1 Iraq may mess with Howard's plans
No, this is not one of the great columns of the day ( that would rarely be said of a Glenn Milne column), but at least someone is talking about Iraq and John Howard in the same sentence. As the post-invasion period has stumbled and staggered from bad to worse, from looting to Abu Ghraib, and the daily lives of Iraqis has become worse than it was under Saddam Hussein (for those that survive the carnage that is) - and John Howard gets a political free-ride (in sharp contrast to what is happening in to Tony Blair and George Bush). Put that down to two things - lackey's luck (everyone knows that Howard was merely trotting along after the big two, with no real say over events) and the parochialism, tunnel vision and sheer uselessness of much of the Australian media. Milne has little to say about events on the ground, nor of the national shame at being up to our neck in a mess over which we have no real say. Nor anything to say about the horrors endured by Iraqis in a situation created in our name.
But at least Milne has mentioned Iraq and Howard in the same sentence. Milne is parroting the strategy and lines of one, Kevin Rudd. (And do keep in mind what Mark Latham said about Rudd being a shameless media tart - looks like he has been fluttering his eyelashes at Milne.) Anyway, Milne runs heaps of lines from Rudd about how badly things are going in Iraq, and how the US might be about to 'cut and run', without saying precisely what impact all of this might have on Howard's retirement plans. But at least he mentioned Iraq and John Howard in the same sentence. (After this column, Peter Costello will be worried that Milne may have a new love interest.)
GLENN MILNE/THE AUSTRALIAN
2 On Bush, the right and Miers
Call off the hunting dogs, the search is over. TDB has its first official sighting of the "lame-duck" tag being applied to George Bush. David Broder of The Washington Post concludes his column yesterday: "Whether that discipline will continue to hold through Bush's lame-duck years is another -- and very different -- question. It must be keeping Karl Rove awake at night." (It's a great round-up of many of the political problems from which Bush seems unable to escape, in particular the outbreak of "sectarian infighting" among the various conservative groups that make-up the Republican support base.)
More than a week ago, TDB promised, "within 24 hours", a round-up on the growing conservative angst and anger at George Bush. Some 24 hours. These have been busy times, but then again, perhaps we knew that apart from Broder, Andrew Sullivan and Mark Steyn were lining up columns on the issue, both of which focus on Bush's Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Steyn in The Spectator tries hard to put something of a gloss over it all, while suggesting that Bush's "compassionate conservativism" election mantra in 2000 should have been a warning that he was no red of tooth and claw conservative.
The longer-term issue fuelling conservative anger, Bush's profligate ways with the public purse (increasing spending and cutting taxes mainly for the rich) doesn't get much of a mention from either Steyn, nor Andrew Sullivan (link below). Sullivan, by the way, backed Bush in 2000 and strongly supported the Iraq invasion before giving John Kerry a lukewarm endorsement in 2004. He ends this column by, in effect, saying that Bush is on the verge of becoming a "lame-duck" president, concluding: "The Senate has long since lost any fear of this president. It voted 90-9 last Wednesday to overturn Bush’s shameful tolerance of abuse and torture of military detainees. Something is happening in Washington: the clothes covering Emperor Bush keep slipping quietly off. Alas, the only person who seems unaware of this is the president himself." (He also wonders if Miers might be voted down by the Senate.)
Liberal columnist Harold Meyerson in The American Prospect can't understand what all the fuss is about. "Four and a half years into the presidency of George W. Bush, how could they still entertain the idea that the president takes merit, much less intellectual seriousness, seriously? The one in-house White House intellectual, John DiIulio, ran screaming from the premises after a few months on the job. Bush has long since banished all those, such as Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who accurately predicted the price of taking over Iraq. Yet Donald Rumsfeld -- with Bush, the author of the Iraqi disaster -- remains, as do scores of lesser lights whose sole virtue has been a dogged loyalty to Bush and his blunders. Loyalty and familiarity count for more with this president than brilliance (or even competence) and conviction."
For a real taste of the conservative anger about Miers, check out this column by neo-conservative Charles Krauthammer: "withdraw this nominee".
