personal political

Name:
Location: Sydney, Australia

I have now moved this blog to Typepad: the new address is http://susoz.typepad.com/personal_political/

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

regret

It's school holiday time. And we forgot to return our school library books last week. I reminded Olle on Tuesday night, but on the walk to school the next day, he suddennly realised he had forgotten them.
After school, when I asked, he said his teacher had told him that it was okay with Mr C, the libararian, for the books to be brought back after the holidays.

But on Sunday night, Olle got up from the lounge to walk into the kitchen, and suddennly burst into tears and ran back to me, sobbing. This literally came out of the blue. He was deeply upset because he had forgotten to take the books back and Mr C might never let him borrow books from the school library again. Between sobs there was the skeleton of a story about another boy in his class who'd been told off for forgetting to bring books back. It's very hard to get exact details with this sort of thing - impossible to know if something sharp was actually said or the mere fact that the librarian reminded them not to forget is enough to cause a guilty conscience and tears.

The tears went on, despite our assurances that the librarian was on holidays and not thinking about the books; that the teacher was correct when she said it was fine not to bring them back until after the holidays. From these vague reassurances we moved on to firm assertions: the librarian had renewed the books. The teacher, who is in Queensland on holidays, has been telling everyone what a wonderful pupil she has at her school in Sydney. No one is cross at him.

Eventually the sobs died down.
But the next evening, the same thing happened. Heartfelt tears again. One minute things okay, the next minute heaving sobs and "oh I wish I'd never borrowed those books".

We went through the impossibility of taking the books back to the school - it was locked. He wanted us to climb over the fence.

Time for strategic thinking. I announced that we would post the books back with a letter.

The next day he reminded me to write the letter. So I did. I told the full story, of Olle's tears and fear that he would be banned from borrowing books because these ones were late back. I signed it and he signed it and then he drew a book and wrote the alphabet with three fullstops.

We've put the books and letter in an envelope in the car and will deliver it to the school office on the first day back. (Postage would cost too much!)

The tears have stopped.

These were the first tears of anguish and regret I have seen in him. I recognised them all too well - that self-flagellatory, if-only-I-could-reverse-time-and-undo-X impulse. Not that I've had many of them in my life, and they are usually about things which to outsiders seem trivial, but which to you seem overwhelming - the sense of being caught out in a wrong move, exposed as a naughty or bad person. It's hard to see my little child developing this kind of human emotion, although I think it's part of getting older. It's not quite guilt, but verging on it. Maybe this is part of the apporach of 'rationality' - the loss of innocence.

logic

From what I've read, six is the beginning of the age of rationality. Olle is a couple of months off six, but somehow I doubt whether he'll be ready to give up life as a fantasist by the time he gets there. Though some small cracks are appearing. Take this conversation first thing the other morning (by first thing, I mean first thing, about a second after opening his eyes):
"It's just as well witches are not real - are they?"
"No they're not".
"Witches aren't real, so they can't create dragons, because witches, even if they were real, which they aren't, their spells are not strong enough to make a dragon, so that's just as well."

unwell

Sorry not to have written in awhile. I've had the cold/flu from hell and beyond. I kept hearing rumours of its existence all winter and had recently congratulated myself on escaping it. [Insert laugh of bitter irony here.] When it finally did appear, it snuck up on me in a most deceptive manner. Day 1: vague sense of unwellness. Day 2: stronger sense of unwellness, sore throat, glands etc. Day 3: even stronger sense of unwellness, foggy head, glands, mucous build-up begins. Day 4: head cold from hell - sneezing, coughing, nose-blowing. Four-hourly medications. Day 5: head cold increases in intensity, if that were possible. Feeling truly rotten. Three-hourly medications around the clock. Day 6: wake up with a fever. Stay in bed. 11am partner drives me to our GP, one of the few who still bulk-bills* all her patients. This makes her very popular. After two hours trying to remain upright in the waiting room and no appointment in sight, I leave and catch a taxi straight home to bed. Decide to stop the medications (as my liver must be suffering), embrace the fever, take zinc and vitamin C, eat a lot of garlic and ginger (should have done this from day one, of course). I remain in bed from 1pm till 9am the next day, sweating, aching, not breathing easily, fearing pneumonia. Day 7: Fever has gone. Head cold has gone. Get out of bed. Day 8: to work for first time in a week. Still feeling mentally hazy and weak - all wrung out. Thank goodness partner and child haven't caught it ... yet.

