Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 15 January 2011


I couldn't resist posting this. You can find it on Plane Talking.

Not much comment is necessary, except perhaps to note that I've landed on strips like this without hitting big chooks - I have hit a few whilst driving.

They have no brains at all (the Emus - not the people on the plane).

Warning - best watched with headphones on, especially if you're at work or in the presence of people who are easily offended.

Talk on Corners

Years ago, my bride and I spent some time in Ireland.

One of the differences we noted between the way people connected here in Oz, and on the streets of Irish towns and villages was "craic" or talk on corners.

In Ireland, particularly the South, people gather on the corner of the street, and just yarn - often about nothing in particular. It does happen here, to a much more limited extent, and hardly ever in towns or cities. It's more a bush phenomenon.

Since the floods, that seems to have changed, in Toowoomba at least.

People are talking on corners, in newsagents, at the post office and in shopping centres. Generally, they're swapping yarns about what they were doing and what happened to them when the flash flood went through. Many long-held beliefs about this city were eliminated in a few minutes.

As someone said to me yesterday - "You don't expect to be at risk of drowning when you head off to do some shopping.

I guess people are taking comfort in the simple things - talk on corners.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Methinks they doth protest too much.....

Australian conservative bloggers, including Bolt and Blair, have been very busy lately with trenchant criticism of mainstream media connecting the rise of extremist rhetoric with the Tucson shootings.

Where they maintain that there is no obvious connection, I agree with them.

But there is a toxic political climate in the USA - or more correctly, a toxic culture.

The dictionary definition of "culture" is "a medium for growth". The metaphor is a petri dish in which an organism is introduced to help that organism grow and develop. The culture is the material in that dish which allows the organism to grow.

Let's take a look at the composition of that media culture.

First, there's the mainstream media. They haven't changed or developed much in the last five years, except to use different forms of technology to market their material. There is a range of opinion across this media, and generally, it's balanced.

The next level is the corporatized opinionista. Generally, this segment makes their money out of advertising which is directly related to internet hits and radio ratings. To increase your hits and ratings, you need to post or broadcast something that is on the outlandish end of the opinion spectrum.

Hence the term "shock-jock".

Here, and in the USA, they're generally to the right of the political spectrum. In the USA, amongst others, there are Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Here, we have Alan Jones, notorious for his barracking around the time of the Cronulla riots.

Cronulla is a text book example of an immediate response to inflammatory rhetoric.

For examples of this kind of rhetoric across the Pacific, it's instructive to read a small selection of material broadcast recently.

Glenn Beck - 

"I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. ... No, I think I could.

"I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today."

Rush Limbaugh -

"What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I'm just noting the timing, here."

"The only way to reduce the number of nuclear weapons is to use them."

There's plenty more where that came from.

I've included some images, as they tend to be more powerful than words.

It's patently obvious that this rhetoric and imagery contributes to a culture where all bets are off when it comes to civility, but it goes further than that. The metaphors and images used are frequently violent and give the impression the rule of law no longer applies. It's easy to gain the impression that you're free, as a citizen, to take matters into your own hands.

Most people let this wash over them. There are always a few who don't.

People like Bolt and Blair who make a living out of whipping up hysteria to increase hits are free to do so, but they have a heavy responsibility.

It's time they recognised this, and pulled their heads in before we see the same kind of incident on this side of the Pacific.

Generally, (and unfortunately) trends in the USA are picked up here. Hopefully, our national psyche is fundamentally sane, but anything's possible.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Three days on...

 What the people from this part of the world have experienced during the last few days is, for most, unprecedented.

A situation like this puts attitudes values and perceptions through a blender.

The difference between the way my Gen Y kids and their friends see this, in comparison with those of my generation who went through the 1974 flood is obvious.

Two of my kids are marooned in Yeronga. They're quite safe, But the water is close, and were without power for most of last night when the river was coming up.

They had omitted to organize torches, batteries, radios etc, so weren't too comfortable. They also (in typical fashion) had very little food in the house. With the only accessible shopping centers closed, they were not only uncomfortable but hungry. They have a BBQ but no gas.

Maybe this has been a learning experience......

My wife and I generally prepare for this kind of emergency almost without thinking about it. Being brought up in FNQ* where cyclones and floods are routine may have something to do with it. By the time I was 10 I'd been through two tropical cyclones, one of which destroyed the house we were living in. You learn from these things.

It's frustrating to watch the unfolding tragedy and being unable to help. I spent hours trying to register as a volunteer yesterday, but the website had crashed, and the phone was engaged all day. In the end I was able to get involved unofficially through a veterans' network. Anything I do will have to be local in the short term, because we're cut off on in all directions.

This was a major contrast with the way it was in 1974, when I jumped on the back of a truck and spent three days cleaning up flooded properties in St Lucia. They didn't have many plaintiff lawyers back then.

I was lucky not to get caught up in Monday's flash flood in town here. Just before it happened I set out to drive to Garden Town, a shopping centre which was inundated. Because of the pelting rain I decided to pick up the stuff at a local corner store instead. By the time I'd finished my shopping, the roads were turning into torrents, so I headed for high ground, parked the car and listened to the radio until it was safe to drive home. Lots of people in downtown Toowoomba weren't so lucky. Two days later, local tow truck operators were working 24 hour shifts salvaging cars that had been washed away.

We're facing shortages here now. Because the roads are closed, no trucks are getting through, so milk and bread is almost unobtainable, and fuel is being rationed.

Many of the schools I work in west of here are marooned - some are being used as emergency centers. Not one of the places I work in has not been flooded. What makes this flood different is that it's not confined to one specific area. Every single river system (whether flowing west or east) is in record-breaking flood. Some places (Dalby and Condamine for example) have been inundated for the second time in two weeks.

Despite my grizzling about Gen Y, they seem to have retained the qualities that are characteristic of Australians when things get tough. My eldest son spent yesterday helping mates in Fairfield get their stuff out before the water came. There were young people filling sandbags all over the place in Brisbane yesterday.

Generally people have been cheerful and optimistic. The cleanup will be of epic proportions and will require perseverance as well as optimism.

It will also cost megadollars.

* Far North Queensland

Monday, 10 January 2011


Toowoomba city - this afternoon. (Caution - strong language)

I was at a shopping centre only one kilometre from where I live, but by the time I realised what was happening, it was too late, and I was cut off.

I spent the next two hours waiting for the water to recede before I could get home.

The city is in chaos, and emergency services are overwhelmed. I've never seen rain like it. The pressure of the downpour was so great that it blew the top off our rain gauge.

I'm supposed to be helping my daughter shift house tomorrow in Brisbane - unlikely, as the Warrego is blocked by landslides at the top of the range and flooded creeks at the bottom.

More video on the ABC.

Apple Pie

Political assassination is as American as apple pie.

The video posted above provides a contextual insight.

I remember being woken by my father on 22nd November 1963 to be told that John Kennedy had been shot.

Dad was very upset - he was an admirer of Kennedy, as much as anything else because there was a Catholic in the White House.

Then on June 5th 1968, my 21st Birthday, as a young teacher in Goondiwindi who was awaiting my National Service medical, I heard the news of Bobby Kennedy's assassination.

I've never understood why the incidence of political murder has provided such ghastly but regular punctuation to American political history, but after watching this video, I have a better idea.

It has very fertile ground available stateside.

It doesn't happen only in the USA, of course, there was an attempt on the life of Arthur Calwell, federal opposition leader in this country, back in 1966 when he had finished addressing an anti-conscription rally in Mossman, Sydney.

But this phenomenon has been monotonously regular on the other side of the Pacific -

1865 - US President Abraham Lincoln dies after shooting by John Wilkes Booth

1963 - JFK assassinated

1964 - US civil rights leader Martin Luther King shot in Miami

1968 - Bobby Kennedy assassinated

1972 - US presidential candidate George Wallace shot and paralysed

1981 - John Hinckley Jr. fires six shots at US President Ronald Reagan

2011 - Congresswoman Gabby Gifford shot in Arizona

The American media has gone mad with the usual recriminations and questioning. Blot and Blair have been furiously covering their backsides.

There is a simple answer to the "why?" question. It's the consequence of a combination of unregulated gun ownership, a tendency towards religious fundamentalism, and a plethora of radio shock jocks who deal in hate to make a living - much in the same way as Blair and Bolt.

There are about 2% of the American population who react to this drip-feed of anti-government rhetoric, and we see the result.

Fortunately, we don't have all the ingredients to the recipe available in this country. Give it time…..

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