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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Saturday, 12 January 2008
Black Watch at CarriageWorks, Sydney Festival: TJIF
Mood:  sad
Topic: culture

A review

This is a great show, but I didn't 'enjoy it'.

This opening is our compliment to the scriptwriters who use the verbal device of contradiction to challenge throughout this play: It's a highly energetic intensely macho production with intricate choreography and a great study of gender - personal, institutional, national, international, military, civilian, war, peace, social, antisocial, patriarchal. Boy and man as state authorised killers.

As expected one needs a moral toolkit to grapple the spin in this play which to us is work and duty rather than entertainment. This show indeed is not meant for a deconstructionist micro news site, but we are meant for it which I suppose is why we pitched for the ABC radio quiz  to get the freebie. It's meant for rich moral lightweights who need exercising, so take the drill here.

TJIF: The Job Is F*cked.

That phrase is not in the script. It's reportage of honest police in NSW in despair at systemic corruption in their Force resorting to graffiti on station walls. Police-graffiti. Delicious irony isn't it? I catch myself adopting a faux Scots accent because the Blackies (my term) are very brogue. (Like my $120 leather shoes in 1985).

It's a cultural milieu of one white tribe, like crims and cops both in The Departed as swaggering cruel Irish Americans based in Boston:

By coincidence we watched it on DVD literally the day before seeing Black Watch, and it's a classy film also fertile with gutter talk for authenticity. This is accepted but still doesn't make it right.  We Celts are really something which is I suppose why my younger sister spent a good year or more in Edinburgh as an art student.

The perspective of 'an honest telling of criminal endeavour' albeit gut wrenching suggested to me this play was going to be difficult. And then there were the the hard back chairs for the sell out audience after near heat stroke that day (3 hours in a rock yard garden job), or fatigue (cycling 20 km).

Then add maudlin nostalgia for our first love, a willowy Australian of Scots heritage, let's call her Polly McKenzie. The woman 20 metres opposite looked sufficiently similar. Yes there was a definite gathering of the clans in the audience before the actors even appeared. Certainly all this and a general foreknowledge of the grim subject matter was ominous.

But actually it was the alleged 'balance' one so expects of an ABC endorsed event, a suspicion reflected in the review by the 'balanced' Australian, noticed just now, from Jan 8th:

Angry young men | The Australian 

Yes angry. At times. Other times not, so why the headline exactly? Manic young men? Mad? Wronged? Cynical? Certainly not left wing or wet politics. And herein lies the mind f*ck which ought be teased out for one's own peace. Ironically the clue comes from the gutter language opening lines. Something similar to this:

You think you f*ckin know what a solider is like. You don't.  You think you know because this war is wrong, illegal. You don't. I could have done something else, I'm not a dumb c*nt, kuckledragger. I chose to go to Iraq.

(Actually the c-word is embellishment, the actual quote is in The Oz  and would of course have been too "unrestrained" so early. It appears later on - regularly.) 

The audience realistically has no choice but to swallow the opening gambit having already been warned twice in booming imperatives there is strictly "no re-admittance" and to "refrain from using any audio or photographic equipment" setting the hierarchical tone of an army, regardless of paid up ticket, hard thin chairs, foul jarring language to sensitive elegant folks.

Once we swallow that impertinence - like the fabled JRR Tolkien literary device hooking us with a realist fantasy (to suspend disbelief) - the crudity effectively suspends standards of decency, and we are emotionally strapped in for the 1.5 hour ride. A reasonable metaphor given the ride the soliders take, several fatally.

This is not simply the crudity I grew up with in countless football dressing sheds across rural and regional western Victoria, or many labouring type jobs later. This language is amplified by proximity to blood soaked war, bombs, tanks and the guns these guys carry as tools of trade. Not leather bladders for kicking. The only bladders are the ones smeared across a tarmac by an  IED or suicide bomber. The crudity has menace which perhaps is why there is no Iraqi civil society in the play to expose it for what it is: Institutional thuggery. Imagine that, Arabs more civilised than white folks.

And we apologise profusely for the smothered sneeze close to the climax of the show, but the noise is so loud and the light so bright and the haze so intoxicating, one ought not to "worry about it" (imagine brogue).

There were VIPs in the audience like Stephen Loosely, George Negus, Margaret Throsby, the movie show girl and friend. I would swear my old contracts lecture Robin Creyke at ANU in 1983 (!), took the ride. The audience applauded loud and genuine. These very fit marauding pseudo Edinburgh Tattoo laddies "earned it". The acting was excellent, the exertions convincing of crack troops forged in boot camp.

The language was disgusting typical of corrupt paradigms, working class or not, the mysogny clear as daylight and strange to see digested so willingly by the well dressed audience men and women both. But easily the most disturbing and seriously ugly apsect of the show is the racist airbrush of Iraq's 150,00-600,000 violent/excess dead since March 2003 : A taboo was in the house. We were there to see and hear and feel the modern angst of white boys sent on a false political mission: TJIF.

Herein was my lack of enjoyment of a 'special' production? A "must see" according to The Oz. It's about the politics and it's not gainsaid by this:

"I hate that kind of theatre that preaches a woolly, liberal left-wing agenda to a woolly, liberal left-wing audience, and then they all pat themselves on the back and go out to dinner," Tiffany says at his hotel in Manhattan's East Village. "What we wanted to do was challenge the audience we knew would be coming to think about the soldiers, these boys who are actually being betrayed more than anybody else." Director, John Tiffany as quoted in The Australian

It's all about the soldiers you see. Which presumably  is much easier to get funding for too when Blair is still at his height, and Howard too when booking the Sydney Festival in. This is a show military families can go to and say 'f*ck the politicians' in unison with critics of the war. But let's not get too coy here. Joining the military is a moral abdication of choice over life and death called taking orders. TJIF.

