F is for Wryday (107)

November 8, 2012

OK, it’s weird. I know. I just love watching the Americans do their own peculiar form of democracy. But this is Wryday and our ABC has come to the party:

See more in US election memes: the best and funniest of the internet. As a bonus it might help you understand what a bleeping meme is.


F is for Wryday (101)

August 17, 2012

The reason for this Wryday entry may not be immediately obvious, after all it’s a eulogy and it’s a politician. And while my liking for Malcolm Turnbull declined rapidly when he joined the ranks of the anti-Republicans, he’s certainly a much more impressive figure than his current leader.

Mind you, this speech certainly has some amusing moments, as eulogy’s are wont to do, and so I guess it takes its place worthily for that, but I found one small section particularly amusing.

The subject of Malcolm’s fine words were his recently deceased brother-in-law, Robert Hughes. At about the 10 minute mark …

‘I think he had a swipe at you’ [Looking at Tony Abbott]

Quick off the blocks, Tony replied, ‘He missed’.

Even quicker (and more effective IMHO), Malcom swathes, ‘What a loss for the nation would it have been if he’d have connected’.

It may be my imagination, fueled by my own bias, but Abbott’s look … well, maybe it was my imagination.


F is for Wryday (86)

March 16, 2012

OK this is one of those I’m-not-sure-it’s-funny Wrydays, but it does ‘smack my Gob’. This is Sarah Palin — unkindly dubbed by some as the ‘Caribou Barbie’ — telling Fox News what Obama (son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Wichita, Kansas) is taking the US back to pre-Civil War days. She seems to enter a trance-like state hoping, I assume, to fool the viewer into believing she makes sense.

I take some comfort knowing she’s not actually running for POTUS, but then there is the slight possibility of a Brokered Convention but that’s not suitable imaginings for a Wryday.


F is for Wryday (80)

January 26, 2012

It’s that time again … that time when I become somwhat of a US election groupie. Not in the sense that Antony Green is a groupie … all stats and predictions and trends and stuff … no, more in awe of such an outrageous process spiced with fervent nationalism and righteous indignation and, even by politician’s standards, appalling amusing hypocrisy.

Newt Gingrich has reached such new heights in this regard that only a comedian can come close to making … er … sense of it: The Gingrich Who Stole South Carolina.

PS: I saw this video a few days ago and since then it has been steadily removed for copyright reasons, hopefully the link above will last. If not … well … the laugh will be on me.


Moral credibility

May 15, 2011

For weeks now I’ve been following the saga of Bishop Morris’ offer-you-can’t-refuse ‘retirement’.

Most of the action has been on Catholica — well the ‘action’ that interests me anyhow! — but there’s been a buzz all around the web sphere especially here in Australia, but also internationally.

In fact, my attempts to discuss the matter on Sentire have lead me to the view that my interaction with that ‘place’ is too negative and a waste of time. While I imposed a similar self-exile from CathPews, in Sentire’s defence, I think its host is much more open to an alternative point of view than any other ‘orthodox’ web site I’ve come across. At some stage — often far too long in my case — you have to ‘shake the dust off your sandals’.

Back to +Morris. There’s much that has been written about the situation and circumstances of his demise. Much of it is fuelled by genuine anger at how a good man could be white-anted then shown the door and much has also been fuelled by a pre-existing hostility to ‘Rome’ in the wake of other issues, particularly the way it ‘handled’ clerical child abuse.

So, for the record, here are some more dispassionate observations from Andrew Hamilton’s Eurkea Street article Trust at stake in Toowoomba:

All governance relies on a passive trust on the part of the people if it is to function well. If trust is not given, laws will not be obeyed. When trust is withdrawn, societies stagnate because they lack any sense of the common good. They become polarised, and governments often rule by repression. The officials responsible for day to day governance become demoralised and unenthusiastic.

In Eastern Europe, and now in the Middle East, apparently impregnable regimes can be brought down because trust is lacking.

Traditionally, institutions have encouraged trust by depicting their rulers as strong and benign and as guided by the best of values. But these images, and the trust they engender, have been put under pressure by the development of communication technologies and the lack of control over them. Images have become personalised.

The treatment of Bishop Bill Morris risks further blurring the image of the Catholic Church. The story told of a good man who encouraged his church, who was resolute in dealing with sexual abuse, but was removed in an untransparent process, will confirm many in their distrust of the Catholic Church. They wlll conclude that it has taken the authoritarian option.

I think this erosion of trust — or what I call moral credibility — is something that can’t be measured with surveys, but I suspect it is something that has contributed to the precipitous decline in the church in the west. Unlike people living under oppressive political regimes who eventually find the courage to ‘go out onto the streets’, Catholics just leave and that’s what they’ve been doing in droves in the last few decades.

The Pope doesn’t rule a tribe or a country where it’s members feel that their membership is fundamental to self-identify. Arguably it used to be like that, but now more than ever issues of trust are the most important way the church holds onto its membership.

In two huge issues of trust — the abuse crisis and now the church’s own internal process of justice — the best secular processes are better than the Church’s. There are no ‘streets’ to go out on to in the Catholic Church and people will just not put up with a church that says one thing and does another. According to some in the church, the secular world may be going to hell in a handbasket but it sure as hell recognises hypocrisy when it sees it. The erosion of moral credibility over many years though, has meant that very few people know or care.


Quietly removed?

March 2, 2011

Kudos to my old mate Jules for pointing out that Catholica no longer appears on the Bishop’s list of links.

Frankly I’m surprised that it ever did.

Mind you, if you do a search on the site it will still come up with references to Catholica and it even points to where the link was before. Damn! The internet is so uncooperative when it comes to the ‘limiting’ of information!

In the string, Jules goes on to helpfully point out that Brian Coyne is fairly philosophical about it:

Thanks for that Cliffy. I wasn’t aware of it. I cannot say that I am surprised in the least. We have been barred from mention in most diocesan newspapers virtually since we started and on CathNews for ages.

I take it as a sign that they see us as something to be afraid of. I’m not going to fall over myself to ring Brian Lucas and ask why the link was taken off. I don’t expect we’d have been gettin a large amount of traffic from any of those sources anyway. It does not bother me in the slightest.

Jules then goes on to give advice to ‘the delusional’ which is as unedifying as it is ironic.

Speaking of irony, if having a link on the Bishop’s site is some sort of measure of ‘True Catholicity’ as Jules clearly implies, where does is that leave the website Jules administers?

Sometimes schadenfreude can come back to bite you!

On the more general question, The Vatican can implore leaders in the Middle East to become more democratic and open, but there is a growing sense that it is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ message.

In the meantime, Catholica continues to grow.


Where to now?

August 23, 2010

Many in the commentariate, in the blogshere and around the proverbial office water cooler are asking ‘Where to now?’ in terms of the weekend’s events.

But minority governments are not that unusual in the world, or indeed, in Australia. Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia have all had recent experience of minority governments and the heavens didn’t fall in.

My instinct is that Julia Gillard is the best placed to form a government, but things could change by the day (if not by the hour!).

The Poll Bludger (on Crikey) has a different view:

One imagines the independents’ most pressing concern would be the deep conservatism of the electorates; however, Labor has in its hand the prospect of Labor-Greens Senate majority that would complicate any Coalition claim to offer the greater stability. If a minority Coalition government eventuated – and this intuitively seems the most likely outcome – it would presumably be keep to set up some double dissolution triggers with an eye to another election about 18 months down the track

One thing you really sensed about this election was that people were really sick of it — a pox on all their houses, as it were — and a double-dissolution trigger would have to be really compelling to overcome that cynicism even in 18 months which, admittedly, is a long time in politics.

Meanwhile, if anyone is qualified to comment on how the role of a minor party can change when they get some real power, it’s Natasha Stott Despoja. Some extracts from The heat will be on in the Green house:

The Greens have achieved unprecedented success in this election. They will have nine Senate seats from July next year and have won their first House of Representatives seat in a federal election.

No other minor party has achieved this …

… Potentially, this result is thrilling for progressive politics and for those who believe in multiparty democracy. But many voters – including those who voted Green – are wondering if the Greens are ready for power or just for protest …

… Crossbench senators have to get their hands dirty with the nitty-gritty of legislating, committee work, meetings, negotiations and compromise (although not on values).

It is an exciting opportunity and, judging by the look on Brown’s face, one that he’s been waiting a long time for.

Despite attempts by some shock jocks to spook voters about the Greens’ policies (closing down zoos or reintroducing death taxes), it is more likely the Greens – with Senator Nick Xenophon – will provide an important check on executive power.

Given the workload and resources, it may not always be easy being Green in the next Parliament.

In short? Interesting times …


F is for Wryday (22)

August 19, 2010

Even though Australia is nearing the end of a very close-fought election campaign and even though I’ve followed it closely, I’ve resisted posting anything directly related to the campaign here.

But I have succomed to temptation … in a Wryday sort of way.

On the ABC’s Gruen Nation recently the topic was the art of making a good candidate ad for an election and this gem was the earliest example they could find:

As amusing as this is — don’t you just love his son? — Mr Sampson has an excuse. He was an innovator in a new form of political advertising. But what of ‘Bay-zeel’ (Basil) Marceaux, running for Governor of Tennessee?

Basil may have been nervous or he may even have had a little ‘dutch courage’ to get him through but, bad as this is, it’s not a one-off. What are you thinking Baz?!


Only in America — a follow up

August 6, 2010

A follow up to yesterday’s story on the ‘Ground Zero’ community centre in the NCR:

Ground Zero mosque: Catholics have seen this before
by Suzanne Morse on Aug. 05, 2010

A few years ago, I visited an exhibit on Catholics in New York put on by the Museum of the City of New York. It was a fascinating look at Catholic culture in an urban setting and the ethnic communities that were shaped by it, particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For a person with two Italian Catholic grandparents and one Irish Catholic grandmother, it was interesting to understand how far we’ve come.

I was jolted to see the opening elements of the exhibit include accounts of the burning of an Ursuline convent in Charlestown, Mass., in 1834 by Yankee Protestant laborers paired with writings by American inventor Samuel F.B. Morse, who was, among other things, a leader in anti-Catholic attitudes in the 19th century. I wasn’t surprised to see Morse’s anti-Catholic virulence on display — I became aware of it a long time ago and that’s a part of my heritage, too (I am indirectly related to Morse through my father). Still, it was a reminder that, not so very long ago, it was Catholics who were considered a threat to the American way of life.

You can read about the events and context that led to the Ursuline Convent riots at the massmoments.org Web site.

All of this has come to mind recently because of the ginned up controversy around the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” which is, in fact, a proposal to expand the Cordoba House community center, which has been operating in the Lower Manhattan area for several decades. Elements on the Right have twisted the proposed expansion of the center, a few blocks away from the Ground Zero site, into a larger threat of “invasion” from Muslims. This is not restricted to just New York. Similar efforts to stop mosques from being constructed here in Boston and in other parts of the country have taken place, usually with opponents invoking fears of terrorism and shadowy ties to terrorist groups.

One of the most vocal opponents has been former Speaker of the House and Catholic convert Newt Gingrich, who recently announced that he would fight any effort to impose sharia law in the United States, despite the fact that it would be impossible for sharia law to have any validity under our First Amendment.

I wonder, though, if Gingrich would be so sanguine about these efforts to demonize Muslims if his family’s heritage included the kinds of struggles that most Catholics experienced when first coming to this country? When it comes to promoting the key American value of religious tolerance, Gingrich seems to be acting in the tradition of those 19th century Protestant “Know Nothings,” who sought to use faith to provoke fear and division, and not in the Catholic tradition of Pope John Paul II, for instance, who worked hard to promote interfaith understanding.


Only in America?

August 5, 2010

The phrase ‘Only in America’ is often derisive, but in this post it’s more in admiration.

Often in programs from the States — even comedies or satires — there’s a part given over to nationalist fervor where even a hint of a mention of ‘The Constitution’ brings forth misty eyes and starry eyed gazes into the free future.

When you go there — as I was lucky enough to do a couple of years back — you know it’s not all put on for show. There are more front yards with flag poles and more nationalistic bumper stickers and more passionate political arguments than you’ll ever come across here.

Recently I stumbled on a great example of this — perhaps understated by US standards — where NYC Mayor Bloomberg defended a proposed Islamic community centre to be built near ‘ground zero’.

In his song ‘Democracy‘, Leonard Cohen says that democracy is, ‘… coming to America first, the cradle of the best and of the worst …’

This is ‘best’, I think:


Click on the image to see the video. It goes for about 20mins and while I think it is worth persevering with, Bloomberg’s address takes up the first 5mins or so.