29 February 2008


Yesterday we wrote about Temasek Holdings of Singapore increasing its share of ABC Learning. We mentioned Lee Kuan Yew's comment about Australia becoming the poor white trash of Asia.
Today Crikey offers us this:

That's if the alert but not alarmed Rudd Government decides Sing Inc can lift its stake above 15%. After all, if Lee Kuan Yew once described us as the “poor white trash” of Asia, should his family be looking after an MCG’s worth of Aussie toddlers each week?

VVB, bringing you an alternate reality just slightly ahead of another alternate reality.

You remember these words? "You're getting paranoid!!!!!"

Derf does, doncha mate?

Meanwhile, in yet another extremely alterate reality, the Rudd government releases a 100 Days Achivements brochure.

Dear reader, our disappointment knows no bounds. We elected a new government for a brave new world, we get Tony Blair c. 1997. Shit. Glossy shit I grant you, but shit nonetheless.

Objectives, KPIs, outcomes-oriented government.

Provided you define an 'outcome' as a some sort of a piece of paper, glossy or otherwise.

We're doomed I tells ya, doomed.

28 February 2008

dirty white boy

Quite some time ago, 1959 is a year that sticks in the mind, former long-standing Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore predicted that Australia would become the "poor white trash" of Asia.

So Temasek Holdings, the lightly disguised corporate acquisition vehicle of Singapore Inc, aka the Lee family holdings, is buying up ABC child care at fire sale prices.

And the...the...the...crikey I'm lost for adjectives, how on earth do you describe the NSW government - against the wishes of at least 60% of the State's residents and, no less, its own policy, is selling of its power industry to the Chinese, for crying out loud.

All those years ago, when the world was very, very different, Papa Lee was bang on the money. Governments which, no matter their weaknesses and the ever-so-slight stench of, well, you know what (hey, look at NSW for the amateur version), understand that they are there, democratically elected or not quite so, to enrich the lives of their citizens.

Which they are doing at a rate of knots.

Knots, I tell you.

Now, what do you reckon is happening here?

Answers on the back of an IOU made out to 'generous anonymous donor' and left in the Suggestions Box by the front door. Turn out the lights on your way out, please.

Outside, the might Fitzroy is back to its normal pond-like status. I reckon it's dropped two metres since this morning. If I'd stayed here and watched, I reckon I could have seen it drop.

27 February 2008

stuck in the middle with you

From the Canberra Times, probably not the journal of choice of many VVB readers, comes news that several Canberra business people, the former Liberal Chief Minister and a prominent academic on business and governance issues have met to form a new political party.

Meeting in a wine merchant's board room was a nice touch. Cheers!

Given that assemblage, it's highly likely that the new party will be "pro-business", a tried and tired motif to which most current and recent Australian governments have pledged allegiance. With the almost certain exception of the current Labor ACT government which, apart from being "self-congratulatory and secretive", is pretty much fixated on symbolism rather than substance (if what I read in the Canberra Times is true).

Still an' all, it will be interesting to watch. Along with the death of previously understood notions of 'left' and 'right', the post-1989 supremacy of market-led government (hmm, there's a contradiction in terms, no?) has in my 'umble view contributed to an increasing gap between citizens' expectations and what governments actually do, and how they do it.

It's probably a typical VVB wishy-washy-left view, but I wouldn't be surprised to find a minority of Aussies in favour of having taxpayer-funded infrastructure and institutions relentlessly sold off to private interests (often substituting a government monopoly for a private one, hardly a great leap forward.

Community expectations of government have risen alongside government's ability to respond as the core mechanisms have been dismantled.

At the core of course we have the (boo hiss cue typical rant at the TV) usual suspects of Milton f*****g Friedman, Friedrich f*****g Hayek, Maggie f*****g Thatcher and Ronald f*****g Reagan. And Hawke/Keating bought the model in the exhilartion of post-1989, when the world changed and the western model 'won'.

The f*****g family has a lot to answer for.

Did anybody know what they were voting for as the market-led model grabbed the Anglo-western world by the testicles and squeezed like crazy.

Has the model delivered benefits for a majority, so far? Yes. Does more of the same guarantee more benefits? Of course not.

So roll on the private, market-led new third force in ACT politics. You could start with cleaning the suburban centres up and trying to reinvigorate them (the smallest size of suburban shopping centre used to be a great place for quick purchases, services and keeping in touch with neighbourhood goings-on, mowing a bit of grass around the place and getting some decent infrastructure in place around the airport rather than just lining developers' pockets.

