Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ramsay's Foul Mouth and Parliament's Trivial Pursuits

The first time I glanced at on of Gordon Ramsay’s TV shows (Hells Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares), I didn’t respond very warmly to him. He seemed so abrasive; how could anyone stand working under such a loud mouth? In fact, it reminded me of tyrannical chefs when I worked in kitchens as a student. On closer inspection; I found Gordon’s shows to be rather addictive viewing. He may be a loud mouth, foul-mouthed bully, but he has high standards for cuisine, and berating under performing staff is his way of provoking a more satisfactory performance from them. Moreover, most of the people he berates are so misguided, apathetic or just plain stupid it’s hard to feel any sympathy for them. Watching them get blasted with the bleeding obvious is actually quite entertaining; I mean, lamb bones covered in chocolate? Powdered mashed potatoes? Frozen food as part of a ‘unique concept’ in menu design? These idiots deserve all the abuse Gordon dishes up to them, and the portions are ample.

What is perhaps even more entertaining is that the Australian Senate has decided to :

“hold an inquiry into swearing on television and what more could be done about it. The motion to hold the inquiry was moved by the South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi after a recent episode of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares in which the abrasive gastronome dropped the F-bomb 80 times. That episode screened at 8.30pm on Channel Nine. Another that offended the senator, in which Ramsay used the C-word twice, screened at 9.30. Labor and the minor parties voted with the Coalition yesterday to establish the inquiry, which would concentrate on free-to-air TV. Senator Bernardi promised it would be brief.”

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Chef's foul specialty sparks swearing inquiry, Phillip Coorey Chief Political Correspondent, March 21, 2008

Sure, swearing may be offensive to some people. It is of course possible for them (as has been pointed out numerous times in the past) TO CHANGE THE CHANNEL, or perform the even more extreme act of TURNING OFF THE TV. If this is to be an inquiry on “what the community is prepared to accept”, isn’t it already blatantly obvious that the community does accept such things, and has for a very long time? The offending words in question have, after all, very old origins as most ‘swear words’ do. (They have Anglo-Saxon roots as far as I know). Who can say that they don’t use such words at least from time to time. Such words are not always used to cause offence; it’s quite possible to use them in an affectionate way. As usual, it’s about context and language being used in an appropriate situation. However, is the language used on television by Gordon Ramsay, Big Brother, The Sopranos, Sex And The City really among the great social issues of our time? Does the Australian Parliament really have nothing better to occupy its time? Perhaps not…

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Internet Censorship

The Rudd government has announced plans to filter internet content at the ISP level. This is a ridiculous idea. This government gained a good deal of support with promises to promote an information revolution. Filtering content at ISP level will significantly slow down connection speeds. Australia is already way behind the rest of the world in this respect; in Japan the speeds are about 20 times faster. The administration and technology for filtering will cost ISPs money, which will then be passed on to the consumer; so we get slower internet for a higher price. Some revolution. While protecting children from inappropriate content is of course a very good idea, surely that responsibility lies with parents. Any parent who allows their child access to an unmonitored internet connection behind a closed bedroom door is asking for trouble. It is very easy to install a "net nanny" type program on a computer, and why not locate the computer where you might be easily able to watch (at least from time to time) what your child is doing. Apparently, users will be able to "opt out" of filtering and still receive what Rudd and his gurus consider to be "inappropriate". Who knows what their idea of "inappropriate" will be? Why not make parents who are too lazy or technophobic to take child safe precautions "opt in". This is supposed to be a free society after all. Anyone who has experienced internet use with filtering applied (e.g. the infamous DET portal) will know how painful this can be. Many useful and harmless sites are automatically blocked while others with quite questionable content still get through. This kind of attack on civil liberties seems more at home somewhere like China or hardline Islamic states. Australian internet connections might soon be like Ned Flander's cable TV: "100 channels, and all blocked except for the weather." Okely dokely? No! Doh!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gaza Crisis

Gaza and Israel are on the brink of all-out war - before it is too late, raise a massive global outcry for a ceasefire to stop the violence and protect civilians: Sign the Emergency Petition. The Gaza-Israel crisis is out of control. It's come to this: bloody full-scale invasion, or a cease-fire.1 With rockets raining down on both sides, Israel launched a ground assault into the Gaza Strip this weekend. Over a hundred combatants and civilians from both sides lie dead.2 The next 48 hours are crucial -- Israel's cabinet will discuss a larger invasion Wednesday. But Hamas floated a Gaza ceasefire months ago, and 64% of Israelis support the idea.

Both sides know they are in a battle for global legitimacy, and international opinion counts. We need a massive global outcry for a cease-fire now - sign the emergency petition below, then forward this message to friends and family. We will deliver our petition to senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week, as well as in a major billboard campaign: cease fire now

Citizens on both sides are desperate for safety. Many experts believe that without a ceasefire to stabilize Gaza, there is no chance for achieving a comprehensive peace and a fair two-state deal. While the US still maintains no-one must talk to Hamas, Israel itself has begun to break that taboo, and public reports and our own contacts indicate that European and Arab officials now support a Gaza ceasefire.

Like the Hezbollah-Israel war of 2006, this conflict is spinning out of control. Just as it did then, international pressure can help achieve a ceasefire today. The combatants take public opinion very seriously. So let's send a united global message to the warring parties to stop the violence - sign the petition and spread the word today: sign the petition

The UN has already called for both sides to cease all acts of violence - the European Union, Turkey, Russia, the UK, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and many other states have joined the global chorus. This is not just a war but a growing humanitarian crisis. Last month we met with EU Middle East envoy Marc Otte and senior advisers in European member states to deliver a call for a ceasefire and an internationally-overseen opening of the Gaza crossings, and we have seen progress since from the international community.5 There is much more to do. We've campaigned hard for real Middle East talks, but unless Gaza is stabilised, no lasting peace is possible.


  1. Invasion or ceasefire :
    Guardian news report on the Israeli debate:
  2. The Times of London news report :
    both sides claiming success, 110 dead:
  3. Missiles now reaching the Israeli city of Ashkelon
  4. 64% of Israelis support ceasefire talks with Hamas
  5. UN and EU call for an end to the violence
  6. European and international policy shifting
  7. International policy positions changing