So about what happened on Tuesday

So I honestly don’t really want to add to the noise, but this is sort of my wheelhouse so I guess I kind of feel duty bound to not let the moment pass without writing a few words on the subject. And here they are.

Certainty.

I’m gonna start by saying that I’m not gonna claim to be one of those people who predicted Donald Trump’s victory. Give it a week, there’s gonna be tonne of them. Economists, pollsters, analysts, ignoring the pages and pages they wrote about Hillary’s inevitable victory and claiming that they just knew somehow that Mr Trump was gonna pull ahead. They just knew it in their bones. It always happens, just check the literature in the aftermath of the GFC.

Nah, I’m not one of those. But like a lot of far smarter people I wasn’t surprised by the victory, and that’ll make all the difference in the next few weeks, months and years for a lot of folk.

Y’see from an international perspective, I reckon what we’re gonna see real soon is two distinct types of planning: those who assumed that The Donald had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the presidency and those who realised that hell had frozen over right around the Brexit referendum. Both sides are scrambling, but one side at least had an idea of what to do next.

I understand why so many governments didn’t plan for Mr Trump’s ascension. Most pollies come at government from an economic perspective, and if there’s one thing that economists strive for it is certainty. When you decide on policy you want to be certain that the world will conform to your desires and the results will be what you expect.

Personally I like the saying, “expect the best, plan for the worst.” We’ll see who else agrees.

Who benefits?

As a white Australian (who thank god is about to watch it all unfold from across the fucking Pacific Ocean), I’m gonna come right out and say that it is not going to be alright for a lot of people. Specifically women and sexual, racial and religious minorities. Even if Mr Trump and his cabinet of cunts aren’t terrible for everyone who isn’t a white Christian upper middle class male (ha!), there’s a lot of very hateful folk in the US and the rest of the world (I’m looking at you France) who are gonna be feeling very empowered right about now. And that’s gonna make things very dangerous for a while. Stay safe folk. Maybe look at taking a four year holiday to Australia for a while. Or Mexico. Mexico is nice, and the irony would be fantastic.

As for who else loses and benefits from this election? We’ll just have to wait and see what policies and promises Mr Trump decides to keep. Not all that many of them by the looks of it.

Who’s to blame?

Good question. The head of the FBI, Hillary Clinton herself, dumb Americans and ignorant Americans (there’s difference and crossover), and of course Bernie Sanders. Yeah, Bernie Sanders. Look, I like the guy, but he should have conceded sooner and with more grace when it became obvious to everyone that he wasn’t gonna win the Primaries. Sorry mate, but you fucked up and now the Republicans control all three sections of the government headed by a bright orange egomaniac.

Final thoughts.

Is the world gonna be alright? Dunno. Maybe. We’ll see in a few months. Honestly, it’s too early to tell and I’m tired, full of gin and about to climb onto a plane home (woo). I’ll probably expand on all these subjects in the future (I want to) but right now it’s hard to guess exactly how fucked the international order is. It might not be fucked at all. I mean, it probably is at least a little, but maybe it isn’t.

Things might be about to go to hell in a handbasket but, in the immortal words of Dr Zoidberg, at least it’s not boring.

View from across the Ocean (18/9/2016)

Gotta say, when the chips are down and he’s against the wall Mr Turnbull doesn’t back down from anyone.

Except for the right-wing arseholes of his own party of course. Seems like he’s willing to do anything they fucking well tell him too, like a well-groomed sixteen year old boy for a Gold Coast retiree in the steamy imagination of a certain Queensland Senator we all know and suspect is a collection of King Brown snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the soul of a xenophobic blowfish. Fucking Queenslanders.

Watching the Battle of the Marriage Equality Plebiscite unfold from over here in Canada (where it’s been legal for quite some time now) has been one of the most entertaining things I’ve seen in the rather drab and dreary first year of Mr Turnbull’s stint as ‘Captain.’ I mean, yeah, I had a great time during the election, but that was probably because I only saw the good bits (*cough*fake-tradie-memes*cough*) without having to endure the actual campaigns themselves. But watching the Plebiscite fail before it even had a chance to be voted on has been just fuckin’ wonderful. And terrible, because there’s a very good chance that the failure of the plebiscite will push back marriage equality for another couple of years.

