5 July 2014

Why Rolf Harris received such a lenient sentence

The reason for Rolf Harris’ surprisingly lenient sentence — 5 years and 9 months — for a range of offences committed between 1969 and 1986, is clear from the judge’s sentencing remarks: the laws in effect at the times the crimes were committed were softer than today’s laws in England:
The maximum sentence on Count 1 is one of 5 years’ imprisonment, on each of Counts 2‐9 it is one of 2 year’s imprisonment, and on each of Counts 10‐12 it is one of 10 years’ imprisonment.

With the exception of Counts 10 & 11 the equivalent offences today attract significantly higher maximum sentences. For example on Count 1 the equivalent offence today is sexual assault of a child which carries a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment and would be likely to involve a starting point of around one year’s imprisonment. On Counts 3,4,5,7,9&12 the equivalent offence today is assault by penetration which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and would be likely, to involve a starting point (given the severity of the psychological damage to ‘C’) of around 8 years’ imprisonment on Counts 3,4,5,7, & 9 and a starting point of around 4 years’ imprisonment on Count 12
The laws have changed, so why don’t they apply to “new” cases? The new laws would have to apply to everybody, including those who have already been caught and sentenced for crimes committed during the same period. Otherwise, it would be a great injustice to victims of similar crimes committed back then who would be asking why their abusers received lighter sentences simply because they were caught earlier than Rolf Harris.

27 June 2014

Report does not state crew of MH370 was likely to have been unresponsive

Journalists are not accurately quoting a report released by Australian officials on the search for the missing plane of flight MH370 with statements that the crew was “likely” to have been unresponsive when it crashed. It is merely an assumption that best fits the limited evidence available for the purposes of narrowing the search area, as explained on pages 34 and 35:

Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew/hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370’s flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction:

  • loss of radio communications
  • long period without any en route manoeuvring of the aircraft
  • a steadily maintained cruise altitude
  • fuel exhaustion and descent

This suggested that, for MH370, it was possible that after a long period of flight under autopilot control, fuel exhaustion would occur followed by a loss of control without any control inputs.

Note: This suggestion is made for the sole purpose of assisting to define a search area. The determination of the actual factors involved in the loss of MH370 are the responsibility of the accident investigation authority and not the SSWG.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has to make assumptions so that they have a model to guide their search for the missing aircraft. They’ve looked at scenarios that have led to previous aircraft accidents and chosen the one that seems more likely than the others to have occurred. It is just the candidate theory that currently wins in terms of the small amount of evidence available to support it.

22 April 2014

Heartbleed overblown

The Heartbleed bug has to be taken more seriously than the Y2K bug since it is a security vulnerability, however like the Y2K bug, IT journalists are creating unnecessary panic and may even be assisting hackers by giving this software flaw undue media attention.

Security vulnerabilities are being discovered and fixed all the time — just browse the history of installed updates in Windows Update. Rather than just issue an immediate patch as is typically done with such vulnerabilities, this vulnerability was advertised with the unhelpful advice that users should either (a) change all their passwords, which will be exposed in instances where a patch for the Heartbleed bug is yet to be deployed on the server the new password is sent to; or (b) farcically, change their password for certain servers, but leave it unchanged for others — hard and fast rules that shouldn’t be blindly followed.

The severity of a vulnerability cannot be measured by its pervasiveness and theoretical potential for exploitation by malicious Internet users alone. What matters is the material cost to users and businesses as a consequence of data theft, which on the available evidence, was zero for Heartbleed (before it received publicity, that is.)

Heartbleed is a significant security issue that IT personnel must act on, but the response should include thoughtfully balanced advice about the broad range of risks that exist and the measures that should be taken to mitigate them.

Hackers continually exploit software security flaws to steal military and industrial secrets, but government agencies and corporations tend to avoid informing the public when these security breaches occur. Those with the most nefarious intentions will seek to achieve their financial, military and political goals using the most efficient means possible. A system will always have a number of vulnerabilities in the form of programming errors and users that are naive or complacent about IT security, and hackers will use the avenue that will yield the most results with the least amount of effort. Heartbleed has been around for a couple of years, during which time hackers stole sensitive information on millions of people using other approaches that were more conducive to data theft on an industrial scale.

Two-step verification, which has become standard for performing online transactions and can be enabled on many of the most popular websites such Gmail, isn’t getting mentioned because commentators are too busy trying to convince Internet users that Heartbleed is an unprecedented security disaster.

23 October 2013

The obfuscated debate on climate change

We often hear that scientists have reached a consensus on the contentious issue of climate change, but what exactly do they agree on? Have they come to an agreement on how much temperatures will rise and how quickly these rises will occur? Do they agree on how high sea levels will rise? The answers to these questions come in the form of wide ranges consisting of a minimum value and maximum value that depend on the climate model used.

There are really three general issues in the debate on climate change:

  1. The changes that will occur to our climate.
  2. The cause of these changes to our climate.
  3. What should be done about adverse changes to our climate.
Issue 1 gets the most attention, but most of the argument actually centres around issue 2. The answer for the third issue depends on the answer for the second. So-called “climate change deniers” don’t deny the climate is changing. Au contraire. They just don’t believe mankind is causing “dangerous” changes to our climate.

The problem with claims of a scientific consensus is that they tend to be statements of a political nature made on behalf of scientists rather than scientific ones.

7 March 2013

Tweets from Australian journalists on Twitter

19 December 2012

Former Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey blames media and drugs for gun massacres

Former Western Australian Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey has weighed into the debate on gun control in the United States which ensued in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. In a letter published in today's edition of The West Australian, he says measures to restrict private ownership of firearms would be futile in the United States and blames the media for encouraging individuals to carry out such atrocities. Tuckey also links drug abuse to gun violence.

Letters to the Editor, The West Australian, Wednesday December 19

Gun link to drugs, media

Americans bought two million firearms last month, which indicates they believe that the best protection from a gun is a gun. The extent of overall gun ownership in that country highlights the futility of gun control to protect its citizens from gun violence.

In Australia, where the Howard gun buy-back has reduced access to guns, we are assailed daily with reports of murder by knife, frequently the kitchen variety, or king hit and similar physical violence.

Which raises the question in both countries: why is it so?

Americans have always owned guns and had a strong hunting culture yet once gun violence was the preserve of the gangster class. In my youth we took our cadet corps 303 home and at 16 I bought my own .22.

Gun deaths did occur but until the Tasmanian tragedy had not been associated with mass and inexplicable killing.

The common denominator is without doubt the rise of the drug culture and the role of the media.

In our household, with an otherwise strong addiction to current affairs reporting in both print and electronic venues, it is now our practice to turn off the electronic sources and immediately consign the necessary front pages involved to the recycling bin for the weeks involved while the latest tragedy is played out in embarrassing detail to the exclusion of the issues which affect the daily lives of Australians over which they might also have some influence. Above all, this practice is to shield our youngest grandchildren who are frequent and regular visitors whose sleep and behaviour has been affected in the past by this constant and detailed buffeting of tragedy.

They are certainly not of an age or disposition to contemplate copycat crime but I cannot rule out this circumstance as a contributing factor to this more recent phenomena.

I note with disapproval the continuous intrusion into the grief of parents, friends and the general public in the hope that tears can be generated to emphasise their grief.

I note as a matter of record that in the same period a similar tragedy occurred in China where the instrument of destruction was a knife, but the Chinese media did not download any gruesome details.

Few solutions outside the impossible are being promoted, but an even greater effort to prevent drug addiction must be high on the list.

In African countries I have visited, access to public buildings is severely limited and our banks have demonstrated sensible security measures to protect their staff. It should not be beyond the resources of the American nation to implement security measures to at least protect children in their classroom.

And please stop giving such perverted individuals their moment of public “glory”.

Wilson Tuckey, Ascot

8 March 2012

Why I don’t support Invisible Children’s Stop Kony campaign

Invisible Children may have the best of intentions, but I wouldn’t part with my money until they address a couple of issues:

  • The Lord’s Resistance Army has a presence in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as Uganda. How will Joseph Kony be arrested with American military “advisors” in Uganda?
  • Looking at the breakdown of their expenses, Invisible Children appear more concerned with lobbying than investing funds directly to benefit children in Central Africa. Only 37.14% of their expenses for Fiscal Year 2011 went to Central Africa programs.

29 January 2012

Contradictory and confusing accounts of the Australia Day protest fiasco

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the events leading up to the ugly demonstrations outside The Lobby Restaurant on Australia Day, as the accounts given by Julia Gillard and UnionsACT secretary Kim Sattler don’t add up:

“I heard it from the crowd.” — Kim Sattler, The Canberra Times, January 28, 2012 2:24 PM

“Mr Hodges accurately conveyed to her [Kim Sattler] the statement made by Mr Abbott.” — Julia Gillard, The Australian, January 28, 2012 4:29 PM

“I spoke to Tony Hodges on the phone… He mentioned that Tony Abbott had made a statement about the embassy, that it shouldn’t exist at all.” — Kim Sattler, Sunday Herald Sun, January 29, 2012 12:00 AM

“ACT union official Kim Sattler says reports that her account of events on Australia Day contradicts Prime Minister Julia Gillard are ‘inaccurate’.” — The Sydney Morning Herald, January 29, 2012 1:37 PM

31 March 2011

Swan's explanation for replacing Professor Warwick McKibbin doesn't add up

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan cited the length of time Professor Warwick McKibbin and Don McGauchie served on the Reserve Bank Board in the justification he gave to Ross Greenwood on 2GB for replacing these vocal critics of the Labor government’s fiscal policy.

Can I just make this point about the two departing members. They’ve been there for 10 years. I don’t think there’s ever been a situation where someone has been on the board longer than 10 years.

This is not true. Jillian Broadbent has been a member of the Reserve Bank Board since 1998. Swan didn’t have a problem reappointing her for a third five year term in May 2008.

18 March 2011

Reality check: Facts about the threat posed by radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi plant

  • People are exposed to an average of 3.0 mSv/year.
  • People have a normal radiation acceptance level of 20 mS/year.
  • On 17 March at 10am, helicopters measured 87.7 mSv/h at 90 m and 4.13 mSv/h at 300 m above the Daiichi plant.
  • Other measurements of radiation levels taken within ~60 km of the Daiichi plant ranged from 0.7 to 170 μSv/h on 17 March.