Monday, May 31, 2010

Paul Sheehan, a bit of proportional misrepresentation and another bout of Celt bashing ...

(Above: the difficult Scots).

Sometimes you have to wonder who puts what in the kool aid and then circulates it to commentariat commentators.

It wasn't so long ago that Janet Albrechtsen was scribbling Proportional vote a disaster, in which she discovered that Britain was in a parlous condition, and talk of proportional representation was the final straw from deviant leftists:

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.

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.

Come on down Paul Sheehan, with Disunited kingdom is flagging, which looks as if it's been composed after Sheehan ferreted through Albrechtsen's rubbish bin - assuming of course that Albrechtsen still writes on paper as a pulp-mill supporting way to defy the sinister theology of paperless office greenies.

Sheehan freshens up his diatribe by beginning with the story of David Laws and his rorting of the system, but arrives at the same conclusion:

For this new Conservative-led government, the price of power was a commitment to their coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, to substantive electoral reform. The Liberal Democrats want proportional representation. That is the road to gridlock. Better answers lie elsewhere.

Uh huh, so the House of Lords is abolished, the Queen is sacked, the whole ragbag of monarchists are removed from the public purse, and a new Cromwell strides the land? Well at least that would get rid of Sheehan's second example of the English disease, poor old Fergie trying to make a crust by selling access to her ex. (And it would be good for the British to also kick out Chairman Murdoch and his insidious lowering of the standards from the gutter to the sewers below).

No, no, none of that, well apart from providing for the election of the House of Lord and thereby maintaining a whole raft of politicians on life support above the house designed to represent the people, as if England had actual need of a house of lords to represent sectional interests. No, no, it's a lot simpler:

A clue for the British government can be found in the Australian flag.

It is colonised by the Union Jack. This reflects Australia's foundation on British traditions with refinements that improved the original and have proved sturdy over time, delivering majorities and mandates: preferential voting, one-vote one-value, compulsory voting, an elected upper house and an impartial electoral commission.

Say what?

The Australian Senate is of course allegedly a 'state's rights' body, elected on the basis of a proportional representation system, which has resulted in minor parties holding the balance of power over many years. Indeed, the Australian electorate seems to take a particular pleasure in voting a party into power in the lower house, and then ensuring they can do bugger all without grovelling, negotiating, prostrating and otherwise humiliating themselves by way of compromise with the upper house, and despite that still enduring many rebuffs or such significant policy modifications as to render the original policy useless. (And as always the wiki on the Australian Senate has the structural details).

Now there hasn't been much of a storm of protest about the role of the Senate or the way proportional representation is used to elect Senators, but surely it's way beyond appropriate larrikin antipodean cheek to represent to the old country that this is path it should tread on the way to righteous democracy, while righteously avoiding the perils of proportional represenation.

Now others noted that Albrechtsen's rants about the evils of proportional representation were absurd (Planet versus the Senate), so let's hope others will swiftly explain to Sheehan the difficulties of the Australian system, and its built in checks and balances and frustrations, before he ends with this kind of triumphalist note:

The disunited kingdom would do well to look for reforms from its Antipodean creation. It probably won't.

Too late. He's gone and done it. Recommended the Australian system, and Steve Fielding, and good old Nick and the greens. Stand by, we have incoming. Next week Paul Sheehan rants about the Australian system of proportional representation and its dysfunctional Senate.

The rest of Sheehan's rant is a re-hash of his recent abuse of the "celtic influence", never mind the outrageous attempts by London central over the centuries to subdue the Celts and bring them under the house of Westminister (or is that the house of Hanover? Or Windsor?)

Last time in For moochers, by moochers: Brown's disunited kingdom, Sheehan produced this corker:

England makes, the Celts take.

Well I guess that we can overlook the way England took and took, from India, Africa, the Americas, Australia, the middle east, anywhere it could paint the empire map a discreet subtle non-communist red.

This befuddingly simple-minded observation was accompanied by Sheehan's standard rant about the Celts leeching off the state, and the Tories being the only party dedicated to turning them off their state-funded haggis.

No doubt deep in his heart Sheehan's a Scottish nationalist and believes Scotland should be set adrift, given its independence and told to look after itself. And perhaps in the same stroke, he could ordain that the British relinquish Northern Ireland and help form a natural Irish state, having spent centuries ruining the Irish state.

Not really, as you might have come to expect, since this is his thoughtful contribution to the Irish question in his discussion:

The Northern Irish, with one seat per 100,000, and decades of sectarian criminality masquerading as patriotism, are not part of this equation.

The equation Sheehan broods about is his notion that all would be well if only those pesky celts could be reduced to a rump, and the Tories would then have won and be in uncontested power, a kind of 'how much better England would be without the celts' rumination worthy of Professor Higgins ruminating about how men are better off without women:

If one vote had one value, Scotland and Wales would have had 15 fewer seats to contest on May 6. This alone could have changed the outcome of the election ...

Self-perpetuating welfare states. The Celts are also coddled economically. Scotland and Wales are heavily dependent on the public sector. They vote accordingly. The anti-Tory voting bloc in Scotland and Wales was an overwhelming 90 to nine. This perpetuates political support for public sector spending that Britain cannot afford. My fellow Celts prefer to live in La-La land.

Would that be the la la land where proportional representation doesn't exist in Australia?

Ah well many a book has been written about the Irish (and the Scots) and their self-hatred, and the self-hatred of their finest authors, not least James Joyce, so if Sheehan is off in la-la land with his fellow Celts, then surely all is well in the world.

Even so, it's surpassingly rich for Sheehan to blame "the celts" for all the problems Britain faces, though perhaps it makes a refreshing difference from blaming Islamics or trade unions or coloured folk.

Whatever, it's our earnest hope that the scribes of England don't look to Sheehan for solutions to their woes, because all they'll get is ill-informed chauvinism and a remarkable bout of antipodean flag waving.

(Below: and let's not forget the difficult Irish and their vexatious desire for home rule).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Piers Akerman, a rich array of adjectives for ransacking, and sundry pond matters ...

(Above: more Nicholson here).

Reassured by the news that a cup of tea with Tony Abbott will make even the most sordid policy - including the inhuman treatment of other people - okay, we strode out into the Sunday digital landscape free of tremulous fear.

All was well on the pond - thanks the fantastic restorative powers of a cup of cha thanks love, up against the filthy vile undermining effects of coffee - and what did we see, but naturally and inevitably, over in one corner, the indefatigable Piers Akerman beavering away with Spending your cash to fight Rudd's fight.

Given half a chance to turn any policy into a disaster, the agile cat-like Akker Dakker pounced on Chairman Rudd's advertising campaign, to counter the mining industry's advertising campaign, failing to understand that this is a clever initiative by the Rudd government to get us to switch off our televisions, get out of our houses and enjoy the last few days of autumn with some healthy physical exercise.

Here at the pond of course we take a principled stand, as expected of the aborigines this past century.

Let the valiant multinational mining companies loot and pillage and dig up and ship out as much as they can for as little tax as they can manage, so that Australia can experience a soul brother experience with the inhabitants of New Guinea, and never mind a little mercury. If' we're going to be a quarry, let's be the best and cheapest damn little quarry in the whole of the south Pacific, and if we run out of minerals, in the way that Nauru ran out of bird shit, hey we can become a dumping ground for refugees. And not just a pissant one, but a billion dollars a year for a couple of hundred a year, thank you very much.

Nonetheless, Piers was in fine feckless form, with a flurry of adjectives, and as usual when he's in top spray mode, we love to give a little summary of his best phrases and adjectives.

Disastrous dollar yo-yo new us-against-them class-war cornerstone national emergency devastating threatening mothball freeze political ploy proven level of incompetence goose of a Treasurer duplicitous Finance Minister the list goes on unpopular dismal Henry Review truth first goes out the window sad saga of appalling mismanagement grossly abused standards of governance heavily politicised and loaded committee ideologically and politically correct series of recommendations distorted almost beyond recognition cannot be accused of hypocrisy in the matter nowhere to hide from that charge customary contradictory fashion willing connivance blatantly political advertising as sick cancer a cancer on democracy grotesque once-loyal Labor apparatchiks now openly laugh at Mr Rudd ...

We invite anyone interested in using this treasurer trove of adjectives to fossick through and find one that might suit their needs. As a bonus we offer up vile, filthy and abstemious. Not sure why, they just happen to appeal this Sunday morning ...

Akker Dakker concludes triumphantly:

From coast to coast, Labor focus groups are reporting an upwelling of deep personal disapproval for the once-popular PM, a visceral scorn that transcends any the trade union movement was able to muster for former PM John Howard.

Indeed, and there's just one problem for the Liberals:

From coast to coast, Loon Pond focus groups are reporting an upwelling of deep personal disapproval for the policies of Tony Abbott, once the effects of a cup of tea have worn off, a visceral scorn that transcends any abiding memories of the scorn that having a cup of tea with former PM John Howard produced.

Back to the Pacific solution? Why must Abbott aim for his toes and the Howard mud below, when Chairman Rudd already does it so well?

Meanwhile, Heath Aston offers up an incisive study of dumb perplexity in Campbell outing has Seven in the doghouse.

Chewing over this now very old Campbell bone, which has been buried and dug up several times, Aston manages his own kind of homophobia quite well by attributing the attacks on Seven to a fear of homophobia:

Those like former High Court judge Michael Kirby who claim the Campbell story highlights nothing more than the media's – and in particular Seven's – homophobia miss the point.

It is the homosexual nature of his behaviour that kept a relative lid on the fallout associated with the biggest political scandal of the year and saw the whole thing blow up in Seven's face.

Oh yes, the Australian media is terribly afraid of homosexual scandals, as was demonstrated by its exemplary behaviour during the whole Michael Kirby Bill Heffernan chauffeur affair (remember that fall out here in Claims PM's former driver supplied forged Kirby document).

Yes the slavering slobbering hounds were kept firmly on the leash ... no doubt because the alleged homosexual nature of Kirby's behaviour kept a relative lid on the fallout associated with the biggest legal scandal of the year ... until the whole thing blew up on the face of Heffernan and the media.

Deep down Aston is mortally offended that the media might not be able to dig up and chew on a good juicy sex scandal, and so he has to invent a heterosexual equivalent in his own bizarro world:

Seven undoubtedly now wishes it had sprung Campbell leaving a straight venue – though I'm not sure a straight version of Ken's exists.

Imagine if Kristina Keneally had stood up nine days ago and said, "David has been living with a terrible secret for 20 years: He enjoys sex with multiple women who are not his wife, Edna."

Feminists and family groups would still be shouting about his misogyny and deception and Seven would be crowing about their exclusive.

Actually, there haven't been too many feminists and family groups shouting about the misogyny of footballers swinging their dicks with sixteen year olds and demanding that names be named and footballers be shamed ...

No doubt there are a few Christians wanting to get upset, but the urge for a little privacy - even for a nude non-Pauline Hanson - is thankfully a little stronger. Which is why when Aston prattles on about how double lives and politics never mix, he should remember that journalism and double lives might not mix either, in this day of idle scuttlebutt on the intertubes.

Expect journalists to live life on the straight and narrow? Why that's totally unrealistic and unfair. Yes, and so it is with politicians if a little sex on the side, of whatever kind, doesn't interfere with their duties. (Here we might exclude actual sex on ministerial desks, since if nothing else precious bodily fluids might have an impact on briefing papers ... or politicians sniffing chairs in the workplace ... or politicians mating with politicians, an unhealthy incestuous practice, especially if conducted across party lines, and likely to sire green Liberals to the consternation of Tony Abbott).

But enough already about the probity of dogs with fleas.

The Sun-Herald is maintaining the rage about Senator Stephen Conroy with Filter goes ahead regardless, and after seeing how the straw poll associated with the story is running, it seems only fair to add as a bonus header that Anyone Other than Conroy gets our vote regardless.

And finally over at The Australian, Peter van Onselen continues to stir the pot about Julia Gillard challenging Chairman Rudd in Gillard content to play waiting game.

Oh he knows how to tempt in a wicked way. Should Chairman Rudd be voted back in by a squeak and a prayer so that the country can have its first, competent female Prime Minister? Okay, we admit it, it's our fondest hope that the carrot top gets the top job, and not by way of being the last woman standing, in the manner of Kristina Keneally or Joan Kirner ...

Oh it's a fun time to be on the pond, and with Dennis Hopper dead, and Rikkie Lee Jones performing like a trooper last night but showing her age, we should enjoy it while we can ...

(Below: a younger Rikkie Lee in vhs quality).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Christopher Pearson, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Fraser, and a cup of tea dear?

(Above: back to the future with Malcolm Fraser).

The indefatigable if ponderous Christopher Pearson is now in full scale electioneering mode, and week after week he can be reliably expected to find fresh crises demanding a response at the ballot box.

A couple of weeks ago, the ETS was all the go:

Q&A is (rather clunkily) interactive and, while Wong was equivocating, a tweet flashed up demanding that someone ask her why, if Labor still believed in climate change, they didn't take the country to a double-dissolution election on the issue. It was the question of the week, of course. (here).

These days there are other questions of the week, one asked adroitly by Lenore Taylor, regarding Tony Abbott's ambidextrous relationship to climate change:

His personal views about climate science also appear to vary according to his audience.

To audiences such as the listeners of climate sceptic and 2GB host Alan Jones he says things like ''in the end, this whole thing … should be a question of fact, not faith - and we can discover whether the planet is warming or not by measurement and it seems that, notwithstanding the dramatic increases in man-made CO2 emissions over the last decade, the world's warming has stopped''.

To the environmental business leaders on Thursday he had a differently nuanced argument: ''I am confident, based on the science we have, that mankind does make a difference to climate, almost certainly the impact of humans on the planet extends to climate.'' (Abbott no Captain Courageous).

Not to worry, this week in A failure to negotiate and bad leadership, Pearson finds a new crisis of belief and policy for the week, and it is of course the mining tax.

Which suggests he must have indolently filed his column a little early, since he's missed out on a truly meaningful cudgel, with Chairman Rudd and his minions making a fundamental mistake in the fight against the mining giants - Taxpayers fund Swan's ad blitz - which provided this kind of more up to date commentary from the likes of Michelle Grattan, with Ad campaign will trash PM's reputation.

Oh well, that's next week's crisis of the week.

Unfortunately what Pearson offers up - along with the crisis du jour - as incisive insightful commentary reads more like a paid political speech for his master, delivered off a stump somewhere in the Domain to an uncaring crowd:

If elected, Tony Abbott would do whatever he thought necessary to restore Australia's reputation as a stable jurisdiction for international mining investment.

Surely we can find room for General William Tecumseh Sherman's approach to politics and the joys of Sherman speech? If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.

Now there's a political stance I can understand.

The rest of Pearson's diatribe is so wholeheartedly one sided and dully predictable that it's impossible not to stifle a yawn, and think back over the pleasures of Ashkenazy and the SSO doing Mahler last night. The maestro always whips up a sweat, though the week before I had the fear that the symphony might have actually killed him off before our eyes up there on the podium ...

But I digress. The only reason for reading Pearson - and these days the reasons grow less and less by the day because of a festering abundance of displays of filial devotion to his master - is to enjoy the sting in the tail.

This week there's a little flourish of bitchiness at Malcolm Fraser, most appropriate just at the moment that Tony Abbott has announced he's determined to revive the Pacific solution, to the anger of his few remaining actually liberal backbenchers.

Yep, forget the mining tax as the crisis du jour, this weekend the weekly crisis was supposed to be Abbott tries for Tampa poll.

Not so, according to Pearson, trying to keep the team on song.

This of course requires in passing the obligatory disavowal and ritual disembowelling of that past, but still grumpy, talkative, cantankerous curmudgeon, the head prefect, aka the Nareen squatter:

Malcolm Fraser's disavowal of the Liberal Party will not come as a surprise to anyone who's heard him on the subject at any time since 1985. The wonder is that at his age he still has such a burgeoning sense of moral vanity and the need for approval from people whose first instinct is still to despise him.

As we've noted here before, it used to be that it was the Labour party that devoured its own, and jokes about righteousness and zealotry and ideological pureness always focussed on the arcane ways of leftists:

Reg: ... Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.
PFJ: Yeah ...
Judith: Splitters.
PFJ: Splitters ...
Francis: And the Judean Popular People's Front.
PFJ: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Spiltters ...
Loretta: And the People's Front of Judea.
PFJ: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters.
Reg: What?
Loretta: The People's Front of Judea. Splitters.
Reg: We're the People's Front of Judea.
Loretta: Oh, I thought we were the Popular Front.

Well it's clear these days that conservatives care just as much about ideology and about splitters like Malcolm Fraser. So much for the broad church. Sing the Latin mass or bugger off. In happier days, Pearson wasn't quite so dismissive, as opposed to anthropological ...

Fraser's Western District squatter origins appealed to old sectarian attitudes within the Liberal Party, although he wasn't himself noticeably bigoted and Bob Santamaria, a good judge of character, always had a soft spot for him. His reign was the last hurrah of a particular style of Anglo-Australian-ness. Despite his opposition to racism and apartheid, for example, he didn't for a minute believe that Jack was as good as his master ... (Christopher Pearson: Catholics flock to cabinet).

