27 09 2014

Grand final morning. Over the past few days I’ve been asked how I became an AFL fan, and reflected on what it means.

I’ve talked about getting a ticket to a game in 2005 & fell in love with structures & hard slog. It fits the narrative that I needed to be ‘converted’ from old ways, wrong paths. The truth is it took years & involved little change.

I was never good at sport. More accurately, in a family of reasonably handy, athletic types, my only contribution to the trophies displayed on top of the piano was a little medallion, ‘dux of Redhead Public School 1983’.

I was aware of the differences between my siblings & myself. My selected sport was tennis. I went off to lessons at 7am every Saturday for years. Tennis wasn’t a bad fit for a broad-shouldered kid who towered over boys my age, but I knew I would never be as good as my Dad. He was the yardstick. A local champion in everything he tried, but I tried to make my brain fit the programme. I tried to be effortless, like him. I wasn’t. Years of Saturday mornings spent in my own head. I wouldn’t surrender. I couldn’t just go with it. There was no joy, so I quit.

While my brother & sisters were inculcated with the real family ‘sport’ of surf lifesaving, I wasn’t selected. I didn’t press my body into action after lying prone on the sand, sprinting for a flag. I didn’t row boats that were throwbacks to the 1930s. My family would go to surf carnivals around Australia & I stayed home. My Dad’s name was on all of the honour boards, swimming, sprinting, rowing & I was deeply connected to the achievement but not the culture. I understood it. I just didn’t belong.

Strange girl. I’d happily spend Saturday nights watching ‘Match of the Day’ on the little TV in my parents’ bedroom just for a glimpse of my heroes. Devils in red. Robson, Irwin, Hughes. I remember Gary Pallister’s transfer fee and the signing of the archest enemy, the Leeds United captain who became Le Roi Cantona, and a mop haired boy whose feet fairly skipped down the left wing. I loved them, but I wasn’t at the Stretford End. I was in a real life Summer Bay in which I didn’t belong.

I moved to Europe in my mid-20s & how my South London local heaved the night at the Nou Camp. The night Scholes & Keane spent on the sidelines & the sublime substitutes, Sheringham & Solskjær. A fearsome Dane cartwheeling in front of a goal he’d deserted & been ordered back to defend. I knew that this was how it felt to belong to something & it was glorious.

I came back from Europe & found a new team, a new game. Defending governments came naturally. I’d always loved defenders or any kind, the ones prepared to break a leg, their own or an opponent’s, to save a goal. For five years I believed in something & I defended it to journalists and turned defence into offense with words delivered across a brass barrier. I watched & smiled as another team was skewered by mine. I belonged. I was part of something, a team with one purpose.

And then I wasn’t. Even when I came out of ‘retirement’, it was over. I defended ideas & people I had no faith in. I was there, but I didn’t belong. Then things went very wrong for me & there was no belonging to anything or anyone. I needed a purpose to stop the aloneness, not to break, not to stay in my head. I found it in a sea of red & white.

As a way of forcing myself to open the door to my flat, I became a member of a club within a club. I paid so much for my membership that I dare not miss a game, a function, no matter how badly the metallic taste of panic surged.

Of course I’m a fan; I would die in a ditch rather than hear them denigrated for daring to be more than blokes chasing a ball. I’ll ask for a photo & secretly smile when I see a ‘like’ on my Twitter feed or Instagram, but I hate watching the same people year after year chasing them across rooms to sign things I know they have a dozen of & are probably flogging for a premium. I have superstitions which probably qualify as OCD, I wear the colours & I will travel across the country to finals knowing that my little rituals are meaningless & that they can’t hear me shout, cheer or clap, but I like to be there if even for a moment they sense that someone else is on their side.

I belong to something which has given me more than I can ever repay. May the best team win (but let it be my bloodstained angels).

No fairytales

7 09 2014

After last weekend’s three-point win against the Sydney Swans sealed its ninth win in a row and eighth place on the ladder, the Richmond Tigers’ second finals appearance in five years was widely hailed as the ‘fairytale’ of the 2014 AFL season. It’s a projection Richmond carried through today on its banner – the only thing those wearing yellow & black ran through this afternoon at Adelaide Oval. There was no fairytale. To steal from Sam Seaborn, Port Adelaide did not seek, nor did they provoke such a story. Instead, they rose and mastered the occasion, and reminded all that their capacity may well be limitless.