One thing commentators from across the political spectrum agree on is that Bush likes to surround himself with loyal supporters, familiar faces and voices telling him what he wants to hear. That has also given rise to charges that some of the most important jobs in the country have been given to unqualified hacks, which is the charge levelled by The New Republic: "Welcome to the Hackocracy". (You may need to be a TNR sub to read this one.)
The White House, which has argued previously that the faith or religious denomination of a nominee should not be used against them in Senate hearings is now pointing out that Miers is an evangelical (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, so no more) in an effort to placate the Republican base. E. J. Dionne sees this as an example of "faith-based hypocrisy".
And, through it all, support for Bush continues to fall on every major issue.
ANDREW SULLIVAN/THE SUNDAY TIMES
3 Somalia, that land the world forgot
TDB editor had the pleasure of launching Aidan Hartley's book "The Zanzibar Chest" in Brisbane - a pleasure because the book is a compelling and satisfying read, and because Hartley is (at first meeting) one of those rare people with both great charisma and depth of character. Hartley knows Africa well - he grew up there and has reported from every part of it for decades - and has reported often from Somalia. In this article he returns for an update and says that what is happening there is a lesson in what will happen if the world "cuts and runs" from Iraq. "Very few foreigners ever visit Mogadishu, apart from alleged terrorists and a few brave aid workers who probably now number fewer than 30 in the whole of the country. ‘We are not in the suicide business here,’ the UN human rights envoy told reporters last month when asked why he had not visited the capital. Now Somalis who work for international aid groups are also targets for assassination. On Monday night masked gunmen shot down a UN security officer in the southern port of Kismayo. James and I were the first journalists in the city since February, when the BBC television producer Kate Peyton was shot down in broad daylight. In our hotel I ensured that we retained a couple of dozen gunmen overnight. The next room down from mine was where Kate had stayed. Before I went to sleep I put a chair up against the door, feebly hoping it might somehow deter assassins who were operating for the Wahabis, the Ethiopians or the CIA-backed warlords."
AIDAN HARTLEY/THE SPECTATOR
4 Low times for high ideals
Freelance writer and former New Statesman editor John Lloyd canvasses difficulties being faced by the United Nations and by the European Union and declares that these are not a golden age for visionaries who dream of a better world. "These are low times for high ideals. Where the rhetoric of world peace and security once echoed, dry voices call for tighter accounting standards. Where the cry of “Never again!” caught every throat, polling evidence is passed around to show public indifference. The age of the visionary is gone: the auditor and the pollster come into their own."
JOHN LLOYD/THE FINANCIAL TIMES
5 Women and political power
openDemocracy has just opened a blog (Women making a difference) to discuss the impact women have on political power. The debate has been opened by Srilatha Batliwala, a Civil Society Research Fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, Harvard University, who lists past achievments, the challenges ahead, and looks at why the influx of women into politics since the '60's has not had the impact many had hoped for. "There is widespread agreement among feminist thinkers and activists that we seriously underestimated the power of existing modes of politics to corrupt, co-opt, or marginalise women. We did not fully understand how women would be compelled or manipulated to compromise their goals for narrow party interests. We failed to address the possibility that many of the women who gained entry into the formal political sphere would be advocates of patriarchal, mainstream, elitist or fundamentalist ideologies."
6 Crime, refugees, Lawrence and duels
A selection of longer reads, all of which found favour for some reason or other. In The Sunday Times (link below) Tim Rayment investigates the case of Brian Blackwell, the perfect son who murdered his parents to sustain the life of lies he had told his girlfriend. In the course of doing that, he examines narcissistic personality disorder and its use as a defense in murder trials. "First defined by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980, it has become a common finding among psychopaths. In America a diagnosis can be enough to avoid murder charges and now, thanks to Blackwell, that is true here. When five experts told Liverpool Crown Court that Blackwell was severely narcissistic, the judge accepted a plea to drop charges of murder in favour of manslaughter. Blackwell pleaded guilty and Mr Justice Royce jailed him for life, adding that he did not think the young man would ever be fit to release."
