Archive for the ‘Popular Culture et al’ Category

Your indefatigable correspondent doing what he does best, Dear Reader

Your indefatigable correspondent doing what he does best.

You find us on our occasional travels this bright autumn day, Dear Reader, this time to Italy again, to see the immortal Southampton Football Club scale the tobacco-smoke-filled heights of Inter Milan at the San Siro Stadium. Which lofty ambition was thwarted by our customary inability to score from a hatful of golden chances, while Inter Milan scored from their only shot on goal of the game, much of which they spent with eleven men behind the ball and employing every niggly, nasty, time-wasting tactic imaginable, which makes their baby-snatching victory all the more galling, but heigh ho, that’s football. And anyway, what can you expect from a game administered by an obviously blind namby-pamby incompetent fool of a referee, played against a bunch of [insert nakedly inappropriate insults here], who have made a virtue of winning by playing so badly the other team subsides in a heap of confusion and frustration. Bah, humbug and curses to youse all.

We would not use our precious leave to re-visit a country we have explored before, in reality, were it not for the precious nexus of European football and a bunch of good mates traveling to see the game, but Italy is one of those wonderful, shambolic, loveable, infuriating experiences that makes a return trip enjoyable under any circumstances.

If one can ever get there, that is.

Having left home 36 hours before one finally schlepped up to our Milan hotel bedroom, one could be forgiven for thinking the Arab states have got it right and it is, per se, perfectly appropriate to cut the hands off whichever idiot air bridge operator crashed their charge into the side of our plane, thus occasioning all of us to get off again and spent an uncomfortable few hours inside Dubai terminal C waiting for a new one to complete the hop to Milano. Or whatever it is they do to ground crew who mistake their handling of what must be the slowest vehicular transport known to man for racing their new Mercedes and proceed to crash it into a $250 million Airbus, leaving an unsafe dent in the fuselage. “So sorry, Effendi, I just didn’t see it there.” Yes, medieval torture has its place in modern jurisprudence, especially when its 40+ degrees outside and your credit card isn’t working any more than the airport air-conditioning so you can’t even indulge in an iced Starbucks as you disappear into a puddle on the immaculately scrubbed floor. Even the mid-day call to prayer over the loudspeakers fails to lift our spirits. If Allah existed surely he wouldn’t let bad things happen to good people, right?

Milan is, of course, the jewel in the crown of northern Italy, home to fashion and fashonistas, and wandering its streets waiting for the game to start it is hard not to be struck by the fact that everyone is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, beautiful. The women are beautiful – effortlessly, so, with their immaculate coiffure and laughing eyes, high on life. The men are beautiful – boldly so, with their perfectly cut clothes in impossible, improbable colours. There is an air of stylish self-confidence evident everywhere. The short fat people are beautiful. The tall skinny ones are beautiful. Beauty is ageless – the retired indulge the autumn of their lives by dressing in designer fashions that actively defy death and wrinkles. Even the homeless guy pushing a trolley does it with a certain panache as he greets the street vendors who know him. The African migrants trying to sell useless tatt table-to-table in the piazza have adopted their hosts’ insouciant air of belonging, and the street-mime working the restaurants for tips is genuinely funny in a knowing, mocking manner. This is a city high on art culture, so that performance permeates its very fabric. Performance is the core standard. Everyone has an eye on everyone, and knows for sure that everyone’s eyes are on them. It is, frankly, as invigorating as it is scary. So one pulls in one’s belly fat and smiles at the impossibly gorgeous girl at the next table with what you hope is an appropriate devil-may-care atteggiamento. To your astonishment, she flashes you a warming smile back that would melt a Milanese gelato at a dozen paces. This stuff really works. It’s a psychological conspiracy, adhered to by all. We are all beautiful. Keep the faith. Pass it on.

churchSomewhere, a bell tower tolls the hour. Very loud. And very near. And all around, other bell towers take up the tune. The saints clustered around their tops stand impassively calm as the wild clarions ring out, as they have for centuries. They ignore the bells, as the walkers in the street ignore them, as we ignore them. Only the pigeons are startled, but not for long, and return to walking over our feet looking for crumbs.

Our hotel does not disappoint.

It is purple, for a start. Purple from top to bottom.

The grout in the bathrooms is purple.

The walls are purple.

The artworks are purple.

The helpful advice folder in the room is black type on purple paper, so that it can only be read when held under the bedside light at about two inches distance, at which point, like an ancient Illuminati text in the floor of a cathedral, it reluctantly gives up its arcane knowledge of the impossibly complex local train system.

table-and-chairsModern art furniture assails the eyes. Somewhere a table and chairs in the shape of a glass and two steins beckon the unwary. Stay .. drink … relaaaaaax. Tom Hanks rushes into the lobby, crying out to anyone who will listen that it’s not the Metro we allhotel need, but rather the slow suburban S2 line, except they’re on strike. He rushes out again, pursued by a bald monk with evil intent. Or it may have been a postman.

The carpet in the lobby is purple. Your head spins, and not just because ten minutes before you’ve gone arse-over-tit on the laminate floor in your room and you’re no longer quite sure what day it is. Ah yes, it’s match day.

Two Limoncello, please, and two beers.

The ubiquitous lemon liqueur turns up in frozen glasses that are surprisingly beautiful. That’s the aching knee fixed. Onward. Forza!

The game happens.

Having paid a king’s ransom to sit in the posh seats, we exit the ground quickly and safely, with all the fearsome Inter fans (their collective reputation marginally worse than Attilla the Hun’s) shaking our hands with courtesy and smiles and something that looked like pity, as they are enduring a season of shocking failure and they seem to say, “we know what you’re going through, we love you, we share your pain”. Halfway down the stairs, young men and women share the single toilet to serve hundreds, as the male lavatory is inexplicably padlocked, and as they wait in comfortable unisex discomfort they smile, and chatter, and look nothing more nor less than a slightly disreputable renaissance painting come to life. Caravaggio, perhaps.

We are not in Verona, but we might be. There Romeo. There Juliet. There, Tybalt, drunk of course, intent on lechery and perhaps a brawl. All beautiful.