*bulk-billing, for international readers, means that the doctor does not charge the patient anything, but instead charges the government-run national health scheme, Medicare. The current conservative government has tinkered with the scheme in such a way that fewer and fewer doctors bulk-bill - the majority of GPs now charge their patients a fee on top of what Medicare pays them. So we no longer have a truly universal national health scheme.

Friday, September 24, 2004

boys/girls/teachers

We've had an idyllic first year in the education system, all things considered. Essentially, that's because Olle has a very nice, young, firm but fun teacher. And from all accounts, his class of 25 kids is relatively trouble-free.

Yesterday another mother of a boy in the class told me that she'd been told by someone else who has a boy in kindergarten and a girl in grade one that the grade one teacher, Ms M, spent a lot of time "yelling at the boys". The maternal consensus seemed to be that we'd be better off with the other grade one teacher, Ms B.

Today I spoke to another mother who has a boy in Ms B's class and a girl in kindy. This mother told me that Ms B also spends a lot of time shouting at the boys, particularly her boy (who is "challenging"). She doesn't want her daughter to have that teacher next year.

Hmmm. Call me naive, but it hadn't even occured to me that teachers yelled at their young pupils in public primary schools.

From what I can gather, the mother of the girl in Ms M's class seems to think Ms M is biased against boys and that her daughter's days in class are disrupted and disturbed by the teacher's disciplinary tactics.

The mother of the boy in Ms B's class, while admitting her son is "oppositional", seems to think much the same.

I'd guess that the mothers who only have girls blame it all on boys.

As the mother of a quiet, compliant, sweet-natured boy, I've had plenty of opportunities in his short life to speak up against the stereotype of boys as rambunctious troublemakers, a view which is relentlessly regurgitated on all sides - and becomes self-perpetuating, I'm sure. I worry about him being 'tarred with the same brush'. Even with the learning-to-read issue I've been assured that boys are slower than girls, when by far the most advanced reader in his class is a boy. Sure there are probably generalisations that can be made, but I find it endlessly frustrating that so many people persist in seeing children through such totalising gender categories.

I guess we'll just have to take our chances in next year's teacher lottery and hope for the best.



wisteria

I keep wondering if I'm right in thinking that the wisteria in Sydney this year is particularly wonderful. I don't recall noticing it like this last year or the one before... Everywhere I look there are columns of it, clouds of dense purple - I even saw what appeared to be a dead tree completely swathed in wisteria right up to its full height.
Next come the jacarandas and flame trees.

the power of one

"In the Netherlands, Paul Bigley [brother of hostage] has spent the last week sitting at his computer in his flat.

"I haven't spoken to the Foreign Office at all," he said. "The most helpful
people have been al-Jazeera. They have somehow, with their contacts, got me
indirect access to the terrorists.

"The statements I make through them reach the insurgents in half an hour.
All I have had from al-Jazeera is support."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

blair

I haven't written in here for a few days but various observations are humming along in my mind. I see that the despicable Tony Blair made a speech completely re-casting the rationale for the prescence of foreign troops in Iraq. To think that we actually threw an election celebration party when Blair's Labour won office in 1997! Only a couple of years later, friends of mine who live in London began to complain about him. Their complaints soon moved on to detestation. I kept an open mind. Living in Australia meant that I wasn't exposed to him very often and from a distance, and by comparison with John Howard, he looked good.

My open mind slammed shut sometime in 2002. Since then I've been scrupulously reading any and all articles which attempt to analyse Blair and account for why an aparently intelligent English social democrat could form such an alliance with George W Bush. Is it religion? Is is a messiah complex? Is it simply that anyone who reaches such a position of power has to act to protect that power (I don't mean personal power, but the power and interests of the nation he leads)?
The best analysis I've come across came from a disenchanted Labour MP, who said [not in the link I've given, I'm afraid] that Tony Blair is an actor who is in love with his own performance. He is a hollow man. That rings true to me.

