Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Vietnam Veterans Panel Discussion

I found this a fascinating discussion, gentle reader.

Most of the issues touched upon by these people are familiar to Australian Vietnam veterans.

I hope you find it as interesting as I did. The references made to the suffering of the parents of draftees resonated with me. The inclusion of the partners was valuable.

The emotional intensity evident is shared by many Australians, even though the events were almost half a century ago.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Walkin in Memphis

This is pure self-indulgent nostalgia.

Here are the lyrics, gentle reader, should you want to sing along -

Put on my blue suede shoes and
I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain

W.C. Handy
Won't you look down over me
Yeah, I got a first class ticket
But I'm as blue as a boy can be

Then I'm walking in Memphis
I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?

I saw the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue
Followed him up to the gates of Graceland
Then I watched him walk right through

Now, security did not see him
They just hovered round his tomb
But there's a pretty little thing
Waiting for the King
And she's down in the jungle room

When I was walking in Memphis
I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?

Now, they've got catfish on the table
They've got gospel in the air
And Reverend Green, be glad to see you
When you haven't got a prayer
But boy you got a prayer in Memphis

Now, Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
She said, "Tell me are you a Christian, child?"
And I said, "Ma'am, I am tonight!"

Walking in Memphis
I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?

Walking in Memphis
I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?

Put on my blue suede shoes and I
Boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain

Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain

(Copyright -  Marc Cohn and Ben Wisch.)

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Maslow and Marketism

Marketism is defined by Wikipedia as – “a loose aggregation of beliefs that generally oppose government and favour private enterprise in the form of free-as-in-unregulated market principles”.

Sounds about right….

Let’s have a look at the effect of Marketism on two national sectors, both of which have been newsworthy of late. I’m referring to housing and energy.

Housing has become very expensive, reaching the point where for many young people, the dream of owning a home in one of the state capitals is a fantasy. This article from the domain website illustrates it pretty well.

The housing market over the decades has morphed from a service to people starting a family and looking for somewhere to live, to a safe investment option. In the process, prices have skyrocketed. The functional relationship between shelter and investment has always been uneasy. Now it is completely out of kilter.

We have heard a great deal recently about both the rising costs of energy (especially electricity and gas) and the threat to future supplies. Blame is attributed to either a move towards renewable energy supply, or “gold plating” of infrastructure, depending on the politics of those making the case for one over the other.

I can vividly remember paying less than $200 per quarter for electricity when we had a family of six consumers, and comparing that with the $600 plus per quarter we’re paying now with three people in the house.

The source of our power (coal fired generators) hasn’t changed, which rules out blaming renewables. What was different back in the day of the $200 power bills was that electricity generation was publicly owned and was described as a service (a utility) and not a market.

Again, back in the day when we bought our first home in a state capital (which cost, from memory, $24000) the word “market” wasn’t used to describe housing, or if used, was in the lexicon of Real Estate agents, not your average punter.

So the language, the perception, and the understanding of the reality of establishing the foundations of a stable and comfortable life in this land of Oz has fundamentally changed. We are to see housing and energy now as functions of a market, aspects of life to be bought and sold, and if possible, from which to derive profit.

That’s crazy. It doesn’t work, and people suffer. Didn’t that bloke called Maslow describe a hierarchy in which the most basic (bottom) rungs comprised food, shelter and security? Electricity and housing are vital components of these.

He didn’t describe them as a market - he saw them as basic human needs. He knew what he was talking about. Neither did he discuss greed, simple uncomplicated soul that he was.

He would be spinning in his grave…..

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Western Reflections

Roma Sunrise

Last week was my once per school term Charleville loop.

It takes in much more than Charleville – Cunnamulla, Quilpie, Augathella and Tambo, to be precise, covering a distance of about 2500 km, and I continue to enjoy it immensely. This is a problem, as I will have to give it away soon. On the cusp, as I am, of three score years and ten, the unfortunate reality is that this kind of activity is the province of younger people. I’m not getting any younger.

So, I’ll reflect on why working west of Roma has been such an enjoyable way to spend the bulk of my sixties.

First of all, the kids and the schools are brilliant. Bush schools are something else. Somehow, they have retained the essence of what enthused me as a young teacher when first I began to teach. That’s a long time ago – nearly half a century to be precise, since I first fronted a class (of 45) at Goondiwindi State School in 1968.

Goondiwindi 1968

The kids really haven’t changed. Embedded as they are in a world generally free of the frustrations and fripperies of urban existence, they present an enthusiasm for life and general and learning in particular often absent in city kids.

Sure, there are frustrations in their lives, but these are typically factors entirely beyond their control such as drought and the seasons, so they tend to take them in their stride, rather than whinge and moan to anybody who will give them a hearing.
The communities are strong and resilient, and they hang together in a way unknown in the city. This sense of solidarity becomes obvious when you attend an inter school sports day in the bush. The loyalty to school and community is intense. 

These tight communities can, of course, become a barrier to newly arrived teachers if they can’t develop trust with the locals, but generally if you’re fair dinkum, you’re accepted. Bush people are accustomed to staff turnover rates unknown in the city.

