Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Laudato Si

James Martin, another Jesuit, has summarized Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si.

He has developed ten points -
1. The spiritual perspective is now part of the discussion on the environment.
2. The poor are disproportionately affected by climate change.
3. Less is more.
4. Catholic social teaching now includes teaching on the environment.
5. Discussions about ecology can be grounded in the Bible and church tradition.
6. Everything is connected - including the economy.
7. Scientific research on the environment is to be praised and used.
8. Widespread indifference and selfishness worsen environmental problems.
9. Global dialogue and solidarity are needed.
10. A change of heart is required.

You can read the whole summary here.

Or better still, read the whole encyclical here.

And being the practical soul that he is, Francis offers some tips here.

Saturday, 27 June 2015


Mining camp - Pic courtesy Toowoomba Chronicle


That was the description the motelier used when I asked him how the town was faring now that the gas projects had moved on to extraction. I was booking into a motel in a town in the Surat basin. 

It's not a large town, there aren't very many motels, and he was in conversation with me, gentle reader, not you, so I won't identify the place.

I was the only person booking in that night (last Tuesday).

The motelier was referring to the mining companies which have recently moved from the construction phase of their projects to the extraction phase.

"Bastards!" He repeated. "They're sending us all broke".

I had driven into town from the south, passing the airport. There was an Alliance 717 on the Tarmac. Three charter buses were pulling up, discharging a gaggle of blokes in hi-vis gear. 

Later, after this brief and bitter conversation, I wandered down to the Foodworks to pick up some tucker. There weren't any blokes in hi-vis gear in the supermarket.They're not in the habit of shopping there. 

Everything they consume at the camp is trucked in under contract from hundreds of kilometres away. 

They spend no money in the town.When I pressed the motelier about what he meant, he alluded briefly to locals investing in businesses and property in town in anticipation of growth, only to be left in the lurch. 

Two new motels had been built in anticipation of the boom. They're pretty much empty, as was the one I was staying in.

The mining companies simply bypassed them. Everything from the workers to the kit is sourced from the coast or down south. The anger and despair in town is palpable.

On checking out the following morning I asked the question, which as a teacher, I always ask.

"Are they employing local kids?"

The answer was "No, although they put an apprentice on last year. It was all over the paper", he said. "Nothing before or since - just a token".

As I was leaving, mine host made one thoughtful remark - 

"They've refined the methodology of destroying small communities, and they're following it to the letter. The local council went like lambs to the slaughter. They approved everything, yet they're supposed to be looking after us, their ratepayers".

I kid you not - that's verbatim.When I asked him why this was occurring, he said it was all about control. They (the mining companies) want to control every aspect of their employees lives - where they live, with whom they associate, and where they spend their money, he said.

What he didn't say was that none of them, as a condition of employment, could live outside the camp, nor could they join a union. Or more accurately, if they did, they had to make sure that their employer didn't find out about it. 

The biggest threat to corporate control of power in this country is organised labour. That's why the mining multinationals and their minions in our federal government are so determined to eliminate it from our national life.

Why "locusts?

That's what the locals call the mining multinationals......... 

Update - The ABC reads my blog. This story will be featured on Landline on Sunday at noon.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Timorous Timmy

What I posted. The link takes you to the Ernie awards.

Blair's censorship in operation.

Old mate Tim Blair continues an attempt to resuscitate his slowly dying blog by abusing women.

Viewed in the cold light of day, it's very strange behavior, but there may well be an underlying disorder at play.

His glass jaw remains, however. Any comment that is a potential threat to the pretention daily posted is censored.

It fits a pattern, I guess. 

Friday, 19 June 2015


Pic courtesy BBC & Getty Images

Once again, we hear of cold-blooded slaughter across the Pacific.

To Australians, the almost routine nature of incidents like these is baffling.

How can a country, which claims leadership of the free world, continue to tolerate a firearm fatality rate which kills 30 of its citizens daily?

How can the same country abide a situation where there is so much broadcast hate (much of it on extremist websites) that it culminates, amongst other things, in a young man, taking his birthday gift into a place of worship, and killing nine of his fellow citizens?

