29 April 2007
28 April 2007
Today I had my hair cut. While I was waiting I leafed through a National Geographic from 1988 and found these pictures, which I photographed with my (normally) trusty Olympus. One member of the 11 year old dancing couple has moved up in the world since then. Can you guess who?
The bloodstained worker was (maybe still is) a union member. The caption says that 57% of the workforce was unionised at the time. Things change.
Another picture, which I didn't photograph showed a band named Midnight Oil in what looked like a very remote location. Their lead singer, whose name escapes me for the moment, was also in the picture. Can you recall his name?
I wonder where they are all are now.
26 April 2007
It also struck me that this occurrence was a metaphor for our society: the government has encouraged many people to set themselves up in business or as independent contractors, yet when trouble strikes the big corporations usually seem to have the resources to cope without doing themselves too much harm.
I took the photo through the steamed- up window of a bus travelling along North Terrace this afternoon.
The rain is expected to continue for the next few days. If it does it will be a great relief to those who have hoped or prayed for it.
25 April 2007
Despite our differences over the correct way to describe the round ball game (which he for years also called "soccer" before changing to "football" or "the world game") I've been following his story with considerable interest. You can only hear it by listening every day at 10.45 am, though you if you're interested in soccer/football or the experiences of post WW2 migrants to Australia you'd probably find the book worth reading.
- While all the principal characters were based on real people, many, if not most, of them would have been unfamiliar to the average viewer, let alone people like me with a smidgin of knowledge about the era. For example Robert Menzies was otherwise well played by Bille Brown, an actor who looked nothing like him. Why couldn't each character have been introduced with a caption explaining who they were?
- Was everyone in high places, even political adversaries, on first name terms with each other in the 1940s? In my recollection that degree of familiarity (or artificiality) didn't come into common use until the late 60s - early 70s.
- Language. Was "step up to the plate" (meaning to assume responsibility) in common - or even uncommon - Australian use in the 1940s? What not "go into bat for" which has both cricket and baseball connotations?
- Terminology. The "Japanese Imperial Army"(shown in a caption near the end credits) should be "Imperial Japanese Army".
He makes some good points:
Curtin was a wartime leader who had no stomach for war. Neither by temperament nor knowledge or experience could he handle the business of how best to use armed men to win a war. He solved this problem by handing the control of Australia's forces to American Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of the Southwest Pacific.
We admire Curtin for keeping to the task that he knew he was not suited for. This becomes the drama rather than the old story of the good Curtin and the bad Menzies.
It is an oddity that Labor's best prime minister could remain in the job only because he was propped up by his wife, his daughter, Ben Chifley and Menzies.
McInnes plays John Curtin magnificently. The other actors do not resemble their subjects closely. McInnes has Curtin's body: the tormented face and limbs in private, and the thrusting energy in public. It is that contrast that makes Curtin so fascinating, even if he was not our best prime minister.W
23 April 2007
The photos here were taken at the summit and show me (with residual perspiration from the climb visible on my shirt), a bandicoot which had been foraging in the open air eating area (but photographed in the adjoining bush), and the Cleland Park authorities' "controlled
20 April 2007
Why am I saying this? Because the Salvation Army has sold out to Caesar, ie the Federal government, from which it receives a large proportion of its income, and does so as a result of a competitive tendering process which gives an advantage to large organisations like them, and which has resulted in a number of smaller community based not for profit organisations being forced or downsize or, in some cases, disband.
No doubt the Salvos do a good job, but it's done mostly with taxpayers money, so I can't see why they need to get out on the streets shaking their collecting tins. Years ago when they raised money by selling the War Cry in pubs they had a lot of respect from the (mostly male) drinking class. The image of the clean cut, white shirted SA officer, in evidence today (I saw one male and one female) seems to be one of their strongest marketing tools which, given the range of their programs, the extent to which they're funded by government and their trampling over smaller likeminded organisations, is more than a little disingenuous.
18 April 2007
The second lead: "Care for the elderly: the aged deserve the best we can offer" is also important because it states (perhaps restates, but it seems to have been a long time between statements) some fundamental principles about why and how elderly people are entitled to be looked after:
The editorial continues by discussing some of the recent scandals about aged care (the deaths at the Broughton Hall nursing home and the attempt to dispossess 400 nursing home residents in four states because of a property deal) and concludes with a succinct and valid reason why we should treat the elderly with dignity: "They helped to build the society we now enjoy".
14 April 2007
Despite this, a number of commentators continue to insist that the age pension claims of a large cohort of boomers will put unsustainable pressure on government finances and place an intolerable burden on younger generations.
In reality, most of them will rely on the full or part age pension in retirement, but not through any fault of their own. When they entered the workforce, the age pension was the predominant form of funding and most of their parents' generation relied on the pension.
Only in 1992, halfway through their working lives, was compulsory superannuation introduced. After years of being told that the state would look after them while they would fund the retirement of the generations ahead of them, boomers were suddenly expected to pay for their own retirement.
Collective risk pooling through the welfare state, once a symbol of social solidarity, has become for some commentators "generational theft on a massive scale". But those who declare that older people are a burden on society and a drain on the public purse are ripping up the intergenerational contract and setting "productive workers" against "burdensome retirees". They themselves are creating the intergenerational war.
The terms of the debate in Australia have been imported from the United States, where for years some have predicted an "intergenerational Armageddon". The more extreme elements of this movement have challenged not only the citizenship of older Americans but their right to life.
One biomedical ethicist, Daniel Callahan, has identified three goals for any ageing society: to stop funding medical interventions that bring only marginal gains to the old; to prevail on the old to shift their priorities from their own welfare to that of younger generations; and to persuade older people to accept death as a condition of life, at least for the sake of others.
In other words, older citizens should sacrifice their lives rather than use up expensive medical resources at the expense of younger, more deserving, generations.
That's some generational payback. The generational warmongers seem to believe that we don't have enough social division in Australia.
I've not previously heard of, let alone read anything by, Callahan, who has written a lot during a long professional career, so am reluctant to pass judgment, as Ms Hamilton seems to do. It won't surprise me to see intergenerational tensions increase in coming years as aged people and the amount of resources required to sustain their lives increasingly concern, perplex or irritate the younger generations who have grown up in an environment which more and more measures people's worth by how much they earn, and what they spend it on, rather that on recognising the non-economic value of life.
When they came to fourscore years, which is reckoned the extremity of living in this country, they had not only all the follies and infirmities of other old men, but many more which arose from the dreadful prospect of never dying. They were not only opinionative, peevish, covetous, morose, vain, talkative, but incapable of friendship, and dead to all natural affection, which never descended below their grandchildren...The least miserable among them appear to be those who turn to dotage, and entirely lose their memories; these meet with more pity and assistance, because they want many bad qualities which abound in others
"As soon as they have completed the term of eighty years, they are looked on as dead in law; their heirs immediately succeed to their estates; only a small pittance is reserved for their support; and the poor ones are maintained at the public charge. After that period, they are held incapable of any employment of trust or profit; they cannot purchase lands, or take leases; neither are they allowed to be witnesses in any cause, either civil or criminal, not even for the decision of meers and bounds.
"At ninety, they lose their teeth and hair; they have at that age no distinction of taste, but eat and drink whatever they can get, without relish or appetite. The diseases they were subject to still continue, without increasing or diminishing. In talking, they forget the common appellation of things, and the names of persons, even of those who are their nearest friends and relations. For the same reason, they never can amuse themselves with reading, because their memory will not serve to carry them from the beginning of a sentence to the end; and by this defect, they are deprived of the only entertainment whereof they might otherwise be capable.[Gulliver's Travels Part III Chapter 10].
Food for thought?
12 April 2007
At the weekend Dan Silkstone's piece "The blogs that ate cyberspace" went into some detail to pooh-pooh the notion that blogging is dying or declining. This is worth reading in full, not necessarily because I agree with everything he says but because it touches upon some important questions, eg why do people blog? and, closer to the bone, "are many bloggers deluded when they think their lives are interesting or worthy of recording?" I'll take both these questions on notice for now, even though I'm tempted to reply "so what" to the second.
Silkstone's piece draws upon another report published on Friday which claims that at latest count there are 72 million blogs (not all of which are active of course) . Japanese (37% of all blogs) has overtaken English (36%) as the most popular blogging language, with Chinese (8%) in third place but expected to close the gap.
Other reports mention an alliance formed by Malaysian bloggers to resist what they see as suggestions by their government that bloggers should be required to register or otherwise subjected to limitations on their freedom of expression.
And yesterday once again Dan Silkstone is in print. This time he discusses proposals for a blogger code of conduct. "Sanctimonious nonsense or good idea?" asks the paper, inviting comments.
For more about Tim O'Reilly's proposals see here.
I'm not necessarily averse to a code of conduct, provided it's voluntary and that some of the terms (eg "abuse, harass, stalk or threaten") are defined so that they can't be used by individuals, organisations and governments to stifle dissent. Rather than sign up immediately (and the current proposal is only a draft for discussion) I'll wait and see what unfolds.
09 April 2007
Also on matters Orwellian, Boing Boing reports, complete with map, that Orwell's former residence in London is now well covered by (
And Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post has an Op-Ed piece "Orwell at Guantanamo" about torture at that benighted place.
There's also Steven Poole's book and website Unspeak which has a different take on political language: read this extract from the introduction to the book (it's too long to quote here). Terms like "broad justice", recently used by PM Howard to explain how he felt about the David Hicks case outcome, are examples of this.
On a lighter note, AbeBooks.co.uk, the UK arm of the global secondhand book selling organisation (this sounds Orwellian but isn't meant to), has an advertisement for several "Not-Books", one of which is "Nineteen Eighty-five: Things Are Looking Up by G. Orwell", whose cover contains an endorsement '"It's doubleplusgood!" - Ministry of Truth'. You can send friends (or enemies) E-
07 April 2007
An editorial in today's Australian says "[President] Ahmadinejad turns an act of war into a PR coup", a view which has been echoed around the west. Another BBC report "Mystery shrouds UK sailors' saga" tries to look behind the negotiations which took place, but hasn't, in the immediate aftermath of the incident, yet been able to come up with anything conclusive:
The moral of the tale is that the gap between Iranian claims and what is really going on may be quite great. But do not rely on the British government to have the answer. Relations between Britain and Iran were strained before this crisis and have probably got worse. There isn't always a conspiracy or a backroom deal. Quite often diplomats, like the rest of us, are working in the dark.
Elsewhere in the region there are at least two sides to another story:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged for the first time yesterday that he has met with Taliban militants in attempts to bring peace to the country, but offered no details of the talks or sign that a serious dialogue is under way.
reports The Independent
Karzai did not disclose any details of the meetings, when they took place or with whom. Hundreds of former members of the hardline Taliban regime, including a sprinkling of former senior commanders and officials, have reconciled with the government since they were ousted from power in the US-led invasion in 2001. But current rebels leaders have apparently refused to hold talks, and over the past year, thousands more fighters have picked up guns and joined the insurgency, which in 2006 alone left some 4,000 people, mainly militants, dead.
Zabiullah Mujaheed, a purported spokesman for the militants, said that Taliban "do not want to talk to a puppet government."
"Karzai's government has no power and all their policies are designed by America," Mujaheed told The Associated Press by phone, from an undisclosed location. "If the US wants to negotiate with the Taliban, they should first leave our country," he said.
And while these word wars continue, so does the killing. Mr Blair's delight at the return of the 15 has been tempered by news that another four British service personnel have been killed in Iraq, while in Afghanistan, as The Independent story adds, five people were killed in what was apparently a suicide bombing.
04 April 2007
It takes longer to count the money than to fill the tank. The pick-up takes 50 litres. More violence and more unrest has seen the exchange rate leap to Z$25,000 to $1. That means a little over Z$1m. And that kind of money needs to be carried in bags, not wallets. Hyperinflation and the ensuing fuel crisis has pushed petrol beyond the means of normal people. Zimbabwe is now a nation of hitchhikers, the lay-bys crowded with people waiting and waving, sometimes for days if they can't afford to pay for a lift.
For another, not very different, view see Tuesday's ABC RN Perspective talk.
02 April 2007
For a pithy and witty summary here's Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish .
From the start, Guantánamo, its detainees and the legal proceedings here have provided enough grist to support the competing views of the detention center: a necessary mechanism for dealing with a new kind of enemy, or the embodiment of the war on terror gone awry.
Mr. Hicks’s conviction with a guilty plea provides something for each side. He admitted training with Al Qaeda, guarding a Taliban tank and scouting a closed American embassy building. But there is no evidence he was considering a terrorist attack or capable of carrying one out. Yet he was held five years and four months before he got his day in court. And at the end of a very long day at the tribunal Friday, his actual sentence was only nine months.
In the cadre of observers from advocacy and human rights groups here to monitor the proceedings, the plea deal Mr. Hicks reached was fresh evidence of the coercive power of this place. The plea bargain included a provision that will get Mr. Hicks out of detention here and into an Australian prison to serve the rest of his sentence within 60 days. That provision as much as any served as a reminder of the international crosscurrents that will swirl around many of the cases here. There had been growing diplomatic pressure on the Bush administration to return Mr. Hicks to Australia, where his case has drawn wide attention and where Prime Minister John Howard, one of President Bush’s most stalwart supporters, is facing a tough re-election fight......
as developments unfolded, David H. B. McLeod, an Australian lawyer working with the defense, provided insight into Mr. Hicks’s thoughts. “He says that if he is the worst of the worst, and the person who should be put before a military commission first,” Mr. McLeod said, “then the world really hasn’t got much to worry about."
Bringing his case to the war-crimes tribunal first, and before all the procedural guidance was ready, left the impression with many legal analysts that Crawford stepped in to do Howard a favor — at the expense of the commissions' credibility.
Even the chief prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, issued what seemed a subtle dig at the plea deal made behind his back. After offering sincere congratulations to Hicks' military defense lawyer, Marine Maj. Michael Mori, he said he also wanted to thank Howard's government for everything it had done to bring closure to the case.
Davis said that the lenient sentence was negotiated without his input and that he signed off on the pretrial agreement because opposing it would have been "a symbolic move."
The Hicks deal followed by only a day Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' expression of concern before a congressional committee that because of Guantanamo's reputation in the world, the tribunal verdicts were going to lack credibility.
Friday's "machinations" in the Hicks trial and international reaction to the hand-slap sentence "suggest the accuracy of Gates' Thursday testimony about global perceptions of the military trials held at Guantanamo," said University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias.
Legal analysts condemned the first completed case as fresh evidence that the detention and prosecution are unjust and immoral.
"From the beginning, the Hicks proceedings have illustrated everything that's wrong with these military commissions," said Maureen Byrnes, executive director of Human Rights First.
"The plea deal in particular has the taint of coerced statements and secrecy. The deal effectively censors anything Mr. Hicks might allege about what he says he suffered and implausibly characterizes the last five years of his detention as justified under the laws of war."
As a condition for the light sentence, Hicks was compelled to state that he has never been "illegally treated" in U.S. custody. He also had to promise not to bring any legal actions against U.S. officials or citizens for any reason.
"Add in the widespread perception that the plea deal was in part the result of intense political and diplomatic pressures, and the conclusion is inescapable that these military commissions don't deal justice, they deny it," Byrnes said.
