Thursday, December 22, 2011

And so to a happy holyday and re-education for all ...

The pond is off to a family re-education camp located somewhere near Melbourne.

Key points: Melbourne is the real jewel city - forget emeralds, the Yarra gleams like agate - Ted Ballieu is a treasured fearless dear leader advancing the state towards paradise faster than Kim Jong-un and Barry O'Farrell, and without the contribution of Victorians to potato-growing, the Irish in Australia would have starved.

No further questions please, the pond must away and pack some basic black, finessed with some exotic black, and decoratively finished with a range of accessories ... in black.

Summer is no excuse for an absence of style ...

From now until the new year postings might be intermittent or non-existent on the pond. It depends whether the gulag has broadband, the inmates are allowed access, and the brain is clear enough after repeated mind-numbing recitations of Xmas carols and football club songs ...

And remember the DLP might yet save the Australian political system ...

In the meantime please play safe. At every corner there lurks the potential for disaster. Last night for example, my partner suggested that we watch Oliver Stone's second go at Wall Street. Exhausted after a solid year of vetoes, and in a moment of carefree holyday tipsiness, I agreed.

What a disaster. A terrible script, so bad it's just bad, pretentious cameos, including a couple by Stone, meaningless flashy CGIs, pointless digressions, including a fancy do at the Met, a total lack of chemistry between the leads, Michael Douglas swayed by a sentimental desire to be a granddad, everybody happily corrupt as an illegally hundred mill is flung at a fusion pipe dream, and all's well that ends well. It's a long, long way from It's A Wonderful Life.

What's worse, some noble hams were made to suffer so that we could suffer, including Frank Langella throwing himself under a train, and good old Eli Wallach still going around in his nineties, each moment spent wondering if this would be his last, beady-eyed, Ancient Mariner- fingered turn to camera ... and the only other thing of dramatic interest the nicely done second unit shots of New York.

It's the worst film made since Alexander, and that was the worst sword and sandals show ever made (and since it has Troy as a competitor that's saying something).

So please, play it safe, and enjoy the holydays ... (and avoiding Oliver Stone movies is a very good starting point).

Who knows, we might return in the new year with a bi-partisan set of humanitarian policies in relation to refugees.

Ah, so like the pond, you do believe in Santa and the tooth fairy, and think Dr. No will become Dr. Yes, and the federal government will stop pandering to nattering negativity when not peddling its very own brand.

If that's the case, please take extra care ... the police set road traps for people like you.

As Dave Allen used to say, may your god, your santa, your dreams and desires, your real and imagined family and friends, and a very nice Clare riesling and fruit cake go with you in these troubled times, and if you happen to be stuck at work over the holyday period, just remember it could be worse, you could have been shipped off to re-education camp ...

(Below: found at Pharyngula, most recently noted reporting on the perils of ark-building).

Xmas, and how to mash up trams and the bible ...

(Above: click to enlarge).

The pond was reminded of the cartoon above by this little splash in the heart of the nation, involving the inimitable Gary Johns:

Stop right there, no need to breach the paywall to have a little debate.

Jesus actually had more than a few unkind words to say about the rich, and offered up this insight:

Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Now call Jesus an idealistic or an unrealistic or an impractical nong, call him a pinko socialist commie pervert, but for the sweet absent lord's sake, read the bloody bible and read what Jesus actually said before you scribble a dingbat header.

There is of course more, much more in the bible, in relation to parents, moneylenders and minions of Murdoch, but why should the pond have to reprint the new testament in its entirety so that the heathens at The Australian can get a decent Xian education?

Oh yes, that set the Xmas spirit of goodwill, harmony and peace on earth surging at the pond.

But wait, today there's more.

Tell that to Santa, and to his face punk, and the reindeers and the elves, and don't go on about how they're just imaginary friends for children. Just remember the Romans did perfectly well with Saturnalia, without need of Christianity and cliches like sefl-designated and sapping the festival of its spirit.

What on earth does self-designated mean? Is Peter Kurti self-designated? Or does appearing in The Australian bestow designation?

What, no precious bodily fluids going down the drain as well as the sapping of the festival spirit?

Short and long punk, you stick to your host of imaginary friends, and the pond will remain loyal to Santa and his helpers. Consumerism lives ...

Quick easter bunny, there's someone who doesn't believe in the worlds at the top of the faraway tree.

Meanwhile, as part of the culture shock involved in making the trip to Melbourne, the pond has taken to reading The Age, and bizarre scribbles like Don't get mad, but maybe it's time to rail against a Melbourne icon.

They really do breed their loons down south with an exquisite sense of silliness and refinement as James Schloeffel bangs on about trams, apparently mainly because they dared to dig up the street outside his house, and Sydney's envy isn't enough to sustain the whole darn tram thing:

Call me avant-garde, but I had not imagined trams would be trundling around Melbourne in 2111. I assumed we were just hanging on to them for sentimental reasons until they died. A bit like the Queen.

Call the pond avant-garde, but we assumed Melbourne would be home to petrol heads like Mad Max driving V-8s up Swanston street in 2111.

Actually we'll just settle for calling Schloeffel a dunderhead, and recommend he read in the sister rag Matt Wade's poignant address to Sydney-siders No need to be glum about state we're in.

Cheer up Sydney - the weather might not be very summery but all is not lost for the Premier State.

But where are the trams, there ought to be trams at this time in our career, oh well maybe next year ...

But when the pond went looking for more quaint parochial thinking, that was it. The Fairfax Sydney-Melbourne axis has become a giant amorphous cosmopolitan blob, stripped of regionalism and eccentricity, with Melburnians force fed the likes of Paul Sheehan ... and Simon Smart, director of the Centre for Public Christianity, which operates out of Kent Street in Sydeny (and which raises the question of how soon can we look forward to a centre for private xianity).

In Believer or not, hope sustains all, Smart shows he's a dab hand for rhetorical questions, as he trawls through a set of atheist views which seem quite likely interpretations of the state of imaginary friends in the world, and arrives mournfully at this:

As another year rolls around we get ever-diminishing glimpses of the ancient Christmas story. A child is born among straw, mud and poverty, who also, so the story goes, happens to be the one who was present at the laying of the foundations of the universe. Is it a story that has any currency these days?

Mud? They can't resist the odd embellishment and polishing and scrubbing of the myth, can they?

Read Luke 2:1-20 in detail and see if you can find mention of mud.

Poverty? Actually it was because there was no room at the inn that Jesus ended up in the manger. Is it really necessary to the myth to suggest that Joseph was a wastrel layabout unemployed useless hopeless dingbat, when all he was doing was turning up in town with his squeeze (pledged to be married to him, so never mind the bastard pregnancy by an out of town interloper) to do the right thing by the Roman census.

Poor Smart reveals he has a sick child, so there's no need to be hard on him, but really:

... Christmas morning reminds us that there is a promise that one day there will be a world of no mourning or crying or pain.

You mean when we're dead? We should be looking forward to being as dead as the dodo on Xmas day?

And so those in the West who still celebrate Christmas will do so with a profound sense that this day represents a moment of hope that, perhaps despite appearances to the contrary, God is real, and that he cares enough to get intimately involved in the human drama.

