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The Daily Briefing 14/10/05

FRIDAY 14TH OCTOBER 2005          
Your round-up from today's newspapers plus the best writing, analysis, critical thinking and humour from around the world.

In today's email:
1    Rebecca Solnit on disasters, human behaviour and economics/Harpers (2 links below)
2    David Burchell on The Latham Diaries/APO (2 links below)
3    David Brooks on conservative divisions over Bush and Miers/NYTimes (3 links below)
4    Alexander Downer on the fight against WMDs/Daily Star
5    Amin Saikal says Iraq threatens Middle East sectarian balance/Age (4 links below)
6    Robert Winston on the reasons human believe in God/Guardian (5 links below)
7    John Castel on why Greenpeace is a mess/Independent (4 links below)
8    Peter Schjeldahl on the art and power of graphic novels/New Yorker (2 links below)
9    John Nichols on hating Bush after death/Nation (link below)
10    IN THE PAPERS: National, Opinion, Business round-up

1 Disasters, economics and hubris
Disasters, we've had a few of late. Rebecca Solnit looks at disasters in history and says they force human beings to live in the present ("crash course in consciousness") and that contrary to commonly held beliefs, people do not turn on each other, but succeed in providing assistance where government agencies fail. From there Solnit turns to the impact neo-liberalism has on breaking down this tendency toward social cohesion. "In this light, we can regard the notion of “privatization” as a social phenomenon far broader than a process by which government contracts are granted. Citizens are redefined as consumers. Public participation in electoral politics falters, and with it any sense of collective or individual political power. Public space itself—the site for the First Amendment's “right of the people peaceably to assemble”—withers away. Free association is aptly termed, for there is no profit in it. And since there is no profit in it, we are instead encouraged by our great media and advertising id to fear one another and regard public life as a danger and a nuisance, to live in secured spaces, communicate by electronic means, and acquire our information from that self-same media rather than from one another."

Calvin Woodward in The Washington Post remembers back to a more optimistic time, when humans filled with hubris after a string of scientific successes, thought they might be able to control mother nature and planet earth. "It wasn't supposed to be this way. After World War II, nothing seemed too far-fetched for science, not once the atom was split and, again, not once men stepped on the moon. In one of the most enduring efforts, still alive but hardly about to happen, man thought he could seed clouds, make it rain reliably and put a stop to devastating drought."

And despite the number and scale of the disasters, The Independent says this is no time for compassion fatigue. "A vast number of children have been orphaned. Up to 4 million people are homeless. We must also recognise that when disasters afflict less affluent countries, their governments lack the resources to respond as effectively as they might."

2 The Latham Diaries
TDB readers are such a savvy bunch, it's scary sometimes. So, many would no doubt be aware of the site Australian Policy Online, which offers a free weekly email service to let you know what's available. (But if you don't want another email clogging up the inbox, TDB does visit the site regularly.)

Apart from the academic policy analysis it carries, there is usually an interesting essay or two on offer. The one by David Burchell, a teacher in Humanities at the University of Western Sydney, is simply the best thing TDB has read on "The Latham Diaries" by the proverbial country mile. Lovely writing, some genuine insights, and some revealing tales from behind the scenes, including one of his own experiences with the media as it covered Latham. "Peter Beattie responded to The Latham Diaries with the splendid claim that this was a book so truly awful that he refused even to open its covers. Lest others follow Beattie’s noble self-denying ordinance, it’s worth emphasising that many of Latham’s most passionate complaints have a genuine foundation in fact. Some of Latham’s colleagues did indeed treat him very badly, right into the 2004 election campaign itself, and they were indeed aided and abetted in doing so by the Canberra press gallery. (Kim Beazley wasn’t one of them, but it is at least arguable that he turned a blind eye to it.) Anyone who had friends in and around the press gallery in 2004 knew only too well exactly how the men Latham called the ‘roosters’ were indeed ‘background briefing’ journalists about the imagined sexual peccadilloes and supposed mental infirmities of their soon-to-be-leader. Some members of the press gallery, it seems, were genuinely repelled by this campaign. (This didn’t stop some of them publishing what they were told.) Subsequently they seem to have attacks of forgetfulness. "

And Professor John Quiggan, who runs one of the best blogs around has a piece on  oil prices, energy costs and the economy.

3Bush, the conservative and Miers
The unravelling of the Bush presidency gathers momentum at an extraordinary pace, and may have reached a tipping point beyond which nothing short of a "rally around the flag" national calamity akin to September 11 will save his political fortunes. That tipping point may be the column, linked to below, by David Brooks, who is probably the most influential conservative columnist in the US (in part because he writes for the NYTimes, in part because his work has won him respect across the political spectrum - he is often described as "the thinking liberal's conservative"). Because Brooks (like all NYTimes columnists) is now behind the pay-to-view wall known as TimesSelect, it is published below interspersed with comments and links to other articles so as not to breach copyright. (TimesSelect subscribers can find it here.)
4 Australia fights WMDs
Mike Carlton in the Sydney Morning Herald has long dubbed our Foreign Minister "Downer of Baghdad". Should that now be "Downer of Beirut"? This one is included so that you know what the citizens of Lebanon and other readers of The Daily Star are being told about Australia's role in the fight against Weapons of Mass Destruction. While Downer says that "countries that ignore their non-proliferation obligations must be held to account by the international community", we couldn't help but notice that no mention is made of the fact that the US has not met its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to move towards nuclear disarmament, but is instead developing the next generation of nuclear weapons.
5 Iraq, the sectarian flash point
Paul McGeough was warning in yesterday's SMH that the war in Iraq could spread across the Middle East an idea TDB first noticed raised by Amin Saikal in the International Herald Tribune on Sunday. Saikal has reworked his piece for today's Age, and it is a concise and readable account of the thesis. "The situation has become so tenuous that Washington and London feel that they need urgently to counterbalance the growing Shiite and Iranian influence in the region. Hence President George Bush's and Prime Minister Tony Blair's increased lambasting of the Iranian regime for helping the resistance in Iraq and seeking to acquire military nuclear capability. However, ultimately nothing will serve them well, unless they succeed in opening direct negotiation with the Iraqi resistance, and enlist the support of Iraq's neighbours, most importantly Iran and Syria, as well as the Arab League, to assist them in the process." (And there again is that suggestion that Andrew Bolt so hates - negotiating with the insurgents.)

The Independent reports that its Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk has told a conference that what the Iraqis really want, after centuries of imperialism and interference, is to be free of the West. Fisk has previously dismissed the idea of a civil war, raised by Saikal, but agrees with him that things in Iraq will probably get much worse before they get better. "Fisk doubted the sincerity of Western leaders' commitment to bringing democracy to Iraq and said a lasting settlement in the country was impossible while foreign troops remained."

And from the week-end LATimes, a long magazine feature about the use and abuse of foreign labourers in Iraq. Though millions of Iraqi's are unemployed, the U.S. military requires that contractors use foreigners to work at bases to avoid the possibility of insurgent infiltration. But the workers, from poor countries, have little protection and few rights, setting up a system that has been likened to slavery. (Is this what freedom looks like when it is on the march?) "Because of the danger of exploitation, some labor-exporting countries, such as the Philippines and Nepal, have forbidden their nationals to work in Iraq. But labor brokers bring in such workers using loopholes in a system with almost no regulation. An estimated 5,000 Nepalese work in Iraq. Labor advocates say the practice amounts to modern-day indentured servitude, funded by U.S. taxpayers."

6 Humans and God
Presumably, there is another television series by Robert Winston ("The Human Body") heading your way sometime soon. Professor Lord Robert Winston, to give him his full title, has a new book out, "The Story of God", and a television series of the same name about to start on the BBC. The Guardian has published an extract from the book (link below) in which Winston ranges from Darwin to Dawkins , from psychology to evolutionary biology as he seeks to understand the source of religiosity. "And it is easy to suggest a mechanism by which religious beliefs could help us to pass on our genes. Greater cohesion and stricter moral codes would tend to produce more cooperation, and more cooperation means that hunting and gathering are likely to bring in more food. In turn, full bellies mean greater strength and alertness, greater immunity against infection, and offspring who develop and become independent more swiftly. Members of the group would also be more likely to take care of each other, especially those who are sick or injured. Therefore - in the long run - a shared religion appears to be evolutionarily advantageous, and natural selection might favour those groups with stronger religious beliefs."

In The Times Magnus Linklatter looks at the continuing decline in church attendance (now down to 7 percent he says) and the relevance of religion in modern life. The problem, according to Linklatter, is a failure to communicate in plain language about issues that matter. "When it comes to grappling directly with the big issues of our time, the churches have been, for the most part, inept. Wary of the media, fearful of the accusation of meddling in politics and reluctant to attract controversy, they seem to have lost the art of direct and clear communication. That may be because they have been diverted by their own schisms, over women priests, homosexuality or sexual scandals. But is also because they have lost the art of plain speaking."

In the US, the problem - for some - is just the opposite: religion has too much influence on national life, despite a Constitutional insistence on the separation of church and state. Kurt Anderson in New York Metro says theocracy is on the march (he likens the US to Afghanistan and Iraq, although perhaps he meant Iran - Iraq was secular before the US invasion.) Anderson puts part of the blame on left-liberals. "For several decades the philosophical ground has been softened up by the relativism and political correctness of the secular left, which succeeded in undermining the very idea of objective reality and of calling a spade a spade—so now, in the resulting marsh, fantasies like intelligent design (or Scientology or feng shui or 9/11 as a CIA plot) take root and spread like weeds. Liberals pioneered squishy-minded indulgence of their key constituencies’ unfortunate new ideas, like reparations and criminalized hate speech; now it’s the right’s turn."

You will need to be an Atlantic Monthly subscriber to read this one, which is a pity - it's a fantastic read. Roy Moore was sacked as Alabama's chief justice after he refused a court order to remove a granite monument of the 10 Commandments ("Roy's Rock") he had installed in the Supreme Court building. Since then he has been touring the country on a crusade, and intends to take over the Republican Party in his state, and become governor. "Moore's stature has grown to the point where he defies the rules that normally govern politics. One consultant who has worked against him describes Moore's effect in an election as like that of a black hole whose pull alters the dynamics of races up and down the ticket. Because of the passions generated over the Ten Commandments, Moore attracts people who ordinarily wouldn't vote and others, such as blacks, who ordinarily wouldn't vote Republican (though he also drives away some moderate Republicans). His race for chief justice in 2000 drew more voters than had participated in Alabama's gubernatorial election two years earlier. One recent poll shows him running eight points ahead of the incumbent governor, Riley.

And finally, a Slate slide show on the architecture of the mega-church, especially favoured by evangelicals. Witold Rybczynski thinks they have little to do with either architecture or spirituality.

7 Greenpeace in free fall
Greenpeace has no shortage of critics, most of them on the right. Unfortunately I can't tell you anything about John Castel, apart from what's in this article - he was once a captain of the "Rainbow Warrior". Castel says the environmental group is suffering from an "inner moral decline" that stems from its authoritarian organisational structure, which has long been a concern for some in the movement. The result, he says, is an organisation whose influence is in free fall. "Where Greenpeace was once open and honest, now the outside image is so hysterically managed that the three-page-long staff contract threatens large internal fines if anyone should dare reveal anything without authorisation. Recently the exchange of opinion and information between Greenpeace staff is being progressively curbed, as access to internal internet message boards is denied, limited and monitored. Greenpeace is now just another corporate body with a throwaway attitude to its staff."

Odd that the environment movement has gotten weaker as the environment has deteriorated. The Washington Post reports that international climate data indicates 2005 is likely to be the hottest year on record; Vince, the 20th Atlantic storm this year, has become the first cyclone to reach Spain in recorded history; and Reuters reports that the Amazon is having its worst drought in 40 years, "damaging the world's biggest rainforest, plaguing the Amazon basin with wildfires, sickening river dwellers with tainted drinking water, and killing fish by the millions as streams dry up."

But there is one sign of some good news. Wired reports that rising oil prices have led to greater investment in solar panels. "Solarbuzz, an energy-research firm, estimates that the global market for solar-power system installations generated $6.5 billion in revenue in 2004 and predicts sales will nearly triple to $18.5 billion by 2010."

8 Introduction to the graphic novel
If you have only begun to develop an awareness or appreciation of the graphic novel, then you may have missed being part of an artistic breakthrough as it occured, according to Peter Schjeldahl in the New Yorker (link below). He thinks theoretical interest in a new form "indicates that an artistic breakthrough, having been made and recognized, is over, and that a process of increasingly strained emulation and diminishing returns has set in". HIs essay describes the novel, its attractions for the young and list some he thinks are the best from the genre. "Consuming them—toggling for hours between the incommensurable functions of reading and looking—is taxing. The difficulty of graphic novels limits their potential audience, in contrast to the blissfully easeful, still all-conquering movies, but that is not a debility; rather, it gives them the opalescent sheen of avant-gardism."

As ever with the Booker Prize, John Banville' win for "The Sea" attracted its share of controversy. The Guardian spoke to Banville  the morning after the announcement for this profile of him and the book. "Banville is called a "difficult"author, a label he wears, after 14 novels, with weary resignation. His books plunge through weighty philosophical debates and his language is, occasionally, arcane: "flocculent", "cinereal", "crepitant" and "velutinous" all make it into The Sea, a novel about a man who returns to the site of a traumatic childhood holiday after the death of his wife. It was praised by critics for its poetry - a man's skin is so tanned it has "a purplish sheen"; a woman's post-chemotherapy hair is like "a cat's licked fur". But in terms of plot, suspense, character and all the other traditional components of fiction, it was, in some quarters, accused of having little to recommend it."

And New York Metro asked five people from that city to record literally everything they read - from personal ads to obscure novels. You may find this unrepresentative piece of social anthropology interesting.

9 Dead, but they still hate Bush
Sally Baron and Theodore Heller both died recently, but their anti-Bush work lives on, which has John Nichols wondering if they are together somewhere watching the results. Baron's obituary read in part "Memorials in her honor can be made to any organization working for the removal of President Bush". Heller's included the kicker: "In lieu of flowers, please send acerbic letters to Republicans."

And since the publicity about the Bush administration hiring so many hacks and cronies, a web site, cronyjobs.com has sprung up. If you are thinking about changing jobs, you may like to fill out an application for a job working for the Bushies. (Or just for the fun of it.)

10 IN THE PAPERS: National, Opinion, Business round-up

The Age lead (an "exclusive") says that four years in offshore detention is about to end for almost all the remaining asylum seekers on Nauru after Amanda Vanstone decided yesterday to bring them to Australia. The paper also reports that John Howard has handed the power to set wages for millions of Australia's worst-paid workers to a conservative academic economist, sparking union fears the minimum wage will be held down in coming years; that the new head of Australia's spy agency, Paul O'Sullivan, thinks that a terrorist attack in Australia is "feasible" and "could well occur" (he also dismissed the report in The Australian some time back that that as many as 800 extremists were living in Australia); and that the senior policeman acquitted of s*x charges in Sierra Leone says he plans to return to work in Victoria even though his job has just been declared vacant.

The Australian's lead is based on FOI documents which show that the Treasury Department has secretly costed plans for a flat tax and a top marginal rate of just 30 per cent, arguing these could boost employment and reduce tax avoidance. The paper also reports that  Liberal backbencher David Fawcett thinks the successful "Quit" smoking campaign should be used as the model for a "Don't quit marriage" crusade; that the door has been left open for a ban to be lifted on a controversial abortion pill after Health Minister Tony Abbott promised to consider any submissions; and that Schappelle Corby's lawyers fear she will kill herself if a final appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court fails.

The Herald runs with the NSW Ombudsman's report that found children as young as two weeks old have died and others have been left in grave risk of abuse because of under-resourcing, and poor judgements by the Department of Community Services. It also reports that motorists will no longer be penalised for using the Cross City Tunnel without an electronic tag, ruining the Government's long-held plans to have every Sydney motorist using the tags (the Tele splashes on this story again today, see below); that researchers plan to test a flu vaccine on 2000 toddlers in child-care centres, amid fears children's lower immunity could promote the spread of the virus in the event of a major outbreak.

An assistant director with the Australian Bureau of Statistics who doctored the bureau's office footy tipping competitions has lost his job (sacking is too good for him); and first it was Bradman cookies in India, now it appears Bradman beer may be on the way - and the Don's family are not happy about it.

The most viewed story in the age says that model Michelle Leslie could be free within a month (will she go back to promoting lingerie or will she stay covered up like the good Muslim woman she now is). And truly the most bizarre story of the morning is this tale about a well-paid financiers, dead rabbits, b*stiality and Australian Companion Rabbit Society president Lara Nettle.


