Substitute

9

All those photos of psychopathic morons proudly showing the bleeding bodies of lions, giraffes, bears, wolves, elephants they have blasted with high-powered penis substitutes? Guess they think we will be envious of their prowess.

Makes good people not envious but sick to their stomachs seeing these vicious fools posed with their killing machines with foot triumphantly on top of the body of their victims. Makes them determined perhaps to try to stop this evil.
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Pixels made flesh

39

“What do we want?”
“A slogan.”
“When do we want it?”
“Now.”

Went to the Canberra “March in March” protest today, so need to write about it. Everyone else has written about their own experiences among the 100,000 plus people who marched in cities and towns all over Australia in last three days, so I should too. 100,000 people, by the way, virtually ignored by the media (except to complain about one or two signs, out of thousands, with a rude word or two, in order to discredit the event), but whose actions, just 6 months into the term of a new government, are unprecedented.

The Canberra event was much like the other events everywhere. It all had a pleasantly amateurish feel – no professional protesters or rent-a-crowd here. Ordinary people with no second names (“I’m Jim” “I’m Lisa” and so on) standing in front of an “open mic”, most clearly for the first time, saying in a few stumbling, and in one case tearful, words, why they had made the effort to come. Young and old, radical-looking and very conservative, men and women (about equal numbers), straight and gay, Aboriginal and “indigenous” (as one Aboriginal speaker put it), local Canberra and “from Goulburn” “from Newcastle” “from overseas”, healthy and not-so-healthy.
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Green parasols

1

‘You have come down here to see an election – eh? Spirited contest, my dear sir, very much so indeed. We have opened all the public-houses in the place. It has left our opponent nothing but the beer-shops — masterly policy, my dear sir, eh?’ The little man smiled complacently, and took a large pinch of snuff.

‘And what is the likely result of the contest?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Why, doubtful, my dear sir, rather doubtful as yet,’ replied the little man. ‘Fizkin’s people have got three-and-thirty voters in the lock-up coach-house at the White Hart.’
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Police Academy 9

18

Here we are 8 days since the election that swept Tony Abbott and his Neanderthals to power (although not quite in the Qld-style landslide they and Rupert Murdoch were hoping for) and they have, astonishingly, not yet rolled into Government House to be sworn in.

For the media, including the ABC, the election seems not to have happened. They (rather like a Japanese soldier still hiding out in the Philipines and following the Emperor’s orders 50 years after the end of the war) are still bashing Labor, stirring up leadership tensions and ignoring policy issues, while Rudd supporters still trot into tv studios to talk about the future of the Party they damaged so badly, Graham Richardson is still billed as a “Labor powerbroker” (the word “power” being wrong), and scum from the RW think tank the IPA, busily planning the Hayekian paradise, are merely identified as “conservative commentators” by the ABC, rather in the way they might identify Genghis Khan as a “Chinese Horseman”.
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Visigoths and Vandals

5

It is August*, and the citizens are aware of the barbarians at the gates of their civilisation. The Visigoths have a bad reputation, but they have been secretly chatting to the slaves and convinced them they are really good guys, big supporters of the Lower Orders in fact. So one night the slaves open the locked gates and in come the Visigoths who then proceed to rape, pillage and generally wreck the joint, just as their reputation had suggested. The slaves, and this will shock you, ended up worse off.

Forty five years go by. Not very long, really, sufficiently short for old codgers like me to have seen the Visigoths in action and to think, oh shit, not again. But yes, this time it is the Vandals at the gates. No shenanigans with slaves this time, no need, all sorts of silly buggers have been played by the rulers of the civilisation, the politics is a mess, and next thing you know “The Vandals are coming, the Vandals are coming”. Who proceed to try to outdo those wimps the Visigoths and thoroughly trash the joint, so thoroughly that the year 455 is generally considered to mark the end of the once mighty 500 year old Roman Empire.
image
Yes, Rome, what did you think? Oh, I see, you thought you could see analogies with the citizens of Australia terrified of the arrival of Coalition barbarians on 7 September? Well, I hadn’t thought of that but now you mention it…
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500 miles

35

So this is blog post number 500 and I thought I should do something to mark the occasion, bit of a retrospective.

