Archive for the ‘Popular Culture et al’ Category

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-1-58-32-pmlam-roastSad news today from Hollywood that Naomi and hubby Liev Schreiber are splitting up after 11 years together.

We had hoped they might be one tinseltown relationship to actually make it, as they obviously have a lot of time for each other and both seem extremely nice people.

Anyhow, we wish their family well as they tackle the situation as well as the inevitable Hollywood insider interest.

It just reminded us that Naomi first came to the world’s attention in this iconic Aussie TV commercial.

Her nascent talent shines out in the thirty second spot as do her natural, fresh-faced good looks. And her Aussie accent, which has now pretty much vanished.

Tori Kelly

Tori Kelly

 

First of all let it be said that of the thousands of versions of Hallelujah performed since the genius Leonard Cohen wrote it, Tori Kelly nailed it at the Emmys as she provided the soundtrack for the In Memoriam section. She made the song her own, and her effort deserves to be added to the list of great performances of that seminal tune.

There were so many great names on the list of great talents that we have lost in the last 12 months. It’s always a sad moment. This year we reflected on Anton Yelchin, Steven Hill, Al Molinaro, the immortal Garry Shandling, taken from us so soon at just 66 and himself a three-time host of the Emmys, the ineffable talent of Alan Rickman who was also snatched from us ludicrously young before his three score years and ten were up, Wayne Rogers, David Bowie, Academy Award winner George Kennedy, Gene Wilder (we cried the day he died), and Prince. And the list rolled on.

But the name that caused us to gasp – as we hadn’t noticed his death in the news, and he was always a favourite of ours – was Wayne Rogers.

Rogers became instantly one of the most famous actors in the world for his role as Captain “Trapper” John MacIntrye in the ground-breaking series M*A*S*H, surely one of the mostrogers2 original TV comedy dramas ever written, and certainly one of the funniest. Millions still enjoy it today, in endless re-runs, and it is as fresh as ever.

What we didn’t know was that he was also a regular panel member on the Fox News Channel stock investment television program Cashin’ In having built a successful second career as an investor, investment strategist and advisor, and money manager.

Rogers was a prolific actor, appearing on television in both dramas and sitcoms such as Gunsmoke, The FBI, Gomer Pyle, The Fugitive, and he even had a small role in Cool Hand Luke. (The same movie where George Kennedy won his Oscar, coincidentally.)

He co-starred in various “Western” series, too.

When Rogers was approached for M*A*S*H, he actually planned to audition for the role of Hawkeye Pierce. But he found the character too cynical and asked to screen test as Trapper John, whose outlook was brighter.

L-R, Alda, Rogers and co-star Loretta Swift.

L-R, Alda, Rogers and co-star Loretta Swift.

Rogers was told that Trapper and Hawkeye would have equal importance as characters.

This changed after Alan Alda, whose acting career and résumé up to that point had outshone that of Rogers, was cast asscreen-shot-2016-09-20-at-3-39-49-pm Hawkeye and proved to be more popular with the audience. Rogers did, however, very much enjoy working with Alda – who continues to enjoy a stellar career – and with the rest of the cast as a whole (Alda and Rogers quickly became close friends), but eventually chafed that the writers were devoting the show’s best humorous and dramatic moments to Alda.

When the writers took the liberty of making Alda’s Hawkeye a thoracic surgeon in the episode “Dear Dad” (December 17, 1972) even though Trapper was the unit’s only thoracic surgeon in the movie and in the novel, Rogers felt Trapper was stripped of his credentials.

On the M*A*S*H* 30th Anniversary Reunion Television Special aired by Fox-TV in 2002, Rogers spoke on the differences between the Hawkeye and Trapper characters, saying “Alan and I used to discuss ways on how to distinguish the differences between the two characters as to where there would be a variance … my character was a little more impulsive.”

Rogers had considerably reduced his natural Alabama accent for the character of Trapper. He succeeded Elliott Gould, who had played the character in the Robert Altman movie M*A*S*H, and was himself succeeded by Pernell Roberts in the M*A*S*H spin-off Trapper John, M.D.. In the end, after just three hugely popular seasons, Rogers left M*A*S*H. Mike Farrell was quickly recruited for the newly created role of B.J. Hunnicutt, opposite Alda.

After leaving M*A*S*H, Rogers appeared as an FBI agent in the 1975 NBC-TV movie Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan, and as civil rights attorney Morris Dees in 1996’s Ghosts of Mississippi. He also starred in the short-lived 1976 period detective series City of Angels and the 1979–1982 CBS series House Calls, first with Lynn Redgrave (both were nominated for Golden Globes in 1981, as best actor and best actress in TV comedy, but did not win) and then later with actress Sharon Gless, who went on to co-star in the CBS-TV crime drama series Cagney & Lacey with actress Tyne Daly (coincidentally, one of the House Calls co-stars was Roger Bowen who played the original Colonel Henry Blake in the MASH movie). Rogers also appeared in the 1980s miniseries Chiefs.

Rogers then guest-starred five times in a recurring role on CBS’s Murder, She Wrote. He also worked an executive producer and producer in both television and film, and as a screenwriter, and a director. He also starred in several other successful tele-movies and cinema releases.

Rogers never lost his trademark good looks or his cheerful grin.

Rogers never lost his trademark good looks or his cheerful grin.

Rogers began to test the stock and real estate markets during his tenure as a M*A*S*H cast member and became a successful money manager and investor. In 1988 and again in 1990, he appeared before the United States House Committee on the Judiciary as an expert witness, testifying in favour of retaining the banking laws enacted under the Glass–Steagall Legislation act of 1933. He appeared regularly as a panel member on the Fox Business Network cable TV and in August 2006, Rogers was elected to the board of directors of Vishay Intertechnology, Inc., a Fortune 1000 manufacturer of semi-conductors and electronic components. He was also the head of Wayne Rogers & Co., a stock trading investment corporation. In 2012, Rogers signed on as the new spokesman for Senior Home Loans, a direct reverse mortgage lender headquartered on Long Island, New York.

Reflecting his huge volume of successful Tv and film work work, Rogers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005.

