Are the Olympics Worth It, China?


Here in Sydney, we all complained about loss of freedom caused by the government's crackdown in the lead up to World Youth Day. Well, we're mere whingers. Sure, what the NSW government tried to do was arrogant and unacceptable, but it was minor league stuff compared to what's going on in China in the lead up to the Olympics - and the bravery of those who stand up to the government there.

The foreign media are up in arms over revelations that the Chinese government will, in fact, censor their internet access whilst they are reporting on the Olympics.

There have been reports of one million security guards and police working at the Beijing Olympics. They're there to do more than just crack down on student protesters. People have lost their homes to developers and received no compensation; they've also lost the right to petition the government, one of the only recourses for justice in a country without a free press. Foreign Correspondent has the full story, which I highly recommend having a look at; you certainly won't look at the bright, shiny opening ceremony in the same way if you do.

I read recently an interview with a Chinese expat, a successful businesswoman, who said she would never return to China: "It seems to combine the worst of capitalism and the worst of communism." We're constantly hearing of "the economic miracle of China". What cost is it to the everyday Chinese people? And what cost the Olympics, so Stephanie Rice can get another contract to prance around in her underwear?

Keeping Sonny Bill in Circulation


So, apparently when Sonny Bill Williams left the Bulldogs and the country, he left his entire family homeless, just days before he was due to donate bone marrow to his biggest fan...

Well, no. But you could be forgiven for thinking so, considering the public outcry. Some comments from the Daily Telegraph website*:

What a money hungry little puppet. Have a great time in France Money Bill, cause your never welcome back here in Australia.

What a dog act. He will never be able to repay the bulldogs in a thousand of years for what he has done. He has missed more games than he has played. I think he should go in the ring with Mason for a couple of more millions, so we can enjoy seeing him get belted for what he has done.

Well we all knew he was a dog when he cheated on his gorgeous girlfriend with that skank in toilet cubilce.

Never mind banning him from NRL for life, we should also ban him from ever coming back to Australia. We don't need such poor examples for our children.

I'm not sure what a cubilce is (some medieval torture device, perhaps?) but it must be serious to suggest never letting the man return to Australia.

A story like this is a win-win affair for the media. There's very little background investigation required, they can go to town with vituperative headlines, and best of all, reader reaction is a genuine part of the story. What editor wouldn't want to sell lots of papers with very little work required? All you have to do is whip the masses into a frenzy over some non-issue. In fact, I might start trying it here.

* All spelling and punctuation is retained from the original.

The Truth Behind World Youth Day?


We at the Pod have been informed of a a possible real reason for the recent Sydney hosting of World Youth Day...

Morris Iemma and many of the members of the NSW Cabinet are Catholics. "True" Catholics are famously hostile to homosexuals. However, Sydney has successfully hosted the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for many years. This must stick in their craw.

So, in recent months Sydney has hosted both APEC and WYD. Both of these have caused massive disruption, but we've coped, sort of. Patience is however wearing thin. Perhaps by the time Mardi Gras rolls around again, the patience of the people of NSW with these huge events will finally snap, and we'll rise up against the Mardi Gras, ending it once and for all.

This being the intention of the state government all along! They've been luring these events here to turn us against them.

I'm not saying I necessarily believe this, but it is an interesting theory.

~~~~~

Meanwhile, it's been said that every time there's a problem with CityRail, the state government's solution is to introduce a new ticket. Sure enough this week, the government has announced half-price tickets for those travelling outside peak hours. Just one little problem; the ticket barriers can't recognise the new ticket. Remember when I said my friends and I could better run the state? I meant it.

Tuesday Debate - Parental Leave


In 2008, how much responsibility should be people be made to take in the workplace for their decision to have children? According to Elizabeth Broderick, Australia's current Sex Discrimination Commissioner, very little.

The idea of work-family balance is a noble one. But how far should it go? Ms Broderick states "If you have caring responsibilities and you want to get promoted then forget about it. The ideal worker is a male with no caring responsibilities". She would like to see employees able to, for example, leave work early a few afternoons a week to care for their children, with no detrimental effects on their career prospects.

But someone has to pick up the slack. The work the parent has left behind still needs to be done. Should bosses be required to reward and promote employees who aren't handling a full work load, simply because they have children? Should childless employees - once, say, over the age of 50 - be allowed to take 14 weeks of paid leave to compensate for the parental leave they did not take earlier in their careers? And if it is acceptable to leave work at 4pm twice a week to pick up your kids from school, why shouldn't other employees feel resentful that they are earning the same money, and still at their desks at 6pm? Why has childrearing become the great sacred duty-above-all? If people decide to have children, should their companies and society have to compensate, or should parents accept that something, somewhere - careers, money, time - has to be sacrificed?

I've asked a lot of questions here. So I'm throwing the floor open; please feel free to provide some answers.

So That's What I've Got


On this fine Friday, I'll leave you with one anecdote...

I was in the queue at Dymocks, when a woman approached the counter and asked "Do you have any books on Melanesia or Micronesia?"

The girl behind the counter replied, "Is that a health condition?"