The ABC and Sydney Festival can promote this show for exactly the reason it is safely 'balanced' to 'our boys' as per the racist airbrush of the domestic Iraqi population which the Coalition of the Willing has always sought to do, even allowing for 'the 4 hour bombing' scene, 'Not warring, bullying. They had no chance'. How true. One can hate wet liberal pandering presentation without losing the cut through, just read George Orwell. 

Indeed a cutting critique of ineffective tactics on activist Indymedia comes to mind: 

They can have their war as long as we can have our protest march?

Alternative version here in Black Watch: The mild folk can have an angsty hand wringing theatrical solidarity with soldier boys, and the military industrial complex can have their war. Today, tomorrow yesterday. For 4 years 8 months now. Ever since the shock and awe bombing in March 2003. 

Tiffany as director shouldn't kid himself the enthusiastic Sydney audience weren't also pandering to the ascendant western geopolitik under W Bush, and only recently released from Howard-Blair dogma. Otherwise they might have hissed and booed, not the actors per se, but the characters ammoral rationalisations. Or more like refusal to even enter the moral universe. Stone cold tools of death despite all the sniggering and banter.

The critical moment for this scribe: A soldier character (as pictured above, who cracks up) says to the researcher with incredulity:

"What's this got to do with the f*cking Iraqis?"

Our audience here in Sydney all laughed in what we believe was recognition at the incongruous fact that the Iraq war is not about Iraqis. They're just collateral damage. But I didn't laugh: White boy angst OK: Arabic wholesale slaughter taboo, is ugly subtext. At least soldier boy chose whether to join up. 

For better or worse we felt the racist solidarity in that laughter that gives pre-eminence to a relatively small number of military over hundreds of thousands of different folks. It's an abhorrent and outrageous assertion. The long applause at the finale was uncomfortably pregnant with the glaring omission of Iraqi society, the non people. The profound truth remains it's the 'me war' for oil as admitted in naive clarity by then Defence Minister, now Liberal Party Leader here, Brendan Nelson late 2007.

And now apparently it's the 'me army' to service society's comfort zone. Hence we read a somewhat plausible puff recently in the Sydney Daily Telegraph tabloid said to be written by a nonchalant Iraq War US military victim who conveniently doesn't begrudge his USA govt, or feel any bitterness at, his own death. That's right, it's an opinion piece to be published ex post facto. Take a bow Pentagon PR department.

Interestingly the soldier's website said to be this: "andrewolmsted.com" is not loading 5 days later.


To be fair to script, actors, director et al, the c*ckhead supremely fit soldiers, carry out their mindless drills at the end to manifest the mad energy of war itself.

Black Watch main image by Pavel Antonov

Reinforced by the bizarre juxtaposition of transcendant scenes (letters from home, angelic floating) and impressive soundtrack (piercing strings and glorious bagpipes), with a constant stream of lewd vulgarity spiced with lurid porn. It's a heady mix to be sure.

Like my own Irish heritage can be.

It's a drug fest of a kind, dressed up in its own vocab, sound and uniforms, and that drug is Ultra Violence, just like the charming Jack Nicholson character Costello, an indefatigable industrial scale murderer, in The Departed above. The only difference here is state versus civil murder.

To be honest and this is to the director in particular, I personally draw the line at murder as art, and mass murder especially. Show us the missing Iraqis. Or don't you have the artistic integrity?

All the same I don't begrudge the fine young actors their summer in sunny Australia compared to the bitter cold of Scotland at this time. As actors they earned it.

We like the bagpipes, like in ACDC, Long Way to the Top sung by working class Scottish Australian Bon Scott who killed himself with legal drugs, the rock business "harder than it looks":

Indeed we feel that song helped get us through a science/law degree, off the shop floor.

We still remember the bagpipes at the funeral of Andy McNaughtan in North Sydney January 2004  a true hero who without lifting a gun perhaps did more than any Australian civilian to free East Timor from the military grip of Suharto's corrupt mass murdering Indonesian military.

 Dr Andrew McNaughton, Human rights campaigner 1954- 2003

Black Watch is a cultural experience and theatre that takes you out of yourself, so in that sense mission accomplished by Sydney Festival, but they can keep the 'balance'.


Postscript # 1 14 Jan 2008

The Big Media broadsheets both have flattering reviews today (SMH offline Tartan warriors offer up a worthy dramatic centrepiece),  and The Australian (offline, From the pits to darkness of war). The former completely ignores the use of blue language at all (interesting and surely conscious choice, and its true the f-word is even accepted in court cases as every day language these days, but not the c-ord ...yet). Similarly the Daily Telegraph slightly stilted tv preview here, the play is much more dynamic: Video: Sneak preview - Black Watch

But of more significance politically is that the higher circulation Daily Telegraph tabloid and SMH both have stories about controversial arts funding of theatre - which echoes ours above re war govt under Blair and Howard funding of BlackWatch as safe because it glorifies and quarrantines 'our boys' in equal measure from criticism:

Theatre life not all peaches and cream

 Big hArt's Sydney Festival work <i>Ngapartji Ngapartji</i>    Festival company rejects grant A MAJOR Sydney Festival theatre company has returned $750,000 as a protest - despite admitting the decision makes terrible business sense.


Postscript #2 17th Jan 2008

A story quite possibly leveraging the focus provided by the Black Watch theatre production: Local moving version of reality is front page of the The Australian main colour pic of Sergeant Michael Lyddiard, less an eye, a right forearm and left thumb and forefinger, hugged by his wife and mother of their 4 year child. Lyddiard is a bomb disposal expert badly injured by a roadside bomb in Aghanistan.

Sergeant Michael Lyddiard and wife Karri at Lavarck Barracks in Townsville. Picture: Evan Morgan Bomb can't take sergeant's Digger 

Posted by editor at 8:57 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008 11:50 AM EADT
Brutal NSW ALP politik on power privatisation agenda
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: nsw govt

We submit 2 recent Sydney Daily Telegraph front pagers tell a story of big power and money politics, which at source is the desire of many vested interests to privatise the $15B publicly owned power industry.