Friday, September 17, 2004

yet another political survey

A purely Australian one this time. According to this, my party preferences are:
One Nation: 21% National Party: 11% Liberal Party: 22% Labor Party: 55% Democrats: 86% Greens: 88%
I wasn't surprised the Greens came out on top, but was surprised the Democrats were so close behind - I've never voted Democrat and probably never will - and was even more surprised that One Nation scored as high as 21%, much higher than the Nationals.

I did a similar quiz a couple of weeks ago, which I can no longer find the link to, about the US presidential candidates. That came out Bush 3%, Kerry 78% and Dennis Kucinich 90%.

If only that's how the vote would go.

ivan

"It's sad," said a weary Florida Governor Jeb Bush. "I don't know quite why we've had this run of storms. You just have to accept that."

Could it be anything to do with GW? And I don't mean his brother.

cohen 70

So Leonard Cohen's turning 70. And apparently my liking for his music - which I've had for over 30 years - is now appoaching cool. (I'm the only person I know who's read "Beautiful Losers".)
I wish kd lang had sung 'So Long Marianne' on her new Canadian album instead of 'Bird on a Wire'.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

electioneering

We live in a hotly contested electorate, so political bumf is arriving thick and fast. Yesterday there was a 12(?) page booklet from the Liberal Party, plus the second Labor leaflet. This morning I found an A4 page on the front doormate, with the header Wayne Ihaka next to a photo of a man in a suit. Thinking this must be some independent candidate I'd not heard of, I scanned the opening paragraph:

Every day there are choices you can re-make. It's never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence. ... You have the power to change everything that's to come...

And on to a side column:
Thank you for your calls providing feedback.

Democracy in action? No, it was an ad for a real estate agent. (Much more important, in our locality!)

nursing home flu

This story makes me sad - a year ago, my father, 82, caught the flu and it was the beginning of the end for him. He lived, not in a nursing home, but in what's called a hostel, a strange title, reminiscent of young people hitchhiking in Europe. However, when it comes to the aged, a hostel is a building where people live in self-contained apartments, but they eat communally and there are nurses on the premises 24 hours. My father'd had a stroke almost three years earlier. He walked with a frame and needed supervision with medications and showers, though he was far from frail. But the flu knocked him for six - it went to his gut and after 10 days, he was sent to the local hospital for rehydration. The infection became worse, life-threatening, he was given heavy-duty IV antibiotics, began to recover but became clinically depressed and mildly suicidal. He lost the motivation to re-learn to walk. I had to find him a nursing home. This was my second round of searching for aged-care accomodation for him, so I've seen it all - the luxury places with cable tv, for which you need $400,000 deposit bond, and the cheerless, shabby places that smell of urine. Actually, even some of the more affluent places smell of urine.
With great good luck (though it's easier to find a nursing home bed for a man, as fewer of them make it that far in life), I found a truly wonderful nursing home, where he spent his last few months, declining bit by bit until he finally died one afternoon with three women by his side - two nurses (it was the change of shift) and a female minister. Even though my father had given up on Catholicism and all religion decades before, the nursing home recommended this woman as someone who was very skilled and unobtrusive at talking to people who are dying. I was so used to thinking of 'people who are dying' as those with a maligant disease that it was at first hard to think of my father that way - although in those last few months he classically went through the stages of approaching death. He fought against it - raged and raged, just like the famous poem - until the very last weeks, when he was too weak and sunken into himself to struggle. I think his last couple of weeks must have been stuporous for him. He would look at me and take a moment to realise who I was - now that I'm in middle age, I realise that's because I more and more resemble the people who've gone before me - I now look like my grandmother, his mother, not like his little girl, and quite possibly he was unsure who I was at first, each time I went to visit.
So I'm no longer a member of the 'sandwich generation' - caught between looking after a small child and an old parent. (Olle has spent so much time in his young life visiting hospitals, hostels and nursing homes. He only began to protest towards the very end, hiding under the bed because he said that looking at grandpa's face was scary. And it was.)

political compass

I took this test and ended up in the libertarian left (no surprise). There aren't many famous political figures there with me - two to be exact, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Oh, three - Gandhi too. None of them from the first world, which is interesting.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

civil war?

