Filed under politix

Mr 7 percent

Is this the first time in Australia’s history that the opposition leader’s approval rating has been lower than the official interest rate?

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Heard on the radio

“Capitalism is another word for farming humans for money” – text message to ABC Radio’s John Faine this morning.


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Nader Exploratory Logo

Ralph Nader’s announcement that he will be a candidate for the US presidency at this year’s election has, predictably, polarised opinions.

“The candidate is a brilliant man of the highest integrity,” writes James Wagner in a thought-provoking post on the announcement:

He has been absolutely correct on every issue with which his candidacy has been associated, but the fundamental issue which underlay everything he stood for in each of these elections and which underlies it today is the most important of all: The stranglehold of corporate power over the nation’s political institutions and the economy. Nader is properly disgusted with the Republicans and Democrats equally on this issue.

No other candidate, compromised as they are, can or will ever address this problem, but until it is addressed and resolved there will be no real change, This is the strength of the argument and the campaign identified with a man who, remarkable as it may be, seems to have no personal ambitions for political office.

Not everyone is as happy to have Nader on the Ballot as James. Joe. My. God repeats the bizarre allegation (well, it’s bizarre to me) that Nader’s 2000 candidacy was responsible for Bush’s win.

For those who don’t remember, in 2000 Bush “won” Florida by less than 500 votes after Nader took 97,000 votes. And here we are in this mess.

Most of the commenters on JMG agree. Nader is a “fuckhead”, an “asshole”, an “old fool”, an egomaniac, a “sad, pathetic little man”, a “creepy weirdo”. He’s “dangerous”, “crazy”, a “jackass”, a “psycho” and (this is my favourite) responsible for the death of countless Iraqi children (Nader got Bush elected, Bush started a war, therefore Nader is a baby murderer).

It’s extraordinary to me that, in a country that makes such a hoo-ha about democracy, and where the quaint idea that “anyone can become President” is a commonplace, there can be so much anger over the fact that one of the country’s most talented and extraordinary citizens would have the temerity to seek public office.

(Admittedly, the US presidential election system does leave a lot to be desired, as I outlined in this post in 2000.)

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Castro resigns Cuban presidency

Che And Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro has announced he will not seek another term as Cuban President after his current term expires in a few days’ time.
After 49 years as Cuba’s leader and revolutionary hero, his departure will undoubtedly create some happiness in the US, and a period of some instability in Cuba. I hope Cuba survives the transition. Despite Castro’s many failings and excesses, he remains the only leader to have established a successful, relatively compassionate* and open communist state.

The US has already said it will not lift its trade embargo, a long-standing policy that impoverishes the people of a tiny nation for daring to choose a political system that rejects free-market capitalism. It’s a shameful policy from a country that claims an affection for freedom to deny the Cuban people the freedom to choose how to live their lives.

Viva Fidel. Viva Cuba.

* I chose the words “relatively compassionate” with care. Yes, Castro and his regime are culpable for a range of crimes, some of them horrible, but in my opinion no worse than most regimes — notably the one he succeeded and the one that runs a rather well-known concentration camp on Cuban territory to avoid the application of the rule of law. All politics is brutality.

Brendan Nelson’s “(not very) sorry” speech: the fuck-ups continue

In his speech on Wednesday, the ferret-faced one made much of the words of Faye Lyman, who was taken from her family when she was eight years old, and who Nelson quoted as saying “Personally I don’t want people to say, ‘I’m sorry Faye’, I just want them to understand.”

The same Faye Lyman has just been on ABC radio in Melbourne, saying that she has been taken out of context, and that she never meant that her words should be taken to mean there should be no apology. She said she had no prior warning that the opposition leader was going to use her words in his speech, and that she believes the meaning of them has been changed by selective quotation, She was distraught and apparently in tears as she said this. She feels that he made it sound like her father gave her up willingly and insists this was not the case.

“I feel like I’ve been stolen all over again,” she said.

Brendan Nelson called Ms Lyman last night to offer an apology for the unauthorised use of her words, insisting he did so “because I wanted people to know your story.” When asked why he had not quoted the parts of the story in which she expresses the distress she felt as a consequence of being separated from her family, Mr Nelson “had no answer.”

What a dill.

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Eerie parallels between Rudd’s speech and Whitlam’s

Has Kevin Rudd been cribbing his speeches from Gough Whitlam?

Gough Whitlam, 13 Nov 1972 Kevin Rudd, 13 Feb 2008
There are moments in history when the whole fate and future of nations can be decided by a single decision. For Australia, this is such a time. There comes a time in the history of nations when their peoples must become fully reconciled to their past if they are to go forward with confidence to embrace their future. Our nation, Australia, has reached such a time.
It’s time for a new team, a new program, a new drive for equality of opportunities: it’s time to create new opportunities for Australians, time for a new vision of what we can achieve in this generation for our nation and the region in which we live. It is time to reconcile. It is time to recognise the injustices of the past. It is time to say sorry. It is time to move forward together.


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Super Choose-Day

Clinton Obama 0107

I said on my Facebook profile the other day that I didn’t know anyone who was voting for Hillary, or anyone who would if they were American. I guess we’ll know in 36 hours or so whether America is on its way to having its first black President or its first shrieking harridan President.

It’s hard not to be impressed by Obama. He reminds you of JFK (except the black part). His speaking style is more than a little bit MLK, he actually talks about workers’ rights and lifting the poor out of poverty and he makes you believe there is the possibility of a world better than the one we live in today. It makes a change from the down-home folksyism and economic flim-flam that typically passes for political oratory these days. I hope he wins the nomination, I hope he wins the Presidency and, most of all, I hope he doesn’t get shot.

Hillary on the other hand – what is that woman on? I find she leaves me cold. I probably was leaning towards her at first, not knowing anything much about the other contenders, but she has not impressed. She seems angry at Obama for daring to interrupt her as she pursues her place in the history books. Most of all, she looks fake.

John McCain has the Republican nomination all but sewn up, so I guess the only question that really matters is, who can beat McCain? I suppose either of them can (McCain’s age will work against him and he will have to work to get the loony Christian vote, which Huckabee coulkd have counted on) but I suspect Obama will be stronger.

The symbolism of America, with its long history of troubled race relations, (possibly, maybe) choosing a black President is enormous. He will struggle in the job — his idealism will work against him in office, just as it will work for him in the campaign — and I suppose he’ll be a one-termer (less, if he gets shot) but I hope he makes it. America deserves to believe in the possible again.

UPDATE: My friend James in New York outlines in typically crisp and touching prose why he is voting for Obama in this thoughtful post.

Intergenerational responsibility

The Rudd government’s announcement that an official apology to indigenous Australians will be the first action of the new parliament continues to generate asshat politics from the conservative side:

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson again stressed the importance of Australians not having to taking responsibility for the actions of previous generations.

“I have great difficulty with the idea of intergenerational responsibility for the good or not-so-good things done in the past,” he said on ABC radio today. (AAP)

We’re not responsible for the good stuff either? In other words, we can no longer take pride in anything we did in the past, just as we cannot be ashamed of our past. Where does that leave important anniversaries like, say, Anzac Day?

Honestly, I am flummoxed as to why the tories continue to play politics with this issue. The apology is a fait accompli, so why not just get behind it and look vaguely statesmanlike for once in your pathetic lives?

The Coalition implosion

From Wikipedia:

Implosion is a process in which objects are destroyed by collapsing in on themselves. The opposite of explosion, implosion concentrates matter and energy. An example of implosion is a submarine being crushed from the outside by the hydrostatic pressure of the surrounding water.

Or a conservative government reeling from a disastrous electoral loss.

The Liberal and National parties are both looking for new leaders after the election, after Vaile resigned and leader-in-waiting Costello refused to accept the job. Costello is pathetic — it makes his taunting of Kim Beazley over “ticker” look all the more insipid. At least Beazley had the courage to step up when his party needed him (in 1996, after Keating was defeated). Now, after coveting the Liberal leadership for years (but never having the balls to challenge) Costello says he doesn’t want it. All tip and no iceberg, indeed.

Next we’ll have a series of former Ministers quitting their seats — Costello, Downer and Ruddock are not going to hang around on the opposition back benches; they’ll take their bat and ball and go home as soon as it’s decent (three months, citing the need to spend more time with family, or illness, or whatever excuse they can cobble to cover their ignominy). Probably one or two others will go with them — we’ll have to wait and see who’s been able to secure a suitably comfortable Board appointment or consultancy over the Christmas holidays. Possibly a few lower-house seats will change hands at by-elections.

So who will lead the two conservative parties? Barnaby Joyce says he’ll accept the leadership of the Nationals, but it would be a break from convention for a Senator to lead a party that holds seats in the Reps. Joyce would be a good leader and would thoroughly reinvent the cow cockies’ party — he’d probably also destroy the Coalition. So they should definitely go with him. But they won’t — Peter McGauran and Warren Truss will share the leader/deputy roles between them, just you wait and see. Yawn…

The Liberals are really scraping the bottom of the (very shallow) barrel with Turnbull, Abbott and Nelson, with Robb and Pyne angling for the second-banana role. Paul Keating offered a very considered analysis of the merits of the various contenders yesterday on The World Today:

ELEANOR HALL: So who should lead the Liberals at this point?

