Monday, March 31, 2008

Old war, new plan

While I'm travelling down south, some thoughts on ending the Iraq war thanks to a Huffington Post link.

A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq is a mere 20 pages. Enough to fill those empty hours.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

McCain winning Iraq

Off to Canberra for a couple of days, so thought an offering from might entice you to visit them if you haven't yet. The videos from Ring of Fire are well worth a look, even though they are more straight debate than satire.

The death of the 4000th US soldier in Iraq has renewed the debate about media coverage of the war and the future of the occupation. Yesterday's PBS NewsHour analysis is available at As Iraq War Pushes On, Media Coverage Shifts

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 24, 2008

Broome Dinosaur Footprints

No, it's not a post about following some of John wHoward's ex-Ministers. It was one of those "Where are the other 6 billion people?" moments.

Monday 24 March 2008. 7:30 am Gantheaume Point, Broome. Low tide.

When the tide is low enough, you can climb down to the rocks below the Point lighthouse and see two exposed footprints of Megalosauropus broomensis. They are 53 cm long and are just some of the footprints around the Broome area.

We went the long way across from the end of Cable Beach. We were the only people there. Can't get over how often that happens in our crowded world. Let's keep it a secret!

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Lydia Balbal: Desert Country

Martagul 2008 by Lydia Balbal

Lydia Balbal was one of the children who walked out of her desert country in the 1960s. The story of their journey back to country Desert Heart was on ABC1 this week and will be repeated on ABC2 at 7:00 pm on Sunday 23 March.

Broome's Short Street Gallery who represent the Bidyadanga artists had an exhibition opening for Lydia Lydia's work on Thursday. The painting above is a stunning work. It depicts a special place in her father's country where she played as a child.

The only disappointment of the exhibition was that all but a handful of the her paintings had been sold beforehand.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, March 20, 2008

US Ambassador's visit makes Page 4 in Broome

Don't mention the war!

John wHoward and Alexander Downer have sneaked in and out of Broome while we've been living here. It was the US Ambassador Robert McCallum's turn last week. According to the Broome Advertiser: "a small media contingent gathered at Notre Dame [University] to quiz the ambassador on a range of issues." Naturally no citizen journalists were invited.

The results of the quiz were less that cutting edge. He's for trade and tourism, against global warming, and neutral about gas projects in the Kimberley. It seems that Basil Fawlty wasn't there to mention the war.

It goes without saying that his qualification for the job was that he was a College mate of George W. He has to resign next January so the holiday's almost over. I wonder which mate of Barack's will visit next time.

Apart from a few Uni students and the every vigilant press, the visit passed unnoticed. Even the Advertiser put it as the the second story on page 4. Even the Shire President was out of town on other business.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

McCain you've done it again!

I was thinking of doing a satirical video about John McCain's support of an ongoing occupation of Iraq. Found this little gem that reflected what I had posted earlier, especially the Kissinger connection and Nixon's phony "peace with honor". It turned out to be from McCain's own Channel.

You'd think this was an endorsement he could do without. Kissinger and Nixon were experts on "character".

For a non-partisan view of Iraq after 5 years of war, I recommend this piece by the BBC's John Simpson:

Some people - for instance Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate for the White House - will no doubt call this rearguard action a success. He may even be tempted to call it a victory.

Yet at present it is hard to think of it as particularly successful. On Monday, Vice-President Dick Cheney came to Baghdad and talked about "the phenomenal improvement in security". That day more than 60 Iraqis were killed in bomb attacks.

He had to travel with unprecedented numbers of bodyguards, even though he never left the heavily defended Green Zone. Two mortar rounds hit the Zone while he was there.

None of this feels like a phenomenal improvement in security.
He makes the broader point that the international standing and credibility of the United States has beena very high price of this war:
Iraqi friends of mine who once hated the fact that the Americans were here now praise them for driving the militants from the streets. That is a real success.

