Friday, March 23, 2007

Goat Friday

image source




My favourite for this week’s award goes to researchers at Montana State University, for their discovery of burrowing dinosaurs.

They somehow seem to think this “burrowing behaviour” enabled some dinosaur species to survive the asteroid impact that wiped out most species at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

Whereas the prevailing wisdom holds that dinosaurs died off to make way for evolutionary innovations such as Bruce Willis, who as everyone knows saved the world from a similar impact and mass-extinction event, as documented in Armageddon.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Esperance ‘silent summer’ latest

It appears to be official: Lead poisoning from dust at the Esperance port facility was almost certainly the cause of thousands of bird deaths in the area.

Consequently the Esperance Port Authority has “banned any further shipments of fine lead concentrate through the port.”

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan told Parliament that while a direct link to lead poisoning in the birds was yet to be uncovered, it was reasonable to assume that lead exports through the port was the likely source of contamination. ...

“No further shipments will proceed until such time as the source of the environmental contamination has been identified and proper processes put in place to ensure that such events do not occur again,” she said.

Public health authorities are apparently coping with strong demand from local residents for “free blood tests”, with particular concern for children under 5 and pregnant women.

Health Minister Jim McGinty told Parliament that 128 people blood tested so far all had lead readings below the recommended levels.

Sixty-two of 84 port workers tested had also come in at under the guidelines of 10 micrograms per decilitre.

Um ... how about the other 22 of those port workers...?? Well, Reuters Canada reports that

Western Australia Department of Health director Jim Dodds said 84 port workers tested last week returned lead levels well below recommended guidelines of 50 micrograms per deciliter.

“In fact, 75 percent of these workers had levels below 10 micrograms per deciliter, which is very pleasing,” Dodds said in a statement.

Previously on this topic
Esperance ‘silent summer’ update
Clue to ‘silent summer’ in Esperance

More house-to-house surveys

It appears that we may be both optimistic and pessimistic about the situation on the ground in Iraq, as our inclinations or prejudices may dictate.

A major poll of Iraqis has found that “by a majority of two to one, Iraqis prefer the current leadership to Saddam Hussein’s regime despite the collapse of security and lack of public services,” and that “contrary to the views of many Western analysts, most Iraqis do not believe they are in a civil war.”

The poll was “conducted by the Opinion Research Business, a British market research company that funded its own survey of 5019 Iraqis over 18.”

No doubt Australian Prime Minister John Howard, with his abhorrence of house-to-house surveys, will find no comfort whatever in the results of such a survey.

Undoubtedly Mr Howard will be similarly unmoved by another survey which found “increasing pessimism” among Iraqis. For example, “Less than 40% of those polled said things were good in their lives, compared to 71% two years ago.” Similarly to the other poll, however, “a majority of those questioned ... did not believe Iraq was in a state of civil war.”

This poll “was commissioned by the BBC, ABC News, ARD German TV and USA Today. It was conducted by D3 Systems.”

As a rather poignant footnote to these house-to-house surveys, it’s reported here that Mr Kadhim al-Jubouri — the leader of the crowd that famously toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad’s Firdous Square — has “nothing but regret” about that episode.

Mr al-Jubouri is quoted as saying, “I really regret bringing down the statue. The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day.”

The devil you know better than the devil you don’t. We no longer know friend from foe. The situation is becoming more dangerous. It’s not getting better at all. People are poor and the prices are going higher and higher.

It’s not reported whether Mr al-Jubouri proferred an opinion on whether or not Iraq was in a state of civil war.

Oh, the humanity

As you’d expect, the Howard Government is trying to minimise the fallout from the Santoro “Sharesgate” scandal.

The Prime Minister has sought to distance himself from the stench — other than to say how vewwy vewwy annoyed and angwy he is with Santoro — and has apparently delegated the running commentary on this affair to his ministerial underlings.

Health Minister Tony Abbott notes that, although Santoro’s is a “spectacular fall from grace ... He hasn’t committed any crime, his only offence was to fail to comply with the ministerial disclosure guidelines.”

Having thus finally driven the stake through the heart of the Government’s moribund Ministerial Code of Conduct, Mr Abbott begs that “Santo should now be left alone to get on with his life.” There’s nothing to see here, folks, move along now...

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer invites us to think about Santoro “as a human being.”

As it turns out, the disgraced former Minister of the Crown is all too human. The voting public will, one way or another, come to its own decision as to whether Santoro was negligent, or was all too fastidious, in managing his affairs as a minister. And, given Mr Downer’s negligence with regard to the AWB kickbacks scandal, it’s hardly surprising he would want to lower the bar on standards of ministerial conduct.

At this rate, it won’t be long before this mob drops any pretence to the notion that higher standards are required of those whose privilege it is to serve in public office.

Boneheadedness reaffirmed

This week has marked four years since Australian Prime Minister John Howard committed Australia to a war he said would be over in a month or two — tops.

Our Great Helmsman this week has “stared down” critics of his Iraq war policy, arguing that staying the present course “is in Australia's long-term national interest.”

Almost as an afterthought, the Man of Steel added, “And it happens to be the right thing to do.”

Readers may recall that Mr Howard last demonstrated his grasp of “the right thing to do” late last year, when he candidly admitted...

“If I ever develop reservations, well, I hope I would have the grace to keep them to myself because I think you take a position and you’ve got to live by that and be judged by it, and that’s my position.”

  • John Howard, The Australian, 23 November 2006

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Psychotic killer with a heart?

In the transcript of his ‘confession’, Khalid Sheikh ‘Gabby’ Mohammed declares:

“When I said I’m not happy that 3,000 been killed in America, I feel sorry even. I don’t like to kill children and the kids.”

So, is this something like remorse that Gabby is expressing here?

He goes on to say that, although such killing is “prohibited” in Islam, as much as in Judaism or Christianity, there are “exceptions of rule”, and draws parallels with the actions of the US and allies in Iraq.

Tim McVeigh is said not to have expressed remorse about the child victims in his 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, to whom he explicitly referred as so much “collateral damage”.

Yet Gabby, for all his crocodile tears, effectively assigns his child victims the same “collateral” status.

So, to the question in the title, the answer may probably be something like:

Nah, fuck off Gabby!

rock art

Ignorance is bliss

Pauline Hanson, the woman who launched a formidable grass-roots movement that arguably changed the face of Australian politics, has an autobiography coming out.

True, she failed, and was in fact chewed up and spat out by ‘the system’ that she detested.

But what salient fact about this enigmatic woman is chosen to be exclusively focussed upon in this brief news item?

Why, of course — Hanson’s admission that she’d had a “sexual relationship” with her then senior adviser David Oldfield.

As if the revelation of a tryst with ‘Babyface’ Oldfield weren’t already too much information, we are treated to the following extract describing “their first night together in Canberra’s Sundowner Village Motel, where he cooked her dinner”:

We enjoyed each other’s company and talked for hours. We ended up spending the night together. It was dawn before he left.

Memo JoJo Publishing: Please have pity and publish an expurgated edition.