Here we write to Mark Byrne of Public Interest Advocacy Centre on the day of the first front pager above, which was followed by a balancer from the ALP Left which seems to be wise to the disaggregation gambit from the Right. These folks do play rough. Very rough. Life and death when you distill the implications. Winners and losers.

At times like these we like the Midnight Oil dictum 'down so low the bombs don't hit you' that is to say, owning nothing, little income, employed by no one, nothing to be blackmailed over, not even a spouse or kids to be undermined domestically. Should have been a Jesuit!:

Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2008 5:37 PM
Subject: high level ALP brutal cynical politik re power sell off?


This is how I interpret the front page Daily Telegraph today re Koperberg travails on potential prosecution for domestic violence;


- he was a potential threat to Iemma for a coalescing of left ALP MP interests in a spill against Iemma. Gravitas, experience, intellect, values, profile.


- Simon Benson is a cipher for ALP Premier's Office and he's been given the mission to run the issue up again front page blowtorch after Dec blowtorch


- the affidavit which splashed early December was out of Iemma/Kaiser's office to disaggregate the Left to progress the power sell off. It was a pre emptive strike and it worked to some degree. Kaiser quickly took the exit to Qld.


This is what John Robertson calls "going to get nasty" before its all over.


I chatted with Geof Ash in the Greens in John Kaye's office today, and pointed out how Costa as Unions NSW secretary had the Carr govt on the PR ropes over workerss comp reforms in about 2002 for over reaching and enriching the insurance industry. Presto Costa is shoe horned into a cosy upper house seat with promise of more. Sure enough he is Treasurer now after several ministries. And never faced a real election in his own name.


So what about Robertson? Will he be bought off too? As the anti sell off case starts to win the argument? The Koperberg smear comes out again. But off less impact because its a bit stale now. Notice the "once popular" twist of the knife by Benson. And will Robertson be seduced, or be strong and principled on public ownership? At least he has Thistlewaite to advocate so they can't just chop of the Unions NSW head to succeed with the sell off. He's got a buffer for safety there. And on the personal values front he did walk in the Walk Against Warming rally in late 2006, pretty sure as I saw lefty filmaker footage. Could have just been federal electioneering. But methinks Robertson is made of superior moral fibre to Costa?


That's my real politik speculations. Some of it is bound to be true.


Cheers Tom

Posted by editor at 8:33 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 12 January 2008 8:52 AM EADT
'350 ppb' a deathknell for civilisation? Yes. Oil not blue whales!
Mood:  blue
Topic: globalWarming
Image:Bluewhale 300.jpg
Sent: Saturday, January 12, 2008 7:44 AM
Subject: 350 ppb is a deathknell for civilisation? Yes. Oil not blue whales! Re: [chipstop] Boreal forests absorbing less CO2 as world warms, study finds

[warning, not suitable for children, depressing content]


Good pick up Dave, I read it too [below re stable level of CO2 atmospheric level regarded as safe]. It's very scary because there is no realistic hope of resolving this objective. Especially when you consider the non CO2 GreenHouse Gases GHG like old refrigerants still out there. I'm not one for nihilism generally, but I think People have the Right to Know for instance if they are going to die say if ill, and hardly less their whole world as we know it. People have a right to know at least those who can bear to listen. It does take alot of courage to accept the full catastrophe.


If you read up on the history of the Montreal Protocol re ozone depleting substances ODS, involving all the same players, especially India and China, and then consider how long it took from late 80ies from memory to implement, India and China resisting all the way, even with Clinton administration onside (cp W Bush & oil industry cronies today) in the USA, AND then consider even in 2008 there is still ALOT of ODS still being released, and probably cheating too. AND this is seen as a success in UN terms. And relatively speaking it is because the hole is stabilising and reducing - maybe if memory serves 50-100 years? AND then you consider GHG reductions is 100 times, if not higher order of magnitude, HARDER to achieve economic restructure. Just how big Stephen Mayne gave a good ad lib summary on Sydney radio just before Xmas to Trigger Trioli.


Well a room full of flapping jaws of politicians and bureaucrats as in Bali is just not going to cut it, speaking as an ex local govt pollie. Maybe necessary but way insufficient. One blog I read of UN meeting junkie there referred to her memory of Rio 1992 - not much real change since then on the environment! Margaret Meade comes to mind re her saying 'never fear a small group changing things - it's the only thing that ever has' she reckons. Not a big room of mutual wanking, handwringing. The voyeurism of the Big Media and social institutions generally on dangerous climate as unfolding catastrophe is almost banal now. The course is set for modern humanity and it's probably not a bad time to get the superannuation out where it's useful.


I can feel it. One can be as rational as one likes in the business of politics but at a certain point intuition will have it's way.  One might think this is the mutterings of a marginalised depressive 43 year old mid life crisis and I could accept that as a logical accusation. But I gave up all downer drugs like alcohol  2 years ago on a diet kick and my 15 years of media and politic watching and sense of what's actually real (via zoology degree) tells me the unthinkable, the unacceptable, the grim reality. It may have been Harvard professor EO Wilson who said (recently) 'best and worst of times'. We, as in humanity, f*cked it.


I suppose peak oil might, and say $200/barrel of oil might, slow things down. But a $100/barrel hasn't slowed Australia's consumption. An addict must have, regardless of cost. Must have. It's the cost of being alive, oil/coal free is apparently worse than being dead, which is surely the addict's logic. The tar sands are being mined in Canada hammer and tongs. The oil explorers are hunting the Arctic melt, and offshore of Port Campbell in a Blue Whale feeding zone no less.
Whale test fear   09-Jan-2008 - 9:12AM | General

  Whale test fear SEISMIC exploration for oil and gas is about to start off Port Campbell at peak season for endangered blue whales, despite the concern of scientists. [more] Jan 9 2008
A blue whale at maturity apparently is like a USS nuclear submarine in the water they are so big, and move like a solar eclipse. But nothing stops for oil.


I may have to bail out of NSW eventually and go back to the home town Warrnambool where this story comes from. I want to enjoy the river estuaries before they get swamped. That'll make some of the targets of the SAM news site happy. Have to see my disabled vollie Carol's legal case through first which will take quite a while yet and then figure out how to move 5 big filing cabinets.
Of course I could be wrong, but I doubt it. In 1982 I got this environment kick suspicious humanity would  choke on itself. Goddamnit, its happening.


Gavin Gatenby, a long time anti motorway campaigner versus Macquarie Bank puts it well here in a lead letter in the SMH recently:

Similarly Gavin Gatenby who is known to be behind the Nick Possum column in the Sydney City Hub and online here had a cracking lead letter in Fairfax Sydney Morning Herald 8th Jan 08 about squandered motorway funds called  

Letters: An oil crisis long expected, but the roads just keep coming

Tom McLoughlin
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, January 11, 2008 7:14 PM
Subject: RE: [chipstop] Boreal forests absorbing less CO2 as world warms, study finds

Dave says........another article on global warming.
Science puts a number on survival

Bill McKibben
January 2, 2008

The past month might have been the most important yet in the two-decade history of the fight against global warming. Al Gore received the Nobel prize; international negotiators made real progress on a treaty in Bali and the US worked up the nerve to raise petrol mileage standards for cars.


But what may turn out to be the most crucial development went largely unnoticed. It happened at an academic conclave in San Francisco. A NASA scientist named James Hansen offered a simple, straightforward and mind-blowing bottom line for the planet: 350, as in parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is a number that may make what happened in Bali seem quaint and nearly irrelevant. It is the number that may define our future.
To understand what it means, you need a little background.


Twenty years ago Hansen kicked off this issue by testifying before the US Congress that the planet was warming and that people were the cause. At the time we could only guess how much warming it would take to put us in real danger. Since the pre-Industrial Revolution concentration of carbon in the atmosphere was roughly 275 parts per million, scientists and policy makers focused on what would happen if that number doubled - 550 was a crude and mythical red line, but politicians and economists set about trying to see if we could stop short of that point. The answer was: not easily, but it could be done.
However, in the past five years scientists began to worry that the planet was reacting more quickly than they had expected to the relatively small temperature increases we have already seen. The rapid melt of most glacial systems, for instance, convinced many that 450 parts per million was a more prudent target. That is what the European Union and many big environmental groups have been proposing in recent years, and the economic modelling makes clear that achieving it is possible, though the chances diminish with every new coal-fired power plant.


But the data just keep getting worse. The news this (northern) autumn that Arctic sea ice was melting at an off-the-charts pace, and data from Greenland suggesting that its giant ice sheet was starting to slide into the ocean, make even 450 look too high. Consider: we are already at 383 parts per million, and it is knocking the planet off kilter in substantial ways.


So, what does that mean? Hansen says it means we have gone too far.


"The evidence indicates we've aimed too high - that the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 ppm," he said after his presentation.


The last time the Earth warmed two or three degrees - which is what 450 parts per million implies - sea levels rose by tens of metres, something that would shake the foundations of the human enterprise should it happen again.


And we are already past 350. Does that mean we are doomed? Not quite. Not any more than your doctor telling you that your cholesterol is far too high means the game is over. Much as the way your body will thin its blood if you give up fried chips, so the Earth naturally gets rid of some of its carbon dioxide each year. We just need to stop putting more in and, over time, the number will fall, perhaps fast enough to avert the worst damage.


That "just" hides the biggest political and economic task we have ever faced: weaning ourselves from coal, gas and oil. The difference between 550 and 350 is that the weaning has to happen now, and everywhere. No more passing the buck. The gentle measures bandied about at Bali do not come close. Hansen called for an immediate ban on new coal-fired power plants that do not capture carbon, the phasing out of old coal-fired generators, and a tax on carbon high enough to make sure that we leave tar sands and oil shale in the ground. To use the medical analogy: we are not talking statins to reduce your cholesterol; we are talking huge changes in every aspect of your daily life.


Perhaps too huge. The problems of global equity alone may be too much: the Chinese are not going to stop burning coal unless we give them another way to raise people out of poverty. And we simply might have waited too long.


But at least we are homing in on the right number. Three hundred and fifty is the number every person needs to know.
The Washington Post

Subject: [chipstop] Boreal forests absorbing less CO2 as world warms, study finds

Looks like we can now start to blame forests for the increasing C02 levels.
From this journalist's report it didn't cross their minds that we might be wise to stop logging and increase the forested areas. No mention of that option - presumably to them it's not an option. No mention either of the climate benefits of increased tropical forests - in the Sahel, for example, as reported recently.
There are also different climate effects of forests of different ages and at different latitudes and of different compositions. However, too much micro-analysis can also lead to a reductionist approach of treating forests and the trees in them as no more than tools to enable destruction elsewhere to continue - that is, to avoid facing up to the need to change - really change, not just prop up the existing damaging systems.
Keith Thomas
Nature and Society Forum 

Trees absorbing less CO2 as world warms, study finds

· Shorter winters weaken forest 'carbon sinks'
· Data analysis reverses scientists' expectations

The ability of forests to soak up man-made carbon dioxide is weakening, according to an analysis of two decades of data from more than 30 sites in the frozen north.

Posted by editor at 8:13 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 12 January 2008 8:55 AM EADT
Thursday, 10 January 2008
Greenmail from marginal Labor seat of Melbourne
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: election Oz 2007


Picture: Adam Bandt "With his strong background in industrial law with Slater & Gordon"

This media release was lost indirectly due to our email host server selling up the business and us losing several of our subscriptions in the email address change. It does show an evolution in the ecological politics of the age:

Historic poll result as 'Green' Melbourne goes marginal




For the first time, the Federal seat of Melbourne has become a marginal

seat, and the country's only Labor/Greens electorate, after the Greens

outpolled the Liberals to finish second.


Today the Australian Electoral Commission will declare the result in the


seat of Melbourne. On a two candidate preferred basis, the result is

Labor 54.7 per cent, Greens 45.3 per cent.


Labor MP Lindsay Tanner's primary vote fell below 50 per cent and he was


forced to rely on preferences from Australian Democrats voters to get



Australian Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown, said: "Here we have a

progressive electorate, a great candidate and a result full of promise

for the Greens. If we can persuade Adam Bandt to stand in 2010,

Melbourne may well fall to the Greens."


Greens candidate for Melbourne, industrial lawyer Adam Bandt, said: "I

campaigned on three main issues: using public funds for urgent action on


climate change instead of tax cuts, ripping up WorkChoices completely

and stopping the proposed tollway under and through Melbourne. As the

opposition in Melbourne, I will be holding Labor to account on these

issues right up to the next election."


"Melbourne is now the greenest place in the country. I thank the

residents of Melbourne for their support. By helping solidify the Greens


place as the third political force in Australia, Melbourne residents

have ensured they will no longer be taken for granted," he said.


The AEC classifies seats as 'safe', 'fairly safe' or 'marginal'

depending on the size of the successful candidate's margin. Since its

creation, Melbourne has always been considered a safe Labor seat.


The result sets a series of records:


* The Greens have come second in a seat for the first time in a general

election, and the seat has become the first Labor/Greens marginal in the




* The Greens have recorded their highest ever primary vote (22.8 per

cent) in any Federal electorate in a general election, with a +3.8 per

cent swing to the Greens;


* In an election where there was a nationwide swing to Labor of between

+5 and 6%, Labor MP Lindsay Tanner suffered a swing against him of -2.3

per cent, and appears to be the only Labor frontbencher whose vote

declined at this election; and


* The Greens Senate vote in the electorate increased to 28.7 per cent,

the highest in any Federal electorate.


Adam Bandt will be present at the AEC when the Melbourne poll is

declared. Details: AEC, Casselden Place, 2 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, 11am,


Friday December 21 2007.


Figures in this release are unofficial: check all figures against

official AEC results.



Posted by editor at 3:01 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008 3:15 PM EADT
Two F18 hornets crash in Gulf, cost $100M. Meanwhile POTUS* alleges menacing Iranian speedboats, cost zero?
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: peace

* From the first episode of the West Wing tv series jargon = President Of The United States. 

The 3 days trip through the Middle East by President GW Bush is underway.  Is that irony I detect in the "Iran cannot be trusted" intro in the Sydney Morning Herald today as regards W Bush's own track record?

Iran a threat to world peace: Bush

6:22am |
US President George Bush says he sees a historic opportunity for Middle East peace as he begins a tour of the region, but warns that archfoe Iran cannot be trusted.

There seem to be some Big Media PR gambits under way too, defined in the broader sense, if you include the Pentagon as 'the world's biggest media organisation' to borrow the words of Lee Rhiannon MP.

A curious coincidence of story timing is being run through the general media regarding this 'non story':

U.S. F-18 fighter jets crash in Persian Gulf - CNN.com

FA-18 Hornet breaking sound barrier (7 July 1999).jpg

The value of these things is about US$37M each in 2003 (sold to the Spanish) as per the wikipedia entry on the 'units' and it surely is very embarrassing on the eve of GW Bush grandstanding trip regarding competence and prestige as leader of the free world.

This happened 'last Monday night' (according to CNN presumably Persian Gulf/Washington time?)..

Just prior to this the other story that came through was some kind of incident involving Iranian speedboats allegedly buzzing 3 US navy warships/frigates. But the cranking up of the speedboat story only really happened this week AFTER the F18 crash.

Image:Persian Gulf map.png

We wrote about the speedboat story on our own micro news website

 Tuesday, 8 January 2008 Pentagon-Bush Republican regime playing Iranian politics in New Hampshire?
Mood:  incredulous

which curiously crashed off the cyberspace, first time ever after a year. Maybe the host service is doing some upgrades. One wonders. It's a US host server.  We got the highest number of hits for a story ever in a day (about 800) - drawing some threads together about

1. warnings of Robert Macnamarra in Fog of War about getting your facts wrong like the infamous Tonkin affair in the Vietnam War in 1964;


 Picture via wikipedia "Chart showing the US Navy's interpretation of the events of the first part of the Gulf of Tonkin incident." Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the 1964 resolution of the US Congress that precipitated the buildup of US forces in Vietnam

2. potential interference in politics of New Hamshire primaries literally to vote later that day, when combined with documented Oct 2007 record of dispute between Obama and Clinton on how tough to be with Iran.

We worried this timing evidenced a very good opportunity for the Republicans to sew dissension in the Democrats and ramp up their pro Iran war rhetoric as GW Bush is promoting today, as per abc AM this morning: 

 US fabricated warship harassment footage, Iran says ABC AM 10th Jan 2008

Who ever is telling the truth, USA or Iran, this is fertile area of PR posturing because there is a whirlpool of lost credibility in all things Middle East it seems 9th Jan 2008:

Growing doubt over Bush's Middle East peace bid

We notice the AM story today virtually echoes our speculative story yesterday this time with the Iran government calling the accusations of their speedboats buzzing the US ships as "clumsy fabrication" to create tension in the region on POTUS W Bush's visit. This claim of fabrication has resonance given the W Bush massive credibility gap on non existent WMD in Iraq.

And for instance the infamous Mission Accomplished PR stunt on the deck of an aircraft carrier regarding the invasion of Iraq:

CNN.com - White House pressed on 'mission accomplished' sign - Oct ...

Did the speedboat thing really happen, scrambling the White House situation room like a scene from episode 22 series 1 of the West Wing tv show (broadcast 1999-2000, US pilot down in Iraq policing the no fly zone):

If it did happen is it a beat up anyway, of no great danger or intrigue?

Are the two stories above connnected re loss of expensive military hardware/loss of face versus alleged speedboat menaces? Is the temporary crash of our news website? Or all just random?

