Archives: August 2007

30 Aug 2007, Comments Off on Why I’m an atheist

Why I’m an atheist

Author: Helen

If there was a God, when Paul Lennon – the premier of Tasmania at the centre of the rotten-to-the-core relationship between the State government and Gunns Ltd – pronounced piously that the Federal Government was corrupting the approval process for the Tamar Valley pulp mill, he’d have been struck by lightning and reduced to a wisp of charcoal on the spot.

Unfortunately, that rules out hell.

26 Aug 2007, Comments Off on There be signs and wonders

There be signs and wonders

Author: Helen

You know that scene in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar where, in the run up to a political upheaval, a bloke called Casca is seeing visions? Lions, ghastly women (well, Kath and Kim‘s back), birds in the marketplace howling and shrieking, that kind of thing.

That’s how I felt on Wednesday as I was listening to PM in the car and learned that a big corporate honcho, a man who had been criticised as yet another Howard political appointment, had grown a spine and had hit out in no uncertain terms about the disastrous proposal for a pulp mill in the Tasmanian Tamar valley, and the corrupted political process which is making sure it goes through. And he wasn’t pussyfooting around, either.

Passers-by were bemused by the middle-aged woman cheering in the Mitsubishi station wagon as tough guy Geoff Cousins growled:

GEOFF COUSINS: Here is a very serious environmental issue, the most immediate one in the country right at this moment, and the Minister for the Environment seems to be the Minister against it.


Quite frankly, the result of the Federal Election compared to polluting the environment is a trifling matter, as far as I am concerned.


And if that happens to give Malcolm Turnbull some discomfort, well, quite frankly I couldn’t care less. That’s just too bad.


And then this:

Mr Cousins said “there is no need to rush a decision just because Gunns want it to be rushed. If Mr Turnbull ducks it, it’s a joke, really it is.”

Oh, well done that man!

To add to the entertainment value, Malcolm Turnbull – a well-known machine man and headkicker of the Liberal party, as well as a wealthy and influential businessman, sooked mightily and claimed repeatedly that he was being bullied and he wasn’t going to stand for this kind of bullying.

Oh diddums.

To hear this from a member of the Liberal party, who has just tried to ram through an unpopular and inappropriate development for the benefit of Gunn’s Ltd — corporate bullies extraordinaire – just sends the irony meter into orbit. He doesn’t recognise Mr Cousins’ behaviour, because he’s not used to seeing it: it’s not bullying, Malcolm, it’s called standing up to someone or something. The Americans call it speaking truth to power. Oh, and Turnbull made noises about perhaps it’s time we looked at Cousins’ position on the Telstra board because of this. Threatening someone’s job? Who’s the bully, again?

Why is this unusual suspect coming out swinging?

The bushwalking fan said he became focused on the mill after reading an article by Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan. He contacted Flanagan and Greens leader Bob Brown. They felt that rather than one of the “usual suspects” it needed “an unusual suspect” to fight the issue — “that’s why I came in”.
…Entrepreneur Graeme Wood also came out in support of Mr Cousins yesterday after appearing before Tasmanian upper house MPs to brief them about the mill’s potential costs. He said the mill would damage tourism and cost jobs.

Oh, the strangeness of it all. While Garrett stays silent on the Tasmanian environment, this guy comes out of… um… right field and says what Labor should have been saying all along. Malcolm Turnbull is “rattled”. The Rodent is “flummoxed”. I’m ecstatic.

Signs, wonders and miracles. On the other hand – maybe we’re just witnessing an outbreak of sanity.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

19 Aug 2007, Comments Off on It’s not my fault

It’s not my fault

Author: Helen

Boychild is having piano lessons, and now he has a new piano.

If Girlchild hadn’t stepped on my hi-hat stand, bending the central rod about 45 degrees, I wouldn’t have had to go to Billy Hyde’s today. Billy Hyde’s is a cornucopia of delicious goodies and it’s not often these days I get an excuse to go there.

Usually I’d be more circumspect and go to the excellent local music shop. These days, though, every time I step inside the place the proprietor is having a whinge. When I rang him about my bent stand, he seemed to think replacing the central rod was the only option, so I quite reasonably asked him whether they did repairs. For that, I copped a minor hissy fit. People: They’re called customers, and asking pertinent questions is allowed. So I went to Billy Hyde’s and ended up spending $400. Hah.

That was just for the keyboard – a nice man took the rod out the back and gave it a stern bashing for me. Now it’s 99.99999% straight. And he charged not a cent. So I had to buy something else, didn’t I? So I had to walk to the back of the shop to where the sticks and brushes are, and I had to walk past the insanely marked-down keyboard.