This was predicted before the invasion. The Guardian says it first, (as far as I can see).

smiling

I was deep in conversation on the cordless phone yesterday afternoon after school. Olle wanted me to come up to his room while he changed out of his uniform, which I did, talking all the time. Then we came downstairs, I fed the animals, put a load of washing on and made a cup of tea, all with the phone pressed to my ear (talking to a friend who is still on a high after her 50th birthday party some weeks ago).
Finally the call came to an end, I put the phone down and looked up. Olle was sitting at the kitchen table, wearing a black tabard, blue cloak, a cardboard headband with feather (the Indian brave look), one silver knight's glove and a pink bracelet. He was engrossed in a Tintin book. What a sweetheart!

[At 6.30 this morning, he did a big slap of our older dog's sides - she's a tough staffy, so loves it - and told me "I've just given her a big welcome to the day".]

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

the f word

I have an American friend who lives in England, but returns to the US 2-3 times a year, especially now that her elderly parents are declining in health. Last weekend she got back from three weeks in summery New England - she told me she had a lovely time, staying with friends and family in Boston, Maine and Vermont. But, she said, they are all so tense, convinced they are living in a country on the verge of fascism. (These are professionals, doctors, lawyers, people in their 60s and older.)

Her next door neighbour had just returned from a business trip to Washington DC, which she described as like a science fiction novel ... road blocks, men with machine guns.

I'd just read Nick Turse's account of demonstrating (and being arrested and jailed) in Manhatten during the Republican Convention. The f word comes to mind (though I have other American friends who of course are carrying on with normal urban/suburban lives through all this...)

of course...

...just about anything you'd care to read or watch in the media would make you weep (internally, if not out loud) these days.

in baghdad

Read this and weep.

I reached a building entrance when someone grabbed my arm and took me inside. "There's an injured man. Take pictures - show the world the American democracy," he said. A man was lying in the corridor in total darkness as someone bandaged him.

Monday, September 13, 2004

news from lake wobegon

Garrison Keillor on the 'new' Republican Party.

Our beloved land has been fogged with fear — fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition.

longevity

According to this, I could live to be 96.5! (same age as one of my grandparents made it to).
Of course, they didn't factor in global warming, the possibility of Bush being re-elected or the consequent increasing likelihood of nuclear war (not to mention the perennial 'I could be run over by a bus tomorrow').
If I do get to be that old, my baby will be 54. One downside to having a baby so late in life is the prospect of not being around for much of his anticipated lifespan.

Friday, September 10, 2004

crusader

When I introduced my two year old boy to the tale of Robin Hood, it didn't occur to me, back in the pre-9/11 world, to think about its connection to the Crusades. [Robin Hood, King Richard the Lionheart, the Crusades...] I thought I was introducing a nice hero for him to admire - someone who took from the rich and gave to the poor, didn't use a machine gun and whose girlfriend Marian was an undercover rebel too. Olle took to the story with gusto, such that our house is now littered with toy knights, hand-made shields, multiple swords and scabbards, a castle, a bow and arrow, various items of clothing in lincoln green, etc. He repeatedly watches two different Robin Hood videos - the Errol Flynn version and the Richard Greene one. From these, he learnt about Richard the Lionheart and the Crusades.

