Thursday 25th of April 2024

aspirational rattism .....


aspirational rattism .....
from mike carlton

big words from the big man of pork barrels

Twenty years ago, in the wilderness of opposition, John Howard and the Liberal Party's advertising flacks put their heads together and concocted a new buzz word to inspire the nation: incentivation.

Ugly and banal, it was, nonetheless, launched with great fanfare. The Liberals would incentivate us. Nobody had a clue what it meant. Bob Hawke said it sounded like something you did to cats. Incentivation quickly disappeared, swamped by a wave of incredulous ridicule. Howard's latest attempt at sloganeering is "aspirational nationalism", a phrase he dropped in a speech to the Millennium Forum in Sydney last Monday and again to Kerry O'Brien on ABC TV the next day.

This is an improvement, insofar as it is composed of two recognisable English words.

But what they might mean bolted together in this way is a mystery, although there is a certain iron clang to the construction which suggests it might sound better in German.

Otto von Bismarck could have got away with it.

From an Australian prime minister it is just plain pompous.

Trawling through the rest of the speech - it shortened my life by half an hour, but I am paid to do this sort of thing on your behalf - I gather that Howard's overarching new plan to retain office boils down to bashing state governments or bypassing them entirely whenever and wherever he thinks there's a vote in it.

No matter that this turns the core Liberal belief in federalism on its head. If the voters in some black stump marginal seat want anything from a Big Banana to an aerospace laboratory then the Aspirational Nationalist-in-Chief is going to damn well give them one.

For Howard, power comes not from the barrel of a gun, as Mao Zedong liked to say, but from a barrel of pork. With a budget surplus of $17.3 billion to splash around in an election year, nothing is too difficult. Or too extravagant.

and, on kev “joe mccarthy” andrews …..

To give him the benefit of the doubt, it might just be that soapy Kevin Andrews, the Immigration Minister, is as thick as two planks.

That would be the kindest explanation for the trail of chaos he leaves behind as he bumbles along through the dismal affair of Dr Mohamed Haneef and the vanishing visa.

Then again, it is also possible that he set out deliberately to distort the public case against the good doctor by cherry picking from the ham-fisted federal police investigation and, when that collapsed, by plucking rank fabrications from thin air.

Either way, at every stage he has been exposed as an incompetent.

His latest embarrassment, at the hands of Judge Jeffrey Spender of the Federal Court, was proof of the pudding. Andrews's decision to ban Haneef on the grounds of a link to a distant second cousin who might or might not have had something to do with the London and Glasgow bombings blew up in his face.

Spender demolished him by ruling that "the minister cancelled the visa by adopting a wrong criterion; he fell into jurisdictional error by applying the wrong test. That error infects the cancellation decision. It follows that the decision must be set aside."

This would be farce if it were not so serious. In legislating extraordinary powers to deal with terrorism, the Government scrapped a truckload of the ancient rights and liberties we have known at law. The promise in return was that these powers would be used with scrupulous care.

Clearly they have not been. Andrews and his advisers, if that's what they are, have blundered around like pigs in a minefield.

and, on turd blossom …..

He managed to ignore it at the time, but George Bush has now discovered the Vietnam War.

Furiously rewriting history in a speech to veterans in Missouri, he announced that America had lost in Vietnam because, well, it hadn't kicked on a bit longer. Another couple of years would have produced a triumph.

That seemed to be what he was saying. I read that speech, too. As with Howard, it was hard to penetrate the flatulence. It has been a long week. But Bush apparently believes that if the United States were to pull out of Iraq in the near future, as it did in Vietnam in 1973, all hell would break loose.

This is Alice in Wonderland stuff. All hell broke out in Iraq four years ago. It did so as a direct result of the American invasion, which plunged the country into civil war, destabilised the Middle East, galvanised al-Qaeda, and pushed the Iranians towards acquiring nuclear weapons.

As the philosopher George Santayana memorably wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Bush's problem is not that he has forgotten the past but that he never understood it in the first place.

Oh how the mighty pens have fallen

and, on captain smirk ….

To fiddle that famous aphorism of the British historian Lord Macaulay, there is no spectacle so ridiculous as political journalism in one of its periodical fits of morality. We saw this in the recent uproar over Peter Costello's now notorious dinner with three grandees of the Canberra press gallery at which he might or might not have threatened to roll John Howard.

Me, I believe the journos. The ludicrous thing was their spluttering indignation at the realisation, a full two years later, that Costello had outsmarted them by asking, post facto, for his musings to be kept off the record. Gotcha.

If that was a hoot, it was nothing to the po-faced outrage of much of the Fourth Estate (a term coined by Macaulay, incidentally) at the news of the Ruddster frolicking in the fleshpots of New York.

"A moment of madness," honked Glenn Milne, who broke the story for The Sunday Telegraph. Shock horror scandal. Rudd's leadership ambitions had been "rocked" blah blah.

No they haven't. I'm prepared to bet good money that the next lot of opinion polls will barely record a tremor. Meanwhile, let no one forget Milne's own moment of madness when, babbling incoherently, he lunged drunkenly on stage at the Walkley Awards for journalism last year and tried to grapple tackle one of the presenters.

Pots and kettles.