So, I blame Girlchild and the local music shop man for my rush of blood to the head.

18 Aug 2007, Comments Off on Schadenfreude Friday

Schadenfreude Friday

Author: Helen

It’s been a good week for schadenfreude. Let’s just skip over the numerous opportunities for it in the political or economic news this week; it’s the corporate comeuppances that have me chortling evilly into my glass of quaffing red.

Example 1: A mighty toy company which produces vast quantities of crappy, plastic toys, which are rarely as desirable as the saturation marketing would make the kids believe, “outsources” its manufacturing to the citizens of El Cheaponia so that it can exploit the low-wage, no-conditions, low-health and safety environment of that country. It is now in damage control mode as El Cheaponia, being a low-wage, low-health and safety type of place, thought it could get away with putting tonnes of lead paint into the toys. And they have got away with it… for a while. Now Mighty Toy Company is feeling the pain.

They are now on their second recall.

Example 2: A mighty book retailer, under advice from the many bean counters of the Private Equity firm which has taken it over, sends what can only be called a letter of extortion to its smaller suppliers. The letter states that they are representing unacceptable profitability levels, and therefore, they must pay Mighty Book Retailer tens of thousands of dollars in “rebates”

Angus & Robertson’s demand that small- to medium-sized Australian publishers and distributors pay amounts said to range from $2,500 to $100,000 in order to have their books stocked in the chain’s stores has brought angry reaction from the book industry and book buyers…
Below is the full text of the letter that began the furore, and the reply sent by Michael Rakusin, director of Tower Books, to A&R Whitcoulls Group commercial manager, Charlie Rimmer. He has not yet had a response from A&R.

You must follow that link just to read the superb reply written to Mr Rimmer by Michael Rakusin. Unusually, for Australian news, this got a mention on Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s Making Light, and you should read the comments – they’re hugely entertaining. A&R’s blundering bastardry has pissed off a whole heap of writer types, so, as you’d expect, they use…. parody! sarcasm! metaphor! “companies full of Dilbert management” – “Despotic moneygrabbing” – “mismanaging class” – “core imcompetencies” – as well as example after example of people who, as readers, simply can’t find what they want to buy at A&R and think it’s poorly run. Commercial blog Lightbulb describes it as “brand destruction writ large” and “corporate hari-kiri”. Ouch! Pavlov’s cat has more.

Oh, and Tower Books is the distributor for Carpentaria, the latest Miles Franklin prize winner.

Reading the comment threads at Making Light reminds me why I love the way educated Americans talk and write. Look at this comment by Russell Letson:

What caught my eye at once was the fact that A&R is currently owned and operated by a private equity outfit… I keep getting flashbacks to the leveraged-buyout days and marvel at how the financial world keeps inventing the same pathological pillaging schemes, and the putative grownups in charge of the universe keep letting them get away with it. (Yeah, I know–grownups are a myth and we’re all at the mercy of the playground bullies. I considered stopping even carrying any lunch money, but they’d just take my sneakers instead.)

As an aside, when I clicked through to the Forbes link about Mighty Toy company, I had to go past one of those full-screen ads. It said

Win in the Flat world
Create systems with Infosys

I’m pretty sure “flat” is a reference, meant to be picked up by the young turks of finance, to the last Thomas Friedman stuff. Still, the ad doesn’t do much to counter the impression that the business world has gone completely mad.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

17 Aug 2007, Comments Off on Another piece of history crumbles away

Another piece of history crumbles away

Author: Helen

While the noise is all Elvis, Elvis, Elvis at the moment, Max Roach has quietly slipped his sticks into his sticks bag and slipped away.

Learned from that crazy cat Sterne.

14 Aug 2007, Comments Off on Slap for Groper

Slap for Groper

Author: Helen

This delightful headline from the Herald Sun just plopped into my email inbox from Tony T; Thanks Tony! He didn’t offer any explanation except that it might come in handy. Not generally being a Hun reader, I tried to imagine what this headline would be about:

Pancake makeup for extremely ugly fish?
A gropee has slapped a groper themselves?
Someone has given a groper an exceedingly light slap on the wrist for groping behaviour?

Oh wouldn’t you know.

A TEENAGER who groped a breastfeeding mum at a shopping centre has been sentenced to community service.
Mohamed Chkhaidem pleaded guilty at Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court to indecently assaulting the woman as she nursed her week-old baby.
The court heard he was traumatised over his girlfriend’s abortion when he fondled the woman in a parents’ room at Broadmeadows shopping centre on April 30.

OK, that’s the first part that caused me to moan quietly and bang my head on the desk. It was all his girlfriend’s fault for having an abortion, of course.

Defence lawyer Zarah Garde-Wilson said Chkhaidem had been ridiculed in custody because of media attention to the case.

Well, hardly surprising. But then, Garde-Wilson, prominent defender, fruitcake and enabler of Melbourne standover men, would consider that pretty harsh. Her boy, after all, ended up in the slammer for proper crimes, like murder and mayhem.

I’m not being gratuitously insulting: it’s a real problem that a personality like this is encouraging victim-blaming and self-pity among the abusers in our town.

Garde-Wilson hammers home the fact that it’s all the sluttish girlfriend’s fault:

“He was suffering a dramatic episode as a result of his partner’s abortion several months earlier, which led to his conduct,” Ms Garde-Wilson said.

Because, you see, the guy would have made a top parent.

Sgt Ellis said Chkhaidem told police he had frequented parents’ rooms for more than six months.
Chkhaidem said it made him feel better to watch women breastfeed.
Sgt Ellis said Chkhaidem drew back a privacy curtain and started a conversation with the mum.
He told her his wife had given birth, and touched her on the left breast and nipple before fleeing.
“She was fearful, and felt she contributed to the incident,” Sgt Ellis said.
He said security footage showed Chkhaidem loitering in the corridor before the attack on the mum.

I’m not complaining about the community service order he got. I think that’s completely right and proper for a first offender. But what about a bit of consciousness-raising about his behaviour from the court, instead of blaming everyone except him? By the end of the article you get the feeling he thinks he’s the one who’s had a rough deal.

Don’t you love the way “the mum” felt she’d “contributed” to her own assault? Because of course, there was so much she could have done sitting there with the baby on the breast. I’m sure there’s some kind of new-age Akido she could have learned to blow the guy back out the door through sheer mindpower. Or… what exactly was she supposed to do? Can’t we even breastfeed in a “parents’ room” without being harassed?

You know what I blame.

12 Aug 2007, Comments Off on The Trial of John Winston Howard

The Trial of John Winston Howard

Author: Helen

“You are aware, Ms Diabolica, that the Fifth Amendment is an American instrument?”
“Yes your Honour, but unfortunately so is my client.”
Last sunday night, the Melbourne Town Hall was packed to the rafters. As the doors opened, the queue stretched around the block and up to – it was rumoured – Russell street.
Max Gillies as JHo
Moosehead Awards? Dalai Lama? No – it was the Trial of John Howard, put on by the Fabian society, set in the Court of the Supreme Bean, Linda Briskman (Centre for Human Rights)with Julian Burnside as prosecutor and Rachel Doyle defending. JHo was played by Max Gillies. Love the prosthetic bottom lip, Max!

From the Fabian site: Her gracious majesty in the person of Gerry Connolly will grace us with her presence as a witness for Howard (God help him), Melanie La’Brooy will appear as a witness for the nation as well as number of others.
Cast and crew have volunteered their time and brilliance to bring this man to book!
Tim Robertson directs, John Timlin is producer with Guy Rundle, Julian Burnside, Jeremy Press ,Rod Quantock, Rachel Doyle and Melanie La’Brooy…
(Also, Shahin Shafaei as asylum seeker “Lucky”, Corinne Grant as Middle Australia and Gerry Connolly again as Paul Keating in a walk-on cameo).

It looked as if most of Middle Australia had turned out for this event. There were families from Brunswick and Thornbury to East Malvern and Blackburn– hardly inner-city Trotskyite types. If I were Mark Textor, I’d be feeling very queasy. Not only were the Doctors Wives all out in force, the doctors were all there too, along with the older doctors’ kids. Lots of oldies there; two of the people in our group were over eighty – you just can’t rely on these people to stay in their houses with the tartan rug over the knees any more. Troublemakers!
This Sedition Stamp comes courtesy of Nick Possom of and he says you are welcome to use it.
The ticket came with a printed warning: The bearer of this document will now be definitely known to ASIO, the CIA and sundry experts in the area of rendition, torture and detention centres and has never attended Kirribilli House or the Lodge as a fundraising guest of the Liberal Party or the Defendant. I guess our chances of being invited to Kirribilli House for dinner are kaput now, too.

Buried down at the bottom of the program, “By popular request, Janette Howard does not appear.” Zzzing! I guess it was a tough call whether to lampoon Hyacinth, and they decided to go easy on her, except for that little shot of acid.

It was intriguing to be part of such an old-style political event, in keeping with the Victorian architecture of the Town Hall. Despite the sophisticated AV equipment and auxiliary screens, this was the way we’d have been voicing our protest before blogging, forums and talkback: lampooning characters with a broad brush on the stage, with the house packed to the rafters with the ordinary voters cheering, booing and having the time of their lives.

Next day, the Hun headline was “Old, Tricky and Losing“. Even the Murdochistas are abandoning JHo. If I’m not careful, I’ll find myself feeling sorry for the old rodent.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

11 Aug 2007, Comments Off on Blogwarbling


Author: Helen

BlogWarBot: I’m BlogWarBot. Didn’t we ban you?
Cast Iron Balcony: How dare you ban me!
BlogWarBot: What business is it of yours?
CIB: THat’d be telling.
BlogWarBot: Typical. An expression of ignorant privilege.
CIB: OK. admit it. You’re Obby, aren’t you?
BlogWarBot: You keep using that word Obby. I do not think it means what you think it means.
CIB: A name, you dope. Or rather, a nom de plume.
BlogWarBot: I sense an argument from authority coming on…
CIB: You say that like it’s a bad thing.
BlogWarBot: In your dreams, jerk.
CIB: Admit it, you are Obby, aren’t you?
BlogWarBot: I know you’re Obby, but what am I?
CIB: Or maybe the Bird?
BlogWarBot: Gah. Enough with the nuance fetish!
CIB: “…”
BlogWarBot: Come on, I could be looking at Cute Overload.

Go here to play.

7 Aug 2007, Comments Off on Government’s IR ads redux: It appears there is a God*

Government’s IR ads redux: It appears there is a God*

Author: Helen

Oh, how sweet it is.

I couldn’t find the script of the ad I described in the previous post when I wrote it. You can find it now in the ABC item linked above – in the context of this ad being pulled with indecent haste. Much cackling on the Balcony over breakfast this morning.

VOICEOVER (from advertisement): The workplace relations system – know where you stand.

TONY EASTLEY: Part of the ad there.

Well, as it’s turned out, the actor playing the father had a painting business in real life and he’s been accused of ripping off one of his young employees.

Twenty-year-old Erin Gebert claims the actor, Damien Richardson, owes him about $2,000 in wages.

Erin Gebert’s father, Peter, is speaking here with our reporter, Brendan Trembath.

PETER GERBERT: Two weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, my wife and I were sitting in our kitchen having a cup of coffee and Erin was in his bedroom sleeping and watching TV and he came running out to us saying, “Have a look at this ad on TV”. And I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “It’s Damien Richardson, my old boss”.

And we had a look at the ad and it kept coming on the TV that morning, and he explained that this was the bloke that he’d worked for for just under 12 months and over that period of time Erin got to the point where he had to resign effectively from an apprenticeship that this bloke had signed up for him, because he just continually wasn’t getting paid.

… and it just gets worse from there.

You can imagine the Liberal staff and PR hacks, head in hands, moaning softly and assuming the foetal position. As Mark Bahnisch on Larvyprod says, just gold.

*Updated title courtesy of the brilliant cheese-fryin’ Shula.

Update 2: It just gets better and better

Mr Richardson’s estranged son, Mr Moore, yesterday backed the complaints of other young workers, saying he had worked for about 11 weeks in his father’s theatre restaurant, Theatre Royale, in Mitcham in 1999. His total pay was just $100.
…In 1979, Mr Richardson split with Mr Moore’s mother, who was then 16, shortly after she had his baby, and there was little or no contact between them after that.
But in 1997 Mr Moore contacted Mr Richardson after seeing him in a television advertisement, and in 1999 he came to Melbourne and began working for him…

4 Aug 2007, Comments Off on Ad Nauseam: Federal Government’s IR ads

Ad Nauseam: Federal Government’s IR ads

Author: Helen

Govt’s IR ad blitz backfiring.” Excellent!

The Howard government’s latest advertising blitz is reportedly reinforcing fears surrounding its Work Choices reforms rather than dispelling them.
…”(It is) educating the public as to the negative realities of the new IR laws rather than myth-busting,” Essential Research has told The Weekend Australian newspaper.

I could have told them that. Actually, I’ve only noticed the one covering young peoples’ working conditions; maybe my TV habits aren’t as disastrous as I thought, or I just take notice because Girlchild is due to hit the part-time workforce at any second now.

This one goes something like (paraphrasing) You think an employer can hire your teenager for a miserable wage, but it’s not true, because the parent is required to co-sign his contract! …or witness it, or something– sorry, can’t find the text or a YouTube, and the Government’s website is unhelpful as well. It doesn’t mention parents other than in relation to their children being in training schemes.

Even the most politically apathetic parent could see the gap there and drive their truck through it. Sure, you can refuse to co-sign your kid’s contract unless the employer offers a higher rate, or better conditions, or whatever. Then the employer will say “Kthxbye: NEXT!”

Let’s not get too gleeful: we’re paying for the campaign, after all. Tim Dunlop and others have more on why this ad campaign should be pulled.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom