Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Broken "Record"

FROM Sydney, 2UE's Mike Smith puts some questions to our PM and gets -- surprise, surprise -- the runaround.

Hear here.

Blowing A Jay

SURELY there are others of a certain age who recall the days when Australia was the last resort of the desperate, especially the stars who toured because they were no longer quite so lustrous anywhere else. Tony Hancock, Lennie Bruce, Judy Garland – they came here to snaffle quick cash from easily awed provincials and, by way of bonus encores, committed suicide, were arrested or followed the yellow brick road on all fours.

We generally get a healthier sort of celebrity visitor these days, but the rapturous receptions accorded those of dubious worth are still with us, as the schlock and awe that welcomed New York University’s Jay Rosen to our shores so recently demonstrated. Feted, inflated and fellated, the few days he spent in the company of adoring antipodean admirers must have done wonders for the media maven’s ego, which one gathers was no small thing to begin with. With so much gushing and fawning going on, there must have been no time for his groupies to consider what the journalism professor actually says and what he represents.

Start with this quote from his address, Why Political Coverage Is Broken, to the Newnews forum, the text faithfully reproduced at The Dumb:
As my friend Todd Gitlin once wrote, news coverage that treats politics as an insiders' game invites the public to become "cognoscenti of their own bamboozlement," which is strange.
Strange indeed, yes it is -- and not just for the quoted Gitlin’s wankerous turn of phrase, but for the source himself. Remember, Rosen was rabbiting on about journalists’ compulsion to see themselves as political insiders, rather than objective observers and independent critics. And then he cites his cobber Gitlin, another J-school academic, who represents the very worst of the insider inclinations Rosen claims to find so distressing.

Briefly, Gitlin was a leading light in something called JournOlist, a closed-shop listserve and online discussion group consisting entirely of left-leaning reporters and editors who, quietly and out of public view, co-ordinated their slant and coverage on the vital issues of the day, the chief of these being to elevate a community organizer to the White House and impugn their favoured candidate’s foes. Here is how Rosen’s paragon of independent, outside thought described that campaign to JournOlist's fellow members:
On the question of liberals coordinating, what the hell’s wrong with some critical mass of liberal bloggers & journalists saying the following among themselves:

McCain lies about his maverick status. Routinely, cavalierly, cynically. Palin lies about her maverick status. Ditto, ditto, ditto. McCain has a wretched temperament. McCain is a warmonger. Palin belongs to a crackpot church and feels warmly about a crackpot party that trashes America.

Repeat after me:

McCain lies about his maverick status. Routinely, cavalierly, cynically. Palin lies about her maverick status. Ditto, ditto, ditto. McCain has a wretched temperament. McCain is a warmonger. Palin belongs to a crackpot church and feels warmly about a crackpot party that trashes America.

These people are cynical. These people are taking you for a ride. These people are fakes. These people love Bush.

Again. And again. Vary the details. There are plenty. Somebody on the ‘list posted a strong list of McCain lies earlier today. Hammer it. Philosophize, as Nietzsche said, with a hammer.
I don’t know about any of you, but I’m not waiting for any coordination. Get on with it!

Hot Air has more, much more (follow the links to Daily Caller), not only about Gitlin, but also of the sustained, covert buzz to get the press gang banging on in unison about, amongst other things, Sarah Palin’s uterus.

Gitlin teaches at Columbia University, so rather than tar Rosen’s NYU with a presumptive brush, fairness demanded a little checking to see if standards of ethics and scholarship are as poor at his own institution. A little googling turned up a list of the faculty stars, and a further search on a name selected at almost at random*,  “Professor Pamela Newkirk”, produced the information that she has penned several well received books. One of them “Within The Veil:  Black Journalists, White Media”, which can be examined online via googlebooks.

By page 2 of Newkirk’s introduction it was apparent that things are even worse at NYU than at Columbia. Good Lord, a journalism professor who not only believes Hitler spelled his first name with a “ph” but apparently lacks any proof-reading colleagues sufficiently savvy to notice the error.

So things have not changed so much in Australia. The touring has-beens, never-weres and second-raters keep turning up, and our very own fourth- and fifth-raters still cannot tell the difference between cant and quality.

* Newkirk seemed an appropriate choice to investigate. The surname means “new church”,  and Rosen is very much one of the leading, self-anointed high priests in academic journalism’s debased temple.  

UPDATE: Did you miss the chance to rub up against Jay Rosen? Not to worry, here's a sample of what you missed.

It costs American parents about $40,000 a year to have this wisdom imparted to their kiddies at NYU. 

(HT: The holidaying Tim Blair for sending the video link)


Now Let's Hear From Milne

ANDREW BOLT has broken his silence, apparently having made peace with News Ltd brass. He expresses his gratitude for the permission, finally, to say his piece, while also suggesting by inference that John Hartigan was out of line in yanking Glenn Milne’s column. There are mentions of the threats, uttered or implied, hanging over the company and, almost as a form of punctuation in the early paragraphs of his post, repeated assertions that neither he nor News Ltd believe Gillard guilty of tickling the union till. Never that, good heavens no! It is all a question of what the affair with the light-fingered Bruce Wilson says of Gillard’s judgment then, and what her tolerance for the lightly-trousered Craig Thomson says about it now – a perspective that must have soothed News Ltd’s anxious lawyers.

Only a clairvoyant will know if Bolt exercised a diplomatic restraint in addressing his employer’s capitulation to Theodora with a telephone, to recast one of Gough Whitlam’s better lines, but if that is the case he need feel no guilt, because what he has done is actually quite remarkable. How many newsroom types have ever threatened to quit over a matter of principle?  The brave Leunig, so beloved of those who hate Bolt, certainly did nothing of the kind when the Age refused to publish his foul equation of Israel with Nazi Germany. If readers can name any ink-stained martyrs for principle, please do so in comments.

And there is something else about Bolt’s column today, a little unintended irony in his mention of Gillard having “exploited Britain's News of the World phone hacking scandal to threaten News Limited with inquiries that might force it to sell some of its papers”, an assault that has never seen the company “so politically vulnerable”.

Well, what if News Ltd did not own so many papers? Gillard would have had to spend many more sixpences calling many more editors and publishers to suppress both the original column and any hostile reporting in rival publications of her gagging reflex. Labor and the Greens want News Ltd. broken up because they believe a fragmented empire will be easier to intimidate and control. As has been the case with so many of their other policies and predictions, they could be in for a shock if that dream is realised.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hit The Dec

THE industrious Bamftiger of IMFI Pty Ltd has laid his paws on Robert Kernohan's full stat dec, the one Andrew Bolt was forced to excise from his blog and which figures prominently in the events that inspired the post below.

Go. Read. And celebrate that the days when cowards,censors and the self-interested could sit on the truth are ending.As Glen Reynolds of Instapundit says, the bastards can't beat an army of Davids.

UPDATE: Reader Gab, whose sleuthing and link-hunting helps make Catallaxy's threads so informative, points out that Say No! Carbon Tax For Australia has a version of the stat dec that is somewhat easier on the eyes.

The ABC, Fairfax and Crikey have all been scoffing and chortling about all those "errors" in the Milne column. Well, there is the scandal's fountainhead, clear as day and now popping up all over the internet. So do your jobs, you, ahem, professional journalists with more degrees than a thermometer and the smell of  Jay Rosen still fresh in your brown-tipped nostrils.

Do your jobs, for God's sake. Tell the rest of us point-by-point where and why what Kernohan claims is wrong, disproven or impossible.

Who's kidding who? The only story those useless eaters want to develop is the myth of their own bravery and virtue.

From Retreat To Rout

ANY military man will tell you it can be much more dangerous to retreat than advance. Panic sets in, order breaks down and fatal vulnerabilities are exposed, leaving even the best troops to be isolated, overrun and put to the sword. When the rout is over, the most lackluster foe will survey the butcher’s harvest and feel emboldened to attack again. It is a lesson News Limited appears not to have grasped, as today’s escalating assault on The Australian by our PM’s left-flank irregulars all too clearly demonstrates. 

Just to recap the details – or, rather, what appear to be the details: The Australian published a column by Glenn Milne dealing with Julia Gillard, her crooked former boyfriend and allegations that misappropriated union funds were poured into, amongst other things, renovations to the couple’s purported Fitzroy love nest. Something in the story was incorrect, and the PM was soon howling down the phone lines at News Ltd. chieftain John Hartigan. The column was pulled, an abject apology published -- and that retreat has set the stage for a humiliating rout which, in turn, opens the field for a further and perhaps even more damaging offensive. If the best defence is offence, the besieged and beleaguered Gillard government now has the momentum to rally its supporters and push back on several fronts. 

At the Herald Sun, where Andrew Bolt, aired similar allegations over the weekend, his blog’s current lead item is an opaque expression of discontent with, one assumes, News Ltd.’s generals and their legal batmen, who appear to have ordered his item be stripped of all quotes from an affidavit alleging wrongdoing by Gillard and her light-fingered former swain, Bruce Wilson. “No politics until further notice,” writes Bolt. “Principles to weigh up. Faith to keep. Sorry.” Today saw none of the Herald Sun blogger’s customary early morning updates, the only additions to the site being hundreds of reader comments requesting further explanation. Nor has he posted an item since.

Bolt is quite clearly ropable, but he is, as yet, holding his tongue. Asked on MTR this morning to explain the cryptic post, he declined. Later, during a phone-in on 2GB with sparring partner Paul Howes, he was more stroppy but equally unforthcoming (audio here). His tone of voice suggested a fellow with a letter of resignation in his pocket, although that is but a Bunyip’s intuition. (Bolt has since updated the post and promised to write more tomorrow)

While Bolt is unhappy, Gillard’s snipers are picking and blasting targets at will. The Phage, for example, recaps the Milne column, repeats the original allegation and provides the low-down on our PM’s righteous fury. Being an ardent ally of the PM has done nothing for the paper’s circulation or financial security, but it certainly makes for fast and reliable lines of communication. (By the way, to see how thoroughly Fairfax is tearing the arse from its own trousers, consult the annual report. The numbers for The Age and Silly on page 50 are shocking enough, but the EBITDA figure three pages later for the Financial Review – down 51.7% on the year – is a testament to staggering managerial incompetence.)

Crikey, which yesterday did truth a favour by failing to appear, summoned the wherewithal to grunt, strain and squeeze out an analysis by Andrew Crook, whose prose was the very picture of delight. The Milne piece was “error-filled”, the allegations long ago “discredited” etc etc. Crook managed to name only one perhaps-significant error – the assertion that Wilson and his doxy shared the same address. The excised portions from Bolt’s post said the couple kept their own addresses, and that the AWU had been billed for renovation work on both. If the scandal is the alleged rorting, Milne’s error would seem to be of no consequence whatsoever. All of which makes The Australian’s retraction and News Ltd’s retreat all the more curious. Hartigan was evidently so in terror of whatever Gillard threatened, the apology also was published in the Herald Sun, which did not run Milne’s column in the first place!
Those who missed Milne's column can find it here, where allrightallright has done the transcription.
If Hartigan hoped to calm things down, make nice with the woman who might soon order an inquiry into the ownership of Australia’s media, it was another ham-fisted move. There have been a lot of those lately, starting with the inept firing of Herald Sun editor, Bruce Guthrie, which has so far produced a scathing critique from the bench of News executives’ veracity under oath, a best-selling book and a former company insider who is making a fresh career out of telling tales and bagging his old bosses. An amicable parting or pre-trial settlement with a confidentiality agreement would have avoided all that. Now there is further evidence of things being not being quite right atop of News Ltd. Consider this paragraph from the Phage report on the Milne column’s disappearance:
The Age understands Ms Gillard was furious not only because the column included a false claim, but because she had been led to believe by Mr Hartigan that News Ltd newspapers were not intending to pursue the decades-old story of her former conman lover.
If true – and the Age’s loyalty to Labor makes you think that nugget came straight from the PM’s office – then one of the most oft-repeated charges against News Limited has just been confirmed: It cuts quiet deals with the powerful to benefit News Ltd. That may not be the case, but it is not a good look, not a good look at all – and now it is out there, grist for every journalism department’s academic mill.

