Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Australian's tilt towards John Wayne and cowboy boots continues ...

(Above: little boxes, little boxes, some to the right, some to the left. Wait, what's that on the right, a factory spouting hot air and carbon gases. Could it be perfectly safe to consume, like soda water? And so science is a really good ideological battle ground?)


“John Wayne’s parents’ first home was in Waterloo, Iowa and he was from Iowa and of course the main point I was making are the sensibilities of John Wayne, which is patriotism, love of country, standing up for our nation, that positive enthusiasm is what America’s all about... And that’s of course my main point.”
Michele Bachmann (more here).

You chose your screen heroes as you find them.

As it happens, I was trained by my father to like westerns and so John Wayne movies - The Searchers is by far his best film - but it's always worth remembering that Wayne avoided war service, preferring the fantasy life of a screen hero (Was John Wayne a draft dodger?).

He had his chance, and he let it pass. He was also married three times, divorced twice, a serial fornicator (with Marlene Dietrich amongst others), and a mean drunk. Naturally this cuts him out as a Republican hero, given the way people are prone to confuse reality with screen fantasies. Plenty of positive enthusiasms in that long movie life, along with a hearty indifference to race and class issues (wiki).

Having been too close to too many actors, trust me, if you take an actor as your moral compass, you're up Stanislavski shit creek without a Brechtian paddle.

Eventually John Ford, the man who made Wayne a screen myth, got around to making Cheyenne Autumn, as an apology for the random insults delivered in movies featuring Indians. It didn't feature Wayne, but rather James Stewart, who actually managed to fly combat missions over Germany. Say what you think about the bombing strategies of World War II, but it was a dangerous place for air crew wanting to learn about Catch-22.

Of course if you like wild men, you might happen to prefer Lee Marvin. He went off to war and copped a bullet in the bum from actual real machine gun fire (you may, in polite company, say buttocks). It severed his sciatic nerve, and gave him an anecdote for life. (wiki).

Of course Marvin liked marriage so much he tried it twice, and so he might well be on the way to being a Republican hero with appropriate personal values. Sadly he turned into a liberal Democrat who opposed the Vietnam war and supported the gay rights movement. Ah well, at least he was involved in a notorious landmark palimony case, and so in a way supported respectable Republican values ...

What's this got to do with anything, even including Michele Bachmann's capacity for confusing John Wayne with John Wayne Gacy?

Well bugger all, truth to tell, but at least it helps me get over the culture shock of being back in Australia and seeing, while absent, that The Australian has run out a new advertising campaign, which bugger me dead is worse than the one featuring Phillip Adams and other self-regarding thinkers - could such a thing be imaginable, even as you 'think. again' about that campaign's monstrous stupidity?

Right now the new effort might be responsible for savaging your eyeballs like a vampire's claw, but if you think you're as tough as John Wayne, you can scoot off to see more at Campaign for The Oz to focus on hot issues. (Is that header a sick joke about its climate change coverage?)

All this is no doubt a softening up of consumers to buy into online delivery, but the pond is already hardened to the loss of its favourite commentariat commentators.

Worse still, after a week far way in another land, there comes the dreaded moment of actually reading the insights on offer in this wretched Murdoch rag, blessed with sordid pretensions and hollow hypocrisies, and so well on the way to enduring Republican values of the kind affected by actors who find it easier to act war hero than to be one (don't get me wrong, I approve of cowardice, I just disapprove of cowards disapproving of cowardice).

Sure enough, there's the anonymous editorialist delivering yet another homily from on high in Happiness is a land called Oz, as predictable as a speech by Napoleon in Animal Farm:

Those naysayers who lament rather than laud our decades of prosperity will have to look for a new way to argue their case for turning out the lights and slowing national growth. Time for a reality check, for example, for academic Clive Hamilton and the thesis he expounded in his book, Affluenza, that Australians labour under, rather than love, prosperity. It always looked a limited analysis, one forged in the world-weary, middle-class, inner-city suburbs rather than across the broad spectrum of Australian society. Now we see how niche such thinking really is.

About as niche as The Australian's target demographic perhaps, but since I promised to scream the next time the anon edit did a rant about the inner city suburbs (now world weary, and seemingly ready to top themselves), please take a step back from your computer screen.

There, that's better.

Now if you want complacency about the national well being, what are we to make of this proposal by the anon edit?

Politicians of all colours must constantly look to expand the economic pie in ways that ensure everyone gets a bigger slice.

Lordy, lordy, that sounds dangerously like socialism of an inner city kind.

In the meantime, here's to our unashamed embrace of the lucky country.

Yep, and our unashamed embrace of meaningless blather in the editorial section of a paper pitching itself to the elite demographic (check the circulation of the rag in your rural town or outer suburban newsagency now).

Meanwhile, over in the opinion pages, Greg Sheridan is urging Tony Windsor to pay attention to US Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, in More sense from Jim Sensenbrenner than from Ross Garnaut.

Windsor would get more sense and honesty from a half-hour with Sensenbrenner than from a year with the government's many carbon propaganda arms.

Or he'd get a half-hour's worth of climate science denialism, since Sensenbrenner is a well known oil-share owning denialist, who at various times has claimed that solar flares are the culprit, that in any case the planet is cooling, that there's an international conspiracy of scientists, and in one particularly fruity outburst talked about how Mars was warming and no evidence of internal combustion engines on Mars had been found.

Sensenbrenner has earned a place on the pages of Skeptical Science, here, and it's typical of Sheridan not to pause for a second, or weigh Sensenbrenner's unbridled opposition to anything to do with climate science and its implications for the future or for good governance. Still, we did love the defence of Sensenbrenner to be found here under the header Jim Sensenbrenner's probably not a crook:

The congressman has been on the wrong side of science, the law and common sense more times than anyone can count — on issues ranging from global warming to civil liberties to immigration reform.
That may make him a jerk — indeed, his record suggests that, rather than a “jerk of the week,” Sensenbrenner is a more a “jerk of the year” or “jerk of the decade.”
But he is not necessarily a crook who has been bought by the special interests.
It may well be that the congressman simply is not the sharpest tack in the box.


That was in response to the Milwaukee Express labelling Sensenbrenner 'jerk of the week' for being in the pocket of big oil and coal, here, and if you want more inspirational moments, Sensenbrenner has even generated an adoring blog, Sensenbrenner Watch.

It seems Sheridan is slowly drifting into the deeper realms of John Wayne-ism, but hey since climate science is a conspiracy and/or a myth, feel free to don your cowboy boots and get down to some yeehahing with him. Just remember that Sheridan's not the sharpest tack in the box when it comes time to replace your leather ...

And if that's not enough, why you can always spend time with Dame Slap, as she scribbles Sacred cows get diced by reality.

Yep, Janet Albrechtsen is furious yet again with (though not necessarily in this order and including but not limited to) Malcolm Fraser, political clowns, linguistic acrobats, the Labor party, Fairfax, the ABC, snooty Elizabeth Farrelly, Lindsay Tanner, Doug Cameron, and bashers of The Australian, a rag which allegedly chooses to run a diverse range of views and takes an unapologetically centrist editorial position.

Except of course in relation to the matter of inner urban elites, where it takes an unapologetically eccentric editorial position.

By extrapolation from her targets, we can conclude that Dame Slap is fiercely opposed to gay marriage, thinks climate change is a load of bunkum, and deplores the mealy mouthed mamby pamby soft-hearted Nauru solution being proposed by Scott Morrison when the tough-hearted rattan cane Malaysian solution is right at hand.

Enough already. Bring on the paywall now, spare us any more advertising, and feel free to make The Australian an outpost for some of the more bizarre lunacies of the Republican party.

After all, John Wayne Gacy was just a struggling SME entrepreneur and Jimmy Carter supporter, and we know where that led him. He also probably had an affinity with Norman Bates in Psycho:

Norman: ... You know what I think? I think that we're all in our private traps ... clamped in them. And none of us can ever get out. We ... we scratch and claw, but only at the air ... only at each other. And for all of it, we never budge an inch.

Marion: Sometimes we deliberately step into those traps.

Norman: I was born in mine. I don't mind it anymore.

Marion: Oh, but you should. You should mind it.

Norman: Oh, I do (laughs) but I say I don't.

Is that why The Australian scratches and claws at the air, caught in its own private trap? Who knows, and in the end, who cares ...

(Below: which brings us back in that peculiar circular way we often discover in life, thanks to The Australian and Michele Bachmann, to thoughts about the sanctity of marriage and genuine conservative values as exemplified by a right wing rag whose advertising agency sees a conundrum between biblical values and human rights. Can I have a John Wayne or perhaps a John Wayne Gacy with that, and don't forget the fries?)

Scott Morrison, and how a trip to Malaysia can result in the notion that opening the mind is exactly the same as closing the mind ...


(Above: an artistic view of the Petronas towers, the pond's contribution to digital visual waste on the intertubes).

Making politics out of human misery and despair is about as low as it gets in the political cycle, and the political machinations deriving from Scott Morrison's jaunt to Malaysia are a pretty piece of work.

It was always going to be that way, but let's count the nauseating ways.

First an assumption. Most people, unless they tend to live under the fairy tree at the back of the garden (along with the fairies), understand that in many south-east Asian countries, whether for example Indonesia or Malaysia, you don't have to stray far off the beaten track to discover extremes of wealth ... and extremes of poverty.

In Kuala Lumpur, you can go from the brand-laden, up to the minute mall at the base of the Petronas Twin Towers to festering streets laden with garbage and the stench of sewage, with people clustered in small dank spaces that pass for concrete cancer-laden, tropical rain battered apartment blocks, and you can do it in a half hour walk.

You can sit down for lunch with Basil, and yes Mr Fawlty, he ain't a hamster. And that's for people legally in the country ...

Along the way you might pass the beer swill pits for foreign tourists, and the street women of Bukit Bintang, suggesting that between the desire to uphold Islamic principles and the desire to gouge hard cash from decadent tourists, the cash will win every time... and that KL at least in places isn't far from Bangkok.

If you head down to Titiwangsa, you can catch the strange sight of one of the head Buddhists swanning around in a handsome black Mercedes, driving through the squalor and the garbage and the blackened concrete apartment blocks of a little India to a very tidy monastery ...

Apparently all this is news to Morrison, as piously explained in Squalor, hopelessness may bring sense to policy debate on refugees:

The breaking point for Scott Morrison came as he sat in a 3m x 2m room in Selayang with a father who had lost all hope.

He was dumbfounded as he listened to the story of a Burmese refugee who had been beaten by life as an illegal immigrant.

A family of four pays 200 ringgit ($62) a month to rent the small room. Across the entire floor, 60 refugees squeeze in every night.

There is no sanitation and the smells wafting from the street are unlike anything Morrison has encountered near his home in Sydney's south.

The sight of Morrison and his two Liberal Party advisers walking through a local slum market may never be repeated.

Before he left, Morrison gave some cash to the refugee.

"The hopelessness and helplessness of these people is something I completely underestimated. This guy is just completely beaten by it," he said.

Here, take a handout from the man who quibbled over the 'unreasonable cost' of taxpayers funding families attending funeral services for victims of December's Christmas island disaster (here).

Where to start?

Well you could replay this story featuring any number of Malaysian citizens struggling against poverty, a lack of education, living in small, cramped, crowded rooms, and suffering a lack of basic services and sanitation. And if you go outside KL, multiply that by ten.

Tossing some cash at a single refugee, or a down at heel actual citizen doesn't do anything for the situation, except perhaps for the moral humbuggery and piety of the tosser ...

According to the tag at the end of the story, there's a morally uplifting conclusion to Morrison's stunt:

Morrison, who travelled with a senior policy adviser from Abbott's office, will sit down with his leader to thrash out a more focused approach to battle the people smugglers.

Instead of banging on about the Nauru Solution the expectation from this trip is some more focused policy from the Coalition.


Uh huh. Bear that in mind as we wander down this sordid parth.

No doubt that explains why last night Scott Morrison went on the ABC's 7.30 Report, and ...

... banged on about the 'Nauru Solution' yet again, as recorded in Scott Morrison's Malaysian visit.

As if calling something a 'solution' makes it a solution. As if Nauru is somehow going to fix poverty in south east Asia, or discrimination against minorities, or the war in Afghanistan, or the tendency for people to want to leave Iraq or Ian ...

In the process, Morrison performed some incredible verbal gymnastics, explaining how his criticism of living conditions in Malaysia wasn't a criticism of the Malaysian government, but a criticism of the Australian government.

And in the process, Morrison painted the "Nauru solution" as a kind of idyllic bliss, a paradise for refugees, and surely a profound inducement for boat smugglers to do their thing:

SCOTT MORRISON: I think they should be processed humanely and on Nauru that will occur. Every child on Nauru will go to school. Every person will have access to public health care. Every person who goes there will have programs sand actives, meals, accommodation, they will have all of their needs meet for the entire time they are processed and those who ultimately get a resettlement will get a resettlement and those who don't will return home as it happened last time. Forty-three per cent of the those who went through the Pacific Solution last time went through Australia. The balance went to other countries or went home.

Indeed. Now all we need is a promise that no refugee child on Nauru will live in poverty by 2015. But how handy to know that if you can get on a boat and endure the "Pacific solution", why surely you stand an almost fifty-fifty chance of ending up in Australia anyway. Now there's a knock me down deterrent ...

This is where the bizarreness of the current policy debate has led us, to the Alice in Wonderland notion that parts of Australia aren't Australia, that Nauru is a symbol of humane treatment, yet the only way to stop the people smugglers plying their trade is to toughen up the barriers, which should be the Malaysian solution, since indeed it toughens the barriers, but we can't do that because it's inhumane and so instead we should settle for the inhumanity of installing people on a remote island out of sight and mind, not that it's inhumane, but it has to be inhumane to stop the people smugglers because it ...

Never mind. It's called the gotcha in political debate.

Let's be nice to refugees? Hah, what are you some kind of mamby pamby liberal latte softie?

Let's be hard on refugees? What are you, some kind of evil hearted Malaysian bureaucrat armed with a rattan cane, determined to make people live on the smell of a bowl of rice once a week?

Here's how Morrison does it:

... for 10 years the Labor Party demonised John Howard. They said our policies were too harsh. Now we have a Prime Minister who says that they were too soft. She wants to be more harsh. She wants to punish people. That's her policy and I say to those on the Labor backbench the challenge the Howard Government for years to stand up because at the moment they're glued to their seats and if they don't stand up on this issue well, frankly, I think they've betrayed their own principles.

But of course as soon as the Labor party stands up for its alleged principles (principles notably absent when the Labor controlled Marrickville council allowed a comfortable family villa down the road to be turned into a rat haven for thirty or more backpackers) and embarks on any "soft options" for refugees, Dr. No will come stomping about, complaining about how soft the government is, and how its behaviour will encourage the trade of people smuggling ...

Perhaps the most nauseating aspect of the whole affair is the way Morrison portrays himself as a concerned humanitarian, and takes offence at the notion that there's any kind of politics at play in the current hijinks.

LEIGH SALES: The reason you took this trip is because you see political mileage in going there and coming back and embarrassing the Gillard Government?

SCOTT MORRISON: I think that's offensive and I'm offended by the question. I went there to understand the realities.

LEIGH SALES: You didn't have an eye to the political mileage you would make out of it.

SCOTT MORRISON: I think it's cynical to think I'd have another approach. You know me well and you know I have a keen interest in these matters and a keen interest in understanding what the human dimension are of the decisions that we take as politicians.

Take offence? Why doesn't he take a gate while he's at it?

Does this explain why Morrison drummed up a meeting with Anwar Ibrahim, who naturally said that the human rights record of the Malaysian government has been atrocious (Cane is still on agenda for refugees)?

