Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dennis Shanahan, Tony Abbott, and for a little light nutty cornflake relief, presenting Dr John Harvey Kellogg ...

(Above: nothing like a healthy love of corn to correct a woman's interest in "abnormal excitement").

Poor old Dennis Shanahan is in thunderer mode, and so he thunders Unhealthy obsession with Abbott could rebound on government.

'The Rudd government has an unhealthy obsession with Tony Abbott's obsessions', he thunders, thereby showing that Dennis Shanahan has an unhealthy obsession with the Rudd government's unhealthy obsession with Tony Abbott's obsessions, and perhaps worst of all that Tony Abbott is in the grip of some serious obsessions.

And what are the obsessions which obsess Shanahan and Rudd and therefore anyone else interested in the obsessions of the media and politicians?

Well of course amongst them is door stopper and propper that Tony Abbott gave by way of interview to The Australian Women's Weekly:

There is clearly a co-ordinated government effort to portray Abbott as a preaching moralist wanting to force his religious and moral values on to the public, a man who wants to suppress women and who is a climate change denier.

Um, it's a government co-ordinated effort that led Abbott to spruik to the Weekly? As opposed to free falling manna from heaven? (More on manna here).

Tony Abbott was forced by the government to blather on about his bedroom philosophies?Blather inspired by the Catholic church, even though the key part of his talk - overlooked in the general hysteria - is that he approves of the use of contraceptives, and therefore in the eyes of the Pellites, immediately becomes a heretic?

The common images and language invoked by ministers to describe Abbott's comments about advice he would give his daughters on sexual activity demonstrated publicly what Labor considers is Abbott's electoral weakness.

An excited Craig Emerson told Brisbane radio Abbott was "sermonising to people, telling them what to do in their private lives" and that he was worried "what his government policies would be in implementing or enforcing his moral values".

Well of course they would say that, but if Shanahan could only bring himself to admit it, the deeply consternating thing for conservatives is that in the process of Abbott exposing himself, Chairman Rudd, himself a deeply boring religious and social conservative, has been able to have his cake and eat it. By sending out his attack dogs, while doing his pious church door stoppers to the media:

Wong suggested Abbott was lecturing people "about what are deeply personal matters" while Julia Gillard, in the midst of a highly successful and positive campaign on school ratings, took time out to suggest his comments in The Australian Women's Weekly "will confirm the fears of Australian women about Mr Abbott and about his desires to impose his morality on others".

The Deputy Prime Minister, who is the government's most effective parliamentary and media performer and who will face Abbott every Friday morning on television while Rudd gets a solo free shot on his old Sunrise program, went further to suggest people didn't want "Tony Abbott to stand in their bedroom and give them advice".

Oh, it just ain't fair. A free shot while Tony shoots off his mouth.

This co-ordinated campaign followed a completely misleading attack before Christmas on Abbott based on false claims that he wanted to introduce compulsory bible studies.

False claims? Completely misleading attack?

Hang on, has the Herald Sun, that other bastion of Chairman Rupert's antipodean media empire, been making things up? Did Aaron Langmaid invent All kids must read the Bible, federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says:

Bible classes should be compulsory so children have a fundamental understanding of Christianity on leaving school, federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says.

"I think everyone should have some familiarity with the great texts that are at the core of our civilisation," Mr Abbott said.

"That includes, most importantly, the Bible.

"I think it would be impossible to have a good general education without at least some serious familiarity with the Bible and with the teachings of Christianity.

"That doesn't mean that people have to be believers."

Sadly Abbott means well, but shoots from the mouth while aiming at his foot. In many ways he's more engaging and interesting than the dullard Chairman Rudd, but he confuses his own confused emotional honesty with what people find interesting and relevant to their lives. It's only the likes of loon pond that deeply cares.

Well, fair's fair. Here at loon pond, we think people should be made to read religious texts, especially if their absurdities can be pondered, and we're firm believers in the use of contraception.

But Shanahan isn't interested in nuances or subtle shades of gray. He just broods about the unfairness:

Rudd, who has campaigned to get Labor to appeal to religious believers and who has launched political wars against gambling and teenage drinking as well as expressing his disgust at a photographic exhibition that included pictures of a naked girl, has been more circumspect.

Well of course, because Rudd is in fact John Howard, and he doesn't have to stumble into these moral mine fields, as the dog whistles have already established that he's heroically in favour of an exceptionally dull time for all Australians - including the censoring of the intertubes.

And what do conservatives care about stopping Stephen Conroy?

Because those pieties accord with conservative thinking, and that leaves poor old Shanahan fuming on the sidelines, wondering how this rampant religious Labor party beast - worse than the DLP - might be tackled, since an embrace of 666 tactics is just not the conservative way.

How about climate change?

Since returning from leave, the Prime Minister has also devoted significant time to promoting the issues and policies that will arise from the Treasury demographic report on Monday.

But Rudd has used the formula - as have Wong and Gillard - of describing Abbott as a climate change denier whenever they do talk about their commitment to an ETS.

And would that happen to be because Abbott described climate change as complete crap before deciding to change his stripes to a more suitable profile? And he's still at it:

Mr Abbott also mocked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for declaring climate change was the greatest moral challenge of our time.

"It's an important issue but even if dire predictions are right and average temperatures around the globe rise by four degrees over the century, it's still not the 'great moral challenge' of our time - as Mr Rudd has described it on 14 occasions - let alone the 'greatest' moral challenge of our time - as Mr Rudd has described it at least four times," Mr Abbott said. (Abbott and Wong fired up over climate change).

Which is of course an exceptionally silly thing to say, because if the average temperature did rise by four degrees over the century, things would begin to look like a Hollywood disaster movie, and in saying it, Abbott gives the likes of Wong a free kick to sound apocalyptic about the future. Which she did (the Great Barrier Reef would be devastated, the Murray Darling would be cactus), leaving Abbott to devise his own apocalyptic fears:

"Adapting to changing rainfall patterns, for example, will be hard but it won't supplant the threat of war, injustice, disease and want as the biggest problems with which humanity must grapple."

Well if it were four degrees, it would be hard. And by adopting the spectre of the four degree extremists, Abbott reveals once again his taste for a biblical approach. Because of course it would make all the other things he mentions much harder or even worse - such as the threat of war and injustice, disease and food and water supplies.

Who knows how much the temperature might rise? Deep down it's likely that Abbott can be so blithe and such a carefree spirit about a four degree change because he doesn't actually believe in climate change theories, and he doesn't expect it to happen.

And then Abbott reverts to a bit of pot and kettle talk:

Mr Abbott said Mr Rudd and others resorted to the language of morality in order to cast opponents as "bad people" rather than simply wrong, which was a case of "intellectual bullying".

This from a Catholic moralist? Supported by the likes of Christopher Pearson, Catholic moralist?

It leaves poor old Dennis Shanahan, trying his little heart out to be a damned good cheerleader, looking a little out of touch, as he demands the government concentrate on its own policy agenda rather than give Abbott undue attention, which may ultimately work in his favour.

Or may not, as the case may be, because there's an exhibitionist streak in Abbott, and he loves to be the centre of attention. As a result of his attention seeking, if you're blessed with a series of free kicks, should you just send the ball into the crowd, or aim at the goalposts?

Well here at loon pond, we're not obsessed with Dennis Shanahan's obsessions, and as we sat down for breakfast, it occurred to us that Dr John Harvey Kellogg was a much more interesting case of obsessive enthusiasms.

Yep, the name on the Kellogg cereal box means your breakfast comes with bonus nuttiness every day, and since we've recently mentioned William Chidley, it seems only fair to keep on keeping on with bedroom philosophers and their cray philosophies.

Kellogg, when not inventing cornflakes with his brother, and fighting about it, was a devoted advocate of sexual abstinence, and spent a large amount of his time discouraging sexual activity. He constantly warned against excesses and was a dedicated campaigner against masturbation:

... neither the plague, nor war, nor small-pox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of onanism.

Possibly not even a four degree warming of the planet could have such devastating results, as wanking leads not just to nocturnal emissions but to impotence, epilepsy, insanity, debility and cancer of the womb.

As a result, Kellogg favoured circumcision for boys, along with some neat BDSM tricks - tying hands, using patented cages to lock up genitals, sewing the foreskin shut, and delivering electric shock treatment - while for females, he found an application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent way to get rid of "abnormal excitement".

And there's lots more. Including his faith in nuts, his dedication to water enemas, his love of yogurt, and his fondness for breathing exercises.

You can read a neat summary to this under the wiki John Harvey Kellogg, and if you want to torture yourself more, Alan Parker's feeble adaption of T. Coraghessian Boyle's comic novel The Road to Wellville copped a bad Roadshow 4:3 release in region four some time ago (a fictionalised take on Kellogg and his whacky zany sanitarium).

There are plenty of Kellog related links on the wiki, and plenty of other sites you can google, as for example the cheerful Museum of Quackery, dedicated to great American quacks and questionable medical devices, here.

Well here at loon pond, we just love quacks and quackery, and while we don't have an unhealthy obsession with them - we hope - we do so like leaders who put their obsessions on display. Which is why, whatever Shanahan might say, we love the way we can spend time obsessing about Tony Abbott's obsessions.

Each time we open up the cornflakes pack in the morning, and brood on the uppity difficult ways of women, who seem to have been put on earth purely for the perverse business of giving Dennis Shanahan and Tony Abbott such a hard time, we think, yep, a little pure carbolic acid will fix what ails ya.

(Below: Dr. John Harvey Kellogg with cocky. More on the noble cocky here).

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Miranda Devine, Christopher Pearson, and on with the squawking and the fighting as loony season goes 12/365/7/24

(Above: the battle to stop the world turning into a desert. Oh, wait, doesn't that look like a desert in the battle of El Alamein?)

Remember when the commentariat columnists were slavering at the mouth, in a foaming rage, demanding to be told the truth about the SIEV 36 matter?

Was it only in April 2009 that our very own Piers Akerman was proclaiming Truth overboard as Rudd's policy sinks:

The usual rump of Labor enthusiasts are demanding we “remember the Tampa” in the wake of last week’s lethal exercise aboard a boatload of asylum seekers...

...Now we have had at least five deaths due to unlawful activity within Australian waters. Where is the cry from these bleeding hearts for murder charges to be pressed, where is the call for a memorial to these dead?

There was much talk of unseemly delay, of the incompetence of the NT police, of murky waters beneath a wall of silence, of murder most foul.

Now that the inquest has actually, slowly, belatedly cranked into motion, Miranda the Devine is naturally aghast: Scapegoat insanity for our navy.

What's even more remarkable is that she's aghast at the process, since no one yet knows the outcome, the findings, the conclusions, the recommendations ...

The inquest proceedings have been an insult to our armed forces at a time when they are expected to risk their lives in dangerous wars overseas. They are particularly galling in a week when we have honoured our finest fighters with awards for gallantry in Afghanistan and when Trooper Mark Donaldson was announced as Young Australian of the Year, after winning a VC for doing exactly what he was meant to do - rescue an Afghan interpreter who was working for the Australian armed forces - that is, rescuing one of his own.

What an abject goose.

It is of course in the nature of an inquest to follow all kinds of lines of inquiry, and to seek the truth by testing all kinds of theories. Evidence is led, arguments are mounted, shit is flung about, and so it goes.

If the conclusions are demonstrably wrong, or problematic in relation to the actions of the armed forces, then let the Devine burst into one of her standard tirades.

But just as the commentariat columnists were wrong to use the matter to harry the government, and demand murder charges be laid without ever knowing the facts of the matter, now to set about the proceedings of a standard inquest because Miranda the Devine doesn't like the tone of Stephen Walsh QC, counsel assisting the Northern Territory Coroner Greg Cavanagh suggests it's just another day of full throated squawking in loon pond ... on our way to a variation on the Lindy Chamberlain coronial inquiry ...

Well unlike the Devine, we'll keep our powder dry and await the process winding its way to a conclusion without benefit of special pleading any which way.

But that leaves the weekend loon pond ominously quiet.

Quiet? What deluded planet do you live on?

No such luck, I'm afraid. Why if you want trouble and the tedium of going over the whole climate change business again, you can head off to that expert, highly credentialed scientist Chrisrtopher (sic) Pearson and read his stupendously unbiased Don't trust the weatherman's forecasts:

I know, I know, in an amateur site littered with typos, who am I to throw the first stone. But I just love typos, I really do, and they get paid not to stuff up. Now back to Chrisrtopher:

Have the pre-Copenhagen delusions of being manifest destiny incarnate been wholly dispelled? Or, like Paul Keating's conviction that on a trampoline you can expel cancers at the top of each bounce, does a little of the madness linger?

Who knows, but the capacity of commentariat columnists to talk about the science in the tones of a millenarian fundamentalist Latin mass loving Catholic with messianic visions of hell for unbelievers certainly shows no signs of abating.

I guess some people pray to the god of the trampoline, and some to the long dead Mary Mackillop in the hope of a miraculous cure for cancer. Which is the more whacky or zany, only the absent god might explain. But as she's been AWOL for so long, who knows.

Naturally Pearson sees the main benefit in his trawl through the current state of play - which strangely omits Lord Monckton, that's right, not a single bloody mention of Monckton and which only purports a passing acquaintance with the science - is actually all about the way the current debate will do wonders for Tony "the virgin" Abbott, as he battles a flummoxed government.

Sadly Pearson is off the main game. For that we need to turn to John Mikkelsen in The Punch, which - envious of loon pond's first class reputation for loonacy - is now clearly wanting to take over our turf.

How else to explain Mikkelsen's It's El Alamain revisited as climate war heats up?

Our American friends remember The Alamo, we see Gallipoli and North Africa among defining moments in national pride and self-sacrifice against seemingly insurmountable odds.

These initial bloody defeats led state and nations on to ultimate victory against powerful foes.

It’s drawing a long bow to compare any of those to the political battle now being fought on global warming, but one prominent climate realist has done that, and it’s sure to grab some attention.

It's a long bow? Sure to grab attention? Well on The Punch and on loon pond, mebbe.

Of course it's downright bloody stupid, though I suppose it might make a pleasant change from Christopher Pearson's theological posturings.

And of course once having advised that something is a long bow, the first duty of a commentariat columnist is to fire that long bow into the air, in the hope of bringing down the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

Mikkelsen pretends he's just an interested observer of the way out ways of the climate warriors, such as Viv Forbes:

Forbes relentlessly churns out newsletters packed with controversial prose, such as his latest effort:

“Like the British Eighth Army in North Africa in the 1940’s, climate realists have been in continual retreat since the Climate War started.
“Led by Al Gore’s trained regiments using Nobel Prize gunpowder, backed by academic and government snipers using manipulated temperature data, financed by endless conveys carrying tax payer funds, reinforced by a steady barrage of scare forecasts from the media, and legislative carpet bombing from pliant politicians, the Green Army looked invincible.
“But suddenly the tide turned..."

But as he cheerfully and whole heartedly details the valiant efforts of Forbes and his troops to drive the greenies back across the desert (did anybody stop to think of the Libyan desert the metaphor might evoke?) he also cheerfully adopts their nomenclature "climate realists".

Well if climate realism is reliving the desert battles of World War 11 (might I recommend an excellent book by Keith Douglas, a poet killed in battle, From Alamein to Zem Zem, still in print, if you want an insight into the tank battles of the time), then maybe it's time to head back to thinking that it's actually a satanic battle with greenies swept up in an end time rapture.

Oops, sorry, it's the Christians who are into end time rapture, but you catch my drift. Sssh, whatever you do, don't talk about the science.

And thank the lord at least Mikkelsen mentions Lord Monckton. On his grand tour of the antipodes.

Why hide a cheerfully mad uncle in the closet when he can be wheeled out to talk about the United Nations' global conspiracy, or perhaps do a comedy routine on DDT, as unveiled in Climate change, and DDT: Monckton's inconvenient and inaccurate history.

You see, you thought it was a quiet day, but scratch the papers or the full to overflowing intertubes, and the loons will be jumping out, squawking loudly, scratching and clawing the air, right in your face.

And there's Rick Fenely, who's got the cheek, in Fear not, just keep taking the iTablets, to say:

Who needs the silly season?

Take heart, Australia. It's over. It's time for some gravitas. By informal tradition in this country, the looney cycle runs from the first Tuesday in November, Melbourne Cup day, until January 26, Australia Day.

What a loon. Sure he's trying to be funny, but the loony season (we reject the spelling 'looney' as an abject errant variation paying homage to Looney Tunes) runs 12/365/7/24. And if you don't believe us, by golly, we'll fight you everywhere we can:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old. (here).

Just remember this site's golden motto: some loon, some neck!

(Below: wondering how a trampoline might solve your cancer problem, instead of turning to a say Philippines faith healer? Say no more, loon pond at your service here and here. Best position? We recommend the free fall through featherless flight stance, as shown here:

Caution: loon pond accepts no responsibility or liability for necks broken during attempts to resolve a cancer situation.

Still not satisfied? How about a prayer to a graven image?

Caution: loon pond accepts no responsibility or liability for a god that delivers only two papally certified guaranteed miracles over a hundred year time span involving Mary Mackillop, while at the same time delivering cancer to millions. That's how it goes. Send any correspondence or concerns to Chrisrtpopher Pearson, care of The Australian).

Lisa Pryor, Tony Abbott, William Chidley and some tremendous bedroom philosophies ...

(Above: Bart and Tony Abbott - while the Bart is just a poster, as Matt Groenig makes out like a bandit, for the wild image of Abbott I'm indebted to this site, with the discreet black out reminding me once again how banning things or censoring images can make them seem more wildly exciting than the reality might actually be).

Making apologies for Tony Abbott seem to be de rigeur this week, as part of the fallout surrounding the 'like a virgin, for the very first time' grand tour and furore.

First there was Katharine Murphy, with The Monk might make sense. Now here's Lisa Pryor stepping up to the plate in Bedroom philosopher Abbott is entitled to his opinion on virginity, even if I can't quite recollect anyone actually saying Abbott isn't entitled to his opinion, just that it's a dumb one and politically dumb to express it at this point in time.

Never mind, after an extended bout of sympathy and understanding for Abbott and his bedroom philosophies, she arrives at this point:

Even if it is OK for Abbott to hold views which are not mainstream, even if it is OK for him to be a hypocrite, does having ideas which differ from the majority disqualify him from leading the country? Should voters refuse to vote for him solely because he holds personal views and a lifestyle which do not match their own?

You see, by an elaborate mish mash of logic, Pryor lands in a space where being an eccentric believer in saving yourself for marriage, like a virgin for the very first time, might be eccentric and ill-advised, but hey if it's your thing, it's your thing, and hypocrisy is okay, because after all, all of us are hypocrites, so what's a little hypocrisy, and who amongst us, dwelling in glass houses, should cast the first stone.

And then, since everything is meaningless, and all standards are relative and in a state of flux, just because a dingbat politician holds personal views and a lifestyle which doesn't match your own, what's that got to do with anything? Vote him in.

Oh yes, come on down the next polygamist scientologist you can find, you too can be an MP, and remember just because he holds personal views and a lifestyle not your own is no good reason not to vote for him (or her, as the case may be). (At least now I know how we ended up with Steve Fielding as a senator).

There's just one problem with this wonderful relativism, and that's Abbott's career of choice, which is to be a politician. Wanting to get swinging voters to swing his way.

As Peter Hartcher notes in Reassuring Rudd artfully morphs into Howard Lite, Abbott's willingness to give a truthful account of his views on sex also shows a willingness to shoot himself in the foot.

Labor expects that the ''tonal meta-message'' conveyed by Tony Abbott will be something like that of Latham. Aggressive, unpredictable, unsettling, perhaps even a little creepy with his well-publicised talk about female sexuality.

In the end, Abbott is entitled to be as much of a doofus as Pryor, but his business is the business of getting elected, and watching him spruik for the outer reaches of old fashioned Catholicism can only appeal to the loveably dysfunctional likes of a Pryor.

Because she's so inclusive, anybody can get a gig, perhaps even a Calathumpian, should such an exotic beast decide to stand for parliament. Because the alternative to diversity is too horrible to contemplate:

If it did, it would be a sad thing for our democracy, as it would also exclude the possibility of someone who was gay, childless or Hindu from ever attaining such a position. Suspecting that Catholics are out to convert the masses at every turn is no better than suspecting that gays are on a permanent recruitment drive or that childless politicians are incapable of understanding the concerns of parents.

Dearie me, what a conflationary silly billy. Of course the Catholics are out to convert the masses at every turn. It's part of their job description, it's part of their mission. After all, even the word gospel means the proclamation of the redemption offered by Christ. And just recently the Pope embarked on a bold and brave poaching manoeuvre, which left Anglicans reeling at its audacity (Pope in attempt to lure Anglicans to Catholic Church). You don't get to own the treasures of Rome without a consistent, concerted tithing campaign.

Still it's nice to know that Pryor is right up there with Bill Heffernan, reassuring us that Julia Gillard, despite being deliberately barren, can nonetheless understand the concerns of parents.

Of course Pryor has it both ways, sending up virginity lovers (personally I doubt whether the greatest gift is unco-ordinated and slightly bloodied sex), and Abbott as an out of the mainstream utopian thinker, who spent time training as a priest and who therefore clearly thinks abstinence can be a worthy ideal for men.

But in the meantime, while Abbott meanders down the byways of virgin thinking and trying to appeal to women voters via The Australian Women's Weekly, he's giving the pious conservative Howard-lite Chairman Rudd free kick after free kick. And to what avail?

So that lovers of diversity like Pryor can moon over him this week, before heading off to moon over the authentic tang some other eccentric next week.

Could it be William Chidley's turn?

The noble Chidley (above) is now forgotten, but his theories of 'limp dick' intercourse should be treasured in this country, as he was a genuine pioneer of original thinking, and perhaps should have been elected to parliament rather than being despatched to the madhouse:

In the third stage of his theory Chidley decided that the problem was not too much sex but erection itself. In this development he relied heavily on Acton, whom he praised for identifying the harmful results of sexual indulgence and criticised for not taking his insights far enough. Dr Acton’s book is full of the evils accruing to our present sexual coition”, he wrote. “Acton was “surprised at the improvement in his patients … when they abstained from coition. … Had he followed that up he would have made my discovery”. Chidley was most interested in Acton’s discussion of a major issue in nineteenth century sexual medicine: which was the key factor in the harm of sexual activity? Was it the shock of orgasm to the brain and nervous system, as predicted by the dominant nerve force theory of disease? Or was it the loss of semen from the system, as maintained by the fading but still influential humoral or Galenic paradigm? Acton inclined to the former view, thus giving Chidley the lead he needed to transform shock of orgasm into shock of coition, caused by the erect penis. It was perhaps only a small slide from Acton’s shock of orgasm (a nervous spasm affecting the male more severely than the female) to Chidley’s shock of coition (a vaguely defined event affecting both male and female equally) ... (here).

Ah yes, the ruinous shock of coition, and so the need to have sexual intercourse only for a couple of months a year, in spring, and then most importantly with a limp dick. As for the difficulty of men having erections, the whacky zany Victorians knew how to spot trouble:

Of all the claims made by Victorian specialists in male sexual problems, the one that seems most improbable to us is that men were troubled by erections. That some Victorians did find their erections a source of anxiety rather than pride, and actually sought means to discourage them, as though they were a malfunction like toothache, is a tribute to the doctors’ success in convincing the public that normal male sexuality was a chronic disease. (here).

