Saturday, December 31, 2011

Marieke's Champion

EVER THE gentleman, Richard Ackland, who styles his (slow-loading) legal site Justinian after the law-giving Byzantine emperor, has sprung to the defence of the mild and ladylike Marieke Hardy, who is “as much a victim” as the man she must pay a reported $13,000 for wrongly accusing him of being a stalker.

One of history’s much debated and most interesting characters, the original Justinian was, amongst other things, a keen advocate for the legal rights of low women. It was an understandable sympathy as prostitution was the initial career of his wife, the Empress Theodora, who was renowned for lewd acts with geese, of all things.  The chronicler Procopius explains her appetites:
And though she flung wide her three gates to the ambassadors of Cupid, she lamented that Nature had not similarly unlocked the straits of her bosom, that she might there have contrived a further welcome to his emissaries.
If you were to update Procopius’ delightful turn of phrase and substitute blunt obscenity for wit, that passage would bear a faint resemblance to Marieke’s essays on her participation in orgies or, perhaps, to what she has claimed her parents get up to with all manner of strange objects.

Yep, can’t fault Ackland’s insight. The Justinian moniker suits him to a tee.

UPDATE:  One of Ackland's pseudononymous bloggers actually goes by the name Theodora!

And another, Junior Junior, has this to say of judges:
Jurors obviously come in an array of types and degrees of intelligence, but so do judges.

To replace 12 people who represent community standards and common sense with two or three judges, who represent their private school outlook and sailing club committee, is hardly a good swap.

I don't have anything against private schools or sailing clubs, as such, but judges vary significantly in their level of attachment to reality.

I don't mean they are suffering a delusional mental illness (although that's a possibility in some cases), but they live in a world of dress-ups, bowing and scraping and generally being treated like little princelings (or princesses).

None of which is conducive to being a standard, average, well-rounded individual.
As readers of this blog will know, the Professor's discipline is Etruscan semiotics, which is much less demanding than the law because you can just make it up as you go along. But if there is a judge out there who is a sailing club committee member and widely known as such by colleagues, would that individual be right to get a little ruffled by Ackland's anonymous acolyte's imputation that he or she may figure at some lower point on any graph laying out the judiciary's  "attachment to reality."

As Ackland speaks approvingly of plaintiffs' growing ability to wring details of bloggers and commenters from ISPs and hosting services, how would he react if Mr Justice Jib-Spinnaker were to call on him reveal his own contributor's identity?

One suspects the response would be indignance and outrage, which is usually the case when the New Establishment is called upon to live by the standards it would impose on others.

The Butchers' Boy

AT THE Drum, Bob Ellis brings his fabled command of truth and fact to a review of the The Iron Lady, accusing the film of…
…skimping  the war with Argentina, the war on the IRA, the war on the miners' unions, the starving-to-death of imprisoned Irish heroes, the targeted assassinations of terrorist suspects and the trashings of the northern towns that she, like a kind of twinsetted Saddam Hussein, made her calling-cards in her years of rogue adventurist whisky-breathed power that changed, and deranged, the western world.
So Lady Thatcher starved Bobby Sands and the other mad Paddies?

Not according to today’s Silly
LONDON: Margaret Thatcher's secret attempts to end the IRA hunger strikes are revealed in official documents made public for the first time yesterday.
If anyone bears responsibility for the deaths of Sands and the rest, it is people like Ellis – the plastic Paddies safely removed by distance and generations from Northern Ireland, the ones who never failed with their cash donations and moral support to encourage Provo thugs to further acts of murder and mass slaughter, all the while justifying those outrages and lionising their perpetrators. It was easy and safe for Ellis, stuffing his pockets with slung cash from Labor mates in SA and NSW, to urge others to mayhem. No risk, no danger and, best of all, no conscience to be troubled by even the faintest whisper of responsibility.

In the Kingdom By The Sea, author Paul Theroux wrote of his visit to Northern Ireland. Theroux can be painful to read at times, all smug peevishness and not half as clever as he imagines. But he nailed the Troubles with this passage:
LET THEM DIE was scrawled on bricks all over Orange Antrim, and ten hunger strikers had recently fasted until death in the Maze Prison. Then there was the so-called Dirty Protest. I could not imagine a preoccupied and overworked Irishwoman dreaming up this loony tactic. But it was easy to see how a maddened and self-hating Irishman might decide to act out his frustration by smearing the walls of his prison cell with his own shit, and refusing to wear clothes or have a bath or a haircut. “Take that!” they cried, and pigged it in those cells for months, innocently believing they were getting even with the British government by stinking to high heaven.

I thought: this behaviour is so strange, there’s probably no name for it. But surely it was profoundly childlike? This was how small children behaved when they felt angry and abandoned, when they wanted to be pitied….

…I did not believe it was religion as a Christian doctrine that was at the bottom of it all. Ulster was a collection of secret societies to which only men were admitted. The men dressed up, made rules, beat drums, swore oaths, invented handshakes and passwords, and crept into the dark and killed people. When they were done, they returned home to their women, like small children to their mothers.
They remain Ellis’ heroes. Figures, doesn’t it?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Peculiar Underpants As Well

IF YOU have been watching the drawn-out kabuki exercise that is America's presidential election, it may be that you are too polite to wonder aloud how any nation could even consider entrusting its supreme office to a man who believes the risen Jesus turned up in the Americas, where He arranged for his updated scriptures to be recorded on gold tablets destined to be found 1,900 years later by a confidence man and Ponzi schemer, who proceeded to lose them before anyone else could have a gander? If you have not been following the US election, that man would be Mitt Romney, who may well get the Republican nomination.

Mind you, it is not his Mormonism that is the greatest concern. Unlike adherents of a certain other religion, no Latter Day Saint has blown himself, at least not intentionally, and it is well over a century since a non-believers' wagon train has been massacred in Utah. This might have something to do with the Mormons' renunciation of polygamy. If so, the other religion which still embraces multiple wives might do well to follow suit. A fellow who can't take a drink or draw consolation from the companionship of a faithful dog while being hectored by a quartet of shrill women is naturally going to regard TNT and exploding vests as key ingredients in a viable life-improvement strategy.

No, the real reason why Romney is to be feared is quite simple: he is not a good businessman. With more than a year before he can be installed in the White House -- a year in which he might have exploited his front-running status to the maximum financial advantage -- he has already sold himself at a market-opener price.

Read this and feel a genuine sympathy for those poor Americans, who will have to choose between the current, ghost-written American president on one hand and the bought-and-paid-for Romney on the other.

Still, Romney might not be that bad. A magic salamander in the cabinet could provide a welcome diversion as Europe folds, America revisits the 1930s and China, where no official economic numbers can be believed, is swallowed by domestic upheaval.

Is there no way, even at this late stage, New Jersey's reluctant Governor Chris Christie could be dragged off his (very) broad acre and dropped onto the Republican ticket? There might a be a little hope if that were to happen -- not much hope, just a little.

The Fire Next Time

AT SOME point in the next few days posting will come to a temporary halt. It is summer, the fish are biting and the Professor is getting all hobbity about hitting the road and heading into the bush, which has not been this verdant in an age. Best to visit now, before the weather heats up and all the rain-fostered grass and undergrowth dries out and burns, which sooner or later it will. If the rain eases and temperatures rise, Victorians could be living atop a bonfire by the end of February. All it will take is a spark and we will see a replay of Black Saturday, which was itself a reprise of Ash Wednesday, Black Friday and the score of other major eruptions of wildfire that have riven this state since Aborigines, their knowledge and their firesticks vanished from the scene.

Amongst people who spend a bit of time in the trees, the burning issue – and that is not a pun – has long been a topic of campfire conversation. The one sensible thing Tim Flannery has ever written dealt with fire and the Australian landscape, his argument being that Aborigines transformed the country via a generational policy of setting things alight. Being Flannery, however, he still managed to come at it from the wrong perspective, as many readers of his Future Eaters will have noted. Forever the green romantic, he regards the changes wrought by both black hands and white ones as being to the detriment of the landscape.  It is as if, in Flanneryworld, there was once a stable and ideal, human-free state of nature and it has been all downhill since our pesky species arrived.

Until now, Flannery’s acknowledgement of fire’s importance has been the handiest argument for those who, like the Professor, see current standards of bush stewardship as a disgrace. If you are unsure just how bad it is, wait until you are almost brought to grief by a 400-pound deer running in front of your vehicle late one night on the Bogong High Plains. The bush is overrun with feral species and noxious imports, from cats to deer to dogs and pigs, not to mention invasive weeds like chinese honeysuckle, blackberries and cape broom. As late as the 1960s, you might have seen the odd native cat in and around Suggan Buggan. Not these days. Foxes and cats have put pay to the lot.

Koalas? We are told their populations are in trouble, but where is it ever stated that they prefer open forests, the sort the First Fleet’s diarists noted as characterising Sydney Cove’s original landscape? In today’s bush, cluttered as it is with tangled, unburned ground cover, the poor little buggers need machetes to reach their next meal – and because the very nature of the bush has changed, those food sources are increasingly scarce. When you see a roadside sign saying “Koalas next 5km”, know that they are braving the bitumen because they cannot find dinner on their side. Know also that if cars don’t get them, dogs just might. Officialdom’s answer to all this has been to install long-drop dunnies in approved camping grounds, whack up signs exhorting visitors to love nature and restrict access to everywhere else. It is as if they do not want people to see just how bad they have allowed things to become.

The good news is that Flannery’s qualified authority need no longer be the touchstone for any conversations about fire. Now, thanks to the historian Bill Gammage, there is a marvellous new book, The Biggest Estate on Earth, which all bush buffs should read. Do so, and the cant and academic theorising that passes for wisdom about the care of the bush will seem as empty as the skulls of the ivory tower careerists who promote it. Their influence has been disastrous, and documented as such. After the High Country fires of six-or-so years ago, Victoria’s then-Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin commissioned a voluminous report that examined, amongst other things, if Aboriginal fire models needed to be re-introduced. It concluded that blackfella knowledge was gone forever and that any further discussion would be pointless. Better to leave the academics in charge, and as they generally dislike the very idea of any but the most limited burning, one consequence, to put it bluntly, was the loss of almost 200 lives and immeasurable environmental damage of Black Saturday.

Gammage’s book, which the Rufous Bird slipped into the Professor’s Christmas stocking, has the potential to remedy this sad state of affairs, but only if its wisdom is heeded. His approach was both simple and remarkably obvious: First, he assembled examples of Australia’s landscape as rendered by the first white eyes to see it. The images are of open country dotted with trees, sometimes in lines, and often in mixtures of fire-loving, fire-tolerant and fire-averse plants that could not have occurred naturally. Then he found the spots where the artists set up their easels and surveyed what greets the eye today. Without exception indigenous burning’s cessation has crusted those vistas with a thick, pubic fuzz of incendiary foliage. When it burns, it does so with such an intense heat that all but the most fire-loving species are eliminated, meaning more dry sclerophyll rubbish carpeting places like Gippsland, where red gums once were found in profusion. As Gammage notes, indigenous fire – although not the random blazes of white settlers bent on promoting only pasture – controlled the caterpillars that stripped the red gums’ leaves and killed them off. The next time you happen to drive the Princes Highway near Sale, observe the grey, lopped trunks of red gums dead beside the road and know that it was mismanaged fire regimes which reduced them to that sad state.

Important to note is the gulf that separates Gammage from Flannery, who regards all human influence and intervention as a problem. Gammage, noting that Aborigines shaped Australia, argues that human involvement is essential. 

As readers may have gathered, there is little sympathy and less concern at the Billabong for upcoming generations, which deserve all the problems us oldsters bequeath as recompense for the expense, bawling and anxious nights they inflicted as infants, children and teenagers. But denying them the bush, a healthy and ecologically coherent bush, is too much of a punishment.

Gammage has offered part of the solution to restore that legacy. His book needs to be bought and read – and the policymakers it implicitly indicts must be held to account.

A NOTE: In addition to restoring fire’s proper place in eco management, one of the best things the soon-to-be Abbott government might institute would be a national body that formulates and implements a rational war on invasive species. Consider just brumbies, for example. In NSW, where they do immense damage to the Snowies, they are shot. A few miles to the south, where Victoria’s laws hold sway, they are trapped and put up for adoption. Intelligent beasts though they are, horses pay no heed to the cartographer’s line separating the states, meaning that any reduction in numbers in NSW is compensated by fresh arrivals from the south. A coherent federal policy would open the way to eliminating this absurdity. Moreover, the practical considerations demanded by such an exercise would oblige that policy to be removed from the realm of theory and that voices such as Gammage’s be heard.

At the moment they do not get a look-in. And neither, sadly, does the bush.

The first step would be to banish the starry-eyed otherworldiness which talks raptuously of "wildnerness". With the possible exception of a tiny pocket in southern Tasmania, there is not a part of Australia that has not been touched and transformed by man. This needs to be acknowledged and  pragmatic policies embraced. Man has been an agent of change for perhaps 60,000 years. The dominant green piffle, that lock-up-the-bush sentimentality which moistens Fairfax environment writers' bicycles seats, is every bit as dangerous and damaging as a mad ring-barker's axe.

Pyongyang On The Yarra

THERE is a very interesting article in the Age by Melbourne barrister Michael Challinger (and yes, it really is by Michael Challinger) describing his and others’ abject compliance with the dictates of North Korea’s tourism authorities. On cue and as instructed his tour party laid flowers and wore solemn faces at the monument to Kim Il-sung. They accepted without protest their mobile incarceration in a bus hermetically sealed to eliminate contact with any but chaperones. They stayed in their hotel, did always as told and gave no trouble whatsoever. Challinger admits to a little guilt at his willingness to “toe the line” and suggests his experience needs to be borne in mind as news footage from Pyongyang continues to show Kim Jong-il’s mourners dabbing at tears and balling their little, grief-stricken fists. You go along to get along is what he is saying, further hinting that North Koreans’ true feelings might be other than they have been presented.

It is a heartening article, most especially because it appears in The Age, which is Melbourne’s very own Hermit Kingdom. It is not, mind you, that the city on the Yarra would set itself adrift on a sea of tears if editor Paul Ramadge were to turn a peculiar shade of puce, clutch his chest and tumble lifeless into the rubbish bin, where Gerard Henderson’s banished columns serve as a liner. Rather, the interest would be in a captive newsroom’s reaction.

Would the inmates engage in acts of conspicuous prostration before the Age’s altar to George Galloway, praying for Ramadge’s apotheosis to the immortal ranks of Journalism’s Dear Leaders? Probably.

Would they ease each other’s grief with public speeches of their newspaper as a brave light in a world of darkness? Almost certainly (although not, for obvious reasons, during Earth Hour week)

Would a women’s group convene to chant of Tony Abbott’s sexism and to invoke, rather like the first scene of Macbeth, the ancient Ann Summers' incantations of something wicked and conservative their way coming?  Without a doubt.

Today, though, Challinger’s article gives a little hope, as it must to those who would wish to see North Korea discard its generational insanity and re-join the real world. Somewhere in the Age there must be at least a few who cash their pay cheques and understand those weekly rewards are for staying quiet and toeing the line. There must be some as well whose social circles extend beyond the Greens-voting denizens of the inner city, Age inmates who have actually met Melbournians more concerned about jobs and prosperity than the emotional impact of Bay dredging on anxious molluscs. Somewhere, perhaps hiding for their safety and that of their mortgages in a broom closet, there must he someone who does not ride and love a bicycle.

Who knows what will happen in North Korea? It may be that change will come and reform will flower, that some small crack will open to unleash a flood of thought unencumbered by doctrine and dogma. One gathers that is Challinger’s faint hope. It is certainly that of those who would love to see Melbourne re-gain at least one decent newspaper.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bouncing Betty, Doddering Bunyip

IT MIGHT be time to extend an apology to Betty Farrelly, who has written another sensible column. The latest deals with Margaret Thatcher and the The Iron Lady. Funny,ain't it? When Farrelly writes about architecture, her chosen field, she is unbearable, but get her on other topics and she cuts the dosage of florid pills and gets to the point.

Mind you, she should not do this too often. It could ruin her reputation with her Silly editors and colleagues.

UPDATE: Apology withdrawn. As very many readers very kindly pointed out, the column is actually the work of Paul Sheehan.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jews Suffer Most

IT IS NOT the Professor’s privilege to be Jewish, which would have required the mohel to come armed with a chainsaw, for such is the robust nature of Bunyip physiology. Still, while there is much appreciation for the sons of Abraham at the Billabong (and a readier affection for his more comely daughters), there are times when the utterances of prominent Jews cause great dismay. One such moment came this morning, courtesy of the National Times, which provides Vic Alhadeff, chief exec of NSW’s Board of Deputies, with an opportunity to mount the case for censorship. He doesn’t quite call it that, of course, preferring to write of the need for “responsibility”, but the thought of gagging objectionable commentary and comments is most definitely what lights his menorah.

And to be fair, you do have to be at least a little sympathetic. As Alhadeff explains, an entirely reasonable column he wrote for The Drum became a magnet for moronic anti-semitism. It can be found here and the comments, starting with the very top one, are genuinely shocking. Now Alhadeff might have complained that Jonathan Green, who presides over the ABC’s non-profit version of Crikey!, exercised no discretion in deciding what thoughts were aired on the taxpayer-funded site. And Green, for his part, might have countered that his site was fair and even-handed because the same thread also published many almost-as-noxious assaults on Catholics and Pope Benedict. That is, of course, the way the Drum works, habitually debasing even worthy articles with its core audience’s idiocy. One day, if the Drum survives the coming change of government, its funding should be moved from the public broadcaster’s ledger to that of the Health Department, as the best argument for its existence is that it provides a private diversion for snot-pickers, manic hair tuggers and mumbling ranters who might otherwise be out and about, much to the alarm of sane citizens.

But suppose Alhadeff’s notion of “responsibility” proved inadequate to the task of deep-sixing your more appalling examples of ratbaggery? And suppose, after that, the next logical and inevitable step was legislation to keep things nice. It would be introduced with the best of intentions, as most bad ideas always are, but what might we then expect?  Why Canada, of course, where gagging laws championed by Alhadeff’s Canuck counterparts have given Mark Steyn and others so much grief.

Could we count on journalists to defend the right to be offensive, stupid or both? Again, not if Canada is the model. Indoctrinated when not merely co-opted, journalists’ notions of truth, and their subjective appreciation of worthy truths, are for the moment on display daily in the Age, which is so committed to purity of thought it will not permit even a single conservative to sully its pages. That this preachy intolerance for opinions seldom heard in Fitzroy is a major factor in the newspaper’s decline worries those in charge not at all. They appear quite happy to cut their own throats so long as the newspaper's fade to black is set to the louder soundtrack of their enemies’ throttled gurgling.

Could we look to the courts for a champion of the right to be offensive? Why not refer that question to party-line hacks like Judge Mordy, who may well find you guilty of vilification and intolerance for daring even to put it.

That is what happens when we surrender to our self-proclaimed betters the power to determine good speech from bad: travesties built upon arrogance and the treachery of good intentions. It is why Alhadeff needs to read these thoughts and re-think what to him must seem as innocent as obligatory good manners. 

Or he could just consult Steyn, who several months ago noted the unintended consequences of a similar campaign to eradicate “ugly anonymity online”. Here is the nub: “It is bizarre that the [Canadian Jewish Congress] has found itself on the side of those who wish to silence the most effective defenders of Israel in Canada, but it is shameful that it has so little to say about these matters itself.” By “these matters” he means jihadist incitements to teach those sly Jews a real lesson. Draw attention to it, however, and various panels of speech nannies will be all over you with charges of incitement to hatred etc.

Alhadeff finds the Drum offensive. Perhaps he should demonstrate his disdain by declining to write for it – after, that is, penning a farewell column on the site’s deplorable editorial standards and supervision. See if you can get that published, Mr Alhadeff, and then think again about the ultimate victims of censorship.

How To Scare The Girls

HERE IS an interesting story about an interesting story.

On December 22, the Guardian published a fine example of women-suffer-most journalism by Laurie Penny, who was putting the frighteners on sisters with breast implants -- the PIP “exploding breast” scandal providing her with a hook for the sort of jolly good scare that gladdens the heart of plaintiffs’ lawyers everywhere. She also delivered the obligatory digs at a patriarchal breast fetishism and, inevitably, “contemporary capitalism”, but they were her column’s predictable elements. The most interesting bit was this:
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of British women and countless others are walking around with these potentially dangerous pouches stitched into their chests.
 Today, five full days after the column went to press in Britain, our very own Age fired up the photo-copier and re-published the same piece. Well almost the same piece, because the line above saw a slight alteration. In the Age version it reads
….. tens of thousands of British and Australian women are walking around with these potentially dangerous pouches stitched into their chests.
Read the story quickly, or do so without reminding yourself that it is in the Age and cannot therefore be trusted, and you might very well get the impression that Australia is home to vast numbers of very anxious, very busty shielas, perhaps even “tens of thousands” of them, all needing to be very scared indeed of the threat Penny is relating.

The problem is that, according to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, only 8,900 Australian women are known to have received the French-made implants. From these the TGA “has received 45 reports relating to PIP implants, 39 of which relate to rupture. It should be noted that the cause of rupture may be due to factors other than the device itself.”

Those 45 complaints represent 0.5% of the installed total, which is actually a rather good record. According to America’s FDA, a typical failure rate for a variety of other manufacturers’ silicon prostheses is 2.5% after three years, although one particular brand came in at a low 0.3%. (for those interested, the figures are summarised here; the links go to the FDA primary sources from which the above figures are drawn). By those American standards, Penny’s quoted rate for the 1,000 of 30,000 French women who are said to have experienced ruptures is barely out of whack with the norm.

The interesting thing about all this has nothing to do with numbers and percentages. Rather, it is that a champion of women’s rights, one who disapproves of implants, is quite happy to scare the daylights out of the same women whose welfare she claims to care so very much about.

And the Age, what can be said of it? First, that the newspaper had the best part of a week in which to investigate the truth or otherwise of what it was about to publish. Second, that it made no such effort. And third, that it actually went to the unnecessary trouble of changing a few key words, presumably in order to whip up a local hysteria.

All in all, a shameful performance.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Marieke's Money Shot

WHEN Marieke Hardy's red-raggin' grandad, Frank Hardy, wrote a roman a clef of Melbourne life and corruption, he was sued for defamation by John Wren's widow, a devout, Mass-every-morning lady who took umbrage that his readers might conclude she had taken a lover, as did the wife of the novel's central character. Hardy won the case on the grounds that, as the widow had never had an affair nor done anything else untoward, she could not possibly be the inspiration for the Power Without Glory character.

That was some very smart lawyering right there, but such logic would quite clearly have done First Tuesday Book Club's resident doxy no good in her just-settled legal tussle with inoffensive blogger Joshua Meggitt, who will collect a reported $13,000 for having been branded a stalker. Hardy not only named the wrong man, her travails have inspired the real needler to go back on line.

Hardy need not worry too much, however. Her admirers are flooding the comments with witty quips about the tormenter's misshapen private parts, amorous interest in dogs and solitary habits. Marieke must be so chuffed to have a legion of supporters who express their admiration via imitation, the sincerest form of flattery.

Less pleased, perhaps, will be Jonathan Green of the Drum, whose site re-broadcast Marieke's wrongly directed assault on Meggitt, omitting only his name (which was common knowledge all over the web). It is too much to hope that one of the legal wizards who defended old Frank might still be working and ready for a brief, but the Drum is going to need someone of equal calibre if it is to wriggle out of this one. As Meggitt's lawyer, Stuart Gibson, notes, "'where an original publisher apologises, one would be foolish to ignore subsequent republishers of the same material''. Especially a slur that remains on the site to this day.

If this all works out as it probably will, what a happy result! Marieke gets back her $13,000 via First Tuesday tit-wiggling and suspender-flashing, while her new column for young Ben Knapsack, who is taking charge of Fairfax's Good Weekend, also will be a nice little earner. Meanwhile, those forking out 8 cents a day (or is now 25c?) can take heart that some of it may end up in Meggitt's pocket, rather underwriting the further misadventures of their ABC.

Can She Do Exorcisms Too?

CRICKET lover Tim Blair notes an outbreak of illiteracy in the Silly’s coverage of the Boxing Day Test, attributing writer Michael Gleeson’s betrayal of clarity and concision to Fairfax’s determination that its newspapers would be no worse for the absence of sub-editors. Tim is a newsroom person, so we can take as gospel his word on the practical matter of staffing. But his other observation, that editorial production gets “a little ragged” during this season of beer, prawns and blind umpires, must surely tell only part of the truth, as it is clear from today’s Silly and Phage that something rather more vigorous than post-pudding torpor has its hand on the editor’s tiller. Slyly and in the guise of mere incompetence, there is a ruse afoot to advance the cause of public inanity by giant leaps, rather than the incremental steps that are the Fairfax preference in more sober seasons. It can be the only explanation for the appearance of Stephanie Dowrick, who skips about in fields of earnest and fantastic opinion not visited since before poor Margo decided to become useful.

Dowrick is a colourful woman, although the flamboyance may not be quite so readily apparent to readers exposed only to her open letter to Tony Abbott, whom she insists must stop saying “no” and get those refos packed off in humane, double-quick time to Malaysia’s waiting procurers and standover artists. While most will recognise this is nothing more than Labor’s current talking point -- a provenance lost on Fairfax sorts, for whom any and each Gillard failure is the fault of those who point it out --  readers encountering for the first time the Reverend Dowrick, who styles herself “an Interfaith minister”, will not know just how loopy she can be.

On matters of the soul, this promoter of “spiritual” weekends and flogger of her self-help books is the original one-stop shop, as she explained to the ABC:
I feel so privileged really to wear these symbols on my prayer stole. They cover for me the major faiths that have inspired me and inspired millions of people throughout history and they run more or less historically from the Tao, through Buddhism, the wheel of the Dhamma, through Judaism to Christianity. And then on the other side, this is perhaps my favourite symbol of all because it’s the circle that includes everybody, and I think that’s the heart of my ministry. It’s the heart of interfaith for me that it is totally inclusive, that nobody can be left out.
So catholic is Dowrick’s appetite for hidden truths and her acceptance of all persuasions’ faiths it may be that she just does not know where to stop. Take the the 9/11 truthers, for example, whose conspiracy theories her web site “recommends” congregants learn more about. Oh, and they also need to swot the Bush clan’s plan to dominate the world and learn more of the globalist machiavellis now pulling President Obama’s strings. Here is Dowrick’s recommendation for Synthetic Terror: Made In The USA by Webster Tarpley:
The thesis of Webster Tarpley's 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA has been enthusiastically received with its working model of the 9/11 plot: a rogue network of moles, patsies, and a commando cell in the privatized intelligence services, backed by corrupt political and corporate media elites. This new, fifth edition adds a significant new dimension. Tarpley's documentation of a plethora of 9/11 drills may prove as revolutionary as the thesis of controlled demolition -- perhaps even more so.

Many people have not been able to see that 9/11 was a false flag. They may seem immune to physical facts like the free-fall speed of the towers, as they take refuge in a lack of engineering qualifications. No math skills are needed to grasp the more familiar, common-sense fact that an act that is rehearsed is also staged. Moreover, understanding how drills are essential to conduit such operations helps us recognize many types of false flags, such as the London bombings, and not only building collapses. Finally, wider public awareness of the dangers and workings of drills could help prevent terror operations, by making them too difficult to carry out with impunity.
Perhaps this sort of nonsense makes sense to Fairfax editors. Perhaps those not already laid off have been promised editorial group discounts at Dowrick’s next $350 per person two-night retreat. Or perhaps Fairfax is now so thoroughly diminished by a collective dementia that it no longer knows any better.

If the last, Dowrick can pray on the company’s behalf to whichever god strikes its editor’s fancy. Allah, Zeus, Yahweh, Odin, Jesus, Confucius – they are all one and the same to her. And make no mistake, at Fairfax it will be taken as a given that all those celestial entities abhor Tony Abbott. It is the righteous path, after all.

Monday, December 26, 2011

An Eventful Evening

IF you know already about the gun, the mouse, the bullet wound and the nymphet in the "weird guy's" closet, apologies for being late with the news.

If not, read on.

The heavy sleeper takes the cake.

A Dill's Gem: Made Of Paste

JUST in case you missed it, A Dill Horin confirms the trope that, while the right regards the left as misguided, the left sees only wickedness in those who dare to disagree.
I was surprised because, let's face it, as regular readers of my column might suspect, I hang out with people the forces of evil would describe as ''politically correct''.
The forces of evil? It is not a pleasant to hear oneself described in such terms, to be told point-blank that one's opinions are the result not of faulty analysis or even misguided preconception, but of  blind hatred, bigotry and industrial-strength intolerance -- all traits, just by the way, that Horin demonstrates with her every column.

Would it be evil to suggest that Horin owes her Silly sinecure not to merit or the originality of her ideas but to being part of the push -- "the mates I hang out with" -- who are happy to sling her cheques for never, ever calling their shared view of the world into question, especially her friends in the caring-industrial complex? These are thoughts she often takes down to reproduce verbatim, often with only a slight nod to their origins. There is one example of A Dill's enlightened poaching of other's words which went to press last year -- so long ago the Professor would normally be inclined to let it go without comment. But as Horin is tossing about the word "evil", let us in response think of a term to describe someone who appropriates another's work. "Light fingered" comes very readily to mind.

The article in question detailed Horin's admiration for Wayne Swan ("a better treasurer than Paul Keating") and hailed the economic stewardship of the then-Rudd government. To make her point, she referenced in passing an article in The Atlantic by Don Peck, who described the longer-term impacts on US families and individuals of recession and diminished opportunities. Consider the similarities:

PECK: One recent survey showed that 44 percent of families had experienced a job loss, a reduction in hours, or a pay cut in the past year.
A DILL: A survey found 44 per cent of American families had experienced a job loss, or a cut in hours or pay in the past year.

PECK: ...unemployment and underemployment ... reached 17.4 percent in October, which appears to be the highest figure since the 1930s.
A DILL: The proportion of Americans unemployed or under-employed hit 17.4 per cent last year, the highest since 1930

PECK: One recent survey showed that 44 percent of families had experienced a job loss, a reduction in hours, or a pay cut in the past year.
A DILL: A survey found 44 per cent of American families had experienced a job loss, or a cut in hours or pay in the past year.

PECK: The unluckiest graduates of the decade, who emerged into the teeth of the 1981–82 recession, made roughly 25 percent less in their first year than graduates who stepped into boom times.
A DILL: ... graduates who began to look for work in the US during the teeth of the 1981-82 recession made 25 per cent less in their first year than those who graduated in boom times.

PECK: ... it’s as if the lucky graduates had been given a gift of about $100,000 … or, alternatively, as if the unlucky ones had been saddled with a debt of the same size.
A DILL: Even 17 years later, they were still earning 10 per cent less on average than the luckier graduates, the equivalent of carrying a $100,000 debt

PECK: Experienced workers holding prestigious degrees are taking unpaid internships
A DILL: Experienced workers with prestigious degrees are taking unpaid internships

PECK: According to a recent Pew survey, 10 percent of adults younger than 35 have moved back in with their parents as a result of the recession
A DILL: 10 per cent of people under 35 have moved back in with their parents, according to a Pew survey.

Is it plagiarism? Almost, but not quite.

But it is certainly slack if one considers – and it is a dubious proposition to be sure – that a weekly pulpit on the opinion page of a premier broadsheet is a privilege. Some might think such a gift worth honouring with at least a little dash of originality -- but not, apparently, those in the Silly sheltered workshop who weave their baskets with other people's reeds.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Peace And Goodwill To Almost Everyone

BUNYIPS from all over are converging on the Billabong today -- except for Young Master Bunyip, who arrived last night and poured rather too much enthusiasm into celebrating the miracle that is fermentation. The scamp remains prone, more out of his bed than in it, moaning softly and evincing no interest whatsoever in a loving father's offer to whip up a large serve of bacon, eggs and fried bread. Indeed, the mere mention of food just inspired a series of bizarre noises which a medical man might identify as being very close to retching.

Let him steep in the toxic legacy of his solitary revels. It is Christmas, goodwill prevails and it will be much easier to prepare the evening's Christmas feast if he remains out of the way for the next few hours. Precious little sentimentality yet clings to the Professor's jaded heart, but Christmas fans what is left into a  bonfire. Is there a better day than this? Not at the Billabong, where three generations will stuff themselves rotten. The nieces will be explaining Angry Birds to Grandpater Bunyip, who will want to know why they are so upset. Grandma Bunyip will be protesting the vast quantities of food and keeping a keen eye for too much garlic going into the spinach pie. And tonight, atop the pleasure of family, numerous old friends will arrive to help empty the cellar.

From the other side of the fence comes a dreadful, inept racket. The neighbour's kid, a bright and polite lad of 12, has evidently found an electric guitar in his stocking and is now playing Sweet Child Of Mine, which is winning. Further off, you can hear delight in smaller voices and the odd adult shout of caution. New Bicycles? Whatever the amusement, the laughter is contagious. Sitting on the porch, coffee steaming, the ground drying after a dawn shower and with a wattle bird shrieking that the cat is on the prowl, it's a perfect moment.

Enough! There is work to be done. Tasty animals, lamb and turkey, need to be prepared, and the vegetarians -- every family has them -- must have their hunza pies and eggplant parmas knocked into shape. So it's back to the kitchen and the steaming pots.

But before hauling bird from brine, a word of thanks to all this little blog's readers and commenters. May your Christmas serve as a reminder that, annoying as they might be and often are, it is family and those who love us who matter most of all.

Merry Christmas to all. God bless us every one!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Jesus On a Bicycle

IT WAS good to hear yesterday from the former Mrs Bunyip, who stays in regular touch and for whom divorce has been quite the tonic. Before things turned nasty and lawyers inserted themselves in the chasm jointly excavated by the Professor's poor behaviour and  Mrs Bunyip's inner nun, topics of conversation were entirely predictable, especially first thing in the morning. Full ashtrays and empty bottles dotted about the domestic plain never failed to prompt a lecture about healthy living and the need to renounce life's small pleasures, while any mention of golf, fishing or other recreational activities was a catalyst for the immediate listing of more worthy things in need of doing -- things involving screwdrivers, lawnmowers and preparations for the imminent arrival of her sisters and extended family.  These days, now that the rancour has passed, it is a genuine pleasure to chat away with the ex, whose fury has so diminished she no longer even touches on what went on that night at the mooring with former best friend  Joan. Divorce, you see, really does bring couples closer.

It's a thought prompted by, of all people, the Professor's newsagent, whose boy has once again delivered the Age rather than the Australian. As buying that wretched newspaper only encourages the people who produce it, the responsible course is to read it online where it costs nothing, which is still more than the Age is worth. Indeed, having glanced through this morning's edition, there is a strong case to be made for pasting a gold coin to the front page as a compensation for ploughing through page after page of the entirely predictable. Even at her reformist worst, Mrs Bunyip's hectoring was never half so easy to anticipate.

Take just the opinion page, for example. Martin Flanagan, a non-believer, reads the gospels and concludes that Jesus was just what Martin Flanagan wants him to be -- opposed to the rich, in particular. The only surprise is that Flanagan does not place the alleged Messiah on a sustainable bicycle and have him distributing how-to-vote cards for Bob Brown.

Then there is foreign policy guru Daniel Flitton and his thoughts on social media, which he sees as being very important and not-so-important in shaping revolutions and fostering change. There is insight for you! If Fitton were to check out what is said online about his employer and the preachy crap it publishes, he might better understand why Fairfax stock is bumping along just a few pennies removed from its all-time low.

Spirituality also gets the better of  Hugh Mackay, who reckons Christmas needs to be rescued from believers -- especially conservative believers, whom he dismisses as fundamentalists --  and made available to Age readers, who should make of it what they will.

Shaun Carney took that advice to heart, because he goes off on a meandering Yule rumination which begins with Simon and Garfunkel, touches inevitably on boat people and staggers exhausted -- his readers will be, anyway -- into the erosion of the public's faith in politics. That is Age-speak for "Gillard is on the nose and, as I cannot bring myself to blame her government's lies, policies and incompetence, I'll just blame those eager to turf her out at the first opportunity." He can get away with it, too, as it is only supporters of Gillard and the Greens who still read the Age -- and if someone who could set him straight stumbles by chance upon his column and writes a letter to the editor, well it would not be published. Like the ex-Mrs Bunyip's intolerance of  dissent, in the Age it is very hard to register a corrective word.

Elsewhere in the Age, public transport is extolled and Chadstone shopping centre's plan to expand dismissed. Well none of the stores in that complex advertise in the Age these days, so why not pleasure readers who believe waiting for a crowded bus or overdue tram is morally uplifting? Those same people also believe the Age is a good newspaper, which further explains the share price.

And last, but by no means least, John Menadue rabbits on about boat people and how Gillard is right to wish them packed off to Malayasia because Nauru just won't work. This from Gough Whtitlam's chief of staff -- what an absolute surprise!

The former Mrs Bunyip will be checking in later today with a Christmas present and, if recent conduct is any guide, not the slightest edge to her tongue. It will be good to see her and to discuss to the sort of topics a toxic marriage placed firmly out of bounds. There is a lesson there for the Age, a Christmas message if you will. If the rupture with its former readers was to be made absolute, if the newspaper could only die, well it just might be possible to see a new owner resurrect it as a better, saner, and far more congenial presence on Melbourne's landscape.

So, if you still read the Age, divorce it. It can only improve as a result, even if it is never published again.

UPDATE: At its current market cap, an investment of $350 million would secure 20% of Fairfax stock and, by virtue of that, control of the board and company. CEO Hywood has paid down debt quite a bit over the past 12 months, which makes such a deal a good deal more attractive. Fix the company, see the stock rise, make out very nicely -- that should be the business plan. In the next 12 months -- and you can take this from a Bunyip -- Fairfax will either go broke or it will be taken over via the receivers or, equally likely, because the stock is going to sink to such a level that someone will recognise an opportunity. Cannot happen soon enough.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Balt Report

IS ANYONE else drawn to opportunity shops? You can certainly turn up some very interesting things, like the Gould platycercus excimius print (aka the eastern rosella) which the Professor found some years ago in a shop run by ladies from a hospital auxiliary, who wanted only $10 for a picture worth considerably more than that. Last week, a bit of a potter in another op shop produced a further gem, a copy of Sailing To Freedom by Voldemar Veedam. The spine is cracked, the paper has yellowed and the book must be handled with great care, but what can you expect for a buck?  A quick little lesson in the real meaning of the term “asylum seekers”, actually.

Published in 1954, it recounts the story of 16 Estonians who bought a leaky old tub, fixed it up as best they were able and fled the Soviets’ occupation of their country. They headed for America and made it, where it seems the author and his companions rebuilt their lives so successfully that they vanished entirely from the record. No mention of plots to blow up US military bases, no denunciations of their new homeland’s religious heritage or infidel mores -- they seem to have given no trouble whatsoever, at least that is what a little googling suggests.

It is one of those little cosmic coincidences that today’s Fairfax press also touches on the story of a Latvian in a new land. It is a column penned by octagenarian author Betty Birskys, who in 1951 wed another of the many brave souls who escaped Russia’s tyranny. She recounts her late husband’s adventure, how he paid his debt to the country that took him in by accepting without protest the assigned chores of cutting cane and laying sleepers, work that must have been hard for an educated man but was part of the compact that produced first a residency permit and, after that, full citizenship. Mrs Birsky is right to take pride in her hubby’s achievement, as may all Australians in the success of what was the largest and most peaceful integration of migrants and strange cultures anywhere in the world.

Trouble is, Birskys must have been having a bit of a senior moment when she sat down to lament how the current problem with uninvited and undocumented arrivals is “tearing the country apart.” If that is the case, it must be in precincts  far removed from the Billabong, where no one has been burning crosses and racist mayhem has yet to roll over the back fence and knock down the bird bath. What there is, however, is the thought that much opinion page space, the efforts of innumerable social workers and massive expenditures of public monies could be put to better use if only the latest crop of boat people was more like her husband. People, in other words, who are grateful, accepting, industrious and, best of all, never become a charge on the public purse.

If Mrs Birskys believes we need to put the current divisions behind us, more arrivals prepared to work for their happiness would do much to soothe a restive public. Policies that recognise  Australian residency as a precious gift, one that needs to be earned not merely claimed, might help too.

"Smoke Your Marijuanica" Oy Vey, Such Rhymes!

IN the spirt of Christmas, enjoy Adam Sandler's celebration of Hannukah. And after that, return the season to the purview of the alleged Messiah, courtesy of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, whose Christmas Caravan album is never far from the Billabong's gramophone at this time of year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thank God The Killer Was No Racist

ANYONE who knocked around Fitzroy some four decades ago might remember Cr Paul Coghlan, who wore the mayoral chain in 1975. An activist and reformer, Coghlan was the local face of what Gough Whitlam purported to represent in Canberra – enlightened government with a social conscience and an eye for fashionable causes. In Fitzroy, where it was writ somewhat smaller, the philosophy translated as a vehement opposition to the further construction of the Housing Commission’s high-rise slums, which had earlier marred the view from the front steps of the VD clinic on Gertrude Street. He was also opposed, and loudly, to the construction of the F19 freeway (now built and called the Eastern Freeway), a project pushed by the Bolte and Hamer governments. As Coghlan was a member not just of the Labor Party but also of a reformist faction much given to branch stacking, that was both understandable and predictable.

It was the Age of Gough and the old Labor of kit bags and calloused hands was being swept aside by people like Coghlan and his council pal Barry Pullen, who rose to warm a series of ministerial benches in the Cain and Kirner governments. Today, the descendants of those enlightened inner-city rebels vote for the Greens and Adam Runt, who is Fitzroy's local federal member. But in those innocent days, if your passion was for closing streets, installing speed humps, blocking arterial traffic to make life difficult for outer suburban bogans, revering trees and passing bylaws against the deployment of nuclear weapons in Fitzroy, the Labor Party was your vehicle for engineering a better world.

Like Pullen, Coghlan also rose in his chosen career, which was at the bar. Soon after the Bracks government took office, the former Labor mayor was elevated  to the post of Director of Public Prosecutions, and six more years saw him installed on the Supreme Court bench by the former and unlamented Attorney General Rob Hulls. You will find no one in or around the courts with a bad word to say of Mr Justice Coghlan, who is admired especially for a devotion to his daughters which often sees him picking through antique stores and stalls for the little items of jewellery that are said to be their delight.

Today from the bench Coghlan delivered another gem – a 13-year sentence for the teenager who took the life of Indian student Nitin Garg in a Yarraville park. The young killer will likely be out after just eight years – by the time he is 25, in other words – which must make him rather envious of the teenage friend who was with him on that night two years ago. His companion will pay his debt to society by serving 18 months probation.

Coghlan avowed that he saw no racial element in the attack, which the thinking in places like Fitzroy understands would have made the taking of an innocent life a serious offence indeed. We cannot have murderers shouting racial abuse while they drive home the knife. Good heavens, never that! In this instance, according to Coghlan, it was just that the unfortunate Mr Garg, who will spend a lot more than eight years in a pine box, happened to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Just one of those things that happen, with the easy availability of knives also being named by the judge as one of the culprits in the case.

In legal circles Coghlan also is known with a smile as a man whose chambers are magnets for clutter. Today, with the case over, one wonders if the judge returned to his office and dug out from amidst those piles of documents and transcripts some little Christmas baubles he had put away for his daughters.

One also wonders if, should they ever be murdered for no good reason, he would consider eight years behind bars sufficient punishment.

UPDATE: Another of Mr Justice Coghlan's memorable rulings.

Deniers, At It Again

ON TUESDAY, Paul  Biegler informed Age readers that those not entirely sold on the idea of imminent climatic catastrophe suffer from a mental disorder, a sort of advanced immaturity, if you will. Being an ARC bioethicist at Monash, he was able to dismiss deniers with an anecdote of toddlers and marshmellows which left no doubt whatsoever that polar bears will drown. Obvious, really.

In any case,  Biegler is so very enthusiastic about "the science" and general trustworthiness of AGW advocates he just cannot imagine how anyone could harbour the slightest doubt, except if they had been misled. "In the climate realm," he explains, "fabrication is also rife. Enthralled by their emotional biases, sceptics mouth desperate appeals to the corruptibility of scientists, or to the fallibility of climate prediction models." So there!

Yesterday and also in the Age, which cannot go 24 hours without delivering a catastropharian sermon, Sydney University's Professor of Public Health, psychologist Simon Chapman endorsed the glories of wind power, to wqhich he attributes 20% of South Australia's electricity supply. As that is a remarkably high figure it seemed worth a little googling to establish if Chapman had been misled by the sort of "fabrication" which some cynics say is "also rife" amongst advocates of the anti-carbon cause.

Well, it turns out there are a lot of available figures about electricity production, many of them very confusing. But there is also this, a learned, peer-reviewed analysis of wind power's utility by Andrew Miskelly and Tom Quirk.  As they conclude that wind power makes no practical contribution to the certainty of power supplies, Biegler and Chapman would no doubt dismiss Miskelly and Quirk's paper as the handiwork of vile deceivers. Still, it does boast those many pages of graphs and charts, and they do seem firmly rooted in the real world. At the end of it all the paper makes this observation:
The general conclusion from this analysis is that wind farms in South East Australia are not likely to supply any significant base load power that can be relied upon, and thus system operators will have to schedule generators as if there were no wind power at all. Wind farms will load the distribution system with variations in power that are certainly not predictable at the present time and are as significant as the random variations of user demand.
The analysis was published some two years ago and immediately decried by people like, well, Biegler and Chapman. Indeed, the Age's tabloid dopelganger, Green Left Weekly, was quick to pounce on what it saw as the researcher's great ruse. When the authors say wind energy cannot contribute to baseload supplies, GLW noted, they neglect to factor in new technology and capital investments that would allow energy to be stored for those many periods when the wind  refuses to blow. If water is pumped to dams, for example, it could  be released to spin hydro plants during still spells.

Trouble is, South Australia does not have those dams and, if it did,  no less an authority than Tim Flannery swears there will be no rain to fill them. Flannery is a dedicated warmist, hence incapable of telling a fib,so Beigler, Chapman and the rest have no choice but to believe him.

After all, it is not as there is any fabricatin' going on amongst the settled scientists.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Call Worth Making

IN MELBOURNE today, Derryn Hinch returns to the airwaves after five months’ silence imposed by a judge who regretted not being able to put the then-ailing 3AW host behind bars. Hinch’s crime was to name a pair of convicted kiddie fiddlers, whose anonymity the courts rated a much higher concern than that of the newly released molesters' oblivious neighbours. Rob a petrol station and your name will be published. Send an allegedly risqué email to colleagues and that also will see your identity splashed across the newspapers. But dare to name animals who delight in goosing children and the full majesty of the law comes crashing down.

Hinch may be just a tad wary of returning to the subject, but if he is up for it listeners might appreciate being directed to this US site, where a few clicks bring up sex offenders' names, mugshots, addresses and places of employment, all sortable by postcode.

If Hinch feels the urge to be particularly cheeky, he could even place an on-air telephone call to, say, Justin Pack, of 161 West 16th Street, New York City, and ask his opinion of efforts by lawmakers and judges on the other side of the Pacific to conceal his buggering brethen's identities.
And perhaps Hinch might even suggest that Pack would be well advised grab the next leaky boat and seek asylum in Australia, where Hinch's sentence suggests the molester would be welcomed and protected as a victim of intolerable abuse.

Doing The Fairfax Twist

PERHAPS Alexander Downer and Phillip Ruddock really did express the views attributed to them this morning by the Fairfax press under the headline Lib Leaders Put Heat On Abbott.

Perhaps. But even a most cursory reading of the story below that headline suggests both Howard-era ministers might have had their words and sentiments subjected to that special form of torture, the Fairfax Twist. Here are the report’s initial paragraph, where the Big Assertions are made:
FORMER immigration minister Philip Ruddock has added to the pressure on Tony Abbott to do a deal with Labor on asylum seekers, saying a compromise could include Labor's preferred option of processing in Malaysia if that country formalised a promise not to return refugees to countries of persecution.

And another former Howard government minister, Alexander Downer, has called for a deal, saying Mr Abbott should let his team of shadow ministers sit down and talk with government ministers to break the political impasse on offshore processing before Christmas.
Now look at the actual quotes. Downer says, “the public want the government to do something about this.” Got that? The government, not Abbott.

And where does Ruddock stand? "In my view the government should seek to formalise its informal arrangements with Malaysia that people who are found to be refugees should not be returned to places of persecution … that might be a way they could reach a compromise without Malaysia being a signatory [to the UN Convention]." From this remark, authors Lenore Taylor and Kirsty Needham leap in the very next paragraph to the bizarre surmise that Ruddock has floated “the first suggestion the Coalition's stance could soften.”

Except, except, except … “government sources involved in negotiations with Malaysia this year said Malaysia was unlikely to change its legislation simply to please Australia's High Court…”

So what we have here, as usual, is Fairfax reproducing this vile government’s talking points, blaming Abbott for not supporting the problem its heroes created within days of the 2007 election and yet acknowledging that Malaysia, the party whose co-operation would be vital, is most unlikely to change the laws that have been and remain the chief sticking point.

Fairfax evinces much concern for the environment. Surely it could have demonstrated its principles by not wasting so many words and so much paper and ink to express a thought that might just as easily have  captured in a handful of sustainable, enviro-friendly words:

"Abbott won’t discuss a compromise plan the Gillard government hasn’t formulated, cannot explain and which would not fly in any case. Isn’t Abbott just awful."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Age's Carrion Bird

ANOTHER DAY, another reason to lament the absolute witlessness which now characterises the Phage. Actually, it was earlier in the week when Melbourne’s brain-bereft broadsheet chose to mark the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq with an opinion column by, of all people, George Galloway. It was a predictable rant – death of the American empire, blood-soaked sands, millions dead, nothing gained etc etc. All music to the ears of Age editors, whose ceaseless diminishing of their paper’s franchise speaks of an intellectual breadth stretching only from A to B, as in Asininity to Bolshevism.  The Age picked up Galloway’s thoughts from the Guardian, which is no one’s idea of a balanced or even sane publication.  But at least the Guardian had the decency to publish on the same day an alternate perspective, that of former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton. At the Age, where editors mistake fog for thought and package words only to pleasure the egos of those lost in similar clouds of self-regard, Bolton did not make the cut.

What a surprise, but it was not the only one.

On the same day the Age employed Galloway to deliver its we-told-so gloat – an ill-argued and demonstrably false one, but it is The Age after all – the newspaper also reported the death of Christopher Hitchens, which prompted a series of adulatory eulogies and encomiums.

Cognitive dissonance, anyone? This little blog’s readers will know without being told how much Hitchens detested Galloway, not to mention his contempt for those who found the crooked, bribe-stuffing, Saddam-pleasuring Scotsman a useful mouthpiece for their causes. Hitchens would have appreciated the Age’s ironic juxtaposition – appreciated it as an opportunity to lacerate those who still imagine they are the gatekeepers of acceptable opinion, those unprepared to acknowledge even as their company’s stock rolls further and faster down the slope to bankruptcy that what they publish has something to do with the posse of receivers gathering at the bottom.

Well, when the Age hits the fan, the office equipment is sold at auction and Melbourne is left with only the Herald Sun and its daily diet of puppies, kittens, hemlines and footballers, perhaps some of those freshly unemployed Age editors will take the time to expand their reading.

Allowing that exposure to their own proiduct has not by that stage entirely robbed Age editors of the ability to read, of course.

Consistency Overboard

SOMETIMES the caring and compassionate mind can be very hard to understand. Consider the logic, and this is but one example, of the ongoing and largely unsuccessful efforts to restrict the use of illegal drugs. Importers and wholesale dealers are seen and detested as the real villains, which is why the courts generally administer stiff sentences. As for the end users, they are punished as well, but not with anywhere near the same degree of severity. It all makes sense, right? Stern justice for criminal syndicates’ organisers, a measure of sympathetic leniency for those perceived to be their victims.

Now ponder a second species of entrepreneurial criminals who profit from another prohibition’s distortion of its market -- those who profit mightily by shipping so-called asylum seekers to Christmas Island. Everyone seems to agree the people-smuggling kingpins are, to quote Kevin Rudd, “scum of the earth” who should “rot in hell.” So far, no inconsistency. If a criminal organisation is running contraband, be it drugs or people, senior members are told they will be in quite a bit of trouble if caught.

One or two steps down culpability’s ladder, however, the current logic gets a lot murkier. Other than the anguish and uncertainty of waiting and wondering if applications for residency will be approved, there are no punishments for people smugglers' end users. There were disincentives under John Howard, mind you – the prospect of a prolonged stay in Nauru amongst them – but those were quickly dismantled by our current and compassionate PM upon her predecessor’s ascension to The Lodge. Given the good food, clean sheets, mobile phones, computer access and welfare payments that await them, few boat people would see that parcel of goodies as anything other than a reward, the worst efforts of a few media-genic roof-sitters, riot-inciters and lip-sewers not withstanding.

That is one example of cognitive dissonance, but it is not the only one. Just as an exercise, imagine you are a current or former heroin addict who hooks up fellow junkies with reliable suppliers. You pass along their names and phone numbers, rate their trustworthiness and extol the pleasure of the high they will attain once the connection is made. A legal mind might nominate several charges that could be laid against such touts, but even if no formal accusations were brought to bear it is safe to assume they would be of interest to police.

Now turn attention back to the people-smuggling racket and individuals who support it by word and deed. From the published comments of those who lost friends and loved ones in the latest leaky SIEV, it seems there are a quite a few urgers who are working from inside Australia to encourage the perilous transits of other undocumented aliens. Several are quoted in today’s newspapers, where they display detailed knowledge of would-be arrivals’ names, safety, and travel schedules. Take Sayid Abas Sultani , for example, who tells the Silly of his plan for flying to Indonesia in search of missing nephew Sayeed, who was aboard the compassionate Gillard’s latest death ship.

How did Mr Sultani, who stepped ashore just seven months ago, know of his kinsman’s pending passage unless he had been communicating with him? And if he and they were chatting or emailing or whatever, why didn’t Sultani advise his nephew of the dangers ahead and advise him not to come through the back door? True, young Sayeed might have accused his uncle of hypocrisy, as that was how he entered the country, but the answer to that would have been quite simple: Yes, nephew, I did jump the queue, but by the Prophet’s beard I am now on the fast track to full citizenship and obliged to observe, and encourage others to respect the law of the country which so kindly took me in.

Unfortunately, a presumptive sense of entitlement appears to rule out that option, as another survivor of the latest sunken SIEV explains, also to the Silly. “We will continue this way again. We will go again by boat. Let the Australian government know that,” vows Iranian Dawood Waladbegi, whose wife and kids appear to be amongst the most recently drowned. “I lost all my family members. I have no one here. I don't want this life.'' Upset as he is about his miserable lot, Waladbegi still has a life, which is no longer the case for the family members he knowingly placed in such danger.

When Waladbegi does arrive, as he surely will, it would have a prophylactic effect on the flow of future undocumented arrivals if he were to be charged with aiding and abetting the people smuggler's manslaughter. And it wouldn’t hurt if his contacts in Australia, the ones who urged him to place his family in such peril, were charged as well. If he were a heroin addict who lined up fellow addicts with dealers known to cut their wares with battery acid, there would not be a peep of complaint about his complicity being brought before the courts.

But with boat people, no way. All that compassion, it doesn’t leave any room for consistency or genuine and sincere concern.