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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ratings before justice!

Hey Dad was a very popular and highly rating sit com on Australian television in the 1980s. As I begin typing this entry, the latest in a continuing run of interviews is airing about the alleged inappropriate behaviour of the show's adult star, Robert Hughes, in essentially molesting young children on the set, in particular young actor, Sarah Monahan.

There are two aspects to this issue.

First, did he do it? With the number of people now coming out, including other members of the cast being pretty up-front about matters, things seem to be looking pretty grim for Mr Hughes. It also possibly explains his sudden departure from the series and also possibly the fact that he no longer lives in Australia but in Singapore. More and more people are now speaking up about the matter including other alleged victims.

Where things become particularly nasty is what now has the appearance of a senior management cover-up that has continued for years. Fellow actors from the set have now openly spoken about how they approached the executive producer, Gary Reilly, about what was going on, and how they were intimidated into staying quiet. Yet a couple of nights ago on national Australian television, Reilly emphatically denied any knowledge of the situation. Yet at the same time, he admitted that later in the series, he arranged a chaparone for another young i.e. child actor.

Last night, actor on the series, Ben Oxenbould, stated that Reilly knew. A few minutes ago, footage has aired of actor Simone Buchanan in interview on the program, A Current Affair, stating that she did take the matter to Reilly, and that Reilly's response was to tell her to be quiet about it. Further, Buchanan states that after she had left the show, when Reilly learned that she had discussed the matter with someone else, he rang her and told her in no certain terms that she was never to discuss the matter with anyone again.

It is appearing more and more that this actor has been a serial molester of young girls, that his television employers were well aware of the situation and that Hughes has been protected for years by others bullying people into silence on his behalf in order to protect their ratings and investment.

If these things have happened as described, then this man deserves the full strength of the law coming down on top of him. And if Gary Reilly and others, senior in the Australian television industry, have protected him as claimed, then they ALL need to be charged for their role in this. Exactly what charges, I don't know but there has to be something.

There is a second aspect of this matter. These revelations have all come via public exposure on an Australian television program before anyone went to the police. After an initial interview with Sarah Monahan that did not name the alleged perpetrator, since then he has been named repeatedly by the program and tracked down by a camera crew in Singapore.

If Hughes has done these terrible things, he needs to face retribution and justice. But by this week-long ever-increasing amount of exposure by A Current Affair, how could anyone possibly claim that any trial would be free of pre-existing bias as a result of this media coverage? There is now a real risk that these matters will not go to trial because this media circus could been seen to have tainted the chance of a fair trial.

This has happened before. Infamous Australian 'current affairs' reporter and DJ, Derryn Hinch, once named an alleged pedophile on national television. He had been warned by the judiciary not to do so but blatantly defied the courts all in the name of ratings. Hinch would later regularly boast about the strength of his 'convictions' in naming that alleged pedophile as he was sentenced to weekend detention on little more than a hobby farm of a detention centre. The real result of that stunt was to taint the judicial process and the offender, despite strong evidence against him, WALKED. Hinch's convictions were more about boosting his ratings rather than seeing justice done. And the arrogant clown boasted about his actions.

A Current Affair should have let matters on air rest after the initial exposure, passing all material including that of other victims who have since contacted the show, to the police. Instead this material is only now being handed to the police by which time the damage has probably been done. A Current Affair has had every opportunity to stop this matter becoming the media circus that it now is but is pushing a position that they have somehow been acting in the public interest.

Great for ratings but does SFA for seeing justice done.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What goes around...

According to testimony recently given to the Court, when Melbourne criminal identity, Des Moran, was gunned down in a coffee shop last year, the last thing he said was 'oh shit'. I would have thought it more likely to have been something like 'arrggghhh', but there you go.

What amuses me about this whole thing, if anything about murder can be considered amusing, is the role of Moran's sister-in-law, Judy Moran.

Dear Judy, wife of the late Lewis (convicted drug dealer, gunned down), mother of Mark and Jason (drug dealers, gunned down), was apparently one of the first on the scene of Des Moran's last cuppa, wailing in grief. Yet it was also apparently common knowledge that the pair of them detested each other. So it was perhaps ironic that Judy is one of the four people charged with his murder.

A while back, Judy Moran's biography came out, featuring her quote on the cover, " I am a wife with no husband. I am a mother with no children". Oh please. Of course the first edition of that biography had to be recalled by publisher Random House with some 20,000 copies being pulped because Mother Moran couldn't resist gingering it up with some false allegations.

Are we supposed to be feeling some sort of sympathy for her? Give me a break. At least that other notorious Melbourne criminal matriarch, Kath Pettingill, has never pretended her family were anything other than what they are - criminals. But Mother Moran would have the world believe otherwise about her own family.

Mother Moran condemned the series, Underbelly, that charted the underworld war in Melbourne which saw the deaths of her sons among others. She claimed it was all a beat up etc etc. I don't know what she was complaining about - she came out it of looking like nothing more than an ordinary mum and grandma, dishing up dinner to the family. As scriptwriter, Felicity Packard, explained to me, they had to be very careful how they portrayed Mother Moran as she had never been found guilty of anything. But it's a bit hard to believe she didn't know what was going on.

