Thursday, June 30, 2005

more secrets and lies

On the first anniversary this week of the US handover of ‘power’ to the puppet government in Iraq Bush came up with his usual corkers. (Exerts from his speech courtesy of the never biased foxnews.com):

"The terrorists who attacked us — and the terrorists we face — murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent,"

Now, replace “terrorists” with ‘US and Allied Forces’ and say it with an middle eastern accent and see how it sounds.

"Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression — by toppling governments, driving us out of the region, and exporting terror,"

Ditto. You can also add ‘exporting oil’ if you like.

"Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania,"

Iraq and Baghdad are interchangeable with Vietnam and a host of Central American countries. Or just read it straight and realize that he is shooting himself in the foot once more. The US invaded Iraq because of “weapons of mass destruction”, well that was the official line at the time. Now as support at home of the war and its growing list of American fatalities falters, he has to draw of the terrorist threat to rally support and rewrite history.

"There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home,"

Once more grasping at straws and trying to fire up the ignorant masses.

Bush is not only losing ground in Iraq but also amongst his own political troops. In the past month Vice President Cheney confidently asserted that the insurgency in Iraq was in its ‘”final throes”. This was swiftly rejected by Defence Secretary Rumsfeld’s statement shortly after that the situation was so far from under control that he could justify the US presence in Iraq for another 12 years. In an unusual show of honesty Rumsfeld added, that Iraq was "statistically" no safer for its citizens today than it was before the ousting of Saddam Hussein.

And speaking of these two loyal Republicans, this week Cheney’s mates at Halliburton were accused of over charging for their Iraqi contracts by a mere US$1 billion. What’s more the Secretary of Defence’s department is named in the cover up. What a surprise!

Monday, June 27, 2005

if that was uncomfortable...

Something a bit calmer to rest your eyes on (Apollo Bay, Victoria).

Open wide



Cross your legs for this one. I was a good woman and went for my biennial pap test this morning. There is nothing like having a stranger insert a foreign object into your vagina AND paying for it, to start the day off on a good note.

There are many things that I have never been told, or asked, by any doctor on rocking up for a pap smear. One is that you are not meant to have sex for up to 48 hours before your test (woops). Current USA sites list this, though it makes no distinction between protected and unprotected intercourse. Some sources even suggest you shouldn’t have a bath or swim 24 hours before hand. Another is any questioning as of my sexual history, especially factors that would suggest being at higher risk of cervical cancer and justifying annual testing. These include first sexual intercourse before 20 yo, multiple sexual partners and partners with a history of multiple partners (woops, woops and despite a couple of virgins, woops).

The Australian government’s policy is that women get tested every 2 years. A decade or so ago the recommendation was annual. Why the change? This is a purely cost cutting measure, weighing the cost of the women’s’ lives that are at risk as a result of adding an extra year between testing, and the expense to the State of testing every woman each year. Not surprisingly the USA, so well known for their public health policies (sic), has extended the screening to every three years. I predict that the longer we spend public money fighting wars in foreign countries, the more likely similar guidelines will be bought in here. Afterall a womans life is worth little when there are guns to buy and nations to conquer.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

More news from Bradyville



Here’s the story of a lovely catholic pharmacist who believes that sex should occur purely as god designed it, in marriage solely for the procreation of children. He runs a pharmacy in a small NSW town and by his own decree he will not sell contraceptives. No condoms, diaphragms or morning after pills for sale because of his, Mark Smith’s, “ethical personal reasons.” Did I mention he runs the only pharmacy in this town? Just where are his sexually active customers meant to go?

Merriwa, the Hunter Valley town in question, has a teen pregnancy rate 4 x higher than Sydney. The disparity is blamed on just one man, Mr Smith. I have not been able to find any stats on sexual infection rates, but I am sure his ‘just say no’ policy will have a similar effect on the spread of Chlamydia, HIV and a whole host of other infections given time.

And just when I thought this old news story (it initially broke in March) was an isolated incident, I heard on Radio National today of another NSW pharmacist who was walking a similar ethical line. Simon Horsfall, the owner of the Thurgoona Pharmacy near Albury, also used his Catholicism as an excuse to ban the sale of contraceptives. Regarding 'the pill' he said "I put notes into the packets of the contraceptive pill just asking people… letting them know that, well, I'm happy to supply it if they're using it for medical reasons like skin problems or painful periods or migraines and things like that, but that if they prefer it for lifestyle reasons, which is contraception, that next time they get it I prefer they get it from somewhere else."

