Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Australian and how to win an elephant stamp ... make your own ...

(Above: The lizard Oz in self promotion mode, with "top honours" story here).

Most monumental exercise this year in self-glorfication, self-indulgence and self-promotion?

Surely it has to be the News Awards.

Now we firmly believe in the elephant stamp and a bunch of gold stars as a motivational weapon. How else would we be able to distinguish losers destined for the scrap heap, and the welfare system, so that thereafter and forever they can be berated as losers and spongers and bludgers and ne'er do wells.

And similarly it's vital to award some kind of laurel wreath to winners - it's hard to go past the gold, silver, bronze system - to acknowledge the triumphs of those who know how to take the right drugs at the right time. A little cash reward doesn't hurt either.

And so internal systems of rewards and acknowledgements litter the system, right down to the employee of the day, week, month or year you might find in an advanced hamburger store using modern management techniques.

All that said, it's impossible to read the high sounding, high falutin' nonsense of the "News Awards" without breaking into a smile. It's almost as silly as the AFI awards for the Australian film industry. 18 nominations for the one film? Come on guys, what's that say about the competition?

Naturally The Australian blows its own trumpet, and without a hint of irony, an off note or a raspberry:

It marked the third time The Australian had been named Newspaper of the Year, following its successes in 2005 and 2007.

In a stellar night for the national broadsheet, associate editor Cameron Stewart received the award for the Scoop of the Year, while Susannah Moran was named Business Journalist of the Year and Eric Lobbecke received the Artist of the Year award.

And so it goes on, the News team handing out awards to ... the News team.

You can do the same thing for yourself by heading off to a store selling sports trophies, and getting a handsome trophy engraved with 'wanker of the year', or 'best in class prize goose' or suchlike, and awarding it to yourself at the restaurant of your choice surrounded by your admiring loved ones and extended family.

Naturally all the Murdoch stable were in on it. Here's that rag the Adelaide Advertiser, preening and prattling in Advertiser and AdelaideNow win coveted honours:

The Advertiser and AdelaideNow received two of the top honours at last night's prestigious News Awards.

Yep, you can win an award for transforming your newsroom to accommodate digital journalism. How about an award for throwing out candles and hurricane lamps, and moving to accommodate to the role of electricity in modern life?

Naturally The Courier Mail was at it as well, in Courier-Mail writer Trent Dalton wins Feature Journalist of the Year award:

The Courier-Mail and Qweekend's Trent Dalton has taken out the Feature Journalist of the Year award at the prestigious News Awards.

By now you'll have noticed what the commentariat would surely call sinister Orwellian group speak, a kind of mindless rote repetition worthy of sheep on the farm. "Prestigious", "coveted",
"honours", "stellar night", celebrating "excellence" ...

Unfortunately the Courier Mail also spelled out the precise nature of the in-house antics, while publishing a full list of News Award winners who naturally happened to be hacks or companies within the News Corp stable:

The News Awards, which celebrate excellence in journalism among News Ltd publications, were judged at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corporation which owns The Courier-Mail, said the awards acknowledged the commitment it takes to produce quality journalism.

Which of course is a bald faced moment of being economical with the truth, since what they acknowledge is the glory of hacks working within the Murdoch stable, and the veritable wonders and splendours of that very stable.

There are of course genuinely competitive awards for journalists and publishers open to all comers, but surely this kind of self-praise is the best litmus test for a paranoid, insular institution intent on making its own rules.

Nobody gives us awards, or at least not enough of them to pay homage to our uniquely unique uniqueness, so we'll give them to ourselves ...

It makes it all the funnier to read this story published awhile ago in A wall of Pulitzers and a $6 billion question: 'What would Rupert do?'

It is of course another self-serving story praising Chairman Murdoch in the way we might expect of a Chinese film promoting Chairman Mao (and if you want an example of how that works, The Founding of a Republic serves as a splendid, numbing example, with Chairman Mao giving children piggy backs, and discovering the joys of merchants, capitalists and democracy, and somehow forgetting the mass executions that took place when the Chairman got power).

But we digress. The point of the 'what would Rupert do' story?

Alan Anspaugh remembers the moment he realised life as he knew it at The Wall Street Journal was over.

As assistant managing editor, Anspaugh landed the job of squiring the newspaper's new owner, Rupert Murdoch, around its Princeton, New Jersey, editing operations in late 2007. Anspaugh recalls the tour took them past the wall of Pulitzer prizes and other journalism awards the WSJ had accumulated during more than a century in the news business.

"Well, Mr Murdoch," Anspaugh said, indicating the trophies, "This is what it's all about."

"No," replied Murdoch, pausing, perhaps for effect, "it's about selling newspapers."

Love it. Perhaps pausing for effect, in a ponderous way reminiscent of an elephant stalking a bee. As for selling newspapers in the land of Oz, well who can say. The circulation figures are now regularly boosted by dodgy giveaways and cheap tricks, and even if you decided to trust them, the news isn't good (No good news in latest circulation figures). It's got so farcical that even the Audit Bureau of Circulation has decided to draw a line in the sand (Price under scrutiny in circulation review), by reviewing the trick of including "campus copies" in paid sales figures.

But back to the punch line to that Pulitzer column ...

As for that wall of Pulitzers, the WSJ has yet to add to it under its new ownership. But it has become the top-selling newspaper in the US.

Indeed. No point in having cheap vulgar awards like the Pulitzers when the very business of ink on the fingers newspaper hackery is selling newspapers ...

And down in the antipodes, what need for a wall of Pulitzers when you can take your very own News award home, and polish it for hours, or perhaps use it for a doorstop, or perhaps if stuck in the kitchen, as a can opener.

Strangely the News rags that didn't score any meaningful, coveted, glorious elephant stamps this year seem to have been a tad mute about the News awards.

The online Daily/Sunday Telegraph puts the IF awards for Australian films on a bigger pedestal, while a rare visit to the Herald Sun reveals the rag is off to the spring racing ...

Never mind team.

With Miranda Devine joining Tim Blair and Piers 'Akker Dakker' ' the fat owl of the remove' Akerman at the Terror, and Andrew Bolt still firmly in the chair at the HUN, both rags are hot contenders for the loon pond 'loonies' for the "most useless columns and the most outrageous comments in the cause of conservatism" awards scheduled for year's end ...

(Below: the Sunday Terror stepping up to the challenge to win a News Award next season with a devastating expose of tattoos, here. Go team terror).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

John Dickson, and get to it secularists and pagans, you have everything to lose, including your festivals ...

And so, since it's the season, and writing about the commentariat can be dull, we move to news of the local Anglican church, and their bid to 'reclaim Halloween' 'with Gothick Style'.

What monstrous infamy.

Sorry, but when you read the conservative chattering classes, you soon learn in a declamatory way that we're all ruined, about to be ruined, or shortly thereafter likely to encounter a catastrophic cataclysm or perhaps even the rapture.

It's not really monstrous, it's rather funny, in an unhep, unhip, uncool kind of Christian way, but what the heck.

But the plaintive sign on the fence did remind me of John Dickson punching on at The Punch with Is Halloween evil?

As usual, it turns out that the truth is that Christians are the ones inclined to evil. Let's review the good book:

Commandment 8:

Thou shalt not steal.

Yep, there it is, but as Dickson himself admits, Christians have been in the business of stealing from pagans for centuries. There's the matter of Christmas:

No one was suggesting Jesus was actually born on that date. This was just an attempt to Christianise culture. Personally, I love that spirit—sanctifying the secular instead of running away from it or trying to ban it! It speaks of an open, confident and generous version of faith. More of that, please!

Oh yes, it's dressed up in fancy words - Christianising culture - but it's all about theft. Poor bloody pagans diddled by Christians wanting to celebrate the absent lord rather than the ever present and rather helpful Sun.

And of course, since the intertubes is home to all kinds of loonacy, you can find any number of people ready to swear on a bible that Christ was born on December 25th, in much the same way that the splendid James Ussher, Anglican Archbishop of Armagh conclusively dated the start of the world to 4004BC.

So we come to Halloween, which is another rip of pagan culture, and we can cite Dickson again:

Halloween is much less significant, in both its pagan and Christian forms, but it has a similar history to Christmas. Originally, November 1 marked the end of the Summer months, and the pre-Christian Celts believed that the spirits of the departed returned to their homes at that time to visit loved ones. Masks and other disguises were worn to frighten off evil spirits who were trying to cut in on the action.

Around AD 610 Pope Boniface IV decided to ‘claim’ this festival for Jesus.

Claim? It's intellectual property theft of the most outrageous kind. Why aren't the studios on to this? Did the music industry get destroyed by pirates imitating Christian attitudes to copyright?

Meanwhile, Dickson tries to settle nervous nelly Ned Flanders Christians:

So, is Halloween today ‘evil’? Sure it is, if it involves the glorification (or, worse, the trivialization) of things satanic, and playing nasty pranks on neighbours who simply forgot to pick up a bag of sweets earlier in the day.

Uh huh. What about the evil doing of the people who filch, and purloin and make over? Why the Christians doing the dirty on the pagans is way worse than bloody sampling, and see how long you'd last infringing that way in the music world ... without fronting up cash.

Come to think of it, what's needed is a giant class action by pagans demanding compensation for the theft of their festivals.

Which brings us back to that Anglican sign about "reclaiming Halloween". It was never the Anglicans' festival in the first place. There's nothing to claim you doofuses, you stole it, thieved it pure and simple, and so it's the secularists and satanists who need to reclaim it from you.

Sheesh, talk about thieves in the night.

Commandment 10:

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Okay, okay, it just scrapes into the top ten - there are plenty more about shellfish and fabric mixing to bone up on - but hey, it's on the money.

Let's spell it out:

Nor anything that is thy neighbour's, including his bloody pagan festivals ...

Bloody coveting, thieving Christians, with their devious and fraudulent misrepresentation of entitlement to said intellectual property rights.

Dickson of course purports to be mild mannered, and open and forgiving and prayerful and decides that on a scale of sins, Christmas shopping is more satanic than goblins. What is a goblin anyway, he asks, not seeming to realise that these days he's likely to get a more sensible answer in the wiki here than in the bible.

And one more thing. The next time I hear someone rant about Halloween as a part of American imperialism, I'm going to shove the nordic imperialism of a pine tree down their anti-pagan throats and send them to the mountains of Korvatunturi in Lapland province, Finland.

Outside the dreaming, this country is full of cultural imperialism ...

But it all comes together and reminds me why I never had a go at Naomi Tsvirko's Easy laughs: why Hollywood loves mocking Christians. Could it simply be that Christians don't get and never will get it, and so when in need of a laugh, call in a Christian if you can't find a ghostbuster ...

Christians reclaiming Halloween. You never owned it in the first place you gherkins ...

Onward secularists and reclaim the night. And so we're off to certain festivities, and the more satanic the better ...

(Below: goth paraphernalia and goths out early in the streets of Newtown. Never mind that it was a sunny day, the real goths will be out in the evening, when the Sydney period double decker bus is safely tucked away in the museum. Take that Christians).

James Paterson, Christopher Pearson, and off to boarding school for a course in mutual masturbation, the lot of you ...

Shocking news this Saturday morning.

It seems university graduates lean towards the Greens and they have a dangerous agenda, far more radical than many realise.

And what exactly is this dangerous agenda? According to Lindsay Tanner, who set the hare loose for James Paterson in Why graduates lean to the Left:

Tanner went on to say this growing group had a "profound commitment to multiculturalism, gender equity and higher learning" and that this was a product of their education.

Eek, sign me up immediately for a course in multiculturalism and gender inequity, and for the love of the long absent lord, make sure your child leaves school without obtaining their HSC as a way of ensuring they never proceed on to the dangerous radicalisation and ideological pitfalls involved in higher learning.

It seems students are hapless pawns, brainwashed and without a mind of their own, and so completely incapable of resisting the wiles of their Marxist instructors:

It is a damning indictment of the higher education system that Tanner, from the left faction of the ALP, admits our universities are churning out increasing numbers of Greens voters.

It is no coincidence the institutions that churn out these graduates are dominated by left-wing academics.

It is of course another column in The Australian, and the author turns out to have been an undergraduate student at the University of Melbourne for five years, writhing under the burden of courses like Contemporary Ideologies and Movements.

Dear sweet absent lord, get out of the place at once, or slowly the dangerous nectar of honied green thoughts will infect you, and corrupt you forever.

Why next thing you know, you could end up like jolly Joe Hockey, dangerously, alarmingly Green and earning comparisons to Venezuelan President Hugh Chavez, while winning the approval of arch Green Bob Brown. Why the pair have even arranged a love in to discuss how they might further jolly Joe's bank bashing.

"We share his view that an ACCC review of whether the banks are involved in collusive price signalling on interest rates will do no harm," Senator Brown said.

He said he was looking forward to talking to Mr Hockey about ways to give Australian deposit holders and borrowers a better go.

"We'd like to know what Mr Hockey's priorities are and add a few ideas of our own, like ending the ATM fees rip-off," Senator Brown said. (here).

It's a conspiracy, a dangerous jolly green Joe alliance with deadly subversives, and full of anti-bank rhetoric.

Who to blame? Well you don't have to look far. Jolly Joe did his Arts Law degrees at the University of Sydney, a hotbed of dangerous leftist green radicalism, where the love of multiculturalism and gender equity has started western civilisation on the road to abject ruin (though happily not before this year's exams torture sundry students).

Academics of Sydney, who have turned even much loved Liberals into dangerous greens lovers, you stand indicted for crimes against humanity.

What to do, how to give your child a decent and safe education?

Well naturally Christopher Pearson has the solution in Great education available outside the mainstream:

Home schooling and private and selective schools give kids the best chance at learning.

Uh huh. I've always admired the Exclusive Brethren and Scientological models, but even they've abandoned the notion of home schooling for the fun of sucking on the taxpayers' teat to fund their own form of private schooling, but tell me more:

Julia Gillard often tells us that Labor proposes to give every young Australian a great education. The phrase is a mantra, of course, but I wonder if there is anything remotely approaching a consensus about what constitutes a great education.

Uh huh. But then Labor, or at least Bob Hawke speaking off a worn cuff, once proposed that no Australian child would live in poverty by 1990. No, let's get to the nub of it:

Being something of a traditionalist, when I hear those words my mind turns to the sort of elite schooling that Eton offers its boys and Geelong Grammar provides for both sexes. Although I would have hated being a boarder myself, I'm now inclining to the view that many - perhaps even most - adolescents benefit from longish spells away from the comforts and distractions of family life, in an ordered existence concentrated on study.

Yep, there you have it, Pearson - who did his Arts degree at that dangerous hotbed of radicalism, Flinders University (children of Brian Medlin, the lot of them) has become a high Tory, yearning for the joys of boarding school and mutual masturbation after lights out.

Frankly he doesn't go far enough. My own view is that adolescents would benefit from a longish spell in an education system modelled along Spartan lines. A bit of krypteia and agoge with an older man would fix what ails them, and if they don't like it, why leave them out in the snow and if they survive, so be it. I particularly like the requirement to answer questions laconically, which is to say briefly and wittily, which would see both the pond and Pearson out in the snow (and for more on Sparta's education system, here).

But hang on, forget the Spartans, didn't Prince Charles - that giant woolly jumbuck - go alarmingly Green, such that today he jets around the world, chasing his green dream?

Back in the dim, distant past, I asked Cambridge University – my alma mater! – to run this Programme for me as I wanted to find a way of helping businesses understand the scale of the challenges that lay before them; to help them see that ‘business-as-usual’ was not an option if we were to confront the environmental challenges which were ahead of us. (here at Charlie is me darlin's home page as he rabbits on about the carbon challenge).

But hang on before Chuck went to Cambridge - a well known refuge for dangerous leftists - didn't he once go to Geelong Grammar? Is that where he turned Green?

Eek, there's no answer there. Geelong Grammar, beloved of Pearson, must be infested with dangerous leftist ideologues, and has been so for a very long time.

Clearly what's needed is home education so that any kind of ideological infection can be avoided. But who to call?

Retired Latin, French and music teachers can earn a modest supplement to the pension, instructing small groups of highly motivated youngsters. Old maths teachers are also much sought-after.

I should declare an interest here. I've found teaching English and history to individual home-schoolers one of the most rewarding experiences of recent years.

Dear definitely absent lord, history from a Pearson perspective as a way to bring up a youngster ...

Enough with the Latin already.

Time for any prospective employers of Pearson as a home schooler to learn that he too was once a leftie before trying to hide his green academic origins, and so off they must go to read Gerard Henderson's bilious hatchet job Christopher Pearson Moralist.

Meanwhile, Pearson spends the rest of the column rabbiting on in the usual conservative way about whole word reading programs and the joys of IQ tests and annual exams and the benefits of selective public schools and a proper religious leaning:

It (James Ruse school) has overcome the habitual under-valuing of education by generations of working-class Australian parents.

There are a few groups that have been notable exceptions to that rule: the Lutherans and the remnants of the old-fashioned Presbyterian and Methodist cultures (which maintain a strong ethos of self-help) and the Jews, known from the earliest times as "the people of the book".

Thank the defiantly absent lord there's still room for cultural stereotypes, cliches and vulgar generalities in the current education system.

But here's the rub. If the academies are full of dangerous leftists, isn't it right - even noble - for generations of working-class Australians to habitually undervalue education. Wouldn't want lad going commie when he can be down at mill at dawn.

Or could it be that columnists for The Australian regularly indulge in sweeping generalisations and meaningless tosh?