PAUL KEATING: Well I don’t know who should lead the Liberals, but I mean, I know who I wouldn’t be going for. If they take Tony Abbott they’re just going to go back down hill to wherever they’ve been. He’s the one most like Howard ideologically, you know, the last, he’s what I call a young fogey. Howard was the old fogey. He’s the young fogey.

Brendan Nelson – well I liked him more when he had the ring in his ear, actually.

ELEANOR HALL: Malcolm Turnbull?

PAUL KEATING: Oh Malcolm – Malcolm is a bit like, I did that cracker night speech years ago about the big red bunger. You’d go and light it up and you’d stand back for the big explosion. I fancy Malcolm is like the big red bunger. You’re lighting up, there’s a bit of a fizz, but then nothing, nothing.

ELEANOR HALL: What about Julie Bishop then?

PAUL KEATING: Well, I think, I don’t know her but if I was voting this very second I’d probably give it to her because I like women. I always reckon they’re battling in public life, and anyone who can break through, like Julia has, you know.

You look at the girls in the Labor Caucus, I always barrack for them, the whole lot to them – Susan Ryan, Ros Kelly, I got them into the ministry, every one of them.

Obviously I’m hoping for the dream team of Abbott and Pyne — but maybe that’s just my schadenfreude addiction speaking. They’ll probably go for Malcolm Turnbull as leader and, if she declares an interest, Julie Bishop as deputy.

Obviously either Turnbull or Nelson would drag the party back towards the left, back towards that distant place where they lost their soul, while Abbott, Pyne, Bishop and Robb will steadfastly keep them at the right, where they have been repudiated and face years in opposition from coast to coast (not counting the Brisbane City Council, now the most powerful elected Liberals in the country).

Still no final results for the Senate, but the hopes of a Green resurgence are clearly dashed. The Greens will go from four senators to five or maybe six, not enough to hold the balance of power in their own right. The worst news of the election is the loss of Kerry Nettle from the Senate — probably the most talented and brightest Green we had. If the Senate is really going to be hostile, we’ll probably have a double dissolution within three years, which will be good for the Greens.

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Election ’07: LIVE

6:49 PM: 0.75% counted. The ABC is showing a 10% swing against Howard in Bennelong. The commentators are being drowned out by cheers from the floor in the tally room, despite the fact that this is based on one booth, in a nursing home. But I’m smiling…

8:21 PM: 35.7% counted. GO QUEENSLAND!

9:55 PM, 66.3% counted. The Prime Minister’s seat is still up in the air – very close but looks like Maxine will scrape over the line. I’ve promised to run naked through the streets if she wins, but I’ve still got my gear on. Every time the word Bennelong is uttered on the ABC there is a huge cheer, from the crowd in the tally room, from the others at this election party and, if I hear correctly, from across Australia. KILL THE PIG!

10:10 PM: 68.9% counted. Howard is reported to have phoned Rudd to concede. We’re waiting to see him on stage. Meanwhile, most of the world’s media have called it:


(Pants update: still on. I may streak regardless of whether we get a result in Bennelong.)

10:30 PM: 73% counted. Could Peter Costello be more of a nob? His speech is insipid, pathetic, and dull. If the Liberal Party have any sense, they will punish him appropriately for not having the balls to take the leadership from Howard when it was clear Howard was captaining the ship towards the iceberg. Malcolm Turnbull should be the leader of the Liberal Party next week.

10:34 PM: Howard just cut Costello off.

10:37 PM: Howard is typically defiant in his concession speech. But he’s still a loser. It took too long, but eventually Australia woke up to him. Fiona Gillen said it all: “I never thought this was going to happen.”

But it has. The Howard years are over. He accepts responsibility for the defeat.

I still hope he gets cancer.

10:49 PM: “I believe very strongly that Australia’s best years lie ahead of her” (John Howard). Damn right.

10:54 PM: SMH website:

Smh Itsover

11:03 PM: “Friends, please welcome the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd.”

11:07 PM: K-Rudd is starting his speech trying to be gracious towards Howard. Not what we need, or care, to hear about at this moment.

11:12 PM: “It’s time for a new page to be written in our nation’s history. The future is too important for us not to work together to embrace the challenges of the future and to carve out our nations destiny.” Etc.

Indigenous affairs, education, hospitals, climate change and water get a mention, and apparent;y we’re going to “get the balance right in terms of fairness and flexibility in the workplaces of the nation.”

The fair go is coming back. The economy will be kept strong but will “deliver for working families.” National security will be enhanced, while we’re at it.

My pants are still on.

“I extend our greetings tonight to our great friend and ally the United States.”

My pants are riding up.

11:27 PM: Rudd has finished speaking. I wonder how we came to have this boring, nerdy, conservative dullard as our Prime Minister. I guess the next few years will tell whether it’s a good result, a great result or just a THANK-GOD-WE-GOT-RID-OF-HOWARD result.