The NYTimes reports on the experience of a group of refugees from Hurricane Katrina who spent time in Oklahoma. " In time, they found themselves caught in a web of red tape and cultural miscues, clashing with locals over the tiniest of things, like how to cook grits or season meat, or over the life-and-death question of why they did not get out of harm's way in time. Tensions rose, and by the end of the month, the Louisianans, grateful though they were, could not wait to get out. And the local people, well-meaning and overwhelmed, were just as relieved to see them go."
In The Independent, Mark Bostridge tries to separate fact from fiction in the life of Lawrence of Arabia, currently the subject of an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London. "Lawrence once admitted that "if the distant future deigns to consider my insignificance, I shall be appraised rather as a man of letters than a man of action". Posterity is again inclined to support his verdict. Lawrence's claim to literary greatness rests not only on Seven Pillars and The Mint, his "bawdy" account of training in the RAF - the first sometimes described as Lawrence's answer to Moby Dick, the second as resembling One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - but also on his 6,000 or so surviving letters, which combine individual style with an openness about human failings that is blunt and sometimes shocking."
And Jim Gilchrist in The Scotsman tells the tale described in the book "Duel" by James Landale, the chief political correspondent for BBC's News 24 channel. "His forebear, David Landale, was a notable merchant in 19th century Kirkcaldy and the man he shot dead was George Morgan, in effect his bank manager. Now the present Landale has written a book, Duel, which seeks to explain to a 21st century readership just how two prosperous, respected men could walk into a field one damp August morning, take aim at each other and fire, over a point of honour."
TIM RAYMENT/THE SUNDAY TIMES
7 Happy 97th JK
A tribute to JK Galbraith. "f ever there was a legend in his own lifetime, it is John Kenneth Galbraith, professor emeritus of Harvard University, adviser to Presidents from Roosevelt to Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, author of more than 40 books, and a man due to celebrate his 97th birthday next Saturday."
WILLIAM KEEGAN/THE OBSERVER
8 In Cold Blood, the original
The father of modern reportage is of course, Truman Capote, whose book "In Cold Blood" turned mere journalism into something at least approaching literature. What became the book was a four part series of articles written by Capote for the New Yorker in 1965. The first part, link below, has been re-published to coincide with the release of the film "Capote" which is reviewed by David Denby. "Small-scaled and limited, “Capote” is nevertheless the most intelligent, detailed, and absorbing film ever made about a writer’s working method and character—in this case, a mixed quiver of strength, guile, malice, and mendacity. Moviegoers who have followed Philip Seymour Hoffman’s supporting work in such films as “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Cold Mountain” sensed that he had a lot more to give, and here it is." Denby also reviews “Good Night, and Good Luck".
TRUMAN CAPOTE/THE NEW YORKER
9 Tolstoy, James & Winton come up trumps; Winchester cracks an egg.
Monday Books: a selection by donn wood.
There’s a new version of ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy out there, translated by Anthony Briggs, but Adam Thirlwell, writing in The Guardian, finds it a bit smoothed and simplified, and some of the dialogue less than convincing. However, he finishes his review with ... "This outlandish, wonderful novel - which survives all of its impossible, necessary translations, including this thorough but imperfect one - is a masterpiece of reduction, and has style."
In spiked, Josie Appleton discusses "SHAM: How the gurus of the self-help movement make us helpless", by Steve Salerno, and uses the review to do a little of her own analysis of the Self-Help and Actualisation Movement. Catchy little acronym, hey?
If you have ever studied sociology, you probably will have read ‘The Authoritarian Personality’, written by Theodor Adorno and R. Nevitt Sanford. In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Alan Wolfe says that the 55-year old book “... deserves a re-evaluation. In many ways, it is more relevant now than it was in 1950.”
More sociology, but a little more contemporary this time. Jean-Claude Kaufmann’s latest book, "Casseroles, amour et crises" is reviewed by Mary Blume in The International Herald Tribune. The book reveals how the social construct that is the (French) family meal is coming apart at the seams. Kaufmann interviewed (mainly) housewives to find out what was happening in the French kitchen and dining room, and when he asked ... “What would be your greatest dream? To give up cooking, most of them replied.” As the cook in my own household, I find this deeply depressing. Damn you, McDonalds.
‘Trained to Kill: Soldiers at War’ by Theodore Nadelson is reviewed by Sarah Statz in Bookslut. The author, who died in 2003, was a Korean War veteran and a former chief of psychiatric service at Boston Veterans Administration Medical Center, so was uniquely qualified to write this book, and as Statz says, ... “If we weren’t still sending soldiers away, ‘Trained to Kill’ wouldn’t be nearly as necessary reading. But we are, and it is.”
On a lighter note (I’m a sucker for bad puns, and a triple one was too good to resist), ‘Blonde Lightning’ is Terrill Lee Lankford’s followup novel to last year’s ‘Earthquake Weather’, and is again set in the Hollywood film scene and “... takes the reader further inside the insidious process of moviemaking, with a side plot that spirals into a series of violent episodes worthy of the best hard-boiled moments of the genre.” The review by Anthony Rainone in January Magazine ends in hope that there may be another book in this series, but ... “If not, one can count on Lankford to deliver some other sort of stellar novel to keep his reading audience from missing them too much. Hurry up, Terrill”
British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, whose books examine ordinary daily life, (including the splendidly-titled ‘On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored’) has released ‘Going Sane’, an exploration of why we talk so much about madness, and so little about sanity. Gideon Lewis-Kraus, writing in NYTimes Books thinks that the author fears we find sanity boring and banal, but ... "By redefining sanity as an ever-widening horizon of possibly successful behaviors, Phillips recoups peculiarity for sanity. His sanity is anything but boring.”
Also in NYTimes Books, Bryan Burrough reviews ‘A Crack In The Edge Of The World - America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906’ by Simon Winchester, author of best-sellers such as ‘Krakatoa’, ‘The Professor And The Madman’, and ‘The Map That Changed The World’. Burrough writes ... “It's a proudly idiosyncratic book, brimming with words like "gallimaufry," that places Winchester firmly in the category of author-as-raconteur. Me, I hated it. I wanted to drop-kick this book across the backyard. If Doris Kearns Goodwin or David McCullough can lay claim to being the Miles Davis of popular history, Winchester is becoming the Kenny G.” Now that's got to smart.
‘Simple Stories’ by German writer Ingo Schulze, and ‘The UnDutchables,- An observation of the Netherlands: Its culture and its inhabitants’ by Colin White and Laurie Boucke, are reviewed by Nora FitzGerald and Sharon Reier in The International Herald Tribune and they consider them required reading for expats moving to either country.
On Sunday’s ‘Books and Writing’ on ABC Radio National, Peter Corris, best known for his long-running crime series featuring Sydney P.I. Cliff Hardy, discussed with Romana Koval his new historical novel, ‘The Journal of Fletcher Christian’. This link will take you to the B&W homepage where you can find links to the program transcript, streaming audio, or MP3 download.
‘The Lighthouse’ is the thirteenth crime novel featuring Adam Dalgliesh by P.D. James, and Ruth Morse reviews it in the TLS. Morse comments on the reflective nature of James’ work, comparing her not only to Iris Murdoch, but also to G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis. The review concludes ... “It is a mistake to think that her talents are somehow wasted in crime fiction, and that she might have written novels which would have had her taken more seriously. Not at all. Her disciplined conventions, her observation of social and class niceties, renew the traditional Franco-British drama of domestic crime. She is a very superior writer of detection.”
“What John Steinbeck was to California's Central Valley, Tim Winton is to the coastal region of Western Australia.” In The San Francisco Chronicle, Roland Goity reviews Winton’s latest book, ‘The Turning’, a collection of interlinked stories set in coastal W.A. Goity refers to the Australian writer's homegrown fame but says "... here in the United States, Winton is far from a household name. That could change with ‘The Turning’...”. Why? Because “...Winton's ability to arrange the written word appears effortless. His prose is graceful and elegant without drawing attention to itself, and stories move seamlessly from one to the next.” (link below)
ROLAND GOITY/SF CHRONICLE
|10 IN THE PAPERS: National, Opinion, Business round-up
IN THE BROADSHEETS
John Howard's blueprint for Industrial Relations change vies for space with the Pakistan earthquake tragedy, which The Age says may have killed as many as 30,000 people.
The lead in The Age says the Howard Government has rolled out a massive sales pitch to win support from a sceptical electorate for a controversial overhaul of Australia's workplace laws. The Australian says that the Howard Government will have extraordinary powers to ban strike action as part of a concerted assault on union power to be introduced under a new wave of industrial reforms, and it devotes more space to the topic than any other outlet, with comment from a range of quarters, (link in Opinion below). Ross Gittins tests the detail of the announcement against the benchmarks set by conservative economist Professor Mark Wooden and says they fail the test; Michelle Grattan says the changes are a good political balance that throws the ball back into the unions' court to justify their scare campaign; Malcolm Maiden says business can't understand why the unfair dismissal exemption was extended to firms employing more than 100 workers; and cartoonist Sean Leahy sees the Government and business lined up against the average family.
The Australian (more good work from its FOI editor Michael McKinnon) reports that the introduction of voluntary student unionism could force disadvantaged students out of universities, federal Education Department documents reveal; that 27 barristers who have failed to lodge tax returns are to be prosecuted following a three-year enforcement campaign; that the Immigration Department has given up hope of tracking down 11 asylum-seekers who escaped from the Woomera detention centre in 2002; and that Australia's defence budget faces unsustainable pressures over the next decade and will need spending increases of at least $1 billion a year if the defence force is to be properly equipped to meet future security challenges, a major report to be released this week warns.
The Herald reports that lawyers fear prosecutors in terrorism trials will be given the upper hand over defence lawyers in using video-link evidence from overseas, under proposed laws being considered by Parliament; that the critically endangered southern bluefin tuna is being hit by escalating foreign over-fishing, the Federal Government and the fishing industry have warned; that the Howard Government has in effect ruled out the French nuclear power giant Cogema mining its high-grade uranium deposit in Kakadu National Park, despite soaring world prices of the ore; and that Mardi Gras is facing its second crisis in four years, with a collapse in ticket sales for its main fund-raiser forcing a review of plans for what is normally a month-long gay festival.
The Age reports that the State Government has cancelled many nationally funded skills training contracts because of a rort that could cost taxpayers millions of dollars; and that Victoria's state school buildings have been declared among Australia's worst, with students and teachers working in decrepit rooms.
On the Fairfax paper's most viewed list is the tale of an 18-year-old pupil at an English girls' boarding school who was found with £300,000 ($700,000) in her bank account - suspected of being at the centre of a Russian Mafia money-laundering operation; and The Australian reports that post-natal depression is also a boy thing (otherwise known as sleep-deprivation and dirty nappy syndrome).
The Age: John Roskam (Institute of Public Affairs) says that over-regulation is stifling Australia because it lacks a tradition of intellectual conservatism; Hugh White says that the Howard Government, having talked up a Pacific Plan, is being slow to act, and that its openness to workers from the region will be the test of its bona fides; Damien Kingsbury explains why Indonesia will not listen to Australian calls to ban Jemaah Islamiah; and Alan Taylor talks us through the Tory leadership struggle.
The Australian: Patrick Walters thinks Ross Babbage has some good ideas about defence; Paul Gray writes the most unimaginably silly tosh about the ABC as he continues the Murdoch empire's campaign against the public broadcaster (The Australian has forfeited the right to be taken seriously on the ABC); Louise McBride is given yet more space to push The Australian's tax cutting agenda (some days its hard to find an honest word in this newspaper);Glenn Milne see above; and there are a number of commentators responding to the IR announcement - see here.
The SMH: Chip Rolley is not surprised that the deportation from China of Sydney Dance Company member Xue-Jun Wang for handing out a pamphlet happened in Shanghai, because he says, the police state is more in evidence there because of the city's free-spirited history; Paul Sheehan joins that chorus of critics attacking Sydney's Cross City Tunnel, which he says is a public asset being turned into a private bank, an overpriced, over-promised monstrosity of a deal; Alison Cameron worries that our obsession with our childrens' futures is at the cost to their imaginations; and Hugh White see Age above.
