The weirdest political interview you’ve ever seen…

A senate candidate does an interview… with his five year old son. Via BoingBoing

Watch the father’s lips when his kid talks. I don’t know what is going on here, but Mediaite offers three explanations:

1. That the boy has a earphone in and his dad is telling what to say and, for some reason, thinks he’s a much better ventriloquist than he actually is.

2. That Hudson’s responses were all scripted and Hinckley can’t help but mouth his brilliant dialogue.

3. Hudson is actually some kind of AI-style android that is being controlled by its “father.” Either way, this video is absolutely insane

A fourth possibility is that the dad is nervous about what his son is going to say, and he is echoing the kid’s replies, in a sort of Clever Hans kind way. Please offer up other possibilities in the comments.

Carr coming to New Zealand, while we still have a Foreign Affairs ministry to talk to…

Julia Gillard’s new foreign minister has hit the ground running, talking about visiting New Zealand before he has even been officially appointed. Via the SMH

Incoming foreign minister Bob Carr says he will reach out to the federal opposition to try to engender a more bipartisan approach to Australian foreign policy.

A day after Prime Minister Julia Gillard appointed him to the coveted portfolio – and before being sworn in or officially taking up his Senate seat – Mr Carr has hit the ground running.

He has already begun speaking with his world counterparts, including UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, and is planning a visit to New Zealand.

I think he’s just in a hurry to get here while there are still some staff at MFAT to talk to.

David Cameron must do the right thing

As a Smiths fan and Labour supporter, this news from The Guardian brings me no end of joy…

Johnny Marr has offered to reform the Smiths, on just one tiny condition:David Cameron‘s coalition government steps down. “How’s that?” he quipped at the NME awards. “I think the country’d be better off, don’t you?”

Marr was appearing at the awards to salute the “godlike genius” of Noel Gallagher, and to receive a prize for the Smiths‘ Complete box set. Asked the obligatory question about a Smiths reunion, he offered up this new, patriotic suggestion. “Maybe if the government stepped down …” he said. “If this government steps down then I’ll reform the band. How’s that? That’s a fair trade, innit?”

Wayne Swan on inequality and politics

The Australian DPM and Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has written a fascinating piece in The Monthly: ‘The 0.01 Per Cent: The Rising Influence of Vested Interests in Australia‘.

Today, when a would-be US president, Mitt Romney, is wealthier than 99.9975% of his fellow Americans, and wealthier than the last eight presidents combined, there’s a global conversation raging about the rich, the poor, the gap between them, and the role of vested interests in the significant widening of that gap in advanced economies over the past three decades.

Rachel Maddow had an excellent infographic comparing Romney’s wealth with that of former Presidents. To say he’s mega-rich is an understatement.

Our own John Key has an estimated net worth of US$38.7 as of 2010, which ranks him as the 21st richest head of state or government, just behind King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

Is that in of itself a problem? Is John Key a bad person because he is rich? No, of course not. It is however, a sign of the times.

Australia’s fair go is today under threat from a new source. To be blunt, the rising power of vested interests is undermining our equality and threatening our democracy. We see this most obviously in the ferocious and highly misleading campaigns waged in recent years against resource taxation reforms and the pricing of carbon pollution. The infamous billionaires’ protest against the mining tax would have been laughed out of town in the Australia I grew up in, and yet it received a wide and favourable reception two years ago. A handful of vested interests that have pocketed a disproportionate share of the nation’s economic success now feel they have a right to shape Australia’s future to satisfy their own self-interest.

So I write this essay to make a simple point: if we don’t grow together economically, our community will grow apart.

Of course, rewards should be proportionate to effort, recognising the hard work and entrepreneurship that create wealth and employment. We should not seek pure equality, but we do need to combat the types of disparities in opportunity that damage our society. That’s why providing more people with a good education and a decent job with fair rights and conditions should be an economic as well as a moral goal.

So what does that have to do with the influence of money in politics?

I fear Australia’s extraordinary success has never been in more jeopardy than right now because of the rising power of vested interests. This poison has infected our politics and is seeping into our economy. Though these vested interests have not yet prevailed, every day their demands get louder.

Politicians have a choice: between exploiting divisions by promoting fear and appealing to the sense of fairness and decency that is the foundation of our middle-class society; between standing up for workers and kneeling down at the feet of the Gina Rineharts and the Clive Palmers.

Australia’s future in the Asian Century will rely on retaining a strong, united, middle-class society. We will need a nation which calls on everyone’s skills; which is tolerant not resentful; which recognises the need for public investment in skills, infrastructure and education; and which continues to extend a social licence to the market so Australia’s flair for entrepreneurship, innovation and free trade can continue to create more wealth for all of us.

Racial issues in Australian politics fascinate me. I’ve heard stories from friends about the calls they hear on rural talkback radio about boat people, the intervention and Julia Gillard herself. The word bigot isn’t strong enough.

But this is not a problem unique to Australia. When there is general public support for some of the filth that people like Paul Henry feed on, we have a problem. I bet the Government were thrilled when Sue Bradford came out attacking their welfare reforms.

Swan concludes…

To me, the most significant question in politics when I started out in the late ’70s, when I wrote Postcode, and when I go to work tomorrow, is what we use our prosperity for. It’s not just about putting dollars in people’s pockets, but about building a better society; a society that creates wealth and spreads opportunity, a society that lifts up the worst-off and gives everyone a decent shot at a decent life.

When we were confronted with the biggest economic downturn in 75 years, our egalitarian values underpinned our response. Our stimulus package was designed to protect jobs and business. Our unemployment rate is now around half that of Europe and our economy is 7% larger than it was before the GFC, while other developed economies have yet to make up the ground they lost.

And here in New Zealand, National’s great plan to deal with the GFC was a worthless job summit.



How legit were the Canadian elections?

A worrying story emerging from Canada (via BoingBoing)…

The independent nonpartisan NGO Democracy Watch says that Canada’s elections regulator has failed in its duty to prevent fraud in Canada’s elections. This comes on the heels of a voter-suppression scandal in which “robocalls” were placed, allegedly to voters likely to vote against the (now ruling) Conservative party, telling them that their polling places had changed. One whistleblower claims to have worked on the phone-bank that handled complaints from the robocalls, and says that she was instructed to tell people that she was working on behalf of the Conservative party, and to give out misinformation about where to vote. Jeff David of Postmedia News writes in the Montreal Gazette:

“Here we are 144 years since Canada became a so-called democracy and no one can tell whether Elections Canada is enforcing the federal election law fairly and properly because it has kept secret its investigations and rulings on more than 2,280 complaints since 2004,” said spokesman Tyler Sommers.

The Harper government scrambled to keep pace with the burgeoning scandal during Tuesday’s question period, after Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen unveiled new details of the election calls that had been routed through a Tory-linked firm.

A total of 1,334 complaints were filed with Elections Canada in the 2004, 2006, and 2008 federal elections, according to the agency’s post-poll reports. Concerning the 2011 election alone, however, Elections Canada received 1,872 complaints about accessibility problems, 2,956 emails complaining of voting rule confusion in the Guelph area, and 1,003 complaints about other issues.