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Monthly Archives: August 2008

Sarah Palin — Blogs, Pictures, and more on WordPress

Watch the blogosphere erupt at Sarah Palin — Blogs, Pictures, and more on WordPress! Thomas has already indicated his view, with more to come.

One thing from an Aussie perspective: she makes both Julia Gillard and Julie Bishop look fabulous!

UPDATE

See: What is McCain Thinking? One Alaskan’s Perspective.

“Is this a joke?”  That seemed to be the question du jour when my phone started ringing off the hook at 6:45am here in Alaska.  I mean, we’re sort of excited that our humble state has gotten some kind of national ‘nod’….but seriously?  Sarah Palin for Vice President?  Yes, she’s a popular governor.  Her all time high approval rating hovered around 90% at one point.  But bear in mind that the 90% approval rating came from one of the most conservative, and reddest-of-the-red states out there.  And that approval rating came before a series of events that have lead many Alaskans to question the governor’s once pristine image.

There is no doubt in my mind that many Alaskans are feeling pretty excited about this.  But we live in our own little bubble up here, and most of the attention we get is because of The Bridge to Nowhere, polar bears, the indictment of Ted Stevens, and the ongoing investigation and conviction of the string of legislators and oil executives who literally called themselves “The Corrupt Bastards Club”.

So seeing our governor out there in the national spotlight accepting the nomination for Vice Presidential candidate is just downright surreal…

MONDAY

You will see so far that comments are one for, one against…

This morning’s Australian has Geoff Elliott saying Reckless pick bad news for Australia.

ALLIES like Australia have reason to be worried about John McCain’s vice-presidential pick.

One doesn’t wish McCain ill, but if he wins in November, at 72 he will be the oldest president to enter the White House. He’s had bouts of cancer, including aggressive surgery on his face to remove a melanoma.

Imagine the scenario, heaven forbid, if he were to die in his first few months in office. Sarah Palin, with no foreign policy experience and untested on the national and international stage, would be calling the shots, setting policy on US engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, where our Diggers are, or have been, in harm’s way.

It would make a president McCain’s decision on who is secretary of state, defence secretary and national security adviser even more important than it usually is.

What McCain has done in selecting Palin is an entirely political decision to win him the general election, which proves again that self-interest always triumphs in politics.

But in terms of foreign policy, in which Australia has most interest, this is a reckless move and potentially stressful toour alliance in the event that early in the next administration Palin were elevated to the presidency.

The comeback from the McCain campaign is that Barack Obama is even less experienced than Palin. As a political argument, this is understandable and worth running, but it is intellectually dishonest.

You don’t pull off what Obama has done in the past 18 months and not be qualified to lead. In fact, this is what the whole process is about – testing candidates in the public glare seven days a week for nearly two years so Americans can make their judgment on who should lead their parties.

Obama has passed that test with his party’s voters, and is now being tested again against McCain in the general election.

Obama’s intellectual heft plus his state department in waiting – about 300 foreign policy advisers are already signed on to his team – shores up his credentials.

And his pick of Joe Biden, 65, as his VP means that should Obama come to harm, the US and its allies will have in a president Biden – a life-long senator and two-time presidential candidate – an expert in foreign policy and international relations.

That’s not to say Obama’s decision on Biden was not a political decision either, designed to neutralise the argument that he lacked experience.

But from an Australian perspective, there appears little risk in the pairing of the Obama-Biden ticket.

Senior Republican sources with knowledge of McCain’s thinking say the Republican faced two scenarios in his VP decision.

Either he was travelling well in the campaign against Obama, so choose an establishment VP candidate such as a Mitt Romney. Or that the headwinds are so strong against Republicans this year that there was little chance he would win, so he had to try to go for a game changer.

“This selection shows where McCain thinks the campaign was at – that they faced the prospect of a wipeout in November,” a source said.

McCain can be expected to placate allies by saying that he, as commander-in-chief, will be calling the shots and doesn’t need someone, as Obama needs Biden, to help him through – in this way again highlighting Obama’s lack of experience.

