Friday, October 29, 2004

Pimping for choice

In her 1963 expose, Gloria Steinem revealed as false the claims that bunnies were not only beautiful but possessed superior education and fine breeding. In fact, their lack of education and skills meant the Playboy package of long hours, high harassment and the minimum wage was the best job they could get.

Err Leslie Cannold, I think that in 2004, you could well write being university-educated into many jobs that feature high harassment and pay the minimum wage. While I’m not sure absolutely sure of it, I suspect that this fact might change Cannold’s views about 2006’s reborn Playboy Club. As in: female graduates would surely choose to do such a job, yada, yada, yada.

Choice – yeah right. Isn’t there something just a little perverse about academics (Cannold teaches at the University of Melbourne) pimping for every god-awful job in the land – coz they know deep-down that’s all their students are going to get – while pretending to actually be on the students’ side? And pretending to be high-minded about it, to boot, when they’re effectively living off the earnings of students’ future misery?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Terrorists can be so unkind!

Bernard Salt writes in today’s Oz:

Generation Y was born over the 15 years to 1991 and its members are now aged 13-28. They are today’s teenagers and young adults . . . Today’s graduates are from Generation Y. They are the children of the baby boomers, and it is they who will be the luckiest generation ever.

It is the Ys who will inherit boomer property wealth in the 2020s. And it is the Ys who will step up early into management positions as boomers vacate corner offices everywhere.

But spare a thought for the downtrodden Xers.

This lot jumped on board the Free-Love roller-coaster (or should that be panel van) only to find their freedoms shrivelled by the threat of AIDS in the early 1980s. Then the door to fee-free tertiary education was slammed shut by the HECS impost of 1987.

Xers missed the property boom of late 1980s and even managed, by some assiduously fancy footwork, to sidestep any capital gain from the recent thrusting of the housing market.

And now, after going about their corporate lives waiting for ageing, fading baby boomers to move on, Xers face their final humiliation. Boomers retire from 2011 onwards and then, out of left field, up pops upstart Ys who, having paid no dues, land meaty management positions before the age of 35.

Then, to top off this ignominy, the Ys then flaunt their imminent inheritance of baby-boomer property wealth.

Life just isn’t fair!*

And the best (boomer) minds in the world are still puzzled as to why so many Saudi middle-class, educated Xers become terrorists.

* Bernard Salt “Older generations have to ask Y” Australian 28 October 2004 (no URL)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

"Fresh, relevant and appealing"

Dennis Glover writes:

Labor needs a new generation of intellectuals . . . In university seminar rooms, back-street Fitzroy pubs and on Radio National chat shows, you can live by abstract philosophy and pure principle, but in the world of parliamentary democracy you have to live by your wits as well as your ideals . . . People such as Barry Jones, Don Watson and Phillip Adams should take note. They should turn their guns on Howard and redirect their attention to making the values of the left fresh, relevant and appealing to the people Labor has lost - the affluent working class in the mortgage belts around our capital cities.

What a fucktard, as Robert Corr has already noted, apropos of Glover’s being a key support team-member for a long succession of Labor leader-losers. But even leaving aside the man’s track record, there is plenty to criticise just in his opening line today:

Labor needs a new generation of intellectuals.

Hard to argue with that. But where are they to come from? The universities, that Labor spent its last eight years in power fucking-over? Well, no – but not for that reason. People who have been to university are inherently unlikely to “get” the outer-suburban mortgage belt, because the former apparently spend almost all their time in back-street Fitzroy pubs, instead of working for a living. And by virtue of one of those rules that apply only in the inner-city (those Jews and other cosmopolitan elites!), their hefty bar-tabs can be settled just by the alchemical transformation of pure philosophy.

Meanwhile out in the aspirational burbs, a generation that lives much more by its wit/s awaits its calling as Labor’s 2007 electoral salvation. Knowing nothing except the tabloid TV and print media they are fed, they make Pauline Hanson look sophisticated – but never mind, as long as they are “fresh, relevant and appealing”. Fortunately, the McMansions they build and live in at least allow them to dissemble the difference between the Upper House and the Lower House – the Upper House is where you sleep and dream of your retirement (= high property prices), while the Lower House is where you eat and vacantly muse about your retirement (= high property prices).

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

More uni cheating rackets

RMIT computer science academic Justin Zobel appears to be a good man. In ~2002, he had his office ransacked and files stolen without any charges yet being laid – despite the culprit almost certainly being Melbourne resident and Monash PhD student Chih Chern Chung, aka Jason Chung – or someone acting at Chung’s direction. He also appears to be keeping up the good fight against commercial-scale uni cheating rackets, with today’s news that Chung, who is still* under an 18-month good behaviour bond for making a false document (an offence that can carry up to ten years’ jail) appears to be back in business.

One thing Justin Zobel ain’t, however, is a legal expert:

It's our belief that it's not illegal to sell assignments to students, it's probably not illegal for students to pay money for an assignment solution, but the student is committing a university offence by submitting it

It is illegal to sell assignments to students – the invariable feature of such a transaction, that the true author’s identity will not be disclosed, is a textbook case of making a false document. Perhaps Professor Zobel has become confused by the laughably-light sentence given to Chung as a cheater-seller, so as to think that the main legal risk is run by cheater-buyers, and the main enforcement onus rests with institutions.

Neither of these is correct – the offence of making a false document carries equal penalties for cheater-sellers and cheater-buyers (same URL). As to whether institutional/in-house enforcement should ordinarily prevail over the bringing criminal charges, I have an open mind. What has happened, however, in the Jason Chung case – an ad hoc combination of both – is clearly the worst of all possible worlds.

As well as being the prime suspect in the unsolved forced entry into, and theft from, Justin Zobel’s office and convicted of the two charges of making a false document for which he received his 18-month bond, Jason Chung ran – and apparently, still runs – a large-scale cheating racket. Of the 24 computer science students who faced RMIT internal disciplinary action in 2002-2003 (resulting in four expulsions and 20 result cancellations), at least 12 (and most likely, all 24) were cheater-buyers from Chung.

Unbelievably, RMIT chose to keep the scale of Chung’s racket from the court at the time of his May 2003 trial, so allowing his sentence to be on the basis of the two proven cases being “isolated incidents”, only to then immediately complain about the lightness of Chung’s sentence when it was handed down (same URL).

Compounding its incompetent handling of the situation, RMIT also last year made noises about taking civil action against Chung – noises which have come to nothing, AFAIK. Here, RMIT’s flawed strategy is clearest of all – why was it even pussy-footing around with talk of civil action, when it should have long ago demanded a police search of Chung’s premises?

* until 16 November 2004

Monday, October 25, 2004

Ivan Molloy Update

As I wrote at the time, the media crucified this Labor candidate, who was running for a safe Liberal seat based on the Sunshine Coast.

Today, the man himself speaks out, blaming it all on his own party. Unfortunately though, a boomer mediocrity trying his darndest to go postal on the Labor party does not make for even mildly entertaining spectacle.

Molloy writes:

[T]he ALP then demanded that I sign a statement denouncing terrorism and then threatened disendorsement if I spoke out again! In the end I complied again, thinking that the ALP would soon take on Howard directly by campaigning on ideology and true Labor values right across the board.

Err, Ivan – the “terrorist” photo thing happened halfway through the six-week campaign. Since the first three weeks brought forth not a shred of what I would call “true Labor values” (e.g. full employment, free higher education, abolition of all taxpayer aid to private schools), weren’t you just a teensy bit optimistic about the Queen Mary being able to do a last-minute U-turn in Hastings Street?

Face facts, man – Labor was and is a dead loss, and running in an unwinnable seat for them just makes you all the greater a loser among losers. “Academic credibility”, pull-eaze – you didn’t even read the screaming headlines, much less the fine print on this one.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

This challenging paradox

We do have this challenging paradox in Australia of low unemployment but also very low participation rates in certain age cohorts”*.
- Prime Minister John Howard, 22 October 2004

Err, those putatively selected cohorts would be Australian men in their late-20s, 30s, 40s and early-50s – if you go by the stats Howard himself was citing a few weeks ago, that is.

Alternatively, you may prefer the curious transliteration, elsewhere in today’s Oz, of the above quote, in which “certain age cohorts” become a singular, denominated cohort of 55 to 65-year-olds (seemingly of both genders).

These two versions of the same story can’t both be simultaneously true (especially now with Derrida dead, n’stuff). The one that circumscribes a major, if still largely nascent, economic calamity was made at the height of the election campaign. The post-election victory alternative formulation is of much more soothing proportions – convenient in more than one way, it will only require a few hundred million dollars thrown at baby boomer home-owners for the problem to presumably go away completely.

* Samantha Maiden “Welfare culture spurs minister to tackle jobs” The Australian 23 October 2004

Friday, October 22, 2004

"Playing it Straight" update

After dropping the show completely last week for some piece of Americans-abroad (as if any Australian hasn’t seen enough already of such IRL) garbage by king of the 90s B-movie Jerry Bruckheimer, Seven last night at least had the decency to recommence playing out the last few episodes of "Playing it Straight".

The 11.30 pm timeslot doesn’t really worry me, as it was always a VCR job anyway, by virtue of being up against "Kath & Kim" (which I suspect is one reason PiS bombed so badly in the ratings – Channel 7, hello).

As it happens, last night’s ep was the best in ages, with the stunning – for me, anyway – revelation that Campbell was gay. If you haven’t watched the show, you’ll just have to take my word for it than the chisel-jawed Campbell came across straighter than the other eleven guys put together (if that’s the right metaphor). And now it turns out that he plays for my team – Awww! Just to show what a well-rounded butch poofter he is, Campbell gave a genuinely moving little au revoir speech on how gays are real men, too. If only! But anyway, Campbell, if you’re ever down in Melbourne, feel free to look me up – I can’t wait to dry-shave my legs using your jaw for a razor.

Otherwise, the big news is that it’s down to the final three, and poor old Rebecca learns during next week’s ep that at least two of these are gay. Like, derr. While I haven’t been keeping a close tally of the gay evictees to date, I’m pretty sure that there haven’t been six of them yet (Rebecca was told at the near-outset that at least half the original twelve contestants were gay). In any case, if Rebecca’s math is rather wonky, her gaydar is infinitely worse.

Chad positively screams gay, while Evan would too, but for the fact that he prefers to lip-synch – during those rare moments, that is, when he is not to be found clenching a pillow between his teeth.

Finally, there’s blonde surfer-boy Dane. Early on, I was sure he was straight, then I began to have my doubts, but now I’m back to “straight”. Admittedly, it is an understatement to say that Sydney resident Dane is gay-acting, but no matter how much I try, I can’t picture the sweet young thing in what would be his rightful place in the gay cosmos – on a podium at an Oxford Street club. This isn’t just a hunch: it is an immutable law of gay life that blonde podium boys live in a hall of mirrors that is much more brittle, hypnotic and incestuous than any reality TV producer could contrive – or lead them away from to audition for.

Update 5 November 2004

In case you missed it last night, Chad was the last man standing, and he turns out to be straight! If he really is – and here, either I smell a rat in the riggings, or my gaydar is truly wonky – then Thorpie can relax. The unwanted mantle of Australia's Poofiest Straight Guy has been taken from his broad shoulders. Nay, Chad positively leaves Thorpie in the dust on this one.

As for Dane (gay; I was wrong again), I really have no idea on how he's avoided becoming a semi-permanent podium installation at a gay club. You wicked, wicked boy!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The strange case of John Martinkus

Good news stories from Iraq are probably thinner than ever on the ground at the moment. Which makes the twisted polarities of the John Martinkus story all the more intriguing. The freelance/SBS journo’s kidnapping by terrorists, brief detention, and release using only his own negotiation skills should have been a straightforward, cheering piece of Good News.

Why it wasn’t rests in part with Martinkus himself. While I can’t pretend to be able to put myself fully in his shoes, being interviewed at Sydney airport when just off a flight from the Mid-East that he had commenced the day after his release, his reported comments were bound to come across as crass at best, and as terrorist propaganda at worst:

These guys, they're not stupid. They are fighting a war but they are not savages - they're not actually killing people willy-nilly. There was no reason for them to kill me. There was a reason to kill (British hostage Kenneth) Bigley, there was a reason to kill the (two) Americans (kidnapped with Bigley). There was not a reason to kill me.

Err, I can think of plenty of reasons for Islamofascists to kill you, John. (Just to name one: you probably (and certainly I hope you do) support non-discrimination against gays – what are the odds then, that you played the 'I’m So-o-o On Your Side, Guys, That One of My Network’s Most Senior Newsreaders Is A Poofter get out of jail free card'? No? Thought not).

In reality, Martinkus was presumably released through a large measure of luck (as Time magazine journalist Michael Ware correctly sees it), plus a bit of what I would call playing the GenX card (Martinkus is 35, and his captors were presumably around the same age). Playing the GenX card would go like this: no pleading, grovelling tears, etc; no mention of spouses/children (especially if one has them); and the copious use of black humour. Also crucial here is Martinkus’ status as an Australian gentile (AFAIK); my strong feeling is that neither “luck” nor playing the GenX card would have saved his life had he been of British or American nationality (because these countries supply the majority of “front of house” troops in Iraq, while all Australian troops are “back of house”), or had he been Jewish, of any nationality.

Largely, I’m prepared to explain away Martinkus’ callous comments as a unfortunate cocktail; a combination of post-traumatic shock-meets-euphoria and jet-lag. If I were a relative of a murdered hostage though, I doubt I’d so forgiving. And arguably even more put upon by Martinkus are the families of the hundreds of unemployed Iraqi men who have been murdered while queuing for jobs to assist in Iraq’s occupation/reconstruction (take your pick). If Martinkus seriously believes that there is more “reason” to kill a just-wants-to-eat Iraqi ditchdigger than a Western journalist, then I suggest he does Iraq’s unemployed masses a small favour by heading back to Baghdad and picking up a shovel instead of a mic.

Finally, there is the terrorist propaganda value of Martinkus’ release, and especially his subsequent comments. It would be easy to overplay this, and but for one thing I would have not even mentioned it myself. The difference-making “thing” looms so large, in fact, that it happens to be the elephant in the china shop otherwise known as Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. To say the least, the perennially ill-advised Downer’s attempts – while Martinkus was in transit back to Australia – to paint him as Just a Very Naughty Boy show up the government PR machine as something simultaneously Orwellian and yet creakingly inept. By attempting to neutralise Martinkus’ story with counter-propaganda, the government has ended up having to do what no hostage – at least of GenXers captors – should ever attempt. That is to say, pleading for a way out, thinly-veiled as disingenuous humbug:

But a spokesman for Mr Downer said the minister was simply expressing concern over how dangerous it was to go into certain areas of Baghdad.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Latham's frontbench suddenly looks like a big space to fill . . .

. . . but fortunately, Damir Dokic has come out of the doghouse in a nick of time. Although he has no political form whatever, and won't be budging from Serbia, Damir's about the only person left in the world with (i) plenty of excess anger and (ii) none of it directed at Mark Latham.

Latham is only going to last as leader if he can put some fire back in the Labor belly. Since his own, currently dormant, style of anger would make him stand-out like the proverbial, he badly needs at least one other capital-H hater in his inner circle.

Barring relocating shadow cabinet to Belgrade and signing up Damir, then, Latham's leadership is finished.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Renewing John Quiggin’s Clive Hamilton challenge

In late August, I wrote this, pointing out Clive Hamilton’s repeated defamations of generations younger than his own. With the election then just called, John Quiggin undertook to write something in response when things were less busy. I reckon that with the election now over, and even Labor’s long wake showing signs of winding up, about now could be the time, John.

Not than I’m a follow-up fanatic, or anything like that, I hasten to add. I was only reminded of my Clive Hamilton challenge through reading his latest piece of Op Ed generational vilification:

It has been particularly disquieting to witness the total disengagement of large numbers of young people who seemed barely aware that an election was on. Clueless and unconcerned to the last, they mumble about voting for John Howard simply because they could not think of a reason for doing otherwise. The depoliticising of our education systems . . .

Notice what Hamilton is doing here: he is subtly projecting an interest-rate-rise-fearing herd instinct (which no one doubts was a big factor in giving PM Howard a fourth term) on to the completely wrong crowd. Of course, most young* young people (18-25) couldn’t give a rat’s arse about interest rates, but Hamilton perversely twists this precise apathy into such cohort being the scapegoat for “affluenza” more generally.

Conveniently for Hamilton, this scapegoating strategy then becomes self-fulfilling to an extent. Usually lacking secure and/or meaningful employment, Generations X and Y naturally come across as disengaged. But Earth to Clive Hamilton: if you are not hearing the right answers, this is because you are not asking the right questions. In particular, with both major parties regarding the present rate of unemployment as some kind of triumph (an assessment to which Clive concurs, AFAIK), the main economic issue for Generations X and Y is being swept under the policy carpet – so effectively silencing these generations' voice on anything.

A concrete illustration here, concerning a topical issue that is also another one of Hamilton’s favourite (ahem) whipping boys: child pornography. Thanks to staff cuts at the on-the-ground level (and staff bloating higher up), the Office of Film and Literature Classification has something like an 84 year backlog in classifying material accumulated from recent police raids. Naturally, because Boomer Economic Fundamentalism insists that meaningful new entry-level jobs can never be created, (i) existing OFLC staff are being told to work like navvies, and (ii) there is every chance that many, many child molesters and lesser perverts will get off, thanks to the classifying staff shortfall.

Terrible, isn’t it Clive? Those apathetic young people, mumbling into their mobile phones while Rome burns – serves them right for depoliticising their own education system.

* Whereas for non home-owners in the 26-40 age group, interest rates are, or should be, a big issue – as in interest rate rises being strongly in their own interest. Even with a doubling of interest rates, the (arguably consequent) halving of house prices would leave them better-off overall in the housing affordability stakes.

Monday, October 18, 2004

More nauseating yoof media voices

Being entirely the children of boomers (apart from a handful of ultra-young mum – and now presumably also grand-mum – Xers), today’s 18-25 year-olds have mostly so far had a pretty easy ride in life.

Having rich, indulgent parents can only get you so far in the adult world, however. Which is why I find the yoof media ghetto (or “walled garden”, to use the late 90s’ dotcom parlance) so vexing – what is it about the real world (= here, working in the mainstream media) that youngsters find so confronting as to need their own sheltered workshops in lieu?

Rephrasing the question (as an Xer, I of course well-know the answer that the mainstream media has long been a virtual closed-shop for boomer mediocrities) – what is the current sheltered workshop approach going to achieve in the long-run? In other words, is having For Yoof By Yoof media going to make the transition to working in the mainstream media – which is going to have to happen one day, kiddies – any easier?

Judging by this Op Ed in today’s Age, by youngster Louise Merrington, the answer is a firm “no”:

I discovered something appalling the other day. My friends and I could not correctly name Australia's first prime minister.

Leaving aside the question of why it should be so appalling to not know the name of a man who was by modern standards a racist and British toady, there is the matter of Louise and co (let’s call them Trinny, Annabelle and Jackson) somehow having completely missed, or forgotten, that annoying television advertisement from only three years ago, which both asked and answered the very question that so troubles Louise today.

Oh, that’s right, you were too busy on the Year 11 polo field during after-school hours to be watching much TV in 2001, weren’t you, Louise? (It would have been the rifle-range had you had your way, only (i) it had to be shared with the Year 10s, and (ii) Jackson was such a girl about guns).

As to how I’m so confident about Louise Merrington being a product of an over-the-top “private” school (scare quotes because of the prodigious taxpayer funds all such schools receive), this emerges in the it-would-be-LOL-funny-if-it-wasn’t-so-sad naiveté of poor Louise being made to study Chinese history, rather than Australian history, in Year 12 because such was statistically better for amassing high uni entry marks.

A yoof-only readership would no doubt let this one pass through to the keeper, Louise. Not me, though: you are simply one spoiled, dumb fuck-up. So your school deprived you of what the common people learned via their televisions and public schools? Tell someone who cares – and I can assure you that that won’t be anyone over 25.

Casino gamblers are arseholes

A nicely-timed follow-up to my recently-posted theory of Australian croupiers never even getting offered tips comes courtesy of today’s Herald-Sun.

A disaffected (surprise, surprise) Crown Casino Mahogany Room staff-member has leaked the inside view of one particular high-roller’s bleeding anus (= eight-figure gaming losses) after being put through the Crown wringer for two years.

Such a leak is of course severely embarrassing for Crown, not to mention the loser himself, Singapore tycoon Thomas Tay. It is clearly not a random leak, however – Tay comes across of the mother of all whingeing blame-mongers, in insisting upon new teams of dealers and supervisors up to five or six times a night, whenever he is on an apparent losing streak.

What part of the laws of maths don’t you understand, Thomas Arsehole Tay? If you think that a particular croupier is “unlucky”, why don’t you just fuck-off back to whatever third-world peasant village you clearly belong in.


Loren Elsegood has the goods on tip-averse 40-something corporate drunkards. This Revenge of the Underclass thing seems to be catching!

Further Update 21 October 2004

More Revenge of the Underclass – but this time there’s no winners (bitchin’ can be a victory only sometimes). Check out the trajectory of this recent post from Crooked Timber, which in short order goes from being a huffy whinge about an arrogant and sloppy cabin crew on a US Airways flight, to a sad, sad window on the upcoming US election:

I had to fly [US Airways] recently back to the small town for a visit and was trapped in the cabin of the tiny airplane for an hour while the flight attendent gave an impassioned and memorized political speech to the front row, telling them (and due to the size of the craft, all of us) that if Kerry wins the election she’ll lose her job, and that Bush winning the election was the only thing that could save her job. The question of how exactly the first president to have a net job loss since Herbert Hoover was going to save her job (and whether or not a job that pays 1982 wages* is worth saving) was not raised.

* US Airways employees recently took a (unilateral) 21 percent pay cut, so taking their wages back to1982 levels.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Blame for the "skills shortage"

Adele Horin gets to the nub of the "skills shortage" in today’s SMH:

Australia probably has the best-trained waitresses, bar workers and shop assistants, and the best-qualified unemployed in our history. But still we can't get a plumber to fix the tap, or a nurse to work in aged care, or a trained teacher to work in a child-care centre. For every four trainees, we produce one apprentice; it's cheaper for business.

Surprise, surprise – privatisation (= boomer siphoning of all the good jobs, and diverting every cent of spare profit into their own managerial pockets, instead of investing it for the future) has led to some negative outcomes.

But when both major parties can’t even bring themselves to admit that privatisation has been an economic catastrophe (at least for those born after 1963), an actual solution seems a long way off. In the short term, why not solve the trade skills shortage by bringing over a hundred thou or so bonded tradies from India and China, to work for $1000/month? After all, if such wages and conditions are good enough for white-collar workers . . .

Friday, October 15, 2004

Defamation jackpots alive and well

The defamation industry has never looked more protracted, technical and therefore buoyant.

Well, that was last year – this year’s end-of-year verdict looks set to leave that then-bumper crop behind in the dust, if today’s damages award to Richard Sleeman is any guide. When the half-mill odd in damages is added to both sides’ legal costs, my guess is that the Oz will be up for over a million dollars. The full judgment is here.

Fact #1 (aka It’s nice work if you can get it)

Richard Sleeman is a gold-digging, serial (or at least two-time) specialist defamation plaintiff. His other, known mid-six-figure cash bonanza, involving strikingly similar allegations of petty opportunism, and extravagantly hurt feelings, as a sort-of journalist (Derryn Hinch's 2GB producer), has been noted at Crikey. Sleeman also appear to have mislead the court, with Derryn Hinch being noted in the judgment as "an old journalist friend from Melbourne" (para 119).

Fact #2 (aka Even manifestly shoddy journalism is consistent with a spotless reputation, it seems)

Richard Sleeman’s May 2000 article profiling Ian Thorpe did contain numerous mistruths (see also APPENDIX B of the judgment). While the offending piece, from Amanda Meade's Media Diary in The Australian in June 2000, may have, at a stretch, carried the (false) imputation that Sleeman had lied as to even having met and personally interviewed Thorpe, all other adverse imputations that could conceivably have been be drawn would have contained a fair element of truth.

Compounding this, “Sleeman [telling] reporters at the time [2002] the comment about Thorpe retiring was not a significant part of the profile” is itself a bald lie by Sleeman. The May 2000 article contains surprisingly few direct quotes from Thorpe, so making the line (which Thorpe denied saying, under oath) “I won’t be swimming after the Olympics” all the more noticeable. (Thorpe is not directly quoted in Sleeman’s article on any other topic, bar his swimming stroke and his good friend Michael Williams.)

Last but not least, Fact #3:

Sleeman is a smug boomer arsehole:

“[Sleeman] claimed his story was accurate and that he was reluctantly suing the newspaper that “gave me my start back in the mid-70s”*.

Update 16 October 2004

Here’s Sleeman’s third known defamation almost-payola – this one actually counts as a near-miss:

Recently the family of rising golf star Aaron Baddeley was devastated to learn that an article about him had appeared in 'Australian Penthouse' magazine. As committed Christians, the Baddeleys felt that Aaron's reputation had been seriously tarnished by the article being placed in such a publication. But does it really matter where a story is published, provided it's accurate? Do journalists have an ethical obligation to tell their subjects where the story will end up? Richard Sleeman is the freelance journalist who sold the article to 'Australian Penthouse'.

Fortunately for them, the Baddeley family’s presumed ethos of committed Christian forgiveness seems to have stopped them from publicly saying anything even mildly disparaging of Sleeman’s journalistic ethics. If they had, you can bet that Sleeman’s hair-trigger defamation jackpot response would have been immediately activated.

* Louise Milligan, “Thorpe steps into a law suit” The Australian 21 November 2002.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Casino high-roller rooms and smoking bans

Any way you look at it, the exemption of most* Australian casino high-roller rooms from planned near-blanket smoking bans is anomalous. A popular media scoff here has been the “There’s one law for the toffs . . .” angle, but this is actually a rather naïve view.

At Melbourne’s Crown Casino Mahogany Room and associated private suites – the largest single high-roller site in the world – Australians (and even more so, non-criminal Australians (same URL)) are a small, if not negligible part of the customer base. Whoever is being primarily indulged by the smoking ban exemption at Crown’s high-roller rooms, then, it is not rich (legally or otherwise) Australians.

In fact, Crown Casino spokesman Gary O’Neil happily admits as much:

The Mahogany Room should be treated as a special case as it catered for international visitors.

On a recent television news interview, O’Neil was even more direct, saying that, since Crown’s high-roller clientele was primarily Chinese, it was more appropriate for the norms of China, as regards smoking (and the laissez-faire-ness of these is well-known) to apply in the Mahogany Room.

O’Neil seems to be saying that he regards part of Crown Casino to be Chinese sovereign territory. If so, I’m not particularly fussed personally, but I imagine that the Chinese government may be – for despite all its neo-colonial bellicose expansionism over Taiwan, it has a strangely wowserish attitude to legal casinos, forbidding them from within its pre-1990s borders.

Of more important and local import though, of course, is the consequent strange position of Mahogany Room workers – Australian by geography (as well as by casino licensing laws), but otherwise Chinese subjects, including being governed by Chinese OH+S laws, or the absence thereof, according to O’Neil.

Now, I know that O’Neil, and the various State/Territory Labor Governments that are rubber-stamping ersatz such Lex Sino exemptions almost Australia-wide*, would reply that they mean no such thing, and that they’re just trying to protect Australian jobs in a valuable export industry, blah, blah blah. As PM Howard said in his victory speech on Saturday night – we are living in a time of arguably the greatest prosperity since WWII.

That’s a “prosperity”, folks, where foreign dollars are more important that Australian lives.


SMH letter-writer Paul Stevens of Chatswood doesn’t quite understand how deep the high-roller room exemption sell-out cuts:

How is it that croupiers, bar staff, waiters and waitresses working in the casino high-rollers' room can readily ward off painful, lingering deaths simply by being generously tipped?

In Australia, Paul, croupiers – who, with lit cigarettes held literally under their noses, absorb far more smoke than any other front-of-house employee – cannot be legally tipped. In any case, my experience as a croupier, albeit of low-to-medium rollers (up to $4k a hand), is of never even getting offered a tip, even by a clientele who mostly spoke little or no English, and as such, were presumable not au fait with Australian law. My explanation here is that the international language of gambling crosses such boundaries – Australian casinos (like post-Dawkins Australian universities) are understood to be cheap and welcoming places of last resort, at which small courtesies are unnecessary: a tip to the dealer can hence legitimately be regarded as a waste of money better left to prolonging one’s losing streak.

* According to JJJ’s HAC, 13 October 2004, Adelaide casino’s high-roller room is the only exception to the national trend.

Wik land “rights”

I don’t know the ins-and-outs of this, and its not my really business to be telling the Wik that they seem to have got shafted, but today’s news is hard to ignore – five days after the election and already Ruddock is crowing. Another Liberal Lie is born.

Darcy Burns, owner of Holroyd Station and a party to the consent determination, said indigenous people now had to ask him before entering his property to hunt or fish. "This has been positive because it has given us security and lets us know where we are," Mr Burns said.

Err, Mr Burns, my understanding is that there has long been a tacit agreement between rural landowners and visiting hunters – the latter were usually welcome, as long as they asked permission first and acted responsibly during their stay.

So what’s new? Oh, that’s right: the above tacit agreement was an essentially White-to-White deal. Now it seems that, courtesy of Darcy Burns and other enlightened White landowners, some Indigenous people on Cape York are to be accorded the perks of being honorary Whites. Pardon my French, but whoop-de-fuckin-do.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A generational powder keg?

Ross Gittins is on the right track here, but first he needs to understand basic generational breakdowns. The gilt-edged Old themselves (i.e. those currently aged 55+) straddle three cohorts: older boomers (1946-49), Depression and War babies (1930-45), and parents-of-boomers (born pre-1930).

More significant than the differences between the Old inter se, however, are the differences between the three groups of Old and their children. Here, Gittins over-generalises, by setting up a near one-size-fits-all Old vs Young, Parent vs Child trope.

In fact, the respective attitudes of GenX and boomers to their parents – and hence the broader implications of the ageing population – vary strikingly. At the core here is an inverted inter-generational wealth imbalance: GenX are, and probably always will be, poorer than their parents, while for boomers (as with most other generations in history) the opposite is usually the case.

Gittins’s mistake is easy enough to make. We “young”* (GenX were born between 1964 and 1979) are indeed largely locked out of the big-city housing market, and often carry crushing HECS burdens. When they look at the comparative affluence of their parents now, and also when they were one's current age, some jealousy is natural.

Such low-level antipathy has nothing on boomers’ distaste for their own parents, though – a distaste which of course must come from a very different place than have-not financial jealousy. Rather, boomers with parents aged 75+ are terrified with the prospect of their parents becoming a private financial burden on them – hence Labor’s precisely-targeted Medicare Gold policy, which Gittins, to his credit, does see as an overt bribe also to the adult (boomer) children of the over-75s. Where Gittins loses it is in his conflation of these two very different types of parent-child antipathies, and the financial realities that underpin them.

Put bluntly, the boomers have never believed in a future for anyone past themselves (possibly barring their own offspring*). Boomers either orchestrated, or were conspicuously silent during, the great privatisations of the last two decades, which sold-off the common wealth for short-term private consumption by, and overpaid employment of insiders (= boomers, in most cases). Not surprisingly, general boomer greed and callousness often extends to the personal realm, in terms of their relationships with their own parents.

The state's remaining apparatus, so much of which has been mass-stripped and melted-down by boomers, is thus expected to devote a disproportionate portion of its stretched resources to caring for parents-of-boomers. This is not because such is good policy, and certainly not because it is nominally consistent with money-talks economic fundamentalism (the boomer credo). In substance though, it is just another form of privatisation – covert theft from the future, in return for immediate boomer gratification.

While boomers have the welfare state stretched to breaking point – all in the name of not having to spend a dime on their own parents – GenX is meanwhile left in a no-win position re the welfare state. With even 40 years of compulsory superannuation likely to never amount to the house-price equity held by today’s typical retiree, GenX is going to need the welfare state much more than any recent preceding generation. Because of this, GenX is all the more not going to be rocking the boat on excessive welfare generosity to the Old, even though they clearly see the current generosity as unsustainable. GenX thus has a kind of investment in the status quo, even if the age pension and associated benefits of 2025 are, realistically, going to be a bare-bones version of the present system.

But even this modest prospect of leaving a few crumbs for the next generation is anathema to the boomers, of course – they are too busy siphoning welfare state’s last vestiges into their own pockets.

* On account of Generation Y (born post 1979), as I have previously noted, it is still early days

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Ideas Remainder Bin

Flipped through this new book on my way back from Centrelink this morning. My overall impression is that it makes a nice little coda to Howard’s re-election, by confirming the bankruptcy of the boomer Left. Typically for the times, there is a hugely misleading back-cover blurb:

“The same names recur in the same places having much the same debates. There is a great deal of our public intellectual life not well-represented in the mainstream media and public forums” (from editor David Carter’s introduction to The Ideas Market).

Oh goody, you might think. Finally, a follow-up to Mark Davis’s 1997 anti-boomer tract, Gangland, only this time written by GenX, and by more than one of them, at that.

No dice. About two-thirds of the contributors are the same old boomers, a la Catharine Lumby, McKenzie Wark and not to mention Mark Davis himself. While Guy Rundle is of the younger age bracket, he could hardly be accused of lacking outlets (mainstream media and otherwise) for his views.

Lesser-known GenX writers do get a look in, but on a probationary basis only, it would seem. Scottish-Australian academic Alan McKee plays the harmless doofus by insisting that he’s not a public intellectual, but Pauline Hanson and high-rating radio shock jocks are. Similarly, perennial yoof-meister Marcus Westbury parades his credentials as a university dropout; an ironic – if not crass – counterpoint to the earnest tone of the remaining handful of GenX contributors, whose Chapters Based on My PhD clearly haven’t so far got any of them jobs on even the lowest rung of academia.

“Baby boomers” gets mentioned in the index three times, both of which turn out to be a third party quote (one quote is itself duplicated within a chapter). Intriguingly, both these quotes, which are boomer-pejorative, centre on the failure on the 1960s (Western) cultural revolution – and naturally, the very idea here is given short shrift. In other words, there is a near-total taboo within The Ideas Market on discussing what I would think is the defining issue for GenX thinkers: how to start afresh from the wreck of economic fundamentalism that was either stage two of, or the force that leapt into the vacuum created by (take your pick, it really doesn’t matter now), the boomer cultural revolution.

On this point, RMIT academic Kevin McDonald writes today:

John Howard's great political achievement has been to forge the two potentially contradictory cultural movements of moral conservatism and "I'm worth it" individuality into a political constituency.

Sorry, Kevin, but John Howard has done nothing that wasn’t already set in stone by about 1980, when boomers pulled-up the drawbridge of social and economic progress, leaving themselves comfortable while succeeding generations were left to fend for themselves in a neo-Hobbesian world of the nasty and brutish.

Without even jobs in academia for GenX (or those without Scottish accents, anyway), I might be getting a bit ahead of myself, though. After all, why should it really matter that
Australianness has now gone full-circle back to the 1950s and 60s, to become again a topic that is best left to expats (like the four authors of Imagining Australia) and tired old bores (and in McKenzie Wark’s case in The Ideas Market, both)? Perhaps the legion of unemployed GenX academics still calling Australia home, myself included, should follow the million or so of our age-peers and emigrate to places where we, too, can contribute to upbeat books on Australia – an Australia in which there is finally no one left to read their platitudes.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Election silver linings

Taking up Robert Corr’s theme, may I suggest a number of positive outcomes – as in the long-overdue clearing of dead and wet wood from the Left:

Meg Lees is gone, for good

The knives are out for Simon Crean

30-something Labor chief strategists Tim Gartrell and Michael Kaiser are getting hit with the blame-stick

The merits of the first two should be quite self-explanatory (if not, see here and here). As for my age-peers Gartrell and Kaiser receiving the thrown-tomato applause by uber-boomer journo Matt Price, this is also sweet and fitting because the duo masterminded a campaign that contained nothing in it for their age-peers. Hope to see you in the queue at Centrelink tomorrow, boys.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The parable of the wet firewood

If you’re bush camping in a public place, or even in your own “secret” spot, one thing you make sure of before you go is to – assuming there is a suitable under-cover spot – leave some firewood there. Some might call this replacing what you use, but I don’t see that it should make any difference whether there is any stored wood or not when you get there.

The storing-firewood-for-next-time imperative usually works fine even if you’re storing wet firewood. In this and another way it is the antithesis of just-in-time managerialism. Most importantly of all, storing firewood for the next-user (whether you or a stranger) recognises an economic truism – the “rainy day”, quite literally. You can’t buy, find, or make dry firewood in the bush when it is raining – and it is in these precise weather conditions that you are most desirous of a fire, of course.

Tomorrow, both main parties are running platforms that will see Australia’s infrastructure and human talent still further run into the ground. One day – and I hope for yours and my sake it’s soon – we’re all gonna wake up wet and cold, surrounded by wet wood for as far as the eye can see.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Yoof media ghettoes

The four young journalists employed by VibewireYouth Media Services to provide election coverage at the website are engaged in a labour of love writes Deborah Gough.

Err Deborah, if these people are not getting any wages at all, I think you should be pointing them in the direction of the MEAA (the journo’s union), rather than singing their praises as embryonic Mother Theresas.

What I suspect Gough actually means is that the four Vibewire election journalists have very modest expense accounts, compared to most other journalists. Thus, they typically stay in backpacker hostels, not hotels, when out on the road/hustings.

Obviously, neither Gough nor Vibewire journo Tim Martyn have much experience of staying in backpacker hostels. You actually need to bring your own towel, Tim! How about that – and once you absorb this information, you’ll realise that $5 “towel hire” is a quite normal example of punitive pricing, a la carpark after-hours call-out fees).

Oh, and Tim – I’ve never stayed in a backpackers place with a phone line in a bedroom. Which is rather strange, when one thinks about it. So many backpackers these days do carry their own laptops with them, I’m sure. And not just any old laptop, mind you – they’ve all got high-end ones; you know, the sort without floppy drives; meaning the sort which, if you can’t get a phone line, you have to transcribe from laptop screen to internet cafe keyboard. Ha ha, schmuck!

What a pack of spoilt princesses. “Labour of love” – pull-eaze.

Tim Blair is 39!?!?!

And for years I’ve assumed (in part because he looks it) that he was just another baby boomer (now it turns out he definitely isn’t, because he’s between 4 and 16 months younger than me). Mea culpa.

Making ageism – at least when one gets the wrong age, and/or the wrong attributes – seem crasser still is this entry on Blair as an Old Pops, by 28 year-old Mat Henderson-Hau (aka Darp Hau):

Tim Blair is 39!?!?! Shite - maybe he remembers when the original Puma Clydes and Adidas Gazelle breakdancing shoes came out in the late seventies as opposed to my first exposure to them in the early nineties when Jamiroquai hit the charts for the first time.

Can't wait to meet up for that beer so I can sus out how popular Prisoner, A Country Practice and Secret Valley were in their heyday

As a 40 year-old, I have no recollection of specialist “breakdancing shoes”. This may be explained by the fact that I lived in the ‘hood (NOT) of Ballarat until early 1984, but even when I moved to Melbourne that year, it was grey zip-up shoes (no brand that I can remember) that were shit-hot. (And yes, I breakdanced – to use the term loosely – in such shoes many a time to “Billie Jean” – cringe).

So take that, young (?) Mat! The late 70s and the entireity of the 80s were shite and embarrassing – just as shite and embarrassing as the 90s-to-current Jamiroquai and his pooncy hat collection, in fact.

As for “Prisoner”, “A Country Practice” and “Secret Valley”, I have never watched the first two, and have never even heard of the last one. In my day, young Mat, we late-teens and early-20s were too busy living to watch crap TV, or to worry about the label of our shoes.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

It's time - to end the Tasmanian gerrymander

When two-bit cretins like Federal Labor MP Dick Adams can effectively hold their party to ransom, by threatening to go independent unless they get their way on logging (a few days before the election, it's too late for the party to now dump them) , you have to wonder what is wrong with the Tasmanian electoral process. How do such nutbags get in, and (presumably) stay in?

As it turns out, the fault does not, for the most part, rest with Tasmanian voters. Under the Constitution, they are given a vote than is worth about double (for the House of Reps), and five to ten times (for the Senate) almost any other Australian's vote. The exact mechanics of this are set out in this excellent Op Ed by Judith Brett (Hallelujah, Judith - for quite a few years, I thought we'd lost you, as you seemed to have become a full-time John Howard tragic in the same way that Howard himself is a cricketing tragic).

As noted, Tasmanian voters themselves can't be too much-blamed for the disproportionate serving size of their votes, and the unhealthy consequences here for MP calibre. If you were chronically over-fed too, I bet you'd end up choosing sludge from the all-you-can-eat dessert bar, every time.

Judith Brett recommends a referendum to remove the House of Reps part of the Tasmanian gerrymander (because it is enshrined in the Constitution, it can't be changed, any other way). I agree, except I can't see the point of doing things by half measure here, and so Tasmania's senator entitlement should also be pared back to its population pro-rata only (as are the two territories, more or less).

Now that would give something for Dick Adams to whinge about - if he could find a single Australian outside Tasmania who cares, that is.

Update 7 October 2004

Oops! As letter writer Patrick Emerton (assistant lecturer, faculty of law, Monash University) points out in today’s Age, section 128 of the Constitution contains a nasty little poison pill. No referendum which changes any state's guaranteed parliamentary representation can succeed unless and until a majority of voters in that state pass the referendum (in addition to all the other referendum hoopla).

The mortgage-belt vs the angst-belt

The objective near-irrelevance of interest rates to the outcome of the election is well-show in this story in today’s Oz. As the accompanying table (which is not online) shows, only 8 marginal seats nation-wide have 30% or more of households paying off a mortgage. Even the marginal seat with the very highest percentage here (43.5%) still had the interest-rate sensitive as a clear minority.

In contrast, the figures of voters aged 18-40 living in marginal seats would, I imagine, cut I similar, if not actually more numerous swathe. That these are not recognised as a sectional interest is well-enough known, but how to explain the contempt of Mark Latham when he says:

We want young Australians to be starting life as Generation X, not Generation Debt.

It’s a bit late for that late, you two-faced fucktard.

Likewise, PM Howard’s refusal to pre-electorally appear on “Rove Live” sends out a powerful message to the 40s-and-under: “Interest rates are a convenient decoy for the policies we are planning to fuck you over with, but are too scared to tell you about to your face”.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

HECS and international law

Charging fees in Australian universities is a violation of international law, and has been since 1989 when the Higher Education Contribution Scheme was introduced, write academics Di Otto, Mike Salvaris and Geraldine Van Beuren. (Also here)

Well, derr.

Far from “Australian governments have been hoping that no one would notice a treaty which has legally bound Australia for more than a quarter of a century”, the point was taken to the High Court in 1993, and there given short shrift.

The High Court’s reasons for refusing William Kavanagh (aka William Dudley Kavanagh and Dudley Kavanagh) leave to bring on case on HECS violating Article 13 of the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights don’t appear to be online.

My guess here, based on media coverage at the time*, is that the income-contingent nature of HECS was used to invert the original meaning of “capacity” within Article 13. As Robyn McKay, then an assistant secretary in the Department of Education, Employment and Training, wrote to Kavanagh in 1993:

HECS does not restrict access to higher education as it is based on personal capacity to pay . . . The Government’s higher education policy reflects the intent of article 13 of the covenant . . . but its capacity is obviously constrained by the funding available”*.

“Capacity” originally meant academic capacity, of course – a point which Otto, Salvaris and Van Beuren are admirably quite clear about. The three authors, incidentally, also effectively demolish the “limited available public funding” argument.

Otherwise, as to how and why the High Court got it so wrong in 1993, I suggest that the post-Mabo conservative backlash against the court would have made their Honours extremely reluctant to entertain such a politically controversial matter – especially when HECS had an effective bipartisan mandate (a rare thing then, but not now).

Oh, and the nation’s opinion-making baby boomers, including Di Otto**, were sitting on their hands something fierce at the time, too. The younger half of these boomers, it should surprise no one to know, were the main beneficiaries of the introduction of free higher education in 1973 – a policy move that was made explicitly, and with a three-year margin of generosity, pursuant to Article 13***.

My, how the worm turns – from crying “free education is a human right” in 1973, to crying poor in 1989, to crying wolf, and over spilt GenX sweat in 2004.

* Bruce Montgomery “HECS violates rights treaty: law student” Australian 11 August 1993

** Victoria University academic Mike Salvaris, although invisible according to that institution's website, is almost certainly a boomer too, while Geraldine Van Beuren is UK-based. In fairness, Di Otto only became a legal academic in 1994 – a date which still gave her plenty of time, however, to be trumpeting against the very same Labor government that had illegally introduced HECS.

*** The UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) was signed by Australia on 18 December 1972, and became legally binding on 10 March 1976.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Solving the gay clergy debate – all you need is gay marriage

Anglican Church in Australia head, Peter Carnley, seems to think that monogamous gay coupledom goes hand-in-hand with sexual abstinence.

At first I thought he was simply loopy, but then I remembered the folk-wisdom about how sexual activity drastically decreases with marriage, especially with increasing years of the latter. Brilliant! Since no one (other than, I suspect, the boycott-all-gays-period Family First party) seriously objects to celibate poofters, there is a win-win solution, for pro-gay marriage activists (not me, BTW) and traditionalist Christians, anyway. Just marry the poofters off, two by two – and hell, give them all the trimmings, because it's only for a day – into benign, asexual (if not immediately, just give 'em time) “friendships”!

Friday, October 01, 2004

Yusuf Islam and the Rushdie fatwa

Islam’s denial – in today’s Age, and on his official (?) website – of supporting the Rushdie fatwa in 1989 is false. There is documentary evidence of this as fact, referred to in this SMH Letter to the Editor by Laurie Strachan, and in this Wikipedia entry.

Accordingly, while Islam’s recent refusal of entry to the US was almost certainly a matter of mistaken identity (he has been admitted to the US several times since September 11), Islam would seem spectacularly ill-advised to be considering mounting a lawsuit over his deportation.

His 1989 incitement to murder Rushdie was not, for whatever reason, taken up by British authorities at the time. If Islam now goes into an American court as plaintiff, he risks finding himself in the dock instead, Oscar Wilde style – but this time, deservedly so.

Child porn – what more can concerned parents do?

Interviewed on this morning’s Seven News, Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci was adamant that parents should be making their own individual inquiries to prospective schools, child care centres etc. In particular, Tucci said parents should approach who was in charge at the centre, and ask to the institution’s staff-screening policies in writing.

What a fuckwit, on this day of all days. With a 42 y.o. child care centre owner, but none of his staff, being charged with child pornography offences, Tucci’s advice is worse than cold comfort for parents.

A better script for Tucci might go like this. The now almost wholly-privatised child care industry is just like any other business in which there are low barriers to entry, easy money in the offing because of government subsidies, and “productivity gains” (= declining wages and conditions for staff) aplenty that can yet be made. That is, it is full of shonks, or worse.

If parents are at all concerned then, the first thing they should be doing is demanding an end to children’s care, and care workers, being bought and sold like used cars. A practical first step here would be to force an immediate end to worker exploitation within the centres (if private owners exploit their staff – and almost all do – what precise moral qualm is going to stop them exploiting children?). Scott Thompson is so far merely alleged to have committed child pornography offences; OTOH the money he has made from child care, so as to live in blue-ribbon Kew, leaves little doubt that he is a man without scruple. As a greedy, amoral baby boomer, he is admittedly currently unremarkable among his peers – the issue thus becomes a bigger one of Changing the System; the system that lets, and indeed encourages, the scum of humanity to be running its most important and sensitive parts.


Today’s Australian Financial Review seems to have missed the story completely.
Which I guess means the Fin rates the child care industry as a “Download me Now!” impulse buy.

Further Update 4 October 2004

Scott Thompson's business past and Liberal Party links are extensively detailed here.

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