If, as looks likely, Mother Moran is found guilty of her part in Des Moran's murder, I suspect there will be more than few people having a laugh at her expense.

What goes around, all too often comes around.

Friday, March 19, 2010

MySpace selling user data? MySpace responds

Reports have been popping up around the place lately, claiming that MySpace is, or about to, sell data on their users to third parties.

This is a sensitive issue for me after discovering back in 2008 that Australia Post was conducting a 'lifestyles' survey and using that to create mailing lists for sale to pretty much anyone who wanted them. I still maintain that Australia Post did not properly alert survey respondents about what was happening with their responses. Getting offers from 'partners' is reasonably common, but wholesale selling of individual data to pernicious junk mailers is something else entirely. I was staggered by the array of organisations using that data, including the ubiquitous Readers Digest - get on their list and you never seem to get off again!

So when I first read these stories of MySpace selling data to third party users, I became rather concerned. When you consider the MySpace links to Google and the latter's quite blatant attempt to rip off rights of authors via its digital library, I believe my concerns were justified. I contacted MySpace direct and here is their response.

Thanks for contacting MySpace.

Numerous blog posts have surfaced over the last few days that have created confusion surrounding MySpace’s user data. We want to set the record straight - MySpace is not selling user data.

Through the MySpace Developer Platform, third party developers can access - free of charge - MySpace users’ publicly available real-time data (such as status updates, or updates about when a user adds music, photos, or videos to their profile) using our Real Time Stream feed. This is the same MySpace data that is already publicly available through Google’s real-time search feature.

The MySpace Support team

So it would appear that MySpace are not selling or making available data to third party users but merely aiding those third party users to access what is already publicly available. So the moral of the story is don't put up anything about yourself in your MySpace pages that you would not want another party to make use of.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Another Popsicle Award

It has been a while since I awarded one of these.

Earlier today, I watched an absolute lunatic, joyriding in a nearby car park. He was throwing his vehicle around in all manner of wild skids, at one point sliding off to bump around in the vegetation at the road's verge. The carpark was jam-packed full. This idiot was using it as a high-speed obstacle course.

I could not believe what I was seeing.

This was late morning. The office block beside said car park had a quite clear view of it all. Being a government building subject to security restrictions, there will be sure to be security cameras all around the place. Neighbouring places such as my residence had a clear view of the idiot's antics. As did the secondary school next door.

I wonder just how many calls the police received about it, apart from mine?

So I hereby bestow a Popsicle Award on this anonymous effwit for only having a Popsicle stick keeping his ears apart!

not so much a race as a stately procession

There was a time when I loved motor sport. Nowadays, I have little interest in it at all. Part of me wonders at the dichotomy of glorifying competitive use of the internal combustion engine at a time when we are generally trying to minimise the impact of that infernal device on the rest of our environment.

It has to be admitted that there was still an element of excitement - drivers jousting for position, the tactics of the race including when to head to the pits, the challenge of aligning a vehicle to prevailing conditions. And let's be honest - the horrible thrill of seeing a prang.

Yesterday's Spanish Grand Prix (last night, Australian time), showcased the full range of the accumulated new rules which include:
  • carrying sufficient fuel for the entire race, rather than strategic pit-stops for refueling or nursing a vehicle for economy;
  • mandatory use of only two types of tire - hard and soft - and who is going to use a slower hard tire when they can use a faster soft tire that grips the track surface better;
  • safety rules in pit lane - no longer relying on speed restrictions but instead on space between vehicles, a driver cannot head out if a vehicle has pulled into the pits somewhere ahead of him i.e. driver A hits the pits and is just finishing a lightening speed pit-stop as driver B pulls into a bay ahead of him - driver A is now not allowed to head out of the pits until driver B's vehicle heads out at which time A can head after B but only while maintaining the minimum distance restrictins, despite the fact that A was in there first and had already finished; and
  • mandatory design and engineering restrictions.
The end result of this continual interference by Formula 1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone was less a race and more a highish-speed procession.

First there is little incentive to conserve fuel as you have to carry enough for the entire race to begin with which has direct implications for exactly how the drivers approach things on the track, removing a major element of tactical approach.

Next, the homogenisation of design etc, while arguably helping the lesser teams to catch the bigger teams in terms of vehicle performance, has at the same time created a real sense of sameness about it all, pulling the leaders back to the pack.

The old trick of pulling in behind someone to ride in the slipstream has no benefit any longer as you do not have the incentive of the fuel efficiency that creates. When riding in that slipstream, drivers have less direct control of their tire's grip on the track and the vehicle moves around more. This is harder on tires and as everyone runs on the softer tire, there is now an active disincentive to joust for position by sitting on someone's tail in their slipstream. Consequently drivers now sit further back from each other, no longer jostling for position with those lightening slips around the man in front. Changes of position only happen if someone ahead makes a real mistake.

The lunacy of the new pitlane restrictions was demonstrated when Aussie driver, Mark Webber, was in the pits, finishing his pit stop, when another driver entered. As the new arrival's pit was further along pitlane than that of Webber's team, Webber had to wait until the latter had finished his pit stop. If Webber had left any earlier, he would have breached the minimum distance restrictions by virtue of driving past the other's pit.

