Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Brendan O'Neill, and believe it or not, you couldn't make this stuff up ...

(Above: the feral jackals go on another team hunt).

Hey guys, here's a great idea. Let's get the guy who delivered panem et circenses and the Sydney Olympics and a totally fucked infrastructure to Sydney - he's a civil war buff so he knows what it feels like to fuck over a state, and could easily make the leap to fucking over the nation - and send him around the world as the spruiker of Australian foreign policy. And here's the kicker. We'll make it a behind closed doors offer, and it'll never leak, guaranteed ...

Chalk another bright idea up to the pond. By golly, each day in every way, we're leading the Labor party to the light on the hill. It just happens to be the left-over light at Callan Park ... (if living in Adelaide, please feel free to substitute "Z" Ward at Glenside).

And now for a visual joke:

In other news, Crikey announces that Alan Jones stars in Crikey's quality radio broadcasting project, and Janet Albrechtsen and Christopher Pearson star in Crikey's quality commentariat writing project, and Tim Blair, Miranda the Devine and Andrew the Bolter star in Crikey's quality blogging project, while Piers Akerman stars in Crikey's balanced, even-handed quality opinion piece writing project. (No link, it's a joke, right? What, seriously, you want to find out what Derryn Hinch has done for quality journalism?)

Meanwhile, the ABC continues on its own quality journalism project, which is to employ a troll to get amongst the cardigan wearers like a fox amongst the chickens.

These days you won't find Brendan O'Neill's valiant defence of Chairman Murdoch against all-comers in the opinion pages of The Drum, you'll find him doing the headliner routine on its home page in Leveson inquiry: the anti-tabloid campaign.

And how did the pond immediately recognise it was a quality journalism? Why, by the fetid, cranked up, over-heated, over-blown rhetoric, which has all the charm and conviction of a boofhead bovver boy out on the streets looking for some Clockwork Orange or Godwin's Law action:

... it is an all-out clash between the state and the press, between jackboots and journalistic liberty, between police who want to punish the press and pressmen who want the right to publish and be damned.

And I know which side I'll be taking: the side of the tabloids ...

Not satisfied with a reference to jackboots, and fanciful exaggerations of the It Happened Here kind? How about some bonus North Korea?

She first decreed that the kind of journalism pursued by The Sun is just "salacious gossip rather than anything that could be regarded as remotely in the public interest". (Thanks Sue, but if I want the police to tell me what journalism should look like, I'll move to North Korea.)

Oh that's so witty, so elegant and intelligent, and such an effective response to copper Sue Akers pointing out that officials and coppers had been in receipt of quite substantial amounts of money, in a way that could only be described as corrupt and against the law.

Law-breaking? Corruption? Criticise Chairman Rupert and his minions? Why of course one immediately thinks of North Korea ...

Now how to take denialism to new and epic proportions?

... this weird broadsheet celebration of police power over the tabloid press (which is not unlike turkeys cheering the arrival of Christmas) overlooks the fact that there is no reason whatsoever that we should believe what Akers said about what has been going on at The Sun.

Because all her info was from ongoing inquiries, from investigations that have not even come to court yet, far less been judged on by a jury of 12 men and women.

Yes, of course. Why on earth didn't the pond think of it? Akers, in a breathtakingly cynical move, without any thought for the consequences, has simply lied to the inquiry. All her allegations are a mere tinsel of fantasy, unlike the allegations of Brendan O'Neill, sole repository of the truth.

Here, let O'Neill deploy a little more rhetoric. Pardon him while he extracts it from his truth fundament:

In revealing an unusual and "destructive" amount of information from her ongoing inquiries, Akers was desperately trying to reclaim the moral high ground following this alarm that greeted her officers' Stasi-like raids on Sun reporters' homes and offices.

Yes it's a trifecta. Jackboots, North Korea and the Stasi!

Wonderfully, O'Neill rabbits on endlessly about freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, as if the press in Britain was actually free. It is, like most presses in most places, an owned press. There is a freedom for the press to be owned, and then freedom for the owners to do what they think they can get away with ...

Is it any coincidence that today comes news that James Murdoch has tendered his resignation and scarpered off to New York? (James Murdoch resigns as News International chairman).

Lordy lordy, the bleating and the posturing and the O'Neill rhetoric will now have to go into overdrive, perhaps up from eleven to thirteen or perhaps seventeen. And if you're in the owned press, you might begin to think about a change of owners:

Carey had a number of talks with News Corp. executives about selling or separating the publishing unit from the company, he said on Tuesday at the Deutsche Bank (DBK) media conference in Palm Beach, Florida.
“There certainly is an awareness” that New York-based News Corp. would trade at higher multiples if it didn’t own newspapers, Carey said in response to a question.

But lordy if that were to happen, what would the newspaper scene look like in Britain? Perhaps it would begin to look a little less like Putin's Russia, with a cynical oligarch using a regime of corrupt payments and idle gossip to curry political favour?

Sorry, that reference to Putin just slipped in. Reading O'Neill is a bit like being infected by a malaria-laden mosquito. Sorry, that reference to a malaria-laden mosquito just slipped in. It comes from reading this sort of jibber jabber:

... to mark the start of the second sitting of the inquiry, which kicked off on Monday, Leveson has decided to bare its authoritarian teeth, to reveal the iron fist of anti-press sentiment that lurked beneath the velvet glove of all that celeb chatter about naughty hacks.

By golly, a quadrella. Yep, O'Neill has managed to drag in Thomas Carlyle and Napoleon (Iron hand in a velvet glove).

O'Neill, who has the sense of humour of a gnat, and all the social airs and graces of a Shrek attending a party of celebrities, sees no irony in his talk of an iron fist, while in the previous par having used his iron fist against the celebrities who moaned and blubbered to Leveson about the way they'd been treated.

Because, you know, Charlotte Church was just a pussy for complaining about being hacked and stalked, in the purest sense of the word, and having her privacy violated, year after year, to the point where News felt it needed to cough up £600,000 to make amends. (Charlotte Church settles NoW phone hacking claim for £600,000). Damn you Charlotte Church for being so unfair to noble News and Rupe.

What's interesting is the way that the toxic O'Neill sees the need to defend the toxic tabloid culture that's infested Britain for many years, as if somehow the relentless regurgitation of trivia and gossip and page three girls amounts to anything much at all.

Happily for him, the tabloid press is now online, and the level of argument available there can be measured by the references to North Korea, jackboots, Napoleon and the Stasi in any one piece (bonus points if Iran can be woven in).

Yep, the ABC online is now the lowest form of tabloid press at work in Australia, and Brendan O'Neill one of its sleaziest, laziest, verbaling practitioners.

Here's the thing. O'Neill has at Akers for revealing to the inquiry evidence in relation to the culture of corruption at News, never mind that it's patently obvious that there was a culture of corruption, and that James Murdoch handed in his resignation and hared off to New York to be well clear of the mess. None of it, he declaims, has been decided by twelve good and true citizens.

Yet Leveson has yet to deliver any of his findings, or issue a report, or make any recommendations. He's conducting an inquiry, an inquiry he was asked to conduct. So O'Neill must tiptoe through his conduct of the inquiry (as a representative of "British state power"), and produce his own findings, which naturally need not be submitted to twelve good and true citizens for idle vetting by noxious riff raff.

