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Showing posts from August, 2004

And they're rrrrrrrrracing!!

This will be a marathon campaign, a physical and mental test of endurance. Howard reakons he's got the young bloke's measure, but Latham looks calm and focussed. There'll be plenty of time for the substantial stuff, but first a couple of quickies on the issue of election timing.

This was The Bald Man with The Fat Man on Sunday on Sunday, 15 August:

JOHN HOWARD: A very good start. I think the Australian public are enjoying the Olympics.

LAURIE OAKES: Meaning you won't interrupt them?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I think they're enjoying it. And I'm - I'm enjoying them and I think the opening was a great triumph for Greece... I think the Games have got off to a wonderful start, and I think there'll be a lot of focus on them now - I'm part of that focus.

Not totally. I've got other things I've got in my mind as well, but I think the public is pretty keen on following the Games at present.

...

LAURIE OAKES: Now, even though you're not going to int…

Irshad Manji @ Melbourne Writers Festival - Last Word

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There’s an old saying that used to be heard in all sorts of places, that there are two topics that should never be discussed in polite company – politics and religion. What better way to completely disregard that notion than an evening with a fascinating author, Irshad Manji. Manji is a rare breed. She’s a feisty, well considered intellectual with an extraordinary ability to communicate to a range of people from a range of backgrounds on a range of topics – and keep them entertained the whole way through. Her presentation on the closing night at the Melbourne Writers Festival was breathtaking, with the sort of self-assured confidence (though never cocky) that is rarely found in 33 year olds who aren’t the lead singer of a punk band.

It is tempting to describe Manji using only clinical, demographic descriptions, although this completely fails to do her justice. Yep, she’s a 33 year old woman. Lesbian. Canadian. Muslim. With a cool hair cut. But it’s the idea she is expressing …

A Jean-ius for Brand

Normally candidate biographies are rather naff, inoffensive things with nothing particularly controversial... or persuasive. However, this particular snippet from Greens candidate for Brand, Jean Jenkins, was notable:

Jean was previously an Australian Democrats Senator for WA from 1987 to 1990, but left the Democrats in 1994. She found could not support a Party which foisted John Howard's GST on the people of Australia.

Notable, why? Cos in 1994, Jean decided to leave the Democrats over the issue of the GST. Which wasn't passed until 1999. With foresight like that, the woman is brilliant - and no doubt big Kim is shaking in his loafers. Let's hope Jean doesn't need to withdraw due to unforseen circumstances.

UPDATE - Wednesday, 1 September, 1:20am - As Andrew has pointed out in the comments, the Jean-ius for Brand has changed her candidate biography. Was it as a result of Ariontheweb's unrelenting campaign (eg, one post) or did Jean see the error of her ways …

Teach em to think

The Australian on Wednesday was in a shit-stirring mood, with a front page story that was bound to be contested and heavily controversial:

Smaller classes don't aid students: REDUCING class sizes does not improve academic performance at primary or secondary school level, according to an unprecedented Australian study that has widespread ramifications for state governments pushing for smaller classes.

Note that the researched was carried out by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (based at that fine academic institution in Parkville), and NOT by any recognised educational body. In essense, a bunch of economists have decided that any economically rationalist approach to education will produce good outcomes. Good work, chaps.

The fundamental problem with the research is that it only considers easily measurable outcomes - namely the results of standardised academic tests of students. Information that is not included in the research is less quantifiable me…

Seven's September Stuff Stinks

Watching the promos for Seven's September line-up during the Lympics is a welcome reminder as to why commercial television is not worth watching. Okay, I confess that I am not typical of most, and that my tastes are a little more subtle and cynical than the average couch potato, but it's hard enough to watch the promos for this dross, let alone the programmes themself.

Trading Spouses?? Playing it Straight?? Deal or No Deal - the Psychics Special?? A shooting death on Home and Away?? Why not save us the pain and combine the whole lot - A reality game show in which armed psychics have to pick and shoot the gay guy based on their interaction with a family of strangers. Yep. I'd watch that.