Did Hartigan’s acumen go AWOL when he ordered the retraction? Was he in something of a panic, temporarily dazed and disoriented? He would have known that Four Corners was about to devote last night’s programme to the News of The World stink in Britain, so perhaps he had that looming distraction in the corner of his eye. It could easily have been a night of bruises – the possibility of a news report at 7 o’clock, a bashing from 7.30 and then Four Corners’ megadump of sleaze.

And finally there is the biggest question of the lot: Why retreat at all? If, as seems likely, Milne published only a minor error, it could have been easily corrected and the focus on our PM’s association with corrupt unionists allowed to stand. As for Andrew Bolt, there has been no suggestion of inaccuracy concerning his blog post, which actually corrected Milne on the matter of separate addresses. Why was Bolt’s coverage wrapped up and muffled in the same blanket edict to back off and back off quicksmart?

Gillard might have threatened a libel action, but would she have followed through? Craig Thomson took that route and dropped his case against Fairfax at the court’s door. Would Gillard have been any more eager to go on the sworn record about Town Modes, her grifting ex-squeeze and what she knew and when she knew it? Not a chance.

This could all be very sad for those hoping to see an early election. Now the government’s media militia can point to the Milne debacle and claim that any further attention to Craig Thomson is but more of the sleazy, error-riddled same. It will not be true, but it does not have to be for Tony Jones, Michelle Grattan and other camp followers to take up the cry. 

And News? Well if Hartigan did have a deal to make sure News Ltd was not dismembered, he sure does not have one now. 

From Bad To Verse

IT IS ALL a matter of personal preference, but at the Billabong, when the mood demands bleak and alienated verse, it is Alan Ginsberg’s epic Howl that is hauled first off the bookshelf. On last night’s Q&A, which borrowed the sour cream of Australia’s literary establishment from the Melbourne Writers Festival, they dragged out Omar Musa, who treated ABC viewers to a performance of something called “slam poetry”. This involved the staccato spewing of angry couplets, some of which rhymed, and all delivered with an aggrieved surliness. By the time the show finished, if you had not already despaired for Australia’s grant-fed culture club, Musa would have sealed the deal. Read your Ginsberg, children, because even a fourth-rate imitation of the American master’s stream of cascading consciousness will be enough to get you lots of luvvie-fest invitations and close-ups on the telly.

With hope for the written and recited word all but expired, the letters page of this morning’s Australian brought unexpected consolation in the shape of a letter from a Mr Bruce Dawe, of Caloundra, Qld.

JAMES Dunstan (Letters, 29/8) is quite right. Julia Gillard has risen to her level of incomptence as Prime Minister. As a performer in the house she was impressive; as PM, disastrous.

Every organisation can point to similar examples of this paradox: a good teacher, for example, may become a lousy school principal, since the qualities called upon at one level are not necessarily transferred to the other level. And a principal whose only remaining principle appears to be to hold on to office at whatever cost to herself (and her country) makes one shudder for the profession. 

Bruce Dawe, Caloundra
Dawe is a bona fide poet, one whose perception of his native land and wary affection for its peculiar little ways goes some considerable distance beyond adolescent truculence. Here is his best-known work:

Life Cycle 
(For Big Jim Phelan)

When children are born in Victoria
they are wrapped in club-colours, laid in beribboned cots,
having already begaun a lifetime's barracking.

Carn, they cry, Carn … feebly at first
while paretns playfully tussle with them
for possession of a rusk: Ah, he's a little Tiger! (And they are …)

Hoisted shoulder-high at their first League game
they are like innocent monsters who have been years swimming
towards the daylight's roaring empyream

Until, now, hearts shrapnelled with rapture,
they break surface and are forever lost,
their minds rippling out like streamers

In the pure flood of sound, they are scarfed with light, a voice
like the voice of God booms from the stands
Ooohh you bludger and the covenant is sealed.

Hot pies and potato-crisps they will eat,
they will forswear the Demons, cling to the Saints
and behold their team going up the ladder into Heaven,

And the tides of life will be the tides of the home-team's fortunes
- the reckless proposal after the one-point win,
the wedding and honeymoon after the grand-final …

They will not grow old as those from the more northern States grow old,
for them it will always be three-quarter-time
with the scores level and the wind advantage in the final term,

That pattern persisting, like a race-memory, through the welter of seasons,
enabling old-timers by boundary fences to dream of resurgent lions
and centaur-figures from the past to replenish continually the present,

So that mythology may be perpetually renewed
and Chicken Smallhorn return like the maize-god
in a thousand shapes, the dancers changing

But the dance forever the same - the elderly still
loyally crying Carn … Carn … (if feebly) unto the very end,
having seen in the six-foot recruit from Eaglehawk their hope of salvation

 Is it any wonder we seldom hear of Dawe these days on their ABC?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Survival of the Flit-est

BEING a bit crook last week meant quite a few interesting things did not get posted, and a link to ABC News Watch's item on British butterflies, the ABC and climate change reporting was one of them. ABCNW also has a little piece on the latest edition of Science and which articles the ABC and The Conversation chose to summarise. Death, destruction and global warming would be a good guess.

And thanks to ABCNW for resurrecting this speech by Richard Feynman on science and integrity, amongst many other things. What a pity he is no longer with us.

Learned Friends, Baffled Readers

DESPITE electing Adam Bandt, there remain many fine citizens who make their homes in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. They like to keep an eye on the neighbourhood, watch out for thieves and other unsavoury sorts. One such bourgeois propertarian is a particular friend of the Billabong, and he has owned a nice little terrace around the corner from Kerr Street since 1982. He speaks with great authority about the area, its history and with some pride in the many famous people who make the suburb their home. This topic comes up quite often these days, as several-too-many drinks and an encounter with a booze bus cost the poor fellow his licence. Since he is also a golfer, the Professor must overcome a disdain for those who over-indulge and ferry the poor fellow to weekly rounds at Yarra Bend or Freeway. He pays for these trips by not leaving empty beer cans in the Bunyipmobile, not objecting to tobacco smoke and by pointing out the homes of famous neighbours. Actor Bruce Spence lived there, he announced recently, and further up the same street, Helen Garner hung her hat while penning Monkey Grip. Around the corner dwells former Skyhook Red Symons etc etc etc It is not terribly interesting, but it does keep his mind off Demon Rum.

