Saturday, 30 July 2011

Links of interest.

“…it is an issue that has the potential to impoverish us while creating positions of power for individuals with terrifying authoritarian personalities who have not a single useful thought about how to successfully manage any single one of our collective affairs.”

…say the ‘Cats’ themselves, and I thoroughly agree. Czech President and former PM Vaclav Klaus, currently in Australia on the speaking circuit, is basically saying “I have lived your future and it doesn’t work.”

Remote Sensing: (via Catallaxy article above.) The meat of this journal article is that observed heat losses from the atmosphere into space are significantly greater than IPCC climate models allow for. This says nothing good about the premise on which Australia’s Carbon Tax hangs its hopes, and further rubbishes former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s claim that ‘the science is settled’.

Tea Party: Those racist Hispanics, blacks and Ecuadorians. Go have a read. There’s all sorts of inflammatory stuff, like
If the immigrants understood what was happening in America there would be a revolt against those politicians,” said Muñoz, who became a citizen in 2008. “Obama’s talking one way and doing another and the Hispanics do not know about that hanky-panky.”
Why do immigrants leave their country? Because they don’t have opportunity and they don’t have freedom, because politicians control everything,” he said. “We come to America and we are going to have the same crap? Then we might as well go back there.”
Beauty pageant blues: Like them or hate them, these contests are a big thing and some of the contestants at least are clearly there because they want to be. With the protest groups doing the decent thing and agreeing not to rabidly picket the venue, the onus is on the parents to act sanely and encourage the daughters to do likewise… but sanity seems short on the ground where the US visitors are concerned.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce recently put out a press release in which he addressed the issue of CO2 regulation, and quoted a line which he stated was from a cowboy movie (which one I don't know), but which younger bloggers will probably best remember as having been sampled by Nate Dogg and Warren G in the song "Regulate".


And so, with Mr Dogg and Mr G's song firmly in mind, I went and wrote this:

REGULATE. Bob Brown and Julia G. (With apologies to Nate Dogg and Warren G).

Regulators – we regulate any emitting of this molecule
And we’re damn good too
But you can’t be any geek off the street
Gotta be cosy with the Greens, if you know what I mean, to earn your keep!

It was a clear black night, a clear white moon
Julia G was on the streets trying to resume
The search for a tax, but I was in a funk
Just rolling in my Prius, chilling all alone

Just hit the left wing of the ALP
On a mission trying to find PM Julia G
Got a new carbon tax that we need to tweak
Just make sure that the press club’s Murdoch-free

So Rudd pinned his hopes on Turnbull and CRU-ists
Got GetUp on his side so he said let’s do this
He put up the tax, he said what’s up
But Abbott pulled a coup so he said “I’m stuck”

See the Greens causing me to glide and swerve
My ETS looks like it’s hit the curb
Can’t they let it through now for a later fix
I see the Libs have got Kevin all in a fix

Now Kevin’s stuffed; he did it himself
He just can’t see, he blew the country’s wealth
Just look at the polls they’ve gone to heck
I looked at the Party, said damn, what’s next

They had Kevin hemmed up and they’re all around
Election coming up, they’ll get their fleshy pound
I gotta boost the polls quick ‘fore they’re too far down
I best pull out my knife and bring Kevvy down

They got knives in my back
I think I’m going down
I can’t believe it’s happening here in Canberra town
If I had wings I would fly, let me contemplate,
Off to the UN, to ingratiate

There’s no carbon tax” was my ace in the hole
Bob Brown helped me stop Tony Abbott stone cold
Now they’re screamin’ and yellin’, it’s a tad bit late
Bob Brown and Julia G said we’ll regulate

I got all those GetUp votes,
I watched the rolls explode
Now I’m switching my mind to Carbon Tax mode
And though I need votes, sit back and observe
Those new-elected Greens over there on the kerb

Now Bob got the votes and that’s a known fact
Lib Preference mistakes got him on the right track
Back up, back up, ‘cause it’s on, B.O.B. And me
the Carbon ALP

Just like before, Polls are in the same spot
In need of some desperate help
But Bob Brown and the G-girl
Are reprieved by something else
Some tabloid rag was awful as hell
Did things we all despise
I said “Murdoch’s black heart is cold as ice,
let’s en-qui-rize...”
I got a fistful of Greens and it’s going real swell
The next stop is the media inquiry from He-e-e-e-ell.

