Snowy Hydro Is Dry  

Posted by Big Gav

The SMH has an article on Snowy Hydro running out of water. They also point out (as I have occasionally in the past) that using coal fired power to pump water back up into the dams during low demand periods makes a mockery of clean power generation - its only clean the first time the water goes down the hill - after that its dirtier than coal (due to energy losses when pumping).

THE Snowy scheme has almost run out of water and risks breaching environmental limits because of a heavy reliance on coal and gas for power.

Snowy Hydro's water shortage is so dire it has been forced to rely on an antiquated and polluting gas-fired power plant in the Latrobe Valley, south-east of Melbourne, to generate much of its energy. Industry sources say the plant - which uses old aircraft jet engines to drive turbines - has already used more than 75 per cent of its annual allotment of allowable operating hours.

Further undermining its green credentials, Snowy Hydro has also been using conventional power from the grid to generate hydro-electricity at its Tumut 3 Power Station at Talbingo. In a highly energy-intensive process, water is pumped from a lower to a higher catchment overnight using off-peak power. The water is then released during the day to generate hydro electricity.

After 10 years of drought and overuse, Snowy Hydro water levels have dropped to an average of just 12 per cent. Its massive Tantangara reservoir is 6.4 per cent full, while the Eucumbene dam has fallen to 16.8 per cent. ...

A Snowy Hydro spokesman, Paul Johnston, would not confirm or deny that the company was planning to apply for increased operating hours at its gas-fired plants. "We have placed no application to the EPA for licence changes," he said. But Mr Johnston had earlier told the Herald: "We believe gas generation is the way to go. We have been looking and will keep looking at opportunities."

He said drought was affecting all of south-east Australia and Snowy Hydro was not immune. Snowy Hydro bought the 300-megawatt Valley Power plant in 2005, and the 320-megawatt Laverton North station was completed last year. "We have been operating them more regularly to replace water with gas," Mr Johnston said. "We now have over 600 megawatts of gas-fired generation plant that can be substituted for hydro generation, thus conserving water for when it is needed most."

Nicholas Stern is in Canberra telling our elected representatives that they need to do something about reducing carbon emissions. The out of touch Rodent is still hypocritcally bleating "what about the coalminers" while ignoring the underlying economic truth - it will be much cheaper to mitigate global warming by reducing emissions than to try and repair the problems caused by it.
SIR NICHOLAS STERN, the man dubbed "the rock star of climate change", is performing in Canberra today. Kevin Rudd will be doing a pretty good lip-sync to the tune Stern is singing and he'll copy some of the moves. John Howard will try to hum along while tapping a foot in time. ...

The author of the British Government's Stern Review on the economics of climate change is laying down tough conditions for Australia's political leaders to meet. "The effect of business as usual would be enormously damaging," Stern told the Herald yesterday. To head this off, Australia has to make serious changes that "will involve everyone".

In Australia, just about everyone is ready to be involved. It is public opinion that led the two main political parties to brace up for the challenge, and the political leadership followed. But with a federal election looming in the next eight months or so, Australia's political leaders are very coy about spelling out exactly what they will do about it. Neither Rudd nor Howard wants to be the first to tell voters in an election year that we will have to make difficult, even wrenching, changes in our fat-bottomed four-lane lifestyles.

The most important change Stern urges is also the most difficult. He says all rich countries, including Australia, must enact mandatory cuts to their greenhouse gas emissions of between 60 per cent and 90 per cent by 2050. ...

Rudd is ahead of Howard. Labor has been singing the part of Stern's song about cutting national emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. But when the head of the British Government Economic Service gets to the part about making such cuts legally enforceable, Rudd's voice trails off. Like the Government, Labor has committed to no specific means of compelling any cuts.

Stern's best chance for achieving change in Australia is to sing over the heads of the political leadership, inviting the voting public to sing along. Because Australians already know the words and eventually, as they have before, the people - not the politicians - will lead change in this realm.

Auckland airport is to trial some techniques for reducing fuel consumption by incoming planes.
Passenger jets will glide into Auckland International Airport in a trial to save fuel and reduce air pollution.

Big passenger jets are set to glide into Auckland International Airport from next month in a trial to save fuel and reduce air pollution. Airways New Zealand said it had been working with Air New Zealand and Qantas for jumbo jets to reduce fuel use and emissions as the aircraft came into land.

The procedure was safe and flights into Auckland would be spaced to allow a glide descent into the airport from their top of descent point, Airways New Zealand main trunk manager Lew Jenkins said. "These glide descent profiles will be flown with the aircraft engines set at idle, thereby significantly reducing fuel burn and emissions," he said.

The trial is to establish what the actual fuel burn was for an arriving flight and to gauge the potential fuel savings and associated emission reductions. "This is a perfectly safe procedure, and other flights will be controlled by Airways New Zealand's air traffic controllers to remain clear of the trial flight paths," he said.

He said all commercial airlines wanted to be safe but they also needed to be profitable, fuel efficient, and environmentally friendly. "A key component in this equation is fuel. The airlines have plenty of detail on how their aircraft need to fly in order to burn the minimum amount of fuel, especially on the arrival segment, but traditionally this has been balanced by an air traffic control imperative, driven primarily by on-time performance and runway capacity."

He said that had meant that the way an aircraft needed to fly to use minimum fuel was often at odds with requirements to arrive on time or to ensure best runway utilisation.

George Monbiot has declared biofuels a lethal solution to the energy problem. Somewhat bizarrely, the foaming troglodytes at the National Review agree with him !
It used to be a matter of good intentions gone awry. Now it is plain fraud. The governments using biofuel to tackle global warming know that it causes more harm than good. But they plough on regardless.

In theory, fuels made from plants can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by cars and trucks. Plants absorb carbon as they grow – it is released again when the fuel is burnt. By encouraging oil companies to switch from fossil plants to living ones, governments on both sides of the Atlantic claim to be “decarbonising” our transport networks.

In the budget last week, Gordon Brown announced that he would extend the tax rebate for biofuels until 2010. ...

So what’s wrong with these programmes? Only that they are a formula for environmental and humanitarian disaster. In 2004 this column warned that biofuels would set up a competition for food between cars and people. The people would necessarily lose: those who can afford to drive are, by definition, richer than those who are in danger of starvation. It would also lead to the destruction of rainforests and other important habitats. I received more abuse than I’ve had for any other column, except when I attacked the 9/11 conspiracists. I was told my claims were ridiculous, laughable, impossible. Well in one respect I was wrong. I thought these effects wouldn’t materialise for many years. They are happening already.

Since the beginning of last year, the price of maize has doubled(6). The price of wheat has also reached a 10-year high, while global stockpiles of both grains have reached 25-year lows. Already there have been food riots in Mexico and reports that the poor are feeling the strain all over the world. The US department of agriculture warns that “if we have a drought or a very poor harvest, we could see the sort of volatility we saw in the 1970s, and if it does not happen this year, we are also forecasting lower stockpiles next year.” According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the main reason is the demand for ethanol: the alcohol used for motor fuel, which can be made from both maize and wheat.

Farmers will respond to better prices by planting more, but it is not clear that they can overtake the booming demand for biofuel. Even if they do, they will catch up only by ploughing virgin habitat.

Already we know that biofuel is worse for the planet than petroleum. The UN has just published a report suggesting that 98% of the natural rainforest in Indonesia will be degraded or gone by 2022. Just five years ago, the same agencies predicted that this wouldn’t happen until 2032. But they reckoned without the planting of palm oil to turn into biodiesel for the European market. This is now the main cause of deforestation there and it is likely soon to become responsible for the extinction of the orang utan in the wild. But it gets worse. As the forests are burnt, both the trees and the peat they sit on are turned into carbon dioxide. A report by the Dutch consultancy Delft Hydraulics shows that every tonne of palm oil results in 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, or ten times as much as petroleum produces. I feel I need to say that again. Biodiesel from palm oil causes TEN TIMES as much climate change as ordinary diesel.

There are similar impacts all over the world. Sugarcane producers are moving into rare scrubland habitats (the cerrado) in Brazil and soya farmers are ripping up the Amazon rainforests. As President Bush has just signed a biofuel agreement with President Lula, it’s likely to become a lot worse. Indigenous people in South America, Asia and Africa are starting to complain about incursions onto their land by fuel planters. A petition launched by a group called biofuelwatch, begging western governments to stop, has been signed by campaigners from 250 groups.

The British government is well aware that there’s a problem. On his blog last year the environment secretary David Miliband noted that palm oil plantations “are destroying 0.7% of the Malaysian rain forest each year, reducing a vital natural resource (and in the process, destroying the natural habitat of the orang-utan). It is all connected.” Unlike government policy.

The reason governments are so enthusiastic about biofuels is that they don’t upset drivers. They appear to reduce the amount of carbon from our cars, without requiring new taxes. It’s an illusion sustained by the fact that only the emissions produced at home count towards our national total. The forest clearance in Malaysia doesn’t increase our official impact by a gram.

In February the European Commission was faced with a straight choice between fuel efficiency and biofuels. It had intended to tell car companies that the average carbon emission from new cars in 2012 would be 120 grams per kilometre. After heavy lobbying by Angela Merkel on behalf of her car manufacturers, it caved in and raised the limit to 130 grams. It announced that it would make up the shortfall by increasing the contribution from biofuel.

The British government says it “will require transport fuel suppliers to report on the carbon saving and sustainability of the biofuels they supply.” But it will not require them to do anything. It can’t: its consultants have already shown that if it tries to impose wider environmental standards on biofuels, it will fall foul of world trade rules. And even “sustainable” biofuels merely occupy the space that other crops now fill, displacing them into new habitats. It promises that one day there will be a “second generation” of biofuels, made from straw or grass or wood. But there are still major technical obstacles(17). By the time the new fuels are ready, the damage will have been done.

We need a moratorium on all targets and incentives for biofuels, until a second generation of fuels can be produced for less than it costs to make fuel from palm oil or sugarcane. Even then, the targets should be set low and increased only cautiously. I suggest a five-year freeze.

This would require a huge campaign, tougher than the one which helped to win a five-year freeze on growing genetically modified crops in the UK. That was important – GM crops give big companies unprecedented control over the foodchain. But most of their effects are indirect, while the devastation caused by biofuel is immediate and already visible.

This is why it will be harder to stop: encouraged by government policy, vast investments are now being made by farmers and chemical companies. Stopping them requires one heck of a battle. But it has to be fought.

You can join the campaign at

The Australian CleanTech Forum has come up with a list of the 10 best Australian clean technology companies that are trying to raise capital.
# Global Renewables - Perfect for sustainable city solutions. Internationally proven UR-3R mechanical biological treatment for municipal solid waste: saves landfill, increases recyclables, produces compost, reduces emissions, uses biogas for electrical generation.

# Environmental Clean Technology Clean coal technology to meet the global market demand. Clean Coal technology removes and recovers water from brown coal and is being used with Matmor Steel technologies in a pilot plant operation to produce steel.

# Microflow - A preferred clean technology over traditional approaches particularly in hydraulic systems. A suite of energy efficiency valve technology products that reduces operational energy requirements in mainstream industrial and manufacturing processes.

# Dyesol Limited - This green energy is the most advanced 3rd generation solar technology. Dye Solar Cell technology research, development and manufacture of nanoparticulate electrodes that biomimic photosynthesis in plants.

# Alternative Fuels and Energy - An innovative new way to heat or cool homes and commercial buildings. The Sun Lizard technology is a solar heat extractor in development and R&D is underway on the solar air-conditioner - Cool!

# Katrix - Technology for sustainable energy solutions in the 1 to 50 kW power range. The fluid expander technology generates rotational power like turbines which meets the growing demand for commercially viable small-scale power systems.

# Anzode NZ - The technology solves the rechargeability problems with zinc battery technology that has high vale markets in transport and defence. The technology enables zinc to function at commercialisable levels and manufacturing is planned in India.

# GridX Power - A real-time economic energy alternative by generating and using power onsite. The technology is designed to work “off grid”. It is a district energy system that monitrors local generators and then uses hot and cold water to supply thermal energy on site.

# Earth Systems Technologies - This could revolutionise the way subsurface migration of fluids or gas and the chemical in them are controlled by the creation of rock barriers. The neutral barrier technology is being field tested now and the signs are good.

# BioPower Systems - Inspired by living creatures and moving with the power of the ocean below the surface, bioWAVE and bioSTREAM technologies supply utility scale grid-connected renewable electricity. Full scale ocean-based “plants” are the next step.

Alex at WorldChanging has a post on Strategic Consumption: How to Change the World with What You Buy.
...the whole time that phrase kept rattling around in my head, "Buy a better future."

It stuck in my craw, and here's why: You can't.

You cannot buy a better future, at least not the sort of bright green future we talk about here at Worldchanging. That sort of future -- a sustainable one, a future that itself has a future -- is not available for purchase: It doesn't yet exist. You can't find it on shelves, and you can't even order it up custom, no matter how much money you're willing to spend.

You can be heroic in your efforts, but at the moment it's essentially impossible to live a North American consumer lifestyle and do no harm. You can buy only organic food, recycled products, and natural fibers and you won't get there. You can even trade your car for a hybrid, harvest your rainwater and only run your CFLs off your backyard wind turbine, and you still won't get there, both because the waste associated with consumerism is so massive and because the systems outside your direct control upon which you depend -- from your local roads to your nation's army to the design of the assembly lines used to build your car, rain barrel and windmill -- are still profoundly unsustainable. You quite literally cannot shop your way to a one-planet footprint. The best you can do is nudge the market in that direction.

The reality is that only massive systemic changes offer us the chance to avoid the catastrophes looming ahead. Stuffed animals with recycled filler and natural exfoliating creams are not really leveraging much change in the system. Indeed, the vast majority of the green products around us are, at best, a form of advertisement for the idea that we should live sustainably, a sort of shopping therapy for the ecologically guilty.

... the glut of green shopping opportunities is overshadowing the most basic message of all, which is that the most sustainable product is the one you never bought in the first place.

So, should we give up on trying to spend our money in ways that could do some good? Absolutely not, but we need to start getting better at buying in ways that make an impact. We need to begin to practice strategic consumption.

What makes consumption strategic? Multiplied leverage.

The ideal is to buy products that not only do their job more sustainably, but send market signals back through the economy that are likely to result in more meaningful systemic changes.

If we want to see these changes, we should pursue five strategies, listed in order of increasing importance:

1) Defaulting to green: When relatively equal alternatives exist, routinely choose the greener one, even if its impact is only minimally better (for instance, choose recycled toilet paper whenever possible). This may not produce massive change, but it helps solidify the gains of greener products. We ought to be working to put obviously dumb products -- like bleached, pulped-forest toilet paper or toxic chemical household cleaning solutions -- out of business. That'd be a pretty clear market signal.

2) Lengthening our time horizons: A great number of costlier green products are smart investments when viewed from the perspective of long-term cost. This is true of everything from more efficient home appliances (which can pay for themselves through energy savings) to low-flow shower heads. These are big-ticket items, requiring substantial industrial investment to manufacture. Buying them represents a wise investment and speeds up the process of higher standards being more widely adopted, but it also requires spending more up front -- sometimes a lot more. (It'd be easier if we all adopted the Japanese approach of requiring today's best performance levels to be the minimum allowable a few years hence.) This kind of sustainable consumption makes good sense.

3) Greening our geeks: One of the best ways to pursue sustainable innovation is to have millions of people working to make their special areas of expertise and passion as green and socially responsible as possible. Gardeners, for instance, can plant native species, harvest rainwater, build rain gardens and create backyard habitat, transforming what once was lawn into an oasis of living creatures and good sense. The same thing's true for home improvement buffs, amateur chefs, travel hounds and all sorts of other enthusiasts: We can take the thing we love and make it better, something that's not only satisfying to do, but satisfying in its consequences. As Bruce says:
I don't believe in "average people" doing anything. People ought to support mitigation and adaptation within their own line of work, no matter how un-average that is. I mean: if you're butcher, baker, ballerina, banker, or a plumber, envision yourself as the post-fossil-fuel version of yourself, and get right after it.

Buying green is pretty hard in a lot of product categories and it just got harder for parents in Australia with major retailer Woolworths no longer selling environmentally friendly nappies.
ENVIRONMENTALLY minded consumers are willing to drive hybrid cars but putting a biodegradable nappy on their child might be a stretch. Woolworths has removed the only range of biodegradable nappies from its stores because they were not selling enough, despite a 60 per cent rise in sales in the last two quarters of 2006.

Australian Pacific Paper Products's EcoBots are made of bioplastics and take just months to degrade compared with the years it takes conventional nappies to break down. EcoBots also cost about the same as other nappies. ... APPP marketing manager Val Ianno said: "What's changed is the expectation that is was going to sell even higher and it hasn't. "That's not to say sales aren't healthy or improving, they are, but maybe the expectations haven't been met. We understand and we have to accept their decision."

Mr Ianno said the company had been flooded with calls from frustrated consumers.

Paul Klymenko, chief executive of Planet Ark, whose logo appears on the nappies, said: "It's popular alright, it's just that it is not popular enough." He said retailers risked alienating consumers who had already aligned their values to the brand. "This is not about a choice based on price but one based on what is the best of the environment. There is a world of difference," he said.

A Woolworths spokesman said the decision was based on supply problems and "poor sales". A replacement product - from Sweden called Nature Babycare- will be in stores in a fortnight.

In contrast, sales of Lexus's petrol electric - or hybrid - luxury vehicles are beating expectations. Sales of the $121,000 sedan GS450h have already passed the target of 161 cars since the launch in May last year, to reach 226. Similarly, sales of the hybrid version of its four-wheel drive RX400, which is advertised as having "guilt-free performance", have reached 309 - 24 ahead of target. Lexus marketing manager Matt Tannocksaid the company had been "blown away" by the sales of the sedan.

But companies are failing to tap into growing concern about the environment, according to Howard Parry-Husband of research firm Pollinate, which runs a monthly poll on green issues. He said consumers' understanding of the issues was low but concern was high. Nearly 80 per cent of shoppers surveyed in February said they wanted to make "environmentally friendly purchases", but admitted they could do more. Only 14 per cent actually bought green products. "The problem is that there is nothing for the concerned consumer to buy," Mr Parry-Husband said. "So I'd say there is a vast untapped potential just sitting out there."

The SMH notes the effect tension over Iran is having on the oil price (which is now well out of its recent downtrend).
US crude oil futures on Tuesday briefly shot up more than $US5, or 8.2 per cent, in late electronic trading to hit $US68 a barrel, the highest level since early September, amid unsubstantiated rumours Iran had fired on a US naval vessel in the Persian Gulf.

Prices were trading around the day's settlement at $US62.93, then jumped sharply close to 5pm here. Traders were stumped to explain as prices swung dramatically in a matter of minutes. New York Mercantile Exchange personnel confirmed that all prices flashed on trading screens were accurate.

"The market has been on pins and needles with the Iran situation and as soon as the rumour mill got started things took off," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago.

Later, the US Navy said it had no information to substantiate the market rumour that Iran had fired at a US ship.

The White House added that it had no information to indicate any incident taking place regarding Iran.

Reuters has a summary of facts about The Strait of Hormuz, Iran and the risk to oil.
Oil prices hit a 2007 high this week on tensions over Iran's nuclear plans and its capture of 15 British servicemen. Analysts fear Iran could seek to impede trade through the Strait of Hormuz if it were threatened or attacked. The strategic channel at the entrance to the Gulf is the world's most important waterway or choke point because of the huge volume of oil exported through it daily.

-- Oil flows through the Strait account for roughly two-fifths of all globally traded oil, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
-- Some 16-17 million barrels of oil are carried through the narrow channel on oil tankers every day, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
-- Some 2 million barrels of oil products, including fuel oil, are exported through the passage daily.
-- Ninety percent of oil exported from Gulf producers is carried on oil tankers through the Strait.
-- Iran, which sits adjacent to the strait, has in the past talked of impeding traffic through it if threatened. ...

Past Peak notes the US navy is putting on a "Show Of Force". Energy Bulletin also has a roundup of news items about Iran.
The US Navy is staging a huge "show of force" in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran. But what they're really doing, whether they acknowledge it to themselves or not, is positioning a whole bunch of sitting duck targets where any nut with a missile can start World War III. AP:
The U.S. Navy on Tuesday began its largest demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by a pair of aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes flying simulated attack maneuvers off the coast of Iran.

The maneuvers bring together two strike groups of U.S. warships and more than 100 U.S. warplanes to conduct simulated air warfare in the crowded Gulf shipping lanes. [...]

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl said the U.S. maneuvers were not organized in response to the capture of the British sailors - nor were they meant to threaten the Islamic Republic, whose navy operates in the same waters. [...]

Overall, the exercises involve more than 10,000 U.S. personnel on warships and aircraft making simulated attacks on enemy shipping with aircraft and ships, hunting enemy submarines and finding mines.

"What it should be seen as by Iran or anyone else is that it's for regional stability and security," Aandahl said. "These ships are just another demonstration of that. If there's a destabilizing effect, it's Iran's behavior."

"It's for regional stability and security." They think we're idiots.

The David Hicks saga seems close to coming to an end (I think the Rodent wanted to get this out the way well before the election now it had become an issue for moderate Liberal voters), with "conservatives" triumphing his guilty plea and everyone else mocking the detention and kangaroo court system. On a semi-related subject Crikey also notes that our own detention centre at Christmas Island is also nearing completion.
This morning came the news that David Hicks has pleaded guilty. We should not be surprised.

After the legal drama in his initial hearing today, David Hicks surely would have reflected on the fact that years after his initial plea of innocence, he was still locked in a cell 1.8m². Any normal Australian, facing a system weighted so heavily against them and broken by five years of unimaginable privation, is likely to have signed a document that would get them out of Guantanamo – regardless of their guilt or innocence.

David Hicks' guilty plea is not justice served, nor does it necessarily reflect Hicks' guilt – it is simply further evidence of a rank system, and Australians can smell it from afar.

Almost every eminent jurist and legal body in the country has condemned a tribunal that has more in common with a circus than justice. Australian and international jurists agree this system was designed to guarantee convictions. It should come as no surprise, then, that it has. It reflects a system that is no more than justice on the make – offending basic legal principles of independence and impartiality.

This is evidenced by the shenanigans at today's arraignment. Hicks' civilian lawyer was dismissed as he refused to sign a document that compromised his own ethical standards.

It would also be highly unusual in any normal court for a counsel to question the presiding judge over their impartiality – as Major Mori had to, concerning Judge Kohlmann's rulings.

This is what happens in a flawed system where the tribunal, the "jury", the chief prosecutor, the charges and the plea agreements are determined by the executive branch of government – the same Administration with so much invested in Hicks' conviction.

The Federal Government should not think today's guilty plea lets them off the hook. They have diminished Australia by legitimising an unfair system by allowing an Australian -- guilty or innocent -- to languish in detention for five years, only to face a severely compromised legal process.

When John Howard sifts through his mail this weekend he'll find over 10,000 GetUp! postcards from residents of his own electorate angry at his disregard for basic Australian rights -- a sentiment they are likely to carry with them to the ballot box later this year.

The key question now is: will David Hicks be home by then and, of equal importance, under what conditions?

Or as GetUp put it - Hicks guilty by incarceration.
David Hicks has pleaded guilty to part of a single charge remaining against him - providing material support for terrorism.

Depending on which paper you read, the story was - after years of denial David Hicks has finally admitted he's a terrorist. Or, that after five years in Guantanamo Bay with no prospect of a fair trial, David Hicks has done what any person would do, and bargained his way out.

But because the evidence against David Hicks will never really be tested in a proper court, we will never feel certain whether five years plus of punishment was given to an innocent or guilty man. Because unlike other governments, ours has failed to stand up for its citizen's basic human and legal rights - and that matters more than what kind of man David Hicks is or isn't.

The Federal Government has diminished Australia by legitimising an unfair and illegal system, by allowing an Australian, guilty or innocent, to be imprisoned year after year without trial despite serious reports of mistreatment and abuse; by failing to do what America, its allies and even its adversaries around the world did, which is to say "no citizen of ours will be treated this way."

Our Government should stand shamed, not smirking. And to help remind our Prime Minister where the Australian people stand, we've got a delivery planned: 17,000 postcards from you, plus 10,143 directly from voters in his own electorate, demanding David Hicks be returned home now. Collected in just ten hours by GetUp members, that's roughly one in every eight voters in Bennelong; people who, regardless of their opinion of David Hicks, have written directly to John Howard asking for justice.

That's because they understand something the Prime Minister apparently doesn't - that the values of a civilised society, including the prohibition against torture and freedom from imprisonment without a fair trial, are bedrock. They're what we fight for when our soldiers are sent to war; they're what we look to in times of uncertainty. They're part of what separates us from the dictators and thugs we condemn. We invite you to share your thoughts on our blog.

From the beginning, this campaign has been about the values and rights of our democracy, and the power of people to defend those rights. It's the community pressure that has shifted this debate, and we're not ready to let up just yet. In the next few days, GetUp is publishing an Open Letter to the Prime Minister in the press, with the message that John Howard has lost his chance to defend Australian rights, but the Australian people still have the power to hold the Government accountable. You can donate to help fund the full-page letter to John Howard here.

No one should have to bargain with their liberty because their basic rights have been abandoned. David Hicks has still not been judged by a fair legal process, and he is still not home. The Commission circus is set to roll on over coming days, raising further concerns about the lawfulness of his expected imprisonment back home. We know what justice looks like, and we will not let those who claim to represent the values of our democracy forget.

Bush is now quoting Iraqi bloggers (the subject of some disputes in the past) in an effort to convince us all is going well in Iraq. I wonder why he didn't quote Riverbend ?
In an unusual step, US President George W Bush cited a pair of Iraqi bloggers to try to bolster his case that his troop buildup in Iraq is making progress. .. "'Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening,'" Bush quoted the bloggers as writing.

In a speech, Bush did not identify them, but the White House said he was referring to an opinion article published March 5 in the Wall Street Journal by the two bloggers, Omar and Mohammed Fadhil. They are a pair of Iraqi dentists who write an English-language blog,, and who met Bush in the Oval Office in December 2004.

And to close, here's a report from Boing Boing - Stasi chief was an Orwell fan, bent reality to get room 101.
Erich Mielke, the head of the East German secret police, was a great fan of Orwell's novel 1984, and desperately wanted his office to be in Room 101 (the location of the torture chamber in the novel). His office was on the second floor. So he renamed the first floor the mezzanine.
"I’d long been fascinated by George Orwell’s work, but I resisted reading 1984 until I finished the manuscript for Stasiland. After that, I devoured it, and I couldn’t believe Orwell’s prescience. When I went into Mielke’s office, I saw it had the number 101, which in 1984 is the number of the torture chamber. 1984 was banned in the G.D.R. but of course, Mielke and Honecker had access to banned material. The guide told me that Mielke wanted this number so much that even though his office was on the 2nd floor, he had the entire first floor renamed the Mezzanine so that he could call his room 101."

--Anna Funder, author of Stasiland


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