Sunday, August 14, 2016

The senseless census

I was one of the many who criticized in advance the arrangements for this year's census.  Retaining names and addresses instead of anonymizing the data is a basic breach of good survey practice and would significantly degrade the quality of the data, as people become less frank about their replies.  So the claim that the new system would yield better and more useful data was an obvious lie.  It would do the opposite.

I was also derisive of the claim that the data would be hacker-proof. Just making that claim would undermine it.  It would be like a red rag to a bull to all the world's hackers. It was an almost certain invitation to hacking.

So when the system failed long before the census was complete, I initially felt rather pleased.  It suggested that my prediction of hackers treating it as a challenge had been vindicated

As soon as a bit more information came through I abandoned that thought, however.  And the initial claim by the government -- that the system had been hit by a DDOS attack seemed informative.  My conclusion then was that the system had not in fact been hit by a DDOS attack but rather by something very similar to a DDOS attack: A meltdown caused by large and unexpected numbers of legitimate users trying to log on.  In short, the system ran out of capacity.  All the good and dutiful Australians logging on to do their duty once the evening meal was cleared away were the problem.  They should not have been the problem.  They were the people the system was built for.

So the problem was not any politician or bureaucrat but rather the firm -- IBM -- that had the contract to provide and operate the system. They totally goofed.  Their estimate of the resources that would been needed was way too low.  And I think a lot of people are now converging on that as the explanation. I think that that will soon become the accepted explanation for the meltdown.

IBM are a famous company so it is no discredit to Malcolm Turnbull or anyone else in the government that IBM was given the job.  Champion whiner Bill Shorten seem to think that the government was at fault in the matter but had he won the recent election, he would have found himself at the nominal head of exactly the same IBM-run system.  What would he have done differently?  He does not say.

That IBM made a huge mess on this occasion was however not without precedent. A few years ago, they totally stuffed up the  payroll program that they provided to Queensland Health.  You would think that a payroll program was such a routine thing now that nobody could stuff it up.  But IBM did.  A program that had to look after only 40,000 people took years to get right and ended up costing the Queensland taxpayers ten time what it should have.  One suspects that IBM is now not the company it used to be.

Presumably, the system will in due course be modified so that the census can complete.  The question then is whether or not we should boycott the whole thing.  I think it is clear that we should give them as little information as possible.  Governments are champion misusers and losers of all kinds of data, so the less they have the better.  And the current chaos is surely excellent evidence of that.  Other disastrous mistakes will be made and any one of us could become a victim of that.  Anyone who trusts governments is a fool.

And on this occasions there is an extra reason to tread carefully.  After this census each of us will be given a permanently identifying code-name linked to our natural name.  And that code-name will become the core of a vast data-sucking apparatus that will work silently for the rest of our lives.  It will be used to search through all existing government and non-government databases -- Centrelink, Medicare, Telstra, the courts, the hospitals etc -- to form an absolutely huge body of information about each of us.  We will have a new national ID no. that will follow us everywhere.  Anyone with access to a government computer will know everything about us that has ever been written down.  To think that such access will never be misused would be very naive indeed.

Let me give an example of a problem.  Say that one of us just once has an episode of depression and visits a doctor about it.  That will be known.  Even if the problem was transitory -- due to a relationship breakdown or some such -- it will be there on record to be used against us.  And if a government wants to discredit a whistle-blower who is revealing important and embarrassing information about that government, it has the tool it needs to hand.  It can say that "He has a history of mental illness and what he says should therefore be disregarded".  That fleeting depressive episode will be used to discredit anything we might say.

I a personally am a most buoyant person but I am not made of stone so I did once have such a episode at the end of a valued marriage.  Eventually the local doctor I consulted gave up his business.  And at that time he gave all his record cards back to the patients concerned.  It was with some satisfaction that I burnt mine.  You won't be able to burn any present-day records.

And an interesting thing is that our new personal ID no. for everything would resurrect Bob Hawke's "Australia card" of a few decades ago.  Bob Hawke nearly got that through to great and widespread consternation.  Fortunately, the project fell at the last hurdle amid widespread relief.  But the snoops never go away.  This is their second chance to get all the information they need to control us.  They must fail -- JR.

Army modernises ceremonial uniforms in recognition of Anzac centenary

The word "modernize" puts me on suspicious alert. Too often the change is a step backwards in some way rather than any improvement.  And in this matter I have some interest. As a former army man, I think the uniform should be treated with respect.  So I am pleased to say that the new attire looks good.  I am a bit nonplusssed about the colourful transverse sashes, however. They are common in the attire of European nobility but how did they get into the Australian army?  Australia is a monarchy, I suppose

The Australian army has begun a subtle makeover, modernising its ceremonial dress uniforms in recognition of the Centenary of Anzac.

The darker brown khaki look was chosen in a nationwide survey of soldiers, who say it better reflects their proud heritage.

Last month the new dress uniform made its public debut in Paris when members of Australia's Federation Guard led a march down the Champs Elysees for Bastille Day celebrations.