To prevent a brawl, our friends are locked into the stadium for 45 minutes after the game, and then eight thousand Southampton fans are grudgingly permitted to exit down a single narrow staircase. As we stand outside shivering in the suddenly bitter late-evening breeze, they are greeted by a hundred or so police in full riot gear, as clearly the fact that every single one of them is cheerful and good-natured and very obviously they wouldn’t riot if you stuffed a cracker up their collective arse means nothing to Il Commandante Whoever, and having pumped millions into the Milanese economy and behaved impeccably they are now treated like morally dissolute cattle, and dangerously so, too. One stumble, and hundreds could have perished. Criminal stupidity from the authorities, who are obviously only interested in lining the pockets of their carabiniere with unnecessary overtime, as groups of young men in ridiculous gold braid with sub machine guns strut first one way, then another, then back again, noses in the air, sniffing for trouble. They glower. Only word for it. And it isn’t beautiful. It isn’t beautiful one little bit.

But after that distasteful experience, essential Milan reasserts itself, and we walk, semi-frozen and tired to a nearby restaurant owned by a friend and head of the Italian Saints supporters group, and the restaurant is tiny and warm and welcoming, and as feeling returns to our fingers and toes we are treated to a sensational repast of local salami and proscuitto, followed by the most ineffably delicious and unlikely Osso Bucco-topped risotto with creamy rice so imbued with butter and white wine and saffron that the plate almost glows as it comes to the table, and the Osso Bucco topping is gelatinous and rich and the bone marrow in the veal is luscious and braised for hours so that it melts in your mouth. And at the next table are members of the local Parliament representing the curious Legia Nord, the byzantine regional and federalist party which is anti-EU and anti-Rome, fiercely proud of local traditions, socially-conservative, and essentially a party of the right (especially in its anti-immigration activism) yet containing many socialists, liberals and centrists too, who care more for their local area than they do about mere matters such as political philosophy. We remind the leader that we had met previously, at Wembley Stadium, no less, and exchanged happy banter, even though he is Legia Nord and we are socialists. “Of course I forget you if you are socialist!” he laughs amiably, and then says, perfectly seriously, “We need more socialists in Italy. All our socialists are not really socialists, they all agree with the right. This is not good for democracy. How do you like the risotto? It is a local speciality. Best risotto in Italy! More wine?”

panatonneAnd his colleague at the next table waves his serviette in the air as he makes an important debating point about bureaucrats in Brussels and sets it alight on the candle, which seems as good a reason as any for everyone to adjourn to the doorway for a cigarette. And the wind has dropped so the sky is clear and cold, and in the distance a police siren cuts through the still and smoky air and the patron announces “We have Panettone!” which is served with sweet mascarpone cream and it is explained that this doughy, fruit-filled dish is really only served on Christmas Day, but in honour of our visit they have made it specially tonight. And our hosts make it clear that they, not us, are paying for dinner, and we must come again soon. And they really mean it. And everywhere is smiles and gentility and the Gods of football work their magic.

And tomorrow, naturally, the trains are all on strike, so we will not be visiting the Cathedral to see the Last Supper, so we will have time to write this.

And it is beautiful. They are beautiful. Life is beautiful. Italy is beautiful.

And mad. But mainly beautiful.




After an increasingly likely trouncing by Hillary Clinton, which might extend a long way down the ballot paper and might even – in the fevered dreams of a few ironed-on Democrats anyway – result in Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress, although we think that unlikely – the “Grand Old Party” is going to have to do some very serious thinking about it’s future direction.

It is not at all improbable that the party will actually splinter beyond repair, and the right in American politics will find itself much like the Centre and Left in Britain, where the Conservative Party currently looks unassailable by an Opposition split between a Labour Party which is completely riven with internal discord much as the Republicans are now, with about another 20% or so of the vote shared out between the vaguely centrist Liberal Democrats, the Greens, and the Nationalists in Wales and Scotland.

With a “first past the post” electoral system for its main elections, just like in America, any major splits on one side of the traditional two-sided model of adversary politics can very quickly result in a long-lasting hegemony for the more stable side.

Which is why we are interested in Evan McMullin, the ex-CIA operative taking Trump votes in Utah. An independent conservative who calls himself “the opposite of Trump”, he is giving the Republican presidential candidate a run for his money in Utah, a state that has reliably voted ‘red’ for more than 50 years.

Evan McMullin was once the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, but he decided to leave the party after he realised the GOP’s problems “are too deep” to resolve in this generation’s lifetime, he told NBC News. His platform now is based on differentiating himself from the main party candidates, who he argues are more similar than they are different from each other. A similar siren call in Australia – which has proportional voting in its Upper House (Senate) has seen a clutch of smaller parties and independents seize the balance of power from the two major parties, with as yet uncertain results.

The issue is at stake, of course, is have the divisions in the Republican party simply become too overt and too fundamental for it to recover?

Image: Evan McMullinMcMullin, (left), a Brigham Young University graduate, former CIA officer, investment banker and congressional aide, certainly thinks so. And it seems a large number of his local electorate agree with him.

“The short-hand is I believe both Trump and Clinton are from the left side of the political spectrum in most ways,” he said. “Both want to grow the size of the government. I’m the only conservative in this race. I favour a limited government.”

His alternative governing views, and his Mormon faith, have attracted so much support among Utah voters that in a survey conducted earlier this week by Salt Lake City-based Y2 Analytics, McMullin was in a statistical tie with Trump and Clinton.

The survey, conducted after lewd comments made by Trump in 2005 surfaced, showed Clinton and Trump tied at 26 percent, McMullin with 22 percent, and Libertarian Gary Johnson holding steady at 14 percent, according to Utah’s Deseret News.

The support, McMullin said, is as much about his policies compared to Clintons’ and Trump’s as it is about his character. “I think the American people know that both of these options are awful, and they’re looking for something better. That [Trump] tape really crystallised that sentiment for a lot of people. I consider myself the opposite of Trump in a lot of ways, both in terms of a lot of policies, and in terms of temperament and judgment,” he said.

