Friday, June 27, 2008

What Crisis?


Congratulations; we've all made it to the weekend. So what are well all doing? For me, it goes a little something like this. But if you believe the mainstream media, Australia's young people will be going out and getting drunk. Binge drinking, in fact, on alcopops; and then starting fights, having lots of unsafe sex, and engaging in anti-social behaviour.

If you believe the news, we seem to be in the midst of a binge drinking epidemic. The kids these days are out of control. And why not? So were we.

Thinking back 10-15 years, I really can't see that my generation drank less or were much better behaved in our youth than the current crop of young things. So why is the media now carrying on like the nation is going to hell in a sick bag? It's not like the media don't have enough to report on these days. Maybe it's not the alcohol consumed, but the reaction to it. We were able to look after ourselves; these kids have been pampered to and nannied to their whole lives. No wonder they can't cope with a few drinks now!

No, scratch that. It is a media beat-up.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday Snarks


  • It's almost always better to admit culpability than make excuses. Belinda Neal could and should have just said "look, that night I was angry, had a few too many and did the wrong thing; I'm really sorry" and that would have been an end to the matter. But instead, she took the Marcus Einfeld way out and has gotten herself in a whole heap of doo-doo. So I'm saying this now: yes, I knew the gun was loaded, and I'm sorry.

  • To quote Richard Glover, "People, it's said, get the politicians they deserve, but what did the people of NSW do to deserve the NSW Government?" To take just one of the myriad pains caused my this mob, what did we do to deserve World Youth Day? The Government is telling us to use public transport if travelling during the hallowed event...then also advising people to avoid CBD train stations as well. Following their advice, I shall be hiring a helicopter to land me on the roof of my building during WYD, and following their example by splitting the cost between the Catholic Church and NSW tax payers.

  • Media Watch reported last night on the phenomenon of the public poll being presented as real news. People love polls; it gives them a chance to feel involved, somehow in control in this key-raazy world of ours; I have them here. But now you have people giving their opinions on the issues of the day based on the TV news reports, which are made up of the opinions of people who watch the TV news reports. If you have any idea how any real news gets into this loop, please tell me in the comments; I'd like to include some in this blog.

  • It's been widely reported that Australia is now the fattest nation on Earth. The amusing thing is, our Olympic team will shortly head to Beijing and win oodles of medals, completely out of proportion to our population; but apparently the athletes will return home, flop down on the couch with some snacks, and not move until they have heart attacks at 52. What I want to know is - why do I always have to be a trend setter? (I used to be in the Army - now I keep an emergency supply of batteries next to the remote so I never have to get up for anything).
  • Thursday, June 19, 2008

    Say No To Devine On Drugs


    Miranda Devine opens her latest column, on the evils of harm minimisation, with the story of Angela and Tony Wood, celebrating their daughter Anna's 28th birthday, thirteen years after she died from taking ecstasy - the human face of the anti-drugs movement.

    Who else could it be, really? Everytime there's drug-related story in the media, one or both of the Woods pop up, resident "experts" - and as the Jack Marx points out in this excellent column, they really are experts in nothing more than losing a child. According to reports, they've never gotten over their daughter's death, and no wonder. In the years since, they've endlessly parrotted the zero tolerance line, never stopping to slow down and think about what they're doing - or how they're being used.

    The point has already been made that harm minimisation could well have saved Anna Wood's life, if her friends had felt able to get help for her earlier. But the Woods have done more damage than just peddling their draconian zero-tolerance philosophy; the drug education programs they champion actually introduce young people to the idea of taking drugs in the first place. Many children who have little knowledge of drugs become intrigued about ecstasy after hearing "Anna's Story". They're not worried that she died, any more than losing friends in car crashes makes them wary of driving - when you're fifteen you don't think that way, which was much the point of the excerable book written about Anna Wood in the wake of her death. It's wrong for the Woods to recklessly use the young people of NSW in an attempt to deal with their grief.

    There's also the worrying fact that kids like to rebel. Making drugs seem as evil as possible is only going to increase their appeal to a certain number of them - the ones who were more likely to end up in trouble anyway; the sad, the angry, the troubled. Aren't these children as worthy of saving as the bright young shiny things? But they are overlooked in the rush to conform and condemn of the current policy.

    The zero-tolerance brigade bludgeon through the truth with righteousness on their side. Thanks to their influence, earlier in the week they managed to have scrapped a drug information booklet for high school students which advised against taking drugs and advised about the risks of mental illness that can result from drug use...but it did give tips on how to use drugs safely if students decided to. The outcry was loud (or large, if you mean the typeface used in the Daily Terrorgraph) - the pamphlet was teaching kids to use drugs! Well, if it's so easy to get kids interested in things using pamphlets, why don't they hand out pamphlets on skilled trades and having large families (once married!)?

    Miranda Devine claims that "Anna Wood [has been] co-opted without [her parents] permission as a poster girl of the drug harm-minimisation lobby". Not true, but she has sure been used as the face of zero tolerance, moral panic and hysteria.

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Singular Policies


    We're constantly hearing about how the average age of first time marriage and childbirth is rising; divorce is increasing; and people are choosing to be single for years on end. One quarter of all households now single-person households, and that number is expected to be more than a third in the next twenty years.

    So why does the government keep ignoring us?

    It's not just this government. It is the pecking order of governments everywhere - Families (especially of the Working variety) are number one, seniors second (they may not actually do anything for the seniors, but they do at least rate a mention) and singles don't even appear on the radar.

    We pay maximum rates of tax, and there are never any policies that benefit us. It's the received wisdom that families are the ones who deserve the goodies and no one questions it - not even the singles themselves. Maybe, as our numbers increase, we should stand up and demand our share of the government largesse. We should demand that singledom is not looked upon as a selfish, frivilous lifestyle choice but a genuine phenomenon which includes people of all ages and social strata. And that if people want kids, they should bloody well pay for them themselves.

    It's a nice idea, anyway. But the idea of "family above all" has become so pervasive that at the 2007 Federal Election, when I heard of the What Women Want party, I looked into their policies and found they were all about paid maternity leave, birthing choices, schooling - in other words, only policies that applied to women with small children. There was no mention of the other seventy years of a woman's life, or the eighty or more years for the quarter of all women who won't have children. This seemed not to bother any commentators, although the voters may at least subconciously grasp the truth - the party registered just 3,870 primary votes (less than half, for example, of the Socialist Alliance).

    Even if you do benefit from childcare rebates, family tax benefits, baby bonuses etc, surely even you would like to hear Rudd shut up about working families for a while? Us singles are a huge voting bloc - we cannot be denied forever.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    What's Wrong With Rudd


    "Put not your trust in kings and princes. Three of a kind will take them both."

    Piers Akerman says that Kevin Rudd is a failure as a Prime Minister, evidenced by the fact that the Kevin 07 crowd has disappeared. This overlooks the reason why we've dissipated: because Rudd has turned out to be so much like Akerman's hero, John Howard.

    Maybe it would help if Rudd were actually in the country more often. No doubt he'd argue that he's furthering Australia's interests overseas, but isn't that what we have a Foreign Minister for? Even if Stephen Smith has to stay in and wash his hair, surely we could accomplish the same with a few trade delegations.

    Because there's a lot for Rudd to be getting on with back home. They have done good things - signing the Kyoto protocol, apologising to the Stolen Generations, and getting the Australian troops out of Iraq.

    But whilst these have been commendable, they're also laregly tokenistic (espeically since the apology was structured to preclude compensation). The Howard legacy has left gaping holes in the social fabric of this country and it's hard to see what the Ruddites are doing to fix it, except for denying us the drink we all so desperatley need.

    We want a government that will attempt to change public opinion, not merely respond to it. The Rudd government's lack of fortitude on petrol prices and the global warming issue has been disheartening. Wouldn't it be a nice change to hear a Minister say, "look, high petrol prices are a pain, but we do all need to drive less?". If only they had the courage.

    The group most entitled to feel let down though is old age pensioners. It's hard to witness their disappointment as they speak of their excitement that maybe they'd get a better deal out of Rudd, and having those hopes dashed.

    Am I wrong or right? Are these opinions fair, or is it to soon to judge? I throw this open to debate, ever the tool of the lazy blogger not sure how best to finish a post.

    Friday, June 06, 2008

    The Week In Review


  • For perhaps the first time of my life, I actually wish I was an American, so I could get caught up in the Obamamentum. Without sentiment, it must be so exhilirating to witness (and participate in, for the lucky ones) such a pivotal moment in history - especially after the sludge of the last eight years. Here in Australia, our long nightmare ended last year (though with the best will in the world Rudd is no Obama), and I hope the American nightmare is finally coming to an end. Now come on Clinton - stop hogging the spotlight and get out of the way.

  • More whining about petrol prices this week. Brendan Nelson has proposed using the petrol excise to increase aged pension payments. Whilst I'm sure most people would agree the pension should be increased, let's see whether they'd be happy paying more for fuel to fund it.

  • John Howard may have kissed some serious Presidential backside, but apparently our new PM enjoys consuming even weirder things. I myself enjoy sardines on toast - I think a political career awaits.

  • Big Brother viewer numbers continue to plummet. I have an excellent idea for increasing the ratings. Get rid of the current housemates and just re-screen Season One in it's entirety, as orignally broadcast.

  • Borders has ended months of speculation by confirming they are selling their Australian stores. The new owners will retain the right to use the Borders brand. It remains to be seen whether they will continue to stock the shelves with an astonishing range of right wing drudge (though I'm sure there are Australians who want to buy books by Sean Hannity, and good luck to them).

  • And finally...Krispy Kreme's new Chokkolate Doughnut evokes alarming memories of the Symbionese Liberation Army's Amerikkka.

    Death to the fascist insect who preys upon the lifeblood of the people?
  • Wednesday, June 04, 2008

    Gender Bores


    I'm trying to remember when was the last time I was as fed up of something to the extent that I'm over Sex and the City - The Movie.

    Well - not the movie itself, as much as the endless hype surrounding it, espeically the oft-repeated remark "every woman is excited about this movie". Here's (at least) one who isn't.

    Patty and Selma may have thought the series was "just like looking at their lives". It's not like mine. I'm a city-dwelling, "career woman" but I don't do relationships, I don't have girlfriends, I don't care about fashion (who needs endless pairs of - manolos? I'm not bothering to check the spelling - as long as you have stripey socks). I've never seen an episode of Sex and the City, and all I know about it is based on the opinions of cartoon characters, such as Brian's comment "So, this is a show about three hookers and their mom?"

    Nonetheless, apparently I should be getting excited about what is meant to be "every girl's dream movie".

    I think I know a little bit about women, being one myself, and also working in a team of twenty of them. First of all, adult women should never be referred to as girls, except in a social context by the women themselves. More importantly perhaps, we're not a homogenous, indistinguishable group. Many of us - heck, most - have more important things to do in life than obsess over shoes, shopping, and whether we could really do better than our current boyfriends (some don't even want boyfriends).

    It's not an original or Earth-shattering sentiment, I know. It just kind of ticks me off.

    Monday, June 02, 2008

    Australia's Out


    Some good news, at the beginning of our winter of discontent. Australian combat troops are withdrawing from Iraq.

    What the hell were we doing there in the first place? We all know the story - the Iraq war was justified by lies. And instead of putting things right when the truth came out, Bush, Blair and Howard spent five years trying to shove the genie back in the bottle. The whole thing has cost us about $2.3 billion dollars directly (I'm not even going to go into what it has cost our standing as a nation).

    Still, there's not a huge amount of political mileage for Rudd in this decision; compared to other nations involved, Australia has had very little public backlash against the war and our involvement. It's not hard to see why. Thankfully, Australia has lost no troops in combat in Iraq. That could be because of the excellent standard of our troops, or just possibly because the Australain troops haven't actually done any fighting. They've been the waterboys of the Coalition of the Willing.

    And what of the man responsible for the whole sordid mess? John Howard says he has no regrets and has described Kevin Rudd's decision to pull out the troops as "baffling". Thank you Madhatter! Now run along, I'm sure Janette needs help polishing the silver.