Well the phone rang a moment or two ago, and on the other end was Double Bogey Daddy (renowned amongst golfers and associates alike for those extra strokes with his big-head wood). “You know, I used to see her around here a bit in the mornings,” he said of a red-headed woman who has since moved somewhere out west.

Readers curious about the inspiration for this post might want to hunt up a copy of today’s Australian and turn to page 14, where they will find a column by Glenn Milne. They will not find it online, however, because the Australian’s lawyers have pulled it and issued an apology.

Milne asserts that the carroty girl lived in Kerr Street. Double Bogey Daddy reckons she was probably just an overnight guest. If frequency of occupation is the only matter that prompted the Australian’s lawyers to such nervousness, it might be time for the newspaper to get some new ones.

UPDATE: Andrew Bolt’s post, up since the weekend, also has been redacted, despite many thousands of people having read the now-excised portions. The bits vanished are from the affadavit.

On the radio front, 2UE’s Michael Smith appears also to have had something resembling a lawyer’s hand clamped over his mouth – although this broadcast remains available.

Parliament, however, cannot be gagged nor Hansard trimmed of potentially embarrassing material. Readers curious to learn more about the lifestyles of other Fitzroy residents should go here. Make a point not to have a sharp object under the chin because the reference to $17,000 worth of dresses from Town Mode is guaranteed to make the jaw drop.

Oh, and well worth checking out is Catallaxy’s thread.

UPDATE II: allrightallright has been moved to verse by the incredible disappearing story  

A Degree Of Irrelevance

THERE must be some strange and powerful force surrounding Jay Rosen, the visiting professor of journalism from New York University, whose provincial colleagues’ worshipful welcome to a weekend of chinwaggery in Melbourne, pleasant as it must have been for him, surely sounds any number of alarms – not least for parents contemplating the expense and dubious dividends of equipping their children with the tertiary qualifications deemed essential these days for reporting that cars hit lamp posts, police arrest criminals and footballers kick goals. Many of those kids’ future lecturers, professors, tutors and course specialists were in attendance at Rosen’s presentation, all enjoying what dispatches from the proceedings suggest were rollicking good sessions about the prospects, conduct and trends of an industry purportedly devoted to truth and objectivity. Rosen certainly earned his speaker’s fee, delivering an address that began by bringing a fixation that verged on the theological to some picayune and extraordinarily arcane aspects of the trade he teaches.

ABC’s Insiders is a travesty, that was one of Rosen’s principle observations. Many Sunday morning spectators, the little people out there in Television Land, would be inclined to agree that a former Labor staffer conducting a weekly chorus of mostly Labor sympathisers makes for poor viewing, but that was not Rosen’s objection. Indeed, it became apparent that he sees the near-uniformity of views as one of Insiders virtues.

Rather than the panelists’ bias and the bookers’ habitual stacking, it was Insiders’ very name that drew Rosen’s ire, suggesting to his satisfaction that guests are guilty of seeing themselves as players whose first loyalties are to the game, not to the truth of the game. Sounds good, eh? Helps to frame the gusto with which the likes of, say, Michelle Grattan fixed upon the initial announcement of the now-aborted East Timor Solution as further proof that our PM, despite all evidence to the contrary, is one “devilishly clever” political operator.

But no, that was not Rosen’s point, which he expounded at some length. His vehicle was Texas Governor Rick Perry, now a prime challenger for the right to oust the world’s most famous community organiser from the White House:
The leading contender for the Republican nomination for president, Rick Perry, is emerging as a climate change denialist. We might call this “verification in reverse.” Verification, which is crucial to journalism, means nailing down assertions with verifiable facts. Verification in reverse is taking established facts and manufacturing doubt about them, which creates political friction, and the friction then becomes an energy source you can tap for campaigning. It’s a political technique.
Get Rosen’s drift? Man-made global warming is one of those “verified facts”, so news coverage that accords Perry’s skepticism -- and, by extension, Perry’s candidacy -- the slightest credence is a betrayal of what Rosen inculcates his NYU students to go forth and practice. But surely that could not be the case? While few in Rosen’s audience of academics, students, and agreeable editors are unlikely ever to question the catastropharian creed, and certainly not in public or print, there remains a considerable body of opinion to the contrary. The way to deal with those nuisances, apparently, is to ignore them. Global warming has been “verified” to Rosen’s satisfaction and that of his pals. Enough said.

This perspective is so unsettling in its arrogance, in its presumption to reject all but the entirely subjective, his sentiment needed checking. Perhaps Rosen simply mis-spoke. If so, it would be a grave injustice to convict a journalism professor of advocating ideological censorship.

But no, that is precisely what he meant, as an interview with Lateline’s Tony Jones established beyond doubt: some subjects simply cannot be reported with a straight bat. On Lateline his example was the debate about President Obama’s place of birth, which good, decent, ethical journalists did well to ignore. Here is how he lectured Jones:
JAY ROSEN: …The need for journalists to continuously advertise their innocence is part of why they don't intervene and try and tell us where reality is.

TONY JONES: Can I interrupt you there, because that's precisely what shock jocks do on radio. They push their opinions all day. You wouldn't want someone in my position pushing opinions. What if I were to substitute your phrase for "open-mindedness", for example.

JAY ROSEN: Well, what if you're declaring your open-mindedness about whether Barack Obama was born in the United States or not? Right? That's not a matter of opinion. As Senator Daniel Moynihan said, "You're entitled to your own opinion, you're not entitled to your own facts".   When political actors appear in the public stage and appear to be entitled to their own facts, that's a point where journalists have to step in or they lose their authority.
But what of the fascinating facts woven into the debate about the location of Obama’s arrival in the world? The first is that his birth certificate was locked in an Hawaiian safe, where three years of demands to see it met with blanket rejections. What had been made available was what, in Victoria, is known as an extract of entry, which established little more than the future president’s residency as an infant on US soil. The complete document could have been released, as all modern presidents’ certificates were released, without fuss or bother and the controversy put to bed immediately and forever. Yet until recently there was nothing but stonewalling and stalling – a policy that, with the full document now in the public view, strongly suggests Obama’s handlers were playing so-called birthers for suckers. How better to discredit the opposition than by inciting some of its more florid figures to inflammatory and, in retrospect, outrageous assertions. Racism, stupidity, hillbilly intemperance, guilt by association -- they were but some of the tags the birth-certificate controversy helped pin on all critics of the current administration. When Obama’s term ends it may well be that the goad-the-birthers stratagem stands as this president’s sole initiative to achieve its goals.

Rosen believes that, like doubts about man-made climate change, the matter of the missing birth certificate was unworthy of attention. How strange, given that so many interesting insights, debates and journalistic inquiries might have sprung from it. One example: It might have been noted that the “natural born citizen” clause of the US Constitution is grossly unjust and very much needs to be changed. It is entirely conceivable that the ambitious Alexander Hamilton had the right stuff to serve as president, yet he was born on the island of Nevis, near Barbados, and thus precluded long before Aaron Burr ended his foe’s political activism with a pistol ball to the breast. That exclusion of arguably able candidates through more than two centuries of US history is surely a worthy story. So, too, the ban’s practicality. If the president, vice-president, House Speaker and Senate President were all to die, then US law ordains the Secretary of State as rightful heir to the Oval Office. How would that have worked if the German-born Henry Kissinger had been called upon to serve? They would all seem fruitful and fascination avenues for journalists to explore. But not to Rosen, who would prefer silence to the possibility of much-needed reform.

This is how they teach journalism, folks, in a vacuum contained by its leading practitioners’ insularity and conceit, which filled the Wheeler Centre auditorium over the weekend as full and thoroughly as confidence now imbues the Collingwood locker room. Outside, though, where real lives are lived, mortgages honoured and school fees paid, very few were giving a toss, as Australian newspaper’s latest circulation figures attest.

“You want a career in journalism?” a sensible dad might counsel a child fresh from the Rosen lecture. “Newspapers are dying, TV news is all tits and teeth and the ABC can’t even cover an earthquake.”

“Get a real job, one with prospects. What you need to do is teach journalism, not practice it. No future in that at all.”

That Rosen magic appears to have banished all recognition amongst many in his audience that they are teaching an occupation in terminal decline. Even more astonishing, as they applauded his calls for self-censorship and subjectivity, they failed to recognise how much their own digging has steepened the gradient

UPDATE: Conference organiser Margaret Simons, who has been mooning over Rosen like Hattie Jacques for Kenneth Williams in a re-make of Carry On, Professor, explains how her series of gab-a-thons having been going. Few journalists turned up, but that was because Rosen spoke on a, er,  Friday. Few students turned up and this concerns her a little, but not enough to take her eye off what journalistic professoring is all about:

"We could do better with more funds, which we're in the process of trying to get."

Full audio of her quick word with an adenoidal interlocutor can be found here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Windsor's Whoppers

TWELVE months after it (allegedly) happened, Tony Windsor recalls an off-colour remark by Tony Abbott – a memory the Phage chooses to invest with credence and amplify. Well, what do you expect? The paper’s preferred PM is looking increasingly like the Wreck of the Hesperus, and not solely for the breadth of her beam, so any little distraction will serve to direct attention away from all her troubles, especially the latest.

Problem is, Windsor is a liar. Just ask former Deputy PM John Anderson

And of course the Age mentions Windsor’s earlier smear not at all

A Little Lesson In Journalism

IN MELBOURNE this weekend, Australia’s “media leaders” are all atwitter, mostly about each others’ brilliance -- the staple theme at every Melbourne Writers Festival, of which this year’s NewNews program is a ballyhooed multi-part sideshow. There are certainly some prize exhibits on display. Crikey’s Margaret Simons, for instance, who has been going at it all a’frenzy with her thumb, tweeting a golly-gee, lucky-me delight at being seated in “brain fizzing” proximity to her very special friend, Jay Rosen of New York University’s prestigious journalism school. Simons is a journalism professor herself, albeit at Swinburne Tech University Academy College of Knowledge, which does not command much attention on the world stage but is certainly a power along Glenferrie Road  (at least from Methodist Ladies College to the Kooyong Courts, where George & Con’s barbershop asserts its place as the local leading seat of media analysis).

Some years ago, after abetting with her silence a rather limp hoax against Quadrant magazine and editor Keith Windschuttle, Simons wrote several windy pieces about what it all meant and the questions it posed and how it was time for another of those “conversations” about the outrageous prejudices that confine the conservative mind. This resonated with the Age, which sought comment from Robert Manne, his cheeks awash with tears of joy, and Crikey’s then-editor Jonathan Green, who avowed that, while he knew of the hoax beforehand, he felt under no “ethical, journalistic or moral responsibility to save Keith from himself.”

Earlier this year a rather more elaborate hoaxan extraordinarily transparent one, it must be noted – gulled Simon’s friend and former boss, who is now at The Drum, as well as other bright lights in the firmament of Australian leftism. Crikey, which linked to and promoted the late Alene Composta’s inane expose of moose organs and right-wing misogyny, subsequently deep-sixed that endorsement without explanation or apology. Unlike the Quadrant episode, Simons wrote not a word about the jape and what the eagerness to wallow in such drivel says about the progressive mind. Nor did she note Crikey’s deep-sixing of the link or her site’s disinclination to make even passing mention of its short-lived admiration for Composta’s insights.

Simons is a journalism academic. She is spending this weekend with more of the same. They are discussing, amongst other things, how to restore public faith in journalism.

Just to repeat, Simons is a journalism academic.

