June 30, 2006
The Predator and His Prey
The Predator: Stuffed Sgt. Bagge -- oops, I mean Staff Sgt. Bagge, ha-ha-ha, I want to thank you from the bottom of my, er, my, y'know, the thang pumps blood all over the place, for sacrificing not just one of your legs but both of 'em in the war on ever'thang but terror. It's young fodder like you, uh, I mean, young fellas like you, makes me 'n' God look good in the eyes of our fodder Umeruhcans … damn, I mean fellow Umeruhcans. I know their sugar-coated pump-thangs and fat-saturated brains (hey, I got that one right!) go out to you on this the first day of the rest of your, er, life. (Suppresses giggle.)
The Prey: Thank you, Mr Predator.
LaMerde note: If you think the above is cruel, how cruel is Dubya's wasteful sacrifice of young American lives in Iraq for absolutely no justifiable reason?
Posted by Chet LaMerde at 12:47 PM
June 29, 2006
SBS: World's best TV station to become a chump channel
In 1989 my wife and I left Canada for Australia and settled in Melbourne. She was Australian so it was left to me to fall in love with the cheeky friendliness of Aussies and Melbourne's cosmopolitan atmosphere. And the food: Melbourne's variety of international cuisine is unmatched anywhere in the world, including Paris and New York. Even better was the great innovation of BYO restaurants. At last we could bring a decent bottle of wine at bottle shop prices instead of being forced to drink overpriced rubbish we would normally never touch simply because it was the cheapest item on the wine list … and often enough cheapest meant that it cost more than both of our meals combined.
I also fell in love with Aussie Rules football. Here is a sport that outdoes all other sports combined, for the simple reason that it includes every possible sporting skill and accommodates all body types. The first footy match I attended was the 1989 grand final … how lucky was that?
One of my earliest delights was listening to Henry Blofeld rabbit on during Cricket matches. I never became a cricket fan, but his banter during the interminably dull patches was always hilariously idiosyncratic.
But best of all things Australian was SBS television. Here was the dream channel for my kind of person. The sort who has become utterly despised in recent times; that is, a person who is sustained by the arts, who enjoys learning from documentaries, and who especially loves foreign films. Where else in the world are you going to find films from every nation presented in the original language with intelligent subtitles? Not only that, but the subtitles are in easily readable yellow instead of indecipherable white. This is an innovation that remains uniquely Australian. And all this without being interrupted by commercials. In short, the SBS is unique in the entire world.
The other day, I got out a video of a French film I recorded ten years ago, with an introduction by David Stratton. Stratton's intros were never all that informative, but I knew he was largely responsible for obtaining the great films, and that his taste was impeccable. Thanks to him, I have a collection of rare, obscure films that are simply not available anywhere anymore.
When, in 1991, the SBS inaugurated block advertising between programs, I felt a shiver of anxiety for the future, but at least the commercial inanities didn't rape your mind before the program was finished. But when the SBS's board of directors let Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz go last year, I knew the golden age was all but over.
Looking back, my honeymoon with Australia was short lived. More or less concurrent with the beginning of the SBS's block advertising, was the election of the Kennett government in Victoria. From that point, the country began its slow descent into a privatised, user-pays fiefdom for privateers. But that was nothing compared to the Howard government's logical extension of Kennett's innovations to the point where Australia has now become a model for xenophobic philistinism.
Over these years of despair at the perversion of Australian culture by these corporate-pocketed vultures, I have clung to the SBS as if it were a lifeline to civilisation. "As long as the SBS exists," I was wont to say, "I will never leave Australia."
Now that is about to change. In six months or so, the SBS is will start shoving ads down our throats during programs. Just like all the other chump channels all over the world. When that happens, Australia will truly become a nation ruled by the lowest common denominator.
Along with the takeover of the ABC board of directors by right wing lunatics, the Howard Government will soon suck the life out of the SBS, one of Australia's crowning achievements. Make no mistake, it is the Howard Ethos that is responsible for this move. They who know the price of everything and the value of nothing will have finally conquered.
Regardless of whether I leave or not, I can honestly say that I no longer call Australia home.
For more on this cultural tragedy, read Ross Warneke's Debate needed on SBS ad changes.
-- Benoît Balz
June 28, 2006
Grosso's dive reflects the present state of human evolution
In yesterday's rant, I carried on about referees and umpires and how they ruin every sport with their bad calls. Given that bribery is not involved, this can be attributed to mere incompetence. But what is the cause of most of these wrong decisions?