Corporal Jeremy Wikner has just returned from commemorative duties in France, and is full of praise for the new threads.

"Whilst over there it was very hot, in the low 30s but hundred percent humidity. We were wearing this new uniform and it was a lot more comfortable than the previous one," Corporal Wikner said.

"It's a lot thinner, wears a lot nicer when you're doing commemorative tasks, it's a lot better."

Army members based in Canberra are the first to be issued the new uniforms which will be rolled out for all 43,000 regular and reservist soldiers by the end of 2017.

The Army's Regimental Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Don Spinks, said soldiers would wear the dress uniform mainly for ceremonial occasions, commemorative events and special occasions.

"It's a uniform off the rack as opposed to the previous uniform which was made to measure and there are certainly economies and benefits for us there," he said.

    "The trouser is a more modern fit, more modern look. It has an elastic waistband and allows for that little bit of expansion or contraction. The jacket is a much better fit around the shoulders and tailored for both women and men."

The head of military heraldry and technology at the Australian War Memorial, Nick Fletcher, said while the new darker brown dress uniform was closer to what the original Australian Imperial Force wore, it was not an exact copy.

"The colour seems a little browner. The early khaki as it came out of Australia for these AIF uniforms was very much a pea soupy colour," he said.

"The new colour adopted seems to have more brown to it.

"I think the reasoning behind it which is that it should match the colour of the slouch hat which the Australian Army has worn for so many years is very, very clever and it ties the uniform together and makes it look really smart."


Australians have shied away from discussing how Indigenous culture normalises violence

There is a deep silence that envelops domestic violence in Aboriginal communities, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has outlined in her lecture Homeland Truths: The Unspoken Epidemic of Violence in Indigenous Communities

Delivered as the Centre for Independent Studies’ inaugural Helen Hughes Talk for Emerging Thinkers, Ms Price’s lecture examined a topic many people have shied away from discussing: how traditional Aboriginal culture normalises violence.

Instead of looking for constitutional recognition or treaties or governments to solve the problems, ownership, responsibility and constructive criticism must take place, Ms Price says.

“The conventional belief is that prior to the ‘invasion’ of British settlers, Aboriginal people lived a harmonious existence with very little violence,” she says.

“However, under customary lore, Aboriginal women could be raped and killed even just for accidentally disturbing men’s sacred ceremonial parties.

“Too often we women are part of the huge problem. In my culture men are hardly seen as being capable of doing anything wrong — and women are the ones to blame if they should.

“As long as this logic exists within the hearts and minds of the women who are related to the perpetrators we will not gain leeway in the fight against physical and sexual violence against women.

“This was and still is the norm for Aboriginal women whose cultures are intact, whose cultures have been maintained, whose cultures are steeped in tradition … and maintain the rights for men to control them.

“Aboriginal culture is a culture that accepts violence and in many ways desensitises those living the culture to violence.”

If Aboriginal people are to successfully address the high rates of intrapersonal violence in Aboriginal communities, they need to acknowledge the real causes of this violence, Ms Price says.

“This means not excusing perpetrators’ behaviour by blaming the victims and or colonisation, but taking a long hard look at the aspects of Aboriginal culture that need to change.”

“It is not good enough when Aboriginal women are 35 times more likely to be hospitalized from violence perpetrated by those who are related to them. It is easy to stand on the outside and make excuses rather than condemn acts of violence.

“Help my people understand the necessity and value in constructive criticism and self-reflection. Please don’t encourage us to remain stagnant, instead encourage us to ask questions and challenge long held beliefs so that we may determine the way forward, with that, which enriches our lives.”


Lying Leftist newspaper

Legal cleverness no substitute for integrity

Fairfax Media has been ­ordered to pay a $300,000 in a defamation case brought against the newspaper ­publisher and columnist Peter FitzSimons.

Personal trainer Sean ­Carolan sued Fairfax and ­FitzSimons over a series of ­articles that implied his business Nubodi had conducted tests on Sydney Roosters rugby league players without their consent and he had passed on the results to an organised crime figure.

In a judgment handed down by NSW Supreme Court judge Lucy McCallum on Tuesday, Mr Carolan was successful in establishing he was defamed by all four of the articles published online by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Carolan and his wife said they became the subject of hate forums, their house had stones thrown at it and their children were bullied at school as a result of the articles.

The initial articles, first published on September 25, 2013, about Mr Carolan’s involvement with the Roosters were written by investigative journalist Kate McClymont.

FitzSimons picked up on the reports in a column on ­September 26.

Justice McCallum found Fairfax had failed to prove the imputation that Mr Carolan conducted tests on players without their consent to be “substantially true”.

“Truth defence was misconceived from the outset,” she said. “While other issues were raised, that contention was the principal focus of the truth ­defence in respect of both ­imputations.

“Inexplicably, however, Fairfax did not seek to prove that contention by calling a single football player to give evidence that he did not consent to have his blood tested in the manner that occurred.

“Rather, the defence rested on a complex and ultimately unconvincing series of premises as to the process by which player consent could be taken to have been obtained (or not).”

A decision on costs will be made a later date.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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