Modest Expectations – Once upon a Time from Drummoyne

On June 19th, 1865, African Americans slaves in Texas were told they were free. Juneteenth, 19th June, has been a Federal Holiday since 2021 when President Biden gazetted this day as one to celebrate the emancipation of black slaves, and one step towards the “freedom” upon which Americans pride themselves. This recognition was a response to several high profile murders, notably that of George Floyd.

Above is a scene from a recent play, Toni Stone, written by the playwright Lydia Diamond, (a drama structured about the first woman to play baseball for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues). As Stone, the actress Jennifer Mogbock’s characterisation is that of a determined woman with the prowess to smack the ball and play hard. The scene depicts stylised “game time moments” when the team performs vaudeville acts with a tincture of the minstrel. It is playing in Boston as part of extensive Juneteenth celebrations and illustrates one example of how important the celebration of this day is regarded, despite its being so recently recognised.

It made me think about the modern meaning of holidays, originally “holy days”. That meaning has been well and truly lost, but American holidays are generally about veneration of the past, with both its upsides and downsides. Apart from New Year’s Day, holidays in the USA celebrate the past – the heritage as etched into the mythology of the United States as a Christian country.

I have celebrated Thanksgiving in Chicago with an American family which was a memorable experience as I was an “intruder”. I barely knew the family and was touched by their generosity and felt honoured by them asking me.

One year, we marched to the Tenderloin District of San Francisco in celebration of Martin Luther Day, January 15th. It was the first time I had walked with black people, not just Afro-Americans. Again, I felt like an intruder, but we walked on the outside of the march as a symbol of solidarity but outsiders.

In Australia, I am not an outsider and in my own way, I acknowledge Anzac Day. It is not sacred to me; but it is a day where mostly young men were sacrificed to combat unhinged narcissistic villainy. Akin to the American Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday in May, on which that Nation honours the men and women who died while serving in the military, whereas its Veterans Day, observed every November 11th, recognises all who have served in the Armed Forces (and is not a Federal holiday).

In contrast, some of our national holidays may celebrate our past, although the actual reason often belies the name. Australia Day is really the end of summer holidays, and the King’s Birthday, the opening of the ski season aka the recognition of the start of winter. Australia Day is a misnomer; January 1st should be the National day if it was the intention to recognise the date of the birth of Australia. Clearly this would cause a commotion because it would mean the loss of one holiday, apart from which, there is not the fervour of honouring a group of colony politicians bickering for over a decade whether they should come together as a nation – unlike the 4th of July when the Americans unequivocally come together to celebrate their independence as a nation.

January 26th is really when NSW people can celebrate the shiploads of convicts and British military low life that were dumped on our shores, to the annoyance of the local Aboriginal people. Nevertheless, it has that element of the Australian cultural personality – always looking for a fight.

As for the King’s Birthday, it celebrates the entrails of the British monarchy, not the actual birthday of Charles III, which is November 14th. God knows why we are celebrating the Restoration of the British monarchy following the Cromwellian regime, sometime in the 17th century. Really worth celebrating!

At least Australia celebrates Labour Day, even if on four different days, in March (three states), May (two states), October (three states). There are two different dates in March – an earlier one for Western Australia and later two for Victoria and Tasmania. However, none of the dates coincides with the actual date when the Eight-Hour Day was inaugurated on April 21st, 1856.

University of Melbourne Law School

This was the outcome triggered by stonemasons working on the building of the University of Melbourne Law School who struck for better working conditions. May 1st being International Workers Day, the two were conveniently placed close together for a celebration of “the Worker”. In 1889 an international federation of socialist groups and trade unions designated May 1st as a day in support of workers, a day chosen because it coincided with the violent Haymarket Riot in Chicago three years earlier. However, the two dates above were inconveniently juxtaposed for Australia with the date of Anzac Day.

Anzac Day is probably the only holiday, apart from Christmas and Easter, which is celebrated across all Australia on the same day, where the holidays have significance. One celebrates those who lost their lives in War, picking a day which commemorated a disaster engineered by British military incompetence. Probably if we want to celebrate our miliary heritage, we should celebrate Monash Day, for the architect in bringing WWI to a close, despite the enduring incompetence of the British.

Monash being knighted on the battlefield by King George V, France, 12 August 1918

Discounting the universality of Christmas and Easter in Christian countries, which are still celebrated as holy days by an albeit diminishing number, these holidays have become more and more secular recreation. In Australia, mimicking the role of Thanksgiving in the USA, Christmas is our family holiday.

Our other holidays celebrate a horse race, various sporting events, and a variety of Show Days, which is urban Australia’s acknowledgement of its agricultural legacy. That is Australia! We even have a public holiday to celebrate a Sherrin of footballers being driven down the streets of Melbourne.

Now where is our Juneteenth? Maybe emancipation of Aborigines has yet to be fully realised to be able to celebrate. There is the ending of the White Australia, which we should celebrate, but don’t.  There is no specific date, but 1973 is the year generally accepted, although an increase in the number and percentage of migrants from non-European countries did not take place until after the Fraser government came into office. Sorry, any date would need to be pinpointed and given the way we make decisions in Australia, it would be anybody’s guess.

Perhaps we should also celebrate the day the first Jew was allowed to join the Melbourne Club. Maybe not a public holiday but probably more worthy than a football final holiday.

But then Laura, really Australia is not a racist country, with its pavlova coating of multi-culturalism. How dare you, Laura for telling the truth.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

What a cockup. But predictable. Albanese handed Shorten the consumption of The NDIS Sandwich and he is trying to not display his “inchurnment”.

In Australia there are many ways of wrangling money from the government, although the NDIS seems to have required minimal wrangling from applicants. Shonks and criminals, please line up here!


In my experience, not common in Australia, but for expertise in this matter ask Bob Katter.

The Mates Culture

Just give the grant out without any interference, meaning – stay within the amount for which the person making the grant has authority, having the sole delegation.

Have panels of mates who allocate the grant money under the laughable rubric of “peer review” – the majority of research grants are determined this way. The caveat – make sure they are mates. Stifles the outsider – ask Marshall and Warren, Nobel Laureates who were refused research grants by the research establishment.

The revolving door between the public service and consultancy firms whither ex-public servants work at higher rates of pay, doing the same job that they should have done while employed by the government.

Greedy ex-politicians in the Golden Trough together, “the Captain’s Club” mentality.

Inadequate supervision

Non-criminal – just use fraudulent qualifications/experience – the pink bats disaster is one recent example of this

The entry of organised crime, which seems to be the NDIS unfortunate situation, where the vulnerable – and ultimately the taxpayers who fund the NDIS – are exploited and successive government fails to act.

Why does it occur?

First, there is this urgency of Federal bureaucrats shovelling out the money willy-nilly. This removes any responsibility from the Department and the individual particularly.

Then there’s the custom of moving bureaucrats around so that there is no corporate memory and responsibility is diffused so it is nigh impossible to determine the actual person responsible. This enables organised crime to infiltrate the Department – the criminal insider. The Government is geared to destroy the whistleblower but not this criminal insider?

Now it’s the media (not the public service itself) which has shown up the problem because of some of the providers displaying the wealth garnered from this corrupted scheme.

The normal government response is to “take it seriously”; then do nothing. Shorten always affects small man aggression, but if he wanted to be effective, he would institute a group of “incorruptibles”, (not relying on the Federal Police solely) and examine the Department staff systematically. Criminals may be smart, but not that smart. The trail starts with the providers with signs of affluence and the people they are charged to protect. Treat them as though they are importing illegal drugs with the same vigour and publicity. The Nation cannot sustain organised criminals taking over social welfare – the NDIS, aged care and childcare – given the amount of money involved.

Get off your backside, Shorten, stop the smart comments and channel that aggression into effective ministerial action. First of all, I would do police checks on all those involved in shovelling out the money, including their family connections. Then it can all unravel, and undoubtedly Shorten, you have tools to assist that process. I have no up-to-date knowledge of these tools, but they are only adjuncts to a determination to get it corrected without resorting to an interminable Committee of Inquiry – or save me, yet another Royal Commission!

Remember the adage, Elliot Ness or Pointless Ness.

Thus Spake Mitchell McConnell

Below is an opinion piece from the Republican Minority Leader in the Senate, appearing in the NYT of June 6th. This is a damning criticism of those on the far-right fringe of his Party, which is destroying the traditional Republican Party with its malignancy that is Trump. Mitchell McConnell has been one of the Senators from Kentucky since 1985. He was two years old when D-Day occurred. He has taken this time, on the 80th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, to rebuke his own Party for repeating the isolationism advocated by his Party not to enter WWII, until after the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941 (more than two years after the outbreak of the war on September 4th, 1939) changed the American perception.

God knows what would have happened to Europe if Germany had not declared War on America and left the Americans only with the Pacific War theatre. But the Germans did not think it through. Nevertheless, the isolationists, with figures like Charles Lindbergh, the populist Roman Catholic priest, Father Coughlin and the Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg from Michigan, were a formidable force until that date. After Pearl Harbour, their advocacy was vanquished. Vandenberg later came round to support the American intervention.

Even in this opinion piece confronting the Trumpians, McConnell can’t shed all his partisan biases, (after all, it was Roosevelt, a Democratic President who steered the USA through WWII). Nevertheless, despite his faults, he has claims to be considered a true Republican with a legitimate lineage back to Abraham Lincoln.

But this, almost his last hurrah, the old man suffering from petit mal epilepsy, who in retirement wishes to remain on the right side of history, in more ways than one. Thus, I believe it’s worth noting.

On this day in 1944, the liberation of Western Europe began with immense sacrifice. In a tribute delivered 40 years later from a Normandy cliff, President Ronald Reagan reminded us that “the boys of Pointe du Hoc” were “heroes who helped end a war.” That last detail is worth some reflection because we are in danger of forgetting why it matters.

American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines joined allies and took the fight to the Axis powers not as a first instinct, but as a last resort. They ended a war that the free world’s inaction had left them no choice but to fight.

Generations have taken pride in the triumph of the West’s wartime bravery and ingenuity, from the assembly lines to the front lines. We reflect less often on the fact that the world was plunged into war, and millions of innocents died because European powers and the United States met the rise of a militant authoritarian with appeasement or naïve neglect in the first place.

We forget how influential isolationists persuaded millions of Americans that the fate of allies and partners mattered little to our own security and prosperity. We gloss over the powerful political forces that downplayed growing danger, resisted providing assistance to allies and partners, and tried to limit America’s ability to defend its national interests.

Of course, Americans heard much less from our disgraced isolationists after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Today, America and our allies face some of the gravest threats to our security since Axis forces marched across Europe and the Pacific. And as these threats grow, some of the same forces that hampered our response in the 1930s have re-emerged.

Germany is now a close ally and trading partner. But it was caught flat-footed by the rise of a new axis of authoritarians made up of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. So, too, were the advanced European powers who once united to defeat the Nazis.

Like the United States, they responded to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine in 2014 with wishful thinking. The disrepair of their militaries and defence industrial bases, and their overreliance on foreign energy and technology, were further exposed by Russia’s dramatic escalation in 2022.

By contrast, Japan needed fewer reminders about threats from aggressive neighbours or about the growing links between Russia and China. Increasingly, America’s allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific are taking seriously the urgent requirements of self-defence. Fortunately, in the past two years, some of our European allies have taken overdue steps in the same direction. 

Here at home, we face problems of our own. Some vocal corners of the American right are trying to resurrect the discredited brand of prewar isolationism and deny the basic value of the alliance system that has kept the postwar peace. This dangerous proposition rivals the American left’s longstanding allergy to military spending in its potential to make America less safe.

It should not take another catastrophic attack like Pearl Harbor to wake today’s isolationists from the delusion that regional conflicts have no consequences for the world’s most powerful and prosperous nation. With global power comes global interests and global responsibilities.

Nor should President Biden or congressional Democrats require another major conflict to start investing seriously in American hard power.

The President began this year’s State of the Union with a reference to President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 effort to prepare the nation to meet the Axis threat. But until the commander in chief is willing to meaningfully invest in America’s deterrent power, this talk carries little weight.

In 1941, President Roosevelt justified a belated increase in military spending to 5.5 percent of gross domestic product. On the road to victory, that figure would reach 37 percent. Deterring conflict today costs less than fighting it tomorrow.

I was encouraged by the plan laid out last week by my friend, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) which detailed specific actions the president and colleagues in Congress should take to prepare America for long-term strategic competition.

I hope my colleague’s work prompts overdue action to address shortcomings in shipbuilding and the production of long-range munitions and missile defences. Rebuilding the arsenal of democracy would demonstrate to America’s allies and adversaries alike that our commitment to the stable order of international peace and prosperity is rock-solid.

Nothing else will suffice. Not a desperate pursuit of nuclear diplomacy with Iran, the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism. Not cabinet junkets to Beijing in pursuit of common ground on climate policy. The way to prove that America means what it says is to show what we’re willing to fight for.

Eighty years ago, America and our allies fought because we had to. The forces assembled on the English Channel on June 6, 1944, represented the fruits of many months of feverish planning. And once victory was secure, the United States led the formation of the alliances that have underpinned Western peace and security ever since.

Today, the better part of valour is to build credible defences before they are necessary and demonstrate American leadership before it is doubted any further.

True in the First Part

The little girl was standing on a street in a village in Yugoslavia. The American plane came in on a strafing run towards her. The little girl caught a glimpse of the pilot. He was an Afro-American. The pilot did not fire and aborted the strafing run.

Eighty years later, a little girl stood on a street in Gaza. The Israeli plane came on a strafing run towards her …

The first is a true story.

Which brings me to David Crowe

In an opinion piece last Friday in the SMH, David Crowe described how two men in balaclavas defaced the office of a Labor MP and they left the Hamas “calling card”. They and the confederate who filmed the incident and loaded it onto social media were “vandals in the night using the same claims that the Greens made during the day”.

Crowe jumped to a conclusion, gratuitously besmirching Adam Bandt in the process, but he does not explicitly name the men in the balaclavas. Nevertheless, his assumption is plain.  Crowe may be right. However …

His piece was on page 28. In a spread on pages 24 and 25 of the same issue of the SMH there is an article on “Israeli War of Influence”. It details how deeply the Israeli government is into misinformation dissemination. So, be careful, Mr Crowe, of your assumptions unless you have removed the balaclavas and actually identified the vandals in person.

Judging from the conflict in the university campuses, thuggery is not confined to one side.

Perhaps you, Mr Crowe, have not met any of the Mossad agents in this country. I have – somewhat accidentally, as I have written in a previous blog.

It was not an easily forgotten experience.

Mouse Whisper

A person good at computers. A person skilled in doing anything quickly and comfortably on a computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone, usually using a mouse or not.

As one instance, my extremely competent wife got on the computer and fixed a payment issue with the bank in 10 minutes with just some clicks of the mouse. She’s a mouse whisperer.

There you are. Immortality in my 273rd whisper.

Modest Expectations – A Failed Jackscrew

Sunday was St Patrick’s Day. I could not resist reprinting the diagram from the Economic & Statistics Administration of the US Department of Commerce of the concentration of people of Irish heritage in the USA. There are emerald-green pockets everywhere. The emerald-green colour is unsurprisingly concentrated in New England, and eastern seaboard states, particularly New Jersey and New York, although seemingly less so.

We dined on Irish sausages, boxty and colcannon, washed down by Black Label Jamesons. Sorry, I don’t like Guinness, too much like stout. Old man’s drink. Pardon me did I hear right, you seanfhear of Clare.

Bend Hur to Political Bias

Over more than four hours, Hur repeatedly tried to steer the questions back to the facts he uncovered and his legal reasoning for not seeking charges. The politicians weren’t having it. Hur repeatedly tried to steer the questions back to the facts he uncovered and his legal reasoning for not seeking charges. The politicians weren’t having it.

Robert Hur

Robert Hur in a 345-page report commissioned as Special Counsel by Merrick Garland, the US Attorney-General concerning retention of classified documents by Biden after he had left his Vice-Presidential post in 2017 had concluded that Biden should not be prosecuted, but he listed as part of his reasoning that Biden was an elderly man on the verge of dementia. Not that explicit, but sufficient to light a fire in the form of a partisan Congressional committee hearing.  Robert Hur, as reported above, tried to impart objectivity, but he shows a basic misunderstanding of how the political process is aflame in the lead up the Presidential election later this year.

Eric Swalwell, a Democratic Congressman from California took the opportunity to screen a video of Trump obviously showing severe signs of cognitive deficiency – a concentrate of Trump’s failings which Fox was compelled to show because it was part of the Congressional hearing.

What is so crazy about this concentration on these two old men’s mental states is the apparent refusal of the two to submit themselves to independent cognitive testing. Here the world is on the brink of a catastrophic change in climate, where political gangsters in the name of patriotism are indulging in genocidal inhumanity, and we have the prospect in the near future of the most powerful leader in the Western World being reduced to a dribbling lump of suet, as was Pope John II, once one of World leaders.

In a beautiful example of a prequel to the current situation is the Wikipedia, the following (sic): In 2001 Pope John Paul II was diagnosed as suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. International observers had suspected this for some time, but it was only publicly acknowledged by the Vatican in 2003. Despite difficulty speaking more than a few sentences at a time, trouble hearing, and with severe osteoarthrosis, he continued to tour the world, although rarely walking in public.

In temporal terms, 81 when diagnosed, 83 when disclosed, 85 when died.

Take note, America, of your Presidential aspirants. But of course, from those sycophantic scheming advisers surrounding each of them, you won’t hear any disclosures. You’ll keep the fiction of these guys being totally compos mentis. Each party, now with access to artificial intelligence, presages a “pile-on” by each party. Objectivity will be lost. The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) takes fifteen minutes. It should be administered as the first question in the first Presidential debate.

Alfred Deakin

I have just finished reading Walter Murdoch’s biography about Alfred Deakin, Australia’s second Prime Minister. Described as a Sketch, Murdoch had extensive access to Deakin’s diaries, courtesy of his wife. The biography was published just four years after Deakin’s death. Murdoch was founding Professor of English at the University of Western Australia, and even though he was passed over for the Chair in Melbourne, he never lost his love for Melbourne where he gone to school and university.

Alfred Deakin

He wrote this book about Deakin while back in Melbourne in the early 1920’s. Given the source of the material, Murdoch was circumspect, tending to skate over Deakin’s failures and praise his successes of nevertheless a very productive life.

In this context, there is a poignancy of a man who wrote of his cognitive decline. Deakin realised that he was not up to public life as early as 1912, when he lost leadership of his party. By 1914 when Joseph Cook, the Prime Minister at the outbreak of WWI, appointed him to chair a Royal Commission on Food Supplies and on Trade and Industry during the War, he recognised his deterioration. By November he had gone from the Chairmanship. At the same time, as recounted by Murdoch, Deakin wrote in his diary the following, presaging his mental decline.

Sometimes with a fairly working memory I can temporarily disguise my plight. But these flashes of restoration are neither frequent nor durable. Knowledge comes and goes; after I have seen the natural development of an argument or a situation perfectly clear before me, most and sometimes all of it vanishes so quickly and so absolutely that I cannot retain or describe a single feature of all that was obvious and lucid a second before. I am without command of memory and almost without understanding.

By 1915, Murdoch writes that Deakin’s diary was increasingly incoherent until his last entry, which retained some insight, was written in 1917. This transcribed entry was written in 1916.

“Not only has my memory foundered as a whole, but I have now become a mere juggler with myself – misleading and misconstruing myself. My helpless attempts to read the riddle of my mind and thought must be abandoned. So far I can claim nothing; next to nothing remains with me. My life as a politician has died out so absolutely that I really remember nothing of it possessing any practical value. I have no real past to which I can turn for help or means of escape. I gain nothing by repetition. I learn nothing new that exists for me more than a few days.

What I think I have learned soon dies away into a mere tag and tangle of words, words, words. Why babble more? Since 1912, I have lost grip of everything actual, practical or purposeful … All is loss, diminished outlooks, insoluble problems, endless forgetfulness, oversights, and misapprehensions. I cannot even write English simply or plainly. I have shed, once and for all, my past as a whole – my present fruitless – my future a hapless mass of wreckage and of misunderstanding.”

A tragic account by a great Australian, who is chronicling his mental decline. He died in 1919 at the age of 63. Alfred Deakin was excruciatingly honest, more than you can say of both Biden and Trump. Deakin had been in public life since he was 22 years of age.

Where the Dutch Alps are…

When I read about the Art Fair in Maastricht, it brought home to me how many places with which I’ve had an association. In 1993, I opened an international society’s annual conference there. It was a time when I was its President, and the previous year, I had opened the conference in Mexico City speaking Spanish. I was quickly dissuaded from repeating the feat in attempting my opening address this particular year in Dutch.  I was prepared to give it a go. Inter alia I had practised giechelende jongleur (giggling juggler) and n scheve schaats (a crooked skate.)  


In particular I also practised saying the Dutch resort name Scheveningen (a word the Dutch used during the War to detect Germans, who pronounce it sufficiently differently).

Meteorologisch is alleged to be the hardest word to pronounce in Dutch. I do not believe I would have needed to use the word in my speech, but in my Mexico address I did successfully negotiate  the pronunciation of the two volcanoes, Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl.

Maastricht is the capital of the Limburg province. It is best known as the birthplace of the European Union (the treaty that created it was signed here in 1992) and where the common currency, the euro was flagged as well.

As a result, the conference centre had been nearly newly-minted when my conference came around in the same location, a light airy experience in this small city surrounded by what was whimsically called the Dutch Alps (Cauberg is the highest dwarf mountain at 134 metres). Maastricht, unlike most of the Netherlands, is built on rock foundations, not on the sandy knolls of the Rhine delta. It was said that Napoleon had carved his name in one of the caves, but I had not the time to see if that was true.

I have some memories of a conference, when so many of the participants were young and enthusiastic. I remember sitting at the other end of the long table and noticing the young Russian, bearded and gaunt, a silvery image who well fitted the image of the young intellectual. I don’t remember his name, although he was supposed to be part of the Brezhnev office. How far we have travelled with our aspirations – not!

But Maastricht has prospered in the intervening 30 years.

I was attracted to the following item about Maastricht, now one of the major trading sites for upmarket art. As with everything Dutch, they are very thorough in anything they do, as witness the way this fair is conducted.

European Fine Art Fair Maastricht

Every March since 1988 the European Fine Art Foundation has put on a fair in this Dutch city. It’s where museums and art aficionados come to shop and buy. “Maastricht”, as art-world insiders call it, is “the most important fair by a mile for classical paintings and works of art,” The eight-day fair opened this year on March 7th.

Maastricht is not the only fair where expensive art is sold, but it probably boasts the largest concentration of museum curators on the hunt for their next acquisition. Among this year’s 50,000 visitors are some 300 museum directors—including Laurence des Cars, who runs the Louvre in Paris—and 650 curators. It is the premier destination for old art, as opposed to the contemporary paintings that fairs like Art Basel in Switzerland and Miami favour.

What happens before the fair begins is also unusual. For a day and a half 230 specialists come in to vet works’ authenticity, as well as their descriptions and stated provenance, bringing x-rays and other technical machines with them.

The specialists have the right to ask for descriptions to be changed. Objects can be removed if the experts believe they are inauthentic; they are locked in a cupboard until after the fair. “You come back in and hope to God that nothing has been thrown out,” says one dealer, who calls Maastricht “the best-vetted fair in the world”.

Maastricht offers a window on the art world and current collecting trends. The fair is best known for Old Master paintings, but the number of contemporary dealers in attendance has been growing—because that is where most of the activity in the art market is. Last year European Old Masters (defined as work produced by artists born between 1250 and 1820) accounted for less than 4% of the value of sales at auction globally, according to a new report by Arts Economics, a research firm. In 2003 it was 16%.

The World of Illusion

The article below is a very good example of the rise of remedies of dubious nature to improve cognitive abilities.  I have lightly edited the article. Note the role of the celebrity mountebanks, the risible influencers in modern parlance.

I find the quest for a mental elixir as understandable not the least of which is the riches a drug, if proved successful, would attract. I am somewhat of the belief that the search for the anti-ageing potion in direct competition with Nature’s demand for renewal will be difficult. A miracle drug would change society. In my lifetime the discovery of antibiotics and improvement in both number and level of cover of vaccines are prime examples of miracle medicines. Infection disease hospitals were closed – prematurely as the HIV/Aids epidemic showed.

Reference is made to the 2011 film “Limitless”, which describes the effect of taking such an anti-ageing drug. The main character, played by Bradley Cooper, pursues a dark course in what is described as a thriller. Given it is also depicted as science fiction it seems to move from one aspect of the dilemma with the requisite violence to maintain the audience’s attention at the same time as the dilemma of interfering with natural order is magnified. Has the Bradley Cooper character weaned himself off the drug while retaining the mental prowess, thus in effect conquering Nature?

“Limitless” is often credited with driving an uptick in interest in products that improve focus or enhance memory. It depicts a struggling writer whose life is transformed by a smart pill. More recently the real-life version of nootropic supplements, as such boosters are called, have received celebrity endorsements.

Bella Hadid, a supermodel, is behind Kin Euphorics, a brand which offers consumers the chance to “achieve an elevated state of health, mood or well-being”. Joe Rogan, the alpha-male host of the world’s most popular podcast, endorses “Alpha Brain”, which, he says, “seems to fire up” that organ.

Alpha Brain is made by Onnit, a supplements firm co-founded by Mr Rogan in 2010 to “inspire a journey towards total human optimisation”. The brand caught the eye of Unilever, a soup-to-soap conglomerate, which bought it for an undisclosed sum in 2021. Its consumer-goods rivals have piled in. Reckitt Benckiser, the parent company of brands such as Durex and Strepsils, sells Neuriva. They are competing with—and eyeing up—a slew of supplements startups. Polaris, a research firm, reckons global sales of nootropics, which hit $11bn in 2021, will grow at an average annual rate of almost 15% until 2030.

Nootropics are usually an alphabet soup of ingredients: amino acids such as L-theanine, herbal extracts such as ashwagandha, probiotics, vitamins and a bewildering variety of mushrooms. Neuriva contains branded forms of coffee-fruit extract and phosphatidylserine, a type of fat. The ingredients are being combined to form novel products that claim to offer various brain-stimulating benefits. Their emergence has coincided with a post-pandemic interest in wellness. They appeal both to older consumers concerned about cognitive decline, and to younger ones keen to excel in the face of millennial angst.

To manufacturers, their appeal lies both in growing demand and in the ease with which supplements can be put on the market. Many countries regulate the health claims that can be made for products but also leave their producers plenty of wiggle room.

It helps that it is hard to say whether nootropics actually work. There is some evidence that they might. Andrea Utley, an expert in motor control and development at the University of Leeds and a self-professed nootropics sceptic, tested one supplement. Her randomised study found that it speeded up decision-making and improved memory.

How much lion’s mane is too much?

But few such studies have been conducted. Richard Isaacson, of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Florida, recalls a patient whose liver function was so “all over the place” that it pointed to too much boozing. It turned out it was in fact too much Lion’s mane, a mushroom with supposed nootropic benefits. Trying to arrest cognitive decline with lab-tested supplements tailored to an individual patient’s needs is one thing, Dr Isaacson says. Stimulating an unimpaired brain without knowing what risks lie down the road is another.

As I reflect on the above, I believe genetic influences are paramount in the retention of one’s mental prowess as we age. What does my heredity tell me before I indulge on what in the end constitutes a form of mind alteration – or cosmetic!

An Anecdote among the Washington Post Recipes

I tried to think whether I could rival this anecdote. No wonder, I’ve always had too much of a sweet tooth.

I grew up in a soup-loving family. One of my dad’s favourite stories to tell is that once when he was a kid, his family went to a restaurant famous for its split pea soup. When the server came around to ask if anyone wanted dessert, my dad ordered another bowl of split pea soup. 

Not funny, but what kids do – unashamedly without regard for convention.

The Disgust or Paradise Soiled

The following is typical of what passes as public policy. Mr Burgess stands up to the mike and makes serious allegations. The matter remains both unsubstantiated and unresolved. The news cycle moves on, and this week it is TikTok, but the Chinese have conveniently removed the tariff on wine, so the Prime Minister, as he does under stress, nervously flicks his tongue when speaking about any issue where he unsure.

The media have established that Burgess meant China, (no speculation on CIA or Mossad or Russian SVR) before its caravan moves on in a cloud of invective – but please not too much; remember the lucrative Beijing wine trail. But then Australia has never abandoned the White Australia policy – so it is convenient to concentrate the xenophobia on those released 149 boat people that are accused of terrorising the streets, raping our blanched citizens and warping our culture of 26 million people. No evidence of such, except being wrongly arrested.

Please do not mention the actual criminals, many of whom were socialised in war torn Beirut, but they are excused. They came by plane bringing their shooting gallery and drug trade with them (and their motor bikes).

The difference is that these wretched boat people have not the money to bribe. That is the real challenge, you bunch of Captain Clubbers, who of course are above bribery.

Mouse Whisper

Over 9,000 women have been killed since the invasion of Gaza. An unknown number of these women were pregnant.

Two Israeli Soldiers were sitting in the rubble of Northern Gaza.

They were comparing the number of innocent women they had killed.

As one said: “I kill pregnant women.”

“Why?” asked the other.

“They are hiding terrorists.” explained the other.

Apocryphal? Maybe. However, read the Israeli apologias for murdering over 30,000 Gazan citizens as if they were all Hamas. Then it is not so apocryphal.

Israel has previously said it has killed about 9,000 Hamas militants, though it has not provided evidence to back up the claim.  (ABC report)

Modest Expectations – Megazoom in my Jeans

My wife always wears a gold pendant round her neck with the head of a leopard. It is neither an heirloom nor some totem warding off the dark spirits. She simply likes it. I bought it for her in South Africa on impulse, but mindful that she is a part time wildlife photographer and has been to Africa on many occasions to do just that – photograph wildlife. She has the eye; she has the skills.

Nevertheless, this is just an entry point into a mention of another pendant that was purchased on a British Airways plane when such facilities were available, and before Alan Joyce introduced strap hanging on his Airbus festooned with images of himself as a pooka. Sorry I must have dozed off.


In this heart-shaped silver pendant was a rose gold sliver of a tiny angel. It was manufactured out of Welsh gold. In my last blog, I discussed the mining of silver in Northumberland. We tend to think of Great Britain minerals in terms of coal and tin – and in the case of Wales, slate.

Here is gold that is Welsh.

Welsh gold has been mined in south Wales since Roman times and more recently, from the mid 19th century onwards until 1939, in Snowdonia in what was more a gold stumble than a rush.

Welsh gold has royal approval. Since Lady Mary Bowes Lyon married the future George VI in 1923, most, if not all, of the prominent royals have had their wedding rings made of Welsh gold. Twice for Charles III!

Not enough to entice my wife to wear her Welsh gold round her neck. She prefers the elegant leopard, one of her favourite Africans.

Dennis Pashen

When I heard Dennis had died, my first reaction was of disbelief. For a guy who epitomised life, this was heresy that Dennis was dead.

Then it sank in and when I heard the circumstances “Yes, that was Dennis, dear impetuous Dennis”.

When I first met Dennis, he had not long left his general practice in Ingham.

I found him somewhat of a shock. There was this bearded bloke with a loud voice confronting me. I don’t remember exactly where, because his manner of greeting never changed even when we became good friends.

In Dennis, I found someone who called it how he saw it. He did not dissemble. He loved company, his role often came across as too overwhelming, but underlying everything there was a caring and generous person. But he was a person always on the go, as though he had to cram as much as possible into his life.

However, although I knew him; there was stuff about him I could not quite understand. Sometimes I detected a hesitancy in his bravado, as though there was an inherent shyness, and he needed a façade to cover this sensitivity. When he was in charge, this innate sensitivity was converted into the leadership quality few of us have, but which made him a good leader because he was very aware of the people around him and their aspirations.

I disagreed with him on a few matters where his enthusiasm verged on the quixotic, but it did not interfere with our friendship.

The most important person in his life was his partner, Vicki Sheedy. She understood his foibles; she provided a degree of tranquillity for him. I remember once visiting him in Mount Isa, when he was in charge of the University Department of Rural Health there. It was a weekend and he was alone with his dog. He was uncharacteristically quiet and it was easy to see he was depressed. That time there was no Vicki; Dennis remained silent despite our trying to cheer him up, and it was an awkward meeting. He would not admit he was missing Vicki, but fortunately he came to terms with his own need.

There were many other meetings, but it is for others to list his achievements, his awards, his employment. Nevertheless, there was one occasion which exemplified our friendship. We were forced to share a motel room in the Queensland outback town of Julia Creek one night. This caused great hilarity among the assembled others.  Of course, in the morning there were mutual accusations of snoring keeping the other awake. Actually, I had slept well.

Dennis was a child of Northern Australia, but with Vicki, he moved to Tasmania, to picturesque Middleton overlooking the D’entrecasteux Channel opposite Bruny Island. Vicki and he looked after his mother, Cleo there until she passed away. Dennis bought a boat; Vicki developed a magnificent garden.

Dennis did not retire. He worked as a general practitioner all over Tasmania, more than just filling in. He was attempting to build a coherent rural medical force. We own a property on the West Coast, and Dennis was often working in Queenstown, and he stayed with us in Strahan on many occasions. But he was always on the go; gone by seven in the morning. The world had to be confronted; to be treated. He was revered on the West Coast.

If Dennis were looking over my shoulder, I’m sure he would have corrected me on some of the things I have just written; but before I could reply he would be off in a plume of car exhaust.

Yes, Dennis, I miss you, dear friend. We all do.

The Forgotten Organ – The Thymus

I found out by accident that one of my cousins had died. Over the years, I hardly saw him. However, there was one year when our paths crossed. It was 1966. He started to become very weak despite being diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a rare chronic autoimmune disease marked by muscular weakness without wasting and caused by a defect in the action of acetylcholine at neuromuscular junctions.

The treatment relies on inhibiting the breakdown of the acetylcholine, which facilitates electrical signals travel between the nerves and muscles. The use of such a drug can reduce muscle weakness, but the tablet needs to be taken several times a day. Normally people with myasthenia which is treated can live normal lives, but in his case the drugs were not seen to be working, the condition was “fulminant”, and he was clearly dying.

It was a time when the investigative tools were not as developed as they are today. But his clinical profile changed, and the cause of the intractable disease was revealed. He developed an acute mediastinal syndrome. His face became suffused.  The veins on his neck stood out. He had some difficulty in breathing. He obviously had a mass in his mediastinum, the potential space between the rib cage and the vital structures in his neck. The mass needed to be removed immediately.

My involvement continued because, as one of the pathology registrars, I was called up to theatre because the senior thoracic surgeon was deep in an operation, and I realised he was operating on my cousin. When I arrived in theatre, I was able to see that the surgeon was removing a large mass from the neck. This was successfully removed.

The thymus

The organ removed proved to be a large thymus. There was no sign of tumour. The pathology finding was confirmed as thymic hyperplasia. The thymus, which is an organ concerned with the integrity of the immune system, generally is vestigial by adulthood. It lies between the upper lobes of the lungs behind the sternum.

The thymus is associated for some unknown reason, when pathologically enlarged or has a tumour, with the kind of fulminant myasthenia gravis my cousin had.  Recent evidence may suggest thymic myoid cells, which are muscle-like cells in the thymic medulla, may trigger the autoimmune response in myasthenia gravis.

My cousin was 24 years of age at the time of the operation, had a difficult post-operative recovery, needed treatment for the rest of his life, but died in September. He was 81 years.

People with myasthenia gravis normally can expect to live a so-called normal length of life. My cousin reached four score plus one, although I note that his death notice stated he died of cancer.  Rest in peace, my cousin – but for those few months in 1966, he was the subject of much medical interest, and ultimately resolution of what would have been a completely avoidable death if he had succumbed then.


I listened to Arthur Sullivan’s Irish Symphony this morning. My wife looked up and said the first movement was pleasant and reminded her of Mendelssohn. By the fourth movement the music was looking for a Gilbert libretto. The music had that bounce, that prance, that unmistakeable sound of Gilbert and Sullivan.

I always remember that my father had the whole Ruddigore score on 78s. It was one of the lesser-known Gilbert and Sullivan scores, and there was a gothic element to it. I think my father liked the overture in particular, but Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were never much to my taste. No doubt Gilbert’s words were clever and contained a harshly comic appraisal of Victorian society. In themselves, the libretti were variably clever, yet they could be overlain by melodrama sketched out on a maudlin Victorian canvas.

Nevertheless, when I was an early teenager, I saw the film about Gilbert and Sullivan, really a forerunner of the Odd Couple genre. Sullivan was a somewhat prissy composer and Gilbert, the wordsmith, whose middle name was Schwenck was so apt. He was a “schwenck”; Robert Morley played Gilbert as himself. It was an effortless performance when you play yourself, as Morley did. I don’t remember the ending being so cringe-worthy. My memory was of Gilbert who outlived Suliivan sitting on a bench, a neutral satisfied pose of reflection, not the ghastly ending of a rebel who had been socially neutered by Victorian mores.

Richard D’Oyly Carte was the catalyst for the Gilbert and Sullivan relationship, which began with the satirical Trial by Jury. I remember this was the first Gilbert and Sullivan operetta I saw. It was paired with another short farce called Cox and Box where the music was Sullivan, but the libretto was by a guy called Burnand.

D’Oyly Carte built the Savoy Theatre in 1881 to house the pair’s works. This was followed by his construction of the Savoy Hotel. In the film D’Oyly Carte was played by Peter Finch. He played the role perfectly, never overtly intruding but adroitly managing an often difficult inter-personal relationship between the two.

I remember for some reason choosing The Savoy Operas as one of my school prizes. I think I was trying to please my father. The prizes given at that time were beautifully bound, but mostly well outside the interests of young boys.

Later in life we came to stay at the Savoy Hotel, spent Christmas one year in a suite overlooking the Thames. The Savoy always had charm.

But there is one idiosyncratic fact about the Savoy Hotel. There is a cul-de-sac and it is the only street in Great Britain where the cars drive on the right hand side. The reason is quaint. By approaching the hotel on the right-hand side of the road, either the chauffeur or the hotel’s doorman was able to open the door without walking around the car. This would allow the lady to alight from the carriage and walk straight into the hotel.

Does Michelin Bullock have the Appropriate Inflationary Characteristics? All Pumped Up, Her Salary on the Rise? 

The Treasurer and the Gov of the RBA promoting the non-inflationary puddin’ bowl haircut

Michele Bullock, who was deputy governor prior to her promotion to the top role last month, earned remuneration totalling $828,313. That sum was almost 12% more than in the previous year when Bullock was an assistant governor for part of the period.

Hardly inflationary? 

A great deal has been said about this bureaucrat, Michele Bullock, who seems to have had a constricted life experience as if she has been incarcerated since graduation in an economic monastic nunnery writing illuminated manuscripts.

She has worked almost continually in the Reserve Bank Closed Order since graduation and has taken a vow of silence to only speak to fellow nuns and monks and to select economists and politicians before retiring back to her comfort cell. She then is well shielded from the harsh reality of a person living on the basic wage, the ultimate inflationary scourge when they hold out the begging bowl and ask for more. Perhaps a few groats here and there for the peasantry, according to her edict, to be rendered toothless and with the standard Reserve Bank “puddin’ bowl haircut”.

Now known as the RBA

Seriously, do we have to endure this person for the next five years?

Dutch Boy with the Ambiguous finger

The Dutch sociologist Hein de Haas is currently Professor of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam, a post he has held since 2015, He has written widely on immigration, and what drives the policies relating to the confusion which it causes so-called liberal democracies.

Liberal democracies face a trilemma of reconciling three distinct aims: the economic need for migrant labour; the political desire to be seen to be controlling immigration; and the moral need to treat migrants and asylum seekers as people with rights and dignities. The seeming impossibility of achieving all three has led governments to pursue an overt policy of being tough on immigration, an often covert policy of increasing net immigration flows and a willingness to sacrifice the rights of migrants and asylum seekers to economic and political needs.

What the obsession with immigration does, De Haas observes, is make it easier to turn questions about social policy and home into a debate about an external threat to the nation. It turns immigrants into scapegoats and allows politicians to absolve themselves of blame, casting themselves as crusaders against that outside foe.”

The above appeared in The Guardian Weekly under the by-line of Kenan Malik on 17 November. 

That is a calm academic analysis of what has been a deplorable spectacle culminating in years of inhibiting the migration of the refugees into this country. I’m not happy with myself for not speaking out earlier. But what would it matter. If one accepts and then appropriately compartments the Aboriginal assertion of having been here since Adam, migration has been a major driver in this country. Sometimes, the Aboriginal people may wish to contemplate why they fled so far from their African origins.

We are all migrants of sorts. Generally, people emigrate because they are looking for a better life.  Australian migration from Europe has been complicated by its birth as a nation of convicts – a British prison for felons, vagabonds, the dross of British society guarded by a band of corrupt soldiers for whom rum was the preferred currency. The fact that some of the early administrators were enlightened was more an accident I suspect, but early white Australia must have been a not only unruly but also a deeply prejudiced society.

Gradually, migration was governed by the conditions in the country of birth. My great-grandfather came to Australia with his family to escapes the Irish potato famine, and my wife’s family to escape Lutheran persecution by the Calvinist Frederick William III of Prussia.

As I said above, people look for a better life.

In 1979 in the mangroves in front of the eponymously named motel in Broome there was an abandoned Vietnamese lugger. Then it was very recognisable being very close to shore and recently arrived. Between 1976 and 1986, 94,000 refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam settled in Australia. About 2,000 arrived by boat. The Australian Government then was very tolerant. I remember writing a piece during this time about the Australian Navy patrolling those waters seeking illegal fishing, with a particular concern for trochus shell – not pursuing asylum seekers.

The climate has changed. Over the years, the xenophobia, a characteristic which was exemplified by The White Australia policy and the fear of the “Yellow Peril” advancing south from Asia, has re-emerged. Among some Australians there is a visceral hatred of the black, the brindle and the yellow. The analysis above by Professor de Haas exemplifies the challenges, which are made worse by the fomenters.

The Fomenters have caused Australia to pay a great amount of questionable money to incarcerate immigrant boat people in New Guinea, Nauru and even Cambodia. I remember that the $40m allegedly paid to Cambodia for one poor sod settled there, unable to speak Cambodian, eking out a living as a street vendor. The amount of money wasted has never been properly investigated; the head bureaucrat who supervised this national disgrace was sacked this week. But corruption was widespread in his Department and in the places where the asylum seeking immigrants were imprisoned.

Head Fomentor

The Head Fomentor, Dutton the ex-copper, still wanders around with his bag of racial hatred and conspiracy.  Remember in 2018 he described African gangs terrorising Melburnians so that they would not go out to restaurants at a time when the level of crime was actually falling across Victoria.

As the SBS responded at the time: “The depiction of Africans as packs or gangs has led to even more profiling and scrutiny of the community. The rising “fears” have since taken a bigoted turn with leaflets displaying pictures of black men being circulated in Melbourne with a call to stop. The language paints African men as uncivilised animals, hunting for their next “victim”.

Now, because the High Court has deemed unlawful the detention of some refugees, Dutton has been at it again, bullying the Parliament to force the detainees on release to have inter alia ankle cuffs and be subject to curfew. Group punishment for a group which may have a few murderers and sex offenders, who could have been treated separately. We have a border force, a Federal Police and numerous security staff. Dutton shows how gutless the politicians are not to stand up to him.

Some with guts should show the same moral integrity shown by some of my generation in seeing White Australia overturned. Stand up to the Fomentors; otherwise beware the disintegration of Australia as a civilised democracy. Extremism is always lurking under de Haas’ trilemma.

Don’t Let the Secret Out!

In 1980, I went to the British Medical Association (BMA) meeting In Newcastle on Tyne, and at the dinner we were regaled by the President of the Irish Medical Association, who gave the usual humorous unmemorable,  Hibernian speech. We dined on Avocat norvegienne, Filets of Sole Veronique with all the trimmings and for dessert Pêche Clarence. I still have the menu, which lacks the wine we drank.

Alistair Cooke

The next year, the BMA ventured to San Diego, as their first meeting overseas. I wished I had gone because Alistair Cooke gave the major address. With his normal droll tone, he is reported to have said to this medical audience: “Sometime in the nineteenth century, a medical degree descended like a small halo, and ever since the ordinary citizen has been secretly dazzled by it. The retention of the serpent as a logo has certainly kept alive the notion of the doctor as the possessor of a strange and subtle wisdom. Cherish and protect this illusion. It has not yet occurred to the layman that doctors – like cab drivers, schoolmasters, politicians and television repairmen – can be very good, indifferent, bad, or downright stupid.”

“Don’t let the secret get out!”

Without Comment

Rabbi Brian Walt

On Nov. 13, Rabbi Brian Walt of West Tisbury was among some 40 rabbis who gathered in front of the US Capitol to pray for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. The rabbis — part of a group called Rabbis for Ceasefire — mourned the 1,200 people killed by the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 and grieved for the approximately 240 Israeli hostages taken by the terrorists. They also mourned the Palestinians, now said to number about 14,000, who have been killed by the Israeli counterattack in Gaza.

Since that day in Washington, Rabbis for Ceasefire has grown in number to about 200. To Walt, that number, while still relatively small, reveals an increasing willingness in the Jewish community to speak out on a highly emotional and divisive topic: “What it shows is that more and more rabbis are feeling they can call for a cease-fire,” he said. From The Boston Globe 

Mouse Whisper 

William Auth was the editorial cartoonist for the Philadelphia Inquirer between 1972 and 2012. This cartoon below was published in the week ending July 4, 1982.

Seem familiar?

Modest Expectations – Peyton Manning

“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.” Matthew 2;16 

The Israeli Army discovered a cache of weapons behind an MRI Machine in the Al-Shifa Hospital. Unless they were plastic, nobody in their right mind would place weapons anyway near an MRI machine. Salting the mine is a well-known trick.


And of course the Israel Defence force would discover a shaft under the hospital, but who dug it? Actually, the shaft opening reminds me of one of those mine shafts in the gem fields of Central Queensland, into which I was once lowered on a makeshift lift, a glorified tin can, to the mineral face. There was a passage leading away. Here the miners were fossicking for sapphires.

Without discovering a shaft, the word “war criminal” comes to mind for Netanyahu and his buddies. Also, the American Intelligence backing the Israeli supposedly provides proof. What proof?  I would have thought that it would be easier to use technology such as the synchronized electromagnetic gradiometer which uses the enhanced conductivity associated with tunnels, as compared to the surrounding medium, to detect the tunnels. I am sure that to terrify children and stomp around a hospital looking for Hamas shadows is much more exciting to the Israeli onlookers dressed in black. Especially if one can incite a shoot-out. Good television – paediatric massacre.

The Washington Post recently reported that in December 2021, Israel’s military said a high-tech upgrade to the barrier that had long surrounded the Gaza Strip would protect nearby Israeli residents from the threat of violence from militants. It cost a billion US dollars. The Hamas have shown how vulnerable the wall was, while at the same time catching the Israeli defence forces napping.

I have written enough. I am sick of the apologias for this Israeli pogrom; the attempt to intellectualise what is just murder of thousands of children and keep invoking the destruction of Hamas being the ultimate aim whereas it was, as I speculated earlier, the genocide of the whole Gazans. What does the arithmetic of hostage mean. The damage has been done. Shame on all of us!

Gorse, I’m Right

It is a wonder the Tasmanian Government in all their gallows humour has not replaced the Tasmanian blue gum with gorse as its floral emblem, since the onward march of this yellow Caledonian curse across the landscape seems to be unstoppable. Tasmania has tried a number of methods of eradication. One has been burning but burning gorse just helps germinate the seed and accelerate the spread, while leaving an unsightly blackened scene.

Irish women may have used gorse to make a yellow dye similar to saffron from its flowers, but that is of little consolation to us Australians. Gorse presence greatly reduces land value. The plant is unpalatable to cattle and sheep. Horses will eat new growth while goats will eat mature plants. Gorse is a significant haven for vermin. There is a range of herbicides but they are costly and must be applied with a degree of skill. I cannot believe that such skill being applied at regular intervals of time along the road from Zeehan to Strahan where the gorse is advancing and has reached the Henty River would not arrest the advance. This is the land of temperate rain forest, where sections still remain pristine, but for not much longer unless the Government fights the yellow peril.

The solution is to have a permanent flock of goats. Goats are everywhere in Australia, and it has been shown that feral goats can become trained as a useful flock when it comes to eating gorse. The comment that once the goats are removed, the gorse returns has a simple solution – keep on with the goats. The missing part is government funding for the goatherds, and of course the goats. Of gorse!

We live on a Planet with a Volcanic Temper

If nothing else, the past few days have brought home a stark reality: The sleeping giant is very much awake. A network of volcanic fissures extends right into the suburbs of Reykjavík. What this bodes, no one knows. One thing is certain: The forces shaking my kitchen, shaking the foundations of so many small and brittle lives, are far beyond our control. – Aldo Sigmundsdottir, The Washington Post

Iceland is up to its old tricks again. Iceland, despite is name, does not intrude across the Arctic circle and although one correspondent diminished Grindavik as nothing more than an undistinguished fishing village, volcanic activity excites everybody. In any event magma building up beneath Iceland may break through the surface into a volcanic eruption, sending lava flows toward the Blue Lagoon, the Svartsengi geothermal power plant, as well as Grindavík.  But it seems to be spreading across the whole Reykjavík Peninsula.

Blue Lagoon

Having enjoyed the intensely pale blue lagoon with steam rising into the air, I realise that, located where it was in a cooled lava field, it is inevitable its existence will be threatened at some point when the Earth decides to move. This area has lain dormant for 800 years, but the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, a volcano completely covered by an ice cap in 2010, caused no loss of life but considerable inconvenience for planes with its dense high ash plume rising to nine kilometres into the atmosphere.

Years later, it resumed a less active state so I could drive around it on my way south; its recent activity was denoted by a wisp of smoke.

I have written extensively in an earlier blog about my visit to Iceland in 2013. Now, hearing that the Blue Lagoon is in danger, it would be a great pity if such a beautiful tourist attraction is destroyed by the lava flow, but that is how Nature functions.

The pink and white terraces

I have always been fascinated by the descriptions of the Pink and White terraces – these natural silica terraces beside Lake Rotomahana, where Victorian New Zealanders would come to bathe in the silica rich waters. The description of them always emphasised not only their beauty, but their uniqueness – some called them the eighth wonder of the World. Unfortunately, in 1886, Mount Tarawera erupted and destroyed the Terraces. Yet one is not allowed to accuse Nature of vandalism!

The other area which I know well is the Western District of Victoria. This area of Victoria was home to at least 400 short-lived basaltic volcanoes that erupted in geologically recent times (last 4.5 million years ago). Iceland by comparison has 33 active volcanos.

The largest of the Victorian volcanos is known as Tower Hill, which remains as a caldera, through which one can drive. On its sides are very rich basalt soils, in which potatoes are grown by the Koroit community under the extinct volcano. The past intense volcanic activity is also indicated by the stony rises and progressive movement of basalt rock to the Southern Ocean, on the shores of which blocks of basalt remain as sentinel of past volcanic activity. In that time, Western Victoria must have resembled one representation of Dante’s Inferno.

Putting it all in perspective, around the planet there have been 30 major volcanic eruptions this century at the rate of about one a year. The biggest volcanic eruption was Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai near Tonga in 2022. This had the same volcano eruption index (VEI) of 5 – the same power – as the Vesuvial eruption of BCE 79 which destroyed Pompeii. The only other comparable volcanic eruption (also measuring 5) was in the Southern Chilean Andes, the Cordon Caulle. This happened in 2011. The ash cloud reached as far as Melbourne, but there were no known casualties.

Those which caused the greatest loss of life were one in Guatemala and the other Anak Krakatoa in the Sunda Strait, which exploded leaving a caldera and a massive tidal wave which affected both Java and Sumatra.

On each occasion about 500 people were killed, with many more injured, with associated destruction of infrastructure.

Volcanic eruptions always attract attention, but when it is in Iceland, they always seem to occupy central stage.


I have never written about one of the most fascinating places we stayed some years ago. This was Blanchland Village, nestling under the Northern Pennines. It can be succinctly described as this: Blanchland is a village on the Northumberland/County Durham border which grew out of the foundation of an abbey in 1165. It was bought by the Bishop of Durham, Nathaniel Lord Crewe, in 1708 and on his death in 1721 Blanchland became part of a charitable trust established in his will. Here we stayed in what has been described as one of the prettiest villages in England. I thought the stone buildings drab, but we were lodged in a very comfortable apartment opposite the main accommodation at the Lord Crewe Hotel. The hotel we remember had a massive fireplace and it was where we ate most meals. Kippers were on the menu – I love them, but others don’t.

Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland

I learnt that Earl Grey Tea originally came from Northumberland and being already the tea I mostly drank, it was interesting to find its wellspring.

The other traditional drink which always seems to be associated with mediaeval retreats is mead. Cider yes, perry yes; mead definite no!

We hiked up the hill every morning. Here there were the heather-covered moors of these Northern Pennines. We came across the remains of the ancient silver mine. As reported, silver was being extracted from North Pennine ores on a significant scale during the medieval period, as was lead. Throughout many centuries of mining activity, a constant by-product of the processing and smelting of lead ores was silver.

From the report, it is further estimated that the mines produced a total of over two million ounces of silver between 1130 and 1200 here near Blanchland. As such this was an important mine for silver in the medieval period. It is considered that the minting of this silver may have contributed to a doubling of English silver currency between 1158 and 1180. However, it seems certain that this was a time when mining expanded rapidly within the ore field and was then the most productive source of mined silver in England.

In one corner there was a small dell which had been cordoned off to protect the remnant of an ancient wood. It was one of those leafy areas which you imagine form the backgrounds in multiple children’s books. The problem with the maintenance of such areas is that they are incompatible with sheep farming which is allowed on the moor.

We were lucky to be on the moors in summer, but even then it is desolate, although I enjoy the openness of the various moors and the selective isolation. What I mean by that is it is great to be able to walk the moors in summer with the aim of getting to know oneself; but try winter, slogging through the snow while composing soliloquys for one’s isolated lost soul. Not quite the same.

We were staying at the foot of the moors, and one of the days, I remember trudging up the hill and encountering a farmer who was backing his tractor onto the track. For some reason, we got talking and he revealed that he had invented the green plastic method of wrapping and waterproofing the large round bales of hay. It is interesting that small advances in the human condition remain in the brain.

Blanchland was one of those villages which, until you stop to look around and find the unusual, you may just remark that it was pretty. But its history tells otherwise that it is not just a pretty facade.

It’s a Long Way from Darjeeling

You can never count one’s number of buffaloes until they are captured. I thought it to be relevant adaption to the sub-continent of the old adage about counting chickens before they are hatched.

Cricket’s World Cup is the four-year tournament attracting the best ten teams from around the planet to play each other in the 50 overs a side match. This means a drawn-out spectacle with matches held all over India on this occasion. The Indian side were unbeaten coming into the final, which was scheduled to be held in Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat state whence Modi emerged. The stadium holds 132,000 people and is the largest in the World. The Indians were leaving nothing to chance as the curator would have had the opportunity to make a pitch friendly to the hosts. Umpires may be neutral, but curators are not.

But they lost – no, not beaten by a better team; India choked. Really?

This country always has high expectations of our sporting teams, but when they fail, the tall poppy syndrome kicks in. The higher the expectation, the intensity of the tall poppy syndrome when the particular team or individual fails.

Now the Australian cricket team has reached its zenith. Zeniths are generally not plateaux; but Australian cricket has shown remarkable ability to do just that.

Australians have had tough relentless cricket captains since Kim Hughes’ term ended in blubbering. That image was understandable given the times, but from Alan Border on, the Australian team was often ugly, graceless in maintaining its superiority until Steve Smith’s tearful response to cheating and being found out in South Africa.

Tim Paine, for an excellent underrated wicketkeeper, did the best he could. However, Pat Cummins, the current captain and a great fast bowler who can bat, has shown a resilience and yet a sense of fair play. When the Poms accused the Australians of cheating when they had had enough of the sly Bairstow and ran him out, Pat Cummins weathered the storm. His resilience was sorely tested, but with his unfailing smile, often steely, he represents the myth of the traditional Australian.

How he handles his retirement will confirm that myth, not that I believe that is tomorrow, even though fast bowling is not the most natural use of one’s body. Nevertheless, enjoy the unexpected win; even Modi, who was watching the loss, waved in acknowledgement to the Australians despite his stony expression.

Mouse Whisper

You would think a mouse would warm to hip-hop, but I’m inclined to agree with the sarcastic comment about this art form “Promoting drug dealing and degrading women. Good stuff.”

It was invented, if that is the word, in the Bronx in 1973 – 1520 Sedgewick Avenue to be precise, when some dude call D J Cool Herc, started syncopated chanting to the kids dancing at his sister’s break up party while scratching and otherwise mutilating the record. The chanting was called “rapping”. Thus, the egg was cracked and this reptilian music emerged.

Some hip-hop enthusiast in Boston forsees 2024 as “a rap scene full of more elite talent, star power, and diversity than ever before, whether we’re talking about Bia, Cousin Stizz, Oompa, Termanology, Dutch ReBelle, Millyz, Latrell James, STL GLD, Cliff Notez, Najee Janey, Avenue, Bori Rock, Brandie Blayze, Red Shaydez, or Van Buren.”

Bewdy! Lots of “Z’s”. Can’t wait.

Cool Herc’s party flyer
























Modest Expectations – On the Seventh Day

Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all men. 

Pope Benedict XVI

Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.  Good Friday Prayer sanctioned by Benedict XVI.

I always impose a riddle when I construct each of my blogs trying not to repeat myself, and I prepare them months before they appear. This riddle was formulated in September. Therefore “On the Seventh Day” was a play on the Six Day War. There was an irony underlying the aftermath of the Six Day War. The seventh day was a day of rest traditionally for us Christians. So, its use is just coincidence with the assault on Israelis by the Hamas. Yet if it had not been this War, the title would have little relevance.

But not being a creationist, I do not believe that God worked on such an earthly timetable; the title of this blog was a metaphor for UN Resolution 242, which called for:

  • The establishment of a “just and lasting peace in the Middle East” with implied mutual recognition.
  • Israeli withdrawal “from territories occupied” during the war
  • The right of all states – including Israel – to live in peace within “secure and recognized boundaries” that includes “guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every state.”
  • “A just settlement of the refugee problem.”

In other words – Resolution 242, the seventh day metaphor.

This followed the Six-Day War, where Israel destroyed an Arab attempt to take over Israel. To avoid accusations of bias, I quote a Jewish narrative: The tensions and incidents leading up to the Six-Day War were highlighted by repeated calls by Arab leaders for the destruction of Israel, Egypt blockading an international shipping lane and the decision by the UN to cave in to Egyptian demands to remove international peacekeeping troops from the Sinai with a subsequent massive military build-up on the Israeli border.

With Arab armies massing on its borders and Arab leaders threatening genocide, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on June 5, 1967. Six days later the war ended with Israel having captured the Golan Heights, the west bank of the Jordan River, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.

With the Arabs having suffered a crushing defeat, the Arab League met in September and issued the Khartoum Resolution with the infamous “Three Noes” in which the Arab League declared “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.

During the period since independence, the Zionists were as ruthless towards their neighbours and those whose lands they expropriated as the Arabs had been in the years leading up to the Six Day War. This hatred has been institutionalised on both sides, except for brief periods.

The UN Security Council Resolution 242 was adopted on November 22, 1967 and with it the hope for eventual peace between Israel and the Arabs. The resolution was followed by a UN peace mission lead by Swedish diplomat Gunnar Jarring to try and implement 242. His efforts culminated with a peace proposal presented in 1971, but failure to agree on how to implement it was finally shattered when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur in 1973 – the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is not a coincidence that the Hamas launched their attack on a Jewish holiday, Shemini Atzeret.

In 1988 the PLO accepted Resolution 242 in its declaration of independence. The word “Palestinian” was not used in Resolution 242. At the time the PLO did not explicitly recognize Israel nor call for a peace treaty nor a two-state solution, but instead accused Israel of seeking the “extermination of the Palestinian people.”  Yet in 1993, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accords.

Israel has set up a technocratic country with the outward appearance of a European democracy. I am aware of a Voltaire comment. Voltaire said that he wondered whether Prussia was an army with a state rather than a state with an army. The basis of this comment was that Prussia was surrounded by hostile forces, whose foreign policy was to destroy this emerging European power. Prussia did not have the overwhelming support of an external power, as Israel has with the US. Yet the words of Voltaire seem very relevant today.

As I have foreshadowed, what will Netanyahu do after levelling Gaza in his search for what is apparently a very highly technically advanced tunnel system under Gaza, leaving a passel of Hamas fighters very protected, while ensuring with the blessing of the USA that every Gazan is killed, including the systematic killing of children. Netanyahu seems to be emulating a version of what the Romans did to Carthage, sowing the land with salt; Netanyahu is creating mountains of rubble. How is Netanyahu going to delight his far-right constituency enshrouded in black and hatred as they do their ritual prancing. I for one was not particularly enchanted by the sight of these people spitting at Christians. What a good idea, kill every Palestinian Christian as well.

I do not condone war. I do not condone brutality. I do not condone torture. I am ashamed of former Australian Prime Ministers being seduced by the Zionists to sign a Netanyahu panegyric. At least Gillard should have known better.  Paul Keating to his credit refused.

In many ways the USA has led the modern world, including Australia into a morass where any moral compass has been lost. In any comments, nobody would condone what Hamas did, any more than actions depicted in those confronting images provided by ISIS showing what they did to their prisoners during the Iraq conflict would be condoned.

Much of this criminal behaviour is done in the name of religion. My fellow Australians condone what is happening in Gaza by a group of adherents who constitute 0.4 per cent of our population, who seem collectively to be cheering one of the monstrous perpetrators in this morass, Bibi Netanyahu. We with connivance of the media have allowed a range of stunted sociopaths to glimmer in this morass trickling towards Armageddon.

I doubt if anyone is listening to Benedict, but his prayer at least was not written by the Zionists.

White Jews of Kerala

I first went to Kerala at the end of 1983. I had watched a Malcolm Muggeridge documentary about India. He inspired my desire to go to India, and particularly to sit in the Viceroy’s Chair in Simla, the hill station for Britons fleeing the Delhi heat in summer. Simla is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. That was one action of his that I did not achieve.  I went to Simla in the middle of winter and that was a remarkable trip to Himachal Pradesh from New Delhi.

Muggeridge created another image of India. He stood on a beach in Southern India, which he identified as Kerala. I had never associated palm trees and sandy beaches with India. This only served to confirm my intention to go and stand on a beach in Kerala with arms outstretched in the seductive atmosphere of Southern India as Muggeridge had done. My eventual stint turned out to be a month when I travelled the length of India. When I had landed in Bombay, as it was then called, I wondered why I was there. By the end of that month, I knew!

Paradesi Synagogue, Cochin

Beaches were not the other reason to attract one to Kerala, a state with a significant Christian population that votes Communist. It is its diversity. I had heard that there was a Jewish community in Cochin, called the White Jews of Kerala. Along a narrow street, to which we had been directed, there was a nondescript building. Behind the façade was the Paradesi Synagogue, which had been constructed in the 16th century by a group of Sephardic Jews who had come from Portugal. There had been a group of Jews there before. These were named Black Jews, the origin being more problematical and whom the “invading” White Jews prohibited from becoming full members of the White Jew synagogue.

When we visited the synagogue, there was an old man who acted as the caretaker. A White Jew – he frankly did not have any distinguishing features from those of any other South Indian I had met. He remembered a rabbi, but that was long ago. Still, he said that the White Jews had a minyan – just. Most of the White Jews had left – gone to Israel. He was old, as were those who stayed, and he recognised clearly that soon there would be no more White Jews. He showed us the synagogue, which had been well kept. He told us not to take photographs but sold us a postcard.

This showed the image which fixed our gaze when we had sat on one of the benches – a golden image of the raised platform where the service is led and where the Torah is read, being freestanding and roughly situated in the middle of the sanctuary and the ark (called the hekhal by Sephardim). The hekhals are essentially cabinets or armoires storing the sefer Torahs along the wall that is closest to Jerusalem.

There was a ner tamid or oil lamp hanging in front of the Ark; the tables of the Law surmount it. The seven-branched candlestick, the menorah, was placed at the side. It was only the second time I had been in a synagogue, although I have had many Jewish colleagues.

When I went back to the Paradesi synagogue years later, the White Jews were no more and the synagogue was now a tourist attraction, which one had to pay to enter. I did not want to see the relic of a vibrant religious community. I reflected how I had been privileged, meeting one of the last White Jews in a working synagogue.

In the Fast Lane

Some years ago, I did a regular locum for a couple of Polish doctors. They were Jewish, and he was in the Polish army during World War 2.  He had not been recognised as a Jew. He thus avoided being sent to a concentration camp. However, that did not exempt him from brutality by the guards in his POW camp, and he was never keen on Latvians, but that is another story. Anyway, as he recounted to me, one day in the prison camp he was deprived of any food and drink. He said that he was able to find out the date. It was Yom Kippur.

A Lesion in Brevity

For several years, I have been playing around with the challenge of writing a short story in less than 500 words. I intended writing a quintet as I had done for the Kimberley, and car accidents. The first drew their inspiration from my trip round the Kimberley in 1979, but my five short stories were hardly Ion Idriess; the second quintet I wrote after I had a nasty car accident driving near Shepparton on a cold rainy winter’s night in 1981; and the third on episodes tied into religion. As with the other sets, it was supposed to contain five short stories, but along the religion trail, I had run out of inspiration.

Thus, I just embellished a visit I had made.

When visiting the Cathedral of Notre Dame located in the city of Lausanne, a Roman Catholic Church confiscated by the local Evangelical Church – a Calvinist offshoot, I saw an exercise in flamboyant religiosity, which I translated into the 370 word narrative below which I entitled: Oblivia – A short play with words:

For her she had come for Inspiration. 

She, the lady in the crimson turban and gathered pleats threw up her arms and then prostrated herself before the altar.  It was a small stage, there were no saints alive in the rose window above her.  A window held true to its 13th century countenance as sketched by Villard de Honnecourt; as constructed by Pierre d’Arras.  An Imago mundi which Oliver Cromwell would never have countenanced in the Protestant acquisition had he been allowed to get out of his Albion cage.  So he would not have she decided.

A vague thought, but not “nouvelle”.

She did not see her companion fall down, striking his head on the stone floor.  It was academic whether the fall preceded the fit; or not.

She did not hear the head strike the floor. 

She remained prostrate.  Precisely on the stroke of the 120 “cat-and-dogs” mantra, she raised herself to a kneeling position and carefully flicked the crucifix from the pleats.

Her companion was bleeding from the right ear – unseeing eyes beneath increasingly blue-tinged eyelids – body quivering in the throes of grand mal epilepsy.  Body askew on two levels.  The head on the step – the body across the flag stones.  Not particularly good for maintaining the airway.

The earplugs in her ears as she listened to the Tallis motet Spem in allium made communication difficult, especially as the videte miraculum had just commenced.

Her companion was dusky and his sounds were of one choking. 

She crossed herself – an extravagant flourish considering the Calvinist surroundings – stood up only to genuflect – then plunged into a kneeling position, head upturned towards the Inspiration.

The workers fixing the heating system in the Grand Bay of the Cathedral had dropped their tools and run the length of the nave to the fallen person.  One rolled her companion over; another had run back to where the mobile phone had been left and called the ambulance.  One worker was wrestling with the airway; could the colour be reversed?  Another had fingers on the radial pulse.  The fitting had stopped; the eyes remained without recognition. The light filtering down from the rose window elicited no response. 

For him, he was left with no Inspiration.

OK, this was a serious literary conceit.  This past year I was challenged to write a short story in 100 words where you get 10 per cent leeway – thus 110 words max. I responded with an anecdote (micro-story) derived from my childhood entitled “Green to Red”.

The aunt’s villa had a long corridor. On the left side people lived; on the right, the doors were locked. One day the small boy found one door unlocked. He peeped in and saw a mass of green-inked paper. 

The hand on the shoulder. She hissed: don’t go in, there are carpet pythons.

He pulled back, scared. 

Years later he learnt there were no carpet pythons, never had been; but why wasn’t he allowed to go into that room? 

He went back to the villa, now empty. Doors were locked, except one. The paper was still there, but red-inked.  

He felt something on his shoulder. It hissed in his ear.
A resident carpet python

Excluding the title, the above narrative hits 110 words. Bit like 20-over cricket in reforming the classic short story which often dribbles on to being a short novel. Yes, the title of the segment is “lesion” – only one letter and one vowel eliminated away from “lesson”.

The Next Governor General

A few blogs ago, I suggested that the next Governor General should be an Aboriginal person. My vote would be for Tanya Denning Orman, described as a Birri (Queensland Channel Country) and Guugu Yimidhirr (Cooktown) woman from Central and North Queensland. She is vibrant – a person of the emerging generation who, in a five year tenure in Yarralumla, could do what the recent referendum failed to do. She could become a face of her people not only worrying over a Terra Cotta redress, but giving a vital interpretation of what it is to be an Australian, a true exemplar of hybrid vigour.

Another worthy contender is Narelda Jacobs OAM, a Whadjuk Noongar woman who is a journalist and presenter on SBS. As has been said about her, she is someone who really understands the responsibility that comes with being seen. Neralda’s mother was a northern Irish immigrant and the founder of the first Noongar Church in Perth; her father was a Whadjuk Noongar man and a pastor who taught his five mixed race daughters that they “belonged anywhere”.

The suggestion has been made that Linda Burney should replace the current incumbent, the strange serviceman with the tinkling wife, and restore some relevance to the post of Governor-General is a firm “no”.

In my lifetime, the value of the post has been reflected by the individual’s ability. Ninian Stephens, William Deane, Bill Hayden were all great men. Quentin Bryce – the first woman to be appointed Governor-General, with whom I once clashed in a medical ethics forum in my only encounter – I grudgingly admire although I’m unsure of her legacy.

If it is true that the Government is seriously considering Linda Burney for the role, it would be a grave mistake at a time when the Aboriginal people need a different role model to lead their cause. Linda Burney, as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, showed how inadequate she was during the Referendum campaign. She needed to do a lot more than sloganize. Now is the time for strong leadership, especially given the reaction of the Australian community to the referendum.

Let’s face it, giving her a five-year retirement package would be to miss an opportunity, but given the way the NSW Branch of the Labor Party functions it would be its classic Lilliputian way of doing anything.

Rumours are that Burney has a heart condition, which added to her other shortcomings, would not augur well for what should be a positive contribution to the future of the Aboriginal people, especially given the reaction of the Australian community.

Assuming the Burney becomes a non-runner, it is then time for the next Governor-General to take a leaf out of the Nelson Mandela workbook, rather than that of Malcolm X. I have advanced two names; but those who could select these or any other young Aboriginal women should realise the opportunity that must not be missed.

Mouse Whisper

When you people believe Netanyahu is out to exterminate every Gazan, you realise us mice are liable to be collateral damage, especially when you belong to a species of mice found only in Gaza.

I did not know about them until one of them left his mouse pad out. They are a sept of us house mice discovered by human scientists about 15 years ago in Gaza. These mice are distinguished from other mice by their light and dark brown colour with white big patches on the fur. The new subspecies was named “Muscles” Gazaensis. Presumably to survive they will follow the Hamas into the tunnels, but unsurprisingly we have not heard from them lately. However, we mice have strong survival instincts.


Modest Expectations – My God, not Des Clarke’s Son

There is one thing about the configuration of hotel/motel rooms. Much is made of the fact that “accessible” rooms are routinely part of a hotel’s room complement – but what does this really mean? When people think of disabled, they recognise that the signage for disability is the wheelchair. However, there is another level of disability which, on occasions, may require a wheelchair – it now tends to be described as “ambulant”, although that seems to only apply to bathroom doors.  When I need a wheelchair, I use one that can be borrowed. This is sufficient. I can manage on two sticks, even with my balance problems.

But back to those accessible rooms. Bathroom/toilet facilities need to be user friendly. Wheelchair friendly facilities must have sufficient space and most disabled facilities recognise the need to eliminate steps.  Nevertheless, many of these are not appropriately designed for the disabled who use sticks or crutches unless there are sufficient railings to assist navigating a wet floor, where sticks are liable to slip as one tries to walk on the cracks between the tiles to avoid sliding The criteria for accessible rooms definitely need to include non-slip-when-wet tiles.

What is also not factored in are the beds, which need to provide a safe place to site and reasonable ability to get out the bed. I use carer help, or else a chair located next to the bed to wrestle myself up. The mechanics are deceptively simple to assist sitting up and swinging legs over. The height of the bed should be related to the height of the person so ideally the height should be adjustable, particularly as modern beds seem designed for an accompanying ladder. The modern hospital may be the template. Hospital beds have a feature that makes them more appropriate, high-low functionality. The user can raise and lower the bed vertically, making a hospital bed ideal for people like myself, who need more assistance when getting in or out of bed.

The other issue is the inappropriateness of the chairs provided in most hotel/motel rooms – often rickety hard backed chairs or ludicrously low armchairs. Even rooms that purport to have a work desk rarely have a suitable chair on wheels. From my point of view, a decent office chair makes life much easier and I suspect for others, avoiding having to push a normal chair back and forth from a desk would be welcome.

It may be said that I am speaking from the viewpoint of a rara avis, but does anyone know? An ideal disabled room should incorporate some of the suggestions discussed above, and it would be useful to convene a working party to set the standard.

Considerations of Some Matters

Some years ago, we visited the first ghetto in the world which is located in Venice. When it was constructed to house the city’s Jews, the gates were locked at night, emphasising its quasi-prison conditions. The ghetto is far from the centre of Venice. Apart from a gaggle of Chinese tourists, the ghetto square was empty save for a Jewish family enjoying the balmy sunny day, sitting under a tree. The only jarring note was the bulletproof door to The Holocaust Museum. We did not go in. I had seen the gruesome museum in the old Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. One Holocaust Museum is enough. Pity, the Israeli government seems not to have seen it lately.

In any event we had eaten a delightful kosher lunch marred by the officious surliness of the staff. Quite obviously, non-Jews were not particularly welcome, even if we did have an inkling of the food taboos.

Reflecting on that I wonder when the world will be able to bask on the shores of the Gaza Riviera. Maybe without gates to lock the Israelis out.

The above were just a few introductory thoughts if you wish to read on.

Avraham Stern – who split from the Irgun to form the Lehi (also known as Stern Gang) in 1940 – had suggested securing support from the Third Reich.

Haaretz adds that Lehi representatives met with an official from the German Foreign Ministry in Beirut at the end of 1940.

“The establishment of the historical Jewish state on a totalitarian national basis, in an alliance relationship with the German Reich, is compatible with the preservation of German power,” the newspaper cites the Israeli document as saying. The Cradle, June 2023 (a journalist-driven American publication founded in 2021 covering “West Asia voices not heard in the world’s English-language media. That’s not the only differentiator. Not owned by any donors, and so they have no say over what is written or not.”)

Q: True or False? 

On April 19, 1943, the Warsaw ghetto uprising began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants. About 700 young Jewish fighters fought the heavily armed and well-trained Germans. The ghetto fighters were able to hold out for nearly a month, but on May 16, 1943, the revolt ended. The Germans had slowly crushed the resistance. 

The SS and police captured approximately 42,000 Warsaw ghetto survivors during the uprising. They sent these people to forced labor camps and the Majdanek concentration camps. The SS and police sent another 7,000 people to the Treblinka killing center. At least 7,000 Jews died while fighting or in hiding in the ghetto. Only a few of the resistance fighters succeeded in escaping from the ghetto. – Holocaust Encyclopaedia.

Q: Tell me why the current Gaza situation is different from Warsaw?

The attendees hadn’t expected a policy shift from the meeting, according to the accounts, but felt confident that their concerns would be conveyed to Biden, to be taken into consideration in his public remarks about Palestinians. Two days later, the President made the comments questioning the accuracy of Palestinian casualties at a time when Arabic-language TV channels were showing nonstop footage of lifeless, dust-covered children being pulled from the rubble after Israeli strikes. –Washington Post

Could someone tell me why Israelis are viewed as more truthful than the Palestinians?

The Venetian Ghetto was the first ghetto instituted in 1516 by decree of the then Doge Leonardo Loredan and the Venetian Senate. It would be ironic if, by his actions in Gaza, Netanyahu emulates the Doge, albeit for a different reason, reviving the ghetto so that every Jew, whether Zionist or not, is worldwide forced to live in armed enclaves for their own protection.

When the Gunman Comes to Town

The following is from the Boston Globe response to an edited account of the mass shooting in Maine. I have spent some glorious times in Maine, although I have never been to Lewiston as far as I can remember.

Mass shootings are a rarity in Australia although I well remember the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 when 35 people were killed. I was one of the few who saw the police film of the horrific aftermath, a coloured grainy film. It was a time when I had just stepped down as President of the Australasian Faculty of Public Medicine, and my successor strongly supported our Prime Minister’s response, which inter alia resulted in banning semi-automatic and pump action shotguns, without good reason. While there were concessions to the rural lobby, there were restrictions which, despite some high-profile shootings since, have seen deaths due to firearms decrease.

Nevertheless, what is interesting about this Boston Globe article is the description of the emergency medical response, given most of the shooting victims were dead. Those injured are not as newsworthy, given the concentration on the event and the number dead. How much of the response of Maine health professionals is applicable to the Australian situation?

Dr. Sheldon Stevenson was at home hosting 10 fellow emergency physicians when the call came in Wednesday night around 7:30. Colleagues at his hospital, Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, were resuscitating a gunshot victim. More were on the way.

Stevenson, the hospital’s chief of emergency medicine, had been expecting this call to come one day; mass shootings had grown far too common.

With scarcely a word, the doctors stood up and decided who would stay behind and take over for the others the next morning. The rest sped the roughly 35 miles from his Portland home to the hospital.

Meanwhile, chief executive Steven G. Littleson and chief nursing officer Kris Chaisson had already fielded similar calls. There was an active shooter, and the local emergency dispatch center had activated “code triage,” alerting everyone at the medical center that a disaster was unfolding.

As the hospital braced for what would prove to be its worst disaster ever, the staff knew what they had to do, but knew little of what they might face. Ambulance crews were reporting possibly 15 to 20 victims from two shooting sites. But the gunman was at large, and there was talk of as many as five or six additional sites, possibly waves of patients streaming in all night.

Alerted by the code triage, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, support personnel, about 20 to 30 people in all, assembled in the ER within minutes. As word spread throughout the medical community, the emergency room filled with 100 people ready to help. Blood supplies arrived from other hospitals. Five helicopters were parked outside, ready to transport victims across the region.

The first gunshot patient arrived at 7:24 p.m. Thirteen more would stream in over the next 45 minutes — many more severely injured patients than the hospital had ever seen at once.

By the time Chaisson, the nursing chief, got to the emergency department, four shooting victims were being assessed in the trauma bays and the ER was filled with “a sea of people.”

“It was an organized chaos,” she said. “There were so many people but they knew exactly what they needed to get done … It was like a work of magic.”

Littleson, the CEO role would coordinate everything that happened next. The hospital was full Wednesday night, its 170 beds occupied, and the emergency room was already busy with the usual crush of 25 to 30 sick patients, including some who were waiting for beds. The staff would have to somehow make room for an untold number of casualties. Patients were moved into holding areas and other available spaces.

“We knew that the patients coming out of the operating room would need critical care. We had to mobilize some of our less critical care patients to other floors, to free up the ICU to take care of these patients,” Chaisson said.

Nine gunshot victims went swiftly to operating rooms — their awful wounds an urgent and obvious diagnosis. Privacy rules prevent a discussion of individual injuries, but Dr. John Alexander, the chief medical officer, named the types of surgeons who worked on them to give an idea: four trauma surgeons, four orthopedic surgeons, a vascular surgeon, a cardiothoracic surgeon, and a urologist.

Stevenson, the emergency chief, said the hospital treats gunshot wounds at least every month. But typically they are from handguns and hunting rifles, involving a single bullet wound.

The wounds he saw this time were an order of magnitude more severe, because the automatic weapon the shooter used sprays people with multiple bullets and shrapnel that rips the flesh. “They’re devastating wounds. Lots of soft tissue injuries, vascular injuries,” he said.

Because patients had been rushed to the hospital, and then into surgery, some were still unidentified two hours later. “That was a very difficult time for the families and for us as well,” he said, but eventually family members were brought inside and the patients identified.

In all, 15 gunshot casualties were taken to hospitals: 14 to Central Maine, and one to St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, also in Lewiston.

Central Maine discharged two less severely injured patients after treatment on Wednesday night. Another patient was transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland because the Lewiston hospital didn’t have enough operating rooms. Two died in the emergency department, and one died after surgery at Central Maine.

On Thursday, one surgical patient was discharged to home and another was transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital because of the nature of his injuries. The patients cared for at St. Mary’s and Maine Medical Center were also discharged. Late Friday two more patients were discharged from Central Maine.

That means that, of the 12 injured survivors, five remained hospitalized on Saturday — four at Central Maine (three of them in critical condition) and one in stable condition at Mass General. Staff members had prepared for such an emergency many times, in drills and exercises. Just a month earlier, they’d done a tabletop simulation involving mass casualties.

“People have assigned roles,” said Alexander, who is an emergency physician. “They understood what their roles were. They stepped into those roles and they acted accordingly. They are just incredibly heroic.”

Once it became clear there were no more gunshot patients, the challenge was convincing day-shift nurses to go home, because they would be needed the next day. They took comfort huddling with their teams, and feared leaving the hospital.

“We had to almost push them: ‘You’re still safe. … Let’s get a security escort to your car and let’s try and get you home. You’re safe at home.’”

The next day the hospital was eerily quiet. With the shelter-in-place order in effect, the hospital cancelled surgeries and the emergency room saw just 35 patients all day, compared with 120 on a typical day. By Friday, as the hospital resumed normal operation, clinicians and workers who had been stunned and shocked started processing what had happened. Counsellors were made available throughout the hospital.

“Their training and their skills take over during the event. Emotions and feelings take over afterward,” Littleson said. “The grieving process will now unfold over the next couple of weeks. In some respects, the hard part has just begun.”

Littleson, who used to work at a hospital in New Jersey not far from Manhattan, recalls preparing to receive an influx of patients on 9/11. None arrived because there were so few survivors.

He thought of that when he realized that in Wednesday’s mass shooting, the 18 dead outnumbered the 12 injured survivors.

“The tragedy of this event,” Littleson said, “is that there weren’t more patients to care for.”

I think I know what he meant, but it could have been better said.

It’s Just Dust

When you actually successfully regulate something, so that nobody sees it anymore, your very success is the thing that causes it to emerge again. Because it’s just lost in people’s minds.” Dr Frances Kinnear 

Bernie Banton

Who remembers Bernie Banton? Do you remember David Martin? What did they have in common. They both died of asbestos-induced disease. One, Bernie Banton worked for the industry villain in asbestos – James Hardie – in the 1960s and 1970s.

David Martin

The other was a naval officer who was Governor of NSW until a couple of days before his death from mesothelioma in 1990. He had been exposed to asbestos in the ships on which he served in his long career. The navy was his life, commencing as a midshipman and rising to the rank of rear admiral.

Asbestosis was a vertically integrated disease. By this I mean from the workers in the Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR) blue asbestos Wittenoom mine, which operated between 1943 and 1965. Here in the Hamersley Ranges, Lang Hancock started his career, in an environment where asbestos fibres are carried by wind and water everywhere, and disturbed by human activities such as walking or driving around the area. 7,000 workers and their wives and children succumbed.

This was the same story with asbestos with its cottonlike appearance, easily pulled apart or packed as insulation throughout buildings until 1984, when the dangers of the material became apparent, and the community gradually come to realise a deadly material lay in the walls of so many buildings built post-war. James Hardie was the major distributor where Banton and his two brothers worked for 20 years.

Then there were the people who worked in an asbestos-riddled environment, as the rear admiral did.

The problem is many employers, in response to public health problems, have sought to obfuscate, refuse to accept responsibility, lobby parliamentarians about loss of jobs and social catastrophe if the use of material is curtailed. Just muddy the waters, bugger the toxicity, until the community pressure through legal redress catches up with the employer’s venality. As was written a decade ago: “The banning of asbestos in 2003 was the culmination of a three-decades long process that got underway in the 1970s through the efforts of workers and their families, health professionals, and researchers” – note the absence of the employers, the big mining companies seemingly doing nothing to improve the situation.

The current furore about the silica-based material, which has become fashionable for kitchen countertops, but in the process of cutting the material to size, creates a silica-laden atmosphere. When I was entering my career as a doctor, silicosis was a major occupational health disease, contracted then by miners and quarry workers. It received so much attention and publicity as a cause of respiratory disease there was no controversy within the health profession as to this association. A major associated problem was that most of workers then were also cigarette smokers; the danger of cigarette smoking was comprehensively exposed by the work of Doll in the 1970s.

In this current scenario, where the culprit is a fashionable kitchen countertop product that is silica held together by resin, one would think that it was a no brainer to ban the product.

As the SMH editorialised this week, The (Safe Work Australia) report (recommending a ban on this stone) was handed to the governments on August 16 but not released until last Friday. Despite the delay, the Minister for Workplace Relations Tony Burke then skirted the issue of a national blanket ban saying it was not reasonable to make a final decision without the public knowing the Safe Work Australian’s recommendations. Burke said a meeting of federal and state work, health and safety ministers would be convened by year’s end to consider the next step.

Mr Burke, who have you been talking to, when the dangers of silica are so well known even before you were a boy? Your response in the media is laughable. Why the delay? Who has been in your ear?

A Fashion Plate at the White House 

At a dinner at the White House on Tuesday, Mr. Biden and first lady Jill Biden presented the Prime Minister with an antique writing desk, designed by an American company in Michigan, the White House said. The first lady gave (Jodie) Haydon a hand-crafted green enamel and diamond necklace.

The NYT covered the Albanese visit by sending its fashion editor.

In amongst all the plaudits, the visit fulfilled all the expectations outlined in my last blog. The Americans laid on the treacly flattery, and characteristically Albanese responded to his swain in the audience while talking at the dinner, by saying it will be all downhill from now on. He may be right, but not for the reason stated.

Biden treated Albanese as anybody would treat a fawning vassal. Let me indicate, as I have before, I am not a great fan of Biden, but watching him in government he gets it right most of the time. Hooded eyes, which mean it is difficult to assess his mood, a flawed man who has spent most of his life in Washington, a man who has grieved far more than most of us, Biden has a residual advantage – that “Pepsodent” smile. I would imagine that if I were in the Albanese shoes, how seductive that would be, especially if I needed a father figure.

The treatment: “Don’t be a naughty boy and play with that kid across the road without telling us. Otherwise, I’ll send you to bed without your banquet.”

Thus, Albanese is lucky – slap on the back, not on the wrist – yet. Depends now on how he navigates China. The removal of tariffs is probably more important than some hypothecated underwater war toy (if ever launched at a time when “AUKUS” has replaced “obsolete” in the Australian vocabulary.)

Albanese is lucky. I surmise this US administration cannot countenance Dutton, especially following the Morrison debacle. However, Trump would be another matter. Yes, it is Halloween this week.

Mouse Whisper

Ever heard about my Andean cousin, the leaf eared mouse. They have been called “extremophiles” Why? Well let the current issue of Science set the scene:

Few places are as inhospitable as the top of Llullaillaco, a 6700-meter volcano on the border between Chile and Argentina.Winds howl nonstop and no plants live there; daytime temperatures never get above freezing and plummet even more come nightfall. Oxygen levels are just 40% of those at sea level, too low for mammals to live there —or so biologists thought until 3 years ago when a research team captured a live leaf-eared mouse at its summit.  

That has proved not to be a fluke as climbers in the high Andes have seen the mouse scurrying across the snow searching for lichens to feed upon.

There you are!  Mice on top of the world.

Modest Expectations – Green on the Outside

I used to run with Dick Pratt and some other people, mainly blokes, around the Tan, which is the circular track alongside the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. Well, some ran and others perambulated – but it was a pleasant Saturday morning ending up at The Victoria Market for coffee and croissant. Dick was a very personable and generous guy who built up a packaging empire. He sponsored many community activities. I never asked him for money, except that his wife got us tickets for a production of “Carmen” and he bought me a T-Shirt at the Market when the one I was using was rendered unusable. I can’t remember why, but the T-shirt I bought there was inexecrable, but that was all that was available.

I remember his son, young Anthony, then a somewhat naïve person in his late twenties, distinguished by his red hair and very pale complexion. He was as diffident as his father was charismatically outgoing.  For a period, I used to enjoy the Saturday morning meetings. Young Anthony never came, but I had listened to him at an informal seminar, which Dick Pratt had organised with Robert Manne as the speaker. Dick’s professional life ended in disgrace, but his business continued after his untimely death.

The conviction of Richard for price fixing with some of his supposed competitors destroyed his career, but not the company which Anthony inherited. As one of his former teachers said of Anthony, who finished near the bottom of the course at the Melbourne Business School, he inherited a shrewdly competent staff who had worked for his father.

It seems that some very wealthy people collect art work; Anthony has collected people on the simple logic that everybody has a price. When you think of Paul Keating, who prided himself on his independence – a flawless visage of isolated supremacy, one could be surprised with his reported Pratt retainer of $25,000 smackers a month for his view from his Eastern suburban eyrie – $300,000 a year. For what? But then what does Mona Lisa do for you? The fact that Anthony perceives Keating as part of his collection.  Some of his reported purchases, like Rudy Giuliani, have been shown to be duds, but he uses his milestones such as birthdays to parade his collection.

What I find surprising is that Charles III for a time took Pratt’s money, because he would be “useful” to Pratt. This raises the question of whether, to put it rather crudely, this Royal has shaken other wealthy people down, because of some mutual usefulness.

I would have assumed that Charles does not need what amounts to a retainer, to be on the payroll of a cardboard king. At least this seems to be the basis of the Palace public relations strategy of praising Pratt the philanthropist while emphasising any money would go to the appropriate charity with the royal seal of approval. And please, old boy, send no more.

Mr Pratt, there is an old axiom; one’s independence of action is inversely proportional to the controversy generated.

Yet he still has beneficence as a hobby; and the recent tapes may soon be forgotten. After all, Trump calls him “genius” one moment then “weird-do” the next. But Mr Trump, he does have great wealth, which you increasingly may not have. Is he really a weird-do?

The Matter of the Black Tulip

Yes, sir,” answered Rosa; “I come at least to speak of it.”

“Is it doing well, then?” asked Van Systens, with a smile of tender veneration.

“Alas! sir, I don’t know,” said Rosa.

“How is that? could any misfortune have happened to it?”

“A very great one, sir; yet not to it, but to me.”


“It has been stolen from me.”

“Stolen! the black tulip?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you know the thief?”

“I have my suspicions, but I must not yet accuse any one.”

“But the matter may very easily be ascertained.”

“How is that?”

“As it has been stolen from you, the thief cannot be far off.”

“Why not?”

“Because I have seen the black tulip only two hours ago.”

Alexandre Dumas wrote “The Black Tulip” at a time when The Netherlands was being engulfed by Tulipmania. This was a time, according to the myths, when the Dutch were consumed by possessing tulips, as a sign of wealth and position.

It has been characterised as a time of frenzy with one occasion when a worker mistook a bulb for an onion, and then being subject to all forms of punishment. Recent research suggests that these stories were misinformation peddled by Dutch Calvinists who disproved of this secular society, which flew in the face of their frugal lifestyle.

The boom in prices lasted until about 1630, when buyers started to default on their purchases, and the boom petered out. The newer assessment of the period is the Dutch took it with resignation and moved on. It was not the frenzy as traditionally reported. Concurrently, the nascent Netherlands was by various means separating itself from the Spanish who had inherited the Low Countries with the split in the Habsburg – Holy Roman Empire after Charles V death in 1565. (The two Habsburg dynasties remained allied until the extinction of the Spanish line in 1700, which in turn led to the War of Spanish Succession and the British decisive victory over the French at the Battle of Blenheim).

The Dutch took it all in their stride as the first merchant nation, which did not obtain their independence through military victories. Understanding the Netherlands is to realise that it was built on sandy outcrops in the Rhine Delta, while the culture was built by their success as traders, across the known World. Hence, the tulip craze may have been a lesson, but it was not a financial disaster. Not good but not fatal.

Moving along the long rows of tulips at the Table Cape Tulip Farm this past week and coming across a row of very dark purple tulips reminded me of the story above concerning the “adventures” of the black tulip – still the pinnacle of the tulip world because of its rarity; but then it is a very dark purple not actually black. The only colour that tulips do not manifest is a truly blue tulip.

As for colour, the tulips seem to range over every other colour and white and the way they have been arranged across the Farm’s undulating landscape is spectacular in the number and distribution of the flowers. There are variegated varieties which were the most prized by the Dutch; but to achieve the variegation the tulips were infected by the tulip virus, which in fact weakened the flower. These days, modern variegated tulips are the result of deliberate hybridisation where genetic manipulation has replaced the role of the virus.

Table Cape, which lies outside the township of Wynyard, which is itself ablaze with tulips in boxes along the main street during October, is a beautiful place. The farm provides a belvedere for viewing the tulip fields over the residual forest in the far corner, and the lighthouse overlooking the Bass Strait which, on the day we visited, was an azure ribbon on the horizon underneath a cloudless sky. This view will last to the end of the month, when the farm closes, the tulips are exhausted for another year, and the owners, the Roberts-Thomsons continue to sell their bulbs across the year as they have done for close on 40 years. 

Footman to the Rich and Famous?

It is interesting the something in plain sight had not been reported by the Fourth Estate until Peter Hartcher’s comment said all. Albanese had been underestimated his whole life. Then he overestimated himself.

Albanese is just not up to the job. He is always chasing the coattails of meetings, ostensibly with important people, but given he is a prisoner of his own perceived lack of self-esteem, he has shown all his flaws in relation to The Voice’s campaign failure.

Not that I believe it was a win for Dutton. I’ve made clear in a previous blog how unfitted Dutton is for public office. His record glows with his lack of intellect and policy acumen. Can I assure him that Donald Trump would be as unelectable in Australia as Dutton will be whether he apes the Golden Toddler or not. Unfortunately, Dutton is not a great listener. The stupidity of him urging the Prime Minister to visit Israel shows that he does not have a clue.

The visits of the British, French and German leaders are probably as much related to the weaponry contracts, as to some ephemeral solidarity with Israel. Moreover, what a great suggestion on the brink of invasion of Gaza, to encourage our Prime Minister to visit. It would just make Australians travelling the world somewhat of a target, and what would it achieve, other than perhaps to show Australian solidarity with the Palestinian Christians.

New Australian Embassy in Washington

Why Albanese is visiting the USA this week also eludes me. Announcing a deal with Microsoft could just as easily have been done in Australia. And visiting Arlington? Obviously had nothing else to do that day, and trying to make it up by visiting where two Australians are laid to rest is hardly justification. However, he opened the new Australian Embassy with its distinctive Australian outward appearance of a glorified Meriton unit and demonstrating that other major Australian quality – a massive cost over-run of $100m. Gosh, and the Government cannot lessen the fuel excise.

Biden is consumed not only with the Middle East, but also with a Congress  verging on anarchy until apparently just selecting a Speaker, Mike Johnson, from the Trumpian stable. This Congressional squabbling self-interest has compounded the loss of any moral compass. Thus, which one will Albanese choose to see and for what purpose?

Meanwhile, Trump is seeking to exploit this challenge to order as the law is closing in on him – inciting insurrection might well still be consuming his thoughts. After all, those opposing Jim Jordan, Trump’s once preferred candidate for Speaker, are said to have received death threats.

Against that background, I doubt whether discussing AUKUS with Albanese would be high on Biden’s agenda. Biden is wily, and even in old age more than a match for our Prime Minister pumped up by his over-weaning self-importance.  Beware Mr Prime Minister not to return with a great level of American “tar baby” diplomacy. Albanese committing us to another American folly; the price for annoying the President wanting to talk also about climate change – for God’s sake – as Gaza City is being levelled, children massacred.

Yes, the price Australia will wear for appearing in Washington at this time for his showboating will be used later as a chip in cementing US control of our foreign policy. The cement is made from rare earths, lithium, cobalt, nickel and the other Australian minerals that the Americans want from their South Pacific quarry (take whichever meaning you like as they both have an element of truth).

Meanwhile back with Dutton, when you compare him with that other Queensland copper, Bill Hayden who died at the end of last week, in fact there is none. Bill Hayden would have been Prime Minister if the delightful Graham Richardson and his cronies had not decided that the immaculate Hawke would be a better candidate against Fraser seeking a fourth term. I accept the drover’s dog hypothesis put forward by Hayden, that Fraser was that much on the nose by 1983 that he was unelectable. After all, Hawke stumbled in the face of Peacock at the next election, confirming that electoral antipathy towards Fraser.  However, whether compared with Hayden, Hawke, Keating or many of that first Cabinet, I’m afraid Albanese would lag well behind in any comparison. And that is the Australian dilemma – where has all our political genius gone?

Accidental Beekeepers

Verroa mite

We are accidental beekeepers. Much honey is produced in Tasmania. European bees were first successfully introduced into Tasmania in 1831 and the first Italian bees were introduced in 1884. Beekeepers whose hives are not accidental, that is they are devoted apiarists, number about 320. There are five who have over one thousand hives, given that about 13,000 hives exist. So that give the dimensions of the industry in Tasmania – and its vulnerability, especially to the cost of compliance with regulations to handle a hypothetical verroa mite infestation, bees are a precious commodity in Tasmania.

Our bees colonised a wall cavity, and this recent infestation is the fifth. Previously, beekeepers have not been interested in removing the bees. To get to bees in this particular wall cavity requires a long ladder and removing one of the side boards. It is somewhat perilous, so there needed to be a degree of wanting the bees to induce beekeepers to climb up to get them – previously the local beekeepers weren’t abuzz with interest.

However, the beekeepers now have an interest because of verroa mite and the looming shortage of bees, so bees from verroa-free states (Tasmania and Western Australia) are like flying black and gold. However, as our hobbyist local beekeeper says, the problem now is that even in isolated areas like the south-west of Tasmania, whence 65 per cent of Tasmanian honey comes, increasing Government regulation, as denoted above, is making small scale beekeeping expensive and burdensome. This suggests a need for some sensible consideration of different environments.


The south-west Tasmanian domination of the industry is because of the leatherwood, which grows in the temperate rainforest. The leatherwood grows wild on our property, but we must keep it in check as it can grow to ten metres in height. The leatherwood flowers in spring and summer, and the white bee boxes appear all through the forests, with harvesting of the honey in late summer. Needless to say, Leatherwood honey with its deep amber colour and its robust taste is the family favourite.

We await the beekeeper to come and rescue the bees in the next few weeks, very much alive after their winter sleep.

I’m a Palestinian Christian born in Bethlehem as was my brother Andrew”, said Peter confronted by the Israeli Centurion. 

Historic church sheltering civilians struck in deadly Gaza City blast was a recent headline in an article by Washington Post correspondents Miriam Berger, Evan Hill and Kelsey Ables. I just imagine the furore if a synagogue was bombed in a similar way. I cannot even remember this atrocity being reported in the Australian press. Perhaps it was written up in an Israeli Government media release. The media may have probably seen the Israel Defence Forces emailed statement that a strike targeting a Hamas control centre “damaged the wall of a church in the area” and that it was “aware of reports on casualties” and was reviewing the incident. They declined to provide further information and reiterated, “It is important to clarify that the Church was not the target of the strike.” Therefore, nothing to see. No Jews killed- let’s move on. Just some Christian Church,

St Porphyrius Church

The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Porphyrius, Gaza’s oldest active church, was struck Thursday by Israel as it sheltered hundreds of Palestinians displaced by the war, according to religious officials. The brave Israelis pilots killed 18 people and injured at least 20. About 100 people were in the bombed building at the time of the strike and about 400 displaced civilians, mainly Christians, were taking shelter in the entire complex.

The Washington Post report goes on:

There are about 1,000 Palestinian Christians remaining in Gaza, and the loss was “huge” for the community … about 500 Christians … have relocated to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate School in Gaza City. The Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry said Friday that at least 16 Christians were killed in the strike.

Rescuers were still digging through the rubble early Friday. Later in the day, services were held to mourn the dead.

The Order of St. George, an associated order of the church, issued a statement confirming Thursday’s strike. “Archbishop Alexios appears to have been located and is alive, but we don’t know if he is injured,” the Order of St. George stated. The blast hit “two church halls where the refugees, including children and babies, were sleeping.”

The Church of St. Porphyrius’s original structure dated from the 5th century, and the current structure, in a historic quarter of the city, was built in the 12th century. It is named for a former bishop of Gaza, Saint Porphyrius, and placed where he is believed to have died in A.D. 420. The church, characterized by thick walls and a richly decorated interior, has long been a place of refuge and community for its members, who are a religious minority in the Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian American woman who moved from Gaza to the United States in the early 2000s said in an interview that she had relatives and friends sheltering in the church at the time of the strike, some of whom were injured.

“They’re terrified. They’re shaken. They don’t know what to do, and they don’t know where else to go,” said one woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for her family’s safety. She expressed outrage at the idea that more than 1 million civilians could evacuate from a place as densely populated and heavily bombed as Gaza City — a mass movement called for by Israel last week. “It’s impossible,” she said.

She said that she grew up going to the Church of St. Porphyrius and that her family has deep ties to the church, dating to when they became refugees during the 1948 founding of Israel and mass displacement of Palestinians.

Describing the congregation as close-knit and family-like, she said she’s not only worried about her relatives, “I’m concerned for everyone because we’re a small community.”

Christians make up about one per cent of Gaza’s population and have faced restrictions and discrimination by the Hamas government, according to human rights groups. During the 2014 Gaza war, about 1,000 Palestinian Muslims fled Israeli shelling for the Church of St. Porphyrius, where graves were damaged by shrapnel from a nearby strike, Reuters reported. In a statement early Friday, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem said the targeting of churches sheltering innocent citizens “cannot be ignored.”

The Patriarchate stresses that it will not abandon its religious and humanitarian duty, rooted in its Christian values, to provide all that is necessary in times of war and peace alike.”

Are Australian Christians prepared to grieve, as Chris Brook did when he heard his Bethlehem Palestinian friend has been killed? After all, Palestinian Christians have been victims of both Hamas and Israelis, remember that Albanese and Dutton. Just because they do not vote for either of you does not mean they should be ignored. After all, I believed as a Country we have abhorred genocide – in this case Christians living in Gaza.

Church of St. Porphyrius – now

Mouse Whisper

We were fighting the beastly Hun – a race of bloodthirsty bullying, sub-human barbarians who habitually punched below the belt and bayoneted babies.

This was British WWI propaganda.

The latest Israeli version substitute “beheaded”.

Babies beheaded, bayoneted, butchered – pick one off the misinformation shelf. Alliteration does not confer truth.