Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tim Blair, the stupefyingly dull grand prix, Andrew Frost and ambiguity in art and sport

Let's count some of the ways Tim Blair has managed to get his knickers in a knot these past few days.

Well there was The Age's Greg Baum calling the Australian F1 a tired old race in his column True or false: Sakhir, Spa, Sao Paulo host a GP?

Baum had the cheek to say that there were only a couple of significant efforts to overtake and both of them led to crashes, with the safety car winning the race. Baum, in a kindly understatement, called the race stupefyingly predictable. I suppose he couldn't say boring as batshit in a family newspaper.

True to form, petrol head Blair listed all the other wonderful overtaking manouevres which managed to raise from the dead the miniscule crowd as they marveled at the Victorian government being taken for economic multiplier mugs yet again.

Then he takes a sideswipe at the Archbishop of Canterbury for saying God is not a safety net that guarantees a happy ending in this world, from which Blair concludes that the Archbishop is out of his mind. The Archbishop said humanity faced being choked, drowned or starved by its own stupidity. Blair seems to think that this is shuffling God down the spiritual order. Perhaps the Archbishop needed to say that humanity is currently conducting its business rather like Kubica and Vettei trying to take a corner, but Blair'd probably put that down to softer tyres, and order the Brazilian rain forests demolished in search of the finest rubber.

Then Blair has a go at the ABC's Andrew Frost for daring to suggest that ambiguity is a core virtue of art that mocks the whole idea of certainty. Blair finds this conceit extraordinarily difficult to understand, though whether it's the notion of certainty or ambiguity, or their juxtaposition, it's hard to say. Frost is back again tonight in Artscape with Lust For Life, a program which should get Blair going again because it deals with contemporary artists tackling political issues. What the fuck would artists know about politics compared to petrol heads?

I guess Frost should have explained it by referencing the Grand Prix Corporation's method of counting crowd numbers at the Grand Prix. For them there's the certainty that the crowd numbers are as strong as ever, hence their ability to announce numbers in advance, and not worry about an actual head count. To the cynic, this leads to a certain ambiguity, as if nothing is but what is not, and the actual numbers might have seen a substantial drop this year. 

Guess we'll never know because it sounds like ambiguity is the natural by-product of a petrol head sport that mocks the whole idea of certainty. 

There's plenty more, but I always say vita brevis, and hit the road after a brief exposure to the gadfly's relentless obscurantism.

By the way, given the number of hits from people searching for Michael Zavros's Archibald Prize finalist work Ars longa, vita brevis, I thought I'd throw a still of it up at the front (and of course it's still on show at the NSW Art Gallery if you can tear yourself away from never-ending replays of the grand prix as a way of achieving a zen intensity of mind). 

But hellfire and damnation, the painting raises even more disturbing questions for me and Blair. What the heck does it mean? What's this Zavros on about with his arcane Latin title? Is it a picture of a skull? Is it a homage to medieval forms? Is it sunglasses a pair of shoes, and a collection of men's toiletries, as owned by the artist arranged in a strange order?

Damn you, you ambiguous artists with your clever dick nuances, subtleties, ambiguities and uncertainties. Why can't you just give us the certainty beloved by thick petrol heads?

Gerard Henderson, Chinese Whispers, John Garnaut, the Red Peril and the Manchurian Candidate

(The Manchurian Candidate: Kevin Rudd is played by Laurence Harvey, right, while Angela Lansbury, left, is a supplier of suits to Australian ministers. The large Queen of Diamonds card in the background is a subtle reference to the way all packs of Australian five hundred cards are now manufactured in China).

John Garnaut won't be welcome in loon pond with his scribbles for The Sydney Morning Herald under the title Red-peril hysteria fills Rudd vacuum:

Rudd has appeared embarrassed about his deep and clear-eyed knowledge of China and has shied away from leading intelligent domestic discussion. The vacuum has now been filled by vested interests, maverick senators and ageing cold-war commentators. The result is red peril hysteria.

Well yes, we're always on the search for intelligent domestic discussion, but what happens when we get Gerard Henderson, that prattling Polonius of a columnist, chipping in on the subject, albeit a few days late?

No place for Chinese whispers, his column's entitled, and you groan at the wit involved in that header. How about no place for Chinese burns, or no place for Chinese wedgies, or even no place for Chinese snide innuendo?

Anyhoo, Henderson promptly goes on to manufacture and confect outage at the way the Rudd government has had secret and furtive meetings with Li Changchun, fifth ranking member of the ruling Politburo, whose visit was so secret it also involved meetings with Malcolm Turnbull and various media poo bahs, including Maurice Newman, Mark Scott and Kerry Stokes.

Dearie me, you mean he didn't bother to meet with Gerard Henderson?

Well we know there's no smoke without fire, and there's plenty of evidence that the Rudd Government is in bed with China - except of course as Garnaut points out the one effect of all the recent nonsense and talk of spy storms has been to persuade the Rudd government to veto China Minmetals from taking over the flailing OZ Minerals on specious grounds.

Henderson is nothing if not predictable, painfully so sometimes, and as you'd expect he revives sweet memories of John Howard's wonderful way with China, developing close relationships with the communist dictatorship in Beijing, but also going out of his way to talk about the key democracies of the Asia Pacific - Australia, Japan and the United States.

Well that's about as sanctimonious, pious and foolish a sentiment as anyone could muster, since Japan and the United States are key players on the world stage. Why wouldn't you talk about them? And Australia? You mean John Howard went out of his way to talk about Australia? What a fine, sage politician he must have been, seeing as how as Australian PM he went out of his way to talk about Australia. Hallelujah.

As you'd also expect, talk of the wonderful Howard is just a build up to the many ways the Ruddster has fallen short, appearing as advocate for China, and depicting China as a solution and never as a problem.

Then our Polonius does a quick detour into the Fitzgibbon affair, mainly to muddy the waters, and berate security commentator Allan Behm for talking out of turn about alleged spying in the Minister by Defence Department officers.

Enough of that Allan Behm, you don't know what the facts are. Neither does our prattling Polonius so it's his turn to speak out before the facts are known.

It may well be that Fitzgibbon's current discontents were ignited by internal divisions within the Labor Party.

Indeed, and it might well be that his problems were caused by sending a very fine bespoke suit back to an unhappy Hong Kong tailor. Who knows, Henderson certainly doesn't, all he has is opinion, innuendo, suspicions, and yes it has to be said Chinese whispers. When in doubt blame the right wing of the NSW Labor party - a fine principle I adhere to myself because it never involves actual evidence, just cheerfully scurrilous gossip.

And it wouldn't be a proper prattle by Polonius if there wasn't a last sanctimonious outburst:

Australians have the right to know what our politicians are doing in China as well as when China's leaders are in Australia.

Does Henderson really believe that a list of meetings, in the style of the Governor General vice regal listing of who's turned up at Government House this week will tell us what the politicians are really up to as they manage our relationship with the country that currently determines our economic future? Or that half the argy bargy ever gets reported, or deserves to be made public in a welter of detail, as the situation changes by the minute?

Actually I would prefer Australians knowing that its politicians are handling the behemoth of China in style, and without an ersatz 'reds under the bed' scare campaign running as underscore in the background. 

Dressing up the Ruddster as the latest Labor Party Manchurian candidate, mounting a red scare campaign about China, reverting to memories of Gough Whitlam and Chairman Mao, dribbling at the prospect of using Rudd's knowledge against him, and yes, it has to be said, speaking in Chinese whispers, is tragic. 

It reflects the tepid level of insight going around these days as the right wing commentariet tries to find some kind of wedge, any kind of wedge, to try to derail the Rudd government. Sadly they even persuaded Malcolm Turnbull to try his hand at the nonsense, and as always these days, Malcolm in the middle came off sounding silly.

So, as we expect from our Polonius, a lot of prattling, and very little useful insight. After you've read Henderson, what have you learned about the hard core issues facing the Rudd government in its dealings with China? And the way Rudd's Mandarin speaking status is a two edged sword?

Well bugger all, since Chinese whispers are hard to hear and even harder to decipher. Have a read of John Garnaut to get some real insight ...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Piers Akerman, Earth Hour, Green Ivory Towers, Water Dowsing and I'm alright Jack

(Above: Nils-Axel Morner. Call this man now if you need to find water).

Well if you've discovered Mata Hari is alive and well and working for the Chinese government in Australia, seducing the Rudd government into a Malcolm Fraser Memphis-like attitude to precious Australian secrets, you'd think it would be time for an intrepid columnist to rest.

But no, the work of Piers Akerman, aka our favorite fat owl of the remove, is never done, as he beats on against the storm of rampant leftie greenie propaganda threatening to swamp us all with their assorted stupidities.

