Showing posts from 2006

Los Angeles Carpark

It's stating the bleeding obvious to state that Los Angeles is a car-city, but it really is tragic to see. Large parts of the city are little more than undergirding for a network of concrete freeways that head in every concievable direction in all their loud, imposing ugliness. Urban areas are dark and unpleasant to wander around, with carparks dominating areas that in most other cities would be for shops, parks and urban space for people rather than vehicles. The public transport system is adequate without being great, but it seems to take an almost apologetic tone, conceding early that it is a second choice and used only by those too young, old, poor, disabled, foreign or ethnic to get behind the wheel of an SUV. Apart from the superficial problem of a lack of transportation for non-drivers, its effect on the life of the city is depressing and obvious. The almost biblical devotion to the motor car is laden with politics. To Americans, their car is their sanctuary of freed

Hola, Senor from California

It's kind of ironic, really, that after being parched for cheap and fast internet access in Los Angeles and San Diego, its only once I arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, that I can sit and internetify to my heart's content. So much for affluence delivering good things in abundance! Perhaps the most noticeable thing soon after arriving in Los Angeles is the prevalence of Spanish. Southern California is a genuinely bilingual part of the world, not in a patronising 'to help out those who are learning English' kind of a way, but in a way that the two sit side by side with equal validity. In some neighbourhoods, English is the minority language, with an abundance of signs, newspapers and overheard conversations all in a lightening-fast Latin American Spanish. At first it's rather charming, and you catch yourself almost apologising for speaking English to someone who's preferred tongue is far more latin. They feel no need to reciprocate the apology. Early on its rat

Coming to America

I'm on the road again... Today I'm heading off to the United States for five weeks, to see what there is to see. Initially I was keen to do a Red State tour of America, visiting the southern states which in recent generations have become a Republican stronghold. Alas, by the time I spent a decent period on the very blue east and west coasts, my time in the middle was squeezed. Kind of symbolic of the way most of us see the country. So the itinerary? Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, St Louis, New Orleans, San Antonio. Going to be in town? Drop me an email. You know the drill. Normal transmittion with continue from the AOTW OB van. Stay tuned.

Undergrad Reflections: Your time is up

I'm sorry to say that like most uni students, I've left things to the last minute. This time, though, I've run out of time. I had some other observations I wanted to make about my time as a student, but haven't found the time to make them. Perhaps at some future point I'll return to this project and find voice once again. As an aside, last Wednesday I was just a few minutes away from graduating when I was afflicted with a brutal case of kidney stones. Alas, I didn't last long enough to nod in the direction of the VC and receive my certificate, so my graduation remains elusive. Most likely I'll graduate in abstentia and receive the certificate some time early next year. My time as a student goes on just a little longer!

Undergrad Reflections: Student Politics 2003-2006

I've decided to cluster together these last four years for two reasons: firstly, I was strictly a spectator rather than a participant, and secondly, because my departure overseas is imminent, and I want to get this thing written before I head off. The defining event of this period was the liquidation of student union. The event meant that a generation of the Labor Right wannabe student pollies were ashamed to show their face, and the task was left to more junior students on campus. As for the left, they found themselves in the rare position of being the responsible economic managers, and were quite effective in making this point. One of the most interesting trends to watch has been the steady growth of the Liberal presence on campus. Early on, it was virtually non-existent. Perhaps mindful of the strong anti-Liberal feeling on campus, Liberal students were reluctant to wave the Liberal banner high. For a while, they aligned themselves with the Labor Right, running joint ca

Undergrad Reflections: Student Politics 2002

This is my personal account of a few experiences I had with the Melb Uni Student Union in 2002. For a more general overview of what was going on at the time, you might be interested in the blogs of Brent Houghton or the early days of Andrew Landeryou . My encounter with the mysterious SimplySensational654 has left me wanting to find out more. The details on this one sit toward the bottom of the post. Student political battles are usually of little consequence. Not so those battles which occurred in 2002 at Unimelb. The events of 2002 would have existential consequences for the student union, which was driven into liquidation , and would confirm the worst suspicions that cynical students have toward their self-interested representatives. At the time only those on the inner-clique of the student union knew what was going on - most of us watching from the outside knew little. It's remarkable to think that as we were looking on, the Union entered into the deal that would ult

Undergrad Reflections: Student politics 2001

Little did I know it when I arrived on campus in 2001, but my six years there would be the most turbulent and fractured in campus politics for decades. From the very start, I was lukewarm in my interest in the shannagans of student politics: in my view at the time, I'd bypassed student politics and headed straight to the real thing. I was the Victorian President of the Young Australian Democrats, and later that year would be preselected as a candidate for the 2001 Federal Elections. Why bother learning to crawl when I could already walk? When the campus elections of 2001 were approaching in early August, I was reluctant to run, knowing that there were barely a handful of fellow Democrats on campus, and the other tickets were far more experienced and slick-oiled than I could possibly be. Nonetheless after some persuading by fellow Democrat and then NUS National Environment Officer Peter Zakzrewski, I nominated. Fearing the commitment that comes with a year-long appointment, I

Undergrad Reflections: Classroom capers

The transition from school life to uni life is tough for many people. For most students, high school is a place of intensive supervision, with a confined range of choices available and an untrusting eye constantly cast over everyone. It has to be this way, given that at that stage in our lives most of us lack the emotional maturity to make wise choices over what we study, how we study, and indeed if we study. Whilst describing the latter years of high school at many private schools as intellectual spoon-feeding is a common cliche, it is a cliche which emerged with good reason. For me, the latter years of high school were richly rewarding, spent at a private Jewish school with a year level of high achievers and bookish conformists. There was an culture of respect for learning and a celebration of high achievement, rather than the denigration it experiences in so many other schools. It was cool to work hard and intellectualism was nothing to be ashamed of. Still, high school was

Citizenship Test: Canadian example

There's been a fair bit of hubbab in the past few days over the government's proposal for a simple civics and English language test prior to the granting of citizenship. On face value, such a proposal doesn't seem unreasonable if we are to accept the mantra that Australian citizenship is a privilege, not a right ( although as this piece points out , the exact opposite is true for those born in Australia). Anyhow, the Canadians have had one in place for a while - well, the civics part of it, at least. For obvious reasons, the test itself is not publicly available, although this very interesting site , thanks to Your Library , allows you to take a free sample test. For what it's worth, my entire Canadian experience consists of accidentally spilling some gravy and cheese on my chips , but I scored 80% on a sample of five questions, enough to entitle me to citizenship. Given that few people are likely to fail the test, but plenty are likely to learn more about their

Ari joins The Age

This evening, with only a glass of cheap white wine for company, I signed a contract to transform Ari on the Web into Ari at The Age . After an arduous application process involving a folio, a trivia quiz, a writing challenge, and a faux pas involving my gross indifference toward the suffering of others, I have been selected for the Reporting Traineeship . Though it would be nice to think of it as a case of blogger-boy making it into the big wide world of the MSM , I suspect that my blog was a minor factor at best in my selection. The work I am most proud of - and which had a priviliged place in my portfolio - is the array of work which has appeared in a variety of other outlets, both on- and off-line, and which are featured in the charmingly honest 'Ego File' toward the bottom on the right-hand side. Perhaps the strongest work was the stuff that appeared in Vibewire , whom incidentally are in the midst of a fundraising campaign. So if you're in the mood to help out

Undergrad Reflections: The sex and booze myth

It's undeniable that life changes once you reach a university campus. Suddenly the freedom to do things your own way becomes intoxicating. The stereotype is that an undergrad's first year is spent drinking, lazing around and fornicating with new friends. In my experience, however, this is grossly exaggerated. Perhaps in the university colleges, whose halls I never graced, hedonistic abandon is more common with the close confines of college dorms creating an unstoppable momentum. Most students, however, don't live on campus, and so are distanced from this college culture. Sure, there are plenty of attempts by established students to woo new arrivals on campus. O-Week (later rebadged as Orientation 200X when there were not enough activities to stretch it out for the whole five days) is awash with pub crawls, where older students don stupid hats and march a group of first years who are desperate to fit in around to nearby pubs, who themselves are desperate for punters,

Undergrad Reflections: What's it all about?

This is the second in my series on life as an undergraduate student. Bear with me during the boring bits, since the last couple of paragraphs offer some candid self-reflection on my drift to the political right. I have quite a simple theory of education: education is the process of relaxing assumptions about the world. The further down the path of education we move, the more assumptions are relaxed, in search of the ultimate intellectual nirvana: a worldview completely devoid of assumptions, which sadly seems a theoretical impossibility. By assumptions, I refer to things that we accept as 'given' without needing explanation or justification. To see this theory in action, a simple example close to my heart: the study of politics (or as those of us who wish to make the subjective appear objective might call it, political science). Without exerting much intellectual energy, you can apply the same framework to things as diverse as language, creative arts, engineering, medic

Undergrad Reflections: Introduction

Barring disaster when my results are released this Friday, my days as an undergraduate students are now complete. After six years of study (well, five of study, and one swanning around Europe and the Middle East) I will be a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne. Or to use my newfound postnominals, I will be Ari Sharp, BCom/BA (Melb) . Whilst the university will be acknowledging my graduation in the usual way, by making me wear a silly cap and cloak whilst they ask me for money, it seems appropriate to honour it in a more personal and meaningful way. Therefore, I will be embarking on a frothy and indulgent reminisce on my time as a student at one of Australia's eminent educational institutions. In this endeavour I am inspired by Alice Garner's recently released The Student Chronicles , which maps out the author's path to undergraduate glory at Unimelb. Though I haven't read it yet, I'm also curious about Ross Gregory Do

Deadly sins in Iraq

As the world waits for the Iraq Study Group to deliver its findings on how the hell we get out of this mess, Kenneth M Pollack at MERIA (The Middle East Review of International Affairs, dummy) has delivered his own critique, The Seven Deadly Sins of Failure in Iraq : If Iraq does slide into all-out civil war, the Bush Administration will have only itself to blame. It disregarded the advice of experts on Iraq, on nation-building, and on military operations. It staged both the invasion and the reconstruction on the cheap. It never learned from its mistakes and never committed adequate resources to accomplish either its original lofty aspirations or even its later, more modest goals. It refused to believe intelligence that contradicted its own views and doggedly insisted that reality conform to its wishes. In its breathtaking hubris, the Administration engineered a Greek tragedy in Iraq, the outcome of which may plague us for decades. One of the interesting things to note is the sugg

Sadness turns to lameness

Tragically, Big Kim's brother David died today . Rove McManus sent his condolences to Simon Beasley .

Footnote to Israel-Lebanon report

In August, BBC reporter Orla Guerin filed a report from the town of Bint Jbeil in the midst of the Israel-Lebanon conflict. The report was one of the more blatant examples of BBC bias on the Middle East conflict, and blogger Drinking From Home exposed the numerous factual errors in the report. In Australia, SBS aired the same report on 15 August. Nearly four months on, and with one feisty librarian on the case, SBS issued an apology clarification for airing the error-riddled report: World News Australia (15/8/2006) On August 15, 2006, World News Australia carried a report on destruction in the town of Bint Jbeil in Southern Lebanon during the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. The report stated that "this town has really been wiped out." The centre of the town did suffer extensive damage and could be said to have been "wiped out" but some areas of the town suffered less damage. A subsequent bulletin of the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian

It's Time for a change

We can count down the hours until Kevin Rudd takes over the Labor leadership and the party gives itself a chance of winning the next election. The Sunday papers were already hinting heavily that Rudd was the likely winner, and the desperate desire for a clear result means that some of the wavering Beazley backers will come to support Rudd. Look for a win of at least 10 votes. Its worth remembering that even when he was elected Labor leader (again) in January 2005, Beazley was there primarily to steady things after the instability of the Latham era, and not to contest the next election. There was a good reason for him stepping down after the 2001 election - he was tired, people were bored with him, and he had two electoral losses to his name - and these things all held true in 2005. The plan at the time was for Beazley to settle things down and then allow one of Latham's generation to assume the leadership close to the next election. Ideally, this would have happened earlie

Melb Press Club: Dr Phil "Amigo #2" Burgess

The past twenty-four hours has seen some almighty stoushes enter the public domain. Last night it was a drunken Glenn Milne taking his hatred of Stephen Mayne to new levels. Then this morning the pimple that is the leadership speculation in the Labor Party reached popping point , and a Rudd vs Beazley ballot was announced for next Monday. And Telstra and the ACCC's mutual loathing of one another rolled on. This final conflict was fanned at the Melbourne Press Club's luncheon, with Telstra's Public Policy & Communications man Dr Phil Burgess the guest speaker. Burgess was breathing fire, continuing his vigourous assault on the ACCC , and its head Graeme Samuel, over what Telstra perceives as the unfair regulatory burden imposed on Telstra. No doubt the fine detail of the speech will be reported and dissected by the assembled media (and besides, Phil promised it would soon be online for the world to see at Now We Are Talking ), but there are a few observations th

Prahran: It don't mean a thing if you don't get that swing

So after all that, nothing much has changed. With close to 75% of the vote now counted, the swing to the Liberals in Prahran ( on a two party preferred count ) is just 0.5% compared to the state-wide swing of 2%. The primary votes suggest that there was very little movement amongst voters between 2002 and 2006, with small swings to the Greens (1.5%), Family First (1.2%, off a base of 0) and the Liberals (0.7%), whilst the ALP had a small swing against it (0.4%), with the absense of a Democrat and Indepedent ( Abraham Lincoln! ) explaining the rest. Given the resources that were poured into this campaign by the major parties, how do we explain the lack of movement? Most likely, voters were not particularly attuned to the local battle, and shared the statewide apathy with the election campaign. As Bracks candidly confessed early in the campaign, "They aren't out there with baseball bats ready to get us." It's worth noting that the Liberals were victorious on prim

Clearly, they have too much time on their hands

From the Daily Telegraph , via Crikey about Her Maj's man in Canberra: The whispering campaign against Major-General Jeffery recalls a story involving former veterans' affairs minister Danna Vale. At a wreath-laying function, Ms Vale was allegedly introduced before the Governor-General. According to Australian War Memorial staff involved at the time, Major-General Jeffery returned to Government House after the function but immediately despatched his aide-de-camp back to the memorial. Senior memorial staff were informed that what had happened with Ms Vale was a breach of protocol and should not happen again. Mrs Jeffery has also been targeted. According to sources close to Yarralumla, she tore strips off her husband's aide-de-camp after she didn't wear a hat to an official function whereas other women - including prominent Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop - did. This, too, was regarded as a serious breach of protocol. Wouldn't happen if we had a President.

Prahran: Election night results

Four more years for Tony. Counting has finished for the night, and it looks like Talk to Me Tony is back for four more years: PRAHRAN Primary Count Justin Walker (Green) VOTE: 19.4% SWING: +1.4% Tony Lupton (Labor) VOTE: 38.0% SWING: 0.0% Clem Newton-Brown (Liberal) VOTE: 41.4% SWING: +0.4% Gary Pinto (Family First) VOTE: 1.2% SWING: +1.2% After Preferences Tony Lupton (Labor) VOTE: 56.3% SWING: +1.9% Clem Newton-Brown (Liberal) VOTE: 43.7% SWING: -1.9% Interestingly only 67.4% of votes have been counted, one of the lowest of any electorates, suggesting that there is a high number of postal and absentee votes yet to be counted. Historically, there's a Liberal tendancy amongst these votes, but the Two Party Preferred margin seems to be too big to be overcome. As happened in 2002, the Liberals won on primary votes, but got beaten soundly after the allocation of preferences. Most of these preferences are from the Greens. The Greens preferenc

Prahran: Final thoughts

In just a few hours time, the polls will open in Prahran and the 33,000 or so rugged individualists who call this place home will have their say. The more I've watched this campaign, the less I've been certain of the result. Those watching from afar would probably have no difficulty picking it: Lupton's a well-known and well-liked sitting member in an electorate of Doctors' Wives and assorted other progressives, and should be returned easily. On the ground, though, the energy of the Newton-Brown campaign has easily dwarfed his opponents, giving the impression that he might just achieve success. Ultimately, however, for Newton-Brown the 4.3% swing required is just a tad beyond him. Accepting that the statewide swing to the Liberals will be 2.5%, and that Newton-Brown's personal vote may earn him a further 1%, he's still short of the mark. For most voters, the local battle is a mere sideshow to the heavy-hitters - Bracks and Baillieu - and their efforts will

State election predictions

Morgan have the ALP up 53 to 47. Galaxy have the ALP up 55 to 45. But then again, "Last poll tips easy Kennett victory" If both polls are accurate and the swing is consistant across the state, they'll lead to a return of the Bracks government, albeit with a reduced majority. Which sounds about right. Bracks will win the election, but this is as much a result of the commanding victory he had in 2002 as it is a ringing endorsement of the previous four years of his Premiership. Voters aren't thrilled with Bracks, but they see him as a reasonably harmless bloke, even if he occasionally appears paralysed by indecision. It's a reflection on state and local politics more generally that voters are looking for decent administrators rather than real visionaries. When schools, hospitals, roads and water are at stake, the worst offence is rocking the boat. Mediocrity is a virtue. Politically, there are three very different styles of battles going on. Firstly, th

Prahran: Rules are rules

The VEC site has some fantastic dancing ballot papers... Makes you wanna get up and vote! ... but I couldn't find the specific rules relating to appropriate authorisation of campaign material. Does anyone want to offer an opinion on whether campaigning SMSs and emails are required to carry the standard "Written and authorised" tag-line? It would seem an unusual exception if it wasn't required of them, and a certain local Liberal candidate has been sending 'em out, authorisation-free. UPDATE 22/11, 4:20pm: I found the relevant piece of legislation on the AUSTLII website (which, sadly, features no waltzing acts of parliament, nor lambadaing High Court judgements). Section 83 is the one for us: 83. Printing and publication of electoral advertisements, handbills, pamphlets or notices 1) A person must not print, publish or distribute or cause, permit or authorise to be printed, published or distributed, an electoral advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or n

Prahran: The Clem Show continues

The Clem Newton-Blog DVD has arrived in the post today for me, and presumably for most of Prahran (his only direct mail out this campaign, apparently). The CNB motorised billboards have hit the streets. The "Vote Ted... Vote Clem" ad is in the (city-wide) Beat magazine. This is a cashed-up campaign which continues to roll on relentlessly. All of a sudden the 4.3% swing required is looking very gettable. It's rather prophetic to read the words of Robert Ray , the Labor veteran who was commenting on the 2002 state campaign for the The Age. Two days before the election Ray focussed on the then-challenger Talk to Me Tony Lupton , and the way he ran a strong local campaign: Communicating with the electorate is what it's all about. An introductory card, followed up by a community survey, several leaflets on specific issues and direct mail from both Lupton and the Premier mean few residents of Prahran don't know of Labor's campaign. A local campaign h