Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Xmas dust bowl of ideas comes right on cue this year ...

May it please the chair, the pond would like to suspend standing orders, so that matters in relation to the commentariat may be dealt with after the 'other matters' listed in 'other matters' are dealt with ...

First up, can we take a moment to recommend the two part documentary by Ken Burns on the dust bowl, which conforms to all that the pond expects in a documentary.

Immaculately chosen images - some most likely coming from the WPA - an immaculate narration by Peter Coyote (Burns and PBS know no other narrator), some well-chosen interviews and talking heads, and an environmental crisis driven by greed and a land and a wheat bubble with awesome consequences for those living in the bowl. And absolutely no re-enactments.

The pond fears, loathes and despises alleged documentaries with re-enactments of purported events, which now - thanks to the baleful influence of the History Channel and other cable shows - litter Australian efforts.

In the Burns show, if you see FDR, it's a photo of FDR, not some pitiful Australian actor pretending to be FRD or Chifley or Menzies or Churchill or whoever else you've got. The most you get in Burns is a discreet reading of an historical text, or the use of a photo in a generic way to evoke visually the point being made ...

As for those who say humanity can't produce an environmental disaster, please get off the pot you've been sitting on for years ... and for those who yabber on about individual liberty and freedom and all the rest of the nanny state tosh, without the forceful intervention of the federal government, people would have suffered even more than they did, and that area of the United States would have continued being a disaster area ...

As for those wondering whether the show has been seen in Australia, talk to the ABC, or perhaps your hand ...

Now if it please the chair, may we move on to a reading, and a question to anyone who still has a credit card with HSBC. Yes, it's Matt Taibbi, under the header Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke. As we've provided a link, can we just settle for the opening pars?

If you've ever been arrested on a drug charge, if you've ever spent even a day in jail for having a stem of marijuana in your pocket or "drug paraphernalia" in your gym bag, Assistant Attorney General and longtime Bill Clinton pal Lanny Breuer has a message for you: Bite me. 
 Breuer this week signed off on a settlement deal with the British banking giant HSBC that is the ultimate insult to every ordinary person who's ever had his life altered by a narcotics charge. Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a "record" financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank. 
 The banks' laundering transactions were so brazen that the NSA probably could have spotted them from space. Breuer admitted that drug dealers would sometimes come to HSBC's Mexican branches and "deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows."

Oh it's a fine rant, a worthy rant, and the bottom line is how if you're a bottom feeder, you'll cop the full force of the criminal law, but if you launder nine billion dollars of drug money, why you'll cop a smack on the wrist, a corporate fine, and no jail time at all ...

And now if it please the chair, can we pause for a cartoon?

May it please the chair, we propose holding over the punchline until later, because first we have the matter of gambling bets to be settled.

Will all those who took a bet with the pond in relation to Bob Carr please now step forward and hand over the cash. 

Cash only please, no cheques or HSBC credit cards here. 

If you recall, the bet was how soon before Bob Carr would unveil NSW Labor party accounting tricks to the world, and now that Carr has done it in the silly season just before Xmas (Bob Carr confirms aid budget shift - paywall affected), the pond is calling in the bet. 

While noting that hell might freeze over before it would contemplate voting for this government, even if it meant saving the world from Tony Abbott. Let the world endure Tony Abbott ... and let's see what accounting tricks he's got, along with the startling sight of Julie Bishop in full hypocritical flight pretending the coalition cares about UN relief programs ...

And now, if it please the chair, can we move to the usual business of the day, and contemplate what's obsessing one of the few members of the commentariat still standing in the silly season, which is to say Janet "Dame Slap" Albrechtsen ...

What's that you say, the topic is fat Danes and somehow it's all the fault of hypocritical Australian Greens?

Ye ancient cats and fishes, is that all she's got to write about? 

We all know it's the silly season, but does it have to be this silly, as if anyone apart from Albrechtsen gives a flying fuck what the Danes get up to, unless it happens to be Hamlet brooding and killing and going Freudian.

Hasn't she got a decent Lord Monckton conspiracy to unveil ... you know, Santa Claus in conspiracy with the UN to use climate science to instal a world government?

Oh okay, if we must, we must, because it seems the Danes put in a fat tax, and now they've taken it away, and this displays rigorous intellectual honesty, as opposed to rigorous intellectual stupidity by designing a tax that failed to do what it was designed to do ... and that because of a design flaw of the most obvious kind ...

It's all here, for what it's worth, in We should send nanny packing as Danes have done, but as it's behind the paywall for your seasonal cheer and good health, it's really not worth the price of an Xmas cracker.

It turns out that the problem with the tax is that punters ducked over European borders to avoid it, and got their choccies and fat elsewhere. D'oh Danes ...

Out of that gossamer thread Dame Slap builds a mountain of anti-regulatory righteousness and much blather about nannies and the nanny state, replete with all sorts of horror stories about the outrageous behaviour of the nannies ... and how Dame Slap will sit down this Xmas and eat too much rich food and drink too much wine and toast the end of the Danish nanny while yearning for her sister to vanish from Australia ...

While presumably those grinchy Greens will sit down to a salted cracker and a glass of water.  

Oh wait, make that a salt-reduced gluten-free cracker and a half glass of water, because if we're doing pathetic caricatures and stereotypes, may as well go the full Dame Slap Danish hog.

But did you notice the one thing that was missing in Dame Slap's diatribe about nannies and the evils of government regulation and the way John Stuart Mill and Liberty and precious rights and bodily fluids are being ruined?

Well yes there's the stupidity of Queensland in relation to fluoride and healthy teeth, but even more, there's the matter of government regulation in relation to the availability of military assault rifles (no use in hunting, and not good for target shooting, if you take either seriously, but bloody good if you want to kill a lot of people quickly because you think a school is a war zone).

Yep, Dame Slap goes on a standard libertarian cheap-ass tirade about Danes and a fat tax, and bike helmets and Bloomberg's super-sized drinks, and other trivial matters, and doesn't deliver a cheep or a peep about gun regulation. 

Instead she delivers her own version of super-sized waffle, which makes the pond think a nanny state intervention regarding the amount of meaningless waffle members of the commentariat might serve could be a good and needful thing:

How far we have travelled from John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. "No one pretends that actions should be as free as opinions," wrote Mill, before our busy-body Attorney-General decided that even opinions are not so free. But "in matters that do not primarily concern others, individuality should assert itself," Mill said.

Actually if you're fat and your fatness takes you to hospital and it deprives me of a bed, or generates more costs and more taxes and pressure on facilities and staff, it does concern me. 

And if you happen to crash into my car on your helmet-less bike because you ran a red light, it also concerns me, and rest assured my individuality will assert itself.

But that's to introduce complexity and other considerations into the discussion, and you must never ever expect that when in the company of a fatuous simple-minded member of the commentariat, ever ready to ferret out the Santa Claus conspiracy ...

... while failing to mention gun regulation, because that just might be too hard up against the parrot-like mantras about choccies and soft drinks and bike helmets and nanny states.

Which naturally brings us to the capper to our cartoon. 

Take it away First Dog, and you can find more First Dog here.

Never change Dame Slap, never change. Keep that anti-regulatory nanny state routine working for you. And remember, the king of the nanny staters was John Howard and his anti-gun ownership laws ...


  1. That dust bowl doco sounds interesting. And it coincides with Woody Guthrie's centenary.

  2. Yes it's good David in the traditional Ken Burns style, and yes Woody gets in a song at the end of ep 1 and starts off ep 2. I was always fascinated by the dust bowl, partly through dust storms in the bush, and from seeing the dust storm at the start of Bound for Glory. Sometimes Ken Burns does baseball or misses the mark on the war, and you nod off to sleep, but here he's on the money.


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