Attila the Pun
Monday, January 31, 2005
Show them an ink stained middle finger

This is concerning:

IRAQI shopkeepers in western Sydney said yesterday their support for the Iraqi election was endangering their lives after four people were injured in a shooting provoked by the poll.Some community leaders blamed fundamentalists sympathetic to al-Qa'ida for the attack.

One man is in a serious condition in Westmead Hospital and three others suffered ricochet wounds during the shooting on Sunday night.

More than 100 people were involved in the brawl on Auburn's main street, damaging shops and two cars.

Auburn is home to a large community of Iraqi exiles and was the site of a polling station in Sunday's election.

Of course, there is no proof so far that it was motivated by the election, but this guy sure thinks it was:

Iraqi community leader and voter Kamil Alhamid said the attackers were men from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Lebanon, but not Iraq.

Ahl Albait secretary Mr Alhamid said the assailants were fundamentalists sympathetic to al-Qa'ida and the terrorist group of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

If so, I hope the Police have a good hard look at those involved, including their visa status. We do not want people like this in Australia:

Sunday's attack followed a protest outside Auburn's polling booth on Saturday that halted voting for an hour. The protesters yelled anti-Shi'ite slogans at voters, took their photos and threatened them.

Sheik Naji said the protesters shouted "vote and die" at the voters, exactly the same threat shouted at voters in Iraq.

Someone please book the first flight to Fuckoffistan for those chaps.

Saturday, January 29, 2005
Getting off Scott free

The sub-headline of Scott Ritter's article in the Sydney Morning Herald

The invasion of Iraq was a monstrous crime for which everyone shares the blame, writes Scott Ritter.

One assumes he considers it a more monstrous crime than attempting to meet what he thought was a 14 year old girl and later a 16 year old girl at a Burger King so the girl can "watch him have sex with himself"

Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Reasons to vote Liberal

Two seperate, but related items. First from Gregory Hywood, on why Labor is hopelessly out of touch:

To illustrate the point it is worth referring to the Australian Candidate study published in 2002 by political scientists Rachel Gibson, David Gow, Clive Bean and Ian McAllister.

Asked whether high taxes were a disincentive to work hard, 87 per cent of Coalition candidates agreed compared with Labor's 19 per cent. Asked whether income and wealth should be redistributed to ordinary working people, 82 per cent of Labor candidates agreed against the Coalition's 14.2 per cent. Only 3.3 per cent of Labor candidates favoured lower taxes against 65 per cent of Coalition candidates.

Those other 35% of Coalition candidates need to have a good hard look at themselves, but that is still better than the 96.7% of Labor candidates who don't favour lower taxes. And why are they so out of touch? Hywood suggests a possible reason:

One explanation is that Labor candidates are far more likely than their Coalition counterparts to be long-term party activists with little other life experience.

Labor candidates are 21/2 times more likely to have been employed in an MP's office, twice as likely to have been a paid party official.

No way.

Next is Mitch Fifield, a Liberal Senator from Victoria, on tax reform. I have no idea whether this backbench tax reform group is actually real, or just a ploy to make the electorate think there is further tax reform in the pipeline, but you have to love the closing paragraph:

For my part, I will be arguing that the Australian Government should be cutting tax rates and thresholds to allow taxpayers to keep more of their money. It belongs to them, so let's give it back.

It makes more sense when he says that, rather than when Peter Garett sings it.

Monday, January 24, 2005
Tick tock

Cancel those 2015 New Years Eve parties - we are all gonne die:

The global warming danger threshold for the world is clearly marked for the first time in an international report to be published tomorrow - and the bad news is, the world has nearly reached it already.

Anyone think that the threshold might be close enough to be sufficiently scary, but not so close as to be out of date in a year or two?

The countdown to climate-change catastrophe is spelt out by a task force of senior politicians, business leaders and academics from around the world - and it is remarkably brief.

Hmm - any scientists involved, maybe a climate "expert" or two?

In as little as 10 years, or even less, their report indicates, the point of no return with global warming may have been reached.


The report says this point will be two degrees centigrade above the average world temperature prevailing in 1750 before the industrial revolution, when human activities - mainly the production of waste gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), which retain the sun's heat in the atmosphere - first started to affect the climate. But it points out that global average temperature has already risen by 0.8 degrees since then, with more rises already in the pipeline - so the world has little more than a single degree of temperature latitude before the crucial point is reached.

Funny they should pick 1750 as the baseline date, and not say, a time in the middle ages, when wine grapes were grown in Europe 300 miles north of their current growing limit and Greenland was a much more pleasant holiday destination.

The report urges all the G8 countries to agree to generate a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and to double their research spending on low-carbon energy technologies by 2010. It also calls on the G8 to form a climate group with leading developing nations such as India and China, which have big and growing CO2 emissions.

But if the "point of no return" is to be reached by 2015, what is the point of generating 25% of our electricty from green sources 10 years after that?

From slapping the monkey to slapping the mother

You really can't make this stuff up. From the WaPo:

By all accounts, Imaad, 32, was a typical, mild-mannered college graduate who spoke English well and had quietly supported the U.S. presence in Iraq -- until Jan. 5, the night the soldiers came.

His story about that night, told days later in his small living room, is the story of how the U.S. military made an enemy of one man during a 20-minute encounter.

On the night of Jan. 5, Imaad and his mother, Um Imaad -- both of whom declined to give their full names for fear of retribution -- were watching a movie in the living room. As in most other parts of the capital for the past two months, their Adhimiya neighborhood has electricity about two hours a day. So the generators outside were humming at about 9 that night, and the television was turned up so they could hear.

Imaad said they were startled by a loud banging at the door. He went quickly to open it. When he did, Imaad said, there were about a dozen U.S. soldiers standing with their guns pointed at his head.

The soldiers went to search his bedroom. He heard laughing, and then they called for him, he said. Imaad went to his room and saw that the soldiers had found several magazines he kept hidden from his mother. They had pictures of girls in swimsuits and erotic poses. Imaad said the soldiers spread the magazines on his bed and put his Koran in the middle.

"This is a good match," Imaad said one of the soldiers told him.

"It was a nightmare," he said. "I will never forget those bad soldiers when they put the Koran among the magazines."

Within 20 minutes, the soldiers left without arresting him or his mother. While the soldiers went next door to search his neighbor's house, Imaad began to slap his mother, he said. "The American people are devils," Um Imaad recalled her son repeating.

Imaad and his mother said they had no memorable encounters with soldiers before Jan. 5, no reason to hate or mistrust them. But Um Imaad said she had been distraught since that night at the changes in her son, a plump man with a round face and a receding hairline. His father died in the Iran-Iraq war two decades ago, leaving mother and son with only each other for support.

Um Imaad brought Imaad pills from the doctor to try to calm him. He looked at the yellow ones, then the red ones and refused to take them. "All these belong to Jewish people," he said, pushing one set aside. "And these others are from bad or foreign people."

Imaad said that two weeks after the raid, he was still struggling to return to normal. He was no longer hitting his mother, but he still would not allow her to watch foreign television or buy products made outside Iraq.