I’m tweaking... into a whole new era
mess with this, we dare ya!
Laws, on a whole new level
Bolt, Blair and Murdoch’s face is the face of the Devil!

Gore sings, we brings enquiry
Where ignorance is strength
and strength is ignorance

If you know like I know
You don’t want to mess with this
It’s the Grünreich era
Funked out with a Brownshirt twist
If you smoke like a chimney
Down near Battersea way
And if the gas should be “carbon”
ALP will regulate.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The unions were once the heart of the ALP... when one turns around and sinks its teeth into a Labor government like this, you know there's a problem.

Original article in italics, my comments plain.

ONE of the nation's biggest trade unions has turned on the Gillard government, savaging Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans as incompetent and unworthy of his office. 
Days after strident criticism of the government by business leaders, Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon yesterday likened Senator Evans to a corpse, accusing him of failing to implement Labor policy and endangering the lives of truck drivers.

I’m no fan of this government, but this seems like a fairly long bow to draw. Let’s see what there is to it.
The condemnation, rejected by Senator Evans, came as a trio of senior ministers dismissed a claim by Suncorp chairman-elect Ziggy Switkowski that there was " a whiff of illegitimacy" about the government.

A claim not without foundation, given Julia Gillard’s spectacular change of mind over the “Carbon Tax” business and the Government’s spectacular record of absolute failure on every single score. That being said, such illegitimacy is more moral or professional than legal or constitutional.

Wayne Swan, Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet accused business critics of acting out of self interest, vowing the government would stick to its guns on the carbon tax and govern in the national interest.

WHAT? No, I’m sorry – sticking to your guns on the Carbon Tax is not governing in the national interest; it is precisely the opposite, for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with whether climate change is anthropogenic or not.

Labor has suffered a series of poor results in opinion polls, including a weekend poll suggesting Julia Gillard was losing support in her Melbourne electorate.
Despite a rise from record lows in today's Newspoll, Labor has its back to the wall as it campaigns to win public support for the $23-a-tonne tax to be introduced next July.

Not much of a rise. Still terminal, still enough to send Labor to the crashing defeat it so richly deserves, and which it would have got had Rudd contested the last election. In retrospect I wonder if he didn’t engineer his own removal, in order to avoid having to face the hammer.

While the government has anticipated attacks from businesses affected by the tax, it was blind sided by Mr Sheldon's assault, based on the fact the impost -- which he on Friday called a "death tax" -- will apply to the heavy transport industry from 2014.

The flow-on effects are as follows: higher fuel bills for the independent truckers, higher fuel bills for the transport companies, higher delivery costs, higher costs on the shelves, more expensive everything. Everywhere. All the time. Just how well has the Government calculated its compensation package? Not well enough, I fear.

Mr Sheldon, whose 90,000- member union represents truck drivers, wants the government to prevent trucking companies from passing the cost impact to drivers and owner-drivers. The TWU argues that passing on the costs to drivers will lift stress and drive up accident and fatality rates on roads, not just for truck drivers, but also for all motorists.

A stressed driver is a less careful driver. If the cost of delivery goes up and the amount paid to drivers per delivery goes down, the drivers and their families suffer. Drivers pushing themselves to make more deliveries in a certain time frame to keep food on the table for their families (in the context of rising costs) and pay the mortgage to keep the roof over their heads are fatigued drivers as well as stressed drivers. Some of them bite the bullet and take amphetamines in an attempt to preserve their alertness, but amphetamines only help so much. Mr Sheldon has a point.

Speaking on the Sky News Australian Agenda program yesterday, Mr Sheldon said Labor had contested the past two elections promising to act on driver safety, but that Senator Evans had failed to act. "I have no confidence in Chris Evans's capacity to deal with the fundamental industrial relations issues in this country and the undertakings it will make working life in the trucking industry better and safer for all road users," Mr Sheldon said.

Evidently there are also unsettled issues.

"If he cannot carry out his duties he should not be in the portfolio. There's a broad feeling that the minister has real deficiencies in carrying out his responsibilities as minister. He has not been able to implement government policy."

This government couldn’t implement policy successfully if its life depended on it. That has been the continuous criticism from the moment the feel-good stuff (“Stolen Generations” apology, 2020 summit) was over. GroceryWatch, FuelWatch, the Pink Batts program, the Building the Education Revolution program, the refugee policy... one shocking failure after another. Even if you agree with the policies themselves, you have to take a cane to the government over their execution.