It doesn’t take a professional journalist with decades of experience reporting, predicting and commentating on Australian politics to figure out that the plebiscite was going to fail before it even reached a vote. I’m certainly not a professional journalist with decades of experience and I’ve figured it out. Shit, I reckon even a collection of King Brown Snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the soul of a xenophobic blowfish would have figured it out by now. I mean, there’s evidence suggesting that a particularly stupid collection of King Brown Snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the soul of a particularly xenophobic blowfish might not have, but let’s give Mr Christensen the benefit of the doubt.

The Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team (I’m sorry mate, you’re a decent pollie and I know the acronym can be pronounced ‘next’ but could you not have come up with a better name for you party? How about the Nick Xenophon Experience?) and a few other crossbenchers have all said they’d block it in the Senate, while the first openly gay Liberal in the Australian Parliament (also in the Senate) has clearly and passionately said he would not support such an “abhorrent” bill. As for Labor? Well, they haven’t outright said that they’d block it. But there are a few signs…

Meanwhile public opinion in favour of the plebiscite has fallen, not least because while the Coalition plans on making it compulsory they have no intention of making it binding. Which means that Coalition MPs would still be able to “follow their consciences” and vote however they want in Parliament. As far as I can tell it means there would be no legislative trigger whatsoever, so we still might not get marriage equality in Australia until Labor wins the next election (and they will win the next election) even if the ‘Yes’ vote wins. Funnily enough, people don’t like the idea of wasting 160 million dollars on a decisive “opinion poll.” At least that’s what the opinion polls are saying.

But shit guys, both Mr Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis* have said they’re open to compromising on the bill! I mean, not on the policy, question, legislative impact and the fifteen million dollars to be split between the two campaigns. That shit’s non-negotiable. But they’re willing to make changes to… the colour of the ballot papers I guess? Yeah. Maybe they can be coloured a nice, ironic rainbow. Labor’s response to this we’re-only-now-realising-how-embarrassing-losing-this-is-going-to-be-so-we’re-getting-desperate olive branch? Well, since shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ first instinct was to call both PM and AG dishonest and lacking backbone, the signs are not positive.

So, why has the PM taken this so far? Good question. Apparently the Coalition believe they had a mandate to see this thing through, and the Coalition doesn’t back down when it has a mandate! Except when it comes to superannuation reform. They’ve gone awfully quiet about that, haven’t they? Despite the fact that changes to super are something they could actually negotiate with Labor and the Greens and pass in a timely manner, saving the budget billions of dollars. But surely members of the Coalition (Tony Abbott’s old mob and collections of King Brown Snakes wearing human suits possessed by the souls of xenophobic blowfish) wouldn’t try and stop prevent something that the Coalition brought to the election and therefore has a mandate to see through?

I feel like I’ve been asking a lot of rhetorical questions in this post. I apologise.

It’s funny, Mr Brandis came out today saying the Malcolm Turnbull could go down as one of Australia’s greatest Prime Ministers, alongside Menzies and Howard (and I’ll just throw in Whitlam, Curtin, Hawke, Keating, Billie Hughes – who’s actually, technically a Coalition great – and Julia Gillard). I can’t help but feel he should show some leadership first. Stand-up to the King Brown Snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the souls of xenophobic blowfish that occupy the right wing of the backbench. Of course, nothing scares a PM like the thought of being courageous.

Then again, maybe we should really stop electing them. Fucking Queenslanders.

One thing you can be sure of is that Bill Shorten is laughing his arse off right now (SCHADENFREUDE!) as the Coalition hands them yet another easy win and a boost onto the moral high ground. This is going to haunt Mr Turnbull, no matter the result.

*More articles from the Sydney Morning Herald being linked than I usually like – for balanced readings sake – but they were the first ones that came up when I did searches.

View from across the Ocean: A quick word on Brexit

There’s this song I really like by an Aussie guy called Chance Waters called ‘Maybe Tomorrow,’ an incredibly upbeat ballad about people predicting the end of the world. Here’s the film clip. It’s actually pretty delightful. As is the song.

Now this has really resonated with me for the past few days, what with half the internet screaming about the end of days because of the Brexit and Donald Trump and whatnot. Lot of anger and a lot more panic amongst the disenfranchised youth (yo! My people!) being sparked by the angry and disenfranchised elderly (yo! Not my people, but if you’re reading this you’re obviously cool anyway!) But honestly, given all the Yanks on Tumblr and Twitter and whatnot who began telling their British followers to “stay safe” you’d be forgiven for wondering if all it takes to bring about the apocalypse is one shitty referendum result. Where’s Idris Elba when you need him?

