We all know the truth about Lance Armstrong now, and everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject. That’s all in the past; let’s take a look at the future… at least, a future which might have been and is now lost to us.
You may not know that among Republican powerbrokers in Texas, lying Lance was spoken of as a future Governor of the Lone Star State. Rich, handsome and famous, it was more or less assumed he would be unbeatable, whenever he decided he was ready to run for office.
With the benefit of hindsight, it seems clear that Armstrong was waiting for the investigation into his drug-taking to peter out and be forgotten before he made his bid. Instead, he has been discredited for all time. There’s a limit, after all, to how much lying even a politician can get away with.
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Did you notice the date? It’s Hallowe’en again, and the usual signs are out. It’s fascinated me for some years how Australians take this festival, and I finally had to put it out there - Hallowe’en seems to create more Grinches than goblins, ghouls or headless horsemen in this country. I wonder why. There seems no reason for it at all.
Last week I was in a nameless large department store in an unfashionable part of my home town, and saw a fairly half-hearted display of decorations, pumpkin-shaped loot sacks, childrens’ outfits and so on near the entrance. Goody, said I, just what I’m after, and proceeded to lay in a supply of scary trimmings.
As I was choosing Jack-o-Lantern-emblazoned battery lights and witches hats, a small boy and his father walked past, perhaps on their way to buy toiletries or stationery or motor oil. “Look, Dad, Hallowe’en,” said the nipper. The very typical Australian father (yes, a little tubby and sloppily dressed) didn’t break stride. He was on a mission to get whatever it was. “We don’t have Hallowe’en in Australia,” I heard as they disappeared.
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On a highway in Arizona, south of Phoenix, a sign reads: DANGER — PUBLIC WARNING — TRAVEL NOT RECOMMENDED - Active Drug and Human Smuggling Area - Visitors May Encounter Armed Criminals and Smuggling Vehicles Traveling at High Rates of Speed.
There are no such signs on the roads of Christmas Island, outside Villawood, or by the Curtin detention centre in north-west WA.
Australia’s and America’s immigration issues bear almost no resemblance, except that people die on boats from Java, and they die crossing the miserable mesquite plains of America’s south.
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Even in Chicago, they are puzzling over Labor’s long march to oblivion. In 1987, prior to becoming chief of staff to a president, Rahm Emanuel spent a fortnight with a couple of Australian nurses as he travelled up the east coast to Cairns.
The charismatic 52-year-old Chicago Mayor joked with me this week - his city was hosting the NATO summit - that it had given him a “great respect for the Australian healthcare system”.
“I told your previous prime minister this,’’ he said clearly amused as he relived a conversation with Kevin Rudd.
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Watching from afar, I noted a press release from a federal minister talking about a Brisbane suburb. It was headlined: “Making Sunnybank’s streets safer”. How can a place called Sunnybank possibly be unsafe?
But, you know, places can get that way. Or un-get that way. Which is what happened to New York. It got safe.
Recently, I re-watched the still-watchable 1979 film The Warriors, about a New York gang’s attempt to get home to Coney Island by crossing from the Bronx through the wilderness of Manhattan.
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Among the multiple emergency exits built into the mighty C130 Hercules is one in the forward half of the aeroplane helpfully surrounded with the words “danger” and “propeller” in huge red letters.
It invites an interesting dilemma in an idle passenger’s mind. How bad would things have to be in here, to make using that exit worth the risk? It is the kind of dark thinking that occurs as one stares blankly at the internally netted walls of the Herc’s cavernous fuselage.
This military transport is designed for function over comfort. The noise during flight into a mostly hostile Afghanistan is deafening. Literally. As well as full body armour, passengers wear earplugs and each is thus cocooned in a strangely solitary world of sound and thoughts.
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I’m a young, Caucasian, university-educated male. Like many who match that description, I have a longstanding man-crush on the President of the United States, due to arrive in Canberra this afternoon.
It’s not just because Barack Obama is such a cool cat. It’s not just because of those 2008 YouTube videos of good-looking ladies singing about how excellent His Excellency is. It’s not even really because of his policies, some of which are spot-on and others, questionable.
I’ve got a man-crush on Obama for an old-fashioned reason. He can spin a story that’s at times, enchanting. He can tell compelling yarns with Hollywood-style blockbuster special effects.
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Many regarded him as a dangerously simple man who wanted to save the world by blowing it up.
Hell, we all thought it.
But a Ronald Reagan revival is underway in the United States, recasting him as the greatest US President in living memory, deep thinker, careful strategist, avid reader, broad intellect and international peace-bringer. The current Republican presidential contenders speak of Reagan with love and awe. They do not speak of George H or George W Bush in such terms. They do not speak of them at all. They speak only of Reagan.
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This Saturday the self-described “organic” Occupy Wall Street movement will be coming to a capital city near you.
They boldly claim “we are the 99 per cent” - it’s their official catchcry - so unless you consider yourself among the uber rich and powerful, these folks are your new voice. So they’ll be speaking for you when they wave their glib and nebulous placards declaring “people not profits” and “be the solution”. (I am not making these up – this is the print-ready poster artwork available on their website.)
Their initial beef was apparently with the financial sector – hence the occupation of Wall Street in protest. But their list of demands goes beyond the remit of the corporate fat cats and includes free education and a type of Utopian redistribution of wealth.
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Sometimes it’s all too easy to dismiss the significance of public protests.
Like so many others, I scoffed contemptuously at the truck convoy that rolled into Canberra last month, with its very clear statement of anger against… something? I know it had something vaguely to do with the carbon tax, but that message got lost somewhere amidst all the frothing at the mouth, and the placards warning us that the United Nations is secretly plotting to take over the world.
Of course, it’s easy for me, as a young, commie, pinko elitist to have a go at a bunch of hard-working truckies, so in the interests of balance it’s worth acknowledging that many of the rallies attended by people who share similar ideological dispositions to me are often no better.
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Sometimes you can meet a person and feel blessed. I don’t mean touched by the hand of God. I just mean you feel renewed, restored and pretty sure there’s goodness in the world. And that, in itself, is a blessing.
The man in question is the Reverend Dr Thomas Lane Butts Jr, aged 81, retired pastor of the Uniting Methodist Church in Monroe County, Alabama. His older brother was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The Rev Butts was not.
He battled the Klan for years, but particularly in the 1950s, when Alabama and neighbouring Mississippi were the Klan heartlands. They had always been a presence, but had in recent years been sleeping lightly. Their cause was fully awoken as the Civil Rights movement began its fight in the south.
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The world is justifiably relieved that Osama bin Laden is dead. But there’s this niggling little feeling that the whole operation was a little bit too… American.
The US as judge, jury and executioner. A daring and dramatic feat, and our brave heroes, kill the bad (really bad) guy. The President declares the victory and the crowds take to the streets chanting “USA. USA. USA.”.
Update: Osama bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot and killed, although the Whitehouse says there was a “volatile firefight” underway. All the latest at news.com.au.
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In this cynical age of focus groups and poll-driven policy, America has at last unearthed a presidential candidate who will not blow with the political wind, or any wind for that matter. A candidate who will hold true to his principles through thick and thicker.
Meet Donald Trump’s hair, the frontrunner for next year’s republican nomination. While notoriously unreliable sources like The New York Times have mistakenly suggested that it is Mr Trump himself who will run for the White House, The Punch can exclusively reveal the candidate is in fact the rug atop his head.
“I will comb over the thinning budget and plug any gaps,” the perfectly coiffed hairpiece told The Punch overnight. “And if you don’t like my policies, you’re fired.”
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Update 2.10pm: Reuters is reporting White House sources have confirmed President Obama’s trip to Australia and Indonesia has been canceled.
Confusion still reigns among politicians, diplomats and police in Canberra as to whether US President Barack Obama will in fact pay a visit to Australia in mid-June, with US officials now seriously doubting whether the President will show.
The itinerary is all but locked in. The Punch understands President Obama is set to arrive on the 17th of June with his family, on the 18th to meet with Kevin Rudd the Governor General possibly the cabinet and Tony Abbott, followed by an address to a special sitting of Parliament. A trip to Sydney to see the sites is apparently planned for Saturday the 19th.
The Australian Federal Police are ready. Sources close to the AFP say preparations for President Obama’s visit are in full swing, with police being told to cancel leave and reorganise shifts to ensure everybody will be working ahead of and during the visit. The ACT police are said to be “devoting their full resources” over the period of the 17th and 18th of June.
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Sorry Sarah Palin – in the war on the “r” word, you can’t have it both ways.
The foxy Fox News contributor and former 1.3-term Governor of Alaska kicked off a skirmish earlier this month when she called on the president to sack his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, for using the word “retarded” during a strategy meeting.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Emanuel, a famously aggressive pit-bull among Obama’s inner circle, called some at the meeting last August “F-ing retarded” for saying they were going to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who weren’t supporting the president’s health care plan.
In a typically folksy post to her Facebook page, which has 1.4 million fans (frightening, but less than Obama’s 7.6 million), Palin responded to a “patriot” from Massachusetts who alerted her to the Journal article.
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