20 March 2009

SLAP the presses!

March 2009, and it's time for the first Slap for the Fourth Estate. Former judge Marcus Einfeld gets a Flick to help send him on his way to jail, after trying to perjure his way out of a $77 speeding ticket, as does Robert Mugabe for asking for the end to "cruel" sanctions against Zimbabwe, when he is doing more damage than an angry wrecking ball himself. Coming up just short of being the third religious Slap this year is Pope Benedict the Unhelpful, for suggesting that condoms would "aggravate" the spread of AIDS in Africa. If that's his view of preventative measures, I'm going to burglarise his house, as I can only assume he believes that security systems aggravate theft. However, we head to the offices of Sydney's Sunday Telegraph, and render a handprint on its editor...

Neil Breen.

Neil's decision to publish photos that were allegedly of a naked Pauline Hanson taken in the 80's has had a cascading effect throughout the news. Apparently he now admits that he "went too quickly on the story", after paying the alleged human who provided the photos $15 000. After splashing the headline around proclaiming Pauline's nudity, the rise in sales will most likely have covered this particular cost, so he doesn't take a hit. What takes the hit is the credibility of news in Australia. Most people still take what they read in the papers at face value, and so before running such a salacious story, the editor has a duty to check sources, confirm origins... and to open his damn eyes. The photos do not look like Pauline. There is a passing similarity in eye makeup and hair, but both are clearly on a non-Pauline Hanson head. But, as he can pass himself off as a victim in this process, being duped by brilliant, dazzling con artistry, he can simply take the circulation bump and move on.

For the same reason that a former judge gets an extra kicking for breaking the rules, so should a newspaper editor. Not only is such a person expected to know better, they need to behave better. The knock-on effect of this cerebral power shortage is that, just before an election that she is running in, Pauline Hanson gets to portray herself as a victim of the big bad media, and garner more votes that she doesn't deserve because of it (for an elaboration on this, scroll down to Vote 1: Slap).

This one goes in the file of "disappointed, but not surprised". Far too many "news stories" are the direct result of press releases, those press releases should have to, at the very least, make their flaws and bullshit less obvious than this particularly pale attempt at lookalikes.

And in other news, the editor of a Sydney-based bin liner took five fingers and a palm to the side of the head. Nearby witnesses heard a noise which they described as a SLAP.

Links: Jail term completes Einfeld's disgrace
Mugabe calls for end to "cruel" sanctions
Pope Benedict XVI says condoms can aggravate AIDS in Africa
Hanson photo row: editor admits not checking facts

13 March 2009

The $177 Billion Dollar Slap

After a week hiatus, or perhaps you could consider it "taking a run-up", hostilities resume. And while an incoming Slap might be the least of this gentleman's problems, he is still in desperate need of a handprint. So, courtesy of the New York Judicial System, please welcome Slapcatcher #9 of 2009 -

Bernard Madoff.

This week, Madoff pleaded guilty to eleven counts relating to the world's biggest game of Three Card Monty. The figures are staggering - according to prosecutors, $177 billion dollars went through Madoff's hands. I have to plan and organise and manoevre the paying of a phone bill... trying to imagine $177 buh-ILLION dollars is like a grain of sand trying to picture the beach. And yet, the apparently "deeply sorry" Bernard Madoff managed to make this evaporate. A lot of people's lives went sideways in the process.

Also Slapped this week are every person who assisted Madoff, either wittingly, or by giving his books a clean bill of health. The Ponzi scheme is an old, well-established rip off procedure, and for it to have worked that large for that long it astounding; it means that so many people were asleep at so many switches that being part of a US financial regulatory body apparently causes narcolepsy. Nice to know that Enron taught some people absolutely nothing. And more of this snooze-based vigilance will become apparent over the course of this year - much white-collar crime stays hidden while things are ticking along nicely, but when the wheels come off... it's only when there's a fire that you notice the fire extinguisher has been sold.

Madoff himself, having carried this on for decades, has been very noisy in his regrets now that he's been caught. Considering the amazingly large figures involved, the only other possible outcomes are that a) he died before he got caught, or b) he successfully put about $6 billion on 27 at Vegas. When you screw up once, you say sorry. Make the same bad move twice, and you might get away with "really sorry". Rinse and repeat over twenty years, and you can season your "sorry" with your crocodile tears, and take rectally. Which briefly makes me ponder the fact that it's a shame he won't be serving his time in maximum security.

Bernie, you deserve more punishment than you'll get. All I can do is add ever so slightly to your sentence.


Link - Bernard Madoff pleads guilty in $100bn fraud