Earth hour of power in green ivory tower, he titles his latest outburst, in what is perhaps the most poetic and lyrical header the fat owl has mustered for a column, as he manages to traduce ivory towered academics by crossing them with the world of greenies and earth hour loons.

Well let's cede one thing right away. We don't think much of Earth Hour, and we think even less of the SMH seizing the moment to print off an advertising supplement supposedly to advise us of the planetary global warming crisis, when it's actually a chance to sell ads to people who should know better. Trees died for this nonsense.

But after slagging off Earth Hour and Al Gore (natch), the fat owl quickly beats a path to his own hobby horse, namely the mythology of climate change.

And who does he lead with but Professor Nils-Aexl Morner.

Now Morner is a fascinating case study, not least for his self-proclaimed expertise in water witching or dowsing - the finding of water by use of a Y-shaped twig - a claim which has attracted the ire of sceptic James Randi, amongst others.

Now far be it for me to dispute another's claims to paranormal powers, without a stringent bout of scientific testing (which Morner has strangely refused to allow), and far be it for me to suggest that claims of paranormal abilities might arouse some suspicions regarding Morner's credibility, but it does make me wonder just a wee bit about the fat owl's scientific sources.

Morner was one time President of the Commission on Sea Level Change of INQUA, but he left in July 2003, because the commission was "terminated at that time during a reorganisation of the commission structure of INQUA". The President of INQUA felt compelled to advise the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences in a letter in 2004 that INQUA which is an umbrella organization for hundreds of researchers knowledgeable about past climate, does not subscribe to Morner's position on climate change. Nearly all of these researchers agree that humans are modifying Earth's climate, a position diametrically opposed to Dr. Morner's point of view.

Now we can understand that Morner might be a brave iconoclast tilting at the windmill of stultifying conventional science. After all, most reputable scientists at one time thought that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth, though to be fair to them, as the alternative involved a joust with Jesuits manning the Inquisition torture chambers, there were sound reasons to be conservative.

It might be true that Morner's observations of sea levels are more soundly based than computer projections favored by his colleagues. It might be true that he got the Maldives government agitated by denying sea levels would rise, simply because they were busy planning how to get loot as aid from western governments to re-locate off the islands.

All this might be true, and the science in Morner's book The Greatest Lie Ever Told might be impeccable, though the title makes me wonder a little, in much the same way as I had buyer resistance to director George Stevens' The Greatest Story Ever Told, the most turgid re-telling of the Christ story in cinema history. As soon as you start throwing around titles like that, there arises the ripe smell of loonacy and paranoia and squabbles with colleagues, where hysterical denunciation becomes favored over scientific method.

Who knows the ultimate truth of the matter, as the scientists squabble amongst themselves, and the bulk of them dismiss Morner as a loon, while Morner calls them a bunch of low level, unacceptable sheep incapable of hard facts.

One thing's for sure - given the fat owl's credentials in science, I wouldn't have him as the umpire.

Anyhoo, after playing the Morner card as a lead, the fat owl gets on to even happier turf by berating the greenies' love of candles, calling into play that bete noir of greenies Bjorn Lomborg, "The Skeptical Environmentalist", who just hates candle power and its environmental inefficiency (though why we should care about a few candles - if the environment's totally safe - somehow escapes me. Can't we just let the green loons frolic and picnic and grow fat and indolent before turning them into soylent greenies?)

Then it's on to a lot of favorite fat owl topics - the Ruddster's national renewable energy target is unachievable, wind turbines aren't the answer, the UK is looking dire, we're all doomed in the summer with our love of air conditioners, and in the winter with our love of heaters, and we're stuck with traditional power stations until the twelfth of never - and as Johnny Mathis once assured us, that's a long, long time.

Ergo, the fat owl is triumphant: ... the likelihood of Earth Hour and its advocates achieving anything of any significant value is as likely as the invention of a perpetual motion machine. 

Or as likely you might guess as Professor Morner reliably finding water with the aid of a Y-shaped twig, which he assures us he can do all the time. If that's the case, with a little paranormal thinking, who knows what the Earth Hourers might achieve. Why they might even invent a perpetual motion machine able to utilize the perpetual supply of water found by dowsing. 

Though they might actually have to get into the lab and start experimenting rather than sit around celebrating darkness by candle light with a good red and some roast chicken.

Now in all this, tell me, what do you think you might have learned that has scientific validity and has any usefulness in relation to risk management for the future? Allow me to answer for you. Three fifths of fuck all. For that I'm sorry, but all I can do is gloss what the fat owl has to say, and really he's in the business of FUD.

Here's how it works. Slag off the greenies for using candles, then establish that all we can do is use conventional power - coal and oil - for ever and ever. Now even the direst loon would surely recognise that boxing clever would suggest we'd be better off going hell for leather to devise alternate energy sources. There's nothing sacred about coal, apart from Australia having lots of it, and loving to dig it up and ship it overseas so we can afford to buy all those goodies from the two dollar store, and even the most hard headed neos recognize that oil has a limited future in the matrix.

You don't even have to be an over-energized bouncy bunny like futurist Thomas Friedman to realize that leaving the planet in better shape for people down the track might actually involve some scientific research, some planning, and some strategic energy management for the future. Y'know, instead of chanting "coal is a four letter word meaning love."

If the fat owl had his way, I guess Londoners would still be happy with pea soup fogs and acid rain melting away their statues because that's the way it had been done, and that's the way it has to be done in the future.

In short, the fat owl is so intent on navel gazing and greenie bashing that the profound stupidity of his position never enters his noggin. So when he talks about the streams of hot air emitted by the environmental movement, he's actually making just as much of a joke about the sulphurous bile emitted from the antediluvian mudswamps of his mind. Reading the fat owl is a bit like a a romp in the boiling mud of Rotorua, and just as smelly.

There's a self-satisfied complacency, a willingness to cite preferred loons without qualification, as if they're somehow the only authoritative sources, and an eagerness to use Earth Hour as a kind of QED - candle power is silly, so we're all just fine and dandy.

I wish I had the fat owl's certainty, but I'd actually prefer a science degree or two. Second thoughts why bother. I'd be better off being able to locate water in the back yard with a twig in case we hit end times sooner than expected. Oh wait I can because we're on the side of a hill and there's a spring running about three feet down over the clay base. 

Great, well no worries then, I'm alright Jack, bugger you lot, and while I'm at it, bugger the future too. 

Paul Sheehan, Islamophobia, Bad Muslims, Wonderful Australia and Bizarre Fabrications

Paul Sheehan's baaack, and with a wonderful display of open, even handed loonacy. It doesn't get any better than Islamophobia is a fabrication in that "one hour a year is enough to save the world" newspaper, and friendly home to loonatics, The Sydney Morning Herald.

First, let's see his dilemma. Sheehan tells us he's been approached by a post-graduate student writing a thesis on Islamophobia in Australia, and wondering whether it's based on religion fear or cultural fear of Islam.

Paul Sheehan naturally wonders if Islamophobia exists at all in this fair land. But it appears the outcome has already been decided. This would fit the prevailing orthodoxy in academia that the default position for Muslims in Australia is victim. The jargon, "Islamophobia" is part of this ideological construct. Literally, it means fear of Muslims.

Now let's consider how Sheehan is certainly not an Islamophobe. He spent his last holiday in Malaysia and the Maldives, his twelfth visit to Muslim societies because he doesn't fear Muslims and doesn't fear Islam. What a wonderful gesture. To walk amongst Islamics in their homes without fear. And the Maldives is such a festering hotbed of radicals too. Even more dangerous than Malaysia. (Well I'm not so sure he's holidayed in Auburn, but let it pass).

Now let's consider how tolerant Australia is, and we will do this by enumerating just how badly behaved Muslims are in Australia. Bear with us - it's quite a list:

1. The night of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, a gang of about 100 young Muslim men - MBM, Muslim Brotherhood Movement - moved through the centre of the city intimidating, harassing and beating bystanders.
2. Warring  Lebanese Muslim clans responsible for the hyper violence around Abdul Darwich's murder. God is great they shouted as they laughed at Australia and expressed contempt for Australian law.
3. The notorious 'women are meat' Mufti kicks down the door of the Lakema Mosque.
4. More rape sentences for one of the K brothers, evoking memories of the Yagoona rapist mob, of Muslim background and yes, Arabic speakers! More than 30 Islamic rapists in toto these last few years. 
5. The bikies, of course, natch, with their infusion of young Muslim men into the bikie culture. Just like the other gangs flaunting their ethnicity. They even seem to be posting racist videos on YouTube threatening Australians and vandalizing the Aussie flag. The cowardly custards.
6. Oops, sorry, forgot to mention the Cronulla riots, the most notorious case of anti-Islamic feeling in Australia, which resulted in a self-styled intifada by armed Muslim men traveling in convoys and staging numerous co-ordinated assaults across the eastern beach suburbs of Sydney. Bra boys good, Islamic boys bad.