Yes, we shall watch. Does this presage the emergence of more 'fourth way' (third way having been just a pale replica of what wee already had) parties?

Answers on the back of an uncrossed cheque made out to 'global capitalism' and left in a rubbish bin in Telopea Park.

Outside, the mighty Fitzroy continues to subside, leaving a broad sweep of mud in its wake.

26 February 2008

burning love

That's burning love, not burning dinosaur.

'Burning dinosaur' may not make a lot of sense, but you have to read the article and the comments.

Anyway copying Jeremy Clarkson here is no so much to point to his journalistic style nor to mimic his pants-wetting, in this case about a very fast Mercedes (this car has redeemed M-B in Jeremy's eyes, as well as other parts of his anatomy).

Rather, it is to point to his description of driving this beast and the feeling of being utterly on the edge - one false move (pardner!) and you're off into the shrubbery, or more likely into a rock wall or over a cliff. But you get it right and it's almost as good as (you know what).

My point? It's very much like playing and singing live in front of people - especially when you're not very good and are very likely to hit a bum note, either on the guitar or in your voice.

You're trying and trying - get the chords right, get the changes right, get the flamin' words right for crying out loud, then get the phrasing right, get the emotion right, get the finish right...and...better than you know what, but by crikey it's been a ride.

Sort of what keeps us going, I guess.

Speaking of getting the notes right - did anybody see Guy Sebastian on the dancing show last night? With the original (almost, no Ray Charles of course) Blues Brothers band behind? If there's anybody who makes the moderately difficult seem baby-simple (apart from David Gilmour of course), it's Steve Cropper. A new, somewhat larger Steve Cropper, but him all the same. Just glorious.

And hasn't Our Guy come a long way? That's entertainment.

25 February 2008

anything is possible

"If it's possible"?

Why wouldn't it be possible? You've just been re-elected for three years. That makes it more than possible, it makes it quite likely. Even close to a dead cert, perhaps?


those were the days

So the Business Council of Australia now has a different view of the Howard Government's economic policies?

And the former Liberal Government now has a different view of what it
might, or might not, have done vis-a-vis maintaining troops in Iraq.

These are both organisations of somewhat flexible morality so let's not act too surprised, eh?

Anyway, I have a far more urgent question: where is cloud-cuckoo land? And what is the precise relationship between the clouds and the cuckoos to render it so seemingly ubiquitous in these modern times?

Because I don't remember it back in the day.

Mind you, back in the day we didn't have a back in the day, either.

24 February 2008

red rose speedway

Dripping with sweat after a couple of hours in the scrabbly jungle that passes for our back 'garden'.

I'm not a gardener, and I've never really understood the attraction. To me, gardening consists of standing around in rustic clothes, pointing at roses and other coloured and green sorts of things, and going "isn't it pretty". When I'm in the so-called garden, what I do consists totally of weeding and picking up dead leaves. This is not gardening, this is work, and not particularly pleasant or rewarding work at that.

Occasionally, such as today, I get the bow saw out and cut a tree limb off. That's not gardening either.

If Chateau VVB were not surrounded by so many eucalyptus and other similar sorts of trees that drop lots - and I mean lots - of dead leaves in our yard and in the pool, I'd probably be happier. All these trees are on our various neighbours' properties so it's not immediately within my power to do something about them.

Not that I don't think about it on occasion.

It'd certainly help to keep the pool surrounds cleaner although the best thing I could do to fix the pool surrounds would be to replace them. Currently we have bricks: oh yes, Chateau VVB is certainly well endowed with bricks, brick house, brick paths, bricks around the pool, brick driveway. So the pool is surrounded by bricks - with crumbling mortar, and some of the bricks themselves are weathering also - and sleepers.

Not beautiful clean tiles, on which an occasional palm frond might fall, to remind you that you're way north.

No, the bricks and sleepers always look untidy, rather than rustic, which I think was the original intention. So you sweep the leaves behind the sleepers where they look even more untidy.

All this, dear readers, is work, pure and simple.

Not gardening.

Offspring number two returns home tomorrow, so the dynamics of the household will change yet again. At least Mrs VVB will have some company while I'm doing the thing in Rocky.

And did you know that until the last election, I'd never heard of the word 'corflute', which seems to be everywhere nowadays.

How did this happen?

