Attila the Pun
Friday, April 29, 2005
Vietnam is the new Iraq

Michael Gawenda is determined to refute allegations that journalists of a certain stripe are hopelessly fixated on viewing every war through the prism of Vietnam. Take it away Michael:

While thousands of Americans this week have walked the 100 or so metres of the wall, strewn at its base with single flowers, mostly roses, and fading notes and prayers left by relatives of the dead, the 30th anniversary of Saigon's fall has been largely ignored by much of the US media.

And so far, not a single senior politician, not in the Bush Administration, not in Congress, has even mentioned the anniversary.

That could be because for the US, the anniversary is tomorrow - April 29. Lets have a look then shall we Michael? Plus, do we have to have a statement from the President at every anniversary? Will Michael be writing this about the anniversary of Korea? Or Howard's failure to mention the Malay emergency?

But the objective that was to remove the threat of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction turned out to be a chimera; there were no WMD to be removed. And so the objective changed to bringing democracy to Iraq and to ensure, as part of the war on terror, that Iraq doesn't become a failed state, a haven for totalitarian Islamist terror organisations.

That really has become the defence mechanism of all those that opposed the liberation of Iraq and have found themselves on the wrong side of history - claim that those in favour didn't intend any democratic benefits either, and claim that WMD's were the only reasons provided.

Once again for those a bit slow to keep up - go to Instapundit's link rich list, and see for yourself what was said.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Boomtown prats

Like you, there is nothing I enjoy more than listening to a member of Generation X bitch about how the baby boomers are ruining everything for them. It only gets better when the person complaining describes themself as a member of the "creative classes"

There's a disturbing trend in my well-educated, thirtysomething cohort.

Endlessly complaining?

At one end of the spectrum lie those who have been allowed to "grow up" professionally, provided they play the free-market game.

They have been "allowed" to progress their careers? Perhaps you mean "have" grown up professionally?

They generally work in finance and allied industries, have huge mortgages, high incomes, trophy spouses, nannies and membership of spa retreats.

They are in their 30s and they already have trophy spouses? Good work!

They think they're safe from the scrapheap because they're playing the game smarter than their peers stuck in a series of what generation X author Douglas Coupland called McJobs: "A low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector and frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never had one."

So they went and got high-pay, high-prestige, high-dignity, high-benefit, huge-future jobs? I would suggest they are playing the game smarter, and I have a fair amount of respect for them. So what's the problem?

Writing in 1991, Coupland was talking about flipping burgers. Today the phenomenon has expanded to embrace the so-called career tracks of younger professionals working in universities and other sectors that traditionally furthered the common good and increased the common wealth.

The plot thins...

Like the wider public these sectors used to serve, today these Australians are widely treated with something bordering on contempt, as what passes for national wisdom and debate turns into a dumbed-down mishmash of Hobbes and Hayek, based on knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

And who is to blame for this lack of respect for "these Australians"? It couldn't be their own arrogance in dimissing the majority of Australians, specifically those that pay the taxes which fund public sector wages, as dumb?

Rather, it's about direct comparison with the career trajectories of gen Xers of the so-called creative class in many other OECD countries. Here, you should be so lucky as to have a three-year contract as a bottom feeder in an arts faculty, where your load of teaching and bean-counting leaves no paid time for what you need to do to hold your job - a doctorate and refereed publications - never mind anything else.

You poor thing? Imagine a member of the creative class being forced to teach or do adminstrative tasks as part of their role? Don't we know that they need to be creating things for the common good?

There, you'd stand a chance of already being an associate professor, senior political adviser, published author or other established opinion former.

Smell the conceit. These nasty boomers are denying the chance for her and her friends to become established opinion formers - ohh the humanity.

As a consequence, more thirtysomethings harbour growing resentment of boomers. Downsizing may have sent lots of middle-aged white liberal men (and women) to the scrapheap, but this hasn't opened up a critical mass of space for younger voices who challenge, as Davis puts it, the old monoculture of white patrician liberalism, never mind economic rationalism.