Well with that outrageous litany there's only one conclusion to be reached:

Given the abundant evidence of violent cause and fearful effect, involving a small percentage of antagonists, the general charge of Islamophobia is an ideological fabrication.

Huh? Say what? Well whisk me off to lah lah land and beat me with a feather. I have exactly no idea what time the cuckoo clock is telling me. Is it one minute to midnight? Or have the hands fallen off?

You mean those wretched Islamics can do all this shit, but we, being a broad minded, all forgiving, all encompassing, all embracing Christian nation reach out with our hearts and minds and forgive the general mob of mild-mannered Islamics for housing such an ill-tempered small percentage of antagonists inside their absurd religion? Yeah right.

Or do you mean that given all this abundant activity by loonatic Islamics, we have every right to fear and hate them, and since this is entirely rational and strategic, the general charge of Islamophobia is an ideological fabrication. Not guilty. Case dismissed. As for the specific charge, it is entirely justified by outrageous examples of Islamic criminality. Not proved, m'lud.

Sorry, still not getting it. Are you sure this isn't just an Islamophobic way of having your cake and eating it too? 

Ah well, whatever, let's just get the cops on to these criminal gangs, armed with new laws, and beat the shit out of them, as Paul's been demanding these past ten years.

And a note to that Ph.D student. When you ask a loon a question, expect loonacy for an answer. It goes with the turf. And enough already with all that ideological fabrication. Go with Sheehan's hard fact approach to fabrication.

Me? Well I'm an honest to goodness Islamophobe, in the manner of all those loons who infest talk back radio. I don't like the Islamic mission to convert the world, and I particularly don't like the Islamic approach to gays. But wait, now I'm confused. Isn't gay bashing and converting the world to the war on terror the business of right wing columnists?  Lordy, lordy, what does all this phobic stuff mean?

Sob, alright, I confess, I admit it. I also happen to be a Catholicophobe, an Anglicanophobe, a nunophobe, a ... (well you can add the -0phobe to the top five hundred wacky religions of the world and save us all the trouble of mangling the English language). That's why I told the nice grey haired Christian gentleman who came to the door and politely invited me to celebrate the coming of the Messiah to fuck off, that only Satanists lived here. (The fact that I was half way through lunch had nothing to do with the ill-temper, I do it all the time, and still they keep coming to the door).

I've also now deduced that I suffer from Sheehanophobia, which henceforth can be declared as an intolerance for Paul Sheehan, based on fear of illogicality, and cultural fear to do with incomprehension.

Gee this phobe disease is catching. 

"Dear Paul Sheehan, I am currently researching the topic Lifeophobia, and I am trying to prove whether Lifeophobia is based on a fear that there is no afterlife or a cultural fear that living amongst right wing columnist loons makes life most peculiar and problematic."

"Dear Dorothy lifeophobia literally means fear of life. It is an ideological fabrication. The abundant evidence of violent cause and fearful effect from reading right wing columnists can be solved by not reading them. By the way, I understand the world will now end at 2.09 PM on Wednesday week. The likeliest cause? Islamic gang warfare, criminality, murder and rape. Now there's a phobia worth denying. Or do I mean embracing? Go figure."

Janet Albrechtsen, Fairy Stories, Grotesque Circus Acts and the wonders of greed and capitalism

Millenarianism has always fascinated me. The apocalyptic mind, which looks forward to  a cathartic cleansing of humanity just down the track, is like a short circuit of the mind, or thinking, or understanding, or reading history, and getting a bead on all the millenarianists who came before you, and got it plumb wrong. 

Or perhaps it's a just way of enforcing on everybody a personal reality we all come to face at one time or another - we're all gunna die. Heck, if I'm going to go down, dear lord make sure they all come with me.

And it's not just the religious that throw up this kind of loonacy on a regular basis, though you'd think the strict millennialists might have worked out something was amiss after the passing of two of the thousand year cycles. But one way or another some proportion of the population of a country always seems to hunger for a messianic solution, lordy lordy, be it either John Howard or Kevin Rudd in the role of messiah or satan. Be it anarchist, socialist or capitalist.

Myself, I love a good movie about the end of the world, especially if it involves Morgan Freeman, who let's face it, for pure gravitas in the face of nonsensical plotting, should have been elected the first black president, but instead had to be content for paving the way for America's latest messiah (at least Barack Obama shares the right skin coloring with Christ, you silly Mormon and Catholic blue eyed blonde haired delusional caricaturists).

Anyhoo, living under the Sydney airport flight path, each day offers up a Donnie Darko moment whereby an engine might land in the lounge room, so I guess a general apocalypse is a never no mind thing. Then again, a fatal car crash involving a speeding Miranda the Devine, distracted by worry over her accumulated fines and demerit points, is just as likely.

Except of course for the loons, who make a living shrieking about how this or that will surely result in the end of the world as we know it, if not now, then certainly by 2.01 PM on Tuesday next week. One of my fondest memories of Adelaide was how at certain times of the year, wild rumors would sweep the town about how we were all doomed, with some racing up into the hills, while Don Dunstan would race down onto the beach, and King Canute style, hold back the tides and the oceans with his pink panted, safari suited strength of mind.

But enough of all this theorizing. Which of our loons promises the world will end as the result of evil lefties, greenies, socialists, commies, pinkos, perverts, and intertube geeks by lunch time, thereby depriving us of a last gin and tonic as a native wafts a cooling fan above our heads and we look out on the calming ocean. Until it turns into a raging tsunami of alternate society destroying ideas.

Why come on down Janet Albrechtsen, devastated by the notion that capitalism is under dire threat in her column Beyond the G20 freak-show protestors.

First she lists some of the freak show contenders gathering to protest at the G20 meeting in London - all weird academics of course. But these grotesque circus acts, part of the misguided, the naive and the dumb, the screaming malcontents pimping their latest gripe, aren't her real concern.

It's happening in our homes and suburbs and workplaces, in cafes and playgrounds, places people gather and talk. It is there too on the streets of London. One guy there must have been listening to Kevin Rudd. He said the markets "had let rip" causing untold damage. Another chap said that capitalism had rewarded a tiny few, and left the vast majority of people worse off. Try telling that to the millions lifted out of poverty across the world by trade and commerce conducted through free markets.

Yes, it's you, people, with your muttering and your brooding and your ungratefulness. It's you that are bringing the world to an end with your socialistic cocktail chatter about the dangers of capitalism. Remember people, loose lips sink ships, careless talk costs lives.

Now no back chat. I want you to immediately go to your wardrobe, dust off the moths, and put on a nice fitting three piece suit (two piece for women), with appropriate accoutrements (not the second best cufflinks please), so that you're in the right frame of mind to listen to Dame Slap's heartfelt plea to save the world as we know it from the freaks and loose thinking:

People who are sensible but anxious about the future have been fed a fairy tale of heroes and villains. The heroes are the politicians meeting in London to work out how to deal with the greedy corporate villains. Politicians – including those gathering in London - bear much of the blame for stoking in the community an irrational anger against capitalism. They sought out scapegoats because it made for an easy political narrative they could sell in 15 second sound-bites. Every good witch hunt needs a witch. And today’s witches are found on Wall Street and in corporate offices around the globe. Suspicions are now raised about anyone who has earned a great deal of money from the free market. Corporate bosses and bankers are now presumed guilty of excess. Rogues and crooks run riot in the free market according to the yarn. Why bother trying to explain their own role in the fiasco, the loose monetary policies of the US fed, or the bad laws emanating from Congress that mandated loans to those who could not afford them when you can stick to a simple tale of villains on Wall Street?

Wow. It's not just you people. It's the politicians. It's the witch hunters. Mandating loans. Insisting banks give out money they knew could never be repaid. And the bankers shrieked and howled and protested, but finally did it, with the greatest reluctance. Unhappy, tortured bankers.

Now those witch hunters, like Charlie Bronson in Death Wish (parts one to a zillion), go hunting for the innocent hides of corporate bosses and bankers. Hapless, innocent squillionaires who got their loot by hard graft, tilling the soil, toiling in the salt mines, sweating on the factory floor.

Some think of them as rogues and crooks, but why? What's your whinge if you had money in Storm or Babcock & Brown. You gambled and you lost. Suckers. Would you blame casino management if you lost on the machines or at the tables? Of course not. It's actually all the fault of the politicians who allowed casinos to be set up. Why are you people always interested in fairy stories?

Well here's one. A simple, humble dedicated entrepreneur came to town one day, and persuaded everybody that what the town needed was a brand new industry making cars. But it would need government subsidy. And it did, until it collapsed in a screaming heap. When the entrepreneur rode off into the sunset, his saddle bags full of government cash he'd temporarily stored in a Japanese bank account, he turned and smiled and said 'sorry about that' because he was ever so humble and nice and caring about all the job losses ... 

Now here's the real villains. It's the politicians for handing over the money, and the people for wanting jobs and wanting houses and blaming Wall Street. You see there's a golden rule, capitalize your gains, personalize your profits, and socialize your losses, and if you can't manage that, you're worth diddly squat as a capitalist.

Witness the hysteria over the US$165 million payouts to employees at AIG, a firm that received a $US100 billion bailout. Whatever the rights and wrongs of those payments, nothing warrants what followed. US Senator Charles Grassley suggested that AIG executives ought to “follow the Japanese model ... resign, or go commit suicide”. AIG staff have now been warned to travel in pairs, not wear the company log, (sic) AIG employees have received death threats and a union backed campaign now runs bus tours of AIG houses in Connecticut.

Oh the humanity, oh the tragedy. Oh the poor dear lads. Shed a tear for those brave foot soldiers of capitalism, done down by the evil, revolting peasants. Weep for the fallen at AIG - and remember whenever dissembling, it's really important to insert an equivocating phrase, like "whatever the rights and wrongs of those payments." 

You see the payments might have been wrong, even outrageous and reprehensible, but you want to gloss over that, because otherwise you in turn might be accused of telling a simple minded fairy story of good and evil, and shedding crocodile tears over ill-deserved payments to a company and employees sucking vigorously on the socialistic taxpayers' teats. Remember socialize the losses and have no shame about it. And never ever accept personal responsibility for anything. After all, it was probably corporate culture, or the politicians ... yes, the politicians.

But wait, as Janet points out, we need these filthy villains. Why that milk sop Obama wants to work with Wall Street to make things right. All you people talking about greed. Forget it. Greed is good, greed is great, greed is fan-fucking-tastic. Greed will drive Obama's plan to rid the banking industry of toxic debt. Come back Gordon Gekko, all is forgiven, we need a whole new round of junk bonds to clear out the last batch of junk bonds.

It's going to be bonus time, with the taxpayers' paying for the bonuses. Manna from heaven, good times again for the greedy, and you suckers spent all those months listening to the politicians' blame the capitalists. It's the politicians who are the witches, the brave capitalists, bankers and financiers the witch hunters, driven on by thankful bonuses from the grateful citizenry. Suckers. 

Remember if you're going to London, brave soul that you are, wear flowers in your hair, and take a banner saying "Thank God for capitalism after all", and remember to tell everybody that Janet sent you with love ...

But why isn't she going herself you ask? To carry such a brave, defiant, sensible banner? Silly billy that you are, I hear there's a convention in the Bahamas much more suited to her taste and her style, full of bankers and finance types, in very dignified and well cut suits, chortling into their cocktails as the sun sets over the sea. There's only one qualification for entry: you have to have achieved a stupendous, humongous personal bonus after driving your company into the ground, and then achieving a payout subsidized by the taxpayers in recognition of the tremendous skills involved. (I'm guessing anyone in News Ltd. can get honorary membership for rorting $40 million from taxpayers to help produce that turkey Australia).

Remember, socialize your losses, and when in doubt, always blame the politicians because they'll be blaming you, and remember if the peasants are revolting or unhappy, or inclined to become grotesque circus acts, blame them, because they couldn't recognize the inordinate amount of great skills and all devouring greed required to plunge the world into financial chaos.

(Below: Marina Pepper, one of the likely G20 demonstrators. Don't let the coy, mother of two, looks fool you. She began a 'glamor modelling career' as a page 3 girl, became a Playboy Playmate of the month, wrote books on witchcraft, has crafted absurdly titled academic papers about monstrously silly things, and refuses to wear a decent executive suit. She is without a doubt unadulterated pure evil, and likely to cause the downfall of the planet by next Tuesday at 2.04 PM - revised calculation).

PS any resemblance between the hysterical, over the top fairy stories and outrageous slurs of the left, and the hysterical, over the top fairy stories and outraged hysteria of Janet Albrechtsen are unintentional and coincidental, and in no way reflect real people, dead or alive, or the real situation of the world as we know it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tim Blair, Gay Jokes, Earth Hour, Fey Blair jokes and a right wing sensa huma

Tim Blair's a loon, but sometimes he's just a gadfly loon referencing snippets from all over the place for a cheap laugh. Cue Pure Poison thanking him for telling them that soccer is gay. Clearly the contributor didn't click through on the Blair link, which connects to the SMH's Matthew Hall actually making the cheap gay joke about the Socceroos turning off the lights for Earth Hour:

What better way to spend a Saturday night before the upcoming World Cup qualifying match with Uzbekistan than a romantic candle-lit dinner with Pim Verbeek, Harry Kewell and 30 other men? What's that? Oh.

Yep, not only is the SMH a prime Earth Hour wanker, they like poofter jokes. Free kick to Blair. He shoots, and scores in the corner.

How much better if they'd taken a potshot at Blair's truly terrible sense of humor, which led him to devise all sorts of new comical names  for bikie gangs for his feature piece in the Saturday Terror. These government-approved replacements for Hells Angels, The Bandidos, The Rebels and so on are remarkably unfunny, and range from The Petersham Power Lispers through Cuter in Chiffon to The Slim-Hipped Bachelors, The Cloth Napkins, Plus-Sized Lingerie, The Fabric Softeners, Pass The Chafing Gel, The Sous Chefs and the Dunny Boyz. (Gangs Fixed).

Tim likes The Crystal Lyrca and Lace Cuddle Fellowship tag so well he repeats it twice. And enhances The Cloth Napkins joke with a reference to a bloody confrontation at Sydney airport.

Fucking hilarious, but I do sometimes wonder why right wingers demonstrate absolutely no sense of humor. Is it because the last time they were inside a woman, it was when they went to the Statue of Liberty? (apologies to Woody Allen, apologies to all, it's a slow Sunday in hell if you spend more than a moment looking at Tim Blair jokes).

Piers Akerman, Glenn Milne, the Chinese peril from the north, and dangerous Chinese businesswomen who know powerful men and many secrets

Gasp. The woman at the centre of a Spy Storm which spreads its tentacles as far as Kevin Rudd has also been photographed with John Howard.

Is there no end to the insidious Han dynasty invasion of our fair shores? 

And what evidence is there that businesswoman Helen Liu's a spy? Well none we know of, but "Spy Storm" sounds so much better as a header. And after all she's at the centre of a top level espionage enquiry mounted by the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD). 

That's right, the hacks in the DSD are suddenly transformed from vengeful leakers in conspiracy with Defence Department toadies who resent being licked into shape by a clumsy Minister (Glenn Milne March 28th) to top notch investigators on the hunt for a Chinese spy (Glenn Milne and Sharri Markson, March 29th). Here's a fine example of Milne and Markson wielding the egg beater in a bid to win the whipped potato award for the week: Spy storm reaches Rudd, Howard

Ain't it glorious what a Sunday paper beat up will do for headlines and circulation?

Why it seems the Ruddster has even spoken in Mandarin to this brazen hussy. He's even had a meal with her. Well we know what chow down means in Chinese, and we're not just talking dim sums. 

It seems the Liberal party has long accepted donations from Chinese-born business figures. And so have the Labor party. The Greens are agitated. Barnaby Joyce is concerned. Those Labor sluts are sleeping with China and pretending they're just good friends. Ms Liu is connected to businesses connected to the Chinese government (and so are the other billion, but what the heck). Why she's even been photographed with former Chinese premier Li Peng in Sydney in 2002.

Talk about concrete evidence. Get the alarms working in central Sydney. The Chinese are coming. We're all doomed. 

Trust our favorite Piers Akerman, notorious fat owl of the remove, to get in on this juicy game, though he seems strangely sedate compared to his usual Chicken Little ways. It's more a whisper than a shout that we're all doomed in his column Labor's Chinese whispering.

Could that have anything to do with his lord and master Rupert Murdoch's close ties with China? Didn't Rupert even up and dump his first wife and actually marry a Chinese-born businesswoman? Oh no, they've got to Rupert as well.

Never mind, the fat owl is indignant. The Ruddster is being secretive and furtive. The people have a right to know. The people demand answers. The people want Joel Fitzgibbon not just stung with a hornet, they want him flensed. And we want more than that Kevin Rudd's laughable article for the flailing Melbourne magazine The Monthly (curse you, you bloody Melburnians for your closet Brunswick street hippie socialist thinking and furtive trips into PolyEster Books to look at the freaky, trendy pornography). Does the Ruddster think writing trivia about glorious make work schemes for cultural benefit of Ozzies is going to fool us?

