It won’t last, but while it does …
An Australian pub offering free drinks to women who remove their underwear and display it to patrons and staff will be investigated by alcohol licencing regulators, authorities said on Thursday.
The Saint Hotel in Melbourne has promised a “No Undie Sundie” event over the coming weekend, where woman who remove their underwear and hang it above the bar will receive A$50 ($39) worth of free drinks.
I wouldn’t like this. It’s not the female anatomy qua female anatomy. It’s more the other men who’d be there, yelling and drinking, and slapping me on my frail back. But me not liking something is not the same as me thinking something should be illegal. Sadly, it seems that “Liquor Licensing Victoria director Sue Maclellan” is not in the habit of making such subtle distinctions.
Good that Guido, to whom thanks, and who currently has this report in his Seen Elsewhere section, doesn’t just babble on about party politics, but from time to time at least notices more fundamental issues.
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I never get tired of looking at this photograph. It never fails to fill me with wonder and awe at the ingenuity of my species who, against all the odds, have carved these glorious man-made islands of light out of the primordial blackness. Whenever I am heavy of heart, I open up this photograph and stare at it to remind me that, somewhere, there is light and life.
And there is. For now.
Towns and cities around the world are turning out the lights for an hour to highlight the threat of climate change.
Sydney was the first major city to begin “Earth Hour”, when at 2000 (0900 GMT), lights went out on landmarks like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Bangkok, Toronto, Chicago and Dublin are among 27 other cities officially due to follow suit at 2000 local time.
With each passing day I become more convinced that the ‘green’ movement is actually a millenarian psychosis; a mental and spiritual sickness borne, perhaps, from some degree of civilisational exhaustion. Not just a belief that the end of the world is nigh, but an active desire to bring it about. And soon. Ours is not the first age to witness such pandemics of madness but, in the Middle Ages at least, there was the excuse of a near-universal poverty. In such a state of interminable plight, despair may not be the wisest response but it is at least an understandable one.
But now we live in an age of near-universal prosperity and progress. Never before has our species enjoyed such security and such freedom from want. Yet this is clearly no defence against a recurrance of this psychological plague.
Some pubs are spending the evening without the lights on while many Australians are marking the occasion quietly in the darkness at home.
Life, laughter, love, food, drink, warmth, travel, communication, progress, a world full of unprecedented wonders and it’s all too much for them. Better to sit in the darkness and curse the lighting of even a single candle.
‘Stop the world, I want to get off’ was the plaintive refrain of some Broadway comedy show I think. It could also be the motto for the greens, except that they want everybody off. Is that what they aspire to as they sit at home quietly in that seductive, undemanding cloak of blackness? To switch off civilisation and shuffle away into the perpetual tenebrosity dragging everyone else behind them?
The conditions are ripe for the spread of this insanity. Indeed, it is spreading now. How long will it be, I wonder, before some official body somewhere floats the idea of mandatory blackouts and curfews? “The voluntary approach” they will proclaim, “has not worked”.
And what do we do in response? Laugh at them? Ignore them? Rage against them? What would work to inoculate the rest of our species? What combination or words or phrases could we use to dissipate and lay low a viral madness? I am, of course, familiar with the customary rebuttals. “We will win because we have MTV and Coca-Cola”. But without the light there is no MTV, there is no Coca-Cola. What do we have then?
The lights are not yet going out all over the world. But I fear that I will see them do so in our lifetime.
On November 19, 1941, the light cruiser HMAS Sydney of the Royal Australian Navy was returning to the port of Fremantle after escorting the troopship Zealandia to Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. The Sydney spotted what appeared to be a merchant vessel about 150km off Shark Bay on the coast of Western Australia. As it happened, the vessel in question was the quite heavily armed German merchant raider HSK Kormoran, painted black and disguised as the Dutch vessel Straat Malakka. The Kormoran had been responsible for sinking ten merchant ships in the previous year in the South Atlantic and Indian oceans, but it was not initially identified by the Sydney.
Whilst attempting to identify the unknown vessel, which was sending out deliberately unclear and ambiguous flag signals, the Sydney chased and overhauled the Kormoran, approaching to a distance of approximately 1000 metres from the Kormoran. At this point, the Kormoran opened fire. Sydney was hit approximately 50 times, causing severe casualties on her bridge and open decks, damage to her gun turrets, and apparently damage to both sides of her superstructure that caused complete destruction of her lifeboats and rafts, and setting the ship on fire. Sydney retaliated, and caused severe damage to the funnel and engine room of the Kormoran. Sydney then left the scene, heading south. Kormoran was so badly damaged that the ship had to be abandoned. Sydney was last seen listing and on fire, and flames were seen and explosions heard from the crew who had abandoned the Kormoran as the evening progressed.
The bulk of the crew of the Kormoran (over 300 people) were either rescued by Australian ships, or managed to sail their lifeboats to the Australian mainland. They were imprisoned in Prisoner of War camps, where they remained until 1947. The crew of the Sydney were not so lucky, however. Neither the ship or anyone on it were ever seen again. Apparently the destruction of the lifeboats and rafts meant that when the ship sank it went down with its entire crew of 645 people.
For people in Australia who lived through the Second World War, the loss of the Sydney is a moment that is always remembered and recalled. Losing one of the largest vessels in the Australian Navy did terrible things to Australian morale, and the mystery of where the ship went down and exactly how it was lost is something that has led to controversy, disagreement, and even the odd conspiracy theory involving the Japanese. The Sydney went down two weeks before Pearl Harbor. The fact that the only knowledge of the battle and how the Sydney was lost came from the enemy has heightened this sense.
The next six months were very bleak ones for Australia in the war. Eight ships (including the Zealandia) were sunk and there was much loss of life and property when a massive Japanese air raid attacked the Australian city of Darwin on 19 February 1942. More bombs were dropped in this raid than had been dropped on Pearl Harbor two months ealier. This was the first of over 100 air raids on Northern Australia in 1942 and 1943. The 8th Division, which the Zealandia had transported to various parts of tropical Asia as the Japanese threat loomed (but which had been trained for desert warfare against Nazi Germany) suffered a series of terrible defeats, and was essentially destroyed as a fighting unit by the middle of 1942. The Japanese Navy made serious incursions into the water off the east coast of Australia, culminating in the midget submarine raid on Sydney Harbour and shelling of Sydney and Newcastle by Japanese submarines in May and June of 1942. At the time if was feared by many that a Japanese invasion of Australia was imminent.
Of course, this did not happen, but it was a terrible moment in Australia’s history, and one that largely took Australia by surprise. In my mind that six month period from the sinking of the Sydney is when Australia ceased to be British. That Australia was in a different part of the world, and had different interests and different priorities and potentially different allies from Britain was something that could no longer be denied by anyone. While for most practical purposes Australia had been an independent country for decades by this time, a law was passed (The Statute of Westminster Adoption Act of 1942) that made this unambiguously clear. Those symbols of nationhood that Australia had not adopted for itself prior to this time were adopted soon after the war. Australia’s foreign policy ever since this moment, including Australia’s very close alliance with the United States and Australia’s decision to keep relatively small but extremely modern and well trained armed forces are really a consequence of what happened in this six month period of the Second World War. The loss of the Sydney was in a way an atypical part of this terrible six months. It was sunk by a German vessel, and the war was ultimately with Japan. However, the loss of the Sydney was a landmark event in Australian minds.
Which is why the mystery of what had happened to Sydney has been a long-standing and long-running one in the Australian psyche. It was one of two mysteries from the Second World War, the other being what happened to the third midget submarine that entered Sydney Harbour on May 31, 1942. That submarine was eventually found just north of Sydney, but not until November 2006.
And people kept looking for the Sydney, despite the fact that it was lost a long way to sea, and at that the sea off Australia’s very inhospitable north-western coast. $3.9 million of government money was directed towards a search for the wreck of the vessel that commenced at the beginning of this month, headed by American shipwreck hunter David Mearns. On the 16th of March it was announced that the wreck of the Kormoran had been found on 12 March. On the 17th March, it was announced that Sydney had been found at 26°05”²49.4”³S 111°04”²27.5”³E, and the wreck was still largely intact. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that both wrecks would officially be designated as war graves, and thus protected under Australian law. Presumably it will be possible to examine the wreck of the Sydney further and learn a little more about how she was damaged and sank. Still, though, the question of what happened in her final few hours will always remain supposition.
One of London’s top City financiers is lobbying to get a statue of Keith Park, one of the top RAF commanders during the Battle of Britain, put in Trafalgar Square. Park, a New Zealander, seems an excellent choice.
Park had the sort of qualities, according to reports, that I have come to associate with New Zealanders today: unassuming, sharp sense of humour and frequently tough as nails.
Every child should have authoritarian parents, because then they’ll grow up to be libertarians.
-Oddball Australian journalist Paddy McGuinness, as recounted at his funeral this week by Bill Hayden.
The controversial Australian euthanasia advocate and doctor Phillip Nitschke has been arrested in Auckland, New Zealand, and books that he had in his possession have been seized. Nitschke, the moving spirit behind Exit International, had gone to New Zealand to host some ‘workshops’ on euthanasia.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of euthanasia, this seems to me to be a clear case of ‘thoughtcrime’, and New Zealand authorities deserve nothing but scorn for this.
It is not widely known even in Australia that in 1808 the NSW Corps of the British Army deposed the Governor of New South Wales, William Bligh, in a coup. This is known as the ‘Rum Rebellion’, but it was not really about rum. Reading about it on Wikipedia, it is clear that Governor Bligh, a Captain in the Royal Navy, who had already endured the Mutiny on the Bounty, was not fit to govern a colony like New South Wales was at the start of the 19th Century.
For there were already free settlers in New South Wales at that time, and they wanted their rights and liberties as British subjects respected. Chief among them was John Macarthur. Michael Duffy writes about the rebellion and Macarthur’s role in it here.
As for myself, since it is also Australia Day today, I am going to do the patriotic thing and toast my nation onwards- with good old Australian Rum.
There is a new book about Tom Cruise, the American movie actor. Normally this information would not elicit even a groan from me. I simply have no interest in Cruise, movies, Hollywood and the pampered, pathetic world of the modern celebrity. But this new book, on the other hand, seems to be much more interesting then its subject matter.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian bookstores have been denied access to sell the book, not because of any government ban, but because the US distributor has decided that it will not sell the book outside the US or Canada. The distributor, Ingram International, will fulfill existing orders, but will not accept any more orders.
This is a very curious story. What is not said but is left implied is that the most controversial aspect of the Tom Cruise story is his adherence to the Church of Scientology. It seems that the Church came to some sort of legal arrangement with the distributor.
US-based Ingram International, described on its website as “the world’s largest wholesale distributor of book product”, sent an email to its Australian customers this morning citing unspecified legal reasons for not being able to distribute the book outside the US and Canada.
“Although I recently e-mailed stating Ingram’s ability to offer the book to international customers, the position has now changed that we will not sell it outside of the US and Canada,” Asia, Australia and New Zealand sales representative Jonathan Tuseth wrote in the email.
If so, it seems to be hardly worthwhile- anyone who wants to read the book, anywhere in the world, can do so by ordering through Amazon.com.
However it is another sad retreat from the old position of ‘publish and be damned’. The publishers of Salmond Rushdie’s book showed some courage in the face of Muslim rage in 1989, but now publishers seem to be willing to retreat at the first hint of a lawsuit.
This is just the sort of case that an aspiring young political figure with a passion for freedom should take up as a rallying cry for liberty, freedom and rationality. Do not hold your breath.
A headline in the Australian newspaper struck my eye just now: ‘Teachers warm to merit pay‘. A deeper reading of the story reveals a few caveats, but the fact that Australian education unions are willing to concede anything at all to the principle still struck me as the most surprising thing to me. I thought we’d see peace in the Middle East, cold fusion and spending cuts long before seeing education unions in Australia concede the principle of merit pay.
Unsurprisingly, John Howard and his conservative coalition lost Saturday’s federal election in Australia heavily. It also looks like Howard will lose his seat – a sitting Prime Minister has only ever lost his seat once in Australian political history. On a personal level, his passing is somewhat of a melancholy event for me. I first started taking a strong interest in politics from the age of about 13. Howard was elected when I was 15, so for many years he has been a political figure of very close scrutiny and interest for me. Thus, the “end of an era” aspect is a little sad, and I think that despite the kind of doublespeak people in his former position often need to talk in order to Keep Everyone Happy – or at least keep the minimum amount of balls in the air – he is quite a decent and humane man. He genuinely had the “common touch”; not in the charming, polished, stage-managed way that impresses the media and the elite. He was less of a “gather a media entourage and head to the nearest working class pub to have a sham beer’n'bellylaugh with some rough men in singlets” type – ringing up a late night radio station talk show after he’d clearly had a few too many beverages was more his style. His uncontrived ordinariness, often verging on folksy, is a rare commodity amongst politicians of his seniority – and it is something I will miss.
Having said all of that, we should not get too sentimental about his defeat. John Howard and his party are no friends of ours. Many of his party’s major reforms, whilst bearing objectives which most in the small-government camp would consider a step in the right direction, were implemented with a liberally (pardon the pun) spread layer of added regulation. Consider the tax code which, after eleven years of ongoing “reforms”, stands as an epic bureaucratic tome defying compliance. Or the recent industrial relations changes, which somehow made a fiendishly complicated system even more so.
Certainly, Howard can accurately claim that Australia became richer and more economically stable whilst he was in office. Nevertheless, he and his team should be remembered as big-government conservatives, and we liberals must not forget that Australia is more prosperous today in spite of his government’s efforts, rather than because of them. My only regret is that his successor is likely to be even more meddlesome.
As predicted for many months Mr Kevin Rudd and the ALP have won the Australian elections. The upside of this has already become apparent in the comic value that Mr Rudd has provided – at least for us in the rest of the world, who have heard stuff like his so many times before.
In his acceptance speech Mr Rudd came out with a lot of fatuous waffle about how everyone should believe in the future, create the future, even “embrace” the future. It was like listening Harold Wilson in about 1964. For Americans it must have been like hearing Bill Clinton do one of his JFK impressions about futurism – if I am allowed to steal a word from the Italians.
Then, of course, Mr Rudd came out with a lot of backward looking polices:
Soldiers to run away from Iraq, as if it was 2003 and it was possible for the West to avoid involvement – and totally ignoring the events of the last year that mean it now looks like we are going to win the war. The idea seems to be to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Sign up for Kyoto – as if it was sometime in the 1990s. There was, of course, no mention of reducing regulations on the expansion of the nuclear industry. In short the concern with C02 emissions was a pose – and an excuse for various new taxes and regulations.
And, of course, more money for his friends, and fellow ALP members, in the schools and universities – the people who, along with the media types they produce, worked so hard to get him elected. More money and, vague, “reform” will mean better education – pass the sick bag. Mr Rudd did not actually say “education, education, education” but he might as well have.
Some of my friends in Australia are a bit down in the dumps about the election result, although they all predicted it, but my message to them is simple – if you can not do anything about the farce you might as well enjoy it.
There will be plenty of laughs over the next three years.
In this weeks edition of The Economist, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, is attacked for ‘spending’ money by promising to reduce taxation in a targeted way so that people can better afford to send their children to independent schools. We are also told that “professionals and economists” (no names are given) hold that the money would be better spent on increasing the government school budget even more.
So tax reductions are ‘spending money’, as if all money belonged to the government and allowing taxpayers to keep a bit more of their own money is ‘spending’ it, and the solution to the problems of government education is to increase government spending on it even more than it has already been increased.
In recent times I have attacked the Economist for pretending to be pro free market whilst, when one reads it closely, not really being so. Articles like the one on the Australian elections mean I can no longer fairly make this charge. The Economist having now ‘come out’ as an openly leftist publication.