It seemed innocuous enough, little Timmie Bleagh venting about the greenies ...
Well a petrol head's gotta do what a petrol head does, and spew out those exhaust fumes ...
But in a moment, the pond's usual equanimity was snatched away with a single revelation.
No longer could Newtown be likened to the here and now real life version of the beautiful fields of Elysium where tattooed hipsters, chosen by the gods, could live a blessed and happy life sipping coffee and enjoying the world's best icecream ...
Here it came, like a baleful ogre stumbling towards the ruination of Bethlehem ...
Little Timmie Bleagh lives in Newtown!
Why that's like discovering Barners represents that once great centre of the known universe, Tamworth ...
It was bad enough when Alan Jones indulged in a warehouse lifestyle at the north end of Newtown, while railing at the latte swilling set, but how does Bleagh live with himself? Why, he's miles and miles from Eastern Creek.
As for the actual thoughts he laid down, calling them thoughts turned out to be a polite exaggeration:
So what's new? Is that all he's got to say? A confirmation of the long bleeding obvious?
What we can determine is that living amongst the greenies has atrophied the Bleagh writing style. You could hardly call it a column, let alone a witty one. If he was writing at a penny a word, he'd be starving in a garret singing Questo Mar Rosso:
Questo Mar Rosso
mi ammollisce e assidera
come se addosso mi piovesse in stille,
affogo un Faraon!
By golly that's about as useful as the Bleagh piece:
This Sea of Red passage
makes me shiver,
I feel as if it were flowing right over me
droplet by droplet.
So in revenge
I'll make Pharaoh drown!
Yep, the same childish petulance, the same adolescent thirst for revenge ...
Well here's a solution for little Timmie. Leave Newtown at once. Flee to Penrith and join the footy club. You'll be much closer to Eastern Creek. Or be bolder, head to the north coast and stand in a northern electorate, clutching your CSG prospectus. See how many votes you get, like Barners' mates did. Or better still, head off to Darwin and write for the NT News. They need thinking journalists like you to churn out croc stories ...
Enough already, because really that's just a pleasantry.
You see, this morning the pond was confronted by a deep existential and ontological issue, which is beyond ordinary thinking ...
Why does Amanda Vanstone exist?
Well no doubt on a personal level she leads an entirely pleasant life. Perhaps that should be rephrased. Why is it that Amanda Vanstone exists to keep droning on, in Fairfax and Radio National?
Which brings the pond to an admission, an acknowledgment of a life change, because the the pond has stopped listening to RN.
The new programming doesn't suit. Sorry, that's it, done and dusted.
ABC FM has been the winner, though it has to be said that their programming during the day seems designed to treat music as a form of valium. Noisy, upsetting music from the twentieth century? Forget it, put another jolly composer of tunes on the pedestal and bliss out ...
But back to Amanda.
You see the reptiles are in a state of euphoria, wildly excited about the Mike Baird win, and Tony Abbott leading everyone out of the wilderness and a new world order established, and the smell of blood and victory in the air, as the hounds tree the fox ...
So who's the pond to trample on dreams and be a spoilsport this bright Monday? Why point out the first bit of carbon on Baird's rings? (Metaphor pre-approved by little Timmie).
Where's your greenie rage now Mr Bleagh? Send 'em off to the killing fields, but keep them out of the pub until they turn 21 ... what would Warnie say to that?
Yes, it's going to be interesting times in the upper house with a barking mad fundamentalist Christian throwing his weight around.
But okay, the pond admits it. We've been delaying the existential issue, the ontological crisis.
Here it is:
What follows is a desperate attempt to entertain, a piece of fluff as substantial and as insightful as the lint in a clothes dryer, and as useful ...
It reminded the pond of that Leunig cartoon the other day (and more Leunig here):
Oh sure, it's an old riff ...
But it does offer a clue as to why Vanstone exists. Sadists need their masochists and masochists need their sadists.
Could there be anything more sadistic than this sort of bold thinking?
This in a piece ostensibly deploring the light weight media offering entertainment rather than incisive policy analysis? Wholegrain food for the brain rather than lightweight cat food?
The rest of the piece is equally brainless and trivial. Cue this presentation of the alleged problem:
Take the issue of pensions and how we are going to manage their enormous cost for years to come. It seems almost impossible to have a sensible debate about this without being accused of wanting to make all pensioners eat cat food. With more people pension age, living longer and staying on the pension longer, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to work out that the age pension bill is going to keep going up. The leave-things-as-they-are option has one thing that does change dramatically: the cost. Perhaps we have become so used to focusing on the cost of new proposals that we simply forget to focus on the cost of maintaining commitments.
We have another problem pushing up the cost too. Can you honestly say you do not know anyone who has arranged their affairs or that of their parents to ensure they get the pension? When I was a kid the pension was there for those unlucky enough not to have been able to provide for themselves. Now we have great swaths of our middle class using top-notch accountants and lawyers to shift their assets around in such a way as to ensure they get you and me to pay them the pension. They can do this because we do not take the family home into account in the assets test. So Mary in Mosman can live in a house worth squillions that she doesn't want to leave because the garden "keeps her alive" and still get the pension. At the other end of the spectrum, Michael, who lives in a modest home in a country town, may have squillions in shares and playing around with them keeps him alive, but he can't get even a part-pension. It isn't fair but if anyone talks about including the family home in the asset test for the pension, we will see lots of old women in the media looking like everyone's favourite granny and getting all glassy-eyed at the prospect of having to sell the family home and leave their garden. It is, of course, poppycock. She does not have to sell the family home, she can get a reverse mortgage and live there. Look behind her and there will be some avaricious children who want the rest of us to pay her a pension so she can stay in the family home they hope to inherit. They don't want her selling their inheritance and going to live in Michael's country town as she lives off her investments.
Um okay, so the rich are getting access. What to do about that?
Yes, yes, the pond knows. Ask a question like that and what do you get?
Here's the Vanstone solution, and what do you know, it sounds like current federal government thinking, and in the process, she's turned into Helen Lovejoy:
Then there is the rate of the pension. A pension indexed to the CPI so that it retains its real value seems fair. Our pension indexation is more generous than that. If everyone else's earnings go up more than CPI, the pension rises by more than CPI. Nice, if you have a constant mining boom and not too many new pensioners. But put that policy into a world where there is a tsunami of new entrants to the pension, a mining boom that is over and an uncertain price for our biggest exports and you are playing Russian roulette with our kids' future.
Yes, yes, speaking of Russian roulette, hundred thousand dollar university degrees seem much fairer. When will we ever achieve the nirvana of the United States and New Federal Data Show Student Loan Borrowers Suffering More Than Previously Believed?
Where's the poodle when he's needed?
But back to the deep thinking debater:
Don't expect to see a sensible debate about all this. It isn't the stuff entertainment is made of. Entertainment usually requires a good guy and a bad guy. Oddly, the good guy in real life is the one who wants to make the pension affordable and sustainable into the future. That may mean not cutting the real value of today's pension but merely not allowing it to increase more than that real value. Watch out for the conjuring conman, he will be out there telling the world that the good guy is really evil. Why? Because we want our news to be entertaining.
Did you just read that? A bubble headed booby deplores the way debates are reduced to simplistic notions of good and bad, and then reduces the actual discussion to the wheeling out of a "conjuring conman"!
It doesn't get much more risible than that, especially when you consider Vanstone had set the scene for her pension "debate" with this sort of guff:
...we will pay a price for this indifference to substance. Arguably we already are because our desire to be entertained leads to theatrical one-line politics, the biff-biff attacks and responses, and the desperate desire for journalists to have a "gotcha" moment. Indeed, it could be said to feed all the things we say we dislike about politics. Ask for a circus and expect to get one. Ignore the diligent if perhaps dull politician and expect to see more people who are prepared to entertain.
This from the land of three word slogans and nattering negativity ... along with a persistent refusal to tackle the perks of the rich, instead insisting on a collective punishment for the poor.
There was plenty more of this sort of righteous twaddle as if there was some golden age when dullness was a virtue and personality didn't matter:
More and more we see media coverage of what one might call the game of politics. It focuses on the way in which the participants go about their business. Was the budget well received? Is the minister a good communicator? Does this or that person have the right approach or the right demeanour? These are all the sorts of questions we see asked and answered every day.
In their place they are important questions because they may explain something about how crossbenchers are thinking and thus whether a specific policy will be able to pass through the Senate. These things may also affect how we the public thinks and thus how we might vote at any election. What they don't tell us is anything substantive about policy. Yes, we may learn that it was considered too harsh or unfair, but that is a comment about its popularity, not its substance.
And so after setting the scene, it was on to the populist rhetoric about cat food, won't someone think of the children's future, and conjuring conmen ...
And at the end of it all?
Well it only took the first comment out of the block to point out Vanstone had dressed herself in the emperor's policy clothes for the day ...
I agree with that it is far too easy for relatively wealthy people to arrange their affairs to get the pension.
But your solution doesn't tackle that - you want to reduce it for people who do deserve it. And this is the big problem with this government, the proposed solutions don't match the rhetoric.
Done and dusted in a couple of lines, and all the Vanstone blather so many hot air balloons ...
Which doesn't solve the pond's existential and ontological crisis.
Why does someone as dumb as Vanstone keep getting space in Fairfax and the ABC?
Why not give commenter Glen a go?
Well he's more incisive and to the point, and without all the tedious rhetorical bluster ...
You know, blathering on about meaningful debate avoiding the distractions of the game of politics ... so we could have have a calm, considered, unhysterical, rational, non-populist and substantive discussion about policy matters ... and then conjuring up an Australia that's playing Russian Roulette with the lives of children ... like a dire Cimino movie:
Okay, at last the pond gets it...
Here you go kiddies, here's the pond's contribution to the substantial, substantive policy debate:
But that doesn't offer an answer to that ontological issue. Why Amanda why? Or speaking of the Simpsons, should that be The Amanda The, in German?