Thursday, August 19, 2004

Disaffected but not Dispassionate

A week or so ago, commenter SP remarked, apropos this post that:

By my reckoning Gummo you must be cooking up a storm by now...

I am prepared to own up to creating a respectable low pressure system in the kitchen over the past few days. But, once you've used every clean mixing bowl and cooking pot you can find, you realise it's time to stop at least long enough to wash the large stock pot you'll need to cook the lump of corned silverside you're buying tomorrow. We've nearly used up last week's lump so it needs to be replaced; if it isn't there's half a large jar of mustard in the fridge that will just go to waste. That's not the sort of thing you can afford to allow to happen when you're on a tight budget. Plus there's always a moment of guilt when you throw away mouldy condiments for which those starving orphans in Africa would have given their eye teeth.

Give or take the occasional fit of stove rage - I'm having a few difficulties adapting to working with an under-powered electric stove after years of working with under-powered gas stoves - the activity in the kitchen has been a pleasant escape from sitting in front of the computer, cranking up the word processor and then staring at a blank screen for the next thirty minutes thinking so, what the bloody hell am I actually going to write then?

This whole kerfuffle over Mike Scrafton's recent revelations is a case in point; the Prime Minister lied, the Prime Minister knew he lied so what is there to say about it that hasn't already been said. In two words: sod all.

Actually, there's still some room to doubt the proposition that John Howard knew that he wasn't telling the truth, and you don't have to go through the sort of bizarre reasoning that Henderson, G produced in his weekly Fairfax column on Tuesday; According to Gerard, it wasn't so much conscious dishonesty on the PM's part as a failure of empathy and, despite the fact that the current law on detention of uninvited immigrants appears to be stuffed enough to have troubled a few of our High Court justices, we now have Amanda Vanstone as minister for immigration and we can expect to see her use her ministerial discretion with a compassionate, woman's touch.

As I said, there's no need to trot out such bizarreries as "it's not so much that the PM is a liar as a bit unimaginative and narrow-minded" to arrive at the conclusion that the PM didn't consciously mislead the Australian public. You might consider, as an alternative explanation, that the PM wouldn't recognise the truth if it came up and punched him on the nose. I think I've put just such an argument several times before; writing the previous sentence produced very strong feelings of deja-vu. This time around, it's looking like the truth might go in hard and give the PM a well-deserved slippering too.

I have this vague feeling that I ought to be getting more satisfaction, or at least amusement, out of Children Overboard II but at the moment it's all looking like a rehash of the original. Even the jokes, like Senator George Brandis' extended performance on Lateline last night, are being recycled.

No doubt about it, I've got a bad case of the henries. I think it's time to pop out to the supermarket and buy a pack of instant cake mix so I can benchmark the oven. Zeppo Bakunin suggested this simple test the other day; you get a pack of cake-mix and prepare and cook it according to the instructions on the pack (particularly with regard to the oven temperature setting and cooking time). If it comes out burnt or soggy, you know that your oven thermostat's a bit off and you can either abandon the idea of ever baking in it, or adjust your temperatures and times a little to compensate. Of course if the cake comes out more or less to the manufacturers specification, you might have trouble resisting the temptation to eat it. I think that rules out using anything with chocolate in it.

Afterword: I've just seen Max Moore-Wilton on The 7.30 Report paying out on Mike Scrafton. His concluding remark "I consider myself quite warm and cuddly sometimes" has me thinking that there's some hope that Children Overboard II might yet have some amusing surprises in store after all. If I had the funds, I'd put in a bid for the rights to do the soft-toy merchandising.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Eine Schwalbe* ...

I don't usually buy The Oz but I made an exception today after hearing that Mike Scrafton, a former Defence Department adviser to Peter Reith, had written them a letter casting serious doubt on the Stainless Steel Weasel's claim that he did not mislead the Australian people, Mr Speaker, he did not. In his letter to The Oz Scrafton says:

What would I have told the Senate committee? On the evening of November 7, 2001, after having viewed the tape from the HMAS Adelaide at Maritime HQ in Sydney, I spoke to the Prime Minister by mobile phone on three occasions.

In the course of those calls I recounted to him that:

a) the tape was at best inconclusive as to whether there were any children in the water but certainly didn't support the proposition that the event had occurred;

b) that the photographs that had been released in early October were definitely of the sinking of the refugee boat on October 8 and not of any children being thrown
into the water; and

c) that no one in Defence that I had dealt with on the matter still believed that any children were thrown overboard.

During the last conversation, the Prime Minister asked me how it was that he had a report from the Office of National Assessments confirming the children overboard incident.

I replied that I had gained the impression that the report had as its source the public statements of the then minister for immigration, Phillip Ruddock.

According to Scrafton, he was prompted to make these damning revelation (or scurrilous allegations, depending on your personal bias) by the gang of 43 daiquiri diplomats' recent statement on "truth in government". I doubt that it will be long before we hear from various informed sources that:

a) If Scrafton thinks he can win a pissing contest about personal credibility with the Prime Minister, maybe he should take a look at what happened to Andrew Wilkie and think again;

b) It's obvious from the timing of Scrafton's letter that he's part of some shadowy, elite cabal of ex-bureaucrats who are working hand in glove with the commentariat to bring down the Howard government so they can get cheaper chardonnay and cafe lattes under a Latham ALP government;

c) The whole children overboard affair was so turn of the century and even if Scrafton turns out to be telling the truth, anyone who thinks it matters whether the Prime Minister was telling the truth is completely out of touch with mainstream opinion.

* Sorry about the pretentious German title. I just wanted to avoid any suggestion of the sort of innuendo that would result if I'd the English "One Swallow ...".

Olympic Moment

... and Sara Carrigan joins Kathy Watt [in/from Barcelona*] as the only Australian Olympic gold medallist in the Women's Road Race.

I heard that on ABC radio this morning. I understand exactly what the commentator meant; I come from a family of four only children. But I've yet to hear anything to match my personal favourite in Olympic sports commentary, from the Los Angeles Olympics:

... we're nearing the end of this gruelling, ten-event, decathlon.

There was a bit of grousing from Jon Faine and others this morning about the poor crowd turn-out for a lot of the televised events, with a hint that we'd been short-changed on the atmosphere by poor organisation on the part of the Athens Olympic Committee.

Maybe they could make up for it by re-arranging the schedule a little and giving us a baker's decathlon of eleven events although, to be fair to the competitors, the additional event ought not be too strenuous nor too difficult to learn.

There's probably a pool table in the Olymic village somewhere that they could press into service. Obviously they'll have to get their skates on to organise television coverage but, as the Greeks apparently like to leave things to the last minute, they'll no doubt be able to come up with something and give us some Olympic memories truly worth treasuring.

* I didn't quite catch this bit, but I'm pretty sure that Barcelona was mentioned, with one or other of the two prepositions cited.