While these are so far isolated incidents in Australia it is heading in the same direction as the bible belt in the USA, which is rife with riotous pharmacists. Nationally even Walmart refuses to stock certain contraceptives in its pharmacies because they believe it would be “bad for business”. Which is strange because in the commercial world I though sex always sells. However the cigarettes and firearms the company sell doesn’t offer them the same dilemma. Perhaps Messers Smith and Horsfall should follow suit and diversify into lines that don’t provide them with such ethical challenges.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Knock on Wood

Unsurprisingly Douglas Wood has sold his story to the highest bidder, in this case the flagging 10 network. Possibly his agent may get him a few endorsements as well, like the brewer he promoted on release or perhaps he will be the new poster boy for the Bush-Howard alliance. Wood’s nose is decidedly brown after thanking the two leaders for invading Iraq in the first place. After all, if the invasion didn’t happen, he wouldn’t have had the lucrative work opportunities, that then got him captured, that after the boys sprung him got him a media deal rumoured to be in the hundreds of thousands. But it doesn’t end there, Wood is already working on the sequel, saying that he may go back to Iraq, after all the place has been such a money-spinner for him.

In no way am I dismissing the fact that this man has been through an incredible ordeal from which he may never recover emotionally. It’s just there is an obscene personal gain for him and he is prepared to go back and put himself at risk all over again. I am not sure how empathetic the nation would be if he were captured a second time. My sympathies have never been with him for being there in the first place doing who knows what for the American Government. Hopefully our parliament will table how much it has cost us to send our man Warner to Iraq for these weeks trying to wrangle the safe return of the ex-pat who hasn’t called Australia home for well over a decade.

Like extreme sports people who go into knowingly dangerous situations, like a few lone yachtsmen in the southern ocean in the past few years, then get themselves rescued at the country’s expense – there should be talk of invoices being served on such individuals. It may be argued that Wood didn’t send out a mayday and ask to be rescued. Though in his case, his Australian bound family certainly did. The cost of one rescue may in the end be a fortuitous PR exercise for the government, but a return and subsequent capture, now that may be a different story.

On a final note, there was no liberation of his Iraqi driver, no joyous homecoming, no TV deal. Maybe he just doesn’t drink the right kind of beer.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

confessional

Forgive me. If I was catholic what I did last night is worthy of many hail mary’s. I am embarrassed. I have sinned. No this is not about the block of delicious organic chocolate that I scoffed. This is about where the depths of boredom took me. I have been told that confession is good for the soul and thus far I have resisted the urge for ‘blog as confessor’ but the need is so great I must let it out somewhere. Last night I watched “Big Brother” and what I saw shocked me. I was aghast at the inanity of popular television and my own apathy at not being able to turn it off. I have now had a taste of mediocrity and I hope it is not addictive.

There were so many things about the show that caused me to feel a sense of despair. If these 20-something publicity hounds are representative of their generation I feel deep apprehension for the future of this nation. With only one exception out of the 11 they were uniformly conservative, narrow minded, self centred and utterly boring. On the subject of the anti-war action a couple of years ago, when two guys climbed the Sydney opera house to write “no war” in bold red letters, the group grumbled about how wrong it was. They didn’t get into the pros and cons of Australia entering a war we have no right to get into, there was no analysis of our foreign policy and political allegiance no it was down to “it was stupid”. The one dissenter was reluctantly brought into the poolside conversation, to attempt to defend the action. He pointed out how effective it was because years on here they were still talking about it, but was shut up with one arrogant comment about how much it cost the State to clean up after them. Representing the left we had a puny guy, someone no doubt labelled brainy or nerdy by the group. He didn’t put up much of an argument, you got the feeling he’d sussed them out enough to realise that battling such ignorance would take more than his weak voice.

The group dynamics were fascinating. Australian society at its very worse. A strong gender divide. Boys ganging up against girls (I use those terms deliberately, they may have technically been adults but it seemed just like playground bullying to me). The group worked together to alienate anyone that didn’t fit in. As one they favoured an alpha male in a play off and worked to punish a young woman who was definitely on the outer for some reason.

It is hard to feel sympathy for these creatures but really they are just pawns in a bigger game. The nudity they have been especially selected to parade buys the network millions in advertising. The females’ keenness to be sexually available, also a clear selection criterion, another lucrative drawcard. Already rumours of actual penetration have done the rounds, a great ratings boost. For their fifteen minutes of fame (and lets face it, how many BB inmates from the last series can you name?) these kids have prostituted themselves willingly and in the end will be paid very little for it. Just how much is vanilla sex worth in the current porn market? Full nude shots in a magazine? I guess they are grateful for the tinny car they win and their bite of the million dollar cherry (fast diminishing due to some cruel kink in this years game). They will get free drinks in some night clubs, a shot at the network’s own talk shows, a splash in a womens mag. But perhaps this is as much as they could aspire to. None appear likely to be destined to any great fame on their own merit.

Let’s hope this sad bunch is not representative of the country’s future. That out there, clearly too savvy to enter such a program are activists, intellectuals, writers, sculptures, inventors, well thinkers of any kind. Somewhere in this emerging generation of adults are individuals who look beyond their own belly button and can build a better community.

Monday, June 13, 2005

I wasn't going to mention her but...

Schapelle, Schapelle, Schapelle. The trial is long over but people still can’t stop talking about her. At a dinner of locals and Sydneyites on the weekend the vote guilty vs innocent was hung at 4 all, with the 9th diner wriggling out with a bob each way. Although I feel compassion for anyone incarcerated, even more so in conditions that most of us would find inhumane, I am over it. This is Lindy Chamberlin all over again (and if the front page of a womens’ glossy mag alludes correctly, Lindy is also buying into the Corby circus, with plans to get her freed); a couple of decades on, same dinner party scenario just change the woman’s name. And it is always women who divide us on such matters of innocence.

Scapelle snippets of the week. In a winery in Margaret River, the person behind the counter confidently talked of the latest conspiracy theory. The Feds were watching the airport at the time of the supposed plant, but let her bag bulging with marijuana go because they were waiting for a bigger fish, a cocaine bust.

There has been a flurry of newborns named, you guessed it, Schapelle. Though at least one is creatively registered as Sharpelle.

White powder anonymously sent to the Indonesian embassy in Canberra. A member of the public deliberately making a statement as to the fairness of their legal system or nothing to do with the Corby case? The press just ran with wild speculations. No facts. But then when has truth got in the way of a good story. Lets whip up that anti-Indonesian frenzy, cancel trips to Bali and all the accompanying xenophobia such accusations feed.

Oh and now she is to write a book, an odds on bestseller, about her experience. Well her backer wants to get some money in return from his so far poor investment and Harry M Miller has welcomed her into his stable. Her doctor has urged her to write as a form of therapy (what ever happened to patient confidentiality, she is forever making statements about her star clients health and treatment?) oh and pray of course. Schapelle, now a confirmed Christian in a heathen land. But I digress. Even before her trial was over our very own attorney general, Ruddock, stated clearly in the event of a guilty verdict she was still covered by Australian legislation banning profit from crime. It is clear that even if a dollar from a book contract could not line her pocket, there is a cue of minders who will have their hand out. Can they legally profit I wonder? And her estranged parents with their own media deals, are they also profiting from her crime? Guilty or not of her accused crime, one thing is clear, Schapelle is a victim. The media have picked over til her bones are dry – with their ratings hikes, magazine sales and all the lucrative advertising money accompanying just one look at her anguished face. While some in the media sleep in their comfortable beds with a full stomach, it’s a certainty that Schapelle is currently not profiting from it.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Home is where the heart was

A while ago some American friends relocated from sunny California to Christchurch, NZ. They are part of a new breed of political refugee, fleeing Bush and his reactionary friends. To help them through the cultural changes I produced this guide.

"AOF's - New Zealand: A survival guide for unsuspecting North Americans”

culture
Kiwis don’t tip: it’s just not part of the culture and a key reason why service is pretty lousy.

Kiwis may appear to be rude: “have a nice day” has never been a popular phrase except in sarcasm. This doesn’t mean that they don’t care, it’s more about saying what you mean.

New Zealand Television: it’s probably best you leave your tv set behind.

New Zealand Newspapers: at best parochial, at worst just incredibly unimaginative journalism. Thank god for the Internet where you can read some real news.

God Defend New Zealand: National Anthem. Sung mostly before international rugby matches. Most citizens don’t even know it has more than one verse and even that is mumbled by after the second line.

Rugby: strange fixation of men with balls. Played in bad weather. Watched obsessively by the nation. When the national team, the All Blacks, lost a major series to Australia a couple of years ago the government offered the nation grief counselling.

Paul Holmes: another reason to not watch NZ television.

Kiwi Humour: is alive and well only a bit different to what you are used to you. Don’t worry it will grow on you, eventually. A good primer in classic kiwi humour is Fred Dagg (John Clarke) sadly now claimed as an Australian icon.

Monoculture: is prevalent in NZ especially in the South Island (SI). Though there is a strong maori/pakeha (white people) bicultural policy, most of the SI is white bread. Other ethnicities are grossly under represented. Enjoy lots of Mexican food before you move.

Exaggeration: a national pastime. EVERYONE does it!


Dress
Dress code: despite having some of the most innovative clothes designers in the world, most kiwis dress down.

