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Showing posts from May, 2004

Time to get out of Gaza

It was disappointing to wake up and hear that the Israeli cabinet has delayed its vote indefinately on the Ariel Sharon plans for a complete withdrawl from Gaza. It seems that Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu is playing politics with it by whipping up opposition to Sharon's sensible proposal, and can sniff a second turn as Prime Minister if he can generate enough opposition to the plan and challenge Sharon's supremecy. Although leftists might resist the idea, Sharon is very much the dove in this scenario. Sharon has exposed himself to being undermined in this way through his poor decision to put the issue to a vote of the Likud membership, which rejected the idea in spite of the majority of the public supporting the proposal.

Sharon and his allies in the Cabinet need to do some deft persuading so that the withdrawl plan gets the support of the Cabinet, and soon. The floating of a four-stage withdrawl is the wrong approach, and will only prolong the difficulties and bloodshe…

Watch out for a rate rise

A pinch and a punch for the first of the month... and since it's a Tuesday tomorrow, that means the Reserve Bank will be sitting down for a yak. Look out for a 0.25% increase in interest rates, as the RBA does its bit to try and control inflation which would have been given a healthy kickalong by the government's profligate budget.

Seat watch - Solomon

This is the first of an occasional series of profiles of electorates for the 2004 Federal Election (FedElec04 it would no doubt be, if some marketing graduates got their hands on it, possibly as part of the AEC's contribution to Work for the Dole, which would in turn become Work4daDole). Thanks to the fine folks at Mumble, a newly updated and recalculated Mackerras pendulum is available for all to see. In fairness to all, seats will be discussed in order from most marginal to least marginal, or until I get bored, whichever comes sooner.

First up is the seat of Solomon. This is an NT seat that covers a fair chunk (a technical term) of Darwin. The seat is held by the Country Liberal Party's David Tollner by just 0.1% (a mere 45 votes decided the seat in '01... sorry, FedElec01). The Labor candidate for the seat is a local, Jim Davidson, who has a background in construction. If the government is on the nose, then Tollner is likely to feel it. Given how well Clare Marti…

Lees, Falconio and some territory justice

First it was the rail link, then it was the prospect of cricket in August, but finally the NT government have stumbled across the perfect way to keep its economy bubbling along - a murder mystery. It was indeed good fortune for the Darwinians that the star witness this time around happened to be an attractive Englishwoman, and not, say an ugly Kiwi bloke or a no-hoper local.

As it is, the Australian media, with a healthy selection of FleetStreetgutter-crawlers, have headed to Darwin for the Lees-Falconio hearing. Let's hope that the magistrate is a proud territorian and allows the case to progress from the committal hearing in the Maggie's Court to a full blown Supreme Court battle.

What is remarkable, although probably not surprising, is how much of the media has focussed on the most minute of details surrounding Lees and her appearance in the top end. The silly saga surrounding who would have photographic access to her, as well as the regular appearance of media lawyers i…

Thomas on tackling terror - and truly terrible aliteration

One of the most incisive commentators on the state of the planet is the New York Times' Thomas Friedman. (Wait a couple of days and it will no doubt pop up in The Age and The SMH.)

In his column today, "Shoulda Woulda Can", Friedman throws around some ideas on practical ways forward to combat terror. Through he doesn't address the politics of it, you get the impression that Bush is in a much worse position that Kerry to implement some of the ideas that Friedman puts up. For all his huffing and puffing in Iraq, Bush still seems genuinely clueless on practical, non-invasive methods of challenging terror.

Some of Friedman's ideas are just plain kooky - improving the libraries at US Embassies, for example, as if Osama bin Laden is just a bedtime story away from being at peace with the world (maybe Mark Latham should look into it as well) - some of them have a lot of merit.

A US Patriot Tax of a couple of cents a gallon (or litre will do just fine) to put into resea…

Tea with Robert

In a sleeper story that hasn't made the impact it deserved to, Sky News in the UK on Monday aired an interview with Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe. This is the first 'in depth' interview that Mugabe has given in four years, and Mugabe seems to be in a state of denial about the depths to which his country has sunk, as well as showing breathtaking contempt for the rest of the world.

Interviewer Stuart Ramsay did well to tackle Mugabe on some of the trickier aspects of being a despot. Try these quotes on for size...

On the grossly unfair 2000 election:

STUART RAMSAY: International observers were critical of the election.

ROBERT MUGABE: Which international observers?

STUART RAMSAY: A variety of countries.

ROBERT MUGABE: Which ones?

STUART RAMSAY: Britain obviously was one of them, Australia...

ROBERT MUGABE: Great Britain, you know the attitude of Britain, they will never accept anything as right when it is done by us.


On food aid from the World Food Programme...

S…

Draper - some pespective, please

What a tired saga the Trish Draper story is. Yes, she was in the wrong. Yes, she exercised appalling judgement. Yes, she's become a political liability, in the short term at least. But let's put it in perspective - this is the suggestion that 4 years ago, $5000 may or may not have been spent by an MP in contravention of the government guidelines. Today Tonight had the story, and a court injunction later, the story hit the airwaves last night.

Only the most ardent and one-eyed of the John Howard Army will come out and defend Draper's actions as being in line with the guidelines for claiming spouse/de facto travel entitlements. This is not in dispute.

Instead, there is a strong case to be made that there is much more significant unjustifiable waste and petty corruption in the highest levels of government that put Draper's misspending to shame. Have a look at how many millions taxpayers have been jibbed through a wink-and-a-nod agreement over the leasing of Centent…

Bracks, Crooked Cops and a Royal Commission

Get ready for another Bracksflip. The esteemed Victorian Premier's second term seems to be defined by a tendancy to second guess his own decisions (and worse, getting them wrong in the first place). While in his first term, Steve Bracks surprised most pundits by holding the affairs of state together with a young, rather inexperienced ministerial team, his second term shows that he has unlearnt many of the lessons that he learnt in the first.

After backflipping on tolls to the Mitcham-Frankston Freeway (a road which, in Ari-on-the-web's opinion, should never be built anyhow) and then just last week on the placement of a Toxic Dump in the verbal toxic dump of ruralandregionalVictoria, Bracksflip number three is fast approaching.

After doing his best impression of an ostrich on the issue of police corruption, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Victoria needs a Fitzgerald-style inquiry into official corruption in the police force. So far, the Government has insisted that …

Friday night football

Seemingly endless war in Iraq, train crashes in North Korea, seriously crooked cops in Melbourne, tricky Trish Draper... all might suggest that things are not looking too crash hot in the world at the moment. But I think we can safely forget all that, because COLLINGWOOD HAVE JUST BROKEN THEIR SIX GAME LOSING STREAK!!!

The view from the top deck of Dockland Stadium was that it was the Magpies younger brigade that lifted the team from the depths it had sunk to in previous weeks. With 7 players aged 20 or under, it was possible that on field leadership would be difficult to come by, but when Adelaide seriously challenged the Pies in the last quarter, the mental resolve of the players was evident. So let's hear it for Rhyce Shaw and Cameron Cloke and Matthew Lokan, second tier players who shone through tonight.

Another streak was also broken at the game on Friday. About six years had passed since Ari-on-the-web (who at that time was simply Ari) last purchased anything to eat at th…

Fairfax sake...

Where have all the journalists gone? Just days ago, the SMH announced that it was downsizing (or is it rightsizing now - I'll need to consult my corporate wankspeak dictionary to find out) its editorial staff. Initially through voluntary redundencies, and then presumably through more forceful means, the Herald hopes to slash 35-45 from its newsroom workforce, for a saving of $4 million annually. John Fairfax Holdings, publishers of the SMH, made the ASX announcement on Tuesday, and The Australian followed up on Wednesday with a piece that had only the faintest hint of "Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyaaaaah-nyah".

There are two separate issues that arise from this decision. Firstly, what does it say about Fairfax, and secondly, what does it say about opportunities for Australian journos.

First, the first one. It's no secret that Fairfax are doing it tough at the moment. The chairman, Fred Hilmer has announced he is standing down, and the search is on for a replacement. The c…

Time to take a stand

Today's the day that the world discovers another of my fetishes - sport. Not as a participant of course, but in the much more Australian role as a keen observer. The money, ethics and politics of getting a bit of excercise is fascinating stuff.

The time has come to make the tough call on cricket in Zimbabwe. No longer can the Australian national side hide behind the increasingly inadequate fig-leaf protection of the "sport and politics don't mix" line. They do, and they have been mixed by the decision of the ZCU to refuse to select white players for the national side, an innately political move that reflects the authoritarian state that Zimbabwe has become. The decision by 15 of the ousted white players to 'strike' is a noble one, and surely a difficult personal decision given the fearsome reputation of nationalist Prime Minister Robert Magabe.

The Australian side cannot shirk their responsibility. To refuse to play on the grounds that the Zimbabwean si…

An embarrassed Government's last resort?

Top marks to the spin-doctors and propaganda machine who turn defense of Australia's indefensible immigration policy into an artform. On Thursday last week the government tabled the HREOC report into Australia's policy of immigration detention of children, A Last Resort?The report deserves some examination, but so does the cynical timing of its release. This was released at the tail end of budget week, when the attention of the media and public was almost exclusively focused on all things budgetary. It would be hard to find a time on the political calendar when less attention could possibly be given to the document. Well spun, chaps. Murali would be proud.

The report itself is damning of the government, and so it should be. The findings demonstrate the gross physical, mental and psychological harm caused to children who spend a significant chunk of their time in detention. Slowed development, poor socialisation and suicidal tendencies have all been found in children in …

Wondrous Oblivion

Race issues on film tend to have a rather earnest, aren't-all-those-nasty-racists-evil feel to them. Often they miss the subtlety of the time and place that they are set and instead hit the viewer over the head with a morality tale.

Thankfully, Wondrous Oblivion (mostly) avoids this trap and tells a strong story with a valuable message. This film tells the story of brooding racism in suburban England in the 1960s, where a Jamaican family move in next door to a family of Jewish holocaust survivors and their nosy and none-too-subtle racist neighbours. Soon friendship blossoms between the son of the survivors and the Jamaican family, a friendship fostered over a joint love of cricket.

The film gently takes the mickey (I would say 'piss', but it is English after all) out of racial stereotypes, of the Jamaican family, the Jewish entrepreneur and the whiter-than-white nosy neighbours. This device means that the viewer can at different points relate to the dilemmas faced by t…

It's a lazy Sunday arvo...

What better way to share my thoughts with the world than via the medium of modern telecommunications and its finest product, the internet. It's no longer just an place for nut-bag political conspiracy theorists, amateur pornographers and suicidal degenerates to feel at home - now it's for me as well.

Strap yourself in for a bumpy ride. My hope is that this blog will catalogue my various obscure and largely unrelated interests. Media and communications. Travel to obscure places. Elections. Counter-culture. Trams, trains and buses. North Korea. The Collingwood Football Club. There's something for everyone, but except for me, probably not everything for someone.

Let's start with the second last one first. Come the end of the year, I hope to travel to North Korea (actually, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. That's the one without elections. Where 3 million people starved to death in the 1990s. With a head of state revered more than any monarc…