Man as Machine 31 July 2014

Tarquin O’Flaherty continues his encyclical today and tomorrow.

Tarquinial O’Phlahertibus.

Lest I get bogged down in the complexity of the matter, and not only confuse my readers but  myself as well, let me run a rough hand over what’s gone before:

The 1832 Reform Act transferred power from the ancien regime, the aristocracy, to the middle class. The middle class had formed a formidable alliance with the poor in order to achieve this goal. Together this grouping was immensely powerful, so much so that when push came to shove, the old aristocratic order, terrified of revolution, and the possibility, in the French manner, of having their heads chopped off, acceded to most of these ‘revolutionary’ demands.  However, it wasn’t all one way and there was method tucked away amidst this aristocratic madness.  The Whigs were very much aware that this particular British revolution depended for it’s guiding hand on an educated, middle class.  They were wholly aware that this ‘guiding hand’ group didn’t want tumbrils, barricades and mass executions.  Oh dear me, no.  They simply wanted a cast-iron guarantee that they be allowed continue as (in Napoleon’s phrase) ‘a nation of shopkeepers’.   Granting the franchise to this grouping gave them that guarantee, whilst at the same time affording them the aspirational opportunity to go hob-nobbing with the nobility, which largely meant fawning over people who belong properly in a lunatic asylum.

As I have said previously, this strategy worked.  As in Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ the newly powerful middle class rapidly became indistinguishable from those they had replaced.  The working class, the poor, having served their purpose, were abandoned.

At the end of the 18th century there were two schools of thought concerning the ascent of man.  The generally held view of the time was that the perfectibility of man was almost inevitable, and that it was only a matter of time.  Opposing this view were people like the Rev Robert Malthus who believed (like Hanrahan) that ‘we’ll all be roooned…’ if something wasn’t done about the excesses of the lower orders.  Malthus believed that the appalling poverty he saw all around him was directly attributable to the fact that the poor had too many kids and that mass starvation would be the inevitable result.  He believed that populations grew exponentially, but the food supply only grew mathematically.  The poor should learn the Godly business of abstinence, confine themselves to smaller families, and in this way their wages would go much further.  He also believed that certain types should not be allowed to have offspring at all.  There were thousands of lower order people who were simply unfit to be parents and a rigorous selection process needed to be introduced to weed these undesirables out.

This was all fine and dandy as far as the Rev. Malthus and his supporters were concerned, but it did tend to ignore one very important detail.  Malthus bases his argument on the highly questionable assumption that the poor, by producing overly large families,were responsible for their own poverty. This is dyed-in-the-wool, genteel, middle-class hogwash. Widespread working class poverty had only one cause: permanent, unchanging, subsistence wages.

The idea of subsistence wages was justified by the theory put forward by David Ricardo, a prominent economist of the time that ‘wages always tended to the subsistence level, because population always tended to increase up to the point at which it [the population] could be barely maintained by the available supply of food…’ This of course, bolsters the idea of a ‘Wages Fund’, the 19th century theory that there is a fixed amount of money available for wages, and the more workers there are, the more the individual’s wage is reduced.

This meant, although the Malthusians tried to cover this aspect up, that the poor could never, ever, fight their way out of  their poverty.  Malthus and Ricardo, hugely influential in their day, thus provided the perfect justification for paying as little as possible to employees.

The poor didn’t like this one bit.





How are they hanging?

As a youth at boarding school a common greeting was “How are they hanging?”, to which the reply varied but was often uttered as “up and down, thanks”.  Unless the weather was very cold (and it was in Ballarat winters), or one was wearing budgie smugglers* (which was unusual, even in summer in Ballarat), then the answer was accurate.

Jesse Bering, who suggests that testicles are, arguably, the only male human body part less attractive than the penis, has written about the whys and wherefores of testicular suspension.  The reason many mammals have testes packed in scrotum, away from the body is for temperature control.  In humans sperm are comfortable at 34 degrees celsius, a full 3 degrees below body temperature.  When they (the sperm) are heated to 37 degrees they become very active, but can only survive in this hotter environment for one and a half hours to a maximum of 4 hours, ample time for the active sperm to negotiate the female reproductive tract.  So sperm are brewed and stored in the cooler scrotal sack awaiting the hyperactivity induced by heating them to body temperature.

