Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tim Blair, the egg man, climate denying sceptics, and Goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob g'goo...

(Above: in Saturday party mode? Here's the dress du jour for Sydney-siders, centre of the universe, as Halloween approaches. Sadly, the sunglasses are an optional extra, along with the steak knives).

If you believe Miranda the Devine is all for courtesy on the road, then surely you're ready to ready to go read Tim Blair's Warming up a slur for all the climate denialists.

Blair, in what passes as his regular stab at humor in the Saturday tabloid Telegraph, nee Terror, decides he'll feign mock outrage at the evils of Robert Manne

Local intellectual Robert Manne recently claimed that people who doubted global warming - so-called "global warming sceptics" - weren't sceptical at all. Scepticism is a good thing, Manne pointed out, so he suggested a different term.

"Denialism, a concept that was first widely used, as far as I know, for those who claimed that the Holocaust was a fraud, is the concept I believe we should use," Manne instructed.

Well you can already see where this is heading. Manne is an intellectual, and he instructs. About the only worse term of abuse would be to call him an academic. Or perhaps compare him to Clive James.

Which is perhaps why Blair can't be seen to invoke Godwin's Law, because it would suggest there might be something to theorems and such like.

So instead he simplifies and filches Godwin's Law:

This seems a rather clumsy and emotional shame-by-illogic tactic from someone who claims to base his arguments on science and reason. Disagree with Manne about future weather patterns? Well, that means you're an apologist for the Third Reich, or as bad as one.

And then Blair proceeds to break Godwin's Law himself, just to show that anything Manne can do, he can do, especially if stuck with - quelle horreur - an academic as a neighbour:

Pointing out the screamingly obvious is sometimes all it takes to defeat an intellectual. Imagine living next door to one of these academic muppets: make some idle over-the-fence weather chat and suddenly nice friendly neighbour is denouncing you for running the forced labour program at Bergen-Belsen.

Yep, it's a dollar in the Godwin's Law swear jar for evoking Bergen-Belsen as the the kind of chit chat you can expect from an academic neighbor.

I guess the only thing worse than an academic as a neighbour would be a cheese eating surrender monkey who keeps jabbering away at you in French about climate change. Unless it might happen to be Tim Blair on the other side jabbering on about the jabbering French person.

Because you see opinion polls are the only decent way to judge the science and the reality of climate change. (No, that segue makes no sense, but in a piece about Tim Blair, you want sense? Go eat bark).

Well, let them keep their little denialism slur. It's not doing them much good anyway, with the latest polls in Australia, Canada and the US all showing plunging interest in global warming. But in return, please allow us denialists to come up with our own slur for warming believers.

Which is a great relief when you think about it, because polls tell me everything I need to know about life.

Why not so long ago a Gallup Poll showed that belief in the Devil was holding firm at 7 in 10 Americans, while belief in angels had wavered a little but still could muster 75% of the population as true believers, and heaven notched up 81% of the population. God scored a more than credible 78%, and if you topped it up with a belief in a universal spirit, running at 14%, you could end up with a 92% rating for true believers for some kind of deity running the daily circus on earth. (here). And hallelujah, a large number of Americans still believe in creationism, or so the polls say (here).

Ain't polls wonderful and a sure guide to scientific truth, as well as the zeitgeist.

Not that we're in any way suggesting that people who believe in climate change, or people who don't believe in climate change, but believe in opinion polls instead, are in any way believers who believe things without rationally thinking about their beliefs. That would be a belief-laden statement and an impost on those who are sceptical about beliefs, except when they believe climate change doesn't exist.

No, it's a simple enough intellectual proposition, as enunciated by those post-modernist philosophers the French, that everything is subjective and relative and unknowable, and these days a belief in anything is valid, simply because it's a belief.

So believing climate change doesn't exist, and believing that it's great news that opinion polls tell the truth is a great blow against those arch objectivists, the scientists (or should we call them neo rationalists, or deviant secularists or abstruse boffins in white coats or perhaps simply pawns in a giant global conspiracy, bludgers empire-building by looting taxpayer money).

And anyway, as there's a god, helped by angels, and a heaven (not to mention satan), what's the panic? God's helped us out so well these past few thousand years, so what if the rapture comes a little early and we all end up watching endless rounds of motor car racing in heaven, though there might be some theological dispute as to which form of racing is the best way to fill in an eternity in god's glowing golden light.

Sorry, got carried away. Brooding about the international conspiracy of scientists can do that to you.

Just remember that you read it here first: Tim Blair is a cheese eating relativist subjectivist poll believing French philosopher, whereby the wisdom of the crowds makes up infinite truth. (Is There Wisdom in Crowds?)

But back to the main game. Fortunately, Blair isn't worried about the propriety of Manne's behavior. No, he can get down into the cess pit and muck away with the best of them, all in the name of good civilized humor. Yep, if pig shit flinging is your idea of a weekend of fun, why everybody can fling a little pig shit.

Mansonism, a concept that was first widely used, as far as I know, for those who believed cult leader and murderer Charles Manson was a prophet, is the concept I believe we should use.

In this context, Mansonism has the advantage (compared to denialism) of more convincing thematic connections.

Manson, after all, forecast an apocalypse. So do warmies. Manson's followers - idealistic young white people, as it happens - believed the fate of the planet rested with them. One of Manson's "family", Leslie Van Houten, said in 1977 that they had wanted to "save the world".

There's even an ecological link. After her attempt on the life of President Gerald Ford in 1975, Manson follower Lynette Fromme claimed she had done so in the interests of "clean air, healthy water and respect for creatures and creation".

Which is - when you come to think about it - terrifying.

A belief in clean air, healthy water and a respect for creatures and creation! Only a psychopathic murdering hippie or a greenie could spout such filth, way worse than pedophilia.

Well I'm with Tim Blair. If only sociopaths talk that kind of talk, bring me some filthy polluted air at once I say - waiter, make that a triple shot of coal dust, exhaust fumes, and acid rain. As for healthy water, what's wrong with the good old days of malaria-infested, cholera-laden water, with the possibility of picking up a little dengue fever just a bonus (just some of the water and sanitation related diseases we could pick up with some decently unhealthy water, here).

As for a respect for creatures and creation, I'm with Blair. I spit on creation, and I mourn the way the liberal do gooder academic leftist influenced media has banned any chance of crucifying cats in the back yard as a bit of harmless fun. Now you can only do it in abattoirs for the delight of omnivores.

Let's face it. If Blair wanted to improve the planet, how would he get any readers. Where's the fun in writing about a love of cats, or a love of clean air and safe unpolluted water, when it's possible to rabbit on endlessly, to the point of monomania, about the unreality of climate change.

Fromme later said she'd initially only wanted to talk to Ford, but "then I realised that you don't get attention for that. You get attention if they are scared".

Getting attention by scaring people? These Mansonites wrote the book on modern environmental tactics. Warmies should be flattered by the comparison . . . but they'll probably deny it.

Which is of course nothing like scaring people about how warmie, greenie, hippie people are scaring people ... by killing them!

All in the name of harmless comedy of course. Such a droll wit, with Manne showing only half the wit, and Blair showing how to make fun of a half wit in a half witted way, which if you follow geometric progressions would result in a lack of wit altogether (but what happens when you reach an almost infinite point of dissected half wittedness? Ah then you'd be in the arena of Zeno's paradoxes, and likely a cheese eating scientific warmie).

Meantime, you might well ask what any of this has to do with climate change, and the science thereto. And of course it has nothing to do with it, or with anything else much, except insofar as you want to see adults act like children and fling mud at each other, and go 'yah sucks boo to you too, ya drink ya bath water'.

Which reminds me once again of Gulliver's Travels and the immortal Jonathan Swift and the matter of eggs:

... our Histories of six thousand Moons make no mention of any other Regions, than the two great Empires of Lilliput and Blefuscu. Which two mighty Powers have, as I was going to tell you, been engaged in a most obstinate War for six and thirty Moons past.

It began upon the following Occasion. It is allowed on all Hands, that the primitive way of breaking Eggs, before we eat them, was upon the larger End: But his present Majesty's Grand-father, while he was a Boy, going to eat an Egg, and breaking it according to the ancient Practice, happened to cut one of his Fingers. Whereupon the Emperor his Father published an Edict, commanding all his Subjects, upon great Penaltys, to break the smaller End of their Eggs.

The People so highly resented this Law, that our Histories tell us there have been six Rebellions raised on that account; wherein one Emperor lost his Life, and another his Crown. These civil Commotions were constantly fomented by the Monarchs of Blefuscu; and when they were quelled, the Exiles always fled for Refuge to that Empire. It is computed, that eleven thousand Persons have, at several times, suffered Death, rather than submit to break their Eggs at the smaller End.

