Attila the Pun
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Roll up roll up

Unfortunately, visiting Crikey to read that amusing Latham transcript also required me to swim through the rest of the rubbish there. A good example is an article by Christine Wallace on voluntary voting.

It ignores the fact that all the assumptions about voluntary voting (i.e. it favours conservatives) are about 60 years out of date, and whips out every tired cliche in the book:

If you're sick, poor or exhausted trying to cover a minimum-wage job, you're more likely to skip voting if there's no penalty for doing so. And it's not thrashing the class stereotype too hard to suggest such voters tend to back the Democrats in the US and Labor in Australia.

Sick people are more likely to vote Labor? Does she have figures to back that up?

Conversely, Ralph Lauren polo-shirt wearing Republicans (for Australia, read Liberals) keen on keeping tax cuts rolling are not going to miss out casting their vote, even if it means diverting the Beemer for five minutes on the way to the country club for a couple of Long Island Iced Teas. And while that may make only a couple of points difference to party support, that could be the difference between winning and losing.

There is a point to using outlandish stereotypes for amusement/wind up value, but that is high school level stuff. Besides, if these poor Labor voters decide not to exercise their right to vote in the way that their BMW driving cousins do, whose fault is that?

In the US, Bill Clinton wouldn't have won in 1992 had Ross Perot not split the conservative vote to stymie President George Bush Snr's re-election bid. Every US Democrat faces a formidable task every single election even getting supporters registered to vote, let alone getting them to polling booths.

Unlike Republicans, who can pack them in? Its funny how Clinton managed to win back to back elections then isn't it.

Senator Minchin told ABC Radio PM's Alexandra Kirk on Monday that last weekend's New Zealand election, with an 80% turnout, was an advertisement for voluntary voting. "I'll keep arguing the case for Australians to have the right to choose whether or not to vote, and I hope our Government will seek a mandate at the next election to be able to introduce voluntary voting if we're successful at the next election," he told Kirk.

Which if they won, people like Wallace would claim that it didn't represent a mandate of course.

Minchin said he hadn't discussed it with the prime minister but that "his personal view, I know, and he's expressed it publicly, is that he thinks you shouldn't be guilty of an offence for not voting." There are "many, many Liberals who share my view, from the Prime Minister down," Minchin told PM, "so I hope we can build a consensus around what is a very liberal position on this issue, and that we can give Australians the right that New Zealanders have."

I would have thought that giving people the right to vote (as opposed to the obligation) and removing the ridiculous offence of not voting, would be a pretty compelling argument. It certainly appeals to a few, judging by the reader reaction following the piece.

But of course, the section of the Crikey readership who like having the Government tell us what to do had to then pipe up:

Trevor Kruger writes:

Both Roy Morgan and Crikey seem to be guilty of aiding and abetting the spin of the politicians with regard to the myth of "compulsory voting" in Australia. What IS legally "compulsory" is for each voter to attend and receive voting slips at a polling booth at each election. One does not have to choose between persons or parties as the question suggests. Answering a question about how one feels about having to turn up on voting day addresses an entirely different issue.

I find this argument (which gets trotted out every time) deeply stupid and deeply insulting. They aren't even trying to defend the situation on grounds of civic obligation or responsibility, instead they argue that the government will only fine us for not showing up. What kind of ridiculous law is that?

Brian Mitchell writes:

It's a conundrum. How can one support a liberal democracy but insist on compulsory voting? The same way one insists on compulsory tax-paying, or compulsory testing to get a driver's licence, or on compulsory attendance at jury duty. There are benefits and responsibilities in being a citizen.

That's more what I expect, but its still wrong. Voting is a right, fining me for not exercising it transforms it into an obligation. I don't have a "right" to be taxed. As for driving, I am not fined if I don't drive, but if I want to drive, then I must do it in accordance with the law. Likewise, if I choose to vote, then I must follow the electoral laws. Nobody fines me if I choose to walk everywhere.

One compromise might be to confer voting obligations only upon those who register as active citizens.

Robert Heinlen in Starship troopers suggested you should have to do military service to qualify - fancy that idea Brian?

