Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Millions of Iraqis marking their liberty

No, really. According to Dubya, there's cause for optimism in Iraq. Sure, tens of thousands are dead, there's daily rioting, unrest and suicide bombings, but the thing to remember is that "millions of Iraqis [have marked] their liberty with purple ink," and of course it wouldn't be at all possible if it weren't for those lovely, inspiring murderers of the United States Military.

An Iraqi prisoner bows down, thanking the nice American soldier for his newfound liberty

And so Saddam Hussein was given a choice. He chose war. And so we moved and he was removed from power. And there is absolutely no doubt in my mind, America is safer for it, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.

- said Bush...

And there's something you don't want to forget either. This is Saddam's war. (Against terror? No, wait, he was for terror, wasn't he? All those weapons of mass destruction and the like. So tough to remember the details these days - though I guess that's never stopped Bush.)

Anyway, it turns out that Iraq is at a "moment of choosing" this week, which sure is generous of good old George, since he's been so big on Iraqi rights so far. Luckily though, Bush is optimistic, informing us that his optimism is based on solid grounds, and that "the Iraqi people have spoken".

Forgive me, but I guess I've just been having trouble hearing them speak over all that bombing - and of course the rhetoric that spills forth daily from Bush's own mouth.

But I'll have to take his word for it, I guess. This is liberation, right?

Er... Freedom?

GWB - 'America is safer for it'

GWB - 'The world is better off without Saddam Hussein'

Friday, February 24, 2006

Media's watching

So Media Watch has now been back for two weeks, and things are, er, different. The unfairly maligned Liz Jackson is gone (back to Four Corners after only one year at the post), and the newly appointed Monica Attard is now staring down viewers.

Last week they led with a fairly weak story investigating the validity of those "message in a bottle" stories that seem to turn up far more often than is likely. Turns out, surprise, they're mostly fakes. A CSIRO oceanographer was brought in to decredit claims of enormous distances travelled, which bodes well for the programme's closer focus on research, but a slight feeling of dismay remains - bottles in the ocean? Is this really the kind of stuff Media Watch is here to look into?

The final story was, of course, those cartoons. Unfortunately, it amounted to little - a quick mention of Tim Blair, a deflection from ABC Managing Director Russell Balding, and an underhanded jab at "Western ideologues who insist we must see the cartoons" (I guess that's me).

Attard herself was serviceable, but one must wonder where the show is going when the leading story amounts to little more than page three trash (that's Herald Sun-style, not English tabloid), and the biggest story is tucked up the back with barely anything to add to the debate.

Week two, and things didn't improve much. Again the leading story was little more than news fodder - this time a story about how Launceston's Kim and Dave SEA FM radio show had one over, it seems, the rest of the nation (well, those who cared, anyway), when they made a prank call about the possibility of a Ricky Ponting statue being erected in the local area.

Well, sorry Monica, but this is about the time that we needed a nice, icy stare from ol' Liz, and a frank "who cares?"

Because I certainly didn't.

Things improved from there, with a small expose on a Channel 9 cricket interview with Betfair founder Edward Wray - a conflict of interest, when one consider that Betfair is fifty percent owned by Packer's PBL.

All in all though, Media Watch seems to have lost a little of its shine. Hopefully it will get better, but if not, perhaps Attard should just go back to watching her hair.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Parentheses madness!

It's a fair question being asked by a fair(ly reputable) blogger:

"Addiction to oil? What a joke! Here’s the real question: Is the United States “addicted to pandas”?"

Well, what can you say?

Go Dick!

Thank you Boing Boing!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

RIP J Dilla

Big news just isn't the same in Australia, apparently.

According to the muted reports emanating from the United States (like the one at the Detroit Free Press, respected and hugely talented hip-hop producer J Dilla, or Jay Dee as he is also known, died yesterday of kidney failure, aged only 32.

The artist had recently released another album to add to his prolific back catalogue. Though not necessarily well known in Australia, the album - ostensibly a mix-tape of his beats and blues-infused instrumentals - received at least one positive review in these parts.

All searches through the Saturday and Sunday newspapers looking for news of the seemingly tragic death were met with nought however - unless my brain was only in first-gear (which at five a.m. is quite often the case). Still, I shouldn't be too surprised at the muted response - even the murder of hip-hop pioneer Jam Master Jay a couple of years ago barely raised an eyebrow in Australian presses.

Nonetheless, the death of another young star of the American hip-hop scene shouldn't be forgotten before it's even been acknowledged, and Dilla was truly a talent of the scene. If there's one positive to be taken from his death, perhaps it's the fact that at least it wasn't gang related.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Today I had a body part removed. It wasn't a "major" operation though, as everybody kept telling me. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but feel slightly backed into a corner.

Apparently part of a filling on my back molar came off "some time ago" (hey, if portions of me are falling out already, maybe this really wasn't such a big deal) and after that my tooth became infected. The nerve - or, to use the correct terminology, the "pulp" - was dying and thus I had a choice between an extraction (it sounds so harmless) or a root canal (which sounds like something nice to visit in Venice). So those were my options.

But that's just the thing - there were no real options at all. Despite a course of antibiotics and a fairly liberal smattering of painkillers, this one little tooth was causing me fairly regular bouts of agony. As soon as possible was the main thing on my mind.

That in itself got rid of one supposed "option" - the root canal - available only to those people with a lot more money than myself, or private health insurance. (Incidentally, if I actually had health insurance, I suspect any situation wherein I had a lot of money would be quickly resolved by said health insurance's bills.)

So why is this the case? Well, as newspaper reports have stated, Victoria's public health system has been on a downward slide for some time now, and as today's Age editorial argues, the quick fix of off-setting some of those patients on the public waiting list by paying their way into private hospitals "won't cure [the] unhealthy system".

According to the editorial, some 40,000 people are on the waiting list for "non-urgent" surgery, with another 20,000 on a secondary list just to see a specialist.

Of course, some of these surgeries really are non-urgent, and the waiting time understandable - but some are not. Because of the incompetencies of the system, I was today forced to choose between ongoing pain for the next year or so - at least - and having my tooth removed. I'm 22 years old - a little young to be losing my teeth, I would have hoped.

My example isn't the worst of it though - one has only to think of elderly patients in need of hip replacements, ligament surgery and the like. The pain for them must be unbearable.

It's enough to make a me sigh through my newly toothless grin.

Edit: As you probably know, the American health system is even worse than ours - by far, in fact. It seems that Michael Moore, that great raconteur of the downtrodden masses, has gotten sick of it all, and has decided to make his next film about the US public health system.

This is surely a positive sign for the Americans, but I doubt it will help us much - in fact, Bracks and his cronies will probably use it to focus on just how much better our system is than our American pals' - if he's smart, that is. I wonder what happened to all the great promises Bracks made after he kicked the similarly inept Kennett out of office?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Sedition yet?

Well, apparently Tim Blair already beat me to it, but below are the cartoons that have caused such controversy over the last few days.

And why? As so many people have already pointed out, it's not as if extremist proponents of Islam aren't occasionally critical of us godless infidels. By all means, defend your right to freedom of choice, freedom of religion, but to do so by stifling free speech is hypocrisy in the highest regard.

Even though the resultant agitation is going to be messy, I think these cartoons should be published in these times of anger. Similarly, I agreed with Melbourne Underground Film Festival Director Richard Richard Wolstencroft when he attempted to show Holocaust denier David Irving's films a few years back - only to be shut down after protests from Melbourne's Jewish community.

Protestations against actions of this kind miss the point. Publishing the cartoons - or showing Irving's films - does not mean that one necessarily agrees with their content. (For the record, I think Irving is an utter, racist, tosser, and though I agree, essentially, with the thesis of the cartoons, they're crass and unsubtle.) However, it is possible to make a statement about free speech by standing up against those who wish to stifle it.

Is this sedition? I hope so.

The offending cartoons

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Snap, crackle and neck

According to a report by Angus Kidman in this month's Australian Personal Computer magazine, an American man has been convicted of murder after police obtained his Google search history. Previous searches included "snap," "neck," and "body decomposition," leaving prosecutors in little doubt as to where Robert Petrick's extracurricular interests lay.

Whilst the news is positive enough in that particular case - the evidence went some way towards Petrick's guilty conviction for murdering his wife in November 2005 - there's no doubt that it also raises more than a few worrying issues for those of us who, say, murder less but google plenty.

Personally, I've got nothing to hide from anybody on a legal level (aside from my small investment in whale trading and penchant for child porn, obviously) but that doesn't mean I want people poking through my search history (and, perhaps, even my Gmail advertisers' preferences?) just because they can.

According to the report, "it's not just murderers who are worried, [but] people who've googled for pirated software, porn, ways to minimise tax obligations, or information about terrorism".
And they mightn't be the only ones who need be concerned. When SMS, telephone call or fax keywords like "World Trade Center" and "monarchist" (?) already trigger the spooks into action through a government surveillance program known as Echelon, and with news recently circulating of police apprehending mobile phones from Sydney bus passengers in order to check for unsavoury text messages (a new power given to police in times of "lock down," like the recent Cronulla riots), there's cause for everyone to worry. Conditions that seem like something out of a scary science-fiction novel are becoming disturbingly commonplace.

In the meantime, I'd prefer to keep my private life, well, private. But I guess there's not much chance of that anymore.