Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spending Sunday in hell with the Sydney Anglicans ...

(Above: get hellishly happy with Sydney Anglicans).

There's an enormous amount going on in the pulpits this week.

First an honourable mention to Damon Young, banging away at The Drum, giving the believers a hard time, using calm reason to make his case.

Sadly, the pond is much more inclined to frolicsome bubble-headedness, as in the volcanic eruption of news surrounding Katie Holmes breaking up with Tom Cruise.

Immediately the question that flowed to the sea like thetanic lava was on everyone's lips. Was scientology involved? And there were many answers, including Why Scientologists Are Crying.

Then there was Jack Wu doing his bit for evolution in Kansas by calling out its Satanic Lies, while in Melbourne Orthodox Jew Dr Miriam Grossman was doing her best to circulate fear and loathing about sex and the young, at a government-funded school, no less. She even made the ABC's PM, after managing to shock New Zealanders.

But as always our heart belongs to the Sydney Anglicans, still tormented by hideous visions of hell. Whether they should have chosen to illustrate What Joy in Hell? by Phillip Jensen with a nightmare in the Boschian style is another matter, given that Bosch is often considered a heretic, perhaps of the Cathar or Adamite kind.

Never mind. Jensen is in fine gloomy form, and opens with thoughts that should make you check under your bed this evening before restless fitful dreams take you away:

There is no joy in hell.
Its very existence reassures us of ultimate justice. Where else can the victims of the Holocaust find justice? But justice is little comfort when we consider hell’s horror.

Yes, hell is bliss, if you're chosen. If not, ya ya smartypants, serves ya right.

But there seems to be some kind of theological wire crossing going on here, at least if we remember Martin Luther's notorious document On the Jews and Their Lies:

To be sure, I am not a Jew, but I really do not like to contemplate God's awful wrath toward this people. It sends a shudder of fear through body and soul, for I ask, What will the eternal wrath of God in hell be like toward false Christians and all unbelievers? Well, let the Jews regard our Lord Jesus as they will. We behold the fulfillment of the words spoken by him in Luke 21:20: "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near ... for these are days of vengeance. For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people.

Yes it turns out that hell has been specially designed to house heretics like the Jews and other unbelievers - a wild kind of justice - unless of course you listen to the Catholics explain that it will make a fine home for Anglicans, and vice versa.

Of course the Sydney Anglicans like to sup with John Calvin so it's handy to remember that he also thought that the Jews' rotten and unbending stiffneckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone. (here). Yep, there's that languishing in hell for all eternity again...

Unfortunately no one has actually seen the actual hell that's much talked about and imagined (strangely heaven also seems to be elusive and as for purgatory, why never get a Catholic and an Anglican into a discussion or you'll be lost in theological limbo for hours, or perhaps an eternity of hell).

A modern notion of hell escapes Jensen, who delightfully reverts to the superstitions of sheep herders and camel traders of a few thousand years ago, to evoke fire, corpses, demons, outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, destruction and second death. It turns out that this brimstone, fire and damnation is appropriate because Christ was one hell of a hell fire preacher ...

It always struck the pond that this idle chatter of eternal doom was the last refuge of the desperate preacher, watching as the flock marched out the door. As a child, the pond found that a belief in hell and Satan were the first to go - Jesus the socialist pacifist cut a better figure - especially when you see how humanity has managed to construct all sorts of hell on earth.

There comes a time when those great lines which wrap up Elmer Gantry become relevant, because in much the same way as there comes a time to give Santa, the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny the heave ho, there comes a time to let go of the mythology of the garden of eden, the snake, the apple, and women being the ruination of everything:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

The Jensenist theology speaks of childish things, which helps explain why they love the concept of hell, and continue the simple-minded demonisation of women and gays. The ongoing mockery of the mythology of hell naturally infuriates them:

Much of what horrifies people about hell is the vivid and imaginative presentation of it by preachers, artists and writers. When confronted by scary pictures, some people close their eyes while others bravely make fun and laugh at them. So we have the Christians who cannot so much as think of hell and the non-Christian who will parody the whole notion portraying Satan with horns and tail, pitchfork and opera cape, or boasting, with more bravado than sense, of sharing a beer and a joke with all their mates down there.

Uh huh. But are the mates sharing a beer with their mates in hell any sillier than the various sects who consign opposing sects to hell, while they collect their very own 'get out of hell' card, and earn $200 to spend in heaven on a golf course of their choosing?

Funnily enough, over in another story on the site, David Pettett writes a poignant piece about The Rock that is higher than AC/DC. Damn straight, it better be, because suggesting that Acca Dacca is top notch rock 'n roll raises alarming questions. Hasn't anyone at the Sydney Anglican site listened to the lyrics of Highway to Hell?

But back to Jensen:

Both responses make speaking on hell difficult. On the one hand the preacher is accused of insensitively using manipulative scare tactics and on the other hand he is ridiculed for believing in childish ghost stories. But it is our Lord Jesus himself who used hell in his preaching, so we must not - and cannot - leave it out of our declaration of the whole counsel of God.

Indeed. So it's on with the childish ghost stories.

Of course using manipulative scare tactics to scare the hell out of children is a favourite tactic of your average preacher. The pond sat through any number of hysterical sermons of the kind delivered by Thomas Keneally in Fred Schepisi's The Devil's Playground. It's an old pond favourite and we like to run it every year or so:

Without exception, death will come to each and everyone of us. The clod of earth will rattle on each of our coffins. The body we pamper will become a city of corruption, a horror under the earth, our own mothers could not bear to look upon it. If we are saved, our bodies will rise again free and glorious when Christ comes, but if we lose our battle with temptation, we know what our agony will be. For ever more we shall be awash in the burning rivers of the dead, for ever more the stench of hell, of the rotting flesh of the damned, will fill our nostrils, for ever more our ears will resound with the screams of the tormented, for ever more our pain will be like the pain of a man tied down, unable to move, while one fiery worm eats at his vitals. The man screams for unconsciousness, but there is no unconsciousness in hell. The worm eats and eats and its work will never finish, but continues for ever more. And what does that for ever more mean?
Imagine a sphere of metal vast as the sun. Imagine that once every ten thousand years a sparrow should visit it and brush it with its wings. When that ball had been worn to nothing, we would still be in hell, we would still be the howling damned who do not see God's face.

No wonder Keneally dropped out, got married and became a writer, though he will of course end up in hell for his support of the Manly rugby league team. Even Christ himself couldn't get the lad off that one ...

Oops, I see the pond isn't taking the subject of hell seriously, in the approved Jensenist manner, whereby hell becomes a fit subject for a silly season of hellish sermons.

Could there be anything worse? Well we could be listening to yet another sermon on climate change from Cardinal Pell, but thankfully he's off in Rome, attending to cover ups, as reported in George Pell in Pope's special meeting of cardinals to deal with Vatican leaks.

The Vatican leaks?

The Vatican has been scrambling to contain the damage after the leak of hundreds of Vatican documents exposed claims of corruption, political infighting and power struggles at the highest level of the Catholic Church.

Yes, you don't have to look for hell in the afterlife. The corruption, infighting and hellish power struggles are right here in earth, at the heart of poor old socialist pacifist Christ's alleged successors in Rome. And other locales ...

Two years ago, Italian prosecutors began probing real estate transactions and other dealings of Naples' cardinal, an Italian prelate who formerly headed that office.
The Italian authorities have been looking into an alleged web of kickbacks and favours, including purported sexual ones, involving businessmen, church hierarchy and public officials.

Yep, while molested children suffer, there hell is, as happy as a lark, going about its hellish business in Rome, though I dare say there's more than a touch of hell in the shenanigans surrounding the appointment of the new head of Moore College.