Pearson urges academic competition as fierce as the kind taken for granted in sport, but thankfully the editors of The Australian don't take such notions seriously, or else they'd have Pearson somewhere towards the back pages compiling their Latin crossword puzzle.

So long as no one lets him near an actual education system ...

Meanwhile, and just to show that we're equal opportunity here at the pond, we heartily commend Adele Horin's Lost inside our cultural ghettos.

Horin spends her entire column bemoaning how we're all alone, m'dear, and less connected and without friendships, and how the online world is no substitute for the CWA (and indeed no one comes online to offer me a scone, a lamington and a cup of tea). It all sounds alarmingly grim and glum, as we shrink inside the walls we build, living in cultural ghettos, cut off from the world, isolated and alone.

Quick, what to do before I shoot myself?

We can make a conscious effort to meet people who are not like us. But I strongly believe fiction and film by and about the "other" can also help transcend prejudices, and provide a window into different worlds.

That's right. It's okay to meet people, if you must, but you can really fix your sense of community by locking yourself in a dark place to watch a movie, or settle down by yourself, alone by candle light, and read a novel ... (must you keep interrupting dear, can't you see I'm reading ...)

And I always thought lawn bowls, a lamington and a cup of tea was the answer ...

But at least now I know who to blame. Those bloody leftist academics and their green ways and their group huggy love of movie-makers and novelists ...

Another day on the pond, and still not the first inkling or clue as to the way towards the light, but at least we now understand it should involve monoculturalism and gender inequity ...

And now, inspired by Pearson, we're in the mood for a little more Latin and Molesworth:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Henry Ergas, Oliver Hartwich, Sophie Mirabella, and somebody bring me a fuggin' shoe ...

(Above: more Newtown graffiti, conveying the feeling of a solid day's reading of the chattering classes).

Sometimes it's hard to avoid an existential crisis, a bout of ennui, at the sheer monotonous repetitiveness of it all.

Who could count the number of times Henry Ergas has scribbled an anti-NBN tirade for The Australian? Probably only the accountant who sends off the cheques.

Yet here he is again, faithful, loyal and extremely repetitive, doing right by Rupert, in We can't afford NBN without scrutiny.

Personally I can't afford the time to scrutinise another Henry Ergas column, even when he starts with such a tempting premise:

The trouble with life, Dorothy Parker observed, is not that it's one damn thing after another: it's that it is one damn thing over and over again. So it is with the National Broadband Network; frankly, I am heartily sick of it. But perseverance is required.

Too true Henry. We are heartily sick of your scribbles and come to think of it, in best Dorothy Parker style, no perseverance whatsoever is required.

As the real Dorothy Parker once observed, in relation to a novel, but which modified serves just as well, This is not a column to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

But at least Henry reminds us that it's possible to start the day reading the thoughts of the real Dorothy Parker. The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue, she once said, and when confronted by the opinion pages of The Australian, would no doubt have let out a What fresh hell is this?

Which is a natural throw to Oliver Marc Hartwich's piece Trivial Twitter. Yep, Hartwich spends an entire column discovering that much of the twittering on twitter is trivial, which is a bit like discovering that the sun rises every day. Well I suppose it was good enough for Ecclesiastes and Hemingway ...

Even so, his own twitter - since his column breaks down into a disturbingly simple collection of tweets - is wonderfully contradictory:

The hopes of tech aficionados that the new world of social media would change the way we think, talk and work is a mirage.

Uh huh. Would that the mirage have prevented Hartwich from changing the way he thinks, talks and marvels at the way the sun rises every day, instead of yet another think piece bereft of thought on social networking.

Why if we just measured the strength and impact of social networking by the number of column inches generated by befuddled conservative commentariat columnists about it, we'd have the beginnings of a revolution. And more scribbles than the combined works of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and Mao ...

One thing's for sure, my breakfasts have been irretrievably ruined by twits twittering about tweeting, or for a variation, Facebook ...

If you want an alternative set of thoughts on social networking, you can revert to Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker, scribbling Small Change Why the revolution will not be tweeted.

Gladwell's anti-social networking crusade isn't entirely convincing. If social networking is so useless, why do the likes of China, and Iran spend so much time blocking and firewalling the Internet, or alternatively use the Internet to track down enemies of the state? (as detailed awhile ago in After the Crackdown, Jon Lee Anderson's August report on the state of protest in Iran).

But at least Gladwell puts some meat on his bones. Hartwich? Well he takes banality to a new level:

People remain people. They are still interested in the same things, talk about the same subjects and they still have breakfast.

By golly, that's a handsome 128 characters of devastating insight ruining my breakfast. More please:

Technology may be easier to upgrade than human nature. Now that's a thought. I better tell my 89 followers on Twitter.

Oh dear. 89 followers and he tweets about having breakfast like other people. Just another social network loser, who thinks nerdish irony is the way out of his isolation. A poser loser.

Perhaps he should embrace the wisdom of Dorothy Parker? Take me or leave me; or as is the usual order of things, both.

And if all this isn't enough to send a soul screeching to high heaven, that nemesis of a peaceful Friday, Sophie Mirabella, is at it again with Recent PMs haven't risen to fill Lazarus's shoes.

The real Dorothy Parker, in the interests of balance, might have added that recent opposition leaders haven't risen to fill Lazarus's shoes either, but then that would have involved contemplating Howard's successors, Brendan Nelson (remember him), Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott, and the current cavortings of Christopher Pyne and jolly Joe Hockey under the increasingly erratic Abbott.

That's the trouble with the kind of simple-minded column that Mirabella delivers, berating former chairman Rudd and newly minted valiant leader Gillard. Sure, they have their flaws, but it doesn't always involve a tendency to gibberish - as when Mirabella gets down to celebrating the wonders of John Howard:

He spoke plainly about his beliefs and his convictions. He stood his ground. He invoked passionate responses.

Invoking passionate responses is a sign of greatness, and a better path to follow than blandness?

By golly, where's a shoe, someone, I need a shoe and I need it now.

As for the rest? Well Mirabella the parrot exceeds herself, in a way well suited to a tweet of a column. Roll out the cliches:

Love or loathe John Winston Howard, you always knew what he stood for.

Yep, it's mind boggling stupidity on the march.

You knew he was motivated by core beliefs and that the bedrock of his policy decisions was his assessment of whether they were “in the national interest”. You might not always agree with his assessment, but you knew he was fair dinkum about it.

Uh huh. This is the man who famously invented the division between core and non-core promises, and who most recently was given the image of 'mean and tricky' by his long serving deputy.

Mirabella demeans the art of politics, and the craft of politicians like Howard, with this kind of simple-minded Orwellian blather about leadership, and how wonderful life was on the farm when Howard was in charge.

I see I've absent-mindedly used the word Orwellian.

Should I throw some money in the swear jar? No, no, no, I claim fair dibs, because along with talk of Labor's ruthless machine men, Mirabella deploys the "O" word and imagery as she celebrates Doug Cameron's cry for freedom:

It was a startling admission that brought to mind a zombie army of Labor MPs and Orwellian visions of “thought police” controlling them – and it painted a bleak picture indeed of the internal workings of the ALP.

Cameron’s cry for freedom was swiftly batted down by “Big Brother” Gillard.

Sheesh, reality television strikes again.

Never mind of course that Howard himself ran a very tight ship, and battened down the hatches any time that weak-kneed actual liberals in the Liberal party began to get sentimental about a republic, or gay rights, or reconciliation, or anything else that might have provided a shard of light in Howard's monotonously grey vision of the world.

Funnily enough, it was Gary Johns - now so far right that the Liberal party looks like a mincing set of Christopher Pyne poodles to him - who only the other day berated Cameron as a kind of Scottish cracker union thug lacking party discipline.

From former union thug to staunch seeker of freedom from big brother in a day ... and no doubt back to being a former union thug tomorrow.

In the end, what's most astonishing is that Sophie Mirabella attracted enough votes to become a member of parliament. Why if there'd been a rottweiler standing, surely the canine would have scored a famous victory. Much barking and slobbering and posturing, and not a single policy position required in the old noggin as the attack dog goes about its daily business ...

Meanwhile, the punters have to go about their daily business, and every day some innocent might make the mistake of ruining their day by wasting time on one of Mirabella's Friday tirades.

Ducking for apples - change one letter and it's the story of my life, said Dorothy Parker, before delivering this uppercut to Norman Mailer:

"So, you're the man who can't spell 'fuck.'"
Dorothy Parker to Norman Mailer after publishers had convinced Mailer to replace the word with a euphemism, 'fug,' in his 1948 book, "The Naked and the Dead."

If only the real Parker was around today to dish it out to the likes of Mirabella:

Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things I'd been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.
Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.

Well we'd settle for a sock in a shoe soaring over the head of Sophie Mirabella, and a final Dorothy Parker poem:

In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.

And so we say farewell to Henry Ergas, Oliver Hartwich, and Sophie Mirabella this Friday, and to hell with the fuggin' lot of 'em, as Norman Mailer might have said, before Dorothy gave him a sharp jab, resulting in a tweet about the NBN and an explanation of why 12mbps is enough for a nation while the world moves along to a 100 ...

(Below: and now a couple of xkcd cartoons about twitter - click to enlarge - with more xkcd here).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Australian, and all the way from Pom bashing to a latte led recovery ...

(Above: just some graffiti observed on a walk in Newtown, or the sinister slogan of choice for The Australian's opinion pages?)

As The Australian's relentless war on the NBN continues to maintain the rage, each day there are fresh new astonishing insights and potent questions being asked.

Today it's John Daley's turn, in NBN won't spur on the regions:

Expectations for the National Broadband Network are high. But will it drive a boom in regional employment? Or are better coffee shops more important?

A latte lead recovery! A latte way forward! Take that, you commentariat commentators, with your latte hating fixations about sophisticate inner west elites. What the bush needs to do is turn into Balmain. And learn not to cry ...

But enough with the drivel, right down there with the quality of comment expected in the lizard Oz in any NBN opinion piece, we've got a fish and chip led boom in international nonsense to fry, and so it's over to another Gary Johns for ALP's road to hell paved with phony intentions:

Cameron is a caricature of the whingeing-Pommy shop steward. Born near Glasgow, he makes a good fist of being a graduate of Scottish cracker culture: belligerent and ignorant.

Say what? A Scot is a whingeing Pom? Well, it might be the ignorant view of wiki compilers that Pom evokes the Celts - Irish, Scots and Welsh - along with the English - Alternative names for the British - but not from my time in the ethnic wars, when it was first port of refuge for Scots and the Irish to call out the whingeing Poms in the midst of dinkum denizens of Oz.

But Johns' effort - a fine boofhead kick to the head - takes us back to the day when a simple bout of verbal abuse was enough to slay any enemy:

Australian history is a bigoted one, in which at first the convict hated the free settlers who followed them, and then these early Aussie workmen hated the Pommy bastards who followed, because they feared the newcomers might pinch their jobs, and then everybody hated the Wops, Wogs, Frogs, Huns, Chows and Japs and anyone else they could describe in a one-syllable name. (Donald Horne, here)

And Johns goes on to compound the crime:

Pity his namesake, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who wishes he could be rid of the lot of them (the Conservatives hold just one of 50 seats from Scotland). Indeed, letting Scotland go from the Commons would leave the Conservatives in power on their own. I bet Gillard wishes she could do the same with Doug.

Well there's a fine example of playing the man's ideas rather than the man, and so it leaves us just enough time to note that Johns, imported into England from the Holy Land by the Crusaders of the 12th century, is these days considered as English as any going about.

Which leads to the bizarre sight of a whingeing Pom whingeing about a whingeing Pom whingeing in the antipodes ...

What next? Well perhaps we can assess Jolly Joe Hockey's socialistic approach to the banks on the basis of his father hailing from Bethlehem, with an Armenian and Palestinian background, and a family name that originally sounded like Hokeidonian (here, at his wiki).

Yes, Johns introduces a whole new meaning to the notion of "elevated discourse":

If Labor cannot mount a convincing case to govern in the broad interest, it will slide into hell.

Actually hell is reading a Gary Johns' column, with its blather about penance, and its spooky references to Rudd's daughter's novel.

What else when we go down the rabbit hole of The Australian's opinion pages?

Well, there's a classic editorial Costello must accept the facts, quoting Piers Akerman as an expert while shoving it up Costello and urging him to accept the facts. Dear sweet absent lord, Akker Dakker as a columnist in possession of the facts ...

It seems that John Howard all along had every intention of relinquishing power, as demonstrated conclusively in the way in he eventually relinquished power.

Whenever you read the word "facts" in an editorial in The Australian, it's time to reach for the Glock.

Meanwhile, if hitting yourself over the head with a baseball bat isn't offering its usual joy, you can read in Power-hungry activists push up our power prices how the environmental activists are a real worry, and how Kristina Keneally is their dupe, and how we need a price on carbon, and how John Howard, as always, is the solution:

The conservatives should remember John Howard had a plan for an emissions trading scheme. There is a strong case for a market-based plan to price carbon rather than selective subsidies.

Que? A strong case? How things have changed since the lizard Oz did its gecko routines in an editorial back in 2007, Let the great debate on climate continue:

It will be interesting, decades from now, to look back on the climate change debate. There is every chance we will regard today's headlines with the same bemusement with which we view the apocalyptic predictions of Thomas Malthus or the Club of Rome.

Well there's every chance of the same bemusement from reading The Australian's editorials. And you only need a couple of years - perhaps a couple of weeks - to look back on the editorial headlines with the same bemusement with which you might view the apocalyptic predictions of Christians reading the Bible.

But on we go, with a hey nonny no.

The Oz's surreal prognostication regarding the current battle in Victoria between the Labor party and the Greens?

... there can only be upside for conservatives as Labor becomes increasingly hostage to the Greens and flails about in search of a direction. The more Labor moves to the Left, the more voters in the centre, who traditionally decide elections, will be tempted to move to the Right. (here)

Is that why jolly Joe Hockey has turned into a tea bagger bashing the banks?

Well as a coda to all this, which somehow ties it all together in a handsome bundle of contradictory absurdities, we turn to The Oz story John Howard urged contender to stick with the emissions trading scheme:

Joe Hockey has revealed John Howard urged him to stick by the ETS when he went to the former PM to discuss his tilt at the leadership last year.

"I took advice from him - during the leadership issue, I went to see him about an ETS policy and he said the Liberal Party can't walk away from an ETS," he said.

Uh huh. Why that's right in line with The Australian's astonishing discovery of a strong case for a market-based carbon price. But what happened?

Mr Hockey's revelations about Mr Howard's advice comes after the former Liberal leader criticised the opposition Treasury spokesman's stance on emissions trading during the Liberal leadership crisis.

"Joe Hockey failed to win the leadership, despite strong evidence at one point that he was the favoured candidate, because of his foolish decision to offer Liberal MPs a free vote on the ETS," Mr Howard writes in his memoirs, Lazarus Rising, released on Tuesday.

"It was a mainstream economic issue, thus requiring any leadership aspirant to have a clear attitude, one way or the other."

Oops jolly Joe. Stitched up and sold down the creek. Remember Joe, stick to the facts ... John Howard was, is and will be always right. Now shape up or ship out like Peter Costello, who simply didn't muscle up ...

And remember more latte supplying shops is the way forward for the Australian economy, and whatever you do, don't get tagged as a whingeing wog from overseas ...

Yep, it's another day in the stew they call the opinion pages of The Australian.

Now for a nice hot shower ... for two minutes, thanks to those deviant greens, and their ability to wreck the NSW economy, in a way utterly unmatched by the current NSW Labor government ...

And if you believe them facts, you can go frolic in a mud bath ... or keep reading The Australian.

(Below: and speaking of Brumby versus the Greens, loon pond likes Pike liking Melbourne. If Pike likes public housing, perhaps Pike might like to live in the high rises of Fitzroy or

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Janet Albrechtsen, and a glove laid on the media while the lads Howard and Costello box on ...

(Above: much fun can be had, and hours wasted, googling images that evoke the spirit of Costello v Howard, the rumble in the jungle, the smack down of smack downs).

Choices, choices ...

A Wednesday so full of riches, it's hard to know where to start.

There's Janet Albrechtsen in the Oz doing her best to polish and buff her statuette of John Howard, though it seems that over the years it's had some minor damage - but at least it's only a small chink, a tiny chink.

One tiny chink in legacy of street-fighting man, she scribbles, explaining how John Howard was a wondrous performer, a prime ministerial legend, and blaming the media elite and the Howard haters for lining up to whack the former PM:

Published this week, the much anticipated memoirs should have been an opportunity to mark John Howard's success as one of Australia's greatest prime ministers. Instead, much of the media will focus on his failings. That the media does so with relish betrays their frequent inability to deal fairly with Howard when he was in office and now with his legacy.

The relishing media?

I guess that Peter Costello must be "much of the media", since the smirker spends his entire column in today's Fairfax rags roasting Howard slowly in Failure in 2007 was all Howard's doing.

By golly, Albrecthsen will have to use plenty of clear Kiwi polish and elbow grease, and perhaps a little spit, to burnish her Howard to a fine conservative shine:

Convicted criminals and smelly shoes aside, the launch of Howard's 711-page tome yesterday is a timely reminder of Howard's permanent legacy.

711 pages! That reminds me of the good old days in Smith street Collingwood, when they used to sell books by their weight. Sadly, Costello looks past that weighty tome, and finds a moral gnat who should have written a decent tome but didn't. Couldn't:

It would have been the book of an elder statesman. He could have shown a spirit of generosity. And it would have enhanced his reputation. But it is not the nature of the man...

...The title of his book is designed to hide the obvious truth. This Lazarus is not rising. This Lazarus was terminated by the voters of Bennelong in 2007.

Lordy, lordy, that's better than Keating v. Hawke. Will it one day be set to music and score a theatrical triumph?

Meanwhile, Albrechtsen gets to brooding about cultural dieticians and their long-standing monopoly over our national identity, presumably referring to Robert Menzies' record eighteen years in government but settling for Howard's way ...

He encouraged Australians to reclaim our birthright to remember and celebrate the finest parts of our history as well as acknowledging the shameful episodes from history. On multiculturalism, Howard's way is now Europe's way.

Sayeth the smirker?

When there was a genuine spirit of goodwill about Aboriginal reconciliation in 2000 it would not have hurt to embrace it and walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It didn't mean you agreed with every demand every person walking that day wanted to make. It would have shown a generosity of spirit.

Ah, it seems a generosity of spirit is sadly lacking in John Howard.

We could spend all day comparing and contrasting Albrechtsen's impressions and Costello's column:

It gets tiresome to hear critics deride Howard's "conservatism". So swap "conservatism" for straight-forward common sense. That will drive them crazy. Yet, here lies his true legacy. Why else has the Labor Party, at the last two elections, tried to mimic Howard's policies? So many of his policies are now accepted, with bi-partisan support, as the more sensible way forward for the nation.

Oh I don't know that it gets tiresome, and I don't know that her notion of straight-forward common sense drives Howard's critics crazy, unless of course the smirker is crazy, mad as hell and not going to take it anymore:

During the difficult period when I was attempting to implement the GST, a highly confidential memo written by the then-president of the Liberal Party, Shane Stone, mysteriously leaked out of the Howard office. Howard never managed to find out how it happened.

The essence of Stone's complaint was that the government was seen as ''mean and tricky''. The charge was principally directed at me. But as the years wore on the description was more frequently levelled at Howard.

What? The man who invented core and non-core promises mean and tricky? No never, or at least hardly ever ...

Eventually even Albrechtsen has to get around to the elephant in her column, which is to say the Howard-Costello feud, but charmingly, while giving Howard a mournful sigh for his role in the affair, she still manages to blame the "media".

A four-time winning prime minister does not need to attack Costello as "elitist" or refer to Costello's "rank amateur pressure". Howard's legacy is now hijacked by the media revelling in past leadership animosities, rather than recalling how Howard changed the nation for the better.

Alas, those in the media so eager to demonise Howard have missed the real story of his autobiography. Howard has always been underestimated by his critics. Mocked as the boring suburban solicitor, he is the antithesis of Keating's big picture rhetoric and cleverly acerbic attacks.

Legacy hijacked by the media? The media so eager to demonise Howard?

Week in week out, here at the pond, we blame the media for everything, including the imminent downfall of western civilisation, but we try to do it with tongue in cheek, and in a way that is at least semi-comatose and aware of the real world.

Albrechtsen has always been a painfully dishonest columnist, and dragging "the media" into the middle of this feud is typical of her fraudulence.

Because in this particular case, the media is roughly equivalent to the vulgar boys at Tamworth High School who would gather in a circle around the rough lads going the biff away from the eyes of the teacher, and yell "fight, fight, fight".

The media?

Doesn't she mean John Howard, who wrote a book containing mean spirited thoughts on the smirker?

And now Peter Costello has written a column savaging John Howard.

These lads don't need the media. Who needs the media, when two fine boxers are willing to step into the ring and get it on, in Ali v Smokin' Joe Frazier style. No, the media needs them, and long may they box and spar their way into terminal retirement ...

Costello is outraged by Howard's tricky gymnastics and lack of generosity and demeaning remarks, and his refusal to step aside graciously:

When is a promise not a promise? When is a deal not a deal? It was all just a distraction from what I belatedly realised: John Howard was never going to stand aside for anyone. He never had and he never would.

This might have been the right thing, according to his family. But that was not the point. The point was whether he did the right thing by those MPs who would go on to lose their seats in the 2007 election. Some of them have never had a job since.

Oh Petey, Petey, scribbling for the Fairfax Media, and sitting on the board of your very own Future Fund - talk up setting up a nice job for yourself - and working away at BKK Partners is all honest work (and the intro to their web site is just so spiffy and Flashy). And you've always got your parliamentary pension ...

Meanwhile, all good things must come to an end, and so we proceed to Albrechtsen's final verdict:

While his dogged tenacity brought him down in the end, history will record that it explains the Lazarus-like success of Howard as one of the West's great modern-day political leaders.

Uh huh. By golly that spit and elbow grease and polish has worked a treat.

But what about "the media"? What's his judgement? What's the smirker's final call? Who will win in the battle of the Man of Steel versus the Iron Chef?

If you happen to believe, as I do, that we have had a bad government for the last three years, you realise how important it was for the Coalition, in 2007, to do everything it could to renew itself and extend its term in government.

The failure to do so was not in the interest of the nation or its people. I cannot take the credit for that. The principal credit for that failure must go to the person who was responsible. It belongs squarely to John Howard.

Oh Petey, Petey, there there, and never mind. I know it still rankles, but he always had your measure, and spent years kicking you from pillar to post, exploiting your hopes and your dreams and desires, and he's still kicking you around today, hoping to sell oodles of memoirs on the back of a Howard-generated controversy, and only now, long after there's any point or usefulness to it, are you kicking back at him ...

It's a bit like hearing the news that Nick Minchin's labelled the Iraq war a debacle, that his heart sank when he heard the United States would invade, and that his doubts about Rumsfeld were deep. (Minchin's heart 'sank' over Iraq). Way to go Nick. Frank and forthright, and totally useless and irrelevant, but good to see you're still toeing the line over Afghanistan ...

Meanwhile, Albrechtsen mentions Iraq too ... as being responsible for the invention of shoe-throwing ...

Damn those Iraqis and their outrageous ways, and now here in the antipodes shoe throwing is becoming fashionable.

Is this yet another John Howard legacy, in much the same way as Bob Menzies must be held accountable for Vietnamese restaurants, bakeries and dry cleaners? Though come to think of it, that's a pretty handy legacy. No wonder Malcolm Fraser put up his hand ....

But we digress.

Oh no, Petey, Petey, put down that shoe. No, no, don't. Haven't you thrown enough verbal shoes already, and nicely 'polished with spit' shoes at that, worthy of a school cadet or a suburban solicitor.

Remember, it's the media that's demonising Howard, and hijacking his legacy and mocking his boring suburban solicitor ways.

Janet Albrechtsen tells me so, and if it's in The Australian, that wretched demonising, hijacking shoe-throwing rag, it must surely be true ...

(Below: wait, there's more, hours and hours lost in googling fun, but please keep the complimentary steak knives away from the lads as they go to it).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bronwyn Bishop, and when you hear latte mentioned, is it time to reach for a poem?

(Above: how to get a sensible environmental policy debate started. Go for the latte-laden heart!)

What was it Göring was fond of saying?

When I hear the word 'latte' used in an argument, I reach for my gun ...

Yippee, Godwin's Law broken in the flash of an eye, and who do we have to thank for that?

Come on down Bronwyn Bishop, all too rarely turning up in the pond these days, but scoring a bullseye with:

Never a word of feeling for individual farmers and rural businesspeople who work hard to provide food on the table for the latte lot that prefer the environment over people.

Actually thanks to Woolworths, we get our garlic shipped in from Peru or China, but never mind, I'm sure Bronnie spends her days in Mosman thinking about the lot of farmers and the perfidious greens, and never mind the cosy supermarket duopoly.

Alternatively, could it be that Bronnie doesn't give a whit or a toss for a sensible discussion, as opposed to the cantankerous joys of shit stirring, possum baiting, and bunging on a do.

Most likely the latter, as Bronnie spends all her time in Weird green science sells the people up the river explaining how the Murray Darling Commission and the Water Act has nothing to do with her or the Howard government, even thought the Howard government invented both beasts, and randomly taking sprays and pot shots at greens, who it seems are little better than the Incas:

The green people consulted “the science” and demanded human sacrifice to the river to make it well.

What next? Well there's always the hysteria of book burning to bring us truly back to the time of Göring. Oh wait, they've already done that.

You can read the entirety of Bronnie's piece without reaching any further understanding, but with a full panoply of rich rhetoric.

How to defuse an emotional situation? Why talk of weasel words, and explain how the Greens are begging for more farmers' blood. And then make a joke:

Senator Hyphen (Hanson-Young) tells farmers they have to “do more with less water” and ensure “river communities can be guided through a difficult transition time”.

O O O O that Shakespehering rag, it's so elegant, so intelligent.

And so to the bit about latte, and Bronnie proving that she can easily match the limbo lowering standards required for a business class seat on loon pond:

... you can bet the real power in the Labor/Greens alliance will push for more human sacrifice to their avaricious utopian ideology.

Human sacrifice? Avaricious utopian ideology? Phew, the macaws are already noisy this summer ...

You mean it's not just the Catholic church and transubstantiation and Mel Gibson doing Apocalypto who are in to human sacrifice?

Actually I wouldn't mind betting that even conservatives blessed with a half a brain cringe at the way the mad aunt comes down from the belfry, bringing the bats with her (and for bats in the belfry, here's an explanation of the phrase).

The Liberal party collectively must have breathed a sigh of relief when the mad uncle, Wilson Tuckey, got the shove, and surely there must come a time soon when the posturing of Bronnie is given the push.

I mean, it's possible to write in loon pond an abusive piece totally devoid of content and policy, but that's because it's a pond for loons, and loonish ways and loonish understandings.

If you like that kind of childish rhetoric, next thing you know you could be suggesting that Bronnie's loutish anti-latte scribbles are a sure sign she should hand back her salary, because she's not up to the standard we expect of professional politicians.

Oops, I see it's Bronnie who's demanding that Tony Burke hand back his ministerial salary ...

So it goes, but it was pleasing to see that Bronnie has a deep love of Dorothea Mackellar's poem My Country. We too love it, especially its second verse:

I love an irrigated country,
A land of sweeping dams and and weirs and locks and barrages
Of trickling rivers and ragged motorways,
Of built up cities and desalination plants
I love her coal deposits
which we can ship to China over jewel-sea
Her declining marsupials
Yep, the wide brown fucked over land for me.

Oh okay, the rhyming and the scansion's perhaps not the best, but what can you expect of latte drinkers?

Perhaps it's time for a piece, Weird Bronnie loves a sunburnt country, and the more sunburn it gets the bloody better for all of us, and stop your bloody latte whingeing and just peel off that flaky sunburnt skin ...

Oh yes, and don't forget to throw in some bits about human sacrifice and blood. Make it truly Catholic, with perhaps a dash of Mel Gibson ...

Another day on the pond, and it never ceases to produce amazement and wonderment and bewilderment.

Even the punters at The Punch, Australia's most punch drunk conversation, found Bronnie's attempt at a conversation illogical drivel, and wondered if she had an actual alternative proposal to the problems facing the Murray ...

Well there's only one answer to that. Go drink a latte, and then go howl at the moon ...

But we do have one apology to make ... to Dorothea Mackellar.

How did she get dragged into this conversation about the threats facing the Australian landscape? Go ask Bronnie ...

The ADB has a short bio of DM here, and the State Library of NSW a tidy record of her poem here.

(Below: Dorothea Mackellar dressed as a Grace for a tableaux, and the handwritten original for her poem eventually titled My Country, click to enlarge).

Gerard Henderson, and still the sounds of old firefights disturbs the peace on the pond ...

(Above: the good old days).

There's a depressing predictability about the relentless squawking that erupts daily on the pond - and its causes, which usually involve predictions of despair and doom, and quite possibly the decline and fall of western civilisation as we know it.

Take The Australian - please someone take the lizard Oz - and its opinion pages.

What do we have today? Kevin Morgan in Rollout looking more and more like a Ponzi scheme proving that, in terms of rhetoric, The Australian's war against the NBN is sounding more and more like a verbal bout of Ponzi-ism.

A Ponzi scheme is of course a very particular kind of fraudulent investment scheme, and Morgan's rhetoric does him no credit, because using his definition of Ponzi scheme, you could berate the government about anything and everything. Fix the Murray Darling? Just a giant Ponzi scheme. Piss money against the wall on destroyers? Just a giant Ponzi scheme ...

And so on and on, with the writer infatuated with his clever dick rhetoric, and a new angle designed to alleviate the tedium and avoid the bleeding obvious conclusion ... that this is just another piece of confrontational confectionary designed to fill up the shelves in the Oz's anti-NBN store.

And there's no chance that the store will ever run short of such goods, because sure enough, in the way of a double barreled shotgun, there's Jennifer Hewett lining up with the other barrel in Cost is the growing issue for broadband. Hewett has absolutely nothing new to add to previous anti-NBN pieces, but when the Oz is in 'maintain the rage' mode, that doesn't matter.

But there is an upside ... as the NBN fills up the space, so The Australian's war on climate change, which once waxed on a daily basis, has now waned (and we thank the moon's phases for that phrase).

So with a dull sigh and a sob, we're forced to turn to Gerard Henderson, the prattling Polonius responsible for making Tuesday's Sydney Morning Herald, duller than watching a game of lawn bowls at the Tamworth City Bowling Club.

Hicks has little say about his memoir - and says little in it runs the header for Henderson's piece, and it could be handily turned, with a little fire and blacksmith artistry, in to Henderson has little to say that's new about Hicks and his memoir, and spends his column saying it.

Henderson's chief complaint? That Hicks has refused to offer himself up to the media to be torn to shreds, as a way of promoting his book, in contrast to John Howard, a professional politician, who to help along sales, has cheerfully monstered Peter Costello, and exposed himself to shoe throwing and a question from ... Peter Hicks. (just don't ask me to watch Q&A to find out more).

Why Howard's boldness has even extended to a launch with broadcaster Alan Jones, and no doubt the sharp tongued ratbag radio host will give Howard his standard savaging (in much the same way as he shows such a sharp eyed regard for the judicial process, as noted by Media Watch last night in All's not fair with Jones and war).

It seems that because Hicks isn't out and about, getting flayed alive by the media, he's not playing the game:

Some extracts of Guantanamo: My Journey have appeared in newspapers but there has been no high-profile launch by any of the author's well-connected supporters. Moreover, Hicks is not scheduled to undertake a book publicity tour.

Shocking, and outrageous, and a total dereliction of duty. The result?

It seems that Hicks has decided to write a book and leave it at that. This means that he can state his case without being questioned about his life or his story.

It doesn't mean that of course. Henderson spends the rest of his column asking questions about Hicks' life and his story, with the bottom line an explicit defence of the Howard government, and its treatment of Hicks.

Strangely, Henderson offers Hicks a sobriquet, "the Adelaide adventurer". Strange, because the meaning of adventurer as a 'soldier of fortune' is now lost behind the notion of a person seeking adventure, as a way to achieve success or make money through performing daring exploits. Even 'soldier of fortune' these days retains its romantic overtone, the idea of someone serving in an army to perform risky tasks for personal gain or for the sheer love of adventure.

Frankly someone who becomes a Muslim and heads off to Pakistan to join in border skirmishing isn't so much an adventurer as a goose. Only a colonial of the old empire school could find such behaviour pukka and a worthy demonstration of Oz adventuring pluck. This isn't Sean Connery and Michael Caine doing it in Kipling style in The Man Who Would Ke King.

The issue that erupted around Hicks was his subsequent mis-treatment by the Howard government, and its singular reluctance to do anything about him or his Guantanamo predicament. The British government managed it with other prisoners, and the United States managed to appoint a singular military officer to his case (and then punished the military officer for his dedication to duty).

But the Howard government in a fit of petulance and pique typical of the more vindictive and petty-minded aspects of Howard's personality, sat on its thumbs, and so the agitation about Hicks began.

It's possible to have no time for Hicks, and also possible to have no time for the Howard government's antics while he endured years in Guantanamo.

Henderson of course has no time for such subtle distinctions:

During his incarceration, Hicks had many vocal supporters among left-wing professionals. They have been quiet following the publication of his memoirs and his apparent refusal to do as he promised and fully account for his terrorist training and his relationship with al-Qaeda.

Yep, it's once again with the 'left-wing professionals'. Or should that be the professional left wing?

But here's the thing. It was the improper incarceration and the Howard government's refusal to do anything about it that was the problem. Once that issue went away, it was 'meh' and on with life ...

Here at the pond, we have absolutely no interest in Hicks' memoir, and we won't be forking over hard won cash for it (besides, if you wait, the remainder table is sure to beckon - sheesh, he hasn't even done a tour of the bookshops, signing copies). No doubt he fails to explain his decision to embark on an Islamic crusade - how to explain getting religion and thinking Pakistan is worth the fight - and no doubt some foolish people might construe this as him being an "Adelaide adventurer".

That said, and despite his best attempts to stir the muddy waters of the pond, we won't be lining up to buy John Howard's Lazarus Rising either. Sure there might be signed copies available in book stores, but it too will be full of self-serving justifications for policy failures and mean excuses for sterling examples of vindictive, petty minded behaviour.

In due course, the remainder table is sure to beckon, and then the second hand bookstores, and then if I'm around long enough, the final indignity of dozens of copies floating around in St Vinnies and Salvation Army shops, or perhaps cheek and jowl with Frank Moorhouse purple pornographic prose in the cat people op shop. And that's the time to strike, though by that time I suspect it will be even harder to give a toss.

O quam cito transit gloria mundi, as they used to remind the pope, which of course will lead you on to ubi sunt, and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say:
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?
And this first Summer month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.

Though strangely the wiki on ubu sunt misses out on one of my favourite pieces in the style:

Summer grass:
all that remains
of warriors' dreams
(Basho, here).

Oh dear, the next thing you know, we'll be on to memento mori, or timor mortis conturbat me, or Horace's wise advice, Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero (Seize the day, trusting as little as possible to the future).

Well I guess it brings us to our reading for the day:

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full: unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. (Ecclesiastes, the King James version here).

What's that you say? The pond's gone quietly mad and got religion?

By golly, who'd have thunk it.

Reading the bible is more interesting than reading the stale, dreary and unprofitable thoughts of the various minions of Murdoch sent to do battle in the NBN wars, or the scribbles of Gerard Henderson, still valiantly fighting a rear guard action for John Howard and his wayward post-colonial adventurism, imagining that David Hicks continues to be a matter of hot contention now that he's out of his incarceration and capable of scribbling his memoirs.

No thanks to John Howard.

But here's the only bit of fun - the splendid irony that both memoirs hit the shops at the same time jostling for sales and the attention of our prattling Polonius, torn between his desire to sing the song of Howard, and do David Hicks down ...

Well at least in the matter of Henderson and Hicks, I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw ...

(Below: who's that missing the bus? Could it be Gerard Henderson? Or just old Alf, in North by North West? Yes, anything, anything to alleviate the daily monotony of reading the chattering class of inner city sophisticated elitists with their predictable ponderings).

Monday, October 25, 2010

David Burchell, and a valuable addition to mounting evidence that an intelligent debate on Afghanistan is impossible in the antipodes ...

(Above: the ruination of western civilisation as we know it? More here).

There's nothing like a smug comfort zone being on display while smugly dismissing the smugness of others allegedly living in a smug comfort zone, and David Burchell delivers in spades in From war zone to smug comfort zone.

Burchell is a smug academic plying his trade in the outer west of Sydney, rather akin to the smug lives of we who live in the inner west, and his idea of a way to analyse the situation in to Afghanistan is to blame everything on a situation comedy:

If you were a sensitive, bookish adolescent in the 1970s, navigating your passage to adulthood through the maelstrom of the times with the aid of such compasses and sextants as were available, you are almost certain to bear to this day the moral imprint of that era's most popular and acclaimed TV program, the high-minded (if somewhat smug) Korean War army-hospital sitcom M*A*S*H.

I guess it's an angle, a hook, even if it's a profoundly stupid and smug one, and I guess it's better to scribble about something you know about rather than write about Afghanistan, even if the thesis proposed has a tenuous connection to Afghanistan:

Very likely M*A*S*H did more than any other single influence to shape the moral universe of an entire generation of high-minded (if also somewhat smug) young professionals, all of them staunchly and sincerely committed to the service of humanity in general, even as they tend to be rather dismissive of the intellectual capacities of their actual flesh-and-blood fellow humans.

Very likely? Surely that's a smug academic elision to sustain an argument utterly devoid of proof, but potent - at one with the force so to speak - for a smug academic intent on berating smug young professionals.

Perhaps it's because I never fell under the spell of M*A*S*H - preferring the original MASH by Robert Altman - that I failed to understand how a single situation comedy could universally transform the situation of liberal professionals and their reactions to military conflict ever since. Or at least the reactions to them of those who prefer to scribble columns for the lizard Oz rather than indulge in actual military service:

The special appeal of M*A*S*H for its devotees was its sweet-and-sour combination of contrasting but complementary moral flavours: on the one hand, that piquant savour of cynicism and world-weariness characteristic of the highly educated young; on the other that sickly-sweet odour of semi-demi-pacifism, of the type that has coloured liberal-professional reactions to military conflict ever since.

Uh huh. But wouldn't it be better for a smug academic simply to say that he dislikes the attitudes of smug liberal professionals, like George Bush, who prefer a career in politics say, rather than actual front line service where you might end up shot, bombed and dead?

On the one hand the idealistic-but-cynical young doctors of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital are appalled by the carnage and the human waste; on the other they stand outside the moral universe of the ordinary soldiers, who have walk-on parts only as the contents of stretchers or the mute occupants of body-bags.

Uh huh. And could that be because the sitcom - for typical reasons of sitcommery - is set in a base, and an operating theatre, so that the confined sets can be used to control costs? Or should we berate Dad's Army for being about the home guard, rather than pilots fighting the battle of Britain? Or should we just wonder what the fuck these musings have to do with anything, most particularly with actual meaning and insight?

And so M*A*S*H acolytes are enabled to relive time and again this same personal epiphany: all wars are essentially the same; all are equally futile and childish; and all serve chiefly as painted backdrops to our own personal passion play, out of which we refine and ennoble our personalities.

Whatever, though as a fine example of a futile and childish metaphor, surely Burchell's attitude to real war, in which real people fight and die - as a chance to examine the implications of M*A*S*H for young professionals - is moral humbuggery and smug academicism at its worst, laced as it is with a tone of rather pious sententiousness. Oops, I see that I've borrowed my wording from Burchell. Blather is catching:

Lately it's become fashionable to decry the absence of what is called a serious debate about our military involvement in Afghanistan. And so the Greens' call for a thorough parliamentary debate on the matter has been met in a tone of rather pious sententiousness. And yet, in truth, it's hard to know what a serious debate about Afghanistan in this country would look like, given that most Australians wearied of hearing about the elemental facts of Afghan life many years ago -- and given that most public opponents of the war seem to have little serious to say on the matter, beyond articulating, for the thousandth time, the central tenets of the political philosophy of M*A*S*H.

Well there's one thing for sure. If Burchell's idea of making a serious contribution to the debate about Afghanistan in this country is to waffle on about the political philosophy of M*A*S*H, then we are indeed deep in doodah. Could this just be a way of Burchell acknowledging, with a sideways knowing wink, that he once watched many episodes of M*A*S*H, but hasn't been to Afghanistan and simply doesn't have a clue about the situation on the ground? And so rather than dwell on the elemental facts of Afghan life, how much more jolly to scribble about M*A*S*H.

I have no doubt that Andrew Wilkie was perfectly sincere when he shed bitter tears in the house over the soldiers lost in what the ABC's Chris Masters recently titled "The Careful War" in Afghanistan's devastated Miribad Valley. And yet over the past few months Wilkie seems to have rehearsed almost every single possible interpretation of the conflict, only to return every time to the same familiar excuse that we would be better off letting the locals sort it out for themselves.

Indeed. No doubt when Wilkie - a Tamworth lad - went off to Duntroon, and spent twenty years in the military, scoring enough scrambled egg to turn out as a lieutenant colonel, he was undone by spending too many hours watching M*A*S*H, and so became a pacifist, or at least a smug liberal professional who turned to politics. Because that seems to be the implication of the smug Burchell's smug argument.

While it is perfectly reasonable for a former soldier to tend his sympathies for fallen comrades, we have to doubt whether serving members of 6RAR actually approve of the idea that their friends have died for nothing, and that the mission for which they gave their lives is best left incomplete.

Indeed. Perhaps now we should return to Vietnam, to set things right for those who fought and died in opposition to communism, and now find that Australian tourists are returning to the country in droves to discover a communist government still in power, and so the mission for which many hundreds of Australian soldiers gave their lives is at best incomplete.

Since we're talking in tones of pious sententiousness about completing a job in Afghanistan which serially the British, the Russians and now the Americans and their allies are unlikely to complete ... even though they announced years ago that the job was done and dusted.

Or perhaps it might be worth reading the thoughts of people who've actually been to Afghanistan, and discussed the situation there, and instead of blathering about completed missions, are willing to discuss political solutions, as Christopher de Bellaigue does in The War with the Taliban:

A more realistic version of events—one that I heard often in Afghanistan—contends that the military tactics being applied in Kandahar and Helmand are no substitute for a political strategy. There is a strong feeling among high-ranking Afghan and Western civilians who are involved in the effort in Afghanistan that the surge may wrest territory from the Taliban in the short term, but that only a political process of negotiation, reconciliation, and power-sharing can bring lasting peace and stability. These arguments, which I heard in detail, but on condition of anonymity, have some support in the State Department and the National Security Council. In the latter, as Bob Woodward shows in his new book, Obama’s Wars, military officers such as Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, the NSC’s unofficial war “czar,” have expressed grave doubts about whether the current strategy will succeed.

But then he actually went to Afghanistan, instead of scribbling condescending, unedifying smug comparisons to the Korean war and M*A*S*H.

Oops, I see once again I'm borrowing unedifying adjectives from Burchell:

This week we are to be treated to the Senate's version of the same debate, which is unlikely to be more edifying. Already Bob Brown has recalled his own rather M*A*S*H-like experiences of the 1960s, when, as a young doctor putting draftees through their medical examinations, he took it upon himself to decide whether they should go, or else be exempted, by the simple expedient of asking them how they felt about it.