Listening to the SBS's Craig Foster and other commentators describe why seasoned Italy got through to the quarter-finals over newcomer Australia, it suddenly dawned on me. The reason, they all say, is that Italy is an experienced international competitor. What they really mean is that the Italy team are masters at cheating. They are not the only ones, of course; all the teams in FIFA's soccer establishment are guilty. The Aussies were only playing football, but the Italians were doing more. They were using their "experience" to con the referee into making faulty decisions favouring themselves.
There can be no doubt that Fabio Grosso took a dive over Lucas Neill with seconds left in the match. The Italian defender must have done so with the instinct honed from many seasons of resorting to such unsportsmanlike conduct. His dive set up the penalty shot for Francesco Totti, who celebrated his success by running around the pitch sucking his thumb.
According to Foster, from where the referee stood it looked like Grosso was tripped. Had he been standing somewhere else, with a different view, he might have given Grosso what he deserved for his theatrics, instead of giving the match to Italy. How utterly random and arbitrary was the outcome of this match decided.
To his discredit, Grosso continues to deny the dive. But so does the sleazy Italian coach Marcello Lippi. Like so much of what happens on this planet of woes, their contempt for ethics is par for the course.
What we saw in this match is a microcosm of what we see everyday in every aspect of life. To some degree, everyone cheats. Social convention requires it. Our politicians are its role models. It's as if that part of the brain that deals with the higher aspects of evolution is dormant. Heroes and prophets have tried to awaken it, but the Golden Calf always wins.
Grosso's dive is a local example of what is universally wrong with the human species. How small it makes us. How pathetic is our fear of the noble instinct. And yet, when we act honourably, there is no greater feeling. In honour is freedom.
-- Hyper Roland
Posted by Hyper Roland at 3:38 PM
June 27, 2006
Referees and umpires: the scourge of all sport
The well-known phrase, "We wuz robbed!" originated in 1932 with Max Schmeling's coach, Joe Jacobs, in response to the boxing judges awarding the match to Jack Sharkey when everyone thought Schmeling had clearly won.
It has become the cry at the end of so many sporting contests. No matter how well or how valiantly a team plays, their fate, as often as not, is in the hands of an incompetent referee or umpire.
This morning we saw the Italians given a ridiculous penalty shot some eight seconds before time. With the match fixing scandals now rocking Italy and the corruption that rules all business, you have to wonder if the presiding referee wasn't bribed.
Yeah, OK, I'm not saying he was, but given the obscene salaries of soccer players these days, slipping a referee a million bucks to make sure a team goes through is not wild speculation. It is most certainly possible.
And in our era of rapacious capitalism, who would turn down a million dollars for turning a blind eye? Or claiming a foul was committed when it clearly wasn't? There are so many ways to rationalise a decision like that. Yet people have been known to commit suicide when their team loses a major event. Let's hope the penalty was awarded to Italy out of over-zealousness or plain incompetence.
Hardly a match in any sport goes by without it being ruined by a bad call. It happens so often that you wonder why people continue to bother. But they do, and it's a worry. The reason is simple: they forget. Sports fans begin watching each match in a state of tabula rasa. They keep thinking their team's skills will get them through, or that if the other team's skills are better, then the loss will be honourable. They keep forgetting to take the referees and umpires into account. They keep forgetting from one match to the next, from one season to the next, that sooner or later a great match they have been looking forward to is going to be ruined by some officious fool who thinks he is God.
Add to the refereeing incompetence in all sports the agonising tension caused by soccer's low scoring and it is no wonder that "the beautiful game" is host to the world's worst sporting violence. Most other sports allow you to blow off steam by the continued scoring of goals, points or runs, but not soccer. As someone said, "it's all foreplay and no orgasm." Fine if you are a Tantric Buddhist, but if you've been throwing back suds after suds with your nerves strung as tight as a tennis racket, you are ready to commit mayhem by the end.
There have been other lowlights of this World Cup, all mentioned in detail by sportswriters. The Socceroos were worthy and honourable to a man, as was dear Guus "La Bestia" Hiddink. But Josip Simunic of Croatia gets my vote for the worst example of unsportmanlike behaviour. After being handed a second yellow card, the git stayed on the pitch, taking advantage of the referee's oversite in not sending him off. And then, at the end, he was given a third yellow card. Pathetic. There has to be an award for the player with the wildest name, and that goes to Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. Pronounced with Dutch gusto, it's a name I intend to memorise.
The World Cup is the greatest show on earth because it is a reminder that, contrary to the prevailing dog-eat-dog philosophy of "me and mine and to hell with yours," we are all in this life together. Seeing all these people from so many countries is reminiscent of the mind-blowing television coverage of the dawn of the 21st century, when each country began celebrating as the clock struck midnight. Viewers were made aware, time zone by time zone, of the simultaneous existence of earth's inhabitants.
But after watching most of some four World Cups since 1978, I came into this one with no illusions that I was going to witness unadulterated sporting glory. Almost every match has been decided, not by the players, but by the referees.
It all seems like such a waste. Sport has replaced religion as the opium of the masses. Spending one's life as a devoted spectator of sport can be summed up thus: Life wasn't meant to be fair. And then you die.
-- Hyper Roland
PS: At least we won't have to endure those repulsive "Stuff history" ads any more. The idea may have had merit, but the result was chunderous. Whoever convinced Nike and Terry Camilleri to go through with it should be tarred and feathered.
What a coincidence: Published in The Age today, Tim Colebatch had no idea how relevant this article would be, Lovely game, but badly in need of serious reform
Posted by Hyper Roland at 2:44 PM
June 20, 2006
Your worst nightmare
From out of your World Cup saturated TV set crawls the dreaded Sadako ...
Now she's comin' to get ya ...
But wait! She stands up ... it's not Sadako at all ...
Is it Alfred E. Newman?
Is it Mr Magoo?
Is it a Hitler Youth?
Oh, God. It's John Howard as a little boy. With cute little buckles on his cute little overalls.
THE HORROR ...
June 18, 2006
The Weekly Gee (20)
THE CHAPLAIN FROM HELL
Copyright © 2006, Maurie Gee
Posted by Willikers at 1:56 PM
June 17, 2006
Stacking the ABC's board with Howard's Huns
Keith Windschuttle. Scan of photo by James Croucher
A big week for Australia's little tyrant. First he showed utter cynical contempt for his own party members regarding the ACT civil unions standover (From Michael Gordon: Rocking the boat):
The anger over the civil unions matter concerns Tuesday's party-room discussion and Howard's failure to indicate during debate on that issue that he had dispatched Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, to ask the Governor-General to quash the law.
"You don't blame Ruddock. He was acting on Howard's instruction," one MP explained. "But it was done while party room was having the debate on this very issue. Howard was chairing the discussion and didn't reveal what was happening. It was less than straightforward. It was outright deceptive."
For some, the episode recalled the words of former Liberal Party federal president, Shane Stone, in that infamous memo of 2001, when he remarked that the Government was seen as "too tricky, sneaky, mean, out of touch and not listening".
Appears the little fella's hubris has grown larger than his weird little body. It's one thing to do the dirty on his own kind, but his attempt to turn the ABC into a fascist mouthpiece for his government (isn't he satisfied with every last commercial radio and television station doing same?) is about to turn Australia into a one-party state.
Here is Robert Manne, from PM's contempt for ABC:
Even now relatively few Australians realise that John Howard leads the most ideologically combative government in the nation's history. Even though it has won four elections; even though the Labor Opposition is demoralised; even though the Murdoch press and talk radio now operate as a kind of permanent hallelujah chorus extolling its virtues; even though the ABC has in general learned to be compliant, the Government is infuriated that there still exist small groups of political dissenters broadcasting from obscure corners at the ABC.
Having failed to bring the ABC to heel with a new-style management team under Jonathan Shier; having failed to gain the co-operation of the old-style conservative chairman, Donald MacDonald, in its bid to change the culture of the ABC; having failed to tame the ABC by direct ministerial attack, the Government has gradually found itself turning more and more to the board appointment of reliable right-wing heavy hitters, such as Ron Brunton and Janet Albrechtsen, to complete the job.
With the appointment of the most extreme cultural warrior in the country, Keith Windschuttle, the ideological gloves are finally off. Howard is determined to silence the thin voice of dissent still heard inside the ABC. In his determination, even the pretence of ABC independence has now been formally abandoned. The contempt for the ABC audience and for the institutions of democracy could not be more complete.
Enough to gag a maggot.
-- Chet LaMerde
Addendum: Here is what Mike Carlton has to say:
Never let it be said that John Howard has no sense of the absurd. The naming of the loopy polemicist Keith Windschuttle to the board of the ABC is the most hilarious appointment to public office since the mad Emperor Caligula threatened to make his horse a consul of Rome.
Click here for the rest.
Posted by Chet LaMerde at 4:32 PM
June 16, 2006
Windschuttle appointment completes Aryanisation of ABC
Courtesy: Geoff Pryor
Standing in the fast checkout line at the local supermarket this morning, I picked up The Age to check the weather and was met by the headline, ABC gets a culture warrior. My gasp was so loud that I frightened the little old lady in front of me. There was no point in telling her why. You can tell 3AW listeners a mile away and she would either have approved of the article's contents -- Keith Windschuttle's appointment to the ABC board -- or not given a damn.
Maybe I'm wrong about the old lady, but not about Windschuttle. He is John Howard's official revisionist historian. If the decade of Howard's shameful reign were a movie, somewhere in the end credits would be a disclaimer similar to: "No aborigine's were harmed in the founding of this Aryan nation," with Keith Windschuttle's name following.
Michelle Grattan says his "appointment is beyond controversial. It is highly provocative, suggesting that those in the Government determined to strike a decisive blow at the ABC's culture have won out." Make that Australia's culture as well.
In his book, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Windschuttle argued that the slaughter of Aborigines was a myth. This is akin to David Irving writing that the Holocaust was a myth. But Irving is now in disgrace worldwide, whereas Windschuttle has been elevated to a member of the board of Australia's national broadcaster.
This is an outrage from which the ABC -- and Australia -- may not recover. Everyone now on the board is a Howard appointee.
The Howard juggernaut appears unstoppable. His centralisation of power and gradual removal of human rights, first to asylum seekers, then to dissenters and working people, has no parallel in Australian history. Unless his own backbenchers revolt against this tin-pot dictator, Australia will be unrecognisable by the next election.
-- Chet LaMerde
June 15, 2006
Mullah John? He'd do anything for a vote
You've got to laugh at Abu Bakar Bashir's call for John Howard to convert to Islam. Not because it's the ludicrous suggestion of an intolerant old cleric whose ego has convinced him that he speaks for a conceptual entity he doesn't understand, but because John Howard would convert if it meant his political survival.
Is that stretching things? Perhaps. But Howard thinks nothing of changing Australian legal processes to placate Indonesia over the Papuan refugees. He is so used to bowing and scraping to the whims of the insane regime of George W. Bush, it's become second nature. Johnny thinks he's protecting Australia, but he's just responding to his quivering little anus as it anticipates the approaching bully.
Let's face it, beyond Howard's raison d'être, which is to straiten and punish, there is a non-core hollow at the centre of his being into which any expedient flipflop can be inserted. Moments later the new, improved policy position resonates within his callow heart as if it had always been a core belief.
We can relax for the moment. His supporters are still Christian swill. But if he lasts another few elections -- and it appears he can only be caned off stage by his own party -- Muslims just might become the majority. The man who easily converted from his Methodist origins to the more fashionable Anglican Church could then start shouting "Allah hu Akbar" as if he'd always meant it.
Maybe we should all convert to Islam now to see what happens.
-- Chet LaMerde
Posted by Chet LaMerde at 1:19 PM
June 4, 2006
The Weekly Gee (19)
Copyright © 2006, Maurie Gee
Posted by Willikers at 3:19 PM
June 3, 2006
Howard's Workhouse Laws: Back to Scrooge vs Bob Cratchit
WorkChoices … "is the sort of thing you do, as a government, because it is what you want to do, not because you have to." -- Shaun Carney, Let the tough times roll
It's all happening, just like John Howard intended it to. The Australian Liberal Party stands for nothing if not returning workers to their rightful position as slaves to masters. With few exceptions, all Liberal members in Parliament are slavering over the newfound power the employer class now has over their powerless employees. It's taken them a hundred years to return to a hundred years ago, but they've finally made it.
What a great example is this (all italics mine):
Talk-back radio was flooded with calls after the Opposition last week revealed that fabric chain Spotlight asked Coffs Harbour woman and lifelong Liberal voter Annette Harris to sign away penalty rates worth $90-a-week for compensation of just two cents an hour. Harris had taken unpaid leave, which the company treated as a termination, and was offered the new, but lesser, contract on her return. (Meaghan Shaw, Welcome to the new workplace)
But Spotlight's "business ethics" are just the most obvious tip of the iceberg. Read this excerpt from Shaun Carney's article (quoted at the beginning of this post.)
On Monday night, Peter McIlwain, the head of the Office of the Employment Advocate, the statutory body with which employers must register individual work contracts, formally known as Australian Workplace Agreements, told a Senate committee that every agreement lodged under the new laws had removed at least one pre-existing award condition. Of the 6263 AWAs lodged, 40 per cent removed public holidays, 64 per cent removed leave loadings and 63 cut penalty rate. Sixteen per cent removed all protected award conditions.
It is interesting to consider for a moment how well the Government might have fared at the last election if it had championed a policy that would produce those sorts of results. When Howard first announced the broad outlines of his workplace-relations reform program a year ago, he responded querulously to charges that workers might suffer a cut in their incomes. "Why would I want to do that?" he said.
