Attila the Pun
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Run away, run away!

Sigh. When a survey comes out, where should one turn to get the most selective interpretation of it? The Sydney Morning Herald of course. Using the calm headline of "Our new nightmare: the United States of America", the SMH tells us that:

Australians are as just as concerned about United States foreign policy as Islamic extremism and regard the US as more dangerous than a rising China, according to a new poll.

The Australians Speak: 2005 survey, commissioned by the Lowy Institute for International Policy, found 57 per cent of Australians were "very worried" or "fairly worried" about the external threat posed by both US foreign policy and Islamic extremism.

What this summary doesn't mention is that 63% were worried about "international terrorism", or that 44% were worried about illegal immigration and refugees.

Of course, without knowing the questions being asked, it is difficult to give any credence to a survey of 1000 people (that being .005% of the population) without knowing the questions asked. Enter Greg Sheridan:

The Lowy Institute poll on Australians' attitudes to international issues shows how the narrow sets of views held by foreign policy academics in Australia will inevitably replicate themselves in answers to questions designed by such folk.


On international law, respondents were asked to choose between these alternatives: "Australia should rely on international law even though decisions may go against us OR Australia should do whatever benefits us the most in any given situation regardless of what international law says."
Not surprisingly, the first alternative gets the majority vote.

But what would the answer be to a question phrased: If a group of officials from non-democratic countries with appalling human rights records operating in a UN committee directed Australia to do something the majority of its people thought was wrong, should Australia follow international law even though it involves doing wrong or should it do what it believes is right?


The pollsters' question on Taiwan is even more loaded. Respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the proposition: "Australia should act in accordance with our security alliance with the US even if it means following them to war with China over the independence of Taiwan."
Not surprisingly, a majority would not sign a blank cheque for a hypothetical war.

A more realistic question would have been: Do you think China is justified in mounting a military invasion of Taiwan, even if it causes tens of thousands dead, in order to reunify it with mainland China?

Of course his versions are just as loaded, but that is the whole point. The news reports covering this last night were at pains to stress that the Lowy Institute was "non-partisan", but its sympathies regarding foreign affairs are still pretty clear.

Monday, March 21, 2005
Apple of his eye

Want more proof that Apple fanboys shouldn't do technology reviews? No? Well too bad, you can have some anyway.

Apple has been bullish in the MP3-player market. There's no sign of complacency either. It recently slashed the price of its regular iPod mini from $399 to a record-low $299 and introduced a 6GB model at $359, catching most of its competitors by surprise.

A "record low"? Is he suggesting that Apple have done something never before seen in the technology market and dropped the price of a product to something *gasp* lower than it has ever been before?

If you're a Mac user, the only choice you'll have to make is which iPod to buy, since few others support the Mac OS, let alone so elegantly.

Hmm, this could be because of Apple's piddling 5% market share I guess.

Those bound in Windows world, however, have plenty of options to consider.

Jesus, is he wearing a Steve Jobs t-shirt whilst typing this? Apparently there is no irony apparent to him when those of us bound in Microsoft enforced servitude actually have a *greater* choice available than Mac users.

All else being equal, however, the availability of accessories should be an important part of your purchasing decision. If you travel a lot and don't plan on carrying your notebook PC everywhere, then make sure there is a power adaptor.

Uh-oh mac boy - USB charging only for you.

Wired remotes, better-quality headphones, charging cradles, protective cases and spare batteries all make a difference to your total spend. You'll also want to consider battery life and whether the player can be used as a portable storage device for your data files.

And which of those come with the iPod mini? Hmm, none. But after looking at the competition, we get this:

There's no denying that Apple's competition has improved a great deal and players such as the Creative Zen Micro are great value for money when you take into account what's in the box.

As opposed to judging value for money by not taking into account what actually comes in the box?

In several key areas, however (such as simplicity of menu and controls, hassle-free music transfer, portable storage and elegance in design), the iPod still leads the way by getting the basics right and it's easy to see why it's the most popular player around.

Portable storage is a *plus* for the iPod? So basically, if you want a player that will only store music, requires a computer to charge, doesn't have an inline remote and forces you to use its, and only its, software, then the iPod mini still represents the best choice.