~~~~~

This gets better. I was standing in line at the time waiting to purchase a copy of Overheard in the Office, the book.

Which I was buying because, whilst idly browsing through the shelves I picked up a copy, and it fell open on the page featuring an anecdote I myself had sent in a few years ago, and had long since forgotten about (it's on page 86).

Serendipity in a crazy world. It must be my micronesia.

We Need Climate Pain


Kevin Rudd has promised that no one will be disadvantaged by the new Carbon Trading Scheme - there will be compensation for all. So then why would anyone actually reduce their carbon emissions?

For businesses, details of the scheme include such allowances as receiving 90% of their (tradable) carbon permits for free if they emit more than 2,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per million dollars of revenue. So we could actually see businesses increase their emissions levels over the next two years, in order to secure permits they can later sell. Meanwhile, motorists are hardly likely to reduce their reliance on cars if they believe they won't face increased petrol costs to compensate for the damage they're doing to the planet for at least five years. Has anyone actually thought this through?

The point of the carbon trading scheme is to discourage carbon emissions by putting a cost on them. The Rudd government though, has given Australia a scheme that doesn't involve anyone having to reach for the wallet (the Bush administration did the same thing to pay for the war in Iraq). They're willing to risk electoral dissatisfaction by launching the scheme, but not enough to ask us to pay for it.

Still, their hearts are in the right places. Australia should take a leading role in combating climate change. Naturally, this has been one of the main points Piers Akerman has chosen to attack:

But it is a tribute to the awesome egos of Rudd and his Cabinet that they believe other nations, or even neighbouring countries, stand poised, holding their breaths, until they see which course Australia takes.

Unlike those on the right who honestly believe that terrorists cared if Australia was or wasn't in the Coalition of the Willing? There were a lot of nations against us on that, too. A consistent ideology is probably too much to hope for - from either side of politics.

WYD - It Begins


World Youth Day finally kicks off today. Your opinion on the issue is apparently based on what newspaper you read. The Australian is fervently behind the event, and taking potshots at the SMH for knocking it. (NewsLtd, publisher of The Australian, is a major WYD sponsor, but that's probably just a coincidence)

I do wonder how Australia ended up hosting the thing. We have to be amongst the least religious nations on Earth. Apparently two thirds of people still claim to be Christian. But that's because people refer to themselves as Christian on the Census more from habit than faith - the donkey vote of religions.

It is a terrifying thing to witness in action. I've just returned from a walk around the CBD, where I was almost anhilated by a group of hundreds of chanting, banner waving Catholics walking in the other direction (could this be divine retribution?). The pilgrims are everywhere, thousands of them in their bright jackets and national flags, generally making life jolly difficult for those of us going about our business. And they're all so darn happy and full of energy. Many of them were at St Mary's Cathedral midnight for the last countdown, will march all day today, attend the welcome mass, Stations of the Cross, pilgrimage walk, the overnight vigil and final mass; all this and they're sleeping in school halls...I think I can see how this is happening. I had religious fervour once. A guy named Electron was selling it on Oxford Street for $50 a hit.

I haven't been arrested yet, which is a relief. It will be a bigger relief when it's all over. It's hard now to wonder, if these pilgrims wanted to do the truly compassionate, Christian thing, why they didn't stay home and give the money they spent on the trip to the poor. I'm sure that's what Jesus would have done.

You Wanted Us All to Watch? I Don't Think So


It is with mixed feelings that I learned of the demise of Big Brother - much as one would feel on hearing of the death of a former spouse. Sure, things had been over between you for a long time, but there were once warm feelings, and you think "I never wanted them to die".

I was once a Big Brother fan, and yes I've heard all the stereotypes. Actually, I never missed an episode if I could possibly help it. Just the sound of the theme music at the start of a new season was enough to get my heart pumping. Everyone knew never, ever to call me when the show was on. I collected favourites along the way: Nathan and Alex and Kieran, Dan, Chrissie and Leah, Tim Brunero.

So what changed? Partly it's a simple age thing. In the first BB, all the housemates were older than me execept Ben and Blair. By this year, only the token aged houemates are older. I also stopped drinking every day, which severely hampered my enjoyment of the show. And - let's face it - it has gotten dumber.

I've barely watched an episode for the past two years (I missed Pamela Anderson's visit entirely). And that was the problem - hardly anyone else did either. So it's time for the show to go; in fact the time was two years ago. And yet, I say farewell with some sadness. We had some good times, and I hope those memories last longer than the disaster of recent times.

~~~~~

From the comments on the Daily Terrorgraph website:

"My son...had server learning difficulties and was struggling trying to lean to read and right English."

Srsly?

Follying All Over Friday

  • Drastic measures are now being undertaken to improve Beijing's air quality ahead of the Olympics. There were fears that the air pollution would harm the visiting athletes. Apparently, there are no similar fears about the health of Beijing residents. Thank goodness visitors would never be deemed more important than residents here.

  • After all the hype, World Youth "Day" finally kicks off on Monday. There is much to find creepy about the whole thing, nothing less so than the body of the Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati being brought to Sydney and displayed at St Mary's Cathedral for the duration. Forget Resquiat in Pace - devote your life to your faith and you can spend eternity as a travelling exhibition!

  • I read somewhere that if the current growth in the number of Elvis impersonators continues, by 2019 a third of the Earth's population will be Elvis impersonators. Just think about that for a minute. Imagine going to the supermarket, and every third person you pass being an Elvis impersonator. Think of attending a meeting with 100 colleagues, 33 of whom respond to everything the manager says with "Uh-huh-huh". I can see a future where a third of humanity are Elvis impersonators, and the normal two-thirds of us are too creeped out to leave the house.

  • You might have heard or seen that when the homophobic brigade pickets churches and so on, a favourite chant of theirs is "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!", referring you the "fact" that God created a man and a woman, not two men, to be each others' life partner, and therefore homosexuality is an affront to God. Well, maybe they have a point...if you also consider that it's "Adam and Eve", not "Adam, Eve, Adam Jnr and Little Evie". God didn't create any children! Where are the protestors saying children are an affront to God?

    And on that note, this affront to God is shuffling off. Have a good weekend.
  • Rudd at the Gate


    In a momentous day for the nation, Kevin Rudd will be speaking at the G8 summit today. Apparently his speech is being limited to six minutes. The people who organised this know what they're doing; it will be the first time Rudd has spoken so briefly in his life.

    I was suprised when I heard Rudd was even going to the G8 summit. Surely, if Australia had become one of the world's top eight industrial nations, someone would have said something. But no, Rudd is just going as a guest speaker, on climate change presumably. Brendan Nelson has said Rudd needs to be a "human blowtorch" and "apply pressure" to oil producing nation, which would dramatically increase extremely localised global warming if nothing else (I didn't know blowtorches produced pressure).

    Back home, the Grim Wowser is rearing their ugly head again. Now, whilst I believe government intervention can be a good, even civilisation-enhancing thing, I'm a libertarian when it comes to getting loaded. How then am I supposed to react to new calls to ban toss the boss and other driking games in pubs. Who is calling for this? Why, it's the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing. The head of liquor and gaming, Albert Gardner, whom I would dearly like to slap, has said "Do we have to link alcohol with drinking games?" Well, yes. What else are we going to link drinking games with - red cordial? We're not five. I know how I'll react to this on this of all days: I'm having a drink.

    Disposable as Kleenex


    Heartwarming news from our bestest friend in the whole wide world. Apparently, the U.S. planned to test nerve gas on Australian soldiers during the Cold War.

    Newly declassified Australian Defence Department and Prime Minister’s office files show that the United States was strongly pushing the Government for tests on Australian soil of two of the most deadly chemical weapons ever developed, VX and GB – Sarin - nerve gas.

    The plan called for 200 mainly Australian combat troops to be aerially bombed and sprayed with the chemical weapons – with all but a handful of the soldiers to be kept in the dark about the "full details" of the tests. in fact, given the timing of the tests, some may well have been conscripts.

    Kind of gives a new meaning to the words "cannon fodder". And we're supposed to be one of their closest allies. What do the Americans do to people they don't like? Kill them on their way to weddings, apparently.

    Stop The Climate Change Lies!


    The Garnaut report on climate change is released today, no doubt to be closely followed by howls of protest from the usual suspects. I've noticed that a lot of climate change deniers also tend to be religious conservatives. Which is amusing really, as their argument against global warming is "there is no scientific evidence that climate change is caused by human activity!", yet they seem not to be concerned by a lack of scientific evidence for the existence of God.

    When it comes to climate change, we all (as individuals, groups, corporations and governments) have one of four options:

    1. Admit it's happening and make changes for the greater good;
    2. Admit it's happening, do nothing and feel guilty;
    3. Admit it's happening, do nothing and not care;
    4. Deny it's happening.
    It will come as no suprise to regular readers that my old friend Piers Akerman is a climate change denier. So are Ann Coulter, Andrew Bolt, Rush Limbaugh and of course Alan Jones.

