Well said, Bert

Dreadful choice we have in this year’s election, but perhaps some things really are more dreadful than others. This morning in the Sun-Herald is a letter from Bert Candy.

The decision by the executive of the Liberal Party to give Cory Bernardi the top position on their Senate ticket in the forthcoming federal election – despite his speech asserting that there could be a link between homosexuality and bestiality, as well as his association with an extreme right American organisation (”Smoking Gun”, January 27) – says a great deal about the political leanings of the Liberal power brokers.

A person with these questionable views can hardly represent a modern Australian electorate and, by endorsing him again, the Liberal Party is guilty by association. With pundits indicating a Liberal landslide, it appears that the extreme right have the numbers.

Bert Candy Lemon Tree Passage

Here is the man concerned:

He is clearly on the right of Genghis Khan. The recent story about him, to which Bert refers, appears online as Abbott’s man under fire over extreme right lobbying.

TONY Abbott’s handpicked former parliamentary secretary Cory Bernardi has apparently breached strict rules by failing to declare his ties to a right-wing, pro-tobacco group fighting gun controls.

The organisation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, was involved in a High Court challenge against the Gillard government last year and has financial ties with big tobacco.

The US-based council is working with the National Rifle Association to block President Barack Obama’s guns crackdown after the Newtown school massacre. An ALEC member since 2009, Senator Bernardi was dumped as Mr Abbott’s personal parliamentary secretary in September after he made a speech to Parliament that warned against legislating for gay marriage on the grounds it could open a legal path to bestiality and polygamy….

To get some idea of what kind of fruitcakes and downright subversives Bernadi sleeps with see ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection and Three States Pushing ALEC Bill to Require Teaching Climate Change Denial in Schools.

ALEC Celebrates Groundhog Day 2013

Groundhog Day is on Feb. 2 and fittingly, ALEC and its corporate patrons continue to sing the same tune, simultaneously promoting fracking, blockading a transition to renewable energy and pushing bills mandating teaching climate change denial on par with actual science.

"It’s the same old schtick every year, the guy comes out with a big old stick, raps on the door,"actor Bill Murray said in the classic film Groundhog Day. "They pull the little rat out, they talk to him, the rat talks back, then they tell us what’s gonna happen."

Replace "guy" with "corporate lobbyist" and "legislators" with "rats" and that’s ALEC in a nutshell, serving as a mere microcosm of the current American political system at-large.

And of Cory Bernadi’s idea of a mate and a good thing for Australia’s way of conducting business. And of where his brain really lives.

A person with these questionable views can hardly represent a modern Australian electorate and, by endorsing him again, the Liberal Party is guilty by association. With pundits indicating a Liberal landslide, it appears that the extreme right have the numbers.

No way, I say. Some things really can be worse than Julia.

And speaking of the Right, cop the things crawling out from under logs to greet the bouffanted boofhead from Holland.  And look closely at the group who invited him.  I see they have the obligatory Oz flag at the top and a quote from Mary Gilmore. I wonder if they realise she was a life-long Communist.  Mind you she is an under-rated poet who certainly deserves to be better known, as this poem (not on that site) shows:


I have grown past hate and bitterness,
I see the world as one;
But though I can no longer hate,
My son is still my son.

All men at God’s round table sit,
and all men must be fed;
But this loaf in my hand,
This loaf is my son’s bread.

On that anti-Islam group’s site you will find Robert Spencer at al, pretty much as you would expect, but you also find this, which I reproduce exactly as it is:

Ayn Rand: The Collection.
Her book ‘Atlas Shruggs’ is considered by many in the International Counter-Jihad and Freedom Movement as foundational work for the relation between the free individual, the state and the collective society.

Surprise, surprise!


They are all so sane and balanced, these people, are they not?

Meanwhile here are a couple of free eBooks from ANU that you could read as a way to ensure your own sanity.

Australia: Identity, Fear and Governance in the 21st Century, Edited by Juliet Pietsch and Haydn Aarons (November 2012).

The latter years of the first decade of the twenty-first century were characterised by an enormous amount of challenge and change to Australia and Australians. Australia’s part in these challenges and changes is borne of our domestic and global ties, our orientation towards ourselves and others, and an ever increasing awareness of the interdependency of our world. Challenges and changes such as terrorism, climate change, human rights, community breakdown, work and livelihood, and crime are not new but they take on new variations and impact on us in different ways in times such as these.

In this volume we consider these recent challenges and changes and how Australians themselves feel about them under three themes: identity, fear and governance. These themes suitably capture the concerns of Australians in times of such change. Identity is our sense of ourselves and how others see us. How is this affected by the increased presence of religious diversity, especially Islamic communities, and increased awareness of moral and political obligations towards Indigenous Australians? How is it affected by our curious but changing relationship with Asia? Fear is an emotional reaction to particular changes and challenges and produces particular responses from individuals, politicians, communities and nations alike; fear of crime, fear of terrorism and fear of change are all considered in this volume.

Multiculturalism and Integration — A Harmonious Relationship, Edited by the late Professor Michael Clyne and Dr James Jupp (July 2011).

Multiculturalism has been the official policy of all Australian governments (Commonwealth and State) since the 1970s. It has recently been criticised, both in Australia and elsewhere. Integration has been suggested as a better term and policy. Critics suggest it is a reversion to assimilation. However integration has not been rigorously defined and may simply be another form of multiculturalism, which the authors believe to have been vital in sustaining social harmony.

May help you counter the dogs’ breaths that are so noisome out there, and will no doubt get worse and skankier as the year goes on, God help us.

There are things that matter and things I really don’t care two hoots about…

For example:


Click that for the latest report from NOAA.

Read in today’s Sydney Morning Herald Where even the earth is melting.

THE world is on the cusp of a "tipping point" into dangerous climate change, according to new data gathered by scientists measuring methane leaking from the Arctic permafrost and a report presented to the United Nations on Tuesday.

"The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales," says the report, Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost. "Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may already have started."

While countries the size of Australia tally up their greenhouse emissions in hundreds of millions of tonnes, the Arctic’s stores are measured in tens of billions…

Geologist Dr Iain Stewart in Earth: The Power of the Planet (2007– )

And so many other things today, reaching a grand climax in THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD!!!! Yes, it’s JULIA, THE VAMPIRE FROM SLATER AND GORDON! JULIA THE GETAWAY CAR DRIVER! JULIA OF BONNIE AND CLYDE FAME!  Or as I said, risking being labelled sexist perhaps, on Facebook last night and yesterday afternoon, especially having watched Julia Bishop’s confected outrage during her press conference:

This "Get Julia" session of Parliament is perhaps the lowest point Australian politics has reached in my lifetime — even counting the Dismissal, which at least was about very serious matters. Right now I couldn’t care less if Julia turns out to have been a vampire 20 years ago. I just want to see her government governing, albeit in many areas not very well — refugee policy for one– and the Opposition looking like a credible alternative and not a pack of slavering bitches — no gender implied…

Congrats Julie Bishop on yr press conference. Succeeded in firming up a vote for Labor with me. Well done! What a heap of ordure this now is…

Julie Bishop: why should I care? I really don’t any more. Try policy debate instead of this crap and let the government govern. I really do not care what Julia may or may not have done 20 years ago according to the gossip and hearsay you are retailing no matter that it’s in a stat dec, which you know as well as I proves nothing except that the declarer asserts he/she thinks whatever it is is true — maybe…

Pissed off because the overblown rhetoric pre carbon tax is now proven piffle? Is that it?

If you can be bothered, here is the latest little gem:

BRUCE Wilson, Julia Gillard’s former boyfriend, said he ”perhaps” asked an AWU employee to deposit $5000 in her bank account, but could not recall it. The PM said she could not remember receiving such a sum.

Mr Wilson, appearing on the ABC, was emphatic that no money from the union slush fund set up by him and fellow official Ralph Blewitt was spent on Ms Gillard’s house. He said that after there were technical problems getting the fund registered, he had asked Ms Gillard to help. ”It was a simple matter that needed to be done, she did it, end of story.”

Mr Wilson said he had not benefited financially from the fund but said Mr Blewitt had taken money out. He had been ”packaging it up and burying it in his backyard” – and some of it rotted away. Mr Wilson felt sorry that Ms Gillard ”has to go through all this because it’s just not warranted”.


See also Lenore Taylor’s Bishop bluster loses wind in an obvious absence of evidence.

However, some real light on this and related matters does come from these three posts and their comment threads. The three bloggers together represent years of experience in the law, business, and the Australian Public Service and are all far more qualified than I am.

Finally, not a story of cosmic significance perhaps but a nice local one nonetheless — about Yours and Owls and my ex-student Stewart Holt (not “Stuart”) — Illawarra Mercury today.

Charges against the owners of Wollongong cafe-bar Yours and Owls have been dismissed following a graffiti incident at the venue earlier this year.

Two of the venue’s three owners – Balunn Jones and Ben Tillman – stood accused of malicious damage after a graffiti message appeared on the business’s Kembla Street facade in March.

Last month the charges were withdrawn and dismissed.

Mr Jones credited solicitor Stuart Holt – a regular customer who offered his services pro bono – with seeing through the case.

The venue is now hosting a new street art project on its inside walls, but Mr Jones said the trio planned to soon sell the business.

"Hopefully it goes to someone who’s got a similar point of view to us and it doesn’t just fade away. It would be nice if it happened."

Mr Jones said the trio was selling "for a variety of reasons", but did not elaborate.

The men – friends from the Illawarra’s northern suburbs – opened Yours and Owls in 2010.

Monday salmagundi

“Salmagundi is also purportedly a meal served on pirate ships. It is a stew of anything the cook had on hand, usually consisting of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, and onions, often arranged in rows on lettuce and served with vinegar and oil, and spiced with anything available.” – Wikipedia.

Oh yes!


Memories of the Albury Hotel, my one time alternative lounge room where I met M and Sirdan, among others — based on a photo by Bruce Part who worked there:

FotoSketcher - 16042_232492893548533_882882010_na

Why I won’t be watching QandA tonight, aside from the fact Janet Albrechtsen is on it:


Today Paul Sheehan wrote a total puff piece about Gina Rinehart. If he isn’t already on her PR team he should be soon after this. Talk about fawning! In contrast, please consider More myths from the mining oligarchs.

Australia is in the grip of a group of mining oligarchs, who are spending enormous amounts of monety to shape the economic debate to suit their own very narrow interests. They are opposed to the mining tax (a resource rent tax) and have in the past denied the state (on behalf of all of us) owns the resources that they plunder for private profit. They have also sponsored national tours of leading climate-change deniers (such as Lord Monckton) who are known to trade on distortions of the truth. Overall, there personal resources guarantee them access to the daily media and they use it relentlessly. They also write books which get national coverage and have a record of suing peope who criticise their views. The result is that there is very little critical scrutiny of the propositions they advance to justify their claims. Some of the propositions are pure fantasy yet they have gained traction with the public who have been too easily duped by the promotional onslaught. Here is a little sojourn into the fantasy world on one such oligarch.
The most recent example of this oligarchic-intervention is launch of a new book last week by the richest person in Australia, Ms Gina Rinehart.

I last wrote about Ms Rinehart in this blog – A veritable pot pourri of lies, deception and self-serving bluster.

At that time, the richest person in Australia – mining heiress – who has been fighting it out in the courts with her own children over their grandfather’s inheritance – echoed the Ann Raynd line that the “billionaires and millionaires” create all the jobs and help the poor but the latter are too lazy to do their bit.

She claimed that “billionaires and millionaires are doing more than anyone to help the poor by investing their money and creating jobs”.

Even though the current mining boom has seen her wealth (derived from an inheritance from her father who was a mining magnate) increase by more than $A20 billion in a few year claims that “anti-business and socialist policies for hurting the poor”.

She also claimed that socialism in Australia is “killing off investment in Australian projects” and called for the minimum wage to be cut…

In A veritable pot pourri of lies, deception and self-serving bluster:

… Apparently, socialism in Australia is “killing off investment in Australian projects”.

She wants the minimum wage cut and attacked the poor by saying that:

If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain; do something to make more money yourself – spend less time drinking, or smoking and socialising, and more time working. Become one of those people who work hard, invest and build, and at the same time create employment and opportunities for others.

This sounds like it is coming from someone who is “self-made”. The reality is different. She inherited her wealth and didn’t have to do any work to be at the top of the wealth distribution. And then came the socialist state we call China who launched its development phase at just about the right time for Gina – she has made a fortune from companies that dig our resources up, put it into trucks, take it to a ship and send it to China.

Of-course, the empirical evidence is the opposite. The lower income groups in Australia spend less of their budget on alcohol than the higher income earners.

In this 2010 study – Drinking patterns in Australia, 2001–2007 – from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (an Australian Government research body) we learn that (Table 2.6):

… people that are currently employed are most likely to be recent consumers of alcohol.

A lower proportion of the unemployed consume alcohol (within the previous 12 months of the survey) relative in work.

Digging deeper, we find that in terms of the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage (based on the SEIFA Indexes), which measure how well off a person is across a range of indicators, that the first quintile (“the most disadvantaged 20% of people in Australia”) have the lowest proportion of alcohol consumers and between 2001 and 2007, the proportion dropped.

Conversely, the highest quintile (the most advantaged Australians) are way out there in terms of proportions of that cohort that use alcohol. The AIHW Report concluded that:

… as the socioeconomic status goes up, the proportion of people consuming alcohol also increases.

Later, the Report analyses alcohol use and income and concluded that:

When personal income by alcohol drinking status was analysed, the data show that as personal income increases, so does the prevalence and frequency of drinking … For example, the prevalence of any alcohol consumption is 95% among the highest income group, compared with around 80% among the lowest income group, and there is a fairly constant gradient across these groups. This applies for both sexes.

The March 2012 edition of the ABS Australian Social Trends – carried a feature on “low economic resource households” – which is a cute way of say those who are poor.

The article presented data (for 2009-10) on expenditure on goods and services by the poor relative to the rest of the population.

We learn that:

In 2009-10, the average weekly equivalised expenditure (adjusted to include imputed rent) on goods and services of people in low economic resource households ($500) was 57% of the average expenditure of other households ($872) … Housing, food and transport were the broad expenditure items that accounted for the largest proportion of expenditure on goods and services across both low economic resource households and other households. Among those in low economic resource households, these items accounted for 57% of total expenditure, while for those in other households they accounted for 45%.

In terms of weekly equivalised expenditure, the Low economic resource households spent $A10 a week on alcoholic beverages (1.9 per cent of their total spending) whereas the rest of the population spent $A21 a week on alcoholic beverages (2.4 per cent of their budget).

Spending on other items relating to “socialising” were also much lower in absolute and proportional terms for the poorest Australians…

Inconvenient facts from an economist, eh! Still, I am sure Paul will love her as much as ever.

I considered going up to South Sydney Uniting Church, but didn’t – partly because my neighbour down here asked me to a barbecue at The Bates Motel and I though being neighbourly was important. Had I gone though:

Reign of Christ, Year B
“Celebrating Community”
South Sydney Uniting Church
November 25, 2012

Psalm 93; 2 Samuel 23:1-7; John 18:33-37


“Is the brutalisation of the weak by the strong just what happens behind closed doors, when families, orders, tribes and forces self-police? Is it, in short, inevitable?” asks Elizabeth Farrelly. “Because it’s not just sex, or violence, or corruption, though those are bad enough. To my mind, this kind of abuse is theft. The child abused by a priest isn’t just sexualised, degraded and humiliated. As surely as Roberto Curti was robbed of his life by spontaneous official torture, the abused child is robbed of his or her budding trust in authority and, by extension, the world. Children are very moral animals, with an intense and intuitive feel for justice. To be betrayed and defiled by the supposed source of truth and goodness leaves a child truly broken hearted. In the case of grubby planning decisions, politicians are the slimy adults and we the broken hearted children, but the destruction is similar. We are the victims of systematic environmental theft” (Elizabeth Farrelly, “Developing a tale of comeuppance”, SMH, 21/11/12).

I’ve been thinking on Farrelly’s words for a few days. Power corrupts, she laments. Without an alternative to abusive power we are doomed to fear and hopelessness. One way out is by way of the victims of abuse – by way of their courage and by way of their critique of the systems of abuse. Michael Mullins, editor of Eureka Street, made a decision last week not to publish an essay on media bias against the Catholic Church. He wrote: “Any hope that the Church has of being a credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ depends upon its ability to accept its current humiliation and give glory instead to the sexual abuse victims whom it has humiliated.” God be with you

Are your p*bes as radiant, shiny and glorious as mine?

W*ll! Fancy *sking the Pr*me M*nister something like that? The things you can do when you are on F*cebook! Just ask A**m Subwoofer H******, apparently, who inserted that into a Facebook interview done yesterday by Julia Gillard. I have done the redactions lest anyone be o**ended. "McPiss off you red-headed bloody McClown" was another gem of subprime public intelligence — at least until Julia’s minders, who were monitoring what seems to have been a bit of an unfortunate venture into Web 2,  managed to hit the delete button.

A spokesman for the government said: "This is the first federal question-and-answer session by a major political figure in Australia – it is the first of its kind. There was a huge response in terms of questions; there’s been a lot more that have been tabled for future use. There is a tiny minority of offensive comments and they are moderated after being published."

Certainly this and other recent events concerning someone called Jones have been raising all manner of interesting questions about the nature and place of the “new media” vis-a-vis democratic process, free speech, and so on and so forth, issues raised by then screwed over on Qanda last night – one of the most pathetic Qandas in recent memory, with the exception of a wonderful few moments from Nilaja Sun in response to this:

Jessie Huynh asked: Nilaja Sun: What challenges did you face to change your career path from being a teacher to a solo writer and performer? Was the transition from teaching a group and feeding off the students to enhance your abilities in the classroom, to having a barrier between you and your audience, difficult to adapt to?

