Monday, December 18, 2006


Moving to Beta: Plodding along to glory

This site will stay here, as is, so please feel free to comment here if the urge moves you. If it moves you over to the new site too, that'd be good, thanks.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What's the point of keeping up with the news?

I don't know. I've wondered about this for a long time and haven't got an answer.

Not long ago I avoided all news altogether. I had no idea what was going on outside my own little sphere, and that was good. I was happy being ignorant. The alternative was to know what was going on in the world, and that was bad. I couldn't stop myself getting upset about things. This won't surprise you: most world events are completely beyond my control or influence ;) So there was really no point in worrying about them, seeing there was nothing I could do anyway, but I couldn't stop worrying, so I had to stop the news.

That didn't last. Recently I stumbled across Werner's blog (Soldier of Africa - he's working as a military observer in Darfur) and suddenly realised that the situation in Sudan is one of the worst catastrophes this world has ever seen, and here I am, in blissful ignorance, doing nothing to help. Is that excusable? No.

So now I'm keeping up with the news again, or the Darfur news, anyway. There are untold numbers of other catastrophes and worrying events I could be focusing on too, but no, one is enough. Darfur is it. I'm reading the feeds and writing posts, and now it feels like I'm doing something to help.

And that is completely delusional. What am I actually contributing? Could any of the millions of displaced people in Darfur one day say, "Gee thanks, what you did really helped!"? No.

But the alternative is to do nothing, and that is guaranteed to be no help whatsoever. In other words, I'm hoping that doing something is better than nothing, and anyway, this activity is silencing the voice of my conscience (the one saying "Do something!").

I don't know whether blog posting is helpful, but I'm hoping that any focus on Africa and the events in Darfur will at least not be hurtful. The Australian media's coverage of African matters leaves something to be desired: specifically, some coverage, any coverage, anything at all. And the average Australian's knowledge of Africa is way beyond pitiful. I know this because I am an average Australian.

Look at that decision by the Tamworth City Council yesterday. Six out of nine councillors voted against housing Sudanese refugees, with the Mayor claiming that the refugee programme should be changed because of "the cultural difference of African people, things such as their respect of women in their community". It's a ludicrous statement, shameful and embarrassing, but not at all surprising. Why wouldn't an Australian's general knowledge about Africa be hopeless? If our world views are largely shaped by media output (and I think they are) then for most Australians Africa is just that big shape on the map over there. You know the one: the place where all the wild animals live.

So I'll be posting about Darfur now and then, prodded along by yesterday's decision by the Tamworth City Council, and I'd like to thank them for the inspiration. Very kind.

In case you're interested

From Not going anywhere by David Blair, the UK Daily Telegraph's Africa correspondent, about Zimbabwe's President, the "selfish, delusional" Robert Mugabe, due to face elections in 2008:
He has just announced that he will stick around until 2010 at least. The hapless fools on the government benches of Zimbabwe’s parliament are about to rewrite the constitution, postponing the next presidential election and allowing Mugabe to stay in power until 2010.
In other countries, this kind of legal and political outrage would galvanise the opposition. But not in Zimbabwe.

Sadly, the bitterly divided Movement for Democratic Change is a shambles. Its leading figures are far too busy fighting one another to place any pressure on the regime.

So Mugabe’s calamitous rule will continue and Zimbabwe will drift on into ruin. The truth is that the world is giving up on Zimbabwe.

Quote of the day

For my sister J, flying home today to some sort of Pacific island paradise. She can't wait to get away from Australia, strangely enough.

From the Channel Nine cricket commentary team, Third Test, Australia v. England, Perth, day two, afternoon session, yesterday.

Squeezed between numerous calls of "the tail's wagging" from somebody (was Bill Lawry there?), Ian Chappell - impressed by the way England's Monty Panesar and Steve Harmison were running between the wickets - remarked that it's not often you hear a "wait" from lower-order batsmen:
It's usually a yes or a no, or quite often, a sorry.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The meaning of mateship

Sarcastic title referring to John Howard's Australia. I don't know what else to say.
Australian city rejects Sudanese refugees
15 Dec 2006 03:39:33 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Rob Taylor

CANBERRA, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A group of Sudanese refugees has been refused residence in Australia's most "Friendly Town" because of fears they could spark a repeat of the race riots that gripped Sydney a year ago.

City officials in the regional city of Tamworth said on Friday they had rejected residency for five Sudanese families because they could stir racial unrest in the city, 260 km (163 miles) northwest of Sydney.

"We need to change the (refugee) programme significantly because of the cultural difference of African people, things such as their respect of women in their community," Mayor James Treloar told Reuters, dismissing fears of a divisive race row.

Tamworth in January hosts Australia's largest country music festival and recently won a tourism award naming the busy rural hub as the country's premier "Friendly Town".

But Treloar said local people and some "redneck elements" had aired concerns at a council meeting about 12 other Sudanese already living in the city, saying most had come before local courts for crimes ranging from dangerous driving to rape.

"They will not take a direction from authorities, so we've got a fairly significant cultural problem," he said, adding that health services for Tamworth's 40,000 population were already stretched.

Local churches said they would launch a petition calling on the council to reverse its decision, which was a response to an immigration department programme to resettle refugees in regional areas to help reverse a drift of Australians to major cities.

Several councillors and business leaders said they would try to overturn the decision, arguing that the arrival of the refugees would not fuel the kind of tensions that led to last December's Sydney beach riots where mainly-white surfers battled Lebanese-Australians.

"It will reflect on Tamworth and I feel it will be somewhat of a negative effect. To say that we can't provide for another five families is I think a bit ridiculous," Tamworth Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Max Cathcart told ABC radio.

Australia is a nation of immigrants, with nearly one in four of the country's 20 million people born overseas. Almost six million people have settled in the country since 1945 and Australia plans to accept about 144,000 new immigrants in 2006-07.

But the government is concerned the rapid transformation could fuel tensions and recently announced new citizenship tests to force new citizens to pass an English-language test and questions on Australian values such as "mateship".

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Missing the bloody point

Here follows a selection of online newspaper reports on US actor George Clooney's visit to China and Egypt - a trip he organised "to make a personal plea to Chinese and Egyptian officials to use their ties with the Sudanese government to help stop the violence [in Darfur, Sudan]."

The article (the same one, over and over) is by Associated Press writer, Lee Keath, with some help in a few by Brooke Donald. It begins, "George Clooney arrived in Egypt on Tuesday, campaigning to raise awareness about killings in Sudan's Darfur region."

Please notice where each paper chose to situate the story.

CBS News: Entertainment:

Screenshot of CBS News: Entertainment
China Daily: Entertainment: Movies:

Screenshot of China Daily: Entertainment: Movies
Guardian Unlimited: Film: News:

Screenshot of Guardian Unlimited: Film: News AP Movie News:

Screenshot of AP Movie News
And the winner of "Most Inappropriate Press Photo of All Time" goes to... USA Today:

Screenshot of an article titled George Clooney campaigns in Egypt, China; accompanying photo shows Mr Clooney in a crown and a sash which says Sexiest Man Alive

I'm thinking that a few hundred thousand dead people and a few million IDPs (internally displaced persons) trying to survive in a rapidly escalating conflict - one of our worst human tragedies of all time - probably should qualify as a serious news story.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


[Image removed because it infringed upon the copyrights of others.]

- Gary Larson, The prehistory of the Far Side: a 10th anniversary exhibit (Kansas City, Missouri: Andrews and McMeel, 1989), p. 102.

A cartoon from Larson's sketchbook. And don't panic: it doesn't make sense (as far as I know), I just think it's funny.

In case you've lost the ability to read anything written by hand (and who hasn't? I can barely read my own signature now) the caption reads: "It was Jeremiah's job to guard the rhubarb, but he never knew why."

Happy Sunday to you.