Saturday, December 31, 2005

What is happening in Gaza?

Three British aid workers who were recently kidnapped have been released. Israel begins shelling the northern sector of the Gaza strip, ostensibly in retaliation to rocket attacks on Israel from that region. Israel has also created a 'buffer zone' in the north of the Gaza Strip. Clearly security is the preserve of the Israelis, and it is for the Palestinians to surrender land (and rights) for the benefit and security of Israelis.

In amongst all this, a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated himself after being caught at a checkpoint near Tulkarem (one of the main checkpoints into Israel situated in the north-west of the West Bank). In the process he killed one Israeli soldier and at least two Palestinian civilians who were sitting in the taxi he was in.

What on earth is going on??? Must be election time again...

The more I think about the suicide attack, the angrier I get. Not only because I too sat in crowded taxis with total strangers which passed through checkpoints like the one at Tulkarem. What if I had been in the taxi involved in the explosion? Imagine having to confront such threats on a daily basis? What makes me particularly angry is that such attacks harm Palestinians far more than they harm Israel's occupation - directly and indirectly. Directly because two Palestinians are dead. Indirectly because the attack gives Israel licence to collectively punish more Palestinians and because it gives the West's corporate media the opportunity to depict the Palestinians as nihilistic terrorists.

For the record, I should probably state that, as horrible an act as suicide terrorism is, an attack solely targetting Israel's military (which could arguably include armed settlers under the Geneva Conventions) is probably a legitimate act of opposition to a military occupation. Whether it is tactically wise is another question. Further, I don't think this assessment in anyway goes towards refuting the claim that war is an inherently immoral act. War is terrorism. But war is war.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Chomsky's latest

An excellent interview of Noam Chomsky from Radio Netherlands. Print it off, take it to the beach. If you meet someone with a boxing kangaroo flag, ask them to read it also. If they can read that is...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The King is dead

On Wednesday 28 December 2005, one of Australia's greatest tyrants died of natural causes. Like most tyrants who are fortunate enough to die at their peak, Kerry Packer was fortunate to receive all but positive obituries in all mainstream media sources. On the Wednesday in question, I was quietly eating my breakfast as the Channel Nine broadcast shifted from the morning news to the third day of the Australia-South Africa test cricket match. Emblazoned for more than a few moments between the switch from news to sport was the none-too-elegant portrait of Mr Packer with the numbers '1937-2005' in bold typeset. If that was the best photo they could find of the man, a photo which resembled a jacket potato more than a human face, he sure as hell must have been an ugly mother fucker.

There is this tendency in modern Australian society to rail at sychopancy. You can appreciate it best when you visit some foreign country where tradition dictates sombre respect for supposed elites - typically those who have not earned it. You see it a lot in places like the subcontinent, where the overly subservient staff at fancy hotels and homes needlessly answer to your every beck and call. In Australia, we like to think we are immune from such tendencies. The reaction to Kerry Packer's death should dispel that myth.

Perhaps the best thing you could mention about Packer was that he 'saved cricket' (the English equivalent of baseball, or, more accurately, the sport that baseball bastardised). Apart from that the only real praise you could heap on the man is the type of delusional hyperbole best reserved for the Stalins, Maos and Kim Il Sungs of the world. For make no mistake, Kerry Packer was a great corporate tyrant.

Perhaps not singularly, but definitely considerably, Packer can be 'thanked' for ensuring that our television experience is bare, homogenous, and wholly lacking in variety. When digitial television was being introduced into Australia, Packer was at the forefront of the status quo, the already existing big three commerical broadcasters, who lobbied intensely and successfully to ensure that only they, along with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, would be given licences for digital broadcasting. The Howard Government championed this stance.

Let's not forget that Mr Packer famously paid a very small fraction of his tax. On a percentage basis, he paid less tax than Australian income-earners in the lowest tax bracket. What an abject disgrace!

Can we expect much change after Packer's death? Yes and no. It all depends upon your perspective. My two cents' are on the no camp. I think the institutional framework within which Packer operated and did so well will be retained, if not further enhanced by the deregulisation of cross-media ownership laws. At present, no one can hold a television broadcast licence and a newspaper licence in the same city. Packer spent most of his professional life trying to get that law overturned. It seems, now that the Howard Government has both houses of parliament, Packer's life time dream will be realised. His demise is therefore somewhat irrelevant.

So perhaps the greatest loss will be the average Australian's ability to recite the name of the nation's richest citizen. I guess it just goes to show, you can't take your winnings to the grave.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back for the summer

It seems an eternity since I last blogged. Time being what it is, moments lost to sickness, work or simply sleep collect ever so quietly into days, then weeks, followed by months...

I hope to blog more regularly soon. No real genuine excuses for the hiatus. Basically been reasonably busy at work and outside of work. Wish I had a time machine. I've had a serious fever recently which hasn't helped either. Chat soon!