Jandal: (Japanese sandal) aka a thong (Aus) or flip flop (UK) worn on the feet.

‘Uggies’ (“Uggboot”): fleece lined indoor footwear of choice. These will be your best friends as you adapt to the Christchurch winter.

Gumboots: (Uk) Wellies, Wellington boots. Rubber winter outdoor boots. Joins the above in the holy trinity of Kiwi footwear.

Swan Dry (“swanie”): originally a dark green, long, woollen farming shirt, also available in shorter style in tartan. Iconic farm wear that should never have made it into the city.

Language
A crib: is a SI term for holiday house, not a baby’s bed.

A bach: is the North Island (NI) version of crib. (Short for bachelor, bachelors pad).

Mainland: how those from the SI refer to where they live (as in “I’m from the mainland”).

Dairy: corner store (Aus milk bar or deli). Dairy’s are dying out unfortunately, but it’s where you go to get a chocolate fish when you have the munchies.

Chilly bin: (Aus “esky”) large portable receptacle for keeping food, but more importantly beer, cold when going on picnics or to parties. Makes a handy seat on outings.

Yanks aka ‘septics’ (septic tanks) just warning, someone will call you that. Strangely a term of affection.

Poms: English people aka “whinging poms” (for obvious reasons).

Aye: (“A”) over used verbal full stop at end of sentence as in “It’s a great day aye”. (alt spelling "ah")

NZ spelling: we add a lot more vowels.

Full stop: period.

Exclamation mark: exclamation point.

Zed: pronunciation of the letter Z.


Food
Chocolate fish: fortunately not a monty python confectionary, but one made of marshmallow covered in cadbury’s dariy milk chocolate.

Paua: New Zealand abalone.

Paua fritter: deep fried and battered from local fish and chip shop. Tastes like a fried jandal but supposedly a delicacy.

Vegemite: tar like spread eaten on hot toast with lots of NZ butter. You will have to at least pretend to like it. An ANZAC icon now ironically made by American company Kraft. Kiwi’s swear they can taste the difference between Australian and NZ vegemite. Their own being superior of course. I recently found a recipe on the net for vegemite quiche, this is not recommended!

Pavlova: meringue like dessert. Another issue of trans-tasman rivalry. Both countries claiming as their own invention. NZ version must be served with lots of whipped cream and slices of kiwi fruit on top (passionfruit for special occasions).

Edmonds Sure To Rise Cookbook: now reprinted, no home has been without it since the 60’s. Will give you an insight into NZ cuisine.

Afghans: not a refugee. Biscuit made from cocoa, butter, sugar and cornflakes. Topped with chocolate icing and half a walnut. The Edmonds cookbook has a beaut recipe.

Biscuits: cookies

Icing: frosting

Tinned: canned

NZ cuisine: you’d better like lamb and dairy! Seriously though, it is improving however if dairy intolerant no matter how innocuous something looks on the menu, always ask if it has any in it before ordering.

Politics
Piggy Muldoon: Ex conservative Prime Minister from the 70’s, now deceased. Pugnacious man, porcine in appearance and nature. In retirement played the narrator in the Rocky Horror Picture Show and appeared in TV ads for garden hoses.

MMP: NZ adopted this form of proportional representation. Not all members of parliament are directly represented, they are added by the party when allocated extra seats (‘list MPs’). This has created a much more interesting bunch of ‘polies’ (politicians) including a transsexual (my former neighbour!) and a rastafarian. There is no President or limitations to how many terms someone can be prime minister. Prime ministers are elected by the party not the people.
There is only one house of parliament (no senate) and voting is not compulsory.

Helen Clarke: Prime minister of NZ (labour party) since 1999. Appears to have had a charisma bypass. My father refers to her as “that Clarke woman”.


Sights and recreation
Skiing: some local ski fields (formally known as club fields) a short drive from Christchurch might make winter more bearable.

One way bridges: Once out of Christchurch, the SI is littered with these. They really are only one lane wide and its best to not enter the bridge when there is oncoming traffic.

Driving: A country of ‘Sunday drivers” you will need to slow down. Oh and we drive on the left, and give way to traffic on the right.

Fiordland: One of the wonders of the world (unfortunately it rains over 300 days a year but the scenery is stunning)

The Homer Tunnel: No relation to the Simpsons, this famous tunnel carved through the mountainside is your gateway to Milford Sound. Like the one way bridges only very dark and long it is advisable to only drive through at the times specified.

Wellington: is the capital of NZ (not Auckland!). Known for its wind and earthquakes but in the last 10 years has become the cultural capital of the country now they know how to make a decent espresso.


…one last thing – always check your gumboots for wetas!
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