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,


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.

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