Thursday, April 30, 2009

Peter Holmes a Court, making NSW number one, and sporting carnivals for carpetbaggers


(Above: the NSW Olympic stadium, some time known as Telstra and ANZ stadium, the NSW Labor party's solution to failing state infrastructure, including power and public transport. Running late for dinner because the train's stopped running and there's no power in the house? Never mind, take a look at this photo and fondly remember all the fine sporting moments you've experienced in your life).

Peter Holmes a Court contributes a sterling piece of rhetoric to The Sydney Morning Herald, an edited extract of a speech he gave to the NSW Business Chamber's NSW: Reclaiming 1st campaign, run under the header Let's make our state a winner once again.

And so say all of us, at least those who reside in New South Wales, shaken by the recent savage beatings handed out by the toads, and the shame of watching Melbourne experience a bohemian cultural revival that's made it a place where you can enjoy a glass of wine in a cafe without thinking you have to worry about your status as an alcoholic (or buy food to placate the wowsers).

But then I noticed tucked away in his article a hint of what he might be looking for:

It is not enough for NSW to simply be in the game, when those around you spend their time working out how to get your business, how to stage your sporting events and how to steal your jobs.

Dearie me, sounds like more 'panem et circenses' is on the cards, as you might expect from someone who thinks a revival of the Rabbitohs rugby league club can somehow act as a metaphor for the kind of revival we need in New South Wales.

The next thing you know, grasping entrepreneurs and promoters will be huddled in the corridors of parliament house, lobbying for the right to take our money to subsidize their risks while either stealing sporting events from other states, or staging brand new sporting follies of the most rapacious and useless kind.

We're not talking here about the intergalactic tiddlywinks carnival, or the world chess championship, but the usual suspects, like the senile world of Formula 1 and similar sporting carnivals, which all are supposed to work on the idea of economic multipliers, proving that for every dollar you drop in Bernie Ecclestone's pocket, the state is supposed to enjoy four dollars of economic revival.

While what usually happens is that Bernie makes out like a bandit (and so might his wife in their divorce battle), the punters get three days of bread and circuses, there's nil impact on tourism, and marginal benefit to the economy, politicians get box seats, and the tax paying public get to pick up any shortfall.

This kind of sporting socialism reached a kind of nadir under Bob Carr, who refused to spend any money on infrastructure but found time to bung on an Olympic games and then conveniently toddled off into the sunset to leave his successors to pick up the mess and try to work out what to do with the white elephant used as the main Olympics stadium.

You won't usually find the right wing commentariat carrying on about this. You will find them bleating at every conceivable opportunity about funding for the arts, or films, or theatre, or music, or whatever, and what an incredible waste it is, but nary a word about why sport should be given this kind of 'major event' free kick on a regular basis.

Is it because they have abundant petrol head and sports jock tendencies? You betcha. They don't mind a little funding socialism (you can dress it up as a public private partnership if you want fine sounding gibberish) when it comes to sport, because they get to go off to their subsidized events, sniff the tang of gas in the air, and warble on about the true beauty of being on the world stage with our sporting champeens.

Proving once again that socialism is in the eye of the beholder, and isn't always a dirty word, at least if you call it something different and deliver sports action to the jocks. No talk then of the actual attendees paying full market price for their indulgence in their own pet enthusiasm.

When these dodos talk about arts funding, it's always about how the funding distorts the marketplace and inevitably leads to failed outcomes - like patrons being favored over the joe blows out in the sticks. Whenever they talk about slipping fast talking sports carpet baggers hard won taxpayer bucks, it's always about how it would be too dear to stage without a government handout (or too hard to steal it from the Victorians without some cash to tickle the trout our way). 

The result's been the most childish of state based rivalries, and you'd hope that sometime soon it stops. Childish rhetoric about NSW being number one reminds me of the days when such was the paranoia between states that they all had different gauge railway lines, a fine mess that took decades to sort out.

If you must, talk about Australia being number one, and then let's get on to talking about how we can either abolish the state system of government, or make it a more effective managerial system to manage a state's resources and infrastructure.

Whatever you do, don't tell me how we have to steal from Queensland or Victoria, by stealing from taxpayers to shovel funds down the throat of clever carpet baggers only too eager and anxious to exploit state rivalries and make out like bandits.

If you want an example that doesn't involve sport, look at the bidding wars for runaway Hollywood productions, designed to lure Hollywood producers into producing a show in the state by giving them rebates, holidays, benefits, perks and anything else the producers can claw back from state governments and taxpayers. And what do you get after these millions have been flung away? Maybe three to six months of shooting time for a largely Australian crew, but not a cent from the actual main game, which involves exploitation of the rights in the marketplace.

Truth to tell, I'm so over this kind of state rivalry. Let Victoria have its grand prix (in their negotiations with Bernie next time let them pay a hefty price for stealing it from South Australia), let the Queenslanders go on acting like try hard ratbags, and let the minor BAPH states hand over cash to persuade people sports carnivals are so much more fine than a roof over head, decent public transport and food on table. 

If Victorians wants to slobber over Tiger Woods, and pay the millions involved, fine, let them, but don't tell me this is the best way forward for a state government wanting to get NSW back in the game.

If NSW politicians manage to fix even half of the infrastructure problems this state faces, and we never get to see a Sydney Grand Prix or Tiger, then it's surely time for a great fireworks display on the harbor.


Piers Akerman, Currawong, environmental activists and the way to save the world


(Above: sweet Currawong, its salvation celebrated by a newly green Piers Akerman).

Who'd have thought it? It turns out that Piers Akerman is a fiercely dedicated environmentalist and conservationist, and not the caricatured supporter of business and global warming you greenies contend.

Amazing, because last time I read Piers I could have sworn that greed was good, business was great, concrete essential, tar agreeable, and tree hugging environmental activists and greenies about the lowest form of life known to exist on the planet.

Indeedy, it wasn't so long ago he was advising us that killing all the sharks in Sydney Harbor (at least net them with gay abandon) should and would be high on the agenda if it weren't for greenie councillors and their pathetic ilk.

But yes it's true, Piers has had a greenie revelation, and all because the Labor Council wanted to score some cash by putting its sheltered beach side socialist haven for unionists at Currawong up for sale. (You can read it all here under the header The battle for Currawong has finally taken wing).

Now I've stayed at Currawong, and a lovely place it was, though the facilities had a certain working class quality to them, as you'd expect from comrades dedicated to fighting eastern suburbs excess.

But swayed by Piers I've come to understand that mamby pamby dedication to the environment is for sheep, at least when you could put a decent hotel on the site, and encourage more tourists to come and drop their dollars at the lush view of Pittwater, with Ku-rin-gai Chase National Park as your backdrop - or at least, a decent temple for mugs seeking enlightenment, or failing that 25 modern homes offering a grand view for rich folk seeking to escape the tar and cement.

But it seems I got it wrong.

After years of complacency, Sydneysiders are finally fighting for their beaches.

After a 12-year struggle, Northern Beaches residents have finally convinced NSW Planning Minister Kristina Keneally to refuse an application to subdivide the historic Currawong site within Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, on Pittwater’s western foreshore.

Brave Sydney greenies, and Piers is fighting with you all the way.

Unless it just happens to be a chance for Piers to rake over the coals of the cynical NSW Labor party, and sundry villains like recently converted to right wing loonery Michael Costa wanting to sell off Currawong to the guru Marharishi Yogi.

