View from across the ocean (23/10/2015)

It was an important week back home, as we finally saw an end months in the making. I am of course talking about the finale of The Bachelorette Australia, where Sam Frost finally found love with her new beau Sasha hard-to-pronounce-Eastern-European-name. Frost of course was the lovely lady given the final rose at the end of the last season of The Bachelor Australia, only to be dumped a week later by Blake “you’ve got a stupid name and weren’t good enough for her anyway” Garvey who changed his mind and went with the runner-up. Six million capital city Aussies (that’s more than a quarter of the population of the country) tuned in to see Sam get her happy ending, and what a fairytale it was.

I didn’t watch it, mind you, but I am gonna miss the funny recaps and social media quips by the hilarious people who did. Still glad you two found each other, Sam and Sasha.

Something else that I wasn’t a big fan of but enjoyed all the online piss-taking that just ended? The political career of Joe Hockey. Though that was less ‘fairytale ending’ and more ‘at last the nightmare is over’ as he finally got around to quitting after his boss and biggest supporter got booted out of his own job. Tony Abbott might not be leaving parliament anytime soon, but it’s no surprise that the bloke who (it can be pretty easily argued) was the individual most to blame for that downfall (sorry Peta Credlin haters, Joe pissed off the voters more) has decided to quit while he’s got any scalp left. Or maybe he just wanted everyone to start being nice to him again. Certainly heard a lot of cheery speeches in parliament from his side of the fence congratulating him on years of loyal service to the nation, while his own speech was a self-congratulating belief that he’d left the nation better than what he started. I can’t help but feel that the latter was met by a collective muttering of “my arse,” while the latter was actually a coded thanks that Joe had fallen on his sword instead of making them feed him to the lions in a colosseum filled with cheering swing voters. Except for Julie Bishop, who didn’t give a speech and was promptly accused of, I’m not sure, disloyalty or something? Being impolite? Not lying through her teeth about what a great job she thought he’d done? Something like that. Somehow just as cheerful were the eulogies by all the satirists who’re gonna miss drawing Joe and his cigar. Even I got in on that action once or twice. I didn’t draw the best likeness, but then again I didn’t do it for a living.

Joe Hockey and random talking Edited 23:10:2015 copy

Truthfully though, this was a long time coming and nobody was that surprised. It certainly seemed to cease being one of the main headlines. Turnbull’s managing to keep things steady, talking about infrastructure investment and a changing economy and a plebiscite on marriage equality and not giving a couple of million dollars to a climate change skeptic. So much so that we’re barely paying attention to Cory Bernardi, and Peter Dutton’s offensive use of the word “Negro” hasn’t had nearly as much airtime as it would have gotten under the ancien regime. Mind you, he’s got Jacqui Lambie calling him out on inappropriate use of racist language in his capacity as a member of government, and when you’ve got Jacqui Lambie throwing down the political equivalent of “if you haven’t got anything nice to say, best not to say anything at all” then you really ought to think about your behaviour.

But of course none of this really matters against the fact that Sam Frost has finally found love. Good luck mate, you deserve it!

The News Last Week (18/8/14)

It’s that time of the week again, when I look at the things that caught my eye in the seven days past. Where shall we begin?

Pleasantly, I think. Microsoft has sealed a deal with Square Enix in which upcoming game Rise of the Tomb Raider (the sequel to last years fantastic Tomb Raider reboot) will be a limited exclusive for the Xbox One (also popularly known as the Xbone). The game will eventually be released on Sony’s Playstation 4, but Microsoft is not unreasonably hoping that this will boost sales of the Xbone which have been trailing the PS4 at a rate of 3 or 4 to 1 (depending on who you listen to) since it adds another proven franchise to their stable of exclusives. As an Xbone owner and someone who loved Tomb Raider, I can’t say I mind the news.

It took two days and a public rebuke from PM Tony Abbot, but Joe Hockey finally got around to actually apologising for his ‘poor people don’t own cars’ remark. I don’t know about you, but the apology still came off as a bit of an attention-seeking woe-is-me whinge. No Joe we don’t think you’re evil or have evil intent towards disadvantaged folks, and you’re honestly just making yourself seem more out of touch with the concerns of average Australians. But I’ve already talked enough about this.

A medical clinic in West Point, Liberia, was attack yesterday by an apparent armed mob. The clinic was home to 29 people (9 of whom died some days ago), who were being given preliminary treatment for Ebola before they were due to be sent to a hospital. 17 of the patients mingled with the crowds and left while the remaining 3 were forcibly removed by relatives. There are also reports of bloody mattresses being taken- wait, seriously? I know they think their President’s full of shit and this whole ‘epidemic’ is made up but you’d think someone would go “Y’know what? Let’s not touch the things covered in body fluids that might be infected with an incurable disease that spreads through contact with bodily fluids. Just in case…” It really shows how serious an absence of trust in your government can be in times of legitimate crisis, and this isn’t even the only case of patients being busted out by their relatives, or the only country where such distrust is posing a significant health risk.

Then there’s Ferguson, USA. What a nightmare. The shooting of an unarmed black male named Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer when he had his hands up and was surrendering, triggered protests (and riots) that were responded to by officers in armoured vehicles, firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Things look like they’re getting a bit better since the Missouri state governor Jay Nixon put Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson in charge of the situation, an African American officer who marched with the protesters when he arrived in a well-meant and well-received symbolic gesture. Tensions are still high, something that all involved seem to understand, at least from the perspective of a white bloke on the other end of the world.
Edit: I’m not even gonna pretend I’ve got any perspective on this issue, just hope that it gets sorted more peacefully than it’s been so far.

ISIS (ISIL? The Islamic State?) has finally gone and convinced US President Barack Obama that they need to be broken, and American air power has begun supporting Kurdish soldiers and militia (why haven’t we given these guys a country yet? They’re tough as Israelis) as they push towards the stronghold of Mosul. In other good news (extremely relatively speaking), US personnel found fewer refugee Yazidi on Mount Sinjar, which was being besieged by Jihadist forces. While the situation is still atrocious, a great deal of aid had managed to get through and air strikes had successfully allowed many of the refugees to escape, so it wasn’t the humanitarian nightmare some were expecting.

PM Tony Abbot got in a bit of hot water over remarks about Scotland’s independence that did not go down well, saying “I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, not the friends of freedom, and that the countries that would cheer at the prospect of the break-up with the United Kingdom are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.” I understand why the Scots aren’t overjoyed, and it seems a lot of Australian opponents breathed a sigh of relief that he could stuff up internationally after his recent run of serious foreign policy success (*cough* MH17 *cough*). Personally, I don’t think it’s too bad. He’s not the only leader to tell Scotland to stay in the Union, he’s just the bluntest (and using language I’d normally associate with the Super Friends). And I mean, it’s Tony Abbot, a man about as subtle as a kick in the budgie smugglers. Should we have expected him to wink at Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and make a crack about not contributing to the rising divorce rate? I don’t think he should have weighed in at all, but since he’s an outspoken monarchist I’m not surprised that he did.

In an interview with SongFacts.com KISS bassist and frontman Gene Simmons told people suffering from depression “Fuck you, then kill yourself.” As you can imagine, and especially with the news soon after of Robin Williams suicide, this did not go over well. A number of people have responded with variations of the theme ‘Gene Simmons is a douchebag who needs to pull his head out his arse’ (Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx probably said it best with “I don’t like Gene’s words. There’s a 20-year-old kid out there who is a kiss fan and reads this and goes, ‘He’s right. I should just kill myself.'”) and Australian Radio station Triple M took the step of removing all KISS songs from their playlists. Simmons has since apologised on twitter for his remarks, but a lot of people are still unhappy.

And with that, let’s leave it and see what happens this week.

Callous and disconnected, the tenants of a bad salesman

I like to think I’m a fair-minded person, socially and politically, that I at least try and show the respect that the offices of our elected leaders deserve if I can’t the people filling them. Everyone has an opinion and our society works best when we allow everyone to argue why there’s is best. Then Joe Hockey opens his mouth and I think “Fuck it. Whose idea was this anyway?”

Case in point, the Australian Treasurer reckons poor people don’t own cars, or if they do they don’t drive them much. So they shouldn’t care about his proposed increase to the fuel excise, right? Right? Cause they don’t need to buy as much fuel…

Joe Hockey and random talking: Poor people don't have cars (14:8:14)
Not pictured: Bloody massive cigar

He’s been called callous and disconnected, coming off like he’s telling the peasants to be grateful they’re so poor since they won’t have to pay as much tax as their betters. Then this morning Joe didn’t make life much easier for himself when he apologised for the outrage rather than the statement, saying he simply gave the facts. Problem with that is it’s not the facts that are at issue here, it’s their insulting delivery that ignores thousands of Australians (particularly in rural locations) who already see a higher proportion (key word there) of their incomes spent on petrol and transportation than higher earners. The fact that he can’t see that is just salt in the wound.

Let me put it this way. If a bank put up the interest rates on its loans would it say “it’s cool though, because poor people have smaller loans so they won’t be paying as much extra interest as rich people”? Of course they bloody wouldn’t. That would be stupid. They’d be talking about the higher costs of borrowing because of market conditions, how they’ve tried to keep things as equitable and painless as possible (since they want people to be able to continue paying off their loans), and pointing out how the rates of their savings accounts have gone up as well. You give people plausible reasons and treat everyone like they matter, or at the very least don’t dismiss them and their concerns.

Funny thing is I’ve heard some good arguments in favour of the plans for the fuel excise (not enough to completely convince me, but good nonetheless), but not from the Treasurer or any of his colleagues. But this is just another in a long list of examples of Joe Hockey and the Coalition government failing to sell their budget, either to the Australian people or to the crossbenchers needed to vote it through the Senate. Maybe it’s time the government let someone else have a crack at it.