A NOTE: For some reason, and it is a genuine mystery, the links to Simon's tweets are no longer working. It is inconceivable a journalism professor would delete her record of a public event, especially as they were part of a media critique being referenced by other scholars and observers.

Nevertheless, they have vanished -- a terrible pity in the case of the tweet that announced Margaret's brain had been "frazzled" by Rosen's searing insights.

Must be a technical problem. Must be.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mick Gatto, PM

UNDER normal circumstances it would be good to know our PM is prepared to draw a line somewhere. A brothel creeper on the backbench? No, the satyr who poured the union dues of toilet scrubbers, floor moppers and wipers of geriatric bottoms into sundry pleasure palaces remains an upstanding member of this government, a fellow who, for all his red-faced silence, retains her full confidence. So is it the carbon fabulist who must be banished, the nest-featherer who urges others to head for high ground while expanding his Hawkesbury holdings to the water’s edge? No, Mr Panasonic remains the sober voice of settled science, as do all other spruikers of the Incredible Green Perpetual Motion Machine. Then perhaps it is the minister who, at a stroke of the pen, plunged the beef industry into a chaos from which it has yet to fully recover? Not him, either, possibly because anyone in this government who wrecks but a single industry must seem the very model of managerial nous.

But one fellow, a chap who, unlike Craig Thomson, has actually gone before the courts and been acquitted, elicits both our PM’s disdain and a stern instruction that the First Boyfriend must not allow him to set foot in The Lodge -- not even in the shed behind The Lodge. It may seem unjust, wicked almost, to display such intolerance for diversity, especially as the banished individual is both a supporter of charity and best-selling author, whose memoirs have been published by Australia’s leading (formerly) academic press.

If you were Mick Gatto, colourful Carlton identity and leader of the Acquitted-Australian community you would have every reason to be miffed – and baffled, too. Given that Gatto operates a successful business, he might well have coughed up the $10,000 paid for the right to dine at the Lodge in the belief that it could lead to bigger things. Special Envoy to Palermo, that would have been nice, as would an interim gig sorting out some of the PM’s more pressing troubles. That shovel-ready turncoat Kathy Jackson, who is helping NSW police investigate Thomson’s nocturnal commerce, she could certainly have taken a visit by Mick as an opportunity to review her actions and renew her loyalties.

Indeed, Gatto also could have helped make the Thomson scandal go away. A midnight knock (on door or head), the one-way ride, that extra touch of hard-to-identify flavour in tomorrow’s batch of sausages -- it is a service that might have been at our PM’s immediate disposal if only she had opened the door to opportunity.

Perhaps Gatto should demonstrate his ire by challenging for the seat of Lalor at the upcoming election. If probity is not an issue – and with this government it most clearly is not – then competence alone would guide the voters’ pencils. Big Mick would win that contest at a canter.

UPDATE: The odds on Gatto's new career as MHR for Lalor just shortened. Go to Andrew Bolt's updated post for details. If the allegations are true, Gillard is going to be jettisoned faster than one of Thommo's old condoms.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dead Woman Waddling

EVERY day in every way, our PM sinks deeper and deeper.

And it just keeps getting better.

No candidates for MENSA in her office, where Gillard's Boy Friday cannot even do a little intelligence gathering without getting his boss in hot water.

If you have kids over 18 and they are reasonably sensible, get them enrolled ASAP. There is an election coming, no doubt about it..

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Carney Barker

ONLY six years have passed, but it would be the rare follower of politics who could these days recall the Shocking Scandal of Tumbi Creek. In a nutshell, the former Coalition government was accused of buying regional votes with development grants directed disproportionately to seats it hoped to gain or retain. The dredging of Tumbi Creek, which runs through the seat now occupied by the throbbing member for Dobell, was one of those initiatives – a $750,000 project to open easy access from stream to sea. If none of that rings a bell, don’t fret. It is quite a while since the dogs were barking, and the caravan has long since moved on. But at the time it was almost a big deal -- big enough to warrant a Silly editorial urging readers to outrage at the spectacle of so much money “being given away with undue haste and with scant regard for anything but the purchase of electoral support.” Funny, isn’t it, how the Silly does not write leaders like that these days?

Shaun Carney, associate editor of the Phage, might do better than most at recalling all the twists in the saga of Tumbi Creek, as he penned a despairing column at the time about John Howard’s contemptuous dismissal of the then-Opposition’s interest in the affair. One of the cancers eating at Australia’s body politic, according to Carney, was Howard’s happy discovery that voters could not have cared less about so many of the things that agitated the Silly and Phage -- in the case of Tumbi Creek, the government's appalling ethical deficit. 
A little before three o'clock on Thursday afternoon, John Howard decided he'd had enough of Labor's attempts to turn into a scandal a grant to dredge Tumbi Creek on the NSW Central Coast. It was time for the PM to inject a bit of Howard-era political reality … After offering a brief, fudged and unconvincing response … about the timing of the grant's announcement, Howard delivered his lesson which, boiled down, was: who cares?
Needless to say, Carney thought it a terrible thing that prime ministers and ministers unload tricky questions on bureaucrats, advisers and departmental investigations, thereby insulating themselves from the consequences of their own corruption. Carney was right about that – and he could be on the side of the angels once again, as the Opposition’s demands for more on Craig Thomson’s nocturnal transactions with assorted naughty schoolgirls are stonewalled, dismissed, or denied a response by the purported need not to compromise ongoing probes.

Back in 2005, Carney took exception to those tactics. But today? Well let us just say his enthusiasm for honest, open government has seen something of an eclipse. The problem is no longer a government that dares not tell the truth. Now the obstacle to a better, brighter Australia is an Opposition animated by “grievance and fear”, as Carney informed Silly readers just the other day:
Does Gillard have it in her to respond to Abbott's style of politics any more than Rudd did? When one leader decides not to observe the rules and picks up support as a result, what does the other leader do?
Er, the “other leader” loses the next election, Shaun – at which point we can expect fresh columns about the beastly new government and its jaw-dropping refusal to answer reasonable questions. Golly, there may even be an editorial in the pipeline about squandered trust and profligate spending.

The Comfort Of The Familiar

IT IS often said that military commanders re-fight the last war, sending their cannon fodder over the top without pausing to consider if the current enemy bears comparison with the previously vanquished. The assertion is not entirely true, of course, and perhaps less so for generals than the broader population. Between the Great War and the next, for example, Italian theorist Giulio Douhet formulated his doctrine of aerial bombardment and saw it adopted well nigh universally. Same with Kurt Student, whose parachute-borne assault on Crete bore not the slightest resemblance to any action seen two-plus decades earlier on the Western Front. But set aside the quibbles and, as a broader guide to our species’ psychological circuitry, the maxim holds true. In moments of peril and uncertainty, the comfort of the familiar will always be the most seductive option.

You can see the appeal of that oh-so-easy mindset in your morning paper, especially if you are one of Fairfax’s surviving readers. Indeed, with brothel creeper Craig Thomson now the soiled banner to which the hapless Gillard must rally her troops, her ink-stained quislings’ blind compulsion to find solace in what they know best is proving irresistible. Consider Laura Tingle, who is re-kindling the rage of her girlhood and ranting on Twitter about an elected representative’s right to remain in office until the electorate turfs him out. Almost four decades on from November 11, 1975, with Saint Gough in an old folks’ home and intimate exposure to hubby Alan Ramsey’s domestic drool having done its immense harm, a menopausal Tingle is back on the ramparts, so blind with partisan fury she notices no difference between a government denied Supply and one whose survival hangs on a former union chieftain who supplied his sordid needs with members dues. It’s not much of a government, as even Tingle must notice in her more lucid moments, but dammit, it is her government, and so long as Fairfax gives Tingle permission to render herself and her employer a laughingstock, that will be where her perceptions begin and end.

In the Age, something even more remarkable, courtesy of associate editor Shaun Carney. Read the selection below and wonder if Carney, too, has been sleeping with Ramsey:
… if the government is going to go down, it might at least go down swinging. The dismissive taunting of Monday's protesters by minister Anthony Albanese in Parliament - the self-titled ''convoy of no confidence'' he re-labelled as a ''convoy of no consequence'' - was remarkable because of its aggressive, assertive nature. … the government should have juiced up its approach long ago. Until Albanese launched into the rag-tag bunch of truckies on Monday, Labor seemed to want everyone to believe that its only detractors were inside the Coalition party room. The only saving grace of the Thomson affair is that it gives government MPs a single point from which to dig in and defend themselves.
So, an MP mocks citizens who peacefully protest government policy and Carney raises his little fist and calls for more of the same, apparently oblivious to his many readers – well, former readers – who share the Canberra protesters’ reservations. How could he do it, transcribe the dialogue of current events with such a tin ear? Again, blame the urge to dilute consistency with the dribble of party loyalty. Carney spent his formative years reporting on the mobs who denounced John Howard. Their cause was his, but now that Howard is gone and Carney’s team in power, his perception of the foe remains unchanged. It was Labor’s opponents then, and it is Labor’s opponents’ now. If Ruddock had denounced so-called advocates for asylum seekers in the terms Albanese directed at truck drivers, Carney would have been the first to see a divisive ugliness eating at the soul of Australian democracy. Now, at long last, his government’s critics are getting what they deserve, and three cheers for Albanese, Honourable Member for Arrogance, who puts the boot in.

Georges Santayana was a little off the mark when he observed that those who neglect history will be sentenced to repeat it. For the likes of Carney and Tingle, a subjective eye to history frames their perceptions. As for being sentenced to repeat it, that is no punishment but a badge of honour.

So That's Where The Scouring Pad Went

NOT to dwell on the infirmities of the past day, but there was one particular moment when the physical ordeal seemed to be spawning a series of horrific hallucinations. Exhausted, stretched out on the coach, limp arm hooked around the waiting bucket, a woman’s voice could be heard saying the most foul and extraordinary things.

“I am now going to show my c***,” it said.

What a remarkable thing to hear! One bleary eye opened in a head half-raised to scan the Billabong’s livingroom, where the ABC’s Artscape was filling the telly with an incomprehensible documentary about a posse of theatrical luvvies attempting to put on a show.

Could the national broadcaster really be beaming such language into taxpayers’ homes? Both eyes were open, wide open, by this stage, and yes, that is exactly what the dark-haired woman on the screen was doing -- getting her gear off and showing the folks her c***.

See for yourself the sort of culture Mark Scott and pals think Australia wants and needs (start watching at the 2:20 mark). Don’t approve? How uncool you must be. Don’t believe the pud-baring added anything to the sum of human knowledge, not one little bit? You pathetic philistine.

Artscape is one of the programmes Scott has decided to cut in order to underwrite more episodes of Hungry Beast, Angry Boys and the like. It will be no great loss to see it go – and wouldn’t it be so much nicer if, for no other reason than endemic bad taste, Artscape were to take the rest of the ABC with it?

Patience. Abbott seems increasingly likely to be the next PM, and quite possibly sooner than the fondest hopes of just a few weeks ago would have deemed possible. This time, unlike John Howard, we might just be getting a leader prepared to fix the ABC once and for all.

Somewhat Better

TURNING your tripe inside out through 24 hours of chills and fevers is a most unpleasant experience, not least because the onset of the first, genuinely virulent symptoms ruined a good game of golf. Up until then, all through the early morning, there had been nothing more than a sensation of vague discomfort, a general but growing unease. By the third hole the dawn’s distant rumble of gastric discord achieved a sudden and explosive force. There was no option but to abandon the round – it is very difficult to hit with force and accuracy when on all fours -- and stagger homeward, a journey interrupted five times by the need to pull over and commune with the gutter.

The rest of the day passed, quite literally, in a haze of misery and self-pity. The only cheerful moments came when two other members of the previous night’s gathering each rang up to report similar symptoms, although none so debilitating as the poor Professor’s. Misery loves company, and that plate of soft shell crabs – the one dish all the afflicted enjoyed – kept the phones running hot all night.

Isn’t food poisoning supposed to come on strong, working its wickedness within the first few hours? Not in every case, apparently, because it was a good 12 hours after settling the bill that the microbes (or whatever) began their rampage. Readers of a medical background who might be eager to explain the time lag should stow it. The past 36 hours are best forgotten

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Bit Crook

Headache, bowels in open revolt, tigers in need of parking .... not a pretty picture at the Billabong today, so posting will resume when the plague subsides.Remember, you are what you eat -- and if it was the soft shell crabs of Monday night's outing, then you don't amount to very much at all. No doubt about the crabs, either. Everyone who sampled them was feeling poorly yesterday, the Professor most of all.

But not so bad as this bloke:
Mind you, that is small consolation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jacqueline Meets Former Fairfax Readers

TIM BLAIR links to Jacqueline Maley's tale of horror and harassment at the hands of Alan Jones and his  crazed carbon junkies, and normally he would have a point about the Silly reporter's delicate sensitivities. But allowances need to be made in this case, as Maley appears to be heavily pregnant and thus, we can assume, very prone to outbreaks of irrational emotion.
When Maley asked Jones if he was being paid to address the Canberra gathering, one hopes she solicited a few tips on trimming costs.  In the very near future there is every chance it will be Maley's turn not to cash a pay cheque

FOOTNOTE: As readers who follow the last link will learn, Fairfax Media's stock had fallen to 69.5 cents by the end of Monday's trading. That means anyone with a spare $330 million-or-so could pick up about 25% of the company and effectively control it. Or think of it another way. Fairfax is attempting to unload its radio holdings which means, at an industry-standard 10 times earnings, an asking price of around $300 million.

So why pick up only the broadcasting unit when you could have the whole thing?Somewhere in Fairfax's great mound of poo there is a pony. An astute operator could get it up to a gallop -- after cleaning the stable, of course.

Give Him Another £10 To Go Home

GENERALLY speaking, there is a lot to be said for multi-ethnic societies – not multicultural, mind you, but people of different backgrounds being left alone to get along, which in Australia they mostly have and do. Sometimes, though, exceptions need to be made, because no matter how large our welcome mat, it will never be sufficient for a certain sub-species of ethnic malcontent to wipe off the crap the rest of us fondly imagine they came here to escape.

Now just hold on a tick, don’t be getting excited. Before anyone runs out to fetch a vilification commissioner, the above thought is not directed at what you might call our cotton wool communities, the ones whose precious sensitivities and eagerness to take offence require infinite cossetting and many federal, state and local grants. Longer-term residents might look askance at the escalating incidence of drive-by shootings in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, but those attempts to re-enact a bad night in Beiruit can only seem examples of good citizenship in comparison with the activities of the most pernicious arrivals to land here since the cane toad: Scottish union officials.

If you saw Doug Cameron tonight on Q&A, no further explanation or example is needed. Arthur Calwell should never have invited them and Robert Menzies was derelict in not deporting those already here. They are such a toxic breed, it is a wonder their organs are still acceptable for transplant.

And they are not cheap to run, or at least Cameron isn’t. Fancy invoicing the taxpayer for a subscription to Crikey! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tee For Two

JUST too nice a day to be inside. Back much later, when the scorecard for 19 holes will (fingers crossed, head down, arm straight) will read 90-odd strokes and several vodkas and orange.

But before the round begins: Did anyone else catch Jon Faine doing his bit to help out Gillard, Thomson, high taxes, unemployment and bad government in general? It was quite a performance. Comments will be posted later today.

Imperial Bearbrass beckons.

On His Knees

A GOOD pleasuring runs to around $2475 a night for some members of parliament, but such is not the case with our PM. In her case, Phillip Coorey of the Silly is proud to do it for free.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Try These, Thommo

POOR Craig Thomson. All the easy excuses have been tried and found wanting, so what does the Member for Dobell do now? Here are a few suggestions that have worked, or almost worked, for others:

Everyone lies about sex.
This line helped keep Bill Clinton in office and is guaranteed to earn him the support of Anne Summers, Eva Cox and other members of the Carping Crones Collective. Summers, who once admitted being moved to tears of joy by the sound of Bill Clinton’s voice, might even re-work her book, Damned Whores And God’s Police.

New title: Rammed Whores and Craig’s Codpiece.

Emotional pressure.
Driven to distraction by visions of climate change’s impact on hospital orderlies, poor Craig sought comfort with a wholesaler of horizontalism. The remedy brought relief, but the symptoms worsened when the MP’s girlfriend reported herself pregnant, obliging Thomson to step up his self-medication until prescriptive costs were running at @2475 a night.

If Tony Abbott was not bent on demonizing victims of mental illness, adequate sums would be available to treat such blameless victims. Peter Hartcher, Shaun Carney, Michelle Grattan and many other pundits will find this argument compelling and repeat it with much conviction.

Blatant discrimination I.
Thomson will admit to signing knock shop credit card slips, but explain that he suffers from freshly diagnosed schizophrenia and blame Bad Craig. Mike Carlton will find this honesty refreshing and ridicule Abbott for wishing to starve mental health services of funds while simultaneously villifying a fine example of efficiency in government. Why, he will wonder, should Dobell’s voters be denied the benefits of two representatives for the price of one?

Blatant discrimination II
It will emerge that Thomson is of formerly unrecognized Indigenous descent. This will do nothing to explain his actions, but it will stop Andrew Bolt writing anything more about the case. 

An honest mistake 
Driving through Sydney’s CBD late one night, Thomson spied a nurse in obvious distress, apparently lost and wearing a uniform three sizes too small. Concerned for the welfare of a HSU member, he followed her to an alternative medicine centre, where she complained that her employer’s inadequate work-clothes allowance obliged her to initiate many sessions of tantric therapy in the all-together. Disgusted at the boss’ greed, Thomson whipped out the plastic and bought $2475 worth of new uniforms for all the establishment's workers.

There may be other stratagems to get the Member for Dobell’s career off the rocks (as opposed to getting his rocks off), but this little list will do for the moment. Further suggestions will be welcomed in comments.

UPDATE: They're putting the Thomson matter in perspective at Menzies House: