23 November, 2011

Why So Surprised?

Or, Obligatory Kyle Sandilands ’blog

That Kyle Sandilands is an idiot and a creep is beyond question.  It’s a truth self evident.  Therefore, it’s somewhat curious that we are still shocked when he offers more evidence.  It must take a special kind of talent for a known prat to find new and shocking ways of being a prat.

As far as I can work out, Sandilands first came to national prominence when he replaced Ian “Dicko” Dickson as judge on Australian Idol.  Dickson himself had been cast as the Simon Cowell character on the judging panel* - the mean one who tells the contestants exactly how crap they are.  When Dickson left, it became Sandilands job to make the contestants cry.  He is literally a professional arsehole.  So why are we so shocked when he does what he was employed to do?

Apparently, he’s done it again, saying nasty things about a journalist who bagged his latest television venture with his ever-present sidekick Jackie O (or Henderson, to her family).  Compared to some of his other stunts, it’s pretty mild.  The most notable thing about it, ought to be the irony that a man who made his name telling people their acts are shit should throw such a hissy fit over someone telling him that his act is shit. 

I watched all of twenty seconds of his show.  I switched over out of voyeuristic curiosity and switched off as soon as he said Justin Beiber would be coming up to the sounds of obviously canned applause.  So, Sandilands and “O” hosted a shit show, journalist says it’s a shit show, Sandilands chucks a tantrum, move on.

Maybe it’s because he attacked a journalist in the employment of News Ltd that Sandilands is copping just as much abuse for being who he is as he did during the infamous, “lie detector” segment when a teenage girl was hooked up to a lie detector on live radio and quizzed by her mother about her sexual experiences.  When she revealed that she had been raped, Sandilands broke the uncomfortable silence with, “Right… is that the only experience you’ve had?”

I’m going to be controversial here and give Sandilands a pass on that particular incident.  Why?  Because it is absolutely impossible that he could have been solely responsible for that stunt.  It would have to have been approved by the show’s producers, the co-host, Miss O, who inexplicably goes uncriticised in all of this, the station and network’s legal departments, not to mention the girl’s own mother.  The outrage is that such an idiotic stunt ever got as far as it did.  I’ll forgive Sandilands for that stupid follow-up question because it’s entirely understandable that a person like he is, would react to the realisation that he’d bitten off more than he can chew by vomiting all over the desk.  The fact is that Sandilands is employed to be who he is.  Blaming him for being a dickhead is like blaming a dog for wagging its tail.  The real culprits are his enablers.

Two questions have come up both then and now:

Why would anyone employ him?
Well, duh!  He rates!  So long as he rates, he’s going to have a job.  If media outlets only employed people who made a rational and responsible contribution to public discourse, three quarters of the media would be unemployed.  The station doesn’t care if people tune in because they hate Sandilands, just so long as they are listening and hearing the ads the station is paid to play.

Why does anyone sponsor his show?
Duh! See above.  Holden and The Good Guys have so far pulled his ads from his show.  Mind you, Qantas pulled their ads after the lie detector but Sandilands and “O” (who, it must be remembered, is every bit as responsible for the content of the show as Sandilands) still have a show that is popular enough for them to try and make the crossover to television.

Sandilands and “O” do what they do for the same reason Alan Jones does: it pulls the punters. 
If you have to blame someone, don’t just blame Sandilands for behaving the only way he knows how, blame those who encourage it by producing the show or by listening to it. 
Also, ask yourself how disgraceful the program has to be before Miss O’s self respect finally kicks in and she decides she’s better than that.

* I’ve never watched the horrible show, but you just can’t help learning these things sometimes.

17 November, 2011

How to make a speech to a gathering of Australian MPs

Governor General, Prime Minister, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, distinguished guests,
Thank you for this warm welcome, and… Gidday! [pause for applause]

Our country has no greater friend than Australia.  We are, great mates.  [pause for applause]
And we have shared this great friendship since each of our countries were knee high to a grasshopper.

Whether it was [old tragedy] or [more recent tragedy] or [current challenge] Australia was always there to say, “no worries, [pause] “she’ll be right.” [pause for applause]

I am fortunate to share a deep personal friendship with your prime minister.  I can say without hesitation or fear of contradiction that he/she is a top bloke/sheila*.  [pause for laughter and applause, smile and wink at PM]
You know he/she can always be relied on to be fair dinkum.

There are of course, times when we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.  If I live to be a hundred, I’ll still never understand the rules of cricket or how the heck you can eat vegemite.  [pause for laughter and applause]

But I know that we stand as one on what’s really important: courage… loyalty… freedom… mateship. [pause for quiet murmurings of agreement]

I thank you again for your friendship to our country and your hospitality during my stay in your great country.  You have been bonza.  [brief pause for laughter]  A little ripper!  [longer pause]

I look forward to a continuation of the special relationship between our two countries, and may God bless the people of Australia. 
[move to sit down, return as applause begins]

*Be sure to check which of these applies at the time



11 November, 2011

Time to Call the Quit Line – For Good

I support any effort to reduce smoking, but I have to say that the latest law to regulate how cigarettes are packaged makes me uncomfortable. In fact, it brings out a libertarian streak in me. I think that restrictions on the display of cigarettes and the warnings on the packets are already as strict as they can reasonably be.

For five years now, explicit pictures and warnings have taken up the majority of space on a cigarette packet. Now, those packets cannot even be displayed at the point of sale – you’re left to wonder what they’re hiding behind those little roll-a-doors. Yet, there are people who still buy cigarettes. If the pictures of cancer on the packet still haven’t deterred them, I honestly don’t see how making the picture bigger is going to change anything. If you asked someone who bought a packet of cigarettes today, why they didn’t heed the myriad warnings about how dangerous it is, I doubt they would reply, “The picture wasn’t big enough.” I also don’t see how forcing cigarette manufacturers to sell their product in generic, dull coloured boxes will do anything other than create a counter-culture fashion for other generic, dull coloured things. After decades of information and education, anyone who buys cigarettes in this day and age knows exactly what they are doing and what they are getting. In the 90s, there was a brand of cigarettes called Death. Their gimmick was truth in marketing. They clearly proclaimed that their product, if used as intended, would kill you. People still smoked.

Anti-smoking campaigns have been very successful. Smokers have gone from being the cool people, to being the naughty people, to being almost outcasts. The success has not just been in Australia. Perhaps one measure of how far we’ve come is that fact that during the US presidential campaign in 2008, Republicans tried to counter Barack Obama’s popularity by revealing that he was (gasp!) a secret smoker!

Smokers are a minority and it’s an ever-dwindling minority, thanks in no small part to regulations that make it harder and harder to promote smoking. For all that, I think it’s a dangerous precedent to allow government to ban a legal product from identifying itself, or at least distinguishing itself from the competition. It’s been said that if this new proposal prevents just one person from smoking, then it will have been worthwhile. I can see that point, but I don’t think it’s government’s job to save the last few stragglers from themselves. I think this new proposal goes too far.

And yet, I think it doesn’t go far enough.

Ever since the television advertising of cigarettes was banned in 1976, successive governments have been gradually banning everything to do with cigarettes… except cigarettes. It’s time to stop faffing about and go all the way.

I am not talking about outlawing tobacco tomorrow. That would be unworkable and cruel to many remaining addicts. Ozzy Osbourne has said that nicotine is the hardest addiction to break and Lord knows, there speaks a man who ought to know.

What I am suggesting is that we set a deadline for a phased withdrawal, just like with leaded petrol, analogue television and incandescent light globes. Announce that from 1st January, 2020, the production, sale and consumption of tobacco products will be banned, so start making your plans now! These may be lifestyle plans for smokers, business plans for retailers and producers (and indeed, anyone in the business of helping people to quit smoking - after all, they rely on smoking for their business too), and economic plans for governments that still have a nice little earner from tobacco excise. That should give everyone fair warning. The minimum age at which it’s legal to buy cigarettes is 18. Raise that age by one year every year. This way people who started smoking legally are not turned into outlaws overnight, but by the time the full ban comes into force, no-one under 26 should ever have smoked legally anyway.

As with leaded petrol, by the time the deadline comes around, many producers and retailers may have discontinued the product anyway, which will only accelerate the phase-out. After the deadline, anyone whose addiction is such that their doctor feels quitting would cause more discomfort than good can obtain cigarettes by prescription.

Would this cause job losses? Quite probably – but no more or less than any change of industry. Digital cameras caused the loss of thousands of job in the photographic film industry around the world. Did any of us stop to think of that before we bought that digi-cam? Did we oppose diesel trains out of concern for coal miners? Did anyone object to sewerage on the grounds it would put the dunnymen out of a job? Industries change, and a deadline helps everyone to manage that change.

We are past the point of appealing to people’s sense of reason or hip pocket. Anyone who is not already persuaded by the health, ethical and economic arguments will not be convinced by more of the same. Constantly increasing taxes on tobacco under the guise of discouraging smoking is a conflict of interests. We say we want to prevent smoking, but we still take the money and factor it into the budget. Cigarettes would never be allowed to be sold if they were brought onto the market today. They’re a left-over from a time when we didn’t know any better and we have spent nearly forty years trying to catch up. If we are serious about stopping smoking, this is the way to do it.

10 November, 2011

Seven Suffixes

which should be stricken from the English language immediately:
- gate

- ageddon

- 101

- inator

- pocalypse

- athon

- licious


09 November, 2011

Oh, Andrew!

It’s the way you tell ’em!

I do my best not to give Andrew Bolt any more oxygen than he already has, but his love letter to Alan Joyce today reveals a stunning lack of awareness even for Bolt.
“But there’s one other stereotype Joyce smashed. This tough, cool union-buster is also gay, sharing his life with a New Zealand man.

What a fine challenge to the notion of gays as effete, flighty and soft - a straitjacketing that limited the media careers of gay friends, keener to talk politics than showbiz”
Leaving aside the fact that this patronising comment is just as insulting to gays as the stereotypes he mentions, has Bolt considered the possibility that Joyce is choosing to identify as gay in order to get preferential treatment? 
“And, again, what a rejection of the role Labor wrote for Joyce as a Liberal zealot, conspiring with Tony Abbott”
Really? How does that work?  Did Bolt just admit that being gay is incompatible with being a Liberal zealot and/or conspiring with Tony Abbott?
“Stupid stereotypes. How they kill our possibilities. How they dull our reason”
You can make your own joke about the irony of this coming from a man who writes about people who are too white to be aboriginal and continues to do so in a plausibly deniable fashion.  Stereotypes dull our reason do they, Andrew?  When did you figure this out?

We can see what Bolt is up to here.  He’s preparing to make criticism of Joyce look like homophobia.  He wants to protect Joyce from… well, people like him.  I didn’t know Joyce was gay until this morning and I don’t care.  It’s irrelevant.  It makes no difference to the way I see him.  I don’t care which way you swing.  If you’re a decent person, then you’re a decent person and if you’re a prat, then you’re a prat.

The stereotypes that Bolt decries (for once!) reveal more about himself than anyone else. 
Keep tearing at those straw men Andrew!  Pretty soon, another one will fall down and crush you.  Again.

02 November, 2011

How to tell if you’re biased

I have written before that if I am considered a leftie, it’s only inasmuch as I oppose the crazy right (as opposed to the moderate right, which does exist although is often smothered by louder voices).  I’ve also confessed that I tend to support the side that acts like less of a dick (a relative term) and that this tends not to be the right wing.  These are my honest observations – if anyone would like to show me where I’m wrong, I am certainly open to that discussion.

I also pride myself on always trying to apply the same standards to all sides.  It’s this that usually leads to accusations of bias on my part from those who would rationalise intellectual dishonesty, hypocrisy, contradictions or just plain dickishness. 

It’s a very deep question whether we judge people or parties by their words and deeds, or judge words and deeds by people or parties that say and do them.  You can get an idea by asking yourself a few questions:

The next time Julia Gillard says something, ask yourself how you would feel if Tony Abbott said it.
If you think Bob Katter says crazy things, ask yourself if you’d still think so if Bob Brown said them.
When Barack Obama announces a policy, ask yourself if you’d still agree or disagree with it if were John Boehner’s policy.
When Sarah Hanson-Young makes a comment, imagine if Barnaby Joyce had made the same comment.
If Richard Dawkins says something brilliant, ponder how brilliant it would be if it came from George Pell.
And the next time Twitter’s favourite Canberra correspondent tweets something seriously questionable, ask yourself if you would react the same way if one of our favourite News Ltd whipping boys posted the same thing.

Don’t just say X wouldn’t say something like Y.  Do it for the intellectual exercise.  Ideally, your reaction should be exactly the same.  I know it sounds obvious, but it might be harder than you think when you try it.