Passing Bull 262 – Woolly weasels

Mr Roger Shipton, still currently of ASIC, likes to have his hand held.  He got me and other taxpayers to pick up a tab north of $100,000 for tax advice when he took his position at ASIC.  Since this came to light in October of last year, he has stood aside.  If it was not obvious then, it was certainly obvious by now that no one could have confidence in ASIC if he returned permanently – his position was untenable.  According to the press, he hired a platoon of lawyers to help him ride the current wave – three barristers and a solicitor, not from those at the bottom of the market.  Well, at least I will not be called on to pick up their tab – directly; but I may be called upon indirectly, because I am now up for about $200,000 foregone since he stood down.  Well, I suppose I will get more than half of that back in tax – unless of course he gets a flotilla of other lawyers to tell him how to avoid paying that tax. 

It was obvious that the man had to go.  But neither he nor the Minister had the decency to say so.  Instead we are told that ‘we believe that it is time for a fresh start at ASIC and a fresh start will begin with the search for a new chairman.’  All this comes after an investigation, we are told, cleared Mr Shipton ‘of any wrongdoing’.  So, he has done nothing wrong – but he must go.

Do these people think that we all came down in the last shower?  Why has this investigation taken months?  Why could it not have been concluded in twenty-four hours?  It is not a question of whether Mr Shipton has broken any law or infringed any guideline.  The question was whether a person who has claimed a payment for his personal benefit of more than $100,000 from public money while he was the chairman of a statutory body that regulates the conduct of business in this country could retain the confidence of the business community or the public at large.  There could only ever have been one answer to that question.

This is appalling nonsense of itself.  But it gets so much worse when you look at what the leader of the federal government did to Christine Holgate.  She authorised payments of $20000 to executives of Australia Post as a reward for very good results.  She acted within established authority within the corporation and derived no personal benefit from the transaction.  She too has now been cleared of any wrongdoing (although her investigator saw fit to refer to the views of some weasel directors and used terms like ‘inappropriate’ or ‘inconsistent.’)  But without hearing from her, let alone an independent investigation, the Prime Minister unleashed a posse that that predicably became a lynch mob.

And all this when all who knew what was going on at Australia Post said this woman was doing a great job.

No one said of that of Mr Shipton – not even his scripted despatcher.

If people in government behave like this, what do they expect from us?

And people who want to step outside their brief and offer gratuitous commentary of their own on a subject of their inquiry may wish to reflect on the standing of a man who may have changed the course of world history by doing just that.  His name is James Comey and the beneficiary of his backhander was Donald Trump.

Passing Bull 261 – The business of sport

Out of solicitude for my mental health, I have stayed away from the gongs announced on this dreadful dies non, but two items caught my eye today in the sports pages.  One concerned Mr Toby Price, the two time winner of the Dakar, the toughest contest on the planet.  They will have to invent a new word for courage for him – in hospital again with a broken body. 

The other concerns our PM who is increasingly looking like a strolling player in search of a sandwich board.  He said something very silly about sport and politics.  Politicians, especially those of the crude, retail populist kind – like ScoMo – just love mixing with sportsmen.  Remember Our Bob on the America’s Cup?  Paul Keating number 1 at Collingwood?   

But like the IPA on corporations, ScoMo thinks sports bodies should not have views on politics.  You do not have to live in a small town to realise that if you want to get on in business, you have to engage with people.  That’s what Cricket Australia did about this sad day’s name, and our PM said he thought they should prefer sport to politics.  I am not sure if the New South Welshman knows of Mr Adam Goodes, but Mr Gideon Haigh correctly analysed the bullshit.

The either/or foundation is of course perfectly fallacious.  Sport is pervaded by politics, especially when sports teams purport to represent whole nations, and beloved of politicians, who envy its capacity for engaging, exciting and unifying…..Which is exactly why Morrison flaunts his democratic credentials by cosying up to sports people …..So when the Prime Minister objects to the mixing of cricket and politics, what he is really objecting to is the particular mixing that doesn’t shore up his national daggy dad routine.  And when he says that it ‘wasn’t a particularly flash day for those people on those vessels’ of the First Fleet, it’s not just a lazy stab at moral equivalence, but the same tone-deaf approximation of the vernacular as Kevin Rudd demanding a ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle.’

