Going to a business roundtable meeting is boring. Going to New Zealand is boring. Put them together and you’ve got Tom Switzer’s diary in the Oz Spectator, a snooze-fest of Ripping Yarns proportions.

“Previous Australian guests to the annual symposium of 30-odd young local business leaders include Andrew Bolt, Arthur Sinodinos, Janet Albrechtsen and John Roskam, and I am thrilled to be invited to address this two-day event…”

Good God. Bolter, Arfur Daley, Planet, Caspar Roskam, Ghost who walks, and now Heidi Switzer. These people live in New Zealand. haven’t they suffered enough? However, then it starts to get interesting:

“My first real contact with a local is my taxi driver at the airport. A big, bustling Maori who boxed Tony Mundine in the early 1980s…”

Are we about to go in a Tsiolkasesque/Fassbindery direction here?

“He asks whether I have any Kiwi mates. Several, I say, but they all live in Sydney! But New Zealand’s struggle to retain its younger educated workforce is no laughing matter.”

No, it is not. But what sparkling small talk it makes. Those two days must have flown by.

“…widens the trans-Tasman income gap to a dispiriting 38 per cent.”

And on it goes. And on, and on.

Noon, and at the Oz, the Cut and Paste monkeys are still running yesterday’s column online. It’s like they’re ashamed of it or something.

On his blog, wittily-titled AndrewNorton.info, the eponymous commentator has a tribute to Jan Palach, the young Czech who immolated himself forty years ago, in January 1969, in protest at the crushing of Prague Spring but the USSR.

The post is dedicated to the victims of Communism, but in what sense was Palach a victim of it, rather than someone who resorted to a controversial form of resistance? Palach had been “inspired” by the immolation of Buddhist monks in Vietnam — a protest against the immense destructiveness of the war, coming from a tradition that saw the individual life as part of a larger cycle. Palach was fighting a grey and low-level brutal system — does suicide really warrant our respect in this case?

After all, if he’d lived and struggled, he would have been 41 when the wall came down, and just over 60 now. He’d be running an IT firm, jogging round Wenceslas square and living with a hot young Moldovan wife, the Eastern bloc a distant memory. His memory deserves our compassion, but respect is reserved for a different type of courage.

The greatest own goal of recent times: right wing site Investor Business Daily‘s assertion — that if Stephen Hawking had been born in Britain, the UK National Health Service would have killed him — just got a lot better.

After, well, everyone pointed out to IBD that Hawking was a lifelong Brit, Hawking himself got into the act issuing a statement saying: “exterminate exterminate I never get tired of that. OK here’s what I wanted to say, I wouldn’t be alive today if wasn’t for the national health service.”

Which was promptly spun by right wingers into the idea that Hawking someone how survived despite NHS care (a miracle! Take that atheists!). By that time even the whacky ‘Corner’ blog of National Review had editor Iain Murray come out and say that the whole thing was embarrassing and ridiculous, noting that the NHS gave excellent care, but also some crap services as well (true enough) — which was then spun by other right-wingers into a further denunciation of the NHS. And on it goes.

And this weekend is of course the anniversary of … Woodstock II, 15 years ago, the 90s greatest screw up of a hallowed memory. Interestingly, Chip Monck, lighting designer of Woodstock I, and the man who allegedly said ‘the brown acid is bad’, lives in Melbourne now, opposite a lumber yard. Do say ‘peace’ if you see him down Brunswick Street.

Peter Fray

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