Friday, April 29, 2011

Churching The Haw-Haw-Haw

A TRAIL OF broken promises suggests it is beyond the hope of any man to make an honest woman of Julia Gillard, but if Tim Mathieson were to proffer a ring this instant there seems a chance our prime minister might grant him the opportunity to try. Royal weddings can have that effect on gal’s heart, even a small, flinty republican one. And what a touching scene it would make, certainly if captured by the same Women’s Weekly shutterbug who did such a wonderful job of misting all the lenses before Australia’s last election.

This time there would be reporterettes and anchor babes to take down all that delicious chatter of trousseaux, the hen party hijinx, and to record those girly giggles over racy gifts (“who knew they made these things with sustainable clockwork drives!”) from Penny, Jenny, Nicola, Tanya and Kate. The Werribee Romeo would be snaped on bended knee and Gillard above him, casting a Mills & Boone gaze at her suitor over the topsail swell of that formidable bosom. What romantic soul would not think of Foo made flesh at such a moment, that famous nose peering not over a mere fence but to shared lives beyond the altar, where the road of love transects the plains of passion?


And the ceremony, that would be lovely too, just like that other wedding taking place tonight in London. That would be the union the Chaser team was banned from lampooning, much to the astonishment of the ABC. It will not happen here, mind you, not if and when Australia’s leader is churched. She wouldn’t mind at all if the Chasers turned up, perhaps to hunt down Craig Emerson in the rearmost pew and capture his lovelorn tears at what almost was and might have been.  Nor could she have objected if one of those comedic geniuses impersonated the groom’s grandfather and spouted a lot of anti-Semitic silliness -- just one of the witty, wonderful gags, according to last night’s Q&A, with which the ABC was planning to amuse the world from Westminster Abbey.

Such fun, and so much Chaser-style potential! A knee-slapping joke about Princess Di? Yes, please, lots of those, because that is the ABC’s style these days. (The humourous hope, perhaps, that the bridal carriage would not be guided by a French chauffeur?). And who would think this Chaser episode complete unless the altar boys were quizzed on priestly sodomy, at least one $10-an-hour security guard was not confronted by his smirking betters, and salty language, which denotes a comedian’s “edginess” and much of the ABC’s primetime viewing, was not scattered all about, random as a journalism professor’s punctuation.

Yes, Mark Scott would have deemed the ABC’s money well spent on a show like that. As it stands now, unless Julia says “yes” and saves the day, all that cash for general preparations, the Prince Philip makeup, flash costumes, oh-so-witty gags and advance footage will have been wasted. And it would have to be a significant sum indeed, if the makeup and production values of that Q&A clip were any indication.

So rather than see such a large chunk of the ABC budget squandered, Ms Gillard must help to balance the budget by inviting the Chasers to her own wedding and giving them free rein to run with at least some of that now-unusable London material. And being the sport she is, we can all be sure she would welcome the chance for cackling at the mother of the bride or the hiding of dead mice in her wedding cake.

It is, after all, exactly the sort of thing the ABC was planning to inject into somebody’s else’s wedding, so it would have to be both right and proper for our maybe-bride-to-be’s special day. Otherwise people might say our prime minister is, in addition being a liar, a hypocrite to boot.

Sustainable Footy Bets

PORT Macquarie is a lovely spot, the tranquility disturbed only by the crackle of support hosiery hardening in the sun and the crash of Zimmer frames as Rob Oakeshott shoulders aside any senior citizens silly enough to have placed themselves between their local member and the nearest microphone. A public address system was operating yesterday in the town and Oakeshott was, as usual, behind it. These days the Member for Lyne is a bit more subdued, as are his poll numbers, so the audience was spared yet another of those copyright sermons about integrity and independence that accompanied his post-election decision to represent a conservative electorate by throwing in his lot with Bob Brown’s kept woman and her crew. But the ego was not entirely absent, as Port Mack’s long, thin streak of self-importance made clear while discussing why he may, or may not, back the Prime Minister’s carbon tax on everything.

It will all depend on the evidence, Oakeshott told an audience consisting largely of constituents who believe the planet to be melting. You cannot fault him for that. Facts are good things to weigh when making important decisions, although one might quibble about the evidentiary standards Oakeshott and his sort believe to be sufficient, emotion and preconception all too often figuring as Exhibits A and B. But let us give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that belief and faith are powerful analytic tools. Indeed, let us put theory to the test with the week’s most important question: Which AFL teams will triumph in Round Six’s remaining games? A hard-edged punter will make those calls on the strength of stats and form, but the Oakeshott method, as with the carbon tax, puts purity of motive at the fore.

Swans vs. Blues
Swans are gentle and graceful creatures while the Blues are actually, as the club song states, the Navy Blues, coloured by a heritage of seaborne militarism and ironsided imperialism. It is clear Sydney is the more moral team and deserving winner.

Kangaroos vs The Power
No-brainer, really. A native animal trumps a carbon-spewing electricity generator every time.

Tigers vs Lions.
Now this is a tough one, as both are large and endangered cats, so the moral advantage is difficult at a glance to discern. Tigers, however, kill more humans, which makes them planet-friendly activists for a better world.

Crows vs. Saints
This one is counterintuitive. Yes, all members of the corvid family live in tune with Gaia’s moods and seasons, while any invocation of the holy and haloed can only bring to mind Tony Abbott’s much-detested Catholicism.

But there is a kink in that logic. As a series of stolen photos recently brought to public attention, at least one of St Kilda’s stars is a devotee of all-body waxing. This suggests a yearning to reclaim the innocence of childhood, to reject all those wispy notions of adult responsibility and the electric-powered razors that go with them. From croup to nuts, the naked Saints quite clearly deserve to take this one.