Chinese citizens who give hundreds of thousands of dollars to an Australian political party are of interest to the Australian people.

Chinese companies closely tied to the Chinese Government and the Chinese national interest moving to control a significant Australian export industry are of interest to the Australian people.

Darn right, and powerful billionaires in the grip of Chinese-born businesswomen, who like to conduct business in China and kowtow to the ruling elite and their business interests, they're also of huge interest to the Australian people. Launch a royal commission into News Ltd. I say. Not tomorrow, today!

Well you have to hand it to the fat owl, he trawls through whatever grubby grime he can find about the government's connections to China, and lays them out on a display tray, covered with a dash of chili, a hint of pepper, Szechuan style, and lashings of good ol Aussie paranoia about the yellow peril. Here's how tortured he gets:

(Madame Liu) ... may even know the Defence Minister's inner-leg measurement, having sent him a suit - which he returned a week later, apparently unworn.

Well that settles it, doesn't it. She might even know his inner-leg measurement, and we know what that means in China, don't we? Especially in relation to an apparently unworn suit.

Oh there's so much saucy juice in this spy scandal. 

There are some 1338 million people in China, give or take a million or so. Businesswoman Helen Liu is but one of them.

Yet she is literally in the picture with a series of Chinese and Australian political leaders and there is little doubt that she is a person of considerable influence and knows a lot of secrets.

Rumor and vile innuendo and not a jot or whit of hard evidence to date. Just wonderful, glorious speculation.

The DSD dudes, and the Defence Department leakers have done tremendous work, and the hares are off and running, with the turtles in fierce chase. What's a bikie brawl, or a drive by or a killing or two, when you can have a Mata Hari out amongst the men?

That's why we need to investigate the man below and his links to China, not to mention his links to his Chinese-born wife. I have dozens of photos of the pair meeting with many powerful people all over the world, and I have deep suspicions that Wendi Deng knows many secrets. Say no more, a nudge is as good as a wink to a News Ltd reporter when powerful connections need to be exposed ...

Christopher Pearson, condoms, abstinence, monogamy, and putting a layer of latex or polyurethane on the pestle

(Above: the simple, humble condom. What is it about this simple, humble device that gets old, white, sexually abstinent men so excited?)

It's funny, isn't it, that some people listen to an old white man on sexual matters, even though he's sexually abstinent (one hopes, for his faith, and excluding any uncontrollable nocturnal eruptions). Amazing really that people kiss the ring of the theologically conservative Pope Benedict XVI, celebrating his passage from Hitler Youth to becoming the infallible head of the Catholic church, and giving enormous attention to his views on AIDS, birth control, and homosexuality. You see use of condoms is a sin requiring penance if you follow the Church's teachings, and an attempt to get a more enlightened policy fell by the wayside a couple of years ago.

All well and good I suppose, if you want to breed like a rabbit, as good Catholics are supposed to do, as a kind of Ponzi scheme to grow the church, but I mean, what the fuck does the Pope know about fucking? Except its jaundiced absence.

I suppose others might read Christopher Pearson - a self-outed gay who also practises sexual abstinence as a way of avoiding conflict with his Catholic faith - for some kind of practical or theological advice, though lord knows why, when you read his latest outburst Arnold's job scheme may get results.

The first half of the column is a massive suck job regarding ex-premier Lynn Arnold's Anglicare job scheme  for the down and out in the northern suburbs of Adelaide in South Australia. Tagged on to the end of that celebration of the charitable impulse is a celebration of the Pope's position on the condom in Africa, and by implication a feral assault on the humble condom and its evil implications for humanity.

Of course citizens in the west can have it both ways. It's been estimated that 75% of married Catholics in richer countries use the contraceptive pill - ostensibly a sin requiring penance - while Italy has the lowest birth-rate in the European Union. And that hasn't come about because Italians suddenly gave up sex.

Even a few cardinals have folded when confronted with the question of whether a HIV person wanting to have sex should use a condom: ... if people are set on intercourse they at least have an obligation of not passing on disease and death, even if the only possible means to them is the use of a condom. This seems to me common sense.

Well it might be to the late cardinal Basil Hume and his then assistant bishop of East London Victor Guazelli, but it makes little sense to the current Pope or his acolyte Christopher Pearson.

How's this for a sanctimonious, pious lead sentence:

Since the 1980s, I've spent a fair bit of time helping to look after friends with HIV and going to the funerals of men in their 30s, so I have an interest in keeping the debate on the disease firmly based on empirical evidence.

Which is why I'm going to lead with an image of men dying all around me, and foreswear emotion for empirical evidence, and then go on to a discussion based firmly on the emotional incoherence of the Catholic church rather than on individual needs or desires?

Well played Christopher. Jolly good stroke.

It seems however that Pearson almost might accept that, in Australia, for some gay men (at least those in the thrall of some kind of addiction) the only form of behaviour modification possible is to encourage the use of condoms or clean needles. 

Well I guess that's about as much as you can do for gays on Oxford street. They're lost and damned to hell anyway, and no way can they be monogamous, so why not use a condom? That way they can sin a little more in relative safety before being carted off to hell.

But what about if you happen to be a heterosexual? What about the church's general ban on condoms? What about the piety of half-baked rationalizations that say it's okay for deranged gay drug users, but not for others? 

 Well no, no, no, you naughty sinning people, consistency or logic isn't required. It's just straight to hell for you, and no choice about it.

Yep, Pearson's musings are an elaborate justification of the Pope's attitude to the promotion of condom use in Africa. And the benefits of a strict interdiction of any usage thereof, in preference to monogamy and 'behaviour change'.

The Church of course continues with its bizarre view that the use of condoms is somehow evil because it prevents life. In the west we have the luxury of ignoring this bit of pontifical loonacy. In Africa, aid has often been delivered on the proviso that condoms or other contraceptive devices weren't part of the package.

Catholics of course argue that condoms just lead to sin, that abstinence or monogamy is preferable, and that the use of condoms increases risk-taking, and that indeed condoms might have increased the African AIDS epidemic. Pearson even wheels in expert Edward Green as proof that condoms don't work, monogamy does, and the Pope is right. 

There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the US-funded demographic health surveys, between greater availability and use of condoms and higher - not lower - HIV-infection rates.

Dearie me, so in fact the humble condom is to blame for everything, and not just the decline and fall of civilisation and morality in the west. Thank the lord it has nothing to do with the Catholic church continually undermining, reviling and rejecting condom use within and without its constituency.

Pearson manages to dig up a conspiracy by UNAIDS to hide the truth about condoms by wanting to alter, refusing to publish, and then deny the results of a study commissioned by UNAIDS. Pearson's conclusion:

Why, you may be wondering, would UNAIDS want to bury these findings?

It seems the answer is that they hold the view that condoms, rather than more demanding behaviour change, are the key to preventing the spread of the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. So it is a triumph of ideology over epidemiology.

Which is a master stroke, really Christopher, since the point of the view of the Catholic church is a triumph of theology (okay call it ideology) over the rights of others.

You see, I don't think anyone sensible would argue that handing out condoms implies a sudden suggestion of the need for an ongoing, unceasing and risky sexual orgy. Or that people wouldn't be better off with a partner enjoying sex in a loving relationship (and still use a condom as a birth control device). 

Men keep on whingeing about how condoms aren't nice to use - like having sex in a raincoat - while some women (trained by vibrators?) don't have a problem. But there you go, between getting infected or staying safe, who cares what men want. Let them wear raincoats.

Indeed I don't recollect anyone saying that condoms are the answer to it all, the solution to everything, when all they offer is relative safety, which is still a heck of a lot better than no safety at all (or the delusion on offer from the church that monogamy or abstinence are feasible life style choices. Check out the rampant amount of fornication and adultery in the west for starters).

At least if a condom is to hand, it means that the participants are empowered to make their own choices. That's why when men go into any country town pub toilet or road stop toilet in this wonderful land of Oz, they'll likely find a condom dispensing machine. Where's the harm, where's the problem? Why should we have that right, and Africans not? Because the Pope says so?

In the end, the Church regularly adopts an anti-sex, anti-life, anti-choice, anti-rights, anti-human, pro-death and disease stand. Not to mention a desire to see unwanted children ushered into the world, on the basis that you can't use birth control and you can't use abortion. And it thinks nothing of sentencing a woman to having a child, even if she doesn't want one, for having sex. And by banning or undermining condoms, it removes the choice a woman might have to demand some form of protection from a partner. 

You can take your conspiracy theories, and your unpublished studies, and your musings, and shove them where the sun don't sun. It's anybody's right to have access to contraceptives and protection, and it's wrong to deny them on the basis of peculiar teachings by old white men, and it's even worse to insist that the rights and privileges enjoyed by the west can be refused to blacks in Africa simply because we can. 

Follow the example of the west? Oops, that means you'll fuck like cats on the roof tops, with the added bonus of no protection? Sorry 'bout that. Guess you can experience the slow living hell of death by AIDS without bonus helpful expensive medication.

Yep, we can tie aid into convoluted theological knots, which says we can fornicate freely, and you black brothers can get fucked.

Or not, as the case may be, since if not monogamy, then it's abstinence for you my lads and ladettes. 

The bald, po-faced cheek of Pearson and his brethren.

Sex is about the best fun you can have when you're poor and down and out (excluding a really good meal). "Demanding behaviour change"! Thank the lord, the desire to fuck will always beat the pious bleatings of sexually abstinent clerics who've never enjoyed a good fuck in their lives.

Or maybe not. I've always thought there was more work done with the pestle and the mortar in the Catholic church than was ever official policy - and not just between priests and young boys - and that Boccaccio's work in The Decameron back in the fourteen century captured a lot of what remains true to this day. 

You have to read the original to get the flavor of his story of the priest making off with the wife (the grinding being far better because so intermittent), leaving behind a cloak, and sending off a mortar as an exchange to force the wife to give the cloak back, with the sex disguised by wordplay. Master Priest: Tell her, when thou next seest her, that, so she lend us not the mortar, I will not lend her the pestle: be it tit for tat.

Actually, just make sure you've got a condom on the pestle. Who knows where it's been or what it's been up to, whether belonging to a priest or no. And please explain to me again why condoms can't be deployed, and why women in Africa are denied the right to demand a condom be used (along with any other precautions they deem necessary) because an old white man in Rome says it must be so and thus?

A pox on the church that cheerfully allows the pox to spread as a matter of theological principle. And now we pause for a sponsor's message:

By the way Christopher, still no deep ultra vires explanation of why the church thinks it's a good idea to excommunicate doctors for aborting a nine year old girl of twins after years of alleged rape by her step father? And speaking of Brazil, how about that funny old Archbishop Dadeus Grings saying that Catholics and gypsies were much more persecuted than Jews during World War 11. Ah it's a Grand Old Church, no doubt about it, with such a wonderful plurality and diversity of views ...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Miranda Devine, the SMH, subbie humor and Barbie is a slut

By the way, following the piece below about ladettes, a kindly reader pointed out the SMH splash on the front page online as a pointer to Miranda the Devine's column bemoaning toxic modern culture. 

Thanks for that. Yes I did miss the best bit of the story. Was some subbie sending poor old Miranda up shitless, or is this just the way SMH sees fairy stories about ladettes becoming ladies, and Miranda's woeful tale about toxic culture? By labeling women as barbies and sluts? Talk about sexist and laughable.

Poor old Lisa Simpon must be spinning in her grave. By the way, I know you'll want to re-use the SMH jpg for your dissertation on feminism in a post-modernist toxic culture, and the redemptive capabilities of fairy tales, sewing, ironing, modesty, femininity, cooking, serving tea, walking with poise, speaking politely, and above all, wearing tweed suits, so here it is below ready to be dragged to your machine (well at least you trendy Mac folk can do the drag). 

I've even left the SMH title "raunchfront" on the actual jpg, so you can chortle along with the subbies. You know as in raunch along with nice navel barbie slut.

Ah Miranda, Miranda, you really don't have a clue, do you? Go write for Zoo, at least its raunch is out front, and really quite posh.

Miranda Devine, Ladettes, the weaker sex, female yobbos, Zoo magazine, ghastly dowagers and fantastic transformational fairytales

(Above: the ladettes living a fairy tale dream of young girls making good in a toxic anti-grrrly culture).

I'm always touched when a steel capped boot thrusting, head kicking, baseball bat wielding, verbal bashing blind sider like Miranda the Devine rediscovers her inner femininity.

No, it's true, Miranda tells us so. Women are the weaker sex. Guess that means her half-assed assaults on all and sundry are just done out of defensive posturing because she's ... well she's just so much weaker and more helpless than men, like a kitten really, no claws at all.

Women should be women, and preferably act in a very genteel way, which I guess means Miranda will shortly be retiring from the vulgar business of the newspaper game, and the nastiness of regularly writing head kicking columns (the head being a proper feminine target, unless of course the balls or the crotch are within convenient steel capped range).

Yes, she's back in her lighter vein in Fairytale comes true for one Ladette, offering up more on her addiction to the television show Ladette to Lady:

Of course, Ladette to Lady is just a TV show and it is absurd to think a stint wearing prim tweed suits and learning the finer points of flower arranging could alone undo a lifetime's self-destructive habits.

Never mind about that Miranda, go right on and be absurd.

It was as if they had a five-week detox from a toxic culture that objectifies and coarsens girls and young woman (sic), in which old-fashioned virtues of femininity, grace and modesty are regarded as laughable and sexist - although they evolved to protect the weaker sex.

Without television, trashy magazines and free access to alcohol the ladettes became happy. They learned how to restrain their emotions, behave with dignity, walk with poise, speak politely, cook souffles, dance with a prince, sew a ball gown and serve afternoon tea sweetly to a bunch of ghastly British dowagers. The point seemed not so much in the skills but in the exertion of the discipline and self-control required to acquire them.

You mean without television they gave up watching truly awesome, stupid, mindless trash like Ladette To Lady?

Actually the point is not the skills or the young women acquiring them, but the packaging designed to score high ratings and lure in mug punters like Miranda the Devine so that advertisers can pitch soap powder, cars, and nice girly consumer items to them in prime time.

Poor Miranda is shocked and disappointed that once the newly refined ladies re-emerged into the toxic culture, the wheels fell off the wagon train. Apparently at a reunion special there were trashed hotel rooms, copious alcohol consumption, breast flashings in George street, and topless romps in the hotel pool "in the wee hours." (No, I don't think Miranda means the grrrlies acted like kids in a suburban swimming pool, I think she's being Scottish).

Lordy, lordy, four of the contestants even bared almost all for lads' magazine Zoo Weekly.

Fortunately, there's an upside for Miranda. The young woman who won the contest has reformed herself. She's given up her job stripping in Kings Cross clubs, and is now digging gardens in western Sydney for a horticulture course she's doing - even if, according to Miranda, She had been about the worst of the binge-drinking, vomiting, burping, farting, breast-flashing, bottom-baring, angry tattooed female yobbos.

Well good for her, but don't you find it a little unnerving how Miranda describes the fallen angels' sins with such relish? Is she attracted to the dark side? How could she waste the brain cells and the precious time in her life to watch this kind of reality television drivel?

Because, you dolt, it illustrates the transformational value of a fairytale. The winner is now a role model for other young women, she's gained her self respect, and Miranda has gained a chance for a cheap pot shot, a veritable hit, at modern society.

It is a sad comment on our times that it took reality television to give young women like Mitchell some respite from a girl-poisoning culture.

Meaning? Sexual abuse, and men who make jokes about whips and want a fuck and go to watch strippers? Or men who think women should cook souffles, sew a ball gown and serve afternoon tea to ghastly dowagers?

What a confused possum you are Ms. Devine.

It's just a television show. It's showbiz. It's inner meaning is that some stupid commentators in search of inner meaning will write stocking fillers as an easy way out, as a way of escaping serious thought while having a fine old time marveling at female yobbos. We've been doing it ever since they put the bearded lady in the circus.

I know, I know. You don't believe a word I've written. You think I've made it all up. You think this is some kind of post modernist Donald Barthelme fairy tale referencing John Waters' star Divine. You think I'm trying to prove that not a word  Germaine Greer wrote in The Female Eunuch has had any meaning or impact on life in general or women in particular since the day it was written. 

You think I've made up Miranda Devine, that I just trawled back through Emily Post's book on etiquette, stole her thoughts, and dressed them up - in the guise of a commentary on reality television - by presenting them in the form of a fictitious modern woman anxious to return the world to the nineteen twenties, tweed suits and P. G. Wodehouse:

Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality - the outward manifestation of one's innate character and attitude to life.

Indeedy Emily, and if Miranda the Devine can ever give up her habit of kicking the shit out of the minority groups she routinely hates on a weekly basis, be they greenies, lefties, or just ordinary folk with a different point of view, then I'll believe she's anxious to avoid a poisonous culture that infects young girls and young boys. But until that day she's just another shrieking shock jock, with a truly bizarre attitude to women ...

Meantime, Zoo editor Paul Merrill on the way the ladettes had scrubbed up nicely:

The girls may have been rough, but now they're seriously classy. And guys definitely like a bit of posh.

A bit of posh? Right, because if they want to get a bit of tosh, they always go to Miranda Devine. Meantime, here's the cover of what you're looking for in your local news agent. What an inspirational fairy tale. Cor blimey g'uvnor, tasty, I'll have a bit of that:

Michael Duffy, Drive-bys, Honorable Sydney Criminals and the golden age of crime

(Above: sweet Sydney-sider Kate Leigh, dealer in cocaine, sly grog, stolen goods, brothels and a deft shoplifter for the fun of it).

Australians love the underworld, have done so for a long time. After all, except for poncy, wanker states like South Australia, we have a convict streak in the blood, a criminal taint that no amount of free settlering can wipe out.

Oh you can talk about the Irish being sent over here for being Irish, or kids for stealing a loaf of bread, or martyrs for eccentric beliefs, but you can't walk around the rogues and charlatans and bad people sent out here in chains. Yep, we're bad to the bone, always have been, always will be.

One of the funniest aspects of people discussing criminality is the idea that there are good ways to be a criminal and bad ways. You know, if you look a man in the eye while stabbing him to death in a frenzy, it's somehow more noble and aspirational than if you stab him in the back.

Michael Duffy, esteemed columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, gets himself in a tangle of righteous indignation about new bad criminals and drive-by shootings in Drive-bys: the coward's way to kill:

In their evil and their idiocy, they (drive bys) reveal a loss not only of morality but of any developed sense of self-preservation.

Huh? So when has any criminal act revealed a gain in morality, or has a gang land war revealed a developed sense of self-preservation?

What actually Duffy is saying is that somehow crime in Sydney has become more rotten since Middle Easterners have landed in the local crime scene, though he also allows the art of the drive-by is practised by bikies of other ethnic persuasions, and with deadly force by that recent notorious exponent, Ken Tan.

To prove whatever point he seems to be trying to make, the Duffster wheels in Clive Small, assistant commissioner of police, to blame the Middle Eastern crime gangs for starting this style of criminality (along with kneecapping), and causing rival bikie gangs to get in on the act.

Small regards drive-bys as "cowardly ways of imposing control over territory ... Traditional criminals would have regarded them as irresponsible, and stupid because they attract publicity and the police. Lenny McPherson once said killing people in the street was bad for business."

Would this perchance be the same Lenny McPherson who allegedly attempted the murder of SP bookmaker John Unwin in a busy central Sydney street in mid-evening, with shots being fired between two cars as they repeatedly rammed each other, until Unwin managed to wound McPherson's accomplice and bodyguard Snowy Rayner?

Or the same McPherson who drove up alongside a rival criminal, Robert "Pretty Boy" Walker in Randwick's main street, Alison Road, and opened up with an Owen submachine gun, hitting Walker six times, along with a nearby parked car and a fence, and killing Walker immediately?

There's more, much more, but I would have thought quoting McPherson about crime as a business would be like quoting Satan on the subject of sinning, since the man was a vicious sociopath with not even a thin veneer of civilization to hide the brittle chipboard beneath (let's not go into the time he turned up at his estranged mother's 70th birthday party with a live rabbit, asked why he hadn't been invited, tore off the rabbit's head, flung the body at his mother's feet and stormed away).

Does all this make McPherson a better class of criminal, who can therefore regard drive-bys with contempt?

I suppose we should hearken to the advice of Small, since in their time the NSW police force has sheltered within its ranks the most corrupt and criminal elements in Sydney, with the cops putting average gangsters to shame with their sophisticated corruption, but let's not rehearse the mini-series Blue Murder - just watch the show again. It still holds up, and remains director Michael Jenkins finest moment.

I suppose we could go back earlier to the days of the razor gangs in search of a better class of criminal, but I'll be buggered if I can find any, though it's nice to know that a couple of women - Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine - ran the best of the Sydney gangs. The warfare between the two culminated in the notorious Battle of Kellett Street - you used to be able to see (and maybe still can) a commemorative plaque in the street on the spot in the street where the gangs lined up in a riot of guns, knives, bricks and mayhem.

The interesting thing of course was that in those days the gangs were the result of fuzzy thinking by moralists. When cocaine was banned from over the counter chemist sales, it went underground, and when prostitution was run off the streets, it landed in the hands of tough brothel-keepers like Tilly Devine, and when six o'clock closing was brought in back in 1916 to stop 'binge drinking', people thirsty for a drink after six went to sly grog shops run with the contrivance of (and patronized by) corrupt politicians and police. 

Funnily enough the "six o'clock swill", which saw patrons down a schooner or five before early closing forced the publican to kick them out, was introduced by then premier William Holden after 5,000 noble Anzacs embarked on a drunken riot that saw them storm through Liverpool and even catch a train into Sydney's central station to confront a line of armed troops (ten were hit, one fatally). You won't find that kind of detail in John Howard's Gallipoli history of Australia. (What's more amazing, the swill absurdity lasted until the nineteen fifties, and seriously affected the capacity of Australians to deal sensibly and responsibly with alcohol).

Even though the Duffster mentions The Wire, and notes that Ken Tan's dispute was with a convicted drug offender Raymond Frangieh, he fails to follow through and make the obvious point that the gang wars of today are about much the same turf as older gang wars - control of the drug trade, and associated criminal activities. And the means - territorial pissing on turf and fear-mongering - are as old as crime in Australia. Or at least as old and venerable as his favorite topic, the Rum rebellion.

As for that other old saw, that alleged noble taboo, whereby family was kept out of violence between criminals, spare me the sanctimonious nonsense. Criminals like McPherson did it to their own families (say by pistol whipping your wife), as well as to any other families that got in their way or could be used as part of a power play, though here we have to cede fear and respect to the Melbourne gangs celebrated in Underbelly, or the glorious Painters and Dockers waterfront wars of the nineteen fifties. Nor should we fail to mention that fine fellow Neddy Smith who for no particular reason one day got out of his car in a road rage, and stabbed a tow truck driver in the eye with a screw driver, thereby killing him.

The Duffster is in fact simply and rather shamelessly recycling a fair bit of his column from some previous reports he did on Ken Tan and his drive-by shooting war with Raymond Frangieh, with the nonsense about old criminal ways and old criminal days being morally superior just a little stucco to hide the logic cracks in the brick work.

The drive-by is an act of self-expression as well as intimidation, and might be considered a criminal's version of terrorism. It is cowardly, indiscriminate and therefore vicious and idiotic. It was not alway such a feature of Sydney's underworld.

Why that reminds me of an outburst in the Truth newspaper in 1927 right after the Pistol Licensing Act of 1927 provided for an automatic term in prison for anyone carrying an unlicensed firearm. Cue cut-throat razors, with handles, as the new weapon of choice:

The razor is more effective than the revolver as a cash extractor. The sheen of its bright blade close to the cheek puts deadly fear into the heart of the victim ... Razor gangs are terrorising the underworld of Darlinghurst, that region of bohemia, crime and mystery. The razors its members carry in their hands are feared far more than the revolver of the ordinary crook. Men who will defy the black muzzle quail before the bright blade held threateningly to their cheek.

Where are the decent criminals of yesteryear, who'd think nothing of slashing your cheek open to the bone?

Most of the good gangster ideas we get in Australia have been imported from the good ol' USA, and drive-bys have always been a popular form of activity there - when you come to think about it, cars and sex, cars and fast food, cars and crime, cars and guns ... it's right for the American psyche, and has been ever since a man could ride a horse and carry a six shooter and touch up the town hotel with a little lead for refusing him service.

To imagine one particular form of cowardly, indiscriminate, vicious and idiotic intimidation is somehow morally superior to another, is however to enter into a sublime world of bizarre comparisons. Truth to tell, if an intimidatory drive-by left just a few bullet holes in the brickwork, I might be able to handle it a bit better than a cheek or a carotid artery slashed open by a cut-throat razor. Then again I wouldn't be suggesting either path was the one chosen by the better class of traditional criminals, whomever that might be or whatever that might mean. 

Meantime, we have a good Christian senator voting down a tax on alcopops and commentators groaning at the burden of taxing a good time, while bikie gangs supply muscle and drugs to clubs, and young folks do a little speed because they can, and the bikie overlords make money in a way which somehow seems to have been deemed orderly and proper, until they bunged on a do in Sydney airport.

It's a funny old world, all the more funny because a historian like the Duffster looks at the Middle Easterns in the present gangs and somehow imagines the past as a golden age of traditional, better class criminals. 

Ah yes we used to kill and rape and corrupt and murder and riot and promote mayhem in so much better style in the old days. Back then we were real gents, almost toffs. Why a crim's word was his honor, unless he had his fingers crossed. These days, these young pups, they don't even stand up when the national anthem is playing, or salute the flag.

Will the conservatives' yearning for a mythical golden age know no bounds? Trust me, the lead of our time will one day turn into a new mythical golden age, but in reality it will still just be the lead of our time.

(Below: Tilly Devine, back in those golden days when a woman was a woman, and not afraid to whip off your balls with the stroke of a cut-throat razor, nicely stropped to a keen edged, gleaming sharpness. Where have all the great female criminals gone?)

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago.
Where have all the flowers gone?
The girls have picked them ev'ry one.
Oh, when will you ever learn?
Oh, when will you ever learn?

So to this week's score for the Duffster, a pretty fair average one for a criminal effort:

Ability to yearn for a golden age of crime in fine conservative commentator style: 11
Willingness to slag off Middle Eastern criminals: 11
Capacity for high moral tone in relation to drive-by shootings: 11
Willingness to perpetuate myths about criminals, beloved by criminals and cops: 11
Capacity to examine how the gangs and gang warfare of today relate to the gangs of yesteryear: 2
Sssh, whatever you do, don't mention the drugs embedded in our criminal and our common culture: 2

By the way, Sydney has its very own police and justice museum down near Circular Quay , which naturally spends much more time looking at crims than at the straight and narrow. Their current exhibition? The Femme Fatale.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Michael Costa, Working Class Heroes, Poor CEOs and the Class War

What I most love about the loons is the way they can embrace contradiction, without ever worrying about contradiction.

Take education for example. The burgeoning private sector was rampantly encouraged by the Howard government, and the Ruddster team, being a pale clone in so many ways, won't do anything to discourage the trend.

But where does this trend lead you? Well it leads to the scientology school around the corner (which has scored a small amount of subsidy) and it also leads to Islamic schools. Of course Islam gets the loons terribly agitated.

Things were fine and dandy when it was just the Catholics and the Anglicans, and a select number of rich private schools dedicated to maintaining the elite in their power and glory. But now any kind of fundie loon can set up a school, and provided it conforms to a set of criteria, it can put out its hand for government aid.

As Maralyn Parker in the Daily Terror points out, in the past two years 11 new independent schools have been established, with one of them offering a "secular Islamic school welcoming all members of the community."

Well that's a relief - the secular bit I mean. It sounds just like the secular Catholic education promising hellfire and damnation that I experienced.

And as Australia drifts away from its secular education standards, where schools are allowed to push private agendas down children's throats, and offer "healthy competition", subsidized by taxpayers at large, the loons will wonder why a secular Australia also slipped off the rails.

And they won't pause for a second to wonder exactly how the constant kicking in the guts of public education, and 'leftie' teachers got them there. Yep, the hatred of government has its consequences. But sadly readers of Tim Blair's blog find it hard to put one and one together, let alone work out that Sekular means more than a town in Serbia.

Parker is one of the few sane voices at the Terror, so let's leave her there, suffering on her own wheel of fire (you can catch her full rant about hypocrisy undermining public schools here),

It's time for us to turn to our own favorite turncoat and sanctimonious government basher, who wields the willow with all the skill of a Labor party heavy at a bush picnic in a Dal Stivens' story. (It's just a pity the demon bowler doesn't knock his block off).

Come on down Michael Costa, arch right loon and one time Treasurer guardian involved in the blighting of public education in NSW. What have you got for us this week? What bout of government bashing, distilled with essence of loathing for the Ruddster and his merry band of vile socialists?

Yep, you've excelled yourself. War on CEOs won't fix economy.

Oh poor diddums nice CEOs, is nasty working class bullies picking on ya, diddums. There, there, Michael Costa will give them a sound thrashing and teach 'em a lesson. How dare they say you're getting too much, diddums, you do so much good, and lately the economy's been running at such full steam, why I have to think you're worth triple the cash in the paw you get already.

Take that kindly Sol Trujillo - didn't he do such a good job running Telstra, and running its share price into the ground? Bonus time there.

Actually it's terribly hard to do a gloss on Costa's scribbing because it's tedious, and funnily enough even more right wing than the standard dribbles of most members of the right wing commentariat  fraternity. Not only has Costa jumped the shark, he's become a ringleader in the orgy of class baiting common to such folk.

In essence it seems that an attempt to give shareholders the right to approve executive termination payments worth more than a year's base salary is just a political stunt from a government that's run out of economic steam, it's a childish attack on executive greed, it's class war, it's particularly unhelpful to business confidence ... it's, it's ... well it's just wrong.

After explaining at tedious length about corporate structure, and the way the world of capitalism works (or doesn't, as the case may be), Costa goes on at tedious length to explain how everything is hunky dory in the land of corporate remuneration.

Guess he must be trying to angle up and land a CEO job, and the sooner the better, since it will stop him being a columnist. Or maybe it won't. Maybe he'll be a good delegater, hired for crucial decision-making insight, with one paw on his cash and the other pounding away at the keyboard.

Anyhoo, never mind ABC Learning or Babcock & Brown. Nothing can be done. Not a thing. It's all do do with the global market. There are so many successful executives around the world who've helped drive the global economy into recession that we have to pay a premium to lure them here so they can do the same for local companies and the local economy. Or the talented lads from Babcock & Brown will go overseas. What's that you say, good riddance? Now come on, don't be like that (as Kenneth Williams once used to say in a funny voice):

Highly skilled executives command large salaries. Just because governments and sections of the community believe these salaries to be excessive or obscene doesn't mean they are wrong. Morality has nothing do with it.

Nor does success, it seems. It's just whatever you can get away with. Well if that's the law of the land, then you can understand why unions resort to industrial thuggery. Because morality has nothing to do with it. And others to bikie gangs and crime. Because morality has nothing to do with it. Or become politicians. Because morality has nothing to do with it. Or worst of all become lick spittle lackey Rupert Murdoch columnists. Because morality has nothing to do with it.

One of the most misleading ways of assessing executive salaries is by comparing them with the pay of workers. The Economist claims that in 1980 the average pay for chief executives in the biggest companies in the US was about 40 times that of an average production worker. In 1999, it had increased to about 85 times and was estimated to be more than 400 times during the recent asset price bubble. This may be true, but it is irrelevant. The market for chief executives is not the same as the market for production workers.

Of course it isn't. Greed is good. Greed is great. Greed is fucking fantastic. Let's have more of it. It had nothing to do with the recent asset price bubble - what's a bubble or two between mates. Yeah, there's nothing like running the world economy into the ground, and making out like bandits. Because morality or fairness has nothing to do with it, nothing at all. Different markets, don't ya know. (And don't you just love the word 'bubble' - makes it sound like kids playing by blowing soap bubbles. So much nicer than the great recession, or the mild depression, or the grim reaper).

Many factors explain the growth of executive salaries and the relative decline of production workers' salaries, including their relative supply and demand. Executive remuneration cannot be effectively regulated by governments. It would be foolish to try. The resources of the Productivity Commission would be better spent examining the economic consequences of the Government's Fair Work Australia legislation, which will have greater consequences to the economy than any chief executive's salary package.

That's right. Fuck the workers, and let's keep fucking them over. Paying them anything above the minimum wage will ruin us all, while any CEOs salary package will lead them, and us, to a greater cosmic good and understanding. Because morality has nothing to do with it, nothing at all.

Why, just look at the obscene amount Hollywood actors and sports stars get. Isn't it just great that the Victorian government is forking over three million dollars to bring over Tiger Woods. And doesn't he deserve every penny of it. The chicken entrails - or was that the economic multipliers - tell me so.

And here's the rub. If you can pay Angelina Jolie or Matt Damon a fortune, then why not pay Sol the same. Well actually I can think of one good reason - if I have a fantasy life and someone enters it, buggered if I'll fuck Sol in my mind. That has to make Angelina and Matt worth a little bit more.

Anyhoo, there's a lot more of  it, if you can stand to read Costa at all. It's like reading Janet Albrechtsen, only she's less turgid. Come to think of it, if you put Costa in a dress, and hid the bald pate under a wig, you might think you were reading someone channeling Janet.

Yep, the transformation is complete. Once upon a time, Costa pretended he was a working class hero, now he just yearns to be one of the folks on the hill. Let's hope this is his favorite song, though I'm not sure he can quite get the smokey tone in Marianne Faithfull's version:

As soon as you're born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can't really function you're so full of fear
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

There's room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

If you want to be a hero well just follow me
If you want to be a hero well just follow me

Thanks Mr. Costa, but I think I'll pass on the offer. And sadly I'm not sure who else you'll find who will want to follow you outside of your fellow loons in the right wing commentariat ... especially as you don't seem to have learned how to smile as you kill. A joke or two would really liven up the read ...