Is the western media showing selective lack of interest about the 'trivial' loss of $100M of military hardware, while treating as gospel the menacing speedboats the Iranians deny outright? Is it a Republican PR gambit on different levels? They do have form.

By the way big human error accidents like those pilots tend to happen when people are under extraordinary and confusing pressure. Is that the legacy of this W Bush presidency in the military services? Dysfunction?


Postscript #1

Crikey.com.au today 10 Jan 08 cross reference this post about a horrific mistake involving a naval US missile from within Iran territorial waters. The link is to a body called the "Iran Chamber Society" with an article dated 2004:

On July 3, 1988, USS Vinceness shot down Iran Air Flight 655 (IR655) killing 290 innocent civilian from six nations including 66 children.


A decidedly more hawkish, defensive blog is also referenced with the view its all about Iranian politik seeking domination of their region. This comes across pretty lame considering the USA's own famous empire building particularly in Iran back to the 1950ies with cynical overthrow of the Mossadeq government. 

Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq
Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq

Posted by editor at 1:49 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 14 January 2008 10:20 AM EADT
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
Costa's jackboot march to power privatisation and a quick exit to the corporate sector?
Mood:  not sure
Topic: nsw govt


The cynicism of the Iemma Govt knows no bounds.

Alex Mitchell, veteran of Fairfax now retired and sometime contributor to crikey.com.au had a strident attack yesterday on Verity Firth MP over her cynical air quality claims for Sydney just prior to the federal election. Indeed we made some comments amplifying just how cynical:

Note to Sydney: It's not lawnmowers harming foetuses

Similarly Gavin Gatenby who is known to be behind the Nick Possum column in the Sydney City Hub and online here had a cracking lead letter in Fairfax Sydney Morning Herald 8th Jan 08 about squandered motorway funds called  

Letters: An oil crisis long expected, but the roads just keep coming

Point well made by alter ego to bushy Nick Possum in his own Chandler-esque Aussie genre that somehow captures the fear and loathing of cynical sleazy NSW, and especially Sydney, politics so well:

And tucked away in the specialist Local Govt pages of the Herald is this diplomatic outrage at more cynical corrupt alteration of pro developer planning rules by Minister Sartor:

Planners in two camps on proposed reforms

The same minister rebuffed by the courts here for abuse of the envrionment

Court agrees climate-change risk rules out housing plan

Truly the Sydney Morning Herald can at times lay claim to being the most important newspaper in Australia for getting to the heart of things.

And the doozy of them all, the $15 billion public utility selloff announced in the confusion of a federal govt transition in late Nov 07, with subsequent exhaustion of unions and public both, barely 8 months after going to the NSW election with no such policy.

There aint nothing that doesn't stink about this timing. From the ex unionist Costa as installed Treasurer who now champions the role of private industry to run a natural power monopoly, to the Premier's use of public money to promote sleazy tv PR, when the ALP condemned the Howard Govt for same.

The ALP itself is greatly disturbed which is saying something given it has been compromised and corrupted by decades of big business donations. This assertion is borne out by the article page 2 of the Sydney Daily Telegraph today:

police clash with protestors outside parliament in 2001   Unions wage war on power sale

EXCLUSIVE: UNIONS are revolting against Morris Iemma's power sell-off - organising a protest outside Parliament House to rival the famous 2001 blockade.

The ALP hierarchy in NSW can't be trusted on money being the subtext to this of 3rd Jan 2008:

Campaign … Michael Costa and Morris Iemma.

Iemma denies privatisation price rise link - National - smh.com.au 

and this 'enough rope' effort of Costa in person in the opinion pages same day:

Unions' electricity reforms scare campaign just isn't based on facts

Costa indeed appears to have been caught (how unsurprising) lying about the affect of price increases after privatisation here in Victoria and in the UK as per these letters in the Sydney Morning Herald 4th Jan 2008:

Costa caught out
Michael Costa writes that "in Britain prices are now substantially lower than they were before" privatisation ("Unions' electricity reforms scare campaign just isn't based on facts", January 3). A British Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology report says that "household electricity bills have risen by 45 per cent since 2003".

British Energy, which supplies one-fifth of Britain's power, was sold for £2.1 billion in 1996 and had to be saved from bankruptcy in 2002 by the taxpayer chipping in £3 billion. Since then taxpayer liability has increased to £5.3 billion ($11.9 billion), according to the National Audit Office. But the shareholders are doing fine, thanks very much.

Jim Iveson Hornsby Heights

Mr Costa, would you please provide references as to where privatising electricity provision has improved service and reduced prices to consumers?

New Zealand has had woeful problems, with Auckland being blacked out for days. Melbourne lives with brown-outs in summer and winter. South Australia has prices that are rising far more quickly than inflation. Rural England lives with the real issue of random black-outs.

Your attempt to deflect the focus onto a union bash is not only a poor distraction, it may be outright deceit.

Brian Kelly Carlingford

Not beyond a bit of scare-mongering himself, Michael Costa's main justification for privatising the electricity industry is that spending $15 billion by the NSW Government would "reduce spending in other areas such as education, health and other essential services".

What seems to have escaped Mr Costa's and the Premier's attention is that the people don't want this privatisation, the proposal was not given any publicity in last year's election campaign and, because of blatant examples of profiteering in other privatisations, no one trusts what may be said in advance or the strength of any controls relating to pricing as this is just part of the spin to get the deal over the line.

Ross Butler Rodd Point

We read about a meeting of unionsts there in Sussex street Jan 8th 2008

 Unions wary of advisers for power privatisation

We wonder if Michael Costa who is now treasurer though never elected to Parliament in his own name, can still recall the values behind the mural in the foyer there at Sussex St, as shown above? Costa is a 'growth economics at any cost' kind of guy. Grow the cake, trickle down economics, bugger the environment exemplified by the hyper expansion of Port Botany which brings us indirectly back to air quality impacts for millions of Sydneysiders (diesel trains, truck tunnel stacks). 

Costa similarly won't have any problems with the creative destruction of capitalism trashing the public power assets on the basis that more money will be released and somehow (?) distribute to the benefit of NSW families. Or more like some very select or already very rich share owning and corporate executive families.

On the other hand John Robertson in charge of Unions NSW today, successor to Costa, was in the vanguard of the Walk Against Warming climate change rally in 2006 or so.

 Secretary John Robertson
Secretary John Robertson

He might think the way forward to benefit ALL NSW families is to actually get our green energy house in order, best done within the paradigm of the public sector? He would probably be right. We tend to trust John Robertson alot more than Michael Costa on such matters. Robertson has delegated the lead role in the anti privatisation campaign to another unionist speaker but we imagine he is right in there too.

And groups such as Public Interest Advocacy Centre here via one of the citizen email strings:

UTS/PIAC Report on Electricity Privatisation

A report commissioned by PIAC into the findings of the Owen Report into the future of electricity in NSW was released on 10 December 2008, the same day the NSW Government announced its intention to sell off the
State-owned power stations and energy retailers. The report, which was prepared by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS, reviews the economic, environmental and consumer impacts of the recommendations of the Owen Report. The UTS report argues that the recommendations made by Owen are based on flawed assumptions, such as that NSW needs to privatise the industry to pay for new power stations.

PIAC is concerned that privatisation will not result in lower prices or better service and will adversely effect low-income and disadvantaged households.

PIAC's view is that instead of building new coal- or gas- fired power stations, the NSW Government should be investing more in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Electricity supply in NSW: alternatives to privatisation 10 December 2007

We rang PIAC and chatted to policy officer Mark Byrne and they are upgrading their web based information further on this topic soon. This sounds wise because PIAC had quite a role to play back in the 1997 privatisation controversy also (as did this writer).

We continue to suggest that wiser financial path forward for this ALP-Iemma Govt is to follow the bipartisan Public Account Committee report of 1991 to separate out the finances of the plantation versus native forest sector. Then sell the former for about $1 billion as a big boost to the public revenue for infrastructure and breaking a loss making native forest industry on the public teat to the tune of we estimate $100M per year either as

1. locked up capital in an essentially private sector activity or

2. lost revenue squandered on native forest subsidies for free roading, bureaucracy etc

Referencing for this submission is here:

Friday, 4 January 2008
Postscript #1
We didn't realise Mark Byrne of Public Interest Advocacy Centre had this rather cutting pursuasive letter in the Sydney Morning Herald same day 9th Jan 2008:

And Mark Byrne here at Online Opinon 


Posted by editor at 11:27 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008 3:41 PM EADT
Democrats Abroad gear up for Sydney Mardi Gras outreach March 1st this election year
Mood:  energetic
Topic: culture

Picture: images being considered in float decorations namely Thomas Jefferson on a coin, Democrats donkey (!?), and of course the White House itself.

The Sydney Mardi Gras is usually viewed by hundreds of thousands of straight people every year but is actually an event to publicise the existence and culture of the gay and lesbian sections of society of presumably 5-10%.

It's been going for years and has become an orthodox communication strategy for politicians right along the spectrum to promote their particular credentials whether for pride, tolerance, theatrical culture, safety, health initiatives or whatever. It's not for the ultra right Christian extremists (who have a real problem with protecting God's creation like the environment, let alone other human beings), distinct from the moderate Christians, and so anyone to the left of the anti science creationsits usually get involved in some way. Audience or marcher.

We interviewed an organiser for the Democrats Abroad Downunder here in Sydney yesterday who is pulling together the decorations for their 2 tonne truck and float. He reckons about 90%+ of the DA supporting the float will be straights, as per the general proportions. The last time they had a float was in 2004 in the last USA presidential election. Let's hope democracy and the best candidate wins otherwise the future looks grim ....

Sydney's public culture is at times exuberant and colourful not least the summer festive season right now. At a business enterprise seminar yesterday we chatted to a musician/clothes designer with body art that called up the omens of Shakespeare's raven, and the treasure political parties desire: The tattoo seemed somehow appropriate to a story about political theatre in this the most brash, USA style of Australian cities.



Posted by editor at 10:43 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008 11:19 AM EADT
Big Media, indy blogosphere bump and grind
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: independent media


We recently wrote to the ABC Media Report about this interesting by play in the life of the daily slogger/micro news blogger:

You may know I edit a micro news blog service with about 12K readers per month e.g. this one:


The significance is that I never get many comments as its too clunky for public interaction. (I want more to get in the head of the Big Media, not impress punters as such). The Sydney Indymedia are much better at this aspect [offset by open slather editorial approach] there.

My reason for the background is, on the string above no less than 9 comments which is unprecedented. Meaning Tim Blair has his right wing (extremist?) cheer squad either in or out of NewsLimited who patrol their champion's 'reputation' in typical aggressive style.

Till recently Simon Benson at the Tele added me to his unsolicited email list for his blog URL to stump up some decent/friendly comments. This appears to be a job metric there now at News Ltd? No. of comments = popular, effective journo?

Certainly my piece on Blair was potentially damaging to his  career, and his neocon mates seemed to know it. Especially the bit about Fairfax scoop in Rupert's home town.

To me these are interesting blog based power dynamics of the Big Media/Blogosphere ie Fourth/Fifth estate.

tel. 0410 558838

Posted by editor at 10:14 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008 10:36 AM EADT
Tuesday, 8 January 2008
Pentagon-Bush Republican regime playing Iranian politics in New Hampshire?
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: peace


Like most wonks we take an interest in the Obama phenomenon.

Malaysia Star
     Obama at 39, McCain at 32, in new poll - 21 hours ago
by John McCormick NASHUA, NH -- Sen. Barack Obama has jumped into double-digit lead in the latest CNN/WMUR nightly tracking poll for New Hampshire. ...

Our question is:

Will Republicans outside of Iowa, and New Hampshire voting in primary preselections later tonight, be of similar ilk i.e. pissed at President GW Bush and wanting a change along with Democrat voters but so antagonistic to Hilary/Bill Clinton that they prefer Democrat Obama?

At least in sufficient numbers to remove the Grand Old Party aka Republicans from the White House in USA national elections in Nov 2008?

If this is a real threat to the Republicans as in Iowa then we greatly fear the USA relations, or non relations, with Iran will become a dangerous dimension of the domestic primaries to preselect Republican and Democrat candidates.

No less than Robert Macnamarra in the chilling documentary

The Fog of War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

instructed all future generations and governments on about 11 sobering lessons he took out of his incredible war mongering career: One of these lessons (so compelling after the David Kelly docudrama The Government Inspector last night on ABC TV re Iraq war and missing WMD):

6. Get the data:

Which we at SAM here interpret as: Get your facts right - in the film he refers to a naval clash near Vietnam in the early 60ies, which later turned out to be bogus analysis of what actually transpired. But the diplomatic and political consequence was set in train (or manipulated?) leading to USA open warfare in Vietnam.

All the newswires today are running a story that Iran and the USA navy have had a tense stand off and near run conflict in the Straits of Homouz (spelling?). 

Iranian boats harass US navy in Strait of Hormuz: Pentagon ...

Iranian speedboats threaten US Navy ship - ABC News (Australian ...

Sound familiar? Complete with the Iranians denial of a real clash and that there was nothing unusual in the dynamic of this latest interaction in Hormuz.

Only it's the New Hampshire primaries today?

What is even more concerning is that there is a well known policy point of contention between the rising Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton going into the New Hampshire primary vote later tonight (our Sydney time).

The Pentagon and/or the Bush regime wouldn't be promoting potential warlike conflict with Iran in its PR for the base political reason of sewing dissension in the Democrat camp? And to damage Barak Obama? Surely not.

Yet this election blog from the US does make it clear the opportunity and motive of the Republicans to do just that back in Oct 2007:

Obama Attacks Hillary Over Iran Vote; Camp Hillary Hits Back

Barack Obama has now joined John Edwards in slamming Hillary for her vote for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which says Iran is responsible for problems in Iraq and designates the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization:

"Senator Clinton obviously in 2002 voted to authorize the war in Iraq," Obama told ABC News' Sunlen Miller. "And her willingness to once again extend to the president the benefit of the doubt I think indicates that she hasn't fully learned some of the lessons that we saw back in 2002."

"We have to be very cautious in how we approach these kinds of issues, because we've already seen enormous damage done to U.S.'s prestige around the world, the U.S.'s strategic interests in the world," he added. "Part of the reason Iran has been strengthened is because of that war that had been authorized in Iraq."

The Hillary campaign has just hit back in this statement sent over to us moments ago by Hillary spokesperson Phil Singer in which he says Obama's attack is motivated by dropping poll numbers and a "flagging" campaign:

It's unfortunate that Senator Obama is resorting to the same old attack politics as his poll numbers start falling. He knows that Senator Clinton was one of the first in Congress to say that Bush must seek an explicit authorization from Congress for any military action against Iran and that she is the lead co-sponsor of legislation by Jim Webb to prohibit funds for military action in Iran without approval from Congress. A flagging campaign is not an excuse to distort anyone’s record.

Hillary supporters will also note that Obama co-sponsored a bill designating the Iran Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, though the Obama campaign has said that their objection to Kyl wasn't to that facet of it but to the fact that it blamed Iran for problems in Iraq.

Late Update: Obama spokesman Bill Burton emails this response to Camp Hillary's response:

"It's clear that Senator Clinton can get irritated by questions about her Iran vote but the Lieberman-Kyl amendment does indeed make a case that military action against Iran could be a part of the ongoing war in Iraq. And in 2002, the vote to authorize war in Iraq was not a vote for diplomacy and inspectors. Senator Obama is focused instead on ending this war in Iraq, and preventing another disastrous foreign policy mistake."


Postscript #1 9th Jan 2007

Leftish columnist Phillip Adams fears for Obama's ability to survive the very frightening violence of US culture in a very factual and tightly written piece. It's a very fair and prominent piece there in the so called 'Govt Gazette': 8th Jan 08 Obama must be wary of the assassin's gun | The Australian

It reminds us of this thrilling finale of West Wing TV show series 1 referred to here by the ever helpful Wikipedia entry:

List of The West Wing episodes

specifically this one      "What Kind of Day Has It Been"

The West Wing episode   
Bartlet being ushered away during the shooting

which played way back in 1999-2000 indicating how behind the viewing times Australia really was given we got to see it about 2005 here(?). This has changed apparently these days with much greater synchrony of international scheduling in the age of internet download threats.

This episode virtually guarranteed a series 2 if only to answer the question: What the f*** happaned?! Answer - the good guys all survive with mercurial/goofy Josh Lyman character recovering in hospital. Unlike Benizir Bhutoo RIP in Pakistan recently. For real. Good article Mr Adams.

We once saw Mark Latham as the 2004 electoral aspirant for John Howard's crown in a Darling Habour forecourt next to the roadway as we innocently drove our van in there to get some pics of the ALP national conference.  If memory serves the eager still hopeful Mark was hob knobbing with the odd press gallery reptile including Matt Price out in the open exposed to the public.

We distinctly recall thinking this public access to a VIP is not so secure or wise for a guy doing so well in the polls at that time at least. On the other hand maybe we were so well known for our scruffy strict adherence to Gandhi philosophy by those ever alert CBD surviellance cameras it was all in hand? Who would know? We can say we once unwisely drove a donated unregistered (by a few days) van through the CBD and sure enough were booked and fined a painful $550 for our sin (in 2006) by an unmarked police car. Number plate recognition software? One wonders.

Posted by editor at 7:40 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008 10:02 AM EADT
Monday, 7 January 2008
Don't lose the plot: Brian
Mood:  mischievious
Topic: culture

YouTube - Life of Brian

You are all individuals! ... Monty Python's Life of Brian ...

Posted by editor at 10:02 AM EADT

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