Monday, February 27, 2012

A wonderful story and an evocative picture

Once upon a time everybody understood the bonds that could form between people and their horses and this picture illustrates that

It was a race against the tide that pulled at the heartstrings.

For three hours, show horse Astro was stuck neck deep in thick mud at Avalon Beach on Corio Bay in Victoria as the tide inched closer.

Rescue crews first tried to pull the 18-year-old, 500kg horse free with fire hoses, and then a winch before a vet turned up to sedate Astro and pull him clear with a tractor.

The crews knew by 5pm the tide would have come all the way in. But within minutes of the waters rising around him, Astro was being dragged up on to solid ground slowly but surely, the team filthy but ecstatic.

Owner Nicole Graham said she and daughter Paris, 7, set off at noon when without warning she sunk up to her waist in thick, smelly muck.

She wouldn't leave Astro's side until he was free. "It was terrifying," Ms Graham said. "Every time I moved it sucked me back down."


For Gillard, the challenge has just begun. For Rudd, this is the end

JULIA Gillard has received the strongest backing ever given to a leadership contender in the history of Labor and the vanquished Kevin Rudd has only mustered the most meagre support in the party's history.

Giving the lie to the inflated numbers the Rudd forces, the Caucus has plumped for Gillard by a winning margin more than two to one giving the former Foreign Minister support from just 30 per cent of his colleagues.

This is not a springboard for Rudd to fight another day and he would do well to adopt the kind of emphatic language used by former US President Lyndon Johnson who delivered a memorable "will not seek and will not accept" speech relinquishing any pretence to the leadership of his party.

The most amazing thing about this result is Rudd was unable to garner even one additional vote from where he was not just two weeks ago, but 20 months ago when he was dumped as Prime Minister.

While Rudd's life is about to become both much quieter and lonlier, Gillard has a challenge of existential proportions. She needs to regroup and get back in control of her government's agenda.

Today's Newspoll, putting Labor in the best - but still losing - position it's been in for about six months, was welcome news for Labor and Gillard but this trend needs to be confirmed and improved upon if the Prime Minister is to feel entirely comfortable and safe.

Senior government figures geuinely believe she can do just that and, if she's given a few months of relatively clear air, she will be able to establish the authority and leadership credentials she has struggle to demonstrate since the August, 2010 election.

Certainly in the months ahead members of the federal Parliamentary Labor Party will be watching colleagues like hawks for any sign of leadership rumbling and corridor talk. There might be plenty of open wounds and some bruised egos among Labor MPs, but there is no stomach for a rerun of the events seen in the last 10 days.

The immediate task for the Prime Minister is to reshuffle her ministry, something she is likely to use caution and sensitivity in bringing about.

Despite some urging for a bold reshuffle, Gillard is likely to keep changes minimal and without a hint of payback or punishment for the handful of Rudd supporters.


Will of the people fails to sway caucus

Old joke: Q. "What's the difference between a caucus and a cactus?" A. "With a cactus all the pricks are on the outside"

Labor has overwhelmingly endorsed the candidate of the unions and the party machine over the candidate of the people.

For a political party that has been super-sensitive to opinion polls in the past, it was a remarkable rejection of the public will.

The people consistently prefer Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard as Labor leader by a factor of about two to one. But Labor has gone the other way by a factor of more than two to one. For a party that is on a steady trajectory to electoral defeat, it was an extraordinary act of steely resolve. Or suicidal madness.

Under the Gillard leadership, Labor lost its parliamentary majority and then proceeded consistently to register the lowest primary vote on record.

And the only polling figures to shift in the past week beyond the margin of error was Gillard’s approval rating.

Yet the vote of 71 to 31 for Gillard suggests that Rudd, on net, has failed to win over any votes since last week. Even more remarkably, he has failed to win any votes since losing the leadership 20 months ago.

Some names have moved from one column to the other on the caucus voting lists, but, on a net basis, the caucus has shown itself to be deeply entrenched in defending Gillard.

This is a violation of one of the customary laws of leadership challenges – that the challenger carries momentum.

The repudiation of Rudd reflects three forces.

First, it illustrates the power of the Labor institutional infrastructure of unions and their caucus outgrowth, the factions. Not one trade union supported Rudd.

Second, it shows the visceral personal dislike for Rudd in the caucus. The great bulk of the caucus would rather protect its comfortable working conditions under Gillard than choose a difficult leader more likely to deliver an election win.

Third, it demonstrates a commitment to continue to deliver its existing agenda. Oddly enough, it is largely an agenda drafted by Rudd.

The 40-vote margin compares with a 22-vote margin in Paul Keating’s first and failed strike at Bob Hawke. So Rudd faces a much bigger task to win in any second challenge. It would take a very dramatic shift to move 22 votes.


Parents can forget about teaching, kids call the shots

This is true. Twin studies show that IQ is overwhelmingly genetic, with NO influence from the family environment

PARENTS fretting about brain-training their babies have been told to relax - children are like "dandelions" that will flourish almost regardless of what you do.

Brain experts say mums and dads worry unnecessarily about their children's development, because the impact of parenting is limited.

New book Welcome To Your Child's Brain, written by neuroscientists, concludes most children can reach their potential with "good enough" parenting because they are born hard-wired for learning.

"Many modern parents believe that children's personality and adult behaviour are shaped mainly by parenting, but research paints a very different picture," according to the book, due for release in May.

"For many brain functions, from temperament to language to intelligence, the vast majority of children are dandelions ... they flourish in any reasonable circumstances."

But while force-feeding babies and toddlers with learning is not the answer, spending quality time with them is important, say authors Sandra Assmodt and Professor Sam Wang.

"Parents are well suited to teach them, just by interacting with their children in everyday life," they said.

Clinical psychologist Dr Simon Crisp said parents should take cues from their children "because they will learn at a pace that suits them".

"The important thing is to develop a culture at home that values learning," he said. "Make learning fun and enjoyable. Happy and relaxed parents will bring up a happy and relaxed child."


1 comment:

Paul said...

I'm thinking Rudd, with his classical arrogance, tried to play the personality cult card using his (strangely) popular public profile as a kind of blackmail to gain support within the Caucus. I suspect if he had won he would have rushed to an early election. I'm in two minds as to whether all this strengthens Gillard or weakens her. I wonder if the bloodletting has already begun?