Fair enough, and McCain’s knowledge and experience in foreign relations is beyond dispute. But it’s another political argument, since Canberra is comfortable with Obama, tested as he has been through the Democratic process and as he is shown to have remarkable administrative abilities. Canberra’s main concern with Obama is on trade policy, in which he has sounded the usual populist rhetoric, although less so now he is the presidential nominee and has moved to the centre of US politics.

Palin? For the US, she might be a great vice-president – her reformist agenda is admirable and she has star quality and a fascinating life story. But that’s for Americans to debate.

Australia, rightly, has no say in the electoral process in the US. We are observers. But this is a poor decision. The Howard government and now the Rudd Government have had to do some hefty political lifting at home to ensure that, despite the mistakes in Iraq and the unpopularity of the Bush administration, the alliance with the US remains core foreign policy.

But as an ally who has fought alongside the US forces in every conflict America has been involved in for the past 100 years, there is reason to be worried. As an ally, we deserved better than this from McCain.

At the same time, the Australian also rehashes an article from the Weekly Standard by William Da NeoKon Kristol; it’s not in the online edition, but can be found at source:

A spectre is haunting the liberal elites of New York and Washington–the spectre of a young, attractive, unapologetic conservatism, rising out of the American countryside, free of the taint (fair or unfair) of the Bush administration and the recent Republican Congress, able to invigorate a McCain administration and to govern beyond it.

That spectre has a name–Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old governor of Alaska chosen by John McCain on Friday to be his running mate…

I begin to suspect the fiction involved here is that McCain picked her; I suspect he hardly knows her.**

An older article in the Australian is worth visiting: Carl Ungerer on May 27, 2008.

THE US presidential campaign may seem like half a world away but it will have real consequences for the future of Australian foreign policy and our national security interests.

The next president, Democrat or Republican, will want to make a decisive break from the policies of the Bush administration, especially the quagmire in Iraq. The age of imperial hubris is over.

Each of the candidates, John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, has pledged less unilateralism and more consultation with allies. But how much more? On what issues? And what does this mean for Australian foreign and security policy settings?…

McCain’s Machiavellis: An eclectic mix of old-fashioned conservatives with some hard-headed realists. The team is led by Randy Scheunemann, a long-serving Republican staffer and former adviser to Senate leaders Trent Lott and Bob Dole.

Among the rest of team are some interesting and contradictory voices: the father of realist foreign policy, Henry Kissinger, and the two architects of the neo-conservative revolution under George W. Bush, William Kristol and Robert Kagan.

This has led some commentators to suggest that McCain’s foreign policy would be confused at best and possibly schizophrenic. The campaign also lists Richard Armitage as an adviser. This is the only bit of good news. Armitage is a long-time friend of Australia, has made many visits here and is close to the Rudd Government.

McCain’s team will be bullish on Iraq and demand a robust set of policies towards Iran, including support for military action to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The global war on terrorism will be a dominant focus of the US, and Australia will be expected to do more, both regionally and internationally, in the fight against al-Qa’ida…

Kristol and Kagan would appear to be in the ascendant right now. That, people, is a real worry.

…John McCain chose this woman to be his running mate after a 5 minute meeting with no vetting. Was that a responsible choice to make? John McCain chose not to delegate any responsibility over the VP selection process to someone responsible. Is that the act of a president? And John McCain has put Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency with no thought and no responsibility…

Note: 8 September

On the Palin letter referred to in the thread below, see Snopes.com.

 
32 Comments

Posted by on August 31, 2008 in America, USA, weirdness

 

NTDTV Chinese International Photography Competition

As noted in an update to an earlier post on Floating Life, yesterday M and I completed his submissions to the NTDTV Chinese International Photography Competition. Here are thumbnails of some of the twelve submissions; they do not lead to larger copies.

 view5thumb   view4thumb

 portrait2thumb      architecture3thumb     

  humanity4thumb

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2008 in creativity, M, personal

 

A purely personal post which may interest The Rabbit…

…if no-one else.

Not being like old Misery-guts who runs a deeply earnest Blog of Gloom which I am no longer welcome on, I am happy to post a bit of fluff from time to time, if only to assert my humanity… 😉

Yes, there I was passing the Juice & Java a moment ago when a very fit and slimmer Bulgarian bounded out to greet me. The Rabbit will recall Madam and the Bulgarian. Well, the Bulgarian has been living on the other side of Sydney’s Great Divide — the Harbour — for over four years now and is married and has a child!

How things change.

He wasn’t with Madam, but I do see her from time to time and she also seems fine.

 
 

Speech by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama | for the record

You will find the full transcript below in PDF format.

Meanwhile, check out Greg Sheridan being totally predictable in The Australian:

BARACK Obama is a fraud. But he is a very familiar kind of fraud: a politician pretending to be something he’s not. He is not the post-partisan, post-ideological seeker of a new politics and leader of a broad social movement to redeem the soul of America.

Rather, he is a brilliantly gifted, traditional, self-seeking politician who has sought for a long time to get to the top. He is also a traditional left-liberal, obsessed, at least in his public life, with race. He has built the momentum of his campaign on the most dubious basis that can exist in a democracy for garnering political support, racial identity.

But if he wins the US election in November, as he well might, he will have a chance to be a good president. The ruthlessness of his politics is the most encouraging suggestion that a desire to be re-elected will keep him near the middle ground. That Obama is such a brilliant politician is evident in the fact that he came from nowhere to win the Democratic nomination. In that he confounded all the smartest judges of American politics, whether liberal or conservative.

He certainly confounded President George W. Bush. Now it is customary in polite circles to regard Bush as a gibbering idiot or the devil incarnate. But Bush twice won the governorship of Texas and the presidency of the US, so he must know something…

Greg has long been in that conga line Mark Latham once named so memorably… 

But Greg is positively sane and reasonable compared with some of the tragics I have been reading while surfing via BlogExplosion — and so, incidentally, is Mark Latham. There is an underbelly in the US political blogosphere — so-called conservatives and that totally US species of libertarians — that go beyond appalling. Some of the stuff one reads makes even Pauline Hanson look like an Enlightenment philosopher! One would despair of the USA very quickly if that were all that is out there — or over there. But it isn’t so, thank God.

Great speech. Let’s hope one day we also see great actions, and that the USA has a chance to undo much of the dross of the past eight years…

The USA can decide if they need a change in the next few months; most of the rest of us know they do. We’re keeping our fingers crossed — Greg Sheridan excepted, of course.

Obama Speech PDF

NOTE

This post is attracting spam comments. I have this theory that some spam is targeted: is it possible, do you think?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 30, 2008 in America, current affairs, generational change, USA

 

More for Kevin and Julia to chew on…

How opportune is this! School report cards counterproductive: OECD.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced his much-vaunted education revolution this week, but an international report has warned against the kind of public reporting of school performance levels that he is proposing.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says comparing the performances of schools, their principals and teachers does not work as a way of producing better academic results.

The report, called Improving School Leadership, has been two years in the making and looks at the quality of education in 19 of the 30 countries in the OECD.

Finland, which scores highest on the international league tables, has no official school assessments but instead owes its success to a strong investment and respect for its teaching profession…

Sack the donkeys who’ve been advising you… Did you inherit them?

donkey

For more see Improving School Leadership – Volume 1: Policy and Practice, Volume 2: Case Studies on System Leadership.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, awful warnings, challenge, education, future schooling, right wing politics

 

In search of the perfect photo

While not falsifying or doctoring M’s competition pics, I have found myself having to sharpen and improve quality in some of them, being scans from film as they are. (M is now likely to get himself a digital camera, as he really does want to pursue this photography thing in the future.) Of course I can’t display the current pics here, but I did post one of the reject batch the other day, and there is another on my Facebook — visible to friends only.

I can’t afford Photoshop etc. I have been using a free open source program called PhotoFiltre, which is excellent for my usual purposes. However, I found I needed something better — or with a tool or two PhotoFiltre — it’s French, hence the spelling — lacked. Thanks to MajorGeeks (see yesterday) I found just the thing: Paint.Net. It is also free; very good — solved a problem we were having.

M has a photographer’s eye. As John Williams used to say (when he taught me) the camera is merely an instrument. The photo comes from the eye and brain of the photographer. Not everyone has that eye and brain.

When I took the final twenty to the Head of Art and Photography at The Mine for an opinion, she and I suddenly noticed something. A picture of the Iguazu Falls last year morphed in M’s eye (and camera) into a Chinese painting. Another of  Mount Everest uncannily echoed Hokusai.

hokusai_great_wave

When I mentioned this to M last night I found he hadn’t heard of Hokusai, but on showing him the famous print above juxtaposed with his image, he conceded the resemblance… He was not displeased.

None of this means M will win the competition, but he sure will be competitive!

BTW: I taught photography at Wollongong High for four years, even if over a quarter of a century ago…

UPDATE 30 August

This is the competition. Yes, Marcel, we do know… 😉 The photos are now safely in New York.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 29, 2008 in computers, creativity, M, personal

 

One and a half cheers for Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard

PM aims to teach unions a lesson – National – smh.com.au reports, among other matters on which I have no competence to comment:

KEVIN RUDD and Julia Gillard turned up the heat on the education unions yesterday with the Prime Minister telling them it was time to move into the 21st century.

But as Mr Rudd and his deputy began the hard sell of tough new measures to improve school standards, the trade unions continued to flex their muscles behind the scenes over a number of policy measures.

The Australian Education Union organised a briefing for about 40 members of caucus and staff over the school announcement in which future commonwealth funding for the states would depend on them adopting greater transparency and accountability measures for the schools system.

There is, however, more concern among the backbench over the earlier announcement this week of a trial program in which parents of truant children would have their welfare docked for up to three months…

The AEU has been hostile to Mr Rudd’s new funding conditions for schools. From next year, public and private schools would have to publicly disclose performance information.

Schools which continued to underperform after receiving additional funding of up to $500,000 a year would be expected to sack the principal or teachers, and even close or merge with another school.

Mr Rudd urged the unions and states to embrace the measures. There would be a significant boost to funding in return for agreement but the Government no longer intended to write “blank cheques”.

The Opposition leader Brendan Nelson introduced similar laws in 2004 as a condition of the last four-year funding agreement he introduced as education minister but was largely ignored by the states and unions.

“Mr Rudd has the power now to withhold money from states that have not complied with this and and the challenge for him is will he do so?” he said.

One and a half cheers for at least being serious about education, and no cheers at all for Brendan Nelson whose chest merkin (a pubic wig, for those who don’t know) ill becomes him.

But I believe Kevin and Julia should actually listen to the education unions because they just might be right this time. I have no faith at all in the bureaucratic thrust of the K&J scheme, just as a very short time ago I railed about Looking to America, but not like Julie Bishop. I suspect that K&J will create a situation where schools will be issuing report cards that bear a strong resemblance to steel production figures in China during The Great Leap Forward or in the USSR under Stalin — inventive rather than strictly factual. Why? Because money will be at stake. Even if that fear is absurd — and it may well be — I can’t help thinking that the whole scenario will subtract even more from the time that is given to actual teaching.

I am of course a back number, but I am writing from the heart — I will let you judge if it is also from the head — as one who after all recently discovered that I have been, on occasions, an actual “teacher who changes lives.” Furthermore, my approach to such issues as literacy seems to have been endorsed recently when my English/ESL blog was peer-reviewed and placed in the top 100 language blogs on the Net. That does not make me infallible, but it does make me feel my instincts about what K&J are up to may have some substance. And I am not alone. I am writing also primarily as a secondary (and occasionally tertiary) English teacher who began the game forty-two years ago. I have seen a few Education Revolutions in my time.

I endorse Don Brown of Narrabeen in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

As a former “recalcitrant” (“Rudd’s school revolution”, August 28) member of what Peter Hartcher has called a “huddling collectivist mediocrity” (“Pugilistic PM has picked a classy fight”) I wish to make a few things clear to the Prime Minister, whose election I, and many other similar recalcitrants, worked hard to bring about.

Years ago, the State Government introduced the principle that parents could elect to send their children to any public school they wished if space was available after the enrolment of local students. There was some relatively insignificant movement at the primary level. At the secondary level the most common reasons for parents not to choose the local high school were the availability of a specific subject in another high school or a decision to enrol in a private school.

Schools began a vigorous campaign to publicise their offerings, campaigns in which the media showed little interest despite some impressive performances, particularly during the participation and equity program of the federal Labor government in the 1980s.

The print media, and particularly the broadsheet media, continued to contrast the “elite” private schools with the public schools supposedly being run on Soviet lines by the above mentioned collective. The main story was the continuing drift to private schools because the public schools were “values free”. What nonsense.

Research by the Greens MP John Kaye showed that the greatest factor behind the drift was the allocation of public funding to private schools.

I would love the space to document all the flaws in Kevin Rudd’s proposal but two points will suffice. On the demand that schools provide more information, the fact is that schools have information on hand and communicate it to parents in various ways, including newsletters, parent-teacher nights and open days. Those parents who are interested can always seek an appointment with the principal or a specific teacher. In most cases this request would be welcomed.

Secondly, having taught in schools that were difficult to staff because of socio-economic disadvantage, I am very proud of their record in raising the aspirations of many students. I can cite dozens of students who were the first in their family to gain a qualification such as the School Certificate, HSC or a university degree.

These teachers are paid no more than teachers in privileged areas and frequently must travel great distances from their homes. Students owe a great debt to those teachers whose dedication and concern for their welfare made such a difference.

I also endorse Alan Young, even if while I agree in principle with his first point I think a lot of thought has to go into how it works.

Kevin Rudd’s proposal to link teacher pay to performance is long overdue, opposed only by those who would argue that what teachers do is in some way incapable of description, unlike the work of dentists, doctors, lawyers, plumbers and the rest of the workforce.

He is on more contestable grounds, however, when he proposes to link funding to results as though disadvantaged and advantaged schools operate on similar planets. Dire consequences are implied for those who don’t measure up.Some school environments have a clientele who will do well regardless of the dunces that teach them. Others will struggle despite the Messianic proclivities of staff.

Allan Young Retired principal, Strathfield

I even more strongly endorse this letter:

Never in 32 years as a professional educator have I felt so abandoned. If there is a problem in a school, Kevin Rudd says sack the principal and the teachers. He does not say give them adequate resources and smaller class sizes. He does not say provide support to deal with a broad range of challenging students. He does not say that if teachers need more skills, he will provide the funds.

Why won’t he and the rest of the politicians forget the populist claptrap and provide appropriate funding? Why won’t he work with us and not against us? If he and the others don’t, the standard of education must, as a result of their policies, decline.

Patrick FitzGerald Deputy principal, Young High School

Listen up, Kevin and Julia, lest your Education Revolution morphs into Education Reaction.

I am a back number, as I said, but I know there are those out there still — or about to be out there — who have the capacity and will to deliver the best to our present and future students. No matter what I may have said about or to The Rabbit at times, I am confident he is a fine English teacher with a great future; his love for the subject is unquestioned, and the progress he is making professionally is very pleasing to this old stager. Similarly, I am sure Thomas will deliver in spades in the future. And that’s just two I know about… Aluminium, too, in another sphere — and sometimes battling in a rather strange environment — knows what good English teaching is and what students need. My visit to The Mine the day before yesterday — I ran M’s pics by the Head of Art and Photography there — revealed a first-rate band of English teachers hard at work.

You may note this entry — and some other recent ones on this subject — are tagged “right wing politics.” Sadly, it is not inappropriate…

NOTE

…in a classic Freudian typo I posted this first as “One and a half cheers for Kevin Rudd and Julia Bishop”! What was I thinking?