Thursday, October 28, 2004

OH F&%K

Ok, I'm gonna swear now so for those with sensitive ears turn away from the screen......that fucking John Howard has got control of the fucking senate and now the little bastard will not be stopped. Could it get any fucking worse....ok I think I have got that out of my system so those of you who don't like the swearing business can turn back to your screens.

We knew it was going to happen but it's still hard to believe. Johnny says:
It's a very good outcome but I want to assure the Australian people that the Government will use its majority in the new Senate very carefully, very wisely, and not provocatively.

We intend to do the things we've promised the Australian people we would do, but we don't intend to allow this unexpected but welcome majority in the Senate to go to our heads.


Like fuck you will. By the look of this photo on the SMH site this afternoon you already have. What a turd.

Sorry, up until this point Psephite has been a restrained blog, perhaps I've been reading too much Ms Fits.

Insular? Me?

Haven't posted for a while and this is going to be short: Dubya's website now blocks visitors from outside the US. More at the BBC and the orginal source Boing Boing.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Grogblogging

Via the Daily Flute, news of a get-together for Sydney bloggers (although, I am sure our cousins in the ACT could tag along). I am not sure how I feel about being outed as a Psephite (or a Blogballer, or Templatedata) and I have horrible thoughts of early web chat-room "flesh meets" that I witnessed (WITNESSED, was NOT part of) but there is something that is strangely drawing me to want to go. Perhaps it's the chance of seeing Darp in the flesh (just not the shaved bits).

UPDATE: According to Darp, Tim Blair has confirmed his attendance. A little jelly foxy-boxing between Darp and Tim, I'd PAY to see that.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

No wonder most of them don't bother to vote

A 'firestorm' is brewing in the US after claims that a private voter registration firm trashed registrations from Democrat voters.
An employee of a private voter registration firm alleges that his bosses trashed registration forms filled out by Democratic voters because they only wanted to sign up Republican voters.

Apparently in the US you identify as a Democrat or Republican voter when you register. I find this very strange and if I am wrong in thinking this is the case someone please set me straight.

Either way, I have been wondering if there would be any voter scandals after the debacle that was the last US election - surely it couldn't happen again. Actually, I could believe Bush/Republicans are capable of anything...

More claims of voter fraud, and more.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Mandate, mandate

Here we go again, Howard believes that voters want the troops to stay in Iraq. According to the SMH:
Australians might be divided over the Iraq war, but the election result proved most backed plans to keep troops there, Prime Minister John Howard said today.

The article also raised the point that the war in Iraq was not really addressed as an election issue. This has probably been spoken about on other blogs around the traps but I'm going to give my usual ill-informed gut reactions.

I didn't really think about it at the time but Labor didn't really address the war during their campaign. To do so would have meant attacking Howard's appalling record with the truth and this would have meant a somewhat negative campaign. They chose instead to reserve their negativity for the question of whether Howard would remain for a whole term. I'm sorry, but I don't believe that anyone gives a shit whether Howard was going to hang around or not. To use this tactic was basically admitting that people wanted to vote for Howard, that he was a strong leader who people would be voting for, not so much the Coalition as a whole. Labor was admitting the strength of the opposition and trying to use the fact that he may up and leave as ammunition. Hmm, sounds a little flawed.

Would they have been better off if they really went for Howard's jugular, pointing out his lies, his suck-hole behaviour with Dubya? Did they just accept that Howard was a strong leader and they would be better off running a positive campaign? The theory says that negative campaigns don't work - this time it did. The Coalition ran a heavily negative campaign, stressing Latham's inexperience, his alleged stuff-up at Liverpool. Labor's negative tactic was the fact that Little Johhny might not hang around. Hmm, I think reminding people of the lies, the half-arsed research and the teflon-Don impersonations, may have worked more effectively.

The only appropriate response

Now, this has probably appeared in your inbox already care of a 40-times forwarded email.

Go look at it anyway, cheered me up no end.

Monday, October 11, 2004

It's a global economy, stupid!

Howard won because the election was held during a period of prosperity and low interest rates. Most voters think this prosperity must be all the work of JWH and Mr Costello, and don't know/don't care that these jokers have just been lucky, presiding over this great land during a period of global [Western] good times.

And I thought that most voters either didn't know or simply didn't care about the degradation of our democracy under Howard's watch. However, with that Senate result, it looks like they did know and do care, and they want more!

