The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

On well-intentioned bullshït

Once upon a time, an ugly woman learned how to sing.

Well that’s what everyone said, anyway. I didn’t find her ugly. I found that she bore a strong resemblance to a human being, deserving of the same respect as everyone else. But man, could she sing. This apparently came as a complete surprise to almost everyone on the planet, because apparently some people are ugly, and apparently ugly people can’t sing. Apparently.

The woman’s name was Susan Boyle.

Remember Susan Boyle? Remember the universal surprise at, and then admiration of, her extensive talent? It seemed the whole world was in awe of her. As it should have been.

But I wonder if you remember a few other things. Like the sarcastic wolf whistle from someone in the audience. Or the whole audience laughing when she said her age (which was 47, and not even slightly amusing). Simon Cowell’s exasperated skepticism. Audience members exchanging smirks. All before she’d sung a single note.

But then she sang a single note, and everyone was shocked. And then she sang a few more, and the shock turned to applause. A standing ovation before she’d even finished the first verse. Piers Morgan showing more emotion than he did when facing Brett Lee’s bouncers.

“Weren’t expecting that, were you!” said the gleeful host.

“Without a doubt, that was the biggest surprise I’ve had in three years on this show,” said the still emotional Piers, to more applause.

It was the feel good story of the year. Susan Boyle had won our respect. The ugly old lady, come good. And all she had to do was have the voice of an angel. Aren’t we nice?

No, we’re not. We’re a pack of superficial, judgmental jerks. And if you don’t believe me, think about how the world would feel about Susan Boyle if instead of an angel, she’d turned out to have the voice of a tone-deaf howler monkey. With tonsillitis.
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As most of you know by now, we are bearing witness to one of the biggest humanitarian crises the modern world has seen. Millions of people have been displaced, and are fleeing their homelands with not much more than their children and their lives. Millions of people. Amidst a literal and figurative sea of despair, one father endured the indescribable agony of losing not just his two sons, but their mother as well. His grief may be somewhat tempered by the knowledge that the now ubiquitous photo of his dead two-year-old boy seems to have finally triggered some semblance of compassion from First World nations, but it will be compounded exponentially by the very describable idiocy of comfy Westerners questioning his motives. Say hello, Cory Bernadi. You ignorant, amoral, wänker.

But what does all that have to do with Susan Boyle?

Well, while Abdullah Kurdi was still trying to figure out how he was supposed to endure life without his wife and two young children, a well-intentioned Westerner thought it was a good time to remind the world that Syrian refugees can sometimes come in handy. Because some of them are Steve Jobs.

A Syrian migrant's child

This image, and the sentiment behind it, was retweeted around the world, and picked up and trumpeted by the Western media. “Remember, everyone, one of these poor fückers might go on to found a profitable electronics business!”

I’m sorry, but no.

Leaving aside the fact that what Steve Jobs actually did was exploit Third World labour to make over-priced gadgets for well-fed Western fingers to swipe right on Tinder, the worth of these poor, desperate people is found in what they are, not what they might become. And what they are is people. They are people who have immense talent, some talent and no talent. Some are nice, some are mean. Some might go on to cure cancer, and some might go on to be avid readers of the Bolt Report. But each and every one of them is deserving of our help.

And if you doubt that, then, like Susan Boyle, you only need to ask yourself what you would think of Syrian refugees if Steve Jobs had gone on to invent Windows 8.

Which, much like the sentiment behind the photo above, is complete and utter bullshït.

Cory Bernardi Wants To Protect Us From Dead Infant Grifters

Cory Bernardi

Last night, ‘hard-of-thinking’ politics attained new depths. The long time frontrunner for the Cognitive Dysfunction in Politics Award,  Cory Bernardi, decided to clear up any misapprehensions the public might have had about tragically drowned toddlers and their refugee status. In a typically eloquent and closely-reasoned ‘speech’, Bernardi set us straight by pointing out that the family of Aylan Kurdi were basically grifters, hell-bent on fraudulently obtaining dental treatment from Canada.

Bernardi stated that the Kurdi family couldn’t possibly be refugees because they had lived in Turkey for three years and were in “no danger” and “in no persecution”. I’m not sure how someone can be “in persecution”, but I think I know what he means. He’s pointing out that a Kurdish family who has fled the wartorn town of Kobani could not possibly be anything but perfectly happy and safe in a country that has absolutely no record of persecuting or oppressing Kurds. Like Turkey. No, wait – sorry… I always get confused on that one. No, Turkey is the one that does persecute Kurds. He must have been thinking of Kurdistan. No… that’s wrong too. Kurdistan isn’t a country. It’s a Turkish shelling target. Help me out here: what’s a country that doesn’t persecute or oppress Kurds? Oh yeah – Canada! And according to Senator Bernardi, they’ve got pretty good dental too.

So, leaving aside the fact that the only place a Kurd is likely to be less safe than Turkey is in a trench 700 meters from ISIS territory, and that the Kurdi family had been so happy and safe in Turkey that they had made three previous attempts to leave and that they had extended family in Canada who were willing to sponsor them – leaving all that aside, Bernardi has hit the nail on the head. They obviously had no reason to try for Canada except fraudulent fluoride thievery and country shopping.

These people are basically con artists, cleverly contriving to be born in future war-zones as members of persecuted ethnic minorities in order to scam first world countries out of dentistry. It’s obvious, when you think about it. I can’t believe how stupid we’ve been all this time. I mean, here we were, thinking that a dead child on a beach might be some kind of tragic symbol for the plight of refugees fleeing from an internal conflict that we encouraged and are now considering escalating, but we couldn’t be more wrong. Apparently, a drowned child is simultaneously an advertisement for “Stop the Boats” and the grim harbinger of a flood of fake refos who are not our problem or responsibility in any way.

Thanks for clearing that up Cory! Where would we be without you? You know what, why don’t we find out? Why don’t we just locate and identify everyone who voted for you and swap you and them on a one for one basis with the people who are living in squalor in refugee camps, tunnels and train stations from Calais to Suruc. Then we’ll see where we are.

I’m willing to bet it’ll be a better, kinder and far less embarrassing place than where we are right now.

When Will World War III Start? Let’s Just Say ‘Tomorrow’.

Ever since the end of WWII, the possibility of a third world war has been a preoccupation of world leaders, conflict watchers and breakfast table analysts the world over. We’ve had some scares in the past, what with the red menace, konfrontasi, the Malay emergency, the Middle East in general and Israel in particular and repeatedly. And that’s not to mention Vietnam, Korea, Iran/Iraq, India/Pakistan and  pretty well everything China says or does. The spectre of another global conflict has loomed on the horizon with a certain grim constancy that speaks volumes about humanity’s general mental outlook. And it’s this that is telling.

I’m often asked, mostly by taxi drivers and people in the pub, when I think the next world war will be. Amateur historians and hysterical commentators like to point out the geopolitical, economic and historical similarities between our times and the fateful years 1913 and 1938. Like campfire ghost-story tellers, they ghoulishly revel in chilling our blood with tales of the ‘eerie’ parallels between the world back then and the world today. But it’s nothing more than cheap thrills. The answer to the question, “When will the next war be?” is, in fact another question: When was the peace?

There has not been a single year since the end of WWII when major military conflict was absent worldwide. And a great many of these conflicts have been direct extensions of the loose ends that the major Western powers started or escalated as part of WWII, but then couldn’t be bothered with when it came to settling accounts and divvying up the post war world. Since our rather Eurocentric declaration of “world peace”, whole swathes of the world have been more or less continuously on fire, from SE Asia to the Middle East and the godawful mess that has been Northern, Central and Western Africa. Basically, we decided that peace had arrived simply because we ourselves had stopped playing.

Repeated emergencies over the years demonstrated to us the short-sightedness of such a view, with multiple interventions having to be authorised by the UN Security Council, as well as a few that weren’t but were pursued anyway. Taken in aggregate, then, the world is still very much at war. We can, if we choose, see this as the same game continued elsewhere, with different players. Or, if we choose to continue thinking of the world primarily in terms of the West, we can say that WWIII has been building up slowly over the past 70 years without us. And now that we’re thinking about joining in again, the same old questions are coming up, tinged excitingly with overtones of Armageddon. People haven’t had this much fun with existential dread since the Cold War.

The fact of the matter is that WWIII has been well underway for some time. The world hasn’t seen this level of mobilisation and conflict since the early forties. We simply haven’t labelled this very similar level of conflict a ‘world war’ because it’s not happening where we live. So let’s stop wasting time and brain power, please. The world is already on fire and we’re all still here. Let’s start thinking instead about how we can help to put it out.

‘Free Kim Davis’ Is The Worst Voucher Ever

kim-davis-meme-410x220

For those of you who don’t know, Kim Davis is the County Clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky, who has been refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. Recently, the Supreme Court quite reasonably ordered her to “do her damn job” (not a quote, but it should be) and, when she still refused to do so, Davis was jailed for contempt. Of court, that is. Unfortunately, contempt of gays and lesbians isn’t yet a criminal offence.

Davis, who we should remember is a tiny functionary in a very small county, has become unreasonably famous for her continued failure to fulfil her functions as a County Clerk. She has repeatedly cited her religious beliefs as grounds for refusal, being apparently unbothered about breaking the oath she swore to her God to fulfil her duty as a County Clerk. Despite her flagrant breach of promise with The Lord, American Christians of the conservative, fundamentalist and batshit crazy variety have flocked to her banner, starting the hashtag #FreeKimDavis. In one of Twitter’s few moments of joy, the hashtag was quickly inundated with trolls. Some Twitterzens commented that a coupon for a free Kim Davis was possibly the worst deal ever. Others worried that she might turn gay in jail, thus making a highly unwelcome addition to the community. There’s a whole hilarious list of them here.

Davis and her supporters clearly think that she’s a prisoner of conscience, a martyr for Jesus and a shining beacon of rectitude for the rectally retentive. I, however, think that she’s a grandstanding idiot. I mean, let’s unpack this ‘prisoner of conscience’ thing. Generally, if you swear an oath to do a job and then find that the job requires you to do stuff you don’t like, you resign. What you don’t do is paralyse a branch of local government by refusing to issue gay marriage licenses, and then any marriage licenses at all. Especially not when you’re on the government payroll and the people’s lives you’re disrupting are paying you to mess up what should be one of the happiest moments of their lives. And, incidentally, also paying for you to employ your son to do the same.

Okay, so maybe she’s trying to change the law. In the States, some fundamental changes to the law can be made by taking the government to court. Thing is, though, she’s been to every conceivable level of court in the land and each and every one of them has come back with an answer that would have been obvious to anybody possessing enough brain cells to power an amoeba. The answer was that government functionaries, and especially elected ones, are required to act in accordance with the law. Duh. Double duh, because not only has she failed in her duty as an official, a public servant and a human being, she has failed to make a legal argument that had any chance whatsoever of succeeding. If an interpretation of the constitution produces a ruling you don’t like, you challenge that interpretation. What you don’t do is launch a dozen legal actions that can be summed up with the words, “But I don’t wanna!”.

So her continued refusal to do her duty is simply churlish. She’s not Daniel in the lion’s den. She’s a moron in a holding cell. And while I don’t really want anybody to rot in jail for their beliefs, I agree with Twitter. A free Kim Davis would be the worst coupon ever.

Stop the Boats: The World Tour

David Pope Cartoon – The Canberra Times

Australia, my favourite country on the entire planet, has long been an example to the world. The miracle of our meteoric rise to prosperity, our egalitarian ethos, standard of living, progressive and enlightened social policies and our commitment to diversity have long been the envy of countries around the world. And now, so I’m told, we have become a world leader and exemplar on the issues of border protection and immigration control.

It has been pointed out by our esteemed Prime Minister that the recent tragic death of Syrian child Aylan Kurdi is a sad but telling endorsement of our government’s policies designed to ‘stop the boats’. Apparently, if European powers were to emulate our magnificent maritime border control strategies, children like Aylan Kurdi would now be happy, safe and content somewhere else. It’s uncertain where “somewhere else” is, but who really cares? The essence of the policy is that whatever happens to these people, it doesn’t happen anywhere where we can see it.

Sure, some fringe radical publications like The New York Times might take exception to our actions, calling them inhumane, draconian and questionably legal, but there’s no accounting for the odd loony yelling at the world in isolation, is there? I mean, really – it’s not like anyone even reads it, right? It’s not a respectable media outlet. No, when it comes to journalistic respectability, Ray Hadley and Alan Jones beat The New York Times hands down.

Clearly, the best way to save the lives of refugees is to ensure that they are unable to leave the war zones that their homes have become by any means that might be considered illegal. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all, because that clause in the UN Refugee Convention about not penalising people for paperless travel, or for the means they choose to travel by when seeking asylum clearly doesn’t apply to us. I’m not exactly sure why it doesn’t apply, but the architects and administrators of our border protection policies assure me that refoulement, mandatory detention, de-facto punitive deportation and internment and all the other delightfully kind and generous things that we do for asylum seekers are perfectly legal. And I’m happy to take their word for it because nobody likes a queue-jumper. Especially when they’re jumping a queue that doesn’t exist. The cheek of it!

So now it’s time to take our dog and pony show on the road and really show these backward, primitive countries with their foolish ideas about “humanity” and “obeying international law” what can really be achieved when we all get behind the simple and elegant idea that if we can’t see it, it didn’t happen. Tony Abbott, with a breathtaking show of class, logic and appropriateness, has co-opted the death of a toddler in order to better plug our unique brand of humanitarian, life-saving, tow-them-somewhere-else-to-die brand of absolute compliance with our international obligations.

Yes, Australia, this is a proud day for all of us. History will remember this as the time when Australia showed the world exactly how we deal with human suffering, desperate pleas for help and all that other left-wing, bleeding-heart garbage. So let’s rise to our feet, people, and be upstanding for the long, slow clap that our fearless political leaders so richly deserve.

It’s Not a Jihad, Mr Dutton, It’s a Substitute

Lots of people are very upset about Immigration Prevention and Border Scare Campaign Minister Peter Dutton’s use of the word ‘jihad’. I’m very upset about Peter Dutton. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure he’s a lovely bloke. His Facebook page certainly gives that impression. Until I read the posts about refugees.

It’s then I remember why Mr Dutton makes my fists itch. The fact that watching him speak is like watching a plough make an uncertain path through a field of solid concrete. The fact that his answers to perfectly simple questions are generally less relevant and informative than responses from a magic 8-ball. The fact that he pulls a face like a disappointed horse every time he refuses to comment on something because ‘operational’. The fact that in his eyes, at all times, there lies the panic of a man who has been promoted several light years beyond the level of his competence.

The 'Disappointed Horse' Face

The ‘Disappointed Horse’ Face

And now he thinks the media is out to get him. It’s probably the first accurate thing he’s said since being elected to parliament in 2001. Of course they’re out to get you, Peter. If you throw a bucket of blood into the water and jump in after it, you really don’t have much right to complain when the sharks come. The same applies (in the case of Dutton and the government’s rhetoric) to throwing in a bucket of shit. Or the word ‘jihad’. What planet do you have to live on in order to think that that’s going to make anything better?

Dutton is quoted as saying,

“[The media] aren’t supposed to be political players, they’re supposed to be objective reporters of the news and I think many of them have morphed into frustrated politicians themselves.”

Well yes, of course they have. This government’s continued failure to act at all like a government that knows what it’s doing and why has turned the entire nation of Australia into “frustrated politicians”. All of us, right, left and centre, are playing politician because, in true Australian ‘fair go’ style, we can see that the team on the field is making an absolute pig’s breakfast of the game themselves. We’re not doing it to you, we’re doing it for you.

Put simply, nature abhors a vacuum. If we can’t get any sense out of our elected representatives, we’ll just have the conversation that we should be having with them amongst ourselves instead. So no, Mr Dutton, the media is not conducting a jihad to bring down the government. It’s providing a substitute for a government that has removed itself from the coherent discussion of politics.