Except of course if you happen to be caught in sectarian violence in Iraq, or living in a theocracy like Iran or suffering in a madhouse like North Korea, or a European Jew or millions of other civilians caught up in the second world war or ....

Oh enough already, you catch the drift. As Edward G. Robinson might or might not have said, and Chief Wiggum certainly did to Ned Flanders, where's your messiah now ...

Suddenly a trip to Melbourne seems like a pleasant distraction from these weighty questions. Bring on the trams, there ought to be trams, maybe next week ...

(Below: speaking of Xmas spirit, the Fox News Xmas card is another beauty, as the Fox drives the sheep to victory, and never mind if cable still generally runs behind free to air in the States, it's the competitive spirit and the bloodlust for victory and kill, kill, kill, 'die motherfucker ratings die' - or 'the motherfucker ratings the' if you will Sideshow Bob - that makes Xmas such a serene time of peace and goodwill on earth to all people).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Oh yes, we've got a little list, but why bother ...

At this time of year, compilers of lists come into their own and inevitably the commentariat are rich pickings for the cataloguers.

It's a tedious business, and a task that needs reviewing moment by moment.

For example, the ten most memorable megaphone moments of 2011 predictably awards Andrew Bolt top perch in the horde of screechers for his guilty verdict in relation to his carry on about alleged white blacks passing off as blacks for advantage.

And the award notes the supporters who splashed $100k on a newspaper advertisement defending Bolt's right to offend, a right naturally defended by Tony Abbott, because the offensive must always stick together.

Oh yes, both valiant defenders of free speech, but the award makes no mention of the rich hypocrisy involved when the Bolter refused to publish his lesbian sister's remarks in defence of gay marriage in the comments section of his blog, ostensibly open to all but the defamatory and the legally challenged.

And what about Bolt's farewell note as he hared off into the sunset? It featured a YouTube clip of Giordano's Andrea Chénier, a sentimental piece sung by Pavarotti which concludes grandly Love is the life and spirit of the world! In a blog designed to fester and suppurate, and cultivate fear and loathing and hostility of the alternate, the different, the minority, perhaps even the halt and the lame ...

And what about the farewell note's header Thank you. Goodbye? And the wistful note below Some thinking will also need to be done about what I'll do next year? If he turns up again blogging, or scribbling for the HUN, can readers sue him for breach of promise, or at least breach of hope?

After all, when Robert Graves scribbled Good-Bye to All That, it really was a heartfelt goodbye to the trenches and the killing fields ... and the impaling of innocents.

What a drama queen the Bolter is. This is where hubris and vanity meld into a perfect storm, and Ecclesiastes begins to ring in the ear.

Instead of a huge list of ne'er do wells and drop kicks, the pond would like to celebrate by remembering the media wastrels who've dropped by the wayside this year.

1. The Australian. Thanks to the heart of the nation's paywall, the shrieking and lamentations of the richest panoply of commentariat loons assembled in the antipodes in several centuries now is but a faint echo of a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. No more Christopher Pearson, no more Greg Sheridan, no more Shanahans ...

No more a chance to catch up on number seven in the megaphone list, Janet Albrechtsen, doing her rough sex rant in relation to the matter of Dominque Strauss-Khan.

And anyway, why bother, when you can get Edward Jay Epstein's zinger account in the New York Review of Books - What Really Happened to Strauss-Kahn? - though the zinger began to sound like a sputtering jumping jack when Epstein mistook thirteen seconds for three minutes ...

2. The 7.30 Report. The pond simply can't bear to watch it. And doesn't. What was a habit for a decade is now a faint memory. Can't say anything about it really because the tedium of its content is also matched by its absence of genuine news-getting scoops that might draw attention to it ...

3. Phillip Adams. The pond would occasionally drop in on the insufferable Adams because of the quality of the guests. Between the moments where Adams talked over them, interrupted, and proposed his point of view as the topic of the day, some guests managed to deliver some insights.

But then the interminable wretch - who keeps boasting about the longevity of being on radio for twenty years, not realising he's also noting how far beyond his 'use by' date he's reached - started chatting with Christian Kerr, who has all the grace and nuance of Patrick Cook on Counterpoint, and sounds like a fop on steroids designed to promote sneering (these days poor embittered Cook is dubbed an Australian national living treasure when in reality he sounds like a national living tragedy given a fragile moment in the sun).

The breaking point came when Adams - always infatuated and ready to celebrate his man love for Kevin Rudd, not that there's usually anything wrong with man love - took to egging Kerr on in a frenzy of Gillard baiting, which culminated on October 17th with Kerr and Adams agreeing that we were in the final days of the Gillard government.

Well we might be in the final months, but months ain't days. Never mind, the pond was in its final minutes with Adams, and so ABC FM saw a return to the fold.

4. Shock jocks. As with the other megaphone moments, it's a reminder that the best strategy for sensible collectors is to let others listen, and then harvest the most piquant moments.

There's absolutely no need to listen to Alan Jones, Neil Mitchell, Michael Smith, Ray Hadley, Chris Smith, and the other shock jocks doing the rounds (or wretches like Kyle Sandilands), because some other loon collector will have done the hard yards and faithfully reported their latest offensive outburst or rank piece of complete silliness.

Have a glass of wine, take it easy, listen to some good music, and soon enough at end of day, you can contemplate the latest loon framed by the golden rays of the setting sun as their busy legs pump away beneath the surface of the water ...

5. The Drum: why has the ABC reduced its level of conversation to that of a Murdoch blog? Memo to self: must not get addicted, even though loon hunting is made incredibly easy, gathered as they are in one place for ritual honking, flapping and squawking.

And now to the future, and never mind that it's 2012, and the end of the world, let's be optimistic.

Come the new year, the pond fervently hopes that the Daily Terror and the HUN sink behind paywalls, blogs included, and so the likes of Piers Akerman (number nine on the megaphone list for bagging Rupe's mum) and Miranda the Devine (lesbians produced the fatherless society that produced the London riots) will drop out of view like lead sinkers snagged on a rather large red gum at the bottom of a very deep pool.

Meanwhile, we've almost forgotten our daily loon duty, but hey as long as The Punch stays in business, there's a solid guarantee of a rich daily diet.

Today for example, Sophie Mirabella is scribbling away in Rubbery figures and the Ghosts of Budgets Past, and her topic is metaphors.

She's determined to present Labor in the light of Charles Dickens' "classic cautionary tale" about a miser, but it turns out that it was the savings of the Liberal party that was classic Grinchitude, and the Labor party is indulging in a life of Pickwickian and Wilkins Micawber splendour. Which leads Mirabella to this completely fatuous comparison:

Make no mistake about it – just as surely as Scrooge’s miserly ways threatened the health of Tiny Tim, Labor’s wild spending impacts on the quality of life we’ll pass on to our kids.

It's so utterly, comprehensively silly and stupid - miserliness being the same as wild spendthrift ways - as to make the reader marvel at why she embarked on such a silly, stupid, and inappropriate metaphor in the first place.

And by the end of the piece, she's urging the Labor party to turn into Scrooges:

So at this time of reflection, perhaps Julia and Wayne could take a look back at their Budgets and through the revelation of their rubbery figures and unmet targets, see fit to change their reckless ways. Now that would truly be a Christmas miracle.

The true Xmas miracle would be if Mirabella found her brains beneath the Xmas tree, and started using metaphors and parables in a remotely intelligible way.

But wait, there's more. There's the crazed Melinda Tankard Reist doing the hard yards by promoting an energy drink called Pussy in The marketing campaign that's totally below the belt. In her usual way, Reist draws attention to a drink that might have lived or died in the market place, and all because she objects to cats or double entendre.

We look forward to her vigorous campaign to ban Pussy Galore and Octopussy, and adolescent stupidity in general ...

It's hard to know what's sillier, the product, the campaign, or Reist's hysterical puritanical response ...

But wait, there's more, as Derryn Hinch assures us in The Human Headline: Ungagged and unbowed, that he did it tough with five months of home arrest:

I said: “I feel great. Only 12 more days and I’m out of jail.” His mocking, condescending reply: “You weren’t in jail.” I felt like saying: “You try it, sunshine.”

Uh huh. It seems Hinch felt like Rudolf Hess, locked up alone in Spandau Prison. Because you know, he couldn't twitter or use Facebook or promote his latest book. Oh the humanity, oh the suffering ...

But wait, there's more, because Paul Sheehan has lost weight. Yes that's a matter of crucial importance to the world - and in complete contrast to lazy Celts and cheating lazy Greeks - as he explains at tedious length how to do it in Fit to burst, but weighting game is no walk in the park.

It seems he did it with the help of a friend and a Russian instructor. That's either too much information, or it will be be a tremendous inspiration to fat people doing it tough. You too can be like Sheehan, just take yourself off to the eastern suburbs, cut back on going to jones the grocer, and hire a Russian instructor for a few shekels ...

So there you have it.

Sadly, the truth of it is that even if Bolt were to ride off into the sunset, there would be hordes hanging around to carry on the tradition.

There always has been, from the days of Charles Coughlin blaming the Jews for Communism, to the days of William Randolph Hearst making mischief. He might not have started the Spanish American war in the strict sense of the word, but he did for Spain what the Murdoch press is currently doing for boat people. (How do you like the Journal's war?)

Yep, there will always be loons, and chivs, chavs, spivs and pimps always ready to make a buck out of offering the loons a home. You can write about Ian Plimer (Plimer suffers from crank magnetism) or the Monckton manoeuvre until the cows come home, but sometimes the cows just never come home ...

The pond can never go out of business, unless of course blissful insanity or death or perhaps Xmas intervenes ...

(Below: here's a more appropriate operatic model for Andrew Bolt and his chief consoler, Tony Abbott. While there might be better Scarpias than Ruggero Raimondi - why Bolt in a metaphysical sense is already bidding to outdo him - the staging is most apt).

Of the bishop's gambit, and the smirk, and why big Mal wants non-profit rags to disseminate their thoughts ...

(Above: if only).

As the year draws to a close, the cliche that change is the only constant keeps coming home to roost at the pond.

Once upon a time on a Wednesday, Janet Albrechtsen would have been the go to commentariat member to lighten the day:

But now there's no need to be reminded that Janet Albrechtsen is proof women can be just as ruthless, rude, reactionary, irascible, disagreeable and ambitious as any man, at least not when the ominous gold bar of greed, as dangerous as the fickle finger of fate, hovers over the splash.

Meanwhile, the siren song of printarian socialism has struck a chord in big Mal. You see without a vigilant media bitching on about Julia Gillard, there'd be no one home in the opposition:

Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition does its best with very limited resources, but more often than not the most effective means of holding a government to account is through a vigorous and independent media. During the last, appalling, term of the NSW Labor Government the most rigorous and consistent criticism came from the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph. This is not to take anything away from Barry O’Farrell’s opposition, but any critique offered by an Opposition is always viewed with skepticism by the public – “they would say that wouldn’t they.”

Yes, yes, there's little doubt that big Mal would say Gillard shows the worst in women, but he can't, can he, and so what's needed is a vigorous and independent media, like Dame Slap herself, and there's no better way to sustain an independent media than slip them a little on the sly:

... there would be some merit in considering whether some level of support could be given, in terms of deductible gift recipient status, for not for profit newspapers, online or hard copy or both, which committed to a code of conduct analogous perhaps to that subscribed to by the ABC.

Yes, that's what's needed, yet another ABC. Better still dozens of little mini-ABCs.

Well if you want to read more of the thoughts of big Mal on The future of newspapers - is it the end of journalism?, you can rush off to his web site - the piece even has footnotes. No doubt he means well, but if his solution to print media's woes is not for profit newspapers, subsidised by government and run along the lines of the ABC, he's showing dangerous socialist tendencies.

And what would they publish?

Well there's always Julie Bishop, ever ready to hold down a spot - call it the Bishop's Gambit if you will - and then scribble It was a year in which we hardly caught our breath, a piece of unremitting banality, with this surpassing conceit:

... it is the actions of people during 2011 that will arguably have the biggest impact on world history.

Yes it's the actions of people that will have the biggest impact on the record of the actions of people, sometimes called history.

What follows is a survey of the year's events, full of bubbling, sparking insights:

The short, medium and long-term implications of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East are far from clear.

Indeed. It has to be noted that the vertical and horizontal implications are also unclear, but will become clearer as the verbiage settles to the bottom, and we can sort through the mud.

And it wouldn't be a complete year without some unctuous political forelock-tugging:

As we look back at the events of 2011 and then head into the flamboyant and tempestuous Year of the Dragon it is timely for us to remember those in our armed forces who are serving overseas in support of the enduring ideals that underpin our society.

The flamboyant and tempestuous year of the dragon? Would that be the same as leaving the scuttling, scampering, burrowing, grass-eating year of the rabbit?

And as for the enduring ideals ... would those be the same as heading off to the Boer war and killing the odd missionary? Or heading off to Vietnam, to make sure even to this day that Agent Orange continues to ruin people's lives?

Or is it the enduring ideals of heading off to Iraq and then scarpering, just as Iraq's sectarian divide threatens to split country as anger at Maliki grows?

Perhaps, as Sigmund Freud once said, "One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful"

Would the years of struggle be when Freud was in the grip of cocaine?

As for Australia in the years of struggle ... do you mean like the grandparents in the great depression, or are we only talking about the parents in the second world war? Is Australia in 2011 on struggle street? Some street, some struggle ...

But at least we know who'll be given the important job of opening school fetes with cliche-laden mind-numbing speeches once the opposition gets hold of the reins of power ...

Speaking of mind-numbing, the thought of Peter 'the smirk' Costello having a thought bubble was irresistible, but here it is:
It's the pond's belief that the resemblance of Costello to Humpty Dumpty is getting uncanny, even to the point of eery:

The claim of a Cheshire cat resemblance is still striking, but not as sound as it used to be:

Anyhoo, the themes in Costello's piece are easily summarised.

Europe and Labor bad, China good.

Naturally the Chinese have the right attitude to welfare, with Costello graciously quoting CIC chairman Jin Liqun:

"If you look at the troubles which happened in European countries, this is purely because of the accumulated troubles of the worn out welfare society. I think the labour laws are outdated. The labour laws induce sloth, indolence, rather than hard-working. The incentive system is totally out of whack."

