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Showing posts from November, 2004

The Real Bangkok Hilton

Lazing back at the hostel planning on my next big adventure, I came across this on the notice board (read the whole thing here):

VISITING BANGKWANG, KLONG PREM and other prisons
It is usually possible to go and visit a prisoner without prior notice.
These visits allow the visitor to have a conversation with only a fence,
( or two fences as at Bangkwang ) between yourself the prisoner.

Message boards around Bangkok invite the casual traveler to visit anytime.
SCHEDULES : Bangkwang Klong Prem Lard Yao Women's Prison

This was an experience too exciting to pass up. There are so many layers to this encounter, I think I should start off by just explaining what I saw:

Dutifully, I followed the straight foward instructions that lead me to the river, on a 30 minute river express boat ride up to the poverty-riddled northern part of Bangkok, and then for a brief walk to the prison grounds. The visitors centre is a chaotic open-air courtyard, with surly bureaucrats and young families clust…

Not quite onebig happy family

Though on the surface Thailand is a happy, tolerant, cohensive nation, a little below the surface tensions simmer and occassionally threaten to come to the boil, Pad Pak-style. Whilst Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country, the south is predominantly Muslim. In recent times the southern Muslims have become more vocal is pushing for their civil rights and autonomy. Earlier this year, the tensions become overwhelming and in Tak Bai in Pattani province over 80 Muslim protesters - who were protesting against the treatment of prisoners - died in the back of army trucks whilst being transported to a neighbouring province.

So what does Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra decide to do? Shower the south in the paper rubbish from the rest of the country. Well, that's not how he'd put it. The Nation newspaper from Bangkok put it a little differently:

People in the country’s southernmost provinces will purportedly be showered with love and sympathy this weekend. At the latest cou…

Bangkok Boxing

Thailand's proudest sporting heritage is in the boxing ring, where it boasts the world's leading Thai Boxers. Thai Boxing is a little different from its traditional alternative (or Queen Berry rules, as the written guide explained). In Thai Boxing, anything goes. Literally. Punches, kicks, wrestling, bearhugs, all are considered fair game, and the more outlandish the move the more the cheers from the assembled crowd.

6 nights a week you can head out to see boxing in Bangkok, at either of the two venues. On Sunday night it was my turn to head out and experience at bit of local sporting culture. The night started promisingly, with a programme of 11 bouts to whet the appetite, 6 of which were up-and-comers, followed by 5 more as the Main Event, with each bout consisting of 5 three minute rounds. A mild ticket price and a friendly Pom as a companion (he obviously hadn't read my post of BA - see below) meant that things were going well. Each bout is more a ritual than a…

BA to complain about on BA

This something a little strange about travelling on British Airways. The flight from Sydney to Bangkok was then heading on to London (without me, obviously) and so it was BA who were taking care of me. It's the little things that add a touch of class to a flight with them - when departing, they gave us the time at the origin, the destination, and in London as well for good measure, along with a little 'for those of you interested in the time at (clear throat) home'. The flight was largely uneventful, with the usual inoffensive rubbish screening on the little TV, and a feed that kept this unfussy diner happy. And it was worth taking note of the ANZAC Biscuit which came as snack two-thirds of the way through the flight. No doubt it was ANZAC Biscuits that the Brits were snacking on way back in '15 when our boys were going over the top against the Turkish Delights. If only they were serving them instead.

Black backpack's back

Less than 24 hours now, and everything is falling into place. The passport and visas came back yesterday, a day earlier than expected, and the passport is considerably chunkier than when it left me (although disappointingly, it tastes much the same) now that it has an assortment of papers and stickers attached by the various embassies.

A shopping expedition on Wednesday helped me avail myself of the latest in travel knick-knacks. A stunning new backpack - complete with pokey little pockets in all sorts of shapes and sizes and locations - as well as a money belt, padlocks, gloves, some snappy new clothes, and best of all from a two-dollar shop: six Australian map shaped key-rings, made in China like all good manufacturing is, and bought with the intention of being given to North Korean youngsters to assure them that the world really does care for them. Diplomacy, backpacker-style.

