Thursday, July 31, 2008

War and Greed

Christopher Kremmer's The Carpet Wars is a book that shouldn't be missed by anyone interested in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan not to mention the rest of the Middle East and the sub continent. It is primarly about people and their culture rather than politics and war. Essentially a memoir about his time as a journalist before 2001 it has a very critical post 9/11 reflection.

On a related US election issue, he was inteviewed on Life Matters on Tuesday about his upcoming lecture The good, the bad and the greedy The dodgy US financial system and current economy turmoil are another part of George W. Bush's legacy about which John McCain is in denial. Not, not.. not responsible.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Carbon Cop-outs: too little, too fast

Brendan Nelson must be hoping that the price of oil will go back up again before one or more leadership challenges becomes reality. It’s his only policy at present. His stance on emissions trading seems to be less consistent than his party’s. He wants a delay of one or two years. But just what does he want to happen? I wonder what the Nationals would be prepared to vote for? What part of the green paper would the Coalition parties support? Will the new Liberal National Party in Queensland support

It’s bad enough that the future of Australia’s approach to climate change might be in the hands of Nick Xenophon and Family First. What will they demand in return for their votes? More betrayals of majority wishes on personal moral issues such as we saw with Brian Harradine?

The Greens will also have to think very hard about their bottom line. It would be ironic and tragic if the deniers get their way because a compromise can’t be negotiated amongst ETS supporters. Perhaps a Coalition Senator or two may have to cross the floor before we are finished.

Let’s hope that the electorate doesn’t decide at the next election that the Rudd government did too little, too fast.

There is a lot of misinformed comment about. I’m tired of claims that the Draft Garnaut Report on Climate Change did not address/mention certain aspects of the debate when it clearly did. It might be 500 pages long but you would expect so-called experts to at least scan it.

Yesterday’s Counterpoint on ABC Radio National was a case in point when Bob Birrell claimed that the issues related to increased immigration and population “haven't been discussed publicly as yet, certainly not by Garnaut or by the government”. The draft itself and his public briefings are evidence to the contrary.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

McCain: Not responsible

View from Adelaide

Currently spending some time in Adelaide which is definitely a slower pace than Melbourne.

It has been fascinating to watch Barack Obama sweep through the Middle East like Rommel and Europe like a Panzer division. Oops, don't mention the wars! McCain can only bleat at this stage. Can you blame the media for covering Barack's trip rather than John's shopping trips and town hall speeches? The Republicans can't keep avoiding blame for the Iraq debacle and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afganistan which resulted. They are responsible and McCain is just as culpable.

Anway it's back to domestic politics for Obama, with the economy and climate change the biggest challenges. If recent back pedalling by conservatives in Australia are any indication the latter is going to be the battleground of the next few years, especially after the election.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Afghanistan snow for Obama?

Whoever wins in November, the US, and Australia will be in Afghanistan for a very long time. Certainly longer than the Soviet Union. The only question seems to be whether Bush or his successor has the first surge. Their optimism about Iraq may prove to be illusionary, either in the short term or the longer haul. Repeat surges there are hardly a political option except perhaps for John McCain.

Let’s hope that Barack Obama isn't being snowed by the military during his overseas tour. If that’s necessary. You have to wonder how many of his enthusiastic supporters in Australia are aware of his plans to increase military spending and the size of the armed forces. He is no dove.

The political and military goals in Afghanistan are even murkier than in Iraq. At least the US will be able judge when the oil is flowing freely and cheaply again. Afghan stability will be a whole new concept.

Because of the attention on Pope Benedict at the World Youth Day in Sydney, coverage of the US presidential election has been thin lately. The speed of the pope-mobile and photo opportunities with babies have been the cliché of the day. It was high theatre with the stations of the cross seeming to take longer than the original story. We can now get back to the important stuff – sport. It was fitting that the mass for the masses was at a racecourse.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Obama & McCain: Click Go the Smears

There is a blue corner and a neutral corner in the US campaign game called Fight the Smears. Barack Obama has an official site

Does he have a birth certificate?

Is he patriotic? Sometimes the “truth” is as troubling as the rumour.

Judge for yourself.

An apparently independent Kevin Martin aka Xclusive stands guard at

But what it all boils down to. Is I’m a man that is sick of the way the country is being run into the ground. Both the Republicans and Democrats need to take responsibility for all that has gone wrong. But we know that won’t happen as they will lose their all powerful seats in government. It’s up to us the American people to get this country back on track. It’s not going to be easy but we can do it.
He takes a swing at smears to both sides, for example John McCain wife beating joke. Couldn’t bring myself to click on Fun Stuff. Presume it's not X-rated by Xclusive.

