Monthly Archives: July 2010

Secrecy Makes Us Stupid

‘Need To Know’ Basis Is ‘Need To Be Dumb’

The big sensational news in the last couple of days has been Wikileaks’ big leak of US military files which has put a detailed picture of how the war is being fought in Afghanistan, as well as placed Mr. Julian Assange front and centre in some people’s scopes.

Today’s response was this idiotic claim in this article here.

ADA executive director Neil James said much of the 92,201 assorted US military, intelligence and diplomatic documents leaked by Wikileaks would not be new to anyone familiar with the Afghanistan war or wars in general.

But this latest material went well beyond justifiable whistleblowing, he said.

“Put bluntly, Wikileaks is not authorised in international or Australian law, nor equipped morally or operationally, to judge whether open publication of such material risks the safety, security, morale and legitimate objectives of Australian and allied troops fighting in a UN-endorsed military operation,” he said in a statement.

Mr James said there were many alternative avenues available for legitimate dissent which did not endanger our troops.

“Moreover, as an Australian citizen, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange may also be guilty of a serious criminal offence by assisting an enemy the ADF is fighting on behalf of all Australians, especially if the assistance was intentional,” he said.

You can almost feel the mouth-breathing reactionary blow-hard breath of the man through the monitor. 🙂

First of all, the kind of security reasons for secrecy people are ascribing these documents is frankly, overblown.The other point to be made is that Mr. Assange’s position is not of dissent as Mr. James understands it, but of disclosure.

We as a democratic nation are deprived of these documents that describe just how this war is being fought on our behalf. As most of it is covered under a blanket of ‘security’, and military secrecy, we are forced to bracket all notions of our conduct of war as we consider our options in Afghanistan. In that light, it’s hard to argue the risk put on our troops is so much larger than the risk the secrecy puts upon our democracy.

And this is the wider problem we already have with our democracy. The politicians of our day are necessarily dumbing down the discourse to the point that they become simple soundbites for the 6 o’clock news. We have entered an age of endless superficialities and an abhorrence of detailed analysis by the media. This has left the public largely wonder why there is such a gap between the high-minded rhetoric and the actual reality of how policies are carried out.  The truth – and somebody did say it was the first casualty in a war – is that when we as a society enter into agreeing with the power that there ought to be secrets that we as a citizenry are not privy to, we are essentially saying we aren’t good enough to know. And this deliberate state of ignorance makes us easier to control for the state but also absolves us of the hard task of considering the problem at hand.

Mr. Assange himself has let blast at the blogosphere. He says that most bloggers do not run with the provided information.

It’s all bullshit. It’s all bullshit. In fact people write about things in general if it’s not part of their career because they want to display their values, to their peers who are already in the same group. Actually they don’t give a fuck about the material. That’s the reality. So very early on we understand from experiences like this that we would have to at least give summaries of the materials we were giving. … and if we didn’t put it into a summary and into a context, it would just fall into a gutter, never to be seen again.

I am chastised, Mr Assange. It is true, my stupid little blog is so inadequate, I write about such inconsequential things; it is written for my friends who are in most part, not even amused – for they barely share my values anyway – and yes, I am part of the exact bullshit of indifference you so despise, but I am in support of your position. Please continue.

As for Mr. James at the ADA, he’s barking up the wrong tree.

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Mental Health Placebo Policies

You’re Spending What?

The elections hustings can be very strange at times. It’s been announced Julia Gillard wants to spend some money on mental health should her government go into a second term.

Ms Gillard said the package of suicide prevention measures would include more for frontline services, crisis prevention, services targeting men and services targeting young people.

”A first-class health system means dignity and it means peace of mind,” she told an economic conference in Brisbane this morning.

”Mental illness is a place where quality services can make a real difference to people’s lives, indeed it can save lives.”

The plan would include psychological counselling services for 12,500 people who have attempted suicide or are at risk of suicide, 20,000 specialist psychiatry sessions for people with severe mental illness and funding to provide a respite for careers of mentally ill people.

Other measures include making calls from mobiles to Lifeline free and shoring up safety measures at notorious suicide spots such as The Gap in Sydney.

