08 March, 2014

A post about floccinaucinihilipilification

There is a certain anti-intellectualism about Australia. There is also a certain anti-intellectualism about politics. When you put the two together, suddenly it seems like anyone who knows how to spell their own name is some out-of-touch elitist who doesn’t understand the everyday concerns of ordinary people like you, who still wonder why the moon follows them around at night. You only have to be smart enough to construct an argument about how being smart doesn’t make you so smart and everything else will follow.

We have quite a history of mocking people who like to use big words.

In 1993, Paul Keating caused quite a stir when he implied the then Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad was a recalcitrant. The controversy was party because of the undiplomatic language, and partly because thousands of people had to find out what recalcitrant meant. The word has since been used by both sides of politics without any further comment.

In 2000, Kim Beazley was mocked for describing John Howard’s roads policy as a boondoggle.

And no mention of Kevin Rudd is complete without the phrase “programmatic specificity,” which, among other things, became a major punchline in one of Julie Bishop’s increasingly regular and increasingly cringeworthy comedy routines.

If war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography, perhaps politics is God’s way of expanding Australians’ vocabulary.

Cut to this week, and Malcolm Turnbull talking about “neoconrovianism,” which apparently isn’t a description of Karl Rove’s political philosophy.

Surely by any Australian standards, this is enough to have Mr Turnbull dismissed as a prize wanker.

But wait. Something is different. Where is all the mockery from the media and the opposition? After all, this doublespeak is coming from the same man who claimed in 2009 that had no idea what programmatic specificity meant, even though the meaning should be clear to a Rhodes Scholar.

What changed? Why is this different?

We report, you decide…

03 March, 2014

Setting a good example

Do you remember when you were at school? Do you remember when you got to be one of the big kids? Were you told that as one of the big kids, you were expected to set an example for the littler kids? Were you told it was because the younger kids looked up to the older kids and took behavioural cues from them? Well, it probably wasn’t put like that, but I’m fairly sure that was the message that was given. If you behave badly, others will copy you. I’m fairly sure all of us were given this kind of lecture in one context or another as we were growing up.

Which brings us to this:


The headline is misleading. It’s not Obama whose influence is limited but the United States. It’s not President Obama specifically but the US government as a whole that has lost the moral authority to lecture anyone about invading sovereign nations for dubious reasons.

Now why do you think that might be?

Much as people on both sides of American politics would like to pretend the slate was wiped clean on January 20th, 2009, it was not. Every leader has to lie in bed that previous administrations made for them.

Now I’m not saying it’s the Bush administration’s fault that Vladimir Putin seems to want to annex part, if not all of the Ukraine, but it is their fault that the world laughs at John Kerry when he says, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext.” There’s no point in arguing that Kerry said similar things about the Iraq war. Nobody cares, especially not anyone who would like to point to America’s own foreign excursions this century in order to justify their own operations, or at least negate America’s valid arguments against them. The example has been set, and by the self-styled leader of the free world, no less.

More than ten years ago, when I would argue the case against the Iraq war on forums, I was frequently told I was on the wrong side of history. I wanted them to be right, but they weren’t. “Bush is a chess player,” they would tell me as things began to go wrong. “He’s playing the long game, thinking three moves ahead.” No, seriously, people said this to me. I would kind of like to hear from them again. I doubt I will though.

24 February, 2014

The Rules: Courage

I wrote last year about how to spot an adult: They're the ones who don't feel the need to brag that they're an adult.

Now, nearly six months into the job, Tony Abbott's next great claim is that his immigration minister is not a wimp. Really, Tony? After what can only be described as an utter balls-up, is that all you've got? Australians don't want a wimp?

To quote the classics, It's so easy to laugh, it's so easy to hate; It takes guts to be gentle and kind. Strength is self-evident. If you have to boast about it, then you ain't got it.

Show me someone who brags about being grown up and I'll show you a petulant child.

Show me a grown man in a position of great power who still feels the need to prove he's not a wimp, and I'll show you a pathetic little WIMP.

You protest too much, Tony. And so do all the gang behind you.

By the way, one Catholic to another, Jesus was a "wimp."

20 February, 2014

Blood and Chocolate

The government has painted itself into a corner with its double standards on corporate assistance.

I tell you why at AusOpinion.

16 February, 2014

The eternal sunshine of Christopher Pyne

What a difference an election makes! Suddenly the Coalition thinks that a shrill and obstructionist opposition is a bad thing. And no-one is more upset about it than that master of hypocrisy, Christopher Pyne. At a doorstop press conference last Thursday, he revealed that he had suddenly become aware of there being a difference between holding government to account and being ill-mannered.

He also said,
"I don’t think anybody ever accused me of rudeness."
The only way anyone could possibly think that Christopher Pyne was never accused of rudeness would be to not think at all.  But just in case Mr Pyne really was living in a bubble until this week, let me make it perfectly clear:

Christopher Pyne, I accuse you of rudeness.

He went on to say,
"I don’t think I was ever ill-mannered and rude,"
which can only leave one with the impression that he really hasn't quite got the hang of this "thinking" lark.

I know better than to ask Mr Pyne if he doesn't think behaviour like this is rude:
Christopher Pyne being not rude
The question I really want to ask, was best asked by Jon Stewart:

15 February, 2014

What Stupid Buzzfeed Quiz Are You?

Question 1:
You’re invited to the hottest new year’s eve party in town. What do you do?
1: Say, ‘What, again?’
2: Spend $2000 on clothes and hair to make sure you look your best.
3: Panic that you’re not going to know anyone there and that you’ll make a fool of yourself.
4: Brag about it to all your friends.
5: Figure the invite was sent to the wrong person and throw it away.
6: Go on a starvation diet before the big night.
7: You don’t like crowds so you spend the night watching TV.
8: Go and become the life of the party.
9: Stop and think: ‘A new year’s eve party in February?’

Question 2:
The best things in life are…
1: Free
2: Me
3: On TV
4: Bees
5: Really expensive, duh!
6: Overrated
7: Different for everyone
8: Ultimately disappointing
9: All around me

Question 3:
Your bestie tells you they’ve started seeing someone and you’re all like…









Question 4:
An acquaintance mentions to you that David Bowie’s 80s output is really quite underrated. What do you do?
1: Say, ‘OMG! That’s so true.’
2: Ask, ‘Who’s David Bowie?’
3: Accept the premise but point out that although it’s underrated, that doesn’t mean it’s particularly good.
4: Nod politely and make a mental note never to speak to them again.
5: Give them a card for a free hearing test.
6: Argue about it all night.                       
7: Shrug and say you don’t care either way.
8: Ignore them but post a nasty Facebook status about it later.
9: Punch them in the face.

Question 5:
If you were a cat, you would be…
1: A cute fluffy kitten.
2: Inhabiting your person’s lap at all times distracting them from everything.
3: Asleep most of the day.
4: Only home at meal times.
5: Grumpy cat.
6: What do you mean if? I AM a cat!
7: A tiger! Grr!
8: Mrs Slocombe’s pussy.
9: I’m not a cat. Why would I be a cat? That’s silly.

Question 6:
Your crush sends you flowers. How do you react?
1: Take a photo of them and make it your new profile picture.
2: Thank them but ask that next time they don’t send them to you at work in the panel beating shop.
3: Wonder how they knew since you’ve never had the nerve to speak to them.
4: Cut off all contact. This is all going too fast. You need your space.
5: You eat them.
6: There’s gonna be sex tonight!
7: You’re deeply offended at this clich├ęd, consumerist and patriarchal display of so-called romance.
8: As above, but you secretly melt inside.
9: My crush?? Seriously? What am I, twelve?

Question 7:
Somebody famous starts following you back on Twitter. What do you do next?
1: Brag about it on Facebook.
2: Send them a .@reply thanking them, making sure all your followers see it.
3: Send a DM thanking them and expressing what a big fan you are.
4: Nothing. I’m cool.
5: Meh, no biggie. They probably follow everyone back automatically.
6: Ask them for an RT to promote your school fete.
7: Enact the next phase of your stalking plan.
8: Suddenly remember you have a Twitter account.
9: Suddenly remember you don’t have a Twitter account.

Question 8:
Pick one:
1: Lemonade
2: Chocolate feature wall
3: Purple
4: Mint
5: Origami
6: Jogging around a lake at 5:30pm
7: Hair
8: Lurex
9: 1873

Question 9:
You see a friend post a link to a Buzzfeed list. What do you do?
1: Click it, read it, close it. Simples!
2: Click it and read it. Maybe click through a few more links, then close it.
3: Click it, then keep clicking through the other links and lists. You don’t have a problem. You could close it any time you want. It’s not hurting anyone and you enjoy it, so what’s the problem? Anyway, you’re not my mother so shut up!
4: Ignore it. They’re all stupid.
5: Block them. You don’t need that shit in your life.
6: Highly unlikely – you only use the internet for updating your conspiracy website.
7: None of my friends would dare.
8: You vaguely remember this happening once and you have no idea where the next two years went.
9: Friend? Hmmm… Interesting concept.

Now tally your result. Give yourself points according to the option number you chose: Option 1 = 1 point, Option 2 = 2 points, etc…

1-9 Points:
You are
What Jelly-Belly Flavour Are You?

10-18 Points:
You are
What 50s American Car Are You?

19-27 Points:
You are
What Chaser Boy Are You?

28-36 Points:
You are
What Punctuation Mark Are You?

37- 45 Points:
You are
What Is Your Spirit Vegetable?

46-54 Points:
You are
What Forgotten Happy Days Character Are You?

55-63 Points:
You are
What Huffington Post Section Are You?

64-72 Points:
You are
What Hair Product Are You?

73-81 Points:
You are
What 70s Underground Movement Are You?

82-90 Points:
You are
Possibly innumerate.

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04 February, 2014


Look, I bow to no-one in my love of The Beatles but I really don’t give a shit about the impending fiftieth anniversary of the American mass market discovering them. To quote a later icon of British music, America is not the world. I get that 1964 was year-zero for The Beatles as far as a lot of people are concerned, but as far as the actual Beatles are concerned, it was anywhere between two and seven years earlier, depending on where you’re counting from. I mean, for me it was 1986 because that was when I began seriously listening to them, but nobody is ever going to celebrate that anniversary because it’s all about me.

Honestly, I’m glad I was born after Beatlemania because the hype would have pissed me off and it would have made it a lot harder to like them. Discovering them twenty years later allowed me to listen to the music on its own merits.

There is actually an important cultural anniversary connected with The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, but it’s tangential to The Beatles and will probably be ignored amongst all the hype. It was possibly the first time millions of people had a shared experience of an historic event through live television in a way that became the norm from the first moon landing to September 11th. I could be wrong about that, there may be earlier examples and I’d be interested to hear about them. I considered the Kennedy assassination, but while that was covered live once the story broke, television wasn’t ubiquitous enough for everyone to switch over immediately. People were at work. I’m not saying things had changed three months later, but Sunday evening was a good time for a shared experience through a relatively new medium.

Anyway, that might be a bit too thinky to get a mention during the anniversary specials. Good luck to those looking forward to them. Some of them might tell me that I just don’t get it and they would be right. I know that a lot of people who saw the original Ed Sullivan appearance consider themselves to be The Original Fans. I also know there are still a few thousand ageing rockers from Liverpool and Hamburg who would say, “Oh really? Why don’t you tell me about it?”