A minor word on personalities/image, which I don't think was a factor in the Coalition win/Labor loss: for Labor, I don't think that Latham is the problem, although he's completely boring now that he's not engaging in a bit of biffo. Marky Mark ain't no orator. And he sure as hell needs to be put on the charisma transplant list. But (all these sentences starting with "and" and "but" - see, i'm badly affected by the Coalition's expected but nonetheless shocking win) a charismatic John Howard is a seriously major tautology.

Anyway, I'm just going to crawl back into my shell of denial.


Well kiss my grits!

I don't think I have the emotional energy right now to post long and analytical.

But I just can't stop thinking about the Senate result. Australia will soon be in for a real shock as Johnny polishes up his jack-boots and pulls all the real scary legislation from the bottom drawer.

And I'm not talking about Telstra. I don't think people much care about that. Neither am I sure people will care that News Ltd will soon be able to buy up a tv station (yes that's right, the Government's previous 'safeguards' in their proposed media-ownership legislation will be out the window on 1 July 2005, and it will be back to their original open-slather reforms).

Has any one else got an underlying sense of panic about this Government's legislative agenda? Remember, nothing will get referred to Committee for review and analysis, so there'll be no public submissions, no scrutiny, no assessment of the long term effects. We'll lose a significant chunk of our ability to participate in our democracy between elections.

But perhaps that is what people really want. Somone to cover their eyes and take the wheel. Doesn't matter that we're headed for the ditch, just as long as they feel they are still moving along.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

The horror, the horror

I have been a bad blogger. It is only now on Sunday evening that I have been able to bring myself to post about last night's events. Thankfully we never promised that Psephite would provide up-to-the-minute coverage...

Last night I watched the election at an election party. And what a sad party it was. In attendance with me was comicstriphero who left early, once it became clear that things were very bad. I am not sure if we will see a post from her any time soon, she has driven back to Canberra today and may spend the next couple of months in an election-induced fugue state.

The party was unashamedly Labor/Greens supportive so you can imagine the pall of depression that was only worsened by the beer that had to be consumed to dull the pain. We had a couple of wags who kept our spirits up, those who insisted that Family First were actually saying that lesbians burn the steak, being tofu-eaters and all and were subsequently not to be trusted at BBQs. But it wasn't enough.

So where did it all go wrong? I will continue in the vein of my previous analytical posts and provide a couple of spurious claims based on gut-feeling.

Firstly, the L-plater Latham. Did inexperience really play a part in the end? I think it did. Howard is a crafty bastard and Latham just seemed too honest. Too nice (but not as nice as Big Beazo). Howard plays on people's fears, he plays on the fears that people have of losing what they have got. Whereas Labor attempted to provide promise of building on what we had, Howard just emphasised that it all may be lost. The Coalition ran a negative, fear-mongering campaign. No surprises there then.

Latham tried to bring a 'vision' to the campaign but he is evidently not a good speaker, his repetition and monotone never inspiring anyone much. Perhaps he would have been better served if we saw the cabbie-punching, congo-line-of-suckhole Latham. Perhaps he should have just gone out and nailed the scum instead of trying to provide 'vision', however weak.

The thing though that frightens me most about this result is what this says about the Australian people. Howard has succeeded in turning this country into a collection of individuals who care only about what they will directly get from the Government. Mainly, they seem to care about cash. The promise of a tiny bit of cash is far more easy to understand than Labor's 'Medicare Gold' which on the surface seemed to benefit only the over-75s but which in reality had a trickle-down effect that would reach most of the population. Such an idea has proven too complex for the electorate. We've become a population that is self-serving, simple, ignorant, money-grabbing, short-sighted and unwilling to risk a couple of bucks for the greater good. At least, this is what last night's result would have you believe.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Clinging on to a hope with my fingernails

Well, the big day is almost here and I can admit to feeling a shiver of excitement (perhaps I need to get a life). I was opinion-polled out some time last week so my predictions are going to be made purely on gut feeling, I have even less expertise in these things than comicstriphero. So, here goes:

I have been feeling that Labor will not make it. I feel they may improve on their last efforts but Little Johnny rat will make it to a fourth term and a sizable chunk of the population will move to New Zealand. I have been overwhelmed into submission by the Coalition bias shown by the News Ltd media, as comicstriphero earlier mentioned. Little Johnboy has constantly aimed at the lowest common denominator both in his time as PM and in this election campaign and it is hard to struggle against the feeling that this country has become the lowest common denominator. That this denominator is valued and questioning, intelligent public discussion is dismissed as elite. As such, idiotic and blatantly untrue platforms like "higher interest rates under Labor" are believed without question. Teflon-John is going to get away with it again.

