“The Nationals enjoy representation in Federal
Cabinet and the ministry far in excess of numbers and talent,” says
Scott Prasser in The Courier-Mail. The party is nothing more than a bit
player on the Australian political scene, which owes its tenuous hold on
power to the Howard Government’s electoral success – especially in 2004. And since One
Nation has disappeared the race is on between Liberal and Labor to see who
can eat up the Nationals’ seats the fastest – “in effect, the Nationals
are being eaten alive from both ends of the political spectrum.” And
the “real political issue” is how far the pragmatic
Howard Government will be prepared to “compromise its long-term and
ideological goals of deregulation and privatisation” to meet the interests of its junior coalition
partner.

“If it were reasonable to blame television for a culture
overblown with conceit and rudeness” – as the PM would have us believe – then I would, says Helen Razor in The Age.
But the “sorry, sir, Big Brother made me do
it” excuse is unsound and slightly disturbing. Anyway, we should be
“mildly concerned that an avowedly conservative leader
can find no object other than television to publicly critique,” and
maybe there’s something more at the heart of this debate than what’s on
the box. Because, says Razor, “many who oppose vulgarity or bad
manners actively participate in
the sort of behaviour that drives it” – maybe one’s own vulgarisms and
bad manners actually “gush from a wellspring of presumed
entitlement.”

“The fear and sycophancy that Howard and his Antipodean
neoconservatives have promoted since coming to power almost a decade
ago have put paid to Australia’s tenuous self-regard as ‘the land of
fair go,'” says John Pilger in The New Statesman.
Like Bush’s America, “Howard’s Australia is not so much a democracy as
a plutocracy,” where the big end of town governs not just for themselves
but for everyone else as well. Doesn’t Australia remember it once
cradled the world’s first Labor party?; was first to provide a
legislated minimum wage?; an eight hour working day? and maternity
leave? These things are barely mentioned in Howard’s Australia, says
Pilger. “Using acolytes in the press, the government has attacked
institutions,
such as the National Museum, and historians who dare to remind
Australians of their true past and present.” Australia was the lucky
country, but not any more.

In a way, I sympathise with James Frey – the ex-con, ex-addict who has
admitted to making up and exaggerating sections of his best selling
book A Million Little Pieces – because “in today’s glam-and-slapdash
media vortex, the financial incentive to fabricate grows ever worse,”
says Gregg Easterbrook in The New Republic. Frey is “The New Yorker fact-checking
department” when compared to many recent ‘true’ personal
narratives, and this whole episode reflects more poorly on the
publishing industry than it does on Frey. “The
blurring of fact and fiction will ultimately lead to disenchantment
with books,” and Oprah – who apologised to her audience for being
“duped” by Frey’s lies – has to be commended for bringing this to the
boil while there’s still time to address the problem. Fiction or
non-fiction, “a book should have a place in one or the other – whether or
not that’s convenient for the publishing industry’s bottom line.”


“Hamas should not be taken literally,” says Richard Cohen in The Washington Post.
Hamas will claim that it will “be forced to
moderate both its platform and its policies by the reality of
governing” when it comes into power. Don’t believe it. It will say it
will have to deal with reality – and the “mightiest reality of them
all” is Israel. And it will realise, or pretend to realise, there’s
no use fighting Israel. “The mistake of the Bush administration is to
think, based on not much
thinking to begin with, that people are people – pretty much the same
the world over.” The “leaders of Hamas brim with the word of God and
the certainty of their cause,” but they will say all they want is good
schools, clean local government and good garbage collections. “From
here on they will lie about their ultimate aim,” and urge the world to
believe them.

Pretty
much every tech company these days is “complicit in helping the Chinese
government repress its citizenry,” says Adam Penenberg in Slate,
and “we can wring our hands all we want, but companies, which are
beholden
to their shareholders, will inevitably enter the already huge,
still-growing Chinese market.” So maybe we’ve entered a time when a
“country’s routers will be monitored and filtered and search engines
will be forced to follow the dictates of government-approved
blacklists.” But a megacorp like Google needs to remember it would be
nowhere near its current size if it weren’t for the free flow of
information over the net; so it’s censorship is slightly insulting and
pure opportunism. A “global code of ethics” may be the best answer.
Because “one standard always costs less than several different ones.”

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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