It reminds me of the time a Year 8 class at Katherine High School in the Northern Territory were researching government using the internet. One student who chose the US asked for suggestions so I directed him to Before long he called me over asking if I was sure about the site. When I glanced at the screen it turned out to have pornographic content as well as politics. It was the blue corner!

As a sign of the times the porn has been dropped leaving just US politics. It’s mostly “Man in the Street” vox pops. The latest interview is a woman! The president’s website was In George W’s case it’s open to question which site was more obscene.

For more satire you can also try that presents itself as the “Officious Website of President George W. Bush”. It has posts such as President Bush Holds Fruitful Meeting With All-New, Refreshingly Submissive Ruler of Insufferably Snotty Frogs

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Shooting Obama in the Sandal

The campaign is hotting up:

The cover of the New Yorker magazine has caused an uproar in the States. It's hard to believe that they are pro Obama. Obviously the editor doesn't understand the cliché about Americans having no sense of irony.

The Stump at The New Republic was typical of the response:

When I first looked at the image, I was focused on the heads, and I thought, "keffiyeh -- check; Afro -- check, terrorist fist jab -- check; but where the heck is the gratuitous desecrated American flag?" Closer inspection, though, revealed: there it was! They really left no base uncovered here.
(What Were They Thinking? 13 July 2008)

This attack on John McCain on GoLeft TV by let's him shoot himself in the foot with his own straight talking:

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Life and death journalism

As if to prove the global village cliché, an email from Voices without Votes arrived concerning a forum about web journalism "Socioeconomía of Web 2,0" held last Wednesday in Madrid.

Paula Gonzalo reports for Periodismo Ciudadano (Citizen Journalism):

Jaime Estévez: “No todos los periodistas ciudadanos llegarán a ser periodistas, pero habrá casos en los que estén a la par”

Os voy a demostrar que todos podemos ser fuente de noticias, comenzaba diciendo Jaime Estévez, en su charla dentro del seminario “Socioeconomía de la Web 2.0″.

Voy a haceros una foto y subirla a Twitter, y veremos como esta foto es compartida por cientos de personas que van a interactuar con ella.

“El mercado de la información esta atravesando grandes cambios con la eclosión de la web 2.0″, un cambio en 10 pasos de los que os dejamos algunos:

- Hemos pasado de un modelo de escasez informativa, al de la abundancia.

- Hemos pasado de un modelo de tutelaje, a la libertad informativa, hoy por hoy con cero recursos puedes poner en marcha tu medio de comunicación.

- Hemos pasado del criterio autoritario, al del conocimiento y en Internet es fácil saber quien sabe de algo.

- Hemos pasado del reconocimiento de marca, al reconocimiento de la persona.

- Hemos pasado del autismo analógico, a la conversación digital. Antes cada medio intentaba asentar su criterio de autoridad, ahora si no se rectifica, sino se enlaza, pierdes credibilidad.

- Hemos pasado de la opacidad, a la transparencia de las fuentes.

- Ahora una información tiene tanta o más credibilidad dependiendo de los enlaces que promuevas. La propiedad industrial ha cambiado por la información compartida.

- Nuevos mercados requieren nuevas estrategias.

- Hemos pasado de los anunciantes cautivos, a la absoluta libertad del anunciante basada en la segmentación.

jaime-oscar.jpgEntre los asistentes dudas sobre el poder de los ciudadanos para generar información “peligrosa”, en cuanto a publicación de información amarilla.

Espiritusanto apuntaba: “Es mucho mas fácil vender una gran mentira desde un gran medio, la credibilidad del blogger, (periodista ciudadano), se construye día a día, y esa construcción depende de la seriedad, del rigor con que informes a una audiencia que ahora es global.”

“Las redacciones de los periódicos se han estancado en torno a la pantalla de Google, apenas se hace periodismo en la calle, el periodista ciudadano está en la calle.”

Jaime Estévez comentaba: “El hecho de que publiques una noticia no te convierte en periodista, puedes ser periodista en un momento puntual, en una ocasión en la que tienes algo que contar. No todos los periodistas ciudadanos llegarán a ser periodistas, pero habrá casos en los que estén a la par.”

“El individuo se ve potenciado con este poder informativo que le convierte en vigilante del poder, antes solo teníamos los votos para ejercer ese poder, ahora tenemos la red”, añadía Óscar.

Respecto a si es o no periodismo el periodismo ciudadano, Jaime comentaba: “No se trata de apoderarse de nada sino de identificar un concepto.”

“Sobre publicar en red de forma anónima o identificada, Espiritusanto se decantaba por la segunda. “Hay varios perfiles de periodistas, el uso de un alter ego es una fórmula, Yoani Sánchez es un ejemplo de periodista ciudadana con nombre y apellidos, a pesar de las represalias. Cuando hay alguien detrás de un blog dispuesto a informar con rigor la gente le sigue, le pese a quien le pese.”
A quick google translation will give you the gist. If you look up Periodismo Ciudadano on Wikipedia in English you'll find:
It is a controversial word: for some journalists there is nothing that can be called citizen journalism, because journalism is a professional discipline that can not be democratized to the public: the information is not democracy but power.
There was discussion about the merits of using your own name versus anonymity. In Latin America this can be a life and death matter:
There are various profiles of journalists, the use of an alter ego is a formula, Yoani Sánchez is an example of a citizen journalist using her full name, in spite of the retaliations.
Yoani is an award-winning Cuban blogger at Generación Y. No translation needed. Her website has translations in five languages.

It was interesting that the Microsoft forum on the same topic was so myopic in terms of the non-English speaking world. Just another part of the information hegemony.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cavalcade of Arrogance

A follow-up to my earlier post, Senior Citizen Journalist:

The video of the panel discussion at the Microsoft Politics and Technology Forum varies from rash generalisations to insults. We now have a blogger stereotype: "5 second experts". I'm proud to be part of the "cavalcade of arrogance". We might well point their question back at most of the panelists: "Who do they think they are?". They seemed to know little about political bloggers in Oz and nothing about citizen journalism. Peter Black was a refreshing contrast to the other so-called experts.

Anyway it was good to see Annabel Crabb blog again this week especailly St Kevin smites global sinners. She certainly had plenty of the irreverence Margaret Simons recommends for bloggers.

A criticism of the mass media blogs in Australia, including Fairfax papers, is that they do not allow links to the responders. Hence killing any meaningful debate. It can't be about inappropriate sites as the comments are moderated before publication in most cases.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Of Saints and Sinners

This post began as a response to Annabel Crabb's blog entry, St Kevin smites global sinners

My original comment was:

You aren't safe anywhere at present. You can't get way from it even in Melbourne. When returning from the MCG last night after watching the triumphant Saints, I shared a very crowded carriage (the train was late) with 5 schoolgirls from the Oxford Oratory which is a Catholic church/school in England. All dressed in virginal (I mean the blessed one) blue and heading eventually to Sydney for the WYD according to their logos. They must have felt at home. The Sandringham line has such familiar station names as Hampton and Brighton. They were unaware of the origin of the name Balaclava. Perhaps a comment on British History teaching.

If you're not going to Il Pappa's Big Day In, I suggest watching the highlights of Ross Garnaut's Melbourne briefing, A Taste of Garnaut: The Climate Challenge on the web and my blog. Some people might even read the draft report. Remember, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I know I've been watching you and your fellow presenters at Microsoft Politics and Technology Forum, also online.
Upon reading The Age on Saturday morning the reason that St.Kilda were not playing at the Docklands stadium became clear. A Catholic Mass was being held there as a lead up to World Youth Day in Sydney. Hence the presence of the teenagers and the train's delay. For the uninitiated St.Kilda is an Australian Football League team. AFL is the other religion in these parts.

Anyway I got to thinking about the sexual abuse scandal which has rocked Sydney's Cardinal Pell before the Pope's visit and have decided that I want an apology on behalf of myself and thousands of others who suffered physical and psychological abuse in Catholic schools in the 1950's and 1960's. If you're not sure about the kind of things I mean, James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man captured some of the flavour. The modern church may well be a more caring and sensitive place. One can only hope so.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Senior Citizen Journalist

A post written in response to Gary Sauer-Thompson's missing the point of blogs, this morning. He recommends watching the panel discussion at the Microsoft Politics and Technology Day, Canberra 25th June 2008:

If it's worth watching at all, it's to get some idea of how badly misunderstood the independent blogosphere can be, and perhaps how poorly the blogosphere has articulated what it actually does, or can do given the opportunity.

The political blogosphere is much misunderstood. Especially we amateurs. The euphemism is citizen, meaning unpaid and unrecognised. I think I'll put 'Senior Citizen Journalist' on the next census and passport application. There seems to be a lot of forums and discussion about CitJ's (love the jargon) which is fascinating given how few there seem to be in Australia.

Lots of people are blogging, as commentators or conduits for news and commentary. Lots are making satirical video and animation. Except at election time, it's hard to find many who have the time or inclination to undertake traditional news gathering and investigation. Perhaps it is a job for seniors who have the time.

When the WA government held a Community Cabinet in Broome earlier this year I contacted the relevant government office to get some kind of accreditation to find out what was planned and get the press releases. The initial response was that it would set a dangerous precedent. What if every university student with a camrecorder wanted to come to the Perth media briefings. There wouldn't be enough room. I was eventually successful and the fruits such as they were can be found in my video collections on YouTube and TeacherTube.

Recently the ABC Radio's Australia Talks planned a program on Citizen Journalism but replaced it with a more general one on the "Authority of the media". There are useful links on the website and some discussion of citizen journalism.

Used to enjoy Annabel Crabbe's SMH blog but she rarely has more than one post per month these days. A pity. Won't comment on her remarks until I've seen the footage.

Watch this cliché!

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Taste of Garnaut: The Climate Challenge

A briefing by Ross Garnaut in Melbourne on Wednesday drew a full house of 2000. He reported on and answered questions about his Draft Climate Change Report. He responded to his critics from the right who argue that we should not move before China and India and those who have argued for stronger and more urgent action. The audience was generally supportive with no questions from global warming sceptics or opponents of his general thrust.

For a taste of his presentation and responses, please watch:

A Taste of Garnaut: The Climate Challenge

The G8's, and in particular, George W. Bush's, "shared vision" on carbon emissions beggars belief when placed alongside the 500 page Draft report which can be downloaded from their website.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ross Garnaut's Briefs

The interim report from the Garnaut Climate Change Review is supposed to make for troubled reading. Maybe because it's over 500 pages. I'm settling for the Summary before the public forum in Melbourne tomorrow. It is will interesting to see how much is 'briefing' and how much 'discussion' takes place in 90 minutes. Will have to rely on the mass media and the blogosphere for misinformation in the meantime.

As a token I'm taking public transport - a bus and a train! Lots of carbon tyre tracks to redeem after our 9500 km trip from Broome to Melbourne in the 4WD. Bush camping was only a slight credit in the emissions ledger. Registration is closed - the Town Hall is full.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Stasiland: the price of protecting the State

Australian Anna Funder was a ubiquitous media presence when Stasiland, her examination of the East German secret police, was published in 2002. It is the story of how a society can turn on itself in the name of self protection and national security. It is compelling non-fiction, documenting the experiences of people who she met and interviewed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the disintegration of the communist German Democratic Republic.

We meet both the victims and the villains: A woman who tried to escape across the border as a 16 year old whose her husband died mysteriously in prison. A mother who was denied access to her sick child in West Berlin because she would not betray someone. The Stasi TV broadcaster who was their media face on the "Black Channel". A foreign spy. The man who drew the line for the Wall. A recruitment officer. An agent who caught people being smuggled across the border. And lots more.

The techniques of the totalitarian regime were all encompassing: Unceasing harassment, blacklisting for employment, imprisonment without charge or trial, torture and forced confessions, use of and threats against family members, disappearances and deaths in custody, an unparalleled network of informers and collaborators, foreign kidnapping and covert misinformation, media manipulation and infiltration of western political parties and governments. Corruption of the judicial system.

It is a dark but seemingly grey subject which is why I kept putting off reading it at the time. In 2002 we had yet to realise the full implications of the 'War on Terror' for our civil liberties: The US Patriot Act and its equivalents in the UK, Australia and other countries of the willing, Guantanamo Bay and the military commissions, kidnapping and rendition with its arms-length torture, detention without charge or trial, vilification of asylum seekers and refugees, phone tapping and electronic surveillance. The list expands everyday.

We cannot expect many of these issues to be debated during the Presidential campaign. At least Barack Obama plans to close Camp Delta. Not sure where John McCain stands on Guantanamo - might test the tough guy image he's been trying to project.

It is not surprising that the Stasi's favourite interrogation method (torture) was both physical and psychological, namely sleep deprivation. The 16 year old girl had no one to betray. To get some sleep she finally concocted a fanciful story which her interrogators swallowed enthusiastically. I was surprised we didn't encounter water-boarding. It's all just vigorous questioning in the name of defending the State.

I'm looking forward to seeing Errol Morris documentary, Standard Operating Procedure. It explores the story behind the photographs from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Another dark passage which we shouldn't ignore.

The sobering message which emerges from both these episodes is that evil which is so easy to condemn is committed against ordinary people by ordinary people. Often for what they believe is a just cause. It seems that many of the perpetrators do not lose any sleep. Many of the Stasi and other East Germans believed that the Berlin Wall was built to keep out West Germans who were trying to buy cheaper eastern goods.

Stasiland is a must read!

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Friday, July 4, 2008

View from Adelaide

No sooner had we returned to Melbourne than we are back in Adedaide on family business this week. Lots happening in the body pol I'd love to write or film about. Instead have been captured by Stasiland. A must read. More later.

Hope to visit the Coorong on one of our quick trips backwards and forwards. It is certainly topical!

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