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Essential Reading

Attribution, schmattribution

anonymous source

The Sydney Morning Herald has a code of ethics, which may come as a surprise, but here it is for all to admire -- especially this bit intended to assure readers that reporters aren't being played by contacts with barrows to push or, indeed, are just making stuff up:

"Where a source seeks anonymity, the journalist shall first consider the source's motives and seek alternative attributable sources. Quotes not attributed to a named source will be used only with a section editor's approval."

Let us now extend sympathy's fullest measure to SMH chieftain Darren Goodsir, who must have had little time for anything over the past week but granting executive approvals to correspondent Mark Kenny's use of anonymous sources. Lots and lots of anonymous sources, all ringing the death knell for Tony Abbott:

"Tick, tick, tick ..." was how one insider described the feeling in Parliament House…

Mr Abbott weathered what one MP called a "cavalcade of complaints"

…even [Coalition] neutrals say the situation cannot be allowed to fester. The government is dying...

“It's voters, our voters, who've decided they can't stand this prime minister …," said one marginal seat  Liberal.

One senior Liberal called the performance "embarrassing", and another described it as "the last straw" for Mr Abbott's leadership.

As many as a dozen to 16 ministers, according to one inside estimate, would back a switch to Malcolm Turnbull in the event of a challenge.

Just for the record, the SMH Code of Ethics also nails its flag to the mast of accuracy and fairness. That inspirational document can be read via the link below.

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Nancy bites

nancy1Gerard Henderson's latest Media Watch Dog has just been posted and Nancy is in fine form. From this week's first item:

What a stunning performance by David Marr and Richard Glover during the Drive With Richard Glover program on ABC Radio 702 late yesterday afternoon. Discussion turned on evidence given that day at the Royal Commission Into Responses to Child Sexual Abuse concerning Knox Grammar School in 1980s. It turned out that Timothy Hawkes, who appears regularly on Drive With Richard Glover Drive on a Monday, was mentioned at the Royal Commission.

Dr Hawkes (for a doctor he is) is the high profile headmaster at The King’s School in Parramatta. In 1989 he was the MacNeill Housemaster at Knox Grammar School on Sydney’s North Shore when a 13 year old boy boarder was indecently assaulted in his bed. Tim Hawkes did not contact NSW Police at the time or later – believing that this was not his responsibility but, rather, that of the principal. Outside the Royal Commission yesterday Dr Hawkes declared that he had “nothing to regret” concerning his behaviour at the time.

Tim Hawkes’ extraordinary performance at the Royal Commission was not even mentioned on Drive With Richard Glover yesterday. Initially Richard Glover asked David Marr about whether there were any comparisons with Cardinal Pell and the Catholic Church. This overlooked the fact that there is no evidence that George Pell was ever aware of a contemporaneous attack on a 13 year old boy or girl which he failed to report to police. David Marr responded by referring to his recent article of sexual abuse within the Yeshivah movement in the Jewish community, which was published in The Guardian Online.

Neither Glover nor Marr mentioned that Knox Grammar School is under the control of the Uniting Church in 1989. Only the Catholic and Jewish religions were mentioned. Moreover, as previously stated, the only person who was named in the segment on the Drive With Richard Glover program was the Catholic Church’s Cardinal George Pell who had nothing to do with what went on in the Royal Commission yesterday. It was “Blame George” time again. How about that?

Plenty more where that came from via the link below

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Inane. Always.

hartcher wetter than usual

According to Fairfax Media's Peter Hartcher (above), who thinks as hard as he can when attempting to put the day's news in just the right perspective, Gillian Triggs is indeed a biased political operative masquerading as a human-rights champion.

Also according to Hartcher, Tony Abbott is wrong to paint her as a biased political operative masquerading as a human-rights champion:

"Was Triggs guilty of playing partisan politics? It seems so. Why didn't she inquire into the problem of children in detention when they were being locked up at an increasing rate under Labor? Why wait until now?

Abbott is probably right on this point. But so what? Triggs' report gave the government an opportunity to highlight its progress in solving the problem."

In Fairfax newsrooms this passes for reasoned commentary.

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Redeemed with a grant on the side

green science

Physicist John Reid, who blogs at Blackjay, writes:

Climate Change is a wonderful science Problem with a capital “P” because it feeds into Western cultural preconceptions about guilt and redemption, about the fundamental wickedness of humankind and about the ultimate perfectibility of man and society. In the West there has always been a breast-beating minority with an exaggerated sense of sin, who wish to change the world before some imagined apocalypse overtakes us all. They tend to take the moral high ground and vilify those who would question their baseless beliefs. Nowadays they are called “the Greens”.

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On the beach

beach wear

It is Sunday afternoon and Williamstown Beach is a melting pot in the rare, withering heat of this year's Melbourne summer, which has so far paid little heed to global warming. A multiculturalist’s dream is stretched upon the sand. Down at the high-water mark, a Chinese couple is parked with their Esky, she brandishing a white-bread sandwich to lure their kids from the shallows, him draped in a beach towel that is also the Australian flag. Their children aren’t interested in curtailing the fun of poking at a beached jellyfish; their cries of delight and mock terror mingling with the screech of gulls so that it is hard to tell how much of the flat-vowelled screeching is avian or human.

A couple of reed-thin Africans amble past – Somalis, perhaps, or maybe Eritreans from nearby Footscray, where you can buy lounge suites with vast armchairs that look for all the world like tribal chieftains’ thrones and some of the churches preach their sermons in Dinka.

Over to the left, an elderly couple who you guess hailed long ago from Southern Europe. New Australians they would once have been called and there can be little doubt about that. He is short and round and wombat-necked, his shoulders and back a carpet of greying body hair that speaks of Greece or Italy.

And over to the right, a knot of Muslims, the men in board shorts and bare chests, the solitary woman in Koranic swimming attire – ankle-length trousers, hijab and some species of voluminous shawl that hangs limp and wet atop yet even more bolts of fabrics. Poor thing, you think, having earlier watched as she struggled from the water in that broad acreage of soggy drapery.

But they seem happy enough, gabbling and laughing, the woman included. If there is a cause for a concern, it hangs over everyone on the beach, regardless of origin and ethnicity. The afternoon's blue skies are vanishing behind a mattress of low, dark cloud rolling in from the Bay. You can feel a storm brewing and that may well mean one of Melbourne’s infamously sudden drops in temperature, with the pelting rain and lightning that so often go with them.

Indeed, there is a distant rumble, but it could not be thunder because it comes out of the north and grows louder with every second: a Qantas jumbo is climbing out of Tullamarine. The plane is now overhead and banking to the east, setting its course for Godknowswhere. There is not yet need to fret about gathering up the towels and baskets in a sudden, wind-whipped barrage of stinging sand.

Just like everyone else, the Middle Eastern clan notices the low-flying jetliner, and one of the bearded men says something that makes his companions smile.

Then, as the plane cuts its arc above the water, he raises both arms as if to mime the shooting of a rifle, sights the jetliner with a pair of lined-up upraised thumbs and squeezes an imaginary trigger.

There are more smiles as the red tail and its flying kangaroo diminish in the distance. Just another day in multicultural Melbourne.

(Note: Those curious about Islamic teachings on beach wear will find the link below enlightening.)

-- Roger Franklin

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Bondage & (academic) Discipline

spankUnless their activities necessitate a visit to the emergency room, thereby placing a burden on the health system and public purse, lovers of leather and whacko! quite probably strike those who don't fancy carrying on like a British cabinet minister as being no more interesting than the worth of a bemused smile. That's why we must give thanks for modern academic Elizabeth Dori Tunstall, who has sufficient degrees in this and that to perceive so much more in a game of naughty schoolgirl-meets-stern teacher than might be obvious to, say, a parent preoccupied with covering the cost of a child's education at Swinburne University of Technology, where Ms Tunstall teaches something called Design Anthropology. She also supervises "strategic planning of academic quality and curriculum innovation for 2200 students and 150 academic staff". In between those duties she  finds time to pen learned essays for The Conversation.

Her latest deep thoughts, prompted by Fifty Shades of Grey, are most informative. It seems that multi-tasking with a ping-pong bat and cucumber (or what have you) has something to do with racism: white people spank each other because no one else does, while people of colour have copped enough humiliation to take all the fun out of a trip to Bunning's for some rope and G-clamps. But let Ms Tunstall explain:

Erotic genres often name the dominant social barriers between people. Interracial brings together historically, as well as currently, taboo people of different races, such as black men and white women. MILF or DILF (moms/dads who “I’d like to f$&k”) addresses several taboos: age, parental assumptions of asexuality, and adultery. Cross-dressers and trans sexual genres challenge gender norms. Gay and lesbian genres deconstruct hetero-normative sexualities.

The fantasy of having sexual experiences across class, religious, ethnic and/or racial, age, gender, even species lines opens imaginative possibilities that challenge the very existence of those lines.

And what, the intolerably thick might yet be wondering, is Ms Tunstall's prime interest, this topic going by the title of Design Anthropology? Again, let teacher settle all misconceptions:

Dori, with the help of colleague Norm Sheehan, sought to explore with a global group of design anthropologists, Indigenous activists and scholas (sic), and innovation consultants the possibilities of a socially-focused model for innovation based on the methodological approaches of design anthropology and Indigenous Knowledge whereby “high cultural wellness” communities are the direct sources and beneficiaries of innovation.

Clear on that?

-- Roger Franklin

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