Saturday, November 09, 2002

Anthem for Sunday

Saturday, 9 November 2002

John Quiggin's posting of another left-wing hit of yestteryear gives me the perfect excuse to dredge up this little ditty from my own past which pays tribute to the political effectiveness of lefties of the Trotskyite persuasion. To the tune of "Ten Green Bottles" it goes like this:

One Trot faction, meeting in the hall,
One Trot faction, meeting in the hall,
And if one Trot faction should have a nasty brawl,
There'll be two Trot factions, meeting in the hall.

Two Trot factions, meeting in the hall,
Two Trot factions, meeting in the hall,
And if two Trot factions should have a nasty brawl,
There'll be four Trot factions, meeting in the hall ...

There's supposed to be a last verse eventually, but most renditions I recall went on ad nauseam - or at least until none of the singers could seriously contemplate that there were enough Trotskyites in the world to make up the factions. Let's face it, the notion of eight thousand one hundred and ninety two Trotskyite factions meeting in the same hall does defy credulity a little - unless you admit the possibility of a mass outbreak of severe multiple personality disorder which, upon reflection, is not all that far-fetched. But by the time you get to a hundred and twenty eight it's stopped scanning properly and the joke has pretty much worn off.

Update: (Friday, 6 December) I've just been trolling my archives looking for this item and it hasn't been showing on the site. Maybe Mike Moore is innocent.

Let the Pigs Run Free

Saturday, 9 November 2002

A visit to one of my favourite web-sites, Cruel Site of the Day threw up this interesting sidelight on the recent US mid-term elections. I'm sure that pig fanciers everywhere will be pleased by this splendid campaign for the democratic rights of oppressed and exploited porkers.

Update: It got up!

A New Direction for the Potemkin

Saturday, 9 November 2002

ABC's AM reported this morning on Japan's continuing struggle to revive its decimated whaling industry. ABC on-line also has a slightly more credible report on the issue. AM's report featured some Green drop-kick who asserted that only 4% of the Japanese population actually bought whalemeat and that Japan's current whaling effort couldn't possibly be regarded as scientific because they still haven't "crunched" all the data they have gathered from previous scientific whaling expeditions.

This is pretty damn typical of the Greens' anti-scientific anti-human agenda. It's a shame that whales have become so much of an environmental sacred cow in this country that even Federal Environment Minister David Kemp is forced to toe the "save the Whales" line, with proposals for a whale sanctuary in Antarctic waters. For little miss Greenpeace's information, Japan has a population of around 127 million people so that mere 4% is 5 million people. What are the Japanese supposed to feed them - Kobe beef? Still, what do a few million malnourished Japanese matter when the future of an environmentalist icon is at stake?

Perhaps she'd prefer that the whale carcasses were left in the water to feed up the shark population. I wouldn't mind that myself, if we could be sure that the increased shark population would confine their hungry attentions to Greenie nudist air-heads when they came swimming round Australia's beaches. And as for all that "uncrunched" data, Ms I-don't-know-science-but-I-know-what-I-like, it should be obvious that the Japanese can't "crunch" it until they've killed enough whales to arrive at a realistic estimate of whale populations.

If I may digress into self-congratulation, I think this is a pretty good start to the new editorial policy here at the Potemkin. Of course, I shall have to come up with a new pseudonym. Right now I'm torn between Chico Lamarck and Harpo Lysenko.

Shock Horror! Pseudo-Intellectual Self-Destructs

Saturday, 9 November 2002

One of the undoubted hazards of getting a bee in your bonnet is that you might get stung in the head. This has clearly happened to me in the matter of meika von samorzewski. All I can say is - bugger! Well I suppose I could also add that I got it wrong if you really insist. Alright then, have it that way.

Clearly it's time to take take stock of priorities and look at charting a new course for the Potemkin, more in keeping with the intellectual resources of it's crew. It shouldn't take more than a few points of the compass rose - about 16 of them by my reckoning.

