Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Frog is Back

Yup, kvatch is back in a brand new pond - Ragebot | Impure thoughts for complex times. Life has not been the same without him, and now we get the pleasure of the frogette as well.

I was delighted to be invited to visit the pond, lunch pail overflowing with fat little mosquito larvae. So with flippers and snorkel I’m going to try and turn over a new lily pad, start tossing some pond weed about.

Welcome back froggy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Talk about corruption revisited

That is how this blog began. The trouble is the major themes of corruption simply repeat themselves. Corruption is like the weather, everyone complains about it but no one does anything.

Well why would they? The people in the best position to profit from corruption are the very same people with the power to actually do something about it. Revisiting the issue wasn’t just a relapse; it was spurred on by the current United Nations conference in Bali [Indonesia] studying graft.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a managing director of the World Bank, told delegates that international institutions and the private sector must also contribute because they hold most of the $20bn-$40bn in developing country state assets stolen each year. FT

I don’t have any brief for the word Bank on issues of corruption, but there is a fundamental truth in the comment, wealthy nations drive the corruption in third world countries.

In part, as with the Soeharto family situation, western banks protect the ill-gotten gains of these despots. And why wouldn’t they? Billions of dollars need to be parked somewhere and when you control corrupt banks you are hardly going to use them for storage.

The other side of the coin is that those billions don’t come out of dodgy economies; they come out of powerful western economies. If a bribe is going to be paid it comes from someone who can afford to pay and expects a consequent gain.

Revisiting basic truths becomes bloody tedious, and given these repetitive conferences, bloody expensive. Holding the conference in one of the most corrupt countries in the world (according to Transparency International) makes a mockery out of any potential effort.

I believe it was a comic strip character called Pogo who said – “I have seen the enemy, and it is us…”

Pulling stumps on a noble sport

Australia’s Governor-General Michael Jeffery has weighed into the debate surrounding Australia's stormy cricket series against India, lamenting the loss of grace and courtesy from the game.

That the GG even commented reflects the depth of feeling over the behaviour of Australian and Indian international cricketers. I’ve written before about the on field insults as part of most sports, but this nonsense has spilled over into the public arena, casting all involved in a bad light.

There was a time when cricket was a metaphor for decent and proper behaviour. Always a tough game played without mercy at top level, TV rights and big money have all but destroyed the traditional values of the sport.

I missed cricket the years I was in North America, and looked forward to the traditional summertime contests here in Australia. This season I am ready to walk away from any interest in the game.

These players are extremely highly paid to play cricket, not behave like school yard thugs. When the cash stake went up for players, standards began to drop. The game existed for many years, some say centuries, on its own merits and not as a shallow entertainment.

The GG went on to say: "While we should be playing the game tough and hard and all of that sort of thing, I think there's also a need to really take care of the fundamental courtesies and good manners.

"Good manners on the ground and off the ground have such a good impact on our other cricketing friends around the world. I think we've got to have a little bit of a look at this."

I think the players need to have a good look at themselves and start behaving like adults. Fame and money is obviously too much for these yahoos to deal with.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sorry it’s Kevin, not Mr Rudd Sir

He’s the bloke next door our new Prime Minister, the everyman, a feat he pulls off with consummate skill. I don’t trust the presentation, but I’m impressed with the apparent results.

Parliament has not met yet, which limits change, but it is still happening in a number of subtle ways. One of the biggest weeping sores in this country is now being confronted head on – Rudd’s government is going to say SORRY to the Australian Aboriginals.

This is something John Howard resisted for years, his predecessor Keating was close but never quite made it. Many Australians are still leery of the apology – “why should we feel guilty for something we didn’t do?” So Rudd has made it clear this comes from his government and not the general population.

I have personally said sorry and done what I can in my limited capacity towards reconciliation.. It is not about any feelings of guilt on my part, simply a recognition that somethin terrible happened in this country and it must be acknowledged. The fact I didn’t do it is irrelevant to the fact that it occurred.

The other concern often raised with the sorry issue is compensation. Rudd repudiates that and stresses compensation is not a federal issue. He says the 1997 of Bringing Them Home - Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families gives ample opportunity for legal claims against the States and various organisations involved.

Rudd’s main concern is to take the sorry issue out of the more important discussions on fixing issues like Aboriginal mortality, health, housing and other factors holding them back. It is difficult to talk further when the discussion starts with “say sorry!”

Reducing Gas prices

Rudd’s government is considering a plan to reopen a mothballed oil refinery in Adelaide's south to introduce greater competition and lower prices to the petrol market.

The South Australian government has selected the heavily polluted site as the best place for its planned desalination plant, the report said. But assistant federal treasurer Chris Bowen, the minister with responsibility for petrol, supports the refinery plan.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel has renewed his demand for crisis meetings with the chiefs of Caltex, Shell, BP and Mobil. He sent a "please explain" to the companies after a jump in prices over the Australia Day holiday weekend, with a gap opening between the pump price in Australia and the Singapore Mogas benchmark.

Again Rudd’s government are gathering the facts and coming up with innovative approaches to issues. My betting is that the gas majors will fall into line well before the Aussie government commissions a refinery. If not I like the idea of the country taking back essential infrastructure.

So Kevin, my BS meter flickers with your brilliant presentation, but while you keep delivering the goods you have my support.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Aussie media views on US primaries

Okay, let’s be more specific, these are recent articles from major metropolitan newspapers, the Fairfax and Murdoch stables.

Perhaps nothing new for US followers, but interesting to see what others think. As things heat up editors are making their choices known, even Rupert’s editors. It seems Obama is getting the nod for now.

SMH (Fairfax) Full coverage

This generation's JFK?

Kennedy clan says Obama would be an inspirational President.

Clintons on defensive after latest setback

Hillary concedes Bill got 'carried away' in foul-tempered days before her loss in South Carolina.

Obama's surge confounds cynics

ANNE DAVIES | Race to be Democratic nominee becomes a choice between past and future.

Obama wins South Carolina

Barack Obama wins a vital contest in his quest for presidential nomination.

Clinton hears Obama coming

Democrat race a choice between "past and future".

_________________________________________________________

The Australian (Murdoch)

Kennedy throws weight behind Obama

BARACK Obama's quest for the US presidency gained a boost as leading Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy planned to formally endorse him.

Obama wins key South Carolina vote

SENATOR Barack Obama has won an invigorating victory over White House foe Hillary Clinton in South Carolina.

Long may he wait

Prince Charles has become the world's longest serving wannabe king - 59 years and 74 days in his wait to be Britain's king. The wait hasn’t made him any more attractive as a head of state.