Sunday, March 20, 2005
I don't wanna be like Mike

Whilst it would be unfair to tarnish the reputation of an entire organisation through the actions of a select few, the record of sexual abuse by UN troops just gets worse and worse. For all the carping about the Iraq war being unilateral, it appears that as a parent, you wouldn't want the UN anywhere near your country or your children:

AUSTRALIAN soldiers drew arms to protect themselves from Jordanian peacekeepers after a Digger blew the whistle on other Jordanian soldiers' sexual abuse of East Timorese boys.

Corporal Andrew Wratten had to be evacuated and Australian commandos sent to protect Diggers in Oecussi, an East Timorese province in Indonesian West Timor, after he told the UN of the pedophilia that occurred in May 2001.

Corporal Wratten, who was working at a fuel dump in the enclave, was told by a group of children that Jordanian soldiers had offered food and money in exchange for oral sex and intercourse.

The allegations involved East Timorese minors, all boys, the youngest of them just 12 years old.

A Jordanian officer in HQ told the Jordanian contingent that Wratten had blown the whistle on their activities, so they came and threatened the Australians. Next time someone demands that the UN be sent in, I think the UN's record deserves serious consideration.

Thursday, March 17, 2005
Stoopid Orstraylans

Right from the get-go, you know this article in the Age is going to be a beauty:

A new award for an intellectual giant does not negate our cultural failings, writes Ashley Crawford.

Really? Giving one award to somebody won't automatically cure all our "cultural failings"? I am shocked. A theme of overbearing snobbery pervades the whole thing:

Smith has watched the dirge-like development of Australia's cultural life with an eagle eye. "Ambivalent" is the word he uses in his response to the Emeritus Award, for the simple reason that he has watched all too many sports figures heaped with praise while Australia's intellectuals have either fled the country or simply given up through lack of recognition.

One hopes he is less "ambivalent" about the $10000 cheque that accompanies the award.

"The reasons why are quite complex," he says. "I was married, I had a job. I knew there were opportunities for me overseas. I didn't stay for nationalistic reasons; I'm not a nationalist in that way, and I'm not a great admirer of the way this nation has treated its intellectuals. But at the same time I knew this country had a cultural future."

Wow, so we aren't facing a giant cultural black hole? Anyone who has seen an Australian film in the last five years may disagree with that.

In many ways, however, Smith is still awaiting the fruition of this vision. "We will become a more mature society," he says. "But we're still a young society, we don't have the cultural history of Europe or England or even the United States."

He is going for double points there - making the stunning observation that a 200 year old country doesnt have the cultural history of a 2000 year old country, plus the fact that we don't have the cultural history of "even the United States."

With his eclectic and roving eye, Smith is one of the giants of Australia's intellectual life. He remains staunchly committed to the notion of an intellectual Australia.

Thats big of him, but it makes you wonder whether he will ever be satisfied that there is such a thing.

"We're still not taken seriously," he says of Australia's standing overseas.

Oh, and your proof for this?

"I know to my cost because I have finished a book, which must be published in the Northern Hemisphere, and I have yet to find a publisher."

And that must be because of Australia's reputation as an intellectual backwater right - nothing whatsoever to do with the book? Lets have a look at the book:

Smith's latest opus is an important work on what he calls the formalesque. "The logic of it is this," he says: "We can't go on calling 'modernism' modernism forever. Modernism belongs to the last century, where abstraction was the dominant language.

I report, you decide.

Talking crap, by Crikey

The Crikey community is hopping into Paddy McGuiness hopping into Alan Ramsey, with predictable results:

While many may call for Ramsey's head, his loss will be ours also. Ramsey fills a niche that needs filling. I like the fact that he quotes liberally from international sources. It helps to show up what a mindless little fish bowl most of our journalists live in. The fact that the newspaper lets him get away with it is their problem. I would never stop buying the SMH because of Ramsey, while at the same time I refuse to buy Thursday's publication due to the rubbish on the op-ed pages that day (I refuse to say her name). Tuesday looks likely to be the next day to go.

So you hate the mindless fishbowl that Australian journalists live in, but you will refuse to buy an entire paper because you disagree with one op-ed columnist?

In any case, the thrust of Ramsey's column (and Moyers remarks) is still true.

Well Moyer's remarks *were* Ramsey's column, and although it contained completely falsified remarks, we are supposed to be scared by the "thrust" of the column? Is that like the "fake but accurate" National Guard documents?

Failure to check sources is inexcusable, whether you're Alan Ramsey, Janet Albrechtsen, or whoever, and misquotes are relatively easy to check these days. Still, we need people prepared to stick their necks out in the interests of freedom of expression and free debate, and if they trip up, so be it.

Quoting entire slabs of other people's articles now counts as "sticking your neck out"? In that case, us bloggers must be a courageous lot...

The Moyers article raises serious issues about the role of religion in a secular state, and it's a pity that Ramsey did not even flag an Australian connection by mentioning Hillsong, Family First, or Cardinal Abbott's anti-abortion crusade.

Yes, it is a pity that Ramsey didn't add a local element, or add anything at all for that matter. This was one of McGuiness' criticisms.

Consider the facts: McGuinness was either pushed, or read the writing on the wall and jumped, from the SMH and Age last year. He subsequently indulged himself in a series of rants to Crikey about Fairfax's falling standards, incompetence etc. Gee, that's original - bagging the organisation that just sacked you. It had to be their fault, not his.

The Paddy piece in the Oz on Alan Ramsey contained what at first appears a gratuitous brown-nose of the appalling Tim Blair, but really on closer inspection is a job application for the Bulletin.

This guy doesn't even make an attempt at justifying Ramsey's appalling column, just attacks McGuiness. But the next is hilarious:

I have watched with growing concern as voices not in tune with the Government are being sidelined incrementally both in SMH and the ABC. Margo Kingston is hidden on-line, David Marr does not have a regular spot and now the prospect of Alan Ramsey being replaced by Michael Duffy (isn't he the one that hosts 'Counterpoint ' on Radio National?) reduces the spectrum of views expressed. On the ABC, Dr Michael McKinley is now rarely heard since he spoke out against the Iraq war.

Its the crushing of dissent I tells ya! Margo hosting an online discussion forum (I am being kind)whilst still managing to write an anti-Howard book and Marr not getting a "regular spot" after finishing up hosting a weekly television program are signs of anti-Government voices being "sidelined" Cue mass hysteria:

The pendulum is swinging too far to the right....and those who favour this should be aware of the danger of Fascism as it's extremity.

In case you missed it - Alan Ramsey quoting somebody misquoting somebody + PP McGuiness calling for his sacking + David Marr not getting a regular gig = Fascism.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Did we forget to mention..

Tim Blair points to an article by Micheal Gawenda which claims that conservative bloggers were wrong about the liberal bias of the mainstream media:

Media coverage of the Iraq war by the American media was not biased in favour or against the war, according to new research, despite claims the coverage was generally biased and negative.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism, a Washington think tank affiliated with Columbia University's school of journalism, looked at more than 2000 stories in newspapers and on television and websites.

Most were "straight" news reports, according to the survey's director, Tom Rosenstiel, with 25 per cent of the stories positive and 20 per cent negative. The rest could not be classified one way or the other.

I would be interested to see what they consider a "straight" news story, but even leaving that aside, I note that Gawenda doesn't mention this bit:

U.S. media coverage of last year's election was three times more likely to be negative toward President Bush than Democratic challenger John Kerry, according to a study released Monday.

The annual report by a press watchdog that is affiliated with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism said that 36 percent of stories about Bush were negative compared to 12 percent about Kerry, a Massachusetts senator.

or this:

Only 20 percent were positive toward Bush compared to 30 percent of stories about Kerry that were positive, according to the report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

and this directly contradicts Gawenda:

Examining the public perception that coverage of the war in Iraq was decidedly negative, it found evidence did not support that conclusion. The majority of stories had no decided tone, 25 percent were negative and 20 percent were positive, it said.

They can't both be right, and although 5% is not a massive difference, it will be interesting to see who is quoting the correct figure.

Well what do you know - Gawenda is wrong. I am shocked.

Update: Okay, I was wrong as well. Gawenda did mention the Bush/Kerry thing:

The report also looks at coverage of the presidential election campaign last year. It found 36 per cent of stories on Mr Bush were negative compared with 12 per cent for John Kerry, with 20 per cent of stories positive for Mr Bush, compared with 30 per cent for Senator Kerry.

But with this cop-out:

Mr Rosenstiel said these figures did not necessarily reflect bias but, instead, the fact that coverage was always more intense and questioning when it came to the incumbent.

Whereas the report says this:

When it came to the campaign, on the other hand, the criticism that George Bush got worse coverage than John Kerry is supported by the data.

Friday, March 11, 2005
Smug mode

Yee-haa! Attila got quoted in the Australian. Kinda. Sorta. Not really.

In today's Australian, P. P. McGuiness takes the opportunity to gloat at the decline and fall of Alan Ramsey. He gives due credit to the blogosphere, stating:

The best of our local independent bloggers, Tim Blair (who happily has an institutional base and income from The Bulletin) put up on his website (www.timblair.net) at 10.49am on the Wednesday (on which Ramsey's column appeared) a piece pointing out that Moyers had got it wrong – that Watts never said: "After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back" – and had apologised to Watts.

I certainly wouldn't argue the naming of Tim as Australia's best blogger, but indulge me for a moment regarding Tim's post:

As should have the ideologue Ramsey, who’s been holding stoutly to a world view despite reality for some time. Why, it’s almost as though he’s delusional, or oblivious to the facts. Over to you, Media Watch; Ramsey deserves everything he gets.

(Via Attila The Pun and several readers)

I am of course also too humble to mention the link from Time's blog of the year, Powerline...

Of course, it can be depressing when you read others on similar topics, and they do a far superior job than you. Yes, I am talking to you Professor, among others...

As for the column itself, they have removed the offending paragraph, and posted a correction. Reasons why the remainder of the column should be given any credibility are not included in the correction.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Sometimes they make it too easy. In another one of his cut and paste articles, Alan Ramsey quotes Bill Moyers, the founding director of Public Affairs Television:

"Remember James Watt, President Reagan's first secretary of the interior? He was the man who told the US Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in the light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said: 'After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.' Washington elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious."

The only problem is that he never said it. The journal which originally made the claim has admitted he never said it.

Powerline was all over this a month ago, including the op-ed response of Watt.

Does anyone seriously think Ramsey will publish a proper apology?

Monday, March 07, 2005
Hear hear

Remember my rant some time ago about corporate responsibility? Well Paul Gilding (who is proof that some greenies are capable of rational discourse) is on the same theme today:

IF the Australian economy goes into recession, not only will it end our long economic boom, it will also be the end for many corporate social responsibility programs, with companies slashing or eliminating them to reduce costs. That will confirm what a weak and ineffective concept it is.

People concerned about environmental and social sustainability would be well served by the death of CSR. It needs to be replaced by a far more market-focused approach, a more Darwinian sustainability that sees environmental and social trends as opportunities for growth and competitive advantage.

Exactly - for a company, it should always be about the Benjamins. Increasingly, especially in the affluent West, the profits will flow to companies that people see as socially responsible - through attracting better staff, higher sales etc. For an artificial construct like a company, getting them to act in a certain way because it is the "right thing to do" is difficult if not impossible. A company should be a finely honed profit making machine:

But I don't want companies behaving responsibly out of moral guilt. This won't get companies to embrace sustainability with sincerity, let alone urgency or speed. I want companies to embrace sustainability because it will help them whip their competition. I want sustainability to be Darwinian.

My favorite paragraph:

This will apply in many different sectors, with the winners making more money - and good luck to them. I hope they rake it in. Those that fail to do so will fall by the wayside. Hey, that's what makes capitalism the cuddly creature it is. Winners win and losers lose. Creative destruction at work.

Worth a read.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Next stop - legitimacy!

It will come as no surprise to many, but AFP have sunk to a new low in their struggle to label terrorists. The grand daddy of them all, Osama bin Laden himself, has now been described as a:

"Saudi dissident"

(via Chrenkoff)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005
It is just like Vietnam

Lebanese are celebrating the resignation of the government. Sure, the Syrian backed President will want another pro-Syrian cabinet, but it is still a historic moment in that country's tortured history.

Check out a photo of celebration. Thats an interesting flag being waved. Could it be that those in the middle east have a somewhat different perspective on the evil neo-con conspiracy than the western left do? And wasn't the domino theory proven a myth in the 70's? I am so confused...

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