Friday, July 29, 2005

notice to tube travellers


I have 10 minutes to write a post, so it will have to be a quickie:

1. IRA: Disarming and calling it a day. Let’s hope so. However how do you change a culture based on hatred at an individual level?
2. “Echinacea doesn’t prevent or treat a cold” latest study finds. Well what chance does it have if you use doses of around quarter of what most herbalists would prescribe?
3. The government finally gets with the program and releases children from detention. By the end of the day there should be no refugee families behind barbed wire in Australia. About bloody time.
4. Government to spend $20 million on an ad campaign to sell its new industrial relations “reforms”. Schools and hospitals must be amazed at where they have found the money.
4. “Woops” says the National Australia Bank, we accidentally over charged our customers $80 million in account keeping fees. These “processing errors” go back in one case to 1982. That’s just a little slack I reckon.

Times up, have a good day.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

use it or loose it

Although I have waxed lyrical about the joys of doing lunch,, this is a whole different kind of rant on the wonders of the midday repast. One of the mooted industrial relations reforms our draconian government is musing involves cashing in a lunchbreak for more pay or a shorter working day. It is clear Mr Costello hasn’t actually talked to many people in paid employment beyond his lofty tower.

One place that the reforms won’t even tickle is those who are part of the phenomena known as the overemployed. You see them scurrying through the city every day. Exhausted, white collar workers for whom the mechanisms of IR have long gone. Perhaps I shouldn’t show too much sympathy for them, after all some may say greed is the underlying motivation to not take lunch breaks and to stay at work until the cleaners arrive. However these days where there is no job security and much work at the middle to top level is already done on contract, the culture of appearing to be a workaholic is de rigueur. As for being paid more for the sacrifice of good nutrition and a happy digestive system, you must be joking. The corporations just smile a little wider and plan the next round of redundancies, after all if they can work this hard, can’t they work a little harder?

The realm where the protection of workers rights is most important is those on the bottom of the ladder – especially manual, unskilled work where you mightn’t need to be a brain surgeon to work but a slip up can be equally as fatal. If you have any doubts about the connection between working without a break and the increased risk of fatality, think of the trucking industry where the pressure to deliver the goods faster means almost unlimited hours behind the wheel.

So this week, and every week, celebrate lunch – whether it’s a packed lunch of vegemite sandwiches, a thermos of soup, leftovers nuked in the microwave, or out grazing on a delectable salad, sushi, a toasted focaccia on a chilly day or even, if you must, a traditional Aussie pie.

So what are you having for lunch today?

Monday, July 25, 2005

...and now the t-shirt

This morning in Wandsworth I saw my first "DON'T SHOOT - I'm not Brazilian" t-shirt. (courtesy of Mike fron London).

Almost as good as the Mt Erebus dessert that hit a Wellington cafe just days after an Air New Zealand flight ploughed into the mountain in Anarctica - scoops of plain icecream with a aeroplane sweet stuck in the side.

Anyone have any more good bad taste stories?

Just a little bit more on events in London

I haven’t quite vented my spleen enough about the Met’s “shoot to kill” bungle. The murder of of 27 yo Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes is not enough for them to revisit their policy and they have proudly gone on record to say they will do it again, because (and I paraphrase) next time they might get lucky and actually bag a terrorist. What ever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and the right to a fair trial? This is like a bad Western where the sheriff rules the town with a smoking gun.

But perhaps what is more alarming is the average Brit (sorry Richard) defending the policy. The BBC news website has been calling for comments on the event and the one they decided to highlight was.
The police cannot afford to take chances

With innocent lives at risk, the police cannot afford to take chances with suspicious people who run away when challenged. It's easy with hindsight to accuse them of being too hasty, but haste is unavoidable when you might have a suicide bomber among dozens of people on a tube train. There's no time to interview the suspect - there's just action. If people want someone to blame for this, blame the terrorists who have made such actions necessary.
Jennifer Harvey, UK

That’s it. “Blame the terrorists”. The policeman who shot him was totally innocent. It was the terrorists’ fault. I’m sure the Menezes family is taking great comfort from that idea.

