Kindle winners:

Crikey writes: As if a subscription to Crikey isn’t inherently valuable enough, there’s a reasonable chance you could pick up your very own Amazon Kindle 3G+Wi-Fi, too. We’re giving away 10 over 10 days. Monday’s winner is Alistair Miller. The Crikey Kindle countdown continues. Six gone — Four to go! — get your entry in today.

Labor’s core values:

David Edmunds writes: Re. “Labor’s core values? Take your pick” (yesterday, item 11). David Ritter nitpicks Julia Gillard’s vision unfairly in his piece yesterday. Many of us have spent far too much of our lives arguing about completely irrelevant mission statements and the like. It is more important to float the key ideas and get on with it, rather than spend all available time polishing and counting the words.

Gillard has been very consistent in her two key themes, opportunity and access. These are clear concepts, clearly articulated, and she has assiduously introduced policies and legislation designed to support these themes.

The argument about how Labor governs itself is primarily a strategic issue, and to those of us who are not members, somewhat irrelevant. For example, I deeply believe in the move to universal disability insurance, and don’t much care how the policy was generated internally, or the working history of those who originated it. The fact is, that it was generated, just as the mental health policy, the states’ health agreement, numerous pieces of education policy and infrastructure investment, all closely attuned to these key concepts, were also generated and legislated.

One of Labor’s strengths has been its ability to jettison pieces of policy that simply no longer have relevance. For example, it is no longer Labor policy for the government to own the means of production. This is a strength, not a weakness. Similarly, the Labor view of community and unity based on workplace solidarity has rightly been ditched. It is also not a weakness to fly a few kites in this area in a speech such as Gillard’s Chifley Research Centre speech.

The argument about choice goes nowhere. Labor effectively conceded choice as a mechanism to drive the quality of the provision of goods and services when Whitlam enhanced state aid for schools and cut tariffs.

In a discussion such as this, it is important to look to the other side of politics where there is no clear, simple articulation of principle. It is not at all clear what it is that the Liberal Party stands for. It has also ditched previous philosophical commitments, for example, to Menzies’ “forgotten people”, but has not managed to come up with any other overweening idea. It appears to have a reflexive concern for big business, but not much else.  It claims a philosophical commitment to small government and Liberal principles in general, but the few stated policies do not support this or any other particular agenda. This must form at least part of the benchmark.

Politics is the art of the possible. Criticism based mostly on a lack of perfection, without reference to the alternative is pointless.


Zachary King writes: Re. “Hey Facebook, we want to share, but this is ridiculous” (September 23, item 7). I enjoy Stilgherrian’s work, I really do. He is in touch with the current zeitgeist and looks at issues that I think are very important. But this is the kind of hack-job piece that if it was printed in mainstream media, would rightly be pilloried by Crikey (in fact, that’s what I love most about your work).

Let’s take a look shall we? First off, let’s leave aside that getting Stilgherrian to report on Facebook is like assigning Bob Brown to cover the mining industry and let’s have a look at what we have got. The dreaded Facebook puts outs a new feature and these days that’s always going to cause a stir. Cue Stilgherrian getting on his favourite hobby horse and have a good ol’ whack at Facebook.

But where did all of this knowledge come from, as Stilgherrian has previously sworn off Facebook and all other forms of social media? Don’t tell me he strapped back in, an intrepid reporter diving into dangerous waters, risking his own privacy in the very way that he himself had warned us about? Actually no. Because the new feature, Timeline, isn’t freely available yet. It’s open to developers, but not punters. Not saying that Stilgherrian is a punter by any means, but it’s clear that he hasn’t used the feature.

Stilgherrian does have a quote from the promo video though. And another one from a Slate article (which actually states that the author isn’t concerned about the lack of privacy or the monetisation of personal info). Then we get a bit of techno-nostalgia to illustrate just how unnecessary the Face-machine really is, man:  people don’t need this new-fangled social media to share and you know, connect and share, it’s much better and more authentic man, if you do it the old-fashioned way — by electronic email, you dig?

Yet the best is saved till last as Stilgherrian gives the final and defining thrust to a comment lifted from Wired. Which you might think is fair, given that Wired is one of the most respected tech commentary sites around. The comments doesn’t come from the article itself though (which is derogatorily labelled as star-struck, I mean that’s the only reason it could be positive, right?)  but from an actual comment on the article. Now for anyone even passingly familiar with the interwebs, you will know that the first rule is YOU DON’T READ THE COMMENTS.

And just to cap off the proto-techno-hippie nostalgic flavour, we finishes off with how sad it is that this poor misunderstood software engineer hasn’t really been able to bring the world together, man, he’s only created a personal wealth of $17.5 billion and literally changed the face of the world. In five years.

So to recap, we have a feature article on a feature that the author hasn’t used, pasted together with some quotes lifted from other articles and then wrapped up with a pop psychobabble analysis from a guy who claims to have seen Zuckerburg speak once, taken from the comments section. Seriously? If the Bolta produced something such as this, he would caned from pillar to post and rightly so.

Lift your game please.


Justin Templer writes: Re. “News Ltd, Clubs and NRL beat up imaginary AFL anti-pokies campaign” (yesterday, item 1). The propaganda effort being mounted by Clubs Australia and football supporters against the proposed anti-pokie legislation should shame anyone associated with it.

As Dr Richard Denniss proposed in his comment (“Footy codes not on level playing field in pokies fight“, yesterday, item 7)  it is “bizarre” for the clubs to argue that by taking money from problem gamblers and giving a negligible proportion back to the community they are somehow benefiting society.

The money was already in the community and earmarked for groceries or family holidays before it got hoovered up by a poker machine and then spread around between club administrators and football players.

Now that is a social service — unless your family is on the wrong end of the equation.

Scott Morrison:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 10). Richard Farmer’s endorsement of the lacklustre Scott Morrison as a future Liberal leader is strange indeed. That he does so on the basis of an asylum-seeker policy that purports to be based on humanitarian considerations is completely bizarre.

This is a  policy that rejects Malaysia but advocates the towing of boats back out to sea towards Indonesia, children and all. What are you thinking, Richard?