And speaking of the commentariat devouring their own, what better way to waste an hour of your life but to read Gerard Henderson's Media Watch devouring Christopher Pearson moralist?

Meantime, even richer is Pearson's portrayal of Abbott's relationship to the gang of four genuinely liberal Liberals left in the party, and his caring approach to them, which found Judith Troeth hearing about the coalition's new policy over the radio (Lib anger at refugee plan).

Here's how Pearson spins it:

The last of the Fraser Liberals, all four of them, joined forces to deplore Abbott's announcement this week that the Coalition was going to curtail temporary protection visas for unauthorised arrivals and reintroduce a version of the Pacific Solution. Much was made of the fact, especially by the ABC, that the new policy wasn't taken to a vote at a party meeting, as though it might not have won enough support.

The truth of the matter is that Abbott was mindful of just how isolated Judith Troeth, Judi Moylan, Russell Broadbent and Petro Georgiou were going to be in the party room.

You see! Deep down Tony Abbott is caring and sharing, and deeply worried about the emotional stability of the few remaining wets in the party when confronted by their loneliness and isolation.

There was no suggestion of stifling dissent. Having occasionally been on the receiving end of displays of majoritarian hubris himself, especially around the time of the republic referendum, he thought the most sensible thing to do was give them a polite, private hearing over a cup of tea.

A cup of tea!

Yes, just as I thought Pearson's column was going to tip over into cataclysmic tedium, and brain munching ennui, he delivers the capper of the week. Abbott gave them a polite private hearing over a cup of tea!

By golly, Tony Abbott is going to lead Australia into a tea-led recovery.

Unless of course the splitters spoil the broth with their milk and sugar ways.

Time for that oldie but goldie by Tony Hancock, and his performance in Look Back in Hunger in the East Cheam Drama Festival:

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

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

BROTHER: What's he mean, Mum?

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

Not a cup of tea with Tony Abbott? But it makes the pain go away ...

(Below: Tony Hancock with a cup of tea, and perhaps thinking from beyond the grave on Tony Abbott and tea?)

Friday, May 28, 2010

David Penberthy, the iPad, the Oz, and the mote in the eye ...

(Above: a screen cap of the Oz getting excited about the iPad. So if you click on the blue thingy link, you get no action)

It's hard being a journo. Week in, week out, the search for a fresh angle, sometimes in a field where the bystanders and gawkers and jay walkers have trodden into the mud every precious little spring flower of difference.

Much easier to select a loon and scribble loonish things about their loonish ways.

Even so, and all that said and done, enough already David Penberthy, and I'll bet you're dying to get one of those iPads they're dying to make. (Okay, I tweaked his header, but I reckon it fits).

Penbo whips himself up into a veritable lather about sundry ironies involving the iPad:

Call me a miserable old piece of shit but I reckon it’s pretty weird that on the same day that some of Australia’s most committed virgins are queuing up in the cold outside the Apple Store for the launch of the iPad, in China, they’re queuing up on the roof to kill themselves at the factory that manufactures them.

Well you miserable old piece of shit, take a look at the front page of The Australian, and get your broom and start cleaning out that augean stable, as Chairman Rupert and his lackeys celebrate the arrival of the iPad as a way of charging for content. Pretty weird huh?

Of course you could take this angle on all kinds of western consumption items - two dollar store items, sneakers, joggers, track suits, clothing, Nike, plasma screens, whatever of the thousand and one consumer items shipped out of Asia to a gluttonous west.

In the usual way, such a story wouldn't be a true moral tale without sanctimony and righteous indignation, especially if the queue is for a neat toy, as opposed to a rock concert:

If you want to know the story of globalisation, this one surely will do. On George St, Sydney, extra staff have been called in at the Apple Store to cope with the demand as hundreds of cashed-up geeks gather in a display of commodity fetishism which will hopefully be the subject of formal study by some sardonic anthropologist from the developing world.

Meanwhile, not that far north at the Foxconn factory in China’s Hunan province, nets have been installed on the roof after an 11th employee hurled himself to his death as the workers struggle to meet a deadline which has been created by our demand.

Apple is Apple so it has largely escaped the kind of Naomi Klein/No Logo vitriol which has damaged companies such as Nike and Puma.

And Murdoch land is Murdoch land and seems largely to have escaped Penbo's wrath, even if it seems that they're determined to be lickspittle lackey peddlers and mongers of Apple iPad friendly apps (along with the ABC and others determined to get on the gravy train).

Motivating Penbo is the kind of idle Puritanism that sees greenies retreat from consumerism to caves, or St. Simon Stylites clamber on to a pillar in the desert, or stick in the mud stay at homes mock trendies for being trendy. Except of course it's what we know in the trade as a neat double flip with reverse hypocrisy, since the point is also to berate greenies and hippies and zealots and Naomi Klein and No Logo for wanting an iPad and thereby showing double standards.

Of course if you follow this kind of stuff down the rabbit hole and chew on the mushroom long enough, there's no way anyone in the west can have any modern appliance, for fear of breaking the 'logo enhanced' lore or causing untold misery in China, way worse than Mao's efforts:

It’s because Apples are, like, soooo cool, and nobody else makes their stuff anyway, so it’s not like you have a choice or anything, you really just need an iPod and an iPhone and a Powerbook and now an iPad, right?

And I really need to buy and read The Australian, the Daily Terror and the HUN on my iPad, right? Not to mention The Punch when it finally works out what it's on about, and can charge for the pleasure of being read on an iPad, instead of just being the dullest conversation in Australia, right?

It's always funny when free market private enterprise lackeys get a touch of righteousness, and go socialist and start labelling other people who make and sell goods as somehow tainted. It's such an hysterical double-standard.

Oh wait, that's Penbo's line:

It’s such a hysterical double-standard and proof that when it comes to consumer boycotts people are only actually prepared to impose an arbitrary ban on something they think they can live without.

And that’s the flipside of the issue - why do people think they can’t live without this stuff?

Which begs an even more insidious question. Why on earth would anyone - except a journalist in search of an angle - imagine that people can't live without this stuff? Or forget that people from time immemorial have queued up for tickets to a Star Trek convention? Or mebbe Galaxy Quest?

And why wouldn't anyone understand that it's the basic business of marketing to whip up a 'must have it now' mentality. A technique which extends into every aspect of private enterprise marketing - must watch blue things hump beasts in 3D now, and help save News Corp, must see the toads humiliate the cockroaches in 3D now, and help save the Nine network, must spend money on Rupert Murdoch's daily news to save the newspaper industry now, read all about it latest digital edition ...

The point being? And don't tell me it's insanity everywhere ...

Oh wait that is the point, because it seems Penbo himself drank the kool aid:

I got an iPod last year. For those of you who don’t know it’s like a small computer version of a Walkman which contains music and if you plug it into things like the car radio, or the stereo, songs come out of it.

Gee, can we wiki that description? So much better and now and real than the inept wiki which calls it a portable media player.

But it’s just an appliance.

And at what point did our society start queuing for appliances? We’ve turned into the affluent version of the former Soviet Union.

Oh indeed. And at what point in our society did people begin to queue for dance marathons, and so provide the raw material for Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Perhaps it was at the same point that they learned to queue for a bus in Sydney.

I keed, I keed. The queue is after all a wonderful British invention that has been with us a long time, developed and refined until it reached a peak surreal existential absurdity in the queue for a taxi at Sydney airport.

Which leads me to this thunderous denunciation:

And at what point did our society start queuing for taxis? We’ve turned into the affluent version of Canberra airport.

But wait, let's not get in the road of Penbo's fine feathered flurry of thoughts, as the coffee drives the words onto the computer screen:

When the first toasters were released did people sleep out overnight in George St in their jaunty denim caps and waxed moustaches to be the first proud owner of a magic bread-warming machine? Did the ladies camp out in anticipation of being the first to own a curling wand? Was there a crush when the first Breville Kitchen Wizz hit the market?

Damn it, he left out the bit about getting into a queue to cross the Anzac bridge in peak hour. And camping out to see the Beatles. Too young.

Well it seems poor old Penbo needs to learn a little about queues and queue theory and luckily the wiki can offer up queue area and queueing theory as starters for those who care. You might then be able to make more sense of it than Penbo:

We’ve all got too much time on our hands, too much damned money and too screwed up a sense of what is actually important or even interesting.

Surely he can't mean reading The Punch? Only sadists and surrealists can see the point of that, given that it's not actually important or even interesting ...

Yet Penbo does raise a matter of great concern.

Sadly it seems the great British queue might be in decline - see the Good queue guide - and it raises the question why Penbo isn't celebrating the revival of the ancient art of queuing on the streets of Sydney?

Threatening the queue is a faster pace of life, higher expectations and a growing intolerance at being kept waiting and Mr Stewart-David's research has identified the points at which queues threaten to break down.

