The School of Athens

The School of Athens
The School of Athens by Raphael (click on picture to view short documentary from Columbia University)

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The State of Play

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, March 2015.

This is how the polling numbers stand as at the end of March 2015.

The key points are:

The Coalition has suffered a 6.2% primary vote swing and a 6.5% two party preferred swing since the 2013 election. If replicated in an election this would result in a loss of about 29 seats, placing the Coalition on 62 seats (which includes winning back Fairfax) the ALP on 84 seats, 3 Independents (Indi, Denison and Kennedy) and 1 Green (Melbourne).

Since the 2013 election the Coalition has not polled above its two party preferred election result of 53.5%, and has trailed the ALP since December 2013 by an average of 6 points (53% to 47%).


Primary Votes as at March 2015 %

Party
Voting intention
2013 election
Change
Coalition
39.4
45.6
(-6.2)
ALP
38.9
33.4
+5.5
Greens
10.9
8.7
+2.2
Others
10.8
12.3
(-1.5)


Two Party Preferred as at March 2015 %

Party
Voting intention
2013 election
Change
Coalition
47.0
53.5
(-6.5)
ALP
53.0
46.5
+6.5 







Psephological regards.


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

When you're smiling.....

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.


Louis Armstrong performing "When you're smiling" YouTube link here

Here's ten fellows who make all of us smile.





Laughter is the best medicine.


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Obama, Selma and Mandela

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

My word, this man can deliver a powerful address or two. 

President Obama: speech at Selma, March 7, 2015, and speech at Nelson Mandela's memorial service, December 10, 2013.

At Selma: "What they did here will reverberate through the ages.  Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible, that love and hope can conquer hate."

At Mandela memorial: "Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit.  There is a word in South Africa -- Ubuntu -- (applause) -- a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us."

You can view the Selma speech here:  and the Mandela speech here:  

Full transcripts of both speeches are included below.


President Obama speaking at Selma.



President Obama marching at Selma, while holding hands with Amelia Boynton (now 103) who was beaten unconscious by police troopers at Selma on "Bloody Sunday" and Congressman John Lewis (now 75) who had his skull fractured on "Bloody Sunday" after being felled by a police truncheon.



President Obama speaking at Nelson Mandela's memorial service.



President Obama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu embracing in 2013.



The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
March 07, 2015

Remarks by the President at the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches

Edmund Pettus Bridge
Selma, Alabama
2:17 P.M. CST
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, President Obama!
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know I love you back.  (Applause.) 
It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes.  And John Lewis is one of my heroes.
Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning 50 years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind.  A day like this was not on his mind.  Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about.  Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked.  A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones.  The air was thick with doubt, anticipation and fear.  And they comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung:
“No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.”
And then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, and a book on government -- all you need for a night behind bars -- John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America.
President and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Mayor Evans, Sewell, Reverend Strong, members of Congress, elected officials, foot soldiers, friends, fellow Americans:
As John noted, there are places and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided.  Many are sites of war -- Concord and Lexington, Appomattox, Gettysburg.  Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character -- Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.
Selma is such a place.  In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history -- the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher -- all that history met on this bridge. 
It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the true meaning of America.  And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many others, the idea of a just America and a fair America, an inclusive America, and a generous America -- that idea ultimately triumphed.
As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation.  The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes.
We gather here to celebrate them.  We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching towards justice.
They did as Scripture instructed:  “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  And in the days to come, they went back again and again.  When the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came –- black and white, young and old, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope.  A white newsman, Bill Plante, who covered the marches then and who is with us here today, quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of the singing.  (Laughter.)  To those who marched, though, those old gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet.
In time, their chorus would well up and reach President Johnson.  And he would send them protection, and speak to the nation, echoing their call for America and the world to hear:  “We shall overcome.”  (Applause.)  What enormous faith these men and women had.  Faith in God, but also faith in America. 
The Americans who crossed this bridge, they were not physically imposing.  But they gave courage to millions.  They held no elected office.  But they led a nation.  They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, countless daily indignities –- but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.  (Applause.)
What they did here will reverberate through the ages.  Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible, that love and hope can conquer hate.
As we commemorate their achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them.  Back then, they were called Communists, or half-breeds, or outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse –- they were called everything but the name their parents gave them.  Their faith was questioned.  Their lives were threatened.  Their patriotism challenged.
And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place?  (Applause.)  What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people –- unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many, coming together to shape their country’s course? 
What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?  (Applause.)
That’s why Selma is not some outlier in the American experience.  That’s why it’s not a museum or a static monument to behold from a distance.  It is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents:  “We the People…in order to form a more perfect union.”  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  (Applause.) 
These are not just words.  They’re a living thing, a call to action, a roadmap for citizenship and an insistence in the capacity of free men and women to shape our own destiny.  For founders like Franklin and Jefferson, for leaders like Lincoln and FDR, the success of our experiment in self-government rested on engaging all of our citizens in this work.  And that’s what we celebrate here in Selma.  That’s what this movement was all about, one leg in our long journey toward freedom.  (Applause.) 
The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge, that’s the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny.  It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot, workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon.  (Applause.) 
It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths.  It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo.  That’s America.  (Applause.)  
That’s what makes us unique.  That’s what cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity.  Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down that wall.  Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid.  Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule.  They saw what John Lewis had done.  From the streets of Tunis to the Maidan in Ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place, where the powerless could change the world’s greatest power and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom. 
They saw that idea made real right here in Selma, Alabama.  They saw that idea manifest itself here in America.
Because of campaigns like this, a Voting Rights Act was passed.  Political and economic and social barriers came down.  And the change these men and women wrought is visible here today in the presence of African Americans who run boardrooms, who sit on the bench, who serve in elected office from small towns to big cities; from the Congressional Black Caucus all the way to the Oval Office.  (Applause.)   
Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for black folks, but for every American.  Women marched through those doors.  Latinos marched through those doors.  Asian Americans, gay Americans, Americans with disabilities -- they all came through those doors.  (Applause.)  Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past. 
What a glorious thing, Dr. King might say.  And what a solemn debt we owe.  Which leads us to ask, just how might we repay that debt?
First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough.  If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done.  (Applause.)  The American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation.
Selma teaches us, as well, that action requires that we shed our cynicism.  For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.
Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country.  And I understood the question; the report’s narrative was sadly familiar.  It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement.  But I rejected the notion that nothing’s changed.  What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic.  It’s no longer sanctioned by law or by custom.  And before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was.  (Applause.)
We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, that racial division is inherent to America.  If you think nothing’s changed in the past 50 years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or Los Angeles of the 1950s.  Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed.  Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago.  To deny this progress, this hard-won progress -– our progress –- would be to rob us of our own agency, our own capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better. 
Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that Ferguson is an isolated incident; that racism is banished; that the work that drew men and women to Selma is now complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes.  We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true.  We just need to open our eyes, and our ears, and our hearts to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. 