Bombers vs Suns
The Suns, of course.

Magpies vs. Bulldogs
Another trap for the ideologically unaware. Yes, magpies are natural and organic creatures, but consider the poor bulldog, which was developed for fighting and oppressed by men from the moment of the breed’s conception. Magpies swoop on golfers for the sheer devilment of the exercise, but a bulldog has a real motive for yearning to throw off the collar of servitude, rise up and savage its oppressors.

Plus, the Bulldogs are dedicated re-cyclers – the reason they picked up the discarded Rodney Eade, who was unable to secure a flag for Sydney and is staying true to that form at Whitten Oval.

So, gentlemen, place your green bets and watch as Gaia nobbles the unworthy: Come Sunday night it will be Swans, Roos, Tigers, Saints, Suns and Bulldogs at a sprout-fuelled canter.    

Star Turn?

EVERY morning in Melbourne several people still buy The Phage, a habit newcomers to the city must find no less mysterious than the hook turn, which involves veering left before turning right and then proceeding down the middle of the road. Could it be that new Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood is about to install in the editor’s chair a fellow who might execute a similar manoeuvre?  The commenters at Mumbrella seem to think it would be a very good idea, even to the extent of imploring the Almighty to make it so. 

And if Tim Blair’s friend needs a refresher course in Melbourne’s peculiar traffic regulations, this Fat Pizza tutorial should do the trick.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Black Like Him

ANOTHER voice of Aboriginal Australia speaks up for Larissa Behrendt.

Larissa Behrendt TWEETED something about Bess Price's comments on Q&A that some found rude since they didn't know she was talking about a scene in Deadwood that she watched just before Q&A started. An act that without the media tripping over their own fangs to bite in to, Bess Price would likely never have heard of, or cared about.

Of course, still not a very nice thing to say and since Bess Price obviously found out about it and would have justifiably been very offended by it (whatever offense the actual tweet alone may have caused being magnified and enflamed by the rabid media frenzy it stirred) Larissa Behrendt found an obvious need to clarify and to apologise for any offence it may have caused... I would have thought that between two professional Aboriginal women at their respective levels, this would have been the end of the matter...

As the punctuation suggests, proud Aboriginal man Luke Pearson (above) is a professional educator.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bacon's Pork

THE text below is the work of Wendy Bacon, who really is a professor of journalism. The commas (with which she has a real problem), the grammatical fixes and corrections of fact (the Silly headline is misquoted and there is no conjunction in ASIO's name) have been added at the Waterhole in the interests of building bridges, reaching out and perhaps helping the over-promoted to try at least as hard as a very nice, six-figure salary might suggest.

Some might say that Bacon should be ashamed of herself, even that the parents of her students might want to consider bringing suit. The real shame belongs to those in government who fund institutions where the incompetent and otherwise unemployable are rewarded by their mates with comfy sinecures.

The additions and fixes are in red, the tautologies and ambiguities struck through. There will be no apology if readers notice sins that have been missed. Bacon's column is so ugly, so inept, it would have been torture to read it more than once.

Last August, Lee Rhiannon, after 11 years in the NSW Legislative Council, was elected to the Senate. Even before her election, the attack on her character had begun.

Her sin: her family’s membership of the Socialist Party of Australia, which continued to support the Soviet Union after its 1968 invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia. All of that happened more than 40 years ago.

This attack smacks of McCarthyism, the 1950s period
philosophy named after the right-wing US Senator Joe McCarthy. During this period, people were demonised if they were suspected of having being been associated with communism.

The attacks on Rhiannon were partly fuelled by the publication of Mark Aarons’ book The Family File, a book about his own family, its role in the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) and the voluminous intelligence files kept on its members by the Australian Security and

Aarons included an account of his friendship with Rhiannon, who, like him, was a child of communists. His point was that, when the CPA split in 1968, Rhiannon’s parents and the young Lee herself joined the Socialist Party of Australia (SPA), which continued to support the Soviet Union. Aarons’ father was a leader in the more progressive CPA. While Rhiannon eventually ended up in the Greens, Aarons went on to work for NSW Labor government ministers.

Holding someone accountable for the crimes of Stalin because they did not in their youth
publicly recant the ideology inherited from publiclytheir a family upbringing is like holding ex-Catholics responsible for child-abuse crimes inside the church.

There are many people who have contributed contributors to public life who have had past associations with socialism, from its far-left anarchist strains to the various strands of Marxism-Leninism. Socialists played a role in getting women the vote, early struggles for Aboriginal rights and equal pay, just to mention a few achievements. My own brother, Jim, who was a popular Labor premier of Tasmania, never made any secret of his early association with Maoism.

Like any other politician, Rhiannon should be held up to scrutiny scrutinsed. So what is her political record over the last 15 years, and what connection might it reveal to attitudes associated with Stalinism,  such as secrecy, cover-ups, authoritarianism and the persecution of political opponents?

Before being elected to parliament, she was one of two founders of Aidwatch, an organisation set up to scrutinise and make transparent Australia’s aid delivery. As the only Australian organisation dedicated to such purposes, it continues to have relevance be relevant.

After she was elected to the Legislative Council, she helped found Democracy for Sale, which charts the influence of financial donations on NSW politics. This work led directly to many reforms aimed at reducing the corrupting influence of campaign finance donations. It is to be hoped this push will be continued in the NSW and federal parliaments.

She took up the case of Roseanne Catt, who was campaigning against her 10 years' wrongful imprisonment in NSW prisons. As a reporter, I was aware that neither major party nor the NSW government would assist in re-opening the case.

She worked to improve our pathetic Freedom Of Information law. Public transport and public schooling were also on her agenda.

Thus far, her campaigns appear to have opposed cover-ups and supported transparency, rather than the opposite.

Recently, Rhiannon has attracted attention for her continuing support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the regime in Israel. Like them or not, boycotts are non-violent forms of protests more often associated with civil rights movements and Gandhi than authoritarian rule.

It has also been suggested that she is not a true environmentalist. Again the evidence shows she qualified as a botanist and was writing about global warming and the environment long before most of us had heard of climate change.

So what of her parents, Freda and Bill Brown? Should she more publicly reject her heritage? Her mother’s Sydney Morning Herald obituary ‘Rebel with many causes’  Rebel with plenty of causes, published after her 2009 death, placed her in a radical tradition of women described by Marxist historian Stuart Macintyre as “warm, human people”. Freda Brown received an award from the South African government for work opposing apartheid. She very actively campaigned very actively for the rights of women, including the rights of Afghani women to education be educated, and did so during a period when feminism was off the agenda. (ed: huh???)

Let’s go back to the 1930s, the Great Depression and her grandparents who lived in Newtown, a suburb then famous for its support of the unemployed. The Browns held campaign meetings for the unemployed in their house.

In her 1999 inaugural maiden speech in1999, Rhiannon acknowledged the contributions of her parents and also of other relatives who had worked as wharfies at Walsh Bay in Sydney’s Rocks. At the time, parts of West Circular Quay were being privatised for the exclusive developments where the rich now live. At the time she spoke of how the NSW government’s system of planning system rode roughshod over people. In identifying planning as a key electoral issue, Rhiannon showed prescient judgment in foreshadowinged a key issue in the 2011 election.

Rhiannon makes no secret of her family’s political history. She condemns the appalling crimes of Stalin while remaining proud of her political family's for their work for peace and the rights of their fellow citizens.

Could the real problem with Rhiannon be that she is an effective politician and, therefore, a threat?

The Greens need to must be able to stand up to tough public scrutiny, but criticism should deal with contemporary politics rather than the ideological failings of millions of people on both sides of politics during the Cold War. The recent attacks on Rhiannon are character assassination - yet another tool of Stalinism. Fortunately, and perhaps in part due to her roots, Rhiannon appears to be made of steely stuff and is unlikely to be deterred.

Rhiannon is soon to join the Senate. Whether or not you voted for her, if she continues to work for freedom of information, reform of political donations, access to public transport and policies to reduce global warming, our democracy will be better off.

Wendy Bacon is (improbably) a Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney.

The Obama Dividend

GIVEN that the Billabong’s bank account took a beating over the weekend, a direct consequence of the Western Bulldogs’ refusal to fire born loser Rodney Eade and the Hawks’ third-quarter failure of will, skill and Cyril Rioli's hamstring, astute punters will quite probably prefer to look elsewhere for their investment advice.

That said, the odds is offering on a Republican ousting Obama at the end of next year are simply too good to pass up. Get on it now, before the bookmaker wakes up.

Party Faithful

ASHTON’s Circus is in Perth at the moment, but Melbourne need not worry because the city on the Yarra  remains plentifully supplied with clowns. They will be gathering tonight – without the funny shoes, most likely, which is a pity – at 6.15 pm in the Wheeler Centre for a panel discussion of free speech.

It is quite a roster, with Leslie Cannold, Bernard Keane, Jonathan Green and Professor James Allan all under the one roof to decry censorship. That position cannot be faulted, but it might be interesting all the same if a member of the audience were to ask a simple queston:

Given that at least two of you are on record as opposing Communication Minister Stephen Conroy’s asinine internet filter, would his refusal to abandon the initiative ever stop you voting for or preferencing Labor?

Actually, why bother? We all know the answer to that one.

Solah Power

MEET Benjamin Solah, marxist horror writer and fierce defender of illegal aliens' right to torch their taxpayer-funded digs.

The horrors in my stories are capitalism itself, and the things capitalism cause: wars, racism, exploitation, sexism and homophobia...One of my earliest stories was called 'Couch Potato' and involved my character waking up in the middle of the night to find a human sized potato watching TV waiting to take revenge on my character and his family after they ate the potato's friends as mashed potato for dinner that night.

Greg Hywood, fairfax CEO, claims to be hiring at the moment. Benjie is a natural for the Phage.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

THERE is a quite remarkable piece in The Age on the appropriate way to fund the "arts community". As Australians prepare to return to their labours after the Easter/Anzac break it is reassuring to know that public spirited sorts like Esther Anatolitis have set their imaginations to working on what wonderful things they can do with the cash confiscated from the less aesthetically gifted rest of us.

"If we look at subsidy, then ultimately what we are doing is funding the known, picking winners - we're sort of choosing a set of trajectories that are already known and understood, rather than letting artists pave the way and absolutely stun and astound us with new ideas.
So, we need to make sure that arts policy and arts funding is artist-led and artist-driven.''
It is tempting to take a longer, deeper look at Esther The Wallet Molester's grand plans, but  not just now. It is a fine day, complete with blue sky, and the golf course beckons. Perhaps, when 18 holes are done, there will be a moment to consider how golfers are also ready and willing to "astound us with new ideas" and why people who pursue a sport that encourages cheerfully peculiar pants should not be rewarded at least as well as those who must, for the sake of conformity, dress always in black.

                                            Esther the Wallet Molester (with bicycle, of course)

Hywood's Hire Calling

WHEN declining to examine the media sins he regards as the merely venal  (Drum editors “nudging” elections toward the left, for example) or, on a more active day, suggesting with a wink that warmists should seek the authorities’ help in gagging those low sorts who deny all that settled science, the ABC’s Jonathan Holmes sometimes allows Media Watch to, well, watch the media. It doesn’t happen all that often, so last night, when a chat with Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood was billed as occupying  the entire show, it seemed there was a chance the sort of journalism found daily in the Silly, Phage and Finis might get just a little bit of attention.

Well, it did, sort of. Taking the line he has been throwing to other media outlets, Hywood swore that his company’s worst days were over – there is no more classifieds revenue left to lose, which is apparently a wonderful thing – while further promising Fairfax would be stepping up its investment in the words. Holmes nodded with approval at all this, but pointedly declined to pose the question that suggests itself most readily to many former Fairfax readers and ex-advertisers: What sort of journalism, exactly? From Holmes’ disinclination to further pursue the topic and Hywood’s passed-up opportunity to expand upon it, the immediate suspicion was that neither man sees any great need to embrace a broader diversity of opinion or, more to the point, to replace editors who believe it their responsibility to filter the news rather than examine and report it.

And thus they chatted agreeably for the remainder of the show -- Hywood’s composure never ruffled, for example, by any request for an explanation about the Fairfax press’ absolute refusal to report Larissa Behrendt’s preference for equine lust over the opinion of someone with whom she disagrees. That silence has been reigning for the past two weeks, ever since the infamous tweet, so it would have been encouraging to hear Hywood say he aims to recruit people who are prepared to look at and write on such matters, even if they must hold their noses while doing so.

And then there were the CEO’s thoughts on the Australian Financial Review, where he restricted his observations to the possibility of revamping the business model for the paper’s web site. All very well and good but, again, not a hint of a whisper of a suggestion that it might be the likes of Laura Tingle, Labor apologist and Alan Ramsay’s love slave, who might be driving away readers. Nor in regard to the paper’s opinion page was there any acknowledgment that it is a very silly policy to allow John Quiggin, week after week, to sing the praises of taxes, regulation and wealth redistribution to a readership that loathes the first, despises the second and lives in fear of the third. Wouldn’t it have been lovely to hear Hywood say that the Finis' opinion section was never better than when in the care of Tom Switzer (now running the Spectator in Australia).

The most optimistic gloss to be drawn from the Holmes/Hywood shmooz-a-rama is that, just maybe, the Fairfax chieftain, who is said to be quite sharp, understands there can be no future in alienated readers and that he declined to telegraph that conclusion for fear of prompting a luvvies’ revolt.

If that is not the case, if he really does intend to invest more money in the same old selective blindness, endemic bias and the insititutional affection for all things left, then there is no chance Fairfax will forsake its position as the market’s most-shorted stock. Hywood can put all the money his board will permit into boosting editorial budgets, but if it does no more than hire more of the same his company is finished. It really is that simple.

UPDATE: More on Fairfax, Hywood and the Finis from Sinclair Davidson at Catallaxy      

Monday, April 25, 2011

Team Tupperware

EVER since Mrs. Bunyip decamped, the refrigerator at the Billabong has been getting into a terrible state. Without a homemaker’s eye to spot the stuff that is turning nasty, strange growths and fuzzy, fungal oddities have been sprouting in odd corners, prompting a series of cleanups. Old chops are chucked, lumpy milk becomes the whey to go, and the ringtails do very nicely with the palsied fruit that flies out the back door, bounces off the fence and ends up in the compost heap behind the barbeque.  This irregular emphasis on cleanliness may seem like a chore, but there is good in all things and wisdom to be found in the oddest places. Take the plastic tub in which the remains of a scotch fillet were packed away some months ago, along with a dollop of gravy, a smatter of peas and the smashed-together mix of carrots and parsnips that goes so nicely with grilled meat. The container came to light only last night, when it turned up behind a box of Christmas-era custard that was mistaken for milk and plopped a nasty surprise into the evening’s final cup of coffee.

But the Tupperware’s contents, that was another story. Amid those gangrenous swirls of greys and blues and the white-speckled sprawl of pallid green blotches there was an explanation to be found for one of the great mysteries of Australian life: How can it be, week after week, that the meat and potatoes of public discourse looks so much like a compote of corruption? As the putrescent meat and veg from the fridge circled the vortex and disappeared down the lavatory (it was too far gone to join the other jettisoned goods in the kitchen tidy), all was made clear. As with rot and putrescence, people like Leslie Cannold, at it again in this morning’s Phage, maintain their places in the pulpit because they are the favoured residents of a closed and sealed environment.

On Friday, Cannold was sending Mary Magdalene to the knock shop with an article at the Drum. Today she is blessing Fairfax readers with her analysis of Zambian mining royalties. Tomorrow we should anticipate her thoughts on, well, whatever topic tickles her fancy. The subject will not matter because Cannold is in thick with what you might call the groupthinkers’ of Team Tupperware, along with so many other common room comrades, see-nothing editors, favoured think tanks and union-backed “non-partisan” generators of panic and press releases. Like her containerized confreres it appears all she must do to see her latest thoughts published is take her seat at the keyboard.   It is a happy little club to which she belongs and as the late Alene Composta demonstrated, admittance is gained with the “correct” opinions, no matter how loony.

How else to explain Guy Rundle, whose words bounce from Crikey! to The Drum to Fairfax and back again? Or crazy Clive Hamilton, who moves from mulling the need to suspend democracy to indignant denials that he ever said any such thing. Or Marieke Hardy, whose CV of vulgar columns, foul tweets and unfunny sitcoms never quite manages to disrupt the latest trip to the bank with an ABC cheque tucked into her garter? Or ponder Catherine Deveny, the Brunswick harpy. How does a “spaz” slinger get appointed to the post of disabilities ambassador? And then, of course, there is Robert Manne, the Boob of Bundoora, who sobbed for mistreated illegal aliens when John Howard’s policies were in effect, but told Q&A’s audience just two weeks ago that Labor made a horrible mistake when it dismantled them. 

Or how could it be that Andrew Jaspan rises again? It was the Mini Mancunian who drowned The Phage in a gullytrap of fraudulent stories about the dangers of dredging Port Phillip and was next caught, and caught red-handed, taking his paper’s riding instructions directly from Earth Hour’s charlatans.
It is a dismal record, but he has just been given $6 million of public money to helm a website dedicated to providing leftoid academics with access to yet another lectern.

The answer must surely reside in that closed, hermetically sealed container in which the likeminded love each other’s work. It is a small and stinky world under the lid, a place where there is no tolerance whatsoever for the antiseptic benefits of dissent’s sunlight. So it is banished as the rancid congratulate each other on the soundness of their opinions -- and the rot goes right on festering.

The next time you notice something toxic and nasty in the corner of an opinion page or on the ABC, take heart in the knowledge that the opinions expressed, even the most ludicrous ones, are beside the point. It is not the thought that counts but the purported thinker and his or her good standing with all the other grey little peas in the suppurating mix.

Look inside the container and it is not an edifying sight. But do you know what? There is absolutely no reason why the rest of us have to swallow it. Indulge their mutual invitations to  taxpayer subsidized literary festivals, try not to get too upset by the sounds of snouts in the trough of grants and subsidies and appointments to gold-plated gigs at the ABC. It is their mess, let them wallow in it -- until Prime Minister Abbott cleans out the ABC’s shelf in the fridge and Fairfax finishes the job of flushing itself out of existence.

Their day is coming, for there is no future in corruption.       

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Six Missing Words

THIS being Easter the papers are full of deep questions about Christanity, especially its divisive influence. Funny thing, that. Come Ramadan we won’t see too many speculations about another creed, one that inspires a disproportionate number of grievances and bristling quibbles from what is, for the moment, a very small section of Australia’s worshipful population. That the Prophet’s adherents are so indulged may strike crucifix-besotted genuflectors as unfair, but such a view would be to repudiate one of modern Christianity’s currently fashionable tenets: Thou shalt not wish ill on others, even if they deserve it.

Standing firm behind that sentiment must be particularly hard this weekend for the good citizens who send their kiddies to the Parkes Chrstian School, which Macquarie University’s Marion Maddox, writing in the Silly, stitched up very nicely indeed. The fourth contributor to a four-cornered discussion of religion, she opposes government funding of religious schools on the grounds that everything down the road will be much more lovely if only youngsters could be forced to mix in classrooms and playground with those unlike themselves.  Maddox writes:

“The handbook of one [Christian school] assures prospective parents that its students ‘are trained to be not primarily good citizens of Australia but soldiers … who go out into the world equipped physically, mentally, spiritually and socially to do battle for their Lord in a world which rejects His laws and dominion’.''

Maddox doesn’t name the school, but does note that its manifesto is available online. Curious about what those ellipses might conceal and cognizant that, in a typical Silly tale, omissions are always more illuminating than that which is filtered into print, a little googling seemed in order. Here is the full, undoctored quote as it appears in the Parkes Christian School’s handbook for parents:

“… children are trained to be not primarily good citizens of Australia (though we hope they will be) but soldiers of the King, who go out into the world equipped physically, mentally, spiritually and socially to do battle for their Lord in a world which rejects His laws and dominion.”

Notice the brackets, the bit Maddox sliced, discarded and replaced with deceptive dots? It is only six short words, so its disappearance could have had nothing to do with considerations of space. Those words vanished because Maddox wanted to put the smear on Christians and, as this is Easter, when Jesus freaks are deemed much in need of critical attention, the Silly published them as submitted.

In the interests of balance Maddox (or her Silly editor) might have done a quick google on, say, Islamic secondary schools. Picking one at random – Perth’s Australian Islamic College was the top pick on the Billabong’s computer --  might have revealed that those Christian sentiments have their militant counterparts amongst the bearded and veiled:

“The existence, love and fear of God are constantly conveyed to students. It is school policy that teachers in all subject areas acknowledge God and incorporate Islamic values in each lesson throughout the whole day. These efforts reflect AIC's view of the 'holistic' development of its students, both academically and spiritually.”

No doubt, come Ramadan, Maddox will chide the Musselmen about their cultural quarantine and educational isolation. And the Silly will print it.

Oh yes, the Silly will print it. You can bet on it.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Sapphic Tendency To Sue

THERE is much to be said for lesbians, who enlived many a footy club pie night when the Professor was young and whipcord taut and still up to rucking for the Waterhole 18. Those days have long passed, but the happy memories linger – and they are proud memories, too, for when the girls put away the whips and marrows a hearty round of applause always ensued. It was the gentlemanly thing to do and, if a recent ruling from the other end of the world is any indication, by far the safest legal course.

Insulting a lesbian is worth $15,000 in fines, according to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, which has imposed those penalties on a Vancouver comedy club MC and the establishment’s proprietor.

It is not known if the complainant, a Miss Pardy, is available for footy club social functions, but in the light of the tribunal’s ruling it would seem much safer to have her on stage, preferably with a companion, than in the audience.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mary Magdalene, You Ignorant Slut

ONE doesn’t need to be Richard Dawkins to loathe religious feasts. Indeed, it is possible to be an indulgent agnostic, quite happy most of the time to tolerate others’ celebrations of their faiths (so long as they do not involve beheadings), and yet find the major dates of the Christian calendar infuriating in the extreme. The chaffing is not with the occasions or what they celebrate so much as the piffle served up by the ignorant and idiotic. Come every Christmas and Easter the fools emerge in droves.

At Yuletide you can bet both turkey and trifle on the proposition that someone will pen a little article, usually for the Fairfax press, insisting that Joseph and Mary were a homeless couple and, therefore, it is right and just for Caesar to render unto the indolent and indigent that which more active citizens have worked to earn. For most of the year Christanity is seen as a curse by broadsheet opinionators, but that line is abandoned without hesitation whenever Jesus can be pressed into service as a confiscatory agent of the Australian Taxation Office.

Easter brings more of the same – and much more of the same this year, with one of the more remarkable contributions coming from Leslie Cannold, who demonstrates at The Drum that, while some small doubt remains about her idiocy, there is none whatsoever in regard to her ignorance, which is absolute. The demonstration begins with her very first sentence:

Passover and Easter are upon us. While the precise timing of each festival is dictated by different calendars (Passover the lunar one and Easter by the cycle of the sun) …

No, Leslie, Easter isn’t. Just like Passover, the date is determined by the phase moon, a convention the western Church spent a good many years and millions of words thrashing out. Those with a bent for the history of religion will find that link most interesting; the less-fascinated can go here to learn in brief that Easter Sunday, and it must always be a Sunday, is the first after the full moon that follows the vernal equinox, which occurs on March 21.

What makes Cannold’s assertion so distressing is that she has just written a book rooted in her entirely unoriginal biblical scholarship, such as it is. Apparently the life of Jesus was all about his little sister’s firm abs and workout routine, her knowledge of herbs, sexual union with Judas Iscariot and advocacy of birth control. Given that Cannold, in addition to being a muddy thinker and poor writer, is also president of Reproductive Choices Australia, readers of  The Book of Rachael can give thanks that Jesus is not depicted distributing phrangers with the loaves and fishes. He is, however, having it off with Mary Magdalene, who is driven to prostitution when their affair is revealed. Pauline misogynists will be delighted that Magdalene has once again been dressed in the scarlet robe, a folk belief for which the New Testament provides not the slightest support. It is a tired old drum for an avowed feminist to be beating, but only until you recall that Cannold is also into victimhood (as befits an habitual Fairfax and Drum contributor). If there is an ounce of outrage to be squeezed from Magdalene’s debasement at the hands of the patriarchy, so be it. Cannold will install her in the biggest bed at the Daily Planet of old Jerusalem and savour every indignity she is obliged to endure.

Even for an atheist, and an ignorant one at that, the Jesus story can still come in handy.

Silence Is Golden

ONE of parenthood’s joys (there are not many) is the satisfaction to be drawn from knowing when to remain absolutely silent. One might, for example, look up from a bedtime storybook at just that the precise instant when the apple-cheeked fruit of your loins falls at long last into merciful slumber. Hush, that hard-wired wisdom whispers, don’t make a sound or your precious cherub will stir, scream and be possessed by Satan once more, for it is only Old Scratch who could sentence an adult to nightly readings over the course of interminable months of Tiger Tim (who belonged to Mr Bingo’s circus) and the mystery of Clarence Camel’s missing hump. 

If an ill-advised word were to set Junior stirring as you slip from the room all hope of a long glass and, if you have behaved yourself, a short smooch with your progeny’s co-producer, will be banished by a renewed bout of fury and maniacal screeching.

As the young ’uns grow and explore their little worlds, silence will also best suit those moments when naughtiness is in progress. Yes, the Black Dog cannot possibly think kindly of having had a crayon stuffed up its sniffable end, but it is a placid creature and unlikely to make too much of a fuss. So why should you? The lad’s fascination with canine hindquarters will fade, and to rebuke him just now could be to sow the seeds of mental infirmity in later life. The scars, the shame, the remembered sounds of a father’s fury – they might in years to come propel an adolescent into the arms of leftist causes, for it is the unresolved conflict with authority figures that appears to inspire so many pro-carbon tax chanters, G20 protesters, and commenters at the Phage and ABC websites. Let the Black Dog work it out, so to speak, and utter not a word of rebuke in the meantime. When relatives are bitten, aunts refused a kiss, teachers kicked or food flung, emit not a peep. It can only make things worse.

This was the philosophy followed for the most part at the Billabong, certainly when Mrs Bunyip was out shopping and the Professor was handling parental duties, and it is good to see that others are now embracing the wisdom of saying nothing when little darlings get out of line. Case in point, of course, is the Fairfax press, where editors of the old, stern school might have been moved to inform their readers of Larissa Behrendt’s dark words about another woman of a good deal more colour. Those days are gone, as are all the dinosaur news editors and their outmoded notions of what constitutes a matter of public interest. Unable to grasp the nuanced, post-modern sensibility that these days determines what news is fit to print, the old guard was disappeared. By their reckoning a story was worth reporting if people were likely to talk about it. Today, it is those very stories, the ones that might set people to chattering, which need to be spiked, especially if the subject of that talk happens to be a very special and favourite person.  

So far, as Keith Windschuttle points out, not a word about the Behrendt tweet has passed into print at The Phage, The Silly, The Finis or online. Some may see this as sniveling cowardice with a dash of shame, as the Fairfax papers have been amongst the high-flying Ms Behrendt’s most ardent supporters, admirers and publicists. Reporting her bitchy eruption could only prompt public speculation that all the prior ink and adulation were squandered on an arrogant, intolerant and undeserving wretch.

Worse might be the consequences for Behrendt, whose profile the Fairfax papers have so assiduously polished. With a Labor-appointed judge about to rule on Behrendt’s gripe with Andrew Bolt exercise of free speech, the knowledge that she is herself quite capable of giving offence might colour his decision. And the Behrendt fan club couldn’t have that, not at all! As The Age reported only weeks ago, it is Bolt who is so dangerous, not the lovely Larissa, who makes such a fine lunch companion and recipient of literary awards.

The Fairfax papers’ quite sensible decision to wish away the matter, to excise from their version of the public record all mention of a favourite’s little sin, cannot be criticised. Having trimmed and pruned their readerships to that smallish slice of the population which shares the editors’ and writers’ enlightened perspectives on all things, an achievement commemorated daily in the echo chamber of the Silly and Phage letters pages, many of those remaining subscribers would have found even the merest mention of Behrendt’s comment deeply upsetting – moreso, one suspects, than the comment itself. Heavens, they might have refrained from picking up their gratis copies of the Phage and Silly at the local fair-trade gymnasium, organic coffee shop and sugarless bakery or bicycle emporium.

Traditionalists like Windschuttle can carp about bias and censorship, but Fairfax understands its remaining audience, which it can thank for being where it is today.

As for Behrendt, whose reputation Fairfax must hope its silence has saved, she will continue to be available for honors, grants, appointments and, of course, lunch with her many in-house admirers. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An Expert At Their ABC

THERE IS nothing like an academic credential or two for inspiring faith in a contention. Add a few degrees and, well, you are suddenly credibility itself, which is no doubt the reason why anal thermometers and climate change academics are often very difficult to tell apart.

                                                               Anal thermometer
                                                         Climate scientist David Karoly

When the ABC gives an academic a pulpit, well that can be another matter entirely, as Radio National’s Robyn Williams demonstrated when he handed a recent Ockham’s Razor to Arthur Marcel who, as listeners were told, “lectures at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane”. As it was a Robyn Williams production, Marcel, a catastrophist, was given his head to go on at great length about, what else?, climate change and why doubters and do-nothings are the modern counterparts of those profit-driven murderers who ignored the warnings and ran the Titanic into an iceberg. The liner was propelled to its destruction by boilers stoked with coal and, stretching the metaphor, Marcel went on to observe that Mother Earth is no less endangered for its addiction to that same CO2-spewing toxin.

All very moving and credible, as who could doubt that the ABC and its science editor would present an expert without expertise? Trouble is, Marcel is just that – and to judge by some of his correspondence, he is also just a little bit slow on the uptake, especially in regard to technical matters. More on that in a tick.

First, what are Marcel’s credentials? Is he, for example, a “climate scientist”, whatever that terms means?

Well, no, he is not. According to UQT’s staff directory he is a “casual teacher” in a language department that appears to concern itself with making sure foreign students have sufficient command of English to plagiarise appropriately. If that makes him “a lecturer” then definitions in Queensland must differ markedly from those in other states.

As to Marcel’s apparent difficulty in comprehending simple statements, the following exchange might shed some light:

From: Arthur Marcel []
Sent: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 5:18 PM
Subject: Hi-Per 2 Stroke Oil
Dear Penrite technical person,
I would like to know the exact reason you recommend against using Hi-Per 2 stroke oil in Rotax engines. Is it to do with the rotary valves on some Rotaxes or is it simply a legal disclaimer?
Arthur Marcel
Dear Arthur,
Thank you for your enquiry. Penrite Oil does not make any recommendations for aviation purposes, as our insurance does not cover this application. If you wish to use a two stroke oil in a Rotax engine which is in an aircraft, we recommend that you go to one of the other oil companies (such as Shell) who do have aviation products. I trust this answers your query.
Alan Jeffery, Technical Department, Penrite Oil Company
Many thanks, Alan, for your prompt reply. I take it that you are saying that Penrite recommends against the use of Hi-Per in aircraft due to its insurance arrangements.
Can I ask you just one other question, please? Does Penrite recommend against the use of Hi-Per in land-based Rotax engines such as those used in snowmobiles and water craft?
Arthur Marcel
Dear Arthur,
Thank you for your email. For Rotax engines in land-based or water craft (e.g. Seadoo jet skis), we recommend the use of Hi-Per Two Stroke Oil or our SIN Two Stroke Oil. Under no circumstances are the Hi-Per Two Stroke Oil, the SIN Two Stroke Oil or any Penrite Oil products to be used in aviation applications.
Regards, Alan Jeffery, Technical Department, Penrite Oil Company  
Marcel eventually grasps the message that Penrite's products are not to be used in flying machines, but not to worry -- or not to worry Robyn Williams at any rate -- the casual teacher is all over climate change.

NEXT WEEK ON OCKHAM’S RAZOR: A professor of pastry from the William Angliss School of Catering notes that a doughnut and the ozone layer each comes with a hole and, therefore, the planet is doomed. Robyn Williams leaves early to continue filling sandbags against his 100-metre rise in sea level.

The Cavalcade Of Crap

SO, why blog? Experience leaves no doubt the urge can get well out of hand, demanding a good deal more time and energy than the subject matter – or rather, the fruits of that content – might actually warrant. In olden days, in this blog’s initial incarnation, grains of uncovered truth tumbled irregularly with the chaff of snark and sarcasm from the posting mill. Those were the little triumphs to be sure, and it would be a lie to say that there was no thrill of the hunt about them. Pouncing on Phillip Adams’ repeated lifting of others’ work, for example, was always satisfying, moreso when even Media Watch was obliged, eventually, to pass comment on one particularly egregious example of literary theft. Indeed, it was the jolliest fun to observe David Marr’s discomfort as he wriggled like a victim of extreme constipation in search of a more comfortable position. Marr succeeded, eventually, in extruding truth as it is recognised at the ABC: Yes, the beloved Phillip had been a little naughty, but that wicked Janet Albrechtsen is genuinely vile and, as Marr strained to explain, so much more deserving of contempt. At the ABC, as in the schoolyard, relativism’s shelter shed is always open to playmates caught in heavy weather.

Why, only the other week, the latest bottom on Media Watch’s chair of ease was doing much the same, although with an emphasis on energy efficiency that befits a fellow so ready to rebuke those who doubt that our planet is in the process of melting. Where Marr strained and winced while declaring Adams innocent of serious wrong, Holmes has simply ignored another matter altogether, one many might consider more serious. That would be the late Alene Composta’s letter to Drum editor Jonathan Green, the one in which she explained how her expose of Liberal moose knucklers would help Labor at the polls. Holmes did address Green’s gullibility in a little item for The Drum (which allowed no comments), but of his colleague’s eagerness to put the ABC’s resources at the disposal of an attempt to influence an election, so far not a word.

So why bother with blogging? Time and again the liars and luvvies, the wholesalers of cant and dribblers of sophistry, are exposed by the likes of Blair, Bolt and Beck, yet the cavalcade of corruption goes ever on, brazen as ever. Consider Mark Scott, for example. Fresh from trailing three steps behind Fred Hilmer as his master led Fairax down the road to ruin, the former chairman’s godson took charge of the ABC, where one of his innovations, Mr Green’s Drum, now features a daily cavalcade of columnists whose inanity might have given even poor Margo pause to publish. Well, at least for a second or two.

Golf is more fun than blogging, as is sailing, fishing and roasting dead flesh over coals for boon companions, especially those who bring available women to the Billabong’s backyard gatherings. Yet against the dictates of common sense and the needs of an easy life, a blog is being revived. Put it down to mischief and, to be frank, just a dash of malice. To be lectured and hectored day after day, to be reminded constantly of one’s moral, physical and dietary shortcomings, well it gets on the wick.

One example: As an experiment, or a drinking game for the younger set, count the number of times “climate change” is uttered in the course of a typical night’s viewing. It is not a concept so much as an aural wallpaper plastered over every show and topic, relevant or otherwise. Young Master Bunyip, who is nesting temporarily at the Billabong, took up the challenge and nipped himself into a state of near alcoholic coma on a recent Monday evening, so frequent were the mentions, prompting a concerned Papa to go on at length about the younger generation’s moral, physical and dietary shortcomings.

Climate change perplexes the New Inventors’ panelists, draws anxious nods on the Gruen Transfer and, via David Attenborough, there are reminders that it causes fretfulness amongst other lesser primates. It overloads our screens with icebergs, deserts, chimneys, and men in Steve Irwin shirts. No documentary regardless of subject, be it bewildered clown fish or flooded farmers, is complete without a fierce pontificator in his laboratory, CSIRO office, campus research centre or field-tripping LandRover, each and every talking ad well-paid head sounding dire alarums about the bad things to come. As the money flows and the cameras roll, it seems almost every political issue is now to be framed in climate change’s prism. The topic sloshes endlessly about our newspapers and nightly viewing, bilge from the bottom of Tim Flannery’s wee tin boat.

Such ubiquity is dangerous, as it poses only the question of how we must deal with climate change, not whether we must deal with it at all.  Make no mistake, our Prime Minister would never be pursuing her plan to place a surcharge on everything if the ground upon which she plans to make her stand had not been so thoroughly prepared. When Jonathan Holmes, who purports to cover media sins, becomes a hunter of heretics, as he did through the course of an entire recent show, it can be taken as a given that dogma long ago trumped rational discourse.

Immigration, regulation, the very role of government and the extent to which it may meddle in citizens’ lives and attempt to regulate their follies, the prevailing mindset has dressed those subjects in the same armour, established their nostrums as the wisdom received. They are the concepts whose presumptions must be kept immune to challenge, quarantined even from the innocent query.

It may do no major good, but blogging can be a therapeutic cleanser amid such a storm of crap. Posts may come often or not at all. That will depend on which way the wind is blowing, whether the fish are hungry and if the Billabong’s barbecues continue to draw admiring women, ideally young and firm, whose sympathies can be rotated with relative ease, and after no more than one ordeal by ballet, into the horizontal.

Even if it does no good in the long run, a little venting can still put a shine on the soul.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh Dear

WELL here’s a surprise. A fellow takes a little nap and wakes up to find that very many things have changed, none for the better.

Mrs Bunyip’s shoe collection has vanished, its owner with it. Young Master Bunyip has ordained his male member the guiding needle of life’s compass and followed its insistent urgings to pursue love in a foreign clime. The Black Dog is grey, the corkscrew gone missing, the cellar empty, and on the little table beside the Professor’s lonely pillow there rests an ominous envelope embossed with the ancient crest of Sydney Orr University, where the institution’s pre-Whitlam origins as the Trade School of Prosthetics and Panel Beating remain for the moment immune to revision.

Even through sleep-rimed eyes it is immediately apparent that the content of that envelope is not good.  Nod off for a few years and what happens? Treachery and betrayal! It seems the Peter The Possum Man Chair of Etruscan Semiotics has passed to a former protégé, a sly smarty who has melded Marxist theory and Queer Studies into such a potent combination of symbols and shtupping that the vice-chancellor found the concept irresistible.

The news should have come as no surprise. These things happen all the time in our institutes of higher learning. So the Professor, moreso even than the Etruscan gardener above, is thoroughly buggered. At least that ancient gentleman still has a job, which he deserves for continuing with the weeding under such trying circumstances.

But for the Professor there is now nothing better to do than blog.