Cobbers and mates

January 26, 2012

It’s Australia Day.

Our cobbers and mates (is there a difference between the two?) across the Tasman are celebrating and don’t they do it well?

They have an Australia Day address – this year’s by Associate Professor Charles Teo Am, a first generation Australian.

You can listen to him delivering it and read a transcript at the link above. If you don’t have time for that, at least ponder this which applies just as much to New Zealanders:

. . .  I would like to see this Australia Day as a turning point. I want my fellow Australians, those who were born here and those who have immigrated here, to pause and think of the lives that have been sacrificed for what we take for granted today. I want everyone who finds themselves angry and intolerant to think first about the misfortunes of those who are less fortunate…such as those with cancer. I want anyone who has come from another country to embrace the Australian way of life, it has served us well. I want all Australians to see how immigrants have contributed to our nation and to appreciate that a rich and prosperous country such as ours has a moral and global responsibility to share our resources. . .

They have the Australian of the Year :

The Australian of the Year 2012, Geoffrey Rush, has now celebrated 40 years as an Australian actor, achieving the rare international distinction of the ‘Triple Crown’ – an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy. . .

The Senior Australian of the Year 2012, Laurie Baymarrwangga, is an extraordinary elder from the island of Murrungga in East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. . .

The Young Australian of the Year 2012 is 22 year old engineering advocate Marita Cheng of Brunswick East whose leadership is changing the occupational landscape for women by encouraging girls to pursue engineering studies and careers. . .

Australia’s Local Hero 2012 is foster mother and carer Lynne Sawyers of Darbys Falls. Lynne has shared her home, her family and her love with more than 200 children. For 15 years, she has been on call to care for lost, abused and bewildered children in heartbreaking circumstances. . .

They have family and community celebrations and they have lamb with lambassador Sam Kekovich:

They seem to have a unity we have yet to achieve over celebrating a national day. But they also have a contrary view: see Australia Day/Invasion Day: Unity/Disunity at Larvatus Prodeo.


Keep calm and . . .

December 9, 2011

The Canterbury earthquakes generated a lot of merchandise with the slogan Keep Calm and Carry On.

You can generate your own Keep Calm poster with the Keep Calm-O-Matic.

The blue green is the fault of my printer rather than a political statement, though The Bluegreens have much to recommend them.

What a pity it’s too late for the election :)

Hat Tip Larvatus Prodeo


Appearance and arguments vs realities in political coverage

August 29, 2011

Where on this graph would you put most political coverage:

It comes from a speech Why Political Coverage is Broken  by Jay Rosen who explains the grid:

Bottom left: Appearances rendered as fact. Example: the media stunt.

Top left: Phony arguments. Manufactured controversies. Sideshows.

Bottom right: Today’s new realities: get the facts. The actual news of politics.

Top right. Real arguments: Debates, legitimate controversies, important speeches.

It is much easier to cover stunts and sideshows than to report and seriously analyse real news, debates, legitimate controversies and important speeches.

Rosen blames this on what he calls three impoverished ideas: politics as an inside game;  the cult of savviness and the production of innocence.

The inside game is :

 When journalists define politics as a game played by the insiders, their job description becomes: find out what the insiders are doing to “win.” Reveal those tactics to the public because then the public can… well, this is where it gets dodgy. As my friend Todd Gitlin once wrote, news coverage that treats politics as an insiders’ game invites the public to become “cognoscenti of their own bamboozlement,” which is strange. Or it lavishes attention on media performances, because the insiders are supposed to be good at that: manipulating the media . . .

He explains the cult of savviness as:

In politics, our journalists believe, it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere, thoughtful or humane.  Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.)

Savviness is that quality of being shrewd, practical, hyper-informed, perceptive, ironic, “with it,” and unsentimental in all things political. And what is the truest mark of savviness? Winning, of course! Or knowing who the winners are . . .

