Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rudd's Three Mucketeers

That Kevin Rudd, he's such a smartie. Peter Hartcher will tell you that -- and keep right on telling you that until the election, when no doubt he hopes the night will end with drinks and back-slapping and someone semi-important in Team Rudd telling him he's very important himself, fantastic writer and a great mind, too, and aren't we all just wonderful fellows together on the same team and.... oh, wait, over there, it's David Marr and Virginia and Russell, and they are all on the side of the angels too.

Parrots demand crackers for their recitations of learnt lines. The Hartchers are so much cheaper to run and operate, and they know as if by instinct to leave their droppings on sheets of paper.

They won't need to know much else from here until polling day, as Rudd, according to The Age, has recruited a trio of the hard and fast political operatives who returned Obama to the White House. When the new arrivals and their minions spread a meme, Australia's great political reporters will need to do nothing more than pass it on. No need to think whatsoever.
With speculation over the poll date now at fever pitch - and an announcement expected within days - the ALP's campaign team has secured the expertise of Tom McMahon, the former executive director of the powerful Democratic National Committee during President Obama's last campaign.

It has also called in Joon Kim of the consulting firm New Partners, and the British social media expert, Matthew McGregor, known for his ability to get spoof videos online sometimes within minutes of mistakes being made by his opponents.
As the scoop is by Mark Kenny, no surprise that several things are wrong or have been omitted. Perhaps he was too busy memorising his own just-delivered talking points, seeking to get a jump on Hartcher in the Sycophant Stakes, or maybe it was jealousy that put him off his game. After all, only that morning it had been Hartcher's turn at the teat, gulping down and rapidly regurgitating the hoary old Labor line that anxious Liberals, now seeing defeat in the round and confident face of Kevin Rudd, would just love to oust Abbott and install Malcolm Turnbull in his place. Alas, too little time remains before the election to take that sensible step, so the Coalition will likely be stuck with the wall-punching loser. As a theory  it is funny to the point of the grotesque, but that is what we get when journalism's loftiest perches are occupied by gargoyles rather than watchers in pursuit of the commanding view.

The wrong bit in Kenny's story -- he had better work harder on those dictation skills -- is that Matthew McGregor seems not to be a producer of smash-hit, instant spoof videos. Indeed, he is quite dismissive of blogs, Facebook and, presumably, YouTube. What MCGregor does is run email campaigns, which he dresses up with interactive links in order to justify his consultancy fee. He did a lot of this for Obama, by his account (see the video of McGregor below), but there was another cause he served which Kenny neglected to mention: Red Ken Livingstone's campaign to be London's mayor.

McGregor's expertise is in enervating invigorating supporters and getting out the vote -- a skill of limited relevance, one would think, in a country where, unlike Britain and the United States, voting is compulsory and we all turn out for fear of $70 fines. Still, he is worth hearing, if only to see that even after John McTernan, a 457 visa can still get you the services of a fellow who, if he believes the Australian electoral system resembles that of his homeland and the US, will prove to be another expensively imported dill.
The other two amigos, McMahon and Kim, will need watching. Each, not just Kim, is a knob at the New Partners consultancy firm, whose website might lead the casual visitor to conclude that its stock-in-trade is fuzzy cliches. As the founding partner was Robert Gibbs, Obama's former press secretary, there is a bit more to the outfit than that.

The UMR document, which Kenny quotes at the bottom of his spoon-fed scoop, has several points of interest, not just Kim's observation that victory in political campaigns means persuading voters that the other bloke will give them cancer. The full report is here, but this short passage may be well be worth the attention of Liberal operatives. These are not Kim's words but worth repeating all the same. They bring Kevin Rudd very much to mind.
Obama clearly recognised a backlash against too much negative advertising too. He frequently made quips distancing himself from his campaign advertising that included him saying that he approved the message.
Rudd's hired guns are already working their magic, their mere presence on our shores an excuse for the Kennys and the Hartchers to wax rhapsodic about Rudd's bold strokes and big moves, to rave about "momentum" and repeat ad nauseam that Turnbull is the golden boy and the party's passed-over last, best hope.

After that, with emails and attack ads and Rudd's factotums dealing dirt while he floats serenely above it all, well, that will be the election campaign.

If they have not done so already, Abbott's people should be studying Romney's ill-fated effort and the campaign of quicksilver lies that laid it low. Kenny, Hartcher and all of the ABC's Labor-staffers-turned-pundits will be wetting themselves in their eagerness to lend a hand.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Take a number, ABC catastropharians

Another day, another island nation being swallowed by rising seas, and another mendicant minister with a travel allowance jet-setting to our shores, where rattling the climate-change cup can be quite lucrative. This time it is Marshall Islands dignitary Tony De Brum, who appears to have been welcomed at the airport by a phalanx of ABC worrywarts, all eager to report further symptoms of the world’s imminent demise.

