Should Parliament be protected from satire

July 10, 2007

You know it’s interesting how politicians are usually the first group to complain when their freedom of speech is attacked. They all like to make motherhood statements that free speech is the cornerstone of a “democratic” system of government, but they don’t like it when the media tries to insert some leavening humour into proceedings by poking fun a their stuffed shirt antics.

The New Zealand parliament recently held a select committee process to look at the satirical use of footage of parliamentary proceedings and guess what…the committee voted to ban TV networks and other media from using such images in comedic pieces that might tend to denigrate the solemnity of their work.

In a rare show of standing up for themselves, the TV networks refused to go along with this ridiculous idea, which was first mooted back in late June. This week both the Greens and the Nationals have said they won’t go along with the ban. As this transcript of the TV1 programme, Agenda, makes clear, the matter is now back in the hands of the politicians. How can we recognise them? They’re the suited-up spivs in the dark corner wiping egg of their faces.

National Rifle Association – shoot [the polar bear] first, ask no questions

July 10, 2007

I’ve followed the US National Rifle Association’s antics since the Virginia Tech shootings in April 2007. I couldn’t resit alerting Martini lovers to Martha Rosenberg‘s column today. She’s very clever in her critique of the NRA’s attempts to get around American gun laws:

Besides being armed to return a library book, the NRA wants the right to bring weapons on public parks and school yards, often in defiance of home rule laws.

And speaking of bravery, the NRA has also found time since the Cho shootings to help Safari Club International (SCI), the group former President George H.W. Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle and Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. belonged to when they were outed hunting in Africa and asking the Botswana government to keep trophy lion hunts available.

In June it helped SCI defeat an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the House of Representatives that would have banned the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada.

Who kills polar bears for fun?

Eight hundred Americans imported polar bear trophies from guided hunts in Arctic Canada since 1997! And SCI offers a “Bears of the World” award, a kind of National Geographic for the bloodthirsty, in which hunters have to kill four of the world’s eight bear species which include imperiled polar bears.

The NRA also worked to defeat wolf protection laws and spay and neuter legislation for dogs.

No, Seung-Hui Cho’s bullets have not stopped the NRA’s fast track agenda–or the politicians in its back pocket: the ultimate concealed weapon.

The not-so-watertight case against Ahmed Zaoui

July 10, 2007

Over on the Scoop website, Gordon Campbell is carefully dissecting the nebulous Secret Intelligence Service case against asylum-seeker Ahmed Zaoui. It’ll be worthwhile following Campbell’s analysis over the next few days. Here’s a taster:

After all, the SIS case against Zaoui has never alleged him to be a terrorist, or even a potential terrorist threat. The risk security certificate against him was not issued under section 73 of the Immigration Act – which concerns terrorists – but under the far more nebulous section 72, which offers fewer protections to the accused.

For all those reasons, I believe the more likely argument the SIS will try to run is that Zaoui is now, and always has been, a radical hardliner – a man they will allege has been consistently opposed to peace and reconciliation in Algeria. A man who opposed the ‘truce’ offered by the junta in the mid 1990s, just as he has misgivings now about the amnesty promoted by the Bouteflika government in Algeria today.

No matter that those same misgivings are also shared by Amnesty International and by Human Rights watch. To make its case, the SIS has to use its 30 files of general information about pan- Islamic radicalism and then shoe-horn Zaoui into the stereotype.

There are more than 30 “secret” files on Zaoui, but they don’t amount to more than a lot of hot air it seems. Why is the New Zealand government so keen to see Mr Zaoui’s rights trampled? Despite its “Labour” tag, the Clark government is committed to the “war on terror”. Mr Zaoui seems to be the convenient scapegoat. That is, until the SIS “uncovers” some evidence that overseas-born doctors in New Zealand are the latest “threat”.

Stop the Big Media Takeover! | Canadians for Democratic Media

July 10, 2007

Stop the Big Media Takeover! | Canadians for Democratic Media

If you’re reading this blog from Canada, please make sure you check out the Stop the Big Media Takeover campaign website. Here’s a clip from a promotional video they’re circulating.

Media diversity is the cornerstone of democracy. But media ownership is more
highly concentrated in Canada than almost anywhere else in the industrialized world. Almost all private Canadian television stations are owned by national media conglomerates and, because of increasing cross-ownership, most of the daily newspapers we read are owned by the same corporations that own television and radio stations.

This means a handful of Big Media Conglomerates control what Canadians can most readily see, hear and read. It means less local and regional content, more direct control over content by owners and less analysis of the events that shape our lives. It also means less media choice for Canadians and fewer jobs for Canadian media workers.

We must also be wary of the impacts mergers have on the diversity and neutrality of new on-line media. We need to reverse this trend before big media gets even bigger!

Tell the CRTC what you think.

Rules that truly curb media concentration in Canada are long overdue. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) – the body that regulates broadcast and telecommunications systems – is holding a hearing on how to ensure the diversity of media voices in September and the deadline for submissions is July 18, 2007. Unless current policy direction are challenged by the public, Canada could in the long run end up with a vastly more concentrated media and a relaxation of the foreign ownership rules leaving our media susceptible to takeovers by even bigger Foreign-owned media conglomerates. The airwaves belong to the public, and the CRTC needs to hear from you.

Unless the public speaks out, the debate will continue to be dominated by large media corporations. Please forward this message to encourage others to participate in this crucial campaign. Tell your family and friends about this important campaign

Share it on FaceBook:

The New Zealand link is, of course, CanWest, which has a number of media assets in Aotearoa and is a big player here too. CanWest Mediaworks New Zealand owns TV3, C4, and Radioworks.

An intersting defamation case from Australia

July 10, 2007

‘Pervert’s mates’ win $480,000 from newspaper – National –

An interesting defamation case from Australia.

IN A startling twist to the story of the disgraced public prosecutor Patrick Power, 16 of his influential colleagues and friends have won $480,000 from The Daily Telegraph in settlement of a defamation action.

They were among a group of august legal and business identities, family and friends who wrote references for Power in the course of his criminal prosecution on charges of possessing child pornography.

One of them – the Nudie juice founder Tim Pethick – is married to an executive at News Limited, the paper’s publisher.

“Pervert and his 59 mates,” read the Telegraph’s headline on the day that it reported the names of Power’s referees.

A follow-up story in The Sunday Telegraph named a full list of 84 referees, picturing some with the caption “Named and Shamed”. The newspapers’ website also published a series of readers’ comments that were central to the threatened defamation action.

Three cheers for Hone Harawira: "hip hip hooray, Howard IS a racist"

July 10, 2007

Aussie PM labelled `a racist’` – The Dominion Post

Intervention plan shows Howard ‘racist’ – Maori MP [SMH]
Thank you Hone Harawira. Thanks for having the courage to say it: John Howard is a racist. His government is racist and his actions in the Northern Territory – purportedly to stop sexual violence against children – is a grab for precious resources, particularly uranium.

One of the men in this image
is a racist bastard,
the other one said so.

The Howard government wants to make Australia a key player in the nu-killer-ization of the planet. Australia has the world’s largest reserves of recoverable uranium and global capital wants to get its hands on the stuff.

In order to do this any objections of the traditional owners must be overcome. What better way than to manufacture a moral panic as a national emergency and then militarise the place.

Speaking a couple of days ago on Maori TV, the Maori Party MP Hone Harawira compared Howard’s actions to those of the Bush regime in Iraq. Three cheers to Hone Harawira.

What’s been interesting is the apologetic way that the media has reacted to this story. It was covered on TV1 on Monday night in tones of shock and outrage: “How dare an uppity politician from the Maori party publicly declare a foreign leader to be racist?”

It’s about time and other NZ politicians should do the same as Mr Harawira and call Howard a “racist bastard”, because he surely is.

So far Howard has not commented on Mr Harawira’s outburst, but New Zealand PM Helen Clark’s office saays the comments are “regretable”. What’s regretable Prime Minister is that you won’t say it too.

today the Maori Party issued a media release calling for a special caucus meeting to discuss what Howard is up to. It’s a good idea to push this issue, but frankly I’d be surprised if the Clark government has the guts to confront Canberra on this issue. Here’s a taster of the Maori Party release, which you can read in full here:

The Maori Party Caucus today called a special caucus meeting to consider the Australian Government’s response to the report, describing it as a sledge-hammer approach – a widespread and ill-thought through attack on Aboriginal communities in Northern Territory – rather than focusing on the extremely significant situation of child sexual abuse.

Australia does have a “black history” and there is a lot of institutional racism. Unlike in New Zealand the indigenous “problem” in Australia is largely hidden in remote communities. Most Australians wouldn’t have a clue what’s really going on in the outback and, unfortunately, their ignorance is maintained by a media that is reluctant to really change Howard on this issue. However, not all Australians are troglodyte head-in-the-sand white supremacists. Here’s a song from Australian comedian Eddie Perfect, it’s perfect for John Howard.

If you want to know more about the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia (the link above is to a pro-nuclear blog site), try Nuclearfree Australia

What’s happening at QUT?

July 9, 2007

Student blogs at QUT that have been commenting on the suspension of Garry MacLennan and John Hookham have been deleted by the administration.
So the defence of free speech means denying free speech. Phil Castles again puts his head up in this clip. How long before he too is facing disciplinary action?

There’s also an update (16 June) from the Courier-Mail newspaper in Brisbane, home of QUT.

The story has also raced around the world, here’s a link to The Gimp Parade blogged by Kay Olson of Minnesota, who describes herself as an overeducated, underemployed feminist with a disability.

Sydney Airport Security Whistleblower

July 9, 2007

A former customs official, Allan Kessing, has received a nine month suspended jail term for actions related to leaking documents on Sydney Airport security. He leaked two classified reports to the Australian newspaper which contained allegations of drug trafficking and other crimes by staff at Sydney Airport . The reports also raised concerns about the effectiveness of anti-terrorism security at Australian airports.

Following the publication of information on the reports, the Federal Government announced an inquiry into crime and security at Australian airports. The inquiry, carried out by Sir John Wheeler, led to significant upgrades of security at airports.

Writing in Crikey on the 24 May this year, Margaret Simons called the prosecution of Kessing a national disgrace. She’s right. Here’s a grab:

As reported in Crikey previously Kessing should probably be given a medal rather than the prison sentence he now faces after having been convicted of leaking details of breaches of security at Sydney airport.

You can download a transcript of Allan’s interview with the ABC’s Law Report, it makes for interesting reading. Here’s a taster:

Damien Carrick: I spoke to Allan Kessing yesterday. He tells me this is his first broadcast interview. He says he’s not looking forward to the prospect of going to jail.

Allan Kessing: Well obviously it’s rather shocking; I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, and I’m very surprised it would come to this.

Damien Carrick: Now I understand you’ve always claimed that you’re not guilty of disclosing anything. Let’s talk a little bit about what the jury did find you guilty of. Some years ago you worked for the Customs airport security unit, and you wrote a report about airport security; what did you find?

Allan Kessing: Well I wrote two reports. One focused on a specific group and the other took a random sample of people in all the areas behind what is called the sterile area, that is, areas to which the public do not have access. I can’t actually say what I found, except what was in the papers, because that would constitute another offence; this is how draconian the law is. I can’t talk about anything that I learned during my employment as a Customs officer.

Damien Carrick: Well I understand the report talked about the employment of baggage handlers with criminal records; theft of luggage; drug trafficking; a whole range of breaches of security.

Allan Kessing: Yes, this is correct.

Damien Carrick: And what did the Department do? As I understand it, the Department effectively sat on your report. They didn’t even show it to the Federal government, is that right?

Allan Kessing: That’s correct. In fact it did not get out of Sydney Airport. They didn’t even show it to their superiors in Canberra, as was evidenced by the procession of senior managers who came at my trial. A half a dozen of them all swore on oath that they were unaware of the existence of the reports until the media leaks. You know, 30 months after they were written.

Whsistleblower legislation is supposed to protect people like Allan Kessing, I’d hate to see what might happen if it didn’t exist.

Columbia Journalism Review – worth reading

July 6, 2007
I thought that some of you may not be aware of this excellent online journal, Columbia Journalism Review. The latest issue looks great. Check it out and consider subscribing (free).

Dear reader,
Greetings from Columbia Journalism Review.
Our July issue is in the mail, with many articles that we hope you find significant and interesting. For example:
Cover Story: Prisoner 345
Rachel Morris explores Gitmo and the case of the only journalist imprisoned there. What happened to Sami al Haj
Damage Report
Craig Flournoy and Tracy Everbach find that most of the journalists who left The Dallas Morning News landed on their feet. Those who stayed are not so sure
Bending to Power
Bruce Page traces the sorry history of News Corp. (Web Only)
Julia Klein spots pigs with wings at The Philadelphia Inquirer
The editors tell the fable of the scorpion and The Wall Street Journal
Stephen Totilo finds real journalism in the unreal world of Second Life
Jim Wooten remembers his friend David Halberstam
Douglas McCollam X-rays Norman Pearlstine’s Off the Record
Anthony Marro sheds light on Robert Novak’s Prince of Darkness
Gloria Cooper says goodbye to Darts & Laurels
And much more. We hope you enjoy it.
To SUBSCRIBE, to give CJR as a GIFT, or to check STUDENT RATES, go to

More on Ms Mirthala Salinas

July 6, 2007

The Spanish-language television news anchor, Mirthala Salinsa, who has been outed for a two-year affair with Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, (shown pictured, right) continues to make headlines around the world.

Ms Salinas has been condemned for a serious breach of ethics – basically that reporters don’t sleep with sources. I’ve been around long enough to know that this is not the first, or last time this will happen. Politico-journo marriages and affairs have been a staple of reporters’ bar room gossip for hundreds of years. News is sexy; it’s exciting and there’s always plenty of hormonal “juice” in the air.

However, that’s no justification it seems. This is because the other side of journalism is quite nasty. If there’s blood in the water, or a sniff of scandal in the air, all bets and confidences are off.

The bottom line though, is that the noise and blather about this case is hypocritical. The unwritten code has always been, “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” but when the rumours are confirmed, like in this story, “move in for the kill.”

Unfortunately, the mayor will probably survive – after all he’s a bloke who can’t keep it in his pants (entirely excusable in the topsy-turvy world of sexual politics). She on the other hand is obviously a sl*t who’s an insatiable Latina nymphomaniac and she deserves to be burned at the stake like the obvious witch she is (I’m being sarcastic here, just in case you can’t read between the lines).

To follow this story, try these links:


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