Precisely, Mr Haigh.  Get a new gag writer, ScoMo.  The Mayflower at Plymouth Rock was more your go.  Puritans to their bloody eyeballs, but they never let God stand between them and a dollar.  That’s why your old mate Donny Boy is still so flush, and in with the chosen, God’s elect.  Just live for the Sharks of Cronulla on Saturdays and Hillsong on Sundays.  You bloody ripper, Mate.

Bloopers

It is hard to see what the world did wrong to land Rupert.  The Oz editorial yesterday counselled Mr Biden to be prudent and concluded:

The US does not need a rerun of the Obama years.

There in one sentence is the accumulated venom of Rupert Murdoch.

The Australian, 25 January, 2021

Passing Bull 260 – They are not us

Dear Editor (New York Times),

Americans who say that those who violated the Capitol are not ‘us’ forget history.  The nation was conceived in violence.   The war against the English was also a civil war that Churchill compared to atrocities in Ireland.  The founding document was based on a lie about equality.  600,000 Americans died in an attempt to extirpate that lie.  This President could not believe a black president could be American. He has cheered on white violence and condemned black protests.  And this nation uniquely celebrates a constitutional right to bear arms.  The purpose of a gun is to inflict violent harm.  So, Americans, don’t say you’re not violent.  It’s in your blood. 

The divide between black and white led to the Civil War and Black Wednesday.  Those who razed the Bastille cherished equality;  those who stormed the Capitol dread it.  The question you face was stated at Gettysburg  by the greatest American –  ‘whether a new nation,conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal… can long endure’.

Yours truly

Bloopers

Donald Trump finishes his astonishing term as president in utter ignominy.  His behaviour since he lost the presidential election on November 3 has been far worse than anything he did as president….Trump was always a contemptible and unworthy character.  For any serious conservative, voting for him was always a 51-49 decision.

Greg Sheridan, Weekend Australian, January 9-10, 2021.

Where to start?  What does ‘conservative’ mean there, ‘serious’ or not?  What is there 50/50 about someone who has always been ‘contemptible’ and ‘unworthy’?  This proprietor does warp minds.  The Wall Street Journal broke ranks and said Trump should resign.  Since this is about 1000 to 1, the next question is what should otherwise happen?  They give no answer, although they concede that ‘Trump’s character flaws were apparent for all to see when he ran for president.’  Then the WSJ reveals the house flaw when it says that the 2019 impeachment was an abuse of process that has diminished Democrats’ credibility.  The alternative view is that that impeachment was a lay down misère which only failed because Republicans did not do their duty, and that the U S and the world are now much worse off because of their failure.  And, given that Trump is contemptible and a man whose character flaws are notorious, their failure is inexcusable.

Passing Bull 258 – Good bye to 2020 – the return of the bogey man – and Happy Christmas

The Presidency of Donald Trump and the events of 2020 have seen the return of the bogeyman and of conspiracy theories for those who take their news to suit themselves.  Catholics, Masons and Jesuits have fallen out of favour as scapegoats.  Stalin had the kulaks.  Mussolini had effete liberals.  Franco had the Communists and atheists.  So did Senator McCarthy; and, to a lesser extent, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies.  It is best to pass over Hitler in silence.  As of now (December, 2020), many Australians seem to be seeking a reprise of the White Australia Policy with vitriol against the Chinese.  Their anxiety is made worse because President Trump appears to have abdicated in favour of President Xi, or, on a bad day, Chairman Kim.  (Do you remember when Trump said that he and Kim had fallen in love?  Neither could even spell ‘reciprocal’ so the ending had to be sour rather than sweet.)  Renegade doctors blame Big Pharma.  (Well, who wouldn’t?)  The Murdoch Press has the Premier of Victoria, who is stubbornly refusing to lie down, Muslims and other victims of a civilisation that is not deemed to be Western (although all the major religions of the West come from the East), scientists who peskily worry about their findings, and anyone whose ideology allows them to be sane about saving human life from a mortal illness.  This last is a form of madness imported by those on the Murdoch edge directly from their brothers and sisters at Fox News and is particularly sought after by those whose minds have been launched into eternity on one-way tramlines coming straight out of sullen think tanks.  Their rallying cry was given by a Governor of one of the stricken Dakotas: ‘My people are happy because they are free.’  (Well, yes, m ’Lady, they are also dying, but what’s a spot of death between Comrades of the Pure in Spirit?)  And all of us have all that modern technology and those dreadful pretty boys who have got so filthily rich on our debasement.  So that when you get China, high tech that is all-invasive, and a big corporation that is all-pervasive, you get Open Sesame for the Conspiracy Theorists’ Dream Team.  What, then, about the outgoing President of the U S A?  It’s a veritable smorgasbord.  (His family did come from that part of the world, but he lies about that, too.)  He has the Muslims, the Mexicans, the migrants, the media – or just about all of it, including now Fox News – the Ivy League set, the military, the FBI, the CIA, the medical profession and any other scientist, and any activist, that is any person who threatens his view of law and order, or who threatens to demean a photo op of his standing before a church, that he has never been inside, with a silly look on his face, holding a book that he has never read and could not understand, the way having been made safe for him and his ensainted daughter and her handbag by the Army of the United States in full battle gear.  And above all, he has it in for any person who is better educated than him.  Since this includes almost everyone else in America, it is a very big problem indeed – not least because the most educated person of the whole bloody lot of them was a man of colour with a wife who can think, both of whom in a moment of madness the people of America put into that bloody white house on Pennsylvania Avenue.  It just goes to prove that old saying – even paranoiacs have real enemies.

And very best wishes for Christmas and 2021 – and no one is sorry to say good bye to 2020 – and at least we are still above the ground – and, yes, Australians picked a good time to do the right thing for all of us.

Passing Bull 257 –Unquestionably vague

We would be better off – much better off – if we did not use words like ‘misogynistic’ or ‘anti-Semitic’.  One refers to an adverse view of women and the other refers to an adverse view of Jewish people.  But each term is used adversely to its subject and the range of conduct that might give rise to such a comment is so wide that such a comment is likely to be as unfair as it is vague. When I say that words like ‘misogynistic’ and ‘anti-Semitic’ are used adversely to their subject, I mean that we think it is wrong for people to assess the character of a person by reference to what some might see as the characteristics of other people from the same group – like women or Jewish people.  Decent people do not judge others by stereotypes.

Yesterday Mr Henry Ergas published a column headed ‘Why casual bigotry of Obama’s slur must be called out’.  The memoir of Mr Barack Obama referred to Mr Nicholas Sarkozy as ‘a quarter Greek Jew’.  He has ‘dark, expressive Mediterranean features’ resembling the figures of ‘a Toulouse – Lautrec painting’ and ‘all emotional outbursts and overblown rhetoric’ reflecting unbridled ambition and incessant pushiness’ while his conversation ‘swoops from flattery to genuine insight.’  These comments, which seem to me to be fair, leaped out at Mr Ergas and led him to compare those remarks to the insults ‘notoriously hurled at Benjamin Disraeli, the first person of Jewish birth to become Britain’s prime minister.’  (I might make two observations.  First, I greatly admire both Disraeli and Obama as statesmen of great character; one reason for my admiration is that both had to overcome real prejudice to get where they did.  Secondly, only one epithet leaped out of the page for Mr Ergas – ‘Greek’ and ‘Mediterranean’ apparently made no impact on Mr Ergas at all.)  Then we get:

…..if anti-Semitism involves using the label ‘Jew’ to evoke, emphasis or explain an inter-related complex of unattractive attributes, as Gordon Allport suggested in his classic book on The Nature of Prejudice (1954), Obama’s snide description of Sarkozy is unquestionably anti-Semitic.

Now, one might dismiss that as a mere blemish in an extremely lengthy volume.  It is however indisputable that had Sarkozy’s flaw been that he was black, gay, or Muslim, each with its associated stereotypes, the slur would have unleashed storms of protest…..In reality, the only roar was of a deafening silence.  From the New York Times to The Washington Post and beyond, not one of the gushing reviews considered Obama’s statement even worth mentioning.

In part that reflects the normalisation of casual anti-Semitism on the ‘progressive’ side of politics.

Mr Ergas went on to refer to a column by Mr Bret Stephens (whom I much admire) in the Times linking anti-Semitism to the criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism in ‘the left-leading media.’

Yet the left’s problem with Jews goes well beyond the blurring of the lines between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism.

He went on to refer to the benefits conferred by religion – principally for the West it seems, although both relevant faiths came from the East – and makes two further criticisms of ‘the left’ and says that it and Mr Obama are ‘trivialising faith.’

So Mr Ergas says that Mr Obama cast a ‘slur’ on Mr Sarkozy, that the epithet ‘quarter Greek Jew’ ascribed a ‘flaw’ to Mr Sarkozy, and that in its context that epithet entails the conclusion that Mr Obama used the label ‘Jew’ to ‘evoke, emphasise or explain an inter-related complex of unattractive attributes.’  And what is more – that conclusion is unquestionable, indeed indisputable.

The short answer is that the matters of fact alleged by Mr Ergas against Mr Obama are not in my view sufficient to warrant the conclusion that is alleged.  And, after all, what is being alleged is a slur on Mr Obama that entails that his character suffers from a serious flaw.  You may recall that Mr Ergas says that ‘had Sarkozy’s flaw been that he was black, gay, or Muslim, each with its associated stereotypes, the slur would have unleashed storms of protest…’  It does look like the position of Mr Ergas may be circular – he appears to be saying that by describing someone as Jewish, you are invoking the stereotypes that come with that label.  You might also recall that the terms ‘Greek’ or ‘Mediterranean’ don’t apparently come with same heavy baggage.

But in my view, there is more than a non sequitur here.  How does Mr Ergas arrive at his conclusion against Mr Obama?  He comes to that conclusion because this is just what he has come to expect from a person who belongs to or comes from the ‘left’ or ‘progressive’ side of politics.  Neither of those terms is defined, and both are vague, but to adopt what I said above –

When I say that words like ‘misogynistic’ and ‘anti-Semitic’ are used adversely to their subject, I mean that we think it is wrong for people to assess the character of a person by reference to what some might see as the characteristics of other people from the same group – like women or Jewish people.  Decent people do not judge others by stereotypes.

In other words, Mr Ergas can only support his conclusion adverse to Mr Obama by resorting to exactly the kind of prejudice that he alleges against Mr Obama.

Indeed, what we have is a good example of the kind of commentary that disfigures our public life now – an adverse conclusion based on inadequate evidence; a conclusion alleged with total confidence; an absence of restraint; a one-sided and coloured view in a battle of us versus them; we are right and they are wrong; and appeals to mythical history.

In other words, we have a celebration of prejudice.  I will not therefore comment on the venomously dangerous suggestion that an adverse comment on Israel or Mr Netanyahu may warrant a charge of anti-Semitism. It is all very sad, but some readers apparently go for this sort of stuff.  The letters of congratulation have started already

Passing Bull 256 –Unexpressed assumptions

Sometimes you see an argument or comment that is based on an assumption that is not express – what is elsewhere called an ‘inarticulate premise.’  In the press the other day, the following appeared:

The orthodoxy that Joe Biden’s executive team will make Australia comfortable is spectacularly wrong in one respect: the appointment of former secretary of state and presidential nominee John Kerry as special envoy for climate.

There is one certainty.  Kerry will create problems for Australia and the Morrison government as a consequence of his brief from the incoming president…..

It will be Kerry’s rhetoric, his symbolism and his close ties with Europe on climate change that will put inevitable pressures on the Morrison government.

The writer says that Kerry will create problems not just for the Morrison government but for Australia.  It follows that for this purpose at least, the writer sees the interests of the Morrison government being identical to those of the nation of Australia.  Kerry is far more in favour of real action on climate change than the Morrison government. The unexpressed assumption is that this will be bad for Australia because of the pressure Kerry will put on its government – in of course the name of the United States.  But what if you think that our governments of all colours have done badly on climate change and should do a lot more?  If you hold that view, the appointment of Kerry does more than give comfort – it is cause for celebration.  And recent events in New South Wales suggest that a real majority of Australians have that view.  The report merely records the prejudice of the writer and the paper.

Bloopers

‘I have spoken often about doing business responsibly, including about these failings, since earlier this year. I am determined we have a leadership position and hold ourselves accountable in this regard,’ he said.

ABC NEWS 26 November, 2020, Andy Penn, CEO Telstra.

Tripe.

Passing Bull 255 –American fallacies

More than 600,000 American soldiers died fighting the Civil War.  Most of those deaths occurred after or outside the battles.  More than 250,000 Americans have died during the current pandemic.  The number could reach that of the Civil War deaths of soldiers.  This tragedy reveals two related streaks of irrationality coming from American history – a preoccupation with ideology over sense and a cavalier attitude to science and experts.

The worst hit state is South Dakota.  Its unrepentant Governor says ‘My people are happy because they are free.’  Civil rights are not much good for you if you are dead.  Any law restricts freedom.  It is ridiculous to object to a law on that ground.  Saying that you do not want a law about masks because it violates your rights is in the same moral and intellectual plane as insisting on your freedom of movement by running a red light.  Where I live, people prefer sense to ideology.  If you go into a shop without a mask, you will not be served – and then you will be evicted.  We have that law for the same reason we have laws about red lights – to stop our conduct causing other people to die.

Many fear that climate change is far more dangerous to humanity as a whole than the pandemic.  A great many of American legislators are committed to the bible account of creation.  They look to be rejecting science, but that is just another way of saying that they reject or ignore the evidence.  Some bizarre notion of American exceptionalism or equality leads too many Americans to suspect experts.  Once you reject science and the experts on the history of the planet, you can do so on its future.  The result is the mad response to climate change by people who call themselves ‘conservatives.’  Then you get the same with the pandemic.  This queer reaction to science is often linked to a queer view of religion.  The so-called evangelicals have a lot to answer for on this – and Israel.  Religion has had an impact on politics that would not be tolerated here – or I think any other part of the western world.  And the American capacity to embrace falsehood goes back at least to the Declaration of Independence.  The remark that all men are created equal was a dreadful lie.  Their rationale for the rebellion was not much better.  They rebelled because the mother country was taxing them.  Tax is still a blot on their psyche.  Jefferson listed their complaints against England.  He managed to mention tax once, coming in at about number 20, after a lot of silly propaganda.  Even then he got it wrong.  He said that King George was responsible.  The whole point of the English Revolution was that only the parliament could levy taxes.

We all have our odd failings, but these are shockingly lethal.

Bloopers

The 45th US president restored law and order by defending police against militant racists and nominating black-letter lawyers to the Supreme Court.  He chipped away at left-wing orthodoxy in the public service and on campus by testing the limits of free speech.  He demanded equal treatment in America by telling free-riding allies to boost their military spending and pay their fair share for defence.  He called the bluff of bully states and withdrew U S money from the Paris agreement, which rewards totalitarian regimes with Western workers’ money.  He protected Americans from illiberal enemies by closing the border to terrorist-producing states…….[She concludes] With a party that supports formal inequality, racist governance and political censorship about to form government, the battle for the American Dream has only just begun.

If Victoria has managed to eradicate the virus, at  huge cost, it’s because there wasn’t much virus around in the first place.

The Australian, 10 November, 2020, Jennifer Oriel then Adam Creighton

As silly as the Americans referred to above.  And just as dangerous.

Passing Bull 254 –Public interest and privacy

Some years ago, the BBC put on a tough interview with Boris Johnson.  As I recall it, the interviewer finished by calling his subject a ‘nasty piece of work.’  The subject was not amused.  I can almost see the steam rising.  But a critical function of the fourth estate is to check up on the other estates.  The BBC just happens to do that job better than most others.  The English Prime Minister is now gunning for the BBC.  You can draw your own conclusion about the connection between the two events.

Before I comment on the Four Corners program on the Canberra bubble, I must confess to three sources of bias. 