Well of course in Sydney there's only one meaningful topic of conversation anywhere at any time of day - real estate - and if that fails as a conversation starter, you can always try chatting about ... real estate.

The moves on Currawong - and the fight to resist its development - are a classic example of Labor politics in NSW, and the desire on the part of right to act just like any business, as you'd expect, since to do anything else would get them an egging from the right wing commentariat.

So it's with a hearty, choking slice of heavily buttered hypocrisy that the fat owl manages to celebrate internal Labor party feuding, and activist despair and ultimately something of a greenie victory.

Local activists, including a formerly stalwart Labor supporter, the actor Shane Withington, were disgusted but they were to be snubbed again when the federal Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett reneged on a pledge to protect the site from development. 

Keneally has found a face-saving means of extricating the Labor Party from this mess but the pusillanimous Independent Commission Against Corruption has yet to ask any hard questions about the smelly affair—least of all whether Unions NSW received any money for the site?
The fight to preserve Currawong is not yet over but the ministerial decision marks one small victory.

Ah now I get it. It's a smelly affair, the Labor party trying to act like Liberals with an eye for development. Yep, it's another chance at payback for Labor party apparatchiks seeking to sell off the family jewellery so they cold stay in power, and never no mind the pretty biscuit box landscapes.

Is this the way to save the rest of the world? Put it up for ownership by the NSW Labor party, then have them squabble over their desire to sell it, then have the right-wing commentariat join in and demand that the world be saved for environmental and greenie reasons? 

Perhaps it is, but make sure you throw in some British Virgin island companies, so that there can be squawking about tax havens (as if minimizing tax was now somehow bad, you naughty Kerry Packer you), and include an exotic Indian religion to provide bum-bouncing jokes, and then allow a timely reference to The Castle, so suddenly you can suggest greenie activists and environmentalists are just common decent average folk (and let's not say anything about their tree hugging perversion).

Such fun, and such a good way to show how our favorite fat owl of the remove can spin on the spot when it suits him. One hundred and eight degrees, with flip? Easy, come unto me greenies and environmental activists and together with Piers Akerman, arm in arm, you can save Sydney and its beaches. And who knows, tomorrow you might even save the world.

Is it equally perverse of me to wish the place was concreted over and turned into a five star hotel, knowing that next week Akerman will be back railing about tree hugging and greenies. No, let's not reach for that level of perversion ... let's just hope Currawong keeps being saved, so that people (including working class people) can head out there and hug a tree or two.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Canberra, planning, the motor car, and now it seems climate change is man-made


(Above: second day in Canberra, and starting to feel like the electronic sheep decorating the wall of the Goulburn Soldiers Club - dinkum Oz meals available for genuine travellers. Is Canberra the loon capital of Australia? The world? Watch out Mercer Wisconsin, supposed and alleged loon capital of the world, with your cute animated gif, we're coming to get ya).

Canberra is the perfect example of a planned city, where the planners, not being futurists, failed to plan for the automobile, and its baleful influence.

As a result, Canberra manages to organize a traffic jam morning and evening as wretched motorists try to wend their way through the cunningly contrived funnel known as Northbourne Street. 

At other times, the street, like the town, can resemble the quiet after a funeral service. 

Meantime, to escape the planners and indulge in their McMansions, the people have sprawled out to bizarre byways like Gungahlin.

Once you begin to look beyond the formal structures of power, whether for politicians or bureaucrats, you see a large country town which on the one hand is indulged, and on the other already (after a relatively short life) exhibits social decay and produces a fervid desire on the part of some inhabitants to escape.

What effect this has on the governance of the nation will no doubt remain a sociological mystery, but a sense of detachment and remoteness surely goes with the alienation Canberra's design produces. Neither Sydney's goat tracks, nor Melbourne's grid, has managed to produce such a sterile landscape, where the biscuit tin pictorials are matched by a resolute indifference to human movement and interaction.

The obsession with signage - its removal, its obliteration - even when the signage produces useful information to passers by, is just the most obvious sign of a planning fetish which prefers dysfunctionality in order to produce an impression of nature and tranquility in the suburbs. But when of course you manage to find a set of shops, they have the same tawdry exteriors and banal advertising as you'd find on shops along Parramatta road.

Canberra is the best indicator of why some people prefer anarchy and inchoate, incoherent structures to the work of planners, but it would probably be better if planners were trained a little more in the art of free form thinking. Put them in an isolation tank for twenty four hours, and feed them non-stop jazz and then see what they come up with.

For all that, natives (the few you can find, as opposed to blow ins) tell me it's not such a bad town, and people manage to get along well enough, but I do chortle when bureaucrats tell me that the motor car is the cause of all the problems in major cities in Australia. Without a car, Canberra would become a hell hole in a very short time.

All of which is a way of acknowledging that genuine, certified Aussie loons seem to have got out of the water today in most of the main papers. The best The Australian can muster today on climate change is Bjorn Lomborg, who in Green energy a better bet than carbon, acknowledges person-made climate change is real, but wants a carbon tax rather than the Rudd government's currently befuddled scheme.

I guess that's one step up from ostrich land, but why is that we still have to accept "man-made" as a term for human activity, as if women are somehow incapable of doing their bit for hot air and carbon emission? Oh what the heck, damn you men, and your man-made climate change, it's all your fault we're in this pickle.

Meanwhile over at Crikey they pitted Dr. Andrew Glikson against Andrew Bolt and his ten climate change myths for a bit of blood sport (see Climate myths? Glikson v. Bolt). This has all the entertainment value of Muhammad Ali up against Sonny Liston, but doubtless Bolt will claim the phantom punch never landed, and he only tripped his way to the canvas. Such is the megalomaniac certainty of Bolt, such a pugnacious and assertive terrier, barking mad at all and sundry, I find him unreadable, so it's good to have a short hand summary of where he's at, which doesn't seem to have shifted from where he's been at for years.

Perhaps there's nothing like a dose of swine flu to make sure everybody can get hysterical over something more interesting than the end of western civilization as we know it.

William Kininmonth, the scientific wreck called The Australian and the cultural wreck known as Canberra


(Above: fireworks, a vanished dream, like Guy Fawkes, who still has much work to do in Canberra).

Ever think you've gone barking mad? A day in Canberra will do that, and so will a quick tour of News Corp, which exhibits first class signs of schizophrenia.

First to Canberra. What a dispiriting town it is, when all's said and done, a bit like putting up Washington against New York. Buildings that want to be testaments to the rulers, like the pyramids, but without the majestic megalomania the ruling class once took as divine right.

Between meetings I've been able to duck out and check some of the cultural institutions. For some reason, I took a look at the National Museum. Without wanting to sound like Prince Charles - scrub that, I want to sound like Prince Charles - the building is an architectural wreck, and now it's a curatorial wreck as well, its contents only suitable for primary school students and retirees on their grey tour of Australia, though a healthy dose of Alzheimer's would help them get through the place with a nostalgic smile.

The museum can thank the right wing commentariat for much of its current predicament. In a culture ostensibly built on the ratbag and the larrikin, any notion that Australia has had an interesting and dynamic history, culturally as well as socially and politically, has been scrubbed from the record, and the infantilization of the interpretative presentation is now almost complete.

