Wednesday, March 22, 2006

going down

We are moving in the morning so the computer's about to get switched off for a week or two. I'm told our new house does have a phone line, it's just that the wall socket is smashed up. Telstra has kindly offered to instal a new plug for $75, whereas my dad has kindly offered to instal one for free. Either way, I should be up and running again within a week or two. I might as well have a little holiday.
This has been our last night of living so close to the ocean you can hear it breathe at night. I'll miss it alot, but we're looking forward to adventures of a different kind. Meanwhile, take care and see you soon, with a bit of luck.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

the whole grain of truth

You feel a sense of the pendulum swinging on the wheat scandal. Lately the conservative media has been scrambling to regain some credibility in their coverage of the wheat scandal. It’s like they’ve woken up and remembered that, oh yeah, the truth does matter. Now even the pro-Howard media scoffs at Howard as he squeals, “I did not have kickback relations with that dictator, Saddam Hussein!” Usually Howard-friendly, Murdoch’s Australian seems particularly peeved that it supported him on Iraq, only to be embarrassed by this scandal and have its political loyalties so awkwardly compromised:

This newspaper has always believed in the case for toppling Saddam and staying the course in Iraq - as well as backing the hard-working members of Australia's defence forces who put their lives on the line on behalf of all Australians. Which is why the detached attitude of the Prime Minister, and the frankly mealy mouthed explanations of senior government officials such as Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, are not enough. That any Australian, be they employed by the AWB, the commonwealth Government, or any other institution, might have been involved in funnelling money to Saddam that could have purchased bullets to use against coalition troops (or Iraqi civilians) is an outrage, and shows the real danger of a public service culture where plausible deniability means never having to say you're sorry.

The editorial sizzles away in irritation about the Government’s ‘woeful management’ and ‘continued mishandling’ of the AWB scandal and betrayal of the Australian people. In recent weeks the same newspaper was falling over itself to laud the Prime Minister as the best thing since sliced Liberal bread. Now it fumes, “The man ultimately responsible - the Prime Minister - fails to condemn the outrage but rather sits back and hopes the whole thing goes away.” Not so very "consummately effective conservative statesman" after all, eh?
Predictably, the Australian soon reverts to type with a wild attempt to sheet home the blame to Labor, imploring Howard to take up the only exit strategy they can think of: When all else fails, even if it’s abundantly clear to everyone that your party ‘incubated the monster’, blame the Left.
Howard has clearly been playing for time on this issue, waiting to see if he can divine something from polls and public sentiment, waiting to see how things unravel before taking up the thread, but time’s run out for him. What’s the bet we’ll see him take Murdoch’s advice and change tack, come over all faux-outraged, lament how he inherited this whole problem from Labor, and pledge to undertake long-needed reform? Still, he’s got a hard road ahead of him. Even Dennis Shanahan is predicting more doom and gloom for the Liberal Party. In a nice metaphor, Shanahan’s story is headlined "Drug Mule Defence to Hit PM" and in it he reports AWB is likely to try to reduce culpability by blaming others, namely the Government. Shanahan writes, “AWB is no long saying the Government didn’t know…Even if this is desperation from AWB, then desperation could suddenly make it much worse for DFAT and the Howard administration.*"
Reading the papers over the weekend couldn't have given the Rat any satisfaction, not when he's got his paws so painfully caught in the toaster.

[*Is it just me, or does the phrase “the Howard administration” sound unfamiliar to the Australian ear?]

all Liberal eggs in one basket

Despite their best efforts, the Right hasn’t managed to get much traction on Labor’s factions, have they? Why? Because the public is not stupid and knows that the Liberal Party is completely in the glasshouse when it comes to leadership woes. Let’s face it, conservative success has been handed to Howard on a platter. When Michael Duffy praises conservative success, it’s telling how much is invested in the great Liberal Party savior.
“John Howard gets this,” he writes triumphantly. “Labor doesn’t.” Have you noticed how it's always John Howard v. the ALP these days? Maybe the Liberal Party should be given a new name too: The John Howard Party.
Still, it is probably true that rebranding Labor will be essential if the Liberals are ever to be booted out of office. As the conservatives say, such rebranding in itself isn’t the worst thing in the world. As Duffy explains, “In 1944 the floundering United Australia Party, our main conservative party, accepted its irrelevance and dissolved itself. It was replaced by a fresh political force, the Liberal Party. The rest is history.” Whether or not rebranding must include the seemingly pointless step of dissolving and immediately reforming under a different name is debatable.
The John Howard Party has its own leadership problems ahead, so it seems particularly absurd for conservatives to dwell on internal Labor Party upheavals. It’s not as if Labor is the only party with slim pickings for seconds. Sadly for conservatives, none of the rest of the Liberal honchos are John Howard, and everyone knows it. What’s more, if Howard gets the Liberal Party all covered in wheat dust, they’re all going to get hoovered away with him as quick as you can say in cahoots with Saddam.
Desperate to divert attention from their favored party’s woes, Howard’s sympathetic media continue to hype up Labor’s leadership issues. Me, I don’t see the recent dramas as a long-term problem for Labor. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Sure, Beazley is turning out to be not much more than a political seat-warmer. Right from the start, he has felt like an “acting Opposition leader”. Yet, I don’t think the Liberals can count on Labor fatally imploding before the next election. One man can completely reverse a party’s fortunes, remember? If Howard can singlehandedly reinvent the Liberal party to the extent that Paul Kelly can argue Howard has created a whole new Liberal Party ideology” (related posts to come), then Labor has an equally good chance of repackaging itself and making itself attractive to voters too.
I agree with Tim Dunlop that the only real contender Labor offers right now is Kevin Rudd. It’s clear Julia Gillard is too untested, and still tainted by Latham, at this stage. She also generates such passionate opposition such that the merest television interview causes thousands of negative words to be written about her. Such polarity can be a good thing for a leader, since it indicates that her supporters are likely to be just as passionate. But she’s clearly too inexperienced.
And what future for the Liberal Party, post-Howard? Peter Costello "has resigned himself to not being recognised in his own country", surmised Dennis Shanahan in a recent interview. It doesn’t sound like someone much motivated to campaign for office. Unless he’s trying to ingratiate himself with feigned humility, a tactic that works a charm for Howard. Howard’s probably given Costello a very gentlemanly deadline by which he must warm up the public or put his leadership hopes aside. It’s also likely that Costello figures he may as well give PR a chance (kicking off with the Australian values speech, and seeking out recognition from the fluffy media). George Megalogenis describes Costello’s recent outings as a popularity pitch, playing the "patriot card to grey voters with the attack on Muslim fundamentalists, and the SNAG card to families", though there are doubts within the Liberal Party as to whether he is at all credible on these issues. Megalogenis reports that Costello is less popular with voters than Beazley, which seems hard to fathom.
In the end, Shanahan’s comment inadvertently reinforces the impression that Costello’s entire being reeks of half-heartedness. And Shanahan’s colleagues aren’t happy with Costello either. A recent editorial titled 'Simply too much tax' savaged him with lines like, "Treasurer PC must wake up to the facts", "whatever Mr Costello wants to claim", "however Mr Costello wants to slice and dice the numbers" and "the Treasurer’s statistical jiggery-pokery". Lookin' good, Pete! The newspaper editorialised, "The truth is the Howard Government is a high-taxing, big-spending, vote-buying Government". Remember this is the Rightwing media we are talking about.
While humbly bragging about his economic miracle to Shanahan-- ‘Costello looked back at his achievements as Treasurer and liked what he saw’, ‘suddenly…a record of unprecedented economic success in Australia and realised he’d achieved success beyond his wildest dreams’--yet Costello’s GST by his own reckoning has failed in its fundamental purpose and is essentially rendered pointless in retrospect (no doubt the states would disagree).
If not Costello, who? Or are we to imagine Alexander Downer getting another go? The conservative media doesn’t like him much either, if ‘frankly mealy mouthed’ is anything to go by.
This is surely the best time for what’s probably inevitable for Labor: big change. All in all, I remain optimistic we’ll see the John Howard Party given the flick at the next opportunity.

the shorter j-bo

Julia Baird in the Herald the other week argued ‘brevity is wit’ (not published online), for example in the case of blogging. I have to disagree. Some subjects are too complex for oneliners or for instant spin, just add links. Whether it’s critique or original thought, some ideas need space to be thought out and blogs are the perfect place for that. One of the best things about blogging is not having a word limit. Naturally, snappy wit is appreciated, but we can equally appreciate the lengths many bloggers go to at times to explain something or reason something out with us. That’s the beauty of having a scroll-bar. It’s liberating for online writers that a blog post can be as succinct as a few words and links or as long as an essay, if need be. I reckon long-windedness is fine so long as the answer is blowing in there somewhere. We are actually lucky we don’t have to fill a designated space each week, but simply create the space we need, as we need it. No wonder journalists get a little jealous of bloggers.
Which is all just a preamble to saying--some longwinded posts will be up soon. (So scroll me, Julia.)

Friday, March 17, 2006

crunch time

Sorry for the long silences, but I've been too busy to write (or read) much lately. Things have been getting a bit farcical around here, what with the construction fence going up around us yesterday and some hand-demolishing already starting in the adjoining house which my neighbors vacated a week ago. Meanwhile the bulldozers are champing at the bit and we've been packed up and boxed for two weeks, which is unsettling and irritating. As soon as the fence went up, passing tourists started stopping to gawk, and I'm inclined to put up a sign saying Don't Feed the Animals.
Still, the good news is that we finally move next week. The bad news is that the new dwelling doesn't have a phone line installed. So it may be awhile before I get to post some of the hundred posts I've been thinking about lately (you'll be happy to hear that a couple don't mention Tim Blair at all). Where there's a will, or an internet cafe nearby, there's a way. Right?
Anyway, thanks for dropping by and see you soon.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

shunning stunt

Interesting. Tim Blair today quite freely admits to "shunning" Muslims:

Shun Australia’s 281,575 Muslims and you’re intolerant. Shun four million Howard voters and you’re progressive.

At least he's out of the closet, I guess.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

hard reign oughta fall

Another conservative writer I can't take remotely seriously is Currency Lad. The other day, Naomi at Larvatus Prodeo drew a long bow, I thought, in generalising from an exceptional case of murder to society at large, concluding that "women just aren't safe in this society, not even from the men who claim to love them".
But quick as a flash, Currency Lad seized the opportunity for some mindless Left-bashing, with the idiotic comment:

"Progressives have trivialised marriage, life itself, turned education to mush and scoffed at any notion of absolute moral values. It’s hardly surprising there is a culture of death in our society."

Amazing that the Left has achieved this in just one decade of Opposition. Apparently far more influential in shaping social outcomes than the ruling Right. Geez, imagine what the Left will be capable of when it returns to genocide, maybe?
A culture of death? Makes me wonder if, back in his formative years, Currency Lad switched off the telly before Bob Hawke got to complete his famous speech and heard only, "By 1990, no Australian child will be living--".

Monday, March 06, 2006

ass laughed off

Tim Blair continues to provide a laugh a minute. In this post, he jokes of thirsty East Africans that "at least they won't be travelling far" to get water, because it's raining in West Africa. Hey, why don't we cut Blair's water off and make him walk to Perth for a drink? C'mon, stop whingeing, it's not that far, surely.
Meanwhile, funnily enough, still nothing at Australia's funniest blog about the Prime Minister's latest lack of intelligence. Blair evidently cares more about George Bush's fake turkey than the real one running our country. Gobble, gobble.
Well, I could stay on Tim Blair all day, but my cheeks are starting to hurt from laughing so much, so I'd better go sober up with some more intelligent comment from other bloggers.

Friday, March 03, 2006

john who?

Imagine how much traction this guy would be giving this issue if we were talking about a Labor Prime Minister?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

war on sex

In the comments thread on Tim Blair’s predictable bitchfest about Maureen Dowd, there’s an amusing tangent. A commenter wittily calling himself Christian Bin Laden, writes:

"The thing is there are women in country towns in Aust with little or no access to birth control, family planning services etc…. There are ALOT of real issues for Feminism to fix, but Modo is still fixated on the Monica Lewisky scandal of what 8 - 10 years ago???? Hello!!!"

(Don’t make the mistake of assuming the commenter is a genuine feminist. His or her earlier comment about Dowd was, "You can see by the look on her face what she’s really after is a good thwacking".)
What made me laugh in disbelief was the solution offered by Blair’s US-based blog administrator, Andrea Harris, who promptly responded:

"You mean they [Australian country women] have no access to the word "no"? Heck, this is a problem. They’re the best birth control device in existence, and they’re free. I’ll ship a crate of "noes" down there pronto. Until then, advise the young ladies to use the aspirin treatment (take one aspirin, place between knees, hold knees firmly together to keep the aspirin in place).
PS: you might want to check the closets of your local progressive "feminist" group for the various noes and spines they’ve removed from young women throughout the years in their campaign to make every woman on earth available to any passing male (under pain of being considered "frigid," "virgins," etc.), despite the fact that studies have shown that women who don’t have sex are not, in fact, in danger of dying from some painful disease or going mad. We let this campaign of theft go on for too long in the US and we still have a huge problem with bevies of young spineless women who can’t say "no." Don’t let it happen to your country!

Yeah, well preaching abstinence really works. In Harris's country, as a visiting American academic, Dr Jean Kilbourne recently told Paola Totaro, "at school the only sex education message [children] receive is a ‘just say no’ total abstinence message. That doesn't work, just as it didn't work for drugs. One of every 10 girls under the age of 20 becomes pregnant in the US."
And note, it’s commercial interests selling sex, not feminists.
Sorry, but young Australian women are not spineless if they are having sex. And in any case, who says the women in question are "young"? Older, maybe even (heck!) married women might need access to family planning services. But no, Harris thinks country women should just close their legs. Either that or issue chastity belts to girls on entering puberty, I suppose.
Harris displays a breathtaking ignorance about feminism when she writes that feminism has been about "making every woman available to any passing male". My fellow feminist readers and writers, could I just ask you, exactly how many times have you argued that women should be sex machines and not frigid virgins?
I hope Andrea Harris is doing the gene pool a favor and taking her Aspirin like a good girl each night.

dimple envy

Ha,ha. George Clooney has invoked Tim Blair’s ire by revealing "he is proud to be denounced as unpatriotic for questioning US policy because he wanted to be on "the right side of history". The interview Blair refers to was conducted to promote Clooney’s new films, described in the linked story as an "unflinching look at the ways extremism and political instability are fostered by the interests of big oil". Blair, who would clearly rather flinch, wants to fob Clooney off as just a pretty face.

"George, if you hadn’t won the genetic chin lottery, you’d be on the serving side of a McDonald’s drive-thru. You ain’t in the movies for your mind, boy."

Take that, George! On the chin!
If you read what Clooney actually said, he sounds rational enough. And this is the crux of it:
"If it's an attack, it's because you're asking questions," Clooney said.

The Left isn’t allowed to ask questions, because if they do, they’re "lunar", "vitriolic", "politically correct" and "unpatriotic".
Oh, and now "too good looking", as well. I guess we can live with that last one.