After four elections at which the Coalition has colonised the middle ground
of Australian politics, the “Howard haters are running out of ammunition,” says
Nick Cater in The Australian. The beauty
of a word like “mean” is that it is so hard to calibrate. Howard, a
prime minister who “derives his legitimacy from the popular will,” has shown
over the past decade that he understands the word “mean” better than
any of his opponents. As the Macquarie puts it:
“mean/noun/that which is midway between two extremes … occupying a
middle position.”


“I’m the only physician serving 5,000 Congolese Tutsi refugees in the
hills of north-east Rwanda,” writes Ann Y. Kao in The Boston Globe. My work has left me both angry and inspired,
exhausted and exhilarated, and desperate and feeling complete peace –
often all at the same time. I chose Rwanda because “I wanted to
see for myself this place where the most brutal and unspeakable of
horrors” were committed a decade ago. There
are 19.2 million refugees at last count; more than four million live in
Sub-Saharan Africa. Such natural disasters as tsunamis, earthquakes,
and floods take their toll, but man-made disasters lead the list in
Africa, and “the conflicts in the Congo and Sudan are two prime examples.”

The CSIRO treads a “remarkably fine line in the service of the
nation.” CSIRO staff have always understood this and peer-group
control and support have been a strength of the organisation. But as a nation, we have become “captured by a bureaucratic
audit-and-control culture that affects everyone and everything”,
often unintentionally, write Michael Borgas and Pauling Gallagher in The Age. This includes the process of scientific
research. The public need for expert scientific information has never been
greater for many big issues such as global climate change, fossil
fuel energy reliance and the need for sustainable industries to
name a few. But instead of speaking up in public, the CSIRO has
“turned inwards to exert more control on its staff in what they do
and what they say.”

So my star cartoon for today is by Richard Jolley in Private Eye,
and refers to the old tale about Chicken-licken who thought the sky was
falling down and shared its panic with Turkey-lurkey and the rest, says Libby Purves in The Times.
It
shows a mother hen reading a bedtime story to an egg tucked up in bed.
“And Human-looman went into a complete panic, screaming ‘The Bird Flu
is coming, the Bird Flu is coming . . .’. ” Perfect. Says it all. Even
chickens “think we’re flapping.” I cannot remember a time when we were
“more vigorously urged to squawk in alarm on a daily basis.”

Hunting trips occasionally “change the course of history,” says Niall Ferguson in The Los Angeles Times. Trotsky’s
decision to go duck shooting instead of attending Lenin’s funeral gave
Stalin the perfect opportunity to begin his political marginalization.
Cheney’s trip to the Armstrong Ranch has “had the opposite effect.” Far
from marginalizing the vice president, it has brought him centre stage
— his “least-favourite location.”

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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