As much as I detest having a British monarch as the constitutional head of my country I’m reluctant to push the issue when Australia has so many more pressing issues to deal with. Though I do expect it will happen under a Rudd government.

I met Charles many years ago, Di was on the other side of the hall where they had divided the task of meeting the provincial yeomanry. It wasn’t an enlightening occasion, the couple might have been well paid for the task, but it still must be like torture greeting mobs of slavering royal fans.

I wasn’t, by the way, but never shrink from an opportunity. The body language of the royal couple was somewhere between pure boredom and inner rage. The latter of course driven by the fact that Di was ordered to leave her new born kid back in the Palace and the couple really didn’t much enjoy each others company. No more than they enjoyed the company of their subjects, I expect.

The last time Charles visited Australia, a couple of years ago, it coincided with a visit from our very own Princess Mary of Denmark. The aging wannabe was pretty much ignored when he had to compete against the gorgeous Mary.

I expect if Australia was forced to retain a foreign monarch as head of state the choice would quickly switch to Denmark. But Mary knows that wouldn’t work either, better to remain loved than fall into that trap.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Soeharto dies – just a blip in justice

He has gone, but the legacy lingers.

Many of my Australian friends assume my concern about Soehato’s excesses ralate to the Balibo Five. Believe me I revere the spirit of Australian journalism, and these victims of Soehato’s butchery would ask nothing less than that we force the revelation and prosecution of all those who benefited from his crimes.

I have already gathered some of the background and ask that everyone who cares about justice do the same. The death of a feeble old man does not repudiate his crimes against humanity and does not excuse those who continue to profit from it.

Previous related posts:

The Soeharto Legacy

Pardon me Soeharto or Suharto

Remembering Soeharto / Suharto

The terror of corruption

Where patriotism is a one liner

When you have to suffer a view like this every morning, where four seasons are words rather than events, where we thing it normal to have a leader called Kevin, a sense of humour is essential.

So here is one offering for Australia Day: From How do you tell if you are a true Aussie?

  • You know the meaning of the word "girt".
  • You believe that stubbies can be either drunk or worn.
  • You've made a bong out of your garden hose rather than use it for something illegal such as watering the garden.
  • You believe it is appropriate to put a rubber in your son's pencil case when he first attends school.
  • You can translate: "Dazza and Shazza played Acca Dacca on the way to Maccas."

There is a long list, if you think you can take more. Oh! And I’m always willing to try and translate.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Perennial election season

Some regulars might have noticed my passion for matters electoral, and campaigns of course. I thought it might be time for a general round-up.

Election: Italy

Romano Prodi displaced Silvio Berlusconi as Italian Prime Minister back in 2006. It was a shaky centre left coalition, with the promise of delivering a model for stable and effective government for te country.

Under Berlusconi the country was dogged by corruption allegations, not to mention self serving government. That Prodi lasted 20 months is a minor miracle, but his government was bought down with the resignation of the Justice Minister.

Clemente Mastella and his small family-run centrist Udeur party pulled out of the coalition so Mastella could concentrate on corruption allegations against him.

Calling early elections or asking a politician to try to form another government are among President Giorgio Napolitano's options as head of state. Napolitano will now start consulting with political leaders to help him decide.

Elections: Pakistan

Pakistan's cricket hero-turned-politician Imran Khan has called on the United States to pressure President Pervez Musharraf to reinstate sacked top judges or face the prospect of Kenya-type post-election violence.

Khan, speaking in Washington, said that if Musharraf, a key US "war on terror" ally, rigged February 18 parliamentary elections as speculated, "it is, in fact, going to exacerbate everything".

"The chances are that we would have a Kenya-type situation, where people are not going to accept their election results" and "the country will sink into a deeper crisis," warned Khan, leader of the marginal Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) party, which is boycotting the polls. SMH

I recently commented on the need for International observers for US elections, so here is the reverse, US intervention in Pakistani elections:
Eight US senators ask for UN probe into Benazir’s murder Daily Times
US senators urge steps for genuine democracy Pakistan Dawn
Senator Casey Urges Bush to Restore Stability in Pakistan All American Patriots
US Senators press for restoration of deposed judges The Nation, Pakistan
Sherry urges US to use its influence to ensure free and fair elections
Daily Times, Pakistan

Election: Zimbabwe

Meanwhile the world is mute on Zimbabwe elections, which sounds like an oxmoron anyway. Robert Mugabe has announced that presidential, general and local elections will be held on Saturday, March 29, following the dissolution of parliament on March 28, drawing fierce criticism from the opposition.

Election not: Britain

Old Blighty isn’t sure when their general elections will be held. Seems the governing Labour Party needs to sort out a few corruption inquiries first. It is likely British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will put off an election until at least 2009.

Meanwhile Musharraf arrives in Britain on pre-election European tour, a great example of democracy in practice.

Election not quite yet: Canada

Prime Minister Stephen Harper zeroed in on the economy in an election-style speech suggesting the potential of taking his minority Conservative government to an early election. It is a matter of watch this space, I’m a sucker for Canadian elections.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Australia Day

When I wake up in the morning, Jan 26, it will be Australia Day. I’m not sure about the US, I believe it was celebrated in LA on Wednesday last. Well, the yanks have to beat us at some things…

Google Australia launched a new initiative for Australian schools called "Doodle 4 Google" last July. The competition invited school children across the nation to design a themed Google logo inspired by the topic "My Australia".

The winner popped up tonight, seen right and linked to google.au. A design by 12-year-old Janelle San Juan a Victorian student won the Doodle 4 Google competition. Janelle's illustration "A scene of sheer formality" was one of 10,000 entries from more than 2500 schools across Australia.

This initiative is probably a good indication of why Google have become so powerful. Their in house designs are always fun, but letting the kids have a go is a real winner.

As for our Australia Day, it will be wet in the mid 70s. It has hardly been the summer we are used to, but I guess the rain is welcome. More welcome than the Kansas based evangelist, Fred Phelps, on the news tonight explaining how Australia is the land of Sodom.

Okay, so it is cooler than we like, a lot wetter, but if you want to escape those evangelical nutters you are welcome to come make sure we keep them outnumbered. Can’t guarantee the sodomy, though I doubt any self respecting gay would be attracted to Fred.

Medical miracle or cause for concern?

Like most people I’m delighted for Demi-Lee, 15-year-old liver transplant patient who has made a miraculous recovery. But something about this miracle leaves me unsettled. Let’s look at the unfolding drama:

How the 'miracle' happened

After an unspecified viral illness Demi-Lee has liver transplant. Anti-rejection drugs taken

Nine months later she falls ill. Her blood type changes to that of her donor

New liver's blood stem cells penetrate her bone marrow

Her body performs its own bone marrow transplant by donor's blood cells taking over her immune system and no longer treating liver as foreign

Her body no longer treats the donated liver as foreign

Demi no longer requires anti-rejection drugs. She is a normal, healthy teenager

She was given less than 48 hours to live when a donated liver from a 12-year-old boy became available. Her body seemed to be rejecting something, as it turned out her own blood/immunity system. She’s a cute, intelligent kid and I really hope she goes on to live a full and normal life.

Doctors, of course, want to understand the mechanism which caused what seems to me a spontaneous mutation. The odds of it happening unaided are enormous, but to actually consider generating something so powerful without fully knowing the consequences as well as the mechanics is an unsettling thought.

A couple of news links

…changed blood types and immune system

Transplant girl's blood change a 'miracle'

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Soeharto Legacy

For a general background – see Suharto - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia or Suharto killer file

An impatient obituary

Like many dictators Soeharto was good at staying in power but lacked the intellectual skills to provide decent government. His ministers were worse, to ensure they were not a direct threat to him.

As a pro-business president he provided extensive red tape to ensure the business of corruption ran smoothly and profitably. Supply and prices of key commodities were controlled by his henchmen and his family. It was a case of divide and profit.

Soeharto did not pay his ministers a liveable wage. He expected them to take bribes to survive. He allowed officials to pillage Pertamina, the state-owned oil company. His brutal subjugation of East Timor was an effort to control the rich Timor Gap oilfields.

Foreign investors soon found out that the road to success of an application was to have a member of Soeharto's family as a local partner. They used a system of "carried interests" to circumvent the West's anti-corruption rules. Corporations would give the Soeharto family a 10% stake without any upfront payment but that was supposed to be paid for from a project's future earnings.

The family connection

Soeharto is to be buried in a plot near his late wife, Siti Hartinah Soeharto, known as "Madam Tien", who dies in 1996.

He is survived by sic children and other extended family members. The children:
Siti Hardiyanti Hastuti (Tutut, born 1949)
Sigit Harjojudanto (born 1951)
Bambang Trihatmodjo (born 1953)
Siti Hediati (Titiek, born 1959)
Hutomo Mandala Putra (Tommy, born 1962)
Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih (Mamiek, born 1964)

While the surviving family might be mourning their elder they will also be concerned about the spotlight turning on them:

"According to our civil law, debts will never be settled unless they are paid. So, Soeharto's burden will be inherited by his family members once he dies," prosecutor Yoseph Suardi Sabda said in an anti-corruption workshop.

The government is seeking to recoup $US 240 million and $US 19.67 million in state money allegedly misused by his foundations. All of Soeharto's children are believed to be billionaires and own companies ranging from media outlets to banking and automotive companies.

Although data is still difficult to verify, Soeharto is listed in the UN's StAR (Stolen Assets Recovery) initiative document, as having wrongly appropriated between $15- and $35 billion-worth of public assets during his 32 years in power.

Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, seems to be the most hapless of the spawn. So far he is the only member of the clan to be prosecuted for corruption and investigated for the murder of a judge.

'Tutut' is the most politically ambitious; her father has once made her a member of his Cabinet. 'Bambang' is one of the 10 richest men in the country with a personal fortune estimated at more than $US3 billion.

Indonesia is in the process of recovering $100 million worth of assets belonging to Tommy stashed in an account at the London branch of Bank Nationale de Paris Paribas. This is just a portion of the loot Soeharto’s family and cronies have planted around the world.

Some Soeharto Quotes

"Suharto brought improvements. He brought the World Bank, and first and foremost, the culture and practice of planning to Indonesia. But the planning was soon dominated by exceptions, given to his cronies and family, and the power was used against the people and not for them." Political analyst Thang D. Nguyen

"Suharto is responsible for the human rights violations that started in 1965 and for the systemic corruption that occurred during his administration," she said. "I think his totalitarian administration is unforgivable." Human right activist and member of parliament, Nursyahbani Katjasundkana

Suharto's killings of 1965 and 1966 were what Chomsky and I called “constructive terror,” with results viewed as favorable to Western interests. His mass killings in East Timor were “benign terror,” carried out by a valued client and therefore tolerable. Pol Pot's killings, in contrast, were “nefarious terror,” done by an enemy and therefore appalling and to be severely condemned. Pol Pot's victims were “worthy,” Suharto's “unworthy.” Edward Herman

Then Suharto looked at [James] Wolfensohn. "You know, what you regard as corruption in your part of the world, we regard as family values."

Soeharto Kill tally: Up to two million killed following an alleged coup attempt in 1965 (most reports estimate the number at around 500,000). Over 250,000 deaths following the invasion of East Timor in 1975. Thousands more killed in various Indonesian provinces.

Previous related posts

Pardon me Soeharto or Suharto

Remembering Soeharto / Suharto

The terror of corruption

This was an impatient post. I might post more as the mood takes me…

It’s only make believe

Okay, so yesterday I didn’t know who Heath Ledger was, ever since the news broke early in the day the adjectives are over the top – stunned, shattered, devastated… Come on, he might have been a lot of things, but the kid was just an actor. It was about make believe.

Two thirds of Queensland, one of our large states, is inundated by floods. Australian media and news people are being sent, not to Queensland, but the LA and New York. Ledger will be dead a long time, is his passing more immediate than the many communities facing floods today?

One of the most destructive butchers of the last century, which is quite a claim, is close to death. No one I speak too personally here can immediately put a person to the name Soeharto. This is the man who destabilised our enormous neighbour for a generation. It wasn’t make believe.

The US is going through their strange process of choosing a new Chief Executive Officer, a choice which will have a profound effect on us all. Even the tennis manages to get a mention in the ledger crush, but nothing about this vital US politicking.

The world is really out of whack when we squander our resources on gossip and ignore our realities. Have we really become total victims of make believe?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pardon me Soeharto or Suharto

First let me say I have not determined the ideal spelling – Soeharto or Suharto. Even Indonesia’s English language media can’t agree. I guess I’ll stick with the oe version I’m used to. But I’m really choking on the death bed calls to pardon the butcher.

To the surprise of many observers, the anti-corruption Prosperous Justice Party has renewed calls for his pardon. Their justification to forgive the former dictator is for the sake of national reconciliation.

They go on to claim he is one of the country's great leaders. Well given the number of leaders they have had that is a pretty empty call, Soeharto ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 32 years until popular protests forced him out in 1998. Before him was Sukarno who he overthrew then after him a handful of time servers until the current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

One article in the Jakarta Post, by Harry Bhaskara - Opportunity lost in treating Soeharto right takes the opposite view, arguing that if the butcher is pardoned Indonesians will be left without healing answers.

“What a paradox! On one side, he is getting the best health treatment possible in the country, the care and respect of family members, friends and other leaders, while on the other side, this plea for a pardon.

A pardon for what? What has he done?

Was he responsible for the mass murder in the 1960s in which at least half a million people were killed and hundreds of thousands of others were tortured, raped, or jailed without trial? It's not clear.

Did he steal money from the people? It's not clear.

Should he be held accountable for numerous brutalities during his rule? It's not clear as there often were no trials held at the time. If there were, he has always had the power to influence any court proceedings.

Was he responsible for the killing of criminals in the 1980s? Yes, he admitted it in his book Soeharto, My Thoughts, Words and Deeds and yet still there was no trial.”

It is not now a matter of punishment, it is about providing answers to the many who have suffered or lost family and friends during his regime. On the other hand his family, who have enriched themselves through the regime, must face trial and punishment.

To pardon Soeharto now could well have the effect of burying key evidence in prosecuting his family. Even in death all the issues must be legally canvassed, showing the same compassion as the dictator showed for his victims to ensure others involved are revealed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Thousands honour Hillary

I just find this a strange disjointed juxtaposition - Thousands honour Hillary - Mourners pack Auckland [New Zealand] Cathedral for the funeral of Everest's conqueror. Thinking ill of one Hillary and rejoicing for the life of another is an odd feeling.

Those US voting anomalies

The ‘Great democracy’ regularly sends observers to different parts of the world to monitor the fairness of elections. What a bloody cheek when the anomalies, the voter fraud in the US is so blatant and obvious.

From one of my favourite redheads we had an excellent post - Home Means Nevada – detailing the Nevada Democratic primary debacle.

One of the complaints here was the lack of a secret vote. Voters were publicly intimidated to change sides regardless of their real feeling and intentions.

Clinton workers refused to register non-Clinton voters was despicable, as was Union bosses telling non-Obama voters that they couldn't vote if not for Obama.” (TomCat)

International election monitors are fairly rigorous on the need for a secret ballot, there should be no opportunity for voter intimidation.

Clinton supporters who signed in voters would not sign in Obama supporters. Then Obama supporters were told they could leave after turning in their ballot.” Partisan voting officials is another area clearly seen as unacceptable. A personal choice should be just that and the not the choice of a dominant group.

No one seemed to know their precinct number. Volunteers kept referring to maps which no one could find.” No only must electoral officials be non partisan, they should also have all appropriate information available to assist voters.

Now that series of issues is about the right to a secret ballot and the right to proper dynamics to fairly inform and guide, not coerce voters. That is the voting system, ao what is happening to the ballots/electronic votes?

Black Box Voting reports ballot box tampering in the NH contest. - Holes hidden in plain sight. The "seals" are not seals. The "chain of custody" is not a chain of custody.

This pictorial essay details chain of custody breaches and tampered ballot boxes. Also see Ballot boxes found slit.

No worries, say New Hampshire officials when cuts up to eight inches long are spotted in newly delivered ballot boxes. "The only seal that counts is the one on top." International election monitors go apeshit on these types of anomalies.

The heart of the problem, and another issue of for monitors is that a system should be consistent across the board. Because the primaries are essentially a public vote they should be the same from one place to the next. The confusion of ballot systems would not even be acceptable in a closed party vote, it is certainly unacceptable in a public vote.

Black Box Voting seem to be doing a reasonable job, within their resources. Maybe its time those teams who go grandstanding around the world in the name of democracy could have a look a little closer to home.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Swinging back to the 60s dream?

The disclaimer first: I actually lived and was politically active through the intense hippy era, albeit in Australia. If comments herein seem cynical they are no more severe than my views were at the time. My personal reference point was the beats and the ‘hippies’ I knew were either dopers or weekend pretenders.

For all of that it was an exciting time to be growing up; there was the arse clenching fear of being conscripted, there were the swarming anti Vietnam rallies, great music events of course and some visionary political figures.

I don’t have a great problem with those who focus on the romance of hope generated by the myth of the 60s. Myth or not, it was a powerful conceptual trip, though I use that word with serious reservation. I also recall the ugliness the whipped cream of myth nicely hides.

So, with some historical perspective and my penchant for identifying cyclic patterns, what are the lessons we might draw by a comparison of the 60s and the current dynamic. The truth is, I like what I am seeing and the differences are almost exciting.

The so called hippy dream did not sustain the Nixon years because it was not a deeply held or shared process. Not enough to simply allow those glorious thinkers feeding the movement, not enough to simply accept the actualisation through outfits like the SF Diggers. Ideas must be live personally and not vicariously as was very much the case.

Take Woodstock, the ‘peace’ icon of the generation. Even this Aussie has talked personally with at least six folk who claim to have been there. Not one of them reports the fact tat it was extremely wet, muddy and uncomfortable.

In fact not one of them has any real memories of the event beyond the various film footage – they were all spaced out on one substance or another. Like the Haight-Ashbury ‘Summer of Love’ Woodstock’s power was in the glossed reports rather than the dubious actual events.

The power of the hippy dream is in the much promoted myth rather than a tawdry reality. That’s okay, it means those who were really trying to get a message through succeeded, and probably did so with the help of the capitalist machine they were opposing.

But Nixon’s ‘dream’ quickly revealed just how shallow the radical dream of hope really was. Dick’s economic ineptitude quickly launched a reactionary backlash and hippy and conservative alike ran for cover. The dollar won the day.

Now we have just experienced 30 years of economic conservatism (the real neo-conservatism didn’t start until Thatcher-Regan) and a decade of almost complete ‘National-Socialism’ in key western economies.

What really excites me is that the dynamic is almost the exact reverse of the early 70s. The hippy myth has taken hold as a dream, and with hope is a lot more sophisticated. Sure there are still angry minorities willing to resort to violence to achieve social equity, but there are far more people who are ready to seriously take up the essence of the dream.

The encouraging part is that we are coming to this out of a truly dreadful cultural period. The hippies emerged out of a relatively benign period. The stakes for a positive long term outcome are much higher just now. But social change doesn’t occur overnight and we need to recognise the process will be gradual.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The soap powder election campaign

So I’ve made it pretty clear now that I find the way US politics is played out to be a little strange. It is a major election year, and starts out by reinforcing everyone’s worst fears – that all politicians are a waste of space. Well that is what you are hearing, overtly or by inference as each presidential candidate fights for supremacy.

