30 November 2006

you better slow down

Or not, in this case. Sorry, just have to give you a link to my favourite Tory, Jeremy Clarkson, explaining why all murderers are slow drivers, or the other way around. Causation or corelation, one or t'other. Why don't we have any Australian muttering rotters who do social analysis?

let's see action

Today's day of action has been and gone and if the crowd at the Treasury hotel was any indication, the hospitality industry did very well after the event.

Make no mistake, the V V B union supports action to protest unjust laws and in this case, we believe the nicely euphemistic WorkChoices legislation tilts the balance too far towards employers. When the next downturn comes, those AWAs will come in very handy.

And the sinister side of the 'sphere knows that it's not about economic outcomes at all, just ideological obsession and the desire to get even. Those bad bad 60s and 70s!

But the union movement does itself no favours when dozens/hundreds/whatever of its members head straight for the pub after the march and rally.

This has been an equal opportunity, ABC bias-free snark brought to you by factory floor VVB.

Mind you, it's hard to get good coverage when the top story of the day is
this. Hi ho Silver, indeed.

And fwiw, Mike Steketee nails the truth in today's Oz.

But there was no hint this week of any Lindberg-type contrition from Foreign
Minister Alexander Downer or then trade minister Mark Vaile.

They are the ones who are supposed to be accountable to voters for failings in their
department. Missing the little matter of $290 million in bribes surely is sufficient to warrant the resignations of both. Instead, they are blustering about how the Opposition owes them apologies.

You'd hardly think it was the Australian until you read the ever-reliable Greg Sheridan's daily advertisement for the government right alongside.

Finally, seen in traffic this arvo: a late model high range BMW with the number plate Risk.

29 November 2006

where's wally?

No, actually, where's pablo? Notez bien, mes amis, c'est ici une poste tres tres personelle. Rien a voir ici. Move on, as they say.

So, pablo, where are you? And what are you doing? Your name has been mentioned in dispatches, in a T E Lawrence sort of way. Do check in. And yes, of course I tumbled to the 'destroyer of democracy' reference. I was starting to get a bit hot under the collar until I read that bit, so you can claim a legitimate scalp. I'm still annoyed that someone took the sign off my wall though. I don't have it electronically and it would be unethical not quite the same for me to just make a Newman new one.

I'm just back from dinner with an industry contact which I was hoping would be a chance to just connect on a personal level, but no such luck. But it gets better. In his mind, we've already connected so as he was paying for dinner (not evident until I returned form the dunny and tried to pay, to learn he had just already done so) it was work work work all the way. He's a technical expert, so I was struggling the whole time. It is always good to play the innocent and ask the innocent questions, but you can't do it all the time.

Pablo - more business for P e V.

As work work work heats up, I am unable to devote as much time to reading stuff that might be worthy of a comment, but tonight's Crikey contains this:

A case of mistaken identity in the era of terrorism
By Jane Nethercote
Eleven people were arrested at the recent G20 protests in Melbourne -- one of them by mistake. His name is Drasko Boljevic. Victorian Chief Police Commissioner Christine Nixon confirmed the mistake in
The Age at the time: "We have taken individuals into custody today and in one case the person was released because he wasn't the person we thought he was."

Boljevic reported the matter to Victoria Police, which is now investigating the conduct of the officers who arrested him. Last week, Crikey called the police media unit who told us it was "inappropriate to comment" due to "ongoing investigations" and indicated there could be reasons to question Boljevic's version of events. We have now learned that these reasons were unrelated to the arrest.

So what happened to Drasko Boljevic? This is the account of his
arrest by his partner, Eleonor Palacio: In between 12 midday and 12.15pm,
Sunday 19 November 2006, Drasko Boljevic, my partner, was paying for a drink at Foodworks minimart, 408 Swanston Street, in front of RMIT, while his friend Oakies was inside the store. Drasko was abducted by three
bouncer-looking men dressed in casual clothes and violently taken into an
unidentifiable white van, where another five of them helped holding Drasko
down and handcuffed him with special plastic cuffs. Oakies heard some screams and went outside to see Drasko’s feet being carried into the unidentifiable van. He asked the abductors if they were policemen and they reply "get the f-ck out of here, get the f-ck out of this city". The men did not identify themselves or inform Drasko why he was being abducted. He was told to "shut the f-ck up" and that he was a "f-cking bastard" and they would "bash [him] up and smash [his] face", while violently holding his legs crossed at his back and pushing his head against the floor of the van and sitting on it.

