Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Convicted drug trafficker gets small media mention . . .
. . . but friend of accused drug trafficker gets the spotlight glare

Based on last night’s 7.30 Report feature-length story on the sometime friendship between an accused drug trafficker and Schapelle Corby’s father, I’m quite prepared to throw in my two-bob with the Right, and call for the immediate and total de-funding of the ABC. What a nasty, tabloid put-up job, and seemingly gratuitous exercise in personal vilification. No wonder today’s Oz couldn’t wait to condense and re-heat it.

Admittedly, anything with a Schapelle Corby connection is prima facie newsworthy. But at the same time, the (supposedly) quality media should keep a sense of perspective. That is, assuming all the insinuations of the latest story are true (although personally I don’t believe they are): (i) Schapelle Corby is/was some kind of low-level mule, who has taken the rap for her father-and-others, and (ii) if arrested red-handed in Australia with the same size bag’o’dope, she would have, at worst, already done her time in jail, and now be out on the streets, all without ever have attracted a skerrick of media attention for her deeds.

So where’s the comparable media outrage over Telstra’s standing behind convicted drug trafficker, Peter William Jones re some baton-carrying honours? A case of letting a man’s past not haunt him indefinitely into the future, perhaps? Not on your nelly – rather, Telstra, the convicted trafficker, WA Water Corporation chairman Tim Ungar, and the WA ALP government seem embroiled in just another multi-million dollar corruption scam.

Naturally, The Age couldn’t bring itself to repeat the latter two week old snippet, because who carries a ceremonial baton is far more important stuff, period. Just as is who Schapelle Corby’s father’s friends might be. After all, “we” know that blue-collar drug-dealers, and even their mules, are always Mr Bigs, while white-collar drug-dealers are always relatively benign: for it is only the latter that are the media’s friends, neighbours and financial lifeblood (think of Telstra’s ad account).

Update 3 February 2006

The Australian 1 February 2006* re-ran the gist of its (non-) story the previous day, but with a twist: it named the accused drug trafficker (the one who is/was a friend of Schapelle Corby’s father). Possibly, conventional sub judice rules simply don’t apply to The Australian, possibly the print edition that I got in Melbourne was different from the north-of-Tweed one in this respect – I dunno.

One thing is clear, however: should Tony’s (even "The 7.30 Report" used his real first name) trial abort: a Corby connection (however remote), and so a prurient media clamour, will be proved a get-out-of-jail-free bonanza for potentially every crim in the land – other than an actual Corby, of course.

* Michael McKenna “Corby family [sic] denies link to mate’s dope charge” The Australian 1 February 2006 (no URL)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Really gross words like Hot & Wet

Sydney reportage of the Cronulla pogrom aftermath and its build-up (31/1/06) (the pogrom itself is given almost zero attention) continues to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

In Saturday’s Australian, Natalie O’Brien – who I had previously thought to be a credible reporter – and two co-authors served up this. The first two-thirds is just straight barrow-pushing, a la Peter Debnam, flimsily disguised as news rather than Op Ed: the police going soft on the "Lebs", rah rah rah.

The last third of the article, however, does contain some actual reportage. It focuses on an event that happened at Cronulla on 7 December, particularly as seen through the eyes of witness “Jane Tozen”, and then abruptly ends, after a second informant makes a jaw-dropping revelation.

The “mad as hell” Tozen is presumably intended by O’Brien et al to come across as a sympathetic and reliable witness. Personally, I think she comes across as a racist and prudish (or if not, hypocritical) bint. She speaks of a number-plate that reads “Hot & Wet” – actually HTN WET – as “really gross words”. So only Anglo boys (and Anglo girls, too, of course) are allowed to engage in mild sexual suggestiveness in public? Alternatively, perhaps the NSW RTA is also corruptly beholden to the “Lebs”, and so has registered a prima-facie offensive number-plate that a Whitey would have been refused?

What a crock. And so on cue today (same URL) came the second incarnation of “Jane Tozen”, via Sydney’s all-time King Of Crock, Paul Sheehan. While I’m not *sure* that Sheehan’s unnamed informant is the same person – in O’Brien’s version, her only identity is as a surf-club member, while in Sheehan’s case she is a local high-school teacher (things that are hardly mutually exclusive) – it is clear that the informant in the Sheehan story saw the same 7 December event from the same perspective, and carries the same prejudices.