Indeed. There are simply not enough Europeans suicidally jumping out of factory windows while making trinkets for America, nor enough suffering in old age the Chinese way.

Of course China only really got into its own welfare system three years ago - when they suddenly realised there was no safety net for the ageing or the sick or the suffering workers - but ain't it grand to see the smirk applauding the merciless treatment of workers in the land of Orwellian dreams.

And he's gone so orientalist, he wants the Chinese to kick Europe's butt:

Once upon a time the Chinese government would have had nothing to teach us about economic growth. But its track record is not looking so bad these days - not as bad as Europe, that's for sure.

Yes indeed. Once upon a time the Chinese government would have had nothing to teach us about the dignity of the individual, and freedom of expression, and its record is looking just as bad these days, but go with the material goods solution to everything, and y0u'll be at one with the smirk.

Borrowers can't be choosers. If Europe wants a loan from China it will get an earful of advice with it.

Insufferable righteousness? Sure thing.

So there it is, big Mal. What need of a government bail out for a print media always willing to regale the populace with the thoughts of current and former politicians for free?

What need to pay for Janet Albrechtsen when you can get thought bubbles from Julie Bishop and Peter Costello?

And what need to chatter on about anything other than hooking workers up to the grindstone and making them suffer, with a lashing or three, and never mind the role financiers or the banking system might have played in Europe's woes ... when you're the smirk?

Monday, December 19, 2011

And now for some eugoogoolizing about the planet ...

Here's a sampling of Bob Carter's careful, scientific vocabulary, on view in Warming denialism is in the political eye of the beholder, at your ABC.

Well it better be yours, because there's bugger all chance it belongs to the pond.

Skeleton building, flimsy straw of special pleading arguments casuistically set up for later routing, army of straw climate men, wearisome catalogue of hypothetical disasters, uncomfortable feeling, imaginary woes, the infamous Al Gore, mind-numbing list of scares, old and discredited, recalcitrance about warming alarmism, post-modern science, suffocatingly strong paradigm of political correctness, make-believe world, if you tickle me any more I shall explode, just like reading a Robert Ludlum (or should that be Michael Crichton) novel, deadly dull repetition that is the time-honoured basis of successful propaganda, peroration, depart even further from reality, warming alarmism, assassinated the characters of hundreds of highly qualified and meritorious scientists, all-too-real climate elephant, rusted-on alarmist Bjorn Lomborg, global warming meme ...

And so on and so forth, as rhetorical and political and ideological and full of zealotry as anything his chosen enemy Robert Manne might muster.

Naturally Carter generated a lot of hits - well over six hundred at time of writing - and as a corollary it can be said that the Murdochisation of the ABC, courtesy The Drum, under Mark Scott and the Drum's editor, Jonathan Green, is now almost complete ...

Don't publish insights, just publish the controversy and enjoy the bounty of trolling and flame wars.

Meanwhile, if you want reporting of scientists in the field, making observations, rather than rhetorical flourishes worthy of a Lord Monckton, you could always head off to stories like As Permafrost Thaws, Scientists Study the Risks.

It seems interesting things are happening to the permafrost, but will the permafrost predictability of Bob Carter's writing ever thaw enough to take note of them?

The funniest thing is that Carter exudes rhetorical certainty, of the kind he finds most irritating in Manne and Gore and others. The end result is a bit like watching a Protestant and a Catholic having a theological debate. Well I suppose it's a kind of science ...

Of course Carter might well be right, and the wisest course might be to do nothing. Just crank the population of the planet up to ten billion, and maintain the looting and the pillaging at the highest material level possible to ensure everyone has access to a McMansion ...

Talking of risk management, remind me not to replace the battery in the fire alarm ... it'll produce a pleasant silence, as well as getting the pond out of earshot of Carter's outraged screeching ...

I suppose this is The Drum's solution to any future energy crisis. Generate plenty of heat, and don't worry too much about the light being a little dim ...

Meanwhile, it seems everyone has an anecdote about Christopher Hitchens - the pond has none - and everyone has an anecdote about Kim Jong-il - the pond has none - and would providing yet another link to various scenes from Team America constitute formidable journalism?

It seems so, at least on your ABC.

As for Hitchens, in his usual way the reprehensible Bob Ellis spends most of the time rabbiting on about Ellis's previous inspirational thoughts in Mr Valiant-For-Truth, gone too soon.

Yep, it's the lead feature in the opinionated opinion part of The Drum, and another example of your ABC - not the pond's - at work. Not that we encourage the art of tweeting, but this one hit a mark:

Zoolander? Well in his finer moments, Zoolander was responsible for deep insights, like:

Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty ...

And just so you don't get upset about the spelling:

Derek Zoolander: Or are you here to tell me what a bad eugoogoolizer I am?
Matilda: A what?
Derek Zooland: A eugoogoolizer ... one who speaks at funerals.
(Matilda looks at Derek, confused)
Derek Zoolander: Or did you think I was too stupid to know what a eugoogooly was?

Meanwhile, in a special edition, John Donne penned this poem for the antipodes:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Australia
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Read it several times before you head off to read the likes of Gerard Henderson, prattling on in his usual Polonius way in Asylum seeker tragedy: why the figures speak for themselves.

As usual, there's a wondrous capacity for historical revisionism and John Howard worship, which perhaps reaches its peak in this little par:

Initially the Howard government's approach was too harsh. Towards the end of his period in office, Howard relaxed the administration of mandatory detention, while maintaining a red flag warning to people smugglers.

No doubt when thinking as a child, and issuing warnings to children, it's tremendously useful to blather about red, green and amber flags (what, no traffic lights?)

And if you have a tendency to nausea, you might do well to avoid David Penberthy's hand-wringing in Killed with kindness: onshore processing is a deadly policy.

The level of delusional hysteria mounted in the Australian media in relation to boat people is roughly proportional to the hysteria to be found in the United States in relation to Hispanics flooding into the Mexican border states, and over-turning all that's good and pure and true about white America.

It is possible to discover some more considered thoughts on the matter, as with Dilan Thampapillai's What if we can't stop the boats?

The notion that in a time of upheaval, regional wars, regional tensions and sundry tyrannies, people might still keep coming to Australia, whether by boat or plane, or to Europe, or to the United States, never really seems to be considered by those with a set of ideological fixations.

It's always nice to read someone able to carry a logical argument beyond the political boundaries. Take it away Dilan:

Professor Bob Birrell has suggested that we should withdraw from the Refugee Convention. Regrettably, his aptitude for demographics does not extend to the law. In its substance, Birrell's suggestion is a bit like saying 'crime is still happening so let's abolish the Criminal Code'.

And this:

Criminalising unauthorised arrivals is not a feasible option. Australia is a country committed to the rule of law. The rule of law has at its heart a commitment to substantive justice. There is a big difference between the rule of law and rule by law. This should be obvious, but any solution to the asylum seeker problem should not destroy the moral fabric of Australia or its legal system.

And this:

This brings us to the other solution that tends to get floated in conservative circles; towing back the boats. There is one obvious drawback to towing back the boats, should the boats sink and should anybody drown, then the Australian officials who ordered and carried out the towing might face criminal liability under international law.

And this:

If we do tow boats, and if when they begin to sink, Australian officials take the asylum seekers on board their vessel, then they will officially be in the custody of the Australian Government. That is, unless we excise our own navy and coastguard services from the Migration Act. I am not sure if there is precedent for this option. This brings us back to square one.

And this:

Now if the boats keep coming why don't we just admit that we cannot stop them. We can merely slow their progress. Perhaps that isn't catchy as an election slogan, but at least it's true.

Oh wait, it was a piece in The Drum, thereby doing serious damage to the pond's ABC thesis.

Yes, one out of three ain't so bad ... but we could have done without Bob Carter eugoogoolizing warming alarmism ...

(Below: because Australians don't get out much, no one seems to know what happens down Mexico way, or in Europe, so here's an alternative perspective, the first two with similar themes - the second cartoon reads "We have a problem: in order to built an anti-immigrant wall, we need to hire a thousand illegals".)

And now to begin the run into the Xmas straight, a potpourri of paranoia ...

For the past week, the pond has been in the grip of a virus doing the Sydney rounds, providing firm evidence that grumpiness and aggro are directly and inversely related to a sense of well-being.

Conclusion? The commentariat are perpetually in the grip of a virus, roughly akin to the virus on view in Colin Wilson's The Mind Parasites.

Watching Limitless on the weekend didn't help, as the virus kept draining away energy and memory, while up on the screen Bradley Cooper was being exuberant. Where was the magic pill for the pond? Sadly, no magic pill could be found ....

Following that show up with the sight of Danes at work in Afghanistan in the documentary Armadillo didn't help improve things - though it provided a cogent explanation of why a bunch of Afghans might have fled the country and been amongst those who drowned in the most recent boat disaster.

Who'd have thought that the Danes could make a film that provided convincing evidence American soldiers were more sympathetic and understanding of the people they were ostensibly supposed to saving than a bunch of clod-hopping thrill-seeking Europeans? Pity the poor bloody civilians caught up in the madness ...

Whatever, it seems that it's the season to be surly. Take Henry Ergas's splash in The Australian this morning:
Uh huh. The pond gets the tone. Pious hypocrisy and snide nastiness.

Let's try it out.

Merry Xmas minions of Murdoch. Here's hoping your paywall is a total turkey, and the turkey is dry and tasteless on Xmas day ...

That hits the right note of cheery Xmas joy.

Naturally Paul Sheehan is also at one with the mood of the zeitgeist:

Uh huh. It might be the season of political peace, but forget all that blather about goodwill, and let's maintain the rage right through the holyday period.

You can read more in A Trojan Horse to empower unions, wherein Sheehan is outraged that anyone might want to do anything about health and safety in the workplace. No doubt Orica executives will be cheering on Sheehan, whose ability to put on a hard hat and carry on like Captain Grumpy knows no bounds.

We don't normally quote the illustrations accompanying commentariat columns, but this one by is most artful, revealing the power of paranoia:

Parents, please check the presents under the Xmas tree at once. Who knows what insidious leftist package might lurk there to ruin the young in your care.

The only other amusing thing in yet another example of Sheehan's tedious alarmist union bashing - as if occupational health and safety couldn't do with some continuing attention outside Sheehan's cozy world of the perfect bread - is an aside at the end where Sheehan is chivvied by big Mal for getting his wording wrong.

Clearly Sheehan is chuffed that big Mal takes the time to read his columns, so he obligingly deleted a line claiming that Malcolm Turnbull was a supporter of gay marriage, only to discover that big Mal disapproved of his re-wording, which suggested that Turnbull 'is advocating' a conscience vote.

Big Mal is going to fall into line behind fearless leader Tony Abbott, and so it should have been past tense - 'has advocated'.

If nothing else, it shows the level of inanity, fear and loathing loose in the world amongst the commentariat and politicians on the subject of gay marriage, fear and loathing that Sheehan has done his fair share to generate, whenever he can spare a moment from his ecstatic appreciation of the spiritual joys of the perfect sourdough.

Meanwhile, the Daily Terror confirms that it has perfected the fine art of the beat-up, always with Green in the headlines:
Note the key word in the splash - "could". It earns a place in the header: Household could be forced to find an extra $1400 for hot water under Labor green scheme expansion. (Please don't ask where the 's' went in Households)

And the opening line increases what we can now call the "could" factor:

Households could be forced to find an extra $1400 for hot water under a massive expansion of another federal Labor green scheme.

Indeed. Of course punters "could" be forced to find an extra $416-00 a year to access the accumulated wisdom of the minions of Murdoch at The Australian, and they "could" be forced to pay an extra $1,664 a year if they had a serious newspaper habit, and wished to access the Daily Terror, the HUN, a regional rag like AdelaideNow and the punch drunk Punch .... that's if each rag devised its own paywall, and there was no corporate discounting for tickets offering single entry to the House of News Corp.

And cabal TV punters "could" be forced to pay $5,564 a year to access a Gold package at Foxtel, but on the other hand they "could" be sensible and indulge in a little cable cutting.

Of course we "could" have got all this wrong, and by reading down a little further discovered that it relates to the installation of electric water heaters in brand new detached terrace or town houses, and extending the ban to existing homes is somewhere off in the distance, perhaps over the hill and faraway in the land of Oz.

Of course this "could" all be wrong, and the newspaper "could" merely be quoting the state government, which has a jaundiced view of the Federal government, and would do anything to distract from its grinch posturing at Xmas to cut foster payments for teenagers. (Foster carers slam NSW payment cuts).

Around the same time as the grinch routine, the media has been full of the usual shock horror stories about drunken teenagers roaming the streets generating violence. And all the state government is trying to do, in its very best imitation of a Dickens figure, is get a few more kids out in the streets so they can enjoy a healthy outdoor lifestyle ...

Thanks to its exemplary cost-cutting, caring minister Pru Goward will be able to purse her lips about drunken youths for years into the future ...

Naturally we immediately turned to Miranda the Devine for advice on how to deal with fractious, difficult youth, as she gets most excited in A generation of dopes:

The Gillard government is quite happy to intervene and regulate to a ridiculous extent practices that are legal and less harmful such as smoking, drinking and gambling.

Yet when it comes to illicit drugs, they’re all softly softly, turn a blind eye and get the law out of it.

Uh huh. Well there's the answer to all those stories about drunken kids running rampant in the streets. Drinking's not a problem at all. Nor for that matter is pissing your entire weekly income down the throats of poker machines, or dying of lung cancer.

You have to admit, it's remarkable how Mother Grundies of the Murdoch world can be capable of this kind of risk assessment. Forget the demon drink, pokies and ciggies. They're harmless pleasures, at least until they kill you.

You see it's the evil weed that is entirely responsible for the ruination of youth and what they need is a good shaking up:

Now anyone who disapproves of illicit drug use is accused of “Moral panic”. Well, panic away. It’s time for a new scare campaign.

Indeed. And luckily the pond has a newly freshened up campaign standing by, ready to deliver just what the Devine wants, as you can see below.

And some wags call this the silly season as we enter the straight for the final week.

Bah humbug it's a time for splendid insights into the viral madness that drives the commentariat forward when others might be thinking of relaxing, and taking it a little easier over the break ...

(Below: a scare campaign guaranteed to work, because it's so true. We're standing by, anticipating a call from the state government which could see the pond profitably employed for the next year).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And now for a Sunday dose of Christian politics, Christian censorship and dominionism rampant ...

(Above: evangelical Christian politician in action).

What on earth is to be done about the Sydney Anglicans, and Michael Jensen in particular, as he scribbles Constantine Defended?

Jensen is ostensibly writing about Constantine and his convenient conversion to Christianity:

The famous story goes that on the eve of the battle of the Milvian Bridge (28th October, 312 AD), Constantine had some kind of vision or dream (the contemporary sources seem to disagree) which led him to paint the shields of his soldiers with the labarum. The labarum was a sign which combined the Greek letters ‘Chi’ and ‘Rho’, which look like an ‘X’ and a ‘P’, and which form the first two letters of the name of Christ.

Constantine won the battle, and this led to an extraordinary change in the policy of the Empire.

Yep, if the old gods aren't working for you, trade them in, and trade up to a brand new god who will deliver all the V8 grunt, power steering, and smooth ride you've come to expect from the new model Kingswood.

Victory in battle? Now that's a reward in spades. At least until the Visigoths come knocking and then Augustine has to invent the heavenly city and the concept of a just war, so assorted Popes could turn themselves into quasi-emperors and go about the business of empire building ...

Somewhere along the line, Jensen becomes infatuated with an American theologian Peter Leithart, but first we must issue a disclaimer:

There is much that is ugly and unchristian about some of the collaborations between state and church that we know from history.

But once disclaimer is done - let's not dwell on Oliver Cromwell, the Puritans, the Salem witch trials, the Catholic church in South America, the Inquisition, assorted Islamic theocracies, and the current Republican party in the United States - it's time to get down to business:

The problem is not with the notion of a Christianised politics (for Leithart), but that Christian politics has more often failed to live up to its own gospel. Leithart writes: “If there is going to be a Christian politics, it is going to have to be an evangelical Christian politics, one that places Jesus, his cross and his resurrection at the center. It will not do to dismiss the Sermon on the Mount with a wave of the hand (‘that’s for personal life, not political life’) (p. 332)

Just think about it. The Sydney Anglicans sound like they want to go dominionist, or perhaps Fred Nile. And where does putting the cross at the centre of politics get the Jews, the Islamics, the secularists and the atheists?

Lost at sea most likely.

You see, Jensen doesn't want some half hearted approach:

That is: if we are going to elect Christian politicians, or urge the state to pursue Christian policies, then we’d better not be half-hearted about it! Why, for example, have we in the church permitted politicians who are Christian by subscription or conviction to enact policies that are so degrading of our common life as a nation? How is love for neighbour being expressed in Australian politics at the moment? Why do we put up with less than honest politicians? Why is generosity so lacking in Australia?

Yep, get thee gone atheistic Juliar Gillard. You're degrading the common life of the nation. Go for it Tony Abbott. You're expressing love for your neighbour, and you are an honest, an exceedingly generous politician of the kind we all associate with Christian politicians.

The funny thing is of course that Jensen with his mealy-mouthed talk of loving thy neighbour and generosity, completely fails to mention or deal with the behaviour of the current crop of evangelical Christian politicians and their disreputable politics ... the kind being pursued in the United States with a ruthlessness and brutality and exclusiveness that is a marvel to behold in an allegedly Christian nation.

What he needs is a quick course in dominionism so he can walk the walk, while talking the talk:

In the context of American evangelical efforts to penetrate and transform public life, the distinguishing mark of a dominionist is a commitment to defining and carrying out an approach to building society that is self-consciously defined as exclusively Christian, and dependent specifically on the work of Christians, rather than based on a broader consensus. (here).

Yes that's the way to go with evangelical Christian politics. Get hold of the levers of power, and make everyone dance to the same deluded tune. And once you're on that slippery slope, why there's no end to the inevitable conclusions that can be reached:

1. Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe that the United States once was, and should once again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy.
2. Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.
3. Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, insofar as they believe that the Ten Commandments, or "biblical law," should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles. (ibid)

Go Michelle Bachmann, go Rick Perry.

Smote those gays, make sure that women know their place is in the home (which is certainly not being a bishop in the Sydney Anglican church), and all will be well with the world, But back to Jensen:

I am not expert enough to judge whether Leithart has got his history right. There are many controversial questions in the life of Constantine that will never be resolved at this distance. But he makes a compelling theological case about the possibility of a Christianised politics – one that ought to be carefully considered. The influence of the gospel for the better on contemporary society has occurred not merely from outside the political arena as a prophetic voice but from within it.

A compelling theological case for Christianised politics! For the better!

Would that be the Christianised politics that produced the pursuit of empires in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, or perhaps merely the first world war? As Christian nations went about turning the fields of Europe into a patchwork of mud and blood ...

There is of course one fly in this splendid vision of Christian politics at work. What would happen if say, instead of Fred Nile, Cardinal George Pell got into a position of power, and enacted various aspects of Catholic church teaching, including the one that heretic Sydney Anglicans are destined for an eternity of torment in hell?

Oh wait, he already has a proxy, one Tony Abbott. Be afraid of Christianised politics, Sydney Anglicans, be very afraid.

And speaking of Pell, his week-old column for the Sunday Terror shows what would happen if Pell's form of Christian politics managed an even bigger share of power.

Censorship, so beloved of the Catholic church since the days of Index Librorum Prohibitorum, would raise its ugly head once more ... (oh wait, did someone mention Stephen Conroy was a socially conservative Catholic, and two and two make four?)

Pell, in scribbling Sensible Decision, celebrates the banning of The Human Centipede 11, without ever giving an indication that he's seen the film:

Congratulations to the board and the minister on this outcome. Predictably, a few on the margins are bleating about "censorship". But most Australians will see the decision as a win for common decency and common sense.

Pell bases his case on the show being a really bad film, and a squandering of talent, and with an over-abundance of sordid material.

If these were good enough reasons for banning films, then thousands of shows would be on the pond's index prohibitorum. All the same, would it really be fair to ban The Sound of Music?

Sadly, it seems that Pell was scribbling before news that the ban was overturned and the show will now - with less than a minute cut out of its running time - be released in Australia:

The film will return to Australian cinemas, or secure a release on DVD, buoyed by the free marketing it has inadvertently generated over the last few weeks. Early this month I wrote about how organisations such as Collective Shout have unintentionally supported the film by underlining its core selling point: notoriety. This latest twist in the Human Centipede saga ought to deliver them a sobering reality check. (here)

It's worth quoting at length Luke Buckmaster on the campaign which sees Pell in bed with the likes of Melinda Tankard Reist:

A Serbian Film and The Human Centipede II are now destined to be long remembered in an industry stuffed full of forgettables, and the internet makes it simple for anybody to pry open the cult vault and sample the sacred warez. In the online environment, banning films has become the mother of all free advertising, a shoo-in method for ensuring torrent numbers skyrocket. The days of films being lost forever, like Pure Shit nearly was, are long gone.

Indeed. I was so irritated by Pell's piece that I immediately downloaded The Human Centipede 11, as I still can in the last days of freedom before Conroy turns the country into North Korea.

For Melinda Tankard Reist, Collective Voice, Family Voice Australia and liked-minded politicians, the truly frightening part of this year’s censorship debate lies off screen, away from the fiction of perverted misfits and sex-crazed loonies. For them, the real horror lies in the possibility that their actions may have inadvertently supported the very films they are rallying against.

And then I chose not to watch it, as is my right and my choice, because it's not up to Reist, or Pell or the censors to tell me what to read or watch in the privacy of my home, especially as I'm not half -crazed with fear and loathing, as in the Reist style, or reliant on imaginary friends to tell me what to think and do, in the Pell manner.

We've all been down this long and winding road before. Back in the early seventies, when all the fuss about censorship was doing the rounds, and Don Chipp was trying to allow Australia to turn into an adult, consenting nation, some dour citizens got concerned about the Marquis de Sade and his 120 Days of Sodom (which you can find on the intertubes here in pdf form, amongst a number of other places).

Egged on by the fuss, I got hold of a Grove edition and sat down to read the book, which had been in hot water since it was written in 1785 ... and emerged with a profound sense of ennui, tedium and boredom.

I actually couldn't make it to the end, not for reasons of revulsion, but because it was so badly written (and/or translated), and the desire to shock or to fetishise isn't enough to sustain interest over the longer haul of a longish book, especially one without plot or interesting characters.

If you're going to read de Sade, start with Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue ... and don't be beguiled by censorship fanatics into wasting your life just to make a point.

The same thing happened with Pasolini's Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma. The fuss surrounding the 1975 film - which was eventually cleared for a dvd release in 2010 in Australia - eventually beguiled me enough to take a look at a copy, and then to wonder what all the fuss was about. Was it the consistent breaching of Godwin's Law? Because it certainly wasn't the staid and predictable staging ...

It's at the extreme end of Pasolini's film-making (you can catch Bill Mousoulis brooding about its implications here In the Extreme: Pasolini's Salò) and while I don't regret watching it that much, it's not a well-made film, more of a rhetorical dead end, with other films like his life of Christ much more transgressive and interesting (ditto his medieval trilogy).

The point?

Well in the end Pell, Reist, Conroy and the rest are motivated by the notion that they know better, and they should have a final say over what the mob watches, for fear the mob might turn yet again into the rampaging hordes familiar from the days of de Sade and the French revolution.

Yet before the fuss, The Human Centipede would only ever attract a constitutionally hardened horror film cult buff audience, and that crowd already has more than enough movies full of the same sort of stuff, filtered down to the level of popular taste by mainstream shows like the thriller Seven. In all likelihood, without the attention of censors, it would have attracted the same level of attention as is now spent on cult Italian horror films of the nineteen seventies ...

And Salò is best suited to the art house film festival brigade best trained in the art of enduring tedium as a form of aesthetic enlightenment ...

So once again we are starting to see the dumbness of censorship in action, which as Buckmaster points out, sees provocative shows designed to push boundaries - because that's all they've got as a promotional and aesthetic device - given an unseemly amount of publicity for no particular purpose. The film-makers need the Reists and Pells of the world as much as the Pells and the Reists need the film-makers ...

It makes you realise that Pellist-approved, Catholic style, patriarchal censorship of the old school is a dangerous brew, which can to lead to much distraction from more important issues - like the fate of altar boys in Belgium, Ireland, Australia and the United States - in much the same way as Christian politics and politicians seems to have encouraged for centuries all sorts of behaviour and reactionary politics which finally erupted into two world wars ... along with the current crop of crusades in foreign parts.

Will the Pellists and the Sydney Anglicans think just a little about this?

Not likely, and unfortunately such is liberal way of the world for secularists, they can't be banned either ...

(Below: coming to a computer screen near you courtesy of Christian politicians, but at least Americans have explicit rights to be abused, because constitutionally Australians have diddly squat).

Brendan O'Neill, and a Sunday reflection on confused wild humans indulging in the odd opportunistic instinctual fuck ...

(Above: click to enlarge).

It being Sunday, let's start with a text:

...ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:
Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.
Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?
In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12:7 on)

Thanks Job, now how about a dash of Shakespeare?

Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou
owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep
no wool, the cat no perfume.
Ha! here's three on's are sophisticated!
Thou art the thing itself:
unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor bare,
forked animal as thou art.

Thanks King Lear - we are but animals - and now to bring down the tone with a heavy clunk, and a hearty dash of stupidity, how about a flourish of Brendan O'Neill in March of the gay penguins:

We've had stories about gay monkeys, gay dogs and gay sheep (who indulge in "ram-on-ram action", according to one gay writer), leading observers to conclude that "gay sex is perfectly natural". One recent report claimed that "every species, from beetles to shrews to chimpanzees, has a consistent minority who prefer their own sex".

None of these gay activists ever seems to stop and think about how screwed up it is that they try to justify their own lifestyles by pointing to allegedly similar behaviour amongst dogs and insects. It's a bit like a teenage boy saying "I saw an ape masturbating at the zoo, so it is okay for me to wank", or an adulterer saying, "Well, if male hyenas can have multiple partners, why can't I?"

Screwed up? Clearly O'Neill didn't grown up in the countryside, amidst talk of birds, bees, poddy calves sucking, bulls bellowing, horses mounting, dogs getting tangled, dogs dry humping, dogs wanking ...

Of course in those days it was just animals doing their thing, rather like human animals doing their own thing, and neither thought any the worse of any species doing whatever came natural.

But the first, and perhaps the most obvious question, is what's wrong with wanking? And - provided you haven't made vows of exclusivity of service - what's wrong with fornication? What's wrong with multiple partners if the multiple partners consent? (and there are no vows of exclusion standing in the way).

And what's wrong with the human animal - because animal we are - doing what birds, bees, apes and male and female hyenas, and perhaps male and male hyenas, and who knows female and female hyenas - doing what comes naturally?

The hapless deluded O'Neill seems to think that somehow we can transcend our animal origins, and that exceptionalist humans shouldn't talk of salt, sweat, sperm, and the exchange of bodily fluids, when an elevated understanding of the world is to hand which frees us from biology:

Some of the most positive and progressive leaps forward of the past 200 years have involved people shrugging off their apparently "natural" roles and demanding a bigger stake in life and society. People have continually tried to wriggle free from the prison of "nature".

Yet now, some gay-rights activists seem keen to crawl back into that prison, by effectively saying: "We can't help being the way we are. It's biology, innit?"

Nature's a prison? There's nothing natural about wanting a fuck or having a fuck?

Lordy, lordy, it must be that peculiar English thing at work again. Bring out the whips and chains Jeeves, we are in need of a fetish to sublimate human desires into exotic, erotic shadow plays ...

It never dawns through O'Neill's dim perception of the world that there's no need to be at war with nature, that there's a lot to be said for the clever contrivances of biology, and that deliberately confusing certain contrivances - like dressing up biology as "nature" and talking of "natural roles" - is to take the conversation somewhere back around the book of Genesis.