Unfortunately for is johnny-come-lately types, Tim Blair already has a line by line mockery of the whole pathetic thing, whilst Iowahawk, who has been burning white hot lately, has further shocking reports:

Mustafa, 26, a college graduate with a degree in Psychology, seems an unlikely candidate for the Iraqi resistance. All that changed one afternoon when US soldiers raided the modest home he shares with his mother in Mosul.

“The soldiers, they are to be coming into the house without the knocking,” he recalls. “I was in the basement, innocently to IM some of the friends on the AOL Messenger, as for not to listen to Mother always for complaining about the job-seekings.”

After his mother allowed soldiers to search his room, a detachment of Marines soon found one of Mustafa’s dreaded secrets: his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Underoos.

“It began with the laughings,” he recalls tearfully. “Then they began to toss the Underoos from crusader to crusader, and to interrogate about the, how you say, ‘skidmarks.’”

By the time the soldiers had left, the devastating experience had taken its toll. After slapping his mother uncontrollably, Mustafa had vowed to join the resistance to exact revenge on the Americans.

“I will behead the Infidels, and show the world that they are the ones with the humorous underpants, not me,” he says, angrily.

He has more.

Sunday, January 23, 2005
Armageddon approaches

I think Terry Lane has been hanging out with Margo a bit too much:

John Howard's planned changes to the institutions of government after July 1 will mean an end to democracy as we know it, writes Terry Lane.

That introduction actually mischaracterises Lane's article, but hey, this is the Age after all.

The fact is that capitalism, as the powerhouse of affluence - Karl Marx had no misgivings or reservations about the driving force of capitalism - is only one factor in general national prosperity.

The single, overwhelming, factor.

Indonesia and Thailand are capitalist paradises where labour has no rights, and the environment can look after itself, and the weak are in no position to cope with natural disasters.

Capitalism, without the restraining, moderating and redistributive devices of democracy, free media and organised labour, is a devouring beast; and when it comes to capitalism no one can hold a candle to the Soeharto family and their pals.

Does Lane have any idea what he is talking about? If asked to name a "capitalist paradise", do you think you could find a single economist, even an evil "economic rationalist" that would name Thailand or Indonesia? A cronyism paradise perhaps. If you risked having your business taken off you because it is competing with a less efficient business owned by the President's son, you would probably disagree with Lane's assessment as well.

This year could be the one in which Australia becomes more like Soeharto's Indonesia, or George W. Bush's America, and less like the civilised nations of Europe, where capital and labour have a more sophisticated and subtle understanding of the tension between the two that is necessary for civilisation to flourish.

Note the little two step there? He refers to Indonesia as a capitalist paradise, to show how bad untramelled capitalism is, the warns that we may become more like that or America, without giving a single reason why becoming more like "George W. Bush's America" would be a bad thing.

This is another example of the pond of unspoken assumptions that people in the lefty op-ed community swim in. Everybody knows that being more like the US would be bad right? Huge gap between rich and poor, no civil liberties, compliant media etc etc. The fact is that none of these are ever proved, or rarely even explicitly stated.

As from July 1, when the party of capital takes total control of the institutions of government, we may expect to see Deakin's co-operative edifice being demolished, brick by brick. And the justification for crying "Havoc" and letting loose the dogs of capital will be that this will, in the end, be best for us all.

Not surprisingly, Lane doesn't explain how this edifice survived the last time that the party of capital had total control, under the Fraser Government.

Already we rank near the bottom of the international league table in all the measures of social well-being, except, significantly, in what we pay for medicines. How long do you think the pharmaceutical benefits scheme will last under the winner-takes-all Howard Government?

Care to name those tables Terry, so that we can evaluate exactly what you mean by "social well-being"? Didn't think so.

We won't be the first to be put through the capitalist experiment. New Zealand has been there and done that, eventually coming to its senses thanks to the persistence of democracy.

Wow, so you mean that the Government implemented a policy direction, and if the voters don't like it, they can vote them out? Do you think this could also work with the evil Howard regime?

The same will happen here, always assuming that democracy itself is not a victim of the Howard revolution. Unhappily, it very well could be.

If Howard decides to change the method of electing the Senate to guarantee that the party with the majority in the lower house also enjoys a majority in the Senate, then an important component of our democratic system - proportional representation in the house of review - will be lost.

Where exactly has Howard said that he is considering changing the method of voting for the Senate? Isn't it the Right that is supposed to run scare campaigns?

Say what we will about J. W. Howard, he is a radical ideologue with a well-defined concept of what an ideal nation should look like. It's no wonder the majority of electors choose to go along with him just to see what will happen next. It beats ladders of opportunity for excitement any day.

So Howard has a strong set of principles, articulates them clearly to the electorate, and the majority vote for him "just to see what will happen next"? Wouldn't it be just awful Terry, if the majority actually voted for him because they agree with him?

Friday, January 21, 2005
Inauguration interrupts protest

Check out the Sydney Morning Herald's photo gallery for GWB's inauguration.

Eight photos - One highlighting Senator Kerry in the background, one showing the effects of Chief Justice Rehnquist's surgery, no less than three showing protestors, one of Jenna Bush yawning, one with the silhouette of of a cowboy in front of an inauguration sign, and one of Mr and Mrs Bush dancing.

Umm, didn't he give a speech or take an oath as well (the one with his back to the camera hardly counts)?

Alexander the average

Hey - got a crap movie? Not doing so well in the States (population 280 million) but doing better in the rest of the world (population 5.8 billion)? Need to find an excuse? Easy - blame dumb Americans:

Even before its release in big markets such as the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Australia, the film had made more money in the rest of the world ($US43 million - $A56 million - and counting) than it did in the US ($US33 million and spluttering). Stone blamed Americans' ignorance of, and lack of interest in, ancient history.

Giving Alexander an Irish accent showed Stone's stunning attention to historical fact.

Stone has a point - Variety estimated that the film is on track to make $US100 million outside the US - but that won't count for much at home.

What point does he have? That it has bombed in the US, and will recoup a small amount in the entire rest of the world?

The Oscars will ignore the epic, if only for Colin Farrell's unflattering blond coiffure and for the film's meandering three-hour running time.

Why not because it is crap? Heard of those low budget Lord of the Rings movies? They included some outrageous wigs, and three hour running times, yet pulled a swag of Oscars.

And Stone didn't soft-pedal Alexander's bisexuality either, which won't help in a country that has become more conservative.

Please all nod in agreeance at that statement, one that every educated person knows to be true, right? And why is it that the Oscars are said to ignore the film because of Farrell's wig and its running time, but the movie going public will ignore it because they are a bunch of red neck homophobes?

Face it, the movie sucks, and has bombed. Even the assembled hordes of film critics, who would never pan a movie for bisexual understones, called it a stinker. Try the New York Times:

"Puerile writing, confused plotting and shockingly off-note performances make Oliver Stone's epic film a disappointment"

You will note he didn't say:

"I ain't got much truck with book learnin', nor any faggy stuff, an' I ain' gonna go see no movie that does"

About the only thing the article does get right is the atrocious performance at the box office:

It is currently placed 36th, with a total of $34.2M - being spanked by such films as The Polar Express (a Christmas movies) and the Fat Albert movie. Mushmouth would be pleased.

What does delusional start with?

Wow, the inauguration of George W Bush has really set the protest movement into overdrive. Their hatred for the man has enabled them to throw off the shackles of their small minds, escape the Vietnam mindset, and come up with some devastating new chants:

Armed with signs reading: "It's not a mandate when you cheat" and "51 per cent is not a mandate", thousands of protesters turned out for demonstrations and marches throughout the capital to voice their dissent as Bush supporters cheered his victory and ushered in his second term.

Is 62 million votes a mandate?

Bill Hollenshead, a 45-year-old accountant from Pennsylvania attending the DC Anti-War Network's protest, said he came to Washington to "show Bush that not everyone agrees with him, because he doesn't seem to understand that".

You're right Bill - with the media solidly onside, Hollywood watching his back, and hundreds of authors pumping out thousands of pro-Bush tomes, it wouldn't surprise me if Bush was completely unaware that there were people who disagreed with him.

Mr Hollenshead said he was not a traditional activist, but he decided to take part in the protest because "I'm against everything that Bush is for and I'm for everything that he's against".

I love a good generalisation. So you are against democracy in the middle east, but you are for islamic terrorism? You are against military and humanitarian aid to south east Asia, but for childhood illiteracy?

In Washington's Malcolm X Park early today, protesters laid down cardboard caskets draped with the US flag to signify US troops killed in Iraq, as a woman sang "This is a rich man's war; what is the poor man fighting for? Mothers and fathers are crying, because their children are dying".

What is it about protestors and rhyming couplets?

"I can't believe people of my generation allowed for this to happen again," said Kathy Liggett, 52, of Indiana, recalling the Vietnam War era.

Ms Liggett, whose son is a marine stationed in Fallujah, slammed the conflict in Iraq as an "unjustified war", sporting a button saying "Bush lied; people died" and holding a sign reading "Iraq: Arabic for Vietnam".

Doesn't the use of a semi-colon somewhat confuse the issue, wouldn't Bush lied: people died be better?

Other protesters held signs reading "No more war" or "In fighting monsters, we're becoming one"."

Good to see they have taken time out from Nietzsche 101 to whip up a few signs. So by not fighting monsters, and leaving them to be monstrous, does that keep us pure?

Another poster, bearing Mr Bush's image, read: "International war criminal". Nearby, protesters chanted "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Bush and (Vice President Dick) Cheney got to go".

I wonder if that last one will ever catch on. Nahhh

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Attila: Vote Attila

This has got to be a stuff up by the Australian. Under the headline "Greg Combet: Labor should consider ACTU leader for the long haul", which suggests the article is written by Greg Combet, we have this:

Having installed Beazley as federal Labor leader, the party needs to think seriously about adding future leadership talent to the parliament. While some commentators want Queensland Premier Peter Beattie to go federal, a more viable long-term prospect lies in co-opting the ACTU's Greg Combet.

Rather like Bob Hawke, Combet is a clear Labor man widely respected in the general community. Combet's political and intellectual skills, his obvious integrity, and his ability to deliver for working men and women were most recently demonstrated by his handling of the James Hardie compensation case. But the Combet possibility lies in the future.

The amusement value would be endless if a person was actually throwing their hat in the ring by speaking in the third person, but somehow I don't think that is the case.


There is a new website aimed at providing legal information to "activists". They define an activist as someone who "seeks to create positive change". This includes fare evasion apparently.

The site also hides unintentional comedy gold. When discussing police tactics regarding protests, they mention that:

However, police can sometimes utilise minor offences to control or harass activists. For instance, detailed roadworthy checks by Police have effectively isolated some forest blockades.

Bummer man, the Combi has been slapped with a canary? Far out... And with a straight face:

Protesters who break the law are still entitled to the protection of the law.

And the people's who you are harassing, or whose workplaces you are blocking or vandalising, they are also entitled to the protection of the law?

What is "reasonable force"? This depends upon the circumstances. A good guide is that the police are entitled to use whatever force the average person would accept as necessary and proportionate in the circumstances. The greater the physical threat to the police, the greater force it may be acceptable to use to detain a person.

"Reasonable force" does not include assaulting people on arrest, arbitrary use of hand-cuffs or verbal intimidation.

Well that depends really - the "average person" may disagree.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Third time lucky

When hearing Beazley's plea for a third crack at the cookie jar, was anyone else ticking off his responses to the criticisms that have been levelled at him in the past?

You said you only had "one shot in the locker", and wouldn't run for leadership again?:

I did not think these circumstances would arise, but in all honesty, (inaudible) politics was to operate in a way that supported the election ultimately of the Latham Labor government. When I made comments some time ago about whether or not I had much of a political future it was made entirely in that context.

You don't have the 'ticker' for leadership, and never particularly wanted the job of PM anyway:

I'm not motivated particularly personally for high office although that is important to me and it's important motivation in my running. I am absolutely fired with ambition (for) the Australian people, our nation, and for the Australian Labor Party.

You pursued a small target approach in the last election and your policies were too similar to the Coalition's:

Our disagreements with this government are profound.


And in all these areas, the disagreements between the Australian Labor Party and our political opponents are profound and will be obvious over the course of the next three years.

There are plenty of people happy to tell Labor that Beazley is their best chance, it will be interesting to see which way they jump - untried Harry Potter lookalike, untried lefty media darling, or popular two time loser. Decisions, decisions.

Go you good thing

Seen the new lamb ad? Do yourself a favour and check it out. Thankfully, the Advertising Standards Bureau has decided not to ban it, despite complaints that it vilifies vegetarians. Check out what Keka has to say in the ad:

"A balanced Australia Day diet should consist of a few nice juicy lamb chops and beer, and perhaps a bit of pavlova for those with a sweet tooth," Kekovich says.

"Yet your long-haired, dole-bludging types are indulging their pierced taste buds in all manner of exotic, foreign, often vegetarian cuisine - chicken burger value meals, pizzas, a No 42 with rice.

"It's an absolute disgrace, and people ask why we need capital punishment."


Kekovich even invokes the spirit of Anzac, asking viewers if the diggers were fighting for tofu sausages.

"No. They were thinking of grabbing a lamb chop off the barbie with their bare fingers, sustaining third-degree burns, then sticking their hands in a relieving Esky to fish out a cold one," he says.

"The soap-avoiding, pot-smoking hippie vegetarians might disagree with me, but they can get stuffed.

"They know the way to the airport, and if they don't, I'll show them."

I saw an animal activist on the television claiming that Meat and Livestock Australia (who are running the ad) "risked offending a lot of people". Offending who - vegetarians and vegans? From their perspective, who cares? What are they going to do - boycott all meat products? They already do that you geniuses.

Also sought for comment were high profile vegans Dave Hughes and Andrew G. I don't find Hughes amusing, but at least he was taking the advert in the spirit in which it was intended. G, thinking he was now being interviewed in relation to "real" issues, took the whole thing embarassingly seriously. He offered to invite Kekovich around to his place for a delicious Vegan meal.

When told of this, Kekovich asked "Does a salad sandwich count as a vegan meal"? When told yes, he replied "Well I have had a vegan meal then. In 1987"

Hey hey goodbye

Many an electronic tree will die tonight as people bang on about this, so I might as well pile on - Latham is gone:

Opposition leader Mark Latham has resigned as leader of the Labor Party and from the federal parliament.

Mr Latham said in a statement at a hastily called press conference in Sydney he had chosen to resign because of his health.

Its been fun Biff - thanks. Oh, and thank god you never became the leader of my country, you raving lunatic.

Brother Thug

Aaah, you just can't make this stuff up. Brother Craig Johnston (political prisoner) has written a letter of solidarity to the Cuban Five:

My name is Craig Johnston. I am in prison in Australia for crimes against the capitalist state. Myself and 16 other trade unionists fought to defend our members’ jobs when they were sacked.

Actually Craig, you were jailed for two counts of affray, one count of assault and one of intentionally and unlawfully damaging property. You were also chucked out of the AMWU after being found guilty of nine counts of impropriety, including allegations of sexual harassment and bullying of staff. Is it really a massive surprise then that:

"Cuba is a beacon of light for so many of us around the world."?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Anyone else have a problem with this?

Wealthy drivers caught breaking traffic and parking rules would face heftier fines than low income earners under a scheme floated by a left-wing think tank.

A paper by The Australia Institute argues that the Government should follow some European countries and base traffic fines on an offender's ability to pay, rather than the current flat rate.

Points to the Age for describing the AI accurately. The paper goes on:

"No one would argue that rich people should receive shorter jail sentences or have fewer demerit points deducted than poor people," the paper said. "Yet the system of flat-rate fines for traffic and other offences in Australia is grossly unfair in just this way."

But you would argue that they should receive bigger fines? If you accept this logic, shouldnt older people receive shorter jail sentences? A 20 year term to a 50 year old takes up a lot more of their expected life span than a 20 year term given to an 18 year old.

Thankfully the story gives ample room to people pointing out the difficulty in implementing it (though depressingly there is no comment as to its morality or fairness).

One possible objection is that offenders who are asset-rich but income-poor would get off lightly.

Hmm, good point - don't want the farmers being able to speed freely. In such a well thought out submission, I am sure they have come up with a good solution however:

The report acknowledged that basing fines on a combination of assets and income would not be feasible.


NSW motoring body the NRMA is against the proposed system, saying it would do nothing to prevent people breaking the law.

"Reducing the fine for some motorists could make the penalties less of a deterrent," the NRMA said.

Thank you Captain Obvious. The suggestion is that a current fine of $125 be dropped to $75 for those earning under $30,000, and rise to $385 for those earning more than $100,000. Do they not think that this will significantly lower the disincentive for speeding for people under $30,000? And are they not more likely to be driving an older, less safe, car?

In Australia, however, calculating an offender's ability to pay could be problematic because the states impose fines while the Commonwealth collects tax information. Because of this, the onus would be on the offenders to provide details about their taxable earnings to avoid the maximum fine.

You taxable earnings for the previous year? A pro rata amount for the current year? A weighted average over the last five years?

The current system ackowledges that fines alone are not an effective deterrent, as people either a) have the ability to pay them or b) don't bother paying them. That is why we have demerit points and automatic suspension of licenses for certain driving offences. It doesn't matter how rich you are, once those points are gone, you are just as unlicensed as the next person (unless you get your butler to sign a stat dec saying he was driving.)

Of course, if this plan were to be adopted in Victoria, they would only adopt the $385 aspect, and leave the base fines as is. All in the name of road safety you understand.

Friday, January 14, 2005
Arrested for bad taste

Being arrested for uploading copyright material onto the BitTorrent network would be bad enough, but being arrested for uploading Daredevil, Red Planet and Miss Congeniality? Thats just sad:

The suspect was not immediately charged and investigations are continuing, she said. Illegally distributing copies of copyrighted material carries a maximum penalty of four years' prison and a fine of $6,400 for every illegal copy.

Doing 4 years hard time for a Ben Affleck movie isn't going to get you any props from the boys in Cell Block 4 either.

Speed kills, and so do adverts

The campaign against car advertisements continues apace in today's Age. Suzy Freeman-Greene goes straight for the emotional opening:

Across my street, now and then, someone tapes a bunch of flowers to a telegraph pole. Sometimes, a handwritten note is taped up too, a message to the dead in marker pen. You see a lot of these shrines on our roads and highways now. They're informal acts of memory, marking sites of trauma.

Before naming the culprits of these tragic occurences:

I was thinking of the shrine near me as I drove along a freeway, glancing at the billboards floating in the sky. "Kick Butt" said an ad for a small car with a pert rear. "Corporate Jet" proclaimed an ad for the Holden HSV.

I too am offended by the "Kick Butt" billboard, but only because the Renault Megane is an ugly piece of crap. It could also be that many accidents are caused by journalists spending time getting angry at billboards, rather than paying attention to the road.

Later, I turned on the TV and caught an ad for the Jeep Renegade. It's a pun on the scene in The Fugitive where the police chief, played by Tommy Lee Jones, instructs his troops to comb the countryside for a dangerous man on the run.

Check out the racing stripe beard on the guy in that ad - it's weird.

In the ad, a cop tells us Tommy Lee-style that he's hunting two renegades. We cut from his face to the offending outlaws - two glossy, black, four-wheel-drives thundering across a beach.

Not many telephone poles on beaches I would have thought.

While governments and police take extraordinary steps to try to reduce our road toll, hoon culture is alive and well in car ads.

What does she mean by "extraordinary"? The drug testing farce? The speed camera farce?

On residential streets we must drive at 50 km/h. On highways we're warned that speed kills. But who can forget the recent television ad featuring a handsome dad, a fast car, and his toddler in the back seat? For a long time the camera dwells on the driver, who glances in the rear view mirror as he accelerates. Then it cuts to the person he's trying to impress - his young son, laughing excitedly in the back.

Who can forget it? Not anti-car types apparently. That ad is the bete noire of all anti-car activists, but here Ms Freeman-Greene doesn't bother to explain what is wrong with the ad. Is there something inherently wrong with accelerating? Or impressing your child? I don't remember the dad dumping the clutch, counter-steering against a wicked burnout, then posting a wicked 1/4 mile time, all to the applause of his mullet wearing child. What behaviour is it that we are supposed to be so offended by?

A recent survey by car insurer AAMI found that 93 per cent of drivers reported experiencing "road rage" or other "antisocial driving behaviour" in the past year. One in 20 said another driver had assaulted them. Seventy-three per cent felt drivers had become more aggressive. Rude gestures, tailgating and verbal abuse were most common.

I consider anti-social driving behaviour to include doing 20 kilometers under the speed limit and indicating two minutes before a corner, all in the name of "being safe" Therefore if I had have been asked that question, I too could have answered yes, but not because of behaviour caused by advert influenced hoons.

