Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Saturday, October 09, 2004
The Morning After

Well, I think it's fair to say that there are some surprised people in Australia this morning. The government of John Howard won a thumping great victory in yesterday's Federal Election, and on TV last night, even some of the Liberal Party commentators seemed somewhat taken aback that the government had actually increased its majority. Consider: this is a government that has been in office since 1996, so Howard has now won four elections on the trot (1996, 1998, 2001 and now this one.) Furthermore, this is the second time in two successive elections that Howard has actually increased his parliamentary majority. And - to make it even sweeter (for him) the ruling Liberal/National coalition look like they might even get control of the Senate for the first time.

So, yeah, it's surprising because it's far more usual for governments to lose support over time until eventually they're thrown from office. And it's surprising because as late as yesterday morning, the public opinion polls were predicting a very close result. One of the major public polls (Morgan, I think) was even tipping a Labor victory. They all got it wrong!

From the point of view of US observers, I don't think there's too much to read into this. Of course Howard's victory will give Bush a bit of comfort (after all, Little Johnny and W. are good mates - even hanging out together at the Crawford ranch), but the election issues were different here to what you're experiencing in the US, and hence the Australian result is not a big predictor of the US result.

Even though Australia is officially one of the glorious Coalition of the Willing, and has troops on the ground there, for many people here the Iraqi war was not a major issue. Our presence is not large - a few hundred troops - and Australians have been fortunate not to be amongst any of the casualties. May this remain so.

Instead, the big issue of the election campaign was the economy - and more precisely, which party managed to portray itself as the better economic manager. And it was here that the ruling Liberal Party (which, as you may remember, is really a conservative party ... Rule of thumb: in Australia, if the word "Liberal" has a capital L, then it means "conservative". If "liberal" has a small l, then it means "liberal". Confused? Yeah, so are most Liberals. Particularly the conservative Liberals.) ... where was I? Yes, it was on the subject of economic management that the Liberals managed to portray themselves in the best light, and basically wipe the floor with the Labor Party. In the final week of the campaign we were subjected to a barrage of attack ads, in every commercial break, from the Liberals, shrieking at us about how awful Labor would be, about how Latham would stuff everything up and about how interest rates inevitably rise under Labor governments. This may or may not be true - in Australia, as in the US, interest rates are set by the central bank, not by the government of the day, and most reputable economists disputed the government's claim that Labor = high interest rates. Nevertheless, the government's argument was a powerful one indeed in a country with record levels of personal indebtedness, at the tail end of a housing price boom. And it worked.

My own view? Well, yesterday was my first vote in an Australian election (only having become a naturalised citizen last year), so I have no history, but I can tell you this now - I'm certainly no Labor supporter. Based on my knowledge of their policies, and also the pretty impressive economic track record of the Liberals' eight and half years in office, I actually buy the argument that the economy will be in better shape under them. However, I voted Labor. Why? Because I am sick of being lied to by Howard. He's the guy who was bobbing up and down eighteen months ago justifying the Iraqi war on completely spurious grounds - grounds that he knew, or should have known were unsupported by the facts. I'm sickened by his preparedness to use the tactics of fear and vilification of certain groups (eg refugees) to further his own political ends.

Let me give you the best-known example of this. During the last election campaign, in 2001, there were reports of refugees sailing toward Australia, who apparently threw their babies into the sea in order to force the Australian Navy to rescue them, and thus bring them into the country. Howard and his ministers gleefully seized upon this report, as evidence that we don't want that kind of person in the country. The reports turned out to be false, and all the evidence suggests that Howard knew them to be false at the time - before the 2001 election. But he never corrected the story, adopting instead a position of plausible deniability to the suggestion that he knew it was wrong at the time, and instead allowed the story to run. This was three years ago, one whole electoral cycle ago ... but that's the kind of tactic that he is prepared to resort to for his own political gain.

Howard's a homophobe. Every year, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (one of the biggest regular events in Australia) invites a whole lot of dignitaries to write a message of welcome/support in the annual program. Every year there are short comments from persons such as the Lord Mayor of Sydney, the Premier of the state of New South Wales (where Sydney is), the Leader of the Opposition, the Federal Tourism Minister etc etc. Every year, the Prime Minister of Australia is invited to submit a brief paragraph, welcoming visitors and expressing support for a safe and happy time. No big deal, you would have thought. But, nope, every year, the Prime Minister of this country declines to comment. There's a whole raft of issues (such as same-sex marriage, pensions for surviving same-sex partners of defence force veterans, superannuation and adoption) where Howard has made his views quite clear. And he is quite clear that people who do not conform to his 1950s white-picket-fence, nuclear family model are not worthy of equitable consideration.

