Thursday, January 03, 2013

Only January 3 and already the pond is out of puff ...

As Richard Nixon discovered, sometimes the cover-up can be even more dangerous than the crime, especially when there's an inaudible gap in the tape.

The question that doesn't seem to have been resolved - in relation to what the pond now thinks of as Macklingate or Macklinmotormouth - is the quality of the tape which allegedly was so poor it resulted in Macklin and her interrogator being dubbed inaudible.

 Her spokeswoman denied that the comment, in which Ms Macklin answered, ''I could'' after being asked whether she could survive on the dole, was deliberately edited out. She said the transcript had been written ''from a recording done on an iPhone of an outdoor press conference''. The Daily Telegraph quoted her as saying a car revved in the background at the time, although there is no indication on television recordings of any spike in the background sound. (Sounds odd: reply lost in transcript)

Uh huh. So let the tape run wild and free and let it shut up all the sceptics, and then we can get down to simply brooding about Macklin's inanity and lack of empathy, and read the subsequent flood of survivor stories about life on the dole - with Brigid Delaney's Macklin, make the most of your moolah with some hints from the margins containing some useful hints, even if she fails to mention the joys of skipping, bin dipping, dumpster diving, freeganism or foraging.

All Delaney can propose is skipping a meal or hitting up a charity, but as keen readers of the bible will remember from Matthew 21:1-3, Jesus saw nothing wrong with stealing a couple of donkeys in pursuit of the lord's work. Now if only someone would steal Macklin away ...

Never mind, it's already January 3rd, and the pond hasn't yet tasted the nicotine rush, the pure drag of a suck on the cork-tipped nonsense that fills The Australian ...

So come on down Nick Cater, holiday pinch-hitter, given a three part splash as the lead feature in today's digital fish and chip wrapper:

Bugger the pond dead, in the nicest possible way, three separate splashes! This Nick Cater chappie must have something monumental to say, some profound set of gobsmacking insights that will make the IPA wistful they haven't managed to find him a job. Why, it might even be an exclusive!

Now happily for the average reader afraid of the redback in the purse, the actual column is behind the lizard Oz paywall, so the pond is at hand urging you not to waste your readies on drivel, but if you've done that, why then Do-gooder laws nothing but a drag will lead you to the intellectual treasures that fill up the Oz in the holyday season.

Now there are a few things the pond expects, nay demands, of any piece of puffery in the Oz.

First, a mention of do-gooders is essential - and as you can see from the headers alone, Cater passes the test. Then a stupid pun or two is needed to show a post-modernist wit, and if you can't make a joke about puffery, then surely 'nothing but a drag' is a triumphant thrust of the literary sabre.

But it's also essential to deliver muddled logic, and a confused and confusing reference to the ABC.

So how goes the Cater on these crucial tests? Why, he's a legend and a killer and he delivers the goods in the first two pars!

If smoking was really costing the nation $31.5 billion a year, and that wasn't just a cooked-up figure, then a responsible government would have no hesitation in banning tobacco. 
That sort of money would easily give Wayne Swan his surplus. Indignant readers would be writing letters to the editor; why get worked up about the small change we sling Barrie Cassidy and his chums when taxpayers are spending 30 times as much to bankroll Marlboro Man?

Yep, stupid fallacious reasoning, Wayne Swan's surplus, Barrie Cassidy, the ABC and the Marlboro Man all rolled together like a mind-blowing joint.

And naturally Cater also manages to conflate a NSW Liberal government and Health Minister with a federal Labor government and its health department.

It's an epic bout of Australianism.

But stay, the most crucial test of all has yet to come.

Is it possible to work in a mention of the nanny state?

Why of course it is, and the canny Cater saves it up for the very last par, as he gets agitated about a NSW Liberal, one Health Minister Jillian Skinner, deciding it's wrong for smokers to light up within 10 metres of a children's playground:

She would instead have listened to Sir Humphrey's advice to Sir Jim, and would have told The Sunday Telegraph: "I think the crucial argument is that we are living in a free country and we must be free to make our own decisions. After all, government shouldn't be a nursemaid. We don't want the nanny state."


To the tune of Pink Floyd: We don't want your nanny state, hey, ABC, leave those smokers alone ...

Along the way, Cater berates the federal Department of Health and Ageing for the cheek of wanting a healthy building for their staff when apparently they should have built the bloody thing out of asbestos, because really if it was good enough to die of mesothelioma in the old days, it should be good enough for today's workers.

There's a lot more gallows humour of that style in the cackling Cater, who has a killer diller sensa huma:
Smokers make other demands on the NSW taxpayer, but the cost is defrayed by a much lamented but relatively undemanding cohort prematurely forced to quit the habit by the Grim Reaper. The ambulances dead smokers didn't call in NSW that year would have cost $7.4m; the drugs they were not prescribed were worth $36m, and $230m went unspent on residential aged-care beds.

Cogito ergo sum, smokers turning up to playgrounds to infect and infuse a new generation of kids with smoke so they can toddle off to their deathbeds are simply performing a community service.

But wait, have we finished with our references to the ABC just yet? Of course not:

The federal government did even better: it spent a net $55.5m on healthcare for NSW patients with smoking-related illness, but recovered almost 30 times that amount in excise tax and Customs duty. NSW smokers therefore made a net contribution to federal coffers of $1.5bn, enough to pay for the ABC and still leave a lazy $300m or so to play with.

Yes, cigarette smokers fund the ABC, but where's the gratitude, where's the thanks?

And now a little more of that gallows humour, if you please maestro:

Conventional economists estimate that the current unemployment rate among the dead is running at 100 per cent. 
 While not wishing to pass judgment on their willingness to work, these dear departed souls are, to all intents and purposes, unemployable. They would be a drain on the economy if they were alive, but regretfully they are not. 
 They use no roads, do not require their dustbins to be emptied and, remarkably, given their fatal lifestyle choice, are not a burden on the health service. They may be missed by many, with a pain that cannot be quantified, but their tangible net contribution to the economy, earnings minus spending, is about zero. 
 Which means the minister, if she had thought about it, would have told the health bureaucrats she would not be supporting a pointless, irritating piece of legislation promoted by do-gooders addicted to the sound of the cracking whip.

By golly, if that doesn't have you gasping for breath, or rolling down the aisles like a Jaffa, chortling over the deceased and how little they do for the economy, why then it has to be said you simply don't have a sensa huma up there with a mortician, a funeral director or Nick Cater.

There is of course just one irony in all this.

Cater relies heavily on Yes, Prime Minister as a mood setter:

No wonder Sir Humphrey Appleby advised Jim Hacker against banning cigarettes in the first series of Yes, Prime Minister: "We are saving many more lives than we otherwise could because of those smokers who voluntarily lay down their lives for their friends. Smokers are national benefactors."

Naturally Cater can't see any irony at all in celebrating Sir Humphrey, while berating bureaucrats and the ABC, and never no mind that both series of the show were on the BBC, arch enemy of Murdochians everywhere, and even worse, it has to be said, than the dire and dreadful ABC.

And for all that Jim Hacker was a non-branded, plain paper wrapped politician, he looked and sounded like your average Conservative party political dunce.

Nor is it apparent that Cater sees any nanny state irony in deliberately and wilfully omitted some of the crucial dialogue. You know, the bit that follows the bit about not wanting nursemaids and not wanting a nanny state:

Sir Humphrey Appleby: [discussing how to stop the PM's anti-smoking legislation] I think the crucial argument is that we are living in a free country and we *must* be free to make our own decisions. After all, government shouldn't be a nursemaid, we don't want the nanny state. 
 Sir Frank Gordon: Oh, that's very good. 
 Sir Ian Whitworth: Excellent. 
 Sir Humphrey Appleby: The only problem is that that is also the argument for legalising the sale of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, arsenic and gelignite. 
 Sir Frank Gordon: Well maybe that's a good idea if we can put a big enough tax on them. 
 Sir Ian Whitworth: Politically difficult. 
 Sir Frank Gordon: Pity.

Yes, it's just an old BBC sitcom, but it's cleverer and funnier than the cleverdick drollery of Cater, who thus far has failed to deliver a box of gelignite to the pond's door.

But at least he's established his credentials and provided a calling card for that job at the IPA.

May he move there quickly, and come to think of it, why not make The Australian the house organ for that august propaganda body? After all, the rag is always puffing on about how hard done by smokers are, and how climate science is just a piece of arcane conspiracy puffery.

And so to a few more quotes from the show:

Jim Hacker: Leslie, if we do nothing, in the next ten years in this country alone we're going to have one million premature deaths. 
 Leslie Potts - Minister for Sport: Yes, but evenly spread. Not just in marginal constituencies. 

Oh that'll get the Cater cackling. There's nothing like agonising, premature deaths for a bloody good laugh.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: A lot of people, eminent people, influential people have argued that such legislation would be a blow against freedom of choice. 
Jim Hacker: Rubbish. I'm not banning smoking itself. Does every tax rise represent a blow against freedom? 
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, depends how big the tax rise is. 
Jim Hacker: Oh, that's fascinating. Does twenty pence represent a blow against freedom? 
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Prime Minister... 
Jim Hacker: Twenty-five pence? Thirty pence? Thirty-one? Is something a blow against freedom simply because it can seriously damage your wealth? (more here)

And finally the pond can't end for the day without noting that the inimitable Paul Sheehan has turned culture vulture with The camera is capturing the modern narrative, wherein he discovers nineteenth century invented cinematography and twentieth century invented CGIs. The level of insight?

The evolution of technology and production values is going to fill our eyes with wonder. Film is the literature of our age and we are living in a golden age....

Yep, it was an age of lead a few days ago, and now it's a golden age.

...All those smartphones, high-quality video cameras, online digital editing tools, film schools and the accumulation of video literacy have created an era where most narratives are being created via the camera, not the page. It is a fascinating turn in the ever-turning wheel of culture.

Oh look, he means well, and he references a few interesting films and TV shows, and he's trying to sound positive and uplifting and forward-thinking and above all not negative, but it sounds painful and hollow and risible, a bit like Dr. No trying to turn himself into Dr. Yes for a minute ...

Doesn't Sheehan realise that just a few days ago he pronounced civilisation, the west and its economies and the entire planet doomed?

So all this video literacy is good for is capturing armageddon, the apocalypse and the decline and fall of everything?

Quickly, get hold of the latest version of Final Cut Pro and your camera (the pond had a soft spot for the Canon XL1, at least until Panasonic turned up with their 24p range) and you'll be just in time in 2013 to film the solar flares that will destroy earth (Nasa's 2013 solar flare warning: how much do we need to worry?)

Oh dear, the 3rd January, and already we're talking of the rapture, thanks to Paul Sheehan, and already the pond feels like a good lie down ...

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