McMullin, along with his running mate Mindy Finn, doesn’t have much of a shot at actually getting elected President — he’s only on the ballot in 11 states and a write-in option in 23 others — but political experts say his rise in Utah is notable.

“This is completely different than anything we’ve ever seen,” Christopher Karpowitz, co-director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, told NBC News. “I think there is just widespread frustration with Donald Trump and really with both of the candidates from the two major parties, so Utahns, including many who have typically voted Republican, are casting about for some other alternative.” McMullin, Karpowitz added, fits a “particular set of needs in this state: people who don’t feel like they can in good conscience vote for Trump, but they’re not ready to vote for Hillary Clinton, either.”

But political watchers aren’t ready to predict a win for McMullin in Utah, which hasn’t strayed from its Republican roots since 1964 — even with big-name Republicans such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Gov. Gary Herbert withdrawing their support for Trump in recent days.

“I still think it’s unlikely that he takes the state of Utah,” Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. But for Clinton and Trump, he said, “I think it’s going to be closer than anyone could have expected.” And losing the state’s six Electoral Votes could seriously complicate Trump’s ability to win the 270 needed to win the White House.

Whether he wins or not, McMullin says he fears for the future of the GOP.

“I seriously doubt the Republican party is viable as a political vehicle going forward. I think it will shrink in size, I think it might become a white nationalist party if Donald Trump supporters remain active after the election,” he said. “It’s time for a new generation of leadership.”

The interesting thing for anyone who can manage to look at the matter dispassionately is that both major parties in the USA are, of course, coalitions of the willing, but at the moment the Democrats are doing a much better job of yoking together their party, which ranges widely across traditional white collar voters who prefer an interventionists government but who hold conservative social views, socialists, urban radicals, environmentalists, social liberals, right over to really quite conservative characters like Clinton herself. The burying of the hatchet between Clinton and the populist “socialist” Bernie Sanders has been accomplished with panache despite dire predictions of widespread abstentions by his supporters.

The distinct strands in the Republicans include traditional centrists who could easily find common cause with the right of the Democrats, the religious right whose concerns are largely social, hard-right small-government “trickle down” Friendmanites, libertarians who combine far right economics with far left social values, Tea Party populists who detest Washington and want a grab bag of policies that mainly coalesce around “Leave me alone” and “Cut my taxes”, and near-fanatical States’-righters who want to re-write the constitutional settlement altogether.

rats-ship-aThe difference is that following years of internal strife between the centrist party leadership and the bands of loud and (for some) exceptionally (at least superficially) attractive Tea Party followers, the Republican Party had almost given up any pretence of being one party. And the selection of Trump – an act of political suicide in our view, an opinion we have maintained all along since his unlikely candidacy was touted – has now simply made the split more obvious than ever, as legions of rats leave the sinking ship in droves.

The dire problem for the Republicans is that, as we said, the American electoral system does not reward anything other than the creation of two coherent power blocks. Whereas in Europe you can afford to have a multiplicity of right wing parties trading preferences in a PR system, and then devising a working coalition in Government, the American system simply doesn’t offer that option. And as the system is essentially Presidential, anyway, that election invariably comes down to a choice between two candidates, as this year.

In the days when the contest of ideas in America was basically between two centrist parties, albeit with differing traditions, things were much simpler. But perhaps because of the much greater influence of a massively increased media market constantly deluging us with more and more “opinion”, or perhaps just from a generalised exhaustion amongst the electorate, who feel that both sides have taken them for a rise and the system – as far as them benefitting from it, at least – is broken, those days are over.

We are in uncharted territory. And right now, the Good Ship Republican is the one heading towards the rocks fastest.

And a system permanently leant towards one side of the political compass is not good for democracy, or any country. Those on the right in America need to some some hard thinking.


We do. It’s just those who love to Lord it over us like to claim we never do.

There is little doubt that Donald Trump cheerfully boasting about having assaulted women – which when questioned about in the second debate he then denied – was a new low for American politics.

But let us consider the Clintons. Pace disputing the fine details claimed by the women produced by Trump to damage the Clintons, in the broad brushstroke view of history no one could pretend that Bill Clinton was (and for all we know, still is) anything other than what Australians call “a pants man”. Sexually highly active outside of his marriage, which fact he repeatedly denied until he could no longer get away with it.

Whether he is a rapist is more difficult to prove, simply because nothing has ever been proved, and anythign we might say or think, or indeed what anyone might say or think other than a jury hearing evidence, would be pure speculation.

Equally, despite claims to the contrary, no-one has ever proven Hillary’s role in “persecuting” the women seeking retribution for Bill wronging them. Indeed, in the Juanita Broaddrick case the investigators going after Clinton to impeach him specifically found that there had not been pressure on her to retract. Yet she says there has been, over the years.

The truth in the high-profile cases that Trump re-introduced into the debate is even harder to discern, given that some of those now accusing Bill Clinton are clearly partisan, and right wing.

Then again, had they been assaulted or raped, well, they would be very vocal in their opposition to him, and by implication his wife, wouldn’t they? We also know that victims of assault frequently offer confused or contradictory stories of their experiences, reflecting the intense psychological pressure they are under. Any understanding of their testimony needs to take that into account.

What can be said for certain about Bill Clinton is that he used the highest office in the land to seduce an impressionable young woman when the very slightest regard for moral norms should have told him not to. And even having done so, he should have re-considered.

He then denied it until he had no choice but to admit his wrongdoing, using weasel words like “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”. From where we come from, clearly what Lewinsky and Clinton did was “sex”. His attempt to deny her in this wise was reprehensible.

Whatever else Bill Clinton is, he is no gentleman.

Some of the criticisms made of Mrs Clinton are patently ridiculous.

In the very sad case of the rape of the 12 year old girl, Kathy Shelton, Clinton has been repeatedly criticised for “putting her through hell” and “laughing about the case afterwards”. In fact, as can be read here, the truth is very different. After trying to avoid taking the case, Clinton did her job as a court-appointed defender for a thoroughly unpleasant offender, and her laughter was regarding the unreliability of polygraph testing.

People conveniently forget that in the adversarial court system employed in the States Clinton had a legal responsibility to mount the strongest possible defence for her client, or face sanctions herself. That the defending counsel in rape cases often have to blacken – or at least question – the character of rape and assault victims is a crying shame in many jurisdictions in the world. Nevertheless, Clinton was only doing her job.

A fact the victim acknowledged publicly: Shelton told a Newsday reporter in 2007 that she bore no ill will toward Clinton. “I have to understand that she was representing Taylor,” she said. “I’m sure Hillary was just doing her job.” Later, she changed her mind, having heard the tape of Clinton discussing the case.

Meanwhile, sexual scandals in America (and elsewhere) are a fact of life, crossing all political boundaries. Former Vice president Al Gore is now accused of demanding sexual favours from massage therapists – so-called “happy endings”. This interesting Wikipedia article shows just how common sex scandals – straight and gay – in the Federal political sphere in America are. And it’s not like the rest of the world is any different.

The list is long and miserable. So what is really going on here?

Let us try and take the politics out of this, for a moment.

There is little doubt, as has often been claimed, that power is an aphrodisiac. People in powerful positions – in business and in politics especially – are undoubtedly sexual targets for many people, just as a seemingly inevitable expression of their powerful character and position may be their own sexual wanton-ness.

The number of stories one hears whispered sotto voce from “the corridors of power” of the enthusiastic sexual excess or adultery of men and women of all kinds far outweigh whatever stories actually become public. In many cases, journalists actively connive in keeping the tales private, because they consider them to be nobody’s business but the participants, except when the behaviour has other implications. (Like the Profumo affair, for example.) And in many cases, journalists keep the stories “spiked” because they are participants.

The cliche of the “boss” sleeping with their personal assistant is a cliche simply because it happens so often. And an air of sexual innuendo and availability permeates political parties, in particular, and has been the cause of many women bemoaning the fact that their advancement seems to rely on being willing sexual partners to men whose advances they have no interest in receiving.

Mix both situations with alcohol – or being in a location away from home – and the effect is magnified.

Or to put it another way, it seems hardly surprising that sexual scandal seems the norm, rather than the exception, especially in an era when the ties of marriage seem somewhat looser than in the past.

But if sexual hi-jinks are the “new normal”, then what are the rules governing that brave new world?

It is surely clear that the first and primary focus of everyone must be on confirmed assent. And because many women, in particular, feel pressured into sexual behaviour that they are not entirely comfortable with – or at all comfortable with – then the nature of that consent needs to be explicit and unambiguous.

At its most simple, men simply have to ask, out loud, “Is it OK with you if I/we do this?”, and also to be aware that apparent consent (such as a bashful or embarrassed “Yes”) may in fact be a sign of really being a “No”, as may be physical body-language indicators such as looking down or away, physical rigidity, and so on.

Even more complex is that sexual activity is a continuum, not a moment in time, and what might have been acceptable at one point in the exchange becomes unacceptable further on because one of the partners changes their mind.

It sounds like a minefield, and it is, but after all – if both parties to a sexual tryst are jointly and equally excited about the prospect, it’s pretty damned obvious, isn’t it? So at any given moment, if a man senses no matter how fleetingly that the woman may be unhappy with the situation, and we are talking primarily about male-female sex here, they are surely duty bound to articulate the question above, and listen hard to the answer, on all levels, even if it’s been asked previously. Similarly, one episode of sexual consent does not necessarily predicate a future one.

So far so good. None of which, though, would have applied in the case of Monica Lewinksy and Bill Clinton, where Lewinsky was clearly infatuated with the older man.

Lewinsky candidly said:

“I fell in love with my boss in a 22-year-old sort of a way,” she told a summit organised by the business magazine Forbes. “But my boss was the President of the United States. In 1995 we started an affair that lasted, on and off, for two years. And at that time, it was my everything. That, I guess you could say, was the golden bubble part for me; the nice part. The nasty part was that it became public.”

Should Bill Clinton have resisted the charms of Ms Lewinsky, as they were a betrayal of his marriage, his office, and also taking advantage of her naivitee? Undoubtedly. On the other hand, they were both consenting adults, and until the matter became public, contentedly so.

But Lewinsky also went on to say, in May this year, responding to a partial transcript of a late-1990s phone conversation in which Mrs Clinton called her a “narcissistic loony toon”, “Hillary Clinton wanted it on record that she was lashing out at her husband’s mistress. She may have faulted her husband for being inappropriate, but I find her impulse to blame the Woman – not only me, but herself – troubling.”

We agree. Clinton could choose to excuse or defend or overlook her husband’s infidelities – many marriages survive infidelity for all sorts of reasons, indeed, some become stronger – but without demeaning the character of his lover.

Anyhow: taken all in all, it is a sorry history. No side comes out of it with any honour.

Perhaps all we can hope for is that current and future generations will eschew power-oriented sexual behaviour entirely, and become much more adept at handling sexual matters in a more equal and sensible manner. Starting right now, we hope.

And as for the Clintons? No, they’re not perfect. In our experience all our idols have feet of clay, and how much clay goes to make up their lower limbs determines whether or not we feel we can support them despite their flaws.

They may well fail some or all of the “character” test, but in all probability so do many around them, including their opponents. Politics is a murky and unpleasant business some of the time, and certainly it is currently. Uneasy voters are left trying to parse which candidate’s program they feel more comfortable with, while holding their nose and voting for one or the other. We could devoutly wish that future choices will be more edifying.

And as for sexual assault and rape? If proved, the perpetrator should be punished, whoever they are.

But the key word in that sentence is “proved”. “There’s no smoke without fire” might well be true, and we will all make judgements based on what we think we know in any given situation, but it’s not a basis on which we can or should conduct public life.

The public life of anyone. Even the Clintons.

Still from the film Panfilov's 28 Men (courtesy of: Panfilov's 28 Men / Andrey Shalopa, Kim Druzhinin / Lybian Palette Studios Gaijin Entertainment)

A clip from the war film – Kazakhs, Russians and others are shown as Soviet comrades in arms. Only problem, the event depicted never happened.