The scrotum surface varies from relatively smooth skinned in warmer weather to a wrinkled prune-like surface in the cold.  But it is not just the skin variability that regulates temperature, the cremasteric muscle provides thermoregulation by altering the height at which ‘they hang’.  “This muscle serves to retract the testicles so they are drawn up closer to the body when it gets cold (think entering the southern oceans, cold showers) and also relax them when it gets too hot.  This up-and-down action happens on a moment-to-moment basis; thus male bodies continually optimise the gonadal climate for spermatogenesis and sperm storage.  It’s also why it’s generally inadvisable for men to wear tight-fitting jeans or especially snug “tighty whities”; under these restrictive conditions the testicles are shoved up against the body and artificially warmed so that the cremasteric muscle cannot do its job properly.  Another reason not to wear these things is that it’s no longer 1988.”

The lopsidedness, one testicle above the other, is a result of the totally independent temperature regulation.  Bering goes on: “With a keen enough eye, presumably one could master the art of ‘reading’ testicle alignment, using the scrotum as a makeshift room thermometer.  But that’s just me speculating” he allows.

“One of the things you may have noticed in your own genitalia,” Bering continues, “(O)r those of someone you’re especially close to is that in contrast to the slackened scrotal skin accompanying flaccid, non-aroused states, penile erections are usually accompanied by a telltale retraction of the testicles closer to the body.    . . . this is another smart scrotal adaptation.  Not only does the cremasteric reflex serve to raise testicular temperature, thus mobilising sperm for pending ejaculation into the vagina, but (added bonus) it also offers protection against possible damage to too loose testicles resulting from vigorous thrusting during intercourse.

The cremasteric muscle has another trick.  “It flexes in response to threatening stimuli, in effect pulling the testicles up closer to the body and out of harm’s way.  . .   .  .   There are a number of ways to test this at home if you’re so inclined.”

Abbott Smugglers(Quotes from ‘How are they hanging?’ in “Why is the Penis Shaped Like That?” Jesse Bering, Corgi Books, London, 2013)

* Budgie smugglers – swimwear favoured by Australia’s Prime Minister – see picture right


Can we copy America?

It seems we copy many things American, invariably eighteen months late and badly.  However, it may be that we could benefit from copying their Civil Liberties Union.  The Guardian’s Hannah Ryan explains.

The United States Supreme Court overturned racial segregation in schools in 1954. In the Miranda decision in 1966, it held that police had to remind suspects of their right to silence and to a lawyer. Last month, the court unanimously ruled that police could not search suspects’ mobile phones without a warrant.

These wins have something in common: the American Civil Liberties Union had a hand in all of them.

More recently, the ACLU has challenged the NSA’s phone surveillance, the use of drones, racial profiling, and a range of other civil liberties problems. Only the department of justice appears more frequently in the US supreme court.

With an office in every state, 100 lawyers on staff and 2,000 more volunteering every year, the ACLU takes on 6,000 cases annually. It is assisted by 500,000 members and a budget of over US$100 million. It is a highly organised and generously funded machine, fighting to safeguard Americans’ rights.

We do things differently in Australia. We have no wide-scale, systematic protection of civil liberties in our courts. Instead, we rely on a small and scattered band of goodhearted solicitors and academics, often working pro bono alongside their day jobs, and a few public interest law groups.

Civil liberties organisations focus their energies on public advocacy, like media releases and submissions to inquiries. Funding cuts to community legal centres make even this more difficult. It is almost impossible for groups like the Environmental Defenders’ Offices, which have undertaken significant public interest litigation in the past, to continue.

There are reasons why we don’t have the same culture of defending civil liberties in courts as America does. Our constitution offers scant protection of human rights, and so we have to be more creative about challenging laws and decision-making. In America, it is easier for an organisation like the ACLU, not directly affected by a case, to make arguments to the court.

These differences don’t insulate Australians from threats to civil liberties. Indeed, without a bill of rights we are even more vulnerable than Americans. And this is an anxious time for civil libertarians.

The surveillance state swells: Asio is calling for a mandatory data retention program, and George Brandis may pursue retrospective legislation to prosecute Australians returning from overseas conflicts.

In Queensland, bikies are prevented from meeting. Governments drag their feet on freedom of information requests and the Commonwealth has proposed an overhaul of laws governing access to government information.

We should be concerned about growing police powers and the erosion of the right to protest. The Commonwealth’s treatment of refugees shows that it is happy to test (and exceed) the bounds of government power.

We know that public interest litigation can work. Refugee lawyer David Manne has been relentless in curbing government excess. In 2011 he challenged the Gillard government’s Malaysia solution. The high court’s full bench held that it was unlawful. Suddenly, if temporarily, offshore processing was scuttled.

Manne had another high court win last month. The court held that Scott Morrison did not have the power to set a cap on the amount of permanent protection visas granted each year.

Litigation does not have to be successful to be worthwhile. The rule of law means that before a court, a government is a party just like any other, bound by the judge’s decision; open justice means that the public has access to information revealed in the courtroom. “Operational matters” or “government policy” excuses do not fly as a defence.

The current challenge to the return of 157 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka aptly demonstrates the power of courts. Before human rights lawyers approached the high court, the government had not even confirmed that those people existed. The stark facts that we have learned about this case only came about through the dry processes of directions hearings, documents, and submissions.

Going to court won’t always work. Often the law and justice are not synonymous. Even if a challenge succeeds, governments will try to work around it. But litigation is one of the most powerful tools to defend civil liberties. If we want to take protecting our basic freedoms seriously, now is the time to amp up the fight and take it to the courts with an organised army of lawyers. We could use an Australian Civil Liberties Union.

From The Guardian 26 July 2014


No Debate Allowed

A passively complicit society unquestioningly accepts the authority of government.  The Australian Government is reinforcing its authority.  Here we reprint a significant article on the subject.

Brandis ties NGO funding to non-advocacy
The Abbott government is using money and law to close down criticism and gag the community’s most trusted voices.

From The Saturday Paper, by Mike Seccombe

There was something missing from the revised service agreements under which the federal government provides funding to community legal centres around Australia, recently sent out to 140-odd such organisations.

The old clause five was gone. That was the one that began: “The Commonwealth is committed to ensuring that its agreements do not contain provisions that could be used to stifle legitimate debate or prevent organisations engaging in advocacy activities.”

The old clause five went on to stress that: “[N]o right or obligation arising under this Agreement will be read or understood by the Commonwealth as limiting the Organisation’s right to enter into public debate or criticism of the Commonwealth, its agencies, employees, servants or agents.”

It also stipulated that there was no obligation to obtain any advance approval from the government before going public with any criticism.

But when the Abbott government’s revised agreements went to the organisations in mid-June, all of that was gone. Instead, the new conditions, which came into force on July 1, specifically state that organisations cannot use Commonwealth money for any activity directed towards law reform or advocacy.

Not surprisingly, the sector sees this as a retrograde step. So do the Labor Party, which inserted clause five into the agreements, the Greens and the majority of state governments.

The Productivity Commission, in its recent interim Access to Justice report, found advocacy was actually an efficient use of resources. That’s because it addressed systemic issues rather than just individual cases. Thus “by clarifying the law it can also benefit the community more broadly”.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, QC, agrees. “CLCs and legal aid commissions are best placed, from their work, to observe when reform might aid not just their immediate clients, but thousands of others in the community.”

Reform through advocacy

Even Attorney-General George Brandis, QC, under sharp questioning from Greens senator Penny Wright in a senate estimates committee in May, said he “did not dispute” that advocacy “may be a useful thing … may be a desirable thing”.

Given the tight budgetary circumstances, however, the “frontline services” of representing clients had to take priority, he said. And that’s why the government was moving to ensure its money was not used for advocacy.

Few people close to the issue believe Brandis was giving a straight answer.

“The government was saying they would not be cutting frontline services, only policy and advocacy work,” says Michael Smith, convenor of the National Association of Community Legal Centres.

“They then cut about $8 million, or about 20 per cent, out of community legal services, and most of that comes out of frontline services. They are using the policy and advocacy line as a way of justifying these cuts.”


The Abbott government is following the course set by the Howard government, which was dogged in its efforts to ensure the non-profit sector was prevented from voicing unwelcome opinions. Contracts with community sector organisations routinely included gag clauses and reserved the right to censor public statements before they were released.

After Howard lost the 2007 election, the incoming Labor government immediately began rewriting thousands of contracts with the non-profit sector, removing the gag. But it was only in its dying months, in May 2013, that the previous government managed to put this independence into legislation, through the non-profit sector freedom to advocate bill.

Nonetheless, the gags are coming back, if in somewhat modified form. While the government cannot – because of that legislation – completely prevent advocacy by community law centres, it can insist that no money it provides is used for the purpose. If these groups want to advocate, they can fund it with money from other sources, or do it, as Brandis suggested in estimates, in their spare time.

Gag clauses, though, are just one means by which the government can seek to stifle advocacy.

“There is any number of ways, if the activities of a charity are inconvenient to the government of the day, that they can make it difficult for those charities,” says Elizabeth McKinnon, a lawyer for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Using the tax authorities to go after them, for example. She and others in the non-profit sector look worriedly to the situation in Canada, where Tony Abbott’s ideological soul mate, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in 2012 ordered the Canada Revenue Agency to audit a large number of charities, with the threat of action including the removal of the charitable status of those deemed to be diverting too much of their resources to “political” activity.

Environment groups appear to have been the main target, although a wide range of other organisations, working in the areas of animal welfare, education, health, human rights and even poverty alleviation, have been subject to audit. The process has had a predictably chilling effect on charitable advocacy.

Back in the latter days of the Howard government, the tax office moved to revoke the charitable status of AidWatch, an organisation that researches, monitors and, importantly, campaigns to generate public debate about the effectiveness of foreign aid.

The commissioner’s reasons for going after AidWatch were essentially that it did not itself distribute aid and thus was not charitable, and, second, its objective of generating public debate amounted to a political purpose.

It went all the way to the High Court, where the tax office lost. AidWatch’s activities were deemed legitimately charitable in that it was acting in pursuit of a public good.

Government uses ATO and Federal Court

Subsequently the Labor government put up legislation defining charities and the purposes of non-profits that could be deemed charitable.

“When we worked on the new definition of charity, we actually had the AidWatch case written into the explanatory memorandum of the bill, because if it was ever legally questioned, there was a listed example from the court,” says David Crosbie, the Community Council for Australia’s chief executive. “So the new definition of charity, which came into force January 1 this year, was that if you were involved in advocacy, provided you were not a political organisation, and the advocacy benefited your purpose, you were fully entitled to engage.”

That has not stopped the tax office trying again.

“The most recent case was in the [Federal] court a couple of weeks ago, relating to the Hunger Project,” says Crosbie.

“They said it wasn’t a charity because it didn’t provide direct services. The Hunger Project raises money to support other charitable projects aimed at reducing hunger overseas. The ATO lost that case, just as they lost the AidWatch case.”

The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data show that at the end of last year, there were about 58,000 active non-profit organisations around the country, employing about 1.1 million people, turning over more than $107 billion, and growing at a rate of about
8 per cent a year.

Of those, the majority – about 45,000 – have “deductible gift recipient” status, meaning people can claim donations against their taxes. And these organisations also get exemption from other taxes, such as fringe benefits tax.

So it’s not hard to see why the tax office would be gunning for charities: they represent a very large and very fast-growing leakage of revenue. Nor is it hard to see why a cash-strapped government would be concerned, even absent ideological considerations.

Targetting refugee and environmental groups

But, of course, there are ideological considerations.

Only a couple of weeks ago, at a meeting of the Liberal Party’s federal council, MP Andrew Nikolic moved that “eco charities be treated as corporations under consumer and competition law” and “should not be eligible for deductible gift recipient status when advocating political issues”.

The motion passed unanimously.

And while Nikolic’s resolution targeted green charities in particular, there is no doubt the government is working assiduously to shut down inconvenient advocacy wherever possible.

Just a couple of weeks after this year’s budget, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison cut off funds to the Refugee Council of Australia, saying the government did not think “taxpayer funding should be there to support what is effectively an advocacy group”.

A number of other outspoken organisations in a range of areas also lost funding in the budget.

At least the community legal centres still have some money, albeit reduced and with strings attached. The state Environmental Defenders Offices don’t.

“Environmental Defenders have generally lost all of their federal money and some have also in some cases lost state money,” says Smith, whose organisation also covers EDOs.

Some have found other ways of getting resources, essentially by crowdfunding. “Some of the smaller ones may struggle for resources,” Smith says. “But I don’t think it will shut them up. The government may yet find them to be stronger advocates against elements of government policy than they used to be.”

Charities Commission under fire

The Coalition parties never supported the charities act, and initially wanted to repeal it, as well as abolish the new body set up to administer it, the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.

“They seem to have gone very quiet about repealing the act,” says Ann O’Connell, a tax expert from the Not-for-Profit Project at Melbourne Law School. She suggests that is because the government has now “become aware” that the court decisions on charitable status would hold up, even if the act was gone.

But the government remains committed to getting rid of the commission, even though the commission is overwhelmingly supported by the sector. In its place, the Abbott government would give responsibility to the tax office.

“What we are seeing,” says David Ritter, the chief executive of Greenpeace Australia, “is a government pursuing everything it can think of in an agenda to control and silence civil society. And that should be of concern to all Australians.”

Defunding it, gag-clausing it, threatening its tax-deductibility. And potentially, says Ritter, criminalising it.

He refers to the Competition Policy Review, now being headed by former businessman Maurice Newman, not a noted friend of the environment.

A number of members want to change the secondary boycott provisions of the competition and consumer act, which currently exempt actions by consumer and environment groups.

If that were to happen, organisations would be breaking the law if they advocated that consumers avoid using certain products. They could not advocate boycotts, for example, of unsustainable fisheries, palm oil products from plantations where rainforest had been knocked down, or paper products produced from old-growth forests.

The review is due to be complete before the end of the year.

Would the government go so far as to actually criminalise advocacy? A broad coalition of environment, welfare and other groups is taking the threat very seriously and is now lobbying furiously.

Yet not only are these organisations – community legal centres, environmental defenders and other non-profits – often the most publicly trusted critics of government policy, they are frequently sought out by government for their expertise.

“I can’t tell you how often governments have come to us over the years seeking our involvement in policy work, or advice on improving their practices,” says Michael Smith. “Now, we’re not supposed to be having those conversations.”

Not under this government. No criticism allowed.

Poetry Sunday 27 July 2014

Amber Essau is a New Zealand-born Samoan-Maori-Irish poet.  Here is her poem Horoi.  (Definitions below)

We enter like hands
open out
to cleanse
before the gate
water snaps
its fingers
along our side
Mum tells us
to wind up the windows
as we mould ourselves
into the lay of rocks
crisp coercion
summer immersion
leaving behind
the city
& green is new
to me
cows grinding
into grass
the shrivelling kina roe
on the horizon
dip out
of worries
that follow
the stream
swim out of my hair
Dip in
to way whenua
the ways
my Samoan father
would say
going up to great
grandpa’s old house
but now
there’s a bridge

horoi: wash, clean, cleanse, wipe.
kina: sea urchin, a delicacy much prized by many Maori
way whenua: stream, creek, river, water

On the virtues of semen

As mentioned previously in this blog, I have been lapping up the writings of evolutionary biologist, Jesse Bering, in his book “Why is the penis shaped like that?”, in particular his essay on human semen.

This serendipitous work came to light from research into the puzzle about menstrual synchrony.  The puzzle is this: heterosexually active women living together tend to exhibit a high degree of menstrual synchrony, whilst sexually active lesbians living in close proximity exhibit no sign of menstrual synchrony.  What causes the difference?  Researchers quickly realised a difference between the two groups was the presence or absence of semen; ‘Lesbians have semen free sex.’

Semen is largely a bulk fluid to carry and protect sperm, the sperm making up 1 to 5% of total volume in ejaculate.   The seminal plasma – the large part left after accounting for sperm has an interesting composition, including of over fifty compounds ‘including hormones, neurotransmitters, endorphins, and immunosuppressants’.  

‘Perhaps the most striking of these compounds is the bundle of mood-enhancing chemicals in semen. . . . Such anxiolytic chemicals include . . . cortisol (known to increase affection), estrange (which elevates mood), prolactin (a natural antidepressant), oxytocin (also elevates mood), thyrotropin-releasing hormone (another antidepressant), melatonin (a sleep-inducing agent), and even serotonin (perhaps the best known antidepressant neurotransmitter).’

Researchers hypothesised that ‘women having unprotected sex should be less depressed than suitable control participants’.

Their resultant study was of 293 college females, the results being published in the Achives of Sexual Behavior”.  Even after adjusting for frequency of sexual intercourse, women who engaged in sex and “never” used condoms showed significantly fewer depressive symptoms than did those who “usually” or “always” used condoms.  Importantly, these chronically condom-less, sexually active women also evidenced fewer depressive symptoms than did those who abstained from sex altogether.  By contrast, sexually active heterosexual women, even really promiscuous women, who used condoms were just as depressed as those practicing total abstinence.  In other words, it’s not just that women who are having sex are simply happier, but happiness appears to be a function of the ambient seminal fluid pulsing through one’s veins.   (The vagina has long been recognised as a fast track for drug delivery into the blood stream.  This is because of the ‘impressive vascular network’ surrounding the vagina.)

The researchers, Gordon Gallup and Rebecca Burch, urge caution in interpretation of ‘these data (that) are preliminary and correlational in nature’.   This, of course, does not stop them wondering of ‘the possible antidepressant effects of oral ingestion of semen, or semen applied through anal intercourse (or both) among both heterosexual couples as well as among homosexual males.’

Jesse Bering asks if this mood enhancement may be a factor in ongoing ‘barebacking’ (unprotected anal sex among gay males), given the HIV risks involved.  Bering goes on to quote from a postmodernist view of why gay men still bareback:

“The body becomes the locus of never-ending fights, a carnal battlefield.  The escape route  (lines of flight) is intrinsic to the deterritorialisation of the Body-without-Organs through which one becomes some-one else.  …….”  

There are another couple of hundred words of this which Bering says “reads as if the authors were cobbling together a Braille sentence using the random distribution of acne on someone’s back.”  Bering prefers an evolutionary approach, supporting the semen triggered mood enhancement model.

Which seems to me to be as good a place as any to leave this most tasteful subject, at least for the moment.  Of course we could have explored the semen ingestion rituals involving young boys in the Sambia Tribe of New Guinea, but that will have to wait another day.

(Quotes from ‘An Ode to the Many Evolved Virtues of Human Semen’ in “Why is the Penis Shaped Like That?” Jesse Bering, Corgi Books, London, 2013)

Bendigo and people like us.

by quintam clockbum esq.

I’ve got a favourite photo of Bendigo in its heyday.  It was when the deep mining had just begun, and George Lansell, our ancestral Twiggy Forrest, had sunk his shareholders money into the ‘Big Victoria’, the ‘Red White and Blue’, the ‘180’, the ‘Hustlers,’ and made Bendigo the richest place in the world.  Each year a gold train with hundreds of tons of raw gold, left Bendigo.  Only twenty five years after Major Mitchell, (1836) had “discovered” it, the speculators moved in.  Land was listed on the London Stock exchange a year later.  That’s what Australia is made of, digging stuff up, selling it, and real estate.

The indigines didn’t get real estate, they thought it was their god, they belonged with it, rather than owned it.  Silly them.

George Lansell made big money, and did what anyone who made it in the colonies did.  He pissed off, ‘went home’ to the U.K to live the life of a parvenu.  He returned briefly, and stayed on and off in Lansell Road, Toorak, (Melbourne), and left a pile, both figuratively and literally.  ‘Fortuna’ in Bendigo, his ‘Shangri-la’ as a sort of ersatz, romanesque baroque in amongst the mullock, and a statue in Pall Mall to adorn histories page.

My favourite photograph, taken in 1860, depicts a chinaman, with pig tail; he is holding a candle.  Also an African American, supporting a drill, and a Cornishman, sans pastie, holding the pointy end at a wall of rock.  This photograph was taken in the ‘Big Victoria’, which eventually got down to 4500 feet below ground level.  Eventually the cost of keeping water out made extraction too expensive.  So Bendigo, back then, was truly multicultural, there were Chinamen, even blackfellas, (though non native) and a whole swathe of Europeans, who sort of flocculated along the alluvial and into the deep lead.  They’re still there in spirit, as the place is pockmarked with holes, and every now and then a body turns up, – which amuses the coroner, the public and the press.

Back in the 1860’s Bendigo had a stock exchange, a synagogue, numerous joss houses, fifty hotels, flop houses, brothels, sly grog tents, you name it.  It was truly cosmopolitan, and raucous.  There’s a not so famous painting in the Bendigo Art Gallery that sort of sums it up, but it’s unfinished, as the artist got done for horse stealing and debauchery, public drunkedness, and vice.  But it hangs there as a memento of Bendigo pre respectable.

The Immigration Restriction Act (1901), Australian Parliament’s first piece of legislation saw to it that the Chinese were encouraged to move away, and by the time I got there in the mid 1990’s respectability and boredom had done its worst.  No grog shops, knock shops and brothels, just pubs, all deaded, and the TAB.  They’re a conservative lot in Bendigo now, and a bit Irish Catholic.  The cathedral is the biggest in the southern hemisphere, it’s full of red heads, and is a sort of dusty adjunct to Warrnambool, as a setting for the last remake of Ryans Daughter.  When we arrived there were no foreign people, just heaps of Shanes, and Kerries; sheilas, and clean living blokes, and until recently not much on the telly either.

But all this has changed.  Now they’re encouraging doctors and other useful (employable) people, people from overseas, some of them are now living on the other side of the divide, and all of them are foreign, (dark skinned) and that’s the trick behind 457 Visas and anything else we choose to call, “we can’t be bothered training our own”.

So now, all of a sudden (and this is really shocking), we’ve got Muslims.  We’re terrified about these Muslims, because before long they’ll be ‘jihadding’ all over the place.

And then clean living (sic white skinned) blokes and sheilas just wont be safe.

stop the mosqueOpposing voice!? 

Opponents said the mosque would bring violence to Bendigo and the city would be overtaken by Sharia law.

“If you’re Muslim and you want a mosque, go back to the Middle East. This is Australia,” one member of the public said.

The protest group asked what councillors were doing to protect the city from terrorism and accused the council of failing to consult the community.

“Bendigo people own Bendigo, it’s their town, they have the right to say mosque or no mosque,” one person said.

“We’re not racists.”

But then . . . Bendigo cartoon

Not tonight.

Here at PC we take the future very seriously, and, in the knowledge that without sex there is no future, we take sex seriously too.  (In fact, we take sex.)  One poor deprived male has not been getting his self assessed fair share and thus recorded his partners excused over one month and tabulated them – below

A sad litany of excuses I’m sure, however the striking thing to me is the three “Yes“.  Is that enough to ensure our future?

Well, some people do not even tackle that question, instead they rail about the use of a spreadsheet to document the excuses.  Is this a proper use for your laptop they ask.  In fact Holly Baxter, writing in The Guardian,21 July 2014, suggests
“Creating a blowjob tally on your laptop feels like admitting that the once ferocious predator is now an easily startled animal of prey that needs coaxing out of its hiding place.”
In fact her whole article is worth a look, so here it is:

Does anybody owe anybody else sex? It’s a question that has been asked with strange regularity throughout history, one that a lot of people – in fact, the majority – used to answer in the affirmative. The idea that specifically a woman owed her partner regular sex once they were married meant that the euphemism “performing your wifely duties” became widespread, and remains well known to this day.

Despite that fact, I don’t anticipate a groundswell of sympathy for the man whose own complaints about his wife’s failure to perform her duties have gone viral. Incensed by her endless excuses in the marital bed, he apparently compiled a list of every reason she’d given him for not wanting sex that night (“I’m tired”, “I’m watching my show”, “I’m still a bit tender from yesterday”) replete with bitchy asides about how or why they didn’t ring true (“I feel sweaty and gross, I need a shower” had the note next to it “Didn’t shower until the morning.”) This document was apparently sent to his wife’s work email as she was about to depart from a business trip, with some accompanying text explaining that he wasn’t going to miss her while she was away (yes, I also find it hard to imagine why he wasn’t getting any.) And, of course, the wife in question subsequently uploaded the whole thing to Reddit, because what else does anyone do with something highly personal these days except display it prominently on an internet forum?

Now, usually there’s usually nothing hornier than a spreadsheet – apart from maybe a spreadsheet documenting your perceived inadequacies – but I get the feeling that this husband hasn’t secured himself a starry new sex life with this passive-aggressive move. His bizarre abuse of Microsoft Excel got a frosty media reception on most mainstream publications – except for one article on Thought Catalog, where James B Barnes wrote that “sex isn’t owed, but it is expected”, and failure to meet this expectation can justifiably be met with negative consequences.

I’ll have to respectfully disagree with Barnes here, because while sex is indeed a fair expectation in most marriages, so unfortunately is stress and hardship. Problems such as a partner’s declining sex drive should never be met with punishment. Nobody gleefully denies sex for kicks; instead, their libido diminishes because of workload or emotional issues, or a communicative breakdown in the marriage. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the latter is the problem of the husband and wife whose troubles in the bedroom were spread across the global media this morning. Just a hunch.

Last year, Brad and Amy Feld wrote a book about spreadsheeting their sex life, and as far back as 2008 Charla Muller made headlines when she decided to schedule in sex every single day for a year as a birthday present to her husband. Despite the fact that these (slightly unorthodox) cases of sexual planning were discussed prominently in the media at the time, the idea that marital sex may have to incorporate any sort of organisation still feels uncomfortable, sometimes to the point of taboo, between couples. After all, the regimented management of one’s orgasms does seem deeply unsexy. For the first 30 or so years of our lives we are told that lust is an uncontrollable, spontaneous force which has to be fought if any of us are to get anything done. Creating a blowjob tally on your laptop feels like admitting that the once ferocious predator is now an easily startled animal of prey that needs coaxing out of its hiding place.

Facing up to the fact that sex is just another aspect of a relationship that needs work to remain healthy is surprisingly difficult. After all, this sort of work is rarely honestly portrayed in sitcoms or films, where characters’ sex lives are easy, regular and problem-free. But the fact of the matter is that these are common frustrations, experienced across age ranges – the couple at the centre of this latest controversy are only 26 years old, and they don’t have children. The husband in this instance could have used his energy to open a dialogue rather than create a spreadsheet. Instead, the people he’s caught the attention of are all the procrastinating online voyeurs like myself, and the one person who really matters in the situation has wandered off to Reddit, her loins still stubbornly refusing to be set aflame.




Dog People

By quentin cockburn esq.

GeorgeDear reader I have a dog, he is a most genial fellow his name is George.  Strictly speaking the pet is not really mine, he was chosen by my children as an adorable ‘must be had puppy’.  I looked at the paws, and said, ‘this dog will be a giant’!  No-one listened, and now this big, gangly and effusive dog is mine.  The puppy stage has passed and George and I are best of friends, compatriots almost, as we enjoy doing all the thing that the children, and their mother disdain.  George likes walking, I like it too.  George likes riding, (well I ride, he runs) and George enjoys eating as much as I do, though I don’t share his relish for dead sheep, faecal material and coagulate goo, perhaps part animal, mineral or vegetable that he find on the side of the road.  George is an an enthusiast, and most appreciative.  Yet even I disdain his kisses, all slobbering and tongue slavering.  And his breath, part faecal matter, and a triumph of his sturdy immune system is not something I would willingly share with him.  But sharing most things is what it’s about.  Its a bonhomie, borne by genial mutual regard, with the occasional harsh word thrown in.  I believe it’s called discipline.

In Bendigo George accompanies me to the service station to get the papers.  In Melbourne George walks with me to the bakery and the newsagents.  I make sure to take the circuitous route, because George has this predilection for pissing on the fruiterers carefully and aesthetically laid boxes of ripened fruit.  He also likes to piss on the flash new pissoir the council has constructed on the corner, not really a pissoir, as that’s unsightly un-gentrified and common, but more a techno tardis for genteel turd, with a blue light, which antiseptically greets the new comer, and proclaims, like most of Fitzroy now, this site is clean, sterilised, devoid of bacteria or culture.  Most people are delighted to see George, and he returns their enthusiasm with a slobber, a wagging and a bark.  Sometimes he will greet the newcomer with unrestrained joy, and jump up gracing the individual with grubby paw prints.  What better way to demonstrate his affection.

But recently, as Fitzroy becomes more gentrified, and Bendigo more suburbanised I’ve noticed a change.  We all know what people say about owners and their dogs, they share the same personalities.  It would be self indulgent to proclaim George’s geniality as a consequence of is most affable owner, but recent events may confirm this observation.

dog people 2Take, for instance, the lady in Scotchmer Street with the two Alsatians.  Upon meeting George they decided to rip his throat out, and as they, leashed, muzzled and delirious in their frustration, pinned George down, all awhile George retuning their anger with licks and wagging, their owner, a late middle aged lady screamed, “Cant you control that dog of yours!!”.  Or in Bendigo when the three Doberman, Pit Bull Mastiff crosses snarled and gnashed and threatened to kill kind George, the owners screamed, “Control that dog of yours”. dog people 1 It’s an everyday occurrence nowadays, mad insular people, both presumedly Age or Herald Sun readers with hideously aggressive dogs, and their yearning, upon seeing George, free guileless and happy, to have him caged, muzzled, and stilled.  He has been castrated, but to take the every other bit of fun outta him, the joy of the everyday and the inconsequential seems unjust.  But, you see, these other dog owners don’t walk for fun, and their dog is a way of projecting their insecure lives into the street.  Streets are unsafe, and positively anarchic, especially when people are out there, unrestrained by their absence of insecurity and . . . actively enjoying themselves!