So you like the fact that a lot of boomers got fired, but are annoyed that enough weren't fired to allow your mates to move up? Ever heard of a meritocracy?

A colleague of mine puts it like this: "Boomers are sucking the blood out of Xers. We work like dogs, pay hideous rents, have no job security, are so exhausted we have no time any more to think, let alone raise questions about the status quo and take action. Boomers aren't interested in us, except as a source of tax revenue for their pensions and looming health-care costs. That's why they're freaked that we're not having babies."

Boo-hoo. Generation X (and following generations) have grown up in an era of unsurpassed luxury. They have had education and travel options previously unheard of. Some may still be complaining that they weren't born in time for free university education, but seeing as there are now 4 times as many people going to university it is obvious more people are getting the opportunity to challenge the white patrician blah blah.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not casting another stone in what's shaping up as gung-ho intergenerational warfare. Some of my best friends are boomers, and beyond. But they tend not to be Big. They're more at the end of the spectrum of their own generation that can't or won't play neocon roulette, and who are paying their own hefty price.

wtf is neocon roulette? It is lazy intellectual short hand to drop a scary word "neocon" "Howard" and assume that everyone in your lovey latte set will nod sagely, agreeing with you that it must be bad.

Then again, they can generally afford it; but so can the Big Boomers. For all our sakes, more Big Boomers need to start growing older with more grace and generosity. If they can't surrender tenure, this means using their resources and experience to develop the talent of more challenging thirtysomethings, and beyond. (emphasis added)

And once again, we come back to the point of this entire rant - she hasn't progressed as far in the academic world as she thinks she is entitled to, and it is all the fault of Mum and Dad.

Why on earth did the Age print this?

Spit on a digger day

Not sure how this slipped under my radar, but I have only recently had a chance to read Leunig's disgusting attack on every person who has ever voluntarily worn a military uniform.

We live in a national culture that glamorises soldiers, yet the sight of a military uniform with its obvious connotations of morbidity and violence provokes in me the question: "What sort of person is attracted to the killing professions?" Army recruiting advertisements beg the same question.

So Leunig sets out to tell us exactly what kind of bloodthirsty types these strange creatures are.

The raising of this query in public will bring hostile responses as well as the inevitable, "If it wasn't for soldiers you wouldn't have the liberty to ask that question", as if I owe my ration of happiness, sanity or spiritual health to militarism.

Hang on - it wasn't suggested that you owed your sanity or spiritual health to militarism, rather that you owed, at least in part, your ability to freely live a life as a "whimsical" cartoonist to Australia's armed forces. This point is "inevitably" raised because it is so fundamental, yet Leunig barely bothers to respond to it.

It seems to me, however, that human rights have historically been considerably established by those who were not soldiers and who indeed, in many instances, had to face the terror and repression of state military force in their various campaigns for social justice.

We can of course expect a long and distinguished list of examples for this.

It could be said, for instance that it was the troopers who fought against the cause of freedom at the Eureka stockade in Ballarat and slaughtered those who sought liberty and justice.

And thats it. The liberation of Europe in WWII. The defence of Australia in the Pacific. The (multiple) defence of Israel. The Australian intervention in East Timor. All these were achieved by the use of military force. And all of them could (unfortunately) be achieved no other way.

Soldiers mostly follow orders, they have "a job to do" regardless of whether they are rescuing civilians or shooting them.

Does no one else find it grossly offensive for him to suggest that Australian troops would blindly follow orders and shoot civilians because they felt they have a job to do?

Where the Prime Minister sees courage, decency and goodness in professional soldiers - all those "best and finest" qualities - I cannot help but also see the possibility of perversity, emotional sickness and a latent murderous impulse.

Leunig would also see those possibilities in every member of the Liberal Party, and anyone else he disagreed with however, so I am not sure we should take his opinion too seriously there.

The innocent question won't go away: "What sort of person volunteers to devote their life to the skills of destruction and the business of hunting, trapping and slaughtering humans?"

It is an undeniable fact that the main purpose of the Army is to train to kill the soldiers of the enemy most effectively. The ultimate hope is that by preparing properly for this, one would never have to do it. But it is a blatant distortion to suggest that the skills that the Army (and other branches of the military) provide are only useful for slaughtering their fellow man. I note that nowhere in the article does Leunig mention the tsunami relief effort. It was only the Army, with Air Force and Navy support, that could get food and aid on the ground as quickly as they did. Civilian organisations lack the skills, organisation and discipline to achieve anything close to that.

Is it possible for Leunig to consider that many members of the armed forces may have joined on the basis that they wished to be involved in operations like that? I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to suggest that the average member of the Australian Army who has served in the last few years would have achieved more humanitarian good than a person who has devoted their life to drawing ducks.

Anzac Day brings this question strongly to mind because I am asked each year to remember the soldiers who fought and to spare a thought for them, which I always do,

Thats big of you

but that's where the trouble starts because before too long questions arise and I try to imagine what sort of men would volunteer to invade a far-off land and perpetrate such murderous violence against its inhabitants.

Yeah, who would volunteer to invade a far off Germany and perpetrate such murderous violence against the Wermacht? Actually, Leunig is being disingenuous by only referring to Gallipoli there, even though ANZAC day is a remembrance day for all our service men and women.

Inevitably I then start to think and wonder about the forgotten men who on conscience and principle refused to take part in this monumental violence (where is their monument?),

Yeah, bugger all these shrines, statues and memorials to those who died serving abstract concepts such as freedom - where is the memorial to the dockers who refused to load the ships as a sign of solidarity with the Soviets?

In the grisly light of the fact that Australian soldiers so recently took part in the invasion of Iraq, which involved the killing of more than 100,000 civilians,

It comes as no surprise to some of us that the flawed Lancet findings have taken on the status as a "fact". Such a round convenient number to quote.

As for the men who refused the way of violence, there appears to be little cultural recognition or consciousness of those who rejected jingoism and the call to homicide, but who served their country well for an entire lifetime in creative, constructive and unglorified ways that are immeasurable.

Is Leunig angling for a Mr Curly statue? A duck remembrance day?

Grim authoritarianism, paranoia, guilt, fundamentalism, hostility, bitter or brutal outlooks and a difficulty with Eros, beauty and the feminine are all aftermath qualities that insinuate or assert themselves into family and institutional life with profound consequences.

Nope, he is just talking crap.

The violent, frightened mentality and fetishism of war, the domineering impulse, and the addiction to the "evil other" forever corrupt, disfigure and limit the societies that wage and prosecute the violent solution.

Which ever first year arts student he copied this off is going to be mighty pissed...

Soldiers can quickly tire of patriotism and piety in the globalised world. Many become mercenaries now and sell their souls to the highest bidder as hit-men; which may tell us something about what it takes to be a soldier.

This article tells us everything about what he thinks it takes to be a soldier. And it wouldnt be a Leunig piece without the mandatory swipe at Howard

No doubt many of those innocent young ADF people in uniform, photographed with the leering, beer-juggling Prime Minister, may in time see the light, take to his private enterprise ideas and move on to the big bucks

Innocent? I thought they were blood crazed killers intent on learing how to trap and slaughter fellow humans. I am so confused. What would Mr Curly do?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

This story on the proposed "Family Entertainment and Copyright Act" in the US focuses on the 'parents protecting kiddies from violence', but the bit that grabbed me was this:

The bill also would make it a federal crime to use video cameras to record films in film theatres, and it would set tough penalties of up to 10 years in prison for anyone caught distributing a movie or song prior to its commercial release.

Filmgoers caught using video cameras in theatres would face up to three years in prison for a first offence and up to six years for later arrests.

I refuse to watch pirated movies (with such crappy quality picture and no digital sound, why do people bother - is it really that important that you see Star Wars 3 weeks before it comes out at cinemas?), but those penalties are ridiculous.

If you went into a cinema, assaulted the projectionist, then physically stole the print, you wouldn't get anywhere near three years in prison. But take a camcorder in, and you are looking at three years hard time, plus another 10 if you put that footage on Kazaa.

There is suggestion that the bill is largely aimed at protecting ClearPlay from lawsuits, but the draconian enforcement measures also give the impression that Congress is extremely receptive to the pleas of some of the most disadvanatged people in US society - film studios....

Sunday, April 17, 2005
(tax) free speech

Glenn Milne on the recently proposed changes to the Government's environmental grants program

AS his July Senate majority looms, John Howard publicly makes much of avoiding hubris. But behind the scenes this Government is moving ruthlessly to lock in its political ascendancy, even at the cost of free speech. Thus it was that early last week Environment Minister Ian Campbell announced that in the future government grants to environmental lobby groups would be capped at $10,000, rather than the previous $80,000.

The spin offered by the minister was that this would allow his department to better spread the available environment funds across a wider range of groups. So if you're a member of the Gulargambone Eucalyptus Tree Planting Society, you'll now have a better chance of getting a grant.

Though I am not familiar with the Society's fine presumably fine work, this sounds like an excellent idea.

That is true. But the real political sting in the tail of the announcement was that the larger, national environmental lobby organisations will now lose money – and, therefore, effectiveness. And these groups are almost universally critical of the Government's policies on issues such as global warming and the Kyoto Protocol.

I am familiar with their work, and this isn't striking me as a bad idea either. Milne then turns to the issue of the tax deductibility of these organisations, and the Government's attack on it:

It began in March 2004 during the adjournment debate in the Senate when Mason rose to address the house on the apparently benign subject of charitable institutions. The speech was anything but. Mason had in his sights the tax deductibility of charity organisations, a status that is granted with one caveat: such organisations must not engage in political advocacy.

Then Mason came to the point: "There is nothing wrong with groups and organisations in the community engaging in the political process – lobbying and campaigning. The only question is why such groups and organisations should get the tax breaks to help them do so. If the aim is to effect political change, shouldn't these charity workers actually join political parties, where the maximum tax deductible threshold is $150? Or conversely, if lobbying should have tax benefits for charities, then why not for everyone else as well? If it's OK for koalas and the homeless, why isn't it for sugar farmers?"

Couldn't agree more. It is blatantly dishonest to engage in political lobbying and advocacy under the guise (and tax status) of an environmental charity.

But if you think it's only environmental groups that are likely to be affected by the Mason campaign, think again. How would Catholic Health Australia be feeling right now? Remember it? It was CHA's head Francis Sullivan who devised Labor's Medicare Gold policy at the last election and then publicly endorsed it, with the weight of the Catholic private hospital system behind him. You may have forgotten, but the Government hasn't.

Considering Labor's performance at the election, and the reception that Medicare Gold received (outside of the cheerleaders in the media), I think the Government would love to install CHA as Labor's full time Health policy think tank...

The ball Mason set rolling in March 2004 now has the potential to knock over some very big skittles. And they will all be judged on their attitude to the Government. So much for free speech.

Sorry, you lost me there. Have they proposed laws banning these groups? Threatened some form of prosecution for their lobbying activties? No? So where is the threat to free speech? Maybe he meant tax-free speech.

Thursday, April 14, 2005
Getting Hitched

Ever wonder why Christopher Hitchens has so many fans among libetarians and other members of the "Right", and such enemies among the modern "Left"? Well apart from being described as "vile replica" of his former self by Tariq Ali, which would be enough to endear him to many, he expresses certain views that strike a very deep chord with some, including myself. Some of these views are on show in an interview with Daniel Smith of the Atlantic Monthly.

On the smoking bans in New York:

Those policies demonstrate a mentality of insecurity and ambition and pseudo-zeal. But undoubtedly you're right. The thing that more than symbolizes Bloomberg for me is the ban on smoking. It's moved a sensible aim—namely, the protection of nonsmokers from smoke—into behavior modification.

Sounds like speed enforcement in Victoria...

A lesser objection I have is simply that it makes bar owners and bartenders and waiters into de facto enforcers of the law. The law inverts the relationship between host and guest. It's a small thing, but it has kind of spoiled New York for me. I went out to a restaurant recently in Union Square—it was a very cold day, but my friends and I decided we would sit outside anyway so that we could have a smoke and not bother anybody. They said, "You can't do that." Why not? "Because you're underneath an awning. We have a table that's completely unprotected from the weather, just outside the awning. You can sit there if you like." And this all occurred before they told us what the specials were! Now, if you can't put up a shingle that says, "This is McShane's Old Irish Lodge, and if you don't like cigarette smoke you can stay the fuck out of my bar," then something essential about the whole idea of New York is gone.

On the endless claims that Bush has seriously eroded civil rights in the name of fighting terrorism:

The antiwar left made a huge thing about saying that Bush ignored too many warnings before September 11. But from the way they've reacted since, one would presume that they would have protested if he had taken the steps necessary to forestall the problem. I think what everyone ought to do at the basic minimum here is admit that there are contradictions in their position.

On the repeated jibes by antiwar types about "why Iraq and not North Korea?":

North Korea has threatened the invasion of South Korea; it's starving its own people to death; it's repeatedly caught sponsoring international terrorism; and it's obviously violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But North Korea has us in a stranglehold that Saddam didn't. We've let things get to the point where North Korea can—and might, given what we know of the nature of its regime—destroy the capital city of South Korea if we make a move against it. If we were an imperialist state we wouldn't give a shit about that. We'd just say, It's in our interest if the North Korean regime ceases to exist—too bad if South Korea ends up getting blown up. But we can't do that.

The shot about the imperialist state is a nice one. Hitchens is well read, and knows what an empire looks like. The US aint it.

On the "Iraq is a distraction from Afghanistan" claims

I've simply never heard anyone say that the job in Afghanistan needs more people. And it doesn't look as if it does. I mean, the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan are totally negligible militarily. It's a police operation. Afghanistan is now run by NATO. It's the strongest military alliance in the history of the world.

And the people who are now trying to claim that they oppose invading Iraq, but of course supported Afghanistan:

I'm an old left-sectarian street fighter, I happen to remember that most of the people who are saying this are the same people who were not in favor of invading Afghanistan either. They said it would be a quagmire like Vietnam and a graveyard of ambition as it was for Russia and Britain. I remember thinking that was nonsense at the time. Everyone now says that of course they thought all along that military action in Afghanistan would be great. No, they didn't! They hope that people will forget. They hope in vain in my case. I will never let them forget what they said.

Tell us Hitch - what about people who say that invading Iraq has created a breeding ground for terror?

Well, that's based on the assumption that al-Qaeda is in itself a response to the sins of omission or commission by the West. That's not true. The Administration had to find a legal and international justification for kicking out a keystone regime in the Middle East in order to alter the balance of power in the Muslim world. It needed to be done. But one couldn't just say, "Well, after an attack like September 11 we're going to have to alter the balance of power in the region." I wouldn't have minded if they had said that, but if you're going to go to the UN, you have to phrase it as if you're talking about something else.

You are never going to see Hitchens embraced by the many members of the American Right however, due to his views on religion:

Well, first off, I'm not, as people sometimes claim me to be, an atheist. I'm an anti-theist. I think the influence of religious belief is horrible.


It's the root of my whole existence as a writer—to destroy the illusions that arise from faith. And only some of those illusions are religious, which means that I'll never be out of business. There'll always be work to do.

The rest of the interview touches on his writings about Mother Teresa, Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger. Well worth a read.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Oh hello Mr Iraq-Insurgent-sneaking-up-on-a-US-base. That was a lovely remote controlled IED you planted last week. And that sure is a great mortar you are setting up in a patch of dead ground near the medical hospital. Oh I am sorry, did I forget to introduce you to *our* remote controlled ED's? Good bye.

By June, soldiers in the Army's Stryker Brigade, which operates mainly in and around the northern city of Mosul, will be able to pick out an individual anti-personnel munition from a minefield of hundreds and explode it by pushing a computer's touch screen from many yards away.

The system, known as Matrix, is part of the Army's emerging arsenal of "smart" land mines that military officials say are meant to do away with the accidental deaths and maimings caused by their not-so-smart brethren.

Twenty-five sets of mines, including M18 Claymores, and the laptops that trigger them over a wireless network are being rushed into the field after the system was successfully tested in September.

It is an unfortunate fact that landmines are a very useful weapon that leave a horrible and dangerous legacy long after a conflict is over. Using a system which renders them safe unless operated by a human is a terrific idea.

Lethal wit

On the topic of amusing lines, Leigh Matthews continued his verbal stoush with Collingwood during the launch of the Salvation Army's Red Shield Appeal:

"If someone's weak, we're going to take advantage of that weakness as best we can," Matthews said, in comments replayed on ABC radio.

"If they're mentally disadvantaged, we're going to take advantage of that as we can . . . but we don't play Collingwood every week so we can't really do that."

Well duh..

AUSTRALIA will not automatically sign a non-aggression pact with its Asian neighbours just because New Zealand has signed up, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today.

Hardly an earth shattering statement by Lexie there, and it was probably in response to a stupid question by a journo.

Australia has consistently refused to join ASEAN nations in signing the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation, a pact banning the use of violence to settle regional conflicts.

But that's not all it bans, as the Professor has pointed out. Quoting a paper published by New Zealand's Centre for Strategic Studies, he notes that the treaty has imposed the following obligations on signatories:

1/ Refraining from criticising the actions of the governments of member-states towards its (sic) own people.

2/ Directing criticism at the actions of states that are perceived to constitute a breach of the principle of non-intervention.

3/ Denying recognition, sanctuary, or other forms of support to any rebel group seeking to destabilise or overthrow the government of a neighbouring state.

4/ Providing political support and material assistance to member-states in their actions against subversive activities.

If the Australian Government were to follow number 1 strictly then the same people criticising Howard for not signing the treaty would berate him for not criticising some Asian countries for their poor human rights activities. The News.com.au report continued:

But the Government eased its hardline stance against the treaty after ASEAN members flagged that being a signatory to the pact would be a precondition to joining the crucial East Asia summit later this year.

Why is the summit "crucial"? Sure, it would be nice for Australia to attend ASEAN shindigs, but there is not even a hint in this report as to why it is "crucial" enough to require Australia to sign a sweeping treaty as a condition of entry.

Downer also takes the opportunity for bit of old fashioned kiwi bashing as well:

"Australia is a proud and independent country and we're able to beat New Zealand at rugby, we thrashed them at cricket, and there's no reason why we should always do what New Zealand does.

"We're a bit more confident a country than that."

Unecessary? Certainly. Amusing? Definitely.

Did you know?

To get in on the current Pope o-mania, can I point out that the Pope's full title is

"Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriach of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God"

Can you imagine the business cards?

By comparison, the Orthodox Pope goes by the much more reasonable

"Successor of Saint Mark the Apostle, Shepherd of Shepherds, Father of Fathers, Supreme Pontiff of All Metropolitans and Bishops, Judge of the World, and Beloved of Christ"

The Coptic Pope is positively restrained, being formally known as

"Pope and Patriarch of the See of Alexandria and of All the Predication of the Evangelist St. Mark"

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Women's sport isn't as good as mens..

Louisa Deasay appears to be labouring under the assumption that the sports media creates the public's interest in sport, rather than reflects it:

Open the sports section of any paper on any given day and you'll struggle to find a mention of a female sportswoman. Similarly, turn on the TV at a weekend and you'll be besieged by soccer, footy, motocross or men's basketball. Why is it that in 2005 women can vote, become self-made trillionaires, join the army, become the US secretary of state, (supposedly) become prime minister, but can't play in the AFL?

Maybe because top level sport requires speed and strength that women, unfortunately, can't biologically achieve? Why can I (supposedly) become PM, but not play in the AFL? Probably because I am slow and unfit?

Women need to be taught, just as men are, that their bodies are magnificent, powerful and capable of amazing physical achievements and not just skinny, weak-looking trophies made to grace the arm of a footballer on Brownlow night.

Couldn't agree more. I would fully encourage more participation of women in sport, but you can't force people to enjoy watching women's sport by mandating that the media give a certain amount of coverage to it.

The recent revelation that 80 per cent of the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami were women was partly attributed to the fact that women had a harder time climbing trees and running as fast as men. Even in Australia, who can be sure women wouldn't be as wiped out by a similar natural disaster, if we keep on shoving women's physical achievements under the rug and making it harder for them to be the best (sports) people they can be?

This has got to be one of the most laughable attempts to use a current tragedy to push an agenda that I have ever seen. She is suggesting that we are placing Australian women at risk of dying in a natural disaster because their failure to play enough sport will render them unable to run away quick enough or climb a tree high enough.

It doesn't matter if Little Athletics will take eight-year-old Jenny for baseball, for example. If all the media soaked up in Jenny's house reflect nothing but male baseball, Jenny is going to need five times more determination to continue playing if there's clearly no future in it. But if eight-year-old John enjoys baseball, he'll follow it through much more easily, not even knowing that he could have had a female rival; she dropped out years ago because she'd never seen a girl baseball player on TV and didn't want to be weird.

Johnny would also know that he would eventually have no female rivals by the time he finished puberty, because he would be a foot taller and 20 kilos bigger than them. And why would Jenny stop purely because there is "clearly no future in it"? Is Deasay suggesting that girls only play sport if they think they can go pro? What about the love of the game?

And when television, newspapers and radio start paying a bit more attention to women who are reaching the top of their games - or are even at the middle, as they do with men - then perhaps the wage gap, the sponsorship gap, and all the associated health gaps will begin to shrink.

Unfortunately I am worried that Deasay actually believes this - that if the media would just pay more attention to womens sport, then the public (and sponsers - back to the money issue again!) would, rather than acknowledging that the media and the money follow the crowds interest. The media has some part to play certainly, but all the media attention in the world won't knock a second off your sprint time, or add 200 meters to your drive.

Studies suggest that due to biological differences, women are better at some tasks than men. Similarly, biological differences mean that men at the elite level are better at sport than women.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005
a thousand words

The Associated Press won a Pulitzer prize for Breaking News photography for their work in Iraq. You can see the photos here.

You will note that they all show US soldiers either being shot at, guarding prisoners, or dealing with wounded. The "insurgents" get a photo with a white dove on their shoulder (i kid you not) or else brutally executing an Iraqi election worker. You can see a summary of the controversy that surrounded that photo here.

I do find it amazing that they couldn't manage to fit in a single photo of that little election that the Iraqis had recently. You know the one, where 8 million people ignored the threats of murder to come out and vote. Where they were crying over their chance to finally have a say in who governed them. Any of this ring a bell? No? Didn't think so.

Peace in our time

Nobody said anything in the media today which annoyed me, so it is time to see what our kooky cousins in Japan have been up to.

First up - a walking mech. With guns. Sure, the video available on the site makes it clear that the thing is made of fibreglass and can move at about 1 kilometre an hour, but who cares. An armoured robot's journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step...

Second - somebody has created a kit replica of the motorcyle from Akira. It is built on a scooter platform, and looks kind of dinky, but it is a postive development. Honda released a prototype some time ago that was heavily influenced by the design, so hopefully it is just a matter of time before I can ride my Akira-type bike to my job at the giant armoured robot factory...

Monday, April 04, 2005
Why do they hate us?

Terrorism is bred by the "root causes" of poverty, resentment, the US blah blah etc etc - right?

The analysis of 500 members of Osama bin Laden's organisation has turned Western experts' presumptions about al-Qa'ida upside down.

Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist who conducted the study, said he assumed it would find that most recruits were poor and ill-educated.

"The common stereotype is that terrorism is a product of poor, desperate, naive, single young men from Third World countries, vulnerable to brainwashing and recruitment into terror," he said.

However, his study showed 75per cent of the al-Qaeda members were from upper-middle-class homes and that many were married with children; 60 were college-educated, often in Europe or the US.

And a lot of them were from Saudi Arabia - an erstwhile ally. The article finishes with this:

But Dr Sageman and Mr Anas agree that more recent al-Qaeda recruits are likely to come from less privileged backgrounds.

So you have admitted that your previous assumptions were completely wrong, but we should take your word for it that you will be correct about more recent recruits?

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