23 February 2008

wide open road

Can't argue with that post title, especially with this road which, not far-ish over the horizon, leads to Longreach.

I wish I knew how such a horizon can have such a hold over your - well my - imagination.

I grew up in the country and when I drive back around that area, the central west of NSW, it of course looks and feels mightily familiar.

But space of this kind, the vastness of the plains, is another thing entirely. Never before had I experienced it, or seen it, that's a simpler word, before but it just kind of crept into my consciousness. This is my country.

I get a different kind of feeling when I see thousands of tonnes of my country on the coal trains to the port, being shipped to another country.

Anyway I'm afraid I lack the knowledge of all sorts of academic disciplines to analyse what I'm talking about. I don't even know where to start.

Maybe the best thing is to have another look.

Because in a country that wide, you can start from anywhere, I suppose.

22 February 2008

cotton fields

The Emerald radio station was advertising for the Demolition Bar ("come for a good time, not a long time") and it's the "breast bar in Emerald" or something similar. Don't say you weren't warned, I suppose.

Some very interesting site visits to cotton farms this morning - close up looks and explanations of new-ish technology to drastically reduce insecticide and (particularly) water use. Explanations courtesy of independent academics, not a Monsanto rep in sight. A couple of us expressed our reservations but privately - just trying not to get too judgemental.

It was, I can tell you, bloody hot out there in the fields.

No, the one I ended up using wasn't it.

Anyway, the plane's late (again) so what about these Friday sittings of Parliament. FWIW, I reckon Rudd was mad to set up Friday sittings and then not turn up the first one. Just suicidal, so the cardboard cut-out was probably a good response.

That said, the actions of certain former front bench Liberals to absent themselves from the condolence motion for Peter Andren, the highly respected Independent, shows just what they think - and have always thought - of their fellow Australians. I hope they still don't think they're fooling us.

'Cos - all together now: "we won't get fooled again"

Exit stage left, to the sound of crashing major chords and the sight of Pete Townsend's windmilling arm.

Anyway that's about it for tonight, although I did think of something while on the road back to Rocky and listening to dubious ads, but it's gone now, like all the other snippets of useless thoughts that ping like errant mosquitoes around the back reaches of my head.

Now, what the appropriate song title for this post that I thought of about 4 hours ago?

20 February 2008

cuts like a knife

Oh now I remember, as soon as I pressed 'post'.

It was about Peter Costello, but more broadly about Parliamentary ability. Costello had the reputation - fiercely pumped up over the last year before the election - of being a devastatingly effective performer in Parliament.

By comparison, the current received wisdom - received extremely quickly I should add - is that Wayne Swan is a dud.

But back to Costello. We were hearing all the time about his cutting invective and ability to dominate his opposing number. Yet when it came to staring down John Howard - maybe ringing him up and saying "game on", to use the current vernacular - he wasn't up to it.

So what is it about the nature of Parliamentary debate that enables what seems to have been a pretty ordinary performer (no 2 at Mac Bank? do me a favour...) to be seen as so good? The rules of Parliamentary Privilege certainly are a factor. But do they actually facilitate such a personality transmogrification?

Answers on the back of a Reserve Bank media release please.

Just before I go, I hear Turnbull accusing the Government of treating the Senate with contempt. Really. Stop wasting electrons, mate, you're wearing my TV out.

on the road again

Air Vice Marshall Angus Houston declares mission accomplished, fortunately without the use of props as the idea of sailing an aircraft carrier into one of the committee rooms in Parliament House seems excessive when all you're doing is fronting an Estimates Committee.

ABC TV, rather unkindly I thought, made reference to "cut and run" - Aussies don't do that, you know - and then showed the curly-headed dumb-as-a-post Rupert Bear former Foreign Minister warning everyone of the awful things that would happen if we did.

Very unkind, but worth all of the 8 cents I paid for it. Actually, what do we pay per capita per diem for our ABC now? Surely someone's updated the figure?

The unit is full of little sandflies and I've just sprayed them, with the result that there is a snowstorm of dying flies. I've given up vacuuming and sweeping over the last few weeks as there are always more on the floor than I sweep up the night before. But this is the first mass extermination, I'm not all that sure it was a good idea.

I had something flit (not a sandfly) into my brain earlier today that seemed blogworthy, but buggered if I can remember it now. It was all I could manage to retain the Iraq story from 7.30 through to when I stopped working and started blogging.

Tomorrow, off to Emerald again for a day and then on Friday I have to get back from Emerald in time to catch a flight to Brisbane. May have to walk out on a meeting halfway to ensure I leave enough time for unforeseen factors - water, mainly - and then check in.

What was that thought?

Speaking of aircraft carriers, which of course we were, I was in a conversation with a bloke earlier this week which prompted me to recall one of the highlights of my working life to date, namely flying onto the deck of the HMAS Melbourne, Australia's last aircraft carrier. It was a real buzz to look down from about 12000 feet to a very small dot on the ocean and realise you were going down to land on it.

Certainly a buzz to be on final and then get waved away, the pilot slamming the throttles forward and banking away sharply.

Kind of a buzz to be told, on suiting up and being briefed, that the seat I would occupy was the one that, statistically, I had least chance of escaping from alive if we had to ditch.

Anyway, time to pack and do a little more work before bed.

Outside, the mighty Fitzroy continues to rise slowly, but its waters are flowing faster and faster, eddying and creating whirlpools around the bridge supports.

19 February 2008

the dark end of the street

When in doubt - not that I ever am - fall back on tried and trusted favourites. And on the day after Four Corners' expose of Howard's End, what else can we rely on?

Courtesy of Crikey.com.au (and I apologise to Crikey for such lifting of content, in my defence I only do it very occasionally):

Let’s leave family out of this
John Howard might be gone, but his former colleagues are still scared of him. Or his wife, anyway. In December, Pam Williams published a devastating axe job on "the royal family" – John and Janette – and their deleterious influence on the election campaign in the Financial Review. Crikey understand the b-tching and moaning about the royal family was reprised the week before last at the Liberal Party love-in before parliament resumed. Last night’s Four Corners ran the Today Tonight interview in which Howard's formula over staying or going seemed to change, when his family supplanted his colleagues:
ANNA COREN: Why do you want to
continue? I mean, what makes you tick?
JOHN HOWARD: Well, there are still
things I want to do. And in fact I've talked about my position with my own family at length last night.
COREN: What did you say to your family?
HOWARD: Well, they want me to continue to contribute. They support what I'm doing.
But no one appears prepared to talk about the royal family on record – and especially not on camera.
Where’s Johnny?
"John Howard is keen to speak publicly overseas -- it's at home that he wants to remain silent for the time being," Malcolm Farr comments in the Telegraph today.
The Age’s Tony Wright goes one better. He details how the former PM has been off launching his career as an international guest speaker at the Awards for Excellence
ceremony in Nigeria. Howard will talk to ABC Television later this year for a series on his years in government – but it’s surprising that there’s been so little attention to an event in Washington that will place him centre stage in just over a fortnight.
On 5 March, leading think-tank the American Enterprise Institute will honour Howard with its
Irving Kristol Award for "individuals who have made exceptional intellectual or practical contributions to improved government policy, social welfare, or political understanding". The former PM will deliver the Irving Kristol Lecture that evening. The AEI’s pre-publicity puffs Howard as "one of the world's most successful democratic politicians". Crikey hears the former PM is "depressed". Will he offer any insights into where it all went wrong?

Unlikely admission of reality - also known as the world that other people live in - is not in Howard's nature. The Irving Kristol Award for post-event irrelevance. How did Gareth Gareth-Gareth put it? "Relevance deprivation syndrome" (that phrase has stayed with me, just for an occasion like this).

As for the erstwhile royal family - do any of you sniff the emerging stench of "we knew where the power lay and we couldn't do anything about her."

Crikey also has a fleeting reference to one of those people who only show up in blog/political-tragic circles, one Senator Concietta Fierravanti-Wells. She is by all accounts a hard-right warrior against everything that is good and decent (depending on where you start from, of course).

4 . A rough estimate: Looks like there's a new government
David MacCormack writes
The first Estimates hearings of the new Government was always going to have a surreal air. New Ministers took their seats before their former committees, next to bureaucrats they had interrogated only months ago. New chairmen and women, like freshly-appointed prefects, struggled to assert their authority. Labor senators
repeatedly did a Wayne and forgot they were now the Government. Opposition Senators railed against the unfairness of it all, and struggled.
With little to go on against a new regime and no staff to do the detail work, the Coalition had to stick to the high level and the topical. The Finance and Public
Administration committee laboured over the Prime Minister’s errant staffers.
In the Communications committee, the recent tradition of the vile Connie Fierravanti-Wells and Michael Ronaldson maligning ABC and SBS journalists appeared to have ended – Fierravanti-Wells was last spotted chasing Kevin Rudd’s dog through the grounds of the Lodge. Coalition senators, perhaps forgetting that it was no longer Their ABC, or that there’d been an election in recent months, barely mentioned their usual obsessions of bias and left-wing influence. Instead, they spent most of their time inviting Stephen Conroy to elaborate on his plans for an independent ABC board appointment process.

I do like to see my taxes at work - particularly the hard right anti-public service tradition of 'Senator' Bronwyn Bishop who have lived a life high on the public teat, give defenceless public servants a hard time and, essentially, are as dumb as two short planks.

(Sorry about bold type, I hit a key or combination of and it appeared, not way in Blogger to undo).

18 February 2008

don't worry be happy

Just a couple of quick observations.

How come TV interviewers can accost the PM on the street with "Kevin" when they want to ask him a question? Did they ever call that poxy, lying little (several paragraphs of quite old but heavily spit-encrusted adjectives deleted here) (and you can choose your noun, I'll settle for **** because you know what I mean), "John"? Does this mean that our new PM is indeed a man of the people, or just of TV interviewers?

Why do the two otherwise quite adorable, similarly attired brothers in the TV ad for AAMI insurance roll their r's ("customerrrrrs") like goddamn Yankees? How far does this cultural imperialism have to go before we say "enough"?

Does being able to read a question about the Non-accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (or NAIRU as it is known in textbooks, but nowhere else) make you smarter than the Treasurer? Apparently Malcolm Turnbull thinks so, but then he did trip over the word "Treasurer" in asking his question. That Wayne Swan didn't know the answer means precisely zero. Did Peter Costello?

In fact I have a kind of moth-infested, certainly dormant memory fragment from studying (that's studying in the loosest sense of the term) economics in the early 1990s that the NAIRU had been discredited. Mind you, that probably means it got reconstituted somewhere in the meantime.

I saw/listened to/had in the background some of the Four Corners doco on the Liberals 2007 nosedive, but even in the lingering euphoria of a well-deserved win, it still grates to hear some of 'em prattle (that'll be you, Downer). The after-the-event conversions to the value of signing Kyoto were nothing short of puke-inducing.

Several of 'em are just ideological machine men who really need to shut away in in a big box That'll be you, Nick.

Some are just plain scary and need to be sedated pdq (that'll be you, Tony Abbott).

It's almost, just almost, very tempting to have a rant. But I have to admit, I had a little one watching the program while on the phone to Mrs VVB earlier tonight, just to remind her of what she's missing by not having her man about the house (now there's a phrase that should induce some side-shaking mirth both thither and, of course, yon). Man about the house indeed. Spit-encrusted and somewhat dented TV, courtesy of. Nicde to get him out of the way for a few months, the vibes have settled immeasurably.

Outside, the mighty Fitzroy is slowly rising again and the forecast is for it to reach almost the same height as two weeks ago.

17 February 2008

pigs on the wing

the scale of the problems now becoming apparent suggests that the financialisation of the economy has exceeded the capacity of financial markets to manage risk.

Given this massive demonstration of incompetence, the idea that US rating agencies should sit in judgement on Australian governments, none of which has ever defaulted on obligations to foreign creditors, is simply laughable. (Same source)
Two of my favourite hobbyhorses - deregulation of financial markets and the incompetent but more likely corrupt behaviour of the so-called 'ratings agencies' (Moodys and Standard and Poors), in one article. Of course John Quiggin understands heaps more than I do on these subjects - and maybe even a bit more than Possum Comitatis? - it's a piece you can rely on to be pretty on the mark.

And none of these consequences were foreseen as the environment was put in place that would allow highly numerate wide boys and their ethically challenged bosses to prosper? The market will self-regulate?

Give me strength. Here comes the squadron of pigs.

get me to the church on time

An intriguing, though no doubt unintentional, thread runs through today's Sunday Mail. Early on, we read of "Pastor" Benny Hinn, the unabashed worshipper of the dollar, and his so-called "miracle crusade" of Australia. The newspaper reports that people "wept, rocked and chanted, cried silent tears, spoke in tongues and smiled..."

Some of them were in a special "roped-off section" of the Brisbane Entertainment Centre - the name is eerily appropriate for Hinn's particular talents - to be cured. According to the paper, no miracles were performed, perhaps because Hinn delegated this task to several Australian "volunteers" ("how do you become a volunteer? I didn't vote for you! I want the proper charlatan").

One family came along to seek a cure for various medical infirmities. '"We've tried everything", Mrs S said. "Fung shui, wind chimes, crystals and positive thinking. We really wanted to give this a go."'

Give it a go, indeed. When one participant repeated Hinn's imprecations, "Pastor Hinn says the more you give, the more wealth and love you receive." Not much in there about miracles, healing, or God for that matter. So you may as well give it a go as sit on the back verandah with some incense and a wind chime from the Eumundi market. Or go to a proper church, for that matter.

Or the doctor.

Turn to the Body and Soul section and you learn that "getting back in touch with our natural surroundings is something that has many benefits", and I think I hear the crystals calling already. Oh yes: '"The first step towards re-establishing a bond with nature is to notice it," says "Pagan priestess Amargi Woulff."'

We'll leave this selective extract right there - not much more to be said, yes? - and jump to an alarming article in which we learn that the Catholic church has revealed how growing interest in satanism and the occult has led to a rise in exorcisms across Queensland (I would have said "throughout", but I'm just a pedant).

Anyway, the church's only "authorised" (I'd love to see the entrance examination) exorcist in Queensland says that "it's frightening what can happen when you invite entities into your life which are not meant to be part of God's world."

I wonder where "Pastor" Hinn fits into the hierarchy of nasties and crazies who need to be exorcised? Above or below Pagan Priestess Amargi Woulff? Only a matter of how many figures, including the noughts, after the dollar sign, perhaps?

This blog post has been brought to you by the Church of VVB, dedicated to ridding the world of its nonsensical beliefs.

16 February 2008

money for nothing

Duh. 501= jeans. Sorry Mark, it wasn't until I navigated away from the comments that I got the allusion.

Tonight I've been trying to rewrite an 'Action Plan', this wasn't the way I used to spend my Saturday nights back in the day. In fact, it's late February, so it'd be an almost exact 33 years to the day since that fateful Saturday night when I met a Miss M, later to become Mrs VVB. But that's another story...as they say in the cheap tabloid columns.

Anyway, the thing about Action Plans is that they always need a power of rewriting and you can bet your (RM Williams) boots that the more they get rewritten, the less actual action there'll be. So I only rewrote it once so I can get to the action bit, although there are others lining up to rewrite the rewritten.

The rewriting is accompanied by the Floyd on the DVD, Pulse in fact, so I occasionally have to get up, pick up the guitar and noodle along. Which is how I now come to know the chords to Learning to Fly.

In the outside world the mighty Fitzroy is still a couple of metres up and flowing quickly. In The Australian, so help me, are several coumns lauding PM Rudd. Whoda thunkit indeed?

Indeed, what on earth possessed me to buy the Australian, which the old man used to refer to as the Troglodyte Times even in its milder periods? Maybe it was because I suspected that it may have changed its tune. Learning to Fly, indeed.

The paper also talked about some arcane financial finagling going on in the ASX whereby some institutions - hedges funds, boo hiss - are borrowing to 'short' the acquired shares, which drives down their price. Cool, the market is where the animal spirits congregate, we know that.

Except in this case the borrowing is undertaken without any record keeping due to some loophole in the rules. And many of the shares being subjected to this practice are staples of superannuation funds, so everyday Australians, working families in fact, are being robbed of their savings so that highly numerate but morally vacant wide boys in Sydney and Melbourne can buy a new Beemer and some blow for the weekend. And the share trades do not attract capital gains tax.

The ASX is of course the owner of the share trading business as well as undertaking some sort of two-bob regulatory role. Because the Exchange was privatised, along with everything else, to show obeisance to a damn fine theory that is, at its heart, also morally vacant.

Now you tell me - rather than me lecturing you - in how many ways is this all wrong?

You can tell I know bugger-all about the technicalities but you can surely grasp that I think there are limits to deregulation, well past which we have gone in seeking to pay obeisance, etc etc.

However, there are signs on the horizon that the fresh faces in Canberra understand a little better than the last lot that you need some direction from government on these sorts of things. I have to say that Steve Bracks would not have been my first choice to the review the car industry (I would have picked Jeremy Clarkson, Dr Karl, the blokes from Mythbusters and a token sheila, maybe the sheila from Mythbusters or Therese Rein, conflict of interest be damned) but the recognition that allowing all our expertise and capability to drift off to China and India is just plain stupid has been well overdue.

You see the problems with long sentences, at least.

Dr Kim's review of innovation policy is also overdue and I'm ultra keen to see the recommendations. It's cultural, it always is, so we need to break down the barriers.

Finally, as the reality of the change of government slowly sinks in, the term 'leftist' is being thrown around with rare abandon and ther's more to come. The snippets on Oz Politics drip with rage and venom as the more inclusive way of looking at the world begins to assert its authority. Guns, folks, we need more guns and those leftists are taking them away, as well as forcing us all to become Dhimmis.

For f**cks.

Well you have to laugh, you certainly don't have to read (as Mrs VVB constantly reminds me when I relate the latest outrage).

It's a complex old existence and we muddle through, as Charles Lindblom quite rightly pointed out some 50 years ago. Fifty! Yet we seem to learn little in the meantime - an age of rationality, I think not.

Anyway, back to the Floyd.

14 February 2008

roadhouse blues

I have been keeping my eyes on the road and hands up-on the wheel these last few days, having driven from Rocky to Longreach and back with a last minute detour to Gladstone and back this arvo.

Bad driving conditions for much of it, the Bruce highway between Rocky and Gladstone is very cut up and potholed as the B-doubles still thunder up and down. But they're tiddlers compared to B-triples, which the sign on the back of each warns is 50 metres long. Water over the road in a few places and lots, I mean lots, of water alongside particularly around Rocky.

Having been out of, or in patchy, NextG reception for much of this the blogging had to dry up.

But some quick reflections: listening to part of PM Rudd's apology to the stolen generation while traversing the wide, wide plains coming out of Longreach was kind of special. It's a big, wide land we live in and those distant horizons induce a warm, somehow familiar feeling even in a whitey. For the original inhabitants, how could we ever understand how they feel?

The Stockman's Hall of Fame is actually better than I expected. Even if its lack of interactivity renders it unsuitable for today's attention and patience deprived youngsters.

The Chateau VVB indicator of civilisation, a decent espresso, can be found in more places than it useter. I particularly recommend the Merino Bakery in Longreach. A long way to go for a coffee, I grant you, but should you happen to find yourself there...

Camrys are remarkably comfy for long hauls, even the decaying VVB neck was still OK after 5 hours' non-stop driving today. On the other hand, you need all the wide open plains you can find to get around a B-triple in a car with all the acceleration of a tree.

Radio National is tediously self-important.

On the other hand, you can pick it up in more places than any other station.

And now for some long-awaited sleep.

This, folks, has been post number 501.

Whoda thunk it?

09 February 2008

for emily, wherever I may find her

Looks like I found her on ebay. The only car owned since marriage that had a name (well apart from the the more unreliable examples which were universally called "that f**cking car"), Emily was a 1965 Morris 1100. And indeed she was in this same light green colour, although our Emily did sport a set of Starsky and Hutch stripes up the C pillar. Possibly the only 1100 to have been so decorated.

It's a big day today on ebay for cars that have graced the driveways of various chateaux VVB over the years. Apart from Emily, here's an Austin Freeway, again in the same colour as the Freeway sedan I owned. I also had a Freeway wagon in two tone grey, and here's a Wolseley 24/80 in a slightly darker green or grey than one I owned. That car had a name too - Eric, of course short for Eric the Half a Car.

And here's pretty sad looking Dolomite in the same colour as the one we had for a year or two while in Singapore.

Saving the best until last - I never owned an Austin A95, but the old man had one that he bought from maternal grandfather's estate. That car had been bought new on dad's advice and very well looked after.

In contrast to the other cars pictured here, this one has actually attracted some bids and it does look pretty good for a 1958 car. I remember very well how they drove - heavy, lumbering, but very positive switchgear - and the advertising slogan: "long, low and lovely."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

08 February 2008

the air that I breathe

...has been uncontaminated by anything blogatorial for several days, caused by an uncommon coincidence of work, travel, and alcohol.

So even though I'm back in the bosom of the fambly for a few days I haven't even opened a blog page for a while, although I've published the comments on the last short post. It would be good at some stage to do a longer post on language. It's one of my favourite subjects, the old man was always good for a yarn on regional dialects and the loss of vocoabulary and finally, I eventually came to appreciate the value of three years of Latin in deriving roots and becoming comfortable with polysyllabics.

I loved a quote I read attributed to Wilbur Smith, although I've never read a Wilbur Smith book (I gather they are about Africa and are all versions of a single story): "I love the feel of language on my tongue."

Anyway, back at Chateau VVB we are consumed by the prospect of moving to Rockhampton for a couple of years. There appears to be some desire in the organisation that I remain there after the current short term stint expires at the end of March. Whether the job is open depends on a number of interdependent variables that I can't go into - sorry to be so Delphic - but the odds on being asked to stay on are shortening.

This causes all sorts of dilemmas for us although, personally, the prospect of keeping on with this new challenge is quite enticing. Seduced by the task, I think they call it.

Anyway it's not a decision we need to make immediately although when the time comes, the Man is going to want a response.

Things thta make you go "hmmmmmmmm."

06 February 2008

talk to me

Words, I love 'em. I read somewhere that the Macquarie (???) dictionary had identified pod-slurping as a valid neologism in general use. Yep, it's good, very evocative.

A couple of weeks ago I read about Australianisms that had died out, amongst these was "cobber', which my old man used to use all the time.

So I go into a newsagency in Rocky last Saturday to buy a paper, I proffer some money, the bloke says "thanks cobber."

So there.

Or, like, "whatever."

That is to say, I was, like, whatever.

And I was.

03 February 2008

waiting for the man

The local - very local - radio station announced on its midday news that State Liberal leader Mark McArdle and Nationals leader Lawrence Springborg would examine merging the two parties by appointing an "imminent persons group."

I imagine they'll be along any minute now.

After that, they'll work on the merger once they get a round tuit.

Meanwhile, international extortioner extraordinaire Bernie Ecclestone, owner of the Formula 1 business, has threatened to withdraw the F1 race from Melbourne after the current contract expires in 2010. He wants more money - that's taxpayers' money, folks, ie yours and mine, laundered once through the Victorian Treasury - or to hold the race at night to suit European TV schedules. Or, presumably, both.

He says that Victorian Premier John Brumby has paid the race "'scant attention." The money train for Ecclestone was of course originally waved out fromn the station in 1996 by former Premier Jeff Kennett, presumably from savings found by closing schools (boo!) and amalgamating councils (yay!).

What Premier Brumby should do is tell Ecclestone to get f*cked. In a variety of European languages, for preference, just to make sure the advertisers get the message.

The potential for the Gold Coast, in wonderful but rather wet Queensland, to benefit through its increasingly popular Indy race, which gets a few buckets of Qld government tax dollars, is not really the point here. Ecclestone's business model is simply theft and people should start to say 'enough'. They did it with Rupert's Super League and it can happen again. Just because someone can make a dollar or several million from something doesn't automatically mean they should.

The air in Rocky this morning was decidedly whiffy, but a strong breeze for most of the day has blown a lot of it away, at least for a while. The river is down about half a metre but still flowing strongly. I'd imagine it'll take a week or so to get back to normal levels.

01 February 2008

will and the (standard and) poor boys

This, from a comment on today's Crikey.com.au:

Standard & Poor's:
Alan Kerlin writes: Re.
"Wall St endgame? S&P drops a $265b bombshell" (yesterday, item 1). Glenn Dyer wrote: "S&P said it will start reviewing its ratings for some banks, especially those that 'are thinly capitalized'." So what exactly is it that they’ve been doing to justify their keep before now? Is this move by Standard & Poors just an attempt to disguise their failure to adequately perform their core function, and in so doing, further undermine the global markets for all of us plebs out here with money in super accounts? This whole issue has never been just about poor management in some US (and Australian?) banks. It is also an indictment on the job done by ratings
agencies, and by the general investment community, who after all are supposed to
be looking for – and avoiding – these sorts of problem companies.

Possum Comitatus's and my point exactly.

Today's AFR - the Business Council of Australia refutes Clive Hamilton's suggestion that all they do is whinge about lowering tax and reducing the regulatory burden. True - the BCA does some top class analysis and, a year or so ago, some excellent work on futuring and trends, to help inform policy development.

But whenever they're asked about a current issue, the response is invariably about lowering the rate of corporate tax. The simple answer to all of life's complex problems.

It's all about marketing, businesspeople! You of anyone should understand that!

Note the exclamation marks, a new low point in the reportage from pied a terre VVB.

Pied a terre, I should add, outside of whose windows the mighty Fitzroy rushes like an endless tide. Complete with scum-like stuff on top, branches, trees, crocodiles, snakes and poo.

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