Tim Longhurst's Blog

Melbourne IT shuts down johnhowardpm.org at government’s request

March 16th, 2006 · No Comments

melbit.gifA satirical website, johnhowardpm.org has been shut down by Melbourne IT at the request of the Australian Government. Two Melbourne IT customer service personnel have claimed that representatives of the Government requested the site be shut down, and Melbourne IT’s Policy Office chose to honour that request without contacting the site’s owner, Richard Neville.

Over two days Yahoo! and Melbourne IT denied involvement in the unexplained removal of johnhowardpm.org from the web.

This morning however, Melbourne IT staff allege that as-yet unnamed representatives of the Federal Government requested johnhowardpm.org be shut down. Melbourne IT, who sold Richard Neville the domain name just days ago, failed to contact their customer or invite him to respond to the Government complaint.

Richard Neville is in the dark as to what the Government’s complaint is or why it was upheld by Melbourne IT. Preliminary research into this matter indicates that the domain holder should always be invited to respond in such disputes.

A request for information has been lodged with Melbourne IT’s Policy Office. Melbourne IT has indicated that a representative from their policy office will be in contact to explain their actions by close of business today.

When johnhowardpm.org mysteriously went off-line a little more than 24 hours after launching, I assumed it must have been a glitch by the site’s webhost, Yahoo. I didn’t even entertain the notion that Australia’s Government would be so heavy-handed as to have the site shut-down.

The satirical speech at the centre of this controversy is available here and is also available as a PDF at Richard Neville’s site.

Melbourne IT have indicated a representative from their Policy Office will contact me today. If/when they do I will post updates here.

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Category: culture jamming

What’s going on with johnhowardpm.org?

March 15th, 2006 · No Comments

picture_8.1.jpgFor those of you following the story of johnhowardpm.org, I have a brief update. This could be a story about censorship, but it’s far more likely to be a story about what a terrible hosting company “Yahoo!” is.

The latest word from Yahoo is that they can’t explain why the site isn’t working and they don’t know how to fix it. The bills have been paid, everything is set up correctly. They think it’s got something to do with the ‘domain status’ which is in a ‘hold state’, but Yahoo themselves can’t work out why.

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Category: culture jamming

Games fever hits Melbourne

March 15th, 2006 · No Comments

picture_7.1.jpgThe Commonwealth Games may be overshadowed by an event that has invited millions more competitors: the world’s first ever “Graffiti Games”.

According to the Graffiti Games Organising Committee (GGOC), Melbourne Council has been attempting to sterilise Melbourne:

“With street artists and the homeless currently being purged how long can it be until people with less than $100 in their pockets, non-designer tracksuits or crooked teeth also find themselves “United By The Moment” in being frogmarched to the city limits for fear of cluttering up the view for wealthy tourists?”

More at: graffitigames2006.com [editor’s note: unfortunately this resource is no longer available online and we have therefore removed the link]

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Category: culture jamming

Richard Neville tries his hand as PM’s speech writer

March 14th, 2006 · 3 Comments

jhpm.jpgIn a conversation with Richard Neville last week, he mentioned he had been reading some of John Howard’s recent speeches and decided he’d have a go at penning some words for Australia’s Prime Minister.

Days later, an enthusaistic email from Richard encouraged me to visit johnhowardpm.org. All the PM’s recent speeches were made available at the site, including an “Address to Deakin Society – ‘Reflections on the Situation in Iraq'”.

The speech had many of the qualities of a Prime Ministerial speech, but this was a far more reflective Prime Minister than Australians are used to:

“During our recent celebrations of the Coalition’s ten years in power, I have, as Prime Minister, been publicly reflecting on our Party’s many great achievements, as was appropriate to do. But on this occasion, among old friends and senior colleagues, I wish to share some unsettling thoughts about the situation in Iraq.”

The “Prime Minister” continues…

“Under international law, all military forces owe a ‘duty of care’ to the civilians of an occupied city. And I am starting to ask myself if this is a commitment we have betrayed. In fact, I dare to wonder if we have betrayed the very ideals that I invoked in my support of the invasion.”

and concludes…

“Flying home from India, I started to ask myself what a leader like Mahatma Gandhi would do, but I feared I would not be able to live up to the answer, unless I have some wise advice form my longtime friends. Please look into your hearts and let me know what you find.”

I laughed and shook my head. Our Prime Minister isn’t the soul-searching type, at least not publicly. Richard’s culture jam was well executed. He’d gone from idea to publication in three days. The word spread on the internet and in no time Crikey‘s Ben Shearman had given the “unofficial” PM site a plug.

Today the site is gone and nobody I’ve spoken to (including Richard Neville) knows how or why. Given that I’ve got a few technical skills, Richard asked me to investigate. I spent a few minutes on the case and found the following:

  • In the first two days of the site’s operation, the site logged 10,546 visits.
  • The last successful download of the site was made at 8pm on March 14 (last night Sydney time).
  • The site’s host, Yahoo, enforces a data transfer limit of 200,000 megabytes a month. So far the account has transferred 740mb, so the site hasn’t received so many visits that Yahoo could justify removing the site.

Has the site been censored? Well, it’s not available anymore and the publisher didn’t authorise the site’s removal. So why is the site down?

I called Yahoo’s Sydney media office to ask if they had censored the site (Yahoo are the site’s host, and they have a track record of supporting government censorship). They’re ‘getting back’ to me.

I’ll post an update if there’s anything to say. Until then, the full text of the speech is posted below.

Click to continue reading “Richard Neville tries his hand as PM’s speech writer”

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Melbourne’s jammers leave Starbucks feeling short, weak

March 7th, 2006 · No Comments

starbucks_logo.jpgConcerned that Starbucks are threatening locally owned cafés, Melbourne’s culture jammers decided to send Starbucks a message in the form of singing telegrams.

A group of jammers wandered into a number of Starbucks, positioned themselves around the stores and then belted out a tune loosely based on the jukebox classic, American Pie:

First singer (solo): A long, long time ago I can still remember when you used to suck those people dry…Second Singer (shouted): And you’re still doing it!

[Cut straight to the chorus]
Bye bye Starbucks, it’s time you retired
You couldn’t do it ethically even if you tried
Those good old <insert real coffee joint> round the corner supplies
Better coffee for a much better price
Better coffee for a much better price!

(it continues, but you get the idea.)

Apparently store manager reactions varied from applause to turning up the stereo to drown out the singing.

The jammers handed out this flyer which goes some way to explaining their activities. They named this latest event “Operation Mermaid” after the mutant fish woman featured on the Starbucks logo.

The Melbourne culture jammers may have a friend in the guy at ihatestarbucks.com. His site has become a clearinghouse of anti-starbucks literature.

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