Friday, January 30, 2004

Johnny's On The Run

It's started... Johnny's calling Mark Latham sloppy with the truth but fails to recall how he in turn has been sloppy with the truth himself...

Anyone recall Iraq? Solomon Islands? Children Overboard? Children in Detention? Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Sloppy with the truth? Surely not!
Labor Launches New Age

Mark Latham, new leader of the Labor Party finally yesterday gave all of those who crave a viable alternative to Johnny "Man of Steel" Howard something to look forward to.

His keynote speech yesterday at the Labor Party conference was strong, gave a clear message of goals and was the first affirmative stance Labor has taken in many years.

The "we are nobody's Deputy" line is right on the money and whilst our alliance with the US is valuable, it should not hold sway over our own opinions.

I wrote yesterday that funding for education needs to be increased and whilst Latham does promise funding on a "needs basis" he does include Private schools in that equation... I hope his "needs analysis" shows that they need 10% of what they're getting now under the Howard regime...

Overall, a good start and for the first time in ages, it appears our Lil'Johnny is on the backfoot...

Read media coverage of the speech here and here

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Whilst on Education...

Teachers do get a bum wrap. For a profession that is essentially vital to the technical advancement of the human race and critical for the development of acceptable social behaviour in our children (second behind a child's parents), our governments have really given our teachers hell.

So here is my solution to ensure the teaching profession is reinstated as a meaningful profession.

1. Disband the Teachers Union and replace it with a professional body... say "The Institute of Education Professionals". This body will be more concerned about curricullum's and standards of testing etc rather than salaries and working conditions.

2. Allow teachers free market practices to gain employment. No standardised salaries, no forced placements, no transfer bans etc. If a school needs a teacher, it advertises and the Principal interviews and selects an applicant and a salary is negotiated... just like any other job.

2a) Pay for performance. Good teachers (and there are alot out there) deserve good pay and the opportunity to make a good living. Principals should set targets, review performance against those targets and reward for meeting those targets.

3. Hours. Teachers get criticised by non-teachers for the excessive school holidays and short work day. Teachers counter that by stating they do alot of planning and extra-curricular work. So let it become fact rather than myth. Teachers will get same working conditions as any other person. 20 days a year, sick leave, maternity leave etc. Working hours will be 8:30 to 5:30 like most other jobs. "School" hours will remain the same, but teachers will be employed to do their planning etc rather than have them volunteer their free time after the 3pm school bell. School holidays will be for children, but teachers will have to use their 20 days annual leave in that timeframe to ensure they are present when kids are there. Conversely, teachers should expect higher remuneration.

4) Now the government needs to put some money on the table. Reverse the public/private funding differential. Fund the public system fully. Give Principals proper budgets for them to fund their school and pay their teachers a GOOD wage. Fund school maintenance and redevelopments and ensure that stationary etc is readily available. No need to provide 5 Star schools, just ones that have adequate paper and pens and books and don't leak and have basic air conditioning. Leave Private Schools and the Religious based schools to their own funding networks.

5) Funding will be equal across the board based on school headcounts and not some economically driven socio-economic model that sees rich private schools in Strathfield get funded more than poor schools in Liverpool. Budget equals "x", headcount equals "y" then budget for each school equals x/y multiplied by their headcount. No questions.

Now someone very close and dear to me is a teacher and we disagreed on a number (all?) of these things. I can see that teachers cling to their union as their only lifeline for bargaining a decent living and remuneration.... and yes the government have been dead set pricks about it, but the fact is that it hasn't worked for the last 20+ years. Teachers are derided and under paid and the public system is falling apart.

It's time that both sides think outside the square...
Education or Government Mind Trap?

There has been a lot of debate recently on Howards outrageous attacks on the teaching profession and their "subversive" method of educating the children to be against the war in Iraq. I have never heard such preposterous bullshit in all my life. What does he expect to happen? That the teachers push the political line of the day as the "truth" and that all children be taught that the government always does the right thing? This is Australia Mr Howard, not Communist China of the 1960's.

Democratic society is founded on free speech. That is what it is all about. The capitalism that drives the government is not what we are here for. We are not here to train our youth into being Liberal party zealots who bow to the whip hand of consumerism and capitalism.

No, we are about having a right to say what we feel and if some teacher says to a student that the war in Iraq was wrong, then so be it. There should not be a school curriculum set on the subject (which there wasn't) but a teacher has a right to express an opinion like everyone else. Just because they are employed by the government, does not give Howard the right to dictate free speech and thought.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Bush's State of the Union

Well our man George has addressed the people of the United States and declared that he is making the world a better place.

How can I best put this.... "NO YOU ARE NOT!!"

The US, by their continuation of their self-centred foreign policy have alienated themselves and their immediate allies (which means us Australians) from the rest of the world that will take generations to a) stop and b) recover from.

Their attitudes to their god-given right to access foreign resources (Australian land for bases, Iraqi Oil reserves) and their condescending tone of peace whilst maintaining the biggest arsenal of weapons ever known has made the US a self appointed dictator of the world.

They seem to think everyone who disagrees and chooses to act is a "Terrorist" whilst their own activities are "in the interests of peace".

A case in point is how the media portrayed an attack on US troops in Iraq as a "terrorist act". Tell me, how can a civilian of Iraq throwing a bomb at the military forces of an occupying State be considered a terrorist activity? I would call it self defence.

Look, I agree Saddam was a dictator. I agree that the Taliban are not the most jovial of people, but it is not our right to destroy their culture, infrastructure and civilian population...

But as long as the US has the oil and the world domination, it is in their eyes, a peaceful world...

Just we won't get to enjoy that same "prosperity".

Monday, January 19, 2004

David Hookes
I have just heard that David Hookes has died as a result of last nights bashing...

I have only one thought, that the guy did it is charged with murder and gets a significant sentence.

But I can see the defence already - provocation, self defence, accidental manslaughter, mental incapacity due to alcohol....

Take your pick, but I bet this guy gets off or a slap on the wrist at worst. I hope I am wrong.

And as for David Hookes, I will never forget his "dopey, hairy backed sheila" comment... telling it like it is!

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Well, that went quick...

I had promised to post regularly during my 6 days in Los Angeles, but I have done none of the sort....

Instead, I will post a summary of what I think about America, Americans in general and maybe (and I can't think of one now) something that is good about the USA.

Bare in mind, I am actually reading "Stupid White Men" by Michael Moore at the time and I must admit by visiting the US and reading a chapter or two of his book each night I do perhaps have a jaded opinion.

But anyway, who cares...

Food: Why are Americans so fat? Because each meal at a restaurant is as much as what I would serve my entire family for dinner.

For example, I went to lunch today at the American Grill near Beverly Hills today and ordered a steak sandwhich. The menu said "served with onions on a garlic and herb buttered roll".

The waitress asked if I would like "fries" with that and I said yes. In Sydney, particularly the East Sydney Hotel, you order a steak sandwhich which comes out on toasted white bread and a small basket of chips...

But this thing comes out on a 2 foot long plate. Half of it is covered in french fries about 5 inches high and the rest has an open steak sandwhich on a long (8 inch) roll with a steak on it that would be too big for the Lone Star steakhouse. The girl puts it down in front of me with a pitcher of tomato sauce ("ketchup") and a large bowl that contains a huge mound of salad covered in what they call "Blue Cheese Dressing" about 3 large tomatoes quartered and red onions.

On top of the steak are 3 very large and very thick calamari rings (it never mentioned calamari on the menu) and also I had a seperate "sour dough" bread roll.... with butter....

And this is for a working lunch with my American colleagues.

They had ordered similar things on the menu that at first hearing didn't seem too heavy... but they too had a 2 foot long plate covered in exhorbitant portions of food.

But whilst I was surprised, they were not and thought it was reasonable. They even considered desert!

Now if you know me, you know I am not the smallest bloke on this earth and I love my food, but this was ridiculous!!

One of my colleagues said afterwards he "felt like he needed to shit a hoof!" Interesting expression - very gross but spot on!!

Have to go... gotta go and dispose of a hoof! LOL!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Well I made it here to Los Angeles from Australia - a rather pleasent (ahem) 13 hour flight in which I slept for a massive 90 mins (if that)...

I have just completed my first day of 5 in the US office of my organisation and I have to say that Americans are currently obsessed with Medical Benefits / Insurance. It seems that American workers in the supermarket industry are striking and hence now common food items are no longer on the shelves... the supermarkets are open, but there is no food!

This has meant that everybody is now supporting the striking workers because a) they too have crappy benefits and if the strikers win, it will set a precedent and b) they are getting hungry because there is no food... unless you eat burgers or donuts...

But the funny thing is, as an Australian, it is a) the first topic of conversation when I meet someone and b) they laugh as I tell them of our own shitty system in which patients die unattended in hospital corridors waiting for a room... the Americans laugh at this with comments of "at least it doesn't cost you anything!"... they are weird here.

And again, I am amazed at the food here... Waitresses are CONTINUOUSLY bugging you with "Can I getcha anything else y'all?" or "Everythang awlright sir?" whilst you are trying to have a conversation... it feels as though table chit-chat is interrupted every third sentence by a inquisitive waitress... but it is so shallow because it is just for the tips... but it works because my American hosts are rather shallow in accepting it...

Tipping... that shits me too.... I got a cab from the airport... $34 plus tax takes it to $36ish. I give the driver $40 and he says "have a nice day" and puts the car in gear... No change.... No questions asked, he just keeps the $4. Now I would have tipped him due to local custom, but he just accepts it as if it is his right to my change.... then the bell hop opens my door and holds out his hand for doing so... I ignore him (I didn't have any change the cabbie took it!) so I am left to fend for myself with my luggage. The bellhop was nice (I got another "Haveaniceday!") but no way was he going to do his job because I rejected his tip request... and I also thought you tipped after service, not before....

And everywhere you go, its valet parking. Every restaurant of any decency has its own carpark, which is fine, but they also have a couple of guys parking cars... and guess what, you have to tip them too...

Parking costs about $4, and a tip is a $1...

Anyway, thats my "American Observation For The Day".... I'll write some more soon!


Saturday, January 10, 2004

Ok, my holidays are drawing to a close and I am in the throws of preparing to go back to work for 2004...

I am flying to the US tomorrow for a week long business trip, so if I can I will post from there and have a bit of a travel diary for what the freaky Americans do amongst themselves. I have been there before so I know I will be guarenteed something to write about :)

Briefly, in holiday happenings:

* Steve Waugh retired. I went to Days 1 and 3 of the Sydney test match and despite India laying it on with 700+ runs, it was a very good match to go to atmosphere wise.

* Went to Taronga Zoo and it was a good day as always, but the Zoo is looking a little tired in places. They are doing construction work etc but some of the old, traditional exhibits could do with a clean and spruce up. For example, you couldn't see the seals in the underwater tank due to the skum build up!

* Went to Stanwell Park beach for the first time in years... this is now my beach of choice!

Thursday, January 01, 2004


I hope 2004 is going to be a good year... My 2003 was pretty good in retrospect... My health was better than normal, joined a gym, took up some new hobbies (incl this one).

My family is going great as well so all in all 2004 is looking up.

I do have a few friends that do need a bit of a better run in the health side of things, so I wish them all the best for 04!

Also, was most impressed with Sydney's fireworks display when compared to the rest of the world...

I rated Athens as impressive as well, but London's looked crap!