Archives: November 2004

30 Nov 2004, Comments (0)

Berloody post feminists

Author: Helen

I’ll tell you why some of us blog – it’s out of sheer frustration at seeing people with no visible qualification being allocated space to mouth off on the editorial pages of our national broadsheets. (Not that I want to come across like Prince Charles or anything.)


Now I know generational name-calling is not only uncivil, but bullshit. Dina Ross however, who is described as a “writer and journalist”, is happy to title her AGE article “The gen X take on the failings of feminism“, so there you go. Like Virginia Hausegger and Fiona Stewart before her, she’s moaning about the Failures of (Twentieth century style, older women’s) FeminismTM. (“Feminism’s cruel fall-out has polarised mothers who do not work and those who do. The stay-at-home versus work debate has become a minefield of prejudice and antagonism…” etc, etc.)

And what is this feminism? Well, Dina Ross reckons feminism is Shirley Conran and Cosmopolitan!

Of course, if you start from this idiotic premise, feminism’s an easy target.. That’s like bemoaning the state of modern literature and only quoting Danielle Steel and FHM magazine. Hasn’t this woman heard of Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Susan Brownmiller, Anne Summers, Katha Pollitt…? and I’m only scratching the surface here.

I googled Dina Ross. Nope, it wasn’t the one with the Supremes. She’s an OK writer– I didn’t mind this short story over here. But I found no sign of any actual credentials to lecture us on 20th century feminism. Is it too much to ask that these scribbler superstars read a book occasionally? Apart from Shirley Conran, that is?

OK, now for a bit of admitted anecdotalism. I really need to address this Gen-X myth that “feminists” are bullying them to get to work and neglect their kids. As a mum of 13 years standing (my feet are killing me), I have heard many a homily in my time from well-meaning people who think that childcare centres are run by the devil and staying at home is the only path to fulfilment. I have yet to experience a conversation where a working mum told a stay-at-home or part time mother she should get a paid job. This happens in postfeminists’ imaginations. (I know there are people who pester single stay at home mums to get a job for ideological reasons, but this is kind of a different angle.) Working women, and feminists, are simply not interested in lecturing SAHMs on their choices. However, they do not believe that all women should be bullied into thinking their lives will be ruined if they do not follow that choice.

Joanna Murray-Smith, a well known Australian playwright, has been disapproving of working mums for as long as I can remember. When I first read her thinkpieces in the ’90s, it was all about how we’re damaging our children by putting them into long day care, and we have to make the tough choice to stay home for them and forgo our selfish ambitions (no mention of the dads). This was no worse than Anne Manne and others who were pushing the same barrow around that time, but it was the hypocrisy of JM-S which made me jump up and down with rage; because she was a famous playwright and could just do her thing at home, so she DIDN”T HAVE TO CHOOSE. Unlike ordinary commuters like me, she could have her cake and bloody well eat it while flicking the crumbs at us and telling us how awful we are.

This time around she is a little more honest, ‘fessing up to the fact that she does, in fact, have a career, but she’s consumed, consumed! With guilt at even working at the computer at home. And still no mention of Dad.

There have been many responses in print to J M-Sís latest ñ mostly against. Liz Porter can’t resist pointing out that the post-feminist desire to make children into Little Emperors just might not be the best thing for them, and that mums have had to juggle tasks, and teach their children independence, throughout history.

It’s a salutary and necessary experience for children to learn that it is not a law of the universe that their immediate needs come first. They do, of course, when children are ill or unhappy. But not when “Batman’s scuba equipment” needs to be found and the mother in question is, as Murray-Smith puts it, on the computer trying to write a few sentences. There are a few handy replies for this situation, used by mothers of all classes. Depending on the age of the child, they are: “wait”, “you are able to get it yourself”, or “what did your last slave die of?”

Mpff. Sounds just like our house. And my kids, long daycare alumni as they are, are thriving.

25 Nov 2004, Comments (0)

How we change

Author: Helen

What is that song? I thought, standing at the kitchen counter and listening to 3RRR while chopping things in the Sunday sunshine.
It was the cutest confection of spring silliness you have ever heard. It had gambolling lambs and robin redbreasts and twittering bluebird sound effects. It had a rousing singalong chorus. If it has a video clip, it should look something like the carousel scene in Mary Poppins.

I wanted it for our next party tape (I still call them party tapes although we burn CDs now.)

And who was the singer? He had a deep, fruity voice which made me think of Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice. It was exactly his kind of tongue in cheek, self deprecating nonsense, too. I also thought of Brad Garrett, the Eeyore-like older brother in Everybody loves Raymond. A fluffybunny novelty release in time for the Christmas market? William Shatner’s done it, after all.

No! It was Nick Cave, erstwhile purveyor of gloom and darkness.

FX Holden has more about the new double album, “Abbatoir Blues/the Lyre of Orpheus” which it comes from. It’s got pink and blue flowers on the cover.

Update: I rudely neglected to include a link to the earlier critique of the CDs on Road to Surfdom, which refers to this song as well.

22 Nov 2004, Comments (0)


Author: Helen

Of course, this post is way overdue, as everyone else has already gone “Aaaaaaaaaarggggghhh!!” days ago over this.

First it was Chris Sheil, perhaps Feministe… now it’s Gummo… and maybe even the truly awesome Jeanne D’arc..

Surely this is the final death knell for the social darwinists. Isn’t the worst who are supposed to drop out while the fittest survive?

However.* Clouds, silver linings, etc. I was getting worried at the sheer quality and quantity of good stuff I was discovering in the blogosphere, what with my blog reading time being finite and all that. I can’t even read blogs on my lunch break any more, as we have a stupidly overzealous firewall which brings up “Block Pornography!” for all the best blogs. (It does it for Andrew Bolt though, and everything in the Herald Sun, so I guess it does have some taste.)

So I’ll have some time for the new ones I’ve discovered. For instance, how did I blog this long without discovering Darp Hau? Philobiblon? Echidne of the Snakes? Burnt Karma? Not to mention quite a few fine blogs already on my blogroll I’ve been neglecting due to the burgeoning talent everywhere.

The blogiverse is infinite, grasshopper. Just wish my day was.

*Sorry Chris. How ironic, to transgress your rules of blogging in this post. I did feel a However was called for there, however. Oh! That’s another one…

(For Mallrat)

Like Kath and Kim, the eldest sprog and I were breezing aroung Hoighpoint recently, on the 13th of Nov to be precise (yes, this is relevant). I was appalled to walk into Big W in search of teeny gear and be confronted with the full-on Christmas nightmare. Decorations up, Musak on, and all the poor bloody shop assistants forced to work in drag as Santas and Elves.


Look, I’m not a religious person, but I still have some vestige of feeling for Christmas as a family holiday, first and foremost a time to spend with your nearest and dearest, a necessary punctuation to the working year and time to catch a breath and reflect. This madness would spoil that feeling for me even if I thought they were sincere in their stupidity. But these retailers piss on that definition of Christmas. Not to mention the reprimands and sackings which would be inflicted on wretched casual staff who refuse to humiliate themselves by dressing up in Elf or Santa drag.

Bah! Humbug.


Yes, Santa delivers toys from his flying sleigh, but our boys in the Air Force deliver death from Above! (Via Cap’

21 Nov 2004, Comments (0)

Canny Compassion

Author: Helen

There’s been a lot of depressing stuff in the paper lately, so this might cheer some of you up. Oh well then, maybe not?

This might be a little unfair, but I see as an outlet for tough minded young players who think Social Democrat systems are for “loosers”, as well as correct spelling, which is a sign of a pinko Liberal Arts background. So when I saw the title “Finland: Life in a Socialist Paradise” I expected another Crikey-style sneerfest about those silly socialist types, especially references to Santa «laus and Bleeding Heart LiberalsTM early on. Reader, brace yourself for long bread queues, potato gin and hospitals with radioactive waste in the bed mounted ashtrays…

Santa Claus is supposed to live in Finland, and sometimes you can believe it. It has paid parental leave for up to 3 years, was ranked as the most competitive country in the world by the World Economic Forum, has the highest level of reading literacy among 15 year olds in the OECD – read more here, free university, the most transparent public sector – as rated by Transparency International, its economy moved from agrarian to high-tech in one generation, and the country cut its heart attack rate by 70% in 10 years. And it has a budget surplus.
(My bold).

Now, having read this far, I’m sorry but it just doesn’t seem that terrible…and did you get that bit about free university, young Brendan? Could that possibly have something to do with the high reading literacy levels and first-grade competitiveness ranking? Surely not!

But if you want to live in a socialist paradise, you have to pay for it. Personal taxes are high, second highest in the OECD as this table shows.

Uh-oh, here’s where those bleeding heart Finns get their come-uppance…

The Finnish government knows everything about you. It’s all very well for bleeding heart SMH liberals saying “the government should,” and then hold on tight to negative gearing and protest about civil liberties. Sometimes the policies only work because of their context. And sometimes those great policies have really weird consequences.

And what are these weird consequences? After all, we know from the Howard and Bush tax-cutters’ recent victory, it would seem Finland is obviously wrongheaded and backward. They’re surely headed straight for economic hell! But wait….

Finns are entitled to up to three years paid maternity leave / parental leave / childcare leave. PAID. Not some measly job search allowance – it’s indexed to your salary. First, there is maternity leave for 105 working days, and paternity leave of 1 month. Then there is parental leave for a further 158 working days (which is increased if you have more than one child). And then there is childcare leave until your child is 3 years old. The mother or father is entitled to the childcare leave, and can swap months, or share mornings / afternoons. And despite having one of the fastest moving, most high-tech economies in the world, the job is guaranteed when you return, even if you take the whole three years. And lo, the country has not fallen apart, the economy has not collapsed, and SMEs have survived.

And surprise. The Finns have one of the highest fertility rates in Europe: 1.7 per woman (its increased since the 1970s, unlike Australia which has has fallen) and one of the highest participation rates in Europe.

Who pays? The government. Did I tell you that the budget is in surplus?

There was an interesting editorial in last week’s European Edition Financial Times (“Canny Compassion” Thursday 14 October) when the World Economic Forum results announced Finland most competitive economy

….And there’s more. (My bold.)

Jeez Therese, you’re doing a terrible job of putting me off the Finnish Socialist Paradise. In fact, you’re only reinforcing this incorrigible bleeding heart liberalTM ‘s conviction that to forgo a slightly higher personal income in favour of superior social benefits is not only possible, but won’t cause the sky to fall as per employer organization pronouncements.

It’s not all government policy from above-it’s a cultural shift. Read Therese’s last four paragraphs: attitudes to work and parenthood in Finland are vastly superior to ours. The economy is there to support human life, not the other way around. And rather than whining about the “childfree” somehow picking up the slack, as some of the childfree do, Therese makes the point that it contributes to their job opportunities and flexibility, too.
Read the whole thing, mums and dads (and past / potential mums and dads), and weep with envy.

21 Nov 2004, Comments (0)

Woe is us

Author: Helen


A wonderful voice has shooshed across the blogosphere and disappeared.


But this cheered me up no end. Thanks to Daily Flute and Sedgwick for putting on this historic meeting.

14 Nov 2004, Comments (0)

New Bob in the Blogosphere

Author: Helen

The prolific commenter BigBob put up a great guest post at Back Pages about the federal election and Labor’s maligned forestry policy. Chris says, ” Bob is the son of a timber man and lives near Burnie in Tassie, in the once safe ALP seat of Braddon, where he looks after his kids while also nurturing the local wine industry.”

So people who deplore the Inner Urban Greenies Telling Timber Communities What to Do can’t dismiss BigBob’s arguments as easily as they can mine.

BigBob gave me permission a while ago to repost his piece here. Now, I learn from Barista that BigBob has started his own blog. (There’s another one, Philobiblion, which you should check out too. Sorry, Dave, for stealing practically your entire post.)

Onya Bob! Welcome!

12 Nov 2004, Comments (0)

Sorry Business

Author: Helen

We’ve had Sorry books in Australia. Now the US has its Sorry Website.


I might join in with “I’m not American but I’m sorry our PM is a bum chum of your President”.

Too long for a placard?

10 Nov 2004, Comments (0)

Now the other body count

Author: Helen

After the election– the US one, that is…

According to the Possum, who has been monitoring this site, a flood of updates to this DoD casualty list suddenly appeared after the US election. the Possum says:

Notice the long delay in posting releases. I
just checked and they just got up to 28 October. Right after the US
elections they released the flood of casualties beginning 10 October
stretching through to the 18th.

How to read this stuff …

The US Marines indicate only that their people died “as a result of
enemy action” (sensible policy, that). Note how many died in al Anbar
province (mostly that’d be Falluja).

The US Army is much more forthcoming and the detail they provide helps
align US casualties with individual incidents reported by IRR. Since
this inevitably provides “aid and comfort” to the Resistance, I’d think
they’ll soon be reviewing their policy to bring it into line with the

7 Nov 2004, Comments (0)


Author: Helen

I’m happy the elections (Australian and US) are over. Some people love party politics and political number crunching; me, I’m happier looking at the politics behind things, and this blog will always be about those things. Just because we have another three years of Bush and Howard doesn’t mean that Halliburton will stop lining its pockets from the Iraq war, or that the religious Right will stop trying to wind back the gains of feminism, or that the IPA and the right wing commentators won’t need watching (and fisking) any more.

After our shocker of an election result, right-wing voices in the press were quick to jump in to declare the death of the left. The Australian, and now the US, election result should show us (they said) that “our” preoccupations — Iraq, the FTA, gender politics, education, medicare, old growth forest — were the preoccupations of a tiny clique of Latte Lefties, not to be taken seriously. Self-interest, money and (by extension) the Economy, as well as the War on Terrorism, are the only issues interesting to the average voter in the Burbs and by daring to go outside those parameters, we stand condemned as ivory-tower elitists who presume to tell the masses what is good for them. These masses have spoken, and we should shut up, go home, and spend the rest of our lives in acqiescent silence.

(Pause as bloody Microsoft puts a red line under acquiescent. Swear softly, and swivel chair to grab the Concise Oxford out of the bookshelf.

This has got to be the definition of an up-herself Latte lefty. Microsoft Word says I’ve made an error and it’s not good enough, I have to check it myself. I was right. Hah.)

Problem is, I’m not satisfied that all of the people who voted Liberal did so with a full deck, since the Murdoch press and the Liberal party was so successful at putting across the message that if Labor won, interest rates would rise. Pity about the fact that interest rates are set to rise anyway, whoever is in power. And I’m not satisfied with Bush’s “mandate”, either, given that over forty percent of Americans believe that Saddam was linked to 9-11.
And I’m plagued by an ongoing conviction that oldgrowth forest matters, and the FTA matters, and the Kyoto protocol and the education and Medicare systems matter, and they matter beyond the next three-year term. And the one after that…

I nearly lost my lunch when I saw the headlines after the Australian election, saying that Mark Latham was to say sorry for the Forests policy. I felt much better when I actually read some of the articles. Latham isn’t rejecting his forests policy. I’ve been reading Margaret Simon’s Quarterly Essay, Latham’s World. I think- and to my shame I haven’t read any of his books yet, so this is at second hand from Simons — he may be a bit neoliberal for my tastes, but he does have a view of politics and the world which goes beyond short-term politics and short-term profit. And this came over in his response to the attacks on him re. the Forests policy.

The headlines might make much of “Sorry”, but he’s not abandoning the policy.

FEDERAL Labor leader Mark Latham has apologised to two Tasmanian MPs felled in protest at the party’s forestry policy, but has not resiled from plans to protect the state’s old-growth forests.

..Felled… Geddit?… (Snork)

Making his first visit to the island state since Labor lost the Tasmanian seats of Bass and Braddon on October 9, Mr Latham shared the stage at the state ALP conference with pro-logging premier Paul Lennon.

Delivering the keynote address, Mr Latham said shadow cabinet had resolved to review the policy, but still intended to protect the state’s high-conservation forests.

“The protest against our forest policy cost us two seats in this state,” Mr Latham said.


“I take responsibility for this result and I have made my apologies and regrets to both Sid and Michelle.

“But my ultimate responsibility is to lead the Labor Party forward, to be true to our values and beliefs but also to listen and learn from the judgment of the Australian people.

“I have no doubt, absolutely no doubt, that our forestry policy was well supported in many parts of Australia, but it wasn’t supported in Bass and Braddon.

“We didn’t have it right.

“The local community wasn’t confident that our plan to upgrade skills, technology and sustainability of the timber industry was in fact itself sustainable.

“Now we need to take the time to get it right.

“We still intend to protect the high conservation value forests, but will offer a more detailed and effective policy for the timber industry.”

Mr Latham said the industry needed value-adding and downstream processing, rather than an over-reliance on woodchip exports.

He said a lift in value-adding would mean a conservation vision was possible without a net loss of jobs.

“As the premier had made clear, value-adding projects like the pulp mill do not rely on access to old wood,” Mr Latham said.

Don’t you just love that word, “resiled”? JH loves it. Don Watson, where are you? but I digress…

The evil twin of the backlash against Labor’s Forests policy was the perception that Labor was in some unholy alliance with the Greens, who of course are wacky and loopy and Watermelons et cetera. Well, that’s surprising considering that it was Labor’s unholy alliance with Family First which really brought it undone.

If the Labor party is really serious in looking for scapegoats in the loss of Tasmanian seats and the election in general, I would point my finger at…

The idiots who engineered the Family First preference deal. (I include the Democrats in that, too.)

Labor politicians, notably Paul Lennon, whose relationship with woodchip companies was too cosy for him to support his own party in the election; and

The CMFEU. I haven’t posted about things Union for a long time, so people might take this as anti-Union. Believe me, I spend a fair bit of time explaining to people why unions are still necessary in these enlightened free-market times. Idiots like the Forestry wing of the CFMEU make that task just that much harder.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: One of the enduring images of the election still haunting Labor was that of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union feting the Prime Minister in Tasmania when he released his forests policy.

REPORTER: Is it acceptable that one of the organisers of that spectacle is actually an executive member of the Labor Party and what are you going to do about it?

MARK LATHAM: Well I can assure you that’s very much part of the review process.

Labor MP for Franklin, Harry Quick, says Premier Paul Lennon’s silence over the coalition’s forestry policy last week amounted to tacit approval of it, thereby fatally damaging the re-election chances of Michelle O’Byrne in Bass and Sid Sidebottom in Braddon.
Mr Quick said: “I’ve said that he’s got blood on his hands: the blood of Michelle and Sid. You can’t refute that.”

So, if anyone’s going to apologise, I don’t think Mark Latham’s necessary the one. Or the only one. And I, as a latte lefty, don’t mean to apologise either.

Latham said before the election that he wanted to save old growth forests because it was the right thing to do. Now, under a chorus of criticism and disapproval, he doesn’t abandon it just because it didn’t fit the zeitgeist of the day — interest rates, money and fear. He says it’s still the right thing to do even if the majority votes against it.

The Libs, on the other hand, talk about “values” in schools with their fingers crossed behind their backs, while Whatever it Takes is their real-life credo. Children in the water, the War on Terror, interest rate hikes.

Hug a tree today. It needs you now.