Modest Expectations – Oxen Rest

Pick up your palliasse on boarding …

I thought I would relate a story from India when we were about to board the train from New Delhi to Himachal Pradesh. It was a cold winter’s night, and my wife pointed out a puppy shivering on the platform. It had been a difficult night for her, because we had been assigned what was called “first class” but in fact the compartment involved palliasses and drunken fellow travellers. My wife in all innocence had boarded the train, and suddenly found that this was far removed from our interpretation of “first class”. She was lucky to escape, and by a mixture of aggression and cajolery, I was able to change our tickets to sleeper class. This was the actual first class, and one of the advantages was that this carriage had a carriage attendant. Because of the need for the change in our ticketing, we were among the last to board the train.

My wife mentioned to the carriage attendant that there had been a “poor little dog freezing on the platform” (it was, after all, midwinter and 3.00 am), and I had gone into the normal over-reaction of a doctor, “don’t touch the dog, rabies … blah, blah, blah”. Oblivious to my warning, she pointed it out to the carriage attendant. We then went to our compartment. The train was pulling out from the station, and my wife scanned the platform. The puppy was not there; she hoped it had scampered off to find a warmer place.

The journey was well underway when the carriage attendant appeared and beckoned us to come to his den at the end of the carriage. There, nestling on a blanket in a box, was the little dog. The carriage attendant had heeded my wife’s implicit wish and rescued the little dog.

The “Kalka Mail” from Howrah to Kalka, via Delhi

But that was not all, some days later, when we were returning from Himachal Pradesh, we boarded the train for New Delhi. Same carriage. Same smiling carriage attendant. Same little dog, still in his comfortable box. He was one of the most well travelled dogs – having been to Kolkata and back. He still seemed very happy. He did not have rabies. On reflection, I was the one who had been frothing at the mouth. My wife had authored an example of the goodness of some our fellow humans. It is a nice story to start off this blog. 

Blind in One Eye, Horatio. You are Kidding Me!

China is the largest trade partner of a long and growing list of countries. Very few have the wealth and natural resources that protected Australia, the “lucky” country. Even so, many are studying the lessons of Australia’s escape from China’s grip”. The Economist 27 May

It may be strange heading for this observation, which takes its inspiration from Donald Horne’s inspired observation about Australia as “the lucky country”. This succinct note at the end of an article entitled “Lucky for Some” conceals a resource rich Australia, which is rotting under a mixture of hedonism, hypocrisy, and just plain greed.

This long, drawn-out, high risk defamation case brought by Roberts-Smith strikes at the cabal which has been allowed to get away with massive expenditure on a War Memorial. Against this the Brereton Report  has found evidence of 39 murders of civilians and prisoners by (or at the instruction of) members of the Australian special forces. The full Report findings have yet to be to be released.

War Memorial, under re-construction

Coupled with unnecessarily expensive alteration to an already ugly building, the Canberra War Memorial should instead be modest in keeping with remembering the dead but not glorifying war – and certainly not turning it into a defence force theme park funded by us mug taxpayers. Given the extravagant eulogising of Roberts-Smith in the War Memorial display, the protected defence force officer species has now given the Parliament a headache.

Anybody lost in war games is an unnecessary life lost. Australia, like most countries, rationalises loss of life and the attendant destruction in a quasi-religious model where remembrance and grief are locked together with a sprinkle of selflessness, heroism and a fizz of “mateship”. It is a curious brew which has also underpinned this relentless pursuit of the original Olympic ideal in warpaint – higher, faster, stronger – essentially an expression of the male hormone overlay of civilisation; without the recently added Olympic ideal of “together”, a concession to the need to contain an aggressive interpretation of the three exhortations.

The Chair of the Council of the War Memorial is Kim Beasley. I generally agree with Paul Keating’s assessment of people, but I have always wondered why he had a high regard for the current Chair, while others considered him as a militaristic boofhead nicknamed “Bomber Beazley” when he was Minister of Defence.

The problem is that the ill-considered action of the ageing Kerry Stokes in bankrolling Roberts-Smith’s defamation action has exposed the underbelly of warfare. Over the years, politicians on both sides of politics become enthralled with the toys of war, egged on by senior officers who have learned the art of “obsequious control” over their political masters, whatever their persuasion. Greeting visiting overseas dignitaries with rows of soldiers or archaically-dressed soldiers on horses; gun carriages for the dead monarch – what is it all about? A population being groomed for war?

It is interesting how many of the senior officers have done a stint in the United States, where inevitably they would have been flattered, if not groomed into the world of expensive weapons labelled “born in the USA”.

I remember as a young boy when I was present at some of the family afternoon “soirees”, being brought along by my father as an appendage. Here were the blokes who had been to the war and may have been wrestling with their demons – and now were drinking too much Scotch and regaling one another with wartime anecdotes. They would mention unpopular officers allegedly where the troops shot them in the back when out on the patrol; but they generally reserved their disdain for coloured people in all their derogatory verbiage. I remember one anecdote which was of no consequence except it happened while this particular bloke was serving on New Ireland and could not contain his hilarity when he told the gathering about this native who happened to be sitting under a coconut tree when a coconut had fallen on his head, splitting it open. He could not stop laughing, until the next dark anecdote.

I was socialised with a diet of Boy’s Own heroics.  Yet as a small boy I witnessed that many who served and witnessed war at close quarters never talked about it. I had never experienced the horrors of a war where the civilian population was the target, where the most vulnerable were targeted – genocide was a term yet to be firmly established in the vocabulary. I then had never heard of Guernica, where Germany and her allies wiped out the civilian population, a technique they were busily perfecting in preparation for World subjugation, that in fact had been first trialled in German South-West Africa (now Namibia) between 1904 and 1908. We were socialised in believing that war was a test of manhood, almost a jolly affair offering the then rare opportunity for an overseas trip and where atrocities are airbrushed away.

I have lived with a succession of wars, some having more or less effect on my way of life – but the older I have got the more I have marvelled at the underlying bullying aspect of war. Murder the defenceless to win the war. I am not a pacifist, but once my country has gone to war, it always seemed at the sound of a distant drum, the more the casualties mount up, ultimately for nothing.

Stored for future exhibitions, perhaps

There is no Memorial to the Unknown Child or Mother … only to the Unknown Soldier – in brackets, male. The toys and their sophistication and cost increases.  The industry attracts a species of vermin who call themselves “consultant” – only because they have been previously participants – officers, bureaucrats, politicians, once on the inside but with their heads now in the money trough, occasionally raising their heads to vomit the privileged information gleaned over the years. Years of “schmoozing”, networking, social engagements, bribery have oiled the world of the “defence consultant”. Contracts are handed out, contracts are padded, and up to this point it has been a cosy atmosphere.

But now the Roberts-Smith ill-fated defamation case has blown a hole in this closed world of privilege. The politicians on each side do not know what to do. So many of them, still unashamed, raise their heads out of the trough. Their mates still in positions of influence, those with perspicacity do not want the whole closely-knit world to unravel, yet they know that they cannot initiate many more cover-ups. Not that they will not try.

The litany of misdemeanours of the ruling elite, both Labor and Coalition, as epitomised by the mutual giggling display of Marles and Pyne, illustrates a festering political garbage dump, the stench of which will not be quenched by any diversionary nosegay. What this country needs is a cathartic dose of the Cromwells.

Montana Skies

In 1999 I went to the University of Washington. Although based in Seattle at the time, it also provided medical teaching to undergraduates based, in addition to Washington State, in Alaska, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, hence the name WWAMI. As I intended visiting Montana in the late Spring of 2005, I asked Dawn De Witt, who had been recruited as the Dean of the Rural Clinical School and Professor and Foundation Chair of Rural Medical Education based in Shepparton (to give her full title) for advice as to where I should go. I had first met Dawn when she was an academic specialist physician at the University of Washington in Seattle. She had a deep interest in education and she was approached by the then Dean of Medicine, Richard Larkins, at the University of Melbourne to take the post. She also had a special attachment to Montana as she had honeymooned there in the Glacier National Park in the far North of the State and spreading across the border into British Columbia.

When I undertook my exploration of the feasibility of rural clinical schools in Australia in 1999, following Seattle I had visited the campuses in Spokane and in Pullman, just across the border from the Idaho campus in Moscow (pronounced mos-COW). Idaho is a State in two parts. There is a well-forested area north of the divide where the coastal rain falls, while the southern part of Idaho is a dry altiplano where Boise, the capital, is located. Idaho was far less wealthy than Washington, and this difference was reflected in the two campuses.

I had wanted then to go to Montana, but ran out of time. Alaska was a long way away and Montana and Wyoming could wait. Montana was visited six years later.  By that time the rural clinical program in Australia was in full swing.

On Dawn’s recommendation, one of the local doctors, Ted Scofield, invited us to stay in the small town of Livingston, close to Yosemite and to its massive backdrop of the Rockies. After all, Montana is the land where the wide glacier-cut valleys do in fact reach for for the sky. I realise that beauty can indeed be muted, in shadows cast, grasslands understated – mostly a wide emptiness.

On arrival we were whisked away to watch his daughter play softball against a team in the neighbouring township of Tall Timbers. Tall Timbers, we were informed, had a champion softball team, as they proved that afternoon. Tall Timbers had achieved its brief period of fame when Robert Redford played the lead role in the film Horse Whisperer, which was filmed there.

Livingston remains a series of images of what I had imagined would be a grasslands town, windswept as one would expect of town lying at 1,400 metres above sea level. The buildings dating back to the late nineteenth century were close to the Yellowstone River, which actually ran through the Scofield property where we stayed. At one stage, we tried to have a picnic on the Yellowstone River, but we were defeated by the mosquitos, which were both very large and very assiduous, if that is a euphemism for bloodthirsty.

The looming “Crazies”

The property overlooked the dramatic Crazies, the Crazy Mountains.  Spanning a distance of 32 kms from the Yellowstone River to the pinnacle of Crazy Peak, the terrain rises more than 2,100 metres. The reason for the name of the mountains is obscure; it may be their position. They seemed not to be where the mountains should be, as they lie separate from the Rockies themselves. Nevertheless, the scenery waking up in the morning was in a word – “different”. OK – breathtaking!

Ted was one of the WWAMI teachers, but at that time there were no students in the practice. Nevertheless, we undertook a number of ward rounds at the hospital. He had completed his undergraduate degree at Kalamazoo College, Michigan, then went on to graduate from medical school at Saint Louis in 1979. Given that the population is around 8,000 Livingston seemed to have very adequate medical facilities, but as I have since found out, the area is very popular with many prominent actors and moneyed people who had properties around the town. There is a word to describe those rural areas that do not have a problem recruiting doctors –“resources rich”. Useful to be near ski resorts and in the case of Ted Scofield, hunting. Ted was a keen hunter and his house was festooned with trophies, and on our last morning, we had homemade elk sausages for breakfast.


The Scofields and their children and mother were “Wee Frees”. This segment of the Presbyterian Church traces its roots to 1843 and the struggle of the Scottish church to remain “free” from State interference. In fact they live at the extreme end of the evangelical Protestants, and predictably are against the cultural reforms of same-sex marriage and access to abortion, believing the literal interpretation of the Bible. As we were guests, we steered clear of any discussion, but took part in their mealtime, where everybody held hands while Ted said grace before each meal. Not quite Little House on the Prairie, but where piety is mixed with blood sports. It was a time when Bush was President and the Iraqi war was in full swing, but again not a topic for discussion given that we soon realised that our beliefs were very far apart

They were very hospitable. For instance, they were teetotal, but stocked low alcohol beer which they offered us. We gave a presentation on Australia to the health centre and hospital staff – a slide show centred on a recitation of Dorothea McKellar’s poem “My Country”. It seemed to be well received; they had little knowledge of Australia and our own open spaces.

We did not talk much about teaching because on the ward rounds he was very much the conventional doctor, where teaching was not an easy fit. The traditional country rural medical practitioner is a solitary person, used to treating patients without question. In one instance, I did question the treatment, and he took it in good grace, demonstrating to me more flexibility than I had observed up to that time.

In the end, I do not know what I thought. As I write this reflection, I realise that I learnt more than if I had been involved in conflict. Far apart we may have been in belief, I learnt more than I thought in my sojourn in Livingston without only saying “Dr Scofield, I presume.”

Laura Vall

When I was learning Brazilian Portuguese, one of the more relaxing and attractive ways learning this form of Portuguese was to watch a bossa nova video performed by NOVA, whose lead singer was Laura Vall.

