Posterity and comparison

October 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm (Monday Morning links, Tom)

I sort of just realised that twitter doesn’t keep things hanging around forever; so I thought this might be a good place to record a set of twitter posts I made during the last election campaign about the journalists & sites I was actually interested in reading.  I don’t have much hope for next March’s NSW election in terms of policy debate; but it’ll be interesting to see if actual issues make an appearance, and who covers them; not to mention the next federal election in 2013 or so.
Tom Fischer
FPTom Tom Fischer
If you, like me, are really getting sick of the way this election is playing in the press, I recommend the following:


My top two blogs of the campaign: Grog’s Gamut:, and Meganomics:
Goanna on the Fairfax National Times is hit-and-miss, but at least has a sense of perspective #newsthatdoesntsuck
Ross Gittins is one of maybe 3 economics writers in Australia who actually know economics: #newsthatdoesntsuck
Laura Tingle is worth reading, ( though most of her stuff is paywalled at AFR #newsthatdoesntsuck

And Crikey for the nitty-gritty: Bernard Keane and Pollytics #newsthatdoesntsuck
And the ABC’s Election Live feed is second only to twitter for updates through the day – #newsthatdoesntsuck
TheDrum: sadly weak on serious analysis, but is worth reading for it’s sharp comic columists #newsthatdoesntsuck
Lastly, the twitter feeds you need are: @latikambourke, @TurnbullMalcolm, @howespaul, @samanthamaiden, @annabelcrabb #newsthatdoesntsuck
3 Aug Favorite Reply Delete
Are there any other places you found useful for serious political/policy news?

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March 2, 2009 at 11:09 pm (Monday Morning links, Tom) (, , , , , , , , , , )

It’s like weaksauce, only links. I am forced, by circumstance, to not post the thing I was going to post; since there is a whacky media embargo going on. Also: I am whacky tired. I’ll give you an update, maybe, if I’m on camera fighting the man tomorrow night.

A couple of stories from the Oz, today:

Globalisation has negative effects – and they’re your fault, cheapskates.

Sarcasm aside, it’s an interesting opinion piece. Blaming the immorality of the populace for the failures of the system is a popular way of excusing failed social experiments, but it still doesn’t make them work. See Communism for details.

Trouble brewin’

This is bad news for my jorb. Joel Fitzgibbon, the seemingly quite competent Defence Minister (not really new after a year and a half; either)  looks like he’s finally had enough of the “Defence Bureaucracy”. It is dysfunctional, and monumentally unwieldy; true. But the broken parts aren’t the ones about to get it in the neck; it’ll be the 20,000 civilian staff – primarily at the lower levels of the organisation who’ll cop it again. It would be nice to believe that some of the buzz-word spraying Howard-era ideologues at the top of the civilian pile will go too, but it certainly won’t bring the “cultural change” that every Defence Minister of more than a fortnight hopes for. To do that, you’d need to work on actually reforming the uniformed military; and the last government brave enough to try that was Whitlam’s – the fireball carnival of public governance. My main focus is civvies, so I perhaps don’t have the most unbiased view – but since I’m probably going to spending the next year trying to prevent collateral damage from the coming Houston vs Fitzgibbon brawl, I think I’m entitled to it. The other option is a reshuffle and a Combet takeover. I think I could live with that; I’m not sure Defence would feel much more comfortable with a pinko bolshevik running the show.


One of my new favourite news feeds brings me this brilliant story. Perhaps I’m a little job fixated at the moment; but the Employee Free Choice Act is for American Labor Relations what the Fair Work Bill is for Australian Industrial Relations.

Spy sappin’ mah Scout pack!

Hells yes, Team Fortress 2. I’ve only written about Left 4 Dead so far, because that’s what I was obsessed with when the blog was starting up. But I will, one day, write of the neatness that is TF2. Hidden in the most recent update is a significant nerf to one of the character classes – which is arguably already the weakest class in the game. Why, valve? Whyfor make Spy suck harder?

Bitchin’ about jerks in print

I love snarking at my favourite bad columnists as much as the next newsjunkie. Which is why this blog is brilliant! All the petty sniping at right-wing propagandists and spinmasters I can eat! ‘Course, not being in Melbourne, I can’t enjoy the full range of anti-Andrew Bolt emotions, but, I try.

If you say so.

I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing tomorrow night; assuming it all goes to plan. Peace out.

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Linkage Fury

February 16, 2009 at 12:10 am (Monday Morning links, Tom)

I like the link thing from last week. I’m fairly sure I’m going to be consistently late with my real post, so here’s a bunch of stuff to keep you occupied on Monday morning. Incidentally, I’ve noticed that I never seem to link to the dailykos. Mostly, that’s because I haven’t seen anything worth linking there for months. Might be time to find myself some new blogs…

Pitcairn Island

Beautiful one day, mindblowingly horrifying the next. Have a quick browse through the history of this weird little island dependency that kicked off with the mutiny on the HMAS Bounty and has ended up with 1 in 8 of the islands’ citizens currently serving sentences for rape (possibly NSFW). If you’ve ever wondered what would happen to humans isolated from the rest of the planet for 150ish years, here’s your answer. Don’t know what reminded me of this. Oh yeah, here’s their side of the story, for a bit of balance (Also links to things that are definitely NSFW).

Fair Work Telstra petition

I’ve already pimped it on Facebook, but it’s worth another link. The reason being that on Tuesday, I was out in the city, at my second actual strike action ever in two years as a union organiser. Contrary to popular perception, unions these days don’t strike very much. The main reason for this is that we’re democratic, and people have to be pretty angry with their employer to choose to forgo pay. For a majority of employees in a workplace to be so angry that they’re prepared to give up a day’s pay – that’s extremely unusual, in this day and age. Most of the things that would make people that angry are illegal, luckily. However, Telstra has pushed its employees to the point where they’re voting for strikes on a regular basis. You can find out more about why here on our campaigns page; but the basic theme is that Telstra is refusing to negotiate a single collective agreement, and is trying to get most of its workforce signed onto dodgy “employee collective agreements” while WorkChoices still allows it. After 1st July, they’ll have to start taking their staff seriously and negotiate a real deal, but thousands of Telstra staff could be trapped on WorkChoices-style contracts for up to five years after it commences, driving down wages and conditions across the entire communications and IT industries. Perhaps the cutest part of the scheme is that the contracts put existing staff on “Part A” conditions, and new staff on “Part B” conditions. Only current staff get to vote on these, so needless to say the Part B conditions are even worse than the already poor Part A. How’s that for freedom of choice?

And this on top of Sol’s 13.5 million dollar paycheck and their record profits last year. So, yeah, if you’re still with Telstra, ring them up, and let the person on the end of the phone know that you support their action. And sign the petition.

Flu Pandemic didn’t outfrag WWI!

Actually, it was strep-throat. Still, I’m not sure it debunks the essential point that the devastation of war is spread far beyond the battlefield. On the bright side, we’re possibly less likely to be wiped out by bird flu, since we can use our mighty antibiotics to fight all the hanger-on bugs.

The Tax Gap

If anything good comes out of this financial crisis, it’ll be greater scrutiny of how markets run, and their interactions with government. If we’re to accept that governments must be lenders, buyers and owners of last resort when things go wrong, then we should expect business to support the state during the boom times. However, across the world, businesses have become increasingly good at dodging tax by moving money between countries, minimising exposures, and structuring themselves in between the cracks of tax legislation. Kinda boring, definitely, but immensely important stuff. The Guardian is running a series of articles about how the arcane art of taxation – regulation, avoidance, minimisation and reform. I don’t have much of a grasp on the business side of this stuff, but politically, pretty interesting, considering the rhetoric coming from our former economic conservative, now social democrat PM Rudd. Tax reform has been promised since Keating – Costello never had the energy, focus or balls to do it his way, wouldn’t it be nice to see it happen on a friendly government’s watch? Oh yeah, I remember what reminded me of Pitcairn – it was Jersey, another British dependency of less than 100,000 population , outside of the control of the British parliament, and now one of the world’s great tax havens. I think old Betty Windsor might want to do a quick whip-around to her various islands – some of them are getting up to all kinds of no good.

Xenophon and the stimulus package.

Sorry, I know I’ve linked this elsewhere also. But yeah, Nick Xenophon, masterful media operator, Labor still finding its feet, and trying to act tougher than they really are, Greens surprisingly professional, did the hard work, Stephen Fielding is sincere but flakey, Turnbull is insincere and manipulative. It’s all my prejudices come at once! Crikey and the Canberra Times are the places to go for consistently insightful federal politics news. Also: Woohoo! $900! Possibly twice!

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Triple Threat Day – Links of repute!

February 9, 2009 at 12:15 am (Monday Morning links, Tom) (, , , , , , )

Mornin’, all. Based on our conversation yesterday morning; I’m reasonably sure that I’m overthinking my posts, and trying to work each one into a masterpiece of brilliant observation, trenchant analysis and tortured purple prose. Which is why I’m consistently late. So I’m going to start posting any old junk, and more of it! Today, I have a bunch of stuff that I had originally intended to put in one monster post; but it doesn’t really help anyone to put it all in one entry, when 3 will do just fine. Easier to search, skip the boring bits, and tag the shit out of. And you won’t get it all at 3am tomorrow.

So here’s some interesting stuff:

How to touch boobs

Most of the lifestyle blogs on SMH are absolute rubbish, genuine internet pollution where regular columnists hide behind nom de plumes to post inflammatory and reductive generalisations that would never see print in a reputable journal of record. However, Sam De Brito’s blog is often worth a read because he actually engages with a lot of more complex gender issues and puts his opinions on the line. This isn’t one of those posts; but it’s worth a look for anyone without boobs who’d like to – or does – touch them. Be a little less careless is the general theme, I think.

Changing the World, One Blog at a Time

My colleagues are probably pretty sick of me banging on about the opportunities that new media gives us in the union movement to organise beyond the traditional confines of workplace and industry. But it’s hard to find examples of where it’s genuinely worked. This (brief) post describes a workplace dispute that was resolved by grassroots community organising effected through blogs. In this case, though, it required the involvement of traditional media to reach the public proper – but in Australia, we’re unlikely to have that opportunity, with our limited media pool. It’s particularly important for a dispute that I’m running in Customs which is likely to hit the media within a month; so stay tuned for more on that over the next couple of months. I’m still deciding whether I should use this blog for work-related activities or not – and I’d appreciate your feelings on that before I do, if you’ve got any.

Italy’s Right To Life debate turns sick

Never make the mistake of assuming that America and Australia are conservative, and Europe is progressive. Silvio Berlusconi’s attempt to play hard-right Catholic politics with the destroyed life of this woman and her father make the Schiavo controversy seem positively civilised.

Crisis Narratives

Peter Harcher is probably my favourite Australian politics journo; along with Jack Waterford of the Canberra Times. In this piece, he’s demonstrating one of the new Rudd government’s favourite media management techniques – the backstage pass. In the dying days of the Howard Government, journos like Paul Kelly and Michelle Grattan were increasingly able to penetrate the legendarily secrecy-obsessed Howard cabinet, and start producing blow-by-blow descriptions of cabinet meetings, cat-fights and unfolding events. It seems straightforward, but Australian politics was one of the first in the world to develop the currently fashionable spin fixation; with the formation of the National Media Liason Service (the aNiMaLS) back in 1983. After Keating’s defeat in ’96, the aNiMaLS were quickly disbanded and replaced in short order with the Government Members Secretariat (the GMS). These organisations, part public service, part partisan, generally served to keep the media at a satisfactory distance from the workings of government for better than two decades. They were both cause and symptom of the decline of the Australian investigative journalism culture of the 60’s and 70’s, which produced once-great individuals like Mike Carlton, Ray Martin, and Laurie Oakes. Anyway, the narratives of power coming out of the Oz and the Fairfax papers were exciting; they were engaging and well related to by the A’s and B’s who read broadsheet newspapers. For the first time in a long time, people got a good look at the individuals populating the government, and it had a huge impact on the government’s standing. Howard’s reputation was tarnished, as were Costello, Downer and Minchin; while rising stars like Turnbull, Hockey, Pyne and Tony Abbott found themselves surprisingly well received.

While Howard tended to view the leaks as a force for uncontrollable chaos, they kept on happening. His measures against them did as much damage to his image as anything else revealed through these stories. He tended to look paranoid and media-obsessed – something Kevin Rudd, a similar control freak, has clearly decided to avoid at all costs. The Rudd government has taken a select group of journalists into its confidence, and seems to be constantly feeding them exactly these kind of leak stories – and since the economic crisis, that’s only increased. Interestingly, that’s pretty much what the International Crisis Group recommends during a situation like this: government engagement with the bad news, instead of denial or unrealistic optimism; and media exposure to the internal workings of government. Great for national confidence, apparently. (Couldn’t find the link, though. I’ll work on that.)

Stay tuned, more junk through the day!

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