The Age: Wimar Witoelar says many Australians still lack basic knowledge about Indonesia and offers a few examples that may give pause to think; Sushi Das argues that Bracks Government changes to abortion laws are about looking after politicians being pursued by a vociferous minority, and not about supporting women who need it; Tony Parkinson attacks France's role in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal and says it raises the suggestion that the French vote in the UN Security Council was "bought" (this is a one-sided account of the scandal which is not to say it does not make a valid argument); Amin Saikal see above.

The Australian: Zbigniew Brzezinski (Democrat, national security advisor to Jimmy Carter) says current US foreign policy (Iraq) is a disaster - "suicidal statecraft" - and that dramatic change is needed; Greg Barton looks at Indonesian fears that the military could be involved in Islamic terrorism and says Australia must do better at seeing the problem through the eyes of Muslims (he makes reference to a Washington Post column by Abdurrahman Wahid which is republished in the SMH, see below); Michael Costello lays into the IR changes with a heavy hand - vile, harsh, unfair, a race to the bottom, unnecessary - and says John Howard could be setting Peter Costello up for "sweet revenge" by retiring and leaving him to deal with the mess; and Dennis Shanahan uses a lot of political cliches and makes a lot of statements of the obvious as he looks back over the week that was in the IR debate.

The SMH: Abdurrahman Wahid and C. Holland Taylor tell the tale of a popular Indonesia musician named Ahmad Dhani who they says is helping lead young people away from Islamic groups; Peter Hartcher offers typically sensible analysis of the proposed IR changes, says that they are about reducing union power, but that on their own they are not a reform plan; Gerard Goggin explains why the current media laws are being made obsolete by rapid changes in the industry and that an integrated and comprehensive media and communications act is needed ; Clare Skinner says action has to be taken to stop the loss of hospital staff.


The Australian and the Herald run with the same lead, the report that Brambles confirmed one of the sharemarket's worst kept secrets yesterday when it announced the $893 million sale of its German Cleanaway waste management business. Elizabeht Knight says by selling Cleanaway and buying Australian document management business Ausdoc, Brambles is attempting to alter the growth profile of the whole company.

The Herald also reports that BHP Billiton's petroleum division suffered a heavy blow yesterday, with the company warning hurricane damage in the US and difficulties at the North-West Shelf would lower annual production by as much as 8 per cent; that Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon has waved a red rag at his heavily unionised workforce by openly embracing the Howard Government's contentious plans to overhaul the industrial relations system and attack union power; and former HIH Insurance and FAI associate Brad Cooper carefully crafted a documentary trail - backdating letters and creating false invoices - to make it appear his companies were owed money by HIH, the NSW Supreme Court has heard.

The Age lead reports that the national hotel market has boomed for the second successive quarter, with Melbourne recording its sharpest increase in occupancy rates in more than a decade and anticipating further growth in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games in March. The paper also reports that the jobs boom has come to an abrupt halt, with the biggest plunge in employment for 2½ years suggesting that the economy is losing steam and confirming that interest rates will remain on hold; that Harvey Norman has reported its third consecutive quarter of single-digit sales growth after a decade of continuous double-digit growth, because of the continuing slowdown in consumer spending caused by rising petrol prices; and that Tax Commissioner Michael Carmody has moved to make peace with business and wealthy individuals, announcing an overhaul of audit procedures after searing accusations of heavy-handed Tax Office treatment.

The Australian says shares in soft drink bottler Coca-Cola Amatil plunged 4 per cent yesterday after the company reaffirmed its full-year earnings forecasts but warned of rising input prices and softening demand, driven partly by rising petrol prices; and reports that bankers chasing a share of the $100 million-plus in fees from the sale of the Government's Telstra shares descended on Canberra by the busload yesterday.

Bryan Frith says Patrick Corp's action in entering into an alliance with FCL after the ACCC opposed the acquisition of the road and rail freight forwarder arguably breaches one of the conditions of Toll Holdings's $5 billion takeover bid; and Stephen Bartholomeusz thinks Graeme Samuel faces an interesting dilemma if, as speculated, Telecom Corp of New Zealand is talking to Cable and Wireless Optus about the sale of its Australian offshoot, AAPT.


The Daily Telegraph: City roads will remain as clogged as ever and further closures cannot be ruled out after the Cross City Tunnel operators came up with a gimmicky compromise for angry motorists yesterday; A noted academic appointed to head the new wage-setting tribunal admitted yesterday: "I'm no expert."

The Herald-Sun: A Victorian prisoner claims to know the identities of two people present when Jennifer Tanner was murdered; A country pub has asked for police help to keep out football great Doug Hawkins.

The Courier-Mail: A $200 million payout pool has been established to meet a dramatic jump in the number of workers claiming compensation for incurable mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases; Controversial Brisbane solicitor Michael Baker was struck off yesterday.

The Advertiser: Andrew Chan yesterday was painted as the supreme and meticulous organiser behind a plot to bring more than 8kg of heroin to Australia, organising travel and accommodation for some of the Bali Nine and personally strapping drugs to the four mules; Oppostion Leader Rob Kerin has given challenger Martin Hamilton-Smith until this morning to drop his move for a leadership spill.

The West Australian: Geoff Gallop was drawn deeper into the Kucera shares affair yesterday when it was revealed that his Government knew as early as August 18 about concerns over former Seniors Minister Bob Kucera's share portfolio and a possible conflict of interest in Cabinet; WA's jobless rate dropped to a three-decade low of 4.1 per cent in September as the resource-fuelled economy continued to demand more workers, according to official figures.

The Mercury: Attorney-General Judy Jackson says there will be no review of the bail provisions in Tasmania's new family violence laws; A Lenah Valley man who smashed another man's skull with an axe pleaded guilty to murder yesterday.


Everything Ricky Ponting tried last week worked a treat, and he hopes this means better times ahead; History has repeated itself and Australia will have to get past their 2001 nemeses, Uruguay, in the final hurdle for the 2006 World Cup, but Socceroos assistant coach Graham Arnold believes they have nothing to fear; The Wallabies will be read the riot act to ensure there are no more embarrassing off-field incidents when they head to Europe later this month; Swans premiership hero Tadhg Kennelly may walk away from Australian football at the height of his career to pursue his childhood dream of winning an All-Ireland Gaelic football title.


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re: The Daily Briefing 14/10/05

Thursday, October 13, 2005
Practical action against WMD proliferation
By Alexander Downer

This is still double-speak! Of course there's a threat. And of course we have in our own stupid way, have escalated that threat.

Like little puppy dogs, the Downer/Howard team are in the "me too" game with the US. I say game, because that's what it is! A stupid dysfunctional big bullyboys game.

1. Depleted uranium weapons widely used and with total disregard for the civilians and our own service personnel. So who is fooling who about these weapons and who cares about its own service personnel by allowing this to continue, remaining in the buddy-buddy relationship with the big bully, George W Bush and the US.

2. We, because it is US policy, are in the ascendant position to know who has a right to nuclear weapons and who indeed is a rogue state. It's the principle of the thing that urks me so! Bloody imperious buggers!
Sure we need to face this, but who do you choose?

Our government is increasingly enacting legislation to highten our preparedness for this threat, but in effect, turning our country into little more than a police state. Heaping up some seriously detrimental laws that threaten Australian citizens and our liberty.

Where to from here?

A paternalistic government who will act on our behalf, because it knows what's best for us.

I can go on, but it's more of the same.

As the words of a famous rap song go, "we've got to wake up." We have to make it blatantly clear by our actions, that we are not happy to be treated as stupid people and demand transparency from our government.

re: The Daily Briefing 14/10/05

Agree with you on David Burchell's piece - it has the ring of truth.

Paul O'Sullivan, ASIO boss, is reported in that article in The Age to say:

"ASIO currently assesses a terrorist attack in Australia as feasible, and could well occur," he said. "And we know al-Qaeda and like-minded groups are intent on conducting attacks here."

That's all very well, but we need more context. What's the total picture of plots and plans, by any groups or individuals, to inflict damage in Australia, over the last couple of decades? Aren't the terriers of the press allowed to ask questions?

The article came over like a briefing from the PM's inner (san)ctum. I must remember to feel suitably chilled, the next time I get on a bus. Perhaps I should put the magnet inside the fridge.

Recycled Tenet, by George or Howard. I'll stick with Luther's.

re: The Daily Briefing 14/10/05

Thank you for the Australian Policy on Line link. I agree the article on Latham is the best so far. Scary isn't it that we can not trust what we read any more. There is always a difference in perception or perspective but when journalists resort to making up stories just for the hell of it... Thanks again.

re: The Daily Briefing 14/10/05

Jolanda Challita, I agree. It seems that is what people expect from politicians, journalists, public figures etc. I just can't understand why as a community we let them get away with it.

re: The Daily Briefing 14/10/05

I didn't catch the extra info about Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers for the next vacancy on the US Supreme Court. I will go and look into it further.

In the meantime, thanks for TDB. I find it useful. Here's to many more. :)

re: The Daily Briefing 14/10/05

Lorraine Hyde. Its not just journalists that make up stories and it's not always just for the hell of it. Usually it's to discredit and defame.

Stories are made up by Governments all the time for the same purpose, so as to present the picture that they want to present.

re: The Daily Briefing 14/10/05

Religion isn't in decline. It's just changing its spots.

Churches like the Anglican and Catholic Churches are losing their followers in Western countries, but the latter in particular is growing at a huge rate in sub-Saharan Africa (which bodes badly for the already skyrocketing level of HIV/AIDS there). But in Western countries, the American Fundamentalist Protestant-inspired churches are growing astronomically.

Two fascinating reads this month:

New Scientist (8 October issue) has a special report: "Fundamentalism: Descent into the new Dark Ages".

The Monthly (October issue), Kerryn Goldsworthy's piece, "Sunday's in Paradise" on her visit to an Assemblies of God church. Her estimate on how much a week this organisation is making from "tithes and offerings" is boggling.

"There is no collection plate as such, rather a stack of small plastic buckets like plant pots. As these are passed down each row, the auditorium lights gradually come up and up, brighter than they've been so far or will get again. One's tithes and offerings are therefore sufficiently brightly lit to be clearly observable by one's fellow worshippers, by the video cameras and by the people on the stage. As the overflowing bucket is passed to me I glance in and see nothing smaller than a $50 note. A quick, surreptitious estimate of seat numbers indicates that the auditorium must hold around 2,000 people. It's almost full, and this is the second service of the morning. The Assemblies of God website lists 1,064 churches around Australia. I do the math."

And remember, these are people who believe in the literal truth of the Bible....

re: The Daily Briefing 14/10/05

Peter Schjedahl's New Yorker piece is a terrible intro to comics, book-length or otherwise. Schjedahl can't see beyond his own prejudices and this article is filled with contraditions, sloppy thinking and the worst kind of snobbery – the sort that dismisses things that one hasn't bothered to take the time to understand in the first place.

Alternative comics (of which graphic novels are a part) have a pretty solid history in North America and Schjedahl doesn't seem to understand any of it. It's a shame that they didn't have someone like Adam Gopnik tackle the subject.

ed Kerri: Welcome to Webdiary Margie. Could you please use a surname, preferrebly your own, when posting. It helps keep the place civil. See the discussion guidelines for more info. Cheers.

re: The Daily Briefing 14/10/05

I enjoyed David Burchell's piece on the Latham diaries. Luther did indeed have an earthy sense of humour. I put it down to all the time he spent cleaning loos as penance and sitting on them in agony because of haemorrhoids. Interesting that a pain in the arse was the perfect metaphor for the Church in the Middle Ages.

re: The Daily Briefing 14/10/05

Wayne, the Independent got the name wrong regarding Jon Castle. This comment was sent to me from a European based Greenpeace International insider who wishes to remain anonymous:

Jon Castle (correct spelling) is the most famous Greenpeace skipper-activist (more so than David McTaggart). He fell out with senior management seriously a few years ago over the waste of $10-$17 million on a ship which barely works and which they were warned about. Without a doubt he is the GP captain who inspired most loyalty, dedication and effort from activists and campaigners, is a calm clear thinking man with an amazing spirituality and grace. Many people with experience of GPI agree with virtually everything he has written. It is sad he had to go public, but necessary. In particular, he is indisputably correct in saying that the Amsterdam management has deliberately cut half of its campaigning staff and introduced a new layer of managers concerned with building a brand and not rocking any boats.

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