The challenge to Rupert Murdoch's single-handed, total control over his news and publishing empire is the major story, getting a big run everywhere and leading The Age which reports that News Corp has slammed a group of 11 superannuation funds suing over plans to extend its controversial poison pill, accusing them of neglecting their members' best interests and jeopardising the financial security of all shareholders in the media giant. Adding to Murdoch's woes, the Herald reports that a row is now brewing at News's UK cable television arm, British Sky Broadcasting, headed by Mr Murdoch's son James.
The Age also reports that the tea ceremony and the mystical aura that surrounds it in Japan are giving way to the aroma of fresh roasted beans and the mastery of the barista, opening up a new market for the Australian dairy industry; that Australian business is far less generous than individuals when it comes to putting its hands in its pockets for charitable causes, despite talk in recent years about corporate social involvement; that after a string of major collapses across the US car industry this year, another player has fallen by the wayside.
The Herald reports that Julian Mounter's short tenure as chief executive of the Seven Network six years ago has caused an early disruption to the broadcaster's $1.1 billion damages case against its media and telecommunications rivals; and that sharemarket trading is expected to begin on a cautious note today as investors regroup after last week's big losses.
The Australian reports that the new US earnings season could lengthen the shadow over the Australian stock market this week; and that CSL'S anti-cervical cancer vaccine is a superior breakthrough to the Cochlear ear implant and is likely to have a greater profit spin-off, according to an upbeat CSL chief executive Brian McNamee.
And however uncomfortable things might be for Rupert these days, he has a long way to go before experiencing the miseries being endured by his one-time fellow mogul Conrad Black: FBI agents have swooped on the disposal of toppled media baron Conrad Black's New York apartment, seizing almost $US9 million ($A11.8 million) in proceeds from the sale on grounds they were accumulated as part of a fraud scheme.
The Daily Telegraph: John Howard yesterday presented "big but fair" changes to workplace relations, with the pledge they would strengthen the economy and boost wages; The NSW Government will lead the charge to topple the Federal Government's workplace reforms in the High Court, amid fears the changes are even worse than originally thought.
The Herald-Sun: Tens of thousands of people were killed when a powerful earthquake flattened towns and villages in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan; Victorian parents paid $56 million to send their kids to state schools last year, turning "free education" into a "fee squeeze".
The Courier-Mail: Workers will be able to cash in entitlements such as meal breaks and public holidays for pay rises under landmark workplace reforms unveiled yesterday; Six months before Andrew Chan, an alleged ringleader of the Bali Nine, was arrested on the holiday island he allegedly acted as a mule himself, taking a shipment of heroin to Australia strapped to his body.
The Advertiser: Up to 30,000 people are dead following the massive earthquake that hit neighbouring Pakistan and India on Saturday; Five hundred solar panels will be installed at Adelaide's new airport terminal, saving it up to $50,000 a year in power bills.
The West Australian: John Howard has promised workers more jobs and higher wages under his industrial relations shake-up announced yesterday but unions say the changes will lead to employees losing their rights to public holidays, meal breaks and overtime loadings; Soldiers and local volunteers used bulldozers and bare hands yesterday to pull survivors from houses and buildings toppled by a powerful earthquake that struck the Himalayan region of Kashmir, killing at least 20,000 people in the region.
The Mercury: Tasmania's police union has called for more officers to handle the state's new domestic violence laws'; Prime Minister John Howard's WorkChoice reforms will take choice away from workers, Tasmania's unions said in the wake of the latest raft of industrial reforms yesterday.
What the ICC Super Series did not need, with its credibility under threat, was for its team of highly paid superstars to flop spectacularly for the third time in as many matches in the final one-day international in Melbourne last night; But, on balance, Peter Roebuck appears to be enjoying it all; Mark Skaife won his fifth Bathurst 1000 yesterday in a tough and brutal race that took out reigning V8 supercar champion Marcos Ambrose and cost him the lead in the title chase.
THE DAILY BRIEFING