I could rant on for some time ... but I have taken enough real estate on this blog already. But this explains why I could not vote Liberal yesterday - even though I am not a Labor supporter. Even though I think it's probably right that the economy will be worse under Labor, that's the price we would have had to pay for getting rid of Howard.

It's all academic now.

7:41 PM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink

It's Election Day

Yep, here in Australia, we're currently in the process of finding out who has won today's election. I was planning on writing a lengthy comment on it all - in fact, that comment is half-drafted in my word processor - however, I've had to stop.

Why? Well, it's all kind of depressing... I'm watching the TV as I type, and it's (gulp) looking like there is a swing towards the Howard government. Late opinion polls were suggesting that Labor might pull it off, but the (very early) results are showing exactly the opposite.


We've got three more years of Howard's lies.
3:57 AM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink

Buy Some Wood On The Internets

Go look before eBay pulls the auction.

Everybody likes a good joke eBay auction, right?

Also, behold the splendor: A history of the Iraq War, told entirely in lies.
1:59 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Friday, October 08, 2004



(maybe he thinks it'll keep him from smirking)

PS: Why is it that Kerry doesn't seem to be aware of the other "Internets"? Did Bush invent another internet without anybody knowing about it?

PPS Oh man, I'm loving this... I can smell Bush's flames from here, and St. Louis is at least four hours away.
8:25 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Tomorrow's News Today

So the second Presidential debate is tonight. Don't think you'll have time to watch? No problem! Jesse at Pandagon has already posted his wrap-up commentary (just like a real American journalist.)

2:36 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Some Good Stuff

Here's something interesting: I haven't gotten to watch these yet (damn this slow connection), but given the source I'm betting they're good enough to post proudly. Documentary super-genius Errol Morris (The Fog of War and a dozen other amazing films) has produced a series of commercials profiling Republicans who are going to be voting for John Kerry this year.

Combined with Michael J. Fox's pro-Kerry/pro-stem cell research ad, I'm thinking Kerry's blowing Bush away on the compelling-ad front. They've got a boatful of liars; we've got an Oscar winner and Marty McFly. (I know which I'd rather have on my side.)
1:43 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Thursday, October 07, 2004
A Day In Which I Do Something I Didn't Expect To Ever Do

My main goal for today is to work together a proper proposal for my once-and-future institution of higher learning. I left college roughly seven years ago under difficult circumstances, and at the time carried a bitterness and resentment towards the place that kept me from even considering the possibility of return. Now, however, through a combination of a need for new growth and a need to escape Memphis, I find myself a prospective-returning student to that same school.

It has to be the same school, of course; because I chose to go to a progressive, academically-minded liberal arts college with a program based on a design-your-own-curriculum-type concept (aka "The Plan of Concentration," or simply the Plan), none of my credits after my sophomore year (nor a few before, as well) are transferrable to nearly any other institution. If I go somewhere else, I start over as a 2nd-year student. If I want to finish this thing up in a reasonable amount to time, it's back to my old alma mater with me.

Thus, this proposal. The school has no set process for returning students, and I'm not getting a great deal of advice on the subject (maybe it's a test? to see if I'm as independently-motivated as I'll probably need to be?), so I'm left guessing what they want from me. I assume I'll need to convince at least one faculty member to formally accept me as a final-year Plan student, and that's what this proposal is about. It's the only useful thing I can think of to do, and I figure I'll have to do it at some point anyway, so I might as well get it done.

I am fortunate in one respect: since I left, the film department has changed completely and utterly. The new professor seems to be very amenable and sympathetic to my interests and ideas, which is a departure from the professors I left, one of whom was thoroughly burnt-out and apathetic, and the other arrogant and overly full of himself. Given that that was what I began my fledgling film career under, it's frankly impressive, I think, that I continued on with it. This current professor is arguably exactly what I need right now; he's the right teacher, and this is the right time. So it seems like something that can and should happen.

But I still have my old professor to deal with... she was my primary (non-film) Plan Sponsor the first time, and I have very mixed feelings about taking up under her again. It's not that I dislike her; I don't at all, I like her and respect her very much. It's just that, having left under a dark shadow the first time, I'm very worried about how things will go this time. I can't help but wonder if, from her perspective, the floundering 22-year-old I was then will ever be entirely absent. The fact is, she said some things at the time that stung me deeply, and I haven't forgotten them. I don't blame her, or hold a grudge against her -- she didn't have any realistic understanding of where I was or what I was going through at the time, so how was she to know the impact of what she said? -- but neither can I quite get over what was said at the time and how very unhelpful it all was. She, of course, has probably forgotten entirely... just a few passing words to one student of hundreds passing through.

The fact remains, though, that I will have to go back under her guidance, at least to some extent... the Plan I do from this point forward must still be (and on some level very much is) connected to the Plan I left off from. Even if my emphasis and primary focus shifts completely, and I end up working with my old Sponsor on the side more than in the main, I must still draw that old thread into whatever work I do now.

I find myself in an awkward situation academically. Although I haven't been doing this particular kind of academic work for nearly seven years now, it's not as if I've remained idle; on the practical side of things, I've gone elsewhere and made enormous progress. The upshot being, I know a great deal more on one side of the subject than a typical undergraduate would, so there's a lot of material I don't need to cover; I will be considerably more advanced than my fellow students. From a production standpoint, I would naturally be working on a doctoral level now, but I'm going into an environment of mostly basic instruction. I don't mean to do much production as part of my Plan, so it's not a major issue, but I doubt I'll be entirely disconnected from it, either. It all means I'm a bit lop-sided -- in a good way, obviously, but it still makes the intellectual fit a bit strange.

But it also means that I have the foundation under me to do a really solid piece of work... not just the fundamental stuff that a typical undergrad would be doing, but something on an entirely different level: primary research on an emerging movement. Which is pretty exciting. I feel much more equal to the task than I did seven years ago -- the great irony of sending kids to college or the university when they're 18 is that they're never really ready to make the most of it at that age -- and I feel like I can get some strong, impressive work done over the next year.

Provided, of course, I can convince the school of that.
2:06 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Count The Lies

So, exactly how many times did Dick Cheney lie at the debate last night? The current estimate is about half a dozen confirmable lies.

Six! Six lies!
5:54 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Saddam: Not A Threat

The current chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles Duelfer, who has been heading a now 18-month-long search for WMDs in Iraq on behalf of the Bush administration, issued an interesting report today. The Washington Post says:
The government's most definitive account of Iraq's arms programs, to be released today, will show that Saddam Hussein posed a diminishing threat at the time the United States invaded and did not possess, or have concrete plans to develop, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, U.S. officials said yesterday.

The officials said that the 1,000-page report by Charles A. Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, concluded that Hussein had the desire but not the means to produce unconventional weapons that could threaten his neighbors or the West.

So he didn't have any actual weapons, and he didn't have any means to either procure, produce, or even use any actual weapons, but he had desire.

Y'know, I have the desire to cure brain cancer. I don't have any medical training or experience, or even any money to go to medical school, but I have the desire. I also have the desire to have red laser beams shoot out of my eyes whenever somebody cuts me off in traffic. I have never actually had red laser beams shoot out of my eyes -- occasionally they get a little bloodshot from the carbon monoxide, but that's about it -- but the desire is definitely there.

According to the Bush administration, none of that reality stuff matters; the desire is the only thing that counts. So brain cancer and rude drivers better watch their backs, G, 'cause Sister Novena's clearly an imminent threat. You pull in front of me without signaling first, and the only smoking gun you're gonna see is a mushroom cloud.

PS: In case you've forgotten how absolutely, unequivocally, unbelievably goddamn sure they were about WMDs in Iraq, be sure to check out this page of quotes. They're either liars or incompetents; either way, they must go.

PPS: I guess now we know why Saddam didn't disarm by March of 2003, eh? Pretty hard to give up something you haven't got...
3:07 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Cheney Spikes An Own-Goal Point

At one point this evening, Dick Cheney invited viewers of the V.P. debate to go visit This was almost certainly an error, since is owned by George Soros and has nothing nice to say about George Bush or Dick Cheney.

What he probably meant to do was invite viewers to go visit, which is a non-partisan group. Gosh-durn this befuddling new-fangled technology...

But y'know what? It doesn't matter anyway; it still would've been a favor. Here's the current headline:

Bush Mischaracterizes Kerry's Health Plan


1:19 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Tuesday, October 05, 2004
The Bet

Jesse at Pandagon lays out the terms of a bet: even though the CIA -- and the administration -- have insisted over and over again that there's no connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, Cheney keeps saying there is.

So how long will it take Cheney to blurt out that particular falsehood at the debate tonight?

Update: If you bet fewer than ten minutes before the big lie was unfurled, you win!
7:20 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Bush's Complete Record On The Environment

Oh lord.
3:07 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Anticipation, Both Sweet And Fearsome

Warning: the following post clearly demonstrates my inherent geekiness. If anyone reading this has been laboring under the misconception that I am even remotely "cool", and wishes to remain ignorant of this less-dignified aspect of my personality, it would probably be best if you looked away now.

The cast for the new feature film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as far as it has been selected so far, is absolutely fucking perfect. I don't know what brilliant minds are working in casting these days, but every time a film I'm really worried about being good comes along, the bastards in casting nail it right to the wall.

I have a special attachment to this book (at least through the fourth volume; "Mostly Harmless" was pretty awful), so I view the upcoming release with both hope and anxiety. These characters have been running around the inside of my head since I was approximately ten years old; the original BBC mini-series (which I didn't buy even as a kid) didn't manage to dislodge my own vision, but a relatively big-budget feature probably could. Thus, it's imperative that it's done right.

I admit to having concerns about the way Marvin the Paranoid Android is being portrayed. I just pictured him taller, and not having Willow inside him. Otherwise, all looks very promising. The two most crucial roles:

Arthur Dent - Martin Freeman, the doughy-faced (and rather lovely) Fisher-Price man from The Office. Absolutely perfect.

Ford Prefect - Mos Def. Not what I had envisioned, but I'm willing to give him a try.

Even the minor roles are cool: Steve Pemberton (Tubbs Tattsyrup, et al. from "The League of Gentlemen," the finest show to come out of the UK in a decade) plays Mr. Prosser; and John Malkovich, who is practically God himself, is playing Humma Kavula. (I didn't remember him at first either, don't worry.)

The only question now is the director, which is some guy named Garth Jennings. Never heard of him? That's because he's hardly done anything ever. (Okay, he did a Blur video, but that's it.) So I figure he'll either do a Spike Jonze and blow us all away, or alternately, just blow.

1:55 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Monday, October 04, 2004
We're Not The Boss of Bush

Still don't quite "get" that whole George W. Bush thing? I mean, seriously, what's up with this guy? For three years the whole country assumes he's "strong and resolute™," but then he gets up on stage and acts like a petulant teenager listening to a parental lecture on the purpose of curfews. How'd we get from adolescent entitlement to war president and back again?

Here's all you need to know.
4:59 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

The Duck Rank-And-File

I had a pretty good night tonight. First, I went to the wrap party for Lee's film; it was a small affair at Gus's Fried Chicken on Front Street (rumored to serve among the best fried chicken in the country, and although I don't love the stuff as much as some, I have to admit that it was some goddamn fine fried chicken). We hung around and chatted, indulged in last-chance hugs with people who (let's be honest) we probably won't see again unless it's by accident, and stuffed ourselves with chicken. I am, admittedly, a bit uncomfortably full tonight.

Then Diana and I stopped by the Co-op, where Morgan gave me a really great piece of news which I shall not divulge in this particular blog at this particular time, but which I will hopefully be able to explain at length in the very near future. Suffice to say, it made me quite happy.

And best of all, having finally gotten a draft of this fucking screenplay done, I got to hand it out to people for feedback. It's a bit of a mystery even to me what I handed them in the end; last night, in a fit of determination, I sat down and forced myself to write the thing from start to finish. I started at the first word, wrote straight through to the last, and haven't re-read a bit of it since then. Having fretted over it for weeks on end, I'm giving myself some time off (to let it simmer a bit) before I tackle a re-write. So for now I just wait nervously to see if people think I'm the talentless hack I sometimes worry I am.

So tonight, for the first time in literally months and months, I'm all caught up... all my little duckies are in tidy rows. It won't last long, but it's a nice feeling for the moment.
1:54 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink