Archives: July 2005

31 Jul 2005, Comments (0)

Reasons to be cheerful

Author: Helen


Despite “We’re all f###ed” #1 and 2, obviously the first of a series, sometimes a ray, or a glimmer (rummaging in cliche repository) of good news or bloggity coolness will penetrate my Seasonal Living-Under-a-Liberal-Government Affective Disorder.

There’s the kids being let out of detention news, , although I’m not sure if the ones in our excised migration zones have been let out, such is the cuteness of our pea-and-thimble masters. And there’s the possibility that Temporary Protection Visas may be for the chop, without which being let out of a detention centre is merely a minor upgrading of hell.

Not that that means we can be relaxed and comfortable about our detention system, not nohow.

And there’s the IRA laying down arms business.. well, for a while anyway, perhaps. (Could some of the people ranting on RWDB threads about muslims in London please pause and have a think about the overwhelming whiteness and racial homogeneity of Ireland? Please?)

And there’s the Western Bulldogs… OK, I know, like I could give a rat’s about anything to do with football. But still, awwwwww…

There’s the most fun you can have sitting down at The Poor Man, where you can piss your pants at the Parchment Paladins. This is one of the coolest things I’ve come across in a long time. You Photoshop gurus can have a go yourselves using the Historic Tale Construction Kit.

Last week’s gig at the Cornish Arms was fun, and there’s another one to come next month at the Empress. Details later.

And saving the best till last– Gummo’s blogging again. I’m not putting you back on the blogroll, Gummo, you were never off it.


OK, that’s enough sweetness and light for now on the Cast Iron Balcony.

21 Jul 2005, Comments (0)

Another gig

Author: Helen


With Mrs Wainwright. (Check out their Quad-A-side-single* Dead Man’s Pocket.)

If this keeps up my identity as an ex-drummer is definitely down the tubes.

Details, details,

Cornish Arms
Sydney Road, Brunswick
Sat 23 July
Supporting Joseph Parsons (US)
+ Tim Ireland

(Blurb from Cornish Arms gig guide): Joseph Parsons is back in Australia after an extensive tour last year with Carus Thompson & The True Believers. full details on the way.

*They didn’t have those when I was a gel young feller. We only had shellac discs with a needle fashioned out of a wild boar tooth and you had to drill your own hole in the middle.

Did anyone else see the headline in MX magazine, the thing they give out free at railway stations, Debs on Murder Charge, and have disturbing visions of gangs of young girls in chiffon ball dresses and elbow-length gloves, on the loose with guns and homicidal intent?

No?… So it is just me, then.

18 Jul 2005, Comments (0)

Any Relation?

Author: Helen

You know how sometimes someone (or something) notorious will just slip into town under the radar, staying incognito in some luxury hotel… or in this case, a slightly different kind of berth?

I noticed this entry completely by accident on the shipping news in the AGE yesterday. The details were also on the Port of Mebourne website – but here’s a transcript below, because it’s updated hourly.

Berth Arrival Date Departure Date To Ship Ph. Number Agent Name Agent Ph. Number

Maersk Tampa Swanson Dock 4 East 18/07/2005 06:35:00 19/07/2005 14:30:42 Brisbane 0425757956 Inchcape Shipping Services P/L Melbourne 8645 6900

Any relation to “the” Tampa? It’d be ironic, wouldn’t it, given the fact that page 1 of the AGE showed the release of the 7-years-detained Peter Quasim. (Can’t find yesterday’s link.)

Although Peter has been incarcerated for too long to have been one of the people on the Tampa.

Here’s a picture of the Maersk Tampa from Fairfax Photos.


But the original Tampa belonged to a shipping line called Wallenius Wilhelmsen, not Maersk, as far as I know. Unless they sold it, or something.

A Google search led me to this fascinating though badly designed website which issues pirate reports (aargh, aargh!) and details of maritime disasters–which shows that the Maersk Tampa is probably the one that lives in infamy in our history. This item describes the 2001 Australian incident, disappointingly supporting the Australian government line and following its portrayal of the desperate asylum seekers as “hijackers”. A link, “Trouble for M/V Tampa in her Earlier Life“, under the same paragraph, takes us to a story with photos of the Tampa running aground at the Port of Oakland (photos will follow once I’ve shrunk ’em). Obviously, bad ju-ju follows that ship.

Update: Pictures of the sad story over the fold.

I wonder if she’s sailed again? Must check the shipping news. Who says bloggers can’t be investigative?


18 Jul 2005, Comments (0)

We’re all f###ed, part 2

Author: Helen


While I was on hiatus just before, I nearly gave up blogging in despair at the gloom abounding. It wasnít just the London bombings and the Liberalsí creeping IR reforms. Even a week off work spent with eight year old boys, wonderful creatures with heads full of pure surrealism, and (sometimes) sweet adolescent girls just on the edge of their Swan Moment doesn’t lift my gloom and pessimism. They only increase it, because I’d feel a lot better sometimes if I was only responsible for myself and didn’t have to worry too much about the happiness of future generations.

The nuclear power “debate”, which we thought had been put to bed pretty much until science and technology comes up with a way for storing the waste, has started up again and we can hear voices enthusiastically touting nuclear power on my favoured talk radio station. Which is supposed to be a commie greenie outfit, so over at 3AW they’re probably eating yellowcake for morning tea already. Storage problem??… What storage problem????…. They seem to have support both from the right and from lefties who usually have more sense.

As well as the usual industry shills. The new line of argument is: well, now that the evidence for climate change is pretty overwhelming, nuclear is the green alternative. Which would be completely true if nuclear power stations sprang up like giant mushrooms without having to be built or decommissioned, and if they ran on ice cream instead of uranium.

Prepare yourself for two general lines of argument:

If youíre against nuclear power, you want us all to freeze in the dark in caves! (classics just never date), and
If youíre against nuclear power, you must support increased use of dirty coal-fired power stations! (the more sophisticated argument growing more popular by the day.)

Doing something about our addiction to consumption and a growth economy is never a serious contender in this “debate”.

The idea that the nuclear industry wordwide could sustain a complex nuclear fuel cycle, including waste storage, with zero errors over a timeframe of hundreds of millennia, just beggars belief. This isn’t the ramblings of a luddite. This is someone who works with and loves technology.

Here’s a rough comparison for you folks. (Disclaimer: these time frames are approximate. The differences are so vast that any nitpicking over, for instance, in which century the Mayan civilisation actually ended, has absolutely no relevance.)

U-235 has a half-life of approximately 700-713 million years
U-238 has a half-life of approximately 4 billion years plus.
Plutonium is relatively benign with a mere 24,000 years.

Compared with:

Roman empire: 5th century BC to 5th century AD: About 1000 years
Byzantine Empire: 4th century AD to 13th century AD: About 900 years
Mayan empire: 4th to 16th century: About 1200 years
Imperial China (from Qin dynasty): 3rd century to 20th century: About 1700 years
Kingdoms of ancient Egypt: (Click here for a breakdown) about 3100 BC to 4th century AD: 3500 years, and as with China, we’re cheating by including multiple periods, kingdoms and dynasties, so these periods, while the longest, are hardly stable.
British empire: Approximately 1700 to 1980s/1990s: A mere 300 years, being generous

Compare and contrast:

Engineered systems which have remained completely error free (including transport accidents, terrorism and sabotage) for at least the span of the British empire (the shortest example above): 0

Usual span of a politician’s concentration: Less than a decade (or two elections, if you’re lucky. The future politicians portrayed in “We’re all f##ed, part 1” would only think as far as the next power grab-and which decisions would further ingratiate them with big business. I guess you understand why I’ve linked these posts.

All I can say is, they better have very, very good manuals for use during the handover between civilisations. (Plutonium storage and Transportation for Dummies!) And I’m very glad I won’t be around.

*Image from here

17 Jul 2005, Comments (0)

We’re all f###ed, part 1

Author: Helen


I have seen the future, and it terrifies the shit out of me.

I bought a copy of the Monthly magazine, issue 2. No, that’s not what’s wrong. It’s good. John Birmingham, Janet Turner Hospital, Inga Clendinnen, Helen Garner… I haven’t bought a dead-tree mag in nearly a year, but it’s worth it. OK, so most of the writers are older. Go and complain to someone else, we’re not going to crawl away and die.

There’s an article in there (republished here by the Labor Herald) on the Young Liberals’ national conference in Hobart, January 2005. We witness the struggle for dominance between the leader of the “wet” faction, James Stevens, and the testosterone-soaked bullmoose of the Dries, Alex Hawke, the boy most likely to succeed.

Even pit bulls can seem harmless when they’re puppies. They still have the little triangular tails, plushy fur and clownish slapstick demeanor. You need to know the risk they pose once they’re older. Pit bulls like Alex Hawke aren’t even very cute when they’re young, though. Like John Howard, some young Libs seem to have been born old. And vicious.

Alex, a short 26-year-old with a muscular build, is feeling off-colour. He had a late night…
…Still, if he hadnít said anything you wouldnít notice. What is most striking about Alex is his intensity and self-assurance. Itís hard to imagine even a hangover getting the better of him.

…Alexís political education started early. He remembers having to stage a class election in grade six. The teacher, apparently, highly commended his poster and slogan. ìShe basically said: ëAll this other stuffís crap, this is the guy you need to be looking at.íî He did not win, though. ìThe voters were wrong,î he says facetiously.

By year 12 it was time to run again. ìIíd figured there were more people not in the in-group than were in the in-group,î he explains. So, with an uncanny understanding of wedge politics, he visited every single person ìdowntrodden of in-groupsî and told them: ìLook, these guys get everything. This is our chance to stick it to them, and Iím going to be your candidate.î He was elected in a landslide. ìWe rigged the ballot,î he admits now with remarkable candour, ìbut thatís a different story.î (My bold).

He rigged the ballot. In year 12. And openly admits it at a political conference.

This is possibly our future leader. If not, possibly a Goverment minister with a portfolio to administer. James Stevens and Gareth Wards’ agenda isn’t too frightening: for instance, James is pro-choice and in favour of reforms to make workplaces more family friendly. But by the end of the conference, the Jameses and Gareths are rolled by Alex Hawke, Mark Powell and their supporters on the right. Hawke is now the national Young Libs’ president.

Alex’s most offensive statement is perhaps about abortion.

He also warns me that ìabortion is not going to be off the agendaî, then adds, with a smile: ìItís going to be back, probably bigger and better.î

Bigger and better. This isn’t Barnum’s circus, this is other peoples’ lives. But of course, to him it is a circus. It’s something to be played to his advantage in the media. Principles are for pansies.

We talk about a range of issues. On the stolen generation, he tells me: ìThere is no generation. I think Keith Windschuttle has got it exactly right.î Alex is sitting with his back to the casinoís windows, and it is strange to look out at Hobartís harbour and mountains while hearing him profess agreement with the thesis that Tasmanian Aborigines have only themselves to blame for their annihilation. ìThere has been this deliberate attempt to rewrite history. To say we came here and raped and pillaged and murdered ñ and they do, they carry on awfully about it ñ is quite appalling.î

They carry on awfully about it. The article portrays Alex as part of a tougher, lower-middle class cohort, but he’s already taking speech lessons from the other Alex.

On the other side of the ferry sit Alexís supporters, including burly Mark Powell, Queenslandís Young Liberal president and the Right factionís candidate for federal vice-president ñ another aggressively contested position. When invited by a senior party figure during last yearís federal election to brainstorm issues important to young people, Mark allegedly responded that all the forests could be bulldozed and replaced with concrete, for all he cared.

But isn’t this excessive macho posturing just youthful excess? Would it benefit them to be mentored by older, wiser heads? Well, no…

Next up is Gareth, James Stevensís supporter… a commanding figure due to his height, pale features and obvious acumen. ìMy great concern,î he says, ìis that the two speakers who have spoken so far have been men.î Sitting behind me are Senator Minchin and his ex-staffer David Miles, a right-leaning Young Liberal who is now manager of government affairs at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

ìWhat crap!î Minchin whispers. Then, as Gareth continues talking about abortion as a womenís health issue, Minchin asks: ìIs he gay?î

The behaviour of these people just makes me happier to be a lefty bleeding heart socialist wanker, although I’m unhappy that we may live under the yoke of these people in a decade or two.

…Are these our best and brightest? It seems fair to say that in the world outside youth politics, many of these individuals would not turn heads. They are not particularly charismatic, nor do they possess obviously powerful intellects. Nonetheless a palpable self-importance has attached itself to the main players and their hangers-on…

Some Young Liberals will emerge from the weekend more bruised than others. One person tells me: ìThe games the candidates played over the last 72 hours were pretty low. Both told us different stories to make us think badly about the other side.î It is a practice known as shit-sheeting. ìThere were a lot of personal comments, personal degradation about other people, other delegates. People were told they were going to be thrown out of the movement.î

And I’m under no illusion that the right wing of younger Labor party members are any better. This could be our future, post-Howard. God help us all.

5 Jul 2005, Comments (0)

Why I’m not blogging much

Author: Helen

So, it’s the school holidays and I’m just back from town where I took eight-year-old boys to the free cartoons at ACMI, which was OK if a little young for them, and they pranced around for ages in front of the Fed square Big Screen which had a CCTV cam thing going, and I only lost them once in Flinders street Station, and the deafening volume of them and the nice Somali (?) chick in the platform kiosk gave them a free raspberry chewy thing each, like a Redskin but not, and when we finally got to the car they were covered in glistening red sticky substance so I borrowed a Baby Wipe off a teenage mum, now I remember why we always carried those things. Now they’re playing nicely at home… at 1,000 decibels. Tomorrow it’s the zoo, although it feels like a zoo here at the moment, and why the hell is it that there are only two PG rated movies suited to little boys on at the moment? and no, I’m not counting that Disney “Winnie-the-Pooh” thing, I’m talking about movies not abominations… Madagascar was OK I suppose, the main characters were completely underwhelming – why is it someone always has to have that excessively happy, cheesy, Bill Cosby on helium voice?… but the minor characters were brilliant, especially the penguins…Daughter has just deep fried Prawn crackers and everything in the kitchen is under about half a centimetre of oil, it is on the floor, everywhere. I’m not sure where I misplaced my mind but it took me three days to find son’s shoes and I even caved in and let him wear socks with sandals, so his life is ruined forever sartorially speaking and he will have to be a nerdy anorak guy who collects train serial numbers. Washing up awaits.

While I’m so occupied you might like to read some of the good stuff others seem to find the time to put up (grrr.) Starting with this great post on Larvatus Prodeo about the fears that parents of disabled children have for their future when they’re gone, something I’ve blogged myself in the past.
and that reminds me I must get the time to update my blogroll too. It’s been a while since LP was a “new” blog. Gianna blogs a variation on the “feminism has failed” meme… Elizabeth Meryment thinks it has, not because working women want to have it all or Gen X weren’t warned about the biological clock or all the rubbish the antifeminists come up with. No, it appears Meryment (who I hadn’t read before) is a feminist who believes feminism needs to regroup after its wilderness years, because many young women are a bit too meek and accepting of sexual harassment– as exemplified by Big Brother. I don’t buy that 100% either, but I have always seen feminism as an ongoing project and have never been in any misapprehension about the actions of our bogan brotherhood. I do take the Werribee and Sydenham trains, y’know. And Patrick and Theresa Neilsen Hayden and Jeanne D’Arc deal with the “Guantanamo isn’t a Gulag, and you people are immoral for saying so!” moral relativists much better than I can. And in the category of sad but necessary, read this account of Melly Feline’s dad attacked by a yobbo in a supermarket carpark (for being black), and tell your cousin Janelle about it next time she starts up at a BBQ with “there’s no racism in Australia and anyway all the immigrants get everything given to them…” (via Brownie). (What in hell’s an exonome, Brownie?)

I’m off to the zoo now, it’s tomorrow already.