No doubt the result is shitty. It’ll undoubtedly damage the UK’s economy and diplomatic standing for years to come, and could bring about the dissolution of the Union that was narrowly avoided less than a year ago. There’s more than a few people quite rightly concerned that old white bigots around the world are seeing this as an example of old white bigotry winning and will be emboldened to push for their own white bigot goals even harder (La Penn over in France has already begun talking about a similar referendum taking place in her own patch). Right wing populism is on the rise and the left is in shambles or dealing with its own dumb-arse populists doing more harm than good (*cough*Jeremy Corbyn*cough*Bernie Sanders*cough*).

But, y’know. The world will either keep on turning. Or it won’t, and we’ll all be too dead to care anyway. So cheer the fuck up, aye?

And stop getting so pissed off at old people. Yeah, I admit, my first thought when I heard about the Leave Campaign winning on the back of the over-fifties was “would it be too unconstitutional if we set an upper age limit for being allowed to vote?” After all, most countries have got a minimum voting age, so why not set a maximum? Then I remembered two things.

First, recent democratic disasters have been avoided thanks to the older vote. It was old Scots that voted no on leaving the Union last September when it would have been a really, really stupid idea (jury’s still out on whether leaving now would be better), and it’s been old Democrats who’ve recognised that shit’s more likely to get done under Clinton than Sanders. Both of those have been against the wishes of the vocal youth vote and, speaking as a relatively objective outsider with an education in politics and economics, were the right decisions.

Second, only a third of you fuckers voted. Seriously, something like only 36 percent of 18-24 year olds voted in the Brexit referendum. Lindsay Lohan gave more of a shit about the referendum than 64 percent of you. You don’t get to whine about all the old bastards making decisions that you’ll have to live with if you didn’t even try and participate in the decision making process yourselves.

But the world will keep on turning. Things are going to be pretty shit for a long time. For everyone, since it’s fucked the international economy pretty bad. Except for all those Aussies right now planning English holidays now that the Pound has taken a nose dive.

But the world hasn’t ended. So cheer the fuck up.

Geopolitics and character development: Some thoughts from CA:CW

Captain America Mission Accomplished - Edited 30:5:16Alright, Captain America: Civil War is one of the best analogies for Bush-era post 9/11 American geopolitics I’ve seen in pop-culture in a long time. Seriously mate, it’s so good that I can’t help but wonder if it’s intentional. I mean, not whether the analogies to the great questions facing American and NATO foreign policy over the last fifteen years were intentional or not. They obviously are. But how good it is, well, have you ever met Yanks who are that self-aware? Nah mate, even the smart ones have got blind spots in certain areas. Not they’re fault, it just comes with being the biggest, toughest kid on the playground for so long, helped along by constantly telling yourself about how righteous your causes are. Like Captain America.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the simple analogies. The Avengers as a group are NATO (and its close affiliates) and Captain America is, as you might’ve guessed, the United States of America.

The Avengers exist as an organisation to defend and retaliate against existential threats, both defined (Loki and his army in the first film) and undefined (whatever the fuck Hydra became after Winter Soldier). And let me be very clear, they are happy to retaliate. Tony Stark makes that very clear when he has a chat with Loki The Avengers (“because if we can’t protect the earth, you can be damned sure we’ll avenge it!”) Their intervention in Sokovia at the beginning of Avengers: Age of Ultron seems more like a preemptive strike. While we learn in The Avengers that the ‘Avengers Initiative’ was initially scrapped before the events of the film because of the unreliability of some of the proposed members (*cough*Iron Man*cough*), but its founding members are brought together to fight a powerful foreign threat. Once the enemy is defeated, they more or less go their separate ways. Without having a specific threat that requires a unified front, they drift off and deal with their own problems in their own theatres (huh!) of interest. Awfully similar to NATO when you think about it.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was founded largely to deal with the existential threat posed by the USSR (which maintained an edge in conventional weapons even if it was outgunned nuclear-wise) that no single member could have handled alone. The fall of the Soviet Union at the turn of the nineties saw the Alliance’s continued role in international affairs come into question (and it still does). NATO members have come together over the two and a half decades since to do the odd bit of dirty work (an air campaign against the Serbs in the former Yugoslavia) but even then they’ve often been flying their own individual banners, flying the banners of some other international institution (the UN) or working bilaterally. You could argue that the invasion of Afghanistan was a NATO affair, but you could also argue it wasn’t just as easily. NATO has, however, seen something of a renewed raison d’etre as the world tries to deal with cross-border terrorism, the continued consequences of the Arab Spring, a resurgent Russia and ascendant China. Like the Avengers getting back together to clean up Hydra after the events of CA: The Winter Soldier.

Now, it’s not an exact parallel. I’m not even all that keen on calling it a close parallel. But it is the most easily digestible one, it being the only big, well-known military alliance still floating around. And while memberships comparisons aren’t perfect (because of the number of Avengers and that some are more better compared to countries outside the NATO alliance), it’s still the easiest matchup. Particularly Iron Man and Captain America.

Iron Man is plagued by guilt. Understandably so, but still. Someone give the guy a hug and help him deal with the PTSD. I’m looking at you Sam Wilson. And Pepper. And, y’know what? Tony’s not that big of an arsehole. He’s dealing with some serious emotional baggage and none of you are helping. Anyway, Tony Stark is plagued by PTSD from barely surviving as he saved New York city from the kneejerk reaction of our own leaders and the alien invasion that caused it (forget almost getting stuck in space, Loki threw him out a fucking window). In his desire to protect people he builds Ultron, the killer robot that wants to wipe out humanity, which gets a bunch more people killed in Sokovia. He’s able to see the full consequences of his sins and is continually reminded of them, alongside his own mortality.

A similar… let’s call it a zeitgeist… a similar zeitgeist can be seen in the politics of France, Germany and a part of the UK. That feeling that they barely survived two world wars, and the trauma of what happened during those wars. That guilt that comes from seeing the continued repercussions or colonial ambitions and imperial carelessness. Consider Tony’s guilt over Ultron and then think about Anglo-French guild over Sykes-Picot, English guilt about the partition of India and Germany’s guilt over the Second World War. Both Tony and old Europe then put their faith in higher institutions. Tony’s faith in his own judgement was shaken in Iron Man 2 where his commitment to Randian self belief (seriously America, why is Ayn Rand still a thing?) almost ends in disaster and the death of the person he cares about most, and it’s broken into a million bloody pieces during Age of Ultron when he, y’know, builds the bloke that almost ends the world. What we see with Tony in Civil War is him making a fairly mature, considered and diplomatic choice. Deciding to put his support behind international laws, regulations, institutions and, most importantly, oversight. And this has been a big part of European politics for the past few decades. Franco-German political faith and muscle has been put behind the European Union and United Nations Security Council. They’ve been all about establishing institutions that set boundaries on their own power and that of others, creating an international order and following it. Or at least claiming they do. This is international politics after all. All’s fair and all that. But for the sake of argument let’s claim they always practice what they preach. Point is Tony sees institutional oversight as the best answer to avoid causing collateral damage, same way that France, Germany and the UK do.

Captain America, on the other hand, fears being tied down by UN oversight and their shifting agendas. He sees a threat, he takes it out. Done and dusted. And honestly, who better to do it than Steve Rogers? It’s an interesting case because Captain America in the films (and comic books, but we’re discussing the films here) is not a parallel to what the United States is, but the changing way it’s viewed itself.

To start with let’s consider Steve and the USA in isolation, away from the Avengers proper. In The First Avenger, Steve Rogers is the personification of the very best parts of America the superpower. Standing up to bullies, never backing away from a righteous fight, doing the right thing without thinking of the cost, making the greatest sacrifice for the good of the world. This is the America that won World War Two. Or at least won in all those great old movies about World War Two. The Winter Soldier is, in my mind, more of a 9/11 parable than The Avengers was (yes, in other MCU properties they treat the Chitauri invasion of NYC the same way we treat the attacks of September Eleven – “New York changed everything” – but, well, nah). Past sins coming back to roost (America’s involvement in the Middle East/SHIELD’s particularly shady dealings) and a complete failure by the intelligence community to detect the threat (Al Qaeda cells learning how to pilot planes/HYDRA infiltrating every level of SHIELD) sees the personification of the nation betrayed, and a problem that only America and a handful of its most loyal allies can fix (seriously, why does he not give the rest of the Avengers a call?) Which it does, through shock and awe and a complete dismemberment of the failed system for no other reason than “Because Cap says so.” It’s unsurprising that Captain America distrusts the idea of international oversight. In The Avengers the international Council that runs SHIELD decides to launch a nuclear missile at New York and then in Winter Soldier he discovers that HYDRA are the ones running SHIELD, and even if they weren’t are getting into some really shady shit.

But America does not exist in isolation and neither does the good Captain. In this case Steve Rogers is a personification of how America sees itself in the world. You gotta remember that Captain America isn’t actually the most powerful guy on the Avengers. The Hulk is (arguably) more powerful, who just gets stronger the more you try to kill him. Thor is the fucking warrior God of Thunder. Vision can fry people with his mind and swing Thor’s hammer (giving him access to the powers of the fucking warrior God of Thunder). Iron Man built a power generator that ends the need for fossil fuels while a hostage in a cave, and had gone toe to toe in his various suits with everyone in the first Avengers movie except Black Widow. Shit, I reckon if Natasha really wanted to she could kick Steve’s arse. And yet it is Steve Rogers who is given leadership of the Avengers. Why? Because he’s a better leader? Shit, Thor’s been leading his mates for centuries and learnt enough humility in his own first movie that he probably knows how to run a fight. Because he’s a better soldier? That hardly seems like something that Tony Stark would respect, and something that Black Widow would openly laugh at. Hawkeye too if we’re being perfectly honest. So why’s he in command?

Because he’s Captain America of course. He became what he is and does what he does not in pursuit of power, control or vengeance, but because it was the right thing to do and freedom needs protecting. So because everyone else can of course see this righteous initiative they give him command. Sounds like bullshit, doesn’t it? Thing is, I reckon that’s how Americans see themselves. I mean, sure, they’re not afraid to toot their own horns (“we have the most powerful military in the history of the world!” and all that). American exceptionalism is alive and well. But they don’t like to admit that the main reason everybody listens to them is because they’ve got the biggest guns and the biggest purse-strings. They don’t like admitting that they’re an empire (see: Niall Ferguson, Empire). No, the star spangled banner is a universal symbol of free people and free markets and that is why they run any organisation or alliance they choose to be part of.

I mean it’s not, but you can understand why they might think that way, right?

The analogies get cleaner or messier from there. Black Widow is the UK proper (where Iron Man is just parts of the UK), trying to strike some sort of balance between the two sides of the conflict. The United Kingdom has long tried to position itself as the bridge between the EU and the USA (special relationships? More like open relationships! That’s not nearly as funny as I hoped it would be) and in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 Her Majesty’s government tried hard to convince the Americans to work within the United Nations, rather than unilaterally. Similarly Natasha tries to convince Steve to sign the Sokovia accords and stay out of the fight. In both instances there are feelings of, well betrayal seems too strong a word. Disappointment. There’s feelings of disappointment from the EU when the UK followed the Americans into Iraq and from Iron Man when she lets the Captain and Bucky escape in the quinjet. Hawkeye is probably Australia. Or maybe Falcon is. Maybe they both are. Someone’s Australia, the one country that’s always following the US into a fight. Black Panther is Africa and, well, I’m not opening that can of worms today. Let’s just say your fave is all sorts of problematic and leave it there for now.

Anyway, what does this all come down to? Long and short of it is, Captain America was wrong. Throughout the movie. He’s wrong.

He should’ve signed the Sokovia accords instead of being all about that personal responsibility. Strong institutions with strong regulations and strong oversight make everyone stronger. Tony recognises it. That’s why he signs the Accords without hesitation. But he also recognises the need for Captain America to be part of that. “Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect teeth. But I don’t want to see you gone.” As angry as they get with the USA, countries like France and Germany don’t want to see them gone. But they understand the importance of convincing the Americans to work within an established order with (let’s be honest) self-imposed boundaries. They understand what happens when major powers are allowed to get away with whatever the fuck they want.

But Steve doesn’t see this. He distrusts anyone’s judgement but his own, believing “the safest hands are still our own.” Understandable considering that Hydra had found ways of controlling both him and his best friend. Understandable that a country which holds freedom and personal responsibility so highly, that everybody should have control over their own destiny, should try to embody this in the superhero that carries its name. And he’s wrong. Steve loses all credibility when he defends Bucky, and then when a legitimate threat is discovered nobody believes him. And at the end of it all? He still thinks he did the right thing.

America folks.

It’s taken most of the MCU to get here folks, but they did it. We’ve seen Captain America turn from a symbol of for the most idealistic version of what America might and could be, to a personification of what America has been for the last decade and a half.

God I love these films.

Next time, I might get into why the characterisation of Black Panther might be a bit racist.

View from across the ocean: Australia Day 2016 special

Well, it’s that time of year again. Big Day Out, The Hottest 100, beaches, barbecues, cricket when possible and copious amounts of beer and cider. I’ll be up in Whistler with the rest of my kind (it’s not called ‘Whistralia’ for nothing) listening to Triple J count through all the songs I’ve missed after being away from decent radio for soon-to-be-a-year (Christ, that came quickly) with some mates. ‘Cause that’s what being a 20-something Aussie abroad is all about. Meanwhile, the grown-ups are (as always) talking about serious issues, like whether or not the Australia should become a republic or the never-ending argument about whether or not we couldn’t find a more culturally sensitive date than January 26th to celebrate what passport we hand into customs. If it sounds like I’m making light of it, it’s only because Indigenous Australians have every right to feel a quite miffed about it and we should have fixed this years ago. That and, quite frankly, there are people who are far better at communicating exactly what the issues are and how they need to be addressed. I just take pot-shots and write about video games.

Then again, ignorant white racists have had a good year since the last Australia Day. Reclaim Australia is still going surprisingly strong despite the rest of us pointing out to the ignorant pensioners in the group that they’re marching with skinheads. What about that guy that became the face of Reclaim Australia getting all angry about us judging a book by its cover? How fuckin’ funny was that! I was laughing my arse off when he claimed that he wasn’t racist because he had a Bangladeshi mate, whose name he didn’t know so he just called the guy Bangladesh. I mean, mate, referring to a guy by his heritage group because you haven’t actually bothered to learn his name is not the best way to prove you aren’t a bigot. All it does is show how lacking in any sort of self-awareness you are. But, nah man, it’s because of your facial tattoos. Sure. Mind you I think we now understand the demographic that must keep voting for Senator Barnaby ‘is this champagne halal’ Joyce. He wasn’t the only polly to make a bit of an arse of himself bigotry-wise of course (Peter Dutton had a moment or two, for example), and even Pauline Hanson got a moment in the spotlight again with her “all terrorists are muslims” thing, completely ignoring (amongst many others) the Catholic IRA, Hindu Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka (until quite recently), pre-Israel Jewish hotel bombers and by-this-point-mostly-just-lip-service communist FARC guerrillas only now having peace talks with the Colombian government. I could go on, but at some point it just starts being facetious. And I need time to mention those fuckwits who reckoned the 10th anniversary of the Cronulla Riots was worth celebrating, as if a bunch of drunken idiots wearing the Aussie flag beating up anything darker than Wonder White is something to be proud of.

But things have improved a little. The guy who this time last year was handing out knighthoods to bloody Prince Philip has been replaced by a centre-right republican (not the type any yanks reading this might immediately think of) who had too many centre-left tendencies for his own good last time he was running the Liberal Party. Thankfully a lot of those on the further right who gave Malcolm Turnbull the boot the first time round came to the conclusion that they weren’t going to have a job if Tony Abbott kept eating raw onions (I believe he kept a basket of them under his chair in parliament) and generally doing and saying things that made the population collectively mutter “for fuck’s sake!” under their breaths. So Mr Turnbull’s back in the top job. And there was much rejoicing. Hooray for self interest. Etcetera, etcetera. Except for Labor and Bill Shorten, who’s losing even more ground to Turnbull in the preferred PM polls. Wonder how long past the next election (due this year I believe) before Mr Shorten is replaced by someone who can actually win. Like Tanya Plibersek, Anthony Albanese or (we can dream) Penny Wong, all of whom seem to have been putting up far more of a fight than Mr Shorten has in recent months (at least from my limited perspective across the Pacific). On the bright side for those of us who like taking pot shots, Mr Abbott had announced he’ll contest in the next election. I reckon it’ll be hilarious regardless of the results.

Lot to talk about, politics-wise from the past year. Been far too long since I wrote one of these as well. Even in just the past month or two we saw the Liberal ranks partly gutted after an attempt to jump ship to the Nationals was prevented and another member was removed from Cabinet after inappropriate behaviour towards a DFaT bureaucrat was reported. The Brits got a bit upset when the same-sex marriage of a couple was not recognised, after one of the husbands sadly died on their honeymoon. Even Christopher Pine called it a pretty heartless and unnecessary act (because it is, you heartless bastards), and as I understand it the South Australian government has since (quite rightly) apologised.

Could go on, but we’d be here for a while. Going back to Australia Day, you guys seen this Deadpool thing?