Friday, November 08, 2002

The Enigma of meika von samorzewski

Friday, 8 November 2002

My first impression when I read meika von samorzewski's Policy, personal choice and polemics: why I am a dole bludger was that it was a piss-take on middle-aged unemployed people who wear drain-pipe trousers. I am still of this opinion but, after a quick Google search, I have (perhaps a little grudgingly) abandoned my suspicion that mieka is a creature of the redoubtable Imre Salusinski. It turns out that meika is a much more complex creature, an inhabitant of that strange realm of existence first charted by Jorge Luis Borges in his short story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

Visiting meika's own web-site, we discover that meika is an investigative poet. We can also access his essay On the Use of the Edge of Chaos as a Mark or Measure - a personal note. Zimmer-zine features an example of his investigative poetry. And at Ernst von GLASERSFELD's answers page at OIKOS we see meika's Tlönic connections revealed. For those who are unfamiliar with this modern thinker, OIKOS informs us that

Elaborating upon Vico, Piaget’s genetic epistemology, Bishop Berkeley’s theory of perception, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and other important texts, Ernst developed his model of Radical Constructivism

The basic tenets of Radical Constructivism are described in this short paragraph:

What is radical constructivism? It is an unconventional approach to the problem of knowledge and knowing. It starts from the assumption that knowledge, no matter how it is defined, is in the heads of persons, and that the thinking subject has no alternative but to construct what he or she knows on the basis of his or her own experience. What we make of experience constitutes the only world we consciously live in. It can be sorted into many kinds, such as things, self, others, and so on. But all kinds of experience are essentially subjective, and though I may find reasons to believe that my experience may not be unlike yours, I have no way of knowing that it is the same. The experience and interpretation of language are no exception.

Well, somebody appears to be having fun.

Champion of the Poor

Friday, 8 November 2002

I was a little bemused by this ABC report that Senator Amanda Vanstone is lambasting the States - in particular Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia - for ripping off the poor. She says that these states are

targeting low income earners in reaping huge amounts of gambling revenue and most states are gaining major benefits from property transactions, like stamp duty.

But she says the states are failing to provide adequate public transport to help people get jobs and a wide range of concessions to help them survive.

and concludes

"These increases show that the states are just voracious suckers up of money from low income people."

Once again I seem to have missed a major shift in the ideological wind. I thought the general conservative consensus was that low income earners who feed next month's rent money into poker machines are basically shiftless and stupid, unlike their social betters who have the good sense to invest their surplus income in BHP ordinaries where an increase in shareholder value is guaranteed by high executive remuneration. And do I detect a few reservations about the undoubted benefits of privatising public corporations in Senator Vanstone's remarks on the States' failures in the areas of public transport and concessions?

I think that's why I prefer computer programming to politics - it all gets too confusing and it becomes very tempting to resort to explaining reports such as these by resorting to a reflexive, and somewhat simplistic, cynicism about the personal motivations of our politicians.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Parapraxis Strikes Again

Thursday, 7 November 2002

Commenting on Melbourne city councillor Kevin Chamberlain's decision to quit the ALP and stand as an Independendent candidate in the seat of Melbourne at the upcoming Victorian State Election, Premier Steve Bracks remarked on ABC Local Radio this morning that it was an open secret that Mr Chamberlain had been wanting to stand for parliament for some time and that obviously Mr Chamberlain had decided to by-pass the ALP's normal pre-selection process. He concluded by saying that the ALP would "take him on in the marketplace".

If the Greens weren't also running a candidate in the inner city electorate Mr Chamberlain plans to contest, I would say that Mr Bracks' statement, and the evident confusion it displays, makes Mr Chamberlain a clear shoe-in for the seat. Even the most hard-line of our economic fundamentalists know the difference between a marketplace and an electorate (the former is a vital social institution, the latter is largely an irrelevancy) so it's disappointing to see a Labor Premier so muddled on this issue. Perhaps one of Mr Bracks' staffers could remind him of the significant differences between buying groceries and casting your vote.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

A Cure for Cancer?

Wednesday, 6 November 2002

John Quiggin confidently announces the death of warblogging in his latest post on this topic. Personally I'm not so sure.

I freely admit that I don't pay a lot of attention to the warblogging community - there's only so far that you can wade into a sewer before you choke on the stench. But my superficial impression of these bellicose idiots is that the proposed war on Iraq was more an excuse to indulge in self-righteous patriotic outrage at soft-headed pinko liberals etc. With the decline of warblogging into contests to see who is the most bloodthirsty etc, I think we're simply seeing this childish braggadocio and bully-worship* revealed for what it really was all along.

Which means that the warbloggers will be with us for a while yet, struggling to find a new theme around which to organise their rantings. As soon as they do, they will return to business as usual, rebranded to suit whichever new cause they have chosen to advocate but with the same spiteful "anti-idiotarian" agenda. Like most social cancers, this one is only in remission.

* - Thanks to George Orwell, of course, for this very useful phrase.

Word of the Day: Malapropism

Wednesday, 6 November 2002

Which the Macquarie Dictionary defines as:

1. the act or habit of ridiculously misusing words. 2. a word so misused.

Thanks to Turding of Sydney Indymedia for this fine example:

In order to deflect attention from the U.S. and Israeli governments planned invasion and overthrow of the Iraqi government and to quiet European opposition, the agents are targeting Italian school children. Using technology gleaned from Soviets during the Cold War, these mad scientists manipulated the Teutonic plates in the region to simulate the effects of a natural earthquake.

And thanks to Angela Bell for the link. I've been thinking for some time that I should pay more attention to the boffo left.

Update: those who want a Teutonic plate of their very own can buy this one at E-Bay.

Modern Heroes

Wednesday, 6 November 2002

Oz columnist Janet Albrechtsen today takes up the cudgel dropped so spectacularly by Senator Bill Heffernan in his kamikaze attack on Justice Michael Kirby. Don Arthur is very good on the subject - so good that I am going to restrict myself to the sincerest form of flattery and suggest that he might extend his post thus:

There is another sort of hero-columnist. The real one. She is the quiet one who goes about the less glamorous but vital role of diligently checking dusty back-issues to discern what the facts are rather than creating out of the genius of her own mind, what the facts should be.

Supporting the System

Wednesday, 6 November 2002

I've been thinking about those Centrelink ads that have been apearing on the TV for a while. You know the ones - two young guys are shown hanging around at a coffee bar. The conversation turns to their friend Robbo, who got "busted" by Centrelink and "by the way, how's that Pizza job of yours going?". In the final shot the young man with the pizza job is shown calling Centrelink to dob himself in before he too gets busted. There was another one on the theme of single mothers with live-in boyfriends but that it disappeared from sight fairly early in the campaign.

I'll admit that I am slow on the uptake sometimes - it wasn't until my friend Zeppo Bakunin pointed out that Carly Simon didn't know me from a bar of soap that I realised that the song You're So Vain wasn't about me. So I'm probably the last person in this country to have noticed the double message in these little vignettes of life on the dole. I certainly hope so.

The first message obviously, is the surface one - if you're a dole bludger with a part time job, it's your responsibility to "Support the System that Supports You". But there's an underlying message here for the rest of the TV audience - this is what's really going on in "unemployed" Australia, young people are skiving off the tax payer to supplement their part-time earnings. I'll admit that I'm no Roland Barthes but I'm embarassed that it's taken me so long to work this out.

It's the sort of thing that Joseph Goebbels would heartily endorse, although he'd probably add that a little more trouble could have been taken to make it quite clear that the two young men were Jewish.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Brazilian Voters Stuff It Up

Cup Day, 5 November 2002

Pursuing my new-found interest in Latin American politics, I found this report of the Brazilian presidential election at It seems that the Brazilians got it wrong and elected leftist candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. He won roughly 51 million votes, about 61% of all votes cast. The report has some interesting quotes from prominent US politicos. I especially liked this one:

Constantine Menges, former national security council aide in the Reagan administration warned Mr. da Silva could create what he called a new "axis of evil" if he formed a partnership with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

I'm considering changing my voting habits at the next Federal election. One axis of evil was bad enough - now we have the prospect of a second. The prospect of Australia, New Zealand and Canada being lumped into a third is truly chilling. I think it's safer if we all vote Liberal.

Modern Wage Theory

Cup Day, 5 November 2002

I was struck today by the contrast evident between reports that the BHP-Billiton AGM has adopted a new Group Incentive Scheme, with the usual bonuses and share options for high-performing senior executives and this ABC report on BHP's intention to introduce drug-testing of its workers in the Illawarra region.

It's an interesting demonstration of the dominant theory of contemporary Australian labour economics, which divides the workforce into 3 groups:

Go-getting high achieving professionals and executives who will repay improved remuneration with increased shareholder value;

Overpaid union-protected slack-arses who can't achieve productivity without rigorous workplace discipline and the spur of possible poverty;

Useless drones and dilettantes who sponge of the taxpayer and spend most of everyone else's working day trying to wangle their way onto a pension.

Looking back on my working life to date, I can trace a progression through all three groups: from idle dole-bludging university graduate to union cosseted and featherbedded career public servant to highly paid programming guru and finally back to the dole, this time as a declassé hobby-satirist. I believe that my wide personal experience of all three sectors of the modern Australian workplace puts me in a position to offer a uniquely personal but nonetheless insightful, in-depth analysis of this theory.

It's crap.

Boring Admin Stuff

Cup Day, 5 November 2002

I've added links to Don Arthur and Tim Blair to the blog roll. Don's site is worth a visit today, he has an interesting link to some more dirt on that software company's business practices.