After some years living in Florida, Rogers died on December 31, 2015 from complications from pneumonia in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 82.

Well done, that man. A good life, well lived.

Australian politics is … different.

Lambie

An outspoken Tasmanian senator has compared her conservative counterpart to an “angry prostitute” – before apologising to sex workers.

Independent Jacqui Lambie has a history of clashing with government senator Cory Bernadi.

Senator Bernardi was this week critical of Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, who had a travel bill paid by a Chinese donor.

But Senator Lambie compared Bernardi’s outrage to a “prostitute lecturing us about the benefits of celibacy”.

“Before I receive unfair criticism from the sex workers, I apologise to them profusely for comparing them to Senator Bernardi – I know that is a really terrible low-down thing to do,” she told the Parliament.

“Prostitutes are far more honest, sincere, humane, compassionate and better bang-for-buck than Senator Bernardi will ever be able to deliver.”

‘Different universe’

Senator Bernardi, one of the ruling Liberal Party’s most vocal right-wingers, laughed off her colourful comments.

The thoroughly dislikeable Senator Bernardi, who some are calling "Australia's answer to Donald Trump." We think that's more likely to be Pauline Hanson, but there we go.

The thoroughly dislikeable Senator Bernardi, who some are calling “Australia’s answer to Donald Trump.” We think that’s more likely to be Pauline Hanson, but there ya go.

“God love her,” he said. “She operates in a different universe to the rest of us. But I’m pleased Senator Lambie has acknowledged that I’m not for sale.”

The conservative politician also said that Senator Dastyari’s position as manager of Opposition business in the parliament was “entirely untenable”. And Attorney-General George Brandis has called on Senator Dastyari to explain a string of payments by Chinese interests, suggesting he may have been “compromised”.

Senator Dastyari insists the payment was properly declared and has since donated the amount to charity.

Meanwhile, we are all left laughing gently and appreciatively at Senator Lambie’s straight talking. Or to put it another way, as Australians are wont to do, “That woman calls a spade a f****** shovel.”

This is not the first time Ms Lambie has attracted attention for her colourful comments. She once described on talkback radio her ideal man as well-off and “well hung”, attracting approbrium and applause in roughly equal measure.

As we have said before, we rather like Ms Lambie, without agreeing with barely a word she says or an opinion she holds. On the loathsome Cory Bernardi, however, she is spot on.

Testing times for the Government with its plan to hold a nationwide vote on “gay marriage” (or “marriage equality” as it is better termed).

With the Nick “Team” Xenophon votes in Parliament now definitely against the plan, Labor will be extremely unlikely to back the plan, even if there was ever any rarely chance of them doing so. They could, theoretically, still decide to abstain, allowing the Government to escape with a win on the floor of the Senate by default, but their current rhetoric would seem to make that unlikely, and they would be roundly criticised for allowing a measure to pass that they have stated categorically they believe should be scrapped.

Our view is that the Government will still “test” the Parliament with a vote – judging that a defeat in Parliament will be less damaging to their stocks than just giving up on on their manifesto pledge altogether.

The likely breakdown of votes can be seen below, courtesy of The Age’s neat Senate-working-out interactive map, assuming Family First vote in favour of the plebiscite as their last best chance to get the people to reject marriage equality, and we are basing Lambie’s likely vote on the basis of her earlier statements that Australians should have the right to vote in a referendum on gay marriage but she would ‘fight like hell’ against any changes.

 

 

Looking dicey for Turnbull gay marriage vote.

Looking dicey for Turnbull gay marriage vote.

 

Assuming the above scenario works out then it seems virtually impossible for the Government to avoid a free vote on the topic in Parliament as an alternative to the plebiscite, though when that might be is problematical. They could theoretically take a bill to reform the marriage act to the next election, so they can claim a mandate to make the necessary changes if they win again, but that would seem to drag out what has already been a marathon national debate way too far.

There is clearly a mood in the country for change, even though pockets of strong and principled resistance remain. But the case has now been argued endlessly and surely the reform side has won.

As one caller to talkback radio in Melbourne put it last week to the relevant government minister, “For heaven’s sake, just get it done!”

Yes, that was us.

All of which also frees up a staggering $160 million which was going to be wasted on a non-binding vote to be spent on something else, or at the least chucked back into the empty government pot to go towards reducing the deficit. That sweetens the pill for the Government somewhat: umpteen million taxpayers will be pleased.

harred

“Haters gonna hate” goes one of the more popular phrases doing the rounds on the internet currently.

This fascinating – strongly recommended and well-researched – article from the BBC tackles one of the most pressing issues facing modern democracy.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160823-how-modern-life-is-destroying-democracy

It argues that the brutal tribalisation of Western democratic politics – the ever widening gap between left and right that also sees both those “wings” of politics more extreme in reality as well as simply being perceived as such – is partly a function of the way we live now, and perhaps especially interestingly, that the algorithm-driven marginalisation of readers into ever more narrowly targeted discussion groups on social media is a major factor.

In other words, the more time we spend on Facebook, the less we are exposed to competing points of view, and the more rigid we therefore become in our opinions, because we are constantly exerting confirmation bias on ourselves, and receiving it from those who agree with us. What’s more, the stronger the confirmation bias the less likely we are to accept opposing evidence. Even facts don’t make any difference to the opinions we hold.

As we replicate this social media bias into our daily lives with our friends’ groups, the same effect is multiplied.

All of which bodes ill for the institution of democracy. Democracy only survives – only works – when there is a broad, implicitly accepted consensus that disagreement isn’t just healthy, it is actually the oxygen that nourishes democracy. Debate is good. It’s more than good, it’s how wisdom is created. It’s also how agreement is built between competing groups exerting different pressures on the system. With no debate, whichever side is stronger merely overthrows the other, and the other becomes angrier and more likely to resort to non-democratic methods to achieve their desired outcomes.

The number of friendships shattered by the emotions released over “Brexit” must pass into tens of thousands, or more. And it isn’t good enough to say “well, they can’t have been very good friendships to begin with”, because we can observe that many were. But the tensions raised, especially via the debating tactics used, essentially told people that their side were angels and the other side demons. In most cases, of course, that simply wasn’t true.

