Posted June 6, 2013
into Politics by John Birmingham
Douglas Coupland had his own phrase for 'generational exceptionalism' - the idea that what's happening to you and the world right now is unique and could never have happened to anyone ever before. But I can't remember it.
While serving as U.S. ambassador to India in 1962, John Kenneth Galbraith brought his family along on an official visit to Gujarat, where the governor of the Indian state presented Galbraith’s two sons with a pair of Siamese kittens. The boys named one Ahmedabad, after the city where the cats were born. Later that year, Galbraith’s wife, Catherine, told a story about the cat, using the kitten’s nickname, “Ahmed.” What the family didn’t realize is that Ahmed is one of the many names of the prophet Muhammad. When the story appeared in the international edition of Time, it sparked outrage in Pakistan, where extremists were already fuming over American aid to Indian armed forces. The consulate was attacked, a jeep carrying Americans overturned, and mullahs decried U.S. insensitivity. Galbraith moved to avert the diplomatic crisis, starting with changing the cat’s name to Gujarat, but as he later wrote, “Amateurs will never understand how much can turn on the name of a kitten.”
Check the date in the first line. 1962. And rioting over the name of a kitteh.
Sweet baby cheeses.
7 Responses to ‘Turns out the mad mullahs have always been crazy’
Posted June 6, 2013
into Politics by John Birmingham
A sticky, rather nasty and inedible felafel.
I'm not sure how this infamous incident of felafel abuse escaped my attention until now, but I have only just learned that Fox News Bill O'Reilly was sued, and settled, after allegedly harassing Andres Mackris, a female producer.
So what, you might say. He does worse on air every day. But no, I've read the deposition at Smoking Gun and that is some nasty shit. Nasty, nasty funny shit.
I'll let the source of my enlightenment, former Fox staffer Joe Muto, tell the story:
"... but the gist of it is: Mackris claimed that, over the course of several dinners and phone calls, Bill repeatedly made suggestive remarks, tried to convince her to buy herself sex toys, and on at least three occasions called her while he was pleasuring himself. The lawsuit never says so explicitly, but Mackris apparently had audio recordings of some of the phone calls, because at some points, it quotes O’Reilly verbatim and at length."
I've read the alleged transcript and just let me say, "Eewww."
One of these word-for-word passages features Bill monologuing a fantasy of showering in a hotel on a tropical island with the producer. He repeatedly mentions his desire to scrub her down with “one of those mitts, one of those loofah mitts.
...Unfortunately for Bill—and fortuitously for late-night comedians and Keith Olbermann—soon enough, the thread of his tropical fantasy gets away from him, and he temporarily forgets the name of his ersatz sex toy, confusing it with a word for a delicious Middle Eastern food made from fried chickpeas.
And that’s how the entire Fox News organization and the world at large discovered that the number one host in cable news had allegedly told one of his producers that he wanted to massage her lady parts with a “falafel.”
Internet, I can't believe you've been holding out on me for five years about this. Why. Wasn't. I. Told???
17 Responses to ‘He cried out with a felafel in his hand’
Posted May 30, 2013
into Politics by John Birmingham
Besides a few defamation issues, I had a crisis of confidence with this one, thinking that nobody would give a shit. I've snipped the worst of the deffo, and tossed in some extra sweary:
There is no fucking way that Jeff Seeney could be the dumbest minister in the history of Queensland. The state, in its colonial form, achieved separation from New South Wales in 1859 and since then dozens, maybe hundreds, of barely functioning mouthbreathers have sat on the smooth padded leather of the Government benches, staring vacously but intently at tendrils of drool stretching slowly from their lower lips towards the green carpet of the lower House.
Jeff Seeney has never, ever done that.
And yet, he tempts me to believe he could one day, because even with Queensland's rich and varied history of life threatening derp in the annals of public administration, few statements reek of ill favoured ignorance the way that Seeney’s plea to “oil and gas companies to vigorously fight against environmentalists” does.
The Minister for State Development worries that every single development over which he has authority will be thwarted by ‘radical green’ protestors, even though they don’t have the authority under law to stop the developments – he does. They can protest of course, which might be an inconvenience, and might even delay this project or that if they use the legal system to demand review of environmental effects of, say, proposed LNG plants in Gladstone harbour. But they didn’t write the legislation, or pass the law, and if the law is seriously hindering economic developments that should go ahead then perhaps the state government should change it?
Seeney would prefer that mining companies devote a share of their resources not to mining things, but to politics. To “take up the fight against the radical greens campaign” by, er, taking up the fight against radical greens and their inconvenient campaigning.
Because apparently, as state development minister he has nothing to do with the process. Nor does the state environment minster. It’s those damn radical greens and all their powerful radicalism. Damn them.
Of course, none of this is ever defined. “All Queenslanders” according to Seeney, “want to defend the reef,” for instance. But unhelpfully he doesn’t explain how ‘defending the reef’, which is something all Queenslanders want, and suddenly morphing into a radical lentil terrorist, can be teased apart. Perhaps the change comes over us at the point where instead of just 'wanting' to defend the reef, somebody actually gets off their arse and does something. Something really fucking radical and green, like drawing up a petition. Maybe at that point, you become one of Seeney’s barking mad Trotskyists.
I don’t know why this particular incident of derpery should piss me off more than any other. But I think it’s because the very idea of a bunch of Birkenstock wearing, roughage muffin lovers bringing tens of billions of dollars of economic activity to a standstill by the sheer force of their mind bullets is so fucking daft that I feel myself personally insulted by Seeney for ever having brought it up.
Here’s the thing, Jeff. You’re not in Opposition any more. You’re the government. You don’t like how the environmental laws work, change them and then place yourself before the people to see whether they agree. If it’s the federal laws that are somehow jamming up every single fucking development that comes across your desk then just bide your time and I’m sure you’ll find that after September, Prime Minister Abbott will be more than amenable to changing the law to facilitate a bit of ecological rape and pillage.
But this idea that you need the miners to go to war with ‘the greens’? That’s so fucking dumb I can see you staring at the spittle between your feet as you prepare to stand up in Parliament to tell us all about it. The miners dont want it. Honestly. They have better things to do. Like digging shit up and selling it to China. Yes, the green movement will occasionally provide some resistance to that. Some friction in the prroess. But so will the weather, and currency fluctations, and competition from Brazil and the opaque policies of the Chinese politburo. The miners factor all that into their risk management. They don't need to factor in getting caught up in your bullshit fantasies.
Just do you job, you fucking goose and stop whining about wanting others to do it for you. I’m sure that if the mining industry has any problems they’ll tell us aaaaall about it. They’ve never been shy of special pleading in the past.
21 Responses to ‘The Blunty post I decided not to run’
Posted May 8, 2013
into Politics by John Birmingham
Got very excited for a couple of minutes yesterday when I popped into Twitter to discover that Tony Abbott was doomed. He had revealed his true self. Peeled back the latex man mask that covered his demon features, stripped off his underpants to reveal the chain mail underpants beneath them, and done something very very wrong. Twitter was, dare I say it, all a-twitter. In such a tizz, in fact, that nobody could draw breath long enough to explain how they come to be in such a tizz in the first place. It was a couple of hours before I tripped across a story in the mainstream media – yes, that old thing – which finally put everything in context. Tony Abbott had been caught out being beastly to the ladies again. Except he hadn't. If you actually read what he said in context it was an almost entirely unremarkable bit of dialogue about the Liberal Party's paid parental leave scheme. Abbott was defending maternity payments to professional women. The beast. Being Abbott, of course, he was also a bit of a boofhead in his choice of words. Except, again, he wasn't. I expected to read the line about "women of caliber" and see something astonishingly ham-fisted, or at least taken out of context. But it wasn't even that. It was a completely anodyne political statement that could have been made, probably should have been made, by somebody like Penny Wong, but because it was made by Abbott, who has form, the Internet rage machine spooled up. Spooled up and flew away, roaring and snarling and breathing fire from every fiery orifice.
I was going to write a Blunty about it tomorrow, but in the end I couldn't be arsed. What'd be the point? Eva Cox, a gnarly feminist who scares me most days, and Clem Ford, who scares me even more because I can at least outrun Cox, did their best to chill everyone out and calm everything down. The addressed the policy issue itself, and managed to disagree it seemed, but without the lashings of angry, angry rage. Didn't matter. The Internet rage machine had moved on, leaving in its wake the destruction of the historical record, at least online, replacing it with the intellectual debris of thousands and thousands of angry tweets and Facebook rants. How many of them, I wonder, based on a close and complete reading of the original offending remarks. Actually, I don't wonder. That's just a figure of speech. So I decided to write something funny about some recent manflu research instead. Having had a small taste of the Internet rage machine at the chubby hands of the Fat Acceptance movement I found myself in the unusual and deeply, deeply unpleasant position of feeling sorry for Tony Abbott. There are so many reasons to vote against this prick, but the women of caliber nano-scandal isn't one of them. Nice work by Wong and Tanya Plibersek though, distracting attention from the ALP's changes to single parenting payments which have done more to damage the prospects of working mothers than any statement of Abbott's.