Was Morrison interested in the human dimensions of Anwar Ibrahim's current plight, involving a sex tape, and a police report, which has seen the politician allegedly move from homosexuality to a sex romp with a woman? ('Book Anwar if statement is false').

By golly, they play their politics rough and dirty in Malaysia, and there's Morrison stomping around like an elephant in the lotus pond. (Not that the Murdoch press can take any high ground, what with their contribution to the Pauline Hanson nude photograph saga).

As always, you can 'rely' on the Straits Times for more details in Anwar urged to quit after sex video 'confirmed'.

Meanwhile, what's Morrison learned after his trip? How has it changed him?

"We've stated our position on the Nauru option and this trip has only reaffirmed that position," Mr Morrison said.

Yep, it's all utterly predictable, with an utterly predictable result, with human misery and poverty as the backdrop to a stunt and a scare campaign, and the only seeming option in dealing with refugee issues amongst the major parties being either the 'tough' Malaysian solution or the 'soft' guano island solution, which happens to be 'tough' but not too 'tough', but perhaps 'tough enough' measured on the scale of toughness set out in the Dummies guide to political toughness.

Now all we need is an explanation of how this soft, caring 'solution' will provide the hard, stiff medicine the people smugglers and their desperate customers need ... and the yowling pack of stiff-necked Paul Sheehans lurking in the background expect of Dr. No and his team.

Still, there can be some comedy moments in politics, and the sight of Morrison explaining how white means black, or vice versa, in the context of Tony Abbott's selling down the river of Peter Reith was comedy gold which redeemed something of the tawdriness of the previous 'refugee' proceedings.

SCOTT MORRISON: ... We have a robust party and an open party process and I think the real challenges and things going on in this area are in the Labor Party. They're the part party of the long knives.

LEIGH SALES: Let's stick with your party for now. When a long time senior Liberal like Peter Reith is publicly humiliated surely that raises some questions about Tony Abbott's judgment and people skills?

SCOTT MORRISON: There was a ballot and two good candidates and one won. That's what happens.

Yep, and one man showed his vote to another. That's what happens when you want to slip the knife in deep and clean and hard after a read of the book of toughness.

That's more like it.

Oh it's good to be back in the lucky country, which seen from afar often seems to be the land of well-off whiners and whingers, as the political class go about their daily business of humbuggery and hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, pity the poor refugees who throw themselves on the tender mercies of these humbugger hypocrites.

A regional approach to refugees wherein Australia plays a humanitarian role with political decency?

Tell 'em they're dreaming ...

Better still, here mate, have a few coins ...

By golly, that made me feel better.

(Below: now here's a lotus flower and a nice set of wheels, and sssh, let's not turn the camera to the other side of the street).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Some more work for Scott Morrison and the Liberal party to do ...


(Above: Singapore from the hotel room).

So here's the mysterious thing, as suggested in Fairfax's So, why are some flying and others not?

Last night Malaysia Airlines sent a lumbering, fully loaded 747 into the ether, heading from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur. It snuck across New South Wales at eighteen thousand feet, doing a humble 400 miles or so an hour, but as soon as we crossed the border and hit the far north east of South Australia, the pedal hit the medal, the speed and the height cranked up, and ultimately we were at forty thousand feet doing 565 or so miles an hour.

Ash cloud? What ash cloud?

A couple of hours later, right on the chimes of midnight, a friend caught a Singapore Airlines flight from Melbourne, direct to Singapore. According to her, it took off like a bat from hell, climbed high and hard, and then kept going all the way, with the A-380 making sounds of significant effort to keep to schedule via the stratosphere ...

Ash cloud? What ash cloud?

Well it's all very mysterious, but we look forward to Scott Morrison explaining how a couple of Asian airlines (and a lot of others) seemed to handle the ash peril with nonchalance.

And while he's at it, seeing how he'll be joining the pond in Malaysia (though not in any intimate personal way) perhaps Morrison could ask for a tour of Kuala Lumpur airport, just to see what a relatively poor country can manage by way of an entrance for international travellers.

Lordy, it even has robotic trains, along with the ersatz marble and the mindless duplication of meaningless brands to be seen at every international airport around the world.

That said, it's a reminder that Sydney airport still looks like a pig's ear rather than a miracle non-iron rayon purse, and will always be cramped and confined, and increasingly under pressure. The Liberal government under Howard had a decade to get things moving, the various do nothing Labor governments wasted opportunities in even more spectacular fashion.

Perhaps it was all designed as a way to keep Australia carbon pure and battling climate change, in a direct action, take no action way.

Still, it would be interesting to hear of Liberal party policies in relation to aviation in Australia, instead of grand standing stunts in a policy free zone ...

And now, since the pond abhors blogs with happy shots of views from hotel rooms - get a life blogger people - it's time for the pond to do the south east Asian circuit and go about the business of grandstanding in the judgemental way beloved of Australian politicians ...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Scott Morrison and the pond, both off to Malaysia to sort things out ...

(Above: the good old days).

The incessant talk of Anglo-Celtic, or perhaps Judeo-Christian values amongst the chattering commentariat has led to some deep thinking at the pond, and a firm decision to take some definitive action.

The pond, it almost goes without saying, is a strong believer in Anglo-Judeo-Celtic-Christian values, especially when blessed by a touch of Germanic engineering skills (oh the cuckoo clocks the great great grandparents used to construct in the Black Forest), and of course the subtle application of the cane has been essential in instilling these values into the young.

Why in my day, the Dominican nuns deployed the cane, the strap, a ruler, the bare hand, or whatever else came their way, while I have it on good authority that the Christian brothers were unstinting in their application of a leather strap to the behinds or hands of wayward boys.

After an untimely shift to the public school system, it's pleasing to report that in the old days the cane was still doing devoted secular work civilising young barbarians ... a memorable highlight being the way it was skilfully deployed by one teacher, who had some of kind of arthritic kink in his fingers which meant the digits wrapped around the cane like a demonic claw.

Girls missed out on six of the best - always with the discrimination - but it was six of the best, delivered by way of a good birching in the halls of Eton, that made Britain such a fine imperial example to the world.

These days, if you look around, you'll sadly notice that caning and spanking has fallen into disrepute.

And whose fault is this?

Well of course it's the baby boomers, who thought their precious prince and princess bums were too good for a touch of bamboo, and now the blame resides - as The Australian and Gerard Henderson can tell you every day of the week - with the inner urban mamby pamby elites who prefer sipping latte to backside brutalisation.

The end result? The utter decline of splendid British imperial values and western civilisation as it should be remembered and cherished.

Worse still, stout-hearted conservatives like Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison - who shouldn't be afraid of a little corporal punishment - are rushing around having anxiety attacks about caning when really they should be in favour of redemptive lashings.

Morrison is planning to head to Malaysia this Thursday to have a chat with refugees and likely will go all soft and liberal and caring (Morrison to meet Malaysian refugees), and explain how they'd all be much better off stuck in the middle of nowhere amongst the guano (a fancy term for bird poo), going quietly mad, until they're given permission to enter Australia ...

As if Abbott and Morrison gave a flying fuck about the refugees, their mental or physical health, as opposed to the health of their own political fortunes, and the chance to flay the government with stunts and flying visits (though the government does, it must be said, deserve a good whipping).

Sorry, a little reality intruded on the irony there.

Back on message. Confronted by this abdication of conservative values - why next thing you know Opus Dei will be giving up the self-mortification of the cilice, or the bringing of blood to the surface with a decent scouring - the pond, in an intrepid and daring piece of investigative journalism, is heading to Singapore and Malaysia to take an in-depth look at the issue.

Let me hastily add that this is no stunt, but a serious piece of in-depth investigative study in search of deep insights, which could take a whole day.

Agreed, there can be only two conclusions. Either Malaysia is wildly dangerous, full of Islamic fundamentalists and cane-crazed bureaucrats and deeply prejudiced south-east Asians, or it's just mildly dangerous, for said reasons, and so no right-minded person would entrust the country with anything, let alone refugees.

Sure, this conclusion could be reached from the comfort of a stereotypical, cliched, prejudiced armchair, but how much better to travel to the country to (a) gratuitously insult it and its people and (b) conclude that it's a haven for wild things, and (c) continue to maintain cordial relationships through gritted teeth with these demonic cane-crazed Islamic fundies, doing their best to preserve the best elements of British culture. This will do much for regional d├ętente and the battle against fundamentalism.

Yes, it's not just the opposition that can pull stunts and pose as liberal humanists, and it's anticipated that the pond will return within the week to report on the benefits of a decent Anglo-Christian-Judeo-Celtic heritage, with Malaysia one of the few outposts left to preserve proper British imperial traditions in a respectful way:

When the Straits Settlements, comprising the three predominantly Chinese-populated port cities of Singapore, Melaka (Malacca) and Penang (George Town), was formed as a British colony in 1826, the criminal law of England applied.

Straits Settlements Penal Code Ordinance IV replaced the common law in 1871. It was based on the Indian Penal Code, enacted in 1860.

Offences punishable by whipping in the Code were robbery, aggravated theft, house trespass or house breaking, assault with intent to outrage modesty, and a second or subsequent offence of rape or living on or trading in prostitution.

This list of "whipping offences" was roughly similar to that of England and Wales at the time. (here)


As an upholder of these traditional English values, the pond simply has no time for the effete, effeminate posing of the Liberal party ponces, and their emasculating, coffee sipping and chardonnay swilling ways, and draws attention to the intrepid trail-blazing thoughts of Michael Duffy and his guest Peter Moskos, in Counterpoint's Is flogging an option?

Ah yes, the Duffster knows how to put these bleeding hearts in their proper place, and with a bit of luck, further down the track, he'll be giving Abbott and Morrison a flogging, if only of the verbal and metaphorical kind, for their effete, liberal, weak-kneed, ink blotter tendencies.

Naturally we can also rely on Menzies House to be right up there, as they boldly recycle a piece on spanking children, under the header Judge has harsh words for Mom before sentencing her for spanking her kid.

The piece ran without editorial intrusion, apart from a splendid bit of doggerel of the INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE%26ct0%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Ftag.admeld.com%2Fclick%
2Fe680a79601f0436297c97c6423e67566%2F1308485353%3Fredirect%3D%26anprice%3D%7
BPRICEBUCKET%7D\">") web site kind, and and it dragged out a bit of a debate from the Menzies House cognoscenti.

Naturally there were a few trolling liberal mamby pambies of the bleeding heart DLP variety eager to deplore spanking, but thank the lord, there was a granny who turned up to give them a sharp paddy whack on the bum:

Spanking is not brutalising and good parenting means it is there if and when needed, and the child knows this.

Indeed.

Now if only granny would explain to Scott Morrison that a good paddy whack on the bum is just the thing these troublesome refugees deserve, for the sheer cheek of fleeing peaceful havens and paradises like Iraq and Afghanistan, after Australia's spent so much time and money making them suitable for all kinds of Adams and Eves.

Sure, he wants to send them into isolation in the middle of the middle of nowhere, and see how it fucks with their minds ... but is that the same as a good caning?

Anyhoo, to settle the matter, the pond is off to Malaysia to review the use of the rattan cane, and its role in maintaining civilised British values. The temptation to drink a beer in the tropical heat might prove, like mad dogs and Englishmen, to be overpowering, so let's hope it'll turn out to be another case of Malaysia beer drink woman's caning sentence commuted.

Meanwhile, if you hear of a caning taking place in Malaysia, fear not, it'll only be the result of the pond conducting detailed research into Anglo-Celtic-Eton-long live the Queen values, of the kind routinely applauded by the likes of Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott.

Once the trip's over and the scar tissue has healed, the pond will resume business momentarily ...

(Below: damn it, if those damn Yankees don't know all there is to know about Judeo-Christian values for women).


Postscript: since irony seems to fly over the heads of some readers, the pond notes it doesn't think much of the Malaysian, PNG, East Timor and Nauru solutions (we're standing by for the Fiji solution), and we think even less of the Labor party being corralled by Abbott and Morrison into an extremist position so that the Liberal party can somehow pretend it's a caring sharing party full of liberal humanitarians, and we don't think much of the abuse of women simply because they might happen to like a beer on a warm day, and we think even less of the physical abuse of children, and even less of Menzies House for the mental abuse of adults, and we think even the physical abuse of adults is an issue, unless of course it involves consenting adults in an a relationship where the power is equally shared and a safe word is used. Then you can get into abuse of a refined and genteel kind to your heart's content...


Monday, June 20, 2011

Piers Akerman, Paul Comrie-Thomson, Gerard Henderson, and it's time for a plebiscite we intend to completely ignore ...



It would be remiss of the pond not to record Piers "Akker Dakker" Akerman's strong return to form on the weekend, berating Elisabeth Murdoch for being "used" in the climate change debate, and too old, frail, elderly, aged and mentally and physically disabled to understand she's being used, no matter how cogent and coherent she might think she remains.

Yes, it's another stirring contribution from the ABC to the public debate, and as usual on The Insiders.

Don't get us wrong - we have an enormous respect for Akker Dakker - coming as he does from the twentieth century - but Akker Dakker's wiki records his own birth date as June 1st 1950, meaning he's now the wrong side of sixty, and so - only in the interests of science of course - the question must be asked as to who's using Akker Dakker to peddle the standard amount of guff and tripe on view in his The Science Behind Tricking the Public.

In the piece, Akker Dakker leads with a standard riff about Luddites (it takes one to know one) and blames the usual suspects:

In their (Gillard and Swan's) endeavours they enjoy the support of the self-proclaimed progressive media - the taxpayer-funded ABC and the collective of journalists within the Fairfax organisation (which last week stooped to publish a disgraceful plea for censorship from Elizabeth Farrelly that might have been lifted from the pages of a Stalin-era edition of Pravda) - but they are facing a growing revolt from an increasingly better-informed public.

Lordy, ain't it grand, to tell the old dame she should shut up because she's senile and over the hill and not physically able and being used by malevolent forces, and then rabbit on about disgraceful pleas for censorship by the Pravda press.

Akker Dakker's own contribution to the scientific debate?

Tame scientists, propaganda diversions, claptrap, shonky IPCC science, specious attempt to garner some faux moral superiority, misguided media collective, unbridled zealotry of these anti-science barbarians, etc etc and so on, but this is the real killer diller blow:

Unfortunately, this obsession of the inner-urban elites now threatens the economic security of the nation.

Would you like some frothing and foaming with your inner urban elite latte this morning, madam?

Naturally the comments section is full of rage at the left, which somehow means that Rupert's mum is a Stalinist leftie.

Will Rupert ever notice that there's a ranting, ageing ratbag with a geriatric understanding of science at work in the in his Sydney tabloid, and ease him out, in the way Akker Dakker once played musical chairs at the Adelaide Advertiser and the HUN, or does the fat owl of the remove add too much entertainment value to the brand?

Akker Dakker has returned from his Pacific seas cruising in fine fettle, playing the man, not the ball in a standard tirade about the NBN, NBN chief takes broad approach to truth. This alleviates him of the need to find some actual dirt on the local roll-out, rather than rabbiting on about events in Costa Rica almost a decade ago.

That would be a bit like going on about Akker Dakker experimenting with cocaine in the seventies. Lordy, he's that old? Yep, he's that old, heading right into Dame Elisa turf, and perversely proud of it:

Gosh, TP, I didn’t realise you were that old. I never concealed the fact that I tried cocaine in the US in the 70s. No worries here. Nor have I concealed my distaste for those who use drugs in the past 30 years of writing. (here).

Eek, he's a degenerate baby boomer, still trying to make good for a sordid past.

I suppose we could listen to both Dame Elisa and Akker Dakker - despite his Stalinist attempt to censor her - and judge their points of view according to the arguments they might muster, but what if she won the debate?

Meanwhile, what about it Rupe, should used, manipulated old people be seen in public, let alone heard?