Malcolm Turnbull has weighed in with characteristic flair:

I should note in this context another misguided Labor proposal to rein in the media – to provide that media acquisitions, currently subject to clear black letter trade practices and cross media ownership rules, to become subject to a public interest test. This is a concept so ambiguous it is readily open to interpretation in a very partisan political way.

Another point of objection I raised was that it was naïve to imagine that a statutory regulator would make newspapers more benign. After all the Sydney radio shock jocks including Mr Jones, are regulated by ACMA and are regularly investigated and occasionally upbraided for one outrage after another without any noticeable improvement in their discourse.

Even if Mr Jones had made his remarks about the Prime Minister’s late father on air, I doubt if ACMA would have found a breach of the code. Mr Jones has frequently urged the Prime Minister be thrown out to sea in a chaff bag and no breach of the code was found.

But in this case the effective response to Mr Jones was not regulation, or less media freedom, but rather the use by thousands of people of the enhanced freedom afforded them by the social media.

Mr Jones has complained that he has been the victim of social media bullying saying that “ if it happened anywhere else in society, this kind of bullying or harassment or intimidation or threatening conduct, the police would be called in.”

But it is difficult not to believe that he is getting a dose of his own medicine. After all Mr Jones has waged more than a few onslaughts against individuals and businesses and encouraged more than a few email campaigns of his own.

As George Megalogenis observed on twitter today – “We all agree, don’t regulate the media. But why do you want to regulate the masses?”[8]

Mr Jones believes his association with certain products will encourage people to buy them. But if other people take the view that an association with Mr Jones will lead them not to buy those products, why are they not able to tell the advertiser of their view and encourage others to do the same?

Is people power the antidote to media bullies?

SMS and instant messages were powerful enough in years past, but the reach and functionality of the smartphone connected to social media networks has enabled opposition political movements even in the most repressive societies to mobilize and challenge and in some cases, ultimately, overthrow the Government.

The impact of these technologies have been particularly profound in China where despite extensive Internet censorship the Government is now no longer in complete control of the means of self expression. Citizens unhappy with local officials can, and frequently do, take their case online. A decade ago they would have had little chance of their concerns being published in a local newspaper.

As Geoff Raby reminded us last week, there would have been no prospect of the excruciatingly embarrassing Bo Xi Lai saga and related leadership struggles being so widely reported and debated within China in a pre-smartphone era.

So have we reached a nirvana for freedom of speech – with everyone a publisher via their smartphone, a platform so compelling that even the greatest newspaper mogul of all time, Rupert Murdoch, has become a tweep!…

(I also enjoyed, as a sometime Classicist, Malcolm Turnbull’s talk to the Classical Association of NSW, though it makes me feel even more like some mouldering old relic to reflect that when Malcolm was studying Latin and Greek at Sydney Grammar I was already teaching at Cronulla High!)

But at least Malcolm Turnbull seems to know how Twitter, Facebook etc work. On Qanda last night Christopher Pyne, who I suspect also knows, came up with a wildly improbable scenario that the nasty comments in Julia’s interview were somehow part of a plot to distract us all from thinking about the (largely nonexistent) effects of the carbon tax on our economy. 

TONY JONES: Okay. All right. I’m going to hear from the rest of the panel. Christopher Pyne, you jumped in there.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, just on the blog…
TONY JONES: Are you suggesting that the staff had some role in this?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, I don’t know, Tony, but I do think it is peculiar that since her staff are moderating the Facebook discussion, they allowed trolls to breakthrough…
KATE ELLIS: Does anybody here know how Facebook actually works?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Yeah, we do but…
KATE ELLIS: Like people post on a wall and you delete it if you don’t agree with it. People post first and then you delete it?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, why didn’t her staff moderate those remarks off instantaneously. Why did they live them on there and them make a big political story out of it?
KATE ELLIS: Well, they did. Once they were put up, they were removed.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I just think it’s passing strange that if her staff were moderating this apparent first in national politics, that they allowed these very unpleasant statements to be put up on the Facebook rather than, as soon as they appeared, removing them instantaneously, which didn’t happen. So I think that’s peculiar…

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Can I just say that some of the things you’ve said are complete assertions that have been utterly denied by Tony Abbott and you stated them as facts. That’s the first thing. Secondly, the Tony Abbott I know is a person who has absolute regard for strong women and surrounds himself with them. His wife, Margie, his chief of staff Peta Credlin. He loves and respects his three daughters and his two sisters. To suggest that Tony Abbott is a misogynist is part of a smear campaign designed to stop him becoming Prime Minister and let me say this: it is a distraction from the issues like cost of living pressures, job insecurity, the economy, and Labor wants us to have that distraction. They want the Australian public to talk about everything other than the economy, job insecurity, cost of living and the carbon tax and unfortunately that question falls for that Labor Party campaign. To Margie Abbott came out on Friday, because she was thoroughly sick of people telling bald faced lies about her husband. Tanya Plibersek, Nicola Roxon, unfortunately Kate Ellis, others have been responsible for this, what’s been dubbed the handbag hit squad. It is an outrage what people have said about Tony Abbott and it is as offensive to suggest he hates his wife, his three daughters and his two sisters…
GEORGINA FREEMAN: I didn’t say he hates his wife.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: …as the things Alan Jones said about Julia Gillard’s father…

Piers Akerman was decidely strange, as Matthew da Silva notes today.

But such debates are part of the culture wars in Australia, as we saw later the same day when Piers Akerman appeared on the ABC’s Q and A. The same kind of issues popped up, and the same fundamental lack of understanding about how social media works. We had Akerman sagely pointing a trembling finger at "The Twitter", and comparing a Facebook page (which he knows nothing about) to a blog (he once moderated one in a professional capacity). And there was the same propensity for the blokes – Akerman, the Liberals’ Christopher Pyne, and ex-Labor MP Lindsay Tanner – to talk over the top of the women. Host Tony Jones was forced to step in on a number of occasions in order to ensure Labor MP Kate Ellis had enough air to reasonably present her opinion on the panel…

Matthew’s main topic in that post is this interview on 2GB:

It’s a long interview and worth listening to. A number of topics were covered, including Alan Jones’ propensity to inciting violence, and his track record in this vein during the lead-up to the December 2005 Cronulla riots. Smith tried valiantly to play down Jones’ role in that affair but this sort of nimble footwork by a 2GB shock jock would merely have further angered those who participated in the social media campaign against Alan Jones. Like the 45-minute "apology" Jones gave after being caught out saying John Gillard "died of shame", Smith’s performance yesterday with regard to the Cronulla riots merely indicates that 2GB radio announcers do not believe that Jones did anything wrong all those years ago. It is difficult to see how progress can be made on the count of public civility if 2GB still harbours resentment over something that was officially sanctioned, and for which Jones received a public rebuke from the media authority. How can the two sides agree on the nature of appropriate conduct in the media if there is disagreement on such basic things?

There is so much around the traps on all this now as the issues raised are rather greater than the bloody Parrot. You can go from Gerard Henderson on the one hand – why do I keep thinking the word “anal”? – to Jenna Price on the other.  Or Michelle Grattan:

…there is a fine line — between firms responding to public opinion, and being intimidated by a campaign targeted at them, especially when it bombards them individually. A number of those remaining — before Macquarie Radio stopped all advertising on the program — were small enterprises. Their vulnerability to damage from a tough campaign is proportionately greater than that of larger companies.

By giving ordinary people a voice, social media is empowering voters and consumers. This is obviously a good thing, whether it is to enables them to have more political say or get better service from companies.

But the medium also has potential to bring out the worst as well as the best.

While Jones’ enemies, especially on the left, are glad to see him get his comeuppance, they should also remember that in other circumstances some of his nastier allies on the right could also mobilise support to hunt their targets…

Yesterday, even though I had not signed any petitions about Jones as I explained before, I did "like" Destroy the Joint because I did "like" what I saw there.

the grand prince of bogans .....

And now, just for fun:

The USA is a foreign country

I am now well into From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (W W Norton 2010) by Canadian-born Darren Dochuk. I endorse this comment by Steve on Goodreads: “Well researched history like this is hard to come by. I can’t not praise this book too much or recommend it too highly.”


You can get some idea of the book from Dochuk’s 2011 Huffington Post piece Remembering Reagan: The Evangelical Model for Republican Success in 2012.

The curious story lives on in evangelical memory, though few outside American Christendom are familiar with even its faintest details. Considering the current state of politics, and the celebration of Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday on February 6, perhaps it deserves repeating.

On a fall day in 1970, California’s governor invited friends over to his Sacramento home. With Herbert Ellingwood, the governor’s legal affairs secretary, taking the lead, Pat and Shirley Boone, businessman George Otis, and pastor Harald Bredesen joined Ronald and Nancy Reagan in an afternoon of conversation and prayer. Much of the former revolved around the subject of prophecy; having just talked personally with Billy Graham about teachings in the Book of Revelation, Reagan wanted to hear how they related to events in the Middle East. After chatting for a while, he and Nancy joined hands with their guests for prayer. What came next stunned them all. During his supplication, Otis’s arm began to pulsate with an emotion he attributed to the Holy Spirit. Then, with his hand shaking (the same one holding Reagan’s hand), Otis prophesied that Reagan would someday be president. Sheepishly, Otis ended the prayer, leaving Reagan and friends speechless and eager to say good-bye. Otis was hardly sheepish some years later, however, when, he began telling others about what had happened that fall day. Released just in time for the 1980 presidential race, his much-publicized testimonial conveyed one basic message: born-again, Bible-believing voters needed to vote for Reagan, the only true born-again, Bible-believing candidate in the running.

Cut beneath the peculiarities of Otis’ prophetic utterance is a deep accord between evangelicals and Reagan that took root in California long before it blossomed on a national stage. This marriage was forged during Reagan’s run for governor in 1966. Reagan’s inspirational presence in Barry Goldwater’s failed 1964 campaign had already convinced evangelicals that he was their new hero, and in the months that followed they begged him with letters and prayers to seek office. Reagan seemed right to them, on so many levels. First of all, he had a spiritual narrative that rang true. In the months surrounding the 1966 election, the actor-turned-politician turned earnest as he described his recommitment to Christ. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, he answered his adoring fans with heart-felt missives that spoke of his devotion to Christ and his determination to pray more. And Reagan met other standards of association as well, by surrounding himself with evangelical powerbrokers like Graham and Boone, businessmen like Otis and Ellingwood, and investing himself in his church, Bel Air Presbyterian, known for its dynamic pastor Donn Moomaw. Of course, Reagan also boasted a political narrative that resonated with California evangelicals too, particularly those who had moved west from Texas and Oklahoma in search of defense industry jobs (some 2.5 millions southerners had settled in California by 1970). In his public pronouncements against radicals and the Red Menace, campaign promises to get socialism and secularism out of schools and God back in, and switch from the Democratic Party to GOP in 1962, he spoke the language and walked the political steps familiar to these southern sojourners.

For his part, Reagan asked something of these devotees, and they came through…

On that a Presbyterian pastor comments:

This is the kind of analysis we need so badly, in order to understand the reactionary forces at work in our culture, forces determined to "save" us from "secular humanism" on the one hand, and from democracy on the other – because democracy allows too much freedom of thought. Though Reagan recognized this and used it to catapult himself into the White House, he tried to temper it. But these days, there is no tempering of anything in the GOP. It’s out for our blood.

I’ve just started reading your book, "From Bible Belt to Sun Belt" – having lived in OK for 12 years (I’m a Presbyterian pastor), I saw firsthand the power of the fundagelical message to shut down thought, instill anxiety and create "enemies." It’s an amazing thing to see … and infinitely sad.

More to read: Bible Belt to Sun Belt, Redux by Paul Harvey.

It’s a happy coincidence that I got my brand-spanking-new paperback copy of Darren Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sunbelt, on the very day that I learned that the book (which as a dissertation won the Allan Nevins Prize, and as a book previously won the AHA’s Dunning Prize — biggies, both) was just awarded the Ellis Hawley Prize of the Organization of American Historians. Some high honors indeed for the former volleyball star from the Great Plains of Socialist Canada.

The coincidence reminded me it’s a good time periodically to revisit some of our older blog classics, one of which was the interview we conducted last year with Darren and printed here. So, without further adieu, in honor of the book’s success and newly being made available for your course use in paperback, here is Part I of our interview from last year below; and from there you can click on the link for Part two here (or just follow the  link below). Congratulations again to Darren.

In that interview:

PH: You begin the book with one of the most famous tropes of American religious history — the errand in the wilderness — and use it to situate the plain folk from the South/Southwest that you are going to follow through the book. You write: "these white southern evangelicals envisioned themselves as pilgrims carrying out their own errand into the wilderness." Can you describe briefly how they saw that "errand," and more about what kind of world they hoped to create in that "wilderness"?

DD: While reading church newspapers like the California Southern Baptist and the Assemblies of God’s Informant I was struck by the way southern evangelicals approached their new home as if on a mission; pastors, editors, and denominational leaders all spoke of being on an “errand.” This isn’t uncommon among migrant groups, since uprooted-ness tends to encourage notions of exceptionalism, but I thought it was suggestive that southern evangelical migrants approached their move this way. Considering their impressive numbers, southern evangelicalism’s built-in entrepreneurialism, and the freedoms of Los Angeles’ hinterland, it seemed significant that southern evangelicals encountered their new home with a confidence that could affect change. Able to move from the small town south to self-contained suburbs, these sojourners didn’t feel the jarring effects of migration that we see in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, in which Old Testament motifs of banishment (“exodus” and “exile”) are stressed. This isn’t to discount Steinbeck, or historians like James Gregory, who rightly and beautifully describes the hardships southern migrants faced in California. Still, I think the errand motif is a helpful qualifier, because it stresses the empowerment southern evangelical migrants felt (and were told to feel) when resettling on the West Coast.

And to be honest, I also found it intriguing that these sojourners did what they set out to do—impose their will on their wilderness in order to awaken their people back home. Meant to give hope to an uprooted people, the “errand” motif (as exaggerated or skewed as it may have been) in fact became a blueprint of sorts that these sojourners followed to a tee. In the immediate, they used it as justification to carve out strong, independent churches, ministries, schools, and communities in which they could codify principles of individualism, local autonomy, laissez-faire economics, and family values. In the long-term, they used it to help fashion this amalgam of beliefs into a coherent political strategy—the GOP’s Sunbelt strategy—that would win the hearts and votes of the people they left behind in Oklahoma and Texas, and ultimately win them access to Washington’s halls of power. So, although a neat rhetorical device (another reason why I used it), the errand motif also points us to a real, lived experience that few historians have fully appreciated in the context of post-war religious and political change.

See also Devin C. Manzullo-Thomas from Temple University:

Dochuk reaches this conclusion having done his homework. He rightly centralizes high-profile players like Graham, Reagan, George Pepperdine, Pat Boone, and “Fighting Bob” Shuler. He draws on primary source materials from a variety of archival repositories. (Indeed, how many scholars of twentieth-century American evangelicalism can claim to have researched at both the Pat Boone Headquarters and the Strom Thurmond Center?) And, wisely, he chooses to anchor his narrative with the voices of “plain folk” evangelicals. Drawn from a catalog of self-collected oral histories and sprinkled effectively throughout the text, the voices of these relatively unknown figures illuminate the lived realities of evangelical politicization. This hybrid approach—fusing traditional political history with a modified version of the “lived religion” methodology popularized by a generation of religious scholars—elevates Dochuk’s book above other recent studies of the Religious Right…

Nevertheless, the book is not without flaws, the most obvious being the author’s failure to succinctly define his term “evangelical.” Given the elasticity of this appellation even within the scholarly literature, it deserves clear definition; Dochuk’s oversight in this regard, therefore, is a significant one. Although it becomes clear even within the book’s first 80 pages that Dochuk’s evangelicalism includes segments of fundamentalism and even some theologically distinctive conservative Protestant denominations like the Churches of Christ, the absence of a singular, declarative definition of the term at the study’s outset left this reviewer feeling unmoored during the early chapters.

This, however, is but one critique of an otherwise stellar monograph—a monograph with a provocative argument far more nuanced than this reviewer has replicated here. Thoroughly researched and engagingly written, From Bible Belt to Sunbelt marks a major advance in the growing body of scholarship examining the roots of evangelical political activism.

The very traditionally conservative Acton Institute  commends the book in this review, putting its own gloss on it, however.

Dochuk splendidly tells the story of the great Westward migration and the tale of a region that was not just caught up in an evangelical wave, but founded an empire of churches, colleges, and religious friendly businesses that was widely influential in changing evangelicalism and American politics. These transplanted Southerners brought a new vibrancy and entrepreneurial spirit to the region that helped to transform California into the eighth largest economy in the world. If their opponents believed the unleashing of Southern evangelicalism would cause "damnation for their region," it will be interesting to see the reverse effect on a future Southern California that becomes more and more secularized and continues to impose regulations and shed jobs at an alarming rate.

Slightly perverse, that conclusion, but as Dochuk shows a splendid sense of irony in the course of his narrative, while at the same time allowing the voices he captures full and fair scope, I am sure he would cope with that spin on his thesis.

Finally, see Jesus and Jefferson by Mark A Noll in The New Republic.

The great strength of Darren Dochuk’s book lies in his discovery of New Christian Right origins in postwar California. He skillfully traces a continuous narrative stretching from the Dust Bowl to Ronald Reagan, and demonstrates with prodigious research how this narrative fits into a much broader American canvas of demographic, political, economic, and ideological change. If there is a weakness in his book, it is that he does not document with similar care the moves that in the mid-1970s made California’s story a national story. But about the rest his book is utterly convincing.

The story begins with massive migrations in the 1930s of Okies, Arkies, and their Depression-driven fellow-sufferers who streamed out of the Southwest to California. In 1920, the population of Oklahoma and Arkansas was larger than the population of California by about 400,000 souls. In 1950, California’s 10.6 million dwarfed the 4.2 million left in those two states. The magnet for this great internal migration was jobs. Some jobs were waiting for Dust Bowl migrants when they arrived in the 1930s. Many more flowed from the economic cornucopia created by World War II, the surge of oil and gas industries, and a massive infusion of defense contracts. To an unusual degree, workers from the Southwest and South filled the demand for labor. In turn, well-compensated workers settled, raised families, built schools and churches, entered local politics, and otherwise made themselves at home…

The transplanted ideology that took root in California at the very time when that state became the forerunner of postwar national prosperity embodied a potent synthesis: theology stressing individual redemption, church culture emphasizing local independence, and social instincts trained by segregation to resist outside interference from Yankee do-gooders and intrusive Big Government. As adherents of this ideology purchased homes, built businesses, sent their children to school, looked for recreational opportunities, and helped their entrepreneurial pastors build large churches and then mega-churches, the traits of their Southern plain-folk religion became the nutritive medium for political mobilization.

Already in the 1930s, early Southern immigrants patronized a California movement known as “Ham and Eggs” that advocated a scheme for income assistance related to Huey Long’s famous “Share the Wealth” in Louisiana. It drew most of its support from Southerners who looked upon relief as hands-off assistance to individuals. Supporters of Ham and Eggs were also mostly Democrats, but of the local Southern sort instead of the big-government Northern variety.

Immediately after World War II, a perfect storm of threatening initiatives stimulated extensive counter-measures. When, in 1946, the CIO backed Proposition 11 on the California ballot to outlaw racial discrimination in hiring; and when it mounted its Operation Dixie program to unionize workers in the South: and when in the same year new laws were proposed to ban restrictive housing covenants in Pasadena, Glendale, Eagle Rock, and other southern California communities; and when these reforms received strong support from leaders of the liberal Federal Council of Churches and key members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy; and when it looked like these moves were coordinated by the same forces that had supported world government at the founding of the United Nations in San Francisco only the year before—it was then that the New Christian Right was born…

Two themes are most important in Dochuk’s lively book. The first is the ideological synergy that Dochuk describes as Jefferson (and the principles of a government-averse yeomanry) in league with Jesus (and the principles of a God-offered salvation). The second is the California setting where voterregistration drives, fund-raising for the purposes of lobbying, incumbents targeted for defeat, interest-group advocacy on statewide referenda, and many other practical political strategies were a taken-for-granted fact of life decades before Jerry Falwell or Francis Schaeffer had even thought about Christian political action.

Dochuk’s revisionist account is strengthened by its nuance. He never contends that California was the whole story. Billy Graham’s famous evangelistic crusade in 1949, as one instance, strengthened ties between California’s conservative Protestants and evangelicals elsewhere in the country. Dochuk also recognizes that some political events touched religion only indirectly. Thus, the Senate election of 1950, in which Richard Nixon rode anti-communist attacks to victory, is important for the larger story mostly because it solidified the move of erstwhile Southern Democrats into the right-wing of the Republican Party. Perhaps most importantly, Dochuk also demonstrates that the California experience significantly modified certain aspects of the Southern plain-folk worldview. He is especially convincing that over time explicit racism gradually faded as a primary component of California’s conservative Protestants. But he is also persuasive that the anti-government ideology and pro-local entrepreneurialism that always accompanied Southern white racism did not fade away…

It is a fascinating read and links quite personally with episodes in my life back to the 1950s.  See The year my voice broke…, Time and friendships 2 — the class of ’59, Last night I was 15 again… On the other hand “Jefferson and Jesus” really cuts no ice in Australia. In so many ways while at one level quite understanding the “plain folks” I am reading about at another level it is like contemplating space aliens. Really! As Peter Hartcher says so well in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Australians deluded on meaning of US election.

… It’s interesting that, as the Herald reports today, an overwhelming 72 per cent of Australians would vote for the Democrats’ Barack Obama if they had a vote in the US presidential election while a mere 5 per cent would choose the Republicans’ Mitt Romney.

That is probably evidence of two facts. One is that, as the incumbent for four years, Australians know a good deal more about Obama than Romney.

Second is the fact that Australia is a much more left-leaning country than the US. In aggregate, Australians naturally incline to a Democrat world view more than a Republican one. And not only Australians, but the entire developed world, as it happens.

In Canada, for instance, the balance is similarly lopsided with voters preferring Obama by a margin of seven to one, according to a poll by Canadian Press-Harris Decima. And a Pew poll across 21 countries in June showed that ”Obama would cruise to re-election in November if Europeans and Japanese could vote,” as Agence-France Press put it.

”The centre of gravity of American opinion is much further to the right” than it is in any other rich country, as John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge wrote in their book The Right Nation.

The US is the only country in the developed world that does not provide paid maternity leave, for instance, and the only one that does not pay child support to all families.

”America upholds the right to bear arms, the death penalty and strict sentencing laws,” write Micklethwait and Wooldridge, Englishmen both. ”The US is one of the few rich countries where abortion is a galvanising political issue, and perhaps the only one where half the families regularly say grace before meals.”…

The inability of Australians to distinguish their reality from America’s is leading to delusional thinking. Why?

”The mental transformation for Australians to put themselves into the shoes of average Americans is immense,” the chief executive of the US Studies Centre at Sydney University, Geoff Garrett, says. ”I think it’s close to impossible for Australians to understand why the centre of gravity in US America is so far to the right.”

For example: ”[Tony Abbott] has decided that major industrial relations reform is off the agenda. In the US, Australia would be considered profoundly anti-competitive and anti-market.”

A much more realistic way for Australians to assess the US is as a foreign country. As soon as we take that view, the question changes dramatically. It’s not which candidate you prefer, but which is likely to be better for Australia’s national interests?…

Facebook’s big shrink– Google Chrome vs Firefox – FB/Chrome fail!

Quite suddenly and spontaneously this afternoon my Facebook page shrank by what looks like 50% in Google Chrome. OK, there is a new version of Google Chrome today, and also I am sure the incessant fiddle that is Facebook was simultaneously happening. And here is the result.


In Google Chrome a presentation that might appeal to mice or ants…


In Firefox the way it is surely meant to look.

And possibly even better, here it is in Opera:


Back to Chrome, here is the ant-written version of the Facebook Help Screen. Yes, I have sent a complaint…


All those screen shots are exactly to the same scale, by the way.

Fact is, Google and/or Facebook, you have managed to render my Facebook experience almost completely useless and unworkable. Here is one work-around:


One’s faith in Facebook doesn’t actually grow when one looks at this from yesterday. Click to see the current state of play:


A shame, as like many I have come to enjoy Facebook and its quite wonderful pages like CIty Daily Photo and Lost Sydney… I did see a comment somewhere in the past day that Facebook has a talent for breaking what didn’t need fixing, and it may well be Google Chrome in its latest version has joined in.

Paul Sheehan rides again



In the 1990s Paul Sheehan wrote a tendentious, sensationalist and superficially rational heap of shit called Among the Barbarians. It was very successful. Now I knew it was a heap of shit at the time, cashing in on our thing then about being “swamped by Asians”, because I was working with such Chinese students as the ones Sheehan gave the treatment to, had met the author of the book Sheehan selectively quoted, and was living with a Shanghainese.  I really despised that book and, at the time, its author.

Even Anne Henderson at The Sydney Institute in 1998 rather despised the book too.

My first remembered encounter with Paul Sheehan was at a function in Sydney. Without introduction he approached and criticised my short haircut. The longer version was more flattering. His comments were dogmatic and overly familiar, but when I observed that my hair was my business and his taste somewhat old fashioned, Sheehan seemed affronted. Understanding the prickly Sheehan helps when reading Among The Barbarians.

This is a book with axes to grind and scores to settle. It’s lucidly written and has a clever style. It is also a confusing mix of overstatement and understatement, a tract rather than a considered thesis; much preaching and not too much research.

And it’s already a best-seller. In two weeks, Random sold 20,000 copies, by mid-June 55,000, echoing that right-wing best-seller of 1992 – Brian Wilshire’s The Fine Print (self-published).

Paul Sheehan is a Sydney Morning Herald journalist who returned to Australia in 1996 after a decade in the US and, according to his book he liked what he found: “The overt culture of the nation – its language, cuisine, music, writings, film, dance, architecture, design, sport – all, at their highest expression.” Australia, Sheehan believed, had triumphed from a cultural revolution…

What makes Among The Barbarians a disturbing book is Sheehan’s defensiveness and obsessive selectivity, matched with conspiracy theories. Despite years of key conservatives as regular commentators in Australian newspapers, more than a decade of Hanson-style voices filling talkback radio on race, immigration and indigenous issues, saturation propagandising by top rating radio presenters like Alan Jones and Stan Zemanek, Sheehan earnestly believes that, under Labor, “so strong and so ruthlessly imposed were the protocols constraining discussion of racism, discrimination, affirmative action and immigration, it would be a foolish move to smash through and express, with undisguised resentment, the unpleasant fears felt in much of the electorate”.

Among The Barbarians is a skewed Australian canvass, self-justified as setting the record straight. Just one side of the debate on the grounds that it’s never been heard. Sheehan picks at topics rather than digests them, often relying on a handful of opinions to support his…

Well, he’s back.

Riding his hobby-horse:


Grinding his favourite axe:


And, just as he did in 1998, channelling xenophobia, whatever the superficial meaning of what he says:


And of course the message is that those evil so-called asylum seeker illegal bastards with funny coloured skin and unAustralian cultural traits are playing us for suckers, and even if it has been comprehensively shown that the email purporting to show that asylum seekers in Australia are living like Lotto winners is a hoax yet, according to Sheehan, it is still true! As that woman said on QandA…

Sheehan’s remarkable logic – and not the first time he has employed such mental gymnastics as Marcellous once noted – may be read in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. I am not going to quote it: go there and make up your own mind.

See also the very funny Among the barbarians: Nick Possum and the Victims of Political Correctness Inc. (1998)  and among my posts Pub talk, reality TV, reality and “Go Back to Where You Came From” (2011), About last night’s “Send them back…” and Paul Sheehan (2011), A rather odd argument? (2009).


Kind of related: John Menadue — Updating the Malaysia solution. And click on the cartoon above.

How to read Paul Sheehan

1.  Realise as fifteen years and more of reading him has taught me that his “objectivity” is a pose. I formed this impression from his shit book because I knew the people who he was hurting then and I knew who thought he was “wonderful” and why – and that has not changed.

2. In reality he is Pauline Hanson in male drag with polish, and he without fail will demonise, often on the basis of highly tendentious selection of evidence, whichever Other it is currently fashionable to decry. And never underestimate how much I deplored/continue to deplore Pauline Hanson.

3, There is nothing about today’s article – which I have indeed read as steam from my ears built to higher and higher pressure – that is inconsistent with the character who wrote the shit book.

4. That said, I acknowledge the difficulty of coming to a reasonable and equitable policy on asylum seekers who get on boats. Hence my link to Menadue, and a number of things I have written lately.

5. Taking Sheehan at face value, however, is a big mistake. He is an absolute master of the dog whistle. He is a polemicist NOT an objective commentator.

See also Four Corners replies: cop this Paul Sheehan and “Illegal immigrants” Press Council ruling: Why is Paul Sheehan is allowed to say it while Greg Sheridan is not?

And this is something related to look forward to: