Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pathetic, Christopher!

Readers will recall the matter of Christopher Pearson’s ignorant and malicious attack last weekend against the ABC’s bookselling enterprise. In his column today, Pearson takes up the cudgels of his cultural warriordom with renewed vigour. Very much as an afterthought, his final paragraph offers what he calls a mea culpa for last week’s stupidity.

In conclusion, I should offer a mea culpa for real offences. Last week I named ABC Books as the publisher of nine books that in fact had been produced by other publishers. It was a careless error. Visitors to the ABC website will notice that publishers’ details are often not given and create a misleading impression, but nonetheless I should have double-checked.

Yes, you should have, Christopher! And, may I say, as an apology that effort rather sucks, sheeting home much of the blame to supposedly “misleading” web content. One wonders how the fact that “publishers’ details are often not given” might mislead anyone — I mean, other than those who come to the matter with a preset agenda.

The author John Marsden, whom Pearson confused with a recently deceased Sydney lawyer, merits a more genuine apology.

A more serious error was to confuse author John Marsden with the Sydney lawyer of the same name, and I ask him and all who read the Inquirer section of the paper to accept an unqualified apology.

The bulk of Pearson’s column is devoted to a defence of his, um, integrity against attacks made in a recently-published academic critique of “conservative opinion in the Australian press”. Fair enough, of course, he’s entitled to put forward his point of view, and anyway I have neither time nor inclination to explore the minutiae of Pearson’s little ‘controversy’.

His closing denunciation of the authors, however, gave me a bit of a chuckle. He opines that “they betray little evidence of the curiosity or imagination needed to engage with world views other than their own. Their only really strong suit is bile.”

Hmm, sounds like some people we know... but, as ever, this kind of thing will play well to a home crowd. Anyway, at least in this instance Pearson seems to have correctly identified the book’s publisher (University of Western Australia Press).

Friday, November 10, 2006

Earthy primeval goat roast


Kathy in comments here reminisces about roast-lamb-on-a-spit, noting that “there is something just so earthy and primeval about it”. The above image will answer her query about roast-goat-on-a-spit.

The satisfaction many of us derive from the ritual slaughter and roasting of the odd goat almost certainly harkens back to ancient, dormant racial memories. For somewhere in the recesses of the medulla of our human brains reside ghostly vestiges of the good old days, when the enemy of our enemy, the tribe on other-side-of-hill, would be invited over for a post-genocide feast of roast goat, perhaps with the heart of a defeated chieftain as a side-dish.

In this age of microwave ovens and KFC, the art of reviving anachronisms can often become a compelling quest. It may manifest itself in the compulsion to restore ‘historical’ railways, the more trivial impulse to take a horse-drawn carriage down the street instead of the tram, or the urge to make obeisance to a political leader at a rally by emitting pant-hoots.

All this and more attests to the ingenuity of the modern time-traveller in reviving anew the old ways. In many cases, the more costly, unseemly or inefficient the anachronism, the more attractive it becomes.

Goat Friday

101 Uses for a Goat: #1


Iraq insight eludes John Howard

Will Prime Minister John Howard ever get around to slating home responsibility for the debacle in Iraq?

So, sure, [the US mid-term elections outcome is] a judgment, an adverse judgement, in part because of the way Iraq has gone.

Okay, so it’s just “the way Iraq has gone”. It’s all Iraq’s fault – that perverse, quirky little country! But wait, there’s more...

It was obvious that the President decided that a gesture acknowledging the unease that some people feel about the way the operation is going in Iraq, that he had to do that [sack Rumsfeld], and I would see Rumsfeld’s departure very much in that context.

So then, “the operation” is to blame for “the way” itself “is going”. Will Mr Howard ask himself who bears responsibility for “the operation”? Will he let us in on his conclusion, if and when he ever does come to a conclusion? Oh, hang on, there’s more...

What has happened in relation to Donald Rumsfeld is ... a recognition that there had to be something done by the President to acknowledge that there is concern about the conduct of the war.

So then, “the conduct of the war” is to blame for itself. Will Mr Howard identify who is responsible for “the conduct”?

