Janet knows best. There is no op-ed style more risky than the drafted speech, wherein the hack advises the great and good what to say to calm the ravening masses. It tends to work when the purported speech-giver is so addled that almost anything would be better than what he or she is doing — i.e. it almost always works for the ALP — and the greater the distance between supplier and recipient, the more mawkish it seems. Witness Planet Janet Albrechtsen’s words of advice to President Barack Obama. Planet suggests that Obama should stay out of the Syrian civil war and let the Arabs sort their own problems out, rather than pursuing his current strategy of staying out of the Syrian civil war and letting the Arabs sort their own problems out.

Janet Albrechtsen

For sheer Australian Idol levels of cringe, you can’t go past a neocon hawk giving handy hints to someone who has steered the country clear of an Iraq-style disaster by ignoring everything the neocons thought and did. Add in an asinine misunderstanding of the conflict (Sunni-Shia rivalries ancient as the moon rising over the camel-trodden dunes sort of thing) and you have the perfect know-nothing op-ed. The purpose is, as always, a retrospective justification of the disaster of Iraq. Planet paints it as a triumph and a liberation and rolls Afghanistan and Libya in with it. That’s a different strategy to the usual hard-Right take on Libya — for a while the Bolter and others were singing from the same hymn sheet as John Pilger and others as to how the toppling of Gaddafi had revived anti-black racism in the country.

But of course, Libya is not like Iraq. Why? Because in Libya’s case, the US President supported a revolution that was underway, with a judicious use of force, and minimal post-war involvement (whatever skullduggery is no doubt going on behind the scenes). The result? No US casualties, and fewer than 300 civilian casualties. Libya today is no picnic, but it’s getting along a lot better than Iraq — where everyday life is still lethal and the government is torturing and detaining without trial. It is also better than Syria, and it is worth considering — though I’m not a fan of consequentialist arguments — that Libya would be more like Syria today were it not for the judicious assistance supplied by the US to win the struggle decisively and relatively rapidly.

Cautious, judicious, minimal … what does that sound like? Ah yes, Edmund Burke. What the neocons really really can’t stand is that the man they championed, George W. Bush, was an inept know-nothing, gulled by a radical agenda of US imperial dominance and nation-building, supplied by a gang of militarist liberals, ex-Trotskyites, ultra-Zionists and anti-democratic Straussians. Since Planet and the rest of her crew were willingly gulled as well, they must work hard at rewriting history. The logical ad absurdum of this process is to instruct the President to do what he’s already doing and pretend that it’s in continuity with what they were doing, which is precisely what he’s rejected.

They lack the key ability of their leader, John Howard — his awe-inspiring ability to wrap himself in total self-delusion when required. None of them can face the fact that the conservative president they wanted appeared — and it was Barack Obama (a designation that includes his amoral, appalling drone war — another no-US-casualty operation that relieves him of any significant domestic opposition). Hence the helpful letters. If you really want an extra, David Brent level of squirm read the coy kickoff (and weird, too — “direct physical contact”?) to the piece:

“MEMO to US ambassador to Australia John Berry. When next in direct physical contact with President Barack Obama, please slip this speech into his hand … Mr Ambassador, your President, a gifted orator, has said this is a ‘year of action’. With depressingly low approval ratings, what has he got to lose by delivering this speech …”

Gifted orator … ah, but the boy sure can sing! They can’t help themselves, can they? Thanks for the advice — Guy Rundle

Sunday People website killed two months in. The great digital adventure planned by the Trinity Mirror media group (The Daily Mirror and others) for its Sunday People title has been killed off — only two months after the website started. The Guardian reported:

 “Sue Douglas, hired seven months ago to take charge of Trinity Mirror’s Sunday People, is leaving the company, and the People.co.uk website she launched in November is being scrapped. Trinity Mirror is closing People.co.uk with ‘immediate effect’ and Douglas and her team of four will leave the company at the end of January.”

The website started on November 5, and although the reports didn’t provide any detail on traffic levels, they did say the site didn’t hit the forecast audience numbers. People.co.uk was a late entrant into an already super-crowded field dominated by the Mail online website (which is dropping the .co.uk and just going .com to try to build up US traffic), with The Guardian‘s website, the BBC and other sites dominating online news reporting. Glenn Dyer

Video of the day. Who says cops can’t have fun on the job? One police officer busted out some excellent dance moves at the Big Day Out gig on Australia Day. Festival-goers had a great time boogieing with the fuzz, and Victoria Police has backed her moves, all in  the name of “engaging with the community” … 

Front page of the day. Forget the Popemobile, the fancy hat and the red shoes, Pope Francis has finally arrived. “The People’s Pope” has landed the cover of Rolling Stone — with a Bob Dylan quote as the tagline, no less. Cardinal Ratzinger, eat your heart out.

Pope Francis Rolling Stone