30 July 2006

playa hater

If the blogosphere is anything to go by, the schism between left and right in Australia is deepening, getting more pronounced, or similar, as one reads is happening in the US. In the first example, Tim Blair calls his supporters over to see the weird lefties after jessculture had a shot at the young fellow who hugged the PM. For a little while it's a duck shooting gallery as they all come in a site they'd never normally visit and are appalled at the attitudes they find there. What - not all Australians support the PM? What's wrong with you people (DH: does this break the rules?). Then some of Jess's regulars ride in to shoot some holes in the arguments. But it's a no-win situation.

Meanwhile at that
outpost of leftist tyranny, Larvatus Prodeo, some artfully juxtaposed photos of war dead along with some selected RWDB comments sets off another round of increasingly acrimonious baiting, with one commenter eventually banned.

Finally, at that institution of reasoned debate and libertarian idealism (is libertarian idealism a contradiction in terms?),
Catallaxy, a slightly more restrained exchange of views although it's starting to get willing.

Did this level of intolerance exist in pre-internet days? How did the extremes of right and left get the shit off their livers? I guess it's only a small percentage of the population who are currently engaging in this increasingly hostile environment on the 'net, but surely it must spread and bust out? One thing we don't need in this country is violence at the polling station - we nearly got it with the rise of One Nation. But the polarisation seems to get gaining momentum.

29 July 2006

both sides now

There's a whole big bunch of people out there who see no value whatsoever in the public sector and would privatise anything they can get their hands on. Fortunately for them the market, not surprisingly, is doing it on their behalf. The rise of two-speed economies in the major cities such as London and Sydney has the effect of pricing public sector workers out of large parts of these cities. Gentrification, high-rise luxury apartments and the like are not affordable or often suitable for those on fixed lower incomes - teachers, ambulance paramedics and the like. This article notes that the trend in London is spreading. As I understand it, England itself is a two speed economy where the south, integrated with the global financial/services economy, is thriving but the post-industrial north is declining. Stereotyping I know, but the bankers and insurance financial types who are now buying up country cottages, villages and so on are pricing everyone else out.

You certainly get better journalism in the UK than you do here. This
opinion piece in the Times of London not only makes a number of cogent points about ideology (namely neo-conservatism) but lays it on the line with a number of people from both sides of politics including a fellow journo at the paper. The point of the article, about current opposition leader David Cameron needing to preserve some policy space for himself rather than nail his colours to the neoconservative mast, seems very sensible and is well argued in my view. Can you imagine any similar article here about Beazley. They'd be wanting to know "what does he stand for?" No recognition of realities or subtlety.

WTF? OMG! (*)

Last week you read about the saga of retrieving the Peugeot - pictured in all its glory left, from the dealer I had left it with. Satisfactorily fitted with another new battery, we took it home and wedged it moderately successfully into the non-existent fourth spot in the driveway.

We stuck it in the Trading Post and got three calls before the print edition even came out. Not wanting to go through the hassle of finding out what it needs for roadworthy, we suggested it needed an enthusiast prepared to get a bit dirty and were selling it unregistered (ie I take back the plates once it was sold). And that was exactly what we got (in fact the third caller also sounded ultra keen but realistic about what the deal was).

However, the first caller lives up the top end of the Sunshine Coast so there was some to-ing and fro-ing about would I let him post the number plates back. As it seemed like today would be a nice day, and offspring number 2 offered to forgo a day's pay to come up with me, I said I'd bring it to him as I was pretty sure he'd take it.

And he did. He gave it pretty good going over but suggested that it was in far better condition than he expected (the picture is misleading as it dates from when I first got it, in 1998). We did the deal and offspring and I started back. We stopped by the Maroochydore Surf Club for lunch and after an hour or so, we hit the Bruce Highway back to Brissie. Just after Aussie World we saw a plume of smoke up ahead and as we neared, it seemed pretty strong. It was car on fire on the northbound side. It was a red car. It was a red Peugeot 405 Mi16...

So what were the chances? Had he whacked some plates on it and taken it for a fang? Offspring no 2 and I agreed that this was exactly what either of us would have done. I had rabbitted on a bit to him about what a superb road car it was, including a few brief spurts well over the posted limit on the way up, and so he'd have had plenty of time to do it. We couldn't use the easiest indicator to check if it was our old one - a slightly faded offside front guard - because the flames were all over it from the windscreen forward. The wheels looked like series 2, not series 1, but....

Well, we had to go back and check, didn't we? It took us 10 minutes to get to a place we could turn. By the time we got back there was a substantial traffic bank-up....and the whole car was well alight - utterly engulfed in flames. But it was not the car we had just sold - the driver and his passenger were standing helplessly looking on and it wasn't our buyer.

There are a few of those red Mi16s about, but not too many. Who'd believe it, eh?

(*) I don't think this a song title. But it's what offspring no 2 and I agreed was a suitable expression of (first) alarm and (second) that sinking feeling.

28 July 2006

Im gonna be strong

So you go out to lunch with a few old, as in former, colleagues. It's a great catch-up, particularly as the denizen from Melbourne brings the rain. It's funny in a sense, but you seem to appreciate people a lot more with the benefit of a bit of distance and a (perhaps fairly recently acquired) ability to listen better, look for the nuances and get a lot more out of conversations. Maybe it was my imagination, but there was a bit less of the one-upsmanship that always seemed to be the feature of conversations in earlier days.

That said, there's always a few surprises. Why would an acknowledged fellow-traveller want to challenge me not to blog about the Hon John Howard MP, duly and popularly elected Prime Minister of our fair land, not to mention our incredibly able and hard-working Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Hon Alexander Downer MP. Surely the embedded links I have been using are an indication of my respect for the outcomes of the popular mandate - in Benelong and Mayo certainly. I was shocked I tell you, quite shocked. Anyway mate, I suggest you have look around and have good long think about the terms of any wagers. To comment, she is not to blog per se, capiche?

That said, I can't remember what was the consideration of the wager. How about a new job for you?

27 July 2006

tell me sweet little lies (updated)

What's the difference between Lebanese -Australians who aren't patriotic to this country by living in Lebanon until they need to be bailed out, and Australians who are fighting for another country? Well?

On the radio this morning I heard Condoleezza Rice say that she wanted peace for the Middle East but voted against an immediate cease-fire. Run that by me again? (Note - yeah, I know what was really meant and this is a sem-cheap shot, but still - it's absolutely fucking insane. Utterly one-sided and pointless).

The proposal to
ban junk food ads on prime time TV is a knee -jerk reaction, but a proposal to ban books isn't. Run that one by me again?

Blow me down this gets tiring, doesn't it? Has the whole world gone stone crazy?

There's probably more, but this is just too depressing. Fortunately, I'm a more optimistic type than I thought (open an account and do some surveys - it's fun!).

Update: In the Business Review Weekly today Ian Mac Farlane, apparently the Federal Minister for Industry, says that "An economy in Australia that does not have a sound, competitive industry is not going to be competitive."

I'm absolutely speechless. And I kind of wish the Minister was similarly speechless if that's the best he can do. Someone has evidently briefed him about competitiveness, but he never got beyond learning to pronounce it.

The Minister will be releasing an industry statement in early 2007. I can't wait. Let's have a crack at the intro, shall we?

"An industry statement cannot be a statement unless it has some industry. And this one has both."

We're doomed I tell you.

26 July 2006

little things

Been pretty busy at work and with work stuff after hours, so no recent posts. Will be similar tonight, preparing for a presentation tomorrow as well as a session with the boss, so just a few random thoughts on current affairs:

  • what's the difference between Leterio Silvestri and David Hicks? This might read rather offensively but what is provoking this comparison is the notion of a fair trial. We have a reasonable suspicion about Silvestri based on evidence and his attitude (as espoused in his own words) to date. Silvestri's lawyers have been trying to get evidence given in camera as they suspect that if he goes to trial, he won't get a fair one. Probably a correct conclusion based on what we've learnt to date. Hicks has been charged but under a totally foreign system (in fact foreign even to its supposed jurisdiction, the rest of the USA), we have had no chance to consider his guilt or innocence ourselves apart from being pronounced guilty by Rumsfeld, Howard et al immediately after he was captured. There's something wrong in all of this.
  • Jason Akermanis gets dumped from the Lions. V V B has never yet discussed anything remotely sport-related, but what got me about this issue was the tension between the nature of teamwork and value of the 'outsider'. We are exhorted to take 'outsiders' at face value as they have something to contribute to society that often the mainstream can't even recognise, let alone value. Think artists, poets, 'mystics' and so on. At the same time, the rule for teams is that no player is bigger than the team. In this case, it is the later that has triumphed after, admittedly, a fair history of 'Aker's' antics. Which is right. Does the 'normal' always win out? How do 'outsiders' maintain their drive? Maybe Aker isn't so much of an outsider as I am painting him here - just a thought experiment (or sorts).

Gotta go, potatoes need peeling.

23 July 2006

I read the news today oh boy (updated)

This article in the Times of London highlights what seems to be a trend around our bit of the western world: management by press release or, as explained here, by 'headline grabbing initiative'.

It's not surprising that the Times would excoriate (to use just one word from the article, would you ever expect to read that in the Sun-Herald or the SMH?) a Labor government. But as I recall the Times initially supported Blair and, all those years ago (1997), the New Labor brand and 'Cool Britannia' (eeugh) were meant to foreshadow a genuine step forward in governance, whether called 'triangulation' or the 'Third Way'.

The Blair government seems to have become an embarrassment as the years have passed. It's certainly not a liberal government and it never really sought to be of social democrat persuasion. All governments get tired and, as Blair and co got tired, they seem to have turned to increasingly inane proposals that get floated in all-singing, all-dancing press releases. And then get mugged by reality.

This approach is certainly consistent with how the State and Territory governments around Australia have been operating. Initiatives get announced several times over; private consultancy firms charge mega-amounts to provide tailored advice (ie to provide the answer originally sought, under the figleaf cover of 'independent advice'); and plans, and plans to plan, are the order of the day. When does anything actually get done?

The Federal government actually provides a counter-example: particularly with control of the Senate, they are able to ram legislation through rather than having to indulge in genuine consultation and negotiation. When they announce something they pretty well just power ahead and do it. Although on reflection , this hasn't applied so far to T3 and to media policy. Perhaps the potential impacts of any changes in media policy to those who really wield power around here gives a hint as to why this is the case.

Which is all just a longish-hand way of saying we get the governments we deserve but we are badly let down by the fourth estate in Australia - no-one really applies the blowtorch in an open and balanced manner. The opinion-makers all have their favourites and so no analysis actually underpins their daily pronouncements. And it all just gets lapped up.

Update: This opinion piece in the Guardian runs along fairly similar lines to my earlier words, just with more detail and clarity. We are not the only country with a problematic relationship with the US, influenced almost totally from the top. By which I mean that most of us have no problems with Ameicans, just with their current government. The comments are also revealing and you'll like it when close to the end, you get to Richard52 who is a Pom here downunder. He's mightily unimpressed by our media oligopoly as well by Bush's treatment of Howard.

I can feel the grass grow

HA HA HA runs a very strange blog where nothing is as it seems and it really doesn't matter because it's virtually unintelligible to all except those of dyslexic inclination or people who just like their letters - or reality - to sequence differently. But what a hide to throw muck at our wonderful University of Queensland here in the leafy western suburbs?

22 July 2006

catch 23

You go to pick up the old car so you can take it and sell it to one of the bucket shops on the 'Magic Mile'. Somehow during the 5 or so weeks that it's been with this used car bloke who'd promised he'd unload it for you at a better price than you'd get for it, the battery has died (altho' it doesn't seem all that old). So they jump it. A tyre has gone flat (again, how did that happen?) so you take it to their shop and they put some air in it. You stop the car because it has no petrol (where did that go?) so you have to jump it again. There's the spare wheel you dropped off, but the boot won't open. How did that happen?

You take it to the nearest petrol station knowing that you' ll have to turn it off while it's at the pumps. You pull up and switch off - too late, you've forgotten which side the filler is. Push the car back, push it up to the correct side (someone comes to help just as you get there). But the petrol filler flap won't open. Ahh, because the there is an electrically operated lock on the flap and the battery's dead.

So we have to get a battery before we do anything else. You push the car to a spot on the edge of the forecourt and go looking for a battery because the RACQ coverage has been transferred to the replacement car. Find battery place and talk the bloke into lending a small shifting spanner. When ring spanners of the correct sizes - three different sizes - would be faster. But half an hour later it's done. It's afternoon now. Let's just take it home and clean it up a bit before we try to sell it.

You remember what a nice car it is on the road, even if it's getting pretty damn scrappy inside and out. How great it is to have a sunroof. And just for fun, blow some young punk in a late model VW Golf into the weeds when he tries to overtake on the inside on an access ramp to the motorway. Blissful Saturday once again.

Update: Sunday. Now the boot's opening again. I vacuumed the interior. The battery that failed looks like a cheapie, if so, no wonder it's cactus. It's a red car, it looks good: I might keep it and drive it myself.

And on another tack entirely, Yo Blair. This is how we do it. And women have it better in Afghanistan, just as predicted. Because theory - more accurately, ideological blind faith, blustering and bullying - has trumped the real world for the last five years.

drive in Saturday (*)

Courtesy of reader John, a piece that explains why I go fair dinkum amok when a certain whining, grating voice pops out of the TV or radio. The next step I suppose is some anger management classes, or yoga, or something, to curb this wild unnecessary (well, counterproductive) behaviour. Either that, or start drinking a lot more. Yes, Plan B it is, that will be much more fun.

And here's an example of the sort of thing that really gets me riled and is at the same time a real insight into how democracy gets perverted when any one party (as in participant, not political party) in a situation has too much power. Mr Parkin may well be a dangerous lunatic who wants to overthrow society, but we'll never find out this way. Not to mention the inequity of charging someone with unspecified allegations and then whacking him more than the cost of a 5 star hotel for his incarceration. The same principles apply with large companies and the like: the less accountability, the more propensity to push it as far as you can. Lord Acton, again as ever (and didn't he have a nice line in irrefutable sayings, btw. Where is his like today)?

It's the clear light of day that mitigates against extreme behaviour by any party. The case against Mr Parkin would be stronger, and the likelihood of public support for the government's response much more certain, if we knew what the details were. As it stands, in the absence of facts and evidence, the automatic conclusion to be drawn is that there is no case except ideological opposition. David Hicks, another case in point. And as for the many letters and blog comments I have seen that suggest the Hicks should just be summarily shot: think about the features of democracy in Australia that we should actually be fighting to retain, not throw away.

Not a good way to be starting a Saturday so we might pull up stumps - actually, there's a bit of precipitation here in the leafy western suburbs so I doubt that play would in fact have commenced, if we were actually playing cricket - and go and do some Saturday things. Dinner tonight with some friends down - well, actually up - from the high country. Had a few bevvies with them last night: it's amazing (no it's not) how quickly the conversation can turn a bit ribald. Anyone out there know about cold spoons (scroll down), for example?

(*) 'cos I gotta sell the Pug today. I just gotta.

20 July 2006

ABC, dah doo doo dah dah dah

"...being just slightly biassed was,
easy for me..."

Len Barry, where are you?

Anyone with a bone to pick about the ABC really needs to take a look at how the
Canberra Times does factual reporting (well it appears online as a front page report, not an op-ed piece).

Mind you, I quite like it! More reporting like this, please. Why should anyone take the little fukcer seriously?

19 July 2006

big country

Just a small spit before we start: if Alexander Downer claims that Australia is a global player, how come we get gazumped on contracts? And by the Canucks of all people - we usually cooperate very closely with them overseas.

Rather than responding to JahTeh in comments, can I put a couple of things here:

  • Australia's overseas missions are required to have emergency evacuation plans appropriate to factors such as the level of risk, ease of exit, number of Australians in the country and so on. But in a situation such we are facing in Lebanon, the plans are only as good as the means to implement them. Despite the spit above - which is simply meant to show up more misleading arrogance from the government, 'cos I loathe them so much - for whatever reason the agreement to charter the ship fell through, the airport has been bombed and land routes are too dangerous, there's not much else that can be done easily. I was for a couple of years stationed in a country not too far from Lebanon, and our escape plans were based on the assumption that the first means of exit, the airport, would be out of action early on in any battle.
  • In relation to the ongoing 'battle' to keep blogging, nice one JT. The first time I was going to give it away, I was admitted to Adrian's blogroll which was a big boost. The second time, Gerry just said "keep going". This time, you hang some guilt trip on me :-) What's a bloke to do? I'll tell you. Just keep going.
I haven't done the full rounds of the blogs yet and so not much else to pass some superfluous comment on, apart from this: when is the world going to get serious about the pack of thugs who have been running Burma since either 1962, 1988 or 1990, depending on how finely you slice your definition of exactly who is running - more accuruately ruining - the place.

So we stop here.

18 July 2006

losing it

Even thought this is just a weensy corner of the blogosphere, I am chuffed by the visitor traffic I get and much moreso by getting comments from people I see as 'recognised' in the 'sphere such as Gerry, Barista, tigtog and JahTeh. And my poisnal friends, natch.

But again this is starting to get to me. I spend hours in front of this machine looking for inspiration and points of difference. I sure can't come up with any myself and having promised to give up raging at the federal government I keep slipping back into very bad habits..

The last two nights, in between doing the blogrounds, I've been watching and listening to Pulse, which has
just been released on DVD, and doing the odd strum and moan along. That is very rewarding, provided I don't actually try to imagine I'm a member of the band but just having a thrash. (but I do, of course).

Mrs v v b has commented that I'm starting to get a bit obsessive about all this - 'this' being the political scene, altho' I've been an amateur policy wonk for years. She would prefer that I kind of ceased and desisted for a while I think, or at least wound it back a notch. Particularly in her presence.

Which is a long way of saying I think I will wind it back a notch. In the time I've been following blogs, starting to comment and then having started v v b, I've noticed differences appearing in how the regular bloggers relate to each other. It's only natural that the 'sphere should mature (in a cheese-like sense, nothing to do with good behaviour). Trying to relate over the 'net is difficult - once the words are out there you are kind of committed, which can mean quick retaliation and exacerbating misunderstandings. But it's been instructive to watch the vast ideological differences get reeled in a bit; to look at those who give an inch and those who don't. Not forgetting those who take a mile. But I have noticed increasing civility - virtual social capital, if you like. So maybe the maturing is more than like cheese.

I really don't want to become obsessive but, on the other hand, this little blog has still to achieve its potential: in other words, I have yet to achieve mine through it. Ill-thought-through opinions are fine up to a point, but a bit tedious after that, I suspect. So, perhaps a few less postings and a bit more thought might be applied. Over and out-ish.

17 July 2006

blue monday (updated)

The PM on the news a minute ago: "Having cities on permanent water restrictions makes as much sense as having cities on permanent power restrictions." Maybe he could have a think about the likelihood of both unless we move away from a simplistic approach that says more dams' and 'more coal'. To be fair - and by jingo it's hard in that little turd's case - he did talk about water recycling, to my mind the first best/most obvious step on water.

From the ABC news today: At their press conference, Mr Bush has declared it is wrong to "expect Russia to look like the United States" but pressed Mr Putin on issues like the role of an independent media." I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq, where there is a free press and free religion and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope Russia would do the same thing," he said. Mr Putin replied: "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly". He really is on another planet, isn't he? And I love Mr Putin's tongue-in-cheek reply. Was it understood, do you reckon? No money on that one.

Because other people, unlike me, will see Bush's message as demonstrating single-minded persistence and clarity (normally a good thing, I agree). But people with such a single-minded view of how the world works often tend to not recognise irony, I have noticed. Still, you gotta love the variety in human outlook and worldview. Just don't like the other side ;-)

And I see my former employer is
dragging its feet on getting Aussies - well, they're not real Aussies are they? - out of Lebanon. Because we're further away? Don't buy it for a second.

Update 1: Right at the end of the ABC news, we are told breathlessly that Alexander Downer has - presumably single-handedly - got 86 Australians out.

Finally, via the really excellent Road to Surfdom a good, long discussion on the political benefits of lying through your teeth to the country you are allegedly leading, for over ten years. And people don't give a damn, he's better than the alternative. Whoever that is. And on the radio - in fact on Radio National of all places, if you ever needed evidence that the ABC is whipped into submission, there it is - today I heard something about Howard "leading Australia to the next election". No he bloody won't. He will lead the Parliamentary Liberal Party. And that, gentle readers, is the organisation to which he dedicates his life efforts. Don't ever, ever, forget it.

Over and out.

Update 2: Again at Surfdom, a very good analysis of the current state of representative democracy in Australia. Note particularly Tim's points about the ABC. Without the ABC, we are utterly stuffed and with the ABC in its current pussy-whipped state, we may as well be.

15 July 2006

ways and means

More like ends and means, but...

There was a bit I meant to add last night but forgot. Just as well I don't get paid for this...or I wouldn't be.

It was about the Natwest Three case. In a mean-spirited mood, I kind of hoped that the Yanks banged the three up 'real good', because that would at last open Blair's eyes about the calibre of people he is dealing with, and hopefully a few more eyes might get opened as a flow-on effect. A bit harsh on the three bankers, perhaps...the magnitude of their crime aside. I mean it's just thieving from the employer, right? Should they bear a disproportionate burden just get that part of the world that hasn't woken up to Bush and co to do so?

What's worse about this story is the apparent suicide of another Natwest employee after a visit from the British security forces. I'll be watching this one closely. I loathe official bastardry in all its forms.

Similarly, the James Hardie case. There's no reason why the Australian taxpayer should bear any of the cost - the fate of those dying of mesothelioma because of their exposure to Hardie products means that Hardie should be paying up. But if the legal implications of that mean that the recipients don't get the money...where's the justice? There was a Hardie victim in the ward where the old man was. This feller seemed about 70 or so and told me he didn't know how long he had to go - he had a hole in one lung about the size of Jatz cracker. He was bitter but not angry, and somewhat whimsical that he would be getting money for the first time in his life and he wouldn't be able to enjoy it.

So, do the ends justify the means? Even though Hardie moved operations offshore and set up a bogus trust, do we bail them out so the victims at least get something? And do three Pommy crooks endure the delights of the US penitentiary system rather than a Pommy gaol?

14 July 2006

back in the usaussr (updated)

It seems like the UK is learning what it's like to be on the receiving end of the US's particular interpretation of justice and they might wish they were back in the USSR. The so-called 'Natwest Three' case is fascinating - a bunch of crooked bankers do what crooked bankers do, and rip off the system. They get caught but instead of the usual slap on the wrist (although that approach to white-collar crime is slowly changing), they get hauled off to the US because the US Senate hasn't ratified its Extradition Act and so the US doesn't require a prima facie case.

This has sent all sorts of elements in UK society into conniptions. The City, that is to say the London financial district, which usually protects its own, certainly doesn't want decent clean cut crooked bankers inside the US penitentiary system. Opponents of Britain's involvement in the Iraq war see this as yet another example of British acquiesence to Bush's duplicity.

The parallels with Australia, in relation to David Hicks, are not all that close but, in general, the common factor of acquiescence to the US's particular view of
how the world should work are striking - at least to me. If the era of the nation-state is undergoing a resurgence, as I think I read somewhere recently, then surely friendly nations should not be beholden to other friendly nations. The US practices extraterritoriality for at least some of its laws, but won't submit to any international justice system. This is not sustainable. Oh...yes it is. Sorry about that DH. Heh heh. But if the Natwest 3 don't get bail, watch all hell break loose. Goodbye Tony Blair - you need to look after your citizens. It's just here that the government can get away with not fulfilling this basic function. We only have interests.

Update - and I should have linked earlier: if you are interested in the Natwest 3 case and can't bring yourself to peruse the Grauniad, (here is an explanation of that term),this is a very good blog and it'll be worth following the Magistrate's comments, or you could go to a proper newspaper, which also has a blog on the case (and of course you get the incomparable writing of the thinking man's Tory as a kind of bonus.

Meanwhile, as we scour the bureau of meteorology website for lifesaving rains, the Brisbane Institute comes out with a cracker of a column on water recycling. The public resistance is incredible but surely recycling offers the most cost-effective way of extending the use of currently available reserves. Breakfast with the infrastructure experts this morning pretty much agreed that: just pump the effluent back uphill, blend and treat. Or the other way around. Or both. But the really interesting, if not surprising, factor is the weakness of the pollies involved. Self-interest, backflips, minimising exposure and risk, shifting blame and failure to accept responsibility. Is it any wonder we're sick and tired of the fukcers fukcing us over.

But..and yet, and yet. I wanted to end on a more positive note than this and I will. Both the offspring have recently moved their blogs - linked on the blogroll - from Blogspot to MySpace. I don't pretend to understand MySpace which seems a sort of Gen y-ish sort of thing, but I've asked them to explain it to me. What I really wanted to say is how proud I am of the pair of them. You only get one go at parenting and whenever I've regretted the many shortcomings I thought I may have demonstrated during their younger years, they always reassure me that it was all OK. Compared to what I'm not sure, but I accept their assurances with as much grace as I can.

Have a great weekend, people.

And finally, vale Syd Barrett.

13 July 2006

rockin' in the free world

Well, I have had the incomparable Mr Young on high rotation in the car recently. He'll sound better when I get a few speakers replaced this weekend, due to the surrounds having deteriorated to an extent where any bass at all causes a horrendous buzzing. Very very bad. And after that we going to look at toilets. Jeez I love the weekends. And so on to today's news:
  • "Howard is always talking about Australian mateship. But yet again he has shown the world that he doesn't know what mateship is, let alone what it's for.
    Regardless of Peter Costello's failings, nobody could behave to a mate the way Howard has behaved to him.
    And nobody can say now that Howard has any substance to him. He is only a collection of slogans and political posters wrapped around a bit of emptiness.
    In a rare moment of honesty he once mocked the idea that a prime minister should have some sort of vision.
    Since then he has been consistent in his determination to shrink Australia to fit his own shrivelled and constipated soul.
    It has never occurred to him that his constant betrayal of the things he talks about so much might start to make people sick to their guts
    ." This from a
    letter to the editor in today's Canberra Times. Couldn't have put it better meself. And also, they'll remove him and Lady Janette from Kirribilli (where they have to live because of the kids' schooling...oh, er yes....well, they have to live there because it's closer to the ferry) in a box. They'll be there forever.
  • Media revamp - is likely to reduce competition but who really knows? That biassed statement is made simply on the basis of experience that, in an uncertain and unstable environment, application of large sums of money usually finds ways of meeting its own objectives. It just does.
  • Can anything else go wrong in Queensland Health? Any more bodies (so to speak)?
  • And as for this (sorry about all the ABC links, it's just easier. But yes, it's partisan, what a pack of commies, blah blah blah.) Back to the Middle East - we have to do something about Islamic terrorism. But I've seen the Palestinian 'refugee' camps - I put that in quotes because it raises the issue of defining a refugee: can you be a refugee if you're a third generation inhabitant of a camp? It's supposed to be your land, but it's not. The conditions are - or at least were some years ago, but I can't imagine they've changed all that much - appalling. The point I was originally going to get to was whether every Israeli reaction is a vast over-reaction. Hamas has three Israeli soldiers. Three. How many people is Israel holding and on what grounds? And with what proof? Ah shit, too hard.
This blog is so deep. But then who among us has all the answers? It's much more importanteasier to ask the questions. What a cop out. Is there anything on the teev? Maybe I'll get the Maton out and exercise the vocal cords a bit. Breakfast tomorrow with a bunch of workmates from a former life. Mega amounts of coffee leading to a high productivity levels of twitching day.

12 July 2006

cup holder

People, I have now seen it all. A baby stroller - well, more accurately one of those dinky fluoro lightweight alloy 3-wheel baby joggers - with a cup holder.

And people reckon I'm a caffeine addict.

11 July 2006

hang tough

That's what it seems the Rodent and the Apprentice are going to do. Why not, they've played the entire electorate for suckers for ten years without a sufficient majority waking up, so why not press your luck. Who'll notice?

The disengaged aren't interested in either the theatrics or even the very notion of leaders and deputies having the confidence of their party. As the little general has torn up pretty much every other vestige of the Westminster system, no reason why they shouldn't take an axe to this bit either.

Listening to some random platform polling at Toowong on the radio this arvo, there are plenty of punters out there who still think John's the ticket. Poor fellow my country indeed.

I can see why many think it's just a sideshow and that they should just get on with governing the country except that I'd rather they kept away from this as everything they do, in my eyes, sends us down a path that will hurt us in the long run.

Anyway, there's a lot more and far better commentary everywhere else so I can't add to the noise. Megadeath do it
so much better.


geez it's hard to let go of this stuff. How many times have I said I'd let the rodent go and write about something more...meaningful?

It was interesting having a little trip down memory lane the other day to the home town, and thinking about the notion of memory, what and how we remember and what it means to us. And even while I write this, in true stream of consciousness style, to thinking about how this stuff stands up against the very informed and often academic discussion of similar themes or topics on other blogs.

Then I have to remember - it's not a competition...

So, back to the hometown memories. They are quite happy in general. Playing cricket on a Saturday afternoon, even though I was a hopeless cricketer. The hometown was sport mad, so there was no escape and all my friends played sport, in the main extremely well. We all swam and I used to get up and train before school. The bloke next door used to coach me - he was a natural sportsman, holes in one, all that stuff - and in return my mother helped his young wife out with their babies as they came along. He coached me at golf, where I was even worse, and never really got much better over the ensuing forty years.

Our street was gravel, with a couple of corner store type shops at the bottom - a general store, a butcher and one other I can't remember. I remember the stinking hot summers and the hours I used to spend up one of the pine trees, pretending to be a bomber pilot.

It was only 15 years after WW2 had finished and Australia was still quite militarised: we used to have to march once a week at school, which I used to hate. In retrospect, it was insane: if anyone invaded, all the children would immediately be out marching in rectangles. That should scare the piss out of any invader, or at least bamboozle them with the surreality of it all.

Naturally every morning we lined up and recited, "I honour my god, I serve my queen, I salute the flag." At the time - this was when I was about 8 or 10 - I didn't think about it all, that was just the way things were. After I'd grown up enough to develop at least some critical faculties, it made me a confirmed agnostic (well at least opposed to all organised religion), a republican and deeply suspicious of all those politicians with an unhealthy fixation on the flag. And at this point we will manfully resist temptation, and...

..move on. Life certainly was simpler, but we weren't well off so I imagine that life was a bit more complicated for my parents. I can remember talk of the credit squeeze of 1962 (? can't be bothered googling to check) and the newspaper. I cannot type its name or else we will lapse into ranting again. Any poisnal friends can ask me at an appropriate time...

10 July 2006

some things come from nothing(*)

There is absolutely nothing I can add to today's revelations - or some more appropriate description - about the non-Kirribilli Pact. Just go to nearly every blog on my roll and then follow the links. All the parrots in the pet shop, to coin a cliche...

So let's just wait and see it out, eh? "No honour amongst thieves." Heh heh, it was always going to come unstuck.

So I'll have to find something else to rabbit on about. I've still got about a dozen cars, ownership and experiences thereof, to write up.

they do, too.

09 July 2006

in the air tonight

There I was, just doing the ironing and minding my own business this arvo when this advertisement comes on the TV about all the wonderful things the (Queensland) government has been doing for the disabled. Mention of lots of sums of money, some individual initiatives as I recall, not a lot of info about what people should do, apart from showing the website for the relevant agency.

"Hullo", I thought to myself, "that looks and very much sounds like a pre-election advertisement. Long on reassurance, short on practical advice."

Trouble is, we aren't in pre-election mode. No writs issued, for example.

On the other hand, it does fit with various rumours I have been hearing, although I always discount rumours depending on who's spreading them. I particularly am sceptical when facts seem to have been retrofitted to support someone's notion that an election is imminent. Especially 'cos lots of my friends and acquaintances are election junkies. Birds, feather, you understand.

That said, I have to say that I object to my tax dollars going on dodgy advertising regardless of which political party does it. And of course they all do - those unspoken rules (let's not even bother about what the legislation says and how it has been interpreted) about what is acceptable seem to disappeared in the dust of the Australia I grew up in.

Now you've got me all nostalgic. Because I did grow up in the dust - our town used to get 11 inches of rain a year. But the river flowed deep and brown and used to flood, before it was dammed. Now it's a series of waterholes. The town? The place is three times the size, the main street is much busier than it used to be. There are suburbs which are all new and, like all new suburbs, look the same as new developments right around the country.

Of course it's irrational to expect new houses in the style of the older ones, but some variation to take account of landscape and climate would be nice. But that would add to the cost of the houses and, not surprisingly, the aim is to make the housing as affordable as possible. But the sameness of residential developments, like the sameness of commercial centres with the same major chains in each one, is something else that gets me a bit depressed. It makes commercial and economic sense and simultaneously doesn't sit right in the gut.

It could be better, it could be different: but is the sameness of commercial development in Australia a direct result of the size and scale of our economy? Can we only sustain a certain number of major chains, and not tolerate a greater number of smaller operators? What price diversity? We know there are lots of people who want to run their own businesses - do they get a fair go at trying?

What was in the air tonight was the smell of an early election. Now it's the tang of a life lived 40 or 50 years ago. I can still smell it, I can still feel it.

sunday morning coming down

It is. And while I wait for Mrs v v b to digest coffee and paper preparatory to us going out and buying warmer pyjamas - why are the leafy western suburbs so frigging cold, this is Brisbane for fcuk's sake - some random thoughts.

The Curious Snail today leads with an apparent lapse by Honest John to abide by an apparent agreement to hand over to Costello after two terms. Now this doesn't surprise me and I don't think it'll do him any harm. In fact, nothing does him any harm, but let's not go down that path. It is of course reminiscent of the
Kirribilli Agreement, and any lieutenant with a baton in his backpack would need to be cleverer than either Keating or Costello to be entirely comfortable that any such 'agreement' would be honoured. "Honour" - John Howard. I made a small joke.

If I was to revert completely to type, I'd make a claim that this news simply underlines the fact that no-one should trust Howard on anything. But that would be an unwarranted cheap shot and consequently I haven't made it.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall while the various factions of the non-factionalised Liberal Party do their polling and plotting. Has IR started to dent Howard's teflon reputation, and my comment above about not being harmed is wrong? What is the general populace's view of Costello? What is the party's view of Costello, and the potential effect he as leader might have on their chances at the next election as the
natural party of government? (Like some claim for Labor at state level)? Or is this all just the usual winter recess's annual leadership story? Isn't there enough legs in the threat emanating from the Dear Leader?

Now there's a thought: could we have similar imposed names for our political leadership? What would we call Howard? How about Small Wonder?

Had an old mate around for din-dins last night. I've known this character for about 35 years and, apart from the rapidly greying locks, he hasn't changed at all. Quite amazing. He is one of those rare types who was born without a malicious bone in his body - something I can't claim, I'm sorry to admit. He is wonderful company except for being very softly spoken which, combined with my kind of declining hearing, often means I have to ask him to repeat stuff. He is a muso by inclination and, in the past, also as a paying pastime so he was keen to have a look and a play of the Aria and pronounced it good.

Update - well now afternoon so
change post title.

A final reflection on my mate from last night - people like that restore your faith in the good things about people. There should be more of him about.

Now a small but necessary duty, to thank those who sent flowers and good wishes to us over the last week and a half. Toodle-oo.

06 July 2006


  1. The main reason everyone - well, Bush, Howard and Downer - are going nuts about North Korea's pathetic attempts to get a fireworks night rocket up is not the 'clear and present danger', to coin a cliche, but the uncertainty caused to capital markets, creating pressure on interest rates. That's a real clear and present danger to our best mates, and that's very important.
  2. My old mum was always going on about how good she was at history when she was at school: "1066, Battle of Hastings." But ask her what did it signify - blank. Julie Bishop is just another one, in a government full of 'em.
  3. Nice to see a bit more attention to David Hicks' treatment. Can they keep him in Guantanamo until after the next federal election?
  4. I was very disturbed to see people on TV acting just like me when I'm watching the news at home. Most unbecoming. Now I know what Mrs v v b has been on about for the last 10 years. And aren't nimbys ugly when they're angry. I definitely won't be carrying on any more.

On the other hand, I might just chuck this Mrs v v b's way and then duck for cover when the response gets launched. Also, I need to get her some more aprons. Heh, thanks Helen, you can expect some collateral damage:-).

05 July 2006

the same old song

So the PM thinks someone should take a pay cut for the good of the economy. Tell you what: I'll treat that comment with something other than derision when a business peak lobby comes out and says that an interest rate rise is needed for the good of the economy. Surely they understand that the Reserve Bank is independent and works for the overall good of teh economy including, when necessary, dampening demand.

That said, let's not be silly: they are just saying what they're paid to say. Interest is a cost of business and high rates preclude investment. But enough of the sanctimonious utterances that we usually get along the lines of 'the time is not right for a rate rise.' It never is.

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