It's a fitting legacy to John Howard - who even put Christopher Pearson on the board, and who had some bizarre picket fence, lamington and scones view of middle class Australia, which now has its home in this building, degutted and flensed of anything that might be interesting or different. You'd be better off with an hour of Barry Humphries.

Wide ranging museums always have a harder time trying to get a coherent exhibition and interpretative strategy in place, but I've never managed to be in a museum at once so empty, so banal and so parochial, picked to death by the crows of right wing political correctness. 

If for some tragic reason you visit Canberra, check out almost any other museum - the national gallery (not the one they have in Victoria), the portrait gallery, the war memorial, old parliament house - before you bother with this collection of cultural detritus that reminds me fondly of the revolutionary museum off Tiananmen Square in Beijing (though I also see that the interpretative disease is about to do over old parliament house as well). 

Even more depressing, the ACT is now moving to ban fireworks completely, yet we hear nothing about this tragedy from the right wing commentariat. Sure in the old days you might lose a finger or a two, or even an eye (losing both was beyond careless), you might blow up a letter box, or give a cat a heart attack, or send a dog howling under the bed, but it's a measure of how nanny state we've become. Poor old Tim Blair is left to kill himself by smoking. He might call that defiance, but it sounds strangely sad and schoolboy to me. Whatever, it doesn't sound like Guy Fawkes in his prime.

Can the call for nanny state rule over us get any worse? Oh that's right Janet Albrechtsen's just suggested Stalinist show trials for wayward politicians! By a whole new bureaucracy!! Stick a pineapple up my bum, I've heard it all now, and it almost makes Canberra a wonderful joke full of good humor. I hear bureaucrats are so excited they're almost killing themselves to get on to Dame Slap's preliminary study group with a view to developing a working party to form a broad strategy. Oh yes they and the lawyers on the show trials will have tremendous fun and even better fees. How's that song go, send in the clowns, oh don't bother they're here.

But back to News Corp and corporate schizophrenia. Over the past few weeks I've been drawing attention to the wonderful global energy initiative being promoted by overlord Rupert and the dark forces - their latest headline story involves FOX using star power to educate students about renewable energy.

Then you flick over to The Australian, and there's the latest installment in what is now a relentless, monotonous round of global warming bashing, this time by William Kininmonth under the header Cold facts dispel theories on warming.

WTF. I wouldn't mind if this kind of loonacy was kept to the pages of Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt if it was going to be part of the regular diet - you know if you graze there, you can expect popcorn and M and M's and a 40 fag a day habit, and not a whit or jot of bran to keep your brain regular.

But The Australian keeps running this stuff without any thought there might be some counter-balancing scientific research in play.

Kininmonth exhibits the usual hysteria of celebrants of Professor Ian Plimer, and in a couple of cases his interpretation verges on the bizarre. For example, when he praises the Senate, the public and their representatives for showing innate common sense, and the Senate for being poised to reject the government's cap and trade legislation, he neglects to mention that this is partially because the loony greens don't actually believe the government is being tough enough.

Sometimes Mr. Kininmouth, the enemies of your friend just remain loony enemies.

There's more, plenty more, culminating in Kininmonth celebrating Plimer's authoritative book as providing an excuse and impetus to re-examine the scientific fundamentals. 

Okay, so let's hear from some scientists rather than from professors of history at Wollongong University blathering hot air about Greek tragedy and hubris.

I guess the editors of The Australian have learnt from the intelligent design controversy that there's always fun to be had printing the controversy, rather than the more mundane matter of ascertaining the actual state of play in a sober way, without ostentatious displays of spittle and foam.

Ah well I don't buy it, and I guess it's free online, so where's the harm. There's actually plenty of real science available on the intertubes, and soon enough hard copy newspapers will be like trilobite fossils, of endless fascination to students visiting the National Museum and marveling that, like dinosaurs, they ever existed, and stalked the earth at the same time as humans did.

(Below: FOX American Idol stars use their deceptive fame to inculcate into young people a useless obsession with renewable energy and solar power. Expect a denunciation of this farrago of News Corp nonsense in The Australian some time soon. Or as Johnny Mathis once sung, at least before the twelfth of never, and that's a long long time).


Piers Akerman, 666, the mark of the beast, the ABC, spin meistering and global warming


(Above: eek, beware satanists and megaphone spin meisters).

Waking up in a town where 666 is the call sign for ABC local radio is extremely disturbing.

For a start, it means that it's still on the AM band, when most rural radio has converted to FM. Guess that means Canberra, as the acme of country towns, remains further behind than most. And secondly I believe the numbers have something to do with satanism, and some rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem.

Did some wag in the early days have a satanist sense of humor? Way back when in 1953, the station was known as 2CN when it began broadcasting - even then it had 666 as its frequency - and despite a couple of frequency changes, it ended back up at 666 kHz, and now the wags in the office blithely talk of 666 embracing the digital age, and 666 ABC Canberra being the national capital's leading radio and online station.

You loons, you can't fool us. You're a flock of satanists, pure and simple. Heaven help the poor Christian who stumbles across your demonic call sign, and suddenly thinks the rapture is nigh.

Piers Akerman knows the truth about you. He knows you're just an outpost of spin meistering, unlike his own humble self, the essence of truth, justice and harmony, as he reveals yet again in ABC concocts global warming.

Yep, it seems that the ABC, the megaphone for every fashionable cause, is not giving up on its advocacy for global warming.

Damn you, satanists, damn you for reporting the views of scientists who disagree with Piers new pet Professor Ian Plimer. The villainess is Margot O'Neill on the ABC's program Lateline:

“ The claim that global temperatures have dropped since 1998, thus disproving a warming trend, is one of many rejected emphatically by one of the world’s climate scientists, David Karoly.”

Karoly, of the University of Melbourne, then tried to dump a bucket on Plimer saying: “Temperatures have dropped a very small amount since 1998, both in surface temperatures and in atmospheric temperatures measured from satellites. But that doesn’t mean that global warming has stopped. The temperatures, if we average from 1998 to 2008, they’re warmer than the previous 10 years, or the 10 years before that, or any 10-year period over at least the last 150 years.”

Now I'll leave you with the fat owl's counter explanation, which tells me just one thing: don't ask the fat owl to do your mathematics homework, don't ask him to explain graphs or means or statistics or data, and whatever you do, don't ask him to do your tax return.

But logic dictates that the drop in global temperatures is not a “claim”, as O’Neill said, it is a scientific fact. Dropping temperatures would indicate a cooling trend, not a warming trend, which O’Neill and the ABC are hoping for in order to push the Green policies of the ALP, and its political partner, the Australian Greens. Karoly’s remark has nothing to do with science, it is a personal political view, purely speculative and absolutely meaningless until temperatures start to rise again.

Well yes, but really fat owl your remark has nothing to do with science, it is a personal political view, purely speculative and absolutely meaningless until you show you understand how to decipher means, averages and trends.

Who knows, we might be in the grip of a cooling change, and we might be about to go into a new ice age. Or we might keep on average experiencing a trend upwards in temperatures. One thing's for sure, don't rely on the fat owl as a guide.

And the other thought is for Ian Plimer. Beware the company you keep. Thus far you mainly seem to have in the media the likes of Piers Akerman and Christopher Pearson and Andrew Bolt in your company, as ill-sorted and ill-tempered ratbags as you can find going around as commentariat columnists, and if you lie down with ratbags, you'll surely get up with fleas.

Or as Akerman himself noted, that's your ABC spinning as fast as it can, while failing to add, and here I am spinning as fast as I can.

And as for you satanists, never but never quote a scientist who disagrees with Ian Plimer, you megaphonies. We've got your number, in the capital of the nation, and it's 666, the mark of the beast. Quick, out with the holy water and splash it on the radio ...


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Janet Albrechtsen, Prospectuses, Show Trials, and dreams of demonic sheep


(Above: demonic sheep at the Goulburn Soldiers' Club).

You haven't truly experienced the full horror of the world until you've spent a dark and lonely night in the fog, driving around in circles in Canberra, lost and unhappy as you look for shelter and find only urban planning designed to make you feel like a rat in a maze.

Eventually you find your way around, but you haven't beaten the city, you've just become a rat who's learnt to get to the end of the maze and be rewarded with a peanut.

The first hint of the horror to come is provided by the unknown genius who punched out the eyes of the sheep on the wall of the Goulburn Soldiers' Club and inserted LED's, thereby giving the sheep a demonic presence, guardians on the first outer ring of hell.

It's my suspicion that people first become members of the right wing commentariat after they've experienced the rigors of a designed city, with its very own, frequently absurd government, in a place where sheep should still be reining supreme today. The grand vision is actually a soulless, artificial entity built up from scratch, where some wag thought putting the nation's parliament underground, topped with grass and dirt, expressed something grand when actually it hints at a mole fetish.

Anyhoo, you can understand why certain scribblers develop a deep fear of politicians, and perhaps that's the best way to approach the meanderings of Janet Albrechtsen in Political deception must be penalised.

The poor thing is still upset by the government's spruiking of Ruddstra - clearly she hasn't read Glenn Milne's story about how the bush and marginal electorates are going to bring down the government for failing to include them in the grand scheme.

She lists a panoply of promises broken by politicians, and even manages a few bipartisan examples, and wonders if politicians should be held to the same standards as the treatment recently doled out to the James Hardie mob for their cynical behavior towards victims of asbestos.

Sadly she decides it'd be too hard, which is a pity because there's a few religions I wouldn't mind taking to court for a litany of failed prospectuses and broken promises.

But her alternative idea shows she perhaps stayed in Canberra too long one night, and it affected her mind:

... here’s an idea that would lift immeasurably the standards of honesty and ethics during the most critical period in the political cycle without freezing vibrant political debate. Let us require all political parties to prepare and publish carefully considered election manifestos. Importantly, let us subject these once-in-three-years documents to all the content and liability requirements of a prospectus. If it’s good enough to protect investors when they purchase shares, it’s good enough to protect voters when they elect a government.

This would mean that political parties must reveal to voters all the information then known to them, or that could, with due diligence, have become known to them, that would have a material effect on whether voters will vote for them. Voters would then understand, for example, that Labor’s 2007 election promise of a computer for every school student was not costed to include all-important school infrastructure costs.

Bizarre, because of course without any punitive sanctions, all she's describing is what politicians do already. They put out detailed and considered statements of policy, and then proceed to flout, break, ignore or tear them up once in power, and as practicalities and circumstances impose new realities on them.

... there would be an obligation to include risk factors, mirroring the same obligation placed on corporate directors when preparing a prospectus. Voters would then more fully understand, for example, that Labor’s election promise of using $4.3 billion tax dollars to fund a private sector broadband network was high risk and might morph into a $43 billion publicly contracted network.

If the election prospectus is misleading or deceptive or omits material information, the party and those responsible for the prospectus could be prosecuted by an election regulator, playing a role akin to that of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

The party and its leaders would have due diligence defences to enable them to show they exercised care in preparing the election prospectus and acted reasonably. But if they failed to make out those defences, a suitable penalty could be applied: perhaps the deprivation of public election funding. Why should taxpayers fund parties to be misleading?

Ah now I get it. Like any good member of the right wing commentariat, Albrechtsen is a resolute Stalinist, and would love a good show trial or two in which politicians could be hung, drawn, quartered, and strung up on a line to dry - with Canberra the perfect town to do a repeat of the witches of Salem.

It's a perfect, if idle fantasy, so naturally she's very keen to flesh out the details:

All other forms of political speech would remain exempt. So it would remain possible to make glib statements and tell the odd fib at doorstops or press conferences. But these statements would end up being measured against the election prospectus. Though only political tragics and professionals would read the prospectus (as is usually the case with corporate prospectuses), it would transform the debate because commentators could measure the well-spun doorstop line against the more carefully phrased prospectus.

This would undoubtedly make politicians more careful and less colourful. It would require them to add caveats to their promises by thinking more carefully about them. But the result would be worth it: better considered election policies and a better informed electorate.

Yep, it's a perfectly formed fantasy, and I've always thought fantasies are the best indicator of the rich inner lives of tormented souls. Like small children, bullied by peers or disciplined by parents, it's the "I'll show them", "I'll teach them", "I'll learn them" mentality of the disempowered in search of revenge.

In the end, all it allows Albrechtsen is a dream world, a fantastic world where a change in law would prohibit politicians making baseless claims about the future. But could we also have a change in the law which prohibited columnists making baseless claims about the present, let alone the future?

The timing for such reform is surely perfect. Our Prime Minister preaches about the high cost to ordinary Australia of corporate excesses and dishonest dealings in business. Surely, before he adds to the vast weight of corporate regulation, he should first - for the sake of ordinary Australian voters - submit politicians to a small sliver of the rules that already apply to business.

Actually Janet, as you and other members of the commentariat continually note, Kevin Rudd just wants to be John Howard, and acts and deceives just like that political master, though he has perhaps achieved a further layer of zen tedium which makes him a rough equivalent as a politician to Gerard Henderson as a columnist. And the reality is, a master spruiker like Howard could sell you a great prospectus, fail to deliver, then prove at his show trial that in fact it was the Australian people who failed him. It'd be fun to watch, but not particularly enlightening or informative.

Still it must have been a nice fantasy, with the only actual bit your end punch line, which you apply to politicians, but which could in fact be nicely tweaked to apply to scribblers and the urgent need to give them a sliver of corporate law.

After all, we don't need columnists moralizing about the need for lots of regulation, or show trials of politicians, for everyone except themselves.

Anyhoo, next time you read Albrechtsen, bear in mind that with this fantasy, you've seen deep into the dreaming of a lawyer, and it's just trial and punishment, Stalinist style, as the end game. That'll learn 'em, like the way the James Hardie mob got learned. It'll explain a lot of what you read in her other columns.

And now it's off into the wilds of Canberra, after a night of being an android dreaming of electronic sheep.

Gerard Henderson, Youth Unemployment, Slumberland, Small Business Skills and jobs for pimply teens


(Above: OECD report excited about growing educational opportunities for nerds).

If there was a competition for the most boring and humorless columnist at work in the Australian media today, I'd nominate Gerard Henderson, and I reckon he'd win hands down. Who else have you got?

Okay, sorry, didn't mean to disturb your sleep. Reading the SMH can do that.

Take his column today on youth unemployment - Labor must not ignore youth jobs - which purports to be a pious prayer for the fate of the young unemployed, and really is just an excuse for Henderson to bang on again about unfair dismissal legislation and what a disincentive it is for the employment of full-time staff.

He even cunningly wheels out plucked political chook Barry Cohen (minister in the Hawke government) to complain that the Labor party now has fewer and fewer people with business experience. I guess it matches my complaint that fewer and fewer in the right wing commentariat have any meaningful business experience, the business of writing columns sucking up to business being enough monkey business for them. No need to actually work, when a few scribbles pays the bills.

Henderson seizes on a recent OECD report as justifying his one note melody, but he does so love to cherry pick. (The report's available here, only by subscription, but think yourself lucky, because if Henderson hasn't already sent you off to slumberland, the prose deployed by OECD experts always works like a charm, way better and more healthy than sleeping pills). 

Here are three key recommendations from the report, which is entitled Jobs for Youth: Australia:

The OECD recommends further action, targeting youth at risk. The following measures should be considered:

• Raise average educational attainment. The focus should be on retention until an ISCED 3 (upper-secondary) qualification is obtained rather than simply on staying in education until a given age (e.g. 18). More vocational education and training courses and apprenticeships should be set up within secondary schools. Investment of more resources in tertiary institutions offering short and flexible programmes should be increased. The Youth Allowance should also be made conditional on having attained, or committing to attain, the equivalent of an ISCED 3 degree.

• Ensure indigenous children aged under 5 use more health care and pre schooling services. To boost demand, authorities should consider offering financial incentives that reward pre school attendance and regular health checks among indigenous families.

• Preserve the core of the traditional carrot and stick activation mechanisms and maintain its effectiveness. The planned move from the current eight week non payment period for participation failures to a more gradual compliance system will be tougher to implement and monitor. It will at least require a greater capacity and willingness on the part of Centerlink to promptly assess and handle problematic cases reported by Job Network providers.


All pious, well meaning stuff, and decidedly socialist, requiring in the usual way government action, government investment, and even more educational opportunities prompted by government spending. The sort of stuff that induces fits in the commentariat, so it's away with that nonsense, and back to banging the drum about government legislation producing youth unemployment.

Henderson manages to extract from all the OECD guff a warning about pricing low skilled youth out of entry-level jobs, and spends much of the rest of the time abusing Network Ten's Meet the Press for not hammering treasurer Wayne Swan about his grievous youth employment errors (while at the same time saying that Swan is politically smart and would have been unlikely to say something he didn't want to say).

Good grief, as Charlie Brown used to say, when his only employment was falling over each time he tried to kick a football.

Lucky presenter Paul Bongiorno doesn't take Henderson's advice, or his program would shift from an asterick rating to a total blob.

And that's enough of that. 

In good news for the day, Ten has announced it always intended to keep The Simpsons on air (for the time being), and it seems it was all a conspiracy by the Daily Terror to rattle their cage by whipping up a storm about the cartoon being cancelled (or something like that). 

Once again western civilization as we know it has been saved from the brink of catastrophe. 

Which is just as well because watching The Simpsons might be the only way to relieve the deep social problems produced by the growing level of youth employment, all the result of Rudd government legislation (no, it's nothing to do with the GFC you simpletons), and which is likely to lead western civilization to the brink of catastrophe within the next six months.

(Below: exciting business opportunities for young people to pursue a career and contribute to the obesity epidemic).

Greg Melleuish, Hot Air, Hubris, Rupert Murdoch, climate change and global energy initiatives


(Above: a hopeless blend of hot air and hubris from News Corp, publisher of The Australian. And there's plenty more of it if you can stand to go to a site which shows off Rupert Murdoch's huge holdings in hubris).

There's nothing like expertise in history and politics to allow you to pontificate on climate change, albeit you have to do it without much reference to science, but many splendid references to history and the Greeks and the gods.

Cue Greg Melleuish, exhibiting his own form of hubris in a column for The Australian entitled Hopeless blend of hot air and hubris.

Melleuish's thesis, to give it an academic status somewhat beyond its calling, is that we're all in the grip of hubris (which of course is a fairly different kind of town to scientific observation, scientific theory, and rational scientific argument).

The ancient Greeks invented the idea of hubris, of human beings having overweening pride and self-esteem that needed to be punished for its excess. There are perhaps those who believe that what is commonly called climate change is a punishment for hubris, for human beings having gone beyond their place in the scheme of things.

However, an equally good case can be made that the call for human beings to make far-reaching changes to their way of life in response to climate change is itself a form of hubris. To begin, it is based on the belief that human endeavours, in the shape of industrial development, have had such an impact on the Earth that they threaten to disrupt its environment on an enormous scale. Not only have humans made such an impact on the planet, they are also capable, through an act of will, of reversing that impact and setting things right.

Well of course Melleuish calls this sort of notion nonsense, and then reverts to a parable about ancient civilizations and rulers who claimed to be able to induce a beneficial climate by an ultimate sacrifice to the gods.

That's right modern scientists are little better than an evil, devil-worshipping, human sacrifice club, though we're still trying to discover if they favor ripping out the still pulsing, blood spurting human heart as part of their rituals.

Not of course that any of us are into name calling or  playing the man.

But okay, people can't affect the climate. Which is strange, since I thought that it was the activities of humanity that produced the hole in the ozone layer in the southern hemisphere, and it's depletion elsewhere, by the use of chlorofluorocarbons and bromofluorocarbons - person-made organohalogen compounds with dangerous free radical tendencies (so many radicals out there). 

And we're now in the process of remedying that potential disaster, for a start by banning the use of these substances in their once convenient applications in refrigeration and industrial cleaning. Guess that's just another example of hubris.

If you accept the ozone affair has actually taken place, then it would seem that human beings can affect the planet. At that point the rest of Melleuish's blather, which is remarkable for its lack of reference to science, but its obligatory homage to Ian Plimer's recent book Heaven and Earth, becomes a truly academic exercise in pontificating pretentiousness.

If we followed his advice, we'd have done nothing about the hole in the ozone layer, we'd have  just let it grow, for fear of being accused of hubris, and instead embraced humility.

Humility can be seen as the antidote to hubris. Human beings should be humble in the face of the immense forces of nature and recognise that their power to manipulate and change the world is very limited. They can do this only if they recognise that adherence to climate change is the ultimate expression of hubris. There are times when the best thing for the state to do is nothing.

That's right, forget about the problems of the Murray Darling basin. Don't worry about water being in short supply. Do nothing about the potential for bushfires. Forget about pollution and human-induced tainting of the natural world. It's all just hubris and we don't have any affect on it, and we can't effect any change. 

It's all hubris, a bit like a Greek tragedy, an exercise in catharsis and poetics. Oh and perhaps I should mention that the universe is so complex that there's simply no way for any computer model devised by a human being could capture its complexity.

And anyway, if we did something, it's likely to turn out quite harmful with its unforeseen consequences, even though we ultimately can't have any impact on nature, because to think that would be deluded and show a form of hubris. 

Huh? Let me get that right. We should do nothing because we can't change anything, but if we do something, we'll change everything really badly.

Think how much worse it would be for us if it could be demonstrated that the process of global warming were outside of human hands and unable to be manipulated by human efforts. The most we could do would be to adapt to the changes that are occurring. It would be a huge blow to humanity's ego.

Human beings do not want to feel helpless in the face of such changes. They want to feel in control. Believing in climate change creates the illusion that they are in control, that they can do something to make a difference. If they have already affected the planet in such a profound way, surely they can do itagain.

If human beings did not have climate change they might find themselves reduced to being mere spectators in a cosmos over which they had fairly limited control. They would feel that their stature had been diminished. Put simply, they need climate change.


Dearie me, what an extended bout of wankery. With this little rant surely Melleuish has earned gherkin of the week for talking at length on a subject about which he demonstrably knows very little, at least if actual reference to actual science is any guide. 

Put it another way, a little science can go a long way, but to write eight hundred words of metaphysical and literary tosh and humbug on a scientific matter is roughly equivalent to a scientist trying to explain catharsis and hubris through the use of quadratic equations.

Come to think of it, the scientist might make better sense. Well if it was a subbie who titled Melleuish's column, he got one thing right - talk about a hopeless blend of hot air and hubris. Though come to think of it, the subbie left out ill informed and ill argued ...

By the way, what is it with The Australian and its constant kicking of the climate change can, and deploying the likes of an historian to kick said can?

Haven't they caught up with the news that April is earth month in News Corp, and now they only have a couple of days left in which to save the world? Still over at the News Corp global energy initiative they have a delightful tale about the city of Reno going geothermal.

Way to go Reno, you're showing exactly the kind of hubris we expect from Rupert Murdoch, a man so full of hubris he thinks he can change the world. 

Settle down Rupert, better follow George Melleuish's advice and do nothing. Who knows, if you did try to anything, likely it would make things worse off than they are right now. And believe me, everything is just so hunky dory right now ... 

(If you still care, and want to see the details in the photo at the head of this piece, though only the lord would know why, the News Corp global energy initiative is here).

(Below: defiant George Melleuish, fierce crusader against Rupert Murdoch's hubris).


Monday, April 27, 2009

Piers Akerman, Boat People (again), the Christmas Island solution, and wretched liberal PJ O'Rourke


(Above: boat people land on Oz's fair shores, desperate to steal lamingtons from Christmas Islanders. Curse you, John Howard, curse you and your Christmas Island solution).

More automatic writing from Piers Akerman, aka the fat owl of the remove, venting his spleen on all and sundry in relation to boat people and refugees.

Ah yes, it's all there in Rolling out the red carpet for illegal immigrants, which would be more amusing if it was entitled rolling out the anti-red carpet for the illegal, lickspittle, communist UN inspired, Rudd government.

It's hard to take the fat owl as seriously as he takes himself. Indeedy, it's hard to take him seriously at all. It's like he's trying to become the Lou Dobbs of Australia, though obviously without benefit of having Mexicans on which to practice his xenophobia.

Instead he mainly seems interested in locking up people behind barbed wire - to the point where they sew their lips together - before sending them back to die wherever they came from, as a lesson and a warning to all. Humanitarianism runs through the fat owl like rusted iron and stainless steel runs through your average gulag kommissar.

How he hates the Rudd government and its new kindly policies which actually tries to treat human beans as human beings.

Really, it's all too tiresome. Ah well it came as a surprise to some that Lou Dobbs actually had a Mexican-American wife, and she even managed to get arrested for carrying a gun in Newark's Liberty International Airport.

If you want to find out about Piers Akerman's colorful past, take a squiz at his Wikiepedia bio here.

Or not, as the case may be. I guess at least it offers more interesting reading than contemplating yet another Akerman rant in the Daily Terror. The bio somehow humanizes the dear possum, though you might think that task impossible. Still, thinking of the fat owl is definitely a fit subject for Sisyphus as he keeps rolling the rock back up the hill. What if the gods only allowed him a break if when he paused he read an Akerman rant?

That'd mean those Greek gods knew a thing or two about mental and physical torture. Unlike the Japanese, who got done for  water torture in World War II, copping anywhere between fifteen years and execution. Child's play really up against reading an Akerman rant.  

In the sense of creating unending, repetitive, mind numbing, cursed tasks for eternity. Still it'd make you get back to pushing the rock up the hill quick stix.

Somehow reading the rants feels like a form of fiendish oriental Fu Manchu water torture. Maybe those cunning, devious boat people are changing Australian culture even as we think we're safe.

Enough of that. Push the rock. Read the rant. Push the rock. Read the rant.

No, sob, I can't. Stop it, stop it. I'll do anything you ask, you can do anything you want.

Okay, sew up their lips. Shoot them. Throw them in the sea, men, women and children. Whatever. So a few hundred die. Anything to end this torture, anything. Feel like I can't breathe, like my nose is filling up with water and humbug ...

That policy was not crafted as a deterrent. It was formulated as a sop to shrill asylum-seeker activists.

It delighted them, the Fairfax Press and the ABC, as well as limp elements in the Liberal Party such as Petro Georgiou, Judy Moylan and Bruce Baird, along with scores of people smugglers and thousands of their potential clients.

Oh those soft cock liberals (I know, it's tricky for Judy Moylan to be a soft cock, but somehow she manages, and then she somehow manages to be limp!) Oh that wretched Eastern suburbs socialist Fairfax Press. Worse than the ABC, which is so full of lefties, for some bizarre reason it allows Akerman to come on to certain shows to abuse them. 

I actually think it's full of sado-masochistic types. Oh whip me again Piers, hit me, hit me hard. Oh that feels better, I'm so bad, I'm so leftie. Hurt me Piers hurt me. Lash me with your tongue. Second thoughts, just lash me with that cat o' nine tails.

But at least the latest rant conforms to our ten commandments of the right wing commentariat. A couple of hundred people on boats foretells the end of the world being nigh for western civilization as we know it.

Never mind the civil war in Sri Lanka, never mind the war in Afghanistan. These people are just economic refugees out to score from our welfare policies. Selfish people. 

Luckily as global warming is a myth, all that academic blather about people fleeing the effects of climate change will never come to pass. Otherwise the fat owl might actually have a stroke, as hundreds more rush to our shores by boat. Never mind the thousands who take the easy way and use aeroplanes.

But really the fat owl does jump the shark a little. Suddenly he's agitated about the Christmas Island solution, and the burden it places on the island's inhabitants. That's right he's indignant about a policy of locking up boat people on the island, as devised by John Howard and his government.

With all the evidence indicating that the Rudd Government has opened the door, it now needs to set up a complaints department for the residents of Christmas Island where those who arrived on unlawfully aboard the growing armada are housed.

The Christmas Island Shire human resources and policy officer Keith Ravenscroft says shipments of fresh food have been raided to feed the 266 asylum seekers currently in detention and to provide for the big number of security staff, immigration and quarantine officers managing the asylum seekers.

“The local people here are not being looked after and their basic fresh food needs are not being met because the asylum seekers get priority over us,” Mr Ravenscroft told The West Australian. “They are eating better than us and yet we (taxpayers) are paying for their food.”

Deterrence? You have to be kidding.

A complaints department? And they haven't even outsourced it to India. Telstra could teach them a thing or two.

And trust the fat owl to be worried about the refugees stealing the islanders' tuck. As we all know from reading Billy Bunter, you could do almost anything to the fat owl, except stand in his way of visiting the tuck shop to get some tuck for a decent feed. And these bloody refugees, they're eating better than dinkum Ozzies. Oh no, the shame, say it ain't so.

The Christmas Island solution a disaster? You have to be kidding? Where's John Howard when you need him fat owl, so you can kick the shit out of him.

Oh Johnnie, little Johnnie ... Piers has something to tell you ... A nation of twenty one million people give or take, done down by three hundred or so. 

There are Spartans standing on our shores, standing amongst us, and we quaver and we quiver ... and the end of civilization is nigh ... at least if the fat owl has anything to do with it.

Oh and by the way what did that wretched liberal P. J. O'Rourke, allegedly an iconic right wing satirist and provocateur, have to say on this matter when he appeared on the ABC's Q and A talkfest panel on Thursday 23rd April 2009?

PJ O'Rourke: I'm not seeing any Aborigines on the panel here. I am not a Comanche or a Sioux. You know, my people came over to the United States in a completely disorganised way. Doubtless by way of people smugglers, you know. You know, I really believe in immigration. The best...
Julie Bishop: So does Australia.
PJ O'Rourke:: The reason that this is a great nation...
Julie Bishop: So does Australia.
PJ O'Rourke: ... the reason America is a great nation is because of immigration. Let them in. Let them in. These people are assets. You know, one or two of them might not be, but you can sort them out later ....
Julie Bishop: ... there's got to be an orderly migration system.
PJ O'Rourke: But no O'Rourkes would have ever been allowed in the United States ... if there'd been an orderly immigration system.

Dearie me, nobbled by the ABC. Maybe they drugged his coffee, coming here and talking that kind of filthy right wing libertarian talk ... (full transcript here).

(Below: worse, some in the know refugees are aware of Australia's policy of free meat pies for all boat people refugees. Curse you, Kevin Rudd, you pious, mealy mouthed compassionate Christian, you. Join Piers in our "meat pie for the mouths of dinkum Ozzies only" campaign).



Glenn Milne, Ruddstra, marginal seats, agrarian socialism and the farcical NBN


(Above: city broadband for the city slickers who think computer speed is equivalent to penis size).

You might have spent the last few weeks listening to the right wing commentariat berate all and sundry for Ruddstra, or Ruddnet, the federal government's plan to roll out broadband as if it was some kind of vital infrastructure like sewage and water and electricity and gas.

Well you might also have spent your time hitting your head with a hammer, admittedly a vastly more profitable and insightful procedure, since you probably ended up seeing the stars, while the commentariat could only see the mud below.

If there was one thing generally agreed, we had no need for fast broadband speeds, and anyway no one was going to pay for them even if they were available. Just do a quick fix up on the copper wires and all would be well.

Hold your horses there pardner. Who's that galloping up from yonder? Why it's Glenn Milne, and he's packing six shooters, and he's meaner than rattler with a headache. He's shouting something. What's that pardner, can't quite hear you? 

What? Really? You don't say. It seems the bush is in uproar. They want faster broadband, and they've worked out that Ruddstra isn't going to deliver much in the way of faster speeds to them. 

Just like those pig headed bushies not to pay attention to the commentariat. And worse, according to Milne, all the indignant folk are conveniently clustered in marginal seats, and mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore. Broadband's losers could vote Labor out, his column header screeches.

Well turn me upside down and hang me from a combine harvester. What a flip flop for the books.

Listen to these poignant tales from the wild frontier:

To say local newspapers have been venting the anger and frustration of voters in these areas is an understatement. Take the Tenterfield Star, in the marginal Labor seat of Richmond in NSW. It reported two weeks ago: "Villages and towns across the Tenterfield Shire have been left out of the federal Government's national broadband scheme."

After outlining the Rudd plan the Star continued: "This means that just under half of the Tenterfield Shire's residents that live in areas such as Jennings, Deepwater, Emmaville, Drake, Urbenville and Mingoola will not be included on the national broadband network."

Then there's The Gympie Times, which focused on Nick Smith the principal of a local Raine and Horne real estate franchise. The Times reported Smith was "was fuming when he found out that he wouldn't be able to get faster download speeds and Imbil and other smaller towns would miss out on Labor's rollout".

Dearie me, now I'm completely confused. At first I thought Rudd was going to be voted out because the broadband proposal was a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money, likely to bankrupt the country, without any demand, without anyone willing to pay the price, and symptomatic of a mindless Whitlam-esque government with grand schemes to build a pointless pipeline across the country with middle east oil money (I even heard Tirath Khemlani was making a comeback from the grave, so tempting was the scheme).

Now I'm told the Rudd government is going to be voted out of office because the broadband scheme isn't big enough or grand enough, that there's a tremendous demand in the countryside, and folk, especially wised up business folk like real estate agents, won't settle for measly 12 megabits a second when their city cousins are supposed to be scoring 100 megabits.

Oh it's a fundamental injustice, that's what it is. And the coalition is certainly going to exploit Rudd's vulnerability on this issue. That's right, the very same coalition that said Ruddstra was a load of unnecessary horseshit.

Quick, for god's sake, will somebody get the story straight. Are we going to have highspeed broadband for all, including the country, as a brand new coalition policy, or is this kind of socialist claptrap just more of the agrarian socialism we've come to expect from the Country Party (nee whatever they're calling themselves this week).

And will someone in the right wing commentariat please talk to Nick Smith, principal of the Raine and Horne real estate franchise in Gympie, and explain that he's barking up the tree of a socialistic fraud that threatens to bankrupt the country. All this talk about doing business via the intertubes, and even putting up lovely videos of homes for sale in 1080p 3D! Wanker!

Come clean Mr. Turnbull. Dance to the tune of the right wing commentariat and bury the broadband hopes of the bush!

Actually, joking aside, I have a great sympathy for the bush on this. If you live in an isolated setting, broadband is like chocolate ice-cream on a stick as a way of connecting to the world, and the faster the better. Once you get a taste of it, it's very more-ish, especially if you know how to walk on the dark side in search of entertainment.

The trouble is, connecting the bush in a far-flung country like Australia is expensive - the very pointy end of the cost stick - and the rural vote is largely lost to Labor, and the right wing commentariat has done its level best to diss and bury the new NBN, chiefly on the basis of its cost. 

So tough luck bushies, get lobbying, but make sure you get the message across to the right wing clowns as well as the left wing ones, because the more you hear about broadband bankrupting the country, the more likely you'll be stuck on dial up well into Peter Cosello's first term in office, whenever that might be. 

Oh and make sure you make special mention of Telstra advisor Henry Ergas and the clowns at Telstra who've done everything to make sure this country's broadband works now and well into the future like a good, solid, reliable steam engine.

(By the way, if you want to work out how Telstra dudded you, and their shareholders, courtesy of Sol and Donald McGauchie, take a gander at Michael Sainsbury's Telstra shareholders victims, and pray that things change).

(Below: Australian rural broadband speeds, now and forever after).


Paul Sheehan, Four Corners, Debbie Whitmont, the ABC, Media Watch and special pleading


It seems that lathering up in a fit of righteous indignation is good form for this week, though strangely none of the right wing commentariat seem to be upset by the Ten network's decision to cancel The Simpsons, on the basis they can no longer afford $25k an ep.

So it goes in telly land, but it's now safe to say there's plenty of us who'll have absolutely no reason to watch Ten, especially if they think the piece of fluffery they jokingly call a news service is going to be able to be pumped full of sea food extender, and so fill in the gap.

Now that's what I call a serious media issue, and it might even be the final sign, the ultimate harbinger of the decline and fall of western civilization as we know it.

Not that it's a worry for the ever so reliable Paul Sheehan, who has much bigger fish to fry and is determined to get his knickers in knot about the ABC and Four Corners - in his column Four Corners but one-sided. Oh yes, and while he's at it, to give reporter Debbie Whitmont an especially hard time, with lashings of tabisco sauce.

The cause of all the fuss in this particular corner of the pond was Whitmont's report for Four Corners on Vietnamese community leader Phuong Ngo's conviction for commissioning the killing of NSW Labor MP John Newman, which could well be classed as our very first political assassination (though the miners who died at the Eureka Stockade might wonder if you have to be an MP before qualifying for that category. Perhaps they were just idle revolutionaries. South Australians always go on about Russian immigrant Koorman Tomayeff  killing left wing MP Percy Brookfield in 1921 but that was at Riverton and Tomayeff never stood trial, being certified insane, so why should anyone care about that byway of history).

Now the Four Corners' report was a chance to air some allegations by supporters of Ngo, and the campaign eventually resulted in a further enquiry into the matter, conducted by retired judge David Patten. He wasn't backward in coming forward to dismiss these supporters as making unsupported allegations, dismissing complaints about one of the chief investigators Mr. Nick Kaldas as lacking a scintilla of evidence, and damning Ngo out of his own mouth for the flaws in his evidence, which were "very destructive of his claim of innocence". As Sheehan puts it, quoting Patten:

Unusually, the accusations made on Four Corners were subjected to forensic scrutiny and the report by Patten found the inquiry had "increased rather than diminished" the strength of the Crown's case. He criticised Ngo's supporters for their "lack of objectivity", "intemperate language" and "making allegations of fraud, perversion of justice, and improper conduct … without a shred of evidence".

Well yes, and all this is well and good, and the program seemed at the time to be something of a long shot, full of pious bleating and re-visiting facts to present the best gloss on Ngo's claims, and in due course the cops have been able to walk away vindicated while Four Corners has egg on its face. 

But it also made for entertaining television, if you happen to like shows like Crime Investigation Australia and funnily enough journalist Debbie Whitmont actually won a Walkley Award for her egg-beating. One thing's certain - if she hadn't taken a 'special pleading' approach, the whole thing would have fallen apart as an overnight sensation. There's not much of a story in 'guilty man sent to prison'. Talk about legless when you need legs.

But damn it, to win a Walkley on the back of a bit of dodgy reporting! Those pesky judges, what the hell would they know. 

Sheehan is rampant with indignation:

Last week, Four Corners issued a statement standing by its report. No acknowledgement of error. No acknowledgement of distress caused. No hint of admission that the program contained innuendo, omission, supposition, false accusation and a preconceived outcome.

Clearly Sheehan doesn't watch commercial television, with its foot in the door approach to investigative journalism, and its willingness to act as judge, jury and executioner, with public shaming and ritual humiliation half the fun needed to drive early prime time ratings, before stepping into the endless crime dramas which still make up much of FTA television's repertoire. 

But in any case he has another axe to grind, and it's a more interesting one.

This is exactly the sort of case another ABC program, Media Watch, should examine, but it is the last thing it would touch, because the opinionated Media Watch actually operates as Ideology Watch. Such is the ethical rigour at our ABC.

Well yes, but you also have to think that in this case David Patten did a much better job than Media Watch, not just about the show but about Ngo's supporters, at much better length, and widely reported as a major story by the media. There's not much more to be said about the result, unless you happen to be of a vindictive, grumpy frame of mind, or you view the $770k spent as a waste of money, even if it firmly shoves this genie into the bottle for a very long time (and was in fact a canny move by Jim Spigelman). Ngo's supporters would have carried on for a long time like pork chops with or without Four Corners bringing the bubble to the point where it could be burst.

Thank the lord Sheehan's outburst about Media Watch has hopefully nothing to do with it giving  him a fine old caning for his bizarre article on magic water way back in 2002 (you can still cop a summary of their story here). As you might expect, Media Watch so loved the original story, they gave it another burst in 2005, when they discovered another Sydney Morning Herald reporter's story on the fuss had been canned (and you can cop that story here, and even watch if you have real player on your machine, such is the miracle of the intertubes).

Now I don't mind if Sheehan was a little amiss in his original story about the virtues of Unique Water, nor that the best he could manage by way of a backdown was a half-assed column in which he retreated from his original euphoria about the magic water at a fast rate of knots by pretending he'd been a sceptic all along (Magic of water is overshadowed by mystery). 

You might head off to Nick Possum's page and read his Too good to be true perspective to see if Sheehan's claims of healthy scepticism stack up. (Or you can read Sheehan's original story here, and make up your own mind).

Oh it was a fine old fuss, a jim dandy set to, and you have to think that Sheehan is still nursing a bit of a bruised ego when it comes to the ABC in general, and Media Watch in particular. 

Maybe he's flinching at the prospect of his recent euphoric conversion to climate change scepticism might also be given a going over by Media Watch, in the guise of a sinister ideology watch designed to look over the shoulder of stout hearted columnists as they attempt to bring assorted prejudices and bits of disinformation to their readers.

But it's hard to cast the relatively benign Jonathan Holmes in the role of ogre. From where I sit, he's a journalist who knows the game - it's always best to get a poacher to trap the poachers - and it's actually a shame that the show only gets fifteen minutes in the sun, when a decent review of all the charlatans, poseurs and scoundrels in the media could easily fill up a television half hour each week, and still be more entertaining that what turns up regularly as entertainment on the ABC (and yes that includes the tragic offerings of the ABC drama department, which term could be said to be a tautology or at least a redundant expansion).

Whatever, Sheehan sounds a little precious when really anyone in the game shouldn't get too worried about throwing stones when everybody lives in glass houses. All Sheehan's original magic water story said to me was caveat emptor, and beware this man when he writes any story requiring a scientific approach and rational argument.

Still ironies do abound whenever Sheehan gets stuck into the ABC and Media Watch. I guess it must really stick in his craw that these days Debbie Whitmont can decorate her glass house with a Walkley, while he's left with memories of  l'afffaire du magic water. 

Ah well, so it goes. Never mind, there's always another witch hunt ripe and ready for our entertainment, so roll on Media Watch. 

Come to think, it's on tonight, and some media larrikin or three will get a right royal whalloping, and never no mind about the distress caused and the preconceived outcomes involved. That's the great thing about loon pond, the ceaseless indignation and frothing and foaming, and somewhere just up ahead, always elusive and mysterious, self-reflection and the truth somehow avoiding our grasp ...

(Below: Nick Possum's evocative illustration of an empty bottle of Unique Water which turned out to be totally and uniquely unique).

P. J. O'Rourke and why Abbott and Costello are funnier

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A reader was surprised by my outrageous claim that Abbott and Costello were funnier than P. J. O'Rourke, but then the sweet young thing thought I was talking about two conservative Australian politicians who have never deliberately and knowingly raised a laugh in years (which is not quite the same as unwittingly generating a storm of laughs).

Anyhoo, here's Abbott and Costello doing a vaudeville mathematics routine that was hoary and growing whiskers when they gave it a run - but it's still cleaner and sharper comedy than O'Rourke trying to do the same for taxes sixty or so years later.

And if you can't believe people once laughed at vaudeville, you probably don't remember Abbott and Costello's riff on a venerable baseball routine, done way back in 1945. Who's on first? Well it ain't Janet Albrechtsen.

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