Friday, November 09, 2007

Goat Friday

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Certainty affirmed

“I don’t know about my future but I am certainly the Foreign Minister.”

Australians all will breathe a sigh of relief at this affirmation that Mr Downer is keeping his eye on the ball for Australia.

“We are only focusing on winning the election. That is all we are thinking about at this stage and that is a big job.”

Our taxes at work. But still, Mr Downer has his finger on the pulse of Australia’s national interest on the world stage; for instance, with regard to General/President Musharraf’s experiments with Pakistan’s democracy...

“Well, he’s certainly, by certain standards, well he’s certainly by some standards a dictator.”

Well, Mr Downer is certainly on the right track there, the right track, certainly. Of course, as with Soeharto, the unequivocal denunciations will come after the General has gone on his merry way.

According to Prime Minister John Howard, Soeharto’s Indonesia was “not a democracy in the sense we understand it.”

After the fall of Soeharto, of course, it suddenly became safe for the Howard Government to describe that particular strong man as “a dictator”.

In the case of Musharraf, the diplomatic niceties are nominally in the service of Australia’s national interest in the ‘war on terror’.

In Soeharto’s case, it was all about the war on communism... No wait, Domino Theory was pre-1990, so in the Howard Era it must have been about keeping our strong-but-unstable-neighbour-to-the-north on side, in a ‘constructive engagement’ that mutually benefited both Australian commerce and, in a round-about, trickle-down sort of way, the Indonesian people.

Well anyway, the certainty is that a pretext will always be found to selectively coddle ‘our’ preferred sons’a’bitches.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Oh, give me a frigging break...

Alexander Downer has expressed concerns about the fragile state of democracy in Pakistan. The PM is not impressed with Perez Musharraf’s latest traducing of "democratic principles".

Give me a bloody break. Where have these galoots been these last nine years or so? A clue:

"Your excellency, General Pervez Musharraf, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Today marks a first in relations between [our countries]. This is the first occasion we have been graced with a visit by a Pakistani head of state who, of course, is also head of government in that country. And I have a very special pleasure, and a very deep feeling, in welcoming President Musharraf, in saying on behalf of all of us how much we admire the exceptional personal courage he has displayed in recent years.

"It's easier to make brave rhetorical speeches, about values of freedom and democracy and the rights of man, when you belong to a country, with whatever other faults it may have, [that] has always had a long, uninterrupted tradition of peaceful political exchange, however rumbustious it may get in a verbal sense on occasions. But to be the leader of a country and to survive two assassination attempts, and to know there are people within your country whose only goal is not only to remove your government, which you can understand in a democracy, but also to remove it with violence and with force, if necessary, including your removal from this life …

"So I pay tribute to somebody who has come through the fire of violent challenge to his position; somebody who has played a major role in the fight against terrorism; somebody who has understood the need to confront and defeat the extremist elements within our society that seek to visit death and terrorism around the world.

"And also I salute somebody, in President Musharraf, who has led a transition of his country to a democratic state. Pakistan has not always been democratic, something the President freely acknowledged. And I do not think enough credit has been given to Pakistan under President Musharraf's leadership for the transition over recent years…"

And that was? Who else but our groveling Prime Minister, John Howard, lauding the beacon of democracy on the subcontinent - Musharraf.- in 2005 as he visited his democratic presence upon our parliament. It was as much bullshit then as his mealy-mouthed electorally driven, condemnatory drivel is this week.

This is the self-proclaimed "Chief executive" who retained command of the armed forces he utilised to dismiss the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif seven years ago. Then, after a bullshit trial, send the same Sharif into exile. The same Musharraf that "has played a major role in the fight against terrorism" by smacking his chief scientist’s wrist after the man had sold weapons technology to Libya and others.

The very same Musharraf who now tells us that martial law is necessary as well as the suspension of those same "democratic" principles he has so espoused over his years? And why? To assure his return. That is all.

And our lame government only now finds some elements to disagree with?


We spent this Melbourne Cup Day afternoon with friends down on the Mornington Peninsula — eating, catching up, eating, drinking (in moderation), eating, cheering, eating, chatting, eating, etc.

Then at some point our mate Keith showed me this really incredibly useful item of software called SUPER — an acronym for Simplified Universal Player Encoder & Renderer, no less.

Basically, this software will convert video or other digital media files from just about any format to just about any other.

Supported input source file formats are:

Video: 3gp/3g2, asf, avi, dat, fli, flc, flv (used in Flash), mkv, mpg, mov, mp4, ogg, qt, rm, ram, rmvb, str (Play Station), swf (Flash), ts (HDTV), viv, vob, wmv

Audio: aac, ac3, amr, mmf, mp2, mp3, mp4, mpc, ogg, ra, wav, wma

And this software is free!

You can use it to extract a video soundtrack to mp3 or wav audio, convert Quicktime video to mpeg or other video format, or vice versa, etc. etc. etc. etc.

It supports rescaling of video size, aspect ratio, audio and video bitrate, framerates, etc. etc. etc. etc.

And it’s reasonably easy to use!

And this software is free!

“SUPER© does for FREE what other encoders CAN’T do for money.”

Absolutely!! I paid good money for software that just doesn’t cut it like SUPER does!

But wait, there’s more! If you find SUPER incredibly useful and worthwhile as I have, you can optionally donate money to the developers of this excellent software tool.

DECLARATION: I have no connection with the authors of this software, and no interest other than encouraging technical innovation and supporting worthwhile ventures.

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Extremism abhorred

On Lateline last night, Pakistan’s religious affairs minister, Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq, was interviewed on the aggressive political clamp-down by the country’s military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf.

In a nutshell, Mr Ijaz-ul-Haq said there’s basically nothing to worry about. The suspension of the constitution and the judiciary, the mass arrests, the violent suppression of street demonstrations and all the rest of it are but a “very small phase that we have to go through.”

Fear not, for democracy and the rule of law will return “once [Musharraf] is an elected president of Pakistan.”

The actions of Musharraf’s government were necessary because “the entire law enforcing agencies were getting demoralised and the extremists were getting opportunities to, you know, exploit this demoralisation...”

Mr Ijaz-ul-Haq’s abhorrence of extremism should be well-known. When in June the UK government conferred a knighthood on Salman Rushdie, Mr Ijaz-ul-Haq was quoted as saying:

If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, his act is justified. This is an occasion for the [world’s] 1.5 billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision. If Muslims do not unite, the situation will get worse and Salman Rushdie may get a seat in the British parliament.

Mr Ijaz-ul-Haq’s abhorrence of extremism is apparently surpassed only by his abhorrence of democratic processes leading to the wrong outcomes.

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First past the post punting. The candidates have their say.

The PM (and the Treasurer):
Well, you can't go past experience. And Peter and I are experienced; more than that, we're a team. To ensure that return to your pocket and guarantee an historical winner experience is the go and Sirminoe represents that here. I, err, like efficiency too and so you need to be efficient. Black Tom McKewan for third. Whatever happens - and I hasten to add that the Melbourne Racing Club is thoroughly independent and will find a winner on its own reconnaissance - punting families have never had it better due to the government's PuntChoices. Winning odds will be at historic highs.
The Treasurer: And remember, this team, this experienced team, has brought punting families in this country eleven straight Melbourne cups. It has overseen the freeing up and internationalision of the Cup, opening it up to international competition in a globalised racing economy.
  1. Sirimone
  2. Efficient
  3. Black Tom

Kevin Rudd:

Have I looked at the Melbourne Cup? Yes I have. Do I see a winner of this race? Yes I do. Do the Australian people desrve better leadership when it comes to negotiating their bets under PuntChoices? Yes they do. Will we rip up losing bets placed under the onerous PuntChoices? What we will do is constitute a committe to consider those losing bets placed under the government's unfair PuntChoices and report back by 2009. It is possible that some bets may stand untill 2010. What? Tips for the race? Do I have one? yes I do and here, in the season for them, they are:

  1. Surmione
  2. Efficient
  3. Black Tom

Father Park:

Probably a much more open race than the odds indicate. Certainly down in class (EI and all) than last years' event. Were Delta Blues and Pop Rock in this event they'd street it. On that basis, Maybe Better (3rd last year to the Japanese pair) and Zipping - responsible for the standout trial of the week - are in this up to their ears. Caulfield victor Master O'Rielly is obviously the formline to beat and from that race Purple moon and Princess Coup also rate highly. Gallic, an eight year old, will have no problems with the trip. Class might be his problem.

  1. Zipping
  2. Purple Moon
  3. Master O'Rielly
  4. Maybe Better
  5. Princess Coup

Box the lot for $60 bucks and away you go. Gallic concerns me though.