We know the march is not yet over.  We know the race is not yet won.  We know that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged, all of us, by the content of our character requires admitting as much, facing up to the truth.  “We are capable of bearing a great burden,” James Baldwin once wrote, “once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.” 
There’s nothing America can’t handle if we actually look squarely at the problem.  And this is work for all Americans, not just some.  Not just whites.  Not just blacks.  If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination.  All of us will need to feel as they did the fierce urgency of now.  All of us need to recognize as they did that change depends on our actions, on our attitudes, the things we teach our children.  And if we make such an effort, no matter how hard it may sometimes seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.  (Applause.) 
With such an effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some.  Together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on –- the idea that police officers are members of the community they risk their lives to protect, and citizens in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland, they just want the same thing young people here marched for 50 years ago -– the protection of the law.  (Applause.)  Together, we can address unfair sentencing and overcrowded prisons, and the stunted circumstances that rob too many boys of the chance to become men, and rob the nation of too many men who could be good dads, and good workers, and good neighbors.  (Applause.)
With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity.  Americans don’t accept a free ride for anybody, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes.  But we do expect equal opportunity.  And if we really mean it, if we’re not just giving lip service to it, but if we really mean it and are willing to sacrifice for it, then, yes, we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century, one that expands imaginations and lifts sights and gives those children the skills they need.  We can make sure every person willing to work has the dignity of a job, and a fair wage, and a real voice, and sturdier rungs on that ladder into the middle class.
And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge –- and that is the right to vote.  (Applause.)  Right now, in 2015, 50 years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote.  As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed.  Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, the Voting Rights Act stands weakened, its future subject to political rancor.
How can that be?  The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic efforts.  (Applause.)  President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office.  President George W. Bush signed its renewal when he was in office.  (Applause.)  One hundred members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right to protect it.  If we want to honor this day, let that hundred go back to Washington and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore that law this year.  That’s how we honor those on this bridge.  (Applause.) 
Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or even the President alone.  If every new voter-suppression law was struck down today, we would still have, here in America, one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples.  Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar, the number of bubbles on a bar of soap.  It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. 
What’s our excuse today for not voting?  How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought?  (Applause.)  How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?  Why are we pointing to somebody else when we could take the time just to go to the polling places?  (Applause.)  We give away our power.   
Fellow marchers, so much has changed in 50 years.  We have endured war and we’ve fashioned peace.  We’ve seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives.  We take for granted conveniences that our parents could have scarcely imagined.  But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship; that willingness of a 26-year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five to decide they loved this country so much that they’d risk everything to realize its promise.
That’s what it means to love America.  That’s what it means to believe in America.  That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional. 
For we were born of change.  We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.  We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people.  That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction -- because we know our efforts matter.  We know America is what we make of it.
Look at our history.  We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, and entrepreneurs and hucksters.  That’s our spirit.  That’s who we are.
We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some.  And we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth.  That is our character.
We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free –- Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan.  We’re the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because we want our kids to know a better life.  That’s how we came to be.  (Applause.)
We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South.  (Applause.)  We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened up the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.
We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent.  And we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, and the Navajo code-talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. 
We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We’re the gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge. (Applause.) 
We are storytellers, writers, poets, artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.
We’re the inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country, and hip-hop and rock and roll, and our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.
We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.  (Applause.)   
We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.”  We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”
That’s what America is.  Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others.  (Applause.)  We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past.  We don’t fear the future; we grab for it.  America is not some fragile thing.  We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes.  We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit.  That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe old age of 25 could lead a mighty march. 
And that’s what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day.  You are America.  Unconstrained by habit and convention.  Unencumbered by what is, because you’re ready to seize what ought to be. 
For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, there’s new ground to cover, there are more bridges to be crossed.  And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.
Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.  Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.”  “We The People.”  “We Shall Overcome.”  “Yes We Can.”  (Applause.)  That word is owned by no one.  It belongs to everyone.  Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.
Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we’re getting closer.  Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding our union is not yet perfect, but we are getting closer.  Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile.  Somebody already got us over that bridge.  When it feels the road is too hard, when the torch we’ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on [the] wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not be faint.”  (Applause.) 
We honor those who walked so we could run.  We must run so our children soar.  And we will not grow weary.  For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise.
May He bless those warriors of justice no longer with us, and bless the United States of America.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.) 
END
2:50 P.M. CST
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
December 10, 2013

