Friday, April 30, 2010

Leo Shanahan, Paul Colgan and how reading The Punch can be more tricky than a PowerPoint presentation ... ...

(Above: Bruce Petty doing banking. Petty was doing PowerPoint connectivity cartoons before PowerPoint was born).

The Punch exercises a hypnotic, but deadly, charm.

Why only a few days ago there was Paul Colgan explaining how A few stupid emails do not an industry conspiracy make.

It got me to thinking that a few incoherent blog postings do not Australia's best conversation make.

Colgan's acute insight? Journalists say horrendous things in private, and so do surgeons when peering into your open gut, not to mention barristers chatting about clients and politicians muttering about bigots. Amazingly, soldiers also say over the top things in the heat of war.

So it's not surprising bankers, especially Goldman Sachs, write silly emails, but you shouldn't read anything into this, or in to Melbourne Storm's ethical behaviour, just because they might stretch a few rules:

This has all started a hand-wringing debate from predictable quarters about the ethics of banking, as if we have always expected that bankers go about their business day to day living by some strict moral code.

Que? Moral code? Why you might as well talk about the strict moral code of News of the World arranging for illegal phone hacking. (after all, it's only collective amnesia). Or the strict moral code at work in that News Corp company Melbourne Storm.

What's worse, it distracts from crucial issues:

Not to equate Goldman’s activity with warfare but pulling a couple of quotes from any big messy situation and focusing on them as being representative of a wider problem is a bit like looking at the sun in the sky and saying it’s summer.

A messy situation! Well I guess that's one way of describing the handing out of seven billion pounds in salary and bonus packages after taking a six billion pound bail out (Goldman Sachs ready to hand out £7bn salary and bonus package... after its £6bn bail-out).

Why that's hardly a messy situation, just business as usual. But it seems that for Colgan such idle talk just muddies the waters:

The danger is it will take focus off getting to the bottom of precisely why finance houses were so exposed when the US housing market collapsed and triggered an unprecedented global economic shockwave. There are more important lessons to be learned than the one about the dangers of putting something in an email that you don’t want anyone to see.

Yep, thank the lord it had nothing to do with excessive risk-taking and excessive greed and really loopy derivative structures, as revealed in said loopy emails. Why that is just the shallow surface view, and we need to get much closer to the murky bottom, where no doubt we will find excessive risk-taking, excessive greed and loopy derivative structures.

That's why you need to forsake The Punch, and go elsewhere for a little fun. Like Maureen Dowd, who in Olive Oil and Snake Oil, takes the time to quote from the emails, most notably Fabrice Tourre's efforts:

“More and more leverage in the system, l’edifice entier risqué de s’effondrer a tout moment. ... Seul survivant potentiel,” gushed the highflying Frenchman charged with creating subprime mortgage investment deals intended to fail. That translates loosely to: the cheese stands alone.

Continuing to talk about himself in the third person, he wrote, “Standing in the middle of all these complex, highly levered, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all the implications of those monstruosities!!! Anyway, not feeling too guilty about this. ...”

In an e-mail to his girlfriend, he called his “Frankenstein” creation “a product of pure intellectual masturbation, the type of thing which you invent telling yourself: ‘Well, what if we created a “thing,” which has no purpose, which is absolutely conceptual and highly theoretical and which nobody knows how to price?’ ”

In another e-mail to her, he blithely joked that he was selling toxic bonds “to widows and orphans that I ran into at the airport.”

Memo to Colgan. You can sound smart and funny by quoting others; trying to sound solemn and insightful while attempting to excuse bankers and their emails can actually make you sound profoundly stupid.

But nothing stops The Punch. That's why today we're blessed by Leo Shanahan's special insight How PowerPoint slides ruined the world.

This PowerPoint presentation is not only emblematic of what may have gone wrong in Afghanistan, but, without wanting to sound too alarmist, what’s gone wrong with the way we all think.

It made me understand that what's gone wrong with the way we all think is that the insidious influence of The Punch has now spread around the world.

Poor old PowerPoint. Originally invented for the Mac as "Presenter", it was named as PowerPoint in 1987 and ever since then has had to endure jibes from hacks and wastrels masquerading as journalists, who use it to berate Bill Gates, Microsoft, and bureaucrats, when not explaining how it's responsible for the decline and fall of thinking in western civilisation.

Shanahan is just doing a follow up to General McChrystal having a joke about PowerPoint and Afghanistan, and rounds it out with Colin Powell's impeccable justification for heading off to war, but between cup and snide lip there can be many a slip.

Perhaps it's the dire influence of PowerPoint that explains why Shanahan puts up a picture of Jeremy Deller's PowerPoint style linking of Acid House and Brass Bands, The History of the World, and describes it as one of his 2004 Turner Prize winning entries.

I’m of the opinion that the piece itself is pretty cool, but can’t quite work out whether Deller is taking the piss or not. Either way we recognise the format and what it’s trying to explain, whether acid house and brass bands are at all related doesn’t matter: the graphic explains it all.

Huh? The graphic explains it all? I thought PowerPoint didn't explain anything?

Never mind, the real point, Leo, is that Deller got shortlisted for the Turner prize in 2004 for his mixed-media installation work Memory Bucket, which documented his travels through the state of Texas, including tours of duty through the strange worlds of good old George W. and Waco.

The History of the World was an earlier work, and if you don't know whether he was taking the piss, here's what he had to say about it:

So I’ve been asked to talk about The History of the World which is the big wall drawing in front of you. There’s a quote by Lenin which is “everything is connected to everything else” and that could almost be the title of this work cos it’s how my brain works in a lot of ways how I try to connect things up, and it’s how I work as an artist in that respect.

I did a work called Acid Brass which was when I got a brass band to play Acid House music. And this diagram explains it in the way that I thought that brass bands and Acid House music actually have a lot in common even though on the face of it they have nothing in common whatsoever. They’re both these forms of folk and popular music, they’re both very strong, had a very strong following in the north of England, or still do. And also they have a connection in the middle with trade unions, with the media hysteria that surrounded Acid House music and drug culture, and also with the miners’ strike. So they meet in the middle really with civil unrest as you can see.

I have to say that it was one of the most pleasant experiences as an artist to work with a brass band, to hang out with those guys and to go to the concerts with them which were just great social occasions. And that’s something that I try to bring out in my work: a sense of enjoyment of what I do.”

You can read it all here, at the Tate, where you can also find some other samples of his work, audio video and transcripts (here). Thank the lord the full to overflowing intertubes contains some real information. As usual Wiki has a handy guide to winners here, while The Guardian has a neat guide to the first twenty years of the Turner prize here.

Conclusion? Set the prisoner PowerPoint free; imprison the felon Shanahan and The Punch for lowering the IQ of all readers.

(Below: the history of the world, with artist acting as PowerPoint presenter).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stephen Conroy, Senator, the Honourable, and giving NITV the once over ...

(Above: a screen grab of NITV's home page. Go here for more).

It's the usual wretched, some would say tragic, style here at loon pond to take some bleating commentariat commentator's scribbles, hold them up to the light and mock them loudly, and often unfairly.

As Jon Stewart likes to say, fair and balanced is the kind of adjective The Australian might like to use about itself, it being close kissing cousin to other fair and balanced news services, but if that's fair and balanced, give me rhetorical bile.

But just for the moment, for today, the pond would like to hold a brief burial service for NITV, and channel 44, which as of midnight tonight will disappear from the free to air Sydney airwaves.

It's not the end of the world. After all black voices have been marginalised since whites arrived with pen and paper and rulers to provide a decent margin. NITV will continue to be carried on pay TV and be available in regional areas ...

But hang on, Sydney is where NITV's largest potential indigenous audience hangs out. And NITV, in case you've never caught up with it, is largely funded by the federal and other governments. Yep, only a little while ago, the Feds announced another $15 million to keep the show on air for another year (NITV secures another $15m in funding from Government).

After splashing that kind of cash, what better way to follow it up than to take NITV off free to air in Sydney? You know, on the Fawlty Towers principle that, just as hotels run most efficiently without guests, so broadcasters work well by not having a maximal audience potential.

That follows rumours the Government was planning to fold NITV into the ABC's indigenous unit, roundly denied by all concerned. (Influence attack to 'save NITV').

The mainstream media has consistently and studiously ignored NITV and its Sydney presence - except when the politics of funding gets compelling - so it's no wonder the d'oh performance of a government content to provide funding to a broadcaster which then perforce operates behind a paywall has never really been questioned.

Whenever you read about the channel 44 narrowcast trial, it's always dubbed 'successful' and that's why it's being stopped. Yep, after a successful trial, the one thing you must never do is actually continue it. If it was a failed experiment, well maybe you could keep it running for an eternity ... sssh, don't mention the pink batts affair ...

Now suddenly we return to the proposition that indigenous viewers in Sydney (and others who might happen to be interested) have to fork over a subscription to pay TV to cop a gander at a taxpayer subsidised broadcaster. A rough equivalent would be running SBS or ABC through Foxtel.

But then it's only black voices, so what does it matter. Bring me the paper with that very wide margin, I feel like a little more marginalization.

NITV isn't the greatest broadcaster in the world, but I say without condescension that it's sometimes surprised me with the material to hand. Sure there's reams of seemingly endless repeats, and very parochial material, but hey it's the business of a broadcaster to reflect and relate to a community, and football in the Northern Territory can't expect a huge audience.

The reason that I offer no condescension is that the channel's being run on the smell of an oily rag, but it hit on a style, and it keeps to a schedule and it still manages to offer up plenty of content, no matter the often musty air surrounding said content.

It takes a lot of hard cash to generate new audio visual content, and keep fresh programming alive. Hey, if the ABC and SBS are saturated with repeats (or wall to wall foreign news services in repeater station mode), imagine how hard it must be for a start-up service like NITV.

And then there's the usual political tensions to reconcile - you haven't experienced politics until you've experienced black politics - but every so often a new item with a fresh perspective will turn up, or an old documentary or drama will pop up from nowhere (or from Ronin or individual film-makers happy to help out), and make for interesting viewing up against the monotony of mainstream free to air predictability (if I catch a glimpse of Patricia Arquette whispering and whining with ghosts one more time, I swear I'll scream, while the mannerisms of David Caruso are now so extreme, screenings of CSI Miamia should carry a warning: viewing can be accompanied by physical nausea).

Where else are you going to see the mini-series Women of the Sun? SBS? Or old documentaries about aboriginal people funded by the FFC way back when?

Not your cup of tea? Fine. Keep dribbling over Master Chef.

Politicians like to blather about diversity, but when it comes to actual diversity, that's a different matter. It feels quite weird that Senator Conroy and his bureaucratic hordes couldn't manage a smooth transition from experimental trial to continued FTA delivery for NITV in Sydney (and other metropolitan areas which didn't get 44).

In terms of the billions thrown around by government and pissed against the wall - sssh, let's not go into the pink batt saga all over again - keeping NITV on in free to air in Sydney, and extending it to other urban areas, would have amounted to ant crap up against the usual elephant turds government keeps dropping everywhere.

As part of the fall out, devotees will lose other aspects of the 40/44 service, including the Australian Christian channel and Teacher television, and the upper and lower houses of federal parliament.

Heck I'll lose the Expo channel without having once purchased a mop, a fitness machine, a batch of Time Life records of country music, a decent angle grinder, or been compelled by Stewart Faichney flogging the little nibbler when he's not writing bad scripts for Paul Hogan, or been seduced by all the wonderful variants on George Foreman's fat free gorilla.

Sure you can read about it online, or get it on pay, but a free to air way to reduce your mind to a sausage sizzle? Priceless ... and so much more surreal than David Caruso.

Again it's no big deal in the grand scheme of things. You can still pick up parliamentarians yammering and blathering online, and you can also find the Christians there, and of course you can buy crap in any two dollar store of your choice.

Now it might seem strange that this determinedly atheist pond gives a toss about the Christians having access to free to air, but every so often it was fun to channel hop and pick up some lost memory of an antipodean Elmer Gantry doing their thing ... and marvelling at it. Somehow it made free to air actually sound diverse and full of oddities, a bit like cruising in the south of the United States and seeing what might earn a television signal there.

The end result? A diminution of diversity, a loss of voices from the airwaves, and a department content to talk the walk, while sending black television back to pay TV.

Of all the many reasons that I can drum up to dislike the obtuse, let's build a $44 billion NBN and then censor it, Senator Conroy, I have to say this casual indifference to NITV's signal is surprisingly the most offensive.

It's just another kicking of sand in the face of urban aboriginal people ...

Heck no, hang on a second, it's a kicking of sand in the faces of anyone interested in alternative voices having access to free to air television.

Well vale NITV, it was nice catching black faces on the screen every now and then, but sad to say, I'd rather have all my teeth extracted than fork over cash to Chairman Rupert's cable service, especially when the government has been using taxpayer dollars to fund the channel.

By the way, here's the note on the digital 44 home page:

This site supports Digital FORTY FOUR, the world’s first Digital Terrestrial TV service dedicated to datacasting and open narrowcasting. Digital FORTY FOUR is broadcast exclusively to over 3.8 million people in Sydney, Australia's biggest city and carries a number of channels from news to shopping.

Following a recent decision by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) these trial services will end on 30 April 2010. Viewers with strong views about this decision should contact ACMA directly or contact Senator the Hon. Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Well here's my note to ACMA and Senator the Honourable Stephen Conroy, and I regret to say, it's a strong view, a bit like Charlton Heston confronted with dangerous apes.

You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you, God damn you all to hell ...

(Below: get your button here).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Greg Sheridan, and a smell of pigs sniffing militarist truffles in the Shire

(Above: here at loon pond, it's serious stuff dealing on a daily basis with the commentariat. So we took inspiration from the 11 funniest unintentionally sexual books of all time, and then we found someone who had actually read the book, and prepared a book report here. And another gourmet who offered up an excerpt here. Is there no end to the riches of the full to overflowing intertubes).

So here's our reading for the day:

“Dicky Ruthven was terribly impatient. He had taken his own find home with him, ‘to have tea with it, comb its hair, and fondle it,’ as Donald had said, joking in spite of his hollow feeling of depression…Maybe Dicky slept with the jagged lump of masonry under his pillow, for he was as proud as a peacock of his ‘find.’ And if he woke up during the night with the most pointed corner of it sticking in his ear, no doubt he only smiled in a seraphic manner and contentedly sighed his way to sleep again, with the comforting jab of the thing in the back of his neck. Or perhaps he had it clasped in his arms. Who knows but Dicky himself?”

Oh yes. Boys and jagged lumps of masonry.

Now, with a sigh, we turn to the musings of the day, but not, as you might expect, Miranda the Devine's Greatest moral challenge turns out to be Rudd's dearest folly, which turns out to be a disappointingly standard rant about Chairman Rudd. It reads as if it's been cut and pasted from Akker Dakker's (Piers Akerman to the great unwashed) greatest hits and verbal assaults, and was possibly assembled by the Devine in an automaton dream involving automatic writing.

No, here on the pond, we eschew predictability and banality and obviousness, and search for the finest truffles, which of course require a pig's nose to discern amongst the mud. And lordy did we come up with a beauty.

Come on down hysterical git Greg Sheridan with the rant of the month, if not the year, Gibbering fantasists set sights on Anzac Day. The opener, I must confess, reduced me to a mirthless tearfulness at the sheer poetry and savage insight on offer:

Once again, Anzac Day and all that it represents are under attack. The dark servants of Sauron are gathering in Mordor, orcs and goblins, elves gone over to the dark side, the wraith-like nazgul and the dark riders of historical mayhem, once more to shatter the traditions and peace of the good hobbits of Middle-earth.

I refer, of course, to the ideological Left girding its loins for a fresh assault on the alleged militarisation of Australian history.

Ah dear, long gone Alan Seymour's The One Day of the Year and his immortal line "A man's not too bad who'll stand up in the street and remember when he was licked". Nope, now we're somewhere off in middle earth with J. R. R. Tolkien re-enacting the Lord of the Rings.

Does Sheridan have even the remotest idea how loonish such rhetoric sounds? It's so rich, so fertile, so febrile, that it's tempting to quote the whole thing box and dice and be done with it. Here's the third par:

A slew of dismal academic books, unspeakable in their mediocrity and tendentiousness, presage a full-blooded campaign to destroy the most popular, the most unifying and the most historically sound celebration in our national life.

Historically sound? What on earth does that mean? Waiter, bring me some of what that man's just sniffed, it seems better than the mushrooms to hand down the rabbit hole. Perhaps then I can produce a mediocre tendentious column for Chairman Rupert slaying the leftist dragons that surround us all, the gatling jammed, the square red with blood, and a hush in the close as it's last man in and we must play up and play the game.

First of course it's necessary to identify the enemy - Sauron's servants gathering in Mordor - before embarking on a restrained and insightful debate, and luckily for Sheridan, a restrained and modest argument is part of his inherent rhetorical strength:

For left-wing Australian historians, gorged on grants, tenure, fellowships, faux academic prizes, subsidised centres and all the paraphernalia of the academic gravy train, beyond the wildest imaginings of any David Williamson satire, to complain about someone else getting government money for their view of history demonstrates a kind of unconscious chutzpah available only to those who have had their irony genes removed at birth.

Sheridan of course has no need of irony genes, for any fool can see that a debate about Australia and its military history can find exactly the right ironical tone by referencing Sauron gathering his servants for a final stupendous attempt to defeat the forces of light. Led by Chairman Rupert's empire.

On and on Sheridan goes in a way that's moderate and under-stated:

... the idea that Australian history has been militarised is almost insane.When I was at school we didn't study a single war. We studied the causes of many different wars but never the war itself. My sons had the same experience 30 years later. It is perhaps the absolute absence of war in the classroom that has facilitated the magnificent popularity of Australian military history.

Similarly it is just nuts to claim that either migrant history, or Aboriginal history, both of which I honour and celebrate, don't figure on school or university curriculums. And where is the militarism in the national curriculum?

Uh huh. You see, if the gibbering fantasist Sauronites are insane, or nuts, to use a noble term for mental instability, it's hard to have a sensible discussion. You see, these wretches will stop at nothing:

It was the fashion during the Vietnam War and shortly after to demonise and harass soldiers, to spit at them, call them baby killers, abuse their families. That particular time of barbarous madness has passed.

Except of course for those dissident current Sauronites who still abuse the military and the noble Anzac tradition. Why questioning Anzac is surely an insidious and hurtful and spiteful way of calling diggers baby killers, dressed up in the garb of seditious academic papers. Next thing you know they'll be arguing against two up, getting blotto in the pub, and watching football to celebrate the fallen (and a nice little earner it is too and where's the harm in that, pissed and in a punch up at the footy).

But enough of the window dressing, let's get down to some serious history, even if it was never taught in schools and we are all now compelled and fascinated by the magnificent popularity of Australian military history, a fetish often shared by those who love to sit in armchairs but strangely never quite managed to make it to the front line anywhere.

... there is also something wondrously ahistorical and ignorant about the standard line against the Australian efforts in World War I, whether at Gallipoli or on the Western Front or elsewhere. The proposition that Australia mindlessly, needlessly and foolishly followed Britain into World War I is completely wrong.

You see. Dare I add completely and utterly and comprehensively and totally wrong. You there in the back row, clearly yet another Irish dissident or perhaps a Catholic of the Mannix school. I dare say you're one of those wretches who voted not just once, but twice against conscription. Or perhaps you're one of those unionists who now erupt into tenured academic posts. Whatever, your white feather is in the post, along with Greg Sheridan's wonderful history An Imperialist's guide to the imperatives of Imperialism.

We are trapped in a terrible tyranny of ignorance about our leaders in the early days of federation. Alfred Deakin, Edmund Barton, Billy Hughes and the others were sophisticated politicians with an astute sense of all the strategic realities their new, young country faced.

Sheridan then proceeds to prove his point by showing a terrible tyranny of ignorance about the very real debates about the war that consumed the populace back in those dark days.

His idea of scribbling the truth? Evoking monstrous slanders of Deakin, and babbling on about German militarism, as if German militarism was the only game in town in those colonial days:

Australia joined Britain in World War I for four reasons: just cause, empire solidarity, regional security interests, and long-term maintenance of Australian security. It was a just cause to defeat German militarism. You'd need a very strange moral compass to support German militarism.

What on earth are we to make then of those treacherous, treasonous, traitorous types who twice in plebescites voted to limit the power of the federal government to conscript men to become machine gun fodder in the mud of Europe?

Well at least let us make it clear that Sheridan is no Irish Catholic lover of the likes of Mannix:

... most importantly there was the question of Australia's long-term strategic self-interests. Australian leaders, and the population, understood, correctly, that the British empire (and I write this as an Irish Australian who could not possibly have less sentimental attachment to the British crown) provided for Australian security, provided for Australian prosperity and to a large extent embodied Australian values.

Oh yes, I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die. Oh damn you Vietnamese people with your control of the dry cleaning and bakery games in Sydney, look to Britain for your values.

There's more, plenty more, as Sheridan jumps the shark, ascends the faraway tree to faraway land, and berates the Sauronites one sided notion of history ... by producing a one sided version of history ... and his wrap-up finds him sounding off as solidly as when he started his rant.

When we compare a modern act of courage or self-sacrifice to the Anzac tradition, we are not by any means "militarising" our modern life. We are instead measuring courage by a yardstick which came out of an episode of unique intensity in our history, when tens of thousands of ordinary young men lived and died for something greater than themselves.

In that, Anzac Day is neither modern nor anachronistic, but timeless, profound and beautiful. These words are seldom used about academics.

Oh indeed, just as I like to think of the carnage of the first world war as timeless, profound and beautiful. Something greater than themselves? The first world war as a kind of Tolkein epic? Move over Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. But I guess the assigning of brave and heroic death from an armchair provides moments of unique intensity and helps make any carnal house of slaughter profoundly moving.

My grandfather used to gather us around the flame in Tamworth and explain just how his time in the mud of the Somme was a timeless, profound and beautiful moment for him. Seeing as how the machine gunners were the first to be targeted by the artillery and ground forces, and he happened to be sitting behind a machine gun scared shitless.

But then shitty pants never get much of a mention in timeless profound and beautiful celebrations of war.

Now you might think someone who argues with such passion shows all the signs of being a one sided passionate fool, but I think it's wonderful stuff, at a stroke elevating Sheridan to the valhalla of loons, lurking for ever more somewhere in the Shire in the sky.

For a different view, expressed in temperate language, and therefore clearly the work of a Sauron-ite, see Martin Flanagan's One-sided thinking on Gallipoli an injustice, paying particular attention to John Simpson (Kirkpatrick), who was a deserter, ship jumper, fiercely Labor knockabout who joined up thinking he'd be getting a ticket home to England, and who instead, courtesy of Churchill's folly, ended up working with a donkey on the Gallipoli hills. Immediately he was dead the myth makers - the Chairman Rupert publicity machines of their day, sadly including historian C. E. W. Bean - began their work and he came out scrubbed clean, a gormless brave heroic lad with a donkey fighting for king and country.

Reality's a tad more complex and interesting than Sheridan and his rhetoric might allow, but hey I think it's a singular vision for Sheridan to rabbit on endless about the nobility of world war one, and not once mention the singular folly that was Gallipoli, or Churchill's folly, or the stupidities of the generals running the show, or even begin to discern a characteristic ambivalence in Australia's celebration of the campaign, in which it played a relatively minor role in what turned out to be a major military defeat.

Irony in the genes? When Sheridan begins to understand the line "A man's not too bad who'll stand up in the street and remember when he was licked" he'll have got his head out of the clouds, and understand that there were many causes of world war one, and that German militarism was only one of them, and that if Anzac day serves a purpose in reminding us that the first world war was a particularly stupendous and ugly example of militarism gone mad, then that's when it might be a timeless and beautiful thing.

And in the usual way, I feel a poem coming on, one by Wilfred Owen, and a favourite of my grandfather's:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. --
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie:
Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

But then Wilfred Owen went to the first world war, was killed in action at the battle of Sambre a week before the war ended, and knew whereof he wrote. An ecstasy of fumbling. If only Sheridan knew the ecstasy of fumbling ...

Janet Albrechtsen, bees in bonnets, insidious leftist progressives, and the joy of having a Senate ...

(Above: an 1867 cartoon by Cruikshank, defending the status quo of the British bee hive. He makes the obvious point that the working man would get nothing from being able to vote, a point disputed by odious progressives over the voices of caring conservatives. And the world, sadly, has never been any good ever since).

When Janet Albrechtsen gets a bee in her bonnet, there's no doubt it makes a very loud, persistent, buzzing noise.

Who can resist a beguiling teaser like "What's next from the anti-democratic left?" as a hook for the excellent buzzing contained in Proportional vote a disaster.

Part of the chagrin contained therein is that suddenly Albrechtsen, aka our very own Dame Slap, won't have a bill of rights to kick around as an issue any more. Or at least in the immediate future, as Chairman Rudd clears the decks for an election by sending it off to the mortuary with lots of other bright ideas.

Perhaps she can head off to the United States and campaign for the repeal of the bill of rights there, and good luck with that. I'd particularly like to see the right to open carry arms in urban situations given a little going over. Not that I'm against guns - I luuuve guns - but I do think urban living has moved on a little since the heyday of Tombstone.

Anyhoo, it would seem that the United States has been in the grip of progressive leftism since the founding fathers abandoned the joys of Westminister democracy and did their thing, and now the poison is being spread around the world:

Last week the Rudd government put a federal charter of rights in the reform rubbish bin. Progressives deplored the move. After all, their campaign for a charter was a first-order ideological fight. A charter would have enabled the Left to entrench an agenda of special interests that would have no chance of finding support under Australia's traditional Westminster democratic system. So that begs the question: what's next in the Left's bag of anti-democratic tricks? It's hard to imagine that the progressive disdain for Westminster democracy is suddenly at an end.

Oh dear, you can see where this is heading. Having had the bone of a charter of rights buried discreetly out in the back yard, it becomes necessary to dig up another bone, and while munching away at it, blame so-called progressives for its worm-laden state.

Here's how to do it:

Their next line of attack against democracy may come from a different angle. It's possible we may start hearing a whole lot more from progressives about the merits of proportional representation.

Huh? Well I guess they may and I guess it's possible, but heck it's a damn sight more likely that it's Dame Slap who wants to get excited about proportional representation. I mean, I guess we might hear a whole lot more from progressives about the merits of dictatorial communism, or rule by Berlusconi, or the necessity of installing Chairman Rupert as head of a world government, but last I read anything on this tedious subject, I can't remember anyone campaigning on the merits of the Tasmanian voting system.

Hmm, where to look, how to flush out these fiendish progressives, always up to their nasty anti-democratic tricks, and their concern for minorities, when it's well known that majorities take great care of minorities. Just look at the way that Australia, prodded on by the Catholic church, has taken care of gay rights.

The argument will have that same feel-good quality used to push a charter of rights. You know the schtick. Someone has to look out for the little guy (read: special interest minority groups) against the majoritarian evils of Westminster democracy. If they can't be protected by judges wielding a charter of rights, then at least let's get a similar result with a proportional system in parliament.

By golly, that sounds alarming. Special interest minority groups scheming away, and doing it in a way we're all familiar with. You know, holding out that apple and tempting you to take a bite, and the next thing you know, we've been kicked out of parliamentary Westminister Eden for eternity, and left to brood and mourn in the dustbowl of life, and while some might blame the snake, we know who's really at fault. Oh women, ye verily you heartbreaking progressives, is there anything you won't ruin?

Perhaps it's Britain's turn, seeing as how things have gone so well under Blair and Brown. Yep in doody:

You need only cast your eyes towards Britain to witness this new assault on democracy. The rise of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is being hailed as a progressive moment not to be squandered, a chance to repair a broken political system. Commentators in The Guardian are excited at the prospect of a "well" hung parliament with a vote for Clegg being described as the equivalent of hitting "a bloody great big reset button".

Indeed. The Guardian and "well hung" - a contradiction in terms for these mamby pamby progressives, and come to think of it, calling a party Liberal Democrat is profoundly offensive, since the last thing the world needs is a progressive liberal democracy. Who do they think they are, with their feeble attempt to keep the bastards honest.

As if the bastards are in any need of honesty, and as if the electorate needs a third party, when two cliques of baseball bat wielding thugs are entirely sufficient.

The reason is that Clegg wants to cement proportional representation into the British electoral system. Indeed, Clegg's kind of electoral reform is described as the deal breaker, the price a minority government must pay for the support of the Liberal Democrats.

The fiend. Sadly at this point, Albrechtesen has to break off from her tirade to admit that things have been pretty crook under the Labour party in Britain, and that things aren't at their best in Westminster democracy, what with tending the moats, fixing the the stable, doing time on the dole, bombing the shit out of Iraq for dubious reasons, running up an entirely gross deficit, and otherwise making a mess of things.

But a vote for Clegg is a vote for disaster, when after all you can vote for a set of progressives.

Oops, sorry, got that wrong, it's really progressive conservatism, as David Cameron ushers us into a world of euphemism (warning, link connects to that haven for progressives, eek, The Guardian). Worse still, it seems that these progressives are thinking about joining up with the other, dick dastardly, progressives - A Conservative-Lib Dem coalition is most likely, but it's not sustainable (warning, another Guardian link).

Now you might think this is all part of the by-play of a close election, and who knows what might happen until the results are in. But you clearly lack that finely honed tinge of paranoia that sees Cameron elected in cohorts with Clegg, and proportional voting instituted by the dastardly progressives by Xmas at the latest.

Here's how to lather yourself in to an indignant sweat about this heinous conspiracy that might come, though it's yet to be, with all this talk of an exciting third party which might sweep the dullard main political parties from their perch:

Exciting only if you fall for the myth that proportional representation is good for democracy. Truth is it's rotten for democracy. Proportional representation will bestow disproportionate influence on minor party leaders to become kingmakers. Forget democratic principles of voters knowing what they voted for and politicians being accountable for their promises. Post-election horse-trading between minor parties and minority governments will mean election promises count for nought.

Indeed, it's rotten for democracy, as the current denialism of the Tony Abbott led opposition in cahoots with the evil Greens, clearly proves in the Australian senate, which indeed involves a kind of state-based proportional representation, and a truly perverse above the line voting system mingled with the capacity to vote individually for hundreds of loons. Cue Steve Fielding as a fulcrum in the balance of power, when we might have been better off with Daffy Duck.

What's even worse, there's a tinge of the American Senate in the structure devised by Australia's constitutional fathers (where were the mothers? Don't ask). Yep, even then they were agitating against pure Westminster democracy, as if we couldn't have rustled up our very own House of Lords.

Perhaps we can now look forward to Albrechtsen's full throated campaign to abolish the Senate, which caters to minor states like Tasmania and Western Australia, though hopefully that state will soon cut itself adrift, and take itself and its former Treasurer and its minerals off into the Indian ocean.

It would seem our founding fathers totally stuffed up the country, as did all the other founding fathers who put in an upper house of review, with all kinds of weird voting systems, rather than do the decent thing and abolish the upper houses, so that the government of the day could get on with the business of governing.

Surely Albrechtsen can extend her campaign to remove all upper houses, clearly the work of sinister progressives who didn't trust the popular vote, beavering away in the nineteenth century to ensure the fix was in for the ruling elite, landlords, aristocrats, rent seekers, capitalists and squatters.

Sob. No, nothing like that. All you get is some half-heartred abuse of Tasmania and its hung parliament, and poor old New Zealand, with its mixed member proportional voting.

Easy targets, and easy cheap half-arsed rhetoric from Albrechtsen, and here's how she wraps it up:

The Left is canny at pushing anti-democratic agendas using slogans about improving democracy. You can see it happening in Britain now. And it will happen again in the lead-up to the NZ referendum. Perhaps it's only a matter of time until the same people who lobbied for an Australian charter of rights will start pushing for proportional representation here, too. If so, just remember that it's like getting a tattoo. Proportional representation may seem cool at the time. But what follows is a lifetime of regret.

How about this version?

The Right is canny at pushing anti-democratic agendas using slogans about improving democracy. You can see it happening in Britain now. And it will happen again in the lead-up to the Australian election as Tony Abbott berates Chairman Rudd for refusing to produce climate change legislation while rejecting it in the Senate. Just as it happened when the ruling elite devised the Senate and the upper houses throughout Australia to guard their interests and thwart the will of politicians elected by popular vote. Perhaps it's only a matter of time until the same people who lobbied for an Australian Senate will start pushing for proportional representation in the House of Repks, too. If so, just remember that it's like getting a tattoo. Proportional representation may seem cool at the time. But what follows is a lifetime of regret. Abolish the Senate and all the upper houses now!

Yep, a lifetime of regret for having the Senate and the various state upper houses. Go on Janet, get into it, do them like a dinner.

And tell them it was your rich paranoid fantasy life about leftist progressives that drove you on, as you realised the depths of the progressive leftist conspiracies at work back in the day when simple minded politicians drew up Australia's current constitution ...

Or not. Whatever. Sad to say, your piece is about as canny as a tin of sardines ... I guess that's why the canny Abbott joins forces regularly in the Senate with the Greens to defeat government legislation.

Personally I blame the blockheads who in 1919 changed from first past the post block voting to preferential block voting for the Senate, but any Senate loving blockhead will do. From Sir Henry Parkes to Sir Samuel Griffith to Alfred Deakin. Devious leftist progressives the lot of them ...

(Below: deviant leftist progressive conspirator Sir Henry Parkes. If you want to pay homage to this deviant progressive, you can still see his home Kenilworth, in Annandale - if in Sydney some time - or visit his grave at Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains. Not that this site encourages any worship of progressives!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gerard Henderson, Malcolm Turnbull, Joe Hockey and sage advice from a meandering Machiavelli ...

(Above: this handy map of the seat of Wentworth is published by loon pond as a civic service. Warning to country folk and suburban dwellers: if in town in Sydney, do not go anywhere in this electorate, lest you visit art galleries in Paddington, and acquire a taste for Bill Henson, because next thing you know, you'll be downloading child porn from the intertubes and supporting terrorists on tea and scone days in the CWA hall).

Perhaps the thing that most drives me to despair is the relativist, cynical, chardonnay sipping latte loving, basket weaving thinking of inner city dwellers.

They have no substance, no convictions, no beliefs at their core. These shallow folk are, as a result of their cynicism, shifty, brazen, and insubstantial.

Contrast conviction politicians who say what they think, and think about what they say. In the good old days, these were conservative politicians, who knew what they stood for, and stood for what they thought they knew, and they had principles and backbone.

They didn't read Machiavelli, but if they did, it was only to disdain his self seeking and vain celebration of power without principles. Okay, that's not so much the real Machiavelli, but when given a choice between the facts and the legend, as John Ford once said, always print the legend.

And now, thank the lord we have astute political commentators standing by, ready and willing to overthrow those kinds of toothy, aged conservative values - where a man knew he was a man, and did manly things - by insisting that the way forward is the way back, and bugger principles.

Relativism and vote-seeking and a lack of principled stands are all the go, and who better to advise on this and sundry matters than Gerard Henderson, whom we once thought a prattling Polonius, but now realise is a maundering Machiavelli.

You see, you must go where the votes are, as laid out in Henderson's guide to the modern politician, Stick to your guns, Malcolm, the party doesn't need you.

Much of the piece is cheerful advice to Malcolm Turnbull confirming that his decision to simply bugger off is the right one. And to keep buggering off. And having buggered off, to stay buggered off.

And who can argue with that. After all, the dear man cared about climate change and believed in markets, and we don't need that kind of clown in parliament when global warming is a myth, and the last thing you should employ in dealing with non-issues is market forces. Fancy a Liberal party man thinking the markets can do anything!

But the most delicious advice, the most potent musing of the Machiavellian sage, comes at the end, as Henderson explains, in his very own relativist, subjectivist way, that principles mean nothing, and all that counts is the relentless pursuit of the suburban and regional vote where the marginal seats are.

Take the matter of Bill Henson, where Turnbull failed to join in the witch-hunt, or mutter the shocked banalities of the eternally dull and greying Chairman Rudd.

Then there is the matter of social policy. It makes no sense for the Coalition leader to be outflanked by Labor on social issues. Yet this is precisely what occurred in 2008 when Bill Henson's photography of nude prepubescent children became a matter of controversy. As David Marr wrote in The Henson Case, Rudd went further than any politician in condemning the pictures while Turnbull “was the first politician of any stature to question Henson's ordeal and put in a word for freedom”.

In a sense, Turnbull emerged as the political hero of Marr's book. That might have won him support in Wentworth. But Rudd's condemnation would have had majority support in suburban and regional Australia where most marginal seats are. There is no reason to question Rudd's sincerity on this issue. It's just that his stand also made political sense.

You see, better to be a doofus like Chairman Rudd - and let no one question his sincerity as a doofus, since doofus is as doofus does - than to actually have a brain and exercise it, and refuse to indulge in a Salem witch-hunt.

Why that could turn you into a hero in a David Marr book, which is one step shy of getting cast as Satan in the bible, and while it might win you support amongst the perverts, renegades, dissidents, outcasts, loons and outcasts of Wentworth, surely one of the most seedy and degrading electorates in the land, that's not going to score you votes in Penrith.

Oh I know Wentworth contains the best and the brightest of the eastern suburbs, those rich folk who infest Double Bay and Darling P0int and Point Piper and Bellevue Hill and Vaucluse and Dover Heights, but trust me, the seediness kicks in when you're surrounded by Kiwis in Bondi, and worse still by the deviates around Paddington and Darlinghurst. Artists and galleries!

I always tell my country kin to avoid Oxford street for fear that the dragons will eat them.

Forced to represent this vile constituency, no wonder Malcolm Turnbull lost his way on the matter of art.

Worse still, it seems Joe Hockey is also lost.

The other candidate in last year's leadership ballot was Joe Hockey, the member for North Sydney. In a speech to the Grattan Institute in March, Hockey expressed concern about the anti-terrorism laws introduced by the Howard government and supported by the Labor opposition under Kim Beazley. The legislation has led to a number of convictions in both Melbourne and Sydney. As the Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, has pointed out, it's unusual when a senior Liberal politician criticises Labor from the left. On the anti-terrorism legislation, Hockey is closer to the Greens.

Once again, Hockey's position may have appeal on the lower north shore. Yet it is unlikely to engender support in the outer suburbs and regional centres. The same is true of Hockey's criticism of the attempt by the Communication Minister, Stephen Conroy, to stop child pornography on the internet.

Dear me, poor Joe. He seems to think Stephen Conroy's internet filter might have something else about it than a simple, futile and foolish and doomed to failure attempt to stop child pornography on the internet.

Well that certainly won't play in the suburbs. Enough of this principled chat Joe, just fall into goose step with the master censor.

As for your burbling on about freedom and the finer points of anti-terrorism laws, you don't want to get labelled a nice guy Green. Gasp. Not when the tough men on the left, the hard men, the hollow men, can have a go at you for actually thinking about an issue, and perhaps even taking a principled stand. Talk of individual liberty and privacy and freedom from oppression in the beehive is just one step short of treasonous thinking. Next thing you know you'll be playing Woody Allen doing Z in Antz.

You see, that way you can only become a loser Joe, and losers come last, and the most important, the only point, in politics is to win. And once you've won with a lack of principles you'll never need to take a principled stand, ever again.

Turnbull and Hockey are admirers of Menzies. But Menzies was more socially conservative than Labor – and the Liberals have never won an election on a libertarian agenda.

Turnbull has had an impact on Australian politics – in both government and opposition. He made his own decision to resign and he would be well advised to stick by his initial judgment.

Want some advice Joe, since it's too late for Malcolm, since he's buggered off, and should stay buggered off?

Follow Adolf Hitler. His musing on pornography always played well in the suburbs:

The fight against pollution of the mind must be waged simultaneously with the training of the body. To-day the whole of our public life may be compared to a hot-house for the forced growth of sexual notions and incitements. A glance at the bill-of-fare provided by our cinemas, playhouses, and theatres suffices to prove that this is not the right food, especially for our young people. Hoardings and advertisements kiosks combine to attract the public in the most vulgar manner. Anyone who has not altogether lost contact with adolescent yearnings will realize that all this must have very grave consequences. This seductive and sensuous atmosphere puts notions into the heads of our youth which, at their age, ought still to be unknown to them. Unfortunately, the results of this kind of education can best be seen in our contemporary youth who are prematurely grown up and therefore old before their time. The law courts from time to time throw a distressing light on the spiritual life of our 14- and 15-year old children. Who, therefore, will be surprised to learn that venereal disease claims its victims at this age? And is it not a frightful shame to see the number of physically weak and intellectually spoiled young men who have been introduced to the mysteries of marriage by the whores of the big cities?

No; those who want seriously to combat prostitution must first of all assist in removing the spiritual conditions on which it thrives.

Which is to say the internet. It goes without saying that Hitler was always disturbed by the internet, indeed saying he hated it isn't too strong, and he was always keen to censor it, and in the process produce something of a bonfire of the vanities on which sundry works of art (those by Bill Henson in particular) could be heaped and burned.

Oh and Joe you might also consider his anti-terrorist policies, which were impeccable, and turned Germany around in quick stix time.

Sheesh, I see that once again I've broken Godwin's Law, and the swear jar money is now filling to the brim, and here we are at the end of April, and it's a long time until the jar can be broken open and used to fill the Xmas stockings. Ah well plenty of teeth-rotting chocolate this Xmas, a small price to pay to learn the principles of political expediency and servile catering to the whims of the outer suburbs.

Ain't we lucky that Gerard Henderson lives in Penrith, and so has his pulse on the suburban heartbeat and marginal seats.

Never mind. Here's a tricky question for you. As you can see from our Machiavellian advisor, Joe Hockey might play well with the lower north shore, but that too is a seat full of dissidents and deviates. Don't let the way it nestles up against Bennelong and is full of businesses fool you. Dark things happen in Kirribilli - I know, I've lived there - and that junkie Brett Whiteley once lived in Lavender Bay. Say no more.

So who represents the equally decadent lower north shore of Clifton Gardens, Mosman, Balmoral, Beauty Point, Seaforth and Balgowlah under the title of Warringah? As fine a crop of latte sippers and chardonnay swillers as you might wish for, no matter how you might try to dress in the hippie surfer grommet tourist scum littering the beaches of Manly and Curl Curl.

Why, it's Tony Abbott. Does this mean that deep in his soul Abbott too is a libertarian free thinking panderer to the Greens and terrorists?

I must confess my head began to throb and pulse at the implications, but I am pleased to know that in this land of the beehive, a libertarian agenda will never be allowed to thrive or flourish. And that principles and sensible intelligent policies are not what's not needed from politicians, not when there's hysteria to be cultivated and votes won in marginal seats in the suburbs and intertubes to be filtered and ever more repressive laws to be enacted.

Yet another cogent political lesson from our prattling Polonius nee Machiavellian marvel.

Bugger off Malcolm Turnbull, and toe the conservative Catholic line Joe Hockey, and let's see how that plays for you at the next election.

No more of this principled chatter or dallying with actual ideas or attempting to appeal to the middle, where Marr-ite acolytes might think the likes of Conroy and the dull Chairman Rudd have gone off the rails.

Why I feel a poem coming on, and as always T. S. Eliot has one handy. First and last verses, and the rest available here, offered up in the vain hope of becoming hero in a David Marr book, but sadly realising that day will never come:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

(Below: James Gleeson doing an antipodean Dali with We inhabit the Corrosive Littoral of Habit. A feeble attempt to become a David Marr hero. Silly Gleeson never understood the value of the suburban vote).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tim Blair, South Park, and the battle of Burka hill ...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
South Park Death Threats
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Tim Blair's at it again, issuing a stinging rebuke to everyone and no one in particular.

When did freedom of speech disappear?, he cries, while acknowledging that thus far no one has managed to shut him up, and that his relationship to science and his science teacher is deeply suspect, and that still won't shut him up.

Profoundly concerned that the folk at Comedy Central have done a little fiddling with an episode of South Park involving Mohammed dressed as a bear, Blair issues a clarion call for freedom:

Now might be the time for journalists and entertainment folk to step up. A force far more repressive than John Howard or George W. Bush is stomping all over your freedoms. Got anything to say about it?

Anything at all?

Sheesh Tim I guess you missed that fiend from the left Jon Stewart speaking up, as linked to above. Guess that's what happens when you don't actually watch a top notch comedian, as currently regularly featured on ABC2 in the land of Oz, but instead spend all your time watching cars go around in endless, monotonous circles.

Not that I can get totally excited about the notion that watching a censored episode of South Park is somehow a stomping all over of my freedoms, but I get the drift.

It's a bit like Senator Conroy stomping all over the Internet, and I've admired your relentless campaigning against Conroy on an almost daily basis from the privileged position you occupy with your blog. In much the same way as you've done your bit for global warming.

I keed, I keed. You know how to maintain the silence of the lambs when it counts.

And I guess that you also missed Threat against 'South Park' creators highlights dilemma for media companies, but that's probably because it's in the godforsaken LA Times, which as we all know is a company rag in an industry town full of perverts, homosexuals, deviants and other Hollywood liberal types. (What, the Islamics and the Christian fundamentalists are agin 'em? Well I never).

And lordy, there was Patrick Goldstein in a blog attached to the same rag scribbling furiously:

If Lenny Bruce, one of our seminal provocateurs, were around today, he'd probably be putting all of Trey and Matt's jokes into his act, daring the Muslim extremists to come after him too. Not everyone has to be that brave, or foolhardy, but I come down on the side of believing that the best thing you can do when you're dealing with knucklehead extremists is to call their dare. If they want to live in a free country, they'll have to accept that fact that freedom includes the freedom to mock, heckle and stir the pot. It's a freedom that's too important to be hijacked by extremists who should learn to accept one of our most sacred freedoms: To live in America, you have to be able to take a joke. (Muslim threats to 'South Park': Did Comedy Central cave in to knucklehead extremists?)

Ah Lenny, my first stand up hero:

Take away the right to say "fuck" and you take away the right to say "fuck the government."

Or as Jon Stewart noted in relation to Islamic fundamentalists. Fuck you.

And I guess Blair also missed boing boing's featuring an interview with creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, which you can catch here, where it can be downloaded as an mp4 or alternatively watched via YouTube. The sweet lads aimed to alienate - piss off I think is the more politically correct term - as many celebrities as they could find by stuffing them all into a single episode.

The usual form in this sort of nonsense is to list all the hideous examples of things which liberals and lefties approve of - chardonnay, latte, fearlessly attacking the Catholic church over paedophilia, endorsing global warming, rabbiting on about the splendours of Bill Henson's "creepy" photographs of naked children, getting excited about the dropping of The Glass House, and failing to notice that Danish newspapers published cartoons of the prophet which produced a little heat, and then failing to have an anxiety attack about the ABC's response to said cartoons:

It was big news at the time, but local fans of uncensored artistic expression suddenly clammed up when it came to publishing the images exploited by violence-hungry Islamic cranks. The ABC actually forbade their broadcast on television or online. In a memo to staff, then-managing director Russell Balding wrote: "The ABC believes it is not essential to include explicit depictions of the original cartoons."

Um, if you want to maintain the rage Tim, why didn't you publish a few of the cartoons with your piece? Couldn't find them? Here they are, the only pity being that they're a pretty motley and feeble lot. Guess you didn't think it was essential to include explicit depictions of the original cartoons in your trawl through history.

Meanwhile, it's also the usual form to suffer with the Christians as they are dealt unholy blows, in much the same way as the world suffers with Tom Cruise when he's impaled by South Park as a dealer in the fraud that's called scientology:

Perhaps they'd have relented if Bill Henson was involved. Alas, "Naked Fourth-Grader Muhammad" remains on hold until Henson's next talent-spotting tour of a Lakemba-area primary school.

It's almost worth coming up with an anti-Jesus cartoon of even greater venom, just to see what the reaction would be in Christian circles. To really upset Bible-thumping types, it would have to insult America too.

Let's see. Imagine if one were to, say, depict Christ defecating on the US flag.

Take that, you uptight Baptists and repressed Presbyterians.

Too late! It's already been done. In 2006, satirical cartoon South Park broadcast exactly such an image after Comedy Central, the show's US network, had told the program's creators they couldn't use an image of Muhammad. Originally, South Park merely wanted the prophet to be shown saying "hello".

Evidently a Jesus defecation scene isn't nearly as offensive.

Well let's not get into a sidetrack about anal retentiveness, and the awful way that western culture downsizes in a hail of high fructose corn syrup the beneficial results of regularity and eating bran. But this is beginning to sound like a competition between a good crap and benign folk simply wanting to say hello. Who's to say which is worse.

That said, um, why not lead the way Tim, in being offensive? Here's a set of Islamic and non-Islamic depictions of Mohammed in all kinds of ways and in all kinds of forms.

Why we even have William Blake doing it in the National Gallery of Victoria, as an illustration for Dante's Inferno:

Those fiendish subversive liberals in the National Galley, even if it's really only a state gallery with a grand name. Who'd have thought.

Oh I know ripping open a stomach isn't up there with a bit of healthy defecation, but hey it's more graphic in the Gustav Doré version.

You see, the problem is Tim, if you take cheap shots at Bill Henson and get into line with fundie Christians, who'd like to ban lots and lots of things (including homosexuals), you end up sounding not like a freedom fighter ... but a member of ... the Taliban.

But at least you score one palpable hit. On Cate Blanchett. Sheesh, that must have been a tough one.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I think fundamentalist Muslims might be on to something with their whole suppression of women thing.

What a hoot. Tim Blair endorses the burqa. Oh wait, I get it, he keeds, he keeds. Slap my thigh with a watermelon. (Or does he? Keed that is. Is there something deeper going on with Cate Blanchett?)

But I see the cheese eating surrender monkeys have got it right, and what's more even copped a sterling endorsement in The Australian in Sally Neighbour's Battle against the Burka is not based on bigotry. Yep, that's right, one of those pesky ABC reporters rabbiting on about the French might be on to something by standing up for secularism.

How about it Tim? How about instead of slagging off Bill Henson and worrying about Christians copping more abuse than Islamics, as if it can be measured as kind of competition... like you know (yep they really do say like you know all the time in America) ... like, you know ... once again the Christians have copped an unfair penalty for handling the ball while the liberal leftie satirical ironical referee has let the Islamics get away with murder scott free ...

... as if taking offence should be some kind of equal opportunity platform, where liberals must offend all religions in equal strength and in equal depth all the time, how about instead of all that, why not take that Eureka flag and plant it at the top of the secularist hill, and announce to the world that it's wabbit season for all the secular satirists wanting a bite of all the world's weligious?

Or should we just settle for pictures of bears?

Next week? Tim Blair gets agitated about militant atheists attacking all forms of militant religion, including Christianity and Islam. The reason? They didn't mount as militant an attack on Islam because they're scaredy cats ... or is that because Christians like to turn the other cheek?

Whatever. Here's a picture of a bear ...

Mark Day, and by Crikey he's mad about Carl Williams and the Melbourne Storm ...

(Above: an evocation of the ecstatic state that can be obtained by reading News Ltd newspapers, with or without mushroom assistance).

Poor old Mark Day.

The job of being a lickspittle lackey to Chairman Murdoch's media empire is always a tough one, but when you throw in a dash of paranoia, it gets all the more problematic.

His fixation on Crikey is fast becoming tragic. Crikey, for those who came late, is a minnow of an independent online rag, and a bare echo of the grand old days of Richard Walsh and the Nation Review, which fancied itself as lean and nosey like a ferret, but featured Bob Ellis and so became flatulent and bloated.

Since Crikey has taken Monday off, like sensible folk, or like dole bludgers, it's likely we'll have to wait awhile for them to resume their war with Day.

So let's follow Day down the rabbit hole, while nipping a little mushroom for sustenance, as we ponder the logic in Crikey's comment on Williams' murder indefensible.

The logic gets a bit arcane, but it seems the nub of the charge is that Margaret Simons, who once worked for the coffee grinders at The Age, preparing snooty copy for latte sippers, dared to suggest that the Herald Sun (known fondly as the Hun to all those who like to cock a snoot at Godwin's Law on a daily basis) might not have helped matters for Carl Williams by making it known he was on the take for 8k for his daughter's school fees, thereby tipping the nod, or nodding the wink, to anyone in the interested underworld that he might be on the turn.

Day indignantly quotes Simons, while resolutely refusing to link to her, perhaps because he believes that intellectual property rights should be over-ridden, since information and opinion is vital to democracy, and he's indignant that her story Did the Herald Sun kill Carl Williams? is currently trapped behind the Crikey paywall.

How dare they constrict access and want to charge for their content, when Chairman Rupert is only just beginning to think about it in most parts of the world! (though you can also access Simons at her blog here).

Does Simons seriously suggest it's not a story when it emerges that the cops are paying a killer's daughter's school fees?

She writes: "It would be nice to think that the Hun's senior editorial team thought about the rights and wrongs of publishing in this context.

"But we all know that, particularly under the paper's current gung-ho leadership, it is far more likely that they looked no further than the scoops on offer. Publish, and let the cards fall where they may."

Well by that logic, can we add an addendum?

Does Day seriously suggest it's not a story when it emerges that a newspaper regularly suggests a notorious crim is on the turn and regularly receiving a little taxpayer graft for what ails him, and then suddenly he gets bashed to death? And that therefore Simons was only doing what comes naturally when confronted with an eggbeater and a nice pile of egg whites? In true Chairman Rupert tabloid style?

Yep, it seems everything is okay for Day:

Well, she's got that right. That is exactly the job of newspaper editors. If it is legally possible to tell the truth about issues of public concern, then it must be told.

Uh huh. So Simons has done her thing, and it seems thus far that it's legally possible for her to publish her hints and innuendoes. Run insinuations up the flag and see who salutes. But do go on Mr. Day:

To suggest that editors actively engaged in a plot to engineer the assassination of a criminal in jail is absurd. To suggest reporters and editors conspired or were used in committing criminal activity is outlandish and defamatory.

Uh huh. Well if you read Simons, and as Day himself is forced to admit, that's not exactly what Simons said, but never mind, if you want to hang someone from the yard arm, you need to drum up as many offences as possible. Can we just suggest that to suggest that Simons was suggesting that editors were actively engaged in a plot to engineer the assassination of a criminal in jail is absurd, and unsustainable, and unsustained, and entirely misses the nuance of Simons' piece. We'll leave the explaining of the how and the why to Day.

Come to think of it, Day is extremely free with the notion of defamation. To which there's only one response. If it's defamatory, take Simons to court and do her like a dinner, perhaps a nice leg of lamb, with lashings of rosemary, and a nice payout at the end of the meal.

Or is Day's talk of defamation just puffer fish humbuggery? He dishes out the word "defamatory" three times, and on the usual rule of logic, say it three times and it must be true. So where's the court action?

Could there be a tinge of paranoia?

But we have come to expect nothing less from Crikey. This is a repository of opinion, not so much non-mainstream as anti-mainstream, and particularly, anti-News Limited.

Uh huh. Which is of course in its own funny roundabout way to assert that if you're anti-News, you're anti-mainstream, because News Limited is the mainstream. And here I was thinking that News Limited was actually the chief source of sublimely silly and eccentric copy for loon pond. And Fox News just an aberrant mechanism for the expression of absurd and sinister world views.

Well what to do about this outrageous situation? Surely it's to bring out the baseball bat and give Crikey a few whacks:

Crikey's position in the media world is left of centre, anti-establishment because it has nowhere else to go. If it were not a gadfly, a pricker of pomp and pretension, it would be nothing. It breaks virtually no news; it relies on controversial comment for its existence and carefully crafts this formula to keep the subscriptions rolling in.

That's fine; scrutiny is one thing, but feeding the obsessions of its owner is another. Crikey publisher Eric Beecher is a former News editor with an axe to grind.

Uh huh. So that's fine, provided they draw a magic ring around News Ltd, and don't speak of the cavortings and carry-ons of the dominant print empire in Australia. Now that makes a whole heap of sense. Just like a squawking flock of pink flamingoes makes for a fine spectacle in nature.

Speaking of axes to grind, and obsessions, has Day ever consulted a psychiatrist about his obsession with Eric Beecher and Crikey and former News editors grinding their teeth as they pound their keyboards? Excluding himself of course ...

But not content with ravaging Crikey over Simons and Carl Williams, he gets even more indignant over the Storm saga:

Crikey's treatment of the Melbourne Storm Rugby League scandal further illustrates the point. An opinion piece by James Thomson, editor of its commonly owned Smart Company online magazine, asserted that News, the owner of Storm, should have known that salary caps were being breached. "The buck stops at the top," he writes. That is true in terms of dealing with the mess. But does Thomson or Crikey seriously suggest that senior News management should have been able to read the minds of people who swore compliance on a stack of bibles and know of or condone the activity that has all but destroyed the club?

Ouch. You see, the buck stops at dealing with the mess, and picking up the broken eggs, but not with buying the eggs, and stopping them from breaking. Follow that logic? If not, get yourself a compliant philosopher ...

Yet I must say I was tickled pink to see the Sunday Herald poster dangling outside the newsagent, promoting itself as the only source of "independent news" when it came to the matter of the Melbourne Storm. Why heck, that's almost defamatory. Surely Chairman Rupert's empire is full of independent news ...

Actually, you know, when you wholly own a company, the fight against fraud, even if perpetrated by people who swore they were being compliant on a stack of bibles, is ongoing, and part of the responsibility belongs with the owners. A company isn't just a wind up toy, and once you've got the mainspring tightly wound, you just let the toy loose and watch it unwind.

There's a thing called due diligence, which is what boards and directors, acting for the owners, are supposed to do, and there's nothing to stop the owner sending in the thought police at regular intervals to make sure everything is ship shape and running like clockwork, as opposed to taking your eye off the ball, spilling the pill, dropping the pass, or copping a coathanger, but of course no one in the game actually wants to get News Ltd too riled, because if they pack up their toy, or refuse to wind it up any more, the game would collapse down south. Or at least the club would. And so the game, and Victorians could return to the glories of the AFL, played by themselves, a few South Australians, and in its genuine form, by the Irish ...

It is, at least to those who don't care that much about the fate of rugby league, or the Melbourne Storm, a delicious irony, and Day's squawking suggests just how the poor hapless empire is suffering as it becomes the job of its journalists to dig deep and skewer the Storm, thereby revealing and confirming an inconsistency, an incoherence which has been around since the days of the Super League.

If newspapers and newspaper companies get into the business of owning sporting clubs, and then have to report on the doings and misdoings of said sporting club, and if they can't see the inherent conflict of interest ... may they be confronted with an Augean stables for eternity ...

That is another defamatory flight of Crikey's fantasy; the product of an obsession with and a hatred for a highly successful worldwide organisation that actually digs for and finds news, then publishes it fearlessly, while all Crikey can manage is to cast its jaundiced eye over and comment on the crumbs.

But where does this leave Day? Casting his jaundiced eye over and commenting on the crumb commentator commenting on the crumbs? Does that make him a ferreter amongst the crumbs of a crumb?

Well I guess it means that I'm by definition the crumb of a crumb of a crumb, since I'm commenting on the crumb commenting on the crumb ferreting amongst the crumbs, but by the time you've got to this point, you realise that the ducks of loon pond are well fed by all the crumbs being flung about.

But there's one thing to say. When Day gets to talking about News Ltd as if it's the saviour of the news of the world, without mentioning the gutter press, yellow journalism, and unsavoury example of Fox News within its horse farm, it's clear he's not up to the job of tackling the Augean stables.

Come to think of it, not even Hercules could clean up the mess of News Ltd cultivated by Chairman Rupert in his unseemly headlong rush for power and profits. (And for locals in Sydney, why not take a read of How we lost our Voice to see how Chairman Rupert's tentacles reach into even the local rags flung over your fence).

Yep, it's a funny old world, and instead of trying to cop $30 million to exit the game, News Ltd is now stuck with keeping on funding the Storm at a likely cost of $13 million a year, the way sponsors are dropping like flies. (And having dropped $65.9 million over the past few years, helped by a socialistic $1.2 million in government grants - always the paw out for the government penny - see News Limited are in for the long haul at Melbourne Storm).

Delicious. No wonder there's agitation and a fight for the crumbs on the pond.

(Below: a scene from Underbelly, which features now dead criminal underlord Carl Williams, and which shocked the Herald Sun with its raunchiness and excessive pornography. Underbelly 'pornography' with bare breasts and sex scenes. Oh heck, you've got me. This is just a gratuitous picture for gentleman readers with only the most tangential discursive link to the piece above. Hey, how am I doing? Surely this means I'm ready for a gig in Chairman Murdoch's empire? Meanwhile, just remember money makes the world go round, forget about the white bra, focus on the money! It'll surely whip up a storm every time.)