First in line was Mark Colvin, who gave De Brum unfettered access to his microphone, not once bothering to question the visitor’s assertion that his homeland of atolls and sandbars has never seen the like of recent flooding.

MARK COLVIN: And you've also had huge storm surges?

TONY DE BRUM: In the south.

COLVIN: Very, very high tides?

That's correct. We have had to shut down our airport because of these tides - three large portions of the seawall that keeps the saltwater off of the runway in the main airport, there were three breaches, one as long as 100 feet.

COLVIN: Has this happened before? I mean do you think this is about climate change? Is this new, all of this?

DE BRUM: Absolutely! I've lived almost 70 years in the Marshalls and I've never seen it before.

Bear in mind De Brum’s “Absolutely!”, and his claim that he has never before witnessed such flooding. It was a claim repeated to the next ABC reporter in the queue, Radio National’s Gregg Borschmann, who skipped that bothersome stuff known as “research” and allowed himself to be led sheep-like to the Marshall Islands' palm-fringed gates of doom. 

The Borschmann item went to air only an hour or so ago, so there is no link to post as yet, which would seem to indicate a mis-allocation of resources at the ABC, where a third reporter was sent to commiserate with De Blum, this time Radio Australia’s Jemima Grant. Had one of those seekers of truth stayed behind at the studio, Borschmann’s soggy pathos would have been available online by now. Apart from demonstrating why Fairfax is doomed – how can it possibly compete with a public broadcaster so flush with cash it is able to assign three reporters to the same trifling story? – the intense interest in broadcasting De Blum’s alarums also illustrates just how low are standards at the national broadcaster.

What none of De Brum’s ABC promoters bothered to report is that flooding in the Marshall Islands is the norm, not the exception, and has been for quite some time. De Blum swears the recent floods are unprecedented, never before observed in all his almost three-score-and-ten.

The is nothing new about high tides in the Marshall Islands, as UNICEF noted a decade ago:
Although the [Republic of the Marshall Islands] is not considered part of the typhoon belt, it is highly susceptible to flooding and tidal surges.
And the most jaw-droppingly brazen thing about this beat-up by a trio of the ABC’s catastropharians?

Why, the ABC had earlier reported the truth: that the worst flooding was in 1979, and that comparable inundations were experienced in 2006 and 2008! Listen to the audio from June 25, as the torrents still raged.

No mention of climate change in that initial report. None whatsoever. Just an honest islander’s acknowledgement that feet are apt to get wet on his little plot of paradise when a big ocean swell combines with tides driven by a “super moon”.

From the ABC this is what we get for a billion-plus dollars a year: a little, perhaps accidental, outbreak of truth, but quickly buried by groupthink and the approved lies.

UPDATE: Andrew Bolt is also on to this, and he has a very interesting chart.

The Clarence Darrow of Wagga

One of the great insights of our time was pithily expressed by Tim Blair, who observed that clots coagulate via a process that sees "the world's multiple idiocies becoming one giant, useless force." It is Blair's Law and not to be disputed, so Bunyip's Law should be seen only as a refinement: With the profoundly stupid, that urge to fuse is immediate and irresistible.

Consider Fairfax for starters, which daily nails its inanity to the mast of Daily Life, the post-modern ladypages where militant vegan reformative Muslim lesbian anti-Zionists and Clementine Ford and vagina self-scrutineers and Clementine Ford fill columns with insights gleaned mostly while perched alone upon the couch exchanging tweets with fellow sofa spuds, also attempting to extract sociological insight (and their next columns) from re-runs of Gilligans Island and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Lately, Daily Life has also been featuring columns by Daniel Stacey, the editor of Radio National's website, where there must be precious little left from that $10 million Julia Gillard recently dispensed to pay the salary of Virginia Trioli's hubby, Age refugee Russell Skelton, if the poor fellow needs to augment his pitiful stipend with moonlighting at Daily Life.

At the same time, Clementine Ford has also been sharing her thoughts with the ABC and Anne Summers' paramour, Young Chip, whose success at putting cubes of cheese on little sticks for Sydney Writers' Festival soirees recommended him to Mark Scott -- above scores of other candidates, mind you --to run a site dedicated to the free, frank and fair discussion of ideas. That would be The Drum, and "would be" are the key words, as many of the current entries run a distant second in terms of appeal to some of the nastier things you might find at the very bottom of Margo Kingston's laundry basket. If one were chart the relationships, the favours, the jobs and flow of cheques for mates and partners, it would bring to mind the sort of root-bound family tree seen often in the Middle East but seldom in these southern precincts (with the obvious exception of Tasmania's more isolated glades).

Now there is further proof of that compulsive urge to merge, courtesy of Clementine Ford, who recently became involved in a rather unpleasant Twitter confrontation. No surprise there. Twitter hosts any number of rude and disputatious souls, which is why the Professor will have nothing to do with it. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all -- that is the motto at the Billabong and always will be. Ms Ford seems quite suited to the format, however, as you would expect of someone who can take offence at other people's choice in pop music.

On this occasion, however, her opponent proved especially unpleasant. An argument over Islamic immigration soon turned to vicious abuse, with Ms Ford’s foe announcing that he would “love to see them rape the shit out of you”. At this point, most people would decline further correspondence. There is nothing to be gained in dealing with someone so base and hateful as to wish sexual assault upon a woman, or a man for that matter. But Ms Ford had other ideas.

Noting that her vulgar interlocutor supports the Geelong AFL team, Ms Ford contacted the Cats and requested he be denied membership as punishment for his Twitterabuse.
“My name is Clementine Ford, and I’m a columnist for Fairfax,” began Ms Ford’s letter of demand, outlining her Islamic Twitter dispute to a no-doubt puzzled recipient. “I believe,” she continued, “the Geelong Cats should act swiftly to identify and cancel this man’s membership for life.”
A spokesperson for the club offered a polite response, but little else, so Ms Ford appealed to a higher authority – the AFL itself. Again, she was to be disappointed. The AFL’s Twitter account advised:
“Hi Clementine. This is not an issue for AFL or Geelong; it's a matter that should be reported to Twitter & Victoria Police.”
To which Ms Ford replied somewhat huffily:

The final siren? Not at all.

Launching himself into the fray came Jeremy Sear, hero of the oppressed, scourge of parking officers, intimate and defender of the late Alene Composta, and (for now, at least) a prominent Wagga lawyer.
“The offender is attached to one of your clubs,” he informed the AFL. “It certainly is your problem. Clubs can kick out members who bring them into disrepute.”
Readers are invited to consider Sear’s legal judgment. A fellow writes something disgraceful on Twitter; this, apparently, is the AFL’s “problem”, because the fellow happens to support an AFL club. It doesn’t matter that the issue at hand has nothing at all to do with Geelong, the AFL or indeed any sport. Again, examine Sear’s words: “The offender is attached to one of your clubs. It certainly is your problem.”

And not just for the AFL. For if the AFL and its clubs are responsible for supporters' general oafishness, even at this great remove, then how are the principled among us to act when we find ourselves much closer to abysmal woman-hating behaviour? What ethical boundaries or distances determine our reaction?

For example, should a person remain in the employ of a man who has admitted in court to making brutal threats against women? Is the comfort of a weekly cheque sufficient to overcome the shame of working for someone who pleaded guilty to charges of intimidation with the intent to cause fear of physical and mental harm? Surely money can never compensate for sharing an office with, to pick a random employer, Philip Day (whose website unblushingly avers to his “firm roots in the community”) and who figured in a relatively recent Daily Telegraph report from the courts:
MEET Phillip Day - the soliciting solicitor who terrorised occupants of a brothel by threatening to slit a woman's throat and "tear the place apart" in a drunken rage.

Day, 49, pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of intimidation with the intent to cause fear of physical and mental harm.

Burwood Local Court was told Day went to the Saxons on Saxon brothel at Wagga Wagga on September 9, 2008 and paid $220 cash for an hour with a prostitute known as "Jasmine".

He emerged 50 minutes later, wrapped in a towel, before charging another $220 on his credit card to extend his stay in room 4 of the establishment.

Receptionist Nicarla Waugh then heard a loud bang coming from the room and went to investigate.

She found Jasmine in a "shaken and distressed state".

Jasmine told Ms Waugh that Day had fallen asleep while getting a massage but woke up angry and demanding a refund.

Ms Waugh asked Day: "What seems to be the problem?" Day replied: "Absolutely nothing, that's the problem. She didn't do anything for me. All I want is my money back."

When the receptionist said she could not guarantee a refund, Day said: "If I don't get my money back, I'm going to tear the f. . .ing place apart."

Ms Waugh told police he approached her with his right fist raised and teeth clenched, saying: "I'm going to f. . .ing slit your throat. Give me my money."

"The accused was so close to the victim at this point she could feel his breath on her cheek," police alleged.

Ms Waugh said she then told Day: "You've threatened me - you're not getting your money back," at which Day became angrier, screaming: "I'm going to smash your face in."