Remarks by President Obama at Memorial Service for Former South African President Nelson Mandela

First National Bank Stadium
Johannesburg, South Africa
1:31 P.M. SAST
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  To Gra├ža Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of states and government, past and present; distinguished guests -- it is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life like no other.  To the people of South Africa -- (applause) -- people of every race and walk of life -- the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.  His struggle was your struggle.  His triumph was your triumph.  Your dignity and your hope found expression in his life.  And your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.
It is hard to eulogize any man -- to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person -- their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul.  How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.
Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by the elders of his Thembu tribe, Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century.  Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement -- a movement that at its start had little prospect for success.  Like Dr. King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed and the moral necessity of racial justice.  He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War.  Emerging from prison, without the force of arms, he would -- like Abraham Lincoln -- hold his country together when it threatened to break apart.  And like America’s Founding Fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations -- a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power after only one term.
Given the sweep of his life, the scope of his accomplishments, the adoration that he so rightly earned, it’s tempting I think to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men.  But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait.  (Applause.)  Instead, Madiba insisted on sharing with us his doubts and his fears; his miscalculations along with his victories.  “I am not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection -- because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried -- that we loved him so.  He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood -- a son and a husband, a father and a friend.  And that’s why we learned so much from him, and that’s why we can learn from him still.  For nothing he achieved was inevitable.  In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, and persistence and faith.  He tells us what is possible not just in the pages of history books, but in our own lives as well.
Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals.  Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father.  And we know he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people,” he said.
But like other early giants of the ANC -- the Sisulus and Tambos -- Madiba disciplined his anger and channeled his desire to fight into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand up for their God-given dignity.  Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price.  “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination.  I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and [with] equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”  (Applause.)
Mandela taught us the power of action, but he also taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those who you agree with, but also those who you don’t agree with.  He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet.  He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and his passion, but also because of his training as an advocate.  He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement.  And he learned the language and the customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depend upon his.  (Applause.)
Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough.  No matter how right, they must be chiseled into law and institutions.  He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history.  On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of unconditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”
 But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal.  And because he was not only a leader of a movement but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy, true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.
And finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit.  There is a word in South Africa -- Ubuntu -- (applause) -- a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift:  his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.
We can never know how much of this sense was innate in him, or how much was shaped in a dark and solitary cell.  But we remember the gestures, large and small -- introducing his jailers as honored guests at his inauguration; taking a pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS -- that revealed the depth of his empathy and his understanding.  He not only embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves. 
It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well -- (applause) -- to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth.  He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.
For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe, Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life.  But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection.  With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask:  How well have I applied his lessons in my own life?  It’s a question I ask myself, as a man and as a President. 
We know that, like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation.  As was true here, it took sacrifice -- the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of a new day.  Michelle and I are beneficiaries of that struggle.  (Applause.)  But in America, and in South Africa, and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not yet done. 
The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important.  For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease.  We still see run-down schools.  We still see young people without prospects for the future.  Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love.  That is happening today.  (Applause.)
And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice.  We, too, must act on behalf of peace.  There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.  There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.  (Applause.)  And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.
The questions we face today -- how to promote equality and justice; how to uphold freedom and human rights; how to end conflict and sectarian war -- these things do not have easy answers.  But there were no easy answers in front of that child born in World War I.  Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done.  South Africa shows that is true.  South Africa shows we can change, that we can choose a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes.  We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.
We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  But let me say to the young people of Africa and the young people around the world -- you, too, can make his life’s work your own.  Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Nelson Mandela and the struggles taking place in this beautiful land, and it stirred something in me.  It woke me up to my responsibilities to others and to myself, and it set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today.  And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man.  (Applause.)  He speaks to what’s best inside us.
After this great liberator is laid to rest, and when we have returned to our cities and villages and rejoined our daily routines, let us search for his strength.  Let us search for his largeness of spirit somewhere inside of ourselves.  And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, when our best-laid plans seem beyond our reach, let us think of Madiba and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of his cell:  “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
What a magnificent soul it was.  We will miss him deeply.  May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela.  May God bless the people of South Africa.  (Applause.)
END
1:50 P.M. SAST

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Freedom of the press

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, A Free Press, March 2015.

The fact that I feel compelled to keep making this point disturbs me greatly. But make it I will. 

Two quotes regarding freedom of the press that should be displayed prominently, in very large type, in every newsroom and every office of every politician - federal, state and local. 

The first is from President John F. Kennedy in December 1962:


Mr. Vanocur: You once said that you were reading more and enjoying it less. Are you still as avid a newspaper reader, magazine......I remember those of us who travelled with you on the campaign, a magazine wasn't safe around you.