Faced with examples such as the employee of the Spotlight fabric company in northern NSW who took unpaid leave and on her return was presented with an AWA that removed entitlements worth $90 a week in return for a rise in her base rate of two cents an hour, the Prime Minister now says that his laws are expressly about generating jobs. He refers approvingly to Spotlight opening up new outlets and cites this as a demonstration of the efficacy of his laws.
Again, this is where the link between prosperity and the individual comes into focus. With decent growth figures pushing the economy along, with unemployment bouncing around 5 per cent, inflation under 3 per cent, company profits sitting at very high levels, the need to cut into pay levels to generate extra employment does not seem all that clear.
It is the sort of thing you do, as a government, because it is what you want to do, not because you have to. That is the truth of WorkChoices: it will, over a relatively short space of time run wage levels down. That does not mean incomes must fall. But it will mean that a lot of workers might have to work longer or at times more convenient to their employer to maintain their income levels.
Workers are now easier to sack. It is now easier to hire people on any rate an employer chooses. It is harder to get a union onto a worksite. It is harder to secure objective, enforceable scrutiny of workplace arrangements. Elements of the less structured form of industrial negotiation that characterised the late 19th century workplace are being reintroduced.
It is no good for the Government to pretend otherwise and that is why the Prime Minister is no longer bothering to try. The laws were designed to produce the results that have been attracting news, such as the woman employed by Spotlight.
What makes this situation unusual in the life of the Government is that it cannot be tricked up, either by the Labor Party or by the Government itself. The Spotlight story will be repeated over and over again. These repetitions might not make the national media but people will learn of them. WorkChoices is not like the Snowy privatisation. It cannot be reversed with a single announcement.
When I was a teenager I thought as a teenager. Politics was boring. But even then, I always took the side of the worker in disputes with employers. Even though I'd never held a job, I knew that the relationship between employee and employer was always going to be loaded in the latter's favour. How could it be otherwise? And who could possibly be so dense as to believe otherwise?
I was fortunate. I missed the 19th century Scrooge era, but my kids evidently are not going to miss the 21st. I had some pretty awful employers but they never treated me the way Howard's employers are treating Australia's workers.
And Teflon John, the most astute politician in anyone's history is that far ahead of everyone, he managed to get his sedition laws passed first. Because to bitch and moan about something like losing "$90-a-week for compensation of just two cents an hour" could easily amount to sedition.
Howard's Way has amounted to Australia's End ... unless the Australian Way finally wakes up and puts an end to Howard. The sooner the better. (Attention AFP & ASIO: I'm referring to an electoral end. We want the little twat around to stand trial for his crimes.)
-- Chet LaMerde
June 2, 2006
Three reasons why Australia is a silly country
1) Seasonal change dates
Australians never question the absurdity of being told that each season begins on the first day of June, September, December and March. Whoever instituted this dumbing down of seasonal change dates has done Australians no favour. For one thing, they are alone in the world in this childish belief. Even the Americans know about the solstices and equinoxes.
But there is a more insidious effect. With this embarrassing simplification, Australians have no reminder of their relationship to the planets and the universe. In their belief that seasons begin on an arbitrary first day of a given month, they lose sight of their place in the cosmos. Easy prey, therefore, for those promoting a small, insular polity. When you are unaware of the Big Picture, you act accordingly.
Here in Australia, winter begins on June 21, not June 1. For a concise definition of why this is true, click here.
2) The national broadcaster is turned over to the coverage of Cricket
This one is mind-boggling. A country whose national broadcaster suspends its normal activities to provide hours of Cricket coverage day after day cannot be taken seriously.
The broadcasting of football takes up more than enough time, but it has regular time slots that we are all used to. But there is something infuriating about the ABC being arbitrarily turned over for entire days to a sport that is right out of the Ark, a throwback to a time when Australians were the protected children of Mother England. Hour after hour goes by with nothing much happening, yet the commentators struggle to keep us interested. Monty Python's 1970 sketch, "drunk cricket commentators," says it all.
Ultimately, the question is not the coverage of Cricket itself -- to each his own -- but that the national broadcaster is chosen to present it. Why not another station? We have a national news station, why not a national sports station? Those who wish to idle away their lives being cosseted and comforted as they nod on and off can do so. And the rest of us can stay in touch with the world.
3) Refusal to discuss religion and politics
Two of the most meaningful subjects for humanity and Aussies don't want a bar of them.
-- TG Willikers
Posted by Willikers at 11:17 AM