The rural kids have another characteristic – that of independence. Given that independence is so important to kids with disabilities and their future quality of life, they are well placed in bush schools. In addition, because of the lack of specialist infrastructure, support for these kids is everybody’s daily business – not left to the designated “special educator”. There isn’t one, most of the time.

I’ll use that word “enthusiasm” again, and apply it to the teachers. Part of it comes from their youth, and the fact that they have generally come west because they really want to teach. They will take the posting to get permanency. Young teachers, if properly supported, are a breath of fresh air in any school community. Sure, they make mistakes – but if they’re metaphorically dusted off and returned to the fray by supportive colleagues, they will learn valuable lessons from these mistakes.

Then there’s the country.

There’s lots of references in the Old Testament to the cleansing of the soul to be found in the wilderness (or the desert). Those Old Testament bods knew a thing or two. There’s nothing like the big sky, the blazing sun, and the silence of the west to contribute to a sense of clarity. You can’t be bothered by insignificance when confronted with these landscapes.

And last, but not least, I guess my own experience contributes. During the time I was in Vietnam, we lived the routine of patrolling. This meant we set out with a mission to complete and returned when it was done. My mission wasn’t necessarily the same as the army’s (I was intent on staying alive) but there was a clear sense of purpose, and a feeling of pride and relief when it was over. Weirdly perhaps, some of that sense of mission for me persists.

Five years in the North West (based Mt Isa) also taught me a great deal about what the people in remote communities value, and I’ve probably been able to hone these understandings during the last ten years on the road.

I will miss it when I retire. Having failed retirement once, I will need to try harder next time.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Fact Checking Fatty 5D

It has occurred to me that rather than ridiculing Fatty 5D*, it might make more sense to examine exactly what he says, and subject it to some basic fact checking.

It's not difficult.

At a rally in Melbourne, Florida, a few days ago, Trump said in reference to Sweden - "they took in large numbers - they're having problems they never thought possible" (about 40 seconds in). He was referring to refugees (although he dehumanizes them by using the word "numbers".

The first part of the statement is correct (more than 150000 in 2016), but let's look at the second part - "problems they never though possible".

Trump and his supporters claim that terrorism is an issue in Sweden, and that refugees are committing rape at an unprecedented rate. Let’s fact check those two propositions.

Let’s look at terrorism first. Indeed there was an incident. That was over six years ago - back in 2010 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Stockholm_bombings

Nothing since. Despite this, Trump talked about “last night”. The low information voter would assume he was referring to a specific incident that occurred "last night".. Turns out he claims he was referring to a Fox News report. Who knew?

This is relevant – http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/02/trump-sweden-terror-claims

Looking at the second proposition – Politifact is generally reliable – http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/feb/20/what-statistics-say-about-immigration-and-sweden/

If you don’t accept Politifacts findings, you can always read the Daily Telegraph, not noted for being a journal sympathetic to refugee causes – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/22/data-analysis-true-scale-immigration-crime-sweden-five-charts/

An extract – “Sweden’s crime rates are typically low compared with other nations and – contrary to Trump’s belief – there hasn’t been a refugee-driven crime wave in recent years. In fact, the latest figures show that the rate of crimes against life and health have actually decreased in recent years.”

In case you don’t trust either Politifact or the Telegraph, you can always go to the Swedish statistics – http://www.brottsrummet.se/sv/sexualbrott

It’s in Swedish, of course (relatively unsurprising), but Google translate is your friend. Try to find evidence of an outbreak of rape committed by refugees in these figures. I couldn't. But then, my Swedish is not good.

You have a go.

It’s interesting, of course, to compare Swedish and US crime stats – https://www.numbeo.com/crime/rankings_by_country.jsp

Sweden is safer. Maybe Fatty 5D* needs to sort his own backyard before he smears the Swedes.

*Trump was deferred 5 times when drafted for service in Vietnam.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Burnside's Blues

Let's run some rural blues.

R L Burnside has to be one of the most under rated blues musicians around.


(H/T Brendan) 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Ideology - Which Ideology?

Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and others have been loud in their criticism of the South Australian commitment to renewable energy.

The catch-cry is “ideology” getting in the way of common sense.

I couldn’t agree more about the interference of ideology, but I’d like to draw your attention, gentle reader, to a different ideology at play which is most definitely flying in the face of common sense.

The situation on the afternoon of 8th February when load shedding occurred was this – 

The system had capacity to meet the generation shortfall. In order to do so, the back-up gas generator at Pelican Point had to be powered up to a point where it could meet the shortfall.

It wasn’t.

You might ask why, gentle reader. The answer is simple. Nobody was going to make a quid out of it.
Funny thing is, the supplier probably would have done OK, but it was all too hard, despite the forecast warnings, and the predicable spike in load.
Electricity supply has mysteriously morphed from a service to a market. There are those of us who can remember when the supply was owned and controlled by the public.

Back then, supply was reliable, and whilst there were occasional blackouts, they weren’t as a consequence of market failure. In other words, the responsibility for maintaining supply was the responsibility of government, not the market.

Not anymore.

So the ideology at play here is marketism, not commitment to renewable energy. Unfortunately, the market sometimes fails. There are situations where the market is not the answer. 

The people of South Australia have become political collateral in a tussle between competing ideologies.

What an absolute disgrace.

Update: We all know that soaring energy costs are driven by the move to renewables.
              Not really... 

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