The current American presidential election has descended into by far the least edifying contest in living memory.

No, Hilary Clinton is not a perfect human being any more than her husband was. Yet neither is she the epitome of evil and illegality that she is accused of being by many on the right. Discussion of her intended program is virtually banished in pursuit of relentless personalised character attacks. Similarly, Trump has said plenty – and done plenty – that warrants forensic analysis, and his character is legitimately under question. Yes despite his strangled syntax and rubbery policy positions, it also cannot be denied that he has tapped into a rich and deep vein of anti-establishment angst that deserves to be heard and understood, lest it spiral beyond the system and into the realm of civil disobedience and worse.

There have already been glimmerings of a rejection of the very notion of civil society in America, to left and right. This is extremely worrying, as the country’s nascent economic recovery is very fragile, and the rest of the world relies on it becoming locked into place. That requires stability.

 

hitler

 

What we need is a return to courtesy. To a willingness to concede that the other side might have a point. Not a mindless dumbing-down style of courtesy that means we tolerate people saying any old nonsense – as we have argued often, free speech never was – and never should be – considered to be absolute.

We need the people to demand courtesy of our political leaders, and we need the people to demand that they operate with transparency, ethics, and respect for their opponents. That they argue the merits of a policy position, and not just the morality or motives of their opponents.

We need, in effect, to demand more of our leaders; we demand they do much more than enthusiastically follow whatever lapse into tribalism we exhibit. A great truism is that ‘We get the politicians we deserve”. So getting better politicians means we have to say, loud and clear, that we want to elevate people who can look beyond stoking the fires of tribalism – yes, even to the point of putting those fires out, and even if they serve an electoral purpose.

They get paid the big bucks. We have a perfect right to expect more than self-serving populism in return.

dichro

We’re biased, of course, as this blog is from Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink, but it’s a really interesting article about an utterly beautiful product and we thought it was well worth sharing.

Enjoy!

Click here: http://jenieyolland.com/everything-wanted-know-dichroic-glass/

Includes links to classes where you can come along and learn to work with the glass yourself. Such fun🙂

 

Thanks to Kiss FM we now know that ten popular Melbourne restaurants have been penalised with more than $325,000 in fees for operating filthy; cockroach infested kitchens.

The restaurants were prosecuted in 2015 for reasons ranging from failing to protect food from pests to handling food in an unhealthy manner. The majority were Asian dining ventures.

The biggest fine was given to Post Deng Cafe in Little Bourke Street which was hit with a fine of $50,000 plus they had to pay $3442 in costs.

It is now under new management but in May 2015 it was convicted of ‘’unsafe food handling, failing to take all practicable measures to eradicate and prevent pests, and failing to ensure it was clean enough that “there was no accumulation of food waste, dirt, and grease.”

Other restaurants that have been prosecuted are:

Raramen – Glen Waverley – $19,000 – live cockroaches, flies, rodent faces all found.
Cafe Student Curries and Pizza – Clayton – $67,500 (including costs)- inadequate pest control, poor food storage.
Pabu Grill and Sake – Collingwood – $45,000 – 19 breaches of the Food Act.
La Casareccia Pizza Restaurant (aka Grillers Steak and Ribs, Bubbles Seafood, My Room Service), 653 High St, Thornbury — fined $40,000
Dumpling King, Westfield Doncaster Food Court, Doncaster — fined $25,000
Healthy Noodle, 1905 Dandenong Rd, Clayton — fined $17,000
Dees Kitchen, 19 Pier St, Dromana — fined $15,000
Wendy’s Bakery, 473 Whitehorse Rd, Mitcham — fined $7500
Hills Noodle Shop, 585 Station St, Box Hill — fined $4000

Extra flies with that?

Ironically, we do have a tinge of sympathy for these outlets, whilst being very pleased to see the problems picked up.

When we wuz a yoof, we worked as a cook in a wide variety of hotels, restaurants, holiday camps and on a fruit and veg van doing the rounds of major hotels.

More than once, we failed to duck a full-blown hosing down in one particular kitchen where once a week the head chef would literally take a fire hose to the place, in an attempt to stay the right side of the inspectors. It’s a stressful topic.

In today’s dog-eat-dog world (if you’ll pardon the pun) it’s hard for small restaurants to make a great living – the market is over-supplied, the owners and staff are frequently exhausted, and frankly if we all live one metre from a rat (as we are told we do) and in a warm climate, which we do, it’s damn near impossible to be sure that there are never, ever droppings or a bloody cockroach somewhere.

Yes, yes, we all assume kitchens are dirty places – and some are – but many owners fight a long and often losing battle trying to to the right thing.

Most of us head to Asia and chow down at street stalls and shanty town restaurants where the health standards are … well, less than perfect. And most of us survive, albeit sometimes with an upset tummy for our sins, although that is most likely, frankly, to come from eating salad vegetables washed in unclean water.

BTW, if there’s a couple of guiding rules for eating in Asia, it’s:

  • Don’t eat anything that isn’t piping hot
  • Don’t eat any fruit, vegetables and salad that you haven’t washed yourself.

We once nearly died in Whenghou, but that’s another story.

As for these Melbourne restaurants, we’re sure they’ll pick up their game, and so they should. But some of the fines are swingeing, and these are, when all’s said and done, small businesses. It’s not exactly an incentive to open a small eatery, is it?

river

Calling all musicians, of all types, everywhere in the world.

Please find below some song lyrics that I just wrote.

This is what you might call a social media experiment. And a cultural experiment.

They’re yours. So long as you put them to music. Use them freely. I want to see what you come up with.

Some dead simple rules to follow:

If you use them, send me a sound file. To steveyolland@yahoo.com, please.

They’re copyright to me, but they’re offered to you to use freely. Just acknowledge where they came from in any public performance, whether online or in any other way.

There is only one proviso to the above.

If you make MONEY out of them, then you split any money you bank with me, 50-50.

Have fun!

 

THE RIVER IN MY HEAD
There’s a river running in my head
It tumbles and it calls
Over the rocks that lie there cracked
It falls, and runs in squalls.
The river in my head
It never stops, it never dries
I think it’s gonna run forever
Till it washes me away
One day
There’s a river running in my head
It tumbles and it calls
It sweeps away the careful bridges
See those snowfalls. See the windfalls.
There’s a river running in my head
It tumbles and it calls
Gonna have to swim for safety
Reach the safety of the walls.
The river in my head
It never stops, it never dries
I think it’s gonna run forever
Till it washes me away
One day
One day
One day

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 4.22.40 pm

80 Shia Muslims from the minority Hazari sect were killed Saturday and over 300 mutilated by IS in car bomb attacks on their peaceful demonstration in Kabul.

Be interesting to see how it occupies the news cycle in the West over the next couple of days. Or not.

Haven’t heard a word on it anywhere. You?

No headphone jack iPhone 7 ‘revealed’

The unverified version of the iPhone 7 on top, compared to a iPhone 6s on the bottom.

A video posted to the Chinese version of Facebook showing what looks to be the new iPhone 7 has backed rumours circulating around the tech world that the new phone will have no headphone jack.

The post, which came to light over the weekend, shows an unidentified Chinese man showing off the phone and comparing it to the iPhone 6s.

Aesthetically both phones look very similar, but there are notable changes such as the headphone jack and a larger camera hole, which suggests a bigger and better camera, too.

The iPhone 7 is rumoured to have 32GB as its entry-level storage capacity, doing away with the cheapest 16GB model, while other online posts suggest the phone will have a bigger 5.5-inch option and a camera with optical zoom.

None of the rumours have been substantiated, and the source of the video is not known.

Anyhow, Apple historically launches the phones in September and makes them available later that month.

So presumably if you want to listen to your music discretely, or watch video on the tram, or whatever, you’re going to need …. what, Bluetooth or wi-fi headsets.

Which will no doubt be sold separately and cost $200. Right.

(West Australian and others)

Errorists – Blair, Howard, Bush.

Wear your beliefs. Change the world one shirt at a time.

Those who forget history are fated to repeat it. Don't let people forget. Buy the shirt.

Those who forget history are fated to repeat it. Don’t let people forget. Buy the shirt.

 

Head to http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431250

We also urge you to read the Guardian’s editorial on the Chilcot enquiry. It encapsulates the total betrayal of the West by its then political leadership perfectly.

At least 500,000 dead. At least 1 million displaced. The entire Middle East thrown into chaos. Decades of misery ensured. The rise of ISIS.

Head to http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431250. Wear the shirt. Don’t let people forget.

#iraqreport #iraq #chilcotreport #chilcot #auspol #uk #usa #australia #war #peace

A US mum is seeking $133,000 compensation after her disabled teen daughter was allegedly beaten, and jailed for a day, by airport security. Reporting (which we pass on here) certainly doesn’t reflect well on the airport, although we have not contacted them for comment and there may be another side to this story. If that comes out in coming days we will report that, too. In any event, it’s an ugly incident.

 

Hannah Cohen after being detained. Picture supplied.

Hannah Cohen after being detained. Picture supplied.

 

We all know that airport security is important in these troubled times, and staff are understandably a bit jumpy. But when a partially blind, deaf and paralysed teenager flying home from brain tumour treatment was slammed to the ground, received a bloodied face and was thrown in jail when she became startled going through airport security, we have to ask whether this anxiety has gone too far, or whether security staff are given adequate training.

As the story is being reported, Hannah Cohen was 18 when she was returning with her mother Shirley from Memphis International airport to Chattanooga in southeastern Tennessee on 30 June, 2015 – a trip Shirley says they have done many times before without incident.

The young woman set off a metal detector at a security checkpoint and became confused when armed agents approached her and grabbed her arms, startling her, the Guardian reported. The girl’s mother was waiting at the other side of the security gate, wearing a mobility boot to nurse a broken foot, when she saw the harrowing incident unfold.

She said she hobbled to a security supervisor and told them: “She is a St Jude’s patient, and she can get confused. Please be gentle. If I could just help her, it will make things easier.”

Security agents told Hannah they needed to take her to a “sterile area” to do a further search. She said she was afraid, and, (very sensibly, in our opinion), suggested she remove her sequined shirt which appeared to be triggering the alert, as she had another top underneath. But officers allegedly laughed at her and instead called for backup.

When armed security arrived, Hannah became afraid. Her mother said the brain tumour left her partially deaf and blind in one eye, so she was startled easily.

“I tried to push away,” Hannah said. “I tried to get away.”

Her mother alleges the guards then detained Hannah and slammed her body to the ground, with her face hitting the floor, leaving the teen “physically and emotionally” injured.

“They wanted to do further scanning, she was reluctant, she didn’t understand what they were about to do,” her mother told Memphis TV station WREG3. “She’s trying to get away from them but in the next instant, one of them had her down on the ground and hit her head on the floor. There was blood everywhere. Another guard pushed me back 20ft, in my boot, and told me I couldn’t be nearby,” the girl’s mother told the Guardian.

Shirley said she quickly grabbed her phone from the security conveyer belt and took a photo of her distraught daughter on the ground.

The terrified young woman was then arrested and taken from the airport in handcuffs to jail, with blood dripping from her face. She was released 24 hours later.

Her family has filed a $133,000 lawsuit against the US Transport Security Administration and Memphis-Shelby County airport authority claiming Hannah was not given adequate accommodation to be screened, and alleging she was discriminated against her because of her disability.

Unbelievable: it looks like the slide to authoritarian behaviour by some security staff and police in America continues apace, or at least that’s how it appears from the way the story is being reported. At the very least, a PR disaster.

And so, Dear Reader, in this “nothing is secret” era of social media, we have Instagram to thank for revealing how at least some Aussies voted yesterday. Somehow, whilst we can’t in all conscience condone it, it does reassert ones faith in our fellow electors.

People “spoil” their ballot papers all over the world. Only in Australia is it this funny, and this bang on the money!

Meanwhile, the real election is just too fucking disastrous to comment on today. We are working up to tomorrow.

Istanbul

 

Who did you lose?

Was that your husband lying there? With half his head missing.
The one who held you in those strong arms for the first time, all those years ago.
The face which gave you a weary smile after work every evening. Sharing food.
The man you moulded yourself to, every night, and fell asleep, safely.

Who did you lose?

Was that your son, lying there?
Arms entwined with the airport trolley he was blown into.
Was he leaving to study abroad? Or just a vacation?
His first time away from home.
That crooked, shy smile you will never see again.
Look: his jeans are torn. He would have hated that.

Who did you lose?

Was that your daughter? Is that your other daughter?
You were just there to wave her off.
On her way back to her husband, and her two small children.
You never wanted her to move away.
But just yesterday she smiled at you over coffee and said “You’ll always be my Mumya. Where would I be without you?”
Always.

Who did you lose?

So sorry to broadcast your grief, but we need to touch it. Need to ask. Need to know.
Because they weren’t “41 dead”. They were your family.
Your blood, being washed away. Blood of your blood.
Cannot hold your gaze, but must. All must.
All humanity has failed you.
And next week, we will fail another, again.
Another Mother. Father. Son. Daughter.

boris rope

 

Early results in the UK “Brexit” vote are showing unquestionably that the referendum is much, much closer than we thought yesterday.

At this point in time, it is looking increasingly possible that the UK has, in fact, voted to Leave.

Whatever has happened in reality, we can now clearly state that this will NOT be a big or biggish win for Remain as we predicted, with what definitely appears was foolish over-confidence. It might well become a win for Leave as the night goes on, or if Remain do stumble over the line it will be only just, and probably with the help of a large Remain vote in Scotland, London, and parts of the South East.

Some early assumptions can be made with confidence:

The “working class” in England and South Wales has voted significantly more heavily for Leave than was expected.

The BBC’s chief political correspondent Christopher Hope has put the referendum result into a historical context. His opinion is its set to the biggest uprising against the people who run the UK since the Peasants Revolt in 1381.

This may be for two reasons.

Firstly, the working class may well be (indeed, almost certainly are) using the referendum to express generalised dis-satisfaction with the sitting Conservative government, and David Cameron and George Osborne in particular, and even with the general conduct of democracy in the modern era, full stop.

In particular, working class resentment over population movement and immigration has been ignored for too long. We do not believe that the bulk of Britain’s working class are racists, although there are some, without question. But they are increasingly anxious about the pace of change, and concerned about their terms and conditions of employment. Immigration is an easy target on which to blame the effect of austerity measures.

Secondly, the Labour Party in the UK, which delivered very mealy-mouthed leadership on the issue, has seen its call to Remain steadfastly ignored by its own supporters, delineating again, if further evidence was needed, that the working class is much less “ironed on” to Labour than it used to be.

The Scottish turnout seems to be lower than might have been expected, and that is probably a result of what people will call “referendum fatigue”. Nevertheless, the Scottish National Party’s strong “Remain” position seems to have substantially carried the day north of the border.

Wales – the area of the UK that probably benefits most from EU largesse – has nevertheless voted in large numbers for Leave. This again looks like a failure of the Labour Party to turn out its vote or a result of strong dis-satisfaction in industrial areas like the South Wellian valleys, Swansea and elsewhere, although the capital Cardiff seems to have voted for Remain.

Even in areas like Southampton and Portsmouth in the South, Leave votes are piling up in working class areas in those major urbanised areas. And as this is about the total votes cast one way or the other, that is bad news for Remain.

Even areas of the South that cannot possibly be considered “urban”, such as West Dorset and the Isle of Wight, have voted for Leave.

Big Remain votes in inner London could just turn it round for the IN campaign, but that may be the wishful thinking on behalf of the Remain camp. Interestingly there is a marked difference between the inner core of London and the East End and Essex. The more culturally polyglot centre of London might back Remain, but the old-style working class areas on the fringes are voting to back Leave.

Turnout in London is high (as it is in the rest of the country) and that has to be good for democracy – at least whoever wins will legitimately be able to claim a mandate.

The natural reversion to the status quo which we predicted appears – very rarely – to have been largely ignored. This may be one of those very, very unusual occasions when the people overturn the tables in the Temple and send the moneylenders packing.

What this is, unquestionably, is a victory for those who ran a highly effective scare campaign about the EU. Likely results of a Leave win will be very significant economic disruption, including a run on Sterling, and depression of stock markets worldwide. Indeed, Sterling and the Market futures are currently down about 5%, to levels not seen since 2009. The Bank of England may well have to intervene in the morning to create stability. Whether losses will be fixed up as the dust settles it is too early to say. There is little doubt that part of the story in the next 24-48 hours will be huge market volatility.

Whatever the result as the night in the UK wears on, one thing becomes very clear. Britain is split right down the middle, and the disputation of the last few weeks (in particular) needs to be addressed.

Likely winners out of this situation? Definitely Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, one of whom will very likely replace David Cameron sooner rather than later if Leave prevail, or even do very well. In either case, their stock will be boosted. For Prime Minister Cameron, calling this referendum may well come to be be seen as “the longest suicide in history”, to steal a term from earlier days.

A renewed call for the Labour Party to replace its current leadership team is very possible. Corbyn has completely failed to enunciate a Labour argument for “In”, and it could see the beginning of the end for his improbable tilt at history.

If Leave succeeds, Nigel Farage, even more improbably, will go down as one of the most historically significant British politicians of the post World War 2 period.

And the European Union will never be the same whatever happens.

What is not generally understood by many people is that if Leave HAS won, this would just be the beginning of a long, tortuous process to untangle a fiscal, trade and regulatory mess. It will be years before a “Brexit” can actually be achieved, (at least two years), and what that would look like has not be explained in any detail by its proponents. Sadly, this is one that will run and run.

We’ll be back if we have anything else intelligent to say, beyond “We read that utterly wrong in predicting a big Remain win”.

Which is the wonder of democracy. No one can ever take the electorate for granted.

And that’s a really good thing, whatever side you’re on.

eu puzzle

We have a habit, Dear Reader, of predicting elections (and referendums are a bit like elections, aren’t they?) BEFORE the result is known. We do this for a number of reasons. When we get it right (which is almost always – although some would argue we didn’t pick a majority for the Tories at the last British General Election, whereas we would argue we did flag it as at least a possibility) we like to stick it up those less perceptive types who think we know nothing – childish, we agree, but very satisfying – and also it’s just plain fun to try and get it right. Everyone’s gotta have a hobby, right?

We have said, all along, ever since the referendum was announced, that Leave will not win. Our reasoning was and is very simple, and quite different to all the other reasons advanced by pundits.

It is simply this.

The “Steady As You Go” argument

 

Electorates are inherently conservative. They tend to vote for the status quo, and especially when they are uncertain of the advantage of changing things. That is why, for example, that the received (and correct) wisdom is that Governments lose elections, Oppositions don’t win them. (And that’s why the Coalition will be returned to power in Australia, incidentally, as they have not done enough cocking up, in enough people’s opinion, to actually lose the whole game.)

In the EU referendum, in our view, the Leave campaign have done an excellent job of ramping up xenophobia and leveraging generalised disgruntlement in the electorate. They have worked on crystallising the anti-politics fever that seems to be gripping most Western democracies, as people rail against the admitted inadequacies of representative democracy. We see it everywhere – the visceral hatred from some for President Obama, the embrace by Trunp by those in America who feel themselves disenfranchised by “Washington”, the rise of the far right in Denmark, Austria, France and Russia, the apparently unresolvable divide in Thailand, the growth of micro parties and third parties in Australia, (reportedly about to push towards nearly 30% of the vote at the July 2nd poll), and so it goes on.

Brexit has leveraged this angst effectively through a ruthless application of rabble-rousing.

In our view the support for Brexit – which has risen by between 5-10% over the last 12 months – is at least as representative of a general mistrust of the establishment as it is a reflection of genuine anti-EU sentiment. In this context, the EU is just the establishment writ large, and the Leave campaign knows this, and has presented it as such with commendable, if amoral, consistency.

By choosing the wayward buffoon Boris Johnson, the plainly odd Michael Gove, and the determinedly esoteric and individualistic Nigel Farage as their lead acts, Leave have presented themselves as the natural anti-establishment choice.

But despite Leave’s efforts, at least 14% of the British electorate still report themselves to the pollsters as “Don’t knows”. Abut 5 million people entitled to vote in the referendum apparently haven’t got a clue what they think, despite literally years of coverage of the matter.

One has to have sympathy with them. Both sides in the debate have fudged statistics and relied on barbed soundbites rather than any serious appeal to the intellect to sway the electorate. There has been a deal of outright lying going on.

In fact, this referendum has been an appalling example of the comprehensive trivialisation and failure of British political leadership, and almost no major player comes out of it with any kudos.

But assuming these 14% are not simply too embarrassed to embrace either of the sides, it is highly likely that the majority of them, if they vote at all, will lump (without any great enthusiasm) for Remain. “Don’t knows” nearly always overwhelmingly back the status quo. (For the same reason, the bulk of Independents in the USA will break for Clinton, not Trump. “The devil you know” is a powerful motivation.)

Yes, there is a chance they are enthusiastically pro-Remain but don’t wish it to be known because they are frankly confronted by the aggression of the Brexit camp and yes there is a chance that they are enthusiastically pro-Leave but don’t want it known as they fear being painted as irresponsible. If either of those things turn out to be true then the winning margin will be much higher for one side or the other than is currently predicted.

The current Daily Telegraph poll of polls has Remain leading Brexit by 51-49, having had Brexit ahead for at least some of last week. If those “undecideds” break very strongly one way or the other that calculation could be way wrong.

When the dishes are all washed at the end of the night, we think they will break disproportionately in favour of the status quo, and also that a good proportion of them won’t vote at all.

For that reason, we feel more comfortable with a prediction of about 55%-45% in favour of Remain, and if that turns out to be the result then everyone in the Chardonnay-sipping commentariat will throw their hands in the air and say “Well, what was all that fuss about? It was never really close, no one got that right!” Except we did. Today.

The ‘Polling Discrepancy’ argument

Our second reason for making our prediction is that telephone polls overwhelmingly favour Remain by a bigger margin than the overall polling is showing, because online polling has the two sides much closer.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 12.24.00 pm

As the chart above highlights, polls where people answer questions on the phone suggest higher EU support than polls conducted on the internet. Since the start of September last year, phone polls suggest a nine per cent lead for Remain, while online polls have it at just one per cent. Why would this be? Well, that depends really on whether one is a conductor of phone polls versus online polls. A lively debate has been going on between the polling organisations.

In our view, it is because people respond differently in different social situations.

They may feel more encouraged to speak their mind to a real person, for example, or exactly the opposite, they may feel less free to state their views.

They may be more inclined to tell the truth when clicking on a survey question on a screen, or they may be more prepared to give a tick to something they actually don’t intend doing when they get into the polling booth proper. There will be a difference between phone polls where you actually speak to someone and where you use your keypad to respond to recorded questions.

Bluntly: polling is an inexact science.

What polling does do very well is track trends accurately. On that basis, there has undoubtedly been a move towards Leave in the last two-to-three weeks, but it may well be that Leave support peaked a week early, as it now seems to be weakening again. It is as if voters walked to the brink of the abyss, had a look, and stepped back. If this turns out to be the case it will be promoted as a triumph of campaigning by the Remain camp, but that would be a mistake. It’s simply the innate fear of change kicking in again. It’s one thing to tell a pollster you are voting Leave when it doesn’t matter because Leave has no hope of winning. Quite another to tell them that when it appears you may carry the day.

Two other factors, we believe, has bolstered the Remain cause.

The ‘Nigel Farage Gaffe’ argument

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 12.35.23 pm

The first was the badly judged UKIP poster promoted by Nigel Farage that showed a huge queue of universally black and brown immigrants waiting to enter the UK. (They were actually photographed trying to enter Slovenia, but that’s splitting hairs.)

Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish Nationals and Green MPs immediately united to condemn the poster, accusing Mr Farage of ‘exploiting the misery of the Syrian refugee crisis in the most dishonest and immoral way’. Popular Scots Nats leader Nicola Sturgeon called it “disgusting”. Others lined up to condemn it as “reprehensible”, “vile”, and “quite revolting”. Even Farage ally Michael Gove said the poster made him “shudder” and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne also aid the poster was “disgusting” and compared it to Nazi propaganda. Social media lit up with actual examples of the poster set against eerily similar Nazi propaganda from the 1930s to make the point.

The poster will play well with the neo-racists, anti-immigrationists, Little Englanders and out and out racists that make up the majority of UKIP’s dwindling band of supporters. But that’s simply Farage shoring up support for his views amongst people who were never going to vote for Remain anyway. We strongly suspect that the majority of Brits, who are, at their core, a fair minded people, will recognise the poster for what it is – an intimation of what Britain would be like under a hard-right Government that could well follow a successful Brexit vote. We think a small but significant number of people will have moved back from Leave to Remain as a result.

The ‘This Has Got Out Of Hand’ argument

Our last reason for suspecting Remain will win with relative comfort is the near-universal shock we have observed over the death of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was callously shot down while going about her daily business, allegedly simply because she held pro-refugee and pro-EU views. This awful event has shaken the British people rigid. Attempts to wave off any connection between the shooter and far-right groups, let alone the Brexit camp, and to characterise him as merely “mentally disturbed”, have, it seems to us at least, failed. Just as the Farage poster offended the British sense of fair play, at least for some people, so the assassination of Jo Cox has driven home to many how divisive and ugly the whole EU debate has become. Families have descended into recriminations, lifetime friends have fallen out with each other, and there have been multiple examples of violent fractiousness from all over the country.

The British people have now had more than enough of this unpleasant debate, which was foisted on them by a bitterly divided Conservative Party and a weak and vacillating Prime minister, and they heartily wish to be rid of it.

Staring down the barrel at what could be years of a messy dis-integration from Europe starts to look like a very poor option to a majority.

In 24 hours, Europe will be calmer again. With Britain inside it, and by then, presumably, permanently.

You heard it here first.

ballotVoting in Australia’s Senate is notoriously confusing. Last time we saw all sorts of odd people elected on next to no initial support. So bizarre were the results last time that the Parliament even changed the voting system this time round.

But there are still a number of interesting opportunities for voting in the Senate this time, and some really horrid dangers too.

As we say, the voting system has changed. The simplest way to do your civic duty now is to vote for AT LEAST six groups ABOVE the line.

So … what to do with your precious vote?

Well, because the quota comes down to 7% in a double dissolution election (when we vote for ALL the Senate and ALL the House of Representatives at the same time) we can pretty much predict what’s going to happen.

The Greens are bound to win one Senate seat in Victoria, and Labor and the Coalition would normally split the others, but there is also a real chance one micro party will also manage to get a quota.

Micro parties have had a bad rap recently because of the “Preference Whisperer” at the last election getting all sorts of odd people elected. But they do bring focus onto important issues that often don’t get the attention they need, so frankly we would suggest you at least consider putting these micro parties in the order you like best and THEN next preference the Greens (to try and get a second Greens Senator elected, unless you happen to hate the Greens) and THEN Labor or the Liberal/National Coalition after that:

  • ARTS (a party set up to promote the Arts in Government)
  • DRUG LAW REFORM (favour decriminalising drugs)
  • MARRIAGE EQUALITY PARTY (self explanatory)
  • AUSTRALIAN PROGRESSIVES (generally good progressive policies)
  • RENEWABLE ENERGY PARTY (self explanatory)
  • SEX PARTY (against religion fiddling in politics and in favour of a relaxed attitude to sex, basically)
  • VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA PARTY (self explanatory)
  • NICK XENEPHON TEAM (a centrist independent grouping based around the South Australian Senator Nick Xenephon)

And THEN, as we say, put the GREENS and THEN add EITHER THE ALP or THE LIBERALS after the Greens. (Ending up on one  of the major groupings means your preferences can’t become “exhausted”. And information on all the above parties can be found on Wikipedia.)

And then we strongly suggest you STOP numbering boxes! So you number a maximum of 1-10 boxes above the line, stopping at your ultimate preference between Labor and the Coalition.

Why stop there? Because most of the rest of the options are truly appalling in our honest view. And we don’t want any of them elected accidentally. So we would simply recommend, don’t number past 10 above the line.

However we strongly urge you to completely reject our advice if you see fit. It’s a secret ballot, and it’s your vote, so do as you like :-) Just please make sure you Vote! People died for that right, remember.

I am just going to leave this here.

welsh

 

 

Jo

 

At Wellthisiswhatithink we have often bemoaned the brutalisation of politics. The way “anti politics” has become the new norm. A politics which is little more than cynicism, mistrust, name-calling and sloganising. It is seen most clearly and more than ever in the mindless forwarding of memes that brook no discussion, because no discussion is possible.

Those with an agenda to drive will accuse this blog of descending into vitriol on occasion. We reject that accusation. Politics is a serious matter, and you cannot “do” politics without disputation. Indeed, disputation – the contest of ideas – is the very core of freedom. And if we have, and it can be demonstrated, then we will recant and apologise.

But there is a difference – a gulf – between healthy disputation and hatred. And hatred has become the new normal, and relatively recently, too.

Whether it is in America, France, Denmark, Norway, the UK or Australia. Whether it is a discussion of guns, of racism, gay rights, of female emancipation, the European Union, or, most obviously, immigration, refugees and specifically Islam. The attitude that “you are with me, 100%, or you are evil and worthy of whatever abuse I choose to throw your way” has taken deep root. With the ascension of Trumpism, most obviously, we see how the inchoate mass rage generated by mindless sloganeering translates into political power, and then political violence. Democracy is a fragile flower, and it is wilting.

This article discussing Jo Cox’s assassination – for that is what it was – says it better than we can. We strongly recommend you read it. Because hatred is never funny. Hatred is never smart. Hatred is never right. Hatred is never appropriate.

Sure, “politics is a contact sport.” It doesn’t have to be murder.

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/a-day-of-infamy/

In slightly better news, #ThankYourMP is trending in the UK. Many people simply saying thank you to their MP, whether or not they vote for them. Well done, whoever thought that up.

fear

 

One of the effects of events such as the hideous massacre of innocents in Orlando, Baghdad, Nice, and elsewhere, is the repeated assault on the mood and feelings of people who are only distantly connected to the actual event.

At times like this, it is all to easy for our imaginations, driven by empathy for those hurt, driven by our simple understanding of what they went through, driven by the awareness that that could have been us, to be completely overwhelmed by the horror.

The news is inescapable. Media coverage is wall-to-wall. It regularly beats in on all of us, even those who seek to shut it out by avoiding the endlessly repeated 24 hour newscasts. An intrusive internet headline here. A radio soundbite there. A comment from a co-worker. A cri de coeur from someone standing next to you in a queue for coffee.

The global psychic effect of the accumulated evil in the world makes us all more anxious. Makes us all more inclined to despair. Our feeling of helplessness grows unabated. Our inability to stop these events from happening induces real trauma. The world is suffering from a creeping case of mass PTSD.

In our desperation, we rail against those in power, unable to understand why the great and good cannot simply flick a switch and make it right. We call for strong leaders to make a difference. And those who would be those leaders shamelessly exploit the fear and distress to bolster their stocks.

And in bed late at night, when all around is quiet and we should be peaceful and calm, we lie awake, staring at the ceiling, the insistent thoughts pressing in on us, uninvited but impossible to ignore. What if it had been my daughter in that nightclub? What if my wife had turned that corner in Paris, or Istanbul? What if we had been in a bar in Bali? Or in a coffee shop in Sydney? Is anywhere safe? Are we ever safe? Please God, we just want to be safe.

This is very far from just a higher brain musing. Psychological studies show that a continual state of mild anxiety is extremely damaging for human beings. It affects our subconscious mind, and induces irrational decision-making. It can pre-dispose people to develop more serious mental disturbances. It may well give us cancer or heart disease. And it is, quite simply, just horrible to experience.

In response, most of us busy ourselves just getting on with life, bereft of any real alternatives to just forging on. Some – a vocal few – descend into activism against the perceived purveyors of the threat (in the world’s current state, Muslims) but most people recognise that the men of violence are a minority. A kind of ‘Dunkirk spirit’ takes hold. We “soldier on”, hoping against hope that we will one day see the end of such events, and fervently hoping we are never touched by one directly, as we weep for those who have been, and will be.

And yet despite our best efforts, there is that constant drumbeat of anxiety, whipped up by the ghastly marriage of the purveyors of terror and those who are duty bound to report it, not to mention the commentary of those politicians who seek to benefit from it. It is always there, just under the surface of our lives, threatening to bubble up and overwhelm our consciousness. Even the act of subordinating it makes us more tired and fearful.

There is only one answer. And it comes from everything we know about dealing effectively with clinical anxiety disorders.

It is to acknowledge, rationally, that we are all threatened, but in a minuscule manner. To cut the threat down to a realistic size in our minds. To deliberately and with determination confront the fears we inevitably feel, and assess them with calm and commonsense, and to assign them the relevance they truly have.

Despite the apparent ubiquity of terror in the world, the chances of being on a plane that is blown out of the sky are tens of thousands to one, no matter how the pictures of wreckage, flotsam and jetsam from those who have been attacked might impinge on our minds. It is perfectly, horrifyingly simple to imagine crashing to the ground, still awake, strapped to our chair, until colliding terminally with the dark black Ukrainian earth. Yet as we view these very mental pictures that distress us so much, we simply have to say to ourselves “but tens of thousands of planes take off and land safely every day, and airlines and governments employ highly sophisticated systems to keep us safer than ever”.

Despite the images that flood our television screens from Orlando, despite the 50 dead young people and the 50 others injured, despite the bloodied souls wandering crazed down the street looking for help, in the heart rending face of the victim’s relations and their incohate horror at their loss, the fact is that there are more than 300 million people in America, and the dead represent one hundred thousandth of the population. In a queue of the entire population, the chance of you being picked out by fate to be in that massacre was over 6 million to one.

The chances of being in that nightclub in Paris, or that restaurant, or on that island in Norway, was millions to one.

Are we completely safe? No, we are not. The dead and injured are real. But we have endured worse, time and again, and survived. My mother and father were of a generation that endured the Blitz, for example. Night after night, the Nazis raised hundred pound bombs onto defenceless civilian populations. Despite the horrific casualties, the majority of the population survived. They went about their business, day after day, determined not to be cowed. Death or injury was an ever-present possibility, but so was survival, laughter, family, friends, the daily round. Stoicism replaced expectation. This too shall pass.

We do not control our environment and no amount of wishing will ever make it so. A plane can land on your house. A tyre can blow out at the speed limit on the freeway. A drunken driver can plough into you as you wait for a bus. There will be storms, tempests, wars and rumours of wars. They are all simply part of life. Media vita in morte sumus.

Fear is a liarWe will all die, one day. In the meantime, the trick is to live our lives every day as unafraid as we possibly can. To seek joy in little things. A new flower. Birdsong. The smile of a friend. A joke shared. An unexpectedly delicious meal.

To see the best in those around us, and to be grateful for the support and love they give us so freely. We have to stare into the abyss of what could be, and then step away from the edge, content in the knowledge that it is far more likely that it won’t be. We will wake up tomorrow. The world will go on. And in the time that is granted to us, strive to be the best people we can be.

Yes, we must cry hot tears for those who were less lucky than ourselves. And we must work every day to remove the hate from our societies. Patiently, slowly, imaginatively, sincerely, day after wearysome day. There is no alternative. There is no magic cure. That is life.

But life is there to be lived, without constant fear. And the day that we allow the fear to overwhelm us, we hand victory to the murderers.