The PM:

Err, as you know, when policy is enunciated that I believe makes sense and is appropriate, I will consider it. What the good padre has explained above is clearly sensible and should be adopted. Under the government's PuntChoices this is the sort of flexibility allowed.

  1. Zipping
  2. Purple Moon
  3. Master O'Rielly
  4. Maybe Better
  5. Princess Coup

Kevin Rudd:

Will the ALP match the government on this? Yes it will.

Joe Hockey:

I will resign as a minister if, under PuntChoices, we make any further changes.

Peter Garrett:

Weren't we going to do that after the race? I was certain we'd change our bet after the race.

Pervez Musharraf:

I will proclaim the winner after the event, irrespective of the outcome of the event. Any and all stewards are under house arrest.

The magic of Alex continues

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has admonished Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd for “showing off” with his foreign language skills.

Kevin Rudd this morning gave an interview in Mandarin to a Chinese television station.

Oh, the little show-off...! ...talking in Mandarin, to a Chinese television audience, no less. Needless to say...

... Mr Downer is far from impressed.

“Well, I think he should focus on speaking to the Australian people not trying to show off that he can speak a foreign language,” he said.

Yep, and Alex would be quite within his mandate to point out that Kevni is just a little girlie swot who eats his own earwax.

So there... nyah.

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“Successful undocking” reported

Yes, space cadets, “the US space shuttle Discovery has successfully undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) to begin a journey back to Earth, space officials said.”

That the “successful undocking” of a spacecraft from a space station is actually newsworthy in 2007 says a lot about the current state of human efforts to colonise outer space.

Particularly given that forty years ago, the great prophet of space-flight Arthur C. Clarke had, in his epic 2001 A Space Odyssey, envisaged scheduled commercial flights between the earth and moon well before now...

Entropy never sleeps.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Meteorite Monday

The meteorite auction in New York last week was by all accounts a bit of a dud. Particularly for...

... two meteorites which, though exceptional in size, failed to fetch sky-high prices at auction on Sunday. Bidding for both rocks stalled at around one-third of their valuations, and they were withdrawn from sale at Bonhams auction house in New York.

What’s wrong with these people! Don’t they know that these specimens of pure star stuff are cheap as chips at half the price?

A boffin takes a guess at what may have caused such a spectacular lack of interest:

“So few big meteorites go up for sale that no one really knows what to expect,” says Derek Sears at the University of Arkansas. He feels that an increase in finds from Antarctica and from deserts may have pushed prices down, but apathy may also play a part.

“Some meteorites were last on the market in the post-war years, when public interest in space was at an all-time high.”

People are more blasé about space today, he says.

True, we’re so jaded in the 21st Century; instead of reaching for the stars, we reach for the remote and tune into the faux stars... yes, such as the likes of Paris Hilton.

Entropy never sleeps.

And yes, at time of writing, no living thing today has been documented as being killed by a meteorite. Or even in the last week, perversely enough.

But watch this space, today could be the day. If the rock has my name on it, readers will understand if I don’t post an update.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Howard stuffs big, fat, pregnant cat back in bag

“Some people will believe us, some people won’t, that always applies in election campaigns, but we do not have any plans to further change the industrial relations system.”

One wonders if those who “will believe” will be the same people who believed the PM’s non-pledge in the 2004 campaign not to introduce a further wave of industrial relations “reforms” that became known as WorkChoices.

Or maybe those who “will believe” will be the same people who believed the PM would act “in the national interest”, regardless of election non-pledges, by introducing a further wave of industrial relations reforms that became known as WorkChoices.

When Finance Minister Senator Nick Minchin told the H.R. Nicholls Society last year that a further wave of IR reforms — beyond WorkChoices — was needed, this was excused by Government spinmeisters as “a personal view” that was not necessarily representative of the Government’s thinking. That Minchin expressed “his” view as a prominent government front-bencher was apparently neither here nor there.

So, in the game of Alice-in-Wonderland croquet that is contemporary Australian politics, maybe Labor could “get away with” excusing Peter Garrett’s change-it-all gaffe — or non-gaffe, as the case may be — as merely expressing a “personal view” that was not necessarily representative of the Government-in-waiting’s thinking: “We are a broad church,” etc.

Incidentally... if Labor is “anti-jobs” because it opposes (or, at least, says it does) the Government’s IR platform, then is the Government “anti-jobs” because it introduced a “Fairness Test” as an antidote to the electoral poison of Australian Workplace Agreements?

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