Tuesday, February 28, 2006

puffed up piece

It’s a bit silly to have to point this out to the Australian newspaper’s political editor of all people, but Dennis Shanahan is simply ignoring the fact that only about half the Australian people actually voted for John Howard. For example, I think the following edits are necessary to this paragraph:

John Howard is…someone half the Australian people have elected four times. He is the one half the people identify with and he is the one they half the people trust (even if they disagree with him) to be steady and to admit mistakes [say what?-Ed].
This is the Howard whose record, complete with backflips, blemishes and blots, they half the people accept as legitimate. This is the Howard who has established two-way communication with half the Australian people and who instinctively understands their the concerns, interests and aspirations of half the people like few leaders before him.

When Shanahan writes, "[Howard] has had more vitriol directed towards him than any prime minister since Billy Hughes" it just doesn’t ring true when you remember how much Paul Keating copped. And why must genuine criticism from the Left always be repackaged as "vitriol"? Is our democracy so feeble that the Prime Minister must be regarded as above reproach by all sections of the electorate?
"Much of what is thrown at Howard is, by extension, thrown at the Australian people: they are too stupid to vote the right way, they are racist, they are boorish, apathetic and conservative. The people take exception to this elitist view, and Howard understands them instinctively.

"By extension"? By whose extension except Shanahan’s? I mean, since when is a direct criticism of the Prime Minister’s behavior a criticism of Australians generally? When and where exactly have the political failings of John Howard—Iraq or AWB or ‘children overboard’ or whatever—been attributed as failings of the Australian people? It just doesn’t wash.
"Howard has used hostile media to cement his relationship with the voting public and reinforce the view that he is one of them."

What about the friendly media, like Shanahan himself? Isn’t it useful to Howard to have people like Shanahan endlessly reinforcing stereotypes about the Left, ie. of elitism, political correctness, vitriol? It’s the friendly media who does Howard a huge favor by endorsing his philosophy that it’s best to be pragmatic rather than principled in the real world, so lying, buck-passing and sticking your head in the sand are all acceptable behaviors. The thing is, the Left is not being pointlessly "vitriolic" when it stays on Howard on issues like AWB or Iraq. It is vastly important that Howard is held to account, not least because he only acts for half of us.
"By portraying Howard as a prisoner of his own conservatism, his opponents profoundly underestimate his capacity to change."

Well, I don’t agree that the Left does portray Howard that way. I think the Left is well aware that Howard chops and changes at his leisure. In the example Shanahan gives,
"After years of opposing Medicare and promoting private health insurance, Howard decided that the universal health insurance scheme was a pillar of Australian society that could not be undermined."

I wonder if, after years of opposing the Left, Howard will turn around and "decide" that the Left and "the mob"--for this is what the majority becomes when it disagrees with Howard--was actually right about Iraq. And then I guess we’ll be treated to puff pieces from the friendly media praising Howard for his quiksilver ability to move with the times.

happy birthday two you

Happy birthday to the love of my life, Harley, who turned two on Saturday. Best two years of my life so far, without doubt.

Monday, February 27, 2006

this is our life

Apparently I'm a Fourierian. Alain de Botton explains in the weekend Sydney Morning Herald (no link available) that Charles Fourier was a "fascinating and slightly crazy French political thinker of the 19th century":

In Fourier's ideal world, one might kick off with gardening in the morning, try some politics, shift on to art at about lunchtime, spend the afternoon teaching and wind things up with a go at chemistry at dusk.

Yeah, that's us. Only, over the next month there's going to be a lot of "kicking off with househunting in the morning" and a lot of "packing boxes at dusk". We have to move in three weeks and don't yet have a new address, which is scary. This place is getting bulldozed to make way for another row of holiday apartments. We've had quite a while to find a new place, but unfortunately houses rarely come up for permanent rental around these beaches and when they do, they are usually out of our price range. Fourierians find it a bit hard to scrape together $650 a week for rent.
Anyway, posting will probably continue sporadically for a bit longer. I really miss it...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

we kid you not

Muslims do have too many children, insists rightwing columnist Angela Shanahan, who incidentally has nine children herself (happily, none of whom are Muslim.....yet).

"DANNA Vale's comments this week were a classic case of someone saying something everyone is thinking, but no one will say….Vale stated the obvious: that people who have children will be more numerous in the future than those who don't."

Well, no. What Vale actually stated was that Muslims—specifically--are out-breeding us.
Here, Shanahan begins by making the no-brainer case that Muslims have more children because (wait for it) they begin matching and hatching at a younger age, which is a consequence of their religious faith. It’s funny, actually, because Islamic women are doing exactly what Angela Shanahan has often prescribed for Australian women as the solution to declining fertility: be devout, marry young, have lots of kids, and forget about a career (those are for the menfolk). You’d think she’d be congratulating Islamic women on their lack of emancipation.
But Shanahan is deeply concerned about those fanatically-breeding Muslims. She warns, "Islamic fertility is an issue with economic and security ramifications." That’s right, security ramifications. Think of all those little terrorist babies being created. She spends the rest of her column elaborating about Muslim welfare dependency and entrenched unemployment, crime and potential terrorism.
"One of the biggest problems associated with high Islamic fertility [is] the explosive combination of highly concentrated numbers of young people and almost endemic unemployment."

Note that choice of adjective, "explosive". Somewhat loaded, with its connotations of terrorism, wouldn’t you say?
"If Australian Muslims were a prosperous community this wouldn't matter so much. However, unemployment is now affecting a the third generation. And continuing high fertility means that large numbers of children are growing up in households where no one has work."

She repeatedly states that problems of disadvantage amongst Australian Muslims are caused by high unemployment, yet she does not advocate trying to find ways of improving employment prospects for Muslims. All she offers is the vague conclusion that we need to "remove our PC blinkers and look at this growing, disaffected population of young people." I’m unsure what she would like us to do besides 'look at' (read: watch) these people. Chemically sterilise them, perhaps?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

beyond the vale

This morning Alan Jones announced his support for Danna Vale’s extremist views. If it weren’t for the fact that Jones is generally conceived of as an important conservative opinion-maker to the masses, I would leave my response to epithets hurled at the television set, and move on. But it is disturbing that Jones is intent on validating and legitimising Vale’s statements. He seems to want to paint her as the second coming of Pauline Hanson, someone brave enough to "voice the very question that millions of Australians continue to ask" (ie, ‘will we all end up Muslim?’). Jones first explains that the Danish cartoon controversy proves that Islam is bad, dangerous and spreading, then goes on:

"Well, fast forward to Australia in the last 24 hours and the Federal Liberal MP, Danna Vale, is now under siege by the politically correct brigade because she dared to say that an annual abortion rate of 100,000 could result in Australia becoming a Muslim State in 50 years time. And that's all she did say. If the publishing of the cartoons is defended on the basis of free speech, where do Danna Vale's utterances fit in?"

Well, Alan, since you ask, I think they would best fit into a nice shady spot where the sun doesn’t shine. Certainly in the extremist margins, on the lunatic fringe. And honestly, aren’t we all sick of seeing that ‘politically correct brigade’ tag hauled out every time someone disagrees with a conservative? Are Vale’s colleagues Amanda Vanstone or Jackie Kelly also being ‘politically correct’ when they distance themselves from her views? Or does the nifty little label apply exclusively to the Left?
"The reality is, whether we like it or not, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world…Danna Vale was questioning what kind of nation we would be in 50 years time. But here we go again. Danna Vale is now paraded as the problem."

Jones, we get your drift. Islam heaps bad. Abortion heaps bad. Both killing off White Australia.
So, where does he want to go from here?

Monday, February 13, 2006

kicking back

Greg Sheridan writes that na├»ve members of the public who are shocked by the AWB scandal should face the fact that everyone’s paying bribes to dictators because that’s the way you do business in this world. In other words, we should assume that our companies are acting corruptly overseas. Curiously, the opposite applies to our leaders:

"It would be a very bad day if the Government operated on the basis that our companies were assumed to be corrupt. The Government is entitled to assume that companies are behaving OK."

Um...until they're told to the contrary, what, for the hundreth time? Well, I don't know if I like my nation being run by a bunch of wide-eyed innocents who don't even know as much as Greg Sheridan.

Monday, February 06, 2006

the wheat of the moment

It's interesting to see Tim Blair ("Australia's funniest/most popular blogger!") lambasting Michael Leunig for focusing on the wheat scandal instead of drawing cartoons about the beleaguered Danish cartoonists. Look, the Mohammed cartoons issue is also very interesting and important, but I can't believe Blair can't even manage the slightest bit of outrage at the idea that our Government either knew and lied about it or turned a blind eye to transferring funds to a regime we were risking Australian lives to overthrow. It just makes the mind boggle at how the Government thought it could sweep this one under the carpet. Like Tim Dunlop I was surprised to see Murdoch's usually pro-Howard Australian run such a savage editorial. It made up the pathetic one I read a few weeks ago which lavished praise on John Howard for invading Iraq while niftily avoiding a single mention of the word "war". Instead, it was all about our wonderful "engagement" with Iraq on humanitarian grounds. One thing I've never understood is how the pro-war Right can turn a blind eye to other dictatorships around the world who we really should be invading and liberating. FOr example, when I heard on the news that a million Nigerians had "disappeared" in a year, and that people were "surviving on insects", I had to ask myself why people like Tim Blair weren't trumpeting about how we should invade Nigeria on humanitarian grounds, which is what the Iraq adventure has been post-emptively reframed as by the Right.
The whole thing makes me sick about our Government. And it makes me wonder just exactly what else is going on out there that John Howard doesn't know about, or doesn't care to know about.
By the way, I don't think the famous nickname "Rat" suits Howard nearly so much as "Ostrich" would.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

late for a very important date

Gee, at this rate I may need to rename this site The Quarterly Blog...hopefully it won't come to that. I shouldn't have given myself a deadline though. I think now that my son is entering the fabled Terrible Twos phase, deadlines can be pretty much chucked out the window for the moment. I fell into the trap of thinking, "Sure, maybe some people talk about the Terrible Twos, but my own child is angelic and therefore it's impossible he'd ever drive me to distraction like that." And yet, he made a grown mum cry the other day when for the first time ever he rejected my offer of a cuddle and then appeared to sit back to judge the effect on me (being: bewilderment, despair, guilt and feelings of complete failure as a parent. I had PMT at the time which didn't help).
Sigh. There will be more blogging...eventually.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

i still heart blogging

Lots to come soon, hopefully over the weekend. Meantime, take care everyone.