Thursday, September 6, 2012

No Cure For Stupid

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me, and to be honest, for most of the women in Australia, for most of our LGBTI community, for all public servants across the three eastern states, for intelligent people everywhere, and for anyone who prefers winter to summer. With the exception of the last one – the end of winter – the rest of our group ennui is the result of the stupid things high profile people say, and the probability that they actually mean it, and the all-too-real likelihood that things will continue to get stupider.

Who are these sayers of stupid things? Both men and women are represented, private business owners and elected officials, conservative and leftie, although in fairness, the vast majority of the stupid has come from middle aged white male conservative politicians and lobbyists.

I’ve talked about some of these instances before, but they deserve to be revisited in the context of even more stupidity, so let’s take a stroll back to…

August 22

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was eviscerated by Leigh Sales on the ABC’s 7:30 programme. This interview stirred up more media reaction than we’ve seen since the last time Tony Abbott was made to look foolish by a ranga at 7:30 on a weeknight on ABC. It beggars belief that the alternative Prime Minister of Australia would be allowed to go on tellie to be interviewed about the details of a report he hadn’t read.

LEIGH SALES: I'm going on the facts that Marius Kloppers said today when he was directly asked if the decision on Olympic Dam was affected by Australia's tax situation and I'm going on the facts that are outlined in their results statement that they've issued. Have you actually read BHP's statements?

TONY ABBOTT: No, but I've also got again the statement of Jacques Nasser, who says, "While we're still evaluating the impact of the carbon tax, but it just makes it more difficult."

LEIGH SALES: But hang on, no, no, you haven't read their statements today, but you're commenting about what they've announced today and how the Federal Government's to blame for that.
August 23
Characteristically, Andrew Bolt had a unique perspective on that interview. Mr Bolt saw what the rest of us could not: Leigh Sales’ disgraceful disrespect, her shrill tones, sighs, eye rolls, accusations… The list of emotionally loaded descriptors rolls on as he refers to ABC journalists who are actually asking questions and expecting answers from the Leader of the Opposition as:

ANDREW BOLT: “…a recent in-house obsession of a small coterie of ABC Leftists.”
August 28
Meanwhile, in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, the newly announced Republican running mate Paul Ryan had a bit of a moment and fudged his marathon time by over an hour. It’s become a big deal because it was so easy to disprove, but it wasn’t alone in straying from reality. Ryan’s entire Convention speech has been scrutinized by armies of fact checkers and has found to be somewhat inventive. Now, it’s the marathon lie and the fact-checkers’ lists of inaccuracies that are the focus of Ryan’s world. How could he disregard the fact that as Republican VP Candidate, every breath is the subject of international attention?

The 42-year-old congressman has a reputation for telling "hard truths" about the US government's yawning fiscal deficit but his speech to last week's Republican convention was criticised for accuracy by independent fact checkers.

He accused President Barack Obama of failing to honour a campaign pledge to keep a Wisconsin car-making factory open. In fact, Mr Obama had made no such promise and the factory closed in December 2008 - a month before he took office.

August 30
Back to Tony Abbott and Leigh Sales and a new character in this comedy: Enter Grahame Morris, political strategist, commentator, and speech writer. On ABC702 in Sydney, another accomplished ABC journalist Linda Mottram was asking Mr Morris about the Leigh Sales interview, and in his response, amongst other things, he called Ms Sales a cow. Later, he apologised – but why did he say it in the first place? He’s had plenty of experience in front of a camera or open microphone. As for the apology, how’s this?

      “Poor little sensitive souls," he said, having been told of the feedback.

Asked whether he would have made the comment if Sales had been a male interviewer, Mr Morris said: "That's silly. It's a phrase I have used a million times that somebody can be a real cow when they want to be. Look, I apologise.”
August 30
Gina Rinehart has all the social and communication skills of an angry orang-utan. She put them on display yesterday for the world to see – and the world took notice. She may be unimaginably rich, cultured, softly spoken, articulate, but she’s also in the Homer Simpson class of insensitive. In a column she wrote for Australian Resources Magazine, she advised that anyone can become a millionaire if they work hard.

"If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain,” Rinehart wrote. “Do something to make more money yourself -- spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working.”
Good advice from Our Gina, who has clearly worked very hard indeed after taking control of Hancock, and has been incredibly successful. When Mrs Rinehart took control of her father's company, she inherited a $75 million dollar head start. You and I can work as hard as we’re capable of working, but few of us are capable of earning that $75m from a scratch start, but once you've got that, it gets easier. 

August 31

Alan Jones’ incendiary comments about the women “destroying the joint” aren’t confined to Australia any more. The Guardian (UK) has reported the story, too. Jones’ remarkably misogynistic comment has become an internet meme and a rallying cry for women (and men) all over Australia. There’s a petition to boycott 2GB’s advertisers, reminiscent of the very successful petition to boycott 2DAY-FM’s advertisers in response to yet another Kyle Sandilands offence. #Destroythejoint trended on twitter on and off for over 24 hours, and now has its own Facebook page and there’s already a range of T-shirts and accessories carrying the phrase.

What’s that old saying? You can have as many opinions as you like, but you can’t have your own facts? Someone needs to tell Alan Jones. Not content with putting the shock in shock jock, he’s still in denial about climate change, and is working with Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate to undermine it. He has even drafted a letter that his listeners can use as the template for a letter of complaint to the Mayor, which includes the following:

“We were talking about the hoax that is the carbon dioxide tax and he was calling on councils to boycott it. Basically he said he's going to do everything he can to make sure his Council won't pay the tax.”

August 31

Meanwhile, back in Republican American, Clint Eastwood took twelve minutes to deliver a five minute speech which was supposed to support Mitt Romney, but was far more effective as a plea for senior citizens with mental health issues. He spent the bulk of the time berating an imaginary President Obama – in other words, talking at an empty chair. In fact, this shouldn’t be here. It’s not stupid; it’s art.

CLINT EASTWOOD (to an empty chair): “So anyway, we're going to have -- we're going to have to have a little chat about that. And then, I just wondered, all these promises -- I wondered about when the -- what do you want me to tell Romney... I can't tell him to do that. I can't tell him to do that to himself. You're crazy, you're absolutely crazy. You're getting as bad as Biden.”
September 5

It’s Gina again, back for another bite of the Attention-Seeker Cherry, and another opportunity to insult the thousands of people who work very hard to keep her in the style to which they would like to become accustomed. Apparently Australia is just too expensive and companies don’t want to invest here…which is why yesterday’s Annual Growth figures were head and shoulders and a few curly chest hairs above every other comparable country.

It seems that Ms Rinehart’s life would be immeasurably better if Australians were paid less – and then she stated that it was cheaper to do business in Africa, where she can exploit the underclasses for $2/day.

"Furthermore, Africans want to work and its workers are willing to work for less than $2 per day,'' Ms Rinehart says in the video. Such statistics make me worry for this country's future.''
Newsflash for Mrs Rinehart: they worry us, too. It’s a disgrace that she believes that paying workers so little because she can get away with it is at all acceptable. Shouldn't we be working to bring African employment standards up, not push ours down?


There’s no one stupid thing that Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has said. There’s a gazillion. His becoming this year’s George W Bush. My personal favourite was his gleeful statement on Day 100 of his Premiership that he’d had fun. Woohoo! Delighted that he enjoyed threatening the jobs of every public sector worker in Queenslalnd; thrilled that he relished cutting vital programmes for Queensland’s most vulnerable; gratified that he’s prioritised the Gambling Industry and his former best mate Clive’s interests over those of the rest of Queensland.

In an interview with The Courier-Mail, Mr Newman said his first 100 days in office, had been "a lot of fun in most cases, and very, very rewarding to get on with what we'd said we'd do, particularly on the cost-of-living stuff".

But I am trying to limit myself to stupidity that’s occurred within the last fifteen days, so here goes: just today, Premier Newman made a complete arse of himself with this:

"The biggest thing we need to do, ladies and gentlemen, is create jobs," he told the assembled audience.

"Shelter, food, a job are the critical ingredients to advance all people, those are the things that give people dignity and self-respect.

"Those are the things that this Government is committed to."
Go tell it to the Public Servants whose jobs you're about to cut, and the former contractors and staffers who've already been shown the door. This government is committed to nothing except paying down the now infamous debt.
  And Forever

Astonishingly, Jim Wallace head of the Australian Christian Lobby, gets the gong for the stupidest of all these absurd proclamations that I’ve heard recently, and that’s saying a lot. Just yesterday, he declared that smoking was healthier than the kind of lifestyle that gay marriage would bring. The statement was made during a debate with Christine Milne on same sex marriage. The number of ways in which this statement is entirely preposterous is higher than I can count.

Mr Wallace, an intelligent man and accomplished leader, tried to compare decrease in life expectancy between smokers and gay men. Gay men, he says, have higher rates of risky behaviour and suicide, and hence life expectancy is reduced by up to 20 years, compared with 10 years for smokers. Well, if your survey data on gay mortality came from San Francisco during the early years of the AIDs crisis, that’d be right. In September 2012, it’s irrelevant.

“We have to accept the unfortunate levels of suicide, the unfortunate levels of excessive drug use (are) because of the nature of the lifestyle.

“I am very sorry for that. My heart goes out to these people. But it is a fact.”
  I’d like to encourage Mr Wallace to consider the role that his organisation’s relentless isolation and condemnation of the LGBTI community has contributed. In a confounding case of wit, he described gay activism as “bullying”. How would he categorise his own behaviour towards the LGBTI public?

Today, Prime Minister Gillard finally got on board, and has cancelled her plans to speak at the ACL’s conference, and described Mr Wallace’s comments as “unacceptable.” Mr Wallace argued that he’d been misquoted. Misunderstood. The ACL has issued a release.


The Last Word

Lyle Shelton (@LyleShelton) of the ACL spent time last night energetically tweeting the rousing words of Bishop Anthony Fisher of Parramatta Diocese. Bishop Fisher is the one who announced his arrival in Parramatta by proclaiming that "Godlessness and secularity caused Naziism, Stalinism, mass murders and abortion..." Last night, Mr Shelton tweeted that the Bishop had said:

The sexual revolution has already damaged marriage. We should hold onto what is good and rebuild. – Bishop Fisher
In the midst of all of that, Mr Shelton tweeted this popular quote from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.
When I use a word it means what I choose it to mean – Humpty Dumpty #marriage
Mr Shelton has tagged the tweet #marriage, so with due respect, no. Marriage does not mean what you choose it to mean for anyone except yourself. I get to choose what marriage means to me; Ross gets to choose what it means for him. Mandy gets to choose what it means for her. The rest of it is just ignorance and hatred.

Okay, I'm done for now. If you'd like to add to my list of stupid things, please do! Click the Comments link below, and rant away. 

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