The prohibition against Hicks ever claiming he was "illegally treated" in U.S. custody contradicted sworn statements submitted in his attempt to obtain British citizenship and a more protective home government.
The statement to a British court said he had been repeatedly beaten, sodomized and forced into painful positions during interrogations.
See also Joan Z Shore at Huffington Post 's post "Trial and (T)error".
Crikey has links to these and other comments, with the pithiest summary of them all "Hicks deal stinks say American commentators".
The more that is known about the terms of the plea bargain agreed to by confessed terror trainee David Hicks, and the way it was concluded, the more disturbing it becomes. While the arrangement may serve the purposes of the US and Australian governments and ensure Hicks gets out of prison quickly, it does little to dispel complaints that the process was riddled with political interference. As Geoff Elliot reports in The Australian today, the prosecution, judge and jury were kept out of the loop. Hicks's US defence lawyer, Major Michael Mori, went over their heads to Washington where he negotiated directly with the head of the Convening Authority for US military commissions, Susan Crawford. While not a political figure in her own right, Ms Crawford has had a long working association with US Vice-President Dick Cheney. At the end of negotiations, the eight-member panel of the military commission in Guantanamo Bay was presented with a done deal. This is at odds with the version of events given by John Howard, who said the plea bargain was negotiated between the military prosecution and Mr Hicks's lawyers.
There is an unmistakable stench of political expediency to the terms of the plea bargain, in particular the extraordinary 12-month gag order that prevents Hicks from speaking publicly about the actions to which he has pleaded guilty or the circumstances surrounding his capture, interrogation and detention. The gag also silences family members and any third party. While no one would suggest Hicks should not be allowed to sell his story, a blanket gag order that extends beyond the period of incarceration is a disturbing erosion of free speech. And the fact it is only in place for one year gives a clear impression its main purpose is to keep Hicks quiet until after the federal election.
From the US perspective, Hicks has sworn he was never illegally treated during his capture, transfer to or detention at Guantanamo Bay. The agreement says this puts to rest any claims of mistreatment by the US. And Hicks has agreed not to take legal action against any US official over his capture, treatment or prosecution. In exchange, Hicks will be handed over to Australian authorities within 60 days and gets a maximum sentence of seven years, suspended after nine months.
For everyone except Hicks, who seems to have escaped with a remarkably light sentence given the serious nature his charges, it is a deeply unsatisfactory outcome. By short circuiting the tribunal process, the most serious allegations will never be tested. Justice has been blatantly compromised by international politics and diplomacy in a way that would be deplored in any other arena. The fact that Hicks's civil liberties supporters have not protested vigorously about this since the plea bargain was struck suggests they know how lucky he has been. Their conduct throughout Hicks's detention must not be forgotten for what it was -- an avenue through which to protest at the policies of US President George W. Bush and the support he has been given by the Australian Prime Minister. Hicks's robust physical and mental condition when he appeared before the military tribunal last week, and the news that he has been able to study mathematics while in detention, gives the lie to the allegations of abuse levelled against his captors. In all, the plea bargain represents an unsatisfactory end to a saga that was allowed to drag on for far too long. The five-year delay in bringing Hicks to trial ultimately proved morally and politically indefensible. This has resulted in Hicks getting what seems a favourable sentence for his agreed offences. While expedient, plea bargains are no substitute for considered justice in open court."The Age didn't have an editorial but has published several articles including Robert Richter QC's "A trial that was uncomfortably close to Stalinist theatre" and Liz Porter's "Law behind closed doors", as well as 's piece "It is a myth that the Guantanamo camps are hell on earth".
Mr Rann said: "What I want to know from the Federal Government is, what are the conditions of his release? What are the parole conditions? Will he be under supervision?"
Mr Howard said it was only a few months ago that the South Australian attorney-general had joined with other Labor state attorneys-general to demand that Hicks be returned home without charge. The state attorneys-general made the demand after meeting with Hicks' military lawyer, Major Michael Mori.
"I can remember seeing all of them lined up on television after they'd had a meeting with Major Mori," Mr Howard said. "They weren't arguing for a sentence, they were arguing for him not appearing before the military commission. And for Mr Rann to now turn around and say I am worried about the safety of South Australian public is just rank hypocrisy," Mr Howard said.In this instance I reckon it's Mr Rann who's gone over the top: he talks about "parole", yet Hicks' sentence only refers to a "suspended sentence". They may seem synonymous but there are significant differences between them, as the SA Courts Administration Authority website makes clear: a suspended sentence is imposed by the court at the time of sentencing, whereas parole is essentially an administrative mechanism which may be activated after a period of imprisonment.
In the Premier's huffing and puffing he seems to have forgotten about his own government's policy on corrections, which is set at on the Corrections SA website:
Many people in the community have an impression of prisons as a place where criminals are simply locked up for punishment. That opinion would have been true 50 years ago. After many years of experience and study, government and judicial systems have recognised the need for prisons to be places of change. A basic question needs answering - what is the use of a prison system which returns an offender to the community the same if not worse than when he or she entered prison? The philosophy in most modern prison systems is to try and change the behaviour of offenders by developing in them skills which see all people live in the community without resorting to crime.
There’s a lot of other information on the site about how prisoners are managed and prepared for release (including being given day leave before release). Is Mr Rann proposing that these processes shouldn’t apply to Hicks?On tonight's ABC TV 7.30 Report (transcript not available as I post) Kerry O'Brien interviewed Major Mori , who played a very straight bat (in the cricket sense of the word) and kept a straight face while not revealing very much at all.
And, just now, Crikey has put out a special edition "David Hicks tells all", which consists 20 headlines, eg "The guilty plea: how I advised David - Major Michael Mori writes", each followed by a blank space as the plea bargain deal stipulates.
That's enough for now!
Facts are hard to come by at present so the media has, in some instances, trivialised or distorted the situation by running stories about the effects or possible effects of the earthquake- generated tsunami on Australia. There are legitimate reasons for alerting residents of Far North Queensland (though even this has been criticised but it's drawing the longest of bows to suggest, as has been reported,
Geological instability in the Solomons comes on top of the political instability there. Australia and New Zealand are prominent members of RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands) , which may now, at least in the short term , have to expand its role to include natural as well as political disaster relief. If anything positive is to emerge from the wreckage it might be that the various people of the country are encouraged to colloborate to help rebuild the damaged areas. This has happened elsewhere, eg always after natural disasters in Australia and in the wider region after the Boxing Day tsunami, tsunami, but I don't know enough about the current situation in the Solomons do more than hope (and to contribute to disaster relief appeals).
01 April 2007
Wales looked flabbergasted, and immediately went into his computer, apparently to check and then amend the mistake. He, or someone else with the authority to do so, has amended the article to reflect this morning's exchange:
At the top is a box with a padlock and these words:
Editing of this article by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled because of vandalism to the article caused by the recent interview of Jimmy Wales. If you are prevented from editing this article, and you wish to make a change, please discuss changes on the talk page, request unprotection, log in, or
According to the Wikipedia archives, the revision with the error about Bernard Fanning was posted on 27 February this year by user 188.8.131.52, all except one of whose contributions (which are listed here) relate to media personalities and were posted on the same day.
Who is 184.108.40.206? Someone with connections to the Sunday program?
As for Jimbo Wales, it'll be a long time before he agrees to be interviewed by someone without checking their Wikipedia entry.
Oh, and just to put myself at ease, I've checked to see if there's a Wikipedia entry about me. There isn't (which is what I expected), though I have several namesakes with entries: they can be distinguished from each other by applying the disambiguation guidelines, one of Wikipedia's more worthwhile innovations.