Thoughts on direct democracy 

This was originally a comment in response to a Guardian article on “online democracy”

Could online democracy lead to governance by Trumps and trolls?

Anyone interested in this concept ought to watch the utterly BRILLIANT 1970 Peter Cook comedy ‘The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer’ which was re-released on DVD a couple of years ago and in spite of its vintage is a masterpiece of political satire, featuring appearances by John Cleese and a constellation of legends of British comedy. 

Once he reaches Number 10 Downing Street the protagonist introduces a form of “direct democracy” where voters are required to express their opinions on every major decision affecting the nation from the comfort of their living rooms, and – not to give any further spoilers – the ultimate outcome is pretty much what I imagine would happen in the real world. 


Personally the concept of direct, participatory democracy appeals me greatly but I have serious concerns about the potential for abuse of any such system. 


Thus, I firmly believe that the only way for such a system to be effective and accountable is for security measures to be incorporated and integrated into the system design from the outset. 
I do not believe the internet would be a suitable medium for so important a project – a project that could have incredibly serious national security implications and which could cause major movements in global markets. 
In my opinion the ONLY viable option would be a “private network”, that is, a physical network isolated and secured from any external threats – like for example the Bloomberg network, which is the world’s largest private network linking the world’s stock exchanges, Central Banks and financial institutions via leased lines and which subscribers and institutions access via terminals. Bloomberg created the world’s first totally secure email and market data system by virtue of the simple fact that traffic between terminals or between data centres and terminals never leaves the Bloomberg network and thus cannot be intercepted by a third party. 
I believe that any electoral system relying on technology would need to adopt a similar private network terminal topology to guarantee security and prevent intrusions, hacks and fraud. 

Ideally, something even more secure than a VPN or Virtual Private Network, although these are extremely secure.

Just as the circulatory system of the human body is hermetically sealed to prevent infection, the exact same precautions ought to be implemented in any experiment with direct democracy to ensure the integrity of the network itself and, by extension, of the electoral data collected. 

Additionally, the identity of voters could be verified and confirmed by a number of security measures, from two step authentication through to the various forms of biometric authentication. 
Let’s assume that such a system were rolled out: a private network could easily be deployed using existing optical fibre infrastructure, the data centres would be totally isolated from the internet and from any external threat and the end users would be connected to the system via dedicated terminals which could incorporate biometric security measures to prevent fraud. 

In Japan I worked for Bloomberg – the first global provider of data from world financial markets in real time, extremely time sensitive market data, to financial institutions around the world, as well as executing orders and transactions, all on the largest private network in the world  – and I recall the first time I visited the Tokyo data centre my mind was utterly blown by the high tech security measures – authorised employees had to insert their forearm into a box type thing which verified their identity by recognising the structure of the blood vessels in their hand and forearm as well as the rate of blood flow through the vessels, and secondary biometric authentication involved recognition of the iris AND retina. 

And this was ten years ago so I can only imagine how far technology has involved since. 
But the point I initially wanted to make was that – in order for any such system of direct participatory democracy to function, it would need the highest level of network security (which I believe can only be guaranteed by a private network) in addition to security measures to protect both the integrity of data transfer and to safeguard the user authentication process. 

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Thoughts on the federal government’s silly and expensive proposal for a (non-binding) plebiscite on Same Sex Marriage

Guardian article on prominent LGBTI views on same sex marriage
Seriously people – what business is it of anyone else’s if two consenting adults whose genitalia happen to matchand who are in a loving, caring relation should seek a legally-recognised union which confers the same rights and privileges as the legal union between a man and a woman?
How on earth will this affect anyone other than the same sex couples themselves?
And for those Christians who claim a religious basis for their opposition to homosexuality – there is no such interdiction in the Bible which doesn’t even mention homosexuality except in deliberately modified translations, notably the one commissioned specifically as political propaganda known as the “King James Version”.

