March 31, 2008
Interesting juxtaposition in the New Scientist e-mail:
Bugs provoke the immune system into fighting cancer
Deliberately infecting people with the bacterium that causes listeria could increase their ability to fight cancer
Corn-based film foils food poisoning bugs
A novel packaging film made from renewable materials such as corn residues, could help stamp out Listeria and other food-borne bugs
March 17, 2008
Very belatedly I notice from Crikey! that Tom Switzer, former opinion editor at the Australian, culture warrior, chum of Quadrant and the IPA, author of such brilliant columns as (re Cronulla) "Beach violence not a symptom of rampant racism", and the man who smeared Manning Clark as a Soviet agent, has become Brendan Nelson's chief of staff*.
Further comment seems unnecessary.
*Or some other thing in his office.
Front from the News
Putting me in mind of an Editor & Publisher article I mentioned at the time on the old blog, E&P editor, and author of So Wrong for So Long*, Greg Mitchell lists "eighteen things you've already forgotten about media coverage of the Iraq war" at Mother Jones. Over at E&P itself you can read Joe Galloway's preface to Mr Mitchell's book. Meanwhile, Louis Proyect reviews the film of the book War Made Easy by Norman Solomon, pursuing similar themes.
* Subtitle: How the Press, the Pundits - and the President - Failed on Iraq. NB.
March 16, 2008
Get Your Own Translations
Sterne relates the history of the name of Melbourne's Festival for No Apparent Reason:
[T]the festival owes its name to a brazen piece of political subversion that has since transcended its context to become one the most durable practical jokes in Australian history:I think I knew this and subsequently forgot it, so I'm glad to be reminded. It puts me in mind of Mungo MacCallum's story about how the Canberra water-police, whose duties at the time largely consisted of fishing corpses out of Lake Burley Griffin on those occasions local flooding washed bits of Queanbeyan cemetery into the river, ran a competition to name their new launch. A local academic suggested Platypus explaining it was appropriate because platypuses are aquatic, uniquely Australian, docile but capable of defending themselves, etc. The police duly chose this as the name for their new boat, at which point the academic explained his real reason for suggesting the name was that it was Greek for flatfoot.
One of the federation jubilee events of 1951 was an Aboriginal theatre production called An Aboriginal Moomba: Out of the Dark...The official history relates that the good citizens of Melbourne proceeded to moomba their brains out by the Yarra each March and - a clear indication of how self-assured white middle-class society was in the mid-20C - it wasn't until the late sixties that anybody bothered to consult further on the etymology of "moomba" and it was discovered that the whole thing was a big prank. It turns out that in certain local Aboriginal languages "moom" means "buttocks" or "anus" and "ba" can mean either "at", "in" or "on". "Moomba" can therefore be translated into the vernacular as "up your bum".
When a name was needed for Melbourne’s new festival, Bill Onus, president of the Australian Aborigines League and a performer in the earlier jubilee event, suggested ‘Moomba’ to the Melbourne City Council. The name had been successful for the theatre production and the council believed it to mean ‘let’s get together and have fun’.
Which is precisely the kind of joke you'd expect a Canberran academic to make.
March 12, 2008
As an exciting alternative to boring old history, Philip Chester, in the Australian, offers this:
In the anti-colonialist era following World War II, European masters began the process of returning lands to their original inhabitants.I don't think I've seen the bizarre delusions of Zionism better expressed than here, where the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people from their homes to make way for an invasion of Europeans is presented as a triumph of anti-colonialism. One wonders how seriously Chester takes the utterly batty notion that Palestine remained Jewish land despite two thousand years of being inhabited by other people, but styling that millennia [sic] long habitation as an "occupation" is a distortion as hilarious as it is vile, what with the sneering implication that the territories now cleansed of Palestinians have really been freed of an occupation rather than subjected to one. I suppose the pledges of Israel's giant invisible friend are sufficient to make it so, or perhaps Chester seeks to find another bond of commonality between Australia and Israel: the fantasy of terra nullius. (OK, to be fair to Chester, that's probably more of an American thing.)
What distinguished the Jews from other such people was that they had been expelled and forced to live in exile while the land they had lived in for 1500 years endured occupation for two millenniums. Their lives dependent on the whims of their rulers for countless years, they had shed tears in little European or North African villages when concluding the Passover service with the phrase "Next year in Jerusalem". But no longer: they were finally able to return and so did many Holocaust survivors and other persecuted immigrants.
Yes, the Jewish people's return to their ancestral homeland was an unprecedented event.
Apropos of which, it is unfortunate that, only a month after our sparkling new government had drawn a curtain over a sorry chapter of denialism regarding our own history by offering truth and contrition (but not compensation!) to the Stolen Generation, this anniversary of the Nakba did not strike our leaders as an opportunity to commemorate that tragedy rather than to unequivocally congratulate the nation founded on it.
March 11, 2008
Former U.S. Under-Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith has written a book. Hope he's got his blurbs ready.
"...without question, one of the most brilliant individuals in government." - Donald Rumsfeld
"The fucking stupidest guy on the face of the Earth." - Gen. Tommy Franks
Obviously, these are not mutually exclusive.
March 10, 2008
Via Larvatus Prodeo, "Election 2007: Did the union campaign succeed?" at the Australian Review of Public Affairs. Using a seat-by-seat analysis, the authors argue that reaction to WorkChoices and the union movement's Your Rights At Work campaign were the significant factors in the swing against the Howard government.
We are not claiming Labor would not have won the election had it not been for the ACTU campaign. Had the ACTU relied on a Labor-led campaign against WorkChoices, and not independently campaigned in marginal seats, it is more than likely Labor’s appeal to working families and the ACTU’s media campaign would have produced a broadly similar result. What we do claim, on the basis of this modelling, is that seats targeted by the ACTU produced significantly larger swings, and their campaign appears to have added to Labor’s margin of victory.I don't imagine this will stop the punditocracy from putting the whole thing down to Howard-fatigue or some other such substanceless notion that feeds into their unshakeable belief that voters are idiots swayed by trivialities, but there it is.
I found the authors' concluding paragraphs interesting:
In America, politics in recent years have been shaped by greater mobilisation of the union vote for the Democrats under a reformist AFL-CIO leadership that won office in 1996 (and their new rivals in the ‘Change to Win’ coalition). Union mobilisation of the vote is an offshoot of political unionism that has tried to respond to the declining capacity of industrial unionism (because of low union density and limited union impact on wages) and to the recognition that genuine political allies and legal change are increasingly necessary for organised labour’s revival. As Margaret Levi (2003) has made clear, the union movement depends not only on a strong shopfloor presence but on a favourable legal and political environment as well. Better laws are critical to the labour movement’s long-term hopes, both in the United States and in post-WorkChoices Australia...Given the historical role the rise of unions in the industrial sphere played in the development of modern democracy, with the extension of the franchise and the creation of parties representing the working majority, it's odd to think that the greater involvement in the political sphere currently necessitated by declined influence in the workplace itself might now serve to revitalise the unions in the industrial arena.
Australia’s compulsory voting system means there is relatively little research on mobilisation campaigns. Moreover, if voters are obliged to vote, there is little need to develop vast grass roots networks to mobilise them. Yet the YRAW campaign appears to be an example of the success of such a strategy. The decline in union density means, almost automatically, a weakening in political influence—both in a diminished voter bloc and perceptions of weakness that embolden opposition. Like the American labour movement, the ACTU has offset its declining natural constituency by more strongly mobilising its remaining membership, renewing it in the process. And so the tactics the ACTU employed during the 2007 election were much closer to those of a grass roots mobilisation than to the simple increase in resources, or targeted promises, that accompany other marginal seat campaigns. This is important both in highlighting the continuing power and importance of the union movement in Australia, and in opening up the possibility of the broader significance of electoral mobilisation by social movements. Perhaps the era of activist electoral politics is not yet dead, but waiting to be remobilised.
March 03, 2008
In other news:
Tom Gross, a media affairs columnist for the National Review Online, said there was a major difference between a shoah and the Shoah.In which case one hopes Matan Vilnai didn't make his remark in Hebrew given it has no capital letters.
March 02, 2008
Too Many Books
Fun With Google Docs Beta
In my defence, a few of these are home-made chap-books of internet printouts. Don't ask me how many of them I haven't read yet or I'll start to whimper.
I shall now toy with the idea of sharing my third-rate CD collection with the world.