If you're interested in Chidley, you can have jolly good fun by following the links above, which will also introduce you to the thinking of the Wroeites and the British Medical Association, under the rubric "Bizarre sex cults in nineteenth century Australia". There's also a shorter introduction to Chidley at the Australian Dictionary of Biography, here, while his time spruiking in the domain gets a mention here, along with other eccentrics like Bea Miles.

Not that this site is in any way suggesting that Tony Abbott or Lisa Pryor resemble William Chidley in any way.

It's just that we love sexual utopians and deviants and eccentrics, and at some point we'll get on to looking at Rosaleen Norton, witch of the cross, who managed to bring down Sir Eugene Goossens, the man who pushed the idea of an Opera House on Bennelong point.

Meantime, there are other juicy sexual tidbits to keep the salacious in good cheer.

It was particularly pleasing to see the issue of the Australian Classification Board banning small breasts in young women get such a run in Crikey - look under Has Australia really banned small breasts? and Sex Party scores big PR over small breasts - for the story and the links to the sites that really got the story going.

Unusually, the best action takes place in the comments section of the Has Australia really banned small breasts piece, where the befuddled thinking of Australians and the ACB and journalists on the matter of sex is a marvel to behold. We won't spoil your fun as you explore the depths, just marvel at the ways in Chairman Rudd's Australia the conservative push is on, and John Howard would be gobsmacked at being voted out, his policies stolen and turned into Labor party gold.

And while we're at it, we really would like to remind readers of the splendid initiative of Family First MP Dennis Hood, backed up by the able Michael Atkinson MP, in South Australia, which you can read about in Avert your eyes - R-rated DVD cover-up in South Australia:

R-RATED action movies such as Mad Max and Robocop will be placed alongside soft porn movies in South Australian shops, under new laws introduced last week.

Retailers without adults-only sections can display the DVDs only if their original covers are replaced by plain versions featuring simply the film title.

The laws, designed to prevent children from being exposed to disturbing or pornographic covers, have been condemned by distributors as "creeping conservatism" ...

... While movies such as 2009 comedy The Hangover - which features on its cover a picture of three men holding a baby - will be affected by the new laws, MA15+ films with covers showing scantily-clad women - such as Lesbian Vampire Killers - won't be.

Likewise, MA15+ film Saw - which depicts a bloody, severed foot on its cover - can still be freely displayed, while 2005 hit Fight Club - which features a photograph of Brad Pitt and Edward Norton - can't be.

Ah the spirit of William Chidley lives on in this fair land, aided and abetted by Chairman Rudd, Stephen Conroy, Michael Atkinson, Amanda Rishworth, Tony Abbott, and the splendid heresies of George Pell and the Jensenists.

All loon pond can do is suggest that, while it is summer - 'tis true, and 'tis a pity 'tis true - and so technically not spring, perhaps this is the weekend where you can try out Chidley's theory that the best, gentlest sex arises from a deflated penis ...

Now we stand by, waiting for Lisa Pryor's confirmation that bedroom philosopher Chidley is entitled to his opinion on sexual intercourse, and that his being dead should in no way inhibit a grateful nation voting him into parliament. With so many dead beats in the place, full of eccentric theories on how Australia should conduct its bedroom business, will anyone notice the difference?

(Below: oh okay and here's a plug for The Bedroom Philosopher, since today we're feeling so terribly postmodern).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Amanda Rishworth, sexualised content, and yet another politician thinking of the children ...

(Above: the Australian Sex Party site, blacked out in its protest phase, now over. Don't blame them, blame Senator Conroy).

A reader recently provided a link to a Macquarie University page illustrating the Australian English accents, with audio examples, and I have to say I was compelled and captivated. (Australian English accent highlights audio illustrations).

What a clever, simple learning tool, and these days you can number such pages in the thousands upon thousands. Ross Cameron, where are you?

The intertubes have already turned into a vast repository of information, with ingenious mechanisms for perking up the information as it lands on the screen of anyone with a connection.

Sure information needs checking (no one can ever do a workaround to the rule garbage in = garbage out) and cautious handling, but have you ever taken a look at your old textbooks, and the nuggets of misinformation buried within them, to be mined by a generation or two of schoolkids? And sure the intertubes can turn to the dark side, though I must confess even the dark side provides immense educational and entertainment value (want a free, otherwise expensive textbook? Check out the Russians).

And then of course we come to The Punch, Australia's most retrograde contribution to conversation on the intertubes.

Why do they let politicians ramble on at length? Is it because it's free content? Or is it a devious way to prove that the Rudd government is surely as silly or sillier than Tony Abbott when it comes to matters of sex?

The evidence? Amanda Rishworth, and Why should children be exposed to videos like this?

Including a link to a "video like this" on YouTube just so you know what a "video like this" might look like, and can serve as a sterling example to any child who might accidentally drop in to The Punch, perhaps not even in search of a "video like this" but nonetheless handily supplied with one, just in case.

Well it surely ain't a study of the Australian accent, this sexy bitch video, but if it's what Rishworth fears, I fear for her.

Now it turns out that Amanda Rishworth MP is the federal member for Kingston, a seat that embraces some of the nicest turf in South Australia, from the almonds of Willunga to the wineries of McLaren Vale. I used to love taking a day trip, doing a winery tour (hello Coriole), and heading off to a romp at Maslin beach - hey, anything to plug the joys of a nude beach in Rishworth's electorate, where children can roam and play in the nude, away from the hysterical fears of moral panic merchants.

However it seems all is not well at Maslin beach and that the Maslin beach Olympics are doubtful for 2010.

Say it ain't so Joe! Here at loon pond, we never miss an opportunity to plug Maslin beach. Notice the craggy, sandy, weathered rockface in this picture:

And here you can see the geological striations impeccably displayed (both snaps from a drama which might almost be a geological documentary, eponymously titled Maslin Beach).

Oops, sorry kids, as well as the rocks, there's a couple of nude bodies. That's what's under clothes, but never dress like this. Yes, it's perfectly safe to look at, and quite harmless in its own way, it's only flesh and bones, but these days it just gets moral panic merchants terribly alarmed - or is that excited.

Does Rishworth address this crucial Maslin Beach crisis in The Punch? Happening amongst her very own constituents?

No, instead she blathers on in a way that would surely earn her a cabinet post in any Tony Abbott government:

Sexy images of women are used to sell everything, from cars to spring water to internet access. Many such ads are targeted at men, but ads for products aimed at women are often similar.

Not only are sexually provocative images of women used to advertise, but they are routinely featured on television, music video clips, movies and even toys. While adults are better equipped to deal with the bombardment of sexualised content, we need to stop to consider the impact it has on children.

Well I never. Astonishing news. Sex sells and advertisers use sex to sell. You mean all those murals in Pompeii suggested even the Romans were interested in sex? Just as well I suppose that the ancestors were interested in sex, seeing as how it's a prerequisite for carrying on the line.

And yes there she blows, as Rishworth delivers a variant on the now common, timeless, perhaps already immortal line, won't someone think of the children.

Steady on, read that grab again. How do we know we're in the grip of a jargon wielder of the first water? Yep, sexualised content is the giveaway. Well let's not get carried away, and suggest in a Freudian way that everything is sexual. Who can remember the days when boys got excited over bra ads in The Australian Women's Weekly? Or Victorians admired a shapely table leg?

Let's just cluck in a disapproving way at the mother grundy notion of sexualised content.

Because next thing you know we'd be ending up with the notion that children aren't sexualised, despite having been born as sexual beings with sexual organs, but somehow live in a kind of Peter Pan fantasy world until they emerge from the chrysalis at the age of 16 (or whatever the legal age of consent is in your part of the world), and up until that time they spend their time being sexualised by the deviant media (as opposed to their immediate family environment, their peers and friends, and their school).

I’m not talking simply of the obvious objectionable examples like lingerie for pre-teen girls or baby t-shirts with suggestive slogans on them.

