28 March, 2012

It’s not time

Following Labor’s devastating loss in the Queensland election, it was probably inevitable that some people would eventually blame the “It’s time” factor.  After all, Labor had been in government in Queensland for nearly fourteen years and it was just time for a change.

What utter rubbish.

The ALP’s “It’s time” campaign of 1972 is probably the most memorable in Australian history, if only for the jingle.  Then, on the night of the 1996 election, Kim Beazley attributed part of Labor’s loss to the “It’s time” factor and in doing so, took the name of one of Labor’s greatest triumphs and used it as a sad excuse for a humiliating loss. 

Today, “It’s time,” is used as a kind of no-fault divorce.  It’s not that Queensland Labor did anything wrong as such, it’s just that Queenslanders aren’t that into them any more and wanted to see other people.

I’ve always held that most elections are lost, not won.  That is, the result is usually a rejection of the loser rather than an endorsement of the winner.  Having said that, it is an open question to what extent the Queensland result is a ringing endorsement of the LNP or a resounding rejection of the ALP.  It has to be one or the other though.  Nobody in their right mind (and I know that’s a pretty big caveat when talking about politics on any level) votes against a government they are satisfied with just because they’re bored.

If you believe in the “It’s time” factor, then you have to believe that “It’s time” in 1972 simply meant, “It’s time we had a go.”  You also have to believe that in 2007, nobody had any problem with WorkChoices or the Howard government; they just wanted someone else to look at.  You have to believe that there wasn’t actually anything wrong with the New South Wales Labor government in 2011, it’s just that after sixteen years, people were curious about what a Liberal government might be like.

This is not to say that longevity in government does not have its pitfalls.  Most governments have enacted their agenda by the end of the second term and after that, it’s just a case of navigating the odd crisis and making sure the other mob don’t get in to wreck it all.  Ministers get used to having departments, new MPs think that government is the natural state of their career and they all begin to start believing their own bullshit.  That’s not the “It’s time” factor though.  That’s the “We’ve become complacent and out of touch” factor.  It’s also fair to say that familiarity breeds contempt, especially in politics.  That’s why smart governments have succession plans.

The brilliant John Birmingham came up with the best explanation of why longevity in government can come to be a liability when he wrote:
If you govern for long enough, you will eventually make enough mistakes and tell enough lies that you'll be run out of office. Even if it takes 20 years.
- Great expectations ... but of what?

All governments make mistakes, break promises and tell lies.  Count them from the time they take office and they’re going to keep building up.  Count them across any random ten year period, and they’ll probably be the same no matter who is in office.

I’m not across all the issues that led to Labor’s annihilation in Queensland, but here’s what I don’t think happened.  I’m pretty sure the people of Queensland did not, en masse, think to themselves, “I’m tired of fair representation, sound policy and good leadership.  Let’s vote in some idiots and see if that’s more interesting.”

24 March, 2012

Two rules the major parties need to understand

Labor incompetence does not automatically make the Liberal party a better option.

Liberal arsehattery does not automatically make the Labor party a better option.

Both parties need a better platform than, “We’re not that mob!”

(British and American readers, change the party names as appropriate.  It still applies.)

18 March, 2012

See the humanity

To use the massacre by an American soldier of 16 Afghan civilians to making any kind of point about the war in Afghanistan would be cheap and demeaning, but that probably won’t stop anyone. 

I’m not interested in trying to predict what might happen next, but I was interested to see that the New York Times has published a report about a ’blog written by the wife of the accused, detailing the family’s struggles during her husband’s four deployments.  Regardless of your opinion of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I urge you to read it and this related article about the pressures of multiple deployments.

Everyone knows (or if anyone doesn’t, then they ought to) that the first rule of war is to dehumanise your enemy.  It’s so much easier to be barbaric towards them once you can stop thinking of them as people.  What we see in these articles is an attempt to rehumanise a mass murderer. 

There can be little doubt that if an Afghan murdered 16 Americans, then a summary bullet to the head would be too good for the monster.  If an American murders 16 Americans, then he will either be declared insane and locked away for the rest of his life, or after a long and drawn out process, be put down like an unwanted animal. 

Time will tell if either of these things happens to Staff Sgt Robert Bales.  However, I have no disagreement with these attempts to understand him better.  There should be more of it.  I am not trying to diminish or mitigate his (alleged*) crime.  If he is convicted, he should be punished appropriately.  But if we don’t try to fully understand what led to this, it will only happen again and again and again.  This also applies to the Afghans who have murdered Americans.  The US military is already stretched to breaking point and this killing spree has the potential to set peace efforts back by years.  Understanding what drives someone to such an act is our best chance at preventing it happening again and, by extension, ending the war.

(*Sorry Mr O’Reilly, is it okay to use that word in this case?)  


07 March, 2012

The Rules: Abbrev.s

As a teenager, I liked to try to be cool by offering congrats instead of congratulations or referring to an invite rather than an invitation.  Having signed up today for an “invite” to yet another website that’s supposed to change everything, I realised that I’m just over it.  Today, the dropping of -ation is everywhere and it just isn’t fun any more. 

I’ve searched my thoughts to see if I’ve just turned into an old fart.  There’s probably a bit of that.  After all, English is a living language and all that. I just think that if you’re going to abbreviate, you have to know it’s an abbreviation.  I wonder if generation Z (or whatever lazy demographers call it) is even going to know that invite is a verb not a noun, or that info is missing two syllables.

The spellchecker, as I type this, has not queried info or congrats, but thinks I should change “any more” to “anymore.” 
I don’t think that’s an evolving language.