First, I like the ABC but I don’t like the federal government.  I acted for the ABC as a barrister and then as a solicitor for about a quarter of a century.  At times, I took instruction from Sally Neighbour, who was I think the producer of this program.  Otherwise I took instruction from Judith Walker, the in-house solicitor in Sydney.  Judith was as fine a civil servant as I have met.  Her position was very difficult because she was always subject to heavy political pressure from politicians of either side.  It could get very ugly – as they say in the NRL. (She and I both survived that frightful phase when John Howard stacked the board with preposterous puppets.)  I was happy to represent a public body that in my view performed well in a job that we badly need to see well done.  And my partners and I would be greatly amused to hear the firm that I was a partner of described as ‘left-wing,’ or some other such silly label.

As to the government, I find this Prime Minister to be determinedly unimpressive.  Queen Victoria said she felt that Gladstone performed as if he were addressing a public meeting when he spoke with her.  Whenever I hear our present Prime Minister, I feel like a fifth grade student in a geography class at Box Hill State School.  As to the MPs referred to in the program, they fall to be assessed by such of their conduct as is common ground.  On that evidence alone, the best I could say of either is that he is a nasty piece of work.  As to party politics, I will have none of it.  I vote at both federal and state elections based on my assessment of the candidates.  Their party is irrelevant to me – and let’s face it, neither of them stands for much anyway.

The second ground of my bias or prejudice is that I have raised two daughters and I know something of the demons out there that women have to deal with – and I hold very strong views about people who abuse power for personal advantage of any kind.  The crime of rape is after all the grossest form of abuse of power.

The third ground is that I am one of the few people in this country to profess respect for Malcolm Turnbull.  I hold him in much higher regard than most politicians on either side – including his two successors.  In my view, this nation has been badly let down by its politicians, and I very much regret that this man was assassinated by his own party, twice – because too many of them simply refuse to grow up and act decently on the challenges to the environment on climate and other grounds.

Now for the Four Corners program.  I will assume that you have watched it.

All the women were for me entirely credible.  The complainants in these cases – and I have acted on each side in such matters – have no interest in going public like this.  Such a step requires at least two things.  The person sees what they think that decency requires of them in their assessment of the public interest.  Then they find the courage to do what they see as their duty.  All the probabilities are against any fabrication.  The late Peter O’Callaghan, QC dealt with complaints against his church for many years.  He told me that in that time he only saw one bogus claim – and that one was hilarious.  A large part of the problem of this foetid culture in Canberra is that people are too scared to come out.  As one journalist who knows the scene says, ‘speaking out puts a target on your back.’

The evidence of the women was consistent with all the other evidence.  The problem of people living together in what is called the Canberra bubble is as well documented as the failure of the Liberal Party to get more women into parliament and government.

And the people against whom the allegations were made, in particular Mr Porter, chose not to respond to them after being given many opportunities to do so.  Instead, they used their influence to try to destroy evidence and to prevent publication.  On that ground alone, the subject of the program was obviously one of public interest.  Here you have members of parliament, including the Attorney-General, using their influence to try to remove evidence of the public conduct of one of them and to stop the public broadcaster informing the public of what happened.

You do not have to be a lawyer to see the result when evidence of misconduct is uncontradicted.  And we know that it was misconduct precisely because those responsible for it did not want us to know about it.

One critical item involved Mr Porter being seen in a well-known public bar in Canberra behaving with a woman who was not his wife, but who was on the staff of a minister, in such a way as to attract public attention – to the extent that a journalist watching it decided to take a photo of it.  This was the evidence that Mr Porter and his parliamentary supporter, Mr Tudge, tried to suppress.  As it happens, Mr Tudge has also had an affair with a staffer.  But Mr Porter’s friends in the press, especially The Australian, say that this was not a matter of public interest.

If I may say so, what happens in public is not private.  That would be a contradiction in terms.  And it is not private when it involves the conduct of people who are all on my pay-roll.  And it is in the public interest for us to be informed of conduct by our members of parliament that reflects on their capacity properly to represent us – to the extent that the then Prime Minister had to warn them and formulate some kind of precept to deal with an issue which was known to have been festering for a long time.  It is simply worse when one of those involved in the misconduct is the First Law Officer – the person charged with enforcing the law – and who is given to lecturing us about family values. 

And we hardly needed ASIO to warn us of the danger to the public weal of those in power over us engaging in misconduct that leaves them susceptible to the power of our enemies.  If Messrs Porter and Tudge react like this when approached by the ABC, what will they be like when agents of the secret service of China or Russia come knocking on their door? 

It is terrifying to think of what people may have tried on Kennedy or Trump because of their wanton womanising.  Clinton was no better.  The days when what was called adultery were kept in club are long gone.  If an elected representative behaves in a way that leads his wife unable to trust him to keep his word, how does he expect us to trust him?  Do they all not see that we are all just fed up with this perpetual hypocrisy?

There might be an argument in a court of law about what lawyers call similar fact evidence, but this was not a court of law. In my view, this was first rate journalism, and that is evidenced by the reaction to it by those inquired of. 

The denials made by people like those at The Australian go to show their prejudice against the ABC.  In truth, as a friend of mine remarked, they hate the ABC.  And this will get worse.  Now that the ABC has people of the calibre of Laura Tingle, David Speers and Annabel Crabb, the advantage of the ABC will really grate.  They are far ahead of the rest of them.  And when did you last see investigative journalism like this in the rest of the press?  How many parliamentary inquiries or royal commissions have been launched because of Four Corners?  Who else has this facility?  Can you imagine a world in which we did not have the ABC by which we can gauge the rest – to their never ending chagrin?

What now for Mr Porter?  He comes across as having little or no judgment, a pampered pretty boy who is used to getting what he wants by throwing his weight around, a lightweight Antipodean version of Donald Trump in board-shorts and thongs – and we know what his leader thinks of thongs.  Mr Porter has a serene smirk that bespeaks a slovenly conscience trampled under a rampant ego and id.  His ineptness about that silly notion of religious freedom was not one off.  He is a serial dill.  Mr Porter is not at the stage yet where the Australian press uses the term ‘disgraced’, but he is hovering over another favourite sobriquet of theirs – dead meat.  He and his frisky and pesky pal are headed for oblivion, and that will be a blessing for us all – especially our women

And his watery reference to legal action was further evidence of his lack of judgment and tendency to bully.  The prospects of such action being taken and going to judgment well for him are about the same as my prospects of beating his father’s best high jump.

I congratulate the ABC and in particular its Chair and Sally Neighbour and Louise Milligan for staring down our government and doing their job so well.  Ita Buttrose knows all about male bullies.  She was a good choice by this Prime Minister and we should take care to see that the recriminations do not imperil the Chair.  Their capacity to indulge in purges of the ABC is another reason why I do not trust or respect this government.

And the government?  When the High Court found that this infection had reached it, our Chief Justice said ‘We’re ashamed….’I was moved by this integrity and decency.  We never get it from the other arms of government.  We just get more banal mediocrity, and, Heaven help us, ‘not on my watch’.

As for the folk at The Australian, it is hard to know whether their jealousy of the ABC is driven by contract or torment.  I watch Four Corners about once a year and I have never seen Q and A.  But the people at The Australian look to be addicts.  The Jewish Sabbath sees a motley of Liberal Party staffers and apologists, Looney Tunes from the IPA, and the most dolorous Catholic in Christendom all join hands for an orgy of ABC bashing.  They divide their time between putting down the ABC and boosting up Donald Trump.  Perhaps the wind brought their sore affliction over the water from their ugly sister in America – although it would have to come the long way.  It is fair to say that the warped minds of people like Credlin, Kenny and Henderson are notorious among people in what they are pleased to call the elites – but their bone crushing predictability must leave them all at risk of boring each other in their own little bubble to death.  They are all a shirtfront to sense and decency.  And the hate mail that they get from their followers which they publish is deeply disturbing.  It has been years since any person of sense, of any political stance, took that paper seriously.

The upside is that they are the best boosters that the ABC has ever had.  The downside is that while Rupert Murdoch lives, Donald Trump could happen here.  And they would see that as a big win.

A mare and her foal are in peace munching the long grass in my paddocks and reducing my fuel load.  Later I will stroll along the ridge toward the cemetery, trusting that the Almighty does not see that as teasing Him, and I will be gazed at by cows munching soulfully on their cud.  Then I will take in the view of a railway viaduct on one side and a lake on the other, each in its own valley.  And then, it being Saturday, I will go the village to collect the papers – and then count the orchestrated sprays of the ABC by Murdoch’s minions – and hope that my uptake of sanity survives the day.

Thank Heaven for the simple goodness of nature.

Passing Bull 253 –AFR Loading

An AFR editorial about Trump on 31 October 2020 showed leanings and aversions that keep appearing – disgust at anything ‘Left’ and closeness to big business.

In 2016, Mr Trump offered a weary and disappointed US middle and working class a self-contained America that kept out migrants and unfair trade, and kept away from the wars of others.  There were annoying kernels of truth in his complaints……Foreign allies piously calling for America’s global leadership also happily freeloaded under Washington’s huge defence budget burden.  The identity politics of left progressives still too easily sneers at common people and veers into censorship…..The Democratic response to the Trump presidency has been a shift to the wacky left…. Mr Biden, though too old for the job, offers the better hope of return to some form of normality.  President Biden, braked by a narrow Republican majority in the Senate, would be the only good result for America and the world.

A lot of that is in the language you see in another newspaper – identity politics, left progressives and the wacky left – but are these demons breathing so hard in the editor’s ear that his distrust of the ‘left’ is such that he thinks a divided country would best be served by a divided government, and that the interests of America and the world would best be served by Mr Biden having to put up for four years what Mr Obama had to put up with for eight years from Mitch McConnell?  And might it not seem just a little presumptuous for an Australian newspaper to say how Americans should structure their government?  By putting a brake on their president?

Bloopers

Judging by Biden’s first speech as effectively president elect, one of the chief dangers we will face from a Biden presidency is drowning in schmalz, slightly mangled.

The Australian, 9 November, 2020.

Passing Bull 252 – Fluffy tropes

Some people get by saying nothing pompously.  In The Australian today, Paul Kelly begins his front page column this way.

Annastacia Palaszczuk has proven the power of closed borders and the curse of pandemic protectionism.  In this first state election of the COVID-19 crisis, Palaszczuk has shown how the virus has elevated strongarm populist premiers as the new giant killers roaming the land.

The results of elections are caused by all sorts of things.  They may or may not evidence sentiments in the electorate.  We will never know.  It is impossible to say what sentiments were the most significant.  That is one reason that we don’t trust polls.  Yet Mr Kelly can isolate one cause not just as evidence but proof.  There is a very big difference between the two – that we might hope a political diagnostician might have firmly in mind.

But what on earth is ‘pandemic protectionism’ and why is it a ‘curse’?

Let us put to one side tropes like ‘strongarm’ and ‘giant killers roaming the land’.  They are just silly.  But what does populist mean there?  It is not meant as a compliment.  The word ‘Trumpian’ gets a run in the next paragraph.  It looks to be an essential part of the ‘curse’.  As I follow it, in the two party system, people vote for the party that they think will best serve their interests.  The winner can say that it is the more popular party of the two.  A clear majority thought that the winning party would serve their interests better than the other party.  It is a fair inference that the pandemic was a significant factor in their thinking.  Experience suggests that incumbents are favoured in times of crisis.  But what here takes the successful party from popular to populist?

The thoughtless use of clichés as labels is the bane of our press.

Bloopers

Apollo said in a statement it was ‘firmly committed to transparency’. It added: ‘Leon has communicated directly with our investors on this issue and we remain in open dialogue.’

Financial Times, 23 October, 2020

What matters is that I act with integrity and honour.  That means I need to act in the best interests of ASIC and its vital purpose to build a fair, honest and efficient financial system for all Australians….I only took this position to serve the Australian community and to work to improve the corporate and financial system that should also serve it.  If I in any way impede that purpose, the right thing for me to do is to step aside until such time that I can.

The Weekend Australian, 24-25 October, 2020