But that is of course his aim, because he gets terribly alarmed about the notion of gay penguins, and sees no harm in gay penguins being re-educated to be straight, and get about the business of breeding, and any talk of a gay gene sends him into a frenzy:

This is the ultimate aim of the gayness-is-natural lobby - to undercut anti-gay sentiment by presenting gayness as a normal biological function which should be beyond reproach.

Of course the ultimate aim of the 'gayness is unnatural lobby' is to promote anti-gay sentiment by presenting gayness as an abnormal biological function which should be constantly reproached - and did we mention how gay penguins should just get on with the business of breeding?

Yet as the veteran gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has argued, this is an extraordinarily defensive, not to mention scientifically illiterate, argument.

Scientifically illiterate means considering the possibility of further discoveries and understandings might still be open for discussion, but since O'Neill routinely adopts this position in relate to climate science, it's only natural he should do the same for homosexuality.

Why only in the last week, the gay gene issue got another airing in good old Pennsylvania:

Most scientists who study human sexuality agree that gay people are born that way. But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with homosexuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution? (Gay gene, deconstructed)

Born that way? Consensus? Wash out your mouth with Brendan O'Neill scientifically approved soap.

Tatchell says the gay movement's embrace of gay-gene theories suggests a "terrible lack of self-confidence and a rather sad, desperate need to justify queer desire". He says there is a "pleading, defensive sub-text" in the pro-gay gene thesis, which is: "We can't help being fags and dykes, so please don't treat us badly."

Alternatively of course it could show a hearty amount of self-cofidence, a rather pleasant lack of a need to justify queer desire, a resolutely defiant sub-text, which is to say I was born gay, so I don't give a fuck what you think, go fuck yourself, and leave the nature of my sexual desires to me.

But then you wouldn't be O'Neill, in desperate need of a 'gay' quotient to quote to bolster his feeble argument:

Indeed. The aim of those who bang on endlessly about how beetles and penguins are just as likely as humans to be gay is to avoid testy moral debate about homosexuality in favour of effectively presenting gayness almost as an animalistic instinct, which therefore cannot be helped or "corrected" and which should not be criticised.

Uh huh. So in O'Neill's world we're back in the arena of testy moral debate about homosexuality - perhaps somewhere in the Old Testament - and since humans aren't animals, we can canvas the need for gays to be helped and corrected, and such helping and correcting needn't be criticised because it's all part of a useful if testy moral debate.

Well let's revert to that Penns State conference:

Blanchard said he was not particularly worried that parents could someday abort their fetal Leonardos or rearrange their brains with immune therapy.

For one thing, he said, the most avidly homophobic people deny any link to biology. And speculative fears of nefarious technology shouldn't turn people against science. "What scientists do is to discover the truth," he said, "or model the truth as best they can."

Run that line past me again Doc:

The most avidly homophobic people deny any link to biology ...

Why it's about time to quote O'Neill again ...

Homosexuality is not "natural". It is not a mere biological instinct.

Indeed. And it almost goes without saying that sexuality is not natural. It is not a mere biological instinct. Why I think we can say conclusively that heterosexuality is not natural. It is surely no mere biological instinct. As if mere biology has anything to do with being human! Is that why the pond will live for a thousand years? Mere biology is dead and buried.

So tell us what sex is, please, Mr. O'Neill:

Rather, like all human relations and interactions, it is a complex mix of desire and choice and love and lust. The campaigners who hold up the grunting antics of penguins and dogs as evidence that being gay is okay imagine that they are doing gay people a favour.

Oh dear. It seems grunting antics while having sex is impossibly animalistic. Henceforth the pond will only adopt a mute missionary position, and the couplings must proceed in silence, for fear of being mistaken for a penguin or a dog.

In truth, it is extraordinarily insulting to compare the loving, human bonds forged by gays and lesbians with the opportunistic instinctual thrill occasionally pursued by a confused wild animal.

In truth, it is extraordinarily insulting to berate wild animals for being confused about their sexuality and indulging in opportunistic instinctual thrills, in contrast to humans, who allegedly have nothing in common with animals, and somehow exist on an ethereal, elevated plane, perhaps like those Victorians who covered up piano legs, so they wouldn't be caught rutting and fucking like some common animal in a field or a forest or on the beach, with the sand all clinging and gritty and getting into nooks, crannies and crevices ... Oh for god's sake, can we just have a shower and go home ...

And in truth, it is extremely unlikely to have read anything in one lifetime that manages to confuse so much about animals, humans, heterosexual and homosexual relationships, and all by conjuring up in fervid prose the notion of confused wild animals doing what comes naturally, which is to indulge in occasional opportunistic instinctual thrills, and somehow turn this into an argument about whether homosexuality is 'natural', as opposed to 'unnatural'.

If there were a Newt Gingrinch award for writing about human relationships, surely O'Neill would in it hands down. After all, Newt won the very first award for explaining how people mated for life in a natural marriage, and then did it three times just to prove his natural point ...

And now a couple of heterosexual readings. Rousseau in bed:

Added to my temptations, too, were the circumstance in which I lived, in the house of a pretty woman, fondling her image in my secret heart, seeing her continually through the day, and surrounded by objects at night to remind me of her, lying in a bed where I knew she had lain. How much to stimulate me! Let the reader imagine my condition …


And Henry Miller, constructing one of those loving, human heterosexual bonds which features in all his writing:

I will go directly to her home, ring the bell, and walk in. Here I am, take me - or stab me to death. Stab the heart, stab the brains, stab the lungs, the kidneys, the viscera, the eyes, the ears. If only one organ be left alive you are doomed - doomed to be mine, forever, in this world and the next and all the worlds to come. I’m a desperado of love, a scalper, a slayer. I’m insatiable. I eat hair, dirty wax, dry blood clots, anything and everything you call yours. Show me your father, with his kites, his race horses, his free passes for the opera: I will eat them all, swallow them alive. Where is the chair you sit in, where is your favorite comb, your toothbrush, your nail file? Trot them out that I may devour them at one gulp. You have a sister more beautiful than yourself, you say. Show her to me - I want to lick the flesh from her bones.

Uh huh. Well all this is by way of Sunday fun, because one of the comments said it a lot more succinctly:

If you find yourself on the same side of an argument as Brendan O'Neill, I would seriously suggest changing your position!

And this from another:

To prove that homosexuality is not simply a deviant product of societal conditioning, we can very legitimately point to similar behaviours in the animal kingdom. That we see the same behaviour occurring in a totally different environment strongly suggests that human homosexual behaviour is not largely influenced by the environment - hence the behaviour is natural.

But perhaps this whole article has been written simply because you have forgotten that humans are animals.

Sock it to us elephant man:

I am not an animal. I am a human bean.

Conclusion? The ABC runs pieces by Brendan O'Neill because it conclusively proves that the readers are more intelligent, capable and understanding than O'Neill, and so it's a win win situation, and thus nature balances itself.

More than enough to justify pissing taxpayers' money against the wall on the ramblings of an Englishman ...

(Below: and now since thinking about O'Neill is exhausting, time for something different, though it does resonate with mere biology).