Fuckin’ funny. Nice to see that even the Merc with the Mouth can’t help but like Hugh Jackman (who really is just delightful). Reminded me of Ron Burgundy’s messages before the Melbourne Cup…

… and after our (I think it was) last election…

… joining our tradition of Australia Day messages that are funny despite being thinly veiled advertisements. You know what I’m talking about. And just in case you don’t, here’s Sam Kekovich:

Looking back at that, he says a few things that I can’t help but feel you wouldn’t get away completely with saying these days. Cringed at a few moments. But when I was 15 this was the funniest goddamn thing in the world. Mind you, it’s pretty easy to make a pubescent boy laugh, so yeah. Still not all that hard to make me laugh, if I’m being honest with myself.

Last thing I’ll mention is that the Republican movement does seem to be building up steam. All but one of the state heads have signed onto the call for an Aussie head of state, we have republicans on both sides of the federal leadership and we’re still not all that keen on Charlie taking the throne eventually. More importantly most people are probably pretty indifferent to shifts in a distant monarchy. Can’t get enough of those royal babies though, can we?

Anyway, I’ll be boarding a bus up to Whistler pretty soon. Stupidly excited about it all. Drinking and skiing and listening to the Triple J Hottest 100. That’s probably what I’m most excited about. Most likely be sitting there with the Shazam app running through the whole thing. Who’d you guys vote for?

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!

Elections and policy, this side of the ocean.

A bear, a beaver and a moose copyA bear, a beaver and a moose walk into a bar. Each pulls up a stool and when they’re good and comfortable the bartender hops over and asks what they’re having. The bear asks what IPAs they have on tap, ignores the American import and the east coast beer, and instead asks for the one brewed within five kilometres of the bar by men with beards who have given it an aggressive name and an IBU count that’s so high it’s essentially meaningless (after all, how many people know what the fuck an IBU even is?) The beaver’s had a long day at the office and asks what the whiskey selection is like, is deeply disappointed to find out how shallow the list is and settles with some good old fashioned Tennessee rye on the rocks. The moose, asks for a cocktail that he knows is sweet and fruity and full of alcohol, worries a little that the other two will judge him for it, decides he doesn’t care and would rather get something that he knows he’ll like. The beaver isn’t the type to judge him over a drink. The bear is, but also won’t admit how jealous he is of the moose’s colourful choice.

The barman, a rather bored looking wallaby, begins pouring the drinks and – partly since he hasn’t got anything better to do – tries to engage them in conversation.

“You lads voted yet?”

“Not yet,” mumbles the bear as he swallows a mouthful of beer and barely (heh) suppresses a grimace.

“Already done,” grins the moose (at least it looks like a grin).

“Don’t know if I will. I don’t know who to vote for,” says the beaver with a surprisingly deep gravelly voice given his nice suit, stylish haircut and small size.

“You should vote. It’s your ‘civic duty,'” claims the moose with mock gravitas.

“He’s right,” agrees the wallaby as he mixes together the moose’s drink, “we’ve got compulsory voting back home, so you’d have to. But it’s the right thing, exercising your democratic rights and all that. None of the parties appeal to you?”

“Not really,” replies the Beaver.

“What about the NDP,” growls the bear accidently menacingly (he is a fucking bear after all), “They’re promising to cut small-business taxes.”

“So are the Liberals and the Conservatives,” pipes up the moose.

(“That’s also not always a good thing,” throws in the Wallaby but everyone ignores him on this.)

“Are they? Well Mulcair’s promising affordable childcare for a million people.”

“A million children or a million parents?” asks the wallaby.

“Does it matter?”

“It probably does.”

“Not to me,” points out the beaver, “I don’t have kids.”

“But you might have them in the future,” responds the bear, taking another slug from his draught.

“But I might not.”

“But don’t you care about other kids and parents?”

“Not really.”

“What does NDP stand for?” breaks in the Wallaby before the back and forth between the beaver and bear gets out of hand, “National Democratic Party?”

New Democratic Party,” says the moose.

“Oh. That’s a stupid name.”

“Why?” splutters the bear.

“Just is. Trust me, I’m an Australian. We know stupid names. Use enough of them.”

That get’s a chuckle out of the beaver and moose at least, the latter of whom suggests the former consider the Liberals.

“They’re planning on investing in infrastructure.”

“By running a deficit for, like, the next five years,” huffs the bear.

“Just until 2019,” huffs the moose right back, “and we need the investment.”

“It’s still a deficit,” remarks the beaver, “do we really want to our government going into debt with the economy so fragile right now?”

The moose looks like he’s ready to dive into a long arduous debate about the benefits of government actually going into debt in order to invest in meaningful economic projects that will induce future growth, then thinks better of it. Takes a sip of his drink. The wallaby glances between the three patrons, expecting more but not getting anything out of them.

“That’s it?” he asks a little surprised, “Infrastructure investment or childcare?”

“No,” laughs the moose, “there’s more than that. I mean, yeah both of them have got some similar policies. Like they’re less concerned with terrorism.”

“They both say they’ll stop our air campaign against ISIS and let in more Syrian refugees. And both have said they’ll decriminalise weed if elected,” says the beaver.

“Yeah,” says the bear, “But the NDP are more opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership than the Liberals. And the Keystone pipeline.”

“And the Liberals might actually have experience governing the country,” adds the moose, “but Trudeau’s a career politician son of a career politician and people are pretty sick of career politicians. That’s helped the NDP and Mulcair a lot.”

“All right. So you voting NDP mate?” the wallaby asks the bear, glancing at the door a little surprised that no other customers have walked in yet.

“No, I’m voting Greens.”

The moose and beaver both make noises at that. The wallaby realises that at some point the beaver finished his rye, asks if he wants another, pours it while listening to the two of them tell the bear he’s throwing his vote away. The bear argues that he’d rather vote for who he wants to vote for than worry about strategy. Isn’t that was exercising your democratic right is all about?

“So, who you gonna vote for?” the wallaby eventually asks the beaver.

“Don’t know. I’m still not sure if I’m going to vote.”

“You should vote,” says the bear, “and it doesn’t really matter who for, as long as it’s not fucking Harper.” (That last part came out in a growl, the beaver and moose unconsciously shift another few inches away.)

“Yeah, fuck Harper,” agrees the beaver.

“And the horse he rode in on,” follows the moose.

“Too bloody right,” agrees the wallaby, not wanting to be left out.

The three of them talk for the next half-an-hour about why Harper is just the worst, how much damage he’s done to Canada, his attempts to prevent people from voting, his self-congratulating version of nationalism. Not being a Canadian voter, and not really being affected no matter who’s in charge as far as he can tell, the Wallaby doesn’t have a whole lot against Harper. He nods along as is required, and is reminded most of back in 2007, when Australians finally got tired of PM John Howard and seemed to widely decide he was the devil incarnate.

The bear and the beaver leave a little after the conversation turns to hockey (of fucking course) before the voting booths close. The moose orders another drink. The wallaby still looks a little confused about this whole election thing. Mentions it to the moose.

“Well,” the moose says patiently, “that’s because we’re a hypothetical anthropomorphic representation of the author’s experience of the election.”

“Sorry, what? Who?”

“The author, the guy typing this right now who’s in too deep to stop now. We’re a representation of what he’s seen and heard about the election. In other words, not a lot.”

“Huh.”

“Tell me honestly, you must have heard a few people talking about the election. Have you heard many of them talking about the NPD’s or Liberal’s platforms?”

“Not really. Mostly it’s just been ‘fuck Harper’ and ‘this is how fucked we are if Harper manages to hang on'” the wallaby said, barely needing to think about it.

“Exactly, I’ll bet even the few commercials you’ve seen have been less about different policies and more about telling people what arseholes the other guys are.”

“The ones I’ve understood, yeah. The French ones seem a lot more positive, but I might be mistaken. The whole ‘first past the post’ electoral system doesn’t help, does it?”

“No, I don’t think it does. Having a system where simply getting the more votes than everyone else rather than any sort of majority, especially one with three major parties and lots of small ones, is a messy system to begin with. Couple that with the fact that people are more concerned about getting the Conservatives kicked out than who actually wins, and you have a whole lot of negative strategic voting.”

“People voting for the local member most likely to beat the Conservative candidate for their area than the party whose policies they like or benefits them most.”

“That’s what the author seems to think.”

“Right. Reckons he’s got anything insightful to say about it? Being an outsider looking in and all that?” the wallaby said nonchalantly, looking around for a coffee that he’d forgotten about and was probably cold by now.

“Not really. Probably just that voting someone out is not the same as voting someone in, and people ought to realise that it might not end with the kind of results they want.”

“Fair ’nuff. Maybe we’ll have more to say about it after the election?”

“Maybe. Canadian elections aren’t the most exciting topic of conversation.”

“Aussie politics is feeling a lot more bloodthirsty after all this.”

“That’s a topic for another day. On the bright side, there’s probably a decent voter turn-out.”

“True enough.”

“Good for the bear voting for he wanted to.”

“Also true.”

The moose finishes his drink, pays and leaves.