WARNING: This post includes a picture of naked children engaged in innocent play.

The hunt for pedaphiles continues apace.  So long as we do not look in the obvious place – within the family – we are sure to find many we can blame and feel good that we are rooting out this evil.  Teachers and the clergy seem to be the main targets.  Last year Cec posted about an experience with his granddaughter that has ongoing implications for the way grandparents and even older parents relate to their and to all children.  This story of Minnesota State University football coach Todd Hoffner is just another example of life damaged by flawed accusal.  

Hoffner, 47, last ran a practice at N.C.A.A. Division II Minnesota State on August 17, 2012.  Called off the field to a meeting, Hoffner was stunned to learn that the university had put him on administrative leave.  He had just signed a four year contract extension after leading the Mavericks to the 2011 Northern Sun Conference championship and compiling a 34 – 13 record over four seasons.

But a technician repairing Hoffner’s university issued smartphone had discovered a video of Hoffner’s three young children dancing naked; the oldest was nine.  The university turned the video over to the police, and Hoffner was charged with two felony counts of child pornography.

HETNakedThe charges were dismissed three months later when the judge determined that the video depicted innocent play.  Still, the university suspended Hoffner for 20 days, reassigned him and ultimately fired him last May.  The case went to an arbitrator.

The 72 page decision ……… said the university had no grounds to fire Hoffner and ordered him reinstated immediately with back pay.  …….

Supporters of Hoffner say the university overreacted when the video surfaced, two months after Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted on 45 counts of sexually abusing young boys.

……”Somebody had it in for this poor man” (radio commentator) “…… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the word vendetta.”

The university president apologised to Hoffner but did not offer a public explanation for why he had been fired.  Hoffner was reinstated as coach in mid April 2014

NYT 20 April 2014, by Pat Borzi.  “Coach returns after arbitration but challenges are far from over”

Hoffner’s role is unclear although he has been reinstated to his former position.  Ongoing hostility towards him have to this stage prevented him from actually coaching.

Dr Strangelove, no less

Yesterday Passive Complicity linked to an interview with Malcolm Fraser in which he suggested that Australia’s blind alliance with the USA was not in either australia’s nor the world’s best interest.  Today’s post, an article by John Pilger with comments by Anthony Eames, reinforces this message.

From China to Ukraine, the US is pursuing its longstanding ambition to dominate the Eurasian landmass.

Comment by Anthony Eames
The Crimea was Russian territory for centuries and is still overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Russians.  For reasons known only to himself, Khruschev handed over the Crimea to the Ukraine in 1954.  Since the Ukraine and Russia were all part of the 15-republic Soviet Union, it didn’t seem to matter too much back then.

However, things looked different when the legitimate government of Ukraine was deposed by western Ukrainian, anti-Russian dissidents, who then started threatening the Crimean population with a ban on the Russian language, etc.  At their own insistence, a referendum was held by the Crimeans which overwhelmingly advocated the return of the Crimea to the Russian heartland.

As Pilger points out (below), Western outrage does not line up against NATO’s support for Kosovo as a breakaway state from Serbia.  On top of that, I would say that it would be reasonable to ask America to return Texas to Mexico – and for the UK to return the statelet of Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic.

Fat chance…

From tonight’s news I learned that Obama is threatening economic sanctions against Russia – and has warned China that it will support Japan unequivocally against China in any regional disputes. An inevitable consequence of this hectoring will be that China and Russia form a close economic and military alliance against the western powers.  If Russia decides to divert its gas and oil away from Europe to China and if China cashes in its $1.2 trillion worth of American Treasury bonds, believe me the US and EU will feel really deep pain.

And as a footnote, if Downton Abbott really annoys the Chinese it would only need the threat of a Sino-Brazilian deal for the exclusive supply of iron ore and coal to cause a big rethink here, too.  BHP, Rio Tinto and the miners would be screaming down the phone!

Welcome to the uncomfortable transition to a post uni-polar world!

Nato’s action plan in Ukraine is right out of Dr Strangelove
by John Pilger, first published in The Guardian, Thursday 17 April 2014

I watched Dr Strangelove the other day. I have seen it perhaps a dozen times; it makes sense of senseless news. When Major TJ “King” Kong goes “toe to toe with the Rooskies” and flies his rogue B52 nuclear bomber to a target in Russia, it’s left to General “Buck” Turgidson to reassure the president. Strike first, says the general, and “you got no more than 10-20 million killed, tops”. President Merkin Muffley: “I will not go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler.” General Turgidson: “Perhaps it might be better, Mr President, if you were more concerned with the American people than with your image in the history books.”

The genius of Stanley Kubrick’s film is that it accurately represents the cold war’s lunacy and dangers. Most of the characters are based on real people and real maniacs. There is no equivalent to Strangelove today because popular culture is directed almost entirely at our interior lives, as if identity is the moral zeitgeist and true satire is redundant, yet the dangers are the same. The nuclear clock has remained at five minutes to midnight; the same false flags are hoisted above the same targets by the same “invisible government”, as Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations, described modern propaganda.