Ms Waugh told police she was "scared, frightened and intimidated".

Day's bail was continued on condition he not go near the brothel. He will be sentenced early next month.
Philip Day is Jeremy Sear’s boss.

The offender is attached to your job, Jeremy. It certainly is your problem.

H/T: Many thanks to the modest commenter who provided those fascinating Wagga and Telegraph links

Monday, July 29, 2013

Reason #2 why The Age is doomed: Caroline Wilson

If you believe the current witch hunt against the Essendon Football Club and James Hird is an upright investigation of potential drug use, you haven't been reading Age chief football columnist Caroline Wilson, who can spot a villain when she is told to see one. From her column on Friday, which deals guilt by association -- guilt, that is, if you work at The Age and know for a moral certainty that anyone who associates with Liberals must be up to no good: discrediting Demetriou, Hird's supporters, led by the formidable Liberal spin doctor Ian Hanke, have muddied the waters...

....Hanke, currently holed up in Spring Street in the same building at (sic) the Victorian State Parliament press gallery....

...One of Hird's closest friends, Rod Law, is a senior executive at Fox Footy, and a key occasional mentor is Rupert Murdoch's international right-hand man, the Melbourne-born Essendon supporter Robert Thompson....

That settles everything. Hird must be a drug-pushing scoundrel because, well, he has a Liberal ally and is friendly with someone who knows someone who knows someone else who works for Rupert Murdoch.

Tomorrow, expect Wilson to bare Hird's carbon footprint and his diabolical plan to drown polar bears by leaving the post-training showers running at Windy Hill.That story would be easier to report than the truth, which is that the ASADA farce was ginned up by Julia Gillard as a distraction from her political woes.

Reason #1 why The Age is doomed: Danny Katz

The Age long ago abandoined what it is supposed to be doing, ie., reporting on the city it claims to serve, but there is little chance its senior executives have forgotten the guiding philosophy of managers in large, sclerotic organisations: cover your arse. What brings this to mind is the ongoing presence in the Saturday edition of Danny Katz, columnist and alleged humourist.

Week after week, Katz strops away and yet, week after week, nobody at Media Floor fires him. (Media Floor, by the way, was known as Media House until recently, when the newspaper’s shrunken finances obliged it to surrender one of its two original levels and consolidate in a single plain of idiocy, where insiders report there are insufficient desks and terminals for the survivors. Not to worry, the next winnowing will equal things out. ) Does Katz amuse the Age’s editor? Do Age people actually think he is funny, witty or capable of a deeper insight than a quick glance down the front of his pants to see if the object of his greatest affection is up for working on another column?

Of course, they don’t! That the Age crew is profoundly stupid goes without saying, but even people who believe in pedal-powered electricity grids and attracting readers who scare the daylights out of potential advertisers must realise that Katz is, as George Johnson put it, “funny as a dead baby’s doll.”

So how does he survive? This is a hunch, but surely the answer resides in reader surveys and focus groups. It is well known that participants in these sessions tend to give answers that reflect well upon themselves. They like to seem intelligent, informed and to give the impression that they need to be taken seriously, being well-rounded individuals.  Good marketers adjust for this, in part by posing questions that reveal their subjects’ conceits and put other answers in perspective.

At the Age, however, perhaps to save money, answers must not be filtered, so when participants say, “Yes, indeed, I love a good laugh!” their answers are taken as ipso facto endorsements of Katz’s jollity quotient, Age execs not grasping that the entire rest of their paper is seen as an unintended exercise in the giggles. If anyone above them – Greg Hywood, for instance – asks why Katz continues to draw a weekly cheque, the ready answer must be, “Well, our research indicates he is a greatly cherished.” That settled, the Age can then go back to publishing Katz and taking dictation from ASADA in its ongoing campaign to crucify James Hird. 

Katz’s latest contribution is here. But please delay examining it for ten minutes or so. The Professor needs to place some orders and extend his short position on FXJ. The more people who realise that Danny Katz is a star columnist, the more certain another dip in the stock.

On another Age-related matter, a recent refugee from Media Floor reports that female staffers are in good spirits. According to the Billabong’s informant, an editorial entity has been moved to a new job where duties oblige remaining seated in one spot throughout most of the day. This makes it very difficult to look down the front of colleagues’ dresses.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Such a handsome specimen

Jeremy Sear, whose career reached its low-trajectory apogee as a Crikey! blogger and toast of defamation lawyers, remains an avid commenter on current events from his new home in Wagga, whence he shared this opinion on those celebrating the recent birth of a fresh heir to the British throne.

Easy for Jeremy to talk.

...and Joe Hockey looks like Herman Goering

Just now, on Radio National:
CALLER: ....obviously the Opposition Leader, er, um, er
CALLER: Yes, Abbott, well he's doing what Dr Goebbels instructed
MITCHELL:  Thank you. You obviously take the long-term perspective
We get up, go to work, pay taxes -- and this, via the ABC, is what we get in return.

(NB: this is not a word-perfect transcript, but close enough)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Two kinds of tears

You need to be a certain age to remember the dope droughts of Christmas seasons past, when the business of scoring a bag of late-December weed was a strenuous exercise involving many miles and a lot more phone calls. “No, Doug’s not back yet from Mullum’,” some hippie chick would tell you, “but he should be bringing back a pound at least.”

Ah, the pound that never came! For some reason, possibly owing to outdoor cultivation and the cannabis plant’s three-month life cycle, the summer dope dry was indelibly inscribed on each year’s calendar.  It was during one such famine in, oh, 1974 or thereabouts that an old school friend stopped by the shared hovel the Professor at that point called home. The bad news, he said, was that there was no grass, hash, hash oil, putty hash, buddha, compressed or shake, not even stems and seeds, so bugger love and money.

But not to worry, he continued, a medical student mate in Carlton had come across a little smack, which he had kindly shared. Roll it into a joint and it would do until the green stuff was once again in plentiful supply. Indeed, the way he described it, there could be no more pleasant experience than studying the pressed tin ceiling from an unswept floor "once you've brought up your lunch  getting used to it."

There is no need to recount the end to this story, Billabong visitors being an intelligent lot. Suffice to say that over the next 15 years the Professor became  a polished hand at delivering eulogies, which is quite the art. There you are at the lectern, dead cobber stretched out before you in a pine box, and his mom staring from the front pew with that peculiar eye. They all had it, all the grieving mums, the look that said, ‘Why didn’t you stop him? Why didn’t you do something?’ Instead,rather than make a show of squirming, you would vamp and try to recall the sunbeams in a life gone dark – the day you snagged your first trout with his borrowed rod, for instance, and how good it tasted – and babble on with pap and crap until it was time for the organ music to kick back in. After that, off to the cemetery and more cold burns from a mother’s eyes. Did you help him score, they wanted to know? It was the question that could never be asked out loud, not with any hope of a truthful answer.

We all move on, except the dead, and it is now a matter of no consequence at the Billabong if dope is plentiful or scarce, which judging from press reports, it never is these days. Prohibition and the price-maintenance scheme it has established for marijuana and other contraband have seen cultivation move indoors, wholesalers become more efficient. It is the wonderfully amoral thing about supply and demand: someone will always lend a hand to help the former match the latter.

What brings these thoughts to mind, apart from the looming anniversary of another close friend’s long ago and premature departure, is the public anguish of a mum whose life also was wrecked by heroin, Mrs Kim Nguyen. As most will recall, her son was hanged in Singapore, and that tragedy is now the subject of a tele-movie she does not want to see screened. You have to feel for her. Anyone who has raised a child knows that visions of losing him or her make for the worst nightmares, the ones when you wake up with a scream on your lips. Her boy, Van, should be alive and going grey by now, maybe even a grandfather and, if he made the transition to life in a respectable cardigan, worried about his own progeny falling in with the wrong crowd.

But he’s dead, just like the Professor’s mates who used the same wares that earned Van Nguyen a long drop and a short rope. It must be hard for Mrs Nguyen, this wait to see her life’s greatest tragedy played out on the screens in a million homes, but her loss could be no greater than that of the mums whose accusatory gaze the Professor has tried with no great success to forget.

A few years ago at a school reunion, another survivor of those irresponsible years happened to mention that he had bumped into a mutual friend’s mother, now in her seventies. She seemed anxious to talk, so he accepted the invitation to stop by for a cuppa. It was after the chit-chat that she took him upstairs to our late mate’s former room, a shrine both to love and reckless stupidity, which was dusted but otherwise untouched some three and half decades after he was found dead in Elwood. What hit him hardest was the Pelaco Brothers poster on the wall and thoughts of what went on in the lane behind the Kingston Hotel, where they used to play. That, and the fact she was still crying when he made his apologies and left.
Mrs Nguyen’s anguish must be just as bitter right now, but given the actions and mercenary choices made be her son and the others of his ilk who brought down the curtains on so many of their customers, few would contest which mother deserves the greater sympathy.     

Homicide by Hoover

"Upon information and belief, Your Worship, the man of the house was beaten to death with a brand-new iron shortly after this happy scene was filmed...."