Since some episodes are good and others bad, I could never see the point of being either a declared friend or enemy of Q&A. But the bad have so thoroughly outnumbered the good this year that I’m about ready to concede it’s not worth watching. It hit rock bottom last night with what had been billed (at the end of last week’s show) as a discussion that tackles ‘the existence of God and the great moral challenges of our time.’
In fact, the panel didn’t debate the existence of God at all, apart from one set piece by John Lennox about the complementarity of science and religion. Lennox was the only intellect of substance on the panel. He’s an Oxford mathematician and Christian apologist, who’s debated many of the prominent atheists, including Dawkins, Hitchens, and Michael Shermer. In addition to his debating skills and knowledge, Lennox benefits from a happy combination of scholarly gravitas and disarming humility, the latter aided by a charming Irish brogue which is in winning contrast to the superior English accents of Dawkins and Hitchens. Continue reading
Peter Roebuck, the Fairfax cricket writer, has joined Mike Atherton in suggesting a boycott of Sri Lanka. For England that means next year; for Australia, next month. It’s good to see that someone outside the cloisters of human rights activism is prepared to make a stand against the arrogant, unaccountable gloating and spin of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government.
The UK Channel 4 documentary ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ shown on Four Corners last week was truly sickening. The Sri Lankan army, in the course of its rout of the LTTE in May 2009, appears to have recklessly if not deliberately bombarded civilians in ‘no-fire zones’ with artillery; and to have carried out summary executions of captured Tamils, including women, some of whom appear to have been raped.
As explained in the program, Sri Lanka is not a member of the International Criminal Court, so its leaders and generals could only be indicted if the case was referred to the ICC by the Security Council. Since this is not likely to happen, the only option is concerted international pressure, at two levels: on the Sri Lankan government to permit an independent investigation; and on the members of the UN Human Rights Council to revisit the issue, having voted a week after the fighting finished to congratulate Sri Lanka on its prosecution of the civil war. Continue reading
‘You go with the information you had…’
I’m probably almost the last person to have seen Charles Ferguson’s documentary Inside Job. But the film is still showing in a few cinemas in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, so it’s worth making a belated recommendation. If only for the Icelandic glacier shots at the beginning, see it on the big screen while you still can.
I had pretty high expectations, but the documentary easily surpassed them. It manages to deliver a devastating indictment of the American financial sector and its accomplices in the government, without leaving itself open to accusations of exaggeration, left-wing bias or peddling conspiracy theory. In short, it was the film Mike Moore couldn’t have made.
It has three particular strengths. One is the structure. On one side, it movingly shows the human consequences of the disaster in the form of of low-income mortgagees heartbroken, workers unemployed, and indeed small countries like Iceland brought to ruin. On the other side, it breaks the catalysm into its constituent parts, focussing on each technical issue in turn: the erosion of the legislative framework, the roles of the mortgage and securitization industries in creating the asset bubble, the scandalously unprincipled behaviour of investment banks like Goldman Sachs who sold assets they were simultaneously gambling against, the indifference of the Federal regulators to uneprecendented and perilous degrees of leverage attained in all of the biggest investment banks, and the outrageously generous bailout offered to the financial terrorists by their former colleagues now working in the Administration and the Federal Reserve. Continue reading
Three things emerged from qanda last night.
The first was that Malcolm Turnbull is out of control, and thinks he can undermine Tony Abbott at will. So there’s some fun in store.
The other two are closely related. One is that, whatever Bill Shorten learned in his MBA at the Melbourne Business School, it didn’t equip him with basic economic intuition. The other is that, despite the lessons of Rudd’s failed greenhouse legislation, the Government still hasn’t has figured out how to explain the concept of carbon pricing to the electorate.
An audience member had the inspired idea of posing the John Hewson question: What will the carbon tax do to the price of a birthday cake?
Shorten’s answer, to paraphrase only slightly, was: waffle, waffle waffle; waffle waffle, waffle. It might have been that he wanted to avoid a truthful answer, but one couldn’t rule out the possibility that, like Hewson, he simply couldn’t figure it out on the spot. Continue reading
Orpheus and Eurydice by Carlo Cignani (1628-1719)
O everlasting gods! I see your lovely eyes and
your beautiful face, and yet I cannot believe my
These are the sentiments of Orpheus on being reunited with Eurydice in Hades, but they are also the standard reaction to a Pinchgut Opera performance. Or, more precisely: I cannot believe my ears that something so sublimely beautiful could be extracted from that neglected material.
L’anima del Filosofo, Joseph Haydn’s version of Orpheus and Eurydice, is their ninth production, and since all the others have been brilliant I have no hesitation in recommending it without yet having seen it.
Pinchgut is an opera company that stages a baroque opera once a year, for four performances in Sydney’s City Recital Hall in the first week of December.
Rather than produce tried and tasted repertoire, Pinchgut usually resurrect forgotten masterpieces, rarely (or never) performed. When these are pieces by first-rank composers like Vivaldi (Juditha Triumphans, 2007) or Charpentier (Jonathan and David, 2008), the question is ‘How on earth did this get lost?’; when they are by obscure people like Francesco Cavalli (L’Ormindo, 2009), it becomes ‘Why on earth isn’t this guy better known?’. Continue reading