Monday, September 29, 2008

Newcastle: The Nanny State


We're constantly hearing about the epidemic of violent drunken behaviour of today's youth. No one could deny that the problem was especially bad in Newcastle. So the authortities have taken drastic action - and the cure is worse than the disease.

There's been demands for a curfew for years - I had my first letter to the Newcastle Herald arguing against the idea printed in 2002. But in recent years, more retirees are moving in to the city and the violence has worsened. Something Had To Be Done. so the authorities have gone for the most drastic course of action, and subsequently destroyed a whole drinking culture.

The culture was this: in Newcastle, because there are a great many drinking establishments close together, people tended not to stay in one place all night, but rather move between several venues through the night. Of course, having drunk people on the streets can cause problems, but 90% of the people out never caused any trouble.

Anyway, all that is over now. The new rules: no drinks with greater than 5% alcohol content can be sold after 10p.m. You can't get into any venues after 1a.m., and closing time is 3a.m. No exceptions.

And it's killed nights out as I knew them. Over the weekend, I returned to the fetid swamp that spawned me for a visit, and was keen to recapture the memories of good nights of the past. We passed many venues you'd normally expect to be packed on a Saturday night, people merrily spilling onto the footpath, and they were all either shut altogether or half-empty. The streets were deserted apart from a few lost, hopeless and out-of-town souls like myself who didn't know what was going on.

Lots and lots of people have lost their jobs, and Newcastle has deteriorated even further since I was last there - even the few businesses sustained by the late night crowd have shut up shop. Oh, and the curfew doesn't work. Still, at least the retirees who've moved into the luxury apartments in the city can have a good night's sleep, and that is the most important thing.

~~~~~

In the "You people make me sick" category: today's front page of the Daily Terrorgraph is a blaring sensationalist headline about corrupt cops still serving in the force.

A story in the public interest normally, yes. But today is Police Rememberance day. Couldn't they have exercised a little restraint for one day only?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blame The Woman


In the early days of the "Iguanagate scandal", I remember hearing from a Labor party insider that "John Della Bosca is actually a lovely man. It's her [Belinda Neal] who's the bully; she's the awful one".

It may be true. Watching Australian Story last night really didn't make up my mind one way or the other. Or it may just be the latest example of Adam and Eve syndrome - that there's a bad woman behind the downfall of every good man.

There's a certain type of man who is threatened by the powerful woman. Woman was responsible for orignial sin, and therefore, for all the corruption in the Universe. Throughout history, we have couples where the female partner is blamed for the downfall of the man - Samson and Delilah, Caesar and Cleopatra, Nicholas and Alexandra, Hillary and Bill. (Who can forget those hilarious 90s bumper stickers "IMPEACH THE PRESIDENT - AND HER HUSBAND TOO!").

Now there's John and Belinda. Does anyone really believe that the media would have made so much fuss over Ms Neal's behaviour if she'd been a male politician doing the same thing? Mark Latham was after all able to become Federal Opposition leader after breaking a taxi driver's arm. But the tough woman is threatening. Women are still expected to be demure, caring, "feminine" (Tim Ferguson was heard to opine that if Neal was sacked, "it would increase the proportion of women in Federal parliament".

For now the men have, apparently, won the day. Della Bosca remains in the NSW cabinet; Neal is unlikely to retain preselection for her seat. But after thousands of years, we really haven't come as far as we would have liked to have thought.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Faulting City Rail, and Other Foibles


Earlier in the week, I went over to the CityRail website to check on upcoming trackwork. The website was down. Sure, it happens to the best of sites, but the failure message advised me to "Contact the site administrator and notify them of anything you may have done to cause the problem" (italics mine).

It's CityRail policy that there is no excuse for travelling without a valid ticket. It doesn't matter if the ticket machine at the station is out of order due to poor maintenance and there's a twenty minute queue at the ticket window; it's your fault for not getting to the station twenty minutes early. If there's no ticket window at all and you don't have change for the machine, it's your fault. And apparently if the website is down, that's your fault too.

~~~~~

Apparently, a hacker was able to break in to Sarah Palin's web based email accounts by guessing the answers to her password prompt questions, such as where did she meet her husband (high school). It's an amateur's mistake. If I used that same level of scrutiny, any idiot could hack into my email by guessing my cat's name is Xander.

Luckily for me, I just use password prompt questions based on my alternate realities. The fact that Sarah Palin doesn't seem to have this option is at least one reassuring thing about her.

~~~~~

Drew Barrymore has been popping up on TV lately, promoting Covergirl's new mascara. Apparently it offers more volume, better lash separation, and less clumping than ever before.

Ever since I've been paying attention to make up - and I started at quite an early age, aware of how hideous I looked - each new mascara launched purports to offer unprecedented magnificent qualities. It's been nearly twenty years. Surely mascara should have reached perfection by now?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In Praise of Stupidity


When I return home at night from a hard day being Australia's most incompetent ad exec and shoddiest centre-left blogger, I like to relax. Some days I'll watch the 7:30 Report and give serious thought to the issues of the day. Other times, I might play Vivaldi's Four Seasons, or perhaps Pachbel's Canon, whilst dabbling in a little Chinese brush painting.

But then there are the evenings when all I want to do is order a pizza and watch sheer escapist nonsense...like Today Tonight and 20 to 1.

It's a confusing, scary world out there at the moment. The world's financial markets are collapsing, our state is a disaster, the U.S. may elect yet another incompetent, dangerous pair of lunatics to the White House.

There is a place for stupidity in this world. Not willfull ignorance - that should never be accepted. But when you've spent 10 hours battling recalcitrant clients, difficult issues and looming deadlines, who would'nt want to sit down in a state of semi-catatonia as d-list celebrities discuss "scandals" involving other d-list celebrities you'd completely forgotten about? Oh, I wouldn't want to make a habit of it. But once in a while, it's nice. If ever the world starts to overwhelm me, I know there's always Today Tonight to make me feel much better about myself and my own abilities.

~~~~~

The world also throws out ever-more-stringent "rules" for good health. Once it was enough to eat a reasonably balanced diet (bacon every other day, hard liquor two nights a week only) and go for the odd walk. Now we're told to worry about omega threes, anti-oxidants, carb-loading and I don't know what else. Now, finally, there is some good health news for people like me. And you know, I think I need a drink.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Government Madness


I'm sorry I let democracy down, but I didn't vote in the NSW local government elections on Saturday. But I have a good excuse, I swear. See, I've never bothered to change my electoral enrollment after moving 13 months ago. There's no absentee voting at local government elections, so in order to vote I would have had to travel out of my way to a suburb with no train station. "Screw that", I thought, "I'm having lunch in the City".

Actually, come to think of it, I've never voted in a local government election. I don't know why; I just haven't. Maybe it's been a subconcious protest against local government?

Local government is the pinnacle of evidence that Australia is over-governed. My current local government area covers an area of just 8km2, and has a population of 40,000. And it's still further divided into four wards. On Saturday, voters went to the polls to elect councillors who would be representing, in effect, a handfull of streets. (Incidentally, one poor hapless soul standing in Saturday's poll received not a single primary vote. Not even from herself! Not even from her mother!)

Anyway, multiply that by all the Councils in the state; each of which requires managers, workers, administration staff...and ask if we really need more than 15% of it. Surely they could amalgamate into larger super-Councils?

~~~~~

Maybe in the long run, it doesn't really matter.

Sarah Palin has come out swinging, saying she wants to see Georgia admitted to NATO even if the U.S. has to go to war with Russia over the issue.

Russia still has nukes, people!

Who cares about excessive local government when we're all going to be killed.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Search for True Rememberance


What with yesterday being the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I got to thinking about public memorials. Especially after reading that a U.S. Congressman blocked $10 million in Federal funding for building a memorial for the victims of Flight 93.

That may seem unnecessarily frugal, even cruel (the man is, after all, a Republican), but then think about it for a minute. $10 million?

And that's not the half of it. Consider the still-growing costs of building the WTC memorial. Is the school of thought that the extent of the memorial must be used to show the depth of grief? Just look at the Columbine memorial, which brings to mind a Greek amphitheatre. It seems to be a peculiarly American phenomenon, with some exceptions, such as the Princess Diana memorial fountain, which resembles nothing so much as a concrete drainage ditch.

To me a memorial has always seemed like it should be a quiet place of reflection, not an elaborate monument. What's most important at a memorial is what the observer brings to it, not what they gain from it.

The Shanksville memorial will feature 40 groves of trees planted over a 400 acre site, along with 40 windchimes, paths and a slate wall. The total estimated cost is now $57 million dollars. Surely it would be better to erect a dignified, sober rememberance wall featuring the names of the victims - total cost a few hundred thousand dollars - then spend the money on something worthwhile. I'm sure the victims would rather they were paid tribute with a school, hospital or library than concrete sculpture.

A cousin of one of the Flight 93 passengers said of the Shanksville crash site, "I've been on the site. The land out there speaks volumes. Anyone who's been there senses there is something special."

Seems like the memorial is already complete.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Gone Baby Gone


Well, it's official...the nightmare is over. Sort of. NSW has a new premier. (Wait a second, didn't I just post about this?).

Anyway, amid tears (from the man himself), Morris Iemma has been ousted as NSW Premier, and Costa is gone too. In step Nathan Rees and Carmel Tebbutt as Premier and Deputy, respectively. Now, I know little about Rees at this stage, but his background as a garbageman should stand him in good stead for dealing with the state Labor right faction.

Though as Faust said in reply to my excited SMS telling him the news:
"Let's think about this for a minute...Carr... Iemma... things don't look good.
If the trend continues, there will be a rock-melon sitting in that chair pretty soon.
Although I am bloody glad to hear it... Carr was a fuckwit. Iemma was just flat out stupid." I can't argue the logic.

There a certain delicious irony, or maybe it's simply absurdity, at the fact it was the now-exonerated John Della Bosca who made the big announcement about Iemma's ousting. And there's been more here, too. The stupidity of some people has long since ceased to amaze me; even from the woman of my age in the office, who had no idea what we were talking about as some like-minded colleagues and I discussed the days events. She didn't know who was Premier and who was Prime Minister or even which was which.

I will keep arguing for the abolition of compulsory voting until you listen to me.

Go Morris Iemma! Just Go.


Update - Iemma has resigned. More as it comes to hand

Twenty four hours may be a long time in politics, but it flies by too fast to be a blogger's friend.

Yesterday I started off a post on the hopeless state of NSW politics, and the hopeless state of NSW generally - the economy here is actually shrinking. I vaguely found myself wishing this wasn't a democracy; the instead of waiting till 2011 for the election to get rid of the hopeless Iemma government, we could just have a revolution now. Anyway, work ran away from me, and I didn't have time to finish the thing.

Now everything has changed. Costa has been sacked, Watkins has resigned, Carmel Tebbutt has become Deputy Premier, and there's even talk of an exit strategy for Morris Iemma.

Of course, what we need is the whole pack of Iemma's gang gone, but this is a good start. Once we're free of those criminally incompetent clowns, maybe we can relegate our horror stories of train cancellations, surgery waiting lists, funding blow outs, planning disasters, decaying schools and ordinary people paying for public farces to the past.

~~~~~

More on Sarah Palin: this piece expertly exposes the lies from the speech at the RNC. And it's from Perez Hilton! The truth will out in the oddest places.

~~~~~

Lastly, a Friday Folly of sorts...from the Tremedous files, Elton and Lily go at it at the GQ awards. To the English: I love you, don't ever change.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Fun Facts About Sarah Palin!


In case you've got the warm and fuzzies that the Republicans have selected a woman as the Vice Presidential candidate, consider these Fun Facts about Sarah Palin...

  • As captain of her high school basketball team, her nickname was "Sarah Barracuda" due to her intense play and leader of the prayer sessions before games.
  • Runner up in the 1984 Miss Alaska Pageant.
  • She named her children Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig. (Sounds like kinds of tree fungus).
  • She has said that she is a "firm supporter of abstinence-only education in schools." "Explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support", Palin has said.
  • Her 17 year old daughter is pregnant. This is only a fact about Sarah Palin herself in light of the above, and her failure to give her daughter a purity ring. Or, even more usefully, a talk about sexual health and condom use.
  • Wants to have polar bears taken off the endangered species list so as to open up the Artic National Wildlife Preserve to oil drilling.
  • Supports the teaching of "intelligent design" in schools.


So there you have it. If America wants to boldly continue the Bush tradition of hypocrisy, stageiness and a complete lack of sense, here is the woman for the job.