They drove around the city for about ten minutes continuously terrorising him with this type of comments and physical force. They pulled his pants down, searched him and cut his backpack off his back. "I thought I was going to die, I could hardly breathe and I didn’t know who these people were", Drasko said later. They stopped at an alleyway behind Flinders Street Station and made him lie on the floor, with his pants still down, and look down, still shouting at him to "shut the f-ck up". Some police detectives in casual clothes arrived and identified themselves. It was not until then, about 25 minutes after his abduction, that he was informed he was arrested, no reasons for the arrest were given. They took some photos of his face, front and profile with a mobile. Then, they took him into an unidentified car and he was taken to the 412 St Kilda Road Police Station. He started being interrogated and for the first time since the abduction he was told he was arrested for assaulting a policewoman at the G20 protest on Saturday.

Drasko was not in Melbourne on Saturday, he was on his way to Malmsbury, one hour away from Melbourne, were he played the part of an "Emu" in a cabaret show at the Town Hall. Police said later that he was arrested "on the basis of his physical similarity with a suspect". At this point, about 2.00 pm it was apparent that they got the wrong person, and the Constable interrogating him told him he was about to be released, and that "if this was Croatia [he] wouldn’t be so lucky". He was finally released at 2.35pm. After getting home in a state of shock and fear, Drasko realised he had a bruising in the right eyebrow (which is likely to become a black eye) and discomfort of the neck as immediate physical consequences of the violent way he was dealt with in the van.

Drasko contacted the Ethical Performance and Standards Office, under the supervision of Senior Constable Neil Curtis (who dealt with the case in the
last instance) to inform of his physical state. They told him that "[he] should
understand that in these circumstances they [the abductors] can’t take any
risks" and that "they need to apply considerable force when dealing with violent suspects".

If we are going to give up substantial liberties - 'liberties' that should be fundamental and unquestioned, in an open democracy - we need to be very clear about the threat that has brought about such a change. That case has not even begun to be made. The situation of David Hicks is bad enough - when the Poms brought their (possibly more dodgy/guilty, choose your level of evidence) suspects home from Guantanamo, the door was open for the current 'government' to do likewise with Hicks. When they didn't, that was the final piece of evidence that our previous 'rule of law' no longer applies, that your (ie every Australian's rights depend on whether you are a friend of the government, or not. Welcome to a nice mix of feudal society with the market economy.

You - well, presumably some of you - voted for it, I hope you are enjoying it.

And just reverting momentarily to dinner and other interactions today, I learnt a whole lot about doing business. You'd think (well, at least some of you readers who know me) that I'd figured out all this stuff years ago.

Not so. Slow learner, but the journey is still worth the effort.

26 November 2006

ring(s) of fire

This article, and subsequent comments, from The Guardian are a fascinating insight into the various issues that arise when countries bid for the Olympics. For a newspaper that's generally understood to be on the left, and has been supportive of the Blair government, this is a pretty scathing summary of all the things expected to go wrong in bringing London's bid to reality.

The general accusation that the UK government has a poor history of bringing major projects in on time and on budget should be expected. Just thinking about that, it'd be a fascinating research project to try and compare some modern large infrastructure projects with earlier ones. For example, I'm sceptical about PPPs, believing that they are highly complex accounting exercises which governments routinely use to get stuff done while protecting the sacrosanct AAA ratings and budget surpluses which are part of contemporary economic dogma. However, accounting firms are better at these paper exercises, so governments have to buy in the expertise. I don't think they ever catch up. Hence, the inevitable cost blow-outs and unintended consequences that seem to accompany major infrastructure projects. But have we got that much worse over the years? Was it all much simpler in supposedly simpler times?

The view that because only London will benefit from the Games in terms of urban renewal or new facilities, then only Londoners should pay, is also run of the mill. What is facinating is to see commenters pick up the old UK vs France rivalry: the Games may cost us an arm and a leg, but they are necessary to preserve superiority over the bloody Frogs.

The suggestion that Sydney should host the Games in perpetuity because all Aussies are sports-mad is an interesting, if deeply flawed (joke) idea.

The environmental perspective, that the greenhouse costs of flying all the competitors, officials, media and spectators around the world to be part of the Games, is a relatively new angle but one that is sure to gain support.

There's been so much scrutiny of the Olympics in recent years, you'd kind of think that any concerns had been settled. However, the extraordinary amounts of money needed to stage them ensures that the argument won't go away.

25 November 2006

i got the blues

A little while ago, a friend sent me this definitive guide to knowin' whether you can sing the blues.

1) Most Blues begin, "Woke up this morning..."

2) "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the Blues, 'less you stick something nasty in the next line like, "I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town."

3) The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes . . . sort of: "Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher, and she weigh 500 pound."

4) The Blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch--ain't no way out.

5) Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sports Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft an' state-sponsored motor pools ain't even in the running. Walkin' plays a
major part in the blues lifestyle. So does fixin' to die.

6) Teenagers can't sing the Blues. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues "adulthood" means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

7) Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or any place in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues. You can have the Blues in Charnwood; you cannot have the Blues in Manuka. You cannot have the Blues in any place that don't get

8) A man with male pattern baldness ain't the Blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg cause you skiing is not the Blues. Breaking your leg 'cause a alligator be chomping on it is.

9) You can't have no Blues in a office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.

10) Good places for the Blues: a) Highway; b) Jailhouse; c) Empty bed; d) Bottom of a whiskey glass. Bad places for the Blues: a) The Hyatt; b) Gallery openings; c) Ivy League institutions; d) Golf courses

11) No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be a old ethnic person, and you slept in it.

12) Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if a) You older than dirt; b) You blind; c) You shot a man in Memphis; d) You can't be satisfied. No, if a) You have all your teeth; b) You were once blind but now can see; c) The man in Memphis lived; d) You have an endowment or great super fund.

13) Blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the Blues. Sonny Liston could. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the Blues.

14) If you ask for water and your darlin' give you gasoline, it's the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are a) Cheap wine; b) Whiskey or bourbon; c) Muddy water; d) Nasty black coffee. The following are NOT Blues beverages: a) Perrier; b) Chardonnay; c) Ocean Spray cranberry; d) Cascade sparkling apple juice.

15) If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So is the electric chair, substance abuse and dying lonely on a broken down cot. You can't have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or getting liposuction.

16) Some Blues names for women: a) Sadie; b) Big Mama; c) Bessie; d) Fat River Dumpling

17) Some Blues names for men a) Joe; b) Willie; c) Little Willie; d) Big Willie

18) Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Debbie, and Heather can't sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

19) Make your own Blues name Starter Kit: a) Name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.); b) First name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, etc.); c) Last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.); d) For example, Blind Lime Jefferson, Jakeleg Lemon Johnson or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not "Kiwi.")

20) I don't care how tragic your life, if you own a computer, you cannot sing the Blues.

saturday night

And I aint' got nobody? Well, actually I do. I have Mrs VVB, I have the footy on in the (distant) background, it's distant because I also have youtube. I also have had several bottles of brew no9, which was a Vic Bitter clone.

Because it was three bottles ago I forget where I started on youtube, but I got a roll on with a lot of early Linda Ronstadt. I have been a Linda fan since back in tha day. In my humble opinion, hers must be one of the best voices in pop/rock. She probably had some competition if you narrowed it to country. She always seemed effortless, particularly in the higher registers such as when she soared above the crowd in Heart of Gold. I just adore all the early stuff such as Heart Like a Wheel, Silver Threads and Golden Needles, When Will I be Loved and so on. Simple stuff but it grabs you by the heartstrings...pedal steel does that.

So that's a kind of long introduction to saying that tonight VVB is feeling particularly mellow, a Ronstadt-induced mellowness that has only been complemented by those bottles of brew no 9.

On that basis, any attempt to start analysing everything that's wrong with the world, from a Chateau VVB persepctive, is only likely to bring on some anger and depression. Given Mrs VVB's unsolicited comment about privaisation the other night, maybe there is more of a Casa VVB perspective than I have made out. Briefly, a Hacienda VVB perspective is wishy-washy left, as the blog header originally used to proclaim.

It's not that we are 'out and proud' about it, but it does seem to reflect a house view that has been informed by upbringing, education and the impact of slightly over half a century of taking it all in and processing it. The old man's conversion to red hot socialist in the mid-60s was a rare coincidence of circumstances that brought to the fore his previously relatively unformed views. By contrast, Mrs VVB's background was a family on the land, which is about as individual as you can get, short of share trading perhaps (tongue in cheek there folks).

Our current exposures to 'stuff' in the workplace would be likely to reinforce Mrs VVB's views about society's responsibility to look after the downtrodden, preferably in a coordinated way to ensure as few people as possible fall through the cracks. This would indicate a government role funded by taxes, because if reliant on indvidual effort, it's not going to happen. Mrs VVB also notes where the private sector does get involved in her particular area, it's not all that effective and the service providers are badly paid. She has drawn a link between the two.

By comparison, VVB works in a area that is highly contestable and accordingly he often wonders what difference he is making - this is not a reflection on how good he is at his job, rather a musing on the difficulty of identifying the outcome of his efforts at anything more than an 'obvious' kind of level.

By crikey that's a good brew. Not all that conducive to deep thinking though.

{There was a hiatus here while we had dinner and I invited Mrs VVB to take over the keyboard. This kind offer was declined for reasons I cannot fathom.}

Anyway the train of thought has been shunted into a siding. If the Fat Controller was to try ot get us back onto the main line, I suppose we would be saying that Maison VVB is not utterly statist, we understand how markets work and in general we like to see them working effectively. But we also have noticed that suppliers do prefer to be monopolists if they can get away with it. We have noticed that when privatisations have simply effected a change from a public to a private monopoly, it's only a few people who have gained. Airports are a very good example. Having spent 5 hours at Mascot last week, it was like being in a Westfield. Is this a good thing?

So lots of clever but quite theorteical economists in Treasuries around the country spend years working out to protect the public interest as the wave of privatisations rolled across the country. All the good work was instantly undone, in each case, as hordes of lawyers and people with a better eye to the main chance worked out how to subvert the intent in each case.

The wave was slowed a bit in the case of the Snowy Mountains Scheme and it'll be instructive to watch how management of that situation unfolds over the next few years. The theoretical economists are forever in our ears about how the world should work, but the people are starting to get a bit wary. A damn good thing.

24 November 2006

Title: a song by the Knickerbockers

It goes:

"Lies, lies,
I can't believe a thing you say,"

and this is evidenced by today's letters to the Editor in the Sydney Morning Herald, recognising those who, unlike VVB, will put their full name to their views...

So, the Cole inquiry reveals that planning for the Iraq war, that black stain on our
generation, was known by the Howard Government from early 2002 ("AWB knew Iraq
invasion plans", November 23). Not only does this show that John Howard, Alexander Downer and the rest of the cabinet were in on this, but all efforts to avoid war using diplomacy and UN weapons inspections were a charade.

We cannot undo what has been done in our names by our elected hypocrites. But we
owe the innocent dead of Iraq one thing: to get rid of these bald-faced liars at the ballot box. Kim Beazley might have a problem with prolix. He might talk too much. He might even forget the names of minor celebrities. But now, in the harsh light of the Government's duplicity, I would trust Krusty the Clown with the keys to the Lodge before I would vote for Howard.
Richard Paulin, North Ryde

Are John Howard and Alexander Downer going to ask the public to believe that an AWB manager knew 12 months before the Government that we would be in a coalition with the US to invade Iraq? That's one porky that'll take a lot of chewing to swallow.
Seth Richardson, Chippendale

So, AWB's then chairman, Trevor Flugge, knew the Government would participate in military action with the US to overthrow Saddam Hussein a year before the invasion took place, having been given unusual access to highly sensitive information. Meanwhile, John Howard was assuring Parliament and the electorate that no such plans existed. If he was lying to Australians while keeping his mates in the picture, who else knew?
Dick Harfield, Leichhardt

At least further evidence of prime ministerial duplicity still makes the front page, albeit in a small article in the bottom right-hand corner.
Ian Sanderson, Clareville

I suppose the problem is that although our UN ambassador knew in 2002 we were going to invade Iraq, no one told John Howard, Alexander Downer and Mark Vaile. The beauty of good bureaucrats: only tell the ministers what they want to know.
Selwyn Suchet,
St Ives

More evidence Mr Howard lied about Iraq. This is outrageous. Come on, everyone, we must put a stop to this at the next election. Hang on, what's that? Interest rates are going to rise? Best leave it, then. My five-year-old McMansion needs renovating.
Ross Cariola, Leichhardt

Yes, come on everyone.

23 November 2006

little things

Christian Kerr in today's Crikey opines on the futility of economic nationalism, thus:

If the bid goes ahead, the last possible, tenuous, flimsy arguments Qantas might
mount about shielding it from competition on key routes in “the national interest”. Yesterday, Mark Vaile was referring to Qantas as “Australia’s national carrier”. What the hell does that mean? Qantas is no different from any other big company listed in Australia – other than in its shamelessness in cashing in on its old status as a state-owned industry.
Competition offers lower prices to consumers. National flag carriers only offer standing to socialists or tin-pot political figures who desperately cling to anything they think is a status symbol. Like Australian pols.

But as the possible trasnfer of ownership of some of Qantas was being discussed on t'news t'night, and Costello was very seriously emphasising that the laws governing majority Australian ownership would not be changed, Mrs VVB suddenly piped up with "this privatisation has to stop", or something along these lines. Quite taken aback I was, as this is the same person who turns off the television every time I start frothing when a certain morally-challenged serial liar appears. So I'm living with a closet commie? I'll have to start pointing her in Catallaxy's direction for a dose of edumacation.

Speaking of a certain morally-challenged serial liar Michael Pascoe, also in today's Crikey, has this:

It is incredible stuff, even in the context of the extraordinary AWB saga. The
immediate inclination is to think this is one more indication that John Howard
repeatedly lied to Australia about our involvement in Iraq – but why bother
about a man who still thinks we did the right thing in Vietnam?

The immediate inclination? Oh yes indeed. And the continuing inclination also. Why bother about a man, etc etc? Well, he's the f**cking Prime Minister, for crying out loud. He serially deceives the country and we just should say "Let it be?" Is there not a single journalist in the country who'll call this lying for what it is?

17 November 2006

stop making sense

This Henry Thornton analysis of a speech by US Senator-elect Jim Webb about the unintended (?) consequences of globalisation is an interesting take on the issue of a widening gap between the rich and the poor. Where exactly should the emphasis lie?

Henry's concern is that the recent High Court decision will allow a Labor government, at some time in the future, to start meddling in the economy in an effort to negate any widening of the wealth gap. I've no doubt that should these apparent trends continue, a future - very future, I suspect - Labor government would certainly have a red-hot go, all other things being equal. Other things might include whether possible future governments in other western countries were facing similar trends and there was eventually a subsequent widespread movement against the prescriptions of
Milton Friedman (RIP), (but more to the point, his enthusiastic camp-followers in governments). Or whether Australia, (and France, presumably), became holdouts against economic rationalism (or whatever you wanted to call it).

The view here in the VVB
poorhouse is that maybe Henry should be addressing the issues raised by Webb. Surely they are the concern. Those figures - particularly the one about the top 1% of the US population now getting 16% of the nation's income, compared to 8% in 1980 - are telling.

Should we happen to put on the tinfoil hat that we keep in the attic at suburban VVB (for emergency use only, you understand), we might be induced to start thinking that the consequences of globalisation were not unforeseen at all. Rather, it was a dark conspiracy between the corporates who secretly rule us, in league with ideologically obsessed academics, to get the rationalist project up and running. Hence the invention of the 'profession' of salary consultant, who always recommend meeting the (international) market price for CEOs. Topped off with the conniving assistance of the bean counters, who manage to dream up non-performance performance hurdles for the same CEOs so that they don't have to actually do anything to get the obscene bonuses, about which we regularly read. And so on, you get the picture (if you have the hat). Globalisation is not just about trade rules, you understand. It's the whole system.

Alternatively, maybe it was just that the ideologically obsessed academics really didn't think that there would be unintended consequences of the type we seem to be seeing.

The answer is probably in the middle, as it usually turns out to be. But the data will bear watching.

don't go changin'...

For reasons that only an imaginary friend would know, the book review of Obscenity, Blasphemy, Sedition, etc etc got picked up by Crikey. That resulted in a massive boost to VVB's readerdom, which I expect to be a once-off. There's possibly a lesson wrt writing a good intro paragraph so, on that basis: "It was a dark and stormy night."

Some what more interestingly, today's Crikey contains a piece by Charles Richardson on the most recent political activities of Catch the Fire Ministries, which reads:

Some might have thought I was being unduly alarmist a few months ago when I
said that if local councils "can ban pokie venues and brothels, why not mosques
and synagogues?"

Not so. Today comes the news that "Catch the Fire" ministries, a fundamentalist
Christian umbrella group, claims to have done a deal with the Victorian Liberal
Party to ensure its support. Actually, "fundamentalist" doesn't quite do justice
to these people. They're way out on the fringe, somewhere near the Exclusive

Catch the Fire head honcho Danny Nalliah has released a pamphlet,
according to The Australian, calling on his followers to "Spot Satan's
strongholds in the areas you are living (brothels, gambling places, bottle
shops, mosque, temples – Freemasons/Buddhist/Hindu etc ...) bring it to
your church and ask your intercessors, through the pastor, to pull these
strongholds down." In the wise words of Barnaby Joyce, "This is the lunatic
Right, this is crazy, ill-informed stuff". But it's a logical extension of the
puritanism already evident among the Liberals (and even more so the minor
parties) with their campaign against poker machines.

Once you decide that certain preferences are not worthy of
consideration, and that people can't be allowed to make their own choices, then
it's open season on anyone with unpopular tastes. Today gamblers, tomorrow
Muslims. Fear of the grassroots reaction seems to have deterred the Victorian
ALP from doing another preference deal with the Assemblies of God party, Family
First. It's a pity that the Liberal Party doesn't have any comparable fear that
its members might object to getting into bed with religious extremists.

And spare a thought for the absurdity of Victoria's racial and
religious vilification laws, which allow these hate-filled bigots to parade as
defenders of free speech.

Maybe my Pollyanna-ish conclusion about little change in society's broad approaches was off the mark? Not really. Richardson, fairly accurately in my view, characterises Catch the Fire (great name for a garage band, absolute shite for a 'church') as extreme and by their policies, ye shall know them and extreme is how they present themselves. Chateau VVB doesn't believe in having a particular imgainary friend and is quite sceptical about most organised religion, based on a quick 'n dirty analysis that showed most of them to be utterly patriarchal, which seemed to be just too much of a coincidence, and a bit too interested in temporal power.

So our guess is that there's always been the extremists and, like extremes in any field of human endeavour, they never make substantial inroads. You can fool all the people some of the time, and so on.

Immediate update: just visited Catch the Fire Ministries' website when embedding the link. They seem more interested in rendering unto Caesar than most.

15 November 2006

lawyers, guns and money

The apparent resurgence in adherence to, or interest in, religion led us here at VVB to wonder about any changes in what you might call the general public attitude to the sorts of things that religious adherents seem to get exercised about. You know: obscenity, blasphemy, lewd behaviour and perhaps what consenting individuals get up to in their own bedrooms. Have there been changes and what has changed?

On father's bookshelves, amongst an eclectic miscellany, I found
Obscenity, Blasphemy, Sedition by Peter Coleman, a former Liberal State and Federal MP. As the frontispiece notes, at one stage he "found himself Chief Secretary responsible for censorship in New South Wales." He is also evidently a small 'l' liberal sort with a keen eye for hypocrisy and the sorts of antics that governments get up to when pressured by particular groups - in the cases cited, the churches, arch-conservative groups and just plain wowsers.

The book covers it subject under a number of categories: sex; blasphemers; revolutionaries (ie political intriguers and scandal. I was particularly struck by the free-wheeling nature of society in Australia in the late 1800s. Some of the examples of scandal sheets were possibly of an ilk such as we now see in publications like Who Weekly - maybe a bit more personal, being aimed at local types rather than our contemporary, overseas celebrity targets.

The book covers government responses such as straight out banning, gaoling of perpetrators as well as bureaucratic mechanisms, such as the Postmaster General withdrawing favourable rates such as applied to newspapers, essentially using an unrelated regulation to put a 'paper' out of business.

It'd be easy to have a few cheap shots here at how ultra-conservatism really hasn't changed over the years, but that's not the purpose. I was more taken by how things haven't changed - sure, we can read (and now see on TV, film and other electronic media such as games) more 'extreme' stuff, but I didn't discern too many changes in how society in the broad has responded.

Which I found somehow comforting. Wherever we're going, it's not to the dogs.

12 November 2006

love me two times

Or love you long time.

We get a lot of pharmaceutically-related spam at Chateau VVB, along with the very hottttest tips for share investments and inducements to apply for jobs for which we haven't the slightest interest, or qualifications for that matter.

But until today, we had been spared importuning Russkie slags looking for lurrve and a regular meal, not necessarily in that order I would imagine. Oh, and shitloads of vodka.

But today one Ekaterina has seen fit to importune VVB. She says she has a strong heart but is weak inside, no doubt because of a combination of not enough borscht, or perhaps potatoes, and slightly too much vodka. Anyway, it's a nicely constructed tale with just the right number of apostophes, all them located accurately, which is more than I could say for the Toyota Aurion stand at the Sydney Motor Show, where as I recall I was invited to marvel at it's (ie the Aurion's) various wonderful features.

Except that Ekaterina's marketing pitch falls at the last hurdle. For some reason, just as we're about to dial some premium number and brush up on our Russian, we get:

Would you like to know me better and to meet me? Waiting for your reply,
Ekaterina. moist deferred

I mean, it's obvious isn't it? If you are going to throw your lot in with some Russki tart with collapsing innards, the least one could expect is that she is moist now.

Sorry Ekaterina, I won't be calling.

08 November 2006

from whence we came

Sydney harbour, an overcast, windy, showery Sydney afternoon. We'd hoped for a small ferry so we could soak up the feeling, but it was a fast catamaran. Still, we stood outside at the stern and breathed in the harbour smells. I don't think I'd ever been that close to Pinchgut, it's tiny. Tried to imagine what it would have been like to be imprisoned there.

Down on the rocks at Cremorne Point. Some silent thanks that there are parts of the harbour that are still accessible, that haven't been privatised with multistorey apartments or mansions for the rich built on them. That you can still get down to the water's edge, it hasn't been cordoned off because of the relentless influence of the fear of the litigation. A couple of blokes were fishing from the little lighthouse right on the tip. We disturbed their fishing but before they left, we had done what we had come to do.

It was cool but not cold. The water bucked and slipped, the rocks seemed somehow familiar. Once, about 45 or maybe more years ago, he and I had come to somewhere near here to get oysters. He levered a couple off the rocks and ate them. You couldn't do that now, even if there were any left.

The view back towards the city never fails to catch your breath. I can remember when the AMP building went up on Circular Key, by far the tallest building in the city. We used to come down to the 'big smoke' once every couple of years, he and I, to pick up a new car from the factory at Zetland and take it back to where we lived in central NSW. I remember an Austin (Farina) A40, and an Austin 5 ton lorry with no tray, so we stopped outside the factory gates and he let the tyres down to about 5 lb to make the trip manageable. Once, an MGB and all the way home he made me do mental arithmetic, based on the revs shown on the tachometer and his knowledge of the gear ratios. Another time, my uncle came with us and we collected a
Morris J2 van (or the Austin equivalent, perhaps), so I got to sit on the padded cover over the motor between the two seats for 267 miles. No seat belts in those days.

Anyway, time to do what we came for. The casket was remarkably strong and his grandson spilt blood before we were able to open it sufficiently. Looking back towards Mosman where, 91 years ago today, he came into the world. The wind caught him, as it had once caught the sails of the 18 footers he was occasionally invited to crew. That was after the family had fallen on hard times, his mother dead when he was only five. Forced to leave school at 12 to work in the markets before other winds, the winds of war, would catch him and transport him to the Western Desert, Palestine, Sicily and Italy where hours spent alongside powerful Pratt and Whitney motors would sow the seeds of his later deafness. And now he was back in his beloved harbour town.

Tomorrow, we would go to see the half-sister whose existence he never mentioned until a few short years ago. Her story, part of which is our story, would turn out to be far more extraordinary than we could have imagined.

06 November 2006

a hard rain

I found this article linked at Daily Briefing and, although the link looked legit, as I started to read it it I thought, "this has got to be a piss-take." By the time you've waded through any number of non-sequiturs to the "hero" Donald Rumsfeld, you're reeling. And then George Bush "has to bomb Iran" before he leaves office. Because Iran's "rulers are religio-ideological fanatics."

Earlier in the piece, he writes "Our intellectual contributions helped to defeat communism in the last century and, God willing, they will help to defeat jihadism in this one." Doesn't "God willing" more or less equal "Insh'allah?" So, who are the "religio-ideological fanatics?"

And I particularly liked this bit:

This defense should be global in scope. There is a crying need in today’s ideological wars for something akin to the Congress for Cultural Freedom of the Cold War, a global circle of intellectuals and public figures who share a devotion to democracy. The leaders of this movement might include Tony Blair, Vaclav Havel, and Anwar Ibrahim.
Now, which acclaimed conservative global leader is missing from the list?

What, doesn't Australia count? After all the Coalition of the Willing propaganda that the stainless steel rodent and that buffoon of a foreign minister have rammed down our throats for the last four years?

Anyway, you get to the end and see it's by someone at the American Heritage Institute and you realise he's utterly serious. So, on this advice the US bombs Iran. Simple, it has that capability, no doubt. But then what? Has the AE learnt nothing from Iraq? And these are the self-styled new global intellectuals? We're in deeper shit than I thought.

'nuff for now. I am still processing the weekend in Sydney. Long lost distant relatives, stories of Europe, of dispossession and loss of identity, of unfortunate marriages, the weird things that happen in families. It'll take me a while to sort it into something that any reader might relate to. But suffice to say, I have a new appreciation of the value of oral histories and the people who guard and disseminate them.

02 November 2006

working for the man

We have a skills and labour shortage. We are constantly reminded how the balance of power lies now with the employee. So you'd think that valued employees would be looked after.

Offspring no 1 called during the week. He works for a mid-sized multinational. He has no quals (year 12) but has worked for them for about 2 years and appears to be valued. They sent him interstate to help set up a new store and he was for a while in contention for a regional sales manager job.

His salary review had taken place and he was given about an extra $3500 a year. He'd been expecting $5000 - he says - but nonetheless this was OK. And then his terms were varied, including the amount of overtime. So he figures he's now going to be down a hundred or so a week.

Now, I have no more details and maybe this is not an accurate reflection of the situation. But even if halfway correct, it's just bloody bizarre in current circumstances. If they've been doing so much business that they needed him to do the overtime, what's changed?

There's no indication that this is WorkChoices related. Anyway, we are catching up with him this weekend and I'll be fascinated to get more detail.

Tonight's biggest laugh came courtesy of the PM, who I could have sworn started talking about the national interest while getting his obligatory 15 minutes on ABC news. I'm surprised he didn't choke. What a hide.

01 November 2006

even in the quietest moments

A leisurely reflection of current events. Because VVB is listed at Oz Politics blog, this is an early *warning*, there are no startling insights here so those in need of violent titillation should move right along. Not that there are startling insights in the usual course of events, but....ahh bugger it.

Also no links, or I'll be here all night. Don't want to be quite that leisurely.

The Stern report has caused the requisite amount of consternation, schadenfreude and other various reactions. The (insert suitably offensive description) PM is of course locked into his current course of action. No Kyoto (and superficially he has a point wrt the two large emitters, China and India, who are not parties) but lots of busy-busy activity: look, we are spending money of lots of things. Sequestration. Nuclear. And so on, very typical activity for all types of governments seeking to deflect too much scrutiny of their broader positions. The closer reason for opposing Kyoto, to my mind, is that this government does not recognise multilaterism much at all, but certainly not on environmental or social issues. Trade and economic only. And they (I mean 'he') probably owes continued resistance to Kyoto as part of the conga line of submission to Bushco.

Also of interest is that Alan Wood in today's Australian is still as rabidly anti climate change as ever. This seems to derive from a more fundamentally held position that he just doesn't believe in it. Dennis Shanahan has started to move but Wood holds the line. Worth remembering as we move forward.

I saw on my rounds of a few blogs that several other people have drawn the seemingly obvious link between Family First's support for the media laws and sudden emergence of money for chaplains in schools. But this one is drawing a lot of flak. The ever optimistic part of me (18%? I've forgotten) attributes this to scales falling from people's eyes about the Hon John Winston Liar. You can fool all of the people, etc etc. The law of averages, the law of diminishing returns, the law of inevitable fuckups, Murphy's Law, one of these laws is coming into play. The conspiracy-monging part of the VVB also suspects that this was onethat was probably meant to be held back for closer to the election, but we needed something to deflect attention from the emerging policy quagmire that is Iraq. For which see Blair, Tony. For whatever its faults, perfidious Albion is still closer to a functioning democracy than we are.

Also, we now have to pray for rain here in Queensland. I give up - the world's gone bloody potty. So onto more pleasant things.

As some readers will know, I do some mentoring in my organisation and my current mentoree is now aware of this blog, thanks to someone, who knows who he is. Anyway, we had a session this morning that was nothing short of brilliant. Perhaps even moreso than other staff I've worked with over the past few years, mentoree (sorry about the nomenclature, nothing better comes to mind, perhaps we need a pseudonym) and I have reached a level of trust where we can be very open about the things that drive our behaviours. This makes it much easier to discuss the sorts of things that mentoring relationships are designed to do, such as understanding organisational behaviour. You can get through some quite deep analysis through reference to personal actions and reactions.

For a professional pessimist and very inconsistent person (I reckon policy consistency is the most desirable attribute and the hardest to achieve), I have to be very careful about not giving the wrong impression about life in the cubicle farm. But all the people I've mentored over the last 5 or so years have been very good at asking questions, so nothing gets taken at face value, it all gets dissected. But this morning was something else again so, you-know-who-you-are, thank you.

And finally, I was choofing off home this evening, fairly light traffic so relatively good driving conditions, quite cool so window down and all. And onto the car stereo - I'd forgotten I'd loaded it - came one of my favourite songs of all time. I'm a fan of the classic two minute pop/rock song and this one is, I reckon, one of the gems. I Fought the Law, by the Bobby Fuller Four. And boy does it show off the new front speakers. I screwed it right up and there was fabulous, tight bass (whoever played bass on that was a real gem, he's up and down the fretboard, it's just pure pop perfection), it's simple, it just chugs along like crazy. One song made the investment in the new speakers all worthwhile. And I'd also picked up Exile on Main Street by the Stones during the week. I'd never owned it, I'd never even heard it, the music fans over on Larvatus Prodeo keep reckoning it was the duck's guts, and it is.

Finally, no posting for a few days as famille VVB is off to Sydney. This is normally my weekend away with the boys for the Motor Show and we will indeed tootle along again. But this year it's the whole family and we will be catching up with my late father's half-sister that he never acknowledged even existed until a few years ago. I've met her once, but this will be the chance to get the family history that we never knew. She's lovely and it should be fascinating.

Finally, we will consign father's ashes to his beloved Sydney Harbour, as close as possible to Mosman where he was born. Let's hope we get the chance to do it right.

About Me