These include when people feel a queue is too long or when the wait exceeds their expectations - three to four minutes is our tolerance level for buying a train ticket - at which point "people visibly begin to look stressed or walk off".

Three to four minutes? Sheesh, and they reckon Londoners are tough. As the great Dundee himself might say, that's not a queue, come to Sydney and we'll show you a queue.

Meanwhile the hyper-ventilating righteous Penbo is in wrap up mode:

Personally I just love the fact that even the most hyper-groovy among our number can assuage their instinctive and loudly-voiced concern over dodgy, life-ending work practices in the developing world, just because it’s just such a totally cool must-have item.

Fuck me dead. I used to think that I'd perfected the art of grumpy fear and loathing of the hyper-groovy, but who could top the chip on the shoulder routine developed by Penbo?

Well I guess it's time to admit I don't have to queue for an iPad. I've already got one, and it's a nice toy, and now I'm super hyper-groovy, so you all can get sanctimonious about the dodgy life-ending work practices in the developing world, but truth to tell Penbo all you've got to show for your own support for dodgy life-ending work practices is an iPod.


Bet you use a PC too.

Sadly, the one bit of consumer advice Penbo could have given, he didn't. Which is to say that if you're not an early adopter, obsessed with the new, then it will pay to wait for the second iteration of the iPad. The next generation will have more features - there's already talk of a camera, storage will likely be enhanced, the kinks ironed out a little more, and so on - and the pricing might not be so savage, as Apple has a long history of fleecing early adopters while doing product development on the fly.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking of forming a queue to protest at News Corp:

Personally I just love the fact that even the most hyper-groovy among our number can assuage their instinctive and loudly-voiced concern over dodgy, life-ending work practices in the developing world, by trying to make a metaphysical mountain out of a mole hill involving the news that a new gadget has hit the streets. While forgetting that their capitalist employer News Corp is wildly excited about it ...

Or is this just a deep game being played by Penbo to promote the iPad, in the way that Republicans proved government couldn't work by promoting George Bush to run it?

UPDATE: Mumbrella's How The Australian fell in love with the iPad. What a hoot.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The 'Tiser, cults and cultists, and how to turn back a tidal wave with political prayer ...

(Above: bullets hidden in bedheads. Oh Adeelaaayaaade).

Every so often Adelaide offers up special lifestyles more interesting than a Scientologist in search of volcanoes.

Bodies in fridges, lecturers in the Torrens, the Truro murders, barrels in Snowtown, and so on and so forth.

Right now the town is in the grip of a doozy, namely a doomsday cult, the Agape ministries, and its leader Rocco Leo.

For The Advertiser, long a tabloid, it's tabloid heaven, and they're making a meal out of it.

The latest riff is that cult leader Leo visited Vanuatu in a bid to get villagers to donate their land as a safeguard against the apocalypse, but didn't do so well:

"He told me God gave him the gift for healing and God told him to find a place to build a church for people to get healing.

"I took him all over the island to different people to talk about finding a place for his mission."

But Leo, described as a "charming and charismatic, fast talking preacher" was irked by the villagers' reluctance to part with their land.

"Here in Vanuatu it takes time to get customary land exchanged into privately owned," said Iad.

"You can't just take our land for free with a handshake," he added. (
Doomsday fugitive visited Vanuatu).

Hmm, does this mean the people of Vanuatu have more sense than the citizens of Adelaide?

Not really, the world has always had cults, and schoolmarmish Adelaide wouldn't like to stand out from the crowd.

Ever wondered why, when you trot off to a new town, chances are you're likely to find the Catholic or a Protestant church occupying a choice bit of real estate, often on top of a hill if the town happens to have a hill? They got in early. There's nothing like decent, solid real estate for a church interested in showing it's a rock built on a rock.

Sadly for The Advertiser, but not so sad for the cultists trapped in the cult, the affair lacks the kind of pizzaz and fireworks offered up by David Koresh in his Waco cult (and if you ever want to understand why people can go mad, why not drop in to Waco and say hello).

Sure the cult, with a core membership of forty to sixty members, had a stock of fifteen guns, fuses, dets, extendable batons and 35,000 rounds of ammunition, secreted in various parts of the twelve properties raided by the cops - the very things you need when Armageddon is just around the corner, but Armageddon came a tad early for Leo, forcing him to go on the run.

What's left behind are shattered lives and strange deluded beliefs of the usual kind associated with cults. There's access to young women as "little brides", and there's a letch for 2012 as the end times, and there's an obsession with mind-controlling microchips. There's the heavily fortified "church" and snarling German Shepherd guard dogs, and much more.

No need to steal the 'Tiser's thunder - you can read all that and more in Police raid Agape Ministries of God doomsday cult properties.

And if that gives you a taste, you can also dip into Zealots ready for battle in Adelaide Hills. Take a look at a handy map of the cult compound here in pdf form. Not to mention a gallery of snaps of assorted cult highlights, which sad to say, lack a little in the way of 'je ne sais quoi' when it comes to a decent flurry of visual cult sensationalism.

Unless as an Adelaidean you find a photo of Nick Xenophon looking extremely concerned some kind of visual highlight.

Naturally Nick is out and about on the matter - Don't be chicken on cults, senator urges - and even spruiked what he called "mind control laws" in Cult raids prompt calls for mind-control laws.

It being good old SA, it wasn't long before people worked out that Mike Rann's notorious bikie laws might be used against the cult - Bikie laws could be turned on cults - and the affair also led to some fierce philosophising by Tory Shepherd in If you start to ban cults, where do you stop, given an anxiety attack by Senator Nick's proposed mind control laws:

... if you start to ban cults, where do you stop? The best minds in the world still struggle to separate cult from religion. Do you base the decision on how many members there are? How different the beliefs are from the major world religions? Your mistrust of the leader?

There are not large numbers of Aborigines still practising their ancient rituals. Jesus only had 12 disciples originally, so size doesn't really matter.

The major world religions are constantly at each others' throats, so cannot be counted on to be any sort of yardstick.

The leaders of many long-established churches could be called charismatic, and have been found guilty of heinous crimes throughout history, and in the present day. Banning cults would also be a restriction on freedom of religion. The only fair way to target them is through their criminal behaviour, and by removing the tax-free status of all religions.

Indeed. Here at the pond we too have been a victim of a cult. The tithing was much the same as the Adelaide cult - ten per cent of earnings was deemed the ideal, but truth to tell it had slipped to whatever you could hide in an envelope and drop on the tray. Children were required to go to the cult school, and be harassed by weirdly dressed penguins into strange beliefs, including the notion that there'd be pie in the sky by and by, with the world destined to end soon enough, but let's not put an exact date on it.

There was sweet smelling incense, and a weird babbling in an exotic tongue, worthy of Baptists but actually borrowed from Romans, and each week, a regular meal of human blood and human flesh, even if presented in the humble form of wine and wafers (not that the punters got the blood, that bit was usually reserved for head cannibals at the altar). And of course there was the fetishising of the innocent ... who can forget the sheer whiteness of their first communion dress, matched only by the dark sinfulness of human sexuality?

But you can't ban cults. Some of them have been around for a couple of thousand years and have become very adept at survival skills and blending in with their surroundings. It's the johnny come latelies, who don't have a decent church on a decent hillside location, that cause all the troubles. They have to up the ante, and offer up short term panic while rifling through the goodies and abusing their unholy powers of persuasion.

A few petty souls will see this as just another example of the weirdness of Adelaide, and it's true you need to listen to more than a Paul Kelly song to get the flavour of a town surrounded by wineries and further out a relentlessly semi-desert landscape.

My favourite moment? Surely it has to be this, as remembered in Rachael Kohn's the spirit of things - an ABC show dedicated to celebrating cults and cultists (oh alright if you will religion and the religious).

This particular show, titled When Prophecies Fail, provides a transcript of the ABC reporting on that fatal day January 19th 1976:

Good morning. I'm Hamish Robertson, this is AM. And first, let's say a cheery Good Morning, Adelaide, nice to see you're still with us. Today of course is The Day, January 19th, which if an Adelaide housepainter-cum-clairvoyant can be believed, is the day the city could meet its doom. There's to be an earthquake and tidal wave. No hard, or even soft, scientific facts mind you, just a feeling. But Adelaide has taken heed, it seems, and their King Canute, Premier Don Dunstan, is down at Glenelg Jetty today to prove there's nothing to worry about. Also watching the water lap around the jetty is Jim Bonner.

Jim Bonner: The Glenelg Jetty at this moment probably looks the same as it does at this time of the day every summer, with the first few tourists and would-be swimmers just starting to turn up. I don't know if any of them are taking the day off work, but they might be here for the party which is meant to get under way soon. A pastrycook is going to sell pasties and orange juice in anticipation of a big crowd. He'll be dressed for the occasion in case anything unusual occurs: in a bow-tie, bathers, flippers and snorkel.

There's also a report of insurance company employees walking to work wearing wetsuits and underwater diving gear. But job absenteeism is one of the big worries as a result of what Mr Dunstan describes as the 'quite nonsensical hysteria arising from the earthquake and tidal wave prediction.'

Don Dunstan: There is absolutely no basis for it at all. And I would not make a statement about it because I think it's such nonsense, but for the fact that it has already caused a very great deal of community damage, and is likely to cause more from the reports and complaints that have been made to me.

There have been families which have put themselves into debt to move out of South Australia at that time, there are other families who have sold their houses when they couldn't afford to do so. That sort of thing has happened amongst some poorer sections of the community. I'm trying to see to it that there is no more damage, and trying to reassure people that there is absolutely nothing in this at all.

Jim Bonner: All this fuss because a housepainter claimed that God was going to have his revenge on Adelaide for becoming a sin city.

And you know what? There wasn't a tidal wave that day, and ever since then I've worshipped Don Dunstan for his King Canute capacities, and his mystical ability to calm the seas. All kneel and worship St. Don ... or at least use his recipe to prepare your olives. (and here's the recipe folks, hurry before the link goes down).

The rest of Kohn's show about cults is worth a read too, but enough already, let's not have any talk about the 'Tiser or the pond not delivering true meaty value for cultists interested in loon cultists.

As for Adelaide, take it away Paul. Ah that wisteria and the great aunts and Kengsinton road running straight for a while before turning:

Miranda Devine, and the assassination of Malcolm Fraser as typed by the inmates of the asylum of the SMH under the direction of the Marquis de Sade

(Above: actual icepick believed to have been used in the murder of Trotsky. Notice the resemblance to Miranda the Devine's keyboard, and Malcolm Fraser's startling resemblance to Trotsky in the badly staged re-enactment in the photo below. More on the icepick here).

And so the trashing of Malcolm Fraser begins all over again.

Just after Janet Albrechtsen bemoaned the bee hive mind of the left, why here comes Miranda the Devine strutting along, determined to show just how much of a collective beehive mind the conservative commentariat contains.

If you join the modern Liberal party, it seems you'd better not be Piggy, or if you are, you should prepare for a 'kill the beast' party in best Lord of the Flies fashion.

In A convert to the preaching will have no power to change, the Devine is determined to prove that she's the bitch from hell, and she can shove the slipper into an old man with reckless abandon. Cop this for an opener, as she lumps Fraser in with Peter Carey:

You had to feel for Marcia Langton on ABC TV's Q&A panel this week, stuck between two men so terminally pompous, out of touch and in love with the sound of their own voices you felt at times they might fall stiffly off their chairs and writhe on the ground in private ecstasy.

Malcolm Fraser and Peter Carey, fresh from the Sydney Writers' Festival, are the sorts of self-styled intellectuals who give thinking a bad name.

Actually - and perhaps for the first time - I felt some kind of sympathy for Fraser and Carey, being given a dust up by a woman who gives thinking a bad name, and whom you couldn't - not without disgracing the concept - honour with the title self-styled intellectual.

Perhaps self-styled loon, or ratbag, or unstylish feral ranting and raving member of the personal abuse commentariat.

The next time you read some member of the commentariat blathering on about playing the man rather than the ball, or people dwelling on personalities rather than policies, remember it's fair game, and you can shove it up them Miranda style, preferably loaded with a goodly abundance of class hatred and spiteful bitterness.

You see, Fraser kept his quitting of the Liberal party very quiet, didn't use it to sell his book, and feared front page haymakers having a field day, and for good reason.

Cop this bit of payback and group think:

He (Fraser) has always gone out of his way to malign and belittle John Howard, his one-time treasurer who well and truly eclipsed him in the PM stakes. How it must have rankled that some half-deaf nerd from Canterbury Boys' High could best him, the tall imperious scion of the Victorian squattocracy who speaks as if he has a mouthful of cotton wool.

Sheesh, and they reckon the comrades are the ones to knife their own in the back. Take that literary icepick to the back of the neck Malcolm.

Still, I'm sure John Howard is chortling away at being called a half-deaf nerd. Now there's an image for a legacy ...

Fraser's folly of course is to pursue sundry ideological lines which puts him at odd with the current Liberal zealots, and with the likes of Miranda the Devine. This requires a cleansing, a kind of verbal icepick to the stem of the brain, to make sure there can be no deviations from the norm. If no gulag is convenient to hand, then it's a simple matter of hysterical abuse ... of a personal kind, with hints about drooling bitterness in old age:

He (Fraser) also accused the opposition, laughably, of not pursuing government wrongdoing hard enough. Better yet was his confident claim that the British and American governments knew Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and the Howard government, if it didn't know, "should have".

He's obviously been reading too much Green Left Weekly, or perhaps he gets his history from the Hollywood conspiracy genre of Green Zone. Even the host, Tony Jones, didn't pursue this fruitcake line.

Fruitcake!? So now we have a new definition of fruitcake. The preposterous notion that a government should have a firm understanding, grounded in reality, for going off to war, a war in which thousands were killed, and millions displaced. If that's fruitcake mom, give me some more of the fruitcake.

Fraser of course made the mistake of suggesting that Tony Abbott isn't fair dinkum - a relatively benign observation given the way that Abbott comports himself, let alone what he says about being economical with the truth - but this of course places him in Malcolm Turnbull's camp, and so there needs to be another 'kill the beast' session, with icepick, in what can only be considered an extraordinary Freudian outburst. How did that old Doors song go? This is the end my friend, I'll never look into your eyes again? Take it away Miranda ...

The Freudian highlight of Monday night's show came when Jones inadvertently referred to Fraser as "Malcolm Turnbull". Fraser looked pleased, and you can see some similarity in the two men's unscrupulous ambition and capacity for destruction. But Turnbull is positively humble by comparison, can admit mistakes, and does not eat himself up with old grievances. He is a far sunnier fellow.

Yep, there's a considered response to Fraser's concerns about the demonising of migrants. If there's one thing Fraser would probably like to be remembered for, it's his humane response to the conflict in Vietnam, and his willingness to embrace its refugees - which I guess is how the local bakery and dry cleaning establishments are being run by Vietnamese.

Such talk of course is treasonous to the right, as they use boat people to whip up hysteria and fear about the 'foreign' and the 'alien' and the 'peril from the north' come to take away our resources and lifestyles, and swamp our cities with gutter trash (and any resemblance to the extreme right of Hansonism is of course just a convenient coincidence).

But wait, we haven't yet done with killing the beast. It must be drained of all blood, gutted and hung up to drain, as required by Freudian ritual:

While spruiking his memoirs earlier this year, Fraser denied that he had become a leftie, insisting he had not changed but the Liberal Party had lurched to the right.

Tony Abbott a lurch to the right? Nick Minchin a lunge to the far right? Eric Abetz a stellar loon? What ever is Malcolm on? These are veritable centrists! Provided the centre is somewhere near the moon ...

That is his perception. But to many observers the Reinvention of Malcolm Fraser is a fascinating study in internal psychological conflict writ small into the craggy creases of his former matinee-idol face.

Sheesh, where to start on the Freudiansm implicit in these pars as Devine forlornly contemplates the craggy creases of the former matinee-idol face. Was she ever infatuated with big old Mal, the head prefect? Did she think of him as some former Über Dad? Does she have the remotest conscious idea of what she's writing?

Oh yes she does. Think of Ripley yelling "get away from her, you bitch", transcribed to account for gender. Get your hands off my party, you bastard. Because you've become one of the aliens, one of the monsters. You see, Malcolm used to be a wonderful monster, and now he's become a different kind of monster"

He used to be a cartoon version of the jut-jawed, born-to-rule elite, the ''Life wasn't meant to be easy'', razor-ganging, Nixonian supply-blocker who became the most loathed politician of his time; now he resides in the very bosom of the progressive left which once reviled him, the pin-up boy of the GetUp! crowd.

It's as if he has a permanent case of Stockholm Syndrome - the defence mechanism in which captives identify with their tormenters and eventually adopt their beliefs

Go on Miranda, don't hold back. Call him a dribbling demented old fool, in a dribbling demented way. Whatever you do, don't try to be moderate or gentle. Be that Ripley bitch from hell, confronted by alien thinking. Show us all how it's done:

There he was, having come to office in 1975 in a most ruthless and unorthodox manner, by overthrowing Labor's progressive darling Gough Whitlam, violently hated by those who saw him as an illegitimate symbol of oppressive patriarchy, and soon enough snubbed by his own party. On university campuses the family name was defaced with a swastika in place of the ''s''. For a long time he was not welcome in fashionable circles and was ridiculed for losing his trousers in Memphis. Regarded as disappointing and a bit of an embarrassment by colleagues, the prime minister who once lionised Mugabe and Mao was blamed for making the Liberals unelectable for 13 years.

