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I went out to set the chickens free for their daily romp and found that some leftover rainwater on the sheltering sheet of corrugated plastic over their coop had frozen.

I didn't actually see the temperature get below zero last night - the cab has an external sensor which I highlight on the dashboard display to frighten people who have just gotten off the plane from the Gold Coast or anywhere, really - but it got to 00° and then I decided to come home and get into a warm-ish bed.

I've begun a new blog, in co-operation with some co-writers. Flat Jay Walking is a vehicle for displaying the photographs of the lifesize picture of Discoverylover I took to Amsterdam (and left there, to be picked up and carried around Europe by various fun-loving folk). I'm hoping that everybody who had a hand in the adventure will make a post or two and upload some of the fabulous photographs.

It's easy to register as a contributor, and if I or my co-admin (RealJay) recognise the name, we'll upgrade the privileges.

Yeah, it's silly, but it's fun. There's a marvellous photograph of BookCzuk having a laugh as she cuddles FlatJay, sandwiched between her two menfolk, who look as if they'd rather be somewhere else.

I've discovered Goodreads. Aaargh! Another booksite. Which is better, does anybody know? This or Librarything or Virtual Bookshelf or anything similar? I like books, I really do, but I'm not going to spend ALL my time reviewing them on a dozen sites, including my own blogs.

I thought our new Prime Minister was doing really well, but I think she may have lost me with the asylum-seeker plan. Not the plan itself, which would likely work, but her declaration that it wasn't anything like the "Pacific Solution" of the Howard Government which cut the boats to zero and was roundly condemned by Labor. Every newspaper in the country is talking about the "Timor Solution", lady. It's the same bloody thing with a different name!

Is she going to try to win the election on the trivial differences between her plan and the last one? She's going to lose credibility big time if she tries that.

There's one more issue to be cleared off before she makes the trip out to see the Governor-General. That's climate change. I think that, rather than dream up a whole new plan, she'll advise a double dissolution election on the old one that Rudd didn't have the guts to stand up for. That doesn't mean she is required to have the joint sitting to pass the legislation after an election win, just that it clears the issue off the table and makes her appear firm where Rudd was foul.

She's the favorite to win the election. I can't say I love her - I love very few politicians, apart from Jed Bartlet - but she seems marginally less unsuitable than Tony Abbott, the Liberal leader. Why is it that the only people we get putting their hands up to be elected nowadays seem to be those who have been active in student politics and working as a party functionary ever since? Aren't there any real working people around? People who haven't spent their whole lives telling lies?
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There was a state by-election in New South Wales over the weekend. The seat of Penrith, deep in Western Sydney. That's Labor territory. For nearly three decades Penrith has been held by the Australian Labor Party.

The election was sparked by the resignation in disgrace of Karyn Paluzzano, who had lied to the Independent Commission Against Corruption after rorting staff allowances.

The new Labor candidate lost heavily, with about 24% of the vote, while the Liberals won the seat with an absolute majority of 51%. A swing of 25%, the biggest in State election history.

We're talking way out on the edge figures here. This was not a normal result. If we saw only half that swing state-wide at the NSW elections due early next year, Labor would be reduced to a rump, with a Liberal/National Coalition Government sprawling over three quarters of the seats in the Legislative Assembly. If the primary figures were repeated in every seat, Labor would be wiped out entirely.

Let's start from the top. The Labor Prime Minister, who has a net approval rating of minus nineteen percent, and whose party is behind in the opinion polls, says the election was fought on state issues, not federal.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has rejected suggestions that it is a bad sign for the Federal Government at the next election.

"I think it is our long experience in the political process that the Australian people vote differently on state and federal political matters and they have done for quite some time," he said.

The Treasurer, Mr Swan, echoed those comments on Channel Ten on Sunday.

"It was a state by-election fought exclusively on state issues - I don't see any federal implications at all," he said. ABC News

The Labor NSW Premier Kristina Keneally has likewise distanced her government from the result.

She has blamed anger at the former Labor member for Penrith, Karyn Paluzzano, for the party's poor result.

"In this case the former member did not act with that integrity that the electorate expects and when I was out in the electorate I heard that over and over again," she said.

"People were disappointed that the former member had acted without that integrity that is expected by elected representatives."ABC News

And the Labor candidate (who seems like a decent sort of chap) blamed the loss directly on the rorts of the previous member.

But what incentive is there for a voter to punish a new candidate for the sins of the old? There is always a certain protest vote in by-elections, but nothing like this. Members have resigned in disgrace in the past, but the subsequent by-elections have never recorded such swings. There has to be something more.

Penrith was the third state by-election since Labor won a narrow victory in 2007. In 2008 there was a 22% swing to the Liberals in Cabramatta, and a 23% swing in the same direction in Ryde. You'd think Labor would have taken those results as a wake-up call, and lifted its game.

Labor is going to be devastated at the next State election. The drover's dog could win for the Liberals. Voters do not reward dishonest, incompetent governments. Simple as that.

The NSW Labor government is well on the nose, no doubt about that, with a continuing list of scandals and failures that no amount of leadership shuffling has ended.

But the Commonwealth government is travelling well on core issues, with a tiny jobless rate, a strong economy, and most departments delivering their services well. Where has the recent free-fall in opinion come from?

It's personal.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says people are sick of the Government's spin.

"They're sick of the broken promises, they're sick of the financial fiddles, they're sick of the addiction to spending and taxing and I think it's a growing feeling right around Australia."

Nationals Leader Warren Truss has told the ABC's Insiders program the Federal Government should take note.

"The same style of Government that was evident and has been evident in New South Wales and Queensland for some time is the same style that's happening in Canberra - big announcements, blockbuster type promises, but then no action, no outcomes and no results and people frankly are sick of it," he said.ABC News

I think that Abbott and Truss have hit the nail fair and square on the head. Broken promises. Voters elect representatives based on what they promise. It's always a string of promises at election time, and when those promises are broken and the leaders resort to further evasion and dishonesty to explain why they are not to blame, then where are the voters to put their trust?

I don't normally comment on politics these days, but my bullshit meter has been ringing loudly recently, and I can't help but point the finger at those flinging the brown stuff.

Spin is the curse of politicians. Things go wrong and it's apparently not the fault of those with their hands on the levers and their fingers on the buttons. Yeah right.
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Ah, weekends! I like driving a cab around Canberra's parks, monuments and wide roads, especially on these crisp autumn days with the leaves gold and amber under a clear blue sky. But a week of twelve or thirteen hour shifts and I'm needing a bit of relax.

We get two lovely thick Saturday papers, full of news and opinions, features and reviews, travel sections and lifestyle extras, magazine inserts and classifieds. There's enough to keep me grazing the hectares of printed word for the whole two days. No Kindle or iPad can ever match the cheerful feeling of a coffee table covered in half-read newspapers, half-done sudokus, half-drunk coffee mugs. And maybe under the television guide, half a square of chocolate (bliss) or half a slice of pizza (oops!).

Weekend words

Then Sunday's paper arrives, full of disaster on the front page and "prepared-earlier" features inside with the funnies.

Breakfast today, and I'm reading a political opinion piece on the Prime Minister. It's so right. Rudd, who glows in the sunshine of friendly journalists, is a sorry sight when he's on the slide. It's a vicious circle, and when he snarls at the princes of the press gallery, the sharks move in to savage him.

I read out a paragraph to Kerri:
The sense that Rudd is over has permeated the corridors. The macaques aren't quite jumping up and down on his body yet, but the sense is that it's not far off.

Who wrote these wonderful words, I wondered? Chris Wallace is a Canberra Press Gallery member and publisher of it said.

That name rang a bell. Could this be Christine Wallace, nightclub-owner, political journalist, mother, biographer, quirkily smiling television panellist? Someone who once employed me for a few minutes to tweak her fax settings?

I clicked the link, and there she is, tough-looking political blogger serving up headlines for breakfast. There's a list of "BP Extras", and I was immediately attracted to a post on lying, called "On Lying".

All politicians lie. Some for small reasons, some for large, and some because they can't help it. It's one reason I got out of politics. If you didn't outright lie, you told untruths that were cleverly shaded, or could be denied, or seemed to be someone else's lies. It sickened me.

Christine pointed the finger at two politicians she had caught out in lies, and I nodded my head in agreement. Both of the men she named had outraged me in the past with their smarmy dishonesty.

I signed up for her breakfast politics newsletter. I can't say I care much for politics nowadays, but I do like her wicked way with words.

"Ooh, look at this!" Kerri laid a page of the Sunday paper before me. It had a picture of a tiny book. A book with a BookCrossing sticker. A book I recognised, because I had last seen it at an airline lounge in Japan, where I had tucked it away from the ever-tidying hands of the lounge attendants in a window niche. My jaw fell open.

Apparently it had been found by a journalist who needed a book to read on his flight home. A Canberra journalist who did some research on, was charmed by the quirky idea, signed up, made a journal entry, and sent the book travelling on to Seattle.

I'd read the initial journal entry, saying the book had been found, and had been chuffed immensely. Releasing books in airports is a chancey business, and I've yet to hear from the book I released in The Wing at Hong Kong International that same trip. I set it free in the lounge's library, increasing the number of books in that plush library from eight to nine.

But I had not expected to find Doctor Johnson the centrepiece of a newspaper article, smiling up at me between the coffee and cornpone.

Yes, cornpone. Kerri experiments with odd foods on the weekend, and this was breakfast. Warm, a hint of spice, sour cream. The last cornpone I had was in Missouri, and it wasn't half as nice as this!

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's more paper to be devoured.
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Three young friends got into my cab for a ride into town from one of the Defence bases here. One was full of pride in her job – a cabin attendant on the RAAF VIP transport. She talked to her two friends about how the Prime Minister smiled and greeted her by name, was kind and considerate to her and all the other staff. She might not agree with all his policies, she said, but he was a nice man.

She had no kind words for another senior Government minister. He was only interested in calling for the most expensive bottles of wine aboard, and downing a couple on the relatively short flight to and from Melbourne. He called the cabin crew, “Hey, you!”, but he knew the onboard wine cellar by name and pedigree.


He was wasted. This time on a Saturday morning, the only people over twenty-five in Civic are a few cabbies like me. This bloke was mid-thirties, business suit, tie loose, shambling along the footpath. A mid to senior-level public service manager, by his look.

My cab was next up and he opened the door, falling into the seat beside me. I examined him carefully. He was wrecked, to be sure, and he could be trouble. Trouble like throwing up, falling asleep, talking endless rubbish.

Read the rest at
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My Political Views
I am a centrist moderate social libertarian
Left: 0.12, Libertarian: 1.28

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: -1.44

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Culture War Stance
Score: -3.91

Political Spectrum Quiz

I always call myself a militant middle-of-the-roader, mainly because I detest extremists who see their views as representing ultimate truth, but according to this quiz, I'm not so militant.

Some of those questions try very hard to pigeonhole the participant. Abortion, for example - my views are that abortion is fine in some circumstances, but not in others. More specifically, the first trimester, the decision is the woman's. The middle, ask a doctor. The third, ask a judge. (This assumes that doctors and judges are reasonable people, but of course there are extremists in every group.) There's no absolute black or white answer, in my view, but I know that if you spend a year arguing about it, the issue is resolved.

And who knows what weighting the quiz compiler gives to various questions? Some of the problems that perturb Americans are immaterial to others.

If you want to find a good match for my political views on US subjects, Jeb Bartlett of West Wing usually has me nodding in agreement. I remember with glee one episode where he really sank the boot into some fundamentalist broadcaster, rattling off a dozen inconsistencies or absurdities in the Bible. That was fun. Then again, I'd probably equally enjoy a well-written scene attacking a die-hard atheist.

Tolerance and respect for others is what i value, but now and then I get into trouble when I lash out at the intolerant. Tolerance doesn't consist of putting up with people you like. Quite the opposite.


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September 2010

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