Many hundred large Volumes have been published upon this Controversy: But the books of the Big-Endians have been long forbidden, and the whole Party rendered incapable by Law of holding Employments. During the Course of these Troubles, the Emperors of Blefuscu did frequently expostulate by their Ambassadors, accusing us of making a Schism in Religion, by offending against a fundamental Doctrine of our great Prophet Lustrog, in the fifty-fourth Chapter of the Blundecral (which is their Alcoran.) This, however, is thought to be a meer Strain upon the Text: For the Words are these: That all true Believers shall break their Eggs at the convenient End: and which is the convenient End, seems, in my humble Opinion, to be left to every Man's Conscience, or at least in the power of the Chief Magistrate to determine. Now the Big-Endian Exiles have found so much Credit in the Emperor of Blefuscu's Court, and so much private Assistance and Encouragement from their Party here at home, that a bloody War has been carried on between the two Empires for six and thirty Moons with various Success; during which time we have lost forty Capital Ships, and a much greater number of smaller Vessels, together with thirty thousand of our best Seamen and Soldiers; and the Damage received by the Enemy is reckon'd to be somewhat greater than Ours.
Strength, has commanded me to lay this Account of his affairs before you.

Now that's comedy writing, and it makes a lot more sense than someone like Blair, who's most likely a big endian, except on Saturdays when for the sake of perversity he becomes a little endian.

One thing's for sure. He spends all his time denying climate change, which is strange for someone trying to claim the title of sceptic. You'd have to think there might be the odd story or angle suggesting that there were matters of interest in the area with an alternative view, but I think that'd be like telling a Jesuit to look at the world just once through the eyes of Satan.

Funny then that he gets upset, in a comical way, to hide the venom lurking beneath, when someone says he's in a state of denial.

Heck, I deny the existence of angels, so call me an angel denier all you like, but don't call me a doofus sceptic. Do I have any proof of that belief? Well send an angel my way, and let's get down to some scientific testing.

But whatever you do, don't call this column, the scribbles by Blair or the name calling by Manne a contribution to the understanding of the science and issues of climate change.

Not unless you're one of the eight in ten who think that, if things go pear shaped, never mind, you'll end up with pie in the sky by and by, in a heaven full of virgins and tasty apples ...

Heck, it's Saturday, and I feel a song coming on, one that brings together all the seminal issues, from pigs to English weather to the matter of eggs, and Tim Blair the egg man ...

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
I'm crying.

Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come.
Corporation T-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday.
Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob.

Mister City P'liceman sitting
Pretty little p'licemen in a row.
See how they fly like Lucy in the Sky, see how they run.
I'm crying, I'm crying.
I'm crying, I'm crying.

Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye.
Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess,
Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your knickers down.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob.

Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun.
If the sun don't come, you get a tan
From standing in the English rain.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob.

Expert textpert choking smokers,
Don't you thing the joker laughs at you?
See how they smile like pigs in a sty,
See how they snide.
I'm crying.

Semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower.
Elementary penguin singing Hari Krishna.
Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob.
Goo goo g'joob g'goo goo g'joob g'goo...

Miranda Devine, showing the love to cockroach cyclists and the burden of the Manichean colmunist

(Above: Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter).

One of my favorite characters is the sociopath, played by Robert Mitchum and known as Preacher, battling his demons and widows in The Night of the Hunter.

It was a flop at the time, and also a trend-setter, because Mitchum had "Love" tattoed on one set of fingers, and "Hate" on the other, and when it came to a wrestle about morality, love, pain or the whole damn thing, he only had to join his hands together and wrestle away. It was a neat way of conjuring up his schizophrenia, his madness, his bipolar Manichean struggle with the world and gullible widows.

So we come to Miranda the Devine, who in her Saturday column tends to incline to the hand with the fingers reading "Love", and sure enough Going berko over a biscyho is an attempt to sound rational after the rage induced by her bout of bicyclist bashing in Roads are for cars, not Lycra louts.

In that epic effort with the "Hate" fingers dominant on the keyboard - and provoking an editor-pleasing nigh on five hundred comments - the Devine used one incident to tarnish cyclists, pedestrians and anyone else who stood between her and her car getting somewhere, anywhere quickly. And ordered them off the roads.

Now she tries to sound a little rational:

You always know when you write about the battle for road supremacy between cyclists and motorists that you will touch a nerve. But the avalanche of email and online comments in response to Thursday's column shows an extraordinary new level of sensitivity.

But not really, when you think about her choice of words. A battle for road supremacy? The survival of the fittest. A hundred points for any motorist who can swerve across three lanes and take out a child cyclist heading to school? Write and think like a thug? That which does not kill you will make you stronger, but be prepared, because a Hummer against a bike in that primordial battle on the roads is the better killing machine. Death to the bicycle. Because it's Darwinian out there.

Dearie me, why ever should that touch a nerve? Time for a strategic retreat?

With one of Australia's most picturesque and convivial bike rides, Sydney to the Gong, on tomorrow, it is time for a fair-minded reappraisal of what has gone wrong in relations between cyclists and motorists, who now see each other as adversaries competing for an increasingly scarce resource.

Hmmm, would that have anything to do with the Sydney Morning Herald being a sponsor of the Sydney to the Gong MS fund-raising bike ride, here - event sold out? And after the tirade of a few days ago, now we expect to read a fair-minded reappraisal? I guess in the sense that even Robert Mitchum might try to sound sensible and balanced.

The bad blood is not just because one feral cyclist dressed like Cadel Evans got himself filmed punching a bus driver on the North-West T-way. It's that somehow Sydney's (and perhaps Melbourne's) tolerance of subprime driving conditions has reached a tipping point.

There, you see, it was just one little moment of road rage that blinded her, took her over the tipping point, made her shake with rage and froth and foam.

For motorists worried about losing their licences amid an orgy of fines, speed cameras, school zones, chicanes, speed humps, road closures, infinitely variable speed limits and a dizzying array of new signage, the growing band of entitled cyclists on painfully congested roads is simply the last straw.

Oh the poor dears. So blinded by tears and blood, what else could she do but write about the privileged, entitled cyclists.

And her retreat is so sweet, such a nice strategic retreat. Same message, but phrased so much more politely. It's so hard on the roads, that it's natural for people to want to run down cyclists, the newest form of cockroach on the road.

Especially as catching public transport simply isn't viable for a newspaper columnist with important places to go to, so important people can be seen. By yesterday. And naturally there are people who agree with her about these obnoxious, disgusting, self important cockies spreading across the roads like the bubonic plague:

"Some cyclists have become … the most obnoxious, aggressive and self-centred people in Sydney," wrote William. "A single cyclist on an inappropriate road often causes a cascade of delays and congestion to multiple people in cars behind them."

Naturally there were vile cockie cyclists, entitled and arrogant and opinionated, as all these cockies are, who assaulted sweet hapless Devine in ways that were shocking:

There were cyclists like David who wrote to call me a "toilet bowl scum", and the usual missives addressed to "The Retard Miranda Devine".

How cruel. How unkind. Wait, I feel a song coming on:

How can people be so heartless
How can people be so cruel
Easy to be hard
Easy to be cold

How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no

And especially people
Who care about strangers
Who care about evil
And social injustice
Do you only
Care about the bleeding crowd?
How about a needing friend?
I need a friend

Oh wait, the Devine's singing has brought out some fellow lickspittle lackeys who are sick of miltant bikies, and want to shelter under the warm forgiving embrace of a militant ratbag car driver:

But there were also cyclists who were sick of the militant among them alienating drivers whose goodwill they need to keep safe on the road. They have even coined a new word in honour of the North-West T-way maniac: bisycho, a "cyclist who goes postal on drivers who don't share the road".

There were people who wrote distressingly of loved ones killed and maimed while riding pushbikes. David Oliver's 39-year-old nephew, a triathlete, was killed while riding near Dapto by a car allegedly driven by an unlicensed driver. He leaves a widow and toddler son.

But by the law of the Devine, he shouldn't have been on the road at all.

Steady, it's time to reach out that "Love" hand:

Others described the hostility of motorists: "I've been hit in the back with a drink bottle thrown from a passing car while riding in a designated bike lane," wrote Fletcher. "I've been yelled at by a guy hanging out the car as [it] sped past at 100km/h in a 60 zone. On the Old Pacific Highway a guy in a four-wheel-drive missed me by two centimetres while holding his mobile phone to his ear. I was almost killed by a P-plater overtaking a car over double yellow lines. I've had cars deliberately swerve at me."

Of course such behaviour is intolerable, even criminal.

Shocking, but of course by now you will know that this kind of even handed attempt at rationality will only lead to a 'but' of the billy goat school of butts, which will once again reassert that it's all the fault of mad cyclists:

But (yep, and it's a big billy goat butt) what some cyclists don't understand is that they have squandered the goodwill even of decent motorists with such belligerent antics as the Critical Mass bike ride at peak hour on one Friday a month, designed for maximum commuter inconvenience. The fact that police condone the disruption has only fuelled public resentment.

And while shooting the messenger may play well on a cycling blog, the public has drawn its own conclusions.

You see, everybody agrees with her - not that she's megalomaniac or anything, just a messenger of the people who've drawn their own conclusions - and she's only thinking of the cyclists when she ranted like a raving mad petrol head in a megalomaniac out of control four wheel drive tractor bearing down on anyone who disagrees with her.

And to prove her point, she can recyle more rants from her many responses, thereby making column-writing a really easy task, with thinking and consideration a secondary requirement:

"How many of you cyclists think you have a god-given right to ride four abreast on the Pacific Highway on the weekends without the SLIGHTEST regard for any other road user?" wrote Chris.

"I've had several nasty experiences with cyclists on King Street, Newtown," wrote John. "Cyclists feel they have the right to aggressively attack motorists and perform acts of malicious damage to their vehicles on a regular basis."

Baz wrote: "Every morning and afternoon I have to pass cyclists riding on a roadway when a perfectly acceptable bike path is only two metres [away]. Then when I pull up at the next set of lights they pass me again and ride through the red lights only to cause another traffic jam further along. I am now forced to leave 15 minutes earlier to make up for time lost due to inconsiderate cyclists."

Ah that feels better. Maintain the rage. Now it's time for a personal confession, and perhaps a little suck-up to those brave souls on the Sydney Morning Herald sponsored bike ride to the Gong:

For those correspondents who demanded to know my bike riding habits, I once was keen enough to tackle Sydney to the Gong, but when my bike was stolen from my garage it took me a year to notice that it was missing.

We cowards can't help a sneaking admiration for the two-wheeled warriors who risk life and limb in the unequal battle of the road. But they seem not to realise how terrifying it is for a motorist to come upon them on a busy road.

Lordy, did you read that sentence and not choke with laughter on your cornflakes? Not realize how terrifying it is for motorists to come upon a cyclist on a busy road? Motorists in Sydney are terrified of cyclists? Yes, and cats that howl in the dark, and noises, and things that go 'boo', and two wheels up against two tons of metal and plastic.

You known, even Robert Mitchum had a better grasp of reality.

The reality is that cycling in Sydney is risky at the best of times but borders on suicidal on busy arterial roads during our lengthening peak hours.

The solution is not to make motorists' lives more miserable with utopian attempts to re-engineer our lifestyles, but to encourage commonsense and courtesy on both sides.

And meanwhile get those utopian cockie cyclists off the road! Now!

The good news is that sensible cyclists are beginning to accept responsibility for their behaviour.

In Toronto, Canada, cycling groups recently launched a campaign of solidarity with motorists after a bike courier was killed during a road rage altercation. They hand out thank-you notes to drivers who are thoughtful and courteous to cyclists.

Which is all very well, but get those cockies off the road! Schnell! Raus.

Roads are for cars, not lycra louts. Why on earth should we follow the example of ... Canadians. Who must have tattoes of "Love" on both sets of fingers, spreading their insidious evil niceness everywhere.

In Australia the website Cycliquette, which was launched this month by the Canada-born "average cyclist" Wade Wallace, is another example of the new, conciliatory approach.

"Cyclists need to clean up [their act] in order to coexist with motorists so that we're respected on the roads," writes Wallace.

"As it stands, there are too many of us (myself included) who ride in massive bunches, abuse our rights and act like a bunch of hoons."

You see, it's all the fault of the cyclists, and some of them have the grace to recognize it, unlike Sydney car drivers who are the very model of elegance and discretion under very trying circumstances which sometimes drive them into a tizz.

But not road rage. That's the business of hoon cyclists who don't show respect and fear for the two ton beast bearing down on them.

The Amy Gillett Foundation, named after the elite Australian cyclist who was killed while training in Germany in 2005, is another endeavour to "promote a safe and harmonious relationship of shared respect" between cyclists and motorists.

As with everything in life, courtesy goes a long way.

Courtesy? Oh dear, another load of cornflakes gone down the wrong way.

Courtesy, except of course when writing columns about bicyclists while under the sway of Robert Mitchum and howling to the full moon ...

Ride safely to the Gong my pretties, but ride close and with care. Sure Miranda the Devine has locked away the hounds for the moment, but remember she still has a squadron of flying monkeys standing by, ready when they finish their primary task:

Mr. Burns: This is a thousand monkeys working at a thousand typewriters. Soon, they'll have written the greatest novel known to mankind. (reads one of the typewriters) "It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?!" You stupid monkey!
[The monkey screeches]
Mr. Burns: Oh, shut up.

(Below: the eternal struggle continues).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hal G. P. Colebatch, Balibo, and moral equivalence in the fog of war

Over at The Australian, we're very disappointed with the 'stirring the possum' quality of Hal G. P. Colebatch's offering The Saigon media slaughter.

We'd have to rate it a bare five brushtails out of ten, and nowhere near the genial inner suburban stirring of Nick Possum in the City Hub, who also has his own page here, which is decidedly more upmarket than the City Hub page itself, here, which in its infinite wisdom, once ran a story by John Pilger about the recent feature film about Balibo, here (the Pilgering about an alleged cover-up and travesty of omissions, not the film itself).

Golly, you can stray along way from the main game when you're bored on the full to overflowing intertubes, but back to Colebatch, who is also rabbiting on about Balibo, but doesn't quite know what to say.

He'd like to get agitated about the film - do a Pilger from the right - because all the ominous signs are there that it's part of a left wing conspiracy, but about the best he can do is brood about the killing of journalists in Vietnam.

It is a graphic demonstration of the political skew in Australian culture that the killing of a group of journalists, probably but not quite certainly, by anti-communist Indonesian troops at Balibo in Timor in 1975 has been the subject of ongoing agitation, including two books, a recent film and countless articles, ever since as well as demands for reparation and the punishment of the guilty.

East Timor President Ramos Horta has recently awarded Balibo director Robert Connolly and producer John Maynard the Presidential Medal of Merit for the film.

Well yes, but isn't it strange that Colebatch doesn't mention the results of the most recent coronial inquiry, which is available here, and which concluded, amongst other things:


Brian Raymond Peters, in the company of fellow journalists Gary James Cunningham, Malcolm Harvie Rennie, Gregory John Shackleton and Anthony John Stewart, collectively known as “the Balibo Five”, died at Balibo in Timor- Leste on 16 October 1975 from wounds sustained when he was shot and/or stabbed deliberately, and not in the heat of battle, by members of the Indonesian Special Forces, including Christoforus da Silva and Captain Yunus Yosfiah on the orders of Captain Yosfiah, to prevent him from revealing that Indonesian Special Forces had participated in the attack on Balibo. There is strong circumstantial evidence that those orders emanated from the Head of the Indonesian Special Forces, Major-General Benny Murdani to Colonel Dading Kalbuadi, Special Forces Group Commander in Timor, and then to Captain Yosfiah.

No, Colebatch has other fish to fry, and sees justice as an aspect of politics, in the best tradition of show trials:

Meanwhile, the killing of a group of Australian journalists by communist Viet Cong in the Cholon district of Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive has been almost completely forgotten.

In contrast to Balibo, there has been a complete absence of any indignation by the Australian Left over the Cholon massacre. No chance of a movie there.

This is despite the fact that, unlike Balibo, the circumstances of the Cholon killings are known in detail.

Well I guess the coronial inquiry might be called vague and indecisive - you can see that no doubt by reading the conclusion above - but I'm not quite sure what Colebatch is proposing. Does he want a coronial inquiry, does he want a movie, is he part of a campaign to discover justice about the Cholon killings, or does he just want to grind an axe in relation to Balibo because somehow the fuss is perceived as leftist agitation?

Who knows, because the column gets curiouser and curiouser:

In the Australian section of the London Spectator of September 26, Eric Ellis fulminated over the Timor killings: "It would be correct and just, if the word were so, for Jakarta to offer up the military officers who murdered the defenceless Balibo Five, the biggest single-incident killing of media personnel in any war anywhere, killed simply because they were journalists in the right place at the wrong time. But Balibo agitators will be disappointed if they expect Indonesia to offer up the killers."

The voluminous writings on the Balibo killings have a hole at their centre: the lack of witnesses and of facts. We do not know if the journalists at Balibo were murdered - that is, killed deliberately by people who knew they were non-combatants - at all. Fighting was going on between the then communist-aligned Fretilin and Indonesian or pro-Indonesian Timorese forces. It is not even certain which side killed them, let alone what individuals.

Well all I can do is recommend you read the coroner's findings, established after a little more research than that done by Colebatch, and come to your own conclusion. Fair and balanced, and you decide.

I was at Balibo in early 1973, in the last days of Portugese rule, writing a script for a travel film. The area was thickly grown with semi-jungle vegetation and bush, in many places more than man-high, often right up to what primitive roads there were.

Uh huh. Man on the spot, unlike the Coroner. Only missed the murders by a couple of years.

On much of the terrain nothing would have been easier, during fighting, than for someone moving in this dense bush to be mistaken as an enemy target or to walk into a burst of gunfire.

John Whitehall, writing in the October Quadrant, has repeated an earlier statement that at least two of the journalists, who he saw shortly before, had then actually been wearing military uniforms, the equivalent of painting a target on oneself.

Let's revert to the Coroner's findings about the Indonesian cover up, which mentions the matter of uniforms in relation to an Indonesian cover-up:

The cover-up entailed the following components:

a. completely destroying the journalists’ bodies to eradicate all signs that they had been shot with AK – 47 assault rifles, which were used by Indonesian but not UDT or Apodeti forces;
b. portraying the journalists as communist combatants who were supporting Fretilin;
c. to add verisimilitude to that portrayal, dressing the bodies in Portuguese army uniforms and photographing them with (defunct) weapons;
d. orchestrating official statements from the leaders of the anti-Fretilin factions as to their responsibility for the deaths in the course of combat;
e. utilising false media reports in the Indonesian press;
f. prevaricating about providing details of the deaths to the Australian Government;
g. deliberately misleading investigators sent by the Australian government in the first six months following the deaths; and
h. continuing to deny any Indonesian involvement in their deaths at the time and even up to the present time some thirty years after the event.

But Colebatch was there in 1973, and so has profound insights into the killings that took place that 16th of October 1975.

On the matter of the uniforms the Coroner was even more definitive:

There is little doubt that the disinformation disseminated by the Indonesian military was designed to depict the Balibo Five as “combatants” who were actively assisting Fretilin both beforehand and at the time of their deaths. In that context I want to emphasis my findings of the following facts:

1. Although some of the Fretilin soldiers were under the impression that one or more of the journalists were using a radio, the journalists did not have any radio communication equipment. They conveyed no radio message at all after leaving Dili. It would appear that be witnesses mistook sound equipment for radio equipment. Gerald Stone, in his evidence, remarked that portable sound equipment was fitted with a microphone of the purpose of eliminating background noise. I consider it was probably the aspect of the microphone in conjunction with the size of the portable sound recorder that caused the misperception. It seems likely that spies for the Indonesian military forces also erroneously reported back that the journalists were using radio equipment. There could be no evidence that the journalists were communicating messages to Fretilin because it did not happen. As the evidence discloses, Fretilin had its own radio communications out of Balibo.
2. There is no doubt that Mr Shackleton personally carried a message to the Fretilin commander in Maliana to send more troops to Balibo. He said so himself in a televised report. I note, however, that the report had not been aired prior to 16 October. In any event, unwise though it may have been, it happened prior to the 16th and did not affect his status as a civilian on that day.
3. On 16 October the journalists were not armed. They were dressed in civilian clothes.
4. On 16 October the journalists were some considerable distance away from the location of the shooting by the Fretilin soldiers at the fort.
5. At the time of their capture, the last of the Fretilin soldiers were on their way out of Balibo.
6. The journalists were not incidental casualties in the fighting: they were captured then deliberately killed despite protesting their status.

But Colebatch has other fish to fry:

On the other hand it seems plain that the killing of the Australian journalists in Cholon by communist forces was the killing of obviously unarmed non-combatants.

Well plain in comparison to Balibo only if you can't read the plain English of the recent Coroner's report. But here's the curious thing. After reciting the story of the killings of journalists in Cholon, Colebatch announces:

Apparently the officer in charge, Minh Pung, who had actually fired the pistol shots into the journalists and had pursued Palmos when he fled, had been taken by the chase into an open street where he had been blown to bits by fire from a US helicopter.

Palmos concluded of Minh Pung: "It was without any thought of innocence that he shot my friends, and would have shot me. And it was with plain murder in his mind that he chased me down the road to kill me.

"He knew even then that we were not armed. Our Jeep was not followed by any other attacking vehicles. We were white, we were Westerners, and we had to be blown away with the smallest risk and the greatest number of heroic points accrued."

So we already know the point of any inquiry into that set of killings - the murderer's dead - and the best that might be accomplished are attempted murder charges which would be hard to make stick. So what indeed is Colebatch's point here?

Is it to establish a moral equivalence? Whereby the terrorist activities of Hamas excuse the war crimes of Israel, or vice versa? Or the terrorism and war crimes of the Taliban excuse the war crimes of the United States, or other forces in Afghanistan? Or perhaps he might even like to explain how a woman who got raped while in employment for an American sub-contractor in Iraq shouldn't be allowed to sue because she signed a contract waiving her rights in the event of a criminal assault?

What degree of guilt is needed? Well it seems we're not talking about degrees:

The point is not to establish degrees of guilt here: the Viet Cong, as communist authorities in Vietnam said later, may have thought the journalists in Cholon were enemy agents, even though the killer's derisive cry of "Bao chi!" and the fact that both the men and the Jeep were obviously unarmed tell against this.

Well actually surely the point of murder is to establish degrees of guilt, and it seems perfectly appropriate that the Cholon killer got blown away by chopper fire, though it might therefore be a tad hard to drag his corpse into a revivified murder trial. Much as it might help balance the unseemly fuss about Balibo.

Meantime, because the leftists are agitated, it seems Colebatch doesn't mind that the killers involved in Balibo still walk free, perhaps because there were no killers and no murders, no matter what an expensive coronial inquiry might find.

Strange really. I thought one of the more enfeebled notions of a just war is that civilians should not be killed needlessly, nor journalists to shut them up. They shouldn't have been there, but they also shouldn't have been killed. Ah well, never mind, accidents will happen:

Both massacres might be ascribed to the heat of battle and the fog of war. There is probably little to be gained by picking over either of them further.

Hmm, okay, I guess that there's no point in picking over massacres (let's not talk of actual 'murder'), let's wash our hands and let's walk away.

Why Pontius Pilate or the Whitlam government couldn't handle that kind of real politic better, and remind me when I embark on my next round of serial killing to explain that it was probably all due to the heat of suburban exhaustion and the fog of Sydney's car exhaust fumes. And that there's nothing to be gained by picking over the bones of the victims.

In fact it's probably just as well we got over the bizarre notion that there should be no statute of limitation in relation to murder charges. I'm thinking that after fifteen years, we should just drop everything, and let the killer(s) get away with it. What's to be gained by picking over a sordid past? After all lots of other crimes have limitations and where's the harm in a little murder or a slaughter or a massacre between chums?

The point is now not what happened in Cholon or Balibo then: the point is the completely different sets of reactions to the two massacres in Australia: one ceaselessly dwelt upon (and at a time when Indonesian goodwill is important in the anti-terrorist campaign), the other virtually ignored.

Actually the point of justice is justice, not politics, and the notion that you can compare Cholon and Balibo, and then argue for nothing to be done about Balibo is the kind of moral equivalence which makes the notion of justice meaningless - or just another way to indulge in real politics (because we need Indonesian good will) of the weasel kind indulged in by the Whitlam government at the time.

Shit happens, so no need to bother with even the kind of show trial justice beloved of corrupt regimes, of a totalitarian or communist kind.

Was it just an irony of timing that last night there was a screening of a documentary devoted to the British hunting down the Gestapo murderers of the fifty airmen who took part in 'the great escape', and then hanging them? Talk of the fog of war, or people following orders didn't cut much mustard with the British when it came to the casual, brutal shooting prisoners for the 'crime' of attempting to escape.

If Colebatch had worried about the massacres of the east Timorese - none of which cause much concern or activism in Australia today, and which even some of the Timorese want to put behind them - he might at least have had a decent moral equivalence outing. But by taking apples and shoving them up against oranges, and making a few half-baked assertions he's in no position to prove in relation to the Balibo matter, he ends up conflating politics and justice.

Of course nothing will happen about the Balibo murders. Real politics, and dithering and bureaucratic 'difficulties', and the 'fog of peace' and the 'heat of the Indonesian solution, commercial realities, anti-terrorist campaigns and I've been to Bali too' will see to that.

But is there ever a problem when attention is paid to murder, without half-hearted equivocations, and queasy explanations of how it might all have been an accident involving uniforms and man high grass in the jungle? Or is somehow a leftist conspiracy?

As a sidebar, ain't it a funny old world, to see the likes of Colebatch defending the activities and stance of the Whitlam government.

What next? A campaign for a gas pipeline across Australia, using Arab money? Come on down Rex Connor, your knight in shining armor awaits to salute you as a visionary ...

(Below: a couple of oldies from Nicholson, cartoonist at The Australian. More Nicholson here).

Miranda the Devine and Mark Day re-dux, and the price of masochism

Like a dog returning to the results of its emesis, it's hard not to take another look at Miranda the Devine's piece of trolling under the header Roads are for cars, not Lyrca louts.

Now if you clicked through on that link, you've played the game and rewarded the Devine for her trolling, an extended piece of emotional hysteria about how roads are for cars, and everyone else can bugger off.

Enough said about that bit of nonsense, but what's remarkable is that the Devine has turned her trolling into a four hundred and fifty seven comment rant. She's provoked people to either stir the pot with her - and upset possum bicyclists - or persuaded people to rail against her strident ratbaggery.

In conventional journalist terms, this is a success. Never worry about printing the controversy, provided it whips up a storm.

But what does it say about the masochists who get caught in the game, vent their rage, and thereby reward both the Herald's editorial policies and the Devine's rants?

Well there's a mug born every minute, and if you favor the catharsis theory in drama and life they might well be happy with the experience. Having purged or relieved pent-up emotions by beating up on the piñata Devine - a piñata that keeps on giving useless opinions and irrational illogical rants - they can then move on to a productive day, smiling at their workmates and cheerfully delivering the goods to their customers.

It's a kind of cosmic communal therapy, and the only ones to suffer are the cyclists at the centre of the Devine's ill-mannered, and yes it must be said, stupid, rant.

But what about those who don't follow the catharsis theory and find themselves disturbed, troubled, in an emotionally unsatisfying way? Not relieved by writing in a short par denouncing the Devine as a loon?

Are there enough masochists in the world who might want to pay to lacerate themselves in what was once the traditional approach to publishing? I can remember one editor telling me how pleased he was with any response - it didn't matter if it was good, bad, illiterate, pleased or mad - it was a sign that we were in touch with our readership. And in the old days one letter to the editor was reckoned to be an indicator of anywhere between one hundred and one thousand actively silent readers (though I never quite understood the notion of active silence, I think it might have meant actively engaged but silent).

But how will this kind of shit-stirring when publishers turn around and demand payment for online content? When - if you're a cyclist for example - you can read the Devine for free at the moment, then go off and vent in your own forum, without rewarding the original publisher further, because they have a free community of like minds - as dedicated Sydney cyclists did by trotting off to Sydney Cyclist.

There they brooded as a pack. Turn the other cheek, write a cooly rational response, ignore it all together, cancel their subscription? What to do to express the outrage?

How does angering or irritating a significant part of your customer base amount to a business model? Is it just a way of providing water cooler chatter, or is it a significant disincentive to purchase?

How does it fit with Mark Day's blithe spirit suggestions on how traditional media might reform themselves to attract an audience large enough to sustain their business model?

... I gather the aim is to create sites that appeal to various user groups, built in the style of social networks. Some will be aimed at youth markets, others at the so-called working families, others at upmarket, culturally influenced, older audiences. Some will be defined by geography (that is, city or regionally oriented); others by specific interests.

They will be hybrid sites with open-access for all the breaking news that is currently provided free today. It won’t cost you to learn of a plane crash, a government initiative, or a sporting result.

Beyond the open pages will be a raft of services and specialised information. A clue may be taken from the launch last week of Times Plus in Britain—a site majoring in culture and travel initiatives, where subscribers to The Times and Sunday Times will have automatic access, and non-subscribers will be asked to pay pound stg. 50 ($88.65) a year to join the club. On offer are travel deals, tickets to film and theatre previews, discount book offers, cross-promotional offers for pay-TV services, upgrades on airlines, and so on. I figure it’s no coincidence that many of the offers have a listed value of pound stg. 50—the same as the joining fee.

As well as the value-added shopping aspects of the site, there’s a blog facility for the exchange of views and other user input. It’s a virtual community designed for the typical Times reader—upmarket, well-off, older folk with the time and money to fund a peripatetic, cultural lifestyle.

Whoever would have thought it? This model is not unlike a newspaper itself. Newspapers have always been aimed at specific markets, whether they be defined by geography, demographic or market segment.

A newspaper contains breaking news, exclusive news, sport, finance, fashion, comics, crosswords, quizzes, TV listings and vast amounts of service information in the form of either editorial or advertising. Collectively, this amounts to a product some of us consider to have sufficient value to induce us to part with our money. (here).

Well would you want to have Miranda the Devine, Janet Albrechtsen, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt as part of your extended social network, and pay for the pleasure of self-abuse? Not just link them to your Facebook page, but pay for the pleasure of having them in your community?

It's an interesting question, and I don't pretend to have the answers for others, but with the latest news that the slow spiral downwards of newspapers in the United States is starting to resemble a crocodile death roll, somebody better think of something soon.

Here's the decline in circulation of the top 25 daily newspapers in the United States.

Here's Megan McArdle in the Atlantic announcing the end of the newspaper business full stop.

Here's the Washington Post getting agitated about it.

Here's a newspaper death watch, and now comes the news that the only newspaper to pick up its circulation a tad has decided to end its Boston office, and thereby cut nine jobs. Yep even the Wall Street Journal and its paid model is feeling the heat.

Google 'decline of newspapers' and you can get more hits than grains of rice accompanying a decent curry.

It makes Mark Day's latest column, about how cunning Rupert Murdoch is by letting others jump first into demanding payment for content (Newsday bets on internet users paying for local news) even more poignant.

Well who knows how it will turn out. I can't decipher the runes, and I'd rather go to the dentist for some root canal therapy than willingly pay to be trolled by Miranda the Devine, so good luck to the Herald in its mission to get a significant part of its readership base agitated, infuriated, upset and turned off.

Here at loon pond, we're thinking of opening a nice little dungeon for liberal masochists where they can pay a fortune to have the crap and their liberal opinions beaten out of them. Could be a nice little earner ...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tim Blair, Jonah Goldber, and feeling the pulsing thermometer of anti-western impulses

(Above: did god have an anti-western impulse? Jan the elder Brueghel, Landscape of Paradise and the Loading of the Animals in Noah's Ark, 1596).

Tim Blair, in a fine old lather of righteous indignation yet again, this time whipping himself up in his ever reliable totally tedious one trick pony routine about climate change, here.

This time he's outraged about the Associated Press asking independent statistics experts to look at the data, and worse still, these so-called experts then having the cheek to suggest they couldn't find a trend of falling temperatures.

In what is now standard form for Blair, he jumps the shark, by turning to that well known scientist Jonah Golberg.

UPDATE. Beyond temperature disputes, Jonah Goldberg asks:

What possible price would warmists agree is just too high? Right now, greens want to spend trillions of dollars and export our manufacturing base to China and India in a foolish attempt to slightly ameliorate global warming. But it certainly seems that that’s just the opening bid. If democracy is worth sacrificing, and dogs, cats, and unborn children are up for discussion, where is the line we will not cross?

What is the price we can all agree just isn’t worth paying?

Newsflash: the United States exported its manufacturing base to China years ago, and now happily forages in Wal Marts full of goods manufactured in China. And try getting a job in a call centre outside India.

But then it gets even richer:

For eight years during the war on terror liberals routinely argued that if we made even the slightest changes to our lifestyles in response to a very real terror threat, “the terrorists will have won.” But altering or outright chucking overboard the core of our liberties and lives to fight global warming is progressive, smart and right. I find that baffling.

Blair, having revealed elsewhere that he went off on an anti-nuclear demonstration in an attempt to appeal to a girlfriend, then does a Jiminy Cricket and chirrups:

Not really. Both responses are driven by the same anti-Western impulse.

Yep, climate change is anti-western and an impulse roughly equivalent to every evil impulse under the sun, like terrorism, or should that simply be called every liberal impulse under the sun?

The question is, if fundamentalist religious types who preach the gospel of climate change are mad, what does that make the fundamentalist religious types who preach the gospel of scepticism with equal religiosity and fervor?

Well for a start they clearly have deep Freudian anxieties about anti-Western impulses.

How about a re-write?

What possible price would sceptics agree is just too high? Right now, protectionsts want to spend trillions of dollars propping up the United States manufacturing and agricultural base in a foolish attempt to pork barrel, while wondering why we should bother to spend a dime to slightly ameliorate a non-existent threat, which being non-existent can't be ameliorated. And it certainly seems that that’s just the opening bid as banking bonus season gets back into full swing. If democracy is worth sacrificing, and dogs, cats, and unborn children are up for drowning under a Noah's Ark like flood as the ice caps melt, where is the line we will not cross?

What's the price we can all agree isn't worth paying about a non-existent threat - zero dollars? - so we can keep on shoveling shit down the throats of the rich, so that eventually some gruel might trickle the way of the poor.

A stupid rhetorical question? You betcha. Any stupider than Goldberg's stupid rhetorical question? Not really.

Meanwhile, better get over your love of tuna in sushi, or at least be prepared to earn squillions to pay for the taste treat.

It's hard not to think of Tim Blair as the climate change sceptics' Tim Flannery.

Climate change not as science but as an anti-western impulse? Someone's hiding the tuna under the haystack, and when they come out won't the Japanese be pleased and the liberals will be mortified?

Blair should go eat some lentils for a week to discover a real pulse ...

(Below: no tuna eating for lentil lovers, as we move to feed nine billion people. Won't someone think of the anti-western pulses in The Young Ones?)

Tory Maguire, Alison Stephenson, and Chairman Murdoch's minions busy confecting moral panic on the intertubes

(Above: Isadora Duncan, whose form of dancing and outrageous dress still poses a threat to young people everywhere).

Moral panics are now a staple part of the diet of the intertubes, especially in that area which once nostalgically used to be called the mainstream media.

If there's one negative to the infinite library known as the full to overflowing interweb, it's the way it harbors loons and conspiracy theories and journalists intent on drawing attention to themselves by drawing attention to a moral panic.

In this arena, the desperate hacks and flacks of the Murdoch press - Chairman Rupert's minions - excel.

Yep, it's another typical day at The Paunch, Australia's dumbest, cheap skate, cheap assed conversation, and the first blog to develop belly sag before it's passed puberty.

How better, for example, to celebrate Halloween than skew it with a story about body image?

The Punch decided to ask the people at the coal face of the battle against the growing sexualistion of children, mothers with young daughters, what an image like this did to their efforts to stop their little girls growing up too fast.

Don’t miss our body image special on The Punch tomorrow morning. You won’t believe your eyes.

The image that Tory Maguire is referring to in her fear mongering column - Does it really matter if this 9-year-old dresses like this? - is a photo of pop star Miley Cyrus's little sister Noah at a Halloween party, and the question I have is this.

If the image is so shocking and disturbing, what the hell is an ethical journalist doing running it in a way that brings it front and center, and floating around the intertubes like a piece of festering foulness?

The answer of course is that it's just a dress up Halloween style that is neither revealing nor problematic, unless you happen to be a fundamentalist Christian who thinks Halloween a satanic festirval, or you revert to the original story devised by yet another Murdoch hack, one Alison Stephenson, under the header Noah Cyrus, 9, causes outrage in dominatrix Halloween costume.

And here's how they do it:

Yep, it's a cheap, vile, pathetic, sordid attempt at a few entertainment headlines using guilt by association to sell a few clicks on the intertubes, mingling a harmless goth outfit with whips, handcuffs and sensuous hussies (not that there's anything wrong with any of that, especially the dominant woman bit).

Only one magazine editor helped out hackette Stephenson in her attempt to drum up moral outrage, and that was Disney Girl editor Fiona Wright:

Wright said she would refuse to run these pictures in her magazine, despite the star being popular with their tween audience.

"All the girls we cover in the magazine, we make sure they are tween friendly and their outfits are something that is appropriate.

"Being a Disney publication we stress family values and no, we definitely wouldn't run these pictures."

Well she would say that, wouldn't she, being a Disney twit, never mind that Disney has eaten out for lunch over many years by exploiting images of women as witches (and can they ever be forgiven for Glenn Close doing Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmatians?)

But sensibly, 'tween magazines Total Girl and Little Angel declined to comment, so it was off to the blogosphere for further comment:

Blogs and celebrity websites have been sent into overdrive with people outraged by the nature of Cyrus' outfit at such a young age.

"What is she dressed as? A child prostitute?" wrote one web-user.

Wright echoed the sentiments.

"Her parents would have given her the OK, and all responsibility should have been directed back on them.

"They would have known these pictures would have ended up in magazines and they shouldn't have allowed her to wear something like this."

Well they would say that, wouldn't they. The blogosphere is full of loons who love a moral panic, amplified by being quoted anonymously by Chairman Murdoch hackettes wanting to lather up a moral storm.

But here's the thing. The photo by itself is innocuous, doubly so in the context of Halloween, and the only way it can be given a dark filthy perverted meaning is by the News Corp hackette ferreting through the costumes to be found at

I could achieve the same sense of moral outrage by putting the hapless kid up against images from Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie.

Relax, that was just to get the feminists going with a look at the mass media's ability to dehumanize Nicole Kidman by putting her in a feature film re-make of a show which makes the plastic doll above exude more life and sexuality.

But back to bubble headed booby Maguire, who doesn't seem to understand that her piece isn't a part of the solution, it's part of the problem.

She spends the rest of her column interviewing anxious parents who are disturbed by the costume and by children (girls, always with the girls, never mind the boys in their budgie smugglers) growing up too quickly, with only a few dissenting voices in her piece paddling against the collective tide of moral outrage and moral panic.

And the bottom line?

Don’t miss our body image special on The Punch tomorrow morning. You won’t believe your eyes.

Oh please. Put it behind a paywall so I can miss it, instead of watching this journalistic car crash in slow motion.

Here's the catch 22. If we won't believe our eyes, we shouldn't be seeing the images, and Chairman Rupert's minions shouldn't be running them. And if we do believe our eyes, I dare say it'll be because once again the Murdoch press can be relied on for cheap titillation and easy sensationalism, of a kind PG rated and acceptable for public reading on the intertubes anywhere outside Iran and North Korea.

Gutter trawling with the Murdoch press is now as reliable an activity as it used to be in the golden days of the yellow press and the tabloids. Only now it's done via the intertubes, and they can easily transmit large color photos and assemble them into galleries so the prudes can flick through, clucking all the while.

Well I've decided to embark on a campaign to ban Isadora Duncan dance techniques, for fear the rampant hedonism and sensuality on view might undermine western civilization and its precious values forever, or at least until Christmas, when we can do a story about the war against Christmas.

Don't believe me? Look below. You will hardly be able to believe your eyes.

(Below: Isadora Duncan's perverted form of modern dance, and young people listening to her evil perverted lessons in life. Sure she died in 1927, strangled by a large silk scarf - here - but her legacy lives on, distorting impressionable minds).

(Below: and now, since the satanic festival of Halloween is upon us, even if it's a romp not widely celebrated in Australia, here's a couple of images for gentlemen readers. Or women with a discerning capacity to appreciate the Sapphic charms of their sisters.

With a bonus thought, perhaps even an inspiration. Why not dress your nine year olds in the costumes illustrated below - freely available from your local fancy dress store - and then send them along to the Murdoch press for a run, as the best and most imaginative stage mothers do. You too could be part of a moral panic, and your young ducklings could have world wide exposure. It'll be a win win for the Murdoch press and paedophiles everywhere.

As for stereotyping, along with moral panics, and cheap photos of scantily clad women designed to bolster random hits on the intertubes, we'll leave that to the Murdoch press. Irony laden chortle follows).

Miranda Devine, hapless Sydney motorists, and the deviant dangers of bicycles and pedestrians

(Above: the first Anzac day, suitably done in cars - with apologies for showing what looks like some - gasp - pedestrians. Henceforth there shall be no frivolous marching or walking on the street, and all events will be done within and by motor car, so Miranda the Devine decrees, and it is herein enjoined on all).

One of the joys of visiting a city like Amtserdam is the way the city centre is owned by pedestrians, bicyclists and public transport, most often in the form of narrow, jolting, frequently crowded, standing room trams. After World War II, such a tram probably feels like bliss.

The canals are a jolly way of getting around as well, and then when you get into long distance mode, you can can go like a bat out of hell in a superfast train (or a stolid stop by stop model), and you can hit a freeway where the fast lane allows the inner petrol head Tim Blair to come to the surface.

But then the Dutch - determined to live up to national stereotypes - are rational folk, and they understand that in confined spaces, it's important to give a little and take a little.

In comparison, Beijing - where bicycles on the road are swiftly being routed by an obsession with the status of car ownership - anarchy reigns supreme, along with the rising cost of fuel, dingles, and shoving cars on to an infra-structure better suited to Victorian transport models.

I grew up in a country town where riding bicycles was considered normal, not unknown for adults and de rigeur for working class children expecting to get to school. But then traffic was inclined to the slow speeds preferred by rural cockies, and nobody had a problem sharing the road with kids on bikes.

Before we break down in Rousseau-like sobbing about a rural idyll, bathed in the golden glow of lost Mark Twain days, the question arises as to whether anyone would contemplate riding a bike in Sydney.

A few hardy, sturdy souls do. After all, a bike is cheap, efficient, and good for you in terms of fitness (except when sucking in the air generated by a horde of vehicles). And the hills of Sydney aren't that bad in the general run of things, not with gears and a little leg power, and especially in the inner suburbs, there's a proximity which means a bike moving through back streets is a heck of a lot faster than traffic reduced to a crawl on King street.

And there's the rub. There's nothing sticks so much in the craw of a competitive, rage-infested Sydney motorist as the sight of a cyclist getting ahead, especially if they treat traffic signals with disdain, but really just because ... they're getting ahead, while the traffic imitates the characteristics of a snail in a snail and tortoise race.

There's another problem of course. Bicycles tend to be ridden by greenies, lefties, do gooders, and those who think the planet needs saving.

Put all those elements together, and you have a perfect storm, and as usual she goes by the name of Miranda the Devine.

This week she's on a bike bashing routine which suggests she hasn't found a handy greenie target, so the tofu munching lycra wearing bike louts must do. Roads are for cars, not Lycra louts, she shrieks, and reading it, and thinking of a Miranda the Devine type behind a four wheel drive Toorak tractor, you realize why only the brave ride bikes in Sydney.

Whoever made up the Roads and Traffic Authority's 1990s slogan ''the road is there to share'' has a lot to answer for. It's a big fat lie. The road is not there to share. Roads are built for cars. Pretending otherwise is unfair to motorists and cyclists alike.

Yep, not when Toad of Toad Hall hits the road with his bright red car, shouting toot toot, out of my way. Not when Lenny McPherson can roam the road with a screwdriver ready to jam in your eye if he doesn't like your manners. Remember folks, this is Sydney, and the incoherent chaotic foaming anger that infests the Devine is on view in the streets on a daily basis.

It leads to tragic accidents and violent incidents such as the attack on a 64-year-old bus driver by a cyclist last Friday.

At 5.05am, in the pre-dawn half light a cyclist in his 30s, "dressed like Cadel Evans", says the Transport Workers Union bus industry official Darcy Waller, was riding illegally on the bus only North-West T-way near Seven Hills.

What's the bigger crime I wonder? The loon cyclist smashing up the bus, or the way he was "dressed like Cadel Evans", and therefore behaving in a European manner - possibly even French, as if somehow riding on Sydney roads was something like a cheese eating Tour de France.

Now of course there's no road rage amongst Sydney motorists. It all emanates from cyclists:

This is classic angry cyclist behaviour, as if it's up to the cycling fraternity to forcibly educate the motoring public and instil fear like jackbooted Soviets.

Eek, I told you, they're communists. Now think back to that opening line about caring and sharing:

Neither motorists nor cyclists ever wanted a civil war.

But the cyclists fired the first shot, and now they must be exterminated. Wheel in the daleks, sorry I meant wheel in the Devine.

She'll make those cyclists just disappear, fuck off or go away, and perhaps fester somewhere in the dark, cycling around a mushroom patch.

Now think back to who fired that fatal first shot. What could be worse than a communist? How about a vegetarian communist?

But hostilities were fed by the lies told by the Government and the RTA, which gave cyclists unreasonable expectations and ideas above their station. The former roads minister Carl Scully, a vegetarian cyclist, threw $250 million at the lobby, further fuelling expectations which were dashed by subsequent roads ministers.

Most bike paths turned out to be little more than white paint on a road, with no room for a bike between parked cars and traffic. But they sent a signal to cyclists that motorists were somehow in the wrong.

You see? It's all the put upon hard done by motorists, who just want the god given right to create the mother of all traffic snarls in the centre of Sydney on a daily basis, with so much cost to the economy that even tax guru Ken Henry broods about ways to punish those who sit in their cars as if it's some god-given right, while the anger and the fear and loathing festers and stews and seeks a scapegoat. The cyclist. Or a pedestrian moving faster than them at a pinch.

There was a cycleway promised on the North-West T-way, but the reality turned out to be less than cyclists had in mind, with big gaps, traffic lights and intersections along the way. This caused an outbreak of vandalism and, as we saw last week, civil disobedience by cyclists with an inflated sense of importance.

Yep, go about the business of riding a bike in Cadell Evans clothes and you're a poseur, a ponce, a French cheese eating surrender monkey, a vandal, and a person with an inflated sense of importance. As opposed to a Sydney motorist, who exudes such peace and love that Gandhi and the Buddha combined wilt under the karmic glow of goodness. Full of exceptional grace:

Attempts to retrofit roads to allow equal access to bikes and pedestrians just makes them more dangerous and simply adds to Sydney's already woeful gridlock. Bikes and pedestrians are allowed on to roads only under the good graces of motorists, and only when they do not pose a traffic hazard.

You see? Orwell had it right. Four wheels good, two wheels baaaad.

But it's even worse than you feared. There are dangerous attempts to prevent Sydney from becoming its ideal - Los Angeles. Over there if you walk at all, you're regarded as a dangerous eccentric. A trip of a hundred yards requires at the very least a Hummer. Try leaving your hotel, and being asked if you want your car, say 'no, I'm just going for a walk'. If they don't have an anti-terrorist squad tracking you, it'll be a miracle.

The ideologues who have fostered the road-sharing lie must think a few dead cyclists and pedestrians are a small price to pay for getting cars off the road, because that is their ultimate aim: to make driving so unpleasant, slow, expensive and fraught with hazards that motorists give up.

Ah yes, the road kill. It's all the fault of them that want to use the roads in silly self-serving ways, and don't understand it's designed for twenty two wheelers just delivering the goods to the Pitt street mall.

So far, all they have done is create a dangerous sense of entitlement among other road users. Harold Scruby and his Pedestrian Council are much to blame for the attitude that far from sharing the road, cars are there under sufferance.

Pedestrians no longer stop and wait for cars to slow before launching themselves on to a zebra crossing. They stride out, like Moses parting the Red Sea, expecting cars to defy the laws of physics. The result is an increase in pedestrian injury.

Yep, if the bicycle folk think they're pinko pervert commies, then pedestrians are even worse. Christians with a Moses complex, heading to their holy land.

Yep, it's the bloody jay walking pedestrians, making life hard for the long suffering motorist, as if they had some god given right to walk upon this earth, when they should be in a car and stuck in traffic developing a healthy case of road rage.

Well let them walk, and let's see if they can take the hits, and remember it's a hundred points for knocking over a member of the clergy.

Oxford Street reportedly has become a late-night killing zone, due to the arrogance of jaywalkers who think it is their god-given right to cross wherever they please. Councils have been forced to erect ugly kerbside fences to protect jaywalkers from themselves.

Come to think of it, I'm suggesting right here and now a miraculous new solution. Anybody caught perambulating, pedestrianing, outside of a car, without proof that they're within one hundred yards of their vehicle, will be fined on the spot. Anybody riding a bike anywhere for any purpose will simply be fined, the bike confiscated and pulped, and a second offence will lead to mandatory prison, with a third death by firing squad. Let's see how those vegetarian communists like them apples.

Oh and remember how the Cahill expressway gets shut down for the fireworks on New Year's Eve, and George street gets blocked up by diggers trying to remember the war, and roads are shut down regularly for city to surfers and marathoners and other silly billies who somehow think they have a right to live in the city they live in, and use its facilities ....

Not any more, not after Nathan Rees's stunt of turfing the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a picnic:

The Premier was ecstatic, proclaiming the tourism benefits of attracting people from as far away as, oh, Thornleigh.

''This is Sydney at its very best and another extraordinary event proving we can do anything,'' Rees said. It does prove there is no limit to the bread-and-circuses desperation of the State Government.

But under the Government-sponsored jollity of the day there was a not-so-subtle message: that even the most crucial and iconic roads do not belong to cars.

They can and will be reclaimed for frivolous purposes at any time.

So here's a new edict:

Yes fuck off diggers, fuck off fireworks freaks, fuck off runners, fuck off cyclists, fuck off pedestrians, fuck off communist leftie cyclists, fuck off babies in prams, fuck off cats and dogs, fuck off vegetarian cyclists, fuck off joggers, fuck off lycra clad lout cyclists, and especially fuck off those crippled folk in those battery powered, neat looking little go carts that zip along the footpath.

It's Miranda the Devine, and she's coming through.

All spun from the gossamer thread of one loon cyclist attacking a bus driver.

What's that you say? Fuck off Miranda the Devine.

Come now, the intertubes are meant for caring and sharing, and all she's doing is making the roads safe for caring and sharing meglomaniac car drivers.

Sigh, it's just another day in Sydney, and they reckon the population in the town will hit six million by 2050. God help them, if Labor is still planning public transport, and dinosaurs like the Devine prevail ...

(Oh and if you want to see the reaction of Sydney cyclists, head over here).

(Below: the start of it all. Deviant communist leftie vegetarian student academics gathered to celebrate the opening run of the University of Sydney Bicycle club in 1897 and it's been a freewheel downhill to anarchy on the roads ever since).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

David Penberthy, trans fats, and workers unite, before they take away your right to be as fat as a pig in mud

(Above: saving the best trans fats for themselves, the greedy pigs).

Workers of the world unite, they're trying to strip away your fat, or worse, your right to be fat, or or worse still your right to die of diabetes at an early age.

Astonishing, alarming, perhaps even terrifying news, a conspiracy on a par with the news that the Copenhagen talk fest is indeed a cover which will see a world government in place by Christmas.

And as usual we have David Penberthy to thank for the news, with Penbo turning into a radical - perhaps even a dangerous socialist communist sympathizer - as he rights for the rights of workers to be liberated from the oppressive demagoguery of bourgeois extremists.

Yep, it's class war and that Penbo Karl Marx is thinking of taking to the streets with a call for revolution before the brothers and sisters are stripped of their right to be fat.

Here's his radical clarion call for freedom, under the banner A bourgeois recipe for working class palates.

Our supposedly classless society is showing signs of being divided into two camps where people’s private choices as individuals and their behaviour as families are regulated on the basis of their affluence.

And it’s in the area of nutrition, preventative health and exercise where the working class, for want of a better term, is increasingly being treated like a bunch of babies, while the more affluent members of society continue to live as they please.

Oh no, not the workers, won't someone think of the workers.

Hang on a second. Our supposedly classless society? On what planet Murdoch does this Rupert minion live? Is Penbo going to tell us how gherkins are important to our diet, or just sound like one?

It’s only a small thing but it’s a signifier for the times, a demonstration of a mindset which holds that working class people are unable to modify their behaviour, while the gentry can be trusted to keep its conduct in check. But get along to the SCG, that great people’s arena, where our knockabout, egalitarian society lets the members drink as much full-strength beer as they want and limits the great unwashed to light beer.

Uh oh, now I'm getting it. Seems Penbo mustn't be a member of the SCG - good thing, no need to let in ratbags who've drifted north from Adelaide, lower the tone of the joint way too much - and he's got some kind of grudge going about not being able to get as pissed as a parrot, and then throw full beer cans on the mug punters in front of him (or perhaps shake up a can and get the woman next to him into a nice spontaneous wet T-shirt competition).

And what else has upset him? Well it seems that the problem is Bob Carr, rabbiting on about the workers in the ponce way only Carr can manage: Stop kids being 'poisoned by fat'.

The wretched Carr has suggested that local councils might help prevent workers feasting on trans fats by taking a stand against fast food outlets using trans fats.

Now you might wonder what the fuss is all about, and heaven forfend I should say a kind word about Bob Carr.

But trans fats are - along with high fructose corn syrup - about the worst benefits of fast food cooking that America's managed to ship around the world, and along with soda (or fizz or pop or soft drink) surely helping the obesity epidemic along in grand style.

Fast food joints don't need to use trans fats, but choose to do so because of convenience and cost - they make oils able to be re-used for a longer time - but these days there are alternatives with less problematic implications for health available (here).

At the conference featuring Carr, this was also in the report of proceedings:

Food researcher at The George Institute, Professor Bruce Neal said councils could change how much salts and fats were hidden in processed food by giving their suppliers tough quality controls.

Professor Neal said governments could not change how much junk people ate, but they could cut the amount of salt and fat in pizza, pies and biscuits without anyone tasting the difference.

Um, no change to taste, no attempt to stop people eating junk food, and some gentle persuasion to stop fast food joints whipping up a trans fat shit burger, as opposed to a healthier alternative.

You silly goose - perhaps force fed on corn to produce an exquisite pate but a feeble mind - clearly you don't understand that this is social engineering of the most diabolical and threatening kind, and engineered by a man who likely eats lettuce for breakfast, and perhaps is even a rabbit in disguise:

Bob Carr is an aesthete and a health fanatic who as premier used to drink hot cups of water with a slice of lemon and probably still does. He abhors the binge-drinking culture of his chosen professional homes – journalism and, latterly, the labour movement. He famously once declared war on sausage rolls – “fat encased in fat” he called them – and was then advised by his minders to eat a meat pie for the cameras the next day to ward off any suggestions of eccentricity.

I raise those points not to tease him but to describe him. Australian men have a dumb tradition of teasing healthy people and it’s not something I am trying to do here. There is nothing wrong with not drinking grog and eating well.

Well bugger me dead, I'm glad we're not teasing Bob Carr, though the sight of him munching a carrot while wearing glasses always gets me laughing. Doesn't he know carrots only fix up your night vision?

What's that, it sounds like I'm teasing or tossing up urban myths like a tasty Greek cheese and a few choice Spanish olives in a delightful mixed leaf salad?

No, no, there's nothing wrong with eating well, and nothing wrong with eating really badly and running up huge bills on the Medicare system and overloading the hospital system so much that people whinge about socialized medicine.

... there’s a problem with telling everybody else that they have to do just that – and an even bigger problem in generalising about the working class as if they have a monopoly on bad diet and a lack of exercise.

We’re talking here about a hard core of uneducated poor people, or poor people who simply choose to act stupidly, by turning themselves and their kids into lard-arsed blimps.

Well they can just totter off an die, those lard-arsed blimps, and who would mind? Who would care? But what about the real workers, the subject of this vast conspiracy?

Banning fast food for the vast majority of sensible working class families who use it as a treat, or a stop-gap on a busy weeknight, is patronising in the extreme.

Um, but nobody actually suggested banning fast foods, they just suggested that fast food joints be persuaded to use a better brand of oil than ones loaded with trans fats. And it was even explicitly stated that no one was expecting to stop people eating as much junk food as they liked, just a hope that the junk food might be made more healthy without affecting the taste.

Where's the patronizing in that, unless you happen to be a git from Adelaide with a giant sized chip on your shoulder, somehow imagining in a festooned tabloid mind that you're a new Jimmy Porter starring in a revival of Look Back in Anger.

So what's make our angry young man Jimmy nee Penbo run?

Before we start banning things in Queen St, Campbelltown, we should also get along to Crown St, Surry Hills, on any day of the week and watch the more corpulent members of the middle class hoofing into gruyere soufflés and black puddings. And I say that with a bit of experience. No-one is shutting those joints down; perhaps it’s because they’ve got elegance and a good sommelier on their side.

But are they serving trans fats, you over-fed goose? And still comes the white hot anger of the angry young man:

We don’t need intervention, especially by a redundant and unrepresentative tier of government which Mr Carr often railed against as Premier.

Well I guess we now know that Penbo doesn't vote in council elections. So that's why they're unrepresentative. So what's his solution to the suggestions of this unrepresentative swill. More anti-biotics in chooks and pigs? Now don't be silly:

We need much more aggressive home economics education where every kid from the age of seven, and into high school, gets mandatory classes on food preparation, starting with the most basic master texts of cooking by geniuses such as Elizabeth David and Margaret Fulton and Jane Grigson and Stephanie Alexander, to show them that cooking is more fun, cheap, and more satisfying than a Big Mac will ever be.

Anyone with half a brain could read David’s 1955 classic A Book of Mediterranean Food and cook a different dinner every night until they die not of diabetes but old age.

Yes, you goose, but what if they prefer, being working class types, not to be a pretentious wanker food snob like you, but in their time pressed lives, and wanting a treat or a stop-gap, seek a little light relief by way of fast food, which their leftie radical socialist pinko pervert commie food teacher has informed them is full of trans fats and likely to kill them by Christmas, if not by the end of the week? Should we add guilt to their fast food trans fat diet? Should we add folic acid to bread and fluoride to water?

Well Jimmy Porter wasn't clear about the source of his anger, his rage, being more agin anything you might have on offer, than for anything in a world where chivalry is dead.

But the spewing Penbo gives us a few clues of how tough it must have been for him living in Adelaide, surrounded by wine buffs and foodies:

To finish on the class war theme, if you really want to make yourself spew, dig out a copy of last month’s edition of Fairfax’s excruciatingly pretentious The (Sydney) Magazine for its morally indifferent tribute to the star, in-house chefs seconded to the bigger investment firms and merchant banks around town, dishing up Michelin-starred cuisine to the long-suffering executives who are having to stay back quite late at the office because of that pesky GFC.

Your heart goes out to them.

Right, that does it. Penbo will have to be reported to the in-house right wing Chairman Rupert committee of commentariat columnists for dangerously radical thinking reminiscent of the outrage experienced in that Orwellian tract Animal Farm:

"The mystery of where the milk went to was soon cleared up. It was mixed every day into the pigs' mash. The early apples were now ripening, and the grass of the orchard was littered with windfalls. The animals had assumed as a matter of course that these would be shared out equally; one day, however, the order went forth that all the windfalls were to be collected and brought to the harness-room for the use of the pigs. At this some of the other animals murmered, but it was no use. All the pigs were in full agreement on this point, even Snowball and Napoleon. Squealer was sent to make the necessary explanations to the others.

'Comrades!' he cried. 'You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink the milk and eat those apples. Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! Surely, comrades,' cried Squealer almost pleadingly, skipping from side to side and whisking his tail, 'surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?'

Now if there was one thing that the animals were completely certain of, it was that they did not want Jones back. When it was put to them in this light, they had no more to say. The importance of keeping the pigs in good health was all too obvious. So it was agreed without further argument that the milk and the windfall apples (and also the main crop of apples when they ripened) should be reserved for the pigs alone."

And who can argue with that? Being rich is a different country, and they do things differently there. But no, Penbo is resolute in his rage, and his determination to assert the rights of the workers and berate the rich. Can the revolution come soon enough comrades?

There is of course another class of people who have coped quite differently with the GFC – by not working at all anymore, let alone staying back late, eschewing the duck leg confit with a rocket, parmesan and pear salad for something made from mincemeat, or getting along not to Neil Perry’s new grill bar but the Salvos.

Oh dear, a strident hysterical denunciation, chip on shoulder, all based on mis-reading of do gooders trying to do a little good.

Will someone please take Penbo somewhere and give him a bex, a nice lie down and a cup of tea. Just like the tea on offer in Tony Hancock's Look Back in Hunger:

MOTHER: Would you like a cup of tea, Penbo?

Penbo: Tea? Tea? Is that your answer to it all? Tea? The panacea to the middle class! The answer to all the problems facing mankind today? Have a cup of tea, Penbo! You both make me sick. You're dead, both of you. You're both mentally dead. Your souls are drowned in tea. Your minds are clogged up with tea bags. You're like two slop basins swimming around in a sea of tea! Just like this country, the whole rotten system, stained in a tea of apathy!

BROTHER: What's he mean, Mum?

MOTHER: I don't think he wants a cup of tea.

Perhaps he should drink a cup of trans fats every day instead. Just to show solidarity with the workers ...

(Below: expect this by Friday if the wicked Bob Carr has his way, and by the following Friday expect the UN to announce its new world government at Copenhagen, so the only way to get trans fats and tungsten light bulbs will be on the black market, along with heroin).