Monday, March 11, 2013

There's an elephant in the room, but how to work out its shape ...

(Above: a recent New Yorker cartoon - thank the long absent lord for the New Yorker and its cartoons, this one aka should we go to Fairfax and get flummoxed about it?)

Growing up, one of the pond's favourite images was of three blind men contemplating an elephant and coming to a different conclusion about the beast, based on whether they were holding head, ear, tusk, foot or tail.

Now Tamworth being the place of growing up, the pond didn't have the first clue that this was a text belonging to the Buddha, quaint, exotic oriental that he was, and it was only much later that the Buddha   (and the post-modernism of zen Buddhism) turned up in more useful ways than being ripped off by children's story books:

The men cannot agree with one another and come to blows over the question of what it is like and their dispute delights the king. The Buddha ends the story by comparing the blind men to preachers and scholars who are blind and ignorant and hold to their own views: "Just so are these preachers and scholars holding various views blind and unseeing.... In their ignorance they are by nature quarrelsome, wrangling, and disputatious, each maintaining reality is thus and thus." The Buddha then speaks the following verse: 
O how they cling and wrangle, some who claim 
For preacher and monk the honored name! 
For, quarreling, each to his view they cling. 
Such folk see only one side of a thing. (wiki the story and its many variants here)

Which naturally brings us back to Fairfax and the ongoing chatter about the return of the Ruddster. Here's Peter Hartcher:

Yes the clear message from the west is that the Ruddster is the only hope, forced video at end of link, and the splendid metaphor deployed is of a skywriter blazing the message in huge white letters across the Canberra skies.

Then blow the pond down, because nestling cheek to jowl with Hartcher's expert "analysis" is an "editor's pick" highlighting generally Grumpy Paul "Colonel Blimp" Sheehan, who won't have a bar of it, nor a bar of the media's fixation on the Ruddster.

Yes, the odds shorten on PM's little mate, forced video at end of link because Fairfax is truly desperate, explains how Peter Hartcher has entirely missed the point, how you've entirely wasted your time and your life reading him, and what a fine example he is of the media's obsession with Kevin Rudd.

And isn't it ever so quaint that two experts arrive at such a different description of the elephant...

But it takes the generally grumpy Sheehan to deliver the biggest laugh:

This column has been scornful of the incessant, poll-driven leadership speculation by the media...

Was it only in February that Sheehan wrote Changing captains will not save this side from a proper walloping?

Yes, nothing was going to save the Labor party from a right old walloping, so Gillard might as well hang around and cop it.

Sheehan has of course routinely hopped on the poll bandwagon to discuss the Labor leadership. If that's scorn, don't let him near an iron, or your things are in for a scorching ...

Which is why today's opening line is so much fun:

"The Prime Minister, Bill Shorten, said yesterday.'' This is a phrase that we should at least be prepared for. It could become common.

It seems the WA result, long predicted and long expected - how disappointing that a chair sniffer might not become premier - has changed everything, and now at long last Sheehan might indulge in leadership speculation and elevate Bill to the throne.

Of course, Sheehan's agenda is so transparent and obvious, it's pathetically lame:

This the vilest unionist of them all:
As Shorten loved me, I weep for him;
As he was fortunate, I rejoice at it;
As he was ambitious, I slew him.
I come to bury Shorten, not to praise him
The evil that unionists do lives after them ...

Oops, somehow Brutus and Anthony got a little mixed up there, but you catch the drift, just as you can catch a whiff of the generally grumpy Sheehan's drift in:

In recent weeks Shorten has given a speech to AWU members in which he said he carries his AWU card around Parliament House as a source of inspiration, and delivered a speech to a ''militancy conference'' of the Maritime Union of Australia, which is about to embark on negotiations involving a massive stream of resource projects...
...The CFMEU is to Australian politics what bikie gangs are to Australian culture, yet it has never had stronger support from a federal government. At the bidding of the CFMEU, and the Greens, the Gillard government abolished the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the effective cop on the beat in this industry. 

And so on and on and on, with Bill Shorten at the head of a bikie gang which is running rampant in Australia, as opposed to Gina Rinehart, who is merely digging it up and shipping it overseas at immense, megalomaniac personal profit ... (hang on, hang on, what's happening to the Bolter, down to one slot, bumped for Formula One, what's going on here network Ten...?)

Anyhoo, the entire piece is an abject bit of mockery.

Sheehan doesn't for one minute think that Shorten will become PM, because after all, it's really important that sweat shops remain viable in this country!

They have legislated to classify outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear sector as employees at the urging of the unions.

Oh the fiends. Don't they realise the only way to compete with Asian sweatshops is to have our very own sweatshops full of "outworkers".

Shocking, horrendous, outrageous.

An outworker is someone who is either: 
 a contractor in the textile, clothing or footwear industry who works somewhere that wouldn’t normally be seen as a place of business - eg. at home, 
or an employee who works for their employer somewhere that wouldn’t normally be seen as a place of business - eg. at home. (or so the Fair Work Ombudsman says here)

It says something about Sheehan, actually it says a lot, that he should think a woman with a sewing machine set up in the front room is an independent contractor going about her business, rather than a de facto employee being ripped off blind by an odious exploiter of her labour, but there you go.