The unwashed masses would then be free of the onerous duty, but they should no longer be able to partake in activities such as government employment or receipt of government welfare.

According to Christine, public servants and dole bludgers all vote Labor anyway, so that sounds great from Minchin's point of view.

Margaret Kent writes:

Since when did Australians not have the right to "not vote"? What a furphy. Australians who are eligible to vote are legally obliged to attend a polling booth, have their names crossed off the electoral roll and return the ballot papers which they may choose to mark accurately or which they may choose not to mark at all, in other words, not vote. Get it straight Senator Minchin.

Good thing you are here to sort us out Margaret. To make you happy, would you prefer that we referred to it as "compulsory turning up to polling booths"" and called for its abolition?

Simon Rolfe writes:

Must be getting close to the silly season if this old chestnut is rearing its ugly head again. We DO NOT have compulsory voting in Australia. We have compulsory attendance at a polling station. It is not compulsory to fill in the voting form, it is not compulsory to put the vote in the ballot box.

See what I mean - is it not insulting that people consider that a devastating response to a situation where the government will fine (and potentially jail) you for not exercising your right to vote?

An anonymous subscriber writes:

If ever there was a reason to force people to vote it was the recent suffering of the poor and disadvantaged in New Orleans. If those folk had cast votes I don't believe they would have been so abandoned by their governments. There is nothing like the fear of loss of office to get pollies off their a*ses.

By that logic, shouldn't the conclusion be that those people should have voted? To conclude that the solution would be for the Government to fine them for not voting is peverse.

Robert Bruinewoud writes:

Provide me with proof that voluntary voting will produced better results for ALL Australia, and not just for certain sections of it, and I may be persuaded.

Better in what way? How about you will no longer be fined for failing to exercise a right?

True, I'm against voluntary voting because of what I see happening in the USA, but to call it "dislike" is too mild – "sh*t scared" might be a better description. And while Charles's examples of functioning democracies that do have voluntary voting is heartening, can we be sure that there are no communities in these countries who have lost their voice due voluntary voting?

Catch the secret codeword there? USA = we all nod sagely, knowing that the USA is close to a dictatorship, even though Bush could have easily lost, and is forbidden from running again (which in itself is anti-democratic). And how do they lose their voice? They don't. They may choose not to use it, but again, that is their choice. Personal responsibility people - live it.

Ben Aveling writes:

Voting is not mandatory in Australia. You are required to attend a polling booth and to have your name checked off.


Commie lube

Its always nice to see that Australia can still produce goods the whole world wants to buy. Our latest and greatest export - Che Guevara lip balm!

The retailer describes it thus:

Exotic, revolutionary lip balm dedicated to the great, immortal icon of revolution, Che Guevara. 100% natural protection. Guava flavour. 4g tub.

I know that if I were ever a murdering commie, I would certainly want lip balm, and other skin care products, dedicated to my memory.

Some customers have left comments:

Name: Val
From:Miami, Florida,
Nice photo of Che you used for the packaging! If I use this balm, will it give me an obstinate, sexy lower lip like his?

Name: CJ
From:Boise, United States
Am waiting for your next great ideas: Hitler's Sunblock, Stalin's Eyeshadow, Pol Pot's Face Cream........

I was going to do a joke similar to that.

Name: Rob Redford
From:Hollywood, USA
I wondered how Che manage to keep his lips chap free while shooting prisoners in the back of the neck at La Cabana. He's so cool. Cheek bones that make women swoon.

Even Hollywood stars want some.

Name: Karl Marx
From:deep in the jungle, Bolivia
Capitalism at it's finest. Che would be so proud. Cool that you have guava flavor. He would have loved it as he begged for his life.

Now Karl, thats just mean. The same store also sells a "Bush Kit" which I was hoping was full of blood, oil and lies, but unfortunately appears to contain tea and damper ingredients.

Turn it up

I remain eternally grateful that the Australian public had the good sense to not make Mark Latham our PM, but I will be damned if I can think of a political figure that has provided me with this much amusement in such a short period of time. When the Latham Diaries hit the bargain bin, I am pretty sure I am going to shark a copy.

I am not sure if Latham has completely lost it, or if he is just enjoying speaking to various media types in the manner in which he wished he always could have. Check out Crikey's transcript of a recent interview between Latham and the ABC's Matthew Abraham:

Abraham: It's okay to smear somebody if you do it with your name on it?

Latham: We're going to have to talk about specifics. You're making this generalisation, I don't know if you've actually read the book.

Abraham: I have.

Latham: Okay, you're making this allegation about smearing people. Give your listeners the specific thing that's got up your nose.

Abraham: In recent days, people have had to come out and deny the rumour that you've repeated in the book about them; Pru Goward, Kate Fisher, Kate Ellis, Kim Beazley's daughters.

Latham: Have you read the book? It's not Kate Fisher.

Abraham: I have read the book.

Latham: Kate Fisher's not in the book. Turn it up.


Abraham: Does it connect with you that you have smeared her because by repeating a rumour, that a lot of people wouldn't have been aware of,and saying this isn't true, it then raises the question - you get the rumour out there, it gives it a lot more credence than it may ever have had.

Latham: Well, maybe in your perverted mind it does, but it doesn't in mine. If someone says it's not true, they're saying that in black and whiteand this person's been hard done by, then the literal meaning of that means it's not true, this person's been hard done by. I don't know what you sort of get up to in your wild imagination when you read these things Matthew. Maybe like other people in the media with an obsession with sex, but you need to read the literal words there, take the literal meaning.


Latham: Turn it up, you're the one who just said in this interview that I spooked myself. I'm not complaining about it, I've set it down in the book. This is the Mad Hatter's tea party, as ever interviewed by you, you're just running around in circles. It's hilarious.

Abraham: Well, I'm glad you're enjoying it, I wouldn't want it to be an unpleasant experience. Your descriptions of women in the book as 'quality box and boiler bunnies', is that how you refer to women? What is a bunny boiler?

Latham: when you watch that movie with Glenn Close and Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction is the name of the movie, she sticks the bunnies in the boiler. You need to go down to the pub, talk to your mates, get with the lingo.

Abraham: I don't spend a lot of time at the pub.

Latham: Oh no, I'm sure you don't.

I never rated Latham's "I use aussie lingo" approach, but when it comes to getting stuck into an ABC interviewer, I am all for it. He keeps going:

Abraham: You go into a fair bit of that about your previous wife, too, I just wonder whether anything is out of bounds?

Latham: Well it's all there in the diary and people can make their judgement. I found in public life the media had no ethics, there was no moral standard when you've got a cadre of journalists who go through garbage bins to find their stories I've got a fair bit to say about the media in this book in response, as you've pointed out.

Abraham: I wasn't asking about that but anyway.

Latham: No, you had another sexually related question and I think you really should see someone who's read Freud and can give you some better advice about how to handle these things.

Abraham: Well you can duck and weave around that one Mark Latham.

Latham: Got any more sex questions, this is so typical of the media and I think it's tragic that it's on the ABC, wouldn't you think thepublic broadcaster would want to talk about the serious issues in this book instead of a perverted commentator there, who's highlighted the sexy bits in the book and that's all he can get his hands on.

Abraham intends on wrapping it up with the traditional "thanks for speaking to us" line, but Latham won't have a bar of it:

Abraham: Mark Latham thank you for talking to 891 Mornings.

Latham: Yeah, well Matthew, good to know that you haven't changed one iota mate, and I'm very surprised your program never made it into the diary because you and the other jibberer were quite legendary in our office things never change, hey.

Abraham: Well I was disappointed I wasn't in there.

Latham: It's a miracle you weren't, my press secretary, you'll probably be in his diary he had quite a thing for you and I'm seeing him tomorrow and I'll let him know that nothing's changed there at the ABC in Adelaide and one of the joys of putting you on the list and doing the interview was just to check out that fact it's nice to have some consistency at the good old Adelaide ABC . You have a good day Matthew and I hope you can read the book in full and have a look at some of those public policy and bigger issues as well.

Abraham: Mark Latham thank you. Former National Labor Party Leader on 891ABC Adelaide.

Aaaah Mark - long may you hang around throwing hand grenades at the ALP and ABC

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Iowahawk has come up with quite the scoop - a guest post by none other than Abu Musab Al-Zarqawri, Senior VP, Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Let me tell you, he aint happy:

Case in point: after taking in the nards in Tel Afar last week, let's just say the martyr recruiting has gone a little slow. And speaking of 'a little slow,' can we talk about this latest busload of asswipes from Damascus? Jeez, I thought the Saudis were stupid, but these Syrians take the fucking baclava. Send one of these choads on a simple martydom operation against a Bagdhad collaborator elementary school, and they're like, "Durrrr, a thousand pardons effendi, I got lost! Doyyyy, can I have a martyrdom car with OnStar?" Then you end up having to print out MapQuest directions for them, which totally chews up printer cartridges, and they end up smeared along some desert freeway because they mistook the detonator button for cruise control.


So anyway, I'm dealing with this garbage yesterday, in the middle of a meeting with my French ad agency, when Achmed comes in and he's like, "come effendi! Allah be praised! The infidels are marching against the Satan Bush on the C-SPAN2!"

So I'm like, cool, gather up the boys and throw some Pop Secret in the microwave, this ought to be a morale booster. Allah knows we
need one. Then everybody gathers around the TV, and they're all like ululating and shooting off the AKs, when C-SPAN2 breaks out of Booknotes for live coverage of the big insurgent offensive.

Holy. Fucking. Dung.

Have you every been at Friday prayers when somebody just totally rips a gigantic falafel gasbomb while the Imam is cursing the crusaders and Jews? That's what it was like around the TV -- total dead silence. And with every shot of another placard-waving
elderly hippie moron, every pachouli drum circle, possibly even more silence.

Read the whole thing - I am confident it is the only place you will see the words "martyr-tard" and "bankles" used in the same sentence.

Monday, September 26, 2005
Enough rope

Nobody has ever suggested that the Australian's "Cut & Paste" section doesn't have a sense of humour. Rather than present a devestating critique of stupid ideas, it sometimes just lets people dig their own hole.

For example - here is Jenny Garrett, Mungo MacCallum's girlfriend, in a February edition of the Good Weekend:

HE (Mungo) distresses me when he can't see beyond the depression of the immediate. After (John Howard beat Mark Latham in last October's federal election), he was very depressed. We both literally cried. He's a very passionate man. He yells at the situation, he yells at the stupidity of the Australian populace, he yells at his journalist colleagues, who he feels have let him down terribly. When he's depressed, he drinks to the point where I think it's endangering his health – at least a bottle of wine a day. We blame John Howard for a lot of things, and yes, John Howard drove him to drink.

A left wing journalist railing against the stupidity of the Australian people? I am shocked, shocked I tell you.

Too small to play football

Giving hope to all of us who were not blessed with the physique to play professional sports is Michael King of the NY Jets.

Standing at 6'3 in real life, EA have made him approximately 7 inches tall in the new Madden Xbox game.

Check out the screenshots (scroll down for more)

Thankfully for the Jets, the collision box for King is the same as a normal player, so this pint size dynamo can still block and tackle like a full sized player.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

More internet nerd goodness - a homemade sentry gun.

It only fires plastic BB's, but it looks great, and I give him extra points for using his little brother as his test subject.

Thursday, September 22, 2005
All the lonely people

Have a look at the Getty Images photos for Cindy Sheehan's recent march on Washington. Here is the wire coverage it received.

How many people do you think attended this rally? Try this photo instead.

Thats right - about 30 people.

(via LGF)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005
I'm so ronery

Paul Kelly celebrates the "death knell" of the Bush Doctrine:

THE North Korean agreement offers new hope for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and for China-US relations; and, above all, is an incentive for a more realistic Bush foreign policy.

Yep, this agreement shows that the way to deal with power mad dictators is not through the threat or use of force, but through appeasement and bribery. Thats how you achieve a meaningful agreement which will be honoured by all parties.

The agreement is fragile and may not hold.

Funny you should say that Paul, here is the Age's Hamish McDonald:

NORTH Korea has backed away from a key part of its agreement to scrap its nuclear programs, less than 24 hours after the deal was signed following two years of wrangling with and its four main neighbours and the US.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry said yesterday it would not dismantle its nuclear facilities or return to international safeguards until Washington first provided it with light-water atomic power stations.

Well colour me shocked. The North Koreans have promised to give up their weapons program only after the US builds them nuclear power stations. We can of course trust the North Koreans to then honour their part of the bargain, rather than decide to dust off their program every time they feel like extracting some further concessions or aid.

Hitch v Gruesome George

Christopher Hitchens has been an ideal pin up boy for pro-Iraq liberation people as he is an excellent writer, not afraid of a verbal stoush and best of all - a leftie.

George Galloway has been an ideal pin up boy for pro-Saddam people because he is pro-Saddam, pro-Syria, anti-US, pro-"insurgents" and best of all - absolutely shameless.

Hitchens has been on Galloway's cause for a while - pointing out the disgraceful situation of a someone, especially a member of the British Parliament, being an unabashed fan and cheerleader for fascist dictators.

His website contains his dossier against Galloway (using Galloway's own words) and makes interesting reading. Galloway in turn has heaped abuse on Hitchens during his recent trip to the US.

This background meant that a public debate between the two was always going to be fiery.

It is a shame that people's opinion of who won the debate seem to be entirely based on their existing thoughts on the war. My thoughts are pretty clear on that topic, so I will leave you to jusge who you thought presented the better case.

Here is a transcript.

For mine, it is pretty clear that Hitchens makes many damning points about the nature of Iraq and the "resistance", the anti-war "movement" and Galloway himself.

In return, Galloway attempts to discredit Hitchens (by pointing out his opposition to the first Gulf War - since acknowledged by Hitchens as an error by him) or just insult him. He also, three days after the anniversary of 9/11, whilst in New York, blames the US for the attacks on the WTC. That doesn't go down as well as he perhaps expected.

The transcript is very long, but some passages which I liked follow:

There are probably some people among you here who fancy yourself as having leftist revolutionary credentials, as far as I can tell that you do from the zoo-noises that you make... And the scars that you can demonstrate from your long, underground, twilight struggle against Dick Cheney. But while you're masturbating in that manner, the Iraqi secular left, the socialist and communist movements, the workers' movement, the trade unions, are fighting for their lives against the most vicious and indiscriminant form of fascist violence that any country in the region has seen for a very long time.


Well, that's easy then, leave them in control of Afghanistan, don't mess around with these people, don't make them angry, don't make them mean. It's your fault. Now this is masochism, uh, but it is being offered to you by sadists.


But, if you'll let, allow me to say so, Amy, just as I am not personally responsible for creating 100,000 al-Qaeda fighters, nor am I here as someone who can answers questions on behalf of the Bush administration, rather to the contrary. Um, the, it's, it's, it's a single issue question with me. I think the president was right to do what the previous president and vice-president, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore, had only promised to do, and what the United States Senate had only voted to do, which was to move Iraq into the post-Saddam Hussein era. All that was decided and repeatedly promised by the preceding administration and by the US Senate when George Bush was still a provincial governor of Texas. So I don't think this is a subject that can be changed just by saying Dick Cheney and knowing that there are enough morons that will always boo when you say that.

CH: I think I can be as precise, but perhaps not as terse as Mr. Galloway on this point. Um, I should thank him by the way, for eliciting, or allowing, allowing me to elicit, or you perhaps ladies and gentleman to elicit from him, what I feared, but didn't hope, but in other words a full declaration of support for the campaign of sabotage, and murder, and beheading that has taken the lives of great journalists, that demolished...


demolished the offices, demolished the offices, demolished the offices of the United Nations.


But I will have to add, that for people to start pumping out propaganda before the bodies have even been uncovered in New Orleans saying, and to make points, demagogic often, they wouldn't be dead if they weren't black. But people haven't been identified yet, whose parents don't know where they are. And to say this wouldn't have happened if we weren't wasting money on Arabs? That, that is an appeal to the most base, provincial, isolationist, and chauvinist mentality.


CH: You're on TV.


And we have no right whatever, to, to, to, to insult, to insult the tremendous performance of the United States Armed Forces once they are put into action. And I will add one more thing, the 82nd Airborne and the 1st Air Cavalry, so far from being distracted by Iraq, have learned in Iraq matters of civil reconstruction, water-distribution, purification, culture. That have been extremely useful to them in New Orleans. The case, the case. Don't, I will advise you not to jeer these men and women while you're being televised, ladies and gentleman. I would advise you not to do it.


I'm not a member of the Bush entourage. I've never appeared on a public platform with a dictator, I never have and I never will. I couldn't face you if I had that on my record. It must be some sordid kind of displaced guilt that makes Mr. Galloway want to throw out accusations like this. I've never done that, and to come fresh from embracing these blood-stained bastards and to say to you that it's your fault that these people hate you. It's more than we should be expected to take.

[Jeers/"Go home!"]

etc etc. He ums and ahs more than Galloway, but he rips out some beautiful stuff on his feet. For his own take on it, look here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Remember the Bugatti Veyron? Thats the new supercar that requires you to insert a second key to activate "speed mode" and reach its 400kph top speed.

Well, good news. Not only can it do four times the speed limit, but it will also pump out 574g/km of carbon dioxide and achieve fuel consumption of 11.7mpg. The greens hate it of course - it reeks of way too much fun.

As a matter of comparison - thats worse fuel efficiency than the Hummer.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Credit where credit is due. I have been critical of Apple products and coverage in the past (and plan to be in the future), especially the blind adulation that the iPod receives.

That said, the new iPod nano appears to be a pretty sweet piece of kit. A colour screen is nice, the click wheel has always been their greatest asset, and you can finally get it in black (without the stupid red wheel of the black U2 iPod).

Of course, I am sure the sound quality is still ordinary, and it will still come with nasty cheap headphones.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Jonah McBushChimpHitler

The Age is going for the ironic look today. We have Tony Parkinson, the last bastion of reason on Spencer Street, with this:

According to his critics, the President can be blamed for causing hurricanes because he ignored the risks of global warming. He can be blamed for exacerbating the consequences of Katrina because he diverted funds and manpower to Iraq. And he can also be blamed for the rape and pillage of New Orleans because his unfair tax policies inflicted on the poor and vulnerable no other choice.

As happened after September 11, the blame game is under way, with Bush cited as the reason for every ill visited upon his nation. The Jonah of the White House. On any calm analysis of cause and effect, of course, much of this hyperventilating is ludicrous, the product of anger, panic or hysteria. Some of it can be put down to partisan point-scoring.

Contrast this with the partisan point scoring by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto on the same page:

Teflon helped Bill Clinton slide out of disasters. George Bush seems coated with armour plating: dense, dull and impenetrable. Terrorists hurl fire and bombs; political opponents let fly insults and derision; Bush's own incompetence bombards him with boomerangs. Most recently, Cindy Sheehan has assailed the President with a mother's tears, which might have found a way to corrode his breastplate or trickle through the chinks. Yet Bush carries on, battered but essentially undamaged.

The undergraduate imagery doesn't improve from here.

Armour, however, is no protection against flood.

I knew Bush's decision to tell New Orleans residents to put on armour was a bad one.

Disasters usually distract critics, silence malcontents, flatter leaders, and improve presidents' ratings. Not this time. Katrina could be the storm that finally scatters Bush's strangely tenacious following.

Note the use of the word "strangely" - Bush has won 2 elections, but Felipe can't for the life of him work out why anybody would vote for him.

It is not just that he has handled the crisis badly. His first response was a bemused look, reminiscent of his mental paralysis at the news of 9/11. He then committed a terrible blunder, telling disaster victims to "take personal responsibility". The individualist message was miscalculated, offensive to the altruism that disasters always ignite.

How is that offensive to altrusim? Is he suggesting that if Bush had have said "don't do anything, the Government will come in and fix everything", things would have worked out uch better?

His gaffes don't end. In storm-torn Biloxi, he referred two distraught women, who collapsed in his arms, to the Salvation Army shelter.

