28 February 2006

Green light for Tim Flannery; and another endangered species identified

Prof Flannery has been under the (parish) pump lately for speaking his mind in a TV commercial about the perils of global warming. Today's Advertiser has a brief report (not online) saying that the allegedly offensive commercial has now been approved for screening.

Now that one battle has been won the next one looms: the Sunday Times reports that an impressive coalition of (the willing?) researchers have identified another endangered species. The head honcho
Prof Manning is described as "a specialist in evolutionary psychology at the University of Central Lancashire": how long does it take for university staff to produce enough inbred progeny to sustain a chair?

Decide for yourself.

27 February 2006

President spins as pitch crumbles

The Pakistan Daily Times reports that President Bush, when asked in an interview with Indian journalists how he would choose between a cricket match and a Bollywood movie, replied "I'm a cricket match person...I appreciate it. As I understand it, I may have a little chance [presumably on his forthcoming visit to the sub-continent] to learn something about cricket. It's a great pass-time."

It's odd that Mr Howard, our self-confessed cricket tragic, doesn't seem to have mentioned, let alone encouraged, the President's interest.

Update 1 March: The London Daily Telegraph reveals more about the President's reported preference for cricket. He apparently knows what cricket is but isn't aware of what Bollywood movies are.

Big day on Parade

Photos of Parade food,wine and music festival.

Clockwise from top left

1. Visible police presence #1: Mounted police (horses and cycles) patrol the side streets.

2. Keeping up appearances: Bob Ellis (is he writing speeches for someone?) in coat, tie and VIP marquee.

3. VIP marquee: council CEO Mario Barone in black shirt : elected councillor (on right of picture) waits patiently to speak to him.

4. Visible police presence #2 Voluntary breath testing (advisory only). Does this mean that the real breath testers are advisory only?

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26 February 2006

Zimbabwe win again (or at last) but against....?

Zimbabwe have defeated Kenya . So what? It was hardly a crushing defeat and looks from the scorecard as if they struggled to get there.

It's also worth noting how many of the Zimbabwean cricketers seem to be of European descent: even the new, hastily appointed captain Duffin (who did vindicate his selection by making some runs in his first one day international).

Gentlemen callers

The one day interstate cricket final was played today in Adelaide and it turned out to be as good an advertisement as you could wish for for 50 overs a side cricket. NSW crept over the line to win by one wicket, after it looked as if SA had surrendered to some tight NSW bowling but had got back into the game thanks to Shaun Tait. For the full score see here.

It was also the last match of the season televised by Channel 9, so it gives me a reason (not that I really needed one) to give my opinions on some of the TV and radio cricket commentary this season.

Channel 9 TV: comments on the best three

# Mark Nicholas

Gradually easing into the role of Channel 9 front man, and rightly so. He is extremely polished in his presentation and, as I noticed during both test and one day internationals when I was present at the ground, is able to run an al fresco (ie with music and ads blaring in the foreground) discussion with three or four of his colleagues and to keep them focused. Appearance isn't everything, but he could do with a new hairstyle (or hairdresser) so that the gentlest zephyr doesn't ruffle his hair and distract his audience from what he is saying.

# Richie Benaud

Remains a very perceptive commentator who is able to read a game well and communicate his reading succinctly. Gradually becoming commentator emeritus, though I'd like to see him around for a while yet.

# Simon O'Donnell

Wasted on the lunch show during the tests; constructively forthright when he gets a chance to comment on matches being played. Today he gave two examples of this:

(1) Criticised Brad Haddin (NSW Captain) for ostentatiously spitting the dummy when a player dropped a difficult outfield catch. Anyone who has played cricket at any level knows that if a catch is dropped you shouldn't abuse them but say "don't worry, catch the next one" to the erring fielder.

Stated that Jason Gillespie has lost a metre of pace even though he's still bowling quite well.

The others are all in their way competent, as you'd expect from people who've been doing the job for many summers.

ABC Radio

Jim Maxwell and Glenn Mitchell are sound but not flashy and are supported by generally good comments from Peter Roebuck and, in his folksy way, Geoff Lawson. Kerry O'Keefe is sui generis though some of the other "experts" tend to see the game through spectacles of their own tinting eg Damien Fleming is apt to recall his test hat trick every time a wicket falls. Peter Walsh is able to call and comment on several sports knowledgeably and is invariably enthusiastic and his dress flamboyant, as the photo of him above dashing onto the field at the end of the first one day final shows.

He, Maxwell and Mitchell are quintessential ABC people, and there's not the slightest hint of left wing bias about them (unless they are calling one of the football codes and the play moves in that direction). Even Piers Akerman last week described Jim Maxwell as "sagacious".


A demonstration in support of free speech or a reminder that some things don't change as rapidly as we might wish?

Yesterday's Guardian and today's Observer report on a march of unionists (of the Ulster variety) in Dublin which apparently didn't meet with the approval of all the local citizenry.

25 February 2006

Read my lips

Jack Schafer in Slate has produced a "slide-show essay" on US TV newscasters , or the "Aryan sisterhood" as he calls them (somewhat inaccurately, as he does discuss "male outliers"). Worth a look and a read of his snappy text.

Update 27 February

The Independent publishes a piece by Arifa Akbar which may shed a little more light on the above.

24 February 2006

Second class wait here

What have airport queues got to do with democracy and citizenship? Everything, says Mary Dejevsky in an Open Democracy piece.

A moment of happiness captured

Original post 24 January

Today's Australian has a magnificent photo which captures a moment of happiness shared by some Aboriginal children in a pool at Jigalong in Western Australia with Shane Gould and Fiona Stanley. It would be nice to think that such scenes could be replicated, or might in the near future be replicated, elsewhere in Australia

Update 25 January:

When I went to check the link to the photo today I was surprised to see a picture of the PM, also captured in a moment of happiness, looking relaxed and comfortable. I can't find the photo on the Australian's website though it must be somewhere as they're selling copies for 40 bucks, but the story in words is here.

23 February 2006

How to be pukka: a prominent Australian's advice

Original post 23 February: Should someone have saved our gracious queen?


The front page of today's Australian has a photo of Germaine Greer addressing the Queen of Australia, who seems to be taking what looks like an earbashing with very good grace. Any suggestions for a caption? And who is the woman in the middle? And one more: is the male in the background facing the camera Clive James?

Recently, in its report of the Kerry Packer memorial service
, The Australian listed all those who attended. Can we have the same for Her Majesty's reception or does new money trump always trump old in these matters?

Update 24 February:

Ms Greer has given her version of her visit to Buckingham Palace in The Guardian . Some of this is reprinted in The Australian's "Cut & Paste" section though for some reason it is omitted from the online version.

Once you have decided to go, you are honour-bound to accept the house rules. Or so it seems to me. So once I crossed the gilded threshold of Buckingham Palace I didn't kick off my shoes, sit on the floor, light up a cigar or complain about the stinginess of the hospitality. I didn't buttonhole the Queen and ask her what she meant by serving wine from Chile and New Zealand at a reception for Australians working in Britain. And I did curtsy. Sort of. More of a bob really.

And later

Before entering mosques, mandirs and gurdwaras I take off my shoes. This is not because I believe in the God of the Muslims, the Hindus or the Sikhs, or any God, but because my hosts will be offended if I don't.

There have been occasions when I have been taken as a VIP visitor to holy shrines, and nothing but arrogance was expected of me, but I have offered reverence just the same. And I fancy the priests and the faithful have both appreciated it. When I went at dawn to the burning ghats in Varanasi I didn't take a camera; because I sat silent and still in my little boat, it was allowed to drift right up into the lee of the ghat, which was where I saw death full-face for the first time. I don't go into cathedrals in shorts and, if I remember, I wear a long skirt to Henley. Part of it is me wanting to show that though I am a hick from the sticks, I do know how to behave.

Like Ms Greer I've always removed my footwear before entering mosques and temples (on one occasion embarrassing myself by revealing a holey sock). My experience last year at Varanasi was however different to hers. When I went on a boat before the sun rose over the Ganga I did take a camera and used it (without flash). I didn't ask for the boat to go near the burning ghats (which are a relatively small proportion of the total) nor did I approach close to them later on foot,as I felt that to do so was to intrude too far into the religious practices of the Hindus. I was merely following my instincts: perhaps Ms Greer has received guidance from a power higher than herself?

Greens reign on Parade, or worst cask scenario?

This Sunday the Parade food, wine and music festival will be held in Norwood . In previous years the council's attempts to micromanage the event, eg by banning beer sales on the grounds that a beverage with plebeian connotations is not appropriate for such a hi-falutin' event, have ruffled more than a few feathers. This year, according to the official brochure "The Festival is a Green Event". Does this mean that it is part of the Greens election campaign, or merely that the peacekeeping authorities , presumably including some of the additional police promised by local resident Premier Rann in his electioneering, will remove bottles with the utmost rigour? As the brochure says:

The Parade is a 'GLASS FREE ZONE'. Due to licensing restrictions, no alcoholic drinks are to be served in glass bottles. Any glass bottles, whether purchased at the event or not, may be confiscated. This restriction will be enforced by police, liquor licensing and security personnel.

Taken literally, this edict limits wine sales to cask wines, which may come as a surprise to many of the winemakers whose products are on offer, unless they're using the event as a test marketing exercise for new varieties of container. I must say that the prospect of having sparkling wine poured from a cask (or a plastic container for that matter) doesn't appeal to me. But then everyone who's attended the event in the past will know that the gastronomic delights available are served on paper plates with, if you're lucky, plastic cutlery.

The "Master Glass Artist" who is programmed to give demonstrations of glass blowing must also be concerned about having the fruits of his labours confiscated.

21 February 2006

David Irving given prison sentence

Although today's Australian reports that holocaust denier David Irving's defence lawyer was hoping for a suspended sentence in consideration for a guilty plea, the BBC reports that Irving has been sentenced to three years in prison.

The Australian's story has some interesting background information, including that in 2004 724 people
were charged in Austria with holocaust denial or related offences (though apparently few were imprisoned). The BBC site contains some good links to other media reports.

No doubt there'll be a lot of comment about the decision, which Irving has said he'll appeal against. IMO Irving is a disingenuous ranter but imprisoning him, while unlikely to make him a martyr as some are claiming, will keep him on the margins of fame (celebrity?) instead of letting him slip out of the public mind.

16 February 2006

Racist abuse closes cricket chat channel

The Age reports that a BBC chat cricket channel has had to be closed because of racist abuse. Yet another reminder of Orwell's description of international sport as war without the shooting.

15 February 2006

Great performances as Australia wins series 2-1

The Australian has printed a picture of Ricky Ponting's catch in the cricket final last night. It is one of the greatest catches I've ever seen.

Adam Gilchrist and Simon Katich's centuries were also pretty good in their different yet complementary ways.

Blue over Curly

Today's print media devote a fair bit of space to the Michael Leunig cartoon hoax. The Australian and The Age as you'd expect adopt different positions which are reflected in the headlines of the former's first editorial "Poison Pen's Perils: Who knew Curly Pyjama was so big in Tehran?" and the latter's story "Caught in a hoax, Leunig finds it no laughing matter." Not unexpectedly some elements of the international media including the BBC have picked up the story.

Some interesting points have emerged from the affair to date:

1. The allegedly offensive cartoon was published in 2002 on the ABC's
Media Watch website, where as I post it is still available. It would be interesting to hear Mr Balding's attempt to reconcile this with his banning of the Danish cartoons.

2. Today's Crikey suggests that the hoax was the work of persons connected (or with access to)
Chaser. The SMH (but not The Age) has updated its online story to reflect this.

14 February 2006

Call for another ABC head to roll

Michael Duffy, presenter of ABC Radio National's Counterpoint and occasional journalist, has incurred the wrath of Ben Oquist, a Greens advisor who has written in Crikey :

The ABC must sack Michael Duffy. An employee attempting to bring its employer into disrepute would not be tolerated by any other boss – public or private.

While obviously taking thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money through his salary from the ABC, Mr Duffy continues to run down our national broadcaster through public utterances like those in The SMH on Saturday.

Here's some of what Duffy said:

My view is the ABC ought not to provide middle-class welfare - those services that, if it withdrew from the market, would continue to be provided by private companies supported by advertising.

Much metropolitan radio and much television falls into this category. Instead, the limited funds available should be devoted to areas where the free market arguably fails: regional radio, high-quality local drama and documentaries, and commercial-free news and current affairs and children's programs.

Alternatively, the ABC should consider running advertising in entertainment programs. As SBS has shown, much of the opposition to advertising is no more than dated fundamentalism. In a prosperous and technologically abundant society, commercials are an important source of information.

It can even be argued that businesses have the right to reach the educated middle class through broadcast media, which the ABC's near-monopoly largely denies them. Fairfax and The Australian certainly suffer from being unable to advertise on 702 ABC Sydney or Channel Two. (Incidentally, under the existing legislation the ABC could run paid commercials now on its very successful website and its podcasting.)

I disagree with much of this, especially the assumption that if the ABC withdrew from some program areas commercial stations would step in and continue to provide the programs (or "services") , but don't see why Duffy or anyone else, whether or not they work for the ABC, shouldn't raise the questions he has. He's correct to point out that the world of broadcasting is changing and that the ABC must change with it. Although it's anathema to the likes of Oquist and the hierarchy of the Friends of the ABC, paid advertising along SBS lines would IMO make very little difference. ABC TV already devotes a significant amount of time to promotion of its programs and some ancillary services eg ABC Shops. Aren't they really commercials?

Oquist also implies that Duffy is the beneficiary of political patronage:

Mr Duffy owes his job at Radio National to politics. Unlike everyone else at the ABC who had to win positions on merit, Mr Duffy had a whole program invented by an ABC management desperate to pander to the Howard Government.

And nobody else at the ABC owes their job to politics? And everyone else there has won their positions on merit? Do pigs fly?

As for Counterpoint, when it began I thought that it might be a thinly camouflaged forum for neo-cons and others of similar disposition. While such persons are more likely to be given a platform here than on for example Late Night Live there are refreshing exceptions. This week's program featured a journalist from the UK Guardian (hardly an organ of the right) discussing his concept of Unspeak which he defines as "a mode of speech that persuades by stealth eg climate change, ethnic cleansing". Even Mr Oquist might learn something from this.

13 February 2006

ABC treads cautiously around cartoons

Tonight's Media Watch on ABC TV spent some time discussing THE cartoons. Like almost all of the local media, it did not show them, though Monica Attard (the presenter) did read this letter from Russell Balding, the ABC Managing Director, explaining its reasons, which included having regard to freedom of expression, the ABC's role as an independent public broadcaster, the public interest, safety and security of ABC personnel and "our responsibility to treat all sections of society with respect" (whatever that means). Apart from reading the letter Ms Attard kept her lips sealed, yet her body language suggested that she might not entirely agree with her boss's edict.

The Media Watch website does however have a digest of links to Australian and international sites, including several which have published the cartoons, and reasons from other Australian media outlets for their decisions (or lack thereof).

Desert storm

The ABC reports

Natural resources company Halliburton Australia has rejected allegations of worker exploitation at its gas extraction plant in the South Australian desert.

A company spokesman says claims that four Indonesian workers received as little as $40 a day to dig ditches are unsubstantiated.

He says the workers were hired for skilled labour and were paid up to $US80 ($108) a day, as a bonus on top of their salary.

The Industrial Relations Minister has said his department will investigate the allegations.

The unspecified "South Australian desert" location presumably means the Moomba - Cooper Basin area in the north east of the state where, according to the Halliburton website, the company has a presence.

Anyone is familiar with the area will know that working in the open there at this time of year (and for several months either side) requires great physical strength and fortitude. If the reported bonus figure is correct the workers will certainly earn it.



Today the media, includingThe Australian and The Age , report on the "Australian Unity Wellbeing Index". This is based on surveys of people in each of the 150 or so federal electorates asking them to rate their level of satisfaction with seven aspects of their life: standard of living, health, relationships, achievement in life, safety, community connection and future security.

The Age summarises the findings:

"The happiest electorates tend to have lower population density, a high proportion of people over 55, more females, more married people, and less income inequality.

Importantly, they have a strong sense of 'connection to their community'."

12 February 2006

Sunday morning TV emerges from aestivation

Dare I sat it but I'm a fan of the Sunday morning TV current affairs shows which today emerged from the cocoon of their summer aestivation. I switched (more accurately channel surfed) between Sunday on Channel 9 and Insiders on the ABC.

As usual Sunday had the wider ranging program including an inertview - correction interview - with the PM in which Mr Howard demonstrated his ability to deal with all that Laurie Oakes could throw (or gently lob) at him.

has been extended to an hour: a lengthy news bulletin at the beginning appears to soak up most of the additional time, though this may have been an illusion created by Kim Beazley's contribution, which embodied a disingenuous shafting of Simon Crean and disclosure of his new physical fitness regime (whichhe says includes regular swimming and walking) . It's a pity that he didn't disclose his plans (if he has any) to reduce his verbosity The panel is usually the most interesting part of the program, and today was no exception. The participants Virginia Trioli, Matt Price and, in the bogeyman's seat on the right of the set, Andrew Bolt. AB held his fire until VT had shown enough of her limited hand for him to trump her with some characteristically incisive questions and make her look a fool. MP maintained his customary composure and good sense leavened with some wry comments but had enough sense not to move into the crossfire between AB and VT. I rarely agree with Bolt but have a grudging admiration for his ability to focus on issues (usually on his terms) and to avoid being distracted by peripheral matters.

The ABC has augmented its Sunday m0rning schedule with Offsiders, a sports panel show which is an Insiders spinoff using the same set and some of the same cast.
At least Barrie Cassidy looks (and sounds) like a sports caller and Matt Price, judging from his writings in the Australian, seems to have a good feel for many sports. But the other commentators are specialists, which means that they will be speaking a foreign tongue (or at best a dialect) if their sport, such as the various football codes, does not have a broad national following. Today the avuncular rugby commentator, whose name eludes me, was speaking to the converted, whih meant that he lost me after a couple of sentences. Perhaps Peter Wilkins, whose years doing the sports summary for ABC news have given him a working knowledge of most sports, could be drafted onto the panel.

11 February 2006

One up to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka last night defeated an Australian team which buckled under the pressure at some crucial stages, notably the last few overs of the Sri Lankan innings and intermittently during its own.

The Lankan fielding was excellent, with Dilshan outstanding: his run out of Martyn by hitting the stumps on the full from a swooping pickup was as good as you could hope to see . I don't know why he didn't win the player of the match award (as well as effecting four run outs he biffed some useful runs in the final overs of the Lankan innings and took a catch).

Richard Earle's report in today's Advertiser also gave evidence of buckling under the pressure of a tight deadline (" A comical series of mid-pitch brain explosions sabotaged Australia's chase of its 275 target to win Adelaide's inaugural final in front of 23,512 fans') though his version published on the Herald Sun website ("Dilshan throws spanner in works") is much more restrained.

Observations on the crowd's attitude to Muralitharan's bowling

When Murali began to bowl there were a few a few cries of "no ball" from some people (many of them children) near me but these were were countered by applause, and as he soon took a wicket the cries ceased while the applause continued.

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05 February 2006

Cartoon consequences

The brouhaha over the publication of the cartoons depicting Mohammed has now gone beyond words and pictures to physical attacks on embassies, as the BBC reports.

For a summary of other opinion see here. At the time of posting this site contained a link to the cartoons, which were first published in Denmark on 30 September last year.

The Australian media has been more circumspect in its reporting, perhaps in response to actions like this , a plea today from a senior Islamic cleric to the local media not to publish the cartoons.

Yesterday The Australian published an editorial "Democracies must not give way on freedom of speech", an assertively forthright defence of freedom of speech which included the statement "the right to offend within the law is fundamental to free speech". I totally agree with this, and would like to see more debate about the issues though I wonder whether The Australian will, given the escalation over the last few days, publish the cartoons as so many other media outlets have done. As they are so widely available on the internet I wonder whether much is to be gained from further publication in the print media, but I would like to see the discussion continue even though I cannot see any immediate resolution of Muslim grievances.

02 February 2006

Rascal warlords at large

In today's Advertiser Richard Earle again lets himself go. He describes Shane Warne and Darren Lehmann as "warlords" who were "foretasting a beer and a cigarette" before the SA - Victoria match (or "decisive Pura Cup scrap") began today.

In the next paragraph the two protagonists metamorphose into "loveable rascals" who won't change since "no punter on the hill would want them to". It's nearly all there - drinking, smoking and even a hit of gambling. At least on this occasion there's nothing that looks, sounds or smells like racism, so the rascal warlords may escape the attention of the Indian Solicitor-General when he arrives on his fact-finding mission (see previous posting).

Australian cricket under investigation

Most of the media, the Australian cricket establishment and players are trying to sheet the blame for the alleged racism in cricket to a few spectators (persons of South African voice?) despite uncomfortable reminders such as this about recent events.

The International Cricket Council has appointed India's Solicitor General, Goolam Vahanvati, to investigate. In 2004 Mr Vahanvati was one of two ICC appointed investigators who produced a 73 page report for the ICC which found that there was no evidence of racism (or more precisely racism directed at white players) in Zimbabwe cricket at the time. As subsequent events have confirmed the astuteness of this conclusion, cricket followers may therefore be confident that Mr Vahanvati will produce a fair and balanced judgment once he has had the opportunity to assess the scene in Australia.

For my part I wonder whether the whole process is straining at a gnat to swallow a camel, or as today's Herald Sun
put it

"Cricket Australia warns that offending spectators will continue to be kicked out.That is the way – not resorting to a major international inquiry into the aberrant behaviour of a few idiots."

Citizen du Plessis

ABC RN's Media Report today had a story about Deon duPlessis, a South African media entrepreneur who runs the Daily Sun, a newspaper for the "Blue Overall Guy" - not "man" as the ABC website puts it.

The paper has a print run of about half a million, the highest ever in South Africa, but no electronic version, apart from a weekly email circulated to prospective advertisers. Mr duP claims that he is assisting the upward mobility of the Blue Overall Guys (and their partners) by giving them stories they feel comfortable with eg sport (which, he made clear, means soccer, not cricket), and implausible events such as "woman raped by python" (does this make him a snake oil merchant?). Apparently his willingness to venture into the realm of magic has led to him being accused of racism.