Given that he thinks Richard the Lionheart is the good king of England, present tense, I'm not especially concerned about him making a link between the Crusades (which I don't think he would be able to define, as yet) and modern day events. I do get nervous, however, that he'll allude to the Crusaders admiringly during a conversation with someone we don't know very well. For his News today at school, he took a children's encyclopeadia carefully bookmarked at a page about armour (chainmail, etc). I was relieved that he skipped the page on the Crusades, but perhaps he will want to focus on them in grade one... By that time, I may be able to explain a little about history to him.

the likud response to terror

A very timely analysis by Naomi Klein.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

voting guide

Wentworth is my electorate and I'm unsure how to vote. I'd like nothing better than to see the Liberals lose the seat, though Peter King is hardly a wonderful alternative. When I lived in Thatcher's England in the 1980s, the Labour Party was wracked with argument about the ethics of tactical voting. But they faced a very different scenario than the one we have in Australia, with first-past-the-post voting. So if you voted for a non-Labour candidate in order to boost the anti-Conservative vote, Labour got no vote at all. At least here we can indicate our broad likes and dislikes with preferential voting. We can send messages both to Labor and Liberal by putting minor party candidates first, then our ruling-party of choice effectively gets our vote via the second preference. (But does a third preference count for much? Therein lies my dilemma.)
Anyway, someone has put out a handy guide to voting in Wentworth which I will be relying on.

usa

John Howard would like to see Australia become more like the USA. (And one of his sons is over there helping the Bush/Cheney campaign, so the connection has substance.)
Does Howard endorse Bush's record?:

Since he took office, 1.2 million people in America have lost their jobs, bringing the total to 8.2 million.
The number of Americans living below the poverty line has increased by 4.3 million to 35.9 million - 12.9 million of them children.
The number of Americans with no health insurance has increased by 5.8 million - with 1.4 million losing their insurance in 2003. The total now stands at 45 million.
Forty percent of the 3.5 million people who were homeless at some point last year were families with children, as were 40 percent of those seeking emergency food assistance.
Median household income has fallen more than US$1,500 in inflation-adjusted terms in the last three years, and the wages of most workers are now falling behind inflation.
Average tuition for college has risen by 34 percent, while 37 percent of fourth graders read at a level considered "below basic."
One third of the president's $1.7 trillion in tax cuts benefits only the top 1 percent of wealthiest Americans.


Is this what Howard wants for us?

yankee racism

I saw an item about this on ABC-TV news the other night.

People born in at least 20 countries, including China and Vietnam, are barred from working on specified US defence contracts, by order of the President, but the ADI application would allow it to deny employment to anyone not born in Australia or the US.
I'm speechless on both counts.
[The Labornet website logo is so old fashioned! Does anyone really refer to a newsletter or newspaper as an "organ" any more?]

values

We received some junk mail from John Howard. The main bit that caught my eye (before I consigned it to the recycling bin) was a pledge to introduce a National Values Framework into schools. The idea of the Liberal Party/John Howard devising a values framework to be instilled in my child makes me shudder. (Will there be an opt-out option for parents?) I haven't heard a word about this during the election campaign so I went straight to Google. Not a mention of it on the Liberal Party website. It turns out to have been part of their May 2004 education handout (with strings attached). The framework will be developed with "all school communities". Does this mean private schools too?
What a typically sneaky policy. It would be almost impossible for anyone to object to a 'values framework' per se. If they are re-elected, I envisage a long drawn-out behind-the-scenes battle about this. The longer the better. My child doesn't need any of Howard's values.

lesbian politicos

We're not all of the loony left...
Mary Cheney has been publicly embraced by, then quickly sidelined from her father's campaign for re-election as vice president (though I believe she is in some way employed by him).
Ingrid Tall looks likely to win the seat of Brisbane for the Liberal Party, which would make her, I think, the first openly lesbian MP in Australia. For Howard's party. I just can't get my head around that. [Though Howard seems to attract weird gay people, such as Christopher Pearson.]
George Pell's lesbian cousin Monica Hingston has challenged him to a new debate, a challenge he will undoubtedly ignore.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

cycling

Cycling to and from work continues to be exhilarating. A month ago I hadn't a hope in hell of cycling up the steep eastern approach ramp to the Anzac Bridge, now I can manage it just fine. I found a leaflet in my local bicycle shop which tells me that I have reduced my risk of developing diabetes and decreased my risk of early death by 40%. I love stats like that, when I'm on the right side of them.
The main obstacle to carefree riding continues to be four-wheel drives which think they are buses and charge along the city bus lanes. I curse them, but of course they don't hear. Perhaps I should buy a horn.
One would have come in handy yesterday, as I cycled up a slope in a street so quiet that two middle-aged men stood in it talking with their backs to me.
"Watch out!" I called in a low voice as I approached them, wary in case they stepped sideways into my path. They stepped away, but in the fraction of a second that our eyes met, I knew that one of them was going to seek revenge. For what? For being a woman on a bicycle - a woman actively taking up space and catching him out, surprising him, showing him up. Sure enough, he yelled after me "That doesn't do anything for your arse". (The ultimate criticism!) "Oh fuck off" I shouted back at him, quickly assessing my safety as I did. There were other people around, so it was okay. Once in London I swore in passing at a taxi driver and a few minutes later was startled to discover that he'd driven furiously round the corner to block my route, in order to lean out and tell me that swearing was impolite! As if a four-letter word had never passed his lips. Men of a certain age can't cope with women who cross the rigid gender boundaries with which they're comfortable, however mild the transgression is.
Being shouted at by the man in the street got me thinking about how rarely I now get harassed in that way. I was recently talking to a man I know who has a young daughter about whether or not she'll face that kind of attention when she's older. It was such an intrinsic feature of life in my teens and twenties - excursions into the outside world, by public transport, on foot or cycling, held a high chance of being catcalled, whistled at, commented on or accosted in some way. This began to decrease in my late 30s and has almost completely disappeared in my 40s. I guess middle-aged women become invisible to most men in public. (Possibly in private too!)

the big picture

The Australian election campaign is driving me to despair. Quibbles about interest rates and polls. Why doesn't the Labor Party say something about the big picture? Adele Horin managed to, in her SMH column about superannuation last week, in which she concludes: "But for the foreseeable future, access to subsidised medicines, a first-rate public hospital system and a decent age pension will remain the backbone of a dignified retirement." I would add, a dignified life, whatever age you are. And which party is going to come up with those three conditions? On the other hand, who would work to erode or destroy them, if they were re-elected? It's clear cut. What is Labor scared of? Why don't they come out fighting?
Over in the USA, it looks like Bush could win, even though he has wrecked the American economy. While four more years of the current Republican Party is a frightening prospect (especially in tandem with a conservative government here), it is interesting to speculate about what could happen to the American empire if it went bankrupt, which is not an impossibility. Maybe that is the world's way out, though at what cost? (I'm keeping on bicycling, for when the oil runs out.)

Monday, September 06, 2004

hail

I was home alone when the hail storm struck yesterday afternoon. We have a sloping ceiling on our kitchen with four square windows in it - I was standing at the back door watching hail pile up in the courtyard when one of my cats meowed and jumped off her chair - she'd been hit by hail. It was ricocheting off the roof and somehow coming through a tiny gap at the bottom of the ceiling window glass ... difficult to explain in words (in fact, it was difficult for me to work out what was happening at first). So I stood and watched it hail outside - and inside (haphazardly). As the storm cloud moved to the east, I could see hail falling high out of the sky through a rainbow - then a vertical sheet of lightening flashed across that. Triple beauty. When I came back to live in Sydney after a decade in the land of the low grey sky (aka England), I wrote to an Australian friend who still lived there (and still lives there now): 'I find myself looking at the sky - there is always something going on - clouds move across it, storms approach from the horizon (there is a horizon), cockatoos and ibises fly far overhead; every day there's a sunset, at night a moon of some type. Sydney is full of hills from which to look across and up at the gigantic wide sky'. Only those who have lived in the dreary north will fully appreciate how active the Australian sky is. [The Vietnam sky was hazy and we rarely looked up, which made my English co-parent gloomy, as though it was confirmation that grey skies are the way of the world - but I was able to shrug it off, safe in the knowledge that crystal clear blueness awaited us on the return home. The sensation of unreality in the utter sharpness of Sydney views took at least a month to fade after we returned.]

rufus

On Hymns, k.d. also does a version of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah', a song which has become famous (at least with parents of under-5s) in recent years from the soundtrack of Shrek. The Shrek version is sung by Rufus Wainwright, whose album Want One has been my other most-played CD for the past couple of months. I've been surprised by how many people I know have never heard of the wonderful McGarrigle sisters - I spent my 20s listening to their albums and now I wonder if 'First Born Son' was about Rufus ... who is the son of Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright (famous for the dead skunk song). In fact I first heard Rufus sing on The McGarrigle Hour, a truly gorgeous family-and-friends album. I guessed he was gay, which for some reason makes me happy, as does his music, especially 'Life is Beautiful'... And how could I not like someone who says "I'm really amazed by intelligent, right-wing people who think in some Machiavellian way that Bush is good for the world."

free

On Saturday some friends gave us a home-burnt CD copy of kd lang's new Hymns of the 49th Parallel.
"
[This is probably illegal, but the illegality belongs to them, not us for accepting it, I hope.]
This morning over breakfast we played her version of Leonard Cohen's 'Bird on a Wire'. Listening to it made Olle uneasy, he wanted to take it off and put on something different. Finally, as the last line faded away ... "I have tried in my way to be free" ... he asked "Why is she in jail?"

timing

Joseph Cofer Black, the US State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, "said he could not predict exactly when bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda fugitives would be nabbed. "What I tell people, I would be surprised but not necessarily shocked if we wake up tomorrow and he's been caught along with all his lieutenants," he told Geo [TV].

Well, I won't even bother apologising for the 'conspiracy theory' tone of my own prediction (the world is crazy far beyond our wildest imaginings), which is that there's a strong chance bin Laden will be pulled out of a hat just in time for the US presidential election (maybe even just before October 9).

Friday, September 03, 2004

2004 games

"Who did you play with at lunchtime today?"
"Luke".
"And what did you play?"
"We played putting the girls in jail. But Maddie didn't want to be in jail, so she was on our side".
"But the other girls didn't mind being in jail?"
"When we caught her, Sarah would say, okay, and just walk into jail. But Jess would fight hard - she's a very hard fighter".
"Oh, good for Jess!"
"No! It's not fair for the boys. She's a better fighter than us."
"She's a better fighter than the boys?"
"Yes".
"Did you try and catch her?"
"No, my job was to do a haka to send the girls into jail."
"Show me the haka".
[short performance of very effective haka]
"Aha! So where was the jail?"
"The bench near the green tree. And Jim and Joe would sit on the bench to keep the girls in jail there, while Luke and Maddie ran after the others ... and I did the haka".

fear and loathing

What does it indicate that Philip Ruddock is appealing to fear so early in this election campaign? That they've run out of ideas? That they have no ethics whatsoever? That they have even more scare tactics up their sleeves and this is just the softener? That fear is an essential ingredient, not just in their framework for re-election, but for governance?
I've been thinking about fear this week. I read Wallerstein's essay on whether America is feared or loved - or neither feared nor loved. Then I read Tom's dispatch from the Republican Convention , interviews with 'ordinary' delegates. It's striking that their views on Iraq are beyond argumentation - facts are irrelevant. I saw Guiliani speaking live on CNN from the Convention the other day. He denounced Saddam Hussein as himself a 'weapon of mass destruction', which is now the Republican line. (Expect to hear Downer and Howard with the same phrase soon.) Neatly sidestepping questions of evidence. This is a politics of emotion, verging on mass hysteria ... mass fear. No place in it for discussion, negotiation or compromise.
After the first week of the election campaign, I feel apprehensive and pessimistic.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

pals?

I was watching The 7.30 Report with Olle last night (start 'em young). Their political round-up for the day showed John Howard and Mark Latham together welcoming Australian Olympians home and together sending replacement Australian troops off to Iraq (what an apt juxtaposition).
Olle's question: "Do we still go for Mark?"
"Yes we do".
"But now he's friends with John Howard!"

Politics confuses him a little, but bottom line, he knows we don't go for John Howard.

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