. . .  Now in order for this belief system to operate effectively, it has to continually position the journalist and his observations not as right where others are wrong, or virtuous where others are corrupt, or visionary where others are short-sighted, but as practical, hardheaded, unsentimental, and shrewd where others are didactic, ideological, and dreamy.  This is part of what’s so insidious about press savviness: it tries to hog political realism to itself.

But even more insidious than that is the positioning effect . . .

On the production of innocence he says:

. . . I mean ways of reporting the news that try to advertise or “prove” to us that the press is neutral in its descriptions, a non-partisan presenter of facts, a non-factor and non-actor in events. Innocence means reporters are mere recorders, without stake or interest in the matter at hand. They aren’t responsible for what happens, only for telling you about it. When you hear, “don’t shoot the messenger” you are hearing a journalist declare his or innocence . . .

Rosen uses examples from the USA and Australia but it wouldn’t be hard to find many here too.

But he doesn’t only identify problems, he has a better idea for political reporting, based on the grid above:

My suggestion is to report appearances as just that: mere appearances. Which would be a way of jeering at them, labelling them as not quite real. So the appearances section would be heavy on satire and simple quotation. . .

Appearances, then, means downgrading or penalizing politicians who deal in the fake, the trivial, the merely sensational. In other words: “watch out or you’ll wind up in the appearances column.”

Under realities we find everything that is actually about real problems, real solutions, real proposals, consequential plans and of course events that deserve the title: political events.  This is the political news proper, cured of what Tanner calls the sideshow .

But then there’s my other axis. Arguments and facts. Both are important, both are a valid part of politics . . .

 . . . Now imagine all of today’s political news and commentary sorted into these four quadrants. This becomes the new portal to political news. Appearances and realities, arguments and facts. To render the political world that way, journalists would have to exercise their judgment about what is real and what is not. And this is exactly what would bring them into proper alignment with our needs as citizens.

We have some very good political journalism in New Zealand which treats appearances and arguments for what they’re worth and deals seriously with realities and facts.

But we’d all be better served and  informed if there was a lot more of that.

Hat Tips: Dim Post and Larvatus Prodeo.


Australia bans live cattle exports to Indonesia

June 8, 2011

When we visited a market in Indonesia my farmer said it made him understand vegetarians.

The sights and smells were a test for even strong stomachs but we didn’t see any evidence of cruelty to animals which has led the Australian government to impose a temporary ban on the live export of cattle to Indonesia.

Live cattle export bodies say they understand why the government is banning exports to Indonesia and have undertaken to ensure the trade is reformed.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday morning, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and LiveCorp said under proposed reforms, the industry had committed to a reduction of trade to a core group of facilities in Indonesia independently accredited to meet OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) animal welfare standards.

A stringent supply chain, the rapid introduction of stunning and an ongoing review and monitoring program would ensure Australian cattle were processed only through these facilities, they said.

The ban follows strong reaction to a Four Corners expose of cruelty to animals in Indonesian slaughterhouses which kill the stock.

We visited stations in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia last year. Almost all their cattle are exported live because there were isn’t the population to sustain local meat production and the nearest export meat works are thousands of kilometres away.

The ban, even if it is temporary, will have a huge impact on the stations which don’t have alternative markets for their cattle.

But now the cruelty has been imposed they cannot keep supplying stock until the slaughterhouses the stock is sold to adopt humane practices.

Larvatus Prodeo has apost discussing this issue and links to other comment on it.


Did you see the one about . . .

May 22, 2011

The tertiary education conundrum - Mydeology thinks it’s time for a rethink.

I wannabe a pseudo scientist - has Michael Edmonds got a deal for you!

21 accents - Zen Tiger on 21 ways to say . . .

If you want a hundred trillion dollars – Anti-Dismal on hyperinflation.

What makes some people vote – Lindsay Mitchell on the power of positive personality.

Science journalism is not the same as science - Larvatus Prodeo on the science news cycle.

91863 – Credo Quia Absurdum Est deals with a spam phone caller and also has a funny story about Mummy’s job.


Best last lines, English good and bad and the best paper plane

April 19, 2011

The American Book Reviews 100 best last lines from novels opened the discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today.

Some lines and phrases were familiar although I hadn’t read the books, for example:

Number 8:

  ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’ –Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Number 77:

“Vaya con Dios, my darklin’, and remember: vote early and vote often, don’t take any wooden nickels, and”—by now I was rolling about helplessly on the spare-room floor, scrunched up around my throbbing pain and bawling like a baby—“always leave ’em laughin’ as you say good-bye!” –Robert Coover, The Public Burning (1977).

And at 77:

 “Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” –Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (1936)

 Was she the first to use the phrase tomorrow is another day?

The next website (for which I offer a hat tip to Political Dumpground) we discussed was Dear Blank, please blank:

It was designed and built by Jared Wunsch, and Hans Johnson and, if you believe what they write on the about page, it’s moderated by Jared’s cat Louie.

It allows people to pithy one-line letters such as:

Dear spellcheck,

If you have no spelling suggestions for a particular word, please don’t say that it is misspelled.

Sincerely, I have no time for your nonsense, this paper is due in an hour.

 Dear art teacher,

No, my canvas is not empty, I was painting with all the colours of the wind.

Sincerely, Pocahontas fan.

Dear Internet connection,

This whole “playing hard to get” strategy isn’t doing it for me.

Sincerely, frustrated.

Dear iPhone,

Thank you for giving meaning to my life.

Sincerely, fingerless gloves.

Dear purple grape,

BREATHE!

Sincerely, green grape.

 Dear Green grape

You’re just jealous.

Sincerely, purple grape.

Dear Americans,

If you like our accents so much, why didn’t you keep them?

Sincerely British people.

Apropos of matters British, Jan Freeman responded to the outrage over the inclusion of initialisms in the OED. (Jan has a website throw grammar from the train - notes from a recovering nit picker)

And Stephen Fry pays lyrical homage to P.G. Wodehouse in  What Ho My Hero in the Independent.

Then for something different in creative work avidiance (with a hat tip to Larvatus Prodeo): how to build the best paper airplane in the world.


Did you see the one about . . .

January 18, 2011

Eat up those carrots - Michael Edwards at Molecular Matters (via Sci Blogs) – on the beauty benefits of caretenoids.

Wednesday whimsy Larvatus Prodeo has found the Cake Wreck Blog.

Judges rule on on landmark case of Sod’s Law vs Parkinson’s Law – News Biscuit reports from the court.

Politics is a poor process for resolving issues – Eye to the Long Run show how the market can be bettter than politics.

The crash from an Austrian perspective – Anti Dismal has six good points.

Tall toilet tales – Around the World  across the spectrum from low hygiene loos to high tech ones.


Did you see the one about . . .

December 27, 2010

Happy Solstice Day Larvartus Prodeo celebrates the solstice with photos. While there check out All I want for Christmas - a list of rights and freedoms which are priorities for modern living.

The story I can’t really tell - Liberty Scott reminds us not everyone is free.

Trade and Farming - Anti Dismal on which came first.

How economics saved Christmas - Roger Kerr with a different version of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Policy implications of happiness - Offsetting Behaviour on  exactly what the title says.


More political tragics needed for strong democracy

December 15, 2010

The good news is that The Nation and Q&A are going to be funded to broadcast next year.

The bad news is they will probably screen at inconvenient times as they did this year.

Do few people watch these programmes because they’re broadcast at unpopular times, or do they get those time slots because few people watch them?

An ABC interview of  Dr Sally Young, senior lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne,  by Mark Colvin might have the answer:

 Sally Young:  . . . Who is the political news audience?  . . . basically the people who are really political news tragics – people who watch Parliament Question Time or subscribe to Crikey, for example, or watch Sky News press conferences and so on live – that’s about 0.5 per cent of the Australian population. So they’re your real political tragics and it’s a very small percentage.

MARK COLVIN: And so politicians have a real dilemma there. I mean, they’re speaking on two levels and if they engage too much with the Twitterarti etc, then they’re in danger of ignoring the vast majority of the population.

SALLY YOUNG: Mm, that’s right and I mean, even just broadening it out. When I looked at the percentage of people who buy a broadsheet in Australia, it’s about 2 per cent of the adult population. So, you know, it broadens out to things like, if you count people who watch ABC or SBS news and current affairs that’s about 10 per cent, or 12 per cent might listen to ABC Local Radio. So it’s somewhere between 0.5 to 12 per cent. That’s the core audience you think are interested in detailed information about politics, that sort of public affairs.

MARK COLVIN: So you’re left with 80 to 90 per cent who get everything they know about politics from the first couple of minutes of one of the commercial channels’ news bulletins.

SALLY YOUNG: Exactly. That’s right. And one of the findings I was looking at in the book as well is that those people who are reliant, as you say, particularly on commercial television news programs, those news programs will devote possibly two minutes a night to the election…

If it’s only political tragics like you and me who watch, read and listen to serious political analysis, what do politicians do?

MARK COLVIN: Alright so put yourself in a politician’s shoes. Or let’s say, the communications director of one of the major parties. How do you deal with this?

SALLY YOUNG: Well you can see one of the ways they deal with it is that they try to, if they’re brave enough, that the politicians will go on some of the more popular news programs as with Kevin Rudd going on Rove, for example. You know, that they’ll try and engage that audience and reach that audience that isn’t the hardcore political news junkies. They’ll try and get to them through the media they actually use. So that’s one of the ways.

MARK COLVIN: As a professional journalist, we tend to see that as “Oh, they’re trying to avoid the hard questioning”. But you’re saying that it’s just a logical reaction to what’s going on.

SALLY YOUNG: And it would be anti-democratic if they didn’t try to engage those people who don’t access that sort of hard news media, really. I mean, I know that journalists do – especially in those elite media, if you want to call them that – don’t like it when politicians avoid them to go on popular media like FM radio or comedy shows or whatever it is.

This explains a lot about why politics has become much more about personalities and why election campaigns are much more presidential with so much resting on the leader.

But it doesn’t mean there isn’t still a place for hard news journalism and political analysis. The problem is, if not many people are interested in it, advertisers won’t be keen to pay of it which is why New Zealand On Air is helping to fund both The Nation and Q&A.

 Hat Tip: Larvatus Prodeo   who got it from Trevor Cook who concludes:

Twitter, Facebook etc are only going to be important when they break stories. Sure they are entertaining, but they are not journalism . . .

To paraphrase Colvin, I think we will be left with 80 to 90 per cent of the population getting their political news from the first two minutes of the evening bulletin unless Mark Scott, or some other saviour, can turn some of that social media into (research-driven) journalism, rather than turning journalism into social media.

The challenge isn’t just how to fund serious  media, it’s also how to turn more people into political tragics. That will not only ensure a bigger audience for political news and analysis it will engender more participation in the political process and membership of political parties.

Both are important parts of a strong democracy.


Did you see the one about . . .

November 19, 2010

University of life to introduce tuition fees - Newsbiscuit and also Apple claim the letter i and seek to take over the alphabet.

Time for some bull - Progressive Turmoil on mating (of the dairy kind).

Nature’s changing moods at Uluru at Larvatus Prodeo -if you click the link Magic at Uluru after rain that’s what you’ll see.

Poverty in poverty measures - Offsetting Behaviour on absolute and relative poverty and also testing whether we are liked -  why some people leave it to the last minute to reply to invitations..

Monday Inspiration - A Cat of Impossible Colour introduces the 10 + 2 x 5 technique for keeping you focussed and energised while working.

No I don’t like this Imperator Fish with Sir Cecil Worthington-Brown’s view on the royal engagement.


Turnbull down but not out

December 8, 2009

A former party leader can go quietly or stay and fight.

Malcolm Turnbull, who was deposed as Australian Liberal Party leader last week, has a blog post Time for Some Straight Talking on Climate Change  which indicates he’s doing the latter:

While a shadow minister, Tony Abbott was never afraid of speaking bluntly in a manner that was at odds with Coalition policy.

So as I am a humble backbencher I am sure he won’t complain if I tell a few home truths about the farce that the Coalition’s policy, or lack of policy, on climate change has descended into.

First, let’s get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money.

To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money.

Somebody has to pay.

So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, “bullshit.” Moreover he knows it.

The whole argument for an emissions trading scheme as opposed to cutting emissions via a carbon tax or simply by regulation is that it is cheaper – in other words, electricity prices will rise by less to achieve the same level of emission reductions. . .

Maybe Tony Abbott and Phil Goff should consult each other on how to handle the choir when some of its members are singing a different song.

Hat tip: Larvatus Prodeo


Banana campaign is bananas

April 21, 2009

An Australian wasn’t happy when she discovered a foreign banana in the breakfast Qantas served to her on a flight home from New Zealand.

Toni Rogers says she’s shocked the national carrier is serving bananas from the Philippines given the amount of media coverage the imports issue has had.. . . 

“It was also the fact that it was Qantas, if it was Air New Zealand I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought,” Ms Rogers says. . .

“That’s probably what concerned me more than anything else, Qantas was serving Filipino bananas in preference to our local growers,” Ms Rogers says.

She was also worried about how the bananas are disposed of and the potential quarantine threat they may posse people get them through airprot quarantine systems.

The Australian banana industry says it’s comfortable with the checks and balances in place to ensure fresh fruit doesn’t breach border biosecurity.

It’s more concerned about why the national carrier isn’t serving Australian bananas on trans-Tasman flights.

CEO Tony Heidrich says given the publicity surrounding the Philippine banana imports, this could be potentially damaging to Qantas. . .

“I think any Australian would like to see our national carrier supporting Australian industries, just as Australians try and support Qantas on the routes they operate.”

If the banana industry isn’t concerned about biosecurity breaches the issue isn’t fear of pests and disseases it’s nationalism.

The national airline should carry the nation’s produce, right? Not necessarily, there are other factors to keep in mind including cost and the trade implications.

If Australian bananas are more expensive would passengers still want them to be supplied in preference to bananas, or any other fruit, from elsewhere? And if they want Australian bananas on Australian planes will they accept that airlines from other countries favour produce from their own producers rather than from Australia?

New Zealand and Australia have the strictest biosecurity border controls I’ve encountered and for very good reaons. We’re both surrounded by sea with no very close neighbours which should make it easier to keep out unwanted pests and diseases, and primary industry is very important to our economies.

But we both need to be very careful about pretending to play the biosecurity card when what were really doing is playing the protectionist one.

Buying local pulls the heartstrings, but it’s not necessarily best.

Hat Tip: Larvatus Prodeo   , go on click on it because something which starts with: Everyone knows that Kiwis constantly try to subvert our Australian way of life. They did it, for example by sending us Jo Bjelke-Petersen back in 1913 and then again with Russell Crowe. . . . is worth reading :)


Sudoku secret solved

March 25, 2009

Sudoku frustrates me. I can usually do the easy ones but have never made progress with any of the more advanced puzzles.

Not that I’ve ever spent much time on it because I never thought it was worth the effort when solving Sudoku seemed to owe more to luck and probability rather than brain power.

But I was wrong, it’s not jsut luck. The answers can by worked out by applying logic and there is a formula for solving the number puzzles.

James Crook, an emeritus professor in South Carolina, will be publishing his “pen-and-paper algorithm for solving Sudoku puzzles” on the web-site of the American Mathematical Society. While his paper runs to nine pages of detailed argument, the algorithm boils down to five logical steps.

If it takes nine pages to get the logic, I’d rather leave it to luck. However,  if you’re more enamoured with numbers than I am and want to apply the formula, you can read the paper here.

Hat Tip: Larvatus Prodeo


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