Listened Should we attempt to escape from “politics”? from ABC Radio National

“Politics” is, it seems, inescapable. Christos Tsiolkas joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss whether we should preserve ways — in literature, in art, in comedy, in sport — to escape the limits of political conflict.

An interesting conversation about the challenges of discussing politics. I was really interested in Christos Tsiolkas distinction between the idea and the author when talking about Uwe Telkamp’s The Tower. This reminds me of John Naughton’s discussion of Simone Beauvoir:

As Gornick implies, the passage of time, and posthumous revelations, has taken the shine off the image of Beauvoir and her accomplice in literary celebrity, Jean-Paul Sartre. Subsequent biographies have revealed that they both sometimes behaved abominably towards other people. I guess it leaves those of us who, as impressionable students, were dazzled by them, looking naive. So what? Everybody was young and foolish once. And whatever one thinks about its author with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, The Second Sex was a genuinely pathbreaking book.

Bookmarked TISM announce two new releases and reissue campaign (Double J)

TISM have today announced the reissue of their catalogue on CD and vinyl, in news that will delight the many thousands of people who still so sorely miss this incredible Australian band.

TISM back, a breath of fresh air with ‘The Right Wing Guide to Pleasuring

Tim Smith, Victorian Liberal member for the sexually adventurous suburb of Kew, has certainly seen it all. From his birthplace of Camberwell, in the inner east of Melbourne, he has now, years later, successfully travelled the long and risky four kilometres to his High Street electoral office. Educated at Scotch College, Rugby School, and Melbourne University, Tim has experienced the whole range of social experience, right through from lawyer to orthodontist.

After a strangely garbled start to our discussion, in which he insisted his bill to change the spelling of his electorate to “Q” had no relation to conspiracy theories, he explained the basis of all good love-making: “Probably the most harmful effect of the disastrous coronavirus pandemic – besides the interruption to my golf days – has been the growth of weird fringe theories like ‘sacrificing for the common good’. Frankly, I’d never heard the phrase. When Tim Wilson showed me some filthy websites explaining the idea I was aghast.

Liked Liberalism and Its Discontents by an authoran author ([object Object])

Liberalism’s present-day crisis is not new; since its invention in the 17th century, liberalism has been repeatedly challenged by thick communitarians on the right and progressive egalitarians on the left. Liberalism properly understood is perfectly compatible with communitarian impulses and has been the basis for the flourishing of deep and diverse forms of civil society. It is also compatible with the social justice aims of progressives: One of its greatest achievements was the creation of modern redistributive welfare states in the late 20th century. Liberalism’s problem is that it works slowly through deliberation and compromise, and never achieves its communal or social justice goals as completely as their advocates would like. But it is hard to see how the discarding of liberal values is going to lead to anything in the long term other than increasing social conflict and ultimately a return to violence as a means of resolving differences.

Bookmarked Can a Budget shaped by male leaders hope to deliver for the women hit hardest by this recession? by Annabel Crabb ([object Object])

Indeed. Just like men work in the arts and at universities, and in child care centres and in tourism and health services.

But the gender trends in this Budget are very clear. To argue otherwise is not credible.

Annabel Crabb unpacks the budget and the impact on feminised work.
Bookmarked What WikiLeaks tells us about America, and American journalism by Harry Stopes (Columbia Journalism Review)

It is a deep and bizarre irony that Julian Assange shared this much with the editors of the New York Times. Information may, sometimes, bring people to the streets or to the ballot box; but the real change depends on what they do after that.

Harry Stopes reflects on working with Andrew O’Hagan in the attempt to write Julian Assange’s personal memoir. After Assange withdrew from the project, Stopes and O’Hagan were left to reverse engineer his life.

Instead of psychoanalyzing Assange and extrapolating WikiLeaks from it, I wanted to identify the principles that underlie it.

At first it was felt that Assange belonged on the left. However, rather than leading to discussions of class consciousness, everything for Assange was about the flow of inroamtion.

His belief in the importance of information went deeper: the way that systems work, the way that governments work, could only be understood with reference to the exchange, the flow, and the concealment of information as a whole.

Politically, Assange and Wikileaks can therefore be understood as a conspiracy theory where there is no agency to change.

We might also call Assange a conspiracy theorist. That’s not to say that there is anything untrue in the material he has published (though he has been shamefully willing to feed false narratives about the death of Seth Rich). Rather, to connect Assange to conspiracy is to comment on how he sees politics. Conspiracy thinking emerges in a mind that feels it has no agency to change anything or do anything, other than simply to reveal. It is a product of political stasis, and of the conviction—drummed into one’s head, again and again, by an incessant media—that there is no alternative. It is, as Matt Christman of the podcast Chapo Trap House puts it, “a spontaneous attempt to make sense of the world in the absence of class consciousness.”

In the end, such an approach focuses on joining the dots, with little attention of what happens next.

If the structure of society is not up for debate, there is no place for structural critiques. All that matters is assembling chunks of information that might change the surface appearance, debunk a health plan here, reveal an air strike there. Far too little attention has been paid to what happens next when the discussion is done.

As a side note, this all had me wondering about who I would want as a ghost writer for my own personal memoir?

Listened Weird Al Moderates Trump Vs. Biden Debate In “We’re All Doomed” Remix from Stereogum

The actual debate itself was already enough of a joke, but now Weird Al Yankovic has once again teamed up with viral Auto-Tunesmiths the Gregory Brothers to turn it into an even bigger joke.

For a useful background to Weird Al’s long lasting legacy, read this write-up in The New York Times.
Replied to Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Day in Trump’s America ( )

The two Tom the Dancing Bug books, Tom the Dancing Bug: Into the Trumpverse, and The Super-Fun-Pak Comix Reader, are now available. Information about the books, including how to order, and special offers here.

I love how this Richard Scarry image is able to capture so much.
Liked Throw Another Chair Leg On The Fire, We’re In A Recession by

Mr Abbott also shared some thoughts on what he termed a “health dictatorship” being run by the Victorian Government, which he argues is needlessly prioritising the life of the elderly over freedom, viz: “Every life is precious and every death is sad, but that’s never stopped families sometimes electing to make elderly relatives as comfortable as possible while nature takes its course,” he told the committee.

Replied to Thursday 13 August, 2020 ( )

It’s too soon to count Trump out
Despite Biden’s apparently impressive lead in the polls at the moment.

Nate Silver has a cautionary note on his site today.

John, I really like your point:

Personally, I won’t believe that Trump has been defeated until the Marines drag him out of the White House on January 20th.

Mistakes are made, even in politics. Sometimes it is what we learn from such situations. However, it seems that it is easier to turn to the blame game. At the moment the heat is being applied to Daniel Andrews in response to hotel quarantine and Victoria’s second wave. However, on the flip side the federal government have their part to play with the issues around aged care.

This all leaves me thinking about Venkatesh Rao’s Internet of Beefs.

Replied to Victoria: An Online Form Guide ( )

The nation divided into two classes of person this week: people in Victoria, and people horrifiedly observing what’s going on in Victoria.

A curfew and declaration of a state of disaster, together with Stage 4 lockdown and Stage 11 Online Form Madness, is what Melbourne encountered this week.

Thank you Annabel for reminding me so clearly about the confusing state of affairs we are caught in with such clarity.
Bookmarked 'Reality Pedagogy' Is Teaching as a Form of Protest by Christopher Emdin (The Atlantic)

The best teachers don’t just keep teaching. Instead, they use their pedagogy as protest: They disrupt teaching norms that harm vulnerable students. In my years in the classroom since 2001, I’ve learned something about how to do this. I call it reality pedagogy, because it’s about reaching students where they really are, making sure that their lives and backgrounds are reflected in the curriculum and in classroom conversations.

Christopher Emdin discusses the importance of pedagogy as a response to the world around us. In particular, he reflects on the idea of ‘reality pedagogy‘:

Reality pedagogy involves connecting academic content to events happening in the world that affect students. The curriculum can weave in specific references to the neighborhoods where young people are from, inequities that they and their families are hurt by, and protests in the community.

This has me thinking about how this differs from inquiry learning or if that is a form of ‘reality pedagogy’? I kind of wonder if this was the hope and intent associated with Modern Learners Canvas in that the focus is not the named practice or pedagogy, but actually unpacking what that pedagogy actually is.

Liked Dave Grohl: Teachers Deserve a Better Plan by Dave Grohl (The Atlantic)

Every teacher has a “plan.” Don’t they deserve one too? My mother had to come up with three separate lesson plans every single day (public speaking, AP English, and English 10), because that’s what teachers do: They provide you with the necessary tools to survive. Who is providing them with a set of their own? America’s teachers are caught in a trap, set by indecisive and conflicting sectors of failed leadership that have never been in their position and can’t possibly relate to the unique challenges they face. I wouldn’t trust the U.S. secretary of percussion to tell me how to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” if they had never sat behind a drum set, so why should any teacher trust Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to tell them how to teach, without her ever having sat at the head of a class? (Maybe she should switch to the drums.) Until you have spent countless days in a classroom devoting your time and energy to becoming that lifelong mentor to generations of otherwise disengaged students, you must listen to those who have. Teachers want to teach, not die, and we should support and protect them like the national treasures that they are. For without them, where would we be?

May we show these tireless altruists a little altruism in return. I would for my favorite teacher. Wouldn’t you?

Liked Nothing Can Justify the Attack on Portland (The Atlantic)

The message is as simple as it is ugly: The caravan isn’t just coming north through Mexico. It is already here—in the efforts to take down statues, in the protests, in the pockets of disorder in American urban areas and in the gatherings of people exercising their First Amendment rights to object to police misconduct. The caravan, in fact, is the city. And only Trump can protect you from it—whether it is what you see when you look south or what you see when you look downtown.

Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to be working. Last night in Portland, as happened last month in Washington, D.C., peaceful protests only grew in response to the federal show of force. If Trump follows through on his promise to export the federal muscle to other cities, the anonymous agents may be met with more large crowds defying Trump’s efforts at vilification and coercion.

Bookmarked The strange feeling I have when I watch Daniel Andrews by Monica Dux

There’s so little to celebrate or feel positive about in this pandemic. But one thing it has given me – something Andrews has given me – is a brief reprieve from the crushing scepticism I usually feel every time I hear a politician speak. And I’m going to keep enjoying that reprieve, at least for the moment. After all, mistakes are inevitable. Honesty is not.

Other than being clearer in regards to the hotel fiasco (which it would seem is legal more than anything else), I have no issue with how Andrews has responded to the pandemic. Not Chairman to me.
Liked Islamic State never needed a caliphate to keep menacing the world. Now it’s regrouping

There are also concerns about thousands of IS families — including Australian women and children — held in neighbouring Syria.

Tens of thousands of fighters’ family members remain in camps, with foreign governments, including Australia’s, reluctant to take their citizens back.

A recent military offensive by Turkey against their Kurdish captors, and the withdrawal of aid groups because of coronavirus, have made it more difficult to maintain these centres.

That has raised fears Islamic State may be able to bolster its numbers by staging mass breakouts, a tactic it previously used in Iraq.

Preventing the group from holding territory is critically important in stopping the Islamic State from becoming a global threat again, according to Michael Knights.

“If they are ignored, eventually Islamic State will regain the ability first to bomb Iraqi cities, and later to draw in volunteers from Western countries, and then to send them back again as attack operatives,” he said.

“If we want to prevent that from happening again, then we need to prevent the Islamic State from controlling even the smallest territories in Iraq and Syria.”

Listened Military spending rises as disarmament treaties falter from

Australia’s decision to increase defence spending is hardly unique. Global military expenditure in 2019 reached a new high at US$1.9 trillion. Experts warn of an increased risk of military miscalculation.

Just as concerning, they say, has been the breakdown of traditional arms reduction and containment treaties. The biggest of them NewSTART is due for renewal early next year, but there are concerns a second term for President Trump could derail the agreement.


Dr Nan Tian – Senior Researcher, Arms Control and Expenditure Programme, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Associate Professor Marianne Hanson – Specialist in arms control and disarmament, School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland

Professor Toby Walsh – Artificial Intelligence researcher and spokesperson for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

Associate Professor Sarah Percy – Deputy Head, School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland

I am not sure how to make sense of the sort of funds associated with the military, especially in light of Mark Humphries’ Heat Seeker program. Also, a little disconcerting to think about the idea of an unmanned nuclear submarine cruising around.