But no cause for celebration that I can see. I began the blog in late 2005, following a year or so of writing a column for a couple of local newspapers. It seems a very long time ago, and much has happened in personal terms as well as nationally and internationally in the last 8 or so years.

I began blogging in an attempt to add my voice to the many other new voices which were beginning to emerge, in Australia and around the world, to challenge the mainstream media voices. I not only began this blog but began contributing to the new Huffington Post, the first attempt at a commercial version of a blog, and to the ABC, Australia’s public broadcaster, as it caught up with the new medium of blogs.
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Great Expectations

11

Hooray, hooray, The Guardian newspaper now has an Australian edition as of this morning. Glad cries from progressives, more and more perturbed, no, angry, at the increasingly blatant right-wing bias of all the other mainstream media in Australia, not just the 70% of newspapers owned by Murdoch, but the others (mainly Fairfax), the radio talk shows, and the public broadcaster the ABC. Please please, came the cry, come to Australia, oh lovely Guardian newspaper where reality creates a left-wing bias, come and save us. And here, at last, they are.
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Field of dreams

4

Odd moment during the recent announcement and garbled discussion of education reforms in Australia. Chief Minister of the ACT, Katy Gallagher, was asked by parochial reporters, essentially, “what’s in it for Canberra?”

She said, perhaps bemused by the stupid question, that because most if not all Canberra students were already receiving support above what was being proposed, there actually wasn’t anything “in it” for the ACT.

In hunter-gatherer societies all children are educated equally – it would be suicidal for the society to do anything else. Same with the early agricultural societies. In both cases gifted individuals may specialise in particular areas of expertise later, but all will be educated.

We lost this equality of opportunity as the accumulation of wealth by a few created a situation where better education could be purchased, and that has remained the case, and been strengthened, ever since.

Indeed in Australia the Right, themselves, one and all, the products of the best education money could buy, decided they could do better as old boys (or girls) than merely denoting a few tax deductible dollars to the alma mater. They could, they realised, get their name up on the honour roll by getting the people of Australia to pay big bucks to schools already overflowing with swimming pools and polo ponies and acres of rolling playing fields. And they could lock in such payments permanently with a clever mathematical formula which achieved bias while appearing objective. A simple formula, always applied by conservatives, and always effective = The Rich get Richer. Genius eh?

So, it’s time for a reversal of fortunes. A simple formula = To each according to his needs. Identify the poorest public schools, give them more money to build up their resources to the level of the richer public schools. And then, whisper who dare, onwards to the levels of the private schools. Oh, sorry, getting a bit carried away there. Never mind, let’s get all students onto as level a playing field, playing fields, as possible. Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of class war.

But wait, there’s more. The other conservative legacy also affects equality of educational opportunity – religion. Separation of church and state? Yeah, whatever, but separation of church and school just as important. Yet John Howard unleashed the dogs of sectarianism. Loony tunes religious schools proliferated. Students taught curriculums in which garbage like creationism can be included, because religious freedom. “The more religion, the lower the quality of education” – write that on the blackboard 100 times Mr Howard

But worse is that schooling, meant to broaden horizons, introduce new ideas, allow children to mix widely, teach the ability to think and evaluate, to see a world beyond the walls of their home, has been narrowed. Religious fanatics have been allowed to carry out home-schooling in bulk. Allowed to make sure that no child raised in the closed little worlds of religious fundamentalism is allowed to discover that there is another real world outside.

So, equality of opportunity for all students? Absolutely, stuff of dreams. But understand that it involves more than just money. I have a dream of getting all students onto the playing field of secular education.

What’s in it for Australia? Only the next generation.

Ding Dong Battle

13

In 1974, when Edward Heath had lost office, and there began to be talk of Thatcher taking over as Conservative Leader, my [very] English Aunt, Midlands family background of miners and factory workers, and memories fresh of Thatcher’s dirty work as Education minister, robbing poor school children of their milk, said to me “If that woman ever becomes Prime Minister I’m emigrating to Australia”.

Well, sadly Maggie did, but Ruby didn’t. People don’t of course, even though it is such a common reaction to approaching political storms (“if John Howard wins”, “if George Bush wins”). People like my Aunt don’t anyway, too emotionally rooted in family and community. Too costly to physically and economically uproot. Too loyal, I guess, right down to their bootstraps, to the country of their birth. So they stay, as the political storm clouds gather once more, and batten down what hatches they can.

Bit different when the Gucci Shoe is on the other foot. The mere whiff of what laughingly passes for a Blairite/Keatingesque/Obamacrat/Hollandaise “only-a-few-miles-right-of-centre-social-democrat-party” in the offing, and the Rich are, well, offing. Depardieuing to some less taxing place. And not just individuals – whole companies, corporations, faced with, say, a mining tax increase, threaten to dig up all the Australian iron ore, bury it again in, say, Myanmar, and dig it up again to sell to China, from a new head office in a tax haven.

But the poor stay behind, and watch as swine like Thatcher graduate from stealing milk from children to stealing mines from miners, factories from communities, houses and services from families, and set free the dogs of banks and financiers to ravage the economy. Oh, they try to fight back, some ding dong battles, but the power of the state, riot police on flying monkeys, is never so starkly on display as when it is being used by the rich, for the rich, against the poor.

Nor is the power of the media more starkly displayed than in these circumstances, when Rupert’s Unlimited News Bugles consolidate the gains made by the corporate and public order shock troops (while using some themselves to smash print unions), and convince the suddenly out of work and homeless that they will never have it so good again unless they vote the “bosses’ party” in again, or a “worker’s party” that has absolutely indistinguishable policies, because “socialism” is so nineteenth century. Like laissez-faire capitalism, I guess.

And then, when the Great Leader has trashed her (or his) own country, spread the disease to others, cosied up to even more obnoxious foreign dictators who stop at nothing until the jackboots are stamping on faces, and helicopters are flying out to sea, and, retired or been, finally too extreme even for his (or her) colleagues, shunted out, the Trumpets of the Free Press move in to start rewriting history even as the removalist vans are passing each other at the entrance to 10 Downing St.

And, when the Angel Gabriel’s trumpets sound to summon the old, cold, warrior to Valhalla, the Press write effusive, white-washed eulogies as if preparing for sainthood application, and any suggestion that history, real history, should be referred to, is shouted down with that old saviour of horrid right wing leaders (though not, apparently, those of the left), “Don’t speak ill of the dead”. And even the public broadcaster, in the face of widespread demand from people trying to fight back, refuse to play a very appropriate song from Wizard of Oz. Well, bugger that for a game of soldiers, a game of battleships – there’s a Class War going on all over the word, and it’s the Class of ’79 that’s winning it. Time to join the battle.

I wish my Aunt had come to Australia, unexpectedly turned up on my doorstep, rung my bell, ” Ding Dong”. Escaped from the stealer of milk, winner of battles, Boadicea risen again to fly in a Harrier Jump Jet. Mind you, with the advent of John Howard I think Ruby would have been packing her bags again in 1996 for Blighty, sure, and rightly, that Oz was also in for rule by a potential milk stealer and armchair warrior.

And with Tony Abbott now looming in Australia like a Wicked Wizard from the East, I think it might be time to pack my bags and join her. Well, except for David Cameron already at the other end stealing hospital services from old ladies, and old gentlemen, and taxing their homes, completing Thatcher’s work.

Where has that Yellow Brick Road gone?

Happily-ever-aftering

4

Twitter provides so much inspiration for blogging (and vice versa) that you could, given an infinite amount of time and pep pills and typewriter ribbon, blog all day and all night. I thought today I would illustrate some of this, picking up on a number of stories and blogging briefly about them.