Another Great Internet Development

Cup Day, 5 November 2002

I got a little excited this morning when I started up Mailwasher and it notified me that I had a new incoming E-Mail for Fan mail, at last! or possibly even better hate mail, which would have provided the perfect opportunity to demonstrate my sardonic wit by posting the E-Mail in toto and calling the author a stupid fuck. It wasn't either of those, it was something even better: spam!

The E-Mail invites me to buy silver for less than 25% down. Proclaiming that "Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it" it invites me to enter "The Biggest Bull Market in Metals History". It goes on to compare the silver prices and political events of the Iran crisis of 1979, with the current situation, clearly implying that silver prices are certain to rise in 2003 and I should buy in now, while prices are still low.

I'm impressed. Now we can add on-line war profiteering to the list of undoubted benefits the Internet has brought us.

Word of the Day: Litotes

Cup Day, 5 November 2002

Despite every good intention to remain serious and earnest, I can't help slipping into satiric mode occasionally when I post comment's on John Quiggin's blog. Unfortunately this often results in misunderstandings. After my latest slip, in the comments thread on John's post on Heidegger and the Nazis, I resorted to a friend's copy of the Macquarie Dictionary to check out the definition of litotes:

a figure of speech in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary, as in not bad at all.

This surprised me, as I've always understood that a litotes was generally any understatement made for humorous effect - a more or less direct opposite of hyperbole. Still I'm happy to let the Macquarie have the last word on this, and count this discovery as one of today's two big cognitive achievements. The other, of course, is recognising that I need to make more of an effort to treat things seriously when I'm posting comments in other blogs but I suspect this will take a little more time to sink in.

Monday, November 04, 2002


Monday, 4 November 2002

Free Bodies, those fearless campaigners for the right of people everywhere to get their kit off in public, are at it again, this time with plans for a nude sausage sizzle on Sunday December 1 2002 in Melbourne's Yarra Bend Park. I suppose it was inevitable that they would come up with this brilliant promotional concept sooner or later.


Monday, 4 November 2002

After reading this article* by "meika von samorzewski" in On-Line Opinion over the weekend, I got into a bit of a reflective mood and started thinking very seriously about the nature of comedy and issues such as why it is automatically funny to characterise Phillip Adams as a corpulent gastropod or decry descriptions of Adams as a pig as an "insult to pigs", while on the other hand calling Piers Akerman "the star intellectual sumo of the Daily Telegraph" is met with reproving glares and admonitions to stop traumatising the children with ghastly mental images.

While I believe that old-growth humour is a vital part of our precious national heritage, satire is in a pretty parlous state if the best that's on offer is lampoons on airhead middle-aged dole-bludgers with mickey-mouse degrees, recycled Johnsonisms and yesterday's leftover marrons d'ecolier. The fault, of course, is in the censorious political correctness of the eighties and nineties, which stripped us of our most powerful and immediately recognisable comedic and satiric language. Jokes about "the two african americans who slipped into the big house for a quick spot of penetrative sexual intercourse while the capitalist oppressor was away from home" lose all the comic punch that was there in the original language and we are left with pale, inadequate imitations of some of our greatest comic stereotypes.

Personally, I can't say that I miss them.

* - Link via Ken Parish.

What I'm Reading this Week

Monday, 4 November 2002

My good friend Zeppo Bakunin has lent me the second and third books in Julian May's Rampart Worlds, so I've left Monsieur Le Madelaine to continue his agonising at the court in Arras while I polish them off. I'm sure that when I get around to starting on Proust's master work A la Recherche de Temps Perdu Zeppo is going to turn up the doorstep with Robert Jordan's complete Wheel of Time series tucked under his arm. Assuming of course that Jordan has finished the series by then. I doubt that's likely, given the propensity of so-called fantasy writers to keep plugging away at their interminable epics long after the creative spark has turned into a bloody cinder. Assuming that there ever was much of a creative spark in the first place. And while we're on the subject of the sort of literature that really ought to be sold by the kilo, I've long thought that it was a mercy to science fiction fans everywhere that the grim reaper got to Frank Herbert before he could write any more appalling Dune sequels.

Zeppo was also kind enough to E-Mail me this the other day. I don't know the origins or the copyright status of the image but it's a fine example of an American statesman in the role of public intellectual - the finest I've seen since Dan Quayle taught millions of American school children the correct spelling of the word "potatoe".

Freudian Slip?

Monday, 4 November 2002

Reading Corrie Perkin's page in yesterday's Age, led me to this quote from The Oz's editorial on last week's ASIO raids:

ASIO has simply targeted specific people who happen to be Muslim Indonesians. There is no reason to believe ASIO would or could mount raids based on their creed or nationality, just as it couldn't target communists, Jews, journalists or monarchists for their beliefs.

Well, I'm convinced.