What a wondrous eastern suburbs git he is.

Somehow, thinking about Sheehan getting outraged at outworkers being treated as human beans has distracted the pond from the core cut and thrust of Sheehan's message:

If I were betting on who will lead Labor into this year's election, I would still be putting my money on Gillard. But if Labor does panic and decide, yet again, to change leaders, watch for the Prime Minister's little mate to make the key move.

Put it another way:

If I were betting on the shape of the elephant, I still think the trunk is a better guide than the tail. But if the elephant panics, put your money on the tusk ...

Or some such thing, because when you are paid to blather professionally in a right wing ratbag way, blather you must, come hell or high water and be damned to the hapless readers ... and outworkers doing piece work at a dollar a garment.

Quick, some magic water to help them with their rheumatism ...

Meanwhile, is it only the pond who's spotted the obvious solution, the go to guru whose name is on everypundit's lips?

Yes, by golly, it's a Latham led policy recovery, and never mind any taxi-driver caught standing in the vicinity. 

No need to expect a result from clicking on Troy 'pay to read my recycling of the thoughts of Mark Latham giving the ALP a timely lesson', but if you like you can read Stephanie ' you don't have to pay just yet to read my recycling of Latham's climate warning' Peatling ...

What's interesting is that Troy and Stephanie have both pillaged the same essay by Latham in The Quarterly, regurgitating and recycling, yet one leads with climate and the other with Keating ... 

In the old days, in either case, it would have been called ripping off, but in these days of the pirate bay, it's just a matter of personal taste while chopping up an essay to produce fresh fodder for the full to overflowing intertubes, and never mind whether to feature the trunk of climate change or the tail of Keating's economic policy ...

Meanwhile, the pond was standing by for a fearsome attack on Tony Abbott for his reprehensible, obvious, shameless attempt to make himself over, his willingness to set his sail for whatever wind he might find in the region, even a zephyr coming from the homosexual lobby, along his new found social liberalism, and his newly discovered ineffable soft liberal ways ...

Why the man's a veritable wimp, a full blown pussy, as soft as a marshmallow, as beguiling as a chocolate covered doughnut, as cuddly as a cotton-wool stuffed teddy bear ...

If you read Abbott vows to keep religion out of policy, you might conclude that Tony 'hair product and facial moisturiser' Abbott is already a died in the wool (or at least the hair) metrosexual, and is only a short hop, skip and a jump from hanging out a rainbow flag and joining the Greens:

Asked whether he could guarantee he would not invoke his Catholic faith in policymaking, Mr Abbott said, ''Yes I can.'' 
''Faith is important to me. It's important to millions of Australians. It helps to shape who I am. It helps to shape my values. But it must never, never dictate my politics. Judge me by what the considered view today is, not by throwaway lines and offhand comments 35 years ago.'' 
Mr Abbott, who has always insisted marriage was between a man and a woman, even appeared to hold open the vague possibility of a future policy change by his party on same-sex marriage. 
When challenged over his sister's view that Liberal policy was discriminatory, Mr Abbott said: ''We've had quite a few discussions about this, obviously. And I'm pleased to say that they've been good-humoured and respectful. She vigorously disagrees with me and she hopes that at some future point in time the Coalition party room might take a different position.''

Et tu Tony moan the Pellists?

Of course the catch is the mention of "vague possibility".

The story is another prime example of a journalist recycling a puff piece done for television,without a hard question in sight, and done in much the same way as the pond recycling the thoughts of the commentariat while trying to deduce the shape of the elephant.

That's how touchy feely dog whistling works, and is allowed to flourish.

No need to ask a hard question, like when might the Coalition party room or Tony Abbott actually take a different position on gay marriage, and do a David Cameron.

Just take a bite of the fairy floss, munch on the idle talk of facial products and moisturiser.

Now when it comes to Abbott and poodle Pyne and the rest of the bunch taking a stand on gay marriage, you might want to burst into a rendition of Johnny Mathis singing "until the twelfth of never, and that's a long long time" but based on this morning's readings the pond would like to sing a bit of Bertolt Brecht.

There's the traditional verson:

Oh the shark has pretty teeth dear, 
And he shows them pearly white 
Just a jack-knife has Macheath dear 
And he keeps it out of sight.

But the pond favours a more radical version:

Though the shark's teeth may be lethal 
Still you see them white and red 
But you won't see Tony's flick knife 
Cause he slashed you and you're dead (and more on Mack the knife at its wiki here)

Alternatively, we might contemplate Pliny the elder's wise words addito salis grano, or cum grano salis if you belong to the modern school:

The phrase comes from Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia, regarding the discovery of a recipe for an antidote to a poison. In the antidote, one of the ingredients was a grain of salt. Threats involving the poison were thus to be taken "with a grain of salt," and therefore less serious. 
An alternative account says that the Roman general Pompey believed he could make himself immune to poison by ingesting small amounts of various poisons, and he took this treatment with a grain of salt to help him swallow the poison. In this version, the salt is not the antidote. It was taken merely to assist in swallowing the poison. (wiki it here)
Or perhaps to help in a wider meterosexual acceptance of the use of hair products and facial moisturisers.

Now back to that elephant:

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