Um are we talking about the children now, or derelict adults? I mean, I know babies can be keen shoppers, influenced as they are by the media, but I can't recollect a time when I saw when buying a t-shirt with a suggestive slogan on it. Never mind:

Children are consuming sexualised images of women and girls on a daily basis. Parents are often alarmed when they see the sort of music video clips on TV every Saturday morning, screened in programs clearly aimed at children and teenagers.

Parents are alarmed, but totally impotent and helpless? Except when buying stuff for kids with suggestive slogans?

Helpless even in the face of a music video clip that can be legally carried on The Punch, casually used to illustrate a story by an MP and available to anyone who can access the internet! Why it even might be a handy workaround to Senator Conroy's brave new world filter.

Sob. Is there no end to the festering corruption and sexualisation of minors. No wonder parents are alarmed. But helpless. Letting their two year olds, or was it their thirteen year olds - who knows, when you're in a generally stupid argument generally relevant matters don't count - watch video clips on a Saturday morning when they could be out at Girl Guides or Scouts meet learning how to wank behind the shed.

These clips show scantily clad woman gyrating and being provocative while often the male singer is fully clothed – an example is David Guetta and Akon’s recent hit ‘Sexy Bitch’ which has been a YouTube sensation with its’ poolside bikini antics.

Except when the male singer displays his pecs, or in the case of boy bands sickeningly white flesh. But hey let's not let a generalisation stand in the way of an exaggeration.

The popularity of web sites and the growth of mobiles and ipods for teenagers has markedly increased easy access to concerning content.

Oh yes, we're back on the old 'the intertubes is markedly concerning' routine, as it replaces comics, television, feature films, and even it would seem, the prospect of 3D porn as the newest threat to the world of moral equilibrium.

Shocked and disturbed at this "concerning content", I immediately rushed to watch the video. What else could I do? And you know what? Rishworth is trading off, taking a current hit to make a point totally irrelevant to the intent of the video or its audience.

Sure, there were scantily clad young women in all kinds of dress - bikinis even - and the singer was trying to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful, ending up with talk of sexy bitches, but most shocking of all were the images of black and white folk getting along and having a good time together. You know, diving into a pool with their clothes on, and dancing on and having a little rave. And not even taking drugs, but relying on lasers and lighting and music for fun. I mean, there's raw flesh, and then there's the shock of miscegenation ...

Well I realised immediately that anyone exposed to this kind of material would likely as not immediately turn into a full blown depravity monster of the worst kind. They might even find black people attractive, and able to cobble together a nice hook in an old fashioned pop song.

So why isn't anyone thinking about the children?

Phew, thank the lord, Rishworth keeps on about it:

It is common sense that the age and developmental stage of a child will determine how they react to the stream of sexualised material they are exposed to. This has an effect on how both girls and boys develop their identity and view gender roles.

Studies suggest that girls and teenagers who have more exposure to mass media that sexually objectify girls and women are more likely to view themselves as sexual objects.

Studies suggest! No names, no pack drill. We wouldn't want to get too deep - strangle me in the shallow water before I get too deep.

I'm not aware of too many things
I know what I know if you know what I mean

Philosophy, is the talk on a cereal box
Religion, is a smile on a dog
I'm not aware of too many things
I know what I know if you know what I mean

Chuck me in the shallow water
Before I get too deep

Oops Edie Brickell, I don't think you're taking this seriously enough. What we need here is deep anxiety, massive concern, perhaps even a moral panic. Because it's not just young girls who are affected, it's young men:

It is also not surprising those boys’ attitudes to how they see girls and women are effected by this content.

The report by the American Psychological Association suggested that exposure to this material affect girls’ physical and mental health, including an increase in low self esteem, body dissatisfaction, anxiety about their appearance and depression.

Well why not give them some pills? That's the sound American reaction to this kind of problem, isn't it? Dose them up on some ritalin, methylphenidate if you will, or other handy substances designed to put a glow in your day, and take away all those terrible issues of self esteem, body dissatisfaction, and anxiety about their appearance and the consequent depression. Got nothing to do with the way a large percentage of Americans are morbidly obese, or just plain downright fat freaks.

But do go on, let's keep pumping up the moral panic:

Research conduced by two Adelaide based researchers showed that it only takes 15 minutes of watching music video clips that objectify women for the participants to start feeling more conscious about their body and more depressed.

Only 15 minutes!? Wow I'd like to see the parameters for that research. There's nothing like value laden terms to arrive at a sublimely value free objective conclusion, is there.

And there I was thinking it was only ten seconds for me to get depressed, when I saw a sweet young thing aged about twenty walking along the street, her hips swinging, her face a moonbeam smile, so young alive, and me, so old and decrepit, plodding along behind, thinking there were plenty of good reasons to turn, seeing as how men are such sex objectifying bastards, always conspiring to depress me.

Until I began to think, hang on, I might be objectifying this sweet young thing myself, never mind the age gap. Oh the dangers of a walk in Newtown where the tatts run wild, and the clothes are just like a hippie sexy bitch film clip ...

Could it mean reality occasionally acts in a way that leads to sexual objectification and sexually arousing content?

Oh throw me out of a plane without a parachute. It's just occurred to me. Men and women get sexually aroused by each other and view and treat people as sexual objects, with and without the help of the media.Who can we blame? God? Eve? Well I always think it's Adam and the snake, but let's not get too excited about snakes. (Freud, back in your box).

Sssh, back to the moral panic:

Of tremendous concern is the disturbing trend that younger and younger children are being targeted by advertisers who are convincing them they need to be sexy. Take the magazines that target pre-teens, which instruct girls on how to wear make-up or the Bratz dolls wearing fish nets and bras – marketed to four to eight year olds.

Yep, tremendously disturbing concern ... which is why the four to eight year olds rush into the store, fully cashed up, and lash out on the goods, irrespective of what their parents might think or say, thankfully having earned their loot independent of their parents. You just can't control these sexualised kids these days. Not with parents who think sexy video clips are somehow normal, as opposed to deeply fully sick.

Only last week I was stunned to see in a celebrity magazine, the section “Who Wore It Better” compared photos of Suri Cruise (aged three) with Apple Martin (aged five). The public could vote on which of these two children wore their outfit better.

Stunned, I tells ya. There was the writer of Alice in Wonderland taking nude photographs of young girls in the nineteenth century, possibly for later publication in a celebrity magazine or on the intertubes.

What's that? The problem's actually Tom Cruise? Oh no, not Tom Cruise. It's all his fault! Well surely this is an international disaster! From henceforth let all children only dress in potato sacks. Never shall they be allowed to play dress ups thanks to rich parents who've made a fucking fortune playing silly dress ups. Now if Rishworth had been moaning about how the kids were being exposed to scientology ...

Of course not. What's the problem with a thetan or a volcano or two, compared to sex rearing its ugly head.

Surely this is an example of how we have gone too far where we now objectify even children.

How to tackle the sexualisation of women and girls, and associated negative effects, is complex and difficult but must be addressed.

Yes, indeed, it is of course complex and difficult. But it must be addressed. Would addressing an envelope do?

Forget the potato sack! That's why loon pond, now anxious, concerned, and tremendously alarmed, is today calling for every female child below the age of fifteen to be put into a burqa when outside the home - and inside the home if there are any other children present, outside genuine siblings, and even then, is that a good idea? All television is to be banned, except for one hour of Chairman Rudd each night starting sharp at seven, everybody in bed by eight, and there shall be no dancing, no music - not even that wretchedly erotic classical stuff, yes you Richard Strauss, we're talking about you and Salome - and above all no more fornication! Nada. Zip.

Because naturally anyone over 15 will also be in a burqa, and instead of being sexually objectified, women can once again turn into domestic servants for men, as it was in the good old days.

Soon enough we will have a state into which we can happily invite the Taliban for sundry joint ventures, working hard to eradicate the last vestiges of western decadence, to be replaced by a joyous dedication to the state run by Chairman Rudd, who was voted eternal leader by popular acclaim at the end of 2010.

Never mind, that's hardly a serious response, what's to be done?