Here is the first:

Shoky Joky (@IH8SHOKJOKS)
25/03/13 9:03 AM
#AmAgenda – Fifield says “we never saw anything like a challenge to John Howard”. That’s just a lie which @Kieran_Gilbert accepted. #MSMfail

There are dozens of similar tweets just in my timeline every day, and I don’t want to talk about individuals here, this exchange could represent any Opposition member talking to any journalist. But let’s consider what is going on.

For the benefit of my younger readers (those born after 2007), here is some of John Howard’s political history. From 1983-1993 he was engaged in a life and death acrimonious struggle with Andrew Peacock for Liberal Party Opposition Leadership during the first ten years of Hawke-Keating.

They undermined each other and exchanged places after leadership coups several times, the battle ending only when Peacock lost the 1990 election and resigned but not before supporting John Hewson as his successor and blocking Howard from regaining leadership.

After Hewson lost in 1993, the almost comedy team of Downer and Costello took over after deposing Hewson in another bitter coup. Downer eventually resigned in 1995 and Howard got a triple bypass and, Lazarus-like, rose again. With a deal done with Costello that he would accept the Deputy Leadership if Howard agreed to step down within a reasonable period.

It never happened, Costello became more and more aggrieved, was more and more publicly at odds with Howard and determined to replace him. The bad blood between them was obvious, and much remarked on (and the exact parallels with the Hawke-Keating relationship). By 2007 it was also becoming obvious Howard could lose the election, and some of his most senior ministers went to him (in an exact parallel to what would later happen to Rudd) demanding that he resign and hand over to Costello. He refused and went on to lose of course.

Now all of this has happened just in the last 30 years. The bitter Costello challenge of Howard is within the last ten years. This is recent Australian political history. You might not remember the precise sequence involved in Howard-Peacock and so on, but if you have any involvement in Australian politics you would have to know the substance of it.

In short, in 30 years Howard was “challenged” over and over again. The only difference between Hawke-Keating and Howard-Costello, and Howard and Rudd, was that Howard was able to tough out the later challenges (as he had failed to do in the earlier ones) whereas both Hawke and Rudd succumbed to their’s.

And yet here we have an Opposition member apparently flat-out denying the reality of history, never happened, Howard was never challenged, (implying only Labor has challenges). And he in turn is allowed to rewrite history because his statement goes unchallenged. We have, it seems, always been at war with Oceania.

I repeat, this is merely a single example of something that happens daily now. I don’t know whether the Opposition deliberately lies or has fooled itself into its own alternative history reality of a King Howard who lived where:
“The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there’s simply not, a more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot”

And happily-ever-aftering we go.

On the other hand I don’t know whether Australian journalists are operating under instructions never to question even the most blatant untruths; whether they are personally disinclined to; or whether knowledge of Australian political history is no longer a requirement for employment in Australian political journalism. Those who forget political history are doomed to report it badly.

Whatever the reasons, this turning of journalism into merely a matter of holding a microphone for a politician to speak into is extraordinarily damaging to Australian democracy (and elsewhere, much the same seems to be true of the US and UK). The average punter doesn’t retain political memories in the way us political tragics do. Just as he or she doesn’t have expertise in, say, medicine, or plumbing, or car engines, or climate change, and trusts specialists to provide it, so they trust experts to provide background, context, for politics.

If they are told, confidently, that John Howard was never challenged, by someone whose statement itself is unchallenged, then they are likely to accept it as true. History has been successfully rewritten, and, being so, will successfully alter the mindset of the voter to accept that leadership disputes have only taken place in the last year, and only ever take place in an inherently unstable Labor Party. A message that fits with all the similar messages, based on other rewritten histories, already implanted.

Media organisations used to have Fact Checkers, a role which seems to have largely disappeared these days. But in a broader sense the public once saw the media as a whole as a Giant Fact Checker responsible, on their behalf, for keeping the bastards honest. That role has been totally abandoned it seems and now the bastards have no constraints on their dishonesty.

It seems to be increasingly falling to the Social Media, Twitter and Blogs, to take over that vacant media fact checker role. Australia still won’t be Camelot, but we’ll be happier with our politics after that happens.

Or perhaps I am wrong. Check me.