Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Janet Albrechtsen, and time for a load of red herrings and disclaimers ...

(Above: spoiler and red herring alert, that's where this piece is headed, and what a tragic place it is too).

The red herring ploy is the cruellest trick a writer can play on a hapless reader.

Back in the day, very young and innocent, I was astonished to discover the device in Agatha Christie's Ten Little Niggers (these days called And Then There Were None or Ten Little Indians - who cares about indigenous sensitivities - but the original title gives you the whiff of the demographics and the embedded empire attitudes in the work).

Christie's cheap trick was to send ten naughty people to an island, and kill them one by one, but - spoiler alert - one of the deaths is faked, and it turns out a judge contrived his own death (sixth in the sequence), while punishing the guilty and leaving the fuzz with an "unsolvable" mystery.

It was an outrageously hokey device of the kind loved by readers of crime and mystery novels, and following on the news that Santa Claus was a cruel conspiracy by adults, the Easter Bunny an excuse to get kids mainlining chocolate, and Jesus a kind of dress-up charades for practising cannibals, it robbed childhood of any last innocence.

But what, you might ask, does this have to do with the commentariat?

Well, if you read Janet Albrechtsen today in Let's not be tethered by simple sexual stereotypes, you'll get a quick answer.

In the process of putting on her sophisticated inner city elite sexually aware and responsive hat for the day, Albrechtsen starts by doing a quick tour of the implications of Sex and the City, followed by some throwaway thoughts on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, and the matter of vaginal bruising.

Any regular reader of Albrechtsen will have already suffered through her love of the show before (sometimes worse than spending an hour with a Trekkie), but at least this time you can learn about the art of the red herring:

Before we look at why sex pushes even more thoughtful minds to jump to stereotypes about women, let's extract DSK from this discussion. This is not about his innocence or guilt.

Yep, it turns out that the entire detour into Strauss-Kahn territory has even less tangential relevance to Albrechtsen's argument than the wayward judge does to honest plotting in the Christie novel, except it allows her to slag off Richard Ackland and float into the ether the notion that the hotel maid might just have been allowing Strauss-Kahn a chance to let loose his inner goat.

This allows another Christie trick to take a walk in the park.

The balanced slagging off of both characters:

After all, if the plaintiff has a credibility problem, so does the defendant. Apart from his backward Keynesian views about spending, the French politician who wants to be president has a tainted track record involving other allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

Yep, they might both be as guilty as hell, since you can't trust a Keynesian anywhere, let alone in bed (and speaking of Keynes, it's worth remembering that he lived a splendid second life of cruising, copulating and cock-sucking, as evoked in The Sex Diaries of John Maynard Keynes and other pieces on the web).

But back to that damned red herring:

The point is not about DSK and the chambermaid.

WTF? Well if it's not about them, why spend a couple of pars on them?

It's about the stubborn puritanism that says if a woman is bruised during sex, then it must be rape.

But actually in the context of a woman accusing a man of rape, it might well be argued that vaginal bruising must be considered in the context of a charge of rape. Or is the pond missing something?

Sensing she's got into deep water, Albrechtsen then has to produce another red herring disclaimer:

Let's lay it out in the clearest of terms. If it's consensual, it's not rape, even if it's rough. Surely we should have learned by now not to prescribe the choices women make about how they conduct their sexual lives, whether these choices are totally white-bread or rough and rollicking or somewhere in between.

Uh huh. Well that's very inner city sophisticated urban elite for Albrechtsen, but pray tell, what on earth has it got to do with the hotel maid and Strauss-Kahn - since who knows what went on in the room except the participants - and why did Albrechtsen take that particular detour?

Well it's to do a variant on Bettina Arndt, without quite understanding that the Arndt line insists that it's repressive, prudish women who are doing down men.

This gets Albrecthsen into a double bind, what we might call the Samuel Richardson v Henry Fielding, Pamela v bawdy women routine (yep, it's as old as the eighteenth century, this routine, with Tom Jones published in 1749 and Pamela in 1740, and don't go quoting Aristophanes at me).

Let's hear it for Tom Jones first:

Haven't we yet learned that when it comes to the complicated story of female sexuality, one size doesn't fit all? And neither should it. Women's empowerment ought to champion the fact that different women want different things, be it in the bedroom or elsewhere. That more enlightened view means the past sexual proclivities of women have long stopped being relevant in rape prosecutions. A woman who likes rough sex can also be the victim of rape. By the same token, let's repeat that rough sex does not equal rape.

Yes, yes, bawdy is as bawdy does, but now let's remember that in the end women are to blame, with all the prudish Pamelas of the world standing by to take the rap:

Alas, women are not alone when it comes to being on the receiving end of stubborn, moralising assumptions about sex. Plenty of skewed sexual assumptions are made by women about men. In fact, most of the public debate over morality in the bedroom is now conducted entirely by women; men rarely dare voice an opinion lest they be shouted down. Writing in The Age last week, Bettina Arndt gave the perfect example about a man who got into all sorts of trouble for writing about his "inner goat". His article, published in Britain's The Telegraph Magazine, agonised about the fact that while "on the surface, you may look like a gentleman, inside, you're a goat".

Yep, there it is, a palpable hit. You see the bawds that like rough sex can instantly transmute into ball-busting prudes, and so Men rarely dare voice an opinion lest they be shouted down.

So it's up to Albrechtsen and Arndt to do it for them?

Well if you want to refer to the Telegraph article, you can head off to The lust that dare not speak its name, wherein you will find a rather banal piece saturated with English class assumptions about a poignant Prufock who'd like to fuck around, or at least not be judged harshly by fantasising about fucking around, and fucking like a goat. How wild does it get?

Ted says, 'They could have bars where the girls keep their clothes on, but tell you they want to have sex. You'd talk about it for a while. Then you would say, "No thanks, I'm married." And then you'd go home. That would be better than watching girls take their pants off and sticking their bottoms in your face.'

Lordy, lordy. Put it another way:

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
(and the rest of Prufrock here. If you re-read it, then at least this entire discussion has provided one redemptive moment).

But I digress, I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled and encourage lesbian fantasies in anonymous writers for the UK Telegraph.

Back to Albrechtsen and her final prescription that will fix everything:

Challenging the cultural fault lines about sex unsettles many people. The intimate business of men and women living and loving together is tricky territory. Those who still succumb to simplistic assumptions - be it about men and their inner goat or women and their desires - should try to catch repeat episodes of Sex and the City screening on television just about any day of the week. Just don't assume all women fit neatly into the characters of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda or Samantha. Happily, the reality is far more complex than that.

Take episodes of Sex and the City daily until cured, as a solution to the tricky territory of relationships between men and women?


Okay, okay, it's the perfect red herring. The show is perhaps the ultimate expression of inner city elite attitudes as found in Manhattan and re-interpreted by a largely male creative team, and at any other time in the week would be exposed by the commentariat as part of the dangerous decadence and soft, idle sophistication that's undermining western civilisation as we know it, and done by a liberal Hollywood elite lacking proper mainstream suburban values.

So here's the pond's red herring.