Clearly there's a huge difference between a rude gesture and serious physical assault. While road-rage figures may be rubbery, it does seem that drivers are becoming more impatient and aggressive.

Read that as "While road rage figures may be complete BS, it does seem that I am going to make something up to support my contention."

Actually, our roads and freeways operate relatively smoothly because we mostly co-operate: respecting traffic lights and road rules, allowing drivers to change lanes.

My god, even though we are constantly bombarded with adverts encouraging us to drive like idiots? You don't mean to say that we aren't all mindless drones apeing what we see on TV do you?

But while lots of other ads might emphasise a car's safety or prestige or price or engineering or sexiness, this co-operative aspect of the driving experience is clearly not a selling point.

"Drive the new Volvo, it will enhance the co-operatve aspect of the driving experience." Quite catchy I think.

There will always be a car culture associated with speed - car racing is a sport loved by millions. But it's worth noting that while we have eliminated cigarette ads from TV screens due to the harm caused by their products, we'll still show pictures in prime time of a young kid applauding his dad's flashy driving.

We also allow adverts for airlines (they crash you know), fast food (thats next week's op-ed I bet), knives (people just don't stab themselves) and a whole bunch of other products that through accident, misuse or overuse may cause harm. Should we ban ads for all of them? (A scary percentage of people would say yes to that). Her final paragraph could have come straight after the first, being another cynical grab for the emotions, and establishing no link to the intervening paragraphs:

Victoria's road toll for 2004 was 344 deaths - the second-lowest on record. However, 14 more people died last year on the roads than in 2003. Over the recent Christmas holidays, 12 Victorians died in car accidents. The shrines, it seems, will keep coming.

So although drivers are "becoming more impatient and aggressive" and car adverts are continuing to encourage us to drive fast, the road toll in 2003 was the lowest ever recorded, and last year's was the second lowest?

If she wants to claim a link between the two, wouldn't the only logical conclusion be that drivers need to be more aggressive, and adverts even more outlandish and speed obsessed? Either that, or admit that no link exists, and worry about something more important, like fast food advertising...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Carpe Diem

For those of us who have ever read a Fairfax paper, it can seem strange to hear Mark Latham's ex-speechwriter say this:

OPEN a major newspaper on any day of the week and you will find Labor has few friends in the world of print. Contrast the assessments Mark Latham gets from the Left with the assessments John Howard gets from the Right. Right-wing commentators almost invariably defend the Coalition and slam Labor. Even former Labor ministers, staffers and national secretaries seem to spend as many of their precious column inches attacking Labor's present political strategy as they do attacking the conservatives.

I would probably agree with him if he had have said "after the election, contrast the...". Before the election, left wing commentators were convinced that Latham was the Messiah, come to lead Labor to the promised land. Once he crashed and burned, that's when they jumped ship.

He does make some decent points:

Its hero worship of Labor's dissidents highlights the party's internal divisions and encourages more members to "go native" (and as Howard says: "If you can't govern your own party, how can you govern the country?").

Its insistence that Labor adopt electorally suicidal policy positions in the name of political purity robs Labor of its support in crucial marginal electorates.

With one I particularly agree with:

It's obvious to anyone who travels the suburbs of Australia and has access to the reports of political pollsters (whose margins of error are smaller than in the published polls) that Australia's left-wing journalists and writers are out of touch, and often radically so.


The contrast with the Right and its relationship with the Howard Government could not be starker. The Howard Government is far from ideologically consistent. Somewhere in Australia a right-wing intellectual sits bitterly disappointed at Howard's betrayal of conservative flagship ideas -- small government, low taxation, opposition to middle-class welfare -- it's just that she'll seldom say so.

Very true. It is human nature to love a winner. Howard keeps winning, and keeps doing enough 'good' things (refugee policy, foreign policy, some tax policy) to outweigh the 'bad' things (family bribery, incomplete tax reform)

But where Glover goes wrong is this:

This victory is partly because right-wing commentators have led public opinion. They've helped Howard mould the times.

Whilst not claiming a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (TM), he still makes claims that, to anybody that pays attention to the bias of the media, sound ridiculous:

The process has been simple and open. Starting as pseudo-academic articles in Paddy MGuinness's Quadrant and the IPA Review, ideas travel down the intellectual food chain via broadsheet opinion columns, to the Melbourne Herald-Sun's Andrew Bolt and Sydney Daily Telegraph's Piers Akerman and on to Sydney-based radio broadcasters Alan Jones, John Laws and others.

Isn't it amazing that when talking about the right wing control of the print media, people can only mention, by name, Bolt and Akerman? He doesn't mention the other columnists that their respective paper carry (like the increasingly hysterical Jill Singer), nor the broadsheet columnists that apparently dripfeed Bolt's talking points to him.

It shouldn't be hard, a review of the Australian's op-ed page would find him a few - the Greg Sheridan and Janet Albrechtsons of the world for example, but then he may be forced to admit that the same page carries ex-communist Philip Adams and Latham backer Matt Price. And lets not start on the Sydney Morning Herald, where Margo Kingston gets a permanent 'diary' to attack Howard, today carries a love letter to Marxism, and provides a retirement home for Mike Carlton and Alan Ramsey. Sure there is Miranda Divine and Gerard Henderson as well, but that hardly counts as a complete hegemony over public opinion.

Having mischaracterised Labor's problem, he at least has a sensible solution:

Defeating Howard needs a smarter approach from all who oppose what he stands for. I don't mean something directly co-ordinated; intellectuals and writers should never accept political "guidance" or a party line. But it does mean they must wake up, take a sympathetic interest in what ordinary people believe, and work out some practical way of appealing to them.

It is an indictment on the modern intellectual left that such a suggestion - to actually listen to what people believe, rather than ridicule and berate them - might seem radical, or that it needs stating at all.

The Left can learn a lot from the successful tactics of the Right. The US Left already has. Many American left-liberals have woken up to the fact that the present dominance of the Congress by Republicans and their ideas didn't come about by accident. The ideas of the think tanks of the 1960s and '70s quickly became the content of the talkback shock jocks of the '80s. They were then resold by the tabloid television commentators of the '90s and pushed further by the Drudge-like bloggers of the noughties.

I hope my Right Wing Talking Points Newsletter arrives soon, otherwise what the hell am I going to blog about?

This combination of simple ideas and populist flair has all but destroyed the link between the Democrats and their traditional blue-collar base.

So their increasing betrayal of their traditional base had nothing to do with it?

Liberal America has now started to counter-attack in a way that may promise eventual success. Although it did not get a John Kerry win this time, it will help create the preconditions of victories in the future.

This should be good.

Former Clinton chief of staff, John Podesta, has established a new organisation, the Centre for American Progress, that is neither think tank nor media outlet but an attempt to both create ideas and disseminate them via the popular media.

So it is a think tank and a media outlet? Why not just get Soros to buy CBS?

Other liberals have turned into successful populist commentators, publishing humorously written political books, such as Al Franken's Lies and the lying liars who tell them, that had a simple aim -- getting George W. Bush out of the White House.

And failed spectacularly to do so.

Still others have become hosts on new liberal talkback radio networks.

Which, apart from knocking several minority based stations off the air, also failed spectacularly.

Mike Moore (who now sees the errors of his ways in helping undermine Al Gore in 2000) has used Hollywood to reach out to millions through his committed, but populist, documentaries and books.

He saw the error of his ways, and promptly backed Wes Clark?!?

His final paragraph is still quite good though:

So there's the lesson for the Australian Left. Connect with the people - with their interests, their feelings and hopes for their families and themselves. Try to understand the electoral pressures that affect Labor's policy positions. Win power. Then lead the way, intelligently, with the help of friends, in changing the political direction of the country. There's nothing sinister about it. It's called democracy, and it's the only way to have something resembling a social democracy.

Yeah - that means no more "every Howard voter is a racist igorant redneck etc" shtick, sorry.

Monday, January 10, 2005
Their true face

After reading the Bunyip's excellent fact checking of Tim Dunlop, I was sucked into the vortex that is the comments section of the original post. It makes for interesting reading.

"Brian" posts this:

It is a poorly held secret that the reason Iraq was invaded was because: 1) It had the weakest army. 2) The leader of Iraq had an open desire to produce WMD. 3) Sooner or later something had to be done about Saddam Hussein. 4) Iraq was the seed. Seeding democracy in the Middle East with the hopes that it will flourish elsewhere.

Not a completely unreasonable point of view I would have thought, and certainly not a blatant attempt at trolling on what is a lefty website. So what thoughtful responses did it generate?


You are insane. There can be no other explanation for

'3) Sooner or later something had to be done about Saddam Hussein.'

Why not shower him with bribes from Halliburton, like Dick Cheney had done? Why not provide him with agricultural subsidies, as Republicans did throughout the late 1980's? Why not provide him with CIA support against his enemies, as the US did earlier in his career?

Gee, I don't know - how about because even if any of that were true, it didn't work?

Why on earth did something have to be done about Saddam, and why did it have to involve the US invading another country without provocation, using weapons of mass destruction (depleted uranium, napalm) against its citizens, and opening up GW Bush torture rooms at Abu Ghraib?

It takes a certain type of US hatred to ignore Saddam's well documented horrors and ask "why on earth did something have to be done about Saddam?" The left used to be the ones worried about foreigners, and the right prefered isolation. Now it appears that if a dictator doesn't bother us, we shouldn't bother him.

And I won't even start on the depleted uranium and napalm as WMD BS. The misuse of language always annoy me (see previous diatribe on the overuse and subsequent dilution of the word "genocide"). But in a wonderful ironic finish, a person who can happily ignore mass graves and the gassing of Kurds has the cheek to finish with this:

A person would have to be very far removed from reality to wind up where you do.

"Scott" is less insane, but more patronising:

Brian, you honestly sound like a bright guy who is now hopelessly trying to convince himself or others that he was right to begin with.

Your talking point #'s 1 & 3 blatantly contradict each other. If he had a weak army, then why would we need to address him in the short term?

Thanks genius, but in suggesting the contradiction, aren't you a) assuming that something had to be done about Saddam soley because of the strength of his army and b) ignoring the desire for WMD point? He continues:

Also, your #4 point is incorrect due to human nature. It doesn't matter that free-market democracy is a better way than a repressive autocracy. The point is, you cannot force people to change if they're not motivated to do so. Gunboat democracy does not work. Even the Iraqi's admit that they are probably not ready for Western democracy. They generally may be glad Hussein is gone, but simply will not accept a European or American system of gov't. Not now, at least. Maybe by the end of the century, but not now.

More condescension - the Iraqis are too simple for democracy, for a 100 years or so. Maybe then they should be allowed to be free. Until then, they would be better off with a nice contained thug, who only murders his own people and doesn't bother the West. Have these people learned nothing? We have used that policy in the middle east for 60 years, and look where it has got us.

But the winner of most loathsome response goes to this piece of steaming excrement:

Brian, I definately want to see the United States fail in Iraq, preferably at huge monetary expense with massive US casualties. I consider the US to currently be the largest threat to World Peace, the largest source of terror, torture, bombings, illegal detention, pollution and environmental destruction. The US currently has more WMD than any other country. Thus it is grotesque hypocrisy for the USA to critise other countries over any WMD issues.

I am simply speechless. Not to mention sickened:

The US deliberately chose to start this war and has deliberately choosen to bomb, torture and kill defenseless Iraqi civilians in pursuit of this war, for possession of the oil and projection of US hegemony. Iraq had NOTHING to do with 9/11. So yes, Brian, I most certainly do want the US to fail in Iraq. However I do feel great sorrow and sympathy for the Iraqis killed and maimed by the monsterous agression of the USA. The Iraqis didn't deserve this. The US does deserve the revenge that is to come against it over the remainder of this century. Karma's a bitch.

Yes it is, and I hope you get yours.

Sunday, January 09, 2005
Don't %$#@ with Tony P

Tony Parkinson, the only reliably sane writer on the Age's op-ed page, delivers a well deserved smackdown to George Monbiot:

It takes unusual Schadenfreude - not to mention a heart of granite - to clamber over the corpses of 150,000 tsunami victims in order to make a rhetorical point about war in Iraq.

Enter George Monbiot, darling of the left, columnist for The Guardian newspaper, and veteran of the "evil Amerikkka" school of opinion. Amid an epic story of human suffering - and displaying crass indifference to the heroism and sacrifice of a desperate relief effort - Monbiot this week produced a crude polemic on why the United States and its allies ought be held culpable for the humanitarian crisis across the Indian Ocean.

It continues in a similar vein, and includes a very telling point:

In all this, there is one unavoidable - if seldom acknowledged - reality about the world today, as much as Monbiot and his fan club would choose to deny it. Strong, confident, successful societies such as the US and Australia come to the fore at times of crisis such as this for a very simple reason. More often than not, there is nobody else capable or willing.

Take that, Moonbat.

George: Megalogenius

George Megalogenis is having a crack at a few things today, though of course they come back to the general evilness of Howard.

The first question was on Iraq. What did Howard think of a Newspoll showing 58 per cent of voters now believe the war was "not worth going to"?

Not much, as it turned out. Howard was more interested in the separate finding that even more voters were opposed to a hasty withdrawal from Iraq: 45 per cent wanted our troops to remain "as long as necessary", while another 18 per cent wanted them back home in the "second half of 2005".

"The immediate message coming out of that poll is that the Australian people want us to stay and finish the job, whatever reservations they may have had," he said.

A perfectly reasonable response. People are being asked, knowing what they know now, was Iraq "worth going to". 58% think it wasnt. However, that doesn't mean they think we should immediately bail out. What they understand, and what Howard-haters like George don't or won't, is that being wrong (i.e. about WMD) is not the same thing as lying.

Prior to the war, if people knew there were no WMD, then you may have got a similar response. As an aside, I think they would have been wrong, Saddam could and should have been overthrown purely on humanitarian grounds, but that by the by.

The second question was on tax cuts. What did Howard have to say about "the group of Coalition MPs [campaigning for] a reduction in the top marginal tax rate"?

Again, he played a dead bat: "I think everybody is in favour of lower taxation. I have never met a person yet who is not. It's human nature. But you have got to pay for certain things. It's a question of striking a right balance and we will always do that."

A meaningless answer, but I don't imagine the reporter expected anything else, particularly at a press conference held regarding the tsunami disaster.

Obviously, Howard understood that this was neither the moment for candour on Iraq or for a signal on tax cuts. Yet it doesn't take much cynicism to imagine the headlines in a month or two. The clean-up from the tsunami continues, Iraq remains a mess and the Government has begun sifting through the options for the coming May budget. To paraphrase the Prime Minister, it would be human nature for tax cuts to attract a larger slice of the public's imagination then because greed tends to outlast grief.

I love the assumptions here - 1) a Government would only provide tax cuts as a cynical diversionary tactic, and that people wanting tax cuts in a few months time would mean that their greed has outlasted their grief over the tsunami. What twaddle. Who says that you cannot mourn the victims, yet still have an opinion on taxation policy?

Further, how can you characterise a desire for tax cuts as "greed"? A tax cut means that the government is keeping less of our money. We can then spend more of it on things we want - which can include disaster donations.

This is not to diminish the community's response to the tsunami.

Yes it is.

The Australian doctors who cancelled their holidays to volunteer as part of the worldwide relief effort in Asia, and the ordinary people who donated money and gifts to the aid agencies, and the Government's pledge of $1 billion in assistance, have been welcome antidotes to the avarice of the era.

As evidenced by what? It seems to be a point of faith with many that we are getting more greedy, but what measures are they using for this? An increase in aid donation is always criticised if it is not an increase in GDP terms as well (witness the mean spirited response to America's magnificent contribution) Otherwise, cliches are just thrown around with no evidence whatsoever. Further, the donations have only been a welcome antidote to the avarice of the era to George, to others they are antidotes to hunger, injury and disease.

But Iraq is a reminder of how quickly Australians can forget. Voters seem to have absolved themselves of thinking more deeply about the conflict by holding two contradictory positions. They appreciate that toppling Saddam Hussein has created as many problems as it solved. But they are pragmatic enough to see they can't do anything to change the situation. So they settle for a status quo that leads to quagmire.

Again, where is he getting this from? The polls he quoted at the beginnning did not ask "did toppling Saddam create as many problems as it solved?" and "can you do anything to change the situation?" He has just 'divined' public sentiment for his own purposes.

Public opinion is, in effect, frozen. Voters will not tolerate cutting and running, but neither will they countenance extra troops being deployed to help secure the peace. It's the classic "don't bother me" response. This suits Howard because he doesn't need to explain what it is we are supposed to be doing there.

Again - huh? Were they asked whether they would support sending extra troops? And for the record, the classic "don't bother me" response would be "undecided".

Consider the circumstances of his re-election. It had nothing to do with Iraq. The big vote-switcher was the fear of interest rates soaring.

Wow, George should go work for the Labor party. Among all the issues in the election, including Iraq, interest rates, Mark Latham, border control, local issues (e.g. Mitcham Freeway) etc etc, he has conclusive proof that the overwhelming vote switcher was interest rates. The proof being... oh.

But Iraq was also the first example of the Opposition Leader's political immaturity. As such, it played an ironic part in Howard's victory. Last March, Latham promised to bring our troops home by Christmas. Howard says this was his opponent's "first big error".

Why was the part played by Iraq "ironic"? It is because George thinks that it should be a big election negative for Howard, and therefore it is ironic that Latham's cock-up turned it into a positive. This ignores the fact that outside George's dinner party set of friends, it may have been a positive all along.

He finishes of with another sweeping pronouncement, again given with no support whatsoever:

More boots on the ground in the early stages of the insurgency would have made the elections to be held at the end of this month a little less perilous for the Iraqi people.

Friday, January 07, 2005
Reds under his HDD

Hey Bill Gates - what do you call people who are opposed to ever increasing intellectual property rights?


Caveat Emptor

The excellent website ThinkGeek will sell you a Green Laser Pointer for $US99.99. They suggest that it can be used for:

This allows the green laser pointer to be used for pointing to star constellations (skypointing) and also just generally look cool as hell. The green laser beam dot can be seen at much greater distances than with a red laser pointer.

Though I don't know whether he purchased it from there, one man is facing possible jail time:

A MAN could be jailed for 25 years for flashing a hand-held laser at a plane while playing with his daughter. David Banach shone the beam at a chartered jet and a police helicopter over his home near Teterboro Airport, New Jersey.

Mr Banach, 38, said he was using the laser to look at the stars with his seven-year-old daughter.

The FBI acknowledges Mr Banach has no connection with terrorism but calls his actions foolhardy and negligent.

Mr Banach was using a class 3A laser device bought for $US100 ($130) on the Internet.


Police said the green beam temporarily blinded both pilots of a chartered jet carrying six people as it descended to land at Teterboro on the evening of December 29.

He doesn't appear to be as bright as his laser however:

Two days later one of the pilots joined FBI agents in a police helicopter to try to find the source of the light. As they hovered near the site of the incident, another laser illuminated the helicopter.

Nor exactly truthful:

Told of the laser incident, he said his daughter had pointed the laser at the helicopter.

He later admitted under interrogation that he had shone the beam.

Thursday, January 06, 2005
Me wanty

If any of you see one of these on special during the post-Christmas sales, please pick one up and let me know via attila_the_pun@hotmail.com where i can come and collect it.

Ephemeral and meaningless column

James Rose is having a swing at nasty corporations in today's Age:

Rewarding managers for something as ephemeral and meaningless as financial performance alone is clearly unsustainable and is becoming increasingly difficult to sell to shareholders and the wider community.

Ignoring the patently stupid claim that financial performance alone is "meaningless", what evidence does he have that it is "clearly unsustainable"?

It's getting worse.

As evidenced by what? Increased numbers of bankrupt companies? Oh, sorry, didn't mean to ask for proof of an assertion.

Financial success today now appears to mean that if the company is still in business - growth, profits, or otherwise - then the managers should have their pockets filled with bonuses.

He likes to wave the "manager's bonus" around as some sort of evil symbol. Would anybody reading this article not welcome a bonus from their employer if they have met established performance targets? Is it only wrong if you are a *gasp* manager?

In the past 10 years, the concept of corporate responsibility (CR) has moved more and more into the business mainstream. Companies such as BP, Shell and GM have sought, not always successfully, to raise their CR credentials.

Yeah, we call that "lip service".

But CR is effectively illegal. Corporations laws around the world, including in Australia, generally place the legal emphasis on financial returns or, indeed, financial survival, as the central obligation for corporate managers.

Imagine that - the central obligation for a "corporate manager" (insert your own dramatic music here) is to ensure the survival of their company, and possibly generate a finanical return. What a scandal.

Even if they wanted to be more responsible, they are not legally enabled to do so as shareholders are supposedly entitled, at the cost of other more wide-ranging considerations, to expect maximum financial rewards for their investment.

Shareholders are "supposedly entitled" to expect a financial return on their investment? What nonsense is this?

Law changes, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance laws and the Alien Tort Claims Act in the US, have begun to erode this systematic imbalance around the world. However, it remains so that here corporation managers pander to their shareholders, mainly their major shareholders, and ritually pad their financial accounts to reap the dubious rewards written into their salary contracts.

He seems to be missing a fundamental point here - managers don't 'pander' (as defined as catering to the lower tastes and desires of others) to their shareholders, they answer to them. Why? - Because the shareholders own the business. They have contributed their own money towards the capital of the company in order to gain a financial benefit. His second point out ritual padding of financial accounts is, of course, not supported by proof.

The results are that nobody wins, other than the tiny population of corporate Brahmins that sashay through the world's economies.

This line is particularly stupid. Does he consider the millions of Australians who have made money on the stock exchange to be part of the tiny populations of corporate Brahmins?

Even shareholders end up losing as their companies whose books have been cooked will eventually be burnt.

Oh, he wasn't referring to shareholders when he said "nobody win". He must have thought he was terribly clever coming up with that line, too bad that it is meaningless. He is also trying to conflate two seperate concepts - a) the 'pandering' to shareholders by managers, at the expense of other considerations and b) cooking the books to increase their bonuses. The first of those is perfectly legitimate, the second is illegal and contrary to the interests of shareholders. To try and refer to both of them, and suggest that it will end up destroying a company, is disingenuous.

As long as financially based performance indicators are slavishly and exclusively followed, the absurdity will continue. But the truth is that there are now no excuses to continue this skewed approach to performance measurement. Despite the obstacles, developments in corporate responsibility have produced the tools to begin to undermine the untenable domination of financial indicators.

mmmm, adjectives and adverbs. I am sure he was working himself up into quite a typing frenzy during this, but that doesn't make it any more persuasive. He has not established that using financial indicators is absurd or untenable, therefore he has not made out a case why we should adopt the 'tools' that he is now going to offer.

Probably the easiest place to start is the Global Reporting Initiative. The GRI was established in 1997 as a multi-stakeholder body designed to develop and communicate a range of guidelines to be used in sustainability reporting around the world. The group has developed about 100 principles to allow stakeholders to assess corporate performance in social, environmental and economic areas.

This is like a sweet and sour dish - we have the untenable domination of financial indicators boo hiss) followed by a warm and fuzzy "multi-stakeholder" body which is busy developing and communicating principles.

These might be useful, but frankly the GRI is CR-lite - a starting point only. To be really honest about this, we might need a second level of indicators.

One hundred principles is only CR-lite?

In Australia, for instance, it is particularly common for corporate leaders to carve off slabs of staff to bolster an annual report. This is the sort of thing that many managers continue to receive fat bonuses for.

Do annual reports have a "number of employees fired" column? Again, he does not cite a single example of "slabs of employees" being fired to bolster an annual report. If this is particularly common in Australia, surely it wouldn't be too hard to name drop a couple of examples?

Perhaps if the company's financial performance were anchored in social responsibility, via a ceiling on employees fired in the course of a year, then executives might have to find more creative ways to grow a business.

Now we are in fantasy land. He is actually suggesting that a cap be put on the number of employess who are fired in a year, irrespective of business performance, market conditions, economic factors etc. If this were done, then executives (a cousin of the evil "corporate manager") would magically find growth opportunities that they otherwise would have ignored. After all, everyone knows that given the choice between a growth opportunity and firing people, any manager worth his salt would take the easy option and fire people.

The starting point for such a system would have to be the few remaining state-owned companies left, such as Energex. Governments can take the lead in ensuring their business operations are sustainable. With such a lead, shareholders and other stakeholders might become emboldened and demand the same from publicly listed companies too.

A Government could ensure their state owned monopolies are sustainable by capping the number of employees they can fire? And shareholders will think this is such a great idea that they will follow suit? Does this guy believe any of the stuff he writes? As unfortunate as it is for the employess affected, firing people is sometimes the best option for a company. There are situations where a responsible corporate manager should fire people, in order to save the company as a whole. If doing this will damage them financially (by losing a bonus) then their interests will be in conflict with those of the business (and therefore shareholders). Why would a shareholder agitate for such a thing?

In this context, Telstra becomes a fulcrum in Australia's corporate-stakeholder relations. If we are to have a sophisticated and sustainable corporate culture into the new millennium, then the inevitable sale of Telstra should incorporate a change to the company's constitution to factor in such non-financial performance indicators as part of the company's everyday management.

For a start, the constitution of a company, like that of a country, does not govern its everyday management. It couldn't possibly do so, particularly for a company as large and complex as Telstra. Secondly, James could get the Government to include whatever touchy-feely measures he likes in the constitution, and it wouldn't make a lick of difference. Why? Because as soon as the company is sold (to its shareholders, not to these mysterious "stakeholders"), they can change the constitution to remove them all.

The problem with James' approach is that he is coming at it from the wrong angle. He wants to change a company's behaviour by breaking its commitment to its shareholders. He should instead be trying to exploit that. A company answers to its customers (whereby it generates profits) and its shareholders (who own it). If one of these groups is not happy with the way the company is acting, be it financially, socially or environmentally, then they can exercise the immense power they hold over the company to change this behaviour. A company will react to such an exercise of power a lot more quickly and effectively than they would to 100 vague corporate responsibility principles.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
"Are you old enough? ooh ooh"

Please excuse the Dragon reference there. It appears that the Scud's new girlfriend may not be 19, as previously reported, but may actually be only 17 or 18:

Last night, the man who discovered the Miami beauty told The Daily Telegraph Barbara was photographed for the calendar in 2003 aged just 16.

It is my solemn duty to bring you the news you need to know.

UPDATE - I am sure that none of you care - but here is the modelling website, with three photos of Ms Barbara. Apparently she has the second highest grade point average in her class. I bet that is really important to the Scud...

Saturday, January 01, 2005
Nerd Money

A Japanese company is apparently looking at paying $42 million for the rights to the Commodore brand name. As in the Vic-20 and Commodore 64. $42 million. Dollars.

As long as they keep the company colours (brown and beige) and cutting edge technology (cassette deck storage) I will be a happy boy.

One for the road

Hmm, its been awhile since we had a "kicking Labor while its down" post, so here ya go:

A recent poll asked people in NSW who they thought would be the best choice to lead the Labor party. The results?

Mark Latham, the local boy, and one time election loser, won with a massive 28%.

Kim Beazley, the three time loser, came second with 26%.

Third? Well, he isn't even in Federal Parliament - Bob Carr with 16%.

Kevin Potter/Rudd came in with 7%, while Swan got 3%.

20% couldn't give a toss apparently.

Comforting stuff for a dispirited Labor party really. The poll was only of 500 people, but when you are indulging in a bit of partisan hackery, who cares?

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