Wednesday, March 31, 2004

A tale of two sub-editors

"Baby boomers, you're living on borrowed time" and "The sorry plight of the affluent but confused baby boomer" are the two quite different titles given to an identical Op Ed piece by Ross Gittins in today's SMH and Age.

For basic sub-editorial concision and elegance, the SMH's version is much preferable. Gittins' main point - that today's boomer affluence is closely intertwined with decades of easy credit - is a valid one. However, as to whether the current preferred method of boomer credit bingeing - using asset price inflation to fund consumption - is sustainable, Gittins is merely equivocal.

Earth to Gittins - the looming crisis is not about whether boomers will be able to get used to living on "only" $20,000 p.a., or whatever. This is a completely boomer-centric view, that from any other perspective, looks unrealistically sanguine. The boomers "have lived lives of indulgence " "compared with previous generations". Err, whatever, Ross. What counts now, and for the next few decades, is the wealth that the boomers have built-up compared with subsequent generations. GenX has had the same easy-credit opportunities in theory, but of course their wealth ladder has operated very differently (mainly because of un- or McJob- employment, and tertiary education being a large net drain on lifetime earnings).

The easy-credit tie-in is ultimately a red-herring, or at most of historical interest only. What boomers really should be worrying about, as they head into retirement, is placating the over-educated GenX underclass, as it heads into middle-age.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Media Watch pilfers from – again

It’s definitely a slow news day, so I was going to just write a simple post on this item from last night’s Media Watch, and how it made me not sorry to have recently cancelled my subscription to the Oz. In future, Greg Sheridan should be given a more appropriate forum in which he can vent forth – something similar to Andrew Bolt’s “column” (= delusional rantings) in a lowbrow tabloid would be a suitable such place, I imagine.

In Googling to write that story (simply to find the offending URL, which Media Watch’s website religiously refuses to provide), I quite accidentally came across this, bigger story – Media Watch’s Greg Sheridan story ran on “Crikey”, in full and a whole ten days earlier. No attribution was given by Media Watch to Crikey, or anyone else.

Given that this is the second time such pilfering has occurred – and from the same source, to boot – it is now time for Media Watch to take decisive action. Over to you, David Marr.

(A copy of this post has been emailed to Media Watch and Crikey)

Update 2 April 2004

No reply has been received from Media Watch to date. After this further sniping by Greg Sheridan (scroll to near end), however, the MW team must now be squirming about the office. No doubt this collective grinding of arses into chair-seats is the most activity the MW office has seen for a while. Certainly, getting up off their arses and doing some research doesn’t seem to have been a job requirement lately.

After this latest Greg Sheridan innings, I’ll leave it mostly to my readers to tote up for themselves the actual score in the underlying and increasingly-complex “He said/He said” game.

I will observe, though, that Sheridan’s defence: “My opinion page column on March 18 involved no inverted commas and did not purport to contain direct quotes” (same URL) while technically true, flies in the face of an ordinary reader’s (= mine, for starters) interpretation. The offending words, given their own stand-alone paragraph in the March 18 article, read thus:

How ridiculous, replied McCutcheon. Nobody says that.

In fairness, then, I think that Sheridan deserved every bit of his pasting on “Crikey”. If he wants to avoid future such run-ins, he just needs to write in ordinary prose, and not construct an almost-invisible semantic tripwire.

On the other hand, Media Watch’s considerable resources, and especially its being within the same media organisation as the McCutcheon program, mean that MW now has a double-serve of egg on its face. MW pilfered the “Crikey” story, and then did not even do elementary checking of it, either with Sheridan or with McCutcheon/his producer.

What’s that you’re saying, David Marr? You reckon “Crikey” should have done the checking, as well as writing your story for you?

Monday, March 29, 2004

The gaming industry - not letting its curtains fade

The end of daylight saving gives most people a bonus - an extra hour of sleep. However, spare a thought for the thousands of workers who were on the job at Melbourne's casino at 1:59 am on Sunday morning. When the clock hit 2:00 am Sunday, it also hit 1:00 am, as a result of the law's deeming of the exact moment daylight saving takes effect from. These workers do not get paid anything for working this extra hour. According to the casino, this is because they didn't - shift hours are measured only by reference to the legal time at the start and end of each shift (and very few night shifts end at 2:00 am, or earlier, of course).

Sophistry? Certainly; but I would have thought "low-down and scum-sucking" would be better words to describe the actions of a hugely-profitable employer that expects its employees to work for free for one hour each year.

But appeals to reason and basic human decency are not exactly the gaming industry's strong point. Today we have this reminder of the extent of the industry's influence and power of degradation. The headline "Once you start censoring, you just can't stop" is way too mild. What has happened is not "censorship" - as in the overreach of power by petty bureaucrats - but a fundamentalist, wholesale rewriting of history, such as happens in the classrooms of Saudi Arabia.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Is comedy a commodity?

Having recently seen a couple of Melbourne Comedy Festival shows, it strikes me that audiences are just not sure what they want out of comedy anymore – and therefore comedians are either treading (too) gingerly, or are just plain-out oblivious. Neither of which attitude resolves anything, of course.

Going in to see “Finding Lehmo”, I’d had a shit of a day at work, and just needed to laugh. It could have been an anonymous, random transaction (I’d got comp tix thru the street press), but it wasn’t – I’d seen Lehmo a few times before, and so already knew that he was going to deliver the goods. Occasional previous familiarity in comedy – but not sex – does act as a pretty effective Warranty of Quality. As to the point at which the familiarity becomes excessive, I’m really not sure. The enduring mass popularity of Dave Hughes, for example, seems closely related to his predictability – if not in terms of material, then certainly in character. I don’t think that Lehmo is ever going to be this sort of pure commodity comic, but that’s a relief for me. The more marriage-like the comedian-audience relationship becomes, the more the whole thing is just a repetition/compulsion disorder, for both sides.

Lehmo is a gifted yarn-teller and an excellent thinker on his feet (a drunk, blond female from his high-school past stumbled in late, sat in the front row, and proceeded to announce her connection to Lehmo with a stalker-like glint). However, Lehmo doesn’t (or at least didn’t on that night) have the knack of delivering That Which the Audience Wants Without Really Knowing What it is They Want. Translation: I laughed like a hyena on helium, but in that, I was pretty much alone.

