Monday, June 27, 2005

Go Go Georgiou II (update)

A somewhat belated update, but one that had better be made to preserve consistency...
Last Friday week (Jun 17) John Howard announced changes to the mandatory detention policy. He did this to prevent a potentially damaging members' bill being tabled in parliament by Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou. Details of the changes may be found here, and here

In brief, the immigration minister will be given the discretion to release children of asylum seekers, and their parents, into the community. Cases will be monitored by an ombudsman.

It strikes me as astonishing that the minister did not already have this power, and wonder how willingly it will be invoked. As for Howard? He may have decided to change his policy, but don't think for a second that his heart is in it!

Still, it's a start. Maybe the Palmer report will go further!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Culture of Lief

Satire has long been used as a method of speaking truth to power from behind a veil. Cartoonists know this well, and are given much freer reign over what they can depict (after all, the interpretation is up to the viewer).

In the same vein, I intend to start referring to the Bush administration's policies as promoting the 'culture of lief'.

Oh, my! Is that a misprint, or a bit of eighteenth century spelling?

Go, Go, Georgiou!

I mentioned a little while ago that the Howard government has a new opposition in the form of Petro Georgiou, the liberal backbencher for Kooyong (blue ribbon liberal!) who has finally spoken out against the government's policy of mandatory detention.

His dissent on this issue has long been held, but only behind locked doors. It is only in the last month or so that he, and three other members, have finally presented a private member's bill to abolish the current system (which makes Guantanamo Bay look like a kinder camp).

He held private talks with Howard at the weekend to see whether an agreement could be reached. This was simply a matter of following due process: if you've studied Australian politics for any period in the last nine years, you will realise that Howard's mind does not change. So, predictably, the talks have ended in impasse, and the bills will be presented to parliament in the near future (possibly next week)

Hear! Hear!

Elsewhere, the Palmer enquiry is revealing what happens when you leave a system of guardians with complete control over their charges out of sight and out of mind. It's an unpleasant aspect of human nature that was investigated briefly in an infamous series of trials where one group of students was put in charge of another group (can anyone supply a reference?). The experiment was stopped when it was realised that long term psychological damage was occurring.

The same factors led to Abu Ghraib... and to Baxter detention centre.

The Howard government needs a short, sharp shock on this issue. (Hell! A large proportion of the Australian public needs a short, sharp shock on this issue!)

De-energise the fences and let these benighted souls breathe free! There are more humane ways of monitoring the movement of illegal immigrants in the community. (And yes, they do need monitoring, not only for the occasional subversive* but, more importantly, for the prevention of a black market source of slave labour)

End mandatory detention.

End xenophobia!!
*As someone once commented: 'Today's terrorist travels business class'

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Checkpoint 6898604

According to ZDNet UK News, that's the number of the patent issued to Microsoft for the conversion between data objects and XML.

In case you aren't aware, XML is actually an open standard developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The standard is free for all to come and have a look but, with this development, you'll have to get Billy Boy's permission before you can touch!

How open a standard can it be when it's shackled by this crap? The barriers to openness are being moved 'quietly' into place.

Except it isn't as quiet as that, or as straightforward.

I mentioned this development to a colleague, whose comment (after he retrieved his jaw from the deck) was that it meant XML would just die: people would create something else to use instead.

And that is precisely what will happen (if M$ should ever choose to enforce this little perk)

Patents are supposed to provide the inventor with the means of obtaining due recognition and recompense for the use of the invention. However, from what I have seen, what actually happens is that, rather than shuffle meekly through the toll gate that has been erected, the rubes find a way to go through the hedge. A lot of effort may be expended in poking holes in the hedge, too. (I suppose that's where the argument that patents encourage innovation comes from)

In other words, patents aren't really about provision of service so much as denial of service. As such, they are simply Tools of mischief

Meantime, an interesting article on Groklaw concerning attempts to find appropriate wording is to be found here (it seems that the UK patent office found the wording to the EU software patent quite inadequate). I still remain hopeful that the teeth to this particular beast will eventually be pulled, and we can all get on with life.
Update (June 6). I am relieved to see that Tim Bray has pointed out, and reproduced, an article by Greg Aharonian that more or less demonstrates that the patent is invalid. Aharonian is a patent lawyer, so his creds to comment on this topic are somewhat more substantial than mine (not that it stops me!). So, the barriers may be broken down... this time.
Fade to the words of an old Seekers song...

We'll build a world of our own, that no one else can share.
All our sorrows we'll leave, far behind us there!
And I know you will find, there'll be peace of mind,
when we live in a world of our own.