On paper, both clubs’ results over the last five seasons are strikingly similar. Two finals appearances and three fairly wretched home and away seasons. Both boast some remarkable individual talent – Richmond’s Cotchin, Deledio, Martin, Rance and dual Coleman Medalist, Jack Riewoldt; Port Adelaide’s Wingard, Westhoff, Trengove, Harlett and Boaks. Each faced financial ruin – Port Adelaide’s red staunched thanks to the SANFL & AFL underwriting millions in debt, Richmond saved from liquidation in 1990 by its members, and its football department’s stocks boosted by supporters in 2011. The difference? The gulf between the top four and the rest should really be the top five. While Port Adelaide’s apparatus will likely hang precariously for the next five to 10 years, a list that has not changed much since the arrival of senior coach Ken Hinkley in 2013 is going onto the second week of the finals for the second consecutive year. Richmond’s onfield performance in the last two finals series doesn’t reflect the energy and ability of its CEO, Brendon Gale, or the commitment of its 60,000 members to erase its debt and give the club a decent shot at a flag.

Those members deserve to collect more than the insipid performance delivered today by players who celebrated like they had won the flag last week – and they deserve better than to represent themselves as Australian football’s traumatic bonders. That the record shows a 57-point loss is bad enough. The reality is Port scored 57 points in the first quarter and played to protect themselves from injury for the final 30 minutes. If I hadn’t been at the SCG to see the Sydney Swans beat Geelong by 110 points in round 11, I’d say this was not the worst performance of the season, but the most shocking. Port took Adelaide Oval like a Panzer division; Richmond had the ignition timing of a Datsun 180B.

In 1890, Port Adelaide were crowned the first ‘Champions of Australia’, defeating the Victorian Football Association premiers – South Melbourne – by three points at Adelaide Oval. I don’t believe in fairytales, but I am superstitious & never happier to see the Swans on the other side of a finals draw.

None so blind…

19 08 2014

By the 2011 election, I was so mentally & emotionally done with all things Macquarie Street that when my sister casually mentioned the Liberal candidate for Newcastle, Tim Owen was carpet bombing local television with this ad, I shrugged.

As far as media buying goes, Newcastle is a pretty expensive market. Political parties’ TV spend in State elections is usually devoted to a few generic ads.  A major party candidate producing & buying space for his own TVC? Pretty rare.

Tim Owen’s free-fall from respected senior military officer to politician (a tumble in itself) to bum-fuzzled early retiree from politics to self-confessed liar and taker of cash from Jeff ‘Walking ATM’ McCloy might have come a little earlier if someone – anyone – had done the sums on that ad.

Why I Support Democracy (I know, it’s a very controversial position)

7 03 2014

Great points raised by Charles Firth re: MEAA


MEAA by Charles Firth

Whenever I bump into Chris Warren (usually at a booze up), I always make a bee line over to him to discuss one thing: term limits for union officials.

I do this partly because I like seeing his flushed, pink cheeks tense up with irritation, but also because I have been a frustrated member for many, many years.

Unless you’re of the generation where the Vietnam War was the major issue, you probably feel a similar level of frustration.

The MEAA’s business model has been broken for a long time. For years it seemed to be based on a rather optimistic hope that the internet would go away, so big newsrooms would come back into vogue.

It certainly has never worked out a way to become relevant to the thousands of independent production, digital media and PR professionals who aren’t quite journalists, aren’t quite actors, aren’t quite…

View original post 937 more words

sunday afternoon ladyboner courtesy of @twhiddleston

23 02 2014

Vois-tu, vois-tu venir ce bonheur qui nous attend…

Killer facts

7 02 2014

There are no facts, only interpretations.

Friedrich Nietzche

On 23 January 2014, the ABC reported the following quote from NSW Bar Association president, Mr Phillip Boulten SC:

“There’s no evidence at all that mandatory sentencing ever decreases the amount of crime that’s committed and it has the ability to act unfairly on vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

“It isn’t effective, it’s not a deterrent, it just leads to more people being locked up for no good purpose.”