Ah yes, the trousers in Memphis. The only mystery is that it took so long for it to emerge in Devine's piece. If you're unfamiliar with the story - what you haven't heard that Billy Snedden died while at work, on the job, so to speak? - then there's a short piece in the wiki here.

And as for the cant about lionising Mugabe and Mao and making the Liberals unelectable for thirteen years, et tu John Howard? Given that you seem to have been happy to trot off to war to help out Hamid Karzai?

But I digress. We haven't yet finished with the Devine's kindly explanation of why Fraser turned soft and wet and leftie, no matter that he showed signs of such wetness during his actual regime, and her representation of his policies and positions is wildly distorted, in the way of a feral child determined to assassinate her father, in best Freudian manner:

It would have broken lesser men. So in a way you can understand his eager acceptance of the small kindnesses which started to come from former opponents. Whitlam always had an amused, half-bemused look on his face as he posed with his new best friend, a convert to all sorts of progressive convictions. The more Fraser converted, the kinder his former foes were to him, and the more he must have boiled at the petty injustices from his own indifferent party.

You see. Not once a mention of actual policies or positions. It's all psychological and the doddering old man, fallen from grace, consorts with his foes, a quisling, a traitor, a treasonous old duffer. Worse than the Vichy French.

The odd thing is that he would have done a lot more damage to conservatives if he'd remained in their ranks. Instead, he's turned into the crabby old muppet Statler, harmlessly heckling the rest of the cast from his balcony seat.

Um if Malcolm is Statler, does that make Miranda the Devine Waldorf, harmlessly arguing from her balcony seat with the crabby old muppet next to her?

Whatever, gourmets of loon pond will recognise that they have been privileged to witness a truly wonderful piece of scribbling, containing an execrable assassination, worthy of the thought police of East Germany, in a desire to hold the fort, and rally the troops around Tony Abbott, and incidentally eradicate any thought of soft leftist retreat towards Malcolm Turnbull.

Meanwhile, the Liberals shed the likes of Petro Georgiou and keep the likes of Julie Bishop. It's a funny old world, and Miranda the Devine certainly makes it even funnier.

Why if she was a man, and a little gender reassignment wouldn't hurt, this particular assassination piece would surely allow her to sing the Doors song with a particular relish in the following lyrics.

Never mind his actual ideas, it's time to roll up the sleeves, put the steel capped boots on, wake up before dawn, and get to work, as she despatches Malcolm Fraser to the abattoir for dissidents and naysayers:

The journo assassin awoke before dawn, he put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall
He went into the room where his sister lived, and...then he
Paid a visit to his brother, and then he
He walked on down the hall, and
And he came to a door...and he looked inside
Malcom, yes son, I want to kill you
Mother...I want to...WAAAAAA

By the way, if you want to see how the socialists farewelled Trotsky after his death, go here. If you can't see the Freudian connection to Miranda the Devine following the party line, you need to see a shrink ...

(Below: spot Miranda the Devine. I'm thinking the craggy creases and the jaw make the muppet on the right Malcolm Fraser, and the one on the left therefore must be Miranda the Devine. Hang on, Miranda the Devine on the left? Wash out your mouth with soap at once, and report for latrine duty! But, but ... it's Waldorf on the left and Statler on the right!)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yahoo Seven, St Kilda footballers, sex with sixteen year olds, and memories of David Campbell ...

(Above: a bunch of inflated balls, needing relief or a good kicking).

Well it's a relief to have it possibly or hopefully confirmed.

AFL footballers can swing their dicks with a sixteen year old, and they won't be dragged through the Seven network's hall of shame. That pleasure's reserved for closeted gay politicians.

Of course the Seven network might still take its job of trawling through the gutter seriously and proceed to dump these rampant heterosexuals in their gutter file, in the eternal quest for ratings. Who knows?

Since I don't watch Seven, I don't know what they will, have or might report.

It seems however that the conduct of the players has had a definite impact on the game. Betting on St Kilda's upcoming clash with Adelaide has been suspended.

Why it could only be worse if they'd suspended betting on the Melbourne cup. Is this Australia? Fancy not being able to bet on a footy match ...

Surely this gives Seven the leeway it needs for its name and shame policy. You know, in the way that David Campbell legally used a ministerial car, and outrageously presented himself as a family man.

These young footballers were presenting themselves at high schools in football clinics as ambassadors for the game, showing how to hold high the standards of sporting heroes, shining exemplars of a way forward for dinkum Aussies wanting to beat East Germany at its state funded sporting triumphs.

Luckily no criminal offence has been committed, and it seems that football clinics at schools aren't a way for AFL footballers to groom young women for sex.

As a result, the Herald Sun was a model of rectitude:

The Herald Sun has chosen not to name the players involved, but their identities have been widely circulated on social networking websites. (here).

And Yahoo!7 also seemed to accept the umpire's verdict regarding decency, modesty, circumspection and noble reticence:

St Kilda released it's own statement saying: "The relationship between each of the two young players and the teenage female was consensual and started after the two young players were introduced to her, following the match in Sydney on March 27," St Kilda's statement said.

"The players did not obtain the teenage female's contact details when attending an AFL school visit".

"The AFL has interviewed the teenage female and confirmed that her story independently supports the statements made by the players."

The Saints say they won't make the players' names public.

Is that it, is that all, appropriately named yahoo Seven? Is that the best you've got? Not that we're hinting at a double standard, or attempting to displace sport from its role as pillar supporting the entire society. There's sisyphean and then there's a definition of futility ...

Mike Sheahan contributed a most thoughtful, exonerating piece for the HUN under the header The game called life, in which he worried about the effects on the St. Kilda coach Ross Lyon, who is of course a family man, but by no means should it be understood that portraying himself as a family man has anything to do with his line of work, nor is it in any way comparable to other harassed family men.

Said Sheahan, in a line up there with Cazaly or perhaps Ned Kelly's 'such is life', while wryly shrugging his shoulders:

That's footy, that's life.

What need for philosophy or religion or zen Buddhism when you can deliver that kind of cryptic koan? Surely he should trademark the line to stop it being used for illegal purposes. Like that's ice cream, that's life, or that's gibberish, that's life.

But talk about a major distraction for the game, talk about trying times for St. Kilda, talk about consequences for the season, bigger perhaps than Riewoldt's hammie (whatever that might be, unless it's the way the shinbone connects to the groin, and the groin gets the footy lads into trouble):

St Kilda and the AFL, and the authorities, have accepted that what ultimately occurred was no more sinister than boys meet girls, and boys and girls repair for sex.

Sadly, it seems an unwanted pregnancy may have resulted.

She was 16 at the time, apparently purporting to be 18.

Then there's the suggestion of the girl's subsequent involvement with a third player from a different club.

A baby means long-term implications for the girl and the father, a most unfortunate consequence of casual sex.

Wise words. Yep, that's cheese, that's life.

The Age was equally virtuous, with a virtue almost matching that of a virgin:

The league said it would not reveal the names of the St Kilda players involved because it believed they had done nothing unlawful, nor anything that warranted sanctions. The Age has chosen not to name the footballers, both senior St Kilda players.

The AFL's Brian Walsh told The Age: ''We name people when we've sanctioned them in some way. In this case, from extensive investigation with all parties, there is no suggestion that they have done anything unlawful, or that they've done anything that would cause concern about their actions during a school visit.'' (here).

Chosen not to! Insiders content to stay on the inside, but nudge nudge, wink wink, they know who done it. Full of high minded feelings, they are, no deus ex machina swinging in from the wings to set the record straight.

You see, the consensual legal sex happened as a result of a nightclub encounter:

The girl, a year 12 student, was interviewed yesterday by police and the AFL and said she had not met the players until late March in a Sydney nightclub after the Saints' first-round victory over the Swans.

Well we know all about Sydney nightclubs, don't we! A rush of blood to the head and then a sneaky Channel 7 reporter poised to reveal the sordid truth to the world.

The nightclub wasn't mentioned by name, which is a pity, because we'd like to add it to our list of secret Sydney nightclubs where you can score a fuck with a footballer.

Yes, boys will be boys, but what happens when boys will be boys with boys? Thanks to Jason Akermanis, who's name eerily evokes thoughts of Piers Akerman, we know this never happens in the AFL, but we know what should happen if it did.

Why blowhards at Seven will blow it all over the media, posing like a cesspit or a sewer overflowing with righteous zeal, or too much storm water.

Well, we look forward to Peter Meakin's righteous expose of the sexual activities of young footballers ... Think of the cars and the families and the sporting clinics and the clubs suffering under the shame ...

Perhaps he could also do a thought provoking piece on the problems alcohol produces amongst the young ... and the elderly ..

On second thoughts, who cares. We too know the names of the footballers involved, or at least we know the scurrilous rumours circulating in the outer orbits of the underbelly of the intertubes, and it's so what, except for them, their families and friends and confidants.

If mainstream media wants a decent identity, it should be by taking a step away from idle gossips and fish mongers (not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with fish mongering). Instead of resigning themselves to running nude photos of not Pauline Hanson as a way of attracting attention to themselves ...

Would that the media had shown the same discretion with David Campbell and focussed on the failed transport policies of the NSW government ...

But hey, that's politics, that's life.

(Below: but what, you ask nervously, would happen to entertainment if the media decided to be discreet? Where the jollies, how the rocks gotten off, whither the pecking order in the farm yard? As always, the pond has the answer, and as usual, it involves the infallible way, falling back to standard, traditional, conservative, religious values ...)

Senator Stephen Conroy, and creepy is as creepy does ...

(Above: our favourite portrait of Senator Conroy by Penny Bradfield. We've run it a few times and can't get enough of it. You can find out more details about Penny Bradfield and her photography here. Good one Penny, you got da eye).

Every so often, we like to pause to remember why a vote for the federal Labor government is impossible, so long as Senator Stephen Conroy is at the helm of Communications.

We'll be voting for the Happy Birthday party, in lieu of a bright spark setting up a local branch of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

Conroy has been at it again, sounding off in a way that suggests he's in the business of imitating Screaming Lord Sutch:

The Government’s net filter trials early last year had found there were substantial technical limitations with blocking any more than 10,000 sites using a blacklist-based approach. In response to a question from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam about how the Government would implement a filter based on more than 10,000 blacklisted websites, Conroy boasted he has been told of filtering technology that could block “up to 50,000 sites”.

“Technology evolves,” Conroy declared, noting that the question was hypothetical. (Conroy: We'll block 50,000 sites).

Being a boofhead of the Victorian right, Conroy best understands the baseball bat and the steel-capped toe as a form of political discourse.

Which is why in recent days he's decided to take on Google. Because Google has been very sniffy about his spiffy Chinese government inspired internet filter, and without Google's help Conroy will struggle with high-traffic sites.

Heck, he'll struggle in so many ways it's hard to contemplate them all right now, at least if you can remember the epic days of grand old censorship, which gradually broke down when people realised that talking about John Thomas and Lady Jane didn't mean the end of the world, so much as an indifferent D. H. Lawrence novel.

The best thing that can be said about Conroy's grand plan is that it will stimulate the private sector, with solid trading in suppliers of proxies and VPN's.

Conroy has of course been talking up Google's collection of wi-fi data - while building its street view mapping service - as a colossal breach of privacy - the biggest in the history of the Western world if you can believe his delusional, outlandish, outrageous rhetoric - never mind his colossal proposed breach of my privacy via his great big new filter.

Google has apologised and moved on, but Conroy doesn't have the glimmer of the concept of an understanding of the meaning of an apology or a back-down. That's the way it is when you're a hammer in search of nails.

Personally I find it fun while on a bus to use the iPad to check out the passing parade of wifi addresses and see if there are mugs about who've forgotten to put a password on their wifi. Dear lord, we even found one of our nearest and dearest had failed to seal off their open network. Tip to grommets - your computer system password is not the same as a wifi password.

As usual when reading tales of a dangerous jungle of an internet, with Senator Conroy purporting to don the guise of a white knight - like Google vs. Stephen Conroy - half the fun is in the comments, and Altakoi delivers up a beauty:

Multi billion dollar corporation at the heart of the internet vs marginally lucid politician from the ineffectual government of a mid-sized country. It's a close call.

Conroy might think it's clever politics to have a go at Google, using the well known meme of privacy to stoke the paranoid flames.

"This is a company that says 'do no evil' but tries to pretend it is not motivated by profit and that it knows best and 'you can trust us' when it comes to privacy. Unfortunately there are no safeguards. They consider themselves to be above government." (Stephen Conroy accuses Google of biggest privacy breach in Western world).

But when he starts talking about Google as being a bit creepy, does the honourable Senator have any idea of how he presents as more than a bit creepy? Like his line, trust me I'm from the government, and you can trust us, and we know best about what to censor, and don't you worry about safeguards, because if you talk about safeguards and freedom, don't you realise you're sounding like a pedophile. Or a lover of pedophiles.

Never mind that his grandiose filter places his government above the people, and decides what adults might want to access and watch, or not, as the case might be.

Because there's no doubt that Conroy, and governments to follow, will attempt to use his great big new filter for purposes of social engineering. Conroy is already on record attributing the deaths of teenagers involving Nembutal to euthanasia websites, and how better to deal with that problem than to ban such websites.

Indeedy, how easy to deal with any pressing social problem by banning pesky difficult websites. Or troublesome, worrisome social network sites that upset concerned governments - in the manner of China, or Pakistan if the secular atheists decide to run a little lookalike cartoon contest.

Meanwhile, it's fun, at least if you like a dash of irony with your tabasco sauce, to use Google to check up on how Conroy's latest splash has garnered him headlines all over the place.

You can even pick up a full Senate transcript of his rant at various places, including here in Conroy attacks Google: full Senate transcript. I do love the way Google's service - Senator Conroy news - instantly brings to your fingertips an abundance of articles detailing the latest in Conroy's war of the creeps.

Why it might even bring you to these comments in Google says Communications Minister Stephen Conroy won't listen:

"Right now, he's decided that filtering's all about Google, for some reason," he (Alan Noble, Google Australia head of engineering) said.

"Singling out companies like Google or Facebook is distracting. It's not about Google, it's about you, me, all Australians."

Mr Noble said Google had been in talks with Senator Conroy about the policy for up to two years, but they had recently broken down.

"We've had extensive discussions with Senator Conroy through the past two years," he said at the company's I/O event in Sydney.

"We've been pretty clear in our views about filtering and stuck to our guns but clearly Senator Conroy is pushing his view very hard.

"Right now, no, I don't think he is listening (to us)."

Never mind Google. Conroy also isn't listening to anyone, including the United States:

Other major internet service providers, including Yahoo, have also criticised the filter plan, describing it as heavy-handed, as has US ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich.

Echoing a view expressed by the US State Department, Mr Bleich said there were other ways of policing illegal content that would not impinge on freedom.

"The internet needs to be free," Mr Bleich said in April.

"We have been able to accomplish the goals that Australia has described, which is to capture and prosecute child pornographers... without having to use internet filters." (Google hits back at Conroy).

Seems that the only way to make Conroy and Chairman Rudd listen is via the ballot box. A pity, but if push comes to shove, the Loony party is going to be a shoe-in in my house ...

Oh yes, and Google owns Blogger, which drives this site, for free, but it's hard to see any conflict of interest at the moment, since they haven't thus far censored this site, while Conroy seeks the powers of totalitarian governments.

And that concludes our monthly rant about Senator Stephen Conroy. Tedious, but when you see a goose of a nail, what's a hammer to do? And now for a couple of more conventional portraits of Senator Conroy in action:

Janet Albrechtsen, stereotypes, cliches, and a little conservative group thinking, with group hug ...

(Above: mmmm, not to mention high fructose Janet Albrechtsen thinking).

It's been awhile since we've dropped in on Dame Slap, sometimes known to the cognescenti and the illuminati as Janet Albrechtsen, but a visit always brings rich cerebral rewards.

Yep, there's nothing like Anti-American Left clutches at the usual cliches, and while some might think it's a jolly good thing to avoid Dame Slap's classroom, truth to tell we'd miss the sound of the lawnmower droning away making fresh mown hay.

After a tirade about cliches, here's the choicest of Dame Slap's insights into the 2010 Sydney Writers' Festival, and the sound of smugness:

... Ironically, the very same smugness explored a few days earlier by Shriver during an intelligent discussion with broadcaster and journalist Caroline Baum. When talking about humour, Shriver said she doesn't care for the clubby nature of most political satire where it is assumed you are all on the same side. "It's what annoys me about liberals in general. Conservatives, as a type, do not assume when they meet someone that you're a conservative . . . Liberals are presumptuous and especially if you seem like a half-way decent human being. The assumption is, of course, you are wildly left-wing." Everyone is regarded as being in the same club. It's "very self-congratulatory", Shriver said.

Yep, it's all hands to the pump when it comes to self-congratulatory smug cliches, as fully endorsed by Dame Slap.

Let me count the approving ways they stack up. Liberals are presumptuous, especially if you seem like a half-way decent human being. Conservatives are a type, but do not make assumptions about type. Tell that to the next dreadlock hippie the next time they order a coffee in Double Bay or Toorak.

Dame Slap is of course indignant about the way birds of a feather flock together, as opposed to conservatives, who never flock, but do like to take regular rests on loon pond:

The festival's big event at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday evening started and finished as a caricature of all that has gone awry with the Left. Not just the refusal to try for nuance, difference or debate on a panel. Progressives seem to think gathering people of different skin colours can be used as proxies for different views.

Not just the sleep-inducing sound and sight of five voices all nodding and shaking their heads to the same anti-American melody. Yes, we all voted for Barack Obama, yes, we all want action on climate change, no to religion, nuclear power, the Tea Party movement, the Bush administration ("evil was being actively pursued every single day"), Sarah Palin and Fox News ("I blame Australia. Thanks, Rupert.") This is the same kind of blubbing uniformity you find at a Tea Party convention.

Shocking! Here on the pond of course we would have voted for what's his name and Sarah Palin, and we don't want any action on climate change, and we are deeply in favour of the Exclusive Brethren and Scientology as meaningful religions, we say yes to nuclear power as a matter of course and think Alice Springs should be evacuated and turned into a deep mine shaft for waste, and we of course think the Tea party movement is riddled with sanity, especially it's abiding fear of world government coming by Xmas, and whenever our thoughts turn to the Bush administration we think of shining goodness being actively pursued every single day, especially by Donald and by Dick, and it goes without saying that we love Sarah Palin, who can see Russia from the porch, and as for Glenn Beck on Fox News, no matter that his ratings are dropping, what a contribution to intellectual discussion in the world. Thanks Fox News, thanks Rupert. Oh and thanks Rupert for the Daily Terror and the Hun and The Australian, the thinking person's dunny facility.

Phew, I think that cleans up everything and establishes loon pond's capacity for group herd think.

Oh dear did that sound more smug than ironic? Dame Slap is on the case:

... it's the smugness of the Left that strikes you the most. Are there different views? Not among decent-minded people surely. Not among our audience anyway, who reek of sensibility with their sensible shoes, their sensibly warm cardigans and scarves.

Oh dear, you wretched cardigan wearers with your sensibly warm cardigans and scarves and your sensible shoes, what an affront to group think and cliches you are! Next thing you know you'll all be out with your Sense and Sensibility readers. What a bunch of Pooters, the lot of you (and as usual on this site, time for a plug for George and Weedon Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody).

But wait, Dame Slap is just warming up, in the way you sometimes find in hysterical conservatives confronted by unwashed people:

It's true the audience seemed content, clapping, heads nodding and shaking in tune. Perhaps this is what the elderly do to relive their salad days of unruly protest marches. Past the age of youthful chanting and traipsing the streets holding up anti-American placards, the audience -- with a mean age of 60 -- seemed to be here to have their views affirmed. And so did the aging activist Anne Summers, who chaired the panel session. Alas, the taxpayer-funded Sydney Writers Festival is not meant to be a political or ideological gathering. Or a protest march for oldies.

Of course not. Still if we're going to think about abolishing view-affirming subsidy on the basis of audience age, I can imagine that the administrators of the SSO and the Australian Opera are now trembling in their shoes.

Writing should, as we all know, take place in a vacuum, and have nothing to do with politics or ideology or society, or if it must, it should be about the rutting rituals of middle class America, as exemplified by John Updike (no, steady we can't mention the likes of John Cheever or William Faulkner). Above all, writers should not gather or protest, or in any way disagree with the thoughts of Chairperson Janet. That would be unseemly.

It seems what most upset Dame Slap was the tendency of certain people - cliche laden types appealing to sensible cardigan wearers - to criticise the United States. When we all know that Rome is a thing unto itself, and is above any kind of contemplation or criticism, especially by writers. Think of it as the Jesus Christ of nations.

What would the dear sensibly shoed things know about war or Iraq or Afghanistan. Worse still, some people were cheeky and deployed irony, a well known indication of liberal tendencies:

Shriver, now living in Britain, told the audience to forget about moving to America because "if this is as good as it gets, then it doesn't get very good". Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American scholar, remarked on the enormous similarities between Iran and America: the sense of greatness, the role of religion in society. Americans treat their founding documents as "scripture", he said. "That's called fundamentalism." So America "feels like home," he said.

Oh no Reza Aslan, that feels like Janet Albrechtsen and The Australian. So Australia must feel like home.

There was no sign of reality. As one panel member said, "I just don't like reality." No honest scorecard of America, a big country that makes big mistakes, to be sure. But also a big country that delivered big help to Europe during World War II, to Bosnian Muslims in Serbia in 1995, to the thousands of people devastated by the Asian tsunami in 2004, to the Burmese in 2008 left to die by their military leaders, and so on. No recognition that the soft power of Europe has done precious little to rescue people in need.

Ah yes, let's keep a scorecard on reality and the United States. That makes sense. Let's first of all mark down the French for their love of secularism, wine and cheese, and their offering of the statue of Liberty to the United States. Let's tote up the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, first at the hand of the Russians, as the mujahideen were helped by the United States, and now by the United States, helped out by whomever could be persuaded to turn up to the war.

Of course the completely meaningless and impossible task of such a metaphorical scorecard shouldn't obscure Dame Slap's main point. When it comes to smugness and cliches, if she deploys them, in the cause of justice, freedom and the United States, they're AOK.

How does it work? Well first of all, you must impugn thoughts to people without consulting them as to their actual thoughts, since thoughts imagined and prescribed by Dame Slap are sufficient for thoughtful thinking:

No doubt, the authors on stage subscribe to the view of novelist Peter De Vries, mentioned in Hitchens's new book, Hitch 22. De Vries said his ambition as a writer was for his books to attract a mass audience, "one large enough for his more elite audience to look down upon".

No doubt Janet Albrechtsen subscribes to the view of Gerard Henderson that there are dangerous elites out of touch with a mass audience, it just so happens that these are trendy liberal socialist inner city elites rather than conservative inner city elites.

When one panel member on Saturday evening seriously suggested that obesity in America was the fault of George W. Bush, it was time to wrap things up for anyone with a modicum of free thinking.

Or time to think about the peculiar nexus in the United States between high-fructose corn syrup, ethanol and massive government subsidy. You don't have to look far for the connections:

Despite its legal snafus, ADM moved into the new millennium with its political clout intact. George W. Bush has diligently maintained the four pillars of ADM's business model: heavily subsidized corn production, a stiff tariff against foreign ethanol, the sugar quota, and ethanol's tax exemption. He even signed off on a fifth pillar, for good measure: The Energy Policy Act of 2005 stipulates that the U.S. gas supply must contain at least 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2015, about double the 2005 level. Since corn ethanol has a vast head start over rivals, most analysts assume the mandate will mainly affect corn ethanol production. (How cash and corporate pressure pushed ethanol to the fore).

I'm guessing - in the way that Dame Slap likes to guess about liberals - that she doesn't drink high fructose corn syrup laden soda while in the United States. I'm guessing she's never been inside a Fatburger store. For all the talk of the conservative elites, I've never actually seen any of them chowing down with the workers, or munching at the factory food that's being flung at them.

When even Paul Sheehan can have a moment of understanding that the rubbish being doled up can actually kill you (Debunking the myth of food, from fetish to Frankenstein), you have to wonder about Albrechtsen's glib dismissal of the role of subsidy in farming in the United States. And this from an ostensible conservative who pauses for a moment in her rant to praise the role of small government. Pull the other one, and while you're at it pull all the special pleading ear marks too.

Never mind, there's none so deaf as those who work for Chairman Rupert:

Let's Talk About America should have been called Let's Attack America, remarked my friend as we walked out.

Never mind that the United States has a serious obesity problem. And so - with a diet gifted by the United States to us - does Australia. But that's what happens when you're a paranoid. A perception, or an insight, or a statement of the bleeding obvious is always perceived as an attack or a slight. Rather than an angle on a problem that needs fixing. Truth to tell, eternally optimistic Americans would be appalled at that kind of paranoia. Tea partiers excluded of course.

Meanwhile, Dame Slap has one last thought:

Memo to festival organisers: please bump up ticket prices for the 2011 festival so governments can stop subsidising you. And taxpayer money can be used somewhere useful next year.

Yes festival organisers. Bump up the prices so high only conservative elitists can attend. That way you'll keep out people wearing sensible cardigans. And let in only people like Janet Albrechtsen with fully clothed minds ...

Memo to Rupert Murdoch: please institute paywall for The Australian as soon as possible and bump up newsagent pricing so that we no longer have to read Janet Albrechtsen. And the money we save can be donated to useful causes in the next year ...

(Below: what every fashionable conservative is wearing in lieu of sensible cardigans. A cartoon literally true, while morally profound).