Monday, 9 July 2007

The last post?

I haven't written for a while and the purpose of this post is partly to explain why that is and partly to explain why I won't be writing again anytime soon.

There are essentially two reasons I haven't updated this blog lately, despite starting it up with such great enthusiasm.

Firstly, life has been hectic. Sure, everyone says that. But, whether or not it's a decent excuse, the fact is the blog got squeezed out.

Secondly, after spending all day staring at a computer screen and writing for a living, the last thing I feel like doing in my limited spare time when I get home is staring at a computer screen and writing.

So that's why I haven't written anything lately - despite having drafted a couple of posts.

The reason I haven't actually posted them and the reason I won't be posting anything else anytime soon goes a little something like this:

It has been brought to my attention that expressing my own personal views through this blog might be perceived to be in conflict with the objective and impartial reporting of news, which makes up the bulk of my day job, and that eagle-eyed Google-fanatics looking to impugn me might try to draw some sort of link between what I write in this blog and what I write in the paper.

In my view, however, to say that having opinions is inconsistent with impartial news reporting is both unfair and unrealistic. For starters, who doesn't have opinions? I mean, who are you going to find to report news that is a complete tabula rasa?

Indeed, the same people who report the news in newspapers are also frequently called upon to write opinion or analysis columns, sometimes directly alongside their news stories. Does this damage the integrity of their news report? Maybe. But an argument could be made that at least you know where they're coming from, unlike other, exclusively news reporters whose views remain hidden behind their supposedly objective copy.

After all, if it truly was problematic, maintaining this blog (on my own time) would be prohibited by obligations contained in my employment contract, which, as I understand them, it is not.

In any case, I take my professional integrity seriously. I am universally cynical and question everyone's motives when I'm writing a news story. There is probably an equal number of people on each side of politics at any one time who are displeased with the coverage I have given them.

Nevertheless, the combination of potential scrutiny (and the resultant mischief that could cause), an absence of time and a lack of adequate creative mojo means that I won't be maintaining this blog in the near future.

I doubt there are too many avid readers who will be shattered by that news, particularly in light of the absence of any recent posts - but, if you do want to follow my writing in the meantime, you'll just have to read my news stories in the paper.

They'll be completely impartial and objective, of course.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

More Open slather

First there was the mini Balkans conflict, then there was the sexual assault of a five year old boy in public toilets and then today a third man was arrested for taking "upskirt" photos.

What on earth is going on at the Australian Open? How has it become a magnet for hotheads and perverts? And how has the Open's reputation managed to survive relatively unscathed while all manner of crimes occur within its boundaries?

If these things happened in a nightclub, there would be public calls to shut the place down. Think Salt Nightclub, which was closed after police argued it "detrimentally impact[ed] on the amenity of the immediate area".

If the on-court action hadn't been so spellbinding, might people be asking harder questions of the event organisers?

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Monday, 15 January 2007

An axis of the US' own making

In his 2002 State of the Union speech, George W Bush declared war on a non-existent "Axis of Evil". This alleged "axis" comprised three countries that either hated each other or had nothing whatsoever to do with one another. It couldn't have been any less of an axis/alliance had the President nominated Azerbaijan, Lesotho and Nauru in place of Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

Yet, by nominating these three countries as a clear and present threat to the US and its interests, and by following that up with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Bush has managed to create an axis of evil.

Since that 2002 speech, Iran and North Korea have learnt the lesson of the Iraq War ("We'd better get nukes or we're next") and have both set about accelerating their nuclear programs. North Korea recently conducted its first nuclear test and Iran has resolved to defy the United Nations and commence enriching uranium.

This is not an irrational decision by Iran. After all, the Iranian leadership sees itself as having a choice between:

(a) pursuing its nuclear program and facing the damp squib of opprobrium of a hopelessly divided international community (which must settle for the lowest common denominator of quasi-sanctions); and
(b) the possibility of military action - and even regime change (which could mean ending up on YouTube, dangling Saddam-style from the end of a rope).

You can bet that, in Ahmadinejad's position, George W would similarly be on the phone saying, "Better get us some of 'dem 'dere newkewler weapons."

Yet not all the bad news has involved weaponry - or "hard power", as Bush and his realist friends would understand it.

Ahmadinejad is currently touring Latin America, putting together a real axis of US-haters. Already, Iran and Venezuela (led by erratic socialist, Hugo Chavez) have signed a free trade agreement and CNN yesterday reported that Ahmadinejad and Chavez have pledged to spend billions of dollars financing projects at home and abroad to bring about, as Chavez put it, "Death to US imperialism!"

"Iran and Venezuela are next to each other and supporters of each other," Ahmadinejad has said, calling Chavez "a brother and a trench mate". It is impossible to imagine him calling Saddam Hussein anything of the sort.

Chavez, for his part, has promised to "stay by Iran at any time and under any condition" and has even called for a "jihad" on US imperialism.

Now, in his very first week in office, Nicaraguan President and Sandinista Daniel Ortega, is currently hosting Ahmadinejad, who excitedly told reporters,"We have common interests, common enemies and common goals." In response, Ortega declared that "Iran, Nicaragua and Venezuela and other revolutionary countries are together and we will resist together."

To Iran, Venezuela and Nicaragua, you can add Bolivia, Ecuador and arguably Cuba and suddenly the anti-US axis does not consist of three disparate states on the other side of the globe but a growing number of genuine allies, many of whom are in the US' own backyard.

Trench mates, fighting side by side at any time under any condition against a common enemy? Now that sounds like an axis.

Stand by for absolutely no mention of it in next week's State of the Union.

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Saturday, 13 January 2007

What is "Mid(dle Austr)alia"?

"Mid(dle Austr)alia" is so named for two reasons:
  1. I am a middle class and politically centrist. I believe in rationality and reasoned argument, without dogmatic commitment to any particular ideology.
  2. It is a very clever play on my surname.
Of course, no-one wants to read a moderate, middle-of-the-road viewpoint. As "shock jock" ratings prove, extreme views get attention and generate debate.

But to say that I am part of Middle Australia is not to say this blog will be uncontroversial. Middle Australia is not uncontroversial. Middle Australia is sometimes angry, occasionally prejudiced and often holds views that, by established standards, would be considered improper. Middle Australia is an often silent - though rarely moral - majority.

As a member of Middle Australia, I don't claim to represent anyone or any group in the sense that I speak on behalf of others. Rather, I hope to offer a selection of thoughts (many of them inevitably not particularly high brow) from the centre of the political spectrum. Those on the Right will probably describe me as pinko, lefty scum; those on the Left will probably see me as a conservative fascist. If I get the balance right, they'll both do so at the same time.

So welcome. Feel free to read, leave a comment and, most importantly, disagree.


Monday, 1 January 2007

Welcome to 2007

So I suppose my night tonight could be described as "spectacularly unsuccessful".

I begged and scraped to get a $70 ticket to this party at a club in Greville Street. I got my hands on one this afternoon and was chuffed by the success. The ticket supposedly entitled the holder to entry and free drinks from 9pm to 2pm. Neither came easily.

Having quickly sunk 4 Blondes (my current beer of choice) at pre-drinks, I sobered up as my companions and I waited in the queue outside the club. And waited. And waited.

What we were waiting for I'm unsure. I mean, it's not like we were waiting for people to leave before we could enter. No-one was going anywhere before midnight. But I think clubs like the exclusive feel of having people queuing outside, waiting to get in.

Once we got in, my night spiralled quickly downhill. I spent half of it at the bar -- initially for vodka, subsequently for water. They say there's no such thing as a free lunch. Well, I can now categorically confirm that there's really no such thing as "free drinks on entry". With a 20 minute wait to get served at the under-staffed bar and a 2 drink maximum, sobriety reigned supreme.

Despite being stone cold sober, the three vodka + Cokes I managed to get my hands on between 10.30 and 11.45 did not sit well at all. I felt my stomach rebelling. "What is this rubbish vodka you've sent me?" it demanded. "No, sir! I require a refund."

At 11.53pm, after the dialogue between brain and stomach took on a new urgency, I found myself 40 metres away from the club in a little alcove, projecting a fusion of pizza and the evening's beverages upon a side entrance to the Prahran Town Hall. I think I recognised an olive on its way up.

By midnight, I had more alcohol on my shirt than in my stomach, the closest I'd gotten to picking up was a conversation with a group of 19 year olds while initially queuing to get in, I'd vomited outside the club, I'd more or less pissed on my shoes and I found myself standing at the bar, queuing for a glass of water. There was no countdown, no celebration, no suggestion that new year's eve had passed into new year's day.

I performed a few more cursory circuits of the club, contemplated the unbearable heat and deigned to make my exit.

I took a train home, threw off my glad rags and launched myself into bed -- at which time a mate called to advise that he had relocated to a house party in the 'burbs where a bevy of spectacular women were present for the primary purpose of servicing my every whim.

I looked down at my furry naked torso through the smudged lenses of the glasses that had moments earlier replaced my contact lenses and solemnly advised him that my night was over. It was 1.45am. Meanwhile, according to the information printed on my ticket, the free drinks were still flowing in Greville Street.

Surely 2007 can only get better from here.