Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mobile phone blues

Mobile phones (cellphones) have definitely exceeded my understanding of them.  Ten years ago I could send text messages on them but I got a new one about three years ago that did so many things that I have never quite dug text messaging out of all the available functions.  I was pleased that my new phone included a camera and took some photos with it but I have never figured out how to get the pix out of my phone and into my computer.  I imagined that some sort of USB cable to connect phone and computer would be needed but none was supplied.

Recently, however, my phone began to play up so I needed a new one.  Obviously, the thought came to me, I needed to upgrade from my old button phone to a new-style touchphone.  Experience of not understanding my phone, however, had made me wary.  Before I bought a touchphone, I needed someone to show me how to work it.  So I went to three different retailers, including Dick Smith, and sought to have the product demonstrated to me before I bought it.  Nobody had the time to do that.   They all told me that I would "pick it up".

"Phooey to that!" I thought, and walked out of the store with my money still in my pocket.  So I went down to the post-office and bought myself another old-style button phone for $49.  Maybe I will work IT out one day. At least I can make and receive calls and I can at least read text messages.  It's got a horrible ringtone that I would like to change but I don't know how to do that either  -- JR

Ground control to Major Kev: sorry, you're a goner

Like the firing of a Saturn V rocket escaping its earthly bonds, Labor banked on the election providing the final impetus needed to slip its heavy past and propel it skyward in 2013.

Used for the Apollo missions, the Saturn V rocket achieved its critical velocity by dumping depleted sections of itself as it climbed.

The analogy with Kevin Rudd's ascent is obvious. The recycled leader welcomed the early boost offered by the NSW Right faction, but has since cast it off in the most public way. Toxic policies have also been jettisoned, like the carbon tax and a dysfunctional asylum seeker response, along with several unlucky candidates.

But while Earth's gravitational pull can be overcome with the controlled explosion of enough rocket fuel, Labor's six-year record of division and over-promising is not so readily denied.

Notwithstanding that an election had to be called this year anyway, there was always a danger for Rudd Mark II in going to the people before gaining a durable lead in the polls. Election campaigns, like rocket launches, have no reverse gear. Things end in one of two ways.

Buoyed by the rate of his ascent in the weeks after June 26, Rudd and his boosters always believed he would climb yet further in the polls during the campaign proper.

In the narrowly focused context of the formal contest, they reasoned, Rudd would rise against a Liberal leader weighed down by his low popularity, half-baked policies on climate change and broadband, and his reputation for old-world attitudes to women and same-sex marriage.

But with the halfway point of this pantomime not far away, it is clear to the cooler heads in both camps this race is already decided.

Abbott's 52/48 per cent lead in last weekend's Fairfax/Nielsen poll is not unbridgeable for Labor, but, it is in all likelihood, structural.

Consider the equation before voters. On one side is a two-term government racked by spectacular hatreds, dragged low by broken promises on carbon and the surplus, various program failures, and a worsening economy. It campaigns for "a new way" but offers a recycled leader once dumped and then viciously traduced by his own side. This gaffer-taped operation is asking voters for three more years.

On the other side is an opposition famed for its negativity and woefully small-horizon thinking, yet uncannily united and consistent. Its leader, while prone to the odd verbal gaffe - his female candidates have "sex appeal" - enjoys unqualified support internally.

Having not trailed in the polls at any time since the last election, it has again edged ahead.

Little wonder, then, that in a choice between Labor's incendiary internal chaos, which might or might not be behind it, and the Coalition's ground-dwelling but unified ordinariness, the latter is appealing to more voters.

The harsh reality dawning for the ALP is the apparent popularity of Rudd through July, which led some commentators to enthuse it was more than a mere "sugar hit", were simply jumping the gun.

The Fairfax/Nielsen poll confirmed the trend, showing Labor's primary vote is once again dropping below its poor 2010 result after hitting 39 per cent last month.

Equally concerning for Labor is that Rudd now trails the less popular Abbott on the question of who voters trust (47/40), and that Abbott is closing in as preferred prime minister.

Some of that might be attributable to Rudd being forced to play contact politics, which is not something voters always enjoy - witness the "worm" in election debates which turns south every time someone goes on the attack.

But Rudd's problem is probably deeper than that.

Beneath the headline numbers in the poll was one that should have rocked the Labor camp. Voters were asked who they expected to win - as distinct from who do they intend to vote for. Abbott won easily, with 57 per cent picking him. Just 31 per cent opted for Rudd.

So what, you might say. Voters are not expert pundits, are they? Not as individuals perhaps, but as a group, it turns out, they're better. On this very question going back over 15 years, the people have correctly picked the winner every time.

Even in 1998, when Kim Beazley registered a higher popular vote, the punters correctly chose John Howard to win, albeit by a narrow 11 per cent margin. They were right again in 2001, by 13 per cent; 2004, by 47 per cent; 2007, by 42 per cent; and even in 2010, when neither side secured a majority but Labor scraped through with a smidgen over 50 per cent.

Apollo 13 is as famous for its amazing mission rescue as for its near disastrous failure.

Mission control ordered the crippled vehicle to attempt a difficult sling-shot pass around the dark side of the moon to acquire the momentum needed to get home.

Perhaps Rudd has a similar feat in mind. He will need that at least.


Royals to visit Australia with baby George

AUSTRALIANS should get a chance to see the future king of Britain next year with Prince William and his wife Kate planning to visit Down Under with baby George.

Speaking at the Anglesey Show on Wednesday, the Duke of Cambridge announced he wouldn't be taking on another tour of duty in Wales when his stint as an RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot ends in September.

Instead the new family is expected to move permanently to Kensington Palace in London, with William taking on more royal duties.  Those duties will include, it now seems, an official visit to Australia in 2014.

Speaking to Max and Maxine Davies from Victor Harbor near Adelaide on Wednesday the Duke of Cambridge said: "George is doing really well, thank you."

"We are all very hopeful of coming to Australia next year," William added, according to media reports in the UK.

Mr and Mrs Davies, aged 77 and 75 respectively, later said they were thrilled at the prospect of a royal visit.

"We are on holiday here and can't believe we got to talk to him," Mrs Davies said at the show, according to British tabloid The Daily Mail.  "How wonderful that the family will come to Australia to visit."

Prince William was just nine months old when he himself was first taken on a trip Down Under by Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

The new prince was born just over three weeks ago and the miniature monarch-to-be was named George Alexander Louis two days later.

Prince William joked about his young son at the Anglesey Show on Wednesday.  "He's pretty loud but of course very good looking," he said.

"I have to say that I thought search and rescue duties over Snowdonia were physically and mentally demanding but looking after a three-week-old baby is up there."


Outrage at 'monster' baby killer Muslim's $3000 compensation after prison serves him vegetables

A QUEENSLAND baby killer who chopped up his newborn daughter before burying her body has won a $3000 compensation payout because he was forced to eat vegetables in jail.

Former butcher Raymond Akhtar Ali was fed a vegetarian diet for four months, instead of specially prepared halal meat in accordance with his religious requirements.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal found Ali, 60, was discriminated against on the basis of his religion and ordered the State Government pay $3000 compensation into a trust fund.

Ali is serving a life sentence after he savagely bashed his newborn daughter to death in 1998 before dismembering her, cutting her in half and burying her body at his Logan Village home.

A furious Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, yesterday described Ali as a "monster" and said he'd ordered urgent advice to appeal the decision.

Ali was fed a vegetarian diet for four months while in Maryborough Correctional Centre, instead of halal food, which needs to be blessed, slaughtered, cooked and stored to strict rules.

QCAT member Ann Fitzpatrick found in his favour because he had to eat vegetables and not halal meat.  She ordered the State Government to pay Ali's $3000 compensation into a victim trust fund.

In 2000 Ali was found guilty of the gruesome 1998 murder of his newborn daughter while the baby's mother, Amanda Leanne Blackwell, 22, was found guilty of manslaughter.

Blackwell, who worked in Ali's halal butcher shop, became his virtual "sex slave" and fell pregnant to the married man, the Supreme Court heard.

Minutes after she secretly gave birth at a Logan Village property, Ali killed the baby.

Mr Bleijie yesterday said the State Government would assess its options on the QCAT ruling.

"The community would understandably be angry about this decision and I've requested urgent advice with respect to the State lodging an appeal," he said.

Ms Fitzpatrick said Ali was forced to eat vegetarian food at the prison from September 24, 2008 to January 22, 2009, after being incorrectly told halal food was not available.  "It forced a person who otherwise ate meat as part of his diet to eat a vegetarian diet," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

Ali, who can apply for parole from August next year, can access the money if there are no claims from victims, child support agencies or for any fines he may owe, but not while he is in jail.


Another low-information Leftist

KEVIN Rudd is facing more campaign drama after a Labor MP attacked a star Liberal candidate - who served on the frontline in Iraq and Afghanistan - as a defence "bureaucrat" who worked "the last 25 years" in Canberra.

Labor MP Geoff Lyons, who won the marginal seat of Bass in 2010, was forced to make an apology following his attack on Liberal candidate Andrew Nikolic.

In the latest case of election dirty tricks, the Government MP told an audience of Year 11 and 12 students - some of whom will vote for the first time - that his election rival had "misled" journalists about his role in the military.

A transcript reveals the MP derided Mr Nikolic's 31-year military record - despite the Liberal candidate being deputy commander of Australia's military contingent in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Mr Nikolic, who rose to the rank of Brigadier, was also was commander of Australian forces in southern Iraq in 2005.

But the Labor MP told the students from Newstead College in Launceston that Mr Nikolic was a "candidate who has been a bureaucrat in Canberra for the last 25 years working in the media".

Mr Lyons also claimed Mr Nikolic - who served for several years as Defence's director of public affairs - lied about signing a contract between Defence and AusAID.

Government records however, confirm that Mr Nikolic did sign a Head Record of Understanding with the foreign aid agency in September 2010.

Labor has already been forced to dump two candidates and the Prime Minister can ill afford any further outbreaks of campaign drama.

Mr Lyons holds the must-win Tasmanian seat with a margin of 6.7 per cent but a surge in support for the Coalition has Mr Nikolic well placed to win the seat next month.

Mr Nikolic said: "It's disappointing and desperate for my political opponent to belittle my military record in this way."

The Liberal candidate - who quit the military two years ago to campaign in Bass - also received a strong endorsement from one of Australia's most decorated soldiers, former Vice Chief of the Defence Force and ex-Chief of Army, Ken Gillespie.

"There is nothing on his CV that is inaccurate. Andrew had a very successful command, " Mr Gillespie said, of his former deputy.

"You don't get to be a Brigadier without having some pretty good qualities. (Mr Nikolic) had a wonderful career and to suggest that his CV is inaccurate is mischievous at best."

Last night, Mr Lyons said he was "sincerely sorry" for his remarks about his opponent.  "I have the upmost respect for all of our brave men and women who serve Australia so proudly both overseas and in their various capacities at home," the MP said.  "This includes my political opponent, Mr Nikolic."


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