UPDATE - Thursday, 26/8, 11:45pm - It looks like yesterday's comment on Seven's fortunes was rather well timed. Just hours later, the Australian and it's excellent Thursday Media section had a savagely critical piece by Mark Day of Seven, and it's mini-Kerry:

This is a…

But they'd lost it already...

You know a sports story is big news when Lateline devotes 27 of its precious 30 minutes to it. Tonight it was the 'quitter' Sally Robbins in the women's rowing eight. 24 hours after the fact and the media have done it to death, so there's not much point in debating the ins and outs of it now - why not read the dozen pages that Rupert's tabloids will no doubt devote to it in the morning.

The Daily Telegraph went in hard this morning, with this line summing up the editorial position (if a bunch of sports journos drinking ouzo in Athens can be called an 'editorial position'):

It appears as though Robbins has committed the greatest crime there is in honest sport.

She quit.

Lateline also mentioned that Robbins' actions had been described as, wait for it, un-Austalian, but there was no luck tracking it down on the DT website.

BUT, according to a later story...

Coates believes it is un-Australian for athletes to publicly criticise teammates and he expects fel…

The Gay Guv

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The coming-out of New Jersey Governor James McGreevey made a bit of a splash with this modest little blog, but little else in the wide-brown-land. Fellow blogger Phil Quin (with a link to the right, I'm proud to say), has an interesting piece from a gay perspective in Monday's Age:

Governor McGreevey appointed a prospective lover as homeland security adviser, a job for which he was no more qualified than my mum (although mum is very good at other things). He used his position and authority to help with his sex life, and then sacked the guy when things turned sour (at least Clinton didn't make Monica secretary of state).


Friday Night Folly

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It's remarkable to think that up until the 1980s, Friday night football didn't exist. Then in the late 1980s, it did, but was nightmarish for those who took part, with poor crowds, low exposure, and cold nights. North Melbourne took it under its wing and developed Friday Night Footy as a desirable product, something innovative and exciting and a step away from the tradition of Saturday afternoons.

Now Friday night is prime time, with live (or close to live) broadcasts nationwide, large crowds, great exposure for sponsors - and Eddie. Given the exposure, therefore, that only Friday nights can bring, the AFL needs to minimise risk and maximise utility. The obvious and sensible way to do this would be to have a mix of teams playing in that slot, giving exposure to all sides and all sponsors and mixing up the product for a loyal audience.

Instead, as the season closes, the AFL have done just the opposite. Collingwood play every Friday night for a month leading up to the final…

International Politics - Uppers and... whatever

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You know you've made it as a global mover and shaker when you crack it for a mention on KCNA (Korean Central News Agency), the official mouthpiece of everyone's favourite Stalinist state:

Kim Yong Nam Meets Australian Foreign Minister
Pyongyang, August 18 (KCNA) -- Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly, met and had a friendly talk with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who paid a courtesy call on him at the Mansudae Assembly Hall Wednesday. Present there was the party of the foreign minister.
Kim Yong Il, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, and officials concerned were on hand.

Kim Yong Il?? Kim Yong Il?? He got so close to meeting the Dear Leader, just a single letter off.

It seems that Downer's trip was largely a failure ("Downer N Korea mission fails" declared The Oz). No big diplomatic moves, no closer to restarting six-nation talks, no improvement in human rights for North Koreans, and not ev…

The truth is out there

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The evidence is still flowing in, and it doesn't look too good for Howard. There are plenty out there who are convinced that Howard is playing hide-and-seek with the truth, and are keen to nail him. Whether it's evidence of WMD in Iraq, Bali travel warnings or Tampa, there is increasing evidence that Howard has been less than truthful.

Howard loves to play little linguistic games. Read some of his transcripts, and you get a feel for how he likes to twist the words of his interviewer, make promises and commitments that sound grand but are completely empty beneath the edifice. He is a master in logic as well as politics, and he uses this to his advantage. It can be infuriating and make him look like he's dodging the question, but it's a game he loves to play.



The latest allegations relate back to what Howard knew and when regarding the children overboard (or not) on Tampa. The evidence appears pretty conclusive tht Howard had been told unambigiously that children h…

BLOG POST OF THE MILLENNIUM

A painfully tabloid headline landed on my metaphorical front lawn this morning, as The Australian did it's best to show itself as a decent sporting paper:

THE WIN OF THE CENTURY

Yep, all in caps, and a rather ambitious claim given that this century is barely out of nappies. Still, neither is Thorpey (okay, the guy is three days older than me, but between us we have 5 Olympic gold medals). Maybe Bruce McAvaney is moonlighting as a subbie on the late desk at The Oz?

Green with Envy

As the election draws near, there is more and more attention being given to other aspects of the contest beyond the Latham-vs-Howard battering rams. Significantly, there is likely to be a big shift in the balance of power in the Senate, and the Browns, sorry, the Greens, are likely to be the big winners.

The ABC ran with the headline "Poll gives Greens Senate hope", and that pretty much sums up the substance of the article, based on a Taverner poll which has the Greens primary vote sitting on (a rather generous) 11% in Victoria and NSW.

The reality is that the three Democrats up for re-election, and Senator Lees, will all struggle to retain their seats, and this will reduce the Democrats to four seats in the Senate. The Greens are likely to take up the slack, and are likely to win a Senate seat in each of five states, to add to the two elected in 2001, leaving them with seven in total (well der).

The logic behind this high Green vote is that they have made a big impact in …

Ridiculousness, Seven style

The circus in Athens has begun, and now it's time for the sport to take centre stage. Not sport of the physical, raise-a-sweat, lose-some-weight, win-some-gold type, but instead sport of the oy-you-can't-show-that-we've-got-the-rights type. Channel 7 have paid about $70 million for the privelige of broadcasting the games, and they are desperate to squeeze every last drop out of their investment, with the IOC as willing assistants (explanation from Sally Jackson in The Oz):

The main restriction on non-rights holders is the so-called "three-by-three-by-three rule", which limits them to showing no more than three minutes of Olympic material in no more than three news programs, which must be at least three hours apart, per day - a total of nine minutes of fresh footage to be spun out over 24 hours.

There's been a fair bit of analysis as to how this will effect the way that the ABC, Nine and Ten (SBS are for the first time inside the tent) cover the games. Ther…

But the man can govern, can't he??

Just occassionally the world throws up surprises, not just in the things that happen, but in the way that people respond to the things that happen. Whilst we might look around at our fellow human beings and think we can understand their collective psyche, what makes them tick and what's on their mind, there are still shocks that show that you can never read people perfectly.

Take the Governor of New Jersey, James McGreevey... sorry, that's James E. McGreevey... who made this remarkable announcement on Thursday:

Throughout my life, I have grappled with my own identity, who I am. As a young child, I often felt ambivalent about myself, in fact, confused.

And so my truth is that I am a gay American.

What a remarkable, awe-inspiring moment, that a man can come out and say something like this. The sort of moment that gives you hope and a tinge of pride. Until you hear the punchline:

Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability …

Education with steak-knives

Catching the train around Melbourne's inner suburbs in the past few weeks, one can't help but notice the mass of advertising of universities, pitched at the school graduates of 2004 who are intending to become Brendan Nelson's guinea pigs in the Brave New World of tertiary education. Competition is fierce in the market, and for the first time in the HECS era, price competition (albeit in a limited form) is a reality. Though there have always been significant differences between institutions in the past, it is only through agressive advertising that these differences are actively promoted.

Take Swinburne University, a product of the early 1990s, and promoting itself as the 'vocational university', whether in the form of the yuppie business graduate making a presentation in an anonymous Asian city, or the pysch graduate getting dirt under the fingernails talking to a group of down-and-out kids. The message is clear, that Swinburne is a means to and end, and a very…

TasGov - Who's Next?

Now that Governor Richard Butler is no longer, and neither Butler nor the people of Tasmania seem particularly disappointed at this outcome, the search is on for the next Queen's Rep in the state of Tassie. The ABC's PM this evening carried a great quote from eminant Taswiegan, RSL Prez Ian Kennett, that in regards to selecting Butler's successor: "They've looked outside the square and it hasn't worked... maybe they need to look inside the triangle now." Boom boom.

It seems like Premier Paul Lennon might be struggling for names, so here are a few suggestions:

1. Peter Hudson. We know what they'd do if Jesus came to Hawthorn, but what would happen if one of the greatest ever goal-kickers headed home to Tasmania?

2. Bob Brown. Just to get the guy out of the Senate and away from the balance of power where he might do some real harm. Think of it as a containment strategy.

3. Greg Barns. Ex-Liberal, now part time Democrat, professional Tasmanian, and…

You mean it's not all our own fault?

Just a quote, but it hit the spot with me as an excellent analysis of the past 5 years, in the context of Israel, and the world at large:

This propaganda (anti-Zionism) has been promulgated by the political left, which has appropriated the narrative of Palestinian oppression and malign Jewish power. It has done so because it believes the west is always the oppressor while the third world is always the oppressed. So even if the third world is perpetrating acts of murder against the west, it must have good cause because it is always ‘the victim’ of the west.

Read the full piece by Melanie Phillips here, and thanks to KiwiJewPundit for the tip-off, and also for having an even more unwieldly name than I do.

Your Call, Guv.

A hypothetical:

You're a mad keen republican, and you've done everything you can intellectually to persuade the world of the silliness of a Constitutional Monarchy. You've argued, harangued, persuaded and nothing has worked. Why not expose it's flaws from the inside? Get yourself appointed as one of Her Maj's Reps and do everything you can to undermine the role. Start pontificating loudly about stuff you're not supposed to talk about, cause a stir by no-showing, with, I dunno, the Botswanans, get your Significant Other to act beyond their constitutional role... and see if you can't have a ready made home grown Constitution Crisis. It would be the best possible advertisement for a republic.

Any Harry or Tom can see that, and maybe even Dick as well.

What makes news?

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As I tap away this evening, I can sit relaxed, having read the lead story from the ABC News website and knowing that it represents the most serious and pressing concern hanging over the heads of the folks in the wide-brown-land:

New Olympic hopes for Pittman

World 400 metres hurdles champion, Jana Pittman, is back on track to go to Athens for the Olympic Games.

The athlete has undergone surgery at London's Wellington Hospital.

Oh goody. What a relief. Snore.

Good luck to Jana, and no disrespect to her in doing her best in Athens next week (if she ever gets there), but it is farcical and just a little pathetic that this is worthy of lead-story status. Like most of the sports stories that make it beyond the back page, it is an insignificant and largely irrelevant story, except for the individual involved, of course. It has no greater meaning, no wide implications, no depth, no value beyond its face value. It is not the sort of thing that should be confused with legitimate 'n…

Jack's going home in the back of a divvy van (Tongeren)

The SMH are running the late-breaking story about the apprehension of long time WA shit-stirrer Jack van Tongeren:

ANM leader in police custody
August 6, 2004 - 8:09PM

Police were tonight questioning white supremacist leader Jack van Tongeren over an alleged plot by his Australian Nationalist Movement (ANM) to harm West Australian Attorney-General Jim McGinty and other high profile community leaders.

Obviously they couldn't fit 'Mad Racist Idiot Crackpot in Police Custody' into the banner headline. Or perhaps it doesn't fit in with the SMH style guide.

Dr Daniel Pipes at Melbourne University

There's no better way to warm up on a wet and wintery Wednesday night in Melbourne than to watch the fireworks (of the metaphoric rather than literal variety, unfortunately) at Melbourne Uni. Tonight the speaker was an excellent American academic Daniel Pipes, whose area of expertise is the Middle East, and provides a particularly refreshing sentimentalism-free perspective on the current dismal state of affairs in that part of the world.

His speech tonight was entitled "Militant Islam and the War on Terror", and enrage the left wing activists on campus it did. The antics started when the audience was forced to endure a throng of 15 placard-bearing activists informing them that there should be a free Palestine, war and racism were bad things and that there should be "No free speech for racists" (of course, it is not entirely clear how it could be determined who was a racist until the coutesy of free speech was extended to them, hence undermining the initial pr…

Latham's cat is out of bags

Not doubt octopuses worth of newsprint will be spent analysing the ALP's umming and ahhing over a free trade agreement with the US. Despite the politicking of it, the FTA will be passed, and passed soon.

Here's the logic:

1. The FTA, as do most free trade agreements, provide a net benefit to both parties.
2. The ALP knows that most Australians recognise the benefits of the FTA.
3. The ALP know that the FTA is benefitial to Australia, although it may harm the short term interests of some ALP supporters (ie, Doug Cameron).
4. The ALP knows that in order to keep ALP supporters who are cold on the FTA (see 3, above) on side, they will need to give the impression of standing against some part of it, hence the grandstanding on local content rules and patent rules.

Bottom line - the ALP will grizzle for a bit, and then support it.

And more importantly, what the hell is Latham on about with his mysterious Kilkenny Cats? They made an appearance on Lateline a fortnight ago:

MARK LATHA…

Well said!

Kudos to Pamela Bone, a journalist and thinker who is prepared to expose some of the hypocracies and downright silliness of those on the far left, in a way which carries the extra gravitas of knowing that she was, and in some cases still is, one.

Her latest piece comments perceptively that:

In the West, anti-Semitism has migrated from the right to the left (which doesn't mean it has gone from the right).

Bone is correct that Israel cops a horribly unbalanced and unjustified level of criticism. The ills of much of the Arab world are tragic, but are the product of poor governance in those places, the Israel is a convenient fig leaf which masks the true source of those nation's woes.

Read the full piece and rejoice that someone is challenging the collective madness of the anti-Semitic elements of the left.

Seat Watch - Kingston

In 1990, Janine Haines got within a hanging chad of winning the seat of Kingston for the Democrats, and being their first member of the House of Representatives. 14 years later, the party is still waiting to pop its green cherry, to use a bad taste cliche. Nowadays the incumbent is David Cox, a talented but underappreciated Labor front bencher who, along with Bob McMullan, will be crucial to demonstrating Labor's economic credentials.

The seat is held by the slender but defendable margin of 1.3%, halved as a result of the SA redistribution. The Liberal challenger to Cox is, well, um, how do we put this... not known. Well, the Liberal website has obviously recieved ASIO clearance, since it is completely devoid of any reference at all to the candidate (but does contain lots of earthy shots of John Howard in khaki). And type 'Kingston' into google.com.au, and it's nothing but the Kingston of the Margo variety.

The swing nationwide will be on to the ALP, and the parlo…

Let Freedom (of trade) Reign

What a good news day for the entire developing world:

Rich and poor nations struck a historic deal today to slash billions of dollars in farm subsidies, create more open industrial markets and revive stalled world trade talks that could boost global growth.

Note the correlation - the freer the trade, the better off are developing coutries. Much as the discourse of the past 10 years suggests that globalisation is the cause of global poverty, the reality is that it is the lack of globalisation, and indeed the emphasis on individual nations, that has entrenched poverty. It smacks of hypocracy that Australia, Europe and US heavily subsidise and protect their farms from developing-world competition and send billions abroad in foreign aid to the same countries that are being excluded from the marketplace. It seems like we in the developed world would rather treat other countries as a charities than trading partners.

The great competitive advantage held by developing countries is a large …

A very happy birthday

It's August 1, so it's time to wish all the horses of the world a very happy birthday.

All those in favour, say 'aye'. All those opposed.... ah, it doesn't matter.