But the plan was not nearly enough to win over Professor McGorry, who told The Australian he was “devastated” by Ms Gillard’s announcement.

“John Mendoza and I handed the Prime Minister a clear blueprint that was endorsed by all in the mental health sector,” he reportedly said.

“But she just seems to have contacted the same old advisers and rolled out policy that really is just a drop in the ocean.”

Professor Mendoza, who was the government’s top adviser on mental health before resigning earlier this year over a lack of serious reform, today also dismissed the suicide policy.

It doesn’t take a professor to demolish this bogus piece of policy announcement. She is saying they’re going to spend $277 million on suicide prevention as if this is the crux of mental health as an issue. It’s kind of idiotic to think that by making calls to Lifeline free, this is going to stop people from killing themselves because they’ll have the presence of mind to think “A-ha! Free phone call to Lifeline will fix me up!”

This is simply not where the problems of mental health services are. For a start there is a massive shortage of staff in the mental health area which has given up on mental asylums and set all the mentally ill people into the community with the support of mental health workers. And these mental health workers are out there frantically dealing with the crazy people coming off their medication for whatever reasons, and there simply are not enough of them.

It’s obvious to anybody who has spent any time talking to a mental health worker that they are in desperate need of more quantitative help. If putting up a bigger fence at The Gap is Julia Gillard’s big plan for mental health, god help us all. Maybe that utter incomprehension is not so surprising if her father is indeed a psych nurse. After all a psych nurse is one of those goons that does nurse Ratchett’s bidding in an asylum aren’t they? Surely that’s no perspective from which to claim insight.

I’m not the only person dismissing this as a policy stunt with no substance:

The Gillard addition to mental health is not only noteworthy for its meagre nature, but also points to deeper deficiencies in the ‘‘reform’’ manifesto.

Simply, the former Rudd Government, despite all the ‘‘consultation’’ and hospital visiting, did not in the end propose real reform of health.

It simply offered more of the same…more spending on hospitals and waiting lists – the easy hits.

I’m a bit worried that the dude there’s surname is Metherell. The only other Metherell I know is Terry Metherell and he was a Liberal nutjob. All the same, he’s right. This Labor Government together with the NSW Labor Government really hasn’t dealt with the issue properly. This is a pathetic announcement.

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Archetypal Angry Fat Man

The Meme Explained

There used to be a meme of the angry young man in 1950s Britain, thanks to the play ‘Look Back In Anger’. If there were a play today called ‘Look Back in Hunger’  perhaps it will go towards explaining the post-modern meme of the politics of the ‘angry fat man‘.

There’s a meme out there of ‘angry fat men’ whose political views lean to the right. The fatter they get, the angrier they get; the angrier they get the further to the right move their views. On this scale Joe Hockey’s quite a jolly dude, but you never know. The fatter he gets, maybe he’ll get more fascist. Had he not been so rolly-polly all his youth, he might have been a socialist, who knows?

This David Barker dude seems quite the angry fat muffin with pretty extreme views.

Which raises the question of just how a party that has previously been stung by a religious vilification scandal in western Sydney – recall the election-eve 2007 anti-Muslim flyer in Lindsay, anyone? – could think that pitting a radical Christian against a Muslim candidate in Chifley was a good idea in the first place.

When Julia Gillard called the election, the Liberal Party was criticised for having several preselections outstanding.

Chifley, however, wasn’t one of them.

So the party cannot be excused for rushing a less-than-ideal candidate into the seat because it was caught on the hop by an early election.

In fact, there was only one nomination for Chifley: that of Barker. This is probably because it is a safe Labor seat. Labor’s chief whip, Roger Price, is retiring, clearing the way for Ed Husic’s bid.

But embarrassingly for the party’s senior executive, it was the NSW state council that signed off on Barker’s candidacy, not local branch members.

Worse, Barker’s comments today indicate the party was fully aware of his extreme views, but chose to strike a deal with him to keep them out of the public arena.

Barker is quoted as saying that the party “thought I had contravened my agreement with them to give the answers they had recommended”.

Just take a look at this guy:

Angry Fat Man

The problems the Liberals clearly have is that they never seem to to be able to distinguish between who might be a conservative and who might be a rabid fascist or a religious nutjob – or like Les Murray, both – and John Howard was very accommodating and accepting of that angry fat man, so clearly the Liberal Party is welcoming towards the ‘angry fat man’.

Now, I could have told them from one quick look at this guy that if he’s inclined to join the Liberals, it’s because he’s clearly a very angry, very fat ‘angry fat man’. That superlatively massive midsection that seemlessly balloons out to a majestic fat ass that supports the lumbering torso with a pudgy neck-less bald head – with glasses too – is the exact identikit of a guy who is furthest away from getting a date with Scarlett Johansson or Angelina Jolie.

That’s an angry dude. And instead of directing his anger at his own weight problems, he’s out to take it out on the world of those who are ostensibly even more worse off than him.

Those would be the vulnerable, the ones on welfare or coming in on leaky boats. And that’s exactly why he’s joined the Liberal Party. There’s a whole cadre of them out there, no doubt writing nasty little posts on facebook and twitter and blogger and tumblr; but the thing is that these guys have BPD from being the butt of everybody else’s fat jokes for years; and that drives them to this hatred and they legitimise that hatred through politics; and when they do, they join the party with the most common with their hateful views.

It is a problem this guy is so fat and unhappy. It is a problem that the Liberal Party couldn’t seem to tell he had such horrible fascist views. But it’s a marriage made in hate heaven. I’m kind of laughing that even his name is David, but that is a private joke.

This phenomenon is not just in Australia. You just have to look at the types of sods who join the Tea Party. There are so many fat white dudes.

Angry Fat People allowing their obesity to dictate their stupid politics.

You can just feel that ‘angry fat man’ energy coming off those guys. In fact the Tea Party just might be the political movement that the obesity epidemic begot.

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A Numbers Game

Guessing At Numbers

This election had me thinking about the respective numbers of the Coalition and the ALP-Green semi-non-durable-polyadhesive-attachment arrangement and I pegged the support of the ALP to be at about 54%.

The numbers I guessed at went like this:

  • The Coalition traditionally has about 30% support from its unflinching core plus about 10% of the crazy right including Hillsong/Family First, One Nation, and other assorted God-botherers, Xenophobes and nut-bars.
  • The ALP has about the same number in any other normal circumstance but you have to dock about 5% who have drifted off as a result of the Rudd Removal. That leaves them at about 35%.
  • The Greens are allegedly at about 13% of the vote and they haven’t done anything to diminish their prospects. They’ve absorbed some of the drifted 5% from the ALP but not all.

That leaves about 12% as the remaining swinging vote. Of the 12%, roughly half will be women, so that 6% will vote for Julia Gillard – whatever their stated rationale might be – and that places both sides at Coalition 46%, ALP at 54%.

So it gives me great pleasure to find Julia Gillard came out of her debate with Tony Abbott with 53%.

For the first time, viewers were able to see what men and women thought, with separate graphs judging reaction from both sexes.

A white line reflected the average.

Ms Gillard clearly performed better among women, while Opposition Leader Tony Abbott performed better among men.

When either leader was critical of their opponent, the polliegraph responded negatively.

Ms Gillard sent the men’s graph tumbling when she turned negative, while Mr Abbott appeared to offend women during his sledging of the government’s policies.

If the Nine Network’s debate worms were any guide to his election chances, Mr Abbott better get a wriggle on, especially with women.

But Ms Gillard has work to do on climate change and her move against former Labor leader Kevin Rudd.

Nine’s worms put Ms Gillard well ahead of Mr Abbott in the final analysis of Sunday night’s leaders’ debate, with 63 per cent to 37.

I’m now trying to get my head around the 63% derived from Channel Nine’s worm.

Nine’s twin worms – a pink one for women and blue for men in Nine’s 150-person test audience – showed women favoured Ms Gillard over Mr Abbott for almost all of the debate.

Mr Abbott scored negatively, particularly with women, each time he criticised Ms Gillard personally.

But he was strongest when he discussed his support for paid parental leave and his plans to introduce a wider paid parental leave system in government.

His claim that a return of Labor would lead to more waste such as that seen with the schools building and home insulation programs also resonated strongly with the sample audience.

Ms Gillard scored most highly with both men and women, but especially with women, when she discussed the My School website and plans to further improve school and trades education.

The so-called East Timor solution for a regional processing centre was a low-point for Ms Gillard, and changes to tax rebates and the pension to improve the living standards of families and older people.

Talk of Ms Gillard’s leadership on climate change was a high point for Mr Abbott.

Men and women enthusiastically supported his assertion that her community forum on climate change was really no policy at all.

Now that’s encouraging to see. For once the electorate is ahead of the policy game and the politicians who try to frame the rules. The numbers tell me Julia Gillard is going to win but not without losing some seats. It’s going to be after the election that the real number crunchers are going to understand truly great swings like the ones generated in 2007 by the Kevin07 campaign, don’t happen very often.

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Strange Dealings

Was That Even Legal?

I was reading the SMH and found this article about the late and grating Babcock & Brown which went down in flames amid the height of the Global Fried Chicken.

Over two days, Green would in effect admit that very little about Babcock & Brown was as simple as it appeared. Peter Wood, counsel for the liquidator Deloitte, put to Green that Babcock (B&B) was nothing more than a ‘‘filter’’ for a subsidiary, a private vehicle called Babcock & Brown International Pty Ltd (BIPL). Green agreed that appeared to be the legal position.

B&B was a holding company, a conduit used to raise money from the public markets to fund the activities of a privately held company that housed the group’s assets. It raised $550million in a public float then gave the money to the private company BIPL to invest. It raised millions more in a notes issue, then gave it to BIPL. It received dividends from BIPL to pay its shareholders.

Wasn’t this structure unusual? – I don’t believe so.Why was it done like that ? – For the capital gains tax purposes of major international investors.

From a $5 per share float in 2005 dubbed by Macquarie Equities as the ‘‘IPO of the century’’, Babcock’s share price hit dizzying heights of $34 amid billion-dollar infrastructure deals loaded with debt.

Its stellar float delivered millions in advisory fees to the broker UBS, and its rise led to comparisons with Australia’s largest investment bank, Macquarie Group. But as the ripples of the global financial crisis spread around the world in late 2007, a slow train wreck began to unfold that is only now being fully detailed in public.
At the heart of the structure sat Green – the managing director  of B&B, director of the private company and member of the two-man sub-committee that decided how much in dividends BIPL should pay to B&B, of which he was one of the largest shareholders.

B&B’s collapse led to an astonishing loss of face for Green – removal from the board of the  Sydney Cricket Ground Trust and resentment from within the  eastern suburbs community over lost investor funds.

The rest of it is no less revealing. You’d be pretty pissed off if you were one of those investors who put money into the venture. I can remember how quickly Babcock& Brown appeared out of nowhere and were suddenly the talk of the town in 2005, shortly after their IPO. Everybody wanted a piece of that action without actually understanding what Babcock & Brown actually did; or for that matter, who was Mr. Babcock and who was Mr. Brown. The demise of the firm then was even more fascinating newspaper fodder.

Now we find out the whole thing was a shell game where the assets were hived off to the BIPL outfit while B&B was left holding the debt bag. You sort of wonder if any of this is fair trade. It’s almost like they sold their investors saying it’s one thing and sold them another. Buying shares in Babcock & Brown didn’t get you shares in the company that owned the assets. Instead, it got you shares in a company that got dividends from another company that owned the assets but had in no way proper ownership of those assets. Isn’t that the working case in point of fraud?

The appalling thing is that the papers called this kind of set up ‘financial engineering’ and thought these guys were really smart.

One line of inquiry from the liquidator more than any other questioned the use of B&B funds as the company teetered on the brink.

In February 2008 Green rejected reports that some B&B staff held extensive margin loans over their shares.
‘‘This is total nonsense, it’s market rumour and it’s absolute rubbish’’, he said.

It was another factor weighing on the B&B share price because those stakes held by staff and executives risked liquidation in the case of a margin call.
Following B&B’s 2007 Alinta acquisition, questions had been asked about Green’s links to Tricom’s boss Lance Rosenberg.

When Tricom floundered in the market rout, Green recommended B&B help out the company – a move, he said this week, that was aimed at recovering B&B’s shares and so avoid further downward selling pressure on its stock that had been targeted by short sellers.

Until this week  Green’s personal holdings at risk in Tricom had never been revealed.

As emerged in court, Green held 800,000 B&B shares and other investments totalling $15million inside Tricom, which were used to secure a further $22.5million in margin loans to two of Green’s family companies.

The fact remains that as B&B wobbled, its boss recommended a $35million financial lifeline for a broker in which he personally had $15million in assets trapped.

Ouch. Send them all to gaol I say.

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But Julia, Isn’t That Why We Vote?

ETS Cop Out Part 2

As I’ve said a few times I’m not voting ALP on principle, but I won’t be voting for Tony Abbott either. Which means I may have to seriously consider a donkey vote. Indeed I’ve even coined a new handle – you can call me Don Quivote – for it seems neither party wants to gut it out and do what’s right.It’s made even more complicated by the fact that the ALP and The Greens have formally agreed to swap preferences.

Anyway, it’s going to be very challenging to decide who I like the least. Here’s today’s silliness.

A JULIA Gillard government would create a ”citizens’ assembly” of ”real Australians” to investigate the science of climate change and consequences of emissions trading, under a plan to build a national consensus for a carbon price.

In a speech today, the Prime Minister will also promise to set up an expert climate change commission that would both explain climate science to the public and report on steps being taken in other countries to tackle the problem.

Launching the first details of the government’s revamped climate change policy, Julia Gillard will commit to vigorously arguing in public and in the Parliament for cutting greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon trading scheme.

But she will emphasise the need to build community consensus first, and flag the possibility of further delay if the citizens’ assembly is not convinced of the need to act.

The speech will dash hopes the government would re-consider its decision to shelve emissions trading until at least 2013 – an about-face that was backed by Ms Gillard and played a central role in Kevin Rudd’s downfall.

How the hell is the consensus delivered by this bunch of allegedly ‘real’ Australians going to be a stronger endorsement than the resounding victory Kevin Rudd got in 2007 when he won an election on the issue?

This is the most dislikeable ALP leadership since Kim Beazley saying he approved of Anti-Terror laws. They’re so low, they’re on a par with the coalition.Paul Keating once thundered the Senate was ‘unrepresentative swill’ but I think all of these f*ckers are in fact unrepresentative swill.

Which brings me back to my handle until this election is over, Don Quivote! I’m seriously considering it.

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Passions Of Mel

Things Ain’t That Bad, Mel

I got asked about how I felt about all this stuff going on with Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva. To tell you the truth, I don’t have much more than a run-of-the-mill opinion on it which goes along the lines of “he shouldn’t beat up his woman no matter how annoying she gets”. The rest of it is just speculating on the nature of a tabloid feud so it’s unseemly to even talk.

The most interesting rumour to come out of all this was that he might come back to Australia. This notion was immediately shot down by his publicist which means at least his publicist still works for him, and that not even all this furor would or could persuade Mel Gibson to contemplate returning to this fatal shore. That’s not surprising, given that in the past his production company hasn’t exactly answered calls from Australian producers.

As with all movie stars, we like him for all the wrong reasons, mostly we like him for the characters he has portrayed in the past and lent his face and grace. As the general audience we’re allowed to mistake the glamour for the substance in as much we’re not engaged in a critique. His stock is down right now, but it’s still plenty blue chip. You can easily imagine a late-career peak like Jack Nicholson. All it would take is for some enterprising casting person. This ‘Hollywood Pariah’ business will go. Everybody believes in second chances in America.

Still, if we must necessarily scrutinise the man, then I will put forward this: that maybe with all his success behind him and even with a broken marriage after many a year; and even if he never made another film anywhere, or appeared in one ever again; he’s still Mel fucking Gibson and nobody can take that away from him. I just don’t see all this as being too tragic. It’s just regular bad relationship stuff that happens to a guy with money. We should all be so lucky to be having the travails of Mel Gibson.

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