Anyway, back to the actual “money shot” of 7 December. Clearly, at least one man was seriously bashed by “Lebs” at Cronulla on that day. Sheehan’s version has this bashing as completely cowardly and unprovoked, although his witness/informant does mention that the primary victim “said something” to his attackers just before the bashing. Remarkably – or maybe not – neither the witness nor Sheehan is curious as to what might have been said.

The answer, as it happens, is in the last two paras of Saturday’s Australian (the bit that seems just tacked on after Jane Tozen’s ground-breaking insights into young male “Leb” sexual suggestiveness). It quotes the primary victim (again, unnamed) of the 7 December bashing as proud of having deliberately provoked it:

I walked off and saw four Lebanese sitting on the park bench, they were being interviewed by a TV camera. As I walked past them I said 'f---ing Lebs' real loud, trying to get my voice on camera

Friday, January 27, 2006

Extra, extra: Baby boomer admits to feeling concerned for his generation’s legacy

I'm extremely concerned that we're leaving to our children and grandchildren the worst legacy that any generation has in history.

says former late-60s uni student and now documentary film-maker Nick Torrens.

Of course, even as he admits his concern, he (inadvertently, probably) twists the knife into a good chunk of GenX. For the millionth time – there is a large cohort out there, including me (b. 1964) that is NOT baby boomer, and is NOT the children (or grandchildren) of boomers, nor is even a sibling of boomers.

Anyway, Torrens’s doco, “The Men Who Would Conquer China” – which aired on ABC the other night – should be left to speak for itself, which it does quite well. Out of the several binaries the doco turns on, including boomer capitalist (American Mart Bakal) vs Xer capitalist (Hongkong Chinese Vincent Lee), I’d say the most striking is the non-binary for New Yorker Bakal, around 10 vs 12 September 2001.

Setting the scene: Bakal is filmed sometime before 11 September 2001, speaking from neon-lit central Beijing, and feeling expansive, having noticed just how many American brands are up in lights:

This is just like being in Times Square in New York. Globalisation’s working; it’s getting rid of the enmity; it’s getting rid of the sense that it’s them-and us. We’re all together, we’re one people around the world.

That’s what globalisation’s about – it’s the combining and communications. That we watch the same things on television, that we can all see CNN, we listen to the same music, we watch the same movies.

The American way of life and its sense of freedom and the opportunity to make money is good for citizens of all countries around the world. It’s terrible that there’s so much resentment against the United States today, because it’s the greatest place on earth.

[cue footage of World Trade Centre tumbling down, etc.]

Needless to say, there is no suggestion in the doco that Bakal would resile from a single word of the above, post 9/11. Which, for me anyway, rather suggests that that day’s atrocities, as a wake-up call, still uncomfortably exist in snooze-button land, meaning that the alarm will and must go off all over again, sometime in the future.

Possibly, Bakal’s being effectively cast as the Ugly American from central casting is unfair to the real-life guy. But a snippet of what has to be the latter, real McCoy does emerge in a later vignette.

On the verge of finally doing a long-awaited Big China Deal, Bakal is being told at the last minute that the target – a Chinese tyre factory that has gone broke – is not available for purchase unencumbered: the tyre factory’s management want “in”, too. Specifically, they want first to buy the asset themselves (via a management buy-out) ,and then on-sell it to Bakal and Lee’s cashed-up joint venture.

Bakal – who apparently made most of his money in Eastern Europe in the early 90s, where and when management kleptocracy was all the rage, as long as the Western carpet-bagger got his cut – can’t, for whatever reason, stomach this when it comes to the Chinese:

I don’t think it’s very fair that the management team thinks that they can talk the government into selling [the tyre factory] to them for essentially free, and then sell it to, us for a much higher price . . . We’re going to talk to the government, and stop these guys from trying to be crooks.

I’m at a loss the comprehend Bakal’s sense of morality here. Maybe, a la the Marquis of Queensberry calling Oscar Wilde a “posing [sodomite]”, there’s an important inflection in Bakal’s “trying to be crooks”. As in – no new entrants permitted to our little game.

How very boomer of him– and how nice that, in China at least, Bakal gets done like a dinner.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Who wrote this?

Marriage, fidelity, sexual restraint, and a declared belief in the desirability of heterosexual over homosexual activity are ‘out” as far as the new breed of sex educators are concerned . . . [yet] it is traditional values which offer the best hope of protecting students against AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases.

Hint: while it was co-authored, one co-author is a current Liberal gov’t (Canberra) minister. This person is also starting to resemble Sir Les Patterson, certainly in physical appearance, and perhaps in other ways as well.

Answer in the comments box tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sydney shatters like a Swarovski swan

As noted here last week, NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam is a disgrace.

However, there is one player, or set of players, still more culpable than Debnam – the city’s media. Emboldened since John Brogden’s August suicide attempt – for which the Daily Telegraph plainly had and has blood on its hands – and their deliberate inflaming of racial tensions in the lead-up to the Cronulla pogrom in December, Sydney’s media currently consider themselves indispensable and indestructible. They appear to think that they “own” Peter Debnam outright, while at the same time having a very secure lease over the actual state government.

A vicious spiral has been set in train: the media heavies the pollies who heavy the police leadership who heavy the Lebanese leadership who . . . Where’s it going to end? No idea specifically, but “very badly” seems a reasonable enough general guess.

My only comforting thought: if the Eastern Suburbs get trashed back to their 1788 pristinity, the problem will have quite literally been returned to the front door of its origins: Sydney’s Vile White Male (and the occasional female) media.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Being funny and Left

John Birmingham’s assertion – that political correctness has crippled the Left's sense of humour – contains many odd propositions in support, some of which have been unpicked at LP.

His three poster-heroes for Right humour’s superiority are: US writer P J O'Rourke, US stand-up Sarah Silverman, and an Australian blogger who I vowed long ago to never mention by name (so I won’t here, although Windschuttle-style pedants, ever keen on disproving such sparse assertions by perceived ideological enemies, may be interested to know that I have compromised this vow a couple of times over the years).

P J O'Rourke is undoubtedly of the Right, but I would maintain that he hasn’t been particulary Right when he’s been funny, and vice versa. Putting this another way, O'Rourke was only funny – certainly if you include only original* work – for a brief period in the mid/late-80s. Here, I’m thinking Holidays In Hell which I read, c. 1989 as a final-year uni student, and – believe it or not, didn’t notice at the time as being distinctly Right. Back then, the Right in Australia principally consisted of the New Right (Peter Costello, Michael Kroger, Hugh Mogan et al), and the Newer-than-New Right – aka the Hawke/Keating/Dawkins Labor Party, which had just introduced uni fees. Both such groupings seemed equally remote from my own ideologies (then and now), as well as P J O'Rourke’s comic sensibilities then.

In hindsight, my attraction to O'Rourke’s writing was its power as a nascent anti-boomer gesture (despite of course O'Rourke himself being a boomer (b. 1947)). In the mid/late-80s, Western boomerism and 1960s hippie liberalism were still the same thing for the general public – well, in my own mind, anyway, probably rather sheltered by five years at university. For me to start depising 1960s hippie liberalism in 1989 was in some ways quite a big step, particularly from an ongoing Left commitment, but it was made much easier and logical by the harsh introduction of uni fees on my generation – no “grandfathering” existing students, no scholaships/exemptions (at the time), and not more than a few months notice. This colossal “fuck-off” to my generation, that seemingly came from nowhere, was the first salvo of an inter-generational war (one that is still to really warm up in the West, BTW) – a shot from which, for me, there was no, and never can be any, going back.

As it happened then, P J O'Rourke, however inadvertently and briefly, built a bridge between the boomer Right – then just starting to fully flex their muscle – and Xers, then just starting to realise how fucked-over they were, and how things were only ever going to get worse for the more idealistic of us (Tiananmen, in which young Chinese Xers naively thought that they could use standard 1960s boomer tactics, and live, was also in 1989). From my 2006 Xer POV, however, the boomer Right (aka Reagan’s deputies) and the boomer Left (aka 1960s hippie liberals) are perfect peas-in-pod. And neither are remotely fuckin’ funny – or have anything worthwhile to say whatsoever, for that matter. Strike One, John Birmingham.

Strike Two for Birmingham’s troika is much easier to prove. On one hand, he implicitly dismisses all Australian stand-ups – among whom the great bulk of the “political” ones would be Left-leaning – because “so many . . . are bipolar”, but OTOH he lauds US stand-up Sarah Silverman. Cultural cringe at work here, most definitely, because Silverman herself is on heavy-duty psychiatric meds. (A separate argument is whether Silverman, an Xer, can be considered Right, anyway. Since I’m not familiar with her work, I won’t dwell on this, but I will say that I don’t find “South Park’s” creators’ – also Xers – anti-hippie-liberal sense of humour as presumptively Right).

As far as Strike Three (the unnamed Australian blogger) goes, I’m content to just run through the list that Birmingham provides of the former’s targets-for-hilarity, and divide this list into two groups.

The first sub-group goes:

the ALP, The Age editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan, the ABC, arts grants recipients, John Kerry and Phillip Adams

In case it’s not obvious, the first four are boomer-Left, or organisations dominated by such to varying degrees – i.e. as a Xer Leftie I can safely say I hold them in *more* contempt than just about anyone. Ditto for Phillip Adams, although not a boomer, he is an contemptible millionaire and empty windbag. As is John Kerry, although I reckon that he would have made about a 1% better President than Dubya, had he got up in ’04 (the thing is, that the US couldn’t really afford that 1%, extra sliver of criminal incompetence). Oh, and finally on this list, talking of non-boomer millionaire windbags, comes the Australian blogger himself, who I seem to recall as owning a house in Bondi (hence the millionaire).

The second sub-group goes:

Greenpeace, global warming doom-mongers, grieving war mum Cindy Sheehan, human shields in Baghdad, and clueless pop stars

Here, I have to admit that these aren’t in my “I hate them *more*” bag. While I despise some of Greenpeace’s fund-raising methods, I belive in their basic cause – and science. Ditto “global warming doom-mongers”. Knocking Cindy Sheehan seems just sad, while aren’t “human shields in Baghdad” all so 2002/early ’03? As for clueless pop stars, I prefer to leave such easy targets to the truly skilled, like Dawei, or to those truly grasping for material.

* His Wikipedia entry claims O'Rourke as “an early proponent of gonzo journalism”, citing 1979’s “How to Drive Fast . . . ” article in support. This is ludicrous; not only was gonzo journalism well-established by 1979 (the term itself was first used in 1970), the article in question seems to me highly derivative of the unquestionably seminal gonzo author, Hunter S Thompson.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Michael Connor and terra nullius

For whatever reason, a raft of the Right has recently been peddling the assertion that Tasmanian academic Michael Connor’s new book, The Invention of Terra Nullius has been egregiously ignored. Christopher Pearson* reprised his now almost two-year old claim a few weeks ago, then Gregory Melleuish had a go, and now it is Frank Devine’s turn. Yawn.

At least in the blogosphere, I reckon that Michael Connor’s supposedly startling and new argument was put-down like the mangy dog it was (and is), in mid-2004.





In a nutshell, “terra nullius” indeed was a phrase not in use in the 18th or early-mid 19th centuries. But it is equally undeniable that the legal basis of Australian settlement was (and largely still is) that the Indigenous inhabitants had no property rights whatsoever – an understanding that persisted until 1992’s Mabo case, which recognized some limited Indigenous property rights.

All Michael Connor has done, in his 2004 article and now book, is to pimp-up some throwaway (and needlessly offensive) remarks in 1993 by Sir Harry Gibbs, retired Chief Justice of Australia:

"Australia was certainly not unoccupied in 1788 but it is another thing to say that the social organisation of the Aboriginal inhabitants was of a kind which the nations of Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries recognised as civilised."

While Gibbs then immediately took a step back:

"Of course, the High Court understood the full extent of the common law principles, but public understanding is not assisted when those principles are described by a phrase which is misleading and perhaps emotive"**,

Michael Connor has decided that the High Court, as well as virtually Australia’s entire history profession, are active saboteurs of the “public understanding”, and only he can set things right. What a fruit-loop.

* Christopher Pearson, "History in the making", Australian 3 Dec 2005 (no URL)

** M A Stephenson and Suri Ratnapala (eds), Mabo: A Judicial Revolution (UQP 1993) xiv (Foreword by Harry Gibbs).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Peter Debnam and the race card

This sorry issue seems to have plenty of fuel left to burn yet.

On one hand, today saw what appears to be a fairly blatant instance of White favouritism, with this 33 y.o. Anglo guy getting bail. Ironically enough, in mid-December:

Opposition leader Peter Debnam said the Government needed to act decisively to ensure bail was refused to anyone involved in the riots.

So Debnam’s words are good enough to see this non-Anglo *16* y.o. guy refused bail, over what appears to be mainly a matter of property damage (although the driver of a car whose windscreen was smashed did sustain minor cuts to his arm).

Meanwhile, this evening’s “Today Tonight” and “A Current Affair” programs both led with video footage apparently showing young men of middle-Eastern appearance bashing an Anglo-looking man at the so–called “revenge attacks” on the evening of December 12 (a day after the Cronulla riot). The gist of both programs was, in a PR coup for Peter Debnam, that police had for weeks withheld this video footage – which showed about ten perpetrators, none of which have apparently yet been arrested – out of ethnic sensitivity, or some other murky motive.

Not sure if someone has made this point in the discussions of Debnam’s intemperate baiting at Larvatus Prodeo or Catallaxy, but I reckon another reason that Debnam is ludicrously wrong-headed is that almost all the “revenge attack” crime concerned property damage only (the video footage shown tonight being very much the exception).

Compared to the random attempted murder of anyone with dark skin, car windscreens and panels are pretty small beer. Plus the location the damage mostly happened – Maroubra, where any freestanding house costs at least $1m – makes me heart bleed for the afflicted, NOT.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rationally pricing residential air-conditioning

Overheard in a Fitzroy side-street:

“I fuckin’ hate it! I’ve spent all my life in Wodonga, and never had air-conditioning, and Wodonga’s way hotter than fuckin’ Melbourne!"

- one 20-something guy to another, when a couples of houses away from their front door.

The last decade or so has seen the air-conditioning of residential premises hit the mass-market in my home-town of Melbourne. This fact seems much more to do with changes in building design*, and possibly other factors, than any change in Melbourne’s climate.

Like most of Australia, Melbourne does have at least a handful of stinking hot days most years – days on which the chill blast of an air-conditioner at home would feel damn sweet. Even on these days, though, I find that effective relief from the heat can be had through a fan – as possibly aided by my living in a reasonably-designed building (a building in Australia qualifies for this by, at the very least, having no west-facing windows, unless such are heavily-shaded).

Fans use much less electricity than air-conditioners. I also find them healthier, overall, particularly for extended use. When I lived in Darwin a decade ago, while there was an air-conditioner installed, I only used it once or twice a year. My ceiling fans, OTOH, ran whenever I was home, and all windows and doors were usually open, for maximum natural ventilation.

Connected with the rise of the mass-market air-conditioning is the burgeoning power demand, in Victoria, on summer’s hottest days. The inherent nature of electricity supply means that considerable extra capital must be invested in power generation just to cope with the peak demand of a few days per year. Otherwise, the whole grid will fail – with much more serious consequences, of course, than those with air-conditioning installed simply being unable to use it.

I find such a scenario economically perverse – for, like that above-quoted speaker, I reckon that residential air-conditioning is almost always an exemplary, stupid and profligate luxury. I’m guessing that the above speaker was bitching about a shared power bill, and since I live alone, I am not saddled with someone else’s externality as directly as he. However, as a non-air-conditioning** consumer of electricity , I’m still unhappy about the extent of my cross-subsidy of the population at large. Overall electricity prices would/should be significantly less, if air-conditioning power supply – especially on peak/hot days – was rationally priced; that is, priced at its true extra marginal cost.

Logistically, this seems a tall order, so my suggested alternative solution is an air-conditioner license/tax, of say $500 annually per unit. While it wouldn’t be the easiest tax to enforce, next-door neighbour spies, like me, would have a natural incentive to dob in unlicensed air-conditioners. Such a license system also would be fairer that a sales-tax on new air-conditioners. Also, by applying equally to new and old air-conditioners, it would avoid creating a sales-tax-avoiding black-market in new air-conditioners.

The money raised by the air-conditioner license/tax would be reserved for capital expenditure to provide for peak power days. If the pool of funds proves insufficient for this, the license quantum should, of course, be raised. Either way, the days of cross-subsidisation would end.

* “McMansions” – new, large houses on small blocks – have a fair bit to do with this. As well as air-conditioning throughout being de riguer in such houses, their design – which necessarily entails large windows front and back – could not be more hot-box creating.

** Disclosure: I have an (old and clunky) air-conditioner fitted in my (rented) bedroom, which I have very occasionally used – at God know what cost to the atmosphere, not to mention my own respiratory system. If the license/tax came in, I would be delighted to get rid of the thing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Geoff Gallop, depression, and taking “the cure”

It's just amazing that there was nothing that remotely suggested it”, says David Black, aka “the man who later occupied Gallop's former academic post at Murdoch University's politics faculty”.

Err, if I lived in as small and incestuous a world as Geoff Gallop apparently did/does, I’d want out, too. Since when are university jobs “academic posts” – i.e. sinecures handed down from above to a chosen, inter-connected few? Oh, (again) silly me – the 54 y.o. Gallop lives in boomer-land, where everything comes on a platter.

But this isn’t to say that life atop the greasy pole can’t get just a bit too smooth. Here, Gallop's youthful Oxford friendship with future British PM Tony Blair may provide a cautionary tale. Blair is probably the slipperiest – greedy (for both power and $) and cynical (pseudo-Left, yet pro-Bush) – boomer alive today, so poor old Geoff must have felt rather left behind in the dust, in life’s inescapable game of Male Comparison (aka My Iraq-fucking tool’s bigger than Yours). Geoff’s woes here would have been heightened by the fact that all he really had to do as WA Premier was to sit back and count the dollars, as large bits of his state were dug up and shipped to China.

Harsh? Possibly. Then again, the seeds of Gallop's buckling could have been sewn long ago – at Oxford, in the early-mid 1970s. Not only did this stint mean that the then far-Leftie missed most of Gough’s rein back in Oz, but there was also the still-apparently unresolved issue of whether Geoff was usher (same URL) or one of the groomsmen at Tony Blair’s wedding. In class-conscious Britain, this no doubt kept the young Geoff secretly awake at night, nursing a nagging doubt that possibly continues to this day.

Anyway, another fact that caught my eye here was that Gallop's doctor had prescribed “rest”. Which clearly means doing no work at all – like co-boomer Mark Latham before him, Gallop has resigned on medical grounds without even trying a “light duties” compromise; viz resigning as leader, but staying on as MP, at least for a while.

I found/find this decision odd in Latham’s case, and odder still in Gallop's. Latham, who AFAICT hasn’t worked a day in the last year, has backed himself into a medical corner that screams (to me, anyway) “malingering bludger”. (Of course, he is quite legally entitled to his generous retirement pension at any age, and independent of any illness – but the court of public opinion might see things differently). Whatever the severity of Latham’s illness, the nature of Gallop's condition surely indicates that he has made a mistake by going “cold-turkey” on work.

Apart from not at least trying a “light duties” option, Gallop has also foregone the Just Nonchalantly Retire At 54 possibility. At this age, the court of public opinion would be considerably more forgiving than in Latham’s case (who retired at 43). Again though, Gallop may have felt himself snookered by a peer – in this case Bob Carr – and so unable to favorably compare and compete. Carr, after all, has recently set the bar of Nonchalant Political Retirement in One's Mid-50's very high indeed – if one hasn’t got a cushy private-sector post within weeks of “retiring”, one is a wimp. And for poor Geoff, hammered by depression, lining up such a role probably would have taken months.

Which is a shame, all in all, because *some* work seems to me to be the best cure for depression there is. See also the discussion on this at Larvatus Prodeo.

Finally, in case it needs to be said, don’t be offended by my flippant tone – I know what I’m talking about on this issue. The same can’t be said, however, for The Age, which managed to juxtapose messages of Gallop's self-outing being another positive, de-stigmatising notch for the depression-afflicted, with this headline: WA Premier quits to battle depression demon. A case of the sub-editor gunning for “depression succubus”, only to defeated from above by a more-PC medieval phrase?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Good paparazzo, bad paparazzo

"[E]verything I say is a fact” says veteran paparazzo Peter Carette – the ponytailed (ewwww!) boomer seen around the globe in the Heath Ledger water-pistol incident on the weekend.

Oh really? Then what about this nasty piece of cynical – presumably dollar-driven – photo miscaptioning by Carette.

Puzzlingly, no one else seems to be pointing out this recent lie, nor indeed Carette’s near four decades of form as a recurring sociopath.

Stalking the cancer-stricken Delta Goodrem in 2003 for the chemo "money shot" is far from Carette’s lowest moment. Indeed, given that his agency only got a relatively paltry – paltry, that is, if you’re a boomer – $3000, I’m sure that Carette himself wouldn’t disagree here.

Money-wise, Carette’s most lucrative job was, according to his own report, through his being the first photographer to snap the 1980s Grenada invasion – shots of “Americans being shot down and stuff like that”, as he quipped on radio last year.

In terms of fame/infamy though, it would have to be the young (born c. 1948) Carette’s 1969 shot of a comatose Marianne Faithfull lying in a hospital bed after a drug overdose, that is still his crowning achievement. Carette obtained this shot by impersonating a doctor. His only regret appears to be that his role was as a mere sub-contractor for another photographer, who got paid $18,000 (1969 dollars) in the escapade. From this Carrette himself only received $2000 – in 2006 Sydney house price terms, that’s about $100k, but nonetheless he claims to have been "ripped off shitless" (same URL). Diddums – but maybe not. Only a few months after his "ripped off" rumination, Carrette was boasting of having made “a lot of money . . . probably 30 or 40 000 dollars” from the Marianne Faithfull shot.

These post Diana-death days however, money and morality calculations are fortunately much simpler for the man. Carette sniffily dismisses the paparazzi who placed a listening device outside Nicole Kidman’s home last year, and their ilk, as “a new breed” of “opportunists with cameras” who “see this business as a way of making money”, as opposed to “legitimate staff, working married-gentlemen photographers . . . being paid a day rate by the ABC or The Australian”. (Translation: the latter are in a morally superior class to the former. Even though Carrette’s own role is much closer to the former than the latter, the latter are infinitely more respectable, by virtue of being a 100% boomer closed-shop. Thus, unconcerned for his future, re his post-Heath Ledger incident red-carpet ban, Carrette mocks: "They [the movie industry] need us more than we need them". Oh yeah, silly me – there’s apparently a worldwide shortage of people who can (i) operate a camera, in return for (ii) several thousand dollars per snap.)

The inconsistencies don’t end there. Despite being thrown out of the journalists' union because of his tactics for obtaining the shot of Marianne Faithfull, Carrette’s career seems never to have seriously stalled. Not only does he support orphanages in Cambodia (!), he's on excellent terms with slebs like Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts and Russell Crowe (same URL), as well as having “grown up with [actor Jack Thompson’s] son Patrick and Noah Taylor and all those kids”. (Note here that boomers, by my age reckoning, thus apparently “grow up” in their 40s.)

“Growing up” also brings us back to the Heath Ledger incident, which seems to have involved Carette and two other photographers – Pierre Smithdorf and Guy Finlay – acting in concert. From subsequent interviews, the specific reason for the trio’s action was the conduct of Heath Ledger towards Guy Finlay at another red-carpet event in Sydney last year. What happened there is unclear, but the absence of any charges being laid must now be considered the over-arching fact.

What’s still-puzzling though, is Carrette’s good-snapper/bad snapper personality. On one hand, he has said – and I have no reason to doubt it – that he’s friendly, inter alia, with a broad cross-section of the Sydney-LA Young Australian Actor scene. OTOH, there’s (leaving the Marianne Faithfull case aside as ancient history), his distinctly unfriendly relations with Goodrem and Ledger. What gives?

Okay, Delta – but less so Heath – is plainly not in Nicole Kidman or Russell Crowe’s league. My own theory of Carrette’s disconnect though, has nothing to do with this. Simply put, the man’s a hospital/illness-attracted obsessive-compulsive. Which nicely explains the 2003 Goodrem stalking (as well as that of Marianne Faithfull, FWIW). But what about healthy Heath?

In a nutshell, Heath Ledger’s no short-fused Russell Crowe. Rather, as watching Ledger’s body language – fidgety and always avoiding eye-contact – in *any* interview makes plain, the guy’s got mild autism/Asperger’s. So what, I reckon, but cue the wet-dream-of-celebrities-caught-moonlighting-in-a-medical-encyclopedia Peter Carrette. Celebrity? Ma-a-a-ate, says Carrette. But celebrity with a medical condition, major or minor? “Payday for me, you little ‘dirty junkie’” says Carrette.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Politicians who have to go, I and II

I: PM John Howard, for crimes against free speech

No, I’m not referring to the new sedition laws, et al (though of course they’re a threat to free speech), but to something more recent, more peremptory, and altogether nastier:


Do you support Greenpeace’s presence there [in the vicinity of Japanese whalers]?


I think people have a right to express their view providing it is lawful, providing it is not provocative and provided it is not dangerous.

“Not provocative” may well be his own private mantra, and secret of political longevity. As a formula for guiding legal protest – or reporting – however, it is sickening in its authoritarianism. For a long time, an Australian consensus was that a husband beating up his wife was legally neutral, because she must have provoked him. Now Howard, master dogwhistler of the Sydney white trash that keep him in power, seems keen to resurrect this pandering argument in a new context: violence against the Left is fine; they provoke(d) it (“With their big words, and that”), after all.

II: Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon, for lying

This report makes things pretty back-and-white, without, for whatever reason, saying outright that Lennon is a liar. While some media reports have highlighted the Lennon affair as a proxy fight between Murdoch (News Ltd) and Packer (Nine, Betfair, Crown), this theory doesn’t explain (i) why News Ltd is actually going softly on the story overall at the moment (look at this Editorial in today’s Oz), nor (ii) why Fairfax is hardly covering it at all (there’s nothing in today’s Age or SMH, although a relatively mundane explanation for this might be that Fairfax – in employee profile, a boomer sepulchre – regards journalism being about covering the pissy traffic misdemeanors of footballers, rather than oh, getting to the bottom of corrupt politicians).

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What’s eating John Heard?

I reckon I’m probably the most qualified person on the planet to look under John’s bonnet, as it were – at first blush, we share so much. We’re both: country Vic boys raised as Catholics, who studied arts/law at Melbourne Uni while living at Newman College for part of this. And we’re both gay, as well as being the type of writer-blogger with probably more than the usual measure of pet dogma and high-horsery.

Indeed, illustrating one of my own favorite crank-isms – that in Australia, one’s age-group is a more powerful force of identity and bonding than anything else, is that, despite the above similarities, myself and John are polar opposites in everything else. (I’m 41, John’s 24)

Accordingly, I’ve constructed a handy compare’n’contrast table, below.

Monolithic, authoritarian bete noir

John Heard: Secular/activist gays

Paul Watson: The Vatican

Most depised age group

John Heard: Gen X (b. ~ 1963-78)

Paul Watson: Boomers (b. 1946-~61)

Idea of sexual morality

John Heard: Confess after having gay sex, in absolutely any context

Paul Watson: (Gay) sex that hurts neither self nor anyone else needs no remorse or forgiveness

What’s nobody else’s business, except maybe close friends’

John Heard: My bedroom antics

Paul Watson: My religious beliefs

What I hate being flaunted

John Heard: (other gays’) Bedroom antics

Paul Watson: Religious beliefs

Ideological compass

John Heard: Anti-Enlightenment (= pro-boomer)

Paul Watson: Enlightenment (= anti-boomer)

Fashion sense

John Heard: White-trash Cronullan 20-something in his Sunday best

Paul Watson: White-trash Cronullan Xer – think Glen Steele – but with (slightly) less hairy back

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The bitch is back! There’s also a new look, which unfortunately has sent all old comments to a better place. (If you’re curious, and quick, they should be in Google’s cache for a bit longer.)

For those wondering why I gave up blogging in Nov 04, I long thought that my explanation – immediately below – was clear enough. But maybe not – only now does it appear that many Americans realize just how deeply they have voted themselves (and therefore the rest of the West, right down to little old me) into a corrupt, anything-goes nightmare.

And appropriately enough, I’ve spent much of the last year wandering the corridors of some demented, endless Pentagon – metaphorically speaking.

Only since yesterday have I had a sense of business as usual: back on the dole, finally (after almost three months of absolutely no income). The waiting period was due to a few-thou insurance payout in mid-05, for my near-totalled car, which put me in the same financial league as someone with a quarter-mil in the bank, according to Centrelink. Nice one. If I had the year all over again, I would have been thousands of dollars richer, had I simply not worked (casual teaching at uni) for just a few hours for one week per semester. This small difference would have meant that I didn’t have to reapply for the dole from scratch in Oct 05, in which case the insurance payout would have had no material impact.

So here I am – poor, bitter and ready to rumble. Since I’ve inadvertently saved the boomer overlords of Australia so much money, I feel entitled to now tear strips off any and all of them, piece by piece.

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