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Category Archives: awful warnings

More on safer computing

It would appear to be like “safe sex” – not 100% reliable, but far better than nothing if you have good condoms.

Yahoo7 drew attention this afternoon to the top 100 infected sites based on number of threats detected by Norton Safe Web as of August 2009. They only offer the top 30 on that page, and so far as I can tell I have never been to any of them.

Why I have so interested in such things lately you may see from Multicultural Surry Hills, and How to Kill a Toshiba and Watching TV again: Jack Mundey; scary computer stuff.

What firewall do you use? Have a look at Proactive Security Challenge and look for yours in the list. You may get a shock. The ACER I am now using since the Toshiba was eaten by malware now has Outpost Firewall Free 2009 in place of the Windows one. The ACER also came packaged with McAfee Internet Security 2009 which according to the Proactive Challenge has a security rating of 2/10 and scored 12%!

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2009 in awful warnings, computers, web stuff, www

 

Watching TV again: Jack Mundey; scary computer stuff

1. The good Communist

Back in Cold War days Prime Minister Robert Menzies attempted to ban the Communist Party of Australia. The Australian people rejected the idea – not that the Communists were not subjected to zealous monitoring by intelligence agencies. That went on into much more recent times, and no doubt people on the extremes both of left and right still attract attention. I remember when my Wollongong friend The Red Dragon (cordon bleu cook extraordinaire and avid Bridge player) rang me in the early 1980s to warn me that now she was General Secretary or some such of the Illawarra Branch of the party her phone was tapped. She knew this because one night there was a click on her phone and a voice cut in saying “You take this Bill, I have to go and have a leak.” Since her phone mostly was used for social – not socialist – purposes such as Bridge and recipes, she subsequently used to apologise to the tappers from time to time for boring them so much.)  Unfortunately during the Dragon’s term of office the Communist Party of Australia dissolved itself.

All that aside, Australia’s favourite Communist no doubt has been Jack Mundey – and perhaps poet Dame Mary Gilmore. Last night Talking Heads had a good interview with Mundey.

PETER THOMPSON: Jack, you’ve never been just a hardliner. You’ve always been…
JACK MUNDEY: Intelligent. My interest has always been organisation for the cause that I’m fighting, and I’ve just stuck to that.
PETER THOMPSON: Australia is pretty much a paradise, though it’s far from being the sort of workers’ paradise you had in mind.
JACK MUNDEY: I don’t know about paradise, but I hope that the future for humanity is all the things that I expect it to be.

Not a dogmatist in other words.

2. Scary computer stuff

Four Corners last night was really quite scary, especially after my recent sad experience of malware eating my Toshiba – and that Malware disabled the antivirus and deleted all the restore points before itself as well as disabling the USB ports and the CD/DVD.

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…Authorities are now working hard to keep up with the crooks. They are having trouble though. Crooks working from countries in Eastern Europe are hard to catch. Home-grown criminals are easier to bring down, but police reveal the legal system doesn’t treat cyber-theft with the seriousness it deserves. One young man stole more than 50,000 credit cards card details but received a suspended one year sentence, $2,000 good behaviour bond and court costs of $150.

Adding to the problem, most computer users don’t realise how vulnerable they are. Four Corners took an e-security expert to an ordinary city street and asked him to assess computer security. Using a basic wireless interceptor our expert found he could tap into up to 20 per cent of wireless computer networks, potentially accessing bank accounts and other personal information. Even those systems that had been encrypted took just 10 minutes to crack. No wonder police are warning we are right to have"Fear in the Fast Lane".

Whether this story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald is entirely true or not – and it may well be – it certainly highlights another concern.

AUSTRALIA’S diplomats have been warned about a fake email amid concerns it could be part of a cyber espionage attempt, possibly originating from China.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed yesterday staff had been briefed about a suspicious email sent to several staff last month. The source of the email is under investigation by the department’s communications experts. ASIO and the AFP would not comment yesterday on whether they were also investigating the email.

A report in the Canberra Times said the email was suspected to have originated from China and was headed ”Australia-China Free Trade Agreement Negotiations Update”. It reportedly targeted officials who work on China-related matters.

A spokeswoman for the department would not say whether the email was believed to have come from China.

”It is not Government practice to comment on intelligence issues,” she said.

Update

Prompted by Major Geeks I downloaded and installed a-squared Free 4.5. Yes, I have lots of other “condoms” on, including Malware Bytes, Windows Defender, Avast!, Spyware Doctor and Threatfire, but on its first test run at on demand scanning a-squared found two major threats that had thus far escaped detection: Backdoor:Win32/VB.IK and TrojanDownloader:Win32/Banload.IK! Both are rated severe threats by Microsoft.

 

Multicultural Surry Hills, and How to Kill a Toshiba

So I go downstairs to Elizabeth Street shops this morning: the Chinese corner shop, the Cambodian coffee shop, the mixed ethnic pharmacy, the Indian newsagent, the Indonesian grocery, and the Cambodian fish and chip shop – brother of the coffee shop. All Australian of course, 21st century style. Over the road it’s just about all Lebanese, except for another Chinese grocery and internet cafe and a Thai restaurant. Further towards Cleveland Street on my side there’s the Indonesian/Malaysian cafe/restaurant (jazz on Sundays), the allegedly bikie-owned backpacker place, the Lebanese Italian pizza joint, the Lebanese grocery and internet cafe, and the Lebanese restaurant. The Turkish mosque is just around the corner in Cleveland Street.

So I go into the Indonesian grocery and there is this preschooler – such a cutie – sitting up at the laptop and actually using it, his mother supervising. So computers can’t be hard, can they, if preschoolers can use them…

That puts my recently challenged geekdom in place.

Because, as you know from last week, I am guilty of Toshibacide. Thought I’d tell you more about how I did it.

Lovely machine it was too, a fetching shade of red, but at three years old starting to show its age. But we were happy. After all, who am I to complain about limited resources? That’s the story of my life. But it used to complain to me about some programs, particularly whenever I had a stint with Threatfire. It couldn’t quite cope, what with its 448 meg usable memory and all.

So I was being kind and updating a few drivers from DriverMax, which gets nice green things from WOT and McAfee Site Advisor. Unfortunately I hadn’t read this.

This crapware is really potential malware. They connect you without permission to an unregulated forum and if you are not an advanced user then you could easily download the wrong driver that could cause your computer to stop working or even worse a virus disguised as a driver.
The rating system is very suspicious and just because it shows hundreds of idiots (I sometimes suspect they may not even be users but malicious hackers) say they downloaded a driver from another so called user that uploaded what they claim to be an updated driver, doesn’t mean it is even an authorized nor appropriate driver for you device. The reports are also generated by these so called users so even if your drivers are up to date, if one person claims an update then it will deceive you into downloading whatever the file is. When they report hundreds of different drivers for one specific device then you really have to begin questioning what the hell they are doing.

Well, at first all was well. I downloaded some good updates. Then, oh my! (Perhaps Threatfire may have saved my poor Toshiba?) Down came this “driver” willy-nilly, no questions asked, which proceeded to disable the Antivirus, cut off all communication to the DVD drive and all USB ports, rearrange a few files, and – worst of all – deleted all the restore points before itself. Result, one very sick Toshiba. It still works in a limited way, but you can’t communicate with it, if you see what I mean, or even do a clean install and start again. Toshibacide.

Now on my ACER Extensa I have just installed Threatfire, and yesterday Malware Bytes. Why? Because yesterday Spybot Search and Destroy told me I had 12 instances of infection with a BHO Trojan. This trojan only invades Internet Explorer, and it may have become attached in one of those intervals when the computer was unprotected while I changed over to Avast! from McAfee (which came with the computer) and a series of other internet condoms. Certainly Vista didn’t send up any nagging popup about it, as it regularly does for quite innocent programs – even Microsoft programs sometimes.  Spybot could only fix seven of the twelve infections, but Malware Bytes disposed of the rest.

So my geekdom has received a blow, and I am being extra careful with my new partner Extensa. It is also now totally backed up onto an external hard disk.

Don’t touch DriverMax with a barge pole. 😦

 

Yacqub Khayre and Holsworthy plot

Everyone in Australia will be aware of the plot uncovered recently in which it is alleged a small band of Somalis planned to attack the Holsworthy Barracks in South-West Sydney. (Note Jim Belshaw’s reservations in his post Australia’s dumb would be terrorists. Note too that the presumption of innocence applies to these men. There is no way we should allow terrorism to water down our own hard-won legal system.)

Given all that, its is well worth reading for humanity’s sake the admirable story Ibrahim Khayre and Somalia | Yacqub Khayre and Holsworthy plot | Selma Milovanovic in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

IBRAHIM KHAYRE wipes away tears and shakes his head.

To him, the story of his nephew, Yacqub Khayre, an accused terrorist, is one of a system that failed an intelligent boy.

It is a story that began in the chaos of war in Mogadishu in 1991, when Ibrahim, who was already living in Australia, brought three-year-old Yacqub and his family here from Somalia to save them.Yacqub grew up in Melbourne’s Gladstone Park and was schooled locally, before becoming friends with Lebanese boys who were a ‘‘bad influence’’.

This week it ended in the arrest of Yacqub, 21, who is alleged to have travelled to Somalia this year, where he attended a camp where ‘‘weapons and military training may have happened’’. At the same time, his co-accused allegedly sought a religious ruling to give the group, suspected members of jihadist sect al-Shabab, approval to attack the Holsworthy army base and a military target in Victoria.

Ibrahim Khayre is a law-abiding citizen who runs a coffee shop. He is not religious, looks after his family and otherwise keeps to himself. He migrated to Australia in 1985 and, in 1991, brought his brother, Yacqub’s father, to Australia along with the rest of the family…

In 2006, the police rang him, trying to track down Yacqub. ‘‘I said, ‘I don’t know where he is. You took him from my house. He could be sleeping with terrorists for all I know.’’’

He saw his nephew once, a year later, but the next time Ibrahim heard of Yacqub was on Tuesday, when a man showed him a newspaper front page in his coffee shop.

Ibrahim says the system let him down. ‘‘The state who said we want to help, they did not. They left him out in the cold. It’s the Government that tied our hands.’’

Ibrahim sits at home, plagued by insomnia, crying constantly. His tears flow as he utters the words he says he thought he would never say. He regrets bringing his family to Australia, even though it saved their lives.

Another issue in this case is the use of private unarmed guards at Australian military bases. I first noted this practice sometime in the 1980s at Victoria Barracks in Sydney and thought 1) they looked inappropriate compared with actual soldiers manning the gates and 2) what a silly way to save money. I see the government is going to review this absurd policy. I wonder too how sophisticated electronic and CCTV surveillance is around such bases. It strikes me they should be very sophisticated, but I somehow doubt they are. In the old days no-one would really have imagined a terrorist attack on such things, the worst scenario way back then being peace demonstrators who are not generally homicidal.

Thomas noted on Twitter that the story was carrying Melbourne-Sydney rivalry just a bit too far. 😉 He lives not far from Holsworthy, I should add, near enough to hear when they are practising with their artillery, as I also did as a kid growing up in Sutherland.

Addendum

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Could apply to this post too.

 

Yes the new computer has a webcam…

Sorry about the subject!

horror

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2009 in awful warnings, personal

 

Computer tragedy

I have boasted recently of my growing geekdom, but I crashed and burned last Friday! Somehow I downloaded a nasty bit of malware – I think I know how and caution you against any site offering free drivers – and the poor Toshiba had all its restore points prior to the malware wiped, had a few files rearranged, and all access to USB and DVD/CD destroyed. You know what that means: all fixes are off! Running antivirus and antimalware programs did nought. Too late, she cried!

Thanks to Sirdan I now have an ACER 4230 with a 2 gig dual core processor, 160 gig HDD and Vista. So much time downloading updates and restoring and setting up favourite programs – but no shonky driver updaters!

I am now back in business, as you see. One or two things I am still catching up on.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2009 in awful warnings, computers

 

I have temporarily removed Firefox 3.5 from my computer

This follows a highly critical alert from Secunia. I like Firefox, so I’ll probably reinstall it asap. Meanwhile I have made Google Chrome my default browser. It gets 100% thumbs up from Secunia. IE8 doesn’t, but the risk there is rated moderate, but I don’t use IE8 often.

Update 16 July

I have reinstalled Firefox, despite the warning, hoping my various cyber condoms make the problem less significant. I am nonetheless keeping Chrome as my default browser for the time being. It is less resource hungry than it was when I first tried it and it certainly looks good.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2009 in awful warnings, computers, web stuff

 

Who killed Mr Ward? Four Corners 15 June 2009

This is a very disturbing story.

.. the shocking story of a well respected community leader in outback Western Australia who was locked in a metal cell in the back of a prison van and driven through the desert in the searing heat. Four hours later he was dead.

In his lifetime Mr Ward, whose first name is not used in respect for Aboriginal custom, had gone from a traditional hunter-gatherer life in the desert of Western Australia to becoming a spokesman for his people in Australia and overseas.

On a hot Saturday night, just over a year ago, Laverton police arrested Mr Ward for driving under the influence of alcohol. Less than 24 hours later he was dead. He had been transported 400 kilometres in the back of a prison van operated by a private security firm. The air temperature inside his cell was over 47 degrees, and the metal surface reached 56 degrees…

The guards driving the prison van did not stop to check his welfare or see if he needed a toilet break, food or water until, they say, they heard a thud from the back. Even then they didn’t unlock both the cell doors, and instead threw water on Mr Ward through the chained-up inner door.

"We don’t treat animals like that. We don’t treat our pets like that. People get put in jail for treating another… another creature the same as Mr Ward was treated." Dennis Eggington, Aboriginal Legal Service of WA

Evidence from the inquest reveals the Department of Corrective Services was explicitly warned of the high risk involved with transporting prisoners in their ageing and sub-standard fleet of vehicles, by the former company providing the transport service…

Basically, this converted a drink-driving matter into execution by cooking to death.

Today in The Sydney Morning Herald we learn this:

THE private prison operator found responsible for the gruesome death in custody of a West Australian Aboriginal elder last year was invited to bid to run a NSW prison.

Mr Ward, whose family has asked that his first name not be used, suffered third-degree burns and slowly burned to death in almost 60-degree heat in the back of a prison van on a 400-kilometre trip from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in January last year.

He had been charged with drink-driving and was refused bail in an unrepresented 10-minute hearing by an unqualified justice of the peace…

G4S Australia [formerly GSL] was one of five companies invited by the NSW Government to tender for the running of Parklea prison last month as it pursues a contentious privatisation policy at the western Sydney jail.

The company was awarded the contract to transport prisoners in WA despite a damning report by the Department of Immigration in 2005 on its transportation of five detainees from Melbourne to Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia.

The five prisoners, kept in the back of a GSL van for seven hours without food and with only one bottle of water, were forced to urinate in each other’s company. On that occasion, GSL promised it would take whatever steps it could "to ensure that this can never happen again"…

A company that previously owned the vans, AIMS, recommended the same year that they not be used for long-haul trips.

The WA government promised to replace the vans but never did, buying them instead and giving the transport contract to GSL.

In a statement the company said it took immediate action after Mr Ward’s death to prevent a recurrence, but it provided no details of the action.

The NSW Corrective Services Minister, John Robertson, was unavailable for comment last night.

No need to say more, is there?

 

Some curiosities of scientists

I am not a scientist, though I did at one time plan to be. My idea of fun when I was 10 to 12 was a day at the Australian Museum, and I collected insects. However, Chemistry in my last year at school soon revealed I should pursue English and History instead, and my Maths was woeful. Still is.

Nonetheless I am still interested, and thus I have taken an interest in the topic of climate change, as you may see from one of the notes in the sidebar. I refer you to that because there are real scientists over there.

Just now Professor Ian Plimer is getting a lot of attention. I didn’t see him on Lateline last night**, but will read the transcript when it appears later today. I note he was on Lateline Business last year. Ticky Fullerton seems there to be implying he is a spokeperson for the mining industry, but that may be unfair.

It strikes me that it is bleeding obvious that in geological time most of the change that has overtaken this planet has had nothing to do with us johnny-come-latelies called homo sapiens. However, it also strikes me as obvious from history that once we arrived we have had a considerable impact, rather as something as inconsiderable in itself as a virus can have an impact on homo sapiens. Not that I am pushing that analogy…

Still, when you do read Professor Plimer you might also read some other scientists: Ian Plimer – Heaven and Earth by Professor Barry Brook, Foundation Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change and Director of Climate Science at The Environment Institute, University of Adelaide; The science is missing from Ian Plimer’s "Heaven and Earth" by Tim Lambert, a computer scientist at the University of New South Wales.

See also Geological Timescales and the Effects of Climate Change.

Another recent science-related story that fascinates me because it says much about how the internet has changed the world concerns Jared Diamond, whose books I have enjoyed.

“While acting on vengeful feelings clearly needs to be discouraged, acknowledging them should be not merely permitted but encouraged,” wrote Jared M. Diamond in an essay in The New Yorker last April.

Now two of the subjects of that essay are acknowledging their own vengeful feelings. This week a lawyer filed a $10-million defamation claim (PDF) in a New York court on behalf of two Papua New Guinea men whom Mr. Diamond described as active participants in clan warfare during the 1990s.

Mr. Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California at Los Angeles and the author of the best-selling Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (W.W. Norton, 1997), and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking, 2004), based the essay almost entirely on accounts given to him by Hup Daniel Wemp, an oil-field technician who served as Mr. Diamond’s driver during a 2001-2 visit to New Guinea. (The full text of the essay is open only to New Yorker subscribers, but a long summary is available here…

In a post on Wednesday at Savage Minds, an anthropology blog, Alex Golub, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii-Manoa who does field work in New Guinea, suggested that this affair was emblematic of “a fundamental ethical issue that anthropologists will have to face for decades to come.” The rise of the Internet means that whatever scholars write about their field informants—no matter how remote those people might seem—will inevitably be read by the communities they have described.

“While this should always have been important to us,” Mr. Golub wrote, “it is a topic we can no longer ignore in a world where their ‘informants’ are more connected than ever before to the flows of media and communication in which ‘we’ depict ‘them.’”

** Friday 1 May

Yes I know; the transcript is still not up. I emailed Lateline about it and received a copy of it in reply yesterday, and an assurance the missing transcript should have appeared and this would be looked into. Hope it goes up soon, as it really is a performance and a bit!

 
 

Two thought-provoking articles from the SMH

1. On Pakistan

Paul McGeough: Warning that Pakistan is in danger of collapse within months.

PAKISTAN could collapse within months, one of the more influential counter-insurgency voices in Washington says.

The warning comes as the US scrambles to redeploy its military forces and diplomats in an attempt to stem rising violence and anarchy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We have to face the fact that if Pakistan collapses it will dwarf anything we have seen so far in whatever we’re calling the war on terror now,” said David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer who was a specialist adviser for the Bush administration and is now a consultant to the Obama White House.

“You just can’t say that you’re not going to worry about al-Qaeda taking control of Pakistan and its nukes,” he said…

At least that, depressing as it is, will be demonstrated one way or another in a very short time.

Browse through Foreign Affairs: for example Obama’s War — Redefining Victory in Afghanistan and Pakistan or What’s the Problem with Pakistan?

A couple of varied related articles: Musharraf’s Support Shrinks, Even As More Pakistanis Reject Terrorism… and the U.S. (PEW 2007); ‘Pakistan has lost war against terrorism’: Imran Khan (April 2009); Poverty in Pakistan, Terrorism, and the IMF; China, Pakistan, and Terrorism — from Foreign Policy in Focus November 2008.

2. Paul Sheehan on Climate Change

Paul Sheehan has been converted to the sceptic side by his reading of Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth.

What I am about to write questions much of what I have written in this space, in numerous columns, over the past five years. Perhaps what I have written can withstand this questioning. Perhaps not. The greater question is, am I – and you – capable of questioning our own orthodoxies and intellectual habits? Let’s see.

The subject of this column is not small. It is a book entitled Heaven And Earth, which will be published tomorrow. It has been written by one of Australia’s foremost Earth scientists, Professor Ian Plimer. He is a confronting sort of individual, polite but gruff, courteous but combative. He can write extremely well, and Heaven And Earth is a brilliantly argued book by someone not intimidated by hostile majorities or intellectual fashions.

The book’s 500 pages and 230,000 words and 2311 footnotes are the product of 40 years’ research and a depth and breadth of scholarship. As Plimer writes: “An understanding of climate requires an amalgamation of astronomy, solar physics, geology, geochronology, geochemistry, sedimentology, tectonics, palaeontology, palaeoecology, glaciology, climatology, meteorology, oceanography, ecology, archaeology and history.”…

Plimer does not dispute the dramatic flux of climate change – and this column is not about Australia’s water debate – but he fundamentally disputes most of the assumptions and projections being made about the current causes, mostly led by atmospheric scientists, who have a different perspective on time. “It is little wonder that catastrophist views of the future of the planet fall on fertile pastures. The history of time shows us that depopulation, social disruption, extinctions, disease and catastrophic droughts take place in cold times … and life blossoms and economies boom in warm times. Planet Earth is dynamic. It always changes and evolves. It is currently in an ice age.”…

The setting up by the UN of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988 gave an opportunity to make global warming the main theme of environmental groups. “The IPCC process is related to environmental activism, politics and opportunism. It is unrelated to science. Current zeal around human-induced climate change is comparable to the certainty professed by Creationists or religious fundamentalists.”

Ian Plimer is not some isolated gadfly. He is a prize-winning scientist and professor. The back cover of Heaven And Earth carries a glowing endorsement from the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, who now holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. Numerous rigorous scientists have joined Plimer in dissenting from the prevailing orthodoxy.

Heaven and Earth is an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence.

Indeed there is such a thing as ideology subverting evidence; the Lysenko affair is the archetypal case.

…Lysenko rose to dominance at a 1948 conference in Russia where he delivered a passionate address denouncing Mendelian thought as “reactionary and decadent” and declared such thinkers to be “enemies of the Soviet people” (Gardner 1957). He also announced that his speech had been approved by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Scientists either groveled, writing public letters confessing the errors of their way and the righteousness of the wisdom of the Party, or they were dismissed. Some were sent to labor camps. Some were never heard from again.

Under Lysenko’s guidance, science was guided not by the most likely theories, backed by appropriately controlled experiments, but by the desired ideology. Science was practiced in the service of the State, or more precisely, in the service of ideology. The results were predictable: the steady deterioration of Soviet biology. Lysenko’s methods were not condemned by the Soviet scientific community until 1965, more than a decade after Stalin’s death…

But I bristle at the implication that this phenomenon is only a left phenomenon, bizarre as the Lysenko affair undoubtedly was. Some of my current reading, as you will see later this week, illustrates a similar tendency from the Right. That the Right is “objective” and “realistic” is as much a delusion as that Marxism is “scientific”.

As for the Plimer argument, see my earlier post Miranda and Piers in duet after “Quadrant” dinner…. Further, see this post and the long comment thread: Are geologists different?

Of course against Sheehan’s rather naive page and footnote count and the even more naive “He is a prize-winning scientist and professor” I offer an even more impressive scientist — Lord May of Oxford, also a professor and indeed former President of the Royal Society.

But of course this is no more an argument in itself than Sheehan’s statement of the same kind was.

See my sidebar note on this topic for further reading.

 

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Strange and sad

Such were my feelings as I watched this last night:

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Back in 2007 I had mentioned the key events before: Sydney Boys High School 1955.

The god-like Fifth Form students — High School only went to Year 11 then — included quite a few who became, well, god-like figures…

One of THE most god-like to us in 1955 was Marcus Einfeld, son of Jewish Labor Party politician Sydney (Syd) Einfeld and his wife Billie. He did indeed go on to a distinguished career, and it is sad to read what is befalling him at this time. Just what he did remains to be tested, but if proven it really would make you wonder why on earth he did it, as Legal Eagle does in How the mighty may fall.

It is doubly sad because Einfeld was so often on the side of the angels, as in this talk in 2001

Many on the Right will feel most self-satisfied if Einfeld’s peculiar attitude to speeding fines is proven in court. I will feel sad that my boyhood hero has feet of clay, but I still won’t discount his intellect or achievement over that half century.

Now he is in jail.

See also Legal Eagle today: The final ignominy.

Update 26 March

It is hard to imagine a stronger contrast with Legal Eagle’s judicious and critical but still charitable post than Miranda Devine in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. She is positively crowing.

I say the good the man did – and he did much – remains good, whatever the faults or indeed crimes of the man.

 

Bad Archaeology

And is there a lot of it around! Bad Archaeology explains itself thus:

We are a couple of real archaeologists fed up with the distorted view of the past that passes for knowledge in popular culture. We are unhappy that journalists with no knowledge of the methods, aims, techniques and theories of real archaeology can sell hundreds of times more books than real archaeologists. We do not appreciate news programmes that talk about ley lines as if they are real. In short, we are Angry Archaeologists.

One of us is Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, who began work on a version of this site as part of his personal home pages as long ago as 1999. Keith is a local authority archaeologist in North Hertfordshire with a long-standing interest in Bad Archaeology and who has grown increasingly concerned at the profession’s evident unwillingness to deal with it. He is also worried at the growth of anti-Enlightenment attitudes during his lifetime, which he worries may return us to a Dark Age of superstition-based belief.

The other of us is James Doeser, who is currently trying to finish his PhD in government and archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. James is interested in the way efforts to increase public understanding of archaeology (museums, media, tourism etc.) collide with a the belief that everybody has a right to understand the past in whichever way they want. We can’t all be right, can we?

Highly commended. Just to name one field, there is unfortunately a great deal of nonsense out there in the realm of Biblical archaeology. In that area you may also look at another good site, The Bible and Interpretation.

There are many other sections in Bad Archaeology. I will certainly be spending time on it.

Bad Archaeology is all around us: many of its ideas are pervasive in popular culture; its publications sell more than Good Archaeology publications; its web presence is much stronger than that of Good Archaeology. What we are trying to do with this site is to show the utter vacuity of most Bad Archaeology and provide a reference point for Good (or at least, Better) Archaeology.

At the same time, we hope that this site will be a useful resource to people puzzled by various claims about the past, about apparently anomalous artefacts, about religious claims to knowledge that are in conflict with those of science and about assertions that just seem a bit dubious.

Above all, we hope that this site will entertain and amuse you!

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2009 in awful warnings, Bible, historiography, History

 

Pakistan on the Brink – Four Corners

Those who close all girls’ schools wherever they have the power to do so, who murder all their opposition, favour terror as a weapon, make their God a gun, and are driven by a crazed and extreme version of the worst aspects of the Abrahamic faiths – the Taliban and their supporters. What more can you say? The poor people of Pakistan — a country M visited in 1999-2000 and loved, having met with nothing but hospitality and honesty wherever he went, which included Peshawar and much of the North-West Frontier.

But what a different story today, thanks to Bush’s foreign policy, past neglect of the key significance of Afghanistan/Pakistan – the borders really are notional – and the sideshow that was the invasion of Iraq, even granted that things there are somewhat better.

But it is chilling to realise that whatever one’s hopes of peace the Taliban and company do not want peace, except their own peace – and that is what you just read in the first paragraph. That is not a peace the world can live with, even less the people of Pakistan. And yes I know what a quagmire Afghanistan/Pakistan has been for all who have ventured into it – the British, the Russians, and now NATO, the US, and our own military. Earlier US Cold war policy directed against the dying USSR in Afghanistan nurtured the monsters.

r341525_1554761Before you comment on this post, carefully review the Four Corners program linked to that image.

Before you start rabbiting on in a generalised way about Islam, consider that all the people we see in that program – terrorists, cultists, fanatics, and their victims – are all Muslims. There are indeed Muslims and Muslims. Jihad-watch style reaction does not help.

You don’t have to demonise the Taliban; they do that very successfully themselves. The dilemma — and what a dilemma! – that the program also brought out is that heavy-handed military “solutions” quite often strengthen the Taliban and such groups. Can’t help thinking though that it would be in everyone’s interests if India and Pakistan could bury their differences in the light of the common threat they confront. Nor would a just solution to the Israel/Palestine issue go astray – that being another running sore in the background to all these events.

Glad I just run a blog, and not the world!

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2009 in awful warnings, best viewing 2009, current affairs, Islam, peace, South Asian, terrorism

 

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If there’s a catastrophe anywhere the Jihadists have done it…

So clever! Why, you’d wonder if we could ever win against such a cunning and resourceful opponent.

I mention this because it is surprising how much internet space is being devoted to this pet theory, aided and abetted by some who should know better. The whole thing is best put in perspective by Anorak, a satirical site, which is actually telling the unvarnished truth about what some have been saying. See Australia Fire: Warmists, Jihadists, Terrorists, Arsonist, Religionists And Opportunists.

No matter, of course, that the police disagree.

…"None at all, absolutely nothing, zero," Superintendent Ross McNeill told AFP.

"We usually rank possibilities on a scale of 0 to 10 – this would be on a negative scale," he said.

McNeill said he was aware of last year’s report, which said US intelligence channels had identified a website calling on Muslims in Australia, the US, Europe and Russia to "start forest fires"…

What would the police know? After all, bloggers are much better informed…

So far no-one seems to want to credit the Jihadists with the Queensland floods.

flood

I mention this because I have been engaging in dialogue (if that is the right word) with another blogger whose post popped up in the WordPress.com list. See my comment here.

Update

Hat tip to Bruce for this.

Irfan Yusuf posted COMEDY: Herald-Sun writer exposes marsupial jihad… on his main blog (not the one I have in my Google Reader) yesterday. He quotes, and I quote in turn, some apposite responses.

This is an unnecessary and dangerously incendiary article. How stupid and pointless to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment at a time when emotions are running high and there’s so much good will and community support to be celebrated.
Posted by: Deborah Bartlett Pitt
9:53am today

Don’t fall for this people. The general Muslim community want nothing to do with these lunatics. As arsonists walk amongst our community, idiots walk amongst theirs.
Posted by: CFA Volunteer
12:05am today

It is very likely, no doubt, that certain “jihadist” web sites may have “rejoiced” in the tragedy. That of course is sick, but on the other hand is rather analogous – very analogous – to the “it’s God’s judgement” school of thought some Christians have been foolish and tasteless enough to embrace. The “jihadist” rejoicing, however, in no way proves cause – which would in fact be post hoc reasoning.

As for Sheikh Haron, I suspect this nasty piece of work is heavily into self-aggrandisement. I’ve downloaded and read his “claim of responsibility” addressed to Kevin Rudd. If, that is, we believe he is real. Austrolabe makes a good case for his being a fake. Some in the comments question his mental health. Austrolabe is a Muslim site.

Enough said! That last comment cited by  Irfan, and his whole post, pretty much nails it – not to mention the assessment of the police.

Not unrelated, see Legal Eagle in a top post reminding us of the obvious: we have a legal system in this country, not lynch law. See Publication with prejudice.

…Our legal system works on the basis that this guy is innocent until proven guilty. That’s a fundamental retributive principle: we can’t punish someone unless we know beyond reasonable doubt that he deserves to be punished. We have to have a trial presenting all the relevant evidence before we judge him. We can’t just say, “He was a kooky scrap metal guy who was always lighting fires in the backyard, so he must have done it.”

By assuming this guy’s guilt without knowing all the evidence, the vigilante groups may have exactly the opposite effect from what they want. They may cause his trial to be derailed, as the defence barristers will be able to argue that he has been unfairly prejudiced before the trial even began. Do they really want to make it very difficult to prosecute this guy? Seems to me that they need to calm down and think logically and carefully about it. The same goes for the media: they need to be responsible in the way they report information about the accused.

Update:

I do think that vigilante group perpetrators should be charged with contempt of court if possible. Their behaviour is highly irresponsible, and an example needs to be made.

If ever we forget such principles we’re sunk!

Related: Four Corners: Two Days in Hell (my next post). For all posts on this topic on this blog see bushfires.

Update 18 February

I have decided to link directly to the post and thread which triggered this post. It has been at least reasonably civil, but I have reservations about our national tragedy being hijacked, in a way, to feed a particular interpretation of world events, especially given the evidence for that is so thin. Speculation is OK, I guess, and people will believe what they will. But in this case it really is a distraction. I doubt very much it will figure in the police investigations, our own national security assessments, or the Royal Commission.

You can read the post and thread and make up your own minds. The blogger concerned comes from North Carolina; he also participates in an interesting thing I hadn’t seen before called Where I Stand.  I even agree with some of the opinions expressed there, but would like this one to be wrong: The Left and Right will not find a way to live with each other in a civilized manner. What do you think?

There is to be a National Day of Mourning on Sunday 22 February.

Some of you will like this sermon by Dave Groenenboom; it’s a matter of your perspective, I guess, but I offer it as a contribution. I won’t analyse it or critique it; I do admire its spirit.

 

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