Mr Sheldon likened the minister to a corpse in the movie Weekend at Bernie's -- "the dead guy that stands in the middle", unable to act or perform his duties.

Oh dear.

Senator Evans said the government had investigated the TWU's Safe Rates campaign, released a discussion paper, sought public submissions and was finalising a response.

Former Prime Minister John Howard, the one unlucky enough to lose to these mountebanks, made the astute observation that the Rudd Government seemed far more interested in the process of government than in actually governing. Please note – it investigated the union’s campaign, it wrote and released a paper, it sought public submissions and is now ruminating over them. NO ACTION. By the Minister’s own admission.

"There's never any shortage of robust advice for industrial relations ministers, but it's unfortunate that Mr Sheldon has chosen to express his frustrations in the form of a personal attack," Senator Evans said.

The Minister should consider that if he was doing his job right, Mr Sheldon would have no need to attack him. In any case, Mr Sheldon’s criticisms (as included in the news article) appear restricted to the manner in which he perceives Mr Evans is doing (or rather, not doing) his job. A personal attack would involve saying awful things about Mr Evans’s parentage, his sexuality, his masculinity and so forth.

The Prime Minister backed Senator Evans. "Minister Evans is doing an outstanding job in an important portfolio," Ms Gillard said.

Yeah. Right. Rose-coloured glasses if I ever saw them. That, or the other possibility – which is to mouth bland platitudes because a reasonable defence of the Minister’s conduct is impossible. 

The exchange came as the government counterattacked in the face of business criticism fanned by the carbon tax. On Friday, Dr Switkowski, former Telstra chief and Suncorp chairman-elect, told a conference in Melbourne there was " a whiff of illegitimacy" surrounding the government while Westpac Bank chairman-elect Lindsay Maxsted said it was focused on short-term political gain ahead of the national interest.

I’m not sure about that. This government has reached the point where it is simply lurching from disaster to disaster. There’s a word in chess, zugzwang, which is used to describe the situation a player is in when they’re on the brink and where every possible move weakens their position. They would love to skip a turn or sit on their hands, but the rules don’t allow that – all they can do is play and lose, or resign.
Mr Shorten said it was not surprising some business people would criticise a government that was making decisions which did not promote their own interests.

Labor might like to paint this as a “greedy big business defending its turf” issue, but it’s a lot harder to take that line when trade unions are weighing in with the same argument. Memo to Labor – it’s big business which employs a lot of the ordinary Australians whom you would like to see yourselves as the defender of, and which contributes to the tax base which keeps Australia in something approaching a state of solvency (but we’re $200bn in debt less than four years after we were free and clear with surpluses in the tens of billions, and another term of this government will just about finish us.)

"People are entitled to promote their sectional interests, but our Prime Minister and our government govern for all Australians and some of these business leaders won't be there in their positions in 10 years," Mr Shorten told the Sky News Australian Agenda program. 
I suspect some of those business leaders were there ten years ago, and I’m willing to bet that some of them could well still be here ten years from now. Mr Shorten, on the other hand, is as good as gone in 2013 if not before. These are words that could come back to haunt him.

"This country is doing better than some of the news reportage of it would indicate and some of the comments from some of these business leaders." Mr Shorten said Australia had rates of unemployment and debt that "the Yanks and the Europeans would give their eye teeth for".

Not for much longer, Mr Shorten, because your government is plundering Treasury at a rate of knots and is about to perform the economic equivalent of frontal lobotomy upon the powerhouse of the economy, not to mention what ructions on the sharemarket are doing to the superannuation on which ordinary Australians are depending in their retirement. How do you compensate that?

And, while he noted Mr Maxsted had criticisms, he said Westpac was supportive of another government reform -- lifting compulsory superannuation contributions from 9 to 12 per cent. He said Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford, who on Friday was critical of industrial relations laws, had "quite a background in industrial relations".

Using the fact that someone who’s criticising the living shit out of you agrees with you on one point IS NOT the same as addressing those criticisms, and it certainly does not invalidate them. Major fail. Lifting compulsory super contributions is going to be necessary if that superannuation isn’t going to yield as much in the future, thanks to this (IMO) idiot government’s policies.

