Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas and happy New Year

Merry Christmas everyone. I'm off on holidays so I probably won't be posting anything until the first few days of January (the actual day will depend on the magnitude of my inevitable hangover).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Kofi's last week

Yesterday Kofi Annan gave the US an earful, today he's having a go at the quartet (US, Russia, the EU and the UN) for not doing enough to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When most people get the boot from a job they find themselves down at the pub with some mates slagging off at their old boss and some of those pricks from the office that they never got along with. When you are the UN Secretary General you get to mouth off at whole countries who happen to have a massive nuclear arsenal at their disposal.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Good call Kev

Kevin Rudd has announced that he'll drop dopey the "visitor values pledge" policy of his predecessor Kim Beazley. When Beazley announced this policy a few months back it sounded like a piece of wedge politics done on the fly, which is essentially what Rudd said about it today,

"I think it probably wasn't properly considered at the time".

I'm beginning to see an upside to the ALP having a new leadership. Switching to the new team has given them a short-term "get out of jail free" card on some of the uglier ALP policies.

One area in which the ALP had wondered off into lala land was definitely in their immigration policy. Beazley's ideas on immigration seemed have been developed as a result of listening to 15 minutes worth of talkback radio in Sydney. A more considered approach this particularly sensitive issue would be more than welcome.

Kofi says it like it is

Kofi Annan took a final swipe at G.W. Bush's foreign policy today and the current direction of world politics. I liked this statement in particular,

"no nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over all others.".

I think many world leaders should think long and hard about that quote.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Barnaby says something smart!

Queensland national Party Senator Barnaby Joyce on John Howard's plan (actually, this plan has Andrew Robb's grubby fingerprints all over it) for introducing mandatory English and "values" testing of migrants to Australia:

"We're trying to stop people who have militant ideas who want to destroy our nation - I've got no problem with that whatsoever," Senator Joyce said.

"What has to be proven is whether an English test is going to do it - most wackos are very well-educated."

That's exactly the point. This divisive piece of legislation does nothing towards its stated goal, that is, to prevent extremists from migrating to Australia and promoting an "un-Australian" agenda. I wonder what the real goal of this legislation is...

Goodbye West Wing

Over the weekend I finished watching the last season of the West Wing, I'm really going to miss that show.

IQING 5 reminder

I'd like to remind all you quantumish PhD students and Postdocs out there that registration for IQING 5 closes on the 31st of December - that's less than three weeks away!

IQING 5 is open to all quantum information oriented PhD students and young Postdocs. Theorists and experimentalists are encouraged to apply. For more info go to the website.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Are Xboxes cooler than rocket cars?

I think they might be.

What amazes me...

... is that Rolf Harris can still generate headlines.

Rolf Harris to me is a remnant of an Australia that has long since disappeared (though unfortunately a lot of the racism of that time has managed to hang around). There's got to be a whole generation of young folk scratching their heads over this story. My main lasting memory involving Rolf Harris is from when I was a young 'un and I saw a repeat episode of The Goodies where they did a spoof about his success in Britain. I mean, that was doubly second hand re-hashing of a relatively lame media phenomena. How long is the memory of the Australian media?

"Little Queensland Kev" isn't so little

According to the SMH Kevin Rudd is approximately 180 cm tall. That's not so little and makes my use of "little Kev" seem more than a little stupid, especially seeing as I'd be looking up to him. According to the SMH a lot of people make this mistake, mainly due to the whole schoolboy nerd look that he has going on.

Sorry Kevin, I will endeavor to call you "not quite so little, but not entirely huge Kev" from now on.

The Afghan Buddhas

The NYT has an interesting piece on the fate of the two giant Buddhas of Bamiyan Valley in Afganistan that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. I've occasionally wondered what happened to this site in the aftermath of the US-led invasion. It's nice to know that people are now debating how to restore the site. It makes me feel that the war in Afganistan might actually be winnable.

Will David Hicks ever get out of Gitmo?

Aussie Bob over at Surfdom has pointed out that the new ALP leader, Kevin Rudd, should be getting behind a push some liberals in the Liberal party (the few that are left) to ensure that David Hicks is either charged or brought home. Apparently there is a challenge on in the Federal Court claiming that Alexander Downer and Philip Ruddock have the power to bring him before Australian courts but have failed to do so, which apparently violates their ministerial responsibilities.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Vanstone a goner?


My limited Ashes coverage

Hehe, awesome.

NASA's moon base

I am so totally behind this if if leads to me getting a jetpack or a rocket car.

This reminds me of one of my favourite exchanges on the West Wing about technology development during the Cold War (and implicitly about NASA):

Leo: My generation never got the future it was promised... Thirty-five years later, cars, air travel is exactly the same. We don't even have the Concorde anymore. Technology stopped.

Josh: The personal computer...

Leo: A more efficient delivery system for gossip and pornography? Where's my jet pack, my colonies on the Moon?

Fiji does it again

Bloody hell. Another coup in Fiji. They seem to have evolved into a standard component of the Fijian political system. I don't know why the Fijian public tolerate having their wishes trampled over by the military or whatever special interest group is heading the latest coup. I guess that these coups keep happening because they are relatively bloodless and they don't really affect the citizens that much. Still, they have to work out a better way of resolving disputes.