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, it is. No, no, I think it's invaluable, even though it may cause you some.......it's never pleasant to be reading things frequently that are not agreeable news, but I would say that it's an invaluable arm of the Presidency, as a check really on what's going on in administration, and more things come to my attention that cause me the concern or give me information, so......I would think that Mr. Khrushchev operating a totalitarian system which has many advantages as far as being able to move in secret, and all the rest, there's a terrific disadvantage not having the abrasive quality of the press applied to you daily, to an administration. Even though we never like it, and even though we wish they didn't write it, and even though we disapprove, there still is......there isn't any doubt that we couldn't do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press.
Now, on the other hand, the press has the responsibility not to distort things for political purposes, not to just take some news in order to prove a political point. Seems to me their obligation is to be as tough as they can on the administration but do it in a way which is directed towards getting as close to the truth as they can get and not merely because of some political motivation.
You can view him speaking those words on YouTube here

The second is from Thomas Jefferson in 1786:


"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."

Long after the temporary power of ISIS is gone and the term once again refers to an Egyptian goddess, the permanent power of these quotes will remain. 

Friday, 13 March 2015

ExtraPOLLations

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, March 2015.

"Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" is a wonderful song written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart from the 1940 musical "Pal Joey" which you can hear performed superbly by the fabulous Ella Fitzgerald on YouTube here


They are also three words that could easily describe the reaction of the political world to the recent poll results.

First, Prime Minister Abbott had one of his "worst weeks" and yet the IPSOS Poll showed an "improvement" in the Government's standing.

Then, Prime Minister Abbott had one of his "best weeks" (no doubt buoyed by the IPSOS Poll at the start of the week) and yet the Newspoll this week showed a "deterioration" in the Government's standing.

How could this be?

At the risk of making the grave mistake that Press Gallery legend Alan Ramsey warned of, "when you start quoting yourself, it's time to give it away" you might find these explanations of the idiosyncrasies of polling of some interest.

Sydney Morning Herald "Why that surge in popularity could be a load of balls" April 3, 2010, which followed a Newspoll that showed the then ALP Government had achieved a "poll surge" increasing its two party preferred vote from 52% to 56% in one fortnight.

Poll of Polls segment, ABC's Insiders program, February 2, 2013.

Both of these items are included below. 


"Why that surge in popularity could be a load of balls." Sydney Morning Herald, April 3, 2010, by Andrew Catsaras.

THE most recent Newspoll of federal voting intentions reported the two-party-preferred vote had changed by 4 percentage points since the previous poll.

The ALP had risen from 52 per cent to 56 per cent and the Coalition had fallen from 48 per cent to 44 per cent. This translates to more than half a million voters having changed their vote in the past fortnight. Is this realistic? What if the next Newspoll shows the two-party vote returning to ALP 52 per cent, Coalition 48 per cent? Would this mean over a half a million voters would have changed again? The short answer is: it's very unlikely.

This may be the one poll in 20, or 5 per cent, that is outside the pollsters' 95 per cent confidence range, termed a rogue poll, and so is unreliable.

However, if we assume this poll is not a rogue then the suggested change in vote may or may not be real. If we assume it's real, then the results indicate a trend towards the ALP with a magnitude of 4 percentage points - a very large and statistically unlikely figure. A trend towards the ALP is possible but the most likely explanation is that the change in voting intentions is as a result of sampling variation and so most probably represents an illusion.

Sampling variation is the unavoidable variation in results that occurs from poll to poll because we are polling a sample of the population and not the whole electorate. It is the most common explanation for changes in polling numbers, yet is the most misrepresented.

Consider the following example: imagine you have a bag of 100 balls, 50 black and 50 white. You randomly select 10 balls from the bag. For your sample to accurately reflect the 50/50 split between the white balls and the black balls, you should have pulled out five white balls and five black, but you would not be at all surprised if you pulled out only three white balls and seven black. You would put it down to a chance variation in the sample. You would not immediately assume that while the bag did originally have 50 white balls and 50 black balls, the make-up of balls in the bag had now changed to 30 white and 70 black to reflect the sample.

Equally, if after replacing the first sample your next sample pulled out seven white balls and only three black, you would not be surprised and would put it down to a chance variation. You would not believe that the make-up of the balls in the bag had changed once more to now be 70 white and 30 black to reflect the new sample and would understand that it is the samples of 10 that are varying, not the original 100.

In other words, you would not conclude that the make-up of the balls in the bag was ''volatile'', first ''swinging'' to the black balls and then back to the white balls. In political terms these sampling variations tend to be seen as a ''poll surge'' followed by a ''poll slump'', but are more likely to be a statistical illusion. In a poll it is possible that reported changes in voting intentions, compared with the last poll, are accurate reflections of shifts in the mood of the population, but it is more probable that it is just sampling variation.

This highlights the problems associated with poll-to-poll analysis and reinforces the need to examine polling data over time. With this Newspoll, the most sensible approach would be to wait for another few polls from at least two pollsters before drawing any definitive conclusions. However, this won't occur, because the political world, participants and observers alike, is obsessed with using polling as a real-time measure of the state of the political parties. Thus every movement, big or small, must mean something. Consumed by the 24-hour news cycle, the political world assumes the real world is equally consumed and therefore poll movements must reflect the voters' response to the last fortnight's political events.

There is a Latin phrase, ''astra non mentiuntur sed astrologi bene mentiuntur de astris'', that translates as ''the stars never lie but the astrologers lie about the stars''.

Just as the astrological world is confident there is meaning in the movement of the stars, the political world is equally confident that there is meaning in the movement of the polls. As for those in the real world, they believe there is meaning only when it says what they want to hear.


Poll of Polls, ABC TV's Insiders, February 3, 2013.

BARRIE CASSIDY: OK well it is an election year, there'll be all sorts of polls week in and week out and all sorts of analysis to go with them. What should we take from all of that?

ANDREW CATSARAS: Well there is a great deal of misunderstanding about polls. An opinion poll is not some Delphic Oracle delivered to us from the gods, it's just an estimate of how people are likely to behave in a hypothetical situation: that being, if an election were held now.

And by aggregating the polls as we do on Poll of Polls, we're trying to get a more complete estimate, from a series of estimates, of how people are likely to behave in a hypothetical situation. And then we track those estimates over time to see if there are any trends emerging.

Now while such a measured approach might not suit the manic nature of the 24-hour news cycle with its insatiable desire for instant gratification and superficial analysis, it is the only sensible way that you can look at polls.

BARRIE CASSIDY: OK, so what about the analysis that you provide though, averaging out the polls every month; how much weight should we put on that process?

ANDREW CATSARAS: Because we're aggregating the polls it is a more comprehensive approach, but even these results are not answers and nor are they predictions. They're simply reflections. And because they're reflecting likely behaviour in a hypothetical situation, those reflections are not clear images of the future but rather blurred images of the past, and should be understood as such.

Now viewed in that context, we can better understand what polls actually are, not what many people would like them to be. And it exposes the extraordinary frenzy that follows the release of each new poll - treating each poll result as if it's an actual election result, and each change from poll to poll as if they're actual swings between elections - for the absurd and highly destructive political ritual that it truly is.

A ritual that regularly weaves the threads of very little into the illusion of very much; one that routinely values opinion over fact; and one that is convinced that random variations in polling results actually mean something, is a ritual, that our political system could well do without.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Fighting for the right to vote

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: March 2015, marking the 40th anniversary of the first International Women's Day, and the 50th anniversary of Selma Voting Rights Protest March.

These are the lengths people have been prepared to go, to fight for their right to vote.

Women fighting for the right to vote in the UK:


Suffragette Emily Davison lying unconscious after colliding with King George V's horse, Anmer, in the 1913 Epsom Derby.

It is believed that she had been trying to attach a flag to the bridle of the horse as it raced past.

She died four days later.


Five years later, in 1918, the Representation of the People Act, granted women in the UK over 30 years of age the right to vote.

Ten years after that, in 1928, the Equal Franchise Act, granted women in the UK over 21 years of age the right to vote.

You can view footage of the incident here: 


African-Americans fighting for the right to vote in the U.S:


Protesters, who had been marching for voting rights, being beaten by police on "Bloody Sunday" March 7, 1965, Selma, Alabama.



Now 103 years of age, Amelia Boynton, while marching for voting rights, was beaten unconscious by police troopers on "Bloody Sunday".



Congressman John Lewis had his skull fractured at Selma, on "Bloody Sunday", after being felled by a police truncheon.

The Voting Rights Act was signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson.


I wonder how those who take for granted their right to vote and flippantly dismiss this right as an inconvenience once every three or four years, or believe it to be a waste of time, might feel if they knew this history?



"We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say he has no business being here at all." Pericles, Funeral Oration, 431 BC. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

My kingdom for some vision

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, March 2015.

Vision. 

One of the most mentioned terms in politics and yet the most poorly understood and articulated by our leaders.

Ever heard any of them speak like this?

"And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavour, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved. All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin." President John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 21, 1961.

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."  President John F. Kennedy, Speech to Congress, May 25, 1961.

While nowhere near as grand as either of these two visions, I will look at two vital areas of government responsibility that make a very large call on the federal budget - health and the age pension - and provide some ideas, based on the same theme: self responsibility.

1. Health

The less said about the recent miserable attempts to 'reform' the health system, the better.

Instead of messing about with co-payments and value signals and other minutia and insignificancies, we should be dreaming big, setting goals and then taking action.



The Vision: Dream Big

We want Australians to be the healthiest people in the world.

Set Goals:

To achieve this we need to separate out preventable disease from non-preventable disease.

Our goal will then be to eliminate 100% of all preventable diseases and channel our resources into researching and treating the non-preventable diseases.

How to eliminate preventable disease?

Five key areas to focus on:

1. Smoking  2. Excessive alcohol consumption 3. Poor diet and lack of exercise 4. Vaccinations 5. Undiagnosed and untreated mental health problems.

For example on smoking:

13% of Australian adults (and too many teenagers) currently smoke, or about 2.6 million people.

Our goal will be to decrease that percentage by 0.5% (100,000 people) per year so that by 2041 no Australians will be smoking.

Take Action:

(1) We will assist smokers to quit by making all approved products (patches, gum etc) as well as counselling etc, available to smokers (via their GPs) for no charge under Medicare so that there is no financial obstacle to quitting smoking.

(2) We will financially dissuade smokers by imposing a 10% price increase on all tobacco products every year and that money will be used exclusively for the health budget (initially to pay for the costs of implementing the point above).

(3) We will increase the current communication measures (advertising campaigns etc) to encourage people to quit.


Similarly structured strategies would be developed for alcohol consumption, poor diet and lack of exercise, vaccinations and mental health. 

Could you imagine if we were able to eliminate all preventable disease? Could you imagine if we freed up our health system to focus purely on researching and treating non-preventable disease?

Could you imagine the massive benefit to the health of our population, let alone the massive benefit to the financial cost of funding our health system?

"Yes, that's all very well in theory, but what about the short term? How are we going to fund the system properly today?" ask the smug accountants from the back of the room, desperately clutching the 2015 Intergenerational Report.

This is a no brainer.

We increase the Medicare levy by 0.25% per year for the next 12 years, taking it from 2% to 5% and channel all that additional income into the health budget. All current exemptions and penalties (Medicare surcharge levy) will continue to apply. 

(Cue to Treasurer Hockey falling off his chair).


2. Age Pension

The Vision: Dream Big.

We want Australians to be financially self reliant in their retirement.

Set Goals:

By 2050 all Australians will be able to fund their retirement via their superannuation savings.

Take Action:

The superannuation contribution levy will increase by 0.5% per year for the next 21 years (paid for 50% by employees and 50% by employers) taking it from 9.5% to 20%. 

The funds accumulated will be available from 60 years of age but only as an annuity.

Could you imagine how the Australian social landscape would be transformed if we were to achieve this goal?


These are just two examples in two areas of government responsibility. But it can be done if the will and, most importantly, the vision is there.

"If we could put a man on the Moon........"

My kingdom for some vision.

Dicky Three


Blog Archive

Our home

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Earthrise over the moon (click on picture to view film)

The pale blue dot

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Another sister galaxy

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