It almost makes a quiet after-life in a box underground sound like a blessed relief ... unless the zombies in the plot next one over decide to hold a party ...

Take it away Acca Dacca (let's save Satan bringing us those Hell's Bells for later):

Living easy, living free
Season ticket on a one-way ride
Asking nothing, leave me be
Taking everything in my stride
Don't need reason, don't need rhyme
Ain't nothing I'd rather do
Going down, party time
My friends are gonna be there too, yeah

No stop signs, speed limit
No Sydney Anglican's gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody's gonna mess me round
Hey Satan, paid my dues
Playing in a rocking band
Hey momma, look at me
I'm on my way to the promised land

I'm on the highway to hell
on the highway to hell
highway to hell
I'm on the highway to hell ... etc

(Below: speaking of hell, there might be a few pop culture historians out there who remember MAN magazine, and what it did for hell in Australia. More here on the magazine, and more here about Jack Gibson, who did all the hell drawings for it. Funnily enough Gibson's son became a Jensen ... the long absent lord surely moves in mysterious ways).

Friday, June 29, 2012

From a Pyne to a Pearson ...

(Above: First Dog on the vexed subject of Christopher Pyne, more First Dog here).

The good news is that someone else was perturbed by Christopher Pyne's shameless plagiarising when he let loose this rhetorical flourish:

“I knew John Howard and I served John Howard and John Howard was a friend of mine. And you are no John Howard,” Pyne declared.

The pond first heard it on radio, and wondered if the acknowledgement had been cut off. But no, there was no acknowledgement of borrowing, pilfering or downright theft.

Here's what Pyne should have said:

"As Lloyd Bentsen said so memorably in another context, and I paraphrase him, being a humble pilferer who understands that acknowledged imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I knew John Howard and I served John Howard and John Howard was a friend of mine. And you are no John Howard."

That would have got him out of jail, as opposed to the jail of plagiarists, cheap vulgar minds, and shameless stealers into which he should be thrown.

If you want to see VP candidate Lloyd Bentsen smackdown Dan Quayle in 1988, head off to Crikey for the YouTube link to: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy”. (oh okay, here if you lurk outside the paywall).

It's about the only notable thing Bentsen did in politics, and even then the grave-robbing zombie Pyne won't let him rest.

Turns out Pyne has an excellent parrot mind, and can store someone else's excellent quote for recycling, but can't remember sending an email to a Slipper staffer shortly after he sent it. Oh wait, now he remembers it ...

EMMA ALBERICI: Christopher Pyne why did you say there was no contact with James Ashby when later it was found that you did send him an email later on the same night that you'd been drinking with him; an email that you've later said was innocuous. It in fact said, "You see only Australian Parliament House address". What did that mean?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: That's exactly right. It's so boring.
EMMA ALBERICI: But what did it mean?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well in the conversation that night in the Speaker's office, which was for about 50 minutes and one beer was consumed, I was talking about the fact that I'm basically a technophobe and I can't handle more than one email address and I know that a lot of people have a lot of other email addresses and it's such a boring response. (here)

A self-admitted boring dumb technophobe! Well that's one way to get out of trouble, and about as clever as the smarmy dog ate my boring homework excuse, but it does remind the pond that technophobia is all the go in the Liberal party, along it seems with ignorance and pilfering.

Which is why you could have knocked the pond down with a feather - possibly a feather plucked from Tony Abbott's goose bum - at the news We will not cancel the NBN: Turnbull.

Does this mean that we can now start talking about Toniliar, having had to endure years of rhetorical abuse and nattering negativity about the NBN and the usefulness of broadband?

Everyone fond of the kool-aid will wonder what they've been drinking these past few years.

Of course when you read the detail of Malcolm Turnbull trying to sound like a cheapskate in the company of his boss luddite - fibre to the node, fibre to the home restricted to greenfield sites, and HFC where it's still hanging around in city areas - there exists a tremendous capacity for the Liberal opposition to fuck it up, penny pinching instead of vision-seeking, and creating cheap solutions which will need to be replaced within a few years.

As anyone who endures HFC knows, it was rolled out a decade ago, and never upgraded, even in high density locations, with the private sector, supposed to lead the way, hanging back and accepting that's what is simplest and easiest and cheapest for them was best for the customer.

Please allow the pond to quote Paul Budde, because shouting at a wall of stupidity is tiresome when done alone. Firstly on the life of HFC:

"Optus and Telstra did not see that potential going forward; the utilities don't believe copper HFC has a life beyond about eight years and investors are not prepared to invest in that technology.
"Why would you do it? And what are you going to do at the end of that time. In the US the cable network has been upgraded since the day it was built. More than 50 per cent of the population is connected to it. It's a different scenario.

And again please Mr. Budde:

Mr Budde said the Coalition must stop scare-mongering in relation to costs.
"We have now 40 ISPs with NBN products on the market for as low as $25 a month. How are consumers worst off? The average is more like $29 for a basic NBN [connected] product. That is very comparable with ADSL packages that are around now."

Putting Tony Abbott in charge of broadband and asking for a futurist vision is a bit like putting a Pellist in charge of the business of teaching the theory of evolution and climate science to high school students. Young people tend to be so far ahead of the game in understanding the paradigm shift that there'd be a riot in the classroom ...

As the first comment off the block declaimed, "There will be no NBN under a Government I lead!"

Every day in every way, federal politics is extraordinarily dispiriting these days. The only upside? What will the commentariat make of it? What will the myrmidon lackeys of Murdoch sing from the sheet? Oh yes, two legs Labor NBN bad, four legs, let's do it differently Liberal NBN good.

How might a futurist put it?

“To quote Christopher Pyne, who so sagely and cleverly opined in another context, I knew the NBN and I devised the NBN and a genuinely forward looking and visionary NBN was a friend of mine. And your newly discovered and belatedly announced NBN isn't much of an NBN, and damned sure if it's any friend of mine."

At last the mincing poodle serves a purpose, and please note, no offence to mincing poodles is intended ...

Naturally you won't find any of this NBN news in the Murdoch press. So what will you find?

Yawn, Pearson announcing the Messiah yet again. Abbott might even make good on his promise to turn water into wine, and roll back the seas so we can all reach safe haven. But will he find a way to deliver Malcolm Turnbull's vision of an NBN Mr Pearson?

It would be a gross misrepresentation to call Pearson a Little Lord Fauntleroy, so we'll settle for Little Sir Echo instead ... if only he'd go far away.

Just as innocent mincing poodles suffer, so Pearson manages to make man love seem like an unsavoury spectacle. Thank the lord for Justice Kirby providing an alternative role model ...

Meanwhile, the pond has been remiss in its duties of late, ignoring the commentariat, so to make amends we offer up The Australian's editorial Protecting freedom of speech (it's outside the paywall so you can suffer for free, o fabjous day, callooh, callay).

Clearly the rag is smarting at its recent activities in relation to the Slipper affair, and the editorial outburst indicates that where there's smoke there's likely a fire raging ...

The editor is on safe ground decrying public interest tests - Richard Ackland put it better and with more style in The obscure world of public interest - but what's interesting is the glib way the editorial dismisses "spurious claims" about "hate media" and newspapers conducting "regime change" without acknowledging the crusade that the HUN, The Daily Terror and The Australian have been on in recent years ... and most recently and most obviously in the Slipper affair.

There is of course not a single word about the Slipper matter - the foxes at faux news have gone to ground - so in the spirit of Christopher Pyne, can the pond just refresh the editorial's closing remarks, which originally ran:

If Senator Conroy and his colleagues want to keep a vestige of credibility, they will not leave an anti-democratic legacy destined for the political dustbin.

How about this instead?

If the editors of The Australian and the Daily Terror and their colleagues want to keep a vestige of credibility, they will not leave an anti-government and anti-Slipper legacy hanging in the air, but instead will come clean, co-operate with the courts and provide a full and frank confession of their involvement in the Slipper affair. The government might be heading for the political dustbin, but the new structure of News Ltd will shortly see their abuse of process and their relentless hate media regime change crusading serve as cage liner for cocky shit ...

In the pond's dreams of course. With petty pilfering of speeches by politicians going unremarked, who's going to pause for a minute and contemplate the greater crimes perpetrated by the media ...

(Below: and still this cartoon remains relevant).

Chairman Rupert finds a way for newspapers to thrive ...

(Above: Uncle Joe).

Delusionalism is a naughty word, which shouldn't really exist (though amazingly you can find people willing to elevate it into a philosophy).

But the condition does, and it usually resides amongst delusionalists, which gets us on to the safer dictionary turf of delusional. Here's a few handy definitions:

1.a. The act or process of deluding.
b. The state of being deluded.
2. A false belief or opinion: labored under the delusion that success was at hand.
3. Psychiatry A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness: delusions of persecution.

Adj. 1. delusional - suffering from or characterized by delusions
psychoneurotic, neurotic - affected with emotional disorder (here)

Now here's a classic example of a delusionalist being delusional:

Now if you've been properly trained - perhaps you were alive in the time of Joe Stalin, or Chairman Mao, or any of a string of North Korean dictators - y0u might agree with that header, and marvel ...

Is there anything that Chairman Rupert can't do? At last someone has found a way to make newspapers thrive ...

Sad to say, this would make you as delusional as the delusionalist who wrote the header in the hope that the spin would fly.

If you could be bothered to evade the paywall, and burrow into the heart of the story, you'd find a beaming chairman Rupert holding up a newspaper:

No doubt as a result of just looking at the image, the hearts of some admirers stopped for forty, fifty or even sixty seconds, and for others it brought back fond memories of the good old days:

Put in this context, it's easy to see why an old man clutching a tree killing rag priced at 50p should arouse heroic sentiments in the hearts of the faithful, as they valiantly struggle against internet infidels, traitors and lickspittle 'tubes lackeys.

And the spin within the actual piece, amusingly placed in the "media - non-futurist, true believers" section, showed that kool-aid drinking was alive and well:

He (Murdoch) said each company "would benefit from enhanced strategic alignment and increased operational flexibility with respect to an unparalleled portfolio of assets, brands and franchises".

In a statement to all staff, Mr Murdoch said News Corporation's publishing businesses were "greatly undervalued by the sceptics".

"Through this transformation we will unleash their real potential, and be able to better articulate the true value they hold for shareholders," he said. (google this text for the link)

Transformation! Unleash! Real potential! Better articulate! True value!

Corporate gobbledegook of the first water.

News Corps true colours, and that's why we love you.

Meanwhile, if you head off to the field of soursobs tended by cynical farmers, the news for newspapers isn't so solid. Even the header is a downer, News Corp confirms split as Rupert Murdoch steps back from papers.

Steps back from papers? But, but, but, billygoat, he's found a way forward, a way for papers to thrive ...

Industry analysts say the faster-growing TV side would be valued more highly by new investors not willing to buy shares in a company burdened by newspapers, an industry facing structural decline.

Structural decline? Lordy, lordy, is there any other bad news to think about?

A question remains, however, about which of the two new companies would bear the financial risks of the ongoing fallout from the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, which has already cost News Corp more than £100m.

Besides legal costs, News Corp also faces a potential investigation and fines in the US under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which punishes companies that have bribed officials abroad.

In terms of risk management, it's just a statement of the bleeding obvious, but over at News Ltd in the media section, the bleeding obvious is that which dare not speak its name, not when an euphoric outburst over a glass or two of kool-aid is required.

As part of the restructuring, Murdoch will be taking a step back from newspaper publishing, the business that is closest to his heart. He will remain as chairman of both new companies but will act as chief executive of just one – the media and entertainment business. (here)

Yep, Chairman Rupert has found a way forward for newspapers, by leaving them to their own devices and to a new CEO.

Quick, is anyone in the family to hand and available and willing? Lachlan maybe, after a seven-year absence? Maybe, or maybe not:

Others being mooted for the job include Tom Mockridge, the chief executive of News International who was parachuted in from Sky Italia in July last year to replace Rebekah Brooks when she was forced to resign at the height of the phone-hacking scandal.

What about the nattering naysayers of negativity?

Murdoch said he was convinced the publishing company had a bright future. "I am convinced that both of these new business will be able to reach new heights."

It's just that I'll be safely on the plains ...

He added that he had not doubt the "naysayers" would see the announcement as a reflection of concern for the future of newspapers.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "People will pay for news. It is the most valuable commodity in the world.

You have to admire the old fox, and the way he conflates the future of newspapers with the future of news. People will pay for news, and they will pay for opinion, but the days of paying for news and opinion in a tree-killing newspaper are on a short leash.

Deep down the ongoing outrage at News Ltd about the NBN rolling out probably came from the realisation that each new town, suburb and city that was wired took Australia that bit closer to the end of hard copy news ...

Does any of this complexity penetrate the denialism at work in The Australian?

Nope. Delusionalism is all the go, including Christopher Joye's bizarrely irrelevant defence of proprietor rights in Editorial stance a right of media owners, behind the paywall, swept up into the coverage ...

Today the equity in Fairfax is worth about $1.3bn, based on Bloomberg data. If the Fairfax board is right, and its readers passionately believe that Fairfax should deliver a specific media product -- one that is determined exclusively by Fairfax employees rather than the business's owners -- then they have the legally enshrined right to buy the business and control it for themselves. And since the share price is sitting near record lows, this might be an opportune time to do so.

A populist management staff public buyout so the commune can continue to flourish? Um, what was that we read about an industry in structural decline?

Should we also be doing a staff-management-frequent flyers takeover of Qantas in the name of better cabin food?

The point, I guess, is, if you're in the business of wholesale transformation, you need to indulge in a little distraction, the key skill of the magician. So when covering the bad news for newspapers in the Murdoch empire, drag in Joye giving Fairfax a hard time, drag in a story on Seven, drag in a story about Malcolm Turnbull being natteringly negative, and top it all off by throwing in Chairman Rupert with a new vision and a new way forward. Bob's your uncle, or perhaps Peg is your aunt.

But what's the bet that hearts are beating a little faster in The Australian, the most vulnerable of the Australian rags, always reliant for support from the much more successful tabloids? How long before a bean counter runs a counter over their profit and loss columns?

Will it be time then for The Australian to go tabloid?

Well it being Friday, the pond has a way forward for the rag. It's called the Lara Bingle bump.

Sorry, after the trauma of the last few weeks, the pond is a little light-headed.

There was Tony Abbott saying this very morning that he was disappointed that stubbornness and pride had been on display in the past week in federal politics.

And he said it straight-faced to the mike, without a hint of shame. Truly a python can swallow a goat ... and a moral pygmy can pretend to be an elephant.

But did the pond shriek and howl?

No way, it's Friday, and so it's back to the Bingle bump, and a little harmless trolling of men who click mice with their penises.

Already the bump has turned the hits on this site into a mega force, doubling daily visitors.

Now if we just throw in the magical SEO words "Lara Bingle nude in the bath", watch the moths head to the flames ...

I know, I know, it's shameless trolling, but is it any more shameless than running a story with the header Murdoch finds a way for papers to thrive?

Even the Lara Bingle bump isn't that delusional ...

(Below: point of order. While there is no visual evidence she's nude in bath, use your imagination, as viewers of the third episode of Being Lara Bingle were required to do, with gratuitous titillation being the climactic aim of each episode. Bummer dude, all that way for nothing).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

You reap what you sow, and what you break you own ...

(Above: well at least Europe's the same, and on the same site you'll find Yanko Tsvetkos' European maps).

This blog is above all a stress release valve, so please block your ears and avert your eyes ...

It seems, according to reports, that the people caught in recent boating disasters to the north of Australia have been fleeing Afghanistan.

And yet people think this is somehow improper, unusual or peculiar.

We've spent the past decade in cohort with a bunch of allies bombing the shit out of the place, on a scale even the Russians couldn't manage.

Billions have been lost and wasted propping up a corrupt government, and after the decade of fighting, death and destruction, little has got better, with the possible exception of the death of a couple of Al Qaeda leaders ... in Pakistan.

And yet people wonder why someone might buy a ticket and try to get the hell out of the place.

This reality seems to have utterly escaped the moral gnats who currently inhabit the Federal Parliament, with their weeping and their moaning. Almost two thousand Americans have died, and a thousand coalition partners, and in the period 2007-2011 - when the UN decided someone should note the civilians being killed - some 11,864 civilians had been knocked off (full data here in pdf so you can tote up the wounded as well).

... the Coalition’s current stance on asylum seekers is the clearest example of outright evil that I’ve ever seen from a political party at the federal level.

... and in its own way, that's fair enough, except that the post-colonial adventurism in Afghanistan, supported unequivocally by both major Australian parties, is surely the clearest example of outright evil since we experienced the outright evil of the war in Iraq.

Imagine you're an Afghani rich enough to afford a ticket on a boat, and you're surrounded by war and chaos, and in some cases, depending on your sect or your religion or your status, persecution of the cruellest kind, and meanwhile the propagandists have been pumping up Australia as a democratic land of milk and honey ...

What would you do?

The way to avoid refugees is to avoid turning a country into a killing field ... but can anyone in government or opposition understand the simplest concepts of cause and effect, as opposed to the the easy sensationalism of a boat in trouble?

The stench of the government's righteous hypocrisy, and in equal measure the stench of hypocrisy emanating from Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott is a bit like coming across a dead cow rotting in the sun. The idea that they're caring and sharing about refugees is nauseating ... or that Nauru is a noble enterprise and a solution ...

Oh pull the other one, and go spend a week in a Howard internment camp of your choice.

The forty odd MPs who broke from the ranks did their best, but it shows how moderation leads to impotence in the world of Abbott and Gillard.

Truly what you sow you reap.

In a sane world, the rule of the homewares store would apply. If you break it, consider it sold and consider it yours. To his credit, Malcolm Fraser understood this in relation to the boat people who turned up fleeing Vietnam.

What next? Will we join in a war on Yemen with the United States, as Al Qaeda strengthens its activities there? (As Al Qaeda Loses a Leader, Its Power Shifts From Pakistan).

Not that words will fix the mess, but do Federal politicians have any idea of the contempt they produce with these impotent blather fests and argy bargy, supposedly in the name of principle as they pause at the same time to indulge in a mid-winter ball without having reached a conclusion ... because of pride and negativity of a loathsome kind.


Time to change topics before apoplexy intervenes...

The best idea in relation to the Gina Rinehart Fairfax matter to hit the pond was floated by Paul Barry in News Corp split signals big changes for Murdoch papers.

Now that Murdoch is likely to hive off his papers, and the pathetic financial position of The Australian is also likely to become much more apparent, why doesn't Rinehart make an offer for the rag?

... (cutting the papers adrift) looks like a defeat for the old tycoon. And it looks like being another bad day for journalists and journalism.
However, we do know of someone who might like to buy The Australian. Lachlan Murdoch knows her too. In fact, she’s one of his fellow shareholders and directors at Network Ten. Yes, Gina Rinehart. Come on madam, now is your chance.

Even better, there'd be no reason to change the editorial team or the rabid pack of right wing commentariat columnists, already trained to serve a master like attack dogs, and already right on board with the Rinehart agenda.

How piquant it would be to see The Australian put to the service of Rinehart. How pleasant to see the columnists servile and serving.

True, no one would be likely to see any change in behaviour or content, but how splendid to see them act as yapping lap poodles for their new mistress, who clearly knows a thing or two about being a domme.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder who's advising Rinehart in the matter of her bid for Fairfax.

The language demanding three board seats was both indiscreet and predictable. It was fractious and confrontational, slagging off the current chair for his .004% share holding, and muttering how Hancock Prospecting might agree to an "effective" charter of independence "assuming one can be agreed."

Any sane board member reading it would know they'd be heading into board room meetings from hell with Rinehart trying to run the show with three board seats (instead of the two her holdings suggest) and without the bother of splashing the cash to make a full takeover.

The capper came in this sentence about the Fairfax Media Board Governance Principles:

... the FMBGP has been repeatedly overridden in the past – for example by ordering journalists to support Earth Hour, when Fairfax was involved with part of Earth Hour, and again when the Age was losing circulation the Fairfax Media board gave editorial direction. (here)

This immediately produced a flurry of denials in relation to "repeatedly overridden" but the real clue is in the mention of Earth Hour.

This bit of foolish Fairfax window dressing was a marketing ploy of the most simplistic kind - switch off your lights for an hour and spend the rest of the year pissing energy against the wall at your whim - and the marketing-led support for it produced a miniature editorial rebellion back in the day.

But dredging it up is evocative of everything about the Rinehart approach.

A parallel would be discussing climate science, and getting the usual flurry of denialist obsessions, including hockey sticks, look you can drink carbon dioxide, look plants breathe it in and we breathe it out, emailgate, the world is cooling, it's the sun or the volcanoes what did it, and so on, and so forth ...

To single out Earth Hour is to suggest the rhetoric that Rinehart is a white knight riding to the rescue of Fairfax, to save it from inner city chardonnay swilling latte swallowing professional Earth Hour loving warmista wanker elites.

Which just happens to be a key demographic for the two major rags.

The market couldn't sustain all the media swinging to the right, with the Fairfax rags joining the Murdoch tabloids and The Australian in a cluster of brutish right-wing Yahooism.

Wouldn't Rinehart just be happier amongst her jolly chums at The Australian?

And they might just need her sooner than they think ...

Finally, as the Slipper affair continues, and The Australian goes about the business of burying Mal Brough (and never mind what News Ltd j0urnalist Steve Lewis might have got up to in a Broughian way), here's a reading from Albert Camus in an article dated November 25th 1939 for his Algerian newspaper Le soir républicaine (as found in Harpers, sorry, behind the paywall):

Faced with the rising tide of foolishness, one must likewise be prepared to issue a few refusals. All the pressure in the world can't make a mind with a modicum of integrity consent to dishonesty. Now, if you know even a little about the mechanism of the news, it's easy to verify an item's authenticity. That's the task to which a free journalist must devote his entire attention, for though he may not be able to say all he thinks, it's still possible for him not to say what he doesn't think or what he believes to be false. A free newspaper can be assessed by what it says but also and equally by what it doesn't say. This completely negative freedom, if it can be maintained, is by far the most important of all, for it prepares the way for the arrival of true freedom. Accordingly, an independent newspaper gives the sources of its news, helps its readers evaluate what it reports, rejects brainwashing, suppresses invective, augments the standardized presentation of news with commentaries, and, in short, serves the truth within the limited of its possibilities. However relative those limits may be, they will at least allow such a publication to refuse to do what no power on earth can make it accept: to serve lies.

Foolish utopian French existentialist.

How little he understood the spirit and power of myrmidon Murdochianism ...

Here's The Australian tacking windward today:

And here's the Daily Terror, bemoaning a public circus.

The ringmaster getting agitated about a three ring circus?

No mention of the appalling cynical behaviour of News Ltd?

No link, why bother to head off to a rag in the service of lies ...

Yet another waltz with the Bergian IPA denialists, and yet another News Ltd scandal shaping up nicely ...

(Above: click to enlarge)

Apparently Senator George Brandis has a completely convincing explanation of why there are no Australian male tennis players moving into the second round at Wimbledon.

It's the carbon tax.

This also explains why Cadel Evans won't win the Tour de France, and the London Olympics are going to be a disaster for the down under team.

Already Senator Brandis is assembling a team of experts to consider what has rapidly become known in athletic circles as 'carbon tax jitters' or 'carbon tax anxiety', which it seems undermines performance by as much as 22% (in much the same way as the $11 price of a packet of mince might well soar by a whole shocking one cent, here).

Speaking of climate change, it seems there is good news. It seems that adaptation is now the best way to adjust to the phenomenon.

We owe this tremendous insight to Chris Berg, pounding away yet again in The Drum with Another year, another failed climate summit.

I argued in The Drum last month adaptation is now the main game. For green groups, this ought to be the take-home message from Rio. And if they focus on adaptation, they might find surprising allies.

Surprising allies? Indeed.

It comes as a complete surprise to the pond that we need to adapt in any way to a phantom menace, a non-existent event, an hysterical over-reaction in the heads of a few addle-brained greenies.

The IPA and its cohorts have for years argued that climate change science is a myth and a nonsense, a delusion and illusion, and perhaps the greatest hoax of all time. And now we have to adapt to a myth and a nonsense and a hoax?

It reminds the pond of the great days when Senator Nick Minchin understood that the best way to deal with passive smoking was adaptation. If sooks and nancies just took a little bit of smoke as collateral damage, all would be well, and there'd be no need for the draconian persecution of cigarette companies:

Two Liberal dissenters, Senator Minchin and the former West Australian senator Sue Knowles, opposed many of the recommendations, claiming the tobacco industry was over-regulated.
But Senator Minchin went further, distancing himself from scientific facts that are now accepted as medical orthodoxy.
"Senator Minchin wishes to record his dissent from the committee's statements that it believes cigarettes are addictive and that passive smoking causes a number of adverse health effects for non-smokers," the committee's minority report says. "Senator Minchin believes these claims (the harmful effects of passive smoking) are not yet conclusively proved. . . there is insufficient evidence to link passive smoking with a range of adverse health effects." (here, may be paywall affected).

Yes Nick Minchin is the sort of scientist you'd be proud to feature in a documentary about climate science. A medical expert and a fiend at climatology, and so exceptionally well placed to participate in I Can Change Your Mind About ... Climate.

Some might think it passing strange that Minchin hasn't caught up with the IPA-certified news that climate change is real and happening, and we must now spend all our energy adapting to whatever its consequences might be ...

Or perhaps we should just let it rip, and work out what to do whenever the worst happens, whatever and wherever the worst might be, so long as all the IPA's sponsors can keep on going like bats out of hell, without any need to mend their climate-abusing ways.

The pond isn't the only site to note How the ABC spreads doubt about climate change science.

Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the “body of fact” that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.
~ “Smoking and Health Proposal”, 1969, Brown & Williamson (former subsidiary of British American Tobacco).

The IPA, and its writers like Berg, have been spreading doubt and generating controversy, and Berg's shift to 'adaptation' is perhaps the cutest rhetorical device in a long line of IPA FUD activities. Best of all, there's no real need to spell out how adaptation might work, because after all, climate change will have all the power and impact of a passing spring shower ...

Now that's how you resolve the contradiction with past rhetoric and dubious claims. Keep on making them, just shift the ground ...

Oh it's yet another jaffas in the IPA aisle day, with the more interesting question why the ABC routinely provides the IPA a public platform without any qualification or cavil, and without at any point seeking to establish any conflict of interest that might be at work between the IPA's activities and their carefully concealed, hidden, murky, shadowy anonymous sponsors ...

Surprising allies? Sure, Mr. Berg. Name them ...

Speaking of murky, shadowy matters, the Slipper affair bubbles along nicely, as reported today in Slipper diary 'was sent' to LNP rival, but it comes to an unhappy conclusion:

Mr Brough, Mr Lewis and News Ltd declined to comment.

If an average punter heads off to the Daily Terror for more background, there's a stony wall of silence on the front digital page.

How wonderful they should respect sub judice matters, in much the same way as they showed in such exemplary fashion with Craig Thomson.

Breaking news? Explosive? According to Michelle Grattan with a series of remarkable spin-offs. Started off sensationally, and got even more sensational.

Startling, shocking, front page news?

Not in the Terror's world, not a bo-peep, and bugger all sheep. Now there's a vision of the future if Fairfax is captured by Rinehart ...

There is a report in The Australian, Peter Slipper plot linked to top of Liberal National Party (may be paywall affected), but that's one of the few signs of myrmidon Murdochian life:

News Limited, which also publishes The Australian, stood by Lewis. "The matters in question cover serious allegations against one of Australia's most senior politicians - the Speaker of our national parliament," News said. "It is entirely legitimate that news organisations should investigate and report on such allegations."
The statement rejected claims that News Limited had access to the Ashby legal claim before it was lodged with the courts, noting that the document was obtained by News Limited through the court and that this could be demonstrated through receipts.
It is understood News Limited will refuse to respond to subpoenas before a July 23 hearing in the case, according to a source citing confidentiality.

Ah, I see, News Ltd declined to comment to anyone, except one of their own.

Uh huh. As to the matter itself, and access to the claim, James Ashby's Federal Court application was lodged April 20th - you can get it here in pdf form - but things had been brewing long before that, as outlined in the pdf of the second respondent's points of claim:

31. From on or about 2 April 2012 Ashby was in communication with Lewis with a view to assisting Lewis in his inquiries into Slipper's alleged misuse of travel entitlements, and with the object of inflicting damage on Slipper, conduct which Ashby deliberately concealed from Slipper at all times until the commencement of proceedings. In the course of those communications, on or about 9 April 2012 Ashby unlawfully communicated and sent, or caused to be communicated or sent, extracts of Slipper's private diary to Lewis knowing that to do so was contrary to Slipper's interests.
At present Slipper intends to rely on the text messages and telephone records between Ashby and Lewis and Doane set out in the spreadsheet, and in particular, on the following text messages identified by reference to the number assigned to each message on the spreadsheet
• 15176 from Lewis to Ashby dated 4 April 2012 in which Lewis stated that "We will get him!!"

4th April! We will get him!

Well that's not so much access to a claim, as crusading for a cause.

Meanwhile, jolly Clive Palmer, speaker at the Black Hand dinner, has had his name dragged into proceedings:

Mr McIver told The Australian that before Mr Ashby's lawsuit was filed, Mr Brough had contacted him and possibly Mr Palmer, about finding a job for a female staffer of Mr Slipper. He said he could not recall the name of the woman, but Mr Brough had said she would soon be leaving the Speaker's office.
Mr McIver, who received a resume of the woman from Mr Brough but did not find her a job, said he was not asked to find a position for Mr Ashby, although he had been made aware there was trouble in Mr Slipper's office.
"Brough rang me one day and said there was a problem with Peter Slipper and to stand by, it would have been around Easter," Mr McIver said...
...It is understood that among messages found on Ms Doane's mobile telephone is an April 12 text from Mr Brough in which he allegedly tells the staffer the "matter" could not go forward before "Clive" returns from overseas.

Of course Mr. Palmer denies knowing anything about anything, and it seems everybody is standing behind everybody in relation to the matter, but it has to be said that the matter is shaping up nicely, even before matters hit court, and might yet get up there with the Gordon Grech affair.

That's what happen when you make a big song and dance about a story, as noted by George Megalogenis back in April:

In the first five days after the speaker of the federal parliament was accused of rorting his travel entitlement and sexually harassing a staffer, the name “Peter Slipper” appeared in 356 articles in the major metropolitan papers.
In the first five days after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the term “global financial crisis” appeared 207 times in the same publications. (here)

Happily the Daily Terror has now re-balanced its coverage by striking the dread name Peter Slipper from the record.

Why it wouldn't say boo to a sub judice goose these days ...

It makes the news that Chairman Rupert is thinking of hiving off his newspaper division all the more titillating. (News Corp planning to split off UK newspapers). The story varies as to which newspapers might be involved - the story began here in the Wall Street Journal, and then turned up all over the place, including The Guardian, Murdoch considers splitting up News Corporation.

If and when the split is made, the ability to sell off old media - as opposed to profit-making audio-visual media - will be much enhanced, in the same way that Alan Joyce, in the process of driving Qantas into the ground, has put the international division first in line to face the hammer.

The biggest winner in all this? Craig Thomson, or perhaps the HSU, as they become last week's scandal ...

A French politician had a phrase for it:

Les journaux, ça va, ça vient, et puis ça finit par emballer les poireaux

But instead of wrapping leeks, some might prefer the English phrase, today's news and scandals, tomorrow's fish and chip wrapping ...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Say what?

Say what?

"I'm going to smack u! Arhhhhhh"
"Lenny used to call me the lovable cunt at Gowinta cause I knew how to play the game"
"You're cruising for a bruising"
"Cool. Let's fuck them up the arse instead"

Text messages allegedly sent by Mr. James Ashby to Mr. Peter Slipper on December 27th 2011, with asterisks deleted, and real words used because we're all adults here, and this matter is allegedly about sexual harassment, as reported in 'We will get him!": journalist's texts to Slipper accuser:

Steve Lewis, News Limited journalist, allegedly to Mr Ashby, as also reported in 'We will get him!": journalist's texts to Slipper accuser:

The News Limited journalist who worked with James Ashby and Malcolm Brough to expose allegations of sexual harrassment against the Speaker, Peter Slipper, allegedly told Mr Ashby by text, "We will get him!"
Steve Lewis also told Mr Ashby, "I will sort out payment" and "Just tell hotel to book u in again and News will sort".

Say what?

The sexual harassment case against Peter Slipper has been dealt a blow, with two key witnesses for senior adviser James Ashby refusing to co-operate in his lawsuit against the stood-aside Speaker.

The two former Slipper advisers - Megan Hobson, who was named in Mr Ashby's original application to the Federal Court, and Richard Bruinsma - are refusing to give statements and will have to be subpoenaed if their evidence is deemed critical to either side of the case. (here, inside the paywall).

Say what?

Meanwhile, over at The Punch, the risible Kevin Andrews delivers a homily about leadership under the header True leaders don't fear failure.

Indeed. Apparently true leaders don't fear the odd drowning if it allows them to grasp the throne, at least if true leader Tony "let them drown" Abbott is a guide.

And it seems true leaders leave the dirty business of 'we will get him' to News Limited.

The prescient Laura Tingle got it right back in April under the header No one stays clean in a mud fight:

Forty years ago this July, Steve Lewis, News Ltd’s national political correspondent, and I shared the stage of the Sydney Town Hall.

It’s a long story but some people might find it appropriate that Lewis appeared as a caveman, complete with a spear made out of foil, while I was part of a rumbling brown paper volcano that spat out fire and brimstone, courtesy of some red and yellow crepe paper stuck to my fingers.


The Slipper story means the door has been opened for all sorts of personal mud to be thrown. Like the Godwin Grech affair, we don’t know where it will end, or whether someone will find themselves on the wrong end of a foil spear.

Indeed. The pond is looking forward to future coverage of the case, anxious to discover who will find themselves at the wrong end of a foil spear.

Thankfully today we've learned courtesy of Gerard Henderson that the media has little impact on politics, and isn't really responsible for anything.

Go get 'em Nancy. Sic 'em and maybe they'll offer you a bone ...


thanks to the ABC, by visiting Journalist told Slipper staff 'we will get him', you can access a link to a 23 page pdf of Peter Slippers points of claim. As well as some of the text noted above, it thoughtfully provides, without redaction, email and mobile phone numbers, and some most intriguing information in relation to Mr. Mal Brough's participation in the affair.

Here's a sample:

Doane: I hear ya... I encourage you to contact Murray ( Marie ....). You need to keep everyone onside and have options. Not sure if State will be your future, or that you'll want it to be, so the more options the better. I really want the Sports portfolios that is my passion and I know it on many levels so I would be perfect ( even if I do say so myself) when you get to it, please send thru Jackie's email info. cc you into anything. Chat soon .... ;
Doane: Howdy, you awake? Just got a text that state staffing isn't the decision of the minister_ Do you think Jackie has influence? I would think yes?!?....
Ashby: Hmmm interesting. I had no idea of that rule... I bet the likes of Jacki and Bruce McIver have some influence. Jacki is definitely a key player in the party these days. To arrange a lawyer for $1 of that caliber is a big thing in my mind.
Doane: Agreed. It is also due to the barrister's ties to the LNP and the way this will tip the govt to Mal's and the LNP's advantage. Definitely a good move for us to meet with him so he gets to know us other than w the black mark from being w Peter!!
Doane: Hope I've said thank you enough???!! I am really appreciative James ...

And there's much more.

Strange, not a single mention of the Slipper affair on the front digital page of the Daily Terror, except for a link to The Australian story about former Slipper staffers not testifying.

And yet they were the ones who cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Surely with the story all over the place there's still time for their hounds to get right on it, and put up the pdf released by the Federal Court ...

Monday, June 25, 2012

And now to a portentous Prufrock, a peevish Pooter, a prattling Polonius without any influence whatsoever ...

(Above: the Albo calendar that turned up in the letter box yesterday. Cut and paste, add magnet, and you too can put it on your fridge. A calendar for 2012 in June? Just another service from Albo and the pond).

Before we get proceedings underway, I see that Jeeves has brought the pond's correspondence so it can be considered over tea and marmalade on toast. (Bertie and Jeeves away here at My Man Jeeves, The Aunt and the Sluggard and other stories).

First up was a note from Chairman Rupert inviting the pond to subscribe to the hand-delivered tree killer editions of the Daily and Sunday Terror, for a mere $23.80 each every four weeks, a reduction, the good Chairman assured the pond, of 35% over the daily rate. The pamphlet proposed a 41% reduction, but when you read the small print, the headline figure was misleading and deceptive. Who'd have thought?

One had already spoken sharply to Jeeves before about supporting a rag with a lifestyle section that kept on writing poncy inner city stories along the lines of Coffee drinking linked to a longer life or Nothing beats garlic to pack a pungent punch. If one wanted to read this sort of nonsense, why one would subscribe to a Fairfax rag.

Jeeves discreetly whisked away the pamphlet and apologised for soiling the pond's eyeballs with its bare-faced slogan "news that's important to you". Coffee and garlic are important to one? Only if inclined to sybaritic European lifestyles ...

Or perhaps if one wanted to read classic front page eggbeater stories about stealing lunch money, bottled water and fruit snacks from school children. Dammit, in the pond's day, students were invited to stick a stone in the mouth, Bear Grylls style, and enjoy the moisture ...

Next was a poignant note from Anthony Albanese advising the pond in breathless tones that the NBN was coming to the inner west .... Newtown, Camperdown, Enmore and outer suburbs like Sydenham ... in three years.

Three years! While friends and family enjoy being wired in Tamworth and Armidale and various other boondoggle seats around the country. Well I'm not sure that it will save Tony Windsor, even if he's turned in one of the most level-headed parliamentary performances amidst a bunch of tossers, and it's equally hard to see how it will save Albo's ministerial hide.

Damned if the pond could see why Albo was tub-thumping about the NBN turning up in three years! Three bloody years ... An impertinence, madam, Jeeves noted astutely, and I had to agree with him ...

No one will miss out, the letter says in heavier type, but truth to tell, with Tony Abbott the Pellist luddite from hell, there's a good chance a lot of people will miss out, and as usual, it's the seats that vote Labor that have been ignored in favour of propping up votes elsewhere. So Jeeves offered to decline politely Albo's invitation to discuss the arrival of the NBN in parts hereabouts. We'll take up the conversation in three bloody years ...

But while having fun with Jeeves, we almost overlooked Gerard Henderson, perhaps because Henderson is the most predictable and tedious member of the commentariat doing the rounds - Mark Latham makes him sound like a featherless chook howling at the loon - and by golly our prattling Pooter is predictable and tedious in Power of the press a lot less muscular than some imagine.

It turns out that the media and media proprietors have no power, and politicians are deluded, and Rupert Murdoch, who imagines he has some power, is also deluded. He's just a harmless pussy. Very few commentators understood anything about this, except of course Gerard Henderson, who has a couple of historical examples involving Gough Whitlam and Ming the merciless, who might be exceptions that prove the Henderson rule, which is that it's utterly useless for the media to attempt to influence politicians, the electorate, or anything really.

The corollary, of course, is that if the media is hapless, powerless and impotent, then it goes without saying that Henderson's columns are a futile waste of breath, tedious exercises without any hope of influencing anyone about anything.

Why does anyone bother to read this gnat, this gormless irrelevance, except to understand the existential hell we endure, as explained in Sartre's Huit Clos? If Murdoch is powerless, then Henderson is a mere cricket, his pompous stridulations coming from somewhere deep within his stridulatory organ. Or perhaps if he speaks in the media tongue, he's become a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, vibrating without meaning or purpose. Since who listens or who cares, such is his lamentable lack of influence in a media without power or point or place in society?

Fortunately Henderson provides some excellent evidence that he - and genuine journalists - are delusional:

With some notable exceptions, journalists have led a cheer squad that urged Kevin Rudd and later Julia Gillard to introduce an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax. The opinion polls indicate a significant disparity on this issue between majority journalistic opinion and the majority view in the suburbs and regional areas.

Uh huh. That'd be the majority journalistic opinion exemplified in the relentless campaigning of the majority of newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch which happen to control some 60 to 70% of the market place.

In favour of the carbon tax ...

Or so Hendo says. Welcome to the rabbit hole, Gerard Henderson style.

Henderson's sage advice? Politicians shouldn't talk to the media, and thereby communicate with the public. It's completely unnecessary. John Howard did too much media, and so did Rudd and Gillard. There's simply no need to explain anything, which is why Tony Abbott is such an excellent politician ...

Want to go deeper into the rabbit hole? Well you knew this line was coming, surely:

This lack of self-awareness is perhaps greater within the ABC.

Self-awareness? We can now define that as the state people exist in when they're not the supremely self-aware Gerard Henderson. Hang on, does that mean he realises he sounds like a repetitive useless prat without any influence or point?

Never mind, note the use of 'perhaps'. That's because the only evidence that Henderson can offer for his personal prejudice and bias ... is his personal prejudice and bias, so he needs an 'out' word, a softening of the silliness ... as the pond shows in phrases like ...

... perhaps Gerard Henderson is an unaware dill, or perhaps Gerard Henderson scribbles undiluted wanker nonsense, or perhaps Gerard Henderson doesn't have a clue.

How else can you explain a situation where Henderson turns the current fuss about Rinehart and Fairfax into yet more abuse of the ABC?

Some ABC journalists express concern about the possibility of a lack of diversity within Fairfax Media under Rinehart's possible influence without recognising that the ABC does not have one conservative presenter for any of its significant programs.

In the scheme of things it's actually Fairfax journalists who've been carrying on and expressing concern the loudest of all, but how would that get you on to your weekly bout of ABC bashing?

It (the ABC) has one presenter who boasts about his support for the left and another on the left who declares that she is an activist. Yet no conservatives, activist or otherwise.

Did we mention a gong, did we mention a cymbal? But yes, it's solid evidence that Henderson is both delusional and inanely repetitive. There's Rinehart pretending to be a white knight - when to judge by the Four Corners program she's actually a member of an antipodean House of Borgia - and all Henderson can do is blather on about how he's not hosting any of the ABC's significant programs. Oh I know he's pretending to talk about conservative presenters in general but we all know what he means, in his own petulant, sulky and predictable way.

And then comes the equally predictable follow-up, which shows chairman Rupert does indeed have some influence, because Gerard Henderson manages to sound exactly like James Murdoch running down the BBC:

The ABC managing director, Mark Scott, talks about the commercial media's "market failure". However, for the ABC, market success amounts to going to Canberra and getting a bucket-load of taxpayers' money.
Meanwhile the ABC's uninhibited move into online news and opinion projects a market distortion into attempts by Fairfax Media and News Limited to move more of their products online.

Yes, because the ABC really should have stuck with 2BL and 3LO and 5CL and 5AN and so on around the analogue country, and avoided colour television, and as for FM and digital radio why that's a step too far, and sure right now you can catch up on the Four Corners program about Rinehart by clicking on the link above online, but how shamelessly modern and market distorting.

Go offline now Auntie, please. It's the only way forward. Revert to carrier pigeons and semaphore and morse code please ...

Does Henderson have any idea how clueless, luddite and silly he sounds?

Which suggests that the ABC is a much greater threat to the private sector media than Rinehart or any other potential investor.

No, he doesn't. He's just impotent, spluttering, powerless, hapless bait for Mark Latham on his next trolling expedition ...

Or perhaps he's just a parrot idly repeating the thoughts of Chairman Rupert in search of a cracker or two ...

Does News Ltd ever help out with Sydney Institute funding? Who knows, Henderson doesn't believe in transparency or disclosure, but he does believe that the Leveson inquiry is about nothing because the reaction to the NOTW scandal was "over the top" (troll him Mark Latham, troll him again).

What a digital doofus.

And now in closing, please allow the pond to give a big wrap to the breakfast team on Radio National. Running the sports news in tandem with the news program AM produced a wonderful mix of garbled sound for minutes on end, and showed that The Night Air has much to learn from the mixing skills shown this morning.

Pure magic, and clear evidence that you're a great threat to the private sector media, unlike those harmless pussies Rupert Murdoch and Gina Rinehart.

What a pity that the Melbourne comedy festival is over, because someone would surely make a motza if they booked Mr. Henderson for a gig ...

(Below: come on Crikey, get your uninfluential act together, when one goes in search of First Dog taking breakfast with Gerard Henderson, one gets a 503. Not good enough, these classics deserve an ongoing place in the sun).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

If wouldn't be Monday without Paul Sheehan blathering on about bureaucrats and progressives ...

(Above: but if she didn't start the fire, how to cook the sourdough?)

First up, a note in honour of the Duffster.

Michael Duffy inspired the pond to get underway long ago, by scribbling columns for Fairfax designed to provoke. But over the years, either he or the pond has mellowed, or perhaps both.

His allegedly right wing ABC program Counterpoint, designed to irritate lefties and right wingers like Gerard "It should have been me" Henderson, long ago began playing music designed to shock the average conservative, and its guest list has become increasingly polymorphic perverse.

Today's the Duffster's last program, and it seems he might now be covering the day and night crime beat for the Sun-Herald.

If he keeps delivering stories like How a stolen mobile phone brought down a brutal killer, he'll be doing much more useful work than posing as a neo-con amongst the cardigan wearers. The only (minor) thought is that he misses opportunities when he follows up the fate of some of the minor players. True crime is a morality tale, and there needs to be a full accounting.

Speaking of useless neo-cons, today of course is Paul "Generally Grumpy" Sheehan today, and he's in fine form mounting a stirring defence of Gina Rinehart in Rinehart didn't start the fire.

Well it sort of starts off as a weird kind of defence of her, but there's also an argument it's more anal-retentive naval-gazing from Fairfax by an expert in anal-retentive naval-gazing, as Sheehan gains an easy half-column by doing a cut and paste from the transcripts of Q&A on the subject of Rinehart, with a few bonus cut and pastes from the Herald.

Who knew journalism could be so easy? Call it a snapshot of a combat zone - lordy that sounds impressive - and you're half way there. Why it's worthy of good old Alan "Scissorhands" "Cut and Paste" Ramsey, the absent lord bless him ... (Journalism has changed forever, says Alan Ramsey).

Strangely, at the point that Sheehan stops cutting and pasting, he directly contradicts the header to his piece, by grandly announcing that Ms Rinehart has also lit a fuse.

So maybe she didn't start the fire, but instead somehow set off an explosion.

But then you can never expect coherent analysis from Sheehan, though to be fair, the fate of Fairfax seems to bring out all sorts of emotional rhetoric. It's simply not possible, for example, to work out what Jonathan Green is saying in his naval gazing Don't just blame the web for Fairfax's failure.

From the sound of it, the problem hasn't been the internet, but marketing people, demographics, focus groups, revenue streams and advertising. Bizarrely Green concludes:

... there was never a business model for quality broadsheet journalism in this country, only a media company that simultaneously sold a lot of little ads and by coincidence produced thoughtful well-reported newspapers.

There never was a relationship between the two things, and in the end, as it turned out, precious little readership for the journalism once the little ads walked out to the door to a brighter, more sympathetic and compelling environment online.

Which is of course a nonsense because just as the little ads walked out the door, so did the journalism, which found itself on line and available around the world ... for free ... in a brighter and more compelling environment online ... for free.

Advertising has always been the basis for tabloid and broadsheets. The purchase price has always been a token towards production costs, but the gravy has been in the advertising. When you give away your content for free, losing your token dollar or so to the production cost, and you also lose your advertising base, it's beyond the bleeding obvious to say you've got a problem. Sadly Jonathan represents the new lightweight ABC ...

But back to Sheehan, and an understanding why he should stay a columnist and never be given a role in the business:

None of what has transpired has so far addressed the structural problem that has obliged Fairfax to make extensive job cuts to staunch losses at its flagship newspapers.
The company's deepest structural problem is not the internet, nor changes in technology that are obliterating the distinctions between television, computer and phone. Its deepest structural problem has been the bureaucratisation of the company.

Read that and weep. Now the cynics out there might argue that the biggest structural problem Fairfax faces is paying a large retainer to Sheehan to write nonsense on a bi-weekly basis - how can that be a value for money activity? - but others might say that without Sheehan Monday would be short of a laugh.

All the same, how could anyone write with a straight face that the internet isn't the company's deepest structural problem, it's the bureaucratisation and the bureaucrats? What's the bet in the next minute or par the ABC will be invoked?

Fairfax has behaved like the ABC except that it does not have the almost $1 billion a year in annual government tax-funded subsidy.

Ha, you lose. Resentment and envy will always win the day ...

Of course in an indirect way this is an attempt to justify the management's attempts to cut, or at least contain costs - so many cardigan wearers lurking the corridors wasting the money that could have been spent on Paul Sheehan's salary - but finally Sheehan makes a choice between analysis and loyalty:

The portrayal of this ominous stand-off between Fairfax Media and its biggest shareholder has seen self-absorption on both sides. The narcissism of the metropolitan media in reporting about itself has been evident, especially at Rupert Murdoch's subsided ideological mouthpiece The Australian.

So what are we to make of Paul Sheehan, a subsided ideological mouthpiece if ever there was one?

Oh I know, it's too cruel, but he could have meant subsided, and not subsidised, and have they shipped all the subs to NZ yet, and does Sheehan ever read his own copy, or is it beneath him? The rot, they say, starts at the head ...

And so for the rest of the piece, Sheehan trots out a conventional line about how Fairfax is one of the biggest newspaper groups in the world, and how it is far from a sunset company and how it's got at least a billion dollars of enterprise value trapped inside its current structure and not reflected in its market value, and how it's got a big, profitable and growing internet operation, and how it has more readers and reach before, and how it can go on forever if its costs are contained, and then comes this furphy:

Most of the Fairfax newspapers and niche publications are small and humble but profitable and sustainable. They are below the radar of the internet. They are key information hubs for their local communities. They are thus the sort of newspapers that the world's most successful investor, Warren Buffett, has begun buying.

Say that line again: They are below the radar of the internet.

Actually they're not. If anyone outside Armidale noticed the arrival of the NBN in town, they didn't say much about it. But somebody at the Armidale Express should take note, and so should the people at Rural Press, because over the next ten years, the way that country people access information and deal with the world is going to change in the same way that it's changed in the capital cities.

The inherent advantage in this context is the masthead, the brand, the familiarity, which allows the established business to present itself as a focal point, as a way of cutting through the extensive amount of noise on the endless intertubes. But the notion that a tri-weekly like the Armidale Express will keep on relying on a print-based future in the medium to long term is delusional.

Thank the lord that Fairfax management at least understands this and in the annual report for 2011 (here in pdf) promised an accelerated rollout of an enhanced digital presence for our regional mastheads ...

Naturally by end of piece Sheehan has positioned the argument as ideological:

What Fairfax needs most is a proprietor who is a media entrepreneur. What it needs least is a self-appointed priesthood of the status quo willing to fight to the last dollar of other people's money.

Uh huh. But Rinehart isn't a media entrepreneur, and Fairfax's position in the market is as a centre right, rather than tabloid Murdoch ratbag right, publication. If Sheehan thinks disembowelling "progressive" journalists is the way forward, then he will be actively participating in the destruction of the Fairfax group. Oh wait, he does:

If an ongoing public power struggle breaks out between progressive union activists and a libertarian who despises progressive journalists the most likely outcome is that Fairfax Media will be broken up so that its viable elements can prevail and its shareholders can salvage their investments.
As things stand, the Herald and The Age are worth more dead than alive. The market is indifferent to their survival. This is no time to bluff.

No time to bluff? Does that mean lie down and take whatever Rinehart dishes out? And pretend that the radio division isn't a waste of breath, and the future lies in regional rags that are immune from the internet? And that somehow, despite everything, the internet isn't the basic, fundamental, key (are there any more adjectives needed) worm in the structural rose.

Let's just imagine the internet does play a fairly fundamental role.

Here's a different calculation:

ROGER COLMAN: Well we've done calculations on this. And if you take let's say 550 journalists that you might have had in Sydney and Melbourne metros, right? You know, two years ago, and you go completely online with revenues of let's say $50 million, you're down to 250 journalists a maximum - at maximum. You have to get rid of half of them. And that's optimistic. On our analysis of online and ability to spend, you need about 44 per cent of budget for a purely online business to be in journalism. (courtesy the wretched Alan Kohler).

Get rid of half of them? And not a word about the bureaucrats?

Sorry Mr. Sheehan, there's work for the bureaucrats to do, your pink slip is waiting at the door ...

The market is indifferent to blather. This is no time to pontificate in a half-baked, superficial way. Time to get someone who can make more sense, and costs less in the process ...

But there's an upside ... you can always become an unsubsided blogger ...

(Below: oh dear Doonesbury, click to enlarge).