Friday, April 30, 2004

US soldiers charged over prisoner abuse, while their supervising officers go free

I’m no expert in military/war-crime law, but I always thought that the point of the Nuremberg Trials, et al was to nab those in charge – and the more senior, the better.

Like so much else in the life of GenX, though, it appears that the ground rules have now changed.

That the most senior person to be criminally prosecuted for the abuse is an army reservist should itself be a crime. But out there in US Army Officer Boomer-land (I’m guessing), they’ve sure finessed the art of the pre-emptive-strike-cum-legal-defence. The supervising officers did not – of course – authorise the torture etc. In fact, they did not do anything at all:

"We had no support, no training whatsoever, and I kept asking my chain of command for certain things, rules and regulations, and it just wasn't happening," [army reserve Staff Sergeant Chip] Frederick said.

But hey, that’s the boomer prerogative, isn’t it – getting handsomely paid for doing nothing, while others do the dirty work?

Barry Humphries goes back to Camberwell

"What [the developers] want to do is make money," Humphries said yesterday. "It is vulgar, isn't it? We don't need vulgarity in Camberwell."

There’s something weirdly Oedipal going on here - Barry Humphries’s father Eric was a successful builder* in the style of and same golden era as AV Jennings. And without his dad’s money, needless to say, Barry would have been just a government school** boy who would have fervently aspired to joining the middlebrow middle-classes.

Often incorrectly thought to be the butt of Humphries’s caricatures, the middle-class is actually the comedian’s dead heart; his missing inland sea.

* John Lahr, Dame Edna Everage and the rise of Western civilisation, Uni Calif Press 1992 p.60.

** Barry Humphries attended Melbourne’s probably most elite private school, Melbourne Grammar.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Crisis of the Adjuncts

As a sessional academic, who in any case holds the opinions in Daniel Davies in high regard, I was most interested to read his latest solution to the Adjunct Problem. Unfortunately, in applying a solution that fits only the leafiest of the Ivy League, I think he again misses the mark.

Adjuncts/sessional academics are much less common at elite universities - and if we do temporarily find ourselves on tour at such august institutions, the level of absolute exploitation is considerably lower.

In other words, a large part of the special sort of hell that working as an academic prole consists of is in the overbearing mediocrity of the place - above and beyond all the many other stresses that come with being a second-tier employee. It is thus not the labour supply/demand imbalance that keeps shit jobs at shit institutions still seem relatively desirable; rather, it is the considerable timelag that competent, dedicated academics take to realise this. The shittier the institution (and I work for one of them), the longer it takes to sink in that our invisibility is not even an oversight, much less a ludicrous travesty.

Macquarie Bank to fund Mission Australia's research program

Mission Australia is a fundamentalist Christian organisation, with a large finger in the profitable pie of running Work for the Dole programs, through its Mission Employment subsidiary. Not surprisingly then, it is on excellent terms with PM John Howard.

Also not surprising is the news that Macquarie Bank - which has reaped huge profits from privatisation (of utilities, road and elsewise) projects - should now feel like a kicking a stray $250,000 per year over to Mission Australia.

Privatisation is, of course, essentially a means for the regressive taxation, and so further impoverishment, of the already poor.

For Mission Australia boss Patrick McClure though, "privatisation" is the very game his organisation is in:

Governments are increasingly introducing privatisation of services in areas that were traditionally the domain of government or non-profit organisations. This has occurred already in Australia in health, education and employment services. It is a phenomenon that the not for profit sector has to come to terms with. Non-profit organisations can either choose to compete for contracts with for-profit organisations or retreat from service delivery in these fields.

Hence, the usual disclaimers about the grant not affecting research/editorial independence appear superfluous in this case. Mission Australia is already a fully-fledged think-tank of the Right, operating under the pretext of being a charity concerned with social justice.

The topic of Mission Australia's latest research paper, on mature-age unemployment, provides further proof here. Even as it churns thousands of GenX uni graduates through its proven-to-be-useless, or worse, Work for the Dole programs, the organisation focuses on the demographic for which unemployment is least debilitating (financially and otherwise). And which, by coincidence, Mission Australia has no vested interest in pseudo-"servicing" (the mature-age are exempt from WfD). And also which topic, by further remarkable coincidence, the Australian government currently has a bee in its bonnet about.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

What is it with Australian screen's 70's leftovers and China?

Following a pirate 18 month season of David Williamson's play "The Club" in China, by the Beijing People’s Experimental Theatre* - to which Williamson said, more or less, good luck to 'em - comes this message from over-exposed hack Bryan Brown:

If [piracy] is the way of getting Australian films to the Chinese people and giving them an appetite for what is going on, good.

Is Brown actuallly on the payroll of the Central Committee? Otherwise, I have no idea how he can defend theft of intellectual property (his and others), while (I'm assuming) wailing right alongside David Williamson about how the US-Oz free trade agreement is going to silence Australian voices.

Barry Humphries' 70s caricature, cultural attache Sir Les Patterson, is looking scarily naturalistic and prophetic when you have Bryan Brown not only extolling the virtues of giving his labour away (clearly too much time spent on the taxpayer teat for you, Bryan), but actively reinforcing the worst stereotype of Australians abroad to a puzzled Chinese audience:

(It's) in a tense situation that Australian humour really comes to the fore . . . The most important thing is, we are just a bloody silly race.

We are not "just" anything, Bryan. You, however, are a fuckwit - or just a fuckwit, if you prefer. Feel free to give away your own intellectual property - aka put out the trash - but why poison the well for the next generation as you do so?

* Catherine Armitage "Power struggle in Beijing" The Australian 10 October 2003 (no URL)

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Britain and Saudi Arabia

Yesterday's Oz carried a version of this curious story from the UK Sunday Times; "curious" because of the gulf it reveals between UK and US understandings of the Saudi situation.

As far as the US is concerned, a fundamentalist-led revolution in Saudi Arabia, while hardly welcome, is a long way short of a "threat". The article quotes several sources to the contrary, but these are, with one exception, clearly all Brits who can't let go of their pith helmets*, or else privileged Saudis.

The exception is Daniel Benjamin, a former "official" (no level of seniority is given) in Bill Clinton's National Security Council.

If Saudi Arabia does fall to (even more) fundamentalist fascist psychopaths, I don't think that there'll be too much angst in the US at all. Of course, there will be a significant economic jolt - and not just in terms of oil. Saudi money has been washing through the West for decades, and the loss of fresh injections of it** would hurt quite a bit. But most of all in the London real estate market, methinks.

As for the Saudi oil executive who complained that "America has withdrawn its troops (from Saudi Arabia) and it is not going to go back to support the royal family" - diddums! If things turn really nasty, even the said exec's American citizenship won't necessarily stop him being locked up as an enemy of the state, based on the WWII internment of ethnic-Japanese American citizens.

And seeing the terror-sponsoring Saudi Royals and their hangers on finally get their just desserts is a scenario the average American (and me) would quite enjoy watching, I reckon.

* "It's like being in the film Zulu," he said. "We're just waiting for the hordes to come pouring over the walls." Gimme a break.

** Following a fundamentalist-led revolution, the US would most likely be at war with Saudi Arabia. While I'm no expert on the topic, such a state of war would appear to give the West a fair bit of leeway to (legally) expropriate the Western-invested wealth of the Saudi Royals et al. Alternatively, they won't be needing it where they're (hopefully) going.

What academic circles does David Flint move in?

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and predict that David Flint is finished.

Short of standing as a One Nation candidate, I can't imagine any public or professional role that would have him. He obviously has to go from the ABA, following last night's "Media Watch" revelation of a cringeing letter from Flint (I hope and expect that he is soon stripped of his title as "Professor" - it will be a travesty if he isn't) to Alan Jones in 1999. In legal terms, this letter is more than enough to raise an apprehension of bias, when it comes to Flint's fitness to undertake the subsequent inquiries.

But it is in non-legal terms that Flint's behavious is just spectacularly wrong. For starters, he actually kept a copy of the incriminating letter on file on the ABA*!

Even more incredulous is Flint's explanation of the letter's context:

"My recollection is that I was invited to chair a seminar on international trade and the expert on international trade who gave the lead speech whom I introduced caused considerable interest when towards the end of his speech he said that ... there's one person you should be listening to who has a particular view who is very well researched in this area, he takes a different view from most of the commentators and that is Mr Alan Jones.

The world's first-ever recorded conjoint use of the phrases "very well researched" and "Alan Jones", I believe.


David Flint has just dug himself into a deeper hole, as a result of his being interviewed on "The 7.30 Report" . The "expert on international trade" now has morphed into an unnamed (!), high profile media figure, who apparently sung Jones's praises at an international trade seminar.

According to Flint, the context of the letter in question was a passing-on to Jones of this media figure's praise for him. As to why there was not the remotest allusion to this scenario in the letter, Flint's explanation is that the leaked letter was but one of a series he wrote to Jones, with the series overall providing the context. Oh, and unfortunately, every other letter in the said series is no longer extant.

Sure, David - I'm sure the dog ate the rest of them.

Further Update 28 April 2004

David Flint's game plan is all but revealed in today's SMH - his non-renewable chairmanship of the ABA expires in October. The rules of what has become a Great Australian Tradition thus apply - a loose cannon exec is allowed to serve out their final months, even as they fire a crescendo of ever-more irresponsible and ludicrous volleys. The reason? Sacking the exec may prove expensive, due to the risk of even the most-justifiably sacked such person launching vexatious legal action.

This Great Australian Tradition is, needless to say, pissweak.

* This must follow, unless MW's Deep Throat is a source from deep inside the Jones camp.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Anzac Day thoughts

A couple of letters in today’s Age sum up my reservations about the sacred spot Anzac Day has in Australia’s national psyche.

Genevieve Rogers reminds us of the ironic turnaround in the fortunes of the Day over the last 30 years or so – ironic because the current juxtaposition of Anzac hoopla with the Iraq war seems not only (bizarrely) appropriate, but as if it it were always so. In reality, of course, “Gallipoli” the destination is now just another de riguer pit-stop, with cheap piss and lodgings, for tertiary-educated GenX Australians on a reverse migratory path back to the Old World. From full moon parties on a Thai beach, to the dawn service at Gallipoli – life’s just one big orgy of forgetting (and war vets hardly have a monopoly on that).

Meanwhile, Dallas Fraser, a vet, asks “What about the civilians?”. Fair call. If you stripped Anzac Day, pre mid-1990s, back to its bare bones, all you would get is a bit of homoerotic bonding, combined with the dubious advocacy of large amounts of alcohol as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, at least on one day of the year.

Fuck that, and fuck the new kinder, gentler Anzac Day. And especially fuck the boomers, whose platitudinous opposition to the Vietnam War has seen the post-1975 world disintegrate into a state of near-continuous carnage, while the official line remains incapable of admitting this fact, thanks to the pervasiveness of the boomer melioration'n'triumphalism global hegemon.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

When I see a balloon animal being created, I reach for my revolver

In dubious proof that maybe the Muslim world is different from the West, comes this news of a British peace protester, kidnapped by rebels in Iraq, winning over her captors with some street theatre.

Were I one of the captors, I would have instinctively reached for my revolver, or more likely, machine gun the first moment a flaccid balloon was brandished.

Sorry, but not sorry, to any kids who may be reading this – Paul Watson admits he is probably the world’s grumpiest curmudgeon since WC Fields.

Generally, the arts are a good thing. So too is cleanliness. I am therefore not against theatre – or windscreen washing – except where they are performed in a public place not designed or designated for that purpose.

Perhaps there should be some such public places set up, where annoying adults – too cheap to buy or rent private space for their business (like everyone else does) – can ply their trade in a completely unfettered manner. But for now, there aren’t.

So far, I’ve been able to restrain my homicidal impulses against street performers and intersection windscreen washers by passive avoidance. Woe betide them, however, if I ever become a kidnapper – and my quarry tries to break the ice in that claustrophobic room . . .

Friday, April 23, 2004

Did Mark Latham plagiarise a Bill Clinton speech?

That this “news” lead last night’s ABC TV news (and then was extensively further raked over in The 7.30 Report) is abundant confirmation that political debate is this country is (i) pointless or (ii) non-existent (take your pick).

Despising Latham and PM Howard equally (more or less), I make this point in a strictly non-partisan way. Which is not to say that I don’t care.

For starters, Latham’s “No child will be without an X-box by 2010” speech did have a bleeding obvious angle for the government to attack it on. For news-byte impact, all that needed to be done was to recall Bob Hawke’s infamously unmet promise that “No Australian child will be living in poverty by 1990”. More substantively, at least two of Latham’s sweeping promises are utterly, manifestly hole-ridden.

Every 17-year-old must be ready to extend their education into post-secondary qualifications.” Oh yeah? Apart from the absolute stupidity of the idea (there’s already tens of thousands of unemployed uni graduates out there), who’s going to pay for it? A HECS-style system would be economically-nonsensical, because if everybody is getting post-secondary qualifications, there is little or no private benefit in a single individual racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

Just as stupid is Latham’s “Every 10-year-old must be able to log into the Internet” promise. We can at least make some allowance for Bill Clinton’s similar, May 1997 promise (about “Every 12-year-old”) for being caught up in the hype around the then still-early days of the Internet, but in 2004, the Net is just another text-delivery medium. Meaning that kids need to be able to read (and write) to use it. Not that Mark Latham knows or cares, apparently – sustainable funding of public schools is not on his florid wish-list.

In other words, zero points to the government for a tangential and piss-weak attack on a full-of-holes piece of Latham policy.

And zero points to Labor and Bob McMullen too, for having the nerve to counter-attack using a stale, “I know you are . . .” argument that was itself plagiarised. As discussed here* in March 2003, John Howard’s supposed plagiarism from 'The Threatening Storm' by Keith Pollock was a non-event, despite Media Watch’s beat-up to the contrary on 17/3/2003. Seriously, Bob if you’re reduced to re-hashing serial plagiarist David Marr’s leftovers, then you can’t get any lower.

Except, perhaps if you’re the ABC, which wasted tens of thousands of your and mine tax dollars on televising this whole, pointless piece of crap, cum cynical diversion.

P.S. The Age, as would be expected, runs with the story today as a simple re-hash of last night’s ABC. Bob McMullen’s own plagiarism is not picked-up on, despite its being discoverable, via Google, in five seconds flat.

Double discredit to The Age, too, for using the "news" to run with what amounts to a free ad for Don Watson, and his multinational publishers:

Mr Watson said it had become common for politicians to re-use jargon and hack phrases - and journalists were not picking them up on it.

Touché, Don. Does the category of “journalist” include political Op Ed writer (and apparently close friend of yours) Michelle Grattan? If so, don’t you perhaps have an itsy-bitsy problem with Grattan writing a nakedly unbalanced pseudo-news item on your behalf? Too busy flogging books to write a letter to the ed, Don? Or is Michelle such a byline-whore these days that she feels justified in throwing basic journalistic standards to the winds?

* Post is reproduced here:

{{{{{Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Media Whatcha?

Last night’s ABC TV Media Watch nicely followed up the previous Monday’s 4 Corners [see 10 March post, below] in the “Serve ‘em up dubious bombast” stakes. Three minutes or so were given over to showing that PM John Howard had stated, during last week’s address to the nation, three colourful examples of how awful Iraq’s criminal justice [cough, cough] system was – with his obvious (almost verbatim) source being unmasked as a US-authored book. “Plagiarism”, sayeth Media Watch presenter David Marr.

For a lawyer and writer of Marr’s calibre, this degree of misinfor-pinion is baffling. Reporting news is not just a legal, formalist defence to breach of copyright; it is elementary common-sense that the practice of journalism (and indeed of human communication in any form) could not take place without facts – of which “news” is a major, and increasing, sub-set – being public domain. Of course, in most cases when news is made material or disseminated, some value-adding to the bare facts has taken place, ensuring that the news program, as such, is copyrightable. (A world of only bare facts would be unbearably repetitive, for all its utopian ownerlessness).

Did John Howard cross this fact/expression line, so free-riding on the US author’s ostensible keyboard labour, of dressing up three Iraqi laws in purpler prose? My own answer is a clear cut “no” – as stated, the PM’s three examples were certainly colourful (which quality, in fairness to Marr, is not often to be found in legal pronouncements generally), but that this colour came all the way from the source – Iraq.

Terror, Mr Marr, needs no intermediary to make it sound worse.

Paul Watson 12:44 PM }}}}

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Saudi Arabia, oil prices, and the US election

Futher to this it seems that Bob Woodward has lately whipped-up a bit of an oil-gate, with Prince Bandar promising George Bush that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices in the months before the US election.

Again, kneejerk resort to party-politics is diverting the real issue here. Face it, America - the real problem/outrage is that Prince Bandar has the capacity (or not) to deliver on his promise. Think about it, next time you're filling your gas tank with Saudi oil*.

* Jingle: "Comes with Strings Attached!"

Generation ecstasy or Generation HECS?

There's a dangerous new drug in town, and it's called . . . shopping. Well, the supposed comparative affluence of today's twenty-somethings seems to be of extraordinary import to Julia Baird, and now Emma-Kate Symons.

Apart from challenging the dodgy empirics of twenty-something affluence - unemployment has in fact remained stubbornly high for teens and early 20s - there is a weird selectivity in moral outrage going on here.

So the kids are doing more stuff at home - and this is a bad thing? Oh right, I get it. Their boomer parents are usually out on the town, and would prefer it that their kids be "supervised" by nightclub bouncers, et al, rather than be home alone and caned - among the kilims, the Peter Booths, and the Cloudy Bay.

And the kids are taking pleasure now, rather than investing in their future - "material or social or emotional." As to what "investment" in one's "social or emotional" future consists of, I haven't a clue. And I don't see how, say, snogging complete strangers under the influence of e might detract from such an 'investment", in any case. (Or are we born with a pre-allocated number of pashes we can give out in a lifetime?).

The avoidance of "material" investment does hang out to dry today's twenty-somethings, admittedly. Yes, party drugs are expensive ($35 - $50 per e), and the money for them has to come from somewhere. Wouldn't it be better spent buying real-estate - right at the current very top of the market? Yeah, right. Twenty-somethings are as rational economic creatures as anyone else, and they react according to price signals. Boomer-centric asset price bubbles, and regressive taxation of the young - through HECS and through the private health insurance lifetime rating system - sends out a clear message: Pleasure, here and now, is the only investment worth having.

P.S. How many twenty-somethings are this pool of 335 high-paid bludgers? "None" would be my reasonable guess.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Stupid militant dykes

I'm still not sure whether a letter in today's Age from Belinda Sweeney could be serious:

Sweeney writes:

[Senator Brian Greig's] most significant error is his claim that both homosexuality and transsexualism are biological. Such "scientific" conclusions have been highly contested, among scientists as well as in the lesbian and gay community. For example, many lesbians (particularly lesbian feminists) argue that homosexuality is a political choice. Others wish to challenge the contention that lesbians and gays should be accepted by society because they are "abhorrent", rather than because they are different by choice.

I have no idea what she means in the last line, but her implication is that people aren't "abhorrent" (query is this is different from non-scare quoted abhorrent) by choice. I would have thought exhibit number one of a voluntarily abhorrent human was Belinda Sweeney.

I don't care what you do in bed, Belinda - and I don't care about your politics either, other than when you start issuing Taliban-like decrees that politicise the private. To invoke an old feminist war-cry: "Keep your filthy fundamentalism off my body".

Monday, April 19, 2004

Shock: Paul Watson agrees with Andrew Norton

While I find the term “luvvies” offensive, I don’t disagree with the remainder of these observations on last night’s green-and-gold ribbon Logies protest.

In fact I’d go further, and say that the performers and producers should have been wearing black armbands – not to signify the potential for the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement to decimate quality Australian TV, but to recognise that most Australian TV is already utterly, irredeemably shit.

This is not meant as a cheap shot at our performers and producers (and there are also exceptions in any case, like “Kath and Kim” and “CNNN”). But there is a level of public ignorance, bordering on deliberate misinformation, about how the local content rules work, and how Australian television drama is financed. The ABC and SBS aside, for-Oz-eyes-only TV drama is simply not a viable proposition – what the commercial networks pay for the show does not come anywhere near to covering production costs. As result, overseas sales are part-and-parcel of the whole show, and not (as the public would generally presume) the icing on the cake.

With international pre-sale usually goes some editorial control. This is certainly the case with "Neighbours" (over which the Brits have script veto rights), and is also the case, I’m assuming, with “McLeod's Daughters” – which is financed by the Hallmark empire, of soppy-moments fame.

At some point, these dramas must lose their Australian-ness. As I’ve previously said, I’ve never been able to watch “Neighbours”, because of its very un-Australian (I would have thought) humourlessness (compared to, inter alia “Kath and Kim”). Ditto for “McLeod's Daughters” – a soapy shocker that is reduced to relying on props from the proverbial Gold Coast tourist shop (Drizabones, Akubras) to imprint a veneer of Australian-ness on it.

The result of this unhappy marriage of local content rules, and international co-financing of “Australian” television drama is output of predictable, blanket mediocrity. I say not a single such show is worth saving – death to the lot of them, and long live sustainable, home-grown Aussie narrative.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

From the “I told you so!” files

There is nothing more satisfying for a crackpot than to see that another person has – quite independently, mind – picked up on their theories.

Thus, triumph no. 1: my “Summer of 1979” theory, with its twin fundamentalist revolutions of Thatcher/Reagan and Khomeini is echoed in a new book by Francis Wheen. Even more gratifyingly, the reviewer of Wheen’s book “How mumbo-jumbo conquered the world: a short history of modern delusions” doesn’t mince words about the Watson/Wheen theory:

Of course, the new Thatcher-Khomeini turning point is rubbish.

This is “gratifying” because the reviewer, a novelist called Peter Temple, is a fuckwit of the highest order. I am able to confidently say this, despite being totally unfamiliar with Temple and his work, on the basis of this:

Wheen is a man of the old-fashioned Left: sceptical, secular, suspicious of capitalism, a believer in the possibility of progress and human improvement - much like Australia's Phillip Adams but with a disciplined mind, a sparkling prose style, and no disfiguring camel hump of ego.

Hint to Peter Temple – don’t ever again try killing two Phillip Adamses with one stone, as it were. (When you do, the perfect ricochet-thickness hide of one only serves to deepen the wound of the poppy-lopping attack on the other).

For my triumph no. 2, 40 y.o. former publisher turned first-novel author Sophie Cunningham has chosen to run with (again I assume coincidentally) my Day That JFK Died date-of-birth for the last baby boomer. Or at least that’s how I read the author’s decision to give the protagonist in “Geography” that auspicious date of birth*. The novel’s protagonist is most definitely a boomer because she has some kind of a life crisis in her late 30s after a high-flying career, as a result of which she turns to Buddhism.

If the protagonist was GenX, of course – even (or so goes my theory) born one day later – a high-flying career would probably not have happened in the first place. And in any case, few GenXers need the assauging, modular precepts of Buddhism in order to be relieved of their attachment to material things. Courtesy of four decades of boomer subjugation, most of GenX has been, ahem, pre-emptively relieved of the risk of any such attachment.

* Cath Kenneally “Mapped out: the anxieties of generation sex” The Australian 17 April 2004 (no URL)

Saturday, April 17, 2004

The strange mind of Julia Baird

I’ve blogged, in passing, on this SMH Op Ed writer once before, but the combined effect of her last two columns on me is such that she merits her own headline on this occasion.

Last week Julia, a GenXer, penned this Ode to Grown-up Behaviour. Such behaviour is not something I am automatically against; indeed, I have made a point of encouraging baby boomers to do it, for quite some time now. Somehow though, Julia, has got herself tied-up in an inter-generational time machine, and has taken on for herself (but also on behalf of her generation), the many and varied failings of the boomers.

Thus, GenX is the “me generation” !!! (Seriously Julia, where were you in the eighties?). And Gen X apparently has a greater disposable income and freedom from sexual taboos than the boomers. Heard of (i) call centres and (ii) AIDS, Julia? Even better, though, is this unintentionally hilarious plugging of a new book by fellow GenXer Ethan Watters.

In his 30s, Watters set out to understand why he was still single and what his generation was doing wrong. He discovered instead what it was doing right. In the desert at an arts festival with 20,000 other people, he had an epiphany.

Yeah, Ethan (and Julia) – I remember when I had my first e, too.

Today, Julia displays a worrying lack of consistency with this line:

What Sarah Marbeck and the sleazy senorita think they have to gain by publicising their stories of sex with a British icon - apart from money - is mystifying.

“Apart from money”??? Look, Julia, it’s one thing to pillory GenX for being shallow and materialistic (or as much as they can be on call centre incomes of $30k). But then to turn around and casually dismiss a few hundred grand as a trifle for a GenXer – well, methinks you’ve been to too many Sydney dinner parties.

Oh, and FYI, desert arts festival “epiphanies” don’t come cheap, either. Maybe such self-enlightenment – no more no less – is simply what David Beckham’s (alleged) mistresses wanted the cash for.

And maybe you can have your very own pricey epiphany too one day, Julia.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Can comedy be a nice little earner?

As Stuart Koop has noted apropos of visual artists, the Australia Council has – for reasons best known to it – highlighted the state of poverty most Australian creatives (“knowledge producers”) live in with a series of glibly-titled reports, including Don't give up your day job [2003], But what do you do for a living? [1994] and When are you going to get a real job? [1989].

For comedians – especially Gen X ones – even the phrase “day job” tends to be a grating, 1960s anachronism; suggesting, as it does, that there is some kind of acceptable fall-back position if the “art” side of things doesn’t work out. Oh yeah? Look into the eyes of call-centre worker-cum-comedian Luke Whitby (who would be on about $30k for his day job) and try to express in words what you see.

Lacking the option of a cushy day job, like Marcel Duchamp’s 49 years a librarian before he became an artist, Gen X creatives have to sink or swim, like probably no other generation before them.

Which is another way of observing, without apology, that today’s best-paid Gen X creatives cannot be qualitatively differentiated from the broader pile of slime that is Oz showbiz at large. Sorry, Rove McManus, a new entry to the BRW “Top 50 Entertainers” list with a 2003 income of $7.5 million, but you really are up there, or down there (take your pick) with John Farnham and The Wiggles.

Thus, please do give up your day job, Rove – you really are better than them. And in time, you’ll probably learn to be funny again. If you need help remembering, try watching some old tapes of yourself on “The Loft”. Or even better, try watching the pants-wettingly funny Chris Lilley (a.k.a. “Mr G” and “Extreme Darren”) on the otherwise-ordinary new “Hamish and Andy” show on Seven.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

“Welfare State”?

Lately, the Oz seems to have been running another one of its campaigns-on-an-issue. This time, the theme is “Welfare State”. As would probably be expected, the CIS's Peter Saunders gets a pretty good run – his tired old invocation of the US, with its ultra-low minimum wage as having lead to much lower unemployment, is left unchallenged. (Of course, the US unemployment rate is currently higher than Australia’s).

As for the rest, the sentiments may be different, but the clutching on to false pieties is the same. Two men, one 47 and the other 49, are extensively vox-popped. “Bill”, the 47 y.o., who is on a disability pension (not the dole) hits tabloid paydirt with this one:

But if the young people and people like myself really tried and got off their behinds, you know, there is work out there for people to do.*

“Bill” has put his money where his mouth is – well, sort of – by working as a $6 per hour trolley-rustler at a local supermarket. What was that about Australia’s minimum wage being too high, Peter Saunders? Oh, that’s right – if someone’s mankey enough to be on the disability pension, but un-mankey enough to be pushing supermarket trolleys around, then it should be anything goes, eh? Yet another win-win situation for the boomer-ocracy – one less award-wage job, and a bit of extra smokes’n’booze money for “Bill” (who, because he is on the disability pension, and not the dole, gets to keep almost all his extra earnings).

And so he should, apparently according to Labor family services spokesman Wayne Swan, who claims as vilification the notion that recipients of the disability pension are there because it is cushier than, and pays better than the dole:

The growth in disability pension has been from mature-age women. They are people, like nurses, whose bodies have worn out. It is far from being the stereotypical lazy boozed-up male workers.

Oh really? So nursing has suddenly become a bone-crunching occupation over only the last decade or two? I’m not saying nurses don’t work bloody hard – they do, and I know this because my mum was one – but this fact doesn’t give Wayne Swan license to invent a whole new sub-pandemic of occupational disease.

The truth, of course, is that these days just about every baby boomer wants to retire early. And why wouldn’t they? With house price inflation having made their wages of recent years look distinctly ordinary in comparison, all it takes is a little co-payment from the government, courtesy of a sympathetic doctor (= the disability pension), and early retirement’s suddenly very do-able.

Don’t ask me why “the stereotypical lazy boozed-up male worker” isn’t supposed to be eligible for this. Chris Cole, 49 y.o., is on the dole (not the disability pension), and looks to be the hard-drinking sort. He also looks like a bloke who (i) wouldn’t be chirping ecstatically to a newspaper about getting paid $6 an hour, and (ii) doesn’t own his own place.

Which, in a nutshell, is the trouble with the dole. It catches only the most deserving – and then treats them as the least.

* Rebecca Di Girolamo “Pensioner Bill works it out, day by day” The Australian 14 April 2004 (no URL)

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Keep your hands off my slut

Leslie Cannold asks:

What's the difference between a woman who "gets with" a guy because he's high status, and a bloke bedding a woman because he likes her breasts, her long legs or the winning way she laughs at his unfunny jokes.

Kerrr-rist, Leslie! The “men are sluts, too, ya know!” argument is as old and hoary as any “unfunny joke” a bloke could possibly be telling these days.

Men are sluts, whose inherent appetite for casual sex is limitless. Exhibit number 1: Gay men. At times in my life (blush), I’ve been a gay slut. Erica Jong may be referring to womanhood generally (though I doubt it) when she claims there to be no such thing as the zipless fuck, but she definitely doesn’t speak for men.

And as for Cannold’s “What's the difference” question, I see it as far from rhetorical. Yes, morality doesn’t – or shouldn’t – throw around loose words like “slut” at a woman who has casual sex with a male footballer or muso. “Stalker” is a much more accurate term.

So keep your greedy mitts off the word “slut”, Leslie. While we blokes don’t exactly own the phrase, we reserve the right to defend it against unfair encroachment. If stalkers are sluts, then the bar of slut-dom has just been raised to ludicrous heights – who ever heard of an ultra-selective slut?

Iraq and kidnappings

In a development only surprising for the fact that it took the locals so long to cotton-on, kidnapping of Westerners (to use the term loosely) has lately become a favoured form of muscle-flexing for B-list Iraqi terrorists. These are guys who want to be on TV just as much as any brainwashed al Qaida nutbar, but who would be equally happy foraging among a looted convoy of kitchenware. Oh, and they probably aren't busting to die, as suicide robots, in the forseeable future.

Despite its street-crime actus reus, kidnapping can easily become high-production value terrorism. Harrowing video footage of the hostages is television gold, of course, but this is only one branch of a whole televisual franchise whose format was pioneered at Dawson's Field, Jordan in September 1970.

Playing the nationality card – letting the Chinese go, for example, but holding on to the rest, presumably for being proxy, if not actual Americans – allows what is fundamentally the same footage to be repurposed around the world; so drawing up and out whatever visceral response is required from the couch occupants in front in that country’s TVs. Even if this express delivery of manufactured (but oh-so-real) emotion into a nation’s lounge-rooms doesn’t lead to actual negotiation between that nation and the terrorists – in September 1970, it sure did – some other kind of negotiation, of exchange has clearly gone on between producer and viewer.

Dawson's Field was ultimately extremely good television - but not because of a billion dollars of aircraft being unexpectedly blown up. Rather, it was its playing of us-and-them-ism to the nth degree, like any successful reality TV format does.

The lesson of Dawson's Field is clear – or at least it should be. Any negotiation is complicity. Sorry, hostages – I’m changing channels. I’m not even sure that it is crueller to keep you alive, and on an Xtreme Big Brother, than it would have been to just kill you upfront in the old-fashioned way. Either way, it’s a helluva way to go. And either way, I’m not watching.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

My annual anti-Phillip Adams rant

Unlike another high-profile Oz blogger (whose wisdoms I make it a policy never to refer to) going at Phillip Adams - or at least going at him other than very occasionally - lacks any sense of sport for me, at all. The guy is just so self-evidently a monstrous fuckwit that . . . well, what else really needs to be said?

Checking my archives*, I realised that it was just over a year ago that I last mentioned the name of the eternal sophomore so giving me leave, as it were, to now have a fresh spray.

And what an auspicious day to do so, to, with this piece that veers seamlessly from 1972 to the present day. I think that Geoff Honnor does I pretty good job on this front, overall, but I don't feel he does justice to the Wacky Science aspect of the story.

If Adams is to be believed, one of Australia's hitherto most-esteemed scientists, Sir Macfarlane Burnet, was madder than Doc Evatt on a bad day.

Burnet was apparently unenthusiastic about wind energy, but not in that spoiling-my-sea-change-view kinda way, or anything even close. Instead: "If you had enough windmills to make a significant contribution, they'd chew up the winds - and there's no way of calculating the environmental risks."

Ditto for Sir Nutbag on tidal power: "The Earth's oceans and the moon form a locked system. Take power from the oceans and you'd bring the moon closer and closer to the Earth. A few inches at the beginning, adding up to miles. Do you want the moon to crash on us?"

For whatever reason, Burnet apparently regarded solar power as exempt from this zero-sum closed system. Thus, a large solar panel in the Nullarbor would capture sufficient energy to run the entire planet, but without "chewing up" too much of the sun; with such "chewing up" presumably triggering the aggrieved sun to make a gradual cosmic beeline towards the earth, in search of its purloined rays. But this is not, I repeat NOT a risk of solar power, according to Burnet.

So sleep tight tonight, kiddies out there with solar hot water systems on their roofs. The Easter Bunny/Bilby will be swinging by, on time and on target. And yes, sometimes there's a cost, a consequence of too much "chewing up" of stuff, but don't let that worry your fat little faces tomorrow morning - I know I won't!

* Grrr! I can't find the piece (or in fact any of my old stuff) on Blogspot's archives - nor on the Google cache. For posterity (maybe), I copy it here:

{{{{ Friday, March 28, 2003
What's in this for me?

Coinciding nicely with fourteen years olds taking to street en masse to protest the Iraq war, eternal sophomore Phillip Adams (see my Sunday March 9 post), flogged the same cause in print on the same day, and also seemingly allowed his hormones to impair his judgement in the process.

Or at least, this is the kindest way I can find to describe Adams's badly-misfired, ostensibly-rhetorical question: "What's in it for us?" (re Australian military Iraq involvement).

There's no URL for his Op Ed piece in The Australian 26 March 2003, but a few of today's letter writers can be viewed having a go at Adams.

In the manner of an inexperienced cross-examiner, Adams obviously presumes to know the answer as he asks the question. Apart from the dubious "us" he refers to (is Adams talking about all his fellow Australians worth $50m+, or just the (much smaller) gang who have accrued their mega-wealth principally by milking the "public teat", as one of today's letter writers put it), there is an ugly, neo-Shylock-ian sting (self-inflicted, of course) in the question's tail. If Adams doesn't mean to be talking about money here, what else is on his bargaining table- Australia's buying a sort of protection from Al Qaeda, by not joining the allies in Iraq? How grotesquely mercantilist does this man go?

For those interested in the life and mediocrity of Phillip Adams, there's no biography yet available (which is a bit strange for an Australian with 30+ years in the media/cultural industries under his belt). In terms of Adams and the "public teat", there's some useful information in Anne Coombs "Adland" William Heinemann 1990, pb. As "Adland" is not indexed, Adams-hunters may want to go straight to pp 34-35, 51-56, and 86-92.

Apart from having long had the self-serving knack of convincing governments of all persuasions to funnel money into things worthily vague ("Life. Be in it" and the "Commission for the Future" being just two examples of Adams's taste for expensive, expansive - and commissionable - projects), Adams emerges as a quite shameless political powerbroker in the 80s, one of an ilk now most associated with Sydney shock jocks. And, despite all his pseudo-left bleatings, Adams' most distinguished contribution of all to Australian life and industry may well end up being the generous terms he negotiated for an exit from an ad agency that he then co-owned (and that he had originally been made an equity partner of, almost as soon as he walked into the already-established outfit). The mother of all severance packages and money for jam - nice precedent Adams set almost two decades ago, for generations of spivs to come.

Finally, in the best Adams tradition, of haute jingoism mixed with "there'sgotta be a bob in this for me", I' like to offer my readers a new national anthem (or at least the start thereof):

Australians all, let us re-voice -
What' in this shit for us?
With brickies and bosses all in cahoots
Our home is girt by loot
Our land abounds in ad campaigns
Of duty, balloons and tack
In history's amnesia, let's ask who's gonna please ya
Advance Australia Back

P.S. Not actually sure where the "bob" will be in this for me. I'd feel like a bastard taking royalties from school assemblies etc singing this. Perhaps if, on the strength of these inspiring lyrics, "we" established a taxpayer-funded "Commission for the Past", and I was made its foundation chairperson.

- Paul Watson 4:02 PM }}}}}}

Friday, April 09, 2004

Monash students update: Victoria Police invent new crime

With their creative powers possibly being unleashed by widespread (and well-documented) illegal drug-merchandising in recent years, Victoria’s police now have a side-line in inventing new crimes. Indeed, they have seemingly taken to it like a Carlton football player, pilling-off his dial, mistakes the word “recovery” for its non-workplace* meaning.

Unlawful imprisonment (also called false imprisonment) is, if a crime at all, a common-law one of extreme obscurity. My criminal law textbook mentions it in a single para, before moving on to the closely-related, but more serious, and usually-codified, crime of kidnapping.

Which isn’t to say that unlawful/false imprisonment is totally uncommon – but as a tort, not a crime. Funnily enough, almost all claims in tort of unlawful/false imprisonment are against the police.

In other words, the police’s investigation of the Monash students for unlawful/false imprisonment is an appalling waste of taxpayer resources. If those “imprisoned” by the Monash students have a grievance, then they are free to make a civil claim against their “captors”. It is not for the police to provide free resources towards such a civil claim, or (more likely) to invoke a sham prosecution, with zero prospect of success, mainly to muzzle and/or sidetrack future debate about an issue of paramount public importance.

* I can’t resist this off-topic aside: where the hell has AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou been working all his life? Demetriou told radio, apropos of Angwin and his mate hardly being able to keep their eyes open, or stand up unsupported at the now-infamous "recovery":

"It's unacceptable in the first instance for two players, or two people, to turn up at a workplace in a shocking state. I mean that's just unacceptable and it's reprehensible."

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

NSW stamp duty: “The goalposts have been moved”, cry boomers

For probably the first time, an Australian government has made a decision that unequivocally benefits the young more than the old. For decades it’s been the other way round, of course. So when some modest, and actually age-neutral changes to NSW stamp duty were announced yesterday – changes which eased affordability for first-home buyers, and decreased affordability for property investors, various venomous and hyperbolic reactions from boomers and their ilk in today’s SMH serve only to confirm my worst prejudices.

Personal Finance Editor Annette Sampson says that, with the changes, it is now time for would-be investors in Sydney residential property to think about investing interstate or in shares instead. Hardly a shocking situation, you might think – you know with those new-fangled railroad shares that were all the go in the 1850s but are now worth shit, did someone move the goalposts in the meantime? Hardly.

Undeterred by reason, Sampson both takes the changes very personally and relishes the opportunity to invoke of bit a schooldays psycho-drama; the changes thus “clearly . . . put out the not-welcome mat for property investors”. Gee, what are they going to next to property investors, Annette – call their mothers mean names? Grow up, boomers – and if you’re “already [coping] with low rental returns and muted prospects of capital growth” then maybe you need to face the fact that you’re financially fucked. In which case, don’t only not expect a shoulder to cry on, from my POV, but a huge and joyous “I told you so!”, such as your brow-beaten parents have not dared to give you since you were teenagers. And no apologies for this latest, gratuitous psycho-drama, either – you started it, Annette!

Similarly to Annette Sampson’s tantrum reversion, president of the Real Estate Institute of NSW Rowen Kelly is being Oedipally oxymoronic in saying that the changes would hit "mums and dads investors". Huh? Is s/he talking about "mums and dads” (= people on ordinary incomes) or is s/he talking about property investors (which, in Sydney usually equals sitting on a minimum total million dollars of housing, spread across two or more holdings)?

Finally, we have this petty piece of sniping by Property Editor Jonathan Chancellor:

Some commentators suggest the 165,000 first home buyers who have taken $1.6 billion in grants since July 2000 have soaked up demand for first home purchases. It may be some time before they become a vital, normal market presence again.

In other words, GenX can’t be expected to react as any other set of human beings would, and to now adjust their budget big-tickets in the light of house-buying just becoming cheaper for them (and, conversely renting probably more expensive). No, to even acknowledge that would be too close to chalking up a “win” for GenX, wouldn’t it, Jonathan?

To which I say, after 22 years of having the goalposts moved on me throughout my adult life – via unemployment, uni fees, and passenger cars-of-mass-destruction for starters, it’s about time we scored a win. It’s small and it’s late, but a win is a win.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

How dumb is the pensioner lobby?

The airline e-ticket is not that hard to understand. No, David Skidmore, spokesman for the Combined Pensioner and Superannuants Association, it is nothing to do with being “computer literate” – you come out with an e-"ticket" when you book on the phone, as well as on the Net, of course. You can also get an e-"ticket" down at your local travel agent (of which more about shortly).

With this in mind, I have no idea what Mr Skidmore means by "A lot of people still find it convenient to get their ticket in person." Convenient? Maybe he means “take up a good chunk of one's empty day, by going along to a travel agency shopfront”? As such shopfronts are usually in high-rent (= low parking availability) locations, a pensioner keen on such a pointless outing can only add to the experience, by making sure they drive there – knowing they’ve got literally all day to find a car-park will make them feel pleasantly detached from the hundreds of other drivers doing desperate laps. But I’m sure all those other drivers, unlike the lone pensioner, aren’t there for the “convenience”. More likely, they actually need something, like food. Who would have thought?

In fairness to the pensioner lobby, and particularly in view of their apparently being co-opted (or vice versa) by the travel agents’ lobby, the new $55 fee for a paper ticket may seem a bit punitive – assuming that you know nothing about the basic economics of the airline industry. So called “paper” tickets are actually spat out of one of four global proprietary computer systems, called GDSs. The GDS oligopoly has been making money hand over fist for three decades, by taking hefty commissions for using its IT infrastructure to (i) book and (ii) print the ticket. These commissions were/are in addition to travel agents’. The e-"ticket" has little to do with saving on paper/postage, and everything to do with saving on GDS commissions, by by-passing the GDS systems (travel agents still make commissions on e-tickets, AFAIK).

Thus, the award for absolute rock-bottom dumbness in this story has to go to Australian Institute of Travel and Tourism federal council president James Pegum, who said, apropos of the $55 paper-ticket fee:

"I can't understand why they are doing it”.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Has Brendan Nelson taken up my “degree buy-back” idea?

Last year I wrote this open letter. I had more-or-less given up on it, until I heard Education Minister Brendan Nelson speak these words the other day (quoted on JJJ “Hack” 31 March 2004):

"Some of these students that are protesting today, that are looking forward to high-income earning careers with pretty-much guaranteed employment, might they give just a little bit of thought to struggling families that are trying to get their kids into TAFE".

Whaddaya know? Brendan Nelson has uttered the g-word: guaranteed [employment for uni graduates]. Yes, I know that he qualified it with the prefix “pretty-much”, but as any law student could tell you, there’s no such thing as going a little bit guarantor – something’s either a fully-enforceable guarantee, or it’s a nothing. In some cases of ill-considered guarantees, the promise-giver may be able to back out of liability by resort to equitable doctrines like undue influence, but for a man in Dr Nelson’s position, this is hardly arguable.

In other words, Brendan Nelson has just apparently given an Australian government guarantee, not only of employment, but of high-income earning employment for uni graduates. I can’t see any reason why he would be churlish about it by not agreeing to backdate this guarantee for GenXer's uni studies during the 1980s and 90s.

Let’s be reasonable, though. “High-income” covers a broad range, and I, for one, am prepared to concede upfront the absolute floor on this – thus let the guaranteed minimum income for uni graduates be average full-time weekly earnings. Further, as I proposed in my open letter, a condition of calling in the guarantee would be that the graduate repay in full what they have not (and will not) repay in HECS, fees etc. In other words, every cent of taxpayer-subsidy gets eventually paid back, through a 50% tax surcharge on the graduate’s guaranteed minimum average full-time weekly earnings income, of $45k or so. And as a bonus, Dr Nelson, I’ll hand in my degrees and promise in future never to even mention the past existence of them, when going for jobs, dates etc.

1968: the year that changed the world . . . for a few months

Does anyone understand what Morag Fraser – a perennially under-achieving fixture of Australia’s boomer-Left hegemon – actually means by this:

It's no part of Kurlansky's brief to comment on the implications of 1968 for 2004. But it is also impossible not to see the links: an intractable conflict, the US and Europe at loggerheads, violence ongoing in the Middle East, public unrest finding a conflicted voice. Read the book for its own exhilarating sake, but also as a chapter we should understand and not repeat.

“Kurlansky” is Mark Kurlansky, whose book 1968: the year that rocked the world, Fraser was reviewing. As far as I can tell, there is bugger-all similarity between 1968 and 2004. Apart from the ongoing Israel/Palestine border dispute and Iraq (= at a stretch, Vietnam), 1968 was largely about the West’s most-privileged generation ever flexing its coming-of-age muscle, just for the sake of it. It was a fucking undergrad party, in other words – no more, no less. The only thing different about this party, compared to countless other rites of middle-class-emancipation piss-ups, is that there was no hangover to deal with the next day, or the next decade - or ever. So goes the soixante-huitard mythology, anyway.

In fact, there was a hangover, of course, and one of the same legendary proportions as the party. Previously, I had dated this hangover to the mid-to-late 1970s, particularly the summer of 1979, with its twin fundamentalist revolutions of Thatcher/Reagan and Khomeini. Thanks to a book review* in yesterday’s Age, though, the date which effectively ended the 1968rs juvenil-ocracy can be wound right back, all the way to 1969, when Kevin Phillips’s The emerging Republican majority was published. Phillips’s book (which I haven’t read) seems to have correctly assessed the flower-power revolution as amounting to fuck-all in the scheme of things. Indeed if the 1968rs sowed the seeds of anything (lasting), it could only have been of the economic fundamentalism so beloved of (as they say on classic rock radio) the 80, 90s and today.

Coming back to Morag Fraser’s parting admonition, then, that “1968” is “a chapter we should understand and not repeat”. Huh? Even if today’s youngsters wanted to, and could afford to**, repeat 1968’s epic feats of middle-class wastrelling, I think you’ll find, Morag, that today’s crew are pretty up with basic cause-and-effect – for every party there must be an equal and opposite hangover. After all they, as GenX were and are before them, are still cleaning up your generation’s hangover, Morag – while you pathetically pretend that the party is still going.

* Bruce Wolpe "America’s imperial family"

** The 1968’rs “rebelled” against a background of full-employment

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Anti-Bush, anti-American or anti-war?

Readers may be surprised to hear that I’ve got some sympathy for Dubya. Yes, even ignoring matters beyond his own borders, I know that he’s a disgraceful crony capitalist, a reckless borrower and profligate spender, and an anti-gay redneck. Yet he was democratically elected – well, more or less – by the voters of America, and nor he be accused of changing his colours once getting into office, either.

I raise Bush’s democratically-elected status not to suggest this gives him some kind of quasi-divine fiat, but simply because hating Bush (and his inner circle) makes no sense to me. You’ve got to hate the ordinary folk of America as well – or at least a good-sized chunk of them.

Not that I’ve got any reservations about this – no sirree. The average American is a vacuous, oil-guzzling pig whose environmental footprint is an obscenity close to being matched by only . . . (wait) . . . the average Australian’s.

Of course the Iraq war was about oil, not WMDs. Maybe Bush should have just called a spade a spade on this one – just maybe. But what electorate likes being told that they’re a bunch of petro-drunks living on borrowed time, so necessitating an urgent break-in at the local oil “bottle shop”?

Likewise with the Bush family’s close ties, to say the least, with the Saudi royals – probably the single-most evil government on the planet today, both in terms of oppressing their own people (especially Saudi women and GenX Saudi men) and as covert sponsors of Islamofascist terrorism in the West. The Texas-Riyadh connection is hardly a pretty picture, but I don’t think it means that Bush is implicated in a conspiracy over the September 11 attacks.

It’s called unfettered capitalism, Americans – and there’s no great secret to that. Y’all know that even putting the Democrats in for four years this November wont change a thing. All that Bush has done – rightly or wrongly – is to oil the huge, creaking machine that is your economy, keeping it going as smoothly as possible in challenging circumstances.

Saying “You get the government you deserve” is perhaps a bit harsh, particularly on cast-iron Democrat voters. But when the corrollary of (relatively) cheap oil for America is recognised – the despicable government of Saudi Arabia – it can be observed that Americans could do much, much worse than Dubya. Indeed, unless and until they do do this (or help Saudi democratise, which seems a remote prospect), America and its people are simply a walking, talking double-standard. So maybe it's about time that you really got the government you deserve, America.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

The RMIT occupation

Marooned in the 'burbs at work, this is still going, AFAIK (it certainly was when I walked past at about 8 last night). Obviously, the ever-incompetent RMIT V-C Ruth Runkin didn't foresee that her office (not on campus, but in an adjacent swanky office tower) could become a target for a sit-in on a student national day of action. Who would have thought? Maybe blame it on another one of those pesky, $50m software glitches, eh Ruth?

For whatever reason, today's Age barely mentions the overnight (I'm assuming) RMIT sit-in. Like there's more important news. A mafiosio killed in a pokies parlour - who cares? (I mean, part from the fact that the bullet(s) didn't do the favour of a JFK style rebound, by also going through the torsos of a few of the zombies playing the machines nearby, quite possibly using money stolen from their workplaces to do so).

As it is, the Age's mention of the RMIT sit-in is buried within this story. "Melbourne University is poised to increase HECS fees by 25 per cent " - you don't say?

In related news, over at Catallaxy Files, Andrew Norton seems to be begging for a defamation writ with this one:

"[NUS Education Officer Paul] Coates has been involved in organising violent protests for years, though he is normally careful to let other people do the dirty work"

Speaking as a lawyer who knows very little about the underlying facts that Norton is presumably relying on here, it seems that Norton has let his prejudices go way too far with this one. In particular, for Norton to prove the truth of every imputation even in the above sentence (and there are others just as damning) would require Paul Coates to be about on the level of an al-Quaida terrorist - and I very much doubt he is.

Update 2 April 2004

The RMIT occupation would seem to have ended late in the evening of 31 March. Note this report of police violence against protesting students and journalists.

While the former have long been considered fair game by Victoria’s corrupt, thuggish police force, the fact that the report of violence, and its all coming from the police side, is found in the tabloid Herald-Sun suggests that the police may now have succeeded in making quite a few enemies in the wider community.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?