Jennifer Harvey and the vast majority who have voiced similar opinions are proof that we can brainwash the public into supporting something previously believed unacceptable. Like the famous experiment where uni students were talked into giving what they believed were potentially fatal electrical shocks in the name of science, it is interesting how death can be justified in certain circumstances. Perhaps if a poll had been taken in the UK a month ago asking them if they would support this shoot to kill scenario,I believe the general response would have been different.

Despite the don't let the bastards grind you down approach of the Brits, the terrorists have gotten the upper hand here through the erosion of values that Western countries had held dear – freedom, justice and the British way. Bush and his allies are increasingly ruling their homelands with more power over a people with less rights. Sounds a bit like Saddam, doesn't it?

Saturday, July 23, 2005


I’m tired, really tired. I have BBC-world-service-over-night-itis. A dreadful post September 11 addiction that when there are terrorist or humanity type things happening in the world and I’m having trouble sleeping I listen to those dulcet tones of the good people from the Beeb telling me all is well in the world. But unfortunately they aren’t and it isn’t and the last couple of nights have been a bit disturbing.

Thursday I listened to the second round of London public transport bombings getting phoned through. The ones where the detonaters went bang but there was no boom. I got caught up thinking what did that mean. Surely not another round of bombs THAT’S REALLY GOING OVER THE TOP? Why at lunchtime on relatively quiet trains, how did all 4 go wrong, was it deliberate, a warning, or a real stuff up, a copycat or the same perpetrators? Well you can see why I got no sleep.

Then last night, after such a pleasant evening and bedtime activities that should make a girl nod off with a rosey glow, I just had a quick little listen. Damm. This is what I heard. "lots of shouting, 'Get down! Get down!' " then "a man jumped onto the train hotly pursued by plainclothes officers".

"He looked left and right, he looked like a cornered rabbit, a cornered fox, he looked absolutely petrified. I saw the gun being fired five times into the guy. They held him down and unloaded five shots into him."

Not the usual story of the friendly bobby. We are yet to find out if the guy was wired up and ready to explode (as one witness said), a member of a terrorist cell or just the wrong colour.

These are disturbing times when “mind the gap” is the least of your worries.

PS: The Beeb came through with an update that the young Brazilian man was indeed innocent and had nothing to do with terrorism. The Met called it 'regretable' but i can think of other adjectives for their trigger happy behaviour.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

post prandial post

I have been writing about very serious things lately so I thought I would break up the rants with a quickie on another passion – food!

Thursday is my favourite day to cook because it is a) the day I shop at Vic market* and b) a ‘non office’ day so cooking can be leisurely rather than quick fuel after work. On the menu tonight was a cheeky little prawn stirfry.

The veges du jour (organic of course) - spring onions, little yellow squash, bok choy and carrots. The protein - some cheap but yummy prawns and a bit of firm tofu that was left over and wanting to be eaten. The flavours – lots of garlic (sorry in advance to my clients tomorrow), sesame oil, chilli oil and fish sauce. The comfort food, carb factor – thick rice noodles. It was indeed delish.

* I have stated before (I think it was on the last census) that shopping at Victoria market every week is my religion. It is my ritualistic worship. I belong to a subsect that recognises organic farming as its guru. I have a strong desire to convert others. Supermarkets leave me with a hollow, unsatisfied feeling, they are false idols.

More stuff I am crapping on about

Another week that almost wasn’t:

1. ID cards. Suicide bombers carry ID, they want to be identified, so that blows that theory out of the water. The other flawed reasoning behind the growing support for this is that it would have saved Cornelia Rau from detention. No, Ms Rau had absolutely no ID on her at all; do you think she would have carried that card rather than her medicare card or drivers licence? Of course if the ID card is about introducing measures seen in fascist states where one is randomly checked in the streets or can’t do any type of transaction without showing their ID card, well…

2. Vizard. Using knowledge gained from having a position of privilege to increase your personal wealth is how capitalism works. The only thing of interest in the case is that his buddies aren’t supporting him – no Bracks or Walker standing up in court as character witnesses. Like rats deserting a sinking ship, you can hear the scurry of little feet through the top end of town distancing themselves from the taint. Lets face it they are all doing it to a certain extent. They just need to offer a sacrifice to the gods every now and then. Vizard is hardly a vestal virgin but it might appease them for a while.

3. Howard/Bush suck fest. Woke up yesterday morning to the sound of these two leaders licking each other’s arses.
Bush"I admire John Howard a lot. He's a man of conviction. He's got backbone, he's not afraid to make the hard decision, he's not afraid to lead. And we're really thrilled you're here. Plus, he married well…I am looking forward to working with him in his fourth term in office, for the betterment of our own people and the betterment of the world"
Certainly enough to put me off my cornflakes.

4. Howard and Blair deny that their presence in Iraq and support of the USA imperialism have anything to do with the London bombings. This is despite a report released recently by the Royal Institute of International Affairs (aka Chatham House). Poetically entitled “Riding Pillion for Tackling Terrorism is a High-risk Policy" the report clearly spelt out the connection between supporting the USA and Britain becoming a terrorist target. Britain was "at particular risk because it is the closest ally of the United States, has deployed armed forces in the military campaigns to topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and in Iraq," and has taken a leading role in the fight against al-Qaeda. A poll in the UK this week found that at least 2/3 of the British population happens to agree with them.

Enough! Melbourne is having some much needed winter sunshine and some daytime temperatures over 15c at last. The washing is drying on the line and cats that find damp earth deters their toileting activity are much happier.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

You'll need more than a VB this time Dougie

Poor Doug Wood. The bloke gets kidnapped in Iraq, his head shaved, a black eye for supposedly lying to his captors about how much money he had hanging about his house (according to his infamous TV interview) and now his former business colleague has come out and bad mouthed him. John Watkinson, who he had previously been in partnership with in the Middle East, has spilled his guts to the media with a story of poor management and embezzlement. Watkinson went further to cast aspersions on the circumstances around Wood’s capture and his reputation at the time in Iraq. The claims that he was in debt, had no contracts and were unlikely to gain any were backed up independently by accounts from a number of people left behind with unpaid debts prior to his capture.

It appears our little Aussie hero is not as innocent as the checque book journalists wanted us to believe. There is an inference that the circumstances around his hijacking were highly unusual and that there was evidence to suggest it was a criminal gang, not the mujahideen behind the kidnapping.

What’s more the poor guy who looks like the perfect poster boy for the “before” shot in a Jenny Craig commercial, didn’t loose a single kilo on his weeks of bread and water in captivity. It really is not fair! Now Dougie has pocketed his reported $400,000 and bar a photoshoot with John Howard has stayed mum since the Channel 10 extravagnza.

But on the subject of his mate Johny, Wood’s estranged partner has a few things to say. In another Age exclusive Watkinson is quoted as saying that
“..he finds Wood's recent praise of President George Bush and John Howard hard to fathom. "Doug thought the war was rubbish. He was there for the business created by the war, but he never believed in it. He always argued against the Americanisation of Iraq." Damn Dougie, these goes the diplomatic posting you were angling for, but at least you get to retire in Australia and reap all the advantages of citizenship that your untaxed earnings never paid for.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Another "Please Explain" for Vanstone

The Palmer Report initiated by the unlawful detention of Australian resident Cornelia Rau was released yesterday. Howard fronted a press conference with Vanstone in a show of strength. He even apologised, I heard him use the 'apology' word, but I don't think he actually used the more loaded term "sorry". However while the media and analysts plow through the report there is a very similar case brewing.

It was clear in even the draft report that Palmer was very down on immigration detainees being held in prison. This is meant to be as a very last resort and for no longer than 28 days. Currently it is day 24 for a kiwi woman being held in the Brisbane Correctional Centre. What was that, a New Zealander being held prior to deportation, but don't all kiwis have automatic Australian residency? Well it appears, not if the government doesn't like your character. The woman in question, 28 and 5 months pregnant is familiar with our penitentiary system having spent a 5 and a half years behind bars on criminal matters. The woman was released on parole, which she completed. Last month, as a free resident of this country, the federal government got her picked up, put in the only detention available in Queensland to await deportation. A fair few New Zealanders have served time here, just how common is it for them to be deported on release is unclear.

To have another woman being held in jail for immigration reasons, in Queensland, at the time of the Palmer inquirey will take some tangoing by the government to cover clear up. In the meantime Senator Vanstone has her hands rather full.

(thanks to the Flute for this one)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I know all about these animals!

I have lifted some of these from The Poor man Cafe. About time there was a bit of levity on the subject.

This kitty cat offers no ideas for improving the situation in Iraq.

This monkey probably thinks we should offer the terrorists therapy.

This puppy and guinea pig are typical of the “Bush=Hitler!” loony left Move On crowd.

Bleeding heart, lefty apologist

The people of Britain, and indeed Australia, are having great difficulty coming to terms with the reality that the London bombers were not some evil villains from a foreign country but their own sons. Their sweet faces beam out from the front pages of today’s newspapers, along with stories of normalcy. One played soccer, another cricket, a uni student, a community member. None of them had the hallmarks of mass murderers in the making and most people find that very confronting. You see it is important for us to think that these guys are branded in some ways. They certainly should have been religious fanatics, separatists and very, very evil looking. We preferred them to be shady figures shipped in from an Islamic nation which could explain their hatred against ordinary Britons. The fact that all 4 suspects grew up in the country they turned against has shocked a nation, more than that, it seems to have appalled their own families.

In Australia this latest revelation has given the shock jocks a field day, stirring up deep fear with the repeated phrase “its could happen here”. The underlying message is that we should be afraid, very afraid. We should be even more afraid because our potential bombers may live a normal life next door. Fear is a useful form of manipulating a group. It is a long used ally of politicians around the world. This fear of attack has allowed the public to meekly accept, perhaps even embrace with relief, the increased powers given to our intelligence organizations. Powers that in the past we may have spoken loudly against as contravening what we would consider basic rights, such as being held without charge for a week and interrogated without a lawyer. Frightened into numbness and overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness we are now ripe for a whole new round of repressive legislation. Anything to appear someone is in control of the situation.

The more we allow ourselves to be manipulated by this anticipatory doom, the less likely we are to get to the bottom of why we are a target in the first place. There is a great opinion piece by Seumas Milne in today’s Guardian exploring some of these taboos.

"A week on from the London outrage, this official otherworldliness is once again in full flood, as ministers and commentators express astonishment that cricket-playing British-born Muslims from suburbia could have become suicide bombers, while Blair blames an "evil ideology". The truth is that no amount of condemnation of evil and self-righteous resoluteness will stop terror attacks in the future. Respect for the victims of such atrocities is supposed to preclude open discussion of their causes in the aftermath - but that is precisely when honest debate is most needed."

This last paragraph I write apprehensively because it is inevitable someone will take it the wrong way. I wish to send my condolences to the families of the bombers, the Tanweer’s, Khan’s and Hussain’s, along with those of their sons’ victims. These were not disaffected youths, each had friends and relatives who loved them, miss them and are suffering their own unique grief and guilt. Oh and these families have death threats to deal with as well, some have been moved to safe houses. You can bet the average citizen has little sympathy for their loss. That’s it I am now forever branded as a bleeding heart, lefty, terrorist apologist. However I am not apologising for terrorism, I am just trying to understand it. More compassion, less anger, more wisdom, less fear...

(promise i will start blogging on a subject other than London very soon :)

The week that was

There is almost too much to comment on at the moment. So I will précis the things that have got me thinking in the last few days:

1. You can’t sink a rainbow. Well that was the response of Greenpeace to the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior back in 1985. A simple story of a European nation, testing nuclear bombs on a Pacific atoll that had been part of a colonial land snatch, that thought the best way to subdue opposition was to literally blow them out of the water. Even without the loss of life that was caused by the 2 bombs (amazingly only 1 fatality) it was a horrific plan. But the story worsens when you realise this act of terrorism upon a legitimate peace organization was the work of the French government and enacted by its own secret agents. The agents when caught pleaded guilty and were both given a 10 year sentence. However the United Nations intervened and mediated that their sentence could be spent on a nice French occupied island in the Pacific. During their interment the male agent impregnated his female colleague and they were sent back to France to a heroes welcome having only spent 1/5 of their sentence in ‘detention’.

On the 20th anniversary this weekend it was revealed that French President Francois Mitterrand personally signed off on the orders to bomb the Rainbow Warrior. This peacetime act of terrorism once more goes unpunished.

2. The London attacks appear to be the work of home grown suicide bombers. More suicide bombings this week in Israel and Iraq. The latest Iraqi attack mainly killed children who were being given sweets by the US soldiers. Just goes to show kiddies that the old saying “don’t accept sweets from strangers” sill holds water.

3. No pacific holiday bonk fest for our own foreign detainees at Baxter. Currently at least 3 long term guests of the detention centre have been waiting weeks for a bed in the local psychiatric hospital as each of them has been diagnosed with a severe mental illness requiring intensive treatment. The reason for these people not getting the care they require has come down to a lack of beds in the near by institution. Glenside’s allocated 10 beds set aside for ill detainees are full and the local health authority will not free more placements despite the need.

Haven’t they learnt anything in light of the Rau affair?

4. More on crime and punishment. One of Victoria’s most recalcitrant paedophiles, known as Mr Baldy, is to be released. He re-offended within weeks when he was last freed. It appears that the powers that be are letting him out early this time because they have more power to monitor his actions on parole than if he was set free after fulfilling his entire sentence. While a commercial TV news programme reported he was being rehoused in a location where he would not be near children, The Age stated he had been taken to a “secret housing commission house”. Just where can you find a State house that is guaranteed to be in a childfree area? Even nana’s have the grandchildren come visit once and a while.

This case raises so many issues about the role of incarceration in rehabilitation. Doing time for a crime is often not a useful way of dealing with sociopaths. If locking someone away is the best response our society has to antisocial criminals (and there is room for debate as to whether prison is ever the best answer) what responsibility does our justice system have to current and future victims of crime if effective rehabilitation is not mandatory for release back into the community?

Currently we are being presented with the forgone conclusion that Mr Baldy will reoffend. However, what if he has been "punished", reformed and just wants to get on with his life? While his new neighbours technically have not been informed as to his identity, the media has done a good job at publishing his new name and getting a recognisable picture of him. In the case of a criminal doing his or her time, being rehabilitated and starting their life all over again, what rights do they have to privacy? It won’t be long til this new resident will need to find a new home, then another, then another…Which of course the tax payers will be funding, along with his high degree of monitoring.

It really is time to start looking for a whole new system of determent and treatment rather than the current reactive outdated approach that continuously fails both the offenders and the community.

Monday, July 11, 2005

One for the spooks

The fallout from the London bombing continues and as I trawl through the different reactions to the event, it has reconnected me with my past life as a political science student. Except then I was too busy getting into extracurricular activities to really get my teeth stuck in too much. That, and I was a tad academically lazy at times. And young. In my teens, what the hell did I know of world events when what went on in my own love life was inevitably more fascinating? It is also weird to remember what it was like to be a tertiary student before the internet, painstakingly sifting through microfiche and searching through the little wooden boxes of the card files for journals, then to locate a item number and physically search shelves to find a hard copy of something that was usually years out of date.

Moving on from that shiver of nostalgia. The public transport bombings elicited an almost immediate assumption from both media and politicians that this was an Islamic fundamentalist terror attack. Although this is very likely to be the cause, within minutes of the tragedy many were publicly naming the perpetrators, without any evidence at that time. All except the police, who did a great job at being neutral and Al Jazeera who within a few hours of the attack printed a purely factual account of the event. Perhaps for the Arab world, this is just another bombing in an existence where such things are commonplace. On that note, this weekend saw in Baghdad alone: 21 dead and up to 34 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an army recruitment centre, the killing of 2 employees of an Iraqi mobile phone company on their way to work, 4 US soldiers injured when their Hummer was attacked in the city and another blast that to date has no reported casualties. The death of those attempting to join the army got media coverage here, largely to point out that this is an all too common event, where Iraqis are so desperate to get work they will put themselves into well documented, vulnerable positions.

I, like many others, talk of our sense of helplessness about how we can improve the quality of life of the average Iraqi who has had one brutal regime replaced with another that equally threatens their ability to live a life free of fear. Or what we can do on the home front, when we are repeatedly told that terrorist attacks will be on our doorstep any day now. The problem is so much bigger than Iraq, which in itself is only a symptom of the latest crusade of Islamism versus Christianity and vice versa. An interesting article in the Daily Telegraph reprinted in The Age, grapples with the issues more eloquently than I am able to. Well worth ploughing through.

But back at home I am thinking very carefully about what agencies or groups I would lend precious time and energy to by supporting. I burnt out many years ago on doing committee work for a variety of non-political organizations and am very hesitant to get caught up in the rounds of perpetual meetings, fundraisers and such all over again. Now there is the added annoyance of who you invite into your life if you get involved in any politicised groups. By this I specifically mean that too much of our intelligence officers’ time is now spent sniffing out any organizations that are remotely badged as left wing. Though I am led to believe that there are many charming individuals who sign up to be spooks in this country (ASIO that is, ASIS employees seem to be an entirely different kettle of fish), they would really be wasting my time and theirs hanging out with the likes of me. So for now, the best I do is rant about it.

For their information:
Yes I do want to see the downfall of our current political regime, however we still haven’t seen the emergence of a viable opposition party who will lead us through sensible and peaceful foreign policy options.

Yes, I do want to see a shake up to our current style of governance. I favour some forms of proportional representation, abolition of State governments and the strengthening of local government.

No, I don’t want to do harm to our current Prime Minister, more than wish him a nasty case of haemorrhoids and early retirement.

No, though I support some aspects of Socialism, I am yet to be convinced that revolution is possible without bloodshed and I support no form of political change that involves violence.

Well I am glad we cleared that up.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Big Bang Theory

Watched all the soot and gore my eyes could gobble last night on the teev. It appears terrorist attacks fit neatly into our addiction for Reality TV. I admit to being quite a sucker for the genre and still curse the fact I went to bed 3 minutes too early on September 11 2001 and missed watching history unfolding before me through the night. Though not of terrorist origin, the Boxing Day tsunami must get honourable mention in reality entertainment. The yuletide tsunami’s story unfurled over many days of compulsive viewing. At the time I was having the kind of Christmas that only a mass disaster could eclipse, so it gave me some bizarre comfort, putting my own petty misery into perspective.

London is the latest in the series. Yes I know I have glossed over Bali, Madrid and our own entrant into terrorism in the making – Iraq, but those are for other rants. Back to Blighty. The whiff of explosives in the air has bought out the “bulldog spirit” the tabloids tell us. Within hours we had many a Londoner remind us of the blitz and the historic stoicism of the locals. Blur got up and let the world know that they wouldn’t let the bastards grind them down. This tragedy of lost lives is one of the most fortuitous PR campaigns the country has seen for decades. As if winning the 2012 Olympics wasn’t enough for them! The timing is immaculate. Blur desperately needed to get certain G8 recalcitrants on his side, so if this can’t win him a sympathy vote, I don’t know what can.

But one thing stands out. No one is surprised. The timing may be subjective, but every man and his dog believed it was always a matter of when, not if, Britain would be the subject of a terrorist attack. Despite the gore fest, the shock value has been lost for the viewer since that day in September. We have, to borrow a phrase from Dr Helen Caldecott, become victims of psychic numbing once more, becoming desensitised to violence of this kind. Sad but true, dead bodies on the screen won’t make us choke on our cornflakes any more.

Back home we have had a ludicrous show of reassuring Joe Public that the powers that be are keeping them safe. There was a token police presence around public transport in capital cities today. Putting a priest on each train may have been just as effective. For what it’s worth, no boys in blue were visible as I waited for my number 96 tram in Bourke St Mall in the home time rush. If we want any semblance of actual safety full screening just like at airports, complete with random shoe tests and sniffer dogs would have to be introduced, at every stop along the line. That would throw a whole new twist in the frustration of running for a train, let alone quadruple your travel time and cost. No, that was obviously some ludicrous fantasy of mine. Put a pair of policemen at Flinders Street and we will all feel safe. Job done.

Although this post may appear flippant I in no way want to lessen the personal grief and trauma that many experienced in London yesterday. (In my own defence I did edit the remark I originally made about bomb dodging being added as a new Olympic sport). But as a nation we have been very selective about what terrorist events we have chosen to give perpetual coverage to. The Madrid bombings, of an almost identical nature and human scale did not warrant hours of live feeds from CNN and Sky. Perhaps it was because they were wogs (as the Australian vernacular so charmingly puts it). However there is a real horror, of our own collusion, that now barely rates a mention in the nightly news and never, ever the disruption of scheduled programming. I refer to the 100,000 plus Iraqis that have lost their innocent lives, and continue to do so, in the West’s so called liberation of their country. And this, so neatly, brings me back to my obvious conclusion for this rant. As I have said before, the most obvious way we can free ourselves from the waiting game and improve our public health, is to stand up against the Western Bullies and remove our support from the blood for oil fest in the Middle East. The war we have entered into with the USA and Britai n is the sole reason we will inevitably become another terrorist target. Be alert and alarmed, the choice is ours.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Want fries with that?

A dietician is someone you go to for professional advise about a healthy eating, isn’t it? Why then has the Dietitians Association of Australia actively encouraged a financial relationship with McDonalds? Though not an official sponsor of the DAA, the fast food monolith has leased a stand for the past two years at the association’s annual conference. It is a two way relationship, the organization raises money from renting the stand, while the company gains tacit approval and exposure within this industry niche.

As if this wasn’t a concerning indicator of less than healthy brands gaining some influence over this official health body, direct sponsorship by food manufacturers of the Association are reaching some alarming heights. The DAA has numerous “partnerships” with food industry producers and groups. These include Nestlé, Kellogs, Dairy Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia and Unilever. Other partners come from the pharmaceutical industry, including Novartis (Gerbis baby food) and Abbott. The DAA is at pains to state on their website that its sponsors in no way influence their advise. Though it is pretty clear from the partners listing that the official line is that good nutrician is based on having cereal for breakfast, eating lots of dairy products, tucking into some meat and feeding junior baby formula followed by processed infant food.

Or maybe it’s not as obvious as that. The message may be, its ok to not persevere with breast feeding while there are so many quality products on the market (and lets not mention Nestlé’s role in third world malnutrition). It could be that dairy is the ‘best’ source of calcium (so lets not even bother to mention great non dairy sources). Or perhaps grab that ‘high energy’ cereal for breakfast, its really good for you.

Of course I could, due to my own professional bias, be being too hard on the Association. After all their website has recipes using tofu in their database, so its not all meat and milk. But when their own committee member’s start resigning due to the ‘unhealthy’ influence of some sponsors, then you have to start wondering.

I did.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Food blog

Had a great day just out of Mellbourne in Healesville, one of the Mountain towns about an hours drive away. I was going to write about the fantastic meal I had at the foodie mecca, the Healesville Hotel, but it all got too gushy like a badly written restaurant review – so I will keep it short and sweet.

I have rediscovered the joy of ‘doing lunch’. A winters day. Getting out of the city, somewhere with clean, crisp air. A cosy restaurant with an open fire. An interesting menu (not a pasta or a sticky date pudding in sight). An equally delightful wine list, featuring local beauties. Getting excited by a certain shiraz on the list and splurging, turning a great meal into a special occasion.

I can rave about the light little chunks of pan fried gnocchi with mushrooms, garlic and lemon for my entrée. I can gush about the delicately smoked and baked piece of salmon, served on couscous surrounded by a moat of green harrissa sauce. I can embarrass myself by mentioning I even had a pear tarte tartin for dessert. But though the food was a knockout, the ambience was the best. You throw all the ingredients in with an exceptional bottle of red, add the companionship of someone you love, add time and let it marinate.

Despite my dietary quirks (a semi-vegan piscitarian) I love food and enjoy dinning somewhere that I have choices on a menu. I get off on flavours combined with skill, but food that’s not too fussy. I think it is better to drink one glass of a good quality wine, than a bottle of something that makes your mouth pucker. But what really flavours food is the company of good friends.

Heres to more weekends of woodsmoke,shiraz and companionship. Life really is too short.
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