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What Webdiary means to you is not necessarily what it means to me

What Webdiary means to you is not necessarily what it means to me.
by Malcolm B Duncan

Ian MacDougall was right: his comment on the About Webdiary thread was rather long. As to whether it deserved separate thread starter status, I cannot comment. I am not a moderator and have neither desire, time, temperament nor inclination to be.

The encapsulation of Margo’s vision for the site is, I think, best summed up in her own words:

The mission of the Webdiary is:

- to help meet the unmet demand of some Australians for conversations on our present and our future, and to spark original thought and genuine engagement with important issues which effect us all

- to link thinking Australians whoever they are and wherever they live.

- to insist that thinking Australians outside the political and economic establishment have the capacity to contribute to the national debate

- to provide an outlet for talented writers and thinkers not heard in mainstream media

- to participate in the development of a rapidly growing and increasingly important independent media harnessing the talents of citizen journalists working in collaboration with professional journalists.

Does it meet those objectives? As to the first, ignoring the typo “effect” for “affect” I think it does and likewise for the next three. As for the last, since her retirement, the capacity to engage with professional journalists is limited in that, even though some moderators are or were journalists, their commitment to Webdiary is not (and cannot in current circumstances be) full-time. Margo’s presence was a great loss but things evolve.

To encapsulate the essence of Ian’s comment, he expresses dissatisfaction with that into which it has evolved and is evolving. Leaving aside personal histories, (and many casual visitors, even some regular contributors, would be surprised just how much contact there is behind the scenes amongst Webdiarists including moderators – what you see is not what passes over private email contacts) one of his complaints boils down to a question of bias. So what? What forum discussing politics does not contain inherent bias? We have Ernest William Graham so rusted on to the Ruddy Government that it can do no wrong and there isn’t enough WD 40 in the world to get him off. We have the free marketeers who are having a bit of a hard time of it at the moment since the bubble burst.

One of Ian’s complaints is that we have lost Satan and, with Paradise Regained both here and in the rebel colonies with the election of the mutt with spindly legs, there is no evil in the World now to rail against. Yet,

Who reads
Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
A spirit and judgement equal or superior
(And what he brings, what need he elsewhere seek?)
Uncertain and unsettled still remains,
Deep-versed in books and shallow in himself.

Paradise Regained Bk 4, l 322

For my part, there is quite enough to be getting on with here preserving our liberties against legislative lunatics to be bothering principally about the world: Webdiarists are not going to solve its problems but they are welcome to have a go. Just don’t expect me to weigh in unless I can see clear historical error or it has a clear effect on my domestic interests or my (publicly declared) political agenda.

I think on this point, Ian is at least misguided if not plain wrong. From a conservative libertarian 19th Century Liberal lawyer’s point of view, if the Hawke, Keating and Howard Governments did any good, I’d be pleased to have someone point it out to me. I see the Ruddy Government heading in the same direction: propping up shareholders (gamblers) at the expense of the tax-avoiding public. Let me be clear, tax avoidance is no bad thing: better to pay tax through consumption (a form of customs and excise) which is discretionary than let the bastards think they have a limitless supply on tap to waste. How do you think NSW got into this mess? But I digress. What has happened since the rejection of Howard and his gangster mob by the people is that everyone is in a state of unaccustomed unreality exacerbated first by the international economic shock (which blind Freddie and a number of his adherents on this site had been predicting for some time) and followed by the farce of the US elections.

Notwithstanding that, debate has continued. While it is true that Webdiarists generally fall either into the Graham ideological camp or its opposite, not all of us does. The better analogy is a Venn diagram. For most of us there is not only considerable overlap which makes it difficult to categorise any particular individual but there are many instances of rational discourse changing people’s minds.

As to editorial bias, again I think Ian misses the mark. The moderators agree on moderation policies but they are anything but of one mind either socially or politically. I think they impose standards fairly uniformly (and I don’t agree with some of those standards – Dr Reynolds particularly has a very Presbyterian attitude to robust criticism which she generally describes as abuse – poor deluded creature) but I do not think they are otherwise bound by uniformity either of thought or opinion.

[Adopting a Welsh accent, although not that sported by Julia Gillard] “curmudgeon” is it, Scott Dunmore? As fine a back-handed compliment as ever I have been given. Although I would point out that while I am economic in expression and with my time, I am not miserly.

I also disagree with Kathy Farrelly’s objection to abuse: the more the merrier. I am no stranger to having some of my more acerbically witty comments marked Do Not Publish (DNP for the uninitiated) by feint–hearted moderators. I live most of my professional life at the NSW Bar and, believe me, that’s one place where, if you can’t stand the heat, you really ought to get out of the kitchen quick smart. The best advice, if you are of that temperament, would be to spend most of your life under a running shower. Nevertheless, abuse per se is not a complete substitute for argument. One may be arguing with another contributor who would give your average bacillus a running head start in an IQ test but one still has to make out a cogent argument.

In short, I just think the climate is such that we are going through a lull. The field, as Farmer George well knew, has, from time to time, to lie fallow in order to yield at a later time. Now we are beset by mangels, wurzels and turnips; I have confidence the new year will see a bumper crop of exotica. The deteriorating economy will be a fecund source of material as will the inevitable mistakes that are made both by the Ruddy government and the mutt with skinny legs. The Middle East, like the poor, will ever be with us and the domestic situation will languish with rising unemployment. The loonies will continue on about climate change until we get some really hard science one way or the other. Meanwhile, we shall have to be even more vigilant against the erosion of our liberties. Webdiary has a role to play in that.

What then, does Webdiary mean to me?

It strikes me that “journalism” falls into the following (sometimes overlapping) categories:

Pamphleteering (now turned into the sort of commentary by the Ackermans, Devines, Albrechtsens, Hendersons, the various political flacks who get columns in the newspapers and those who dwell on the edge of sanity like Paul Sheehan), reporting of news, opinion by news journalists about news, journalists interviewing other journalists (a particular failing of the ABC but gee, it’s cheap), sensationalism, beatups, sport (shudder), magazine articles in the weekend papers, and lifestyle.

Webdiary is not, to me, journalism in any of those senses. It is an opportunity to float pieces of the above for comment by the community at large at a length and in a format which is amenable to no other medium than the internet. It is also an opportunity for members of that community to float ideas to gauge the reaction of other members of the community. It would also be nice to have regular gardening and cooking sections.

From time to time I find the content tedious but, generally, huge fun. Now that the new Defamation Acts are in force and both truth and honest belief in the truth of what one publishes are defences, it is getting to be even more fun politically.

My first article for Webdiary, written at Margo’s invitation, was A time to break down, and a time to build up published on 5 October 2005. I had noticed Webdiary when it first started as part of Fairfax, watched for a while, made one comment on something then went away. In 2005 I looked at it again and became interested in the diversity of views, expertise and genuine alternatives expressed on the site to those one found in the commentariat in the mainstream media. There were articles one did not see from all sorts of sources back in the days when the site could afford that (that has dropped off somewhat but not disappeared). Like most Webdiarists, at first, I simply lurked. Then I started to contribute. I became concerned when I started my own political party that conflicts of interest might arise were that not disclosed. I raised that with Margo and she asked me to write what became my inaugural contribution. It garnered 74 comments (including some replies by me).

Since then, I have used the site to expand both the range of comment and my ability as a writer. Trained as a literary critic with a deep background in the 18th (and to a lesser extent the 17th) Century, I did not think I could write creatively. Whether I am right, dear reader, is for you to judge. I can say it has given me a lot of wicked pleasure and draws on all my skills (such as they may be) developed over about 34 years now. The breakup of what I have written to date is one review, 15 political articles, 24 satirical pieces, one purely legal piece (although that is a common thread through almost everything I write), two sole comment articles, five pieces of pure whimsy, the introduction of the Bulletin Board The Town Crier and the creation of a number of fictional characters: Alphonse de Ponce, astrologer extraordinaire who has penned four prognostications; Claude the Diabetic Cat who has written two but gets to the keyboard as often as possible to comment (usually on food); the revival of that extraordinary politician Tom Lewis; and, drawing on my 18th Century background, Dr Yorick. Of them all, my favourites are the Nadir series and the Yorick Despatches although time will tell where the Great Australian Novel might take us all.

Analysing what I have written statistically is odd but I think typical of Webdiary. My best “hit rate” is 128 while some things, particularly the political satires and the whimsy, often do not draw anything. That used to be dispiriting until I discovered that they are all read by large numbers of people and have a following. Well, Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life, did he?

Not, mind, that I’m suggesting I’m mentally ill but I was narked to find that, without consulting me, I had suddenly been transmogrified from a contributor to a blogger (whatever that might be). Sounds redolent of Burke and Hare to me.

A final point in relation to the student experiment. I do not agree with Scott Dunmore. The exercise has been valuable. A very few of them have entered into the spirit of the thing and, as they mature as writers, will become part of the community. As for the rest, they do no more than reflect the decline in the intellectual life of the University generally: they had to do two assignments for a course that is costing them an arm and a leg just so they can have the opportunity to be qualified unemployed journalists and have another few meaningless letters after their names on their CV’s. To that end, they have ticked the box and fulfilled the requirement. Were I marking some of them (and I say this without having been graced with knowing what the actual tasks they were given are) I would fail them on merit. For my part, I think the University would be much better off just taking their money and awarding the degrees with the caveat Magnum cum Pecuniae. Save us all a lot of time. And after all, you could make the application form sufficiently complicated to deserve a Mirror Maze medal just for completing it successfully. The clever thing would be to structure the fees so that it cost the degree fee minus $10 to purchase the application form and $10 for the testamur. That, at least, would save the embarrassment of actually having to fail anyone. Whatever happened to that Sub-continental stalwart B.A. (Oxon.) Failed?

So, Ian and Scott, I think Webdiary has as robust a future as you and others will allow. It is proper that we should question its direction from time to time but we should ask those questions on line.

Over to you, Webdiarists.

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The success of irony

..depends at least in part on its presentation.  Its failure does not necessarily mean some personal flaw in the reader.

I am intrigued by David Roffey's  comment :    "...1) irony is obviously beneath Ian's notice..."

Could you please point out which response/s of yours were meant ironically? 

I had accepted your opinions in good faith as written, but your comment shows that I have misunderstood you, as I certainly saw no irony.   Could you clarify?

Feinds, roamins, and countrybumpkins

Give me a lend of you.

There are times when this place is just like a sandpit [note to self - need to get the sandpit back into the kiddie playground in Fitzroy Gardens].

Dickens if I can remember who said it but it goes: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Whatever. The lull is fading. There has been some rather intelligent comment on here the last day or so. The Howard Debacle will no doubt engender much more. Gosh he's a lying little creep. One of his saddest legacies is that neither TOM or I will ever be PM. Different philosophies (especially when it comes to cats) but we do manage to get things done.

So, welcome back Ian and Jenny. No Nellie swansongs please. Life goes on and it will never be the same without you both. Bugger the moderators. Well, perhaps I should leave the final execution of that manoeuvre to Alphonse.

[ Richard: Oi! ]

I've just been reading Aquinas and apparently DNP was originally Roman latinate for Do Not Pass later taken up by some Spaniards and became known as "non-passaran".

Now, could someone please explain to me how one gets a rubber on a duckie?

And/or, why one would bother?

This could explain it

Malcolm:  "Now, could someone please explain to me how one gets a rubber on a duckie?"

Lot's of soapy lubricant and frenetic squeezing!


Not wishing to be rude

Exactly how many children that you are aware of do you have, Kathy Farrelly?

It also means to me...

We watched a part of the "Good news week" where Julie Bishop was interviewed.

It may sound uncomplimentary but, the "Lady with an attitude" as I have called her, should give up her day job.

Ms. Bishop was brilliant and relaxed during the "couch" section concerning her childhood.  Whether true or not she was very entertaining and it was a buzz to us to be able to finally enjoy her TV presence.

Well done to Julie - can she lighten up Malcolm?


What a surprise!

Thanks for the tip Ernest.

Missed Julie on Good News Week, so googled it up on You Tube.

She is a delight!. Who'd a thunk it, eh?

 I was beginning to think that perhaps the woman was a boring old fart, completely devoid of humour.(Ya know, like Howard and Rudd.)

Many thanks, once again.

For those who are interested, here is the link.


Circle the wagons!

First let me congratulate Malcolm B Duncan on the speed at which he wrote his threadstarter What Webdiary means  to you is not necessarily what it means to me', and also the Webdiary Management on their efficiency in publishing it within an hour of its finishing. Malcolm, you are clearly a man of influence. I waited in vain for even an acknowledgement of my proposed threadstarter, entitled What Future for Webdiary?'

Perhaps the Webdiary censors might like to evaluate the damage they are doing to the site’s liberal image by treating some contributors with silence and closet contempt, and others with open enthusiasm. I say ‘censors’, while being aware that there should be a mountain of difference between moderation and censorship. One-line abusive snipes can be found in abundance on many unmoderated sites, and I would not want to see them infest Webdiary. But in my case failure to post or even acknowledge the thread I submitted was censorship. That is, information control.

One should not have to resort to stunts in the middle of the night in order to bypass the censors and slip a thread in as a comment to a nominally liberal site in the way I did. Though admittedly, it did take me back to the days of the Vietnam Moratorium when, gluepot in one hand and brush in the other, I darted late at night round the streets of Sydney dodging the cops and pasting up antiwar posters.

I now want to take issue with some of David Roffey’s replies, which appear under Malcolm’s thread here as well as under my comment What Future for Webdiary under 'About Webdiary'.

Terminal Decline?

David Roffey disputes my view that Webdiary is in terminal decline, and quotes site statistics (such as comment numbers for the past three years) as evidence. He then contradicts himself when he says that it is "very much not true" for me to say that "the more comment the better is taken for granted" by Webdiary.  Well, he can't have it both ways.

While I said that comment, and the more the better, is the lifeblood of any weblog, I did not say that the number of comments is a valid measure of the site in and of itself; or of the intellectual sophistication of those contributing to it. Far from it. A perusal of some of the threads Fiona Reynolds cites as having attracted large numbers of comments will soon blow that idea away, and is actually one of the issues I raised. 

If the site was dynamic and seen as a place for intelligent and balanced debate by its visitors or those who hit it regularly, then over the past two years the commentariat would have been expanding, attracting in-depth comment and diverse thread contributions from new contributors; which it clearly has not been doing. The reverse has been true. The student exercise to some extent is at least a recognition by Management of that, but it remains to be seen whether that translates into lasting improvement and atttracts a greater number of contributors over the longer term.

Policy on DNPed (ie Do Not Publish) Comments:
David Roffey wrote: "On general principle, we should avoid publishing any material from DNP'd posts, however much we are tempted to use them to justify decisions. By all means copy them back to complainants to explain why they were DNP'd, but don't quote them in the public domain. All of our longtime correspondents on all sides have had their moments of intemperance which they would prefer not to see again. It is invidious (and a bastardised editorial form of ad hominem attack on them) to publish one person or side's transgressions."

This, note, is David Roffey’s personal opinion. It is nowhere written down in the guidelines, and is incidental confirmation of the necessity to avoid arbitrary and unwritten codes of conduct in the wider sphere. I do not agree with him on this. Clearly if a Webdiarist sends in a comment that is not marked 'NFP' (not for publication) then that Webdiarist intends that comment to be published. So he or she must be happy if it is published, and put out if it is not.

I do agree with David Roffey that a commenter can have the occasional moment of intemperance and I also agree that such comments should simply be left unpublished. However, when a Webdiarist sends four increasingly shrill and abusive comments over more than a day, and claims editorial bias against him, and is backed up on at least one of those claims by one of the other editors, then clearly he intended to be heard and intended those comments to be published. 

To suggest that my attempt to carry out the commenter's clear wishes would be a "bastardised editorial form of ad hominem attack" on him is convoluted garbage, and I suggest that David Roffey is intelligent enough to know it. 

The Webdiarist concerned thought he was badly done by, and it appears he has not posted since. I hope this will at least let him know I was prepared, in seeking to have all four DNPed comments put up under an explanatory comment of my own, to have my decisions against him examined by the whole community.

My actions in relation to this matter however led to my being sacked as editor by David Roffey on grounds of a breach of editorial ethics. Clearly these ethics, however defined are rather rubbery in their application. David Roffey appears to have no problem with another editor self-publishing an abusive comment against another Webdiarist around 4 am in the morning. I refer of course to Richard Tonkin’s little epistle to Jenny Hume entitled ‘Go to blazes Jenny’ which clearly was in breach of WD guidelines. 

Comments will be Published if…

David Roffey says that if comments are “coherent, are not personally abusive and have content they will be up there”. Well actually, no they won’t. I later submitted a more general comment (in lieu of the one he objected to and had DNPed) in which I deleted the name of the Webdiarist concerned and his DNPed comments, ie the now published comment Allegation of Editorial Bias. This comment clearly met all three of the criteria. Yet to get that published I again had to resort to a dead-of-the-night conspiracy with the one remaining editor who abhors censorship. I had previously been told by a senior editor to whom I emailed it for comment, that if it was formally submitted it would not be published, due to part of it being in that editor’s opinion "inappropriate”. Three emails to that editor requesting clarification were simply ignored. I challenge David Roffey to show me how it failed his test and that editor to explain on what grounds it was "inappropriate". I suggest this was nothing more than another attempt at censorship, which I managed with the co-operation of the more liberal minded editor, to defeat.
I repeat: it is not my desire to see Webdiary fail as a community weblog. As I said I have particular affection for the site, and for its founder, but in its current state it has little to offer for me in terms of intellectual stimulation and I know I am not alone in that. Further, its current form of management with its tendency toward censorship does not sit well with me. A great deal has been written on Webdiary threads against information control on the part of Government and other agencies. Time then to practice what is being preached.

In conclusion I do not think Malcolm B Duncan is correct in his view that Webdiary is merely experiencing a lull. It is a malaise more like a deficiency disease, and for all the reasons I set out in ‘What future for Webdiary?’  However he is right to say that the site means different things to different people, and its small remaining community appears content to jog along as it is currently doing. That alleged present contentment is not shared, and I see the departure of many long-term contributors as a sign of that. When I spoke out I expected rational discussion of the issues I raised, but was rewarded with righteous editorial howls, and they circled the wagons.

So be it. Tonto, our work’s clearly done here. Time to leave them to it, saddle up and hit the trail into the sunset. With a bit of luck we might catch up with Jenny, who was last seen galloping off towards Broken Hill on a horse called Silver.  

Gone to blazes one could say.

(A footnote for those who have been wondering. For the record, I give here an outline history of what led to this whole fracas:

On the 'Henson vs Hanson' thread, Kathy Farrelly posted a link to a full-frontal photo by Henson of a naked juvenile woman that jumped over the subjective line between art and porn, and in the opinion of most if not all women commenting, landed on the wrong side. On the other hand, many but not all of the men took Henson’s side in this. So those men were challenged to say whether or not they would approve their daughters becoming subjects for such a Henson photo if offered the photo opportunity. 

Some of the responses were considered evasive by Jenny Hume and she in particular kept on the men involved like a blue heeler with a mob of cattle bunged up in a forcing yard, and they sensed only too well that they were being worked into a race and onto a truck. The emotional head of steam this built up resulted in editor Richard Tonkin’s 4 am explosion in Adelaide in his self-published abusive comment entitled ‘Go to blazes Jenny’, and in another diarist’s string of abusive comments; which I as an editor following standard procedure marked DNP, but in the subsequent furore sought to publish in an explanatory comment of my own.

The rest, as they say, is history.)

 David R: brief notes to those bits of the above that involve me: 1) irony is obviously beneath Ian's notice, 2) the "rule" I set out is a (to me) obvious corollary of the original rules - if a comment was deemed inappropriate to be published, then it shouldn't be published vicariously in the body of another comment; 3) if there is no trust between editors and they have to indulge in conspiracies, then the site is better off without their input, 4) Ian presumes my agreement with a comment I have never read and therefore have no opinion on:

Breaker breaker, ten-four rubber duck.

Justin, on reading your post I've just replaced the header "Life goes on" from mine.

Having been painted as the culprit in this situation, I've been carefully avoiding any ongoing debate.  I don't think this stuff is healthy, so will say my bit and move on.

For those who haven't seen it, here's the post that has been causing the kerfuffle.

Having family that have been involved in doing the Breaker Morant story (Uncle who wrote the play, Aunt who created the book with Pro Hart's illustrations) I've read a fair bit, and that poem (Two Gossips, I think) is one I've known by heart for twenty years.

After debate across two threads on the Henson issue, yes I'd had enough of my point of view being dismissed.  I thought the Morant ditty as an appropriate metaphor for the level of discussion that I'd perceived ie people talking amongst themselves and making incorrect assumptions.

I'd also thought the archaic epithet "Go to blazes" as someting that had been considered inoffensive for the last fifty years or so.

As to the "four in the morning" stuff, you'll notice that I work odd hours.  Have a look at the timestamps on most of my pieces.  Whether or not I've just finished my hospitality duties or am at home for the whole night, such times are often when I write and read.  Have always been a night owl, and think better after midnight. 

Ian, sorry things have worked out this way.  I am not going to engage on a drawn-out debate on these matters.  

"Ten-four", in C.B. radio parlance, is synonymous to "noted", and intended to convey the same semantic quotient as when you apply that term.  

My two cents

Go to blazes! (old-fashioned, informal) dictionary definition.

A  rude and angry way of telling someone to go away and that you do not care what happens to them.

Just two things.

1. Many people do not  think  that term to be inoffensive.

2. I reiterate, that whilst I am in favour of moderation, I do not agree with censorship of one's (differing) opinion.

Life goes on and on and

Ian, I get the impression you are feeling that a Scot in the hand is worth two in the bush, as far as WD is concerned.

I did find it curious that Malcolm's reply was used as a thread starter especially taking into account your initial post and the manner it was published.

But is all this really necessary?

WD maybe in decline, maybe not; personally it appears to be doing what it's been doing for years - chugging along. I thought years ago the moderators would eventually give up taking into account the work and stress involved in keeping the kiddies happy considering WD rules etc.

After all there has been some pretty useless and time consuming discussions -  the great meme debate but was a fine example of frustration and ego driving the participants into a vortex of their own repetiveness and  futility. But people can be like that, and it can be very easy to fall into that hole, and when it happens it can be somewhat embarrassing - for the observers who usually turn off anyway.

Sometimes we have to decide when enough is enough.

I don't agree that WD is suffering from a deficiency disease and I think some of the students threads have been a good addition; it's unfortunate that the students don't appear to follow up their threads with replies, but after all they are students and probably have more important student things to do. Like work, study, uni, and real life social stuff.  I would have enjoyed their input though.

Ian, have you considered your current views about WD's "decline" have more to do with that go to blazes thing and less to do with reality?

Anyway I miss reading your stuff and miss the two Scots from the bush. 

Not really Justin

Justin:  "Ian, have you considered your current views about WD's "decline" have more to do with that go to blazes thing and less to do with reality?"

Since Ian feels he has had his say and now just wants to quit this place and that issue concerns me, allow me to answer that for him, as I know the truth anyway.  

The answer to that is No. He knows only too well I can look after myself. It was for both of us the seemingly arbitrary application of WD editorial ethics that was the issue there, but not the only issue in regard to WD as his proposed piece What Future for Webdiary sought to discuss.

For the life of me I cannot see why the Management seemed to find that piece so threatening as obviously was the case in that it seemed to provoke a damage control response. 

But Ian has for the reasons he set out in that proposed piece been contributing less and less to WD.  He has an incredible mind and knowledge, particularly of science and history and his mind never stops working, (which is why I see the snakes and he treads on them). So he is constantly looking for intellectual stimulation which he once seemed to find on WD but no longer seems to do. So be it.

Frankly the stuff he has been writing this past year is more suited to academic journals and far too long for Webdiary anyway. 

However Richard's comment is the reason I personally stopped posting.  I wrote once about triggers in life that bring back to the mind the weight that it would cast aside forever. They can come out of the blue and that was such a trigger, though Richard could not have predicted that.  But such triggers move you to a different space.  

I am sure, as Ian says, WD will jog along and no doubt quite happily without the two Scots from the bush, and I for one wish it well. It was nice of you to say that you miss us. I can't speak for Ian on that score, but no, I am out mate. So this is really just to say thanks for the laughs and the stories you told and I must say that your life story was one of the most interesting and extraordinary I have ever heard - and I've heard a few in my time.

BTW: Half Viking if you don't mind where I am concerned.  We did over the Scots you know.  Cheers mate.

Cheers Jenny Scot - Viking or Viking - Scot

Good to hear you are still alive and well (I hope) Jenny and thanks for your kind consideration. Yep WD will jog along but the more the merrier I reckon. I shall look forward to your return, when and if you feel the time is right.

Tell same to the ugly one - and don't forget the hug.

Cold comfort on the farm

Och, but Jenny, yer Vikins neiver got to th' heilands. Where did that red in my beard come from? Must be the Irish.

Still trying to get enough money for Hogmanay.

Yours aye,


Just for you two blokes

First, Malcolm B Duncan, what is it with the Scots, that they never let a good meal pass? Just when we are leaving for a week I find a skinned rabbit in the flaming fridge. 

Shall be in touch good Sir closer to the big day. Fancy rabbit stew?

Justin, thank you and yes I am well as is the Scot. Shall pass on the hug, not that he is short on same. Though I was rather unhappy about the poor little bunny he shot and now I am expected to cook it. Not going to happen.  So I am thinking of dumping it on Scotty Dunmore on our  way over the 'Bungles tomorrow.

Cheers and now I'm off. Maybe we'll meet again down the track, but don't wait for me. Look after our Kathy here - she's rather special and to think we started off two years ago on the wrong foot. Life really is full of surprises.

at least it's kept Claude out of trouble!

You do yourself a disservice, Malcolm, by pointing out your new career as blogger, for upon examining your illustrious record, I came across the following prediction (which once again proves I am always right and others often wrong) :

"Submitted by Malcolm B Duncan on November 6, 2007 – 8:19am.

Malcolm B Duncan: Howard will win again in both Houses."

As for the contest between Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd, this is a strange event as I can't think of two men who are probably more alike than any other in the current parliament, hence poor Malcolm's fury and schoolboy-like foot stamping, Rudd is trumping him every time but only because he is delivering Malcolm's ideas (and there aren't many others that can actually be delivered in the current mess) – hence Turnbull is looking at a frustrating many years as Opposition Leader when it wasn't meant to be this way, or wishing he had joined the Labor Party where at least he could undermine Rudd from within.

Personally, I'd be quite happy with either Malcolm or Kevin at the helm at the this point in time – although several (make that most) of Mal's opposition ministers are a real worry whereas only a handful of Rudd’s are.

The sad thing is, it just isn't in Malcolm Turnbull's destiny to be Prime Minister which is a shame.

Despite the wacky McCain and awful Sarah Apalin, it's Mal who really is the maverick and a good one at that.

Although his electric light bulb bonanza was a fizzler (but with the best intentions) it's forgotten that Turnbull produced a superb alternative housing policy that wasn't too dissimilar to the great Aneurin Bevan's welfare state policies in the UK (that saw a massive growth in a variety of social and mixed public/private housing), suitably updated for this century . Put into practice four years ago it would have been a real winner today especially with the current housing woes.

This guy does have good ideas but that particular one being perceived by Howard as slightly to the left of Thatcher/Attila the Hun, it was quietly binned.

However, Webdiary won't be binned and is about to rise (my prediction) – it's greatest asset having been to divorce itself (whether forced or otherwise) from the increasingly ridiculous Fairfax stable early on with enough time to build a reputation. It isn't the number of readers that count – it's the quality! It can only get better from here (like most things)

US backflip

It now appears that the Americans have changed their bailout package to one very similar to the Rudd/Swan model.

I believe Wayne Swan when he consistently says that they expect there will be some changes or fine-tuning along the way and, while he has been roundly criticised by Poulson's friend Malcolm Turnbull (both from Goldman-Sachs), I consider that the US Treasury Chief is not too proud to admit that they too will have to learn as they go forward.

Top marks to him.

I noticed on ABC2 this morning that Andrew Robb was treated very kindly by Barry Cassidy.

He allowed Robb to constantly plead that he was only asking a question when he accused the Secretary of the Treasury of either manipulating or being manipulated.

It was not a question - it was an accusation, and he should have the guts to apologise.

I was also impressed at the attitude of Senator Xenophon. He appears to me to be a genuine independent with his own agenda. He voted against the Fuel Watch plan on his own judgement of it, and he refused to be involved with the other independent, the headline seeker Fielding.

Senator Xenophon rightly classed Fielding's demand for a Senate inquiry into who leaked the earth-shattering story about who said what after a private discussion with the lame-duck President George W. Bush as a waste of time and money.

One has to be suspicious of people who prosecuted two journalists from the Herald Sun who published a leaked story and then, in a complete reversal of so-called indignation, did nothing about Andrew Bolt, also of the Herald Sun, who also published a leaked story. Fair dinkum.

The Turnbull "New Order" is certainly showing their lack of parliamentary decorum with clowns like Robb, Abetz, Randall and the old rock solid and iron clad deceiver, Tony Abbott.


Thankfully, an end to FoolWatch

 Kevin Rudd has finally decided to scrap the fuel watch plan after it was defeated in the Senate:

Both FuelWatch and GroceryChoice - a similar scheme for monitoring supermarket prices - have drawn fire, with critics saying the initiatives did not put downward pressure on prices. "If the Government is serious about cheaper petrol for motorists they must address the cosy buy-sell arrangements in the wholesale fuel market."

The Royal Automobile Club of Victoria's David Cumming said: "The Government can't just walk away from this - they've got to come up with something else."

Mr Cumming said the scheme, which forced petrol stations to lock in prices for a 24-hour period, was "always doomed to fail".

"It was anti-competitive, and it would have led to higher average fuel prices," he said.

The ACCC had defended the scheme, saying a similar scheme in Western Australia saved motorists an average of 1.9c a litre, but academics had questioned their assessment.

But according to service station owner James Vaz, WA's FuelWatch scheme has made the state's petrol retail market less competitive and has had no impact on reducing pump prices.

And to think that the government was going to waste 20 million dollars of  tax payers money on a website  that would have been useless and ineffective.

"Terminal decline" part 2

Got round to collating all the statistics from those boring Management Updates ...

We first had a good count of visitors on moving to this site from Typepad, and that coincided with Margo retiring. In that month (December 2005) we published 43 posts/topics (excluding 14 Daily Briefings and 4 from Project Syndicate); we published 2700 comments; and in the second half of the month had 8660 unique visitors. We had, for most of the month, four full-time staff working on publishing posts and comments.

In the three post-Margo / volunteer-run years, we've had the following averages:

Posts/topics (excluding Project Syndicate and student contributions):
2006: 25.5 per month; 2007: 25.4 per month; 2008: 27.7 per month.

2006: 1151 per month; 2007: 1199 per month; 2008: 1151 per month.

Unique visitors:
2006: approx 14,000 per month; 2007: 24,000 per month; 2008: 25,500 per month.

If this decline continues I don't know where we'll end up. 

China spreads her wings....

Ernest William: "As yet not one of the world economies have claimed to be "on top" of the financial disaster that the US capitalists have foisted upon them."

Wow. And to think, only a few weeks ago the USA was being "overtaken" by China as the global economic superpower.

A diversion?

Malcolm B., are you fair dinkum?

As yet not one of the world economies have claimed to be "on top" of the financial disaster that the US capitalists have foisted upon them.

Yet, like your felllow conservatives in Australia, you have nothing but negative criticism of our democratically elected government.

While you and your namesake have no end of abuse of everything that the Rudd government has done or tried to do, not one of you has given an achievable alternatiive.  What is your objective?

We should not listen to people who complain about everything but, have no alternative.

This is to help the Australian people?

The capitalist Malcolm Turnbull "New Order" have claimed that everything - yes everything - that the Rudd government has done; has tried to do - has said or has explained - is too fast - too slow - should have known - has no financial sense.

This is to help the Australian people?

And yet, this situation caused by the "free to perform" capitalists of America, has the best financial brains in the entire world trying to find a soft landing, not only for the millions of suffering Americans, but for the rest of the world as well.

But Turnbull/Bishop knew the hidden problems even before they voted to introduce the Rudd measures!  Or did they? Fair dinkum.

When will the conservative media (who are still the makers or destroyers of the governments of US style democracies) simply ask the US counterpart merchant bankers in Australia - what would you have done?

Why don't they ask - because neither Rudd nor Obama nor Turnbull can predict a future under the present total lack of confidence in the entire world.

The Rudd Labor (or whatever) government has acted consistently with courage, decisive action, honesty and an ability to maintain an air of controlled confidence which one would expect in a time of war.

The big L liberals cannot restrain themselves from historic political facts that the governments who are in power when a recession comes upon them (let alone a depression), even when they have no responsibilty for the disaster, the popular opinion turns to the "back pocket".

The present enormous problems currently facing Australia must be remembered as having their birth in the very type of extreme capitalism which motivates the current federal opposition. 

Think and reason:

What can be gained by allowing the fear tactics of the guilty capitalist fraternaity to encourage a fear that your government cannot handle the problem?

What if it was a time of war against terrorism or poverty or even invasion?

President-elect Barack Obama stated categorically that politics is superseded by the need for a concerted effort to overcome this problem, and the Republicans have agreed.

Can we expect any less of our citizens?

Hang your head Malcolm B.


Enough of this stuff

I don't think the type of mindless team support cheering of the above post is helpful in stopping any decline. This type of thing is better served on a dedicated site. If this person is serious (i have doubts), he's wasting his and others time here.

The re-election of both Mr Rudd and Obama will depend on the economic situation over the next few years. People either will feel they've gone backward, in which case they'll punish, or they'll feel they've gone forward, in which case they'll reward. That's the facts of our present day democracy. People have their vote up for sale, and the days of the non-questioning political partisan are well over.

Spamming a board isn't going to help change that. It's just really, really, boring.

I'll decide what I do with my time and where I waste it

Two points, Paul Morrella.

Your first paragraph is nothing but pure assertion: opinion backed up by no argument. I most certainly am serious about discussing the future of this site, what it was, what it is and into what it might evolve. The piece was in response to Ian MacDougall's post on another thread.

Secondly, your assertion that economics is the primary factor in electoral intention on the part of voters is (a) manifestly demonstrably false and (b) contrary to your assertion about how voters "feel".

The last elections federally and in NSW obviously had more to do with feeling than with economic assessments. We now know that the Howard Government was lying about the economy but at the time it, and I seem to remember, you, were praising its record as an economic manager. On your first assertion that should have resulted in re-election. In NSW the place has been a basket case for years and demonstrably so since at least Carr's departure. That economic chaos did not prevent the hapless Iemma winning against the even more hapless Debnam.

This was a serious attempt to engage those on this site about where we should be heading with it. If you find it that boring, why do you bother to weigh in? Nothing you have said (as is typical) could be regarded as useful contribution to debate. Maybe it is just because you have your head so firmly stuck up your narrow ideology that you only get a limited amount of oxygen. Perhaps you might benefit from a wee dose of nitrous oxide (on prescription of course). I suppose another way to lighten you up would be to set you on fire but that might be a breach of the Crimes Act or at least require a fireworks permit. Meanwhile, I'll let you go back to being bored.

Those who complain without offering an alternative

Ernest, I suggest that you take the time to read this thread.

They will come

Well I must say it was polite of Malcolm to replace albatross with "bacillus". 

And never fear Malcolm, one day in the distant future archaeologists will dig up your abode and discover greatness there in.

Such greatest will be revealed to the entire planet, as such our world will become a far better place.

There will be followers, a few at first but like flies to dog shit they will come and soon the few will be billions. Billions of deliriously happy people all rejoicing in the greatness of their beloved and very clever Father, the all knowing and all just, our saviour - Claude.

I dips me lid

Well Malcolm this is a testament to your abilities. What did it take, ten minutes to rip it off? I know how much time you had and it must have involved a phone call. No wonder I couldn't get anything but an engaged signal. The purpose of my attempted call has been fulfilled anyway.

You don't agree with me? Yes you do Malcolm; read all that I wrote.

I'm not in a combative mood, rather the opposite and see myself as a head banger. I saw fault on all sides.

Arrogance? Probably, since the weight of accusations against me on that score have been around for almost as long as I can remember and cannot be discounted.

Backhanded compliment? You might have to reconsider since I was comparing you to myself. Two grumpy old men that do not suffer fools gladly, seen all that shit before etc.

Blind Freddy? That Malcolm is dismissive and while that should have been the case, it simply wasn't to anyone inside. It was the outsiders that could see what was happening. I'm very much, an outsider.

All in the timing

According to my Word programme, Scott Dunmore, including editing, it took 203 minutes. I work quickly but not as quickly as you suggest. I also try to be accurate and finding the right quotation from Paradise Lost took a little while.

The reference to 'back-handed compliment" was to the combination of "curmudgeon" and the flattering "he can also teach you how to think". I've spent most of my adult life trying to teach people how to think - often very difficult with judges (and the lower down the food chain you go, the more difficult it is - the Court of Appeal can be quite receptive at times).

As far as the economic crisis goes, it was inevitable. First, there are always cycles but I am probably in a better position than most of you to know exactly how profligate the banks and mortgage originators have been in the face of all prudent tests. The next thing to blow up will be as the store purchases on the don't pay for 2, 3, 4 years start falling due. About January I reckon. Who is going to wear the default? Will the Ruddy Government put its hand in our pockets again to bail out the finance companies that kept DJs, Myer, the Hervey Norman franchisees, Domaine, Freedom and the rest afloat? How long is a wet piece of string?

Harder times coming, my friends. if you've still got hatches left, batten them down. For those of you like John Pratt who can afford to spend, please do so wisely to try and keep Australians in jobs. Travelling is a good way to do that and there should be some fantastic bargains coming up. Also, keep a wary eye on the airlines - one of them is likely to go bust, not from fuel prices now that they are dropping but purely from lack of patronage.

Maybe the only way out is to legalise drugs and impose tax and GST on them. That should build a few railways.

Webdiary ups and downs

I have been absent from Webdiary in the past few weeks. I am happy with the political trifecta of the last 12 months. First Jim Turnour in Leichhardt, then Rudd in Canberra and now Obama in the US. The political cards have been falling the right way up for a change.

Climate Change is now well on the agenda and a few are even seeing Peak Oil as our next economic challenge. Most of my political goals have been achieved, leaving me with only a few windmills to tilt at.

I am about to leave on a holiday to Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, (Castlemaine) and Perth for Christmas - my wife and I are busy spending Rudd's Christmas bonus to keep Australia afloat.

Webdiary is great because we can drop in and out as we please, we can participate when we feel fire in our bellies, and just sit and watch at times when we don't want to enter the fray.

I am happy with the format. I think less moderation, including the number of comments allowed each day, would be better. That would put more pressure on contributors to be responsible. Maybe a warning or two and banning for a month or two would be a deterrent to those who abuse the privilege.

It has been a great year and Webdiary has played a big part in this year for me.

I have enjoyed our chats and meeting all our Webdiarists if only online.

Thanks to all the editors and people who put the work in behind the scenes.

I will try to log on from time to time while travelling.

Have a merry Christmas and very happy new year.

Fiona: Safe and happy travels, John.

Bon voyage John

G'day John, I join Fiona in wishing you and yours all the best on your trip and for a merry Chistmas and a very happy new year.

I also agree with your gratitude to the moderators/editors and others who make this forum unique at least in my living memory.

And now my take: Malcolm B. has a very high opinion of himself and does not suffer fools - that is, anyone who disagrees with him.

However, I do appreciate his mention of me since it seems better to be loved or hated than ignored.

Regarding Margo's vision, I am comfortable with the first three as posted since I believe that I am a thinking and reasoning person. I am stubborn in what  I believe but, not pig-headed.  Stubborn people can be convinced, but the pig-headed cannot - the latter do not have the pleasure of compassion or reason. 

Margo and the volunteers may not be involved with the beliefs, religions, biases or political persuasions of contributors but I would hope that Margo could agree with this from Desiderata:

"Speak your truth quietly & clearly; and listen to others, even the dull & ignorant; they too have their story. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain & bitter; for always there will be greater & lesser persons than yourself."

I also reason that a person like Margo, with her stated principles and wish for even people of opposite educational standards (like Malcolm B. and myself) would like to have their say, shed of the "locked down" situation created by the Howard era.

If I am convinced that the Howard "New Order" had made and has left a terrible vacuum in the human rights of all Australians, even though some do not accept the possibility that that is so, I think we should all listen to others.

I have lived through nineteen Australian Prime Ministers, (Menzies twice) and since I started work at 14 years of age I can remember many issues which are only obvious to those who endured them.

The moderators/editors of this forum have often been burdened by my lack of journalistic ability, and I deeply appreciate it.  However, isn't that a major part of Margo's forum?

Does this area of true free speech demand of contributors that they must be of a standard of education of at least that of Malcolm B.?

If so, then the whole original purpose of linking thinking people must mean in essence that the "thinkers" are only the "highly educated".

I hope not.



I find your inherent expressions of inadequacy odd, Ernest William Graham. You have as much right to express an opinion in this or any other forum as I have to ignore it. Generally, I have found yours to be of little utility.

The suggestion that I regard those who disagree with me as fools is, as a general proposition, false. (After all, I work in an adversarial climate where there is usually at least one person who disagrees with me, otherwise we wouldn't be there.) There are very many extrmemely intelligent people I know who disagree with me and I am happy to argue with them. Equally, there are a lot of poorly educated people who have valuable opinions and important lessons. My time in the Army taught me not to underestimate the common soldier - resourceful bugger even if not up on his Plato.

I am better formally educated than you are - so what? I'm sure you know lots of things I don't - I can never remember how to tie a bowline for example and you should see my attempts at nooses. Never would have cut the mustard in Mississippi.

If anyone has an argument I think worth taking on, I shall, no matter who it is, but I can't abide boring ones.

So, cheer up my lad, 'tis to glory we steer

Let us now make it a wonderful year.

You ignore me and I'll ignore you.


Deal, Malcolm B.

To the moderator - will this be at least printed in full this time?

Malcolm B. "Generally, I have found yours to be of little utility."

How pedantic of you.

And:  "My time in the Army taught me not to underestimate the common soldier - resourceful bugger even if not up on his Plato."

How arrogant of you. I wouldn't have believed that anyone could teach you.

Even though you are as imperative, sarcastic and patronising as ever - you have a deal.

It will be a relief to directly escape your personal exhibition of hubris.

Ups and downs

John Pratt, so you are happy with the political trifecta and you are out spending Rudd's Christmas bonus.  I suppose you are also happy with the rising unemployment figures and the fact that Swan and Rudd are blowing the surplus.

Climate Change has just cost Labor office in New Zealand, and as the Australian economy worsens over the next 12 months just watch Rudd put Climate Change on the backburner along with a load of other things he promised you.

"The political cards have been falling the right way up for a change."

It's more like a card trick and you cannot see that you have been conned.

Have a great holiday, and I hope your bonus lasts a bit longer than the surplus.

An old bastard's view

Malcolm B Duncan: "I also disagree with Kathy Farrelly’s objection to abuse: the more the merrier."

You would say that, you old bastard, you! (Pokes tongue out, then heads for the hills.)


Kathy Farrelly, really, unless you are a patient of Dad's or play tennis at Rushcutter's Bay, I doubt you know either of my parents.

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