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Archive - May 2005

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Submitted by John Miner on May 30, 2005 - 2:42am.
A stained white radiance

In an advertisement in the Canberra Times, Professor Gavin Mooney suggested that people in DIMIA should examine their consciences. A letter to the editor from DIMIA's First Assistant Secretary (Parliamentary and Legal) Des Storer dubbed it "a personal attack on the integrity of public servants”, then took advantage of his position to publish his response on DIMIA's website, a resource Professor Mooney doesn’t have. I and many like me would never have known about Professor Mooney’s idea if Des hadn’t used the website to defend his troops against a suggestion that might have been good for their souls. John Miner reports.

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Submitted by Stuart Lord on May 24, 2005 - 5:14am.
Iraq – What could have been done better?

"I was asked a very relevant question after my original article on Iraq, namely ‘What could have been done better?’ After some careful consideration and consultation with various people, some who had served in Iraq, I came up with the following." Stuart Lord

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Submitted by Stuart Lord on May 20, 2005 - 8:20am.
Contestable concepts on Iraq: a pro-war view

"Since the invasion during 2003, there have been countless opinion pieces, blogs, journals and reports on Iraq. I have seen quite a few very contestable statements about the legality, nature and morality of the Iraq war, and here are some of my thoughts on them. Just for the record, in no way does this article concern the following – refugees, the personal lives of George W. Bush, Tony Blair or John Howard, refugees, Afghanistan, refugees, Israel and Palestine or refugees." Stuart Lord

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Submitted by Guest Contributor on May 17, 2005 - 11:00pm.
Hicks and the Geneva Convention, by Stephen Kenny

"If Australia does not call for the Geneva Convention to be applied to its citizens now, then it is possible that countries involved in conflict with Australia in the future will disregard the Geneva Convention. History has shown us that this will result in the unnecessary ill-treatment and no doubt deaths of Australian service men and women. It has always been a mystery to me why General Cosgrove was not pounding on the Prime Minister’s door advising that Australia should insist that all those captured in Afghanistan be dealt with under the Geneva Convention to ensure the future protection of our own forces. Unfortunately for our Defence personnel... it is now only the United States and Australia who are publicly committed to supporting the Military Commissions in Guantanamo Bay." Stephen Kenny

Submitted by Jack Robertson on May 17, 2005 - 12:00am.
Discussion guidelines

(first published here on May 16, 2005)

Last week was a hectic one for Webdiary, with some fast-breaking stories bringing a lot of traffic, many debut commentors and a lot of intense and angry discussion. Sometimes nasty, too, which is why I announced my intention to conduct an experiment banning all personal abuse altogether.

As a part of what I hope will become a concerted attempt by all Webdiarists to lift the tone, substance, depth and civility of our increasingly pluralistic discussions - and also as a simple editing and formatting aide memoire to help both editors and contributors speed up the mechanical hack work of facilitating discussions while we are still investigating a broader technical redevelopment - my Contributing Editor Jack Robertson has drafted some guidelines for Webdiarists.

To make some key points doubly clear:

I've instructed Jack and guest editors not to publish any post that contains abusive attacks on another Webdiarist, or his or her views. I also want to make it clear to the nastier critics of Webdiary that I no longer have the time or inclination to indulge your pointless abuse of me or this site. For nearly five years I've worked hard to publish even the most vitriolic of your attacks. Enough. We've heard all your lines now. Save your time and mine. You know where to go on the net if you want to see your attacks on me published.

For more serious Webdiarists, banning abuse does not mean that I want you to avoid vigorous criticism altogether. If you disagree with someone, by all means say so. But I expect you to do so civilly and calmly, and I also expect you to amplify that criticism with well-reasoned and relevant counter-points, and, ideally, positive alternative suggestions. I want this site to be a place of substance and creative debate, not tit-for-tat niggling and destructive point-scoring. I want every Webdiary poster to to find and acknowledge the best points in other posts, not just knee-jerk react to their worst. I want our discussions to end up adding, not detracting, to our collective knowledge of the issues we address.

I want the Webdiary community to make itself greater than the sum of our constituent parts, not lesser.

I'm hoping that Jack and the guest editors won't need to delete too many abusive posts as part of this new approach. I'm still hoping that self-regulation might ultimately prevail. At each week's end, we'll review the list of posts/phrases that have remained unpublished/been deleted. This will help us all get an idea of how this experiment will play out. So please read the guidelines below and think about our intentions in laying them down. (And see Webdiary 'no abuse' trial - week one, published May 21, 2005.)

Guidelines for Webdiarists

by Contributing Editor Jack Robertson
Please read these guidelines and take them in both the letter and spirit in which they are framed. Their purpose is not to discourage Webdiarists from contributing, nor to appear prescriptive about content or opinions expressed, but rather simply to enhance the quality of the discussions conducted. Like all useful etiquettes for civilised discourse they are not absolute, nor are they unbendable as occasion merits. Webdiarists are strongly encouraged to recognise and respect the deeper strategic intent behind the specific list of rules.

These guidelines should be applied in conjunction with the Webdiary Charter, Webdiary Ethics.

Formatting conventions

These rules, while appearing pedantic, serve three serious purposes:

a. to maintain an eye-pleasing and consistent site appearance;

b. to assist contributors and editors in the management of conversations, especially the latter (by far the majority of an editor's time is spent 'tidying up' lazily-formatted posts);

c. to ensure that contributors give serious thought to the preparation of their posts, to help reduce the number of frivolous, lazy and bad faith posts.


1. Use standard English (Fowler's) capitalisation, grammar and spelling (Macquarie) rules. Use of the internet 'convention' of writing in lower case only is acceptable in poster's name-boxes only.

2. Do not indent standard paragraphs. (The 'blockquote' html format for delineating quotes should only be sparingly used.)

3. Separate paragraphs with one blank line space.

4. Insert no space before the following punctuation marks: ,.?!;:)> and one space after.

5. Insert one space before: ([< and no space after.

6. Insert one space after and before - + = &

7. Insert no spaces before or after: / " ...

8. Standard ellipsis length is 3 full stops thus: ... Use of excessively long ellipses to 'make a point' should be minimised.

9. Use of CAPITAL text means that you are SHOUTING at your fellow Webdiarists. Bar staff will tolerate single SHOUTED words, phrases and short isolated sentences, but no more.

10. The use of other internet formatting conventions such as emoticons is acceptable.

11. Quotation marks should be used on all quoted material, including Webdiarists' posts. If quoting text with no contained quotations, simply use "...". If quoting text already containing quotations, use "...'...'..."

12. For brackets, the equivalent convention is (...), and (...[...]...)

13. When quoting from a hyperlinked source, use normal font.

14. When quoting from a hard copy source not on the internet, use italics.

15. When quoting a fellow Webdiarist to respond to a specific point, the convention is thus: Jack R: "......blah blah blah..." as a stand-alone paragraph.

16. Webdiarists may add to this thread suggested solutions to 'format standarisation' issues you have encountered and which I have not addressed above.

Hyperlink conventions

Already it's clear that the internet's hyperlink capacity is one of the most exciting discussion 'tools' Humanity has developed since the printing press. The ability to draw on practically unlimited stores of information while conducting a written exchange is altering the way we write, read and even think. The downside is that the internet is also becoming a place of information anarchy.

Here are the Webdiary rules on hyperlinks:

1. Contributors will ensure that posts containing hyperlinks are submittted with the appropriate html tags already in place. If you do not know how to use basic html, there are many free websites available via Google where you can learn to make your own text bold, italic and hyperlinked (AKA 'hotlinked') in minutes. Serial offenders won't find their tag-free posts indulged by editors for long. Learn how to speak basic html, and do so.

2. Editors will - are bound - to check all hyperlinks on publication, and if possible will rectify any dead-end or dumb-thumbed mis-links, but the poster is ultimately responsible for any dud, and should advise the editor if his links fail. Dead links in cyberspace are like blank pages on a newspaper; Webdiarists should all work to minimise the number published here.

3. Editors also reserve the right to add hyperlinks to Webdiarists' posts if they think it will enhance a post; contributors can however request the removal of any such links if they are inappropriate to the post.

4. When hyperlinking to a website, Webdiarists should try to indicate, either in the 'hot-text' itself or immediately adjacent to it, some indication of:

a. the site/net publication the reader will be linked to; and/or
b. the author/blog-site the reader will be linked to;
c. the type of cached file linked to IF it might require software that is non-standard on older systems (ie, pdf; jpeg; mpeg);
d. whether the source/site requires paid-up subscription to read/gain access to;
e. whether the link invokes an excessively-long download time, or other unusual technical responses.

5. Webdiarists are also expected to include links only in transparent good faith. Note the following:

a. contributors who knowingly seek to link Webdiary with illegal websites will be banned, and reported to the relevant authorities;

b. contributors who knowingly seek to link Webdiary with websites of a hate-inciting, explicitly sexual or pruriently violent nature without making crystal clear in their post (and preferrably to Margo Kingston directly) that intention, and their justification for doing so, will be banned. The STRICT convention for linking Webdiary to controversial or confronting (legal) content is: do NOT hyperlink to the site, simply post the url. This ensures that Webdiarists can only visit the site by making a conscious decision to cut n' paste, then click. Contributors should be explicit in what they will find. If, for example, you wish to underpin an anti-war point during a discussion on Iraq by linking to explicit photographs of mutilated children, you should pre-warn Webdiarists that this is precisely what they will find. Margo Kingston reserves the right to veto any links.

c. Webdiarists who wish to hyperlink to content on their own personal sites or blogs may do so, but should declare their interests in the hot-text. Repeated posting of such solipsistic links, designed to do no more than boost personal hits, will be viewed with an increasingly jaundiced eye. Expect to be heckled ruthlessly by the editor if you persist; then eventually de-linked.


6. ...

Webdiarists may add to this thread further suggestions on hyperlinking conventions for consideration.

Limitations and general notes on posting

1. Except in exceptional circumstances at the discretion of Margo Kingston and the editors, Webdiarists are limited to a maximum of 5 posts per 24 hours. This limitation, which is imposed on a trial basis, is to help ensure:

a. that each Webdiarist posts a smaller number of more substantive (in length and/or depth) contributions to debates, rather than many superficial ones;
b. that Webdiary discussions do not descend into pointless and repetitive tit-for-tat squabbles over trivial disagreements;
c. that threads do not become overly dominated by the same small core of regular posters;
d. that newer or less confident Webdiarists are not discouraged from having an equal say;
e. that Webdiarists will not 'waste' posts on abuse.

2. Posts that contain personal abuse of another Webdiarist of any kind will not be published. Serial attempted-offenders may be permanently banned. 'Personal abuse' is a difficult and subjective notion, but the following are likely to be so:

a. any criticism of a Webdiarist's actual or imagined physical appearance or characteristic (voice, inherent intellect), or non-physical qualities over which they have no immediate control (writing ability, education level, life or work experience);
b. criticism which contains sneering or foul-language criticism of views and opinions, as opposed to witty and pithy critiques;
c. criticisms that depend for their sting even obliquely on a Webdiarist's specific (known or imagined) sexuality, gender, race, religion or nationality;
d. most criticisms that assign a pejorative adjective or noun to a person rather than an adjective or an adverb to that person's actions (including the action of expressing of an opinion);

Another useful guide to apply when deciding whether or not your post is 'personally abusive' is to ask yourself: 'would I be prepared to make this comment face-to-face to my fellow Webdiarist if we were standing at the bar of Club Chaos?'

Webdiarists should feel free to discuss the concept of 'personal abuse' further on this thread if they wish

3. All swear words up to and including f**k may if thought absolutely necessary be used in full. F**k and its derivatives must be asterixed, thus: 'f**k'. This represents the extreme end of the foul language permitted at Webdiary, and should be used very sparingly if at all.

4. In line with Webdiary Ethics, posters must post using, at minimum, a first initial and a full surname ('J. Robertson'). Ideally all posters should post using their daily-use name ('Jack Robertson'). Where overlaps with existing Webdiarist posting names is possible, additional information should be used by the late-comer ('Jack J. Robertson'; 'John James Smith). Posters who wish to use a pseudonym must advise Webdiary editors briefly of their reasons, or be willing to do so. Pseudonyms must be:

a. of a neutral and conventional nature;
b. consistently used once chosen.

Use of standard name forms lends Webdiary discussions a more sustantial and civil tone. It is far easier and more egalitarian for a 'Jack Robertson' to maintain a serious conversation with a 'John Smith' or a 'J. Smith', than with a 'John', a 'Johnny12345', a 'John Howardsucks' or a 'Mickey Mouse'.


6. Margo Kingston retains the right to disregard any and all of these Guidelines.

Jack Robertson: Webdiarists, please feel free to discuss any aspect of these guidelines, and add suggestions for areas that I have missed, at length on this thread. Thank you.

Previous comments on this thread

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Submitted by Jack H Smit on May 16, 2005 - 2:02pm.
Citizen Jack: how a man with a computer and a passion for justice can make a difference in today's Australia

Want to know how a man with a passion and a computer can help hold a government to account? Webdiarist Jack H Smit began 'Project Safecom' after Tampa. He is now one of Australia's most respected and effective refugee advocates. Here is his story.

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Submitted by Craig Rowley on May 5, 2005 - 11:33am.
The sun is never the worse for shining on a dunghill
"If you’ve ever had much to do with contracts you’ve probably heard of a sunset clause. If you’ve ever negotiated hard for a contract you may have burnt the candle from sundown to sunrise. Upon a successful outcome, you may have basked in the sun and scored the bonus that will pay for some time on the beach. Of course, in all likelihood the contract will never be so exposed to the clear light of day. Commercial-in-confidence. These three words are such an effective shield; they’re as good as sunscreen. Governments these days use these three words often. Too often we are treated like mushrooms rather than citizens, and it stinks." Craig Rowley
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Contributors submit comments on their own responsibility: if you believe that a comment is incorrect or offensive in any way,
please submit a comment to that effect and we will make corrections or deletions as necessary.
Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner

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