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Think about it. Free public education for more than a century and a half has brought us to this point.

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The Twitter-in-Chief,
‘Top Gear,’
climate change denial,
Erich von Dänikan,
Faux News,
the NRA hegemony,
all those No voters, and
the demographic that watches Channel 7Mate.

Are these the fruits of all the time, money, effort, intelligence, good will, and energy put into free public education for 150 years? Now that is a depressing thought.

All those stalwarts who championed free public education did so in the belief that it would lead to an informed, intelligent, rational, patient, and capable citizenry and all those teachers who have laboured to realise that vision, all of that and yet….

Who is going to explain these results to the shades of Harriet Martineau and Horace Mann?

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Eric Blair, we need you now more than ever. One of Blair's biographers, Bernard Crick, says Blair was partly moved to write 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' because he feared that free public education would not prevent the society he portrayed in the novel.

The poet Robert Penn Warren wrote ‘The Legacy of the Civil War’ (1961). In it Warren asks readers to imagine General Robert E. Lee shaking hands and congratulating the strutting Southern governors of the 1950s and 1960s barring children from schools, encouraging baying crowds of Bible-grasping gorgons to shout abuse at children, licensing hissing mobs to burn churches, sanctioning lynch parties, raping and pillaging for sport, and praising masked men hiding in the dark. Would Lee approve such deeds done under that flag he served? No, he would regard such acts as the desecrations that they are, and he would have said so.

The old remains new.

A close examination of pictures from the March on Washington in 1963 will show Warren there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial come to give his own thanks. He received three Pulitzer Prizes for his work, living most of his latter years in New England, no longer welcome in his homeland, and it shows in the poetry.

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A callow undergraduate, I heard him recite some of his poems and the memory has since remained bright. There are some short excerpts on You_Tube.

How is it that the USA Presidential incumbent retains the support of his voters when he acts repeatedly against their material interests?

Wake up! It is simple.

The President of the Electoral College of the United States delivers to his core supporters every day the two most important things they value. All else pales into insignificance against these two.

First, he is not a black man.

Second, he is not a woman.

End. It is primal. It is not about policy, not about politics, not about consistency, not about probity, not about government….

Politics is simple, until analysts make it complicated for their own reasons.

He also delivers to this constituency in other ways, too.

He is not an immigrant.

He does not have a foreign sounding name.

The title of this entry is taken from Vicente Fox, one-time president of Mexico, who has poked fun at Trump Donald on Facebook with more wit and zest than most others have done.

Every day for the last fifty years the Australian economy has been on the verge of collapse.

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Not a week goes by but that the financial media offers dire warnings about increasing house prices, falling house prices, the high value of the Australian dollar, the low value of the Australian dollar, disastrous pay raises, long overdue play raises, the flight of capital, the threat of incoming capital, the burgeoning public deficit, credit card victims, exploited workers, impossibly high interest rates, perilously low interest rates, and on and on and on and on.

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The slightest change in the cost of shoes or rent of 0.001% is described as a 'massive leap.' Any increase is crippling and any decrease is devastating.

Ad nauseam, indeed.

‘Wolf!’ has been cried so loudly and so often and in such contradictory terms that I have developed lupinophobia. Figure it out, Mortimer.

While all this nay saying occurs, the GDP, the GNP, calories eaten, the Per Capita Income, life expectancy, population growth, household consumption, superannuation savings, they have all increased to historically high levels and far above that of 95% of the world’s population. Most people in the Lucky Country are lucky enough to live like kings and queens compared to most of the rest of the world. compared to a their grandparents, compared to the entirety of history.

My conclusion is that hysteria is the only register for the journalist, who is completely detached from reality. Alternative facts have long had roots.

How low can Rupert go? Another new record.

I have noticed in the ‘Times of London,’ the ‘Wall Street Journal,’ and our very own ‘The Australian' and no doubt Fox News (but I never watch fiction) that President Barry ‘Bomb ‘em’ Obama is now being sledged.

In an effort to suck up to the Blond Beast, and with Hillary Clinton sidelined, Murdoch Rupert’s organs are now devoted full time to blackening Barry Obama. [Get it?] The snide racism of that woman on Fox News, who has now gone to NBC to continue the bile, is not enough. (The business decision was no doubt that she would drag her audience with her to NBC in the main stream. How the mighty NBC has fallen.)

Now that Vladimir Putin is the Blond Beast’s best friend, Obama cannot be disparaged for being soft on Russia, so….

In a creative leap, the Organs of Rupert have decided — sit down — Obama is a closet, no not that, a closet Marxist! Yes, they have! It has been drumpeted as news, in feature articles, and one of the local hacks has slurred it out a keyboard in an op-ed piece. Piece, indeed.

Proof once again that there is no limit to hypocrisy. (Mitch McConnell has a long way to go to compete with this standard. Keep trying, Mitch! [He hasn’t got a chance, but it doesn’t hurt to see the pathetic clot try.] )

Hypocrisy yes, but hardly original. The Alt Right nut cases have been saying this for eight years. Or that he is an Islamic fundamentalist. Or an alien spawn. Or...... They cannot seem to make up their minds. Wait, ‘minds,’ maybe that is the problem.

But now the nut cases are in charge. H. L. Mencken was right.

Here’s a flash.

Putin and the Blond Beast will pair up as running mates in the next elections in each country.

Or, another:

The Blond Beast will sell, er, marry off one of his children to Putin to cement the alliance.

The post-mortems of the 2016 presidential election in the United States flow. It is all so simple, no wonder the PhDs could not see it coming and still cannot see it going. She is a woman. End.

[Warning, this post is all text. The graphics I reviewed to illustrate Hillary hatred were all so crude and stupid I chose not to include them. They make the programming on Chanel7MATE look refined and cultivated.]

By some mischance I stumbled onto some Hillary Clinton hating web sites the other day. I was so stunned by the cancerous bile that I could not immediately click on with my mouse finger. I have since recovered from the shock of a head-on collision with the whacko sickos. A brief digest follows.

Hillary Clinton has sold nuclear weapons to North Korea. (Evidently she carried them to Japan in her luggage when Secretary of State, and ducked into Chinese submarine in Tokyo Bay to hand over the goods.) In return North Korea paid millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. This is the form for many of the fantasies. As if North Korea had millions, apart from counterfeit.

Hillary Clinton has secret meetings with the Elders of Zion to collect still more dosh for the Foundation. As per the protocols of the Elders of Zion these meeting have included a banquet of roasted Christian suckling babies.

Want to know who has funded and armed ISIS? Look no further than Hillary Clinton. She did it.

Ku Klux Klan leader found dead. Guess who did it!

That tornado that destroyed Smallville, she brewed it in her witch’s cauldron.

Bill Clinton went vegetarian for no other reason than to destroy the All-American junk food business. Who put him up to it? Guess! Hillary!

It turns out she plotted with the Russkies to hack into the electoral system and puff up her vote.

The home team lost in the state finals because of referee’s call, well, she paid off the ref to favour the other team.

No villainy is to small for this one-woman coven.

I will not identify the websites since I have no wish to encourage visits.

I stumbled on these when I noticed an angry rejoinder to some innocent remark on the Facebook post about her lead in the popular vote. How, I wondered, could anyone dispute this fact. Little did I know.

It goes on and on, but I don’t.

These fantasies are so absurd, it would take forever to unwind and refute them.

Conclusions that are not reached by evidence and reason, in any case, will not be amended by evidence and reason.

That there is not one scintilla of evidence to substantiate these claims, which is readily and freely admitted in some cases, and cited as the ultimate proof of her guilt. She is so nefarious and spectral that she leaves no evidence in the mirror. (Figure it out, Mortimer.)

Hating Hillary meets some kind of emotional need in the haters. So it seems given the intensity of the SHOUTS. Yes, they are frequently in capital letters.

However it is not limited to the lunar right but can also be found on the lunar left. The King Street socialists in Newtown, the ones who tape their rants and dire warnings to the street light posts failed to predict the U.S. election result. The old crystal ball is not what it used to be.

For months these semi-literate damnations, each more outraged than the last, denounced Hillary Clinton as a soulless golem who eats proles for lunch and sups with the military-industrial complex.

Coda: The mystery to me of her defeat it how someone so smart, so organised, so well prepared, such a master of the game, did not clinch the states necessary to get the electoral votes. Maybe she listened too often to Al Gore. No wait, surely no one listens to Al Gore.

For years I have heard pygmies declare that ‘ein(e) Berliner’ is a pastry. This is said for the purpose of belittling Jack Kennedy’s use of the phrase, in a speech in Berlin in June 1963, and to deprecate him, too. A search on the web will produce many hits for examples. Enough to satisfy those easily satisfied.

Below is the index card he wrote to insert the phrase in the speech. Before pedants begin correction the spelling, note that it is phonetic and was jotted off in the car on the way to the podium.

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Once or twice I have bridled at this casual derogation, based on my own study of German, but that was always dismissed by the interlocutors.

Then one thing was obvious ,,, to those who looked. The Berlin audience in 1963 understood the phrase in the way Kennedy intended.

JFK audience.jpg A crowd of 450,000 according to Wikipedia.

No PhD ever had such a reaction from such a mass of listeners. At the time, at the place it was a message received five by five, loud and clear. There is plenty of evidence on You Tube.

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The other thing is that it is a grammatically correct statement as even a beginning students of the language know. I have had that confirmed many times over the years by German speakers, and again recently in the image below, taken from a Deutsche Welle website after a murderous attack in Berlin in 2016.

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Perhaps the pygmies will now mock these two woman, too, while they bury their dead.

The attacks of pygmies on giants are endless, often petty, always trivial, and seldom accurate. The attacks satisfy some need in the pygmies.

No doubt some entrepreneur in Berlin has been marketing donuts with this meme for years. No doubt someone will offer alternative-facts. It was ever thus.

The other sign says ‘Berlin will hold together.’ Perhaps the best rendering is ‘Berlin will remain.’

During the United States football season I watch NFL games recorded on 7Mate. What an eye opener it is. No, I do not refer to the games, but to the advertisements, through which I fast forward at light speed. I try to do that but sometimes fail and when I do, I always regret it. Crass, vulgar, and stupid do not begin to describe the adverts, the products, and programs they promote.

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The advertisements are for a demographic I know not, and I want to keep it that way.

The products usually promise the earth for $9.99, Hair growth for baldness, travel around the world for nothing, free tickets to this and that, invariably spectacles, like giant trucks crashing into each other, I never heard of and am glad of it. Many of the commercials imply there is a secret to getting these things, which will be revealed for a few dollars. Thus there are secret tricks to get first class travel for a pittance. Many concern weight loss, usually by eating. The suppressed premiss that there is a conspiracy known to others is a motif in many advertisements.

To say that the appeal of these commercials is simple and simple-minded is the kindest thing I can say. The smart people who identify and target the demographic of watchers (gulp, and that includes me) decide to do it that way.

More revolting still are the other 7Mate programs relentlessly advertised in breaks during the games usually described as bigger, louder, longer, ruder, and ever more …[tiresome]. Invariably they involve men doing stupid things while chortling about it.

Here is a sample:

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Among the more respectable examples include farting contests, with ignition, projectile vomiting with a feminine twist. (Don’t ask!) Others involve crashing into immovable objects either headfirst or in vehicles of some sort. Then there were the urine drinking contests. Many of the adolescents filmed in these trailers are old enough to know better. Animal house with scraggy grey beards and one hundred word vocabularies.

At times the programs that feature these deeds, also have audiences cheering them on. Believe it or not.

Many other programs involve automobiles being lovingly stroked. or guns likewise stroked. What is it about stroking metal? Well whatever it is, I don’t get it.

Other advertisements for programs involve sweaty men playing with heavy machinery. They are not working for a business but rather wildcatting on their own. Ostensibly they might be digging for gold: X marks the spot. But really they are just having a high-ho time with a gigantic earth mover.

There are also movie trailers and they come from the same stable. Blokes killing CGIs. Computer Generated Images that is.

In every case the text is aggressive, belligerent, loud, and limited. Everything is a fight, a war, a battle, a contest. All those couch potatoes love watching others go at it. Even an auction is covered as if it were a fire-fight, as only those who have never been in a fire-fight could do. The men in the trailers, and yes they are invariably men, are usually unshaven, unwashed, or wearing greasy clothes, or the trifecta.

A few years ago Channel 11 of the Ten stable, showed the games and it was the same there. There is nothing exceptional about 7Mate except that I happen to see it.

Yes, I watch NFL games. It is the only United States sport free to air here, so it is the one I watch. I would prefer the NBA. I have given up on MLB because the players seem to lack fundamentals skills; the games are over-managed; and the commentary is so diffuse, oh for Vin Scully who was always interested in the game before his eyes, unlike those I last heard who were bored silly by the game and preferred to reminisce about dinners past. Maybe they are personalities who are feeding the twits who follow their tweets.


Sometime ago I promised a second instalment from the OSS manual for Allied sympathisers in continental Europe during World War II. For those who have patiently waited, here it is. The manual's purpose was to show sympathisers how they could obstruct the Nazi war effort by gumming up the works ever so innocently without blatantly risking their lives.

One section was addressed to managers of companies, firms, and organisations from railroads to enamelware factories.

The items read like key performance indicators from McKinsey whose client list has included Enron and Swissair. Remember them?

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(1) Demand written orders. Meanwhile, time passes and nothing is done.

(2) Misunderstand orders. Ask endless questions about minute details or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Meanwhile, time passes and nothing is done.

(3) Do everything possible to delay completion. Even though part of an order
may be ready, don't deliver it until it is completely finished. Say that standards have to be maintained. More time passes.

(4) Do not order new raw materials until current stores have been exhausted, so that the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown. Why? It is inefficient to hold surplus material. Time keeps passing.

(5) Order only high-quality materials which are hard to get. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior products. There is never enough high-quality material to go around so this order leads to an argument about priorities. These arguments never end. More time passes.

(6) In making work assignments, always assign the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inept workers. This is definitely from the McKinsey training course.

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(7) Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for revision those products which have the least flaw. Approve other defective parts whose flaws are not going to be detected until use in the hope these products will fail at a crucial moment. Thus one appears fastidious but lets slipshod products through. Another chapter in the training manual, that one.

(8) Make mistakes in routing so that products are sent to the wrong place. A few well chosen typographical errors do the trick. If the reports have not been acknowledged, then one cannot proceed.

(9) When training new workers, assign training to those who have have no experience in the hope that they will give incomplete or misleading instructions. Ah, a favourite of mine. McKinsey all the way. The trainers have never used and never will use the system that they train others to use. A classic.

(10) To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work. Reward the incompetent and punish the competent. This one has long a key performance indicator for some modern major managers.

(11) Hold meetings when there is more critical work to be done. Do so especially when the pressure is on, declaring that only by discussion can morale be raised.

(12) Multiply paper work in plausible ways. Start duplicate files offsite. Who can object to paperwork? Preparing, sorting, and filing takes time. Assign one of the best workers to this clerical job on the grounds that the paper trail must be perfect.

(13) Multiply the procedures and clearances. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do. Make sure it is always an odd number in the hope that there will be disagreement among them. Invoke our old friend standards again.

(14) Apply all regulations to the last letter. Work to the rule. Was for orders; show no initiative. The more obscure and less relevant the regulation the better. See standards above.

pellits.jpg I never got the pellets.

The OSS was the Office for Strategic Services, the forerunner to the CIA.

Fox Mulder said that. Such a remark would have earned him a sneer in most universities, especially from philosophers, the more so for those who declaim themselves to be post-modernist.*

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For the last two generations scholars and writers have been telling students there are no facts. Marxists denied the law of supply and demand as a fraud. Philosophers emerged from Plato’s cave. blinded by the sun, saw no facts but only heard words and more words. It was all relative. Then the post-modernists came along and bulldozed everything flat with Gallic subtlety. It is all subjective.

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In a curious way even school teaching went along with this rarefied nonsense by increasingly ignoring facts. Students no longer learned facts, like historical eras, conjugations of verbs, the formulae for a solution, or the dates of queens and presidents. If such trivia was needed it could be looked up. This was the line long before Google came along.

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As ever, the nonsense peddled in college and university classrooms seeps out with the graduates and in time it come back to haunt the groves of academe. What started as intellectual pyrotechnics, harmless fun, and oneupmanship, and the path to promotion is not so funny when it mutates and returns to bite. Think Godzilla.

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Now politics in the United States, and to some extent in Australia, has practitioners who publicly and explicitly dismiss facts. The lesson has been learned. Climate change may be a fact but that does not privilege it. All is relative, a fraud, or subjective. Hearing a minister of the crown dismiss scientific evidence sounds like a philosophy seminar.

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Social workers were bitten by their own arguments years ago when they espoused the conviction that disabled people should not be institutionalised as this further diminished them. In time the political class learned this lesson and closed the institutions to cut budgets, putting the disabled in ‘the care of the community,’ that was the phrase trumpeted by social workers forty years ago. That care is now to be seen in such people sleeping on the sidewalk and living in parks. In addition, the career paths created in larger institutions were closed off to social workers.

*I have always expect the worst when I hear the word 'post-modernism' and so far it has never let me down.

I hemmed and hawed about 'oneupmanship' but decided to us it since its prime exponents are men.

Reading William Kristol’s string of repetitive laments on the arrested development that is Trump Donald is amusing. The most recent one I have seen is ‘It’s Not too Late - Trump must go.’ While one may agree with the sentiment, the source is tainted.

W Krstol.jpg Kristol William

Nowhere in this weekly flow is there a mea culpa. Why should there be?

For those who missed the first act, Irving Kristol, William’s father, was a prime and proud architect of the Neo-Conservative movement. Its motto was ‘No more Mr Nice Guy’ and its practice was ‘Anything Goes,’ just ask Karl Rove.

Karl Rove.jpg Rove Karl

Lie, cheat, steal, these are all acceptable activities in pursuit of the greater good, namely a Republican America from fifty statehouses to the White House. If Kristol senior was Dr Frankenstein, then Kristol William was Igor, eagerly and enthusiastically applying jolts of electricity to the living dead.

As the Neo-Cons zombies rose, bipartisanship and civility fell. The Tea Party grew from this seed and that in turned spawned the Alt Right

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It is recurrent theme in politics in the United States, xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, populist at the expense of institutions.

The inevitable, perhaps logical, outcome of this destructive approach to politics is candidate Trump Donald for whom there are no limits. He is the Alt Right candidate in Republican clothing.

These day not a week passes but Kristol William calls upon fellow conservatives, notice he no longer bellows his Neo-Con credentials, to do something about Trump Donald! Get the toothpaste back in the tube!

What fun it is watching this incubus squirm in his own juice!

Thanks to the Kristols and their kind. like Bill O’Nonsense, Murdoch’s Organs, and Fox Fairy Tales, we have come to this pass.

The party of Abraham Lincoln, the party of Herbert Hoover, the party of Wendell Wilkie, the party of Thomas Dewey, the party of Dwight Eisenhower, the party of Bob Dole, the party of John McCain,…..has come to Trump Donald.

I mention these men above because they were standard bearers of the Republican Party as presidential candidates.

A more complete list of noteworthy Republicans would also include George Norris, Arthur Vandenberg, John Lindsay, Earl Warren, Everett Dirksen, Margaret Chase Smith, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jacob Javits, Harold Stassen, Charles Percy, Olympia Snowe, Nelson Rockefeller, Arlen Spector, Nancy Johnson, and Christine Whitman. The list could be extended to many others.

Thanks to the Neo-Cons’ efforts to drive everyone else out of the party in the search for ideological purity, the Republicans are cut from the clothe that gave us Dennis Hastert. I could not find any pictures of this one in prison orange.

The ideology is simple: Anything goes.

The GOP is dead, but it still twitches with galvanic discharge.

The behaviours recommended below struck me as standard operating procedure on every university committee i have endured. Having experienced everything on the list, little did I know each instance was part of a whole strategy to undermine the joint. Little did I know. Ain’t it the truth!

These excepts come from an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) manual distributed during World War II to Allied sympathisers in Nazi occupied Europe. It shows these friends how to gum up the works while remaining safe. For those born without a history gland, the OSS was the immediate predecessor of the CIA.

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If there is popular demand I will post the next part which concerns how managers can destroy the place while remaining lily-white. It, too, reminded me of some with whom I have worked.

On committees:
(1) Insist on doing everything through channels. Never agree to a short-cut to expedite action.

(2) Make speeches. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your points.. by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Invoke the need for standards often.

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(3) When possible, refer all matters for further study and consideration.

(4) Make all committees as large as possible so that they are representative, and to insure there is never agreement.

(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, and resolutions.

(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open previous decisions and actions.

(7) Urge fellow-conferees to be "reasonable" and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later.

(8) Raise the propriety of any decision because it might lie within the jurisdiction of another element.

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The genius of OSS was William Donovan, known as Wild Bill. Thus reminded of this protean figure, I think will find a biography of him.

Structure and agency, that famous double play combination for Team Social Science, came to mind reading about that extraordinary individual, Gustav Mannerheim.

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The social sciences as a whole and each separate social science, like my very own political science, rests on the verity of structure über alles. Structure is both all around us and sometimes difficult to detect at the same time.

The challenge is to reveal structure hidden by the drifting sands of time and circumstance. To see structure in the myriad of details of social life requires detail and imagination, like seeing a constellation in a sea of stars, but it can be, it is, done. Every social scientist has sworn that faith at least since Emile Durkheim’s monumental book ‘Suicide’ (1897). For those who skipped Sociological Theory, in that study Durkheim demonstrated beyond doubt that most private and final act of suicide traces back to social structure. The argument and evidence still dazzle a reader.

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Yet it is also surely the case that most social scientists think of themselves as agents. The preacher is always beyond the testament. That is the chink in the intellectual armour. Karl Mannheim made that auto-exceptionalism explicit when he spoke of free-floating intellectuals clustered in cities who are in but of the milieu around them. Vanity thy name is called once again. Many convoluted books have appeared trying to unite the two from Jurgen Habermas's impenetrable tomes to Anthony Giddens unreadable tracts. Each sets out to make the obvious simple and instead makes it unintelligible. Biography is cold, crisp air by contrast to the stale, hot air found in those pages.

Per structure, if the individuals who made the first steps in developing photography had not done so, others would have made those or other developments that would lead approximately to the same technical advances. That is easy to believe in the middle of technological developments where many hands are at work trying many things as was the case with photography. Or, say, the discovery of DNA when many scientists around the world were closing in on it in a race of sorts. It is less easy to believe in the history nations.

Yet according to structure had Gustav Mannerheim been killed in 1916 on the Polish front while fighting the Germans in World War I where he was a general in the Tsar’s Russian army, some how another(s) would have filled his shoes, or some very like them, and the story of Finland would have played out pretty much the same. If Winston Churchill had been killed crossing the street in New York City in 1929…. If Adolf Hitler had died of typhus as an infant….

Ergo, no single individual, no agent, is decisive. Structure makes us but we do not — individually — make structure. Collectively, yes we do make structure as much as it makes us but not individually.

Structure is not quite determinism but the transposition offers the easiest exposition.

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Even allowing for the biographer's preoccupation with the subject, it is hard to believe that there was anyone else could have done what Mannerheim did in 1918-1919 and again in 1940-1944. Certainly that is what both his allies, friends, associates, onlookers, and enemies thought. He was as singular in the history of his country as Napoleon in France, Stalin in Russia, Churchill in England, or Hitler in Germany.

Without Mannerheim the history of Finland would surely have been different. Though I am sure revision pygmies have made careers out of cutting him down to their size, in fact, he will endure and they will not.

When a President Trump Donald begins deporting those he deems undesirable, will it go so far at to disinter the dead? If so, the program best begin at Arlington National Cemetery because there will be found the graves for a great many Mexicans and Muslims who died in the service of the United States, most of the recent ones in conflicts ordered by Republican presidents.

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There are many more but let these examples suffice.

Least one think such a program is beyond the pale, note that it was done in Hitler’s Germany, Dead Jews in war cemeteries were disinterred and dumped elsewhere. Everything old can be new again. Though one hopes bellbottom trousers are not included.

My brief foray into the free-fire zone of Hillary Clinton elicited fevered responses from the righteous. So be it. But ensuing heat mirage may have blurred the concluding remarks about the dead. Ergo, at the risk of boring dedicated Bleaders, I reiterate those remarks above.

I was asked the other day, ‘A lot of people dislike Hillary Clinton. Why is that?’

My answer was simple. Her sin is that she is a woman.

A sin that has been compounded by her relentless ambition, since she was a junior employed by the Watergate Committee that pursued Richard Nixon to retirement. But such facts are not relevant.

The hatred that has been sown and nurtured by the Fox News and its allied ‘paths’ (a term that includes both sociopaths and psychopaths) for these many years has grown out of little more than hardened air.

The night she was elected to the Senate some years ago, by chance I was checking into a hotel in New York City, and when the count came on the television screen in the lobby, everything stopped. In the silence the announcer said Hillary Clinton had been elected and the lobby erupted in cheers from hotel staff and guests. It was completely spontaneous and general. I was surprised but she certainly had dedicated supporters that night.

She does not have to do anything to attract the vitriol and innuendo. Being is enough to provoke the haters.

That she is thick-skinned and keeps coming back for more, merely makes the haters sharpen the invective the more. Hypocrisy knows no bounds. Ask John Dennis "Denny" Hastert.

She has also learned how the system works and she has focused on making it work for her. Another of her crimes.

If it needs to be said for the back row, ambition, a thick-skin, and focus in a man are a virtue, but in a woman….

Grotesque but true, and nothing now will make it go away. Parking tickets, speeches to Girl Scouts, email at Christmas, shopping lists, everything has been ransacked for something and when nothing is found that is taken to be proof of deceit.

Barry Obama’s sin is greater. He is black. That is the ember that burns throughout the haters to which Trump Donald is now giving voice and license. All the smoke has created the fire.

The final sin that unites Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is that they are Democrats. Black, woman, and Democrat are the three horses of the apocalypse for Fox News, Murdoch Organs, and Haters United, i.e., the Republican Party.

To mention that Republican nominee, I wondered if the deportations bruited of Muslims (Arabs) and Mexicans will include all them who have been killed or maimed in Vietnam, Somalia, Iran, Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Will the next Republican administration dig up dead bodies, starting at Arlington, and deport them, along with the cripples and deformed who wore the uniform. Let it be noted that many of these dead were killed at the command of Republican administrations.

