Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hollywood Posters: the good and very bad

The film that I am most looking forward to seeing this year is The Tree of Life by Terence Malick. It is being released in America on the same weekend as Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Hangover Part II, so no, it is not going to set the box office on fire.

What is it about? Well like a lot of Malick’s work the plot will probably be a fairly fragile thing onto which life, the universe and everything will be attached. IMDB describes the plot as this:

Follow Jack O'Brien (Sean Penn) from his upbringing in the 1950's Midwest, through his complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt), to his adult life in the modern world, as he seeks answers to the origins and meaning of life

Like a lot of Malick’s work it also has the distinct possibility of swerving into wankery. I love The Thin Red Line, but more because I love the parts more than the whole (unlike Saving Private Ryan which I hate because I hate the whole more than the parts). Malick’s skill at finding beauty in the world and getting it on camera is a joy for film lovers, but his loose narrative structure can frustrate (and for those who have read Jones’s The Thin Red Line, they would know it was an adaptation in only the very loosest sense of the word). This film looks likely to be much in that vein.

The trailer for the film however, has me drooling. It is one of those trailers that people who love that sort of thing will love. Others will think.. hmmm Kung Fu Panda 2 sounds good (and I know I’ll be seeing that one as well!)

The teaser poster for the film was a cracker

tree_of_life

It is just beautiful and lets you know that this film is aiming big.

But the poster released this week gives an even lager hint that Malick is going all out on this one:

tree_of_life_ver2

It’s a poster that tells you this ain’t your average Ocean’s 11 type Brad Pitt movie. Like a film poster version of The Rolling Stone “Exile on Main Street” is gets across that there is a lot of life packed into this film. Pitt and Penn get as little attention as every other image. I have stared at this poster for quite a few minutes, just loving the cacophony of life within its bounds.

It’s the type of poster that has me aching to revert to my English Lit PhD days and start quoting Derrida or Foucault, so it’s best I move on… (it gets released in Australia on 7 July)

On the other end of the spectrum, if The Tree of Life is a poster to warm your soul, here’s one that takes your soul out back slaps it around then takes it down into the basement and has fun Pulp Fiction style, before leaving some money on the table just to make you feel completely cheap and used.

I’m talking (of course) of the new poster for the new PG-13 version of The King’s Speech.

Not content with making oodles of money from the film, the Weinsteins wanted to go for even more money. The problem is, The King’s Speech in America was rated R (which means “Under 17s are required to be accompanied by an adult”). PG-13 on the other hand means anyone can see it with or without adults.

Now I know what you’re thinking – what the fuck???

And that last word is the reason why it got an R rating. If you have seen the film, you will know that a key scene has Colin Firth saying “Fuck” over and over in an attempt to overcome his stutter. Well there were just too many “fucks” for the idiotic Motion Picture Association of America (I think 2 is the limit for PG13). And so what has happened? Well “fuck” has been replaced with “shit”. Which means now all those 13 year olds who had been hanging out to see the film now can go and see it without their parents – because yeah it really is their type of film. I’d suggest one other reason they have done it is to try and get it OK to show in schools, which I can sort of see having merit. But geez, let’s not get too laudatory, this is really about money.

One of the things I liked about The King’s Speech was that it was obviously made for grown ups, and I don’t give a fig about it not being completely true to the facts – it’s a movie, only pedants and those who have never before seen a film worry about the accuracy of historical dramas (not sure if you know this – but everything that happened in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, “Henry V”, and “Richard III”, didn’t actually happen exactly the way he said…).

But here’s the poster:

kings_speech_ver11

Firstly… What the hell???

Oh my God. What is Colin Firth doing smiling?? What in God’s name is Helena Bonham Carter doing or looking at, because she sure as hell has been cut and pasted into that scene?  And the little girl? You mean the girl that is in the film for about 3 minutes?, but now seems to be integral to this story of a man who I guess is trying to connect with his family or something…it_s-a-wonderful-life-7

As someone on the IMP Awards site said the tag line should be “Teachers says every time a bell rings and angel gets its wings”, because the thing reeks of an “It’s a Wonderful Life” poster vibe.

You get the feeling based on the poster that Harvey Weinstein would’ve liked to have recut the film to make Princess Elizabeth into an all-knowing wise cracking girl ala the kid in Remember the Titans.

The poster is such a flagrant miss-representation of what the film is about that it verges on false advertising. (Verges? Oh be buggered is crossed that line the moment it says that it is the film that won Best Picture)

Hollywood at its worst.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Strawman Cometh

A quick post tonight – because I want to have a week off (well at least until Friday). There’s not much news really happening (well not much that I usually write about).

Yesterday the ALP got slaughtered in NSW. Everyone knew this was going to happen, everyone had predicated it for a long long time. Barry O’Farrell ran a good campaign, he spent the last couple of years being sensible and safe. He took the NSW Libs from being an infighting party-machine, to one that won an absolute shirt-load of seats. Tony Abbott give him bugger all credit (most likely because Abbott knows that O’Farrell saw him as a liability), and instead he gives it all to the climate tax decision by Julia Gillard.

Now look, I have no doubt that it was a nice cherry on top of an already big chocolate cake for B’OF, but take away the stinking mess of NSW ALP, and take away B’OF and say put in place Peter Debnam, and the ALP would’ve won – carbon tax or not.

The reality is NSW ALP did stink to high heaven (and I mean really stank), B’OF was very good, and well there you go. Tony Windsor suggests maybe the carbon tax added “a bit” to the swing, but I think that was more because the inertia against the ALP was already so strong.

I also wonder if the ALP knew the carbon tax announcement was going to cause a hit in the polls, and saw no reason not to delay announcing it till after he NSW Election – given it was a lost cause.

On the topic of inertia a pathetic little debate is getting a run in a couple places (Andrew Bolt’s blog and The Oz) – namely that Tim Flannery for some dopey reason went on MTR and talked to Andrew Bolt. In the interview he said:

If the world as a whole cut all emissions tomorrow the average temperature of the planet is not going to drop in several hundred years, perhaps as much as a thousand years.

This line apparently is so stunning that it even got a run today by Tony Abbott in his suspension of standing orders motion he moved this morning so he could “take the fight” up to the Government.

Bolt was also contrasting it with what was said by climate scientist Andy Pitman on ABC last week (an excellent interview by the way – well worth a listen) (cheers to Dave C for the transcript):

Louise Maher: If we stopped all human activity on the planet tomorrow, what would be Earth’s temperature fall? What would be the drop in the Earth’s temperature?

Andy Pitman: And here’s our problem. It wouldn’t drop. If we could stop emissions tomorrow we’d still have 20 to 30 years of warming ahead of us because of inertia of the system. It’s like a juggernaut going up the freeway. You slam on the breaks, but it takes a long time to stop. We are already committed to the climate of 2040. What these emissions reductions are about is how much we can reduce warming into the medium term to protect, for instance, the planet for our grandchildren. It’s on those timescales that we’re terrified. On the timescales of 20 to 30 years, I’m sorry but we have already hard-wired the warming into the system.

