Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ash Clouds Over our Future

While the boring debate about human induced climate debate is enthusiastically participated in by zealots on both sides and dismissed by the majority of people who have more important things to worry about, the Earth, this planet we temporarily inhabit, keeps delivering reminders of its frightening power, and absolute disregard for us.

There have been more earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, and a volcano in Chile which would not have made the news in our part of the world but for the tragic fact that it messed up the travel plans of tens of thousands of air commuters and holiday makers. That damn ash cloud also cost the airlines a lot of moolah: Australian airlines reported losses of around one hundred million dollars. Rainy days ruin picnics, and cause the cancellation of junior football matches. Windy days make people crazy. Cold snaps mean we fire up our various heating devices, as do heatwaves necessitate more power for cooling. Electricity costs money and, is mostly generated by coal fired power stations in Australia. Shame on us. Why can't we control the elements and live more low or zero cost, 'minimal impact on the environment' lifestyles?

The Chilean ash cloud is a curiosity to me. I was fascinated to learn that it is largely composed of bits of pulverised rock and glass, and amazed when it circumnavigated the globe and then did it again. Cool. My interstate plans were not interrupted. I didn't lose any money or any sleep. It had no effect whatsoever on my life other than the fact that I had to listen to, and watch dull, repetitive news reporting on the issue. Usually we get a break in the news cycle between stories of similar or identical bent, but within a week of the first load of tripe about the ash cloud and the poor little aeroplanes which couldn't fly through or around or under it, we received more of the same riveting coverage delivered by beautiful reporters standing in airports.

We care most about what directly affects us most. While it is easy to feel great sadness and genuine empathy for a woman in Japan whose whole family was killed and her house completely destroyed by the tsunami, that emotion is nothing compared with the grief the woman herself feels and will always feel because of what the Earth did to her. This is not intended to be a lesson on perspective. Perspective lessons suck! I'm into sympathy and empathy. Telling someone that there are people worse off than them, is patronizing and insulting. My point is that we cannot totally control what happens to us, and there are times when we should just accept that fact, and stop trying so hard to be masters of our own destinies.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review of The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (Angus & Robertson Classics)The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith by Thomas Keneally

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the second time I read The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. Loved it again. I felt such incredible empathy for Jimmie and anger towards the racist mean spirited pigs who exploited him. I wanted Jimmie to succeed but there was in the book, and in life I suspect, a sense that somethings are inevitable and that good does not always triumph over evil.

Keneally is a terrific writer, I love his books. The way he writes, understating and overstating at the same time with crisp, vivid descriptions of people and places, and pulsing narratives that bubble with historical authenticity. The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is deservedly considered an Australian classic.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

In Support of People Swapping

I know he is the Opposition Spokesman for Immigration but could somebody please shut Scott Morrison up. Him and his boss, the chronically disagreeable and compulsively anti everything, Tony Abbott, are barking up the wrong tree with their back to the future solution to the problem of the marauding hordes of asylum seekers who are invading our shores.

The government said no to using Nauru again as a processing centre but Tony Abbott went there anyway. Screaming Scott is off to Malaysia soon to find fellow oppositionists, co conspirators against a common sense approach to reality. Of course he will find many of like mind, with respect to the yet to be signed agreement between Malaysia and Australia for a people swap. There are many here who oppose the idea. The parliament is split which accurately reflects public opinion.

Despite all the whining from alleged humanitarians, the Australian government seems determined to push on with the arrangement, and the official word from Malaysia is also positive. I say, good on the government. The stupid and ubiquitous polls tell a tale of woe for the Prime Minister but she remains dogged. Hoo - bloody - ray! John Howard did not let even worse numbers in the polls deter him from introducing the GST, and that's exactly what I want from my leaders. Not populism. Leadership.