In 1964, the year Dr Strangelove was made, “the missile gap” was the false flag. To build more and bigger nuclear weapons and pursue an undeclared policy of domination, President John F Kennedy approved the CIA’s propaganda that the Soviet Union was well ahead of the US in the production of intercontinental ballistic missiles. This filled front pages as the “Russian threat”. In fact, the Americans were so far ahead in production of the missiles, the Russians never approached them. The cold war was based largely on this lie.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its Nato enlargement project. Reneging on a US promise to the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand “one inch to the east”, Nato has all but taken over eastern Europe. In the former Soviet Caucasus, Nato’s military build-up is the most extensive since the second world war.

In February, the US mounted one of its proxy “colour” coups against the elected government of Ukraine; the shock troops were fascists. For the first time since 1945, a pro-Nazi, openly antisemitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital. No western European leader has condemned this revival of fascism on the border of Russia. Some 30 million Russians died in the invasion of their country by Hitler’s Nazis, who were supported by the infamous Ukrainian Insurgent Army (the UPA) which was responsible for numerous Jewish and Polish massacres. The Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, of which the UPA was the military wing, inspires today’s Svoboda party.

Since Washington’s putsch in Kiev – and Moscow’s inevitable response in Russian Crimea to protect its Black Sea fleet – the provocation and isolation of Russia have been inverted in the news to the “Russian threat”. This is fossilised propaganda. The US air force general who runs Nato forces in Europe – General Philip Breedlove, no less – claimed more than two weeks ago to have pictures showing 40,000 Russian troops “massing” on the border with Ukraine. So did Colin Powell claim to have pictures proving there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What is certain is that Barack Obama’s rapacious, reckless coup in Ukraine has ignited a civil war and Vladimir Putin is being lured into a trap.

Following a 13-year rampage that began in stricken Afghanistan well after Osama bin Laden had fled, then destroyed Iraq beneath a false flag, invented a “nuclear rogue” in Iran, dispatched Libya to a Hobbesian anarchy and backed jihadists in Syria, the US finally has a new cold war to supplement its worldwide campaign of murder and terror by drone.

A Nato membership action plan – straight from the war room of Dr Strangelove – is General Breedlove’s gift to the new dictatorship in Ukraine. “Rapid Trident” will put US troops on Ukraine’s Russian border and “Sea Breeze” will put US warships within sight of Russian ports. At the same time, Nato war games in eastern Europe are designed to intimidate Russia. Imagine the response if this madness was reversed and happened on the US’s borders. Cue General Turgidson.

And there is China. On 23 April, Obama will begin a tour of Asia to promote his “pivot” to China. The aim is to convince his “allies” in the region, principally Japan, to rearm and prepare for the possibility of war with China. By 2020, almost two-thirds of all US naval forces in the world will be transferred to the Asia-Pacific area. This is the greatest military concentration in that vast region since the second world war.

In an arc extending from Australia to Japan, China will face US missiles and nuclear-armed bombers. A strategic naval base is being built on the Korean island of Jeju, less than 400 miles from Shanghai and the industrial heartland of the only country whose economic power is likely to surpass that of the US. Obama’s “pivot” is designed to undermine China’s influence in its region. It is as if a world war has begun by other means.

This is not a Dr Strangelove fantasy. Obama’s defence secretary, Charles “Chuck” Hagel, was in Beijing last week to deliver a warning that China, like Russia, could face isolation and war if it did not bow to US demands. He compared the annexation of Crimea to China’s complex territorial dispute with Japan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. “You cannot go around the world,” said Hagel with a straight face, “and violate the sovereignty of nations by force, coercion or intimidation.” As for America’s massive movement of naval forces and nuclear weapons to Asia, that is “a sign of the humanitarian assistance the US military can provide”.

Obama is seeking a bigger budget for nuclear weapons than the historical peak during the cold war, the era of Dr Strangelove. The US is pursuing its longstanding ambition to dominate the Eurasian landmass, stretching from China to Europe: a “manifest destiny” made right by might.


Malcolm Fraser

Today Passive Complicity urges you to follow the link to an extensive interview that Robert Manne recorded with former Australian conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.  In this interview Fraser argues that Australia’s and the world’s interests, at least the interests of those seeking a more just and peaceful world, would be well served by Australia cutting its defence ties with the United States.

Read the interview here.

Poetry Sunday 27 April 2014

Today’s poem by Billy ‘The Swank’ Gilbert is from John Clarke’s 2003 anthology “The Even More Complete Book of Australian Verse” 

Billy was best known for his work with ‘Nifty’ Sullivan, a musician he met at a party.  Together they wrote HMAS Apronstring, IoSilver, the Mickydoo, Ruddibore, Foreman of the Yard and a number of other bits and pieces that are still preformed today.

THE PIRATES OF penzance.com

CEO: I am the very model of a modern chief executive,
Regardless of agenda items random or consecutive,
My salary’s enormous and related to performance,
In determining the role of which I’m always in concordinance;

My package isn’t income-based in any technicality,
Appreciating more in line with concepts like reality,
In options and in super and through trusts that list as charities,
I represent a movement in fiduciary disparities.

ALL: He represents a movement in fiduciary disparities.

CEO: I studied all the history from Adam Smith to Maynard Keynes,
And peppered it with knowledge that relates or even appertains,
To custom laws and extradition, warehousing and arbitrage,
Being photographed at hospitals and other forms of camouflage.

ALL: To custom laws and extradition, warehousing and arbitrage,
Being photographed at hospitals and other forms of camouflage.

CEO: I learnt the work of real estate and how they work for foreigners ,
I leveraged consulting fees to lenders and to borrowers,
I parked it in the market, there was never any fraud at all,
And if there was I cleaned it up when I became the auditor.

We always act within the law, we’re utterly meticulous,
We put out a prospectus and to say we don’t’s ridiculous,
In strictness of compliance either now or retrospecutive
I am the very model of a modern chief executive.

ALL: In strictness of compliance either now or retrospecutive
I am the very model of a modern chief executive.

CEO: I understood the principles that underlie insurances,
An actuary’s algorithms coupled with endurance is,
A scientific formula for risk in every continent,
And if you lose a billion you can say you were incompetent.

ALL: And if you lose a billion you can say you were incompetent.

CEO: My wife is unaware that she controls through being the signatory,
A unit trust that constitutes a fiscal death with dignity,
Amounts have disappeared for reinvestment by the million there,
I think I’m right in claiming that our schnauzer’s a hectibillionaire.

100When dividends are slow and normal salaries laborious,
My severance clause in contracts is the Hallelujah chorious,
In short in my objective that a fortune is pre-requitive,
I am the very model of a modern chief executive.

ALL: In short in matters decorative and dissolute and wreckutive,
He is the very model of a modern chief executive.

Trainee Chief Executive. (Above)

MDFF 26 April 2014

This is the second part of a dispatch originally published on 8 November 2010. (Google Translate may help if it look Greek to you)

On 19th.October the Australian (that paragon of freedom of the press) published an article headed “Not all happy about new asylum-seeker neighbours”.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett is quoted as follows:

“….Fifteen hundred single men in detention (in Northam) is a potentially dangerous situation,” he said.”We would wish to be reassured by the commonwealth that people will not be able to escape or leave this facility. “We are talking about single men, some of them quite desperate, some of them their backgrounds, their inclinations, their potential to behave violently is simply not known.”….”

He didn’t mention the possibility that they may also be number plate thieves.

Heaven forbid I should label Mr. Barnett a xenophobe.

I’m not racist, some of my best friends are Nepalese.

The little boy laughed to see such fun.

In a previous Dispatch I referred to acronyms in the Co-ordinator General’s Report.

LSP=     Location Supported Playgroup (What?)

A dispatch reader has been kind enough to send me this:

Part 2, page 9:

“Parents, carers and children participated in different programs which engaged parents and carers with their children. This included preparation of nutritious meals they could then replicate in their own homes. Children took part with their parents, promoting healthy eating amongst them as well as their parents. Participants also designed and created their own personalized ‘Yuendumu Playgroup’ t-shirts with Aboriginal art forms, using traditional Aboriginal symbols and incorporating them in the design. The children wear these t-shirt around the community further promoting the service.

Participants also engaged in bead making with their children which included traditional painting methods.”


On 4th.April 1968 Robert Kennedy was scheduled to make a campaign speech in Indianapolis, when he heard that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. He then discarded the speech that had been written for him. He ignored warnings of potential violence and announced the assassination to a predominantly black crowd, most of whom had not heard the news.


In his impromptu speech, Kennedy quoted his favourite poet, the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

That an elite college educated white man should quote an ancient Greek poet to a crowd of black ghetto(?) dwellers has been remarked and puzzled over ever since. Some have labeled it bizarre.

There were riots in 76 major U.S. cities. Indianapolis remained calm.

Nothing bizarre about not patronizing people. In my opinion an LSP (“programs which engaged parents and carers with their children” and in which “Participants also engaged in bead making with their children”) is far more bizarre.


Μια ανταμοιβή για την επιμονή. Μερικά ωραία μουσική



Αντίο, μέχρι την επόμενη φορά.




Background to Grangegate

After reading yesterday’s post by Mike Carlton our reclusive Quantum Dumpster pointed us in this direction for a differing and wider perspective on the demise of NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell.  It is from InsideStory and written by Norman Abjorensen (see foot of article)  Next week we will examine some state politics in the USA.