Why don't these incidents happen with such sickening regularity in other developed western nations?

I don't pretend to know much about American culture. Most of my understandings about Americans were developed when I encountered them during my service in Vietnam many decades ago. Later, as a teacher, I was working in Queensland, when Education Queensland recruited many American teachers to fill an unprecedented shortage.

Those two very different experiences drive the following generalizations.

Most Yanks are pretty similar to us in terms of attitudes and values, but there are significant differences. I'll try to specify these differences.

As a group, they take patriotism very seriously. I remember being threatened with physical violence by a GI when in conversation on a bus during R & R in Bangkok, I called American cars "Yank tanks".

They also have deeply ingrained views about race. Again on R & R, there were a group of black GIs (Southerners) staying at my hotel (which rejoiced in the name "Florida"). The white Yanks had nothing to do with them. We (the diggers in the same hotel) found them to be good value, and their sense of humour not unlike ours. We spent a lot of time with them, and by the end of the week. had been invited into a number of soul bars, and found ourselves the only white faces present. We had a great time. The music (Motown) was great, and there were lots of pretty African-American nurses.

This experience showed me that our Australian values (pretty laid-back, generally not taking ourselves too seriously), resembled more those of black Americans than their white compatriots.

The general consensus amongst us was that many Yanks were "up themselves" to use the crudity in use at the time. 

Encounters with American teachers in the late 70s and early 80s have reinforced this impression, together with the observation that as a group their knowledge and appreciation of cultures outside their own is abysmal. They weren't prepared to take advice from us; Australians who were well experienced in our system, and attempted to use strategies which simply didn't work here.

I recall two of these teachers in particular who came to the conclusion that the problem was our system, not their methods, and swiftly returned to the states at the end of their contracts. It reminded me eerily of the US military who believed that they had all the answers to insurgent warfare and wouldn't be told anything by Australians. We know how that worked out.

As one of my digger mates was heard to say - "You couldn't tell them anything, but you could sell them anything". The unique combination of naivety and arrogance was baffling.

The other element of US culture that baffles Australians is their attitude towards firearms. To me,  carrying an SLR in Vietnam was a necessary evil. There were, after all, people trying to kill us. I left the thing behind on return to Australia without regret, and haven't touched a gun since.

This is because (with the exception of some people I encounter when driving) I don't believe anyone is out there trying to kill me.

This, apparently, is not the belief of Americans, if you pay attention to the NRA, and other firearm lobbyists. They obviously believe that there are sufficient homicidal maniacs in their country to warrant every citizen "carrying" as they so elegantly put it. According to this dogma, everyone, including teachers, should be armed. This is despite the fact that there are already 88 guns for every hundred American citizens, that is every man, woman and child in the country.

In Australia, the figure is 15.

It's conceivable, that in my lifetime, we will see a situation where there are actually more guns in the USA than people to shoot them. Somehow, nobody across the Pacific has yet twigged to the fact there is a correlation between firearm prevalence and firearm deaths.

The standard counter-argument to this starkly obvious fact is "because constitution".

I kid you not.

When it comes to hate speech (or more accurately hate posting), there are differences between Australia and the USA.

In this country we have laws against racial vilification. In the USA they don't. One of the results of this is the cancer of hate websites in the USA, most recently, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, numbering 784.

They operate with impunity, and generate fear and loathing. Unfortunately, because the internet knows no boundaries, this cancer has metastasized to the point where it has become a feature of many Australian blog sites.

So what has happened in Charleston is entirely predictable and a product of a combination of race hatred and bizarre gun culture.

Australians as a rule, have more common sense than to stand for this lunacy. Unfortunately, I can see it spreading across the Pacific. Most stateside trends do.

I hope I don't get to see it in my lifetime.

*FBI estimate of active hate groups in mainland USA.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Some Mothers Do Have Em (2)*

You catch some weird and wonderful stuff on dash cam.

Here's an example. Explanations are necessary.

I was scooting along in the bride's Focus, minding my own business, when I observed the following.

Elderly gent in front of me driving a Suzuki 4WD runs into the back of a hatchback at an intersection. That's not captured in the video, as it happens a few frames earlier.

Driver of the hatchback pootles around the corner and parks by the side of the road, no doubt with the intent of indulging in some deep and meaningful discourse with the driver of the Suzi, probably beginning with "Why did you drive into the back of my car?"

The answer may have had something to do with the fact that he was watching traffic approaching from his right, so he could pick a gap and drive into it. The gap emerged, but the driver of the hatchback was in it. Basically, he wasn't watching where he was going, never a good idea when driving in traffic.

He hits the hatchback from behind; the bullbar on the Suzi is dislodged by the collision and falls on to the road in front of it.

Elderly gentleman seems completely oblivious to this fact, and makes several unsuccessful attempts to drive over the bullbar (5 - 25 seconds in).

I watch this for a short time, and eventually conclude that someone should tell him that he isn't going anywhere. I put the hazard flashers on, get out of the car, tell him what's going down (the bullbar) and eventually remove it from the road (40 seconds in). He finally gets out of the Suzi and nearly clouts me with the remaining debris as he throws it on the footpath (42 seconds in).

You can see the driver of the hatchback (parked on the left) surveying the damage to the back of her car.

I finally decide that anywhere with a metre or two of this bloke and his Suzi is dangerous, and depart.

My bride, viewing the video later, chides me that I probably took a risk by physically placing myself in front of his car to pick up the bullbar, given what had just happened.

In hindsight, she's right.

*There is another Some Mothers Do Have Em on this blog,

Monday, 15 June 2015

No Excuse

I have no excuse for posting this.

Except that it's worth sharing..........

It sits on the office wall at my base.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Tilting at Windmills*

Wind generators at Windy Hill, near Ravenshoe, FNQ.

Our esteemed PM made a few interesting observations about wind farms when talking to Alan Jones (AKA The Parrot) yesterday.

To quote him - "Up close, they're ugly, they're noisy and they may have all sorts of other impacts."

This was despite the fact that he admitted in the same interview that the closest he had actually come to a turbine was to cycle past one on Rottnest Island.

Given that he wasn't all that "up close", the reference to "ugly" may not necessarily be based on a considered aesthetic understanding. Whizzing along on a bike with your bum in the air and your head down is not the best viewing situation.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all.

But "noisy", and "other sorts of impacts"....hmm.....

I spent a fair bit of time a few years ago at Windy Hill Wind Farm near Ravenshoe, and I don't remember any noise at all. There are twenty towers in that farm, and the wind was blowing on the day, and the turbines were turning. 

We had driven out from Herberton (where we were staying at the time) specifically to have a gander at the towers, something that lots of tourists do. You know how it is, you always go looking for ugliness when you're touring.......... 

Maybe I'm deaf, or my memory is playing tricks. Far be it from me to suggest that our PM is making stuff up. But then we come to the bit about "may have all sorts of other impacts". 

Let's look at the facts from the National Health and Medical Research Council -

(2015 ISBN - online - 978-0-9923968-0-0 Internet site: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/ 
 The National Health and Medical Research Council - p169)

The evidence considered does not support the conclusion that wind turbines have direct adverse effects on human health, as the criteria for causation have not been fulfilled. Indirect effects of wind farms on human health through sleep disturbance, reduced sleep quality, quality of life and perhaps annoyance are possible. Bias and confounding could, however, be possible explanations for the reported associations upon which this conclusion is based.

Now this is just one of scores of studies that have come to the same conclusion.

But windmill-tilting Tony uses the word "may" to great effect. 

I mean, pigs may fly, but there is no evidence to believe that they have that capacity. 

It's long time since I've read Cervantes, but from memory the windmill-tilting Don Quixote was more than a little bonkers. And with him was Sancho Panza, his dense but trusty squire. Reminds me a bit of five-house Joe. He doesn't like windmills either. They make a lovely pair.

And this person is our PM? 

Now that's a worry................ 

*H/T Claire 

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