I’ll end this period of webdiary introspection today with a summation of what I’ll report to Tom on improvements.
There is near unanimity that the diary should be snappy, the home for my comment and your short-take feedback, and that you also want longer, more analytical pieces and compilations of pieces on topics that run. That’s cool, but I want to retain flexibility and I do want the issues you want to take up to begin their life on the diary. When I shift debates off to the right, I’ll notify updates in the main diary.
The non-technical suggestions I like and will pursue are:
* to occasionally commission a considered piece on a topic, post it on a Friday and seek your responses. Suggestions on topics and writers welcome. The head of the religion deprtment at Radio National, Stephen Crittenden, has agreed to do a piece next week on rethinking the role of the States. He got interested in the issue in his role as organiser of the Centenary of Federation Deakin lectures, to run over ten days in Melbourne next month.
* to create a page listing contributors and their disclosures.
* to ask experts, insiders, whatever to comment on contributor’s pieces.
* to ask a question or make a statement asking for contributions limited to say 50 words – a short sharp taste of reader opinion.
* to have a contributor’s quote of the day box.
The technical suggestions I’ll see what we can do with are:
* Now that email numbers are getting bigger, I’m dead keen on cutting down the terribly time consuming, mechanical task of sub editing your emails in their various formats and transferring them to my work page. If there’s no big objections from you, it would be great to have a standard contribution form so everything can land on my computer in one format. This would also allow us to trial a rudimentary automatic archiving system, which would take me too much time to do manually.
* A hypertext function so that, among other things, if a contributor is responding you can quickly find the original item
* A discussion forum
* When the diary is too long, summarise longer pieces and hot link them to the full text, and use bookmarks and pop-up-boxes to aid navigation and keep the diary manageable.
To end the week, milk forces its way back with a charming contribution by Gina Desta (nom de plume till she finalises a new job), who experiences the pitfalls of solidarity and discovers a new factor in the cost-benefit equation – the aesthetics of dairy farming.
Polly Bush rejoins the drugs debate, and gives us the rundown on pollie-chicks Pauline and Natasha. Marc Pengryffyn, who’s been going for it this week, responds to Elen Seymour and Jack Robertson on foreign investment. Lastly, just because I like him, David Davis subscribes to my “charter”. I must warn you, David, more than one reader is wondering why you don’t disagree with me any more!
I just wanted to tell you that the dairy farmers can be their own worst enemy. The other week I spent my good STD money ringing a dairy farmers organisation up north to offer support and discuss my fears about buying agribusiness cows milk from cows fed on bits of animal and how big the market would be for grass-fed milk.
The receptionist was a dairy farmer (a woman), and I mentioned that I pay a fortune for Japanese soy milk, pointing out that people like me silly enough to pay over $3.00 a litre for the stuff would be happy to pay an immense premium for a guaranteed-quality, non gm-fed milk product. (I wanted to emphasise that the average consumer doesn’t know anything about milk production or that the vast majority of small dairy farms have virtually purely grass fed cows…and that this needs to be highlighted on the packaging).
I was roundly boxed on the ears over the phone for daring to buy soy milk!!! I was savagely abused and had to terminate the conversation – who needs enemies????
By the way, the main reason for my own passion about this deregulation issue is that I love driving through farmscapes and I’m acutely aware that farmers everywhere are subsidising my aesthetic pleasures to the max!
Thanks for giving my last effort a run (in Natasha, Cheryl and Pauline). It was kind of satisfying to watch the small but interesting snowball effect. I need another venting.
Marc Pengryffyn’s point on drugs decriminalization and profiteering (in Not too wanky) made me remember a Bill Leak Cartoon, and the profiteering that goes on under prohibition. It had a thug type character reading a newspaper with a headline along the lines of PM Rejects Shooting Gallery. The response from the crime boss was see, the Government is doing something for small business. Beautiful.
I also liked Robert Lawton’s warnings about bandaid approaches through harm minimisation programs (in Cut and paste). People sometimes assume because I’m an ex-user that I would naturally support injecting rooms. It’s not that I’m against them, I just think its a case of priorities.
Firstly, help should be given to those who want help. Rehab needs to see some of that GST revenue that god knows must be piling up. The availability in both bed numbers and location has definite room for improvement.
For location purposes, I did my stint at the arse end of a public hospital (think Virgin Blue at Mascot). I was the youngest there by about thirty years, and the only female except for the staff. The other patients were recovering alcoholics. Needless to say there was that element of humility having my name sprawled on the whiteboard with the only OPIATE to be seen.