Some advocates in this area have called on industry to become more responsible in where and when they show this content, while others have called for government regulation.

Oh yes, let's censor the intertubes, let's ban sexy bikinis, let's ban sexy bodies, let's ban the words sexy bitch, and let's regulate music clips. And let's regulate television.

But, but, but they already are ... they're classified, and you can tell from their classification what the censors deem appropriate to certain ages. And if you think David Guetta is a problem, then you're either a wowser or a prude.

Damn you fool, we don't want rational discussion here, we want moral panic and government regulation, and a determination that this content can only be shown after midnight along with the ads for sexy companions and sexy goods. So that a kid with a video recorder can watch them in the morning.

Sssh, no one mention the nanny state. Conservatives only write about the nanny state when it applies to tobacco and fast foods. They love to regulate sex, bind it in briars and constrict our desires.

We also need to educate and help parents to counter the messages so persuasive throughout our mass media.

One thing we can’t do is push this issue under the carpet. We need to do our best to ensure that the next generation of women grow up confident, self assured, and not determine success or fulfilment by whether they qualify as a ‘sexy bitch’.

Oh dear, and there I was thinking that as a sexy bitch, I might be confident and self assured and by actually enjoying sex, actually achieve some measure of fulfilment. With or without men.

Clearly I'm on the wrong planet. Or Amanda Rishworth is.

Roll on election day. I'm so over Chairman Rudd, Senator Conroy and the likes of Amanda Rishworth.

If they don't have a Bah humbug party on the ballot, then I'm thinking of organising a sexy bitch party. Oh wait, we already have the Australian Sex Party, and when last I checked they were part of the Great Australian Internet Blackout ... well they'll have to do.

Hell will freeze over before I vote for Conroy or Rudd or their moral panic merchandising, and I thank Rishworth for reminding me of that.

Now before we go, time for a little squeezing of your lemon. Though perhaps you might prefer "Ride Daddy Ride" or "I Want a Bowlegged Woman", or perhaps "It Ain't The Meat, It's the Motion", or how about "You Put It In, I'll Take It Out", or perhaps "Doodle Hole" Or "Poon Tang", or how about "It Must Be Jelly 'Cos You Know) Jam Don't Shake, or perhaps "Mule Get Up in the Alley" or even "Let Me Ride in Your Little Automobile", not to mention "Move Your Hand Baby", "Sit Right on It" and "She Kept Sittin' on It All the Time". (Ride Daddy Ride).

Golly, they were a filthy lot in the old days. These days we only jiggle and shake our booty in bikinis.

Oh okay while we're at it, here's a video clip that's truly disturbing and not to be watched by anyone under 18. It is definitively Not Safe For Work. It just so happens to be a great clip by Chris Cunningham, featuring Aphex Twin's Windowlicker. Click on this, it's your responsibility.

But if you have an aesthetic bone in your body, you'll find the upending of conventional sexual imagery interesting, and disturbing, not to mention the gutter language, which starts to flow like a ream of James Joyce. Naturally, back in the day, conservatives had their standard set of kittens while watching it. I went out and bought the Cunningham DVD. So it goes.

How long, before - in the name of the children - Conroy, Rudd and the likes of Rishworth strip this sort of content from the intertubes? Yep, in the eternal struggle between the wowsers and the sensualists, as usual the wowsers are winning ... and it's going to get worse ...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Julia Gillard, My School, and the answer dear Brutus lies in the simpletons ...

(Above: The Simpsons' three step guide to a college education, guaranteed, no fuss. You could even put it in a table).

Sob. I couldn't resist. I rooly trooly couldn't.

I just had to drop in to My School and see how some of the schools in my old rural enclave were doing.

And the news was all bad, I'm afraid. It seems Farrer High School is consistently in trouble

As for Tamworth High School it doesn't matter which way you cut it - it looks like the school, the teachers and the students could be a bunch of hopeless dropkicks. Probably happened because I left town.

And then there's that late arrival Oxley High School, talk about a bunch of losers and ne'er do wells. What a waste of space.

And funnily enough when you go to the My School site, you wouldn't have a clue about the culture of bullying that caused Farrer such grief. For that you'd have to head off to the Northern Daily Bleeder, and David Gregory verdict: $469,000 Farrer bullying payout, or perhaps More complaints about bullying at Tamworth school, or even Messages of support from Farrer community which carried this logical, sympathetic and caring response to bullying:

Another person questioned why Mr Gregory didn’t leave the school at the time of his victimisation.

“If it was that bad, then why did his parents not take him out of school and put him into a new one,” the website comment said.

Oh yeah, if you can't take it, bugger off, we don't need your kind in this here town, why don't you skedaddle before the sun sets, and if we ever sees ya here again, there'll be hot lead aflying.

Never mind, the thoughtful suggestion actually provides a solution for Tamworth parents. Confronted with the news that the three local high schools might not be cutting the mustard, and that the town could indeed be hayseed city, what to do?

It seems that if they want their kids to have a decent education, they need to start bussing their kids out of town.

You know, ship them to Quirindi. It isn't so far away. Oops, perhaps you should check out Quirindi High. Not so bad, but not exactly thrilling. Maybe it'll have to be another 20ks to head up to Armidale High. What's that you say? Sheesh, a town with a bunch of academics in it, and yet seemingly a bunch of hayseeds at the school. Golly, maybe it's lucky Manilla's only got a central school. It might be K to 12, but I say old thing, it's a central school. Never mind anything else. Even a bit of green.

Hey, what's all that pink and red stuff? It looks awfully pretty, but what's it all mean?

Oh heck, just send the prawns to boarding school in the city.

Can't afford it? Tough titty, start lobbying the federal government to see if you can get some educational redress by way of facilities and teachers - if they can forget about funding fundamentalist Christian schools for a moment.

Hang on, you say, this is the kind of simplistic commentary you'd expect from a simpleton. It's terribly unfair, and totally untrue, and hopelessly distorted. The sort of thing you might get from the Daily Telegraph. Or perhaps a Bert Newton program on the top twenty whatevers.

It fails to take into account the many issues confronting students, educators, the individual schools, their structure and demographic, the context for the data, and if followed to its logical conclusion, could reduce school assessments - were parents to indulge in such mindless activity - to a crude comparative table based on a few test scores, backed up by a simple minded school 'motherhood' statement which naturally lacks any kind of SWOT assessment, but instead offers up blather about how the school is in favour of all the things likely to make it the best school in the universe...

Well what can I say, guilty as charged. Yes, indeed, I was educated in situ in Tamworth.

Case closed, now let's move on, but first of all, just like any decent pirate web site, I feel I must insist on a disclaimer:

This site does not store any files on its server. We only index and link to content provided by other sites.

Yep, there are no tables, rankings or comparisons on this site based on data or according to school results outlined on the My School site, just a flurry of evocative adjectives, based simply on personal prejudice, and links to content provided by another site.

In this case a site provided by the federal government. If you've got a problem with my linking to data provided by the federal government, don't beef at me. Go beef at them.

Because you will recall that the NSW government, thanks to the Greens and the opposition, won't stand for any hanky panky:

Section 18A of the NSW Education Act makes it a crime to publish ''in a newspaper or other document that is publicly available'' in NSW ''any ranking or other comparison of particular schools according to school results, except with the permission of the principals of the schools involved''. The section likewise bans publications that ''identify a school as being in a percentile of less than 90 per cent in relation to school results, except with the permission of the principal of the school''. Individuals who breach the provision face a fine of $5500; corporations such as the owner of the Herald face $55,000 for each infringement. (here).

Of course there's a precedent for illegal conduct, because the Herald published a table way back in November 2009 comparing Sydney Girls High, Hornsby Girls High, and Macarthur Girls High, and I haven't yet heard of the rag being fined $55,000 (you can dig up that defiance here under Breaking the law: the exam results they don't want you to see).

Back to our legal advisor, George Williams, Professor of Law at the University of NSW:

The ban can best be seen as political censorship. It is a blunt attempt to close down speech on a matter of public interest; to restrict publications that could shape how people view the NSW education system, and how they vote in state elections. A person who finds out the performance of their local school is inexplicably poor compared to other like schools, perhaps because of a lack of resources, may well change their mind about who to vote for.

Well what they find likely will be inexplicable, because there's not any explication of the data, except by way of the most banal explicatory kind. But do go on:

The law is also patently ineffective. The fact that the same information will be published on a federal government website makes a mockery of the ban. It also reveals the law as discriminatory. Rather than seeking to prevent publication on the Federal Government website, the act provides a route for this to occur. The law sets out a means for raw NSW school results to be sent to the Commonwealth and for it to publish them, ranked or not. This leaves open the possibility of the Commonwealth publishing the most objectionable and simplistic of league tables, while republication of the data by the media and others in NSW is banned.

Oh George, you called it, way back in November. If only I'd gone to UNSW. Call it some more:

But the NSW law goes beyond banning school league tables. It prohibits ''any ranking or other comparison of particular schools according to school results'' in any published and publicly available document in the state. This opens up university academics or policy officers to prosecution if they compare results in a published journal article, on the internet or elsewhere, as part of study of and debate on the education system.

Phew, just as well on this page you will not see any ranking or other comparison of particular schools according to school results or suchlike data. We don't hold any data on this site, and indexing and linking to such data in no way implies a table or invites comparison. Any such comparison is strictly in the mind of the beholder and the preparer and provider of the data. And if you dissent from my legal advice, take it up with George Williams.

The ban criminalises speech of a kind that the constitution protects. The law is also drafted in a way that is ineffective, discriminatory and over-broad. No case of this kind is ever a lay down misere, but it is certainly arguable that the law is invalid.

Well we're not prepared to tackle the mighty NSW government. We'll leave that to the Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian.

And now another confession. I blame this dabbling in linking to illegal federal government content on Justine Ferrant, the education writer at The Australian, who scribbled Site rubs raw scores of discontent:

The focus of the My School website is raw test scores that are compiled into a form of league table, precisely what the government and education authorities said they were not going to do.

Oh no, they've gone ahead and published a league table! George, speak to them sharply please. Explain the NSW law to them again.

Even the head of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, Barry McGaw, said yesterday that by grouping schools with statistically similar schools, it essentially created individual league tables for each of the nation's 9500-odd schools.

And they've confessed to the crime. Jail 'em!

Well next question is whether the NSW government is going to fine the feds for their outrageous breach of NSW law. Hey nonny no, on we go:

The My School website is a step in the right direction in terms of holding governments and education systems, as well as schools, accountable and giving parents information about the performance of their child's school compared with others.

But all the analysis is based on averages of raw test scores. Schools are judged whether they're performing better or worse than similar schools on the basis of a single number.

The Australian asked ACARA for the database of the school results so it could, in partnership with education experts, conduct a more detailed and sophisticated analysis of the data. ACARA chief executive Peter Hill refused.

Oh dear, full and frank information, except when it wants to be more detailed and sophisticated, and likely as not end up in a table that little bit more subtle than the My School site.

Hill said the authority had determined it had a duty to report the school information "in ways that do not lead to unfair comparisons among schools" and the website had been "specially designed to avoid this possiblity".

Giving direct access to the database to The Australian or anyone else "would compromise matters".

The transparency is more like a one-way mirror than a window: the data can be examined only in one way, and that's their way.

Well there goes qualitative assessments based on data flying out the window. Let's just stick to the simple quantitative data, shall we.

Oh dear, and after this kind of heretical thinking started to feel good, like a good sophisticated analysis should, before long I was gorging on Jane Caro's Gillard's New Website Misses the Point:

... debate over the My School website will be nothing compared to the war that will be declared when the Federal Government begin its review of school funding later this year.

Private school supporters will point to their smaller proportion of public funding. As usual, they will ignore their privately generated incomes and resources, and downplay the fact that their schools disproportionately educate the wealthiest students, who are frequently the cheapest to teach. Public school advocates (like me) will attack the corrupted "SES" scheme that the Feds use to fund private schools and gloss over the money that comes to public schools from the states, while emphasising that public schools increasingly educate our poorest and most expensive-to-teach students.

Thanks to the fraudulent level of complexity around funding — private donations, fees, state subsidies, federal subsidies, formulas like SES and "AGSRC" (don't ask) — the public will remain bemused, unable to get a clear grasp on what is being argued and unable to understand it in context.

Hang on Caro, this is about judging the teachers and the kids and the broken social groups from whence they came. Nothing to do with a lack of transparency in the government.

Meantime, how long before the law in NSW regarding tables is broken? How long before the NSW government decides a court case should ensue, or their law is revealed to be a powder puff piece of window dressing? And how long before someone wonders whether the data provided by the federal government in its current form is open to simplistic interpretations by simpletons? Like me.

And how soon before the federal government starts spending money fixing problems rather than loading up funding for private schools and blathering on about choice? As if you have much choice if you live in Tamworth ...

Sorry, the answer to those questions lies in the stars. Hang on, I don't think you can even blame the stars. What was it Shakespeare said about Chairman Rudd?

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

William Shawcross, Tony Blair and a Polly Adler detour ...

(Above: Polly Adler as per the back flap of her memoir, and the book cover).

Been reading Polly Adler's A House is Not a Home recently - well apparently it was ghosted by novelist Virginia Faulkner but it certainly captures what sounds like Adler's voice - and was reminded that the original genuine Dorothy Parker didn't mind spending a little time in a brothel:

Adler counted among her many friends Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker. Members of the Algonquin Round Table would frequent her establishment, situated in rented apartments scattered around the city. George S. Kaufman had a charge account with Polly. But Parker went for the ambiance of the place, which probably suited her taste for the sublime and the tacky.

Of Benchley, Adler wrote he was "the kindest, warmest hearted man in the world." He would rent out Adler's place for lavish parties, bringing along Parker, politicians and the literary crowd. (more here at Polly Adler's Brothel).

These days you won't find many people who remember Adler, even though her memoir got turned into a movie and a modest hit for Dionne Warwick. And while her memoir is written in a nicely chatty style (with a really cheeky ending about how she decided to tell her story in her own words), it's a reminder of what it was like to be a young Jewish Russian woman in New York in the rag trade at the start of the twentieth century, and why turning tricks sometimes seemed like the best way to get ahead.

She even managed to garner the odd favourable review, with the Times Literary Supplement quoted on the back cover calling it a 'notable social document', and suggesting 'If Bernard Shaw had known its author, Mrs. Warren would perhaps have been both more human and more convincing ... The tale is sordid but impressive, and is extremely well told' - though I'm not sure anything could have saved Mrs Warren from participating in one of the dullest plays about sex a Shavian wit could imagine.

And while Adler, who no doubt caught many a whiff of hypocrisy as she made her way through the world, manages to make a few incisive points about life, I probably enjoyed this quote from Gerald W. Johnson's Incredible Tale the most:

Among the very young the impression prevails that the so-called Jazz Age was marked by a collapse of morals, public and private ... It is true that the enactment of prohibition had the unexpected, but logical effect of converting public drunkenness from a disgrace into a distinction ... It is true also that the operations of the Ohio gang debauched the public service on the highest levels to the point at which we saw a former officer of the Cabinet in a prison cell for taking bribes while in office - a disgrace that had never befallen the United States up to that time.

It is true that fashion hiked women's skirts up to such an altitude that the lingerie shops were filled with knickers meant to be admired by the public. It is true that popular novelists began to write out plainly details of amorous experience that they had hitherto modestly - and obscenely - indicated by a row of asteriks ... (But) the great sin of the Jazz Age was not drunkenness, not lechery, nor plunder, but a vast, a criminal irresponsibility ... The average man took a holiday from thinking ...

So things change to stay the same. Remind you of the noughties?

Well I guess it's always good to turn to a brothel keeper for wise words, because there's a lot more sense talked in her memoir than there is in William Shawcross's attempt to justify the Iraq war in Why Iraqis owe Blair their thanks.

Even the header is profoundly offensive, since it's hard to imagine too many dead Iraqis thanking Blair for the privilege of voting, a privilege they might find hard to exercise, while the millions who were displaced might also take a view.

But Shawcross, who is a consort to Blair's policies, manages to find weasel words to extract himself and his master from the killing fields:

Despite the killing of thousands of Iraqis (mostly by other Muslims, not coalition forces), and despite the unforgivable failure of the coalition to plan for post-invasion chaos, Iraq today has a far better future than under Saddam Hussein.

You see! It was the other Muslims wot done it. Not the coalition forces at all. That shock and awe talk was just PR, what they delivered was just a mousey roar. The valiant battlers against the axis of weevils just went in to fix things up, and is it their fault that the Muslims refused to be helped, and instead went on a killing rampage.

Never mind that the British have regarded the Middle East as something of a martial playground and a fiefdom since they joined the Crusades back in medieval times. And that they can carry a lot of the can for the mess in which the middle east found itself at the end of the twentieth century, having spent years sowing the seeds for later chaos. How's this?

Iraq was Britain's testing ground for the use of aircraft against guerrilla fighters and their villages (another of Churchill's pet ideas). The British spent the 1920s, 30s, 40s and most of the 50s bombing and strafing desert outposts in Iraq. What does it say about the nature of progress that Britain and the US spent the 1990s doing essentially the same thing?

Or this?

With that, Sir Percy (Cox) took hold of the map. Carefully drawing a red line across the face of it, he assigned a chunk of the Nejd to Iraq; then to placate Ibn Saud, he took almost two thirds of the territory of Kuwait and gave it to Arabia. Last, drawing two zones, and declaring that they should be neutral, he called one the Kuwait neutral zone and the other the Iraq neutral zone. When a representative of Ibn Saud pressed Cox not to make a Kuwait neutral zone, Sir Percy asked him why. "Quite candidly," the man answered, "because we think oil exists there." "That," replied the High Commissioner, "is exactly why I have made it a neutral zone. Each side shall have a half-share." The agreement, signed by all three sides at the beginning of December 1922, confirmed the boundary lines drawn so carefully by Gertrude Bell. But for seventy years, up until and including the 1990 Gulf War involving Iraq and Kuwait, the dispute over the borders would continue." (here)

Shawcross is nothing if not determined to justify their last romp in the desert sands, calling up yet again the issue of WMD's to do its ongoing heroic duty:

The possibility of the ultimate nightmare - a terrorist attack involving WMD - was too great, especially after the US discovered that al-Qaeda had been researching ''dirty'' bombs in Afghanistan. Remember, the intelligence agencies of virtually all Security Council members believed that Saddam still had WMD and was determined to obtain more.

Dick Cheney himself couldn't have done a better job of conflating Saddam Hussein, al-Qaeda, dirty bombs, nukes, WMDs, terrorism, 9/11, risk taking, and all the other assorted blather used to excuse the rush to war.

And the enemies are the usual swine who voted down heroic action in the usual cheese eating way:

In early 2003, opposition to war grew through much of the Western world. Washington had no wish to return to the UN. But, more sensitive to public and party opinion, Blair sought another resolution before the US and British troops invaded. In the corridors of the UN, arms were twisted brutally; France, China and Russia ensured there would be no majority in the council for another vote in favour of ''les Anglo-Saxons''. This gave Saddam false assurance.

Well who else can we blame, if not the perfidious French, Chinese and Ruskis?

In the years since Saddam's overthrow, tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed. Most were victims of the brutal confrontation between Sunni and Shiite extremists, in particular al-Qaeda and the agents of Iran. The woefully inadequate post-invasion planning by the coalition added to the chaos. Yet the seeds of this conflict were sown by the devastation wrought by Saddam's despotism.

Yep, it wasn't just the fault of the extremists and al-Qaeda and Iran, it was also the fault of Saddam. He made them do it. What with all his strutting and boasting and his killing. Which somehow strangely never translated into action in Rwanda, and never seems to have become a strategy in North Korea (could it be because they have actual nukes), or in dozens of other countries where tin pot dictators have visited death and destruction on their subjects. Perhaps what they needed was a little oil to sweeten the pot and make the effort seem worthwhile.

Sorry, post Iraq, even oil doesn't cut the mustard, so a wretched theocratic state like Iran can thumb its nose at peaceful demonstrators calling for change and get away with it. While Afghanistan, which should have been the main game, continues in a sorry mess that has spread like a virus into Pakistan, itself a wretched state.

Well if it was all Saddam's fault, why not bomb his palaces to bring him in to line, while in the meantime concentrating on al-Qaeda, who just happened not to be in Iraq, but in Afghanistan?A few bombs near the tent soon brought Colonel Gaddafi into line.

Of course politicians don't like the notion of targeted assassination. In the politicians' club, there's an uncomfortable feeling that loons might suddenly see the way to improve Britain ... by taking out a few of the head honchos. Oops.

That's why it's so much simpler if you take out tens of thousands of innocent civilians, and more than a few professional soldiers paid to do the ugly business of killing and dying, and then embark on a sturdy career of weasel words to explain exactly why it had to be so and thus. Never mind that they took Saddam out because they knew they could, for all his hollow, devious posturing, and then didn't have the foggiest clue about what to do or what might happen once they'd done the dirty deed. Except sit in armchairs and explain how important it is that innocent people die on the basis of lies.

And now it seems, suddenly everything is getting better and better by the day:

Despite the continuing vicious attacks of suicide bombers, Iraq is now bravely inching towards a much more open society. Indeed, on many measures it is one of the freest countries in the Arab world.

Yeah, try telling that to the women of Iraq. What pish tosh. As it veers towards a theocracy of the old school.

Overall, violence is much reduced and opinion polls show that support for democracy is overwhelming. New elections with many competing parties are to be held this year. The dinar is strong, the economy is growing.

The Iraqis I know say they have hope for the future, and they thank Blair and Bush for that.

Well tell that to the thousands upon thousands now dead, the millions displaced, and how it's all to the good, and everything's for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

Meantime, Blair's got the blood of innocents on his hands, and there's no wonder why a lot of people feel bitter about his desire to mount an illegal war. (Tony Blair faces legality blow over Iraq war).

There's more than a passing irony that since then he's turned Catholic - they always know how to offer contrition and forgiveness to the guilty. For once, it's tempting to hope that there actually is a god, because surely that would mean Blair and Bush and Saddam Hussein spending a hearty amount of time together in hell. Surely the unholy rush to war would make the holy rush to heaven that little bit trickier.

What a pity god's a fairy tale, but how pleasing it is to see Blair and his acolytes and apologists being put through the wringer at the Iraq inquiry in the UK.

It might not be much, but at least the dirty sheets are now hanging on the line. And at least there's some signs that average folk, who took a holiday from thinking, are now wondering just how they got led down that particular garden path ...

So little empathy for the thousands of lost lives, and so many excuses. Bah humbug, a brothel owner wouldn't bother with the pathetic excuses and self-serving platitudes.

If you're going to embark on a slaughter, you should follow the same logic and principle as when you break a plate in a china shop:

Those who devised the war in Iraq should own their follies. Roll on the grilling at the inquiry, due today.

Naturally Shawcross sent the punters who could be bothered to comment - so many tawdry deceptions and misrepresentations over the years, who can bother to respond to the cant - into a frenzy, but I especially liked this thought:

If there can be anything amusing at all coming from this ghastly affair, it is the sight of Blair seeking redemption. Washing his hands in the catholic holy water, but the blood just won't come off. It is Shakespearean - I think it is great fodder for a great play.

Oh dear, I just had to correct a typo in that, but hey, yes, instead of Frost v Nixon, let's have Tony Blair v his brain and his soul ... if only Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were still available as an act ...

So from Polly Adler to Shawcross to rare early footage of Beyond the Fringe. It's a strange new world, the intertubes, but not as strange as reading yet another attempt to link Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda.