Friday, July 15, 2011

A Horrible Cunt

Being a horrible cunt has its advantages.

Take Rupert Murdoch as an example of this.

The billionaire tyrant has taken his horrible cunt qualities - lack of empathy, sociopathic morals, veneration of profit over all other princiapls - and turned them into a multi billion dollar media empire that spans the globe and make the lives of countless people in the public eye thoroughly miserable. He is undoubtedly one of the world's richest and most influential people. Not bad for a bloke who started with one newspaper (left to him by his father) in the global backwater of Adelaide.

Or take me, as another example.

A keen follower of news and current events, I've taken my horrible cunt qualities - vindictiveness, callousness and a hefty serve of schadenfreude - and converted them into a relentless enjoyment of watching that horrible cunt Rupert Murdoch's media empire crumble (at least a little bit). I feel no shame or guilt about doing this, having harboured great fear and loathing towards the billionaire tyrant for as long as I can remember (fear, loathing and plagiarism being still more of my horrible cunt qualities).

It has to be said, though, that I am probably not the only one enjoying this.

There must be millions of us really, around the world, waiting breathlessly for each new revelation about the grotesque behaviour of journalists and editors employed at the newspapers of Mr Murdoch, each seemingly worse than the last. It's a story that could have come straight from one of Murdoch's own tabloids; powerful people abusing doe eyed victims, screaming headlines, shock and scandal, celebrity and money and a gaggle of frenetic journalists pumping the story like wild eyed junkies, racing each other to get the next scoop.

No wonder Murdoch's papers sold so well. His readership has been enjoying this sort of stuff for years!

And the fact that it is the mouldy old bastion of serious journalism and lefty-ism, England's 'The Guardian,' that is turning the screws on Murdoch only adds to the deliciousness of it all.

Things have moved so quickly and unraveled so fast for Murdoch that it is difficult to know exactly where it will all end. Just a few months ago he was so powerful and influential (and entrenched) in the fabric of British life that he was almost a bit like an aging, wizened sun; something everyone there paid attention to each day without ever really noticing. He owned not only the country's largest selling daily newspaper ('The Sun') but also the largest selling Sunday paper ('The News of the World') and the most prestigious (London's 'The Times') as well. In addition to this, approval of his takeover bid of satellite TV channel 'BSkyB' looked to be a mere formality, which would have made him England's foremost broadcaster as well as a newspaperman.

His influence in England, already enormous, looked set to reach new levels of dominance. The only thing left after the 'BSkyB' takeover would have been for Harry Potter to show up and battle him to the death.

And then it all went wrong, big time.

In 2006, it was uncovered that Clive Goodman, a reporter for the 'News of The World' ('NoTW'), had illegally accessed the mobile phone voice mail boxes of members of the royal family. He'd done this in collusion with a private investigator hired by the paper and, once this was uncovered, both men were sacked, prosecuted and jailed. While creating waves at the time, this incident was still viewed as fairly minor and was largely glossed over with the usual 'one rogue reporter not representative of our standards' comments from News Corps HQ.

The billionaire tyrant muttered something under his breath, his British newspaper staff went back to their then principal job of destroying Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown and life went pretty much back to normal.

But this scandal was far from over. It continued to percolate away in the background, as other members of the media (chiefly 'The Guardian') dug away at it, slowly uncovering evidence and sources and garnering testimony from a growing number of disgruntled ex News Corp employees (who, what do you know, didn't have much love for Uncle Rupert). All of this background research and effort exploded spectacularly a few weeks ago.

First it was revealed that the phone hacking operations at the 'News of the World' had not been down to 'one rogue reporter' but had, in fact, been standard business practice. An expanding number of celebrities were revealed as having had their phone messages accessed by NoTW staff, several of them (inclusing the actress Sienna Miller) taking News Corp to court and suing for damages. Almost simultaneously, it was also revealed that NoTW had paid corrupt police officers, as well as private investigators, to help them with this hacking operation, sending shockwaves through the British police force.

And before the outrage over this had even died down, an even bigger scandal came to light. 'The Guardian' reported that in 2002 NoTW reporters had accessed the voice mail box of Milly Dowler, a 13 year old school girl who had gone missing at the time. Not only did the reporters hack into her message bank, but they then deleted messages from it, so as to create space for more. Police at the time thought that the girl herself was accessing her messages and so assumed she was still alive somewhere (she was subsequently found murdered).

The horrified public response to this incident is still reverberating in England.

A sweeping tide of disgust and revulsion spewed forth from other media outlets, members of the public, politicians and pundits. Advertisers immediately abandoned the newspaper and some departed News Corp publications altogether. A number of journalists and editors previously employed by the paper have been arrested and appear headed for jail (among them former editor Andy Coulson, until January this year the British Prime Ministers press secretary). The 168 year old paper itself has been closed and it's current staff made redundant.

Of course, Murdoch himself cannot be specifically blamed for any of these incidents. The time has long since passed where Rupert had any hand in the day-to-day running of his newspapers. But what is obvious is that he has created and cultivated a vile mentality within the arms of his corporation. One that rewards brazen success, regardless of how this is achieved, with no recourse to ethical behaviour or thought for the effect the companies reporting has on it's targets.

Once the NoTW scandals had come to light and become a serious problem, Murdoch did become personally involved in handling the crisis. But his efforts to 'fire break' the scandal by shutting the paper and distancing himself from what happened do not appear to be working. As he lops off one head of this snake, another appears in it's place.

This week, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave an interview where he accused both 'The Sun' and the 'The Times' of a relentless campaign of harassment while he was still in Government, including; the now expected phone hacking, spying on his friends and family, illegally accessing his son's medical records and hiring actors to impersonate him so as to gain access to his finance and personal records. It's not difficult to imagine Brown, never a favourite of Murdoch's and so someone who suffered obscenely distorted coverage from his papers, having a good laugh in private after airing his accusations and so adding to his old tormentors grief.

For grief is probably as good a word as any to sum up where Murdoch finds himself now (assuming it is proper to assign a human emotion like 'grief' to an inhuman entity like the billionaire tyrant). One of his best selling papers is closed and favoured associates under arrest or with their reputations in tatters. His remaining British papers are now both tainted and have an ugly smell emanating from them. His 'BSkyB' bid has been officially abandoned and would, in any case, have been held up for years by a now hostile Parliament. Indeed, his former friends at the top of Government now castigate his company daily in the press. There is talk of Murdoch selling his other papers and abandoning the UK altogether. Maybe retreating to America... where the FBI have already commenced an investigation into allegations that Murdoch's US newspapers hacked the phone records of victims of the 9-11 terrorist attack. I'll leave it to you to imagine what will happen to Rupert in America if that is proved to be true, but in my mind it involves burning torches and pitchforks:


Hell, I'm ready.

I guess being a horrible cunt has it's disdvantages too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Burly Workers in Neon Vests

After one of the more protracted, drawn out, postponed and neverending gestation periods in Australian political history, our carbon tax policy has arrived.

And one of the first things to be thankful for is that the carbon tax has been called just that; 'The Carbon Tax.' For anyone who's thinking 'Well, what the fuck else would they call it?' just cast your mind back to Kevin Rudd's doomed Carbon Trading Scheme, officially called 'The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.' Anyone that wants to track the downhill trajectory of that policy need only start with the name, as horrendous as anything that the language mangling Ruddbot ever came up with.

Moving on from the name to the policy itself proves trickier, due to the complex nature of what has been put forth. Which is nothing short of an attempt to recombobulate and reform Australia's energy sector, manufacturing sector and tax system simultaneously (when a reform of any one of these areas on it's own would normally have been considered epochal).

A brief summary of what has been proposed:


A carbon price of $23 per tonne of emissions.


Paid by the top 500 carbon producing companies, the tax will increase annually to a projected rated of $29 per tonne by 2015. From 2015, the Government plans to replace the tax with a market driven emissions trading system, where the carbon price will 'float' and be set by trade in carbon permits.


Companies subject to the tax are expected to pass on their costs to consumers. As these companies come from a diverse range of industries - including mining, transport and manufacturing - costs of most goods and services are expected to increase. The average cost increase per household per week is predicted by Treasury to be $9.90 per week, while the tax is expected to raise about $17 billion worth of revenue in it's first year.


A broad suite of compensation to measures to offset these cost increases. These will be delivered through tax cuts, increases in welfare payments and a set of 'one off' bonus payments to help pensioners and low income households. Average compensation is projected at $10.10 per household per week, costing the Government about $21 billion in the first year of operation.

Now that last sentence is important. As it means that Treasury modelling of the Carbon Tax shows that on average people will be marginally - very marginally - ahead of where they are now.

This from a tax that has been widely posited as the end of civilisation as we know it. The last Revenge of the Green Nerds who - for reasons known only to the Tony Abbott and his supporters on the extreme right - want to destroy modern society.
We can see now that they want to do this by giving us a generous package of tax cuts and payments and hoping we all... spend ourselves to death? Which is, you know, devilishly clever (or something).

Which is not to say that there aren't losers from the carbon tax legislation. The compensation measures are on a sliding scale so those at the bottom end of the income scale will do much better than those at the other end. Anyone with kids and earning over $150 000 will be worse off by a few hundred dollars a year, as will single people with no kids on about half that amount (including myself in this last category).

But to speak of losers out of such a package as this one is to overlook a fairly crucial point. And that is: this is a tax that you can avoid, or minimise your exposure too. Even more pointedly, this is a tax the Government wants you to avoid, as much as possible.

For if the carbon tax is to serve any useful purpose at all, then it's primary function will be to alter the way people spend their money. By adding a carbon price to good and industries that are carbon intensive, the hope is that carbon free or reduced alternatives will become cheaper in comparison. And so savvy people who are willing to look for services in low carbon areas will receive not just the Government's compensation, but save themselves money by dodging the tax altogether.

Again, not exactly what you'd expect from a policy who's purported purpose was to return Australia to the Dark Ages.

Not that this could stop the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, from claiming that this was just what it was designed to do. The Action Man's response to the carbon policy was both predictable... and seemingly scripted out about a month before the details of the policy were released, as his comments mostly ignored the specifics of what the Government had just proposed.

The carbon price would 'drive up prices and threaten jobs,' the Opposition leader said. It would 'do nothing at all' to curb emissions while ensuring that 'millions of Australians are worse off.' It was nothing more than 'a tax increase pretending to be an environmental policy' and, as such, would be 'the first time since the 1980s that marginal tax rates have been increased.' He colourfully predicted that the the policy would prove so unpopular with the punters that the Government would suffer 'the death of a thousand cameos,' as regular folk stepped forward to complain about it. He further offered to provide all 1000 said cameos by noon of the following day.

In short, he had plenty of tightly scripted, vaguely general, acutely non specific lines that the waiting media hordes could sample and run as five second grabs as his response throughout the subsequent few days. Typically, for Abbott, he had much less to offer in the way of actual details; whether or not he'd reverse the tax if elected and whether he'd keep the more generous income tax arrangements that accompany it first among these points he was silent on.

And he had nothing whatsoever to say about his own plan to reduce carbon emissions.

Yes, that's right, that previous sentence is not a misprint. Mr No-Taxy Pants is a Global Warming believer himself. And he has his own little scheme to reduce Australia's carbon emissions which he made no reference to during his carbon tax response and which involves spending $3.5 billion dollars of public funds on... tree planting? Burying, er, stuff? No one, including Abbott himself, seems quite sure exactly what his 'Direct Action' plan will entail, nor how he intends to pay for it. It also seems to be fairly certain that we won't find out either of things, until about four minutes before the next election.

In the meantime, then, we are treated to a most unusual sight. Both Government and Opposition engaging in an election campaign with no election due for about two years. Julia Gillard has promised to 'wear out her shoes' while travelling the country to explain the policy (and she has conducted more than 100 interviews since it was released), while The Action Man is never likely to miss out on a chance to roll up his shirt sleeves in public and shout a lot.

This faux campaign will involve much claim and counter claim from both sides, and will suck up all the available political oxygen for the forseeable future. Julia Gillard's has staked her Prime Ministership on this policy and, not to be outdone, The Action Man has doubled down and bet the house too. Expect many colourful charts and ads as they seek to exaggerate the benefits of their respective ideas.

Not to mention many more photos of what is likely to be this debate's enduring image; burly workers in neon vests looking non plussed.