Archives: April 2005

28 Apr 2005, Comments (0)

“Intergenerational” = Shite

Author: Helen

Natasha Cica says this outpouring of spite isn’t “another stone in what’s shaping up as gung-ho intergenerational warfare”. Who is she kidding?

The reasoning in this article, if you can call it that, pretty much plagiarises the Mark Davis theory that horrible baby boomers are selfishly occupying all the good jobs, have all the opportunities, all the money and all the houses.

Would that were true, I mutter as I juggle the bills and the mortgage and comtemplate how long my second-hand station wagon will last. I’m one of the tail end of the baby boomers – Generation Jones, it’s called – and my career trajectory has included McJobs aplenty. I’ve just bought the newest, slickest car I’ve ever had; it’s only eleven years old. Big fuckin’ deal. I’m sick being a punching bag for cut price pundits like Natasha because of my presumed wealth and success.

Natasha’s article contains its own answers, but fails to address them or see their significance. Like the rise of neoliberal economics, like the fact that many of her “best friends who are baby boomers” (Lucky them, eh!) don’t fit the picture and aren’t squatting, toadlike, on success and riches; like the fact that things are not as bad in other countries (no attempt at demographic analysis–or for that matter, any kind of analysis)…

Neoliberal, free-market politics have pervaded our society, government and workplaces now from the 80s onward. That, and technological change, have had a profound effect on how we live and work, who earns, who doesn’t. Technological change and outsourcing have not only thrown thousands of older people on the scrapheap – many of them men – but have contributed to the lack of entry-level jobs such as clerical work in companies with the opportunity to move up, which once provided a stepping stone for younger people. So people at different life stages may feel the impacts of these changes differently, but they all feel it. Cica mentions neoliberal ideology, downsizing etc. in passing, but appears to think the negative effects apply to her cohort exclusively. Breathtaking narcissism.

But it’s so much easier and more fun to blame a cohort of people – the baby boomers. It’s easier to feel put-upon and victimised than address matters like class, technological change and ideology. It’s easier to have a whinge than try to bring about political change – yes, as a blogger I’m guilty of the last, but at least I don’t abuse random elements of the population on the basis of their date of birth.

And if you think Natasha’s a shocker, just listen to her anonymous “colleague”.
“Boomers are sucking the blood out of Xers. We work like dogs, pay hideous rents, have no job security, are so exhausted we have no time any more to think, let alone raise questions about the status quo and take action. Boomers aren’t interested in us, except as a source of tax revenue for their pensions and looming health-care costs. That’s why they’re freaked that we’re not having babies.”

Charming man (or woman). Imagine ending up genuinely infirm and in a nursing home somewhere. If this is what most Gen X’ers really think, prepare yourself for an upsurge in elder abuse. Do Gen Xers (thinking of people like Shauny, Lefty, Gianna) really hate us that much?

You’ll have noticed that Cica is a lawyer, not a sociologist, demographer or statistician. She’s highly trained in being a mouthpiece for one side, but she submits not one shred of real evidence that there is a causative link between “baby boomer” behaviour and Gen-X dissatisfaction.

As Quiggin as been pointing out since at least 2000, this is pop sociology as its worst, but like the John Gray “Women are from Venus” meme, it is widely believed and distorts real peoplesí decisions. I can just see myself at 55 in a job interview, opposite a cynical Gen X-er in a managerial suit (there are more of them in such positions than Natasha would have you believe), seeing me as dead wood and scourge of their generation. Nice.

Yet again I’m going to have to link to John Quiggin’s refutation of the “Baby Boomers Have it all and the Gen X have Nothing” myth, here and here. I guess it’s a public service I’ll have to provide from time to time.

The winners and losers in a world of globalisation, attacks on the welfare state and resurgent market forces cannot be neatly parcelled into age groups, however often commentators on both sides of the debate attempt itÖ

ÖArguments about tax smoothing and structural change may lack the pop appeal of claims that we are robbing future generations. But these are the arguments we need to have if we are to are to formulate a long-term Budget strategy.

But that would be so much hard wooooooork, wouldn’t it. Finding a handy scapegoat is so much more emotionally satisfying.

And doesn’t the Howard government love it. As long as the young and the restless are discouraged by their peers not to look too hard at the big issues, they’re off the hook. Again.

21 Apr 2005, Comments (0)

Grumpy old Men

Author: Helen

Ron Boswell

The facts are in! They say we didnít have the right kind of stats on abortion. Weíve got serious information now, so we can have a serious debate. Yes, 90,000 terminations a year. Yes, I know it still includes D & Cís done on women who have aborted naturally–miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, foetal deaths. But if I put out a loud release saying “the facts are inî, people will think we mean new facts, or accurate facts! Theyíre busy, these punters! And anywayÖ those women were probably living selfish, chardonnay- and latte- swilling lives, or they wouldnít have had all those miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies, in the first place!

UpdateSuki has an opinion on the Ron Boswell thing, and Evelyn in the Comments has a much more comprehensive list of what’s covered under the medicare number with abortion. 12 items…

Bill Crews

These WWII veterans should just bag their heads! What has the ANZAC tradition got to do with, umm, doing the right thing by allies who have fought with you?

And where did those Sea King people get off wanting a medal? They already got a military funeral. Everyone knows medals are for dead people who drop bombs, not these dead girly-men who drop food!

Pope Benedict XVI

Rats! Rats!...

OK, OK, so he lends himself really well to photoshop. Couldnít resist. But I think he looked scarier in the original.

Donít make too much of him being in the Hitler Youth, though. Nuff-nuff ex-premier Jeff Kennett tried to smear one of our respected locals, Sid Spindler ñ who described himself as ìlifelong peace activist, an anti-racist and a strong opponent of totalitarian regimesî ñ the same way. Spindler pointed out to him

Ö what he long ago made public: that as a 10-year-old German boy living in Poland during the Nazi occupation he was “automatically enrolled in the youth division of the Hitler Youth.”

Itís bad enough that the manís completely opposed to contraception (let alone abortion). George Pell reckons heís going to be an advocate for the poor. Well, heíll certainly guarantee theyíll stay poor.

I’m headed STRAIGHT for hell. Well, the Grampians anyway. Wood fires. Red wine. Cheeses. Like I said… hell. Be good. Stop and think of the diggers and their Timorese rescuers. Raise a special glass to those veterans who are sticking up for the Timorese against our greedy resource grab. Don’t join the RSL if you can help it.

20 Apr 2005, Comments (0)

The Odour of Sanctity

Author: Helen

There have been signs and wonders at the Cast Iron Balcony. Having been one to scorn superstition and divination, the Cast Iron one has been forced to soften, to recant, to believe!

It started a few weeks ago: the smell. We’d had a couple of toddlers over for dinner – they’d got the parents parentsat– and when they’d gone, there were two large patches on the rug. (No, they didn’t look like the Virgin Mary, or anything.) What with the wet patches and the smell starting up, it was obviously wee. I didn’t think twice, just cleaned it up with carpet cleaner, dried, aired etc.

But the smell got worse. It was sulphurous and urinous and generally pretty bad. Looking back, I realise now that it was the odour of sanctity.

The Pope died. The Cardinals put their frocks on and went into their huddle. The odour grew in our living room. “Phwoor, what stinks?” we complained. Listening to AM on my way to work, I was struck by the Vatican’s response to our world of high-tech communications: They used smoke signals to convey their decisions or lack of them to the adoring populace outside. Now that’s modern. I thought the scene at St Peter’s Square was a powerful metaphor for Catholic conservatism; the watchers needed the smoke to be black or white, and milled about like restless chooks when it looked like any shade of grey.

Today, the Cardinals sent up their puff of white smoke, and Significant Other finally confirmed my suspicion by moving the couch.

You guessed it. Dead rat. And the same day, the conservative Cardinal Ratzinger became the leader of the Catholic church. We could have made millions on Centrebet. The answer was right there under our noses. Phwooooar.

I’ve been blogging this till it’s safe to go back into the living room. SO is a hero. I have resolved to take more notice of signs and portents in future. Next time, it’s the chicken entrails.

18 Apr 2005, Comments (0)

Interview with Riverbend

Author: Helen

I get Uruknet: Daily information from occupied Iraq in my email inbox daily. I’m not sure from where. I mean, I don’t know which blog or site is responsible, but I’ve never bothered to delete it. I don’t usually read it, as I’m not equipped to suss out the credentials of italian news sources, and I find references to Saddam as “President Saddam Hussein” and “The President of Iraq” somewhat fawning and stupid, considering he’s not likely to make a glorious comeback as “the President” of anything greater than Cell Block D anytime soon. I know some people like to push the stereotype that we lefties, because we don’t support the US occupation, must therefore be rooting for Saddam, but that is just a favourite strawman de jour.

Riverbend would never make a mistake like that.

Anyway, here is an interview with her from Buzzflash, via uruknet.

I’ll have to hunt out the book.



Looks like Colin Barnett of the W.A. canal project has an idiot twin in Victoria.

Apologies to the Monty Python team.

Dennis More, Dennis More
Dum dum dum Marina
Dennis More, Dennis More
Dum de dum dum Council Permit
He digs dum dum dum
And dum dum dum dee
Dennis dum, Dennis dee, dumb dumb dumb.

12 Apr 2005, Comments (0)


Author: Helen


Tales of banal, domestic evil.

When Kath and Kim go bad… A story of psychological torture from the blandlands of Frankston. You think I’m joking? (Via Northcote Knob).

And a dose of pure, chilled Suburban Gothic from Creek Running North, via Electrolite (“Don’t skip the comments…”)

And if all THAT doesn’t scare you enough… Pauline Hanson’s about to start a singing career.

“I get some strange looks when I start singing in the car,” she said.

Yeah, I reckon she would.

Barista gives us the guts of the story which has been all over the news in Victoria. And a rattling good story it is.

Rafi Ahmed and Huzaifa Salma alreadly knew their child was dead when she was born…. When the family went to the morgue to pick up the body of their stillborn child, they discovered it was not there. Soon Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital had to admit they had lost it.

Somewhere in the next three days, workers at the Eureka Linen Service in Ballarat, which has the contract to do the hospital’s laundry, found the tiny body in the washing. By then it had gone through a washing and drying cycle.

I will leave you to imagine that moment of discovery.

The foetus was accidentally taken away in the laundry.

Ellen and Fred Marks (Not their real name) had a baby girl at the RWH after a long and difficult labour. Ellen would have been curious as to why she was left on a trolley for what seemed like an inordinately long time in some kind of ante-chamber to somewhere with the bub on her tummy, but she was fully occupied staring into the most wonderful set of eyes, which stared back with a hyper-aware and luminous curiosity.

When Ellen was finally found a bed, the reason for the long delay became more apparent as curtains were swooshed shut and a pediatrician and senior nurse sat down next to the bed. the Peed said:

–what I am about to tell you will probably distress you very much.

A bald statement like that is pretty frightening in its vagueness. Every scenario known to medicine flashed through Ellen’s mind. Her perfect seeming baby must be missing some vital organ, and would die in days. Or she had some sinister metabolic disorder and would die in days, etc, etc. At any rate, the news that was coming wasn’t good.

Her baby, it seemed, had not one but TWO signs of Down’s syndrome. She had only one line on her palm (a trait shared by a music teacher and activist friend) and her eyes looked a bit fold-y at the inner edges. With two signs like these, the DNA test she would soon have would be a bit of a formality.

Ellen found it impossible, after the tummy session, to believe these people. Over the next three days, as she went through the Baby Boot Camp which is the RWH, she cuddled and sang to her little girl. I’ve got sunshine… on a cloudy day. And when it’s cold outside… Being an educated woman, a bit of a smartarse really, she knew the odds were bad, and she diagnosed herself as being in denial. “De Nile ain’t just a river in Egypt,” she thought. “I’d better think realistically and prepare myself”. But her gut kept telling her that this bright little baby wasn’t really affected. The nurses were so wonderful. They spoiled Ellen a bit, she thought, and singled M. out for attention. They taught Ellen to breastfeed, which she’d thought was something you just did. They even invited her and M to have a glass of champagne with them in the visitors’ waiting room when one of them had a birthday. Ellen knew they weren’t allowed to give her false hope, but they were visibly happy with M.

Then the results of the DNA test came back.

And they were negative. The gut feelings were right.

(M just had rather almond shaped eyes, which ran in her family, and the one line on the hand can also occur naturally.)

And some of Ellen’s friends and family said: Aren’t you going to sue/complain to the Women’s hospital for putting you through all that?

Ellen thought of the awesome doctors and nurses (not forgetting Russell the anaesthetist, the bearded angel with an epidural) and all the midwives of Ward no. 4 who had nurtured and taught her and stayed up all night for lousy pay. She thought of the bean counters and the funding cuts and the shabby paint in the corridors and the miracles wrought. And she refused to think about badmouthing them for money (“My Baby Agony: Mother Tells”). With not one but two signs of Down’s syndrome, they had to say something. What if they had kept stum and then the DNA test had been positive? They were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.

Ellen and M. went home and lived happily. Five years later, Ellen had a cheeky, noisy little boy in the same hospital. His eyes and hands were unremarkable (though gorgeous) but he proved to be a yelling, hunger striking drama queen from day 1. A beautiful Scottish nurse with midwifery qualifications to die for sat up at night with him and his mum. Once, Ellen saw her make a bed with her mind-bendingly skilled hands. This made as much sense as one of the surgeons doing the photocopying. The bean counters had decided that hospitals could get by on fewer staff – so they did.

But they put in, and put in, to make sure we, the mothers and babies, were looked after as well as possible.

As well as humanly possible.

Someone will be pilloried, but somehow I don’t think it’s going to be one of the bean counters.

10 Apr 2005, Comments (0)

Bloggers, wheat, chaff, etc

Author: Helen

Cover of IPA review issue 57

Quiggers has a post up here which makes a big point about what’s wrong with the mainstream media.

Someone like me — two kids, fulltime job, busy life– reads an article quoting fearfully respectable pundits from fearfully brainy-sounding think tanks, universities and consultancies. I probably read it during my half hour lunch, or on the weekend in between chauffeuring and sprog manintenance duties. I do not have time to put my busy life on hold to acquire a degree in science and to thoroughly research everyone’s background and work (although once you get into the habit, a google is always good.) What a normal working stiff like me needs is a bearded professor ™ in the room to tell us when people are trying to gaslight us on one topic or another.

Quiggin and Immanuel Rant unpick the disengenuities for us. Tim Lambert, who is on the Professor’s blogroll, is also great for these Bad Science moments, although I don’t know if he has a beard or not.

Blogs are supposed to be so unreliable and biased ‘n all, but when I put mainstream columnists or pundits like Duffy, Devine and Albrechtsen up against bloggers like Quiggin, Drum or the Crooked Timber gang, I can’t help but think this argument is all a lot of self serving dingoes’ kidneys.

Mmmmm, dingoes kidneys. Oh, where was I?

Gregory Hywood, some time ago, posited that rise of NGOs poses a challenge to our democracy. Which NGOs? Why, left-leaning NGOs, of course! Your Wilderness societies, your Brotherhood of St Laurences. They publish stuff with biases in it, you see, so we, the great majority of working stiffs, are bamboozled and blinded by their seductive rhetoric. (No matter that articles like Duffy’s, above, purport to be redressing some kind of balance while NGOs are out, loud and proud about what they’re advocating for.)

But it’s funny that it’s not a problem when Duffy or Hywood or others publish articles quoting the fabulously unbiased organisations like the Lavoisier group, IPA, CIS and others. (the IPA has proposed standards of transparency for NGOs advising governments which they’re not prepared to live up to themselves, but that’s a post for another day.)

So it’s good to have people like Quiggin, Lambert and Mr or Ms IRant batting for us.

4 Apr 2005, Comments (0)

To HRT or not to HRT

Author: Helen

Martin Flanagan writes on the Paul Hester suicide.

Great. I love Martin Flanagan and always read his articles.

Hester was 46. The years approaching 50 are solemn ones for a man. No doubt they are for a woman too, but women have the huge biological clock of menopause driving their mid-life direction. For men it’s more cerebral or, rather, less obviously physical.


Well, I suppose I was being unduly optimistic but I had this idea that menopause was merely one aspect of the ageing process and I had no idea that it should “drive my mid-life direction”. What the…?

If Hamlet had been a woman, maybe he (she) wouldn’t have bothered with all that angsty existential stuff, but just pottered about muttering “To HRT or Not to HRT?!”

And the “obviously physical” bit, well, I’ve read my D H Lawrence, I know we’re just earthy creatures. We don’t have this truck with the cerebral stuff.

Big questions form in the head. What have you done with your life? The answer can easily look like not very much. What are you going to do with the rest of your life? If the answer is that you have to go even harder, how do you find your second wind?

Nup. Never occurred to me, at 47, to think about any Big Questions, like am I content with what I’ve done with my life, or any of those Big Issues like the environment, government, water issues and the like. Never lain awake at night fearing death. No, I’m sorry but my uterus is a FULL TIME JOB.

Can a revival of the “do women have souls” debate be far behind, I wonder? Perhaps it should be “do newspaper columnists have any brains?”

Terry Lane’s had a bout of uncharacteristic silliness, too. I could see this one coming, though, because while Terry is a tiger on economic rationalism , privatisation and the politics that goes with them, he’s kind of untutored on feminism and a bit terrified of (and insulting towards) the whole thing.

Why educate Rugby and AFL footballers on sexual behaviour? Why single them out, he wonders? Why not golfers and lawn bowls players? Well, perhaps because we have plenty of evidence of sexual assaults by Rugby and AFL players (and not by golfers or lawn bowlers) and we have a fair idea of the psychology and social dynamic behind their behaviour.

And, one wonders, did anyone in caucus have the testicles to stand up to the witch-hunters and say: “Now look here. Why are we proposing a niceness education program for the footballers? Has anyone thought of educating the girls to take some responsibility for themselves?”

And then he goes on to quote Camille Paglia. A “feminist”. Excuse me while I splutter coffee.

Now Terry is the bloke who published an essay about sitting on the tram, or train, and musing about how uncomfortable he feels about the way those ber-loody feminists are making all the women see men as potential rapists. (The essay has been taken down, so I’m describing this from memory. Lane’s website has become a bit of a placeholder, devoid of content, so it’s no longer possible to find his older stuff, and he doesn’t keep an archive.)

It’s actually the other way around. It’s people who constantly harp on the “responsibility” of women for their own sexual assault– the “don’t go through the car park in a miniskirt” idea– who see all men as potential rapists. Why else would they deem it necessary to be on guard against all men at all times by limiting their personal freedom of movement and dress code?

People can’t have it both ways. Either men are uncontrollable, in which case women should be defensive at all times, or they are able to control themselves – as Danny Blay points out here. Which idea do you think is less insulting to men?