Well, this is how I was feeling until about 1pm this afternoon. A chat with a colleague revealed some high-level research she had been doing this week. Every cab she got into she asked the cab driver their opinion on the election. And the answers? Overwhelming in favour of a Labor win. Perhaps there is just a shred of hope...

One last blog for the road before the big day, eh?

It feels a bit like Christmas eve round here, everyone’s just marking time waiting for the big event.

Most of the papers this morning were screaming for a Coalition win, the Telegraph runs its editorial “The Daily Telegraph believes the Howard Government deserves to be re-elected.”

That the campaign could be at this point after all Howard’s done, and how extensively its been covered in the public arena, just boggles the mind. Its as if the commentators and voters willing to give Howard the big tick have looped themselves out of logic somehow.

I know its probably a tired analogy, but its as if certain Howardian actions have just been cut out of history completely 1984-style. People will just believe anything he says, as long as he says it often enough, and with enough conviction.

The only solace I am taking in all this is that the more a strong Coalition victory is talked up, the more likely it is people will feel ‘safe’ in casting a protest vote. Waverers might be less likely to mark 1 next to their local ALP candidate if they think it will actually make a difference.

Howard, being the annoyingly deft electoral operator he is knows this. And the News Ltd web site has helpfully pointed out the ‘dangers’ of people voting how they actually want to. It has actually bolded and capitalised the word “warning” before the headline, immediately drawing the eye in to the story (view story here, and see the bolded, capitalised ‘warning’ here). John must be loving Rupert sick right now. The News press has pretty much turned into Coalition ‘how-to-vote’ literature.

Any way, just to add my voice to the teeming mass of speculation choking the land, I’m going to make my prediction. If I was going to be timid, I would say that whichever party wins, it will be with a majority of about 5 seats, with a fairly identical Senate equation except for substituting some Dems with some Greens. Throw in a Family First Senator, another Liberal Senator to take Shayne Murphy’s place, and this makes for a favourable Senate for the Coalition.

But I’ve decided not to be timid, and to totally fly off the handle and predict a romping ALP victory, with celebrations in the streets and an end to neo-conservatism in Australia. ALP to pick up marginal seats along coastal NSW and suburban Adelaide and Brisbane.

Please? I’ve been good!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Senate ranking tool

Via Poll Vault, Nosemugger's Senate ranking tool helps you sort out your preferences should you wish to vote below the line. We all have parties we love, some we hate and some of which we know nothing. This little tool orders your preferences according to the parties you nominate as your loves and your hates. Well worth a go. (And it seems to be housed at Sydney Uni...)

The thrills of democracy

Well, I've just voted (advance voting - get in early!).

I'll admit to being a bit nervous about it, but I think this was just an extension of my overall nervousness about the poll result.

I was somewhat disappointed not to be harangued by party volunteers outside the polling place. I was only approached by the Greens volunteer. Perhaps my appearance puts the others off, I don't' know. Perhaps word got out about me after I made a monarchist volunteer cry at a referendum polling place back in 1999 (yes, its true! Its not my fault they decided to send out 9 year-olds who couldn't handle some slightly surly questioning).

Anyway, just for the record, I voted under the line in the Senate, just so I could put the Nile mob last (I felt I had to, just to make up for the fact that my girlfriend and I were too chicken to snog in front of Fred when we accidentally ran into him on Macquarie Street one day).

And, despite the ACT Senate ballot paper only listing 13 candidates (as opposed to the 50-odd one has had to number in NSW in the past), I managed to stuff it up and had to ask for a new piece of paper.

Now all I can do is wait...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Only 5 days of blind optimism left...

Five days left of campaigning also means there’s only 5 days left for pre-election blogging!

I suppose now would be a pertinent time to get some predictive thoughts down on record. Its pretty obvious I don’t have the knowledge to be able to sit down and work through the electorates, analyse polling data and come up with a well researched picture of a likely House of Reps, Senate, or marginal electorate results.

However, as far as generalised, airy-fairy, off-the-top-of-the-head type predictions, I reckon I’m pretty well qualified (ie, I have all the right physical attributes needed to give 'gut' predictions).

At this stage, it just doesn’t feel like Latham has enough momentum to get him over the top of the incumbent’s advantage. One just gets the sense that he’s almost there. But that really counts for nothing if Howard gets back in. Just ask Kim Beazley.