48 Responses to ‘There is less to this scandal than meets the eye’
All the talk about this White Paper is that it takes a softer line on China, and although Minister Stephen Smith says the Government has been consistent, David Wroe's language comparison of the 2009 and 2013 White Papers in the SMH tells its own story. More broadly, there's a strong emphasis in this White Paper on defence diplomacy, reinforcing the idea that we must seek our security in the region, rather than defending ourselves from it.
The other big theme is money: major projects are being cut or delayed because of the Government simply cannot afford them.
What's missing from this White Paper, as far as I can see, is any acknowledgment that the second big theme is actually driving the first. Because we cannot afford all the insurance we would like in the form of weapons systems, we have to take on slightly more risk and, to some extent, we compensate by substituting diplomacy.
...while there's a group effort underway at ASPI with stand alone entries on the strategic setting, a couple of pieces individual weapons system purchases (the Super Hornets and subs) and a reasonably comprehensive choice of entrees into the fiscal/strategic trade offs forced on the Government.
On the subs, which might turn out to be one of the two most significant government purchasing decision of the next forty years, Andrew Davies points out that with the winnowing of options from four down to two, "What we’ll see is either an evolution of the Collins class or an entirely new design. Both of these options are likely to be expensive and involve significant project risk."
Of course the Coaltion will get to sign off for this one, because it'll be their project when it gets to the point of cutting steel. And they've already rejected an 'enhanced Collins' deal.
On the decision to grab up another dozen Super Hornets, Davies writes: "Simply put, buying more Super Hornets retires much of the risk associated with relying on 1980s jets to form the bulk of our air combat capability. And buying Growlers off the production line rather than taking half of the existing 24 off line for conversion means that the RAAF will have their most capable aircraft continuously available. The downside to this decision is that the RAAF will be operating a mixed fleet of Super Hornets and F-35s for the entire 2020s, with the operating cost hit of two sets of fixed costs."
Of course, if the F-35 had turned out to be something more than unicorn dreams, these downside risks would not have been an issue. My bet? The next major air combat system we buy will be drone based. The Super Hornets will be with us until then.
I'm thinking of writing something for Lowy next week on the role of the arbitrary in these sorts of plans. It'll get less readers than it would at Blunty, but less derp with it.
30 Responses to ‘Defence White Paper (first analyses)’
Posted May 3, 2013
into Politics by John Birmingham
It'll take a few days to digest the thing properly, although the question arises why bother? Gillard will presumably bury Rudd's geo-strategic pretensions. (Eighten submarines, anyone? Bueller? Anyone?) And, more importantly, when she's tossed out on her ear in a couple of months the Coalition will tear down whatever framework this White Paper attempts to erect and replace with their own obssessions. It all seems a colossal waste of time, and the main interest tomorrow will be watching the PM feign interest in a policy she neither understands nor cares about.
In a perfect world, I suppose, we probably shouldn't care either. The whole thing should just be turned over to enthusiasts like Kim Beazley who can be left to get on with it. But the likes of Bomber Beazley come along but once in a long, long while. The conservatives are just as cuplable pver the long arc.
And in back of it all are the fiscal realities constraining both sides.
For those who care hereabouts – basically Chaz, Havoc and your 'umble correspondent – there'll be a feast of feedback from the various thinky tanks. Lowy Institute got the drop on its friendly rivals with a link salad of relevent bits-n-pieces, inlcudling this triple header:
The plan for the modernisation of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is focused on expensive maritime and air capabilities for conflicts the ADF could not fight alone. Consequently, the ADF is exposed with an atrophying ground force and expeditionary capability for the low-level regional operations in which it will be most likely to engage.
The biggest risk is not that China becomes a direct threat to Australia but that the erosion of American power unleashes strategic competition among Asia's strongest states, which in turn increases the risk that Australia could face a number of military threats to its interests, even its territorial security.
With Afghanistan’s end game in sight, and a new Defence White Paper on the horizon, it is time for a vigorous public debate about the priorities of the ADF so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the post-Vietnam period and prepare for the wrong conflicts, made worse by ill-conceived strategy and chronic underfunding.
I might write something about it for Blunty next week, but then again...
21 Responses to ‘Defence White Paper is due out today’