Please see the link below for evidence:

Stop Bible Abuse – References

In the original Hebrew and Greek source texts of the Bible there is not one single valid reference to homosexuality – which by the way is an anachronism which simply did not exist as we understand it in Hebrew society. 
So to all the bigots who call themselves Christian should know that there is in fact no validity in their own religion’s scripture for mindless homophobia. 
I by the way, am an atheist, but wasn’t always because I once longed for an epiphany – and was exposed to religious indoctrination as a child and in the decades since, embarked on a spiritual quest during which I read all the so-called church fathers including Origen, Irenaeus, Jerome, Justin Martyr, as well as the perverted and lecherous “Saint” Augustine of Hippo (who confessed that he was so filled with lust and sexual desire that he couldn’t be left un-chaperoned in the company of women), the bizarre writings of the so-called “Saint” Paul, the “apostle” who never actually met Jesus in real life but did meet him in a dream and curiously in all of his writings never actually quoted him or refers to any of his teachings.
The conclusion I reached after literally decades of studying the alleged source documents for Christianity – including the oldest complete Bible in the world, the Codex Sinaiticus, which by the way does not mention a virgin birth, cross (Jesus apparently died impaled on a “stauros”, a stake) nor does it mention the “resurrection” is that Christianity was manufactured by Constantine and his henchmen Eusebius in the 4th century in order to seize the largest repository of wealth in the ancient world to fill a treasury bankrupted by civil war – the ancient temples. The astronomical wealth of the temple of Delos alone could raise armies, finance wars and overthrow kingdoms.
The evidence in my opinion is that despite inheriting a bankrupt empire whose economy was so unstable that Diocletian had introduced price controls on commodities and a form of fiat currency, yet shortly after endorsing Christianity (without actually becoming Christian as proven by numismatic evidence), Constantine suddenly found the phenomenal resources to not only pay his rebellious troops but to build an enormous new capital city named after himself: Constantinople, now known as Istanbul. 
Apologies for the digression but these are the facts, the most important of which is that there is not one valid interdiction of homosexuality in the Bible. 
After all, Constantine’s own son Constans was openly and flamboyantly homosexual, and after Constantine’s death and the wholesale slaughter of potential rivals to the throne he chose Milan as his capital, which was also the seat of the most famous Christian bishop of the day. 

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It’s been a long time between posts so here’s some random thoughts on stuff that’s happened in recent years along with a few recollections and anecdotes from the past. 

Some years ago I started this blog with the intention of it becoming the central repository of my many and varied thoughts, rants, polemics, random ideas, inspirations, hopes, dreams, creative writing projects, and pretty much everything that comes out my often malfunctioning but mostly operational mind. 

Most of the time I find myself thinking constantly, hyper actively, and my own thought processes remind me of an old Indian yoga teacher at the Buttery who used to describe the mind as a “chattering monkey” that would grasp at anything within reach and examine it for a while, maybe play with it, maybe try to bite it to see if it was edible, before discarding it and reaching for the next distraction. This process can, with practice, be controlled by regular practice of Meditation and by the traditional Buddhist practice of Mindfulness, two techniques on which I have spent many years and which I will explore in greater detail at a later date. 

These days I find myself plagued by the torment of my sleep disorder – first diagnosed as Idiopathic Hypersomnia, then Atypical Narcolepsy (because at the time it seemed as though I did not suffer the full tetrad of symptoms of classical Narcolepsy), however after a few recurrences of cataplexy witnessed by others while living and working in Japan and under the treatment of one of the pioneers of sleep science and legendary researchers into Narcolepsy, Dr Yutaka Honda, (who -among other breakthroughs – discovered the HLA haplotype genetic marker carried by the vast majority of Narcolepsy sufferers) was diagnosed with classical Narcolepsy, and since returning to Australia my diagnosis has been complicated by Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (basically reputation interrupted by chronic choking during sleep – which is usually associated with weight and at the time I was morbidly obese and weighed over 120kg) and then, in a subsequent polysomnography, a whole series of Central Apnoeas – which are considerably more serious because central apnoea basically means that the brain is somehow “forgetting” to signal the lungs to breathe. 

Anyhow, the doubtless fascinating saga of my many health and medical ordeals will require further explanation at a later date, but basically I suffer from extremely disrupted and fractured nocturnal sleep accompanied by Excessive Daytime Sleepiness and a bizarre variety of other symptoms including photorealistic, ultra-realistic dreams that are basically indistinguishable from reality to the point that they even generate memories – which can be very confusing, especially when one recalls something so clearly and is absolutely certain that it took place, only to realise that it did take place, but in a dream – not in “real life”. Most of the time I have enormous difficulty waking up and occasionally suffer sleep paralysis – a terrifying and bizarre experience where I find myself totally unable to move any part of my body (with the exception of my eyes), as well as sleep inertia (also known as sleep drunkenness) which in my case manifests as something like a “sleep hangover” and is basically the brain experiencing extreme difficulty transitioning from sleep to wakefulness. This has been a very serious issue and has had an extreme adverse impact on my career – over the years countless employers have either fired me or made my life a living hell because my sleep inertia can be so severe that at times it can take me hours to wake up to the point where I can actually leave the house and go to work, so I have always had problems with punctuality in the traditional 9 to 5 workplace, and most employers – even when presented with medical certificates and diagnostic notes from specialists – tend to assume that because it’s something that isn’t visible that I must be “lazy” or otherwise “making it up”. 

As a result I need stimulant medication in order to function during the day, and on most days I am trapped in a “brain fog” upon waking and it is only after taking my medications, drinking my morning coffee and taking a shower, that I begin to come alive and the fog that impairs my thought processes gradually begins to lift. 

Thankfully I have been stable on the exact same low dose of Dexamphetamine (Dextroamphetamine) Sulphate for most of the last thirteen or so years, and I assume it is because I take a low dose (10-15mg morning, noon and mid-afternoon) that I have not developed physical tolerance, although my psychiatrist (I also suffer from Major Depression) tells me that this is a characteristic of Dexamphetamine and has something to do with it being the right isomer of the Amphetamine molecule – although I confess to having forgotten everything I ever knew about organic chemistry, but based on my own experience while living in Japan (where I was prescribed an equivalent dose Methamphetamine – for which I had to carry a special permit due to the controversial history and legal status of amphetamines in Japan – and I found Dexamphetamine to be much “smoother” in its effect, whereas I found Methamphetamine would cause noticeable “peaks and troughs” and the both the effect and the duration was definitely not as good as Dex for therapeutic purposes).

Anyhow, this and more will feature in future posts. For now, let me start by reviewing my first ever post to this blog. 

My first post was inspired by the then Australian government of the tyrant Tony Abbott, who systematically sought to undermine the decades of progress in diversity, rights and social justice that had made Australia – or White Australia at least – a byword for effective representative parliamentary democracy, popular participation in the political process, exemplary compassion towards the less fortunate through the provision of quality universal healthcare and education. 

Even in its time in office the short-lived Abbott Government managed to cause irreparable damage to the very fabric of Australian society, by manufacturing an endless series of non-existent “emergencies” that it exploited as justification for heinous, tyrannical, unconstitutional and un-Australian behaviour. 

For example, within its first month of office the Abbott Government abolished every single independent public agency that had been created to oversee and scrutinise the actions of the federal government and intentionally cast an unprecedented cloak of secrecy over its deliberations and conduct. 

This blatantly anti-democratic measure received minimal attention in the mainstream media – least of all from the Murdoch-owned media outlets of “News Corporation” (ironic that a media organisation that displayed a clear tendency towards manufacturing the most outrageously un-balanced, unethical and partisan stories during the federal election should have anything to with “news” in its company name). 

Below is an overview of some of the millions upon millions of dollars of free political advertising and editorialising given to Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party during the 2013 election campaign (just for the information of any Canadians, in Australia, for some baffling reason, the ultra-conservative party calls itself the “Liberal” Party, despite being “liberal” in no way, shape or form)   

Yet another example of Murdoch’s political bias. 

 
And if that last one wasn’t bad enough, check this out.

  
As a result of the relentless barrage of anti-Labor propaganda undertaken by the Mutdoch media, with a lot of help from the anachronisms of “talk radio” – opinionated conservative loudmouths who monopolise the airwaves of AM radio across the country and who attract a surprisingly large audience, since although the majority of their listeners tend to be elderly right-wing nutjobs, the endless stream of drivel that comes out of the mouths of these windbags is sadly considered acceptable radio listening a diverse demographic of apparently non-senile Australians including taxi drivers, tradesmen and labourers on work sites.

For five years in the second half of the 1990s I worked for a company called Media Monitors – a bit like a “para public relations” company and clipping service – as an “Electronic Broadcast Monitor”, a job I found endlessly interesting although infuriating, because basically we were paid to listen to talkback radio and to watch TV (including news, current affairs, some lifestyle, and some sports programming) and to summarise all the (non-advertising) content in order to alert the company’s database of corporate and political clients (and keep an eye out for sales opportunities for potential clients too) so that members of the Sales Team could alert said clients to whatever was being said about them or their products/interests/events, etc. 

What I liked most about that particular role was that the people I worked with were interesting and intelligent and the work itself was certainly never boring. As I was in my mid twenties I was at that time a “less evolved” version of the person I am now, and it still causes me moments of great embarrassment when I recall times I said or did something that I would never consider doing today, but then, like so many people at that age, I was extremely arrogant and outspoken, and always thought I was right. 

But I digress. 

The main reason I mentioned that particular job and corresponding period of life was that it involved rotating shifts and the early shift started at 05:30 which is when the highest-rated commercial breakfast show began. It was hosted by a repellent creature called Alan Jones – a former Rhodes Scholar as well as a former coach of the national Rugby Union team, the Wallabies, who – during a tour of the U.K. in the early 1980s if I recall rightly – was famously (and scandalously) arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in a gentleman’s public lavatory which was a notorious meeting place for men seeking “no strings attached” type homosexual encounters.  Astonishingly he weathered the storm and although his career as a coach was more or less over, he became extremely popular – especially among ultra-conservative suburban retirees – as a radio host and soon had the highest rating breakfast show which was eventually syndicated nationally. 

I used to dread the 5:30 shift because it involved having to endure three and a half hours of this self-important, arrogant, hyper opinionated loudmouth ranting and raving and making utterly ridiculous judgements and comments about whatever was going on at the time – especially politics. The theme song for his show (which I always found hysterically ironic) was an uptempo almost disco single called “Gloria” by a one-hit wonder from the 1980s called Laura Branigan, and I was amazed that a man who had been arrested in a public toilet for trying to initiate sex with an undercover cop would choose a song called “Gloria” as the theme for his radio show and privately I held the view that Gloria must have been the name of Alan’s drag queen alter ego. 

Anyhow, for anyone whose IQ exceeded their shoe size the “Alan Jones Show” was an absolute nightmare to listen to. The first hour or so usually consisted of the host reading the newspapers and making snarky, bitchy criticisms, observations remarks and value judgements about whatever rubbish was in that morning’s papers, and some the crap that would come out of that man’s mouth used to make me cringe and make my skin crawl.

I vividly recall one very long and bizarre rant about the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and Jones started raving like a literal foaming-at-the-mouth lunatic about the guy’s name and then started saying over and over and over how ridiculous a name it was before asking (rhetorically?) how stupid would it be if he were to call himself “Alan Alan Jones”?

To say that I found this offensive was a gross understatement. Boutros-Ghali was a very competent Secretary-General who had to contend with a number of extremely volatile situations including the disintegration of Yugoslavia – however he was a dark skinned gentleman from North Africa – Egypt to be precise, yet I had never found anything remotely amusing about his name because I assumed – as I presume anyone with a brain would – that it had something to do with his family origins, culture, tradition or heritage and therefore was something to be respected, and absolutely, uniquivocally not made fun of. I simply could not believe that I was listening to a supposedly intelligent man – a former Rhodes Scholar for fuck’s sake – rant, rave and cackle hysterically (in a terrifyingly un-hinged feminine manner that brought to mind the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz).

Despite what appeared to me to be clear and unequivocal symptoms of clinical insanity this man somehow established himself as a champion of the mythical “Aussie Battler” – a myth of a white, working class Australian constantly fighting for survival against the evils of government bureaucracy, the Labor Party, “dole bludgers” who supposedly led lavish lifestyles on welfare payments (forcing the “battlers” to pay ever increasing taxes as a result).

Usually, after exhausting his rants inspired by whatever was in the morning papers that day, Jones would start taking what we called “OLC”s or “On Line Caller”, meaning a random member of the public who presumably was not representing the opinions of anyone other than themselves – as opposed to the PR agents and political press secretaries who would call in to respond to any negative (or positive) mentions of their client – after having been alerted by one of us or someone from the Sales Desk. 

Often OLCs would call in to complain about some problem they were having and – depending on the nature of the problem as well as his mood – Jones would often undertake to “do something about it”, which in most cases he did. Especially if he thought it would improve his ratings or popularity, and in many instances he would voice his outrage at the injustice/abuse/unfairness, etc., of the situation and commiserate with the caller over their problem, then go off on a rant about how typical this situation was of whatever bugbear or scapegoat he was carrying on about, and after a commercial break would return with some government bureaucrat, corporate flunky or even a government minister or spokesmuppet on the phone.

As a result of this kind of thing Jones established a reputation for defending the rights of the “little bloke” and he used to always talk about something he called “Struggle Street”, which was a mythical place typical of working class Australia, and the loudmouth conservative seemed too imagine himself as the defender of those poor suckers who were unfortunate enough to live there. 

I began writing this post at some point in the early hours of the morning and have only just returned to it (after a day spent mostly half-asleep or pottering around achieving very little) shortly after 17:00 and I no longer recall precisely why I had gone into quite such depth about my time as an electronic broadcast monitor although I suspect it must have had something to do with the original purpose of this instalment, which was intended to serve as a means of filling in the substantial gap in real time between the very first post on this blog – which seems to have been a nascent polemic ranting against the evil tyrant Tony Abbott, who was removed from the office of Prime Minister after a vote of his party colleagues, as per the conventions of the Westminster system whereby the Prime Minister is always the leader of the political party which holds a majority of seats in the Lower House of the federal legislature, thus, when the party changes leader the country changes Prime Minister – without the need for an election, since unlike a Presidential system the Head of Government has no mandate per se – it the ruling political party that controls selection of the PM.

And ironically, the thoroughly loathsome Tony Abbott had initially seized leadership of the Liberal Party in a coup in 2009 against then Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull, who is also federal member for Wentworth the electorate in which I currently live.

But in his usual sneaky underhand manner Tony Abbott had brokered a deal with the then embattled Queensland Liberal MP Peter Slipper, who was then facing a sexual harassment suit brought by an openly gay member of his staff (who was later found to have colluded with another Liberal MP (of highly dubious character and ethics) named Mal Brough, with whom Ashby was proven to have conspired, apparently in order to entrap Slipper and even provided Brough with confidential documents from his offical diary. There were also a range accusations of corruption or something made against Slipper over the alleged misuse of Cabcharge vouchers or something. Anyhow, the point I was going to make was that Abbott only secured the leadership of his party by a single vote – the vote of Peter Slipper, whom Abbott had apparently promised his support in return for his vote in the leadership ballot. But, true to his mercenary, psychopathic nature, Abbott immediately reneged on the deal with Slipper who ended up resigning from the party yet retained his seat, and after a federal election which resulted in a hung parliament, his status as an Independent was crucial to the then Labor leader Julia Gillard, who had deposed the former Labor PM Kevin Rudd in a similar coup, and was only able to form a minority government with the support of three key Independent members of the House of Representatives and later Peter Slipper, who became Speaker of the House. 

Anyhow, the precise details of the various Macchiavellian machinations and backstabbings of those days have become a bit blurred in my memory, but I think the point I had intended to make is that about halfway through Abbott’s first term he was so phenomenally incompetent and unpopular that his own party staged a leadership coup against him, which was won by his predecessor Malcolm Turbull by a majority of ten votes (poetic justice in a way, considering that Abbott had previously unseated Turnbull as leader by a single vote – and a vote that he had only secured by making a corrupt deal with Peter Slipper upon which he immediately reneged once he got what he wanted.

The inherent absurdity of Australian politics and the Australian political system with its ridiculous and contradictory Constitution which is partly in writing but mostly unwritten, is a pet hate of mine – especially in light of the fact that the vast majority of Australians know so little about how the political system works that they are deluded into thinking that it actually works as it was intended to (which it doesn’t) will be the subject of a number of future posts because there is so much ground to cover. 

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Call to Arms

Inspirational – essential reading for all Australians.

The Australian Independent Media Network

coat of armsMake no mistake, we are under attack.  The very fabric of our wonderful society is being torn apart to satisfy the ambition of a man who once said

“We are all promoted to our own level of incompetence.  So sooner or later mine will be reached.”

We now have a government who thinks unfettered mining is desirable and that environmental protections are an impediment.  They are willing to sacrifice the reef and old growth forests for profit.

We have a government who thinks a 9th investigation into the Home Insulation Program is more important that the Royal Commission into systemic child sexual abuse.

We have a government who thinks jet fighter planes are more important than education, excessive paid parental leave is more important than pensions, and profits are more important than health.

University will become unaffordable to most, and techs and trade training centres are being closed.

Science…

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