Begun in 2008, it's unlikely that I'll regularly make entries to this blog, so do check my main site at www.fourhares.com

This blog is more likely to include posts of a political nature - and one that requires sisu on the part of many!

Archives dated prior to March 2008 are entries moved across from either LiveJournal or Octant.

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Victorian elections 2014

Entering the final week before the Victorian State elections, it’s certainly been a journey as I stand as a candidate for the Upper House (in Victoria called the Legislative Council). For anyone standing as an Independent, the electoral system is stacked against such: never mind that an Independent is likely to have less resources than a political party – I accept this. What makes the voting pattern less favourable to independents is something entirely different…

Voting process for Upper House

Let me briefly outline the voting options for the Upper House for those unfamiliar with Victorian (and Australian) electoral processes. Firstly, voting participation is compulsory for adult citizens (unless precluded or options allowed by law – such as for certain sentences, mental capability, or age).

In Victoria, the Upper House may often have over 40 candidates per region, out of which five will be elected. Unlike at the Federal level (which has an full preferential system – requiring that ALL candidates have a sequential vote placed against their name), Victoria has an OPTIONAL PREFERENTIAL system, requiring a minimum of five sequential numbers against candidatures.

The problem – a problem, I would suggest, for independents especially – is the introduction of allowing a political party (or ‘group’) to decide on a voter’s behalf their preference. This has been well marketed as a ‘simplified’ option by voting ‘above the line’ – effectively placing a ‘1’ against the group’s name, the group (or political party) having provided the Vic. Electoral Commission their voting preferences, and such vote then counted as though this was the wish of the voter.

All sounds, at face value, fairly reasonable. The consequences of this method is that political parties effectively make preference deals amongst themselves for maximal political advantage, irrespective of the political stance of those parties or candidates. A person voting above the line may, as a result, actually have part of their vote allocated to a candidate or party to whom they would be unlikely to vote (as can be seen from perusing the VEC site).

To group the candidates below the line according to political affiliation is sensible and makes for an easier reference for the voter. Similarly, to have the political party’s name above the line for ease of reference for the voter also makes a lot of sense… but the numbering would best be left to only ‘below’ the line – i.e., to the explicit voting preferences of the voter. Political parties (as in fact all candidates) may in any case produce ‘How to Vote’ cards, and given that there is a requirement for only FIVE sequential votes for a valid vote, the argument about accidental invalidity by, for example, numbering 37 twice, does not apply in Victoria.

What are my chances of being elected?

Realistically, very small unless quite a number of electors decide to vote below the line – and number me reasonably high (i.e., between ONE and FIVE). This is judging from previous election patterns in which over 90% of voters choose to vote ‘above the line’. What also appears to have occurred is that Independents have been placed on political parties’ preference cards in a way that seemingly reflects the following: they place themselves (fair enough!) first, then the political parties with whom a deal has been made (irrespective of similarity of view), then the Independents (therefore often numbered in the 20s or 30s), then the other political parties with whom no deal has been made. This appears to be the case across the board and fairly consistently if one looks at all the preference cards of the parties (which, of course, all too few people seem to be looking at, as these are usually solely displayed on the VEC site(s)).

The above should be taken solely as a brief analysis of the situation – I realised before I accepted nomination that my chances would be slight… and of course they not only still are, but there is also a genuine – albeit small – likelihood of being elected.

…I suppose that on this, my best and only realistic chance of being elected is for voters in the Eastern Victoria Region to actually have a look at my website, determine if I am the kind of person they would like to see in Parliament, and then vote below the line accordingly on the Upper House voting paper!

Wilful Web Woes

Over the last few years, I have used two different servers on which to host the various sites I have (or sub-host on behalf of others). It seems like some maliciously intended people have managed to get in to one of the servers (owned by a UK-based company, but maintained in the USA) and caused irrevocable damage.

Over the last few weeks, tens of thousands of spam emails have been generated via the server, and every single site (and indeed other folders on the server that were there for back-ups) has been affected: php-based files have been placed seemingly randomly in the folders; new folders created with over 2000 html pages pointing to obvious scam or to ‘financial services’; .htaccess files created or modified; invisible files and folders with no access permissions (and blocked from altering these even via ftp); and what I can only describe as ‘seed’ pages added (I’ll come back to that one in a short while).

As a result, I’ve already lost a few ‘customers’ (not that I mind that part, as I ‘charge’ minimally, and not something that is financially worth the effort even when things go ‘right’) – but more importantly it’s the good-will and personal support I have been able to provide various organisations and people in need that has been damaged through this wilful damage.

When one of the back-ups for one of the sites was re-instated (from some time back), it appears obvious that some of the damage (though only covert at that time, but through close observation of the site’s loading, clear) has also permeated at least some of the databases and some of the folders.

I have no choice but to totally delete everything on that server and start out afresh and clean for the sites thereon. Approximately half my own sites and half the sites I sub-host have therefore now to be re-created afresh. I do not even want to use any back-ups on the possibility of ‘seed’ php pages thereon.

The provider has suggested that the damage came through WordPress: perhaps this is so, though it does not explain ‘deep’ damage on most of the sites that are non-WordPress (though also php-based, such as Dupral, Joomla, bulletin board, and other ‘blog’-oriented php options). I suspect that what has happened is that a seed-php file was inserted some time back by an unknown means, and that this was able to obtain ‘complementary’ code that eventually, though at first perhaps very slowly, ‘grew’ to its intended result.

Why would this have occurred? To be frank, I doubt it was to generate the spam that flew virally from the server: it seems to me more likely to be an ‘experiment’ in successfully intruding into an area un-observed with a micro or ‘dna-like’ php file that would appear benign, and only over time grow to its effective ability to take control of the whole area. To target a more ‘minor’ (still very significant) provider’s server would be considered good ‘sand-box’ practice… and let’s face it, the spam generated would also mask its probable real intent.

For myself and the people whose sites I sub-host, this has certainly been a nightmare for which I simply have neither the skills nor the time to adequately address. For my host-provider, I’m certain it has been an equivalent nightmare for which they are likely to lose numerous existing and potential clients.

…but on with the ‘repair’ work and moving everything off that server!

Kinders & Vaccinations

Here is a link to my open letter to members of the Parliament of Victoria:

On the Question of Kindergartens and Vaccinations

Please feel free to share or link to it in any way that may assist.

Below I also briefly describe my views on the proposed legislation.

Michael Leunig’s cartoon on the same subject succinctly tells the same story:

The proposed Legislation and its anti-democratic impulse

Without the freedom to be able to engage and participate in society, there is no true democracy. When a government (whether elected or not, lest we forget lessons from the 20th century) seeks to remove the freedom to participate unless partaking of particular medications (or equivalent), then a step has been taken that is politically unjust and morally deficient. This is, in essence, the basic problem of the proposed legislation.

The argument presented is that the ‘science’ points to the benefit for the whole community of global vaccination. That is all well and fine. The basic idea is that in order to render immunity from illnesses that are potentially threatening (with either serious illness or even possible death), vaccination provides an effective means for which the human body may produce antibodies without having to simultaneously fight an attack from a live virus.

There is no question about the current understanding of the medical science that advocates for vaccination, and the concerns I raise have nothing to do with speaking for or against the benefits or otherwise of vaccinations. Most people I know, in any case, have partaken of vaccination after looking into its risks and benefits – and on that, to imply that no risks exist is simply false and itself ‘bad science’ (to use the language the government is using).

Some responsible adults, looking into the situation, consider the associated risks not worth taking. Alternatively, some consider that the science is itself not fully understood as each iteration of vaccination schedule increases either content or frequency, making its known side-effects plausible conjecture. For others still, there are concerns about ingesting or injecting particular substances for which they may have conscientious objection. Still others consider that healthy human beings, though potentially taking greater risks if unvaccinated, would likely be able to survive an infection subject to their own access to healthy foods and water (that many parts of the world of course unfortunately continue to lack).

It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that the views of minorities are respected, even if not conforming to the views of current science. To consider and not opt into vaccination of one’s family is not a ‘loophole’ (as the current government suggests) – unless of course one considers personal freedom, autonomy and personal responsibility as legal ‘loopholes’ (a worrying stance that has actually been communicated by members of the current government!). To impose or penalise those who do nothing wrong except not partake of government-imposed injections is mindbogglingly autocratic, and has no place in a western democracy.

Serendipitous reflections

It’s a joy when I haphazardly stumble across an old friend or acquaintance that I have not seen or heard from in years (or decades) and see their success and life directions. Recently, through a series of internet clicks, perusing for a possible firm to engage for marketing Little Yarra, emerged a person who is now managing director of a major (overseas) branch of one of the firms I perused.

The internet certainly makes privacy a little fragile – and at the same time brings the world closer. Here was, in this instance, someone whom I have not seen since the 1970s – a bright and promising life met when I lived and worked in London. I recall their move to Paris at around the same time I had already moved there (though we never again met), and our common appreciation of refinements such as Bang & Olufsen.

For myself, this was doubly serendipitous in that I have of late had London more on my mind as my wife and I talk of our connections to the city, both in terms of our visits, as well as on the imminent birth of her first grand-child…

Australian National Curriculum Review

I have (finally) added a page with a copy of my late-night submission to the review of the so-called Australian National Curriculum. I say ‘so-called’, as there is, of course, no such thing, nor should there be!

For ease of reference, the page is on my main fourhares site: Australian National Curriculum Review (a pdf version is also available).

A most astounding pen...

I must admit that I find many pens a little lacking – but this one has all the qualities that I would rejoice in using: the Pelikan M101N Jubilee Pen… otherwise referred to as the lizard pattern.

Two US-based conferences...

Here are two conferences to which, each year, I look to and, as usual, am unable to participate… this year precisely a month apart.

Semiotic Society of America

The annual conference of the Semiotic Society of America taking place, this year, in Seattle between the 2nd and 5th of October:

Semiotic Society of America Seattle conference 2014

RunRev’s LiveCode 2014

The other is (also an annual) conference, this year taking place in San Diego between the 2nd and the 5th of September, from RunRev for LiveCode:

RunRev's Live 2014 Conference in San Diego

…ah well – perhaps in 2015!

On the hope of the incoming Federal Senate

It’s been a long time coming, but there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel – a long tunnel made all the darker during the last few years with the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. That they managed to not only erode personal freedoms and expand government bureaucracies to the extent they did shows how easily Germany in the 1930s moved to the extreme (and voted-in) Nazi regime. The Abbott government will have a tough time undoing the damage put in place.

However, there is a glimmer of hope: with the election of representatives from the Liberal Democrats, Family First and the Palmer United Party, it is very likely that liberal principles may be at play in passing legislation.

I am here reminded of the foreword by Thomas J. DiLorenzo to Two Essays by Ludwig von Mises: ‘Liberty and Property’ and ‘Middle-of-the-Road Policy Leads to Socialism’:

Government regulation was extensive enough in 1958, when Mises wrote “Liberty and Property,” but the virtual explosion of regulation since that time underscores another reason why private property is important to free speech. Namely, the more regulated individuals and businesses become, the less likely that they will criticize the government for fear of regulatory retribution. Private property and free markets are prerequisites for genuinely free speech.

We are unfortunately increasingly seeing signs of this. Witness, for instance, the silencing of teachers and principals who have dared to voice their view on NAPLAN; or the (justifiable) concern over criticisms against government bureaucracies that hold power over registration or funding of either individual teachers or schools.

There is genuine hope that with the forthcoming Senate, some alterations may be at hand… but then again, in Victoria, when the Liberals came into power, they did but little (even though they could have) to redress Labor’s bureaucratic establishments of the VIT and the VRQA. Perhaps it will require not so much the support of the Liberal Democrats and other parties, but the insistence from these so-called ‘micro-‘parties!

forecasting the new Pope

There will no doubt be numerous conflicting predictions as to who is likely to be elected our next Pope. Back prior to the election of Benedict XVI, I forecast the wrong individual (I thought he did not have much of a chance) but correctly predicted the name he was to adopt (Benedict).

Papal name

Of the names the new Pope will adopt (and of course there are infinite possibilities), it’s likely that some new name will be used. Something of ‘Clement’ is likely to be incorporated (‘Chana’ in Hebrew), and yet the two that appear to give the kind of impetus needed combine ‘John’ and ‘Maria’. Given that ‘Maria’ is an accepted masculine name (especially when the second part of an hyphenated name or middle name), and that ‘John’ in Hebrew includes within ‘Jochanan’ the sounds (though not exact spelling) of ‘Clement’, I am really putting myself out and suggest that the following new Papal name will be chosen:

PP John-Maria [Ioannes Maria PP]

Papal person

Now as to whom…

Again, it should be recalled that the electoral conclave, comprising of Cardinals under the age of 85, may elect, by a clear 2/3 majority (this is now again the case given some of the minor changes brought into effect by PP Benedict XVI), any catholic man (a woman cannot be elected as currently no woman may be made a bishop in the Catholic Church, and the elect becomes, as Pope, Bishop of Rome).

Still, it’s highly unlikely that a person outside the Conclave would be selected. The only such likely candidate would be someone of the likes of Laurence Freeman – a move away from someone like PP Benedict XVI who, though an outstanding theologian with also a deep engaged praxis, has not ‘reached’ the incredible surge and call to the spiritual life that is ripe.

So if it is someone chosen that, though requiring also a solid administrative capability is also someone that seeks for ways to bring Christ to those who hunger for the spirit, there is one outstanding Cardinal in the mix:

Cardinal Péter Erdő

Coat of Arms

As an interesting side-note, it is only after putting the above together that I looked at Péter Erdõ’s coat of arms. What is of significance here is that it makes the inclusion of ‘Maria’ in an adopted Papal name all the more sensible:

Cardinal Péter Erdő

It ain't no Arab 'spring'!

I’ve been rather astounded and amazed that the media has consistently referred to the revolutionary events in various Arabic countries as an ‘Arab spring’. If we look at the consequences of these events and the shifting powers that have resulted, it would be equivalent of having called the Bolshevik, Maoist, and Nazi revolutionary shifts as, respectively, Russian, Chinese, and German (and Austrian) ‘springs’.

Of course a move towards democracy is to be commended, but democracy itself is not what is intrinsically of highest political value. Rather, what is of high merit and value is individual personal autonomy and freedom: when these are taken away, whether through a democratic or an autocratic regime, there is something amiss.

Celebrating the revolutionary changes in the various Arabic speaking lands is akin to celebrating those disastrous changes that occurred in those three areas previously mentioned in the early parts of the 20th century. If we simply take a look at the changes that are taking place in the respective countries in which the Arab revolutionary forces have been successful, what is evident is that what is taking place is more akin to the revolutionary changes that took place in Iran with the fall of the Shah in the late 1970s.

Until, and unless, there is a deep sense that someone, irrespective of their birth, can legitimately renounce the negative forces inherent in communism, islam, or fascism, the Arabic landscape will not be able to have its deserved ‘Spring’. Surely 1400 years of Autumn and Winter is enough!