Now firstly, I have to say I don’t think much of Flannery’s ability as an advocate. Sure he is smart and passionate, but for example when he is on QANDA I usually am screaming at the TV for him to say the statement made by the climate change sceptic was bullshit. Too often he’ll also forget that people like Bolt are looking for any slight exaggeration or inconsistency to argue that his entire argument is false (because of course, Bolt himself is a big one for facts and research…).

But here’s the thing: what Flannery has said is not that big a deal, because it pretty nicely accords with what was reported in the IPCC Fourth Assessment released way back in 2007, and it certainly doesn’t make Pitman wrong either.

Here was how the IPCC plotted the likely temperature rises for the next century.image 

The  orange line is what they expect would happen if we were able to keep emissions at 2000 levels from 2000 (ie something that obviously has not happened – and would be a bloody miracle if we could achieve it).

As you can see it ain’t dropping – it flattens out.

Today Flannery wrote in a letter to The Oz that he meant that if the world stopped all emissions it would take hundred of years – if not thousands – for the temperature to get back to the same state it was when we were not emitting carbon – ie pre-industrial world.

Bolt and others of course won’t buy that, but to be honest who gives a damn? The point is not whether or not Flannery flubbed a line, but what is the science. The science is that if we all cut all emissions the temperature would keep going up for a good 30-40 years and then it would decline – but it would take a bloody long time to decline to even the temperatures we are at now. If Flannery didn’t make himself clear that doesn’t change that fact.

The point of doing action to combat climate change is not to decrease the temperature – hell we’ve given up on that – but to arrest the increase, and hopefully (if somehow we can get the world to act) to have the temperature flatten.

But here’s the other thing – no major party has ever suggested as a policy that we should cut emissions to zero tomorrow (sure the Greens may have dreams for it by 2050), and no one has ever suggested that a carbon tax would decrease the temperature – ie get it to go below what we are at now. As you can see from the graph just keeping emissions at Year 2000 levels does not see the temperature decline – at best – at very best, we may hope that temperature will peak – in 30-40 years and then start to go down. So why in the hell would any “journalist” or politician think that such a point is at all valid? The entire thing is a complete straw man augment – no one has suggest that temperatures will go down due to the carbon tax, and no one has suggested we stop all emissions to try and get the temperature to go down.

Anyone who thinks such a point is worth quoting or repeating merely betrays their own ignorance of not only the science but also the intent of putting a price on carbon. Which brings me to Barnaby Joyce who came out today with this press release:

Well I do not know whether William the Conqueror was governing for me when he knocked over poor old King Harold but according to Tim Flannery he should have been.
As absurd as it is, here is the quote, Res ipsa loquitur and 1000 years ago that would have been well understood around the castle.

Professor Tim Flannery, the Commissioner for Climate Changesaid on radio on Friday,”If the world as a whole cut all emissions tomorrow the average temperature of the planet is not going to drop in several hundred years, perhaps as much as a thousand years...”.
By the time this proposed carbon tax has had its affect Jesus will have come and gone, again!

The two great mysteries in 1000 year's time will be, “Is Stefano DiMera from Days of Our Lives really dead?” and, “Who in the Australian Labor party honestly thought they could change the climate from a room in Canberra?”

Days of Our Lives and William the Conqueror. Yeah, we really should be listening to this guy on this issue.

***

Today the House of Reps was back to pass some NBN legislation – and pass it it did (so much for Malcolm Turnbull’s ongoing campaign to destroy the NBN). For those who love the absurdity of parliament, today was a golden day. Have a look at this:

Mr Albanese, 10:39:42 AM, moved—That the amendments be considered immediately.

Mr Turnbull, 10:40:11 AM, Mr Pyne, 10:55:55 AM, Mr Hartsuyker, 11:10:50 AM, Mr Truss, 11:26:43 AM, Mrs B. K. Bishop, 11:38:23 AM, Mr Fletcher, 11:51:12 AM, Mr Albanese, 12:06:25 PM, by leave, again addressed the House, without closing the debate., Mrs Prentice, 12:21:28 Mr Wyatt, 12:27:52 PM, Mr Neville, 12:37:56 PM, Mr Billson, 12:50:28 PM, Ms Rowland, 1:05:36 PM, Dr Southcott, 1:20:44 PM, Mr Husic, 1:27:03 PM, Mr Oakeshott, 1:41:56 PM

Personal explanation, Mr Pyne, 1:57:26 PM

Personal explanation, Mr Albanese, 1:58:26 PM

Dr M. J. Kelly, 1:59:17 PM, Mr Albanese, 2:14:24 PM

Question—put, 2:19:42 PM.

The House divided (the Speaker, Mr Jenkins, in the Chair)—

And so it was resolved in the affirmative.

[Div No. 73], 2:19:48 PM to 2:27:48 PM, Ayes 68, Noes 65

Yep, a motion was moved at 10:39am for the amendments to be considered immediately. Three hours and forty minutes later the house voted to agree to do that.

Gold.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On the QT: The signs are not good

Tonight I have been out doing things rather art related (yeah I do try every now and then to do things in keeping with my day job), and so I don’t have time to do a full post on the glories of today (give me a break it’s 10:15pm already!).

In Question time the big deal of the day was that four Lib MPs, Dutton and Greg Hunt among them, and three ALP MPs got kicked in the first 20 minutes. Those numbers would have come in handy when Chris Pyne was “named” later in the session. The Opposition lost the vote to stop him being suspended for 24 hours by one vote. Silly boys and girls really.

Even more silly was the Opposition’s tactics. They had a gallery full of anti-tax, carbon price hating pensioners, and so they asked four questions on the issue before turning to asylum seekers!

Why on this day of all days would they do that? Maybe this pic of a sign taken by Latika Bourke at the event gives a hint:

image002 

or perhaps this one:

q28xw

or this one:

pauline knows

It’s pretty obvious the rally was just a One Nation-redux, and with that kind of audience in the gallery it seemed odd that Abbott didn’t even move a censure motion on Gillard – because let’s face it he would have got lots of applause and cheers from his beloved clime change deniers, that would have played well on TV.

Instead what we see of Abbott is this:

image

Now look I don’t care too much about the signs – sure you don’t want to be on the side with the people holding the signs with “bitch” on it, or wearing t-shirts with Hitler – but it’s a free country, so long as the worst they can do is badly written signs with poor grammar, then fine. However, that doesn’t mean you need to associate yourself with them – especially if you are the Leader of the Opposition and it means you will be seen there talking in front of those signs.

Where the hell were his advisors? Let Bronwyn Bishop and the equally clueless Sophie Mirabella attend. Heck let Warren Truss and Barnaby Joyce do it – they’re talking to their own flock. But for a guy who in the latest Newspoll has a dissatisfaction rating of 54%, the way to win back the moderate supporters is not done by standing on a stage being framed by a sign saying “JuLiar is Bob Browns BITCH”

When I saw it I thought the same thing Richard Farmer mentioned in today’s Crikey – it reminded me of John Hewson attending rallies in the 1993 election yelling “Labor’s got to go”. As Graham Richardson described it – not only was it stupid, it was stupid often. It will be interesting to see if Abbott goes for the often bit as well.

And lastly, why is he standing next to Bishop and Mirabella? Where were his real deputies – Julie Bishop and Joe Hockey? Where was Malcolm Turnbull? My guess is they saw who organised the rally, saw who supported the rally (such as , and saw the signs at the rally, and made damn sure no TV camera would see them there.

MomI have one last question on the rally – who the hell is the fool who wrote this sign?

Mom?? Yeah in Australia we say Mum, but I guess if you really want to seem like the real Tea Party you need to adopt Americanisms as well.

But look, if your “mom” is cold, get her to put on a jumper, that should keep her warm at a rally on a coolish day in Canberra.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On the QT: I am confected with outrage

Today due to some SNAFU with Foxtel IQ I was unable to record Question Time. This may or may not have been a blessing, because from what I can gather through the media, not much was missed.

The big story seems to be that Chris Pyne took umbrage against Julia Gillard referring to the opposition as “climate change deniers”.

Pyne said:

“I think the words being used by the Prime Minister would be regarded as offensive words. We all know the connotation the Prime Minister is trying to bring about by using the word 'denier'. We know she's trying to allude to the holocaust. It is offensive and it must stop."

Harry Jenkins responded by saying he was drawing a pretty long unparliamentary bow. Pyne however would not be dissuaded, and so on the high horse he got:

"Mr Speaker, with 18 years in this place I don't think anybody would accuse me of making light of the holocaust or any issue to do with the state of Israel. I was 11 years as chairman of the parliamentary friendship group on Israel. I make the connection between climate change denier and holocaust denier. I find it offensive and I'm sure the Leader of the Opposition finds it offensive. In that spirit I would ask you to ask the Prime Minister to withdraw it."

Except here’s the thing. Since 2007, ALP members have used the phrase “climate change deniers” 32 times, and yet Pyne hasn’t felt the need to get all aggrieved by it once. Take this back in March 2009, when Peter Garret used it:

Mr GARRETT

As the Prime Minister just said to the House, as we are one of the hottest and driest continents on earth, Australian jobs will be hit hardest and fastest by climate change. So we need to act; we need to grow jobs in clean, low-pollution Australian industries. When he was my predecessor as the former environment minister, and most recently when he wanted the Liberal Party leadership, the Leader of the Opposition himself acknowledged the importance of climate change and said that he was all for an emissions trading scheme. In 2007 he noted that putting a price on carbon was ‘essential’. In May 2008 he said:

… the emissions trading scheme is the central mechanism to decarbonise our economy.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The minister was asked about the emissions trading scheme and again they seem to be confusing the Shergold emissions trading scheme with the current government’s emissions trading scheme. He is not being relevant—

The SPEAKER —The member for Sturt will resume his seat. There is no point of order.

Mr GARRETT —As the Prime Minister noted, the Leader of the Opposition also spoke on this in an earlier interview with Laurie Oakes, and on Lateline on 9 July he said:

… the Howard Government’s policy last year, was that we would establish an emissions trading system not later than 2012. It was not conditional on international action.

He went on to say:

… John Howard decided and the Cabinet decided last year that we would move on an emissions trading scheme come what may.

That was the Howard government’s policy, and that was the opposition’s policy last year—moving on an emissions trading scheme ‘come what may’. What has happened is that we have had a phalanx of climate change deniers, we have had the member for Higgins suddenly speaking up and now the opposition leader has said this morning:

….

You’ll notice Pyne rose just before Garrett used the phrase to make a point of order on relevance. Did he bother to rise after Garrett made the phrase? Err that’d be a no. I guess he didn’t hear him say it.

Or how about this time in August 2009, when Kevin Rudd used it – you know him, he was the previous Prime Minister:

Mr RUDD

But those opposite again have intervened on the question of politics. Again, the climate change deniers and the climate change sceptics of the Liberal Party and the National Party are running policy. That is why they cannot reach a concluded position on climate change. For example, remember that one of the leadership aspirants on the part of those opposite, the shadow minister for health—I refer to Mr Abbott—said on 27 July:

The point I made about an emissions trading scheme is that I don’t like it one little bit.

I would have thought that the shadow minister in question—

Ms Julie Bishop —Which one?

Mr RUDD —Can I just say ‘Mr Abbott’, because we do lose track of what portfolios those opposite are responsible for. Can I say in relation to—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: apart from the fact that the Prime Minister should be referring to members by their titles, how can this answer be relevant? He does not actually know who he is talking about. More importantly, he was asked about the 90 per cent higher power price—

The SPEAKER —The member for Sturt will resume his seat. The Prime Minister will respond to the question and refer to members by their titles.

This time Pyne does rise to make a point of order after the phrase is stated, and yet he rises because he is so aggrieved that Rudd is not addressing Liberal MPs by their parliamentary titles! I guess back then Pyne had forgotten about his 11 years as chairman on the parliamentary friendship group on Israel.

Who knows, maybe today was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back – because you know in the past Pyne has been oh so hesitant to ask the ALP to withdraw statements – that is if we ignore him asking for the following to be withdrawn:

So as you can see Pyne is a rather shy bloke who is hesitant to step up to the dispatch box and suggest something has been said which offends him. So I guess it is entirely understandable that today he would for the first time finally stand up and ask for “climate change deniers” to be withdrawn.

imageOn a completely unrelated subject, this morning a Newspoll came out that had the ALP’s Primary vote increase six points and had the ALP ahead 51-49 on two party preferred.

As you would expect, The Oz ran big with it – there it is you see on the left imageunder the fold down the bottom with the eye catching headline of “Carbon plan gives Labor bounce in support”

Just for a bit of fun – see if you can find the story on right on the last Newspoll – you know the one that had the ALP primary vote drop six points.

Yeah, the difference is subtle ain’t it?

There were some brilliant explanations as to why the “bounce” occurred. A good one was Scott Morrison suggesting it was all Kevin Rudd’s doing:

"In times of international and major international events governments do tend to get a bounce, so it may well be that what we've seen in this poll has a lot more to do with Kevin Rudd than Julia Gillard.”

Yeah, the general voting public was really changing votes due to the Libya no-fly zone.

But the prize goes to Tony Abbott for suggesting the bounce was because Gillard was hobnobbing with Barack Obama and (wait for it) Prince William. He also predicts (this one is really good) that she will get a Royal wedding bounce.

Dennis Shanahan of course was suggesting it because Gillard made a speech at the Don Dunstan foundation where she rather lightly depicted the Greens as extremists. That probably about 0.5% of the population was aware of the speech I think may mean he is lightly overstating the coverage of it.

No one seems to be suggesting that maybe after the sharp anger at a perceived broken promise, some voters are just happy to see the ALP stand for something, and that they also think Abbott is not up to it.

It’s actually the type of poll that should have a few Liberal MPs going round the House singing “Hey Joe” (especially the first line of “where you going with that gun in your hand”). Possum over at Crikey points out that the trend for the Libs has not been good for a couple weeks. Abbott may have peaked – his dis-satisfaction rating of 54 per cent pretty well screams to Libs that this guy will never be PM (or at least it should be). He has a net-satisfaction rating of minus 21. Joe Hockey – start counting numbers.

Gillard’s net-satisfaction rating is minus 7 (improved from minus 12). It’s not great (that’s understatement), but I’m still liking my prediction that either Gillard or Abbott will be gone by the end of the year. But now I have to say my thinking is tending more towards one of them being gone than the other…

Monday, March 21, 2011

On the QT: And then there were none.

Today’s Question Time was like a bad mystery/horror movie in which the only interest was who would be the members of the Liberal front bench left standing. The sending off for one hour got started pretty early after Harry Jenkins issued a “general warning”. This came after Chris Pyne wanted to make sure everyone in the chamber knew that he had got up to H in the dictionary as he called the PM a “Harridan”. According to the first dictionary google gave me this meansA strict, bossy, or belligerent old woman”. You could tell Pyne thought he was oh so clever because when he withdrew the remark instead of withdrawing, he said “I withdraw the word harridan” – you to really make sure everyone heard it.

It is a pity Pyne had never sat in any of my English Lit tutorials where I told students that those who use big words in an attempt to appear intelligent, merely come across as someone who is using big words in a vain attempt to appear intelligent. 

Jenkins, if he had any sense, should have booted Pyne straight away, but instead he warned everyone and so booted a half dozen Lib MPs.

First gone was Tony Smith – no loss, he hasn’t said or done anything of note since… (look I have my people working on finding the answer to that, we’ll get back to you at a dater to be specified later).

Next gone was Julie Bishop – for the crime of tabling a CD of Obama saying the a cap and trade would cause prices to “skyrocket”. Unfortunately Julie Bishop did not indulge in song:

Because that would have energised things somewhat.

Chris Pyne however quickly leapt to Bishop the Younger’s defence and Jenkins realising that he had made a little rash decision that was a little rash, let her stay.

Next gone was Ewan Jones, followed quickly by Sophie Mirabella. Absolutely no one cared that the Member for Indi would be absent for an hour. Many wanted longer.

The big scalp of the day was Joe Hockey who was sent off next to the change rooms for an hour. This was followed by the Member for Forde, Bert van Mane, biding the house adieu for 60 minutes. The day’s catch ended with that intellectual leviathan Peter Dutton taking the walk. No doubt he and Mirabella could have reflected on that other time both were absent together from the House – during the apology to the Stolen Generation…

There were other mysteries to solve – for example why did the PM take a Dorothy Dixer that referred to the “top 1000 big polluters paying for the carbon they create”. For mine it devalues the argument of the carbon price – it is not a mechanism which picks on specific companies it just puts a price on carbon and caps the amount of emissions (meaning that companies that emit carbon can trade carbon permits). Referring to the top 1000 companies is not the look of a market based scheme – but rather something dopey like Abbott’s direct action scheme. Sure talk about big companies paying – or big polluters paying – but don’t put a number on it, because in reality the system won’t work that way.

Other mysteries to solve were why two questions on immigration were asked by Michael Keenan and Bronwyn Bishop, and why the only question Shadow Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, asked was to Kevin Rudd?

Even more of a mystery was why Tony Abbott asked a supplementary to Keenan’s question asking Gillard to guarantee that none of the asylum seekers involved in the riots on Christmas Island would be ever allowed entry in this country. Given the answer is the Migration Act doesn't allow her to do so it is rather a mystery that Abbott would be so pig ignorant of the fact. Obviously he isn’t – he just wants to be able to go on Alan Jones etc and say she should rule it out. At that stage both Abbott and Jones would delicately avoid  mentioning that if we get to the point that leader of a democratic country were able to guarantee something that was actually governed by judicial process it would be rather contrary to living in a democratic country.

Rather a conundrum to unravel as well was why Scott Morrison sought to table a document referred to by Bronwyn Bishop in her question to Chris Bowen given he didn’t have the nerve to ask it himself – perhaps Bowen’s fiery response was the answer – though given Kevin Rudd’s answer to Morrison’s question was also cutting, perhaps Morrison should stick to Bowen. Rudd may have been deposed as PM, but in the chamber he is still a class above the likes of Morrison.image

Another puzzle is why the Liberal think praising Rudd for his work on Libya is in their favour. Rudd is doing what a Foreign Minister should do and doing it well – and the Lib’s praise of him only serves to reinforce that (and also does not put Julie Bishop in a great contrast). If they think this increases leadership tensions then they are pretty silly. Rudd is finished in leadership. But he obviously loves being an active Foreign Minister. Good on him.

Finally, then there is the real mystery of why the issue of whether or not the Bible should be on the national curriculum got asked of Julia Gillard. The reason of course was due to the PM’s statement yesterday on Australian Agenda (a show watched by almost nobody that apparently is now setting the agenda) where this was related:

Now, I know people might look at me and think that’s something that they wouldn’t necessarily expect me to say, but that is what I believe, and you know, I’m on the record as saying things like I think it’s important for people to understand their Bible stories, not because I’m an advocate of religion – clearly, I’m not – but once again, what comes from the Bible has formed such an important part of our culture. It’s impossible to understand Western literature without having that key of understanding the Bible stories and how Western literature builds on them and reflects them and deconstructs  them and brings them back together.

Now I completely agree with her about understanding Western Literature and the Bible. When I taught English Lit, those student who knew the Bible had a major advantage over those who didn’t. The Biblical allusions throughout the work of writers like TS Eliott, Joyce and Lawrence meant if you knowing the Bible gave you a head start. As one who attended Sunday School and had read the Bible a couple times (well the interesting parts at least), I remember being pretty stunned that there were some in my tutorial groups who were pretty ignorant of fairly basic Biblical stories like Noah and the flood, or the Tower of Babel.

That doesn’t mean Year 8s need to know it, but I’ve never been against teaching parts of the Bible such as Genesis which contains so many of the foundation myths of our culture from a literature/cultural point of view because if you are going to study English literature you really should know them. But that of course is a long way from having compulsory Bible lessons for kids.

What I don’t agree is her sense that because she was brought up in a conservative explains why she is against gay marriage:

I do find myself on the conservative side in this question, and I find myself on the conservative side because of the way our society is and how we got here. I think that there are some important things from our past that need to continue to be part of our present and part of our future.

I had a pro-union, pro-Labor upbringing in a quite conservative family, in the sense of personal values. I mean, we believed in lots of things that are old-fashioned in the modern age. We believed in politeness and thrift and fortitude and doing duty and discipline. These are things that were part of my upbringing. They’re part of who I am today.

It’s a pretty odd reason for someone to argue for anything – “because I was brought up that way”. Surely we should at least question what we were brought up to think – we may often come to agree with those things, but we don’t come to that point (or we shouldn't) purely because that was what our parents told us to think. The PM when advocating pro-Labor policies doesn't argue them because she was brought up that way – she argues for them for grown-up reasons. So too I think should people argue on the issue of gay marriage.

I do think sections of the political spectrum give Gillard more heat on this issue than she deserves. She deserves heat on this issue equal with that which Tony Abbott gets. Both advocate the same policy – those who think the ALP is some bastion of gay advocacy are living in a bit of a dream world. Gay marriage is outside the political spectrum – if it ever does happen you know it will be done through a conscience vote.

I only ask that those advocating the staus quo – whether it be Abbott, Gillard, Rudd, Bishop, Turnbull, etc etal – explain how the lives on heterosexual people will be in any way affected. The only person I know who has attempted that was Bruce Billson last year when he said in Parliament:

But the important thing is that if we are to move forward with this recognition we cannot do so by diminishing the sense of right and designation that people who have married have chosen for themselves. It is quite ironic that this charge for rights is being pursued by diminishing the rights of those who have chosen to designate their relationship a traditional marriage. I do not understand that logic. People who have entered into a marriage as it is defined and recognised under the law, whether it be by way of tradition, custom, conservatism or religious orientation, have done so consciously, knowing that that is the designation they have sought, that that will be the designation they will secure and that the nature of the relationship they have entered into will be recognised as such by the broader community. We should not seek to remove that from people who have chosen that pathway and have operated within the current definition of marriage, which I agree with.

Yep my marriage apparently would be devalued if gay people could get married. At least Bill gave a reason, but geez, if that’s the best they can do…

UPDATE:

Just before anyone else decides to comment on the issue – my suggesting studying the Bible is good for those studying literature does not mean I don’t think they need to study other foundation texts – eg Greek mythology. When I was first studying the Romantic poets, I found I really needed to go back and read the mythologies. When I studied the Modernists, I needed to know both them and the Bible – take Joyce’s Ulysses for example. I’m also talking pretty higher level stuff here. Year 11 English Student don’t need to know it (but again I bet you could tell the ones who do).

I also never understand why people think if someone suggests the Bible should be studied for cultural reasons that that means they don’t also think other sacred texts should be studied. I wish for eg, when I was in high school I had been taught some aspects of what is in the Koran because I often feel woefully lacking in my understanding of Islamic culture, and funnily I think understanding other cultures – including their beliefs, is actually a good thing. When I was in Year 6 we were given a very basic background on Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. It is a disgrace I think that the one page worksheets I did in Year 6 on each of them was the sum total of my knowledge of those cultures provided to me by my education system.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Night Relaxer: Another night off (and a bit of The Late Show)

Just a quick one tonight, because once a gain life interrupts.

I know this makes it a few Fridays in a row (so much for my advice of being regular) without a post, but I swear I will be back next Friday (now if you could just come up with an idea for me to write on, that’d be great).

In place of a real post, let me take the lazy way out and show some videos.

Like many Gen Xers in the early 1990s, for me life on Saturday nights meant sitting in front of the TV and watching The Late Show before heading out to the pub (where invariably a few mates and I would retell the skits from that night’s The Late Show – yeah I was pretty boring). The Working Dog guys back when they were the D-Generation – and permanently “undergraduate” – were must see TV.

I have the Champagne Comedy DVD set and at least once a year I’ll get it out and go through it. Usually however this ends we me thinking, “How could that be nearly 20 years ago? Where has my life gone?”.

My favourite segments were the interviews with (usually) Rob Sitch doing some absurd impression. The interviews have held up incredibly well, my favourite of all time however was the one with John Hewson:

A close runner up was the immortal Imran “like a tiger” Khan:

I also liked it when in the last series they set aside a bit more time to do a short-film like pieces. My favourite of these (perhaps because I now work in the film policy area of the public service) was Warren Perso: The Last Aussie Auteur. I’ll still every now and then let out a “Listen to me Barry! Listen to me!”. People of course then look at me oddly, so I do try to keep it to a minimum.

Geez, I wish we had a show like it now.

And lastly (and not The Late Show related – but still in the Gen-X wheelhouse) Tom Cowie from Crikey linked to this today on Twitter – it is a brilliant little melody by Fredde Gredde of some songs from The Simpsons. And as with anything good about The Simpsons they all come comes from the first half dozen seasons (yeah there’ll be a post on that topic one day…). If you like it check out his medley of TV themes:

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Carbon Price Catch 22

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22.

Julia Gillard asked Greg Combet what to do about putting in place a price on carbon.

“The problem,” he said, “Is you have to explain the system in a simple clear way in which the people will be able to understand.”

“So all I need to do is that and all will be well?”scan0026

“No, if you do that you will be accused of lying because you’re not telling the full story.”

“So I should tell the full story – including all the intricacies of the timings on when prices will change to an extent great enough to ensure changes in behaviour subject to the cross price elasticity of high carbon emitting products?”

“No if you do that you’ll be accused of not being able to sell the carbon price because you won’t cut through.”

“So I should speak in a way that cuts through?”

“No because if you do that you’ll be accused of lying because you’re not telling the full story.”

Julia was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

"That's some catch, that catch-22," she observed.

"It's the best there is," Greg Combet agreed.

On Monday night on QandA Julia Gillard said this:

There's this image that somehow we're the only ones, simply not true. You know, China closing down a dirty coal-fired power generation facility at the rate of one every one to two weeks. Putting up a wind turbine at the rate of one every hour. Set their own targets by 2020 of reducing carbon pollution by 40 to 45 per cent per unit of GDP.

This seemingly (and actually truly) straightforward statement on positive things done in China led to The Oz acting as though it had found the smoking gun:

Julia Gillard's 'dirty' remark backfires

Really? Backfires? Why?

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt leapt on the comments, accusing the Prime Minister of failing to mention that China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, was experiencing huge growth in emissions, but the Climate Institute's John Connor backed Ms Gillard's remarks.

Yep. Because she didn’t in this on-the-spot (and without any notes) interview also outline that China was building coal fired power stations she is committing a terrible deception on the public (well , according to Greg Hunt, so yeah, run that headline!). Today blogger Drag0nista, who I often converse with on Twitter, had a piece on The Drum alleging the same thing:

Similarly, the PM intentionally misled Q&A viewers with her comment about China. While scolding us for being climate recalcitrants, the Prime Minister misrepresented China’s climate actions to emphasise our tardiness:
"You know, China [is] closing down a dirty coal-fired power generation facility at the rate of one every one to two weeks."
In reality, China is replacing its old coal-fired power stations with
new ones. China is a long way from abandoning coal in the way suggested by the Prime Minister.

Really? She intentionally misled us? Sorry, but what I heard was the PM say this:

You know, China closing down a dirty coal-fired power generation facility at the rate of one every one to two weeks.

Helpfully Drag0nista links us to an article to prove her point:

China is replacing 31 gigawatts worth of coal-fired power plants with newer models.

The government said today it plans to shut some of its smaller, most inefficient coal-fired power plants, with 13 GW of capacity set to close this year, 10 GW in 2010 and 8 GW in 2011.

The National Energy Commission plans to replace the highly polluting plants with large, energy-efficient coal plants with a combined capacity of 50 GW.

Similar plans led to more than 34 GW of the most-inefficient plants being taken offline from 2006 to 2008. In 2007, the government closed 14.38 GW, surpassing its goal of closing 10 GW. And in 2008, the government beat its goal of 13 GW by closing 16.69 GW of plants.

Replacing coal-fired plants with newer models has some benefits in reducing emissions. China's coal plants consumed an average of 370 grams of coal per kilowatt hour in 2005. By using newer coal technologies, the government reduced the average consumption to 349 grams per kWh in 2008. And new plants, such as the 1 GW Huaneng Power International coal plant in Yuhuan, can generate a kWh with just 283 grams of coal.

imageSo China are doing what Gillard said they are doing – what a shocking way to mislead us! Her crime on the set of QandA was not to give more detail on what they were being replaced with, which is not actually a fault at all, unless you’re Greg Hunt and you’re desperately trying to hold on to some credibility.

The Oz’s editorial today kept up its attack on this egregious misleading by Julia Gillard:

China's coal story poses a problem for Canberra

GILLARD will lose credibility with sweeping generalisations.

Well hell, we certainly don’t want any sweeping generalisations, like, you know, that Gillard will lose credibility with sweeping generalisations…

The editorial goes on:

On ABC TV's Q & A on Monday night, the Prime Minister implied coal-based energy in China was being replaced by wind-generated power. If only. The facts tell a different story. China may be closing down its "dirty coal-fired power generation" facilities, but that doesn't mean it is using less coal. Rather, every kilowatt hour of electricity saved from the old stations has been more than replaced by power from a coal-powered station using newer technology.

Oh she “implied” it did she? So she didn’t actually generalise, she just “implied” something – watch out PM, they’re not bothering with what you say, they’re going after what you imply (though to be fair, The Oz is very, very good at using half-facts to imply things…). What a pity that The Oz hadn’t held off on writing its piece until after Julia Gillard gave her speech yesterday at the Don Dunstan foundation:

China is closing environmentally-damaging, unsafe and economically inefficient small coal-fired generators at the rate of one every one or two weeks and replacing them with larger plants that are economically and environmentally much more efficient.

They are putting up wind turbines at the rate of one every hour.

I guess she just anticipated The Oz’s editorial today and so fitted it into her speech yesterday…

The Oz and some others who suggest Gillard needs to lay out everything are to my mind verging on being the “concern trolls” you find on political blogs – they profess to be there to help the PM get her carbon tax through, but in reality will carp at everything she does all the way to the end. You know the drill – she needs to provide more information (voters love detail!); she should have started negotiating before releasing the framework (businesses would have been so eager to help!), she should have locked in the price before making an announcement (because we’ll forget Rudd did that and failed with the RSPT); she needs to explain all the negatives (this one is usually done under the guise of encouraging her to be honest with the voters – we love honesty – especially when it is about us being hurt financially!).

All of these things if done would then be criticised by the same people who criticise her now for not doing them – mostly under the guise of “Gillard is failing to sell her carbon tax”. She’s allowed to sell it – but only if she does it in a way which almost assuredly means it won’t be sold. – Carbon Price Catch 22. 

I’m not saying all who offer advice are “concern trolls” (though I ain’t arguing with you if you put the unknown editorial writer of The Oz in that category). But one good way of detecting if they are is see what they have to say about Abbott’s talk on the carbon price debate. You can pretty well pick any interview, but take for example his interview with Karl Stefanovik a week back on the Today Show:

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Overall, Tony, do you reckon this is what Australians really need to be seeing at this point and I know, I know this, the carbon tax and what to do about the situation is extremely important for this country's future but there are a lot of other issues that are very important at the moment, there’s a lot of pressure as you know on household budgets, there’s a lot of pressure on small businesses. Is it not better for the parliament to be spending their time trying to satisfy some of those needs before carbon tax and to pour a little bit more effort into things like hospitals?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, Karl, you are right. There is pressure on household budgets and there is pressure on small businesses and the carbon tax is just going to make it worse and that is why this carbon tax issue is so important. Not only is it a terrible breach of faith with the public but it is going to radically transform the way people live. Basically, this is an economy changing and a lifestyle changing tax. It's meant to be. It’s meant to make it almost impossible to turn on your air conditioner, it’s meant to make it much more expensive to drive your car. It's meant to stop people digging up coal and burning it for power. It's meant to close down emission intensive industries like steel and aluminium. This is the very purpose of the tax and that's why it is so important that the Government never introduce a tax like this without first seeking a strong mandate and that's what we haven’t got.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Alright.

First off – wow that Stefanovik is a real pit bull ain’t he?! Talk about giving Abbott the third degree! image

Geez.

Anytime you hear anyone bang on about Stefanovik’s great journalist credibility, just point them to that question. I half expected Abbott part way through to ask where was the foot massage Stefanovik had promised him earlier.

But just look at the answer:

  • It’s meant to make it almost impossible to turn on your air conditioner,

Well that’s a lie. It may cause you to be more judicious with your use of your air-conditioner (something my father already says to me whenever he comes to visit), but “almost impossible to turn on”? I guess that doesn’t count as a sweeping generalisation…

  • It’s meant to make it much more expensive to drive your car.

Well yes, but “much more” is again a bit over the top. The increase in expense is hoped to reach the point where you move to other forms of transport where possible in time to eg public transport instead of private cars – or to encourage car-pooling. And also the price is hoped in time to reach a point where car manufacturers actually have a viable business reason for producing greener cars (and all the other infrastructure that would need to go with them).  So yes it will do this, but of course as well Abbott isn’t giving us the full picture because he is not telling us about any compensation. 

  • It's meant to stop people digging up coal and burning it for power.

A lie. It is meant to stop our overwhelming reliance on coal powered energy, but no one (no, not even the Greens) think it will stop people digging up coal. And if it does, we’re talking 30, 40, 50 years.

  • It's meant to close down emission intensive industries like steel and aluminium. This is the very purpose of the tax

A lie. No it is not. It is meant to make them more efficient and reduce their carbon impact.

Sweeping generalisation, lies, half-truths, misleads. All parts of Abbott’s great cut through, and all things many in the media will criticise should Gillard do them. But here’s the catch – they’ll also criticise her for not doing them.

imageThe next concern we’ll start hearing is that linked to the announcement today of Ross Garnaut’s paper on carbon pricing – namely the price will be too low to do anything, and the concessions are too great so the Greens will back out of it.

Now it is pretty obvious the Greens won’t be doing handstands over Garnaut’s suggestion that the CPRS compensation be essentially kept in place for three years. But let’s not fall for the mistake of thinking this is 2009 all over again.

The Greens voted against the CPRS not because they were too pure (though I admit I held this view as well), but because they believed the CPRS locked in high polluting behaviour for, well for ever.

Yes they were against the compensation. Yes they wanted a higher target. But the real kick for them was the long targets put in place that effectively meant energy companies and the like could keep going on their merry way, and laugh at the Government while doing it.

There are a couple of differences also between now and then. The biggest is they are in the tent. Back then Penny Wong did not given a damn what the Greens had to say. She didn’t care, didn’t want to care, didn’t even want to pretend to care – in fact the strategy was to show she didn’t. This attitude was reflected by the fact that during the heat of the debate Kevin Rudd did not meet with Bob Brown for over a year.

The reason was the Senate maths. Rudd decided as the Greens did not have the balance of power the best bet was to cut them out, come up with a deal the Libs couldn’t refuse because it would be so weak that refusing it would seem mad and extreme. He bet the farm on that strategy and lost.

The Greens didn’t need to vote for it, because it was obvious they had no stake in it, and the Bill had enough things wrong with it that they could justify to their voters why they didn’t. They were pretty nicely vindicated at the election.

But now it is different. They are in the tent and they must get a result. If they come up empty handed this time they will I believe have to answer the “perfect is the enemy of the good” argument. Gillard and Combet know this. But they also know there is a media just aching to make it seem like the Greens and ALP are at daggers. They also know it is good for them to be seen to push the Greens around every now and then (or at least that is the theory put forward by more than a few in the media, I’m not so sure). And so we’ll get Gillard put the Greens in the extremist camp in her speech, Although saying:

The Greens are not a party of government and have no tradition of striking the balance required to deliver major reform.

is hardly to the barricade stuff. And so Bob Brown laughed it off (or more likely laughed at the media for being so gullible as to think it would be an issue). Similarly the Greens will every now and then do what they need to do to show they haven’t sold out, and so you’ll get Bob Brown saying of Combet:

Combet equals coal

And you don’t see the ALP saying, right that’s it, get your coat, we’re leaving.

Both sides are behaving like adults who know the game, and know the play. The negotiations will be tough – each will be trying to get just enough so the other is uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough to walk away. Each will want to claim the result as a win.

Yes the Greens will be disappointed with the compensation and they will want a higher starting price (whatever it is – you know they’ll want it to be higher). But the main game for the Greens is to ensure a model is in place that allows for decreases in compensation and increasing of price in time (and not in the never-never period, but in the next 10 years at least).  That way they will be able to say to their voters they at least got the cart moving.

It won’t be easy, but here’s my call – it will be the easiest part, because the rules are set and aren’t changing. The ALP and the Greens aren’t working in a Catch 22 zone where one side will be criticised by the other for being both too hard and then too soft.

Out in the media however, different rules apply; that’s the hard part. And that’s the catch.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What can you do?

At some point it all becomes too much to take in. When the numbers of expected dead become 10,000 plus you struggle to think of it in real terms. I grew up in a country town of 2,000, so that would mean it and 4 other similar sized towns are gone – everyone in them dead. And you realise that means that like any town, the profile of the dead will be like the profile of the population – there will be young and old.

Even on a per capita basis the number is too large to grasp. 10,000 (and even that number seems a hopeful maximum) would be the equivalent of a disaster occurring in Australia that took around 1760 lives. To put that in context, the horrible Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires of 2009 killed 173 people. Half a million people are in evacuation centres… again – that would be like around nearly 89,000 people in Australia. Except in reality we don’t get to do the maths to make the figure small: half a million people displaced; 10,000 dead.

How the hell do you begin to rebuild?

Coming on top of the tragedy in Christchurch and the floods and cyclones in Queensland it all just overwhelms.

And so you donate again, and you worry again about friends.

As I’ve written before, I spent a year in 1989 living in Japan as an exchange student. Thankfully my host parents (who visited last year) live 35km south east of Tokyo so they were in no danger, but still you worry, and hope that the nuclear power station in Fukushima does not end as bad as you think it could. You then think about the 50 workers who are battling the fires and the explosions in the station and doing all they can to make things safe and stable, and you wonder, how do you volunteer to do something like that? Could I? Would I? And please God may I never have to make a similar choice.

On Sunday I joked with a friend that would we be seeing a press conference mirroring that in The Simpsons where Mr Burns says of Homer:

His bravery and quick thinking have turned a potential Chernobyl into a mere Three Mile Island.

Now it’s kind of at the point where you would almost be happy with a “mere” Three Mile Island.

I have had to stop looking at the images and vision. It has gone beyond providing me with news – the devastation is clear, the loss of life is obvious. This is not to deride the journalists there – in fact I think the coverage of the aftermath (since Monday) has been brilliant: honest and not mawkish; informative and not hyperbolic; though not in anyway discounting the hyperbole of the tragedy (though I must admit I have only watched ABC and bits of Sky). But there’s only so much I can take before I start to feel almost numb to it – as though only the pictures of a baby being saved will bring more emotion – and I don’t want to slip into that zone.

I still read the reports and listen to the amazing coverage on ABC radio, but I am trying to avoid the TV.

I don’t need to see it, it is enough to know, and there are things I don’t want to see.

One thing worth seeing is this clip which circulated around on Twitter by a few on YouTube of an animation of the series of earthquakes since 9 March. It is quite stunning and haunting in its own way.

And yet that is not all we have to comprehend.

In Africa and the Middle East death and killing are in overdrive. Take this cheery introduction to a story for The World Today:

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Martial law has been declared in the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain to try to quell weeks of protest by the country's Shi'ite Muslim majority.
At least three people have died in clashes between protesters and government backed security forces.

As Bahrain cracks down on opponents, heavy fighting continues in Libya between government and rebel forces. Colonel Gaddafi's troops have isolated the last major town remaining between Tripoli and the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The Libyan leader says he is determined to crush the rebellion and warns of a Holy War with the West.

Mark Colvin of the ABC’s PM released some audio of a Bahraini man who was shot at while talking to him. There’s no shooting in this audio clip, but the fear in the man’s voice is obvious.

 Listen!

imageThe reports from Bahrain are not good.

Military troops have opened a large-scale assault against hundreds of anti-government protesters occupying a landmark site in Bahrain's capital.

The focal point for Bahrain's demonstrators was again overrun by riot police in a nationwide crackdown aimed at crushing the two-month anti-government uprising.

Smoke was billowing from the site, known as Pearl roundabout, and the scent of teargas wafted through many locations in Manama.

Gunfire was heard throughout the capital and at least five helicopters were circling scenes of clashes, amid widespread panic on the streets below.

On the domestic side of things we have a breakout of asylum seekers on Christmas Island being shot by police with “bean bag bullets” which I’m going to suggest are a bit less fun than they sound.

It would be nice if this would lead to a sensible debate, and yet the only solution we get from the other side is “stop the boats”. Given Libya and Bahrain, I don’t see that happening any time soon….

Whatever happens on the domestic front, one thing we know is that when parliament resumes next week, it will begin, as it has each time it has resumed this year, with a condolence motion due to a natural disaster.

May it be the last this year.

And so we carry on. We cannot stop our own lives because of horror elsewhere. And I don’t think we should feel guilty about having a laugh either, even on a day where there is so much horror to be found wherever you choose to look. I think in perhaps reaction to the grim news around the world things actually got a bit silly today – so for example we had Tony Abbott being asked this on FM radio in Wollongong:

PRESENTER: Seriously, so, the only question I want to know is were you thinking of having a chest wax any time soon?

TONY ABBOTT: What, to get rid of my love rug?

(I hope you’re not eating).

We also had a bit of a go round of the vision of the Israeli model with fake breasts getting bitten by a snake.

News.com.au were running the line that the snake died of silicone poisoning. This is despite it not actually being true (sometimes they make life just too easy for Media Watch).

But for me the best relief was found on the CollegeHumour.com website where Simon Pegg and Nick Frost do their own version of Star Wars.

As Matt Price said, “Life is fragile, hug your loved ones”… and I would also add – Do what you can. Keep informed. But don’t forget how to laugh either.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bolt makes me question my ancestry

At a party a couple weeks ago, a friend asked me if Andrew Bolt had ever bothered to have a go at me. I replied that other than suggesting I should be sacked he hadn’t taken any notice of me – and to be honest, why would he?

But then yesterday oh joy of joys, Bolt did decide to target me. You see while watching Insiders, I let forth a series of tweets suggesting that the show had become a joke as it pandered to Bolt’s bias. Bolt as is his want, rushed home and wrote a blog about all the ruckus he created on Twitter (yes I know). In his blog he singled me and my tweets out for particular attention. Oh what an honour. If only my grandparents were still alive to witness it.

I say this because Bolt for some reason decided to not only single me out, but also my parents and grandparents:

image

Now firstly, what does my ancestry have to do with my criticism of Insiders? It doesn’t have anything to do with it of course, but Bolt just put it in there because he knows his readers hate public servants (lazy lay-about, sucking off the public tit, good for nothings that they are) and so being the last of three generations of Canberra public servants just about puts me in the pantheon of lazy, lay-about, sucking off the public tit, good for nothings.

You can see how this label is received by his readers, by the comment left on my blog by someone who came from his blog (got about 530 hits via his blog, so cheers for that Andrew):

Anonymous said...
Your blog is a simple minded reflection of a third generation public servant... And your chicken shit disclaimer about it being your viewpoint and yours only is a joke - I would fire your arse as soon as possible if you were in the private sector reporting to me. Oh, but you would never survive there anyway. That's where us regular taxpayers work to meet our forced obligations to pay tax to keep useless sacks of meat like you employed on projects that offer little value to society...
 
How charming.

But here’s the thing, while I can understand Bolt wanting to label me as a public servant, and also a third generation one, and also a third generation Canberran one (laziest of the lot they are!) there’s just one slight problem:

It is not true.

You see the statement that I am a third-generation Canberra public servant is an untruth, a falsehood, a fiction, a furphy. In short, a lie.

Now I know Bolt is pretty big on people’s ancestry, but I was at a loss as to why he was making up this lie about me. The post that he linked to to prove his statement doesn't even mention that I live in Canberra, let alone where my parents live or did for work.

You see, I have only lived in Canberra for 5 years. Before that (as I have written) I lived in Cairns for 11 years, but I actually grew up (as I have also written) in South Australia. My father also grew up in South Australia, as did his father, and his father’s father, and his father’s father’s father, and his father’s… well you get the point.

Secondly, neither my father nor my mother were public servants. My mother held all manner of jobs (the list is long and impressive and starts with nurse and ends with canteen operator), but my father (as I have written) was a primary school teacher. Now admittedly he worked in the the South Australian public system, but like all teachers he considered himself a teacher and not a public servant – and oddly the Tax Office also considered him that because he, unlike me, put “teacher” on his tax form, whereas I write “public servant”.

Now maybe Bolt, like some right wing types in the US, has decided to start having a go at teachers, and wants the fact my Dad was a teacher to be seen in a negative light? But I doubt it. Or perhaps Bolt was referring to the two years in 1967 and 1968 when my father was in the army fighting in the Vietnam War as part of national service (I have written about that as well, and I assume Bolt did his research on my family history before making the statement in his piece). Soldiers in the army are technically public servants so perhaps Bolt was wishing to sneer about the fact my Dad fought for this country? But again, I think not.

Where his assertion really breaks down (not that it isn’t already in tiny pieces) is when we get to my grandparents. My grandfathers on both my father’s and my mother’s sides were farmers. My Dad’s father owned a fruit block in the Riverland (that’s in South Australia) and my Mum’s father owned a wheat farm just out of Loxton (also in South Australia). Both men, as you can well expect given they were farmers, were not exactly friends of the left side of politics. I have no doubt they viewed Whitlam as a communist, and the thought of them voting for Labor ever would have been about as unlikely an occurrence as could ever happen.

So given it is all wrong why the hell did Bolt make this up?

I had no idea, especially as I searched my blog for evidence of me incorrectly writing my Dad and grandfather had lived in Canberra also worked as public servants (because you know I make those kind of factual errors all the time…).

The answer came from a reader of my blog, Tim Gay, who sent me a message on Twitter:

Did Bolt confuse my comment about being 3rd gen Canb on your post with you? If so, dumber than I thought

And that was it. In my post on Paul Kelly and gay marriage, Tim left a comment. This is what it looked like:

timbog74 said...

Democracy is only allowed if you agree with Paul Kelly and the Liberal Party? Got it. I suppose as a tertiary educated, 3rd generation Canberra public servant, my values are so wildly out of step with the rest of Australia that I don't really deserve to have my elected representatives make laws on my behalf. Good to know.

I don’t know about you, but to me it seems pretty obvious that the comment was written by Tim and not me (the whole “timbog74 said….” kind of gives it away).

So that leave us with two conclusions.

1. Bolt read my blog post, saw Tim’s comment and decided to lie to his readers and attribute Tim’s comments about his life to me

2. Bolt read my blog post, saw Tim’s comments and was unable to grasp that they were not written by me.

I assume Bolt is not a liar, in which case it just means that he is someone whose reading comprehension skills are, shall we say, somewhat lacking in robustness.

In a post last October in The Punch on criticism targeted at journalists, Bolt said:

“The worst abuse doesn’t hurt as much as a polite letter pointing out I’ve made a factual howler. But of the abuse, what most gives me the pip is that many of my worst critics clearly haven’t read a word I’ve actually written.”

Well, I hope Bolt considers this a polite blog post, because he clearly hasn’t read a word I’ve actually written.