I am not familiar with the incident he is referring to, but it sounds like he did the compassionate thing to me. Sure, he could have milked it - Clinton style - but referring traumatised victims to a Salvos shelter doesn't strike me as a "gaffe".

The terrible truth is now out: the Government cut flood prevention funds to pay for war.

And this "truth" is going to become another article of faith no doubt. File it under "Blood for oil, Plastic Turkeys, 100,000 dead etc".

Countless unbiased journalists have reported how non-government agencies, charitable institutions, and philanthropic individuals took care of Katrina's victims, while the authorities' efforts seemed invisible - as if the whole operation were a gruesome exercise in privatisation.

Does he care to name which journalists he considers unbiased, and by extension, which are biased?

Americans are bound to make a so far unspoken, but glaringly obvious, comparison with the resolve the Government shows when it tackles the President's real priorities: war, power, petroleum, environmental profligacy.

"War, power, petroleum, environmental profligacy" should be the Republicans election slogan in 2008.

For deeper reasons, the present crisis is particularly challenging for Bush. Like his counterparts in al-Qaeda, Bush is a fundamentalist, with beliefs undisciplined by science or reason.

Bush = Osama. You knew it had to get a look in somewhere didn't you.

Under the "yah boo" exchanges of religious and irreligious zealotry lurks a serious issue. Bush has staked his reputation on eco-scepticism. He doesn't believe in global warming. He shelves environmental projects. He despises Kyoto. He dismisses predictions that nature's revenge will swamp human arrogance. After Katrina, Bush's appraisals of environmental threats look worthless.

He hasn't staked his reputation on eco-scepticism, he has just refused to stake his nation's economy on the economic suicide pact that is Kyoto. And if Felipe is claiming that Katrina was caused by global warming, sorry climate change, then his appraisals of environmental threats are also worthless.

Despite the Lone Ranger rhetoric of freedom, amazing reserves of solidarity bind US society. It starts with neighbourliness, swells into civic pride, and becomes patriotism. My university opened its classes to students displaced from the Gulf Coast, helping to lead a similar movement around the nation. Schools where refugees have taken shelter have done the same.

Did the Government force the university to do that? Of course not, the citizenry acted on its own.

Bush, meanwhile, keeps promising a better future, when what the victims want is present relief. His uneasy optimism seems reflected in the gleaming eyes of fat-cat friends, prowling for prospective reconstruction contracts.

A sly Halliburton reference! We truly are in the presence of a master. Wait till KBR gets its first reconstruction contract - the conspiracy theorists (a.k.a. large sections of the Left) are going to be hysterical.

When the terrorists struck on 9/11, Bush could make any number of mistakes, and still gain in popularity, because there were aliens on hand to hate.

They weren't aliens actually - they were middle eastern muslim terrorists.

This time Bush cannot rail against God or, with his environmental record, make an enemy of nature.

So if he had have signed Kyoto, he could make an enemy of nature?

He cannot bomb the sea or invade the wind.

I warned you about the quality of the imagery.

Even in the context of a natural occurrence, where there is no real enemy, people still need to hate and long for vengeance.

Do they? That seems to say more about Felipe than it does about Bush or America. When an earthquake strikes, I have never seen people hating or longing for vengeance. I see people distraught, or thankful to be alive, but not longing for vengeance.

Slowly, inexorably, with a chilling uniformity, the accusing gazes are focusing on the White House.


Monday, September 05, 2005
Fun for the whole family

The comments to this story are amusing:

AUSTRALIANS are now less conservative in their social and political thinking than they were under Paul Keating.

The notion the country has swung to the Right under John Howard is challenged by the first major study of social attitudes since Labor lost power in 1996.

Australian Social Attitudes: The First Report finds most people are satisfied with the economic gains made since the Prime Minister's election, and that they enjoy their work, are proud of their families, and feel confident and optimistic about the future.

Most would happily give up tax cuts in exchange for more government spending on health or education, and support for immigration has more than doubled since the Keating years.

I query aspect of the study, particularly as people always claim in surveys that they would prefer services to taxes, but the "reader comments" are where the real fun is:

From: Alan
Comment: 1995 - Own 1 bedroom unit worth $60,000, mortgage 50,000 cc debt 0 2005 - Own 5 bedroom house worth 600,000, mortgage 250,000, cc debt 22,000 As you can see I've got a lot of equity now, but after I pay the mortgage and credit cards, I've actually got less disposable income! Especially with the high cost of food, so my lifestyle is worse, this does not make me happy I am also not happy with the social situation, particularly Health and education and the environment. With the high cost of fuel, why aren't the governement using the tax system to encourage us to drive more economical cars? How about anything burning less than 5 litres per 100km is gst free?

So you could sell your 5 bedroom mansion and spend your $350,000 on smaller house. Try sharing a room or two. For someone who is so concerned about the price of fuel, imagine how much energy it takes to warm a place that big. Oh, and stop buying stuff on your credit card. $22,000 at 17% interest - are you insane?

From: heartbeating=happiness
Comment: Richer? Where? My bank account isn't showing that. Seriously, HECS debts, a FTA - that hurts Australian Artists, Grants so hard to come by that Community Groups (eg. Radio Stations) are starting to fold because they can't afford to keep their doors open, how can this be better off for the Nation as a whole? And if you are richer don't you think it's because of YOUR efforts not Johnny's? and PS Johnny can my community's radio station have some money please?

Oh no - grants have become harder to come by for australian community radio stations? How terrible. Here is a tip - try podcasting. Harness new technology, rather than bleating for a public hand out. Oh, and I think your "PS" also explained your bank account status as well.

From: Noel
Comment: Jobwise, never been better off. Money, great. Happier? I will try to leave this now Howardized mediocre island of embarrassment as soon as it is possible to do so. Once proud to be Australian, now ashamed. Can't wait to leave.

So you have become wealthy and succesful here, but the rest of us embarrass you so much that you can't wait to leave? aw shucks - don't let the door hit you on the way out.

From: Tyson
Comment: It seems that the people who pay their own way in society are happier (as I am) while the people who live off the tax payer are unhappy. If you haven't paid for it don't complain.

I don't think Tyson and heartbeat=happiness would get along too well...

From: Jane
Comment: My financial situation is worse and is going to get worse. Mr Howard is intent on ensuring that single parents will no longer have a choice about whether they can be stay at home parents which may be in the best interests of their children. He is going to ensure that by forcing me to work, I will pay the highest possible rate of 'taxation' - higher than Mr Howard himself pays and I feel that the entire situation is contrary to international agreements this country has signed and ratified.

? Did we ratify the International Single Mum Treaty? I must have missed that one.

From: Belinda
Comment: I want to know who those 4000 people are, where they live and what jobs they are currently doing. A study of 4000 people is not an exhaustive study population in a country that has over 8 billion people living in it! I am definitely NOT richer since the Howard government (I refuse to say "since John Howard came into power") came into power nor am I happier. I am studying full-time at university, and have to work a casual job to pay for my living expenses because I receive no help from Centrelink apparently because my parents are supposed to support me (they don't). I can guarantee they are worse off as well.

This one is my favourite. I would love to know what she is studying at university. Not statistics I hope. She is mad that in a country of 8 billion people she is forced to get a job while at uni because the tax payer and mum and dad won't cough up the cash. Diddums.

From: Pauline
Comment: If this is true, why is Howard pushing ahead with his IR plans? He works with smoke and mirrors.

If you learned the secrets of the seven chambers then his tiger style would be no match for yours.

From: Kaister
Comment: Absolutely not. John Howard is a social criminal. All of my bills cost 10 per cent more, fuel prices out of control ( yes Johnny, you can give us relief from the excise short term), annexing the unemployed/ incapacitated with draconian welfare policies and pseudo - white australianisms... A litany of broken promises and half truths - no, my life is not better. Everything costs more, and half of those taxes that were promised for removal at the introduction of the gst weren't. So how can we be better off?

Those would be state taxes you are complaining about I presume?

The rest is either general bitching (mostly about petrol prices) or Howard cheerleading.

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