Tuesday, August 31, 2004

this ain't no never ever land

Based on the results of internal sanctuary polling--a sample of one, undecided, older voter in a marginal seat (my mum)--I think John Howard's in trouble, but I don't think Mark Latham is necessarily a shoo-in as a result.
By way of background, my mother (who along with me is the only member of our family who has become a citizen and can vote) is basically centrist these days; does not automatically vote a certain way, but makes considered choices based on a government's performance.
She said she thought Howard's dishonest behavior was a schweinerei (German word for absolute disgrace, but involves pigs). She thought he was an opportunist who said whatever he needed to to get his way at the time, without fully considering whether what he was saying was actually true. She said she particularly disapproves of the way he always claims he "didn't know" or "wasn't told" something, saying it is akin to a boss blaming his staff whenever something goes wrong.
But she said wasn't sure about Latham either as he is "too young". On probing she clarified this to be "too inexperienced". However, she said she will reserve judgment til she gets a look at his policies. Still, she reckons she probably won't vote for either of them, and will likely go Green. I said, what about the perception that the Greens are too radical and extreme, and she said, at least as far as the environment goes, "you can't get radical enough".
So my advice to Latham is to avoid talking about generational change as this puts the spotlight on his relative inexperience, instead talk up the experience and credentials of his team. And to get his team to, at every opportunity, express confidence in the team leader and in the other members of the team. And to keep the focus on honesty and integrity. And to bring out his policies post haste!
Oh yeah--I forgot to ask her about Iraq/troops home by Xmas, so will update once I have.

ps: I thought Howard's excitement last night at having "uncovered the first Latham lie" in relation to pay-roll tax sounded desperate and kind of came across like a kid saying "nyer, nyer, I know you are but what am I?" And I thought Latham very convincingly neutralised it. But it remains to be seen what others think.

Monday, August 30, 2004


John Howard gets a flogging in Saturday's online edition of The International Herald Tribune.

from the ridiculous to the ridiculous

Tim Blair today links to a Herald op-ed piece by another right-wing blogger and Liberal Party member, Alan Anderson, which contains this bizarre statement:

While Howard's honesty at a superficial level is under fire, voters still trust that his fundamental convictions are solid.

"Honesty at a superficial level"? What on earth does that mean? So there are different levels of honesty, ranging from deep to shallow? Perhaps a reader can enlighten me.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

reaching saturation point

Ah...that's better. The sun's shining, the baby's sleeping, the coffee's percolating, the Sunday papers are spread out on the deck...but I'm a bit confused by the headline on the Sun-Herald frontpage:

Our best ever. Hockey heroes break hoodoo and gold record

Uh...what's a "hoodoo" when it's at home? I always thought it was just a nonsense word the Hoodoo Gurus made up.
And just on the subject...would it be unAustralian (or should that be, unOlympic?) of me to say I've had just about enough sport now, thank you very much?

say when

Oh, for god's sake, stop playing these ridiculous games and just tell us when it's going to bloody well happen! What's he waiting for, a written invitation?

update: Sorry...I'm a bit cranky this morning because we had a thunderstorm and a blackout last night and I had no candles and I couldn't heat the baby's milk and he wouldn't have it cold and so we were up all night and I had singularly the worst night I've had since he was born. And I'm just OVER our Prime Minister's gormless dithering about the election and I just want him to BRING IT ON. That's all.

some mothers do have 'em

Blogs, that is. Reader Susan is doing an MA on mothers who blog so if you're a blogging mum you might like to help her out by completing her survey.

jet adore

Tim was wondering the other day about the implications of Australia's latest purchase of weapons of middling destruction. Personally, I agree with surfdom commenter tim g, who said:

It's just common sense, really. If your foreign policy results in swelling the ranks of your existing enemies, and creating whole new enemies, you had better start beefing up your defence.

Too true. That inevitable, senseless cycle of paranoia and one-upmanship was what I was getting at recently when I was laughing at the absurdity of the anti-missile missile.

people like that

Watcing John Howard on the TV news last night as he wearily stepped down off his plane, he looked so dejected, so clearly harassed by all the bad publicity, that I almost felt sorry for him. Until I remembered how, in the leadup to the last election, he had blatantly demonised asylum seekers by repeating the claim they threw their kids into the water, a claim we all now know he had been told simply wasn't true. And I remember very distinctly how he said, with a sneer, "I don't want people like that coming into this country". What is even worse than his deceiving the Australian public is that he has not seen fit to apologise to those asylum seekers in the years since. Perhaps that would be the only way he could redeem himself now, if he were to come out and publicly apologise to them. But I know he's just too gutless to do so.
Sorry, John. We don't want people like you running this country.

Friday, August 27, 2004

pulpit diction

I've been flicking through some ancient scrapbooks and, in one from about 1988, came across this clipping I had pasted in (but didn't note the source--I think it was probably the Herald) which still makes me smile:

BATON ROUGE (Louisiana), Monday: Jimmy Swaggart, defrocked but defiant, returned to the pulpit yesterday and sought to save his troubled ministry by unleashing the talent that once had made him and his operation the envy of television evangelism.
For more than two hours, the golden-haired preacher in the sharp black suit wept, shouted scripture, sang, danced, embraced cripples, grovelled on his knees, played piano, wept, hugged his weeping wife and told in whispers of dark, prophetic dreams and desperate, late-night conversations with the Lord.
He also asked for money more than once but on this, his triumphal return... [clipping ends]

Some ideas for John Howard in there, anyway.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

of marsupials and tradesmen

Men who want to have sex with you do not care about your baby, though they might pretend to. I made this observation yesterday when the man who cleans my roof gutters came around.
He cleaned the leaves off the roof and then, it being an unseasonally hot day, he sat on the deck and drank the glass of cider I offered him. I put the baby in the cot to sleep and came and joined him. We sat chatting. He’d been around once before, when the baby was only weeks old, and I hadn’t taken any notice of him, other than to note that he was a bit of a motormouth. It emerged he had grown up in Sydney near me and that we had certain things in common based on that. We talked about the pubs we used to go to in our youth, the bands that used to play there, the beaches. After a little while, he got a joint out of his shirt pocket.
"Mind if I...?" he said.
"No, but hang on," I said. I got up and shut the sliding door, locking the cat inside. It sat glowering at me, upset because half an hour earlier, I had consfiscated a small marsupial it had brought in—something between a rat and a bandicoot. I'd carefully scooped up the creature in a dustpan and set it down on a rock at the edge of the garden, where it remained, blinking, breathing in great heaving shudders. I wondered if it was mortally wounded. I saw it had a bloodied claw and that its fur was matted into several spikes around what must have been deep puncture wounds. I'd been about to call WIRES when the stomping of the roof cleaner's boots up the drive shook it out of its frightened stupor and it disappeared. Now the cat sat sulking, watching the roof cleaner blow his smoke across the deck.
The sun and the cider conspired to make me feel languid so I didn't care that the roof cleaner somehow managed to steer the conversation around to sex. I looked at his red hair and his muscular, hairy legs and decided I wasn't attracted to him. Which was lucky, because he then told me his wife works up at the local shops. “Oh, you’re married,” I said, unable to disguise the relief in my voice. The roof cleaner made a face. Then told me he had another female acquaintance down in ___ Bay with whom he sometimes had “unusual conversations”, though “nothing ever happened”. It was an erotic friendship, he explained. He asked if I would be shocked if he told me something.
"Nothing shocks me," I announced with some pride.
"Because I want to tell you something, but you might get offended."
"Well, how will I know unless you tell me?" I said.
So he told me, in great detail, what he liked to do to a woman. As he spoke I reddened and laughed and looked around in case anyone was listening. I was glad I'd seen my elderly neighbors drive off earlier. I knew the roof cleaner was telling me this in the hope it would turn me on, but it didn’t have that effect. Instead, I got the giggles.
"I really hope you're not offended by me talking like this," he said.
I said that actually it was interesting, because this situation tested the truth of my claim to be unshockable. I said perhaps I was shockable after all. Or, I mused, perhaps it was not shock but an anticipation of the awkwardness that would exist between us in the future, now that he had spoken so openly about such intimacies. I said we would probably be embarrassed if I saw him in the street now, knowing what he had told me. But, I said, it didn't really bother me, because as I was a writer, I liked to hear people's stories, even the dirty ones. I told him he reminded me of an old friend of mine who never misses an opportunity to tell me all his stories. I said in my opinion, half of it was probably pure fantasy.
I teased him that he was like the pool guy in the movies, who goes around servicing all the bored housewives. He said he wasn't that good looking. I said, “What if it isn't about being the best looking guy, but about charm and personality?” I was just teasing really, though in retrospect, that probably came across as flirting. He looked pleased, and said, "I only do one pool, actually. And the owner's a guy."
"Haha, so you swing both ways," I said, cheeky, and laughed as he protested his innocence. I told him I had to go check on the baby. When I came back he again apologised for talking to me about these things, and again I said I didn't really care. "But," I said, "I do question your motivation in telling me." And when he looked guilty, I added, "That's probably just because I've got a psych degree." He said now he was worried. The words of a lecturer floated into my mind. Exhibitionism and voyeurism are two sides of the same coin. A flasher exposes himself in the hope that you will expose yourself to him in return. However, I had no intention of telling the roof cleaner any of my own stories.
"Tell me some of your fantasies," he said, on cue.
"Oh no, they'd bore you," I said.
"Because they're only ever about one person," I said.
"Oh," he said. "So you're carrying a flame for someone."
"I guess so," I said. We went inside.
“Please don’t ask me to leave just yet, I’m still a bit stoned,” he said. So I made us some coffee to pass the time. As I pottered around the kitchen he asked if I knew I was in my peak right now. I joked, "And what about you? Don’t men peak at fifteen or something? So does that mean you’re past it?"
He said he was forty-six. He said it's different when you get older; better. He said some things do change: for example, men in their forties no longer wake up with an erection. I said I was surprised and disappointed to hear that. I wonder if it’s true. Maybe it’s only true for him.
The baby woke and I got him and placed him on the floor where he played quietly. I excused myself to use the bathroom and when I came back I caught a bored look on the roof cleaner’s face as he watched my baby, but when he saw me he replaced it with a cartoonish grin. Men who want to have sex with you don’t care about your baby, though they may pretend to. It’s not as if the baby was a turn-off, which is what I would’ve thought. It was that the baby was inevitably competition for my attention and so was an obstacle between me and the roof cleaner's obvious hopes of seducing me.
I made myself busy making the baby’s dinner and the roof cleaner hovered, repeatedly apologising for intruding, until presently I agreed that perhaps it was time for him to go. At the door, he turned and said, "Hey, don't tell my wife about this, wilya?"
"I don't even know what she looks like," I assured him. I added, "Anyway, it's not as if we have crossed the line." Though I'm sure his wife would disagree.
He said, "We could," but I said firmly, "Ah, let’s not go there, yeah?"
I edged him towards the door.
"It's something to think about, anyway", he said. "If you know what I mean."
“You’re so the pool guy,” I laughed, shaking my head.
"I'll think about it later, that’s for sure," he grinned as he walked off.
"See you in six months, pool guy," I called. And then he was gone, leaving me to ponder the ethics of our little interlude.
When I let the cat out again this morning he promptly brought me a little corpse--the marsupial rat must have died of its injuries. I laid it in the garbage bin on a bed of leaves that the roof cleaner had placed there. “Sorry, mouse,” I said mournfully. The first creature my cats have killed in ten months of living in the bush, but still, I felt awful. The cat remains under house arrest.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

hopelessly devoted

The sad thing is, they don't seem to care. I don't get it.

and what's more: Deputy leader Peter Costello is worried about "national symbols fraying", but curiously enough he doesn't mention the increasingly damaged status of the office of Prime Minister, only that of the Governor-General. Got his priorities straight, huh.

barbed liar

Just been watching John Howard on the Today show. Apart from his whimpering that the Labor Party's ongoing focus on his record of misleading the public is nothing but "cheap personal attacks" and "slagging off" and "playing the man, not the ball", the PM gave a revealing response when anchor Steve Liebmann asked about his views on children in detention (paraphrased):

Howard: And I mean, if the mothers would agree to the community arrangements, the children wouldn't even be in detention!

Liebmann: So you're saying it's their fault.

Howard: No, I'm not saying it's their fault.

Excuse me? Does he think we are completely stupid? He threw that comment in with the sole intention of absolving himself and shifting the blame onto the children's mothers. I mean, how else can that comment be interpreted? Frankly, it's just a variation on the theme of refugees throwing their children overboard; namely, that they throw their children behind barbed wire. Disgusting.

Monday, August 23, 2004

daily reason to dispatch Howard

Another day, another balls-up for our PM. Ho-hum. My blog is starting to feel like an Australian version of McSweeney's "Daily reason to dispatch Bush".

Saturday, August 21, 2004

yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

I love how the PM tries to weasel his way out of facing up to his serial dishonesty by saying "let's just all move on":

"Let Labor fight the last war, in contrast we will talk about the future of our country," Mr Howard said. "Political parties that fight the last war are political parties that have no policies, no plans and no vision about the future of our country."

So I guess we won't see the PM looking to the past at all, will we?
Mr Howard said when he came to power there were 35 federal electorates in Australia with double-digit unemployment, compared to four now, and real wages had risen by 13 per cent, compared to 2.9 per cent under Labor.

I said, so we won't see the PM looking to the past--
"We all remember the 17, 18, 19 per cent interest rates of the Keating and Hawke years..."

Hey dude, thought you said you wanted to talk about the future?
"One of the great triumphs of our foreign policy over the last eight and a half years...

Oh, hell. I give up.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

man of wood

I suppose Blix is lying too:

The United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix says he told the Prime Minister, John Howard, weeks before the Iraq war that he had serious doubts that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Dr Blix's account of a one-on-one meeting in his New York office on February 11 last year undermines Mr Howard's repeated claim, made again yesterday, that "everybody" believed Iraq had such weapons before the military action.
"I am confident that, far from saying to Mr Howard that there were WMDs in Iraq, I conveyed to him that we were not impressed by the 'evidence' presented to this effect," Dr Blix said in an email sent last week. "Regrettably, there were few at that time who cared to examine evidence about Iraq with a critical mind."
Immediately after the meeting, Mr Howard declined to inform reporters travelling with him about what had transpired.
"I don't think it's helpful at this stage for me to be trying to put some particular interpretation on the discussion I had," he said at the time.

Well, no, it certainly wouldn't have been helpful to you, Pinocchio, would it?
Ever get the feeling our Prime Minister just turns a deaf ear whenever he's given information that doesn't fit neatly with his politics?

oh, mr spleen

Popped over to Tim Blair's spleenville residence yesterday and, curiously finding absolutely nothing regarding the latest developments in Australian politics, left a fairly harmless comment on the top post on the blog asking, "nothing about Howard Overboard, Tim?". See, Tim's in the US travelling and, important Australian journo that he is, he's covering the crucial topic of bars in New Mexico. Anyway, this morning I find that Ms Harris has banned my IP address:

I also banned her IP, because if she's going to be childish, she can do it someplace else.
Just to repeat: if anyone here has some beef with some political figure or point, kindly insert that beef into the PROPER POST'S COMMENT THREAD. You all DO know how to scroll, don't you?
Posted by: Andrea Harris at August 18, 2004 at 01:34 AM

There was no PROPER POST available on the subject, you twit. That's why I did the logical thing and left my comment on the top post. Jesus wept.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

faulty powers

Oops, I got it wrong again:

Mr Howard said he was satisfied now that children were not thrown overboard..."But I do know that the belief at the time was that it had happened. We were told that and that is why I made the claim."

Either we have a PM who lies, or we have a PM who repeatedly makes bad judgment calls based on faulty intelligence. Either way, he isn't fit for office.

quitting time

I don't understand:

[John Howard] said it would not make sense for the election to be held the Saturday before American voters go to the polls.

Why not?

Monday, August 16, 2004

It's Time to go.....John!

If this doesn't get him evicted from the Lodge, what will?

Sunday, August 15, 2004

love bites

I’m worried I’m going to end up like this waiting, seething, blooming woman of Dave Eggers'. Still, I love his bite-size short-short stories which he wrote for the Guardian newspaper. “Short-short-stories” just sounds like vignettes to me. But it does seem like a good way to get rid of all those plotless shreds you've written, all those great opening lines, all that junk you keep in a suitcase in the hope it will spontaneously organise itself into the Great Australian Novel by the time you next look....yep, sounds like my kind of form. I always like that quote attributed, I think, to William Faulkner where he says in writing, you have to 'kill your darlings'. Maybe the short-short is your chance to resurrect them?
(Via Meredith.)

Saturday, August 14, 2004

truth is stranger than fiction

I’ve never much been into the genre of true crime but I like Helen Garner and I liked her new book Joe Cinque’s Consolation. The book is journalistic and heavily researched, but from the beginning Garner is very open about her subjectivity. We know Garner is biased towards the Cinque family, we know she’s instinctively revulsed by the killer, Anu Singh. She tells us, and we’re free to judge her feelings against the facts.
I find it fascinating how Garner doesn’t give any oxygen to Singh, who thrived on creating drama. Singh looms malevolently in the background, the protagonist of the whole drama kept forcibly in the wings by Garner, while the victim, Joe Cinque, and his family, take centre stage. Singh’s co-accused Madhavi Rao, who was acquitted of charges, has a bigger role than does Singh in the book, but she too remains an enigma because we can’t get around the fact that she did nothing. Garner observes with horror that in our culture, a bystander is not legally required to intervene to save a person’s life. We are confronted by the fact that sometimes, for all its rational perfection, the law is inadequate. There’s a sense that this extinguishing of Singh’s celebrity (in the book) is Garner’s punishment in lieu of the lengthy prison term she didn’t get. It feels like justice for the Cinques and for society because Singh got off so lightly for the “manslaughter” of Joe Cinque.
Garner isn’t the first person to write the non-fiction novel but it’s a form that’s so suited to our times. Our relentless fascination with other people’s lives, with other people’s truths, is elsewhere expressed as reality TV and perhaps even in a way, by personal blogging (‘Little Brother’, maybe?) The popularity of non-fiction has been frequently written about (see also 'the death of the novel', etc, or look at how Norma Khouri is charged with packaging her fiction as fact in order to sell more copies).
Funny thing is, in the process of writing this book, Garner becomes a character in the story. It reminds me of those physics experiments which show that the presence of an observer can alter the way a particle behaves. Talk about exploding the myth of objectivity. I really like how Garner threads in the little details about her own journey within the story. But even such personal reportage has its own subtle subjectivity. For instance, in some scenes, Garner is very specific about another person’s tone of voice (such as the taxi driver) but doesn’t give any direction about her own, leading to ambiguity (did she say that in perhaps a kind tone, or in an icy, sarcastic one?). Not that it’s important--she’s only a minor character, isn’t she? Ultimately she’s the fly-on-the-wall, the ‘reasonable observer‘ making sense of it for us.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Ministry of Silly Weapons

So what comes after the anti-missile missile? The anti-anti-missile missile?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

it's a jungle in here

OK, I'm over feeling as if blogging, at least the kind that I do, is just too narcissistic for words. Once more with feeling...
We've had a few of those weeks where everything changes, just goes up a notch. Part of it has to do with the fact that I had to wean Harley fairly early, at around five-and-a-half months. Wean him onto the bottle, I mean. There was just suddenly no more milk. I hate the expression 'the milk dried up' because it makes me feel like an old heifer. But that's essentially what happened, I guess. I had a sudden urge to buy formula, he had one last frustrating breastfeed and then we stopped completely.
There's mixed emotions. It's another one of those wistful separations a mother has from her child, because breastfeeding is surely one of the most enjoyable things in life. Now that it's ended, I feel we're both a little lost at mealtimes. The bottle is so inanimate, mechanical, hard.
But on the other hand, there's a few advantages. As my sister moaned the other day, breastfeeding is a prison. Now, or in the future potentially, Harley could be babysat while I had a night out. A date, even (fancy that!).
Harley had lost a bit of weight in my final few weeks of breastfeeding too, so it's nice to see the millilitres going down in a bottle. I also quite like the ritual of preparing bottles, the whole rigmarole that goes with it. I daydream a lot while doing it.
I've encountered a little resistance from my parents, who have their own views on things. The expression 'deadset against' springs to mind. My mother runs little campaigns about things. Phone calls to discuss it further. Emailed transcripts of pertinent radio programs. She acts as though giving formula is like giving junk-food, like Coke in a bottle or something. It's not exactly clear what her idea of an alternative is, though. She's in favour of breastmilk, but as I've got no milk, we're at a bit of an impasse.
Apart from all this, things have been manic as Harley is suddenly so much more aware (and adorable!) than before. He's more and more fun to play with. But the housekeeping part of the job seems a bit extreme all of a sudden. I'm basically moving all day long and by the early evening I can't sit down or I can't get up again. Lately I've caught myself thinking, god, how come nobody told me it was going to be this hard? but of course everyone did and I'm still loving it, so it's OK. Hard, but OK.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

playing dirty

What I don't get is how these controversies even get this far these days ("Former governor hits paydirt"). You'd think in this era of spin and image management, that at the first murmur of such a possible payment out of the Premier, Richard Butler would've gallantly (and loudly) declined accepting it. I mean, what do you want, a huge PR kerfuffle where large segments of the population end up hating you for appearing greedy and corrupt, or go out looking halfway decent? OK, it's $650,000, that's a lot of money; but that just makes it even worse, because of whose money it is. It'd be different if he could honestly say he deserved it, though from the sound of things, it's nothing to do with merit anyway:

A $650,000 'golden handshake' extracted by Richard Butler in return for his resignation as Governor of Tasmania sparked outrage yesterday.
Relief at his departure after just 10 months in the job changed to anger when Premier Paul Lennon revealed he had offered the additional payment on top of Mr Butler's $370,000 income.
It was to compensate Mr Butler, who Mr Lennon described as the victim of "gossip and innuendo surrounding alleged breaches of protocol, rudeness and arrogance".

What exactly does that mean? It's compensation for potential defamation? Pre-emptive damages?

Monday, August 09, 2004

Howards gets the message

Awesome. Now let's hope this builds up a bit of momentum....

Saturday, August 07, 2004

where it's at

No, I haven't been murdered by a neighbour, thanks for asking. I've just given myself some time off blogging lately because we've been really busy (playgroups and such) and in the downtimes I've been trying to catch up on reading--novels--for a change. Haven't been near a news site or paper all week so wouldn't have a clue what is going down out in Howardland (has he committed to a date???), but as Harley is currently down at the lake with his father and both sets of grandparents, I am going to indulge and read the Saturday papers now...And hopefully get back into blogging soonish.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

mother of all flip-flops

Sometimes when I blog, I write something that later embarrasses me. Sometimes I delete such posts, other times I just wait for them to become consigned to the scrapheap of archives. But thinking about the idea of truthful blogging lately makes me want to reframe certain things I've said.
One such occasion was when I recently wrote all that junk about preferring motherhood to work etc. Even as I was writing it it embarrassed me but I couldn't help myself posting it, as though some mischievous part of me just needs to be outrageous sometimes. Anyway, it didn't ring true to me because there's one small detail that I overlooked while awash with hormones: oops, I do have a career. I write; it's supposed to feed me and Harley one day. And I haven't given it up at all. The truth is, I'm doing more of it now. But in my eagerness to put some distance between now and the succession of dreary office jobs of recent times, I lost sight of the bigger picture.
I think what I was probably trying to say the other week was just something vague about being happy to be no longer stuck in an office cubicle in a high-rise in the city, combined with the thought that having a kid is a lot more fun than I thought it would be. (Mind you, it's only lately that the enormity of the job of child-rearing has sunk in. I have to show him the world. It's a big deal.)
Of course, all this vagueness and flipflopping on my part will make it quite hard for the Righties to generalise to all liberal feminist women everywhere.

Monday, August 02, 2004

the genuine article

What a great story the whole thing is though. I bet the rights to The Norma Khouri Story have already been auctioned off. Helen Garner could write it. Anyway, I thought the Malcolm Knox and Caroline Overington article at the weekend was quite savage in places:

Her most recent communication with the Herald was a voicemail message on Monday containing incoherent screams and moans of self-hate, calling herself such a loser. Her friends and even her opponents, such as al-Sabbagh, pity her as a disturbed and confused individual who has been breaking under the stress of maintaining her lies in public.

God. If Khouri is as mentally unstable as the article implies then that's a bit harsh, don't you reckon?
Related: A story suggesting more bloggers are hoaxers than we think. No way!