There are cynics amongst us who propose that Tony Abbott is just a spot of fashion, worn for the moment and certain to be discarded, spit on the griddle, a dead pixel on the screen of life ...
But the pond is certain that his capacity for cock-ups (or up-cocks if you insist) is a genuine delight, and no passing fashion, but deeply embedded in the man.
The problem is, even the Pope has said ya gotta show some respect, but Abbott will go anywhere for a vote, which is why he turned up on John Laws and then had to listen to this from the rolled gold tonsils:
JOHN LAWS: Listen Tony, you’re an Australian bloke and I don’t think you should shy away from that. Australian blokes talk like that so, [inaudible], she’s a good looking bird so you didn’t quite go that far, but you said that, she, it was strange words you used, you said, ‘she’s young, feisty and can probably say she has a bit of sex appeal.’ You didn’t say, I can definitely say she’s, she’s got a hell of a lot of sex appeal?
Abbott couldn't bite of course - the logic of talking about sex appeal in relation to a colleague in the workplace had finally reached him and he didn't need to read Sexygate: how Tony Abbott should have complimented Fiona Scott, or listen to Mark Latham in Mark Latham says Tony Abbott 'must have had beer goggles on'...
So instead we got the banality of a TV joke:
TONY ABBOTT: Well, she’s got the x factor that what she’s got. And I guess if one of my kids was making the same comment that would probably say that she has the x factor, but I was a bit exuberant, maybe a bit old fashioned in some respects.
Even worse, in the usual way, Abbott put the interview transcript up on his web site, for the whole world to marvel at, including not just his 'fashion of the moment' remark but his support for hapless Jaymes Diaz:
JOHN LAWS: Ok, but I must say in fairness to the Labor Party, you’re standing by one of the most gaffe prone candidates in the world, this Jaymes Diaz. He has a bit of trouble articulating basic Coalition policy, he is not doing a lot of favours for you?
TONY ABBOTT: Well, John look, he certainly froze up in front of the cameras, no doubt he did. But elect Jaymes Diaz and he will vote to scrap the Carbon Tax, scrap the Mining Tax, he will vote to reduce red tape, he will vote for strong border protection policies and I think that’s what the people of Greenway want. (more, way too much more here)
Oh sure, the support Abbott offers is of the mindless empty four word slogan kind, the repetitious prattling posturing slogans for which Abbott is famous, but that's why Abbott is perhaps the most consistent horse's ass of all the parliamentary performers when it comes to gaffes that produce cringing, as well as mocking barbs.
And then there's the collateral damage he produces in his current and former colleagues as they rally around the flag and the addled slogans.
Take Amanda Vanstone, who surely has reduced Counterpoint to the point of babbling incoherence, courtesy her weekly moments with arch-loon Brendan O'Neill, sauntering out on Lateline last night and delivering her thoughts on suppositories:
AMANDA VANSTONE: Yes, I thought it was a - a malapropism is what I said. But anyway, look, that's beside the point. I think he was just commenting on trying to be nice and I think he's sometimes a bit awkward in some of these sort of social occasions and decided to pay what he thought was a compliment. And I gather his parliamentary colleague from the other side, former parliamentary colleague, Mr Latham, doesn't share the view. I think Mark Latham's being a bit unhelpful in expressing a negative view, but my own view is for women that are, to put it bluntly, well-packed, I don't see why someone shouldn't pay them a compliment.
Well-packed? Surely she meant well-hung, or heavy hung, or a nice block and tackle, because all well-packed evokes is a nicely wrapped Christmas present which has used plenty of padding, perhaps some newspaper or some bubble wrap. Well-packed is exactly the sort of thing an Adelaide toff might say because they can't manage to say well-hung ...
Not to worry, here's the thing. She and Jones just wouldn't let it go:
CRAIG EMERSON: This is a quagmire. There's another big word. I am not treading into this quagmire.
TONY JONES: Craig Emerson, you sure you don't want to get into this (inaudible). AMANDA VANSTONE: I do not want us to get to the stage where people can't pass a compliment. Women say about blokes, "Gee, he's nicely-packed, isn't he?" People talk about ...