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It was amusing the other day to read Republican sage William Kristol bemoaning the rise of Trump Donald, since Kristol was one of the laboratory assistants to his father that converted the Republican Party into the Frankenstein it has become. Having sown, this Igor now reaps.

Even more amusing was Kristol’s generalisation that historically Republican candidates for president have been superior to Democratic ones. Such is the view from Olympus, where dwells he amid the mirrors, they being his main source of information. No criterion are stated, and facts are absent.

Does this crew of candidates make one swell with pride? Warren G. Harding, U.S. Grant, Alf Landon, Chester A. Arthur, James Blaine, Barry Goldwater, and William Howard Taft.

No doubt some of these individuals were decent men, e.g., Grant, but he was a lousy president.

Heathrow is the worst airport I have had to go through and I have a taken a vow to myself never to do so again. To go to Dublin a couple of years ago we went through Amsterdam instead. I said that recently and was challenged with a barrage of stories about other airports.

Gosh, we travellers are picky.

I stopped to think about my experiences at Heathrow, good and bad. Good is a shorter and less intensely-felt list so I will do it first. I include everything from cab drivers to the elevators because it is all part of the Heathrow experience, n’est pas?

The good.

I had a few painless check-ins that I can no longer remember. The more so since some of my passages were on business class tickets.

When it came at long last, the train to Paddington was wonderful. It reduced the pain from the distant airport a lot and it offered the first British train station I had ever seen that was not filthy.

Once when I was particularly discombobulated, turning left instead of right, I lined up in the wrong place at United, and was treated like a king. I expected to be sent back around the corner to the right place but instead I was checked in with a happy smile. The line I hit by mistake was one reserved for VIPs, a category that has never included me.

In 2004 we rented an Avis car for drive around and that was smooth, and while finding the car in a distant lot we watched a Concorde take-off: loud and burning a lot of oil. The Avis agent gave a few personal tips on petrol that we used.

Here is the best, once very early one morning in 1994 while waiting for a flight I saw a sign at 8 a.m. offering free tastings of Chateau d’Yquem at a bottle shop in the terminal. Yquem is worth lining up for any where and any time. So I lined up outside the door to wait for 8 a.m. to arrive, and it did, and I did taste five vintages of this nectar of the gods. I knew that Baron Rothschild used to drink half a glass at breakfast over ice instead of orange juice; I knew that locals genuflected as they passed the vineyard. Now I knew why. It was part of a sale of the stock from a very high-end restaurant that had gone into bankruptcy and the stock had to be sold by the end of the month.

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I bought a bottle for about a £150 and carefully carried it back to Sydney. That was a lot of Australian dollars worth of pounds.

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A dinner party was arranged and at the end of the banquet, the Yquem was produced and knocked us speechless. I genuflected. We still keep the now empty bottle in a place of honour. Well, in the garage but I found it and the original docket -- stored within -- as above.

I learned a trick to cook an egg over bread in a microwave once when we ate at a cafe in a terminal. We still refer to that as a Heathrow egg.


The Bad

Heathrow motto.png Ironic.

Taking the Tube to Russell Square, while a struggle, was convenient and I did that many times because of the British Library. Happily the lifts and escalators worked there. Once out of the station I had to walk with the bags to the hotel, or if the bags were too much, then haggle with a taxi driver for a short ride around the Square, and that seemed to get more difficult each time I tried it. Sometimes a double fare was not enough to get the bags and me around the square to the hotel.

The worst single event was one morning waiting in line outside at an airport hotel for hours for the airport bus to arrive. I had gone to that hotel the night before for an early morning flight. There came no bus and no information as more and more travellers emerged from the hotel to join the queue. The line of patient waiters grew longer and less patient. No mobile phones then. That was the day the parking garage fell down. There was never any information but cab drivers bringing people from the airport spread the word and packed us up for the terminals. My Air France flight was delayed, cancelled, etc. Instead of arriving in Florence at 10 am to find my hotel in broad daylight, I arrived at 10 pm and it took some time since I was driving a rental car in the dark in an unfamiliar environment per Italian rules of the road.

In a logic that neither Mr Spock nor I understand, the left luggage office at a Heathrow terminal was on an upper floor. Cheaper floor space, I suppose. Leaving and later collecting luggage meant getting it to that floor. On one trip the lift to that office was out of order both when I left the luggage and later when I went to collect it, so it had to be man(me)handled up and later down the stairs. No explanation, no apology, no discount on the fee for the extra trouble. Just the usual snarl when I mentioned this fact to the attendant who had no doubt heard it all before, and it bounced off.

The most typical experience: to exit the aircraft and to walk through one corridor after another pulling the reluctant carry-on bag over layers of wrinkled and sagging carpet that velcros the wheels. I timed such a walk once and remember it to be 25 minutes through dim and dank corridors.

Then came, as always, the wait in line for the immigration stamp. Yes, I have timed that, too, and hit 45 minutes once. When at last I got to the officer, he was polite, pleasant, brisk, and efficient and the whole transaction lasted less than 30 seconds.

heathrow-crowded.jpg On a bad day.

When departing once, I disembarked from the bus between terminals at the door to find a queue out of the building. There was no attempt to manage or organise the line. It was raining, as always. and I was not dressed for it since I had assumed I would not be out in the weather. Was this the line to be in? I did not know but I could not otherwise get into the building so I waited, and in the end by some miracle it was the BA check-in, and once I got to the front it was quick, pleasant, and done. But it was an anxious wait, for if I was in the wrong line, by the time I realised it, it would be too later to find the right line for the trans-oceanic flight.

Heathrwo crowd-2.gif On a good day.

My briefcase split and spilled in the rain once going to a rental car. Well, it was a bad experience and it happened at Heathrow, so it is included. (It was the Japanese one that never seemed to hold anything, though it was heavy and large, there never seemed to be any room inside; it came full of lining, padding, inside pockets all of which precluded putting anything else in it.)

We stayed once in an airport Thistle Hotel at Heathrow. It may be the worst hotel I ever experienced. Faulty Towers would have been an improvement. Nothing brisk, efficient, or pleasant about it. There was no line but check-in seemed like a canto from Dante’s ‘Inferno.’ Getting the bags to the room, over lumps in the floor, sagging carpets, fire doors off the hinges… Communicating with the staff, well, it proved impossible. I say ‘may’ be the worst because we once stayed in a Thistle in London…

One taxi driver, having studied a year and a half for the license, took me to the wrong airport hotel. It was late and I was exhausted from a long flight, and in any event I did not know where the hotel was. There was no definitional argument here. The driver, when we pulled into the drive way, admitted this was the wrong hotel, not the one I had ever so slowly and clearly stated and he promptly turned off the meter and turned around and took me miles to the right hotel on the other side of the airport.

Once I opted for the Heathrow bus from Russell Square at 5 a.m. The pick up in the damp winter darkness at 5 a.m. was on time and that was the last time. Traffic gridlock started at the next intersection and it took hours to get there. I had allowed four hours and just barely made it.

This was the occasion, standing under the Heathrow bus sign waiting patiently, when a taxi driver pulled up and told me the bus was slow, uncomfortable, and he would gladly drive me to Heathrow and even reduce the fare. I said no thanks. He persisted, and I mean persisted. He mentioned prices and I kept saying ‘No, thank you.’ [Keep reading, the punch line is coming.] Finally, he had got himself worked up and said ‘Well what would you pay?’ and I said ‘Five pounds [which was the bus fare]’ and he exploded. Five pounds! I was a crook, a crazy man, and typical foreigner robbing the working man…. and off he went shaking his fist at me. What a home life he must have.

The bus was an improvement, apart from the time, over the Tube. Taking luggage on the Tube to and from Heathrow was… a great convenience and a major hassle. The more so in peak hour and when, pray tell, is not peak hour not the Tube.

Any reader who gets this far is invited to compose a line or two of their own experiences.


Democracy has always been about counting the votes and all the votes are equal. That is a given. So given that few stop to think about what it means. It means the minority, the losers may lose a lot unless the scope of voting is limited.

Though all votes are equal, not all outcomes are permitted. Huh? Human rights are sacrosanct, that is, they cannot be voted away by a majority. Certain other liberties and many institutions are put beyond voting, like a high or supreme court. Although many students have told me that such reservations were elitist and anti-democratic. Surely a vote for the Australian High Court would put Derryn Hinch on the bench.

Whoa! Too fast? Better stop for an illustration. X may vote ‘Yes’ and Y may vote ‘No,’ but the result matters far more to Y, if the vote is about Y’s life, limb, family, or property, than it does to X. Yet their two votes count the same. This is the problem, no account is taken of the intensity each has.

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Interest is often, usually, entwined as vine to fence with intensity. I may not much care where the new distant freeway goes but those near it do care, a lot. Yet my vote equals, and cancels, one of theirs. Interest is this case refers to the immediate and material.

Intensity may also be ideological as well. Within ideology we shall include for purposes of this discussion religion, though to some adherents it is as material as snowfall. What consenting adults do in the privacy of a home is of no interest to me, but some ideologues may feel soiled by knowing of the possibility of some such activities. Indeed they may be so intense about such activities that privacy is a lesser value to be breached in the interest of policing such activities. Think bathrooms. Be that as it may.

In a polity where voting is free, that is, voting is not compulsory, turnout is one indicator of intensity. Those that care about the result are more inclined to go and to vote, even if that requires advanced registration, and on the day the weather is foul, the wait in line is long, the polling place is distant, the officials are hostile.

Intense voters go to vote, rain or shine.

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More than that, intense voters round up like-minded others and take them along to vote as well, and most will then vote as the opinion leader does.

That the wind and rain in Britain may have reduced the turnout in the Brexit vote is another reminder of intensity. The Leave voters voted.

I wrote my first seminar paper in graduate school on ‘Intensity in Democratic Theory.’ It opened with the following epigram:

‘The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.’

From ‘The Second Coming’ (1919) W. B. Yeats

Yeats.jpg William Yeats

My last undergraduate class had been English poetry, famed of 8 a.m. on Saturday mornings in McCormick Hall with Dr Harwick. These lines seemed a fitting perspective on democratic theory, but it irritated the political science professor who read it. He was likewise irritated when in the next paper I opened with Robert Frost and ‘Mending Wall’ to start a discussion of political institutions.

Frost.jpg Robert Frost

I also quoted Saint-X, further betraying my literary side.

Antoine_de_Saint-Exupéry.jpg Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

‘Let a man but burn with enough intensity and he will set fire to the world,’ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in ‘Terre des Hommes’ (Wind, Sand, and Stars) (1939). The burning man, by the way, was Adolf Hitler. Saint-X died in 1944 while flying for the Free French in North Africa.

For further reading, the sources I can recall from that intensity exercise are these.

Robert Dahl, 'A Preface to Democratic Theory' (Chicago University Press 1956).

Willmore Kendall and George W. Carey, The "Intensity" Problem and Democratic Theory, 'American Political Science Review,' Vol. 62, No. 1 (Mar., 1968), pp. 5-24.

Giovanni Sartori, 'Democratic Theory' (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1962).

Today I did have a look at the Web of Knowledge and found a few more recent sources, but none that claimed or seemed to be definitive, all of which cited these three as foundation texts on the subject.

Bleaders, today’s lesson concerns those krimis that I cannot finish. There are several varieties filed under the heading UNFINISHED, and I have commented on some specimens earlier, like those in which everything is written in the present tense, flashbacks, flashbacks within flashbacks, back stories, etc.

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That has become a deal-breaker with this reader. One weekend I read a newspaper review of book that interested me, and I was about to order it, when in the last paragraph the reviewer said that this historical study was written entirely in the present tense which the reviewer found confusing and distracting. Amen! I decided I could not read a 400-page book on an historical subject in the present tense, too hard on my teeth. (Tooth gnashing, grinding, and gritting while reading is not recommended by dentists.)

Books described as Thrillers almost always suffer from One-tense-itis, or Present tense-itis, not sure which of these neo-logisms I prefer. (I do know I prefer the hyphen [-] in neo-logism though WORD’s autocorrect does not.) Tangent completed, now back to today’s subject.

There then are IKEA krimis.

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Many, many krimis read like catalogues where every article of furniture and clothing is described in detail, from pencil stubs to curtin material as the protagonists move around and meet people. Page after page is spent on fabrics and furnishings in some combination of Martha Stewart with Land’s End and IKEA catalogues, and as always at first I read it thinking that it either sets the scene or relates to, in a manner yet to be revealed, the plot, but no, all too often it is just what it appears to be, padding.

Pain in the Back-story. In the same krimi is often to be found back-story-itis, another virus of the genre, in which each character from taxi drivers, to receptionists, to passers-by are introduced in such detail that an innocent reader like me thinks the character must be important and I should pay attention because later that seemingly incidental character will figure in the plot, but…alas, no.

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As in many other art forms, the primary audience seems to be other writers (perhaps, on professional awards panels), and not readers, and so the author displays the creative ability to generate backstories for everyone. Ugh! Padding by another name.

Of course, in this, as in so much else, I am in a minority, because the very books I have in mind are described as best-sellers, as great works, lionised by authoritative sources like the ‘New York Times.’ I struggle to forebear from naming titles but they have been many over the years, and I recently struck another one.

This latest example catalogues fittings, furnishings, and clothing without end, and to no end. In parallel the historical settings, which is what captured my initial interest, was treated as a one-dimensional.

The action, such as it is, takes place in Washington D.C. at Christmas 1941, and yet to all the participants in the story the war is all but won because the Germans are stuck in Russia. Huh? Yes, Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 and by December it was no longer advancing, but the crucible of Stalingrad was fought between August 1942 and February 1943 and that was the first major defeat.

Likewise the book also makes the German V-Rocket program at Peenemünde much more developed in 1941 than it was, and also has the Germans desperate for these secret weapons in December 1941!

To top that there is also a reference to kamikaze Japanese pilots in December 1941 but these attacks began in October 1944 when the Japanese were desperate. See what I mean. I stopped reading after about sixty pages.

The result was overwritten with a cast of historical characters, and undercooked with the historical context half-baked.

Though I was much interested by the period and the historical characters I just could not wade through more and more description, while gritting my teeth at the useless catalogue combined with historical mistakes. This book is a ‘New York Times’ bestseller published by one of great New York City publishers and part of series. Conclusion? Different jokes for different folks. Different facts for different….

Eat the rich!

How amusing. I saw this exhortation in a feed on Facebook. Everything old is new again.

When people say I have no sense of humour, they are right. I never had a sense of humour about the racist and sexist jokes either. When the racists and sexists tried the fig leaf of humour as a cover I did not relent. That was when I learned I had no sense of humour.

Adolf Hitler had the same idea about the rich. He had every last member of the Rothschild family that could be found, one branch of which owned a bank of that name, hunted down, imprisoned, humiliated, tortured, and murdered. They were rich. Very.

However, being a vegetarian, he did not eat them.

Some of the Rothschilds were incredibly rich and they all were Jewish after all. Hard to say which was the greater crime. They got rich, in part, because they took risks other bankers were unwilling to take, e.g., like lending money for the building of the Suez Canal. But more generally to lend money to other Jews because Christian-owned banks would not.

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For what it is worth, the surviving Rothschilds stem from other branches of the family, some living in England who survived in that liberal-democratic society so despised by the people who exhort others as above.

No doubt, I will shortly be unfriended.

By the way, the Rothschilds remain a whipping boy for all manner of nutters on the internet. Adolf's spawn.

Every Australian of a certain age has heard this term, ‘Pig-Iron Bob,’ and knows what it means. I did, too, until I read Geoffrey Blainey’s ‘The Steel Master (1973),’ reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Pig iron Bob-1.jpg [No comment.]

As with so much common coin, the Vox Populi is exactly wrong.

First to the common interpretation. While Robert Menzies was Prime Minister, Australia sold pig-iron to Japan in the later 1930s which pig iron the Japanese turned into weapons to attack Australia. That is the claim, and there are many chest-thumping assertions about it on trade union web sites.

It is another myth, like the Brisbane Line. Never existed but became reality by repetition.

Let’s start with the basics. Pig iron cannot be shaped into weapons-grade steel. It is a by-product of steel production not the basis of it. Cause-and-effect can be tricky like that.

BHP did indeed sell that pig iron to Japan, that is true. It did so to prepare for war with Japan. Huh?

Essington Lewis, that remarkable man, who was CEO of BHP, foresaw a Pacific conflict with Japan as early as 1936, while so many of the Lefter-than-Thou persuasion were still toe-ing the Moscow line of friendship with the Axis powers. Lewis bore this message to all and sundry on his return to the wide brown land, but no one wanted to hear it for fear of provoking the Japanese. Softly, softly was the bipartisan foreign policy at the time.

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Disappointed with the political response, on his own initiative he began converting BHP steel works to weapons production. While the board of directors chaffed at this unprofitable exercise, the chairman of the board backed Essington Lewis, and conversion went ahead full-steam, that being the only way Lewis ever did anything.

Lewis used the money from the pig iron sales to Japan to pay for this re-tooling of BHP factories to produced airplanes, ammunition, rifles, the Owen gun, Beaufighers, anti-tank guns, and ships.

In this way, the truth is that Japan paid for Australia to arm itself against its threat.

That phrase, like some other colossal lies in Australian politics, traces back to that tireless motormouth Red Eddie Ward. His admirers, a few of whom I have met, might also pause to consider that Ward also violently (but then he did everything that way) opposed home ownership, especially for the working class because it would sap their revolutionary fervour and delay the advent of Soviet Socialist Australia.

Eddie Ward.jpg Fred Ward, Donald Trump is using his playbook.

Pedant’s note. Grammar Girl advises that when a noun phrase is used as an adjective, it is best to put in a hyphen. Pig iron, the noun, becomes pig-iron the adjective. She is not alone. The redoubtable ‘New Yorker’ does the same. We village hicks but follow our leaders on this point.

Here is some food for thought, were that possible for the Donald Trumps (and Peter Duttons) of this world.

Who is the most famous American illegal immigrant?

There are many candidates, but have a look in the wallet, bleaders in the U.S.A. Got a ten spot? Look at Alexander Hamilton. He is one of the finalists.

Ten spot.jpg

First, why is he on the ten, and then how did he get there.

He is on the ten because he created the United States currency. He devised the reserve bank system, coinage, paper money and a lot more. A founder indeed. (He was also an artillery officer in the Revolutionary War, more military service that Trump has seen.)

Until he was murdered, it was widely supposed Hamilton would succeed George Washington as leader of the Federalist Party. It was Hamilton who first bruited the Washington Monument.

Hamilton was also an undocumented, illegal immigrant born out of wedlock to a French mother on a Danish island in the Caribbean Sea who entered America at age eighteen. What a trifecta. Moreover his maternal language was French. He learned English as a teenager at a Jewish school and from the Dutch businessman for whom he worked.

What would Trump or his local imitator Dutton make of that?

A voodoo frog on a bicycle and a bastard to boot. Literal in the case of Hamilton and figurative in the other cases.

The closer Donald Trump gets to the Republican nomination the more the media, other Republicans, and some Democrats will discover his virtues. It is always the same, every four years the cycle is repeated as though for the first time.

Earlier in the campaign qualities deprecated and ridiculed in a candidate, will come to be accepted and then celebrated as positive.

For example, inattention to facts will transform to strategic thinking, untrammelled by petty details.

For example, flippant and destructive remarks, will be transformed into suggestions, and trial balloons.

For example, hostility to Hispanics, refugees, Muslims, women, left handers, homosexuals, will become — thanks to the alchemy of opportunism — unifying remarks.

For example, vague and diffuse threats to other nations will become, presto, disguised diplomacy.

The media always leads the way in this prostitution. When it seems a candidate is going to win, the realisation follows that an accommodation will have to be made with the candidate to keep manufacturing the news.

Even a big target like Trump will get the benefit of this self-censorship. Indeed, the more he threatens the media, the sooner some of its representatives will fall into line in the hope of securing favours before others comply. When it comes to self-serving opportunism, no one can beat Murdoch’s organs.

Soon there will be a rapprochement between Foxy News and The Donald. ‘You read it here first!’

Other Republicans will accept their own candidate, no matter what. All the posturing and playing hard to get will evaporate when success looms. The office seekers ever so subtlety seek office with more finesse than Chris Christie.

Then there will be Democrats who see Trump’s pull in their electorate, and have no wish to rile voters. These are the ‘If I keep quiet maybe their will not notice my party label is Democrat’ leaders. Some of them will couch their campaign publicity to omit the very word 'Democrat.' such leaders as they are.

Jimmie Carter went from ‘Jimmie Who?’ to a sage in this kind of transformation. Ronald Reagan’s habit of falling asleep in meetings, became a cool detachment. John McCain’s long past use-by-date became maturity. Mitt Romney's narrow sectarianism became a virtue.

Bexit? Sure, why not? It is bound to be the solution to all problems, since none are homemade in Britain. rright?

brexit.png

Here is one prophecy.

The United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

Thereafter Scotland achieves sovereignty and leaves the United Kingdom to join the European Union.

Not to be left behind, Wales does the same.

Northern Ireland? Surely it would be next.

Brexit UK.jpg
The result will be Little England.

But not for long, because the rustbelt in the north will consider seceding, so as to join the European Union.

England flag.jpg

It will then be Littler England. And a new flag will have to be designed.

What do socialism and the Republican Party have in common? Read on.

In 'Murdoch’s Organ' (aka ‘The Australian’ newspaper) of 5 April one KImberly Strassel mentioned Ripon Wisconsin as the birthplace of the Republican Party in the context of the forthcoming Republican primary election there pitting Donald Trump against all comers.

The little white school house in Ripon Wisconsin is the symbolic birthplace of the Republican Party because in about 1852 the Free Soil Party was first organised there, and it morphed into the Republican Party in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was its nominee for president, and the eventual winner.

White School.jpg

The Whig Party was slowing imploding in parallel with the rise of the Republicans. The Whigs had elected presidents, but had not succeeded in electing its foremost figure and greatest statesman, Henry Clay, whose frequently quoted remark ‘I’d rather be right than president’ proved all too prescient. Clay was the great compromiser whose compromises for a generation staved off civil war and with his death one of the legs of the table of compromise was lost and the war followed.

These days to call someone a compromiser is a dire insult. One must be consistent and uncompromising to win the adulation of the addled minds of the media.

The Whigs had never supposed slavery was a major issue and the Democratic Party, that genetic issue of Thomas Jefferson, himself a slave holder and more importantly a worshipper of states’ rights above all else, had scrupulously avoided the subject. The one church Jefferson honoured was the state house. Andrew Jackson that other founder of the Democractic Party did not mince words about states rights, he simply declared the slaves inhuman.

The Free Soil movement opposed the extension of slavery in the new western states, starting in the north west with Wisconsin because it feared slave labor would undermine...free labor. The short lived Free Soil Party was born in the little White School house and there is more.

Three of the five signatures on the minutes of the first meeting in the Little White School House came from individuals who had been socialists!

Gasp! Shock! Horror!

Yes, an Associationist Fourier community inspired by French utopian socialist Charles Fourier had flourished in what is now Fond du Lac county at Ceresco just east of Ripon for a few years and as it was winding down some of its members aligned themselves with the rising tide of Free Soil. Associationism was a version of Fourier’s phalanx scripted for American ears by Albert Brisbane and promoted, by among others, Horace Greeley. It was Karl Marx who labeled Fourier a utopian socialist, well Frederick Engels, in fact, but few acolytes notice the distinction.

Ripon sign.jpg

Ergo the seed of the Republican Party bears the original sin of S O C I A L I S M. Not a fact to be found on the Republican National Committee’s website. Not even a fact to be found in Ripon where it is reported that the early records were destroyed in a fire. But a fact that can be confirmed in the Library of Congress where other records survive.

I wondered how anyone knows of the Party’s history since the Republican National Committee has been stripping history from its web site to comply with the worldview of its Tea Party rump these last few years. To be sure the Ripon Society still exists but it is a shadow of its former self. The list of Ripon Republicans (= by definition liberal, some avant le mot) is impressive for their achievements and noteworthy for their near eradication from the GOP’s official history: Herbert Hoover, George Norris, Thomas Dewey, Arthur Vandenberg, John Lindsay, Wendell Wilkie, Earl Warren, Margaret Chase Smith, Henry Cabot Lodge, Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Spector, Nancy Johnson, Christine Whitman, and Harold Stassen. Few, if any, of these giants would be acceptable to a party that nominates Donald Trump for high office. These days the Ripon Society celebrates the likes of Dennis Hastert, mudslinger extraordinaire and one-time wrestling coach.

A liberal Republican (1) was an internationalist who worked with international organisations like the United Nations and preferred multilateral action to unilateral, (2) who worked with trade unions to strength the society, and (3) and advanced civil rights for all. See how many Republicans would say that today.

By the way GOP stands for Grand Old Party, which was a moniker the Republicans embraced as a nickname after the American Civil War in parallel with Union Army veterans who styled themselves the Grand Army of the Republic or GAR in post war celebrations and reunions. The segue was from GAR to GOP.

There is only one domestic issue in the United States: race.

That President Black Obama got elected was a shock. It certainly surprised me. And a great many people have never accepted that result.

Little_Rock_Desegregation_1957.jpg Here are the haters at work. Bibles clutched, voices raised, faces red, necks distended. What the haters feared has happened. These are the Trump and Cruz voters.

Of course, the sophisticates have learned to code their reactions for the media, but the heart of the matter is that a black man is president!

How can that be? Those unreliable voters, again!

In the years since his election many means have been tried to rein in voters to prevent the recurrence of such an aberration. They take many forms but commonly raise the barrier to voting while easing the capacity of voter-buyers to do so.

kkk_960.jpg The more direct methods of insuring the outcome as practiced by these Trump voters.

Racing car drivers wear suits labeled with the logos of their sponsors. So should politicians, as has been said by others. Every Representative and Senator should appear thus besuited. Ditto candidates.

Paytona500_McConnell.jpg The haters prefer someone like Senator Mitch McConnell.

President Clinton once said something like that title about race, and he was right. Responses to a host of specific issues comes down to race. Unemployment, mortgages, education, health care, even veterans' care…. The list goes on.

Administrator logic? The moral of the story is that we lie in the bed we made.

When yet another convoluted directive did the rounds of the University, one Ph.D. with enough time on hand to comment wrote, acidly, ‘Administrator logic’ and very kindly hit ‘Reply All’ so that we all could savour the wit and insight.

It is the sort of snide remark that can only be made by the naive. 'Why so,' asks Mr Spock?

Spock.jpg

The rules and regulations of the University inevitably trace back to a committee of professors, lecturers, and other academics. That we make our own rules is the ultimate explanation for the way they are.

With a committee of smart people, there is usually a competition to show just how smart each person is by thinking of things to include, cases to anticipate, including layers and layers of protection for students, especially those who manipulate the system the most.

I observed, and at times as a committee chair had to deal with, this competition to complicate, and the zealous desire to defend poor defenceless students against the mean University (embodied in yet another committee of academics).

To take one pivotal example, the unit of study syllabus has grown to a multi-volume work through this process. When instructors prepared their own, most were three to six pages for a semester, citing reading assignment and explaining written assignments, assuming the context of university study. Each syllabus would be amplified and explained further in the classroom over the semester.

Then came the pressure to move to a minimum standard for the syllabus. I chaired the first committee that did that, and I was happy to do so because I had seen some ludicrous specimens of syllabi first hand, e.g.,
the instructor did not know the name of the unit of study,
the syllabi did not state assignments,
the reading list was a joke,

and ….then there were the bad examples. (Including at least one that boasted of the number of failures there would be.)

From that bad seed grew today’s Godzilla the Syllabus. Its growth was cultivated solely by committees of academics who each year added more and more to the minimum standard. We could not longer assume anything. Each syllabus had to be a complete and stand-alone document. In it every contingency had to be anticipated and provided for, so that no student could later say ‘I didn’t know…’ The last one I did slavishly in accordance with the template was eighteen pages, of which six were mine, and the remaining twelve were generic information about the University.

Now a student who gets four of these tomes each semester, eight in a year, will find repeated in each of them rafts of material that virtually none of them will ever need. The labor and energy that goes into the lists of campus resources, methods of appeal, location of the front door of the library, definitions of plagiarism (revised annually by yet another committee of scholars), and more is never calculated.

We have then a syllabus template that comes loaded with pages of ancillary information, which is all readily available elsewhere. Repetition, repetition, repetition, there is no evidence that repetition reaches anyone but it is something to do. That much of this is now electronic both makes it even more easily available and even less likely to be read.

Each year the relevant committee tweaks the template. It is a standing item on the agenda these days. It does this at a time of its choosing, and what it does depends very much on which Ph.D.s are present with a bonnet full of bees.

The timing is always bad because there are four semester, summer, first, winter, and second. (Though at one time members of a committee objected to the labels ‘first’ and ‘second’ because it would hurt the feelings of someone who started in the second semester to call it 'second.' I make no joke here but report the fact with a straight keyboard. What saved the numbers first and second was the inability of the members of the committee to agree on names to put on the semesters. No, we cannot use the seasons since our seasons do not correspond to those of the Northern Hemisphere from whence arrive most of our golden fee-paying students descend, and it would confuse them. And so.)

Inevitably the new template for the calendar year appears a fortnight before the start of the first semester in March. Too late for those who organise themselves in advance of the stampede. Timed perfectly to create traffic jams on unit of study servers and at photocopiers.

Moreover, the tweaking can be minor or major. It is seldom identified, explained, or justified. The instructor is then enjoined to use it.

Because it repeats reams of information from other University offices, there is a great deal of room for discrepancies, because just as the committee is revising the syllabus template, these other offices of the University are also editing their own material. Discrepancies are the inevitable result. A well intentioned student can then find two different directions, one in the syllabus and another on the homepage of the relevant service. Yes, I personally tried using URL links but found even these changed.

It then falls to the administrative staff to distribute, to cajole use, and to record compliance with the template. And then to be the butt of such criticism. Since the administrative staff are professionals they do not reply in kind.

More than once in handing these things out on paper, hoping that it would be read before filing, I saw students, wiser in the ways of the world than the committee that designed the template, rip the last dozen pages off and drop them in the recycling bin on exit.

Is it any wonder that students grow cynical.

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I hasten to add that the competitors in committees are always a minority, perhaps a quarter of the membership. The other three-quarters, if they attend meetings at all, are present only in body and curriculum vitae (CV). The only eye contact, the only time I heard the voices of members of this silent majority was when I introduced myself to them. Yet I am sure when came the time to apply for promotion this committee service would have been cited in bold under Service on the CV.

The increasing polarisation of politics in the United States has many consequences that are less visible than the entertainers vying for presidential nominations.

One long term consequence that has infected both Republican and Democratic administrations has been the selection of appointees. More than once able candidates have demurred or declined, while still others have been blocked in the Senate, or raked over the coals there so comprehensively that it becomes impossible subsequently for them to do the job. The Cold War custom of appointing as Secretary of Defense someone the other party, i.e., a Democratic President appoints a Republican as Defense Secretary has become nearly impossible. For a Republican to accept an appointment in a Democratic administration is now Tosca's kiss. Secretaries of the Treasury were often appointed in the same way. But no more. As were ambassadors to particularly important posts. There was in short a bipartisan approach to some matters regarded as above politics.

It is routine for the fourth or fifth choice to be selected, because choices one through four feared the nominating process.

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The endless media scrutiny starts long before the name is finally said, ignited by rumours and trial balloons. That however is nothing compared to securing the advice and consent of the Senate. Whereas for several generation the norm was that the President choses, and the Senate advises what it thinks, and then consents.

Not so any more. The threat that the Senate will not consent is palpable. Each side will say the other started it. senate.jpg The Senate playground.

Every Republican Senator knows that to vote for one of President Obama’s nominees will stimulate an attack from the Tea Party, and may lead to a challenge from within the Republican Party. Senator Richard Lugar cooperated with the Obama administration to speed the disarmament of Soviet missiles left in Eastern Europe, to keep them out of the wrong hands. Seemed like a top priority at the time. Still does. But Lugar was a Republican and when he came up for renomination his Republican rival painted him as Satan incarnate for supping with the black devil in White House, and he won. So ended Lugar's career. By the way the same was true for Democrats during the Bush Administration, but it was less conspicuous.

The unspoken fact is that one president after another has chosen to avoid such a confrontation by selecting a certain kind of candidate. Since all this has come up, again, about the Supreme Court, let us take that example.

Whereas Supreme Court nominees were once leaders in the judiciary with widely quoted opinions, long and closely argued articles in premier law journals, keynote speakers at the most important legal conferences, reputations for analysis….and more. Not so any more.

The paper trail of such outstanding candidates is rich pickings for someone willing to misconstrue, misinterpret, and de-contextualize everything to settle old scores and to embarrass the nominator.

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The result is the routine selection of candidates with a small paper trail because they are a smaller targets, not because they are better jurists.

This preference for ever smaller targets is now commonplace. The more obscure the candidate the better. While the Supreme Court is the big ticket in this game, it is not unique.

Cabinet appointments can also be vexed, as plenty of recent examples have shown. That the Senate consented to Hillary Clinton or John Kerry is due to their service as Senator. Like the media, the Senate does not (yet) eat its own.


One of the sacred text is Australian history is Geoffrey Blainey’s ‘The Tyranny of Distance’ (1966), which made his name and ever after he pontificated on anything and everything until no one (starting with me) listened to him any more. I read it 1974 and not since. The thesis of the book, as I remember, was simple. The great distance of Australia’s English settlements from England made the Europeans in Australia both self-reliant and hostile to, though dependent on, the distant authority because it was unreliable.

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The term ‘tyranny of distance’ pops up now and again in the popular media as it did today in a piece on the business pages of Rupert Murdoch’s organ, ‘The Australian.’ There Bernard Salt ('The Dallas Line,' 4 February) told readers that Sydney (which is Australia) is more than a plane ride (with current technology) from much of the world. OK, that is certainly true. No airline flies direct, non-stop from Sydney to London or from Sydney to New York City. This, he contends is detrimental to Australia because that is where the money of the world is. OK, that is also true, but what is the detrimental part? That was not articulated, instead the mantra distance is tyranny was cited. One pictures travellers lugging bags of dosh around inside that London-New York nexus unable to change planes, such is the size of dosh bags, in Los Angeles or Dubai.

The news is, and perhaps this is news to some, that money moves around the world in click of the keyboard as the cascade of financial crises around the world has repeatedly shown. Distance does not insulate any country from such financial calamity. That fact is ritually reiterated on the business page of the organ of Murdoch several times a week. Salt describes himself as a futurist on his web site. Think about that.

By the way, the other side of the tyranny of distance that Blainey mentioned was that in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries distance did insulate Australia from some of the more dopey and ephemeral fads that came and went elsewhere before they made the trip to Australia. No Edsel or Apple Newton made it to these shores. Not from all such fads but some. It also insulated Australian from some infectious disease epidemics. No more. Bad ideas are replicated here within twenty-four hours.

The distance was measured in travel time as much as miles. Blainey wrote about Australia as remote but of course it was not remote to its aborigine in habitants, nor was it far from the South East Asians who regularly visited the northern shores.

The colonial master in the formative period of Australia’s European history was a long way away in both space and time. It might take, at best, six months to travel from Sydney to London. Moreover, it was unsure. Ships turned back; some were even less fortunate. Others jettisoned cargo, like correspondence, in heavy seas and so the letter went unanswered. When word did come through from London it was so late as to be laughable, fertilising the attitude that authority was remote, anonymous, and stupid.

The result was the Australian political culture of the 1970s, one that entwined a dependence on government for nearly everything from the marketing of eggs to trimming of hedges, while disparaging government and all who worked for it as cretins. Australians wore this anti-authoritarianism with pride, automatically against the government even while waiting for the next handout from it. Rather like a teenage boy rebelling against his parents while pocketing the weekly allowance and storming off to a room provided by the detested parents.

For Australia the first breach in the tyranny of distance was the Boeing long distance jets that supplanted ships for the travel of mere mortals in the 1970s. There followed a generation later the digital world which has shaken many of the most solid institutions like newspapers themselves.

Why read Murdoch’s organ when I can click up BBC News, Le Monde, or Deustche Welle? (My personal answer, since I have been asked this, is the local news that will never make it to these outlets, and the reviews, cultural, and entertainment information. And the nonsense that ever fewer, ever more desperate journalist write, which provides unintended - always the best kind - entertainment. And reading them on paper is still more convenient that on screen.)

When the fad for small government was born on the winds of Proposition 13 (that was referendum for the taxpayers’ revolt in California) in 1978, the spores circled the globe and arrived in Australia rather like the cloud of radiation in Neville Shute’s ‘On the Beach,’ Australians happily shrank government. The one example I witnessed firsthand was the higher education division in the Federal Department of Education which shrank from 400 to 40 to 14, probably 4 now. Each successive government wins office on a pledge to cut government spending, and cut they do. This is now a forty year race to eviscerate government.

Of course a lot of things go wrong as the cuts were made, but as one prime minister said, ‘Not our fault.’ End of that story.

Strangely enough though government has vacated many realms from airlines to docks, the tax bill has not decreased but the automatic anti-authority posturing has decreased so some good has come from it. Though poseurs quickly find other posture to affect, it is true to say.

We do not hear much about the French Social Model (FSM) these days, now do we? For those who tuned in late or tuned out early, in the first decade of the 2000s the French Social Model was often invoked in hushed and respectful tones, even here in the far antipodes.

When students proposed to do theses on the French Social Model, that was the first I had heard of it. They were getting the message elsewhere. Then at conferences there were sessions that included the FSM. When I returned from a conference in Paris at the OECD, the Master of the Universe to whom I then reported asked about the manifestations of the FSM, in the expectation that they were there to see, I guess, in the streets.

Of course the same people who humbled themselves before this mirage of Gallic sagacity were unsparing critics of the Anglo societies in which they lived. Liberalism was a hoax and democracy a sham in the Anglo-Saxon world.

IMG_2597.JPG Of course, few pay into the system.

I had to report to my boss that there were no signs of utopia in Paris between the hotel room and La Défense where the OECD talkfest occurred. (The area is called La Défense because the Prussian Army stopped at that point in 1870, preferring to let the French in Paris kill each other in the Commune. In French mythology the Prussians were fought to standstill. There are people who think they stopped the Germans in 1940, too, at the Pyrenees.)

Then in 2006 there were riots in the streets in the Arab and African quarters of Paris and other French cities. Gulp! It went on and on. There is plenty of video on You Tube for those who need a refresher. The complaints and demands were many.

What French Social Model? A repressive police apparatus, the routine deportation of anyone who complained too conspicuously, withdrawal of the license to publish in some cases. Fifty per cent unemployment because no European French would hire a dark skinned person. Automatic failure in school for anyone name Ahmed. Denial of family reunion immigration. Closure of hospitals in the third world parts of Paris. The list goes on.

It had been going on for decades and was as effective in deluding intellectuals seeking an illusion to go with the fumé blanc and brie as the Soviet Union had been in the 1930s with vodka and black bread. Neither the levels nor means of repression in the two cases are comparable. What is comparable is the readiness of some intellectuals to be deluded by a convenient illusion.

The worship of the FSM has gone quiet of late. Not even the election of the Socialist President François Hollande quite revived it. This accountant from the country has seemed to be in over his head as did his predecessor (who is now lining up to be his successor). The cleanskin Socialist Party has stumbled from one crisis to another, several if its own making.

Hollande.jpg President Hollande

My personal favourite was the Socialist finance minister who pushed for draconian penalties for tax avoidance for all sorts of patriotic and humanitarian reasons. He was undone when his own personal tax avoidance became public knowledge. First he denied the monies existed. Then that the monies were significant. Then that the monies were really his (reaching for his wife as a shield). That it was an oversight. Then…. Then he resigned. Oh, and there was that other financial wizard caught with pants down in New York. Ah, the moral leadership of Socialism. That event thrust Hollande into the leadership.

The point is, for those about to jump to a conclusion, not that the Socialists are any worse than others but that they are no different.

Then in response to terrorists attacks, the Socialist President has declared an open-ended state of emergency. Wow! Imagine if President George W. Bush had done that in 2001! He would have been verbally crucified by the talking-head industry around the world and certainly here in Australia where throwing stones at far-away others is a career. The French attacks were bad, to be sure, but not on the scale of 9/11, but the reaction has been far greater and quicker. Not much of it makes the Australian news in preference to car accidents on the Pacific Highway.

Viewers of TF2 news on SBS see daily reports of continuing police raids, and shoot outs. Dare I call this the Real French Social Model? One suspects that the police have had a long list of villains and now they have the justification to strike at them.

The French Social Model has some adjuncts. The French budget has not be balanced since Valery Giscard d’Estang was president (1974-1981). The debts just keeps on rolling.

One of the biggest drains on the budget is the military establishment which accounts for about 40% of it, which is then used for frequent armed interventions in African, including the Arab countries in North Africa. Those admirers of the French Social Model never pause for long on this prolonged neo-colonialism but one images the outrage if the United States did what the French do. Such are double standards.

France africa.jpg French African Model

At any one time France has military units deployed in twenty or more places in Africa. Colonialism or the Gallic Enlightenment?

One of the silent assumption of western societies for the last two generations is now undergoing a severe test. Like most assumed truths, it is seldom stated, and certainly not by the talking heads who can never shut up long enough to think.

What assumption is that?

That life in western societies would erode, reduce, and in time eliminate ethnic, tribal, and religious identities and with the passing of these differences, then we can all live together in peace regardless of race, nationality, language. The old conflicts, animosities, hatreds would wash out in the tolerant bath of multiculturalism.

Societies governed by the rationality of the Enlightenment would create the conditions of life in which these superstitions of the past, ethnicity, tribe, and religion, would fall away.

On such assumptions migration was an opportunity not a problem. While migrants will bring in the baggage their ethnic and religious identities with corollary divisions, these will be subdued and written over by their new lives in Western societies, leaving behind their energy, spirit, and creativity.

While the word ‘liberal’ has been as verboten in academic circles as it is in Republican ones, this was one of the core of liberalism. (Strange isn’t it that the self-styled Left of the Academy and the self-styled right of the Republican Party, now represented by Donald Trump, are as one in reviling liberals.)

Another object of revulsion in academic circles for years has been sociologist Daniel P. Moynihan, whose chief sins were calling attention to the implication of social structure and working for Richard Nixon. Just the kind of sell-out to be expected of a liberal! So harrumphed many know-it-alls of my acquaintance. That in both cases Moynihan promoted and acted as a mid-wife to many social programs that benefited millions is irrelevant to the classroom stone-throwers.

Moynihan tried to disabuse us of this liberal expectation that ethnic and religious identities were but flimsy substitutes for the good life and once the good (material) life was in sight, they would retreat into scrapbooks of the past. He argued (‘Beyond the Melting Pot’ [1974], pp 33ff) and he had plenty of evidence at his command in so doing that ethnic identity and religious commitment were essential to the identity of (many, if not most) people and would endure come what may. These identities could withstand the oppression of police states in Eastern Europe, he said, and they could certainly withstand the seductions of Western materialism. A refrigerator would never replace a god. I once saw him more or less drowned out and shouted down at a political science conference advancing this argument. Edifying, not!

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According to this liberal expectancy religion and ethnicity would evaporate in the melting pot of migrant societies. No longer would it be possible to mobilise people by appeals to ethnicity, tribe, or religion. Indeed, one of the silent goals of liberal society was to liberate us from ourselves (our identities as Walloon, Jew, Inuit, Shia, Tatar, Catholic), stripping away these overgrowths and leaving behind the deracinated cosmopolitan.

Moynihan-Green-Bow-Tie1.jpg Daniel Pat(rick) Moynihan

The resurgence of ethnic nationalism, religion, and tribe in the skeleton of the Soviet Union would come as no surprise to Moynihan, though it did surprise a great many social scientists who are now less conspicuous at conferences. Nor would he be surprised by the continuing response to the appeals of religion everywhere in the world, but most social scientists are baffled by it.

I gave up saying ‘actually’ five years ago. Everyday it is struggle to break this addiction, but so far so good. I am clean of actually. But it is a day-by-day struggle. Actually is always there, waiting for a moment of weakness. It is always tempting the unwary. However if a nerd like me can do it, so can the reader!

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Spare a thought for that overworked word ‘actually.’ This adverb has become a menace.

‘Adverb?’ Yes, it is an adverb which modifies just about anything that comes along, an adjective, another adverb, or a verb.

To illustrate, the word ‘actually’ can modify an adjective in this this phrase ‘the house is actually brown.’ Got it? It is a brown house. ‘Actually’ can modify another adverb as in this phrase ‘the house is actually very brown.’ The house is not just brown but very (‘very’ is also an adverb) brown, actually. It can also modify a noun, to wit, ‘this is actually a house.’ Not just a brown house, but actually a brown house (pedantic note: with the indefinite article the noun ‘house’ becomes — voilà! — a noun phrase). In these correct uses it adds....little, if anything, to the sense of the phrase.

Whew! Those are the legitimate uses of ‘actually.’ Now bear those in mind for one day, and listen to the occasions when it is used. Makes a spreadsheet and see what the results are.

Cannot be bothered to do it? Well, I have, and here is what I have found.

It is used repeatedly, sometimes three or more times in a sentence for emphasis, not to convey information about the degree of brown of a house. The word ‘actually’ actually adds very little to these phrases, actually. Instead the proliferation of actuallys serves other purposes.

The sanctimonious newsreaders on the ABC use it to editorialise by implication on the news, as ‘in the Government has actually taken steps’ on this or that. Surprise! Surprise! Those lazy toads in Canberra have finally done something is the ever-so subtle subtext. Such public displays of addiction can only corrupt the youth.

Comperes of televised quiz shows perform triple actuallys by using it three times in one sentence. Not a single use conveys any information, nor does three. This is more public degeneration of language and by someone who knows all the answers.

Youths overheard on the street outdo that lamentable standard by inserting ‘actually’ every three words. These are the real addicts. No phrase of more than three words can be said without this crutch. These are the victims of the plague of actuallys. No remarks sounds right to these actually-junkies without a sprinkling of superfluous actuallys. That is how actually-addled they are.

What is worse, this plague passes unnoticed. There is no government action. The media, captive to the vested interests, has only blind eyes to turn to this catastrophe. Where are the talking heads when we need them?

The fight has to be at the grassroots. Swear off actually now! Form actually-denier self-help groups. Pedants unite!

Warning! Diatribe ahead.

Reading about the Greek fiscal crisis has been unavoidable, and I have also been reading a biography of H. L. Mencken. What a combination! Menckenium is a dangerous substance in the hands of an amateur like me. What would HL make of this? Polemic and invective, these were his fission and fusion.

He would excoriate all those saps who feel sorry for Greece, which, after all, sold government bonds with sovereign guarantees to European, American, and Australian banks. The money that the banks paid for those bonds went somewhere. Where did it go? Come back little Euros. Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Imagine the outcry at the time if those banks had refused to buy Greek government bonds on the grounds that it was not likely repay the money! Those now wrapped in Greek flags would have screamed for the banks to buy those bonds! Our sovereign guarantees are as good as anyone else’s! The isms would have filled the air: racism, nationalism, stupidism.

There would have been protests on Syntagma Square, demanding that the bonds be bought just like those of…., er, Portugal, Enron, Spain, and Italy.

Those around the world who now inflate their egos by feeling sorry for Greece instead of thinking, would have rallied to the Greek cause. So much for the pathetic claim that predatory lending was somehow at the root. When I read that I laughed louder than at Donald Trump, and that is saying something! (This man brings his own fright-whig. A trouper for sure.)

Who will buy Greek government bonds from now on? Hands up, all those ready to plonk down their life savings!

Then there is the perfectly idiotic claim that the money need not be paid, because after all the creditors are B A N K S.

People are important. Banks are not people. Greeks are people. Therefore Greeks win!

What kind of thinking is this? A kindergarten syllogism? My dog is capable of more complex reasoning than this.

As Angela Merkel has said many times the lending banks were investing pension funds in sovereign bonds, a conservative investment with a low rate of return but very secure; that’s why it is called sovereign debt. That is what most pension funds do, opt for high security at the price of a low rate of return.

Indeed, I have seen the point made in a German newspaper that one of the pension funds exposed to Greek debt has a great many retired Turkish immigrants on its books. It turns out Turks who have worked in Germany have no desire to write off Greek debts. So much for the supposition that banks are inhuman constructions of the aliens among us. (Their are aliens among us, to be sure, and they are hiding in plain sight on Fox News. Check out the mutant little fingers! [You either get it, or you don’t. Explanations are not included.])

Somewhere along the way I noticed the assertion that the Greek government could not repay the debt since Greek voters had voted against it. Talk about a stacked deck! If I could vote against paying the house mortgage, let me at that lever! Ooops, too late, already repaid with interest. I will side with Aristotle on this one, when he says in ‘The Politics’ that a new regime had best honour the debts of the old regime.

Then there are arguments from authority. An old favourite in the classroom. ‘A Nobel Prize winning economist says thus and so….’ and that must be the final word. Hmm. This particular Nobel winner has a track record of one blunder after another since the Prize went to his mouth. He is displacing Linus Pauling’s long-standing record for the most embarrassing gaffes by a Nobel Prize winner.

Finally, the very first claim the Greeks made, which is still coded in the reactions, is that Germans are all Nazis and to hell with them! Nothing Germans say is reported on the BBC or the ABC websites. Facts are unnecessary when reactions are so ready. ‘They can afford to pay, so let them pay.’ Really? This is too imbecilic to merit a response. Well, maybe a little response: that many of the purchases of bonds were laid off to other banks in the United States, Latin America, and yes, even distant Australia. Those who want higher mortgage rates, put those hands up now!

Greek-debt deniers line-up with climate-change deniers, Catholic Church pedophile deniers, Aboriginal-slavey deniers, Holocaust deniers, Shakespeare-wrote-it deniers, Moon-landing deniers, Flat Earthers, and the aliens-did-it mobs.

Where will this all end. I dunno. But I do know that Italy, Spain, and Portugal are waiting in the wings. Any concession Greece gets, they, too, will want it. Retrospective is OK!

Meanwhile, Great Britain has learned for another generation or two the importance of staying out of the Euro(pe).

Full circle comes around to the question of where all those Euros went in the first place. No one seems to be interested in pursuing this matter. I do hope some of them were salted away in Cyprus! Where…’hocus-pocus’ they disappeared when the Russian mafia occupied the island without firing a shot.

Reducing complex matters to simple slogans, and demonizing others, that is civilised debate as we know it.

To the H. L. Mencken in me, this is all a laughing matter, like religion, democracy, and the ABC’s self-righteous efforts at news-reporting, but the last time a Greek government had a financial crisis of its own making, in order to distract attention from that, it started a war with Turkey in Cyprus.

The rowdy scenes in parliament in Athens and the endless protests in Syntagma Square, makes me wonder what the generals are thinking. They are all Maoists at heart: order grows out of the barrel of a gun, said the Great Helmsman, while slaying his countrymen by the millions and becoming a hero to the brain-dead in the West.

I hesitated to write this because I supposed I would earn a torrent of abuse from those rushing for a selfie atop the virtual barricades, but then I realised, none of these people would bother to read it anyway. Just to make sure they did not read it, I did not include any graphics. Why write it then? All bloggers know the answer to that: Because it is there.

Wait! The Oracle speaks! Those who react to my diatribe will:

1.Accuse me of committing the same errors I input to others. This is SAP (Standard Arguing Procedure) practiced by…saps, of course.

2.A second ploy will be to reach some one technical aspects among the myriad and assert this undermines the argument.

3.A variant of two above is to find a typo and claim that it means the whole work is useless. I always include a few typos to draw off these microbes.

4.Of course, all the existing justifications can also have an encore, starting with various false historical analogies only vaguely understood by those looking for support for a position already determined.

In a series of novels between 1997 and 2001 that prolific Scots novelist Paul Johnston described an independent Scotland.

paul_johnston.jpg Paul Johnston

It is a grim picture he painted. The government in Edinburgh Castle has little influence over the hinterland. The highlands have become a wild and woolly place where few others dare to venture. The Hebrides have not been heard from in years. Whatever oil income there might be there is staying there. The European Union stopped admitting dole-seeking micro-states.

The result is a Scotland that lives off sex tourism for Arabs, Japanese, and Nigerians. Prostitution in a nationalized industry. And on it goes.

Edinburgh Castle is run by intellectuals who follow Plato’s concept of philosopher-kings.

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They argue among themselves about the Divided Line and the metaphor of the Sun, leaving the nationalized industry to auxiliaries.

I have taken a few liberties in the summary above to apply it to current circumstances. The books are narrated by an auxiliary who got demoted. The first was:
‘The Body Politic’ (1997)

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The others are:

‘The Bone Yard’ (1998)
'The Water of Death' (1999)
‘The Blood Tree’ (2000)
‘The House of Dust’ (2001)

I found them very amusing and they are recommended as krimies and as dystopias.

On a fine Saturday in a Sydney mid-winter I went to a public lecture at the University of Sydney in General Lecture Theatre One at 2 pm. This room is as steep as a ski jump and the grey audience, like me, took the steps slow and careful. Knowing the lecturer, I had something I wanted to give him, at the end of the talk, for another project. Accordingly I slowly made my way down to the front. All went well; there were no ominous portents.

Openday6a.jpg GLT

I have been to that room many times, and I knew that there was a back exit that avoided ascending all those steep steps. That was my advantage: local knowledge. As the talk drew to a close, I thought I would indeed take the back exit and miss those stairs with my arthritic knee. After a brief word with the lecturer, handing over the poster I had for him, and seeing the slow moving audience taking the stairs, I boldly pushed though the door marked exit at the back and then through a second door into the Vice-Chancellor’s garden, and just for a micro-second I hesitated, should I prop open the door just in case or push on. But if I propped it open, it would stay that way, and I did not want to be responsible for that. I may even have thought, without fully crystalizing it, that it was Saturday and not all doors might be open, but then there was a wedding party in the quadrangle when the lecture started, and the Nicholson Museum was open - I stopped in there to find the location of the lecture on the way there. In other words, everything is open for business. As I said, ‘boldly’ I proceeded, and the exit door slammed shut behind me.

The day was mild and I was in shirt sleeves, but it was July and when the sun goes down the temperature drops quickly from, say, 18C to 10C or less. The Vice-Chancellor’s garden is fully enclosed and gets little sun, as I entered it was already chilly. I hastened to the exit nearest to the mens toilet in the Quandranlge to relieve that need .... only to find it shut and locked. Ooops! Not too worry, I said to myself. I tried the other two doors. Same story. I went back to the door I had exited from the lecture room: Locked, and since it is well away from the lecture hall there was no point in knocking to gain attention. Stuck.

VCsGarden1.jpg

If the doors were locked today, they would stay locked on Sunday, and Monday was a public holiday and so the lockdown would most likely continue. At some point, my wife Kate would miss me and wonder just how long that lecture was. Even so she would not immediately conclude I had trapped myself in the Vice-Chancellor’s Garden, and conjure a key to release me. She was more likely to think in terms of hospitals or alien abductions.

I could break a window, and that might set off an alarm; the windows are all too high to give access to any but a determined thief more agile than I am.

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Moreover, I had not brought my window-breaking tyre iron. If I waited for nature to take its course, it would be Tuesday morning when the doors open, about 72 hours to shiver and hunger, perhaps a fitting end, some would say, for me: hypothermia. After all those thoughts, it was time to act.

First things first. There are plenty of bushes in that garden, so I relieved the water pressure and took stock. Only one thing for it, really. I pulled the iPhone from my utility belt, well, just a plain pants’ pocket, and noticed the battery was only 30%, but surely enough for a call. First I used the web to find the University Security Service telephone number, and then I called it, and explained to a seasoned operator my predicament. (I inferred from his quick comprehension of the situation that it has happened before.)

The security operator said someone would be along as soon as possible. Hallelujah, I thought. The battery shrank after the internet use and the telephone call, but it was still only 45 minutes since the end of the lecture; Katie would not yet be wondering where I was. Security called me back twice to tell me someone was coming. My spirits soared. About one hour after the lecture ended, I heard the rattle of many keys and the shaking of a door. It drew me like magnet, and after some more rattling and shaking the door opened and there stood the angel of mercy, Doris, with a mighty big key ring, which she had fetched from the office.

I was effusive in my thanks. She concentrated on documenting the event for the records, putting my shame on file some where in Security.

Considerations of dignity made me hesitate to post this essay, but I decided to do so to thank the Security Service for getting me out.

I took no pictures during the confinement to save the iPhone battery. Web searching did not lead to any pictures portraying the Security Service of the University.

Hannah Arendt’s essay on space flight and humanity is a meditation on the impact of technē on us. It was written in 1962 long before smartphones, tablet computers, medical wrist bands, iWatchs, slave cameras, iris identification, bio inserts, and the like. Yet with a few changes it anticipates this world now, more than fifty years since she typed it. (Yes, as readers of biographies know, she typed the first several drafts of all her works herself.)

The changes would de-emphasize space flight with all the gadgetry and gizmos that go with it to protect the person and extend the astronaut’s ability inside the machine of a rocket, lander, or gravity suit. Instead of this kind of technology, it would refer to digital layers that now beguile and enfold us.

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To make these digital technologies work, we have to cooperate with them, just as astronauts had to do with their equipment. We have to care for them. We patiently wait for them to boot-up. We keep them in cool environments so that they do not overheat. We feed them electricity, sometimes in carefully regulated doses to keep the batteries charged. We present ourselves to them in ways they can recognize, accept, and respond to whether that it through a keyboard or stylized gestures. We keep them charged up. We keep updating the app software. We discipline ourselves to work with the devices. (No one calls them machines, though that is what they are.)

The more the technology does for us individually, the more willing we are, one-by-one, to meet it halfway, or more.
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It all fits into the smartphone which fits into a pocket. Smaller and smaller gets the smartphone, so small soon that…. Use the imagination.

In some places now a person has a single telephone number that incorporates both a fixed landline at home and a mobile number. Once that number is mine, it remains mine even if I move to another home. That number is me ... and I am that number. Like it or not, I am my telephone number even if I don't resemble it.

Imagine the day when that telephone number merges with my Social Security Number, with my tax file number, with my Medicare number, with my VISA card number ... That day will come. (Pause to think of all those totalitarian nightmares of dystopian and science fiction writers.) In fact, in this scenario the metadata is me in all important aspects. Publicly no one needs to know my idiosyncrasies, opinions, or needs, all that counts is the relevant bar coded number to scan.

In the face of these temptations, Arendt urges readers to reverse Descartes, to ‘I doubt, therefore, I am.’ How that translates to digital technology, that is the question for today. She did not have to face that question directly since the space technologies that fascinated her, were not consumer goods. There was no iGravity Suit. But as always what she meant was to think, not to react, but to think. Reacting is easy, thinking is hard, slow, and sometimes wrong.

The full integration of these digital technologies will erode, compromise, limit, and, perhaps, destroy our humanity. We will slowly and voluntarily become Borg. I may never resemble my phone number but I am nothing but that number, despite my vanities. I published an earlier piece along these line as 'The beast that blushed: on modern manners,' 'Spectrum, Sydney Morning Herald,' 30 September 2000, pp. 6-7. (Speaking of vanities.)

No, she did not refer to the ‘Borg,’ bio-mechanical creatures who inhabit the fictional world of ‘Star Trek.’ But they may exemplify her conclusion in some way. Her fascination with technology traces to homo faber in her book 'The Human Condition' (1958).

Arthur Eddington once said it was foolish to suppose that he resembled his telephone number, it is said, but I found no text to support it.
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‘The Conquest of Space and the Stature of Man,’ Great Ideas Today (1963) and reprinted in Between Past and Future (1963), a collection of her essays. The title was not her choice; it was the set topic which she accepted.

Class, today's topic is: The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who wear neckties and those who comment on those who wear neckties. Discuss.
(Once I thought that the world divided into (1) those who divided the world into two kinds of people and (2) those who thought it was more complicated than that. I have since changed my mind. Keep reading to find out why.)

Pursuing the vita scholastica these years toiling in classrooms to persuade students to do the assignments, placating the lords of research grants, and dealing with that alien species which edits academic journals, I wear a necktie to the office most days. Well every weekday and some weekend days at the office, too.......

To read more, cut-and-paste this address into a browser address bar.

http://www.themontrealreview.com/2009/The-Necktie-and-the-Human-Condition.php

Once again the tools for hyperlinking, bolding, and so on are not available.

I started reading Arthur Upfield novels in the 1970s. I liked them for their strong sense of place, ear for the spoken Strine, and the fast pace of the mystery within them. I watched the television series when it came along to see how it translated these qualities to the screen. Upfield published the first book in 1929 and the last in .... 1963: thirty-four in all. He worked at it.

I recently re-read the only one from that period that I kept, The Death of a Lake, and found it possessed all those characteristics. I have also been listening to several of them as audio books, and the same holds true.

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Of course, they are of their time and place. The racism, the sexism, the crude manners and mores, these are all there to offend those looking for offense. For others, they document those times and places.

We found the NITV documentary on Upfield and Bony very interesting. The debates among the talking heads about cultural appropriation were a tedious and shallow recitation of cliches without a comprehension of the implications. That said, the rest was informative and engaging.

http://www.nitv.org.au/fx-program.cfm?pid=62639834-A5F1-B003-7954E52912FEAE0B

The tools for underlining, hyperlinking, etc remain unavailable. I have reported this several times. Oh hum.

News Flash! This just in from Fox TV News:

Rupert Murdoch jets to New York City later today to swear in Mitt Romney as president of the United States. Romney has named his cabinet as Sarah Palin as Secretary of State, Mike Huckabee as Secretary for Regulating Private Life as God Wants, Newt Gringrich as Secretary for Fox, Karl Rove will be Secretary for Truth, and Athena Starwomen Secretary of the Treasury. After the ceremony on Wall Street with a small and select audience of yes-sayers, a random selection of workers’ pension funds will be divided among the guests. Trickle-up is the new administration’s chief policy.

President Romney’s first act will be to visit England and pardon all Murdochs of everything, past, present, and future.

Of course the lackeys of the liberal media have made the usual carping noises, e.g., New York City is not the capital of the United States, pension funds should not stolen, an astrologer might not be the best choice for cabinet, and the US President has no authority in England, which is the United Kingdom. Oh, and the biased allegation that Romney did not win the election. Typical!

Read more...

I spend my life in academic circles. Round and round I go. While circling I sometimes notice what other people are saying. Can’t be helped.

One of the things I notice them saying is a general contempt for, derogation of, and enthusiastic debunking of great men and women. Here as in so much else the academy mirrors the wider world among those journalists, bloggers, Facebookies, and writers who think of themselves as intellectuals with self-appointed role is to be critical of our culture, well, really of everything.

Bringing down the great is a blood spot. Here these Lilliputians are hard at work:
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The biographers spare us no detail about hair dye, punctuality, reading habits, pain-killers, alcohol, the shenanigans of offspring or siblings, and – and in the great tradition of the mess media (that is not a typo I mean “mess media”) saving the best for last: sex. There is no matter too small, too private, too irrelevant that it is not touted, shouted, and blogged to diminish and to demean the great.

“Quiet up there in the back, I will say what I mean by the ‘great’ in a moment. Right now I am setting the scene. Take a deep breath and count to ten, while I go on.”

I have seen every one of the items listed above trotted out as if it were the news of the moment. Did the premier dye his hair? If so, will he admit it? If he does not admit it, is it a deceit that goes to the heart of his character? One imagines the empanelled Sanctimonious Ones on ABC1 wisely nodding heads. On SBS the journalists interviewing each other would furrow their brows. One reaches for the remoter! "On his deathbed a former US president was reading a Western novel!" Shock! Horror! That one was presented to despoil the legacy of a two-term U.S. president. Punctuality? Well a British prime minister was always late, so the foreign policy of that government was suspect. All of this is noxious enough but more genteel and abstruse versions of the same approach exist in the academy. There they pass for more than entertainment.

In classrooms bespectacled, bearded, uncombed, bejeaned lecturers, for whom finding a parking place is THE major challenge of the day, sarcastically belittle the likes of Winston Churchill for the titillation of undergraduates. Much of social science is always the assault of pygmies on giants.

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In another context Churchill once said, now that the war of the giants is over, the wars of the pygmies will begin. He meant that now that World War II was over, there will be fights over the remains. See The Irrepressible Churchill, ed. by Kay Halle (1966), p. 249. Exactly so.

That assault goes on with renewed vigour these days. That which is so far from our own experience we scholars ridicule. Thus does Homo Academicus rule. Of course, armed with PhDs, we are clever enough to conceal our jealous ridicule in polysyllabic terminology borrowed from the French or the German to make it sound important.

The 'great,' by the way (I said I would get to this term), are those that have to face those terrible challenges that life deals out to but a very few and who have prevailed: War and peace, life and death, now or never, and the like on a national or international scale. Presidents, prime ministers, generals, citizens in the firing line, these people have to do something that affects a great many others. Action not discourse analysis!

Among those that do have to face these matters, some enter the pantheon of greatness, as Winston Churchill, who was voted the Greatest Briton in a BBC exercise a few years ago. No sooner was the last video broadcast confirming that Churchill was the Greatest Briton to the British people, than the scholarly detractors searched the mental soft disk for the old notes setting to rights Churchill’s claims to fame. Though long dead, he is still a good career-making target for the pygmies. (Yes, I know about evil and incompetence on a grand scale, but that is not the focus here. Do pay attention.)

Churchill, they said, was not great because … he did not rescue enough Jews, he invaded Norway, he did not invade Sweden, he either did not help Greece enough or helped Greece too much, he was wrong about India (was he ever!), he was but a nationalist just like Hitler, he drank too much, he took too many risks, he did not take enough risks, he did not hold war time elections, and the list still goes on. The list is so long that it becomes difficult to see why we once, evidently mistakenly, thought so highly of him. Abraham Lincoln has been periodically accorded the same debunking. As has just about everyone else from Jean d’Arc to Sister Teresa. Only the mediocrities escape the opprobrium. Chester A. Arthur’s good name is safe from the attention-seeking scholar or journalist.

In a televised panel discussion on the ABC a noted journalist, well he said he was noted but I had never heard of him before or since, said in passing of John F. Kennedy “now we wonder what we ever saw in him.” This from a scribe who never went near a nuclear button over Berlin, never contemplated the missiles of October, and still less was never responsible for the lives of the crew of a PT boat rammed by a Japanese destroyer in the darkness of night in a black sea. My goodness how smug and superior we can be, we who have faced the parking lot crisis.

Having come this far Reader, and I know some slackers have not stayed this long, there is a larger point here about how social scientists, and the replicators in the mess media, see the world. To keep it simple, there is structure and there is agency. To a social scientist, just about everything that happens is due to structure. Agency, taken to mean the unique, sui generis contribution of individuals, one at a time, explains virtually nothing, and so is not taken seriously. Social forces are massive but invisible and impersonal, and they explain everything. Emile Durkheim laid the foundation for the concentration on structure with his remarkable study of what seemed to be that most private and idiosyncratic of all acts, suicide, and showed the social causation that explained variations in its occurrence.

Social forces may be economic, religious, ideological, or political, or social and they flow through the world, rather as the atmospheric highs and lows that we never see, determining the social weather. Exemplary individuals are created by the patterns of these social forces, as are thunderstorms. It is this context that an analyst can say that as colourful and extra-ordinary as Churchill was with all his habits, tics, and contradictions, none of it was unique to him but rather created by the English class system, its political expression, and the like. Had the individual we know of as Winston Churchill been killed crossing the street in Manhattan while on a speaking tour in 1929, as he very nearly was, then somehow or other Britain would still have held out until the United States and the Soviet Union tipped the balance in World War II. It is not quite determinism but it almost sounds like it. But leaving that aside, the point is that the dominance of structure leaves no room for the expression of agency, when all of the fine points have been pointed, the qualifications qualified, and the quibbles quibbled, if ever that end is reached.

Indeed in some sense, social science grew into a profession in reaction to the explanation of events as the actions of great men in history by Thomas Carlyle. The social sciences arose to study society as itself causative, leaving aside the greats, as well as the smalls (we mere mortals).

Every social scientist knows that structure prevails in every important way and they say this in the research they do and in the classes they teach (yet, I suspect, they harbor the belief that they are creative individuals – agents, themselves an exception to the rule they preach). Accordingly social scientists routinely decry the great man in history focus on extra-ordinary individuals like Winston Churchill.

Social science took individuals out of social explanation. It was in reaction to this dehumanizing of social life that leadership studies emerged. Sometimes leadership studies descend to a set of steps to follow to be a leader, a sort of Churchill’s Handbook approach, which by implication denies uniqueness to Churchill while attributing agency to him. “We can all be little Churchills, if we try” is the message. That message is ludicrous but it does answer to some need because those books about leadership are legion. The covers change and the titles come and go, today's talk-show sage is forgotten tomorrow, but the books on leadership spill off the shelf. The fact that there are so many of them itself suggests that readers believe there are leaders. Something social scientists know is just silly.

Well, many social scientist act as if they know that when they denigrate Churchill, though as noted above, they may also think of themselves as exceptions to the rules they apply to him. The academic custom of making oneself an exception was codified by Karl Mannheim when he wrote of ‘free-floating intellectuals’ who are in but not of the society, and so able to perceive its structure. Try his Ideology and Utopia (1929).

The representatives of the mess media do not have deadline-time to go into any of these doubts and qualifications, so they say. They do have time to smirk, sneer, and opine – they call it subjective journalism, I am told – sure in the faith that any claims to leadership are dishonest, false, and dangerous. (It seems sometimes to be a collective and endlessly rerun Watergate investigation: one leader became a crook, therefore all leaders are always crooks.)

A journalist was once waxing on about the void of leadership everywhere (except, by the implication of silence, in the mess media) when one interlocutor demurred and said ‘no man is a hero to his valet.’ It was a show stopper.

Since the interlocutor was not a native speaker of English the words came out with the emphasis on the wrong syllables, and true to form, this journalist could not seem to understand English spoken by someone who does not speak Leagues-club English. So the remark had to be repeated a few times for the compère to get it. Then it had to be explained.

Here is the explanation: The valet does the laundry, makes the bed, tidies the closet – this is the world of the valet, that is all the valet sees of what the employer does. Napoleon’s valet saw only dirty socks, ripped jackets, and other detritus. One person’s dirty socks are much like anyone’s dirty socks, so there is nothing in the valet’s world distinctive about Napoleon. And that is the point, no man is a hero to his valet (it was said by Georg Hegel) not because no man is a hero, for some clearly are, like Napoleon (in this case ‘hero’ can be taken to mean larger than life), but because the valet is only a valet, i.e., lives in the valet’s world where dirty socks are the reality. Hmm. Most journalists these days are content with dirty socks because they seem only to see the valet’s world.

By the way the compère’s confused and condescending response to this aphorism from someone whose English was not League's-club standard was a clear example of a more general phenomenon. Members of the Australian mess media sometimes seem unable to understand English from non-native speakers in a way I am told Japanese just cannot fathom Japanese, even letter and tone perfect, spoken by a European. Hence those ABC television news items with subtitles for a speaker who is perfectly clear, if labored, in English. Remember those Dutch bankers in the 1980s who went to Perth to question Alan Bond’s many instances of creative accounting, long before it unravelled, in heavily accented English only to excoriated by the mess media for challenging our great man (see, yes, I know claims to greatness can be dangerous, salt can be dangerous, too, but it is part of life). For a time the pygmies preferred nationalism. But that changed.

No, most people probably do not remember these Dutch bankers because when that great man’s fall came this part of the story was sent down the memory hole by those in the mess media who latter wanted to take credit for his downfall. Only those with clipping files retained it.


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The historical record is replete with haters. The closest I have ever come to them, happily, is in a small museum in Topeka Kansas, Wizard of Oz country there in tornado-land. A superseded public school is home to the Brown versus Board of Education Museum: http://www.nps.gov/brvb/index.htm.
It is a National Park historical site. I have been there several times.

Brown-2.JPG


Each time I have an involuntary, visceral reaction to the one of the displays. Each time I think about it long afterwards.

The display is a narrow hallway in darkness. On each side are flat panel TV screens nearly life size projecting the segregationists of the day defending their ways and shouting abuse at half a dozen black elementary school children. I saw those images on the family television as a lad, and they were distressing then, but to experience it now – sound track turned up – is, nearly, frightening.

There they are, the proud white men and women, screaming – cords distended in their necks – and shouting, gesturing and posturing to compare blacks to apes, and inevitably they have Bibles in hand. The original footage is black-and-white, but I imagine their faces red. These are the haters. Once seen, never forgotten.

Brown_1.jpg

Where are they now? They are all around. Do not doubt it.

There are plenty of other haters then who were less visible, but these haters did us the favour of revealing themselves for what they were. Haters. There is no other word for it: H A T E.

These days the Haters seldom assemble for network television cameras to rant the rant. But surely they are still among us, no less numerous, and no less venomous. Full of hate, they still have a Bible at hand.

Perhaps it is an example of a long fallout (pace geology) that the object of so much hatred now is the government itself. Attorneys-general, Presidents, and National Guardsmen enforced integration, all agents of government, that demonic force ruining lives far and wide.

Are they Timothy James McVeigh’s brethren and sisteren? When they lift their eyes from a Bible, they see the world through the cross-hairs of a rifle sight.

I said “a” Bible twice because it is their Bible; it is not mine. Theirs is a book of hate, betrayal, fire, vengeance, righteousness, and more righteousness, and again righteousness. Mine, the one I read in Sunday school, chapel, New and Old Testament Religion at the church school I attended, this is a book of charity, faith, loyalty, sacrifice, endurance, compromise, fidelity, concession, compassion, hope, kindness to strangers, and the like.

I am not at all sure what conclusion to draw from any of this, but I see a connection in that hard continuity of hatred, which is readily to be found on the Internet and contemporary politics. It is there but not on prime news television this time around.

In the quest for office in the last generation the politicians everywhere have tapped that vein of hatred. They no longer run against rivals. They no longer have opponents. Rather the rivals are manifestations of evil. They are Satan’s hand. They are God’s enemies to be smote. When the educated, privileged, political class descends to this hatred, it is not surprise that such debasement is spread further by others.

Hatred is the only explanation I could think of for the vituperation heaped upon Bill Clinton years ago. At my remove Clinton seemed to be a harmless cracker who joshed and joked his way past an incumbent, patrician President who had no interest in people. Clinton continued to ah-shucks his way past a very competent but out-moded opponent a second time. In the first instance in 1992, Clinton was mightily aided by the loose canon of a third party. That was Ross Perot for those of fading memories.

The public and published vituperation of Clinton for those eight years gave me pause for thought, but that was only the part above the waterline. A few friends seemed to think I would be interested in the Internet traffic in trashing Clinton, and so for a time in the 1990s I had a daily dose of the bad things smart people could think of to say about him. He, of course, gave them plenty of ammunition. It wore thin quickly and finally I did ask these friends to cancel my subscription to their feeds. But it was an insight into the minds of smart people who took the time to hate. It went way beyond rationality. It was emotional, Mr Spock! That Cracker Clinton had not right to be president, votes or no! That was the nerve that flinched beneath the daily tirades. They got their wish when that draft dodger, the junior Bush, restored the dignity of the office by wearing cufflinks.

But Clinton’s constant bath in the hatred was as nothing compared to the cyber malevolence now spewed out about Barrack Obama. It is unbelievable. It goes beyond the Blue Dogs and Swamp Rats that now typify Congressional debates.

The Haters are still there and hard at the unending work of hatred, but they do not gather quite as conspicuously for the cameras. Not yet anyway. And when they do gather the message is coded. The Bible seems to have been supplemented by the Constitution, but like the Bible before it, it remains largely unread by those that shout the loudest about it. The totemic reading of the Constitution in Congress in 2011 was a sorry spectacle. Surely somewhere in there it says no black man can be president was the coded message. It did do that in its original form with its affirmation of slavery. The United States Constitution is a noble document, one written before the Industrial Revolution, before ‘electricity, the train, telephones, radio, television, automobiles, airplanes, rockets, nuclear weapons, satellites, or space exploration. There's a lot they didn't know about. It would be interesting to see what kind of document they'd draft today.’ Indeed. The quotation is from Ross Perot, by the way.

Had the Framers, as those who participated in the writing of the Constitution are reverentially called, today might have spent their time praying over the Magna Carta before going out to shoot a soft target.

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SBS movies bring the world’s cinema to our televisions screens. It has been a godsend since it started and it still is a small miracle every night and day. Films that would never be shown on commercial free-to air channels, and probably not on pay movie channels either. The pay television movie channels also have a commercial imperative to satisfy their audiences. Moreover, there is a perception of audience resistance to subtitles on television screens. I have been told this many times, though no one has ever offered any evidence to support it. Nonetheless, it is a plausible contention. And it brings me to the point of this post. (At last.)

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Many, most, perhaps all, the films SBS screens terminate with an attribution of the subtitles to SBS.* Ergo I conclude SBS is responsible for these subtitles. I have no criticism of these labours, but I do have a wish. I wish the subtitlers would forego, cease and desist, and stop forever their efforts to render the subtitles into the Australian argot. No doubt this is done in the belief, mistaken, that it makes the movies more accessible to audiences. In fact, it is more often jarring to find a Chinese character sounding like Mick Dundee in the subtitles.

Moreover, this reduction of the foreign to the familiar defeats part of the purpose of world movies, which is to increase the audience’s knowledge of differences in the world. I am sure that I am not alone in wishing to know the idioms, analogies, metaphors that Finns, Thais, Bulgarians, and Turks use rather than have them all use Strine-speak à la SBS in the subtitles. We go around the world with SBS Television and everywhere we go the people sound like the local leagues club. What a dreary old world it is!

By the way I have posted this comment on SBS feedback sites more than once to no avail.

*I do not know for a fact if every film terminates with this claim, since I do not watch them all, but only some. Hence the guarded generalization above.

The time has come to address the neck tie.

I knew it would come to this one day, and that day is now, not nigh.

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Yes, Bleaders, I have something to say about this, too.

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