Oh hang on a second Rupe, what was your age again? Born 11th March 1931 according to your wiki? Hang on that puts you in your eighties. I really don't think old people like you should be running around expressing views, you might, in your simple-minded, dotish, doltish way, end up being used ...

Not to worry, moving right along, the lads at Counterpoint also tackled the complexities of climate change science yesterday, and perhaps thought they were on a winner by interviewing Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, under the tag Surface temperature measurements: how reliable? Part two.

Nielsen-Gammon had taken part in the preparation of a peer-reviewed paper about measuring station variabilities and Paul Comrie-Thomson produced a fine flurry of leading questions designed to produce a gotcha moment.

By the end of the chat, Comrie-Thomson was flinging around suggestions that the emperor wasn't fully clothed, and quoting Nigel Lawson, but dammit, Nielsen-Gammon wasn't for moving, suggesting that the impact of green house gases on the climate system was the most well known and the simplest effect to calculate, and that there were a lot of other complexities to consider.

And dammit, he suggested that while the impact of current trends was uncertain (Lawson's word), the science continues to suggest it'll be in the magnitude of two to four and a half degrees celsius. It could be less, it could be more, but we don't fully understand the consequences of where things are heading, and that means the inherent danger of what we're doing needs to be considered ...

Lordie, lordie, all that talk of emperors and clothes, and the need for science to be de-politicised and for people to achieve a better understanding of the way that science works, and it turns out Nielsen-Gammon accepts the weight of evidence is pointing to the current consensus. And all of Paul Comrie-Thomson's leading questions - a veritable push pulling poll of interview techniques - and his beguiling determination to find a rat in the hay stack was in vain ...

Still at least Comrie-Thomson engaged with the issue, and let the answers fall where they may, which is more than can be said for Gerard Henderson, who today offers up It's not personal, it's policy - why Labor is flatlining.

There's only so many days and ways to read Henderson, and at the millionth iteration of this talking point, even in space they could hear the pond scream:

Labor's dilemma is that a carbon tax/ETS upsets its traditional supporters in the suburbs and regions, who are worried about power bills and secure employment, while not satisfying the inner-city left, who are relatively secure financially and want to see most or at least some of Australia's coal industry phased out. Needless to say, such a position does not go down well in Queensland's Bowen Basin, the Hunter and Illawarra regions in NSW, Victoria's La Trobe Valley or in Western Australia.

This is a story that some journalists miss.


Akker Dakker and Henderson, at one with their fascination for the inner city elite, as if a sailing junket on the south seas or a handsome office in the heart of Sydney somehow disqualifies you from an elitist lifestyle.

Needless to say, the notion that coal mining is wonderful doesn't go down well with farmers in the Hunter or the Liverpool plains or other farming regions (try to talk to residents of the La Trobe Valley about the joys of living under the brown coal fuelled Hazelwood power station), but this is a story that Henderson regularly misses as he blathers on about the inner-city left, while exaggerating the employment benefits generated by coal and other mining, rarely pausing to consider how these days much of the open cut is automated up the wazoo, and so how turning the Hunter Valley into a moonscape is easy peasy.

Needless to say, complexities and differing community responses - won't someone think of the farmers and the food bowl - are not the sort of thing you need to hear if writing a paneygric to Tony Abbott and his policies.

It seems the essential problem for the federal government is policy, yet Henderson doesn't contemplate Abbott's latest wild-eyed exercise in "policy", a quaint word for publicity stunts.

Suffice to say that the pond is thinking about mounting a plebiscite as to whether the pond is by far the bestest web site on the planet.

Fair warning and fair dibs. It's a Tony Abbott kind of plebiscite - Tony Abbott admits he won't accept a yes vote on carbon tax.

... Mr Abbott also told 3AW today that if he was successful in forcing a plebiscite and the result found the people wanted a carbon tax, he would not accept it.

He said he would remain opposed to it and would “rescind it” if he became Prime Minister.


So here's how it works. Either you can admit the pond is simply the bestest web site on the planet - especially in its use of English - or you can simply bugger off, because we'll rescind your vote because you're totally ignorant, specious fools of the first water. It's called democracy. Agree or get lost, we never intended to listen to a word you said anyway ...

Phew, now that's sorted, feel free to send in your lavish uxorious encomiums without fear or favour. Feel free to do a Gerard Henderson and admire the intricate depths of this pond policy. Sheesh, who'da thunk democracy was so easy to handle ...

What's that you say? Tony Abbott had a good new twist to the fear campaign and fucked it up through sheer stupidity?

Come again Hotheads Online of Australia:

I think that this is tbe biggest problem with the Liberal Party - they have an idiot as a leader. Fancy calling for a plebiscite about the stupid CO2 tax and then stating that if the people of Australia vote for it, he would rescind it anyway if he was elected. What an insane statement to make. Of course the people won't vote for a CO2 tax, we know that. But for Abbott to make such an idiotic statement shows that he's not fit to lead the Liberals.

Uh huh. Cease your inner urban elite ranting, wash out your mouth, and read Gerard Henderson on the wonders of Liberal party policy a hundred times, repeating after Alice that a stunt can be a policy, and a policy is therefore never a stunt.

The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he SAID was, 'Why is a raven like a writing-desk?'

'Come, we shall have some fun now!' thought Alice. 'I'm glad they've begun asking riddles.—I believe I can guess that,' she added aloud.

'Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?' said the March Hare.

'Exactly so,' said Alice.

'Then you should say what you mean,' the March Hare went on.

'I do,' Alice hastily replied; 'at least—at least I mean what I say—that's the same thing, you know.'

'Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter. 'You might just as well say that "I see what I eat" is the same thing as "I eat what I see"!'

'You might just as well say,' added the March Hare, 'that "I like what I get" is the same thing as "I get what I like"!'

'You might just as well say,' added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, 'that "I breathe when I sleep" is the same thing as "I sleep when I breathe"!'

'You might just as well say,' added the March Hare, ' that "I vote for what I believe in" is the same thing as "I vote for what Tony Abbott believes in" ...

... 'Really, now you ask me,' said Alice, very much confused, 'I don't think—'

'Then you shouldn't talk,' said the Hatter.

This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; Tony Abbott fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put Tony Abbott and the Liberal party into the teapot.

'At any rate I'll never go THERE again!' said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. 'It's the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!'

(Below: almost every day feels like a tea party day these days, as evoked by the timeless John Tenniel).



David Cameron, generally grumpy Paul Sheehan, and Governor Rick Perry for some light relief via the book of Joel ...


(Above: a weekend joke to help ease into the Monday. More Doonesbury, and the full weekend panel here until it shuffles down the page).

There's nothing like waking up in the morning to the sounds of social conservatives stigmatising some social group, on the basis that big government should withdraw from supervising the masses and interfering in private lives, except when big government should stigmatise the masses and interfere in private lives ...

Today it's David Cameron, scribbling furiously in the UK Sunday Telegraph in honour of Father's Day, in David Cameron: Dad's gift to me was his optimism, without apparently realising that he was invoking an old Monty Python routine:

From my father, Ian, I learnt about responsibility. Seeing him get up before the crack of dawn to go and do a hard day’s work and not come back until late at night had a profound impact on me.

Of course the pond's father got up at 4 am each day and rarely returned from working at mill until 5 am the next day, always by flickering match light, but let's not be unseemly or competitive or cast a slight on the parents for the son's remarks.

What's most remarkable in Cameron's address to the nation is his proposal for stigmatising and shaming as a form of social policy, in a way worthy of the Amish:

At the same time, I also think we need to make Britain a genuinely hostile place for fathers who go AWOL. It’s high time runaway dads were stigmatised, and the full force of shame was heaped upon them. They should be looked at like drink drivers, people who are beyond the pale. They need the message rammed home to them, from every part of our culture, that what they’re doing is wrong – that leaving single mothers, who do a heroic job against all odds, to fend for themselves simply isn’t acceptable.

Actually what this is, it turns out, is politician's code for runaway dads paying their way when it comes to supporting children, which is handy because Cameron's government is about to make life harder for parents wanting to claim support from non-resident parents (as can be read here in David Cameron criticised after attacking 'runaway dads').

It gets to a pretty pass when it's women who spring to the defence of absent men:

Erin Pizzey, the founder of the first UK's women's refuge, said Mr Cameron was displaying a lack of understanding about the reality of family break-ups.

"There are a lot of reasons why [fathers are] not with their children... not least that women won't let them," she said.

Ms Pizzey said it was wrong to single out men, adding: "There is a vast mass of women who are equally as feckless as the men and we never talk about them."


On reflection, I'm not so sure about this quest for complexity and an adult response to difficult personal situations.

Perhaps it's time to bring back the stocks in the village square or church yards - happily the EU always produces an over-supply of tomatoes to be flung at stock-bound recalcitrants - and thus the shaming of absent male parents can take place in a socially acceptable way (and for women, if Cameron had a clue about equal opportunity, why not bring back the cucking or dunking stool?)

At the same time, Cameron revealed that banality goes hand in hand with political visions:

... in the end, it will be the daily habits and decisions of Britain’s fathers that will determine if we succeed. On their decision to financially and emotionally support their child even if they’ve split up from their mother; to spend time with their kids at weekends, taking them to the football or the playground; to go to the nativity play and take an interest in their child’s education.

Go to the nativity play?

Oh dear, but it helps explain why Cameron is determined to press on with providing tax breaks for married couples and ensuring that traditional family life is the cornerstone of British society.

That's right, singles and those determined to be different, you're under the Cameron conservative gun:

...in singling out the role of fatherhood, Mr Cameron signalled he ran the risk of protests by equality campaigners.

‘We live in an age of equality, where people don’t like to see the differences between the sexes,’ he said.

‘But it goes without saying, two different people, nurturing the same child, will bring different things to the table.’ (David Cameron: Absent fathers are as bad as drink drivers).


And it goes without saying that those folk without children should just go and quietly sit at another table, perhaps outside with the shameful smokers.

Cameron has long had form in relation to social engineering - Cameron: absent black fathers must meet responsibilities - and now the pond eagerly awaits the reverberations and the wailing and the hostility as conservative commentariat commentators round on him in the antipodes, and give him a solid whacking for his interfering, paternalistic, judgmental big government ways ... but don't hold your breath.

Meanwhile, the navel gazing of Generally grumpy Paul Sheehan into the tea leaves swirling around the factions in the NSW Liberal party reaches even more tedious depths in Libs' canker shows signs of healing.

It's another piece of Michael Photios bashing, even though "There is no suggestion here that Photios has done anything improper."

Readers who took the pond's advice, and decided they'd hold their breath until Sheehan wrote a piece exposing the evil, baleful influence of Opus Dei on NSW Liberal politician David Clarke and his wife have long since gone blue in the face, turned up their toes like a Norwegian Blue parrot, and expired.

Instead we get Photios this, Photios that, and it almost goes without saying that Photios, often known affectionately to the tabloids as a love rat - such sights are sure to send the generally grumpy Sheehan into a frenzy - is on the factional left wet moderate side, and David Clarke is his factional enemy on the hard right side (Senior Liberal Michael Photios to quit key vice-presidential job).

It's almost as if Sheehan won't rest until the hard line right emerge triumphant from the factional wars, and can begin their own social engineering experiment in New South Wales, though you won't read anything about it, unless you read between the lines.

Instead you get Sheehan rabbiting on about a charismatic anonymous woman complaining about being locked out of preselection for her local seat by an anonymous factional operator, which is a bit like the pond complaining about anonymous bloggers and anonymous comments.

Still, it seems that Arthur Sinodinos is shortly to land the NSW presidency, and so save the party and the state from a cynically abused state of emergency, and so the canker at the core will be sorted, and everything will be well, which will be a great relief to everyone. Especially those devoted readers anxious that Paul Sheehan get back to being generally grumpy about things other than Michael Photios and moderate liberal types, like climate change ...

Meanwhile, it's time again for readers to hold their breath until Sheehan scribbles an agitated column about the role of Opus Dei in the political lives of certain key factional power brokers in the Liberal party.

What's the bet you'll be bluer than a blue moon before the year is out?

And now another weekend joke, as Bill Maher explains the improvement brought about in Texas drought conditions by Governor Rick Perry's Proclamation for Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas.



Perry's at it again, declaring August 6th a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation's Challenges:

"Given the trials that beset our nation and world, from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and continued debasement of our culture, I believe it is time to convene the leaders from each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting, like that described in the book of Joel," Gov. Perry said. "I urge all Americans of faith to pray on that day for the healing of our country, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of enduring values as our guiding force."


Perry's looking to the book of Joel for an inspirational way to solve the current problems of the United States? What's more amazing, some are even suggesting he should throw his hat into the ring for the Republican nomination (Chris Wallace Praises Rick Perry's Record).

Can American politics get any weirder?

For a video of Maher's new rules about Governor Perry, go here. Enjoy the weirdness while you can ...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Nick Sherry, the suffering of Meg Ryan, and time to get ready for the digital apocalypse ...


(Above: speaking of milk bars. Wiki for the Olympia here, and naughty voyeuristic YouTube footage here).

Poor old opossum Nick Sherry created a riot in the pond with his prediction that storefront book retailing would die out in the next five years, overwhelmed by online selling.

It began in the middle of last week, as reported in Bookshops say they won't disappear, but this time, instead of Minister Nick playing sweet indie book seller Meg Ryan up against the evil chain seller Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail, it's the wretched internet that brought Meg and Tom together that's now tearing things apart.

Sherry overstated the case, as politicians are wont to do - you can still find vinyl in the heart of Sydney if you drop by Central Station Records in search of drum and bass for your DJ night. And no doubt book lovers of the Farenheit 451 kind will be able to hunt out treasures without facing a book burning and turning back to the oral tradition ...

At the same time, the response within the book trade has been a peculiar mix of fear and loathing and incomprehension, much like that peddled by Gerry Harvey and the retailers in response to online competition, and typical of a country where the Liberal party line on the internet - keep it cheap, keep it slow, keep it useless - turns up in the most unlikely circles.

And as is the way in Australia, where business tends to be run by socialists with a keen eye on government, the solution is seen to be a matter of government responsibility.

How else to read Bruce Guthrie's plea for the booksellers in There's still plenty in store for the reader, senator, a curious mix of nostalgia and government bail out demands. Here's the nostalgia bit:

There was a time when I measured a good suburb in part by its milk bar, toy-shop and bookstore. Not any more. Milk bars gave way to soulless convenience stores years ago, and toy shops eventually gave up the fight against massive kiddie emporiums and, I suspect, computer games.

At least our local one hung in there until our children outgrew it. Thankfully, the local bookshop survives.

But not for much longer, if the Small Business Minister, Nick Sherry, is any judge.

Actually, it's not Nick Sherry that's the judge, it's the consumer.

It gives the pond the kind of preening righteousness of the chattering commentariat to remember an argument a decade ago with a bookseller who scoffed at the pond's prediction that the industry would go the same way as the music industry (and the movies) as content became digitized and easy to read on portable devices. At that time the musty mystique of the smell of leather-bound paper was trumpeted as the salvation of the trade, a unique aspect that neither vinyl nor dvd could match.

Sic transit gloria, as they say, and naturally Guthrie lathers up the sentimentality to somewhere eleven, even if he can't come at the 'book as a lovely perfume' routine of Dymocks' boss Don Grover:

For the record, I've never bought a book for its smell, but I agree with Grover about their physical appeal. I've tried reading a Kindle on the couch and it's just not the same. Besides, they look terrible on bookshelves and are useless as doorstops.

Bookshops have their own appeal too, even if you are not buying. If I ever have 15 minutes to kill at my local shopping strip or the city I'll usually head for a bookshop.

Inevitably this kind of defence should also involve a put down of other forms of entertainment, preferably with an ageist streak, and Guthrie delivers in spades:

Browse a video store and you are likely to be bombarded by appalling trailers for movies you will never see; browse a music store, if you can find one, and the 20-year-old shop assistant will be indulging his taste, not anticipating yours.

But bookshops? I love the silence and the dignity and the intelligence of them. And, of course, a good one can guide you to your next great read.

Dignity and intelligence? He really should take a trip to Gould's, cleaned up, but still a celebration of chaos and confusion.

Never mind, it's the perverse notion that books - unlike sordid music and movies - are somehow special, that produces the incoherent condescension current in the book publishing and selling game.

So when we get to possible solutions for current predicaments, naturally the government is wheeled out as the handy fix-all band aid:

Sherry's comments were particularly ill-timed, even pre-emptive, given the Book Industry Strategy Group is due to report to the federal government in September on ways to grow the business in the digital age for publishers, authors, distributors, printers and retailers. Made up of representatives from all those tiers of the book business, the committee is expected to be aggressive in what it seeks from government.

Note that the line isn't what the committee might expect the industry to do, by way of servicing, selling, pricing and appealing to consumers, specialist or generalist, it's all about what it seeks from government:

For instance, they are almost certain to ask for relief from GST on books. The book industry fought long and hard against it in the first place, only to fail. I suspect they will fall short again, which will prompt them to make an alternative case: impose it on books bought overseas. At the moment they are GST free, which makes buying through the US-based Amazon.com or the British-based Bookdepository.com especially attractive.

Gerry Harvey learned recently it's a hard sell, but that won't stop the strategy group pushing for it.

Uh huh. Perhaps that's because in the case of small purchases, the administration and enforcement costs would far exceed revenue, fail to achieve the intended purpose, and otherwise be completely bloody useless, with avoidance and irritation at government rampant. Which is why it's a hard sell ...

According to Guthrie, the group has one bright idea:

The group will also seek a reduced mail rate from Australia Post. As the group's chairman, a former Hawke government minister, Barry Jones, told this newspaper last month, he had recently received a package of books from England that cost $42.50 in airfreight, but he calculated it would cost $237 to send them back. The industry clearly wants a more competitive rate, and Australia Post is up for the discussion.

But that's about physical delivery, and for many consumers physical delivery isn't the future.

It's astonishing that the Book Industry Strategy Group (BISG) only got started back in April 2010, tasked with the notion of exploring digital issues, and preserving the industry's substantial contribution to the Australian economy:

"To keep it this way we must seize the opportunities the digital revolution is offering and develop innovative solutions to the challenges the industry is now facing." (here)

And so far their reported strategies are to cut postage rates for physical copies, get a tax exemption on physical copies or alternatively apply a tax on imported physical copies that can't with any ease be applied. And these physical strategies will deal with the digital revolution? Please explain ...

In the end Guthrie wilts:

Profits are suffering. My hope and suspicion is that Senator Sherry will be proved wrong and bookshops won't go the way of toy shops or milk bars. Then again, maybe I'm just another reader hoping for a happy ending.

Uh huh. Guthrie should try reading a few social realist novels where happy endings aren't mandatory, instead of a clear taste for bodice rippers or fairy stories that end with everybody living happily ever after.

Remember the first round of this great debate, back in 2009, when the Productivity Commission recommended the end to territorial copyright for Australian books, and the chain sellers were cast as the baddies? Sic transit glorious baddies Borders ...

At the time the decision of the Rudd Government not to scrap Parallel Import Restrictions was viewed as a triumph and a victory (Federal Government to retain 30-day rule), and then small business minister Craig Emerson was savaged for being out of touch, for making bland, unexceptional statements like this:

"If books cannot be made available in a timely fashion and at a competitive price, customers will opt for online sales and e-books."

Indeed. There might come a time when, even if physical books are made available in a timely fashion at competitive prices, customers will still opt for online sales and e-books.

Book sellers are currently experiencing what CD stores and video rental/sell through and movie producers keen on territorial restrictions as a way of milking markets have already experienced, and somehow they think that, like the milk bars of yore, nostalgia will exempt them from the march of time.

This is a bit like the opposition notion that somehow, ostrich heads in sand, Australia can opt out of the march of national broadband plans around the world. The Singapore government, for example, is contemplating an aptly named Next Generation National Broadband Network (oh noes, an NBN) with speeds of up to 1 Gbps, and it seems that in the not too distant future 1GBps might well become the standard for domestic connectivity.

Even in the United States, where the private sector has muffed its chance to roll out decent broadband, there are trials going down suggesting a speedy future - 1 Gbps fiber for $70 - in America? Yup.

There's other heresies abroad in the United States:

"The natural model when you have a simple duopoly capturing the majority of the market is segmentation: maximize ARPU [average revenue per user] by artificially limiting service in order to drive additional monthly spending. But fundamentally this is the wrong model for a service provider like us, and we have looked to Europe for inspiration… I believe that removing the artificial limits on speed, and including home phone with the product are both very exciting."

Look to Europe for inspiration? Wash out your mouth with soap, Dane Jasper.

Meanwhile, the pond bows to no one in terms of a love of the smell of leather-clad, moth-eaten, mouldering, smelly books, and their inner charms, but the book trade and Bruce Guthrie better head on down to their local milk bar for a last milkshake, before the digital roundup and shakedown really begins to take hold ...

They haven't seen nothing yet, and they haven't even begun to think realistically about what they were told was coming a decade or more ago ...

(Below: got to love Gould's, home of lost books, where sometimes they can stay lost, and thankfully still open despite Bob Gould's passing).


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Michele Bachmann, and how to teach both sides when there's reasonable certainty one side is full of loons ...


It being a Sunday, our minds naturally turn to thoughts of science, and when thinking of science, who better for inspiration than Michele Bachmann, Republican candidate for the presidency of the United States:

"I support intelligent design," Bachmann told reporters in New Orleans following her speech to the Republican Leadership Conference. "What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don't think it's a good idea for government to come down on one side of scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides." (Bachmann: Schools should teach intelligent design).

Where to start? Or perhaps, why bother? To which there's only one answer, pourquoi pas ...

How about starting with the notion of supporting intelligent design as if it were a football team? Or supporting the putting of all science on the table, except of course intelligent design isn't science, just a fancy marketing term for creationism? Or supporting the notion that students can decide on what's right and wrong according to their whim?

Like the earth is flat, or the earth is round, Jimbo, there are scientific theories to be found that suit both proposals, and so Jimbo, you can decide which one suits you (and if you pick the right one, you might come to agree the moon landing was a complete fraud, a great result).

As for gravity, it might have something to with mass, or it might be a supreme blessing of the intelligent designer. You decide Jimbo, go on, make a pick, either one can be made to work ...

And what about the notion that government should come down in favour of one side of a scientific issue or another? That elevates creationism nee intelligent design to the level of science. So when Bachmann shoots herself in the foot by coming down in favour of one side, the non-science side, by supporting intelligent design, that's just keeping the debate open ...

And how about the notion that there's reasonable doubt on both sides?

Only if you happen to be a fundamentalist Christian who graduated from the Oral Roberts University with a J.D. (and if you don't know about the charismatic christians at Oral Roberts University, plainly you've led a happy and productive life).

As usual with this kind of caper, Bachmann works the 'teach the controversy', 'teach the issue' angle, which has proved exceptionally handy in relation to climate science, the dangers of smoking, and various other matters where FUD is preferred to a weighing of the evidence.

In the old days French relativists used to get into all sorts of troubles with conservatives for insisting everything was subjective, and there are no objective truths, just lots of debating points. These days Christian fundamentalists speak with the skills of cheese eating relativists:

"I would prefer that students have the ability to learn all aspects of an issue," Bachmann said. "And that's why I believe the federal government should not be involved in local education to the most minimal possible process."


The funniest thing about all this nonsense?

Americans consistently contend that fundamentalist (and even mainstream) Islam has been a drag on the scientific and intellectual and social and cultural and political life of middle eastern and Asian countries where the religion dominates.

Well the day that Bachmann or similar (be it Palin or any other rigorously simple minded fundie Christian tea partier) gets their hands on the United States' federal government, that'll be the date to note on your calendar as the real start of the decline and fall of the American empire.

Lately some attention has been paid to Bachmann's fundamentalist theories - and attention should be paid, as she is presenting herself as a credible candidate for the presidency of the United States, and the American media is taking her as such.

Maybe it was the sight of LaRouche supporters from the CEC turning up on King street in Newtown yesterday to do intellectual battle with the greenies that reminded me just how many loons there are in the world, and many of them as mad as march hares to boot.

At times Bachmann is right out there, if not in company with LaRouche, then in company with the desire to be as mad as a march hare.

There's plenty more to read about Bachmann under the header Michele Bachmann hides religious extremist views and wins CNN GOP debate, but that's about to change, with plenty of links which unveil Bachmann's full range of theologically inspired eccentricities, but the link I most enjoyed took me to Michelle Goldberg's Bachmann's Unrivaled Extremism, which shed a little more light on the Oral Roberts connection:

At Coburn (Law School, Oral Roberts U.), Bachmann studied with John Eidsmoe, who she recently described as "one of the professors who had a great influence on me." Bachmann served as his research assistant on the 1987 book Christianity and the Constitution, which argued that the United States was founded as a Christian theocracy, and that it should become one again. "The church and the state have separate spheres of authority, but both derive authority from God," Eidsmoe wrote. "In that sense America, like [Old Testament] Israel, is a theocracy."

Yep, if it isn't the fundie Islamics preaching about the joys of theocracy, then it's the fundie American Christians.

Reading Eidsmoe, though, some of Bachmann's most widely ridiculed statements begin to make sense. Earlier this year, for example, she was mocked for saying that the Founding Fathers "worked tirelessly" to end slavery. But in books by Eidsmoe and others who approach history from what they call a Christian worldview, this is a truism.

Naturally enough, Andrew Bolt can find a good word for Bachmann as she disposes of the offensive Chris Matthews sweetly, because Bachmann's not offensive in the world of the dolts (here).

Enough already, there are too many dolts in the world who can gush this sort of puppy love about Bachmann or Sarah Palin. Viz the dolt's Palin's lesson: have pride in your side, even if your side believes a theocracy is just what the heavenly mother ordered to prepare us all for the rapture:

No Republican politician is as electrifying as Sarah Palin. None can draw a crowd as she does. Few communicate as effectively.

I guess that's right. It takes enormous skill to communicate stupidity effectively.

More than enough already. On with the Sunday sermons ...

What news from the Pellist heresy? Well George last week scribbled about euthanasia, and showed a wonderful capacity to dodge the bullet in You Shall Not Kill:

It is also morally permissible to alleviate pain even with dosages of medication which may shorten the life of the patient, because the intention is to relieve pain, not to end life. Death is not willed, only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable.

Talk about a course in Jesuitical semantics in a couple of sentences. Next week we look forward to the Pellists explaining why killing in war isn't willed, only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable ...

And what news from the Anglicans? Well dedicated readers will have already noticed Michael Jensen tackling a huge conundrum in Do you have a soul?

The biggest problem that still remains, however, is this: how can there be a continuity between my identity now and my identity at the resurrection? If I am given a new body at the resurrection, then in what sense will it be ‘me’ and not some other being simply implanted with my memories? This is a very good question to which I think there is no easy answer.

Strike me lucky, as Mo used to say to amuse my grandfather, it's a theological X-Files, and the chances of being snatched by an alien at the resurrection and given a memory implant seem high.

(Above: eek, a memory-implanting ice alien, by Greatest Hits, first observed at ACCA).

Perhaps Michael Jensen has been spending too much time reading the science in that wretched rag
The Guardian, especially 'We can implant entirely false memories'.

But perhaps we should be grateful, as the deepest and darkest truth is unveiled ...

... god is a mad scientist involved in creating implanted memories.

Please discuss, making sure both sides of the debate are considered. Students who suggest that god is a human construct/a false memory/an alien hiding in a volcano should be sent to clean the toilet block ...

Perhaps the alien false memory riff explains the meanderings of Miranda Devine this weekend. In A land in the remaking (a blog entry she clearly loved so much she posted it twice - this is the working link), wherein she spends an entire column praising Gillard's performance to an "inside the Beltway" crowd - strange how conservatives these days love to ape and use American expressions - only so the Devine can destroy this upstart Caesar, and so arrives at this startling conclusion:

The “opportunity society” that helped drive the nation’s prosperity for a decade is not good enough. The small businesses and enterprising individuals who thrived in the Howard era have been found wanting. If they go to the wall, who cares? There will be compensation and new jobs, protected jobs, union jobs, government-sponsored jobs.

Uh huh. Standard Howard battler era rhetoric, a bit like an acid flashback to the sixties. Do go on:

The cattle producers are the quintessential representatives of the old paradigm. When the government stopped their live export business overnight because of a TV program alleging inhumane practices in Indonesian abattoirs, the last word on the cattlemen’s lips was compensation, because compensation implies a loss and they were focussed on fixing the problem and getting on with business.

It was the media and the government which introduced the c-word, as if it were a panacea.

Uh huh. The media and the government. That's good.

A flat-out bit of dissembling, which in ordinary times would be called a lie, because the first word on the lips of many in the cattle industry was compensation, and twee jokes about c-words can't hide it, especially as Minister Ludwig valiantly tried to duck the c-word, and the Cattle Council sold it to anyone who'd listen - Producers tell Government to foot cattle compo bill.

Next a bit of myth-making:

They failed to understand that the sorts of people who go to the harsh north of this country and manage to create a thriving industry from scratch are not the sorts of people to go on welfare. They are the self-reliant, resourceful entrepreneurs who made this country what it is, but they are now an endangered species.

Northern Australia, especially the Northern Territory, is of course heavily reliant on federal government subsidy - 57% of overall revenue in the NT budget comes from GST, with a lot of that moola from other places (here) and activities are subsidised up the wazoo, making the image of the self-reliant resourceful entrepreneur one of the more stupid manifestations of the Crocodile Dundee routine.

Never mind, let's use this series of fanciful statements to arrive at a massive socialist conspiracy:

The government is taking over. It wants to use the carbon tax and the takings from the mineral boom to remake the country to its own prescription.

“This window in our history means we can reshape how we distribute opportunity in our society,” said Gillard.

Wealth redistribution, pure and simple. A year on, there’s no secret what Gillard stands for. It’s just no one can believe it.


Could it have anything to do with climate science, and the prospects of the planet?

Say what?

Which brings us back in a circle to Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann is a climate science denialist - Pharyngula has some fun with this - and keen to degut socialist government controlling bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency, and over the years the Devine too has been a denialist - see Science cooks the books, driving sensible people to screaming point, or read Why does Miranda Devine hate Science, an oldie but a goodie ...

That's why, when you get a Bachmann or a Devine speaking on science-related matters, all you get is fear, uncertainty and doubt. Wealth redistribution, creeping socialism, the end of he-men in Australia's north, evil atheism, a worldwide conspiracy of scientists in search of grants, and so on and so forth, because when you're a hammer, all you can see and scribble about is a hackneyed set of cliched socialist atheist conspiracy nails.

That's how you can get the Devine writing in valiant defence of Sarah Palin - with a kind of Bachmann-esque level of drivel - in Feminists roll out guns against Palin.

And that's how you can get the likes of Bachmann calling for debate and education on intelligent design, and the Devine calling for debate and education on the errors of scientists in relation to climate change (A debate begging for more light).

Oh enough already, please spare us all these sermons on socialism from the mount, especially from followers of the ultimate socialist with a bone to pick about businessmen and the eyes of needles.

Beam me up Scottie, or at least explain how if intelligent design is the aim, we've ended up with the logical incoherence, fuckwittery and completely unintelligent and unintelligible design of the likes of Sarah Palin, Miranda Devine and Michele Bachmann ...

(Below: and now for a little history).