If Mr Howard ever comes to some kind of judgement about what went wrong, it seems assured that we, his loyal subjects, will be the last to know.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Selectivity found to be not uncommon

Tim Blair lists some of the mean and nasty names Bjorn Lomborg has called the Stern Review:

... selective, flawed, fear-mongering, hastily put-together, sloppy, unlikely, problematic, unrealistically pessimistic, alarmist ...

Interestingly, Blair has selectively overlooked the following pivotal sentence from Lomborg’s critique:

The review correctly points out that climate change is a real problem, and that it is caused by human greenhouse-gas emissions.

Now, why would the Muftim overlook this rather salient point?

And did any of his commenters query this oversight? Nah, I can’t be bothered looking.

China-Africa ‘reciprocal dimension’ missed

In case anyone missed it, the China-Africa summit in Beijing wound up last weekend, with billions of dollars set to be injected, for better or worse, into a dozen or so African nations. The Australian reported on Monday:

China has pledged to double annual aid to Africa by 2009, provide $6.7 billion in soft loans and credits and train 15,000 African professionals. ...

China also signed trade deals with 10 African nations worth $2.46 billion, with the biggest contract involving aluminium production in Egypt. ...

China is cancelling its debts due from the least developed countries in Africa, setting up a $6.7 billion fund to subsidise Chinese companies’ investments in Africa, and raising from 190 to 440 the items that Africa’s least developed countries can export to China tariff-free.

Interestingly, the Murdoch flagship missed the following ... um ... reciprocal dimension of all this wheeling and dealing, as reported in The Age:

China has spelled out the political price of its huge new investment in Africa, reminding the leaders of 48 of the continent’s nations of the importance it places on reunification with Taiwan.

President Hu made it clear that China was counting on the recipients of its largesse to reciprocate with diplomatic support.

At the opening ceremony of the Forum of China Africa Co-operation, he said: “In all these years, China has firmly supported Africa in winning liberation and pursuing development. ... We in China will not forget Africa’s full support for restoring the lawful rights of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations.”

A quid pro quo should come as no surprise. What’s surprising is that The Australian’s China correspondent missed that rather significant dimension of the story.

Anyway, voting patterns in multilateral fora with regard to China’s sphere of interests should be interesting over the next few years.

It’s all about Tiiiimm...!

Neglected at the time, this post by Muftim Blair on the occasion of the death of Australian racing legend Peter Brock just about sums up the Blair self-absorption.


Apologies for lack of posts [by Muftim]—and thanks to all who kept the open thread below wide open [to inflate Muftim’s hit-rate].

I’ve just driven a Bentley Continental GTC from California to Las Vegas. A delightful romp, or so it was meant to be, until I learned via text message of Peter Brock’s death. Brock won the first motor race I ever saw, in 1972; a couple of decades later, I spent a day at his farm discussing everything from his fondness for meditation to the torque-binding characteristics of A9X rear axles.

A genuine and delightful oddball was Brock. He once embraced all-change-is-bad conservatism [about which Muftim appears to be ambivalent], campaigning for Malcolm Fraser in 1983 against Bob Hawke. By the end of the eighties, Holden had dumped him for his peculiar faith in crystals [of which Muftim appears to be ambivalent]. At one point Brock converted from a smoking, drinking carnivore to a non-drinking smokeless vegetarian [of which ditto] within 24 hours.

Yesterday morning, in memory of Australia’s finest domestic driver, I shot that Bentley up to 140 mph. Not much of a tribute, really; as Brock would have been aware, it still had another 50 mph left.

More posts soon as I’m back in Sydney.

Posted by Tim B. on 09/09/2006 at 04:37 AM

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pearson ABC-bashing update

Today The Australian published a correction in relation to Christopher Pearson’s weekend column in which he maliciously attacked the ABC’s bookselling enterprise.


Christopher Pearson’s Inquirer column in The Weekend Australian mentioned a number of works on ABC Books’ list of titles, erroneously assuming that ABC Books was also their publisher. The books were categorised as recommended and there were no other publishers’ details listed.

  • The Australian, Monday, 6 November 2006, page 4
    (print edition only)

Well, I’m darned if I can find any ‘Recommended’ category of books on the ABC Shop website. On the other hand, it’s true that publishers’ details are not given with the description of books. However, Pearson’s assumption of the ABC as publisher of all those titles, if not merely carelessly sloppy, could be characterised as subliterate incompetence. Yet readers are supposed to accept this person’s opinion as informed...?

In today’s edition of Crikey, Margaret Simons notes that Pearson’s malicious attack is “revealing of the low standards apparently considered acceptable if you are bashing the ABC.”

I am reminded of another columnist, Terry Lane, who offered to resign from The Sunday Age earlier this year after falling for an Internet hoax. Lane was honest enough to admit: “I fell for it because I wanted to believe it. That is inexcusable.”

The issues are a quantum leap apart, of course – who published some books in Pearson’s case compared to allegations of human rights abuses in Lane’s case – but the issue of intellectual honesty is the same.

  • Crikey, Monday, 6 November 2006
    (subscription required, no link available)

Simons might have further said that the allegations were of gross human rights abuses, which implied a frightful libel of serving coalition personnel. Yet the ethical dimensions of the two cases do seem somehow different, hinging on the respective motivations of Lane and Pearson. Lane has been reasonably upfront about his stupidity, but we’ve yet to hear from Pearson.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Anti-ABC bias unmasked

In The Australian yesterday, Christopher Pearson writes regarding the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ill-fated commissioning of Chris Master’s book Jonestown (in the event, published by Allen & Unwin):

It’s obvious that commissioning Masters’s book was a misjudgment, but a brief survey of ABC Books’ list of titles goes to show that it was by no means an isolated lapse. Among the feistier agitprop there is Margo Kingston’s Not Happy, John!, described as “a gutsy anecdotal book with a deadly serious purpose: to lay bare the insidious ways in which John Howard’s Government has profoundly undermined our freedoms and our rights”.

Oh for crying out loud, Christopher, take a valium and chill out. Kingston’s book was commissioned and published by Penguin books. The ABC merely sells Kingston’s book, as it does many other titles.

Another sinister publication on the “ABC Books’ list of titles” cited by Pearson is Anne Summers’ The End of Equality, which is published by Random House.

This kind of bloody-minded, reflexive pillorying of the purportedly ‘biased’ ABC is getting extremely tiresome. Worse still, when it is downright misleading like this effort by Pearson.

(Via Harry Heidelberg)


Here’s a listing of all the books Pearson reckons were published by ABC Books, shown against the name of the actual publisher.

Margo KingstonNot Happy, John!Penguin Books
Anne SummersThe End of EqualityRandom House
Barry JonesComing to the PartyMelbourne University Press
Helen CaldicottNuclear Power is Not the AnswerThe New Press
David Marr & Marian WilkinsonDark VictoryAllen & Unwin
Mungo MacCallumHow to Be a MegalomaniacDuffy & Snellgrove
Frank BrennanTampering with AsylumUniversity of Queensland Press
Paul CollinsBetween the Rock and a Hard PlaceABC Books
John Shelby SpongNew Christianity for a New WorldHarperCollins Publishers Inc
John MarsdenI Believe ThisRandom House

As can be seen, the one title actually published by ABC Books is Paul Collins’ Between the Rock and a Hard Place, a critique of Catholicism that, no doubt, will bring down right-thinking Australian society as we know it.


A reader’s letter in The Australian today succinctly makes the same observations I made above. Further, Mark Rubbo (of Readings Books and Music, Fitzroy, Vic) notes that “the author John Marsden, who Pearson claimed died last year, is very much alive ... or at least he was when I saw him last week.”

In other words, not only did Pearson misattribute the book’s publication, he also incorrectly attributed its authorship to John Marsden, the Sydney solicitor (whom Pearson, correctly for a change, says died in May). The actual author is John Marsden, the Australian writer.

Mr Rubbo concludes: “Pearson makes nonsense of his whole argument.”

Indeed. Nice work, Christopher.