease the landfill burden created by the 4,000 tonnes of disposable nappies the city’s 9,500 0-2-year-olds produced annually.”

(To put that 4,000 tonnes in perspective, try to imagine a 4 followed by three zeros. Then factor in the abominable stench.)

The MyPlanet service first hit problems when many families baulked at the $200 annual fee. Then on October 6 the company announced it had closed operations due to “technical problems”.

MyPlanet spokesman Clayton Crameri said the company had set its sights on signing up 10,000 households.

But having achieved only 50 per cent of that target, MyPlanet found its Noble Park plant had already reached processing capacity.

“We are talking to our technical partners in North America to find solutions to increase processing capacity of the plant,” he said.

“But because we are the innovators in this field, we have to create a solution from scratch. So we are unable to confirm when we will open operations again at this stage.”

Casey Deputy Mayor Rob Wilson said it was a disappointing outcome. ...

“We absolutely need the service and I hope to see it relaunched in the near future,” Cr Wilson said.

On the face of it, perhaps this is rather a sad outcome. On the other hand, it would be interesting to evaluate just how ‘eco-friendly’ such a venture really might be, considering the recycling process would likely be very energy intensive. Perhaps burying the shit really is the most sensible solution.

On David Hicks: Enough already!

The Australian Communications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan, represented the Foreign Affairs Minister in Senate estimates hearings on Thursday. Senator Coonan reportedly made the following curious statement regarding the situation of Australian Guantanamo detainee, David Hicks:

“I’m not in a position to give you some sort of definitive answer other than to say that I don’t think that this Government has ever said that these processes are satisfactory,” she said. “What we do say is that we would like them to get on with it and for the charges to be laid and Mr Hicks to be dealt with according to fair and proper processes.”

Good grief! It just seems that Australian elected officials are pathologically unable to talk or think straight.

In the first part of that quote, Coonan makes a weaseling non-statement about the Government’s position on the satisfactoriness or otherwise of the Guantanamo processes. The Senator hints that these processes may be unsatisfactory, but she quite evidently refuses to let her Government's position be pinned down.

Coonan then indicates the Government’s preference that these processes should be expedited, satisfactory or not. Of course, Coonan pays lip service to the principle that Hicks should be accorded “fair and proper processes”, but she has already conveyed gross ambiguity regarding the fairness and propriety of the current processes.

Enough already! I urge anyone reading this to get behind Amnesty International’s campaign to bring Hicks back home to face a fair trial, or be released.

Another report blasts cluster bombs

A new report published by Handicap International UK has found that “civilians constitute 98% of all recorded cluster submunitions casualties.” The authors say their report documents the impact of cluster munitions on the lives of people in all 24 countries and regions which are known to be affected by these weapons. (The report can be downloaded from here.)

The Age today summarises some of the report’s findings:

The overwhelming majority of people killed or maimed by cluster bombs are civilians and a significant number of those are children, an unprecedented study into the lasting impact of the controversial weapons system published yesterday shows.

Research in 24 countries revealed more than 11,000 confirmed casualties of cluster munitions. Extrapolated, the total figure could be as high as 100,000, says Handicap International, the charity that carried out the survey. ...

In some areas of Iraq, it says, casualties from unexploded cluster submunitions account for between 75 and 80 per cent of all casualties.

Some readers may recall the Iraq Body Count report of July 2005, which found that “children were disproportionately affected by all explosive devices, but most severely by air strikes and unexploded ordnance.” Almost 10 per cent of recorded fatalities were children under 18, and 73.5 per cent of people killed by unexploded ordnance were children. Of course, “unexploded ordnance” includes cluster bombs, which a number of NGOs pleaded with the invading forces, well before the invasion, not to use where there were civilians.

Does anyone still doubt that the use of these vile devices ought to be banned by any nation wishing to call itself ‘civilised’?

Related Previous Post
Lancet editorial blasts cluster bombs

Hoax tsunami-warning emails

The Australian Attorney-General, Mr Philip Ruddock, has issued a media release regarding hoax emails that warn of an impending tsunami.

Purporting to originate from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii, the hoax email claims an earthquake has occurred and that a tsunami is approaching Japan. The Government understands that the email is somehow linked to a Sydney company.

“I can assure Australians that no such earthquake has occurred,” said Mr Ruddock. “We have now alerted the relevant authorities who can investigative the hoax warning.” He added that the only authority that disseminates tsunami warnings is the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sea horse

As suggested by Caz in comments here, the above image rightly belongs in a separate post, not in Goat Friday. So I've taken the liberty of excising it from that previous post, and posted it here.

Caz notes that the sea horse “fails to convince”, and Kathy (also in comments) conjectures further that this horse is “a duck in disguise”.

Well now, I received this image by email at work, and have not been able to trace its origin. So, although its authenticity must remain suspect, it’s quite possible that the image depicts, as Kathy suggests, a genetically-engineered horse-duck. So, possibly a horck, dorse, huck, dorck – call it what you will.

Or it could be the spontaneous evolutionary response of genus Equus to rising sea levels from global warmefying .. um warmenising .. well, climate change, anyway.

And nature has provided so well for this horse of the future, I’m sure this new species will be cited as evidence in favour of intelligent design theory. I can just hear them now: “Well, this organism is a dead giveaway for the hand of the intelligent designer, and that just about wraps it up for Darwin.”

Anyway, until the source of this image is positively identified, my mind remains wide open to the possibility that we’re witnessing a quantum leap in natural history.

Stern report ‘cobbling’ suggestion rejected

The Australian Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, has rejected suggestions that his Government has “cobbled together” its responses on climate change.

This leaves Australian political observers to speculate on just what approach the PM has used to formulate the Government’s policy response. Widely tipped are:

  • whiteboarding with officials from Treasury and business peak bodies
  • random selection from a range of conservative alternatives
  • asking Janette what she thinks is best

Goat Friday


. . . and . . .


The image originally posted here has been re-posted in a subsequent post.

(Sea Horse!)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bestest cleverest Muftim

Regarding the menace of climate change, Muftim Blair has proudly declared:

“There is one position even more morally culpable than failing to take preventative measures, and I’m proud to say it’s mine: encouraging the continued (and increased) consumption of fossil fuels.”

Which has suggested to me a little thought experiment: Suppose Blair isn’t among the first against the wall when the revolution comes, and indeed lives to a ripe old age. Come, imagine with me...

Scene: In the year 2050, three generations of the Blair family are gathered for Christmas festivities at the family enclave in seaside Cherrybrook. Nine-year-old Gaia rushes in from playing ‘Queenie Queenie Who’s Got the Oxygen Mask’ with other children in the neighbourhood.

Gaia: Granpa Blair, some of those kids said that you were one of the people who let the greenhouse go mad!

Other family members become agitated, look embarrassed, turn away, try to change the topic...

Gaia: Is it true, Granpa?

Granpa Blair: Why, I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about, dearie.

Gaia: Them kids said you ran one of those ... what was it? ... one of those old fashioned things ... a glob ...

Granpa Blair: [cuts in] ... a blog ...

Gaia: Yeah, a blog [shrugs shoulders] ... And you made fun of people who wanted to stop all the really bad greenhouse from happening. And you were really, really mean and nasty to them, and made everyone laugh at them. And you told everyone else to just go on doing the same stuff, and even worse stuff, that all made the greenhouse go mad.

Granpa Blair: It wasn’t me, dearie; it’s all a lie. Who’s been telling you this nonsense? I’ll bet it was that young Flora Flannery. Her grandfather’s had it in for me all these years. But I outlasted him; heh heh heh...

Granma Blair nudges Granpa Blair tersely, regarding him sternly. All look around with a start as a freak wave pounds the breakwater at the edge of the property...

Granma Blair: [to herself, resuming her embroidery] Hmm, the Pacific Ocean seems a bit less violent than usual today...

Gaia: Are you sure it’s all fibs, Granpa? Do you swear by the nine seas? Cross your heart and hope to die?

Granpa Blair: [makes heart crossing gesture] Of course, dearie. Mad greenhouse was all the fault of those moonbat environmentalists I’ve been telling you about. They exaggerated stuff; so how were the good people like your Granpa supposed to know it would all come true.

Gaia: I’m sorry I listened to them, Granpa. I love you, Granpa, coz you’re the bestest, cleverest granpa in the whole wide world!

Stern report non-panic signalled

The Australian Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, has signalled that he will not be “panicked” into harming Australian industry in response to the threat of climate change.

This leaves Australian political observers to speculate on just what approach the PM will take with regard to the threat. Widely tipped are:

  • do nothing, or as little as possible, and try to keep quiet about it
  • talk a lot about doing a lot, while doing very little
  • set up a closed door inquiry on even more noisy ways of doing very little

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stern report non-mesmerisation urged

The Australian Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, has urged his MPs not to get “mesmerised” by the Stern Review report on the economics of climate change.

This leaves Australian political observers to speculate on just what attitude the PM will tell his MPs to take with regard to the Stern report. Widely tipped are

  • a posture of stringent denial
  • a flurry of confused agitation; or
  • a lacuna of stunned silence.

Monday, October 30, 2006

‘Findings’ touted

Glenn Milne reports on “research findings” from a focus group convened on behalf of the Business Council of Australia. Milne says that the “ordinary Joes” who composed the focus group glowingly endorsed – at least, to the BCA’s and Milne’s satisfaction – the Howard Government’s market-based economic reforms.

... broadly, people believe it has delivered prosperity and again, broadly, voters are now comfortable with the idea of markets and what markets mean: constant change and adaptation.

Milne broadly notes some of the broad “responses elicited from ordinary Joes in the BCA's commissioned research.”

None of the answers was prompted. The headings give you a hint as to the political potency of the findings. Some samples: Take initiative ... Taking risks ... be innovative ... Keep the money cogs turning ... Forward thinking ... Being progressive ... Outward thinking ... to learn, adapt and do it well ... Try to achieve (not wait for handouts) ... Seeking opportunity to meet personal goals ...

I was in a pub yesterday, and the place was abuzz with “ordinary Joes” – and even a few “ordinary Josephines” – celebrating their propensities for self-reliance, taking initiatives and risks, being innovative, thinking forward, etc. However, my research failed to discern any particular wish for their Government to purposely make life harder and more risky for them.

Is that what Western civilisation is about now? The restitution of the law of the jungle? Only in a ‘nice’ intellectually formulated way?

(Hah! And Tim Blair reckons the Lancet’s findings are “goofy”.)

Vague trend to left discerned

Leftist presidents have been returned to office in landslide election wins in Brazil and Bulgaria. What shattering repercussions will these results have for the US mid-term elections in just over a week’s time?

Well, none probably. Or if there is any effect on the US elections, those results would probably produce a reaction that would tend to favour the right.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Thought-nanny Henderson spins Fair Pay decision

Following the Fair Pay Commission’s decision on Thursday to increase the minimum wage by $27 per week, thought-nanny Gerard Henderson was quizzed by Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program the following morning. His take on the decision seems to describe some kind of union of minds between the nominally independent FPC and the Howard Government.

It was always in the government’s interest to have an increase in lower pay. It was in their political interest. It was in the interest of the Fair Pay Commission to do it, lest they seem to be a dupe of the government. If you have a look at the interests of [FPC chairman] Professor Ian Harper and his colleagues, and John Howard and his colleagues, the outcome of yesterday is hardly surprising.

Is Matron Henderson saying that the FPC’s decision was a political one? Presenter Fran Kelly teased out that aspect a little:

Kelly: So do you think, then, just on that – not wanting to be seen to be a dupe of the government – that this was not just economically motivated on the part of the Fair Pay Commission?

Henderson: Well, the Fair Pay Commission has a reason to enhance its own status. I mean, all organisations do. But I think the essential point is, this is a good decision. At times when it’s hard to get employers [sic], you’re not going to encourage people to come into the workforce if their wages are far too low. So this is economically a very sensible decision. If the economic situation changes, then the rulings of the Fair Pay Commission can change. In the current climate, this is an economically very sensible decision, and a politically wise decision.

Interestingly, the imperative “to enhance its own status” is not included in the FPC’s published criteria for setting the minimum wage:

In setting the minimum wage, the Australian Fair Pay Commission must have regard to:

  • The capacity for the unemployed and low paid to obtain and remain in employment;
  • Employment and competitiveness across the economy;
  • Providing a safety net for the low paid; and
  • Providing minimum wages for junior employees, and employees to whom training arrangements apply and employees with a disabilities to ensure those employees are competitive in the labour market.

It’s difficult, given the man’s native ideological caginess, to actually nail down what Henderson is really driving at from his remarks on the Breakfast program. Perhaps, after deconstructing Henderson’s remarks, they might simply equate to the less spin-ridden statement made later in the program by Ian McPhedran (News Ltd) on Kelly’s Friday Panel:

I think that decision is very interesting – and I’m not adopting a cynical view here – but, I mean, it’s a large lump of money and very good for the low paid, and it comes a year out from an election. An election that, if John Howard wins, one wonders what the Fair Pay Commission’s performance will be after that.

This was a theme that was echoed somewhat by fellow panelist Paul Bongiorno (Network 10):

I’d say it’s terrific politics for the government, but it’s questionable, maybe, economics.

Perhaps Matron Henderson will finesse or clarify his thoughts on all this in his regular column in the Sydney Morning Herald this coming Tuesday – if he can spare some time from nannying the ABC’s editorial policy.