So O'Neill rounds up a few speculative allies. According to Michael Gove, education secretary in a failing government, Leveson could give rise to a chilling atmosphere, threatening the owned media. Could give ...

Or it could give rise to a some minor recommendations, and a realisation that the toxic world of tabloid culture should change a little, as The Sun now risen on a Sunday has piously promised.

And naturally O'Neill quotes Trevor Kavanagh, political editor of The Sun moaning and blubbing about the witch-hunt against the tabloids, and the way Britain is down below Slovakia in the owned media league tables ...

It all builds to a rousing finale:

In summary, then: the British state is on the warpath against both cocky tabloids and anyone who dares to defend them, and the "liberal" press is cheering it as it goes. Truly, only that old tabloid turn of phrase will suffice to describe this warped state of affairs: You couldn't make it up.

The pond prefers this as a closer:

In summary, then: the ABC, funded by the state, is on the warpath against a British inquirer conducting an inquiry, and British coppers going about their duties investigating corruption and breaches of the law, by publishing up hill and down dale abuse by cocky defenders of tabloids and Rupert Murdoch, and their right to do anything they like, even if it proves that owning the press proves the old saw that absolute ownership corrupts absolutely, and it almost goes without saying that the ABC approves of anyone who dares to defend the tabloids and Murdoch routinely referencing jackboots and the Stasi and North Korea, and Napoleon, and cheering on the denunciation of the "liberal" press and cardigan wearers around the world.

Because it will deliver hits to The Drum, and stir controversy. Always print the controversy, and never let actual facts get in the way of an argument or rhetorical abuse ...

Truly, only that old Brendan O'Neil turn of phrase will suffice to describe this warped state of affairs at the ABC, once supposedly worth eight cents a day, but down around a cent these days: You couldn't make it up. Certainly not at the illiberal press the ABC runs ...

(Below: could anybody make Brendan O'Neill up? Such a mass of neuroses)

Or perhaps O'Neill was thinking about Ripley. The bit about Sumo referees carrying a dagger for use in case of bad decision reminded the pond of the "believe it or not" true story about how tabloid hacks carry a dagger in case they get a story wrong, mangle some facts, or use half-arsed rhetoric.
It reminded the pond of that old Jesuit saying, Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re, roughly translated as "gently in manner, strongly in deed" or "agreeably in manner, forcibly in act".

Where could one find the Latin for O'Neill, and "strongly in manner, derelict in deed"?

(Below: a tradition begun before Brendan O'Neill or tabloid culture, when jackboots actually meant something other than cheap, idle rhetorical flourishes, found here).

In which the pond continues the quest for comedy in politics and religion ...

(Above: a cartoon with Turnerish qualities but not much to do with what follows, found here).

There's defensiveness, and then there's defensiveness squared:

As Laura Tingle noted in her pointed response to Media Watch, recent events have not been brought about by journalists tub-thumping for a spill or any backgrounding of journalists by Kevin Rudd or his supporters, but by Julia Gillard’s dire polling, perceived lack of trustworthiness and lack of political judgment.

So it had absolutely nothing to do with the over-weening ambition of former Chairman Rudd, or the baying pack of hounds otherwise known as the Murdoch press, rolling out leak after destabilising leak, or tub-thumping for a spill?

It's just all Julia Gillard's fault, because she's a naughty girl?

Funnily enough Bernard Keane then goes on to insist in Bagging the gallery isn't the whole story re: leadership 'beat-up' that things are complicated, and that the media coverage building up to the leadership challenge is entirely understandable, and the poor hapless press gallery is being given a hard time by wretched social media, boo hoo.

You have to feel sorry for Keane, because on a daily basis he's given the job of making Crikey look like it's got an active reporting staff busily at work covering daily events, but his piece shows all the signs of having been scribbled in haste, and without the merest attempt to think through the logical contradictions inherent in his ideas.

It truly gets risible when the readership is blamed for the state of journalism. This will be a familiar excuse to anyone involved in the movie industry.

Here's how that line goes ... Why did you make such a crappy movie? Well mate, we're just giving the public what they want ... Why did you feel the need to show the tree roots raping the girl? Don't look at me mate, we just give the audience what they want to consume ...

Keane's version:

In that context, you can’t blame the media for trying to milk that for all it’s worth, knowing that the big policy story next week, or the budget in May, will likely fail to interest most voters. Yes, they should devote more effort to covering policy, and producers and editors should support that, and media executives should fund it better, but if audiences won’t consume it, it’s problematic.

Yes, the media is just giving what audiences want, which is circuses, show ponies and high kicking chorus lines.

... spills are also easier to cover because voters are more likely to tune in to politics during such moments of high drama.

High drama? If the doings in Canberra are high drama, how to describe what's happening in Syria at the moment?

Most political journalists in the commercial media face a quiet ongoing battle with editors and producers to get profile and coverage for news out of Canberra, particularly when it deals with complex areas of policy that translate poorly into a 60-second story for the evening news. But leadership contests always get viewers paying attention, to break their normal disengagement with politics to focus on what’s happening.

Ready when you are C.B.! Let's roll out the elephants, and get the folks to pay attention to the circus.

This is of course a mile away from Keane's initial premise that the whole leadership debacle was simply the work of Julia Gillard, her polling, and her untrustworthiness.

But in terms of social media, his piece was a raging success. He got over a hundred comments - a high total for Crikey - most of them raging about the ineptness of his analysis. Not so easy to get the media off the hook, eh Mr. Keane, especially when peddling bubble-headed defensiveness ...

Keane has always been a little highly strung. Did he really write this?

He seems to have shifted from eco terrorist to corporate shill for the press gallery, but perhaps next time he should let the Murdochians, the Fairfaxians, and the ABC defend themselves.

Or just let Phillip Adams conduct a high mass for the departed Kevin Rudd in Labor Woes, wherein all was doom and gloom, and darkness and blackness and Hanrahanish ruin, with the apocalypse around the corner (hark, is that the hoofbeat of the four horses), as he faces up to a full year of not mentioning how Kevin Rudd should be the PM, usurped as he was by that evil faceless red-headed harridan ...

Oh sweet joy. Who says there's no upside in politics?

And now for something completely different, as we head over to The Punch, which still imagines it can find useful copy by publishing pieces provided for free, such as Steve Kryger's brain-free God I'm sick of comedians laughing at religion:

According to his attached bio, Kryger enjoys thinking about how a Jesus-inspired worldview can shape Australia for the better, and is clearly entitled to his personal delusions,even if it reminds the pond exactly why Evangelical Union types in university days were viewed as priggish nerdy Pamela pale-faced Christ wonks absolutely without a shred or a sign of a sensa huma.

I’ve been to more than my fair share of Christian conferences. I’ve never attended a single conference where those of other beliefs (atheists or otherwise) were the subject of ridicule. I’m not suggesting this never happens, but on the whole, Christians are respectful of those with opposing beliefs.

Uh huh. All Kryger's really saying is that Christian conferences must be as boring as batshit, and that Christians, like Republicans, really should do something about their comedy routines. Otherwise you end up with this kind of painful to read nonsense:

Let me be clear: religion shouldn’t be off-limits for comedians. The blasphemous comments that mock the God I know and love grieve me. However, the right to free speech should protect the topic of religion too. Besides, some satire (yes, even about Christians) is genuinely funny.

My question for atheists today is this: do you think the incessant mockery and smug ridicule benefits your cause?

Kryger's right of course. Incessant mockery and smug ridicule has done very little to reduce the role of Islamic fundamentalism in the world, especially as the mockers and the ridiculers sometimes cop a stoning or a whipping or worse. But by golly it's fun.

Where would the United States be without the likes of Colbert and Stewart (and before them Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor and so on)?

Why in the hands of Rick Santorum is the answer, yet again creating a perfect storm by explaining how he wanted to throw up listening to John F. Kennedy endorse the United States constitution, and its separation of church and state. Santorum now wishes he had that particular line back, but in taking the line back, he shows he still doesn't have the first clue about the principles underlying the foundation of the country (Rick Santorum On JFK 'Throw Up' Comments: 'I Wish I Had That Particular Line Back').

Now some will take Santorum seriously. The Washington Post expended a solemn editorial on Santorum, thereby treating him as a serious contender, while explaining at the same time that he's a seriously misinformed and ignorant contender. Like making contraception a political issue:

He has said, for example, that contraception is “one of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about. . . . It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

If all he wanted to do was talk, we would say, Have at it — no matter how misguided we think he is on birth control and many other matters. But does Mr. Santorum really understand the difference between talking about a policy and imposing his views?

And then there was the matter of Kennedy and Obama's religion:

When he so misreads Mr. Kennedy, when he perceives a war that does not exist, he shows a lack of appreciation for the First Amendment. When he accuses President Obama of harboring a “phony theology” — “Not a theology based on Bible. A different theology” — it seems he does not understand the line between policy and religion. Mr. Santorum later explained that he was not questioning Mr. Obama’s faith, only his environmental policy. But theology means “the study of God and of the relations between God, humankind and the universe.”

That Mr. Santorum believes he has the standing to declaim on the rightness of Mr. Obama’s faith, and whether it is sufficiently Bible-based, is in itself disqualifying.

All true enough, but if Steve Kryger had his way, comedians wouldn't be allowed to mock Santorum incessantly and subject his views to smug ridicule, and then where would we be?

Why without the frothy Santorum mix for which he's justly famous, as you'll find if you're one of the rare breed that's never visited, here. Click through for the Santorum comedy show ...

Kryger can rage all he likes about being sick of comedians, but without comedians, how sick and sorry would the world be at the sight of the likes of Kryger and Santorum?

(Below: and more comedy here, as Santorum, with a B.A., M.A., and J.D. in law explains how college is for snobs. Where are the comedians, we need more comedians, or even some clowns).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

After the ballot comes Chris 'pink salmon' Uhlmann, Peter 'the smirk' Costello, and Gerard 'Prufrock" Henderson ...

The pond made the mistake of leaving on the telly so that the 7.30 Report - reporting live from location in tinsel town Canberra - began to harass the eyeballs ...

As seems to be the habit these days, the lighting and the colour balance was a shocker, as can be seen above (no photoshop retouching required).

All the pond can now remember was that an interview with Bill Shorten went like this:

Salmon pink asks ghostly white a question. Ghostly white responds.
Salmon pink. Ghostly white.
Salmon pink. Ghostly white.

And so on. The interview with the hapless Anthony Albanese produced much the same response, as if La Belle Dame sans merci had strolled through the lighting department at the ABC - though there was a little more flush in the wan Albanese's cheeks as he announced that his job was to fight Tories. So that's what happened to Sydney infrastructure, and a second airport. It got lost in the fighting with the Tories.

The interviews burbled along but this show-stopper question from Chris Uhlmann came early:

What are we to make of the words the politicians say now, what's happened to truth in politics?

At this point there was almost mob rule in the kitchen (yes, sob, we have a telly in the kitchen). There was an attempt to hurl a can of beetroot at the screen, and rioting of a most unseemly kind for a full five minutes before order was restored. Then came a homily from the pond's partner about how the ABC had no technical standards left, what a disgrace Mark Scott was, how he'd spread resources paper thin, and how Chris Uhlmann was a featherweight fowl of the first water.

Then, oh the suffering, a burst of What's happened to truth in politics sung at full volume to the tune What's it all about Alfie ...

No, it didn't scan, but if you'd like to join in:

What's politics all about Billy?
Is it just for the truthful moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out Billy?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Billy
Then I guess it's wise to be cruel ...

Etc, etc. Shorten seemed to think Uhlmann had drawn a long bow, but isn't that what dunderheads always draw?

Is it just the pond, or is the ABC specialising in comedy stylings but dressing them up as political insights?

Yesterday came a speech by a European parliamentarian Daniel Hannan explaining gravely to the Institute of Public Affairs how European parliamentarians had fucked Europe. Well done Dan ... and your next job is?

The quaint young sod (well he was born in 1971 according to his wiki) seemed to think that the Anglosphere still existed, and it was just a matter for good old Britain to embrace Australia in its motherly fold, and all would be well of the world.

Hannan seemed to have an entirely skewed WASP understanding of the current demographics in Australia - that must have come from looking around the IPA audience.

But he did remind the pond to contact Gina Rinehart and suggest that she tithe a little of her coal and iron ore shipments heading for China, and send the portion off to old blighty with a warm personal note of thanks.

Talk of the Anglosphere always whisks the pond back to the days when the world map was red, but in a positive, non-socialist red way, and Britain wandered around creating hot spots that have continued to fester and erupt like cankerous sores ever since (lordy, did Britain, France and Italy do a great job in Somaliland).

Naturally after contemplating the joys of the Anglosphere, we could all retire for a snifter of port in the City Tattersalls Club (unless of course you'd prefer to have a very dry sherry at the Sofitel).

So quaint, so charming, and suddenly the pond was transformed and uplifted by a vision of the IPA as the Empire club, with a flurry of hear hears, and there theres ...

(found here. They need a caption).

Well at least Hannan scored a trip out of old blighty, no doubt paid for by the labours of his anti-European, anti-Pacific vision, and who can argue with that?

It primed the pond, and made it ready the day's chores, which naturally includes a trip to Pravda by the harbour (Melburnians can keep their Pravda by the Yarra).

As befits a socialist rag - or so The Australian says - who better to write about the current leadership fracas than that Cheshire cat, Peter Costello, in PM's forces mistaken if they think Kevin will give up.

The header struck the pond as somewhat ironic, since the distinguishing feature of Costello's undistinguished bid for the Prime Ministership was that he gave up ... and gave up ... and gave up ... until he'd given up so often no one knew or cared that he was trying.

But it was grand to see a Liberal grandee rattling the Kevin bogeyman so early in the day. It was all so predictable, what with the traducing of Rudd and the mocking of Gillard, but it did produce a nicely splenetic touch at the end, almost prescient, and perhaps written back in the glory days of Howard v Costello:

As for Costello? He will not change. While he has breath he will be angling for the leadership. Even if he wanted to be, he cannot be loyal to another leader. He will brood and he will fester.

What's that? Costello was actually writing As for Rudd rather than indulging in a therapy session?

Rudd schmudd Costello.

Why the smirking sanctimonious cat might even get on the piss with Michael Brissenden, and spill the beans about his plans to destroy Howard (Notes refute Costello leadership claims). What a featherweight fop.

And in the fuss, the pond almost overlooked prattling Polonius - known to you as Gerard "Prufrock" Henderson - doing his routine prance and prattle in Hold the hyperbole, Labor's problems are just the same old same old, replete with the same old historical furphies, and the same old chips on the shoulder.

Now you might think it unseemly for the pages of an ostensibly Pravda by the harbour rag to be dominated by cheerless conservatives, but hush that's just The Australian trying to convince you that it's the sole repository of chundering conservatism.

Dear absent lord, does Malcolm Fraser irritate Polonius or what?

Today Malcolm Fraser is a hero of the leftist-luvvies set and receives standing ovations at taxpayer-funded literary festivals.

It's the pond's thesis that Henderson is deeply embittered because (a) he can't get a gig on the ABC of a stature elevated to his sense of his own elevation, and (b) he knows he'll never receive standing ovations at taxpayer-funded literary festivals. Here's hoping he tears up any ABC cheques he receives for appearances on the ABC, and flings the pieces back in the faces of the cardigan wearers.

Henderson delivers an extended vent about the negativity of Fraser, and perhaps it's now time to admit he should see a shrink about his Fraser fixation. Is there anyone else who maintains the rage with such ferocity about long lost times?

It's all the more peculiar because he seems singularly content with the way things are working at the moment:

Dictatorships have coups. Parliamentary democracies have leadership election ballots. In this system, prime ministers and opposition leaders are chosen by their peers. On The World Today yesterday, Rudd strategist Bruce Hawker declared that Rudd "won the public opinion war but lost the battle in the caucus". But Hawker knows that "people power" has no role in parliamentary democracies, where MPs choose leaders. It was no different when Keating replaced Hawke.

Indeed. What a relief that people power has no role in parliamentary democracies. Here's hoping that Mr. Henderson speaks sharply to the tosser that wrote this nonsense:

In democratic societies, elected leaders possess authority, legitimised by the ballot box. Successful prime ministers or presidents exert their authority after taking account of the checks and balances on absolute rule.
Democratic leaders invariably experience problems if their authority is diminished. That's Gillard's problem right now. Her authority has been in decline since she succeeded Kevin Rudd as prime minister in June 2010. (here, forced video at end of link).

Yes, that's in an extended piece by Henderson explaining how people power had weakened Gillard's authority, and while it was disgraceful that people called her a bitch, the reality was that people power had de-authorised her, and it would take time for her to be re-authorised.

So there you have it. People power and polls and the media have no role to play in politics, except that people power and polls and the media plays a role in politics.

Perhaps you could - if you want a gig in the antipodean Pravda - fudge this by calling people power "authority", giving the word an almost mystical meaninglessness ... as if somehow reflecting the notion of the authority of kings involved people squawking and complaining about the monarchy ... but would you really want to be Gerard Henderson?

Every day in every way the more the pond spends listening to the chattering classes exemplified by that inner city trendoid Gerard Henderson, the dumber and dumber the pond becomes ...

(Below: scenes that hurt. Like reading Gerard Henderson).

Monday, February 27, 2012

Time for the vote, and after that the sin bin, the fines, the bannings, the shunnings and the ostracisms ...

(Above: the pond's in a weird third person world obsessed with cartoon figures and shunning and ostracism).

There's simply no escaping it today.

It's like a Melbourne cup, with only a couple of runners, but with the nation bombarded with the same amount of exhaustive, exhausting trivia.

Leaving the ruckus aside for a moment, should the result go a certain way, will all the commentariat callers who announced with certainty the result some months ago, admit they were wrong, and step aside from psephological duties?

What will happen, for example, to Christian Kerr, who famously announced on the 17th October 2011, that we were in the final days of the Gillard government on that dreary show for egomaniacs Late Night Live? (Canberra Babylon with Christian Kerr).

The pond finds itself in the alarming position of agreeing with David Burchell on matters of certainty and prediction and egg beating in relation to the commentariat, on of all places Counterpoint. None of them have got a clue, and those who assert they do have a clue are the worst of the worst.

Is it time to think about penalties for this form of egregious behaviour and outrageous presumption?

Could there ever be a body, for example, a bit like a sporting authority, that determined a particular prophecy or prediction had turned out to be risibly stupid, and so the scribbler must spend a month in the sin bin, or pay a hefty fine?

That would leave the likes of Christopher Pearson permanently in the sin bin or bankrupt, and either way the world would benefit.

Oh well it's just a passing dream.

Perhaps the silliest bit of introspection came from David Penberthy in Off the record, you've all been conned, as he brooded about all the off-the-record, behind the scenes briefings that have rumbled out in the past year:

The type of stories we have seen about the Labor leadership could be described as dump-and-deny. They have done newspapers damage ...

Damage? That sounds serious. Could the Murdoch press - let's face it the Murdoch press is the dominant force in the market-place in Australia - have done itself some damage?

We in the media should reflect on our complicity in this type of journalism. It’s my view that we have not only damaged ourselves, but more gravely we have let down the public by feeding them stories which look thin, tendentious, convey deliberately misleading sentences to blur the origin of the information.

Take Rudd’s press conference on Friday where he flatly denied ever running down Gillard to anyone in the media, then quickly demanded that the assembled media remember and respect the off the record convention.

Why the urgent reminder?

Why indeed. Why half the coverage of the Murdoch press? Why all the crap from their columnista commentariat?

Well the pond half-way hoped that Penberthy would immediately announce in a righteous tone that he was picking up his pencil, his fountain pen, his typewriter and his keyboard and he was out of there. Fat chance.

Instead came this:

...I’d also note that the irony is that a lot of these stories are also so bloody boring that they wouldn’t sell you a newspaper or get you a click anyway. I apologise for adding to your boredom and hope the remainder of your Sunday is free of this political carry-on.

Just an apology for being tedious and boring? No, it's sin-bin or a substantial fine ... and if that doesn't work, bring in the OP rum.

Hell even before the dust has settled, hell even before the vote has even been counted, The Australian has already set its jib, and what a predictable, tedious, boring jib it is too:


When you break that header down and try to extract some sense from it, who are the people actually experiencing the fears that a Gillard win won't end the warfare? It could be Tony Abbott and the Liberal party, it could be the independents, but is that what the header is about, with its conjuring up of nameless fears held by nameless nobodies?

Is it the readers of the rag? Are they fearful The Australian won't end its off-the-record briefings, its relentless egg beating, its sustaining of the warfare, or if no warfare, the illusion of war?

Surely a more honest header would have been "Hacks at The Australian highly pleased Gillard win won't end warfare, or relentlessly tedious, frequently wrong, often embittered, usually spiteful reporting of politics by Murdoch press. Fear mongering will continue as usual. No fear, come here for the fears".

As it stands, the header exhibits the same sort of creepy third person usage you find in blogs, and the speeches of Kevin Rudd.

In terms of political character, he represents conveniently little. Changing his mind on climate change symbolised this, and those who have spent long hours looking for values and consistency report that he seems to stand for nothing except the sound of his own voice.
The general impression all this creates is of a sort of virtual personality, and possibly Rudd knows this. His spooky references to himself in the third person suggest an awareness of himself as a sort of construct, a work in progress.

Yes, it's the Duffster, aka Michael Duffy scribbling in place of Paul Sheehan, with He's Kevin from TV, here to help himself.

The Duffster blames the Rudd ascendancy on television, and in particular on his gig on Sunrise (aided and abetted by Bruce Hawker). While the Duffster shows he's a dab hand at cultural references - Rudd is a malevolent Tintin, Big Brother meets Dr Phil - he also shows that he's right up there in the kookiness stakes as he explains the Ruddster's appeal to the public:

He reminds them of people - or characters - they see often on the tellie, and they like that. Such creations are far more warm and interesting, after all, than real politicians. In the context of television, Rudd's artificiality has been his greatest asset.
Rudd's face is distinctly odd, a smooth circle with relatively small features. It's almost child-like and can remind you of TV cartoon characters, whose faces are often based on children's ...

It's a sublime trick to be able to condescend both to "the people" and to the politicians.

People like the Ruddster because they've never left Sesame Street? Is that like this joke that's been doing the rounds with the Facebook crowd?

By the middle of the Duffster's rant, it becomes clear that it isn't analysis so much as a venting of spleen:

He is the ultimate product of the digital age and the 24-hour (make that four) news cycle.
All form and no content. But fortunately he seems unique.

Uh huh. But television was once analogue, and if the four hour news cycle is so dominant and ubiquitous, and is all form and no content, how has it created only one unique creature, the Ruddster slouching off to Bethlehem at this very moment? No others, not one, not even Tony Abbott in his swimwear?

Sad to say, it's yet another example of rhetoric posing as analysis, appealing though the rhetoric is about TV Kev. The fear and loathing of Kev is visceral, and right down the pond's alley, but it's also superficial and glib.

But the Duffster does come up with one idea that appeals to the pond:

The party should then consider reviving the classical Athenian practice of ostracism, where men whose extreme ambition threatened the efficient running of the state could be expelled for 10 years after a popular vote. They did not need to have committed any crime, and there was no defence. It was just a recognition that some people were hollow men driven by vicious rancour.

We'd make just a few small changes:

The country should then consider reviving the classical Athenian practice of ostracism, where men and women whose cheerleading from the sidelines threatened the efficient running of the state could be expelled for 10 years after a popular vote regarding their latest superficial analysis, or prediction or prognostication gone wrong. They did not need to have committed any crime, and there was no defence. It was just a recognition that some analysts, especially those who write for the Murdoch press, are hollow men and women driven by vicious personal rancour and spite ...

We have a dozen names already to hand for the tribunal, clowns who predicted this day, but didn't have the first clue about its outcome.

And now let's not speak of Kevin Rudd again. At least for a month, or until the first headline in The Australian announces "off-the-record" briefing suggests leadership speculation growing and swelling within the ALP ...

(Below: well at least we know where the commentariat and the pond are ultimately headed, thanks to the Colbert report. To travel coach and live in the telestial kingdom).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's Sunday in Sydney, so take your pick of Catholic Russophobia or Sydney Anglican fear and loathing of Sydney ...

(Above: a book published by W.H. Walker in 1877 warning of the invasion of Australia by the Ruskis. Happily Russophobia continues to this very day in Sydney, more details here and here).

It being Sunday, it's time for the pond to do its regular tour of the churches, and is it something in the air, or the water, and are things getting weirder by the week, or what?

Nothing of course can compare to the United States' current level of weirdness. First came the sight of Stephen Colbert circumcising a sausage as a way of converting all Mormons to Judaism, as a revenge attack for Mormons wanting to convert Jews to Mormonism (and you can see that in an un-geo limited clip here). And then there was John Oliver's take down of Rick Santorum on the Jon Stewart show:

Republicans aren't idiots, Jon. They know that America like its conservatism cut with plenty of baking powder because one hit of the pure stuff and you'll wake up with Eric Stoltz strangling you, having just plunged an adrenaline needle into your heart. (no link, damn you Foxtel, damn you to hell)

And to top it off Jeb Bush accused Republican presidential candidates of fear-mongering!

Up against a world where a comedy channel talks truth to crazy, the local clerics have to be losers, but it doesn't stop them from trying to be even bigger losers.

Catching up on the week-old deep thoughts of climate scientist Cardinal Pell, the pond was astonished by his piece ominously dubbed A Warning.

Did someone mention fear mongering?

It seems Australia is on the slippery slope towards becoming Russia:

Sometimes when good parents warn their children against dangers they might point to a great uncle, who was a bad alcoholic or a gambler who bet away his house. They might also point out cousins whose lives have been permanently damaged through the aftermaths of drug use; schizophrenia, depression, an inability to work.
Are there any countries, at least somewhat like Australia, who can be held up as an example of what not to do? The answer is "yes". Russia today is a disaster, a warning to us all.

It seems the Ruskis aren't fucking enough, producing children for the ponzi scheme known as the Russian Orthodox church, and people smoke and drink too much, which is somewhat like Australia.

Russian society passed a critical point where a slide towards social disarray became an avalanche. While we are light years away, we are moving steadily in the same direction in some areas.
Low marriage rates, extramarital births, increasing venereal disease, family turmoil exacerbated through alcohol, drugs, pornography and gambling are not making our situation better especially among the poor, unemployed and underemployed.

Ah yes, the lumpenproletariat. Fear them, persecute them, but first make your money out of alcohol and gambling. Can we recommend the Catholic Club in Sydney's CBD, which has a handsome bar, wine list and bottle shop, and a fine array of gaming facilities?

Naturally Cardinal Pell was sympathetic to the Catholic clubs in their valiant fight against government intervention ruining poker machine revenue (Catholic club to join pokie campaign).

Did someone mention fear-mongering and hypocrisy in the very same breath?

Did someone mention hysterical exaggerated fear-mongering slippery slopes? And does climate scientist Pell have any idea of the definition of a light year? Why if he's right and we're light years away from Russia, but moving steadily in the same direction, since a light-year is the distance light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year (wiki it here), it should only take a voyage of just under 10 trillion kilometres (10×10 to the fifteenth power metres, 10 petametres or about 6 trillion miles) before Australia turns into Russia.

Set those monkeys to work typing now, so in due course we can end up with the works of Shakespeare.

What on earth is the point of stupid comparisons, except to establish the stupidity of the comparer? And the doom-saying negativity ...

Speaking of negativity, as promised Michael Jensen has delivered his first homily on the 7 Sins of Sydney, 1 being the pursuit of space.

After opening with punks Frenzal Rhomb singing Bobby Troup's song about Sydney - oh he be down wit it - Jensen establishes the tone by mourning the loss of street directories - damn you digital age - before cutting to the chase: the invasion.

Naturally Jensen calls for some water in a bowl, and does some hand-washing about the way the search for space displaced the Eora, though it could be argued that the Sydney Anglicans have to answer for their space crimes to the Gadigal people. Or do they?

We have long wrestled with these events which cast such a pall over the founding of our city, and from which we continue to benefit - particularly the Anglican Church, which received huge bequests of land that only tenuously belonged to those who gave it away. Yet it is too morally simplistic to assign blame to the Europeans for the cataclysm that occurred. There was no recognition of the possibility of a native sense of ownership of the land in the same way that Europeans thought of it. The anthropological concepts with which they might have begun to understand the relationship of the Eora peoples to the land were simply not available.

Except in New Zealand, where they signed a treaty, and except in the United States where they routinely signed dozens of treaties, and just as routinely broke them.

But it comes as a great relief to the pond, because for a moment there, we were thinking Jensen might propose that the Sydney Anglicans hand over St. Andrew's cathedral. Perhaps keep the spiritual title but hand over the physical title to Gadigal and Koori radio, and if they felt like fracking away to keep the show going, why they could frack over the cathedral. As it turns out, all Jensen offers is the usual mealy-mouthed pieties of a humbug kind, with no practical consequences whatsoever. Now that's classic Sydney ...

Yep that's prime real estate, snatched away from the Gadigal, and by golly we're not even showing all the other Sydney Anglican landholdings, and commercial investments. This is a blog, not an encyclopaedia ...

Jensen also takes a view about the hunt for a view, without seeming to understand that most people don't get a view in Sydney. He quotes David Williamson in Emerald City:

Elaine: Sydney is different. Money is more important here.
Colin: Why more so than Melbourne?
Elaine: To edge yourself closer to a view. In Melbourne all views are equally depressing, so there’s no point.

This is of course one of Williamson's cheap, slick, superficial one liners which established him as a banal writer of the first water. When I lived in Melbourne, I found the views of the Yarra from Toorak quite restful, and the views from St. Kilda (except for the screeching of the trams) quite exceptional. The notion that Melbourne is depressing and the Gold Coast invigorating is surely one of the silliest Williamson ever came up with, but he's sold the pup to Jensen. Maybe he can sell him the bridge or the Opera House next?

Then it's on to this bit of Jensenism:

But the truth is, we’ll kill for a harbour view - others, or ourselves. Looking at the harbour is the secret to the envy that makes Sydney the town it is. When it comes to views, in Sydney, size definitely matters. We'll work so hard to have it, we'll never have the time to see it.

The truth is, a lot of people wouldn't kill for a harbour view. Some even prefer the inner west. The pond has lived with fine north shore views of the harbour, but finds Newtown more to taste than dormitory suburbs like Cremorne or Kirribilli, and the madness of Military road. It's just a taste thing, no need for murder or the killing fields ...

What Jensen's harbour fetish says about the Anglican heart is quite disturbing.

And sure enough in the next bit, he quotes that great depressive Manning Clark, and that effete ponce D. H. Lawrence to do dirt on the suburbs and their dog-kennels. Let them live in humpies or squats instead ...

Yes, some suburbs are as ugly as sin, and it's all a shock and a shame once you head out Parramatta Road, but then things get quite bizarre, because Jensen thinks that somehow we should be thankful for sinful monstrosities and hideous property developers:

Unlike Americans, Sydney-siders have no ceremony of thanksgiving for the place they now inhabit. We don't tend to regard the space we inhabit as a gift.

Isn't that because Jensen's just established it's as ugly as sin away from the harbour, and if you don't have a harbour view, you're less than nothing? This is a gift? Gay kakken af en yam ...

By this point, the pond was quite befuddled. For starters, thanksgiving in the United States isn't about space or property. Originally it was about safe journey, or might be for a military victory or a drought, or a successful growing season, and these days it's about families getting together to kill turkeys. It's not about living in boxes, or being grateful for a harbour view.

Let's just say it's impossible to make any sense out of these doomsayers, whether Sydney Anglican or Catholic. There's only one hope left:

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Koori Radio is standing by, waiting for that Sydney Anglican donation from the sale of a few properties, preferably those with a harbour view ...

(Below: only in Sydney).

Brendan O'Neill, and time for some serious thinking about the role of war correspondents ...

(Above: Charles Bean, unfortunately emotionally involved, and likely enough one of the hacks responsible for the Digger Gallipoli mythology).

Every time Brendan O'Neill puts pen to paper, he displays woeful ignorance, and so it is with Dangers of the "journalism of attachment".

Seizing on the death of Sunday Times' war correspondent, Marie Colvin, he flings about the bizarre notion of objective, unattached journalism, as if he's somehow the representative of hacks in a quest for unemotional truth-telling.

Somehow, it seems, post-objectve "attached journalism" is a new thing, and practitioners of the art are likely to be targeted by regimes - presumably because in the fog of war, regimes will be able to say "oh you're an objective truth teller, please feel free to sample our cocktails".

It's the old question of course as to at what point you put down the camera, and decide to help the person bleeding to death in front of you, nice, shocking and compelling snap though it might make. The pond never hopes to be caught bleeding to death in front of objective unemotionally detached Brendan O'Neill.

Meanwhile, O'Neill offers up this king of insight:

The journalism of attachment represented a not uncontroversial turning point in the history of war reporting.

In emphasising attachment over neutrality, and emotionalism over objectivity, the new breed of attached reporter became more like an activist, an international campaigner, rather than a dispassionate recorder of fact and truth.

New breed? If it's not too presumptuous, could the pond set a homework assignment, say 1500 words on the new breed of attached reporter, namely C. W. Bean, and his work in the first world war. Perhaps he could start with this from Bean's wiki:

In September 1914, Bean was appointed official war correspondent with the AIF troops.He was selected by ballot as the official war correspondent, narrowly beating Keith Murdoch. He was given the rank of honorary captain in the AIF and followed closely in the tracks of all the Australian infantry's campaigns. Bean landed at Anzac Cove at 10am on 25 April 1915, a few hours after the first troops had landed and he remained on the peninsula for most of the campaign, enduring the same squalid conditions suffered by the soldiers. (here)

But what then? How to develop the theme, how to make a point of the obfuscating O'Neill kind? Can the pond make a helpful suggestion?

In emphasising attachment over neutrality, and emotionalism over objectivity, the new breed of attached reporter like C. W. Bean became more like an activist, an international campaigner, rather than a dispassionate recorder of fact and truth.

Oh okay as the wiki points out Bean's copy was inclined to be detailed, accurate and dull, and amen to that - the pond having spent too much time reading Bean - unlike the copy of some of his fellow correspondents who were inclined to rah rah populism. But at the same time as official war correspondent it served what was perceived to be the interests of Australia, and the empire. An international campaigner, so to speak, since dispassionate fact and truth only resided on one side in that conflict.

But here's the rub when pups like O'Neill get to writing about current reporting, as if he's just invented the wheel all over again: it's insufferable and it's also astonishingly naive and incredibly irritating. As if in the fog of war there's objectivity at work:

... some British journalists are uncomfortable with the idea of the journalism of attachment, believing that reporters who go looking for "good" and "evil" in foreign fields run the risk of overlooking complexities and political nuances, and of substituting morality tales for tough reporting.

Yes, Syria at the moment is just the place for overlooking the complexities and political nuances of a brave regime defending itself against terrorists. Thank the lord the current crop of Murdoch journalists never go looking for good or evil in foreign fields, especially Islamic fields. O'Neill himself is a dab hand at subtle nuanced complexity:

The miserabilist Malthusian mindset is now so deeply entrenched amongst the chattering classes that you can go on TV or radio and applaud the repression of women or call for the death of huge swathes of mankind, and nobody will even spill their Ovaltine. (here).

Just one of a zillion examples, with the chattering classes usually the subject of the nuance. But let's get back to the point:

More to the point, is it also possible that in making themselves attached, in turning themselves into "players" in a conflict, these journalists risk making themselves into targets?

Ah yes, because the Syrian regime welcomes objective reporters with open arms, and would never target them. Perhaps they might invite Brendan O'Neill on a ten day tour of the war zone, or perhaps invite him into their torture bunkers for an assessment of the complexities and nuances other dullards have overlooked.

It is widely claimed that the Assad regime purposely targeted the makeshift media building in Homs that Colvin and other Western reporters were working in, which is just the kind of thing those bloody tyrants would do - set out to kill not only their opponents but also foreign reporters who dared to photograph and talk about the massacres in that city.

Oh the cads, how dare they suggest that there have been massacres, how dare they take photographs. That's shockingly unobjective.

Yet is it possible that Assad, like other ruthless rulers, now targets foreign reporters because they are actually "more than reporters"? Because, in their own words, their aim is sometimes to shift the course of wars and invite Western invasions?

Yes, yes, these reporters are nothing more than deviant agents, spies and terrorists. Just like all those deviant radical Russian journalists done over by the politically nuanced and complex Vladimir Putin. A pox on the lot of them. Fancy thinking that a mushroom farm needs light and information when all it needs is compost.

Certainly at the same time as we condemn Assad and mourn Ms Colvin, we should also seriously discuss what the role of war reporters has become, and what we think it ought to be.

Only if O'Neill is banned from the discussion, or at least until he hands in his essay on the reporting of the first and second world wars.

Or perhaps he could settle for writing about William Howard Russell, war correspondent for The Times who covered the Crimean war for some 22 months way back when. Russell's idea of objectivity and emotional detachment was typically Irish:

Russell was described by one of the soldiers on the frontlines thus, "a vulgar low Irishman, [who] sings a good song, drinks anyone's brandy and water and smokes as many cigars as a Jolly Good Fellow. He is just the sort of chap to get information, particularly out of youngsters." This reputation led to Russell being blacklisted from some circles, including British commander Lord Raglan who advised his officers to refuse to speak with the reporter.

Oh dear, you mean he wasn't entirely objective and detached?

His dispatches were hugely significant: for the first time the public could read about the reality of warfare. Shocked and outraged, the public's backlash from his reports led the Government to re-evaluate the treatment of troops and led to Florence Nightingale's involvement in revolutionising battlefield treatment.

Shocking. Will someone please tell Brendan O'Neill? We really must seriously discuss what the role of war reporters has become as the Crimean war rages around us, and what we think it ought to be.

For a start, the pond proposes sending O'Neill by way of a third class rail ticket to the nearest front. We wouldn't want him staying in comfort at home to ponder these complex, nuanced thoughts ...

But before you snicker, or even snort a little, here's the catch. It's likely the Australian taxpayer has sent a nice little recompense the way of O'Neill for writing yet more nonsense for the cardigan-wearers at the ABC's The Drum, a nice little earner for someone frequently caught rabbiting on about the uselessness of public, or civil, servants.

Well he certainly gets that right about the ABC, now routinely home for the likes of the IPA and On'Neill, but whither the objective detachment that will see him tear up their pitiful government cheque, and fling it in their faces?

(Below: would the army supply O'Neill as a non-standard bootlace for William Howard Russell? Probably not ...)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Anthony Albanese, and hasta la vista baby ...

(Above: Anthony Albanese's web site, featuring white blank space).

Anyone thinking about leaving a message for local pond federal representative Anthony Albanese, who heads off to his website for a point of contact, forget it.

What you get is the splash at the top, and a complete lack of functionality and blank white space for the rest. Not that the pond's got anything against white spacing, but it isn't the usual thing you expect of a web site.

Now if you click hard enough you get this:

The contact button didn't actually work when we tried it, but perhaps that's like giving pedestrians a button to use on traffic lights. It doesn't change the cycle of the lights, but it makes them feel better as they pound away, doing something. Maybe that's the point of Albo's website, pound away for a few minutes, and then go away.

Do you feel better punk? Well do you ...?

Who knows what you might want to talk to Albo about.

There might be the matter of him lining up behind former Chairman Rudd in the battle of the octagon, the ground and the pound.

There might be the matter of a second airport for Sydney. The last we heard there was talk of lifting the night flight curfews at the current airport (Task force wants to lift night flight curfews at Sydney Airport).

You might think Albo has been - like every other infrastructure minister before him - singularly inept at handling the needs of Sydney, even though his own electorate borders the airport (War looming in the skies of Sydney). And you might like to send him a message.


No, wait a second, that's the message his website is sending you ...

You might want to congratulate Ablo on his expert handling of a crisis involving Dolly Parton. The only infrastructure crisis it seems he's been able to manage in the last few years (Dolly Parton gets lippy over her Aussie hero, Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese). Not that this particularly helps his local electorate, but isn't it grand to see him out and about with Dolly.

You might be from the MPAA, determined to hunt down Albo for his plagiarising of Hollywood content, buck passing the blame to his staff, even though he said he wasn't a buck passer, while passing the buck (Anthony Albanese loses the plot after plagiarism of The American President).

Could everybody use that excuse? Um the mp3 and the avis that turned up on my computer were downloaded by my staff, my mother, or my children?

Whatever, one way or another you might want to contact Albo, but be at a loss as to how to contact your local member.

Not to worry. Start a blog.

Mention that your partner once provided a handsome donation to the cause, despite your best endeavours, despite your noting it would end badly.

Point out that it will happen again over your dead body, or when the moon is revealed to be made of green cheese, or the Sydney airport crisis is resolved. By the pond's reckoning, that should be no later than 2050.

Then note that you'll be pleased to see him at the polling booth come the next election. And so will your partner, who now regrets the flush of enthusiasm, the folly ...

With a simple message.

Hasta la vista baby ...

But since he doesn't seem to watch Hollywood movies, will he understand what it means? Perhaps his staff could put it in a speech, so he'll find out ...

(Below: Albo and Dolly. What a sweet pairing).

In which the pond contemplates K. Rudd, Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin (again) and seeks relief in a plate of Pal food and Jon Stewart ...

(Above: click to enlarge, and more First Dog, and the rest of the cartoon here, and if you hit a paywall, sometimes you have to pay for an alternative view of the world).

The pond would like to become a KR-free zone, but of course as soon as it mentions that desire, in a peculiar and reflexive way, it is necessary to mention KR, and so the pond is immediately plunged into the KR maelstrom.

Even worse, it means the pond's adopted peculiar K. Rudd speech patterns of the third person kind:

"It wasn't K Rudd who made a pre-election commitment on a carbon tax. It wasn't K Rudd who made a particular commitment to (independent Andrew Wilkie) on the question of poker machines," he said.
"It wasn't K Rudd who had anything to do with the East Timor solution or the Malaysian solution (to asylum seeker arrivals). (here)

Rest assured the pond made no pre-caucus commitment to K. Rudd. It wasn't the pond who mentioned K. Rudd in the context of the second coming of the Messiah. It wasn't the pond's fault on the question of K. Rudd making himself available to save the world. The pond simply hasn't had anything to do with the K. Rudd solution. K. Rudd does it all by himself.

The pond - which has more than a passing familiarity with madness - have you ever thought what it means to think of oneself as a pond? - must confess to a deep suspicion and concern for anyone in the public eye who routinely evokes, or even invokes, the third person.

Truth to tell, it's very much of a piece with the behind the scenes information that spills out like a lanced boil in Laurie Oakes' The World According to Rudd: an insider's guide:

There is a section on “the culture of blame and fear throughout the government”, claiming that Rudd’s angry treatment of staff and public servants was very calculated.

“We all knew of advisers being ‘put in the freezer’ for crossing their boss. It was childish to watch - he would refuse to look at them in meetings and simply ignore anything they said until they gave up and quit or made amends.

“In this way he ensured he got obedience, but at the cost, of course, of getting proper ad

Yes, the pond knows that sort of mental mind-set, indeed might even have heard of a few who experienced it. And while all the talk is of populism and polls and a K. Rudd poll-driven revival are doing the rounds, this is an eye-catcher:

“His most common put-down of officials and his own policy wonks was ‘That’s a fine idea, but how do I explain it on Today Tonight?’.

And if you take Oakes at his word, that the document was written a long time before the current fracas began to unfold, this is a winner:

“There was the PM’s terrifying flirtation with a referendum on the referral of state health powers to the Commonwealth. It took months to persuade him that, with the opposition and very likely at least WA opposed, such a referendum would certainly fail and not only be a terrible political defeat but also clarify the health powers for good and in the Commonwealth’s distinct disfavour.”

And the paper concludes: “By the end, what did for him was the mounting impossibility of conveying any kind of sensible advice to him through the thicket of his impossible daily schedule and an obvious personal physical exhaustion”

Ah yes, the good old days. You might have taken this yabber in July 2009 as bluff ...

Kevin Rudd says he wants to co-operate with the states to reform the health system - but if necessary is prepared to override their objections with a referendum. (here)

... but it seems K. Rudd took it for real.

Oh there'll be a fine time on the pond if K. Rudd returns, and the Murdoch press can return to the job of hounding him to oblivion, as they did so well in the last months of his premiership.

Oh the good old days.

Enough of K. Rudd already. Other siren songs call, and who could produce a stranger sounding siren than Rick Santorum?

Of late people have been ferreting through his past thought bubbles, and this bubble was strangely compelling:

One of the issues that I always got hammered for was the issue of evolution. I was the guy who actually put words in the No Child Left Behind Act, which was our big education bill that passed back in 2001 or 2002 that reformed the education system. Well, I had an amendment, it’s a great story, I had this language, because what’s taught in our school system as a result of liberal academia, is evolution is an incontrovertible fact. There is no suspicion of it. It is decided science that cannot be questioned. There cannot be any doubts about it. If you have any questions or doubts, it’s trying to inject religion into the science classroom. So it is above reproach.

I obviously don’t feel that way. I think there are a lot of problems with the theory of evolution, and do believe that it is used to promote to a worldview that is anti-theist, that is atheist. (here)

A lot of problems with the theory of evolution? It's an atheist creed? As opposed to a well-heeled scientific theory? This after the time when even the Pope (in the form of John Paul II) could write:

Today, almost half a century after publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.

The Santorum method of fear and doubt and loathing is precisely the technique that creationists have deployed as a way of getting religion into science classrooms:

... it’s a two-sentence or three-sentence amendment that talks about…that we should teach about the controversy, the academic freedom. Basically, it was an academic-freedom amendment, that people should be allowed to teach the controversy.

Teach the controversy? Well it's not really controversial that dinosaurs walked the earth with humans. Steven Spielberg proved that ...

What follows is Santorum explaining how clever his wording is, and how he fooled everybody, and persuaded the Democrats to fall in line with him:

Finally, Kennedy comes over to me and lays the amendment there and says, “Okay. We can’t figure it out.” I said, “What do you mean?” “We can’t figure out where abortion is in here.” I said, “What do you mean abortion?” He said, “You said your amendment is about abortion.”

“No.” I said. “I said my amendment is about life. It’s about teaching the origins of life, and that you should have academic freedom in the classroom when you’re teaching about life.” Pause.
Barbara Boxer gets up and questions me on this abortion thing, and I said, “Look. It has nothing to do with abortion. Barbara, you’re for academic freedom, aren’t you? You don’t want people to have teach one thing. You want people to teach the controversies?”

“Absolutely. Oh, academic freedom!”

So the amendment comes down, and it gets passed 91-6. Something like that. And the six who voted against it were all Republicans who didn’t want us to be messing around with curriculum in the classroom. They were against any kind of amendment having to do with curriculum.

And so it passes. The next day the Washington Post prints this story talking to the biology teachers of America, and they just go ballistic. Kennedy says, “I was tricked. I was fooled. I’m against this. I can assure you that this will never come out of conference. This is terrible that he did this.”

And to his credit, the guy that held the conference, he was chairman of the education committee, he made sure that the conference would not come out without this language was John Boehner (Senator from Ohio). Jon Boehner is the one who held it, and we have it in. As a result, all across the country people had to redo their education standards, and this issue has caused firestorm everywhere. So, little things.

A firestorm everywhere? Ignorance and stupidity triumphant? Overturning science in the name of abortion a little thing? The theory of evolution suspect when even a monkey's uncle and the Pope have given it the nod?

And then came the bizarre sight of Santorum defending his thoughts on Satan, and Sarah Palin jumping into the fray:

"They will attack any conservatives who boldly proclaims their faith and talks about there is good in the world and there's evil in the world and that's what Rick Santorum was talking about," she said. "And this was a speech that he gave back in 2008, where he named evil as Satan. And for these lame-stream media characters to get all wee-weed up about that, first you have to ask yourself, 'Have they ever attended a Sunday school class even? Have they never heard of this terminology before?' And that's why they got so, you know, just whacked out about the speech."

Whacked out? Wee-weed up? Sunday school as a guide to political discourse?And to think she might have been a heart beat away from the presidency ...

And to think brazenly and nakedly Santorum is running for the presidency of the still (if failing) most powerful country in the world, and people are giving attention and paying heed ...

Still feeling that man love for Sarah, lame-stream media guru Tim Blair? Still feeling that woman love for Palin, lame-stream Murdoch hack Janet Albrechtsen? Thought about Santorum as your new go to for ignorance and wee weed humbug?

Every so often, the pond pauses to reflect - KR style - that while Australia is fucked in many ways, it isn't as comprehensively as fucked as the United States, and won't be so until someone like Pastor Danny can be running for PM, and being given credibility and plenty of air time for whacky, off the wall religious fundamentalism worthy of an Iranian fundamentalist. More fundamentalist than your average, reasonably well educated Pope ...

On the other hand, the United States does have Jon Stewart, and last week he delivered the most scathing take down of men, Republicans and their desire to fiddle with women's bodies as he's ever done in using comedy as a community service.

And it turned out that Stewart and Saturday Night Live had an impact, as explained in Nitty-gritty knocked Va. abortion bill off the fast track.

Sadly there can't be any link to Stewart's piece - damn you Foxtel, damn you to hell - but where in Australia are the comedians up to the job as the current circus unfolds?

The best we can do on a Saturday is read Mike Carlton sending up Christopher "the Poodle" Pyne, falling upon the Gonski report on education like a poodle puppy at a plate of Pal. (here)

Oh okay, and there's First Dog, always ready with a plate of Pal, and a few others to make up the list. It's a start, but it's not good enough, not while there's so much third person jibber jabber doing the rounds ...

(Below: you had to watch it to marvel at the way controlled rage could turn into bitter comedy).