A night later, it was an expedition into the unfamiliar, again courtesy of some comp tix. Be afraid, be very afraid when a comedy show’s subtitle is “Probably post modern”. "On Wild Duck” (Asher Treleaven and Derek Ives) did not, as it turned out, commit the error of Excessive Display of Arts Student Angst. When The Audience Knows Not What it is That They Want, novice performers* might as well flick the switch to cerebral vaudeville. Not every skit worked, but with live animals (well, one of) on stage, and some pretty robust audience interaction (see show description for clue here), the result is a self-producing performer’s insurance nightmare. Translation: It’s different, or in insurance jargon, it’s unassessable. You’ll leave wanting more of them – more of the same them (if that makes sense).

* I hadn’t seen, or heard of, these guys before.

Friday, March 26, 2004

RIP Kurt Cobain

With the tenth anniversary of the great lyricist and composer’s death fast approaching, the usual swag of anniversary events have already begun. I’m not ready to see this one at the moment, coz crying in public is just so-o-o embarrassing (especially when at one of Melbourne’s most pretentious cafes).

There was also a good doco on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on SBS the other night. Personally, give me “Lithium” over “Teen Spirit”, any day.

But that’s all right, too – some take the Meseglise Way, others the Guermantes.

Update 27 March 2004

Last night I was thinking about the lyrics to “Lithium” – specifically whether one could call it a song of religious ecstasy (which, if it was, would probably make it the first one of any note written in English for hundreds of years). By “religious” I don’t mean to connote any specific deity or even anything necessarily theistic (although the song does mention god/God). As for “ecstasy” – believe it or not, kiddies, this word once had a quite salubrious meaning, before it became the street name for MDMA in the mid-80s. And despite “Lithium”, of course, being literally about a drug high, I’m still clinging on to the older meaning of “ecstasy” here.

Today, the Herald-Sun ran its tenth anniversary story, and couldn’t help but give it a nasty, tabloid tweak:

Greasy hair, torn flannelette shirts and a no-care attitude were all the rage. Everything was society's fault and no one wanted to be a part of it any more. "Load up on guns and bring your friends, it's fun to lose and to pretend," opening lines of Smells Like Teen Spirit, became the mantra of the new wave of introspection.

Err, Patrick O'Neil, you’re almost certainly too young to remember this, but as “youth reporter”, you should really have done your homework. Popular music does came have a definitive "Load up on guns”-and-fuck-society type track, but it came almost a full decade before “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – whose lyrics you grievously misconstrue, in any case. The lyrics of Pink Floyd’s “The Final Cut” (1983) are a bleak, but fitting-enough tribute to the first four years of our current age, that of Reagan/Thatcher fundamentalism:

If you negotiate the minefield in the drive
And beat the dogs and cheat the cold electronic eyes
And if you make it past the shotgun in the hall,
Dial the combination, open the priesthole
And if I'm in I'll tell you what's behind the wall.

There's a kid who had a big hallucination
Making love to girls in magazines.
He wonders if you're sleeping with your new found faith.
Could anybody love him
Or is it just a crazy dream?

And if I show you my dark side
Will you still hold me tonight?
And if I open my heart to you
And show you my weak side
What would you do?
Would you sell your story to Rolling Stone?

Now that’s what I call an anthem of a generation.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Go Monash students!

For the second time this week, students at Melbourne’s Monash University have staged a sit-in. It is time that the Monash administration now listened to them – or resigned en masse, and handed over to someone who will.

The justice of the Monash students’ case is incontrovertible. Since HECS fees were introduced 16 years ago, they have inexorably ratcheted up, while the quality of service delivered at public universities has plummeted.

Where has the money gone, then? For starters, it has been squandered by administrations on ill-fated ventures like overseas campuses, white elephant software, and online-learning black holes. Also, as the alienation (a la Marx) truly set in, the upper echelons entered their debauched phase – their offices were refurbished as though they were private sector executives, and their pay packets adjusted accordingly. To their discredit, most academic staff colluded in this process.

Make no mistake about it – Australia’s public universities have been run for the last decade or so in the exact way a tin-pot dictator runs a third-world country. There has been an obscene mal-allocation of resources, with the collective wealth of a university being used almost exclusively to benefit a select, tiny few. There is not a single Australian public university that can be considered exempt from this charge, AFAIK.

The rationale of Monash’s (and just about every other uni’s) administration for the latest ratcheting-up of HECS is a lie – and for professionals who are supposedly in the business of furthering truth and knowledge, a contemptible lie. The extra money raised will of course be squandered – just like the rest of the money has been – rather than spent on improving the quality of service offered to students.

As a sessional academic, I deal with the fall-out from this squandering every day. In my area, over 50% of the students are full-fee paying international ones. You might think, then, that the course as a whole would be well-resourced. Not a chance. Like a junkie who begs for loose change, my department is a pathetic sack of shit to look at – unbelievable amounts are funnelled into its arteries, but in the public-eye and the classroom, it’s a poor-me mendicant.

This has got to change.

Ethicists, on dolebludging and gambling

The job title "ethicist", when applied outside academia, is one that seems to have only come into existence in recent years, a similar situation to that of "depreciation advisor/specialist". With both new types of professionals (to use that word loosely), there appears to be no peak body governing standards, etc. Perhaps an Institute of Ethicists, to police ethics among ethicists, is redundant strictly-speaking. But based on this tawdry piece of crap, written by self-described ethicists, Rufus Black and Hayden Ramsay, the evidence appears otherwise:

Gambling can contribute to the enrichment of individual and community life. There are clear principles, which, if followed, would make that contribution reasonable. If both conclusions hold, then the provision of gambling can be an ethical business. A gambling industry that took itself seriously could undo the harm done and discover its real potential to contribute to human fulfilment and the common good.

Err, Rufus and Hayden, I think the fact that you were paid for your words by gambling giant Tattersalls more than adequately indicates that gambling industry already takes itself seriously, very seriously. I don't know anything of Hayden Ramsay, but I went to law school with Rufus Black and it is disappointing to see a once-promising Gen Xer reduced to churning out meritricious nonsense. I trust that you'll now pour all your Tattersalls wages into their own poker machines - and thus do you own bit for "human fulfilment and the common good", eh Rufus? Or even take a walk-of-discovery around Melbourne's casino, jam-packed at 5 am, and take in the sense of "community" there and then - oh yeah.

On the other hand, not all ethicists are out-and-out whores of Moloch. Neil Levy has written this elegant defence of dolebludging - and even manged to incorporate a financial disclosure into it, without any hint of his own ethics being compromised. Yes, Neil was once on the dole himself.

So get thee to a Centrelink, Rufus Black and Hayden Ramsay - boys, you aint no "ethicist" until you've queued for hours just to eat some humble pie. And then done this again and again and again.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

QUT, where old hacks go off to die – as heads of school

Today’s Oz Higher Ed supplement has an interesting snippet in its misleadingly-titled section, “Musical Chairs”. The title is inapt firstly because the regular column, which briefly notes senior academic appointments, carries very regular reports of appointments made from outside academia – in fact all three of today’s news-makers fit this bill (two outsiders going in as heads of school, and one as associate professor). The title is also misleading because it fails to report senior academic departures – many of which, of course, are not replaced, thus making the “Musical Chairs” perhaps apt in a dark and Freudian sense, but certainly not in the cosy-game-of swapping-jobs sense the Oz presumably intends.

But this isn’t to say that there aren’t cosy games being played in the upper echelons of Australian academia today. Previously knowing a bit about one of today’s new jobs-getters, Geoff Portmann, I was intrigued to read that QUT have just hired him as head of film and television. You can read Portmann’s CV here (Note that for the vast bulk of programs listed, in which he claims “Executive Producer” credit only, that this is essentially an honorary credit, reflecting the fact the Portmann held the role of Head of Comedy at ABC TV for many years or even decades – I am not sure in what year after joining the ABC in 1974 Portmann was bestowed with his title).

A credit noticeably unclaimed by Portmann, though, is his leading role in very nearly scuttling the hit comedy "Kath and Kim" in April 2001.

In true boomer style, somehow Portmann managed to ride out this fiasco, holding on to his position for another 18 months. Also in true boomer style, by the time he finally left Portmann had made sure that he was the last person to hold the moniker “Head of Comedy, ABC TV” – the “restructure” necessary to get him to go was so expensive that the ABC had to dip into money intended for today’s and tomorrow’s comedy developers to pay off a tired old hack.

With no Head of Comedy at ABC TV since late 2002, you can hardly say today that there’s been a noticeable drop-off since, but (i) Portmann’s departure alone would have sent the old Comedy Index soaring, and (ii) the jury’s still out on whether Oz comedy has a long-term future at the ABC*. There’s nothing quite like dragging the whole ship under with you when you go down, is there Geoff?

Anyway, now that QUT have got him, I hope that they’re stuck with him, and for another 30 years or so. The smarter film and television students will immediately discern the Eau-de-Sinking-Ship odour given out by Portmann’s arrival, and jump accordingly. Meaning that Geoff Portmann won’t be nobbling any brilliant careers this time around – just taking a taxpayer-funded institution for a ride. Nor, sadly, is this giving-a-shonk/hack-the red-carpet treatment exactly out of character for QUT recently.

* For example, ABC is not televising this years “Raw Comedy” national grand final, for the first time since the event’s inception a decade ago.

The Melbourne International Controversy Festival

Melbourne's annual Comedy Festival gets to be a ever-tamer event, year after year. Or maybe it's just that I'm getting old. Bitterness and comedy used to co-exist perfectly in my life. Now that comedy - as it seems, for now - has left the building, will I be able to survive on a diet of pure, raw bitterness? We'll see.

Anyway, when you look at this year's Ye Olde, semi-compulsory de-Grooting of the Comedy Festival - that is, the act whose straw-clutching attempt at publicity is through Controversy - you get this pathetic effort, from one Sue Ingleton. A woman in comedy? In 2004, a blunt knife has more angle. A grandmother in comedy, then? More angle, yes, but equally one inclined to scare off the punters (who, being almost entirely GenX, were the last generation to have Really Scary Grandfolk - boomers' parents don't count of course, because the grandfolk of today's teens were tamed and cowered by their offspring during the 1970s). A comedian grandmother, big in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, but in more recent decades having kept a low profile in Byron Bay and Malaysia? Now that's more like it - it sounds like a pitch-perfect parody of a washed-up baby boomer. Trouble is, though, Sue Ingleton is real.

Which means that she just can't help herself from being a walking parody, particularly when off-stage. Last week she was slagging off against the mediocrity of the Playbox (a heavily-subsidised theatre company) audience. Which would all be fine and fair criticism, Sue - you are hardly the first to observe that subsidised theatre often leads to Safe Theatre - if you hadn't just spent years on the taxpayer teat yourself, courtesy of an Asialink residency in Malaysia.

This week, Ingleton's controversy grab is to do with TV program "The Glasshouse":

I watched "The Glasshouse" (ABC) the other night because Jean Kittson was on, and she sat there with her jaw open being incredibly polite in the face of abysmal television. The presenters read off the autocue, which I think is abysmal. Dave Hughes is a very funny boy, but I don't have any character to put to Wil (Anderson). The script he was reading off the autocue all night was all about penises and their size.

You're superb, Sue, at playing the sterotypical bitching baby boomer. A show is condemned because its presenters (or at least one of them) use the autocue - who would have thought? Oh, and the guy tells dick jokes, too. How very male of him. (Hint: being male might be the elusive "character" thing about Wil that you've been so far unable to pin down, Sue).

Well, at least Wil Anderson tells jokes, Sue. It's a lot better than being one, without realising it.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Give baby boomer housing investors still more tax breaks . . .

. . . seems to be the main suggestion of 62 y.o. Professor Allan Fels, on how to solve the current dearth of affordable housing (either rented or bought) for GenX.

Go figure. As two other academics have recently pointed out, the current house price bubble has one chief cause: negative gearing [which] is an inequitable baby-boomer tax break*.

But baby boomers, and GenX for that matter, don?t even figure in Fels? analysis. Never mind that home-ownership/buying rates for GenX have plummeted in the last 15 years ? Fels? implication is that this is either a positive, or at worst, neutral thing. Restoring GenX home-ownership rates to their long-term average (= that of his and the boomer generations) would involve ?middle-class welfare?, and so it simply can?t be done. And what a shocking rort for GenX the $7,000 first-home buyers grant has apparently been is said to prove Fels' case.

Actually, to be perfectly honest, you can take the $7,000 away, Allan ? I really don?t care, and I doubt I'm ever gonna get to use it personally. It?s such a pissy amount ? from next year, less than what the average uni student will pay for sitting on the floor in an over-crowded classroom for a year ? that?s it?s not even worth arguing about. ?Middle-class welfare?? Yeah, whatever. I?m sure that some soup kitchens are secret five-star restaurants too ? so it?s best we shut them all down now, to be on the safe side, eh Allan?

What Fels is really on about, of course, is ratifying the emerging status quo ? in which the average baby boomer owns 2 houses and the average GenXer, zero. Gee, that?s a nice little recipe for social cohesion, Allan ? boomer landlords and their GenX tenants for life.

* Judith Cockburn-Campbell and Robert Leeson ?The negative legacy of a baby-boomer tax break? AFR 18 March 2004 (no URL)

Update 23 March 2004

Today's AFR front page has a story on how the depreciation rules on investment residential property might soon be brought back into line*. It's about time, too - specialists in rorting depreciation have lead to what is probably the biggest-sized tax avoidance industry since the Bottom-of-the Harbour days of the late 1970s. Unwisely, I would have thought, some of these specialists are quoted in Fin story, screaming like stuck pigs. At least the ATO shouldn't have to put on aqua-lungs when it comes to raiding this lot of shonks.

* Robert Harley "ATO targets property tax breaks" AFR 23 March 2004 (no URL)

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Understatement of the week

The rising generation are not full of admiration for the baby boomers. He [Mark Latham] is another middle-aged baby boomer says Hugh Mackay.

Typically though, Mackay is a decade or more out on just who constitute “the rising generation”. Spoken to anyone in their thirties lately, Hugh?

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Did Mark Latham’s family commit welfare fraud?

For a start, I note that the suggestion implicit in this question would ordinarily be strictly of the “gutter journalism” school. I don’t mean it to imply that, even if his family (his parents specifically) illegally accepted taxpayer subsidies, that Mark Latham himself had any part in this – he clearly didn’t. And that, ordinarily, would therefore mean the matter rests where it lies.

Latham’s dad has been dead 25 years, and to the extent that Latham’s father was not the sole, or principle perpetrator of a possible welfare fraud, Latham’s mum (still living) would have considerable mitigating circumstances for having done so, IMO. In addition, Latham’s mum is not, in her own right, a public figure – and this blog has better things to do than selectively highlight the misdemeanours of assorted nobodies.

Despite the above reservations, recent comments made by Mark Latham appear to amply justify his family’s financial circumstances in the 1960s and 70s being a matter of legitimate public interest.

My line of inquiry centres on how Latham’s family obtained, and then lived in for almost two decades, a rent-subsidised (I’m assuming) publicly-owned house at Green Valley, when Latham’s father was in full-time work as a technician with Australia Post* throughout (AFAIK) this period, until his death in 1979. Having worked for Australia Post myself in the early 1980s, I know it to have then been a strongly-unionised and (not surprisingly therefore) quite-well paying organisation. (The shame is I left this to go to uni, and so a life of crappy pay and unemployment ever since!)

Back to Latham, the key question can be refined thus: What was Latham’s family, one of average size at the time (2 adults, 4 kids), doing in subsidised public housing in the first place, given that their principal breadwinner’s wages would have been at least average earnings of the day?

Maybe my assumption that Latham’s father’s job was reasonably paid is incorrect. It is impossible to independently verify this now, especially as Latham himself has been curiously evasive as to even what when his father’s job title was (same URL).

Latham’s evasiveness here is part of an observable pattern. To date, Latham has admitted that his father had a gambling addiction, but has sought to deny that his father also had a drinking problem:

A few offensive things have been written [about his father] but he wasn’t a drunk. A few things get written that he was on the grog – he wasn’t and I can never remember alcohol in the house. There was never alcohol in the house. It wasn’t that.**

Like an overt, boorish homophobe at a party (who is most likely a closet gay), Latham’s recent attacks on dole bludgers and “slackers” are probably subconsciously self-incriminatory. In circuitously denying his father may have had a drinking problem in the above quote, Latham offers only fatuous proof. Of course, few alcoholic, full-time employed middle-aged men of the 1960s and 1970s did any drinking at home. Or gambling either, for that matter. Almost all gambling (then, and slightly less-so now) took place in licensed premises. Further, poker machines – the heroin-ultimate of poly-addicted gamblers (and a thing curiously unmentioned in today’s Australian magazine feature story) – were widespread in Sydney licensed clubs, even in the 1960s.

In the end, I’m not interested in if and whether Latham’s father gambled (or gambled and drank) away an unseemly amount of his earnings. That’s strictly Latham family business. However, if these activities lead to the Latham family going into public housing when they were not ordinarily (= honestly) eligible, then a fraud on the taxpayers has been committed. Despite the presumed main perpetrator of such a fraud being long dead, the public now has a right to know more – both because of Latham’s prime ministerial aspirations, and because Latham seems to now be channelling a murky stain from his private past into a disgraceful, open campaign against un- and McJob- employed GenXers.

* And its predecessor organisation, the PMG

** Christine Jackman “Looking for Mr Latham” The Weekend Australian Magazine 20 March 2004

Friday, March 19, 2004

“The President versus David Hicks”

This 90-minute doco was broadcast on SBS last night.

As its prime subject was plainly unavailable for interview (while still very much alive), the story necessary relied on a patchwork of impressions from other parties to fill in the picture. In this respect, the doco crew’s following Hicks’ father on his retracing-the-steps-of-his-son mission into Pakistan and Afghanistan was an inspired – and brave – decision.

One of the most interesting insights into David Hicks’ character, for me, was actually made without any interpolation or comment. From the text of Hicks’ letters, it is plain that the guy is no dumbshit, despite dropping out of school at Year 9 (= 15 y.o.), at most. From years of teaching business students at uni, Hicks’s literacy would be median, or a bit above, this cohort's.

Hicks’ truncated high school career was to play an important part in his later conversion to Islamofascism – a just-back-from-Kosovo, trigger-happy, but yet-to-be-brainwashed Hicks was rejected by the Australian Army from joining its ranks, because he didn’t have Year 10. Given this, it was disappointing that the doco makers either didn’t try, or couldn’t get access, to sources from Hicks’ high school days. When a reasonably smart boy leaves school early to do nothing in particular, there is invariably a story behind it. I’m guessing that Hicks was severely fucked-over by student – or more likely, teacher bullies. If so, Hicks’ joining the Taliban ten or so years later surely owes much to his unhappy school experiences. Hicks evidently moved on psychologically, rather than bottling-up his anger, but his rejection many years later by the Australian Army – and its reasons, in particular – would have come as a shock; an unwelcome flashback of himself as a tortured adolescent.

The doco didn’t really seek to pinpoint the moment of Hicks’ conversion/brainwashing to Islamofascism, instead suggesting a slow spiral into anti-Semitic mumbo-jumbo, which narrative itself petered-out a full 18 months before Hicks’ post 9/11 capture in Afghanistan. In any case, it seems clear that it was Hicks’ time in a 20,000-student madrassah (= a group of buildings used for teaching Islamic theology and religious law) in Lahore that was Hicks’ turning point.

Hicks’ father went into the madrassah for a look around (the crew was not allowed to film anywhere inside it); when he came out, the only impression he could give of the place was – quite tellingly – how engrossed in their books everyone was; in other words, by way of subtext, not a peep of hatching terrorist plots was to be heard.

Quite. Let’s just get this place sorted, though. This madrassah is definitely NOT (i) a school, (ii) a university, (iii) a theological college, or (iv) a monastery/place of contemplation. It houses 20,000 men (mostly GenX, I’m assuming) from all over the world, apparently charging them no fees or board (nor making them work for it), and it is ultra-secretive, to the point of not allowing cameras anywhere inside, period. I’m sure it does teach the Koran, inter alia.

Otherwise though, it is a curious place indeed – a holiday home for Muslim men past their peak years of educational development (5 to early-20s), that is open to all comers, and on a stay-for-as-long-as-you-like-basis. And all for free. What are the chances that this place might, just might, therefore have some other kind of purpose?

Don’t get me wrong – I think the mass-provision of holiday homes for male GenX fuck-ups is an excellent idea, generally. It’s just that Saudi Arabia doesn’t seem too keen on plenarily funding GenX slacker-lodges unless it’s going to get a R.O.I – that is, the guys eventually “graduate” from the madrassah. Mind you, this does not involve receiving a piece of paper, nor even leaving equipped with the newfound skills and knowledge to become an Islamic cleric back home (like their age-group everywhere else, boomer muftis aren’t letting go of their cosy little sinecures lightly).

“Graduation”, then, is a one-way ticket to terrorist boot-camp – certainly it was in David Hicks’ case.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Harry Brighouse on Generation X

Over at Crooked Timber, Anglo/US academic Harry Brighouse has angrily gone into bat to defend the the deprivations faced by hisWWII-era grandparents, against comparison with the fallout faced by his, and my, own generation – GenX – from September 11. He writes:

[W]hile my generation . . . cheerfully rides around in its SUVs, gorges itself on fast food, sends a volunteer army to a war that has nothing to do with terrorism, and continues with life as normal (except in airports) it might do well to reflect on the real experience our grandparents faced in a society completely geared up to fight a war against the worst threat civilization has ever faced.

Brighouse, to say the least, is not your usual Xer. I wasn’t aware that driving 4WDs/SUVs and over-eating fast food were particular attributes of 24-40 year-olds. In fact, from anecdotal evidence, the exact opposite seems to be the case, certainly regarding 4WDs/SUVs – which seem to be boomer vehicles par excellence. I also don’t understand how WWII can be considered “the worst threat civilization has ever faced”, given that the real prospect of global nuclear annihilation has existed continuously since the early 1960s. But presumably because such an event would not involve the hardship of living (long) under rationing (that food thing again!), Brighouse prefers outright death to five years of life without copious supplies of lard.

At least he is consistent. Not only does he sledge his own generation as spoilt little shits (speak for youself, you tenured (I’m assuming) mediocrity), he is happy to write-off the “character” relevance of boomer George Bush’s dubious Vietnam War record:

[T]he Vietnam War was an unjust war, unjustly carried out, and I have no animus to my elders who tried to avoid fighting in it. People make odd decisions in the [sic] youth, and these do not have to be brought up against them later in life.

Your “elders”, eh? Someone pass me a bucket, please. Quite apart from everything else this demographic locust-plague have done, the young (“Never trust anyone over 30”) boomers were a high-point of ageist attitudes in Western in society. Now Brighouse thinks that they somehow merit respect as “elders”, just because they’re, well, older? Get fucked boomers – you lived and rebelled by youth-narcissist ageism, and you can now die by it too.

As for “People make odd decisions in the [sic] youth”, again we can safely assume that Brighouse is speaking personally here. Career-wise, he seems to have crawled under a cosy little tenured rock in remote Wisconsin, circa 1992, straight from 20 years (K-to-PhD) of continuous education. Perhaps your first real car, bought with you first real paycheck, wasn’t a SUV, eh Harry? A youthful indiscretion for which you still kick yourself about, to this very day?

Speaking for myself, the only “odd decision” of my youth that I’m far from proud of is my decision to go to university. Having been (equal) top of the state in Year 12 English, I foolishly thought that either that a uni education would be valuable for its own sake, or at least that it would mean a lot more moolah over my lifetime. Wrong and wrong. Like the majority of GenXers, I suspect, going to uni – as opposed to going straight from school into a reasonably-paid blue-collar job – has already cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But you’re all right, Harry – and that’s what’s important, isn’t it? Not sure if the UK and US university systems were systemically gutted, from the late 1980s (up to the present day) to the same extent Australia’s has been, but I suspect that something similar went on. In which case, it sure looks like you got in in a nick of time, Harry. I was also a freshly-minted academic in the year you started (1992), but this year I’m still a sessional (“adjunct”). And in your language, that’s a lot of foregone lard.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Good riddance, Justice Roddy Meagher

Maybe the NSW legal fraternity is sui generis. Otherwise, I can't comprehend the affection with which this offensive, born-to-rule prig is being sent off into retirement with - not mainly by a predictable inner claque, but through the words of people whose judgment I would generally trust, like Richard Ackland.

This letter by James Turnbull really says enough, as a comment on the pathetic grovelling of Ackland et al. So Meagher was really a nice man on the inside, eh? While I'm not a expert in psychiatric diagnosis, I believe the corect word to describe people like this (arseholes on the outside, but quite civil when in the company of their tiny inner-circle) is "psychopath".

On, and then there's Meagher's sense of humour: "My politics are left wing, but in a very balanced way. I think I might edge a little to the right." How droll. Richard Ackland sounds like the sort of person who might have actually forced up a laugh at this one. Hope that you got your money's worth on that one, Richard, coz once you start faking laughter, there's no going back.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Mark Latham and 4WDs

Just after Mark Latham got the gig as Australian Opposition Leader, I speculated on his likely policy leaning on four wheel drives.

Courtesy of Sunday's "Sixty Minutes", together with some lateral inferencing, I can now fill in this sizeable hitherto gap in known Labor policy. Not that the super-soft "Sixty Minutes" story on Latham gave too much away in this respect; the only time policy was really discussed was in this exchange:

CHARLES WOOLEY: It's becoming clear that Latham's Australia would be no bludger's paradise. He offers no soft option for people who won't participate. If people don't want to seize the advantages, what do you do about them?

MARK LATHAM: Well, I think mutual responsibility where, you know, government takes a tougher attitude is appropriate, that, you know, for young people, they've got to be learning or earning. There's no third option of just getting out there and goofing off. You've either got to be in education or work.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Is it too easy at the moment just to get the dole?

MARK LATHAM: I think there's a lot of problems in the administration of Centrelink and we'll have some policies to fix those up. But in other areas, I think we could go further with mutual responsibility and that's something we're working on as well.

"Go further with mutual responsibility" and "a tougher attitude is appropriate"? Latham seems determined to be setting up a kind of Punish-A-Dole-Bludger campaign-promise auction with Tony Abbott. Nice one, Mark - could you just now remind me why anyone with even-vaguely Left views should vote for you and your party in the upcoming election?

If Latham's pro-4WD policy can't reasonably-enough be assumed by his craven pandering to shock jocks on the issue of unemployment, then there's another bit of evidence. Also on Sunday's "Sixty Minutes", this story ran, right before the Latham hagiography. There is no overt connection between the two stories. There was however, the curious editorial decision to call the vehicle that caused the fatal car accident at the centre of that story a "utility". From photos shown on the program, it is clear that the vehicle in question (brand-name "Yukon") is nothing like a utility, as that word is used in Australia - it is a 4WD, or in the US, a SUV.

I raise this point in a totally non-pedantic sense - in calling the at-fault driver's car a "utility", lots of issues were able to be swept under the carpet. Like why the at-fault driver walked away uninjured, while two of the occupants of the other car died and the third sustained horrific burns.

I don't condone drink driving, but this story should mainly have been about a different killer - the Weapons-Grade Volvo (only not as safe for its own driver, either) driven by the at-fault guy (who was a bit pissed, but equally to the point, was a young high-school jock showing off his brand-new and inherently difficult-to-steer, I'm-A-Card-Carrying-Fuckwit-mobile).

As much as "Sixty Minutes" sexed-up the Mark Latham story then, it sexed down the 4WD/SUV one.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

The Andrew Theophanous case and migration rackets

The weird disconnect that has long hung over the Andrew Theophanous case looks set to continue on, with this news today.

I say “weird disconnect” because the evidence on which the former MP was charged with, and convicted for, always seemed quite straightforward to me – he took bribes in return for providing immigration favours. Yes, there was a “sting” set-up, but considering the type of crime being investigated, such tactics were surely legitimate evidence-gathering, rather than entrapment of the sort that brings on a crime when none would have been committed otherwise.

In terms of penalty, even for someone with no criminal record, this sort of offence is one for which a convicted accused, one who had misused a position of high public office, could expect a lengthy jail sentence. As it turns out, Theophanous was sentenced to a middling six years' jail, with a minimum of 42 months – but ended up serving only 21 months, after successfully appealing (with a retrial being ordered) one of his convictions.

Stranger still, then, is the news that Theophanous may now be facing a situation of seeming double jeopardy – the prosecution wants to morph the pending retrial charge into a number of new charges. I’m not a criminal law expert, and the rules of double jeopardy (= never re-trying an accused for the same crime, assuming that the first trial was above board) are probably criminal law at its most technical, but the timing of the new charges does seem odd, indeed. Methinks that something else must be going on here.

In a loosely-related development, today’s Oz carries a story claiming that Australia has become something of a haven for Chinese white-collar criminals on the run*. In terms of connecting this to migration rackets, there doesn’t seem to be a connection here – rather surprisingly, IMO. If indeed Australia has become such a haven, then this is a worrying development – and not just because of the unfortunate historical echo implicit in Australia again becoming a dumping ground for felons, after such a lengthy hiatus. More serious are the aspersions cast on Australia’s official immigration policy – these criminals seem to have come to Australia through the front door and on an “everything above board” basis.

If this is so, then some of the hidden interstices in the Theophanous case can be drawn in: seemingly-blatant migration rackets may not be all that they seem, and indeed the real rackets may well be going on beneath the deep cover afforded by Australia’s official immigration policy currently.

* Catherine Armitage "Magnet for the most wanted" The Australian 13 March 2004 (no URL)

Friday, March 12, 2004

The Madrid bombings

A work of Islamo-fascist terrorism or not? My gut feeling is “no”, for the most part – that the synchronised bombings were done by a group with peripheral connections, at most, to al Qaida. Quite possibly, the atrocity was a kind of joint venture between “old school” terrorists with a cause to peddle like ETA (and the IRA), and Islamo-fascist ones, who in my strongly-held opinion are completely devoid of cause or ideology – at least as far as the planners and perpetrators of September 11 go.

Believe it or not, and not meaning to be disrespectful to anyone who has lost loved ones in the bombings, I think that this development is a good thing, inasmuch as it shows the waning power, and dilution of method, of al Qaida. For me, the most telling aspect about who may be behind the bombings was that they were apparently all performed by remote control – as opposed to by suicidal GenX human robots.

By not using brainwashed young men as operational foot-soldiers, the Madrid bombers can only have come from a different ideological and production platform to that of al Qaida.

Al Qaida’s ideological (and moral) nullity has only been possible by virtue of its extreme division of labour along generational lines. Like many a call centre in the West, or the workplace set-up in the TV comedy “The Office”, al Qaida has so far thrived as an asymmetric grouping lead by a single baby boomer* running the show solely as an exercise in prolonged sadism over the younger workers within his/her coterie.

I use “the show” advisedly. As a doco on Osama bin Laden, aired on SBS a month or two ago showed, bin Laden’s truest job description during the years 1998-2001 would be “documentary (= now, reality TV) producer”.

The use of young men as suicidal human robots both allows and compels a quantum leap in what might be termed the “production values” of terrorism.

Other than in the bombings’ synchronisation, Madrid had extremely low production value. In other words, if GenX labour went into the atrocity – and I’m sure that some did – this time (unlike September 11) it did so with input at the management and technical levels. That is, GenX with a remote control in its hands, as opposed to powerless “glory” – death carrying a piece of paper promising a starring role in Osama’s next reality-TV craptacular.

* bin Laden does have at least one so-called “deputy”, Ayman al-Zawahiri, but al-Zawahiri seems much more a bin Laden doppelganger than a middle-manager.

Update 16 March 2004

Australia as a terrorist target?

Just when cool heads are most needed, the fevered imaginations of many are going into overdrive. I don’t know if Australia is on al Qaida’s “Most Preferred Targets” list. Of course, there is actually no such thing – acts of terrorism, even those years in the planning like September 11, must undergo near-continuous operational alteration and re-prioritisation, as circumstances change.

I do know, however, that it is unhelpful to confuse and conflate different types of terrorist attack. As I suggested in the main post, September 11 is al Qaida’s quality benchmark – its activities since have been relatively low production value attacks within Muslim countries (Casablanca, Riyadh), or have been conducted at arms-length, through ideologically-related but more-junior groups (Bali; whose relatively high production value was not in its body count, but in the graphic shock of its televisual spectacle: nightclubbers being burnt to death, etc).

Thus, Australia may be facing the proverbial Sydney Opera House attack. Or it may be facing more mundane attacks, such as on its (non-airline) public transport system. It’s very unlikely to be both – at least by the same people. And in terms of terrorist- prevention intelligence-gathering, not to mention the state of the public mind, this needs to be said. It’s horses for courses, folks, so don’t start mistaking the 4:45 to Dubbo for the Harbour Bridge.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Sniper John Allen Muhammad sentenced to death

And so at least justice has been partially served, despite the best efforts of the prosecution in the case to the contrary. Full justice will be done only when Lee Boyd Malvo is free, and John Muhammad – by then, hopefully repentant – is fried.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

State of the Job Network

Recent weeks have seen more tales of woe emerge about Australia’s over-paid (IMO) and under performing (in just about everyone’s opinion) Job Network. Laura Tingle, writing for the AFR, did a three day expose of JN’s financial health (18-20 Feb 2004; no URL), confirming what I observed in January – the ludicrous expedience of using the disabled to prop up the ailing privatised system.

Since then, things seem to have only got worse. The most telling snippet from recent days is a quote from one Job Network provider, saying he had been informed by Canberra to use the Job Seeker Accounts of unemployed people “more creatively”* – essentially meaning that money held in trust for the benefit of unemployed persons is now expected to be used to meet the administrative overheads of the JN. Definite shades of the misappropriated Aboriginal trust accounts case in Queensland here – just how low Mal Brough can go still remains to be seen. Further bad news on the JN came out last week.

In today’s AFR**, however, there, is an uncharacteristically optimistic headline, followed by a sloppily–written story, quite possibly based on a media release from Mal Brough (there is no such release on Brough’s site at the time of writing – even among the dozens of identikit stories carrying today’s date, each one about local Work for the Dole “successes” – but the uncritical reportage, its “breaking” quality (anticipating a DEWR report only released today) and the centrality of a quote from Brough suggests his office played a large role in putting the story together).

Today’s AFR commits a compound act of lazy journalism with this para:

The report, to be released today, show that 46% of job search training participants, 38% of intensive assistance participants, and 50% of work for the dole participants moved from temporary or casual jobs to permanent jobs within three to 12 months of completing the services.

For a start, these figures are highly selective – irrationally so – concerning only a minor subset of the unemployed, and in any case, not giving a control figure: what percentage of the sub-group of unemployed who moved from temporary or casual jobs to permanent jobs (within the time period) did so without any JN assistance, thank you very much? My guess here is a figure higher than the highest given success rate of any of the three cited programs (50%).

Further, the respective success rates of the three cited programs yield some strange numbers indeed – with Work for the Dole – a purely punitive program, that is precluded from offering structured training by law – apparently the most successful, and intensive assistance (which pays JN providers the most) apparently the least successful.

Please explain, Mal.

* Patricia Karvelas "Rules eased to save job agents" The Australian 25 February 2004 (no URL)

** Cherelle Murphy “Job Network is working, survey says” Australian Financial Review 9 March 2004 (no URL)

Monday, March 08, 2004

First day at work

Today I started my new job – a sessional tutor at a Melbourne university. It was a weird day to be starting, as it’s a public holiday for all of Melbourne, bar us “knowledge workers” (hah!).

After getting to work with plenty of time to spare (7:35 am for 8:00 am start), I sat in my car and read. There is no office for me – even a shared one – or staff room of any description. My day's tutorials went well enough, I thought, until I received a frantic phone call on my mobile from the lecturer in charge, wanting to know where I was. I had just my schedule finished for the day, but a student had contacted her saying I was a no show for the last hour.

Several hours of investigation later, it turns out that, consequence of a whizz-bang (of-course) new tutorial online-enrolment computer system, new tutorials had been automatically generated by the system, without any responsible person (= academic or admin staff) being notified. Such a system presumably regards vacant rooms and peak student demand as its optimising factors – telling academics about its executive decisions, let alone considering where the necessary extra academic labour might come from (I had been effectively double-booked) are clearly beyond its parameters. It’s perversely gratifying to see that, in 2004, academic labour has finally become such a trifling consideration at universities as to deserve no input – quite literally.

No doubt my blog-opposite, Andrew Norton, would delight in this fiasco as a productivity miracle, or some-such. On a related topic, one of Andrew’s co-bloggers at Catallaxy Files, Jason Soon, goes into bat – rather too sweetly, I think – against “More Poofs Needed in Boondocks” academic and roving consultant, Richard Florida. Particularly recommended reading is a Boston Globe article that Jason links to (also found via

Apart from own my just-finished episode of long-term unemployment as a highly-educated gay man – and in a cosmopolitan metropolis to boot – negating Florida’s stupid pet theory to its bootstraps, it’s not really necessary to stick the stiletto heel into Florida any further, IMO. Appropriately enough though, Richard Florida’s waning (I presume) career will soon bring him to Melbourne’s very own Fashion Festival.

And what a sight this $400-a head seminar is going to be - a room full of rural council rep's, dutifully taking notes on how Gay is the New Snowy, or whatever. Gay is the New Work for the Dole fodder, more like it.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Gang rape and gay sex

Two feature articles yesterday, written in response to an alleged gang rape incident involving a Sydney rugby team, both contain a curious mix of conventional reportage and first-person moral outrage arbitrarily re-transmitted.

In the SMH (and also Age) story, we have this:

Roger Peters, a privately practising Newcastle psychologist who counsels several elite athletes, including footballers, says what he finds abhorrent about consensual group sex is its possible impact on the families of those involved. It needs to be spoken of, not in terms of sexual liberation, but of taste and morality. What havoc are rape allegations and "bun" stories creating among footballers' wives and children, he asks.

. . .

Peters questions how often women consent in situations because the men have power over them and they just give in, or they may be damaged souls wanting to feel loved. He is disgusted that such women are then called "scrag" by the men who have used them

Personally, I fail to see how one individual’s personal morality about group sex is newsworthy in the first place. Further, Peters’ presumed expertise as a psychologist, and his proximity to the story via his apparent counselling of several rugby players, is undermined by elementary factual misunderstandings. Most rugby players, AFAIK, would not be married, and only a quite small minority would have children.

More seriously, Peters elides the legalities of consent to sex with his own moralistic chauvinism, in equating “damaged souls wanting to feel loved” with women who have actually been raped. Peters’ description of footballer groupies is at once pretty accurate, and yet deeply offensive for its denial of these women having any erotic agency of their own. (The latter point is corrected, but “too little, too late”, in a quote from Kath Albury much later in the article).

Most curiously, the SMH story opens with a few paras on the work of researcher Michael Flood – a clear expert in the field – on the male/male erotics of heterosexual group sex, only to go nowhere with them. That, in contradistinction to Roger Peters’ moral matrix, most rugby players are young and unmarried should make the words “team bonding” and “sex” an unremarkable combination. Boys will be boys – and in an institutional or quasi-institutional setting (such as professional rugby’s full-time training, travelling and playing schedule), boys will be poofs, or quasi-poofs, anyway.

The Oz’s moral informant “Mike”, a pseudonymous former professional rugby player, is even more confused than psychologist Roger Peters. He quite rightly identifies group sex obtained through ambush – one player picking a women up at a bar, and then “sharing” her – as morally abhorrent (such practises will almost certainly lead to rape at law). But then in a non-sequitur, Mike rails against group sex, presumably consensual, between all the team’s players and a couple of prostitutes. And then there’s the "the spit-roast":

where one player would have vaginal sex with the woman while she gave another oral sex. "That was one the players liked because they could look at each other while it was happening and get a laugh” [said Mike].

Err, Mike I don’t think getting a laugh would be the main object of such a threesome, certainly assuming that it was consensual. Has it ever crossed your little Fred-Nile brain that the reason the two players might like eye contact in such a scenario is because they were getting off?

The homo-erotics of consensual gang-bangs* do place the woman/women in the middle in a peculiar situation. As Mike also notes, albeit with astonishment, female “groupies” can and do enthusiastically consent to such situations. Being a gay man, I am anything but astonished at such proclivities – a football team who wanted to gang-bang a man** would be overwhelmed by applicants for the, ahem, position.

A parallel truth is that female “groupies” not only have independent sexual agency, but that sometimes catering to their sexual needs is arguably a price that must be – reluctantly or otherwise – paid by professional footballers. The groupie is manifestly a type of stalker, and as with most low-level stalkers, it is usually easier and preferable in the long term to reach some type of accommodation with them. In this way, everyone sneaks a little something out of the gang-bang: the guys get to have sex with their mates vicariously, and the girl gets to be meaninglessly star-fucked, the hole in the donut.

* A "gang-bang" is not always the same as "group sex", certainly when the latter is practised swinger-style. Although I've never had group sex of any type involving a female, I am pretty sure that gang-bangs do not involve direct homosexual activity.

** Hypothetically, of course, as the absence of at least one woman would completely change the dynamics of the exercise, to a "locker room" one where outsiders, and especially gay men, would not be welcome.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Don Watson lecture at Adelaide Writers Week

Hello from Adelaide. It's stinking hot, particularly in the Hindley Street Net cafe where I'm writing this.

Not sure if Don Watson's (no relation, BTW) talk got any media coverage on the east coast, as I believe they say in these parts. I've been meaning to read “Death Sentence” (an Xmas present for me) for a while now, and then write something about it, but a few aspects of yesterday's lecture deserve stand-alone mention, I believe.

There was a drunk Indigenous heckler up the back, who uttered some choice lines while Watson spoke, such as:

“Speak English!”


“This is a Young Liberals Convention!”

The irony of the first heckle should be obvious. As for the second one, for those who haven't been to Adelaide Writers Week before, it suffices to say that the vast majority of the crowd is invariably neither Young nor Liberal.

But the heckler had a point, methinks. The crowd was listening all a bit too reverently to Watson, and his message was rather too full of upper-middle class pieties. Watson twice blamed journalists for failing to cross-examine (I'm paraphrasing) Ministers (etc) when they did needlessly brandish managerial language at a press conference (etc). I'm puzzled as to why Watson sees fit to apportion blame here – it is the boomers, his ilk, who have so thoroughly degraded the profession of journalism in Australia as to make such a prospect effectively impossible: a young journo – well, one who wants a job in the morrow – actually asking a palpably impertinent question to a senior politician.

Another Watson misfire was his identifying of consultants as the original Typhoid Mary's carrying the plague of managerial language (although this got a good laugh in the peanut gallery, of course). The most egregious use of managerial language – anywhere, ever – is to be found in writing job applications. This is not (mainly) the result of some managerial fad peddled by consultants. Rather, it is simply Hobbesian human nature at work – when the demand for jobs far exceeds the supply of them, why shouldn't the power-holders systemically brutalise the power-nots? This brutalisation is all the more cutting when a job applicant, like me, is forced to hide their real high literacy behind a sham of words, a less-extreme version of what Polt Pot did to Cambodia's intellectual in the 1970s. To his credit, Watson did note the specific anti-intellectualism of managerial language's excesses. He also noted, though, in response to a question about what to do about the problem here, that “I don't have any answers”.

Well, here's an answer, Don. You and your generation created this mess – so fix it, you gutless little fucker. And I think I'm speaking English here, in the sense meant by that heckler up the back.

P.S. In an irony of ironies, Watson isn't averse to a doing a bit of consulting himself, nowadays.

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