This entire piece is actually about gay marriage, and wondering - since Albrechtsen fancies herself as something of an expert on cultural fault lines and tricky territory - why she opposes the concept, as enunciated in pieces such as Judges should butt out of politics, where she blames the whole notion of gay marriage on activist judges over-riding the will of the majority.

Here's the thing. If it's okay for men in the UK to have fantasies about lesbians getting it on, what's so wrong about lesbians wanting to ditch their wild fornicating ways and settle down in suburban conformity in married coupledom?

I guess that Albrechtsen has already provided the answer:

Challenging the cultural fault lines about sex unsettles many people. The intimate business of men and men and women and women living and loving together is tricky territory.

Especially if at other times of the week, you're inclined to forget you're an urban sophisticate of the Sex and the City kind, and revert to the business of peddling standard Miranda the Devine routines straight out of the Catholic play book ...

And now for the inevitable disclaimer. The pond has no trouble with rough sex or pornography or men or women who like it (except for the pornographic censoring mentality of Stephen Conroy). The pond isn't in to self-loathing ...

The pond also has quite a bit of time for Slutwalk and feminists taking to the streets to reclaim 'slut' in style, no matter the pounding that event and the participants got from the commentariat.

But it has extreme problems with red herrings, and even more problems with confused arguments and befuddled logic, especially when it comes to pleading for the right of men to lead rich fantasy lives while trapped in monogamy, while arguing against the rights of gays to be trapped in monogamy and so then be able to lead rich fantasy lives ...

Now let's consult the oracle:

Charlotte: I'm so confused. Is he gay or is he straight?
Carrie: It's not that simple anymore. The real question is; is he a straight gay man, or is he a gay straight man?
Samantha: Hopefully, he's a gay straight guy, which means he's straight with a lot of gay qualities. Whereas, a straight gay guy, is just a gay guy who plays sports and won't fuck you.

Even worse, he might be a gay talent agent, and get married in the movie Sex and the City 2, which did as much as it could to set gay marriage back by a decade, and the movie industry back by a century ...

Well at least we haven't had to think about Australian politics and for that we should be grateful ...

(Below: and now since the pond is always keen on dress as a guide, here's a quick guide to Janet Albrechtsen).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gerard Henderson, The Australian redux, and conspiracies everywhere ...

(Above: a double bunger correction on the front digital page of the lizard Oz, but we liked this one best, with the photo credit going to that old standby " ". Long may inverted commas be credited with the best of journalistic grovelling).

To borrow a phrase, it seems that Glenn Milne and The Australian are shackled together just as surely as two First Fleet convicts.

After yesterday's effort by Milne - yes, you could still find copies of the allegedly defamatory column circulating on the full to flowing intertubes at time of writing - and with Four Corners dishing more dirt on the Murdoch empire last night - you'd think The Australian - the alleged sterile stinking dead heart of a hapless nation - might have thought about a little distance, even perhaps a discreet unshackling.

The Australian’s editor, Clive Mathieson, issued the following statement to Crikey this morning: “We’re investigating the Prime Minister’s claim of inaccuracies in the story. As the correction points out, we regret that the PM was not given any chance to respond to the allegations.”

Asked whether Milne would be sacked, Mathieson said “he remains a contributor to The Australian.”

That says all you need to know about journalistic standards at The Australian. Even the battling boofheads in rugby league are subject to more stringent discipline ...

Don't know what the fuss is all about? Well you could read all about it in Fairfax today under the header Bombshell for Gillard explodes under Murdoch press.

Or you could consider yourself lucky you missed the Milne, and instead wonder if there are any signs today that the leopard might have changed its spots.

Well on the opinion pages there's Niki Savva defending Tony Abbott, in Whatever the problem, blame Abbott, and there's Tony Abbott defending Tony Abbott in We are pledged to real reform, and there's Michael Stuchbury dishing it out to unions and Gillard in Trade union warlords part of the slump, and there's the anonymous editorialist chiming in with Our union leaders need some lessons.

Yes, it's just another day in the union and Gillard bashing world of the minions of Murdoch, and you have to wonder if Gillard feels silly having trooped off to her private meeting with the Murdoch heavyweights, as if you could reason with them or expect fair and balanced coverage.

You can't expect ferals to change their gutter crawling ways, and you can't expect any change in the Murdoch press until Gillard returns to the back bench and the Federal Labor government is sent into exile.

So let's move along to another member of the commentariat, because clap hands and sing with joy, today is desiccated coconut day, and who better to supply it on cup cakes than Gerard Henderson, as he gets tremendously agitated in Literary festivals and prizes champion politics over quality.

Yep, it's left wing conspiracy time.

Henderson gets terribly upset over David Hicks' work Guantanamo: My Journey getting shortlisted for the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards, seeing it all as some kind of leftist conspiracy, when truth to tell, Australian literary awards have always been a dog's breakfast, what with Helen Demidenko nee Darville picking up a Miles Franklin for The Hand That Signed the Paper (and a Vogel) and Paul Radley setting the pace as inaugural disqualified Vogel winner for presenting the work of his uncle in Jack Rivers and Me way back in 1981 (yep, it's called The Australian/Vogel award for writers under 35 and shows The Australian is as adept at literary awards as it is at journalism).

In one way or another things have bubbled along nicely since the Ern Malley Affair, what with taxi driver Leon Carmen adopting the pen name Wanda Koolmatrie for My Own Sweet Time (scoring a Dobbie award), and we like these scandals so well that Anna Broinowski even got to make the film Forbidden Lie$ out of Norman Khouri's distortions of the truth in Forbidden Love (How a 'forbidden' memoir twisted the truth).

Set amongst this distinguished company, Hicks seems almost banal in his new incarnation of scribe, with the pen substituting for posing down with an RPG.

No doubt Henderson is working diligently away at startling new evidence that all the fraudsters were part of a gigantic leftist conspiracy ... but it would have been more interesting if - instead of frothing at the mouth at leftist conspiracies - Henderson had managed to produce some evidence that Hicks had the help of a ghost writer.

Meanwhile, Henderson saves even more of his venom for Malcolm Fraser and his political memoirs, and for the outrage that it won 50k at the NSW Premier's Literary award, despite being full of alleged errors (as spotted by the diligent Henderson), being self-serving and written with rose-coloured glasses.

Dearie me, a self-serving political memoir. Who would have thunk that such a thing could be ...

But such is the paranoia that you get this kind of twaddle from Henderson:

The Melbourne Writers Festival is now under way. There are many leftist and left-of-centre types on the program but barely a conservative writer or commentator. For example, the session on essay writing will hear the views of only Richard Flanagan, Marieke Hardy and Robert Manne.

Is this code for Henderson not getting a free flight to Melbourne to sit on the platform alongside Marieke Hardy? The thought's so bizarre the pond almost feels like springing some frequent flyer points just to see the sight.

For the absent lord's sake, can someone tell the man he's dull as ditchwater, and listening to him is roughly equivalent to hearing paint dry, and perhaps that's the reason some conservatives are excluded from the literary circuit, already groaning under the tedium of frail writer egos and brash publisher excesses.

If he really wants to get on the circuit, why doesn't he produce a transformative magnum opus that will compel the world to listen. Perhaps he could do it by taking a nom de plume ...

Meanwhile, you can just feel the sharp edged knife of injustice deeply penetrating the noble Henderson's bosom, rather like the rose thorn did to the nightingale in the Oscar Wilde story as he scribbles:

... it is reported that he (Fraser) is ''applauded'' at literary festivals ''by the same kinds of people who had once reviled him for his role in the dismissal'' of the Whitlam Labor government.

Oh the humanity, oh the horror.

Well seeing as how Malcolm Fraser is as dull as ditchwater too, let Henderson follow his example. How about My life as a member of the commentariat, and the many leftist conspiracies uncovered ...

Still, it was heartening to see Jack the Insider take up the Tony Abbott is Malcolm Fraser in disguise meme in Crisis? What perpetual crisis:

... are we looking at 1975 over all over again? Well, there are stark differences, of course. But there is a parallel existence between the Fraser opposition in 1975 and the Abbott opposition now.

Like Fraser, Abbott is desperate to take power at almost any cost but if he has a real idea on what he plans to do once the keys to the Lodge are handed over, it’s not exactly clear to the punters.

Contrary to the paranoid Henderson, there are some in the country who clearly remember the Whitlam and the Fraser years. Cue Jack:

What do we remember about the Fraser Government? Not a lot. People hold strong views about the Whitlam Government. Some recall it as Australia’s Age of Aquarius. Others give it less favourable reviews but no one remembers the Fraser Government fondly. It is an embarrassment to the Liberal Party now.

Sad to say, Henderson has the ideological flexibility of a walrus being assaulted by a pack of five hundred playing cards ... or perhaps Alan Jones.

What fun to see the squawking parrot nailed by Media Watch in Wrong at the top of his voice, as a chaser to Four Corners exploring the entrails of the Murdoch empire in Bad News.

No doubt these programs are also part of an eternal left wing conspiracy, but in the picture below, who do you imagine as Alice?

Julia Gillard eternally assaulted by a pack of Murdoch cards, or poor Gerard Henderson suffering from the indignities of literary awards?

Someone should tell him to HTFU dude ...

Paul Sheehan, and time to demote the generally grumpy scribbler back to Colonel Grumpy?

The corollary to the above cartoon is that the likes of generally grumpy Paul Sheehan have always had their own column, and have been boring the world with their cockamamie theories and insane opinions for years.

It's blogging which has revealed the way the commentariat was just a refined, elite, much better paid precursor to a world where everybody has an opinion, and is in a position to express it, and the opinions tend to be worth the paper they're printed on. Invaluable for lining cockie cages and wrapping fish and chips ... or for filling up the full to overflowing intertubes with even more digital detritus.

This bleak existential view of the world arose once again having copped yet another outburst from the generally grumpy Sheehan in Loss of faith prompts a death march to oblivion.

If you read it closely, it seems Australia is just one step away from an economic basket case roughly equivalent to the great depression, and democracy is dead.

Sheehan starts his doom and gloom tirade by slagging off Tony Windsor - I say, damn it, wot wot, don't trust the man, don't trust the man at all - and accuses him of being a weasel, or at least a man inclined to weasel options.

Yep, it takes some kind of weasel to take the constant abuse dished out by the likes of Sheehan.

It seems that Sheehan knows the minds of the New England electorate, which somehow makes it quite bizarre that the said electorate voted in Windsor and by a handsome majority, with 71.5% of the votes (with a still handsome 61.88% first preference vote as detailed here).

You might forget this fundamental statistic in all the other statistics led by Sheehan in a confected lather of froth, rage, doom and gloom, as he goes about the business of re-fighting and re-defining the last federal election. Talk about maintaining the rage ...

To perform his statistical monkey tricks, Sheehan has to resort to the Senate vote, and then to comparing the country Labor and Green votes.

It was the lowest combined Labor-Greens vote in the entire country. From these emphatic anti-Labor votes in the House and Senate, Windsor conjured a mandate for Labor.
He placed his animosity towards the National Party, to which he had once belonged but become estranged, over the will of the electorate.

Uh huh. And yet Windsor copped a two party preferred 75-25 share of the votes. From this emphatic Tony Windsor vote, Sheehan conjures up a mandate for the Liberal party ...

If nothing else, Sheehan provides a good example of a surly, truculent bad loser, rather like Tony Abbott in manner and demeanour ... an indecent, fraudulent manipulator of statistics as a way of expressing enduring hostility, bile, doom and gloom.

How many times has he been to the noble town of Tamworth this last year to test the views of the elecorate? As many as Tony Windsor? Do tell...

Next Sheehan performs the same routine on Rob Oakeshott, with this kind of verbal abuse:

... he has become a whiner since his fantasy that he would become Canberra's charismatic cleanskin kingmaker has degenerated into a political death march.

Uh huh. Well Sheehan would know all about whining, as he next concludes the Federal Government has a legitimacy problem.

This is of course a routine that the Federal Liberal party embarked upon immediately after the election, that somehow a minority government must be illegitimate (and yet minority illegitimacy flourishes in the upper house in NSW, and will likely continue to flourish in the Senate even if Tony Abbott gets hold of the preciousss at the next election).

To read Sheehan, you'd swear the economy is one step away from disaster (confidence, jobs, and spending are "plunging"), and it's all outrage and cascading bankruptcies and defensive staff shedding and creeping unemployment and vicious cycles, and lurid scandals, which of course is the pretext for a solid round of union bashing.

The amazing thing? Sheehan has the cheek to call Oakeshott a whiner ...

Well it's a fine and noble thing that the minions of Fairfax routinely print a Liberal party propagandist, but amidst all the welter of negativity, you won't find a single word about the policies of Tony Abbott and how they will lead Australia to the promised land.

That's way too hard for the generally grumpy Paul Sheehan, and if he keeps on going with this unremitting Colonel Blimp routine, we might just well demote him back to Colonel Grumpy ...

First scare the sheep, so they can be herded more easily, and shorn and plucked while quietly submissive to the will of their masters ...

If you want more of the same, you can of course resort to the man dubbed the poison dwarf by Paul Keating, with Glenn Milne now seemingly back in his favourite bunker at The Australian, standing by to scribble alarmist tracts such as PM a lost cause for warring unions.

Milne is most impressed by the Mafia-style dirt-covered shovel dropped on the doorstop of Kathy Jackson, but surely this lacks the class of a horse's head in the actual bed ...

Along with Andrew Bolt, Milne trawls back into the deep past of Gillard to find another scandal, which proves that, if nothing else, his nick name as bestowed by Keating continues to be well-earned.

Can we commend this new iPad app to the commentariat?

Yep, just go sulk in the corner, with silence a bonus extra (and more First Dog, and the full range of apps here).

Enough. The local dirt merchants are in fine form, but it's the start of the week, and we need a little lighter fare, and as always the United States is ready to oblige.

Come on down Pat Robertson, and give the start to the week a good cackle.

What's that you say, an earthquake caused a crack in a wall?

"Ladies and gentlemen I don't want to get weird on this so please take it for what it's worth," Robertson said.

"But it seems to me the Washington Monument is a symbol of America's power, it has been the symbol of our great nation, we look at that monument and say this is one nation under God," he continued.

"Now there's a crack in it, there's a crack in it and it's closed up. Is that a sign from the Lord? Is that something that has significance or is it just result of an earthquake? You judge, but I just want to bring that to your attention," he said.

"It seems to me symbolic," Robinson said. "When Jesus was crucified and when he died the curtain in the Temple was rent from top to bottom and there was a tear and it was extremely symbolic. Is this symbolic? You judge."

No word on what sign Robertson thinks God was trying to send with the damage to the National Cathedral. (and you can get the video by heading off to TPM here).

Well I guess Robertson is an honestly religious, or perhaps religiously honest fool, which is more than you can say for the assorted snide asides and crude propaganda of Sheehan and Milne ...

And now let the pond help you with any technical problems you might encounter as you begin your week of Labour, though it might be all in vain, seeing as how the Labor party and its policies are due to produce a global depression by 5 pm Friday ... or at least keep Tony Abbott another week away from holding his precioussss aloft to the admiring cheers of the entire commentariat ...

Yep, it's the no problem flowchart, an old internet meme, but always handy in times of strife. Click to enlarge ...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Pond's Sunday homily, wherein Pellism, Jensenism, piano limbs and complementarianism of the Adam and Eve kind go on an outing together ...

(Above: ice, what ice? Warming, what global warming?)

And so belatedly to the belated thoughts of Cardinal George Pell in the Sunday Terror, currently doing a Glenn Beck in Israel, as recounted in Pilgrims in Galilee.

The Neo-Catechumenal Way community has its elegant House of Beatitudes on the northern shores of the lake, comprising a small seminary for trainee priests and a large pilgrim centre. We visited the library, the two chapels (one for the Eucharist, one for the Word of God) and crawled through the small narrow gate, a symbol for our striving for heaven.

Let's hope the Cardinal has had time to follow another bunch of pilgrims, six British adventurers who became the first team to row to the magnetic North Pole, a symbol of their striving to make sense of global warming.

No doubt pedants and climate deniers will insist that they only rowed 450 miles from Resolution Bay in Canada, and had to drag the boat for the last three hours across ice floes and lumps of broken ice.

As usual, journalists were quick to seize on quick cheap ideological theological points that have nothing to do with the Cardinal's understanding of reality:

Rowing to the pole in an open boat was possible because climate change has meant the Arctic ice sheet has retreated record distances in the last 30 years. (Rowers reach 'impossible' North Pole, thanks to global warming).

Climate change? What climate change?

Of late Pell seems to have gone quiet on climate science denialism - fret not, he will return from his junket to come to grips with canoes and heretics - and instead taken up charades:

Jesus gave these charges only after asking Peter three times did he love him. We acted out this encounter with a seminarian asking each pilgrim in Christ's name "Do you love me?"

An important question for pilgrims.

And an equally important question for gays before they propose marriage, because it remains a long and rocky road in Australia, unlike our friends in the Netherlands who have been happily married for a decade (longer than my first marriage, it has to be noted).

Well there's nothing more ineffably boring than a man on a junket scribbling about the junket, and so it is with Pell:

We travelled from the southern tip of Sinai to Galilee in northern Israel in one long day. The Sea of Galilee is a favourite spot for me and I am glad Jesus enjoyed the locale and came there to pray as well as to teach.

Yes, Jesus was a tourist with fine taste for locales, and no doubt recommends Ray-Bans when travelling in summer ...

Enough already, time to drop in on the Sydney Anglicans, as they attempt to give the Calvinist pursuit of misery and guilt a good name, and who better than Michael Jensen to ask in that nepotic ministry:

Can church politics be played Christianly?

Yep, there are weighty matters afoot in The art of godly church politics?

Jensen outlines a number of principles for the conduct of internal church warfare (bickering, politics, power grabs, snide asides, call it what you will), starting with the notion that the quality of the means matter more than the delivery of the ends. This would rule Tony "I'd even think about selling my arse to score the precioussss" Abbott from playing Sydney Anglican politics (The day Abbott bared his soul).

Shockingly, Jensen acknowledges that Christians share a weakness of the flesh, which rather quaintly casts the pleasure of a good fuck in the more sordid light of the lust for the flesh.

Lordy, we've always enjoyed that rhetoric since the days the Victorians draped thingamejibs over table and piano legs.

Oh okay, we know that's an urban myth, but can there be smoke without fire?

I was requested by a lady to escort her to a seminary for young ladies, and on being ushered into the reception-room, conceive my astonishment at beholding a square piano-forte with four limbs. However, that the ladies who visited their daughters might feel in its full force the extreme delicacy of the mistress of the establishment, and her care to preserve in their utmost purity the ideas of the young ladies under her charge, she had dressed all these four limbs in modest little trousers, with frills at the bottom of them! (Frederick Marryat, A diary in America: with remarks on its institutions).

Poor Frederick also got hauled over the coals by one chaste young lady, who insisted that the word limb be used rather than that racy word leg. Talk about the unholy lusts of the flesh.

Speaking of women, Jenkins is quite grand in his inclusive third rule for church politics:

... a godly church politics ought to seek the inclusion of women as well as men, and the young as well as the old.

It turns out that this is all very well, but hard to implement:

The response to this is not tokenism or the introduction of quotas, but rather a determination to change among those who operate with the church-political sphere. It's harder than it looks, of course: people - especially women - are very busy.

Yes, women are terribly busy, and so running the church, and having women as actual ministers would be a terrible imposition. Better leave that sort of time-destroying business to men, who lead lives of leisure, and let women get on with their especially busy lives, looking after the leisurely men.

Besides, then they'd have to change the wiki on the Sydney Anglicans, and who wants change simply for the sake of change?

One of the visible differences between Sydney and the majority of other Anglican dioceses in Australia has been its unwillingness to allow the ordination of women to the priesthood (itself a term infrequently used in the diocese) or presbyterate. This issue is an indicator of Sydney's difference in ecclesiology and theology to most other dioceses within the Anglican Communion. (here, and also Ordination of women in the Anglican diocese of Sydney).

But enough of Jensen, because with that bit of specious pleading about busy women, he broke several of his inclusionist principles, most notably the last one about the temptation to use spiritual language as an instrument of coercion, since it's impossible to cite a better example of instruments of coercion than the denial of status to women within the Sydney Anglican community.

Still, you will have the pleasure of learning the arcane meaning of complementarianism if you read the piece and the comments to the end.

Roughly put, it means all Anglicans are equal, but male Anglicans are more equal than female Anglicans ... in yet another inspiring tribute to the ongoing validity of the laws enunciated by George Orwell in Animal Farm.

This is of course the same theology that underpinned Michele Bachmann's little outburst about submission, which caused such a fuss in the USA recently:

Today, the tenets of complementarianism are spelled out in a misogynistic document called the Danvers Statement, which is widely disseminated throughout the evangelical community primarily through the international and interdenominational organization known as the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Almost every major Christian denomination subscribes to and aggressively promotes male headship. Many Christians are committed complementarians even if they do not use the term to describe their views. Some have never heard the term but are so indoctrinated into the model they can chant the mantras of complementarianism to perfection. (Submissive question: We have a right to know sacred beliefs).

Not to worry. You can read on the Sydney Anglican site of people ready and willing to call themselves complementarians.

As for the Danvers Statement?

Well you can either go first to the wiki, or you can get the good 'Adam and Eve' oil at The Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Here's a taster:

Based on our understanding of Biblical teachings, we affirm the following:
Both Adam and Eve were created in God's image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood (Gen 1:26-27, 2:18).
Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).
Adam's headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin (Gen 2:16-18, 21-24, 3:1-13; 1 Cor 11:7-9).
The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women (Gen 3:1-7, 12, 16).
In the home, the husband's loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife's intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.
In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.

Golly, one minute you're frolicking with Michael Jensen and the Sydney Calvinists, and the next thing you know you're off with the pixies, which is to say fundamentalist complementarian Baptists still spruiking Adam and Eve and the fall.

But it does suggest one change Jensen can make to his text.

These days it's not that many women are too busy to get engaged with the Sydney Anglicans, it's that they're too sensible.

Let the boys play with their toys and their church politics, especially when there's no point banging your head against an Adam and Eve complementarian view of the world ...

(Below: beam me up Scotty, and fear not, your left behind pets can be taken care of by Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Christopher Pearson, and the joys of heterosexual marriage, present company excluded ...

(Above: screen cap, link below. We just wanted to preserve on the intertubes the strange sight of 'dictatorship of relativism' for all to enjoy).

There's no more whimsical, or perhaps bizarre sight, than a self-admittedly gay man (nurture or nature?), who hasn't experienced the joys of heterosexual marriage, starting off a piece by quoting a pope who also hasn't experienced the joys of heterosexual marriage (no, being a bride of Christ isn't quite the same thing) ...

It always seems to involve warbling on about the joys, benefits and singularity of traditional heterosexual marriage.

It seems Pope and Pearson follow the Mae West line: Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution.

The pond of course likes marriage so much it's sampled it several times, and believes firmly in Ambrose Bierce's definition: Marriage, n: the state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two. It would only take the most minute edit to bring it up to date: Marriage, n: the state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a master, and two slaves, making in all, two.

Never mind, let's gloss over the way the tradition of marriage has at various times embraced polygamy, civil marriage, common-law marriage, and nikah urfi, amongst other odd rituals.

Let us not recite as our text for the day Matthew 25:

25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
25:2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

Yes, the five that were foolish probably read Christopher Pearson carrying on about the dictatorship of the relative, while failing to note the way a single bridegroom could score ten virgins even in Christ's time.

Now where were we?

Oh that's right, humbuggery and dictatorship and moral relativism and Pope and Christopher Pearson scribbling his opener for Vote against gay marriage:

Days before he was elected Pope, Joseph Ratzinger attributed the crisis in modern Europe to "the dictatorship of relativism". It was an interesting choice of words for several reasons.

Most of us don't associate autocratic systems with shifting values. Nor do we tend to think of absolute values as some sort of birthright. Yet the notion that a web of contingent values - or what used to be called political correctness - can amount to a form of tyranny is quite plausible.

Yep, plausible tyranny. Put it another way: high falutin' blather and abstract nonsense is what you get, and not a single mention of the long and varied history of marriage.

I guess if you actually got to talking about relative social structures through the ages, or even worse love and intimacy and the sharing of juices in tongue-smacking lip kissing and emotional commitment and engagement ... well it all might get a little unseemly, sordid and racy, perhaps even personal, and certainly relative, and perhaps even involving relationships.

You might even wonder why a gay man who's never going to embark on marriage is so keen to defend conventional, traditional heterosexual marriage against the forces of evil determined to bring it down:

That marriage is a specifically heterosexual institution has been a tenet of all the main religions and every legal system of any consequence before the present day. The onus of persuading people to support a fundamental change to the character of so sturdy an institution is considerable. Normlessness hasn't yet become entrenched enough in suburban Australia.

Uh huh. Well there seems to be no impediment for Pearson to perform what was once a tradition for gays, and indulge in a sham heterosexual marriage.

It was quite the done thing in the glory days of studio Hollywood, and celebrated as marriages of convenience or lavender marriages, a la Rock Hudson.

It was the sturdy response of a sturdy institution to sturdy stupidity in the matter of sexuality, and surely if it's good enough for Cole Porter, and Harold Nicholson and Rock Hudson, it's good enough for such a sturdy supporter of the sturdy joys of heterosexual marriage.

But enough of the fun of seeing a gay man and a chaste priest praise the joys of marriage, without indulging, because it seems Peter van Onselen got up the high-minded Pearson's nose by arguing:

"I would have more respect for opponents of gay marriage if they simply stated they didn't want homosexuals to have access to it. It would carry the virtue of honesty, if also the vice of bigotry."

Oh dear, does this upset Pearson, or what:

As many readers will know, I came out of the closet in my student days, back in 1971. When I argue against homosexuals having access to marriage, as I've done consistently in the intervening 40 years, am I guilty of bigotry?

Surely not. Nor, unless they also have an unreasonable - and now rare - hostility to all homosexuals, are heterosexual people who mount the same arguments.

Can gays be guilty of self-loathing? Surely not.

You see, it's all a matter of upholding a tradition, even, if as Groucho Marx suggested, it's a tradition you'd prefer not to get involved with. (How did he put it? I don't care to belong to a marriage club that accepts people like me as marriage partners, or some such thing).

It's rather like the argument against female priests. Opposing female ordination can't just be construed as evidence of bigotry or misogyny. Rather, it's based on respect for the 2000-year-old tradition, following Christ's example at the Last Supper, that the priesthood be exclusively male. Not all roles are unisex. Men are categorically unfit to be nuns, as are women to be priests and blokes to be brides.

So there you have it. A couple of thousand years of patriarchy is a really good argument for the continuation of the patriarchy for a couple more thousand years...

This is of course an equally excellent argument for the Lutheran practise of separating men and women in churches, or the Islamic one of herding women into veiled segregation, or any other example you might want to emulate about keeping the gig male.

It'll be a handy argument next time you attend a board meeting.

Really we've had so many hundreds of years of men running companies as company directors, because let's face it, we're just following Christ's example in the last supper, and not all roles are unisex, and women are categorically unfit to be company directors.

Yes there's nothing like a couple of thousand years of misogyny to justify current misogyny, and the wonder of it is the way that Islamics and Catholics manage to sound exactly the same:

Women are not given the right to instigate divorce because they are prone to emotional and irrational decision making. A husband, however, can divorce his wife at any time he so wishes. Ayatollah Ali Moghtadai

Yes, and it's been going on as a noble tradition for hundreds of years, so why change it.

Well by this time in proceedings, the pond was in fits of laughter, and rolling Jaffas down the aisles, while wiping away tears from Pearson's comedy stylings, but then it turned out that Pearson was a complete and utter tease:

I had intended to use the rest of this column to flesh out why the prospects of any gay marriage legislation being passed in the present federal parliament were negligible. But word has just reached me that Arthur Sinodinos, an old friend and comrade in arms, is going to nominate for the Senate seat vacated last week by Helen Coonan. This is a great coup for the Coalition and good news for anyone interested in the quality of governance in Australia.

So there it must rest. We cannot flesh out this column any further because Pearson has failed to flesh out his explanation of why gay flesh can't mingle in matrimony.

Could it be that he suddenly got tired of the absurdity of his arguments, and seized on Arthur Sinodinos as a lifeline? Anything to stop parroting the same tired, absurd, desperate, bigoted, misogynist arguments?

Still, we've learned a couple of things. You can't take the bigotry and misogyny away from conservatives and traditionalists, not when they have several thousand years of bigotry and misogyny as a precedent.

But perhaps the funniest styling is to learn that tolerance and a 'live and let live' philosophy is in fact a form of tyranny, a kind of dictatorship.

We look forward to Pearson explaining to Irish parents how their politically correct desire that priests not fiddle with their children is a kind of tyranny ...

Meanwhile, conservative gays who want to experience the joys of marriage, such as they are, are somehow pilloried as radical extremists intending to bring down an institution neither Pearson nor Ratzinger feel strongly enough about to participate in ...

As we often note, every day with the commentariat is a day down the rabbit hole with Alice, a veritable hookah with the caterpillar, a mushroom with the mouse, and a tea party with the mad hatter, but some days are more rabbit hole than others ...

Perhaps what we need is a Lobster quadrille, with Pearson and the Pope joining in the dance:

“Will you walk a little faster?” said a whiting to a snail.
“There’s a porpoise close behind us, and he’s treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle — will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?

“You can really have no notion how delightful it will be
When they take us up and throw us, with the lobsters, out to sea!”
But the snail replied “Too far, too far!” and gave a look askance —
Said he thanked the whiting kindly, but he would not join the dance.

Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not, could not, could not join the dance.

‘“What matters it how far we go?” his scaly friend replied.
“There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
The further off from England the nearer is to France —
Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance.

Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?”’

(Below: and a couple of cartoons to fill in the unfleshed gap in fleshy arguments).

Friday, August 26, 2011

The anonymous editorialist at The Australian, and yet more war-mongering blather disguised as fact gathering ......

"Traffic lights are a Bolshevist menace... Traffic lights are things which are set up to try and control traffic to try and control individuals on the roads," Dr Phelps (NSW Liberal whip in the upper house) told Parliament.

"They are normally programmed by some central planner who will tell you when you can come and when you can go."

Mr Gay (NSW Roads Minister) eventually intervened.

"Tell them I have no plans to remove traffic lights," he told Dr Phelps.

The rebuke did not stop the whip from suggesting an alternative.

"Roundabouts. Roundabouts represent freedom. Roundabouts represent democracy at its finest," he said. (NSW MP sees red over traffic lights).

Pure comedy gold from the archives, and if you want more comedy gold, why not read about Dr. Phelps (history) taking on climate change and the Australian Museum in Phelps v Australian Museum over climate change.

No wonder the muddle headed wombat thought about a career in Australian politics, but sadly we have to leave Dr. Phelps for the even richer comedy stylings of the anonymous editorialist at The Australian, as showcased in Rescuing a vital discipline.

Sadly in a wasted youth, the pond, like Dr. Phelps, once studied history, and lurched away from university with an honours degree in the wretched subject.

As Molesworth once remarked, history started badly and have been geting steadly worse

But could history sink any lower than the effort by the anon editorialist at the Oz?

As the Anzac centenary approaches, educators should capitalise on the intense interest to promote history. Students are sufficiently discerning to expect a factual narrative about the meaning of the anniversary rather than wayward, anti-war interpretations.

Wayward anti-war interpretations? Of a complete and disastrous schemozzle (Yiddish, I'm sure you know, for a mess).

Does the anon editorialist have the first clue of the complete silliness of that notion?

Did he or she ever talk with Gallipoli veterans? Well in the way of things, if you sat down with actual veterans (we even had a couple in the extended family), the most likely interpretation you got from those willing to talk about the experience (not everyone was inclined to relive the horror) would have been a wayward anti-war interpretation.

Never mind that the term "factual narrative" is semantic gibberish, and that "facts" in any decent history are always contested, debated, ordered, weighed, considered, contextualised and sometimes overthrown.

There's no need to be a post-modernist relativist to work out that what The Australian thinks is a "fact" is in all likelihood a handy set of wayward personal prejudices backed up by an ill-sorted assembly of half-truths ...

What the anon editorialist possibly means is that the "factual narrative" should produce some jingoistic nationalistic interpretation useful to nurturing todays's warriors ... and befitting the sort of narrow narrative which generated the Gallipoli legend, and which of late has been driving traffic to Turkey each anniversary in search of C.E.W. Bean's mythology.

This is the kind of fatuous narrative that sees the likes of 'Jack' Simpson and his donkey sanitised into a mythic figure, stripped of his more attractive qualities, which included a wayward inclination to larrikinism, a wayward ability to desert from the merchant navy, and a reluctant warrior attitude which saw him absent himself from his unit.

Simpson also had a wayward capacity to be a radical trade unionist who fervently believed in the need for revolution in England, and who by default would have thought Rupert Murdoch and The Australian and its pathetic anonymous editorialist sucked really big time.

I see that the railway men who get 24 bob a week have got a rise of 3½ percent. I suppose that they must have caught the owners when they were drunk and [in] a generous state of mind to have got such a hell of a rise. I suppose the railwaymen will be going about like Lords now that they have got a shilling a week rise but I suppose the Lords and Dukes will take it off them next year again as the expenses will be too big for them to keep up ... I often wonder when the working men of England will wake up and see things as other people see them. What they want in England is a good revolution and that will clear some of these Millionaires and Lords and Dukes out of it and then with a Labour Government they will almost be able to make their own conditions.

Yeah Jack and while you're at it, clear out the ratbags at The Australian.

Of course none of this is usually mentioned in most wayward Australian histories of Gallipoli, just as most wayward histories fail to mention that authorities had trouble finding fresh willing victims to trot off to the slaughter, and this resulted in two epic pro-conscription campaigns, in which PM Billy Hughes was backed by wayward equivalents of The Australian.

The first in October 1916 failed by a small margin, and a second in December 1917 was defeated by a larger margin (and more in the wiki here).

That's possibly because even the most wayward historian finds it hard to mount a pro-war case for the carnage and slaughter of trench warfare in the first world war. The reasons and the causes of the war, bedded in imperial and colonial desires and contests, and the conduct and strategies of the war shocked the generation involved in it.

Gallipoli was a minor folly up against the activities of General Haig, but a military folly it was, and despite attempts over the years, as a campaign it was as irredeemable as General Haig was as a strategist. Fussell put this well:

... although one doesn't want to be too hard on Haig ... who has been well calumniated already ... it must be said that it now appears was that one thing the war was testing was the usefulness of the earnest Scottish character in a situation demanding the military equivalent of wit and invention. Haig had none. He was stubborn, self-righteous, inflexible, intolerant—especially of the French—and quite humourless ... Indeed, one powerful legacy of Haig's performance is the conviction among the imaginative and intelligent today of the unredeemable defectiveness of all civil and military leaders. Haig could be said to have established the paradigm. (here).

Although one doesn't want to be too hard on Gallipoli ... the strategies have been well calumniated already ... it could be said that quite early in the war it established the unredeemable defectiveness of military strategies for the war, and established something of a paradigm.

While it's hard to be Gandhi-like about Adolf Hitler and the second world war - where better equipment and increased firepower helped generate even more carnage - it's hard to be wear rosy spectacles about the first world war, especially if one wants to honour the feelings and attitudes of many of those who fought, suffered or died in it.

There's more gibberish in the editorial, of course, as if historiography had never been invented. The Australian can't resist being infinitely offensive to the practise of history, as it gets agitated about historians wanting to move away from the "national narrative":

They recommend subjects that "connect this country to the region and the world" and those "like Australian environmental history, which connect Aboriginal, economic and cultural history and historical geography".

Uh huh. We look forward to The Australian's syllabus, which will propose a study of the Australian heritage by way of a syllabus that refuses to connect Australia to the region and the world. Perhaps we could transpose Gallipoli to Bacchus Marsh.

Much would depend on the quality of the new courses, but if students are to understand Australia's past in an international context or the nation's environmental history, such courses would need to be built on solid, factual narratives, not ideology.

Yep, and there we go again, with the notion of solid factual narratives, not ideology, as if within the very words used by the anon edit there's no deeply ideological bias, as if somehow there's a set of "facts" untainted by ideology.

Somehow the anon edit thinks that a Joe Friday - all we want are the facts ma'am - approach to history is viable, and that an intelligent interpretation of said facts will lead to doom and gloom.

Too many university and school history courses built around historical interpretation, thematic strands and teachers' moral perceptions are devoid of rigorous content, leaving many graduates without basic knowledge. They may, for example, have listened to teachers laud anti-Vietnam War protests as social activism, but remain woefully ignorant about colonialism, Communism, the domino theory or the Australia-US alliance. Reinforcing such an approach would be a mistake.

Uh huh. Well scribbling such generalist tosh and expecting it to be taken seriously would also be a mistake, if only because an understanding of Vietnam war protests would necessarily involve an understanding of colonialism, the misbegotten presence of French, then United States and Australian troops in a failed set of colonial wars, and the fatuity of the domino theory ... unless of course you happen to think the United States won the war, the domino theory was viable, and everything turned out jolly well.

Well, if the anon edit at The Australian is so keen on his or her own ideological approach, why then they always have their own Brendan 'if you don't like Rupert Murdoch, start your own newspaper' O'Neill approach.

Yep, if you don't like anti-war interpretations of war, why not head off to Afghanistan, and get involved in a war right now. Then you can regale students in history classes with your very own military experiences.

Then you might discover the truth that Keith Miller noted. Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse, playing cricket and writing editorials for The Australian is not ...

Alternatively, you might start reading the poetry of the first world war, much of it produced by poets subsequently killed in action, and most often with a wayward anti-war interpretation. Try a little Siegfried Sassoon, or try a little Wilfred Owen, and you might end up with a wayward response to war and the pity of war, with the poetry in the pity.

Ah well, in the way of these sordid cross-promotional times, the anon edit was just chiming in to promote a piece by Frank Furedi for the lizard Oz's Inquirer section, but I didn't go hunting for the piece, because I have a chance to bash my head with a hammer for several hours this fine morning.

Instead there's a chance to re-run Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est, a poem first given to me by a kindly history teacher intent on going beyond the facts, and evoking the abject misery of trench warfare, a misery my own grandfather rarely mentioned, though he frequently woke at night with memories of the Somme in winter.

It should be included in all wayward interpretations of history - if nothing else, the average student might discover why mustard gas was banned - and why all the idle jolly hockey sticks chatter of the anon editorialist about wayward anti-war interpretations is a kind of obscenity:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie;
Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Put it another way:

"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sed dulcius pro patria vivere, et dulcissimum pro patria bibere. Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae" In English this is rendered as: "It is sweet and right to die for the homeland, but it is sweeter to live for the homeland, and the sweetest to drink for it. Therefore, let us drink to the health of the homeland.

(Below: found here at an outrageous Beverly Hills High School site with a few wayward views of history).

Michael Danby, a Stalinist show trial, and as a bonus extra, getting down and dirty with the anon edit at The Australian ...

(Above: and a special shout out to any decidedly odd Muslim who strays across this page, because everyone loves a festival, Eid Mubarak).

Joseph Vissarionovichj Stalin died on the 5th March 1953, and so, more sadly, did Russian composer Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev.

After that date, it became a tad harder to become a Stalinist. While some might revere the memory, the homicidal music within the man died with him, and unlike Prokofiev, he left no decent tunes to the world. Other lunatics followed at the head of the Soviet Union, but it's worth remembering that in the Khruschev era, some of the worst moments of Stalinism were revealed, as in Khruschev's memoirs:

Stalin called everyone who didn't agree with him an "enemy of the people." He said that they wanted to restore the old order, and for this purpose, "the enemies of the people" had linked up with the forces of reaction internationally. As a result, several hundred thousand honest people perished. Everyone lived in fear in those days. Everyone expected that at any moment there would be a knock on the door in the middle of the night and that knock on the door would prove fatal ... [P]eople not to Stalin's liking were annihilated, honest party members, irreproachable people, loyal and hard workers for our cause who had gone through the school of revolutionary struggle under Lenin's leadership. This was utter and complete arbitrariness. And now is all this to be forgiven and forgotten? Never! (at Khrushchev's wiki).

But in the arcane world of left wing politics, the accusation of being a Stalinist, a Leninist, a Trotskyite, a Marxist, a Maoist, or half a dozen other key brands are the favourite tools of abuse, and never die.

They should immediately invoke an extended Godwin's Law, but you can guess from Michael Danby's Whether she likes it or nyet, Lee Rihannon was a Stalinist that he doesn't have the first clue about the meaning of that fine law ...

Danby spends a bilious amount of time establishing that Greenie Senator Lee Rhiannon was a Stalinist because she headed off to Russia to meet Leonid Brezhnev, who was allegedly head of a "neo-Stalinist regime". Which means that anyone who heads off to China these days, is most likely a supporter of the current mob in power, who run what can only be described as a "neo-Maoist" regime.

As anyone who has seen that fine film The Founding of a Republic will testify, it turns out that Mao was a devoted believer in capitalism with Chinese characteristics, an ardent defender of consumerism, and a fierce devotee of shopping in malls. I guess in a way that makes us all neo-Maoists ...

Never mind, Danby spends a lot of time establishing that Rhiannon's parents were ardent Communists and Sovietphiles, and actually joined at a time when Stalin was running the show, and we all know that the sins of the parents are the sins of the children, and then it's a quick cut to the seventies and there's Gorman nee Rhiannon becoming a senior office bearer for the youth wing of the Soviet commies, and at this point you might ask who gives a flying fuck, seeing as how Julia Gillard once typed envelopes for the Socialist Forum, which moved the likes of Ron Boswell to dig in the dirt and scribble The real Julia is true to her socialist forum past.

Does this smearing in any way phase Danby? Not on your socialist nelly:

Now, some people will say that it’s hypocritical for me to criticise Senator Rhiannon’s when there are people in the Labor Party who have similar pasts.

Well I guess that makes the pond some of those people who think that Michael Danby is a hypocrite and a fool of the first water. Especially as he tries to make a distinction between Rhiannon's past and those of his brethren:

It’s true that many people who grew up in the Vietnam War era were radicalised as students and joined Maoist, Trotskyist or anarchist student groups. But most of them rapidly grew out this youthful phase and became moderate social democrats – some, such as Christopher Pearson, who supported the Khmer Rouge in his youth, have even become conservatives!

Uh huh. And now for the special pleading:

Senator Rhiannon’s case is different. She grew up not as a wild student radical, but as a dedicated member of a pro-Soviet Communist Party.

Oh slap me thighs, and kill me with laughter. What a goose.

And then he trips up a little as he hoes in with the steel caps:

When the CPA tried to free itself from Stalinism, she followed her parents into the breakaway pro-Soviet SPA. She loyally supported all the crimes of the Soviet Union during that time. And this was not a passing phase for her. She remained a senior and active member of the SPA until well into her 30s. She only abandoned communism when it had visibly failed as a useful vehicle for left-wing politics. She then joined the Greens, which is now the main vehicle for left-wing politics in Australia.

And there you have it. An explicit statement by a member of the Labor party that it is not the main vehicle for left-wing politics in Australia. So if you fancy yourself as a leftie, what are you doing in the Labor party? Isn't it about time you joined Christopher Pearson and crossed the aisle?

The greater irony in all this of course is that while Danby is busy constructing a Stalinist show trial for Rhiannon and the greenies, he's replicating the very process that Gerard Henderson, Ron Boswell, and the rest of the mob do for the Labor party, as well as the Greens (and we occasionally like to do with that renegade bland suit, Peter "short memory" Garrett).

Danby's piece ends in a fine rhetorical flourish:

What Australians wanted to hear Senator Rhiannon say was that she had repudiated communism, not just as a tactical convenience but as a matter of conviction; and that she regretted the harm caused by her years of advocacy and activism for the Soviet Union. Senator Rhiannon did none of these things and the Australian people will judge her accordingly.

Well we'd like to add our own fine rhetorical flourish:

What Australians wanted to hear the Australian Labor Party say is that it has repudiated neo-Maoist Chinese communism, not just as a tactical convenience but as a matter of conviction; and that it regrets the harm caused by its years of advocacy and activism for the neo-Maoist Chinese communists, starting with Gough Whitlam, and so has banned the sale of Australian iron ore and coal to the neo-Maoists until Tibet is free, and Uyghur leadder Rebiya Kadeer can roam the world freely. The Australian Labor Party did none of these things and the Australian people will judge it accordingly.

True, you could level the same charge at the Liberal party. So perhaps the Australian people might just go shopping in a mall. Whatever.

The pond has no truck with Rhiannon - liking Russian music and the films of Eisenstein isn't the basis for a love of Communism - but has even less taste for Stalinist show trials, and the world of Michael Danby, but how clever of him to confirm that the routine trashing of the past affiliations of Labor party members by Liberals is a fine and dandy way to conduct politics ...

Face it. If we were all judged by the actions of our younger days - ah the sweet bliss of drug-induced euphoria - who could pass as innocent in the world of Danby, or Henderson, or Ron Boswell, or Christopher Pearson ...

It's best to judge by the actions and policies of the moment, and what we can judge of Danby is that he knows how to write malicious, rhetorical, spiteful, snide tripe, right up there with the best of Gerard Henderson's offerings ...

Speaking of tripe, we have just enough time to note a couple of splendid offerings from the anonymous editorialist at The Australian, as he or she has a gigantic orgasm about the BHP profit in The boom we're happy to have:

The huge BHP profit has prompted calls for miners to pay a higher price for the right to extract finite minerals. This is not the time for knee-jerk reactions but there is room to canvass this issue in the broader context of the Henry recommendations and the October tax summit. Australians understand the economy is underpinned by resources: they are unmoved by ideological objections to mining. But they have a right to know the government is looking out for the national interest and ensuring miners pay appropriate levels of taxation.

Finite materials? Tax? Is this the same editorialist who scribbled Miners are right to keep the heat on tax?

Dear sweet absent lord, what will Tony say, when creeping socialism creeps ever further into the sweet-scented bosom of The Australian.

Oh come now, surely this must be as knee-jerk reaction, because as we all know, thanks to Tony, any tax on mining would ruin it, and we must continue steadfastly to rip the guts out of Australia and ship it off to China, and without a thought of recompense, as we do our bit to lift the standard of living for the Chinese citizenry and BHP shareholders ...

And then there was this bit of blather by the anon edit in Same-sex marriage debate must be shut down.

As always with The Australian, it poses in the name of liberal open debate, and then goes on to suggest that the evil Fairfax press is involved in shutting down the liberal, "open debate" of the likes of Bob Katter and Rebecca Hagelin and Miranda the Devine.

As usual you get this kind of unctuous disclaimer before the trolling begins:

The Australian leans towards libertarianism on social issues, believing the state should tread as lightly as possible around personal issues.

Libertarian? The rag wouldn't begin to know the meaning of the word.

It is not our role to pronounce one way or another on same-sex marriage, though we would caution the issue is far more complicated than gay "rights" supporters would have us believe.

Yeah, yeah, and New York is currently in the grip of complete moral collapse, unlike London ...

But the lowest of the low is surely the way The Australian treats the issue of gay marriage as a way to have a dust-up with the Fairfax press, while defending its ultra right-wing minions:

Dissenters, right or left, gay or straight, religious or irreligious, will always be welcome on the pages of this newspaper. We hope some self-styled intellectuals, who recently turned down invitations to write on these pages in order to retain what they perceive as their ideological "purity" change their minds.

Ideological purity? No, actually, it might just be a refusal to fall into line with Darth Vader and the evil empire, where minions can scribble with such withering contempt for "self-styled intellectuals".

Why would anyone assist in that kind of wankerdom and self-abuse? Is it ideological "purity" to avoid sewers and the excessive use of "inverted commas"?

We also hope that The Age survives the current reign of contempt for its readers and remains in business as a contributor to the debate, and that The Sydney Morning Herald continues to publish Farrelly's columns, if only because of the insight they offer into the confused minds of the inner-city moral-political class.

Fuck me dead. Did someone mention contempt, and the curled, sneering lip of the condescending anon edit as he or she scribbles about the confused inner city moral-political class, what ever that piece of bullshit humbuggery might mean?

And you an inner city reader, and you still buy The Australian? Pray tell, where did this self-loathing come from, when did it start? Around the time you started buying the rag? Do tell ...

Curiously, Farrelly is opposed to some forms of religion, but does not rule out the idea of an after-life. "In my next life I want to be smug," she tells us. Why wait?

Yes, why wait, when you can become a dickhead smug editorialist or columnist right now for Chairman Murdoch, just like the anonymous editorialist ... or Miranda the Devine.

Some things are indefensible, and lordy how The Australian is indefensible even on a good day ...