Wednesday, August 30, 2006

So very true about JWH

Mungo MacCallum begins a tribute to Don Chipp with a short but oh-so-accurate summing-up of Our Great & Fearless Leader:

DON CHIPP was an idealistic Liberal. Nowadays that would be a contradiction in terms; in these unforgiving times idealism is not a quality fashionable in Australian politics, and particularly not in the Liberal Party.

The qualities John Howard admires and demands from his followers are ruthlessness, single-mindedness, the killer instinct; he is interested in results, not ideas. Idealism is best left to the do-gooders and bleeding hearts; it might rate a ritual mention on special occasions such as an election policy speech, but it has nothing to do with Realpolitik.

No vision, no compassion, just ideology and winning politically.

The full tribute is in Sydney Morning Herald

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Money wasted on Surf Clubs

Multi-million dollars are being thrown away by Gosford City Council on competely unnecessary Surf Clubs, duplicating others just a few hundred metres away.

I have no quarrel with council money going towards facilities that are necessary to give protection to swimmers. For true surf lifesaving activities.

But we're paying for duplicate and costly facilities only a few hundred metres apart.

On the Central Coast we have totally unnecessary clubs being built on beaches which already have a surf club. Examples are Terrigal & Wamberal, Avoca Beach & North Avoca.

Here's a report from the ExpressAdvocate:

New surf club worth the effort

GOSFORD ratepayers have been thanked for their contribution to the new Avoca Beach Surf Club.

The surf club was officially opened by Gosford Mayor Laurie Maher on Thursday.

Club president Garry Clarke said the new building was a true community effort.

"It would be remiss if I did not thank the ratepayers of Gosford city because this was a result of paying a levy. We respect and acknowledge what they have put in,'' he said.

The $2.2 million surf club was financed through a council water safety levy which will pay to rebuild six of the Central Coast's ageing surf clubs.

What it doesn't tell us is that there's a new Surf Club already there, just a few hundred metres along the beach at North Avoca.

On the next bay too, Terrigal with one sweeping arc of a beach, there is no need for more than one clubhouse.

In both cases there only needs to be one clubhouse. The rest of the beach needs only a watchtower, serviced from the main clubhouse.

Lifesavers could easily go out with their equipment in the morning from one clubhouse to position themselves at a watchtower a few hundred metres away.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mindset confirmed.

"We don't do body counts" was a memorable quote from Gen. Tommy Franks, who directed the invasion of Iraq. A moment of truth that must have had the spin doctors in a real spin. Too late, he'd said what he really thought without, for once, the news being managed.

It set the tone, confirmed a suspicion - non-Americans simply don't matter. 'We can't even be bothered to worry about how many Iraqis are killed'.

That's been confirmed over and over again, and now the latest revelation, from the LA Times & Washington Post. It clearly shows the mindset of the officers and the men they command. A sample of what it says:

Officer: Haditha killing normal

Washington: Commander of the battalion involved in last November's Haditha killings did not consider the deaths of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, unusual and did not initiate an inquiry, according to a sworn statement he gave to military investigators in March.

It...provides a glimpse of the mindset of a commander on the scene who, despite the carnage, did not stop to consider whether Marines had crossed a line and killed defenceless civilians.

(Lt Col) Chessani told investigators he concluded that insurgents had staged a "complex attack" that began with a roadside bomb, followed by a small-arms ambush that was intended to provoke the Marines to fire into houses where civilians were hiding."

I did not see any cause for alarm," especially because several firefights had occurred in the area the same day November 19, 2005 Chessani said. Because of that conclusion, the commander added, he did not see any reason to investigate the matter, or even to ask how many women and children had been killed.Incidentally, notice that we have that 'he made me do it' nonsense of an excuse yet again..."intended to provoke the marines to fire into houses where civilians were hiding."

Incidentally, notice that we have that 'he made me do it' nonsense of an excuse yet again..."intended to provoke the marines to fire into houses where civilians were hiding."

They couldn't win hearts & minds in Vietnam because of their disregard for non-Americans, it's continued ever since and I can't see it changing.

Read the full Washington Post article.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Christian fascists?

Remembering this, President Bush said Thursday that an uncovered British terror plot to blow up planes flying to the United States was further proof "that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists.", I wonder whether terrorists carrying out murderous attacks on behalf of their warped Christian beliefs, such as bombing abortion clinics and murdering the doctors, will be classified as 'Christian fascists'?

Or what about these Catholics:

Bomb discovery fuels fears of dissident republican revival

Owen Bowcott, Ireland correspondentThursday August 17, 20

The discovery of a partially detonated 70lb bomb in a house being built for the Ulster Unionist peer Lord Ballyedmond was blamed yesterday on dissident republican groups intent on launching a fresh campaign of terror.

The incident followed the Real IRA's claim of responsibility last week for fires in retail stores in Newry, County Down, and explosions on the nearby Belfast-Dublin railway line. More than £10m damage was caused.

In this week's attack on Lord Ballyedmond's house near Hackballscross, Co Louth, the detonator on the bomb, packed in a natural gas cylinder, exploded but failed to set off the main charge. Irish army bomb disposal experts eventually made it safe.

The Guardian

Just wondering whether being Christian makes a difference...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A performance bonus??!!??

As Telstra dives, Sol gets $2.6m bonus

Michael Sainsbury and Patricia Karvelas
August 11, 2006

TELSTRA chief Sol Trujillo has been rewarded with an $8.7million pay packet for a year in which he infuriated Canberra, wiped $16 billion off the value of the company and delivered the worst profit performance since it listed on the stock market nine years ago.

Despite yesterday handing down a 26 per cent slump in full-year net profit to $3.18 billion, Telstra said its imported chief executive had hit enough performance targets to pocket a short-term incentive bonus of $2.58million.

Full story is here

People have been fired for less. What the hell would he have been paid if he'd actually performed!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Oh yes you can, Mr Howard!

"More than 15 billion litres of petrol were consumed last financial year, leaving aside business use.

Last financial year motorists spent $18.8 billion, of which $1.88 billion was GST.

If pump prices stayed at $1.40 a litre this year, they would spend $21.2 billion and GST collections would rise by $240 million, assuming petrol consumption remained static."

Mr Howard tells us the government can do nothing about petrol prices. It's the world oil price you see, completely beyond our control.

What about the tax Mr Howard? 'Excise' at 39.643 cents for unleaded petrol plus GST. That's not beyond your control, you can do something about that.

According to Shell, at a pump price of 138 cents, product cost is 78.7 cents, tax is 50.7 cents, Shell & retail margin is 8.6 cents.

There are many ways tax could be reduced - removal of GST altogether; GST only on cost not on 'excise'; a simple fixed dollar amount regardless of price and so on.

It's not out of the government's control, it's not impossible. Only the political will to do it is required.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Blogger plays at Edinburgh Festival

Let slip the blogs of war ...

New plays inspired by online diaries include one woman's story of life in strife-torn Iraq

Rob Sharp, arts and media correspondent
Sunday August 6, 2006 The Observer

The traditional assembly of attention seekers, hand-waving thespians and artistic extroverts that annually descend on Edinburgh for a month of theatrical festivities is set to be joined this year by the antics of an unlikely soul-mate - the normally secluded bedroom blogger.

A number of new plays at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the annual celebration of new theatre, which starts today, are taking inspiration from blogs, the online diaries which bring prominence to anonymous wordsmiths. Blogs have proved game fodder for those writing plays for the Fringe, anxious for new material to inform both jaunty comedies and more hard-hitting alternatives.

'I'd never heard of blogs until a year ago,' the play's director, Oliver Mann, told the BBC. Last year, he and a friend were contacted by an old classmate, who referred them to his online diary. Mann continued: 'He just wrote the most intensely personal stuff about his private life. We became so addicted to it that we were checking it out at work. We started sort of performing it for each other, and that is when I realised that a blog like this would work well as a kind of dramatic monologue.'

Mann's play is joined at the festival by Girl Blog From Iraq: Baghdad Burning, the dramatisation of an Iraqi woman's written experiences of Middle Eastern war. The show's director, Kimberley Kefgen, who is accompanying the show to Edinburgh after a successful run in New York, said her use of the blogging medium in the show was less important than the story she was telling, and added that initially she questioned whether the blog, Riverbend, which is still being written by an anonymous Iraqi, could be successfully transferred to the stage.

The full story from Britain's The Observer is here.

I'm a big fan and regular reader of Baghdad Burning. If you want the view from the street, without the spin from governments or military media centres, want to know what an Iraqi girl sees every day, her thoughts, beautifully and poignantly written, you can reach her blog here.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mel Gibson - priorities

Much as I abhor racism, isn't it a disgrace that it's Mel Gibson's outburst that's being depicted as the serious crime, not that he was drunk driving thus endangering innocent lives. A breath test indicated Gibson's blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent. California drivers 21 and older must remain under 0.08 percent.

Where's the outrage at that?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The obscenity of war

This heart-rending front page photograph ran in "Gulf News" on Monday and has caused much debate, with opinions very much divided.

There was a particular letter complaining about it, with what I thought was a brilliant reply from the Photo Director:

How can the image of a dead child help?

Your newspaper was not allowed into my house on Monday morning. I had it thrown straight into the bin. It is distressing enough to read of the deaths of innocent children in times of war and conflict but completely unnecessary to show that image on the front page.
What happened to the classic photojournalism of war-torn countries which has won awards over the years for its clear message without having to resort to graphic and brutal pictures of burning bodies and crushed limbs?
We live in times when violence is so commonplace on TV to the point where no one takes any notice of real conflict and pain. How can the image of that dead child change what is happening in Lebanon? It appears to me the real reason this photograph has been published is to increase the sales of the paper.
When we live in a country where many things are taboo, surely sickening visuals of this nature should be sensitively handled and kept out of the press altogether.
How do you explain this photo to a child who sees it in the home? How does he understand that this is different from the game he then goes off to play on his Playstation or the internet?
From Ms S. Backhouse, Dubai

Our Photo Director replies:

Photojournalists covering the war in Lebanon have provided arguably the most harrowing images of death and destruction in recent times. They risk their lives to document the war crimes being perpetrated against defenceless women and children. We as a newspaper recording history are obliged to show the truth of what is happening and at times the truth is painful.

You contend that classic photojournalism images that have won awards do not depict the brutal imagery which has appeared in Gulf News and most Arab newspapers of late. I beg to differ on this issue as the greatest award-winning images have more often than not been violent. The napalmed children running through the streets in Vietnam, charred soldiers in a tank in Iraq, the pilot's body being dragged through Mogadishu streets, the Vietcong being shot in the head at close range, the man being beaten while being burnt alive during apartheid in South Africa, the starving child being watched by a vulture in Sudan, the killing fields of Cambodia, starving children in Ethiopia, the hacked bodies during the genocide in Rwanda, Bhopal gas explosion horror one can go on and on.

Great news pictures conjure up great horrors, great sorrow and inevitably are immensely brutal.

The child being hoisted from the rubble in Lebanon will go down as a great image of this war for its sure message: the war has killed and is killing the innocents. These images which are being widely used in the Arab media are being generally ignored by the western media. The result is outrage in this region and amazing apathy in the western world. Censorship of these images, the truth, only serves the perpetrators of violence and allows their crimes against humanity to carry on unchecked.It is our duty as a serious newspaper to expose this.

We live in the Playstation age where children and adults alike are desensitised by the carnage on their television sets because apparent "death" is so common and "resurrection" is a mere press of the button away. In real war there is no second chance or "restart" button and perhaps parents should be duty bound to explain the difference between "real" death and "cyber" death.

By throwing Gulf News in the bin you may have lost a great opportunity to teach your children about the reality of life and how different it is from Playstation's artificial life.

You ask: How can the image of that dead child change what is happening in Lebanon? Time will tell what impact it has but for sure there will be and already has been an impact on the minds of those who saw it.

Reading not only Australian newspapers but also those from the US, the UK, I see sanitised photos of the destruction. Buildings collapsed, people in hospital with a bandaged arm, crying women, but rarely a graphic photograph showing the true horror, the reality of what's happening.

Hiding the truth, sanitising the effects of barbarity will only help it to continue. People need to face up to the reality of what happens in war. To people on all sides of all wars. That's the only hope we have of ever stopping it.

By the way, the little boy shouldn't stay nameless. Abbas Mahmoud Hashem. Just one more innocent victim.

"Don't blame me..."

"...but I'll take all the credit when interest rates go down."

It's the way it goes with bloody politicians isn't it. In reality, world events, commodity prices, the global economy are really the factors behind interest rates.

When rates are high that's exactly what the politicians say - it's beyond their control.

Yet the moment rates come down they scramble over each other to take the full credit..."It's all because of my good economic management."

Howard by an accident of timing came to power when world interest rates were at historically low levels. There was 1% in the USA, zero percent on Japan, two or three percent was the norm in the industrialised world. He fell into it, he didn't create it.

On the other hand Labor were unfortunate to be in power when the world's interest rates were at historical highs.

In both cases they could fiddle at the edges but that's about all.

But the spin is relentless. Claiming credit, blaming others, being creative with the presentation of the facts, such as "... 3 per cent lower than when the Government was elected (in 1996) and 10 per cent lower than the peak under the Labor Party," Mr Costello told a specially convened media conference in Sydney. The Treasurer denied the Coalition had betrayed voters or that the third 0.25 per cent interest rate rise in 12 months - taking rates to their highest levels in five years - reflected badly on the Government's election pledge to keep rates low.

He also pinned the blame for higher rates on the last Labor government, more than a decade ago.

Mr Howard, while admitting his regret about the interest rise, said it was inevitable.

As Ross Gittins said in Sydney Morning Herald:

So don't fall for John Howard's excuse that no government can stop cyclones or control the world oil price. He's just trying to divert attention from a promise a more scrupulous politician would not have made - to "keep interest rates low".