Yes, so much better to send the reluctant off to war. Chocolate soldiers to melt in the sun, while the righteous and the sanctimonious can blather about how easy it should be to send young men off to die.

The senator also shared his childhood memories from Oberon in central NSW, where he recalled among the wartime generation "a universal feeling that war was a bad thing"; again, as if all wars were the same, and as if the horror of war in general can be made an excuse for averting our eyes from all other horrors.

Yes, indeed, how peculiar to think war is a bad thing. And how easy to sit in an academic fortress in the west of Sydney and explain how important it is for others to fight the battle to preserve the alliance with the United States. And how easy to conflate the need for Australia to fight in Afghanistan to avenge the Bali bombings, and never mind that Jemaah Islamiah can be found in Indonesia and Malaysia and other southeast Asian countries. And how weird to think that in a democracy it's almost indecent and perverted for politicians to actually discuss, and perhaps even attempt to explain why we're still in Afghanistan, and what good we might expect to do ...

Meanwhile, Burchell has retreated from Korea, and trooped off to bitter memories of Vietnam:

It seems we are fated to live in a theatre of endless historical similitude, in which every foreign conflict is really Vietnam all over again, and calls for unfolding the same old faded banners and airing the same old moth-eaten sentiments. Until the accession of Barack Obama to the US presidency, Iraq was the new Vietnam, and whole forests were consumed in an effort to present it as the era's new "bright shining lie".

Surely now's the time for a post-doctoral thesis on the way Apocalypse Now transformed a smug generation of professionals and their attitude to war?

Nope, instead this howler:

Now that Iraq has abruptly disappeared from view ..

Yep, so much for poor old WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, and The New York Times devoting its War Logs to information on Iraq and Afghanistan ... Talk about disappeared from view ...

... but we interrupted the smug Burchell 'disappearing Iraq from view' as he was just about to explain that ...

... Afghanistan has taken its place, and we are treated to endless implicit parallels between Hamid Karzai and Nguyen van Thieu, endless searches for the new My Lai, or for images as awful as that napalm-doused child, endless efforts to present Wikileaks as the new Pentagon Papers, as if we were trapped on a dizzy historical roundabout that never stops.

Indeed. And what would Daniel Ellsberg know when it comes to endless efforts to present the new paper war as a re-visiting of the Pentagon Papers:

“I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone to disclose information on a scale that might really make a difference,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed a 1,000-page secret study of the Vietnam War in 1971 that became known as the Pentagon Papers.

Mr. Ellsberg said he saw kindred spirits in Mr. Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old former Army intelligence operative under detention in Quantico, Va., suspected of leaking the Iraq and Afghan documents. (here)

Yep, strange how history is a dizzying roundabout, wars go on, people die in bloody ways, and then return to the earth, and sends the likes of Burchell into a tizz.

Back to Burchell:

It would be hard to imagine a simpler or more self-evidently good cause than Afghanistan.

Except perhaps North Korea? Resulting in the splendid military action we've taken there to sort out that dictatorship as it prepares a new nepotic lad for the throne ...

I keed, I keed, instead we're doing it for Pakistan, which also shows that same simple and self-evident need for military action, the kind of good cause that would appeal to academics in the outer west of Sydney ... And what splendid news that we're about to move on Burma, before the military regime can indulge in yet another farcical election. How jolly spiffing and hockey sticks that self-evident good causes are a reason to wage war around the globe, what a jolly set of japes for consenting or even unconsenting chums ...

Except that ... weren't the allied forces in Afghanistan to remove al-Quaeda and the sheltering Taliban government, and isn't the aim not so much the simple, self-evident, smug, save the country and turn it into a liberal democracy cause, as to get the hell out of there with some semblance of style, and let the locals get on with the rorting, the bribing, the completely corrupt election rigging, the poppy growing, the tribalism and the warlordism?

There is scarcely another country on earth where human dignity has been so deliberately and disgracefully trampled upon, or where the progress of one-half of humankind, probably the most signal advance of the past two centuries, has been more casually routed.

As Human Rights Watch has painstakingly documented, in the Pakistani border regions where the Taliban has revived its authority, girls are once again being turned away from schools, and women are being confined to their own homes in perpetuity. Even now, as Time magazine reported, young Afghan women are being mutilated for defying the despotic authority of their families.

Uh huh. Which is no doubt why we need to extend the war to Pakistan, and Iran, not to mention the outrageous Saudi Arabia with its attitude to women, and the other countries which haven't yet managed to stamp out the vile practice of honor killings. Can we exclude the UK from the campaign, seeing as how a dozen women a year are victims of honor killings?

Of course playing the female card is a sure way to berate smug feminists who spent their early wasted lives watching M*A*S*H.

When the UAE's Al Aan TV network recently produced video evidence that the Taliban in the Pakistani border region of Orakzai are once more stoning women to death for infringing obscure religious laws, it occasioned barely a ripple of interest in the sophisticated West while educated women across the region were swept up into a storm of commentary and protest.

Uh huh. But when I read this kind of thing from de Bellaigue, I'm wondering about Burchell's sources:

Afghanistan under the Taliban had many features of a failed state—it was certainly an odious one—but so long as they observed the Taliban’s laws, members of the country’s Sunni majority could go about their normal business without fear for their lives. Life was more difficult for the mainly Shia Hazaras—a sect of nearly five million Afghans who are concentrated in the central part of the country—whom the Taliban reviled as heretics, and sometimes killed. Still, in many cases they were left in peace. Personal security—being able to plant, to harvest, to move around—is the most important issue facing Afghans today. The Interior Ministry has judged that only nine of the country’s 365 districts are safe. For many of the Afghans who work with the government or foreign organizations, traveling outside Kabul, even to visit relatives in the provinces, is too dangerous.

In a country without security, major humanitarian issues such as women’s education, the freedom to listen to music, or horrendous punishments for adulterers become less pressing. Certainly, from Shias and some women, the two groups that suffered most under the Taliban, I heard opposition to the very idea of readmitting the Taliban to power. Nonetheless a considerable number of Afghans say they would welcome back the Taliban; they feel there would be improved security and less corruption. And some quite Westernized Afghan women, such as the member of parliament Shukria Barakzai, whom I met in Kabul, believe that the Taliban should be given a stake in any future power arrangement.

In truth, in the end, whether under Obama, or a Republican president, the United States will depart the scene, leaving the country in worse shape than Iraq, where the High Court has finally ordered the politicians to pull out their fingers and do something (Iraq's High Court Orders Parliament Back to Work). And women will be brutalised, in much the same way as is allowed by the current western-backed regime, and it will take a generation or more for Afghanistan to recover from its current brutalisation by both sides in this ugly war ... and so long as it remains a conservative, patriarchal, agrarian economy, it will struggle to achieve Burchell's delusionary dream state of a democratic westernised country where the right to watch endless re-runs of M*A*S*H is enshrined in the constitution ...

In truth our Afghan problem is more or less the opposite of what the M*A*S*H brigade pretends. The difficulty is not how to extricate ourselves from a policy debacle on ostensibly pragmatic grounds; a position which also turns out, conveniently, to provide the occasion for a series of arcane rituals of moral self-cleansing.

Rather, the problem is to re-engage a weary and jaded public with what the conflict is really about: a primal contest between universal human values and an atavistic medievalism, where the latter is too often winning out over the former because, encased in our cocoon of high-minded complacency, and habituated to experiencing the world as a theatre for our private moral dramas, we no longer really care.

Oh dear. That's right, we're prattling about a crusade in favour of universal human values from the preening sanctimonious outer fringes of Sydney ... as if the current war is somehow going to make Afghanistan a triumphant example of universal human values. Bomb them back to the stone ages as a way of helping them escape their atavistic medievalism ...

Talk about high-minded complacency and a life spent watching too much television, and causes that ultimately have nothing to do with the pragmatic solutions that will eventually arise in Afghanistan.

Still, Burchell is right about one thing. Given the quality of his scribbling, it's impossible to imagine what a serious debate about Afghanistan would look like in this country, just as its impossible to imagine serious thought and care for the Afghanis fleeing the country, and turning up on our shores ...

It's possible to see that serious debate in other countries, but when M*A*S*H is held up as an emblematic problem, then the tone of pious sententiousness and pretentious crusading moralism gets too much to bear.

Still no doubt we can look forward in the future to an analysis of Hogan's Heroes, and the lessons contained therein, which explains why the heroic forces led by Hogan triumphed over the decadent aristocratic Junker Prussian forces led by Colonel Klink, and so made the world safe for women and democracy in what was one of the great battles against atavistic medievalism and the cavortings of Sergeant Schultz ...

(Below: what to wear on your next crusade for universal human values?)