On 5 February 2014, the ABC’s Fact Checking Unit found Boulten SC was ‘overreaching’ in his claim. In determining its ‘verdict’, Fact Check relied on five examples of the outcomes of mandatory minimum sentencing.

Fact Check example: The 1997 Northern Territory Sentencing Act for certain property crimes – repealed in 2001 (property crime went up).

The Act provided a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 14 days for a first offence, 90 days for a second property offence and one year for a third property offence (the Act was amended in 1999 to provide for alternatives to sentencing in ‘exceptional circumstances’). The Juvenile Justice Act provided that a person aged 15 to 18 who has been convicted for a certain property offence and has at least one prior conviction for such an offence, must be detained for at least 28 days (with additional measures applicable on top of the mandatory minimum). Until 2000, children between 17-18 years were treated as adults under the Sentencing Act rather than under juvenile justice legislation.

The result was an explosion in incarceration rates, with associated costs, particularly among the Indigenous population, largely due to the inconsistencies of the mandatory sentencing regime. For example, the theft of petrol from a bowser attracted a mandatory sentence, the theft of a tankful of petrol through the use of a fraudulent credit card – a ‘white collar crime’ more likely to be committed by non-Indigenous offenders – did not. In this submission to the UN Human Rights Commission, the Australian Human Rights Commission details research findings & case studies including:

  • Two 17 year old girls with no previous criminal convictions both sentenced to 14 days in prison for theft of clothes from other girls who were staying in the same room.
  • A 15 year old girl was detained for 28 days for unlawful possession of a vehicle – she was a passenger.
  • A 17 year old petrol sniffer from an Aboriginal community was sentenced to seven months plus 120 days for stealing food, alcohol, cigarettes, soft drink and petrol and causing associated minor property damage. The stolen items were consumed with friends. His sentence was based on the mandatory detention formula (120 days) with an additional seven months. He had very little family support and his record was clean until June 1998.
  • A 15 year old Aboriginal boy attempted suicide while in police custody, having been arrested for a mandatory detention offence (property damage). He broke a window after hearing about the suicide of a close friend.
  • A 27 year old white teacher disputed the quality of a hotdog at a Darwin fast food bar and poured water onto the till. She paid in full for the damage she caused. She was sentenced to 14 days in prison.
  • A 29 year old homeless Indigenous man wandered into a backyard when drunk and took a $15 towel. It was his third minor property offence. He was imprisoned for one year.
  • An 18 year old man was sentenced to 90 days in prison for stealing 90 cents from a motor vehicle.

Confession: the 90 days for 90 cents’ worth of petrol is probably the most useful case study I have found to use against the introduction of mandatory minimum sentencing on cost-effectiveness grounds. For this one-cent-a-day crime, taxpayers coughed up about $15,ooo (based on estimates contained in the 1995-96 NT Correctional Services Annual Report).

Fact Check example: Western Australia’s “three-strikes and you’re in” law for home burglaries in 1996.

Fact Check doesn’t assess the efficacy of the 1996 laws at all. Handy. As the adage goes, if you want something done (properly), do it yourself – so I did. The AHRC submission states:

“The Western Australian laws provide that when convicted for a third time or more for a home burglary, adult and juvenile offenders must be sentenced to a minimum of 12 months imprisonment or detention. This is regardless of the gravity of the offence.”

If the results of research detailed here were not so serious, they’d be laughable:

  • Aboriginal children constituted 80 per cent of the three strikes cases in the Children’s Court of Western Australia from February 1997 to May 1998.
  • In the four months after the amendment of the Act, an average of seven children a month were given mandatory sentences.
  • In 93 per cent of cases where the juvenile was from a non-metropolitan area, the juvenile was Indigenous.
  • 34 per cent of all prisoners in WA were Indigenous.
  • The rate of imprisonment of Indigenous people was 21.7 times higher than that of the non-Indigenous population.
  • Aboriginal juveniles comprise approximately one-third of the Children’s Court caseload.