But it is small compared with the damage which the war has done to America's reputation. The US state department finds it much harder nowadays to be taken seriously when it criticises other countries for their use of torture and arbitrary arrest.

...Above all, we have seen how hard it is for the Americans to deal with a few thousand lightly armed volunteers.
Iraq war shows limits of US power (BBC News19 March 2008)
Anyday now I expect Bush to announce the Iraqisation of the war to enable a withdrawal of some kind. More echoes of Vietnam. It will not be a military solution which gets the US out of this latest quagmire. Any hope may rest with Barack Obama's oft claimed ability to get people together.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Work Choices: Gone but not forgotten!

The Senate has passed the bill to roll back John wHoward's Work Choices legislation.

To all those who fought so hard to defeat AWAs and the rest of the Coalition's attack on workers' rights and working conditions: THANKS!

A very special thanks to all those who worked before the election and on polling day to bring about real change.

To Emily and Torina at the Queanbeyan booth handing out Your Rights at Work how-to-vote cards.

The video of polling day around Canberra is worth replaying:

To Greg Combet and Sharon Burrow for sticking to the task and leading the way against overwhelming odds.

They said they would do what it takes but it was very hard to be optimistic in 2005 when Greg said:

I am confident that if we have the courage to stand up for our values, to provide the leadership, to fight for our cause, to reach out to others and invite them to join us, we will win.
Work Choices - the challenges ahead 15 November 2005

A real cause for celebration!

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 17, 2008

War Reflection #2: “Peace with Honor” – the usual spin

John McCain has made it clear that if he is President, Iraq will continue to echo the worst aspects of the Vietnam War. The beliefs that it is winnable and that it can go on indefinitely are frightening reminders of the hawk politics of 40 years ago. 1968 was the year that LBJ retired a shattered man because of the war, the My Lai massacre took place and Richard Nixon was elected US President promising to end the war.

The current “success” of the surge smacks of Nixon’s promises to get peace with honour. Peace was even declared in 1973 with the hollow Paris Accords, just two years before the rout of the South Vietnamese. Nixon announced “an agreement to end the war and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and in Southeast Asia.”

It was an empty charade to get US troops home without acknowledging defeat. With macabre irony the chief negotiators Henry Kissinger and Le Doc Tho were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

John McCain has promised us:

I intend to win the war, and trust in the proven judgment of our commanders there and the courage and selflessness of the Americans they have the honor to command.

Faced with similar challenges, previous generations of Americans have passed such tests with honor. It is now our turn to demonstrate that our power, ennobled by our principles, is the greatest force for good on earth today.

Strategy for Victory in Iraq
Presumably the Vietnam conflict, where 50,000 Americans died, was not one of those "similar challenges".

McCain's brief response to Admiral William Fallon's early retirement last week as commander-in-chief of Central Command did not address any of the issues which brought about his decision. Fallon had "served with honor". Strange for someone who criticises George Bush for changing the military leadership in Iraq too frequently.

We are going to hear a lot more that sounds like "peace with honor" before this year is over. Expect the usual spin from the usual suspects.

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, March 16, 2008

War Reflection #1: The My Lai Massacre

On 16 March 1968 U.S. forces killed between 300 and 500 Vietnamese civilians in what came to be known as the My Lai (My Son) massacre. The military covered up the atrocity and President Richard Nixon and the Pentagon ignored it at first. Lieutenant William Calley who led the slaughter was eventually charged and convicted of murder but served only a few months in prison.

It was only weeks after the politically disastrous Tet Offensive and seven years before the Vietnam conflict ended. It was 30 years before helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson and two other soldiers were honoured for stopping the killing.

There are hundreds of thousands of websites that mention My Lai. I would recommend another source for some understanding of the dark side of humanity that perpetrates such barbarity: Tim O’Brien’s 1994 novel In the Lake of the Woods. He served 'in country' as a draftee in 1969-70 with the same division as Calley.

It is not an easy read. Its structure is very complex and it uses multiple voices. It is anything but a straightforward narrative. It is a mixture of many elements: war story, political intrigue, murder mystery and a tale of psychological magic.

O’Brien has written other novels based on his Vietnam experiences, such as If I Die in a Combat Zone and The Things They Carried, which are well worth reading.

In October 2003 O’Brien spoke of similarities of Vietnam with the Iraq war. Even then he remarked, “Just the doubletalk of it all reminds me of Vietnam, “lights a glow at the end of tunnels,…” We can only hope that recent progress is not illusory.

Stay tuned for "Peace with Honor".

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, March 15, 2008

TV premiere for Desert Heart

Winpa by Daniel Walbidi

Not to be missed next Tuesday : Desert Heart, a documentary by David Batty of Bush Mechanics fame.

Members of the Yulparija tribe who left the Great Sandy Desert forty years ago return to their land. They now live on the sea at the Bidyadanga community south of Broome. An art movement based on their traditional country flourishes there today.

ABC1 Tuesday 18 March at 10:00 pm on Artscape.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 14, 2008

Budget traps for new players

Was it naiveté or just lack of experience that has tied up the Rudd government before its first budget?

It seems we are to keep the baby bonus unchanged too. The government has been forced into the denial trap before the budget by the carers and seniors bonuses fiasco. Testing the water opens up a can of worms and other mixed metaphors. Every interest group and every journo will get on the denial wagon. Ministers could spend all their time ruling out changes. There may be nothing, or other clichés, left on the table for the Treasurer to play with. Except for a few pig troughs still brimming from the Howard government.

Speaking of pre-election funding, I wonder what has happened to the $1,500,000 promised to Notre Dame University's Broome Campus for sports and recreation facilities. Given the inflationary pressures on the local building industry it would have to be "in" question. There were some local rumblings at the time of the announcement. There are similar facilities in need of support and the commercial gym's viability was under threat of permanent closure.

At a national level, we shouldn't rule out a cutback in infrastructure funding which is not targeted at productivity related projects. Might have to plug the pork barrel for a year or two. Being a current Broome resident, I won't tell my new Facebook friend Lindsay razor Tanner.

P.S. Two acute accents in one post is a new record for LaborView. Not to mention two pig allusions.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, March 13, 2008

With friends like Ferraro and Power...

When there is little debate about policies, then catching out the campaign teams becomes the focus of the media. Some key players seem only too willing to be caught.

On the available evidence Samantha Power and Geraldine Ferraro both deserved to fall on their swords. Power was joining the chorus of tens of thousands of online comments making personal attacks on Clinton, the kind that are rare about Obama amongst Democrats.

There has been a lot of description in the media of the racial, gender, class and religious demographics for the primaries and caucuses. However they are dangerous territory for people in the political arena. There was plenty of discussion of Romney's membership of the Mormon church and Huckabee's evangelism. These echoed past debate about whether America would elect a Catholic or Jewish president. The slurs about Obama's middle name had obvious religious intent.

However, questions such as why do so many white middle class women support Barack are not politically correct apparently.

The best post I've seen about the divide within Democrat women is Come Together? Yes, We Can.: "We can be fed up with the media's treatment of Clinton and still vote for Obama. We can be inspired by Obama's promise and still vote for Clinton." Unfortunately such unity is not the spirit of the times.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

King Tide at Chinatown

High tides used to regularly flood the Chinatown area of Broome in Western Australia. They are still a spectacular sight, especially at Streeter's Jetty once used by the old pearl luggers. There weren't as many mangroves along that part of Roebuck Bay then as a result.

The famous outdoor cinema Sun Pictures experienced tidal flooding until banks were constructed in 1974.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

John McCain: a Teddy Roosevelt environmentalist

Five weeks ago I looked at John McCain's environmental policies. It's one of the few areas of hope if he wins the presidency, though there are plenty of sceptics.

Checked his website again and the environment policy, Stewards of Our Nation's Rich Natural Heritage, has not changed. If he has developed any details about how he will tackle global warming, they are missing. His previous video clip, taken from a so-called town hall meeting, was a rambling, soporific affair with little evidence of editing. It has been replaced by a clip that is tightly cut and professionally finished. It's only a year old!

He's going to tackle climate change, but agrees with the US decision not to ratify Kyoto. He'll join when China and India do. I'm sure he knows that they are signatories but why confuse the American voters unnecessarily. The spin is the spin. It's like an old John Howard speech. A more recent effort on his YouTube channel, McCain Addresses Climate Change, has some detail. It's only 7 months old. He supports cap and trade. He will "incentivize" American capitalism to find technological answers. More nuclear power and oil independence are the other solutions.

McCain's two environmental heroes are Ronald Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt. Like the true conservative he claims to be, McCain spends a lot of time reaching out to 20th century glories.

Now that he has the Republican nomination, let's hope the US media put McCain's policies under more scrutiny before the official campaign starts. It won't be long before we hear the Democrat's environment policy attacked by the conservatives as anti-jobs and anti-America. It will be fascinating to see how far McCain will move to the right to court their support.

Overall it's hard to find many substantive differences that separate McCain and Bush. The environment seems to be one.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 10, 2008

Broome Catalina Sunrise

It was a negative tide this morning. This provided the opportunity to see the remains of some of the flying boats sunk by Japanese planes on 3 March 1942. More than 40 people died and 15 flying boats were destroyed as well as other aircraft on the ground.

If you can't manage the walk, there is a hovercraft trip.

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Obama: King of the Caucuses

Obama does particularly well in caucuses. It’s 59/40 in Wyoming according to The Fix, giving him an extra 2 delegate advantage apparently. This is down on some of his earlier caucus performances.

Is it the meeting format which attracts his supporters or the open, combative nature of the voting which may stop some people from attending? It can get a bit stressful, as the following report from East Austin, Texas indicates. This democracy thing is just a little tricky. They are electing 27 local delegates to a county convention that elects delegates to a State convention to finalise the State Caucus delegates to the National convention:

As expected, Hispanics tend toward the former [Clinton}, African Americans and young Anglos who'd been priced out of their previous neighborhoods toward the latter [Obama]--but, to my racially-profiling eyes, there's still plenty of crossover.

... As the two groups grew in number, so did the volume of their claps and cheers.
There was tied vote, 128 for each candidate. It was decided to get a 9 year old girl to flip a coin to decide their last delegate to the 6800 strong county convention.
Catherine fingers a strand of hair. A group of about 15 people gather round Catherine. Cameras and cell phones emerge from their pockets. Of all the trivial photos they'd taken and deleted, this one would certainly be worth keeping.

Lonnie calls it in advance. Heads. If it comes out heads, Clinton gets the delegate. Tails goes to Obama. Catherine lays the coin on her index and middle fingers, then flips it up. It lands on its side, rolls a couple feet, lays flat. Everyone gathers round the coin. The nine-year-old's face takes on a shy cast while James and Lonnie bend over the coin.

"It's tails," Lonnie announces. "Obama gets the 14th delegate."

Obama By A Coin Flip (The New Republic 7 March 2008)
Another win for Barack! Even the currency is on his side it seems.

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hosts of Hillary haters

Everyone seems to like Barack Obama but the Hillary haters are legion. I've been trying to discover why. Sexism and even misogynism may explain some of it. For instance this attack regarding the recent TV ad:

I watched, transfixed, as she took the 3 a.m. call...and I was afraid...very afraid. Suddenly, I realized the last thing this country needs is that woman anywhere near a phone. I don't care if it's 3 a.m. or 10 p.m. or any other time. I don't want her talking to Putin, I don't want her talking to Kim Jong Il, I don't want her talking to my nephew. She needs a long rest. She needs to put on a sarong and some sun block and get away from things for a while, a nice beach somewhere -- somewhere far away, where there phones.
On the Red Phone, Larry David (Huffington Post 6 March 2008)
Perhaps Bill Clinton's patchy record resounds with many. If so there is a lot of irony in the use of "that woman" in these remarks.

Is this the same Hillary Clinton we find in this endorsement of her by Natalie Portman:
I also like Obama. I even like McCain. I disagree with his war stance--which is a really big deal--but I think he's a very moral person. I met him and Hillary on the same day, actually, when I went to Washington with Finca [a nonprofit that gives loans to businesswomen in developing countries]. Hillary was by far the smartest person I met that day. Just totally focused, and knew more about the issues than anyone else, and was so able to go from one thing to the other.
THE NATURAL (Elle April 2008)
The extract on Huffington Post is headed "Natalie Portman defends Hillary Clinton". "Defends" not "praises".

The use of language is everything in politics: realist v cynic, vocal v carping, pragmatic v unprincipled, passionate v volatile, thoughtful v cunning, focussed v obsessive, compromise v sellout, ambitious v power hungry, strong v aggressive, flexible v erratic, mature v post menopausal. The last one I took from the comments on Larry David's post.

The personal attacks on Hillary often rely on emotive language: scary, crazy, insane, traitor, fanatical and more topically monster. This was just a quick sample from comments on the more liberal blogs.

These words come to mind to describe some of her critics: aggressive, cynical, volatile, obsessive and carping. I will not question their sanity.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 7, 2008

Online Video for Political Junkies

Some sites for those can’t get enough online video or political coverage. There is plenty of quality stuff around without having to crawl through the home movies on YouTube.

Al Gore’s online, Current TV. They sometimes pay for clips for their own cable and satellite channel. It's an open service where you can download your own contributions.

From the Washington Post/Newsweek stable, comes Slate V. It’s part of Slate online, a daily web magazine covering “politics, news and culture”. They pick the "best" videos.

GoLeft TV has a news service and a range of documentaries. Its politics are very liberal, in the traditional sense of the word. There is a limited selection of about 700 videos.

Please add any others in Comments.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Great Presidential Race

Two versions. The first on Teachertube which is not blocked by educational authorities. The second, on Youtube now has sound.

It's a strange kind of democracy but it makes for great spectator sport. the great race for the Democratic nomination continues despite the pundits. Media commentators, psephologists, political observers and poll junkies in general have been quick to write off Hillary Clinton. Barracking for Barack can cloud your judgment.

I'm in minority who believe that this prolonged primary season could be good for the Democrats. Both candidates need to be tested before they take on the ruthless Republicans (now who's barracking). The dirt will certainly fly. We will also be presented with a rosy rewriting of history, specially the Iraq war.

I support both Barack and Hillary. New leadership which is concerned for working families. It was a familiar tune in last year's Australian elections.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 3, 2008

Democrat Decision Day: Primary Reflections

Mixed Metaphors

I read an animal metaphor recently on the Huffington Post for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. She's the fox who knows lots of small things while he's the hedgehog who knows just one big thing. The micro politician being upstaged by the macro one.

My preferred metaphor is automotive.

Hillary as the second-hand station wagon. Reliable. Lots of miles on the clock and lots of baggage. And a passenger who used to do all the driving.

Barack is a brand new Four Wheel Drive/SUV. Low miles, in fact hardly run-in. Plenty of room for all those who want to get on board. Video display, GPS, good vision all round. Yet to go off road.

Both would go the distance.

The First Cut

The Toledo Blade's editorial was featured on Obama's website last week. Needless to say they were endorsing him:
Mr. Obama offers a breath of fresh air and new hope at a depressing time in the life of this nation. His selection would send an unmistakable signal to the world that America really may be living up to its promise of a just and truly pluralistic society.
It's not just the Blade's colourful name which bemused me. They qualified their support:
Again, this endorsement does not mark our final verdict for November. John McCain, the all-but-certain GOP nominee, is a far more admirable figure than George W. Bush, although his policies on the war and the economy merely mimic those of the incumbent.

We will be scrutinizing the candidates very carefully as the general election campaign progresses. But at this point we feel free to break with tradition and enthusiastically recommend that on Tuesday, Ohio Democrats cast their primary ballots for Barack Obama.
I suppose even equivocal endorsements are worth publicising. Who reads past the headline anyway.

Planet Hollywood

Speaking of endorsements, will Jack Nicholson's Youtube support for Hillary, Jack and Hill, trump Oprah Winfrey's earlier anointing of Barack? It's definitely Planet Hollywood. It has had 1,147,991 views in 2 days. Winning Ohio and Texas must be on Hillary's Bucket List.

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Kangaroo in Austin, Texas

In October 1980 I visited Larry, a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin. The history of photography was his specialty. In June that year we had met on a train from Lisbon to Paris. His Spanish saved me when immigration officials discovered that my visa for Spain was not multiple-entry and wanted to arrest me. I wasn’t getting off the train so they were uncharacteristically flexible. We shared a room in Paris while Larry was exploring second-hand shops and markets for antique photographic equipment and memorabilia.

It was only days before the 1980 Federal election in Australia and weeks before Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter. Somewhere I still have a photo drinking Lone Star beer on my 33rd birthday and a Stop Reagan T-shirt that I picked up from a Democratic campaign office in Austin.

UTA is well known in the USA for many things:

* The 1966 shooting massacre (14 killed, 31 wounded) by Charles Whitman
* The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
* The Longhorns football team
* The Harry Ransom Center which has a Gutenberg Bible, a replica of mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner's study (of Perry Mason fame), and the Art by English and American Authors collection amongst many others.
This collection has art works by William Blake, George Bernard Shaw and Henry Miller and several others. When I was looking at some of the self-portraits a curator called me over to a display draw. She was trying to identify and catalogue some sketches that contained illustrations of kangaroos, clearly my area of expertise. The DHL initials were a clear giveaway, especially since there were other works by D.H. Lawrence on display. They were obviously related to his time in Australia in 1922 when he wrote the novel, Kangaroo . You didn’t need to be Perry Mason to work that one out. They are properly catalogued now.

In 1980 Austin was a relatively small city despite being the State Capital. The University was the biggest industry with what seemed like half the population either staff or students. There were a significant number of African Americans around town but very few visible at the university itself. Larry explained that all would be revealed on Sunday. When we watched a telecast of the Longhorn’s gridiron game almost all the team were black. He pointed out that there were more at the uni. On the basketball and track teams. Let’s hope things have changed.

At the LBJ Library and Museum there was an exhibition of political cartoons that Johnson had collected throughout his long career. The collection has an amazing four thousand original editorial cartoons. His Presidency is mostly remembered now for the Vietnam War debacle. Naturally the museum also presented the positive side of his political life such as his civil rights legislation and the Great Society program. ‘The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.’

If you’re ever in that part of god’s own country, Austin is a must.

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Deep in the heart of Texas

The race to win the Democrat Presidential nomination continues to bemuse the psephologist in me. Take Texas for instance. It has a primary (126 delegates up for grabs) and caucuses(67 delegates). With the help of The New Republic's Lone Star Primer all has become clear. How many delegates each State congressional district gets is based on how they voted in the last 2 National Senate elections. The more Democrat votes, the more delegates. This is supposed to give Barack Obama an advantage over Hillary Clinton because more blacks turned out than hispanics. Simple, isn't.

Now to participate in a caucus you have to have voted in the primary. If that sounds like double-dipping you're right. Two votes for the price of one. (If you're not sure how a caucus works then go back to square one.)

Texas has had a unique Presidential history during my lifetime. John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum is in Austin. Presumably George W. Bush will build his own museum there too. I can't imagine what books would be in the library. His father's library is in College Station half way between Austin and Houston.

At least the weather shouldn't keep them away.

Sphere: Related Content
Back to Top