Laura Vall

NOVA’s tagline is Born in Brazil, Made in LA. Laura Vall is from Barcelona but moved to LA. Here she had set up this Group with Mike Papagni, a bossa nova and jazz quartet, back in 2011. The quartet with her as the vocalist are David Irelan (guitar), Thomas Hjorth (bass), and Mike Papagni (drums). Since then, they’ve been performing around Los Angeles and I found them and her on YouTube. The signature bossa nova song is The Girl from Ipanema, written in 1962 by Antonio Carlos Jobim with lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. The singer generally associated with the song was Astrud Gilberto. The Sinatra interpretation is well-known, admittedly at odds with the original lyrics it nevertheless has a certain charm, given he was singing alongside Jobim, the latter accompanying him in Brazilian Portuguese.

In the Portuguese version, the lyrics employ two words for girl, while the title uses “garota” a third word for girl but not used in the song itself. The girl from Ipanema is variously “menina” or “moça”.  When I watch her singing the song she was the epitome of all of these plus an element of the vagabond in English – in Portuguese it has a more direct meaning shorn of the street-wise imputation that it has in English.

Whether singing with microphone as her only prop or when shaking a ganza, Vall’s movements are minimal yet sensuous, her voice clarion clear, her voice with a touch of defiance, if not ferocity. Her Brazilian Portuguese is impeccable. To me she is also a beautiful woman. Her accompanying musicians are understated but a perfect backdrop, yet all playing against unspectacular background room – no flashy cut aways to Ipanema beach or elsewhere. Just a beautiful singer in a Los Angeles studio with a great backing trio. The ongoing encouragement to continue learning Portuguese – admittedly now with little practical reason, except to keep the brain active – and listening to Laura Vall.

She is a worthy successor to Astrud Gilberto, who died this week.

Astrud Gilberto

The Withered Spring

All over Eastern Massachusetts it’s the same story, with azaleas, forsythia, rhododendrons, and their colleagues underperforming. Where there should be flowers and joy, we have mere leaves, bare stems — and self-doubt.

The disappointing spring bloom is all the more painful because it comes against a backdrop of climate change — not the fault of any one gardener, but rather the collective action of the human species.

Last summer’s drought, the historic arctic blast in early February, the wild swings in temperature — they’re all contributing to the lacklustre Spring.

An eloquent observation in The Boston Globe, which imparts the same message that Rachel Carson made almost two generations ago when she wrote of a countryside before the chemical onslaught, including the now banned DDT.

Along the roads, laurel, viburnum and alder, great ferns and wildflowers delighted the traveler’s eye through much of the year. Even in winter the roadsides were places of beauty, where countless birds came to feed on the berries and on the seed heads of the dried weeds rising above the snow. The countryside was, in fact, famous for the abundance and variety of its bird life, and when the flood of migrants was pouring through in spring and fall people traveled from great distances to observe them.

Rachel Carson wrote these words in 1962. How goes the ingenuity of us humans to escape the disasters we create?

Mouse Whisper

Ever thought about the three blind mice? The “three blind mice” were the Oxford Martyrs, all Bishops and supporters of the short-lived Queen, Lady Jane Grey. (The Liz Truss nine-day monarch equivalent). Their names were Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer and Thomas Cranmer, accused of plotting against the Roman Catholic Queen Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII. They were tried for heresy in 1555.

Before they were burned at the stake, Latimer was heard to say: Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.

Strange how “play the man” now has such a different connotation.


Modest Expectations – Lionel Messi

The recent visit of the Prime Minister to Makassar in the Sulawesi, reminded us of the links of the Makassan traders with the northern Aboriginal people well before European discovery. It is a neglected area in the study of the cultural influence of these people.  Thus, I thought it interesting to reproduce below a bark painting which I bought some years ago on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria. You be the judge of the cultural influences at play in this painting. 

In a tortuous vein

I had a pleasant surprise the other day. This is a lesson in clinging onto a view of what you think you know, and what is in fact reality. You may be dying, but you think tomorrow you will be better. I was reminded of the time leading up to the diagnosis of my underlying disease nine years ago. There was a delay in instituting therapy, and I was largely to blame – but not totally.

This time, my legs have been beset by increasing peripheral oedema, two swollen angry red calves and feet, compounded by the sub-fascial swelling on the soles of my feet.

Overnight, the swelling has always decreased, but the level of that reduction in oedema has slowed since the start of the pandemic because of weight increase and closure of hydrotherapy facilities. I dislike exercise especially if it is painful. Hydrotherapy provided a relief from the pain. My legs began to become more and more oedematous. Nobody offered the panacea I was looking for.

Over this period, there had been mention of vascular specialists and compression stockings but, as I now realise, I need for those who advise me to be assertive and not be ambivalent. The latter gives me an excuse for inaction.

I visit a plastic surgeon, who regularly checks me for skin lesions. I mentioned my legs; and once he saw how bad my legs apparently were, he said he had a vascular surgeon colleague whom I should see urgently.

Nearly ten years ago, it was an orthopaedic surgeon who looked at me, ordered tests, and by the next Monday, due to a fortuitous cancellation, I was able to see a consultant rheumatologist, who immediately confirmed the diagnosis the orthopaedic surgeon had considered, but which had been missed by a variety of other doctors. I might add I had seen another orthopaedic surgeon a week or so before and he offered to replace my knee joint almost immediately without any tests. That is the danger of being referred to a specialist, who may be technically brilliant but would have most certainly have ensured a very stormy post-operative passage for myself.

On this second occasion, it was a Thursday afternoon, and by Monday morning first thing, I had an appointment to see the vascular surgeon.

Now this vascular surgeon is young. He shares a clinic with three others. To the best of my knowledge he is not owned by an American hedge fund. He is actually into the business of helping people, not trading a commodity for financial gain.

Vascular ultrasound image

Under one roof, I had an ultrasound of my lower limbs’ vascular system, a consultation where the specialist did not expect to sit across a desk in a consulting room – inspected, interacted with the allied health professionals, recommended compression stockings. These and the applicator were on hand and my wife was taught the optimal way the stockings should be applied. As she said, looking at me meaningfully, she did read the instructions and watched the video in addition to the initial demonstration.

All in less than two hours – a one-stop shop. We had the compression stockings and the applicator.

Here was a local product where any Medicare benefits paid remained onshore, able to be reinvested. How different to those diagnostic imaging and pathology companies allegedly repatriating Medicare payments overseas.

Over 20 years ago, the Australia Institute in a discussion paper analysed the growth of corporate medicine foreshadowing the decline in standards as the profit motive became the prime driver in health care.

As the growth of corporate medicine grew so did Medicare become the ATM, not only for private entrepreneurs but also for the States, which were up to their filing cabinets in cost-shifting. As many of the purchasers were underwritten by overseas investors, the consequence increasingly will be that Medicare funding, which should remain in Australia, ends up in overseas tax havens.

The problem is that the medical profession has ceded control and hence independence to its corporate masters. As somebody who was involved in the various Inquiries in the regulation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule, I have always regretted that the AMA gave up this privilege, which meant that there was not any regular mechanism to alter the Medicare benefit, which was constantly misrepresented as a fee rather than a financial patient benefit the government provided for payment to the doctor.

During my time at the AMA, the discrepancy between the Medibank (then Medicare) benefit and the fee charged was symbolised by the AMA annual recommended list of medical fees. This was a guide, not an instruction by the AMA. Nevertheless, it maintained a relevance, which has only persisted after the introduction of gap insurance when the private health funds, initially prohibited, were able to re-enter the medical insurance market.

John Deeble, Medicare pioneer

After 1984, when the AMA abandoned the regular fee for Medicare benefit Inquiries, it became a matter for every medical specialty to negotiate for themselves. The problem for some of the medical specialties was a function of what happened following the Nimmo Inquiry in 1969 into health insurance which was that benefit relativities were based on what were the fees charged by each specialty; and these relativities naturally created distortions in the market as technology made a number of items of service much cheaper to perform. In 1977 it was clear that technology advances with automaton replacing manual testing was enabling pathologists to make a bonanza from Medicare payments. This Inquiry into the Pathology Medibank Benefits was the first instance of government intervention into these relativities.

The AMA, through the Inquiries, had effectively maintained control over relativities. It provided a form of “flawed order” even though some of the Medicare benefits were well in excess of the underlying cost of the service while some other areas of the profession had done badly.

Thus, from an exercise where the AMA and the Government were in an edgy if not directly confrontational relationship, then there was none.

As I found out henceforth from the AMA relinquishing its position, it became a matter of having a good cost accountant to negotiate with government. With the growth of technology, while the value of the professional component of the medical service remained important, in some areas of the service there were both a substantial technical and a capital component. The “technical” component includes the cost of the scientists, the technicians, the allied health professionals including nurses required to provide services which were not medical, and “capital”, such as the cost of linear accelerators, MRI facilities and so forth.

Not all capital costs are covered. For instance, disposables were inherent in the delivery of the professional component, and not differentiated into any of the other Medicare benefit components. In fact, most of the cost of these has been borne by the hospital. Even now re-usable devices and prostheses lie outside the cost of the service.

Enter the world of the entrepreneurs, more interested in cash flows and profit rather than patient care. Some of the first were medical graduates, like the criminal, the late Geoffrey Edelsten, who gave the whole area a bad name; but it is the multinational companies that have moved behind a wall of cost accounting to dissect the Medicare schedule to exact the greatest profits, and in so doing, to enable Medicare funding to be sent to tax havens overseas.

Some may say how outrageous such a comment is; but the easiest way to deal with Medicare funding is to prohibit any profits that those companies who benefit in any way from exporting those profits.

This vascular surgeon, whose expertise spreads far wider that just advising on varicosities, demonstrated the one-stop shop advantages, which I frankly did not expect, and another fact – you don’t need to run late if you are a doctor.  And you do not need to be a multinational corporation; his rooms were modern and located within a religious hospital.  Good God, on second thoughts, located in a multinational corporation!

Such a thought in no way diminished my satisfaction with the service.

I, the Cryptosexton

I read about this complicated thing called Cryptocurrency. After riding the Algorithm Hobbyhorse around in my Virtual Nursery, I realised that cryptocurrency must be like a bit of barter behind the tog room at school. Hidden from the authority, a packet of Senior Service for two packets of brown Capstan; but not requiring the electrical power requirements of a small city to accompany the transaction.

But this cryptocurrency surely must be more complicated than that, and thus have more benefits.

Apart from plugging cryptocurrency into the cyptocharger, I decided to call it Tulipcoin. I was tempted to use “Lillionarcissus-coin”, which was the name for “tulip” before this Turkish corruption of a Persian word for “turban” was adopted. But that name was too long, would use too much power.

I thought by calling my cryptocurrency after such a famous flower, irrespective of the corruption implicit in the name, I would honour a previous occasion which may have arisen in a crypt.

Jan Breughel the Younger’s view of tulipomania

The whole saga of the tulip bubble was well expressed years ago in the 1999 book “Tulipomania”. The basic cause of the exorbitant prices which the tulip bulb reached in sixteenth century Netherlands was somewhat eccentric. A Flemish merchant found tulip bulbs in a cargo of cloth from Istanbul, thought they were onions, ate most of them and planted the rest.

The resultant blooms were overwhelmingly beautiful and attracted the eye of wealthy Dutch burghers.

The tulip is thus the most captivating of flowers, and like so many products of the Levant, this was the favourite flower of Süleyman the Great, who not only cultivated the wild variety but also initiated the science of breeding hybrids.

Thus when the tulips bloomed, the Dutch, who had the time and were a very wealthy nation due to their trade in the East (the Dutch had a monopoly on nutmeg for instance), were intoxicated by the flower; and the tulip became the signature of these prosperous people.

As was written in Tulipomania: “In 1633, the flowers served no economic purpose other than relieve the cold wet spring with petals that promised a change from the grey mist”.

Initially they were not only desirable but scarce. They attracted gardeners and the few connoisseurs, where scarcity was compounded by the search for perfection. At one stage when a skilled worker could expect 250 guilders in a year, a single tulip bulb was traded for over 5,000 guilders. A small basket was worth more than an Amsterdam mansion. It took three years for the bubble to burst, which it did in a spectacular fashion in 1637.

One of the reasons for this was that many of the tulips had been infected with a virus, which did not necessarily diminish the spectacular colours but certainly lessened the life of each infected bulb. What’s more by that time trading in bulbs had spread throughout the community into every tavern across the country. One of the supposed benefits of cryptocurrency is to be able to bypass “stodgy banks”. Just like being able to buy a cheap TV at the local pub.  But here it was the tulip bulb.

The value of the bulb during this hectic three period provided a way to extricate oneself from, if not poverty, at least to being able to afford a decent house -only if you sold early.  However, given where many of the transactions took place as the author of Tulipomania wrote: “The trade was conducted for the most part in a haze of inebriation.

How appropriate! My Tulipcoin placed into such a market – drunk with power but where the mist has yet to lift?


I wrote the following italicised in my blog on 15 January 2021 in a vain attempt to promote Craig Reucassel to stand against Falinski. My sentiments yet have been reflected in the deserved dumping of this Morrison sycophant, despite all the protestations.  Subtly, my choice reveals my deep-seated prejudice, born of over 80 years in a male-dominant world. I suggested that a high-profile male with a formidable record in climate change and waste management should mount the challenge. I discounted the fact that he lived far away in the Sydney inner west.

Dr Sophie Scamps MP

I congratulate Dr Scamps (pronounced Scomps), who has been a high-achieving, very well qualified general practitioner who both lived and practised in the electorate, before successfully challenging Mr Falinski in the recent Federal election. My sense of his vulnerability was correct, but I got the gender of the new Member for MacKellar wrong.

I would suggest one of the New South Wales’ seats held by one of the Trump neophytes would be perfect for him, given that upending Abbott showed the way to do it. Maybe Falinski, whose seat is MacKellar, would be the way to go. Falinski is the typical Liberal Party hack toeing the party line.

As Falinski said in his maiden speech full of the pieties expected:

And so a politician is accountable to their community – I am accountable to you.

Mr Jason Falinski

Wrong, he is beholden to his masters, never voted against any government.  He has a voting record which would please Donald Trump – he should be vulnerable to somebody with the Reucassel values. I would love to see them debate why, for instance, Falinski has inter alia disagreed recently with the proposition:

“The Prime Minister to attend the House by 2 pm Tuesday 8 December to make a statement to advise the House whether Australia is speaking at the Climate Ambition Summit and table any correspondence with the summit organisers relating to whether Australia is speaking at the summit.”

This is but one example, but Falinski’s voting record is reprehensible to any person who is genuinely Liberal.

Reucassel is genuinely concerned with climate change and the world becoming a rubbish dump. He should be elected to Parliament to pursue this goal and hold the government to account.  Falinski seems unwilling to do so. Is it Mitch* Falinski, or is that your second name?

*Mitch stands for that annoying Kentucky Senator, who pleads propriety but unquestionably has supported Trump. Dr Scamps reminded the electorate of the false nature of the so-called moderate Falinski’s voting record.

Janus was an EU Politician with the head of Boris Johnson

As an impotent observer of world affairs, I fret over the ambivalent attitudes of politicians over the fate of Ukraine. Angela Merkel defends her legacy in stalling the entry of Ukraine into NATO by saying that, at the time in 2008, the Ukraine was controlled by a pro-Soviet Government.

The root problem was that most governments wanted Zelensky to disappear into some hedonist exile, and he has proved to be very inconvenient.  He wanted to defend the sovereignty of his nation. Suddenly, the Ukrainians had a leader, an uncompromising charismatic leader who, in a matter of 100 days, has differentiated a country from the neighbouring Russians. The ferocity with which the Ukrainians have responded to the Russian invasion contrasts with the bloodless coup where Russia took Crimea back from the Ukraine eight years ago, and have defined a country, which no matter the outcome will never again be just a “Little Russia”.

Zelensky has thus created that which most Ukrainians have always believed; and that is Ukraine as an independent nation. He has ensured this affirmation occurred in the full glare of the World spotlight.

Putin has been revealed as a primitive hominid intent on destroying the world’s energy and food supply as he dresses up as Peter the Great, an absurd travesty of the human condition.

The New York Review of Books provide a comparison of sorts in critiquing yet another book about Anne Frank. The contention is that if only the same courage epitomised by Zelensky had been on display during the time leading up to Anne Frank’s death in a Nazi concentration camp, she may have survived. As has been pointed out, because of the lack of any ongoing focus on Dutch Jews in particular, she was always in peril.

Anne and her Diary

As part of the analysis, a harsh judgement was made about Queen Wilhelmina in that she failed to stand up to the Nazis and fled to Great Britain. She had maintained Dutch neutrality during WW1; but the only indication of her attitude to the plight of Jews was she insisted a Jewish refugee camp prior to WWII be moved further away from her summer palace than it was originally planned.

The American Government declined to give the Frank family a visa to travel to New York via Cuba in 1941. It provides an unsettling view of a country, with a quick trigger for invading non-European countries, and yet basically ambivalent against European aggressors. President Biden’s halting support of Ukraine could be the USA in early 1941. The Allies did not bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz. A matter of unimportance in the scheme of things!

Russia seemed to have infiltrated the top levels of government, politically, socially, financially, corruptly – a passage facilitated by Trump and scattered within the Conservative Party, those that worship the Infantis Johnson. However, there would not be a country in Europe where the malign Putin influence has not infiltrated.

As a result, maybe NATO could imprint the head of Janus as an emblem in acknowledgement of this influence given the way they have responded to the Russo-Ukrainian War.

Mouse Whisper

I was on a field visit when I heard a regional ABC reporter talking to a local farmer about the cost of a box of cauliflowers. He was selling them for $80 a box.

“What was the usual cost?” she asked.

“About $20 a box.”

“Oh, they’re double the cost then.”

Good to see the ABC is maintaining its standards.

Great value at twice the price, or is that four times?

Modest Expectations – Leyland Sprinter

Near the end of last year, we decided to decamp to Tasmania for February because we reckoned then that February was the worst time to be in Sydney – always so humid and oppressive. Hopefully we would be climate-wise. Little did we think what would eventuate.

I have jokingly said that having a place in Tasmania is an insurance against climate change. Macquarie Harbour is on the West Coast and is six times the size of Sydney Harbour. Unlike Sydney Harbour, the number of people living in the rim of the Harbour is minuscular – there being one permanent settlement, that of Strahan, which is home to both a fishing and a tourist industry. Salmon farms dot the Harbour.


In my blog I have written twice about my view as a lover of Tasmania. In a blog I wrote about a year ago, inter alia, I mocked the pitiful amount being allocated to bushfire control. The West Coast of Tasmania has been thought immunised against bushfires, because it rains on average every second day of even the driest month, February, and thus having about 160cm rain annually has been some insurance. Bushfires have ravaged the area, but mostly in the mining area around Zeehan to the north where fire erupts from the Savage River iron ore mines.

This was the case in 1982 when a fire was sufficiently worrying for there to be some evacuation of Strahan. The fire had apparently been started by some mutton birders trying to smoke the bird nests in the Ocean Beach dunes, as a preventative measure against any tiger snakes that might be in the burrows. Somewhat exciting if you put your hand into a burrow and you grasp a tiger snake rather than a mutton bird. Anyway, the resultant fire spread through the scrub and nearly burnt the township down.

Nevertheless, while we have been here, there has been a small bushfire near Tullah, which I mentioned earlier in my blog – and another in a more remote area, threatening the Truchanas Huon Pine Forest reserve; a fire in that area would have been equally as devastating as if the bushfire in NSW in the summer of 2019-20 had not been halted before it reached the Wollemi Pine habitat in the Blue Mountains.

The latest news on this bushfire in the south-west is that as a result of concentrated ground works and co-ordinated water bombing, the fire had downgraded from Going to Under Control with aerial firefighting resources and remote area fire crews continuing to work their way around the boundary edge identifying and extinguishing hotspots with continued aerial support.” That report was a week ago, and there is no evidence that local circumstances have changed.

But worldwide, circumstances have changed. Climate change is now an entity which governments are freely blaming for the conditions which have caused the extreme flooding events that have occurred in both New South Wales and Queensland recently. Terms like “one in a thousand years” calamity is meaningless when it is clear that there has been a change in the environment in which we are living.

The solution to repeated fire and flood is to provide the defence, especially when in this neoliberal world designed to value exploitation rather than conservation, building on flood plains or in the areas liable to engulfed in by bushfire seems to have been acceptable.

Clearing our own property is one thing, but when your land is hemmed in by plots of land that are neglected, with local government unwilling or unable to enforce the clearance presents a problem, as we do, then we do have a problem. The owners of the neglected plots are lost in the fog of the titles office; so we have cleared most of an adjacent plot, taking out eucalypts which threatened to fall or were already leaning over our house, which the previous owners had built close to the boundary of the property. To complicate matters two of the blocks of land now don’t have any access to a road, since the road which exists on the town plan has not nor will ever be built.

We have probably dodged the bullet as we go into autumn, but in fire prevention there is still much to do, irrespective of how complicated the situation is.

Governments have spent money to ensure that most parts of urban Australia have clean water – this is already a matter which we take for granted, but it spares a flooded community from cholera or other waterborne diseases which are endemic in less fortunate communities.

I remember those stories, apocryphal or not, of unscrupulous developers who used to subdivide land which only was visible at low tide; but in regard to flood plains, the lack of scruples is only a matter of degree. The cry of “caveat emptor” applies even when the information is symmetric, which is not the case in this world of hustlers and grifters, some of whom graduate into government, as we have seen.  Australia has yet another big clean up job ahead of us, because the stinking mud is not only on the streets of Atlantis, which used to be called Brisbane, but all across this land so strikingly described by Dorothea Mackellar.

Vera Putina’s little boy

The Winter War – Finland v Russia

Greetings to Ukraine. Once upon a time Finland too fought the Russian Army with everything we had and was able to hold on to our freedom and independence. That’s what we wish for you as well. The whole Europe stands with you.” – A message from a Finn who fought against the Soviet Union in  the 1939-41 War who is still alive at 98.

In one way, the number of options for the outcome of the Russo-Ukrainian War are diminishing. They all revolve around Putin’s mental state, now that it has been determined that the Ukrainians are not a pushover. Even in those areas where it would be expected that the people would be little different from the Crimeans, there seems to be vicious fighting. The Ukrainians are not rolling over.”Those Neville Chamberlains” in the US State Department who offered Zelensky asylum did not appreciate his strength. If Zelensky had accepted, that would have been the end; but Zelensky has ditched appeasement in the face of the appeasers.

For Putin, this is very inconvenient. Everybody talks about his unpredictability; but I believe he has the predictability of the tyrant. Thus, it was not long before he sent in his thugs to assassinate Zelensky. How many times he will try to repeat it, who knows! Yet when people become unhinged, as he apparently has, then do we observers put everything down to unpredictability?

While he is using the usual modern warfare device of bombarding the civilians by missiles and bombing, he must break Ukrainian morale to have any chance of winning. The Russians must husband their very finite resources. They are not endless, a very important variable now that the Ukrainians are putting up such resistance.  The cost of Putin’s war should be soon, if not already, affecting the Russian population, given the sanctions and the strength of the opposition. The Russians have tried to compensate with mastery of the cyberworld, which did not have a major “combatant role” in their attempted conquest of Afghanistan. I suggest that with NATO and others supplying both military hardware and essential food and other commodities, the war will be won once the USA can reliably control cyberspace. It would be interesting to know what is the cyber surrender equivalent of the white flag.

If Putin did not have a nuclear arsenal, then life for NATO would be less complicated. NATO will just continue to use Ukraine as a surrogate to do the fighting – and eventually exhaust Russia. Obviously, a mad Putin could make good on turning his nuclear preparedness into an all or nothing nuclear winter – at least in the Northern Hemisphere. What the Chinese decide to do will ultimately decide the length of the War.

Destruction caused by Putin’s war

The fact that the world is experiencing climate change is one good reason why the Russians should dispose of Putin, but he has learnt the tactics of previous Russian despots, where Russia has not only survived but thrived. The only hiccough occurred in the late 1980s when Russia had a rational leader in Gorbachev.

One clue to future action is how the Russians deal with the Ukrainian nuclear reactors. They could continue the boneheaded initial bombardment or think that by doing so the World will watch a new phenomenon, namely the deliberate destruction of  nuclear reactors with all the consequences that will entail. Maybe there is a playbook for such an occurrence, learnt from the Chernobyl disaster (when there was once peaceful co-operation). If the nuclear reactors were to be seriously damaged that would be an excuse for any sane person to seek an armistice, I would think.

Anyway, it would give the Orators of Davos something to think about as, having hurriedly packed their Louis Vuitton luggage and checked the time on their diamond encrusted Rolexes, they headed out into the nuclear cloud in their luxury Gulfstreams.

“A stray orange hair to be flicked off the nation’s sleeve.”

I first became acquainted with George Will through the New York Review of Books as a very astute and perceptive critic. I have never met him, but he is of the same vintage as myself. An Oakeshott conservative, but with an insight not dulled by ideology. He has been a Republican, but now writes regularly for the more Democratically aligned Washington Post.

In many ways Will serves as a policy digestif, enabling the unpalatable to be analysed rather than immediately disposed of.

Presuming that as a senior member of the media and as also a student of history, he can make links that may not be immediately apparent. He has depth of experience able to fathom what have the been the quotient of all his senses over his 80 years. Thus, George Will has both literary subtlety and savagery.

This piece below should help you assess whether this veteran has more than a fine use of words or a sentence that Trump should indeed experience at some stage, when his “sin taxes” become too much to accommodate and a “prigioni lifestyle” threatens.

Floundering in his attempts to wield political power while lacking a political office, Donald Trump looks increasingly like a stray orange hair to be flicked off the nation’s sleeve. His residual power, which he must use or lose, is to influence his party’s selection of candidates for state and federal offices. This is, however, perilous because he has the power of influence only if he is perceived to have it. That perception will dissipate if his interventions in Republican primaries continue to be unimpressive.

So, Trump must try to emulate the protagonist of “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”. In Mark Twain’s novel, a 19th-century American is transported back in time to Britain in the year 528. He gets in trouble, is condemned to death, but remembers that a solar eclipse occurred on the date of his scheduled execution. He saves himself by vowing to extinguish the sun but promising to let it shine again if his demands are met.

Trump is faltering at the business of commanding outcomes that are, like Twain’s eclipse, independent of his interventions. Consider the dilemma of David Perdue. He is a former Republican senator because Trump, harping on the cosmic injustice of his November loss in 2020, confused and demoralized Georgia Republicans enough to cause Perdue’s defeat by 1.2 percentage points in the January 2021 runoff. Nevertheless, Trump talked Perdue into running in this year’s gubernatorial primary against Georgia’s Republican incumbent, Brian Kemp, whom Trump loathes. 

In a February poll, Kemp led Perdue by 10 points. Trump failed in his attempt to boost his preferred Senate candidate in North Carolina, Rep. Ted Budd, by pressuring a rival out of the race. As of mid-January, Budd was trailing in the polls. Trump reportedly might endorse a second Senate candidate in Alabama, his first endorsement, of Rep. Mo Brooks, having been less than earthshaking. Trump has endorsed Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in the gubernatorial primary against Gov. Brad Little. A poll published in January: Little 59 percent, McGeachin 18 percent. During Trump’s presidency, a majority of Republicans said they were more supporters of Trump than of the GOP. That has now reversed.

Trump is an open book who has been reading himself to the nation for 40 years. In that time, he has changed just one important word in his torrent of talk: He has replaced “Japan” with “China” in assigning blame for our nation’s supposed anaemia. He is an entertainer whose repertoire is stale. 

A European war is unhelpful for Trump because it reminds voters that Longfellow was right: Life is real, life is earnest. Trump’s strut through presidential politics was made possible by an American reverie; war in Europe has reminded people that politics is serious.

From Capitol Hill to city halls, Democrats have presided over surges of debt, inflation, crime, pandemic authoritarianism and educational intolerance. Public schools, a point of friction between citizens and government, are hostages of Democratic-aligned teachers unions that have positioned K-12 education in an increasingly adversarial relationship with parents. The most lethal threat to Democrats, however, is the message Americans are hearing from the party’s media-magnified progressive minority: You should be ashamed of your country.

Trump’s message is similar. He says this country is saturated with corruption, from the top, where dimwits represent the evidently dimwitted voters who elected them, down to municipalities that conduct rigged elections. Progressives say the nation’s past is squalid and not really past; Trump says the nation’s present is a disgrace.

Speaking of embarrassments: We are the sum of our choices, and Vladimir Putin has provoked some Trump poodles to make illuminating ones. Their limitless capacity for canine loyalty now encompasses the Kremlin war criminal. For example, the vaudevillian-as-journalist Tucker Carlson, who never lapses into logic, speaks like an arrested-development adolescent: Putin has never called me a racist, so there.

Forgotten Ohio Ukrainians rallying against Putin’s war

One Ohio aspirant, grovelling for Trump’s benediction two weeks ago said: “I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine.” Apparently upon discovering that Ohio has 43,000 Ukrainian Americans, this man Vance underwent a conviction transplant, saying, “Russia’s assault on Ukraine is unquestionably a tragedy,” and emitting clouds of idolatry for Trump’s supposedly Metternichian diplomacy regarding Putin.

For Trump, the suppurating wound on American life, and for those who share his curdled venom, war is a hellacious distraction from their self-absorption. Fortunately, their ability to be major distractions is waning.

Albored Part IV – No Longer Unready?

I have admitted that Albanese is probably not unready, but he is unsteady. He strikes me as a guy who has grown up in the kindergarten of factional politics, but really does not communicate well outside that factional circle.

He is fortunate to have some bloody good women who have shown the guts to stand the incompetents up, and hopefully, on a change of government if that occurs, they will team with some of the aspirants running for ostensibly safe Liberal seats as successful candidates.

I was worried by the absence of Penny Wong and the short statement that she has been ill has been left at that after she turned up on the Insiders program.  The problem with presenting the Albanese foreign affairs approach is to work out what it is. Wong’s comment on Insiders:

Working with partners in the region to build our collective security, to diversify our export markets, secure supply chains, provide renewable energy and climate solutions, avert coercion, and respond to natural disasters. By investing financially and intellectually in the security and stability of our region – because defence capability on its own won’t achieve this. We share with ASEAN states an abiding interest in averting hegemony by any single power – so this is where our energy must be applied.

In responsibility terms does the distribution of Ministerial Portfolios need to be reviewed – Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, Defence, Environment Protection? In Government, the responsibility for legislation, both future and existing, needs to be clearly defined; and yet the intrinsic danger of having exclusive enclaves centred around such legislative responsibility makes talk of co-operative government nothing more than meaningless waffle. The question is whether Albanese will have the innate skills, intelligence and authority to assure his Ministers work together.

The obvious question is if you, Albanese, get into office, what do you do on day one, because if you dissect this paragraph above, it is an overwhelming agenda – so large it leads to policy paralysis. The policy drought is evident with so much discussion on nuclear submarines, which are of no immediate relevance – and given the lead time, how relevant ever, except to continue to create for the huge hole in the Budget. If Albanese stepped back and thought that nuclear submarines are the panacea, then he is as blinkered as our supremely unintelligent Prime Minister.

I believe that the defence of Australia, as is the case everywhere, is yet to move from a traditional discussion of muskets and cannon balls. As Putin is demonstrating, it is all about killing more civilians of the “Away Team” than the “Home Team”.  The Russian armed forces are seeing the people as the real target. Just look at the Ukraine. It is the war which confirms that the most vulnerable are this target. Children and mothers are the prime target, with the latest atrocity being the bombing of a children’s hospital, irrespective of what the propaganda says to the contrary. Putin may claim that everyone has been evacuated; but tell that to the mothers in labour inside the hospital as the bombs fell.

Unlike the countries which have constituted the battlefield over the past 20 years, Ukraine does have a network of underground bunkers, formerly called train stations (which were an important bulwark in the bombing of Britain 80 years ago). The lessons of the Ukraine War are and will continue to be relevant, rather than government solely succumbing to the blandishments of the armaments manufacturers for more and more lethal toys, which if used will destroy us all.

In one way, just the vastness of a very dry continent with a dispersed population, yet with areas that are intensely populated, provides a defence for Australia, the strength of which needs to be exploited in any future conflict. Albanese seems to have succumbed to the one scenario of invasion, given how much sinophobia has framed the foreign and defence policy of the current government.

Just one simple question? How quickly could our underground accommodate our population, how many of them and how strong would our underground need to be to withstand a missile assault?

The other critical area is cybersecurity – far more important than a few pieces of military or naval hardware. Is the arrangement of the current capacity, in all its diverse acronyms, the right way to conduct our national security? I well remember the Hope Inquiry which Whitlam instituted in 1974. It did not help prevent his dismissal the next year.

While much has changed, Hope’s biographer, Peter Edwards, has written that the principles Hope outlined then remain fundamentally important today: effectiveness must be matched by accountability; intelligence assessment must be separated from policymaking.  Intelligence and law enforcement should also be kept separate.  Most importantly, both intelligence assessment and national security policymaking must be whole-of-government processes, based in the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio, with no single department or minister to have undue influence.

The first decision on day one is more pragmatic. What do they do with Mr Pezzullo, given the number of strings that he has pulled under the Coalition? Presumably Albanese believes it is essential that he is removed and neutralised in his ability to have any influence.

The next decision on day one of a new Government is to review the head of the Australian Federal Police, Reece Kershaw. The danger of authoritarian governments is that they crave a secret police to enact their vengeance; and unfortunately signs are that that is occurring in a complacent Australia.

The problem is this drive towards a police state, whether it is called plutocracy, oligarchy or just plain dictatorship, is muddied with cyber security. I have not seen this matter explicitly addressed by Albanese. As someone who studied Georges Sorel, I am well aware that a secret police is the result of the authoritarian mind, whether extreme right  or left wing. Australia should not underestimate this scenario, given the example of Witness K and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, who were not allowed to release information about our underhand dealings over oil with Timor-Leste. The Guardian did not hold back in a report of the matter where Howard and Downer were described as “shills for the corporations”. Albanese has not disclosed his position, because the whole conduct of the Australian Government in this case reeks of secret police.

Maeslant storm surge barrier near Rotterdam

Climate change is the other enemy, against which it has been shown that Australia has almost no defence.  Flood mitigation by the Dutch has been going on since the 13th century. The Netherlands, built on a series of sandy outcrops primarily that of the Rhine, had suffered from the ravages of the North Sea well before “climate change” came into the lexicon. The flooding of the Netherlands in 1953 was the biggest wake-up call. As one writer put it:

The greatest lesson to be learned from the Dutch is perhaps less about engineering and more about mindset and culture. “It’s easy just to talk about technological and engineering solutions, but a lot of the problems surrounding sea-level rise are legal and political. The Dutch have a legal and political system that is united around dealing with water issues; they’ve been doing it for a thousand years.”

As a result, their technology provides an avenue for combating floods, which has been used in attempting to waterproof New Orleans. Yet here, the only discussion about flood mitigation seems to be around raising walls of dams.

Bushfires present the problem of occurring in isolated forested areas under a hot sun and strong north winds, lit by a lightning strikes.  In this country, the approach to bushfires should be inculcated from childhood; bushfire prevention and the community response to fire should be part of the school curriculum. As we age, so increases our responsibility and skill at dealing with probably the greatest enemy of all – fire – particularly when lightning is man made such as by a missile attack. Not sure how this has been discussed by Albanese in his quest to be Number One.

It is a curse that when war flares, conservation of the planet in the long term is replaced by survival in the short term. All the fossil fuel villains of peace time are now life savers. That is the Putin legacy, trying to maintain an order different from that which only exists in the mind of a madman.

That is one lesson of history at this time, for Albanese – John Curtin.

I may not have said that several weeks ago, but just how much times change has been shown by the events of the past two weeks.  Remember the instability of the previous United Australia Party leadership in the events leading up to the entry of Japan in WWII; the touching of the forelock to a useless ally before Curtin won Prime Ministership. Would any of our current leaders have stood up to Churchill and brought our troops back from North Africa as Curtin did in 1942? (Remember Menzies had previously committed Australian troops to the ill-fated Crete campaign under the thrall of Churchill.)

Since Curtin, there is no Australian Prime Minister except Whitlam who has put Australian policy in the world first and refused to send our young men and women as cannon fodder as an excuse to defend freedom. Will Albanese be the next?

Rupert’s Quote of the Geek

The alleged comment of the Australian General, explaining the delayed deployment of the Army to the NSW floods because it was initially too dangerous.

Try Ukraine, Buster!

The Armed Forces are said to spend $40 million annually on advertising, which seems to suggest the war preparation is a succession of jolly japes, with imagery reminiscent of Coke ads in camouflage.  Even Sportsbet has joined in trivialising military imagery to sell gambling. Often in such imagery there is a grain of truth.

Mouse Whisper

There is a photograph under spotlight of eight Russian soldiers in an elevator – all looking as they were escapees from a KAL cartoon – well allegedly these heroes of the Putin special operations decided to take an elevator up to the roof of a Ukrainian building, and the Ukrainians just turned off the power to the lift.

Could the Russian soldiers be that stupid? But whether true or not, the lift occupants do look a little bewildered apart from the one with his balaclava drawn over his head where only the eyes can be seen – it has that black humour which accompanies tragedy.