The methodology of washing powder marketing is not a good fit for political campaigning, but here it is for all to see. Market segmentation it is called, and is essentially used by a corporation to capture every segment of the market.

It works like this: Suds Corp start out with a powerful product, guaranteed to make your whites whiter than white, no problem! Well not until we find some consumers object to their whites disintegrating after a few washes, some are looking for something with perhaps a little more finesse.

They want visible clean, but they want their clothes as well. So Suds Corp come up with a second brand which answers the consumers who are looking for a powerful cleaner which might be just a little more subtle. We won’t ask how they do it, but Suds Corp now have two products on the shelves, essentially competing.

Then we find consumers who want even more, they want clean clothes perhaps, but not necessarily whites – there are coloureds in the mix as well and these consumers also want to wash in cold water. No worries Suds Corp, they can spin out another product to meet these finicky consumers.

Of course the flakes have been dealt with for a while now, not seriously, but those who really want the kinder, gentler action are catered for. Then Suds Corp become aware that more consumers are turning to those previously ignored laundry liquids. Yes, they are taking this range seriously all of a sudden.

No worries for Suds Corp, these products aren’t really competing, they are just variations of the same product which ensure our soap maker the greatest share of the overall market. The branding is easy for each product, Suds Corp is not really featured but they know from research that their segment target brand is optimised for success.

The same consumers are also choosing their political leaders. The branding is fine, that works well in politics, unfortunately the Corp name is still in bold for each of these products (candidates) trying to catch the market edge.

It doesn’t really matter to Suds Corp if the whiter than white product slumps, so long as one of the others picks up the market share. They can promote each segment without danger because consumers have already decided they are looking for a different result. The Corp doesn’t need to launch negative promotions against their own competing products.

It doesn’t quite work that way in politics. Segmentation marketing in a political campaign seems to be a very dangerous and negative approach.

I first met the approach in Tasmania, where the PR electoral system is geared to the candidate rather than the party. As a party campaign worker I thought it an extraordinarily destructive approach then, and I still do.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ye gods and little fishes

“THE two anti-whaling campaigners held hostage onboard a Japanese whaling vessel will be freed after the [Australian] Federal Government last night ordered a Customs vessel to rendezvous with the ship.”

This was the first international incident the Rudd government had to deal with, and one which the hard talking Howard government avoided like the plague. No doubt Rudd would have preferred a different approach, but protesters are obviously running out of patience.

The incident gives an interesting insight into the style of the seemingly mild mannered Rudd. Negotiations were at Prime Minister level between Australia and Japan. Japan ordered the whaling ship’s captain to release the hostages, an order which was ignored.

At some level the decision was made that an Australian customs vessel should intervene to ensure the release. None of the detail has been released, in fact it was our foreign minister who was sent to take credit and issue a half arsed statement about very little at all.

We will probably never know exactly what Rudd told his counterpart, what trade offs. Either way the ships captain loses face and everyone gets back to business. Well not the whale hunters perhaps, they are under intense scrutiny now.

Japan must be realising now that whaling is no longer a viable industry. MacWhale burgers are no longer a big seller and we don’t do much with lye and whale blubber soap. As far as I know Boston has even scuttled its old whaling fleets.

I’m just fascinated by the ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’ approach of Rudd. I hope it portends good things. We aren’t likely to get ringside seats or running commentaries, it seems. As long as we get results.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It sucks to be Edwards

We don’t see much about John Edwards on this side of the world, but it seems we aren’t really on our own in that.

I was thinking about a former CEO who confided his wisdom to me: “There are only two things that count, timing and anticipation”. Corporate drivel, but on the face of it Edwards has failed on both counts.

Who would have thought a white man would be the unwanted minority in an American Presidential campaign? But as cute as it sounds, I don’t really think being the white man is the big issue, being the nice white guy might be the problem.

You can blame the media, they set the pop culture mores, but people still have a choice as to what they want. Politically they don’t want Ward Cleaver, they want Dirty Harry.

Historically American presidents have been, at least borderline if not full on, psychopaths. The argument has been that you don’t get that far up the tree without it, but I suspect most people want their national leaders to personify tough security, the bully parent.

Edwards, for all his intelligence and ability is just too bloody nice. Here in Australia we just chose a national leader who presents as nice. But in fact it was the rumours, and rumours are the most powerful promotional tool, of the real man behind the public man that helped him along.

The rumours suggest nice Mr Rudd is really a potty mouthed bully behind closed doors. Wow! We get this bloke who can present such a nice face for Australians and is still able to rip opponent’s gonads out with his bare hands.

I don’t expect any of his supporters want Edwards to come on like a Rambo or even start distributing soggy Cuban cigars. But if he wants to register in this race he might need to show another, rougher side of his personality.

But I don’t know, I like the bloke I’ve seen so far. Maybe he should do what he does well and forget the White House. It would be great to have an unequivocally decent man in the oval office but it seems an unlikely prospect.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Looks odd from the outside

In countries used to strict party discipline it is oddly disconcerting watching US primaries candidates ripping each other apart so fiercely. For one thing the parties will need to unite behind the final selection, even after the winner will have their greatest weaknesses revealed for all. For another, there are 480 other races for each party to contest.

Now I realize this is the way things are done in the US, and can only conclude each part of the game is played separately and somehow the damage isn’t carried over. But if I was involved with a party national administration I expect I’d have a team set aside to pick up every bit of dirt being flung by inter party rivals for reuse later.

The other reason I find this openly venomous display strange, particularly for the Democrats, is that while the republicans might be on the nose the Democrats still have a big task ahead to win voter confidence.

According to figures by the Pew Research Center half of US voters lean toward or identify themselves as Democrats, the Republicans have fallen to 35 percent. But for the Democrats ‘lean towards’ is the operative term, this is not locked in support.

The party not in power normally has the advantage when voters are dissatisfied, but unlike Australia, voting in the US isn’t compulsory. Here, compelled to vote they will punish the government, in the US they are just as likely to simply stay at home.

What I find really odd is that the masters of slick advertising and marketing run the least disciplined campaigns I’ve ever encountered. Without any doubt these are the biggest spending campaigns the world has ever seen. Ergo, one would think, the very best money can buy. Not so, it appears.

Let’s put aside the seriously fractured national party gems and look at some of the candidates.

Hillary has a long and deep background in campaigning, plus the benefit of Bill’s experience, they didn’t call him Slick Willy for nothing. Yet her campaign appears to be one blunder after another.

Obama has less experience but still has the ability to put together a hot shot team. Perhaps in a sense, his blunders are a positive, but only for a while. We see very little of Edwards downunder, I guess he doesn’t rate in the time allocated to cover this great event, and I’m not really keying into the Republican battle.

What I am seeing is all that money dumped into an advertising bucket, but without the benefit of in-house polling to show what messages are best directed where. It is, very honestly, amateurish. We are talking $millions and a few hundred thousand of that toward research would make every cent spent on advertising earn its value.

It doesn’t take buckets of money to run an effective campaign, it takes organisation and information. By all means, if money is a measure of a candidate’s success, money gives the power brokers a hard on, collect it. But target the voters; find out what the independents want and how the candidate can accommodate that want. Don’t simply make the media richer by throwing cash about.

Money should not take over from research and imaginative campaigning. From the research I’m seeing voters, more particularly that growing band of independents, want real change and the candidate who demonstrates that in their campaign will go a long way to winning hearts and minds.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Take care comparing the King


Delighted as I am that Martin Luther king Jnr is being resurrected, at least philosophically, some comparisons tend to jar heavily. The mural/street art/graffiti above is from the last great main street in Australia, the bohemian heart of Sydney, an urban village called Newtown.

Newtown has been bohemian for most of existence, since the mid 1840s. I’ve had the privilege of living in the area for nearly two decades, over two separate periods. The first and longest was through most of the 1960s into the early 70s.

The magnificent mural depicted didn’t exist then, it was a working class area with an historically strong artistic leaning: Mainly literature and poetry, some important theatre and of course music, complimented by some fairly rugged physical pursuits like boxing.

I recall discovering jazz in some of the local pubs, and the poets and writers who seemed to go along with the music, the SF beats in particular. But we also share mimeographed copies of tracts and speeches. Those of MLK were devoured with the same passions as the Kerouac and Corso, Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti.

But those ideas contrasted dramatically, in 1966, with the visit of Lyndon Baines Johnson promoting his Asian war. The memories and myth of that period have travelled down to future generations with the reputation of LBJ being the precise inverse of the adoration for King.

The second sojourn in Newtown was from the mid 90’s and the place had become visually as well as intellectually exciting. As one visitor from Seattle noted to me, “it’s like Halloween everyday!” The street art was incredibly striking and moving. (Newtown graffiti and street art )

Not a day went by when I wasn’t bought to a stop by the enormous, inspiring MLK mural. As Newtown’s King Street is part of a major national highway, thousands of others, local and transient, are also confronted by this magnificent reminder of real values. Johnson’s name and image don’t conjure anything positive here.

Coincidently, a book I’m currently reading reminded my of a Gary Snyder poem of the earlier period - A Curse On The Men In Washington, Pentagon. I seem to recall it was published outside the US first because even the ultra liberal US media were crippled by their own self censorship. It makes this post very long, but is too good to avoid.

I should add that this is not a ‘Yankee’ bash, as I believe we Australian’s are inclusive in the rights and wrongs of western economies. As the poem offends I have replaced the text with a link.

A CURSE ON THE MEN IN WASHINGTON, PENTAGON

Gary Snyder 1968

Monday, January 14, 2008

Eclectic Election 08 Links

The new links group – right – is part of my effort to identify either empirical data or well supported data and comment covering Election 08.

The casual observer will note the Democrat angle, and I make no apology for discounting the other side; they have little show of producing the next president of the USA.

However the focus will also broaden out from the presidential race, looking at the 35 Senate seats, 435 seats in the House and 11 State governors also being contested.

I am happy to take suggestions, specifically for the election links as well as normal links. Equally I will listen to criticism, but I do not respond to unsupported, emotional rants.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Perhaps the quest is merely academic

In a recent post, A call to arms, I bemoan the paucity of strong background analysis of the election processes in the US. I am not America bashing, by the way, though I admit I’m sounding that way lately – just telling it s I see it.

Having been spoiled by a reasonably independent media here in Australia, in Canada and Britain and parts of Europe; been dazzled by feisty academics, economists and historians ready to go bare knuckles on issues of critical analysis; and perhaps a culture less inclined to be compliant, I find the lack of intellectual curiosity in the US disturbing.

Now I know one example isn’t the be all and end all, but it is a start and one I’m willing launch from and with a little luck be proved totally wrong. In my search I found The Gruntled Center. I have no doubt this bloke is a nice guy and well meaning, but he is also a Sociology professor, though he qualifies that with ‘Latte-sipping intellectual’. Anyone slightly serious would settle for nothing less than an espresso…

Let me put this in a too-strong way at first in order to be clear:
A centrist wants to promote what is best for society, tolerate what is good enough, and prevent what is harmful.
Conservatives want to promote what is best for society, and prevent everything else.
Liberals want to promote all options (except the truly dangerous ones) as equally good.

If your first reaction to this is, “Who is to say what is best?” you are a probably a liberal.
If your first reaction to this is, “Why settle for mediocrity?” you are probably a conservative.


If this bell-curve picture of the social options seems reasonable to you, and you have no principled objection to making discriminating judgments – welcome to the Gruntled Center.

One of the first things I was taught was ‘define your terms’. Coming out of the English, Westminster culture a liberal, big or small L, refers to an economic liberal based on teachings of Adam Smith et al, perhaps loosely through to Keynes/Galbraith. The philosophy is largely centred on providing a healthy functional workforce and is hardly left wing.

I don’t totally disagree with Gruntle’s centrist, though I normally express it as a reflection of the old Scottish commonweal (commonwealth), i.e. for the good of all rather than simply for the good of sectional interests.

Conservative has been twisted out of shape everywhere in the past few decades. The arch conservatives, Thatcher and Reagan rank among the most radical leaders the western economies have known. The left tend to be the conservatives today, although they are trying to conserve life and not simply sectional privilege.

So Gruntle “What I Think Principled Centrism Means,” gives us an interpretation of various issues from his ‘centrist perspective’ a category of social practice between the preferred and the prohibited.

…historically and cross-culturally, marriage is the preferred institution in which to raise children, and incestuous unions are a prohibited way. What centrists need to be able to say is that marriage is preferred for raising children, and some other ways – my nominees would be single parenthood and same-sex unions -- are tolerated, acceptable, good enough

Then in his comments: I think there is an intermediate moment in liberal thinking, when a previously "not good enough" option is judged to be tolerable. Then, the logic of egalitarianism kicks in, and liberals find it uncomfortable to merely tolerate what they now judge to be acceptable.

That does not strike me as a well researched, sociological conclusion, rather a proposition to support a pre-existing prejudice - Liberal’s are woolly thinkers, liberals yearn for a peace/love utopia, liberals are blind to harsh realities…

I think a closer look at commercial prerequisites, of marketing and advertising imperatives, many of the ‘family values’ breakdowns are driven by the market and not by so called liberals. To claim otherwise smacks of poor research and a complete lack of critical analysis.

A little support

I recently saw an interview with tennis great and lesbian, Martina Navratilova, launching her new art venture in Australia. She was asked about her work for various organisations in the US and said that times have changed and advertising and marketing people have moved on from the old prejudices.

The term the ‘Pink Dollar’ was not coined by the loony left or wishy washy liberals, it was identified and labelled by hard headed corporate types. It is a simple reality which those in love with money cannot afford to ignore. So it is just a little supporting argument, but more than I have been seeing lately.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Remembering Soeharto / Suharto

With this brutal, thieving tyrant on his death bed I have been waiting for Australian commentators to step forward, but so far all is silence. It is hard for Australians to forget that the world’s fourth most populous nation is just hours from our northern coast.

Not that Indonesians need be feared as people, of course, but government relationships have always been circumspect, yielding too often to strategic rather than ethical issues.

The Howard government tried to block the release of vital intelligence reports showing that the Indonesian military regime ordered the execution of five Australian-based newsmen in the lead up to the 1975 invasion of East Timor. Not that it was news of course, but just a measure of the denial of successive administrations.

The record

Given the deafening silence I am happy to look at the record of the dying despot. I make no apology for my residual anger, nor the arguable numbers attributed to his secretive regime.

Soeharto seized the Indonesian presidency the in 1966, ushering in an era of repression, brutality and corruption that would last for the next three decades. Moves to prosecute the despot were dropped as his health grew worse.

The Commission on Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) protested the back off, its spokesman Haris Azhar saying: "Soeharto is sick, so is society. Besides, the government has not responded to the fate of Soeharto`s victims."

Former President Abdurrahman Wahid better known as Gus Dur also said, although Soeharto had made mistakes during his years in power, he had also contributed many great services to the state and nation. Like?

Soeharto amassed vast wealth for himself and his family during 32 years in power. estimated the fortune at $45bn - enough to repay Indonesia's debts to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Soeharto's eldest daughter, Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, built up a fortune as head of a leading toll-road company. Nicknamed Tutut for liking the sound of cars honking on toll roads built by one of her 55 companies, she also served as minister for social welfare in her father's government.

Second son Bambang Trihatmodjo, regarded as the clan's most capable entrepreneur, made his money as head of the conglomerate Bimantara Citra, with interests in television, cars, property, construction, hotels and telecommunications.

Youngest son, known as Tommy, ran Indonesia's controversial national car project, the Timor, for which he was awarded tax and tariff breaks that attracted criticism from other car manufacturers. He also held the lucrative monopoly on cloves, used in the country's popular kretek cigarettes.

During the 1965, CIA backed military coup, General Soeharto massacred over 1 million suspected opponents. Over 300,000 were arrested, many were only released after his 30 year-rule.

In 1975, Soeharto military invaded East Timor, claiming to restore order to prevent Communists to come to power over there. Human Rights organizations say that during the invasion of East Timor, Soeharto killed more than 100,000 men, women and children.

The list goes on, in Aceh the destruction of life and culture under Soeharto is still being uncovered, not helped of course by the tsunami destruction.

Papua (West) New Guinea still holds secrets from the Soeharto years, and is still dealt with under the same heavy hand.

Ethnic and cultural atrocities abound, often made difficult to really calculate because of the policy of transmigration, moving whole cultural communities to other regions, wiping out the culture replaced and to a degree the one relocated.

Just going back over this material, digging out what the memory has lost, is deeply troubling. Dead or not Soeharto and his corrupt family must be made fully accountable. Though I doubt any of the countries, US and Australia included, will have the will to do the right thing when it reflect previous failures.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A call to arms

Having more or less recovered from the recent Australian General Elections, and that was a full year of activity, I figure it is time to turn my attention to the next election battle.

I watched the Iowa outing with interest, but it was NH which really peaked my interest, or more a difficult to define uneasiness. I’ve like Obama since I saw his support role cum book tour during the 2006 mid-terms. He was a very inspiring performer.

Of course since then it has been gossip column stuff, up to when the real action begins. Except that it seemed like the gossip column stuff was continuing. Polling and commentary was looking more like cheerleading. Commentary waxed lyrical about ‘rock star’ status.

For all my blogging friends that is all very good and proper. For the professionals out there it is a clear dereliction of duty and expectation. Well it is here and in other countries I’m familiar with, perhaps not in the US.

The claimed ‘rise and rise of Obama’ disturbed me greatly preceding NH voting. The claims lacked and real evidence and failed show anything deeper than the highly visible support. I saw no discussion on how far that support might extend beyond the noisy head, or if that noisy head and possible extension would even cast a ballot.

The collective post NH explanations of the pollsters were doubly disturbing. Here we were treated to admissions of forcing anomalies into a standard practice, even if they did distort the figures and weighting based on best (or preferred) guesses. I believe the Dec 07 polling was far more accurate on Clinton and Obama.

Not that the Aussie pollsters did a lot better, but they had a new breed up their tailpipe, they had a bunch of enthusiastic academic, journalistic and economic bloggers pulling them to pieces and rebuilding. You will find some of them under Australian Politics links down on the right.

I’m looking for a similar group in the US, bloggers with enthusiasm for their craft, a certain detachment from the parties and candidates and the background to spot the dead albatross lying on the entry mat and read its entrails.

Language has been part of my barrier so far. I was looking for Psephologists, sociologists who studies election trends. Apparently that is not a word in the US academic lexicon, I think the term in use might be - political sociology.

But it is broader than that too; where are the lively economists in all this? Have we allowed market economics to kill off essential branch of social policy formulation? Where are those people who live for their data base, compiling and tabulating trends past and present and digging out the anomalies?

I cannot believe the vast US population lacks these people in good numbers. We just need to find them and winkle them out of the woodwork. The blog is becoming a powerful information tool, a place where the specialist, amateur or professional, can be heard and very much appreciated.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Terror for the record

Bush’s current trip to Israel shows there is not going to be any let-up on terrorism rhetoric for a while. Both Bush and Olmert managed to ignore history again to sustain their policy positions.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “There will be no peace unless terror is stopped. And terror will have to be stopped everywhere.”

Bush told Israelis that "illegal" outposts in disputed land must go and told Palestinians that no part of their territories can be "a safe haven for terrorists."

"We see a new opportunity for peace here in the Holy Land and for freedom across the region," declared Bush

So let’s take a quick trip down history lane:


Israel’s terror record, in part
The first aircraft hijacking was carried out by Israel in 1954 against a Syrian civilian airliner.
Grenades in cafes: first used by Zionists against Palestinians in Jerusalem on 17 March 1937.
Delayed-action, electrically timed mines in crowded marketplaces: first used by Zionists against Palestinians in Haifa on 6 July 1938.
Assassination of government officials: first carried out by the Zionists against the British in Cairo, when on 6 November 1944 Lord Moyne was assassinated by the Stern Gang. Yitzhak Shamir, a member of the Irgun and later leader of the Stern Gang and Israeli prime minister, was behind the plan.
Use of hostages as a means of putting pressure on a government: first used by the Zionists against the British in Tel Aviv on 18 June 1946. Zionism and modern-day terrorism:

American Revolutionary War

America did not have a standing army; this was a colony after all. The ‘Patriots’ or rebels faced a powerful military force hardened in European campaigns. Given the dynamic a vicious guerrilla warfare developed, a terrorist approach which left the British floundering.

The Americans did not wear uniforms, in some areas did not take prisoners and happily, in some cases, worked from within the British structures while directing fighters against them.

I’m not suggesting that either country was right or wrong is the means they adopted to confront overwhelming opposition. In fact we can equally reflect on Australia’s modern military practices.

Our strategists have focussed on the best use relatively small forces, and infantry and special forces have built a reputation for what are essentially guerrilla tactics. Surviving VC officers still talk about the Aussie diggers with awe. They have been likened to spirits in the Vietnam jungles, playing VC games better than the VC ever could.

A small group of SAS were deployed in Iraq a few days before the second Iraq war began. In tiny groups this mob were taking out front line deployments of hundreds of Iraqis. The efficiency of the Aussie troops in this sort of warfare is testified by the extremely low casualty rate.

My concern is just how far the likes of the Bush administration will go to justify their rhetoric, a rhetoric largely developed to mask endemic corruption. Given the current US political dynamic I an surprised the lame duck is even allowed out into the wider world.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Cussin and taboos

Still avoiding the magnificent Osama surge, or leaving it to those who are really on top of it, I’m moved to share some thoughts on language and taboos. It takes ages for some things to bubble to the surface of the mind, and the new swear word has finally revealed itself to me.

There are lots of ancient, historical information on the progression of ‘vulgar’ language, of crude insults. I’m talking the stuff intended to cause the greatest hurt to the intended recipient.

But I’m starting from the early English texts of Chaucer and Shakespeare. (Word is magic, Shaky spelled his name in so many different ways, Word can tell me the correct form it seems) So starting with these dudes…

Chaucer pioneered writing in this spoken English language, the language of the people. Both employed sexual innuendo, but used the robust Anglo Saxon ‘four letter words’ and without venom. They used coy sacrilegious insults, more coy than has been common in our time. Their main insults were to wish horrendous diseases on people.

We have now managed to destroy the blunt beauty of the Anglo Saxon by loading a bunch of short sharp words with a vicious, venomous intent. But that in itself wears thin and the words really lose their value as insults.

I have been called, well we won’t go there, but I am skinny, wear glasses and have an appreciation for female pudenda. I find it hard to take the intended insult seriously. That is the problem with insults, once they become funny or owned rather than vicious attacks intended. Just take the way homosexuals neutered gay by owning the term.

What concerns me is that the new, insidious insult is related to paedophilia. There is not, and never can be any comfortable accommodation with this abomination. It has been used against me several times over the past few years, always by men who don’t have the intellect to think through the idiocy of their insult.

I don’t particularly like being around children, but I have a deep respect for their right to develop without abuse by adults they should be able to trust. Using the paedophile variants undermines an essential campaign to stamp the abuses out.

The first time I was accused I sweated. How do you prove a negative? Fortunately I didn’t even need to respond as the trumped up charge was apparently discounted very quickly when the coached victims were interviewed. I can understand the attack; I’m a real bastard to pick a fight with. I never let the enemy know where the next hit will come from, and I don’t expose myself.

The latest is a result of my activities dealing with neighbourhood disputes stemming from a growing rage out there. Bullies are funny creatures; they bluster, threaten then go for whatever words they think might hurt. This time the attacker is actually being accused of real child abuse. Well, he like most who use the tactic is a hopeless, gutless bully.

I guess religious types will still get there nickers in a knot over their group of insults, but I’m more sympathetic to the crap women have to accept. The real concern is that insults trivialise language and vital issues.

Paedophilia must not be trivialised in this way. We must never allow children to be abused as they have been historically. We must not allow the weak in our society to devalue something as important as this.

Cussin is as old as time, but we need to put a lid on this one. Each step society takes forward brings up an equal reaction. Surely we are culturally sophisticated to say ENOUGH!

Tears before bedtime

I’m not going to compete with Obama, so here is news from a cricket tradgic.

It is cricket, but in the end it is only a game. When champion teams like India and Australia meet on the field there is an expectation of a tough duel, and that is what we had in the last match which Australia won in the last minutes of a five day confrontation.

So why are Indians burning effigies in the streets? Why is the Indian cricket administration threatening to pull out of the four game series? How could such a riveting and entertaining game turn sour after the fact?

The match was tainted by controversy, largely media driven I thought. The umpiring was under continual question, fuelled by constant, multi angle close up camera work and other technological intrusions. The big question was, should a player who knows full well they were legitimately out stand there ground on a poor umpiring decision? There were many dubious calls.

From the outset there was concern over racist slurs, a hangover from Australia’s recent tour of India. Indian crows had taken to chanting ‘monkey’ at Aussie player Andrew Symonds. I’m not sure where the racist comes in, but warning were out that spectators here who shouted slurs would be quickly removed from the ground.

But it wasn’t a spectator in the end, rather an Indian player, Harbhajan Singh, who faced disciplinary action for using the monkey term against Symonds. Come on guys, all grow up. At the start of the match there was a lot of talk about mutual friendship and respect; that is long gone.

Australian players have a reputation for some harsh ‘trash talk’. When the pressure is on they show that take no prisoners, killer instinct of champion sportsmen. But the other side of the coin is that you don’t dish it out if you can’t take it back.

The Australian players’ reputation has been diminished through this. A shame when they are breaking long held records, showing as the greatest cricket team ever in the records. The records are only part of the story, this nonsense will undo all of that.