    I think we can see a pattern forming here. These people are always clamouring for honesty. So why don't they just come right out and admit that they really don't care about the state of the planet, and if future generations are bequeathed an Earth which is an unihabitable, smoking ruin, it's their own damn fault for not being born in more verdant times? (These people do rather cling to the notion that everyone's circumstances are their own responsibility no matter what).

    ~~~~~

    There is one Friday folly today, which speaks for itself:


    "Empire ends for Alexander the not-so-great
    Farewell to the Clouseau of foreign ministers: pompous, slightly ridiculous and self-important."

    And this on the front page of one of Australia's leading broadsheet papers. (Click on the picture to read the story).

    So Long and F**k Off


    Today in Sydney, there's a purer light in the sky...and I feel more nourished. The beast is gone, for now, and the warmth has returned to our hearts.

    Yes, the paragon of the Whingeing Westies, Alan Jones, has announced he'll be off air whilst he is treated for cancer. I don't usually wish ill on anyone, but...I like to think of my fellow Sydneysiders as open minded, tolerant people - so why do they listen to, and believe, radio hosts somewhere to the right of Ghengis Khan?

    Jones shamelessly exploits the prejudices of his (mostly Sydney) audience, feeding on fear, ignorance and jealousy. Here's Jones in the lead up to the Cronulla riots:

    My suggestion is to invite one of the biker gangs to be present in numbers at Cronulla railway station when these Lebanese thugs arrive. The bikie gangs have been much maligned, but they do a lot of good things.

    These Middle Eastern people must be treated be treated with a big stick, it’s the only thing they fear. They don’t fear fines and they laugh at the courts.


    Lovely, huh? But it's nothing new. In 1993, Jones described the choice of Mandawuy Yunupingu as Australian of the Year as an "insult" and said he’d been granted the award simply because he was black.

    But for those who like this sort of thing, "They find it comforting to hear him. He seems so strong, it makes them feel safe. It's his strength and reassurance. Almost like they are listening to Daddy." (For more in this vein, see here).

    They'll have to cope on their own now. As for the rest of us, I think we deserve a few drinks - some to celebrate, some to forget.

    All Posting, All July


    As I was updating the wildly unpopular sidebar feature "These Days In Pod History", I realised that last year, I only posted twice during the entire month of July. This was 10% due to the stresses of a new job, 10% because of problems in my personal life, and 80% down to my own laziness.

    But I shall make amends! This July, I'm going to try to post everyday, whether I've something to say or not. However, my enthusiasm was rather dampened when I learned that the good folk at Club Troppo won't be running the Missing Link Daily feature between now and July 21st.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who posts with an eye to getting a nod in Missing Link. I'm a poor judge of my own quality though - often the posts that got mentioned were posts I threw together in a hurry and didn't particularly care for, whilst posts I considered among my best (such as it is) were overlooked. For all that though, it was a little thrill to an attention seeker with low self esteem such as myself, and now it's gone, for a little while...and so are my visitor numbers. I suppose I could resort to desperate measures:

    Xander, blog threat

    ~~~~~

    The State of Origin decide is on tonight. Hopefully NSW has learned after last time not to let Morris Iemma give the pre-game pep talk...

    Beyond Annoying


    Like everyone else in Sydney, my favourite past time at the moment is complaining about World Youth Day - the cost, the crowding, the diverted trains, the traffic. My particular gripe is that while it costs me $6.80 to travel to and from work everyday on the train, the commemorative WYD train tickets only cost $4. How is this even remotely fair? They even include unlimited travel within the CBD, which my daily ticket doesn't. Not only are taxpayers subsidising these visitors to choke up the city, many of them will be from overseas, and not pay any taxes at all towards the thing. As a woman just trying to make an honest living embezzling from her CBD company, this makes me furious. I can't even buy a WYD ticket in place of my normal one, as they're only valid for travel in off-peak times.

    All theses are trifles though (except maybe for the part about the bill). Far more serious - and sinister - are the new police powers, which come into effect today, allowing police to arrest and fine people for "causing annoyance" to World Youth Day participants and permit partial strip searches at hundreds of Sydney sites.

    As has been pointed out, this could mean people are arrested for wearing t-shirts with "offensive" slogans, handing out condoms, or lord knows what else. This sounds like a joke, which may be the effect organisers were hoping for. Remember back to Abu Ghraib, when we heard that detainees were being interrogated by being forced to listen to music by 50 Cent, and joked that those of us with teenagers around the house knew just how the detainees felt? It was a very clever move - causing everyday people to think of torture, in a way, as a joke.

    The same thing is happening here. We're being subtly manipulated to laugh off the ability of the police to arrest and detain us for almost nothing. I myself dress in a lot of black clothing, with boots, t-shirts with slogans, multi-coloured hair etc; and as I work in a fairly relaxed ad agency, I do so at the office. Could I be detained on my way to work if WYD pilgrims take offence to me?

    I can't believe I'm seriously contemplating these questions in Australia in 2008, and for what? Not to protect us from any serious threat, but to protect the enjoyment of a bunch of visitors in the name of religion. Something is very, very wrong here.

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