Consider the difference between two tennis players, each hovering at the baseline, patting it back and forth, merely waiting for the other to make a blunder, compared to the excitement of serve and volley. Someone like Chrissie Evert who was a master of baseline play could run her opponents ragged. But all too many baseline players are doing nothing more than just waiting for their opponent to make a blunder. The new state of Formula 1 racing is the equivalent of those boring, uninspiring baseline players. When something merely relies on one person holding on long enough to profit by another making a mistake, it becomes about as exciting as watching bottles of beer come off an assembly line.

Good one, Bernie.

Oh come on

Am I the only one finding it rather hard to swallow Joe Hockey's latest public stance?

In a recent speech, Hockey made himself out to be some sort of deep, feeling, civil libertarian.

Oh please.

The current Coalition i.e. the Liberal Party, under Tony Abbott's leadership, has regressed right back into the Howard years, to the point of practically recreating the Howard Cabinet in Opposition. Recycling does have its limitations as a good thing, you know.

Joe Hockey was a vigorous and vocal supporter of John Howard from before they even first assumed government in 1996. Only about two months out from the 2007 election, I vividly recall listening to Blubberguts on ABC radio, ranting about how the entire party was 100% behind John Howard. He dismissed results from a survey conducted by a university, that showed significant public opposition to his government's Work Choices legislation, as only being the product of union influence and interference. Yet it was with almost indecent haste that after the disaster of the 2007 election for the Coalition, Blubberguts jumped onto the "I didn't really support Howard or Work Choices" bandwagon.

Anyone who really thinks that the Abbott-led Oppostion will win the next Federal election, whensoever it is called, is frankly kidding themselves. Should Abbott last that long in the leadership, he would be sure to fall on his sword. Blubberguts is rather obviously positioning himself to then be seen as the Party's 'saviour'.

Mind you, last time I looked up the definition of 'saviour', it did not include words like opportunistic, self-serving hypocrite.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

breaking news over Gurshan Singh death

Several hours ago, Victorian police charged one Gursewak Dhillon with manslaughter by criminal negligence over the death of three-year old Gurshan Singh. Dhillon lived at the same address as Singh. Details are still somewhat sketchy but according to police, Dhillon placed the unconscious child in the boot of his car and drove around for at least three hours before dumping the child's body in long grass where it was later discovered. Exactly what Dhillon was trying to do and how Singh came to be unconcious are still unclear.

Dhillon appears to have taken his court appearance rather calmly going by the news reports I have seen. One would have thought that an innocent man would have been protesting vigorously even though his appearance at an out-of-hours court session was merely a bail hearing, with bail being refused.

One would hope that this swift result will put paid to any potential beat ups about racial attacks in this case.

The burning question in my mind at this point, is what on earth Dhillon was doing?

A tragedy - and let's not make it worse

How horrific has been the death of three-year-old boy, Gurshan Singh? Pictures in the media show an innocent young boy whose death seems pointless, not to mention strange. How on earth did a child of that age end up some 20 kilometres away from his home unless someone took him?

I desperately hope that this does not end up being portrayed as another supposed 'racial' attack on Indian nationals within Australia merely because of the child's nationality. This has been tragic enough without a media beat up making it more so.

If someone is responsible for the child's death then they deserve all that is coming to them and more. Having said that, I have not long finished reading an account of the appalling murder of a young girl in Melbourne in 1921.

In response to a public outcry, public pressure and what can only be described as ineptitude by police and the judiciary, an arrest was quickly made and just a mere three months later, the accused found guilty and swiftly hanged, the accused's rights to appeal blatantly trampled on. Evidence relied on was hopelessly tainted, with the Crown's 'expert' witness testifying whether or not hair discovered belonged to the victim, making a totally bizarre finding that flew in the face of the facts. Only the determined efforts of a researcher 70 years later and the chance discovery of hair used as evidence in the case still in existence within the official file rather than having been destroyed, revealed that an innocent man was hanged. The real perpetrator was never found and almost certainly long since died of old age.

Let us not lose sight of reality, justice and due process in getting to the truth of such things including this tragic and puzzling loss of young Gurshan.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Are medicare staff snooping on your personal information?

In news posted only about two hours ago, a large number of employees of Medicare have been busted for unauthorised access to people's private information.

According to the ABC, 1058 employees have been investigated since November 2006 for unauthorised access. Apparently just over half were found to have spied on personal information but 30% of these were just looking at their own records.

Let us assume for a moment that it was exactly half who were found to have spied on personal information ie 529. Deduct the 30% who were just looking at their own files and we are still left with 370 - that is 370 employees of Medicare making unauthorised access of other people's personal information! 370!! And of course it is actually more than that because it was just over half who were found to have made unauthorised access.

What sort of outfit is Medicare if 370 of its employees feel safe in snooping in other people's personal information? What sort of system controls do Medicare have in place, or more to the point, what is missing that should in fact be in place?

This is ordinary to put it mildly. And why is it only now that action is being taken on matters that occured as much as three years ago?

Not happy, Jan