Lately I’ve been investing all my hopes in a 1999 Victorian election style ALP victory. In the coming days, I may even allow myself to start getting my hopes up.

But I’m going to hold off for now. It really does seem way too close to call. I guess it doesn’t really matter if I get my hopes up and they are then dashed by an ALP loss. I will be utterly devastated any way just by the result, and it won’t really make that much difference whether or not I was expecting it.

As usual, Backpages has some meaty discussion of the latest polls, and I should probably do some more research before flying off the handle with wildly pessimistic or unrealistically optimistic predictions.

On the advertisements front, I quite liked the latest Mark Latham effort, which obviously aims to address his perceived lack of experience.

You can see a story board of the advertisement here, and the ALP’s site also allows you to watch video of the ads.

The Liberal’s latest interest rate scare advertisement is of the brutal and heavy handed school of advertising, and if taken on face value by your ordinary mortgage payer could have some nasty results (if you haven’t seen it, it drones on with predicted rises in monthly mortgage repayments if interest rates were to rise – but of course fails to mention that a rate rise has been predicted for later in the year irrespective of the election result). It would be interesting to see if there is any research on the effectiveness of these advertisements.

Also, just to show how truly evil the Liberals are, they’ve generated an interest rate scare pop-up ad on their website. The bastards!


Saturday, October 02, 2004

(Ancient) History Repeating

This week I figured out who Mark Latham reminds me of - the Ancient Greek General, Themistocles (I mean, duh!).

Like Iron Mark, Themistocles was a guy from the suburbs who made his way into the Athenian Parliament in his early 30s. Themistocles was the archetypal loner / outsider, who won his place on the proscenium through the force of his innovative ideas, rather than factional support.

At this time (around 493BC) the Athenian city-state was experiencing the aftershock of the democratic revolution, and people at every level of the society were grappling with the loss of certainty that social transition brought. Themistocles welcomed the change, and his ideas were about how to respond to the new society - much like Mark Latham's political blueprint is based on new ways of building community following the extensive economic reforms of the past two decades.

Mark and Themistocles even had similar campaigning techniques - Themistocles shocked his colleagues by making an effort to learn the names of as many citizens as possible. Mark Latham has been running community forums throughout the country ever since his election to the ALP leadership, and frequently links his policy announcements to conversations he had in town hall meetings during this period (see his budget reply for the lengthiest example).

One of Themistocles greatest political achievements came during a series of crucial wars with the mighty Persian Empire. The Persians had attacked the Athenians in the Battle of Marathon in 492 BC. Despite the Persian army being a lot bigger than the Athenians, the Athenians won the battle through superior strategy and motivation.

The Athenians were very proud of the victory over the Persians, with some succumbing to over-confidence. Themistocles was not one of these people - he knew that the Persian threat would return and that Athens had to start making preparations if they were to survive a second assault.

During this period, a large vein of silver was found in a mine near Athens. Normally the profit from the silver was distributed equally among the Athenian population, but Themistocles argued that it was time to break from tradition and use the silver to a build a powerful navy to defend Athens against the next Persian attack.

Themistocles' approach was opposed by his archrival, Aristides, an aristocratic conservative who wanted to distribute the spoils to the people as normal, rather than invest it.

The debate had heightened importance because the Athenians had introduced a parliamentary reform that allowed politicians to be ostracised - i.e. exiled for ten years. The measure acted as a parliamentary circuit breaker in the event of a power struggle. Each year the popular Assembly voted on whether a member should be ostracised. If the Assembly decided that someone should be ostracised, the citizens voted on who should go, and the person with the most votes was banished (kind of like a Parliamentary Big Brother).

Themistocles and Aristides each staked their reputations on the silver mine debate, with the loser to be banished.

Thankfully for the Athenians, Themistocles won the argument and Athens got its triremes. This decision was critical to the Athenians later victory over Persia when the Empire attacked a second time.

In one week Australians face a similar choice to the ancient Athenians. On one hand there is the conservative political leader who, after a period of economic prosperity, is offering to simply return the money to the people ($600 payments to families, $200 payments to self-funded retirees, the Medicare safety-net) to prevent him from being exiled from Government. One the other hand there is a young radical who is asking Australians to forego these one off payments and invest the spoils of economic prosperity in Australia's health and education systems because these will underpin Australia's quality of life and economic and social success in the future.

I'm just hoping that history repeats itself.