Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Leo Shanahan, sex surveys, sex in the city, and shite and sex, and did I mention Mark Day and sex?

(Above: gratuitous shot of Sex and the City chicks, from the movie).

Mark Day on Monday in Chairman Rupert's The Australian, which pretends to be a high falutin' intellectual rag, it's so elegant, so intelligent, here:

The Punch was the first local site to try to create a format to meet the habits of that part of the audience that had forsaken the traditional and more formal methods of news delivery. It spins off the news: rather than reporting the fact that, say, Kevin Rudd has announced new carbon reduction targets, The Punch is likely to ask: is climate change ruining our sex lives? It’s a collection of opinions, sometimes straight, sometimes off the wall, and it is designed to encourage reader feedback and participation.

The Punch is edited by David Penberthy, who was formerly editor of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. Penberthy has found his niche here: his site is full of ideas and he presents his opinions strongly and with a sense of humour. Some of what he writes appears in News Limited newspapers, including The Australian, but on the site you get the full scope of the opinions and twittering which has positioned The Punch as one for my favourites list.

The Punch is essentially a wide-ranging, news-oriented blog. It has links to news stories but does not attempt to report the news except in passing. This reflects the way we “use” news - a part of a conversation may entice us to find out more by searching the subject.

So let's turn to The Punch today, Chairman Rupert's foray into intertubes digital content, which from reading reading Mark Day you might think is some kind of Shakespearian exploration of ideas, and what do we see but Leon Shanahan with this bit of shite, dressed up with the title How much sex can these women possibly be having?

Shanahan's conclusion?

It’s amazing what we’ll try and take from some of these things.

Last month one was released that showed men who had younger wives lived longer despite not looking at any other factors that might come into play with these men: like they could be richer and healthier.

Others included red heads have more sex, men think about football more than sex, most men have paid for sex: you can find at least one doing the rounds most days.

So why do we read these stories about stupid surveys that we should be able to tell from the outset that are complete bullshit?

Cause we like legitimising ways to read about sex, similar to the way you just waded through this I guess.

Come clean Mark Day. Explain how The Punch, Australia's daggiest conversation, is on your favorites list? Tell us all the stories you love best. And did you bother to explore the subject further after reading this story? Or did you feel your brain begin to seep and rot and pulsate with a frenzy of mind parasites, dropping ten IQ points in the process?

Well I know you won't worry, and it was a rhetorical question anyway, but of all the cheap half assed ways to pad a story so you can run a photo of the Sex and the City chicks ... and mention sex. Lordy, did I mention sex?

I mean, dear god, Leo blathers on in a post-modernist, feminist aware way about sampling (true he has no idea of statistics but never mind), and pandering to stupid stereotypes and the impossibility of generalizing, while having a fine old time generalizing in a stereotypical way. If you want to read the surveys, go to Leo for the links. Me, I'm too brain dead to play the game.

Meantime, there are plenty of solid, decent articles on the intertubes. Why not search for them. And if you want to see pictures of Sex and the City chicks, why not just do it? Google image search them, I mean. There are millions. Here's one:

(Below: a photo of sex goddess Kim Cattrall from Sex and the City).

Kevin Donnelly, John McIntrye, and the right to indoctrinate while sucking on the taxpayer teat ...

(Above: now children notice in these pictures based on Jack and the Bean Stalk, notice how the old woman is cowering from the threat of domestic violence, while pathetic Jack does nothing to help her. In the second, notice how the evil, greedy Jack has snatched the harp away from the giant, and the sweet harp hangs on desperately to the vine, anxious to avoid rape and capitalist exploitation by the entrepreneurial Jack).

I don't think the notion of schools as faith-based indoctrination centres has been expressed with more clarity than managed by Dr Kevin Donnelly in Why the bishop is wrong on faith and rights.

Here's the rousing conclusion to his column:

In its submission to the review of the EOA review the union argues, "The Victorian Government, through its legislative power should determine that religious schools respect the rights, values and ways of being of job applicants and employees who do not share the same beliefs".

Such an argument is both dangerous and flawed. Dangerous in that it gives pre-eminence to the individual's right to believe and do as he or she wishes in opposition to the faith-based morality and teachings of the school.

Such an argument is also flawed as teaching and education, in general, can never be value-free. It is important that those seeking to work in faith-based schools sympathise and agree with the religious beliefs and teachings of such schools. To do otherwise is hypocritical and sends a contradictory message to students and other staff.

Yep, it's four legs good, two legs bad time, and to be anything other than a sheep would be hypocritical and send a contradictory message to anyone who might listen. Like think for yourselves. Or gays and single mothers bad, four legs good. Or whatever.

No, it seems like a clear cut victory for indoctrination over education - at least education in the classical sense of a disinterested pursuit of the truth.

You'd never guess that Dr Kevin Donnelly was once the chief of staff to that turkey Kevin Andrews, would you?

Yet it wasn't so long ago that Donnelly was writing about Cannon fodder of the culture wars:

In the US it's known as the culture wars: the battle between a liberal-humanist view of education based on the disinterested pursuit of truth and those committed to overthrowing the status quo and turning students into politically correct new age warriors.

The editorial in the latest edition of English in Australia, the journal of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE), provides ample evidence that the culture wars have reached our shores and that those seeking to control our schools prefer indoctrination to education.

But, but ... surely once you've got the kids in your grasp, you should give 'em a double barreled blast of your beliefs. Anything else from a dedicated secularist would surely be contradictory, hypocritical and confusing to staff and students. You know, the same way you'd expect a fundie Islamic school to preach fundie Islam ...

In the confused sights of Donnelly is Bishop John McIntyre, who in his column A betrayal of the faith, had the decency and courage to criticize Attorney-General Rob Hulls for selling out to conservative church leaders. Showing a dangerous radical streak, McIntyre gave evidence he'd actually read and understood the teachings of Christ, not always obvious in some Christians:

I am perplexed! On Sunday, The Age reported that Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls had, after extensive lobbying from conservative church leaders, pre-empted a parliamentary committee report on exemptions to the Equal Opportunity Act. Hulls announced a compromise that will allow church groups to continue to discriminate, albeit in a more limited way. This will, I imagine, also flow on to the national debate under way in regards to the introduction of a national Human Rights Charter.

Such a response is arguably at odds with the essence of what the founder of the Christian faith lived, taught and died for. How bizarre that the followers of Jesus Christ would oppose, and ask for exemptions from, a legal instrument that has at its heart a declaration of the dignity and value of every human life and the basic rights of every person. Jesus of all people, would champion an affirmation of fundamental human rights, which especially benefits marginalised groups in society and those least able to protect themselves.

I could go on quoting McIntyre - as evidence that atheists and Christians can get along - but why not duck over and read the rest of what he's got to say. Oh heck, I can't resist quoting his last two pars anyway:

How strange that today some of the heirs to the anti-slavery campaigner tradition of the church seem reluctant to support a Charter of Human Rights in Australia and seek ongoing exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act in Victoria. Those Christian social reformers who opposed slavery, such as William Wilberforce or Pope John Paul II, would surely be perplexed by this stance. If a radical statement of the full humanity of every person, simply because they are human, lies at the heart of Jesus' teaching and if he showed a particular concern for the marginalised and the most vulnerable, why then would Christians oppose a legal instrument designed to affirm these truths?

And furthermore, why would Christians defend their right to be exempt from a commitment to them when employing people to work in their church-based organisations? That is why I am perplexed.

Well there for my money walks a genuine and compassionate Christian. No doubt he will be called an interfering, woolly headed jumbuck of a do gooder cotton wool cleric, without an understanding of the way the real world must operate. You know, by taking the ball up the middle, and discriminating in ways that keep your limited little world order in spic and span shape.

But back to Donnelly, who without the clarity or compassion of McIntyre, manages to jumble up a lot of bizarre arguments along the way, including such matters as shouting 'fire' in a crowded cinema and polygamy as a way of life:

Freedom of expression does not give one the licence to shout "fire" in a crowded cinema. In terms of sex discrimination, it is permissible, in the context of women's health centres for example to deny men membership. Some customs, such as polygamy, that might be accepted elsewhere in the world are not permitted in Australia and the right to do as one pleases has to be balanced against the common good and what both state and church law says is permissible.

Huh? WTF has that got to do with anything? Can we get back to the matter of school employment please?

The right to discriminate is also supported by the Australian Human Rights Commission's 2008 Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century: Discussion Paper that suggests two grounds for exemption, one being to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of a particular religion.

Faith-based schools are not secular schools and, while they are an important part of the broader Victorian educational community, such schools have a unique mission to fulfil in terms of their religious teachings and principles.

If a teacher's lifestyle or beliefs are in opposition or contradict the religious beliefs and tenets of a particular faith-based school, then it is only reasonable that the school has the right to deny employment.

Yep, there's the nub of it. The right to deny employment is a crucial part of the right to indoctrinate (or fulfill a unique mission if you want the' blather gibberish' version). What this has got to do with the teaching of maths and sciences is known only to Donnelly, but I guess it's also the key to how science will be taught in a creationist flavored religious school.

Well okay, but let schools that think they have a divine right to indoctrinate stop sucking on the teat of the taxpayer dollar. Let's see them spend their own bucks to fulfill their divine right to fill their captive students heads full of indoctrination and mis-information.

To fulfil their obligations and mission, religious schools need the freedom to employ staff who embrace that particular religion and who follow its teachings, both in word and deed. As educational institutions, it is also important that individual school authorities are free to employ staff that are committed to and support the culture of a school and its educational philosophy.

Funny. Well I guess that sews up the case for fundie Islamics to use their taxpayer-funded schools to teach jihad.

Here's Donnelly on the desperate need for independent thinking while berating Wayne Sawyer of the NSW English Teachers Association:

It's also ironic, notwithstanding the rhetoric about empowering students to think independently, that Sawyer seeks to impose his view of what is politically correct and judges anybody who begs to differ as being duped ...

... In the post-modern classroom, literacy is defined as social-critical literacy and texts are deconstructed to show how disadvantaged groups, such as girls and women, are marginalised and dispossessed. Ignored is the aesthetic and moral value of great literature.

The result? Traditional fairytales such as Jack and the Beanstalk and children's classics such as The Magic Far Away Tree are criticised for presenting boys as masculine and physically assertive and for failing to show girls in dominant positions.

The English classroom was once a place to learn how to read and write. In the edubabble much loved by teacher educators such as Wayne Martino, this more traditional approach is considered obsolete and, as an alternative, the English classroom must be "conceptualised as a sociopolitical site where alternative reading positions can be made available to students outside of an oppressive male-female dualistic hierarchy - outside of an oppressive phallocentric signifying system for making meaning".

Funny, I look forward to Donnelly explaining how the edubabble of teaching based on scientological principles, or the fundamentalist creationism of the Exclusive Brethren is just fine and dandy, and - as well as being part financed by taxpayers - should also have the right to discriminate in relation to employment, the running of their schools and their educational philosophies.

Well it's a "F" for Hulls, an "A+" for the genuinely Christian Bishop John McIntyre, and a request to Donnelly to "please re-write this paper so it conforms to your previous parrotings about independent thinking, while adducing evidence of coherent logical thinking, together with a more rigorous explanation of how polygamy bears on the matter of the Equal Opportunity Act in relation to employment in schools."

We used to have a favorite saying in school, which still seems to be around: durr-brain.

Still works for me.

Let's argue about the proper faith based spelling another time. While der-brain might be acceptable, it should not be confused with 'd'oh' brain.

(Below: now children notice how the first The Faraway Tree picture suggest a funny looking moonface and a saucepan man and a pixie and children can fly. This is witchcraft or satanism, and like Harry Potter books, must be banned. Nobody can fly like this, using thistles, unless they attend scientology school and hit level 12.

Note the second picture suggests a girl can climb a tree. This is naughty. Feminism is naughty. Girls should be prim and proper and nice to boys. Then they might get a bliss bomb from the moonface man, perhaps with honey in it.

In the third notice how the funny saucepan man likes to clean his pots and hang around children. What a weird, funny looking man. Strange and different and somehow evil. It's likely he's one of those paedophiles who's strayed out of the Catholic church. Kill the saucepan man, it's the only way to clean up the world.
And yes, in the final picture, the children have found some magic mushrooms. Eat the magic mushrooms. You will find the world seems strangely different. Yell 'fire' in a cinema, and you too can grow up to believe in polygamy. You might even like to share time with the moonface man and the saucepan man. And they say these classics are no longer taught in school. What a scandal).

Sarah Ayoub, Suri Cruise, and where's the harm in high heels and make-up when Xenu and the Thetans are on the prowl?

Scientology is one of those cults I find endlessly fascinating.

I've drunk the kool aid of a number of cults - the holy Roman church being the first - but I always plead ignorance and youth. In essence there's not much difference in the basic absurdities underlying assorted beliefs, as noted by a recent SMH correspondent:

Scientology is indeed a religion: a higher power has decreed it. In its 1981 High Court case against the Australian Taxation Office, the Church of Scientology claimed tax exemption on the basis that it was a religion – that status was granted.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Lionel Murphy said he saw no major difference between a belief based on alien life-forces living under volcanoes (as taught by Scientology) and the notion of holy ghosts and virgin births.Once I would have been furious at the idea my taxes were subsidising such idiocy. Now I’m just jealous I haven’t come up with an idea that allows me to make a fortune from people who are happy to give me their money, and then even more by not paying tax on it. Andrew Dalton, Annandale

There's something utterly charming and magical about a punter forking over a quarter of a million bucks to get 'clear', by learning that Xenu, alien ruler of the Galactic Confederacy, some 75 million years ago brought billions of people to earth in a spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes.

As a result, the thetans clustered together, stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to create complications for humans right to this very day (you can always wiki about those complications, not always spiritual, here).

It must be a bit like getting to the end of a video game, seeing some cheap animation as a reward, and wondering if that's all there is to life, video gaming or religion.

Sure the Xenu myth's no sillier than the story of god wiping out all life (talk about inventing the concept of the holocaust), save for those herded on to an ark, or sundry other biblical myths, but it's the cheekiness of a cult recently invented by a third rate sci fi writer as a way to gouge money that impresses over ancient cults devised to explain mysteries such as thunder, lightning, the stars, the sun, the moon and a flat earth.

But what's this got to do with our loon of the day, you might ask, and if you'll pause a moment to contemplate Sarah Ayoub's contribution to The Punch, Lambs dressed up as mutton, all will become clear.

Because Ayoub spends her entire column getting hot and bothered about little girls and make-up, and acting too old and too vulgar, and losing their innocence. In this area, context is everything, and it's always interesting to see puritans in older generations berate the impurities in younger generations.

Personally I can take or leave make-up or high heels (perhaps high heels are best left to trannies), but where Ayoub got me excited wasn't to do with her familiar, predictable and much abused evocation of JonBenét Ramsey syndrome (here).

No, it's the way she uses a photo of Suri Cruise out and about in little high heels with her mum Katie Holmes to illustrate her point:

The other week, I found a picture of three year old Suri Cruise, wearing a pair of blue peep-toe heels, and I couldn’t help but recoil in shame at how our society has allowed our little girls to grow up before they’re emotionally and physically ready.

Sure, we can’t help the fact that our reality is far different to that of days gone by. But when we have young girls over-sexualised before they’re emotionally mature, or battling issues such as body image disorders before they’ve even reached their teens, we know there’s a problem at stake.

And here's her punch line to the column:

We need more ‘beautiful on the inside’ mentalities. We need more little girls loving life instead of little girls lost in its maze before they’re ready. And as always, we need to get to the root of the problem, and get little Suri Cruise to hand her heels to daddy Tom, because, no matter our take on the matter, we all know that they’re certainly more prettier than standing on a cardboard box for that bit of extra height.

Um, a little girl's in the grip of a loon who believes in Xenu and thetans, and is a chief proselytizer for a dangerous cult that rips money off people, and the most you can worry about is that Suri Cruise is wearing petite high heels?

That's the root of the problem? Guess we have a different idea of what's a root and what's a bit of surface dressing. I'm still not sure how you can have a 'beauty on the inside' mentality if you've been invaded by ugly thetans and are unclear, or for that matter how you might grow up clear, if you're in the spotlight along with a father and mother high up in the celebrity food chain, a status exploited by the couple in question, the movie business, the jackal feeding media, and the overlords of Scientology.

Not to mention columnists picking on you because of that association because you happen to be wearing modest high heels one day while snapped by a paparazzi.

Golly, wearing high heels and putting on a little lipstick might even come as a relief, in the way we used to love playing dress up games and plastering our faces while rampaging through my mother's wardrobe.

So here's a thought. Stop picking on Suri Cruise, and get in to the heavyweight stuff - the cult of scientology.

Or is the chance to increase the traffic to The Punch - by using a photo of Suri Cruise - too irresistible?

(Below: proving we have even less integrity than The Punch, below is a picture of Suri Cruise in the clutches of dangerous aliens. The high heels she was wearing were taken off for this shot, and hidden in the bushes of never ever land).

Janet Albrechtsen, capitalist snake oil vending on the evils of social justice and social democracy, and please, drink any brew in moderation

(Above: just a couple of entrepreneurs going about their business, in much the same way as Janet Albrechtsen does her snake oil pitches).

Rise up comrades, there's an alarming, even terrifying call to arms in this morning's newspaper:

Those on the Right have a new spring in their step. Right across the spectrum of right-wing politics, from Janet Albrechtsen to Gerard Henderson, they are determined to build momentum for a new free market project. On these pages others have spent the past week bouncing around their ideas about conservative economics and the need to resuscitate the moral impulse behind free market ideology. Determined not to waste a crisis, the language of the Right is, as always, clever, tapping our emotions with talk of rebuilding a better marketplace. Yet, under new disguises, the same old frauds are being peddled. What is being sold as conservative is regressive if genuine progress is our aim. As the global Right rises up to claim its ideology will prevail, there has never been a more critical time to be reminded that social democracy sits at the heart of liberty and human advancement.

Oh okay, here's how it read in Janet Albrechtsen's Beware socialist snake-oil vendors:

Those on the Left have a new spring in their step. Right across the spectrum of left-wing politics, from Michael Moore to Kevin Rudd, they are determined to build momentum for a new social democratic project. On these pages others have spent the past week bouncing around their ideas about progressive economics and the need to resuscitate the moral impulse behind social democracy. Determined not to waste a crisis, the language of the Left is, as always, clever, tapping our emotions with talk of rebuilding a better society. Yet, under new disguises, the same old frauds are being peddled. What is being sold as progressive is regressive if genuine progress is our aim. As the global Left rises up to claim its ideology will prevail, there has never been a more critical time to be reminded that economic freedom sits at the heart of liberty and human advancement.

Yep, it's one of those rousing clarion calls to arms which in reality is just meaningless gibberish at the heart of the left-right divide, this time inspired in Albrecthsen by Michael Moore's laest film Capitalism: A Love Story, preaching to the converted in much the same way as Albrecthsen loves to preach to her converted acolytes.

Well, good luck to her. She's paid handsomely to peddle her mythology, and there's no doubt that preaching from a nice sinecure is a much more comfortable life style than actually doing manual labor in the trenches for the man.

So how's she doing? Well spreading furphies in the usual style:

The glaring omission from these grand-sounding statements is an acknowledgment that government action played a large part in fuelling the boom in the US housing market that became a bubble in the wider mortgage market and finally burst across the globe. Successive US administrations mandated taxpayer-funded home loans to those who, in more prudent times, would be regarded as clear credit risks. There is a great deal of irony, and even more dishonesty, when social democrats such as Barack Obama and Rudd exploit the crisis to demonise free markets.

This is such awesome claptrap that it certainly fills the chuckle a day requirement demanded of commentariat columnists for outrageous distortions and hilarious deceptiveness. Fortunately there are healthy correctives out there in the world of the free press. I'd particularly recommend James B. Stewart's Eight Days The battle to save the American financial system, published in The New Yorker, a gripping read surrounding the events of the downfall of Lehman Brothers (unfortunately requiring a subscription, only an abstract available here).

It is of course the latest double flip and pike by commentariat columnists of the Albrechtsen kind to blame government action for the GFC, when in reality the real failure was the lack of action taken by government to address regulatory problems in the banking and financial-services industry.

The next best step is to call opponents dealers in snake oil, keep chanting preferred mantras (preferably with ears blocked), note that black is white, or vice versa, ignore all shades of grey, and insist anyone who is agin you is wrong, simply because they're agin your simplistic analysis and refusal to allow in shades of grey.

Albrechtsen doesn't miss a beat:

As Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull noted in his speech to the Policy Exchange in London last week, US governments effectively underwrote two-thirds of the US mortgage market using government creations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The GFC was triggered, in large part, by governments in the US assuming a place at the centre of the economy to pursue well-meaning social goals that delivered disastrous unintended consequences. Without an honest appraisal of the causes of the global meltdown, the case for social democracy is a fraud.

Well, we might just as well say that without an honest appraisal of the causes of the global meltdown, the case for unregulated free markets is a fraud. And since we don't like to play the man, we'll just pass over in silence the sundry roles that Malcolm Turnbull played in various capitalist extravaganzas which no doubt these days he'd like to attribute to government intervention (if you're in the mood, why not read The life and adventures of Malcolm Turnbull).

But let's not brood about HIH and FAI (here), let's just consider that those adventures were all good, robust business - no pity for the shareholders, likely as not just rich idle speculators anyway - and focus on the dangers of the left, with their intuitively appealing notion of social justice:

While the Left’s catchcry of social justice is intuitively appealing, there is a reason no philosopher has been able to articulate the principles of social democracy. The closer one looks, the clearer it is that the Left’s language of a new social democratic project is deliberately couched in emotional, ambiguous terms as camouflage for an old project of centralising power in the hands of a few elites who presume to know what the rest of society wants.

Which would I presume be a different set of elites opposed to the few elites - represented by Albechtsen - who presume to know what the rest of society wants. Which is to allow her pet elites to continue running the show.

Because when Albrechtsen tosses around loaded words like elites (why ever did she leave out chardonnay swilling latte sipping to describe and evoke her elites) we know we're in the safe company of an ideologue, a snake oil salesperson, a charlatan, not actually interested in the concept of social justice or social democracy, but rather interested in the notion of wresting power away from anyone she's agin. Because as used by Albrechtsen, the term elite is objectively meaningless. Unless you happen to be referring to the elite who get to scribble out their nostrums for The Australian, and get paid handsomely for the pain inflicted on readers.

Which is why once you've dispensed with the notion that social democracy or social justice is capable of being articulated, you can have the pleasure of boxing such suffering naive idealist utopians around the ears. Never mind the logic, just work on the right jab and the uppercut:

Refugees from the Left - men such as Irving Kristol - have a knack for nailing the illiberal tendencies of left-liberal “reforms”. Kristol, who died last week, likened them to amateur poetry, “more concerned with the kind of symbolic action that gratifies the passions of the reformer rather than with the efficacy of the reforms themselves”. Their elephantiasis of moral sentiment means that they are overwhelmingly concerned with “revealing, in the public realm, one’s intense feelings: we must ‘care’, we must ‘be concerned’, we must be ‘committed’. Unsurprisingly, this goes along with an immense indifference to consequences, to positive results or the lack thereof.”

Well you don't have to look far to discover the notion that Irving Kristol managed to confuse the idealized little guy and the small man, and never understood the difference between "the people" and those who practiced populist manipulation of them (a nostalgic Christopher Hitchens, Farewell to the Godfather).

But we digress, when surely there's time and room for a little union bashing:

These are not arcane arguments for political philosophers. They go to the heart of human progress and how we live. For example, as Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout pointed out last week, the union movement’s hardline push against flexibility clauses in new workplace agreements harks back to an era when “if a mother wanted to collect her kids from school early, they would have to ask everyone on the shop floor whether it was possible and get a collective vote on it”. Those who advocate social justice by centralising power necessarily diminish our individual freedom.

Which of course is resolutely different to the way some employers oppose an employee going to take a toilet break and have a piss if it interferes with the smooth functioning of the floor. Don't ask me how, but it's different.

So then you might ask, what exactly is the point of Albrechtsen's tirade?

Gibberish. Of the one sided kind. But then let's take another turn, towards another great exemplar of democracy in action, the team working for that great pioneer of truth and enlightenment, Richard M. Nixon:

With remarkable relevance to today’s debates, William Simon, US treasury secretary under Richard Nixon, wrote in 1978 of the searing experience of the last great recession caused by the “promise-borrow-spend” programs of social engineers on both sides of politics. In A Time for Truth, Simon tracks a recession that deepened on the back of growing government intervention and stimulus spending. The conclusion was clear: “the country ... taught the social engineers a lesson.”

The only remarkable thing? Albrechtsen's failure to note how social democrats caused the great depression, which was compounded and worsened by the fiendish Franklin D. Roosevelt with his promise borrow spend routines. Social engineering? Why hell, let's have a war. Oops, you mean we have to social engineer an army, an air force and a navy to conduct it? Gibberish.

Ah well, what's left? Well naturally a clarion call to arms, to fight the fiends, who've created so much havoc with their absurd demands for social justice, when we all know we'd be much better off with the industrial system of the United States of the eighteen nineties, where employers were allowed the freedom to use goons and baseball bats. By golly, that kept those bloody marxist radicals in line:

More than 30 years later, history may repeat itself if we allow ourselves to be duped by those preaching a new order of social democracy little different from its forebears. The danger of replicating neo-Keynesian spending policies of the early 70s is we may end up with the disastrous stagflation - economic stagnation, high unemployment and inflation - that defined the middle to late 70s. With that in mind, it is worth repeating what Milton Friedman wrote in the preface to Simon’s book. Critical analysis of social democracy is needed so that “socialist snake oil no longer sells so readily”.

Oh yes, and I forgot the need to spread a little alarmist FUD and panic, as the world will likely come to an end this Friday as a result of the work of the current elites, as opposed to its untimely demise a year ago in the shape of a GFC. That beast stagflation is on the prowl, and watch them all shout about a small rise in interest rates as if it's the end of the world. Coming shortly to a commentariat columnist near you.

Maybe - just maybe - right at this moment, perhaps the snake oil that Janet Albrechtsen is selling isn't moving off the shelf so readily. Especially if you have to pretend that Chairman Rudd is a socialist when he's actually a centrist politician who just wants to be John Howard in drag, especially if that keeps him in power for a few more years.

My suggestion? Whatever brand of snake oil you like to consume, drink in moderation.

(Below: in keeping with a tradition established by The Punch, this site now includes an item of interest to discreet gentlemen readers on a regular basis, together with a snake oil advertisement where the copy provides a more subtle, nuanced approach to the redeeming power of snake oil than Janet Albrechtsen's panegyric to the joys of the free market, and the evils of socialism, social democracy and social justice, never mind that conflating all three is a bit like a spruiker offering to cure deafness with rattlesnake oil).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Crikey scoops The Punch, and Hitler tells the real sad story of Vegemite

This excellent work by cc82 gives me yet another chance to slag off Mark Day, and the whole impossible love of The Punch thing.

Because the vandals and visigoths - oh well, really David Penberthy - attempted to jump on the bandwagon of the Vegemite thing at 11.56 AM this morning, under the header He just smiled and gave me a iSnack 2.0 sandwich.

Not to mention Paul Colgan's attempt to turn a snack into a bloatware meal with Let's vandalise some other Aussie brands, 2009 style.

Yet Ruth Brown at Crikey had a piece up early Monday under the header Vegemite's new name unites the internet in contempt.

Chalk a win up to that irritating gadfly that keeps on talking up the intertubes and talking down Chairman Rupert and The Australian.

Me? As the video above tells me, 4chan is the best source of names for zoo babies, or so I'm told, by those who are wired (but lordy never let your grandma visit).

Gerard Henderson, Gans, Leigh, xkcd and lost in a monomaniac's urinal

(Above: I know I've borrowed this cartoon before, but it suddenly has a new relevance and poignancy).

Gerard Henderson twice in a day?

It takes guts, a cast iron stomach, and a brain carefully covered in aluminium foil. Perhaps also a plastic bag covering the extremities of the body. You can't be too careful, you never know what you might pick up.

For those who came in late to the story. In Gerard Henderson's Media Watch Dog issue no 28, 18th September 2009, reference was made to one Professor Gans - who in a research work had the indecency to suggest that the ABC newsroom skewed to the right in terms of its treatment of the coalition - and to another work by Gans involving urinals.

Note the actual wording:

Here’s hoping that Mr Holmes and his Media Watch team will publish much more of Joshua Gans’ ground-breaking research in future editions of the program. MWD is particularly impressed by his work on, er, male urinals. Gans’ paper “Urinal protocol vulnerability” attempts to answer one of the key questions of our time. Namely: “When a guy goes to the bathroom, which urinal does he pick?” Good question, don’t you think?

MWD is particularly impressed by the learned professor’s attempt to analyse and graph what he refers to as the “International Choice of Urinal Protocol”. This is how Joshua Gans sees it:

The protocol is vulnerable to producing inefficient results for some urinal counts. Some numbers of urinals encourage efficient packing, and others encourage sparse packing. If you graph the packing efficiency (f(n)/n), you get this:

As Jonathan Holmes would say: ”Knock me down with a feather!!!”

Gans' paper! This is how Joshua Gans sees it. Ding dong. It is of course how one of our favourite cartoonists, xkcd, sees it, and so can you, if you head off to his blag of the webcomic to read Urinal protocol vulnerability.

Knock me down with half a feather, since clearly Henderson is both a dickhead and a goose.

Now the civilized thing to do when you get something so comprehensively wrong is to admit that you're wrong and move along (yep, been there, done that).

Here's Henderson's actual offer, contained in his latest media watch newsletter, which can be found here:

As previously advised, I am willing to run an explanation in MWD as to how urinal analysis got on Professor Gans’ website. All I can say is that nothing goes on The Sydney Institute’s website without my approval as the Institute’s executive director.

The fact is that a paper titled “Optimal Number of Urinals” and signed by Joshua Gans is on Professor Gans’ website: Moreover, Professor Gans consciously put a hyperlink on his website to the paper titled “Urinal protocol vulnerability” by xkcd. Professor Gans should have anticipated that someone would make fun of this - which is all I did in MWD.

That's right, po faced Pecksniffian sniffery, with a large digit firmly stuck up the bum. Nothing goes on the SI website without his approval. Perhaps that explains why it's as grey as a slate sky, and as dull as bat shit.

Which of course is also sleight of hand, since it has nothing to do with Henderson's attribution of xkcd to Gans.

Of course when you go to Gans' actual blog entry, you see that the paper wasn't signed by Gans, but rather was an entry by Gans with a link to xkcd, along with a little borrowed humor, and which if anything might be charged with sexism as he blames the gender of the dean of the time for the Commerce and Economics building having three times the number of stalls in women's toilets to the one on one ratio for men (you can read the actual entry under Optimal Number of Urinals).

Proving that not only is Henderson a humorless dickhead, he can't even get his corrections right. Because it's all done in jest. That's right, crediting someone else's work to the good professor as a way of slagging him off - actually pissing on him from a great height - is all fair meat in a dishonest day's work for an attack dog.

Gans' co-author, Professor Andrew Leigh, attempted to have a civilized discussion with Henderson, but made the mistake of suggesting an apology to Gans might be appropriate. You may as well request an apology from Uriah Heep as expect one from Henderson. (Oh wait even Heep could manage a mealy mouthed one if he thought her could turn it to his advantage).

Naturally Henderson calls it all part of the debate, and marvels at how sensitive academics are to criticism.

Perhaps Gans and Leigh have a more sympathetic understanding of authorship, since to send up Gans is one thing, but to credit him with authorship of a piece by xkcd is actually a charge of plagiarism. Well the next time I attribute some of Henderson's ultra tedious prose to Polonius, perhaps I'll also suggest Henderson likes to steal from other writers - as a sure fire way of demolishing his arguments.

The reality is you can't have a sensible rational discussion with a monomaniac with a bee in his bonnet, convinced that the media is full of lefties and that's likely the reason for the down fall of his demi-god John Howard.

There's more in the fuss and flurry of the exchange to do with Henderson's criticism of the statistical methodology involved - and in reading it all, I get the oblique sense that Henderson and mathematics and statistics have about the same connection as the Piltdown man does to Neanderthal man.

If you want Andrew Leigh's site, go here, and if you want Gerard Henderson's viewpoint, why not go outside in a full moon, and howl away.

Sad really, but it suggests what I've always suspected - mockery or simple abuse of Henderson is so much more sensible and satisfying.

(Below: but at least we get to publish another xkcd cartoon. More xkcd here and in so doing by providing this link, I am in in no way claiming credit, authorship, ownership or any other entitlements to the works of xkcd, including his ideas or his urinal analysis, so help me god. But I am standing by and have made myself available to be put in charge and fix everything, with a first priority the creation of a special gulag to house commentariat columnists. Pple, this is the way 4ward).

Nedahl Stelio, Jennifer Aniston, and rampant feminism grips The Punch and excites Mark Day

(Above: Jennifer Aniston looking classy on the cover of Vogue. No, no, no, this is not cheap trading off, we'd never run a photo of Jennifer Aniston featured on the cover of a rag like GQ, this is a site with a feminist viewpoint and real dress sense, so read on).

Mark Day on The Punch only the other day:

The Punch is essentially a wide-ranging, news-oriented blog. It has links to news stories but does not attempt to report the news except in passing. This reflects the way we “use” news - a part of a conversation may entice us to find out more by searching the subject.

No wonder The Punch is on his favourites list, positioned there by the adept David Penberthy, skilled in mounting Australia's best conversastion.

Like today, with Nedahl Stelio in The Punch, and her rock solid offering and water cooler conversation starter in the typing pool If Jennifer Aniston is sad and lonely then I want in:

Here we go again, another sob story for the saddest, loneliest woman who ever lived. Ugh. I’m sick of Jennifer Aniston being crucified by every glossip mag on the planet for her “not-good-enough” love life. Not good enough for who?

Just imagine that every time a story appeared about you or your work, your ex and his new wife were also mentioned, as though you’re inextricably attached and can never hope to move on with the amount of horrendous diatribe spouting about him, and her, and you.

You’re not involved anymore – doesn’t anyone get it?

Eek, it's Mark Day's idea of new journalism at work. Ugh. Roll over Tom Wolfe, your day has gone.

Erk. Yep indeedy, as part of Australia's most exciting, bestest conversation, we have Nedhal Stelio recycling a story - sorry a mouthwatering tidbit - about the way Jen broke down during the filming of The Bounty in New York a few weeks ago, and stayed in her trailer in tears. Except she didn't, at least if you believe all the denials, also faithfully recycled by a mad as hell Stelio, determined to save Aniston from all those sordid gossip mongers. So unlike her own gossip mongering. Just as I'm so different in my gossip mongering.

What's left after the snide vicious gossip is despatched to the boundary, punted through for a behind?

Well then Stelio slags off all the headline writers, while writing her own headlines about Aniston, which means we have to write a headline about Stelio writing headlines about Aniston. So it goes.

Throw in some stuff about Aniston having a great body, and being friends with Courtney Fox, and any number of men, and playing the field, and a picture of Anistion on GQ's front cover with lots of skin and a striped tie, and there you have it, another great Punch column.

Oh and don't get me wrong. The column's solidly feminist:

Heck, give me Jennifer Aniston’s bank account, address list, personal trainer, nutritionist, wardrobe, multiple houses, and dress size and you can bet that I wouldn’t be sad OR lonely.

It just gets to me that single men like George Clooney are called playboys, but perennial single women like Jennifer and Cameron Diaz are labeled unlucky in love or pining for a man or looking for a husband. Who’s to say it isn’t their choice? Maybe they’re not ready to get married and have kids.

Maybe they like their life as it is. Ever thought of that?

Oh rock on, rock on, feminists are doing it in LA. It's her choice, just like I chose a decaf latte in a McDonalds upsize me cup. Stop it, or I swear I'll burst into a verse of Helen Reddy's I Am Woman, and then you'll hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore. (original demo version here under lyrics tab).

There's more if you can take it, but I gave up reading women's magazines years ago. It was something about the way the mix of the sugar and the flower and the oil and the treacle meant my brain kept putting on weight while managing to think less.

Of course if I was ethical, I'd try to redeem things by discussing Ms. Aniston's oeuvre as an actress. You know, finding out more by searching the subject, as suggested by Mark Day. But truth to tell, Aniston's been in so many turkeys, I don't have enough spits for the roasting. Go watch Bruce Almighty yourself, or suffer through Derailed, just don't ask me to share.

Sadly after Friends, about the best you can say about Aniston is she does a nice voice over in The Iron Giant. And The Bounty sounds like just another action flick aimed at the female demographic, with a bounty hunter discovering his next target is his ex-wife.

Which leaves us boyfriends, and diets and tears as a topic for conversation.

And Stelio trading off on GQ and Aniston for The Punch. Aargh, Australia's most useless, cheap-skate conversation.

Wash out your mouth Mark Day, turn to the east, bow and say you're sorry a hundred times, and even that act of contrition might not make you clean again ...

Oh and while visiting The Punch, why not drop in on Peter Lewis's informative, low key, discreet column What your sex life says about your voting habits.

No, no, no, he doesn't once mention that voting is roughly equivalent to bestiality. Instead he does a kind of astrological projection of voter personality types:

Labor Voters: More likely to be looking for a good lover, although not as interested in intellectual stimulation or physical attractiveness. If politics is ‘Hollywood for ugly people’, then Labor supporters are straight out of central casting.

Liberal Voters: Value honesty and integrity in a relationship, showing they have a different criteria in choosing their life partner from choosing their government.

Green Voters: Clearly concerned about over-populating the planet, they don’t rate parenting skills and they want someone to make them laugh in the face of the environmental destruction of the planet.

Swinging Voters: They don’t care if you have common interests and they are not interested in laughing. The swingers just want a cashed-up love-god who is pleasing on the eye. Kevin and Malcolm, your battleground awaits!

Is a tar and feathering too good for this tripe? What about a little BDSM action then?

That does it. I'm taking a leaf out of Janet "Dame Slap" Albrechtsen's school for flabby thinkers!

Mark Day, see me in my office now! Six of the best for you my lad! Next time you start talking about Australia's bestest conversation, you should remember the sting of the cane on the palms of your hands ...

(Below: but hey doesn't all this mean we can run our own snap of sweet Jennifer. Is this the revenge of tabloidism as it takes over the world? Hmm, but we've run out of classy covers. What can we run that will appeal to Mark Day? Give him a conversation starter in a conversational way standing around the water cooler contemplating the glorious future of Chairman Rupert charging for content on the intertubes? Oh okay, as you wish ... now sing along with me, in a croaky voice, we're punching like The Punch in Oz's punchiest conversation, and we don't care if we're punch drunk because we drank the punch ...)

Gerard Henderson, the weekly John Howard score, and prattling Polonius strikes again with tales of hubris, Chairman Rudd and pinko bias in the media

(Above: in a recent poll conducted at Loon Pond, there were a thousand votes for more photos of Vanessa Hudgens, while nobody voted for Gerard Henderson. Well Mr. Nobody from Nowhere, keenly aware of your interest in conspiracies in Australian media, here's a couple of snaps of Gerard Henderson and an anonymous nonentity directing a camera at herself. Now remind me again who you'd prefer to look at).

Now I know a few hard core punters thought that this was the week that the fix would be in, and that Gerard Henderson, nobbled by a mysterious, desperate syndicate wouldn't mention John Howard in his column, and all bets would be off.

How feeble were these doubting Thomases. It took a bold punter to score this week, as the choice between nodding off and getting all the way through Rudd changed the world order, says Rudd - and compliant media became really burdensome.

But first to the scoring, so bets can be settled quickly:

First mention of John Howard in the column: second paragraph.
Number of mentions of John Howard in the column: 4

Those punters who like a side bet on the number of times Peter Costello is mentioned will be pleased with the four the outsider picked up, but we personally refuse to allow a book on how many times Henderson mentions bias in the media because it's an unrelenting refrain, so predictable you simply can't offer decent odds.

Golly if we had a dollar for every time the automated ghost writing keyboard was pressed to churn out this line, as Henderson writes about hubris and political success going together:

... problems emerge when sections of the media get caught up in the political hype. This is more likely to be the case when assessments are made of Labor leaders - if only because most journalists prefer Labor or the Greens to the Coalition.

Yes, I too am astonished every time I read The Australian and The Daily Telegraph at the way Chairman Rupert allows deviant deep rooted perverted Greens to provide coverage for his rags in a way that makes them more problematic than reading City Hub (insert your own local free ratbag newspaper of choice here). As for Fairfax, I remain appalled at the way it allows its Green correspondents to dominate the "opinion" section of the paper - isn't it time for us all to stand up and overthrow those notorious Greenies Miranda the Devine, Paul Sheehan, and yes, Gerard Henderson himself.

But apart from the splendid, quite unique (or as we like to say here uniquely unique) insight that leading politicians and hubris go together, what, you might ask, is Henderson rabbiting on about this week?

And as usual the rely has to be 'nothing much', because with any prattling Polonius it's not so much what's being said as the sheer pleasure of hearing one's very own voice punctuating the ether.

Last week Henderson seems to have got upset with Lisa Millar - she of the Joker lips, and the ABC's North American correspondent - for describing Rudd's involvement in replacing the G8 with the G20 as amazing and brilliant - when it was another liberal dandy who did the deed:

Certainly Rudd played a leading role in promulgating Australia's case that the G20 should be strengthened. However, the expansion of the G20's role was consistent with the interests of the likes of China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Korea - which are not members of the G8. Some journalists have given the impression the G20 is new. In fact, it was an initiative of the Clinton administration, after what was widely regarded as a poor response by the International Monetary Fund to the Asian economic downturn in 1997.

And it wasn't just Bill Clinton! Chairman Rudd has been standing on the shoulders of real giants:

As a long-standing treasurer, Peter Costello played an important role in building up the influence of the G20 as a meeting place for finance ministers and central bank governors. He tells the story in The Costello Memoirs.

Let's get real people, especially you Lisa Millar, with your quirky leftie leaning smile:

Rudd's achievements in Pittsburgh are real enough, but they build on what had gone before. Politicians are entitled to exaggerate achievements; journalists are expected to throw the switch to reality.

Because after all people you had a Christ figure in your midst for a long time, and you didn't pay attention or deliver homages as were respectful and needful and right and just. And now only Gerard Henderson, a lonely, forlorn figure, tends the shrine and burnishes the image - of that giant of giants, John Howard:

Howard tended to be respected by the media during the early and mid-term of his government. But, unlike Hawke and Keating, he did not have a journalistic fan club. Rudd is enjoying the media plaudits that initially befell Hawke and Keating. It is possible that, like his immediate Labor predecessors, Rudd will be increasingly criticised from the left on issues such as climate change and Afghanistan. Yet he is having a dream run in most of the media.

A dream run amongst dreamers.

And it's not just the childish tendency to hero worship John Howard. Oops, sorry, that should have read it's not just the childish tendency to hero worship Chairman Rudd while ignoring the issues. The media is ignoring everyone:

The widespread, albeit not universal, journalistic support for Rudd is accompanied by a reluctance to report criticism of the front bench.

You know ex-leader Mark Latham is now an embittered hack for Fairfax, and so totally unreliable, which is why it's important to draw attention to what he's written and note how his embittered scuttlebutt and cheap sordid gossip deserve to be on the front page of every indecent rag in the country:

The former Labor leader Mark Latham is embittered and, consequently, not a reliable source of uncorroborated information about his former colleagues. But in his column in The Australian Financial Review on September 17 he quoted from a 2005 email to him from Julia Gillard in which she criticised Rudd. This received scant media attention. Imagine the coverage if, two years into Howard's prime ministership, written evidence was produced of Costello bagging his leader.

Oh yes, it's shocking, and even more shocking is the way the media fails to campaign on a daily basis on the flaws of Lindsay Tanner and Julia Gillard, and their deep animosity.

It's much the same with Gillard. In The Making of Julia Gillard the author Jacqueline Kent details the animosity between Gillard and the Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, in their younger days. Once again, this has ignited little interest in the media. Imagine what would have occurred had a book on Tony Abbott revealed considerable tension with Costello.

Oh yes, imagine. Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try, imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do, imagine a world without possessions, John Howard or Peter Costello ... I wonder if you can, no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man.

Stop that, stop it now. But at least you can see why news coverage should constantly be slanted the way Gerard Henderson, prattling Polonius, prescribes. Because what's the alternative? Sob. The re-election of Chairman Rudd's government for another four years, and Gerard Henderson having to endure his hubris, without even a satisfying snakes and ladders fall (unless, wait, unless Julia Gillard mends her fences with Lindsay Tanner, and we only have to endure her hubris).

The Rudd Government looks sure of a re-election, irrespective of the media. But journalists would be well advised not to get caught up in Labor's spin and to cover the ALP as they would the Liberal Party.

Yes, the media should be slamming Chairman Rudd and his neophyte party for hubris day in day out, every minute of the waking hours. It's the only way that Gerard Henderson will be able to get a sound night's sleep ...

Hang on, that doesn't sound so bad. Go media bias, go, as the deviant overlords even now must surely be plotting to remove Henderson, the Devine and Sheehan from that Fairfax rag, and introduce toadies and lick spittle sycophants so that the world can be made safe for Chairman Rudd ...

I wonder if there'll ever come a day when a Gerard Henderson column simply says: I love John Howard, I hate Chairman Rudd, and the socialistic ABC. Now over to you ... tell me of your love of John Howard (and think of the score: mention of John Howard in the first and only para, and top and tail cappers mentioning JH for a solid knock of two not out).

Sure it's just a dream, but we surely should have a dream. Take it away Supertramp ...

Dreamer, you know you are a dreamer
Well can you put your hands in your head, oh no!
I said dreamer, youre nothing but a dreamer
Well can you put your hands in your head, oh no!
I said far out, - what a day, a year, a laugh it is!
You know, - well you know you had it comin to you,
Now theres not a lot I can do

Dreamer, you stupid little dreamer;
So now you put your head in your hands, oh no!
I said far out, - what a day, a year, a laugh it is!
You know, - well you know you had it comin to you,
Now theres not a lot I can do.

(Below: Supertramp's devastating expose of the lickspittle ways of the Australian media, likely as not the crime of the century).

(And as for the actual crime of the century? Well I think this email says it all).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mark Day, bagging bloggers and free content and other sites, and punching on for the cheap-skate The Punch

(Above: step right up, for a dose of healing snake oil from Chairman Rupert, it'll fix the blogs that ails ya, with some right decent top notch free conversations, of an evolving kind, courtesy of Mark Day).

Lordy, lordy, poor Mark Day has finally slipped off the twig, veering from respected columnist and media commentator to hack spruiker and snake oil salesman for Chairman Rupert in the twinkling of an eye.

Chatty's in, daggy's out in changing news world, he chirps, seemingly having forgotten his righteous indignation a week ago at Crikey, and its constant commentary on the imminent death of newspapers, and the dazzling future of the web, not to mention his confected outrage at Chairman Rupert being accused of using his media clout to further his business interests.

This week?

The Punch was the first local site to try to create a format to meet the habits of that part of the audience that had forsaken the traditional and more formal methods of news delivery. It spins off the news: rather than reporting the fact that, say, Kevin Rudd has announced new carbon reduction targets, The Punch is likely to ask: is climate change ruining our sex lives? It’s a collection of opinions, sometimes straight, sometimes off the wall, and it is designed to encourage reader feedback and participation.

Sic transit Crikey and all the others that were in there years ago experimenting with web-based formats, written out of history with the flourish of a keyboard in a way worthy of an in-house historian dressing up Stalin's years at the top. The first local site? Oh give me brass balls and call me a cheese eating male monkey.

And eer, by the way, the question as to whether climate change is ruining our sex lives was a tragic attempt by David Penberthy to spice up a very dull piece, and after a few pars he abandoned the riff for other jokes about sex in a Prius - and since incestuous self-referentialism seems to be all the go in Murdoch rags these days, you can read our take on this in Loon Pond, and even get a link back to the original hideous Penbo piece, by going here.

But it seems Penbo is the golden haired boy for his bold taking of readers into the world of blogging, never mind that blogs were once disdained from a great height by the likes of Mark Day:

The Punch is edited by David Penberthy, who was formerly editor of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. Penberthy has found his niche here: his site is full of ideas and he presents his opinions strongly and with a sense of humour. Some of what he writes appears in News Limited newspapers, including The Australian, but on the site you get the full scope of the opinions and twittering which has positioned The Punch as one for my favourites list.

Sssh, it looks like a blog, is designed like a blog, and walks and talks and quacks like a blog. But don't call it a blog, call it a "site". So Day can have his pleasure thinking he's devouring quality journalism that just happens to also turn up on a "site" full of exciting twits and tweets.

Oh choke on my bilious bile, what a pity there's no law against advertorials on the intertubes. One of his favorites? Well he would say that, wouldn't he. Even if it shows a remarkable subservience in the house style these days adopted by members of the Murdoch empire, who constantly tout Chairman Rupert's products as the next best thing to snake oil as a cure all.

The Punch is essentially a wide-ranging, news-oriented blog. It has links to news stories but does not attempt to report the news except in passing. This reflects the way we “use” news - a part of a conversation may entice us to find out more by searching the subject.

By golly, it sounds like a marvel, a wonder for the ages, a veritable conversation piece of such exquisite quality even Oscar Wilde would be put to shame. What a pity there's no law against snake oil salesmanship on the intertubes.

But since we're on a roll, how does the National Times badge stack up at Fairfax stack up? Well of course integrity leads us all to tell the truth. It's based on a title that slipped into oblivion, and it doesn't seem up to the job:

Fairfax Media quickly recognised the potential of the “conversation” concept and announced plans to launch its own site under the banner of the defunct National Times, a much praised title that slipped into oblivion because of a lack of buyer support.

Fairfax seems to have hedged its bets by integrating the NT site into its main newspaper masthead sites, which I think muddies its waters by making it, in effect, an offshoot of its newspaper opinion pages. But it is early days.

Whereas the way the journos at News Corp do their bits for both the main titles and The Punch doesn't make it a spin off of a half-baked kind? No, no, no!

There's more from Day, about television programs and the way ahead, but I'll leave you to read it, because I felt sad at the sight of an old newspaperman diving under a bus - as if no one on the intertubes can remember what anyone's said further than a week back.

But how's this for a wrap-up?

I am not suggesting that a presenter like Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report should hang up his hat as the country’s most formidable political interviewer and throw the switch to vaudeville. There’s still a role for serious reporting, but the challenge to current affairs producers is to see beyond the predictable and present it in a less tired and daggy way. Something more conversational, perhaps?

What, like The Punch, Australia's best conversation? Well we're all doomed. Roll on the day when Chairman Rupert decides to charge for Australia's wittiest conversation, so I can spend my time at other blogs, free and with a damn sight more wit thrown in as a free bonus (though who could match the chortling joy of reading Bronwyn Bishop. Hmm, maybe there's something to this freebie culture).

Not surprisingly, Day's own attempt at a conversation outraged the punters who could be bothered to muster sufficient indignation to post a comment. One even remembered John Hartigan's take on blogs and bloggers - in the days before they decided that News Corp needed a blog - but rather than re-hash that speech here, why not have a read of the send up it got at mumbrella under the header Hartigan: Journalism, not the limited intellectual value of blogs, is the future of the web.

Oops, sorry! That was the actual speech. I just read the bit about taking the news to advertisers that pumpkin soup was very big on Tuesdays and thought I was reading a satire.

So why not quote the esteemed Hartigan a little on the evils of blogging and of free:

Then there are the bloggers.

In return for their free content, we pretty much get what we’ve paid for - something of such limited intellectual value as to be barely discernible from massive ignorance ...

... Citizen journalists, he says, simply don’t have the resources to bring us reliable news. They lack not only expertise and training but access to decision makers and reliable sources.

The difference, he says, between professionals and amateurs is that bloggers don’t go to jail for their work – they simply aren’t held accountable like real reporters.

Like Keating’s famous “all tip and no iceberg”, it could be said that the blogosphere is all eyeballs and no insight.

How quickly the view changes. That was July 2009, and now News Corp runs a blog, where the content is free - either cobbled together in house, or accepted from politicians only too ready to fill up space with self-serving tosh, or ripped from aspiring wannabes willing to work for 'the man' for a byline in lieu of cash. It's called The Punch, Australia's most cheap-skate, half-assed conversation.

And boy do we get what we paid for.

As Robert Thomsen of The Wall Street Journal says: “the blogs and comment sites are basically editorial echo chambers rather than centres of creation, and their cynicism about so-called traditional media is only matched by their opportunism in exploiting it”

One of the best known comment sites in Australia matches this identikit.

It started as a moralising soapbox; boasting about its lack of standards. Positioned as an underdog, it lectures mainstream media every day.

In the blogosphere, of course, the mainstream media is always found wanting.

It really is time this myth was blown apart.

Blogs and a large number of comment sites specialise in political extremism and personal vilification.

Radical sweeping statements unsubstantiated with evidence are common.

One Australian blogger who shoots first and checks facts later is proud to boast that his site is “Not wrong for long”.

Mainstream media understands, most of the time, that comment and opinion is legitimised by evidence.

Opinions, however strongly held, draw their legitimacy from the factual accuracy that underpins them.

Many of these sites and bloggers say their radical new approach is a modern form of participatory democracy.

But as Andrew Keen says, amateur journalism trivialises and corrupts serious debate – it degenerates democracy into mob rule and rumour milling.

Of course, Day couldn't own up to the truth of The Punch. Here's his dissembling response after a question in relation to payment of contributors:

I can’t answer with certainty. Mary because I don’t know how Fairfax structures its pay, but both The Punch and National Times draw on staffers and outsiders for their opinion pieces. I presume the staffers get their salaries and writing for the sites is part of their job, while the outsiders do it for love. I think that’s how The Punch works, but again. I’m not certain.

Oh come on Mark Day, you know the game, you know how it works. 'Fess up.

Do it for love? So it's all about eyeballs and no insight, and show us the luuuve?

Well if you do go over to read poor hapless spinning like a top Mark Day, make sure you read the comments. You'll get more insight and less dissembling there than you'll find in Day's column. Here's one punter's thoughts, under the avatar Epiphany:

Sorry Mark, but what are you telling me here that is not blindingly obvious and a blatant ad for The Punch?
What has actually happened is profound and at the core of the problems traditional media is now experiencing.
Your newspaper sites, in common with other news sites worldwide, have been magnets for reader comments for years.
The Daily Telegraph site was receiving more than 30,000 comments a month as long as four years ago.
Readers were telling you loud and clear they wanted to be a part of the news cycle, but they were ignored.
The overdue arrival of The Punch means you will now own a small bit of that conversation, but the masses have moved on.
They are at Facebook, on Twitter and blogging on a wide array of other sites, where they are discussing your news.
And more than a few of them are making good money out of it too - dollars they are taking from you.
The simple fact is, you failed to listen to your audience when they needed to, and they moved on.

Well as Day would say, it's all part of an evolving process. Why didn't the dinosaurs realize that?

(Below: and here's how The Punch cranks up the hits. Note that I ended the last sentence with a reference to dinosaurs, and of course Raquel Welch starred in One Million B.C., a masterpiece by Don Chaffey that includes humans and dinosaurs. QED it's incredibly relevant to include a picture of Raquel Welch to illustrate this piece about media dinosaurs. Oh yeah, oh boy. Click on her picture and she even gets bigger. Oh boy, oh yeah).

Chris Gardiner, moral guardians at the gate, and Houston we have an fcuking problem

(Above: careful sweet young things. You start off wearing an fcuk T-shirt, and the next thing you know you've turned into a dangerous radical denouncing the status quo, rioting in the streets, abusing police horses, and perhaps most alarming of all, listening to Kyle Sandilands).

I write on the ongoing matter of Kyle Sandilands from a position of firm, unshakeable, invincible ignorance.

I have yet to hear a minute of the lad on air. Not a minute. Not a millisecond. Not even a nanosecond. He may as well be broadcasting in bizarro world for all I'd know or care, or in an exotic language. Say Urdu. Which isn't exotic in the Punjab or Uttar Pradesh, but is to me.

Which gives me naturally a tremendous amount of expertise, allowing me to sound off on the matter of Kyle, like Big Ben sounding the hour.

Because it seems to me that - whatever his on air sins - we have the familiar sounds of a lynching party at work, never mind the scale or quality of the crimes.

So it is with Chris Gardiner's rant What Kyle says about the death of our civility.

Now what this kind of rant allows is the use of a couple of Kyle related incidents to announce the death of civility in western civilization as we know it, just as the likes of Don Watson wants to announce the end of English as a result of a few terminological inexactitudes. People being economical with the truth or imprecise with their deployment of the lingo.

Here's Gardiner's predictable opener:

A radio personality returned to the air this week after time out to recover from an unfortunate incident arising from a social disability before now not previously categorised – he is, I have concluded from the incident and his lack of remorse, ‘civically challenged’.

The ‘civically challenged’ person is so self-absorbed or insensitive as to be oblivious to the social and cultural impact of his or others’ egotistical or crass behaviour.

Well you might argue that the civically challenged - especially if inclined to turgid pomposity -goes on kicking a downed dog with steel capped boots, even after the chastened dog has returned to air, thus far without having managed to piss on the aspidistra in the corner or made yet another on air blunder. Sure, that's likely a matter of time, but for the love of the lord, leave the dog alone.

But Gardiner has other fish to fry than just Kyle. It's all of us, who somehow lack civic virtue and sensibility. And there's no way out, no recourse from this hideous condition:

The basic condition is compounded by an instinctive defensiveness that, when the offensive behaviour is highlighted and there is the risk of embarrassment or shame, allows him to dismiss critics as humourless and priggish and ‘politically correct’, rendering self-reflection, therefore, as unnecessary.

So you might in fact have someone sounding like a classic humorless, priggish politically incorrect turkey - like Gardiner - but that's no excuse. Oh no, no, no, and it's not just Kyle, though let's recount his sins yet again, because The Punch might not love the sinner, but boy do they love repeating his sins:

Of course, it is not just the disc jockey who thinks morning radio is better for broadcasting a masturbation competition, or dismisses an unexpected disclosure by a child of sexual abuse as one of possibly many sexual experiences, or who commends concentration camp life as a weight loss option, that I have in mind in establishing this new category of social deficit.

Yep, there's Kyle's sins laid out yet again for all to see. So now let's get on to the other sinners and their social deficits (and if you see a sinner, remember, pick up the first stone and throw it, lest the other bugger smash your glass house first):

I am thinking also of the egotists who keep our Police and accident and emergency units busy as a result of their regular drunken binges and unquestioningly assume the cost of their ‘fun’ should be borne by the public, or the attention seeker who wears a FCUK t-shirt to the supermarket, or the foul-mouthed parent at the football match who put his coprolalian outbursts down to passion for the game.

What the fcuk?A smart arse T-shirt is suddenly a sign of uncivil armageddon? Okay, another disclaimer. I don't wear Fcuk clothing, never have, never will, but some sweet young thing wearing a t-shirt with 'fcuk' draped over it isn't quite the same as kristallnacht (here).

For that matter, it isn't the same as a punch fest at a rugby league game, nor should it be led in the same breath as a passing out drunken binge of the kind favored by media types. It's in that stretch, that reach too far, that Gardiner joins all the other 'jump up and down on the spot' loons always making a splashing and a squawking in some corner or another of loon pond.

Now you think I might have gone a little too far - broken Godwin's Law yet again - by evoking kristallnacht as a real sign of civically challenged behaviour. But bear with me, because soon enough Gardiner moves away from T-shirts to people lying in pools of blood:

There is also a form of ‘civically challenged’ character that is essentially one of passivity.

It was recently expressed in the mindless betrayal of a bashed off-duty police woman left lying in her blood whilst people journeyed on their way to work – our very own Kitty Genovese experience.

Naturally the media have to be brought to account, held to blame:

The civically challenged, of course, sometimes hold positions of power and influence in business and professional life.

They can be seen in the TV producers who pass off Big Brother voyeurism or slogans like ‘bring back the biff’ as harmless popular culture.

Heck, the whole world is to blame:

They can also be seen in the bonus fixated businessmen who have recently destroyed the life savings of so many.

And yes, I'm glad you stayed with me, because Gardiner can't resist bringing up the Nazis:

The condition at its worst has recently been portrayed in the self-absorbed character of Professor John Halder, played by Viggo Mortensen, in the film Good.

If you haven't seen this dull self-absorbed movie, a half baked adaptation of a stage play - often quoted by self-absorbed people concerned with pious ethical issues - Mortensen plays a university professor who joins up with Hitler's Nazi machine to once again illustrate the banality of evil. So we move from T-shirts to Hitler.

Now of course this kind of argument requires a 'but', so Gardiner offers up a standard 'but':

I do not put the idiocy and offensiveness of the on-air comments of our now returned morning DJ, of course, in the same category as the ultimate betrayal of morality and personal responsibility by the character Halder.

No, no, they just happen to be part of the same wide ranging column.

But what's worse is that Gardiner then withdraws the 'but' he's just offered up, instead putting in a variant 'but':

They do, I think though, sit at one end of the spectrum of the character type I want us now to describe as ‘civically challenged’.

Yep, start with Kyle, or maybe an fcuk T-shirt or a dire Big Brother television program, and the next thing you know, you've got spewing in the streets, police women bleeding to death, and some new rough beast, Adolf Hitler reincarnated, slouching towards Bethlehem.

Well there's some civically challenged behaviour going on in Gardiner's hysterical column, but for once I'd let Kyle Sandilands off the hook, and look to the author of the article.

If he keeps banging on about it this way, likely as not western civilization as we know it will come to an end by lunch time Friday ... and Gardiner can take all the credit. Because putting anyone in the same basket or lineage as Hitler's men isn't civilized discourse. Unless of course it happens that they are (hello Stormfront).

As the farmer used to say to the blue heeler, settle, settle ...

(UPDATE: oh, I see Kyle isn't scheduled to be back on air until 7th October. Whatever. I won't be listening, but does it also suggest that Chris Gardiner doesn't know what the fcuk he's talking about?)

(Below: see, see, didn't I warn you. Now we've got all these fcukers down under).