"These guys have also got other agendas -- legitimate business agendas . . . but you sort of expect them to do that," he said.

Mr Combet said the carbon tax had been well-received by business as he rejected an ad campaign funded by an alliance of business groups as "Liberal Party ads".

Did I just see an ad-hominem attack? Playing the man? As for the carbon tax being well-received by business, perhaps readers (as well as Mr Combet) would like to consider this list.

It was important, Mr Combet said, not to assume that "one or two business people" critical of the government spoke for the entire business community. He told the Ten Network's Meet the Press program that since the carbon tax details were revealed a fortnight ago many business leaders had described it as workable.

See the list above. One or two business-people my eye. As for the business leaders who consider it workable, perhaps he’s talking about the wind and solar energy providers who stand to do very, very well indeed out of his tax.

"They are concerned about international conditions and the high value of the Australian dollar, for example, but generally I think the carbon pricing package has been pretty well received in the business community," he said.

“What I tell you three times is true” applies only on Snark hunts. Given the propensity of such events to end with someone ‘softly and suddenly vanishing away’, perhaps he would like to reconsider his words, especially given that he’s one of those in line to vanish if current polls are anything to go by. 

Mr Swan also said businesses were continuing to invest in mining and that industrial cities like Gladstone were "powering ahead".

Despite you, Mr Swan; not because of you.

"Despite the reality on the ground, the well-funded vested interests are still out there trying to talk down the future of our economy, of our great industries like coal and LNG and of great towns like Gladstone," the Treasurer wrote in his weekly Economic Note.

No, sir, they are not trying to talk down the economy. They are offering a brutally honest forecast of what is going to happen to the economy if you keep on doing what you are doing. If anyone’s talking down the future of the coal industry it’s you and your fellow-travellers, who have done nothing but demonise local consumption of coal while you plan to tax the hell out of anyone trying to extract it.

I won't say much about the Oslo killer... to say how unsurprising it is that the usual suspects on the Left are piling in to make something of his (claimed) political and religious connections, and to tie them into right-wing politics (of any degree) and Christianity (of any kind) on a global basis. (Am still waiting for someone to claim he took his inspiration from Jared Loughner and/or Sarah Palin. I hope and pray nobody is that stupid.)

This is exactly the behaviour they deplore and scream about in those who draw inferences between terrorists who identify themselves as "Muslim" and the hypothesis that Islam in general seems to have a problem with democracy and tolerance.

The word "hypocrite" comes to mind.

Norway does not have the death penalty, but I suspect that unless he is held in solitary confinement for the rest of his life, this creature will die violently in prison.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Full Steam Into Disaster

Despite faltering popularity in the polls, Prime Minister Julia Gillard is continuing with the carbon tax.

(Link viable as of 4:54am ACST: UTC +9.5)

Transcript as follows, my comments in bold.

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Day and night for a week, the Prime Minister's stormed the airwaves, stalked the malls and dropped into homes and workplaces to spruik her carbon-cutting plan.

But if today's Fairfax-Nielsen poll is any guide, it's all done nothing to lift her government or turn the climate argument.

With an election two years away, Julia Gillard has every reason to hope that time might restore her fortunes. But there's no escaping that right now Labor's plumbing historic depths in all the major opinion polls and it's worrying the Prime Minister's colleagues.

And rightly so.

Political editor Chris Uhlmann reports.

CHRIS UHLMANN, REPORTER: The long, long carbon journey continues, and with an election two years off, it's a campaign without consummation.

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: I think everybody's determined to be out there explaining our policy to the community and we'll continue to do just that.

CHRIS UHLMANN: After a week selling her carbon plan in every available forum, the Prime Minister's early reviews are appalling. The Fairfax-Nielsen poll has Julia Gillard's Labor on a primary vote of just 26 per cent. Tony Abbott's Coalition is on 51. It's the latest in a long line of bad polls

the direction of which, it must be stressed is continually downwards...

and each prompts a standard reply.

JULIA GILLARD: As I've said before, democracy isn't one long opinion poll. And as I've said before, I always expected this to be tough and to get tougher.

Ms Prime Minister should, however, note that democracy IS one very important opinion poll every three years at the most, and the ones in between display an indication of which way that big one is going to go.

CHRIS UHLMANN: It's perfectly reasonable for the Prime Minister to look to the horizon and say these poll numbers don't matter, because the election's two years off and that's an eternity in politics. But Labor is plumbing unprecedented depths and her colleagues are deeply worried.

To get a sense of why, let's convert the polls into politicians. Labor has 72 seats in the House of Representatives. An 11 per cent fall on the 2010 election result would cut that to 30. So there are 42 sitting Labor MPs staring into oblivion whose minds will be focused by this poll. That includes every single Labor member in Queensland and Western Australia. And eight ministers would lose their seats, including the Treasurer. In short, a repeat of these numbers at a general election would deliver Labor's worst federal result since 1931, when it faced the dual challenges of the Great Depression and a party split. There's plenty of blame to go around and the mildest of it is aimed at the carbon price sales pitch.

I wonder who the other seven ministers are. We can hope that Climate Change will be among the casualties (unfortunately Finance - the previous Climate Change Minister - is immune to this, thanks to her position in the Senate - but she should go as well, because she owns this as much as her successor does.

PAUL HOWES, NATIONAL SECRETARY, AWU: Well, look, it hasn't been perfect, has it?

The understatement of the century!

I mean, you know, blind Freddy can tell ya that. But, that's their job and they'll work it out.

They haven't done a very good job so far - the unintended consequences flow like water, and the "compensation" is bound to stop when the damage to the economy makes paying it unsustainable. In addition, I have real concerns about the delivery. How will it be paid - regular lump sums? refund at tax time? - and will its delivery be flexible enough to deal with life's little unplanned expenses?

We've already seen how this government delivers programs: BER hideously overblown with shoddy workmanship and overpriced buildings not matched to the declared needs of the schools; refugee policy bringing in (and drowning) more illegals than we ever saw under anyone else's watch (whereas IIRC Julia Gillard when in opposition declared every boat that came under Howard "another policy failure"); Fuel Watch adn Grocery Watch under Rudd complete flops; Pink Batts program under Rudd a disaster, with much of the work overpriced, shoddily done and needing redoing, plus the destruction of the industry, 100+ homes burned down and four deaths, etc. The signs aren't good for getting this right.

CHRIS UHLMANN: You can't fault the effort. Since the carbon plan was released Julia Gillard and Team Labor have carpet-bombed Australia with talk. That's now being supported by a $12 million Government-funded advertising campaign.

But recall that Labor once predicted its fortunes would turn when people saw the detail of its plan.

That would seem to be a sharp turn downwards.

JULIA GILLARD: The best thing will be for people to judge when we announce all of the details in the middle of the year.

And from the look of those polls, the judgement is harsh.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The detail's out and the date for the change in Labor's fortunes has blown out. Now the Prime Minister is telling her caucus that people will have to live with the tax before they're convinced. That's some unspecified time after the middle of next year.

This is the mark of the "climate change" (for which read "anthropogenic CO2-forced") supporter; as soon as the goalposts are approached, they move to some arbitrary point in the future.

STEPHEN CONROY, COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: Yes, we're taking a short-term political hit and it's a painful short-term political hit. But this is a reform the country needs.

Here is another minister I hope takes a trip into retirement - IMHO his internet filter is an affront to a free and democratic society, especially the way he intends to run it, and his hideously expensive National Broadband Network - which relies on legislative stifling of competition and destruction of existing copper-wire infrastructure to be successful as a business model - is an abomination and an affront to the concept of responsible government.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The whispered fear in Labor is that the policy isn't the problem. That the problem might be the relationship between the Prime Minister and her people; that they don't trust her and that they've lost respect for her. As one Labor MP said today, you can't get that back. And it's never a good sign when people start speculating about leadership.

The policy IS the problem, but only inasmuch as the Prime Minister swore up and down that she would not introduce it if re-elected and the Treasurer (if memory serves me correctly) swore up and down that Coalition claims to the contrary constituted "scaremongering". Well, she's trying to introduce it... and the "scaremongering" turned out to be "scarily accurate".

JULIA GILLARD: I'll very much look forward to the 2013 campaign where I will be there as Prime Minister.

I think she'll be lucky if she's Prime Minister at the end of 2011.

PAUL HOWES: Of course she'll survive. She'll be the leader of the Labor Party tomorrow and she'll be the leader of the Labor Party at the next federal election. I've already bet my house on it.

I hope Mr Howes has alternative lodgings. I wonder who the winner will be.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Happily for Paul Howes, Tony Abbott says he doesn't think the Prime Minister is the issue, and people clearly are listening to him.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: Look, I don't comment on opinion polls, but it's pretty clear that the problem is not the leader of the Labor Party, the problem is the policy of the Labor Party. And I know that a lot of Labor people are now thinking that they've gotta dump the leader. Well, frankly, they've got to dump the policy.

I suspect Mr Uhlmann has misread the situation. The policy clearly has to go, before the poll numbers go so low that this government loses legitimacy. The problem with that is, Policy and Prime Minister have become so inextricably linked that to get rid of the one is quite probably to get rid of the other. Having come this far and gotten so close, for her to backflip on this now would probably cause an automatic loss of support from the Greens and bring on the election which would wipe Labor out - certainly in the House of Representatives, and possibly even enough in the Senate that the Greens would count for naught there.

What follows is all mine; bold ends to save your eyes.

Even if climate change is entirely anthropogenically forced by industrial CO2 emissions - which I doubt - I cannot help but think that the course this government is on is the WORST possible way to fix it. Australia's economy is at present tied to cheap electrical power from significant reserves of coal and refining of raw elements, with a separate contribution from manufacturing involving those elements. If all that is undone, with nothing to replace it on a 24/7 kilowatt-for-kilowatt basis, the result will be disaster - disaster for our balance of trade, disaster for our foreign debt, disaster for the cost of living (and worse for the poor) and possibly even disaster for our sovereignty as more and more of our resources go directly overseas and we are condemned to buy the finished product back at hideous disadvantage.

This has to stop. Especially what has to stop is the supercilious bullshit reasoning that the market will sort out the energy-efficient from the energy-inefficient and the glib statement that "carbon-intensive activities" will naturally be weeded out. It fails to recognise that some of those "carbon-intensive activities" ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF ORDINARY AUSTRALIANS, and cannot rely on the intermittent nature of power that is supplied from the wind (which doesn't always blow) and the sun (which doesn't always shine).

If the government were building hydro and nuclear powerplants hand over fist, I could live with it - there's quite a bit of that which could have been built from the $200bn this government has wasted - because there would be enough "non-carbon" energy to go around. Such things are national infrastructure, built by the government and delivered in the public trust, but these people who couldn't run a simple project to save themselves are now trying to tell us they can arbitrarily shut down a quarter of a state's electrical power JUST LIKE THAT and somehow (no details are given) not throw the consequences back on the people of that state.

But this Government is pathologically opposed to nuclear power, and the Greens tail which wags the Labor dog (no allusion to PM Gillard is intended or should be inferred) is even more so, with an equally passionate ideological opposition to hydroelectricity. That leaves wind, solar and tidal - and we're hearing precious little about tidal - plus geothermal (a flat failure in Australia thus far). And that leaves Australia... in a very dark place, frankly.

Trashy Toys and Gender Roles

...not without precedent and probably to occur a few more times in my future, I stopped in at McDonald's for a little liquid nourishment. Perhaps my local's selling of bottomless soft drinks drew me. I expiate my sin by only drinking Diet Coke and trying not to eat the food. I don't always succeed at the latter.

The point of my post, however, is to address the issue of Happy Meal toys. As all parents who have ever bought one of these things for their children, and quite a few others, will know, there are two broad categories which can be broadly described as "boys' toys" and "girls' toys". The former are almost inevitably mechanical (cars, airplanes, spacecraft etc.), related to this month's Saturday morning cartoon or superhero film du jour (when it hasn't been licensed to somebody else), or of similar action (and usually violence) related nature. As I write this, the local McCholesterol is offering the latest permutation on the Pokemon craze. At least I think so - no doubt some of the preadolescent boys filtering through McD's would (if I asked) tell me "That's so yesterday" and point me towards the REAL latest permutation, but I digress.

The "girls' toys" are, almost inevitably, useless. Today's option is a variety of plastic heads that seems designed only to teach little girls how to comb hair. One must admit that they are not the only ones to do so. Dr Seuss, that madcap purveyor of the delightfully bizarre for children barely old enough to boast of being in grade school, once offered a vision of a creature designed to do the same thing - a small dog-like being with a ridiculously prolific toupee and the words "All girls who like to brush and comb should have a pet like this at home." But Seuss, at least, held out the strong possibility that there were girls who might choose to do otherwise. The grade-school girl who goes into McD's today and wants a Happy Meal must either be a Pokemon fan like her brother or male classmates, or identify with a creature whose proportions are even more outrageous than Barbie's and whose only function is to have its hair combed.

On this basis, almost anything else would be more useful to the girls. Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, My Little Pony (especially My Little Pony, of which to say that it has taken a level in badass would be an understatement), even Holly Hobbie could save the world, positing a girl with sufficient imagination. Sure, they might be reduced to declaring their enemies vulnerable to flowers or love or strawberry pies or The Power Of Friendship or whatever - when it's unarguable that swarms of missiles or the output of energy weapons from the characters to which their brothers subscribe are far more suitable - but the means of victory are ultimately the authors' call. The raison d'etre of all of these "girls' toys" is sufficiently undefined that their scope is unlimited.

That being said, I'd rather spend the money on various combinations of Lego and letting my kids build what they want.


Almost as if on cue, the toys changed. We now have a choice of Star Wars for the boys and... would you believe... Strawberry Shortcake for the girls. The Yoda toy ought to offer very interesting crossover possibilities, if only for his height.

Things people say.

In these days of the Internet, YouTube, blogging, webpage caching and so forth, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure that every copy of something you said cannot survive until after the election you just won. Mind you, I'm not really sure it was ever possible back in the newspaper-only days. Some copy, somewhere, scrunched into somebody's moving box will carry your fateful words into the future to damn you.

In the case of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, those fateful words number eleven. They are "There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead." The Federal Opposition could base its entire media campaign for the next federal election on those eleven words, repeated over and over, especially since said words were inextricably linked with the image of PM Gillard saying those words.

Six days after the election she (very narrowly) won, by being able to form a minority government with several independents and one Greens Party MP, she announced her intent to bring in a carbon tax, which she and her government are now defending unto the death.

What are we to make of this? Is she a flat-out liar? Or did she say it in good faith and then find herself having to backtrack? It is worth reflecting on the nature of her minority government. She is precisely ONE seat in Parliament away from what could be the utter rout of the Australian Labor Party, and I strongly suspect that the seat in question is the one the Greens hold. It is also worth reflecting on the four new Greens Senators who have just taken their seats, giving Labor and the Greens combined an absolute majority in the Senate and allowing them to push through virtually anything they want... so long as they can agree on it. Polls now put Labor in a virtually unwinnable position - their primary vote is in the low 30s, their two-party-preferred is still short of the 50% needed to win, and if I recall correctly, even the immensely unpopular Tony Abbott has occasionally pipped her at the post for preferred Prime Minister.

In short, if there's an election, she's toast.

And if she were to defy the Greens on their lust for a carbon tax, would she automatically lose the support of that seat which makes her minority government viable? Because while I don't see the Greens or even the Independents swinging over to the Liberal-National Coalition in support of ITS agenda, having her government in an absolute minority position makes an election pretty much mandatory. This is the big question, and it leads directly to the OTHER interpretation placed on her words - that thanks to the Greens giving her government its constitutional legitimacy in both Houses of Parliament, she is in the invidious position of having to take dictation from them; in other words, that it's Greens leader Bob Brown leading the government.

Labor governs on the basis of a loose coalition of themselves, Greens (1) and Independents, as opposed to the Coalition, which is the joined-at-the-hip arrangement which exists between the Liberal Party (centre-right conservative) and the National Party (representing primarily rural interests, and formerly stereotyped as 'agrarian socialists'). If the small-c coalition falls, so does the government - unless an election puts it back in.

Right now, that seems extremely unlikely. The government's unwillingness to go to an election as a referendum on this issue seems to me a strong indicator that it will lose, and that the lone Green in the House of Representatives - who was elected on unwisely-assigned Liberal preferences (they wanted to deny the votes to Labor) - will also vanish into ignominy, probably along with several of his Upper House colleagues.

After that, the true extent of the ALP's financial mismanagement (as alleged by the Coalition, and I have no trouble believing its claims) will be revealed and Labor will spend the next twenty years in Opposition. Time enough, I think, to bring in nuclear power and start reducing those CO2 emissions the current government is so interested in taxing.

EDIT: There is, as I have seen pointed out elsewhere, another way - make the small-c coalition an agreement to guarantee supply and refrain from putting non-confidence motions and function as a true minority. But I am not sure this is a stable option under the current circumstances.