POLITICS these days is not only big business, but also smart business. The age of the street-corner soapbox, town hall meeting and leaflet letterboxing has long given way to the slick sophistication of opinion polling, focus groups, clinically tested and targeted messages, and deft use of social media. But not far beneath this glittering veneer of high-tech gimmickry is the real political dynamic of old that has never changed – a raw and visceral tribalism that predates all but the most basic technology.

Political tribalism is not new to Australia, a place known worldwide for its rough-and-tumble political brawling and free-for-all style, and nowhere is political tribalism more evident than in the senior colony, New South Wales, where it came ashore with the cargo of riff-raff and others in 1788. Politics has always been played hardest in New South Wales, the scene of Australia’s only military coup, back in 1808; Barry O’Farrell is merely its latest casualty.

Nowhere has the Labor Party, never known for its aversion to a stoush, turned on its own with such ferocity as during the years of Jack Lang’s NSW premiership in the 1930s, a cataclysm even more bitter than the party split of the mid 1950s. While the latter event topped a state government or two and kept the party out of office federally for a couple of decades, the events of 1932 onwards saw the heart ripped out of the federal Scullin government, Labor banished from office in New South Wales, and the creation of a rival party, quite unelectable, which continued to sow seeds of discord long after the Lang and Scullin governments had passed into history. Even after NSW leader William McKell eased a reformed and revitalised Labor Party back into office in 1941, Jack Lang, as tribal as they come, had not spent his hatred. Arriving in Canberra as an independent in 1946, he deployed his energies at every opportunity to harass the party that had abandoned him – especially Ben Chifley, who had led the fight against the Lang forces. Lang never forgave, but the party did eventually, readmitting him before his death in 1975.

Labor’s tribal wars in New South Wales these days are different, but no less intense. The machinations of the factions and their leaders – the Obeids, the Tripodis and their ilk – revealed in a series of inquiries by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, or ICAC, are turf wars almost as deadly as any mob skirmish in 1930s Chicago. Mates and lackeys are looked after, protected and favoured; opponents are ruthlessly eliminated, even when they appear to be powerful figures, such as a state premier. And the Liberals play the game in exactly the same way, as though this is part of the state’s DNA.

The NSW Liberal Party is a curious beast in its own right, as cantankerous and riven as its risible counterpart in South Australia, but far more influential because of its size and far more capable of causing damage, both to itself and to anyone or anything in proximity. Its path of evolution has differed from that of the party elsewhere. In Victoria, for instance, the Liberal Party is the establishment; it has held power more often than not. Its web of patronage is both extensive and deep; the names of old families and old money, like Baillieu and Napthine, sit seamlessly in the fabric of political life. This was the home of Victorian radicalism, where middle-class liberals like Alfred Deakin thought long and hard about social issues, and brought about far-reaching reforms such as factory legislation that eliminated sweatshops, and introduced the world’s first minimum wage back in 1896. An integral part of the overall social package was tariff protection, which gave benefits to manufacturer and worker alike.

New South Wales was different. The pastoral ascendancy had set the economy off on a different trajectory, that of free trade, and political and social development took a different course. Indeed, so divergent were the respective dominant ideologies that they threatened to derail the process of federation. Liberals in Victoria looked to a constituency of both working- and middle-class interests, but in New South Wales it was the nascent Labor Party, rising from the bitter strikes and depression of the early 1890s, that began to gather strength among the working class. Labor was much slower in gaining a foothold in Victoria.

With the effective two-party system in place from 1909, the demographics of New South Wales heavily favoured the Labor Party, which first assumed office in 1910, losing it in the split of 1916 only to regain it 1920–22, 1925–27 and 1930–32, when Lang’s handiwork saw it banished. The McKell revival in 1941 saw Labor in office for an unbroken twenty-four years, and again for long spells in 1976–88 and most recently 1995–2011. The situation in Victoria is almost the reverse, with Labor enjoying only brief periods in office until 1982–92 and 1999–2010. Just as the Labor Party dominated in New South Wales for an era, so too did the Liberals in Victoria from 1955 to 1982, twenty-seven unbroken years.


THESE sharp differences in opportunities to exercise political power and build the networks of patronage that go with it account for discernible variations in the character of conservative politics in the two larger states: an establishment in Melbourne, well-entrenched and confident, contrasts with an outgroup in Sydney, resentful and opportunistic. James Jupp observed almost thirty years ago that the NSW Liberals had “a right-wing ratbag character” and an “oppositional mentality” that was absent in Victoria. The ever-present danger, he wrote, was that without strong leadership coupled with the prospect of electoral success “instability in leadership and severe factionalism” would inevitably result.

Only three NSW Liberals have led the party to victory from opposition in eighty years – Bob Askin (1965), Nick Greiner (1988) and Barry O’Farrell (2011). All three came to the leadership after tribal warfare had felled a series of leaders in quick succession. Both Askin and Greiner offered what the party desperately needed – strong leadership coupled with the likelihood of imminent electoral success. Barry O’Farrell’s case is different: he came to office as an uneasy compromise and the Labor government imploded with no help from him.

In a sense, O’Farrell never dampened the tribal fires in the way that Greiner and Askin had and, while he might well have been the architect of his own downfall, he had never really been secure. To appreciate this it is necessary to understand the complex network of tribal allegiances that make up the NSW Liberal Party, and which have now become part of the fabric of the federal party.

John Howard was a typical product of the NSW Liberals. Growing up in a small business environment in suburban Sydney, he saw Labor everywhere: it had influence not just in the NSW government, which it ran with the trade unions, but also in local government, the churches, the legal profession, the judiciary and business. Labor was the ubiquitous enemy and had to be defeated and stopped; it was not just a political opponent, its very culture was toxic and had to be eliminated from the body politic and public life in general. Labor, in Howard’s view, looked after its own, and his side would do the same. It is a telling insight into the NSW Liberal mind that of almost 3000 members polled in a survey this year by Denise Jepsen of Macquarie University’s Faculty of Business and Economics, 89 per cent strongly agreed that among their reasons for joining the party was a desire to “to keep Labor out” (compared with 55 per cent wishing “to help local candidates,” for example.)

In a tribal sense, keeping Labor out means not resembling Labor in any way (a constant criticism the party’s right wing has of its moderates). The factions are tribal in a very real sense: you are either in or out. The basic argument, little changed down the years, is that the moderates accuse the right of making the party unelectable because they make it harder to win over “soft” Labor voters, a view that many on the right, in its various sub-tribes, see as akin to apostasy. The pragmatists on the right, however, see the logic in that argument and are prepared to tolerate a leader of moderate inclinations under certain circumstances. O’Farrell, though formally unaligned, was tolerated in precisely this way.

The moderates are broadly, though not entirely, homogenous, while the right is divided on a number of issues and with marked tensions between social conservatives, committed Christians and social libertarians. Across these divisions, the forces of the right are further split into three distinct sub-groups which, for want of a better label, comprise a soft right, centre right and hard right, the last dubbed “the Taliban” by the moderates and largely taking over from what were once known as “the Uglies.” Their activities in branch recruitment and preselection contests are seen as more organised and focused than those of the moderates, which gives them a disproportionate say in party matters.

The right, divided as it is, seldom agrees among itself, but the abrupt resignation of O’Farrell on 16 April saw just how swiftly it can mobilise as a tribe. Transport minister Gladys Berejiklian, perhaps the government’s ablest performer, was the choice of the moderates and O’Farrell’s preferred successor, but the right came out as one to block her path. Unlike Mike Baird, she had been an active factional warrior for the moderates since her Young Liberal days twenty years ago, and had to be stopped.

Once the writing was on the wall, O’Farrell initially planned to resign after Easter, giving Berejiklian time to build her numbers. The right moved to ensure a decision was made immediately and, while not having enough support for a candidate of their own – with ageing minister Andrew Constance and energy minister Anthony Roberts touted as possible candidates if a ballot were to be held – they were happy to throw their weight behind Baird. And they got their man, who now has some political debts. Berejiklian ended up as deputy leader, much to the chagrin of the right. A quirk in the party rules allows only lower house members to vote for the deputy, not the combined upper and lower house members who elect the leader. This weakened the right’s position, but given the storms ahead, in ICAC and elsewhere, Berejiklian might have her day yet, factional opposition notwithstanding.

Just who helped in O’Farrell’s demise is yet to be revealed, and it is unlikely he acted alone in destroying his premiership. The factions, especially the right, have become skilled assassins, and the ugly story of John Brogden’s political demise in 2005 attests to the lengths to which the tribes will go to destroy an enemy.

I was bemused when, back in 2011, just a few weeks before the state election with the polls showing a looming train wreck for Labor, a right-wing powerbroker I was chatting to began talking up Mike Baird, who was identified with the moderates. Why, I asked?

“Well, if for some reason Barry trips or stumbles in two or three years time, Baird is the obvious successor,” came the reply. It was an interesting comment, with Baird’s committed Christianity ticking a box, as did his economic dryness and also a commitment to “family values” (read opposition to gay marriage). Perhaps it was a coincidence, but it does suggest a contingency plan may have always been in place. •

Norman Abjorensen is a Visiting Fellow in the Policy and Governance Program at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the ANU. He is the author of three books on the Liberal Party and its leaders.

– See more at: http://inside.org.au/more-than-a-fraction-too-much-faction/#sthash.uAoVAfz6.dpuf


Mike Carlton’s piece on Grangegate…

Tasting Notes: The 1959 Chateau d’icac.

Celebrated vigneron Nick Di Girolamo has excelled himself with this rare and striking Premier Grand Cru. Selected from old grapes of wrath vines at the Obeid family’s Mount Corruption vineyard in NSW and cellared in Rum Corps oak casks, the wine reveals hidden gifts of subtle complexity.

The brown nose offers a concentrated aroma of decaying cattle dung, complexed by persistent spice notes of rotten fish and more than a hint of unsavoury greased palm. An intense palate of bitter fruits displays weak backbone and piss-in-pocket acidity, with a lingering after-palate heightened by a signed “thank you” note of unmistakeable provenance.

A wine not to be forgotten.

All political careers end in failure, as the saying goes. Few come to a crashing halt in such spectacular fashion as the O’Farrell premiership. One moment there was Barry, master of all he surveyed, about to announce billions of dollars of airport with Tony Abbott. The next he was writhing in the Macquarie Street gutter, mortally wounded by an alcohol-fuelled, one-punch assault. Oh, the irony.

In fairness, he deserves a better exit. He was an assiduous if unspectacular premier, and a decent man. I have known him and liked him since he was a backbencher making the occasional radio appearance on my ABC702 Drive show years ago. “You taught me how to use the media,” he said to me once.

Not well enough, apparently. More than a month ago a News Corpse journalist fired off a text message to O’Farrell asking if he had indeed received this now infamous bottle of ’59 Grange after the 2011 election. That should have sounded the air-raid sirens loud and clear, but evidently it did not.

Yet I cannot believe he was dishonest. The ICAC counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson, has made it plain he doesn’t think so either. He was forgetful, calamitously so. But remember the wine arrived on the O’Farrell family doorstep amid all the sound and fury of forming government, and within days of the death of his father-in-law. Sure, he did make a call to thank the ever-generous Di Girolamo, followed up by the note which king-hit him. But the forgetfulness is understandable, if not forgivable.

O’Farrell’s fault was his failure to keep his promise to root out the endemic corruption of the NSW Liberals. He baulked at bold political reform. As we will see in the next ICAC trawl, the Liberal state machine is rotten with spivs and shonks, touts and urgers, spongers and leeches, bludgers and layabouts, shysters and shifters, corridor whisperers and sleeve-tuggers. It is infested by buyers and sellers of power and influence. If it never plumbed the depths to which Edward Moses Obeid and his cronies dragged the ALP, it was still sloshing around in the same sewer.

Barry O’Farrell was plainly aware of this but unwilling – or more likely unable – to expel the moneychangers from his temple. In the end, they got him.


Getting it wrong

“Only now are we starting to understand Aboriginal intellectual and scientific achievements.”

by Ray Norris Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Astronomy & Space Science, & Adjunct Prof., Dept of Indigenous Studies (Warawara), Macquarie Uni at CSIRO.  First Published in The Conversation 20 April 2014

Just one generation ago Australian schoolkids were taught that Aboriginal people couldn’t count beyond five, wandered the desert scavenging for food, had no civilisation, couldn’t navigate and peacefully acquiesced when Western Civilisation rescued them in 1788.

How did we get it so wrong?

Australian historian Bill Gammage and others have shown that for many years land was carefully managed by Aboriginal people to maximise productivity. This resulted in fantastically fertile soils, now exploited and almost destroyed by intensive agriculture.

In some cases, Aboriginal people had sophisticated number systems, knew bush medicine, and navigated using stars and oral maps to support flourishing trade routes across the country.

They mounted fierce resistance to the British invaders, and sometimes won significant military victories such as the raids by Aboriginal warrior Pemulwuy.

Australian aborigines knew more about tides than Galileo.  The Yolngu people, in north eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, long recognised how the tides are linked to the phases of the moon.

Back in the early 17th century, Italian scientistGalileo Galilei was still proclaiming, incorrectly, that the moon had nothing to do with tides.

Some Aboriginal people had figured out how eclipses work, and knew how the planets moved differently from the stars. They used this knowledge to regulate the cycles of travel from one place to another, maximising the availability of seasonal foods.

Why are we only finding this out now?

We owe much of our knowledge about pre-European contact Aboriginal culture to the great anthropologists of the 20th century. Their massive tomes tell us much about Aboriginal art, songs and spirituality, but are strangely silent about intellectual achievements.

They say very little about Aboriginal understanding of how the world works, or how they navigated. In anthropologist Adolphus Elkin’s 1938 book The Australian Aborigines: How to Understand Them he appears to have heard at least one songline (an oral map) without noting its significance.

[…] its cycle of the hero’s experiences as he journeyed from the north coast south and then back again north […] now in that country, then in another place, and so on, ever coming nearer until at last it was just where we were making the recording.

How could these giants of anthropology not recognise the significance of what they had been told?

The answer dawned on me when I gave a talk on Aboriginal navigation at the National Library of Australia, and posed this same question to the audience.

Afterwards, one of Elkin’s PhD students told me that Elkin worked within fixed ideas about what constituted Aboriginal culture. I realised she was describing what the American philosopher Thomas Kuhn referred to when he coined the term “paradigm”.

The paradigm problem

According to Kuhn, all of us (even scientists and anthropologists) are fallible. We grow up with a paradigm (such as “Aboriginal culture is primitive”) which we accept as true. Anything that doesn’t fit into that paradigm is dismissed as irrelevant or aberrant.

Only 200 years ago, people discussed whether Aboriginal people were “sub-human“. Ideas change slowly, and the underlying message lingers on, long after it has been falsified.

As late as 1923 Aboriginal Australians were described as “a very primitive race of people”.

Not so primitive

The prevailing paradigm in Elkin’s time was that Aboriginal culture was primitive, and Aboriginal people couldn’t possibly say anything useful about how to manage the land, or how to navigate.

So an anthropologist might study the Aboriginal people as objects, just as a biologist might study insects under a microscope, but would learn nothing from Aboriginal people themselves.

Even now, the paradigm lives on. In my experience, well-educated white Australians, trying so hard to be politically correct, often still seem to find it difficult to escape their childhood image of “primitive” Aboriginal people.

We must overcome the intellectual inertia that keeps us in that old paradigm, stopping us from recognising the enormous contribution that Aboriginal culture can make to our understanding of the world, and to our attempts to manage it.

As Thomas Kuhn said:

[…] when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them.

Still to learn

In recent years, it has become clear that traditional Aboriginal people knew a great deal about the sky, knew the cycles of movements of the stars and the complex motions of the sun, moon and planets.

There is even found a sort of “Aboriginal Stonehenge”, that points to the sunset on midsummers day and midwinters day. And I suspect that this is only the tip of the iceberg of Aboriginal astronomy.

So in the debate about whether our schools should includeAboriginal perspectives in their lessons, I argue that kids studying science today could also learn much from the way that pre-contact Aboriginal people used observation to build a picture of the world around them.

This “ethno-science” is similar to modern science in many ways, but is couched in appropriate cultural terms, without expensive telescopes and particle accelerators.

So if you want to learn about the essence of how science works, how people learn to solve practical problems, the answer may be clearer in an Aboriginal community than in a high-tech laboratory.

School Holidays 4

Holidays!Build your own Dalek  Part two
by Quentin Cockburn

The hardest bit in making your life-size plywood and card Dalek are the tricky bits, the upper section.  Now I’m sure you all have a ‘Dalek in your head’, and this will help as I explain the process of construction.  We need a rigid body, but a turning head/dome, with a swiveling laser and probe.  We are thinking rather like tank rings, (all tanks had them) of constructing a sleeve of circular ply within a grooved housing, or a more complex, bearing and housing unit.  Both do-able, but taking our limited expertise to the limit.  This is why we have subcontracted the voice modulator unit, (a steal at Jaycar for $24.00), and the lights, that flash when the Dalek speaks.  This is serious end electrical engineering, beyond our expertise, and like computer programming, CAD operation, and Golf, who cares about that stuff anyway

project dalek 4We have begun this stage with lots of clamps, liberal coatings of PVA, wood screws, and when we just can’t be bothered nails and bolts.  This is finickety, and the angles have to be right.  Look at Daleks on Google and you’ll see what happens when the angles aren’t right.  They’re all wrong, and it’s no longer a Dalek, but a caricature of one.  And that wont do!!

Using cardboard as stencils, we have cut the rings out, and ignored the use of plastics.  This gives our Dalek the necessary home made, ‘real look’, that I previously mentioned.

The really tricky bit, the rotating dome, has caused us considerable head scratching.  We have seen examples of fibre-glass domes, and machined steel domes, but they all seem to be too ‘poofterised’ and over-done.  You see it’s all right doing a Dalek for fun, but you don’t want to be to ‘Pommie’ about it.  I know there’s an inherent contradiction.  There’s an implication that going ‘Pommie’, like obsessive soccer hooliganism is a consequence of dismal lives and the certainty of a grim future.  That’s why Colin Furze is so important, he saves the Poms from being victims of the post Thatcherite, sub- Blair-ian, welfare state, dystopia.  The truth, that anywhere above Cambridge actually is.  We may settle for an upturned tupperware bowl, with some cuts made through with the trusty Stanley knife.  We’d agonised over this, and decided that plastic bowl, (retail price two dollars), would look better than a hubcap, a lamp shade or paper mache balloon form as it would allow us strength and utility. project dalek 5 Also we are conscious of weight.  The weight is rising and the power unit; one Jasper, will be hard pressed to manipulate all the dials and switches whilst maintaining voice control and movement.  There’s one little detail that reminds me of the famous Okha, the Natter, and the Bell X 1 as famously flown by Chuck Yeager.  We’d investigated entry systems and decided that in the interests of structural integrity, the only way to ensure rigidity, was to assemble the Dalek in two pieces.  Once in the driving position, the driver is bolted in.  There is no quick release.  I know, it contravenes all health and safety standards, but that’s just how it is…  Dangerous , deadly, trapped, and fun…  It’s that’s tingle of gratification the kamikaze pilot must have felt as he plunged onto the decks of an escort carrier off Leyte Gulf.  Indescribable.

And as Colin Furze would demonstrate, that’s the fun of it..!!!

We haven’t finished the top, it requires real precision and expertise, but it will be finished.  The test drive is planned for next weekend during the famous Bendigo Easter Parade…  Don’t know if we’ll join the parade or just watch its passing.  A Dalek with a North Melbourne Footy Scarf, should draw attention.  At this stage the natural enemy of a plywood Dalek is not the Doctor, but moisture.  We’re worried about moisture.  It warps the plywood.  But then doesn’t the same thing happen to the Time Lord?  Warp-age.

project dalek 8


School Holidays 3

Holidays!Build your own Dalek Part one
by Quentin Cockburn

As previously mentioned I have intimated that as part of our holiday program “we’ have initiated a Dalek build.  On this I am complicit in being exactly what I despise.  I’ve talked of freewheeling and unsupervised holidays, and here I am supervising the build as an over indulgent, cosseting parent.  But you see that’s only half of it.  I tried to avoid the onerous task of building the bloody thing, but my sons sheer bloody mindedness held sway.  In the end there was nothing else for it…  You see, the holidays before last they built a trench.  I had no input in it.  They wanted to do a trench, and sit in it pretending to wait for the Mujahadeen, the Iraqis, the Viet Kong, the North Koreans, the Japs, the Jerries, the Russians.  It ‘s not the building that drove them, but the exercising of a fertile imagination.  It’s the sheer pleasure they derive from getting themselves dirty, dressing up, and making a hole somewhere.  There’s not enough of it.  The army museum at Puckapunyal may have done it.  And the kids were telling me something equally profound; ‘Leave us alone, let us make a huge effing mess, and at some stage could you please make an attack with rocks, clumps of dirt, and can we use your .22 rifle’?

Project Dalek we call it, began with a trip to London years ago.  We missed the Dr Who show, though we purchased a palm sized Dalek, with press button ‘exterminate’ function.  Returned to Australia and promptly forgot about it.  About a year ago, Jasper became fascinated with the Old Dr Who’s.  The ones from the 60’s and seventies.  He liked the quirkiness of the sets, the costumes, and the eccentricity.  The Shakespearian poise of the lead actors Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee and Baker.  None better than Baker, he’s the Sean Connery of Dr Whos’, witty, engaging, childlike, serious, and wise.  Promising the eternal truth of not taking life too seriously.  Then with a few excursion to the book shop, the plan formed, to build one.  He was inspired by ‘International Day’.  Last year he went as an Australian, tin helmet, belt, battle jacket, and pistol, subconsciously he’s projected  Tony Abbots vision of Australia – afraid of aliens, defensive, paranoid.  This year he would be a Dalek. Sic; an alien. Drawings of Daleks, cut away and realistic began to appear around the house.  Plans appeared for engine units, voice modulators, and then, from card and ply the eye socket, the gun and the other ‘feely’ thing, all exquisitely designed and executed.  A few weekends ago we collected all our scrap cardboard and began building.

project dalek 1Building a Dalek is not just an excercise in model making, it registers a protest.  It proclaims most defiantly a return to home made props, cardboard, sets, and broom handle laser beams, as a real alternative to the sanitized perfection and 3D super-imagery of modern television.  The BBC props department made the stuff ‘real’ because it was so obviously ‘fake’. The modern sci fi, by making everything ‘hyper-real’, has made it all fake.  It’s a paradox.  But true.  The old genre exercised the viewers imagination as the receptacle for imagining.  Now imagination is just ‘product’.

project dalek 2The cardboard cut out version seemed right.  We didn’t pay for plans, for a “correct Dalek”, we just did it by eye.  That’s the artistry.  No self respecting Dr Who fan should use plans; there’s no innovation in that.  We gave the cardboard Dalek a test drive, it worked well.  Jasper fashioned a base out of marine ply.  We purchased some coasters from the hardware, (there were none at the tip) and found that five casters gave speed and agility. We determined the drive position and control board for a voice modulator unit.  We found speakers, an amplifier, and with some basic circuitry, we sub contacted the electrical engineering to our colleague Lewis, and the construction to ourselves.

Two weekends later we have assembled the base and mid section in plywood, attached the bumps, (polystyrene balls) and moulded in card the upper section.  Our Dalek is taking shape.

project dalek 7