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Showing posts from March, 2006

Kim Jong Il and other mad lefties

For those of you playing at home, I'm back in print and pixels:

The April edition of the Institute of Public Affair Review magazine has published a piece I wrote on fledgeling capitalism in North Korea, as well as the difficulties that will be faced as part of Korean reunification. They may be right-wing headkickers at the IPA, but they've got a lot to say that's worth listening to. Read my piece here.

OnlineOpinion, a great source of interesting ideas and opinions, has published my piece on the destructive role of career politicians and hacks in Labor's current woes. Read it here, and join in the lively debate.

Orrighty. Nuff 'bout me for now.

Georgiou, Frydenberg and the Senate option

Frydenberg vs Georgiou for Kooyong is an exciting battle to watch. Both are fine intellects, both would make good ministers if given the chance, and both are representatives of very different strands of the Liberal tradition. It's also a battle of talent that the ALP should be salivating over.

I have a personal connection to both Josh and Petro. Josh Frydenberg and I are both alumni of Bialik College, and have come across each other where Judaism intersects with politics. We were on a panel together last year for a discussion on that very topic. Josh is one of those tremendously talented young people who inspires admiration and jealousy in equal quantities. There's no doubt, though, that he would make a fine member of parliament. Now, or maybe later.

The incumbent is Petro Georgiou, the posterchild of moderate liberalism (well, Liberalism, really). In 2001 I ran as the Democrat candidate against Georgiou and came to admire and respect him. Whilst not a particularly vigo…

Show 'em where to stick it

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For those of you with an interest in one of the world's most vibrant democracies, have a look at this selection of bumper stickers from Israel ahead of Tuesday's general election.


Tafnit: Enough of ignoring corruption,
with (L-R) Peretz, Olmert and Netanyahu


I won't be saying much on the substance of the election beyond what I said a few months back. If these polls are any indication, it looks like voters in Israel feel the same way I do about the importance of keeping Kadima in power.

Fans of Israeli politics with extremely long memories might remember that I wrote about the phenomenon of bumper sticker democracy when I was 'reporting' from Israel during the last elections in 2003. Nothing much changes.

UPDATE 24/3, 11:58pm: With Sharon as Prime Minister and Olmert as Acting Prime Minister, with poth of them representing the Kadima party, I'll stand by my assertion that their success will be 'keeping Kadima in power'.

Harry Potter comes to town

STOP PRESS!! (Or it's electronic alternative):

Kevin Rudd, my personal favourite as next deputy leader of the ALP - behind Gillard - is speaking at Melbourne Uni on Wednesday evening. Okay, so it's sponsored by the old-style lefties at the Fabian Society, but it should be interesting nonetheless.

2006 CHIFLEY MEMORIAL LECTURE given by KEVIN RUDD
This is an Australian Fabians event.

Event date: Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Location: Laby Theatre, Physics Building
Melbourne University
VIC
Time: 6.00 pm - 8.00 pm
Web: www.fabian.org.au

A Very Special AFS (Victorian Branch)Campus Liaison Committee Presentation:
KEVIN RUDD MP, ALP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs will deliver
THE 2006 CHIFLEY MEMORIAL LECTURE on AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN POLICY UNDER A LABOR GOVERNMENT
More info.

UPDATE, 22/3 11:58pm:

It was an excellent performance by Rudd tonight, albeit in front of a crowd of true believers. Rather than addressing the advertised topic, Rudd focussed exclusi…

Inside the insurgency

A few weeks back I interviewed Lebanese journalist Zaki Chehab, who is one of the few journalists in the world to have spent some time with the insurgents in Iraq. I wasn't a big fan of his politics, but I admire his tenacity as a journalist. The piece is now online at Vibewire, and a similar version is also in the latest version of Farrago:

Iraq Ablaze - An Interview With Zaki Chehab

Contributed by Ari Sharp
21 Mar 06


On the back cover of Zaki Chehab’s new book is a single photo. In it the Lebanese author and journalist is sitting in close confines with two Iraqi men, their heads encased in red and white headscarves. Only the tiniest glimpse of their faces is available though a small slit at eye level. Both are heavily armed, one with the long barrel of a gun sitting over his left shoulder, the other with his weapon pointing nonchalantly just a little off to the side. On the wall is some ageing pink floral wallpaper.

Unlike so many who have faced this scene involu…

Just what would happen if we became a republic?

You guys are a creative bunch. Who's got some ideas for my friend Sarp here:

Hi Ari,
My name is Sarp, Im currently studying media and screenwriting at RMIT university and I'm trying to write a screenplay for a feature film about what would change in Australia if we become a republic. The actual story is a love story but the main caracter is an ex Australian bureaucrat who's being held as a prisoner in London and the story revolves around the political and legal intrigue around him. He's being a scapegoat between two countires silent political friction and the woman of his life is far from the Queen.

Anyways, the reason im writing you this email is because I'v came across your website and i thought perhaps you could help me with my lack of information about this whole situation in your spare time. I know the basics about the scenario like changing the head of states etc, but i was just wordering if you could give me some ideas with the unlikely but possible outcomes m…

Whinging fools

The State owes me a job.

With good pay.

And a guarantee that the job is mine to keep, no matter how bad my performance might be.

And if I don't get one, the The State owes me generous welfare benefits.

And if I don't get it, then I'll march in protests, burn cars and attack police.

And if it means that my country and its economy sink slowly toward the third world, then so be it.

Fiery protests puts fear into French leaders
By Molly Moore

ABOUT 250,000 students have taken to the streets of Paris and major cities across France, escalating a political rebellion by the younger generation against a new labour law.
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Due to come into effect next month, it will make it easier to hire and fire young people at a time when the youth unemployment rate averages 23 per cent.

The protesters' anger focuses on provisions that will allow companies to fire employees under 26 at any time during their first two years of work, without cause.

"They're offering us nothing but slavery,&quo…

Leaves plenty of time for riding the tram

Three cheers for Kate Louise Howard, Wales's finest under 48kg female weightlighter. From my quick assessment, Kate was athlete who managed to be the first eliminated from the Commonwealth Games whilst achieving the least. Kate came last in her one and only event today, and managed to successfully lift the weight in just one of her six attempts, snatching a moderate 58kg into the air.

Still, she managed to achieve more and last longer that Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Ari Sharp combined.

Well done, Kate.

What do you ask a comedian?

Any suggestions for questions to ask John from the Scared Weird Little Guys or Akmal Saleh in interviews I have coming up on Friday? Beat have got me on the beat.

Let the Games Begin, and other cliched headlines

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My Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony started at a prominant Chapel Street tavern.

Ari on the Web: So will you be showing the opening ceremony?
Chapel Street Tavern Bartender: The what?
AOTW: The opening ceremony, you know, for the Games?
CSTB: The Games?
AOTW: The Commonwealth Games... you know, big event... happening tonight... up the road... at the MCG.
CSTB: Oh, yeah, um, maybe, hang on, I think so.

As 8:30 came around, the Opening Ceremony was underway, but the only sound to be heard above the din at the aforementioned Tavern was the dulcet tones of Jamiroquai. With a crowd of just four of us gathered for the Games, and considerably more singing along to Cosmic Girl, it was clear that the Opening Ceremony was better off enjoyed at home.

Given the build up before the event - and the $50 million dedicated to it (along with the Closing Ceremony) - the event felt surprisingly flat.

A few observations:

- I'm no fan of Leunig, and certainly no bigger fan having seen his self-indulgent duck…

Another take on Labor's woes

Here is my take on Labor's woes, as ignored by Op-ed editors from The Age, The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald:

A glance at the Labor caucus reveals a depressing site. Amongst its ranks are a chorus of those in the 'political class', whose professional lives have been spent mostly or entirely within the Labor party or the labour movement. Whilst their political opponents might boast of lawyers, entrepreneurs and a variety of other white collar professionals, the same cannot be said of the Labor Party. According to a Parliamentary Library research note (no. 24 2005-2006), 34% of Labor parliamentarians had as their previous occupation ‘party and union administrators and officials', whilst just 7% worked in the law and 11% as business managers. Amongst the coalition, only 2% were in this first category.

We have long passed the point in Labor history when representing the party in parliament was a reward for achievements in the outside world. Instead it is mere…

Farewell, Slobodan: Up close and personal

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No great tragedy in itself, although it does deprive the world of one of the most interesting and worthwhile experiments in justice. The criminal trial at The Hague was not without its problems. Milosevic was clearly contemptuous of the process which saw him answer for his actions and used it, and the rolling coverage, to play to his home political constinency. The sheer length of the trial was also problematic, since a significant test of justice is the swiftness of its application.

Still, the trial made the point that no tyrant can escape the reaches of global justice. If only Milosevic was around for the verdict, the contents of which will no doubt remain the subject of endless speculation.

In May 2003 I was in The Hague and spent an afternoon watching the trial. Though I can't offer any great legal insights, I can tell you what I saw. The site of the court itself is heavily secured (with a delightful Indian-Australian from Templestowe on the door the day I visited) with th…

How high does Pong Su go?

Getting to the truth behind the North Korean ship Pong Su is a tricky thing. Keith Moor had an excellent story in today's Herald Sun about the likely link between the North Korean government and the activities of the ship:

THE jury that acquitted four Pong Su crew members yesterday never got to hear evidence about the North Korean Government's alleged role.

Two eminent US experts on North Korea, Balbina Hwang and Joe Bermudez, gave written and verbal evidence during the Pong Su trial.

But Supreme Court judge Murray Kellam ruled the jury was not allowed to hear it.

Both experts said they had no doubt the North Korean Government was involved in the heroin run.

They revealed the North Korean Government created a secretive department, known as Bureau 39, to control and increase the flow of foreign exchange through legal and illegal imports.

"Its officials are involved in heroin and amphetamine trafficking that generates as much as $500 million annually," Ms Hwang said.

Wi…

Taken for a ride

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A Radical Idea
This was the headline on the front page of The Sunday Age yesterday. The idea? Free public transport. Obviously they'd already ruled out the headline A Fucken Stupid Idea (though clearly not on the basis of bad taste.)

Perhaps next week in The Sunday Age we'll find this on the front page:

A Radical Idea: Print more money to beat recession
or maybe
A Radical Idea: End crime by locking up lots of criminals

The idea of improving public transport patronage by making it free has superficial appeal, and over a beer or seven at a pub might sound like a decent idea. It's not the sort of thing that deserves serious consideration, though, and it's certainly not the direction that the debate over public transport should head.

The fundamental problem with the idea is that price is not the major impediment to more people using public transport: the real problem is access. Most commuters are happy to pay a reasonable fare provided they are getting a decent service. For…

Books: The Shackled Continent

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Just occasionally you come across an argument that is so cogent, so clever and so thoroughly convincing that it's a great disappointment to return to the real world and find that the argument is ignored by policy makers. For me, that argument was put by Robert Guest in his treatise on Africa, The Shackled Continent.

Guest is the Africa correspondent for The Economist, and sadly that publication's bizarre aversion to using bylines has meant that Guest is not nearly as well known as he ought to be. Guest injects new ideas and a new perspective on the problems that afflict Africa, and by extention most of the developing world.

The discussion thus far has been a rather simplistic one, with a chorus of bleeding hearts in the first world wringing their hands at simplistic representations of the wealth disparity between the first and third worlds whilst simultaneously chiding western governments for lot offering even more aid than is presently on offer.

Finally, in The Shackled Cont…