A new film showing Red Army soldiers outnumbered by invading Germans but battling on heroically has become part of the Kremlin’s campaign to restore Russian pride.

State television showed Russian President Vladimir Putin watching the film last week, alongside Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in the Central Asian leader’s capital Astana.

The clear message was that Russia and Kazakhstan are maintaining Soviet-era bonds of friendship, despite tensions in other parts of the former USSR. But the film itself – Panfilov’s 28 Men – is based on a communist myth.

Presidents Vladimir Putin (left) and Nursultan Nazarbayev watch Panfilov's 28 Men

The film depicts an heroic act of self-sacrifice outside Leningrad – now St Petersburg – in November 1941.

According to the Soviet mythology, 28 guardsmen from the Red Army’s 316th Rifle Division, mainly recruits from the Kazakh and Kyrgyz Soviet republics, stood unflinching against the advancing might of Hitler’s Wehrmacht. The men, led by Maj Gen Ivan Panfilov, were all killed, but destroyed 18 German tanks before they fell. The 28 were immortalised – posthumously decorated as Heroes of the Soviet Union – and Soviet children learnt about their last stand in school.

Yet historians say the story is not true.

An official Soviet investigation into the event, compiled in 1948, concluded that the story was the “invention” of a journalist from the Red Army’s newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda. The reporter’s account was at best exaggerated, and several of the men survived. The results of the probe were kept secret.

But the themes of the story chime with the Kremlin’s worldview, and the state partly sponsored the new film.

The Kremlin customarily promotes the idea of World War Two as a heroic victory that united the Soviet state against fascism – and still unites Russia today against a similar threat they say has resurfaced in Ukraine, which is, of course, nonsense.

The USSR suffered the heaviest losses in the war – more than 20 million civilians and military – though scholars dispute the exact toll.


WW2 veterans at the memorial to Panfilov's men in Dubosekovo, near Moscow

WW2 veterans at the memorial to Panfilov’s men in Dubosekovo, near Moscow

The film shows Kazakhs, Russians and other Russian speakers standing shoulder-to-shoulder to defend the Motherland. It echoes a Russian foreign policy concept: a Moscow-centred “Russian World” united by a common language.

But when, in June last year, Russian State Archive director Sergei Mironenko, citing historical documents, said the story was in fact a myth, he earned a sharp rebuke from Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky.

Mr Mironenko was removed as head of the archive in March this year.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks at a special banquet reception for WW2 veterans to mark Victory Day in the Kremlin in Moscow, 9 May 2013

On Victory Day – 9 May – President Putin warned against “falsification of history”.

In February 2013, President Putin ordered a single history syllabus for schools, offering a standardised narrative. A new state “History” TV channel was launched that year too. Supporters of Mr Putin’s bid for a “canonical” history say it is needed in order to keep such a large state together. Yet critics see it as an attempt to impose one official version of the past.

Mr Putin and other officials have repeatedly talked about the need to counter the “falsification of history” or “rewriting history”. They oppose interpretations of World War Two or other episodes of Soviet history that deviate from officially approved narratives.

Mr Putin’s father was seriously wounded as a soldier on the Leningrad front.

People carry portraits of WW2 soldiers in the Immortal Regiment march in St Petersburg

The annual Immortal Regiment march honours World War Two sacrifices in St Petersburg

Mr Medinsky, the culture minister, defended Panfilov’s 28 Men, saying “Even if this story was invented from start to finish, if there had been no Panfilov, if there had been nothing, this is a sacred legend that shouldn’t be interfered with. People that do that are filthy scum.”

It is not the first time Russian officials have suggested that certain chapters of Russian history are sacred. But the concept of portraying something as history that is officially acknowledged as un-factual is very “1984”, and part of a trend worldwide which is rather worrisome. If we can’t possibly know what is true and what isn’t – if we are forbidden to say what is untrue – then how can people form a rational view of history?

In January 2014, independent liberal broadcaster Dozhd TV also came under attack. It was accused of smearing the memory of WW2 veterans by asking whether residents of wartime Leningrad could have been saved by surrendering the city to Nazi forces.

Screengrab from Russian Kommersant website

“Citing Nuremberg” – a court ruled that blogger Vladimir Luzgin was guilty of denying facts established by the Nuremberg Trials

The public discussion of WW2 history has also been curbed by a controversial 2014 law against the rehabilitation of Nazism.

Under this law, Vladimir Luzgin, a blogger from Perm region in the Urals, was fined 200,000 roubles ($3,200; £2,500) for reposting an article about the war on the Russian social network VK (VKontakte), the daily Kommersant reported in July.

The court ruled that Luzgin posted an article with knowingly false information about a joint invasion of Poland by German and Soviet forces on 1 September 1939.

According to the prosecutors, Luzgin realised that the text might instil in many people “a firm conviction about negative actions of the USSR” in the war.

The court said Luzgin had falsified history by stating “that the communists and Germany jointly attacked Poland, unleashing World War Two, or in other words, that Communism and Nazism co-operated honestly”.

In September, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that the punishment of Luzgin was justified.

Nazi Germany and the USSR signed a non-aggression pact in August 1939 – the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In a secret protocol, they agreed to carve up Poland between them.

Nazi troops invaded Poland on 1 September and Soviet troops, from the east, on 17 September. The Russians claim it was to defend themselves against potential Nazi aggression, but most independent historians consider it nothing more nor less than a naked and opportunist land grab by Russia, and the repression of the population in the seized areas left a scar which persists to this day.

Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (L) with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler

A photo (undated) shows Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (L) with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler

Promoted by the state and personally previewed by Mr Putin, Panfilov’s 28 Men may well prove a box office hit when it comes out in November.

Myth making in pursuit of political goals is hardly new in cinema, of course. The Nazis employed the tactic mercilessly, as did Britain, and to a lesser extent, America, who persisted with the practice right up to the Vietnam war. And no one could argue that the golden era of Hollywood “Westerns” portrayed anything like a reasonable view of the native peoples of America and the wars with them. But two wrongs – or multiple wrongs – don’t make a right.

Many Russians may not know how the state embroidered the tale of Panfilov’s men – but then many may not care either. That is what should concern us.

(BBC and Wellthisiswhatithink)

pinProvided even a reasonable percentage of her supporters turn out, as opposed to spending the day in a bar drowning their sorrows at what has become of America, then Hillary Clinton has already won the Presidential election.

Barring an opinion earthquake, of course. Of which, yes, there is always a tiny possibility – especially in this most unusual year – but we surely now know everything there is to know about Mrs Clinton after her much-touted thirty years in public life. The chances of anything truly dramatic coming out now is vanishingly low, especially after the Wikileaks big expose, which kept some right-wing Americans up all night with excitement waiting for the goss, turned out to be a complete fizzer.

How can we be so sure? Simple. The size of the mountain Trump has to climb.

This is famed statistician Nate Silver’s latest forecast of the likely result.

Likely election result

This takes into account a wide range of opinion polls, some traditionally favouring one side, some the other, but only some of which factor in opinions SINCE the Trump “groping” scandal broke. The CNN poll on “who won the debate” isn’t factored in, but that strongly favoured Clinton too, even though it generally overstates Clinton support slightly, a factor that CNN acknowledge.

In other words, if Trump’s scandalous remarks are not fully factored in yet, and the debate isn’t either, then this is a dire result for Trump. His position, already looking rocky, has declined further. And still has some downside to go.

This is how Trump has been faring recently:

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.


The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.

The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.


Chance of winning

The “chance of winning” calculation looks insurmountable for Trump.


The “path to a win” problem

Most pointedly, when we look at the Electoral College likely result, Trump’s path to the White House now looks impossible, because the polls are predicting critical wins for the Democrats in Florida (up by more than three points) and Pennsylvania (up by nearly seven points), in North Carolina and Virginia by comfortable margins, and, indeed, in every other battleground state except Nevada and Arizona, and in Nevada Trump’s lead is just 4%, and in Arizona it’s “even stevens”, but then again we also know that the main newspaper in that state is now campaigning for Clinton.

Trump simply doesn’t have a route to win, on these figures. As things stand, Clinton will win 310-340 electoral college votes: more than enough for a very comfortable victory. Trump may well pile up votes in very conservative locations, but that doesn’t help him, no matter how much “singing to the choir” he does.

But the real killer for Trump is that things are going to get worse from here, not better. Blind Freddie can see that there will be some fallout from the recent furore that will be reflected in polls that will get reported by about Wednesday or Thursday, American time. How big a hit Trump will take is as yet unknown, but a hit there will be.

And as Silver argues:

Trump couldn’t really afford any negative shock to his numbers, given that he entered Friday in a bad position to begin with. Let’s say that the tape only hurts him by one percentage point, for instance, bringing him to a 6-point deficit from a 5-point deficit a week ago. Even that would be a pretty big deal. Before, Trump had to make up five points in five weeks — or one point per week. Now, he has to make up six points in four weeks instead (1.5 points per week).

In other words, Trump’s mountain is growing, not getting smaller. A gain of 1.5 points a week will require a massive sea change in opinion and there is no evidence whatsoever that is happening.

In addition, we see three more anti-Trump factors that will be starting to bite against him, given that is always a delay between things coming up and them affecting the opinion polls.

Trump’s “non payment of Federal tax for 20 years”

The expose over Trump’s tax situation is, we believe, much more telling than some people have realised. It’s simply too smug for Trump to dismiss it as “smart business” to use write offs to reduce tax seemingly forever. The idea that a billionaire doesn’t need to pay ANY tax, year after year, is a lousy atmospheric for the Republicans, especially for a party often condemned as being only interested in the big end of town. Trump’s natural support base is angry. Angry in an inchoate, unspecific way.

And they all pay their taxes, on much lower incomes. Sure, a few will say “good on him”, and a few will argue “he did nothing illegal”, but that is emphatically not the point. Most will say, “Well, f***.”

Trump’s stunt on Sunday with “the Bill Clinton women”.

No one would argue that Bill Clinton is anything other than a womaniser: it’s a near-fatal character flaw when his record is judged. But there’s a reason that Republican strategists have historically NOT gone after him as a means to get at Hillary. It’s because every time it’s brought up, it produces more sympathy for Hillary than everything else, especially amongst women voters. In desperation, Trump broke that rule. It won’t help him, and could hurt him.

Also, every time Trump brings up Clinton it reminds people of his own transgressions. His first wife accused him of rape – an allegation withdrawn after a confidential settlement. A “live” rape case with a thirteen year old plaintiff is in the courts now. Trump denies both, but, you know, so did Clinton …

The Republican backlash.

Sure, the Republican Party is split right down the middle. Sure, Tea Party types will accuse all those Republicans now abandoning Trump as being the best possible reason to back him and his intra-party revolution. But not all Republican voters are Teapublicans, and they and “independent” voters leaning towards Trump will be dismayed at his own colleagues’ thumping rejection of him. Some of those voters will plump instead for the Libertarian, Johnson, some will simply stay home rather than vote for the hated Clinton. Neither of those possibilities help Trump. By contrast, the centre and left have coalesced effectively around Clinton, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein is fading.

Now opinion polls have been wrong in the past. (Most notably with “Brexit”, which we and everyone else called wrong.) But not this wrong.

Which is why we say, as we have all along, it’s all over. Somewhere, a fat lady is singing her lungs out.

Probably one that Trump insulted.

trump san joseAre you in the group that says, of Donald Trump, “How can people even consider voting for that dreadful man?”

Well, we found the following article on Addicting Info, and we reproduce it in full. It should be read very carefully by anyone with the wit and critical faculty to understand the point it is making. It should specifically be sent to or read to any apparently sane person who is considering voting for him.

In our view, a tiny minority of Trump supporters are deliberately – consciously, ruthlessly – supporting his rabble-rousing rubbish because they genuinely believe in the inevitable result of what he stands for. In pursuit of their goals, they believe it’s OK to lie about virtually everything that matters and to terrify part of the population with nonsense. They believe it’s OK to be nakedly racist. They believe it’s OK to mangle the language until what comes out of your mouth means nothing. They believe it’s OK to wonder aloud why it’s not OK to use nuclear weapons. They believe it’s OK to be repeatedly loathsome about women. They believe climate change is a Chinese hoax. And that it’s OK to claim to be a successful businessman when you lose nearly a billion dollars in just one year. And that it’s just good business smarts not to pay any tax.

Why do they believe all this is acceptable? They believe this is acceptable because they are fanatically convinced that the entire panoply of government in the United States should be dismantled to pay for a new low-tax, low-government model that would transform America into an unrecognisable shadow of its former self.

And so they bite their tongue, swallow their distaste at their manic buffoon of a candidate, and pretend that Trump is a serious candidate who just exhibits a sort of folksy aw shucks anti-politics hucksterism which is essentially harmless. They know they’re lying, but they think they can control him if he gets to the White House, so they don’t care.

trump__clintonAnd before anyone says “But Hillary is a flawed candidate, too!” Yes. Yes, she is. We are not especially enthusiastic about her, and haven’t been since she showed herself to be tone deaf over healthcare reform in her husband’s first Presidency.

She’s very conservative. She’s an American interventionist. She has a moderate, at best, record in public service. (In terms of results. Her effort cannot be faulted.) And she has undoubtedly made some egregious mis-steps. Unlike Trump, though, she doesn’t bluster her way through them. She admits them, as she has with the “private email server” nonsense.

But there really is no comparison between her and Trump. Clinton is flawed, and a machine politician, but most of the accusations levelled against her are just that – accusations. Despite years of trying, for example, no one has managed to actually produce any evidence, whatsoever, of any wrongdoing or criminal lack of care over the murderous attack on Americans in Benghazi.

But Trump, conversely, is actively seeking to undermine the democratic process by trivialising the whole concept of policy, cheerfully promoting various ideas that are nakedly neo-Nazi in their formulation, and which represents the very worst in bigotry and terrifying irresponsibility that we have ever seen in a “mainstream” political context in America.

So apart from the cold-hearted realpolitik intellectuals and apparatchiks who support him, why does everyone else?

Unpleasant though it is to assert such a thing, it may well be that they are simply that they are too stupid to understand what’s going on.

We were roundly criticised recently by a good friend of a different political persuasion for “daring” to call the mass of Trump supporters “morons”. That criticism is a badge we wear with pride. The stakes are just too high to be mealy-mouthed on the issue.

In our considered view, unless they are disingenuously using him as a stalking horse for a thoroughly hateful agenda, no one with an ounce of discretion or clarity of thought could support this dangerous fool.

Yet they are. And now, we might have a perfectly clear explanation of why.

angry-trump-supportersJust as millions of people who voted for Brexit suddenly realised after the referendum that it wasn’t all a game, it wasn’t all about delivering a kick to the Establishment, and now they would have to leave the EU – and many promptly changed their minds, except there was and is no “get out” clause from the result of vote – so millions will vote for Trump and if, by some congruence of political streams they actually managed to get him elected (which is still very unlikely), they will rapidly realise they were conned, as their benefits are slashed, their schools and roads go un-repaired, the world shuns America, the race relations situation spirals downwards (possibly beyond control), and the country is continually riven by myriad divisions. And the response to the mounting chaos will, of course, be ever more authoritarian government.

And in the blink of an eye, America democracy may well be gone, replaced by something with the trappings of democracy, but without the control of the people. Because when facts don’t matter, anything can be said to be true and right. Exactly what so many of Trump’s supporters say they are railing against.

Turkeys voting for Christmas.

This article explains why. Trump-Bots are not amenable to rational dispute, because they have convinced themselves they know better. Based on … nothing at all.

What to do about this distressing state of affairs? Distasteful as some may find the proposal, the solution lies in convincing everyone with a modicum of intelligence to vote for Clinton. Because – much as the Libertarian candidate or the Green candidate may have their appeal – she is now the only person who can stop this. People with the wit and wisdom to perceive the danger simply have to hold their nose and support Clinton, even whilst they perceive her weaknesses, and hope like hell she turns out to be a decent President.

The alternative is not unthinkable. It is all too thinkable. And here is why:

”Are Trump Supporters Too Dumb To Know They’re Dumb? Science Says “Probably”

How the hell can anybody call themselves intelligent when they’re supporting Donald Trump? It’s a question that baffles people who are able to think critically, able to read and comprehend both history and current events, and able to see through Trump’s thin façade of know-it-all-ism and deep into what he is – an ignorant, narcissistic, and dangerous conman.

Says a supporter of a man who has filed for bankruptcy four times since 1991.

Says a supporter of a man who has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection four times since 1991. When questioned on it by Republican opposition during the primaries, Trump replied “”Hundreds of companies” have filed for bankruptcy, “I used the law four times and made a tremendous thing. I’m in business. I did a very good job.”

Trump supporters not only don’t see this, they’re happy that there’s someone running for president that thinks exactly like them. Take Melanie Austin, of Brownsville, Pennsylvania. She thought her beliefs about Obama being a gay Muslim from Kenya and Michelle being transgender were just fringe beliefs – right up until she started hearing similar stuff from Trump and other right-wing extremists.

Now she knows she’s right about all of this. You can’t tell her that she’s ignorant and dumb if she can’t figure this out for herself. You can’t tell her she’s delusional. You can sit there with her, and countless others like her, and present facts, figures, charts, studies, and more, all from the most reputable sources there are, and prove that her lord and saviour is wrong, and you’ll still get shot down.

There’s more to this than the problem of confirmation bias. Austin gets much of her information from fringe right-wing blogs and conspiracy sites, but that’s not all of it. Many of Trump’s supporters are seriously too dumb to know they’re dumb. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect, and it’s an unshakeable illusion that you’re much smarter, and more skilled and/or knowledgeable, than you really are.

People like Austin labor under the illusion that their knowledge about things is at least as good as, if not better than, the actual facts. For these people, though, their knowledge isn’t just superior – it’s superior even to those who have intimate and detailed knowledge of the subject at hand. Trump himself has exemplified this countless times, such as when he claimed he knows more about ISISthan even our military generals do.

His fans simply take his word for it, and believe that because he knows, they know. They are literally incapable of seeing that they don’t know.

To be sure, the Dunning-Kruger effect is present everyone all across the political spectrum, and indeed, in every walk of life. We all overestimate our abilities and knowledge somewhere.However, the effect is especially pronounced in people with limited intellectual and social skills:

“People who are unskilled in [intellectual and social domains] suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realise it.”

bertrand-russell-dunning-kruger-effectSo basically, yes, it’s possible to be too dumb to realise you’re dumb.

In four separate studies, people who scored in the bottom quarter on tests involving everything from humour to logic, and even to grammar, grossly overestimated where they thought they would score. They averaged scores in the 12th percentile, while their average estimate of their own scores was the 62nd percentile.

The researchers attribute that huge discrepancy to a literal inability to distinguish accuracy from error. Or, to put it another way, those who are the most lacking in skills and knowledge are the least able to see it.

Take the case of McArthur Wheeler, a man who robbed two banks in 1995 and was caught rather easily. He thought he would get away with it because he rubbed his face with lemon juice, which is used in invisible ink. To test the theory that lemon juice would turn him invisible, he rubbed it on his face, took a Polaroid, and his face wasn’t in the picture! So he thought he was safe from security cameras because he could make his face invisible.

He was shocked when police caught him because of that, saying, “But I wore the juice.” He literally couldn’t see the ridiculousness of that line of thought.

That seems like an extreme example, but if you look at the logic of Donald Trump and his supporters, that kind of incompetence is coming out in force. Look at his debate performance. He was woefully unprepared, while Hillary was eminently prepared, and he grew more frustrated, and ultimately furious and out-of-control, while she wiped the floor with him for most of the 95 minutes.

Yet later, with breathtaking chutzpah, he claimed he won, and so did his supporters. The hashtag #TrumpWon trended on Twitter, with many of his supporters and surrogates saying he had a very good performance, and put Hillary to shame. Anyone with more than two working brain cells could see otherwise, but all of these people couldn’t see their deity’s abject failure for what it was. And when the scientific polls came in after the debate, Hillary was shown to be the strong victor.

David Dunning, one of the first to catalog the Dunning-Kruger effect (hence its name), has studied human behaviour—including voter behaviour—for decades. He penned an op-ed in Politico that explains why this effect is so pronounced in Trump’s supporters:

“It suggests that some voters, especially those facing significant distress in their life, might like some of what they hear from Trump, but they do not know enough to hold him accountable for the serious gaffes he makes. They fail to recognise those gaffes as mis-steps.

Again, the key to the Dunning-Kruger Effect is not that unknowledgeable voters are uninformed; it is that they are often misinformed — their heads filled with false data, facts and theories that can lead to misguided conclusions held with tenacious confidence and extreme partisanship, perhaps some that make them nod in agreement with Trump at his rallies.”

Trump is completely inept, and his supporters are way too poorly-informed to know that he’s inept, and too dumb themselves to know how dumb they are. That’s why Trump’s supporters are so sure they’re smart and their candidate is smart that they won’t listen to reason.

The effect is strong in these people.

Article ends …

We hasten to add, we don’t think less of those Trump supporters suffering from this affliction or look down our superior noses at them. No attempt has been made to address their lack of educated decision making by their own side of politics, or anyone. They have been wilfully led into believing things that are clearly not sustained by the facts. As a result, America has a huge (and very angry) mis-educated under-class that faithfully believes the nonsense that is shoved down its throat by both its opinion leaders and the media. Millions of Americans never leave their country, never access any media from overseas, and never hear any contrary arguments to address their prejudices. Facts become irrelevant. Only tribalism matters.

This is not a new phenomenon. Almost within living memory of the participants – certainly within living memory of their families – a terrible, bloody civil war was fought to defend racism and slavery, sold to millions in the Confederate States as a defence against a tyrannical central (and northern) Government and in favour of States’ rights. It wasn’t. It was a war to defend slavery and the economic advantage it conferred on slave owners.

When the world was plunged into a death struggle against fascism in 1939, millions of Americans blindly thought that their country should have nothing to do with it. The isolationism that represented extended the war by at least two years and led to millions of unnecessary deaths.

Decisions have consequences. And the world’s greatest democracy can do better. But it’s a long-term rectification project.

And in the meantime, Trump must be stopped. Must. Be. Stopped.

You can find another excellent article on this very frightening phenomenon here.

As surely everyone in Australia must know, the Dogs snapped their drought with a 22-point win against the Sydney Swans, a result few saw coming at the beginning of the season.

And by the looks of this Victoria University advertisement which was published in Melbourne newspaper The Age on Monday, they still don’t believe it!



“As a proud partner of the Western Bulldogs, Victoria University would like to congratulate the team on an outstanding 2016 season,” it read. “In spite of the disappointment of the Grand Final loss, the Bulldogs showed incredible heart and sportsmanship until the final siren, led by skipper and VU student Easton Wood.”

Um, they won?

So who f***** up?

Well, it’s normal to prepare two different versions of an ad to cover for both results, but this time it appears as though the wrong one was used. Because you can be damn sure that Victoria University, long associated with the Dogs through their sports science faculty, would never have made such an error.

Mind you, Dear Reader, The Age aren’t the only ones to make a massive grand final blunder, with the SCG website posting this after the game.

Er. No. Just a tiny bit previous there, Sydney. Did you even watch the game?

We’d love to be a fly on the wall when the advertising department at The Age and the website team at the SCG have todays work-in-progress meeting …


For more famous advertising and marketing F*** Ups, just put F*** Up in the search box top left of this page.

Go on, you know you want to …

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.


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.


“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.

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.




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.


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.


Click here:

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?


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, 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!


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

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 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.

Musings by George Polley

Musings by George Polley

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If necessity is the mother of invention, then divorce is the mother of re-invention...


speaks to the masses of people not reading this blog

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