But apart from the lack of confidence building measures it helped me. I know through others it doesn’t work for everyone, but if someone actually gets to that point of putting their hand up and saying “I want to stop this”, we should give them every chance to do so, rather then responding with call back in a few weeks.
Some questions and problems arise with injecting rooms. They have to be done properly, that is, the smack needs to be supplied and clean. This brings up a whole can of worms with what is and isn’t prohibited.
The problem with users supplying their own heroin is simple: people won’t come, or they’ll meet their dealer out the front, and with the current laws the potential for the plod to prohibit is, well, there. I reckon if I had scored 500 metres away from an injecting room I would’ve been more likely to make a beeline for the nearest toilet/laneway/stairwell/car than take the sensible road to supervision.
Another problem with injecting rooms is the restrictions. By law, I think those that have attempted to get injecting rooms off the ground are restricting them to 18 plus, and registered addicts. So the 15 year old user is turned away, as is the ex-user/occasional dabbler, who is probably at a greater risk of overdosing due to a decline in tolerance. And what about the virgin veins out there that want a slice? Back to the kerb.
So now I’m at this point where I’m hearing the echoes of what I imagine Fiona Ferrari’s voice to sound like: less complaints and more solutions. At the moment Im struggling.
On a different note, I’m guessing CIO readers aren’t as familiar with Aussie Post as they are with your site. What grabbed my attention (apart from the subheadings Blind Girl Begs – Give me back my kangarooand Sharks banned from city pub) was the cover picture of Hanson and Stott Despoja with the headline Who’ll be our top poli-chick – SHOWDOWN OF THE SHEILAS.
The article was most enlightening, referring to the poli-chicks holding the fate of the Australian Government in their well-manicured hands. It went for the first name approach (which you’ve recognised) and brought everything back to appearances: Natasha and Pauline are strutting their stuff in front of the voters at opposite ends of the political catwalk.
My favourite par was “Like everybody else in Australia, except for John Howard and Peter Costello, neither woman is happy with the GST. But while Natasha wants to do a bit of trimming round the edges with a pair of nail scissors, Pauline favours a chainsaw and dynamite approach”.
Poor Stott the Spoiler or Spot Destroyer got the lil nail clippers, which wasn’t exactly consistent with the photo-spread the article contained. I don’t want to fall into the trap of describing what they were wearing, but shock horror, the piccies do seem a bit suss.
There’s a lovely snap of Hanson giving the camera a peace gesture (I suspect she may actually be giving the finger to someone behind her), with a smaller picture of mainly her legs hopping out of a chopper with the caption SURVIVOR: Leggy Pauline is ready to return to Parliament.
On the other page we have PARTY GIRL: Fun and Feisty Natasha Stott-Despoja with singer Frank Bennett, referring to the smaller photo of Spotty comparing tatts with Bennett lifting up his shirt to show his (put it away Frank). The large photo has Spotty showing us her tonsils – jaw wide open, rainbow boa round her neck in the spirit of mardi gras, waving to the crowd.
It’s not the most complimentary shot of the Senator to be seen, but hey, there seemed to be a shortage of favourable snaps of Senator Lees during the leadership challenge.
The article also had a table with Pauline vs Natasha (note, not the other way around), with some very basic details comparing policies. I’m curious about Spottys description Single, followed directly with Partner is Channel 9 reporter Hugh Rimminton (proof that the media does really love her?).
Spotty’s only health policy is “supports trials of medically prescribed heroin for addicts”. While Spotty will support things, Pauline will do things, despite the fact that at the next election she will never have the numbers to form government. According to Aussie Post, Pauline will dismantle ATSIC, cut funding and repeal native title legislation. Ahh, puhlease.
I’m hoping the Post will follow up their SHEILA SHOWDOWN article with FESTERING FELLAS next issue, showcasing big Kim’s cabbage cravings and lil Johnnie’s power walks at opposite ends of the political catwalk.
I seem to do a lot of ‘I agree with you but I disagree with you’, and I’m about to do it again. To Elen Seymour: Yes, companies won’t set up in Australia if the tax regime is less profitable for them than another country that offers similar infrastructure. Yes, it borders on insanity for Australians to consider seriously discouraging foreign investment, or to stray down the isolationist path. We need investment or we don’t have industry.
However, the way things currently operate, nations that want investment are forced to compete for it by offering tax breaks, infrastructure, concessions, and, especially in the third world, lax labour and environmental regimes. The World Bank, IMF and WTO are perceived to reinforce this pattern. It’s a seller’s market, and the money knows it.
This is why people fear the multinationals so much, because it looks like they have more and more power over our lives than our governments do, and yet are accountable only to their shareholders. Sometimes, not even to them.
Our governments seem to respond to the problem by alternately sabre-rattling and kowtowing. To be fair, what other options do they have?
What role does the media play in all this? Jack Robertson said it all in yesterday’s Meeja Watch: “Finance is a Meeja Speciality which has become progressively characterised by self-generated, self-fulfilling, and self-perpetuating prophecies, all dressed up as critical objective analysis.”
The media is perceived to have been co-opted by financial cartels, either directly or indirectly. We see that politicians are exceedingly reluctant to challenge the media power of the corporate sector. The media seem to act as publicists for corporate power. At the very least they’re too often guilty of reducing the issues to black and white caricatures, and depending overly on corporate media-releases for their copy. Viva Media Watch!
Jack argues that this is all a sort of light-and-mirrors trick, and maybe it is. But, a self-fulfilling prophecy is, by definition, fulfilled. Corporate Money could capture the hegemony it pretends to have, just by convincing us they already have it. If the fourth-estate collaborates with them in this, what’s to stop them succeeding?
That’s not a rhetorical question; I would really, really like to know!
When people start to feel powerless they get panicky, and many will turn to anyone who appears to offer answers – hence Pauline Hanson. Just because Pauline Hanson is wrong about the solutions doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem. Nobody wants to live under a corporate dictatorship, but many people regard that as a real possibility. On a bad day, I’m one of them.
Perhaps nation states need to form some sort of cooperative organisation to help them deal with the power of big money. After all, the labour sector had to do it once. They called it ‘Unionism’.
The first thing such an organisation would have to do is address the economic disparity between nations. It might become less viable to allow richer nations to exploit poorer ones, for example, otherwise it would undermine solidarity. Some sort of sanctions would have to be applied to blackleg or scab nations. Maybe this would help to level the playing field. All irony intended.
As current ‘top nation’, I don’t imagine the US would go along with the idea, but their primacy isn’t beyond challenge. The EC and ASEAN are already showing healthy signs of working in this way, but they’re regional. I think we need something global.
Surely ,when faced with massive corporate power, or at least a media depiction of it, we’ve got to have more options than simply:
a) refuse to play, or
b) lie back and think of England?
Too often these are the only choices offered. I don’t think we’re too stupid to appreciate intelligent alternatives, but someone has to present them to us. Or allow us to develop our own.
In the corporate world “mission statements” can become trite and meaningless but I think your charter speaks to important issues.
In this day and age there is a great danger of falling into a well of cynicism where we ask “what is the point of anything?” This seems to be the flavour of Paul McLaren’s comments (in What’s the point?).
I think I know where he is coming from. The marketers tell me I am a part of “Generation X” and our reaction to anything is supposed to be “yeah, whatever”. I have to fight this. It is hard not to be cynical but if you extend it too far you really do start to wonder what is the point of anything and this is damaging to both the individual and society.
I am certainly not suggesting we should be naive but to lapse into a “what’s the point” downward spiral of cynicism is one of the most dangerous things I can think of. Down the bat, pack up and go home is this message. For what? Nothing? Endless, mindless whingeing from the sidelines?
You have to ENGAGE. You have to be INVOLVED. Why mutter something under your breath when you have the opportunity to SCREAM it from the roof tops?
I ask myself why I am so engaged in this forum. The better question is “why wouldn’t you” or “why aren’t you”??
At the risk of lapsing into “wankiness” I offer the words of Robert Kennedy. He suggests that there is more to life than GDP. There IS a point to intelligent debate. He had the following to say back in the dim, distant past of 1968 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. I lived near this place in the 1990’s but feel his “ancient” words are relevant today, not just to America, but to us all. If you greet the following with cynicism and a “what’s the point attitude”… then you may as well go to McDonalds and order an extra large coffee (the ultimate expression of the bottom line and economic rationalism/efficiency). Personally – I’ll be taking something authentic elsewhere. A real coffee, offered by a real person on a real income. Anyway, here are RFK’s words:
Quality of Life
“Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product … if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
“Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”
Can anyone argue the above uttered in 1968 is less relevant in 2001???
Of course most Generation Xers were in nappies or born after the above was said. Oh, sure it is easy to be cynical about the words of a wealthy man from America a generation ago. Free yourself from aversion to “wankiness” and allow yourself to THINK.
I am cynical myself about many things and even wonder why I regularly contribute to this forum. In the end though, I see cynicism as a trap or a refuge for those who are tired of life.
I think there IS a point.
I subscribe to the charter.