Fact Check example: mandatory minimum sentences for any assault on a police officer, introduced by WA’s Barnett Government in 2009. Fact Check appears to have relied on this WA Government media release to support its statement that:

“… the results indicate crime decreased under the 2009 legislation which introduced mandatory minimum sentences for police assaults. The then police minister Rob Johnson and attorney-general Christian Porter announced a 28 per cent decrease in assaults on police officers one year after the laws were introduced.”

It’s one thing for a government to trumpet a percentage, but for a fact checking service to report one figure at the top of a press release without any context is inexplicable – particularly when the information is contained on the same page.

Of the 377 offences reported between September 2009 and September 2010 (following the introduction of the mandatory minimum sentence) only 14 charges were brought (12 for bodily harm or grievous bodily harm to a police officer; one against a prison officer, and one against a transit officer approved by police prosecutions central division). At the time of the media release, five offenders were in remand awaiting trial; one offender was subject to a bench warrant; one case was downgraded by the DPP to assault public officer and the other two cases were discontinued. Below is a list of the offences and sentences of five offenders who were found guilty of, or pleaded guilty under the mandatory minimum sentencing laws:

  • Female offender at Kelmscott Train Station bit right arm of a female transit officer causing swelling, bruising and bleeding. The victim was conveyed to hospital for treatment and underwent a blood test due to bodily fluid exposure. Imprisonment nine months
  • Female offender in Rangeway punched a male police officer to the right side of the face causing immediate pain and swelling. The victim required analgesics and pain-killing injection. Imprisonment nine months
  • Male offender on Roe Highway punched a police officer to the mouth causing a large split in the lower lip, which required five stitches, as well as swelling and soreness to the area of his jaw. Imprisonment six months, one day
  • Female offender at Broome Police Station struck a police officer to the face causing bleeding and swelling to the nose. Medical treatment was sought for possible broken nose. Imprisonment six months, one day
  • Female offender in Northbridge punched female police officer to the face causing sustained fractures to left cheekbone, severe soreness in the face with suspected dental complications. Victim will require ongoing treatment. Awaiting sentencing.

Fact Check then takes our mandatory minimum tour to the United States.

Fact Check example: “In 1992, mandatory sentences were introduced for firearm offences in Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania.”

Hello, Fact Checkers! Anyone home? The Northwestern School of Law study cited was published in 1992. It is based on differing gun laws introduced in 1977 (Michigan, two-year sentence for the possession of a firearm while committing any felony); 1975 (Florida, three-year sentence for persons convicted of committing any of 12 specified felonies while in possession of a firearm), and 1982 (Pennsylvania, five-year minimum sentence for any of seven violent crimes if (1) the offense was committed with visible possession of a firearm; (2) the defendant had been convicted of the same offense within the past seven years; or (3) the crime was committed in or near public transportation facilities).

The authors’ methodology for concluding that mandatory minimum sentencing has reduced gun crime in the three States has been widely criticised. When evaluating data from the sample cities – Detroit (MI); Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami (FL), Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (PA) – specifically, the authors found the following:

  • A statistically significant decrease in the number of gun homicides in Detroit, but no significant change in other offenses. We concluded from this study that the results best fit a model in which the mandatory sentencing law did not have a preventive effect on crime.
  • Significant decreases in Tampa gun homicides and Jacksonville gun assaults. Unarmed robberies increased significantly in Tampa and Miami, but armed robberies did not change. In addition, there was a significant increase in Tampa gun assaults. Again, we concluded that the results did not support a preventive effect model.
  • Statistically significant decreases in gun homicides in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The decrease in Philadelphia gun homi-cides was mirrored by a reduction in non-gun homicides, however, and there was no change in gun assaults or robberies in the state of Pennsylvania. Alone, the Pennsylvania estimates do not strongly challenge the conclusion that the statutes have no preventive effect.

McDowall, Loftin and Wiersema went on to standardise & pool the data they had collected over relatively short & differing post-intervention periods & offences, ranging from twenty-four months for Detroit to sixty-three months for assaults and robberies in the Florida cities.