The message to people smugglers and the desperate unfortunates they are trying to "help" is that if you make it to Australia, and think you've made it to the front of the queue, think again. Here's a one way ticket to Malaysia where they use canes for discipline in their gaols, sorry, detention centres, and by the way you'll probably never reach Australia.

Here's a few alternatives to the government's people swapping policy. Locate the asylum seekers in their rickety boats and murder them. Sink the boats and let them drown, or shoot them all and then sink the boat. Or let the boats reach our shores and then kill the queue jumpers. Maybe we could, let them come, and lock them up for the term of their natural lives. After all, Australia was founded as a penal colony. How about this one? Let them come, provide with them with truck loads of cash and let them disappear into their ethnic communities.

This is the one I like the most: send them to the back of the queue in Malaysia, and allow, in exchange, 4000 genuine refugees, who have already been processed, to migrate to Australia. Then watch them make a wonderful contribution to our society as have 99.9% of all the refugees and migrants who have come before them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Cows Win

I'm disappointed with the government's decision to suspend live cattle exports to Indonesia. I think they are weak for caving in to whining vegetarians and animalarians (I invented that word) who have more compassion for dumb animals than human beings.

With no thought for the impact on Australian families whose livelihoods have been stripped away with a stroke of an overly-sensitive-to-public-opinion bureaucratic pen, the Federal government has made yet another mistake. What about a phasing out of trade with Indonesia if they cannot improve the treatment of cattle in their slaughterhouses? What about allowing time for a shift to more humane slaughter methods? What about insisting that some of the aid money we send to Indonesia be used to buy stun guns for their abottoirs, and education programs on how to use them? What about some common sense?

What about people? What about compensation for businesses and families affected by this knee jerk reaction? The Prime Minister says they'll continue to consult the industry. How impressive. More consultation. What about Indonesian families who will be forced to pay higher prices for meat due to the sudden drop in supply? Who cares right? As long as those four legged factories are looked after, and the government doesn't have to put up with protests from bleeding heart animal lovers.

review of Good News, Bad news

Good News, Bad NewsGood News, Bad News by David Wolstencroft

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good News, Bad News is a story about a very complicated relationship between two spies, Charlie and George. Author, Wolstencroft paints a dark picture of the destructive nature of duplicity. It makes you wonder about those who lie because they have to, because it's their job to lie. It presents a credible challenge to the idea that honesty is the best policy. Sometimes people are faced with painful and difficult choices about what they reveal about themselves.

On the negative side, I found Charlie a bit annoying occasionally and I wasn't sure at times whether I was reading comedy or serious fiction. Overall, Good News Bad News didn't really grab me and shake me, but I enjoyed it and recommend it.It was a fast paced story with lots of twists and surprises. I liked that, and the slow reveal of back story. I also enjoyed the developing friendship between Charlie and George.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Prevent Cruelty to Australian Families

60% of Australia's live cattle exports go to Indonesia where, we have learned this week, they are being inhumanely treated on slaughterhouse floors: stabbed multiple times, garroted with blunt blades, and tormented, before dying to feed the voracious appetite of our large northern neighbor.

Now that many Australians have seen what goes on in Indonesian abbatoirs, courtesy of the Four Corners report, the cry of outrage is shaking the walls of parliament. What do the people want? A ban on live animal export trade. But should we turn our back on a $351 million dollar trade arrangement to prevent the suffering of the innocent bovines? Should we sacrifice Australian jobs for the sake of the poor cows? How far should we go to protect these loveable four legged factories?

Actually, the answer is simple. Blame the backward, cruel Muslims, and wail about how evil they are, and then start a war against some terrorist organisation in Afghanistan, and tell everyone we are fighting for the cows in Indonesia.

I do believe that animals should be killed humanely. Cruelty is ungodly, but I'm a bit tired of the excessive moral outrage people express when animals suffer, compared with the relative silence when people do. By the way, if you think that some cows aren't mistreated right here in our backyard, then think again, and, may I suggest you re-examine your priorities. Did I hear someone say hypocrisy?