I notice that for all of John Howard's regional tough talk he wasn't willing to commit troops save democracy in Fiji. Sure, he's willing to do it in Iraq but not in Fiji. I'm not saying that sending troops into Fiji would actually help the situation, the Fijian military are well trained and well equipped. I just thought I'd point out the blatant hypocrisy of Howard's foreign affairs agenda.

Update: This is pretty disgusting. From the SMH,

Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has declared himself head of state, sacked the Qarase Government and justified his actions with references to the dismissal of Gough Whitlam.

Apparently the Commodore skipped that bit in the constitution about who appoints the head of state and what warrants a dismissal.

The problems facing our little Queenslander Kev

The whole damned Ozblogoshpere is giving their two cents worth to Rudd and Gillard, so here's mine:

Expect the Howardistas to go on full attack mode against the Rudd/Gillard team in the lead-up to Christmas. They will be doing everything they can to make sure that Rudd has no Lathamesque honeymoon with the voters.

Wedge politics will be the name of the game in the coming weeks, the new ALP team will have to be hot on their toes so they don't end up stuck in a corner as a result their leadership swticharoo. I noticed that Rudd's factional enemy, Bill Ludwig weighed in straight after his win trying to paint Rudd as "no friend of the working man". I doubt that Ludwig seriously believes this, he's just trying to force Rudd into maintaining Beazley's hard line on IR. Ludwig's no fool, expect The Oz and the small/big business councils and whoever else you care to name to try to force Rudd into retaining key elements of workchoices. My bet is that they try to paint the ousting of Kim as being the result of the failure of IR to "cut through" as an issue with the public. This is total crap of course. One of the few trends that can be reliably determined from polling data over the last year is that the government has been on the slide since introducing workchoices. The ALP and union campaigns have been effective and one would expect with further rises in interest rates forecast for the coming year that the new IR laws will increasingly worry the electorate. In addition to this, the regions where these laws are going to really hit home are in Howard's "heartland", that is, the outer suburban areas of the major cities. Expect Rudd not to take the bait. He was elected precisely because he has a better chance than Kim of taking back this middle ground vote especially in Queensland (where the ALP must win back the outer-urban regions to take back the lower house).

Oh, did I mention that you should expect to hear the Libs yell from the rooftops that this team is "inexperienced" at leading a country. They will decry comparisons between Rudd's rise and that of Howard's because "Howard had governing experience". Aside from the ridiculousness of this argument, by this reasoning no other party can ever win government off the Libs again (unless the ALP bring back Gareth Evans and Paul Keating for another tilt), Rudd was Wayne Goss's go-to guy in Queensland. He was tasked with reforming the civil service in post-Fitzgerald Queensland. One thing that has become blatantly clear over the last two years is that there has to be major reform within the federal government. DFAT has been found guilty of rubber stamping bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime, Vanstone's immigration department is a farce and there is warfare breaking out between the states and the government over who runs what. A Rudd/Gillard team would be perfect for addressing the desperate need for federal government reform.

There are many other problems that they will face of course. People will accuse Rudd of having no personality, trying to damn him with the same issue that toppled Crean. Gillard will be attacked for being a single woman who is out-of-touch with ordinary Australians. Total tosh of course but you will hear it frequently.

Rudd, Gillard and their ALP have a Herculean task ahead of them in the coming year. The ALP has performed, for the most part, pretty well in the last year or so. Now they have to ramp it up and bring it home.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Dems take down another neocon

John Bolton has been axed stood down as the US Ambassador to the UN. It was predicted that this would happen with the Dems taking the Congress but it's nice to see it actually happen.

Kevin does Kim

Well, it is barely worth commenting on now (there were a million posts out there about this before I was out of bed this morning) but Kevin Rudd took over the Australian Labor Party leadership today toppling Kim Beazley from the leadership. Little Kevie knocked off big Kim in a party room vote Monday morning. Kevin will be sharing his leadership duties with the new deputy Julia Gillard.

The vote was called for on Friday and since then I've been around Ozploghistan complaining about how dumb this all was as Kim finally seemed to be on the right track. Well, the deed is done now and it might not necessarily be a bad thing.

If you are interested in seeing more commentary on this LP seems to be the place with the most reasonable discussion.

Update: BBC has picked up the story. This story appears to be becoming international news. A lot of the international stories focus on Kev's background in the diplomatic service and his ability to speak Mandarin. I don't really understand why journos keep throwing out that "wow, little Kevie can speak another language" line. It's really quite lame when you consider that outside Australia it is common for people to speak multiple languages.

Update: A half-decent background piece on Rudd.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

A new quantum blog!

A new quantum blog has just popped up on the intertubes. Aggie, a quantum information theory student doing her PhD at UQ has decided to join this whole blogging caper. Regular Quantumbiodiscs readers will have seen Aggie occasionally popping up in comments around here. Go check out her blog I'm sure it'll turn out to be fab (does anyone say "fab" anymore?).

When flame wars turn ugly

This video is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. The old drunken idiot is Glenn Milne, a senior political correpondent for News Limited in Australia. He's renowned for being an "insider". In reality, he basically publishes any old gossipy trash that he's fed by a pollie. The skinny guy is Stephen Mayne. He setup the daily internet newspaper Crikey and is also a politcal activist. He's been warring with Milne for a few years now, basically, he's called him a few times for being the hack that he is. Then, after a few too many drinks at the Walkley Awards, Australia's jounralism awards night which is incidently being televised live... well, you can watch the rest.