Venturing out on a limb, the decreases in gun homicides might correlate to advances in medical intervention saving the lives of more gunshot victims in the period between the introduction of mandatory sentencing. Maybe the results are skewed by the short-term nature of the periods studied. Maybe they don’t take into account external factors such as a spike in poverty in Detroit, homelessness & job insecurity, or drug-related crime. Have a look at some more recent state-by-state data: gun homicides are up in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and comprised almost 75 per cent of all homicides in both States. The rate of robberies with firearms was above 50 percent in both States. The rate of assaults using a firearm were an incredible 86 per cent in Michigan (yep, people are shooting each other, but not dying), and 39 per cent in Pennsylvania. As Tony Abbott would say, “baddies” are overwhelmingly the victims: in Philadelphia, the percentage of those killed in gun homicides that had prior criminal records increased from 73 per cent in 1985 to 93 per cent in 1996. Detroit – declared America’s most dangerous city by Forbes magazine four years’ running – is bankrupt. In 2010, 32 children died in gun violence. Of the 500 child homicide deaths in Detroit since 2000, a Detroit News investigation claimed most were gun-related. This data set (from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports) does not contain information from Florida (or Alabama, for that matter). I tried the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but the website didn’t want to play ball, but as these reports show, while the overall homicide rate in Florida is falling, gun murders are increasing. Between 2007 and 2010, more than 9,000 people died in gun-related violence in the State, which has a population of around 19 million and three times as many gun dealers than post offices.

Fact Check example: “California introduced a three-strikes policy in 1994, which imposed a life sentence for a list of serious and minor crimes if the offender had two previous convictions for crimes defined as serious or violent.” Fact Check refers to a 2007 study to reach its conclusion that the three-strikes policy resulted in a measurable decrease in crime:

“Researchers at George Mason University in Virginia found arrest rates were 17 to 20 per cent lower for the group of offenders convicted of two-strike eligible offences, compared to those convicted of one-strike eligible offences. The authors concluded this indicated that the three-strikes policy was deterring recidivists from committing crimes.”

None of this research (or ABC’s Fact Check) take into account whether mandatory minimums are the best way of curbing crime.

Firstly, mandatory minimums are inconsistently applied: perhaps the most infamous of California’s ‘three strikes’ cases involved Jerry Dewayne Williams, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison just months after the laws were passed. His ‘third strike’? Stealing a slice of pepperoni pizza. In 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that Williams went back to court following a California Supreme Court ruling that judges could reduce life sentences handed out to ‘third strikers’ by overlooking previous convictions, and was released in 1999. While he claims to ‘live on eggshells’, Williams has skated on incredibly thin ice since his release, with prosecutors not treating a 2003 felony charge of making a criminal threat as a third strikes. Barred from leaving the county following his release from 17 days’  jail, he moved and triggered an arrest warrant which remains active. Since moving, he has been arrested once for being drunk in public but was released without charge.

Secondly, mandatory minimums are not cost-effective: there are increased costs in the court system as more defendants contest charges to try to avoid mandatory penalties where they otherwise may have pleaded guilty. In 1999, Nicholas Cowdery estimated the cost of keep a prisoner imprisoned for a year at about $60,000 and approximately $200,000 to build a new cell. That money could be spent on crime prevention by investing in improving education, pre-school care and health care, especially if targeted at those at risk of offending.

Finally, mandatory minimums do not act as a deterrent (generally or specifically), given that deterrence rests on the assumption that people are rational actors who do a cost/benefit analysis before committing a crime. Much crime, especially violent crime, is impulsive. Mandatory minimums are of little deterrence to the poor & minority groups, leading to over-representation in custody and mandatory minimum sentences applied following relatively minor crimes. In the NT in 1999, an Aboriginal man was sentenced to jail for a year for stealing $23 worth of biscuits & cordial from a Groote Eylandt mine site smoko room (his two previous convictions were for property crimes). In California, about 40 percent of three-strikers are either mentally retarded or mentally ill, & also likely to be black. Blacks make up seven percent of the population, 28 percent of the prison population and 45 percent of the three-strikers (source: Rolling Stone, 27 March 2013. If this compelling Matt Taibbi article does not make you decry mandatory minimum sentences, you should be sentenced to a week in 3rd class to work on reading comprehension).

Fact Check’s final piece of evidence on the ‘overreach’ claim is this 2007 study by the Vera Institute of Justice in New York, which examined the effectiveness of incapacitation (i.e. depriving criminals of the opportunity to offend under all forms of sentencing, mandatory or otherwise). The study estimated that a 10 per cent increase in incarceration rates is associated with a 2 to 4 per cent drop in crime. Fact Check leaves it there. The report goes on to state:

“… the most sophisticated analyses generally agree that increased incarceration rates have some effect on reducing crime, but the scope of that impact is limited… moreover, analysts are nearly unanimous in their conclusion that continued growth in incarceration will prevent considerably fewer, if any, crimes than past increases did and will cost taxpayers substantially more to achieve.

Fact Check sought expert opinion on incapacitation from the chair of the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council, Arie Freiberg, (incapacitation); on rates of crime from Don Weatherburn, director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics (and Research) and from Professor Geraldine Mackenzie, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Bond University (deterrence). Their verdict? “…there is not much evidence that mandatory sentencing reduces the level of crime being committed, but there is some.”

My verdict? The ABC published Boulten’s ‘none, nyet, nada evidence’ remarks on 23 January. The Fact Check unit chose to examine those words and published its response yesterday. Given the time that elapsed, surely it should have provided further context, such as remarks made by Cowdery in the same piece – (mandatory minimum sentencing) is ‘naive and not supported by research and a lot of work that’s been done in that area’ and/or remarks & statements made by Boulten and others in the intervening period. Yesterday, the Newcastle Herald published an excerpt from an address to Newcastle Court for the opening of the law term by Peter Cummings SC, president of the Newcastle Bar Association as an opinion piece. Cummings SC joined Boulten SC, NSW Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Bathurst and former Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery in slamming the introduction of ‘one punch’ laws or mandatory minimum sentences.

Fact Check states on its website that its ‘focus will be on statements likely to influence the public debate, rather than minor errors or gotcha moments involving trivial gaffes. Opinions and exaggerated rhetoric will be avoided. Our aim is to be 100 per cent accurate. But if a mistake is made, the item in question will be corrected and the verdict revised. Statements can be both right and wrong, depending on when they were said. Determinations are therefore based on evidence available at the time’.

On these criteria, was Boulten’s claim the most important made in the highly contentious and much-publicised issue of mandatory minimum sentences to be introduced in NSW? Is his voice more likely to influence public debate than the Premier of NSW? Fact Check has not checked other claims on the NSW mandatory minimum sentencing debate, even the claim that Sydney is in the grip of an ‘epidemic of street violence‘.

Yes, pedants: Boulten SC should have replaced ‘none’ with ‘scant’, ‘little’, ‘minimal’, ‘limited’, ‘negligible’, or ‘insufficient’; but in ignoring the content & context of his entire quote and the evidence it used to arrive at its ‘overreach’ verdict, this ‘fact check’ is an unsatisfying waste of bandwidth that leads to more questions than it answers.

Disclosure: I applied for a job as a fact checker with the ABC. I failed (not interviewed). Related: I have the time to write 3,000 words on fact checking.

Sleeping with the fishes

31 01 2014

I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Don Vito Corleone

The Godfather, 1972.

It’s hardly a ‘take out the trash’ news day.

  • Ian Thorpe is in rehab.
  • Amanda Knox has been found guilty (again) of the murder of her roommate.
  • The Abbott Government has left the Goulburn Valley swinging.

But no … the Australian Labor Party just CANNOT keep it together.

Unhappy with being punted from the number one spot on the South Australian ALP Senate ticket (for the actually popular, generally admired & copiously talented Senator Penny Wong), Senator Don Farrell (he of doing pretty much fuck all for the people of South Australia, let alone Australia or anyone but himself & his factional mates) was offered a sweet deal by a minister in the Weatherill government, Michael O’Brien for the safe ALP state seat of Napier the day after the 2013 Federal election.

O’Brien & Farrell wanted to keep this news from the voters of Napier until next Monday, when Labor’s state executive meets to consider remaining candidates, the nomination process and length of time for campaigning. Unfortunately for them, The Australian printed an exclusive today.

Premier Jay Weatherill seems like a decent person. News Limited outlets are reporting (& O’Brien told 891 Breakfast) that Weatherill knew of the deal last week, but wanted to hold off until after the election, fearing an electoral backlash.

This is what O’Brien has to say for himself this morning:

“Don and I go back 30 years. We’re extremely close friend and it was my view that he would be a great loss to public life so I rang him on the Sunday morning and put the offer to him.”

He then went on to sort of blame the Oz for the inconvenience. Apparently, his deal, done almost five months ago, was too good to be shared with the electors of Napier & the Premier of the bloody State who launched the election campaign on Sunday. When Weatherill told ABC Radio he will reconsider the leadership if Farrell seeks accepts preselection, I take him at his word.

Terrific. The election is SEVEN WEEKS AWAY & we have swinging dicks at 10 paces.

Who the bloody hell do these bastards think they are?

O’Brien to Farrell: “Mate, we’ll get Albanese & the rest of the bastards who shafted you for that lefty lesbian. Here old mate, have my seat.”

Farrell to O’Brien: “Mate …”

It’s a ‘Kirribilli agreement’ for puny minded ‘power brokers’. Bugger the people, the party & the ALP’s chances of governing.

The odious Farrell has the hide to embrace ‘The Godfather’ tag, smugly telling the Oz last October:

“Sometimes they call me `The Godfather’, but of course there were a couple of sequels to The Godfather, so you just have to be patient in this game.”

I can picture it now. Michael O’Brien as the piss-weak Fredo. Jay Weatherill as Tom Hagen – ‘not a wartime consigliere’ (well, we’ll see).

Don Farrell? He’s Don Fanucci in The Godfather II. Nothing more than a low bully.




the murky swamp of mass atrocity data

3 01 2014

daniel solomon

Evangelists of “big data,” the possibility of computed knowledge at unprecedented scale, often describe our contemporary world as a “sea” of information. Data scientists have more and better knowledge of how humans behave, how they interact, how they cooperate, and how they conflict, generated as much by our own actions–through the Internet, mostly–as by those who surveil us. For some problems, the dataset is a near perfect match. Commercial airlines use “frequent flyer” programs to track when their customers fly, and to where; electoral strategists manipulate marketing information to infer norms, cultural preferences, and political opinions among likely voters. Amid a unfathomable sea, these data are intimate and human. Sgt. Pepper’s “day in the life,” once framed by a cup of coffee, is now an ever-present data-stream. We wake up, we create data; we go to the bodega, we create data; we set up shop in a six-by-six cubicle. We…

View original post 522 more words

On sport, and identity | Part I

31 12 2013

“… culture isn’t something that people exist and work within, but something that they are inextricably part of and contribute to, for better or for worse … You are the culture, so are you going to be a force for good or bad? “

Philip Darbyshire

The Australian, 25 June 2013.

“Kimberley, a bit of PATRIOTISM please.”

I received this admonishment via Twitter direct message for my vocal support of the English cricket team during the Brisbane Test.

It’s a question posed fairly regularly whenever cricket is played. You’re Australian. How can you cheer for the other side?

The answer is twofold.

I was a cricketing child of the late 1970s and 1980s and I loved watching the West Indies play. I loved the relentless pace attack, a production line stretching from Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Joel Garner through to Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose. I loved the devastating panache of one I.V.A. Richards. I loved the immutability of the best opening partnership in Test cricket history: Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. I had a ‘C’mon Aussie C’mon’ World Series Cricket beach towel, but I always put my hand up as ‘Big Bird’ in the daily matches played in the wide, grassy areas at Moby Dick Caravan Park, Pacific Palms. I loved the game, and the Windies captivated my soul.

I shared the love among individual players from all nations. Dennis Lillee, Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan, Sunil Gavaskar, David Gower. I loved the genuine contest between the cricketing nations of my youth. That seemed to disappear with the resurgence of Australian cricket under Allan Border. Border was the captain Australia needed after the DLP-style schisms of the Packer years and rebel tours of South Africa, but I just couldn’t warm to the ‘hard-edge’ mentality. As Border himself warned in 2005, Australia’s dominance became a negative. The brilliance of Lara disguised the Icarus-style plunge of cricket in the Caribbean. Post-apartheid South African sides including Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock under performed. New Zealand? I don’t remember anything about New Zealand cricket apart from Daniel Vettori and the change from brown to black one-day colours. For a shining hour, I cheered on Zimbabwe until the Mugabe regime’s fuckwittery made the country (never mind the cricket team) a horror show of hyper-inflation and internal displacement. I became more interested in the cricketing fault lines on the subcontinent, as the Pakistan of Wasim and Waqar gave way to the slumbering, lumbering Inzi and the crazily-gifted laziness of Shoaib Aktar. Sri Lanka, relatively new to Test cricket, delivered the doosra, Jayasuriya and Jayawardene; but the treatment of Murali Muralitharan in Australia was abject. A great of the game labelled a ‘chucker’ by our Prime Minister and viciously attacked by spectators who could not or would not entertain the thought that we were privileged to witness two very different masters of spin bowling. Wiser heads shook in disgust. Andrew Symonds was subjected to disgraceful racial vilification on tour in India. The Barmy Army booed Ricky Ponting in England. Bottles were thrown at Australian players on the pitch in Jamaica. For every event, there had to be a repulsive comeback. On field hostility and the sheer ugliness of cricketing crowds across the world were enabled by the dismissiveness of the cricket establishment. Perhaps naively, I never imagined I would witness it first hand, but I did in the summer of 2003/04. That’s when I fell completely away from Australian cricket. India’s batting line up was the first to rival the West Indian pacemen for a place in my heart. Sehwag, Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar. They were individually astonishing, but the Sydney Test was something special. Sehwag swashed and buckled. Laxman’s lyrical big ton. Ganguly’s refusal to declare until day three. Dravid’s elegant, unbeaten 2nd innings They weren’t just raining on Steve Waugh’s parade, they were dancing in the Australian captain’s place, on his home ground, in the match he had dictated would be his final Test.

And then there was Sachin.

I saw Sachin Tendulkar at the crease for hours, plowing his way to his highest Test score. Not so much a pretty innings, but character writ on his bat. It should have been everything anyone who loved cricket could hope to see, regardless of your allegiance. Sitting near me on the boundary in the Noble Stand, a group of Australian men sprayed racial abuse at Tendulkar, to the obvious distress of Indian families around them and the oblivion of the titan at the crease. An Australian fielder turned his back on play, and laughed with the men. ‘Little Master? He’s a fucking little curry muncher!’ A pantomime shake of the head. Roars from the drunks. The player resumed his attention to the game, too late to hear me stand and spit venom at ‘my fellow countrymen’. I copped an earful, of course and gave it back until a friend dragged me away. The behaviour of the spectators was appalling, and the player joining in took the biscuit. I didn’t go on Day 5. There was no joy in my heart for what had become the Steve Waugh Show.

I am reminded regularly that other teams and other crowds behave just as poorly, if not worse. I don’t yearn for a time when cricket spectators the world over sipped cups of tea and clapped politely regardless of the team they support. It never existed. Everyone sledges, ‘patriotic’ fans stick it to the enemy, and we’ll just paper over the cracks by serving mid-strength hops-flavoured water and ban beer snakes and beach balls. ‘Everyone else does it,’ is the excuse of squabbling siblings in the back seat of a car. Grow up. I’m not English, or South African or Indian. I have the privilege of an Australian birthplace and passport, but I choose not to be part of a culture which does not strive to lead on and off the field. I’ll congratulate Australian players on their milestones even if boorish, sulky English players don’t. That’s my code. I’m not asking your permission, or for you to join this club of one. I’ve watched plenty of cricket, from the NSW Country Cup, T20, one-days and Test matches and not seen anything else remotely like it, but the memory of that January day a decade ago feels like a tattoo of an ex-boyfriend’s name. From reports and images of crowd behaviour in Bays M1-M10 at the MCG during the Boxing Day Test, it’s not getting better. Not yet.

PS: I’m crazy for the Southern Stars, but you know, they’re just ‘ladies … looking good as always‘.

Bloodshed in Bangui: A Day That Will Define Central African Republic

7 12 2013

Confronting words & images. Don’t turn away.