We Hate People Episode 15: The Well Hung Referendum

logo-withtagline-blogsize300x300As thought leaders in the civilised world, we take on the big historical events this week.

The Show Notes

– Brexit: is it the end of the world as we now it and why does David feel fine?
– Australian election predictions
– Game of Thrones (does contain spoilers but you’ll get a warning)

Don’t forget we’d love your feedback via the website, Twitter or Facebook.

You can find out how to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Google Play Music or Stitcher here. We also publish the podcasts on YouTube.

If you like this podcast you may also enjoy our gaming podcast: Flash Point

We Hate People Episode 7: We Are Tight But Whole

logo-withtagline-blogsize300x300We jump feet first into the issue of entitlement this episode. Whether it’s politicians or the rest of us, we have some gripes on the issue. Also – apologies for the sound quality tonight, we’ve tried to minimise the issue as much as possible.

The Show Notes

– Shout out to It’s A Trap Podcast
– Shout out to listener JB (damn those stools) and Jayconnell (bitching about one’s job instead of doing it)
– Politician entitlements
– Vinyl craze about to make way for cassettes? (and here’s Meco)
Marvel’s 1872 title is great
– iTunes is a toxic hellstew
– 1000 rockers and the Foo Fighters (link)

Don’t forget we’d love your feedback via the website, Twitter or Facebook.

This episode is thanks to our sponsor, the excellent MMO ArcheAge

If you like this podcast you may enjoy our gaming podcast: Flash Point

Pluto is Proof Renewables Don’t Work: Abbott

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott used the historical fly-by of Pluto to emphasise the lack of efficacy of renewable energy.

“Whilst congratulating the scientisty space people who sent the nuclear-powered spaceship all the way to Pluto, I do note that the photos we’ve seen so far make for interesting viewing,” Mr Abbott said.

The Government is claiming the photos prove that Pluto has progressed quite nicely as a planet without ugly wind farms or over-priced solar panels.

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Pluto: tobogganing, wind-farm free paradise

“What you see there is a midget planet that’s got some of the most well developed snow fields ever seen, without the need for huge government investment in clean energy.”

When pressed, Abbott refused to confirm who had supplied his briefing on the Pluto mission but did elaborate on one of the key points.

“What stood out for me most of all is this: not one scrap of renewable energy has been installed on Pluto, yet there’s still no issue with significant climate change. Those in the climate change lobbying industry such as the CSIRO need to take a hard look at themselves and maybe start learning from the example Pluto has set.”

The Snark is The Creative Shed’s Satire News Section. 100% of it is satire and in no way resembles reality. Reality is way sillier than this stuff. Follow The Snark on Facebook and Twitter

Shopping Channel Host Confident of Bringing Abbott To Account

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The Abbott Government’s tumultuous 2014 looks set to continue, with a hardened TV personality determined to pull off the interview of the year.

Gabe Newsome is a freelance presenter on a number of TV shopping channels. He lists his specialties as covering fitness equipment features presentation and kitchen food processor showcasing, but he’d determined to try something a little different before the year is out.

Gabe Newsome: political interviewer on the rise?

Gabe Newsome: political interviewer on the rise?

“I’d assumed that only political journos like Leigh Sales and Peter van Onselen got to do the hard-hitting interviews with our Prime Minister. I saw Karl Stefanovic’s evisceration of Tony Abbott and I was impressed, but I still wrote it off as a one-off fluke by a lightweight TV presenter.”

A seed of an idea had been planted for Newsome as he worked through a hectic week of preparing his next week’s presentations on the Flab Dabbler XL and Veggies to Wedges in 5 Steps Training Program.

“I was practicing my appliance pointing gestures at home before I went into the studio, when the TV caught my attention. It was Kochie on Sunrise, and he had Tony Abbott on. I consider Kochie as a guy who’s on my level as far as gravitas and credibility goes – I mean, he’s the guy who will get in an animal suit and hang his arse out the back of it for a laugh. So when he tore strips off the PM this morning, I knew what needed to come next.”

Newsome has since issued a challenge to Tony Abbott to appear on a future Innovations in Slicing and Dicing segment.

“I’ll be respectful but firm with Mr Abbott, but I can’t vouch for my dicing assistant Neryl. She’s already asked me whether there’ll be time for a question she wants to ask on the impact of the free trade agreements on trans-pacific currency flow speculators. I hope Mr Abbott is prepared.”

The Snark is The Creative Shed’s Satire News Section. 100% of it is satire and in no way resembles reality. Reality is way sillier than this stuff. Follow The Snark on Facebook and Twitter

Review: Diary of a Foreign Minister by Bob Carr

bob-carrEveryone has their mental picture of Bob Carr. For me he was the animated Premier with the great speaking voice (a strength Mr Carr acknowledges repeatedly throughout the book). For others he was the guy who looked like Ginger Meggs’ dad. For anyone, he should be at least acknowledged as one of the most significant ALP figures of the past forty years. And it’s from that perspective that Diary of a Foreign Minister is written.

This doesn’t mean it’s an egotistical perspective – although some in the mainstream media have painted it that way. It’s more that Mr Carr has a highly developed self-awareness of his place within the ALP and the then Government – and that he sees that place as involving a full and frank account of his time as Foreign Minister. That account covers a huge range of issues, which for sake of simplicity I’ll split it into three main areas: foreign affairs, domestic politics and personal observations.

Foreign Affairs

Even a more casual observer of politics tends to know Bob Carr had always had an ambition to be Foreign Minister, which he’d put aside when called to lead the ALP in Opposition in 1988. When he was parachuted into Mark Arbib’s casual Senate vacancy, the realisation of that ambition was understandably savoured by Carr. That said, his initial learning curve and fear of a misstep are documented clearly – again someone aware of their stature but not assuming that it’s enough to get through those first few months.

The starkest image to come out of this book is the relentless pace the role of Foreign Minister involves. It’s difficult to gauge if Carr was travelling at the level expected as Minister or whether he had stepped the pace up a notch given his awareness of how brief his role was likely to be given the ALP’s electoral fortunes. Either way, it’s revelatory as to how a person tries to perform optimally within some of the timetables discussed in the book. If he’s stayed honest as a diarist, it appears Carr does perform and covers the gamut of issues presented to the “Foreign Ministers Club” that he enjoyed being a member of so thoroughly. Whether it’s China – US relations, the emergence of Myanmar from an era of secrecy and sanctions, the relationship with Indonesia, or making progress in the Middle East, there’s detailed insights into current thinking internationally and a nuanced approach to each issue as it arises. There’s plenty of sources cited directly, which provides some further meat to the narrative.

For Carr, the variety of policy challenges to tackle is savoured, and he’s also surprised at what turns out to be one of his biggest foreign policy passions in the job – and it’s not any of the ones mentioned in this review. One of many interesting themes throughout is that of relationships and their importance. As you’d expect, the rapport built with Ministers from other countries, ambassadors, NGOs and key interest groups are critical to dealing with new challenges. Carr repeatedly illustrates how regular contact with his contemporaries on the foreign policy playing field delivered results. One specific point worth mentioning here: Carr’s mentions of the ‘Melbourne-based Israel lobby’ that received so much attention on the book’s release, are marginal and primarily used as a contrast on wider opinions about settlements and Palestinian status in the Middle East.

Domestic Politics

The book covers the last fourteen months of Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership and the dozen or so weeks of Kevin Rudd’s return. As you’d expect from a diary with a focus predominantly on the world stage, Carr paints a picture of himself as senior ALP statesmen floating above the majority of the leadership tensions and day-to-day grind of party machinations. There are regular interactions with Sam Dastyari from the party machine, and less frequent meetings with key Rudd agitators, but it’s all portrayed as a frustrating process taking away from precious time in achieving goals in the job itself.

What’s more interesting is Carr’s relationship with both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. Nearly all the interactions mentioned are in context of foreign policy, and in the case of both Prime Ministers it appears Carr perceived a decent working relationship albeit with a number of respective frustrations. He’s measured in his criticisms of both individuals but they’re still forcefully put and you’d be a little naïve to think that there weren’t deeper concerns that haven’t made the book. There’s a handful of mentions of how better judgement calls may have been made by Carr if he’d been sitting in the PM’s chair. Given the history of the ALP over the past five years or so, it’s a claim that’d be hard to refute.

Carr’s relationship with the ALP is painted very much in context of the stump speaker still engaged with branches, with much more reluctant interactions with the ALP machine. There’s some understandable self-interest in that portrayal in a book designed for general consumption, as every politician lives or dies by the public’s judgement on their accessibility. I have some doubts that the ratio of local campaigning versus internal party discussions would be the same if it were a diary written for a select few. That said, it’s still one of the most forthright discussions on the internal workings of the ALP I’ve seen from a political diarist, particularly given the focus of the book is on the Foreign Minister role.

Personal Observations

Any diary or political memoir needs to illustrate the personality of the subject as much as the outcomes of their endeavours, and in this regard the book deserves acclaim. Sure, a non-smoking happily married man with an obsession about keeping healthy eliminates a lot of the awkward disclosures that other politicians might agonise over when debating what makes the cut or not. Even so, we get a well fleshed out view of Mr Carr’s passions for food, culture and friends.

The mentions of exercise routines and the seeking of ‘edible’ food are constant companions throughout, but not to the extent of being irritating. There’s certainly some scathing criticisms of the Australian Parliament House (its food, design, social amenity and location) and no shortage of biting comments on a range of accommodation, bureaucrats and functions. It’s done in a way that mostly avoids coming across as prepossessed and provides some humour as well.

The most interesting section of personal observations not surprisingly falls around friends and contemporaries. The relationship with the Kissingers in referred to repeatedly and appears a mutual source of enjoyment. There’s high regard for Indonesia’s Marty Natalegawa and the US’ Hilary Clinton and John Kerry. With the focus of the book being so broad, there’s not a lot of insight into Carr’s close friends, although this could also have been a direct side effect of the constant travel. Even so, the level of personal observation of the role, life and politics is of a standard to keep the book fresh throughout.

I want to throw in two key quotes that I particularly enjoyed. The first occurs in the last days of the second Rudd Government, where Carr is representing the Prime Minister at the G20 in St Petersburg.  On looking around at those assembled, Carr has judged the contributions overall as pedestrian, and he makes some observations on getting to this level of influence:

The Australian Foreign Minister in his navy-blue tailored suit and his Hermès tie – he grew up in a fibro house on a sandhill where bare feet wore out old lino and fried eggs on fried bread would pass as Sunday-night dinner. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Commonwealth of Australia is like all his ilk: making it up as he goes along, improvising and thinking out loud and hoping it all hangs together.

The second quote is aimed at those seeking a career in politics. Carr has a pretty succinct message on how to do it well:

That’s all. Look them in the eye. Fling the words out in an energised voice. Make connection. Personalise. I know this community, I know this crowd; it’s confidence that lends resonance. Fling the ideas out like an athlete throwing a discus; don’t mumble apologetically.In the end, psychology shapes the message – do you like your audience, like your story, like yourself in the role? Sometimes the medium is the message.

Summary

Diary of a Foreign Minister is a readable, entertaining and substantive look at a fascinating period in Australian and international politics. Bob Carr as a diarist manages to tease out somewhat complex foreign policy issues in a way that makes them both digestible and interesting. Like any diary it provides as many questions as answers, but Mr Carr’s level of disclosure is enough to be able to finish the book satisfied that any omissions haven’t fundamentally undermined the intent of the book.

If you struggle with well developed egos, you may find the book a challenge, but a challenge worth taking all the same. Anyone looking for some useful insights on the foreign policy challenges facing Australia over the coming decades could do a lot worse than reading this book. I found it an absorbing read from an experienced diarist with little to gain from airbrushing key events, and that in the end is the sign of a good diary.

Joe Hockey: I Was Never Popular Anyway

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Treasurer Joe Hockey has responded defiantly to opinion poll results showing his Government’s popularity has plummeted. Fronting the press gallery in Canberra, Hockey put his usual case for the recent Budget decisions, but added some further comments.

“For those who’d criticise the decisions we’ve made, I’ll say two things.

First, I’m used to making unpopular decisions – a Treasurer by definition has to make tough decisions, and I’ve been in Treasurer roles since 1975, when I was on Milsons Point Dungeons and Dragons Enthusiasts Committee. There’s nothing you can throw at me now that didn’t happen when I stopped the purchase of the Spelljammer campaign.

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Joe Hockey (centre) gazes at his future: a mob of angry people coming to inflict their justice.

Second, I’m a son of a migrant. I have a tendency to being on the beefy side of the equation and used to wear a boater hat to my private school. Which parts of that equation do you think didn’t lead to the regular de-dakkings at the hand of the local yobs?”

When questioned by the media on what his childhood experiences had to do with the huge outcry against a range of the Budget measures, Hockey became even more animated.

“I made a pact back then, that I’d stand up for those who suffered for being different. This Budget does just that. It supports the minority of people who don’t think Two and a Half Men is quality TV, or those who try to get to the Opera and worry whether they’ll cop a rolling of the eyes from the busker at the bottom of the Opera House steps. I’m standing up for the hard working bloke who looks forward at the end of the week to a quiet video hook-up with their MBA buddies from University to compare careers and discuss mergers and acquisitions. Or the successful female executive who wastes an hour a day in airports pushing past hordes of bogans migrating to the next capital city’s discount warehouse precinct.

These people are the true underclass in our country and I’m proud to be addressing their long-standing grievances. I’ve been inundated from these people with messages of thanks for finally standing up for them, and if the odd person who takes pleasure in giving wedgies to kids in boaters happens to be on Newstart Allowance, then so be it.”

When pressed about whether he still played Dungeons and Dragons, Hockey admitted to still trotting out his Human Wizard for a game with Stephen Conroy during parliamentary sitting weeks.

The Snark is The Creative Shed’s Satire News Section. 100% of it is satire and in no way resembles reality. Reality is way sillier than this stuff. Follow The Snark on Facebook and Twitter

Anti-Abbott Protest Organisers In A Creative Rut

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With the Abbott Government’s policies being as popular as a school diarrhoea milkshake program, there’s been numerous local and nationally coordinated protests. At the national level there was the highly successful March in March, and then the just completed March in May. As popular as these have been, the teamwork shown in the organisation of these events has started to fray around the edges, as disagreements over the branding of the marches comes to the fore.

One member of the organising committee claims three meetings have occurred this week, all running into the early hours of the morning.

The tide of dissent grows but unfortunately remains vuvuzela free

The tide of dissent grows but unfortunately remains vuvuzela free

“It’s been insane,” the architecture student and activist said. “March in March made sense and was catchy as well, but March in May has no zing at all. Some really good suggestions have been shot down by the majority, who seem determined to make the organisation as beige as everything else in this country. There’s serious talk of the next one being March in July. I’ve seen better marketing strategies for asbestos.”

When pressed on suggestions that had been vetoed, our source provided a small list of her faction’s picks for each month:

  • Go Ape in April
  • Mass Misbehaviour in May
  • Jettison The Government In June
  • Jarring Juxtaposition of Joe’s Juvenile Jurisdiction in July
  • Arse Abbott’s Austerity  in August
  • Shutdown in September
  • Oppose and Object in October
  • Neuter Nonsensical Nihilistic and Narcissistic Non-Equality in November
  • Determined Drumming and Devastating Defence of Democracy in December

When contacted for comment, the official spokesperson for the loose coalition of activists, academics and recently unemployed ALP staffers that organise the marches, released a short statement.

“We have repeatedly told John Singleton, Clive Palmer and Karl Stefanovic that we don’t have the money to pay for their ridiculous branding suggestions, and even if we did we’d probably spend it on something more worthwhile. A shipping container of vuvuzelas would be a good start.”

The Snark is The Creative Shed’s Satire News Section. 100% of it is satire and in no way resembles reality. Reality is way sillier than this stuff. Follow The Snark on Facebook and Twitter

[Pic via @Jsalmonupstream]

Election 2010: virtual worlds make their debut

As Australia draws to the end of its five-week election campaign, I’d pretty much given up on the political parties doing anything beyond the odd YouTube or Facebook campaign strategy. As I wrote in 2007, Australia has lagged some other countries in the use of virtual environments for politics, and this campaign hasn’t changed that, with the debate over competing broadband policies about as substantive as it has gotten.

You know for certain that our politicians are truly lagging in this area when the mainstream media beat them to the punch. Channel 9 have announced that their election coverage on Saturday will be centred on a bunch of ‘virtual sets’. As the video below shows, it’s fairly standard green-screen technology, but its an evolution all the same.

Although the interactivity will be limited to manipulating election data, and the communication will be one-way (presenter to audience), it’s a step forward for a couple of reasons. First, it’s provides an in-your-face example of virtual environments as a collaborative and/or information-sharing tool. Second, its use will be a major eye-opener for the strategists in each of the parties, who still appear to be wedded to 2D technologies for campaigning at the expense of everything else. The reaction of the public to Channel 9’s coverage is likely to be mixed, with some pointed criticism likely at gimmickery over substance. That doesn’t matter to a large extent: the cat is out of the bag over at the Fourth Estate. Two of the other Estates (‘the Church’ and the public) already have a good sense of this technology. There’s only one left looking backwards – the one that should be leading the debate or at least actively contributing to it.

Watch the Channel 9 spiel for yourself:

Discussion on internet filter on Tonight Live is… live!

As mentioned previously, I had the pleasure of appearing on Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe. The topic of discussion was the Commonwealth Government’s proposed internet filtering legislation and its potential impact on virtual worlds.

Paisley asked some incisive questions that helped set the scene for both the challenges and opportunities the legislation may provide. As I say in the interview, I’m confident environments like Second Life won’t be heavily impacted by the legislation, assuming those of us affected ensure the government understands the issue.

Aside from that discussion, there’s some great music from Frets Nirvana and an interesting discussion on virtual pets with Sapphira Laval. Here’s the full show for you to view:

A big thanks to Paisley for the invitation to appear and to Bliss Windlow and AutumnFoxx Sutherland for their assistance in the lead-up. If you haven’t already, do check out the enormous stable of shows that Treet.TV offer: they are an Australian success story to say the least.

Twinity: intersection of immersion and State

With a new round of funding in the bank, Twinity is on as firm a ground as it’s ever been. The development of virtual replicas of cities has proven a successful formula to date. Singapore is a Twinity stronghold and a virtual Orchard Road is on the way.

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Two aspects of the Orchard Road announcement caught my interest:

Virtual Singapore was developed in consultation with the Media Development Authority (MDA) and Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

and

Twinity is tying up with AsiaOne – the interactive arm of Singapore Press Holdings – to seek retailers, brands and firms interested in promoting their products or space on the virtual ‘Orchard Road’.

Bear with me while I explain some of the intricacies.

The Media Development Authority (MDA) is a government agency that has two main purposes: “The first is to promote the growth of the media industry. The second is to manage content to protect core values and safeguard consumers’ interests“.

The Infocomm Development Authority is also a government agency with the roles of “infocomm industry champion, the national infocomm master-planner and developer, and the Government CIO“.

AsiaOne is a key business within the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) stable. SPH isn’t government owned, but under SIngapore’s Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, no management shares can be transferred without approval of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA). This is the ministry that oversees the Media Development Authority.

What this means is that the SIngapore Government has direct involvement in the development of virtual SIngapore in Twinity. Nothing wrong with that at all – Australia’s government has played a role in funding virtual world presences, as have a plethora of other governments. What interests me most is the AsiaOne partnership, which is likely to have an advertising revenue focus. If you’re currently a SIngapore business person, you’re likely to have advertised with SIngapore Press Holdings at some stage as it has nearly 80% of the over-15’s market.

What do you do when SPH’s sales team phone you to negotiate your next advertising package and mention you can now advertise in Twinity? If you don’t know that the government have funded the Twinity presence, the less well informed may see it as a gimmick and decline. This is where it gets really interesting: if take up of advertising in Twinity’s virtual Singapore isn’t as great as expected, what happens next? I won’t be surprised if Singapore becomes the first sovereign entity to have virtual world advertising as a standard option for its business owners. The initial acceptance may be limited but the incredibly close government involvement combined with substantial influence over SPH makes for one fascinating and potentially controversial case study of virtual worlds and business. There’s no criticism of Metaversum intended – they have operated as one would expect of a commercial entity. It’s wider issues of politics, media and governance that invite further discussion.

I fired some questions on the issue through to Metaversum’s Managing Director, Jeremy Snyder:

TMJ: Does Metaversum see the Singapore model of government funding combined with a media partnership to drive advertising as one it’s likely to explore in other markets.

Singapore really offered some unique opportunities for us. Their drive to stimulate and showcase innovative companies in the IDM (Interactive Digital Media) space. The media partnership that we entered here is a strong endorsement of our vision. We do see a lot of value in similar strategic partnerships for other markets.

TMJ: Does it see this model working as well as it may do in Singapore where SPH’s management has a close relationship with the government?

Twinity: The relationship between SPH and the Singapore government was not part of the decision process for entering that partnership. Negotiations for funding in 2008 & subsequent negotiations with SPH were entirely different excercises.

TMJ: Does Metaversum have any concerns that potential success in Singapore may be as a result of the unusually tight control on media in Singapore, which may ensure widespread adoption of virtual world advertising as indirect government policy, making it a case study not easily replicated in other markets?

Twinity: Singapore’s media policies in the Internet space really don’t have any affect on our business. Similarly, we do not plan to apply any different standards for content in Twinity’s virtual Singapore than in other locations in Twinity. We feel our success in Singapore and elsewhere will still come back to the core values of Twinity – the connections to real life, the content available, and the strength of the community.

What do you think: is virtual Singapore likely to provide a unique social experiment?

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