Now the backpack is full with clothes, shoes, books, toiletries and trinkets for North Koreans. Thankf…

Latham: Snakes and Ladders

It's getting close to silly season, and the best evidence yet is the petulence and self-indulgence shown by some anonymous Labor heavyweights in trying to undermine Mark Latham. It is a political no-brainer that the party must defend its leader and respect his (or occassionally her) authority, otherwise the nasty political assertion that division is death will again prove itself as one of the more enduring and accurate cliches.

A few quick facts to remember:
- Latham was re-elected leader unopposed a fortnight after the election defeat. If he was okay then, then he's okay now.
- There is no clear alternative. Smith is boring, Macklin aint up to it, Rudd is still warming up, Beazley has health problems and Swan is quite happy as Shadow Treasurer.
- The last election was almost unwinnable, regardless of who was leader. None of the alternatives would have got them into government, and Beazley said as much on election night.
- There is 2 years and 10 months to the next electio…

Election: Down at the local

It was with great excitement that I rushed to the letterbox a fortnight ago to pick up my voting pack for local government elections. Voting and elections are fetishes of mine, and the pleasure of being able to do so twice in the space of two months - when many around the world for been denied the right to do it once in two centuries - was a rare honour. Imagine my disappointment when all that came out of the envelope was a DL sized slip that read:

Boroondara City Council elections November 2004

Gardiner Ward


There will be no voting required in Gardiner Ward. As only one nomination was received, Coral Ross is elected unopposed.

Geoff Bell
Returning Officer

Now Coral is an excellent councillor, and I have no problem at all with her representation. But this is an election, and elections should be contested. It's the free market spirit applied to democracy - competition keeps competitors on their toes and constantly striving to do better.

Fortunately, uncontested elections seem …

Mid East: Abbas and the Right of Return

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In the battle to fill the chasmic void left amongst Palestinian leadership by the death of Arafat, there are some contenders who are offering something new, and plenty more who are serving up more of the same. One who has been deserving of praise in the past has been Mahmood Abbas (aka Abu Mazen). Abbas had his time in the spotlight last year when he was appointed as the first Palestinian Prime Minister during attempts to sideline Arafat and create a partner for peace. Abbas was intelligent, keen and committed to something more substantial than making martyrs out of kids who had their lives ahead of them. His downfall, ultimately, was the Arafat refused to give an inch (or perhaps, given it's the holy land, it should be a cubit) and perceived Abbas as a threat.

Abbas is making his push for the leadership, and has scored himself the Fatah candidacy in the elections scheduled for January 9. Keen to win over the Arafat supporters, Abbas has taken a hard line in the support of th…

Auf Wiedersehen

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Farewell drinks tonight went off wonderfully well. The loosely prepared speech, with was one part Bill Bryson, one part Bill Hicks and six parts Fidel Castro was not needed, since the gathering had a rather casual, relaxed vibe and I didn't want to be the one to break the mood.

Thanks to everyone who was there, and a double thanks with a thick Guiness head of cream on top to everyone who was kind enough to give a present. Kind wishes were exchanged in industrial quantities, a few stories swapped and groups of friends from different parts of my life fused together in a wonderfully eclectic gathering. Whatever the hell that means.

To prove I'm not making it up, here's a photo:



Looking through the round window, I can see Gil and Michael and Rob and Ari (with an odd pocket bulge) and in the front is Hannah, who looks like she's just seen Osama. And if you look in the background you might even see an Aussie Ankle Biter, although that's Senator Aussie Ankle Biter to …

Almost there

Finally, the last exam of the semester is out of the way and I can focus all my energies on getting things ready to go for my departure on Saturday. Tonight is a big boozy get together for friends, family and assorted others, whilst tomorrow is the day for shots in the arm, a lightening of the wallet and a trip back home on the train looking remarkably like a German backpacker, with a big chunky backpack on the back and a slightly hungover look in the eyes.

Time for a Telstra rant

Yet another fuck up from the prize idiots at Telstra:

Porn apology over Idol win
And although BigPond may have scored a touchdown in making Casey’s debut single available for download on its BigPond Music service, the service provider has made an equally large touch not with a massive blooper.

The half-page ad, which appeared in both the News Ltd papers in Sydney and Melbourne today, mentions the site www.caseydonovan.com right at the top, under the mistaken assumption that it is the official site for the song.

Instead, the site caters to those looking for gay porn and is not exactly the kind of website which parents would recommend to teenagers - the main audience of the Idol show.

(Unfortunately for all the fans of Casey - the gay male porn star, that is, rather than the try hard school kid with the big voice - Telstra have moved quickly and all attempts to log onto caseydonovan.com are all directed straight to its more family-friendly AusIdol site, caseydonovan.com.au)

But the point …

Mayoral race in home stretch

After listening to most of the heavy hitters in the Melbourne Lord Mayoral election on Triple R (The Party Show, 12-2 on a Sunday morning, a programme that punches well above its weight week after week with A-list guests that would make Mitchell, Hinch and Faine shave in excitement), there are several useful observations that can be made:

- The field of serious candidates is limited to just a handful: John So, Clem Newton-Brown, Richard Di Natale and Kevin Chamberlin. A couple are there to stir the pot and have a good time: Allan Watson, Wellington Lee and Gary Morgan. One was serious until his history got the better of him: James Long. And the rest are stooges and nutters, all without their eyes on the prize.

- John So is slowly becoming a parody of himself. Okay, the langauge barrier issue has become the equivalent of the Second World War in The Germans episode of Fawlty Towers, but more concerning is So's reliance on cliches and platitudes to ignore most of the substantive …

Visas and DFAT

A few quick travel updates at the end of a long day:

- Visa problems. I found out today that the fine folks at the Myanmar (that's Burma to all you colonialists out there) Embassy in Canberra had refused to process my application because I had not used the most up-to-date form. Fair enough. Except for the fact that they sat on it for several weeks and didn't tell anyone, thereby not forwarding it to the Cambodian or Laotian Embassies for the relevant visas. The outcome is that I am still likely to get the Myanmar visa, although it and the passport will not get back to me until Friday next week which is just ONE DAY before departure, and I will be without a Cambodian or Laotian visa. From all reports it is not too difficult to get hold of these visas at the right border crossing, so not too much is lost. But damn those Myanmarianese.

- All registered with DFAT. Jumped onto the heavily-promoted-but-rather-unhelpful Smart Traveller website. Told Alexander where I was goin…

Ando-gate, maybe?

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The Anderson/Windsor scandal looks to have hit a stalemate with the two having fundamentally different accounts of what went on. The accounts are so alarmingly different that Anderson, Windsor or the Tamworth businessman at the centre of it all, Greg Maguire, are up to no good. Someone is telling porkies, the question is who. Hopefully Windsor will have the guts to make the allegation on the hard concrete outside the House rather than on the soft tanbark within it. That way, if Windsor is wrong Anderson and Maguire can sue for defamation, or if he's not then the silence from A and M will be deafening.


Ando: He's a country member.

10 things before I hit the road

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I can now count the number of days until departing overseas without the need to take off my shoes and socks. In just eight days I will jump on a flight at Tullamarine, and land in a whole new city filled with wonderous excitement, unusual smells, odd looking people, a different language, new food and more gritty urbanness than I could possibly expect back at home - yep, I'll land in Sydney. But then I'll leave Sydney, and head to Bangkok, and from there my three month Asian adventure will slowly reveal itself.

The travel experience is a lot of fun once you hit the road. The period beforehand, though, is considerably less fun, and filled with nervous anxiety as you stress over whether you're prepared for what lies ahead; psychologically, physically and mentally.

Between now and Saturday week, here's my checklist of things to do. Kinda like Homer's list after he samples too much Japanese cuisine, except with less fear of death at the end:

1. Sort through guideboo…

12 Angry Men - Athenaeum Theatre

You are the thirteenth jury member. Like it or not, you have been given a grave responsibility, and you better make sure that you play your part carefully. A man’s life hangs in the balance, and a wrong decision can land him in the electric chair, or let a guilty man walk the streets. Choose carefully: if you get it wrong it will haunt you forever.

Such is the intensity of 12 Angry Men that you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of their deliberations. As the jury members tread the boards in front of you – a cross section of 1950s New York white males – presenting cogent arguments for both guilt or innocence, each audience member is swayed one way or the other. The well meaning but useless request to put prejudices aside before walking into the room is especially tough given the heat and passion of the arguments. What starts off as a black and white case (literally) soon develops a rainbow of grey hues as the certainty of truth and facts dissolves into a murky collection of …

Sinking to new depths

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This story speaks for itself. It shows how far the rules of modern warfare have changed in the past couple of years. Many of the previously sacrosanct symbols - the UN, international aid workers, CARE - are now seen as legitimate targets. A scary prospect:

New video 'shows Hassan murder'

A video apparently showing the murder of aid worker Margaret Hassan seems to be genuine, says the Foreign Office.

"We now believe that she has probably been murdered", Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said after analysing the tape.

Her Iraqi husband, Tahseen Ali Hassan, has made a plea for her body to be returned to him "to rest in peace".

The rest from the Beeb.



UPDATE 18/11, 2:10am: Interesting to note the juxtaposition of the Hassan murder with the story of the US marine shooting dead a wounded and unarmed Iraqi in a mosque in Falluja, and caught on camera by an embedded reporter. Tragic though this is, it would be moral equivalence of the worst kind to try and draw so…

Can't wait to get there

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A couple of quick singles (to use an oddly placed cricket metaphor) on North Korea. On Sunday night I lodged my visa and trip application with the folks at Koryo Tours, one of the world's best (only?) North Korean travel experts. Nick and Simon, the Beijing-based Englishmen who are the brains behind the operation have a tremendously close connection with the regime, and not only take curious travellers into NK, but have also arranged for severaldocumentaries to be shot there. An impressive effort given the severe limitations usually imposed on journalists.

In other North Korean news, the rivetting story of US Sgt Charles Robert Jenkins, an American soldier who defected to the North in 1965, has had a few twists and turns. Jenkins has been sentenced by a US court martial to 30 days in prison, a demotion to Private and a dishonourable discharge. Not bad after spending 39 years enjoying North Korean hospitality.

It's definately worth checking out the interview and profile of…

Indy Speaker the Order of the Day (groan)

5 weeks after the Federal election, and Parliament meets for the first time in this new term today. Much like the first day at school, it's a chance for the new kids to get to know their way around, the old kids to work out who their new best friend will be, and everyone to queue up at the tuck-shop and order a Little Lickie. Or at least it was at my primary school.

One of the most important tasks today is the election of the new Speaker in the House. The numbers in the House of Reps mean that the Coalition have got the spot all to themselves, and the race is looking interesting. Traditionally it is long serving MPs who get the honour, and this time around is no alternative. According to Michelle Grattan in The Age, the five in contention this time around are Bruce Baird, Bronwyn Bishop (apparently the one that Howard doesn't want), David Hawker, David Jull and Wilson Tuckey. Whoever gets the job, we can be sure that they will be as tired and one-sided as their predecess…

The MUSU Files

As Molly would say, do yourself a favour and check out this rivetting read from Brent Houghton. The past few weeks Brent has been delving into The MUSU Files (sans Mulder and Scully) in the light of the scandallous revelations about two former Presidents.

Brent's a genuine insider, friends with some of the participants, and a damn nice bloke.

Values: Talk of the Town

Tim Colebatch on Australia:

Mr Salt said big swings to the Liberals among people on welfare were no surprise. "Even people in housing commission flats no longer see themselves as aligned to a particular class, but to the values set of middle Australia," he said. By contrast, "I think most sea-changers and tree-changers are Labor voters. These are inner-city people so they've got property wealth and green values."

Cristina Odone on Britain:

In a post-communist world, where the market is accepted by all, conventional political divisions over taxes, government spending and big business are giving way to more deeply felt differences on issues such as when life begins, the make-up of the family unit and the boundaries of medical science. Adrian Woolridge, US correspondent of the Economist and co-author of The Right Nation, sees Britain progressing from the class politics of the trade unions, through the managerial politics of the Blair-Brown era, "to arguments a…

Satire or not? Either way I'm going to hell.

I don't make a habit out of reading spam, but sometimes curiousity gets the better of me and I find myself staring at a genuine penis enlarger or a sincere plea from my long lost Nigerian cousin. In this case, it was the forces of Christianity which graced my in-box... or was it the forces of satire? Christian advocates have taken up some strange tools to fulfil the wishes of the Almighty thesedays - some pray, some vote and some chose to burn lesbians on a stake.

Genuine or satire, what do you think?:

Our suggestions
Please implement the following basics of website design:

use frames — frames are like Jesus’ words, they let us know where we’ve been, where we’re going and how to get there.

use a coherent colour scheme — the current scheme is literally nauseating when worshipping G-d using drugs — Brent thought that his mind was broken. Remember Revelation 17:4 ‘And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a g…

The Army. The Dregs.

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Just what is it with military folks and hoods? This is the ADF showing their caring side in Townsville in 2000, with an 'initiation ritual' which consisted of a KKK-style ceremony. Thanks to the Daily Tele for getting onto the story. Given the push for truth in advertising, will we see this on the next batch of recruitment propaganda ads? It is worth asking why it came to light now, four years after being taken, and also important to know just what came of the participants?

UPDATE 11/11 11:20pm. WARNING, WARNING, DESPERATE SPIN ALERT. From the photographer of the offending photo on PM this evening:

RICHARD FRAYLEY: There was no malice in it. Everybody was laughing and joking. If you could get hold of the photo and have a look, everybody's got a smile on their face.

Sure, Richard.

Pandagate

It looks like Pandagate (lame name, but who's got anything better?) has come to a thrilling climax; but ultimately it is all over. It's time for the participants to move aside, and the historians (well, those with too much time on their hands and reckon that every other topic has been done to death, Arafat-style) to move in. Ariontheweb is close enough to too many of the participants to not feel comfortable getting involved, but I freely admit that I have been watching from the sidelines with plenty of interest and jaw agape.

There are oodles of blogs covering the ins-and-outs-and-who-said-what-to-whom-whilst-dressed-as-a-panda, and I won't attempt to be a player. But the question of how it came to be is an interesting one.

This dispute was not a right-vs-left dispute, a simple dichotomy that explains much of the conflict on the web. This one was a battle of egos, where two, and later more, people chose to escalate a dispute rather than seek to resolve it. At numerous…

Arafat, AIDS and afterlife

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The little rodents running around the rumour mill have been working overtime lately, throwing up a couple of interesting questions about Arafat, and some even more interesting answers. Two questions to think about: does Arafat have AIDS, and is Arafat in fact already dead.

DOES ARAFAT HAVE AIDS?
Yes of course he does, they're the ones who get him coffee in the morning. Boom boom. The suggestion has been circulating for years that Arafat has been an active bisexual, since at least the late 70s if this report is accurate:

Ion Pacepa, who was deputy chief of Romanian foreign intelligence under the Ceaucescu regime and who defected to the West in 1978, says in his memoirs that the Romania government bugged Arafat and had recordings of the Arab leader in orgies with his body guards.

Recent reports that doctors have had difficulty diagnosing his illness would add to the credibility of the AIDS story. It is heard to believe that Arafat might have a 'mystery illness', more lik…

MW, Marr missed mark on Manji

It's time to leap to the defence of fiery Muslim Refusenik (her words) Irshad Manji who copped a rather unfair clip around the ears by the departing David Marr on Media Watch tonight. See the allegation as it was spelt out on the show here. Essentially, Manji has been reusing the same Op-Ed piece despairing at the extremist dominance of Islam in response to a variety of different Islamist episodes - in September it was after the Jakarta bombing, and just this week the Theo van Gogh murder in the Netherlands.

The criticism is absurd - Manji has been using her own words to make the same point on several different occassions, each time making them relevant to recent events. Yep, that's it. No smoke and mirrors, no heart-wrenching snuff film, just a bit of intellectual conservation. Without sounding like Graham Morris after drinking too much port, go and find a real target, Media Watch.

In true Media Watch spirit, Ariontheweb must declare an interest in all this - when she w…

Abortion agenda-setting

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Hmmm, the morality of the abortion debate is one question worth considering, but what is to gain politically?

A few days back Health Minister Tony Abbott, as well as Parly Sec for Shitstirring and Pissing Off The Left, Christopher Pyne entered the debate with gusto, condemning abortion as an "epidemic" (Abbott) and that abortions after 21 weeks should be banned (Pyne). Then Governor General Michael Jeffery rather foolishly got himself entangled in the debate, and it was on for young, old and foetal.

The initial suspicion was that it was simply another example of Abbott's ill-disciplined wandering mind, throwing up a distraction that the government didn't need. Abbott has made a habit in the past of intellectual meandering, bringing up all sorts of topics that the Government would rather not on the agenda. The entry of Pyne into the debate, though, changes the dynamic.



No longer is it simply the thoughts of one minister. Instead it is an orchestrated campaign, a…

(Insert John So pun here)

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The Age has gone in hard today attacking Melbourne Lord Mayor John So, and presumably it's due to more than just a series of cute puns in the headline and the fear that there might only be a couple more weeks to use them:

New questions about the role of Melbourne Lord Mayor John So in appointing the city's $300,000-a-year chief executive officer, and concerns about his close relationship with the Bracks Government, have placed renewed pressure on Cr So and his uphill battle for re-election.

Confidential City of Melbourne documents seen by The Sunday Age show that when the five councillors on the council's CEO selection committee expressed their two top preferences for the position, the man who was ultimately successful, David Pitchford, came last and was supported only by Cr So.

The general theme seems to be that So was a good Mayor for the period immediately after all the factionalism and infighting brought the council to its knees, but now it is functional again more of a…

The No Republic of Australia

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Five years (and one day, now) from the Republic Referendum, and we are still a long way from achieving what looked so achievable at the time. Public sentiment on the issue has not changed significantly since the vote - at the time the majority were overwhelmingly republican, just as they are now. It was not the monarchy which prevailed in '99 - it was a fear campaign which beat a solid model.

It's worth asking a question or two of the Direct Election brigade (we're looking at you, Phil) who teamed up with the Monarchists to run the scare campaign:

- When is this mysterious 'second chance' going to come about? You know, the chance to vote again on the republic with a different model if we didn't like the first one. The Direct Election people thought they were sitting beside a sushi train of constitutional reform. They rejected the Parliamentry Model Sushimi because they were waiting for the Direct Election Tempura, only to end up with a big mouthful of Mona…

Arafat's legacy

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When Yasser Arafat passes away in the next day or two, barely a tear will be shed. Arafat leaves this life having backed himself completely and utterly into a corner and has no one to blame but himself for his failings and the miserable leadership he has offered his people. Arafat has been rejected by his own people, rejected by the international community, and rejected by his own wife if her four years living it up in Paris is any guide.

Arafat is the architect of Intifada, mark I and II, and has shown that he is a man who can only communicate through terror. Given the historic opportunity to create a homeland for his people, he looked in horror as he realised he would have to lead a peaceful state rather than a terrorist rabble and turned back. Arafat has shown that those who use terror can never be decent civic leaders.



Ariontheweb subscribes to the "Fucked Over Twice" theory of why the Palestinian mindset is as it is: the Palestinians have been fucked over by the Isr…

Democrats roll dice again

If the past 48 hours hasn't been bad enough for Democrats, for the local variety it has just got a tad worse. The latest rearrangement of the deckchairs upon the Titanic sees the Skipper and his First Mate swap possies. The next leader will be Senator Lyn Allison, whilst Senator Andrew Bartlett will assume the deputy's position.

This is an inevitable move more than it is a desirable one. With only four Senators remaining after July 1 next year, there was little choice but for Allison to assume the leadership position. Stott Despoja wouldn't want it, Murray wouldn't win it and Bartlett was damaged goods. It's a painful but necessary question to ask whether the decision to elect Andrew Bartlett as leader in 2002 was the right one. Ariontheweb must confess his interest in this one - I was working hard inside the party to help Bartless beat Brian Greig for the top spot. Alas, the Bartlett leadership was a disappointment, and probably a mistake.

The task for the …

United States of Television

Wednesday afternoon was spent performing thumb exercises with the remote control as the results flowed in from the US. The pond that is the Pacific Ocean makes absolutely no difference in the flow of information - from the comfort of my (well, technically my grandmother's, but it would ruin the flow of the sentence... damn) armchair I could flick between CNN, FoxNews, ABC, CBS, NBC, Bloomberg and the BBC.

Remarkable similarities across the coverage all round:
- Tickertape across the bottom
- Multiple 'panels' of experts and commentators to flick between
- Big walls of data for commentators to physically move within
- The same familiar faces popping up for interviews - Guiliani early on, and the Ohio Secretary of State as the night drew on
- A dearth of new and interesting things to say once the seventh or eighth hour of coverage came around.

Full marks to the BBC for having the most gobsmackingly impressive graphic illustrating the result in each state as it arose. It …

Bush Basks as Kerry Koncedes

Political junkies around the world were devastated at the gutless and premature concession of defeat at 11am (east coast USA time) by Senator John Kerry. The night before, the count ended with just the slightest hint of 2000 all over again with a cliff hanger in Ohio, but alas it comes to nothing. The thrill of waiting 11 days until the fine folks of Ohio counted the provisional votes sounded promising. Democracy certainly makes a great spectator sport. One network was speculating that the Democrats had a plane and a crack squad of electoral lawyers ready to fly anywhere from Alaska to Florida to fight the good fight. But, with the Bush margin in Ohio growing and the popular vote nationwide clearly going Bush's way, Kerry decided to throw in the towel.

As predicted yesterday, the status quo from 2000 has remained almost exactly as it was, with only New Mexico and New Hampshire likely to swap sides. This seems to reflect the idea that voters had an instintive positive or nega…

POTUS: GWB vs JFK

The polls have already opened on the east coast, and so the final campaign rally has been held, the final dodgy campaign commercial has been aired, the final Bush cliche has been spoken, the final Kerry flip flopped and the final Nader utterance ignored. It's election day, and come Wednesday afternoon in the antipedes, it will be election night.

Prediction: Bush to win comfortably. Bush may have screwed up Iraq, fumbled with 9/11 and missed the chance with Osama, but it won't matter a bit. Bush makes Americans feel good about being Americans, he asserts a dominant place for his country in the world and offers strength of conviction, a quality that is admired regardless of whether a voter agrees with that conviction or not. Bush has also played a dominant, and largely successful role, in implementing domestic policy. Health, education, jobs and prosperity are all travelling well, and Bush is claiming much of the credit.

The other reason is Ariontheroad's patented Civil…

The Melbored Cup

It's Melbourne Cup day, and I am overwhelmed by apathy at the occassion. Couldn't care less who wins the thing, but if She's Archie could come either first or last, I'll come out ahead in the Cup sweep at work.

Predictions on the race itself abound, often from people who actually know something about it as well as crackpot psychics who don't (and watch out in the Herald Sun for plenty of useless celebrity tips), but here is an alternative set of predictions for the day:

- Bruce McAvaney will be in a state of delirium for all six hours of the race day.
- Bart Cummings will fail to crack a smile all day
- Gai Waterhouse will have a botoxed permanent smile all day
- The horse leading 1000 metres in won't have a hope in hell of winning
- Some idiot will wear a tuxedo and a pair of boxer shorts. Said idiot will feature in numerous 'colour pieces' in the evening news
- Bookies will make a killing with all the first-time punters on the course
- Z-Grade celeb…

...but they meme well

Social scientists coined the phrase meme (no, not the first-person babbling of a split-personality) to describe the phenomena of ideas and concepts which quickly spread and propogate with no apparent trigger, and often die just as quickly.

This is Wikipedia's take on it:

A meme is a unit of information that replicates from brains or retention systems, such as books, to other brains or retention systems. In more specific terms, a meme is a self-propagating unit of cultural evolution, analogous to the gene (the unit of genetics). Memes can represent parts of ideas, languages, tunes, designs, skills, moral and aesthetic values and anything else that is commonly learned and passed on to others as a unit.

The Melbourne University blog craze is a meme in its natural habitat. Without entering into the detail of who-said-what-to-whom-and-who's-got-the-photo, it's worth noting that since the start of October, the following people have entered the blogosphere: Nick Demiris, Jayde L…

New Labor Cabinet

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Poor lil Mark Latham. In the space of a month he has gone from being a respectable chance to win The Big One to being an embittered wannabe with the political equivalent of Herpes. No one of talent wants to get close to Mark, and so he's putting up with second best. The announcement last week of the new Labor frontbench was rather underwhelming, with most of the big names either no longer in Parliament or previously announcing their preference for the backbench. No Beazley, Tanner, Melham, Faulkner, Ellis, Cox, Collins, Emerson. Instead, it was the B-team who are filling the front bench, inevitably keeping the seats warm until the A-team decide they want to have a crack 18 months out from the next election.

Let's have a sticky beak at what's new:

- Wayne Swan was the eventual winner of a nasty battle for the Shadow Treasurer's job. Julia Gillard, who looked the goods for a long while, bowed out of the running with dignity and honour and will remain a well-respect…