CRAIG EMERSON: They've never said that about me, Amanda. Anyway, we'll move on.
AMANDA VANSTONE: Not about me either, you see. So, you know, I just don't think it's any big deal.
TONY JONES: When you say "nicely-packed", what are you actually referring to?
AMANDA VANSTONE: Ooh, a good-looker. Some of the boys ...
TONY JONES: There's a little bit of confusion.
AMANDA VANSTONE: You watch my football team play and you'll know what I mean. (there's much more here, impossibly more)
The image of Vanstone drooling, slobbering over young footballers, her foam flecked lips smacking at the sight of young flesh in motion, was almost too much for the pond to bear.
This is politics, this is political debate?
And there you have it, this is why Tony Abbott is more than a passing fashion.
He's a sort of lightning rod for stupidity you put up on the roof in the hope of taking care of any passing lightning, and he offers the current generation as much hope as Harold Holt, and William McMahon once did (is there a Chinese submarine out there somewhere?).
And while on the subject of Vanstone, you can hear her whittering on with Brendan "who can I oppose today because I'm such a gadfly' O'Neill having a go at whistleblowers, because you know, everyone is positively spiffing in the world, and there's no need for whistleblowing, no need at all (you can suffer here all you like or as much as you can stand).
Amazingly five people bothered to write in to correct the simple-minded drivel, as if somehow you could improve the thinking of cretins (apologies to cretins) by providing some alternative views of the world.
All the pond could wonder is how O'Neill and Vanstone might have felt if they'd been onboard Alaska Airlines Flight 261, and experienced the fate of the passengers at the hands of corporate criminals, who cut costs, cut maintenance, and degutted a whistle-blower (Whistle-Blower Sues Alaska Airlines, More heartbreak for FAA whistleblowers). And we haven't even mentioned the war criminals and the security overlords ...
Meanwhile, in the actual world, where actual policy counts, what should pop up in The Guardian down under but a well-hung analysis of the climate policy currently packed by Tony Abbott, as you can read in Tony Abbott's climate plan has $4bn funding gap, new modelling shows Devastating analysis shows Coalition will have to stump up extra cash – or break pledge to cut emissions by 5% by 2020
The header and sub-hear say it all, but here's a few extra details:
Tony Abbott will have to find at least another $4bn for his climate policy or else break his pledge to cut emissions by 5% by 2020 and instead allow them to increase by 9%, according to new modelling suggesting the Coalition's Direct Action plan cannot work ...
...The only way the Coalition could meet the 2020 target without massive new spending would be to copy Labor's policy and buy permits overseas. That would reduce the cost from $4bn to $190m. But Abbott has insisted the Coalition will not buy offshore permits, saying the European Union trading scheme is "riddled with scamming" and offshore purchases amount to "a massive transfer of wealth from this country to carbon traders overseas".
And so on and so forth, a comprehensive trashing of the policy, with the reminder that Abbott once said:
"Now, what's the point? What is the point of all the pain of this carbon tax if our emissions are actually going to increase?"
Embarrassingly for Abbott, the modelling shows that with its current capped amount of money his own policy would in fact result in 40% less domestic emission reduction than Labor's.
But this was long known, that Abbott's policy was half-baked and half-arsed, a socialistic nightmare of direct government action of the sort he routinely decries, as Mark Kenny noted back in Abbott's "invisible substance" days in Coalition leader kicks own goal on climate (forced video attached).
And there you have the cleverness of Abbott.
Invisible substances dog whistle to the dummies, the Bolter and his followers, the Tim Bleaghs of the world. They expect, they want Abbott to have a half-arsed ineffective policy, and they don't mind if he pisses a few billion dollars against the wall ...
And meanwhile everybody can whitter on about fashionable moments, and well-packed bubblewrap and good looking birds and the X factor, while actual consequential policies are ignored at the gormless nerd going about his social faux pas business ...
And rags can reference aged Hollywood TV sit coms, and the commentariat reptiles at the lizard Oz can indulge in their preferred form of goilng up themselves ...
And yet, who does the gormless Greg Sheridan blame, confronted with the arch stupidity of the mindless tabloid cheerleading culture and Abbott worship within News Corp ranks?
That's right, celebrity culture and social media!
What? Celebrity culture is now editing the HUN and The Courier-Snail and the Daily Terror, and it was social media that insisted the Terror plaster Hogan's Heroes all over its front page?
You can read Sheridan if you like - have you considered using a hammer for a lobotomy instead? - though naturally Keeping up with the Kardashians is no model for leadership, if you can be bothered circumventing the paywall, but it's drivel, rolled gold, gold-plated drivel of the most excruciating kind.
Oh it's full of righteous indignation, but it's just another form of reptile lizard Oz bullshit.
Here's a sample, as Sheridan works himself up into a frothing and a foaming, an indignant frenzy about Twitter and the fate of politics and politicians and the Kardashians and all the other tedious crap:
Another operator, a Democrat, said he thought the political benefit of social media vastly overrated. Twitter is a way of distributing brief press releases. But you cannot convince anyone of anything on social media. It is not a place for reason, evidence and dialogue. It is a place for mobilisation, useful in certain ways during campaigns.
Its greatest use, he said, has nothing to do with its content. Its chief use is for data mining, allowing party machines to work out people's consumer and political preferences and to cater to these, especially in fundraising appeals. Social media is less democratic than you think. A senior Republican was almost despairing about the effect of social media on politics, because social media favours grotesque oversimplification, outright lies and character assassination. I saw this in action once at a political conference in Southeast Asia. A young Australian professional, chosen to attend because of his wide community activism, rushed up to me in the hotel foyer with startling news. Sophie Mirabella had just challenged Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party. My extreme scepticism would not dissuade him. It's all over Twitter, he said, everyone's talking about it.
Social media favours grotesque oversimplification, outright lies and character assassination?
Wow, that sounds really serious.
So the pond resolves this day to give up social media. But what to read? Choices, choices:
Ah that's better, and grotesque oversimplification, outright lies and character assassination nowhere to be found, and if you believe that, you might think that the Kardashians are rocket scientists up against Sheridan.
The pond could go on and on about Sheridan, and his assorted pomposities, and the news of his attendance at a congregation of grand poobahs at the 21s Australian American Leadership Dialogue and his woeful attempt at Twittering, Twitter is double plus bad, as Orwell might have said ...
Every line, scribbled by a man lurking inside the bunker of an organisation which has done more to reduce political debate and policy matters than a thousand Kardashians pounding away on keyboards like monkeys producing Shakespeare, is offensive, full of snobbery and stupidity:
Even among the tech-savvy, even among the notionally well educated, we are now cultivating large numbers of low-information voters.
What, you mean the notional chardonnay swillers and latte sippers routinely derided and abused by the News Corp commentariat because they don't worship at the feet of a lycra-clad lout?
Political leaders, who should embody legitimate, earned authority, have no alternative but to become celebrities. But the dynamics of celebrity are superficial, treacherous and hostile to public policy. Thus we get Rudd's "selfies" (selfies - this is a loathsome dialect we must master).
Actually the loathsome dialect Australians must master is the sound of His Master's Voice, as faithfully transcribed and set down by his lackeys, coming all the way from the United States ...
By the end of the mindless rant, the pond felt like doing a little re-writing:
Much of the celebrity dynamic is not inherently wicked and politics has always had an element of it. But the balance has gone badly wrong. It has nothing to do with running our nation well. We are losing something of that. Sheridan and the other Murdochians, and the emperor himself, repulsively compelling as they are, offer no model for leadership, or political discourse or debate, and damn sure they have nothing useful to say about the NBN, or climate science.
But what's the point? We're talking about a well-packed X factor here, amid the mindless meaningless meditations of Sheridan ...
Physician, heal thyself ...
(Below: a First Dog flashback. More First Dog here)
And consequently from the streets of Newtown graffiti doing the Facebook rounds which might be taken to applying to well-packed matters, or more cogently, to climate science policies: